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A New Normal

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Lois glared at the chamber her son was lying in. Yes, okay, fine, she got it, it wouldn't be safe for her or Richard or Clark to be in there while the computer simulation of Clarks biological father fixed Jason's metabolism so that he wouldn't be sick anymore. Still. Surely she could be right next to it, at least! But no. Clark had dropped her and Richard off on a platform which had a good view into the chamber, but was separated by a huge drop from it. She would never mock Star Wars again—apparently aliens really were fond of putting chasms in their architecture for no apparent reason.

"I thought you said Kryptonians couldn't fly on Krypton, but only on Earth because of the yellow sun?" Richard commented, thoughts apparently going in the same direction.

"That’s what I was told," Lois said raising her eyebrows at Clark, who was standing next to them.

"Oh!" Clark said. "Um, yeah. They couldn’t. But growing the crystals is just the first step—you're supposed to shape them and finish them, and then add furnishings and such. I just … never got around to it." He surveyed the grand chamber that made up the majority of the Fortress of Solitude: the jagged edges of the crystals, the differences in their heights, the chasms between them, and the lack of stairs or bridges anywhere. He rubbed his neck, the diffidence clashing oddly with the blue and red suit. "Maybe I should do some of that."

"If you want to have human guests, it would be a good idea," Richard said with a nod.

"And if you want your son to be able to visit here before he learns to fly, or becomes invulnerable at the very least," Lois said. Not even Jor-El knew if Jason ever would, but Lois was always one to think big. "Because if you think I'm letting him come here where he could fall and break his neck, you've got another thing coming."

"Good point," Clark said.

"So, is this what Krypton looked like?" Richard asked. "Because from your costume, I was expecting something a little less … stark." By which he probably meant 'more garish.' Five years of living with a guy, you learn to read between the lines.

"Either that or something a little more homey," Lois said. She'd seen Clark's apartment, and she'd seen the farmhouse he'd grown up in; this was light-years away from either.

"Well, I did suggest to Jor-El, about halfway through my training, that maybe I could put up some gingham curtains or something, but he didn't like the idea," Clark said.

Lois laughed, then realized from Clark's expression (and the fact that not only did the Kent Farm have gingham curtains, but Clark had had them in the kitchen of his apartment before and after leaving for Krypton) that he was telling the truth. "I can see why he'd object," she said. "It doesn't quite match the décor. On the other hand, he's a computer program. You're the one who owns the place."

Clark gave her a look somewhere between 'Clark's' puppy eyes and 'Superman's' earnest entreaty. Given the number of times 'Jor-El says' had come up in conversation since they'd learned who Clark really was (even allowing for the fact that Jor-El was the one who'd figured out how to heal Jason), Clark had a fixation on a holographic computer program. An awesome holographic computer program, but still not actually a person.

"So, you said you did your training here?" Richard said, changing the subject.

This was one of the reasons Lois liked having Richard and Clark around; to have the tact she lacked. Also, if they were talking she could go back to staring at Jason's chamber and willing the treatment to be done already. Not that it would make any difference; Lois was all-too-familiar with waiting for Jason's medical issues. Richard's coping mechanism was to distract himself. Lois wrapped her arms around herself and sent good thoughts in her son's direction.

"Yeah," Clark said. "I'd figured out the big stuff, by my control wasn't worth very much. I could fly, but I crashed a lot. And I broke things by accident all the time. And I didn't know much about physics or chemistry—my highschool wasn't that big on sciences besides ag. I didn't know anything about Kryptonian language or history or culture."

"Wow, that sounds like it must have taken a long time," Richard said.

"A year," Clark replied.

"A year of flying back and forth all the time?" Richard said. "I'm amazed no one tracked you here earlier."

"Oh, I didn't fly back and forth," Clark said. "I walked here at first—the crystal told me where to go—and then I stayed until my training was done."

"Wait, what?" Lois said, her attention pulled back into the conversation. "A year. You were here for a year? And you didn't finish anything or bring in any furniture?" A year by himself with only a computer for company, that couldn't have been healthy.

"Well, I had a bed," Clark said. "I didn't really need anything else."

Richard and Lois traded looks. "Didn't anybody ask where you were?" Richard asked.

"Well, it was just after my Dad died," Clark said. "I came of age by Kryptonian standards a few days after the funeral, and one of the crystals from my ship started calling to me. So I packed a bag, and told Ma I was going. She told everyone that I was going off to see the world, and that was that. The crystal led me here, and I put it in the water and it grew into the Fortress, and Jor-El started teaching me."

"It must have been lonely," Lois said.

Clark shrugged. "I'm used to being alone," he said.

Lois put a hand on his arm. "Hey," she said. "You don't have to be."

Clark shot an uncertain look at Richard. So far, he'd bent over backwards to show that he wasn't trying to take either Lois or Jason away from the other man. It was sweet, but also annoying. If Lois ever chose to leave Richard, it would be because it was Lois' decision, not anyone else's.

"Don't look like that," Richard said. "You have to stick around for a while! Jason's going to need someone to teach him how to use his X-ray vision once he gets it, and how to control his strength. Not to mention, somebody's got to teach him Kryptonian."

"Yeah, 'cause it's darn sure I'm not going to let him disappear to the middle of the arctic wilderness for a year," Lois said.

"I called Ma and talked with her at least once a week."

Lois smiled. Now, that sounded like Clark. "Sunday afternoons, I'll bet," she said. "But Clark, a phone call once a week isn't the same as visiting. Take it from a mother. I guarantee you she worried the whole time." Something chimed, and Lois' attention jerked back to the chamber. She squinted. Was Jason moving in there? Yes, he was!

Clark picked up Lois in his right arm and Richard in his left, and flew them across the gap. The door to the chamber opened as they approached, and he brought them inside, setting them down gently. Lois went straight to the bed and sat down on it, watching as Jason scrunched up his face and opened his eyes.

"Mom?" he said. "Dad? Ukr? Did it work?" Richard and Clark stood behind her.

"The procedure was successful," intoned the mellifluous voice of the Jor-El program. "Although one cannot know for certain the long-term outcome of any such untested procedure, at present the child's body is functioning perfectly."

"Oh, thank God," Lois said, sagging in relief. Richard put his hand on her shoulder and squeezed. "Lois reached out and brushed Jason's hair out of his eyes. Clark let out a sigh of relief.

Jason sat up, and frowned. "I feel funny," he said.

"Your lungs are functioning at 100% capacity for perhaps the first time in your life, Jason Lane," Jor-El said. "You have no rashes anywhere on your body, your bones are stronger, your muscles are functioning efficiently, your digestive system is now adapted to extract all the nutrients you require from your food, and many other adjustments have been made. Thus your body does not feel the same as you have been accustomed to."

Lois smiled. "This is what healthy feels like, kiddo," she said. "Get used to it. You're just going to have to get used to a new normal."