By Julie [email@example.com]
Rated: G Submitted October 24, 1997
Summary: A rich heiress wants to add one more prize to her "one of a kind" collection — Superman.
(Author's note — standard claims go here. I also wrote One Night and Blue Kryptonite. In case you're wondering, there is no order to my stories. They do not go together. :-). So, enjoy! If you wish to criticize me, be nice. )
Darla was a beautiful girl. She had long, blond curls that fell in ringlets down her back. Her dark blue eyes were trustworthy, and her white skin was tanned bronze. But, despite her good looks, she was not a 'good girl'.
She smiled, ruefully, as she stared at the morning copy of The Daily Planet. There, on the front page, was a story on how Superman had stopped a notorious criminal. The byline was shared by Clark Kent and Lois Lane. What irony, Darla thought. The story of the super hero was half-written by the superhero himself.
She rolled off her bed, and lazily slipped a pink dress over her slim body. I wonder if he knows that that will be the last story he ever writes, she thought. And then she called out loud.
"Claude, get in here!"
A tall, young man came running through the door. His dark black curls were mussed by the sudden breeze his running had brought up.
"What is it, mademoiselle?" he asked, wearily. He could have been saying that since he was born, and the estimation of that wasn't actually far from the truth.
"Set up an interview with me and Kent and Lane," she told him. He hesitated for only a second.
"Yes, mademoiselle," he replied, and scurried off. This left Darla alone in her room. She smiled wickedly at her reflection in the mirror, and then sauntered out of her bedroom door, closing it firmly behind her.
"Will you quit following me?" Lois asked her partner, obviously annoyed.
"I'm not following you," replied Clark. He hesitated, then continued.
"What's bugging you?" he asked. Lois and Clark, by now, were good friends. She hadn't acted this rudely with him since the day he had started at the Planet.
"What makes you think anything's bugging me?" asked Lois. She stopped at her desk, and picked up her fifth chocolate bar since she had gotten there at 9:00 am (it was now noon).
"That," Clark answered her. She immediately put her half-eaten candy bar back on her desk, and went off. Clark followed.
"Tell me," he told her. She turned to him.
"Where were you last night?"
"What?" replied Clark, a bit confused. They hadn't had any plans for last night.
"You weren't home." she reminded him.
"You don't think I have any sort of a social life?" Clark replied.
Lois looked at him for a second. "You? You've got to be kidding."
"Well, it's not as if you asked me to be home last night," replied Clark, slightly annoyed that Lois didn't think that he had a life besides that of The Daily Planet.
"But you're always home."
"Why were you at my apartment, anyhow? How do you know my address?"
Lois looked down, embarrassed. "I sort of followed you home, once."
"I was curious."
"Fine, fine. But, what happened last night? Why were you at my apartment? It's not as if we're dating."
"No. I just wanted to… talk." she finished. Her anger had simmered down.
Clark looked at her. "About what?" he asked, no longer annoyed
"I don't know," she hesitated.
"I can't help if you don't tell me," he replied.
"It was a nightmare, but I can't tell you here. There's too many people here," she told him.
"All right. Come to my apartment, tonight. I'll be home. Tell me there," he told her, gently. Lois nodded, and walked off. Clark watched her go. Then, he softly blew a strand of hair off of his face, and walked back to his desk.
Lois confused him so much. At one point she was yelling at him, the next she was shaking, but gentle. He didn't quite understand it. He didn't quite understand her . But eventually, he hoped to understand everything. At least now she wasn't shooing him off as the 'hack from nowheresville'.
He started to reminisce, but didn't get a chance to. "Lois! Clark! Get in here now." Perry's voice called from his office. Clark sighed. He supposed his thoughts would have to wait for another time.
"It's time to get into action," Darla said. She picked up her phone and dialed in a number. 297-9799. This was the number of the Daily Planet. Claude had called before, but now Darla just wanted to confirm.
Perry White answered. "Hello?"
"Hello. This is Darla Kingston. I'm just calling to confirm."
"Ah, yes. The interview. You want Lois and Clark, right?"
"Yes. And, I'd like the interview as soon as possible."
"Of course. We might be able to fit you in in a moment. Let me just talk to them."
There was some muffled talking on the other side. A young, strong male voice. That was Clark. And, an obviously annoyed female voice. That was Lois. Darla couldn't help but smile wickedly at the receiver while she waited.
Perry came back on. "They'll be there soon," he told her.
"30 minutes," replied Perry.
"Okay. I'll be here," she said, and hung up. Another of her many servants, Jade, took up the phone in her young hands and walked off.
Darla petted her bird, the only living do-do bird, with her pinkie. "The time will soon come, Angoli. Soon, you and I will have a new treasure. A new playmate." she told the bird. The bird cooed happily.
"I can't believe we're doing this." said Lois, as she got into the driver's seat of her Jeep.
"She is one of the richest women in America," Clark pointed out to her.
"But that's not a story. 'Parents die, and little girl receives millions'. I can see the reviews now."
"Lois, is that nightmare still bothering you?" asked Clark, knowingly. After a hesitation on her part, Lois slowly nodded.
"It was just a dream. I can't offer more reassurance, for now," he told her. She gave him a shaky smile.
Lois drove down a long road. She finally ended up on top of a hill. She parked.
"That was her driveway?"
"Hey, she's rich," replied Clark. The two got out of her car. They stopped in front of the door of the mansion. The thing was huge. It was painted a new white, and looked almost like it was made completely out of pearl. But Lois knew better. Didn't she?
Clark hesitated, and then rang the shiny gold doorbell button by the painted white door. The chime doorbell echoed through the house. In a moment, the door was opened.
It was opened by the butler himself. Lois and Clark had never seen a real butler before. This guy said nothing. He just led the reporters inside.
The mansion was gorgeous inside. The front hall was lavishly covered with paintings and such. Plush red carpets ran from the front hall up a set of stairs, like that a princess would descend from. Clark and Lois thought they spotted, out of the corner of their eyes, a rather large Mona Lisa and a marble statue going down the hall.
The butler had them seated on a pink love seat, further down the hall. Then he rang a tiny silver bell and walked off.
"This woman's rich," said Lois. She looked up. Hanging above the love seat was a gorgeous painting of the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet. Surprisingly, the Romeo looked slightly like Clark. He had those same dark eyes, and those same black waves. As for the Juliet, she had blond hair, tanned skin, and trusting blue eyes.
Clark waited idly. He stared at the carpet below the love seat. Then he stared at Lois. Her eyes were on the Romeo and Juliet painting above, and she did not notice his eyes resting on her turned body.
If only her dark hair fell long in curls, she'd look exactly as the Juliet that Clark had thought of in school. That was strange, that Lois had looked like the Juliet he imagined. He thought for a second. Did this mean the Lois had always been on his mind, at least subconsciously? He didn't know.
He heard some soft footsteps, and both his and Lois' eyes went to the floor in front of them. There, majestically walking to them, was Darla.
She looked familiar to both Lois and Clark, though both could swear they had never seen her before in their lives. Then, their eyes glanced up at the Romeo and Juliet painting. And, back at Darla. Finally, Lois spoke.
"You look just like her," said Lois. Darla giggled.
"I'm not as beautiful as she is. That's one of my greater grandmothers. Come on. We'll talk in my office," she told them. Clark and Lois followed.
Darla's office was decorated with a rather feminine side. The drapes were light pink, the desk painted white. Her initials, D.K., were painted in tiny lettering in gold at the top corner of her desk. Behind her desk was a pink, plush chair. In front of her desk were two leather ones. The two reporters sat down.
Hanging from the light blue walls were pictures, framed. One was a small, real picture. In it was a bride and a groom, kissing and holding hands. The bride had light blond curls under her veil. The groom had dark blond waves. Another noticeable picture was a newspaper cutout. It was of Superman.
Lois' eyes were drawn to the small photo, but then she quickly looked away. And, she began talking.
"So, um, why did you schedule this interview, Ms. Kingston?"
"It's Darla. And I decided to come out of hiding. Ever since my parents died when I was 16, I've noticed I've been hiding a lot."
"How old are you?" Lois continued. For now, Clark was just taking notes.
"What? Nobody knows? I'm 26," Darla was obviously surprised.
Clark started to talk. "From what I've heard, your parents didn't do interviews, either. What did they do to acquire so much?"
"Oh. My father was in to drilling oil. He found a big plot in Texas."
"What have you done?"
"I can't say I've done much."
"But, from what we've heard, you've doubled you're fortune," interjected Lois.
"There is that. But I really didn't do anything. I just got my drilling company, and we found another oil well."
"The outskirts of Metropolis. And then I made these little things, but that passed," she told them. For demonstration, she held the little thing. It was tiny, golden, square button.
"What is that?" asked Lois.
"This is a fad, that nobody bought into. It projects movies directly into your brain. It bombed."
"Why?" asked Clark. Darla giggled, and batted her eyelashes.
"It was too expensive, of course."
"Do you use them for anything now?"
"Well, yes. They are about to be used on patients with amnesia. What they'll do is project past times in to the person's brain. Hopefully, it will trigger the memory."
"You're willing to give up more money to help people?" asked Clark. He was impressed. People who cared more about others than money were hard to find. And she wasn't bad looking, either.
Darla held his eyes. "Wouldn't anybody?" she asked, innocently.
Clark smiled, charmingly. Lois just looked at her watch. "We'd better get going. Right, Clark?"
"I guess so," replied Clark. He shook his head as if to clear it.
"All right. Here," Darla said. She handed Clark a piece of pink paper, all folded up. Then, Lois dragged him down the stairs, and into her car.
"What was that all about?" Lois asked him, as she turned back onto the busy streets.
"What?" Clark asked, innocently.
"You. You were looking at her as if you were in love."
"Well, she is sweet."
"Uh-huh. You aren't planning any dates, are you?" asked Lois.
This was Clark's chance. "It's not as if you've ever asked me."
"That's true. Just, be home tonight, okay?" Lois asked, almost concerned.
"Do you even have to ask? You know I'd do anything for you," he told her.
She didn't answer. So Clark sighed, and gave up. He unfolded the piece of paper. On it, written with a green pen, was:
Call me, all right? My number's 555-8675. Perhaps we can go on a date, huh?
- Darla Caroline Kingston
Clark smiled at the paper. She had been cute. Not as cute, or as striking, as Lois Lane. But at least this girl was willing to give Clark a chance at being romantic.
He tried again at conversation.
"Can I go on the date?"
"You? With whom?"
"You're an adult. Why are you asking me for permission?"
Clark looked at her, earnestly. "Because you're my friend, and I care about your opinion. Besides, you might want to go on a date with me," he tried, hopefully.
"Nah. You can go on a date, if you care to. Just, not tonight," she told him.
"Got it," he replied, and she parked her Jeep back at the Planet. The two left her car.
Hours later, Clark walked over his floor. Literally. He was levitating slightly over his newly polished floor. It was half an hour before Lois was supposed to come.
Clark threw a paper wad in to the trash basket. With a little help, it made it in. Clark smiled. 3 points! Then, he turned on the radio. He mostly liked everything, but for the time being, he couldn't find anything good. Finally, he settled on a station that played songs from musicals. Normally, he wasn't very interested in them, but he also thought that everything should be tried.
The DJ's voice came on. "And now, for you lovers of people and lovers of musicals, this is 'Love Changes Everything' from the musical Aspects of Love, by Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Clark didn't always actually listen to the station he was on. But perhaps it was fate, for tonight he listened. Michael Ball's voice came onto the radio. **Love, Love changes everything: Hands and faces, Earth and sky, Love, Love changes everything: How you live and How you die. Love Can make the summer fly, Or a night Seem like a lifetime. Yes, love, Love changes everything: Now I tremble At your name. Nothing in the World will ever Be the same. Love, Love changes everything : Days are longer Words mean more Love, Love changes everything: Pain is deeper Than before. Love Will turn your world around, and that world Will last for ever. Yes, love, Love changes everything : Brings you glory, Brings you shame. Nothing in the World will ever Be the same. Off Into the world we go, Planning futures, Shaping years. Love Burst in, and suddenly All our wisdom Disappears. Love Makes fools of everyone: All the rules we make are broken. Yes, love, Love changes everyone. Live or perish In it's flame. Love will never, Never let you Be the same.**
His voice faded out, leaving Clark thinking. Absentmindedly, he walked on top of the floor, and turned off the radio.
That song had actually made sense, in a way. Everything Clark had thought he knew, he had lost when he met Lois. Everything. The doorbell rang. Well, there was no time to think, now. Lois was here.
He opened the door. Lois stood on the other side, wearing a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt. Clark let her in. The two sat down on his white sofa.
"Well, out with it, Lois," he told her.
"You won't like it."
"Tell me, Lois," he replied.
"All right. In my dream, Superman and I are kissing…" Lois stopped, and looked at Clark. He was frowning slightly, but not really.
"That doesn't sound so bad. At least, not for you."
"Anyway, we're kissing. And then you come in. You look at me, blankly, as though hurt."
"I come in?"
"Yes. I don't respond to you, and so you go off and start kissing a girl, I think just to show me. At first, I didn't know who she was, but today I figured it out. It was Darla."
"Darla? I start kissing Darla?"
"Yes. I pull away from Superman, who flies off to an emergency. I try to call to you, but you're too busy kissing her. You two move to a balcony, and continue kissing. She kisses you passionately. And, then, she lets you drop."
"Off of the balcony?"
"Yes. She kills you. Then, I wake up," Lois finished. She began to weep.
Clark held her. "It's all right, Lois. It's just a dream. I won't die on my date. Darla won't push me off of the balcony."
She continued crying, until his tee-shirt had tear-stains on its shoulder. Then, she pulled back from his embrace.
"Thanks, Clark. I needed a shoulder to cry on."
"Anytime. Are you done?" he asked. She nodded, slowly.
"Yes. Goodbye, Clark," she told him, and walked out the door.
She left Clark sitting there. What a dream, he thought. Then, he wondered. It was nice that she cared for him, and hated him dying. It made him feel less lonesome. But, still… Would he ever be more then a shoulder to cry on?
He picked out the piece of paper from his breast pocket. It couldn't hurt; and anyway, Lois had said that she didn't mind. Clark picked up the phone, and started to dial 555-8675…
Darla hung up. All right! The date was planned for tomorrow. Tomorrow night, Darla would have her newest addition to her collection. She'd have Superman!
She walked down to her well-furnished basement. Built in to the corner was a cage. The bars were lined with kryptonite. There he would stay after tomorrow night. She knew what she'd do to get him down here.
First, she'd suggest that they come down here, and look at her collection. Her collection was all over her mansion, but a lot of it was in the basement. Here was a model Da Vinci had made of an airplane, and some dinosaur bones of a dinosaur that had yet to be discovered. She had a story written by ancient Egyptians. Here, she also had a collection of stories, Greek myths, written by many different Greeks. The first written copy of The Odyssey and The Iliad. Many things, all precious and rare.
Superman would be the end to her collection. With him in her cage, she could die happy. She looked at her watch. Time to write her e-mail. She went back upstairs, to her office.
Sitting on her desk, she typed up her e-mail: Lex -
Kent's all taken care of, and I'm adding Superman to my impressive collection. You will give me Venus DiMilo's arms for my work, right? You had better. Anyhow, everything's ready. The plan's set. Lois will be ready for you.
- The Collector
In a few minutes, an e-mail came back to her. The Collector -
So, it is done? Thank you. Venus' arms will be with you shortly. Are you going to kill Superman?
Darla wrote back: Lex -
Nah. I'll keep him in a weakened state, but I want him to be a part of my collection. Not a corpse.
Came back the response: The Collector-
All right, my darling.
Darla turned off her computer, and settled back in her chair. Yes, everything would turn out the way she wanted it to. She always got her way.
Clark came into The Daily Planet the next morning, smiling. He walked over to Lois, and lost his smile the second he saw her face. She was pale. He sat near her.
"What happened, Lois?" he asked her, concerned.
"Lex called me," Lois answered, softly.
Clark looked at her. He led her into an abandoned conference room. Once seated, he continued the conversation.
"Lex Luthor called you? He's supposed to be dead."
"That's what I thought, too. But he's still alive and well."
"What did he say?"
"He told me that soon the time would come for us to begin our lives together. I told him no, that I had Superman and you, that I didn't need nor want him. He replied that both were in the bag, that both would do 'us' no more harm. Then he hung up."
She laid her head on his shoulder, and he slowly rocked her back and forth. "Do you want me to call off my date with Darla?" he asked her, gently.
"With Darla? No," she told him. She removed her head from his shoulder, and stood up. She was still frightened.
"Are you sure?"
"Clark, don't give up a date with one of the richest women in America for me. Besides, I doubt he'll go fast," she told him. Slowly, she was calming down.
"If you insist," replied Clark. He was about to say something else, when Jimmy called to him from across the newsroom.
"C.K.! Phone call!"
Clark kissed Lois gently on the cheek, and then went out the door. He left Lois staring after him.
She knew she couldn't have him give up having some fun for her sake. She knew if she had asked, he would have canceled on the spot. And, yet, Lois was worried about him. She wasn't sure why, she just was.
Clark followed Darla cautiously, as she led him down the stairs to her basement. It was already 11:00 pm. Once there, Darla flipped the switch. The well-furnished basement was flooded with light.
Clark was amazed with all the stuff that was in there. Here was a one-of-a-kind collection. He thought that some of these things belonged in a museum, though.
"Darla?" he called out. She had moved ahead of him.
"In a moment, Clark," she told him. She walked back to him.
"Change into him," she whispered into his ear.
"What?" asked Clark, unsure of what she had said. Of what he had heard.
"Change in to Superman," she told him. Clark looked at her with wide eyes.
"How did you know?"
"Can't tell. But, please, do it for me," she told him. Clark spun into the suit.
"Now what?" he asked.
"Follow me," she told him. She led him to the cage.
"Get in there, please," she said.
"Because," she replied.
Clark was unsure, but he liked Darla. He walked in, very innocently.
Darla smiled, and swung the door closed. Then she flipped a little switch. The kryptonite was activated. Clark pulled himself to the little cot, before he collapsed completely. And, then, he just laid there. It was pointless to speak.
"Have fun, Superman," Darla told him. Then she walked back up the steps.
Lois looked around the newsroom, almost frantically, for Clark. Where was he? She did not know.
Maybe he was sick or something, she told herself. It couldn't have been Lex Luthor. Could it?
Jimmy called for her. "Lois! There's a call for you," he called. Lois picked up her phone.
"All right, Jimmy. I have it," she told him. She picked up the receiver, hoping against all hopes that it was Clark.
"Hello, my darling Lois. Having fun at work?" came the voice. It was Lex. Lois almost screamed, but silenced herself. Lex continued.
"I'm sorry that I'm not there in person. But I still have a few things to tie up before I get to Metropolis."
"Where are you?"
"I'm in England, love. Picking up a few mementos for my beloved collection, and a nice present for you. Would you rather have a silver ring, or a gold one?"
"I'd rather have Clark. What did you do with him?"
"I didn't do anything with him." Lex, at that point, sounded surprisingly truthful.
"Well, I'm sure you at least thought of it."
"Why, yes, I suppose I did. We can't have anyone to ruin our love, can we mon cher?"
"Why are you doing this to me?"
"Why, Lois. It's all simply because I love and treasure you," he replied, and he hung up. Lois put the receiver down, obviously shaken.
Perry called her in. Lois gratefully acknowledged his call, and ran to his office.
Clark watched Darla from the spot where he had finally fallen. He knew it was ironic, that now he finally had time to think about Lois. But he didn't. He was exhausted. Darla didn't seem to care about that. She sauntered about the basement, picking up a little thing here and there. Finally, she spoke.
"What's your favorite movie, Clark?" she asked. Clark did not answer, nor did he make an attempt to answer.
"All right. Be that way. You can see Mission: Impossible," she said. She picked up one of those movie projectors, and handed it to him through the bars of his cage. He took it from her, and spoke.
"Why are you doing this?" he asked. His voice was weak, quiet. He had been there for ten hours, he guessed. His breathing was labored, his state weak.
"You, Superman, are now part of my one-of-a-kind collection. Superman is definitely in his own class. Don't worry. You won't die. The kryptonite on these bars is at a state where it can't kill you. Just drain you. We can't have you running off."
"How long will you keep me here?" he asked, continuing.
"As long as I live. And, since I'm only 26, you'll be here for awhile. Better get used to it."
"What about Clark Kent?"
"I honestly don't know what will happen with the 'other' you. I'm guessing eventually he'll be racked up as a missing person."
"Now, I've gotten that taken care of. I've already put a story out in to the papers. 'You' died over in Japan," she told him.
"Great," he said. Darla flashed him a sensational smile.
"Yeah. Isn't it wonderful?" she asked him. Clark almost wished he could kick her down. Instead, she just walked away.
Clark was too tired to do anything in the furnished cage. It was rather well-done. There was a bookshelf, and a little laptop computer sitting on a stool. Attached was another room, the bathroom. As for food, Clark had a feeling that some servant would serve it to him. If he ever got hungry.
He blew a breath at a little radio. The button turned on, and soft music drifted out of the speakers. Clark closed his eyes. There was nothing else he could do, right now. He fell asleep.
It was late afternoon. Lois stared at the Japanese newspaper in her trembling hands. It couldn't be true! He couldn't be dead!
She didn't understand the language, but she knew what the front page story was about. Superman had died. She looked at the front picture. It showed Superman lifting a man away from a burning building. It was one of many pictures in the main section. The whole front page section had to do with Superman's death.
She tried to fight back tears, and couldn't. They spilled down, descending down her cheeks, and making little spots on the newspaper. Perry called out, gently, to Lois from his office.
"Come in here, Lois," he told her. Lois went in.
Inside, Perry sat behind his desk. He was looking grimly at an American version of the cover story Lois had been looking at. He looked up, and motioned for her to sit down.
"Not to give you more of a problem, but do you know where Clark is?" he asked her, gently.
Lois sniffed. "I haven't seen him since yesterday," she told him. Then her tears went loose again.
Perry looked at her. "Why don't you go home, take a rest? These two things piled on top of each other can be a great burden."
Lois nodded, weakly. "Thanks, Chief."
"Anytime. You just go home, and calm down. Don't worry much about Clark. I don't know where he is, but I'm sure he's fine," Perry told her. Lois nodded, and got up. She left the Planet, at least for the day.
Lois made it to her apartment and dialed Clark's number. He wasn't home. So, after a hesitation, she dialed Darla's number. Maybe she could tell Lois where he was.
"Hello, Miss Lane. What is it?"
"Do you know where Clark went?"
"Clark? I haven't seen him since our date. I dropped him off right at his doorstep, and saw him go up."
"Thanks, anyway. 'Bye," Lois said, and she hung up. She tried Clark's beeper number, to be used as a last resort. Either he wasn't answering his beeper, or he didn't have it, because there was no response.
Lois gave up, for the moment. She'd have to cry on her own shoulder. She curled up on her couch, and thought of Superman. How much she loved and cared for him. She stopped herself. No, how much she had loved and cared for him. She had to start using the past tense.
Hearing the had in her mind, Lois turned over and began to cry into her pillow.
Clark had been in that trap now for a little over three days. Darla greeted his weakened state that morning.
"Would you like to see the funeral they held in your name yesterday?" Darla asked him, cheerful as ever. Clark could only shake his head.
"You have to do something. Watching your funeral is as good as anything else. Would you rather watch from the regular TV?"
Finally, Clark nodded, mostly just to get her to stop bugging him. Darla handed him a videotape. He placed it in to the little VCR attached to the portable TV. Darla left him to watch his own funeral by himself. At least he got some privacy.
The videotape started off with a news report from LNN news. The reporter who sat behind the desk looked mournful, if nothing else.
"Today marked the end, at least in reality, of a young hope. Today, the world mourned, as funerals were held in many countries for Superman. Superman died two days ago in a kryptonite blast in Japan, while trying to help just a few people…" there, that clip ended. Clark cringed, as the videotape continued. Next, was the American funeral, held in Metropolis. Millions of people were there, sitting on fold-out benches, in a huge park. Many wore black. Solemn children held on to their mothers' arms, staring blankly about them. Lois Lane, as well as the President of the United States, gave a statement. It hurt Clark to see Lois so grief-stricken. Her face was completely white, and tears flowed down her face.
The President said: "He was a national treasure. He was a world-wide treasure. We can only hope that his kindness and his caring gave him a high place up there. Close to God. We can never forget him. He now belongs to the ages. Remember him."
Lois Lane almost broke Clark's heart, as she made her statement. "Superman was a kind, gentle, decent soul, who gave everything he had for this world. He gave his time, his energy, and finally, his life for this world to live. People must not forget him! He must live on in our hearts, and in our souls. Superman is a part of all of us. He always will be."
The videotape kept going, mercilessly. Clips were shown of similar services held throughout the world, in every language known to God. The videotape ended with another news broadcast.
Even the reporter had lost his unfazed look. Tears streamed down his eyes as he spoke briefly. "So, now, Superman is buried. His mortal body is gone. That is all. Good-night." The videotape blacked out.
Clark leaned over, and pressed the stop button. This woman must hate him, to show him this videotape, not even caring how much that had to have hurt. The image of Lois crying burned in to his mind. He had to try again. He had to try, and get out.
He gathered all of his strength and stood. He teetered, and fell back on to the cot. He tried once more, and got the same results. He fell into despair. Everyone thought he was dead, at least as Superman. No one would ever think to look for him here…
He couldn't do it anymore. He couldn't hold on. Knowing that he'd probably never see Lois again, that she thought him dead (and, at the same time, missing), that was too much. His tears began to wet his pillow.
It was three days after Superman's funeral.
"Where is Clark?" Lois asked, aloud. Of course, there was no answer.
It was hard enough to know that Superman was dead. But not knowing where Clark was, that made her life more than unbearable.
She had tried the Kents. They were heartbroken. Lois guessed it was because Clark was missing. They had no clue as to where he was.
Lois looked at her watch, and walked down to Superman's grave from the Planet. For now, Perry had told her she could leave the office whenever she needed to.
His tombstone did not bear "Superman". It simply read: "Dedicated to a hero". Surrounding it were literally thousands of bouquets. Lois laid her yellow rose beside the other two she had left before. A yellow friendship rose for each day.
"I hope you're happy, wherever you are," she whispered.
Clark was far from happy. He was exhausted, physically and mentally, and discouraged. He had tried so hard to get out. He had failed.
Darla, on her part, had tried to keep him, at the very most, conscious. She had shown him all of her worldly treasures. The only thing that Clark had even glanced at was a life-size sculpture of a lovely young woman, carved completely out of one diamond. He had only looked at it because the sculpture bore a striking resemblance to Lois.
Tonight Darla was there, as usual. She had come to look at her 'prize'.
"Have any special requests? My prize specimen isn't acting too much like a prize. You should be honored, if you ask me. Just think, now you're a part of history. My history."
Clark took a breath, and spoke. "I'm not a 'thing'," he told her. The girl giggled.
"I didn't say you were a thing. Now, what do you want?"
"Lois," replied Clark. "I want to see Lois."
"Sorry. That's not a wish I can grant. Anything else?"
"Go. Please." Clark wasn't used to begging, but now he just had to.
"If you insist," she told him. "I have to write my e-mail, anyhow." She sauntered off, leaving Clark alone again.
It was two days later. Lois was falling further and further into the black hole that her world was turning into.
The phone in her apartment rang. It was 7:00 at night. Who could be calling her now?
She picked up the receiver. "Hello, Lois," came Lex's voice, as smooth as a cat's purr.
"What do you want?" she asked.
"To plan a date."
"No," she replied.
Lex laughed. "We must plan it."
"No, Lex. Once upon a time, I may have liked you. But now, you sicken me. Calling me to plan a date, so soon after Superman's death. That just ended it completely, and forever. I do not want to date you," she told him, and hung up.
She thought for a second, her mind actually clearer than it had been in five days. She knew that Luthor was somehow behind this, in some way. It came into her mind to check his e-mail. She knew everything about him. Even his password.
She went to her computer, and signed on as Guest on AOL. She got through fine. The screen came up, asking for her guest name and password. For name, she wrote: Lex. For password, why, that was easy: Lois. She got on.
She checked the e-mail. Lex did not rid himself of his mail. She picked up a note at random, subject: SPC
She read it: Lex -
Kent's taken care of, and I'm adding Superman to my impressive collection. You are giving me Venus DiMilo's arms for my work, right? You had better. Anyhow, everything's ready. The plan is set. Lois will be ready for you.
- The Collector.
Lois stopped reading. Superman wasn't dead? He was just in someone's perverse collection? Lois felt slightly better, until she read another note. This one said that 'The Collector' was keeping Superman in a weakened state. Lois figured kryptonite. Lois' relief fled her.
She turned off the computer. She had to help Superman! Together, they could help Clark, wherever he was. She thought of the name: 'The Collector'. Who would have named themself 'The Collector'?
It took her awhile, before her memories drudged Darla back up. Lois thought of her house again. The painting of Romeo and Juliet. The Mona Lisa further off. Was Darla 'The Collector'?
It made sense, but Lois knew there were only two definite ways to make sure. Either look in Darla's house, or ask her online.
Lois walked back to her computer, and went on again as Lex. She wrote 'The Collector': The Collector -
Who are you?
She received a reply in a moment. Lex -
I'm Darla Kingston. How could you forget? Who'd you think I was, anyway? Poison Ivy? -The Collector
Lois turned off the computer. She had been right. It was Darla. The news shocked her. She had seemed so kind, so generous, so sweet. Of course, that made sense. The easiest way to get to Superman was to be kind.
Lois knew she had to move fast. But, at the same time, she didn't know where to look for Superman. Then, she thought. Surely one wouldn't catch Superman and place him where everyone could see him. Lois guessed he was in the basement.
She wiped her dried tears and grabbed her car keys. She had to move. And if she was wrong, she was the one who would need rescuing. *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *
Clark looked up. Had he just heard a breaking branch? He sighed. It was probably his senses playing tricks on him again.
His hope was falling fast. Darla was winning. He was losing. He could picture himself still here in his 80's, Darla showing him to her grandchildren :
"There he is, loves. Meet the all-powerful legend, Superman," she would say, with a laugh. And then she'd leave him all alone.
All the lights were off, though it was reasonably early, only around 8:00 pm. Darla hadn't come in all day. Clark was actually grateful, in a way.
He heard another noise. Almost a crash. It was so close. It couldn't be a delusion, could it? Clark strengthened, and sat up in bed. He strained to hear. Using most of his power to try to get some super-hearing, his breath was more reserved, slower.
He heard another crash. The house was empty, not including him. It had to be, for no one answered the crash. And then, there was some tip-toeing about the house. Clark couldn only hear it very slightly.
Was somebody rescuing him? As the tip-toes came louder down the steps, Clark's hopes began to grow. Then again, it could just be a normal robber, who could gloat in front of him.
The steps came closer and closer. Clark still couldn't see the figure; it was covered in shadows. The steps crashed in the dark, into the diamond sculpture. The figure obviously found the light switch a moment later, for the room was flooded in light.
And, standing in front of him, was Lois. She was so amazed to see him, still alive (though barely). She whispered to him, a brightness beginning to come out on her face.
"How do you open this thing?" she asked. Clark, for his part, was still managing to sit up.
"I think it's near the light switch," he replied. Lois walked back to the light switch, and tried a second switch. This one de-activated the kryptonite. Clark fell back onto the bed with relief. He was still weak; his breathing still incredibly labored. But at least now he'd eventually get better.
"Try the third switch. I think that unlocks it," he told her. Lois tried the third switch. The lock on the cage door cameunlocked. Lois ran to it, and opened the door. Clark sat up again, and Lois went in to his arms. He held her.
"Are you all right, Lois?"
"Now. Are you?"
"Not really," replied Clark, truthfully. He rubbed the back of Lois' neck with his fingers.
"Will you recover?" she asked him.
"I think so, eventually. But I've never been exposed to kryptonite for so long. I don't know," he told her.
"Can you make it back… home?" Here, Lois had hesitated. She didn't know where Superman lived.
"I think I might be a little too weak. Can I stay at your apartment?"
"Of course, Superman," she replied. She helped him up, and they walked slowly back to her Jeep.
Lois watched as Superman slept on her sofa. For now, he looked peaceful, and sick. Lois hoped he'd recover soon. But that wasn't too great of a hope. It normally took him a day, at least, to recover. And that was when he wasn't exposed for very much time. But, if what he said was true, he'd been there for a week. Lois didn't know how long it would take him.
Superman's breath was slow and weak. It almost scared her. But, at the same time, she was just glad that he was alive. The whole universe would be glad to know he was still alive. Lois bet that once he was better, he would tell everyone what had happened.
She hoped he would be better soon. She still didn't know where Clark was. The sooner that they found him, the better. Lois stopped her thinking. During these last few days, her heart had let her know something. She liked Clark more than she let on to him. She made a mental note to go on a date with him, once he came back.
Hours later, Superman woke up. Lois was still watching him. He greeted her with a small smile.
"Hi, Superman. How are you feeling?"
"Better," he replied. And then he looked at her closely. "What is it?"
"What's what?" she asked.
"That. That look in your eyes. You're still worried about something, or someone."
"Well, it's just that Clark's missing."
"Oh. Once I'm feeling better, I'll go look for him."
"Well, she tricked me in there. You know how she kept me there."
"With the kryptonite."
"And you know why."
"Somewhat. Something about a collection…"
"Her one-of-a-kind collection. She told me once that I was definitely one-of-a-kind."
"Yes. But what did you do in there?"
"Slept. I was on the cot for the whole time. And I watched a video."
"It was… It was of the funeral."
"She had that videotaped?"
"Little clips from each service. Including the one held in Metropolis."
"You mean you saw me crying and everything? I'm so embarrassed," she said.
Clark could not hide his feelings. He could not play as cold as he usually did while he was Superman. Not after so long. "You looked beautiful," he replied. "Distraught, but beautiful."
This made Lois want to kiss him, as passionately as possible. She held herself back. They weren't dating or anything.
"Did it hurt you to watch those funerals?"
"Yes, of course," he spoke, and hesitated before continuing. "Do I have a tombstone up?"
"Yes," she replied.
"They'll have to tear that down," he replied. He said nothing more, and soon fell back asleep.
Lois watched him, as he drifted off. Her life was slowly coming back together.
Lois woke up late the next morning. Superman had gone. He had left her a note. Lois -
Went to look for Clark. I have an idea as to where he went. Clark will be back A.S.A.P. Got back my flying power. -Superman
Lois smiled as she read the note. Obviously, he was feeling somewhat better. And she had never seen his handwriting before. It looked slightly similar to Clark's, she noticed.
She stuck a waffle into the toaster, and sat down on the sofa, her cell phone in hand. She heard a whoosh of wind, and then a doorbell ring. Superman had found Clark! She called out.
Clark walked in. He looked physically exhausted, but happy. His hair was mussed, his dress shirt was torn slightly and darkened, and his pants were smeared with mud on the bottom.
He smiled at Lois, and then sat down on her couch. Lois had already gotten up from her spot. She couldn't suppress herself. The minute he was sitting, she went over and gave him a hug. He hugged her back.
"Hi, Lois. Nice to see you, too," he told her.
"Where were you?" she asked.
"After our date, she took me on a long drive someplace. She wouldn't tell me where we were going, and I fell asleep on the ride. When I woke up, I was literally in 'nowheresville'. I was stranded."
"And, Superman just found you?"
"Yes. I can't say I know how he did it."
"You seem awfully tired."
Clark took a breath. "Lois, you try walking for almost a week straight, and you see how you feel."
"Okay," she said. She kissed him on the cheek. "I don't care how you're feeling. I'm just glad you're back."
She pulled slightly away, and looked at him. "And I do have a request."
"What is it?"
"Would you care to go on a date with me?"
All right! Clark said, mentally. Out loud, he said. "Of course. Anytime."
Lois smiled. "I have been taking your hints well, haven't I?"
Clark smiled back. "Finally. Finally, she listens to me," he joked.
Lois playfully socked him, but very lightly, for he was still recuperating. "If you aren't nice, I might have to call it off." >
"My gosh, Lois. You are never pleased. Either I am too caring, or not caring enough," he continued, joking. Both of them laughed for a few minutes. Then, Clark fell back asleep.
Lois watched him sleep. The black hole had diminshed. For now, her life was okay again.
Darla reluctantly followed the police to their car. She had no choice. She was handcuffed. One policeman read her her rights. She didn't listen. Her mind was away.
For, out of the corner of her eye, she saw a dark figure. The sunlight hit him, and Darla saw a relatively young man, with dark hair and handsome features. Dark hair, dark eyes… It took Darla only a second to place him. It was Lex Luthor.
Lex smiled, as he saw the visibly disturbed and angry young woman pushed into the car. She cried out against him, but the police did not notice. He started to walk away, when he felt a breeze. He turned to see a visibly pale Superman behind him.
"What? You're supposed to be lying in your death bed," Lex said.
"Flying has seemed to have come back to me first, Lex," replied Superman. Then, with a uttered cry from Lex, he picked him up, and gave him to the police. Then he flew away to get ready for his first date with Lois.