Dressed for bed and reclining on her headboard, Lois stared at the computer screen before her and pushed down any irritated thoughts she had about the blank screen that was staring back. The manila folder lying next to her had a few pages worth of information on a small story she could write for the Planet in her downtime, but she couldn’t find a starting point. It was too hard. A burger with everything on it sounded better than writing a story, but Lucy had cringed at the thought of getting her something so late in the evening.
A burger? Now? Great Lois - if you’re not killing yourself with lung cancer, you’ll do it with fat and high cholesterol.
Her bedroom door creaked open. Jason poked his head inside her bedroom. “Are you awake?”
She smiled at him, holding out her good arm to beckon him closer. “Yeah, sweetie. C’mon in.”
Her little boy, dressed in pajamas that had two buttons messily done, closed the door behind him then scampered over to her side. It was awkward to get him under the crook of her arm without hurting a few tender ribs, but they managed to do it, him with one leg dangling over the edge of the bed while he looked at the cast on her leg. “Does it hurt?” he asked quietly, angling his head to look at her better.
“It aches a little, but Aunt Lucy got me something to take if it ever hurts. Kinda like when you get your medicines when you’re sick.”
He made a face. “I don’t like taking medicine.”
“Oh, I know. Sometimes I don’t like taking it either. But you’ve been doing better recently, haven’t you?”
The boy froze in her arms. The impact of the words she just said hit her, and she fumbled for a reply to lift the sudden tension in the room. “W-with your breathing, I mean. You’ve learned to control it better, right? I haven’t seen you use your inhaler in a while.”
He had to be thinking of his sudden display of strength on the Gertrude. Feeling like she could win the Worst Mom of the Year award, she held him closer, bringing her face to his thick mop of hair and burying her nose in the wet strands. Lucy must have just given him a bath. “Do you want to talk about it, sweetie?”
He shook his head slowly. Lifting his small hands, he threaded his fingers through hers in the cast, the other hand tracing the ridges caused by the wrapping. He seemed thoughtful, lost in something while being concerned over her well-being. The blue of her cast brought out the blue in his eyes, making them that much more brilliant and so much like his father’s…
“Mommy,” he began slowly, leaning forward after a moment to look at the other side of the bed. “When’s Daddy coming home?”
Lois could feel everything inside of her freeze, but she kept playing with the small fingers in her hand, praying he hadn’t noticed how afraid she’d suddenly become. It was a completely innocent question and she knew it had been a long time coming, but to finally hear it out of her son’s mouth, to know that his curiosity was getting the best of him in child-like innocence, was nearly unbearable. She couldn’t answer him outright. Telling her son that his father was missing was out of the question.
She was going to have to lie to him. She hated herself for it, but there was no way she was going to shatter his perspective on his happy life. Richard’s disappearance notwithstanding, one of these days her young boy was going to learn that his real father was Superman. There was enough on his plate as it was. It was best that he continued to think that Richard was doing a story for International like he told Jason before he left.
Keeping the anguish out of her voice, she smiled. “He’ll be home soon, honey. He took the seaplane with him, remember? Daddy is usually gone for a while when he takes the seaplane.” Tears threatened to overtake her, clogging her throat and making it difficult to maintain that safe façade. Resting her chin on top of his head, she fought for nonchalance. “It’ll just be a little while. He hasn’t gone on a long trip in a long time, huh?”
Jason shook his head.
“It should only be a few more days, a week at the most.” Oh, how she hoped that was true… “Then he’ll be back. Do you miss having him around?”
The boy nodded. “We’re going to the zoo when he comes back.”
The dam broke. Tears began to streak down her face and she found it harder and harder to keep her voice steady. We have to find Richard, an admirable and loving man who sees the catastrophe that is his fiancée and refuses to let it affect the boy he loves as his own. “Yeah, Daddy promised you a trip to the zoo, didn’t he?”
“To see the lions and bears and stuff.” Jason turned to her, smiling, and stopped when he saw her crying. “Mommy? What’s wrong? Why are you crying?”
His little hands reached up to wipe away her tears with his shirtsleeve. Staring at his eyes, slowly filling with concern the longer she left his question unanswered, filled her heart with joy and sadness at the same time. He had no idea what was going through her mind, how she was struggling with his innocence and the thought that Richard might not make it back home. He was clueless about the fact that journalists got kidnapped all the time, and most of them ended with fatal results.
Swallowing the lump in her throat, she did her best to smile at him, smoothing his hair down and away from his face. “I just love you, kiddo. That’s all.”
He stared back at her curiously. “You’re crying ‘cause you love me?”
“Uh-huh. And I’m so proud of you.” Unable to stop her tears, she pulled him close for a hug, hoping that he wouldn’t see the pain and fear in her eyes. She had intentionally lied to her little boy, justifying it by saying he didn’t need to know anything about his daddy. And she was so afraid that the lie wouldn’t work, that at any moment that phone would ring with the announcement of Richard’s death…
The phone rang. She jumped, making Jason shoot out of her arms with worry. A few rings later, Lucy answered it from downstairs. Trying to keep her composure, Lois rubbed a hand over Jason’s face. “Why don’t you get to bed now, sweetie? It’s getting late.”
He whined momentarily, preferring to be in the company of his mother instead. When Lucy came up the stairs moments later, Lois asked her to help him into bed.
“I thought I already sent you there,” she said, raising an eyebrow at her nephew, but taking him from Lois’ arms anyway. She reached out an arm and handed Lois the phone. “It’s
Dread filled her. Cold fingers reached for the receiver. Waiting until the two of them were out the door, she cleared her throat and lifted the receiver to her ear. “Hello?
“Oh, good, I didn’t wake you up. Lucy was just telling me how she didn’t know if you were asleep or not.”
Lois glanced at the folder sitting beside her closed laptop. “Just… trying to catch up on a few work related things.”
“Oh, really? I’m surprised. I didn’t think you’d want to be trying to do work stuff, seeing how Richard…”
His voice trailed off, obviously realizing what he was saying and how practical it sounded. He began to stammer an apology, but Lois beat him to it. “
He sighed and shuffled some papers. “He called me a little while ago. Investigators have the seaplane in a secure location, but they won’t tell me where. They started tests for fingerprints and any other pieces of evidence they could find. Uh, for the moment, that’s all I know.”
The lump in her throat returned. Taking a deep breath and praying her voice would stay steady, she whispered, “And Richard?”
Tears continued to roll down her face. “Fingerprints… so they suspect that he’s been… kidnapped?”
“He wasn’t in the plane, but all of his supplies were. Why would he leave the plane without any food or water? Anyone should know better than to leave supplies in a secluded area. They searched the rest of the island, too. They couldn’t find him anywhere.” He paused again, taking another deep breath. “Doug also wanted me to thank you for contacting Superman. He says he was a big help in making sure Richard really wasn’t on that island.”
Contacting Superman had been the last thing she had wanted to do. It was hard enough to deal with the father of her son outside of Richard’s – Oh, God – kidnapping, but to add him to the investigation altogether made her feel even more like a backstabber. So, Superman, here’s the deal – the man who has played your role of ‘dad’ for the last five years is missing, and I need you to help a good friend of his find him. What does this mean for you and me? Well, I’ll get back to you on that one.
“Can’t really say that I actually ‘contacted’ him,” she muttered, rubbing a hand over her eyes. “I doubt that saying the request to the open air counts as ‘contacting’.”
“It worked, though,” For a second he nearly sounded jealous, old feelings possibly rising to the surface, then his voice was softer, tender, when he asked, “How are you doing, Lois? I, uh, I haven’t really gotten the chance to ask you that lately.”
“I’ve been better,” she answered, surprised at her own honesty. “Nothing like lying to your son to make you feel like the scum of the earth.”
“You lied to him? Lois, that doesn’t sound like you…”
“He asked me when Richard was coming home,
Her voice faded, the once-residing anger giving way to exhaustion and sorrow. “I’m sorry,
“Oh, of course you do, Lois,” he replied, sympathy and understanding bursting from his voice. “This isn’t exactly something you’re used to. I can only imagine that it’s driving you crazy.”
“Something along those lines, yeah,” She was at a breaking point, she realized. The emotional frustration pent up inside was begging for a release. She knew that anything she or Clark could do to find Richard would take too much time. Time was too precious to waste. With his whereabouts unknown and the seaplane the only evidence found…
It’s my only chance. Its Richard’s only chance. If this takes too long, or demands are made that we don’t know about… It’s the most heartless thing I could possibly ask him, but… he’s always willing to help. “I’m always around.” Those are his words. But how can I ask him to do this? God, don’t let him take this the wrong way…
Taking a deep breath, she clutched the receiver in her hands. “
“S-sure, Lois. Anything.”
“What… what would you think about asking Superman to help with the investigation?”
The man on the other line went quite for a long while. Long enough that Lois actually pulled the phone back to make sure that the connection was still intact. When he spoke again,
“I’m asking you. What do you think?”
He sighed again, taking a moment to consider her question. “I think… if it were me, and someone I loved was missing, I would want anyone available to help.”
“Even if that missing person was your fiancée, and the child in your house was the biological child of the person you were asking?”
“Lois, I think Superman would help anyone in general. But for the mother of his little boy? I have little doubt he’d search the world for you.”
“Regardless that it’s Richard?”
He paused, but when he spoke again his voice was full of assurance. “Regardless.”
“Okay… well…” Her need for comfort was unbearable. Suddenly she wished she was having this conversation in her home instead of over the phone. Blinking back another onslaught of tears, she cleared her throat. “Thanks for the information,
“Lois… you’re sure you’re doing okay?”
She smiled, taking what little comfort she could in his words. He was still willing to help her out, the co-worker who had a crush on her for years, and still checked up on her regardless of her relationship status. “As well as I can be under the circumstances,
“G-good night, Lois. Sleep well.”
After she had hung up, Lois stared thoughtfully at the phone in her hand. The little caller ID screen was blank, turned off after her conversation with
Smiling, she set the phone, her laptop and the file on the bedside table and shimmied into bed, frowning when her leg cast momentarily prevented her from lifting the sheets over it. After turning off the lamp, she turned to her side and grabbed Richard’s pillow, holding it close and breathing the scent of it in deeply. It was a small comfort, but it failed to bring any peace to her.
Please let him be okay. Please…