By Allison Spielzinger (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Summary: Lois and Clark's investigation into the kidnapping of two young children — whose father is suspected of ties to Intergang — allows Lois to watch Clark interact with children and leads her to explore her feelings about having kids.
This story is set some time in the future, assuming that Lois and Clark are engaged and that Lois knows that Clark is Superman. It was written during that HORRIBLE period of LCWS known as "the summer," between ATAI and WHALTTA. I'm sorry for the A plot, but I needed an A plot to write my WAFFY scenes. :-)
The working title for this was "Bigger Problems" but I think I think I like "A Freak Accident" better.
He was tired. The bachelor party last night had ended very late, and he hadn't gotten much sleep. After a full day of work, his lack of sleep was beginning to show. The noise on the bus didn't wake him up any more, it just droned on and on, in a way lulling him to sleep. His eyelids felt very heavy, and he fought to keep his eyes open. His eyelids drifted closed as he made the left turn, oblivious to the rapidly approaching truck. He felt a jolt, and then came the sickening realization that the bus was flipping over.
Clark Kent woke up to the sound of his alarm buzzing. Sleepily, he rolled over and turned it off. He looked down at his sleeping fiance, Lois Lane. It was hard to imagine that six months ago he and Lois had barely dated, and now they were engaged.
He had been in love with Lois since the first day he met her. Disguised as Superman, he had saved her life more times than he wanted to think about. It had been the greatest relief of his life when it was out in the open that he was, in fact, Superman, the man she had once worshipped above everything else. It had taken two years for him to feel it was the right time to tell her, and to get up enough courage to do it. By the time he finally decided that he'd waited long enough, she had figured it out for herself. Looking at her now, he knew that there was nothing he wouldn't do for her, and that she felt the same way about him.
He leaned over and whispered "I love you" in her ear before he started to get ready for work.
By the time Lois' alarm clock went off fifteen minutes later, Clark had brushed his teeth, showered, shaved, dressed, and nearly finished cooking breakfast. Lois forced herself to get out of bed. She stumbled into the kitchen and saw Clark at the stove. Although he didn't have to cook that way, he liked to when he wasn't in a hurry because it made him feel more normal; more human. Lois walked up behind him. "I hate that when I wake up you're not there," she said, hugging him. Although they didn't live together, they spent nearly every night together.
"But you hate sharing the bathroom more," he reminded her.
"True," she sighed. "Especially with a big blur whizzing around me. I guess there are bigger problems in the world than me waking up alone."
Lois could not have known that halfway across Metropolis, two people were contemplating a desperate act because they had one of those problems.
Arm in arm, the Daily Planet's top reporting team strolled leisurely into work. Ten minutes later, they were drinking coffee and laughing together when they heard Perry White, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper and their friend, call out, "Lois! Clark! I know that you two are having a nice time and all, but we have a newspaper to write. Now would you please get to work?"
Lois reluctantly walked from Clark's desk over to hers to start making phone calls.
Inside his office, Perry was smiling. He was, of course, thrilled that his two best reporters were engaged (it took them long enough!), but they *did* have a newspaper to write. He couldn't be TOO soft on them. He was chuckling to himself about the team (especially Clark, who didn't think Perry had figured out that he was Superman after all this time) when he heard a knock at his door.
"Hi Chief. I just wanted to let you know that Lois and I will both be taking off tomorrow."
Perry frowned. He always missed them when they weren't there. The newsroom felt empty, especially without BOTH of them, and they rarely took days off alone anymore. "Well, I guess you deserve it after that last investigation." He would have thought that the last investigation almost got Lois, Clark, and Jimmy killed if he hadn't known that Superman was protecting them the whole time. Perry wondered if Jimmy had figured out Clark's secret yet. He felt it safe to assume that Lois knew.
"Thanks Chief." He and Lois needed some time alone together. They'd both been so busy lately that they hadn't had much of it.
Walking back to his desk, Clark saw Lois scribbling something down on a pad while talking on the phone. He took a detour over to her and waited until she hung up the phone. "Well?"
She looked confused. "That was Kate Scaffin."
"Scaffin, Scaffin… why does that name sound familiar?"
"You know, Charlie Scaffin."
"Oh, yeah. How could I have forgotten?"
The name was notorious. There was no proof of anything, but Lois, Clark, and every other person involved in investigating or prosecuting crime suspected that the fifty year old loud, rude, vulgar man was involved with Intergang. In fact, they believed that he was a top boss in it. "Why would Charlie Scaffin's wife call you?"
"I don't know, Clark. She said she was calling from a pay phone. She sounded very scared and she said it was urgent that she meet with me, I mean… uh… us, tomorrow at 2:00 at Suzanna's Diner on Tempin Street."
"Tomorrow! Why not today?"
"I don't know. I tried to ask her, but she said she was afraid that she was being followed, and she hung up."
Clark groaned. "So much for spending time alone together." He headed back toward Perry's office. "There's been a change of plans, Chief…"
The next day, at 2:00, Lois and Clark walked into Suzanna's Diner. "Lois, do you know what she looks like?"
"No. Do you?"
"No. She'll have to find us, then."
They sat down at a table and waited. Almost immediately, an attractive young-looking woman sat down next to Lois.
"Can I help you?" asked Lois rudely. This can't possibly be Mrs. Scaffin, she thought.
"I… you are Lois Lane, aren't you?"
"Yes, and you are?"
"I'm Kate Scaffin."
"Oh, my… I'm so sorry! I expected you to be older." Thinking about fifty year old Charlie Scaffin, she added, "Much older."
The woman sitting next to Lois couldn't have been more than 25. She looked tired, and she had blotches on her face like she'd been crying. "Who's this?" she asked.
"This is my partner, Clark Kent."
"Nice to meet you," said Clark. Lois rolled her eyes. Why did he have to be so polite all the time?
"Why are we here?" asked Lois.
"First, you have to promise me that you will not go to the police, and that you will write a story on this… yet."
"This can't become public information, so you called reporters?" This woman must be dumber than she looks, thought Lois.
"I called you because I knew that you were an investigative reporter, and I *can't* go to the police."
"We can't print your story and we can't go to the police. What exactly do you want us to do?" Lois felt bad after she saw that the woman was close to tears. "I'm sorry."
"No, it's all right. Maybe I shouldn't have called you."
Clark thought he should jump in to prevent Lois from doing any more damage. "What can we do to help you, Mrs. Scaffin?"
"I need you to investigate something for me. After it's over, you can write about it, and I promise you an exclusive. I'm sure it'll be a big story, but for now, please, don't publish anything."
As soon as Lois heard the words "big story" her ears perked up. "All right, we won't. What is it that you need investigated?"
"My daughter has been kidnapped," said Kate. She DID look tired and as though she had been crying, but despite that, her statement was conspicuously lacking emotion. Even after she started crying, Lois was suspicious.
Clark, too, was skeptical, but nevertheless, he reached over the table to comfort the sobbing woman, and Lois put a hand on her shoulder. "What can we do to help?" she asked.
Kate tried to regain her composure. "I don't know why anyone would want to kidnap her."
Off hand, Lois could think of several reasons. Greed, ransom, revenge, spite, a warning, and so on. She's either lying or stupid, thought Lois.
"My husband told me not to do anything. He said not to go to the police or the media. He thinks that whoever took her wants money. I don't know what he'd do if he found out that I talked to you. I finally called you because I just can't wait around doing nothing."
"Did you find a ransom note?" asked Clark.
"No, that's what I don't understand. Charlie said to wait, that we'd probably be contacted soon."
Lois started to think out loud. "That's unusual. Usually people find a ransom note right away. Could there be another reason somebody would want to take your daughter?" I already know the answer to that one, she thought.
Looking Lois squarely in the eye, Kate said, "I think you know that there is." She allowed her words time to sink in. "I don't know very much about my husband's business dealings, Miss Lane, but I will tell you everything I know and give you access to our bank accounts, papers, and anything else you want. Once I get my daughter back, you can print whatever you want. I knew that I was taking a risk marrying Charlie." She paused. "As soon as Colette is safe, I'm leaving him."
"And you'll give us anything?"
"Yes. I have all incriminating documents in a safe deposit box. Charlie doesn't know. But you can't print anything about this yet."
Lois realized that she had underestimated Kate. This woman knew that they could not pass up an opportunity to expose a top boss for Intergang. Of course, they would have helped her find her daughter anyway, but this was her extra insurance. No wonder she thought she was being followed, thought Lois. If I were doing something that could do serious damage to Intergang, I would too. (Never mind the fact that she had written numerous articles about the organization and already HAD done serious damage to it.)
Lois and Clark, and dozens of others, had tried to bring down Intergang. Police in every state in the nation and nearly every country on the globe knew and feared this organization. After Lex Luthor "died," Intergang took over being the largest crime organization in the world. Numerous attempts to destroy it had failed. Lois would have been in as much danger as Kate was from the organization because of the investigations and stories she and Clark had written about it, but she had Superman protecting her 24 hours a day, and Kate did not.
Lois began to ask Kate questions. "Where did you last see your daughter?"
"Colette was playing outside before dinner- around 4:30- two days ago, and the phone rang. I walked inside. I talked to my mother on the phone for a while, and I guess I got distracted, because when I looked back outside, she was gone."
"Did you see anything unusual?"
"What did you do?" I feel like a police officer, thought Lois.
"I searched the front yard and the back yard. I ran up and down the block and around the neighborhood looking for her. When I couldn't find her, I ran inside and told my husband."
Clark listened to the two women talk about what Kate knew about Charlie Scaffin's business acquaintances, dealings, and enemies. He understood all too well how people sometimes unwillingly put those they love in danger. His greatest fear was that someone would figure out his secret and try to hurt Lois to get to him. Some people still did not accept that he was not going to attack the earth. He could not forget Jason Trask, and he was sure that there must be others like him. More people who thought that Superman was on the planet to precede an alien attack surely existed.
Groaning inwardly, Clark heard a far away cry for help. "Help! Somebody, help!"
Lois recognized the look on Clark's face as his someone- needs-my-help-so-I-have-to-get-out-of-here look. She tried to help him out. "Clark, don't you have to, um, call your stockbroker?"
"Yes, I completely forgot! I'll be right back."
Kate Scaffin looked confused as she watched him leave. Lois continued asking questions.
"My husband, Charlie…" Kate was saying.
Lois wasn't listening until she heard Kate mention her favorite man in blue.
"All men are the same, and I don't trust any of them anymore. Except Superman… I'd trust *him* any day," she said dreamily.
The flash of- was it jealousy?- that Kate saw on Lois' face, and her subsequently rolling her eyes, Kate dismissed as reminiscent feelings for the big guy. Kate had heard rumors that Lois had been involved with Superman… that they were married… that she'd had a child with him and it was hideous and orange… and things more bizarre than that. Now she was with that Clark guy, but she had to still carry a torch for Superman. Who wouldn't?
Clark returned from putting out a fire and answering questions thirty minutes later to find Lois sitting by herself. "Kate left?" he said.
They left the diner and walked to Lois' jeep. Lois drove back to the Planet while Clark looked at over her notes. She had the names of five people written down.
"Clark, I think this woman knows MUCH more about her husband's business dealings than she lets on. She practically told me that her husband has money from illegal operations stored in numbered bank accounts in Switzerland and the Cayman Islands. She suggested that her husband might be laundering money through his businesses."
"What businesses would those be?"
Louis suppressed a laugh and waved her hands in a flourish. "He owns a wide variety of stores. Shoe stores, toy stores, clothing stores, food stores. About half of them are legitimate."
"Why does he need so many businesses if he's laundering money?"
"Apparently, he owned the businesses before he was contacted by Intergang. They needed a front, and since he owned so many stores already, they figured that no one would ever suspect anything. The money that passes through his stores legally can't compare to the Intergang money. For a cut of the profit, he filters the money through his companies.
"People started suspecting things when Scaffin got greedy. He wanted more of the money than he was getting, and in trying to get it, he made some careless errors. The paper trail that was supposed to be untraceable suddenly became traceable. When he was audited by the IRS last year, they picked up on the Scaffin/Intergang connection. Although there was no concrete evidence, that's how it got started."
"And Scaffin was cheating his Intergang buddies out of some money."
"SOME money, Clark? Try `millions.' Kate was sure that her husband had done something to anger Intergang."
"I bet it took a lot of thinking to figure that out!"
"She thinks that they kidnapped Colette as a warning to her husband."
"For someone who doesn't `know much' about her husband's business dealings, she seems pretty well informed to me," speculated Clark.
"I know. And she seemed to think that her daughter would be returned soon, that this was all just a warning."
"So what was all that stuff about not printing this, and needing our help?"
"I think she's tired of all this. She's angry at her husband because he did this to her life. She wants to lead a normal life, and she's angry because she can't. Oh, and she thinks her husband's cheating on her, so she wants to ruin him."
"Hell hath no fury…"
"You better believe it."
Clark laughed. "If *I* were a fifty year old man with a 25 year old wife, I most certainly would NOT have an affair!"
"If *you* were a fifty year old man and you did not have a fifty year old wife, you'd better beware *my* fury."
She's so cute when she's jealous, he thought. "Don't worry Lois, I'm not planning on being fifty married to anyone but you."
When they walked into the newsroom at 2:00, they immediately heard Perry shouting at them. "Lois! Clark! Get in here!"
They rushed into Perry's office. "What is it, Chief?" asked Lois.
"You two are working on a kidnapping case."
"Where do those people live?"
"In Seaside. 2040 Bluestorm Road. Why?"
"Because someone just handed me a photo of this little girl, also kidnapped from Seaside three days ago. She lives at 100 Peter Avenue."
"Lois! Peter Avenue is right around the corner from Bluestorm Road! I passed it when I went to get Mrs. Scaffin." Clark realized what he'd said, and was about to make an excuse, but Perry didn't seem to have noticed his slip.
I'll let that slide, thought Perry. I wonder if he even realizes that it was "Superman" that brought Mrs. Scaffin here.
"Where is Mrs. Scaffin now?" Lois said quickly, trying to pass over what Clark said.
"She's downstairs. Last I saw her, she was flirting with Steve in editing."
"Does she know about this other kidnapping?"
"No," replied Perry. "I haven't seen her since I got this photo."
Clark was studying the picture in Perry's hand. Slowly, he reached into his pocket and took out the picture that Lois had given him of Colette. He took the picture of the other little girl out of Perry's hand held the two pictures up next to each other.
Lois looked up at Clark's shocked face.
"Lois, we have to go. RIGHT NOW."
"Right now." He took Lois' arm and rushed her out of Perry's office.
Perry called out after them, "Clark! What is it? Clark!! Will somebody please tell me what in the Sam Hill is going on here??" He shook his head and walked back to his desk. It's a good thing that kid's a damn good reporter, he thought, otherwise…
Before Lois knew what had happened, Clark had whisked her back to his apartment. "Clark, what is it?"
Clark held up the two photos in front of Lois. "Look very carefully at these pictures, Lois."
She did. "Oh no," she said softly. "I can't believe what I'm seeing."
"Now I understand why Colette looked so familiar." Clark could now clearly remember where he'd seen her before.
The day before Lois received her phone call from Kate Scaffin, Lois and Clark witnessed an accident from Lois' car on their way home from work. A truck and a bus collided, and they had watched in horror as the bus flipped over. Clark, of course, immediately fled the car and arrived at the scene as Superman. Lois had pulled over and jumped out of the car, and she also ran over to the bus. She had watched as Clark pulled passenger after passenger out of the bus. Only two people had serious injuries, and he flew them to the hospital before the ambulance and the police arrived.
What caught Lois' attention at the scene of the accident was Cathy Lionel, a sports columnist from the Daily Planet. Cathy had two small, screaming children with her. Lois ran over to her to see if she needed any help. Cathy had hurriedly declined and rushed away without talking to the police or the paramedics.
"CATHY LIONEL kidnapped those two little girls? How could she?" Lois was shocked, to say the least. "We must have seen her right after she did it, because it was the day before Kate called me- that means it was the day they were taken."
Clark put his head in his hands. "I can't believe we didn't realize it sooner."
Suddenly, Lois had a thought that horrified her. "Clark, if she kidnapped these two kids, she's not going to stick around for very long. They disappeared three days ago- she might already be gone!"
Clark called the Planet.
On the fifth ring, someone finally picked up. "Jimmy Olsen."
"Jimmy, it's Clark. I need you to look up the address of a Planet employee. Cathy Lionel. Hurry up, it's very important."
A few minutes later, Jimmy came back. "Cathy Lionel… 151 Bay Avenue, apartment 6B."
Clark was grateful that he'd patrolled Metropolis enough times to know nearly every street in it. "I know where that is, thanks, Jimmy."
"Sure thing, CK. Are you home now?"
"Wow that was fast! What'd you do, fly?"
Clark realized that he should have said he was calling from a pay phone or his cellular phone. "Uh, I have to go, Jimmy. Bye." He hung up the phone, changed into his Superman costume, picked up Lois, and flew out the window. They landed behind a building near Bay Avenue. From there, they sped over to Cathy Lionel's apartment building. They were glad there wasn't a doorman. They buzzed her apartment, hoping that they weren't too late.
Lois breathed a sigh of relied when they heard a familiar sounding voice say, "Who's there?"
"It's Lois Lane and Clark Kent," said Lois. "Can we come up?"
The door buzzed, signaling that they could go inside the building. Clark opened the door, and they took the elevator to the sixth floor. When they found apartment 6B, they knocked on Cathy's door. Reluctantly, she opened it. "I guess you're here about the girls. Well, my husband isn't here, but I guess you can come in."
Clark looked past Cathy into the apartment and saw Colette and the other little girl staring apprehensively at the door with dolls in their hands.
"It's all right, girls. Keep playing." She double locked the door behind them and then gestured for Clark and Lois to follow her. They ended up in a spacious, well-lit kitchen. It was tastefully decorated, like something Lois herself might do. As Lois and Clark looked around the room, their curiosity was piqued. Why would this woman and her husband, neither of which had any obvious connection to the Scaffins, kidnap Colette Scaffin? Or, for that matter, the other little girl?
They heard noise in the other room, and Cathy excused herself. Lowering his glasses, Clark peeked through the wall and saw the two girls fighting over a doll. "I don't know if we should stay and talk to her or take her to the police," he said.
"Well," replied Lois, "since we're here, and she can't run anywhere to get away, it couldn't hurt to talk to her. Maybe she'll tell us what this is all about."
"All right, I guess it won't hurt to talk to her." He continued looking through the wall to make sure Cathy wasn't trying to flee down the fire escape with the children. She wasn't. When he saw her walking back toward the kitchen, he raised his glasses.
Cathy walked into the kitchen. "Before you say anything," she began, "I think I should tell you why all of this happened." The two reporters sat in silence as she began to talk.
"I am 34 years old." She said it as if the fate of the universe depended on her age. "My husband and I have been trying to have a child since I was 24. It's become pretty obvious that we can't conceive." She looked from Lois to Clark, and then back to Lois. "I wanted more than anything to have a baby. You two are engaged now… some day when you're married you'll want to have children. You can't understand what it's like, not being able to have any. Five years of trying to have a baby and getting no results drove me to distraction. I hated the empty house, and I hated being in it alone. I got a job at the Planet just to take my mind off of my problems."
Tears started falling down Cathy's cheeks as she spoke. "We don't have enough money for all those new ways of conceiving- in-vitro fertilization and such. We don't have enough money to go through the adoption process either. We have friends who supported a woman with an unwanted pregnancy for months. They gave her thousands of dollars, and she changed her mind once the baby was born. They did it all over again, and they did get a baby, eventually, but we don't have that kind of money to spare. And we were put on waiting lists, but that's what they were: waiting lists. We waited for months… years… before we gave up. I know we could have adopted an older child, but you never know what the child will be like. And we wanted a baby, anyway. I wanted one more than anything else in the world. I wanted a baby so badly…" She stopped.
When Cathy said those last few sentences, Lois felt a tightness inside her chest that she couldn't quite place. She dismissed it as pity for Cathy.
"But kidnapping a child isn't the answer," Clark said delicately.
"I know that. There's more to the story. We didn't just take a child at random." She got up for a tissue and wiped her eyes. "My cousin, Sandy, lives across the street from the Scaffins. She and I are very close, so I visit her often. She's only lived there for a few months. I saw Colette playing outside one night, and I noticed that there was nobody outside with her. It was dark, and I was afraid something might happen to her. I kept an eye on her, and I asked Sandy how a mother could let such a young child be outside, alone, at night, in the dark. She told me that Colette is always outside by herself. There aren't many other children in this neighborhood, so she plays outside by herself a lot. Her mother sometimes stays out there with her, but more often she doesn't.
"One day, I met Colette out there. I had just gotten out of my car, and she saw a child she knows on Sandy's side of the street. She called out to me, and I remember she said 'I'm not allowed to cross the street by myself. Could you cross me please?' I did, and then Cathy and I sat outside for about half an hour. Colette's friend friend went to a ballet lesson or something, and Colette wandered down to Cathy's driveway and started talking to us. She's a beautiful child, very polite, and very sweet.
"Every time I came to Cathy's house after that, I somehow managed to talk to Colette. And in all those times, I never met her mother. I'd watched Colette from Sandy's window for hours at a time, and I *never saw her mother.* Not once. I started to think that her mother really was negligent and unfit. I thought that it was so unfair, how this woman had this remarkable child she didn't take care of- Colette was always beautifully dressed and clean, but that's not what I mean- and I didn't. I realized that I was falling in love with this wonderful little child, and I truly believed that I would be a better mother to her than… what's her name, Kate?"
"My husband and I discussed this, at length. We knew it was wrong, of course, but he'd met Colette too, and he adored her, and he also thought her mother was negligent."
"So the two of you decided to kidnap her," said Lois.
Cathy nodded in response. "We knew that she was generally outside every evening. My husband drove over there because I was too nervous. We didn't want to go onto her block, but it turned out that we didn't have to. Colette was on the corner with the other little girl. We didn't know what to do. If we took her then, the other girl, Jennifer, would see. My husband said we should wait until the other girl left, but I was afraid Colette would walk back onto her block and we would miss our chance."
"Then you took them both," Clark said.
"Yes. I got out of the car, grabbed them both, picked them both up, and put them in the back seat of the car. Colette just looked at me. She didn't cry or anything, she just seemed to wonder what was happening." Cathy frowned. "Jennifer doesn't speak English. She looked at me and my husband and then started saying something I couldn't understand and crying a little. I realized that she was speaking Spanish. She wasn't a friend of Colette's, really. Colette told us that she saw a little girl she didn't know, and she went over to talk to her."
"This was around 4:30?" asked Clark
Cathy looked surprised. "4:30? No, it was at 6:00."
"Are you sure? Mrs. Scaffin told us the last time she saw Colette was at 4:30," said Lois.
"I'm positive. I knew she was unfit to raise a child," Cathy said disgustedly. "I'm not surprised she left her alone for an hour and a half."
"Why doesn't Jennifer speak English?" asked Clark.
"From what we could understand, she and her parents are vacationing here from Spain. They rented the house for a month from the owners. I guess they have a lot of money to throw around."
"Back to Colette. Many people who are unfit to raise children have them anyway… that doesn't mean someone should kidnap all of them," said Lois. "And besides, you couldn't have expected to raise two children *here* when you had none before. You would have to register them for school eventually, they'd need social security information, and all that other stuff- and you're still here."
"We were so close. I was going to leave tonight with the girls. We had plane tickets to Los Angeles. My husband was going to meet us there whenever he finished taking care of things here. He would have to notify the landlord that we were leaving, see how many months rent we'd have to pay, sell the furniture, things like that."
"How are the children? How are they reacting to all of this?" asked Clark.
"Very well, I think. Jennifer cries often, but Colette doesn't cry at all. She asks a lot of questions. 'I want my puppy.' 'Where's Daddy?' 'Where's Mommy?'" Cathy laughed. She asks for her puppy more often than for her mother, what does that tell you?"
"What did you tell her?" asked Lois
"We told her that I'm her Mommy, and that David- my husband- is her Daddy. And we promised to buy her a puppy."
"That couldn't have worked."
"Even when she didn't ask, we told her that I'm her mother and David's her father. She was confused, of course, but with such constant reinforcement, I think she was beginning to believe it."
"We tried to talk to Jennifer, but she doesn't speak any English. I know a very little Spanish, but not enough to fully communicate with her. Eventually she would have learned English, I'm sure. Even though she cries a lot, she is a very sweet little girl, and once we became familiar to her, she was somewhat comfortable around us. Of course, we had no way to tell *her* that we're her parents. We just kept pointing to ourselves and repeating the words 'mommy' and 'daddy.'"
"What were you doing on a bus the day you kidnapped them? That's how we figured out that you had the girls… we saw pictures of the two together and realized that we'd seen them after that bus accident," Clark informed her.
"Clark, you were at the accident? I don't remember seeing you there."
"I, um, I was. I guess you didn't see me. What were you doing on the bus? A lot of people must have seen you, that was a big risk."
"I told my mother what David and I were going to do. She wanted to see me one more time before we left for Los Angeles, and she wanted to see her grandchildren. My husband had to leave unexpectedly, there was an emergency at his office, and I had no way of going to see my mother besides the bus. She is confined to a wheelchair, so she couldn't come to see us. I didn't want to go, but she threatened to call the police if I refused."
The three people in the kitchen were quiet for a few minutes after that. Cathy was nervous, anticipating what would happen next. Lois and Clark were mulling over their thoughts about everything they'd just heard.
"Would you excuse us for a minute?" Lois asked. She took Clark by the elbow and pulled him out of the kitchen into the hallway. "Clark, this woman is insane," she hissed.
"I wouldn't say *insane,* exactly… more like 'confused.'"
"Confused? Clark, she kidnapped two children and tried to make them call her Mommy!"
Clark sighed. "I think she wanted children so badly that she could think of nothing else. And what about her husband, where's he?"
"Working, I assume. So what do we do with her now? I guess take her to the police? We have to take those two kids there also." Clark nodded in response.
The two reporters returned to the kitchen. They expected Cathy to protest when they told her what they had to do, but to their surprise, she acquiesced.
Lois led Cathy outside while Clark went to go get the children. When he got outside, he said, "I'll go get the car, it's parked a few blocks away." He was thankful that there were no empty parking spots on Cathy's street, making his excuse look legitimate. He walked to the next block, then flew back to Lois' apartment to get her car, then flew the car to the deserted alley behind the building near Bay Avenue in which he and Lois had landed earlier. From there, he drove the car to the front of Cathy's house.
Lois drove to the police station with Cathy next to her in the passenger seat. Clark sat in the back seat and talked to the children.
Clark's world travels had given him the ability to speak in an extensive range of languages, and Spanish had been one of the first languages he learned, so he had no trouble communicating with Jennifer. He told her that the police were going to call her parents, and that she'd see them soon. She opened up to him after that, and he soon discovered that she was a very intelligent child.
He talked to Jennifer and Colette all the way to the police station.
Lois did all the talking at the police station, as usual. That was fine with Clark, because he was enjoying his conversations with the two little girls.
Watching him, Lois pulled out her cellular phone and called the Daily Planet. She told Perry what had happened (he forgave her and Clark for running out of his office), and Perry contacted Kate Scaffin, who was still flirting with Steve in editing.
Cathy heard Lois mention the name "Kate Scaffin" to Perry, and she started screaming. "That woman cannot take care of her child! She leaves her unattended for hours on end! You can't give her back!" The police had to physically restrain her from tearing the phone away from Lois, and then they took her away somewhere that Lois couldn't see.
Ten minutes later, Lois was still talking to Perry. She wasn't really listening to him because he was giving her yet another Elvis analogy. She glanced over at Clark. He was sitting in a chair, chatting amicably with Jennifer. He looked up and saw her watching him. She smiled and blew him a kiss, which he pretended to catch.
Just then, a woman walked into the police station. When she introduced herself to the police as "Rachel Golden, Department of Children and Family Services," Clark and Lois immediately became interested. Lois hastily ended her conversation with Perry.
Moving closer to the police officers and the social worker, Lois was able to overhear only part of the conversation. "…kidnapped child… unfit… Intergang…"
That was all Lois heard because just then Clark was at her side whispering in her ear. "They listened to what Cathy Lionel had to say about Kate Scaffin, and they called the social worker to determine whether or not she really is neglecting Colette. Then they told her about Charlie Scaffin's possible connection to Intergang."
"I don't see how that's relevant," said Lois.
"Maybe they're trying to tell her to be careful."
"Maybe." She turned her attention to the police and Ms. Golden and noticed that the social worker was taking Colette into a room. "Inspector Langworthy! Could I speak to you again for a moment?"
The middle-aged policeman walked over the Lois. "Yes, Miss Lane?"
"What's going to happen to Colette?"
"Well, Ms. Golden is going to speak to her. She'll ask her a few questions about what goes on at home… there's really not much to be done. Leaving a child unattended for a few hours, while irresponsible, is not really considered neglectful. Unless Colette's not being fed enough, or she's being abused, there aren't any grounds to take her away from her parents. We had to call a social worker anyway, just to be sure." Langworthy turned to Clark. "Mr. Kent? Could you ask Jennifer her phone number so we can call her parents?"
Lois watched as Clark talked to Jennifer. He's talking an awfully long time to be asking "What's your phone number?" thought Lois.
"She doesn't know," said Clark.
"How can she not know?" asked Langworthy.
"She's only three years old," said Clark.
"Well, what's her last name?"
"Oh, lovely," said Langworthy. "There's only about four hundred Riveras in Metropolis."
"They're tourists from Spain, they wouldn't *be* in the phone book. Can't you get her phone number using her address?" asked Lois.
"No, we can't. We're the police, not the phone book."
"Well, we know her address, you can just take her home," said Clark.
"Fine, fine. What is it?"
"100 Peter Avenue, in Seaside."
It was 6:00 when two police officers and Jennifer, accompanied by Lois and Clark, finally took a ride over to Jennifer's house. When they got there, the group of five got out of the police car. One of the policemen rang the doorbell. Nothing. He knocked on the door. Nothing.
Clark lowered his glasses and scanned the house with his x- ray vision. He didn't see anyone. He nudged Lois and mouthed the word "empty" to her. She frowned and looked down at Jennifer's hopeful face, imagining the little girl's disappointment when she learned that she had to go back to the police station.
The two police officers walked around the house looking in windows and tapping on the back door. They finally concluded that no one was home. "Mr. Kent, you'll have to explain this to Jennifer," said one of them.
Clark knelt down and gently explained the Jennifer that her parents weren't home, and that she would have to go back to the police station. Jennifer started to cry, so picked her up and attempted to comfort her.
They rode back to the police station in silence. They arrived just in time to see Kate Scaffin walk out with Colette.
**** * * * *
They would never know how Perry knew so many people, but when Lois and Clark called him again from the police station, he said he knew a guy, who knew a guy, who knew a guy, who could find out about Jennifer's parents. And their names were?
Clark asked Jennifer. "Carlos and Michelle Rivera," he told Perry.
Lois and Clark tried to keep Jennifer busy until Perry called them back. Eventually, she fell asleep lying across Lois and Clark's laps.
An hour later, Perry called them back. "Her parents didn't think the police were doing a good enough job, so they wanted to get their own private investigator. They flew to Chicago yesterday to hire him. They heard the news, and they'll be back first thing tomorrow morning. They're going to pick her up from the Planet at 9:00."
"Chicago?" said Clark. "Why so far away?"
"He heard that the guy in Chicago is the best in the country."
"Thanks, Chief. We'll tell the police." Clark shifted the sleeping child over to Lois.
Rachel Golden, the social worker, walked out from a back room. Clark explained the situation to her and to the police. "What should we do now?"
"I'm glad my paperwork took longer than I thought. Otherwise, I wouldn't still have been here." She looked at Lois, holding the sleeping child. "Since her parents will be back tomorrow, it's just a question of what to do with her tonight. Miss Lane? If you don't mind, I think it would be a good idea for you to take her."
"I, uh… okay." *I* should take her? thought Lois. I don't know the first thing about children! What am I going to do with a three year old girl who speaks nothing but Spanish?
Cathy's words echoed in Lois' head on the drive home from the police station. *You two are engaged now… some day when you're married you'll want to have children. You can't understand what it's like, not being able to have any. I wanted one more than anything else in the world.*
Lois didn't know if she could have children with Clark. They hadn't really talked about it very much either, but they both knew it was an issue that had to be addressed. Lois always pushed the thought to the back of her mind, telling herself, If we can't have a child, that's okay, because I wouldn't know anything about raising it. I don't like children that much anyway. What would I do with it?
IT. What would "it" be? Human? No, not really. Kryptonian? No, not that either. The truth is, she thought, I don't KNOW what "it" would be. Even if we could conceive, the child could be deformed, or retarded, or a hundred different things. STOP! she told herself. You're going to go crazy thinking about this!
In the passenger seat, Clark was having similar thoughts. Could he and Lois have children? Could they have *normal* children? He smiled to himself. Whatever children they could have, they most definitely would not be "normal."
He had mentioned the subject of children to Lois a few times. Each time, she'd brushed him off, telling him it would be just as well if they couldn't have any. He remembered their last conversation about that subject vividly. It had taken place a few weeks ago, after they took a walk in the park.
He had noticed Lois watching a young couple with a small child in the park earlier that day, and he'd noticed something in Lois that he hadn't seen before. Maternal instinct? He didn't know. After they returned to his apartment, he'd tried to talk to her about it.
"Lois, I think there's something we need to talk about."
"Yes, Clark? What is it?"
"Well, it's just that… I mean, I don't know if…"
"Stop, Clark. Just stop! I know what you're going to say. 'Lois, I know you say that you don't get along well with children, but eventually you'll want some. I don't know if it's possible for us to have children, but I don't want to be what denies them from you.' At which point I would say exactly what I'm going to say now. If we can't have children, it's just as well. I would not be a good mother. I don't get along with children, and I don't know anything about them. It's probably fate that I marry someone who might not be able to have them. I don't want to discuss this any further. Case closed."
Her words had been strong and harsh, but they lacked conviction. He'd seen the hurt in her eyes when she spoke, and he'd seen the look on her face when she watched the couple in the park. She could lie to herself, but she couldn't lie to him; he knew her too well. He knew that topic hurt her to talk about. He wouldn't bring it up again.
At 11:45 PM, Lois was not in the best of moods. She was exhausted after the day she'd had, and a screaming child was not appreciated. "Jennifer, what do you WANT?" She had been trying to get her to stop crying for nearly an hour. "Are you hungry? Do you have to go to the bathroom? Is it too warm in here for you? Is it just that you don't want to go to bed?"
Exasperated, she thought about calling Clark. She remembered how he had bonded with the little girl, and she thought he could help. In fact, she *knew* he could help. She wondered, Maybe if I bring Jennifer to his apartment… No, that's setting a bad example, two unmarried people sleeping together. Well, all we'd be doing is SLEEPING, she thought. And anyway, we're engaged.
Deciding it would be all right, she tried to explain to Jennifer where they were going. Finally, she just said, "Clark, Jenny! Clark!" Jennifer stopped crying.
Lois grabbed Jennifer's clothes and pulled on her jacket. "Put on your jacket, Jenny." She helped Jennifer put the jacket on. When the little girl started to walk out of the apartment, Lois said, "No, no, honey. You need shoes." She pointed to her feet. "Shoes."
Helping Jenny put on her shoes, she thought, I could do this. Maybe this mom stuff isn't so tough after all.
Clark was just getting ready for bed when he heard a knock at his door. Looking through it, he saw that it was Lois and Jenny.
When he opened the door, Jenny ran in and hugged him. She didn't reach past his legs, so he scooped her up, hugged her, and spun her around.
He gave Lois a quick peck on the cheek and waited for her to explain. "I couldn't get her to stop crying, so I finally told her that we were coming to see you," she said.
Clark looked at Jennifer and noticed that she was wearing one of Lois' Daily Planet t-shirts.
"She picked it herself," said Lois.
"I see she has good taste," laughed Clark.
"Well, she adores you, so it can't be all that good," Lois teased. "Ask her what she was screaming about."
He did. "She wanted chocolate milk."
"Chocolate milk. I offered her everything in my refrigerator, and she wanted chocolate milk."
"She said Daddy gives her chocolate milk every night before bed."
"Well, Clark, you can go get her some chocolate milk."
"Yes, ma'am," he said. He put Jenny on the floor and she followed him into the kitchen.
Just like a little puppy, thought Lois. Clark has such a way with children. I bet he'd be a great father…
Jennifer and Clark rejoined Lois in the living room a few minutes later. Jenny laughed happily, drinking her chocolate milk. After she finished it, Lois took the empty glass from her and brought it into the kitchen. To her great surprise, Jenny jumped off the couch and followed her. The child's eyes remained glued to Lois as she washed and dried the glass. She said something quietly to Lois. "I'm sorry, Jenny, I don't understand."
Jennifer ran off and jumped onto the couch next to Clark, and whispered something in his ear. Clark smiled and nodded. "Yes, she *is* a very pretty lady."
Lois sat back down on the couch. Jenny looked from Lois to Clark, and then back to Lois. Her eyes widened. She asked Clark something in Spanish that made him chuckle. He nodded to her, and she giggled in delight.
"What did she ask you, Clark?"
"She wanted to know if you were my girlfriend."
Lois also nodded to Jennifer, and then she said, "It's time for you to go to bed, miss. But first, you have to brush your teeth."
Fairly certain that Jenny understood what she said, Lois walked to the bathroom with Jenny at her side. Clark watched the little exchange, marveling at the hand signals Lois devised to get across her message.
Lois found an extra toothbrush in the bathroom and put some toothpaste on it. Clark got an extra blanket and a pillow, and he put them on the couch.
After Jenny finished in the bathroom, she went straight for the makeshift bed Clark had prepared. Lois tucked her in and kissed her on the forehead. "Good night, Jenny."
Clark gave her a hug and whispered something in her ear. Then he turned out the light, and he and Lois went back to his room.
Clark heard the storm and hoped it wouldn't wake Jenny up. Then he heard Jenny crying. He groaned and went out to the couch. When Jenny saw him, she took a flying leap off it into his arms. He tried to peel her off and put her back down, but she wouldn't let him go. Sighing, he stretched out on the couch with Jenny lying on top of his chest. Soon enough, she fell asleep. Clark wondered if that might be the last time a child fell asleep with him; if he could ever have any children of his own. After a while, he gently put her down on the couch and went back to sleep.
Lois woke with a start. At first she didn't realize what had awakened her. When she heard whimpers coming from the living room, she knew it was Jenny. She rushed inside to her. "What's wrong, honey?"
When she heard thunder, and Jenny trembled in her arms, Lois realized that the child was scared of the storm. She hadn't even known that there *was* a storm.
She thought she'd succeeded at calming the little girl down, but when she started back to the bedroom, Jenny cried and called her back. Lois sighed and went back to the couch. She felt Jenny's arms wrap tightly around her neck. Picking up the child, she returned to the bedroom.
Clark felt Lois return to bed, and he realized that she had Jenny with her. The next crack of thunder was extremely loud, and it caught Lois off guard. Both Lois and Jenny started at the sound. Clark wrapped his arms around Lois and Jenny from behind.
Lois giggled. "I KNOW what it is, and it scared me. I can just imagine how she must feel."
Eventually, Jenny's slow, even breathing told Lois and Clark that she was asleep. Clark looked at the two people he was holding. "Alien, woman, and child."
"A family for the 21st century," whispered Lois. She remembered a thought that she'd had earlier that day. **If we can't have a child, that's okay, because I wouldn't know anything about raising it. I don't like children that much anyway. What would I do with it?** Could it have been only a few hours ago that I thought that? she wondered. Because lying there, in Clark's arms, with the little girl who adored them both, the thought of having children with Clark gave her a warm and fuzzy feeling inside.
Lois fell asleep dreaming about children. She dreamt about adorable little boys with Clark's eyes, and she dreamt of Clark coaching a girl's Little League team.
Before Jenny's parents picked her up from the Daily Planet at 9:00, Lois and Clark had a surprise for her. Just before they left for work, while Lois brushed Jenny's hair, Jenny noticed that Clark was missing.
When she spoke, Lois heard Clark's name mentioned several times, and Lois assumed that Jenny was asking where he was. Before Lois could answer, a familiar figure appeared in front of them.
A cry arose from Jenny's lips. "Superman!"
Lois smiled. The word "Superman" was known throughout the world, no matter what language the people spoke.
Jenny ran over to him and hugged him. She didn't reach past his legs, of course, but he couldn't pick her up and spin her around like he had the previous night. Even a child would notice that Superman and Clark had done the exact same thing… that was how Lois had figured out his secret. Instead, he sat down on the floor. She plopped down next to him and started talking.
Of course he could speak Spanish. Jenny didn't even question that. He was SUPERMAN, he could do anything!
Clark could only stay as Superman for a little while. After his brief visit, Jenny watched him fly out the window. She couldn't watch him for very long, he flew too fast.
A few minutes later, Clark came back, through the door, this time dressed in a regular suit, carrying bagels. After breakfast, the three drove over to the Daily Planet.
The instant Clark, Lois, and Jenny stepped onto the newsroom floor, Jenny spotted her parents. She ran over to them and was immediately covered in hugs and kisses.
After the family reunion, Lois and Clark walked over to Jenny and her parents. Jenny's mother hugged and kissed Lois and Clark, thanking them repeatedly. She spoke English, as did her husband. Her eyes were brimming with tears, and she said, "We can't thank you enough for finding our daughter."
Jenny chatted animatedly to her parents, and Lois heard the word "Superman." It amazed her that this child had been kidnapped for several days, and the thing that stuck out in her mind was Superman. I can't blame her, she thought. Look at how I acted when I met him!
"Mrs. Rivera, we'd like Jenny to be the flower girl at our wedding." Mrs. Rivera asked her daughter if she'd like to do that, and of course, Jenny said yes.
"Oh, but we live in Spain," said Mrs. Rivera. "We'll be returning there at the end of the month."
Clark grinned. "I think we can arrange for Superman to pick her up… and you and your husband, if you'd like to come to the wedding."
"We'd be honored," Mr. Rivera answered.
A little while later, Mr. and Mrs. Rivera were ready to take Jenny home. Jenny hugged and kissed Lois and Clark goodbye.
Just before they reached the elevator, Jenny turned and ran back to Lois. She was dressed in the same t-shirt she'd worn to sleep. She was about to take it off and give it back to Lois. Clark saw Lois' eyes fill with tears. Lois put her hand over Jenny's. "No, you can keep it," she said softly. Jenny hugged her again and ran back to her parents.
Lois and Clark watched as the elevator doors closed behind the newly reunited family.
Even though it turned out that her husband's Intergang connection was NOT involved in her daughter's kidnapping, Kate Scaffin kept her word. Later that day, she brought Lois and Clark all of Charlie Scaffin's financial records, and she allowed them to interview her. They asked her dozens of questions about her husband's involvement with Intergang.
After their interview, they sent her to the police station to tell Inspector Henderson, the man they'd worked with on many other cases, all she knew.
Lois and Clark wrote the exclusive story on the arrest of Charlie Scaffin and a nice chunk of Intergang, and an exclusive story the double kidnapping of Jennifer Rivera and Colette Scaffin. Perhaps Lois phrased it best? ("Clark, can you say, `Kerth award?'")
The fateful phone call that Lois had received just a few days before led to the arrests of Charlie Scaffin and most of his Intergang connections, and Cathy and David Lionel.
Clark and Lois finished writing their stories on Charlie Scaffin and the Lionels late that night. Lois poked her head in Perry's office. "Perry?" she said.
"We're done writing the stories, we're going to leave now. They're ready for tomorrow morning's edition."
"That's great dumplin.' Now don't you think I forgot about that day off that you and Clark missed out on. I want you to take tomorrow off… in fact, take tomorrow *and* the next day off." Lois loved the twang in his voice, especially when it told her to take a day off with Clark.
They went out for a candlelit dinner that night. Whether they were at the office, at home, investigating a case, relaxing, or out at a romantic dinner, work always come up in conversation, and tonight would be no different.
"I've known Cathy Lionel for years, Clark. I would never have imagined her to be capable of kidnapping," said Lois.
"Me neither. I'm thrilled that we were able to nail Charlie Scaffin, but I don't feel too great about getting Cathy and David Lionel. This was a bittersweet victory."
"I know. It just seems to me that they were two unfortunate people who were incapable of…" Clark heard her voice catch, and quickly changed the subject. A big emotional scene in a restaurant was not what he or Lois wanted, but he thought she was ready to discuss this subject. He would let her bring it up another time.
"I, um, spoke to my parents today. They want us to come for a visit…"
Lois couldn't concentrate on the television. There wasn't anybody interesting on the Tonight Show, and they'd missed Jay Leno's monologue, so she couldn't care less about the rest of the show. She was too preoccupied with her own thoughts anyway, and she couldn't get comfortable on the couch.
"I still can't believe it!! We had all these suspects- some of the biggest criminals in Intergang- and it was a freak accident that led us to the real kidnappers! It's insane!" exclaimed Lois. Her instincts as a reporter would not let her believe that it was random chance- as opposed to excellent detective skills- that revealed the kidnappers. "It turned out that they were just two pathetic individuals wanting children."
Clark hadn't expected Lois to bring up children so quickly once they returned to his apartment. They'd barely been home an hour. Then again, Lois had never been one to beat around the bush.
"It was nice, having Jenny running around the apartment yesterday," she said. She pulled out of his embrace and looked into his eyes. "And Clark, I know that I've said before that I don't care if we can have children, or I don't want them, but that's not exactly the truth."
Clark nodded and said, "I know that, Lois." He waited for her to continue.
"When I first became infatuated with Superman, I thought nothing would be better than marrying him." Clark smiled. He'd heard all too many of Lois' Superman fantasies before he revealed his identity to her; this wasn't new to him.
"Even then, when I thought of marriage and children with Superman, I wouldn't let myself think I wanted them. I'd think the same thoughts I do now. *Children, me? Right. What would I do with children even if we COULD have them?* I was afraid that if I faced the fact that, maybe, we- Superman and I- couldn't have children, it would be too much for me to take."
He didn't know what he'd expected Lois to say, but certainly not that. *Too much for me to take.* There was little that Lois couldn't take. "Really?" he whispered.
She nodded. "And now, it's the same thing. I couldn't admit that I actually want children… but I do. Not NOW, of course, but eventually. Before this, I couldn't face that. Now, I guess I'm ready, because here I am, facing it, and so far I'm still in one piece. I don't know how long I can keep it together but so far I'm in one piece. And I'm babbling. Clark, stop me before I say something really stupid…"
He placed one hand gently over her mouth. "Lois, even if we can't have children together, we can always adopt."
She shook her head no. She spoke in a very hushed voice, so that he had to use his super hearing to hear what she said. "But I don't want just any children… I want *your* children."
"Oh, Lois…" he said.
He looked into her eyes and saw pain, and love. She saw the same thing in his. She wrapped her arms around him and buried her face in his chest. She wasn't crying, just overwhelmed by their entire conversation.
He never wanted to cause Lois pain, but they both knew that if they were to remain together- and neither would have it any other way- there were certain things that they would be denied. A peaceful dinner, an uninterrupted conversation… children?
Lois wondered if that would be the price she would pay for a life of happiness with Clark. It seemed a very heavy price, but then, what price *wouldn't* she pay for life with him?
Clark stroked her hair and whispered in her ear, "Even if we can't have children, we will always have each other, and that's enough for me."
Three years later, Lois and Clark had their first child, and discovered that their fears of long ago were unfounded. He was perfect, and beautiful, and he had Clark's eyes.