By NearlyNoelNeill (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Summary: Imprisoned on New Krypton for treason charges brought by Lord Nor, Clark attempts to communicate with Lois telepathically. Not only does he desperately miss her — he needs her help. A continuation of the episode "Big Girls Don't Fly."
[Rhen's note: This story has been edited for a general audience. The adult version may be obtained by writing to the author directly with a note stating that you are of legal age. Thank you.]
This story takes up after the events of Big Girls Don't Fly. I was due to finish it weeks ago, but, alas, my job got in the way. Unfortunately, that happens a lot and my husband (a real-life Clark Kent, I must admit) is always very forgiving. Fanfic, on the other hand, is not quite so forgiving. It appears the words refuse to leap to the page without my vigilant participation. Nevertheless, if you, readers, will forgive some highly abridged scenes and rushed editing, I will consider this a submission.
CK, Lois, Jimmy, Perry et al. are property of DC, Warner, et al. I would like to thank the SFMEDTWO forum on Compuserve (lovely FOLCs, and ably led by the equally lovely Pam J.) for pleasantly helping me pass this summer with minimal LCWS, and for answering the odd question.
A wink to those who are my age and remember the original source of *Echo Canyon* one of my favorite episodes <g>. Please note that there IS an attempt at some kind of literary structure and parallelism here, so please send your comments and critiques my way.
Before Lois heard the voice in her head, she had been making a mental checklist of all the things she needed to complete to finish covering the tracks of Clark's departure. Fighting to keep her wits about her was difficult through the tears. Today had been a day she knew she would remember for the rest of her life. And in the slightly sick comfort zone of emotional pain and mental anguish that she had known so well in days gone by, she fought hard to recount the day's events rather than to lose them to the haze of sad memories which would lay ahead.
Oddly, since the day she had admitted her love for Clark and permitted him emotional entry into her psyche, she had had little use for her capacity to wallow. Learning to do it again wasn't quite so ingrained and natural. But it was the key to keeping the image of Clark sharp in her mind's eye. Like a video replayed in a perpetual loop, she had seen him halt his ascent out the window of the Daily Planet to give her one last glance. One last glance that said more than any words ever would have. Then gone. Just like that.
Had the circumstances been otherwise, Lois would never have done anything so unethical as to submit a phony story. But the circumstances were way past trivial matters like ethics. Lois submitted a phony report from Clark with the 'man-on-the- street' perspective of Superman’s departure by early afternoon. She then sent one email to Perry using Clark's email address telling him that he was returning to Smalleville with his parents and would need Monday off, and another to Jimmy requesting a piece of research on suspected terrorist activity in Metropolis. There had been several incidents…shows of power, mostly. But they were increasing in frequency and in daring. Lois could read the email, as Clark, and do the follow up on-line.
Clark and Lois had briefly discussed when and how Lois would tell Perry the truth—a truth they both felt they owed him. Almost arbitrarily, they decided that if Clark had not returned within one month, they would let Perry know why. At two o'clock in the morning they had recorded all kinds of different answering machine messages that Lois could use to forestall the inevitable. *Inevitable*…is that what it was? Perhaps at two o'clock in the morning the act of engaging a plan *ANY PLAN* was good enough to forestall the feeling of hopelessness about their situation.
Then she heard the voice.
**Lois. Lois, I love you.**
Lois looked up at the window and wondered if her fevered brain had just played a nasty trick on her.
"Ohmygod! I'm losing my mind," she whispered to the night air. But the night air in Metropolis didn't affirm or deny. Lois realized that, unlike her own voice, which she heard with both her inner and outer ear, this voice had come from deep within her brain. If she had cared even slightly for her own well being, she would have been alarmed that her grief might be effecting some deep psychological manifestation of lunatic behavior. But all her grief was effecting was more grief. And that was all right with Lois.
**Lois. I'll be home as soon as I can. I would never let you down.**
There it was again. The voice was as clear as if Clark were standing before her. Lois felt dazed and unsteady. Either she was reacting to her new *inner friend* or she hadn't had a thing to eat in 24 hours. With the pillow still clutched to her chest she curled up in a fetal position on the sofa to await the end. 'Should she make a bet,' she wondered, 'on which would cause her demise? Would her mind, already cracking apparently, crumble to a fine dust before or after her heart broke into a million tiny pieces?'
To Lois's surprise, she awoke with a crick in her neck and a chill from the open window. Actually, Lois was neither surprised nor concerned by the crick and the chill. She was surprised by the fact that she was awake and living at all. Her head was aching and her eyes were so swollen that what she saw in the bathroom mirror was, at first glance, more frog-like than human. This caused an involuntary shiver up Lois's spine, as frogs invariably reminded her of clones. 'Clearly,' she thought, 'there's a sick sort of humor in this. Maybe I *am* dead and I became a clone overnight.' Perry had announced, Friday afternoon, that he and Jimmy were going to finish the fishing trip that had been so rudely interrupted by Dave Miller's bomb and Superman's departure. Privately, he had indicated to a numb Lois, that he needed to get out of town at least partially because Superman's farewell had gotten him too depressed. He could see the sadness in Jimmy's eyes and thought that more male bonding might be in order. This left Lois able to spend the weekend helping Martha and Jonathan straighten Clark's apartment and pack up *the suits* without fear of discovery. She had promised Clark that she would take care of his parents, and take care of them she would. But first she needed to know if Martha, always like a mother to her, thought she was going crazy too.
After sending Jonathan out to fetch lunch from a deli near Clark's apartment, Lois asked Martha if she could tell her a little secret. No sooner did the two women settle on Clark's sofa than the floodgates opened and Lois’s fears came pouring out. In a mixture of babbling and tears, Lois described the voices in her head and how *real* they seemed, right up to her concerns about which organ, head or heart, would fail first.
Martha, while only slightly more composed, hugged her tightly and assured her that if they seemed real, there must be some suitable explanation. This left Lois to think slightly more scientifically and less emotionally. But still, she had her doubts.
The afternoon passed quietly, with sorrow's pall hanging over the group in Clark's apartment like fog. As Martha watched Lois sitting in a chair sipping a cold glass of water, she was startled to see the younger woman suddenly sit upright, with a faraway look coming over her face.
"What is it, dear? What's happened? Lois?" She shook her gently. "Lois, are you listening?"
Lois blinked herself out of it and raised her eyes to meet Martha's "It's Clark’s voice. He spoke to me again in my head. He said, 'Lois, I love you and I'm thinking of you all the time.' But what's really weird is he said, 'I have this feeling that you can hear me'. And the voice sounded uncertain…Martha! What if it IS Clark? What if it's telepathy like the Kryptonians use? What if he's trying to talk-to-me-and-I-can't-answer-him- and-he-doesn't know-that-I-can-hear-him-and-I-don't-know- how-long-it-takes-for-him-to-send-a-message so-I-don't-know- if-its-now-or-yesterday-or-tomorrow…" And Lois babbled until she dissolved into fresh tears.
"Well, look at it this way," said Martha, in her most practical voice hugging the sobbing Lois. "If it *is* telepathy and it *is* Clark, at least you're not crazy…"
"Women are like fish, Jimmy. You got to bait 'em then sit back and be very patient."
Perry and Jimmy had been fishing for two days and Jimmy's casting was improving, but his patience was not. On the other hand, Perry was like a father to Jimmy, and each paternal act of encouragement was met with a light in Jimmy's eyes and renewed vigor.
So they sat, side by side, Perry telling tall tales of women and youthful antics, and Jimmy eating up every last line that Perry dished. Jimmy was so enthralled by one of the stories of Perry's early girlfriends, long before he had met and married Alice, that he failed to hear the hooded man sneak up behind him.
The terrorist reached for Jimmy first, and being a head taller, fairly lifted him off the ground before he realized what was happening. As Jimmy struggled to break free, he flailed too widely and gave the man the opportunity to lock one of his arms behind him, ensuring control of his body lest the arm be snapped off at the shoulder.
Perry, acting instinctively, hauled off a right hook that bloodied the terrorists nose through his ski mask. With Jimmy unable to help, the terrorist pulled a gun out from the back of his belt and aimed squarely at Perry's chest. Perry's second assault came to a dead stop then and there before he, himself, would have.
With no words spoken, both of them were bound and gagged and loaded into a dusty red van with New Troy rental plates. Each received a shot of something in the arm that knocked them out cold.
When they awoke, Perry and Jimmy were in a cave. Coolers of simple foods, blankets, and containers of water were piled in a corner. The only source of light came from a four- inch crack between the mouth of the cave and the boulder that had been moved in front of the opening to prevent their escape.
After Jimmy yelled for help for several minutes, Perry put his hand on his shoulder and told him to sit down and save his strength. Jimmy looked up at the older man and realized that he looked haggard and pale from whatever drug they had been given. Not wishing to fight, or disobey an order, Jimmy nodded and sat cross-legged. Perry peered through the crack in silence for a few minutes, then turned and joined Jimmy on the cave floor.
"Son…I'm as sure as Elvis is the King, that a terrorist who leaves food and bedding wants some kind of ransom payment. So for now, they intend to keep us alive. But I'd be a yellow- journalist if I didn't admit that I really wish Superman was here right now."
Clark paced back and forth in his cell. At least here he would be alone long enough to talk to Lois. If only he could be certain that she heard him. And yet, in his heart he knew that she could. It was Zara who had suggested trying to contact Lois telepathically. She explained that the Kryptonian ability to communicate in this fashion had evolved from practice and increased awareness in the sub-conscious part of the brain. Humans were physiologically evolved enough to communicate this way, but very few of them knew how.
Clark alternately tortured and comforted himself with thoughts of Lois each day in his cell. He comforted himself with the certainty of her undying love for him. He tortured himself with the thought that he might never again feel her in his arms or taste her hot breath on his tongue or feel it on his neck. His Smallville morality had never prepared him for leaving Earth forever without making love to the one woman with whom he ached to join his flesh. It was embarrassing for him to consider while locked in his cell, lest anyone spot his persistent erections whenever a daydream transported him back to Metropolis. Back to her arms.
He was in trouble, and he certainly could use Lois's advice as well as her body. Zara and Ching had been away much too long in trying to locate him. Nor had been able to wreak havoc with the fears of the population of New Krypton in their absence. By the time the ship bearing the three of them had returned to New Krypton, Nor had convinced the public that the real Kal-El was lost in space and died as a baby. This Kal- El was a phony who must be tried for treason and destroyed.
There were a few who knew Kal-El to be something special. Those were the few who had seen demonstrations of his power before his strength and speed began to fade. Among them, First Lt. Cigol, witnessed a display of flying, as Kal-El explained the effect of Earth’s yellow sun on Kryptonian physiology. Now, Lt. Cigol, who was assigned to guard the prisoner, was confused.
On the one hand, Cigol had an obligation to uphold the Kryptonian legal system. On the other, he was forced to acknowledge that this person, even if he was *not* Kal-El, did not act like a traitor. Cigol had not wished to acknowledge that he did not mind his small conversations with the prisoner. Kal-El, or whoever he was, was both intelligent and likable. It seemed an honorable thing to do, then, when Cigol informed the prisoner of the proceedings of the hearings going on upstairs in the Grand Tribunal. He told him how Zara and Ching argued in his defense, but how the other Lords had no reason to believe, in the absence of proof, Kal-El's birthright.
So Clark continued to pace and concentrate on what link he could show to his Kryptonian parents *and* to his origin from Earth. The equivalent of genetic matching, something the Kryptonian physicians could easily accomplish, would prove his Kryptonian blood. He could offer up a test now that his powers were depleted and he was, he shivered at the thought, mortal. But how ironic that he would be needing to *prove* he came from Earth. What a cruel joke that only his parents and Lois knew that he did not *pop out of thin air* three years ago, but was raised on Earth since his arrival in 1966. Why hadn’t Zara and Ching thought that they should create some kind of identification for him *before* he left. A videotape of his press conference, or a picture of him as a child…There must be *some* way to let New Krypton know that he was found on Earth. Lois would think of something, he thought. If only Lois were here to help.
Tears filled Clark's eyes and he turned to the corner of his cell to avoid detection. He pulled the wedding ring and chain out from under his tunic and, without actually realizing what he was doing, he summoned the same kind of concentration he had before to communicate telepathically with Lois.
**Oh, Lois. How I wish I could be with you now. I love you so very much. But I have no hope of ever getting back to you if I can't show proof I came from Earth. Oh, Lois, whatever you are doing…I need your help. I know you will try. I love you.**
Lois stared at the photocopy of the ransom request that Inspector Henderson had given her. Her world was fast spiraling out of control. She wasn't prepared to lose Clark *and* Perry and Jimmy in two week's time. But here it was, fifteen days after Clark's departure and six days after the kidnapping and the police and FBI had no leads to go on.
Inspector Henderson, for his part, had never seen Lois look so awful. 'And where was her boyfriend, Kent, in all this? Should he be suspicious,' he thought, 'that Perry White and Jimmy Olson have been kidnapped and, suddenly, nobody has seen Clark Kent either? Nah. Kent was always pretty good at taking care of himself.' Henderson looked out from under his brow at Lois's concentration and mused, '…and he's pretty good at defusing this little stick of dynamite, too.' Inspector Henderson let out an audible sigh. Aloud he muttered, "I really wish Superman were here right now."
Lois excused herself saying she would check her sources again for leads and contact the Inspector if she found anything. Her composure was brittle at best when she got back to the Jeep. She thought she might call Martha and Jonathan when she returned to the Planet to see how they were doing. Martha wanted updates on Perry and Jimmy's kidnapping almost as much as she wanted to know if the *telepathy* continued. As Lois was about to turn the key in the ignition, it did.
Lois dialed the White House press line and identified herself to the operator. She was one of the very few members of the press whose calls the President would take. In return, she had always shown good judgment in her coverage of his administration and extra care in her coverage of him, personally. After an interminable ten minutes of clearances, identifications, clearances, and good old fashioned pleading, she was told to hold for the President, who was just coming in from the private quarters.
"Well, hello, Ms. Lane. To what do I owe this unexpected pleasure?"
"Mr. President…this is a matter of Superman's life or death. Have you ever known me to rant and rave hysterically before?"
The President could only raise an eyebrow. Lois recognized the silence.
"You're right. Don't answer that. Have you ever known me to go off on an unjustified wild goose chase?" she asked desperately.
"No," said the President, thoughtfully.
"Thank you. So you know that I would not ask you to do this unless it were of dire urgency and a great threat the world- wide security, Mr. President." Lois was becoming agitated.
"Please, Lois, calm down. I'm ready to hear whatever you have to say." The President was intrigued that so capable a journalist was at a complete flummox. Was it him that caused her to be in such a state? 'She had interviewed me one-to-one,' he thought. 'She asked about personal things—about baseball…No, something must really be bothering her.'
Lois explained that she was telepathically receiving messages from Superman, and that the last one had been a call for help. He must need to prove who he is. He wants some kind of signal.
"Oh, please, Mr. President. To do a good deed for Superman in his time of need is not just the only decent thing to do. It'll look great in the polls."
The President thought, 'Damn, she's good. That woman knows the right buttons to push even when she's in distress.' "Tell me, Lois," he said into the receiver, "what else did Superman tell you telepathically?"
Lois was caught off guard. "Well, uh, gee…Frankly, Mr. President, the rest is kinda personal." Lois cringed and prayed he would let it drop.
The President smiled. 'So Superman misses her. How sad that Lois Lane, beautiful and talented, would wait home by the, what? Phone? Window? Microwave? to get a message from an alien who may never return. I wonder what her fiancee thinks of that?'
Instead he just said, "Okay, Ms. Lane. I'll set you up with the necessary security clearance and message. You'll have it by this afternoon and you can take it to Star Labs."
Lois was thrilled. "Thank you, Mr. President. You won't regret it. And I'll be submitting it as a story, so there'll be a write up you'll like."
"You never disappoint me, Ms. Lane. Good luck." And the President ended their conversation. 'Lucky for me,' he thought, ‘that no one will ever be able to prove if this is a good idea or sheer lunacy.' And he returned to his work.
That afternoon, Lois, with a fax from the Office of the President, burst into Dr. Klein's office at Star Labs.
"Dr. Klein…," she was almost out of breath. "Dr. Klein, I need your help. *Superman* needs your help."
Dr. Klein looked confused and Lois didn't wait for a response.
"I have permission from the President to send a message to New Krypton. But I need the fastest signal possible, because I don't know how much time he has and Superman might be in trouble and we need him back here safely…" She knew she was babbling. But Lois also saw Dr. Klein's mind instantly working on the problem.
"Well…" Dr. Klein pushed his chair back a little from his latest experiment in photon excitation. I may have a solution. But based upon what Superman told me of the location of New Krypton before he left, I expect it would still take about two to three days to arrive there. Is that soon enough?
Lois frowned with worry. "I don't know, Dr. Klein. But if it's the best we can do, then we HAVE to do it!"
Dr. Klein started accessing one of Star Labs' several research satellites from his computer. "You see, Lois, until recently, we transmitted radio waves in space through VLF or very low frequency transmissions. But these are substantially slower than the speed of light. We now have microwave amplification of low frequency waves as well as high frequency waves by stimulated emission of radiation. You know, MASER, technology. The radio equivalent of LASER technology. By oscillating the low frequency wave from its satellite origin, we can cut through space at enormous speeds and…"
Lois, her head spinning, had heard enough. She was nodding rhythmically and helplessly in Dr. Klein's direction.
"Dr. Klein," she broke in, "Here’s the text. Please do it quickly!"
Dr. Klein, smiled politely and said, matter of factly, "My pleasure, Ms. Lane. Anything for Superman or you."
"Gee, Chief, you don’t look too good. Maybe you should lie down." Jimmy was nervous for Perry's health. They were almost out of food, and were it not for secretly giving Perry twice as much water as he took for himself, they would be almost out of that as well.
"I don't know, Jimmy. The good news is that we're alive. The bad news is that it’s been two weeks and nobody has found us. Son, I've always wanted to meet the *Two Kings*, but this was not quite the way I had in mind." Perry slouched in a corner where a little light from the crack at the mouth of the cave could touch him.
"Don't get like that, Chief. I know it’s tough, but I believe something that CK used to say. He said that sometimes, when he couldn't have confidence that the police or the FBI, or even Superman could figure out how to crack an investigation, he always had confidence that Lois could help. Lois can figure out anything. And I believe that Lois won't stop until she finds us. There was something about the look in CK's eye every time he said that. Like she would never let the paper down. And she won't let us down, either. You'll see'
Clark stood before the Grand Tribunal. He had been summoned, as had all the Lords, with no warning. The day prior, he had submitted himself to a complete medical analysis of his person. Now, he did not know how long he could put off their inevitable, if biased conclusions.
Cigol stood directly before Clark to insure he would not move anywhere. He stood out in that he was the only person, except for the defendant, standing on the floor of the Tribunal Chamber. But Cigol was positioned directly between the audience and Clark. Clark was trying to determine if this was to prevent an escape, to prevent him from attacking a member of the Chamber, or, in a bit of flattery, to prevent his lynching by the audience.
Clark’s gaze searched the crowd to see Lord Nor preening as if in preparation for a victory speech. From the corner of his eye he saw Zara nod to Ching across the room. ‘Were they foolish enough to attempt an escape? Surely not.’ Yet, despite no warning for the assemblage, Ching appeared ready for some action to take place.
The Tribunal recognized Clark and announced all the charges against him. Clark thought, ‘It must have been Nor’s doing to speed up the process.’ But as the Chair finished the charges, he produced a document that (Clark thought it was clear from Nor’s confused expression) Nor didn’t recognize.
The Tribunal Chamber, anticipating a swift decision in favor of the defendant’s guilt, awaited its reading as a few Lords conferred in whispers.
The Chair began:
"For the record of this trial, in addition to the medical conclusion that the defendant is unequivocally Kryptonian by birth, I submit into evidence the following transmission received by our space monitors only a few hours ago. It translates as follows:
‘From the desk of Frederick Randolph, President. United States of America. Planet: Earth, third Star: Sol Galaxy: Milky Way
To the current administering body of Planet: New Krypton Galaxy: Milky Way
We bear greetings in peace to our friends on New Krypton and to your native son, Kal-El, whom we know, in his adoptive home, as Superman."
The Crowd’s stunned silence was palpable. Lord Nor had been wrong. While he might have made a graceful exit, had his rage not overwhelmed him, Nor instead lunged for Clark even as the crowd began to comprehend what the message meant.
It was over in a second. Ching made a tactical move to save Clark. Cigol, not quite knowing who to protect from whom, raised a dagger to the onrushing Ching. As Nor was almost upon Clark, Clark dove to push Ching out of the way, deflecting Cigol’s dagger. By the time Nor’s lurching body found its target, the only thing that found him was the waiting blade. Conveniently, it found his black shriveled little heart.
After the crowd calmed and Nor’s body was removed from the Chamber, Zara addressed the audience. She proclaimed Nor a villain and Clark the true heir to Krypton’s ruling family. The Chair publicly apologized to Zara for implying any fraud on her part. As for Clark, he stood at her side in a combination of shock, relief and awe for her suddenly commanding presence.
The look on Ching’s face was significantly less triumphant. While the greater evil had been averted, he was finally to lose his beloved to the marriage bed of Kal-El. And yet, he felt an emotion he did not quite understand in his soul. He felt a sense of kinship with Kal-El. Kal-El had saved his life even as his own was in danger.
Zara and Ching led Kal-El out of the Grand Tribunal to a comfortable room with tables and sofas. Here they could speak in privacy. As soon as they were out of earshot of the others Ching asked, "Kal-El, how was the signal sent? Who knew?"
Clark replied, a wry smile appearing on his lips, "I’m not 100% certain, and the answer may disgust you, Ching, but I think I had help from Lois."
Zara’s eyes showed comprehension immediately. But Ching thought about this for a few more seconds until he was comfortable with his thoughts.
"I did not understand your closeness on earth," Ching began. "I scoffed at her assistance and participation, when I knew you could offer so much more talent. As a soldier I have always acted alone. But you and Lois are powerful as a team. You appear stronger together by the bond you create than either of you are individually."
Clark chuckled and clapped a forgiving hand on Ching’s shoulder. While he smiled at Ching, his mind traveled light- years away to a tropical island and the sensation of Lois resting her head on his chest as the campfire died to embers. "That’s what I’ve always told Lois."
After discussing their options half the night, Zara contacted the Tribunal Chair on Kal-El’s behalf. He was requesting an audience early the next day.
And as the Tribunal Chamber hummed with speculation, Clark spoke:
"I am not comfortable as a ruler, so I will make this brief. On my planet, the place where I was raised, we rule by legislative representation and vote laws and issues. There is much tradition and even entitlement, but there is also much originality and credit stemming from deeds and good works. While I respect and admire the brave colonists of New Krypton and their dutiful leadership, I do not deserve to rule. Nor am I entitled by birth to the hand of Zara. There is one among you who, by brave acts and selflessness in defense of Kryptonian civilization is deserving among you. He is Ching. And while I encourage you to elect a leadership, I will use my birthright to transfer the hand of Zara in marriage to the true spiritual leader of the Kryptonian people. With his help, a sense of hope for the planet has returned, and with the love he and Zara have for each other, it is my hope that a sense of worth will be returned, by example, to all of your lives."
Zaras eyes filled with tears of joy for it was now possible to live openly with the man she loved. Ching quietly took her hand in his and gave it a soft squeeze.
‘What a noble man Kal-El truly is,’ he thought. Then aloud, he said, "I must return a good work with its equal."
"Come, Kal-El," said Zara. "We can fuel our ship and you may take it to your chosen home."
"Thank you," said Clark. Then he halted. "But I don’t know how to navigate it."
Ching did not hesitate to offer, "If we can hold an election in the next 24 hours while we refuel and prepare, I will take you myself. After all, *Clark*, it is I who perhaps owes you the greatest *personal* debt."
Almost three weeks since Clark had been gone, and Lois sat on the love seat staring at the sky through the open French windows. She silently wished for another telepathic sign to let her know that Clark had received the message, for whatever reason he had needed it. By 10:30 her eyes were red rimmed and her thoughts turned to Perry and Jimmy.
"Oh dear God. How did this happen? First Clark, then Perry and Jimmy…Oh please let them be okay," she whispered into her throw-pillow.
The ringing phone made Lois jump like a cat. She composed herself in a split second and answered. It was Bobby Bigmouth.
"Lois, that you?" "Yeah, Bobby. What do you have?" "I think this is something. A guy I’ve seen in the south district was talking with a bunch of low-lives about ‘stashing’ some hostages up in a cave at Echo Canyon." "Oh, Bobby, thank you! For this you get a double pastrami with lots of mustard!" "Add a brisket on garlic bread and I’ll tell you what else I heard" "You’re on…" "They said that if they didn’t hear tomorrow…that’s *it* for the hostages."
Lois swallowed hard, but stayed focused. "I hear you, Bobby. Thanks again."
She tapped the tone button and quickly speed dialed Inspector Henderson. His recording picked up. Lois left a brief message saying she had reason to believe Perry and Jimmy were being held somewhere in Echo Canyon and she was headed there.
Lois drove the Jeep into Echo Canyon, along the only road. At the base of a climbable wall to Echo Mountain she stopped where she saw tire tracks. She pulled the Jeep off the road to make it less obvious and proceeded up the winding trail on foot. When Lois was far enough away from the truck, she turned on her flashlight and softly began calling, "Perry…Jimmy…Can you hear me?"
Jimmy heard her and came to the edge of the boulder in the cave. "Lois! Over here!"
The full moon illuminated the entire side of the cave. And Lois could see that the mouth of the cave was wired with explosives and a timer. Thinking fast, she told Jimmy she needed to go back to the Jeep and get wire cutters.
"Lois, please hurry. The Chief isn’t doing so well."
But as Lois turned to work her way down the path, a man with a bandage on his nose and two black eyes, who had watched the Jeep approach from further away, awaited her. Kicking and screaming, he dragged Lois back up to the cave, tied her feet, hands, and gagged her mouth, leaving her face down in the red clay next to the explosives. As he tied her left foot to one of the explosive wires, she gave a mule kick to his face. He cried out in pain, spat on her, and headed down the path from whence they had both come.
Clark and Ching were able to make the journey back in Ching’s ship after a quick and virtually unanimous election.
"I have the heading, Kal-El. You may prepare if you choose. We’ll be there in less than one hour."
"Ching," began Clark, "based upon your calculations and my flying in an arc across the yellow sun, how soon do you think my powers will return to full strength?"
Ching thought for a second and smiled, an expression Clark was quick to notice Ching was beginning to enjoy. "Kal-El, the good news is that a precise calculation will probably take longer than the regeneration of your powers will. You haven’t been gone long enough for them to deteriorate in this environment…only under the red sun. Before long, you will be your superhuman self, and no doubt will have all the girls fainting at your feet."
As he said this, Ching’s usual sarcasm was replaced by a sort of friendly jest.
"There’s only one girl I care about. And if she faints, I intend to be there to catch her," Clark said with a smile.
Clark stepped into his quarters to make sure he was ready to leave the space craft. One last time he removed from his top the chain with Lois’s wedding band on it. He closed his eyes and concentrated.
"Lois, Lois, honey. I love you. Lois, I’m almost home."
Lois, still gagged and sleeping almost face down in the red clay dirt in front of the cave, was startled awake by the message. Her eyes widened with the possibility that she might not have hallucinated this. Clark might be on his way. ‘Oh please let it be, Clark,’ she thought.
Through her gag she tried a muffled call of "Help, Superman! Help." But it wasn't very intelligible. Jimmy, who couldn’t see her from inside the cave started screaming back with fright.
"Lois, what’s happening? What’s happening to you? Are you all right? Lois, don’t lose it on me now! Stay with me! LOIS!"
"Help, Superman! Help!" came the muffled sobs.
"Lois, take it easy. If you’re screaming for Superman, you gotta calm down. Lois, there is no Superman."
But Lois would not stop screaming through her gag; violently shaking her head until she was dizzy and the gag loosened.
"Help, Superman! Help!" This time it was a little clearer.
Clark’s ears picked up Lois’s cries as they were coming into his hearing range. "Ching, Lois is in trouble. Can you go any faster?"
"We’re almost within your flying range. Stand near the external skin and prepare to exit. Count 15, 14, 13, 12…"
Clark moved to the wall where Ching pointed.
"Thank you, Ching. May we all meet again under more pleasant circumstances."
"8, 7, 6…Thank you, Kal-El, for bringing peace to New Krypton. Now, GO!"
Superman touched the skin of the craft and found himself outside in space. Crossing the arc of the sun to regain maximum exposure, he dove quickly to earth. To Lois.
Lois’s voice was getting craggy and her own sobs were suffocating her. She could no longer emit intelligible "Help, Superman!" calls. Suddenly, the timer on the explosives started ticking and Lois realized, to her horror, that they had 10 seconds to be blown to smithereens. The terrorists must have heard her screaming!
Before she could let out her next plaintiff wail, Lois saw Clark land on the crag in front of the cave, rip the explosives from the wires, and hurl them into the atmosphere.
They exploded with a deafening roar and showered debris all over Lois and the cave. In a heartbeat, Clark was upon Lois and untied her gag, permitting her to breath freely. Amidst coughs, she showered him with sooty kisses while he reached behind her to untie her hands. Once free, Clark hugged Lois to him and met her lips with a deep warm kiss.
Lois pulled away, to Clark’s surprise, until he realized what she was doing. "Superman," she called, "Perry and Jimmy are in the cave and Perry’s ill. Please help."
No sooner did the words leave her mouth than Clark pushed aside the boulder blocking the cave and released Jimmy. He slipped into the darkness and emerged carrying an unconscious and ashen Perry White.
"Lois and Jimmy, you two stay here. I’ll send help." And Clark launched himself, with Perry a limp doll in his arms, off the crag toward Metropolis’s nearest medical facility.
Lois, unable to contain her tears or excitement grabbed Jimmy in a bear hug yelling, "He’s back! Oh, Jimmy! Isn’t it wonderful? Superman is back!"
Jimmy was almost equally emotional. But he was experiencing the rush of a sensory overload having had Superman return one minute and having Lois plant her body against his in the next. He could only manage a dizzy grin as he wrapped his arms around Lois to reciprocate.
In twenty minutes, Inspector Henderson met Jimmy and Lois down the footpath by the Jeep. He explained how they had traced the terrorists’ phone calls at the same time Lois went to the cave, and were following them here when Superman told them what happened.
While Jimmy would have to be accompanied to the hospital for a thorough checkup after spending two weeks in a cave, Lois would be able to go home and get cleaned up.
Henderson offered to have someone drop her off and would return the Jeep as soon as they had certified it free of traps and brushed it for prints.
Lois thanked the officer for the lift home and walked up the stairs to her apartment. With her first smile in three weeks, she closed the door and leaned her weary forehead against it as she turned the bolt on the inside.
From behind her, through the French window, she heard the familiar whoosh of air blowing in, the two steps of Clark’s boots, and the whirl of him spinning out of the suit and into his clothes.
Lois turned to greet him, so full of love and anticipation that she thought she might burst. Clark broke the silence first as he quickly halved the distance between them. He began, shyly, "I’m sorry for sending the police and not picking you up myself. Once I knew Perry was okay, I flew to Smallville to see my folks’and to get some clothes from my apartment."
Lois smiled a toothy smile, through the soot, and closed the remaining distance. "You saved our lives, Clark. I think it’s okay. Really."
Clark let on what Lois had already guessed might be true. "You saved mine on New Krypton, Lois…whether you knew it or not."
"Oh, Clark, all I knew is that I could never let you down."
By now they stood face to face and in one motion each grabbed for the other. They found each other’s lips, their tongues. Lois and Clark held each other almost too tightly, first to savor the tactile sensation, and then to double-check that the flesh was real.
Panting and hot, Clark lifted Lois a few inches off the ground and looked into her glistening eyes. Those big brown eyes that looked at him with so much love and faith. The same eyes he had caused three weeks before to be filled with pain and heartbreak.
She looked beautiful underneath the dirt and the scratches. Magnificently, breathtakingly beautiful and desirable. How could she be filled with so much love that she would forgive him ever for putting her through this?
His slightly anguished face must have given him away, because Lois, seeing the heaviness descend on his brow, raised her hand to smooth his forehead.
"Clark, what is it?" She looked worried.
Clark’s voice was choked up and almost a whisper. "Lois, I have been in agony without you. But I did what I had to do for the memory of Jor-El and for the innocent people of New Krypton. I’m so sorry you had to go through this."
Lois’s face relaxed into a beaming grin that was made all the brighter by it being surrounded by so much dirt. She realized the anguished look on Clark’s face was just her wonderful fiance’s hyperactive sense of guilt where the well-being of a loved one was concerned. Separating herself temporarily from Clark, and dropping a few inches to the ground in the process, she casually wiggled the finger with her engagement ring and stated matter-of-factly, "This ring here means that what you go through, buster, I go through. Got it?"
Clark’s anguish faded instantly into a sheepish grin, and tears unexpectedly rushed to his eyes and he grabbed Lois to give her a hot soulful kiss before the tears became a downpour.
What he was met with made his rush pointless, as Lois was capable of returning his kiss slowly and deeply while crying at the same time.
As their tears mingled, Lois and Clark giggled and sniffled until their faces were wet and salty.
Clark scooped Lois into his arms and carried her towards the bedroom, stopping to dip Lois toward the kitchen counter where she quickly grabbed two tissues from the open box there. She daubed at Clark’s face with one and delicately wiped her red but happy nose with the other.
Stiff, sore and filthy, but warmed by the closeness of Clark, Lois let Clark remove her shoes and socks while she sat on the bed. Then, amidst kisses and caresses he undid her slacks, letting them drop to the floor, and pulled her shirt over her head.
Lois laughed, 'Oh, Clark. I wanted the first time to be all powdered and perfumed, not like you’re making love to a rodent!'
Clark didn’t care. He was busy planting kisses up Lois’s arm and shoulders and down the other side. As he faced her, he kissed his way down her filthy neck all the way to her navel, which was smooth and pale. Lois forgot her self- consciousness and permitted herself to enjoy Clark’s touch. He left her only to turn on the water in the tub and let it fill up.
Then removing his shirt, Clark carried Lois to the tub, removed her bra and panties and started to place her, tenderly, in the warm water. At first touch it was too hot for Lois, and Clark quickly lifted her up and, with apologies, blew on the water ever so slightly. Then, with it just perfect, Clark eased Lois down and proceeded to bathe her smooth soft skin. Lois surprised herself with a small moan of pleasure as she closed her eyes. Clark sighed deeply. Lois was appealing even when she was filthy. He felt his body ache with ever more desire as he saw her ivory skin beginning to reappear beneath the bath water.
Lois drowsily opened her eyes half way and smiled at the sweetest, most caring man in the whole universe. Of course, that man wasn’t looking at her face at all. Clark let out another deep sigh, this one as much to chide himself for nearly dying without ever having made love to the one woman worth dying for, as at the beautiful creature naked and soapy in his arms.
The sigh made Lois blush from her head to her toes. And Clark enjoyed it. He grabbed an oversized bath towel and scooped Lois out of the tub. Drying her off with the towel, and using his heat vision on her hair, he carried her back to the bed and laid her down gently. Lois did her best to positively smolder at Clark, which wasn’t difficult, as he kissed her on the nose and stood up to remove his remaining clothing.
As his pants fell to the floor, Lois reflexively smiled in appreciation and reached up to receive Clark, joining her on the bed.
Their mouths found one another again, this time with a different urgency, less desperate, but more passionate and deliberate. Their arms locked onto one another’s backs and waists and buttocks and legs in a need to explore each subtle variation of flesh. Lois felt the chiseled muscles of Clark’s back and the broad mass of his shoulders. Clark was amazed by the smooth sinew beneath Lois’s delicate exterior, by the sensuous curves of her hips and the small of her back as it strained towards him. He was excited almost to the point of alarm when he felt the force she used to grab onto him and hold him to her.
The minutes stretched into hours as Clark and Lois explored each other in this new way. That night they rolled and floated on an undulating cloud of love, relief, exhaustion, happiness.
It was all so very natural, so easy and yet thrilling, thought Clark. It reminded him of flying, only better. It reminded Lois of nothing she had every experienced before.
In the morning, neither Lois nor Clark could recall exactly when they had fallen asleep. But they awoke wrapped together just as they had spent the whole night. Lois opened her eyes and brushed a lock of Clark’s hair away from his face so that she could better see his eyes. Her movement nudged him into consciousness and he opened his eyes to look upon the most enchanting sight he was certain he would ever know.
"Welcome home, Clark. I love you." Clark smiled. "Lois…" His words were lost in a kiss.
For what it is worth, originally, I had wanted Ching tried for treason and Clark gallantly offering up himself, fraud or no, to take his place. Then Ching could try to plan an escape 'Robin Hood style' in the Tribunal. Unfortunately, this part and most of my characterization of evil Lord Nor, will remain in my notes. So much the better…Nor was starting to seem a lot like Darth Vader anyway. Also missing are scenes with Martha and Jonathan and Lois in Smallville, and an actual <gasp> characterization of the villainous terrorists.
Oh well. Maybe next time.