By Cindy <Chm25@aol.com> and an anonymous co-writer
Original Air Date: March 15, 1998
Summary: Clark and Superman are back as mysteriously as they disappeared. But is anyone willing to listen to their explanation? Could Tempus be involved? Part 2 of 2. Episode 15 of S5.
Continued from "It's a Wonderful Lifetime", Season 5, Episode 14.
"Lois? Lois, can you hear me?"
Lois searched desperately through the inky blackness, straining to hear her husband's fading voice. "Clark? Clark, where are you?"
"Lois … "
She was barely able to hear him, and then he was gone. "*Clark?!*" But there was no response, and she realized she was lost in the darkness and she tried to scream, but now her voice was gone too …
With a cry of terror, Lois shot up in bed, drenched in sweat and shaking. With a trembling hand, she reached for the lamp on the bedside table. Blinking at the sudden invasion of light, she looked over at the empty space beside her, still unable to believe it. She gave a short, bitter laugh at her own stupidity. Of course he hadn't come back. Why would he?
She turned the light off again, but knowing from experience that there would be no sleep now, she got up and pulled the comforter off the bed. Wrapping it around her, she settled in the chair next to the window, staring out at the moon and the stars, slowly rocking back and forth.
Clark sat cross-legged in the middle of the dirt road. He couldn't remember ever being this hot in his entire life. His throat was so dry he could barely swallow and sweat ran down his back in rivers. Wiping his forehead with the back of his hand, he stood up, and, shading his eyes from the sun, looked down the road in search of shade or water or … something.
There was nothing, though. He knew there was nothing. He had walked up and down the road until his legs gave out from exhaustion (something else he wasn't used to). But the road didn't go anywhere. "Just your typical time vortex road," he muttered to himself.
In frustration, he kicked a rock in the road and then began to run across the field. He didn't really expect to get anywhere; in retrospect, he didn't know *what* he was expecting. He didn't expect what happened. He ran into the side of the vortex.
At first he wasn't sure what had happened — one minute he was running, the next, the wind was knocked out of him and he was lying on the ground, dazed and bruised.
Shaking his head to clear it, he got to his feet and looked around. There was still nothing to see, but when he reached out, it felt as though there were a glass wall in front of him. He tapped it first, lightly, then harder, then pounded on it. Summoning up all his remaining strength, he tried to break through the wall, succeeding only in bruising his knuckles and his ego. Frustrated now, and feeling the panic rise within him again, he began beating on the wall, slamming his fists into it again and again, until he sank to the ground, breathless and gasping.
The sun beat down on him as he lay in the field, defeated and dying …
*Metropolis — Present Day*
Tom Crawford's office was decorated as though an office party were in progress. Pizza boxes and soda bottles littered the top of his desk and music played low in the background. A celebration was definitely underway.
The only party attendees, however, were Crawford and Tempus. Tempus had his feet up on Crawford's desk, and was contentedly munching on a thick slice of pepperoni pizza. Crawford stood in the middle of the room, absently chewing on a piece of pepperoni and looking decidedly uncomfortable.
Tempus sighed, finishing up his slice. "Who knew that tiny, thin, round pieces of fat-laden pork could ever taste so good?"
"Yea, right," Crawford muttered.
If Tempus noticed Crawford's lack of enthusiasm, he ignored it. "And as we sit here, in the quiet serenity of this office dining on double pepperoni and extra cheese," he continued, "Superman has nothing better to do than start harvesting the crops in the infinite field I left him in, one stalk at a time. Perry White is on his third bottle of antacid trying to figure out how The Daily Planet is going to survive the lawsuit you filed this morning. Too bad they didn't find enough reason to pull the story, even after Lois was warned. And as for Lois … " He paused and grinned at Crawford. "I'll hazard a little guess and say that she's either crying her eyes out or having the locks changed." He laughed sardonically.
Crawford looked at him. "Pretty clever how you worked it all out, I guess."
"You guess?" Tempus stared at him in amazement. "Tom, don't you realize what this means? I can do *anything!* Anything! After all the years I've spend scheming and manipulating to destroy Lane and Kent, only to have every single one of my brilliant plans destroyed by that sanctimonious overly endowed do-gooder Superman … this is the triumph that could only come once in a lifetime! Or in my case, several lifetimes. The point is, this is the perfect end to the perfect day." He reached for another slice of pizza in sheer delight.
Crawford began to look nauseated. "So now what?" he demanded, crossing back to the desk and flopping down in his chair.
Tempus pondered that for a moment, putting down his pizza. "Now there's an interesting question. I haven't really thought about it. Ordinarily, a power-hungry, psychotic and sadistic villain such as myself would proceed to take over the world. But that's just been done to death, don't you think?"
"Uh, I guess … " Crawford looked unsure.
"No," Tempus decided, "this time, I think I'm going to do what every other man deserves to do after instigating the ultimate in diabolical crime: Sit back, relax, and take a few weeks off to sadistically replay the entire sequence of events over and over in my mind before I plan my next move."
Happily, he reached for his pizza again, his eyes falling on Crawford, who was morosely nursing a can of diet cola. "Why Tom," Tempus exclaimed, reaching for a napkin, "I say, my boy, aren't you feeling well? I warned you about drinking all that carbonated liquid so close to your naptime."
"I'm fine," Crawford muttered, looking anything but.
"Tom! This is the biggest day of my entire life! Have another piece of pizza."
Crawford set his drink down on the desk. "No, thanks. I think you're right about the carbonation. I'm feeling a little queasy. In fact," he rose quickly, "I think I'll head home."
Tempus quickly swallowed the bite of pizza he was chewing and stood up himself. "Leaving my victory party early? Now, you know how I deplore a party pooper!" Sighing heavily, he pulled a gun from the inside of his jacket and aimed it at Crawford. "It's a shame. I did sincerely hope it wouldn't come to this."
Terrified, Crawford swallowed and backed away slightly, well aware that the only thing behind him was a window with a 17 story drop behind that. "Come to what?" he managed.
"The pathetic necessity to threaten you with bodily harm unless you do exactly as I say," Tempus replied darkly. "Now sit down."
Crawford quickly seated himself in the nearest available chair. "See Tom," Tempus continued, moving closer to him, "for all I know, you're just going to walk out of this office and follow that silly, nagging instinct you're feeling that's telling you to head for the hills, get the heck out of Dodge, wave hasta la vista!" Smiling, he reseated himself opposite Crawford. "I'm afraid that simply isn't acceptable. Now that you've brought suit against the Daily Planet, which we've already acknowledged to be a pertinent part of my plan, I'm afraid you're going to have to stick with me just a little while longer. You being the key witness in the case and all."
He cocked the gun and Crawford froze. "Got it, Tom?"
Crawford nodded slowly. Tempus grinned. "Super."
Clark opened his eyes and was surprised to find he was still alive. He moved slightly and since he wasn't dead, he decided to sit up.
It had gotten so hot inside the vortex that the simple act of sitting up caused him to gasp for breath. He put his hand on the ground expecting to feel intense heat from the earth, but was surprised that while the ground felt warm, there was none of the blistering heat he expected.
And then he realized why it was so warm. Why he was having such difficulty breathing.
He was running out of air.
He didn't even have the energy to panic now; it was all being spent in gasping for air. He lay back down and took off his glasses to rub his eyes. He had never felt as helpless in his life and he thought of Lois. Where was she? What was she doing? And what was she thinking?
His thoughts were interrupted by the smell of smoke and he jumped up as he saw that the sun's reflection through the lenses of his glasses had ignited the dry grass. Moving quickly, knowing the fire would eat up the last of his oxygen, he stamped out the small flame and snatched up the glasses. As he examined them, an idea occurred to him, and he angled the glasses slightly. The sun's reflection caught and he aimed it towards the glass "wall" of the vortex.
For a moment, nothing happened. Then, suddenly, the wall began to bubble and melt away. Clark cried out with joy, laughing to himself, "Superpowers are highly overrated!"
The hole in the wall grew bigger, a vacuum effect formed, and before Clark knew it, he was being sucked out of the vortex, and disappearing, somewhere between space and time …
*Metropolis — Present Day*
From nowhere, as if suddenly awakened from a deep sleep, Clark found himself in Centennial Park, sitting on a bench. As a matter of fact, it was exactly the same bench he had been sitting on the night H.G. Wells had found him.
On first glance, it appeared that nothing had changed. Everything was as it had been, except that it appeared to be day now. Afternoon, by what Clark could see, looking at the nearby people finishing their lunches around him.
Confused, wondering what day it was, he picked up a copy of the Daily Planet lying next to him on the bench … and froze.
"No … it can't be," he murmured, looking at the date.
Ten days had passed. Ten days since he had stormed out of their house after a ridiculous argument that never should have happened. Ten days since H.G. Wells had appeared to show him how wrong he had been … and how much danger Lois was in.
"Lois … " Clark flung down the paper, and jumped up, now anxious to find his wife and explain. Apologize. Warn her …
Almost before he had time to move, he heard a cry for help so loud he clapped his hands over his ears. It took only a moment for the initial shock to wear off and for him to realize what was going on.
His superpowers were back. "What a difference a day makes," he muttered.
The cries got louder. There were children involved.
He was gone in a swirl of leaves and papers.
Metropolis South Elementary School was usually a well-maintained building, set apart from the rest of the city, adjoining a safe, fenced-in playground. Many of Metropolis' natives who had attended the school regarded it as one of their alma maters, as much as the nearby high school.
Today, however, the school was surrounded by SWAT teams and members of the press, both electronic and print. The Daily Planet was represented, naturally; in this case, by Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen.
Lynn James, from LNN News, was broadcasting from as close to the front doors as she could possibly get without being arrested. "We're coming to you live from Metropolis Elementary School, where an armed gunman has taken a classroom full of schoolchildren hostage, along with their teacher. The rest of the school has been safely evacuated. Negotiations are at a standstill, though, and authorities are fearing the worst. It seems … "
"Look! Up in the sky!" came a cry from behind her.
All eyes turned upward as Superman approached and landed, heading straight for the chief negotiator.
Lynn James was thrilled. This was her second Superman scoop in two weeks. It didn't get better than this. "Superman has just arrived on the scene!" she announced to the camera. "As you may know, Superman has not been seen anywhere for ten days! No one knows where he has been or why he's been gone, but I repeat! Superman is here!"
"Lois! It's Superman! He's back! Isn't that great?!" Jimmy, puzzled by Lois' seeming non-reaction, began frantically snapping photos.
In fact, Lois was standing still, the shock of seeing her husband rendering her temporarily speechless. Relief flooded through her as she fought to catch her breath. He was alive! She had been so afraid … But then where had he been all this time while she worried, while she agonized over his whereabouts? She didn't know whether to scream, cry or hug him, so she simply stood there, watching him fly through the window of the school and appear seconds later holding the gunman by the collar.
Superman deposited the gunman with the cops, who hauled him away. Turning around then, he started towards Lois, a route which unfortunately took him into the press area where he was immediately swarmed by anxious reporters.
"Superman! Lynn James, LNN News! Can you tell us where you've been?"
"Superman! Tom Karron, Metroline! Can I get a quote from you?"
Though he tried, the Man of Steel was still no match for hungry reporters and he stood, helplessly surrounded, as he met Lois' gaze. She looked at him for a long moment and though he tried, even x-ray vision could not help him read what was behind those dark eyes.
He turned for a brief second to one of the reporters and when he looked up again, she was gone.
Much later, Clark landed near 348 Hyperion Avenue and was straightening his tie by the time he climbed the stairs up to the townhouse. He tried the door, which was locked, and looked up at the second floor windows. No lights. Lois was clearly not home.
Shrugging, he reached for his keys, but found his pocket empty. "No keys," he muttered, thinking. "Did I leave them in my other jacket … or did I lose them being sucked out of a time vortex?"
He looked both ways, then up again at the windows. "No," he decided, "better not."
He remembered Lois leaving a key once or twice in the flowerpot (or was it under the flowerpot?) and he was looking "through" things when he first heard her footsteps.
She wasn't close enough to have noticed him yet, and she wasn't paying attention either, as she dug in her purse to find her own keys.
She looked up at last as she began climbing the stairs, stopping dead in her tracks when she saw Clark at the top. "Oh, look who's here," she said finally, climbing up the rest of the way.
"Don't. I mean it." She put her key in the door and as she did, Clark reached out and covered her hand with his. Startled at the unexpected contact, she turned slowly to face him. "Oh, god, Clark … "
Now that she was here, finally, right in front of him, Clark found himself almost unable to speak. "I just … I came back as soon as I could … " he tried.
Lois, crying softly, turned away from him. "I can't do this," she said quietly.
Clark realized he was losing ground. "Lois, I had to see you! We need to talk! I need to explain -"
Lois seemed to regain control and went back to trying to unlock the door. "Yeah, an explanation. That would be … " She stopped and glanced up at him, helplessly.
"I tried to get to you before," Clark continued, quickly, "but there were too many people around, so I just came home. But I couldn't find my keys … "
Lois finally got the door unlocked and turned around to face Clark again as she opened it and stepped inside. "It wouldn't have mattered, even if you had them," she said firmly. "I changed the locks."
She slammed the door in his face then as he just stood there, stunned.
Tempus and Tom Crawford stood in front of the TV set in Crawford's office, watching Lynn James' report on LNN News. " … Superman was not forthcoming about his activities during the nearly two weeks he was gone, but I think it's safe to say that all of Metropolis is glad to have him back … "
In a fury, Tempus swept the contents of Crawford's desk onto the floor. Crawford jumped, dropping the remote control, which shut off the TV.
Tempus didn't even notice. "Not *all* of Metropolis!! Damn!! What is it going to take to rid this world — or any world! — of that red-booted-cape-wearing boy scout?!"
Crawford couldn't help smirking, just a little bit. "It seems Metropolis is not in agreement with you."
"Well, Metropolis doesn't know what *I* know," Tempus muttered in frustration. As if hearing his own words, he stopped and slowly turned to stare at Crawford. "Tom — I'm impressed. Every so often a small streak of clarity shows through."
Crawford stared at him uneasily. "What?"
Tempus began to pace the perimeter of the office. "I think the people of Metropolis — of the world! — need to be informed. They need to know that Superman is going to be responsible for the downfall of the future!"
Crawford sighed. He knew he hadn't been up on Tempus' whole plan from the beginning, but he was now completely lost. "What are you talking about?"
Tempus, nodding to himself, didn't seem to hear him. "Yes, yes that's it! Only you can't explain that to them — they won't understand."
"*They* won't? And what do you mean *me?*"
Leaning towards him excitedly, on a roll, Tempus replied, "You're a city councilman, Tom. It's your job — your *duty* — to protect the people of Metropolis against evil!"
"Evil? Superman?!" Crawford stared at him in horror. "Wait a minute — you want to turn Metropolis against Superman?!"
"No, no, not at all," Tempus shook his head and smiled at Crawford, who could see that he was, nevertheless, deadly serious, for once. "I want *you* to turn Metropolis against Superman. To expose him as the menace to society that he is."
Martha Kent carried a blueberry pie over to the table as she and Jonathan listened to Clark finish his story. "She just went inside," he said, sadly. "She didn't even turn on the lights."
"Oh, sweetheart," Martha put a hand on his shoulder as she went past him to get plates.
"I didn't know what to do — if I should stay or not. I mean, she obviously didn't want me there, and flying up to the second floor wasn't going to change that. So I came here. I didn't know where else to go."
"Well, honey," Martha began, setting the plates down on the table, "you're certainly welcome to stay here as long as you like — especially after what you've been through, but -"
Jonathan interrupted, shaking his head, "Staying here isn't going to help settle anything between you and Lois. You need to get back there and talk to her. Explain what happened. Make her listen to you!"
"Your father's right, sweetheart … "
Clark half-smiled at this. "This is Lois we're talking about. How am I supposed to 'make' her listen to me?"
"My point is, son," Jonathan said gently, "you two are not going to settle this unless Lois knows what happened to you, and if you're not in Metropolis, you're not going to be able to get through to her."
Clark pushed his chair back and got up. "I know, you're right … " He moved off to the living room.
"Clark, don't you want some pie?" Martha called after him.
Clark wearily sat down on the couch. "No thanks, Mom."
Martha exchanged concerned glances with her husband as their son began channel-surfing. "Jonathan, I'm worried about him," she whispered.
Jonathan nodded in agreement.
Clark had stopped on the USNEWS station which was questioning, "Superman has finally returned. You saw his daring rescue earlier, but he hasn't felt the need to share with anyone where he's been. What is he hiding? Why is the Man of Steel lying to the world?"
Clark felt the blood drain from his face as he cried, "What?!" Martha and Jonathan ran to join him.
The reporter continued, "Tom Crawford, Metropolis City Councilman, is here with us. Mr. Crawford, as a representative of the people, what are your feelings about this Superman situation — his mysterious disappearance and sudden return?"
Crawford, surrounded by a crowd of people on a busy street, looked every inch the concerned politician as he answered, "Superman, who is supposed to protect the people, suddenly decides he can take off with no notice at all? And then Superman, who is supposed to stand for truth, suddenly returns and refuses to explain? Where exactly has he been? What has he been doing? And *why* won't he tell anyone?"
Martha reached over and gently touched Clark's hand which was trembling with rage. She was furious herself and as they listened to Crawford continue, she could see Jonathan getting worked up as well, "He has obviously been up to something sinister — and possibly illegal. As an elected representative of the people, it's my job — my *duty* — to protect them and get to the bottom of the evil plot Superman is obviously perpetrating. And fear not! I will!"
Clark hit "mute" on the remote and got up as Martha reached out to rescue the control from his hand, fearful of it being launched into space at any moment. "'Evil plot?!'" Clark exclaimed. "How did we get from 'mysterious trip' to 'evil plot?!'"
"He seems determined to crucify Superman," Jonathan agreed, his own fists clenched in anger.
"Yes, and it's awfully convenient that I *can't* explain," Clark added. He stopped suddenly and clapped himself on the head. "Oh, how stupid am I? He's obviously still working for Tempus."
Martha gasped. "Then you have to stop him!"
"What am I supposed to say?" Clark cried out. "My own wife doesn't even want to talk to me!"
Jonathan got up and turned his son to face him. "Clark, now you listen to me," he said very firmly. "You need to get back to Metropolis, talk to Lois and straighten this whole mess out!"
Clark shook his head. "Which brings us right back to — how do I make her listen to me?"
Martha, staring at the TV, nodded thoughtfully. "She has made her feelings very clear … she doesn't want to talk to 'Clark' … " She paused as the footage of Superman exiting the school with gunman in tow played again.
"Right … " Clark agreed, unsure of where she was going with this.
Martha grinned. "But what if she *had* to talk to Superman?"
Clark and Jonathan just stared at her.
The Daily Planet newsroom was abuzz with activity. It was late, and everyone was trying to gather as much Superman information as possible for the morning edition.
Jimmy Olsen was frantically typing at his computer. Before she left, Lois had half-heartedly turned in a story on the Superman rescue, but Perry thought it lacked a few details. Rather than call Lois back in (which his instincts told him would be a very BAD idea), he was allowing Jimmy, the only other witness on staff, to add what he could before he himself finished it off. Now, however, there were bigger fish to fry. He and Lois had been in meetings all day with the legal department regarding the lawsuit filed by Tom Crawford. Besides, he was not going to let Crawford get away with casting aspersions on Superman. Not by a long shot.
Perry opened his office door. "Jimmy!!!"
Before the syllables were out of his mouth, Jimmy was in his office, breathless. "Yeah, Chief?"
"Jimmy, I want you to go through our photo files and pull 10 or 15 good photos of Superman making a dramatic rescue, saving somebody, or performing a great feat … "
Jimmy nodded, seeing where Perry was going with this. "Yeah, Chief, I get it."
A furious Perry barely heard him. " … I don't care what Crawford says — that sleaze bag is not going to destroy Superman's reputation!! Not as long as I'm alive and kicking and *RUNNING THIS NEWSPAPER*!!"
Jimmy nodded once again, and, mindful of his own safety, took the first opportunity to flee. Perry went over to his desk. Still steaming, he began angrily shuffling through papers. Most of them scattered on the floor when Superman landed.
"What the -" Perry glanced up and was startled to see Superman stepping through his window. He usually used the door.
"Sorry, Mr. White," Superman greeted him, indicating the strewn papers.
"What? Oh, never mind that, son. Are you all right? I mean -"
Superman held up a hand. "Yes, thank you. Well, at least I will be — with your help."
"Of course! Anything you need! What can I do?"
Superman fixed his gaze on the older man. "I need to tell my story, Mr. White. I'd like to tell it to the Daily Planet, because I know you'll be fair."
Perry's heart leapt. He knew this day had to end better than it began. "I pride myself on always telling all sides of the story," he said confidently.
Superman nodded. "I'm counting on it, Mr. White. There's just one thing."
"Oh?" Perry asked, nervously.
"I want Lois Lane to write the story."
Perry grinned, relieved. "Superman, I think that can be arranged."
The two men shook hands, each privately delighted with their coup.
Early the next morning, Lois Lane stepped off the elevator into the Daily Planet newsroom, looking as though she could chew nails. Most employees, already exhausted from working until all hours on Superman's return, made the extra effort to steer clear of her.
As she headed towards her desk, she stopped at the coffee machine to pour herself a cup of decaf, as she gave a longing glance toward the regular. "What I wouldn't give for a little caffeine this morning … " she muttered, stirring in some milk. Sighing, she patted her stomach. "Don't worry, little one," she whispered reassuringly. "There will be plenty of time for caffeine addiction later — I promise."
Raising the cup to her lips, she was seconds from taking a sip when Perry exited his office and spied her. "Lois!" he shouted. "In my office! Now!"
Lois sighed and turned to look at him. In his eager state, he ignored the obvious "don't mess with me" signals Lois was sending out and waved her towards him.
Lois put her coffee down and took off her coat, throwing it and her briefcase in the general area of her desk. The briefcase made it, but the coat ended up on the floor. Jimmy silently came by and picked it up. Lois ignored the whole thing and took her coffee to Perry's office.
"Yes, Perry?" she said, trying to maintain her calm as she entered.
Calm was not in the air, though. Perry was so excited he could barely breathe as he turned to her, waving his hands in the air. "Where have you been, Lois? We've got a paper to save! And you're just the woman to do it. Wait until you hear the assignment I have for you!"
"Oh, that's … great, Perry," Lois answered, trying unsuccessfully to drum up some enthusiasm.
Perry stared at her. "Did I forget to mention that we're trying to save the Daily Planet from bankruptcy sometime this century, Lois?"
"Yes, Chief. In fact, yesterday alone, several times."
"Well, since the Crawford story is the crown jewel in the middle of this whole mess -"
"Chief, there was no evidence to pull the story except the word of Bobby Bigmouth. We talked about this!"
"Lois! I don't think I'm asking too much if I could have your undivided attention!"
"Right," Lois said, trying to focus. "You've got a … story for me."
Perry stopped for a moment and sat down on the side of his desk. "Look, honey," he said quietly, and not without concern. "I know things haven't been easy for you the last couple weeks. I'm not even sure how you're managing to get up and come to work. Now, I don't know exactly what's happening between you and Clark," he held up his hands as Lois started to respond, "and quite frankly, I don't want to know. But I'm not going to just stand by and let everything in your life go down the tubes. The Lois Lane I know carries on — no matter what the odds. The Lois Lane I know doesn't just accept her fate without a fight!"
Lois just stared at him. She was so tired of this. Perry had no idea what was going on and she was so tempted to just tell him — to pour her heart out and have him comfort her. But she also knew she couldn't do that, so she just stirred her coffee again and tried to think of something to say to reassure him.
But Perry was still talking. "I know exactly what will put some color back in those cheeks, though! Picture it, Lois: The biggest story we've had hit Metropolis in weeks. And the story that may just yank us off death's doorstep."
Lois put her coffee down. "Chief, even the 'Elvis Sighted at Club Med' story didn't get this kind of buildup. What's up?"
Perry just smiled at her. "Superman. That's what's up."
Lois felt as though she'd had the wind knocked out of her.
"Way up," Perry exclaimed, jumping up from his desk and indicating the windows. "High above the Metropolis skyline, no doubt, now that he's back in town."
"Uh-huh," Lois muttered.
"And now that he's back," Perry continued, his excitement building, if that were even possible, "every reporter and news outlet in Metropolis - heck, the *country* — would practically sell themselves out to get the lowdown on where he's been for nearly two weeks. And yet … " he paused for dramatic effect, something Lois would have found incredibly annoying if she didn't have a feeling of doom about to descend, "only *one* paper will get the exclusive interview with Superman himself — The Daily Planet."
He finished with a flourish, expecting bells and whistles or somesuch, but Lois was just desperately trying to keep her breakfast down. She nodded briefly, thinking "I can do this," but the only thing she could say was, "What?"
"Specifically, Lois Lane."
Perry clapped his hands together with what only could be described as glee as Lois stared at him, her eyes wide. "Superman came here himself, last night," he informed her. "He offered — *offered* — us the interview. Said he wanted his story to be told as only the Daily Planet could tell it. And only if you wrote it."
"Oh, I bet he did." Lois was growing angrier by the moment and Perry, finally taking note of this, was confused.
"Good Lord, Lois, what's your problem? You're the only reporter on the face of the planet whose *ever* had an exclusive with Superman … "
"Well, there's going to be another, because I'm not doing it." Lois got up and prepared to leave Perry's office.
"Oh, no you don't!" Perry crossed the room and blocked her exit before Lois even knew what happened. In all her years at the Planet she had never seen him move so fast. "Lois, this is the only story big enough to even have the *potential* to get the Daily Planet on respectable newsstands again. It's this or we can all kiss our jobs goodbye!"
"Perry!" Lois, about to come back with a typical Lois response, suddenly stopped, the strength leaving her. "I'm sorry, Perry … I can't. I just … I can't."
Perry gently put a hand on her shoulder. "Lois, *I'm* sorry. I truly am. But this is not open for discussion. Superman promised the Daily Planet an exclusive interview. The one and only catch is that it has to be with you. Now, I know you're having a rough time, but so is the Daily Planet … and we both know why," he added and Lois was annoyed at the implication. She stood behind her story, but she was also aware that this lawsuit was going to mean big trouble for the Planet and she also knew how worried Perry was about it.
Burying her face in her hands, trying to figure out the right thing to do, she was startled to hear her own voice saying, "Ok, Perry, I'll do it."
"Great!" Perry boomed before Lois could even think about taking it back. "The two of you can just sit down someplace quiet and … "
"No!" Lois said quickly. Perry looked at her in shock. "I mean," she said, trying to think fast, "It's such a nice day … maybe we could meet in the park?" Anywhere in public. Anywhere she wouldn't have to be … alone with him.
"Park, great," Perry said. "Superman said he would call me this morning to make sure the details were worked out."
"Fine," Lois said, "tell him I'll meet him there in an hour." She raised her eyebrows at Perry, indicating the door he was still blocking. He backed out of her way and she left, slamming the door behind her and heading to the ladies room where she could cry in private.
One hour and five minutes later, Lois was seated on a bench in Centennial Park, staring intently at her watch. "He has 15 minutes to show up," she told herself, tapping her foot. "And then … " And then what? If he was late, it probably meant he was saving someone from some horrible crisis and Perry would just send her back to do this again … How could Clark do this to her? It was so unfair to trap her this way … And yet she remembered the look on his face the previous evening when she had slammed the door in his face. It had almost broken her heart -
Her thoughts were interrupted by the whooshing sound of Superman landing beside her. "Hi," he said, sitting down next to her.
For a man who made his living with words … "Hi," she answered, with a pointed glance at her watch.
"Sorry I'm a little late," he apologized. "I … actually, I wasn't sure you'd come."
"Perry gave me an assignment and I'm here," Lois replied. Two could play at this game. She switched on her tape recorder. "Superman, the first question I have is an obvious one. Can you tell me where you've been for the last couple weeks?"
Clark looked at her sadly. "No, Lois."
"I see," Lois said curtly, making a note on her notepad. "Tell me, Superman, what kind of questions were you expecting at this interview?"
"Lois," Clark said very quietly, "stop this. Please turn the tape recorder off."
"This is an interview, Cl — Superman," Lois snapped. "And if you're not prepared to give one, I've got a job to get back to at the Daily Planet. While there still *is* a Daily Planet. Not that you've been around to know anything about that."
Clark reached over and shut the tape recorder off. Lois looked at him angrily and began to gather up her things.
"I know more than you might think, Lois. I know about Tom Crawford's lawsuit, and more than that, I know what's behind it. Lois," he reached out a hand to stop her from getting up and though she pulled away from him, she stayed, "I was trapped in a time vortex by Tempus. I only escaped yesterday."
Lois just stared at him, and he laughed. "God, that sounds stupid! This whole thing is stupid!" He buried his head in his hands for a moment and then lifted his eyes to hers. "Lois, the only reason I asked Perry for this interview was so that I could look into your eyes and tell you the truth. Even if you wouldn't listen to me, I couldn't live knowing that you thought I'd walked out on you. Lois … it's all such a mistake."
Lois still didn't respond and he sighed. "I don't know what I'm going to do," he admitted. "I can't tell people, except you of course, the truth. I mean, really who's going to believe me?"
"Who indeed?" Lois asked quietly.
Clark stood up and looked at her. "You think I don't know what people are saying about me? How they feel I 'left' with no warning - nothing? And I can't tell them the truth! Lois," he sat down beside her again and took her hand in his, "you're the only one I can tell this to, who will believe me, who can help me. Lois, Tom Crawford is a dangerous man. He's working for Tempus."
Lois looked at him with horror. "Crawford's working for Tempus? Are you sure?"
"Just listen," her husband begged her. "I'll tell you everything. Just listen."
And Lois listened, despite herself, despite her anger, her pain. She sat there on the bench and listened to his story, starting with H.G. Wells coming to him nearly two weeks before while he sat on that very bench. His trip six months into the future and then six months after that. How he'd witnessed her murder, his experience in the time vortex …
" … So I got sucked out of the bubble and landed on this very bench … only to find out that I'd been gone for ten days!"
Lois nodded slowly. "You were trapped in a cornfield for ten days." He couldn't tell if she was just trying to assimilate the information or if that was actually skepticism in her voice. Either way, he really couldn't blame her.
"I … well, I think so. It didn't seem like it to me. Time must have sped up, or slowed down, or … something. I'm not sure."
"Clark … wait a minute. Tempus is — *was* in jail! How could he get out?"
"Lois, I have no idea. But he did. Do you really think I would make a story like this up?"
Lois sighed. "I don't know, Clark. Would you make up a secret identity and make everyone including me believe you were someone else?"
"Oh, let's not go there." He laughed, trying to lighten the mood, and she smiled as well as she got up.
"I really have to get back to the Planet … "
Superman jumped up. "Wait, Lois! Uh … is that all you have to say?!"
"No," Lois said, gathering up her briefcase, "but that's all I have time to say right now considering the fact that Perry's expecting a front page story from me for the evening edition and I don't really have anything to work with."
"Lois, I know this whole thing is a shock … I know it's almost unbelievable. But you have to believe me. I didn't walk out on you. I would never leave you."
Lois looked noncommittal. "What do you want me to write?"
Clark shook his head. "It's an exclusive. Write whatever you want."
"Fine." She turned to go.
"When can we talk?" he asked desperately.
"I don't know, Clark." She started to leave then.
Lois turned back one last time. "Look, Clark, I do believe you were taken somewhere. I really do. But whether it was Tempus or a flying saucer … I don't *care.* You say you'd never walk out … but the point is … all this happened because you *did* walk out. Everything else was after."
Now she did walk away without looking back. Clark started to follow her, but changed his mind and stopped, watching her disappear down the path.
Tom Crawford sighed inwardly when Tempus burst into his office. "This is it — this is hell, right?" he thought to himself.
"Tom!" Tempus cried, crossing the room to him. "Have I told you how well you're doing? Anti-Superman sentiment is sweeping the city! People are hating that goody-two-shoes right and left — isn't it marvelous?"
"Yeah, great," Crawford muttered.
"But we've got to keep moving, Tom," Tempus continued, crossing the room and turning to face Crawford, excitement etched on his face. "We've got to keep *going* — the *world* needs to hate Superman. Don't you see? If Superman is gone, it will save us — it will save all of us! The future depends on this!" He sighed happily. "Thank goodness I had the foresight to take care of Herb. Nice guy, you know, the original do-gooder, but can't mind his own business, you know what I mean, Tom? At least we know he won't be poking around in any alternate universes *this* time. And I suspect he won't be back here either."
Crawford just stared at him.
Lois had been sitting on the couch for hours, thinking, attempting to write … but mostly playing and replaying Clark's voice over and over on her tape recorder. There wasn't much to it except Clark's asking her to turn the recorder off, but she just wanted to hear his voice.
She knew what he was telling her was the truth — there was lying and then there was lying and Clark didn't lie — not like this. But the reality was, although she knew why he had been gone so long, she couldn't get past the fact that he had left in the first place. The memory of their argument still made her cry and she could still hear the horrible sound of the door closing behind him.
But finding him on the porch yesterday — it was just like that night she'd come home, thinking he was on New Krypton, and found him there on her porch, like out of some kind of dream. Only yesterday, she'd let her pride overshadow the relief she'd felt, seeing that he was OK, he was alive … she'd been so afraid something had happened. Because she knew he'd never leave her — not really …
Her thoughts a jumble, she looked at the half-written story on her computer. "Perry is never going to go for this," she groaned, picturing him at the Daily Planet, already running around, getting ready to put the evening edition to bed. She had stopped answering her phone about 3 hours ago.
Looking up she saw a news story flash across the muted TV screen and grabbed the remote to turn it up. Lynn James was reporting on the "rapidly escalating dissatisfaction with Superman."
"Everyone wants to know where Superman has been," her voice intoned and Lois sighed as the image cut to Tom Crawford on yet another street, surrounded by another crowd of supporters. "I demand," he shouted, over the cheers of the crowd, "that Superman give Metropolis an explanation as to his whereabouts during the past ten days. I give him twenty-four hours to explain to this city why he abandoned them in their hour of need!" The crowd roared their approval and Lynn James went on to reiterate Crawford's deadline.
Lois shut the TV off in disgust. "Twenty-four hours. And then what? What are you going to do then?" It was rhetorical, of course, but she did wonder — what did Tempus have up his sleeve this time? Why was he so quiet?
Turning her attention back to what she'd been doing, she flipped the tape recorder on again. "Lois, stop this," came Clark's voice. She clicked it off, thoughtfully, looked back towards the TV and nodded.
Martha Kent answered the phone on the third ring. The local affiliates had picked up Tom Crawford's challenge to Superman and she and Jonathan had seen it replayed a half-dozen times in the last ten minutes. They were trying to figure out the best way to help their son when the ringing interrupted them.
"Martha? It's Lois."
"Lois!" Martha looked at her husband with raised eyebrows. She had known it wouldn't take long for those two to work things out — it never did. Jonathan hadn't been as sure and he grinned at her now, hopefully. "Sweetheart, how are you? We've been so worried about you … "
"Martha," Lois said, quickly, "I don't mean to be rude, but do you know where Clark is? I really need to find him and I don't even know where to look -" Her voice broke then, and she cursed herself for crying now.
"No, honey, I haven't seen or heard from him since he left to meet you this morning. I gather it didn't go well?"
Lois collected herself as best she could. "It went … well, it went. He told me what happened. I didn't … well, I couldn't … "
"Oh, honey," Martha sighed. "He was afraid you'd still be angry."
"I was angry. Now I'm just confused. And worried. We still need to settle things between us, and now Crawford's made it more important than ever that I write this story about where Superman's been — but I can't do it without Superman."
"He'll come back, sweetheart. He loves you. And he knows you love him. I've told you before, that's all you need — you can get through everything else."
"Not if I can't find him," Lois mourned, but any further musings were interrupted when Superman himself appeared through the window. "Oh! Never mind, Martha, I found him. He's here."
Lois hung up and turned to face her husband, who returned her gaze nervously. "I — uh — I wanted to give you some time to yourself, but I heard about Crawford and … "
He broke off because he had expected Lois to respond before this and he was running out of things to say. "Uh … Lois?"
Lois looked at him in the eye. "Can you … can you change? Because it's so much easier when you … "
The words were barely out of her mouth before a strong wind whipped through the room and Clark stood before her, looking apprehensive.
"Thanks." She had so much to say to him, but now that he was actually here, all she could do was look at him …
He decided to break the oppressive silence. "I know you're still mad, but we have to figure out what to do about Crawford and Tempus. Whether or not you believe me, there's still a danger there -"
"Clark — "
"We can discuss what I did wrong later; right now we have a crisis to figure out — together."
He walked over to the couch and read through Lois' story (what there was of it) in seconds, as Lois tried again. "Clark … "
"Um, Lois, there isn't much here … "
*Clark!*" Lois finally got him to look at her.
"I do believe you."
He just stared at her for a minute. "You do?"
"Of course I do. I know you wouldn't make up something like that." Clark looked as if he were near tears as she continued, "And you're right."
"I am? About what?"
Lois indicated the laptop. "There isn't much there."
He smiled at her and sighed. "That's OK — let see what we can come up with."
"What I've been thinking," Lois began, falling into the easy rhythm they were so good at, "is something like 'Superman has been off fighting someone out to get him … '"
"That's good, that's good … " he said, picking up where she left off, "'and even though he can't promise to prevent every emergency that may occur, he can promise to do the best he can with the time he does have.'"
Now Lois thought she would cry as she looked up at him. "Oh, Clark … "
"Lois," Clark said, urgently, flinging the laptop aside, "I *am* sorry. I am so sorry for walking out like I did — it was wrong. It just felt like everything was spinning out of control … "
"You didn't know what was happening; none of what happened was your fault … "
"Yes, it was. I promised myself I'd never make you cry and that night that's all I did."
"I should never have doubted you. I *know* you would never just leave me like that."
Clark gently cupped Lois face in his hands. "I will never, *ever* leave you. If I've learned anything from all of this, it's that we are a team. We belong together. All three of us." He kissed her then and now despite herself, Lois began to cry. Clark put his arms around her and held her tightly until she was finished. When she lifted her head finally, his sweater wet with her tears, she seemed calmer. "I'm sorry," she smiled sheepishly, "I don't know where that came from."
"You're entitled." He smiled at her.
She shook her head. "We have so much work to do … "
He laughed at her then, and they set to work. Between the two of them, they had the story written in no time and sent to Perry who was, of course, delighted to have it, as well as to have his two star reporters back together. "Who gets the byline on this?"
"We do, Perry," Lois smiled into the phone. "Lois Lane and Clark Kent."
She hung up and turned to her husband, who was watching her with a look of pride on his face. "What?"
"Nothing. I was just thinking how much I love you."
"I love you, too."
He cocked his head for a second and grinned at her. "So … you wanna go flying?"
She laughed then, a sound both of joy and of relief. "I thought you'd never ask."
Being in Clark's arms again was the most wonderful feeling in the world. It was a clear night, and Lois could pick out every star in the sky.
Clark's arms and his cape kept her warm, and as she huddled in his arms, she sighed with contentment. "What are you going to do when there's three of us?" she asked him, teasingly, leaning her head on his shoulder.
Clark shrugged. "Oh, we'll just have one of those baby backpack things."
"Clark!" Lois smacked him on the shoulder and he laughed.
They returned home the way they left, via the window, and Clark floated them up to the bedroom.
They made love urgently, with a passion that was born from each of them having wondered if they'd ever see the other again, and afterwards, it was Lois' turn to hold Clark. She comforted him while he told her more about what had happened during his trip to the future, how devastated and helpless he had felt watching her die, how he thought *he* would die in the vortex after Tempus had sent Wells back in time. She lay back, stroking his head as he calmed and she cursed Tempus for what he had done.
"It gets worse and worse, Clark, every time," she noted. "And now, he's got to be angry, because his entire plan was foiled when you came back." Clark nodded, but didn't answer. Lois stopped what she was doing as she grew deeper in thought. "We have to stop him, Clark. That's why Wells didn't come back from wherever Tempus sent him. Because he knows it's up to us."
Clark sighed. "Why is it always up to us?"
Lois smiled slowly. "Because the two of us," she took his hand, "together, are stronger than anything else. I think you know that."
Clark gently rolled over and kissed her. The baby kicked then, startling both of them and Lois giggled.
Lois awoke the next morning as the sun streamed through the windows. Opening her eyes, she smiled to herself and rolled over to kiss Clark … only to find the bed empty.
She sat up in a panic. Had she dreamed it? Had he not been here at all?
Then she saw it. A single red rose on the pillow next to her, and she brightened. There was a note attached to the rose. It read, simply, "I love you."
Lois felt the tears well up in her eyes. She reached out and picked up the note. On the other side, Clark had explained that he had gone to talk to Perry, to explain his absence by saying he'd been "helping Superman. I'll be back … for breakfast." She laughed.
Perry White was seated at his desk, staring at Lois and Clark's interview with Superman in the morning paper. It had run in the evening edition and Perry had felt it was worth running again. It was a great piece — probably Kerth Award winning material. He shook his head. As long as he lived, he'd never know how those two did it.
As if on cue, Clark Kent knocked on the door and stuck his head in. "Chief?"
Perry looked up and raised his eyebrows. "Well … look what the cat dragged in," he said in his slow Southern drawl.
Clark had the decency to flush as he came in. "Do you have a minute?"
Perry looked at him for a long moment and then shrugged and indicated the chair. Clark shut the door behind him and sat down uneasily. It was obvious Perry wasn't going to make this easy for him.
"I thought … I mean, I know Lois told you that I was back … that we wrote the piece together," he started. "But I wanted to come and talk to you … explain where I was. Why I was gone."
"I imagine it's quite a story."
Lois showered and dressed, and headed downstairs, debating whether or not to attempt to cook breakfast. She decided against it, telling herself she had no way of knowing how long Clark would be. Also, she realized suddenly, she had very little food in the house. She hadn't had much of an appetite lately, with Clark gone … now she was suddenly ravenous. She went to the kitchen to see what she could find. Clark would understand.
She had made it halfway through a box of cereal when the phone rang. She grabbed it, her mouth full. "Hemmo?"
"Ms. Lane? It's Tom Crawford."
Lois swallowed quickly. "Crawford? What do *you* want?"
"Ms. Lane … I know what I've done is wrong … that's why I'm leaving town. But I can't let Tempus get away with what he's done … to you and your husband … and to Superman. I have evidence clearing Superman and The Daily Planet of any and all wrongdoing."
"Where are you?" Lois said quickly.
"Centennial Park. But, like I said, I'm leaving -"
"No, no! Don't go anywhere! I'm on my way. I'll meet you by the fountain."
Crawford hesitated. "He's going to come after me, Ms. Lane. I can't stay here long."
"I'll be right there," Lois insisted. "Don't move."
She hung up and hesitated. Clark would *kill* her if she went off by herself … but she was just going to go and get the evidence from Crawford. She had started this with him. She would finish it.
"Chief, Superman asked for my help. I … I couldn't say no to him! He asked me not to tell anyone, especially Lois, for her own protection."
Perry nodded. "And you told Lois this?"
"And she's OK with this?"
"We talked about it last night. We've settled everything between us. We're … OK."
Lois entered the park, moving quickly towards the fountain. There was no sign of Crawford. In fact, the park seemed deserted. Granted, it was early in the morning, but …
Lois froze momentarily and then turned …
"Clark … " Perry looked him in the eye. "Lois has been through hell and back. It hasn't been easy for me, either, watching her come in here everyday, looking as though her heart was breaking, all the while with that baby coming soon."
"I know, Chief -"
"Now you listen to me, son," Perry said, getting up and crossing around his desk. He shook a finger at Clark. "Your wife and your child are the most important things in the world! You remember that. Nothing gets in the way of that! And I mean nothing! Not even Superman. You got that?"
"I got it, Chief," Clark assured him quickly, a little taken aback by his vehemence.
Perry stopped, a little of the anger draining out of him. "Maybe it's strange, getting that advice from someone in my shoes … who let pretty much everything get in the way of his family. But learn from me, son … it's not worth it. The rest of it just isn't worth it."
"Oh, I know, Chief. I know." Clark grinned up at Perry and he, too, smiled, satisfied that his point had been made.
At that moment, Jimmy burst through the door. "Hey, CK! Great to have you back!"
"There's a call for you on line one."
Surprised, Clark looked at Perry who indicated the phone on his desk. Clark got up and punched in the button. "Clark Kent."
"Clark! So good to hear your voice! Over the sands of time as they say!"
Clark visibly angered at the sound of Tempus' voice over the phone line, and turned away so Perry wouldn't see. "I've been wondering about you."
"Yes, I've missed you, too. So much for us to catch up on … the wife, the family … "
Clark felt the cold hands of fear grip his heart. "What are you talking about?"
"I'm in Centennial Park, Clark. The place where so many things begin. And end." Tempus held up the phone and suddenly Clark's worst fear was confirmed. He heard Lois on the other end. "Clark, don't! It's a trap — mph!" Then Tempus was laughing and the line went dead.
Clark hung up, and ran out of the room, calling over his shoulder, "Chief, gotta go, Lois is in trouble … " Then he was gone, Jimmy and Perry staring after him.
Superman landed in Centennial Park mere seconds later — he couldn't remember ever flying so fast. His heart was pounding so hard he could barely hear.
The park was relatively deserted and he saw Lois and Tempus standing by the fountain and was by their side in seconds. "Hello, Superman!" Tempus greeted him cheerfully, his arm around Lois neck, a gun in his hand. Clark shuddered at how reminiscent the whole thing was of what had happened in the "future." This time, however, he wouldn't let anything happen to Lois, and he assured her of that with his eyes.
"Let her go, Tempus. Now."
"Don't come any closer," Tempus warned, pushing the gun against Lois' neck. Despite her best efforts, a cry of fear escaped from her mouth and Clark anxiously took a step toward her.
"I mean it!" Tempus cocked the gun, and Clark froze in his tracks, holding up his hands.
"OK," he said, soothingly, "just tell me what you want."
"Want?" Tempus appeared bewildered. "Why, Superman, I don't want anything from you. I invited you here to say goodbye."
"Are you … going somewhere?" Lois asked, exchanging puzzled glances with Clark.
Tempus looked at her and pulled Wells' time control out of his pocket. "Oh, no, not me. I thought you might want to say goodbye to your husband."
Clark shook his head firmly. "Lois isn't going anywhere, Tempus. This is between you and me. It always has been."
Tempus nodded. "Yes it has, and you know, I've given that some thought. All these years, Clark, all this time … I've gone back in time, tried to kill you as a baby. I went to an alternate universe; tried to kill Superman there! I tried to trap you in time warps — twice! None of that worked! Do you have any idea how frustrating that is?"
"Gee, so sorry," Clark muttered.
"And it's so important that I do this! If your descendants live to found Utopia, life as we know it is over!! I can't let that happen. It's my job — my *duty*!"
"Life as you know it is already over, Tempus," Clark promised. "Let Lois go — now. And maybe, just maybe — I'll let you walk away from this." Lois could see how furious he was and she hoped he would keep his temper in check.
Tempus shook his head. "The thing is — I've been going about this all wrong! Killing you is next to impossible, and who has that kind of time? Now," he tightened his grip around Lois' neck, "killing your wife, here — much easier. One doesn't need to deal with all that nasty kryptonite, and it produces the same result. No descendants, whether in four months or forty years. No Utopia."
"Tempus," Clark stepped forward, "if you harm one hair on her head, I *swear* -"
"Don't swear, Clark, it's so unbecoming to a superhero," Tempus grinned. He punched a button on the time control and a vortex opened behind them. "Stay back," he continued, stepping backwards and pulling Lois with him. "I'm told it's awfully warm inside those vortexes, Lois. Sorry I won't be going with you to keep you company. Say goodbye, Mrs. Kent," he urged Lois, preparing to hurl her into the unknown.
"Lois!" Clark rushed towards her, but before he could reach her, Lois turned and kneed Tempus where it counted. The gun went off, missing Lois by mere inches, and Tempus, still clutching the weapon, fell backwards into the vortex, screaming. The vortex closed, and Tempus disappeared.
Clark caught Lois as she fell into his arms, gasping, and they sank to the ground. He held her tightly in his arms as if he would never let her go, rocking her back and forth.
"Clark," she whispered, attempting unsuccessfully to turn her head to him.
He continued to clutch her as if he didn't hear her.
"*Clark*," she tried, louder.
It registered this time, and he stopped rocking, though still holding onto her in an iron-like embrace.
"Clark, please — I can't breathe."
"Oh!" Clark loosened his grip on her and she relaxed, reaching out to touch his face.
"It's OK," she said softly. "I'm OK. I'm here. Everything's OK. He's gone."
Clark nodded, but she could see the haunted look in his eyes and realized that vortex or no vortex, Tempus would be around for a long time.
He took her hand and helped her up then, as he became aware that the park was about to become crowded as the lunch hour was upon them. "Uh - I'm going to find Clark for you, Lois."
She gave him a strange look, then realized his point. "Oh — that would be wonderful, Superman. Thank you."
He smiled at her and disappeared behind the bushes, only to reappear seconds later as Clark, who threw his arms around her. "I think we should get you to the doctor."
"Lois, a madman just tried to kill you!"
Lois pulled away from him. "Clark, I'm *fine.* He didn't hurt me. Really. I'm fine."
Clark acknowledged that he was not going to win this, and changed the subject to something he could win. "Lois, what were you doing here with him?"
"Crawford called me," she explained hesitantly. "He said he was leaving town, but had evidence against Tempus, clearing both Superman and the Planet, and asked me to meet him here."
"Lois, Tempus put him up to that!"
"Gee, you think, Clark? I know that *now,* thank you." He frowned at her, but did not respond. "Come on — say it."
"I shouldn't have come here, I should have called you … "
"Oh, I think you've got the drill down pretty well by now." He sighed. "So — where is Crawford now?"
"Let's check his office."
Lois was already heading to the car and Clark shook his head, sighing. A thought struck him, and he laughed to himself as he followed her. Lois had mentioned once that she was concerned about keeping up with a "superbaby," but she had more to worry about if their child had even half of *her* energy and penchant for trouble. "Wait till the kid starts walking," he said to himself as he reached the car where Lois had already started the engine and was gunning it impatiently.
"Great story, kids!" No one at the Daily Planet could remember seeing Perry White as thrilled as he was right now. His star reporters had found enough evidence in Tom Crawford's office to implicate him fully and clear Superman and the newspaper of any wrongdoing. Unfortunately, there was no sign anywhere of Crawford, who was now facing criminal charges.
Lois and Clark privately feared that Tempus had disposed of Crawford after his phone call to Lois, but had not been able to prove this theory, despite Superman's numerous searches of Metropolis. Everything found in Crawford's office indicated to them that Tempus had planned it all to come out this way, should his original plan not have worked out, which it hadn't. And without any evidence to the contrary, Tom Crawford was now the fall guy for everything that had gone wrong in Metropolis in the last two weeks.
But at the Planet, a celebratory mood was in the air. Without the threat of the lawsuit hanging over its head, the newspaper was out of danger, and with Lois and Clark's exclusive Superman interviews, circulation was up, which was even better.
"Lois! Clark!" Perry called out to them as he crossed the newsroom. "I want you two to go home and take the rest of the day off."
"But, Perry, there's follow up to do, and … " Lois continued to protest, but Clark exchanged a knowing glance with Perry. Lois had been through so much in the last two weeks, and despite her repeated insistences that she was all right, a day of rest would do her good.
"Thanks, Perry." Clark's acknowledgment interrupted his wife's impending sermon on how much work they had left to do. Their editor smiled in response and went off to harangue Jimmy about something or other.
"Clark!" Lois turned to him, annoyed. "Why did you do that? We need to -"
"No, Lois," Clark interrupted firmly. "*You* need to rest; I don't care how much you complain. That baby needs you to rest. Don't argue with me on this."
She could see he meant it, so she didn't push the issue. "Fine. So … we have the rest of the day off … what to do with all that time?" She grinned knowingly at him, thrilled in the knowledge that she could still make him blush.
"That's not exactly rest, Lois," he laughed, wondering if anyone else had heard her. "Seriously — I called the doctor and made an appointment for you."
"You did *what?!* Clark! I told you — I'm fine!! *We're* fine!"
"You know what," Clark replied firmly. "I think we can let Dr. McGrath be the judge of that."
Lois tried to protest, but something told her not to push it with Clark right now, so she reluctantly let him help her with her coat while they made their way toward the elevator.
Lois shifted in her seat again as they waited in the crowded doctor's office. She sighed loudly, but her husband, seemingly engrossed in a magazine, continued to ignore her.
"This is *such* a waste of a free afternoon," she muttered.
Clark put the magazine down with a trace of annoyance and seemed about to respond, but at that moment the receptionist looked up. "Mr. and Mrs. Kent? Room 6."
Clark helped Lois up and gathered up their belongings before the two of them followed the nurse down the hall to the examination room.
"Mrs. Kent, please put on this gown," the nurse said, handing Lois a folded paper gown. "The doctor will be right with you."
"A gown?" Lois was puzzled. "Am I having a full exam?"
The nurse nodded, businesslike. "That's what the doctor said."
She left the room and Lois sighed as she unfolded the gown. "You'd think they'd make these *bigger,* considering the size of the women wearing them. Uh, Clark … "
"What? Do you want me to leave?'
Lois was distracted, her arms reaching behind her. "What? No, of course not. It's just this sweater … buttons in the.. back … " She was struggling. "Can you help me?"
"Oh … sure." He unbuttoned her and she laughed at him.
"We've been here before — why do you always get so nervous when we walk into the examination room?"
"I think it's the stirrups."
Even Clark was starting to get impatient by the time Dr. McGrath entered the room. "I'm so sorry," she apologized. "I had an emergency C-section this morning and everything else has kind of fallen behind."
"It's all right," Clark assured her. "We appreciate you fitting us in at the last minute."
Dr. McGrath waved him away and turned to her patient. "So Lois! I heard you've had some excitement! Great articles, by the way, you two."
"Thanks — I'm fine, really," Lois insisted. "Clark tends to overreact at times."
"New fathers are like that," Dr. McGrath commiserated with a wink at Clark. "Let's prove to him that he has nothing to worry about."
Dr. McGrath examined Lois and assured both parents that all was well — the baby's heartbeat was strong, and mother and child were healthy. "But, since you're here, why don't we do an ultrasound — just to be sure."
Lois looked over at Clark, who directed his concerned look to the doctor. "Why? I thought you said everything was all right!"
"I *did* and it *is.* It's just that Lois is nearly due for an ultrasound, and this way we'll be able to fully put anyone's fears at rest."
"But … right now?" Lois was surprised.
"Well, normally one would make an appointment for this sort of thing, but with you, Lois — I figure we should do it while we've got you here. Strike while the iron is hot, as it were."
Clark's look said, "You know she's right," so Lois sighed.
"OK … let's do it."
One hour and four eight-ounce cups of water later, Lois lay back on the table as Clark pulled up a chair next to her. "I feel like I'm floating away," Lois groaned, shifting her position. "There wasn't this much water on the Titanic." Clark laughed as Dr. McGrath entered, pushing a large monitor, a nurse following behind her with other equipment.
"Usually," the doctor smiled as the equipment was set up, "Angie, my technician, does this, but I had some cancellations this afternoon, and I kind of wanted to do this one myself anyway."
A moment later, everything was in place, and the doctor had Lois pull her sweater up, exposing her stomach. Clark held Lois' left hand and she was surprised to realize he was trembling.
"Are you OK?" she asked, looking over at him.
"Me? Oh, yeah, fine," Clark replied unconvincingly.
Lois smiled knowingly and reached over, patting his hand with her own.
"OK," Dr. McGrath smiled. "Are you ready for the first glimpse of your baby?" Lois and Clark nodded with excitement. "OK, then." She pulled out a tube of what looked like caulking gel. "Hang on, Lois."
"Oh, I know this is going to be — aaah!! Cold!!"
She was squeezing Clark's hand now as they laughed.
"OK," Dr. McGrath had the monitor on now and gently placed the transducer over Lois' abdomen.
"Ooh, no, don't press!" Lois begged, squirming.
"Hang in there," Dr. McGrath smiled, moving the transducer around, albeit slightly more gently.
Lois and Clark watched in rapt attention as Dr. McGrath focused intently on the monitor. Neither of them could make sense out of any of the images on the screen, so they waited for the doctor's assessment. She was quiet for several minutes, taking measurements, moving the transducer around, seemingly seeing all there was to see.
Lois was as quiet as she could be for as long as she could be, but it was only a short while before her natural impatience got the best of her. "What do you see?" she finally demanded, and the doctor smiled.
"OK, Lois. You see here?" She pointed to an indiscernible blob on the screen. Lois and Clark nodded breathlessly. "That's your baby's head."
Lois reached out and ran her hand over the screen, as gently as if she were touching the baby itself, and then put her hand to her mouth, tears coming to her eyes as she smiled.
"Does everything look all right?" Clark asked anxiously.
"Everything looks great, just super," the doctor assured them, studying the screen and completely missing the amused look Lois threw Clark. "Here, you see that? That's the baby's heart — nice and strong."
"It's beating so fast!" Lois exclaimed.
"That's normal," the doctor assured her. "A fetal heartbeat is about 140 beats per minute, and your baby's is well within that range."
Overcome, Lois and Clark did not speak for the next few minutes as Dr. McGrath pointed out various body parts — arms, legs, other vital organs. She offered to print out some shots of the baby, as well as provide a videotape of the event. Both offers were accepted eagerly and gratefully by the expectant parents.
"Oh, my parents will love this," Clark said softly and Lois squeezed his hand. It was so real now — the baby was *right there* — and she had no idea how she was going to wait four more months.
"Can you tell if it's a boy or a girl?" she demanded suddenly.
"Lois!" Clark protested. They had discussed this, but hadn't yet made up their minds about whether or not they wanted to know. At least *he* hadn't.
"Clark … " Lois looked at him pleadingly, and he had to laugh. He should have known better. Lois hadn't become the investigative reporter she was by leaving questions unanswered. It was simply not in her nature, and he sighed and nodded his acquiescence.
Dr. McGrath frowned and shook her head as she moved the transducer around, trying to get a better look at the baby. "I'm sorry," she commented, "but your baby has its legs crossed and the way it's turned … " she paused, continuing to look, but then shook her head again. "No … I'm sorry, I can't tell from this angle."
"What? What do you mean you can't tell?! What if I lie like this? Or turn over? Or … " Lois was not going to give up and Clark grinned at the doctor.
"Lois … so we'll wait. It'll be a surprise."
Lois looked pleadingly at the doctor who shrugged helplessly. Shaking her head and laying back again, Lois frowned. "I hate surprises."
As they entered the house later, videotape and printouts in hand, Lois stopped in her tracks. "Oh! I just realized — we have *no* food in this house. We should have stopped at the store." She frowned and looked up at Clark who was shaking his head.
"You are clearly not grasping the idea of resting, sweetheart. You relax here, *I* will go to the store. OK?"
Lois shrugged as she took off her coat; she hated food shopping. "Sure. No problem. See?" She curled up on the couch. "I can relax as well as the next person."
Clark, who was well aware of his wife's aversion to grocery shopping (it was no accident that there had been no food in the house while he'd been gone), stifled a grin. "Great. I'll be back soon. We can call the grandparents-to-be and tell them we've got our first home movies."
"Don't get lost saving some hapless person on the way back!" Lois called after him. "Last time you did that, all the frozen food had thawed by the time you got home."
Clark stopped and turned around, his expression serious. "Lois, I told you I was taking the afternoon off."
Lois gave him a "yeah, right," look.
"No, I'm serious. Lois," he came over and sat down opposite her, "I've really been thinking about this. I said some terrible things the night I left here, but some of it was true — I do feel, in some ways, that Superman has taken over my life. I *did* have a life before him," he reminded her and she nodded.
"I know that. I just didn't know you then."
He smiled then. "I didn't say it was a great life."
She grinned back and he got serious again. "But really, I've been thinking — with the baby coming, I need to try to be around more often. That means having Metropolis survive on it's own a little more. Not all the time, and I certainly wouldn't ignore anything major. But when I want to spend some time with my family, that has got to come first. Otherwise, what do I really have?"
Lois' eyes filled with tears, and she reached out to touch his face. "You'll have us, Clark. You'll always have us."
Clark nodded. "And I want to be around for you. Both of you. Someday, all of you."
Lois laughed through her tears. "Oh, God, please. One at a time!"
He laughed, too, as he kissed her.
Characters in this episode are copyrighted by DC Comics, December 3rd Production and Warner Brothers. No infringement is intended in any part by the author or the Season 5 group, however, the ideas expressed within this episode are copyrighted (c) 1998 to the author.