By Julie Mack (Mackteach@aol.com)
Summary: What starts out as a short break from the hurried pace of life in Metropolis ends up being more than either Lois or Clark could imagine. Red Kryptonite is the "villain" in this story that shows once again what "Being with you is stronger than me alone" is all about. (Episode # 3 of The Unaired Fifth Season)
Jonathan and Martha Kent sat on the front porch of their Kansas farmhouse enjoying one of the simple pleasures of farm life: stargazing. Families living in America's heartland had been doing this for years, moms and dads naming the stars for their kids, children wishing on those same stars. More recently, for about the past four and a half years, there had been another reason to look up into the night sky. Occasionally, a streak of red would move across the sky and cries of "Hey Dad! There's Superman!" were becoming as familiar as "Hey Dad! There's the Big Dipper!"
On this particular autumn evening, Jonathan and Martha sat in companionable silence, each lost in their thoughts. Jonathan was mentally listing the chores for the weekend. Martha was thinking about her next art sculpture. The excited voice on the radio of the local weather person punctuated the silence.
"It's absolutely fantastic! This meteorite shower is something that won't be seen again for quite a while. Luckily, most of the meteorites are burning up as they enter our atmosphere, but Smallville kids should have a fun time over the next couple of days looking for "space rocks". The color streaks are incredible! The reds are so brilliant, they look like they're glowing! It almost looks like a sky full of Supermen!"
It was one of these red streaks that landed just off the porch. Clark Kent gently set Lois on her feet. They stood there for a moment as Lois tightly hugged her husband.
"Thanks, honey. Have I told you lately how much I love flying with you?"
"Yeah, but tell me again."
Lois looked at him teasingly. "How about I show you? Later."
Clark grinned. "Deal."
Hand in hand they walked up the front steps and greeted Clark's parents. Hugs and kisses were exchanged and the spectacular meteorite shower over Kansas and Smallville was forgotten.
Smallville, unlike other rural towns, tried to have evening activities to keep the young and young-at-heart entertained. A group was just exiting the local movie theater, excitedly talking about the latest release, "Kiss the Girls". Bingo was in full swing down at the Elks' Lodge. In Shuster's Field, a small group of men were digging. The excited voice of one of them punctuated the evening calm. "I've found something!" The other men hurried towards him. "The boss is gonna love this!"
In another part of the Smallville area, several chunks of red meteorite landed in the local lake. They quickly sank to the bottom of the lake, observed only by the fish.
THE UNAIRED FIFTH SEASON
"LIFE IN THE FAST LANE"
Story by Craig Causer and Julie Mack
Written by Julie Mack
Lois and Clark walked down the dirt road, enjoying each other's company and the fresh spring day. Lois sighed contentedly.
"Clark, I am so glad you convinced Perry to let us have a few days off. We've really needed it."
Clark smiled as he saw how happy and relaxed Lois was. The last few weeks had taken their toll on both of them. "Me too. Want me to carry that?"
"No, I'm fine. I think I can handle a picnic basket." She playfully nudged him with her hip.
"I know you can, honey. It's just,,,"
"I appreciate that, Clark. Really, I do. But, save the 'Boy Scout' routine for the elderly ladies crossing the streets in Metropolis."
"Okay. You win." Clark smiled to take the sting out his words, knowing that Lois' competitive nature was always close to the surface.
"I always do." Lois returned his smile, knowing that he was only teasing her.
Clark stopped. Lois looked at him worriedly. "A call for Superman?"
"No. Something else." Clark stared at Lois.
Before she could even gasp, Clark had picked her up, picnic basket and all. He began walking again, a purpose in his every stride.
"What are you doing?"
"Something I've wanted to do ever since I saw you put your swimsuit on under your t-shirt and shorts."
Clark chuckled. "Lois, you've been on trial for murder, shot at, frozen, and cloned. Why should a little water bother you?"
"Uh huh. Water. As in a lake."
With that, Clark placed the picnic basket on the ground and walked right into the lake that they had arrived at.
"Clark!" She shrieked as the coolness of the fresh water hit her legs. "My clothes!"
"Will dry. So will mine."
Lois looked down to see that Clark had waded to the middle of the lake. "Are you touching bottom?"
Lois grinned, a twinkle coming into her eyes. "Good."
With that, she shifted slightly, causing Clark to lose his balance. He tried to compensate, but she continued squirming in his arms.
"Lo-is! Stop squirming!"
"No!" Lois continued to squirm and laugh, attempting to tickle him.
"Lo-is!" With that last cry, Clark finally gave up the fight and they both fell into the lake, below the surface.
They both came up, laughing and splashing water at each other.
"That feels so good!"
Clark swam towards Lois and embraced her. "You feel good." He leaned in and kissed her. Lois returned the kiss, again marveling at her good fortune in finding the one true love of her life. She murmured soft words of love, nonsense words really, that conveyed how she felt when she was in his arms. Safe. Cherished. Loved. Clark sighed into the kiss as it continued. He loved kissing Lois. It made him feel,,,strong. Complete. Loved.
The kiss broke off and they swam towards the edge of the lake. In waist-high water, Lois caught and held Clark's gaze as she slowly and sensuously removed her wet, clinging T-shirt to reveal her swimsuit. She smiled as she saw Clark's gaze darken with desire. She had hoped that they would go swimming. No longer "first year newlyweds", she had worried that she would somehow change in Clark's eyes. His hot look told her she hadn't. In fact, judging by the look he was giving her, Clark was even more physically attracted to her. *Must be all that chocolate I eat*, she thought. The thought left as quickly as it came. She didn't care. She knew that no matter what, Clark would always love her. His voice interrupted her reverie.
"What are you thinking? You had such a dreamy look on your face just now."
"Hmmm? Oh, just counting my blessings."
"Really? Want to count them out loud?"
"Sure. Let me just get out of these shorts. I want to go swimming."
Lois proceeded to remove her shorts and tennis shoes, tossing them onto the grass by their picnic basket. Clark removed his outer clothing too. They swam towards the middle of the lake and climbed onto the large rock to sun themselves.
"Clark? You know what I love about you best?"
"I have no idea, but I get the feeling you're about to tell me."
"Astute observation there. You a reporter or something?"
"Or something. I learned from the best. Now, what do you love about me best?"
"The fact that even though you're Superman and can do all those incredible things, you still need someone. Me."
Clark considered what Lois had said for a few moments. "Yeah. Amazing isn't it? There are only two things that can bring me to my knees. Kryptonite, and you. I don't know which is stronger." He thought about what he had just said. "No, I take that back. I do know."
Lois turned to look at him with a curious look. "Which is it?"
Clark turned towards her, looked deep into her eyes and cupped the side of her face. "You. No question about it. You are my one ultimate weakness. At the same time, you are my ultimate strength."
Lois' beautiful features took on a faraway look. She whispered more to herself than out loud, "Being with you is stronger than me alone."
She again looked at him. "The island and Spencer Spencer? I remember. I'll never forget those words, Clark."
"Neither will I." They sealed their agreement with a kiss that rocked both of them to their souls. Lois' stomach rumbled causing both of them to break off the kiss and chuckle.
"That's OK. Mom packed enough to feed an army. Wanna eat?"
"No. Let's swim some and then eat."
With that, Lois dived into the lake, Clark following her. They swam and played and laughed and loved for a while before getting out and having their picnic. They sat under the apple tree and Clark told Lois about his childhood, before his powers fully developed. Lois laughed at the stories and was glad that Clark had some happy memories and a normal growing up. At least, as normal as normal could be for a Kryptonian on Earth. They dozed off and went swimming again in the afternoon. Finally, as the shadows began to lengthen, they headed back to the Kent farmhouse. Rested. Relaxed. And more in love with each other.
The opening of the French windows preceded Clark's landing in the living room of the Kent brownstone. Clark didn't pause as he carried a dozing Lois upstairs to their bedroom. Gently, he laid her down on the bed. Lois softly stirred, her eyes fluttering open and focusing on him.
"Mmmmm, Clark? What time is it?"
"A little past 9:30."
"Past 9:30? Getting a little slow there aren't you? Usually, we're home from Smallville by 9:29."
"Well, you just felt so good in my arms, I didn't want to rush." Clark smiled gently and brushed a stray lock of hair out of her eyes and tucked it behind her ear.
Lois stretched, her arms raised above her head. "Mmmmmm. I feel like slipping under the covers and cuddling. What about you?" The look that she gave Clark indicated that she wanted to do more than cuddle. Clark felt his body begin to respond.
Clark looked tenderly at Lois, again thanking the powers that be that they had brought her into his life. "Yeah. In a little while. I'm gonna clean up downstairs." He got up and walked towards the door.
"Okay. Don't be long." Lois grinned at their long standing joke.
Clark turned at the doorway and grinned back. "Hey, this is Superman you're talking to, remember? I'll be back before you can say 'Faster than a speeding bullet!'" With that, a familiar "swoosh" echoed through the hallway and Clark went downstairs.
Lois smiled indulgently after her husband and proceeded to turn down the bedcovers and get ready. She spoke out loud to no one in particular.
"Just once, I wish he'd slow down."
The next day, at the Daily Planet, Clark looked up from his desk as he saw Lois stifle another yawn. Frowning, he got up and walked over to her desk.
"Lois? Are you all right? You've been yawning all morning."
Lois looked up at Clark, her usually bright eyes, a bit dull from lack of sleep. "I'm fine Clark. It's just that when I mentioned 'Marathon Man' last night, I didn't think you'd take me literally!" She yawned again.
"Lois, I'm sorry. I didn't intend for us to be up all hours of the night making love." At her look, he amended what he had said. "I mean, I would love nothing more than to make love to you all the time, but I know that that's not a good thing. For either of us. I mean, it's just that, well, I never — "
Lois laid a hand on the leg that Clark had propped on the edge of her desk. She could see that he was getting frustrated. "Honey. It's okay. These things happen." She yawned again.
Perry White walked up to Lois' desk and caught the tail end of their conversation. Noticing Lois' tired look and Clark's look of concern and frustration, he felt that he had to speak up.
"Lois? Clark? In my office." With that he abruptly turned away, leaving his two star reporters looking at each other and trying to figure out what the other one had done wrong. After they entered his office and sat down, Perry started in.
"Now, kids, I'm just gonna say this once. Normally, I wouldn't get involved in the personal behavior of my reporters, but when I see it affecting job performance, well, then, I just have to step in." Lois and Clark again looked at each other with matching what-did-you-do looks on their faces. Perry turned his attention to Clark.
"Clark, son, even Elvis knew when to leave Priscilla alone." Clark began to squirm in his chair and blush. "What I mean son, is that sometimes you have to cancel the concert in order to finish the tour. Are you understanding what I'm saying?"
"Um, I think so, Chief."
"Good." He turned to look at Lois. "Lois, honey, I want you to go home and get some sleep. Now, before you say anything else, that's an order. You can't do your job if you're half asleep. Go home." Lois wanted to protest, but yawned again. She nodded. "Good. Now, I'll have Clark take you home in a minute. You go get your things together." Lois got up and left the office. Clark wished that he could go too, but knew that Perry wasn't finished with him.
Perry rose out of his chair, came around the desk and sat down in the chair that Lois had just vacated. He put a hand on Clark's shoulder and looked at him sympathetically.
"Clark, I'm gonna give you something that should help you." With that, he got up and opened a drawer in his desk. He handed Clark a small envelope. "Here. Put this in your morning coffee."
Clark looked at the writing on the envelope. "Extract of mango pit?" He looked at Perry skeptically. "Chief,,,."
Perry put a hand up. "Say no more. This stuff works. Since I've been taking it, it's like I'm a 20-year-old all over again." His chest swelled up with pride.
Clark gamely smiled and put the envelope containing the powder in his jacket pocket. He got up and headed for the office door. "Thanks, Chief. I'll try it."
"See that you do. Oh, and, Clark?"
"Take Lois home and come back. Period. That little lady needs her sleep."
Clark's face sobered. "I know, Chief. I know."
"You're gonna be okay?"
"Clark. For the last time, all I'm going to do is get some sleep! Go. Get back to the Planet."
"Clark!" Lois' voice rose in exasperation.
"Okay, okay. I'm — — " His words were cut off by the sound of squealing brakes and someone yelling from a distance, "Help! I can't stop!"
Lois recognized the look. "Go!"
With one last look at Lois, Clark spun into his suit and exited through the French windows of their bedroom.
As she said a silent prayer for Clark's safety, she thought, *I must be tired. That spin didn't sound as fast as usual.* She adjusted her pillow and fell promptly asleep.
Superman flew towards the Hobbs' Bay area of Metropolis. There, he saw the emergency. A UPS freight truck was careening out of control, towards one of the warehouses. His telescopic vision showed that the frightened driver had the brake pedal all the way to the floor, but to no avail. The brakes weren't working and the driver was losing control of the truck. Superman put on an extra burst of speed to reach the truck before it would crash into a group of people milling in front of a warehouse that had been converted into a series of outlet stores. As he neared the rear of the truck, it seemed to move ahead, slightly out of his reach. Surprised, Superman reached out again. This time he was able to grab the rear step bumper of the truck. He landed and firmly planted his feet. The truck continued on for a few more feet before coming to a complete stop a few inches away from the people. Superman walked towards the driver.
"Are you all right?" His concern about the near-miss making his voice harsher than he intended.
The driver appeared shaken, but unhurt. "Th-th-thanks, Superman. Another minute and those people would have been killed. You got here in the nick of time."
"No problem. What happened?"
"Well, ever since the strike ended, we've been trying to speed up delivery time, to get back some of our customers, y'know? I guess the back end was overloaded. I'll readjust the load before I start up again."
"Okay. You're sure now?"
"Yeah, I'm sure. Thanks again, Superman."
"You're welcome." Superman's superhearing caught the Metropolis Mercantile Bank's silent alarm going off. Checking once more to make sure that the driver and the bystanders were all right, he took off towards downtown Metropolis.
Five minutes later, Superman landed next to Inspector Henderson's car. The area around the bank was cordoned off and police officers were crouched behind their vehicles, their weapons trained on the bank's entrance.
"What's the problem, Inspector?"
"Superman! Sure wish you had been here five minutes ago." At those words, Superman frowned. "We have a hostage situation inside. Someone is trying to rob the bank. He drew a gun and took the bank president and some tellers hostage."
"Okay. Let me go in — -"
"That's not all, Superman. Today was 'Take Your Child to Work' Day. There are kids in there!"
Superman used his x-ray vision to look through the walls of the bank. He saw the hostages all huddled together in one corner by the front door. The bank robber was 10 feet away, nervously waving his gun at the hostages.
"I'm going in, Inspector."
"Be careful, Superman." Superman nodded his agreement. He straightened up and walked towards the bank's entrance. Inspector Henderson yelled at his officers. "Hold your fire! Let Superman handle this!"
Superman entered the bank and stepped directly in front of the hostages. "Put down your gun. You don't want to do this. You don't want to hurt anyone."
The robber's gun hand shook. "Yeah? Well, eat this, Superman!" With that, he pulled the trigger and fired the gun until all his bullets were gone.
Superman's hands windmilled in front of him, catching bullets before they could do any damage. He opened his hands and let the bullets drop to the floor. He smiled grimly at the would-be robber.
A groan behind him caused Superman to whirl around. A young boy, no more than 12 years old, was moaning in pain and clutching his chest area. "Owwww, Mommy! It hurts! It hurts!"
Superman leaned down. "What happened?"
A woman, apparently the boy's mother, looked up at Superman with tears in her eyes. "A bullet. It hit him."
Superman jerked back as if he had been physically slapped. "I thought I got them all,,,." His voice trailed off.
"You didn't. You weren't fast enough. Help him, Superman. Don't let my baby die."
In the confusion and concern over the little boy, the bank robber tried to sneak out of the bank. Superman saw him out of the corner of his eye. With a determined look on his face, masking his fear and anger, Superman grabbed the bank robber around the waist and flew him into the back seat of Inspector Henderson's vehicle. Rushing back to the little boy, he picked him up and flew him to Metropolis General. The mother's words echoed in his head. "…You weren't fast enough. You weren't fast enough …" Grimly, Superman flew faster.
Superman stopped his pacing as the emergency room doctor walked towards him. "How is he, Doctor?"
"You got him here just in time, Superman. Another two minutes and we would have lost him. He's lost a lot of blood, but he should be fine. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to talk to his parents." With that, the doctor moved towards a couple in the waiting room.
Superman watched as the doctor talked briefly with the couple before escorting them into one of the emergency rooms. His face was expressionless, covering a myriad of conflicting emotions. Satisfaction that the bank robber had been stopped. Relief that the little boy would be all right. Guilt that he hadn't prevented the pain that the boy and his parents were going through right now.
You got here just in the nick of time
You weren't fast enough.
You got him here just in time.
You weren't fast enough.
You weren't fast enough.
*You weren't fast enough.*
The guilt continued to build inside Superman until he felt like screaming. He quickly left the hospital and flew into the early evening sky. He needed to get away. He had to talk about what had happened and what he was feeling. He needed Lois. He flew towards the brownstone.
Lois swallowed the last of the beef stew on her plate and sat back in contentment. She had slept almost the entire day and had awoken feeling brand new. Although Clark usually had "kitchen duty," Lois had decided to cook dinner tonight. Beef stew. Good. Hearty. Wholesome food. And something that she actually did very well. She was proud of her beef stew and knew that Clark loved it. She looked at Clark's plate.
"Huh?" He looked up. He had been absent-mindedly pushing his food around his plate.
"Clark, you've hardly touched your dinner! I made enough for 8 people! You should have had at least six helpings!"
"I'm sorry, Lois. I'm not hungry."
"You're obsessing again, aren't you? I thought we had talked it all out earlier."
"We had, Lois. Really, I'm not obsessing. I'm not hungry. Besides, you ate almost all of the beef stew by yourself. This is only my first helping."
"It is? Oh, Clark, I'm sorry."
"No, honey, really, it's okay."
"Let's go sit in the living room. The dishes can keep for now."
Lois and Clark rose from the dinner table and headed for their living room; Clark with a glass of wine, Lois with a glass of apple juice. Setting their glasses down on the coffee table, Lois snuggled close to Clark on the sofa. Clark put his arms around Lois and immediately felt himself calm down. *She really is my strength*, he thought. *Let me help you be strong*, she thought. They sat like that for a short time, talking about trivial things, and relaxing.
"You know that you can't be everywhere for everyone everytime, don't you?"
Clark sighed. "Yeah, Lois. I know. It still doesn't make it any easier to accept." He kissed the top of her head. "You should know that … Ultrawoman." He smiled into her hair.
Lois smiled. "Yeah. I do know what you're thinking. And that's why you have to let it go. It's not going to do you any good to brood over it. The driver is safe. The people are safe. The bank robber was stopped. The boy is going to be fine. You did good today, Superman."
"If you think so, Lois, then that's enough for me."
Lois turned in Clark's arms and kissed him. She kissed him to tell him that she understood. That she was proud of him. That she loved him. That she needed him. That she wanted him.
Clark groaned into Lois' mouth as he returned her kiss. He kissed her to tell her that he believed her. That he loved her. That he needed her. That he wanted her.
Lois broke off the kiss and looked deeply into Clark's dark chocolate eyes. She saw the same thing that she knew was in her eyes. She smiled.
"Let's see if Perry's 'extract of mango pit' really works. Race ya upstairs!" With that, she broke out of Clark's arms and began to run up the stairs. It took Clark a second to recover from Lois' kiss. But once he was, he raced up the stairs at superspeed, intent on scooping up Lois and zooming them into their bedroom. He was surprised to find Lois already upstairs. In their bedroom. Lying on their bed.
"Ha! I won!"
"Yes … you did, didn't you?" Clark smiled to cover up his confusion and concern.
"Not so slow for a non-Kryptonian, am I?"
"Nope. Not at all." Their light banter continued as part of Clark's mind tried to figure out what had happened. He knew that Lois hated it when he "eased up" in any of their friendly competitions. But, this time, he hadn't. He had gone full speed. Superspeed. But, Lois had still beaten him up the stairs. He didn't know what was happening to him, but he didn't want to worry Lois. He continued to smile as Lois got off the bed and began to get undressed. He didn't know what to do. *Maybe Dr. Klein will have some ideas*, he thought. He decided to pay S.T.A.R. Labs a call tomorrow. But tonight, he needed to draw some strength from Lois.
Clark slipped under the covers and opened his arms to let Lois cuddle up next to him. He looked at her and again was stunned by her beauty. And her complete faith in him. He looked her in the eyes. He smiled.
"Y'know, I don't think I'm gonna need any mango pits tonight."
"No." With that, he closed his mouth over hers and proceeded to show her that mango pits had nothing over Superman.
"Kent! Where's Kent?" Perry White's voice boomed across the newsroom.
Clark came out of the conference room. "Right here Chief. What's up?"
Perry walked towards Clark as Lois joined them at the entrance to the conference room. "Clark! I need your story. Now."
Clark looked at Perry sheepishly. "Um …"
Perry looked like he was about to explode. "Kent! I told you that I was going to run your story as column one today! I needed that story …" He looked at his watch. "… one hour ago!"
Lois had been watching the interplay between Clark and Perry and jumped in. "It's done Perry. Let Clark download it from his laptop. With everything that went on with Superman at the bank yesterday, he forgot about the deadline."
Perry immediately settled down. "Oh. Well. In that case." He looked Clark directly in the eye. "Fifteen minutes."
Clark nervously swallowed. "Right, Chief. Fifteen minutes." Perry walked away. Lois ushered Clark back into the conference room and locked the door.
"Clark! You never miss a deadline! In fact, you're always at least a day ahead of any deadline! What's going on?"
Clark looked at Lois, wide-eyed with confusion. "Lois, I have no idea! I'm as confused as you are! I seem to be … slowing down."
"Slowing down? What does that mean?"
"Just that. Slowing down. I'm not as fast as I should be. The UPS truck. The little boy. I should have been able to stop the truck and catch all the bullets. With time to spare." He emphasized the last four words.
As the implications of what Clark was telling her began to sink in, Lois got fearful. "The race up the stairs last night?"
"I was at full speed, superspeed."
"Clark? Do you have any idea how this happened?"
"Oh my god. Well, what should we do?"
At that moment, Jimmy Olsen knocked on the door of the conference room. Lois looked at Clark, concern in her eyes as she went to unlock the door. "What is it, Jimmy?"
"Just thought you two should see this, since you're the resident Superman experts." Jimmy handed Lois a copy of the latest edition of The National Whisper.
"Jimmy, what's in this rag that could possibly interest — — oh my god, Clark!"
Clark walked over and looked at what had stopped Lois in mid sentence. The headline blared out at them.
"Superman: SuperSloth?" Clark scanned the article as quickly as possible. "Apparently, someone is asking questions about why Superman seems to be arriving at an emergency 'just in time.'"
Lois sighed. "It's like Bureau 39 and Brandon Trask all over again."
Something Lois said clicked in Clark's memory. "Bureau 39. Hmmmm." He remembered back to when he fought Trask in Smallville. He remembered the green kryptonite. He remembered …
"Lois! Bureau 39. Trask. The lake."
Lois' eyes widened as she tried to recall the events from four and a half years ago. "The lake."
They looked at each other as they remembered the past weekend. "The lake!"
"I'll call Mom and Dad." "I'll call Dr. Klein." With that, they left Jimmy in the conference room and ran to the phones on their desks.
*How do they do that?* Jimmy wondered to himself as he watched the Planet's hottest team go into action.
"… There was a meteorite shower over Smallville, Dad?"
"Yes, son. The night you and Lois came to visit. In fact some of the kids found some red glowing rocks down by the lake the next day."
Clark smiled grimly. *That's got to be it*, he thought. Martha's voice came over the phone extension.
"Clark? Honey, what's this all about?"
"I'm still not sure, Mom. Dad, I need a favor."
"Can you get a water sample from the lake and ship it overnight to Dr. Klein at S.T.A.R. Labs? If what I think happened, I need confirmation."
"Clark, what happened?"
"No time to explain, Mom. Gotta go. Oh, and Dad?"
"Ship the water sample FedEx. UPS is still having a hard time recovering from the strike."
Clark replaced the receiver and walked towards Lois who was still on the phone. Before he got there, though, he heard a cry of "Help, Superman!" He signaled to Lois that he had to go. She covered the receiver for a moment.
"Go. We'll catch up later. Be careful."
Clark ran towards the back of the newsroom, already loosening his tie and shirt.
Fifteen minutes later, Superman landed next to a little girl, dressed in a pink lace party dress, crying her eyes out. He knelt down next to her. "What's the matter?"
The girl looked at Superman and tried to stop crying. "Kitty."
"Kitty? Your name is Kitty?"
This caught the girl's attention. She looked him squarely in the eyes. "No. My name is Amanda. My kitty is up in the tree. Can you get him down?"
Superman grinned sheepishly. "Sure."
He floated up towards the cat and realized that his upward motion was slower than usual, and getting slower by the second. He floated back down to the ground.
"I'm sorry. My flying seems to be out of order. How about if I climb up and get your cat?"
She fixed him with a look of exasperation. "If I wanted that, I coulda done it myself! I wanna see you fly!"
Superman sighed. "Okay. But, it's going to take a while."
She crossed her arms in front of her. "I can wait."
Superman sighed again and began floating upwards. His upward movement had slowed to such a pace that it looked like he was hovering without moving. He concentrated, but to no avail. He continued to float upwards, but it was taking a long time. The girl stood there, watching him, her arms crossed, her foot tapping in impatience. A crowd began to gather to watch Superman's slow progression.
After fifteen minutes, the girl's patience was at an end. Slowly, but not as slowly as Superman, she climbed the tree in her pink lace party dress. Some in the crowd started to cheer encouragement. Soon, it became a contest to see who would reach the cat first, the little girl or Superman. A fire truck drove up and the firefighters got out and joined the crowd. Superman watched as the girl first reached his level and then passed him. She reached the cat and a cheer rose from the crowd. When it had become obvious that the little girl would reach the cat first, the firefighters had positioned their ladder to help both the girl and the cat down. They reached the ground just as Superman did.
"Look Superman! I did it! I did it!"
Superman knelt next to the little girl and gave her words of encouragement. He looked around at the crowd and heard some of their whisperings.
It took him forever.
What if the girl had slipped?
I thought he was fast.
I read in The Whisper…
Slightly embarrassed and even more concerned about what was happening to him, Superman flew off as soon and as quickly as he could.
"Hmmm. Yes. This is interesting. Very interesting."
Lois and Superman sat impatiently as Dr. Klein examined the water sample that had arrived from Smallville earlier that morning.
"What's interesting? Dr. Klein?"
"Hmm?" He looked up from the microscope. "Oh! Lois. Superman! How long have you been here?"
"Since you called me and I contacted Superman. Dr. Klein? What's interesting?"
"This water sample. You said this came from a lake in Smallville?"
"Yes. Clark's hometown. There was a meteorite shower there over the weekend. Some kids found some glowing red rocks. We think that the red rocks might have been red kryptonite. Were they?"
"Possibly. I'm seeing traces of green kryptonite and some other mineral that I can't identify."
"Green kryptonite? But I'm not feeling any effects from exposure to it."
"And you wouldn't. Apparently, this unknown substance, possibly red kryptonite, has mixed with the green kryptonite to create a new type of kryptonite. A hybrid kryptonite. One that isn't deadly to you, but probably affects you in some way."
Lois and Superman exchanged glances. They spoke simultaneously. "What kind of effects?"
Dr. Klein stared at them. "How do you do that? The only other two that I know do that are Lois here and Clark Kent."
"Dr. Klein! What effects?"
"Oh, it can vary from exposure to exposure. For instance, the first time you were exposed to red kryptonite, Superman, what happened?"
"I got lethargic and apathetic."
"Um hmmm. And the second time?"
Lois and Superman exchanged a glance before he spoke. "My powers were … transferred to someone else."
Dr. Klein nodded. "I see. Were there any other exposures?"
Superman grimaced at that question. He didn't like to remember what he had done to Lois while under the effects of red kryptonite that last time. Lois quietly answered for him.
"His powers went out of control."
Dr. Klein seemed to be taken aback at that statement. "Oh. And what's happening to you now, Superman?"
"I seem to be slowing down. Flying, speed, floating. Everything is slowing down. Even my eating habits."
"I see. And with these other two exposures to red kryptonite, did the effects wear off?"
"Yes. Within 24 hours."
Dr. Klein smiled widely. "Well, there you have it! The red kryptonite mixed with the green kryptonite causes the effects to last longer than 24 hours!"
Dr. Klein's smile faded. "Now, that's hard to say. Let me think here … solubility … immersion factor … how long were you exposed to the water?"
Superman fidgeted before answering. "All afternoon. Lois and Clark had invited me to go swimming down at Smallville,,,"
"You swim? I never knew that! I was a champion swimmer in high school. I even had a swimming scholarship, but I turned it down — -"
Lois interrupted. "Dr. Klein! How long before the effects of this hybrid kryptonite wear off?"
Dr. Klein scribbled a few calculations on his lab table. "Seven days from the initial exposure. Give or take a couple of hours."
"You're sure about this?"
"As sure as I can be. All afternoon you say?" Dr. Klein grinned.
Superman looked at him, his arms crossed, his sternest look on his face. "All afternoon."
Dr. Klein's grin was immediately erased from his face, replaced by a completely clinical look. "Seven days."
Lois sighed. "Thank you, Dr. Klein. You've been very helpful." Lois got up and walked towards the lab door, Superman following close behind. He stopped as Dr. Klein gestured for his attention.
"I'll be with you in a moment, Lois." He walked back towards him. "Did you need something else?"
Dr. Klein fidgeted a bit. "I was just curious, Superman. After I told you the results of your compatibility test?"
Superman felt a slight twinge, but showed no outward sign that Dr. Klein's question had bothered him. "Yes?"
"Well, how are you doing? Are you still seeing your lady friend?"
Superman smiled slightly and tried to put Dr. Klein's curiosity to rest. "We're … I'm … coping, Dr. Klein. I still 'see' my lady friend, but we were having second thoughts about whether having a baby would have been such a good idea. So, the test results just made the entire question academic. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to take Lois back to meet Clark." With that, he left the lab and rejoined Lois who had waited for him in the hallway.
Dr. Klein watched them as they exited the building.
"Swimming. Who would have thought."
Lois and Clark sat in Centennial Park, eating their deli sandwiches and discussing what Dr. Klein had just told them.
"So, this is the fourth day since you went swimming in the lake. If Dr. Klein's calculations are correct, you should be okay by the weekend, right?"
"Mmmm hmmmm." Clark swallowed his bite and reached for his soda. "Right. Let's hope that there aren't any 'evil-doers' out there between now and the weekend."
Lois reached for his hand. "Clark, you will be okay. We will get through this."
"I know. It's just that …"
Clark grinned. "Astute observation there. You a reporter or something?"
"Or something. I'm the best. Don't you forget it, either."
Clark cupped the side of her face. "Believe me, Lois. I never do." He pulled her towards him and kissed her, his tongue outlining her lips. Lois closed her eyes and lost herself in his kiss. She sighed, slightly parting her lips, allowing his tongue entrance into her mouth. His tongue swept her mouth, encountering the lingering taste of chocolate from the malt she had been drinking. Her tongue met his and began a sensual game of tag. Clark groaned as his hands came up and tenderly held her head. Lois' arms embraced Clark, pulling him closer to him. Their bodies responded to each touch and caress. Their breathing quickened.
A loud screech and crash caused them to both break off the kiss. Slowing their breathing, they locked gazes for a moment. They both knew what had to be done. Clark raced off in search of a private place to spin into the suit. Lois ran towards the sound of the crash. When she got there, she pushed the onlookers aside and stepped onto the street. It was a traffic accident. She saw that two men were sitting on the ground, moaning and holding their heads. She approached one.
"Are you all right?"
The man looked at her. "Yeah. No broken bones." She went to the other man and discovered that he too was only dazed and slightly confused. She heard a moan from inside one of the cars. She got up from her crouch to look inside. She saw a woman. A pregnant woman. A very pregnant woman. She moaned again, her eyes fluttering.
"Oh my god. Are you all right?" She heard the man next to her say something.
"My wife. Is my wife okay? We were on our way to the hospital …" His voice trailed off.
Lois went around to the passenger side of the car and opened the door. "Are you all right?"
The woman opened her eyes and reflexively placed her hands over her stomach. She looked at Lois. "I'm in labor. The pains are …" Her words were cut off by a stabbing pain in her lower back. After the pain subsided, she again looked at Lois. "… they're … two minutes apart …" She moaned.
Lois held her hand. "Don't worry, we'll get you some help." She looked around. No Clark. No Superman. *Well, it's worked before*, she thought. She yelled. "Help! Superman!"
Instead of the familiar swoosh that accompanied Superman's arrival, he came running up, slightly winded. "Here, Lois. What's the problem?"
Lois searched his eyes to make sure that he was all right. Satisfied by what she saw, she answered him. "Superman, this woman is about to have a baby. She needs to get to the hospital. Now!" The woman moaned again and squeezed Lois' hand as another contraction swept over her.
Superman looked slightly panicked. Speaking so only Lois could hear him, he said words that he had hoped never to utter. "Lois, I can't do it!" Lois stared at him, not believing what she had just heard. "My 'timing' is gone. I need your help."
"Me? What can I do?"
"Lois, she's not going to make it to the hospital. This baby is going to be here soon. I don't trust myself to do this alone. You're going to have to deliver it."
"Me? I don't know anything about birthing babies!"
"Lois! This is not the time to quote 'Gone With the Wind'! I would do this, but I don't think I'll be fast enough for what needs to be done. I need you. Remember?"
Lois closed her eyes. She loved Clark. More importantly, she trusted Clark. She remembered their conversation and his words that day at the lake.
You are my ultimate strength.
Being with you is stronger than me alone.
She took a deep breath. When she opened her eyes, her gaze into Superman's eyes was clear. Steady. Confident.
"What do I do?"
The ambulance's siren was never a more welcome sound. The paramedics quickly examined the men and treated their slight injuries. The woman was placed on a stretcher and wheeled towards the ambulance.
"My baby! Where's my baby?"
"Right here." Lois walked towards the stretcher, cradling the tiny bundle in her arms. Superman walked by her side, now capeless, his cape being used as a swaddling blanket for the newborn. Lois handed the baby into the outstretched arms of its mother.
The mother looked at Lois and Superman with gratitude in her eyes. "Thank you both."
Lois glanced quickly at Superman before answering the woman. "No, thank you. That was a beautiful experience and one that I'm not easily going to forget. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of that."
The stretcher was placed inside the ambulance. The crowd dispersed as the ambulance took its precious cargo to Metropolis General. Lois and Superman walked down the street. As they passed an alleyway, Superman ducked into it, Lois continuing to walk alone. Soon, she was joined by her husband and partner. Making a last adjustment to his tie, Clark reached for Lois' hand. She stopped walking and turned to face him. Clark saw that there were unshed tears in her eyes.
"Clark, that was just so incredible. It was a miracle. I actually helped deliver a baby!"
He looked tenderly at her. "You were terrific."
"We were terrific. I couldn't have done it without you. We did it. Together."
Clark nodded and leaned in to kiss her. "Together."
Weekends were meant to be lazy days. Sleeping in. Wearing casual clothes. Taking long leisurely walks. Window shopping. Today, Lois and Clark were being as lazy as their lives allowed them to be. Walking hand-in-hand past the stores in downtown Metropolis, they looked like any other young couple in love. Completely oblivious to everyone else but themselves.
"Well, it's been about a week since your swim in Lake 'Slow-Me-Down'. How are you feeling?"
"Okay, I guess. I haven't had to use my powers for a few days, so I haven't tested them out."
"Y'know, Clark. I've been thinking."
"Always a dangerous event." He leaned over and kissed her lightly.
She smiled and playfully punched his shoulder. "Funny. You thinking of becoming a stand up comic? One word. Don't."
Clark chuckled. "What have you been thinking?"
"Oh, just that we really are a good team. Together." She released his hand and began gesturing as she moved into babble mode. "I mean, think about it. We fit well together. I know, I know. We're soulmates and all that. But we really do fit together. Do you know what I mean? I've been thinking that maybe we should keep trying to have a baby. I know that Dr. Klein said it wasn't possible. And yeah, I know that I had my doubts last week, but I'm over that. And any kid of ours can't be as bad as a Brandon Trask. After all, H.G. Wells said that with us nothing is impossible. So, waddaya think?" She waited for Clark's response. "Clark? Did you hear me? Clark?"
She stopped as she realized that Clark was no longer walking by her side. She looked around and gasped as she spotted Clark a block away. She began to panic as she realized that he was crossing the street. An elderly woman's arm was around his waist. She was helping him to cross the street.
"Clark!" She ran towards the two of them, thinking that something else had happened to Clark as a result of his swim. As she got closer and could hear their conversation, she slowed down and a smile began to replace her look of concern.
"… and I am bound and determined to win my age bracket in the AIDS Walk next weekend."
"And I'm sure that you will, ma'am. Here we go."
"Thank you, young man. When this hip of mine acts up, I don't go as quickly as I should. Thank you for slowing down and helping me."
"You're welcome." He noticed Lois standing there smiling. "Oh, Lois. I'd like you to meet Mrs. Gardner. Mrs. Gardner, this is my wife, Lois."
"Hello, dear." She turned to look at Clark. In a stage whisper loud enough for Lois to hear, she spoke to him with a twinkle in her eye. "She's a pretty young thing. She must keep you pretty busy."
Clark chuckled and answered her, looking all the while deeply into Lois' eyes. "That she does. But, I'm pretty fast on my feet."
Lois returned Clark's gaze and sent him a silent message of love. She smiled.
"And I wouldn't want it any other way." She turned to the woman. "So, Mrs. Gardner, my 'Boy Scout' here has been doing his good deed for the day, hasn't he? What's this about an AIDS Walk…?"
The three of them fell into step for a few minutes as Mrs. Gardner explained to Lois about the charity walk that she was going to participate in.
"We'll see you next weekend, Mrs. Gardner. Take care of that hip."
"I will, Clark. You take care of Lois."
Clark reached for Lois' hand. "We'll take care of each other. We promise. Bye."
Mrs. Gardner watched the couple as they continued down the street. "Such a nice couple. They'll make good parents some day." She continued her walk.
As they walked towards their brownstone, Lois kept sneaking glances at Clark. He finally noticed.
"Oh, nothing." She stopped, pulling Clark towards her. He wasn't expecting it, but recovered enough to lean towards her. Lois kissed him. She kissed him to let him know that she would always love him. She kissed him to let him know that she would always be proud of him. She kissed him to let him know that she would always be there for him, sharing her strength with him. Her tongue traced his lips, requesting entrance into his mouth. Clark complied willingly, letting her tongue sweep through his mouth and lightly touch his own tongue. He groaned into the kiss, feeling himself being swept away by emotions and sensations. Faith. Strength. Companionship. Love. He felt his body respond to Lois' kiss.
Remembering that they were in public, Clark broke off their kiss and looked at Lois. "What was that for?"
"Because, the 'Boy Scout' is back. I hope you're prepared. Race ya home!"
With that, she broke out of their embrace and ran towards the brownstone. Clark grinned, and, with a familiar swoosh, reached Lois before she had taken three steps. Accompanied by Lois' happy giggles, he scooped her up and zoomed them inside to finish what they had started. Together.
It's amazing how inspiration and ideas for stories come to a person. Take this story, for instance. About the same time that TUFS was starting up and as part of my Top Ten postings on the old Lois and Clark message boards, I came up with a short premise for a "what if" type of story. What if LACTNAOS had a fifth season? What if I were a writer for the show? What if I wrote a story that had a A-plot, but not a villain (campy or otherwise)?
I shared my thoughts with a good friend online, Gravy9, and between the two of us, we "fleshed out" a story that was originally titled "Slow Hand." There were the usual things you found in a Lois and Clark story: Lois and Clark, of course; a few WAFFs; and an A-plot.
Now, those who know me and my writing, know that I don't do A-plot … at least, not very well. I like to concentrate on the WAFFs and the relationship between Lois and Clark. But, I knew that an A-plot was necessary, and that's where Gravy9 came in. Gravy9 (aka Craig Causer) helped me develop the non-villain A-plot. It was fun collaborating on this story, emailing and chatting about what direction the story should go.
Unfortunately, Craig developed some computer problems and couldn't do any of the actual writing on the story. But, luckily for me, Craig had kept *great* notes on what we had chatted about and it was from those notes and general outline that "Slow Hand" was written. Craig and I still prefer "Slow Hand" but, because of the timing of the episode (originally it was supposed to "air" in the spring), the title had to be changed to "Life In The Fast Lane," which in a way was kind of ironic because the story wasn't about speed, but rather about lack of it <G>.
I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Craig Causer (Gravy9) for all of his invaluable help, collaboration, and input in the development of this story. Even though I have the writing credit, this story is really *both* of ours. Thanks, Craig!