By Margaret Brignell <email@example.com>
Summary: What was the Alternate Universe Clark's life like before joining the Daily Planet? The second part in the author's "Only You" series, and a continuation of part one, "Only You: If Only."
This is the second of a series of fanfics that came out of an idea by Laurie F. She liked my Pre-Metropolis Clark stories (The Rules, The Long Road, and The One) and thought this set would also make a good story.
In order to fully understand this story, you need to read "Only You: If Only" if you have not already done so:) It might also help to have seen the episode "Tempus, Anyone?"
I acknowledge that I am just borrowing the characters created for the television show "Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman." However, the story and additional characters came from the brain of myself and the people who are kind enough to proof my work:) It should be noted that in this story too, the British spelling prevails:)
I would like to thank my proofers, Laurie F., Peace, Debby S., Lynda L. and Lauren W. for their input and support. Thanks too, for the discussion on the fanfic list about career options:)
Words surrounded by *asterisks* are emphasized.
Previously in "Only You" Clark lost his parents at age ten and bounced around a variety of foster homes. Lana Lang knows the secret of his spaceship origins and they have become close. When we last saw Clark he had just discovered a new skill. He was unsure whether or not he should tell Lana this latest development.
The saga continues.
Smallville, Kansas — June 1984
"You can …What?!"
Clark swallowed nervously to try to stop his stuttering. This was going even worse than he had thought it would on his flight back from the Grand Canyon.
During that flight he had come to the decision that he *had* to tell Lana about this amazing new skill he had developed. So, after landing in a copse of trees just outside of town, he walked to his current foster home and phoned Lana the minute he got in. He didn't want to delay in following through with his decision; he might not have the courage later on. Besides, if he waited for Lana to discover it on her own … no, he couldn't do that, it would be too cruel. Lana would feel betrayed if he didn't tell her right away.
They agreed to meet in Mr. Irig's old barn just north of town, on the southern edge of the Irig farm. Clark had chosen it because it was one place that had pleasant memories for the both of them.
However, despite the fact that he had told her as soon as he could, she was standing in front of him, arms akimbo, and not pleased … not pleased at all! Clark wished the earth would just swallow up his eighteen year-old body. He'd avoided the pitfall of not telling her soon enough, but she seemed just as upset about the news he *was* telling her. He repeated, "I c-can fly. It-it's *wonderful*!"
"Wonderful?" Lana stared at him. "Clark, do you *realize* what this means?" When he shrugged, she continued, "If anyone *sees* you doing *that*, you'll be locked up and dissected like a frog! You can't *do* it, *ever*. It's too *dangerous*!"
Clark was confused. He had been *sure* the idea of them not being separated in September, when they both went to different colleges thousands of miles apart, would please her. What was the problem?
"B-but, Lana. We'll be able to see each other whenever we want! I thought that would make you happy."
"Clark, it would be wonderful, if we could." Lana's stance relaxed as she stepped forward, and brushing her hands across his chest, she then wrapped her arms around his neck. She said softly, "But, we can't take that chance. What if someone saw you? I don't want them taking you away and locking you up. Please, Clark, promise me you won't ever fly again. Please?"
Clark saw tears in her lashes. She was trembling. All the fears that the two of them had discussed over the last eight years whirled through Clark's mind. He knew she was truly afraid for him … for them. He wished he could promise not to fly, but he couldn't.
"I c-can't. I can't j-just s-stop."
Clark swallowed. He *had* to stop stuttering whenever he was nervous. It made him seem so indecisive. He wasn't sure why he'd developed this habit over the last year, but he wished it would just *stop*. The key thing right now was to help Lana understand that this new skill was just another addition to the repertoire she already knew about, like his heat vision and special hearing. He couldn't just *stop*.
"It's a normal part of me! Like running is for you."
"Yes, Clark. But I don't *have* to run. I can walk … and so can you. So promise me … please!" She was looking into his eyes with the pleading expression that he found so hard to resist. But not this time. Although he had only just discovered he could fly today, he knew — deep down — that *this* was a fundamental part of who he was.
He slowly loosened her hold on his neck and pushed her hands away from him. "I c-can't Lana. I just can't!"
"Clark!" Lana had her hands on her hips again. "Listen to me, you *have* to! It's the only way we can be sure you'll be safe."
Clark backed away from her. He couldn't *not* fly. He couldn't promise not to. It was impossible!
"I c-can't. I-I'm s-sorry!" He ran from her, out of the barn, and as soon as he saw clear sky he jumped, pushing the mental button that said "fly" and flew as fast as he could away from Smallville. One part of his mind heard Lana gasp as he took off, but he squelched the memory of that and flew as far and as fast as he could to get away from his latest problem.
His mind was in turmoil. He *had* to fly, he just *had* to. How could he make Lana understand that? The problem kept buzzing around inside his head, until he finally realized that he was somewhere in the mountains. He had no idea which mountains. They all looked the same from this altitude.
He lost altitude slowly, until he saw a tumultuous river flowing rapidly between two cliffs. If he followed the river downstream, he should eventually find civilization and be able to figure out where he was. He glided over the course of the river, admiring the view. If only Lana could see things from this perspective.
He knew he was on the right track when he saw a road running parallel to the river.
Suddenly, he noticed an upside-down kayak was bouncing around in the white water below a small waterfall. Clark searched to find the kayaker who must have been in the now empty craft. At last, he saw a man lying face-down on a rock in the middle of the rapids just below the falls. As he swooped down, the turmoil of the rapids sounded louder and louder. The pine trees along the tip of the shoreline cliffs loomed larger in his peripheral vision as he dropped to stand beside the still figure on the rock.
"Are you okay?" Clark could see the man was in pain. There was a broken paddle trapped in a crevice in the rock. The man's life vest and helmet were in place, but there was a large rip in his yellow paddle jacket.
The trim, athletic-looking man groaned. "Who? … How? How did you get here?"
Clark didn't answer. What could he say? Clark noted that the man was lying awkwardly and scanned his body.
"Your leg is broken. It needs setting, or it might tear some of your muscle." Clark held the man by the foot, and watching the process with his x-ray vision, gently pulled on the leg, snapping the broken bone back into place. The man passed out.
Clark was dismayed that he had caused the man so much pain, but on the other hand, it would make it a lot easier for him to get the man to dry land, without any awkward questions. Clark removed the man's life jacket and wrapped it around the injured leg as a temporary splint, using the tie straps on the jacket to keep it in place.
He picked up the man and flew him to the river bank nearest the highway he had noticed from the air. He lay the man at the side of the road, so that anyone driving along would see him lying there. Clark hid behind some trees as soon as he heard a truck coming down the mountain road. There was a squeal of brakes and two men jumped out of the truck.
"Geezus, what happened to this guy? He's soaking wet, in a drybib and paddle jacket — and he's got his life jacket wrapped around his left leg!"
"Maybe he crawled up from the river after having an accident?" The voice sounded sceptical.
"Rory, there's twenty-foot cliffs alongside the river. A guy in this condition wouldn't be able to crawl up a cliff!"
Clark cringed. He hadn't thought of how this would be explained after the fact. He had just been concerned about getting the man some help and hadn't known where that would be.
The injured man groaned.
"Hey, man, are you okay?" Rory asked.
The man roused himself to respond to the question. "I … I don't know. My leg is broken … I think. He said it was, anyway."
"Who said it was?"
"The guy who set it. Tall, dark-haired guy — he just appeared out of nowhere." The man groaned.
"Where did you fall?"
"Bill, stop interrogating the man. We gotta get him to the hospital." Rory signalled Bill to hold the man's other side as they lifted him into the cab of the truck.
"I-I missed the obvious signs for the waterfall and fell over it." The man groaned in pain. "I remember a big rock. Then a man."
Rory obviously recognized the site of the man's accident because he said, "Dead Man's Rock! There couldn't have been no man. It's *impossible* for anyone to get to Dead Man's Rock from here. Umpteen people have tried."
"There *was* a man."
"Man? No, he must have been some kind of angel if he got you off of Dead Man's Rock!" Clark ducked behind a tree as the men appeared to be scanning the nearby woods for signs of this "angel."
Bill slammed the passenger door. Rory ran around the front of the truck, and pulling the driver's seat forward, squeezed into the back of the truck cab. Bill jumped into the driver's seat, slammed the door behind him, started the engine and drove off downhill.
Clark breathed a sigh of relief. The men were too concerned to look for the "angel" right now, but they would be looking for him eventually. It was really embarrassing being compared to an angel. He had only been trying to help, but *now* there were people looking for someone with unearthly powers. Lana was right. He *had* to be more careful!
Lana! He had ignored her warnings and run away from her, rather than face facts. He had to go back and try to make amends with Lana for treating her like that.
Metropolis, New Troy — June 1984
Lois Lane was exultant! She gazed in pride at the acceptance letter she had received from *the* most prestigious journalism school in Metropolis … in the *world* if it came to that. They wanted *her* — Lois Lane — to become a student there in September. Not just *any* student, but as a Kerth scholar. At seventeen, the *youngest* Kerth scholar in the history of the University of Metropolis Journalism School. Daddy would be *so* proud!
Lois had applied to be a Kerth scholar but had not really thought she would be eligible. After all, only the brightest and the best were enrolled as Kerth scholars. The scholarship funds were not huge, but would cover tuition, and basic textbook and lab fees.
Daddy was willing to pay her tuition fees, whether or not she won the scholarship. Mom, on the other hand … Lois sighed and folded the letter, carefully inserting it back in its envelope. Mom was not enthusiastic about Lois' career choice. Then again, Mom was never very enthusiastic about anything … except maybe the idea that her daughters would marry rich and powerful men.
Sometimes Lois wondered if it wouldn't have been better if her mother and father had just split up. They didn't seem happy and both she and Lucy suspected their parents were staying together "for the children." Lois was determined to *never* have *that* kind of relationship with a man.
She heard the front door open and close, and then the sounds her father normally made as he put down his medical kit and took off his coat. She snatched up the U. of Metropolis envelope and ran downstairs to meet him.
"Daddy! Guess what!" She ran into his arms and kissed his cheek.
"I'm accepted! I'm a *Kerth* scholar! Isn't that *wonderful*?" Lois could hardly contain her excitement.
Dr. Lane's face brightened into a semblance of a smile. "That *is* wonderful. Princess."
Lois wondered what was wrong. He should be more enthusiastic than this.
"Daddy? Is something wrong?"
"Wrong? No, nothing is wrong." Her father turned away from her to hang his coat in the closet.
Lois had that helpless feeling she'd been feeling since early childhood when she had realized that her parents didn't love each other and that they probably didn't love *her*, either. Whatever support they gave her was primarily for show … so they would appear to be the perfect parents to acquaintances and strangers. They didn't have close friends, and as for their relatives … well, the less said the better. Some days she wondered if she wouldn't have been better off as an orphan.
After hanging up his coat, her father turned back to face her, looking over her head to avoid looking her in the eye as he said, "Princess, I *am* proud of you. It's difficult to get that kind of award. It's just that I was hoping you'd follow me into one of the health care professions." He moved into the living room and sat down, rather heavily, on the sofa. "But, I'll support you in whatever career you choose. You know that." He picked up the newspaper and started leafing through it from back to front.
Lois felt lost. She had been *so* sure Daddy would be as enthusiastic about this as she was. But, he was giving her the same kind of speech she got from her Mom. Slowly an insidious thought crept into her mind. Mom had been here when the mail arrived before Lois got home. Maybe Mom had realized what a letter from the Journalism School at the University of Metropolis meant, phoned Dad and told him the news and had told him she didn't want him encouraging his daughter into *that* kind of career. It wasn't respectable … and how did he expect his daughter to marry well if she was constantly traipsing all over the city asking awkward questions? Lois was ready to spit at just the very idea of her mother's interference. But, the more she thought about it, the more it seemed possible.
She was mad but she couldn't prove anything. They would never admit it. She sighed, said "Thank you, Daddy." Then, turning around, slowly walked upstairs and carefully put the letter in her 'memory' box.
She had kept her 'memory' box ever since the time that Timmy Neer had given her that special pebble he'd picked up on a beach in Florida while he was on vacation … a shiny green pebble, almost like an emerald, only round and smooth. The 'memory' box was a memory in and of itself. It was about the size and shape of a shoe box, but made out of thin cedar plywood. The top slid out like an old-fashioned pencil box. It had originally contained the black-and-white teddy bear her Uncle Phil had sent to her for her third birthday while he was away on one of his trips in foreign lands. She loved the box almost as much as she had loved the bear. The box smelled so nice. As a result she had kept the box safe in the back of her closet until she discovered the *true* purpose for the box when she was six years old and placed that bright green pebble into it. She later realized that when she'd called it her 'memory' box she had really meant 'memento,' but her original name for it had stuck and she still thought of it that way over ten years later.
After getting Timmy's pebble, she had put any new item that meant something special to her into her 'memory' box. She wasn't sure why. Maybe so, sometime in the future, she'd have something to show grandchildren … although she couldn't really visualize being married and having children. It sounded so … suburban … so like her parents. Lois knew … had known since she was small … that she was *not* cut out to live like that. She wanted to live in the heart of the city. She wanted to be where the action was.
Unfortunately, her parents were adamant that the only safe place to bring up children was in the suburbs. So the Lanes had lived in the suburbs all of Lois' life. However, working at her summer job downtown had confirmed Lois' impression that she wanted to live in the city itself. She *knew* that the city was the right place for her, it filled some kind of void in her soul.
Her thoughts were interrupted by a phone call from Steve Farber asking her out for a soda and movie that evening. She agreed. It would be better than sitting at home listening to Mom complain about her career choice and Daddy complying with Mom's every word to keep the peace … between themselves, not with her.
She changed into her new jeans and Calvin Klein T with the large, monogrammed logo in gold paint splashed across the front, and ran down to the kitchen. Mom was pleased that she had a date with that "nice Steve boy." Translated, this meant that Mom approved of Steve's parents and thought them sufficiently wealthy and powerful to be acceptable as potential in-laws. Lois rolled her eyes. She wasn't going out with Steve's parents, for crying out loud, she was going out with Steve!
Just as the Lanes finished dinner, she heard Steve honk the car horn, ran out of the house and hopped into his sporty car. They went to see "The Terminator" because Steve wanted to. Afterwards, they drove out to the secluded park at the end of Devil's Point to look at the view — another of Steve's "assumptions" about what she wanted. Lois was getting a little tired of his assumptions about her and what she would want to do.
She and Steve had been dating off and on for the last few months. At first Steve's dates had been fun and he seemed genuinely interested in her and her plans for a career in journalism. However, lately she had the impression that his interest in her plans was artificial and he lived for the here and now, rather than the future.
When he had called earlier she had jumped at the chance to escape the problems she was having at home, completely disregarding the fact that she had begun to find Steve a tad boring to be with. His choice of movie tonight had confirmed that their interests were completely different. Now they were at Devil's Point, the local hangout for necking couples. However, tonight there were no other cars in sight. She knew she should have insisted that they just go back to her place. She was now so peeved at Steve for making yet another assumption about her that whatever interest she might ever have had in him was *gone*.
While she was thinking about how to tell Steve she never wanted to see him again, he was using a yawn as an excuse to put his arm around her shoulder. Lois was so busy trying to work out how to tell Steve they were through, that she didn't notice where Steve was heading until he was starting to grope her in places she hadn't been touched by anyone but her doctor or her Mom, ever. She wasn't ready for this! He roughly pulled her towards him and started to straddle her. As she realized what he was trying to do, her brain froze for a few seconds.
She had not been in the mood for necking and was *definitely* not in the mood for what Steve obviously had in mind. This could *not* be happening. It couldn't! She struggled without any perceptible success. She finally kicked her way free, and wrenching the door handle open behind her, grabbed her purse and fell out of the car onto the grassy area where they were parked.
"Lois. Come on! You know you *want* it!"
Lois rolled over and stood up, tucking her t-shirt back into her jeans. She glowered at him. "Of all the self-centred, egocentric, pigheaded, obtuse, narcissistic, self-absorbed, idiotic …" She ran out of adjectives. Turning on her heel she started to stalk off in the direction of the highway back to Metropolis.
She heard scrambling sounds and the next thing she knew Steve had her in a tight hold from behind. "Now, Lois, stop being difficult and … Oof!"
Lois had managed to wiggle enough space to turn so that she could knee him where it hurt. She spun out of his loosened arms and gave him a kick in the solar plexus; it knocked the air out of him. Those martial arts classes she had insisted on, and Mom had finally capitulated into letting her take, were certainly coming in handy now.
She picked up her purse, which she had dropped during that last kick, and slipped the strap on her shoulder. She again started off in the direction of the highway, this time without any interference from Steve.
Once she got to the highway she realized she was way too far out of town to try to walk to the nearest Metro station. She stuck out her thumb. No-one stopped. Nobody even slowed down. Lois sighed. Ever since the President and Vice-President of the United States had been assassinated by an as yet unidentified perpetrator, two years ago, people were so wary. It was as if their faith in everything and everybody had been shattered.
She heard the sound of a motor coming from the point. Steve! Oh, shoot, she couldn't let him find her here. She looked around her. There was a nice grouping of large trees just twenty feet to the right. She sprinted to the nearest tree and crouched behind it so that anyone on the highway would not be able to see her. She heard Steve's car *slowly* turn onto the highway and *slowly* drive past the grove of trees she was hiding in. She braved a quick peek and saw him peering into the bushes on the other side of the road. She ducked back behind the tree, almost afraid to breathe. Then she heard the car continue down the highway, and soon she wasn't able to hear the engine at all.
She waited a few minutes until she was pretty sure that Steve wasn't going to turn back, then went out the highway and stuck out her thumb again when a few cars appeared around the curve to the left. No one stopped this time either.
After about ten minutes she came to the conclusion that she wasn't going to have any choice but to walk to the nearest subway station or try to find a phone on the way. Just then a car actually slowed and stopped.
The driver leaned over and rolled down the passenger window.
"Lois? What on earth are you doing way out here? You could get into trouble!"
"Oh, Mr. White. Thank you so much for stopping. Could you give me a ride to the nearest Metro station? I need to get home."
Mr. White opened the passenger door and waved her in. As he started the engine again, he asked, "What happened to your ride out here?"
Lois blushed. "Well, there was this guy … "
" … and he thought you would be more amenable to his charms if he 'ran out of gas'?" Mr. White picked up speed as he headed back towards Metropolis.
"Yeah. You could say that."
"I take it he's licking his wounds as we speak."
Lois swallowed and just nodded.
Mr. White took this as an answer and turned his attention back to the road.
"So, Lois, will we be seeing you back at the Planet this year?"
"Definitely!" Lois' mood brightened considerably. She had worked at the Planet last summer in the mail room, but *this* year she had managed to get a job as a personal assistant (formally known as "copy boy") in one of the newsrooms. It wasn't Mr. White's section, he handled the *real* investigative news, but it was a step closer to becoming a journalist. "Mr. Whitney says I'll be working as a personal assistant to Catherine Grant in the Entertainment News unit."
"Cat Grant is one of the best — particularly, for nosing out dark secrets. Especially when people don't want to have their secrets revealed."
Lois grinned at this assessment. Working in the mail room had its benefits, like meeting all the reporters and editors at the Planet. So she knew by reputation which ones were good and which were not so good. "I know. That's why I'm looking forward to working with her. I think I can learn a lot from her."
"You bet your … er … yes, you will."
"I found out today that I've won a Kerth Scholarship to Metro Journalism." Lois said tentatively, almost afraid that he would react the same way her father had and downplay her news.
"Well, I'll be! Isn't that wonderful!" Mr. White slapped the steering wheel and sounded *really* pleased. "They don't give those out to just anybody. You've got promise, young lady. You just work hard at your studies and you'll do just fine."
"I will." Lois felt happy. Finally, someone saw her achievement for what it was.
"Now, whereabouts do you live?"
"Mr. White! You don't have to drive me all the way home, I can take the subway."
"And take the chance of losing one of the most promising news hounds in the business? Not a chance." Mr. White grinned at her.
She smiled, delighted at his support of her career choice and gave him the directions to her home in Harmony Heights. Within minutes Mr. White drew up in front of Lois' house.
She opened the passenger door, and after thanking him profusely walked up the front walk to the white, clapboard, two-storey house she had lived in all her life. As she got to the door she waved at Mr. White to let him know she was going to be okay and watched him drive away.
The door was wrenched open from within. Her mother was standing in the front hall, drink in hand, looking not at all pleased.
"Lois! What on earth do you think you're doing? I just got a call from Steve's mother saying you *attacked* him for no reason. He's got bruises where you kicked him. Explain yourself, young lady … " Her mother looked off in the direction of the receding car. " … and who drove you home?"
"What! *Mom*! Steve tried to *rape* me! I did what I had to and got away. I hitched a ride home."
"Hitched a ride! Are you crazy! You know there are all kinds of weirdos out there! Why couldn't you just let Steve drive you home?"
Lois inhaled in a vain attempt to control her temper. "Mom! I told you! Steve tried to *rape* me … there is no way on this earth that I am going to get in the same car as him again! And everyone out there thought *I* was one of those weirdos, so the only person who would stop was someone I knew."
"Mr. White, he works at the Planet. He drove me home so he would know I was okay."
"Lois, how could you!? What am I going to say to Steve's mother? She's so annoyed with your behaviour … she'll never forgive us!"
"Mom! I don't *care* what Mrs. Farber thinks! Her son tried to rape me and I defended myself … end of story. I'm going to take a shower and go to bed. Good night!" Lois stomped past her mother and up the stairs.
Smallville, Kansas — June 1984
Clark floated down into the copse of trees behind the old Irig barn. He walked home and phoned Lana.
"Lana, I'm sorry I took off like that. You were right. Can we talk?"
She paused for a few seconds then said, "Okay. I'll pick you up in ten minutes."
Lana's father had given her a small sports car as her graduation present. She pulled up in front of Clark's current home in the time allotted. As he got into the car's passenger seat, Clark's conscience twinged. He could see she had been crying.
They drove in silence until they got to their favourite remote spot, just past Siegel Knoll.
"Are you okay?"
"Clark, you had me *so* scared. I thought you weren't going to come ba-a-ck!"
Lana's voice cracked. Clark put his arm around her and gave her a gentle hug.
"What made you think I wouldn't come back?"
Lana didn't reply. Tears coursed down her cheeks and she appeared to be struggling for control. Clark tightened his hug and stroked her hair. Eventually Lana seemed to gain some control over her emotions, pulled a tissue out of her purse, wiped the tears from her cheeks and blew her nose.
"I guess because you can f-f-fly. I thought you wouldn't want me any more."
"But, I did come back. I'm sorry I upset you. Honest." Clark brushed her hair away from her face. "I guess I find this all so overwhelming, and you're the *only* person I can talk it over with." He caressed her tear-stained cheek, brushing away tear she had missed, with his thumb. "I wish I didn't have to put this burden on you too."
Lana sniffed quietly. "It's okay, Clark. I guess I just want things to be the way they were. This … this *flying* thing. It's scary."
"I know." He stroked her hair.
"It makes it so much easier for people to see you're *different*. I mean with the Special hearing and seeing, only *you* know about that. But *flying* … if anyone saw you do that … they'd come and t-t-take you aw-w-way!" Tears flowed down Lana's cheeks again.
Clark gently wiped the tears away. "Lana. I know I have to be careful with this flying thing. Even if no-one sees me, it still could be hard to explain."
Clark saw a slow dawning of realization cross Lana's face. "It was *you*!" Lana pulled away from him and stared into his eyes. "On the news! There was a guy in Colorado who was saved from drowning by 'an angel.' The doctors put it down to the concussion he got when he fell out of his kayak … but, they still couldn't explain how the man got from the middle of the river to the side of the road and how his broken leg had been set. It was *you*, wasn't it?"
Clark nodded. "No one saw me. But when the men who stopped to help the injured man started wondering about how he got there … that's when I knew you were right. I can't fly … but … I *have* to fly — it's a part of me. I don't know what to do."
"You can't just forget all about it?"
"No, it's like breathing. It's just *there*. I think I could train to become more expert at it … sort of like a runner trains to breathe more efficiently … but I can't *not* do it."
"Then *don't* become more efficient at it. Using it is dangerous!"
"I know, but if I hadn't been there today that man would have *drowned*. I saved his life. I can't *not* help."
"Clark … one man can't do everything … no matter what powers he has. There are things that you don't have control over that make it impossible. Promise me you'll not fly. Promise me you'll be *careful*." Lana had that pleading look on her face again.
"I promise to be careful."
Lana waited for the other half of the promise. "And … the flying?"
"Lana, I can't promise *that*! It's impossible." Clark covered his face with his hands and rested his elbows on his knees. "I *have* to fly. You *have* to understand."
Lana stroked his hair and gently pulled his hands away from his face. "It's okay, Clark. I know you'll try really hard to be careful. Just promise me you'll only fly when no one can see you. Promise me."
Lana leaned forward and kissed him on the lips, then the corner of his mouth and worked her way up with tiny kisses to his earlobe. Breathing softly into his ear she whispered, "Make love to me, Clark."
She seemed to have forgiven and accepted this new change in him. How could he deny her anything?
A month later, Lana went away for a week with her parents. They were visiting Metropolis to find Lana a small apartment to live in while she was attending the Metropolis Polytechnic Journalism School.
Meanwhile, Clark was pondering his own housing problems. Back in February, when he officially turned eighteen, Ms. Chalmers had informed him that once he graduated from high school he would no longer be a ward of the County. He talked to Dad's lawyer about taking over the farm. However, Mr. Lawson had informed him that, under the stipulation in the Kents' will, he couldn't inherit the Kent farm until he was 21 years old. Clark understood that his parents had expected to be there until he finished school, and hadn't realized how this condition would affect him if they couldn't be there.
He had avoided the implication that he would be homeless when he graduated from high school. Now his problem was getting more critical. Fortunately, for the period after high school, his final foster parents had kindly offered to have him stay on as a boarder for the balance of the summer. They only asked that he help out with the chores and contribute to the food bills. This would tide him over until September. After that they were going to retire to a warmer climate. As a result, come September he would be without any permanent residence.
Last Friday, Clark had received his registration package from the University of Kansas at Lawrence. Part of the process was to apply for accommodation. He didn't know what to do. He was pretty sure he still floated in his sleep, which would be kind of hard to hide from any roommate(s); but he didn't have enough funds to get a private room. He *had* to have a place to sleep alone!
Last fall he had thought he would be able to live with his foster parents and commute to Lawrence; but, when he received the news about his change of status with the county, that hope was shattered. He had been trying to come up with a solution to this problem for the past five months, without success.
During his conversation with Mr. Lawson, he had asked if he could get an advance on his inheritance for educational purposes. Mr. Lawson told him that he could get some funds — for tuition and books — but not for accommodation. Since Clark already had a scholarship he'd won earlier in the spring covering tuition, he was only able to get advance funding for books. It would help, but it wouldn't resolve his accommodation problem. The money he would make working for Mr. Kratz at the Smallville Press this summer would barely cover the cost of the cheapest accommodation available — sharing with nine other people. Not having to pay for books might mean he would be able to get fewer room-mates, but it would not get him a private room. He *had* to find another solution.
Clark decided his best way of finding another solution was to pay a visit to the Lawrence campus and see if there were other alternatives he could take advantage of. Tuesday he borrowed his foster parent's second car and drove to Lawrence.
By ten o'clock Clark was walking up Jayhawk Boulevard from the Union building, gazing at the Collegiate Gothic and Romanesque- style buildings gracing both sides of the street. This was such a beautiful campus. He sat on a bench near Watson Library and watched some squirrels cavort along the tree-lined boulevard. After a few minutes, he got up and walked slowly through the campus towards the administration office for Journalism, savouring the sounds and sights around him. He was glad he was coming here to journalism school.
He found Stauffer-Flint Hall and stood in front of the newly renovated building for a few minutes. This was where he would be taking his journalism classes. Clark could hardly wait!
As he entered the building, to find the Journalism School Office to pick up paperwork needed before heading over the Registrar's Office, a campanile sounded the quarter of the hour. He was really looking forward to hearing that melodic sound on a regular basis in September.
Once he had his official acceptance papers in hand, it took Clark a few minutes to find the Registrar's Office in Strong Hall, across the street. Upon entering the Registrar's Office, he discovered he wasn't the only one in search of accommodation. The staff were looking a little harried at all the extra workload generated by the distribution of the registration kits.
When it came time for him to make his request, he'd come up with what he thought was a good excuse for needing private accommodation. He was a light sleeper (he tried to keep in mind that floating was a form of lightness, so he didn't feel like he was telling a lie) and he was afraid he wouldn't get any sleep if he had to share sleeping quarters (mostly because he'd be afraid to fall asleep in the presence of others). He had no problem with sharing other facilities … but he needed to be able to *sleep* alone.
The woman who was helping him was sympathetic but reiterated that with his budget he would have to share his sleeping quarters with at least three others.
Clark swallowed. Maybe he'd have to withdraw his application until he could afford better accommodation. "That's the only option I have?"
"Well, if you're willing to share with someone who is handicapped, and help them as needed, you could get a room for only the two of you."
"What kind of help?"
"Let me see." The woman walked over to a desk on the right and pulled a couple of file folders from the In-basket. She read through the files as she came back to the counter.
"Well, we have one student who is quadriplegic. He would need extensive physical help. He's even willing to pay all of the accommodation costs for that help. That might suit you." She closed the file and dropped it on the counter. "The other one would not be able to pay for your accommodation costs, but would not need as much help from you."
"What's his handicap?" Clark's hopes had risen. He had been able to read the information, upside-down to him, in the file.
"What kind of help would he need?"
"Mostly, orientation during the first few days of school, transcribing some notes from tape, and reading aloud those texts that he cannot get in Braille. There might be some other things. You could ask him."
"I think I'd like to talk to him, ma'am. How do I get in touch?"
She said, "I'll get him to call you."
Clark wrote his name and his foster parent's phone number on a slip of paper and gave the slip to the registration clerk.
The clerk took the slip of paper and clipped it to the front of the file, acknowledging it's receipt, "Thank you. Will you be at this number this evening?" She continued when Clark nodded, "The student's name is Timothy Neer. I'll have him call you after 6 p.m."
Clark noted this information on the envelope of his registration package. "Thank you for all your help."
"Well, if it doesn't work out, there's always the other student."
Clark left the office and headed out of the building again. He *really* hoped this worked out. A man who was blind wouldn't see the way Clark shaved or if he floated in his sleep. It would be *perfect*. He didn't mind helping the man — he *liked* helping people. It seemed to be part of who he was.
Clark left Strong Hall and headed towards the parking lot on the lower level behind the Union Building.
He drove the car out of the parking lot, towards downtown Lawrence. He wanted to see what was there, and maybe get a bite to eat. Hope always made him hungry.
He turned at 9th, since it looked as if it would most definitely be a through street, driving through residential neighbourhood and then, after passing the offices of the gas and electric company on the right, started to see some stores on both sides of the street. When he came to the intersection at Mass Street he knew he had hit the 'main street' since there was significantly more traffic and the number of businesses was high. He looked up and down the street and saw that the street ended at the river three blocks to his left. He decided to head in that direction to see what there was for sources of food. In the second block he found the Paradise Cafe and parked in front of the restaurant. He had a burger with all the fixings, large fries and a large Coke to wash it all down with. He followed this up with a great piece of apple pie. He'd have to remember this place.
After filling his hunger gap, he decided to leave the car where it was and set off walking to see what else he could find out about the city.
He walked past a book store, two pizza places, a variety store and the court house before coming to a park six blocks from where he had parked. He crossed the street at 14th and went in to J. Hood's Booksellers. Now *this* was a place he wanted to revisit when he had money to spend. He spent almost three quarters of an hour in the bookstore just browsing. When he finally had finished his tour of the bookstore he continued his walk back up Mass Street towards his car. A music store caught his eye but since he didn't have any spare money, didn't own a boom box, and his foster parents would be taking their turntable with them when they left, he figured he would be wasting his time and continued walking. As he was passing Dean's Half Price Books he noticed a "Help Wanted" sign in the window. He went in to ask about the job.
"Okay, it'd be filling shelves, hefting boxes and occasionally tending the cash drawer when we're busy … mostly that would be in the first three weeks of school. After that you'd mostly be stocking the shelves. You look strong enough to handle the job."
"How much is the pay?"
"Minimum … but you get a 50% discount on texts and 10% off any other books you buy here."
"How many hours a week?"
"Twenty during the first month, ten after that."
"When would you like me to start?"
"A week before classes suit you?"
"Yes, that would be fine." He shook hands with the owner and followed him into the back office to fill in an application for the files and a W-4 for tax deductions.
Clark was on top of the world. He had a part-time job once he was finished working for Mr. Kratz. It looked like his accommodation problem might be solved if Timothy Neer called tonight and they got along. Lana would be home by Friday. He was a lucky man.
Tim Neer had a nice telephone voice. In just a few short minutes Clark felt as if they could be friends. Tim was pleased to have Clark as his roommate and outlined in a little more detail what he would need help with.
As the woman in the registrar's office had summarized, this mostly consisted of escorting Tim wherever he went for the first week or so of school until he got his bearings. Clark explained about his part-time job. Tim told him not to worry. He didn't need leading around *all* the time, just into new areas. They might have to make some furniture changes in the room to help him out, but other than that there should be no problem.
By the time the conversation was over, Clark was feeling more and more comfortable with this arrangement. It looked like his only problem now would be studying and passing his year. Humming, Clark went into the kitchen and told Mr. and Mrs. Willoughby the good news. They were so pleased. They had been worried about what would happen to him once they retired to Florida.
By the end of October, Clark was even happier about his life than he ever thought he could be. Tim was a great friend. His part- time job at the bookstore was not only a great place to meet people and find books, but he was earning a little extra cash so he could occasionally join in the get-togethers with the other students. Best of all, Lana wrote to him regularly telling him how much she missed him.
Unfortunately, the main reason Lana missed him was because she did *not* like journalism school. She found the people in her class to be so career-oriented they were a bore. None of them cared about how they looked, or what the brand of their clothes were or *anything*. Although, it could have been worse, she heard the people over at U. of Metropolis were even more snobbish. She wanted to just finish and get it over with. She wanted to graduate and start earning money. Then they could be married, and everything would be perfect.
Clark, on the other hand, was *loving* journalism school. He took to it like a duck to water. He made friends quickly and easily. He had never been so happy. His only problem was that he had to hide who he really was. It bothered him that he couldn't be truly open and honest with his new friends … especially Tim. He desperately wanted to tell Tim the whole truth, but after seeing what this had done to Lana he couldn't put that burden on his newly found friend.
At Christmas, he was invited to stay with several of his new friends for the holidays, but he decided to accept the invitation from Lana's parents. He wanted to be able to talk to someone who knew all about him. Also, in the Lang household, he knew he would be put up in the guest room so he wouldn't have to fear her parents seeing him float in his sleep. Her parents were strict about the two of them not sleeping together while under their roof.
He arrived at the Lang's about a half hour before Lana and her father were due to arrive from the airport. His first sight of Lana as she got out of the car was a shock.
She had bleached her hair *blond*! Heaven only knew why. He wondered how much trouble he would be in if he asked.
He didn't have to ask. Almost the first words out of Lana's mouth were, "I got tired of being a redhead. I decided to be a blond — it gives me more options when choosing clothes. Besides, blonds show up better on camera."
"Ah, well that's great. It's so good to see you." Clark hugged her, but felt her stiffen a little in his embrace. He wondered what was wrong.
Mrs. Lang led the party into the house and suggested that they all have cocktails before sitting down to dinner. Lana downed two vodka martinis very quickly and asked for a third. Clark was worried about Lana. She never drank to excess. What was going on here?
Lana continued to drink. She had the third cocktail and then gulped both red and white wine throughout dinner.
Several times Mrs. Lang protested, "Lana, what's wrong with you? We have company. Behave yourself!" Lana made no response. Each time she was reprimanded, she just took the nearest bottle of wine in both hands and filled her glass with infinite care so as not to spill a drop. After the third time, Mr. Lang took the bottles from the table and put them on the sideboard.
Clark was really concerned. "Lana, honey, maybe you should go upstairs and get some rest?"
Lana's only response was to say solemnly and distinctly, "Don't be silly. I'm fine." She spoiled the effect by hiccoughing and taking another swig from her wineglass.
By the time they were at the dessert and coffee stage, Lana was definitely feeling the effects of the variety of liquors she had consumed. She spilled cake and icing down the front of her dress and slopped coffee on the damask table cloth. She seemed to find both of these events extremely funny. This was totally unlike Lana, Clark thought. She was usually such a neat freak.
As they left the dining room, she stumbled into the table and two of the chairs. Clark tried to support her by the elbow, but she shook his hand away.
She clung to the doorframe for a few seconds on her way into the living room. Then, on entering the room, she walked directly into the back of the sofa, as if she hadn't expected it to be there. She giggled drunkenly as she blundered around the sofa. She almost fell into the rubber plant beside the fireplace, then, reeling towards the centre of the room, she concluded her stumbling journey by falling face down on the deep-pile carpet in front of the hearth.
"Lana! Get up this minute!" Mrs. Lang stood, gripping the back of one of wingback chairs, horrified at the sight of her daughter lying in a drunken state on her best carpet.
"Now, Madeleine, the girl's in no condition to listen to you," said Mr. Lang. "Why don't you clear the table and make us all some coffee. I'm sure Clark would like some coffee after he takes Lana upstairs. Wouldn't you, Clark?"
Clark was kneeling beside Lana on the carpet as he nodded his agreement. Lana roused slightly as he picked her up. She alternately hiccoughed and giggled into his shoulder.
Clark was seriously worried about Lana. She *never* got drunk. She liked being in control too much.
She passed out again with her head resting on his shoulder. He carried her limp form upstairs and into her bedroom.
On the way upstairs she came round with a small groan and started to snuggle against him, nibbling at his neck. As he placed her on her bed, Lana tried to pull him into bed with her. When he resisted, she started to cry.
"Lana, what is it? What's wrong?"
"I'm … gonna throw up."
Clark quickly picked her up again and got her to the bathroom — just in time. After she was finished relieving herself of the dinner and drinks she had consumed less than half an hour ago, he helped clean her up and carried her back into her bedroom.
She was still hiccoughing slightly as he put her back on the bed.
"Lana. What is it? I'm really worried. You *never* do this sort of thing." He sat on the side of the bed and held her close.
He heard her swallow another hiccough. "I th-th-think I'm pregnan'." She sobbed into his sleeve.
Clark was stunned. They had both always used protection. How could this be?
He stroked her hair, trying to comfort her. "Lana, it's okay. We were going to get married, anyway. It'll just be a little sooner, that's all."
Lana's sobs increased. "Clark! You don' wanna do that." She raised her head. Her pale face was tear-stained, her eyes wide. "Ish not yours."
Clark felt the blood drain from his face. "N-n-not mine?"
"Oh, please Clark … d-d-don't be m-m-mad," She whimpered. "I was so l-l-lonely for you and thish one night I … I … had a few drinks and thish guy was so much like you and … and …" Her eyes glazed over. "I wanted you *so* badly." She covered her mouth and nose with her fingers and giggled.
"Lana, you only had to call. I would have come. You *know* I would." He tried to keep the edge out of his voice.
Lana continued, as if he hadn't spoken. "I was so *miserable*. My teacher told me I'd n-n-never make a decent journalist." Lana made a noise that sounded like a cross between a sob and a hiccough, " … And Claude was so nice and had thish really sexy French accent and I … I … " She was crying drunkenly again.
Clark was still numb from the news. He went into reporter mode, asking all the 'right' questions.
"Have you seen a doctor?"
Lana shook her head, then groaned and held her temples with her fingertips. "I don't *want* to see a doctor. They'll tell me I'm pregnant! I don't *want* to be pregnant!"
"How long ago was it that … ?"
She giggled foolishly and tried to pull him down to the bed by his tie. He loosened her grip on his tie and repeated the question, twice, before she answered, "November … s-s-seventh."
"Then I should be able to see if something's there. Lie still and I'll look." Clark used his Special vision to look into her abdomen. He had studied enough biology by now to be pretty sure that there was nothing unusual.
She was looking up at him pie-eyed, clinging to his hand. He wondered if she was sober enough to understand what she was being told.
"I don't think you're pregnant. But you should see a doctor, just in case. I'm not exactly an expert at this sort of thing." Clark tried to make it sound as if it were a joke. But, even to his own ears, it did not sound funny.
Lana raised herself up on one elbow and tipsily said, "Goody!" and then giggling, fell back onto the pillow. She was obviously still too drunk to talk about this rationally. He told himself he should leave so she could sleep it off.
"I'll let you rest now. Try to get some sleep." Clark gently pulled himself away from her grip and headed downstairs. On his way out of her room he turned off the light and closed the door. She was snoring before he got to the bottom step.
"Clark! What's the matter with Lana? Why did she do that?" Mrs. Lang asked anxiously as she handed him a cup of coffee.
Clark fought with himself to keep his emotions in check in front of Lana's parents. He gave them the part of the truth he thought they would accept. "She had a bad report from school and she was trying to forget it."
"Is that all?"
"Yes." Mentally, Clark added 'now' to his brief response.
Why hadn't Lana just called him if she felt she needed him? Why substitute someone else? They would have to have a serious talk in the morning.
"I don't know. I just didn't think of it. It's not exactly the first thing that comes to mind, having your boyfriend fly himself in to ease your loneliness, is it?" She rubbed her temples with her fingertips. Lana had a splitting headache and sounded peevish.
They had donned overcoats and boots and walked out across the snow-covered lawn to the Lang's summerhouse to talk privately. Clark had asked her again, now that she was sober and could give a rational response, *why* she hadn't just called him and let him know that she needed him in Metropolis.
"I don't know. I'd think it would be something you couldn't forget." He paused to allow her to respond. But she just sat rubbing her temples. "Maybe it means that you're denying that I can do those sorts of things."
"Maybe it does. I know I don't *want* you doing those things. You might get caught." Lana pushed a blond strand out of her eyes. "I guess I just blocked it out. I was drunk. I'm sorry."
Clark felt desolate. He had believed that Lana, of all people, truly knew him and wanted him the way he was. Now he wasn't so sure.
"Do you want to be free to see other people?" Clark held his breath. If he didn't have Lana to depend on … who could he confide in?
"No, of course not. I told you. I was feeling depressed. I got a little drunk and a really nice guy made me feel better." Lana put her hand on Clark's cheek. "I was drunk enough to think I was with *you* the whole time. It wasn't until I woke up the next morning that I realized what I had done."
"Why didn't you tell me sooner? We've talked on the phone lots of times and you never said a word."
"I guess I was too humiliated — and I was hoping that you would never find out."
"So, if you hadn't thought you were pregnant, you wouldn't have told me?" Clark was upset at the idea that Lana would keep something this important from him. If she was having doubts about their relationship, she should have told him.
"Clark, don't be mad! I'm not happy with what I did. But it's in the past. I can't change it."
"I'm not mad, Lana. I'm hurt. I thought we had total trust … that we could tell each other *anything*. Now, I find out that I was wrong."
"Could you just stop trying to lay a guilt trip on me until this hangover is gone? I really can't cope with your complaining right now." Lana stood up and left the pavilion, waded through the snow and went back into the house.
Clark was back in the room he shared with Tim at the university and was still hurting from Lana's news over the holidays.
She had been to see a doctor, in Lawrence — not Smallville, since she didn't want her mother finding out — to determine if she was or was not pregnant. Clark had been right. However, there was a real strain on their relationship now.
Clark was unhappy about her inability to accept his Special skills. Further, Lana's tipsy escapade in her parents' house on top of her indiscretion in Metropolis did not sit well with her self-esteem. Lana had never been one to cope well with embarrassing or humiliating experiences. Clark wasn't sure if either of them would recover from this episode.
By the time Lana left to catch the plane back to Metropolis they still had not resolved their differences and were being excessively polite to each other, even in private.
Clark sighed to himself. He sat on his bed. He was supposed to be unpacking, but he'd given up on that for the moment.
"Clark, what's wrong? Didn't you have a good Christmas?" Tim sounded anxious.
"Is it that obvious?"
"Yeah, even a blind man could see it," Tim said wryly.
"Lana told me she slept with someone else. She thought she was pregnant … the test was negative." Clark was having trouble containing the hurt he felt.
Tim walked over to him and, once he'd established where Clark was, gripped him by the shoulder. "I'm sorry, Clark. You should have told me just to butt out. It's none of my business."
Clark was touched. He felt tears spring to his eyes. He hadn't felt quite this dejected since that day the truck had … He breathed in with a shuddering breath. Even after all this time, just remembering that sunny afternoon in June was torture. Added to his current feelings of desolation, it was too much. He was crying … for his parents … for the love he had lost … for the hope that had died within him.
Tim sat down on the bed and tentatively put his arm around Clark's shoulders in comfort. "Clark, this isn't just about your girlfriend, is it?"
"N-n-no." Clark tried valiantly to stop crying. After a few minutes he finally succeeded. "I'm sorry, Tim. You don't need me falling apart on you. I'll go wash up." He started to get up, but Tim pulled him back down.
"Okay. I know this isn't any of my business, but you are in *pain*!" Tim touched Clark's mouth to determine his expression. "Maybe talking about it would help."
Clark fought to gain control over his emotions. He couldn't tell Tim that he felt so … so *alone*! Guys didn't *do* that. Clark grabbed a tissue and wiped the tears from his cheeks.
"How much of this is about your girlfriend doing the deed with someone else?"
"Some. Lana is the only person I've been able to really talk to — to love — since my parents died. If she doesn't want me any more …"
"There *are* other women, Clark. Maybe, you should think about finding someone else."
"I c-c-can't! She's the only one who has really cared about me since my folks died. I can never find someone else like that."
Tim sighed. "Clark. You're a good-looking guy. You have all your faculties. You're doing well in school and have a ton of friends. Why do you think you can't have a relationship with anyone else but her?"
Clark let the red herring distract him to avoid answering the direct question. "What makes you think I'm good-looking?"
"You remember when we first met and I explored your face?"
Clark nodded and said, "Yes."
"Trust me. You are the best-featured face that I've ever come across. Besides, I'm blind … not deaf. I hear what the girls say when they see you coming. I wish I had those kinds of comments made about *me*!"
There was silence in the room as Clark mulled this over. How could he explain his dilemma to Tim without revealing his secret?
"Clark. I'm serious here. You have a *lot* going for you. What *happened* to you that makes you feel so inferior?"
"A lot of things, I guess." Clark took a deep breath. "My parents were killed in a car accident when I was ten. I saw it happen but I wasn't able to stop it."
"God! That must have been *awful*!" Tim's face was the picture of shock and concern. "But, you shouldn't feel responsible for that. You were only a *kid*, for crying out loud."
Clark nodded glumly. "Yeah. That's what my therapist kept telling me."
Tim asked, "That's not the whole story is it?"
"No. I've been in umpteen foster homes since then. No one seemed to want me for any length of time. The only constant has been Lana."
"What about your relatives? Why didn't they take you in?"
"I was adopted. My parents' relatives didn't want to have anything to do with 'the bastard.'"
Tim made a raspberry noise. "They actually called you that?"
"Well, my parents told everyone the story that I was the illegitimate child of a cousin who had died about the time they found me. There was no one to contradict their story."
"Why couldn't they just tell the truth?"
"They were afraid the authorities would take me away from them if they knew my Mom and Dad had found me in a field."
"They found you in a *field*?"
Clark nodded, then realizing his mistake, said, "Yes."
"So you don't know who your real family is?"
Clark shook his head. "No … and there is no way of finding them."
"Well, I can see how that would all add up to you feeling insecure. But why not just forget the past, and form new relationships?"
"Lana has always been there for me. We have an understanding. I won't go back on my word."
"Even though she broke her part of the bargain?"
"She told me how lonely she had been feeling. How much she missed me. She got drunk and took comfort from someone who was trying to help."
Tim snorted. "You believe her?"
"Yes. She wouldn't normally do something like that. I know Lana. I've known Lana since we were in kindergarten. This isn't normal for her." Clark stared at the pattern in the bedspread trying to concentrate on the detail of the pattern to avoid thinking about how he felt. "I don't know what to do."
"Clark. You need to figure this out for yourself — I know — but, it's like … it's like there are *two* of you sitting there."
Clark's heart lurched. Had Tim figured out his secret?
"On the outside there's this adult Clark who could be Hollywood's idea of an 'all-American' and has the girls swooning over him; but, inside, there's this little boy crouched in a dark corner afraid to come out where people can see him and anxiously waiting for the next rotten thing to happen to him."
"And people say you're blind."
"Yeah. Tell me about it." Tim grinned mischievously. "Clark, one of these days you're going to have to help that little boy come out into the light."
"Yes … but how?"
"I don't know. Maybe stop accepting the idea you deserve the rotten things that happen? I guess only you can figure that out."
Tim got up off the bed and pantomimed stepping down. "Now I'll get down from my soap box."
Clark laughed. It sounded slightly hysterical to his own ears. But Tim had pointed out the crux of his problem, up to a point. Clark still couldn't see any way out of his dilemma regarding his true nature, but talking to Tim had really helped him with his current emotional crisis.
"Thanks, Tim. Thanks for listening."
"That's what friends are for."
Clark started back in on his unpacking.
"So, Clark. There's a Medieval Renaissance Faire being put on by the theatre arts students tonight in Hash lounge. I want to go. What about you?"
Clark knew that if Tim wanted to go, someone would have to go with him so he wouldn't be constantly stumbling over the furniture. Crowded rooms, especially those with low-lying furniture were a nightmare for him. However, Tim never insisted that Clark tag along. He always asked first. On those occasions when Clark had been forced to say no, Tim had found someone else to help out. So it really was up to Clark to decide if he wanted to go or not.
"What the heck. It might even be fun."
Tim held up his hand and Clark high-fived him. Then, Clark turned to finish his unpacking.
The Faire was in full swing by the time they got there. They paid their entrance fee, picked up drinks in plastic cups at Ye Olde Fashioned Brewmaster, and started around the room. They skipped the toss type games. Tim, because he couldn't see the target and Clark because he didn't want to risk doing something Special.
They stopped in front of a tent-like structure. "Madame Latetska: She Sees All! She Tells All!" Clark read the sign aloud for Tim's benefit.
"Doesn't sound very medieval to me." Tim was sceptical.
"That's because it isn't." A young woman in a purple turban came out through the draperies used as a doorway into the "tent" of Madame Latetska. "The theatre arts types forgot to go to the library to study up on the period before deciding on the booths. They'll learn."
"Are you Madame Latetska?"
"We-e-ll! You could say that." She grinned mischievously. "I'm her for this evening, anyway."
They followed her into the tent. Inside there was a small round table covered in several table cloths with a large glass globe in the centre. They all sat down around the table.
"From what you said, I would guess you are *not* in theatre arts?" Tim asked the young woman as she arranged her many shawls about her shoulders.
"Nope. I'm in the library science program. Now which of you wants your fortune told first?"
Tim volunteered. "Madame Latetska" asked him to remove his watch and held it's Braille-embossed face between her hands, closed her eyes and hummed some kind of mantra.
"Ommmmmm. I see a future of struggle and examination and then a career that will please you. Soon, you will meet someone who will add new dimensions to your life."
Tim grinned. This seemed like a safe bet for someone working his way through university. He took back his watch, flipped open the face to check the time with his fingers, and closing the face strapped the watch on his wrist.
Clark handed over his own watch and smiled as "Madame Latetska" went into the same routine for him.
"Ommmmmm. I see a future of examination and struggle and then a career that will please you." Her eyelids fluttered slightly, her eyes seemed to roll up into her head and her voice lowered in pitch. "You are two but will become one. Then you will find someone for whom you have waited a long time."
"See, Clark, I told you there were two of you and everything would work out." Tim grinned.
The young lady's eyelids fluttered again. She groaned and slid off her chair. Clark caught her before she hit the floor.
"What is it, Clark?"
"She's fainted." Clark seated her as best he could on her chair, lowering her head so that the blood would circulate to her head.
The young lady stirred and moaned quietly. "What happened?" She sounded disoriented.
"You fainted right after you did my fortune."
"Fortune? Oh, right." She put her hand to her temple.
"Would you like me to get you some water? We've only got beer here."
"No, that's okay." She put trembling fingers to her forehead. "I guess I should give up my career in show business."
Tim said, "Clark, why don't you take her back to her room. I'll just sit here and play 'Madame Latetska' until you get back."
Clark asked the girl if that would be okay with her. She agreed.
"I'm Clark. This is Tim. What's your name?"
"Lori … Lori Calumet."
Tim put out his hand. "Nice to meet you, Lori. What do I need to know to be 'Madame Latetska'?"
"Just hold some item of theirs. Chant and say that you see a future of struggle and examination before they find a good career. Add anything else that you can think of on the spur of the moment. That's all."
"Right. Got it." Tim took the turban and positioned it on his head. He sat facing in the general direction of the opening in the tent waiting for customers.
Clark guided Lori out of the tent and across the common room. "Where are you staying?"
"Over in McCollom. Second floor."
He picked up both of their coats in the cloakroom and assisted her into her coat after she put on her boots.
The weather had gotten worse than it had been earlier in the evening when Tim and he had come across the campus. Now pellets of snow were coming down and the wind was whistling strait along Jayhawk. He took hold of Lori's elbow and guided her over the more treacherous icy sections until they reached the front entrance to the dormitory.
In the brightly lit foyer of the dormitory, he could see how pale she was. "Will you be okay getting to your room? Or, would you prefer I stay with you?"
"I think I'm fine now. I don't know what happened. I remember going into the Madame Latetska spiel and then I felt kind of strange, like I was somewhere else watching the three of us from above … and then you were holding my head down … you said I'd fainted."
"You said I was two but would become one. Then I'd find someone I've been waiting for. What did you mean?"
"Did I say that?" Lori swayed slightly put her hand on the wall, as if for support. "I don't remember."
Clark grasped her by the shoulders and steadied her. "I think I should make sure you get to your room. Which one is it?"
"214," Lori whispered.
It didn't take Clark long to assist her to her room. He took the key from Lori's shaking hand and unlocked the door.
At the sound of the turning lock, the door was wrenched open from within. A brunette woman with a blue face masque was standing there.
"Lori! What the heck … "
Lori swayed against Clark who picked her up and carried her into the room that was very similar in design to the one he and Tim shared over in Ellsworth. "Which bed should I lay her on?"
Wide-eyed, the brunette indicated the bed on the left. "Who are you? What did you *do* to her?"
"Clark Kent. Lori fainted at the Faire while she was telling my fortune. I'm just making sure she gets here okay."
Lori's roommate seemed to know exactly what to do and was efficiently making a cold compress to put on Lori's forehead as he backed out of the room. "I'll come by tomorrow to make sure she's okay."
"Sure. That would be good." The brunette closed the door.
As he was walking down the hall back to the staircase he heard Lori's roommate ask, "Lori? Did you go into another one of your trances? You really should see someone about this."
A trance. Had she gone into a trance to tell him about his future? Could what she said about his future have actually been real?
When he got back to the Faire, Tim was having a whale of a time being "Madame Latetska." In a quick break between clients he told Clark to go on without him. There was someone, a female someone, who would make sure he found his way back to the dorm. Tim held up his hand, Clark high-fived him and continued on his rounds taking in the rest of the Faire.
Tim came back to the room very late … and very pleased with himself.
Clark followed up on Lori's condition and was happy to find out that she had fully recovered. He was still puzzled by her trance- induced prediction for him — but decided that it probably didn't mean anything anyway.
He had taken Tim with him when he followed up on Lori. Since then he and Tim had double-dated with Lori and her roommate Georgia Cain. It hadn't taken too long to realize that the foursome would become two. Tim had developed a relationship with Lori and Georgia had started dating someone over in Templin.
By Spring, things were starting to look as if they might work out. The job at Dean's bookstore had become routine. Clark was getting straight A's in his classes. If he could get his relationship with Lana straightened out, everything would be fine. Maybe Tim was right, maybe if he stopped *expecting* the rotten stuff to happen, it would stop happening.
Tim came back from his date with Lori. He was grinning from ear to ear.
"So, Clark, any mail?"
"Yeah. You got three bills and two letters. Did you want me to read them to you?
"The bills can keep until Monday. Who did I get letters from?"
"Oh. The first is from your Mom. It's in Braille, so you can read that one." Clark handed over the envelope with the letter.
"The other is from someone in Metropolis." Clark peered at the return address. "Looks like it's from an L. Lane. Did you want me to open it?"
"Lois? Sure. I love hearing from Lois."
Clark used his fingernail to rip open the envelope. He quickly scanned the letter. It seemed personal, but not intimate. He read the contents out loud. It was mostly about people and places he knew nothing about, and when finished he asked, "Who is she? She sounds like you go *way* back."
"Yeah. We were in first grade together. I had the *biggest* crush on her — that was back when I could still see. She had the most gorgeous brown eyes. My family went to Florida that year. I brought back this shiny stone I found on the beach and gave it to her. She says she still has it." Tim grinned. "She's a little strange that way."
"She sounds nice." Clark folded the letter and put it back in its envelope. "Let me know if you want help when you're replying."
Tim thanked him and opened the letter from his mother.
Smallville, Kansas — June 1986
Clark had worked at the Smallville Press last summer and was continuing with his journalism career there this summer as well.
He was boarding with the Kratz household again. He would have liked to have gone on that trip to Europe with Tim. However, he didn't have the funds for that kind of trip if he was to pay for his third year's accommodation at KU.
Lana had come home at the end of the school year with passing grades, but she still wasn't doing that well in most of her journalism classes, other than on-camera appearances. Since her father was paying for everything, she didn't *have* to take a summer job … so she didn't.
They had a nice summer. Lana seemed to be still afraid to continue with their physical relationship after her mistake a year and a half earlier. Clark was willing to wait until she was ready. He wanted her to be sure she truly wanted a relationship with him, accepting him the way he really was.
In the fall, they both went back to their studies.
September 14th, Clark got an hysterical call from Lana begging him to read today's Daily Planet. There was an article in it by a Lois Lane that he *had* to read!
Metropolis, New Troy — June 1986
Lois Lane was in seventh heaven. She was now working for Perry White and actually researching *real* news.
Her internship with Cat Grant had been a real eye-opener. Cat had taught her how to worm information out of the most stubborn interview subject. Lois was grateful beyond belief that Cat had taken her on as a mentor. Nevertheless, Lois had not felt entirely happy extracting information on the dirty secrets of the rich and famous in Metropolis. She wanted to be in the forefront of reporting the *real* news … and now she was!
If she did well this summer, Mr. White had indicated that there would be a permanent job for her in the newsroom when she graduated in a year and a half. She was *determined* to do well.
Over the next two months she did research for the front line reporters, ran errands for Mr. White and generally made herself useful. By the end of August she had even written a couple of short articles on topics that weren't exactly earth-shattering, but the important thing was that Perry White was pleased with her work.
The Thursday of the last week before she was to return to classes, Perry White called her into his office. There were two big burly men and a slim young woman sitting on the sofa and chairs in the editor's office.
"Lois! Come on in, gal. I want you to meet some people."
Lois stepped through the door and closed it behind her. "Yes, Mr. White?"
"'Perry' … honey … I keep telling you, just call me 'Perry'."
"Yes … Perry."
"This is Inspector Henderson, Sergeant Swartz and Constable Meehan."
Lois nodded in their direction.
"They're doing an investigation and are looking for someone about your age to help them nail the … the person that's committing these acts." Lois wondered what particular swear word Perry thought was too harmful for her delicate ears. He was *always* doing that — editing his speech to protect her. She wished he'd stop it.
Inspector Henderson coughed quietly. "Ms. Lane …"
"Lois. Please call me Lois."
"Lois. There's a sexual predator on the loose in Metropolis. We've pretty well identified who he is and his modus operandi, but we need someone young who attends the University of Metropolis to help catch him in the act. It might get dangerous. Would you be willing to help?"
"I guess … but why me? Why not a police woman?"
Constable Meehan spoke up. "I'm the youngest police woman on the force, but I don't look young enough. This guy likes very young- looking girls and usually preys on eighteen- and nineteen year- olds. We need someone about that age to pull this off."
"If I do this, can I write the story?"
"Do I get an exclusive?"
Perry guffawed. "Well, if that don't beat all."
Inspector Henderson hurriedly interrupted. "Yes, Lois, when this is over you get the exclusive."
"Okay. I'll do it. What do I have to do?"
Inspector Henderson explained that they been studying this guy for almost a year now, but still hadn't got enough evidence to prosecute. Recently, one of the perpetrator's victims had been smart enough to get a sexual assault medical exam done immediately after she was assaulted. She and another victim were willing to testify, but the police needed independent proof of the man's guilt. What they planned to do was have Lois pretend to be as close a match as possible to his typical victim. They would record everything that went on in conversation with this man in the hopes that he would incriminate himself.
"This means that you wear a wire during your entire encounter with this guy. We'll be listening in to make sure that he doesn't harm you. Understand that under *no* circumstances do you eat or drink anything that this man may have touched, however remotely."
"Why not?" Lois was puzzled.
Constable Meehan answered. "The man likes young women … really young women … but he's smart enough to know that he has to make sure the women are of legal age. So he likes to pull this stunt with eighteen- or nineteen-year old women who look much younger and are alone for the first time in the big city. The typical victim is eighteen years old, brunette or redhead, recently arrived from a small town in the Midwest, and missing her hometown boyfriend. He usually picks her up at a public function where she has ordered a drink from the bar, showing ID, so he knows she is of legal age. He commiserates with her about how bleak the big city is and how cruel life at school can be. Once he gains her trust he slips an hallucinogenic into the food or drink she is having. He then convinces her that *he* is her boyfriend who has miraculously come to visit her, and seduces her."
"That's *disgusting*!" Lois was appalled. "But, why don't *all* the women report this guy to the authorities?"
Inspector Henderson took over the explanation. "They're too ashamed. Plus, they don't want their boyfriends to find out what they did."
Sergeant Swartz added, "They usually believe that *they* were at fault."
Inspector Henderson continued. "We were lucky to find two women that were brave enough to get past their personal embarrassment to report this guy. However, even though one of them had the smarts to have sexual assault medical exam, at this point, it would be their word against his. We've been studying this guy for almost a year now, but still haven't got enough evidence to prosecute. As far as we can tell, he started his little game a couple of years back at the polytechnic and has now moved on to seduce women at your university."
Lois sat in silence for a couple of minutes. "How do I avoid drinking whatever this guy is pushing?"
Sergeant Swartz said, "Constable Meehan will be giving you detailed instructions on how to proceed. We've arranged for a dummy home for you in an apartment near the university. We do *not* want this guy knowing where you live! Would you be able to stay in that apartment this weekend?"
Lois nodded. "I'll tell my parents I'm staying in town with a girlfriend to join in the Rush week events."
"Okay, good." Inspector Henderson stood up. "Constable Meehan will meet you at the apartment Friday at 7 p.m. to bring you up to speed on Operation Chameleon." He handed Lois a slip of paper with an address on it.
Cathy Meehan had been great. She had given Lois intense training in how to *not* drink, while appearing to be knocking them back. It seemed to Lois like some kind of slight-of-hand magic trick. She gave Lois her background story and fake identification.
Lois was now Joan Dough from Venus, Nebraska. Her boyfriend's name was George and she was a freshman in Social Sciences at the University of Metropolis. The university had temporarily added her false ID to their enrollment records. They were just as anxious as the police to stop this man's activities.
"I don't know anything about Nebraska … what if he asks me for information?"
"This guy normally picks up his victims after they've had a couple of drinks. That's why they often believe it was *their* fault … they think they were drunk. If he asks any awkward questions, just giggle and act a little tipsy. He'll be charmed … trust me." Cathy grinned maliciously.
Cathy went on to explain the ins and outs of the microphone and tape recorder Lois would be wearing Saturday night and what to do when Lois figured the guy had planted his surprise package in her drink. "So, are you ready to roll?"
"I'm ready!" Lois was exhilarated at the prospect of nailing a *real* news story.
Lois had her second drink in hand. Actually, the drink was just the flat ginger ale she had instructed the bartender to give her in place of the beer codename "Komodo Ale" she ordered.
A guy matching the photo she'd been given approached her. He was about six feet, slim, dark hair, brown eyes and the trace of a five-o-clock shadow around his jaw-line.
"Hi, is this seat taken?"
Lois shook her head and took a swig of her "beer."
"No, I was expecting a friend, but I guess they had better things to do." Cathy had said to sound resentful and lonely … Lois figured her statement reeked of self pity quite nicely.
"That's a real shame. You from Metropolis?"
"No, I just got into Metropolis two weeks ago. I start school this week. I'm from Nebraska … Venus, Nebraska."
"Venus? I've never heard of it."
"*Nobody's* heard of it. Its main claim to fame are two gas stations and a post office. I wanted to get out and see what real life was all about … see the big city … but I guess I'm a country girl after all."
"You don't like the city?"
Lois was having trouble responding to that one because she *loved* the city. She decided now was a good time to giggle, and did so.
"I like the city okay … I guess I just miss George."
"Yeah. George is my boyfriend back in Venus. He's studying at the agricultural school back home. I … I … miss him already … and I won't be able to see him again until Thanksgiving!" Lois tried her best to look as if she were holding back tears, wishing she had paid closer attention in that theatre arts class she had taken in high school.
"Oh, what a shame." He looked totally in tune with her feelings. The music started up again. "Would you like to dance?"
Lois hesitated. What was she supposed to do now? The guy wasn't doing anything more criminal than asking for a dance. Maybe this was part of his cover. He *had* fooled countless women into believing his lies.
"Okay. But I'll warn you now, I'm not real good." Lois decided it was in character for her to finish off the last third of her "beer" before going on to the dance floor.
The guy was smooth, real smooth. At first he danced with her as if he were her cousin. However, she noticed that he subtly moved in closer during the second dance and even closer during the third. He led her back to her seat and offered to buy her another beer.
"Well, only if you tell me your name." Lois smiled at him.
"Claude. Claude von Herschmugal. I've just transferred in from Utica State."
Lois extended her hand. "Joan. Joan Dough … that's d-o-u-g-h. I'm starting classes here at Met U."
"Nice to meet you Joan, now what were you drinking?"
Lois gave him the "Komodo Ale" codename she was using with the bartender to get flat ginger ale.
He brought back two drinks and handed her one. Lois was almost afraid to take the glass, but did.
"So, Claude, where are you from? You have a nice accent."
Claude told her a long romantic story of his family in Europe escaping from a despotic regime in some unnamed country. While he was telling her the story, Lois "sipped" on her drink and put it on the table beside her chair. She slipped the ring on her right hand around so that the "stone" faced down and let her hand rest over top of the beer glass. The ring was actually a sophisticated kind of sponge and she was using the instructions she'd received to obtain a sample of the drink Claude had given her. After a short while she lifted her hand from the glass. Claude was finished with his story.
"I guess what they say is true … you only rent beer. I have to visit the ladies room, I'll be back in a minute."
Lois held her right hand away from her body and walked to the nearest rest room. Cathy was waiting for her and with gloved hands removed the ring from Lois' finger.
Cathy did a quick test, confirmed it was positive, and said that Lois should go ahead with phase two of their plan. She gave Lois another ring to wear to avoid suspicion and Lois returned to Claude.
Claude asked her about George … what he looked like … how he talked. Lois gave him the details she had memorized. Slowly, she realized, Claude was taking on the mannerisms and speech patterns of "George" as she had described him.
At the point that almost all of her drink had been poured into the house plant behind her, Lois widened her eyes and gazed at Claude. Cathy had told her to act as if she was seeing an amazing event that made her feel wonderful … that what she was supposed to be seeing was her "boyfriend" George, miraculously transplanted from Nebraska.
"George? Is it really you?" Lois tried to sound as if she were in the presence of a miracle. She hoped she had succeeded.
"I missed you so much Joan, … I *had* to come." Claude leaned forward and caressed Lois' lips with a luscious kiss.
Lois held her breath … this guy was *good*. If there really had been a George she would almost have been ready to succumb even without an hallucinogen.
Breathily she whispered, "Oh, George!" and leaned towards Claude as if to deepen their kiss.
"Joan. Wait. Not here. We should go back to your place. Okay?"
Lois giggled and whispered, "Okay."
Claude wrapped his arm around her waist and led her to the entrance. When they got into the cab, he asked "Joan" to give the driver the address. Lois complied … ending the instructions with another tiny giggle for good measure.
When it came time to unlock the apartment door, Lois was so nervous she fumbled and dropped the keys. Claude picked them up and unlocked the door for her. Lois hoped that he would think that she was just too stoned to hold on to the keys.
Claude turned on one lamp in the room, walked over to the tape player and put on a tape of sensuous, romantic music. He must have brought it with him because Lois knew for a fact that the collection in her fake apartment was mostly easy listening and soft rock.
After setting the scene, Claude turned back to lead Lois from the doorway to the sofa. Lois tried to keep the look of awe and wonder on her face as he did so.
"Joan. I can hardly believe we're here … together." Claude gently pulled Lois so she would sit down. He ran the back of his fingers along her throat and across the front of her blouse. Lois had a hard time keeping up her pose of stoned wonder.
He began to unbutton her blouse all the while murmuring sweet nothings to "Joan." On the one hand this was scaring the bejesus out of her, but on the other she didn't want the seduction to stop! Every other guy she had ever been this close to was totally inept compared to Claude.
If she wasn't careful this *bastard* would take her virginity. She pulled away from him.
"Joan? What's the matter? I thought you wanted …"
God, he was good. How many times had the victim almost resisted his web of deceit only to be pulled back in by his pose of hurt innocence?
It was time to use her code to have the cops get in here and arrest this guy.
She stood up and proclaimed loudly, "You're not George! Get away from me!"
Lois backed up to the door of the apartment and pulled it open. Claude was faster than she'd expected. He caught her just as she'd opened the door a fraction of an inch.
"Now, Joan. Don't do anything silly. If George really loved you he'd *be* here for you. Wouldn't he?"
The guy was mesmerizing. Lois found herself nodding agreement about this mythical boyfriend's lack of attention to her needs. Lois shook herself. Had he managed to slip her something after all? There *was* no George for crying out loud!
Lois wished the cops would get here. What was keeping them? They were supposed to be just in the next apartment. She opened her mouth to scream for help.
Claude clapped his right hand over her mouth. "Now, Joan, you really don't want to do that, now do you? You consented to me coming here, to do what we both know you want to do. Let's not get irrational, now. Let's finish what we began. I *am* very good. Afterwards you can let me know how I compare to George."
Claude took his hand from her mouth in order to continue his progress in removing her clothes.
"Please! Don't! You're frightening me!" Lois was really scared now.
"It's okay, Joan. I have some nice medicine that will take all those scary feelings away." Claude reached into his pocket and pulled out a syringe.
Lois tried to scream, but Claude had his arm around her head and his hand clamped over her mouth again. She tried to kick him, but he seemed to know exactly how to avoid her feet. She struggled, but his grip on her lower jaw grew tighter.
"Now, Joan. That's *not* the way I like my girls to behave. I like my girls to be willing — eager in fact." Claude pulled the plastic cover off the needle with his teeth and moved the point of the syringe close to Lois' neck.
Lois took a sobbing intake of breath and then closed her eyes in relief as she heard … "Freeze! Drop that and put your hands over your head." Inspector Henderson jumped through the partially open apartment door with Sergeant Swartz right behind him. Swartz broke Claude's grip on Lois just as Cathy arrived from the university frat house where the party had been held.
The police read Claude his Miranda Rights. He refused to comment past saying he understood them, and they led him away in handcuffs.
Cathy made a cup of hot herbal tea for Lois to help calm her nerves. Inspector Henderson apologized for almost missing her cue for them to charge in like the cavalry. They explained that when Claude had unbuttoned her blouse, he had somehow broken the connection to the live mike. Unfortunately, the bugs they had placed in the apartment were on tape only. Lois told them it was okay, they had got there in time — and that's what counted.
Now that the danger was over, Lois was feeling exhilarated by the whole experience. She could hardly wait to get to her portable typewriter and write up the story.
"Chameleon College Seducer Exposed"
by Lois Lane.
Lois gazed at the headline in awe. She, Lois Lane, had a front page story. Okay, the story about the President's political breakfast with some bigwigs from the Middle East had taken over *most* of the front page, but *her* story was there too.
Perry White had praised her writing. The police had praised her courage.
She wanted more of this … much more.
Lawrence, Kansas - September 1986
" … and in the end it was all about power. The power of one man to control, to manipulate — to humiliate. The power to use the trust and commitment of a woman, for the man she loves, against her. This man shattered the hopes and dreams of dozens of women. Whatever punishment he receives can never compensate them for what they have lost!"
Clark finished reading the story for the sixth time.
He knew now that Lana had told the truth. She had been tricked by this psychotic man into believing that he, Clark, had come to Metropolis. Her shame at being duped had led her to do what most of this man's other victims had done … try to pretend it had never happened. If her cycle hadn't skipped a beat she would never have had the humiliation of being obliged to tell him of her 'crime.'
This man had much more to answer for than the "harmless prank" his lawyer was claiming.
Clark phoned Lana to let her know that he now understood what had really happened. They were able to discuss their differences and begin to return to their customary rapport. Clark asked Lana if he could come see her … his way … on Friday night. She agreed.
That weekend, Lana showed Clark all the sights of Metropolis — including a former familiar one in her bedroom. They were, however, doubly careful in making sure they used protection. Lana didn't want *anything* to put a crimp in their plans to get married *after* they graduated.
In February, 1987, the lawyer for the Kent estate contacted Clark and asked him to come in to his office in Kansas City, on the last day of February.
When Clark left the office it was with the knowledge that he no longer had to share accommodation at university in his fourth year or take on a job immediately after graduation.
He was now officially (if not actually) twenty-one years old. His Mom and Dad had not only left him the farm, which was making a decent profit rented out to a family who cared about it, but they had also provided a nest egg of stocks and bonds that had grown and matured significantly in the years between their death and his age of majority. He wasn't wealthy, but he no longer had to pinch every penny.
Lawrence, Kansas — June, 1988
Clark's fourth year seemed to fly right by and before he knew it, it was graduation time. He had quit his job at Dean's books and took up residence in a single room in Ellsworth. His course load was heavier and he concentrated on getting good grades. The next thing he knew it was June and he was graduating.
The graduation ceremony over, Clark said his good-byes to the people he had spent the better part of four years with.
Lana had not been able to come to see him graduate. She had found a job as an assistant to the fashion editor at LNN. Yesterday had been the start date for her new job. Her parents had come instead. He was grateful for their kindness, but somehow wished that things could have been different. He wished Mom and Dad could have seen him graduate.
His journalism counsellor, Professor Carlton, came up to him at that moment to shake his hand and congratulate him on his current achievement and on the promise of greater things to come. Clark thanked him for his kind words.
"I'm only calling them as I see them. If you ever need a reference, Clark, just call me. I know a number of senior editors in various city newspapers that would be happy to see you on my say so."
"Thank you. Thank you very much." He shook the professor's hand. "I'm still not entirely sure what I'll be doing in the long term. I thought I'd take the opportunity to travel this summer, and then start looking for employment in the fall."
"That sounds like an excellent idea, Clark. Just don't let those writing skills get rusty."
"I won't, sir."
Just then a woman gestured to Professor Carlton to have him come over to her. The professor waved a friendly hand at Clark as he dashed across the lawn to see what his wife wanted.
Lori and Tim appeared at Clark's side to say their good-byes. Tim was going on to graduate school to prepare for his ultimate career as a psychotherapist, Lori was going out into the workforce with an entry level position at a private company's library in Kansas City.
Metropolis, New Troy — June 1988
After celebrating his graduation, Clark went to Metropolis to visit Lana. He had assumed they would discuss their wedding plans, but Lana had other ideas.
He and Lana discussed their earlier promise to get engaged and married right after they had graduated. After a lengthy debate, they finally decided that the decision to marry immediately after college was a naive one made in their innocent teens. They both needed to wait before committing themselves to a lifelong relationship.
Lana insisted she wanted to develop her career in television before settling down. Clark agreed and told her he needed to travel and explore to find out if there was anyone else like him out there. Lana was willing to let him get all that out of his system before they decided to spend the rest of their lives together.
Clark stayed in the United States for the next few months, so that he could vote for the first time in a Presidential election. He travelled the length and breadth of the country by train, trying to get a feel for the country he had grown up in.
That fall Charlton Heston became President of the United States. It seemed odd to not have President Presley in charge.
London - June, 1990
Since Christmas of 1988, Clark had travelled the globe. At first he had travelled by conventional means; however, he soon found that even with his new-found income, he couldn't afford to keep doing that. He decided to save on airfare.
Clark loved to fly, but he knew it upset Lana since it risked his being caught and put under a microscope. As a result, every time he flew under his own power, he felt guilty beyond words. But, all the same, he loved to travel to exotic places. He liked meeting new people and discovering new things.
Clark had flown into Metropolis to visit Lana last week only to find that she was going out with someone else. He wasn't sure what exactly this meant, but it came as a shock, nevertheless.
Lana had explained, "I'm not ready to get married, Clark. Please, understand. You're the only boyfriend I've ever had. I think we *both* need to find out if we really want to be with each other."
Clark agreed, reluctantly. Nevertheless, he had serious misgivings about the whole idea.
Meanwhile, his travels throughout the world were not adding to his knowledge about his origins. He had not yet found anyone even remotely like himself and he was now pretty sure that he wouldn't.
He continued to try to help people the best he could. Last month, he had rescued a woman who had been attacked and severely beaten by a purse snatcher on the Thames Embankment footpath near London Bridge. The ambulance had taken her to the renowned Sutcliffe Hospital for Post-Traumatic Stress where her injuries and psychological crises had been treated. He had somehow managed to avoid any police implications. He wasn't sure how he would have explained the fact that the man had broken his knife trying to stab Clark.
He continued working as a freelance reporter in London, and was about to move on to Paris in the fall when he got a phone call from Lana asking him to come and visit. He decided to risk it and fly back to Metropolis under his own steam. Lana didn't have to know.
Lana had split with her latest boyfriend. She told Clark he was the only man she wanted to be with after all. Clark had the impression, although Lana had not exactly said so, that she had been dumped by the boyfriend. He told her he wasn't ready to settle down, but that he was willing to pick up their relationship where it had left off.
Borneo - June, 1992
Clark had spent most of the past four years exploring the world, working in his chosen field of journalism and making trips back to Metropolis to visit with Lana whenever time, and Lana, permitted. He was now ending a contract job with a small newspaper in Borneo.
He wanted to move on to something different. He concluded that exploring the roots of the western civilization exhibited in Europe and North America, would round out his education quite nicely. He decided to explore China, the Indian sub-continent and the Middle East over the next year … then he would decide what to do with his life on an ongoing basis.
In the meantime, his relationship with Lana was on hold. They got together on an irregular basis, but had no definite plans for the future. She had risen through the ranks at LNN, but still had not been given the on-camera role she so desired. Clark was still a freelance journalist travelling the world and unable to put down roots in any particular place.
In the fall, when he heard Charlton Heston had been re-elected as President, Clark started to think about the passing of time and his own future. He really wanted to get back the States and put down some roots. In the spring of 1993, he decided to move to Metropolis to be close to Lana.
He called Professor Carlton and asked for a reference at whichever major newspaper in Metropolis the professor knew an editor. Professor Carlton knew Perry White at the Daily Planet. He said he would write to Mr. White and set up an appointment for Clark.
Metropolis, New Troy - April 1993
Lois was on to what could possibly be the *biggest* story of her career.
Over the last three years she had risen from being a cub reporter to *the* most valuable investigative reporter the Daily Planet had now, or ever. She had won two Kerth awards and was now hoping that the story at hand would make it three.
Her source had promised to tell her everything he knew, tonight.
With diligent investigative work, Lois had uncovered a smuggling ring that ran guns into Metropolis from some un-named offshore locale. Over the last few years guns, pistols and even weapons of mass destruction had become more commonplace than when she was a child. There seemed to be an increasing apprehension about what was happening in the world, and more and more people were beginning to turn to guns as the solution. Lois was hoping that discovering who was behind this gun running organization would help ease the tension that was being increasingly felt by the populace at large, especially since the assassination of the President and Vice-President ten years earlier.
The Congo. The source told her that all the activity was taking place in the Congo. Lois headed to a pay phone and called Perry on his late night number.
"Lois, honey, what on earth is so important that you have to call me at *this* hour of the night?"
"It's only 1 a.m., Perry. I want your authorization to go to the Congo. You know Travel, they won't issue a ticket without your say so."
"The Congo? Why in blazes would you want to go to the Congo?"
"That gun running story … I'll explain later. My source says to go to the Congo and my gut feeling is that it's in the Congo where all the action is."
"Okay, honey. But you be careful … you hear?"
"Yes, Perry. When have you ever known me not to be careful?"
Lois heard spluttering from Perry's end of the line.
Finally, Perry said, "Look, honey, just this once … listen to *my* gut instinct and *be careful*!"
Oh, sure. Like it had been *her* fault that another convicted murderer had held her hostage last month, or that crazy guy in Toledo had gagged and bound her and left her to die in the wilds of Ohio. Perry was too cautious. However, she had better agree to be careful if she expected to get his authorization.
"Yes, Perry. I'll be careful."
When Lois arrived in the Congo, she called the number she'd been given by her contact for further information. What she got was an answering machine, so she left a carefully worded message and decided to find out what the lay of the land was.
She asked at the desk about tours of nearby sights on the theory that it might take her some time to make contact and she really ought to get oriented. She was given brochures on tourist sights within the city. When she enquired about safari tours outside the city boundaries, the hotel-clerk advised caution when leaving the boundaries of Pointe Noire. He strongly suggested she *not* go outside alone, especially after dark. Lois figured she'd listen to Perry and the desk-clerk's advice and wait until daylight before investigating further.
It was not to be. She had not been in her room more than fifteen minutes before she got a phone call giving her directions to the probable encampment of the gun runners.
Lois donned dark pants, a black turtleneck and put a miniature camera and tape recorder in her pants pockets. She took her rental car out of the hotel compound parking lot and headed north.
By the time she had reached the intersection that her source had said was the one to watch out for, Lois was beginning to be afraid. The night was dark — there was no moon — and without city lights the cloudy night sky was frighteningly black. Worst of all, there were strange animal sounds off in the shadows.
She killed the engine of her car and quietly exited the vehicle. She closed and locked the door and started out on foot in the direction she had been given.
She was tiptoeing quietly towards some huts when she was grabbed by the throat from behind. A big hand clamped her jaw forcing her teeth shut and covered her mouth so she could not scream. No amount of kicking or wriggling helped her escape her captor. This was one time when her martial arts skills were inadequate for the occasion.
Eventually, Lois was dragged into a small tent. A man was sitting behind a camp table smiling at her.
"Lois, come on in! I never thought I would actually see *the* Lois Lane unable to free herself. But, of course … Duh! … Mr. Blue Pants isn't here to rescue you, is he?" The man burst into laughter.
The hand let go of her to let her respond, but she was only able to gasp for air. When Lois didn't respond, he stopped laughing and sighed. "You know, Lois, I liked you a whole lot better back in Smallville, 1966."
Lois finally got her voice back and said, "I have *no* idea what you're talking about."
"Well, no, of course not … that all happened to that other Lois. Never mind, you don't need to know that part."
Lois was baffled. What the heck was this guy talking about? "Are you the head of the gun runners?"
The man went into paroxysms of laughter. "Lois … Lois … Lois. You have *no* idea." He grinned maliciously. "I'm making guns cheap and affordable … soon no one in Metropolis will think it safe to walk in the streets without wearing at least one gun. They'll all be prepared for 'the enemy.'"
"Enemy? What enemy?" Lois figured this guy was nuttier than a fruitcake, and she should just hang in there until he found some other toy to play with. She looked around for potential escape options, but there didn't seem to be any.
"Let me tell you a story. You'll find this fascinating. It's all about *you* and a certain someone in blue tights."
Before she had any chance to figure out what this meant, the man signalled the thug standing behind her, and she suddenly found a gag in her mouth. She struggled, which only seemed to amuse the madman even more.
"This is only temporary." The man flipped his finger in the direction of her gag. "I don't want to be interrupted in the middle of my story … and I know that as a reporter you won't be able to resist asking questions. You're good at that."
He sat down on a camp chair and made himself comfortable. He poured himself a drink and opened a bag of potato chips.
"This all started on a planet far, far away and long ago … okay, not *that* long ago, but don't you think 'long ago' sounds so much better for the beginning of a story?"
Lois stared at him stonily, not even attempting to gurgle something through her gag.
"The people of this planet discovered that their whole world would blow up in the not too distant future. Two people did not want their baby son to die in this catastrophe so they built a tiny space ship so he would escape. They sent him to the nearest planet they identified as compatible to their species — where he would be able to survive, grow and mature. Through their telescope they could see the planet which shone like a tiny blue marble in the universe." The cynical tone in his voice intensified. "Its inhabitants called it simply 'Earth.'"
Lois' reporter instincts were screaming at her that despite its fairy-tale quality, the story this man was telling her was *true*. She *had* to get out of here … to do an investigation.
"In 1966, the tiny spaceship arrived on Earth in Smallville, Kansas, and the baby was discovered by two loving farm-type people. The boy thrived and grew to adulthood and discovered that the yellow sun of his new world gave him special powers that he could use for good or evil. He chose good." The man said the word 'good' as if he'd just touched a slimy substance.
"Then, as if having loving, adoring parents weren't enough of a good thing, he met his soulmate in Metropolis. They fell in love, married and had children. The descendants, of this Superman and his beloved, formed Utopia."
The venom in the man's voice as he said 'Utopia' sent a chill down Lois' spine.
"Ms. Lane, I come from Utopia … it's horrible. Everyone is unrelentingly good, everyone is blissfully happy, everyone is fulfilled … it's enough to make a man *puke*. So I decided to change all that."
Lois was desperately trying to make sense of this, and memorize the dates and places the man mentioned for future use.
"I met up with this naive author from the nineteenth century who had a time travel machine and used them both to visit Smallville in 1966 so I could kill the baby before he became too strong."
Lois' heart lurched. She was too late. This monster had killed the baby. She struggled to spit the gag out of her mouth, but without success.
"However, Clark Kent and Lois Lane came back in time and rescued the baby."
Lois blinked. She hadn't even *heard* of Smallville, let alone been there or rescued any babies … and who the heck was Clark Kent? This man *was* nuts.
"Oh, not *you* Lois … the other Lois, the one in the parallel universe. I admit I failed that time — so I formed another plan. I think you'll like it." He nibbled at a couple of chips.
Lois waited impatiently for the man to continue. She wasn't as sure that this story was true as she had been earlier, but she wasn't convinced it was entirely false either.
"I wondered what would happen to the baby if he lost everyone in his life that gave him the love and encouragement he needed to become the Superman who created Utopia? What if his parents were killed because a truck driver had a heart attack at just the wrong moment?"
Lois just stared at him.
"You, know Lois, the hardest part of that was popping through the time window at *just* the right moment to scare that truck driver into the next world. Okay, it was really a potassium injection, but, what the heck, the little tyke didn't even notice I was there anyway. He was too busy waving to his parents as they drove towards him. The driver was dead, and I was gone, before he even realized there was a problem." The man chuckled. "I love it when a plan comes together."
"Did you know that everyone and everything impinges on everything else? No? Well, it does. Because the little boy had no parents to love him he became dependent on the kindness of strangers." He grinned and took another swig from his drink.
"Only I made sure they weren't as prone to kindness as before because I kept making nasty things happen to destroy people's hope and confidence in the world around them. It doesn't take much to make the stock markets rocky … and killing the President and Vice- President of a major world power does wonders for making people paranoid."
Lois was stunned. She was in the presence of the assassin that the entire world was looking for. She *had* to get out of here and tell her story. She *had* to. *This* could be the story that gave her the Pulitzer.
"I even brought in someone to help put a crimp in his present relationship with Lana Lang. The Claude I introduced to this dimension was a serial rapist; in the other dimension, he was merely a cad. I found it an amusing irony that you exposed him. I wasn't pleased at the time, but I have since come to realize you did me a great service." He smiled diabolically. "You'll be pleased to know that the man who would be Superman and Ms. Lang are now on almost the same terms they were before, because you exposed the Chameleon College Seducer. It might even have negated Superman's chances of connecting up with his true soulmate." Lois did *not* like the way the madman was smiling at her. "Like I said, I love irony."
"However, there's still the problem of this Superman meeting his *true* love in Metropolis. I can't take that chance. I've worked too hard. So I'm taking care of that right now. He'll be interviewing for a job at the Daily Planet next month and I wouldn't want him to meet *you* … now, would I?"
Lois held her breath. Was he telling her that the man *she* was intended to be with for the rest of her life was this stranger from another planet?
"I want to experiment a little more with what is needed to create Superman — so I can destroy him in *both* worlds." The malevolent glint in the man's eyes was frightening. He signalled for his henchman to take the gag out of Lois' mouth and continued nibbling on his chips.
When Lois finally had enough moisture back in her mouth to be able to talk she asked, "Why are you telling me all this?"
"I'm a villain, Lois. We *always* tell the victim what we're going to do. It adds to the suspense." He bared his teeth and laughed again. The man's cackle was getting on Lois' nerves. "Only, this time, the heroine can't use this to plan her escape, because she's out here in the jungle and no Superman in sight." He leered at her.
"Who *are* you?"
"In Utopia they call me Tempus … but *you* can call me John Doe."
Lois had a bad feeling about all this. This man was pure evil. She felt sorry for that strange visitor from another planet. If this man could kill world leaders what else was he capable of? "This … Superman … What are you going to do to him?"
"That's on a need to know basis, Lois … and you won't need to know — because you'll be *dead*!"
Lois blanched. The last thing she saw was the man giving a chopping hand signal. She felt a sudden dull pain at the back of her head, the room swayed and she fell into darkness.
Metropolis, New Troy - May 1993
Clark entered the lobby of the Daily Planet. He had finally come to the realization that he needed to put down some real roots.
He and Lana had discussed their future and mapped it out. Clark would come to Metropolis and get a job. They would save up for a wedding, get engaged and then get married. Clark had called on Professor Carlton for a reference and was now here to see Perry White for an interview.
The elevator pinged as it reached the fourth floor. The doors opened to the noise and bustle of the newsroom. He crossed the newsroom floor to the glassed-in office with "Perry White. Editor-in-Chief" on the door.
He knocked on Mr. White's door and entered when commanded. Perry White was on the phone with what appeared to be a news agency in central Europe.
When he got off the phone he said, "So, Mr …?"
"Kent. Clark Kent." Clark swallowed nervously as Mr. White studied his resume.
"Yes. Kent. Professor Carlton called me about you … he was extremely complimentary. That's why I said I would see you."
"I brought some samples of my work."
"Well, let's take a look … " He raised his eyes as he read the first item in the portfolio. "The Borneo Gazette? 'Mating rituals of the knob-tailed gecko'? Now this I've got to read. This can't possibly be as boring as it sounds."
Mr. White spent the next few minutes reading the article and making small sounds which Clark couldn't decide if they were meant as approval or dismissal. Finally, the suspense was over.
"This is a wonderful exposition on wildlife in Borneo as it parallels human development. Whatever made you give this article a title like *that*?" Mr. White flicked the top of the first sheet in disgust.
Clark sighed. "The editor was a stickler for keeping 'smut' out of his newspaper." Clark crooked his finger to indicate quotes. "The only way you get anything 'racy' past him was to make it sound as deadly dull as possible."
"Were you planning on trying to pull those kind of shenanigans with me?"
"Er, no, Mr. White. I don't see you as being the kind of editor who would close his mind to reality … and insist his reporters do the same."
"I'm glad you said that because I'm not. And you're just the kind of reporter that I like … spunk *and* initiative."
"Thank you, Mr. White."
"You're welcome. Now, I want you to know that under normal circumstances I wouldn't be able to hire someone with your kind of experience right away. However, I've just … just lost one of my best reporters. She was on assignment in the Congo. I need someone to fill her shoes. I think you just might be able to do that."
Mr. White got up out of his chair, walked around his desk and put out his hand to shake Clark's. "Welcome to the Daily Planet, Mr. Kent. I hope you will have a long and promising career with us."
Clark was ecstatic. He could hardly wait to tell Lana of his good fortune.
London, England - October 1993
She felt as if someone had filled her head with cotton wool. She had a dull headache and was having more than her usual difficulty concentrating. The doctor was humming slightly as he flipped through her file.
"I see you've been here at the institute since May of this year. You were in a terrible state when you arrived here — massive contusions, a bullet wound in your left shoulder, a severe concussion and loss of memory." He looked up from the file. "Do you have any idea how you got all that?"
"I don't know. I woke up here. I sort of remember things clearly after that but it's like there's this wall between me and everything that came before."
"We ran a check of your fingerprints, but without success. Are you able to remember your name, now?"
"No. I … I … can't. People here mostly call me 'Miss.'"
"Well, we can't keep calling you 'Miss' for the rest of your stay. We'll give you a temporary name, until you remember your own. Would that be all right with you?"
She nodded, wincing slightly at the pain this induced.
"Very well. From now on you'll be known as Jane Doe." The doctor picked up a pen and started to note this down in her file.
"Joan. Not Jane. Joan Dough … d-o-u-g-h."
"You remember your name?"
"No … I … no, I don't. There's a woman's voice telling me my name is Joan Dough and I'm from Venus, Nebraska. But I know it's not true. I don't know why … but's that what I hear." She pressed her fingertips to her temples. She was getting one of those really bad headaches she got whenever she tried to remember.
The doctor nodded and noted her statement in his file. "We'll check it out anyway. This new information shows promise. If you *do* have relatives in Nebraska, they might be able to help us find out who you are."
THE END … to be continued in "Only You: Recall"
Last modified: September 25, 1998