By Margaret Brignell [email@example.com]
Summary: Soon after Clark gives her the "flying signal" and darts out of the newsroom, Lois hears that Superman has been shot in the heart with a kryptonite bullet at Hobb's Bay. A complex story involving mob bosses, Mindy Church and star-crossed lovers.
Author's Note: This story came out of an idea I posted to the LOISCLA list back when we were first discussing how Lois would cope with knowing that Clark is Superman.
I should warn you that, although this isn't my first fanfic, this *is* the first time I've included Lois *and* Clark *and* villains all in the same story<g>.
I decided on the two "b" spelling for Hobbs based on the (totally conflicting, but otherwise very helpful) opinions of many people on the LOISCLA list. The deciding factor, however, was that two of the L&C:TNAOS episodes spelled it with two "b"s and only one with one "b." Thanks to everyone who gave me their input on this:)
I'd like to thank Chris Mulder and Debby Stark for their critiques and suggestions. Chris for telling me how life *really* is and Debby for telling me how life *should* be.<g> They were also of immense help with spelling and typos and other mundane stuff:)
Disclaimer: All DC characters are the property of … etc., etc. Many of the ideas came from suggestions by Chris and Debby. [Thanks:)] However, the rest of the story is mine, all mine<g>.
Words with * are emphasized.
--- 9:45 a.m. Wednesday, July 31, 1996 Daily Planet — Newsroom — Clark Kent's Desk ---
Clark was concerned about Lois. She wasn't looking all that well and he knew she was stubbornly holding on to being at work, even though they both knew she should be at home in bed.
There had been a particularly vicious, but thankfully short-lived, form of flu making the rounds at the Daily Planet. This morning he'd tried, unsuccessfully, to persuade Lois to stay home. He'd told her he could handle the tidying up of the story they were working on, but she'd insisted on coming to work anyway. Lois was obstinately refusing to let "some stupid bug" keep her from doing her job. Now, he suspected, she was regretting her stubbornness.
He was just about to go over to her, and suggest that he tell Perry he was taking her home, when his super-hearing kicked in.
Lois looked up, just as he was about to try to get her attention. He wanted to tell her why he had to leave; but, there were too many people around for him to speak openly. He gave her the flying signal and ducked into the storeroom to change.
-- 9:50 a.m. Wednesday, July 31, 1996 Hobbs River Warehouse District --
Carlotta was so beautiful, even chained to the post just outside the warehouse's huge entry doors. Barry wondered why her father would want to *do* this to her. I mean, the guys wouldn't hurt the boss' daughter but it must be *very* uncomfortable for her to be chained to the post like that.
And, why would her father want to trap Superman? It didn't make any sense. The new suit was nice to have and all, but all those guns surrounding Carlotta made him nervous. Vince had assured him that the bullets his men were using were only blanks, but at close range they could still be lethal. Carlotta might get hurt!
Well, anyway, once he'd done his job here for Vince he could take Carlotta away from all this. Maybe they could head straight for the airport and take a flight to Las Vegas. He smiled at the thought. They could have one of those incredible weddings that Carlotta dreamed about and have some *real* fun. Vince had ordered them to disappear as soon as the job was over. If he and Carlotta headed for Vegas, it would work out *great*, for everyone.
He peered out at the scene of the "hostage taking" again. The LNN news crew had arrived and he noticed a small crowd of gawkers was gathering. He'd better climb up and get ready for Superman's appearance.
He wasn't too keen on heights, but if he was to do his job right he had to be up on the rafter. Nonetheless, he still couldn't figure out how Vince was going to lure Superman here at the right moment.
He climbed up to one of the rafters in the warehouse, one near a window that overlooked the "hostage" scene below. He'd be able to keep an eye on Carlotta while he was waiting to do his assignment.
He wasn't sure why he was so nervous this time. He'd done this kind of thing a hundred times before. It was his job. It must be the fact that *this* time, his reward wouldn't be just money. This time he'd also have Vince's blessing to marry Carlotta. He straddled the rafter, settling down to wait for the right moment to thwart Superman, as instructed.
-- 10:00 a.m. Wednesday, July 31, 1996 Daily Planet — Newsroom — Lois Lane's Desk --
Lois felt absolutely miserable! Up until yesterday she'd managed to avoid the virus that, during the past week, had put practically half the staff at the Planet on the sick list with the 24-hour flu. Now it had snuck up on her and hit with a vengeance! Yesterday she'd been really busy and had, vainly, attempted to ignore the almost constant trips to the ladies' room. Today was a slow news day and she couldn't get her mind off how bad she felt. Wasn't the 24-hour flu supposed to be *over* by now? Or, at least feel like it was going to end soon! Lois ground her teeth. If she ever found the rotten so-and-so who'd given her this flu she'd skin them alive!
She looked over at Clark's empty desk. She wished he'd get back. He'd only been gone about fifteen minutes, but the way she felt right now it seemed like forever.
She didn't want to have to admit to Perry that she didn't feel up to being at work, that all she really wanted to do was go home and sleep. If Clark were here, he could go and tell Perry he was taking his wife home and Perry would just think it was Clark in fussbudget mode. After all, they'd been married less than three months and with everything that had happened in the last year, Perry wouldn't find it surprising that Clark was nervous about his wife's health.
But, no, where was Clark when she really needed him? Off saving who knew who from who knew what! He'd given her their secret hand signal that meant he was off doing his Superman thing but she wished he'd been able to get close enough to tell her what, or at least where.
Lois found herself crying. God, she must *really* be sick if she was crying for no reason at all! Wiping her eyes on the last tissue in the box, she glared at Clark's empty chair. Where *was* he?
-- 10:05 a.m. Wednesday, July 31, 1996 Hobbs River Warehouse District --
Chen Li was checking her mike for audio levels and feedback, wishing she got the higher profile stories that rated live coverage. The cameraman fussed with his lenses, and checked the lines that uplinked the camera feed directly to the station, via satellite, for editing.
A small crowd gathered over in front of the doors of the warehouse where the hostage-taking was in progress. The police rallied at the perimeter of the open space nearby, prepared to take advantage of any crack in the defenses of the kidnappers.
Signaling the cameraman that she was ready and to roll tape, Chen started her monologue.
"This is Chen Li, from "LNN News at Noon," reporting to you from the Hobbs River Warehouse District where there is a hostage situation in progress. As you can see, a young woman has been taken and tied to that post. The men who've taken her are threatening to kill the young woman if their demands aren't met.
"The police have not been able to establish who the young woman is at this time. However the demands so far are that these men be given a million dollars in small currency and the use of a helicopter to make their getaway."
Behind the announcer the small crowd let out a noise of approval as the familiar figure wearing a red cape dropped into view.
"Good news, folks. Superman has arrived on the scene, I'm sure everything will be… No!… No!!… O my god!! Superman's been shot!! He's been shot through the heart!!! No, please everyone stay calm!" Turning towards the camera, Chen Li cried, "would someone *please* send an ambulance!! I…I… think Superman is…dead!!! It can't be true, but he looks like he's…d-dead!!"
-- 10:10 a.m. Wednesday, July 31, 1996 Daily Planet — Newsroom — Lois Lane's Desk --
Lois groaned as someone turned up the sound on the nearest TV. It was an LNN news bulletin. She wasn't in the mood for this. She should just go admit to Perry she didn't feel well and tell him she was going home.
Then she caught the tail end of the bulletin "…I…think Superman is…dead!!! It can't be true, but he looks like he's… d-dead!!"
Lois stared at the TV in horror. It *couldn't* be true. Clark couldn't be killed by bullets. There had to be some kind of mistake!
Perry paused beside her. "Lois, honey, are you okay?"
"It can't be true! Superman can't be killed by bullets. It has to be some kind of hoax, or…"
"Now, now, honey. You're probably right. Why don't you and Clark go investigate this? I'm sure between my two best reporters you can get to the bottom of this. By the way, where is Clark?"
"I think he went to…to interview a source. I…I don't know when he'll be back."
-- 10:25 a.m. Wednesday, July 31, 1996 Hobbs River Warehouse District --
Inspector Henderson congratulated his men for rescuing the hostage, but wasn't quite as complimentary about them letting the kidnappers get away or failing to prevent Superman from getting shot. A homicide investigation team was now on the scene, and the kidnap victim was being looked after by one of the female constables.
Once Henderson was through reaming his people about their misdemeanors he asked, "Okay, Sergeant, how'd those guys escape and who's the girl?"
"She's Carlotta Carlucci, you know Vince's daughter."
"Vince Carlucci? The "Drug King?" What's he doing mixed up in this? Who'd want to kidnap his daughter?"
"Well, judging from the LNN video we just played back. Vince would."
"Yeh! Those guys that had her chained to the post were Carlucci's men. There was a motorboat tied up just behind that warehouse, they escaped in that."
Henderson shook his head. "This makes absolutely no sense at all. Why would Carlucci use his own daughter as bait to get Superman?"
"Never mind, Sergeant, I was just thinking out loud." Henderson shrugged. "Take the girl to the precinct and have her examined by the doc, to make sure she's okay. Get Carlucci on the phone. Make an appointment for him to come and pick up his daughter in about an hour, and tell him I'd like to ask him a few questions while he's in the neighborhood."
"Right, Inspector. Anything else?"
"Yes, get Dr. Klein at S.T.A.R. Labs on the phone. We're going to need an expert on Superman if we expect to be able to perform an autopsy."
-- 10:25 a.m. Eastern Standard Time — Wednesday, July 31, 1996 Huang He River — China --
Clark, finally, had the flood under control. When his super hearing had kicked in at the office, it was tuned into a shortwave radio. The radio, in the kitchen of the Chinese cafe just around the corner from the Daily Planet, was tuned to a BBC news broadcast reporting a massive flood in the upper reaches of the Huang He, otherwise known as the Yellow River.
He'd been confident that, if he really flew, he could help reduce the impact of this sudden, devastating flood. Although, it was after midnight in the flood area, and the flood damage was even more severe than he'd expected, he was able to help by building flood control dikes and runoff areas in safe locations to reduce the impact. He'd saved thousands of lives by acting so quickly.
However, he'd now been gone from the office almost three quarters of an hour, and was covered in mud. Tired, but pleased that he'd been so successful, he made a quick side trip home. He changed out of the filthy uniform and back into his office clothes. Taking the fastest route he could he hastily returned to the Planet. Lois might be worried. He wasn't usually gone this long.
-- 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, July 31, 1996 Daily Planet — Newsroom — Lois Lane's Desk --
The news on the TV had been relentlessly bad. They endlessly reran the tape of the assassination of Superman and made that continuous chatter that live news coverage seemed to induce. Lois was disgusted, they always did that, as if keeping quiet was somehow a crime.
Perry and Jimmy were walking a wide berth around her, acting as if she would break if they said the wrong thing. She kept repeating it couldn't possibly be true.
She'd tried contacting Dr. Klein at S.T.A.R. Labs, but all the lines were busy. Big surprise, since LNN had informed the whole world that Dr. Klein had been called in as the expert on Superman. She'd have to go down personally and try to charm her way in to see him, if she couldn't get through soon.
The TV gave off that signal that meant *another* breaking event. This time it was one of the senior announcers, the one with the deep almost Cronkite sounding voice. In the most sorrowful tones he announced that Dr. Klein of S.T.A.R. Labs had analyzed the recovered bullet. It was made of Kryptonite, the only substance known to harm Superman. There seemed no doubt now that Superman was indeed dead.
Lois stood staring at the screen, and felt numb. She didn't believe it was true. It *couldn't* be true. Lois wiped her hand across her eyes. The room was starting to act very strangely, moving in and out, almost as if it were breathing with her. She felt as if she were losing her grip on reality and whispered Clark's name as a talisman to hold on to.
She whirled around. Big mistake! The room spun faster and faster as she fell into Clark's arms.
-- 10:35 a.m. Wednesday, July 31, 1996 Daily Planet — Newsroom — Perry White's Office --
When Lois opened her eyes, she was lying on the sofa in Perry's office. There was a damp cloth on her forehead and three very concerned men looking at her.
"Lois, are you okay?" Clark was stroking the back of her hand gently.
"Sure. I'm fine. What happened?"
"Don't be ridiculous. I *never* faint." Lois struggled to sit up, but the room whirled around her so she was forced to lie back down.
"Well, you did this time. Why didn't you tell me how sick you were? I wouldn't have let you talk me into coming to work today."
"It wasn't just because I'm sick. It was…"
Perry interrupted. "Clark, you've been out of the newsroom and you don't know, son, there's been some really bad news."
"Yeh, CK, haven't you heard…? It's all over the TV."
Clark looked up at the TV in time to see the rerun of the shooting and the announcement of the Kryptonite bullet. He stroked Lois' hand to reassure her he was there.
"It *can't* be true. Superman wouldn't just die like that, bullets can't hurt him. We have to find out what *really* happened." Lois declared as she sat up.
Perry tried to discourage her from tackling the story, saying there wasn't anything she could do and she should just go home and rest because she obviously needed it.
Lois stood up, with a little help from Clark. She shook Clark's hand off her elbow and frowned, exasperated at Perry. She insisted she was more than capable of investigating this phoney story, flu or no flu!
Perry looked at Clark with sympathy, shrugged helplessly, then looked back at Lois. "Okay, Lois, but if you don't find anything new by this afternoon's edition, I want you home and in bed. That's an order! If that really was Superman…we're all going to need some rest…" Perry abruptly turned his back on them and retreated behind his desk. Lois could have sworn she saw tears in his eyes.
After Lois retrieved her purse and briefcase from her desk, she and Clark walked to the elevator. They didn't say anything until the doors were closed and they were truly alone.
"Oh, Clark, I thought you were *d-d-dead*" Lois clung to him as if he'd fly away if she let go.
He gently brushed the tears from her cheeks with his thumb. "Shh, Lois, it's okay. I'm okay." Pulling her closer to him, he brushed his lips softly over her hair and down the side of her face. Tilting her chin so he could reach her lips, he ended his exploration with a kiss that left her in absolutely no doubt that Clark Kent was *very* much alive.
Their kiss broke off when the elevator moved because someone had called it from below. Lois had just enough time to straighten her dress and lipstick before the doors opened at the lobby.
-- 10:50 a.m. Wednesday, July 31, 1996 Daily Planet — Parking Garage --
Clark was really concerned about Lois. The feeling he'd had when he first caught sight of her as she whirled around, her face white and her eyes wide, he *never* wanted to experience again. The memory of her small voice whispering his name, just as he caught her to prevent her from falling, sent a chill down his spine.
He stuck close to her as they walked from the elevator to their car in the parking garage, fearful that she might collapse again, and attentively helped her into the passenger seat.
"Clark, I'm *not* made of porcelain." Lois sounded more than a little peeved.
"I know, Lois, but you fainted, you still have the flu, and I think you need to rest. Maybe we should just go home."
"It's been a bad morning. I overreacted. I *do* that."
Clark looked upward, as though asking for help from someone stronger than himself.
"Okay, Lois. We'll go to the morgue. But… If I don't see anything unusual when we view the body, *you* are going home to bed. Perry is right, you need to rest."
"Okay, Clark. If there's nothing unusual at the morgue, we'll go home." She smiled sweetly. "I'll even rest."
Clark said nothing. He just started the car and headed out of the garage.
Almost immediately after exiting the parking garage, Clark pulled over to the side of the street and stopped. Picking up the cell phone he dialed his parents' number to let them know that he was fine, no matter what they saw on LNN.
While Clark was driving them to the morgue, Lois and he discussed what they could do to establish who had been killed and why.
"But, Clark, if the bullet was Kryptonite, you can't go anywhere near that body. You'll get sick."
"They said the bullet was removed from the body at the warehouse, there shouldn't be more than just a trace of Kryptonite, if that. If I feel ill, we can always use the excuse we used the time I had to give a blood sample."
"You mean that you get sick at the sight of blood? It might work. But I don't want you getting sick at all."
"Well, if I'm going to x-ray the body I've got to see the body, so we don't have much choice."
Lois wasn't happy, but she finally agreed that any effect would probably be small. *If* they could get to view the body at all.
-- 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, July 31, 1996 Metropolis Morgue --
They'd arrived at the morgue just as most of the other media were leaving. They met with Dr. Klein, and the other officials involved in the investigation, to plead their case. Dr. Klein, the police coroner Krats, and Insp. Henderson finally conceded Lois and Clark's assertion they had every right to view the body because they knew Superman as well as anyone, and could be considered the closest thing that Superman had to next-of-kin on this planet. Under these circumstances, it was declared, they could make the official identification of the body.
As all five of them moved down the hall to the refrigerated storage room, Dr. Klein gave them the background to date. He explained that, except for the removal of the bullet to establish that it could indeed have killed Superman, the body was in much the same state as when they'd brought it from the Hobbs River district. The autopsy was scheduled for later in the day, once they'd obtained the necessary equipment to do the job.
The walls of the room were lined with square, aluminum doors. Once Dr. Klein and his guests were gathered around the appropriate door, he opened it and pulled out the drawer containing the body for all to see. Krats and Henderson on one side, Lois and Clark on the other, with Dr. Klein standing at the end of the slab.
Dr. Krats began to explain to Insp. Henderson the difficulties she foresaw of doing an autopsy on a body that was invulnerable. Dr. Klein chimed in with his expert opinion on the subject, and even Henderson had some thoughts on the matter.
While the experts argued over the best way to do the autopsy, Lois tried to comprehend it and glanced at Clark standing to her right. She hoped *he* understood what they were saying and would be able to quickly scan the body, and then they could get out of here. As she watched him, she could see the colour in his cheeks fade and his eyes narrow in pain.
She touched Dr. Klein's arm. "I think Clark and I have seen enough…"
"…but in the event that the use of laser cutting…"
"Laser? No! No! That will never work. I suggest…"
"Oh, I don't know about that…"
"Use a diamond edged cutting blade, but substitute Kryptonite for the diamonds…"
"Dr. Klein…" Lois was getting extremely frustrated. She had to get Clark out of here. He was in *pain*!
Lois moved closer to Clark and touched him gently on the arm. When he turned away from looking at the body to face her, she could see his eyes were unfocused and glazed with pain. He was swallowing convulsively, as if he might throw up. She had to do *something* and, wouldn't you know it, *now* her stomach decided to act up again! She moaned softly.
"Clark, please, get me out of here! I need to get *out*. Now!" Lois leaned against him, pushing him in the direction of the door behind them.
As she'd hoped, Clark went into automatic protective mode, excused them, and quickly guided her out into the hallway towards the ladies' room they'd passed on their way to viewing the body. Lois stopped them and insisted that he sit on the bench in the hall while she used the facilities.
When she came out again, she could see that Clark's colour was almost back to normal and he didn't seem to be in any pain.
"Lois, how are you feeling?"
"About the same. I keep thinking that if I would only throw up I'd feel better, but it doesn't seem to be working that way."
"I *really* think you should see a doctor, you've had this for almost two days now and you don't seem to be moving toward recovery at all." Clark sounded, and looked, very worried.
"If nothing's changed by tomorrow, I'll call the doctor. Okay?"
"I…" Clark looked down the hall. "I think Dr. Klein and company have finally figured out we've left."
Lois could see Dr. Klein hurrying towards them.
"Ms. Lane, Mr. Kent, are you all right?"
"As well as can be expected, Dr. Klein. I've got the flu that's been making the rounds at the Planet, and I'm afraid I've given it to Clark."
"I hear that new strain of flu can get really bad, you should see a doctor."
"I plan to do just that tomorrow. What about the body?"
Clark moaned. Lois whirled to face him. He was in severe pain again.
"I…I think I need the men's room. I'm sorry." Clark lurched up from the bench and disappeared behind the men's room door.
Lois was genuinely alarmed, and stared palely at the closing door.
"That flu sure is a humdinger, isn't it? Do you think he needs my help?"
"No, Dr. Klein, I think he'd rather not have any witnesses. What did you all decide to do?"
"Dr. Krats is stripping the body in preparation for the autopsy. Would you be prepared to identify the body as that of Superman?"
Lois swallowed. "I guess so," said Lois. "I don't know. It certainly looked like Superman, but…"
Dr. Klein nodded sympathetically. "I know. You think you should be able to identify his body, but something's stopping you from being completely sure, isn't it?"
"Well, I'm glad you feel that way because if you'd been positive that it was Superman I would have had to tell you you'd be mistaken."
"Mistaken?" Lois exclaimed.
"Yes, the body in that room is *not* that of Superman."
"A clone?" asked Lois.
"No, he's not a clone. But he does have a phenomenal resemblance to Superman. We're still trying to establish who he could be."
"Fingerprints?" asked Lois.
"Henderson has run them through the system. There's no record of them."
"But did whoever shot him realize they were shooting a fake Superman?"
"Probably. We did find this." Dr. Klein held up Superman's belt buckle.
Puzzled, Lois asked, "But, what's so significant about…"
"When Krats took this off, she noticed some strange markings on the back. Under a microscope she was able to read the inscription. It says 'Superman, there's plenty more where this came from. Next time, this will be you.'"
Dr. Klein pried the buckle apart along its edge, inside there was a slice of Kryptonite just big enough to fill the cavity in the buckle.
Lois took a quick intake of breath. "Oh, no…" No *wonder* Clark was ill.
Lois started to walk down the hallway. She wanted to get Dr. Klein and his lethal belt buckle away from Clark. "What are you going to do now?"
"Try to warn Superman. Unfortunately, as you know, he's hard to contact. Would you or Mr. Kent be able to tell him I need to see him?"
"I don't know, I haven't seen him recently." At least, not in the Suit thought Lois. "We could try, but he may be on the other side of the world, saving people from a disaster…or something. So what are you going to do until Superman gets in touch with you?"
"I'm taking this over to S.T.A.R. Labs for analysis. We may be able to identify the source of the Kryptonite, or who engraved the message. In the meantime, if you could get out word that Superman is *not* dead, the police would--the world would appreciate it."
Lois pulled her notebook out of her briefcase and noted down the inscription from the buckle.
"Please, call me if you learn anything more from your analysis. I'm going to take Clark home and make sure he rests. Here's the number we can be reached at." Lois quickly wrote their home phone number on the back of a business card and handed it to Dr. Klein.
She watched Dr. Klein leave through the divided doors part way down the hallway before turning back toward the restrooms.
-- 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 31, 1996 LexTowers Office Complex — Office of Vince Carlucci --
"Carlotta, honey, don't get all upset. You know Daddy knows what's best for you and that slime ball was nothing but trouble."
Carlotta was standing in her father's office crying. Even with red puffy eyes from the tears rolling down her cheeks, she looked stunning. A critic would have said that taken individually she had a great many physical faults. However, somehow Carlotta overcame the specifics and made the whole package look breathtakingly beautiful. Even her father found her captivating.
So when Carlotta sobbed "But, you could have stopped your men from killing him! Who's going to go out with me if anyone I get close to might be killed by your men?" Vince was sympathetic but resolute.
"Lieberschmidt was trouble, honey, believe me. I know you liked his looks, especially in those tights, but there's more to a man than a good-looking body. Besides, what kind of work was that? Not the work of a real man. Now, if you want to meet a real man…"
"Oh, Daddy, you're just so…so…" Carlotta flounced out of the room.
A heavily scarred man entered by a door on the other side of the office. "Boss, there's no sign of Superman anywhere. Intergang is *really* going to think he's dead."
"Good. Then that blonde bimbo in charge will make the mistake of thinking she can do whatever she wants, and then wham, bam, Superman'll get her and she'll be out of my hair for good."
"You thinking about joining up with Intergang, boss?"
"Not while that woman's in charge. I don't work for no woman."
-- 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 31, 1996 Lois and Clark's apartment --
"Do you think Dr. Klein suspected that it was the Kryptonite that was making me sick?"
"Not a chance, Clark. Who'd believe that Superman would be in the men's room throwing up his lunch?"
"What do you think it all means?"
"I have no idea. If they'd tried to kill Superman, it would have some kind of logic, but why go to all this effort just to get a phony Superman? Why hide Kryptonite in the belt buckle on a fake Superman with a message only Superman could read under normal circumstances, but couldn't if he was in close proximity to it in the first place. It doesn't make any sense."
"I've been meaning to ask you something. How come Kryptonite affects you so differently each time? Sometimes you're hardly affected at all and others you get *really* sick."
"I think it has something to do with how much forewarning I have. If I know I'm going to be in contact, it's not as bad as if I'm taken by surprise. Like the first time in Smallville. I was totally surprised, plus Dad didn't close the box for the longest time because he didn't realize it was the stuff in the box that was making me sick. As a result I was *very* sick and didn't have any powers for a few days. The second time I knew what it was and I was able to even pick it up. I still felt the pain, but I guess it's like those people who walk on fire. A case of mind over matter."
"Well I wasn't really expecting anything but residual dust, so it came as a surprise. I'm still feeling a bit weak, but otherwise I'm okay…I think."
Lois sat beside him on the couch and stroked his hair away from his face. It'd taken all of her ingenuity to get to see the body and they weren't much further ahead than they'd been earlier. Lois took some comfort from Dr. Klein's agreement to call with the results of his analysis. He wanted the mystery solved just as much as they did.
"If you lie in the sun, will that help you get back up to speed sooner?"
"Good idea. It can't hurt anyway."
Clark changed into shorts and stretched out on the chaise longue in the glassed-in sun porch just off their kitchen. Lois sat and watched him rest. After everything she'd been through this morning, it was heaven just to be able to watch him breathe.
"Are you feeling okay?" asked Clark after she'd been sitting there staring at him for about ten minutes.
"I'm fine, Clark, just admiring the view," Lois laughed. "I guess I should start trying to find out who the poor guy was that died. You just rest."
Lois got up, patted Clark's arm and went into their office. Sitting with the phone in one hand, she started through her Rolodex. She'd already phoned in the scoop, about the fake Superman, from the lobby at S.T.A.R. Labs. She'd also talked to Perry to let him know that she and Clark were working at home this afternoon. Now she flipped through the cards, making successive phone calls, attempting to find a rational reason for the whole affair.
When she finished calling just about everyone she knew who might be able to help, she checked out LNN again to see if there was another angle that she could pursue. The girl who was held hostage. She might be able to help.
-- 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 31, 1996 Church Office Towers — Intergang Headquarters --
Mindy Church turned from watching LNN's latest broadcast, viewed on the wide-screen television resting on the credenza in her office.
So it wasn't Superman after all. Good thing she hadn't made any big plans to commit crimes in a Superman-less Metropolis. She buzzed her assistant via the Intercom.
"I don't really like not knowing what's going on." Mindy said in the breathless high-pitched voice she liked to use to keep her men in line. "Do you have any information on Carlucci and his men?"
"Nothing yet, boss."
"And, Superman, has he come back from China yet?"
"No one seems to know, Ma'am. The last anyone saw him he was in China at 10:30 EST. No one's seen tights or cape of him since then."
"Well, I want to know if *anyone* sees Superman. I want to know, right away." Mindy cut out the little girl voice. "I've got plans for him…and Carlucci." She switched off the Intercom and laughed maliciously, as she gently stroked her fingers through her poodle's hair.
-- 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 31, 1996 Lois and Clark's apartment --
Lois phoned her new findings into the Planet. Making a quick summary of the information found so far, she admitted that, unfortunately, she didn't know what the motive behind the scam was, yet. However, among her other calls she had made an appointment to see Miss Carlucci later this afternoon.
Lois went out through the kitchen into the sun porch to check on Clark. He looked so perfect, lying there in the sun, that she didn't want him to move an inch.
Clark stirred and opened his eyes. "Hi, beautiful."
Lois grinned. "Well, handsome, I see your eyesight hasn't failed you."
"Never, when it comes to looking at you." Clark smiled softly. "Are you feeling any better? Did you make an appointment to see a doctor yet?"
"Clark, I've been investigating. Who's had time to phone a doctor?"
"Lois…" he sat up, "you're looking pale. How are you feeling?"
"Back to normal," Lois looked away so he couldn't see the lie in her eyes.
"Lo-is!" Clark pulled her into his lap. "Look me in the eye and say that again. You don't seem normal to me."
Lois tried to twist out of his grasp. "*This* from a man who is *anything* but normal!"
"Lois, I love you. I care about you. I don't like it when you're not well."
Lois tried to pull out of his arms. "I *hate* seeing a doctor. I feel so…so *helpless*, it's almost worse than being sick in the first place."
Clark calmed her struggling and drew her gently to him. Kissing her softly in all of her favourite places he whispered, "You could *never* be helpless. Trust me. I *know*."
-- 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 31, 1996 LexTowers Office Complex — Office of Vince Carlucci --
Carlotta stormed into her father's office, obviously irate about something. Vince guessed it was something he'd done.
"Daddy, did you set Barry up to be killed?"
Vince stepped around his desk to hold Carlotta. "Lieberschmidt? Honey, we talked about this earlier."
Carlotta shrugged his hands off her shoulders. "Yes, but when I agreed to be the victim in your little game I thought you were just doing it to draw out the *real* Superman. I didn't know *Barry* was going to be *really* dead and I was going to be the bait to get him there." Carlotta choked back more sobs.
Vince frowned. "Now who've you been talking to, honey? Who's been telling you those awful things about your Daddy?"
-- 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 31, 1996 Lois and Clark's apartment --
"Clark, she had no idea what her father was up to. She thought the killing was an accident." Lois was back in the apartment after leaving Clark to his second nap, while she went to her interview.
"So what really happened? Or, should I say, what was supposed to happen?"
"Carlotta and Barry had been going out for a while. You remember Barry?" and continued when Clark shook his head, "The Superman look-a-like we met that time we were at Sammy's agency."
"Oh, right. Now I remember. I had to leave because I heard the bank robbery in progress."
Lois nodded. "Well, Carlotta and he decided they wanted to get married. But Daddy, that's Vince Carlucci, wasn't too keen on the idea. He didn't approve of Barry's line of work and thought he wasn't good enough for his darling Carlotta. Vince, being in the business he's in, decided to get rid of Barry. And, I think he was trying to rid himself of Superman at the same time."
"But why? Why get rid of Superman now? I've been around for three years, why now?"
"I don't know… Anyway, Carlotta thought it was just a plot to rid Metropolis of Superman. Since she thought Barry was a *much* better item than Superman, she was quite willing to play along. Like I said, she didn't realize that Daddy was going to kill her Barry in the process."
"I don't think I like her. Anyone who'd let herself be bait for Superman is *not* my kind of girl."
Lois thumped Clark in the shoulder. "She's not the brightest spark on the planet, but she did love Barry in her own way. I think the fact that you were in China at the time saved you. If you'd been in Metropolis, you probably would have tried to rescue her and gotten caught in the trap."
"You're probably right. Oh, no…! All kinds of crimes are being committed. I've been asleep too long. I'd better get to work!"
"Clark, are you sure you're strong enough? You were pretty sick earlier."
"I'm fine. Since the press now knows Superman is alive, I think I should make an appearance, don't you?"
"Sure, I just don't want you running into any traps. You be *careful*."
Clark gave her a hug. "Sure, as soon as you start doing the same thing." Grinning at her, he dashed into the closet for the Suit at blinding speed, and whirled into the cape and tights as he flew out the window. Leaving Lois a little wide-eyed and breathless.
-- 4:45 p.m. Wednesday, July 31, 1996 LexTowers Office Complex — Office of Vince Carlucci --
Vince paced back and forth. He slammed his fist into the palm of his hand. He had to think of some way to get his revenge on Lois Lane for making Carlotta turn against him. No broad was going to do this to *him*, he wouldn't stand for it.
Lucky, his scar-faced henchman, coughed quietly. "Boss, what you want we should do? You want us to rub out da dame?"
"No, we have to be more subtle than that and I still want to get Superman."
"You got rid of Barry, what you want to push your luck for?"
"I get Superman, I get respect from everyone in Intergang. Now shut up and listen."
Lucky listened, nodded and left to do what was needed.
Vince picked up the phone and called the Daily Planet. He was going to give an exclusive interview to Lois Lane.
-- 5:00 p.m. Wednesday, July 31, 1996 Church Office Towers — Intergang Headquarters --
Mindy laughed to herself. This could be the day she'd been waiting for. Not only would she be rid of that perpetual pain in the you-know-where, Superman, but she'd also be rid of that idiot Carlucci.
Her spy in Carlucci's office had reported that Vince Carlucci was going to give an exclusive interview to Lois Lane at 5:30 this afternoon at Vince's estate on the outskirts of town.
This didn't give her much time, but she knew from her other sources that Carlucci had his stash of Kryptonite at his estate, and no doubt planned to use it. All she had to do was "borrow" the Kryptonite and she would not only be rid of Superman, after Vince lured him to the Carlucci estate, but also Vince.
It gladdened Mindy's heart to think her two worst enemies would soon be gone. Too bad Lois Lane would have to die too. She kind of admired Lois Lane's spunk. Well, c'est la vie, Lois would just have to understand. Her life would be given to a higher cause, supporting Intergang.
-- 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 31, 1996 Hobbs River Warehouse District --
Clark inspected the inside of the warehouse. He could see the footprints in the dust where Barry had paced while waiting to be "Superman" and the rafter on which he'd sat, presumably preparing for his entrance.
Clark wasn't surprised that he didn't find any apparatus for lowering Barry to the warehouse floor, because he had once seen Barry make his "Superman" appearance at the opening of the Redlum Mega Mall. Clark had been assigned to cover a mayoral speech likely to contain new policy on pensions for city employees. That time Barry had hung by his hands from a flagpole about fifteen feet above the ceremonial stage and dropped with a flourish of the cape that almost exactly imitated Clark's landings. The people who'd been standing beneath the second story walkway, out of the line of sight of the flagpole, had believed briefly, that it was really Superman who had flown in.
This time he must have hung by his hands from the rafter and dropped into view of the crowd, framed by the doorway. To anyone not seeing the drop, it would look as if he'd flown through the back of the warehouse and landed just inside the open door. Clever, very clever.
Although figuring out this was interesting, it wasn't giving Clark any leads on what Vince now had in mind for Superman.
Just then a cry for help caught his attention. It sounded like Lois! Instantly he jumped into the air and flew towards the sound he'd heard. It came from the outskirts of Metropolis on the other side of town.
-- 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 31, 1996 Carlucci Estate — Library --
Lois had been forced to rush, but she pushed the doorbell at exactly 5:30 p.m. for her interview with Vince Carlucci. A butler opened the door and, after taking her name, guided her to the library on the main floor.
As Lois entered the room, she saw Vince seated behind the desk and in her best interview manner extended her hand and introduced herself. As the door closed behind her a scar-faced man with a semiautomatic weapon stepped out from behind the door and pointed the gun at her head.
"Thanks, Lucky. Now, Ms. Lane I'd like you to call Superman. You do know how to do that don't you?"
"Why? What do you want with Superman?"
"Let's just say I've got business with the Man of Steel and leave it at that shall we? Now *yell*, or Lucky here will have to do something drastic."
"You're going to kill me too, aren't you? But why?"
"Oh, yes, we will kill you but not too soon, Ms. Lane. First I'll have Lucky shoot you… in the arm so you won't die right away: I want you to feel pain."
"But…what have I done?"
"What have you *done*? Only turned my darling Carlotta against me, that's all. If it wasn't for you she'd still love and respect me. Now she's turned against me completely."
"What did you expect? You killed the man she loved."
"She accepted that until you, you meddling broad, talked to her. You told her I didn't have the right to do that. I'm her father, what *I* say is right for her is right for her."
"Lucky, if she doesn't yell for Superman in the next 30 seconds I want you to shoot her right hand. What good is a reporter without her writing hand, eh, Ms. Lane?"
"I'm *left* handed," Lois invented, "You'll never get away with this…"
"You are so right, Ms Lane, he won't! I'll take care of that."
Carlotta Carlucci stepped through the French windows, to the right of Vince's desk, with three of the most powerfully built men Lois had ever seen, each one of them carrying machine guns.
Vince reached out to Carlotta as if to caress her, but Carlotta pulled herself out of his reach and said, "Where's the Kryptonite Daddy? I want it-- *now*."
The bodyguards waved their guns menacingly at Vince. Lucky tried to shoot the nearest one, but got cut in half with a burst of fire in return. Lois jumped to hide behind the nearest sofa.
"*Now*, Daddy." Carlotta repeated as the roar subsided. "Where is it?"
Vince looked into his daughter's eyes and sighed when he saw only hatred there. Squaring his shoulders to hide his feelings he walked over to a cabinet in the wall. He didn't have any choice, he'd do *anything* to please Carlotta. He opened the left door of the cabinet, pulled out a small grey box and handed it to the nearest bodyguard. One of the other guards struck Vince down with a spray of bullets. Carlotta blinked, her face a mask like porcelain china, and turned her attention to Lois.
"Now, Ms. Lane, you come out from behind that couch now… I'd *really* like you to call your friend Superman."
"Oh, what a shame." Carlotta mocked. "Then, I'll do it for you. If it wasn't for *him*, my Barry would still be alive. I want him here so I can see him suffer the way *I* have." Carlotta pouted and, in a fair imitation of Lois' voice, yelled "Superman! Help! Please help me! Superman!"
Within seconds Clark was in the room ready to save Lois from whatever trouble she was in at this moment in time.
"No! C…Superman get…" "*I* did. I wanted to give you this gift." Carlotta opened the grey box as she spoke.
A wave of nausea swept over Clark. The *pain* was intense. He staggered, clutched his hands to his head and fell to the floor. "No--No--Superman!" Lois ignored the men with guns and knelt down beside the fallen hero. Tears ran down her cheeks. "Why, why are you doing this," she sobbed. "Why would you want him… Superman… dead?"
"Because, he was the reason Barry was killed!" Carlotta blinked rapidly to prevent her tears from flowing. Then in a more businesslike, almost sing-song, tone of voice said, "With Superman dead Intergang gets complete control of Metropolis. And with Daddy dead, all those other Neanderthals who don't want to work for a woman will fall into line." Carlotta flicked her chin at the nearest guard. "Take him away."
"What about *her*?" Asked the shortest guard, pointing to Lois.
"She knows too much, take her to Hobbs Bay, kill her and toss her into the river. Make it look like one of Daddy's hits."
"Yes, ma'am." The guard gripped Lois by the upper arm, dragging her out of the library, and away from Superman.
-- 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 31, 1996 LexTowers Office Complex — Office of Vince Carlucci --
Clark groaned. The Kryptonite induced pain was unrelenting. Where *was* he?
Two of Carlotta's guards approached him. One kicked him in the side. "Quiet! How you expect anyone to think with you making all that racket?"
Clark rolled onto his back and, with a great effort, lifted his eyelids so he could see. He was in an office. Outside the windows were the outlines of high-rises and office towers. On the desk was the open grey box. The two guards had guns, but didn't seem to be overly concerned about keeping him under their surveillance. They must think he was too weak to be of any trouble.
Unfortunately, they were right! Clark felt like all the energy he'd built up this afternoon had been zapped right out of him. If only he could get the guards to close the box, he might have a chance of escaping, and finding Lois so they could get on with the rest of their lives.
He tried to sit up, but the room whirled around alarmingly, so he lay back down.
The phone rang and the second guard answered. "Sure boss. He's right here, as weak as a kitten." The guard grinned. "He ain't going nowhere any time soon. Sure, sure, we'll make it look like Carlucci killed him here before he went home." As the guard finished talking his attention was distracted by Superman's second attempt to sit up.
"Hey, stop that. Just stay where you are and you won't get into any more trouble, eh!" He replaced the receiver without looking at the phone. In the process he accidentally knocked the lid of the grey box quietly shut. Then he casually strolled over to Superman and kicked him again. "You hear me? Lie still."
A sound from the hall interrupted him before he could take a second swing at Superman with his foot. It sounded like a vacuum cleaner.
"What's that? I thought the building was empty?"
The second guard opened the door a crack and said, "It's only the janitor. It's okay. I'll go tell him to leave this office until last. Carlucci used to do that all the time. He was always working late here."
After the second guard disappeared through the door, the first turned his attention back to Superman.
However, Superman wasn't lying on the floor writhing in agony any longer. Superman wasn't anywhere in sight! The door to the powder room was slightly ajar so the guard rushed over in that direction. However, he couldn't see Superman in there either. He rushed to the window, but couldn't see how Superman could possibly have left by that route. The glass was intact, and the windows didn't open.
Scratching his head, he walked back into the centre of the office. He only grunted as Clark fell, from the recess in the ceiling, on top of him.
-- 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 31, 1996 Carlucci Estate — Library --
Mindy Church was really annoyed. First the two imbeciles at Carlucci's office had lost Superman. Now Shorty had called her to tell her Carlotta was having some kind of nervous breakdown that neither he nor the butler could cope with.
"I don't appreciate being forced to come here to clean up *your* mess."
"Boss, what you want I should do? The broad's talking to that blood-soaked corpse as if he was going to wake up again. Can't she see he's dead? She ordered us to kill him."
"Get the butler to call the police. Have him say she killed her father and is completely hysterical." Mindy moved closer to the French doors. "I don't want either of us to be here when they arrive, so tell him to give us a couple of minutes to leave the estate before he makes the call."
"Sure, Boss, no problem. What about the other dame?"
"You mean to tell me you haven't dealt with Lois Lane yet?" Mindy's patience was close to its end. "I really don't like having my time wasted, Shorty." Mindy, turning to take a final look at the tableau in the library, ordered, "Get rid of her!"
-- 8:15 p.m. Wednesday, July 31, 1996 Hobbs Bay Warehouse District --
The guard pushed Lois along the path to the bay. She was feeling absolutely awful again, the flu had returned full force and she tried not to think about Clark being dead. Any time now she'd have to throw up and she wasn't overjoyed at the thought.
The guard had dragged her from the library and thrown her into the back of a windowless van. She'd felt too ill, and overwhelmed at Clark's collapse, to fight him very much. She'd only managed to get in a few kicks before he'd fastened chains around her wrists and ordered her to stop kicking or he'd shoot her. She'd been happy to see that he'd fastened her hands in front of her body until he'd welded the chains with a portable blow torch so that she couldn't possibly loosen them.
After her hands were made fast, he'd pushed her back against the inner side of the van. Then, just as he was about to seat himself in the driver's seat, he'd been called back into the house by the butler saying something about "Miss Carlotta."
He was away so long that Lois dozed off. She was still asleep when he finally returned and started the van, waking her up. It was almost dark as he drove a circuitous route through Metropolis for what seemed like an hour. By the time they stopped near some warehouses close to Hobbs Bay it was just after sunset and only the outlines of the warehouses could be seen clearly.
Even with her hands fastened together by a chain, and her ankles bruised from her attempts to kick him, he'd expected her to get out of the van and walk to the warehouse farthest from the van. The high-heels she'd decided to wear to the interview weren't helping her at all. She decided to ditch the shoes, but couldn't because the bodyguard kept prodding her in the back with his gun and telling her to hurry up. She was crying quietly.
Oh yes, she was crying, but not because she was in danger, but because she felt so wretched. She stopped, as the bile rose in her throat. She felt the guard prod her in the back again. "Move along. We ain't got all night."
Lois tried to swallow, but the contents of her stomach insisted on leaving.
"What's the matter with you, lady?" The guard sounded disgusted. "You got a bun in the oven, or what? You women is all alike, don't wear no protection just to trick a guy and then upchuck for the next three months. Get moving will ya."
Lois was dazed. What had he said? Was he implying she was pregnant? Lois gulped for air. Of *course*, why hadn't she realized… The guard prodded her again. She staggered forward. It took every ounce of energy she had left to stay upright and keep moving forward. Finally they reached the warehouse and he told her to sit while he made his preparations for her down by the bay. Lois sat on the ground with her back to the outside wall of the warehouse. She sat with her head on her knees and tears rolling down her cheeks.
Why hadn't she figured it out before? Why hadn't she paid attention to what her body was trying to tell her? Why hadn't she noticed she was late? Okay, so she'd never been pregnant before … but, she should have known what was going on! Why she was making those constant trips to the ladies' room. *Now* it all made sense.
Lois drew in a sobbing breath. What kind of mother was she going to be if she couldn't even figure out something so simple that even that half-wit guard had recognized right away. This wasn't the way it was supposed to be! If she couldn't have figured it out for herself first, in a better world it would have been *Clark*, using one or the other of his special powers, who would have discovered what was happening and let her know.
Her mind drifted to a scene that might have been. One morning Clark would have looked bemused for a moment, and with a quiet smile said, "Sweetheart, whenever I wake up I listen for your heartbeat. We've been so busy in the last few weeks that I never noticed the echo before."
And when she'd looked puzzled, as of course she would, he would have pulled her gently to him and explained softly. "I can hear two heartbeats, both coming from you. I think we're going to be parents."
Of course she would have pretended surprise and then…
But *no*, she had to find out from that *toad*. How stupid could she have been? She should have *known*. She should have paid attention to when she'd had her last period. When *had* she finished her last period? She reviewed the last few weeks in her mind and realized it had been during the Chiltern investigation. That was almost *six* weeks ago!
The tears had stopped when she'd gotten angry with herself, but at the thought of what might have been, once again they coursed down her cheeks.
She had *never* thought she would want a baby. She'd assumed she never would. She didn't even *like* babies. They were so…messy and demanding and…and helpless. But this…this tiny spark of life that was causing her so much suffering, *this* wasn't just *any* baby. This was *hers*…and Clark's…and she *wanted* it, wanted it more than anything else in the whole world!
But now, it looked as if Clark would die, if he wasn't already dead, and so would she. Her baby, *their* baby, would never have the chance to live! Oh, she knew *right now* it wasn't really a baby, didn't look like those cute babies she'd seen in the talcum powder commercials. It was what, three or four weeks along? But if *she* survived, and the baby grew, it would *be* a baby, a *beautiful* baby. Of course it would be beautiful! Any child of Clark's would *have* to be beautiful. It wouldn't have any choice.
She wiped the tears from her cheeks with the back of her hand. With her hands chained together, she felt so helpless. *Helpless*. Clark had said just this afternoon, "You could *never* be helpless." She smiled at the memory. Maybe he was right. After all she had survived her adventures *before* he showed up, before Superman showed up. Survived to tell the tale. She could do it again.
Now what could she do to free herself?
Lois saw the "Toad" approach. Preparing herself to spring, she watched his short strides toward her from under her chained hands. When he got within kicking distance, she swung both feet up and hit him with her heels, where it would hurt the most.
Struggling to her feet, she sidled along the wall until she got past his writhing body. She stumbled as quickly as she could away from the bay and towards the road. She had to kick off the shoes to gain some speed, and to avoid spraining an ankle, but the pebbles on the road hurt her feet. The canvas "doors" covering the entrances to many of the warehouses were snapping in the wind. If she used her imagination, she could pretend she heard Clark landing in the Suit.
The thought of Clark coming to her aid, helped her ignore the pain of trying to walk in stockinged feet. She could see the light of a telephone booth, about three blocks away along the road to the right, and turned in its direction. The sound of the wind and the flapping canvas covers spurring her on.
-- 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 31, 1996 Daily Planet — Newsroom — Perry White's Office --
"Great shades of Elvis! You have *got* to be kidding me. Are you two all right?"
"We're doing okay, Chief," Clark said. "Superman took Lois to the hospital and the doctors say she'll be just fine. She just needs some tender loving care. I've taken her home and should get back to her soon."
"And you, son?"
"Well, I was following up a lead on Carlucci's men and didn't know what was going on until Superman came and got me and took me to Lois. Not one of my finer moments." Clark looked chagrined.
"That's okay, son. We all can't be Superman. Why don't you give me the gist of your story? You can do a quick write-up for the first edition tomorrow and I'll have Joanne polish it."
"Lois isn't going to like this. She'd rather do it herself."
"Well you said the doctors have told her to rest for at least a week. I know we're never going to keep her away from the job *that* long. But, son, you have to know I almost had a heart attack when I saw you carry her unconscious body into my office this morning. It scared the living daylights out of me. I don't *ever* want to be scared like that again. So, you make sure I don't see her in here before Monday at the earliest. You got that?"
"So, what's the scoop? What was the point of all of this?"
Clark did a quick outline of the death of Vince and the arrest of his daughter for his murder, and the kidnapping of Lois. Unfortunately, due to her mental state at the time of the arrest it was doubtful Carlotta would ever be brought to trial. She was even claiming Mindy Church was involved. Perry raised his eyebrows at this, but Clark shrugged and continued with his outline. The guard Shorty wasn't saying anything and had called one of the biggest lawyers in town to defend him. Intergang was obviously involved in helping with his defense. The guards that had kidnapped Superman seemed to have disappeared, for now. Rumour had it that they were also being taken care of by Intergang.
"Nice summary, Kent. Now you go home and take good care of that wife of yours. We need her here, but not until Monday, you hear?!"
-- 11:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 31, 1996 Lois and Clark's apartment --
Clark cradled Lois in his arms. He stroked her hair gently and kissed her lightly on the temple. She looked so pale and pensive. It tore at his heart to see her that way.
"Lois, you still don't look all that well. Are you sure you're okay?"
"Sure, the doctor at the hospital said I was going to be fine."
"I know, but he also said that you were a very lucky woman, you should see your own doctor for a checkup as soon as possible."
Lois sighed quietly and turned her head to look into Clark's eyes. "Clark, he just confirmed what the guy from Intergang said to me. He made me realize what I *really* want in life."
"Something the bodyguard said?"
"Yes, something that…that he said made me realize that I don't have the flu. I've *never* had the flu."
Clark looked puzzled, "But…"
"What I *have* got is 'morning sickness'."
A look of wonder and joy spread over Clark's face. "You mean…?"
"Yes, Clark, you're going to be a Daddy." Lois smiled through the tears in her eyes, stroked his cheek and wrapped her arms around him.
Clark kissed her gently, holding her close to him and breathing in the smell of her hair. "But…all the things you've gone through today. Are you sure, you…both of you, are all right?"
"That's why the doctor at the Emergency said I was lucky. He seemed to think that I was some kind of wonder woman because I could go through everything that happened today and *not* lose the baby."
"I think he's right." Clark smiled at her indulgently. "Wonder woman would be a *very* good name for you."
Lois thumped Clark's chest. "I think most of the credit goes to the baby for hanging on to life. It must be a really special baby to have survived today. 'Super' in fact."
Clark grinned. "Any baby of ours would have to be."
Lois snuggled closer to Clark. She was *very* tired. However, she couldn't go to sleep until she'd satisfied her curiosity. "Clark, how did you escape?"
Clark stroked her hair softly, "Well, I think one of the guards accidentally closed the lead box, and I just forgot to remind him it should be open."
Lois took a swipe at him. "Oh, for heaven's sake, Clark. *How* did you escape?"
"The other guard left the room a couple of minutes after the box lid closed. I just had enough strength to float up to the ceiling. The first guard checked all the open doors in the room and then fortunately stopped rushing around right where I could fall on him, knock him out, and then escape."
"How long did it take you to get the strength to fly to rescue me?"
"Not as long as I was afraid of. I thought I'd be out of commission for the rest of the night. I floated up to the roof and rested in the sun until it set. Then I remembered what we'd talked about this afternoon and figured if those men could walk on fire, I could ignore the pain and fly to you."
"That's so sweet, Clark."
"I should have gotten to you sooner. I'm so sorry." Clark stroked Lois' hair.
"No, honey, it's okay. You did fine."
"But, you were hurt. The baby…"
"You did what you could. Now hush up and kiss me." Lois framed his face with her hands and pursed her lips.
"What about you? How did you escape?" Clark asked as their kiss broke off. "When I found you, you were almost at that telephone booth. It must have taken all your strength to get that far from the stocky guy I found writhing on the pier."
"Well, he had chained me up and I got mad. I wanted our baby to survive so I kicked him where it hurts the most and did my best to run for help."
Clark gently brushed his lips over her temple and made encouraging sounds.
Lois sighed and ran her fingers through Clark's hair. It was so good to be here, with him. They'd almost lost each other today. She'd sworn, after all the problems they'd had getting married in the first place, that she'd treasure their life together. Today, she'd almost lost Clark *twice*. Who knew what might happen to him, or her, tomorrow.
Now she realized she wanted his reassurance, to *know* that he was very much alive, that they *both* were. Just a few minutes ago she'd been exhausted, in pain from her bruises, but now her intense desire for Clark swept away any tiredness and pain she'd felt. Moving her lips close to his ear, she whispered softly. "So you don't mind that I'm having Superman's love child?" and pulling back to see the look on his face, fluttered her eyelashes at him.
Clark slowly grinned. "I guess not, after all he's as close to me as anyone could get."
Lois let her fingers trace the shape of Clark's cheek and softly caressed his lips with her thumb. When she knew she had his undivided attention, she suggested they change venues.
"Lois, are you sure you're up for this?"
Obviously "Clark the Fussbudget" was in control. She snuggled closer and let her fingers explore him, unbuttoning his shirt one button at a time and caressing his chest in a way to ensure that fussing over her health would be the *last* thing he'd want to do. She breathed, "Yes," into his left ear.
Through ragged breaths, Clark said, "Mrs. Kent, are you trying to torment me?"
Lois giggled as she rose from his lap and walked seductively away from the mesmerized Clark.
She looked back over her shoulder and said, "Well I did promise myself to skin the person who gave me my 'flu'. I think it might be kind of interesting to try to skin the 'Man of Steel'."
Smiling, Lois crooked her finger at Clark and walked provocatively into the bedroom.
-- 11:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 31, 1996 Church Estate — Mindy's Bedroom --
Mindy was sitting gracefully on the centre of a white upholstered love-seat, surrounded by white cushions. She'd just finished watching the late news to be sure she hadn't been implicated in the Carlucci murder and kidnappings. The white monochromatic colour scheme continued throughout the room right down to the silk pajamas she was wearing and the toy-sized poodle she was stroking.
"So, Pookie, we escaped, but it's not exactly been the best day."
Mindy snuggled her face in her dog's manicured mane. "Superman and Lois got away." She dragged her fingers through the hair on his head. "But, Vince is dead and his daughter can't tell anything about what happened 'cause she doesn't remember." Mindy smiled. "Shorty and the others won't talk, my lawyers' will make sure of that."
"Pookie, I don't really like it when I don't get what I want." Mindy sighed and uncurled herself from the love seat. Picking up Pookie as she moved towards the bed.
"Tomorrow, we'll go for walkies and we'll think of a better way to get rid of Superman. What you say to that? Ummm? Pookie, darling, isn't that a lovely idea?" Mindy raised Pookie to eye level and kissed him on the nose. "I knew you'd agree. So, we'll take care of Superman tomorrow."
Mindy placed Pookie in his white wicker basket, climbed between the silk sheets and turned out the lights.
-- Midnight, Wednesday, July 31, 1996 Lois and Clark's apartment --
The apartment was quiet. The only available light came from the fish tank, where two angel fish were slowly swimming in circles.
The fish had experienced a long, exhausting and exciting day. They'd almost been caught by the neighbour's cat who'd snuck in through the open window, the one that the man who could fly had left open when he came in this morning to switch clothes. All that excitement made it difficult for a civilized fish to relax.
It was evident that the fish weren't the only creatures awake, at this hour of the night, because of near-death experiences encountered during the day. Muffled giggles could be heard from the direction of the bedroom.
The fish were not surprised.
-- So ended the day that Superman died. Midnight, Wednesday, July 31, 1996 --