By Lyds <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted October 1998
Summary: Clark Kent becomes trapped in a world where the dark Lord Kal-El has left Metropolis in tatters, and Lois running for her life. Clark must find a way to correct a horrible wrong and bring Luthor to justice.
I would really like to thank each and everyone of the FoLCs that have helped me with this story. Due to the overwhelming yet completely appreciated responses to my request for help, I fear I will be unable to list each and everyone of you. However, you all know who you are, (which is just about everyone on #loiscla and the listserv.) Special Super (sorry for the pun) thanks goes to Boo, Carol, Steve, Claire, Beppo, and KathyB for their help and guidance as well as the fact that they humored me. <G>
Superman, Lois Lane, Jimmy, Lex and *gulp* Metropolis all belong to W.B., DC, December 3rd. yadda, yadda. No copywrite infringement intended. I'm just here entertaining the other FoLCs and myself. I'm not making a dime on this thing.
Only the story is mine. This was my first attempt at writing anything, I started it in the middle of third season, so it's been a loooong time in coming. Shameless plug I've writen since then "Kidnapped" and "Joined (NFIC)" I look forward to hearing feed back, good, bad and ugly. email@example.com
This story is dedicated to my little sister, who is my trusty sidekick and partner in crime. (Lizzy to the Batcave!) ;-) ON WITH THE SHOW!!! Er..story.
"Doctor Hamilton, I don't understand what this is all about. Did you say you found a portal? What kind of a portal?"
Clark was still not sure why the good Doctor had called him and he had a feeling his answer was long in coming. He would just have to wait it out. Perry was sure this would make good filler for the Local news column.
Clark thought about how Lois had turned Perry down flat saying she was working on a lead for a bigger story. She had suggested Perry give it to Clark, who wouldn't mind looking in on "Mr. Wizard." Clark was now wishing he hadn't been so noble. He, too, should have turned Perry down, as well.
"This is a job for Ralph," Clark thought with grimace. Clark reluctantly turned his full attention back to the good Doctor, who hadn't stopped a single sentence for breath since Clark arrived.
"Mr. Kent, I'm amazed with this discovery. I..I..I.. mean, do you have any idea what kind of doors this opens?" Doc. Hamilton scratched his head absent-mindedly as he paced the floor of the laboratory.
"I was so discouraged when my regeneration experiment didn't go as I had hoped. However, this…this is the fulfillment of all I've ever wanted." Doctor Hamilton stopped pacing right in front of Clark. Turning to look at him thoughtfully, a slow grin spread across his face. "Mr. Kent, you would be the best one for this experiment. May I please implore you to sit?" He motioned toward the chair. "Please… sit."
Clark hesitated; Doctor Hamilton prodded Clark into the chair.
"Mr. Kent, I assure you, your safety is my top priority. This device will allow you to surf into other worlds. I do believe time travel is also possible. I'm not too sure how yet, but it seems to be somehow connected. This experience could be likened to Virtual Reality. You're a casual observer… if you will."
Clark leaned back in the chair, still not totally satisfied.
"Just sit back and relax, everything will be just fine."
The Doctor went behind the console and proceeded to enter the codes for the activation sequence. A light flashed and Clark could feel the static electricity around him. Stars danced in front of his eyes. The hair on his head stood on end. Then he felt the sensation that he was thrown out of his chair.
Doctor Hamilton watched in awe at his creation, only to realize that Clark was no longer in the chair. Something wasn't right.
"UH-OH!" was all he could say.
Clark hit the ground with a thud. Dazed at first, he slowly got up. Strange, he thought as he found himself covered in dirt. Shaking himself off, he groaned. "Ugh. Where am I?"
As Clark looked around, he realized he was in the middle of downtown Metropolis. The rubble of buildings surrounded him. Metropolis was a desolate waste, the buildings were nothing but hollow shells, smoke and dust were everywhere. A dimly lit street light flickered in the distance. Clark decided to walk to it.
As he got closer, he saw a small figure huddled next to the post, trying to keep warm with a piece of fabric that might have once been a warm blanket. The small rag was no match for the chill of the night air. Feeling compassion, he walked over to the child. Clark got down on one knee and spoke in a soft voice.
The little face looked sleepily up at him. Clark saw that the child's eyes were sunken in and dark with hunger and lack of sleep. Just as he was about to give the child his coat, the small figure, which seemed incapable of upright movement, let alone vocalization of any kind, screamed.
The youngster took off as fast as he could, screaming all the way. Clark was completely taken aback. He didn't notice that he was being surrounded. As he realized that, two darkly clad figures approached him. The tatters of their cloaks floated slowly in the wind. One dark figure a few inches shorter than Clark took a lead box from under his garment. He pulled it open. The green rock that glowed within was unmistakable. Clark doubled over in pain, immediately feeling his energy, his life, drain from his body. Three of the 'warriors' stepped up to him. Each had a glowing green stone around his neck. Clark welcomed the blackness as it swept over him.
As Clark slowly came to, he heard voices over him and decided to pretend to be asleep a little longer.
"Where did you find him?" a woman asked.
"He was walking down the street, as bold as brass, and sauntered right up to a rag-tag. Nearly scared the kid to death."
"Did he put up a fight?'
Clark's hearing was slowly returning, as well as his other senses. He knew the voices. He'd know them anywhere. As he slipped back into unconsciousness he wondered, "Why did they sound so tired? Why did they sound so sad?"
"No, no fight. It was strange, no fight. It wasn't like him. We pulled out the Krypton.." Jimmy paused. "But he didn't even try."
"That's because this isn't Kal-El."
She said it so quietly that Jimmy barely heard her, and he looked at her in surprise. She was staring intently at the man behind the Kryptonite force field, looking at him like she was trying to see into his soul, his thoughts. Her arms were crossed in front of her as if she was trying to shield herself from the "cold". Jimmy noticed a tear threatening to fall, and put a comforting hand on her shoulder. Lois reacted as though she had been burned. Snapped back to the present, she quickly turned on her heel and curtly replied, "Let me know when he's awake."
Lois ran to her quarters in the underground bunker. He had looked so much like Kal-El. To be more specific, he looked like Kal-El before the "betrayal". She reflected on "those days" so long ago, when things were simple. Before Kal changed beyond repair. Even now, he thought her dead. "Funny," she thought. "Kal-El thinks I'm dead, that there is no hope. So he destroys what he can to try and compensate."
Lost in thought, Lois was startled to hear the knock on the door.
"Come! He's awake."
Clark's head was throbbing. He felt very weak. Slowly, he raised himself to look around. He found himself surrounded by smooth lead-lined walls, and the force field in front of him was definitely Kryptonite-based. He managed to sit upright, but was caught by a wave of dizziness. Clark hung his head and closed his eyes, waiting for it to pass. The door to the cell room opened, and Lois and Jimmy walked in. Lois stood in front of the force field, arms once again folded in a gesture that Clark knew meant she was trying to keep an emotional distance.
Clark got up as quickly as he could and rushed over to Lois, but was stopped by the force field. Falling to the floor in pain, he laid on the cold surface trying to recover. Gasping for air, he looked up at Lois and was startled by what he saw in front of him. There stood a woman who was too thin, with the look of someone who hadn't slept well in a long time. Shadows of sadness enclosed her mouth and dark brown eyes.
"Lois? What happened to you? Are you ill?"
She visibly flinched at the use of her name. She collected herself before continuing.
"What's going on? How did you and Jimmy get here?"
"Who are you?" she demanded. "You're not Kal-El."
"Kal-EL?" Clark looked over at Jimmy warily. "No, Lois, I'm not Kal-EL. Superman is Kal-EL. Lois, I don't understand. What's wrong? Why are you and Jimmy dressed like that?" Clark looked over at Jimmy, who was eyeing him. "Why did you call me Kal? You know my name is Clark." Clark paused, totally confused. "What's going on here?"
"Clark?" She shook her head raising an eyebrow. "Who are you, Clark?" Lois started to raise her voice. Jimmy touched her on the shoulder, and she struggled to regain her composure.
"I don't know what kind of game this is, Lois…"
"Game? This isn't a game. I want to know. Who sent you? Does Kal-El know I'm here?"
Clark was dumbfounded. Nothing was making any sense. Something was very wrong here, and he had to find out what that was. Deep down, he had a very bad feeling. Swallowing hard, he dared to ask, "Lois, you really don't know who I am?"
"No. Do you think I'm lying to you?" 'How very ironic,' she thought.
"Of course not." Clark held his head in his hands. "I'm lost, Jimmy," he pleaded. "You were at the Planet this morning. You heard Perry assign me to do the Doctor Hamilton story."
"Cl-ar-k" Jimmy pronounced his name as though he was testing it out for sound quality. "Perry has been ill and away for years. He had to leave Metropolis right after the Planet was destroyed. That's been about four years now. I was nowhere near it this morning." Jimmy searched Clark for some sign that this was indeed Kal-El. "I don't understand."
Clark's stomach was sinking. Then it occurred to him. Sitting in Hamilton's laboratory, there had been a bright light and the feeling, of something pulling him from his chair. What had Hamilton said about a vortex to another dimension? That was it! He was in another dimension. It had to be the only explanation. Lois had been pulled into one by Tempus once. However, from what he could gather, this dimension was far different from the one she had gone into. Lois had experienced a world where she didn't exist. This world…well, in this one he would have to find out just what was going on. Also, he had to find out how to get back.
"Lois, I'm not from this place. I don't know what's going on."
"Not from this place? Look, I don't know what you're trying to pull here…"
"I'm not trying to 'pull anything.' I wouldn't lie to you, Lois. Where I come from things are a lot different from here. I really have no idea what's going on."
She motioned to Jimmy to deactivate the force field. Jimmy hesitated, but did as he was asked. Clark slowly walked to where Lois was standing. He could almost see the barriers she was putting up around her.
"Jimmy, please may I talk with Lois alone? I promise I won't lay a hand on her."
Jimmy looked at Lois. She nodded her approval for him to leave. He hesitated, hating to leave her alone with this man. Lois touched his shoulder, reassuring him it was okay. Jimmy left with a warning glance at Clark. When they were alone, Lois fixed her gaze at a point just slightly to the left of Clark so she wouldn't have to look at him directly.
"Where should I start? Kal-El is a very powerful man, and he does as he pleases. We were together once but that was long ago. " The light in Lois's eyes dimmed.
"Lois, in my world Kal-El is part of where I came from, Clark is who I am. The Kents found me as a baby and they raised me. I go by the name Clark Kent. Kal-El is my Kryptonian name and I'm him." Clark ran his fingers through his hair. "I know. I know this is all very frustrating. I need to get back home. I need to get back to my wife."
"Yes, Lois, my wife. Lois Lane Kent."
Lois's gaze flew to Clark's, searching intently for a lie, for a sign of something. All she found was truth and concern. Both were like a knife in her heart. "Well then, 'Clark'. This Kal-El is different. If he knew where I was, if he knew I was alive, he would kill me."
"But why? Lois, if I know anything at all about Kal-El, and I think I do, you're all that matters to him."
"That might have been true at one time, Clark, but not any more." Lois looked down at the floor. "Things change," she whispered. Her voice sounded distant to Clark, like she had repeated this small statement over and over.
Clark felt as though he'd been kicked in the stomach. This woman, so much like the woman he loved, was suffering terribly, and it was because of 'him'. But why was this happening? What had happened between them?
"I am not that *person* Lois. I'm not even from this world, this…this…dimension. I would *never* do anything to *hurt* anyone, especially *not you*!" The last was said in a plea for understanding. He needed her to understand that he wasn't the true cause of her pain and sorrow.
"Did Kal-El do all the damage I saw?"
She nodded yes.
"Why? I can't fathom the reason for all of this."
Keeping her head slightly tilted and looking somewhere to the side of him so as not to make full eye contact, she answered, "Kal-El believes I betrayed him. He has destroyed everything the reminds him of me, of our time together."
Clark waited for her to continue.
"I also kept something from him. I was afraid. Of what, I'm not sure anymore." She still couldn't look Clark in the eye. Realizing she had revealed a little more than what she wanted to, she blushed, and in embarrassment added, "I don't know why I said that. Guess I'm trying to make up to you what I kept from him. I was upset and hurt because he believed I had betrayed him. I foolishly listened to someone who had nothing but hatred in his heart. I let him manipulate me. I didn't trust that Kal could help me. I was to afraid for him." Lois paused for a moment, chewing on her bottom lip. "I didn't betray him then, but I have now, and with Kal-El there is no turning back. He would kill me now if he knew about what I have done."
She couldn't take his intense scrutiny of her any longer. She turned and walked out the door. Clark had no choice but to follow.
"What could you have done that I—I mean Kal-El—would want to kill you for?"
Lois turned away from Clark and said, "I know its going to come down to that one day. I'm afraid that time is closer than anyone realizes."
Clark didn't like the way that sounded. "Lois, I'm sorry. I don't know what else to say. How could this have happened? Whatever I can do to help, please let me."
Lois stopped her quick stride and looked back at Clark, who was almost caught up to her. Clark raked his hand through his hair, letting out an exasperated sigh. This action was one that Lois knew to be a sign of pure aggravation at a situation he didn't know how to fix. At least not with his super powers. "Clark," she said sympathetically. "We should talk."
She pointed to the door just down the hall. As Clark stepped in, he noticed that it was filled with things that reminded him of Lois's old apartment. Pictures of various works of art, photographs, as well as her Kerth awards. In the midst of complete chaos, she was trying, as she always had, to have some form—no matter how small—of normalcy. The only difference was the toys. Clark looked at Lois, a lump in his throat forming. Not knowing how to voice his question with words, he instead pleaded for an answer with his eyes.
"Those toys belong to my son." Tears welled up in her soft brown eyes. Looking at Clark's overwhelmed countenance, she took pity on him. "Please, Clark, sit down. I'll try to explain everything." Her perched himself on the edge of a chair. Lois reached over and took a small album out of her desk, placing it in Clark's hands. Feeling that somehow he was intruding, he hesitated to open the book. "Go ahead, Clark. I've wanted to show these to his father ever since they were taken. It would please me a great deal if you would take a look at them." She smiled. "Jimmy's very proud of them."
Clark looked through page after page. The book's first page had the title "My Baby Book". As Clark turned to the next page he found several pictures of Lois. A very pregnant Lois. Stopping for a moment, he couldn't help but think of his Lois and wondering what it would be like to be a father. The next few pages held photographs of Lois and her sister as well as Perry. Then finally he came to a set of pages that held one picture each. The left side showed Lois and a newly arrived baby all red and pinched. On the right side was clearly the same baby, only a few days older with big eyes that looked right into the camera. The caption read, "Jeremy El, one week".
"Jeremy. Lois, he is beautiful." Clark couldn't stop looking at those eyes.
"I know. Jeremy is so much like his father. It's sad, really. He knows about his father. He knows way too much for one so young."
"How old is he now? Where is he?" Clark asked.
"He is four now, and…" Lois paused trying to quickly wipe a tear away. "Right now he is with Lex."
Lois flinched at Clark's exclamation. "Lex has taken my sister and my son. Everyone has been on alert, trying to find out where the two are and how to get them back. You see, there are a few people out there who are trying to get rid of Kal-El and Lex. Rebels, I guess you could call them. They took me in when I would've died. They've been there for me."
"Who leads them?"
"Jimmy! He's the leader of a movement to over throw Lex and Kal-El?!"
"Yes. It is a small band of people. Many of them have been hunted down by the two."
There was an uneasy silence. Once again, Lois was the one to break it. "You're from another dimension? Another planet? What?"
"Actually, I'm not sure. I was doing a story on a local scientist. The last thing I remember, I was sitting in a chair talking to him and then suddenly I was dropping to the ground in Downtown Metropolis, or rather what was left of it."
"The place you come from, its not like this one?"
"No, not like this one. The Kal-El you know does not exist."
"Just you, Clark?"
There was a pause between them. Clark couldn't hold back his questions any longer. He had to know. "Lois, how did it happen? I mean what would have happened that I—that Kal-El—would have done this? I know for a fact that Clark…Kal-El…whoever he is!" Clark was getting frustrated, the very thought of what was going on was repugnant to him. He took a deep breath to steady himself. "I know for a fact that you are the most important thing in the world…in… in the universe to him. And a baby? Lois, even you have said I'm too much of a Boy Scout!"
"No, Clark," Lois laughed slightly. "That's something I have never said." She sighed. " It's painful, Clark…"
"Lois…" Clark reached out and took her hand in his and continued. "Lois, if you can tell me, I need to know. Maybe I could even help."
Lois took a deep breath. "It's a long story." She looked down at the hand that was holding hers. She rubbed the back of his hand with her thumb and, biting her bottom lip, she whispered, "I'll try."
The last son of Krypton was hurtling through the vastness of space. Faster and faster it rocketed toward the small blue sphere, a planet called Earth. The little boy was much too small to know what was going on, or that the people—whose faces he had just begun to recognize as his mother and father—were lost to him, save the holographic and audio chips they had so carefully and lovingly made for him. He had been placed in the capsule, with the love only a mother's hands could give. The boy would never remember the gentle kiss his mother and father had bestowed upon his tiny little forehead as they said goodbye to their only son.
If he had been able to see and comprehend the readouts of the small computer, he would have seen that the course his father had charted and locked in were almost complete. The small, steel blue capsule would touch down somewhere in the midwestern state of Kansas. Perhaps, if Jor-El had known what was to become of his son, he would've chosen a different course…
It was 1966, a cool, yet pleasant spring night.
Jason Trask wasn't able to enjoy it. He'd just been summoned to a live phone conference with the director of Bureau 39. This was a special Task force that the government had put together to investigate the possibility of life on other planets, and the probability of attack.
The director, General Nolan Hitex, was furious. Trask could hear it in his superior's voice. Instead of being humbled by the expletives the General was using, Trask felt more justification for his actions. It was obvious that the General knew nothing of the probable danger that was coming this way.
"Trask, I will repeat it one more time! Your are NOT! I REPEAT, NOT! To intercept the approaching meteorite, do you understand? You are not chasing some space rock with the government's money."
"General, you and I know very well this is no space rock. I am going to retrieve what I believe is a probe from another planet. It could be a prelude to a global invasion. All of the probes and radar readings we are receiving are counter indicative to a meteor."
"I don't care if the radar tells you Ming the Merciless himself is coming for us. You are not in charge of this mission."
Trask slammed the phone down on the General. He knew what was coming and he would be the one to stop the madness. He got in his jeep and, with his team, headed straight for the impact zone.
In a little town called Smallville, Kansas, Jonathan and Martha Kent were getting ready to go out. The annual Spring Fair was starting. Everyone in Smallville and the nearby towns loved this little fair, and it was often affectionately referred to as the TGIS (pronounced Tigis), which stood for Thank Gawd It's Spring. The ironic part was that, more often than not, this fair was held amidst the last remaining patches of snow. It gave the chance for everyone to get together after the winter and shake off the blues that accumulate when you have spent months trapped by the snow in your house, with nothing to do but make preserves and knit quilts or make wood carvings while watching Jeopardy.
"Martha, lets go! I want to get a good booth. I think the toy solders I carved will sell big this year."
Both got into the little pickup truck full of the can goods and preserves they had made before winter. The annual Spring festival started on a Friday night and lasted till Sunday night, the reason for the late start on Friday was to give everyone the chance to finish with their chores so that they would be good and hungry for all the food. Also taking advantage of the nighttime start, the little town displayed some of the finest and most fantastic fireworks displays.
The Kents were enjoying the cool late afternoon drive to town, when Jonathan had to pull off quickly to the side of the road. They looked on in annoyance as a convoy of trucks and cars sped past them. "Wonder what the fuss is about?" thought Jonathan. "Well it just goes to show you there is never a cop when you need one." Replied Martha.
The caravan passed them by and left the little truck to swallow the dust that there high-speed course had stirred up. A few minutes later they pulled up to the fair grounds only to find utter chaos, and the cause of it.
"Those guys are the morons that passed us on the road" "I wonder what they want."
Just as Martha had spoken those words a light became visible in the sky, it was reddish and glittery as if it was on fire. It was very apparent the object was falling at an alarming pace.
"Jonathan, look a meteor…it seems to be headed this way!" Martha was the first to get out of the truck and run toward the open field, Jonathan was close in tow.
"Citizens of Smallville, My name is Jason Trask. My team and I are here to take care of important government business. We ask that you vacate these premises on the double."
Some of the crowd started to move away scared at what their imaginations visioned. Others like the Johnathan and Martha stayed stareing at the coming ball of fire. Everyone was stunned when the object made impact with the ground it knocked some people off of their feet. Quickly recovering from the shock Trask and his men converged on the object. The locals tried to press as close as they dared, to see what the mysterious object was.
Trask walked slowly up to the craft reveling in the fact that he had been right and now the moment of truth had come. He put his hand to the object; it was cold and hot at the same time. A hissing noise sounded as well as an airlock pop. The lid of the object slowly rose, everyone held their breath. The fog cleared and Trask looked inside finding a small baby. Trask was somewhat deflated but none the less eager to prove there would be an invasion. The baby squealed in protest at the bright light of Trask's flashlight.
"Jonathan, look it's a baby!"
Martha was appalled at the thought of all these men with guns standing over the small child. Just then Sirens sounded in the background and in less than a minute the fair grounds were covered with FBI agents. General Hitex stepped out of his car to address Trask.
"Trask step away from the capsule" he ordered. "No General this is mine, I warned you what would happen. And it has happened. The aliens are now on our door step and I'll be damned if them come inside!"
Jonathan called out "It's just a baby, what kind of invasion force is that?"
There was a murmur of consensus among the crowed. General Hitex motion to an officer to put Trask in handcuffs, then to another to retrieve the child. A young Lieutenant picked the crying baby up and carried it to the waiting car.
The General called to Trask. "So Trask you were right. Only thing is, we want the specimen alive." The General got back in to his car and the convoy drove off.
The FBI agents sectioned off the grounds so the fair was canceled. On the way home Martha was very quiet, Jonathan tried to cheer her up by making light of the situation.
"Jonathan…?" "Yes Martha?" "I wish we had found that baby. That no one else had, I would have taken good care of it. I would have been a mother, a very good mother." the last was said in a sorrowful whisper.
"Ahh… Martha please don't torture yourself over a what-if, or might- have-been." He put his arm around her shoulders pulling her close to him, Martha laid her head on his shoulder and couldn't help but think of what-might-have-been.
Eleven years later
Doctor Boolean walked down the hallway that lead from her offices to the research laboratory, it was time for her to visit Kal. She hadn't seen the young boy in two weeks. As she looked over the boy's charts assecing the data that had been accumulated durring her absence, she reflected on the past.
Eleven years ago when a small child was brought to the Cosmos Research Center, unknown speculation and paranoia had abounded. To be sure, the focus on the Center intensified do to the media circus that had followed. A small child had quite literally dropped out of the sky and landed in a small town, in the Midwest. At first there had been speculation that Russians had sent this unusual probe hoping some poor unsuspecting family would take the child in. Then it became clearer that, this child was not from Earth. This fact led to Doctor Boolean's involvement. In the first few months of testing, the child showed no abnormal signs. In fact they were worried the whole thing had been a hoax, but progressively as the child grew they realized he was indeed not-of-this-world.
The entire test that had been done came back inconclusive, meaning they found nothing out of the ordinary. Except a few minor organs that were either bigger or smaller than the average baby. This did not really concern the Doctor, being that it was commonly known that some humans do have abnormalities. After a while other scientist and even the Government lost interest in the child due to the 'Race-to-outerspace' that had been declared between the US and Russia.
Then as the boy reached his first and second year of life differences started to show themselves. At first they had been very subtle in nature progressively becoming more noticeable. His IQ was 40% higher than that of other children his age. For example at the age of one year most children are still trying to gather the strength in their leg muscles attempting to walk, they try their best to communicate with one two or four word sentences. This boy was already running and talking with the experience of a five year old. Also noted was his increasing strength and swiftness.
Now at eleven years of age, Kal was converging on brilliance and showed the potential of and ever stronger level of phenomenal intelligence.
Doctor Boolean, or Doc Boo, as the boy would call her, had been in the medical field for some time. She had grown very attached to the boy who, despite all the testing and probing that was constantly performed, remained cheerful and kind. Her involvement with this special project had been based on her excellent record and knowledge of the 'unknown', and her ability to analyze and make the 'unknown', known. Also, NASA respected and valued her highly. They had insisted that their best and brightest find the answers to this 'unknown.'
Even after all this time, the government itself had yet to name the boy. As of that very moment, he was still referred to as E.T.M. (Extra Terrestrial Male); however, a small probe was found in the capsule that brought the boy. The object was a small sphere that held a map. Doctor Boolean found out about this, and was able to obtain it for the boy.
One day, when the boy had begun to read, the sphere became active and revealed that the child's name was Kal-El, a son of Krypton's leading scientist whose name was Jor-El, and was from a noble Kryptonian heritage. It was also revealed that the small planet had been destroyed, and Jor-El had saved his son's life by sending him to Earth.
Doctor Boolean walked to the research and development wing. Looking at her watch, she noted it was Doctor Klein who would be on duty. She stepped up to the glass bubble that contained a small bed, a few books, and some toys. The child within was small, but had the air of strength far beyond his years. The big brown eyes looked up to see his visitor. Upon seeing whom it was, he jumped up and ran to the barrier, his hands pressed on the glass, and displayed a big smile on the handsome young face.
Looking up from her charts and diagrams, Doctor Boolean smiled. "Hello, Kal. How are you this morning?"
The boy looked eagerly at his friend. "Did you have a good time? Did you bring me anything?"
Doctor Boo laughed. "I'm just fine, Kal, thank you." Kneeling down to his eye level, she pulled out a box and handed it to him through the small porthole in the glass. Kal took the package and eagerly opened it.
Pulling out a puzzle, he smiled in appreciation. It was of one of his favorite paintings. 'The Sunflowers' by Van Goh.
"I love sunflowers."
"I know you do, Kal." She smiled. "Look and see what else is in there."
He reached in and pulled out a book that contained works of art from around the world. Doctor Boolean watched with delight as she saw the joy and fascination dance across Kal's face.
"I finished my last puzzle, this is great. I was hoping to get another one."
"This one is the biggest I could find. In fact, I had it made just for you. Hopefully, 10,000 pieces will keep you busy for about five minutes. Do you really like it?"
"10,000 pieces! Oh, you bet."
"Take it easy with that one, Kal. The man I get to make your puzzles nearly passed out when I requested that amount. Let's see what you did with the other puzzle."
The doctor looked over to the carpeted floor of the observation bubble. She found the puzzle was indeed completed.
"You see, Dr. Boo? That was an 8,000-piece puzzle. A five-year-old could put that together. Could I have one of those video game boxes? The ones Doctor Klein is always talking about."
The Doctor then turned her back to the child, looking up to the second story balcony and finding Doctor Klein grinning down at her and Kal-El.
"I see you have succeeded in corrupting the young mind, Doctor Klein. With intelligence such as his, we should have him formulating things Einstein couldn't do. Here he is, asking for mindless entertainment."
"Doctor Boo, I think these puzzles are mindless entertainment. I can put them together in fifteen seconds." Kal flashed the good doctor what he knew was a 'she won't be able to say no' smile. "But I like them, anyway."
"Kal, I'll see what I can do, but I'm not promising anything. Got it?"
Smiling he went back to his books.
Doctor Klein walked down to where Dr. Boolean sat, entering information into her computer.
"Kal has been doing well, good to see that. Have we been able to find out anything more on his genetics?"
"Well, aside from what we were able to glean from the test we were able to perform when he was still a baby, we have discovered nothing new."
"He still never ceases to amaze me. His intelligence is extraordinary," said Dr. Boolean.
Klein moved in a little closer to her and confidentially whispered, "He is also getting stronger."
"Yes, I've noticed that, too. I'm not too sure how or where he gets it from. >From all that we have been able to tell, his people weren't like that."
Doctor Klein leaned in even closer and, giving Doctor Boolean a guarded look, he continued.
"The Globe came alive again."
"The Globe? When? Why wasn't I notified?"
"It happened about two weeks ago. I was here alone with Kal, finishing up the hair samples. He saw it, too. Jor-El explained that it's our sun that gives him his power. Other powers might develop, as well. Right now his strength has increased vastly. As with all children, he gets a little excited and breaks things."
"Doctor, how is that extraordinary? As you say, all kids break things."
"Yes, that's true. But I bet most kids have never broken off a steel table leg with their little finger."
"You're kidding! When did this happen?" she asked in alarm.
"This morning. I'm surprised you haven't heard about it. It's all the buzz in the lab."
"Do we anticipate further growth?"
"It's still unknown what will happen as he matures. We expect to see an increase in his abilities. As to what those increases will be, only time will tell."
"Yes, those are my thoughts, as well. Doctor Klein, if the whole lab's talking about it, you can bet the big wigs in the Pentagon will have their noses around here very soon."
"That worries me. They would surely try and use him for some war toy. There's something about his strength that I, we, did discover. We have compiled some data that confirms it is the rays from the sun that gives him his powers."
Dr. Boolean stood up and walked over to Kal as Dr. Klein motioned to an assistant to close the skylight observatory window. The mechanical squeal of the motor filled the room as well as the rumbling of the shutters coming down and covering the window.
Kal looked up at the closing window. Becoming very nervous at the decrease in light, he called out, "No! Don't close the window." Kal ran to the glass, shaking his head frantically.
"Okay, Kal, it's just for a minute." Doctor Klein said reassuringly. "We're just going to show Dr. Boolean."
The little boy relaxed somewhat, but still wasn't very comfortable. Without the sun, he felt small and weak. He knew he couldn't do the things he did when the sun was out. The sun was a comforting thing. It made him feel strong, alive, and totally in control.
"Kal, please try to bend the pipe."
Dr. Klein handed Kal a pipe through the small porthole inside of the dome. The boy took the pipe, looking at it for a moment. Then he turned his disapproving eyes to the doctor.
"Please, Kal. I promise to get you some raisin scones," the doctor offered. Kal's countenance changed and he looked hopeful. Dutifully, he took the pipe and tried to bend it. The pipe bent, but only slightly. The doctor motioned to have the window reopened.
As the sun once again bathed Kal in its warm touch, he closed his eyes and felt his body re-energizing. He lifted his face to the sun and smiled.
"Kal, please bend the bar now."
He did as he was told, and the steel pipe bent as if it were a piece of pipe cleaner.
"This is remarkable. The possibilities for this child are endless."
"If the word leaks this out, the government will no doubt view him as an advanced weapon. Kal would be taken away and trained to be the ultimate soldier, highly valuable to the Military."
Doctor Boolean sighed. "I don't know how long we'll be able to keep it a secret."
ONE MONTH LATER
Dr. Boolean had just received word that General Hitex was about to pay them an unexpected visit, with it being classified as a routine inspection. Dr. Boolean wasn't convinced. Something was wrong. A terrible feeling was nagging her. The phone rang, and she was relieved to find Doctor Klein on the other end.
"Klein, I wish you were here."
"What's the matter, Carol?"
"I've just received word that General Hitex is coming here to inspect Kal-El."
There was a long pause on Klein's end. "Do you think they suspect anything?"
"They must. The government and Buearu39 have left us alone for the most part. Now all of the sudden they have turned their attention to us. It can't be good. I have a bad feeling about this."
"Well, I should be back in the States the day after tomorrow. Hold tight, and in the meantime, I'll try to find out what I can."
"All right, Bern. Please hurry." Doctor Boolean leaned back on her files and reflected.
Now Doctor Boolean was very worried that the General's visit was one that wouldn't be in the child's best interest. "Damit," she thought. "How did they find out?"
The pentagon must have gotten wind of this incident and now she was afraid the Military would be after him. With the unexpected visit of General Hitex, her fears seemed to have come true. She didn't look forward in the least to meeting this General. She had heard a lot of things about him, and she was losing hope that he would be understanding toward a child.
Despite Kal's growing strength, he was still an incredibly sweet and kind child. One thing that did worry the doctor was that Kal was easily influenced, and had a tendency to let his temper get the better of him.
She was snapped out of her revere by a knock on the door.
"Doctor, the General is here."
"Thank you. Show him in."
The General walked to the office. He was a lot younger than she had expected. Immediately she came to the conclusion that she didn't like this man.
"Doctor, how is the child? We've heard some remarkable things," the General asked, without so much as a formal greeting.
Doctor Boolean decided to ignore it and gave a greeting of her own. "It's a pleasure to finally meet you, General. Thank you for coming. The child is doing just fine. He is progressing rapidly, and the level of intelligence he possesses is quite remarkable."
"I'm not here to gauge that thing's intelligence. I have orders," he threw down a small stack of forms, "to take the E.T.M. out of the Center's care and have him remanded to Bearu39 for additional testing. Your attention to this matter is no longer needed."
"Testing? What testing?"
"I am here for the sole propose of seeing that the E.T.M. is taken to Bearu39, where we'll assume care as we see fit. I assure you that the testing to be conducted by Bureau 39 will be carried out in a timely manner."
The General walked smugly up to the Doctor. "I hope you're not too attached to that thing out there."
Doctor Boolean was more than worried now. "I don't think I understand, General. I would appreciate that, at least in my presence, you would refrain from using the term 'thing' in regard to Kal-El."
"Well, the government has its own ideas and plans for that thing." He ignored her request.
"That thing is a child, sir!"
"Doctor, you would do well to remember who is in charge here. I expect full cooperation, as well as disclosure from you."
"So you think you can just walk in here and take Kal away? I don't know what the government thinks it is going to do with an eleven-year-old…"
General Hitex looked at the good doctor and threw her a sadistic grin. "Dissect him, break him, whatever it takes. We'll stop his 'kind' from coming and taking over the world. Now," he said, pulling out a magnum with a silencer on it. "Take me to him."
Doctor Boolean had no choice but to obey.
"He has acquired great strength, or so I've been told. No telling what he has planned for us." Picking up his radio, he called one of his men. "Get the Krypton rock ready. Meet us in the lab. I'm about to acquire the subject."
Doctor Boolean was frantic. She pleaded with the General. "General, with all due respect, sir, this child is very gentle. He already comprehends the fact that he is able to break his constraints if he so chooses to. He has not, and I for one am trying to cultivate his good nature. He cares about others. He could be such an asset to helping others."
"Well, unfortunately, Dr. Boolean, the government isn't interested in his ability to care for others. As for his abilities to break his constraints, that's what the rock is for."
"When he was brought here, I was given full control of his welfare till we finished our observance and tests."
"Doctor, the rules have changed."
Reaching the bubble that contained Kal-El, Doctor Boolean whirled on the General. "You can not be from the government. They would never need the reinforcements you brought. Who are you? Do you realize the harm you could do?"
The General called to a man in a white coat. He proceeded to close the window. The doctor moved to stop him, and a bullet from the General's gun stopped her.
The boy jumped up and screamed at the bad man. He raised his small fist to the glass and smashed a hole in it. The boy ran to the only person that had ever loved him.
"Doc Boo?" he said, shaking the still form.
The window was shut completely now, and the little boy felt his energy drain again, and got up to run.
Kal didn't know what he was running from, or where he was running to. Kal took off for the far corner of the laboratory, ducking under a table and pulling over anything he could to block the path. He was a mess with the dust and debris that had fallen on him. Getting up, he got to the doorway. Quickly running down the corridor, he knew he couldn't stop, he had to keep going.
Running into an opened door, he ducked behind some cabinets, trying to get his bearings. His heart was beating so fast it hurt. He ran into a room that he knew to be vacant. He had to get away from the green rock.
"Got to get away," he thought.
He turned the corner and ran into a guard, knocking them both to the ground. Quickly, Kal recovered and headed at full speed for the second level of the laboratory.
Before he realized what was happening, Kal doubled over in pain.
"NO. No, not the green rock!"
It was too late. The boy fell off the staircase he'd been climbing and landed on the floor with a thud. The General's men hurried to pick him up and put him in a big lead container.
"Hurry up! Let's get him out of here!"
Sometime later, Kal opened his eyes and found himself in a small, dark, cold room. There were no windows or lights, and the room smelled dank and dirty. He shivered and started to softly moan to himself as heavy footsteps were coming closer to his cell. Looking up, he saw the face of the man who had hurt his friend.
"So, you're finally awake. Good. I have big plans for you, buddy. I'm going to get you nice and humble, so when the others come for the invasion, you'll be our bargaining chip. You think you can get away with your plan to invade us, don't you?"
"No!" Kal called out as the man came at him. Kal-El rolled away, trying to get away from this man. Then he picked himself up and ran to the corner of the room, as far as he could to get away.
The man walked menacingly into the cell.
TWO YEARS LATER
Kal-El was treated with contempt and cruelty. Many times the young man wished to die. Trask kept an ever-present vigil on Kal-El and did his best to extract the information necessary to combat the global invasion he was so sure would come.
Kal-El tried to keep his thoughts together, endlessly going over in his mind the things that he had learned from his doctors, his friends. He mentally pictured himself putting together puzzles in his edicit mind, reviewing all the things he had been taught.
The cruel treatment he received slowly started to eat away at his heart. Kal found it necessary to become hard and indifferent in order to deal with his circumstances. He was in solitary confinement, having little or no interaction with anyone outside of Trask.
Kal was now fourteen. His skin was pale, and had a translucent quality, his hair long from no one caring enough to cut it. He was weak from not being able to move, and sickly slim from lack of quality care. Although sane was a relative term, Kal did his best to focus on the time when he would be able to get away and give back to Trask all that he deserved. In Kal-El's mind, this was considerable. Trask had taken away from him all that he had cared about and loved. Kal-El had vowed long ago that he would have his revenge.
Resting on his mat one day, he heard something. His head shot up and he listened carefully. He heard something. Was it a crash? Was it an explosion? Voices. There were voices he had never heard before. They were getting louder, and angrier.
"This way, sergeant. Unlock this door." There was someone outside of his cell door.
The lock began to move with a loud bang. Kal covered his ears in pain. The door swung open, and three men stepped inside. Kal cowered in the background as one of the men reached out his hand.
"It's okay. I'm here to take you away from here."
Kal was apprehensive. "Out? To the sun?"
"Yes, to the sun."
Kal slowly got up and walked tiny little steps till he reached the man. The man reached out and held Kal by the arm. Slowly, the two reached the outside of the bunker. The sun was shining in its midday sky. Kal fell to his knees. The sun was blinding to him, so he shut his eyes, yet not shielding them so as to let the light come in through his lids. Finding it was still too painful, he covered his eyes with his hands. The man knelt down beside him and spoke softly to him.
"Kal-El, my name is Lex. Lex Luthor. I'm here to help you take revenge on those who put you here. My friend, you and I are going to rule the world."
Kal-El smiled, then directed his face toward the sky, letting the sun shine down on it.
TWELVE YEARS LATER
What a time it had been for Kal-El since his release from captivity. He had learned so much from Lex. He was his teacher, his mentor. He looked to Lex for guidance on many issues, yet Kal-El became wise to Lex's ways. More and more, he relied on his own counsel, becoming more and more powerful among the world leaders. The way things were arranged was that if a head of state or Prime Minister wanted to keep his seat, as it were, tribute as well as total allegiance to Lex and Kal-El were expected. Both men ruled with an iron fist, and any resistance wasn't tolerated.
The world in general regarded the two men as mysterious figures. Very little information was made public. Lex basked in the lime light while Kal-El choose to stay to himself, choosing his company carefully and quickly dismissing anyone who he wasn't comfortable with. Everyone in the media battled against each other trying to get interviews with the two men. Lex gave an occasional interview, whereas Kal-El gave none. As time wore on, it became necessary for Kal-El to come out into the 'light'. It was decided that, in order to make anymore conquests, Kal-El would have to appease the masses with an in-depth, if not short look at his life and thoughts. The question was, whom did Kal-El trust enough to give this privilege to?
Lois Lane, the Daily Planet's star reporter, walked confidently inside her Editor in Chief's office. Perry looked up from the mockup of that day's afternoon edition, noting the confident smirk Lois displayed. He knew that smirk anywhere; it was the one he lived for. The one that said Lois had her hands on an award-winning article. Perry sat back in his chair, waiting to be dazzled yet again.
"Perry, you can pick out your tux and shine your shoes. I have just landed the story everyone in the world has been trying to get," boasted Lois. "I'll also have you know," she paused for effect. "that I scooped the interview out from under three other of the top TV and newspaper reporters on Earth," she added smugly.
"Well, Lois, I'm on the edge, here. Was it the Prime Minister of Lancing?"
"Close, but no. Better than that!"
"Judas Priest, are you going to make me sit here and guess all day? Tell me who it is or you're fired."
Lois rested the palms of her hands on his desk, looking him dead in the eye.
"Perry, you're looking at the first reporter to ever be granted an interview with Kal-El."
"Great shades of Elvis! Lois, how'd you manage that? Oh, wait. Look who I'm talking to."
"Perry, Kal-El chose me himself. This is a once in a lifetime story. Maybe I'll even be able to get an interview with Lex."
"Whoa, little lady. There goes that runaway train again. Last time I looked, that door there said 'Editor in Chief', and your by-line says 'senior reporter'."
Lois crossed her arms, giving him her 'and your point is?' look.
"These are dangerous men. I want you to do your research. Can you take someone with you?"
"Perry, this is Lois Lane, remember? I've worked out all the arrangements. As a matter of fact, one of the stipulations was that I had to come alone. Besides, he assured me I would be perfectly safe."
"And you believe him?"
"Yes, Perry, I do." She paused with a thoughtful look on her face. "I can't explain it, but I do believe him. I'll be just fine."
Perry let out a long breath. He knew it was no use arguing with her, not with that look in her eyes.
"Lois, you'd better be careful, you hear me? I'm not in any position to lose you. If you go and mess up, I'll have to give Ralph your job, and think what that will mean for the Planet!"
Lois smiled in triumph. "Nope, wouldn't want that. I'll use my best reporter's sense and be careful. Promise, Perry."
Lois walked out of the office and got into the elevator, her mind racing with things she was going to ask and do on this interview. Looking at her watch, she realized the interview of her life was just four hours away.
Lois put on her brown suit; it was business-like, yet not threatening. She asked herself why she was making such a fuss about what she would wear, then scolded herself for it. This was a very feared man and she was going to be the one to interview him. She had to look the part of the tough reporter everyone thought she was.
Lois arrived on time at the designated spot for the meeting. A man in a black suit appeared in front of her. "You're Lois Lane," the man said. It was a statement, not a question.
"Please come with me," was all he said, and motioned her into the limo.
"Wait. I was supposed to meet Kal-El here. Who are you?"
"Someone that can take you to him. Now, please get in the car."
Lois felt uneasy, but did as she was told, letting the curiosity that was always her driving force take over. She looked over at the man as he motioned for the driver to start. Smiling at her, he took off the hat and glasses he was wearing.
Lois gasped, "Lex? Lex Luthor? I had an interview with Kal-El. I…I don't understand."
"Well, Ms. Lane, the fact of the matter is Kal-El was unable to be here himself. Since we are associates of sorts and his schedule was running a bit tight, he asked me to escort you to the interview."
"Escort? Why do I need to be escorted?"
"Because the location of Kal-El—and I mean no disrespect—is none of your business."
Lex reached over and, before Lois knew what was going on, proceeded to stick a syringe in her thigh. Her protest died in mid-air as she slumped over.
Lois was flying. She could tell by the sound of the engine droning in her ears. Her mind was somewhat awake, but her body was like lead. Feeling warm and safe, she drifted back into unconsciousness.
Lex Luthor left Lois sleeping on the plane. As he made his way down off the gangway, Kal-El approached him.
"I trust your flight went well."
"Oh, indeed, indeed. Ms. Lane is still resting on the plane."
"Have Asabi bring her to the White room. I will be there shortly. I'm sure we all want to get this over with."
Kal turned, disappearing into the fortress that stood before them.
Lois felt the cushion beneath her cheek. It was very soft, and the temptation to snuggle in and sleep a little more was strong. Remembering where she was, she quickly pushed herself up to a seated position.
Looking around the room, she noticed that it was all white. Something about it struck her funny. Lois was seated on a very comfortable sofa that was completely white, with huge cushions. In front of her was a coffee table of sorts, made of a round sphere at least two feet in circumference with frosted glass for its top. On it was a crystal vase, and underneath the table laid a white carpet rug. On the opposite side of the table was a large, cushioned chair with almost the grandeur of a throne.
Everything was white. Lois remembered a commercial she had seen on TV, advertising milk that had a room similar to this. It had such an open-air feeling to it, yet it was so stark in nature. In fact, in her brown suit she felt oddly out of place.
"I hope we haven't frightened you, Ms. Lane."
Lois jumped at the sound. Looking around she put her hand to her chest and swallowed. "Nnn—no. Should I be?" she lied.
He smiled in amusement. His arms crossed in the fashion that was known as the "Kryptonian" stance.
She stared in awe at the man who walked to her. He was tall, with dark hair and eyes. He was dressed completely in black: black slacks, a shirt of black silk, and a black overcoat that went down to his ankles. His hair was pulled back at the nape of his neck in a ponytail fashion.
It wasn't quite what she had expected. The effect, however, was stunning. He was handsome. The power and strength flowed from him. The authoritative way he walked took one's attention from all else, and his very presence seemed to fill the room.
Lois found the effect heady, yet highly disturbing at the same time. All of the sudden the stalwart Lois Lane found herself at a loss for words and strength to stand.
"Good, I'm glad. I want this interview to be pleasant for the both of us." He grinned at Lois, once again taking her by surprise.
"So Mister El…"
He laughed. He had a soft, yet very rich masculine sound. Lois looked at him, puzzled by his reaction.
"Ms. Lane. Being called Mr. El is not to my liking in the least. Kal-El will do."
Lois just stared in wonder. He wasn't at all what she expected. Kal-El was charming, soft-spoken. He had a manner about him that his physical appearance didn't display. Then she remembered her trip to this place.
"All right then, Kal-El. Where shall we start?" Lois reached down for her notepad and pen.
"We can start anywhere you would like, Ms. Lane. What would you like to know?"
"Well, for starters I…will have a seat." She motioned for him to sit down in the seat across from her. "Oh, I know. Why don't we start with the way I was treated on my voyage over here? Tell me, Kal-El. Do you always treat your guests this way?" She didn't hide the disapproval in her voice.
Kal-El's eyes narrowed slightly.
"I think that, Ms. Lane, we should start with what's on everyone's mind. That being what I plan on doing with and for this planet."
Okay, fine, he was going to ignore her. She would let it go for now.
"What are you going to do with this planet?" she asked as she arched a delicate eyebrow at him.
"What I'm doing for the planet…I would think that would be obvious. I'm trying to make it a better place for people. I view it as my own little 'Utopia'. Humans tend to be very violent and my goal is to teach people to stop the violence and live in peaceful coexistence."
Lois rolled her eyes. "That's a tall order from someone who wasn't asked to put the world's wrongs, right. You say it's obvious, but to whom? Up to the present, you're viewed as a tyrant, not a benevolent benefactor."
"Ms. Lane, I can hardly see how that's the case. If a person is accused of a crime, he or she—as the case is—is punished. My judicial overseers do everything in their power to govern according to my mandates, which I feel are fair for a child-like race, as humans have displayed themselves to be. I watch the street to make sure theft is not a problem. I have been able to stop wars before they've started. The good of mankind has been my main goal, as it continues to be."
"That may be true to some extent, Kal-El, but look at the facts. The security from the theft you speak of is only for those who serve you, and guard your property. The justice you mentioned is for those who can pay. It is only by sheer coincidence that the same rules you employ work somewhat for the rest of us. Have you ever tried to use your abilities for good? Saving a drowning child or a town from an impending volcanic eruption? The world could benefit so much from having you as a 'guardian.' You can't deny that your motives are purely selfish. Motives, I might add, that many feel are the result of your trying to achieve some kind of twisted revenge on all of us for the way you were treated by a small, yet admittedly sick and misguided set of individuals. You're trying to get back at all of us for your past."
Lois took a short breath. She had taken the risk of telling Kal-El what she thought of him. What would a little more honesty hurt? "That isn't noble by any stretch of the imagination. That's a pure and simple case of a bully and a monster trying to play God." Lois had said what she thought of him. She waited, holding her breath and fully expecting to receive a punishment for her boldness.
"That was very brave of you, Ms. Lane. I don't know any man that would dare to say what you just did."
Kal-El paused for a moment, looking a bit concerned. He raised his head slowly, his stare gliding over Lois from toe to head, only stopping when their eyes met.
She noted the slight smirk. Lois flushed slightly, wondering if he had just used the X-ray vision he was noted to have. She kept her back straight, her eyes never wavering from his, determined to show no fear.
"I realize that my methods may not be up to everyone's standards. However, they have suited mine quite well. As for saving people, that's a hard one to swallow. To be frank, no one has ever saved me, so how and why should I return the favor?"
"That's very sad, Kal-El, don't you realize you have to give in order to receive? You sound as though you want people to respect you, to like you, yet you do nothing to cultivate those qualities in yourself and in others." Lois shook her head slowly. "No wonder you're alone and isolated. I think you should realize, respect is earned, not automatically granted."
Kal-El watched Lois for a long time. She was so beautiful. Her lashes were long, and her eyes rich and brown, and full of spark and daring. She had dared to tell him what no one else would dream of ever saying.
His eyes drifted to her mouth. It was slightly parted. He let his mind wander, wondering what it would be like to taste them. Somehow he knew she would never accept him. The look of disappointment and distrust was evident in her eyes. Kal-El felt an odd sense of sorrow at being the source of her displeasure. He had become accustomed to taking what he wanted, yet he couldn't bring himself to do this now.
Lois was different somehow. This was all very different from anything he'd ever felt. Kal-El realized for the first time in his life that he didn't want to take, he wanted to give something out of free will.
Lois couldn't take the perusal any longer. She got up and walked around the room. There was a vase of sunflowers in the far corner of the room. She hadn't noticed it before and went to inspect them. Kal-El sat in silence, just watching her.
"I didn't notice the sunflowers before. They're lovely." She bent over the flower and smelled its sweetness.
"Sunflowers are very special to me. They're my favorite."
"Really? Mine, too." She flushed slightly.
'Stop it, Lane. You're acting like a stupid school girl,' she scolded herself.
"I find it unusual that you have them here in this room."
"Like I said, they're very special to me. I have them in every room."
"Every room? You mean there is more to this place?" Lois dropped a hint of sarcasm in her voice.
Kal-El got up from the seat and slowly walked over to Lois, never taking his eyes from hers.
"I wonder if this is how the prey of a cobra feels," she thought sarcastically.
He picked a flower from the vase and handed it to Lois. "Don't sound so surprised, Ms. Lane. There is more to this…" he motioned around the room. "…place. I would like to show it to you." He leaned closer to her, totally confident she wouldn't move. "I think perhaps that will be left for another time." He leaned in even closer still.
Lois felt her heart jump, and her breathing becoming more stressful. Determined to not show any emotion to this man, she crossed her arms in front of herself, trying to keep a distance, no matter how small.
"Yes," he said in a low, husky voice as he put his hands on her elbows and gently drew her closer, their mouths a breath away from meeting.
"I do think there will be a next time."
With that, he closed the distance between them and kissed her with such softness and tenderness that Lois's first thought was her surprise at his unexpected gentleness. Before she could recover and put a stop to the proceedings, she felt a sharp pain on her thigh, and again the world swirled into nothingness.
Lois awoke sometime later to find herself on her couch. She slowly raised herself up. "Darn it," she cursed, hitting the cushion. "He got away, that rotten, no good… He got away without the interview."
She made a hissing sound and stormed into the kitchen, grabbing a jug of cookie dough ice cream. Just then the phone rang.
"Hello? Hi, Perry. It wasn't the greatest story I've ever done, but I got a little to go on. Yeah, I'm fine. Yes, I can have a small piece for you to run with in the morning. Somehow I think this story will go into extra innings. Okay. You, too, Perry. Goodnight."
Later that night, Lois was in bed typing the interview—or what there was of it— on her laptop. After e-mailing it to Perry, she settled in for the night. Tossing and turning, she found it hard to relax enough to go to sleep, with images of Kal-El walking disturbingly through her mind. The feeling of his kiss was firmly in implanted on her mind. She rolled over again and punched her pillow as hard as she could. " So much for Mad-Dog-Lane," she thought. "You're a mess!"
Lex walked into the room, a glass of wine in his hand and a smug smile on his face. "Well, that was interesting."
Kal-El's look matched Lex's own. "Yes, it was. I think we'll be seeing Ms. Lane more often."
"Ahh… I know I'll enjoy that."
Kal-El's eyes narrowed slightly. "Lex, I hope you're not getting any foolish ideas. She's off limits. Understand?"
Lex's eyebrow shot up; he casually took a sip from the glass of wine. "Of course I understand."
Kal-El turned away, missing the wicked gleam that entered his eye.
"Morning, Lois. Man, Perry is impressed…*shah* I can't believe you got to see Kal-El's lair. So how was it? Is it cool?" Jimmy bounced over to Lois with wide-eyed awe.
"Down, Jimmy!" she laughed. "What I wrote in the article is what happened, nothing more, nothing less."
"Now, Lois. Why do I just not believe you?"
Lois stopped and looked puzzled. "Jimmy what are you talking about?"
Jimmy's smile got bigger and he pointed in the direction of her desk. Lois walked over to her desk and was somewhat surprised to see a bouquet of sunflowers waiting for her. She glanced about appreciatively. Her dark eyes fell on the small white card. Her name was neatly written on it, and Lois picked the card up, wondering what it contained as she opened it.
"To a small ray of sunshine in a dark world. I look forward to seeing you again."
Lois was at a loss. How was she supposed to react to this? She looked up at the ceiling, biting her bottom lip. Her thoughts were in utter turmoil. For the last few years since Kal-El first appeared and exercised his power, people had tiptoed around him. She had expected a very vain, egotistical, man. Instead, she had seen a side of him that was totally unexpected. Of course, he had drugged her…twice…but that was beside the point. Anger rose up in her. What was she thinking? How could she be contemplating seeing him again under any condition?
"This isn't going the way I planned," she thought.
Perry came out of his office. "Lois, that was grade A work you did on Kal-El. I can't wait to run the rest."
Okay, she had to tell him, and now was as good a time as any.
"Ahh, Perry, I'm not so sure there will be any more."
"What are you talking about? There has to be more, Lois. I'm counting on you to pull this one through. I've never known you to back away. Kal-El's people called just now and requested to set up another interview. Great Shades of Elvis! We have got the Metropolis Star green with envy. The appointment has been set up for Friday at five. You've got two days to prepare."
Perry walked up to the elevator, leaving Lois staring at him. "I'm counting on you, Lois. Reel in that Pulitzer like you said you would."
Lois rolled her eyes as she sank down into her chair with a thud. "Well, so much for getting out of that. Oh, just suck it up and make Perry proud. Besides, you've been dealt worse. Turn this into a good thing." She looked over at the flowers and sighed. "I have a bad feeling about this."
Once again, Lois met Lex at the designated spot, and even though she protested heavily, she was put under. Waking up in the "White room", she sat up to see Kal-El sitting across from her.
"I'm starting to really hate this," she said, more than a little annoyed.
Kal-El wasn't bothered by this comment and cheerfully greeted her. "Hello, Ms. Lane."
"Good afternoon, Kal-El. You didn't waste any time. Two interviews in one week. A girl could get the wrong impression."
"Is that so strange?"
"I think it is, seeing as how you cut the first one short," she sighed, looking at him with supreme annoyance. "So strange, you ask? As I recall, there was really no interview."
Lois got up and started to pace the room. "So have you brought me here to tell me all those untold secrets you forgot about last time?" She turned around so quickly that she was startled to see him standing just inches away from her. It was very unnerving, especially since she hadn't heard him get up or walk over.
Something in her made her bold enough to blurt out, "Or is this purely another attempt to make a pass at me?" Raising her eyebrow, she looked him square in the eye. "You wouldn't be the first, you know." She regretted the words the second they came out, but she wouldn't let him see that.
Kal-El looked deep into Lois's eyes, daring her to break the contact. He looked as though he was trying to reach inside of her and find something to grab onto so she would be powerless to get away.
"Ms. Lane." He said her name so softly that she thought she'd imagined it. "I must admit, I'm at somewhat of a loss as to how I should continue. It's true I was unfair to you the other day. Our interview wasn't what you'd hoped for. It's curious to me that anyone would want to know about me. My life has been nothing but an open book since the day I arrived—from the time I landed in Smallville, Kansas, to when I was captured and released from the bunker Trask held me in. I'll admit that I don't wish to relive those memories for anyone."
Lois tried to be as unyielding. She held Kal-El's stare, trying to put mind over matter. "Why, then, did you bring me here?"
"I decided to make the exception for you, because I trust 'you' to tell my side." He paused for a moment and then walked away.
Lois sighed heavily with relief at the release of his stare.
"This," he motioned around the room, "is not the only part of my house, as it were. There is more. Would you like to see it?"
"Yes, I would."
Kal-El motioned to the side where he turned a knob that Lois hadn't noticed. Part of the wall opened up to reveal a doorway leading into a long hallway. On the right side of the hallway stood a display case. Inside, Lois saw a blue blanket artfully hung with a diamond-shaped shield. Within the shield there was the letter 'S'.
"That's the symbol of the house of El from which I came. Both it and the blanket were alongside me in the capsule. It's the only thing I have that belonged to my parents."
They walked into a huge room that was like walking into a museum. There were artifacts from all over the world on pedestals, and paintings displayed royally on the walls.
"You collect art? They're wonderful reproductions."
"Reproductions? No, Ms. Lane. I assure you they're the real thing. Lex and I are somewhat connoisseurs of artifacts from some of our most enjoyed places and artists."
As they passed by one entryway, she noticed the painting of "The Rocky Mountains, Lander's Peak". Lois stopped and walked away from Kal-El, who was explaining some of the surrounding pieces to her. She looked in awe at the picture she had seen in books when she was a child.
"I see you like that one."
"Oh, yes. It's always been one of my favorites. I enjoy paintings and pictures of places, more than of people or things. Traveling is something I've dreamt of doing." She looked away from the picture to Kal-El, and, with a gleam in her eye, continued. "I've always hoped that one day I would get to see that peak in real life."
"My favorite has always been nudes."
Both Lois and Kal-El looked up to see Lex stride in again with a glass of wine in his hand. Lois immediately became uneasy. Her warning system kicked in as Lex stared boldly at her. Before Kal-El could say anything, Lex continued.
"My inspiration has always been this statue of a lovely young lady. I think the title is most intriguing." Lex motioned to a statue that was located next to a window overlooking a courtyard.
Lois looked at the girl with her arms tied to a pole. She read the caption out loud. "The White Captive?" Lois rolled her eyes and looked at Lex.
Lex grinned impishly at her and sipped his wine.
"Lex, don't you have something else you should be doing?"
"No, not really." Lex defied Kal-El with another bold grin at Lois.
Kal-El was not amused. He headed Lois off to another part of the hall. "Come, Ms. Lane. I would love to show you my observatory."
As they climbed the spiral staircase that led to the observatory, Lois decided to ask about Lex.
"Kal-El, why do you keep Lex around? You obviously aren't pleased with him."
"Ms. Lane, I owe a lot to Lex. Quite frankly, he serves my purposes. We use each other. Normally, he behaves himself very well."
"I don't like him," was all Lois said, and from the lack of response from Kal-El, either he hadn't heard her or he was ignoring her comment.
They got to the top and looked through the telescope. "The telescope is pointed at Saturn. Here. Have a look."
Lois leaned forward, closing one eye and peering at the planet. "It looks fake," she said in amazement. "Like someone pasted a sticker at the end of this thing."
Kal-El smiled in amusement. "Ms. Lane, you do have a way of saying what's on your mind, don't you?"
"Perry says it's one of my better reporting traits."
Lois was still looking at the planet when Kal-El thought of an idea. "Ms. Lane, would you like to see the stars?"
That made Lois pause for a moment. "Ahh, Kal-El…I am looking at the stars."
"No, Ms. Lane," Kal-El chuckled. "I meant, would you like to see them up close?"
She looked back at Kal-El and stepped down off the telescope platform. She followed him to the door that led outside into the cool night air.
Lois was starting to get a little impatient with this Kal-El. "Ohhh, yes. I can see how this is so much closer." She tried not to say it too sarcastically.
"This isn't close." Kal-El reached out and took Lois around the shoulders, scooping her up and carrying her slight weight into the air before she could protest.
Lois was instantly in awe. She had always loved flying. Her biggest disappointment in life was the day she'd received a bicycle instead of the twin engine biplane she had so desired.
The ground below was dark except for a few twinkling lights here and there. Above her was the big wide-open sky with thousands of pinholes in the velvet black of the sky, gleaming their greetings. She closed her eyes as the wind swept through her hair, unaware of the deep perusal Kal-El was engaged in.
He thought her to be the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen. She was full of tenacity and spirit, and he admired her straightforwardness. She had also done something no one else had. Lois Lane had made the 'Great' Kal-El ashamed of his actions. Her words of their last meeting caused him to pause and reexamine himself. True, he wouldn't change all of the things he'd done; however, his methods and primary actions needed some polishing.
Kal-El had been a reader of the Daily Planet for quite awhile. It had always intrigued him in the way they reported on Luthor and all of his dealings. Sometimes they treated him fairly, and other times they didn't. Lois Lane's by-line was always colorful, and the most eagerly read. She stripped him constantly of his well-intentioned actions and made it seem as though he were just a big bully. Now he wondered if her assessment of him was indeed justified.
What was it about her that made him seek her out in the first place? Would it be silly to say that something in her reminded him of the only person in his life who had ever been kind? Yes, maybe so. Something about Lois did remind him of his old doctor. Yet something even stronger had attracted him to her. Perhaps one day he would be able to put it into thought then maybe words.
Lois started to get a little uneasy at the prolonged silence. "Where are you taking me?"
"I thought you'd like to see the world from my vantage point, let you see it as I do. I hope you'll be able to see that I'm not the monster you would have me be."
"I've always loved flying," Lois sighed and closed her eyes. "It must be wonderful to be able to fly under your own power."
"I fly to get away from Earth, from the things that weigh me down. I find flying to be very peaceful."
Lois gave him a thoughtful look. "Are we losing altitude?"
He smiled. "Yes. We are very close to our destination."
"I thought I would take you somewhere we could talk more privately. Lex seems to have eyes and ears everywhere. Even in my own home."
As they descended, Lois could see in the moonlight the black on black silhouette of a forest. They landed in a small, open area. Kal-El set Lois down gently and collected a few branches. Piling them up, he used his heat vision to start a fire.
Lois smiled appreciatively and sat down, warming her hands. She looked up to find him studying her closely. "Why did you bring me here?"
"Really?" Lois asked, not quite believing him.
"Yes, really. You don't trust me?"
"Kal-El, you've not been very forthright or helpful with your interviews. Did you really want an interview, or was there something else?"
"I admit, Ms. Lane, once again I'm not sure how to respond to that question. So I guess I'll have to put myself in your capable hands and let you ask anything you want. I'll do my best to answer."
Lois lifted her eyebrows and gave Kal-El her best skeptical look. He just sat there looking at her. She decided to take a chance.
They stayed in the clearing, talking about everything and nothing. Lois asked the questions, and Kal-El answered what he could. Little by little, Lois understood what made Kal-El act the way he did. Still, it was no excuse for all of what he did, but understanding was there. It was incredible, the things he suffered under Trask's insane rule. The mental and physical torture he endured had been enormous. It was a wonder to her that he was as seemingly sane as he was.
"Trask came in and killed Doctor Boolean, then kept you in darkness." Lois looked down at the fire, her eyes misting over. She felt so very sad for the little boy Kal-El had been. "You do realize there is more to life than just trying to become ruler."
"Somewhere people got the impression I wanted to be ruler. Nothing could be further from the truth. You see, the things I went through were terrible. There were times I wished to die. I found it very easy to give myself over to self-pity. I kept myself going by focusing in on my old doctor and the things she'd tried to teach me. That knowledge had been very limited, yet I did my best and held onto what I could. And when I was finally free, I did all I could to make up the rest of that knowledge. "
"It must've been horrible for you."
"You know, one of the things I often wondered about was, what would have happened if a simple family had found me." He smiled self-consciously at this daydream. He'd never told anyone about it before. "Then I would've been some no-name face in the crowd, and I would've lived a simple life."
"I find that sometimes it's better not to dwell on 'what ifs", and just deal with what you have. Try to make the most of it. You can do so much more than what you're doing. Focus on that. Learn to help and guide others, not manipulate them around to your way of thinking."
Kal-El smiled at her. She was so beautiful and honest. "Tell me, Ms. Lane," he reached for her hand. "Do you have any 'ifs'?"
Lois was getting self-conscious again and started to tuck a stray hair away from her face, placing it behind her ear. Kal took over and tucked it for her, then traced her jaw line with his finger. She blushed, hating herself for it. Never had she acted the part of the schoolgirl for anyone.
"One. Just one." She rested her chin in her hands, with her elbows on her knees. "My father had always wanted a boy. He was very disappointed when I turned out to be a girl. I've always wondered what it would have been like if my father had been happy with me as I was."
Kal-El frowned at her. "You're right. Living in the world of "if" is not a good place to be. If I'd been raised another way, we wouldn't have met. If you'd been a boy, then I definitely wouldn't want to do this."
He took her chin in his forefinger and thumb, and gently pulled her chin up, kissing her ever so gently. For the first time in both of their lives, they felt content. Lois stayed next to Kal-El, and they just enjoyed each other's company as they watched the sunrise.
Lois had fallen asleep in Kal-El's arms, his warmth surrounding her. Kal-El was content to hold her and listen to her soft breathing. Slowly, the sun started to show its brilliance. The eastern sky they faced was streaked with pink and blue tones.
Groggily, Lois woke up to see the sun come over the land and the fog start to dissipate. "I must've dozed. It's morning. I'm sorry—you could've woken me. We didn't have to stay out here all night."
"Yes, we did," he smiled. "Look." Kal-El pointed to the woods surrounding them.
Small woodland animals started to seek the sun and find their morning meals. A fawn and its mother slowly came to the edge of the clearing to a blueberry bush and ate from it. Lois watched in awe at the sun rising higher and higher. Finally, it was dawn, and, looking around, she was stunned.
Without a word, she stood, looking in wide-eyed awe at the canyon expanse in front of her. Seeing the mountain beyond, she pointed to it in disbelief. "This… this is Lander's Peak!"
He walked up to her and took her in his arms, with her back to his chest so she could see the view. "Ms. Lane, I have a confession to make."
She looked up at him.
"I love you."
"Lois, what did you say? Oh, that was so romantic."
"Lucy, I hardly know him, really. I would've thought you would be more sensible than this. No, wait. What am I saying? You're the one who thought Brainsmasher was a great love story."
"It was! So tell me. What did you do after he said he was in love with you?"
"I was surprised since we've only known each other for two days, a fact which I mentioned to him,"
"And he said that was all he needed."
"Ooooohhhh!" Lucy let out in a huge sigh. "I don't know if I can stand this."
The elevator came to the floor of the city newsroom. With the sounding of the bell in the elevator, the doors opened and Lois and Lucy walked out. Jimmy, seeing Lucy, ran up to them with a huge smile.
"You ladies look lovely today. Lucy, I was able to score two tickets to the Dave Matthew's concert. Would you like to go?"
"Sure," she said cheerfully, then added, "Guess what, Jimmy? Kal-El told Lois he was in love with her."
Lois smacked Lucy on her shoulder. "You've got a big mouth."
"What? Oh, man, you're kidding. What did you say?"
They walked down the incline onto the main floor of the newsroom. Lois quickly walked ahead of them so the whole staff room wouldn't hear them.
"What did I say? What do you care what I said?"
Jimmy stopped and gave Lois a condescending look. "Kal-El specifically asks for you to interview him, then after the second interview, he tells you he loves you. And you can't understand why I want to know what you said?"
"Lois is being stubborn, Jimmy. All she could do was point out the fact that they had only known each other for two days."
"That does it! You two get out of my sight. I have work to do."
Just then Perry walked up to her desk. "Yes, you do, my dear. How is the interview column coming along?"
"Lois has a great interview coming, Chief. In fact, she and Kal-El are like this!" Jimmy put his first and middle finger together and held them up for Perry.
Lois promptly hit Jimmy up the side of his head with the folder she'd been holding.
Perry's rumbling, all-knowing laughter filled the newsroom. "Well, Lois, is Kal-El smitten with you? You know, Elvis was completely taken in by Priscilla the first time he…"
Lois couldn't take it anymore. "Perry, not another Elvis chronicle, please. Jimmy, Lucy and you, too, Perry…leave me alone so I can write my interview."
Over the next few months, Kal-El patiently cultivated Lois's friendship. He'd moved too quickly when he told her he was in love. Although Kal-El had not voiced it to her again, he showed her with actions of kindness and careful consideration, freely giving her what she wanted and needed.
Even the press noted the difference in Kal-El, and headlines of a possible changed man abounded in the papers and on local TV news. Lois herself did her best to stay out of the spotlight, but found it increasingly difficult to maintain her work performance due to the heavy bombardment of her fellow reporters. As for herself, Lois was bound and determined to go as far as she might with this relationship. Kal-El had scared her at first, more than she'd wanted to admit to anyone. Granted, it wasn't every day that a person met someone who lived in a secret location, who was the mastermind and muscle behind world domination, as well as having a fondness for collecting fine works of art. And also a person who, let's not forget, had the practice of injecting a knock-out drug into any and all guests of the 'realm.'
Lois reminisced about their first date. At the time it wasn't a date, but somehow it had managed to turn itself into one. She smiled now at the special gesture Kal-El had made, flying her to Lander's peak. It really had been perfect right up to the point he'd expressed his love for her. That had taken her aback. Love? They had only just met! How could anyone fall in love that quickly? It was a ploy, she had thought at the time; he'd wanted her for something. Did he really think she would melt at his feet, singing his praises to any and all who would listen? Well, 'Mr. High-and-Mighty' Kal-El had another thing coming. She was not some servant who was going to bow to his every whim.
Kal-El hadn't wanted that at all. In fact, the interview had taken place simply because Kal-El had wanted to meet her. He really hadn't wanted to conduct that interview, or any other. His view was that people knew too much already, and if they knew more about him, he would have to deal with people like Trask all over again.
Slowly, Lois had come to an understanding of Kal-El. There was a person who desperately wanted to be a part of something, and was accomplishing this need through Lex. However, Kal was starting to realize that there was—and could be— so much more. Lois was slowly trying to bring this quality out in him, hoping to help him become the great man and leader she just knew he was capable of being.
Tonight would mark their six-month anniversary since that night on Lander's peak. Kal-El had vowed to take her to a showing of Les Miserable in London at the glorious Albert Hall. She drove her car to the airport where she always met Lex, who would then take her to Kal-El. This time, to her surprise, Kal-El was waiting for her instead of Lex.
Lois glowed with happiness. "You're here!"
"Yes, I thought tonight was too special. Leaving you to tolerate Lex's company would be unmerciful on my part."
"I appreciate that. Believe me."
Kal-El had waited nervously for Lois. He'd decided weeks ago that this would be the night, the time when he would boldly ask her to marry him. Hopefully, he could find the need to control himself due to his nerves. Carefully, he assisted Lois up the stairs and into their seats.
"So, we're not going to 'fly' over?" Lois made a wave like motion with her hand to indicate flying.
With an amused grin, Kal-El explained, "No, today I felt the need to just sit back and relax." Deepening his smile and taking Lois's hand, he added, "You know, take in the lovely scenery."
Amused, Lois laughed and went to the small refrigerator, taking out a bottle of water. "My Kal, you're just full of surprises. I don't know what to expect now."
"Lois, that's the plan," Kal said with an all-knowing smile.
Later that night, as they strolled down the streets of London, Kal noticed Lois was unusually quiet. Coming to a stop, he turned Lois to face him. Holding her close, he lifted her chin and tenderly kissed her. Lois gave an audible sigh, and Kal whispered into her mouth.
"You've flown away somewhere." He kissed her again, only to pull away slowly. "Where've you gone?"
Lois leaned against Kal's strong chest, hugging him and resting her cheek against his warmth. She sighed with contentment.
"I'm right here, just were I want to be."
Once again, Kal made Lois look up at him, his eyes full of concern. He questioned, "Are you sure? Are you very sure, Lois?"
"Of course I'm sure. What a strange thing to ask."
"I've come to a realization, Lois. I need you somehow, and I don't understand it myself. You've come to mean more to me than anything, anyone else I have ever known. I don't know if I could…if I would want to continue," he groped for the right thing to say, then took a deep breath and rushed on. "Lois, I don't want to continue as we have. I want there to be more between us. You're a part of me. I don't know how, why or when, but the fact is, you are. I want this part of me…I want you. Lois, will you marry me?"
Lois was touched at Kal's honesty and trust. He had just bared his soul to her, and now was waiting patiently to see if this trust had been well placed. Marriage. What a step.
Lois looked deep into her heart and realized something for the first time. This man loved her; this man cared about her. And she did return his feelings with her whole soul. This man before her was not like any she had ever known. True, their first meeting would have turned anyone off. Yet Lois was not anyone. Sure, she had been on guard and nervous around Kal-El. Slowly, that fear had melted away. So many times in her life, men had hurt her. Even her own father had hurt her deeply. Marriage would've been the last thing she'd ever do. Until Kal-El. Knowing just what her response would be, she realized for the first time in her life that she truly was in love.
"Kal-El, I thought you would never ask."
Everyone directly—and even indirectly—involved with this courtship and subsequent engagement was becoming vastly annoyed at the attention. The let-up of interest seemed to have no end. Lois and Kal-El had decided that they would have a private ceremony with only close family and friends. It was held in September on a small yacht. Lois was dressed in a simple white gown, and Kal-El wore a smart looking black tux. The two had a hard time keeping their eyes and minds focused on the ceremony.
Everyone enjoyed themselves; however, one person was not in a good mood. He was more than a little annoyed. In fact, he was down right furious with the entire proceedings.
TWO WEEKS LATER
Lex stormed into his room late one night, picking up the newspaper and throwing it down on the table. "That little strumpet is ruining everything I have been building up! At first, I thought it was just a passing phase. After all, Kal-El has had very little interaction with those of the opposite sex. Now it's gone too far. He's turning into a fop!"
Lex grabbed a glass of wine and poured his favorite tonic into it, sipping slowly the way Asabi taught him to do in order to calm his nerves, as well as ease his tortured mind.
"It's Kal-El's fault. He's letting her do this, this… whatever this is to him. I should punish him for this outright betrayal! Kal-El has broken our agreement."
Asabi, who had been quiet throughout the tirade, now spoke. "Calm yourself. It isn't wise to make any decisions when you're dealing with so much emotion. Meditate for a moment, then continue."
Lex took another sip, then closed his eyes, letting his muscles relax.
"She's ruining him. She's making an honest man out of him. All of my work, all of the plans I've carefully laid out are slowly being dismantled by little Ms. Lois Lane." Lex sneered. "Asabi, help me! I have to stop this. Even as we speak, she's teaching him that he has goodness. It's more than I can bear. I'm going to be sick if this keeps up. I had tried to come up with a way to stop this fiasco from ever happening in the first place. Oh, what a mess! And now it is up to me to fix it."
Asabi started to message Lex's temples. "Are you positive you desire to end this relationship because it is hurting your 'empire'? Or because of a deeper need?"
"Yes, a need that you feel for yourself. Perhaps you wish Lois for yourself."
"Don't be ridiculous. I admit she's very lovely, but my aims in life are higher than having the pleasure of any woman, let alone one. If I did anything to her, it would be for the soul enjoyment of watching her and Kal-El suffer. She's merely a pawn in this game."
"Your feelings may not be of a romantic nature for her, Lex, but you do have a fascination for her. They're married, and Kal-El seems to have this attachment to her as she does for him. If planned correctly, your strike will cut much deeper. The wound can be fatal, if this is your aim. Now is the time to plan, and plan carefully, deciding when best to strike back. Wait and see if there will even be a need. Kal-El might be playing the part of a changed man for Lois's benefit. Once the novelty of it is gone, he may turn back to his old self. Your business dealings may have to be put on hold for the present, but think of what will happen when you set them back on track."
Lex's mind started to work as he listened to Asabi's advice, a most wicked plan he'd thought of to date formulating in his mind. He would wait a while and strike when it was least expected. He knew just what he would do to get back at little Ms. Lois Lane. Oh, yes, it would be grand. He would make her pay for this insolence. He would enjoy himself immensely.
"The months passed, and Kal-El and I settled into a comfortable routine. I was constantly trying to teach him how to help others. It was difficult. Lex was always in the way. He would drop little hints and innuendoes about my turning Kal into a "goodie-two-shoes", and that it had to stop sooner or later. I ignored him, for the most part. That was a bad miscalculation on my part. One time he actually came up to me and offered me money so that I would leave Kal-El. Naturally, I was outraged."
"He offered you money?" Clark asked.
"Yes, you see I was ruining his creation. He felt that by offering me money, I would leave the scene. Lex has this problem. He thinks he can buy people."
"That's a problem Lex will always have," Clark lamented.
"Anyway, it didn't matter. I was hopelessly in love." Lois smiled shyly at Clark.
"When he asked me to marry him, I was scared at first. But after really thinking about it," Lois toyed with a potted plant on her counter, then looked meaningfully at Clark. "Well, there was no way I could say no. I never once regretted my decision. Not till Lex, anyway."
"So the marriage was good?"
"It was more than good. Kal-El was wonderful." A mournful look came over Lois. "It was the happiest I've ever been. Then life came crashing down around us." Lois got up and started to pace the room. "Lex had his own ideas about Kal-El, and I…well, if I had only known."
THE BEGINNING OF THE END
It had been four months since the wedding; four months that Lex had been patiently lying in wait, hoping for the right opportunity to come along, and waiting to see just which way he would turn the screw and seal Lois's fate. Frustrated now beyond what he could tolerate, Lex raked his hands through his hair.
"There has been another uprising." Lex sank down on the couch. Without a word, Asabi began to administer to his master. "With Kal-El's lack of attention to things, the people are becoming more bold. Another uprising has been reported and, once again they have taken hold of our finances in Lexburge. If Kal-El doesn't get back out there and regain our hold…" Lex's face was turning red, the vein at this temple visibly larger. "That woman has become nothing but a nuisance. I want her eliminated. I don't care anymore about how I'll do what I have to do!"
"If you get rid of her, Kal-El would know it was you. He is very much in love. Should you dispose of her, Kal-El would turn on you. What you must do is find a way to drive them apart." Asabi started to pace in front of Lex, then gestured with his hands clasped to emphasis his point. "Now this may be easier said than done. I would have to be swift…"
Lex was once again struck by inspiration. He could modify his plan slightly. "I could have dear Lois meet up with some tragic accident. No, that would not stop Kal-El. Knowing him, he would go into seclusion, or perhaps, worse case scenario, he would try to carry on in her memory, becoming a completely sickening do-gooder." Lex followed Asabi 's lead and started to pace the room, rubbing his head and giving the impression of stressful thinking.
"It's agreed that Lois is the one who has to stop the relationship. We can't kill her, so…what if we made her leave? If she were to leave Kal-El, he would be devastated. How would he react? It would have to devastating to him. Leverage is what I need. Lois is a smart girl. I need something to hold her. This is going to take some time, and a bit of digging."
Little did Lex realize his *leverage* was close at hand.
Lois walked into Perry's office, thumbing through her notes. "Perry, I had some more notes from Senator Malosh's interview. I can have the whole thing ready by five." Lois looked up to check on Perry's reaction to her news.
Perry was sorting out his own paper work. "That's fine, Lois. Jimmy should have the corresponding photos by then."
Lois smiled reassuringly at Jimmy, who was biting on his lower lip. "Don't worry, Lois. I think they'll be just fine. I hope." He grinned at her.
Getting what she needed, Lois turned to leave. Just as she opened the door, she was hit with a dizzy spell. Holding her stomach, she waited for the air to clear and the spinning to stop.
Jimmy was at her side instantly. "Lois, are you okay?"
"Yes, Jimmy, I'm fine. I've been getting these moments of incredible dizziness. It'll pass in a second. I haven't been able to eat well lately. It's my fault, really. Taking time to stop and have a good meal has become a challenge." Lois straightened up, giving Perry a sheepish smile.
Perry turned a thoughtful glance toward his favorite reporter. "Now sweetheart, far be it from me to go and diagnose. Well, this old hound dog has been 'round the bend, and well, have you considered the fact that you just might be pregnant?"
Lois looked at Perry as though he'd spoken to her in Greek. The reality and truth of his words hit her. "That must be it! What other reason could there be?" A worried look changed the plane of her lovely face. "I need to see Dr. Klein."
Unconsciously, Lois dropped her notes and headed for the door. Perry decided not to call this to her attention.
"Doctor Klein? Isn't he the director over at Star Labs?"
"Yes, Perry, he is. He was also Kal-El's doctor back when NASA had him. If I'm pregnant, Klein is the best person to see. He knows more about Kryptonian physiology than anyone alive. I should go see him. Is that all right with you, Chief?"
"That's fine, Lois. Just so long as you can turn the story in for today's evening edition."
Lois realized her notes were on the floor. "Oh, my notes." As she gathered her notes, her mind raced with possibilities and excitement.
"Hey, kiddo." Lois stopped at the door and turned back to her editor and friend. "Congratulations."
Soon Lois was on her way home from Doctor Klein. It had been very easy to tell that Lois was indeed pregnant. She showed all the classic signs of the fact. Dr. Klein had confessed his surprise; he'd had doubts as to whether it was possible for a human to have a 'Kryptonian' baby. Obviously, it was indeed possible.
"A mother," she thought. " I'm going to be a mom!"
Was this a good thing? Would she be able to handle herself? Would she be a good mother? Then another thought hit her. Kal-El. She had to tell Kal-El. They had only been together for such a short time. A child was something they had yet to discuss. Lois realized she didn't know Kal-El's view on children in general. How would he feel about this? Now it was time for her to decide just how she would tell her husband the news.
She found herself pulling into the parking lot of a toy store she'd always passed by without so much as a second glance. "I'm just going to look," she thought. As she strolled down the aisles examining a stroller and taking stock of all the different types of diapers, Lois become intimidated. What kind of formula would she need? Should she get the car seat that turned from a stroller to a car seat, then to a rocker? No, wait. She was jumping the gun just now. Her first priority was to tell Kal-El. Then she remembered Kal was away in Lexburge, trying to settle the people, and hoping for peace.
"The most important news of our lives and he isn't here."
"Excuse me, Miss. Are you okay?"
Lois hadn't realized she'd spoken out loud. Blushing, she addressed the older woman.
"Yes, I'm fine. I was just thinking out loud."
"Sounds like you just found out you're expecting." The lady smiled at the younger woman.
"How did you know?" Lois asked, taken somewhat aback.
"Oh, dear, it's not that hard to figure out. I'm a mother of five, a grandmother of twelve, and I know that look. Besides, you're standing in front of the diaper section with a newborn brand in your hand." The woman laughed jovially. "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that."
Lois realized the humor of the situation and began laughing as well. "May I ask how you told your husband about your first baby?"
"Ahh. Well, I went over and over how I was going to tell him. I kept thinking just how I would say it. I decided to buy a crib. I put it together myself, then left it in our spare bedroom. When he came home from work that day, I asked him to get me something out of the room. After about four minutes, he didn't come back and I was worried. So when I went to go see what the matter was, I found the poor man passed out clean on the floor."
"You're kidding!" Lois was holding her sides from laughing so hard.
"No, my dear, it's a true story. Each time another baby was on its way, I made it a point to do something bigger and better. I dare say I made that man pass out all five times."
"Well, thank you. You've been so kind. In fact, I think I know just how I'm going to tell him."
After exchanging a few more pleasantries with each other, Lois was on her way with package in hand. Kal-El would have a little present waiting for him. She would make a candle lit dinner in his room. Then, with her best dress on, she would sit him down and have their dinner in the soft light. Then, after dessert she would hand him a package wrapped lovingly in gift-wrap. He would open it and see what was inside.
Full of excitement, Lois ran through the house, not realizing she had caught the attention of a pair of unwanted eyes. When she reached her room, she set down the package on the couch, deciding she would take a shower and then slip into something comfortable before she set all of her plans in motion.
Unbeknownst to Lois, as she showered a figure slipped into her room and rummaged through her bags. Upon his discovery of a beautifully hand-crafted receiving blanket with sunflowers embroidered on the edges, the man smiled wickedly to himself. "It's all over now, Lois." And with that he slipped out again.
"Asabi, I've found what I was looking for. Get the plane ready tomorrow. We shall be leaving."
Asabi joined Lex is his revelry and began to set the plan into motion.
Lois walked into her bedroom, tired and worn out from her day at work, glad to be home finally, and able to get in bed and rest. She turned down the bed and began to undress. Taking off her suit, she slipped on an oversized nightshirt, one of the many she'd taken from Kal. Walking over to the window, Lois opened it enough to let in the cool night air.
Smiling to herself, her gaze lingered on the present that was just waiting to be opened. She set the glass of milk down on the nightstand that she'd poured on her way through the kitchen. Getting into bed, she stretched and then snuggled up to her pillow, hugging it close to her. Kal's scent still lingered on the shirt and she sighed contentedly. Lois drifted into a half-wake, half-asleep state when the bed sagged on the opposite side of where she was facing. She sighed as the warmth of another body snuggled against hers, creating what was called spooning. Lois settled back into his body, and his hand rested on her lower thigh. Gently, he moved it up the side of her hip. She smiled and put her hand on his.
"Kal must've gotten back early," she thought sleepily.
She inhaled deeply and then something took hold. This wasn't Kal-El! The aftershave was wrong. Kal didn't use after-shave. Lois tentatively felt the smooth and course planes of his hands, traced the length of his fingers. This was wrong. All wrong. This wasn't Kal-El! Kal's fingers were different. They were not as slim and bony as these were.
Lois froze as she heard a soft moan from the person next to her. "NO! That's definitely not right!" Her mind screamed.
Lois made a move to get away. An arm came around her, pinning her like a vise to where she was. Struggling, she tried but could not get free. Finally, her assailant won and she was pinned down and looking straight into the eyes of Lex Luthor. He was grinning down at her with one of the most malevolent smiles she had ever seen.
"Lex, get out of here! Do you know the trouble you're in?" Lois hissed at him.
"In time, just be patient. I wanted to talk to you first."
"There's nothing to talk about, Lex."
While continuing to hold her down, Lex reached over to her nightstand. Picking up the glass, he took a seductive little sip and set it down. He leaned closer down to Lois, just a hair's breadth from her face. Lois smelled the combination of liquor and cigar that was on his breath.
"Oh, but I think there is, love!"
He kissed her, his lips coming down brutally on hers. Lois reacted the only way she could think of. She bit his lip, drawing blood. The coppery taste as well as the kiss made her gag. Lex 's reaction was quick and hard. He slammed her to the bed.
"Don't you ever do that again!"
Lois spit in his face. "If you're going to kill me, Lex, just do it. Get it over with! Kal-El will hunt you down and you know it. When he finds out about this, you are history."
Lex wiped the spittle from his face with the back of his free hand, his grip on her wrist tightening. She wouldn't let him see how scared she was.
"My love," he said, pretending that he was hurt by her remark. "You cut me to the quick. You know that I very well do not want to kill you. Never underestimate yourself. Right now, you're of great use to me. I must admit I was disappointed in you. I expected more from you. Sleeping with the enemy…" he made a tisk-tisk noise. "Marrying him… I had higher hopes for you."
"Lex, I'm not going to tell you again! Get out! My room's off limits to you, and you know that. I'll have you eliminated from this house for this."
Lex looked at Lois like a parent looks at a child, a child who is just being stubborn. He slowly kissed her cheek, chin, and eyelids. "Such harsh words, my love. You know deep down you don't mean that."
Lex leaned in closer and began to kiss Lois more intimately. She tried to struggle, kick, move…anything to get free. His grip was too strong, and he had her in an awkward position. His kisses were making her sick to her stomach. At any moment she was ready to heave.
"That's a good girl." He kissed her again on the lips.
Lois kept trying her best to squirm away, but she couldn't break free. He was putting all of his weight on her and she was having trouble breathing.
Lex stopped for the space of a second, just enough to cruelly inform her, "My dear Lois. Your precious husband is still trying to save those peace talks in Europe. He will be gone for quite sometime. I've seen to that, so I have you all to myself."
"Damn you, Luthor! You'll pay for this!"
"No, my dear, I don't think so. You see, you and I will be long gone by the time Kal-El gets back."
Lois grounded out threw her teeth, "You and I long gone? Where are you taking me? Let me go, Luthor, and I might let you live!"
"Such bravado, Lois. I'm impressed."
"I want you to let me go." Lois spoke slowly, like she was trying to get a daft child to do as she asked.
"Yes, well, be that as it may Lois…get used to disappointment!" With that, Lex roughly pulled Lois off the bed and ordered her to get dressed and pack some things. He remained in the room leering at her as she got dressed.
It was the middle of the night when they left, no one was a witness to them leaving. No one knew. Lex ordered Lois into the car. After locking all the doors, he then went back inside the house. Finally, he returned and ordered the driver on his way.
"Lex, what did you do?" Lois asked, her voice husky and dry from trying not to give way to tears. One thing that was rotten about being pregnant was that she was becoming more emotional than she normally would've been.
Lex reached over and smoothed her cheek the way Kal did. Lois immediately pulled away to the far side of the limo. Her was jaw set, and disgust raging in her eyes.
"My dear, I took care of things," was all he said.
For the entire car ride, Lex was content to have things quiet, so neither one said anything on the way to the private plane that Lex had sent for. As they boarded, Lois heedless of what might happen, made a mad dash for nowhere. Of course, Lex's bodyguard caught her in a few short strides. Lex walked up to her and slapped her across the face. Lois was more surprised than hurt.
"Don't be stupid, Lois! Don't ever try that again." He raised his hand to her, threatening to hit her again, but pulled it back. "Understand?"
"I was so upset with Lex, and so sure that Kal-El would come and take me back." Lois started to pick up some of the toys that were scattered around the place. "It never occurred to me that Lex might have really done something so evil that it would be irreparable."
Clark had been sitting there listening to everything, reeling with emotions he couldn't understand. Yet somehow he felt the worst was yet to come. Lois seemed to have stopped talking, becoming caught up in picking up the toys and in her memories.
Carefully, Clark prodded for more. "What happened? What did Lex do?"
Lois paused, looking up at Clark as if to see him for the first time. She gave herself a mental shake and continued her story. "I didn't find out until much later. What Kal-El found on his return…well, it was very bad."
Kal-El walked into Lois's room looking for her. It was late, and no doubt she was asleep. He hadn't seen her in days, and sorely missed her. This peace-making idea was still very new to him; however, he'd done it and everything had been accomplished. He knew he owed it all to the one person who meant more than anything to him.
He couldn't help but smile as he thought about her, about all the things she'd done for him since they met. Opening a whole new outlook on life was just the beginning. Kal-El still had a difficult time holding onto his newfound benevolence. Lois had said that it would take time, and he was still working on it.
Kal-El was still smiling as he walked into her bedroom. Quickly, the smile turned into a disbelieving frown. Staring at the neatly arranged bed, he was unwilling to believe what his eyes were telling him. Slowly, he reached for the large photograph lying on the covers. It was Lex and Lois, together. Finally, Kal-El snatched up the picture.
No, it wasn't a faked photograph. His features darkened ominously as he flung the picture aside. Furiously pacing the room, Kal-El tried to conjure up an explanation, a reason that this could've happened. There was only one he could think of. Storming through the halls, he grabbed the first servant he saw and held the unfortunate man three feet in the air.
"Where is Lois?" Kal-El forced the question through his teeth.
The servant swallowed hard, as if trying to decide how to say it. "She's …gone, sir."
"I don't know. She's been gone for a day now."
"He's left, as well. We assumed they went off together. I'm not sure where…"
Before the man could finish, Kal-El flung him aside. He stalked back through the house to the nearest window and flew out over the city.
Lex and Lois had been in the air for some time. Lois was huddled to herself next to a window, staring blankly into space. She thought of Kal-El, wondering where he was and how long it would take him to find her. How much longer could she fight Lex off? Lois knew Lex cared nothing for her. This was all just some twisted game for him. Lex wanted to brake Kal-El, he'd hinted as much on certain occasions. In Lex's mind, Kal-El had betrayed their little agreement.
Slowly, Kal-El had begun to lose his reputation and was now looked upon as a benevolent benefactor out for truth and justice. This was putting a cramp in Lex's ultimate plans; he needed Kal-El with him. Or if not with him, then he wanted Kal-El dead so that there was no one to stop him. This thought formed itself, and realizing it made her blood run cold. If Lex found out about the baby, it would be horrific.
"My dear, you don't seem at all happy. Prone to air sickness?" Lex asked her sarcastically.
"It's not the flight, it's the company."
Lex wasn't bothered by her biting retort. He simply smiled. Lex was content to leave Lois alone, for the time being. Setting into motion the next wave of his plan was more important at this moment. Lex had decided clear back on Lois's first visit what must be done. Now that his plan was in full motion, staying patient was of the utmost importance. The plan would work to its fullest potential. If he played his cards right, he would get the "goose that laid the golden egg" back into his firm, and all knowing, control.
"Would you like a drink my dear?"
He handed her a crystal champagne glass. Lois looked at the glass with distrust, noticing that the glass was very familiar. "These are the glasses Perry gave me for my wedding!" Lois was indignant. She threw the champagne in Lex's face and pushed past him as she ran to the bathroom at the back of the plane. Locking the door behind her, she pulled up whatever wasn't tied down to the floor and pounded her fist into the wall. Furious, she vented her anger. When it was finally spent, she wiped her face with a damp rag. "Kal-El," she whispered. "Where are you?"
Lex wiped the contents of the glass from his face, then threw the glass to the floor. "What a shrew."
Kal-El scanned the countryside for any sign of Lois or Lex, his mind racing with jumbled thoughts. He could feel the hope and light vanish from his heart. How could she do this? Wait, he still wasn't sure. He couldn't believe that Lois would do this to him. Finding her was the most important thing, knowing that the truth was what he wanted. Hearing Lois's side was all he cared about. Hanging onto that thought, Kal-El flew on.
Lois was tired. No, she was exhausted. She had stayed in the bathroom the entire flight. Feeling weak from her venting and lack of sleep, she dared to only come out when the attendant announced they would be landing soon. She reclaimed her old seat next to the window, noticing it was early morning.
As they got closer to the ground, she was able to have a clear view of where they were headed. Just in front of them laid a lush, green field, with palm trees and thick vegetation. A Spanish hacienda was in the short distance, a beautifully landscaped house. The tropics. They must be somewhere in the tropics. Had it been another time, another place, and under different circumstances, she would have fallen in love with its beauty. The only thing she could see now was a prison, with Lex as the gatekeeper.
The plane landed and Lex came up behind her, putting his hand on her shoulder. Lois shrugged him off. "Don't touch me!"
Lex just sighed. "It's time we got off."
Lois got up and stormed to the opened door of the plane. She looked out into the morning sun. It was warm and the smell off the sea air was close. The attendant assisted her down the stairs.
Lois was shown to her room by pleasant looking, older woman. Lois could've sworn she'd seen this lady before. She reminded Lois of her grandmother. The woman wouldn't talk to her, nor would she look Lois in the face. So Lois decided she would be the one to try and break the ice.
"Thank you for your help. My name is Lois."
"I know who you are," the woman said quietly.
"Really? Well, you have the advantage. You look familiar to me, but I can't place you. What's your name?"
"I was a maid for Lex in Kal-El's house. My name isn't important," the woman said in a kind, but firm way, and that was the only thing the woman said. As soon as she helped Lois unpack, she was mysteriously gone. Lois looked around the room. There was a very ornate fireplace that faced the bed. The bed had sheets of the finest silk, and the room was decorated with a medieval theme.
She was so tired, and still feeling sick to her stomach, not to mention the fact that her nerves were frayed. Lois decided that, despite everything, she would go to sleep. Turning down the covers, she crawled into bed, only taking off her shoes. The minute her head was on the pillow, she fell into a fitful sleep.
Something had woken Lois up. Lifting her head slightly off the pillow, she looked around. It was dark, and everything was blurry as she stretched, trying to see something in the darkness. A flicker of light was coming from the foot of the bed. She sat up, and slowly the darkness subsided as she realized the flicker was a small fire. Slowly, her eyes adjusted to the light.
"Well, my dear, so nice of you to join the land of the living. I'm glad to see you're all right."
Lois jumped at the sound. She looked to her left to see Lex sitting in a big cushioned chair, sipping a glass of wine and just staring at her.
"Do you know how beautiful you look in the firelight?"
Exhaustion clouded her mind. She asked sleepily, "Where am I?"
"In my castle in the clouds. Don't you remember?"
"Now I do," her voice sounded hoarse. "I was hoping it was all a dream."
Lex flashed a slightly amused grin at her. "I can see you're still not recovered. So I will go. For now."
On his way out, he closed the door behind him, but not before he blew an insolent kiss to her.
The next morning, Lois awoke to Lex sitting next to her on the bed. He had breakfast there ready for her. She peered up at him groggily, annoyance clearly evident on her face.
"Lex, I really don't need to see your face every time I wake up." He just stared at her, as if he was trying to read her thoughts. "What is it?" Lois asked, worried now from the look he was giving her.
"I was just pondering the fact that I had expected things to be different." "I thought your infatuation with Kal-El was a bit of an annoyance. I had really hoped things hadn't come to where they are. It was such a bother to bring you here. You have no idea all the trouble I've gone through to set this whole matter to my liking." Lex shook his head in disbelief.
"Excuse me? What did you say? An infatuation? Set things to your liking? What are you talking about?"
"You don't need to know that just yet!" Lex shook his finger at Lois, his face inches from hers. "Just know this: your status as his wife, the role you so wonderfully played…it's over. That has changed!" Lex stepped back and hissed, "So the sooner you realize that, the better you will be."
"Now," Lex straightened up to his full height, "to the business at hand." Lex paced the room. "I have in my possession, the ability to bring Kal-El to his knees. I will accomplish this through his wife." Lex looked right into Lois 's eyes. She could see the greed, the pure evil in them.
Later that afternoon, Lois had been searching the house for some means of escape. Finding things were not left to chance, she tried every door and window she could get near. All of them where locked. Lois also noted that, besides the maid, there was only a minimal of staff on hand. She went to the kitchen to find something to eat. To Lois's great relief, she found it empty. She helped herself to what was there. Unfortunately, Lex came in shortly thereafter. Lois had been trying to avoid him thus far.
Without a warning, or even the slightest provocation, Lex lashed out at her. Lois fell to the floor with a thud. Picking herself back up, she gave Lex her most withering stare. Her voice dripping with sarcasm, she said, "This is not going to win me over." She wiped the small trickle of blood from the side of her mouth. "I'm just biding my time."
"Oh, so you think you can go back, do you? I assure you, that won't be possible. I've seen to that." Lex had such a look of triumph in his countenance that Lois was highly concerned.
"What are you talking about?" she asked, her voice sounding strange even to her own ears.
"Poor Kal-El would no doubt kill you." Lex turned his expression to a sad mock. "You've betrayed him Lois."
Lex walked over to his desk and pulled out a copy of the photograph he'd left for Kal-El. Throwing it down at Lois's feet, she gasped. She was furious, her face visibly turning red and then flushing. "You and I both know nothing happened. Except maybe in your twisted mind."
"Your dear husband doesn't know that. He thinks you've left him." Lex snickered. "He thinks you left him for me, and this picture proves it." Lex said simply.
"It proves nothing!"
"Come now, Lois. Anyone who sees this picture will come to the same conclusion. It's the way this world runs. Everyone is ready and willing to believe the worst in others. It's the good things we have a hard time with. The seed of doubt has been planted in his minded. No doubt, when he sees this picture he will comb the city looking for us, hoping against hope that the one person he cares so much for has not gone and done the unthinkable. He'll be begging that this is all just some kind of trick or misunderstanding."
Lois was starting to get very tired. She wasn't feeling well. The baby hadn't given her any peace for the last few days. That and Lex were taking a toll on her health. She was worried that she wouldn't be able to physically continue to fight him off much longer.
"Lex, you're a sorry excuse for a human being. You think you're so sly, so clever. This will come back to haunt you. You think you're so much better than Kal. You're nothing, Lex. Nothing at all. 'Sorry' isn't going to be half of what you'll feel."
Lois knew she shouldn't bait him, but something in her snapped and she didn't care anymore. "Pathetic, that's what you are. I don't feel anything for you, and I never will. You can't make me feel anything for you, Lex. When I look at you, all I have is emptiness."
Lex grabbed Lois's jaw. She inhaled sharply from the pain, but didn't cower. His face was just centimeters from hers. With rage flowing from him, he gritted his teeth and took her by the arms, shoving Lois away from him. She looked at him. It was clear that what he was trying to do was break her. She wouldn't let that happen. All he wanted was to get one up on Kal-El to see if he could break him. Lex knew the best way to accomplish this was through Lois.
"I don't think you fully realize what has happened here. My dear…cleaver? You have no idea. You no longer will hold the same light in Kal-El's eyes. You see, just the picture alone has ruined you. How are you going to explain it?"
"I'll tell him the truth! It was all a fabrication on your part. He would never believe I would choose…" she made a disgusted gesture toward Lex. "That I would choose to be with an animal like you."
Lex was furious. She had insulted him more than once, and once was one more time than anyone had ever dared. He walked in a quick stride and caught her by the upper arms. "Lois, was that a challenge?"
Lois had pushed him too far. She could see it in his eyes. They were glazed over with a strange light in them. Cold fear like she had never known seeped into her body.
With a roar of uncensored fury, he grabbed her by the back of her head and threw her to the floor, sitting on top of her. She tried to block the blows, kicking him…whatever it took. She was able to knock him off her, scrambling away on her hands and knees. Reaching for her, he grabbed her ankle and pulled as hard as he could. Falling backward as she was dragged, Lois hit her chin on the floor. Dazed, she continued to scramble away. The grip on her ankle overwhelmed her. Twisting her body around so that her back was on the floor, she used her free foot to kick. Lex was ready for this. Taking hold of the other leg, he continued to pull her to him. Again he was on top of her, his hand gripping her across the check, and his thumb pressed tightly under her bottom lip.
" Are you sure you're up to the challenge?" he asked. Lex wanted her to beg, plead. He wanted her to whimper and cry.
She lowered her jaw and bit his thumb. Pulling away, Lex quickly recovered by slapping her as hard as he could. Immediately, Lois started to see lights flash before her eyes, and her vision started to dim. Lex repeated this action again. She couldn't think clearly, and could vaguely make out what Lex was saying.
"You should not challenge me, Lois. Now, I'm afraid, I shall have to take you up on it!"
He regained his hold on her hair and forced her head back, making her mouth open involuntarily. She gasped, trying to free herself. Her concern for the baby made her frantic to get away. Lex was only flexing his muscle because he could.
"No, Lex, don't do this." It was stated as a command, not a plea. "You'll regret this, I swear." She set her teeth on edge. "Oh, how you will regret this." She ground out a pledge to herself and to him, still trying violently to fight him off. "If I have to kill you myself."
Suddenly, Lex got up. Grinding his teeth, he shook violently at Lois. "See what you did? You made me forget the more important things. You wanted to get me mad so I would do something. Well, it won't work, Lois. I have to keep you safe for right now." Lex pulled her roughly to her feet and shoved her into her room. "No, Lois, the best is yet to come."
It was some time later when Lois woke up with a start. She vaguely remembered Lex leaving her to herself, battered and bruised. She had somehow managed to get herself onto her bed.
There was a noise; someone had entered the room. Lois stopped breathing for a second, praying it wasn't Lex. To her surprise, the maid who had shown her in came to her side with a warm, damp rag. Without a word, she started to administer soothing aid to Lois, cleaning her face, arms and hands. Then she gave Lois some hot tea and an extra blanket.
Lois was so grateful as the maid helped her to get under the covers. Everything about her ached as if she had been dragged threw a valley of rocks. When Lois was settled in enough to the older lady's liking, she left Lois. Neither of them had said a word. Somehow Lois knew none was needed.
Now awake and alone with her thoughts, Lois began to remember. She was ready to break down and cry, but she stopped herself. She had every reason to be proud. She hadn't given in and begged, she hadn't shed a tear. Putting her hand to her stomach, she thought of the baby. She had to get through this, if not for anyone else, then for her child. She just had to hold out till Kal-El came.
"No, I'm not going to let him do this," she vowed in her mind.
She hurt too much, so she stayed where she was, and fell back into a deep slumber. In her dream, she was scolding herself. She had betrayed Kal-El. No…No! Wait, that wasn't right! She'd done nothing wrong. The blame was with Lex. He had taken the upper hand. This wasn't her fault. Surely Kal-El would be able to see that. Try as she might to reason with herself, guilt and regret seeped into her mind, building a wall of despair around her. How would she be able to tear it down? Would she ever be able to? Lois had her head in her hands and was lying in a fetal position, trying to gain some strength to get up when Lex came in and sat on the bed next to her.
"I'm sorry it has come to this, Lois. Truly I am. Don't you see that, because of your stubbornness, your inability to cooperate, it has left the two of us in quite a predicament. If you had done what I asked, perhaps I would've made things better between you and Kal-El. Now…" he shook his head. "Now it's too late. Kal-El will never take you back."
Lex got up and paced the room. "I expect him to come anytime now." He threw her a sidelong glance over his shoulder. "We'll have to tell him the truth."
Lois closed her eyes and steeled herself against the pain. "It doesn't matter, Lex. I'll tell him the 'truth'. You forced me to come here. I didn't come with you willingly. He will believe that."
"You don't ever learn, do you?" he came back to the bed and sat down, leaning in close to Lois. "You just don't get it. You're going to tell him just what I want you to say, and you're going to sound convincing."
"How can you make me, Lex? You've already done everything you could possibly do."
"Ahh, now there's where you're wrong." He paused for emphasis. "Lois, have you ever heard of Kryptonite?"
Lois stiffened. "Yes."
"Well, my dear." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a green bullet. "If you don't do as I tell you, this Kryptonite bullet is going to be aimed at Kal's heart. One of my best marksmen is on standby. You don't say and do what I want, and this will go through his heart. There'll be no more Kal-El, or anything else. Got it?"
Lois looked at him with disbelief, hating herself, for now the tears freely flowed down her cheeks. The thought of anything happening to Kal was more than she could bear. He was everything to her, and Lex was bent on ruining them all. The churning in her stomach became more intense as she tried to put on an outward show of strength. Starting to convulse, she leaned over the bed and, to her shame retched into the trash basket. Slowly, she slid her way out of bed. Lex watched her and was pleased at the sight before him.
This was turning out better than he thought. Carrying Kal-El's child left her vulnerable to the effect of Kryptonite.
"You want to kill him, anyway. Why go through all of this?"
"My dear, in time…all in good time."
"No, Lex, you're not going to do this. You will not do anything! I will sto—"
Lex roared, "How are you going to stop me? You are in *no* condition to *stop me*!"
"If you harm him in any way, I will never come to you willingly! It's one or the other, Lex. You can't have both on this one." Lois knew it was her only hope of possibly saving Kal-El. She had to do it for him.
"Lois, what makes you think I want you?" He looked at her as if she'd lost her mind. "Do you think I'm doing this just to have you all to myself?" Lex laughed maniacally. "No, no, my dear, that isn't the case. Kal-El will come down by my hand, one way or the other. Using you to that end will only serve as more entertainment for me, make my job all the sweeter, as it were. You keep threatening me. Lois, don't promise things you can't keep. I know that right now, my holding this bullet is making you sick. I know why, too."
Turning her wide eyes to him, she searched his face for a sign she knew was there.
"Yes, Lois. I know you're pregnant, and this bullet is affecting you and the baby the same way it will effect Kal-El."
Lois started to crawl across the floor. "Lex, get that thing away from me!"
"Don't worry, Lois. I don't want anything to happen to any of you just yet." Lex came closer to her, and Lois visibly lost the ability to move. " You just watch yourself. Do everything I tell you, and Kal-El will live. Make one wrong move, and I will hunt you and your baby like animals."
Kal-El had diligently looked for the trail Lex had left for him. Kal-El was on full sensor alert. The pieces of paper and map locations were just a little too obvious. It was a trap. He could feel it. Still, he had to go. He had to find out the 'truth.'
It was already nighttime when he reached the place that he knew held them both. The whole set up of the hacienda reeked of Lex's tastes. "Lex marks the spot," Kal thought sourly.
He landed in front of the hacienda and scanned the surrounding area. There were torchlights all over the front of the house, lighting it up in a festive mood, yet no one was around. It was so quiet even Kal-El's heightened hearing couldn't detect even a heartbeat. Only nearby animals, and the sound of the wind through the forest. There was nothing out of the 'ordinary' as far as he could tell.
Wait. Now there was something odd. The house was lead fortified. He couldn't see through it. He called out, "Lex, I know you're in there. Come out."
Lex casually strolled out of the front door and through the courtyard, stopping at a statue of a woman holding a jar over her head. He rested his hand against its leg, holding his signature glass of champagne and smoking a cigar. He looked very much like the cat that had gotten his cream.
Kal-El's countenance was hard and unyielding. "Where is she?" he folded his arms and fixed a glare on Lex.
"Where is who?" Lex asked with a smirk. "Oh, you mean Lois." He gestured to the house. "She's right here, safe and sound." He made a waving motion with his hand. "Quite *satisfied*, I might add."
Kal-El walked menacingly toward Lex. Not missing a beat, Lex called for Lois. He just smiled at Kal-El.
Lois walked out into the night air, looking as beautiful as ever, but also very pale. The nausea had come back, and in full force. Her whole day had been spent in bed, dreading this very moment.
She wanted to crawl in a hole and die. Her resolve was waning. She kept reminding herself of the bullet that would be aimed at Kal-El. This acting she was about to do had to work. She had to make it sound convincing. He was alive, and with everything she could muster, he would stay that way. Lex wouldn't win. He wasn't going to take that away from her.
"Kal-El," she said softly. "I need you to believe me when I say to you…this isn't easy for me."
"What isn't easy, Lois?"
Lois walked out further past Luthor to a large fountain that Kal-El stood before, and put her hand against it. The coolness of the water seemed to give her some kind of support. She turned back to Lex, contemplating not going through with it.
Lex seemed to read her mind. Reaching in his pocket, he pulled out a silver bullet and casually threw it up in the air, and then catching it. Its meaning was unmistakable.
She looked back at Kal, steadying herself to go on. *Kal!* Lois thought. *Please see through this. Please! Don't believe a word I say! He's trapped me. If I don't lie to you, he will kill you. Please see the lie!*
"I'm asking you to leave."
Kal-El gave himself a mental shake. "Asking me to leave?"
Lois rushed on. "I tried very hard, Kal." She furrowed her brow. "I wanted 'us' to work." She looked down at the ground and traced a circle in the dirt with her foot. "While you were gone, I did a lot of thinking, and I realized that things just weren't going to work out." She looked back at him with pleading eyes. "Think about what we had, Kal. It was…" she stammered. "Fun," her eyes glossed over with unshed tears. "It was beautiful…while it lasted."
* Kal!* Her mind screamed at him. *Lex has a gun with Kryptonite bullets aimed at your heart, and if I don't do this, you will die. Please! Forgive me, please! See that this is all a lie. *
"I just don't think I'm cut out for marriage," she said matter of factly. "Lex was just in a convenient place for me," she shrugged. "He was able to take me away from that fortress you call a home."
Kal-El walked quickly past Lois and stepped up to Lex, grabbing him by the collar, lifting him high off the ground. "What have you done?"
Lois ran to Kal-El and tried to pry Lex away, fearful of the gunshot she could already hear in her mind.
"No, Kal-El, this is my decision, my choice. I'm asking you to leave. Please don't make this harder for me."
* Please *
"Harder for you?" he roared. "You picked this…this." He tossed Lex aside and walked up to Lois, putting his hands on her upper arms, forcing her to face him.
Kal-El was reeling. He loved her so much, and the thought of letting go was impossible. He was willing to forget this whole thing. He would forgive, he would forget. He wanted and needed her back. Kal-El knew he would do whatever it took the moment he saw her.
*Why is she doing this?* his mind screamed in protest. *Doesn't she know how deeply we're tied together? How much I need her? She's like the sun to me.*
"And where is this decision going to take you?" he asked, the muscles of his jaw rippling.
Lois looked down, unable to look into his eyes and put her thoughts into words.
* Please *
"Lois," he pleaded. "My sunshine." He added so softly that she almost didn't hear it. That was almost more than Lois could bear.
"Tell him, Lois," sneered Lex.
She took one last deep breath.
* Please *
"It's not worth it anymore, Kal. Things have changed. *I've* changed."
"Tell me, is this real? Do you mean what you're saying? Is that photograph real? Tell me Lex has put you up to this! Tell me!" he repeated in a low, but forceful tone.
"It's very real, Kal." Her voice sounded monotone, lifeless.
Cold, dark fury choked him, and at first he couldn't speak. "Lois," he said hopelessly. "Why?" He felt as if she were fading from his sight, even though he held her firmly in his arms.
"Do yourself a favor, Kal, don't ask any questions. Just accept it. What we had together, it can't be anymore, and that is that."
* Please! * Her mind cried out one last time in pure desperation.
"Let it end. There is nothing for us."
"All my life I've guarded myself from getting too close to anyone or anything. I had thought and hoped you had proved me wrong, that you were different from the others of your kind," he said in disgust. "You're no better than any of them. I've been used long enough. It ends here. No more will I allow anyone to stab me in the back." He looked deep into her eyes. "This was the most unkindest cut of all."
He let her go, and she turned to leave, turning back as if she remembered something. Reaching for his hand, she placed something inside of it. He looked at his closed hand and thought it strange. He hadn't noticed that she'd been holding anything. Realizing what she had given him, Kal-El went cold. It was as if he'd looked upon the face of the fabled character Medusa. His body and mind turned to cold stone.
There, in his hand, laid small pieces of a crushed sunflower. In that instant, the small bud of truth and justice that had been slowly growing and nurturing itself, ceased to exist.
Kal-El felt the cold, hard steel return, fortifying him. Emotions were a thing of the past once again.
The Darkness had fallen once again.
The pain Lois saw flash in an instant in Kal-El's eyes was like a knife in her heart. Looking over at Lex, she saw the triumphant smirk on his face. When her gaze went back to Kal's, what she saw chilled her to the very bone. She couldn't take it any more. She didn't care if both Lex and Kal-El hunted her down. Turning away, she ran as fast as she could.
Lex was very pleased to see his plan working the way he had designed. "Poor Lois," he thought with amusement. She was playing her role so well, thinking she was saving her beloved's life. *Oh, if only she knew just what I really have planned for her.*
Lex continued to watch the play unfold before him, waiting, hoping for the right moment. It came when Lois started to run.
Lex opened a small box that had been hidden in back of the statue, next to him. Instantly, Kal-El felt the effects of the Kryptonite. He was instantly disoriented. He tried to reach for Lex, but it was hopeless. Lex laughed at Kal-El, and, pulling out a gun, he aimed it and fired.
Lois fell to the ground.
"Noooooo!" Kal-El's scream could be heard for miles away.
Lex laughed. "This is working out so well, I amaze even myself."
Kal-El focused all his energy on the hacienda, and it exploded into a gigantic ball of flames. Debris from the house and yard went flying everywhere. Lex was thrown across the yard from the explosion. Kal covered his head and fell to the floor behind the fountain. He looked up and saw Lois's body still lying there in the grass. The flickering light from the surrounding flames from the house set a surreal cast to everything. It seemed as though Kal-El was moving in slow motion. The fire roared in his ears, and the heat and pain from the Kryptonite was growing more intense by the second.
He tried to crawl his way to the Kryptonite. Inch by inch, he made his way toward it, his body racked with pain, and his brow sweaty from the exertion. The palms of his hands were scratched and bruised. People suddenly appeared out of nowhere and started to try to put out the flames.
*Where did they come from?* thought Kal-El, still dazed.
Inching his way closer, he finally made it to the box and struggled to close the lid. The box was shut. Kal-El collapsed face down in the dirt, gasping as his lungs filled to their capacity. Slowly, he collected himself and rose to his feet. He still felt sluggish, and every muscle ached from the smallest movement. Dragging his feet, he could tell that ever so slowly he was returning to normal. This wasn't a feeling he'd had in a long time. Not since Trask. He flashed back to the time when he was with Doctor Boolean. He could see it so clearly in his mind. She was kind and gentle, always giving a kind word or look, or giving him a new toy to challenge his mind and skills. She was always telling him she loved him. Then she left him, and the men had taken him away and into the darkness.
*Lois,* he thought, turning to where he knew her body lay. She had betrayed him. She had done with a few simple words what years of abuse couldn't do. She had made him hate.
It was gone. The body was gone. Someone had moved it. Kal-El gave a loud cry into the night and flew off in a whirl of wind and fury.
Opening her eyes was impossible. She hurt to move, even in the slightest way. The fumes and smoke filled her lungs making them burn with every breath. The smell of charcoal lingered in her nostrils. She could hear people around her, and had the sensation of being moved. She was doing her best to open her eyes, to make any sound that would let them know she was awake. Her efforts were in vain. Her terribly weakened body couldn't respond in any way. The air was fire and ice around her, and there was a throbbing pain in her back. No longer being able to stand the effort, exhaustion overcame her, and she drifted back into nothingness.
A few days later…
"Lois? Lois, can you hear me? Please wake up," the voice repeated over and over.
Lois could hear it as though she were in a tunnel. Wishing the voice would go away, she ignored it, letting the darkness in again.
It wasn't until much later that Lois woke up, looking around at her surroundings and finding her vision was blurred. Trying to make out the shapes in front of her, she realized they were people.
Jimmy looked up from his book and nudged Lucy awake. "Lucy, wake up. Lois is awake."
"Lois?" Lucy said groggily. She took her sister's hand. "Lois, it's me, Lucy. Hey, it's good to see you." She kissed Lois on the forehead. "We've been so worried."
Lois tried to talk. Her mouth was dry, making it difficult. "Water."
Lucy reached over and poured some water out of a pitcher they had waiting for her. Realizing just how thirsty she was when the cool liquid touched her lips, she drank with greed until Lucy pulled the cup away.
"Don't drink so much, Lois. You're still weak. It'll make you sick."
Lois let her head drop back down to the pillow, closing her eyes tightly as the images flowed freely into her mind like a torrent river. Tears threatened to slide down her cheek.
"Lucy, where am I? How did I get here? Lex killed me."
"No, Lois, Lex didn't kill you, just hurt you. I'll explain it when you're a little stronger. We did almost lose you."
"How long have I been out?"
"About a couple of days."
Lois made an effort to get out of bed. "I have to get up."
"Lois," Lucy warned. "You can't leave. You've been too sick. Besides, we had to take you into hiding. Lex is missing, and nowhere to be found. Kal-El has destroyed most of Metropolis."
"Destroyed most of Metropolis?"
Jimmy stood up. Shoving his hands into his pockets, he offered, "Kal-El is destroying anything and everything that reminds him of you."
Lois stared blankly at Jimmy. Nervous, he rushed on. "He took down your old apartment building and the Planet first thing."
Lois closed her eyes and slowly pushed air out between her teeth, trying to steady her heart. "Of all the… Oh, Kal. What will that accomplish? How did I get here?"
"We don't really know. I mean," Jimmy corrected himself "this old woman brought me to you. We're in some kind of underground bunker. This group of people has been keeping it up just in case they had to hide from Lex or Kal-El. You see, they've been trying to hide from a revolt, and this place was the best. It's lead-lined. So far, it seems to work very well."
"I had the impression no one was suppose to know that I was coming with Lex to the island."
"Lex had a lot of little affairs at that place. If those that were undercover had intervened, the covers of some would have been blown."
"Lois, we have to talk." Lucy took her sister's hand and calmly explained, "You were hurt pretty bad, you know. We needed a doctor we could trust to look at you." Lucy smiled as best as she could. "Hum, Lois, they had to do some tests. You see, even though you were hurt very badly, the injuries you suffered…well, they should've killed you out right, and well…"
"Lucy," Jimmy admonished. "Tell her."
"Shut up, Jimmy. I'm getting to that," snapped Lucy.
"Tell me what? You said I was better. What is it?" Lois was worried.
"Lo. Dear, you're pregnant."
"I know," Lois said solemnly.
"You know? How?"
"I saw Doctor Klein before this all happened. I know."
"I don't know why the doctor didn't say something, that you knew."
"What did the doctor say?"
"He said that it seems the reason you didn't die was because of the baby. You've developed some slight powers."
"The Kryptonite Lex was using affected me, as well."
"I'm going to leave you two alone for a bit," Jimmy said as he quietly walked to the door.
Lois's bottom lip started to quiver as she glared at Lucy, daring her to say anything. Lucy searched Lois's eyes, trying to decide if her news would be bad or good. "Lucy, I can't go back. Lex fixed it so I can't go back. For the sake of the baby, they both can never know I survived. Promise me."
"Lois, what happened? You're alive. Kal-El would be happy."
"No, he wouldn't now, and if I showed my face, Lex would surely kill us all. I have to stay away. Lex thinks I'm dead. It has to stay that way."
Lois dropped back down to the pillow. Lucy volunteered the information that Lois didn't seem to remember. "Lois, Doctor Klein thinks that the reason you weren't hurt was because of the baby. It would seem that it has some of its father's invulnerability, and due to the aura it creates, you have benefited from that. The reason why you were hurt at all is because it's still so young."
Lois listened to her sister, then, feeling so very tired, she closed her eyes and fell asleep. Getting up, Lucy kissed her big sister on the cheek and walked out the door. Jimmy was standing just down the hall, waiting for her.
"Did you tell her?"
"Yeah. She's asleep now. I…hum…I really wanted to thank you for sticking by my sister."
"Lois is my only real friend, next to Perry. I'd do anything for her." Jimmy laughed self-consciously. "I've never told anyone, but I used to have a crush on her. I always thought she was so beautiful."
"Sounds like a classic schoolboy crush to me. What changed your mind?"
Jimmy took a deep breath. It was now or never, should he take the plunge? Telling Lucy just how he felt was a big step, was now a really the best time to make that step? This setting wasn't how he pictured it, he had always imagined he would tell her in some romantic setting like a park or on top of the Metropolis observatory. Instead it was in an underground bunker inside a stark white corridor.
"'What changed my mind'. That's a tough one." He flashed Lucy a lopsided grin. Reaching out, he smoothed a piece of her hair behind her ears, daring at last. "I met her sister."
Lucy smiled like a schoolgirl and boldly asked, "So now are you going to kiss me?"
Jimmy was ecstatic. He leaned forward and brought his lips to Lucy's in a playful peck.
"You call that a kiss, Olsen?" Lucy grabbed Jimmy by the scruff of the neck and showed him just how she wanted to be kissed.
For nine months, Lois was kept in hiding. They couldn't risk having Lex, or Kal-El for that matter, find out she'd survived. The small bands of surfaced rebels tried time and again to take down Lex and Kal-El, but their attempts were far from successful. Finally, the decision was made to pull back and regroup.
Jimmy had decided to join one of the groups, and soon was heading up some of the campaigns. He was becoming frustrated with his efforts. Lois was about ready to have the baby, and both Lucy and Lois pleaded with him not to leave. Little did Jimmy realize that every time he and the others came back from their attacks with the report that they were unsuccessful in defeating Kal-El, Lois would say a little prayer of thankfulness.
Lois was greatly disturbed by the fact that Kal-El had chosen to continue his dealings with Lex. She was of the opinion that since Lex was the one who'd had an affair with his wife, or so he thought, that it would deter him. But it hadn't. Also, the fact that, as far as they both knew, Lex was the one who killed his wife. Yet they were still partners.
One night, Lois was asleep at last. She had been experiencing pain off and on all that day. As she drifted off to sleep, she thought of the baby and of Kal. Endlessly, she dreamt of him.
The images of him wouldn't stop in their intensity. First, she saw him standing in front of her, in beautiful black robes. He was calling to her, reminding her that he loved her, that what happened in the past was all a mistake, and that he loved her, and that was all that mattered.
Next, he turned his back on her and walked away. She tried to run after him, but couldn't seem to catch up. Just as she would get so tired of running, Kal stopped and whirled around to face her. Lois ran smack into him and fell to the floor. As she looked up, she saw that the once beautiful robe was tattered and torn. Kal's face was different, hard and unforgiving, almost as if it were made of actual steal. Lois reached up to him. The man before her just stared, as if he didn't even see her. Then he looked away. Something else had his attention now. He turned and ran to some other point just beyond Lois 's sight.
Lois called to him. "NO! Stop, come back!"
The figure turned to see her again, and Lois called his name, which got a response. He looked down to her and his face seamed to have aged. He reached out a hand to her. It was gnarled and scared. Lois was horrified. Looking up at his face again, she saw another face where Kal's had been. The face she saw was that of Lex, his face ruined by all-consuming greed. Someone was crying. Was it her? Lex looked to the side, as if he heard the crying, as well. The sound was the wailing of a small baby. He smiled and turned to Lois.
Reaching within his cloak, he threw something to the floor. Lois saw immediately what it was. Caked with blood was the blanket she had bought for the baby, the one with the sunflowers. Unbelieving, she looked up at Lex. He laughed maniacally, his words ringing in her ears.
"Kal-El's son is mine!"
Lois started to scream. She got louder as Lex laughed and walked away. She was still screaming when Jimmy and Lucy ran into the room. Lois was thrashing in the bed as if she were wrestling with someone.
"No! No! No!" Lois kept repeating.
Lois reached down and picked up the bloody robe Lex had thrown down. Something dropped from it as she lifted it. She looked down. It was her wedding ring, bent and broken. Lois fell to the ground sobbing.
She cried as if her heart was breaking, and Lucy and Jimmy could hear it in her sounds. Lois still didn't wake up. Lucy and Jimmy could do nothing but lie there with her and listen with heavy hearts as she cried into the night.
The next morning, the sunlight-simulating lamp slowly went from dim to bright, as its timer was set. Peeking through the "window" and waking slowly, she stretched as much as she could before a muscle rebelled. Wincing at the pain, she felt as though she'd gone twenty rounds with a Sumo wrestler. Her rib muscles were sore. The memories of the dream came back somewhat, and she shivered.
Lois could hear a soft voice in the other room. She reached down to pat her stomach. She was still having a lot of discomfort. Slowly, she got out of bed, looking around her room. She went into the front room to find Lucy and Jimmy. They looked at her with so much concern that Lois realized she must have woke them last night. Lois had dark circles under her eyes, and despite the fact of being pregnant, she looked too thin.
"I'm sorry if I disturbed you last night."
Lucy and Jimmy gave each other a sidelong glance. "Would you like some breakfast?"
"Ahh, yes. But just a little."
Lois turned and was headed for the bathroom when a sharp pain took her unawares. Leaning against the wall for support, she gasped. Lucy realized the pain for what it was, and quickly ordered Jimmy to call the guards and get Dr. Klein.
The pain started to intensify, and she gasped.
"Hold on, sis. We're almost there." Lucy was trying her best to comfort Lois.
"This really hurts," gasped Lois.
Lois was trying to remember her breathing techniques; however, she was having a hard time concentrating. She'd been in some serious pain for a few hours now, and was greatly relieved to see that Doctor Klein had just arrived.
"How far apart are her contractions?" asked Doctor Klein.
"They're about two minutes apart, and they're coming on fast," explained Lucy.
"I shouldn't have done this! What if his powers are apparent right away? What if something goes wrong?" Lois was starting to panic all over again.
Doctor Klein was kind, yet firm. "Lois, we discussed this. Remember, everything will be all right. I'll see to that. You just worry about delivering this baby. All right?"
Lois nodded slightly, and then braced herself for another wave of pain.
"Lois, you're almost there. I'll be back in a minute, and by then I think you'll be ready."
Jimmy was waiting out in the hallway. He'd sent a private message to Perry. Lucy continued her vigil by Lois, holding her hand and trying to soothe her with encouraging words.
"You're doing fine, Lois, just fine. A little bit more and all this will be over, and it will be worth it."
She could see how Lois was getting very tired. She prayed that everything would be okay. None of them knew what to expect at the birth of this unique child.
Lois wished, with all her heart, that her Kal was here to greet *his* son. But he was not and could not be here. He didn't even know that when he left Lois, he also was leaving a son.
Lois kept a special place in her heart for her son, and his father. She sent him a wish in her heart that he was safe and alive, and a wish of her own that things had been different.
"Kal, we need you."
That night, Lois safely gave birth to a little boy. The baby had screamed furiously in protest at the cold, bright world he'd been brought into. He was a healthy baby, and that was all that mattered. The doctor had made a comment that he had never heard a baby scream so loud.
"He gets that from me," Lois had laughed.
Later that night, when Lois was recovering from the birth, and the baby had been checked over thoroughly, the baby had been brought to Lois. She held him and checked his little fingers and toes, laughing when she realized he had a shock of black hair on his little head. The baby yawned, and grabbed his mother's finger.
"My goodness, you're strong." Lois hadn't felt this happy in a long time.
She was content to just stay there and stare at this wonderful little person. There was a knock on the door. Lucy, Jimmy and Perry slowly peeked around the corner. Lois waved them in. The trio was bursting with pride as they came up to meet the new arrival.
"Oh, guys, he's so beautiful." Lois started to cry as she held her son. "Why did it have to be this way? Why is Kal not here? He's suppose to be here!"
"I know, sweetheart, I know." Perry lovingly squeezed Lois's shoulder.
Lucy tried to console her sister. Some days it was hard for her to give Lois comfort, especially when she, herself, felt like crying. Lucy was mad at Kal-El for not believing in his wife. She asked herself over and over why life had to be so cruel to everyone. Yet it was so beautiful at the same time. Here, just a few inches away laid her nephew, a strong and healthy boy. They'd been so worried about Lois, and her ability to carry a Kryptonian child. Thankfully, everything had gone well. Now, here was this small, beautiful boy.
Lois sensed the mood was shifting to somberness, and asked Perry if he would like to hold the baby. "Here, Perry. Hold your godson."
Perry was delighted. Gently, he took the boy. Beaming over his shoulder, Lucy and Jimmy looked on.
"I can't stop smiling. He's the best thing that's happened in a long time."
"I was just thinking the same thing." Lois laughed.
"I finally picked out a name for him," Lois said sheepishly. Then, taking a deep breath, she hurried on and announced, "Jeremy James Lane."
"Oh, Lois," Jimmy scratched his head. "I've never been an uncle before."
Jimmy reached out to take his turn holding the baby. Lois noted, with some amusement, that Perry was very reluctant to hand the boy over. Lucy gave Lois a hug and wiped a tear from her eye.
"Well, Lo, you did it. I'm so happy for you."
Jimmy held the baby, beaming with happiness. Perry was making faces at the baby. Both women looked at the silly grin on the two's faces, trying not to laugh too hard.
"How's my guy? You 're a good boy, aren't you?" Perry cooed to the baby. "You just wait. We'll go fishing, and I'll teach you how to throw a ball. Would you like that?" The baby, immediately taken with his these two men, made gurgling noises at them. "Yeees, my little, wittle boy would love that. Yes, you would."
Both women looked at each other and started to laugh. Perry looked at them. "What?" Lucy and Lois laughed even harder.
The next day, they were all sitting in the front room, at first content to just be in each other's company. Each one wouldn't admit it, but even through the happiness they felt with little James' arrival, there was something missing, and they all knew it.
"Is anyone up for some hot chocolate?" asked Lucy.
"Yes, sweetheart. I'd love some."
"You, Perry? Jimmy?"
"Sure," they both said in unison.
Lois got up and called out to Lucy. "Luce, keep mine warm for me. I'm going to go feed the baby."
Lois quietly went into her room and settled in for some much-needed time alone with her baby. She settled back on the bed and began to nurse him. Softly, she sang to him, touched his cheek, and examined his hands and toes, counting them again for the hundredth time. She marveled at their seemingly perfect shape. "Kal," she whispered softly. "I'm so sorry." She let a tear fall to her cheek.
"Jimmy, Lucy, Jeremy and I have been living here in this hide away ever since. Kal-El crushed most of the rebel fighters. We've just been here biding our time, until last week. Somehow Lex's people found us, and were able to take my sister and my son. I was left with a ransom note."
Lois passed Clark a wrinkled piece of paper. He read it out loud.
"My dear Lois, I have your sister and the child. Should you want them back, It would be wise of you to meet me at the old Daily Planet building. Tuesday at four o'clock."
Clark looked around for a watch. "That's in one hour, Clark."
"You're going to meet him? Lois, you can't do this alone. I'm going to go with you."
"I appreciate your concern, Clark, but I don't want you or anyone there."
"You can't go!"
Lois looked up at him from her task, lifting her eyebrow as she challenged him. "I'm going. You can't stop me."
"Lois, you're being foolish."
"Clark, don't start. I'm going to meet Lex. I'm going to put a stop to this mess once and for all. Besides, I made him a promise that I fully intend to keep it."
"This is more than you can handle. Believe me, I know!"
"You don't know anything! You live in a world where Luthor is dead, where you and Lois are happily married. You have no idea how I feel! Oh, sure, you know the story. What you don't realize is that I can't live like this anymore! I have a son, whose father doesn't even know he exists, a son who knows his father would kill his mother if he knew I was still alive. There is a mad man out there who wants nothing more than to destroy. He wants us all dead. This may be more than I can handle, but I'm hoping to put an end to this once and for all."
She grabbed a small box and, before Clark realized what was going on, he bent over in pain.
Lois left the box open, but helped Clark to the couch. "There is just enough here to make you unable to follow me. I'll be back before it does any real damage."
"Lois," he gasped. "Don't do this. Please!"
"Lex has my sister and my son. It's all or nothing, Clark. I'm taking him down myself." Lois raced out of the room.
Shortly after that, she arrived at the designated meeting ground. The old Daily Planet building, or rather what was left of the DP building. Her nerves were on edge, all of her senses on full alert. Slowly, she climbed the stairs. The smell of mildew permeated the air, burning her eyes and nose. Dust motes were everywhere as they danced their way around the corridors and rooms on the beams of afternoon light that shined through the cracks in the building. As she got up closer to the floor where the newsroom used to be, she could hear scuffling noises. Carefully, she took out her gun and prepared herself for what lay next.
Jimmy's heart was racing. He had to get to Clark, and fast. Reaching Lois's room, he opened the door to find Clark lying helplessly on the couch. Seeing the box of Kryptonite, Jimmy quickly closed the box and rushed over to Clark, who quickly informed him that he'd found out Lois had gone to meet Lex by herself, and was planning to kill him. He also told him that there had been an explosion in that area.
It had been two hours since Lois had gone. Deep down, Clark knew something was wrong. Jimmy only confirmed his fears. They rushed out onto the streets.
"Jimmy, the Kryptonite was enough to weaken my powers considerably. We're going to have to find a way of getting there, and quick."
"I realize that. We can use my cycle."
Jumping on the motorcycle, they headed to the Planet, both praying it wasn't too late.
As Lois got closer, she could hear voices. She couldn't make out whose they were. Getting closer to the door, she gasped in shock.
"Kal-El!" She quickly turned around and leaned her back against the wall. She started to gasp for air, leaning her head against the wall and looking up at the ceiling, trying to get her heart under control. If Kal-El had indeed collaborated this whole thing with Lex, there would be no hope at all. She would be more than outnumbered. She would be the one to die.
Lex had been waiting patiently for Kal-El to arrive, looking over at little Ms. Lucy Lane and the boy. Lex was more than pleased with himself. Surely Lois was frantic over her kid sister and her son. Jeremy started to whimper.
"Shut the kid up," said Lex.
"He's tired and hungry."
"Just shut him up!"
Lucy picked Jeremy up and held him, rocking him and soothing him with kind words. "Shush now, love. Everything will be all right."
The little boy was trying to be brave. He knew the bad man wanted to hurt his mommy. He looked up at his aunt and said in a very quite voice, "I need Mommy. I'm scared."
"I know, sweetie. Me, too. But I hope your mommy is far away from here."
Just then a *thump* was heard, followed by a gush of wind. Lucy was amazed to see Kal-El land in front of them. Instinctively, she held her nephew closer. Kal-El immediately saw Luthor standing there waiting for him.
"Kal-El, so nice of you to drop by."
"What's this all about, Luthor?"
"All in good time, all in good time." He smiled and motioned to Lucy. "Kal-El, have you meet Lucy Lane and Jeremy? Oh, you do remember your own sister-in-law?"
Kal-El was more than a little surprised to see Lucy there. He swung back around to Luthor. "What's going on here?"
"I have arranged for a little family reunion. However, we still have a guest missing. She should be here any moment."
Lois took that as her cue. She took a deep breath, deciding that Lex had planned this out well. No matter the outcome, she wouldn't be able to stay in the shadows any longer. Kal-El would find out the truth. She'd been alive all these years. Steadying herself, she took one last deep breath and walked into the room.
Lucy and Kal-El shared the same shocked expression. Lex, of course, was the first to greet her. "Lois, you look lovely as always. I'm so pleased you could make it."
At first, Lois didn't see Lucy, and for her own sake, she ignored Kal-El. "Where are they, Lex?"
"I'm sorry, Lois, I don't know what you mean." Lex grinned from ear to ear.
"We're right here, Lois."
Lois turned around and saw Lucy siting on the floor, holding Jeremy. She rushed over, checking them both out to make sure they were indeed okay.
"Are you going to save us, Mommy?" whispered Jeremy in Lois's ear.
She kissed him on the check and smiled with faked reassurance. "I'm going to try, love." She looked at Lucy. "Sis, I have no doubt things are going to get ugly. I want you to take care of Jeremy. Got it? I mean, get out of here the first chance you get. Run, and run far. Don't look back. Just remember I love you both and I always will."
"Lois!" Lucy pleaded.
"Promise me, Luce. Promise me you'll take care of my son."
Lois stood up, pulled the gun from under her coat, turned on one heel, and pointed it right at Lex. "I'm sick of this game, Lex. It's ending now."
Kal-El had recovered from his shock and spoke up. "Lois?"
Not taking her eyes of the grinning Lex, she responded, "Yes, Kal, it's me." She was pleasantly surprised at how strong she sounded.
"You were dead. I saw you die," he said in bewilderment.
"Oh, badly injured, Kal. I would've died. Thanks to my fairy godmother, I survived," she said sarcastically.
Lex looked undisturbed. "I'd wondered how you survived. I shall have to take care with my aim next time."
Lois turned her full disappointment to Kal-El, voicing her long time resentment. "I find it curious, Kal-El, that you didn't rage against the man who killed your wife. I almost wish you had disposed of Lex long ago. Oh, but wait. Why defend me? I betrayed you, didn't I?"
Lois methodically walked up to Lex, careful not to take her eyes or aim off of him.
Kal-El stepped menacingly up to Lois. To her amazement, she stood there calmly, never moving her attention off of Lex.
"You betrayed me. I let you into my life and you took my trust, my faith and my honor, and threw it in my face," he bit out at her.
"I betrayed you? Well, Kal-El, it seems to me that you didn't have any trust, faith or honor in me. Ever ask yourself why I did such an about face in a matter of days? You didn't know me at all, Kal."
"Lois, you looked me in the eye and said you wanted it to end. You were the one who ended it. You were the one who went away, with another man!"
"If you really believed that, Kal-El, you're a bigger fool than I thought. Did you really stop and think why I might have said what I did? Did you really think I would have left you for another man? Did you really think I left you for this piece of worm-ridding filth?"
"Now, Lois," Lex reprimanded. "That's hardly complimentary. I thought our time together was magic."
"Lex, I'm through playing games. I might have let things go as they were. But," Lois shook her head. "You overstepped yourself. Coming after me is one thing. Coming after my family is quite different."
Kal-El was growing angrier by the second. He didn't know who he wanted dead more, Lois or Lex.
"Don't try and cover things up, Lois. You may regret what you did now. We both know that at the time you were quite serious. I saw the picture. You confirmed it wasn't a fake. You betrayed me, and that's all that matters."
"Oh, and it gets worse, Kal-El. Our dear Lois forgot to mention her son."
There was a collective gasp from Lois and Lucy. Up until now, Lucy had remained silent, hoping for the chance to run and find Jimmy. But now she realized her mistake.
Kal-El turned to them and picked both her and Jeremy up, taking them into Perry's old office. He then tied them to a beam of wood he'd taken out of the wall and rammed into the floor.
Lois was worried now. How would Lucy be able to get Jeremy out of there? She now wished she had let Clark tag along. Lois's arms started to ache from her holding the gun on Lex for so long. She was starting to become very irritated with his seeming nonchalant demeanor.
"Tying up a woman and child. That was very 'Lex' of you, Kal-El."
Lex laughed at that, deciding to put the last nail in her coffin. "Lois, why didn't you tell me we had a son?" He tried to sound so innocent.
Kal-El's wound opened once again. "Lois, we're still married. You had his son?"
Lois was stunned and shocked. This was it, she thought. Lex isn't going to live a second more.
"Kal," she said grievously. "You haven't listened to anything I've tried to tell you." As she spoke, her indignation and desire to inflict pain on Kal-El grew. She'd hurt him just as he'd hurt her. "Honestly, now, Kal. Did you go around saving the world and seemingly changing your ways because you started to see the goodness in it? Or," she provoked him. "Were you just trying to keep me in your bed?"
Kal-El was enraged. He made a move for Lois. Realizing what he was about to do, he pulled back. The need to lash out was overwhelming. Ramming his fist into the remnants of an old desk, he sent splinters of wood flying everywhere.
Lois stood unwaveringly, holding the gun on Lex, but remorsefully looking at Kal-El. If he could've seen what she was thinking, he would've known that she still cared very much for him, in spite of all that had transpired between them. The look in her eyes, how could one describe it? Loss, hopelessness, a longing for all that was gone? Something touched Kal-El in away he hadn't felt in a long time. Not since…well, since he and Lois had been together. She had a power over him no one else had.
Kal-El became ashamed at his actions. Realizing it was Lois who made him feel this way, he tried to steel himself again. Why should he feel so bad? Lois was the one who'd betrayed him. Lois was the one who'd ended it all for them. Something inside him had always wanted revenge. He contemplated hurting Lois right now, just as much as she'd hurt him. Kal-El even made a move once again toward Lois, then halted. He couldn't bring himself to do it. Completely incapable of hurting her in any way, he realized that there was nothing left for him to do but leave. He had to leave the planet. Nothing had ever been good for him here.
Nothing had ever been lasting and true. Lois was alive. How his heart soared with happiness! But he also realized he could no longer stay here, knowing she was alive. It would be too painful for him to know that she was right there within reach. Yet he'd have to stay away from her.
He lifted himself off the ground, hovering just above the heads of the people standing in the room. Solemnly, he looked down at his wife, looking at her as if to memorize her lovely face one last time.
"I…I…need to leave. It's time that I left this world."
Lex became nervous. "Leave, Kal-El? Leave this world? You can't—we have too much at stake."
"No, Lex. *You* have too much at stake. I don't want any part of this any longer."
"Kal-El, you can't leave me! We're together in this. I made you who you are. Without me, you're nothing! Do you hear me? Nothing!"
"No, Lex, you're wrong again. Without me, *you* are nothing."
Kal-El turned away without a word and slowly began to drift out of the window.
"Now, now, Kal, watch yourself." Lex pulled out his gun from his pocket. "I had this made especially for you."
"Bullets won't stop me, Lex."
"No, but Kryptonite will."
Lex fired the shot at Kal, hitting him full in the chest. Kal-El staggered back and fell to the floor, surprise and shock evident on his handsome face.
"Kal!" Lois screamed, rushing to her husband's side. She could see that the wound was fatal. Kal-El was dying.
Lois lowered herself to the floor beside Kal and pulled his head into her lap. She couldn't control the quiet flood of tears that was welling up within her, and she let it spill over onto her face. She let him see. All her resolve to be strong forgotten, she let him see her cry. It didn't matter anymore. Her nightmare was playing itself out. Five years ago, she had betrayed him to save his life. It didn't matter that what she'd tried to prevent then, was happening now.
Kal looked up at Lois as she held him and cried. Through a fog of pain, he saw the expression on her face as she tenderly pushed his hair off his forehead. Why was she crying? She hates me. She betrayed me. Why is she sad? His confused mind couldn't make sense of the events that were taking place. But one thing he knew, and that was that he still loved her. With one weak hand, he reached up to her face, trying to wipe way her tears. Don't cry, Lois. Don't be sad. It's okay.
He looked at her face again, and saw the pain and guilt written on her features. He looked into her eyes, and then it dawned on him. She loves me. She still loves me. With a depth of feeling he couldn't describe, he knew that he wouldn't be able to hold her past betrayal against her. In that instant, he knew he could forgive her anything. And then, out of the darkness into which he could feel himself descending, one thought came crashing into his consciousness like a breaking wave.
Lois loves me. I don't want to die.
He struggled to speak, forcing himself to form the words. "Lois…" he gasped. "The bullet…help me…"
Lois let out a surprised sob. "Kal!" she choked out.
Lex walked over to stand at point blank range in front of Lois. He looked straight into her eyes, but his words were directed at Kal-El. "She can't help you, Kal. I won't let her."
Lex cocked the gun, aiming it at her head. "The first bullet was for Kal-El. I decided to make the last of the Kryptonite useful. This bullet, however," Lex began to squeeze the trigger. "This lovely little bullet is just for you, dear Lois."
Lex whipped around instinctively as little Jeremy came running into the room. Lois's eyes flew toward her son. Her mind screamed for him to get back even as she heard the shot.
Clark and Jimmy were halfway there when Clark heard a cry and a shot ring out. His heart skipped a beat.
"What's wrong, Clark? You look like you've seen a ghost."
"A shot, Jimmy! I heard a shot!" Clark was very worried and feeling more than helpless. "Lois!" cried Jimmy, gunning the engine to go even faster.
Heedless now of anything else, Lois lowered Kal-El to the floor and rushed over to her son. "Jeremy?" she called as she dropped to the floor, gathering the small, limp body into her arms. "Jeremy! Please answer Mommy!"
Even though Kal-El was in a lot of pain, he pushed himself off the floor. Holding onto the wall for support, he slowly pulled himself to his feet. All the time, he didn't divert his gaze from Lex's eyes.
"You would kill even your own son?" he spat in disgust.
Lex smiled condescendingly at Kal-El. "Well, since you're going to die, I guess it won't hurt to tell you anyway." He laughed. "Kal-El, simply put, I lied. You see, I was really trying to see how far I could push, so that you would dispatch Lois for me. You know, one angry swipe of the hand and it would've been all over?"
He closed his eyes and smiled as though he was seeing it happen in his head. Opening them again, he looked into Kal-El's eyes. "As for Jeremy, he's yours. I really had the utmost pleasure in taking him down right before your very helpless eyes. Thank you." He sketched a mocking bow.
This was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. With all his might, Kal-El rushed forward. Every joint and muscle in his body screamed in protest as he picked Lex up by the collar and pushed him up against the great glass window that had once proudly displayed the Daily Planet's logo. The glass cracked and shattered under the force, and Kal found himself holding Lex out of a window, above the street twenty stories below. He didn't know if he did it on purpose. He didn't know if it was fate that his strength chose to give out at precisely that moment. He didn't know. But just then he lost his grip on Lex's collar and he simply let go.
Spent, he sank to the floor beside his wife and his son.
Within minutes, they reached the front of the Planet building. They found Lex's body, or what was left of it, in the middle of the street. He was most definitely dead. Cautiously, they entered the building.
Jimmy looked around somberly. "I wasn't here the day the Planet was destroyed. I hadn't dared to come back and see her…" Jimmy tried to explain and hide a tear that had fallen down his cheek. "I, ah…hum…well…it's hard to see something you love die."
Clark placed a comforting hand on Jimmy's shoulder as he strained to hear any kind of movement. What he heard was someone softly weeping. "Upstairs, Jimmy."
They raced to the stairwell, climbing the floors as fast as they could. Jimmy worked hard to keep up with Clark. He'd just managed to catch up with him when Clark suddenly stopped. Jimmy slammed into Clark and fell to the floor, landing painfully on his right wrist.
"Oh, that hurt!"
"Sorry, Jimmy." Clark helped his friend up onto his feet.
"What is it? What do you hear?" Jimmy asked, cradling his right arm to his chest.
"I…don't know. The sound is coming from where the newsroom used to be."
Clark was the first one to reach the door. The all-too-familiar drain of power and nausea resurfaced, only it wasn't as strong as it had been before. Opening the door, Clark let Jimmy inside, then followed him carefully. What they saw within the room left them both stunned.
The old newsroom still held signs of the bustling newspaper that had once lived within its walls. Copy paper and electronic parts from copier machines, computers and telephones littered the floor. A few desks lay in splinters in the far corners. The huge window that had displayed the proud name "Daily Planet" was nothing but shards of broken glass and metal. Dust was dancing in rays of late afternoon sun.
Yet, the floor seemed to be hardly touched by any light. It was there that they saw Lois holding Jeremy in one arm, the other lying on Kal-El's chest.
Lucy was still tied to a beam that had been rammed into the floor. "Jimmy! Jimmy, is that you?"
Hearing Lucy's voice broke Jimmy out of his trance and he ran to the old office. When he caught sight of her, he dove for the ropes. Fumbling with the knots as he picked at them with his left hand, he eventually managed to untie her. Unmindful now of anything else in the room, she wrapped her arms tightly around him. He held her as she let all of her pent-up emotions out. Jimmy lovingly stayed there, not moving until all of Lucy's sobs and shudders subsided.
Clark raced over to Lois' side, ignoring the possible danger to himself. She looked up at him, surprised to find him kneeling next to her. As Clark looked at Lois' face, he felt a stab of pain so keenly that he had to shake himself and remind himself that this wasn't his Lois.
Lois was unable to speak. She looked toward Kal-El, then without a word, held up her son's still form for Clark to see.
Clark's eyes filled with pain as he saw the little boy. As he took Jeremy out of his mother's arms, she collapsed, crying on Kal-El's chest. Raising one hand, he stroked her back, trying to soothe her. Looking up, he caught sight of Clark and gasped in surprise. He tried to say something to him, but he couldn't. He stared at the other man with the question in his eyes.
Examining the small body in his arms, Clark lightly touched the area around the wound. Suddenly, the little boy winced at the pain as he sucked in air. Clark looked up, joy shining in his eyes.
"Lois, Jeremy is alive! I think he was just grazed by the bullet."
Lois lifted her head. "What?"
Jeremy started to moan as he slowly came back to consciousness. "Owee!" he whimpered as he began to cry.
Kal-El raised his head to look over at Jeremy and managed to smile, though his eyes were tight with pain. Lowering his head back onto the floor, he looked at Clark and finally managed to speak. His voice was dry and cracked, he was gasping with each word.
"Lex must've only had one Kryptonite bullet. He was always so sure of his shot, he probably thought he would only need one Kryptonite bullet in there."
Jimmy and Lucy came out of the room. Upon seeing Jeremy, Lucy rushed to him. She stopped short, startled at the sight of Clark. Ignoring her questioning stare, Clark handed the boy to Lucy. Wordlessly, she took Jeremy and smoothed back his hair.
Looking at Jimmy, Clark told him, "We have to help Kal-El. We have to take the bullet out. I can't do it without you."
"Clark, I don't think I can do it. My hand still hurts bad." Clark grimaced and then looked around, his gaze coming to rest on Lois. He went to her and took her hand. "Lois, we need you right now. Kal-El needs you."
Lois forced a tired smile. "I know what you're asking. Don't worry. I can do it."
Kal-El tried to gather strength to stand up, but was only able to get himself halfway off the ground before he staggered back down, nearly falling on his side. Clark rushed over to him. "Don't try and move. We'll take care of you." But as he got closer, Clark started to feel light-headed and weak. Kal-El just looked up at him.
"Don't come any closer. I've been shot with Kryptonite."
Clark tried to give Kal-El a reassuring grin. "Yes, I know. We have to do something. We're going to take that bullet out. It's not too late."
"Yes, it is. It's far too late. It's been too late for some time."
Lois was now coming out of her shock. "No, it's not too late! Don' t you dare even think it. Clark is here to help, and that's just what we're going to do. Help." She took her husband's face in her hands and kissed his forehead. "I'm going to extract the bullet and get you out into what's left of the day's sun. Clark, I'm going to need something thin and sharp to take the bullet out."
At first, no one moved, surprised by Lois's sudden take-charge attitude. This Lois hadn't shown herself in a long time. Clark, however, was the first to recover, seeing the all-too familiar similarities between his wife and this Lois.
"Jimmy, Lucy. You're going to have to help her anyway you can. I need to get out of here for a bit."
"Yes, Clark, you'd better leave. Please, take Jeremy with you."
Clark did as he was told and, taking the sleeping Jeremy, proceeded to walk out of the room. Just as he reached the doorway, he turned back. Lois gave him a reassuring smile, then quickly went to work on her husband. Jeremy stirred in his arms and called out for his mother.
"Mommy?" he sniffed.
Jeremy tried to struggle out of Clark's arms and slide down, but Clark held him in place. "Jeremy, we can't get too close. You'll get sick."
Jeremy turned his luminous eyes to Clark and seemed to understand what he meant. Calling out to Lois, Jeremy said, "I'm sorry, Mama."
Jeremy looked at his father, and Kal-El looked toward Jeremy. The knowledge that he had a son, that Lois had felt the need to hide from him was like a knife in his heart. A fresh onslaught of pain and self-loathing surfaced.
"Oh, Lois! I'm sorry, I'm so, so sorry."
Clark hurried Jeremy out of the room. Minutes later, Clark reached the outside of the building, standing there breathing as if he'd been holding his breath for an eternity. As his breath slowly started to return to him, he just held Jeremy close to him.
Jeremy seemed to know this man needed his comfort and was content to just remain where he was. Clark hoped, with all his heart, that Lois would be successful, and that Kal-El would live. Still not being able to be there with them, he couldn't help but feel empty and powerless inside.
"How could I have prevented this?" he asked, repeating the question over and over in his mind. Closing his eyes, he called upon his mental image of Lois, *his* Lois, needing very much to take her in his arms and feel her comforting embrace.
Kal-El was rapidly losing his hold on consciousness. Lois's lip thinned as she gripped the length of metal in her hand. It was now or never. Closing her eyes, then reopening them with determination, she applied herself to the task at hand.
Kal-El heard soft intakes of breath, as when someone is crying very softly. He ached all over. *Strange,* he thought. Aching was something he wasn't used to. Opening his eyes was nearly impossible.
The sounds of someone in distress began to overpower him. He was trying to block out the noise, hoping to let the blackness slip over him again. Was it his own pain he heard mirrored in those sounds? Slowly, he relented and opened his eyes. To his amazement, he recognized the dark head of hair. Lois. It was his Lois. She was there. A muffled sob emerged from her.
"Oh, Kal-El, I wanted so much to keep you safe. I tried so very hard to. I never wanted to cause you pain."
Kal-El closed his eyes as he reached out to touch her head. Lois was immediately next to him, looking in his eyes. "You're awake! Oh, Kal!" She rested her head against his chest, listening to his heartbeat as the tears rolled onto his clothing. "I was so worried."
Kal lifted her chin so she would look at him. "Lois, you have, and always will be my life, my soul. You can make me feel and do things no one else ever could. When you left, I was alone, without light. I felt as though I had been hurled down into an abyss. All I could do was ask myself, why? Why? I took my frustrations out on this city, on the people and places that reminded me of you. All the time I was thinking that I didn't want to be left alone. Without you, life wasn't the same. Please, Lois, I need to know. Dear Lois. Tell me, just tell me."
At her husband's request, Lois had reviled all that had gone on, from the time she'd first found out she was expecting, to the time the ransom note had been given to her. Kal-El just listened to everything without saying a word. He just watched her with his steady brown eyes, studying her every move.
When her painful recall was finished, she tried her best to dry her tears. Kal-El didn't say anything, at first. He couldn't. In his life he'd felt a lot of pain. Loneliness. All of these different emotions that had been forced upon him by the conditions others had placed him in. Now Kal-El felt something he hadn't felt before. Kal-El was humbled.
This woman next to him, who was nowhere near as strong physically as he was, had now proven she was a hundred times stronger than he was. Closing his eyes, he laid back on the pillow, seeing in his mind all the pieces of the puzzle finally fit together. Making a move to get up and leave, he reached for her, wordlessly asking her to stay by his side.
Lois willingly came to him, relief spreading throughout her body and soul. She curled up next to him. Kal-El reached for her hand and placed it over his heart. That's how they stayed.
Late that afternoon, Lois finally emerged from her husband's sick room. Kal-El was resting soundly. Finally all the secrets and misunderstandings had been cleared. Lucy met Lois in the hallway of the great house. Lois took her sister in her arms.
"Oh, Lucy, I'm so glad your okay. How can I ever thank you for keeping Jeremy safe?"
Lucy pulled away slightly from Lois. Feeling guilty, she confessed, "Lois, I had hoped you weren't going to come after us. As much as I wanted to get away, I was so afraid for you once I found out what Lex had really planned. I love you so much, I was ready to die for you and Jeremy."
"Lucy, how could I have let that happen?" Lois hugged Lucy again fiercely. "I'm sorry you were caught up in something that had nothing to do with you."
"Well, it did have to do with me, Lois. You're my sister, and I've watched you for the last few years, feeling helpless. Besides, Lex can't hurt us anymore. And you…you have Jeremy back and safe." Lucy pulled away from Lois to look into her eyes. "Lois, how is Kal-El?"
"He's fine. I told him everything. We cried. Well, *I* did most of the crying. Everything's going to be fine now." Lois brushed away the tear that had fallen on her cheek. "We do have a lot to overcome still, but somehow I know we'll make it."
Lucy hugged Lois once again. "Oh, Lowie, that's so wonderful! We'll make it through this, you wait and see."
Just then Lois remembered Clark, and put her hand to her forehead. "I completely forgot about Clark!"
"I saw him just a few moments ago. He was feeling much better. I think he's also very anxious to get back to his rightful place."
Lois looked questioningly at Lucy. "Oh, he told me who he was, and how he got here. Go find him. I'll stay here and call you if Kal-El wakes up."
Lois searched the house and finally found Clark and Jeremy in the white room. Lois stood back for a moment, not wanting to reveal herself just yet, and watching her son with the man who looked so much like her husband. Jeremy was giggling at something Clark was saying. Clark reached up and tickled Jeremy on his tummy. Reacting in pure delight, Jeremy threw his head back and howled with laughter. Clark was just about to tickle Jeremy again when he noticed Lois leaning against the door. He blushed lightly at being caught teasing the little boy.
"I was just telling Jeremy a story."
Lois walked slowly into the room and, as she reached her son, Jeremy held out his hands to her. "I see. That must've been quite a story."
Clark smiled again, letting Jeremy go to his mom.
"I need to thank you, Clark. Thank you for helping me to save my husband and my son. Because of you, I have my family back. You don't know all that you've done for me, and for my family."
Clark stuffed his hands into his pockets. "Yes, I do, Lois, which might seem strange to you. I know what I helped you get back because it's what I have." Clark touched Jeremy's arm. "And what I hope to have. I know without a doubt, it's what Kal-El has always wanted."
Lois could say nothing. Her emotions were forming a lump in her throat.
He seemed to sense this, and put a comforting hand on her shoulder. "It's not going to be easy, Lois, but you and Kal-El will work things out. I know you will. And who knows what you two will be able to accomplish? If not for yourselves, then for this little guy." He tweaked Jeremy's nose. Giggling once again, Jeremy buried his face in Lois's shoulder. " I need to get back, Lois. I need to return to *my* Lois."
"I know. We shall all miss you." She walked to him, kissing Clark on the cheek. "How will you get back?"
"Well, I'm taking a chance that Doctor Hamilton is going to be able to get me back. I've been back to the spot where I first arrived. I've seen some sort of disruption every so often. It happens about every half-hour. I think it's him trying to get me back. So, I'm going to go over there and wait and see what happens. I just wanted to say good-bye before I left."
Lois reached out and shook Clark's hand. "Then Jeremy and I shall go with you and see you off."
"No, Lois, but thank you. You stay here. Kal-El needs you to be here."
With that, Clark left the house of Kal-El and made his way to downtown Metropolis, finding the spot he'd first arrived at. He waited for the disruption to commence. At first, Clark started to panic. The porthole was nowhere to be found. He waited around for ten minutes, but nothing was happening. Clark was contemplating all the things he could do. Would Doctor Hamilton be the same as he was in this world as he was in the other? Anxiousness was setting in with a vengeance.
Clark was just about to throw himself to the floor and have a good old-fashioned tantrum when the familiar disturbance in the atmosphere surrounded him. Crackling and popping electricity jumped around him. Now was his chance. Clark stepped through the rift once again.
Clark woke up with a sense of deja' vu. His eyes began to clear. Doctor Hamilton was anxiously looking over him. "Oh, Mr. Kent! You were unexpectedly pulled into the vortex. I had no idea this would happen! Are you all right?"
"Yes, I think so." Clark shook his head to clear his thoughts and vision. "How long have I been gone?"
"Oh, about an hour. I was really starting to become alarmed."
Clark's thoughts were coming back to him. He remembered everything. An hour? That's it?"
"Yes, Mr. Kent. That's all."
"I'm sorry, Doctor Hamilton. I have to leave. I really need to get home now." Knowing he had to see Lois right away, Clark stood up and rushed out the door.
Clark turned the corner, flying as fast as he could to the house. Lois was in the kitchen attempting to bake some brownies. Her concentration on the recipe book was so intense that she didn't hear Clark come in.
Clark, without a word, reached for her, taking strength and enjoying the feeling of her close to him, of needing her there, and having her at last.
Lois sensed something was wrong. She didn't ask anything of him, instead contented herself with just holding him, knowing he would speak in his own time. Slowly, relief flowed into him as he clung to her. Realizing he was softly shaking, Lois touched his face with her open palm.
"Clark, what's the matter? You act as if you haven't seen me in days. What on Earth could've happened at Doctor Hamilton's?"
Clark took Lois by the hand, leading her into front room. "Lois, sit down with me and talk."
Lois quickly set aside the brownie mix. They walked hand in hand to the front room. Clark sat himself down on the couch, then pulled her to him. "There is something I need to talk about…"
Gently, she caressed his hair, drawing his lips to hers and kissing him tenderly, trying to give Clark the reassurance he so needed. She listened carefully, deciding it was best to just let him talk. Clark relived his ordeal with such vivid detail that Lois didn't have trouble imagining it. In her mind's eye, she, too, was there every step of the way.
"She was so lost and alone. The part that surprised me was how Kal-El didn't perceive that Lois was being coerced. After all they'd gone through, he was blind to the fact."
"Clark, sometimes we can't see the forest for the trees, even when it means our very life."
"Lois, don't you see? If Kal-El could make that mistake…"
"Yes, it is something to think about." Lois twirled a lock of Clark's hair in her fingers. " Clark, one thing I do know about you…you're the type of person who would search for me. You'd make me tell you everything. I wouldn't expect anything less. I love you always. Remember that, no matter what else might happen to this world, or to us. I will always love you."
As if to sear her words into his heart, Lois tenderly kissed her husband. They laid back on the couch and held one another close, needing no words to show how much they loved the other. Finally, sleep overcame them both, and there they stayed.
"Be with me always—take any form—drive me mad! Only don't leave me in this abyss, where I can't find you! Oh, God! It is unutterable! I *cannot* live without my life! I *cannot* live without my soul!" … Wuthering Heights.