Basically, there are two scenarios for Superman Returns in regard to Jason's parentage. Either Lois remembers sleeping with Superman--whether it was during the night in the fortress in Superman II and/or that she and Superman hooked up between the end of that movie and his leaving to look for Krypton--

--or she doesn't.

Superman Returns ficlet 1

by 'rith

untitled because I am lazy and also stressed.

Summary: Richard isn't blind.

Thanks to trixie_chick for fast and helpful beta!

In the end, it was Richard who broke the stalemate.

He was a reporter, after all, which meant he was half detective. He knew how Jason seemed to flourish in the sun, how he seemed to run warmer than normal without any sign of fever. He saw how Superman looked at the boy, during his occasional and then less-occasional visits.

More to the point he could *count,* and had been perfectly capable of doing so five years ago when Lois's pregnancy became obvious.

She hadn't told, but then, he hadn't asked. It simply had never mattered. He was Jason's father in every way that counted, and if his son's genes came from elsewhere, well, Richard had always believed in nurture over nature anyway.

So when it turned out that Jason's genetic heritage derived from a much farther "elsewhere" than he ever could have imagined...that just put the final puzzle pieces into place.

When Superman came back after his five-year mission--or whatever it was--Richard had more than half expected that Lois would give him the Speech. The one that went, "I'm sorry, but--" or "It's not you, it's me--" or most accurately of all, "You've been a great substitute, but you're nothing like the real thing, baby." The last was only in his head, of course, and Lois--for all her casual insensitivities--could never be that cruel. Still, Richard had been subconsciously bracing himself for those words even *before* he'd realized the truth about Jason's parentage.

But Lois hadn't left, and had in fact seemed to cling even more tightly to him after what Jason called their "adventure" on Luthor's yacht. Richard hadn't minded in the least, even if her renewed devotion left him more than a little puzzled. That wasn't an unusual quality of his life with Lois, in any case.

As months went by, he started to understand. Superman was...*Superman.* He did, cliché as it was, belong to the world. He couldn't be anyone's partner, or husband, or companion. *Lover,* obviously, he'd done at least once, and Richard couldn't help wondering....

Well. The point was that even Lois, for all her unrepentantly independent ways--which Richard wouldn't have changed for the world--couldn't pretend that the occasional literal fly-by was any kind of relationship. Superman wasn't a *person.* He was an icon you could love and (apparently) make love to, but he simply wasn't going to be around to take out the trash, or pick up the kid's prescriptions at the pharmacy in the middle of the night, or proof Lois's latest article before it hit Perry's desk with every other word misspelled. He wasn't *real.*

It didn't take long before Richard came to realize that wasn't entirely true, either. Superman had taken to "dropping by," sometimes to give Lois an extra comment on his latest feat (after her initial reluctance, she'd reclaimed her title as Superman's Reporter with a vengeance), sometimes just to say hello to the family. It didn't require extraordinary insight to understand that seeing Jason, even in glimpses, was really the point of the visits, and that Superman was both desperate to be a part of Jason's life and grimly determined not to interfere with the life Richard and Lois had made for him.

That made him far more *human* than Richard would have thought purely based on the articles Lois wrote or, frankly, seeing him in action in person. He still thought of Superman as a force of nature rather than a man, even having seen him injured and near to death. It wasn't until he saw for himself Superman's obvious internal conflict around the boy that Richard finally understood without any doubt that the situation couldn't remain as it was. Not if he was going to retain any measure of self-respect, at least.

He didn't particularly relish the idea of sharing his son's time and affection with another man, but millions of divorced men had dealt with the same situation before him. And he could certainly imagine that Jason's unique heritage might create certain difficulties that he and Lois would be hard-pressed to handle on their own.

Lois would say--

He had no idea what Lois would say. She wouldn't *lie* to him. Honesty was one of the cornerstones of their relationship, but at the same time neither of them were particularly given to spontaneous confession. She might be relieved that he'd found out on his own, or mortified for the same reason. Richard could even imagine that Lois might say--he hoped she'd say--that she'd made her decisions about Superman and Richard and Jason a long time ago, and his new knowledge didn't change any of them. That sounded like her, at least in his head.

But it was obvious that despite all her resolve, Lois still wanted Superman in her life...evidenced by the fact that she hadn't told him to take a hike. No matter what Perry wanted her to write, no matter that her career might hinge on it: If Lois Lane truly wanted a life free of Superman, she'd have it. By means of lead-lined walls and kryptonite fences, if necessary. She certainly wouldn't have put up with him dropping by, much less kept extending the dinner invitations that he never accepted, if she didn't want him around.

Belatedly it occurred to him that he should have felt threatened by Superman's presence, but the same truth applied to him as well: If Lois didn't want him there, she'd have said so in no uncertain terms. She'd never treated him like a second choice or a consolation prize, and *he* wouldn't have stayed if he'd ever felt that was the case.

Maybe without even realizing it Lois was trying to have it both ways, dependable Richard on one side and her dream man on the other--but that wasn't fair, and he wasn't about to start second-guessing what were probably subconscious motives. At the same time Lois might not be pleased that he'd taken it on himself to broach the issue, but if he left it to her, they never would.

So the only question, really, was how to bring all this into the open. And while it was true that he'd initially gotten his job through his uncle, Richard had since more than earned his reporter's byline, and he knew that the only way to confirm a story was to go directly to the source.

Given the choice of two, he'd go with the one less apt to rip him in half.

He finally found the opportunity to corner his subject when Lois lost the coin flip for the dreaded overdue grocery run. She'd told Richard that Superman might be dropping by with a souvenir from his latest exploit, a piece of obsidian from a lava flow he'd diverted into the ocean. Barring unforeseen catastrophes you could usually rely on the Man of Steel to be on time. Sure enough, he'd appeared and presented the rock to Jason, who gaped over it with all his five-year-old's enthusiasm. Richard eavesdropped long enough to make sure Jason said "thank you," then left them to talk about the volcano.

Superman didn't stay long--he never did--but this time, Richard was waiting for him as he stepped out onto the back porch and looked up at the sky, preparing to take flight.

Now or never. "You don't need to make excuses to see him."

He hadn't been at all sure what response to expect, but the wide-eyed look of near-panic hadn't been on the list of potential options. It was, in fact, eerily similar to the look Jason got when caught with his hand in the literal cookie jar, and that only strengthened Richard's resolve. But maybe Superman had thought he'd meant-- "Wait, no, I just meant you don't always have to bring him stuff when you want to drop by. You'll spoil him."

"Oh." Superman actually looked like he was blushing. Very disconcerting. "I didn't mean to. I just--"

"Want to see your son," Richard finished for him, quietly, and took a moment to enjoy the sensation of having the world's most powerful man stare at him with astonishment.

That didn't last long, and to Richard's relief Superman didn't try to dissemble, either. "How did you know?"

"Little things," Richard answered, truthfully enough. "But it's--it'll be easier if we all just stopped pretending."

Superman nodded, slowly. "Lois and I never talked about it. About him. I didn't know before I left for Krypton, and when I got back...." he trailed off.

"Yeah. We never talk about it either." Richard breathed out a short laugh. "And that's fine, I'm not looking to get into a whole *thing* about it, I just didn't want you to think you had to justify every visit with a disaster."

"That's generous of you. I never wanted to intrude on your family."

The "your" evoked more peace of mind than Richard could have hoped for, given the circumstances, but the earnestness was going to *kill* him. "Look, Superman, I'm not going to pretend it won't be awkward, but I figured it was best to clear the air now."

"'Clear the air'," Superman repeated, looking thoughtful. "I guess it is past time. You should know the whole truth, and it's, well, when I'm not wearing the costume I have another identity, as--"

"Clark, I know," Richard said, and there was that startled look again. He might have laughed off the idea the first time they joked about it, but seeing Clark around the Planet offices made the truth painfully obvious despite Lois's willful blindness. The way Clark's eyes followed her, the way they followed Jason when he visited the office, was the same way Superman looked at them. Once seen the fact was impossible to *un*see, and it was frankly hard for Richard to understand how he'd ever been fooled in the first place.

He wasn't entirely sure about what Jason knew, even now. That Clark was Superman, no doubt; Richard had been around kids enough to understand that they were a lot faster to catch onto the obvious, and simply never mentioned it because they assumed that everyone else instinctively knew the same thing. He and Lois had never talked about Jason's parentage with him, the same way they'd never talked about it with each other, and as far as Richard could tell Jason entirely believed that Richard was his father. Which he *was,* Richard thought a little fiercely, surprising himself with the vehemence of the emotion. But Jason had clearly picked up on Superman's--on Clark's attention, and like any five year old, he reveled in it.

He hadn't told Lois, because it wasn't his secret to tell. But the irony struck him with nearly physical force every time Lois made a derisive comment about country bumpkins or Clark's supposed lack of investigative skill. (Untrue, even if Clark did tend to be more methodical and less flashy in both style and prose. But at least he could *spell.*) If only Clark would stand up for himself, even once--

But Richard supposed he could understand why he didn't. Assertiveness might have drawn attention, and Clark was all about flying under the radar. It privately amused him to think that it had taken another flyer--a pilot, granted, but non-supermen had mortal limitations--to discern an evasive flight pattern.

"I haven't told her," he added before Superman could ask.

Superman--Clark--nodded with more than a little detectable relief. "No, I figured. Lois would've confronted me."

True words. Lois was many things, but "subtle" had never been on the list. And that went for everything from her investigative style to the roar of the car pulling into the driveway. "Speaking of. I'd say that you should stay and help me break the news, but--"

"It'd be better if it doesn't look like we're ganging up on her. Right," Clark agreed. It was somehow easier to think of him as Clark, even with Superman's cape gently fluttering in the breeze. "We'll talk more. Soon."

And with that he was gone, just as Lois called from the front door that anyone who wanted to eat needed to come and help with the groceries. Richard smiled to himself and went inside, thinking about his family and what was about to change. And more important, what wasn't going to change. Someday they'd need to tell Jason the truth, if he didn't figure it out for himself beforehand. But Clark didn't seem inclined to make any further claim to fatherhood than the occasional fly-by, and Richard honestly hadn't expected otherwise. Everything he knew from Lois and the simple fact that Superman hadn't even *tried* to claim Jason as his own made his position clear.

He could imagine all the reasons why, beginning with the dangers Superman constantly threw himself into and the ones that followed him home. Clark had taken on responsibility for the world and merely relinquished one small boy in exchange.

Richard wasn't selfless enough to tell him that he'd made entirely the wrong choice.


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