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Underground - Chapter Fourteen - Jason

Before reading this, I should mention once again that reading Out To Lunch is crucial for this story. It certainly is for this chapter. Seeing how most of you following this, if not all of you, have already read it, I guess you're in good shape. ; )

            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.

            Clark wouldn’t have argued, she thought miserably, thumbing through a few more pages of the folder before putting the entire thing down on the bed. It was worthless, she realized, to make herself work when it was the last thing she could think about. Clark had yet to call her back about any kind of information he had received. If he had gotten anything at all. If she wanted to focus on anything work related, it wasn’t going to happen tonight, and certainly not without any word on Richard.


            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 Clark. He said it’s important.”

            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? Clark?”

            “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. “Clark, the only thing I need to hear from you is news. I’ll consider that an apology. Have you heard anything from Doug?”

            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?”

            Clark paused. “He’s still missing, Lois. Doug wanted me to tell you personally that they’re still looking and doing everything they can to find him.” He paused, fully aware of the torment this was causing her. “I’m so sorry.” 

            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, Clark. What do you expect me to do? Admit that he’s missing? And I’ll bet tomorrow you’d like me to tell him that he’s been reported as kidnapped! My God, it’s been hard enough keeping him from the TV, but at home? When you bring information that could pertain to his whereabouts and my little boy is sitting upstairs…”

            Her voice faded, the once-residing anger giving way to exhaustion and sorrow. “I’m sorry, Clark. You know I don’t mean all of that.”

            “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. “Clark, I’ve got a question for you.”

            “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, Clark’s voice was quite, almost thoughtful. “Do you want him involved?”

            “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, Clark.”

            “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, Clark. Good night.”

            “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 Clark. Letting her curiosity get the best of her, she pressed a button on the phone and looked at the digits lit up on the screen. The name said Daily Planet, and the number beneath it was the number to Clark’s desk. He was staying late. Gathering information. For her.

            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…


( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 8th, 2007 11:43 pm (UTC)
*stops chewing on her nails* ;)

The scene between Lois and Jason was tugging violently on my heartstrings. I wanted to offer them both hugs and comfort.

Phew! I'm glad you thought so. That part was a bear to write, so much so that I considered taking it out altogether so that I wouldn't have to deal with Jason period. Then I figured that any little boy would be asking when their daddy would be coming home, so... he kinda snuck in there. But I 'm glad he met your approval! : )

How could he NOT search the world at Lois's behest? My heart was just about to the bursting point during their conversation.

I knew you were going to like this part. Perhaps a hint of jealousy shows in their conversation, but assuring her that he'd search the world for her? It says so much more than she realizes. She's not even aware that she's asking him. And, at the same time, she's unaware that she's breaking his heart.

Thrilled you liked it! Now to write some more. Time to dive into Clark's thoughts on this phone call...
Jan. 9th, 2007 12:13 am (UTC)
I'm so behind in reviews. I'll catch up soon, promise.
Jan. 9th, 2007 12:14 am (UTC)
Oh, yeah... Great job. I'll go into more detail when I finally catch up.
Jan. 9th, 2007 12:20 am (UTC)
I'll be waiting... impatiently... ;)

(how'd we both get in this boat, anyway?) :D
Jan. 9th, 2007 01:37 am (UTC)
ultimate creepy-ness.....
i found you again (she says with a creep grin)!
i decided, that you might possibly could be our number one fan....although you have a lot (!) to live up to (so maybe that will keep you on your toes....we have several people vying for that position...)!!!...although i couldnt find your post when you talk about this...hmmm....
good to see you and meet you the other night :) meg
Jan. 9th, 2007 01:44 am (UTC)
Re: ultimate creepy-ness.....

I'm DYING over here, Meg! You TOTALLY creeped me out just now! The entry you're looking for is called "Why am I still listening to Christmas music...?" It's a little down that-a way. I'm sure you'll get a kick out of it.

To reach 'Number One Fan' status, should I leave a link to your MySpace page after every entry? : D (I'm still listening to your song, btw...)
Jan. 9th, 2007 06:10 pm (UTC)
*Hovers protectively*

This chapter is a killer all around. Lois is slowly going nuts and breaking down trying to hide everything from Jason, Jason knows somwthing's up and misses Richard, we all know where Richard *is*, and now Clark (as Superman) has been asked to help find the man that's taken his place. Oh, Abby, this one was great. And I'm so proud of our boy for being such a good man. I don't think I could have done it.

*Personally pulls Clark aside and hugs him*
Jan. 9th, 2007 10:41 pm (UTC)
Lois is slowly going nuts and breaking down trying to hide everything from Jason,

The 'breaking down' process is only going to get worse. This is your only warning. :)

we all know where Richard *is*

When first plotting this story, I was going to be the ultimate form of e.v.i.l. and NOT write chapters with Richard in them. It was going to be all Lois and Clark, until I realized that people would be pulling for them getting together instead of wanting Richard to get out his situation. Plus, Hendrick wouldn't be as e.v.i.l. himself if I didn't actually take some time to write him out.

And I'm so proud of our boy for being such a good man. I don't think I could have done it.

He sure doesn't know if he can. Just wait for the next chapter. You'll see what I mean. ; )

Glad you liked it!
Mar. 10th, 2007 03:52 am (UTC)
UGH! That had to be a tough conversation for Clark to deal with. But he's rightm Supes would do anything for her, even turn back time. I think you had them both perfectly in character for that conversation. But I have to say that I'm a bit worried. You do what Lois and Clark together right? I thought I was the only one out there keeping them apart for this long. It seems to me that you are heading in the same direction I went - that Lois and Richard stay together. Hum...
Mar. 10th, 2007 01:14 pm (UTC)
About Lois and Richard... you're going to have to catch me sometime if you want answers to that. ; )

I had a few tough moments writing this one for Clark. He's such a good guy, and he's fallen so hard for Lois... who is still trying to sort out her own feelings: Clark is helping me, Richard is missing, and Superman might have to help... The question is how do you ask Superman without causing further heartbreak. Hmmm... ; )
Mar. 18th, 2007 04:09 am (UTC)
Nicely done. Poor Jason. He does have a lot to worry about. Although he doesn't know the details, he can tell somethings amiss. And he's still bothered by what happened on the Gertrude (understandably so).

Loved this part: “Clark, the only thing I need to hear from you is news. I’ll consider that an apology. Have you heard anything from Doug?”

So Lois for her to finagle an apology without an apology.

Oh, I can't imagine how this must be for Clark, to have to look for her fiance when he's so in love with her. But of course he'll do it as he assured her he would (well, without her knowing that exactly).

Can't wait for the next chapter (yes, I know that I could read it all at once on ff.net but honestly I get intimidated by long stories and I like having a chapter to look forward to each day).
Mar. 19th, 2007 08:30 pm (UTC)
Jason and the Gertrude IS understandable - this takes place a few months after SR, after all. Little kids don't get over things like that easily.

Clark's stuck between a rock and a hard place, isn't he? It's really hard on him in two ways - one that Richard is in the mess in the first place (beyond his romantic rival currently being the one who makes Lois happy at this point), and the other being that all of this - Lois being with someone else, Jason not knowing his true parentage, Lois' slight contempt to Superman - is all HIS fault. Maybe none of this would have happened if he hadn't left. Who knows? He can only do the right thing at this point - it's all he can rely on.
May. 15th, 2007 01:01 am (UTC)
AWWW! “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.”
Isn't Clark the best friend of all???

I loved that phone conversation!!! And Jason was so adorable!
His little hands reached up to wipe away her tears with his shirtsleeve. He's so much like his father!!! *-*

I love the way Lois try to be strong for him!
May. 15th, 2007 01:17 am (UTC)
Lois needed to be strong for Jason at some point. I realized here that Jason hadn't really been in the story yet, and... well, since he's a big part of the SR storyline, and his DAD's missing...

Couldn't avoid it. Had to do it. But glad you liked it. : D
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )