Summary: Lois tries to comfort Clark when they get a phone call informing them of Jonathan Kent's death. Then both try to protect Martha from disturbing news that comes from the coroner's office. A moving story with some surprises.
"OLSEN!! Where are those photos?!!" Perry White's voice thundered throughout the newsroom, causing several of the Daily Planet's newer employees to jump. The seasoned members, however, did not even blink, with the exception of Jimmy Olsen, who was scurrying around madly, searching for negatives.
Lois Lane and her husband, Clark Kent, looked at each other and grinned. Perry and Jimmy often had this little routine going and Clark sighed resolutely and got up from his desk to help Jimmy.
"Take it easy, Jim," he advised. "Where did you last see them?"
"They were around here somewhere…" He broke off as Clark moved some items around on the table and came up with the missing contact sheets. "Thanks, CK! How do you always know where to look?" Jimmy gathered up the negatives without waiting for an answer and hurried into Perry's office, shutting the door behind him.
Perry's exclamation of "Judas Priest, Jimmy!" was audible only to Clark, who lingered near the door trying to look nonchalant, but ready to interrupt if necessary.
He glanced over at Lois, whom he noted was looking pale and tired. They had been keeping crazy hours lately, working on an expose on drug dealers, and while Clark could get by on little sleep and food, he was concerned about Lois. They had just turned in their story (hence the desperate search for photos) and Clark made a mental note to make sure Lois got a good meal and some well-needed rest.
Perry motioned for Clark to come inside now, and Lois smiled, pretending she hadn't noticed him watching her. She recognized his expression of concern and she appreciated it. She was tired, but part of the fun of being married to Clark was enjoying the special care he would take of her tonight.
Her thoughts were interrupted by the ringing of Clark's phone. She got up from her desk to answer it. "Clark Kent's line… I'm sorry — he's stepped away -" She looked over at Perry's office where Clark seemed to be engaged in deep discussion. "This is Lois Lane — may I help you?… Oh, Rachel! How are you? Clark is… What? Uh-huh. Oh, God." Her voice broke off.
The rest of the newsroom was extremely busy, so no one saw Lois gasp and sink into Clark's chair. "Oh, no. Is she all right?… No, I appreciate you calling, Rachel… Yes, we will. Thank you."
Lois hung up the phone, her hand trembling and turned to look towards her husband who was now in a lively exchange with Jimmy and Perry. She got up and went to Perry's office, knocked and then opened the door.
The three men turned to her in surprise — Lois rarely knocked, especially when she had something to say, which it appeared she did now. "Lois, honey, what is it?" Perry asked, puzzled.
"Perry, I'm sorry, I need to speak with Clark."
Now it was Clark's turn to look puzzled as he followed Lois out of Perry's office and into the conference room.
She shut the door behind them. "Clark — you'd better sit down."
He sat at the table as Lois closed the blinds, giving them some privacy in the glass enclosed room. She then sat next to him, near tears, and took his hand.
"Lois, what is it? What's wrong? You're scaring me."
Lois took a deep breath, preparing to do the hardest thing she'd ever done. "Clark, Rachel Harris just called."
"Rachel Harris? Sheriff Rachel Harris? From Smallville? Gosh, we haven't heard from her since after the wedding -" He broke off at the look on Lois' face. "What did she want?"
Lois looked him in the eye and said, "It's your father, Clark. Jonathan had a heart attack this morning."
Clark jumped up from his seat and was headed for the door, but for once, Lois was faster than he was. She grabbed his arm. "No, Clark."
"I have to go to him…"
Lois began to cry. "It's too late," she said softly, the look in Clark's eyes was like a knife through her heart. "Apparently, he got up early this morning to do the chores, as usual. But he never made it out to the barn. Your mom found him on the porch later."
Clark looked at her, horrified. "No."
Lois nodded tearfully. "Oh, Clark, I'm so sorry. He's gone." She put her arms around him, but in a state of shock, he pushed her away.
"I have to go to my mom." Again, he turned for the door, but again Lois stopped him.
He whirled around, getting angry.
"Clark, I just spoke with Rachel not ten minutes ago. If you show up in Smallville right now, don't you think that will look suspicious?"
"Suspicious?!" Clark's eyes blazed. "Lois, my father is…" but he couldn't say it, not yet, "My mother needs me!"
Lois nodded. "Yes she does, but she's not alone. Rachel and several other people are with her. Clark, please," she begged, taking his hand, "your parents spent over thirty years protecting you. You can't destroy that all now."
Clark turned around and looked at her and then sank back into the chair. It was obvious he'd never felt this helpless before and he was hating it. "What should I do?" he asked plaintively and Lois felt her heart breaking as she knelt down next to him.
"Go home and pack some things. I'll talk to Perry and I'll meet you at home — by that time, we can go to Smallville and it will look like we jumped on the next plane. OK?"
Clark nodded numbly and allowed Lois to lead him from the room. She kissed him gently and said, "I'll be home in a little while." She watched him walk to the elevators in a daze and blinked back her own tears as she headed for Perry's office.
Lois and Clark landed gently in a field near the Kent's farmhouse. Lois watched, concerned, as her husband turned from Superman back into Clark. He hadn't said a word while they had been flying, which wasn't like him, and he wasn't meeting her eyes even now as he took their bags from her and began walking towards the house. She followed behind him, a heavy feeling in her chest.
As they climbed the porch stairs, Lois saw Clark hesitate momentarily as they approached the door. She reached out tentatively for his hand and he turned and smiled briefly at her before turning the doorknob. She withdrew her hand, a chill running through her. She knew that look. It was the same one he gave adoring Superman fans. He was very gracious to them, but was always careful never to let them see who he really was. He had never looked at Lois like that before, though and it alarmed her.
She let it pass, though, when she saw the expression on Martha Kent's face inside the house. Martha, the most energetic, alive person she'd ever known, looked as if she'd aged 20 years in one day. It was obvious she'd been crying, though she tried to hide it, and the look of relief on her face when her son came through the door moved everyone in the room.
"Mom," Clark said, dropping the bags and rushing across the room to take her in his arms.
"Oh, Clark," Martha murmured, holding her son tightly.
"Mom, I'm sorry — I wish I'd been here…"
"You're here now — that's all that matters."
Lois watched them, unsure who was consoling the other. "Martha?"
Martha looked up and held out her arms to her daughter-in-law. "Oh, Lois, sweetheart." Lois walked over and put her arms around Martha, who suddenly seemed smaller and frailer than Lois remembered.
Lois left Clark and Martha a few minutes later, and the neighbors started to slowly take their leave now that Martha's son had arrived. Clark had brought the bags into the bedroom and Lois intended to unpack, but only got as far as unzipping her suitcase. Sinking down on the bed, watching the Kansas sunset, she listened to the guests bid their good- byes to the grieving widow. A widow. That's what Martha was now.
Lois sighed and got up, gritting her teeth in attempt to stop another onslaught of tears. She caught sight of her husband shaking Paul Kendall's hand, thanking him and his wife, Jane, for coming by. It hit her then, as she absently squeezed the crumpled tissue in her hand, that Clark hadn't cried at all. Not once. Not when he'd first heard the news, not as he packed, not when he finally saw his mother. He'd been mostly silent, showing very little emotion at all. "He's still in shock," she told herself. "He hasn't had time to fully accept this. I haven't had time to fully accept this." Jonathan had been like a father to Lois — the father she'd always wished her own father could have been — someone who'd accepted and supported her — and loved her, without conditions or restraints.
She lingered in the doorway as Clark shut the front door behind the last guest. As he turned he met Lois' eyes briefly and then looked at his mother. "You should rest," he said quietly.
Martha shook her head, surveying the mess in her living room. "I need to clean up," she protested, but Clark stopped her.
"I'll do it, Mom. I can do it a lot faster than you." Normally, he would have said this with a twinkle in his eye, but both mother and son remained solemn. "Dr. Williams left a sedative for you," Clark continued. "I think you should take it and go to sleep."
Surprisingly, Martha did not argue. She just nodded quietly and headed off towards the bedroom.
"Martha," Lois said, her arms outstretched. The older and younger women embraced and Martha went off to bed.
Lois watched as her husband cleaned the room at superspeed. Ordinarily, this never failed to impress her, but tonight, as her hair blew in the wake of the breeze he created, she felt only concern. Clark seemed to be going on auto-pilot — no feeling at all.
She sighed again, leaning against the doorframe. She was so tired she actually felt ill and as Clark turned to face her, she saw the exhaustion in his eyes as well. "Come on, sweetheart," she said, holding out her hand to him. "Let's go to bed."
Clark looked at her for a moment and then took her hand and walked with her into what had been his childhood bedroom.
Somewhere in the night, Lois stirred in bed, reaching out for Clark. She felt only empty space next to her in bed though — not an alarming occurrence until she remembered where she was. Had he heard a call for help? She sat upright in bed, running a hand through her hair as she tried to clear her head.
And then she heard it — the sound that must have awakened her in the first place. It sounded like thunder — faint, in the distance, though it was more constant than thunder — more like a team of horses.
Lois got out of bed, throwing a sweatshirt and sweatpants over the T-shirt she was wearing. Slipping on her sneakers, she padded through the silent house out to the back porch.
Wrapping her arms around herself to ward off the chilly night air, she squinted a bit as her eyes adjusted to the darkness. It never ceased to amaze her how pitch black it was at night in the country — no streetlights or cars. There was a half moon, however, and it wasn't long before she could see where the thunderous sound was coming from.
Clark was running. Not just running, but practically flying, except his feet never left the ground. He left a trail of dust in his wake as he traveled up and down one of the Kent's unplowed fields, as though he were in a terrible hurry to get somewhere — or to get away from something. Lois watched him quietly for several minutes, and then, suddenly not wanting him to see her there, she ducked back inside the house and watched him from the window.
It was nearly half an hour before he showed any sign at all of slowing down. Lois came out of the house then, stopping briefly on the porch before heading off across the field. As Clark's speed got slower and slower, Lois' increased until she was racing towards him. When she reached him, he finally stopped and collapsed, sobbing, into her arms. They sank to the ground as she held him tightly and began to rock him back and forth, stroking his hair and whispering to him.
Lois lost all track of time — was it minutes or hours? — But eventually, Clark's deep, wracking sobs became whimpers, then gasps, then finally he was quiet, his tearstained face resting against Lois' shoulder. She held him for a few more moments, then gently cupped her hand around his chin, tilted his head up and kissed him. "You OK?" she asked, overwhelmed by the emotion she saw in his eyes, but relieved that there was finally something there besides the ice she'd seen earlier.
He nodded wearily. "I'm sorry," but Lois shook her head.
"Oh, Clark, you can't keep your emotions bottled up inside you like that. It isn't healthy.
"Yeah, you're right, it's just…"
"I know," Lois whispered softly, brushing his hair from his eyes. "I know. But, sweetheart, even you aren't that super."
Clark attempted to smile, and then stood up, helping his wife to her feet. They both shivered a little in their wet clothing — his from perspiration, hers from his tears — and he took her hand as they walked toward the house, the sun slowly beginning to rise behind them. Once inside, Clark took a quick shower and joined Lois in bed. He wrapped his arms around her and was asleep in seconds.
Lois dozed for a bit, but soon heard Martha moving around in the next room. Clark, worn out by his cathartic run, didn't move as Lois gently extricated herself from his arms. She swayed dizzily for a moment as she stood up and gripped the edge of the nightstand. She realized only then that she hadn't eaten since she and Clark had shared a sandwich for lunch the previous afternoon, and the thought made her slightly queasy.
She heard Martha open her bedroom door then, and met her in the hallway.
"Good morning," she whispered.
Martha looked surprised. "Sweetheart, what are you doing up so early?"
Lois shrugged, not wanting to bring up hers and Clark's nocturnal visit to the fields. "How are you doing?"
Martha, looking a bit more like herself, smiled. "Everything looks different in the light of day."
Lois noticed she didn't say "better," but decided to change the subject. "Can I make you some coffee?"
Martha actually chuckled at that. "Lois, dear, I would love it if you'd join me for a cup — but if it's all the same to you, I think I'll make it."
Lois grinned agreeably and the two women headed for the kitchen where Martha spent the next few hours regaling her daughter-in-law with stories about Clark and Jonathan, dating all the way back to the day the Kents found the spaceship. Lois had heard some of the stories before, but Martha seemed to need to share them, so Lois let her talk.
Clark awakened to voices in the kitchen. He stretched wearily and pulled himself out of bed, surprised to find Lois already awake. Approaching the kitchen, he heard his name followed by quiet laughter.
"What's going on?" he inquired, kissing his wife and mother good morning.
"Your mother was just telling me about the first time you and your father had the 'birds and bees' talk," Lois giggled.
Clark actually blushed. "Mom!"
Martha smiled innocently. "I just wanted to be sure Lois knew that you didn't think all babies came from spaceships."
Lois burst out laughing then, and Clark turned scarlet. "She knows, Mom," he mumbled and turned back to his wife, eager to change the subject. "I figured you'd sleep longer."
"I was hungry."
"You haven't eaten since yesterday afternoon, have you? Lois, I'm sorry!" Clark exclaimed. "I should have realized last night when we got here -"
"Last night, food was not foremost on any of our minds," Lois replied, taking a bite of toast.
Clark sat down next to her and gratefully accepted the cup of coffee Martha poured for him.
"Everyone who came by brought something," Martha indicated several coffee cakes and an empty casserole dish, "but I had been planning to go to the market yesterday before…" she broke off and Lois looked at Clark, who covered his mother's hand with his own.
Lois could see they needed to spend some time together. "Martha, if you'd make a list, I'd be happy to go to the store for you."
Martha looked appreciative. "Thank you — I don't think I could handle seeing everyone in town — not just yet."
Lois stood up, glad to be able to do something. "I'll just run and shower while you make up the list," she smiled, leaving the room.
Clark looked after her and then back at his mother who was staring off into space. "Mom?"
"Yes, of course," she murmured, hurrying to find a pad of paper as her son watched, worry clouding his eyes.
Lois entered Maloney's Grocery, Martha's list clutched in her hand. When she'd volunteered to go shopping, she hadn't realized the only vehicle available was Jonathan's pickup truck. The uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach had grown when Martha, unable to find Jonathan's car keys, had suddenly realized he must have been carrying them on him when he had collapsed. She gave Lois the extra set, sending her on her way, but Lois had been so upset by the time she entered the truck (which strongly carried Jonathan's scent) that she had to wait for several minutes for her hands to stop trembling before she could start the engine.
Now, in the grocery store, she watched the people scurry about their lives, oblivious to the pain the Kents were feeling. "Life goes on," she muttered to herself, picking up a copy of the Daily Planet. The drug expose was on the front page, bearing the byline "by Lois Lane and Clark Kent," and she scanned the article, although truthfully, she could have recited it, word for word. She and Clark had poured their hearts and souls into this one, and it had brought about the downfall of some major drug lords. It had taken over their lives, though, for the past few months, so much so that when she noticed the date at the top of the paper, she briefly wondered if it were a mistake.
Glancing at her watch, she confirmed the date and, shaking her head, set the paper down and pushed her cart down the first aisle of the store. She didn't see Rachel Harris until she nearly hit the young sheriff with the cart. "Oh! Rachel! I'm sorry! I didn't see you there!" She laughed suddenly. "I suppose that could have been considered assaulting an officer!"
Rachel didn't smile. "Lois, are you here by yourself?"
Lois nodded, surprised. "Yes, why?"
Rachel hesitated. "Well, I was actually on my way out to the Kents' farm — but maybe it's better this way."
"Why? What's going on?"
Rachel took Lois' arm and pulled her into the relatively deserted produce section. "Lois — I just came from the morgue. Jonathan — well, his body seems to have… disappeared."
Lois stared at her, horrified. "Excuse me?"
Rachel looked uncomfortable. "When the coroner came in this morning, it was gone. No trace. Nothing. Gone."
"Gone?! How could it be gone?! Don't you people have guards?! What kind of an operation are you running?!"
Rachel's eyes blazed. She may have been young, but she was not inexperienced and she was deadly serious as she responded. "Keep your voice down," she warned quietly, but very firmly. "This is hard enough for Mrs. Kent without having to deal with small-town gossip."
"Don't tell me how hard this is on Martha," Lois snapped, more quietly though, for even in her state, she knew Rachel was right. "You just better figure out what's going on here! What exactly am I supposed to tell her?"
"I'm not sure we should say anything just yet," Rachel replied. "Give us a few hours — I'm sure it's just a clerical mix-up."
Lois never knew where she found the restraint to keep from screaming "A CLERICAL MIX-UP?" in Rachel's face, but somehow she managed. She ran through the rest of the aisles, finding most of what she needed and paid for everything quickly.
Driving like a maniac back to the farm, she suddenly realized she had no idea what to do once she got there. Should she tell Martha or wait to hear from Rachel? She decided the best thing to was to tell Clark and leave it up to him. She was suddenly too tired to make any sort of decision on her own.
Telling Clark, unfortunately, was not that easy. She managed to convince him to come outside with her when Martha insisted on putting the groceries away herself, but finding the words proved more difficult than she'd thought.
She was also unprepared for his reaction. "Missing?! What do you mean 'missing'?!" How the hell could my father's body be missing?"
Luckily, there was no one to hear him — Martha was inside and there was no one else around for miles. Telling him to be quiet would have been pointless anyway — Lois had never seen Clark like this before. She was used to him being the calm, collected one while she was the one who flew off the handle. But now Clark was so angry he seemed about to lose control, which terrified his wife.
"Clark, please calm down," she pleaded. "We'll figure out what's going on, but you have to calm down!"
She looked frightened and he took a deep breath. He had been afraid of this. Clark always kept a handle on his emotions. Always. There was too much danger otherwise — what could be a simple temper tantrum from someone else could be serious destruction from him. That was why he had struggled so hard to keep his feelings inside since first hearing of Jonathan's death. But it had proved too difficult, even for him, to keep his devastation trapped inside of him and he'd had to get it out somehow. He'd thought running in the field would help — it had sometimes when he was younger. But now, all it seemed to have done was start an outpouring of emotions he was powerless to stop, although he battled for control.
"I'm sorry," he said to Lois. "I'm trying, I really am. It's just -"
"I know," she said, and she did, "but Clark -"
"I know," he echoed.
He tilted his head back and ran his hands through his hair, holding them there and touching his elbows together. Lois recognized the gesture as Clark pulling himself together, and indeed, after a moment he looked at her. "Let's go talk to the coroner."
Telling Martha they were going for a drive, they headed off the Kents' property, Clark at the wheel. On their way, they passed several neighbors headed to see Martha, who had assured Lois and Clark she'd be fine.
"Should we have told her?" Lois fretted.
"No, not till we know what's going on," Clark replied firmly.
As they drove through town, a thought occurred to Lois. "Why does a town the size of Smallville have its own coroner? How many deaths occur here anyway?"
Clark laughed, almost bitterly. "This town has really grown over the last few years. My parents are among the last of the dying breed of farmers who own a substantial amount of land -" he paused as the irony of that statement hit and Lois winced — "and more people are moving in and building. Smallville's got use for a lot of things it never needed before," he indicated the construction of the new jail as they drove by it.
Clark parked in front of the building and they both got out of the truck, nervously contemplating what they would find inside. Lois took Clark's hand and they went through the doors marked "Coroner."
The long, dark hallway reeked of formaldehyde, causing Lois' stomach to turn. She withdrew her hand from Clark's and closed her eyes, gritting her teeth. Clark turned to her. "Are you OK?"
Lois exhaled slowly. "Yeah — it's just this place."
Clark nodded, looking around, and then picked up her hand again. "Let's find the guy and then we can get out of here."
The coroner, Charlie Evans, was beside himself. "My team is investigating this, Mr. Kent, along with Rachel Harris. We're trying to keep this quiet, though. I don't understand this at all! I know your father's body was here when I closed up last night. I performed the autopsy myself."
Clark flinched involuntarily and Lois asked, "What did the autopsy show?"
Evans relaxed, obviously more comfortable discussing his work — ironic, Lois noted — and replied, "So far, our results are inconclusive — I'm waiting for certain tests to come back." Lois nodded, glancing sideways at her husband who looked like she felt. "Oh," Evans added unexpectedly, "I do have Mr. Kent's personal effects." Both Lois and Clark froze — neither of them had expected this.
"We remove all personal effects before doing any procedures, " Evans continued, digging through a nearby filing cabinet. "Ah, here." He pulled out a large manila envelope. "I was going to give this to Sheriff Harris to bring to Mrs. Kent, but since you're here…"
He put the envelope in Clark's hands and Lois inwardly gave thanks that this man had no idea he was standing in the same room as Superman. He would have been sadly disillusioned. Because as he signed for his father's things, the Man of Steel's hands were violently shaking.
It was late afternoon by the time Lois and Clark arrived back at the farmhouse. After some discussion, they had agreed not to say anything to Martha about Jonathan's body being missing — not just yet. There was no reason to upset her — they had come up with a reason to put off the funeral for a day — and no reason to believe the body wouldn't be found by then.
Clark pulled up in front of the house. Neither he nor Lois made any attempt to get out of the truck — he overwhelmed by emotion and she by exhaustion. Finally, as a neighbor exited the house waving goodbye, they sighed and opened the doors.
Martha was saying goodbye to Jane Kendall as they came inside, and thanking her and Paul for taking care of the chores that morning. Jane offered to continue for as long as they needed, but Martha and Clark both quickly declined, almost simultaneously. The famous Kent pride, Lois thought, smiling as Jane left.
Clark glanced at the envelope he'd put down when they came in and then looked at his wife. She could see that he wanted to do this by himself, and frankly, that was fine with her. It was all she could do to keep her eyes open at this point. She smiled benignly at Martha and headed off to the bedroom.
Stripping off her clothes, she shivered in the late afternoon chill. Her first thought was to throw on her comfortable sweats again, but then she remembered tossing them, wet and muddy on the floor the previous night. But, no, there they were — clean and dry and folded on the bed. "Martha," Lois smiled. In 30 seconds she was under the covers, asleep.
Clark and Martha were seated at the kitchen table. "Are you sure Lois is all right?" Martha fretted.
Clark nodded. "She's tired — she didn't sleep much last night."
Martha looked closely at her son. Lois' clothes had looked as though she'd been sitting in the mud out in the fields — and Clark's had looked as though he had run the distance. She knew exactly what had gone on in that field — there had been plenty of nights years earlier when she had been in Lois' position. Clark had always tried to suppress his feelings, but eventually, they always ended up spilling out.
Now, however, he looked as though he had something to say — and was having trouble finding the words. Martha waited patiently, the quiet of the house seeming new and unfamiliar.
The sun setting outside cast long shadows across the kitchen. Clark pushed his chair back, the sound echoing, and got up, crossing to pick up the envelope he'd left by the front door. He returned to the kitchen and set it down on the table as he sat again, staring at it as though he expected it to burst into flames.
Clark began slowly, as he had never out and out lied to his mother before. "Mom, when Lois and I were in town, we ran into Rachel -" not completely a lie — "apparently, they haven't received all the results back from the autopsy, so we need to put the funeral off for a day. Also, she gave this to me. It's — it's Dad's personal effects. She got them from the coroner."
Martha looked up at her son and then slowly lifted the envelope and opened it. She peered inside and then looked again at Clark as she gently dumped the contents out on the table.
They sat there then, mother and son, staring at the items on the Formica tabletop: Jonathan's wallet, keys, watch and wedding ring. Martha, seemingly oblivious to the tears running down her face, gently picked up the ring. "He swore he'd never take this off. I was always worried he'd catch it in some equipment or something, but he said they'd never get it off of him until- until-" she broke off, fingering the ring which she slipped onto her thumb, where it fit.
Clark was flipping through Jonathan's wallet, looking at the pictures. One of a very young Martha, taken just after she'd finally agreed to marry Jonathan, one of Martha with a dark-haired baby boy in her arms. One of Clark the day he graduated from college and one of Lois and Clark on their wedding day. Clark smiled up at his mother who, now dry- eyed, was watching him, also smiling.
They didn't say a word for a moment, and then Martha handed Clark Jonathan's watch. "Here," she said quietly. "I would like you to have this."
Clark took the watch from her; he didn't protest. He removed his own watch and tried Jonathan's on. He looked at it on his wrist and then removed it. "I can't," he said softly. "Not yet."
Martha patted his hand and he put his own watch back on. She fingered the car keys and then got up and hung them on the hook near the door. She took a deep breath and turned around to face her son who was watching her sadly. She smiled at him. "Are you hungry?"
"Mom, you know I don't get hungry. But Lois will be."
Martha nodded and began bustling around the kitchen.. "I can have dinner ready in half an hour," she promised.
Clark left her alone, knowing she felt as though she were taking care of her children. Still holding his father's watch, he went into the bedroom. He stopped in the doorway, a smile playing on his lips as he watched his wife sleep. Going over to the nightstand, he put the watch down and then stretched out on the bed next to Lois, who stirred at the movement and opened her eyes. "Hey," she murmured sleepily, grinning up at him.
"Hey, yourself," Clark replied, running his thumb down the outline of her face. "You feeling any better?"
Lois nodded and stretched, sitting up. "How long was I asleep?"
"About an hour and a half. Not long enough."
"Mmm, I'll sleep later. What smells so good?"
"Mom is cooking. I think it's calming her."
Lois groaned. "We should go help her." She swung her feet over the side of the bed and stood up. The dizziness that had washed over her that morning returned, only worse, and she grabbed for the headboard. Clark's arms were around her in an instant, helping her to sit back down.
"Have you had anything to eat today besides toast and coffee?" he demanded, feeling her forehead.
Lois brushed his hand away impatiently. "I've had other things on my mind today."
Clark sat down next to her. "Lois, please. You have got to take care of yourself. I couldn't handle it if anything happened to you."
"Ssh," Lois stroked his hair. "Nothing is going to happen to me. I'm sorry I frightened you — I'm fine. Really." She stood up and held her arms out to the sides, turning around for inspection. "See?" She dropped her arms and smiled, leaning over to kiss him. "OK?"
He looked unconvinced, so she changed the subject. "How did it go with your mom?"
Clark frowned at her and then shrugged. "OK, I guess." He laughed bitterly. "We found the car keys."
"Very funny." She ran her hands through his hair. "Let's go help her." She reached for his hand and he stood up and followed her into the kitchen.
Martha had prepared a delicious meal, and Lois found she was starving. She ignored Clark's "I-told-you-so" look as she helped herself to thirds, but Martha seemed delighted.
Clark cleaned up the kitchen at superspeed and then curled up on the couch with Lois. Martha sat in her usual chair knitting while they watched an innocuous movie on TV. None of them looked at or even acknowledged Jonathan's empty chair which may as well have been an elephant in the center of the room.
Before the movie was halfway over, Lois was sound asleep in Clark's arms. Martha looked over and smiled at them, as Clark gently pulled his wife closer, then got up and carried her into the bedroom. She didn't stir once as he tucked her into bed and kissed her softly.
He closed the door behind him as he came out. His mother had stopped knitting and was staring off into space the way she had been that morning. She looked sadder and older than Clark had ever seen her. He walked over and shut off the television. Martha didn't seem to notice.
"Mom?" he asked. She looked up at him and he took her hand. "Let's go outside."
They sat out on the porch swing, Clark tucking a blanket around her shoulders. She smiled at him. "How many nights have we sat out here like this, sweetheart?"
"Too many," Clark mused. "The night after I started flying comes to mind. You and Dad sat me down out here and told me that with my powers came a certain responsibility. We'd had that talk before, but that night — I'll never forget it. I've never forgotten anything Dad said that night.
"He was so proud of you," Martha said earnestly. "Not because you have the powers you do — not even because of how you use them. He was proud of you, not for being Superman — but for being Clark. And Clark — Clark turned out to be a pretty great person."
Clark blinked back the tears and asked the question he'd been trying not to ask all day. "Mom, what are you going to do now?"
Martha looked out across the expansive fields. "I don't know, Clark. I just don't know."
"Mom — you can't stay here by yourself. This farm was really too much for both you and Dad — you can't run it alone. Maybe it's time to sell it. You could move to Metropolis, live closer to Lois and me. We could keep an eye on you."
Martha burst out laughing. "Keep an eye on me?! Clark, really!"
Martha leaned over and kissed her son. "I'm sorry, sweetheart — I know you mean well. We'll talk about it, OK?"
Clark looked up at the stars, instinctively picking out New Krypton from all the others. "OK."
Clark was awake the next morning just as the sun rose. He dressed quietly, hoping not to wake Lois, but she stirred anyway as he was leaving. "Where are you going?" she murmured, opening one eye.
"Ssh. Gotta do the chores. The animals won't feed themselves." He had no idea how much he sounded like Jonathan as he grinned at his sleepy wife. "Care to join me?"
Lois burrowed deeper under the covers and muttered something that sounded like, "Not if you paid me, farmboy."
Clark chuckled to himself as he made his way outside, but the laughter died as he stepped onto the porch. It had been 48 hours since Jonathan had set out to do exactly what Clark was doing now, and he tried not to think, If only I'd been here to help him.
Most mornings when Clark was growing up, he and Jonathan had gotten up together to do the chores. Even after they knew Clark could do it in half the time alone, father and son had still treasured their early morning time together.
Clark approached the barn and was heading for the bags of feed when he saw something buried beneath a tarp. He wouldn't even have noticed it, but it was jutting out and he nearly tripped.
Bending over, he pulled it out and examined it. It was a shoe. Not just any shoe — Jonathan's shoe. Clark stared at it for a long moment, puzzled. How on earth could Jonathan's shoe have gotten out to the barn? He'd never made it off the porch.
Clark finished the chores in record time — even for him — and was back inside before Martha could even finish making breakfast. "Well!" she exclaimed as her son hurried inside, breathless. "Even for you that was amazingly fast!"
Lois stumbled out then. "Coffee," she mumbled. Martha handed her a cup and said, "Clark, what's in your hand?"
"Mom, sit down," Clark said, pulling out a chair. Lois, who had sat down already, looked up at him, puzzled.
"Clark, the griddle's ready," Martha protested as her son helped her sit down.
"It'll keep, Mom. Look. Do you know what this is?" He held out the shoe.
Martha forgot all about the pancakes. "That's your father's shoe! Clark! Where did you get that — from Rachel?"
Clark shook his head. "I found it out in the barn just now."
"The barn?!" Lois exclaimed, suddenly awake. "How?"
"That's what I'd like to know," Clark replied grimly. "Mom — Dad never got past the front porch, right?"
Martha nodded, in shock. "When I found him…" her voice trailed off and Lois and Clark exchanged glances, but remained silent. Martha hadn't been able to talk about this at all since they arrived in Smallville.
Martha visibly pulled herself together. "No," she said, sounding very sure of herself. "He definitely had both shoes on when I found him. I'd remember if he didn't."
"This is very weird," Clark muttered as Lois took the shoe from him and examined it closely.
"This has mud and hay stuck to it," she noted. "I know Jonathan was always very careful about cleaning his shoes before coming into the house," she added looking at Martha for confirmation.
The older woman nodded. "He was meticulous about it — he knew how clean I like to keep things."
"Then this shoe was worn outside — it didn't just end up there."
"This doesn't make sense — Mom, you're sure he had both shoes on?"
Martha stared at her son. "Clark, I just told you I was sure! Maybe we should check with Charlie Evans to see if he's got Jonathan's shoes."
At the mention of the coroner, Clark and Lois froze.
"Wait a minute," Martha demanded. "What are you two not telling me?"
Clark looked at Lois, who shrugged helplessly.
"Clark Jerome Kent," Martha demanded, getting up from her chair, "tell me right now what is going on!"
Clark, surprised by her vehemence, actually took a step backwards, holding up his hands in surrender. "OK, Mom, OK. We — I didn't exactly tell you the truth yesterday about where I'd gotten Dad's belongings from."
Martha was puzzled. "You didn't see Rachel?"
"I saw her," Lois offered. "When I went to the grocery store."
"Mom, you'd better sit down," Clark advised. Martha looked wary, but sat anyway. Clark knelt down next to her. "Mom — Rachel told Lois that, " he took a deep breath, "Dad's body is missing."
Martha's eyes widened in horror. "Missing? Missing how? What are you talking about?"
Clark took her hands in his. "They've probably just — " he winced — "misplaced him. Lois and I talked to Evans yesterday. It's probably all straightened out by now."
"That's when you got his things?" Martha asked. "That's why we had to put the funeral off?"
"Martha — we didn't tell you everything because it's so upsetting and we figured it would all be taken care of by now."
Martha got up and shut off the griddle. "Clark, put the batter away," she said sharply. "I'm going to get dressed and then we are going to talk to Charlie Evans."
She disappeared inside and Clark looked at Lois. "You OK?" she asked.
Clark sighed. "I really thought I was doing the right thing."
Lois put her arms around him. "You were — she'll see that." He sighed again and turned to cover the batter, but she stopped him. "I'll do this."
"Don't you want to get dressed?"
Lois shook her head. "I think you should concentrate on Martha right now. You go with her — beside, I don't think I can handle that place again."
Clark contemplated this for a moment and then said, "All right. But Lois -" She turned to look at him. "Eat something. Please. Breakfast? The most important meal of the day?"
"Yeah, I got it. Get going."
Martha reappeared then, fully dressed and she and Clark left. Lois watched them from the window as she finished cleaning up the kitchen. She fixed herself something to eat and went into the bedroom, where she'd hung her jacket when she and Clark had returned the day before. She found what she was looking for and, glancing at the clock, headed off towards the bathroom.
Clark glanced sideways at Martha as they walked down the hallway. He was concerned — the morgue was really no place for her. As he held the door open, he snuck another look at her.
"Clark, will you stop!"
"I'm sorry, Mom. I'm sorry. I just want to make sure you're OK."
"Well, I'm not OK," Martha snapped. "My husband's dead, his body is missing and my son has picked this time in his life to start lying to me."
Clark flushed guiltily. "Mom, I was just trying to -"
"Let's go," Martha interjected, heading through the door into the coroner's office. Clark followed her.
Martha stopped when she entered the morgue area. "Oh…" she said softly. Clark put his hand on her shoulder and she didn't protest. "I can see why Lois didn't want to come back here."
Evans came in then, looking surprised to see Martha and Clark. "Mrs. Kent," he said, betraying a hint of nervousness.
"Where is my husband?" Martha demanded.
Evans reddened and stammered something about investigating. Clark held out the shoe he was carrying. "When my father was brought in, was he wearing shoes like this one?"
Evans pulled a file out of a drawer. "Shirt, pants, belt — yes, right here. Definitely two shoes — from the description, exact matches for the one you have."
"How?" Clark exclaimed, frustrated. "I don't understand this!" Martha looked at him and he turned back to Evans. "Have you at least got the autopsy results?"
Evans stopped what he was doing and turned around to face Clark. "Well, see, not conclusively…"
Martha whirled around, shaking her finger in Evans face. "Listen to me, and listen good," she began in a tone Clark had not heard her use in 20 years. "First you tell me you've LOST my husband's body. Now, you tell me you don't even know why he died! I want an explanation, and I want it NOW. Start talking."
Evans looked at Clark who raised his eyebrows and shrugged. The coroner sighed. "OK, Mrs. Kent. It's just — I don't really know how to explain this to you."
"Try me," Martha replied firmly.
Evans looked at both of them. "The thing is — I can't explain the test results. I don't understand them myself. The samples I've taken seem to have a half-life of about two days — they're disintegrating practically before my eyes. As far as a cause of death — I can't find one. It's as though — well, I know how this sounds, but it's as though some kind of timer went off and Mr. Kent's body just shut down."
"That doesn't make sense," Clark protested.
Evans nodded. "I agree. I'm going to send the rest of the samples off to Topeka; maybe someone there can figure this out."
"No." Clark held out his hand. "Give the samples to me. I'll take them to Metropolis."
"Metropolis? That's much further — given the rate at which these samples are breaking down -"
"I want them to be examined by someone I know and trust," Clark answered. "And as far as time being of the essence, I think with Superman's help, we can overcome that."
Evans shrugged and began to pack up the samples.
Clark looked purposefully at his mother. "We'll get to the bottom of this, Mom. I swear we will."
Clark took Martha back home. Lois was waiting for them somewhat anxiously, and Clark filled her in. "So we'll bring these samples to Dr. Klein -"
"We?" Lois interrupted.
Clark looked surprised. "You're going to come with me, aren't you?"
Lois looked as though she were going to decline, but then changed her mind. "Of course, if Martha will be -"
"I'll be fine," Martha interrupted with a wave of her hand. "You two go get to the bottom of this!"
Dr. Klein was surprised to see them and immediately offered his condolences. "I saw your father's obituary in the Daily Planet," he added solemnly, shaking Clark's hand.
Clark nodded. Perry had written the obituary himself, something he hadn't done since his early days as a newspaper man, and Clark had been deeply touched.
"Are you back at work already?" Dr. Klein wanted to know.
"Actually — this is personal," Clark replied. He explained what had been going on. "There could be reasonable explanations — lots of them," he conceded, "but-"
"But there are too many coincidences, " Dr. Klein agreed. "Let's see what we've got." Clark handed him the samples.
Dr. Klein promised to put a rush on it and Lois and Clark sat down to wait. "We could go take a walk," Lois offered, but Clark shook his head.
"I really don't feel like running into anyone we know."
They sat side by side in silence for a few moments, Lois gently running her finger up and down the back of Clark's hand. "Why don't you want to wear Jonathan's watch?" she asked suddenly.
Clark, who had been lost in thought, looked up in surprise. "It's not that I don't want to — it's just — we haven't even had a funeral yet. Everything seems so unfinished."
Lois nodded and opened her mouth to say something else, but was interrupted by Dr. Klein entering. "I think you two had better come see this," he said grimly.
They got up and followed him into the lab. He showed them several computer printouts consisting of indecipherable charts and graphs.
"Dr. Klein," Clark protested.
"Oh — I apologize." He put the papers aside and took a deep breath. "Clark — the samples you brought me did not come from your father's body."
"What? What do you mean?" Clark exclaimed. "What are you talking about? How is that possible?"
"Clark," Lois said. "Let the man speak!"
"That's OK," Dr. Klein replied. "There is a reason for everything that's been going on."
"Great," Clark sighed wearily. "I'd love to hear it."
"The samples you brought me are consistent with the cloning process."
Lois and Clark both froze, neither sure they had heard him correctly. Lois spoke first. "I'm sorry, did you say -"
"Cloning?" Clark finished.
Dr. Klein nodded. "As you both know, certain clones can be made to have very specific life spans. The samples we have were taken from a clone that had a life span of about two days. That's why they're breaking down at such an alarming rate."
Clark was nearly beginning to hyperventilate. "Are you saying," he gasped, "that the coroner's samples came from a clone? That the body brought to the Smallville morgue was not my father?! That my mother discovered the body of someone who only appeared to be my father!" He was practically shouting in his excitement and Dr. Klein held up his hands.
"Clark, I can't speak for anything that went on in the Smallville morgue. All I can tell you is about these samples -" but Clark was putting the pieces together in his head. He turned to Lois.
"What if," he wondered, his eyes shining with a life Lois hadn't seen in days, "What if my father did make it out to the barn that day? What if someone grabbed him and planted that clone for my mother to find?" He grabbed Lois by the shoulders. "Lois, what if he's alive?!"
"Clark, if that's true," Lois began carefully, not wanting to take the wind out of his sails — although in truth she was as excited as he was, "then where is he?"
Clark looked at her, the reality dawning on both of them. "Dr. Klein, thank you," Clark said, shaking the stunned scientist's hand. "We'll be in touch." He and Lois flew out the door.
"You always say that," Dr. Klein muttered.
Mr. and Mrs. Kent made it back to Smallville in record time. Clark barely managed to remember to change out of the suit before grabbing Lois' hand and running towards the farmhouse. He burst through the front door, crying, "Mom!" with a charge Martha hadn't heard since he was twelve.
"Clark!" she exclaimed, coming out of the kitchen. "What on earth? What did you find out?"
"Mom — it wasn't him!"
Martha stared at him. "It wasn't who? Clark, what are you talking about?"
"Mom — it wasn't Dad you found on the porch. Dr. Klein says it was a clone. That's why the samples were breaking down. That's why Dad's shoe was in the barn — he was there!!"
Tears filled Martha's eyes and she trembled as she began to understand. "I knew it," she whispered, almost to herself. "I knew he wouldn't just leave me like that."
"Oh, Martha," Lois said softly, realizing that Clark had known it, too — that's why he'd been unable to wear Jonathan's watch.
Martha turned to Clark. "Where is he, Clark?"
At that moment, the phone rang. Though it had been ringing non-stop for two days, at that particular moment it sent chills down the spines of everyone in the room. No one moved for a second and then Clark crossed the room in two strides and grabbed the receiver. "Hello?"
At first, there was nothing on the other end. Then, suddenly, the deafening silence was replaced with eerie, raucous laughter. A dark look crossed Clark's face, a look so murderous it terrified Lois, who picked up the nearby portable phone. She, too, recognized the voice and a combination of fear and loathing came over her, though she didn't say anything.
"Luthor." Clark said the name as though he were invoking the devil himself.
"For a 'superhero,' it certainly took you long enough," Lex Luthor roared. "Well, in case you still have any doubts, let me have the pleasure of dispelling them for you. Jonathan Kent is very much alive. Come and get him, Superman."
There was a click, and the line went dead, just as Lois protested, "Lex -"
"LUTHOR!" Clark shouted and then threw the phone across the room in an uncharacteristic fit of temper. He turned to face his terrified mother.
"Lex Luthor has your father?" Martha demanded. Clark nodded. "Where?"
"He didn't say. He just said to 'come and get him.'"
"He said it took you long enough," Lois reminded him. "That means he must have left some clues."
"But where? Here?" Martha wailed.
"Any clues we've found so far came from the coroner," Lois mused.
"But all we've gotten from Evans were the samples, and he didn't even really understand them," Clark protested.
Lois stared at the keys on the wall. "That's not all we've gotten from him," she said slowly.
Clark followed her gaze and a light went on for him. "Dad's things."
Martha looked puzzled. "But there was just his keys, his ring and watch and -"
"His wallet!" Lois and Clark said in unison.
Martha ran to get it from the kitchen and gave it to Clark who tore through it. "We've got pictures, money, some business cards, a credit card -"
"Business cards?" Lois interrupted.
Clark looked at her and then pulled them out. "John Kellogg — Home and Hearth Insurance."
"Insurance agent, stopped us in town last week," Martha dismissed.
"The next one is mine," Clark almost smiled, then "wait. What's this?"
They all gathered closer to see it. There was no writing on this one at all — just a drawing of a lighthouse. Clark stared at it. "I know where this is."
Martha and Lois looked up at him. "It's off the coast of Maine. I've been there — it's quite deserted. That must be where he's got Dad."
He reached over and took a tearful Martha in his arms. "I'll find him. Don't you worry, Mom. I'll find him."
Martha tried to speak, but couldn't. She just nodded and then ran from the room to keep from bursting into tears.
Clark kissed Lois goodbye, oblivious to her growing terror.
He grasped her hand. "I'm going to find him, Lois." He headed for the door, when he realized she wasn't letting go of him.
"Lois, I have to go -"
"Clark." She was crying now. "Lex is going to kill you."
"Lois, it's my father. I have to go."
Lois was becoming frantic. "I know you'd give up your life for him, Clark. I know that. It's part of who you are, but Clark," she moved to block the door, "please, I've seen what Martha's been going through the last few days and I don't know if I could live without you!"
She was approaching hysteria and Clark didn't want to have to physically remove her from in front of the door, but he was losing time. "Lois -"
"I know it's wrong, I know it's selfish, but oh, Clark, please -"
Clark took a deep breath and moved his sobbing wife aside and flung open the front door. Lois followed him out to the front porch, grabbing his arm. He took her hand off of him and held her by the wrist. "Lois, don't you see? I couldn't live with me if I didn't do this."
"Lois, I love you." He whirled into Superman and Lois began to panic.
"No, Clark, wait! You don't understand!"
"I love you." And he was gone.
"CLARK!" Lois screamed. She slammed her hand into the porch railing and collapsed to the ground sobbing, "No, Clark…"
Clark flew faster than he'd ever thought possible. He knew exactly where the lighthouse was — he'd investigated it as one of Luthor's hideouts several years ago — after Luthor's first supposed death.
It was dark by the time he got there. He circled the tower several times to get a feel for the place — though he had no illusions about a sneak attack. He knew Luthor was most likely watching every move he made — he'd have to be careful…
It was then he spied his father, bound to a chair in the lower section of the lighthouse. His breath caught in his throat and suddenly he threw all caution to the wind. Nothing else mattered. Jonathan was alive.
Knowing how careless he was being and not caring at all, he flew right up to the window and tapped on it. "Might as well be carrying a neon sign," he thought, but the look on Jonathan's face when he saw Clark made it worth it.
Clark hesitated just a moment, but when nothing happened, he forced the window open and flew inside, landing gently in front of his father.
"Dad!" he cried, touching Jonathan's shoulder. "Are you OK?"
"Yes, Clark, but you -"
"They told us you were dead." Clark moved to untie Jonathan's hands.
"No, Clark, you have to go! It's a trap -"
Jonathan was interrupted by Lex Luthor's entrance. "Ah, Clark! I was beginning to think I'd have to draw you a map!"
Clark straightened up, shaking with anger. "Luthor. You've done some horrible things, but this is a new low."
"Oh, Clark, I'm wounded. Perhaps you need to teach me a lesson."
Clark was in no state to think clearly. "Perhaps I should."
He flew at Lex, even as Jonathan shouted, "Son, no!"
Lex laughed sardonically and pulled out a chunk of kryptonite. Clark tumbled backwards like a repelled magnet, landing on the floor near Jonathan's feet.
"Kryptonite? How original," Clark managed, pulling himself with difficulty into a sitting position.
"Originality is highly overrated," Lex replied, grinning. "Personally, I feel if it works — don't fix it." He let the kryptonite tumble to the floor, just out of Clark's reach. "Let's just review the options here," he decided on his way out the door. "Your father is still 'tied up.' Even if he could somehow untie himself — which if he could, he would have done long before now — he certainly couldn't carry you out of here. And supposing, in some amazing feat of superhuman strength he somehow managed, he wouldn't get very far off this tiny island. Not with the current — and the shark infested waters." He grinned at the Kent men. "I love options." He turned on his heel and left then, his laughter echoing as he slammed the door.
As soon as Lex was gone, Clark flipped over and began to crawl, combat style, around his father. "Save your strength, son," Jonathan advised.
"For what," Clark gasped. "We have to get out of here." He was now behind Jonathan's chair and, rolling over on his back, began to untie his father's hands. It took a few minutes because he had to keep resting, but finally, Jonathan's hands were freed.
Jonathan reached down and untied his own feet and then stood up and ran to pick up the kryptonite. Snatching it up, he looked around and finally tossed it out the window Clark had entered.
The source of his pain gone, Clark regained enough strength to get to his feet and embrace his father. Jonathan held his son tightly. "You shouldn't have come," he admonished between his own tears.
"Luthor has tried to take away everything I've ever loved," Clark replied firmly. "This time he went too far. He hurt you. He hurt Mom."
"Martha — is she all right?"
"They told us you were dead — it's been pretty rough on her. Tell me what happened."
Jonathan sighed. "I got up as usual — went out to the barn. I'd barely gotten inside before the lights went out. Your mom must have thought I'd dropped off the face of the earth."
"Oh, Luthor is much more creative than that," Clark replied darkly. "He had a clone of you made — a dead clone — which he left on the front porch for Mom to find."
Jonathan was horrified. "Oh, my sweet Martha. Oh god — that demented, psychotic -"
"We should have figure it out sooner, but Luthor had the body stolen from the morgue so it took us longer to find out what had happened. Dad, I'm not going to let him get away with this."
Clark went to the door Luthor had gone through and ripped it open. "Luthor!" he shouted up the spiral staircase on the other side. "You have messed with my family for the last time!" He climbed the stairs as fast as he could, still slightly weakened by the effects of the kryptonite.
Jonathan followed, a bit slower, still rather stiff from being tied up. He was deeply concerned — there was a look on Clark's face he'd never seen before and didn't like.
Clark reached the top of the stairs to find Luthor in a glass enclosed room. "Guess you can't keep a 'super' man down, huh," Lex smirked.
"'Down' is exactly where you're going, Luthor!" Clark snarled. Lex caught sight of the fire in Clark's eyes and began looking right and left as though trying to find a means of escape.
"Don't even think about it," Clark warned, crossing the room, as Luthor ducked behind a table. "This is it, Luthor! The end of the line. You're done!"
"Now, Clark," Lex tried, holding up his hand, but Clark wouldn't be stopped.
"You've tried to kill me how many times? I've lost count. You've kidnapped Lois -"
"She came with me willingly," Lex interjected.
"She was sick!" Clark flared. "And you took advantage of her! And you tried to kill me then, too! But you know what?" He cornered Lex and looked into his eyes. "You can try to hurt me as many times as you want to, Luthor. Go ahead. But this time you dragged my parents into your sick game. You went too far." He shoved the table out of the way and grabbed Lex, pinning him up against the windows, and probably would have gladly snapped his neck if Jonathan hadn't entered then and yelled, "Clark, no! Stop!"
Clark, his arm against Luthor's neck, appeared not to hear his father. "I'm not going to let you hurt us anymore," he hissed in Lex's ear. "You've hurt my parents. You've hurt my wife," he said, enunciating the word and Luthor grimaced. "You don't deserve to live!"
"That's not your call to make," Jonathan reminded him, crossing the room. Clark still didn't move and Lex was beginning to turn purple. Jonathan put his hand on Clark's shoulder. "Clark — let him go."
Clark, trembling with emotion, released Lex roughly. Lex gasped for breath, rubbing his neck and Clark, staggered to the other side of the room, still slightly shaky. Jonathan followed. "You did the right thing, son."
Clark looked up, his emotions raw, and nodded. Neither of them noticed what Lex was doing until his voice startled them both.
"A touching scene. Really. Too bad your wives missed this reunion. Lois would have loved this." They glanced up to see him training a gun on them.
Clark sighed impatiently. "For God's sake," he muttered, starting towards Lex, who stopped him by holding out his palm. On it lay a single kryptonite bullet.
"This is my spare. The chamber of the gun holds two more such bullets — one for the son and one for the father. It seems that a bullet made from kryptonite is just as deadly to humans as standard bullets — did you know that?"
Clark felt a stab of panic as he realized this had been Luthor's plan all along. He looked over at Jonathan and said, "Luthor, you don't need to kill my father. He hasn't done anything to you. It's me you want.'
Lex cocked his head to the side. "An interesting point. I'll consider it. Perhaps watching you die will be enough." He paused, as if actually mulling it over and then laughed sardonically. To Clark's horror, he trained the gun on Jonathan. "I believe I'd rather have you watch your father die before I kill you. Yes, that's how it should go." He aimed the gun at Jonathan, and Clark rushed towards Luthor in what would have been superspeed if his powers had been up to par. Instead, Luthor had just enough time to turn the gun on Clark and fire.
Clark fell backwards, directly into the table behind him, which was thrust upward. It hit an unprepared Lex squarely in the chest, causing him to drop the weapon he was holding. Propelled backwards by the force of the blow, Luthor crashed through the glass wall, tumbling out of the lighthouse into the raging sea, his screams fading as his disappeared from sight.
Jonathan cries of alarm had been barely audible in the melee and now he rushed to his son in horror. "Oh, no…"
Clark lay on the floor, his left leg covered in blood. "I'm OK," he managed, sitting up.
"Oh, Clark," Jonathan reached down to help him.
"No, Dad, really. It just grazed me." Indeed, the wound was closing and Clark got painfully to his feet.
"Clark," Jonathan protested, but his son limped slowly over the broken glass to the edge of the railing, staring down at the water. He stayed that way for a few minutes and Jonathan put his hand on Clark's shoulder. "It's over."
"Over," Clark muttered absently. "It should never have happened."
"Son." Jonathan turned Clark around to face him. "He can't hurt us anymore. He's gone. But we are alive. We're OK."
Clark nodded, embracing his father. "I'm so glad you're all right, Dad."
"Let's go home."
They managed to find a working phone downstairs and used it to call the authorities. Then, before anyone had a chance to arrive, Clark dialed another number and handed the phone to Jonathan.
Martha, waiting in the darkness with Lois, jumped when the phone rang. She answered it hesitantly. "Hello?"
"JONATHAN!" Martha shrieked and turned to Lois. "It's Jonathan!" she cried as if Lois hadn't figured that out.
"Is Clark all right?" Lois asked, praying inwardly.
"Are you both OK?" Martha asked.
"I — we're fine," Jonathan stammered as Clark nodded at him.
Martha, indicating this to Lois, began to cry. "Oh, Jonathan."
"It's OK," he said softly as the red lights of the police helicopter began to reflect off the water outside. "We're coming home."
It was daylight before they made it back to Kansas. They had given statements to the police who wanted Superman to receive medical attention, which he refused. He really was fine — the wound was healing and the exposure to kryptonite had been minimal. The police planned to have divers search the waters around the lighthouse, but didn't really hold out much hope of finding anything.
Martha flew into Jonathan's arms the minute the two men entered the farmhouse. As they relayed the story, she held tightly to him, stopping only to examine Clark's leg, which was actually healing nicely.
Lois watched her in-laws, knowing exactly what Martha was feeling and wanting to hold Clark the same way. She saw Clark watching her with an uncertain look — the one where he wasn't sure if she were angry with him or not. She felt terrible that he should even have to worry about that after what he'd been through, but it was no wonder — he still had no explanation for her bizarre behavior.
Jonathan looked up and met her eyes. He straightened up and with a knowing glance and smile from Martha, held out his arms to Lois.
"I'm so glad you're all right," she whispered through tears she didn't know she had left, as he hugged her.
"Dear, Lois." He kissed her gently on the forehead, wiped her eyes, then took Martha's hand and led her inside.
Lois, now more emotional than she'd intended to be, turned to face her husband. "Are you really OK?" she asked, trying to pull herself together.
"Yes," he nodded as she slowly approached him and then threw her arms around him, clinging to him. "Oh, Lois, it's OK — it's all right. Everything's fine now," but she was no longer crying. He was right. Everything was OK now.
The only thing left was to make him understand. "Let's give your parents some privacy," she urged, taking his hand.
They went outside, walking towards Clark's childhood treehouse. He offered her a boost, but she preferred to sit underneath the tree instead, so they sat, Lois leaning against the tree, Clark facing her, in silence. He knew she had a lot to say and needed to gather her thoughts. "I'm sorry." She broke the silence suddenly and he was startled.
"For my behavior last night — I am sorry. You had to do one of the most important things you've ever done and the last thing you needed was your wife flipping out on the front porch."
"Lois, I understand — you were upset -"
"No," she interrupted, holding up her hand. "No, you don't understand — that's why I need to explain. "Clark," she paused then, she needed to say this just right, "going after Lex was exactly what you should have done — what you had to do. Jonathan's life was in danger. But you've gone after Lex many times before, mostly when my life was in danger. And last time he almost killed you — it was by the grace of God that we both survived. And we both know that if we hadn't — if anything had happened then — or last night — it would have been my fault."
Clark looked horrified. "Lois, you can't blame yourself — you're not responsible for the actions of a madman!"
Lois sighed. "Every time Lex tries to hurt you — or your family — it's because of me. And last night — if you and Jonathan hadn't come home — I would have had to live with that. And without you."
"Lois," Clark said softly, "the decision I made last night to go after my father — you can't hold yourself responsible for that either."
Lois shook her head. "I'm not finished. Clark, I've been alone before. It was not something I enjoyed, but I could do it again if I had to. I'm not afraid to be on my own — I can take care of myself. What I am afraid of — what I don't think I could do alone — is take care of someone else, knowing all the while that you were gone because of me."
Now Clark was completely lost. "Someone else? You mean my mother?"
Lois shook her head again. "No, not Martha. Clark, I'm pregnant." Lois' words hung in the air as time seemed to stop for both of them.
Clark looked at her, his eyes widening. "Pregnant?" he almost whispered. "Really?"
Lois nodded, almost shyly. "I haven't seen a doctor yet, but the little stick turned blue, and I've got all the symptoms…"
"When?" Clark broke in.
"When did the little stick turn blue?"
"Oh," Lois flushed. "While you were at the coroner's office with your mother."
"Lois, why didn't you tell me?!"
"I wanted to!" Lois protested. "But then we went to see Dr. Klein, and everything happened so quickly after that and then you left -" her voice broke off and Clark was hit with an enormous wave of understanding.
"That's what that was all about last night," he recognized, as Lois nodded glumly.
"I hadn't told you yet and I realized you might not come back and if you didn't, it would be my fault and you'd never know about the baby and I tried to tell you but you were leaving -"
"OK, OK, take it easy. God, I wish I'd known this before!"
"Would you have done anything differently?"
Clark looked at her for a long moment and then sighed and shook his head. "No."
"Good. I didn't think so. Clark, I already told you — you did the right thing last night. You saved your father's life. That's part of who you are and why I love you. Last night, I was just — I felt like I hadn't handled any of this right. Lex created the situation because of me and you were going off to meet him without knowing about your child. And maybe," she actually blushed, "I'm a little more emotional than usual. And I swear, if you ever repeat that or use it against me…"
Clark did not smile. "I wish you would stop blaming yourself for Luthor's actions," he said quietly.
"He's gone now, it doesn't matter," Lois answered.
"It does matter," Clark protested, then let it drop. Moving against the tree, he pulled Lois onto his lap, wincing slightly as she shifted her weight to his uninjured leg. "I don't want to talk about Luthor anymore," he murmured and she agreed. He gently placed his hands on her stomach. "A baby. I can't believe it! How far along do you think you are?"
Slightly embarrassed, Lois confessed, "Um — far enough that I should I have figured this out a while ago. But we were so caught up in that expose that I actually lost track of what month it was!"
"It has been a long time since we came up for air," Clark conceded. "But I should have known something was off with you." He suddenly kissed her and sprang to his feet, pulling her with him. "I want to tell someone," he grinned, his eyes dancing.
Lois laughed at his enthusiasm. "You think your parents would mind being interrupted?"
"For this?" He flashed her a smile. "Let's find out."
They ran towards the house, his injury forgotten as they burst through the front door. "Mom? Dad!" Clark called.
Jonathan and Martha appeared in the hallway, a little anxiously. "Is everything all right?"
"Fine," Clark assured them, "but come in here and sit down — Lois and I have something to tell you."
Lois noticed that Jonathan was once again wearing his wedding ring as he moved his family into the living room and sat down in his chair. "Now," he said, pulling Martha towards him, "what's going on?"
Clark put his arms around Lois and grinned. "Did you guys know that babies don't always come from spaceships?"