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It only took him seconds to speed across the Metropolis skyline back to the Daily Planet building, but the time spent getting there felt like an eternity. His tears stung his eyes, making it difficult to see the buildings before him. Scanning his surroundings as he spotting the revolving globe in the distance, he landed on the roof of the Planet faster than the eye could see, changing back into his uniform of Clark Kent: Reporter. He rushed to the door and opened it, putting his weight against it to quickly shut it. There, in the privacy of the stairwell, the silence almost deafening even to his own ears, Clark put his head against the door and allowed the remaining tears to fall.

I’m so sorry, Lois. God, I’m so sorry…

The look on her face when he explained his situation haunted him. She had tried to understand – she really had – and he couldn’t blame her reaction given her circumstances. Her words had stung deeper than anything he could remember, the pain of two simple words worse than kryptonite.

You coward…

She didn’t understand. She wouldn’t understand, not as long as she failed to remember their past, and how difficult it had been to live in a world taken over by General Zod and his companions, even if it was for a short while. Had he listened to the words spoken by his mother, the world wouldn’t have suffered. If he’d listened, who knew where their relationship would be now…

His hand tightened into a fist. He resisted the urge to slam it into the metal door. Her heartbeat was steady, no sign of anything unusual… and that drove him crazy. She could either be asleep or still on the deck. Her even breathing told him little else. Wiping his eyes, he decided that Clark Kent would have to drop by later to make sure she was doing okay. It couldn’t be done without a purpose though, so he also decided to dig a bit deeper into the investigation in order to bring her something when he arrived. Maybe – hopefully -- she would listen. Usually it was Superman explaining how Clark Kent was right about something. It felt strange to know it was going to be the other way around this time.

She took a deep breath, releasing it in a shudder. He let the melody of her breathing calm him a bit, his nerves still somewhat skittish as he slowly walked down the staircases back to the newsroom. There would be no employees this late in the evening, but the janitor might still be around. He lifted a hand and put it under his glasses, wiping away the last of his tears and hoping his face didn’t give too much away. He found the door leading to the bullpen and opened it quickly…

… only to jump back and shriek loudly, immediately in character. The janitor was standing right in front of him, his dark hair reflecting in the lights above, staring back at him blankly. Clark could remember a time when the Mexican would raise his eyebrows to his hairline and mutter something in Spanish about how the boy needed to grow up and become a man, but, apparently, he had gotten used to his frequent dramatic outbursts. He only stared back while Clark put a hand to his heart, the other flailing back behind him until it hit the wall.

“Eduardo!” he said with a punctuating squeak. “Wh—what are you doing here?”

“I clean,” Eduardo answered simply, tapping the mop in his hands with a long finger.

“Oh… yes. Of course you do. And you do it very well. Great job, Eduardo! The floors have never looked better!”

Eduardo muttered under his breath – “Loco,” Clark heard clearly – and turned around, looking at the desks in the bullpen. “You work? Now?”

“Oh, I’ve just got a few things that need to be done before the morning. It’s been just as hard with Lois gone and everything. Double the workload, you know.” He chuckled.

“No,” Eduardo deadpanned in complete seriousness, the thick, bushy mustache above his lip making him all the more intimidating. “Don’t know. Get work done. Home on time.”

“Oh. Well, uh… I’d hate to be keeping you. Have a good night, Eduardo.” With a push of his glasses, Clark passed the older man and reached for the doors.

“No trash!”

Clark jerked to a stop, turning to the Mexican with a wide-eyed stare.

“No trash on floor. Just cleaned.”

“Oh. Sure. Sure, Eduardo. Good night.”

Clark stepped into the bullpen and walked straight towards his desk, eyes scanning the room as he went. All the desks surrounding him were empty, all the offices locked and dark. The lights of the city filtered in through the blinds of many of those offices, including Perry’s and Richard’s. Then again, the lights of the city had been the only thing lighting that office for a while now.

Listening for Eduardo’s heartbeat, he estimated that the janitor was a good enough distance away for him to work undetected. Turning on his computer, he leaned back in his chair and considered getting a cup of coffee. He would need something to get him through the night, especially with the way it had been turning out so—

“Señor Kent! No coffee!”

Clark nearly leaped out of his chair. Eduardo’s heartbeat had been going at the same pace, but his movement to the door was slow enough that Clark didn’t think anything of it. I can’t be getting sloppy, especially now. Leaning his head away from his desk, he saw Eduardo pointing a finger at him.

“Coffee stains!” the older man said. “On chair! No coffee, Señor Kent!”

Inwardly he felt like groaning, the emotionally draining conversation with Lois catching up to him. Instead, he raised a weary hand and said, “Okay, Eduardo. No coffee.”

The Mexican waggled his finger at him while he moved out of the door and walked to his cart. While Clark entered his password, Eduardo took the cart and walked to the elevator. When he walked into an open chamber, he kept his hard brown eyes locked onto Clark until the doors closed. He was going down.

He’s going home. Good. Just to be sure, Clark listened to his heartbeat while he descended to the main floor. Focusing on the floor, he saw Eduardo put his cart in the janitor’s closet and grab his jacket. He blinked, the image dissolving before his eyes. His computer beeped at him once. His background, the happy, smiling faces of him and his mother before he left, stared back at him. He moved his mouse until it hovered over the file that held the 3D model of the wreckage.

You coward…

He flinched. If anyone had heard Lois say those words, they never would have suspected that they were directed at the Man of Steel himself. Superman, especially the one hopelessly devoted to Lois Lane, would never be a coward. She just doesn’t understand. My parents’ words are the only thing I have of them now. Without those crystals, I have nothing. The Fortress is a giant lifeless alien artifact in the Arctic. Had I listened to mother and father when they begged me – begged! – to not become mortal… how many lives would have been saved? How long would Zod and his cronies walked the earth before I stopped them? Who else could they have harmed before I walked back to the Fortress?

Sitting on his desk was a framed photograph of his mother. A deeper look – the look that only x-ray vision could give – showed another photograph hidden under it; the picture of Lois and Jason when their boy was born, the one she had given him at their lunch. His eyes lingered lovingly on the child.

I wouldn’t have my son. I truly would be the Last Son of Krypton had I listened. This bright young child, with all his defects and allergies and medicines… is perfect to me. I wouldn’t trade his life for anything. I wouldn’t change anything at all.

A headache slowly built as the image of the wreckage developed before him. That meant he had made his decision in defiance. In disobedience, even. But Lara had never forced him to choose the right or wrong answer. She just told him to choose. Carefully. The results were the same for his son as they were for the love of his life – his decisions had cost countless others their lives. Clark wouldn’t trade bringing Lois back or the life of his son for anything, but all those lives…

That’s why I must be so careful this time. It’s not that Richard is the… romantic rival… it’s that my selfish decisions have cost others irreplaceable lives - sons, mothers, fathers, daughters… all gone because I decided that my pleasures where higher than theirs. I can’t deliberately use Superman this time. Clark Kent has to solve this.

With a small smile, he thought back to the diner where he had taught a certain trucker a lesson on manners. Clark Kent might have to solve this one, but that doesn’t mean Superman can’t help a little. There are only so many things a reporter can do before he needs to call for help.

Rubbing at his eyes under his glasses, ignoring the heartache he frequently felt at such thoughts of where his boundaries were with his abilities, Clark took a deep breath and used his mouse to turn the model around. Clicking in a few commands, he was able to breakdown the structure piece-by-piece until all four walls were side-by-side-by-side-by-side in front of him. He rested his head on his hand, staring intently at the picture. It didn’t make sense, really. Three of the four corners were structurally weak, but they couldn’t have become so from time or weather. Buildings on the docks, no matter how old they looked, were always structurally sound.

Curiously, he put the model back together and twisted the frame. Then, typing in more commands, he destroyed the model. It collapsed before him in a tangle of codes. Rebuilding it, he did the same thing over again and got the same results. The building was totally demolished with only one corner still standing, the same way he saw it when he arrived after hearing Lois’ cry for help. Closing the file, he opened a new document and restructured the entire thing, but corrected the problem in the four corners. Typing another command added water weight to the structure.

Nothing happened.

Gradually, he added more and more until the program showed him certain places that had leaks in the building. Closing his eyes, he remembered every broken piece of wood and sheetrock he had studied in the wreckage until he found every part of the ceiling. Thanks to his x-ray vision, he could see certain areas of the roof that had significant water damage. While the water damage was similar in this more complete structure, the water weight he added hadn’t been that much. The first structure shouldn’t have collapsed like it did.

Unless…

Heading back to the first model, he put the four walls in front of him again and carefully studied the weaker three corners. There was nothing unusual about the weaker parts themselves… until he moved the model to a certain angle.

The weakness wasn’t something that was straight through the corner. It was at a downward angle.

Closing his eyes again, he desperately remembered all the corners he had seen while observing. The three suspicious corners had a brighter coat of paint on them than the fourth, and just underneath it was a downward angled cut.

Slowly, his eyes opened. He could feel the blood drain from his face. With a small groan, he leaned back in his chair, staring blankly at the model before him.

On the island, someone had moved the wreckage of the plane from the clearing to the brush… just like someone had gone and caused structural damage to the repair shop.

Nothing about the building’s destruction had been an accident.

Lois had been set up.

Comments

( 52 comments — Leave a comment )
elliania
Mar. 20th, 2007 01:14 am (UTC)
I have to read this fic, haven't I?

*put this on her to-do list*

I'll come back, sweetie! *hugs*
sean_montgomery
Mar. 20th, 2007 01:16 am (UTC)
Yes, you have to read this fic. I hear it's pretty good. ; )

Please come back, elliania! People tell me it's pretty good! : D
elliania
Mar. 20th, 2007 01:17 am (UTC)
lol, I will, I will!!
elliania
May. 15th, 2007 04:52 pm (UTC)
I'm BACK!!! *giggles*
sean_montgomery
Mar. 20th, 2007 01:17 am (UTC)
Oh, and I ADORE that icon! Awesomesauce!
elliania
Mar. 20th, 2007 01:18 am (UTC)
*giggles* Me too! ;p
ellalou73
Mar. 20th, 2007 02:46 am (UTC)
Oh the plot thickens. I love seeing him at work trying to help the woman he loves. I also really loved the thoughts he had, the guilt he had and the conflict of what he had done for Lois when he brought her back to life, and had chosen to do that and let others die.

He has his own thought but he is conflicted by what his Kyrptonian parents wanted. See it's all this complex thought going into his character that is one of the factors that draws me into the story if that wasn't to confusing.

Love it so far, ready for more.
sean_montgomery
Mar. 20th, 2007 03:16 am (UTC)
I also really loved the thoughts he had, the guilt he had and the conflict of what he had done for Lois when he brought her back to life, and had chosen to do that and let others die.

I've heard that people do the craziest things when in love, and I think that Superman/Clark had absolutely NO regrets when he turned back time... for the first few hours. I had always wondered what exactly happened after that scene (since we don't really know just what happened to those people), but this is my theory. Makes things a little more dramatic, and it also shows just how deeply he really loves her. A life without Lois Lane is a like he can't imagine.

See it's all this complex thought going into his character that is one of the factors that draws me into the story if that wasn't to confusing.

This one sentence is the reason I'm using this icon. I literally screamed when I read this. You have no idea how much it means that the complex thought is what's driving you into this story. Complex thought is what drives ALL these characters (Clark especially in this one), but it's something that I've really invested a lot of my time into. Thank you so much for pointing that out - I now know I really am doing my job. : )

Thanks for reading, Ella!
ellalou73
Mar. 20th, 2007 04:10 am (UTC)
Yep, making me check back to see if you have another update, you and Kala and the rest of he authors with awesome stories.

alphielj
Mar. 20th, 2007 04:20 am (UTC)
I love seeing Superman in a "human" moment like the one he had at the start of this - fighting back the tears after her stinging comment. I'm a bit flustered by the opening of this because I have something very similar in mind for when Clark tells Lois the truth in my own AU, so once again you beat me to the punch.

My favorite moment, and this shouldn't be much of a surprise, is when he looked at the photograph of Lois and Jason behind the other photograph. Sooooo heart breaking! UGH!

Now I have to get nit-picky with you. You have him saying he became "human." I know this is a touchy subject for many fans, so I am open to your own thoughts. But for me, he became "mortal" and not "human." Mortal is very different from human. To me, mortal means that his exposure to the red sun made him vunerable to pain and injury. Becoming human means his very DNA was altered. I get so picky about that simply because, to me, if he became "human" then Jason would be fully human. But he became "mortal" and thus was still able to pass on his kryptonian DNA to Jason.

Anyway, I'll end my little speech and assure you that I did enjoy the chapter and you're killing me here by drawing this out much longer! Will someone PLEASE save Richard, like now?
sean_montgomery
Mar. 20th, 2007 10:20 am (UTC)
I love seeing Superman in a "human" moment like the one he had at the start of this - fighting back the tears after her stinging comment. I'm a bit flustered by the opening of this because I have something very similar in mind for when Clark tells Lois the truth in my own AU, so once again you beat me to the punch.

Ha ha. : P You're gonna have to get on the ball, Lori. Who knows what else I have up my sleeve? ; )

No, seriously - I loved the idea of Clark being so affected by her words that the only thing he could do was cry. It might be a very human reaction, but he WAS raised by humans. And I think the lot of us can agree that Clark's love for Lois knows no bounds.

I get so picky about that simply because, to me, if he became "human" then Jason would be fully human. But he became "mortal" and thus was still able to pass on his kryptonian DNA to Jason.

I love reviews like yours because they really make me think. Looking back on it now, I can recall Lara saying to Kal-El that he must become 'mortal'. In fact, I don't ever recall her saying the word 'human'. Because of that, I went ahead and changed my use of 'human' to 'mortal'. His thoughts feel a little more complete to me, so thanks for that.

Will someone PLEASE save Richard, like now?

No comment. ; )
alphielj
Mar. 20th, 2007 01:20 pm (UTC)
Whew! I was worried you be angry at me for getting nit pickey! I normally don't get that way about fics, but when it comes to Jason I feel I'm responsible to at least keep him half-kryptonion. LOL! What is it with me? I torture the boy endlessly in my own fic, but think I have to save him from everyone else. He's MINE to torture! MINE!

Ok... off to deal with screaming children who want food. Imagine that - wanting food first thing in the mornin!
sean_montgomery
Mar. 20th, 2007 10:32 pm (UTC)
Well, there's nothing wrong with having an emotional attachment to a character, but I think in your case it's downright obsession. Need to have that checked out. ; )

If he's yours to torture, that means I have dibs on all the angsty Clois moments that you've planned to write, right? Oh, wait... : P
bistyboo1974
Mar. 22nd, 2007 12:02 am (UTC)
There, in the privacy of the stairwell, the silence almost deafening even to his own ears, Clark put his head against the door and allowed the remaining tears to fall.


Oh! Clark! *hugs him tightly*

This cautious investigation of his is intriging, Abby. And I'm starting to really see where he's coming from...

...my selfish decisions have cost others irreplaceable lives - sons, mothers, fathers, daughters… all gone...

The heavy burden he bears - all that guilt - it must weigh so heavily. *hugs him again*

Super update, Abby! Can't wait for more! (And if I miss it, just poke me. You know how I get sucked into the vortex of RL sometimes. *winks*)
sean_montgomery
Mar. 22nd, 2007 06:59 pm (UTC)
This cautious investigation of his is intriging, Abby. And I'm starting to really see where he's coming from...

...my selfish decisions have cost others irreplaceable lives - sons, mothers, fathers, daughters… all gone...

The heavy burden he bears - all that guilt - it must weigh so heavily. *hugs him again*


*sighs with relief* You have no idea how happy I am reading this. My intention was to sway the audience a bit with these chapters - swing with Lois on seventeen, then read Clark's thoughts and have sympathy for him - and maybe swing his way - by the next. I was honestly thinking about readers like you during this whole chapter, doing my best to help you see why he's thinking the way he is. It's not that he doesn't want to - by all means, he knows he can save Richard - but he has to be cautious. Especially with this new information he's discovered. Add the burden to that, and you know there's so much more than a hint of jealousy driving his decision about Superman.

Poke you? I have permission?? I'm going to hold you to that. ; ) Thanks for reading this one, hon!
jenna_knight
Mar. 23rd, 2007 05:06 am (UTC)
Again, so painful for Clark. I can only imagine what he must be feeling right now. Those words really stung.

But what I'm more curious about now is how the building collapsed. What was its relation to Underground?

And can you believe that I'm all caught up? I get intimidated by long stories but once I got into it, this didn't seem long at all! In fact, I'm restless for the net chapter.

Oh, and I just had to mention that the photograph thingy was sheer brilliance. I wish I would have thought of that!
sean_montgomery
Mar. 31st, 2007 03:57 pm (UTC)
But what I'm more curious about now is how the building collapsed. What was its relation to Underground?

*snort* Everything going on in this story, and it's the BUILDING you're worried about?? ; )

Oh, and I just had to mention that the photograph thingy was sheer brilliance. I wish I would have thought of that!

The photograph is from an earlier fic I wrote called Out To Lunch, which can be found on either ff.net under my name or at the superman_return community. I think you might have already read it. I suddenly can't remember... *scratches head*

Thanks for reading this, Jenna! The next chapter is on it's way!
awriternow
Mar. 30th, 2007 10:13 pm (UTC)
And I'm caught up because obviously I thought that last one was 16 not 17 so then I had 18 to read and now I'm here and I'm done. :) And looking forward to more.

I love how you write Clark. He's struggling so much here, and it shows. Very well done.
sean_montgomery
Mar. 31st, 2007 03:52 pm (UTC)
I love writing Clark. The emotional turmoil going on inside that handsome head of his is SO painful... and SO much fun to make him go through. : D Adding all his little mannerisms to his character, and showing you how he thinks through their timing and placing (this is something I do strongly in the next chapter) is an utter joy. I can't really get enough writing this man.

More is coming... sometime soon, hopefully. Keep your eyes peeled!
katshakespeare
Mar. 31st, 2007 06:52 pm (UTC)
:) he's definitely interesting to write, I agree. And I love writing him based off how Brandon plays him, if I'm being honest. Although I find that I don't write SR fiction as much as SV fiction ... ha.

Mind if I friend you?
sean_montgomery
Mar. 31st, 2007 06:56 pm (UTC)
I find that I write him based off of what universe I'm writing him in. For example, a story I wrote called Saying Goodbye was written pre-SR, so I was thinking of Chris and Margot in the roles instead of Brandon and Kate. As for the SR Clark... I mesh Reeve and Routh. I'll admit it. : D

Friend away! Only if I can friend you back! ; )
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kalalanekent
Apr. 3rd, 2007 05:22 pm (UTC)
Can I just say that any Angst!Clark chapter breaks me into tiny pieces? Anything so bad as to make tears rise in this man's eyes is guaranteed to make me start. *hugs Clark* We love you, honey. Honestly, we do. She has no idea of the real reasoning behind the refusal. It's amazing, though, how deeply two words can score, huh?

The whole scene with Eduardo sounds like me and our janitor at work, Julio. I was laughing through my tears when I read that. Good way to take our minds off of the situation for a moment. :D

Their stolen time together is such a dual-edged sword. If it never happened, no one would have died (we hope, but there would be no Jason. Maybe they'd still be doing the whole 'Maybe someday...' But since it did, we have we have Jason, but we have guilt and regret and duty to contend with.

And if he hadn't left to find Krypton, he'd have had Jason and Lois to himself, but would he have dealt well with the news? What would he have done when faced with fatherhood from the beginning? Would he have come to resent both his son and Lois, deep down where he never expressed it, for keeping him from finally knowing for sure?

And since he did, there's now the fact that his son can't call him 'Daddy' in either guise and barely knows him. And there's Richard, who has taken the space in Lois' life that we now know he desperately wants but wouldn't unfairly take.

*hugs Clark again* Oh, honey. Honey honey honey. How do you get yourself into these situations? It should easier for you, everyone would think. But it's not. Anyone else would have tried to at least take advantage of the time with her. Maybe even told her the truth. But you're too much the gentleman. What are we going to do with you?

And boy, oh boy, do I feel sorry for our little friends when Clark finds out who set Lois up.

Gorgeous work as always, my twin. Sorry this review took so long. I'm going to try to get to Nineteen before work. Wish me luck.
sean_montgomery
Apr. 10th, 2007 10:07 pm (UTC)
Can I just say that any Angst!Clark chapter breaks me into tiny pieces? Anything so bad as to make tears rise in this man's eyes is guaranteed to make me start.

Agreed, twin. Anything that gets this man going is going to jump start anything in this little heart of mine. And I wrote the thing! : D

And since he did, there's now the fact that his son can't call him 'Daddy' in either guise and barely knows him. And there's Richard, who has taken the space in Lois' life that we now know he desperately wants but wouldn't unfairly take.

*grins at her twin* I'm just going to let you talk. You have a wonderful way of seeing deeper into a chapter than I'd ever hoped a reader would. Carry on. ; )

Anyone else would have tried to at least take advantage of the time with her. Maybe even told her the truth. But you're too much the gentleman.

Bingo. He loves Lois too much to screw up her life any more than it already is. She's got too much on her plate - best not to add his indentity to the mix. Who knows what could happen if she knew?

And boy, oh boy, do I feel sorry for our little friends when Clark finds out who set Lois up.

; )

Now, head off to Nineteen! I want to know what you think about that one! : )
elliania
May. 15th, 2007 05:04 pm (UTC)
Oh, the way he thinks about Jason, aww!! Love it, love it, love it!!!!
sean_montgomery
May. 17th, 2007 02:56 am (UTC)
Yeah, couldn't forget about Jason in this one. He's sort of a intrical part of Clark's life, after all... ; )
( 52 comments — Leave a comment )

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