Final Forgiveness

By Alicia U. <lxu2@cwru.edu>

Rated PG-13

Submitted November 1999 (Revised April 2004)

Summary: One man, whose life was marred by countless mistakes, sets out to mend his broken fences after he is diagnosed with a terminal disease. This story follows Sam Lane's journey to final forgiveness.

***

Darkness. Pitch black.

It was night-time in so many ways.

The end — not just of the day.

It really was the end of an important game. The game of one man's life.

He drove aimlessly through the great city of Metropolis, New Troy, not paying any heed to where he was going. His car swerved around the now empty, normally busy, streets, and he didn't even care.

It was over. Everything in the world was crashing down around him.

Heartbroken. Pained. Desperate.

The end. It was all over. There was no way out.

A doctor himself, he couldn't believe he hadn't seen it coming. He'd seen all of the warning signs, but had ignored each and every one.

Yes, he'd seen countless patients and friends go through this, but he'd never believed it could happen to him.

Cancer.

He'd thought himself immune, invoulnerable. But he had been so wrong.

He made another aimless, sharp, right turn down a dark, empty street. The deserted alley seemed to perfectly match his dismal, dark mood.

Cancer.

It was the evil word that struck fear into everyone's soul. No one was immune. Not even a doctor.

Rare. Aggressive. Inoperable. Incurable.

Cancer.

Terminal. It was a word every person feared.

Lymphoma. Metastasis. Inoperable.

Other doctors — even the world's most renowned specialists — couldn't help him. He was going to die.

Being a doctor, he knew the prognosis, and couldn't hold out and unrealistic hope. Doctors were miracle workers in so many cases, but no one could help him now. Not even Superman.

"I'm not ready to die. Not yet," he whispered to the great depths of darkness surrounding him.

No one was listening anyway.

No one cared. Not about him. And he didn't blame the world for forgetting him. If he had the choice, he wouldn't care about himself either.

Failure. He was nothing but a loser and a failure at everything in his life. No one would miss him. No one would mourn his death. No one would celebrate his life.

His entire life had been worthless. He had lived life the wrong way, and now he had to pay for all of his bad choices.

He turned the wheel and made a sharp left turn in front of a red BMW. It didn't matter. If the car hit him, it would take his pain away.

Screech! Beep! Ouch! But not the pain he was longing to feel. The loud beeping horn. The sound hurt his ears. The noise was like a knife that split through his head. So painful. He couldn't take it any more. "Shut up!" he yelled at the driver who couldn't even hear him.

He was even a failure at something as menial as driving through town and killing himself.

In his life, he had never done anything to warrant anyone's sympathy. His life had been full of countless mistakes that he could never undo.

His sins were innumerable. He didn't have enough time. Why did this have to happen now?

Recently, he had decided to try to reconcile with his family, to atone for his sins. Now he might never have the chance. What had once seemed like a pipe dream, an idealistic life's goal, something he would do in the future now would never come to pass.

He would die before he could make up for everything he had done throughout his life to hurt the people who meant the most to him.

His daughters. Lois. Lucy. God, how he had hurt them.

His wife. Ellen. She had made it clear that she never wanted to speak to him again after the last time they had seen each other.

"My life is life completely worthless," he sobbed woefully. "Maybe the world would be a better place without me."

His family didn't even care about him; not that he deserved their sympathy. After all of the times he had hurt them, he knew he couldn't ask them to forgive him.

Never. It was too late.

He continued his monologue of self-pity, "Ellen hung up on me as soon as she heard my voice. Lucy and Lois didn't even bother to pick up. They must have caller ID. What's the use? I know what they'd say anyway."

He didn't deserve their sympathy. But he wanted it so desperately he could practically taste it.

Right turn. Familiar brownstone houses. Where was he?

Hyperion Avenue.

How had he ended up here?

His sub conscious had led him to his daughter's street. But why? He couldn't face her, could he?

"Hyperion. Lois. Lois lives on Hyperion. 348 Hyperion. There. That's her house," he mumbled.

Or was his inner voice trying to tell him something?

"That's her Jeep parked over there on the street. She's got to be home!"

But that didn't mean he had to stop.

He needed a backbone. God, he was dying. He had to learn to face his mistakes. He had to learn how to apologize.

"She *was* ignoring my call," he said sarcastically. "Ah, but what did I expect?"

He pulled into the space behind the silver Jeep Grand Cherokee, and slowly climbed out of his car. There was a force pulling him towards his daughter's door, but an equally strong force gluing his feet to the ground.

He couldnít face her. Not yet.

He had to face her. He didn't have that much time left.

He couldn't. He had to. But he couldn't.

But he had to.

He needed to talk to *someone*.

Somehow the force pulling him towards the brownstone overcame the force holding him stationary, and he found himself walking into the brownstone's vestibule.

Giggling. Mirth. Bliss. Muffled talking. Squealing. Laughter.

Newlyweds.

He had come at the wrong time. They were happy. He was rudely interrupting them.

Newlyweds.

He should leave them alone. They didn't need to have him ruining their night.

That was exactly what he would do. Ruin their night.

***

"Full house, aces over fives." She reached up to tug on the waistband of his jeans. "Take it off, Kent."

He laughed deeply, and unbuckled his belt. "Not so fast, Lane, this comes off first."

"Oh, donít worry. You'll lose the pants next."

"Stupid lead lined cards," he mumbled.

"What was that, Clark?"

"Nothing."

Suddenly, his head turned and he froze in his place.

"What? What is it?"

"It's your father, Lois."

"My father?"

"Here, outside our front door."

"Why hasn't he knocked?"

Clark shrugged. "It looks like he's getting ready to leave."

Lois jumped to her feet and ran to the door, and Clark quickly pulled his shirt back on.

The door flung open, and Lois reached her hand out and clasped it against her father's retreating shoulder. "Daddy? What are you doing here?"

"I don't know exactly, princess." He turned around to face her.

"Oh my god," she whispered. This wasn't the father she knew. He was thin, haggard, a broken man. An old man. A sick man. "What's wrong? Are you okay?"

Unable to form an intelligible answer, the man, Sam Lane, strode through the door. He paced around the room, with Lois and Clark watching, until he finally dropped down onto the couch dejectedly.

This wasn't how he had planned to tell her. But he had to. Maybe she already knew.

"You're sick, aren't you?" She sat down next to him on the couch and grabbed his thin, bony hand in her own. Clark stood behind her with his hands on her shoulders, ready to support her if she needed it.

Clark was the man Sam had always wanted to be. He was everything Sam had never been. Lois was so lucky to have met and married a man who was the exact opposite of her father.

Sam nodded slowly, deliberately, unable to form the words. Yes, he was sick. And Lois had noticed it immediately. He couldn't hide it anymore. He needed to come clean.

"How bad is it?" She stared deeply into his eyes, almost like she knew the truth, but was just waiting for Sam to tell her.

"Bad, Lois." He took a deep breath, and closed his eyes. When he opened them, he found himself staring directly into her large brown eyes. "Cancer," he said bluntly. "I have cancer. It's a form of lymphoma."

Lois blinked a few times, trying to digest the information. "Cancer," she repeated. "Of the lymph nodes? Is it Hodgkin's?" She hoped it was the curable form of cancer of the lymphatic system. It wasn't always a death sentance. Maybe her father wasn't going to die. But maybe he was. Her heart pounded with fear.

Sam shook his head slowly, deliberately, not wanting to believe the words himself. "No, princess. I have stage four non- Hodgkin's lymphoma that has metastasized to my liver." It was the first time he had actually admitted it outloud.

Lois gasped in shock. Metastasis. Stage four. The cancer had spread and had progressed. "Oh god. What are they going to do? When do you start chemo? When are you having surgery?"

He squeezed her hand tightly, grasping for his own fleeting life. "Lois, honey, they aren't going in for surgery. My liver tumor is inoperable." Knowing her next question, he continued, "Even the experamental procedures won't work. I can't get RF ablation, I can't get the biodegradable chemo implants."

"No."

Sam covered his daughter's hand with his, more for his benefit than for hers. "I'm dying, princess."

Lois looked at her father incredulously. He couldn't be giving up so quickly without a fight. Had she really heard him correctly? Was this a figment of her imagination?

She looked over her shoulder to see Clark's shocked expression. He tightened his grasp on her shoulders, silently assuring her that he was there for her.

A few hot tears streamed down her cheeks. "Oh my god," Lois gasped again.

Sam blinked his own tears away, trying not to let his emotions show. He found himself continuing his story, although he wasn't sure why. "I just found out today. It's a stage four. I don't think I have much time left. They told me to settle my affairs."

Lois reached out to her father, trying to make sure he was really there, and that she wasn't imagining this whole exchange. "What? How did this happen?"

Clark could not believe the way Sam was treating the news of his illness. It had to be more painful for him than he was letting on. He tells them he's dying, and his gaze doesn't even falter? It didn't seem right — didn't seem human at all.

It had to be shock. Or maybe it was some kind of defense mechanism that he was using to shield himself from the harsh reality of his imminent death. God, Clark couldn't even imagine the pain Sam had to be going through.

Even so, Clark couldn't help but raise his eyebrows when Sam told them that he didn't have any hope for treatment. He asked, "Are you sure?"

Sam nodded. His voice cracked as he said, "I've suspected that I might be sick for a few months now. I didn't think it was anything serious. I was so sure it would pass, but it never did."

Now it was Lois's turn to become incredulous. "Aren't you a doctor? Didn't you know something wasn't right?"

Sam did have the decency to look down at the floor in shame at his daughter's words.

Lois continued, "Didn't you think it was just a little unusual when you weren't getting any better?"

Sam looked at the floor sheepishly. He played with an edge of the rug with his shoe. "I never wanted to believe I was this sick. When it's your own life, sometimes you just don't notice the major symptoms, or else you write them off as trivial coincidences. You try to ignore them and pretend you're fine."

Sam looked up and saw tears forming in his daughter's eyes. Clark seemed to sense Lois's emotional distress even before the tears formed. Before Lois even showed the first outward sign of being upset, Clark had already put his arm around her to comfort her.

The older man continued, "I was pretty sure it was just some kind of chronic fatigue. It could have been the long hours I was putting in at the lab were finally getting to me, I mean, I'm not as young as I used to be …"

He let his voice trail off because it became difficult for him to speak because of the huge lump in his throat. His emotions overcame him and it became almost impossible to talk. One lone tear trickled down his cheek.

Lois squeezed her father's hand. She wasn't sure what to say or what to do. The first thing that came to her mind was 'apologize'.

"I'm so sorry."

"Sorry for what?" he said simply. It wasn't her fault. Nothing was her fault.

She pulled at the hem of her shirt and shrugged. "I don't know. I really don't know. For everything. Did you tell Mother or Lucy yet?"

Sam rubbed his temples trying fruitlessly to relieve some of the pressure that had built up as soon as his daughter mentioned his ex-wife and his other daughter. He sighed deeply and said, "No, Princess, not yet. I tried, but your mother hung up on me as soon as she heard my voice, and your sister didn't even answer her phone. I called you, too, but you didn't answer either."

"Oh, um."

Sam continued, "I was just driving. Around the city. Really just driving aimlessly. And I ended up on your street."

"We're glad you came. You shouldn't be alone tonight." Lois squeezed her father's hand again, yet she wished she could do more to help him.

"I wouldn't have interrupted you, but …"

"Don't worry about it Sam. You weren't really interrupting anything. I'm just sorry we didn't answer the phone when you called."

Lois smiled guiltily at Clark and added, "We haven't had too much time together, well, since our honeymoon. Work's been so hectic lately, so we unplugged the phone. We didn't want anyone from the office to know we were here."

Sam nodded. His voice took on a wistful tone. "I remember when Ellen and I first got married. The two of us practically never left the house. We were so in love … Oh, god, I loved her so much."

Ellen.

Ellen.

Ellen.

He rubbed his temples to relieve the pounding sensation. Her name reverberated in his mind.

"Ellen," he whispered. "One of the uncountable mistakes I have made in my life." He looked up at his daughter and his mouth turned up into a slight smile. "The only good thing about dying is that it makes you look back at your life and realize what you have done wrong and what you could have done to prevent your mistakes. Aah, hindsight."

"Hindsight," Lois whispered.

She turned her head up to look at Clark. Hindsight. She silently promised Clark that they would never have to refer to hindsight in their future. Their relationship would be different.

The tears prickled at the corners of her eyes. She would soon have to let them free.

Clark knelt down behind her and put his head on her shoulder. He tilted his head and gently placed a soft kiss on her cheek, reassuring her without words that whatever happened between Sam and Ellen would never happen to them.

Sam closed his eyes, remembering the days in which he and Ellen would have acted the same way. It seemed so long ago. Like it was a different lifetime.

He continued, "I guess it's true what people say; hindsight is definitely 20/20. Looking back, I can see everything I did wrong. It is almost painful, but it makes me think. I regret everything I've ever done to hurt you, Lucy, and your mother."

"I know," she whispered. And she did. Somehow she knew her father was being honest with her this time.

"I can't believe what I did to you. The pain is almost killing me more than the cancer. I just wish I could do something to rectify everything I've done, but now it's too late."

"It's never too late." Lois, tears openly flowing down her cheeks, was sent back to her childhood and all the pain that her father had caused.

She fought the urge to say something nasty about the way her father had left their family when she and Lucy were so young. He had abandoned them for that Mrs. Belcanto woman.

She knew she wouldn't really gain anything if she hurt her father now. Instead she said, "Daddy, you did hurt mother and Lucy." She paused before she added, "And me. Oh god, you hurt us so badly. I can't even describe the pain. But at least you weren't one of those deadbeat dads." She had to look at the bright side — especially after she saw how much her father's face had fallen.

"But …"

She continued, "Even after you left us for that other woman, what was her name, Mrs. Goodbottom?"

As soon as the Mrs. Goodbottom comment came out of her mouth, she immediately regretted it. Her father's face fell, and she could see just how hurt he was by her comment.

She tried to make him feel better by saying, "It doesn't matter anyway. What really matters is that I can't remember any time when you neglected your responsibilities to us. I know you always paid your child support and alimony on time."

She neglected to tell him she knew because that was when her mother would get plastered out of her mind.

Sam visibly cringed when Lois described his mistress. "Great, I'm not a criminal. Is that all you can say about me, Lois?"

Lois looked up at his expectant face and answered, as honestly as she could without hurting him, "I don't think anything can completely nullify the effects of the seventeen years that you almost completely ignored our family or the years before that when everyone knew something was going on, but no one wanted to admit it."

Lois looked at Clark, and he placed a soft kiss on her cheek, trying to comfort her, to show her he was there for her no matter what.

"But in the last year, you have been trying to make up for everything." She looked at Clark and smiled, knowing both she and Clark owed her father greatly for saving Clark's life that horrible winter night.

Sam's face brightened at her comment. "I've been trying so hard to put my life back together. I didn't think I was succeeding."

Lois gently smiled at him, "Recently, I've begun to see you in a new light. You are a good man, deep inside. I know you can't change the past, but you can try to make the most of the time you have left."

Sam's tears were threatening to escape from his eyes at full force. He couldn't hold them back much longer.

He had never openly cried in public before, having never been the kind of man to show his emotions. However, his daughter's words brought back all of the feelings of inadequacy that had plagued his adult life.

"I know I hurt the three of you so badly. I was so stupid. I didn't realize what I had, so I succumbed to the temptations of success and lust. Once I realized that I was going to go places with my medical career, I didn't want to be saddled with a wife and two young children. I left you because I was selfish."

He paused and looked up at Lois and Clark. They both nodded as if they possibly understood.

"You may not believe this, but I've spent so many hours lamenting all the bad choices I've made. I've practically made myself sick thinking about the way things could have, and should have, been. I always wonder what would have happened to the four of us if I hadn't practically ignored the three of you for all those years. Would Lucy actually acknowledge that I exist? Would your mother have stared drinking? Could you and I possibly have had a good relationship?"

Lois eyes sparkled with more unshed tears. "You can't dwell on the past," she said simply. "Whatever happened in the past is just that, the past. You just have to remember that not everything you have done for us has been bad."

She looked up to see her father's incredulous look. "Really?"

"Remember the good times we had together before you left. I know that Lucy and I both have memories of you and mother being happy together, and those are the ones we try to remember," Lois lied.

Sam looked into his daughter's sparkling eyes, "I know you're lying to me, Lois. I know as well as anyone that you and especially your sister resent me. And I'm not saying I blame you."

Now Lois's tears flowed freely, and she made no attempt to hide them. She looked at her father, the man who had done so much to hurt her, and came to a resolution.

Maybe it was Clark's personality rubbing off on her, she wasn't sure, but she truly had forgiven Sam for everything he had done to her.

When she looked over at him she realized, maybe for the first time, that he was a broken man.

Torn. Disheveled. Lonely. Broken.

Alone.

Because of the way he had led his life, he now had no one to turn to in the wake of his death.

It was almost too late. She had to tell him how she felt. Exactly how she felt. She didn't have the time to string him along.

She swallowed the lump in her throat, wiped the tears from her cheeks, looked her father in the eyes, and said, "I can't speak for Lucy, but I know that I did resent you for the way you treated us for a long time."

Sam nodded, and squeezed her hand reassuringly.

"But now I think I've come to terms — with everything. Even though I don't really understand *why* you did what you did, I think I've forgiven you."

Sam took a sharp breath, hardly able to believe his ears. Had Lois just said she'd forgiven him? It was more than he had ever dared hope for. His voice was shaky and the words came out jumbled. "You do?"

Lois nodded, tears streaming down her cheeks. The lump in her throat had returned, rendering her unable to say anything in return.

"What made you change your mind?"

She took a deep breath and prepared to pour her heart out to her father. "You proved yourself to me last Christmas." All of the emotions she had felt when she saw both of her parents in the same room, when Clark had gotten sick, and when she had known that her father had cured him coursed through her.

Lois smiled and answered, "It happened last Christmas." Then her eyes took on a more haunted look. "It started off so badly. I thought it was going to be hellish. Both you and mother showed up at my apartment so unexpectedly, and, to make it worse, you brought that Baby Gunderson robot woman."

Clark knew just what Lois was feeling. He remembered that day so painfully well. That Christmas had been one of the worst days of his life.

He had never been so ill in his life. It was the only time he could ever remember being sick. And he had almost died — if it wasn't for Sam Lane, he would have. Clark knew he owed his life to his father-in-law.

If Sam had not used Kryptonite to starve away the virus that had infected him, he would not be alive today. He would not be here today with his *wife*.

"I remember that Christmas all too well," Clark said softly.

Lois turned her head and kissed Clark softly on the mouth. They both owed Sam so much. He had given them the life that they now shared. It was because of Sam that Clark was here now.

The bad memories of that Christmas Day washed over her. "To make it worse, Clark was called away on an assignment, on Christmas Eve no less. Then, to complete the nightmare, Superman showed up at Clark's apartment deathly ill. When I asked you to help him, you miraculously transformed into the father I used to know right before my eyes."

She wiped the tears from her cheeks and leaned into Clark's comforting embrace. This was so hard for her to say, but she felt liberated with each word that left her lips.

"As you worked on Superman, I saw the selfless doctor who would give anything to save a patient's life rather than the selfish father who left his family and gave up his promising career. It was at that moment that I decided to give you another chance."

"Lois …" Sam's heart pounded in his chest. Her words were so painful, yet so wonderful at the same time.

"Eventually, I came to terms with and forgave you for everything you had done to hurt me."

"Lois," he repeated, unable to really say much more as his own tears spilled from his eyes. For a man who rarely showed emotion, this was the biggest emotional catharsis of his life. He had gone from the intense depression of finding out he was dying to the ultimate exhilaration of knowing his daughter loved and forgave him.

***

A few hours later, an emotionally drained Sam, said, "I'm getting tired."

"Do you want me to make up the guest room?" Clark asked. He jumped up and headed towards the stairs.

Sam stood up and held out his hand. "No. No, it's okay."

"Daddy."

"Really, Princess, I should get going. I've invaded your privacy long enough."

"Sam!"

"Lois, Clark, I know you need some time to yourselves. I don't want to butt in."

"You're not, Dad."

"Really," Clark added. "Weíd love to have you."

"It's okay. I should be heading home." He took a few more steps towards the door. Then he turned around and said, "Can I just ask you one small favor?"

Lois nodded. "Anything." She walked to the door and put her hand on her father's shoulder.

"Could you, uh, call …" His voice trailed off emotionally drained, unable to finish his sentence. He made an agitated hand gesture trying to jar his voice back to finish the sentence.

"Lucy and mother?" Lois said quietly.

Sam nodded. "If you don't want to …"

"It's okay. I'll do it."

"Are you sure?"

Lois squeezed her father's shoulder, amazed that she could feel the bone beneath. "Don't worry about it."

Sam reached out and wrapped his arms around his older daughter's shoulders. He hugged her closely, tightly. He never wanted to let go.

"I love you, princess," he said softly.

The tears began to fall down her cheeks again and she tried to hide them from her father. She didn't want him to know how deeply this affected her. She turned her head up and whispered, "I love you, too, Daddy."

Sam hugged her tightly, but he knew he had to let go some time.

"Well, uh, okay. I really should be going."

Lois took a step away and leaned back into her husband's arms.

She said, "Okay, if you have to go … I'll call you once I get in touch with mother and Lucy."

Sam nodded silently and slipped out the door. He needed to give them some privacy. He couldn't take up any more of their precious time alone together.

He knew what it was like being a newlywed. They didn't need an old man who they probably hated and resented hanging around spoiling their time together. He would be better off by himself. Solitude was the only company where he felt truly wanted. No one needed him. He was a louse, a horrible person.

And he wasn't sure if he even liked himself.

He climbed into his car again, ready to continue his journey of self-pity. Wherever he was going, it didn't matter.

His apartment? Yeah, he had to go back there some time. Now was as good a time as any.

He drove off into the dark night, and he let his mind wonder back to times long ago.

Ellen.

Ellen.

Ellen.

Her image blazed on his mind.

Beautiful. NaÔve. Perfect.

Ellen. She was the only woman who had ever stolen his breath, his dreams, and his heart.

He let his mind flash back to a time in his life when everything looked bright and perfect. Before he had ruined everything and his life had crumbled before him.

The vivid images of his first meeting with Ellen replayed vividly in his mind and haunted his thoughts.

She had stolen his heart when he was just a young resident surgeon at Metropolis General Hospital. Even though he had been a dashing young man and almost all of the young nurses had been after him, no one had really caught his eye.

Wherever he went, he always felt a gaggle of young nurses either following him through the hospital or staring at him, no ogling him, as he walked by.

Sure, he had been pleased with — and especially flattered by - - all of the attention, but he didn't feel worthy. Even worse, he just plain wasn't attracted to these poor women. They were too old, too young, too flashy, too plain …

But those opinions only lasted until he laid eyes on the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. It was her. The woman he was destined to be with for the rest of his life.

When he walked into a patient's room for a surgical consult, he laid eyes on the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. In her white nurse's uniform, her beauty radiated through the room.

Her long, shiny, brown hair reflected the light slightly, creating a halo around her head. Her large brown eyes were so innocent, yet so seductive.

Her nametag read merely 'Ellen', and Sam Lane knew he wanted to make her Mrs. Ellen Lane. She would be his forever.

Huh. Some forever it had turned out to be.

He continued driving in the general direction of his apartment, and momentarily closed his eyes.

Some forever, indeed.

It had all started out so well.

When it all started, they had been young, happy, and in love.

Their first date had been magical.

The day after they met, he had somehow convinced her to go out with him. He had no idea how he did it. He'd never thought a woman like Ellen would ever give him the time of day.

But she had.

He wasn't going to ask too many questions about it. It was at times like this he just had to go with the flow. And he certainly wasn't complaining.

Oh he had been so excited, caught up in a frenzy of emotions coursing through his body. This was the first woman he had met in a long time who he actually considered spending his life with.

Sure he had dated before — a lot, actually. He wasn't a novice or a virgin by any stretch of the imagination.

But this was different.

He remembered getting ready for the date with his emotions swirling through him. His heart thumped in his chest, and all he knew was that he wanted to make a good impression on her.

And that meant dressing for success. He couldn't wear that old t-shirt and jeans on this date!

After much deliberation, and rejecting suit after suit, he finally decided to wear his most stylish black suit with a black striped tie. It was like he was a woman or something!

He looked in the mirror and nodded slowly, appreciating his reflection. Yeah, he was downright handsome. Any woman, even Ellen, would be lucky to have him.

This was going to be a big night.

And it had been a big night — maybe the biggest, most important night of his life.

When Sam arrived at Ellen's apartment a few minutes early, he had to swallow the huge nervous lump that had formed in his throat. He had to suck up all of his courage to bring himself to knock on her door.

He ran his hand through his thick dark hair as he waited for her. It had been a nervous gesture he'd had since he was a kid. Yet it had seemed to comfort him more than anything else.

And now he was bald. Even his most comforting gesture had vanished before him. Figured.

When Ellen had opened the door, his heart had skipped a beat.

She was absolutely breathtaking.

If he had thought she looked beautiful before in her nurse's uniform, then now he thought she looked like a Greek goddess who had just stepped off Mt. Olympus to mingle with mere mortals.

He remembered it so well. In fact, he could practically see her standing before him in her gorgeous, flowing, floor-length, red dress with a long slit up the side. It was the picture of elegance, with the slightest hint of sexiness.

The mere mental image still made Sam salivate. Ellen had been the most beautiful woman in the world that night. She was still the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.

When their eyes met, and he saw the way she looked at him, he was sure their relationship was meant to be. It was right at that moment when he was sure he would one day ask Ellen to be his wife.

Yes, that day had been one of the happiest of his life.

He drove on aimlessly turning, but heading in the general direction of his home. His mind wandered to yet another momentous occasion in his life.

Images of their wedding day and echoes of the vows they shared bombarded his mind. He had promised to love, honor, and cherish her until death do they part, but, in the end, he had broken each and every vow he had ever made to her.

Before he allowed himself to wallow in even more useless self- pity, which seemed to be a trend with him today, his mind drifted to another, happier memory.

The corners of his mouth turned up into a wide grin. The beginning of their marriage had been absolutely wonderful.

One specific day stuck out more than any other day during their marriage.

The day Ellen had told him they would be expecting their first child. Lois.

Oh how he remembered every word they said to each other.

After a long day working at the hospital he came home desperately wanting to see his wife. He had needed her so badly. It had been a horrible day, but he couldn't even remember what had gone wrong looking back.

But he remembered this night so well.

"Ellen!"

He stepped through the door and looked around the house for his wife. She was usually in the living room waiting for him to come home.

"I'm in the kitchen, dear."

Wow. He stopped in his tracks and admired the way she had set the kitchen table.

She had pulled out all the stops with dinner.

Every one of his favorite foods was on the table waiting for him to devour. Steak. Fried chicken. Green beans. Her famous cheesecake.

It had been one of the best meals of his life.

He walked up behind her, pulled her into a big bear hug, and gave her a sweet, loving kiss on the lips. When the kiss broke, he feathered butterfly kisses on her cheek, and asked, "What in the world have I done to deserve all this?"

Ellen just smiled in response.

"Seriously." He took her hands and planted a soft kiss on each one.

She shrugged and said, "I just thought I'd reward you with a nice dinner."

He tightened his grip around her waist and turned her around to face him. "Thank you." He planted a soft, loving kiss on her sweet, full lips. "But what did I do to deserve such a wonderful reward?"

She escaped from his embrace, grabbed his hand, and led him to the table. "Why don't we sit down?" She pushed him back into his chair. "Now look at your plate."

Sam humored his wife and looked at the food on his plate. The big, juicy steak in the middle of the plate was covered in peas and surrounded by green beans. When he looked at the peas, he saw that they were in some kind of design.

"Ellen, dear, what am I trying to see here?"

Ellen sighed in obvious exasperation. "Sam, look at the peas. See how they're arranged. What shape do they look like?"

Sam raised his eyebrows skeptically. There had to be some kind of theme — and he had to play along. "Okay let me try this again."

He took a closer look. Then it came to him. It wasn't exactly a great drawing, but it was probably as good as she could do with peas. They were arranged in the shape of a baby.

Sam's jaw dropped when he realized what she was telling him. He gasped, "Ellen, are you trying to tell me … Are you … are you having a baby?"

She only nodded in response.

They were having a baby! A son! His son!

He immediately jumped up out of his chair and pulled her into a hug and picked her up and spun her around. "We're going to have a baby!"

"Yes, we are."

"Oh, Ellen, I donít believe it. I'm going to have a son."

"Or a daughter," she added practically.

"Or a son! Sam Lane, Jr. Star pitcher for the Metropolis Metrostars."

Oh, he had been such an idiot.

The rain that had been threatening all night began to fall onto his car. He turned the windshield wipers on high and listened to their eerily soothing melody.

How appropriate.

It had begun to storm just as he remembered the turning point in his marriage. From that point, it had spiraled further and further downhill until it reached a point of no return. And once his marriage had gone out of control, his life had followed suit.

How stupid was he? He had been so set on his first child being a boy that he hadn't even considered the fact it could be a girl.

What a good doctor he was! They learned this kind of stuff in medical school. It was just simple genetics!

No one had the power to willfully dictate which sex their child turned out to be. As hard as he had hoped and prayed for a boy, when little Lois had popped out, he should have accepted her for what she was.

But he couldn't. It had been such a horrible disappointment.

He even had refused to hold her for the first few weeks of her life.

What an idiot. That had probably been the one thing that had ruined his relationship with her from the beginning. He couldn't see her as a person — only as a girl. The girl he hadn't wanted.

She was supposed to have been a boy.

He was a heartless, soulless jerk! No wonder she had hated him for most of her life.

If he had only accepted Lois from the time she was born, for the uniquely wonderful person she was, it could have been a major step to salvage his entire family relationship.

It was the first sign that he and Ellen were drifting apart.

He was finally at his apartment building. It would just be better if he parked his car for the night. He was liable to kill someone — most likely himself —driving like he had been.

Killing himself was the last thing on his mind. He needed to live his last days to the fullest. Even though he had been a horrible person for most of his life, he wanted the chance to apologize to everyone he had hurt.

He slammed on his breaks and hopped out of the car. As he walked up to his building, images of all of the fights he and Ellen had over the years assaulted him like painful knives and daggers being thrown at him.

The barrage of bad memories took hold of him. It was too much. He stopped dead in his tracks, clutched his head, and fought the overpowering urge to scream.

He was home.

Sleep. Fitful. Painful. Restless.

He fell onto the couch and closed his eyes.

No relief. Sleep could never let him escape.

Pain. Aching. Longing.

When he closed his eyes, the images of his life became even more painfully clear.

He saw visions of himself ignoring his family, spending extra time at work, forgetting birthdays and anniversaries, having affair after affair, and finally leaving his family for a woman he barely knew.

That night, Sam cried himself to sleep and slept fitfully the entire night, assaulted with a barrage of endless nightmares.

He deserved it.

***

"Clark! My dad's dying." Lois fell into her husband's arms right after she shut the door behind her father. She had admitted it to herself when he was there, but now that he was gone, it became all the more real.

Clark wasn't sure what to say to comfort her. He really had no frame of reference to help her in this situation.

All he could do was hold her, and be there for her, and let her cry on his shoulder. He wished he knew what to say to her to make everything better. But he didn't. Not even Superman could save her father now.

"I know, honey," he whispered.

Clark stroked her silky hair and kissed her softly on the top of her head.

"How can this be happening?"

"I don't know," he said honestly. "I really donít know."

"I was just getting to know him, and now he's leaving me forever." She looked into Clark's eyes pleading for help.

He ran his thumb over her cheek, soaking up some of her tears.

The pain and fear he saw in her eyes tore at his heart. He wasn't sure exactly what to say to make her feel better.

"I don't know." He took a deep breath before he continued. "I do know it isn't fair. I know that sounds trite and I wish I could say more, but this is something I don't know how to deal with. I can't just spin into the suit and save him."

He blinked his eyes, trying to keep his own tears from falling. It wasn't hard for him to put himself in his wife's situation.

If he ever lost either of his parents, he would be devastated. His heart would feel like it was torn from his chest, and he would be at war with the world.

His parents were so important to him. They had been his rock, his foundation. They had played such an important role in his entire life.

At least he wouldn't feel like he had missed out on anything while they were alive.

Lois, on the other hand, barely knew her father. She was only recently beginning to know him for the man he truly was inside.

Clark knew what tore at her heart the most was the fact that as soon as she had finally forgiven her father for everything he had done to her family, he was dying, and she only had a short time left to spend with him. She had to feel gypped.

As soon as he reappeared in her life, she'd have to say goodbye, and this time the goodbye was forever.

Lois looked up at Clark, and his eyes, too, were slightly glazed over with tears as he pondered human mortality.

Lois's pained voice interrupted his thoughts, "I promised him I'd call mother and Lucy tonight. I'd better do it before it gets too late."

Clark merely nodded, and Lois disentangled herself from his embrace. He honestly had absolutely no idea how he could respond to her.

She walked, zombie-like, towards the phone and picked up the receiver. Then she flopped down onto the chair next to the phone.

He followed her, and kneeled behind her, trying to offer her as much support as he could. But he also wanted to give her space in case she wanted to be alone right now.

"Did you want me to get you something to eat or drink? I know how you like to be at full strength when you call your mother."

The corners of her mouth turned up into a sly grin.

Lois always liked to be energized for a good battle whenever she had to talk to her mother, and that meant she needed either chocolate or ice cream, and preferably both.

She rubbed her already red, swollen eyes and nodded. "Ice cream," she said softly. "Do we have any chocolate left? And while you're at it, could you get me a couple of Double Fudge Crunch Bars. I'm sure you can find them."

He nodded and hopped to his feet. Superman to the rescue! Ice cream and chocolate, he could handle. Clark went into the kitchen and opened the freezer. He grabbed the gallon of chocolate ice cream and a couple of spoons. Now where was that pesky chocolate stash of hers? He x-rayed the kitchen trying to find it.

He laughed out loud when he saw just where she had tried to hide the candy bars this time. It was a little game they played. She still tried to hide her chocolate stash, even though she knew her husband had x-ray vision.

This time, it was in a very clever place, indeed.

Clark opened the refrigerator and took out what appeared to be carton of eggs to anyone without Superpowers. When he opened the carton, ten chocolate bars fell out. He grabbed two, and put the rest back into the carton where he had found them.

With his sugary delights in tow, he made his way back to the living room.

He pulled up a chair next to her and put the ice cream between them. He handed her a spoon and the two candy bars, which she accepted gratefully. Lois's eyes were still red and puffy, and she had obviously been crying again while Clark was in the kitchen.

Lois stared intently into the tub of ice cream without a sound as she ate. Clark was also silent, only he was looking at his wife, feeling her pain. He had never seen Lois quite so depressed. He reached out to her and she grabbed his hand and held it tightly, like she never wanted to let go.

They stayed that way, eating, staring, and holding hands for what seemed like an eternity, but was only a few minutes.

Lois felt Clark's hand tense, and she looked up. His head shot up and his eyes took on a far-off look.

"What is it?" She let go of his hand.

Clark stood up like he was ready to go, but he was torn, and Lois could sense it.

"Fire at Third and Troy." He ran an agitated hand through his hair — he wasn't sure what to do. "It's a six-alarm blaze and they don't know if they can get everyone out." The fire department needed his help. They couldn't do it alone, and he didn't want to be responsible for any lost lives.

"Go!" Lois exclaimed. "What are you waiting for?"

Clark took a deep breath. "Are you going to be okay here by yourself?"

"Clark!"

"I know, I know, you'll be fine. I just don't want to leave you like this."

"You have to go. They need you more than I do."

"Are you sure," he asked for a final time. He knew this was probably overkill, but he wanted to be sure Lois would be okay alone.

"Clark Kent, if you don't get out of here …"

He silenced her by leaning down and capturing her lips with his. "Okay," he whispered. "I guess I'm going. This shouldn't take too long."

Lois, eyes shining, ran her hand through her short hair, mimicking her husband's nervous gesture. It was so sweet how much he cared about her. He really wouldn't go if she asked him not to, but there were so many lives in danger. Those people needed him more than she did right now. "You have to go. Save those people — get them out of the fire. I'm sure they all have families waiting for them."

Clark nodded and spun into his Superman suit. In a flash, he gave her a quick kiss, and then he was gone leaving Lois alone with the phone, the half-melted ice cream, and her torn feelings.

She got up, put the ice cream back into the freezer, and looked at the cordless phone in her hand. "Well it's now or never."

Before she could change her mind, quickly dialed her mother's seven digit number knowing. Why did she have this intense feeling that she would regret it?

The phone rang three times before her mother finally picked up. "Hello?"

"Hi, mother. It's me."

"Well, if it isn't the prodigal daughter. Why Lois, is it time for your monthly phone call already?"

Lois rolled her eyes. She honestly did want to talk to her mother more than once a month, and maybe even visit her once in a while, but Ellen Lane was just such a pain to be around.

Ellen always commented on Lois's clothes, hair, job, and husband, and Lois couldn't take the constant criticism. Lois had put up with enough of her mother's criticism as a child to last a lifetime.

But maybe now her father's impending death would help them grow closer.

Well, she could always hope some good would come out of a horrible situation.

She laughed nervously, "No mother. Um, I called because I have some bad news."

Lois could only imagine what was going through her mother's mind after she'd mentioned bad news. She didn't have to wait long for her mother's response.

"It's you and Clark, isn't it? I knew it wouldn't last. Three weeks of marriage and you're already splitting up. I knew you could never keep a man satisfied …"

"What? No, Mother!" She took a deep breath, trying to keep her composure. "Clark and I are just fine. Of course we're not splitting up! We're more in love now than ever! It's Daddy. He has cancer. He's dying, Mother."

Those pesky tears started to well over, yet again. It seemed like she had cried more tears today in just the last few hours than she had her entire life.

Lois knew how much pain her father had caused her mother, and now, just as they were thinking about reconciling — rekindling their friendship if nothing else — he was dying.

Her mother was sobbing, too. They were a couple of blubbering idiots.

"I'm sorry I had to be the one to tell you. He came to me, and said that he had called you first, but you hung up the phone as soon as you heard his voice. He looked so sad, so sickly. I promised him I'd call you and tell you."

"Of course I hung up on him when he called. We had another fight last week and I didn't think he would ever dare call me again. This is just the trick he would use. He wants to get me back. What a jerk! Trying to get me back by telling me he's dying."

"Mother, stop it. Daddy is DYING. He has a terminal form of lymphoma. Stop being so selfish. The man is really sick, and here you're telling me he's just doing this to make you crazy?"

"You actually believe that lying son of a …"

Just then, the curtains rustled and Lois turned her face up to see Clark fly through the window covered in soot. He smiled at her and motioned up the stairs, indicating that he needed to take a shower. Lois, in turn, returned his smile and nodded.

Lois interrupted her mother, "Yes, I am telling you the truth. He was just over here, and he definitely looked like he was deathly ill. Do you honestly believe he would do this just to hurt you?"

"Well," Ellen said contritely. "I don't know. Sam is capable of so many things. Why not this?"

"Mother, he is serious. He begged me to call you and Lucy to tell you."

"Have you called your sister yet?"

"No, not yet."

"I think the three of us should probably get together to talk about this. I can't even think straight right now."

"Okay. Maybe that's a good idea."

"But how will we get Lucy here? She's all the way in California."

"I'll try to ask Superman to bring her here tomorrow, if she wants to come."

"Superman?"

As if on cue, Clark walked into the room wearing a tee shirt and a pair of jeans, and drying his hair with a towel. His ears perked up when he heard Superman mentioned.

Lois said, "Mother, I still have to call Lucy, so I'm going to let you go. I'll talk to you tomorrow."

"Okay dear. Just let me know what you girls decide to do."

At that moment, Lois decided that she needed to say something that she hadn't told her mother in such a long time, at least since she was a young child. "Oh and Mom, I love you."

How long had it been since Lois had said that and actually meant it? It had to be approaching 15 years.

"I love you too Lois."

Lois hung up the phone, and sighed deeply. Clark came up behind her and wrapped his large arms around her, pulling her into a tight hug.

"Arrrggghhh, a fifteen minute conversation with my mother and now I'm even more confused than before."

Clark wasn't exactly sure what to say or do to make her feel better. He softly kissed her, knowing it wouldn't solve any of her problems, but hoping it would show her he was there for her and was willing to do anything she needed.

Lois looked up into her husband's eyes and said, "I love you Clark. You always know how to make me feel better." She paused for a second before she said, "But next time, can you talk to her?"

Clark laughed. "You'd have to pay me richly."

She put her hand on his chest and purred, "Oh, that could be arranged."

Clark paused to think about her proposal, and gave her a mock look of horror. "If I take you up on this offer, I'd actually have to talk to your mother. I don't think so, honey. I don't think I'd ever talk to Ellen voluntarily, without someone holding a piece of Kryptonite to my head, no matter how well you pay me."

Lois sighed dramatically. "I know. Even Superman can't put up with Hurricane Ellen." She shook her head woefully. "Oh well, she may be the most annoying person on Earth, but she is my mother. And maybe I've been blowing things with her way out of proportion. I just don't know any more. I don't know anything."

"I know I love you," Clark declared.

"I know I love you, too." She pulled him down to the couch with her and said, "That's the only thing I'm really sure of any more."

Lois snuggled into Clark's comforting embrace. She loved the feeling of warmth and security that she felt when she was in his arms. Nothing could hurt her there.

"Honey, you're so tense. Why don't you let me rub your back for you?"

"Mmm, okay." She had always loved Clark's backrubs. His fingers were so deliberate and soothing and the little touches of heat vision sure didn't hurt. She turned slightly so that he would have full access to her back and shoulders.

Clark worked his fingers around the tightness in her shoulders, trying to ease her tense muscles. He found himself wondering again what he would do if he found out that either of his parents was dying.

He knew that he would not take the news nearly as well as Lois had. If either of his parents were sick, he would be a wreck.

Honestly, he would probably fly to the Arctic Circle and cry for days. Both of his parents had been his sole support system for so long; he would not know what to do without either of them.

Even though it was inevitable that one day they would be gone, Clark did not want to think of a world without Martha or Jonathan Kent. He was sorry that Lois was going to have to face a world without Sam Lane.

Lois moaned softly. His fingers were working absolute magic on her stressed muscles. "Oh, Clark, don't stop."

"Never," he said softly.

Suddenly, her mind drifted to the reason Clark had left before. "Clark, what happened with the fire? It must have gone well."

A large grin spread across Clark's face. "I got there in time. Everyone escaped without a scratch. Then I put out the fire with only minimal damage to the building."

Lois smiled and turned around to face him. She covered his large hand with her smaller one, and said, "I'm so proud of you sweetheart. Now those people's families won't have to deal with everything we're going through now."

Clark smoothed her hair back and kissed her forehead. "I know I've said this before, Lois, but I can't even imagine being in your situation. Just when you are starting to get to know your father you're going to lose him again. I don't know what to say to make you feel better. I'm sorry doesn't even begin to cover it."

Lois put her hand behind his head and pulled him close. Their lips met in a soul-searching kiss that reassured both of them that they would always be there for each other no matter what happened in the outside world.

When they broke the kiss, Lois sighed, and said, "I know we'll always have each other."

"Forever."

"Always."

He squeezed her hand and brought it up to his lips so he could kiss it. "We'll always be here for each other. No matter what."

"I know." She happened to catch a glimpse of the clock. "Oh no! It's almost two am! I still need to call Lucy. I hope she's still up."

"I'm sure she is. It's only eleven there." He reached over his shoulder and grabbed the phone and handed it to her. "Remember, this will be the easy one. It's just Lucy."

"I know. But I'm worried she won't want to hear a word I say." She dialed Lucy's number quickly, and hoped everything would go smoothly. As unlikely as it seemed, she had a feeling that Lucy might be harder to convince than her mother had been.

The phone rang four times before Lucy finally answered. "What?"

She sounded like she had been fast asleep.

"Hi, Luce." She decided to start the conversation on a little lighter note. "You're sleeping at eleven o'clock?"

Lucy, still groggy, asked, "Lois, is that you?"

Lois could picture her sister sitting in bed, half-asleep. She probably wasn't listening to a word Lois said. "Yeah it's me, sis."

Lucy rolled over in bed and asked, in the same half-asleep voice, words meshing together, "Wha'd'ya want? Isn't it really late there? Why aren't you asleep, too?"

"I'm usually not up this late, but I have some bad news."

When Lucy heard "bad news," she woke up a little. "What kind of bad news? How bad?"

Lois cringed, she didn't want to start crying again, but she knew it was inevitable. She felt a tear run down her cheek, which Clark gently brushed away.

Lucy asked, "Are you crying Lois? Oh boy, this must be bad news if you're crying about it."

Lois said, "Yeah Luce, it is really bad news. It's Dad. He's dying."

"That's bad news? After all he's done to our family, I'm happy. I hope it's a painful way to die, too. That's what he deserves."

Lucy then started to cry, too. She, however, was crying tears of self-pity. Sam Lane, that bastard who had left their family when she was just 8 years old, didn't deserve any of her sympathy. She hardly even knew the man, let alone felt any desire to call him Father. Lucy was crying for herself and for the family that Sam had left so many years ago.

There was no remorse in her voice when she said, "Good. I hope he dies, and then I hope he rots in hell!"

Lois, too, was now crying because she felt her sister's pain, and Clark, who had heard the whole conversation, sympathized with his sister-in-law. He wondered if Sam had ever done anything to show his love for Lucy, or if she was just the little girl that he had never really wanted.

Lois exclaimed, "You don't mean that!"

Lucy insisted, in a harsh whisper, "Yes I do. I have no sympathy for the man who walked out on our family seventeen years ago. He lost my sympathy as soon as he shut that door. I spent so many hours in my room when I was a teenager trying to figure out what I had done wrong that made him leave us. Then, one day, I realized that he was not worth the agony I was putting myself through. I hadn't done anything. He is just a selfish bastard who deserted his family for his own selfish pleasures."

"Lucy, I used to think that too, but now I think he might have changed. I really think he is genuinely sorry. Couldn't you just give me a chance to explain?"

"No, he doesn't deserve anything from me, not even a second thought."

"Could you please do this for me? Or for Mother? We need to stick together. He has hurt us all. Believe me, I know as well as anyone. But now he needs us. Do you really want to stoop to his level? We have to be bigger than he has always been."

"Lois! No! Don't you understand?"

"Lucy! We're all adults here, so we can't look at this like we are immature children. Plus, he will have to atone for everything he's done to us, wherever he's going. I don't think we can judge him. He's just a man in need of his family during whatever time he has left. "

Lucy fell silent momentarily as she considered her sister's plea.

Clark, who felt absolutely powerless, wanted to do something, anything, to help his wife and her sister. But he couldn't do anything.

Lois added, "Just please let Superman bring you to Metropolis tomorrow. We need to talk about this face-to-face."

"Fine," she said in a soft, anger-filled voice.

Lucy was shaking violently, overcome with feelings of rage and sorrow over her childhood filled with self-doubt and isolation all because of her father's selfishness. As she listened to her sister's plea, she decided that she needed to be there for her sister, just as Lois had been there for her throughout her childhood when their mother was passed out drunk and their father was nowhere to be found.

"Okay Lois, if it means that much to you to have me there, I'll come. And, I mean, if you're offering me a ride with Superman, I don't know how I could turn it down."

"See, I knew you'd go for it if I added Superman into the deal."

"Aah, you know me too well. Tell Superman to be here at about 8:15 your time. But if *that man* is there, I'll tell Superman to take me right back home."

"Thank you so much Luce. You know you're my favorite sister."

"Too bad I'm your only sister."

"Yeah, yeah. Anyway, don't worry he won't be within ten miles of my house. It'll only be Mother, Clark, and me, and I might even make Clark leave."

"Tell Clark I said 'hi'. I guess I'll see you tomorrow."

"Goodnight Lucy."

"'Night Lois."

Lois put the phone back on its cradle. Then she turned to Clark, and said, "That went better than I expected. She actually agreed to come here. I thought I'd have to send you there to drag her here by brute force."

Clark nodded with a slight smile playing across his lips, imagining himself trying to carry a kicking and screaming Lucy Lane through the air at Superspeed without dropping her. That would have been fun.

Lois kissed Clark on the lips quickly, and then said, "What'cha thinkin' 'bout?"

"Nothin' honey. I was just picturing trying to fly with your sister if she was in the middle of a fit of rage."

"Don't worry. She's nowhere near as good as I am at throwing fits, although she is pretty darned good. She is a Lane, after all."

"Come on honey, let's go to sleep. It's been a long day."

Lois, not one to argue at two-thirty in the morning, simply nodded and allowed Clark to lead her upstairs.

***

Ring! Knock, knock, knock!

Ring, Ring!

"What!" Ellen Lane exclaimed. She rolled onto her other side and looked at the clock. "Who could possibly be here at seven am!"

Knock. Ring.

"Okay, okay, I'm coming."

She rolled out of bed, grabbed her bathrobe, and stepped into her slippers.

"Whoever that is better have a good reason interrupting me at this hour."

She padded her way to the door and looked out the peephole.

Of course. Sam. Who else?

He was pacing around the hallway holding a large bouquet of red and pink roses. She wasn't going to let roses win her heart again.

That man didn't look like the Sam Lane she had always known. He was thin and his eyes were sunken and listless. The usual spark she had always associated with him seemed completely gone.

"Maybe he is really dying," she said softly. Then the realistic side of her took over. "He's tried too many harebrained schemes that are even more outrageous than this to get me to forgive him. How do I know this is for real? How can I trust him?"

Her mind drifted back to one particular night that stood out in her memory more than any other. She had been such an idiot.

She remembered standing in her six-year-old daughter's doorway late one Friday night. It was after two o'clock, and young Lucy had only just fallen asleep. The precious little girl had wanted to wait up for her daddy to come home because she had drawn a pretty picture for him during her art class that day.

When her father still hadn't gotten home by her bedtime, little Lucy had cried and cried begging Ellen to let her stay up a little later to wait for Daddy. Ellen relented; she just couldn't say 'no'.

So she had let Lucy stay up. Unfortunately, the young girl had drifted in and out of sleep for hours until one-thirty, and Sam still had not come home. Then Ellen had finally convinced her little girl to get into bed and try to go to sleep.

Ellen had finally convinced her daughter that her daddy would be home in the morning and that he would be very happy that his little angel had drawn him a picture. The prospect of seeing her father in the morning had pacified Lucy for the moment, but Ellen knew how much it had hurt her.

What a fitful sleep it had been.

Ellen had sat on the corner of her daughter's bed, stroked her long, dark hair, watching her tiny body twitch and turn.

She had wanted her daddy so badly, and Ellen wanted to kill Sam for giving their little daughter too much stress and pain.

Someone so young shouldn't have had to deal with so much.

Ellen had known where Sam really was. She knew his shift at the hospital had ended at three o'clock in the afternoon, and that he should have been home by the time the girls came home from school.

She had been almost positive he was having an affair, but she hadn't wanted to confront him about it for the sake of their two young daughters.

That had been her stupidest mistake.

Then Ellen had heard the front door open. She had walked downstairs to find her husband scrounging around the kitchen cupboards and the refrigerator.

She had glared at him, unable to say a word to him, until he turned around.

He had looked up at her and grinned. "Hi, honey, I'm home."

Ellen had looked at this man incredulously. Had he just called her 'honey'?

How dare he! He did not have the right.

She squinted and glared at him. For an instant, Sam looked sheepishly at the floor, but instantly recovered. He grinned at Ellen, eyes twinkling, and asked, "What's for dinner?"

What's for dinner? What's for dinner!

He had to be kidding! What nerve!

She had walked up to him, grabbed him by the shoulders, and said, "Sam Lane, you'd better have a doozy of an excuse to explain this one. You said you'd be home by the time the girls got home from school. Lucy came home with an art project that she had made especially for you, and she was so proud of it. She wanted to show it to you so badly that I let her stay up until 1:30 waiting up for you. As each hour passed, her smile kept getting smaller and smaller until she started crying." She paused for emphasis. "And do you know what she asked me?"

Sam shook his head no, looking directly into his wife's eyes.

"With her sweet, innocent, little eyes welling up with tears, she asked me, 'Mommy, does Daddy love me?' What was I supposed to tell her? You've missed practically every important moment in her life. I tried to reassure her, but I'm not sure it worked this time. What kind of excuse do you have this time, Sam? What should I tell our daughters the next time this happens?"

Sam blinked his eyes quickly. Ellen now knew that he had been trying to come up with a monster-sized lie.

Now she knew that he had probably been out with a woman from work. She had a feeling it was that floozy of a young surgical intern.

Sam had told her later that the floozy had made him feel important, and not just because of what he had achieved in his medical career. He had succumbed to her because she was incredibly drawn to him physically, and she had made no secret of that fact.

He had looked deeply into his wife's tearful eyes — oh he had been so good at that. Sam could get her to forgive him by merely staring deep into her soul.

She had been an idiot to fall for his lies.

He had said, "Ellen, we had a terrible emergency at the hospital today."

Ellen had raised her eyebrows slightly, urging him to continue, even though she did not believe him.

"Just as I was getting ready to leave for the day, they paged me to the emergency room. What was I supposed to do, ignore them and get fired? So I went down to see what they wanted me for."

He ran a hand through his thinning hair, and started to pace around the kitchen.

Ellen had watched him warily. He was either trying to come up with a good story to tell her or else he was actually upset by whatever had happened at the hospital.

Now she knew that he was coming up with a whopper.

Instead of challenging him, she had nodded and said, "Go on." She folded her arms across her chest in a defensive stance just in case Sam reached out to touch her. Plus, she hadn't wanted to make him feel more comfortable around her until she had heard the whole story.

Sam took a deep breath, and ran his hand through his hair again. "When I got down to the ER, they took me into a room with this kid who had just been in a terrible car crash. Ellen, we thought he was going to lose both of his legs."

She looked at him skeptically. There was no way she was going to believe this story. But those eyes. Those pleading, wonderful eyes.

"They needed me, Ellen. They needed me."

Her heart had broken. Why had she believed him? With those words, her resolve had crumbed.

"They told me I was the only person at the hospital that could possibly save his legs. He was only 17, so young, with so much life ahead of him. He was the quarterback of his high school football team. If I couldn't save his legs, his lie would be ruined. He had a full football scholarship to Metropolis State. I had to try, Ellen. I had to try."

Ellen had found herself unconsciously stepping closer to him. She uncrossed her arms, and reached out to hug him.

She had been such a sucker.

"We rushed him into surgery almost immediately. It was a terribly delicate procedure that took nearly eight hours. I'm so sorry. I didn't have time to call you. I should have called you. I know. But we needed to get in there immediately if we hoped to save his legs."

What an idiot! She had gone for it! Hook, line, and sinker.

Idiot was one of the only words that could describe her. NaÔve, blind, and in love, her common sense had shot out the window.

Ellen had trailed her hand softly down her husband's arm, hoping he would forgive her. "I'm so sorry Sam. I didn't know. Is he okay?"

Sam had sighed deeply. Now Ellen knew it was because he had gotten away with it.

She had bought his story. He was off scott free.

He had been so convincing. Even his voice sounded sad and weary.

"Yeah, we think we saved them. He'll be able to walk again some day with a lot of patience and hard work. But football … no. He's just lucky to be alive."

Ellen, like the trusting idiot she had been, had smiled and pulled Sam into a warm, comforting embrace. "You must be hungry. Go sit down and I'll fix you something to eat."

Now Ellen looked back on that night with a heavy heart.

How could he have deceived her like that? How had she believed his story? Why hadn't she checked it?

She knew all of the answers immediately.

Wherever Sam Lane was concerned, her common sense had always left her. She had been a fool in love. She hadn't wanted to doubt him, hadn't wanted her seemingly perfect, fairy-tale life to crash around her.

Sam had always been a first rate compulsive liar.

Why wouldn't he be lying now?

She didn't want to take the chance that she would be hurt again.

Thus, she walked back to her bedroom and climbed back into her nice soft bed.

She sunk her head down into her pillows, and she wondered if this whole cancer story was really just that, a story. Since he had deceived her so many times while they were married with his far-fetched stories, why wouldn't he try it again?

Now he had nothing to lose.

She rolled over and closed her eyes. She owed him nothing.

***

Sam paced outside Ellen's door holding a bouquet of roses.

Why was he kidding himself? She wasn't going to let him in.

He had heard footsteps in the apartment, and his heart had soared, but the door had never opened.

Ellen had probably seen him out there and subsequently decided she didn't want to talk to him.

A small part of him wondered if Lois had even called her last night. Even if she had, there was no guarantee that Ellen would believe her.

He had lied to Ellen so many times. Why would it be any different now?

For all he knew, Ellen probably thought this was some elaborate lie to get her sympathy so he would be able to win her back.

Unfortunately, Sam knew that nearly all of Ellen's memories of him had to be bad ones. He knew he had hurt her so many times.

What did he do to deserve her trust? Absolutely nothing.

He had a history of hurting her.

She wasn't going to open the door. Why would she?

Ellen probably thought this was the biggest scheme he'd ever try to pull over her.

But maybe he was hearing things. Maybe she would come to the door.

He paced outside her door for a few more minutes.

She wasn't coming. She wouldn't open the door for him.

This was the bed he had made for himself. He had to live with his choices.

When he was sure she was not going to let him in, he dropped the roses in front of her door. He pulled pen and a tissue out of his pocket and simply wrote, 'love Sam', and with one last fleeting look at the closed door, he walked away.

When he got to his car, he had no idea where he would go or what he would do. He sat in the driver's seat collapsed onto the steering wheel. "God, why did I mess up my life so badly? So this is my punishment, isn't it? I am going to die a lonely death, and no one will even care, is that right?"

***

Lucy had fallen back asleep as soon as she had hung up the phone with her sister. As she slept, images of her youth floated through her mind. She tossed and turned as she remembered all of the horrible things her father had done to her personally and to her family as a whole.

Her dreams were absolute torture as she relived some her childhood's worst moments.

Late one night, an eight year old Lucy had gotten up to get herself a glass of milk. She'd been having trouble sleeping, and she'd hoped the milk would help her fall asleep.

Since it was so late, she didn't think anyone would still be awake, so she had padded silently into the kitchen. She had poured her milk, and had heard voices coming from the family room.

She had wondered who could possibly be awake at this hour, so she had silently walked towards the voices to get a better look.

As she got closer, she had heard one familiar masculine voice, and one that was very unfamiliar and very feminine.

Her father. And a woman she'd never met.

What were they doing? She had no idea. It had all been so strange for her.

Lucy had softly tiptoed over to the doorway, and positioned her small body so that no one could see her, but she could see into the room.

They were. They were. They were.

Her jaw had dropped in shock when she had realized what they were doing…

Lucy bolted up in bed. The images of that night were still invading her brain even so many years later.

She ran one shaking hand through her hair and said, "No eight year old should have to see her father with his pants around his ankles with some strange woman on her knees in front of him in her family's own living room."

She sank back into her bed, and cried into her pillow. Soon, she had fallen back to sleep, but her dreams were in no way peaceful…

Lucy, now fifteen, had become somewhat a recluse. She always locked herself in her room all day long, and only left to go to school.

Her mother had become a terrible alcoholic in the nearly seven years that had passed since their father had left them, and her sister had gone off to college, and almost never came home.

Lucy had never seen a reason to leave the comfort of her room, for there she was in the company of the one person she could ever rely on not to break her heart, herself.

She had really missed her sister at first. The two had formed a very close bond ever since their father had left their family.

After their father left and their mother began drinking heavily, the girls had realized that they both would have to grow up much sooner than they should have been expected to, and both blamed their father for their lost childhood.

Lois had, in fact, become more of a mother to her little sister than their mother had ever been. Lucy had been crushed when Lois had told her that she would be living at Metropolis U.

Everyone in her life was leaving her. She was alone again.

No one wanted her.

She was a loser.

Everyone she cared about had let her down.

No. She wasn't a loser. Everyone else was.

She would never trust anyone ever again. The world would always let her down just as her family had.

Beep! Beep! Beep!

Now Lucy's alarm was ringing. She reached over to shut it off, and then she sat up in bed again.

She remembered her dream and knew that she would never be able to forgive her father for ruining her happy family, her childhood, and her life, no matter what.

He was the first in a long line of betrayals that Lucy had experienced in her life, and his had been the most painful. Nearly everyone she had ever trusted had followed the same pattern of loving and leaving in the way her father did.

When she was a little girl, she had thought she and her father were close. She had idolized him. At one point, she might have even said that he loved her.

Her life had come crashing down around her when he had left, and all he had said when he had left, had been, "I'm so sorry, Lucy Lou."

How could he have said he was sorry?

She knew he didn't mean a word of it.

How could he mean it? His family had not even heard from him for ten years, except for his regular alimony and child support payments, and an occasional birthday or Christmas card.

He was sorry. Yeah right.

Lucy was she would never forgive him. Ever.

He had hurt her so badly, she wasn't even sure she wanted to see him again.

He could die without her for all she cared.

Why had she told Lois she would come to Metropolis? That was the last place she ever wanted to be.

***

That morning, when Lois and Clark arrived at the 'Daily Planet', an overly exuberant Jimmy Olsen met them as they stepped off the elevator. He was practically jumping up and down like a little kid with something he was bursting to tell them.

"CK, Lois, my father decided to take that desk job the NIA offered him last year. Can you believe it?"

"That's great, Jimmy," Clark exclaimed, and patted him on the back.

"He said he wanted to spend more time with the son he had almost forgotten. I guess he finally realized what he'd been missing all those years …" His voice trailed off as he remembered all of those unhappy years without his father in his life.

The young man's face brightened again. "Anyway, he starts work at the Metropolis office some time early next month. Isn't that great?"

Clark was genuinely happy for his young friend. He deserved to have his father as a part of his life. "Well good for him, Jimmy. I'm glad the two of you are finally going to get to spend some time together when he doesn't have to run off and catch a plane or isn't on some secret government mission."

Lois, however, didn't seem quite as happy for Jimmy. She turned away from Jimmy and Clark and started to walk towards her desk just as Jimmy was about to ask her opinion.

Clark, however, knew that the last thing Lois wanted to talk about today was fathers, so he guided his enthusiastic young friend over to the coffee machine. While they walked, Jimmy kept talking about everything he and his father would do when they got together. He was so excited. In fact, he was practically bouncing off the walls.

Maybe Jimmy shouldn't be drinking coffee now. He was already bouncing off the walls; the caffeine might give him the energy to jump straight through the ceiling.

Clark looked over towards Lois's desk and saw her typing furiously at her computer. Using his super vision, he noticed that she was looking at a story that he'd thought was long since finished. It was a piece that the science editor had done about the efforts of some of finest medical researchers in Metropolis and their accomplishments in their respective fields.

He realized why she had this particular file open when he noticed just whoseprofile she was reading. It was Dr. Michael Gratly, one of the east coast's leading researchers in the field of multi-drug resistant lymphoma cancers. He had discovered a glycoprotein ATP-ase pump which was partly responsible to creating the resistance to chemotherapy.

Jimmy's voice startled Clark, and his head jerked up. The young man was screaming something about coffee and pointing to Clark's hand.

Whoops!

What Clark hadn't noticed was that he had not stopped pouring his coffee while he was staring at Lois, and now the cup was overflowing onto his hand.

Oh, that was supposed to hurt. Right. Whoops.

Clark knew that he should probably make it look like the coffee was burning his hand, so he put the pot down and grabbed his hand, shook it a little, "Man, that hurt!"

"CK, what were you doing? You didn't notice your hand isn't a cup?"

Clark turned away sheepishly, still wringing his hand. "Huh, oh, ah, I …?"

Jimmy followed Clark's gaze over to Lois's desk. He nodded knowingly. "Just like I thought." He turned to Clark and said, more seriously, "Is something wrong with Lois? I thought she'd be happy for me. After all, with everything she's been through with her dad …"

When Jimmy mentioned Lois's father, Clark ran his hand through his hair nervously and then adjusted his tie, unsure about how much Lois wanted to let out to their friends. "Um, Jimmy, now probably isn't the best time to talk to Lois about fathers."

Jimmy grabbed a glazed donut and took a bite of it. While he was still chewing, he asked, "Why not? I thought everything was going pretty well with her dad."

Clark looked over at Lois again, and saw she was now on the phone. He assumed she was talking to a source. It was so cute how she chewed on her pen cap as she listened to whomever she was talking to, and then scribbled down notes haphazardly. He wondered how she could even read them sometimes. Even he had trouble reading her chicken scratch sometimes — and he had enhanced eyesight!

Clark decided to tell Jimmy about Sam's illness. "Jimmy, you have to promise not to tell anyone else about this until Lois decides to tell people herself."

Jimmy nodded solemnly.

"Her dad came over to our place yesterday and told us that he has a rare, terminal form of cancer. He isn't actively seeking treatment, and he seems resigned to the fact that he is going to die. Lois isn't dealing with it well. I mean, who could possibly deal with this?"

Jimmy gasped, "Oh my god."

Clark nodded sadly. "She's pretty upset. I think she thinks it is partly her own fault that she and her father never really got to know each other, that they never had any kind of relationship."

"I think I'd feel the same way if anything like that happened to my dad. I've never really gotten to know him either. If he died before I had the chance, I'd be pretty crushed, too."

Clark picked up a plain cake donut for himself and grabbed a chocolate one for Lois. "I know."

"Oh, CK, I am so sorry."

"I know, Jimmy. I'd better get to work before Perry has my hide."

Jimmy picked up his coffee mug and looked out over the newsroom. "Yeah, if I don't get my butt down to photo, the chief's going to have more than my hide. He'd probably want my firstborn, too."

Clark smiled at Jimmy's attempt at humor, and shook his head as the cub reporter took off towards the elevator.

He walked towards Lois's desk with her donut and coffee. Lois, however, was already getting out of her seat as Clark approached her desk. She said, "Hi honey, I was just going over to talk to Jimmy. I think I snubbed him pretty badly before."

Clark hugged her and gently kissed the top of her head. "Okay honey, but I think you'll have a pretty hard time catching him. He said something about getting some prints Perry wanted from photo."

He pulled the chocolate donut out from behind his back, and saw Lois's eyes light up at the prospect of chocolate. "I brought you a donut. Chocolate, your favorite. You're lucky. It was the last one left and I had to fight Jimmy for it. I thought you might want some energy for today."

He handed her the donut and the steaming hot coffee mug. She smiled and took a bite out of the rich, chocolate donut, and said, "You are just so wonderful, sweetheart. What did I do to deserve you?"

Clark smiled at her comment. "What did I do to deserve you? I'm the lucky one!"

He noticed she had a little piece of donut stuck right underneath her lower lip. When he thought she wasn't looking, he gave her a kiss right on the lips.

She broke away, and asked, "What was that for?"

Clark grinned. "I wanted to taste your donut. I mean you looked like you were enjoying it so much, I wanted to enjoy some of the fruits of my labor."

Lois giggled coyly. "Do you really want to taste it?"

Clark nodded with a look in his eyes like that of a little child getting ready to open his Christmas presents.

She took the last piece of the donut and wiggled it in front of his face. "Open your mouth like a good little boy."

Clark obliged, and soon he felt the whole remaining half of the donut shoved into his mouth. He took this unexpected development in stride and swallowed the whole thing.

Lois pouted, "Hey I wanted some of that."

Clark was about to say something else when Perry White walked out of his office. He shouted, "Great shades of Elvis, lovebirds, this is a newsroom, not a high school cafeteria. Don't you have stories to work on? Because if you don't, I'd be happy to assign you more."

Perry waked towards the couple, trying to hide the smile on his face. He secretly loved the fact that his two star reporters, the two people he had always thought were meant for each other, were finally together and happily married. It sure had taken them long enough. But he had an image to protect. He couldn't have the whole newsroom thinking he had gone soft on them. No, no, Perry White was still the old newshound who ran the greatest newspaper in the world, and the man who would not put up with any such tomfoolery in his newsroom.

When Perry reached his two star reporters, he saw that Lois looked a little more stressed out than usual. "Lois, darlin', are you okay?"

Lois looked up at her editor, the man she had looked up to as a father figure for many years.

For so many of those years, she hadn't even heard from her real father.

She said, "Perry, I don't know what to say."

Clark perched himself on the edge of Lois's desk. He reached down to stroke Lois's hair as she talked to Perry.

"I just found out that my father has cancer. He's really dying, Chief."

Perry said, "Judas priest, I'm so sorry, Lois."

Lois continued, "All I keep thinking is I wish I could have known him better. That if I would have tried a little harder, maybe we could have gotten to know each other …"

Perry had to interrupt her. This was hitting too close to home. Her words brought back visions of his own children, Jerry and Larry. What a fine job he had done with them. Jerry was still in prison for that whole bad check thing a couple of years ago, and Larry lived in Iowa, trying to isolate himself from his family as much as possible.

"Lois, you can't blame yourself here. I know from personal experience that it is not your fault. It's you father's. The least he could have done was tried to get to know you before it was too late."

Lois and Clark could see the light mist forming in their editor's eyes as he thought of his own family, although he turned around to try to hide it. They both knew of Perry's fatherly ineptitude, and they did not want to push the subject any more.

Perry finally turned around to face them again and said, "I'm so sorry, Lois. I wish I could help you more, or knew something else to say. If you'll excuse me, I have a couple of phone calls I need to make."

When Perry got back to his office, he looked at all of the pictures of Elvis staring at him. It was like the King scorned him. "I'm sure you always made time for little Lisa-Marie, didn't you? Well, I'm going to start my life over again, too." He grabbed his phone and dialed Larry's number.

When Perry left, Lois turned to face her computer. She typed something into her search engine and said, "I need to talk to Jimmy now, Clark. Could you keep this search going for me? Did you know one in every five Americans will die of cancer?"

She got up from her chair and Clark sat down. He said, "No, I didn't know that, honey."

Lois continued, "I want to write an article about this. Maybe it will help me get my mind off of everything, and maybe we could write something that will help families that have lost a loved one to cancer …"

Lois's voice trailed off when she realized what she had just said. Clark put his hand over hers and said, "It's okay honey."

He brought her hand up to his mouth and gently kissed it.

She said, "I know. I hope writing about it will help." Lois saw Jimmy stepping out of the elevator and said, "Let's continue this in a few minutes, I see Jimmy."

Lois met Jimmy as he walked down the steps into the bullpen. She said, "I'm sorry I wasn't very sympathetic before. I really am happy about your dad. Can we talk?"

"Sure, Lois, what's up?"

Lois led Jimmy into a conference room and sat down at one of the tables. She fiddled with the buttons on her blazer until Jimmy said, "Lois?"

She looked up, startled, and said, "Oh, yeah, I want to talk to you about this because you are one of the only people I know who would really understand. I know Clark tries, but he just can't relate. He's always had a good relationship with his parents, and I know you haven't, and …"

Jimmy knew now that she was in full babble mode, and she would be very hard to stop. "Lois, slow down. Let me catch up!"

Lois stopped and said, "Oh, I was babbling again wasn't I? Clark says I do that a lot when I get nervous." She again found the buttons on her blazer very interesting. "I was trying to say that I just found out that my father is dying, and when I heard that your father was coming back here so that he could spend time with you, I got jealous."

Jimmy nodded. He definitely understood where she was coming from. If it were the other way around, he would have acted the same way. He rolled the end of his sweater around his index finger in a nervous gesture as he listened to Lois's story.

She continued, "I wished I could be in your shoes. I mean, now I would give almost anything just to have a few years to get to know my father."

Jimmy nodded. "I know exactly what you mean, Lois. Our family lives were so similar, but now I have a chance to do what you've always wanted to do. Now my father is doing what your father should have done years ago."

Lois nodded and Jimmy reached out to touch her shoulder in a friendly gesture.

He said, "I wouldn't switch places with you for the world, but I do know that you should try to make the most of the time you have left together. I know I would."

Lois stood up and said, "Thanks, Jimmy, this helped. I knew you'd understand."

Jimmy, too, stood up and he reached out to her. They hugged, drawing comfort from the friendly embrace of the two people who had suffered far too long at the hands of their respective fathers.

Later that day, Lois and Clark were finishing their respective stories when Sam Lane walked into the newsroom.

He walked towards Lois's desk, virtually unnoticed by everyone in the newsroom. She was busy typing the last few corrections to her latest story. Sam walked behind her silently and put his hand on her shoulder. Lois instinctively jumped, frightened.

She turned around looked into her father's face. "Hey, Princess, do you want to go get some dinner with me tonight?"

Lois looked over towards Clark's desk. He met her gaze, and it was obvious that he had heard Sam's request. He met her eyes with a look that said, 'Go!' so she said, "Sure, just give me a couple minutes to send this story to Perry, and then tell Clark that we're leaving"

She sent the story to Perry, and then walked over to Clark's desk. He was working on his story about the city's top structural engineers who did not have the credentials to be holding their respective positions, and their errors had lead to at least seven major bridge collapses in the past ten years.

Clark wasn't quite done writing yet because Superman had interrupted his work several times today.

Lois perched on the edge of Clark's desk and said, "Would you mind if I had dinner with my father alone tonight? I think we should be alone to talk."

Clark nodded. "Sure honey. I'm sure I can find something for Superman to do until you get home."

Lois grinned and kissed him. "Don't be too long. I'm sure we'll be able to have a few hours alone before I have to meet mother and Lucy."

"Oh, and what do you have planned for those hours, m'lady?"

Lois leaned over and breathed into his ear, "You'll just have to wait and see, Mr. Superman. Let me tell you, Kryptonite has nothing on me."

Clark shuddered in anticipation. "You are making me weak." Then he kissed her cheek lightly. "You'd better get going if you want me to finish this story by the time you finish dinner."

Lois started to walk back to her father when Perry stuck his head out of his office. "Lois, could you come in here for a second?"

She gestured to her father that she would just be a minute, and walked into Perry's office. When she entered his office, she found him sitting at his desk staring at one of his Elvis pictures.

Lois asked, "Did you get the story I sent you Chief? It was pretty good, if I do say so myself. I got an exclusive interview with Superman about that bridge collapse, and Clark's writing a sidebar about the civil engineers in Metropolis."

Perry looked up and said, "Oh, yeah darlin'; it was good. First rate. But that isn't why I called you in here."

Lois raised her eyebrows and let him continue.

"Lois, when my boys were growing up, I never really got to know them, kind of like you and your father. I never had an affair, but my job was just as tempting as a woman could have ever been. I had a love affair with being a reporter. I know that sounds funny, but I did."

Lois nodded. She knew exactly what he was talking about, and now this made her wonder if she and Clark would ever be good parents, or if they would turn out just like Perry, her father, and Jimmy's father had.

Perry continued, "I spent every waking moment of the day here in this newsroom, and where did it get me? I'll admit, I do love the challenge and the power of being editor-in-chief of the world's greatest newspaper, but what do I come home to at night?"

Lois frowned with sympathy for Perry, realizing that she too could end up this way if she was not careful.

"Nothing, Lois. I have an empty apartment and the company of a couple of goldfish."

"I'm so sorry, Chief. I don't know what else to say."

Perry wiped his brow and rubbed his eyes trying to relieve some of the stress he felt, "You don't have to say anything, Lois. I just needed someone to listen to an old man rant and rave."

Lois smiled and said, "Well, Perry, it's never too late to repent. Why don't you call Alice or Larry, or even Jerry, and tell them the same thing you told me?"

Perry nodded. "Thanks, darlin', this really helped. I think I'll just try that. It's hard to teach an old hound dog new tricks. But he can sure try to learn."

After Lois left, Perry looked at Elvis again. "Look how many pictures of you I have in this office, and I've never even met you. But how many pictures do I have of people I care about in this office? Not a one. What kind of person am I?"

Lois met her father at her desk and said, "Okay, let's go. Where do you want to eat?"

Sam got up and picked up her briefcase for her. Lois tried to grab it out of his hand, but Sam refused. "No, no let me do it. It's the least I can do for you." Lois let go of the briefcase. He nodded in thanks and continued, "I don't care. I'll eat wherever you want. I just want some food in my system. I haven't been eating well for a while now. Just the sight of food has had me all queasy lately."

When Lois looked more closely at her father, it was obvious that he had lost a lot of weight. His face was drawn, and his eyes almost bulged out of his head. This was not a well man by any stretch of the imagination. "I know a nice little Italian place over on Third called D'Angelo's. They shouldn't be too busy at this time of day."

"Pasta sounds great right now, dear. Let's go; for once I'm actually starving."

At the restaurant, Lois ordered linguini with a light marinara sauce, and Sam ordered eggplant parmesan.

While they waited for their food, Lois watched Sam squirm around in his seat. He was obviously uncomfortable sitting there face to face with his daughter. Lois opened her mouth to say something, but Sam beat her to it. "Lois, does your mother think I'm some kind of monster?"

Lois raised her eyebrows, unsure of what to say. "Um, a monster? I don't think those exact words ever came out of her mouth." She knew her mother had used many other choice words to describe Sam, but Lois didn't recall her ever exactly calling him a monster.

Sam took a sip of his water and said, "Oh, you know what I mean. Does she hate me? I thought we were getting along so much better, but now she won't even talk to me when I call her."

Lois looked into his sunken eyes and felt so sorry for this man. He looked so lost. Here he was dying, and only one person in his life even sympathized with him.

She wasn't sure if she should tell him the truth about Lucy's and Ellen's feelings. Finally she decided to be blunt with him, "Daddy, um, about Mother."

He looked at her expectantly with a hopeful glint in his eyes. She hated to crush his dreams.

"She seems to think that you're just making your illness up. She told me that you pulled some incredible stunts while you were married, and she just doesn't know what to believe any more."

Sam, who had been at the edge of his seat anticipating a good response, flopped back dejectedly. He looked like a broken man; his eyes had lost the tiniest glint of hope, and now the dark circles seemed even more pronounced. Lois couldn't believe that this was the same man who just a few months ago had been jumping around making infomercials for 'Dr. Lane's Breasts in a Bottle'.

Sam sighed, and said, "I should have known. She's right, though. What have I ever done that would make her believe me? Nothing."

"Daddy, don't say that!"

"Don't try to comfort me, Princess. I know I've never done anything that could even warrant you caring for me. I don't know why you do."

"Daddy!"

"Your mother has the right idea. I should be condemned to suffer a lonely death, and then to burn in Hell for all eternity."

Lois opened her mouth in shock. This was not the man she'd known most of her life. "Don't say that, Daddy! You can't mean it!"

Sam just shook his head. "No, Princess. I don't deserve your sympathy. After everything I've done, it's only fair that you turn around and reciprocate when I need you most."

Lois shook her head woefully. "I can't believe you feel that way. Sure, you did horrible things in your life, but I can't condemn you. No one, no matter what they may have done, deserves to die alone. Plus, you don't even realize all of the good things you've done for us. I wouldn't be the person I am today if it wasn't for everything that happened between you and mother when I was a child. And I'm very happy with the woman I've become."

Just then, the waitress brought their dinners out, and they both started eating in silence, focusing on the food in front of them. They both silently considered Lois's last remark. When they had both finished about half of their dinners, Sam spoke again. "Lois, I don't know what to think. I know I don't deserve anyone's sympathy, but I want it so much. I need it to keep going, fighting this illness. I don't even really want it for myself. I think you, Lucy, and your mother all deserve better than my just dying alone in a little hospital room without even having the chance to try to apologize to you. I want to prove that I'm not the horrible man you think I am."

Lois reached out for her father's hand, and with her eyes shining, said, "Daddy, if it's worth anything to you, I don't think you're horrible at all. Maybe I did at one time, but now I think I realize why you did what you did to us."

Sam looked up, his sunken eyes forlorn. "Thank you, Lois, you have no idea how much that means to me."

When Lois and Sam finished dinner, they promised to meet again the next afternoon for lunch. As they were each about to go their separate ways, Lois reached out to do something she had not remembered doing since she was a young child. She extended her arms, almost in slow motion, and hugged her father tightly.

Her father was absolutely shocked. He slowly wrapped his arms around her back and pulled her close. This was the first real hug she had given him in such a long time.

He was so grateful that at least one of his daughters had turned out so well, no thanks to him.

***

"Clark!" Lois exclaimed when she walked through her front door.

"Hey!"

He was waiting for her, and met her at the door, and pulled her into his arms. "So, how did dinner go?"

Lois kissed him on the lips and then pulled back a little. "I don't know. He's so depressed. I don't know what to do for him. Part of me is saying I don't need to do anything. Look at everything he's done to me. But then the other part of me is saying he needs me, I need to help him. And that part is just so much louder right now."

Clark pulled her back into his embrace, "I don't know, honey. You have to listen to your heart. Do what your heart is telling you, and I think you already know what that is."

Lois kissed him again, "Thank you. I just wanted someone else to tell me I'm not crazy."

She pushed her husband back onto their couch where she planted kisses all over his face and neck.

In the midst of her kisses he murmured, "Don't worry, Lois, you're not crazy at all. You're the most intelligent, wonderful, compassionate, loving, and absolutely beautiful woman in the entire world."

"Thank you," she whispered.

"Superman is taking a few hours off."

"Mmm," she moaned. She kissed him deeply, clinging to the fact that he was there with her, that he loved her, and she loved him. "Make love to me, Clark!"

Of course he didn't need any further invitation.

As they made love, they silently reaffirmed their love for each other, and their promise that their relationship would never end up the way Sam and Ellen's had so many years ago.

***

As Lois lay across Clark's chest, reveling in the luxury of actually spending time with her husband, not being interrupted by Superman, work, or unexpected visitors, her mind drifted back to what she had been thinking about in Perry's office.

She ran her fingers across Clark's chest to wake him up. "Clark, I was thinking, Perry, my dad and Jimmy's dad all had jobs that ruined their families. The more I think about it, the more I see us traveling down those same paths. It almost seems inevitable."

"Lois, honey, what are you talking about?"

Lois rolled over to face him. "I was just comparing us to Perry, my dad, and Jack Olsen. We are so committed to our jobs; you even have two demanding jobs. I can easily see us falling into that same fatal pattern. We spend so much time at work, we hardly have enough time for ourselves, let alone time for whatever family we may eventually have."

Clark raised his eyebrows. "Lois, slow down. You're already comparing us to the worst. True we have demanding jobs, but I'm sure that if we ever have a family we won't turn out like everyone else. We aren't everyone else: not Perry and Alice, nor Sam and Ellen, or even Martha and Jonathan. We're Lois and Clark, and that's why we're different. Look how much we've gone through already just to get here." He gently took her hand and spun her wedding ring around her finger. "Plus, we don't know if we can even have kids. No one knows if a man from Krypton and a woman from Earth can even mate successfully."

Lois kissed him on the nose and said playfully, "You know we can definitely mate successfully, and oh so wonderfully."

"You know what I mean."

Lois pushed a stray lock of hair off of Clark's forehead, and said, "Yeah I know what you mean; I was just kidding. Anyway, I'm not even sure if I want to have kids or not, but I do want to make sure we make the right choices if we do. I don't ever want to bring a child into this world that will have to suffer through any of the same things I experienced when my parents were splitting up."

Clark reached up and cupped Lois's face in his large hand. "Don't worry Lois, they never will. I know we're not even sure if we can or even want to have babies." He grinned at her, and tried to change the subject to lighten the mood. "But wouldn't we have such cute kids?"

Lois said, "Oh Clark, we would. They'd have your eyes …"

"Your lips." Clark kissed the aforementioned objects.

"Your sense of humor …"

"And your drive for success." Clark pulled Lois close and continued, "I can't wait to meet them."

Lois kissed him lightly and agreed, overtaken by the mood. "Oh Clark, I want to have your baby right now."

"Lois, you're kidding, right!" Clark broke away with an alarmed look on his face. "You don't mean that. We've only been married for three weeks and just five minutes ago you weren't even sure if you ever wanted to have kids."

Lois looked into her husband's alarmed eyes and realized that when they were together, anything was possible. "I know, but the more I think about it, the more I want to have your baby. You're right, though, now probably isn't the best time."

Clark smiled up at her, relieved. He had some unresolved issues about parenthood that he'd never told Lois about.

The love that projected from his eyes was so evident, Lois almost cried. She wanted to do anything in her power so that she and Clark would never end up like her parents.

***

In California, Lucy went about her business like she would have any other day.

However, today she had a bit of a drag in her step. She kept trying to push thoughts of her father out of her mind.

Unfortunately, images of her father and all of the horrible things he had done pounded though her mind all morning at work. The morning dragged on and on while she waited on people she didn't care about.

Then all afternoon during her creative writing class as her professor's monotonous voice droned on, images of her father played through her mind. He wouldn't let her go. He would always be there. He was torturing her.

The last thing she wanted when she got home was to face her roommates. They were nice people who she usually got along well with. But they were sometimes a little much.

First there was Chen, a twenty-four year old graduate student in Chemistry who had recently come over to the United States from Canton, China. Lucy's other roommate's name was Jenny, a bubbly, twenty-five year old physical therapist.

Lucy usually genuinely liked her roommates, but today she was not in the mood for company. She wanted nothing more than to go into her room and sulk.

At around four-thirty, Lucy finally made it home. As luck would have it, she heard both Chen's and Jenny's voices coming from the kitchen.

She muttered, "Shoot, I knew they'd be home. They don't have lives, so why would they be anywhere else? Superman is going to be here soon. I have to think of a way to get at least Jenny out of the house."

Lucy knew that Jenny had a huge crush on Superman — and she didn't want Jenny to know that she had any association with the Man of Steel. Huh, she'd never hear the end of it.

She dumped her purse and bookbag onto the couch, and made her way into the kitchen, formulating a plan to get rid of Jenny for the next hour.

Jenny was sitting at the table, reading a copy of the Daily Planet, if one could call it reading. She was really looking through the newspaper for any Superman pictures that she could cut out. Chen was cooking an early dinner.

Lucy had no idea what she was cooking, but then again, she never had any idea what Chen cooked. She just knew that, more often than not, it tasted incredible.

Jenny looked up from her paper and said, "Hey Luce, how was your class today?"

Lucy rolled her eyes. "How do you think?"

Jenny looked at Chen and rolled her eyes. "Okay Little Miss Sunshine, so-orr-ryyy."

Lucy didn't appreciate Jenny's attempt at humor.

Just then, the young women heard a knock at their window. Jenny and Chen looked at each other in disbelief. Who could be knocking at their fourth story window?

Lucy, for her part, didn't get excited. She said quietly, "Shoot, shoot, shoot, he's early. How am I going to explain this one?" Lucy went to the living room window and was face to face with the Man of Steel himself.

Jenny and Chen followed close behind. Jenny was beside herself. Here she was within an arm's length of the man of her dreams. Lucy opened the window and Superman stepped onto the sill.

"Sorry I'm a little early, but your sister wanted me to pick you up as soon as possible."

Chen regained her ability to speak first. "Lucy, you know Superman? How long were you going to hold out on us, girl?"

Jenny, still unable to speak, gazed at her hero, just wordlessly opening and closing her mouth, trying to think of something to say to the man of her dreams.

Lucy swallowed a lump in her throat, and said, "Superman, I don't want to keep you waiting. Let's get going. I know you must have more important places to be."

Superman scooped Lucy into his arms, and she waved to the other two shocked women.

In a flash, they were gone.

Jenny and Chen stood with their mouths gaping open as they watched their roommate fly off with Superman.

Jenny finally found her voice. "Superman, will you marry me?"

Chen just shook her head sadly. "What I wouldn't give to be in her shoes right now."

Jenny, finally able to form coherent sentences, was fuming mad at Lucy. "Wait a second, Chen. Why didn't Lucy tell us she knows Superman? She knows how I feel about him. She's watched me make a fool of myself over Superman hundreds, no thousands, of times, and here she has personal connections. She's sure got some explaining to do when she gets back."

Chen led Jenny back to the kitchen. "Shut up already, Jenny. You know you'd never have a chance with him anyway. I've heard he likes brunettes."

Chen shook her long, dark hair suggestively, and fell into an uncontrollable giggling fit.

Jenny just shook her head, unable to come up with a retort.

***

Lois paced around her living room, anticipating the upcoming confrontation with her family. These things always made her nervous. She could face down any number of violent criminals without batting an eyelid, but the thought of her family made her shudder.

She had sent Clark to get Lucy about five minutes ago, so she expected him to arrive with her very soon. Her mother would probably knock on her door any minute now.

Lois stopped pacing because she was making herself dizzy. But then she was restless. She had so do something, so she rearranged the couch cushions. As she put the last cushion back in its new place, the doorbell rang.

"Shoot, that's probably mother."

Lois opened the door, and was surprised to find both her mother and sister standing there.

She ushered the two women in, and hugged both Lucy and Ellen. They all sat down in the living room silently. Lois tried to break the ice. "So Lucy, why didn't Superman stop in for a visit?" Superman. That was probably a neutral subject.

Lucy crossed her legs and flipped her hair over her shoulder, "Oh, he said 'hi', but he heard a cry for help. Something about a bank alarm. He told me you'd understand. And he told me to just call for him when I'm ready to go back."

Lois nodded, understanding that Clark probably wanted to leave them alone.

Meanwhile, Ellen looked around for Clark. "Lois, where is that husband of yours?"

"Oh, he had an interview, and I told him to stay away for a while because I wanted to talk to you two alone."

Ellen moved to take Lois's hand. "You'd better be careful, dear. That's where it started to go wrong for me."

Lois squeezed Ellen's hand, and instead of saying the sharp remark that came to her about her father, she said, "I know Mom. But I trust Clark."

Ellen bit her tongue. She was about to say something nasty about men in general, but she realized Lois did not need to hear that right now.

Lucy, however, was not as subtle. "Lois, how can you be sure? Do you really know what he's doing right now? Just make sure you and your kids don't find him in your own living room with some floozy from the street."

Lois and Ellen looked at Lucy in shock.

Ellen gasped, "Whatever made you say something like that?"

Lois, with her mouth hanging open in shock, exclaimed, "What? Clark would never do anything like that."

Lucy whispered, "It was just a warning." She got out of her seat and paced.

Lois got up and stopped her. She put a comforting arm around her little sister's shoulders. "Lucy, where did you get that kind of idea from?"

Lucy shrugged Lois's arm off. She sat on the end of the couch with her head in her hands.

Ellen moved closer to her younger daughter; she had a good idea what Lucy was thinking. "Lucy, sweetheart, does this have to do with something that happened with your father?"

Lucy silently nodded with tears streaming down her cheeks. Ellen hugged her little girl tightly, "Oh Lucy, I'm so sorry. I never realized. Oh no! I don't believe it."

"Mom, you knew too?" Ellen nodded and wiped some of Lucy's tears away. "It happened late one night when I was eight years old." Lucy looked up at her captive audience. "I was thirsty, so I wanted to get a glass of milk to help me fall asleep. I thought you guys were asleep so I tried to be really quiet and I tiptoed to the kitchen." Lois nodded and Ellen tried to comfort Lucy as she continued, "I heard these voices coming from the living room. I walked over there really quietly because I wanted to see who it was. It was Daddy and some strange woman, and Daddy was standing there with his pants off, and the woman was kneeling in front of him. I didn't know what was going on, but I knew something was so wrong."

Ellen nodded. "I'm so sorry. I thought I was the only person who ever walked in on him. That was when I knew for sure our marriage was over. I filed for divorce the next morning."

Those old emotions of that little eight year old overwhelmed Lucy as she cried, "Mom, I knew he was doing something bad. I should have told someone, but I didn't want to be a tattle- tale."

Ellen wrapped her arms tightly around her daughter, "Shhh, Shhh, it's okay. You didn't do anything wrong. It was his fault making you see something like that. You were only eight years old! You should never have seen anything like that. I just … I can't … God, I can't believe it."

Lois, who had been sitting quietly, got out of her chair sat on Lucy's other side. She put a hand on her mother's arm. "I can't believe he actually had the gall to do something like that." She was absolutely disgusted. "He brought another woman into our house while we all were sleeping. I can't believe it!"

Lucy was now sobbing, but she managed to say, "Sam Lane has never thought of anything besides himself."

Lois pulled back. "Luce, you can't say 'never'."

Lucy stared at her sister incredulously. "Oh really? Just tell me one thing he has ever done that hasn't had some kind of selfish motivation."

Ellen took this as her cue to tell her side of the story, "Girls, I know you father has hurt you so badly. He might have hurt me even worse. But Lois does have a point. There was a time in his life where you father would have moved heaven and earth for his baby girls."

Lucy's eyes widened in shock. "His girls meaning whom?"

Ellen rubbed Lucy's shoulders. "Of course I mean us. When you two were little, your father and I were so completely in love. He loved you girls so much. We wanted to do anything we could for you. Lois, I don't want you to feel bad, but Lucy was his little angel. He thought she could do no wrong. Sweetheart, you just blinked your little eyes, and he would give you anything you wanted! Honey, you had him wrapped around your little finger. He would have given you anything you asked for."

Lucy was astonished. She'd never realized her father had ever loved her. "You've got to be kidding me mom. I know better than anyone that he never loved me. If he did, he would never have left me."

Lois interjected, "Luce, he does love you. He's a weak man who can't admit his feelings well. I know he doesn't show it in the right ways, but he does love us. I know he does."

Ellen shook her head. "Lois, dear, I have to agree with Lucy here. Your father has not done anything to make any of us forgive him. He's a lying, cheating pig. He may have loved us before, but it's obvious he doesn't now, and hasn't for a long time."

Lucy nodded. She agreed with her mother completely. There was no reason for her to forgive her father. After all, he had hurt her so badly, shouldn't she have the same opportunity to hurt him. "I shouldn't have to forgive that man for anything. He's hurt me so badly. I think I have every right to hurt him in the same way."

Lois could not believe her sister. She was acting so childish. This was not the little sister she had known for most of her life. "Luce, you're acting like a little kid. It is so childish to want an eye for an eye. Aren't you a little more mature than that?"

Lucy couldn't take it any more. She didn't want to talk about her father in the first place, and she didn't need to sit here and be belittled by her sister.

She got up, hugged Ellen and ran to the door. Before she walked out, she said, "I don't need to take this any more. I'm going to have Superman take me home. You just don't get it, do you, Lois? I hate that man who calls himself our father. I never want to see his face again. I'm actually happy that he's dying. That way he will never bother me again."

Lois and Ellen stared at the door in shock.

"Lucy!" Lois called after her. "Oh, god, Mother, what did I do?"

Ellen took Lois's hand. "You didn't do anything wrong. She's just not willing to accept him. I mean, I can't blame her. I'm still trying to debate it in my own mind. Think of it from Lucy's perspective. She was only eight years old when your father left our family for another woman."

"Yeah …"

"He didn't call us. He didn't visit. The only time you girls heard from him was at Christmas and sometimes on your birthdays. And even then he only sent you a small gift and a card — which was picked out by his secretary or floozy of the week."

"Well …"

"I don't know, Lois. Maybe Lucy has the right idea."

Lois silently remembered those long years without her father. They had certainly been painful. She could remember sitting in Lucy's room night after night trying to explain why their daddy was never coming home again. "Mom, Dad hurt me so much back then. But now when I look back at those years, I've realized I would never have become the person I am today if it had happened any differently."

"Oh, Lois, you always were the rational one in the family." Ellen grinned and hugged her daughter. "You would be the one to think through this calmly and rationally."

Lois, too, grinned. "I think it was Clark. Some of his optimism must be rubbing off on me. But I just can't see condemning a man to die alone, no matter what mistakes he made in his life. I think he's done so many things wrong in his life, but how can I judge him?"

Ellen nodded. "That's true. I know I would not want to die alone." She shook he head, trying to rid her mind of the thoughts of her own mortality. "You're right; he will get his ultimate judgment, wherever he's going."

Lois continued her mother's thought, "We're only human. Who are we to judge anyone?"

Ellen agreed completely. "I know. I can't force myself to forget everything he's done to us, but I think I might … I might be willing to give him a chance."

Lois smiled at her mother and hugged her. "Thank you so much. This means so much to me, and to him. I know he'll be glad to see you." Lois paused and considered her next question. She knew her mother wanted to make amends with her father, but she wasn't sure she wanted to be thrust into it. Finally, she decided to do it. "Are you doing anything for lunch tomorrow?"

"I don't think so. Why?" Ellen wondered what Lois had cooked up her sleeve this time.

Lois noticed her mother's wariness and laughed. "Mother, it's nothing really. I just wanted to know if you wanted to have lunch with Daddy and me tomorrow. We're meeting at the Planet at one … if you want to come. You don't have to."

Ellen was filled with trepidation at the thought of seeing her ex-husband. After all, she had been so mean to him this morning. She'd left him standing outside her door. But maybe that didn't matter. She wanted to start fresh with him — their past sins not exactly forgotten. Their past wasn't all that important at this point. She didn't want Sam to die alone. "Okay, Lois, I'll do it."

***

"Superman!"

Lucy stood just outside the door, and waited for the superhero to get her. It was strangely like waiting for a taxi. Well, a flying taxi.

It was kind of like she came right out of the 'Jetsons' or something!

A few seconds later, the Man of Steel landed next to Lucy. "Ready to go Ms. Lane?"

"Lucy, please."

Clark smiled at his sister-in-law. "Okay, Lucy."

To Clark, Lucy looked surprisingly depressed. He wasn't sure what had happened during the family meeting, but he assumed they must have had some kind of major fight.

He wanted to say something reassuring to his sister-in-law, but since he was in the Suit, he was unable to show any emotion. He couldn't even show that he knew any background of the Lane women's dilemma.

During their flight back to California, neither really spoke. Lucy was wrapped up in her thoughts about her father and her pitiful life. Superman did not say a thing, even though he felt for his sister-in-law, because he had to maintain his Superman persona while he was in the Suit.

When Superman stopped outside Lucy's window, she finally spoke up, "Wait, Superman. Could you drop me off at the front of the building? I don't want you to have to face Jenny again."

"Good point." He flashed a large smile. Lucy's roommate seemed a little obsessed. It wasn't anything he hadn't faced before, but if he had the chance to avoid it, he wouldn't turn it down!

Lucy smiled at Superman. "Sorry about her."

"Hey, it's okay." Superman landed on the ground in front of the building and placed his passenger down outside the front door. "Don't worry about it."

"Thanks for the ride."

"No problem. I owe your sister a few favors."

He flew away and was gone in a heartbeat.

Lucy walked in to the building and up the stairs to her apartment. She was not in the mood to dodge the barrage of questions she was sure to face as soon as she walked in the door. The poor woman knew that both Jenny and Chen would be eagerly waiting to ambush her when she walked in the door. It was something she couldn't avoid.

Just as she had feared, Jenny and Chen were both sitting on the sofa pretending to watch television in perfect position to corner her. But she was smarter than they were. They must have thought they were so good, but they had grossly underestimated the Lane determination. And people called her sister 'Mad Dog.' They didn't know anything.

Lucy surveyed the room and decided that on the best course of action. She was going to run right through the room without looking back.

Great plan! Great plan!

She walked right past Chen and Jenny like she didn't even see them.

They followed her, and Jenny even grabbed her arm.

"Lucy, you can't just walk past us! You have to tell us about Superman. Is he as wonderful in person as he seems on TV? What does it feel like when he's flying?"

Lucy shrugged Jenny away.

Chen asked, "Where did he take you? I heard him say something about your sister. I didn't even know you had a sister."

Lucy had finally reached her room. She walked in and quickly slammed the door behind her, nearly hitting Jenny in the head.

Jenny yelled, "Lucy, how could you do this to me? You didn't even introduce us! And you didn't even tell me he was coming over. Ugh, I looked like such a scrub. I would have put some better clothes on and done my hair and make-up."

By then Lucy had turned her music way up, trying to block out Jenny's whining. Chen had the decency to drag Jenny back into her room, realizing that Lucy wanted to be alone right now.

In Jenny's room, Jenny and Chen could still hear Lucy's loud music. They were lucky she didn't like music with a lot of bass or else the entire apartment would have shaken.

Now Jenny was beyond mad, she was absolutely livid. "Chen, how could Lucy do this to us? She won't even tell us how she knows Superman. I wonder if she even asked what he thought of me …"

Chen cut her off, "Jenny, please shut up! Don't you see that there's something really wrong with her? That was not our friend in the next room. Something's really wrong with her. I bet it has something to do with Superman and her sister. I mean, has she ever even mentioned that she has a sister?"

Jenny, who had been adequately put in her place, shook her head. "No, I don't think so. And her sister knows Superman! I can't believe it!"

"We have to figure out just what's wrong with her. Then maybe she'll give us the scoop about Superman." Chen giggled, "She better have something juicy to tell us about him!"

Jenny's eyes danced with excitement. "Yeah and maybe I'll even get to fly with him! Oh god, he looks so much better in person than in any of those pictures!"

By this time, Lucy had turned her music down. Jenny and Chen could hear her sobbing in her room. Chen said, "I'm going to see if I can talk to her. It sounds like something really bad happened today. I just hope she's ready to talk to someone."

Jenny nodded. "I want to talk to her too."

Chen shook her head. "No way, Jen. I can't trust you not to bring up Superman. You're too obsessed!"

"You are, too!"

"Not like you! I didn't pay $200 on e-bay to get a lock of his hair!"

Jenny shook her head in remorsefully. "I guess you're right. She won't talk with me around."

Chen left Jenny and gently knocked on Lucy's door. She could hear the loud sobs coming from inside. Her heart went out to her friend. "Hey Luce, what's wrong? Can I help?"

Lucy didn't say anything at first.

Chen added, "This isn't any kind of trick or anything. Jenny's in her room, she's not going to ambush you. Just let me help you."

Lucy finally answered through her sobs, "Come on in if you want. The door's open."

Chen opened the door slowly, unsure of how to approach the situation. When she walked into the room, she found Lucy lying face down on her bed sobbing almost uncontrollably looking at a photo album. She didn't even look up when she heard Chen come into the room. Chen sat on the edge of Lucy's bed and quietly put her hand on Lucy's shoulder.

She tried to glance at the picture album, but Lucy's head was obscuring all of the pictures. "Lucy, I've never seen this before. What are these pictures of?"

Lucy finally looked up. She looked surprised that Chen was actually sitting there. She blinked some of her tears away and said, "Oh, these are pictures of my sister and me when we were little. I'm feeling nostalgic all of a sudden."

Chen helped Lucy sit up and pulled the photo album up with her. Lucy sat with her back supported by the headboard hugging a pillow for comfort. Chen began her peace offering, "So Luce, you never told us anything about your family. I've told you everything about my sisters, and I know Jen's bugged you as much as she's bugged me about her parents, but I can't seem to recall you ever talking about any of your relatives."

Lucy remained silent, so Chen continued. "Superman said something about your sister. Does your sister know Superman?"

Lucy slightly nodded.

"Wow, that is so cool. The only person my sister knows is Hongwen, the boy down the street, who just happens to be the cutest boy in our village. But he sure isn't Superman."

Lucy just rolled her eyes.

"How does she know Superman? I am assuming that she must be an older sister. Was that who you went to see tonight? I am assuming she lives in Metropolis since that's where Superman spends most of his time."

Lucy nodded again, and Chen was getting fed up, "I can't help you if you won't talk to me!"

The two young women sat in silence until Lucy relented. "Yes, my sister lives in Metropolis. Remember when we first moved in together and Jenny saw my last name? She knew I came from Metropolis, so she immediately asked if I was related to Lois Lane, the reporter from the 'Daily Planet' who gets all of those Superman exclusives."

Chen's eyes got wide and her mouth dropped open. "No way! Lois Lane is your sister?"

Lucy nodded again. "You can see why I don't talk about her much around here. Jenny would never let me hear the end of it. She'd assume I knew Superman just because my sister knows Superman, and the truth is, today is only the second time I've ever met him."

"I could see why. Jen would never let you hear the end of it! She idolizes Lois Lane and Clark Kent almost like gods because of their affiliation with Superman. You know she subscribes to the Daily Planet just because of their Superman exclusives."

Lucy rubbed her red eyes and nodded.

Chen opened the photo album and flipped through the pictures. Lucy and Lois had been such cute kids, but Chen thought it was strange that none of these pictures had either of her parents anywhere in them.

Lucy continued, "My sister and Superman are really close. Never tell Jenny this, but I suspect that they may have even an item at one time, but who am I to say anything?"

"What!"

Lucy shrugged. "I don't know. I got this vibe from Lois a few years ago that she and Superman were … more than just friends."

"Oh my god! This is huge!"

"Chen! Come on. It's not a big deal! I mean, I hardly even talk to my sister any more. Sure, we talk once a week on the phone, and I went to her wedding a few weeks ago, but we never really talk." He eyes glistened with more unshed tears. "Oh her husband Clark is so wonderful. I wish I could find someone like that, incredibly handsome, completely in love with her, steady job, completely in love with her."

"You said that already."

Lucy wrung her hands in a gesture she only made when she was extremely upset. "I know, and I mean it twice. You should see them Chen; they're so in love! They only have eyes for each other. Everyone can see it so clearly. Tonight Lois sent Clark away for a couple of hours so we could have our family meeting, and I could tell she was longing for him so desperately. I know Clark feels exactly the same way."

Chen ran her hand through her long, dark hair in frustration. Was this what Lucy was mad about? Was she jealous of her sister's marriage? Chen knew all about Lucy's luck with men. Lucy sure had picked some real winners to date! It was like she was a jerk magnet!

Chen took a hard look at her friend. Her instincts told her that Lucy's problem was not jealousy of her sister's romantic life. It ran much deeper than that. Sure, jealousy might have been playing a small part, but whatever was bothering Lucy was so much deeper.

Chen decided to take it upon herself to get to the root of Lucy's problem.

"So, Lucy, some of these pictures are just so cute. You and your sister were the cutest kids I've ever seen. You look so much alike. I've never seen your sister now, but as children, you two were almost identical, except for the fact that she was bigger than you were."

"There are some more recent pictures of us in the back. I just got some of her wedding pictures back this afternoon. I guess we do look alike."

"Did you say you went to her wedding tonight?" Chen knew it was not what she had done, but she hoped it would get a conversation started.

Lucy shook her head and said, "No that was a couple of weeks ago. I just didn't make a big deal out of it. I just flew home to Metropolis and stayed overnight."

Chen raised her eyebrows. Obviously there was something strange going on here with Lucy's family, but she had no clue what it could be. "How come you never told us about your sister, and even denied that you even have a sister more than a couple of times?"

Lucy closed her eyes. "I don't know, Chen. I really don't know. You saw how Jenny reacted about Superman. I'm sure she would have acted the same way if she knew my sister was Superman's close friend."

Chen shook her head. "That's not it, is it? There's something more going on here. Are you really that jealous of your sister?"

Lucy closed her eyes, and a lone teardrop ran down her cheek, "No, Chen, I'm really not jealous of her at all. She deserves Clark. After all, she's had almost more bad luck with men than I've had. It kinda gives me a little glimmer of hope that maybe someday I'll find someone like Clark. The wedding was so nice. Her dress was beautiful. They looked so happy, like they only had eyes for each other. It was almost magical!"

Chen could tell that Lucy was telling the truth. She wasn't jealous of her sister. Maybe a tiny part of her subconscious was, but that was not enough to keep her this isolated from her friends. Chen had to dig deeper to find the root of Lucy's problems.

She flipped the album to the last few pages and found Lois's wedding photos. "What a cute couple!" They looked so in love, and so happy.

Lucy nodded. "I know. They're even cuter in person. It's almost sickening. They look like they were made for each other." Her voice was emotionless.

Chen flipped through more of the pictures and noticed on striking similarity between these pictures and those from Lucy's early childhood. Neither of her parents was in any of the pictures!

Bingo! That had to be the key. It had to be something with her parents!

That was why she didn't want to talk about her family.

Chen approached the matter cautiously. "Um Luce, I don't want to say this wrong, it might come out funny, but I was just wondering why you don't have any pictures of your parents."

Lucy looked up incredulously. "Why should I have to have pictures of my parents in there? I want to have keepsakes from the happy times, not the times I'd like to forget!"

Chen noticed Lucy visibly close in on herself again.

Chen had stumbled in the right direction. Now she had to find out just what was going on with Lucy's parents. It sure wouldn't be easy.

Chen put a friendly arm around Lucy's shoulders. Something really horrible must have happened to this girl when she was a child. Chen was almost scared to find out.

Did her father molest her? Did her mother abuse her? Did her father hit her mother?

"It's okay, you know I'm here for you if you need me."

Lucy looked up into her best friend's eyes.

Chen's eyes were filled with compassion and fear.

"Oh, Chen, it's awful!" she cried. "I'll tell you the whole story, I guess. Maybe I'll feel better if I can get this off my chest. I've really never told anyone the whole story before, not even my sister, and it's been killing me inside. And I never could tell Lois because she'd just think I was crazy. Maybe she would have understood a few years ago, but now she wouldn't even want to hear it. She's reconciled all of her differences now just because he's dying …"

Chen's eyes widened. This story was getting wilder by the second.

Her father was obviously the root of her problem.

Under her breath, she muttered, "Wow, that girl sure does have a tendency to babble. She sounds just like that river behind my house in China." And loud enough for Lucy to hear her, she said, "Lucy, slow down and let me catch up. I speak English pretty well, but not when you're going that fast. Did you just say that your father did something to you and you've never told anyone? I think I also heard you say something about your father dying."

Lucy's eyes fell. "Yeah, he has cancer. That's why I went to Metropolis tonight. My sister wanted to get the family together to decide what we're going to do about it as a group. She wanted us to provide a unified front. But that's not going to happen. I can't bring myself to forgive him for what he did to me. I never want to see him again." Then she looked up into Chen's eyes, "I don't think I have to have any sympathy for him, do I? I can't. Not after what he did to me or even what he did to our family!"

Chen, now more confused than ever, wondered what Lucy's father had done to her. It must have been something horrible.

"Lucy, I don't want to offend you, and you don't have to tell me if you don't want to, but what did your father do to you? Did he abuse you?"

"No, he didn't abuse me — at least not physically." Lucy hugged her pillow close, almost ripping the edges off the pillowcase. "Oh Chen, it was so awful. I was going to tell you. I need someone to listen to me — to tell me I'm not crazy."

Trying to lighten the mood, Chen said, "Well, I can't guarantee that."

Lucy cracked a smile. "It all started when I was eight years old. My parents were always fighting. I was so worried. I thought they were fighting about me. I wasn't doing to well in school, and my sister … well, Lois was always the perfect one. Of course she was getting straight A's. I wasn't doing my homework, and I was having trouble reading. It turned out I needed glasses. It wasn't anything major. But my parents fought so much about it back then. I thought it was about me."

Well that wasn't so bad. Chen had expected something much worse. "Lucy, are you sure they were really fighting about you. They might have been having personal problems that you didn't know about."

Lucy continued, "Oh, yeah, they were. He was very unfaithful to our family. One time, that same year, I was walking around the kitchen late at night getting myself a glass of milk when I heard voices coming from the living room. Basically, to make a long story short, I saw my father there with a strange woman and she was giving him a bl …"

Chen interjected, "No way! Not in your living room! That's crazy! I can't believe it!"

"Well believe it. And that wasn't the only time either. My mom said she caught him too."

"I can't believe it. That is so crazy. In your living room when you were home?"

"Exactly. That stupid …"

"Luce, it's horrible. I know. But is that a reason to condemn him?"

Lucy's eyes were shining with unshed tears. Her father didn't deserve this many tears, but she couldn't fight them. "That's not the whole reason I hate him so much." The tears started to flow down her cheeks. "After he left us, my mother turned to alcohol. She became a raging alcoholic — I think there were about three years straight that she wasn't sober at all. I didn't want to live with her any more, so I called my dad. I thought he'd be happy to have me come to live with him. I thought I was his little angel." She gulped as it became harder for her to talk. "But when I asked him, he didn't want me to stay with him. He didn't care about anything I told him, and he practically told me off. He hurt me so badly that day, and I haven't spoken to him since."

Chen raised her eyebrows. How could this have made Lucy so bitter? Maybe she was an overly sensitive child and had blown things way out of proportion. It had probably been part of her parents' custody agreement.

"Luce, I'm so sorry. But you are acting very childish right now. You've held a grudge for that long. I do understand what you mean. He must have hurt you so much, but do you really want him to die without seeing him or talking to him one last time."

Lucy's tears were falling almost uncontrollably. She shuddered when Chen tried to hug her.

She didn't want to hear anything but sympathy right now. She didn't want to face the fact that she might have been wrong all these years.

But Chen wouldn't take the obvious. How hard was it to throw a small woman out of her bedroom? Lucy just wanted to be alone. She turned around and buried her head into her pillow.

Chen finally got the hint. "Okay Luce, you want me to leave. I just have to say, it's never too late."

Chen turned around and watched Lucy cry into her pillow. She knew it wasn't a good idea to talk to her right now.

Lucy needed some time to be alone to think about what she wanted to do.

***

Superman flew away from Lucy's apartment at a leisurely pace. He didn't know how much longer Ellen would be at his house, and Lois had asked him to stay away until she left.

He flew back to Metropolis and x-rayed the house, and saw that Ellen was still there. So he decided to make his patrol. The city was unusually quiet for this time of night, and he couldn't find anything that demanded his attention.

When he circled around his house again, he saw that Ellen was, indeed, still there, so he decided to fly to a little all-night dolceria he knew of in Italy and get Lois some of her favorite Italian pastries.

Upon arriving in Metropolis again, he stopped at the florist's shop near the 'Daily Planet' and bought one long-stemmed, red rose.

When he came out of the florist's, he was sure Ellen must have left. He flew home and this time when he x-rayed, he found Lois upstairs lying in bed hugging a pillow with a blank expression on her face. The TV was on to LNN, but the sound was off. Lois didnít seem to notice it was on.

She looked so depressed, so forlorn.

Clark felt helpless when he saw Lois like this. He didn't know what to do to make her feel better.

What could he do besides provide an arm to lean on and a shoulder to cry on?

He couldn't cure the cancer that ravaged her father's body.

He couldn't force Lucy to forget everything Sam had done to her.

He flew into the bedroom and spun into a pair of boxer shorts.

Lois felt the breeze and looked up without saying anything.

Clark frowned. She looked like she had been crying again. Her eyes were red and puffy surrounded by the dark circles of exhaustion. He put his bag of pastries and the rose down on the dresser and climbed into bed next to Lois, "Do I need to ask how it went?"

Lois sniffled, and Clark pulled her into his strong embrace.

"It wasn't as bad as you'd think. I was surprised. Mother actually decided to meet us for lunch tomorrow."

Clark raised his eyebrows. "Really? I didn't think she even believed he was sick."

Lois snuggled into the warmth of Clark's arms. "She didn't. I guess she decided he wasn't faking the weight loss and the drawn eyes. I don't know, maybe she's starting to think like an adult. She said she couldn't forget the things he did, but she's a big enough person to forgive."

Clark squeezed her shoulders, and planted a soft kiss on the top of her head. "Just like you, honey."

"Mmm."

"I don't think Sam expects the three of you to forget anything he did. I don't think he can forget it either."

Lois flipped the TV off. "I know he can't forget it. It tortures him ever minute of the day. He told me that today. But I just don't see how Lucy doesn't see that. I mean he hurt me just as much as he hurt her, and I can forgive him."

Clark shook his head. So that was the problem. Lucy.

Lois and Lucy must have had a fight about who Sam had hurt more. Lois must have taken it upon herself to tell Lucy just what she should do without even trying to consider Lucy's feelings.

"Honey, I don't want to seem like I'm taking Lucy's side here, but aren't you being a bit presumptuous. You don't know everything that went on between them."

Lois opened her mouth to protest, but Clark gently covered it with his hand.

"Let me finish. All I'm saying is that Lucy was eight years old when your father left. You were older and you could understand what was going on better. Lucy saw her father leaving her, and basically telling her that he didn't want her any more. Then your mother started drinking. Who was there to tell her they loved her? I think Lucy's problems lie deep in her childhood. A child who's not loved often develops into a child who can't love."

Lois turned around in Clark's arms to face him. A stray tear trickled down her cheek. Clark reached up to brush it away. Lois blinked away the other tears that threatened to follow, and said in an almost inaudible voice, "I think I'm to blame, too."

Clark tried to shush her, and she shook her head violently.

"I am. Lucy and I were so close after our dad left. When my mom started drinking, I started to become like the mother our mother should have been. I took care of her. We talked about everything, no matter how stupid our conversations would have sounded to someone listening in from the outside."

Clark wondered how Lois could blame herself for the way her sister turned out. She wasn't responsible for her sister. Lucy was her sister. Not her daughter.

"And we played the most incredible make believe games. Maybe it was our escape mechanism from the outside world." It became harder for her to talk as she started to cry again.

Clark held her tightly as her tears flowed.

She couldn't believe she was crying again. Her family's problems from all 29 years of her life had finally been brought to a head.

"Oh, Clark, it's all my fault. If I hadn't left home to go off to college, she would have never turned out like this. I left such a strong, vibrant girl. True, she was already 14, but she wasn't even in high school yet. Her mind was so impressionable and I was the one who started the pattern. How can she trust anyone? Dad loved her. She was his little angel, at least until he left her. Then I loved her. I was like the mother she didn't have. Then I went on with my life without the slightest regard for what would happen to her when I left."

Clark shook his head. Lois shouldn't be beating herself up like this it wasn't her fault at all. He cupped her face in his hands and looked directly into her shining eyes.

"Lois, it's not your fault."

Lois bit her lip and shook her head.

He repeated, "It's not your fault. You didn't do anything wrong. You did what you had to do."

Lois gulped down some of her tears, and said, "It is my fault. I didn't have to live at school. I could have come home to see her on the weekends. I went to Metro U; it's twenty minutes from our old house. I shouldn't have done that to Luce."

Clark couldn't believe all of the self-depreciating feelings that Lois had held deep within her covered by her 'Mad Dog' faÁade. He couldn't believe she could blame herself for Lucy's problems. The fault lied with the parents. "Honey, you can't beat yourself up over this. Lucy wasn't your responsibility. You aren't her mother. It is your parents' fault, and now I hope you can see why Lucy feels the way she does."

Lois nodded, not entirely ready to believe Clark. He had this annoying habit of being right, and she wasn't in to mood to hear it. But she decided that he did, indeed, have a point. Maybe it wasn't her fault after all. She had done what was right for her at the time. She was 18 then; she didn't need to be saddled with the responsibilities of raising a little sister. It had been selfish, but it hadn't been wrong.

"You're right. I do kind of understand how Lucy could be feeling. If I was in her shoes, I might feel the same way. I have to remember that she was so young when he left us, and she wasn't really old enough to understand what was going on. It's not my fault. Like you said, I'm not her mother. I just feel so bad that she might miss out on knowing our father in his last few weeks, and she might end up regretting it later in life."

Clark stroked Lois's cheek, softly wiping away all of the tears. He tried to think of something comforting to say to her. "You've done everything you can honey. You can't go to Lucy and physically force her to do what you want, as much as you may want to right now."

The corners of Lois's lips turned up slightly into a small smile. "Oh why can't I? It would be so much easier!"

Clark continued, "Lucy just needs some time to think about this. She'll come around eventually. I think I know enough about the Lane women. You have a hard exterior, and a big stubborn streak, but you are wonderful people inside. You have such big hearts. I don't think Lucy will be able to let him die without at least saying goodbye to him."

Lois smiled. Clark always had a way of saying things to make her feel so much better. Now, nestled in the warmth of Clark's warm arms, she temporarily forgot all of her problems and closed her eyes. When Clark held her, it seemed like everything was right with the world, even if the world was crumbling around them.

They fell asleep wrapped in each other's arms, and neither cared what else was going on in the world. They were content to feel the other's soft breath and gentle heartbeat.

***

Early the next morning, Lois awoke to find Clark's side of the bed empty. She cursed whoever needed Superman this morning, and rolled out of bed.

On the dresser, she saw a rose on top of a piece of paper lying near the mirror. The note, scrawled in Clark's bold handwriting, said, "Lois, I'm sorry I had to go this morning. Another bridge collapsed outside the city, and I needed to see if anyone was hurt and to help make sure it is structurally sound. I'll be home soon, hopefully before you wake up."

Lois smiled. She wished he had gotten back before she had awakened, but that was what happened being married to Superman.

The note continued, "Remember, I love you so much. There's something special waiting for you downstairs on the kitchen table. I love you, Clark."

Lois wondered what Clark could have downstairs for her. She practically ran down the stairs and into the kitchen. There she was greeted with the sights of her favorite breakfast foods. She grinned broadly. Clark had to be the sweetest, most considerate man ever born.

She grabbed a vase out of the cabinet, filled it with water, and put the beautiful rose in it. Then she put it in the center of the table.

"Lois!" Clark called from the bedroom.

"Downstairs, Clark!"

He crept behind Lois and wrapped his large arms around her.

Her first instinct was to shout, "Help! Superman!" but she realized that these arms did not want to hurt her. In fact, they belonged to Superman himself. She would know his strong arms anywhere.

Lois turned in his arms to face him. She immediately pulled his head to hers and kissed him hard. It was a kiss of pure passion, and it seemed like she never wanted it to end, for that matter, neither did he.

When she finally pulled away, she let her hand roam was traveling down his stomach towards the most sensitive area of his body.

He grabbed her roaming hand and smiled. "Honey, don't you want to eat breakfast?"

Lois shook her head and broke her hand free of Clark's grasp. Not that he was making an effort to stop her.

***

A while later, Lois and Clark lounged on their kitchen floor basking in the afterglow of their lovemaking. His hand rested on top of her stomach and she absently drew little circles on his hand with her fingers.

All of a sudden Lois sat bolt upright.

Her eyes widened in terror when she realized what they had just done.

Clark felt Lois tense and wondered why. He looked into her terrified eyes and wondered what could be wrong.

Lois looked down at Clark, who was still lying on the floor and said, "Oh my God, Clark. We forgot …"

Suddenly, it dawned on him exactly what they had forgotten. His brow furrowed in worry as he said, "Forgot? Forgot protection, didn't we?" He pushed himself up on his elbows.

Great, that was just what they needed right now.

Lois nodded sheepishly, a look of pure terror in her eyes. "I mean it was such a blur."

Clark sat all the way up and put his hand on her back. "Hey it wasn't your fault. It was mine. I could have easily gotten it."

"Yeah but I was the one who initiated it." She paused to take a breath, and gestured wildly. "Okay, it wasn't either of our faults, but we have to face the fact that it happened. I mean I pretty sure I want to have kids, I mean someday, but not right now. I'm not ready to have a baby. I know yesterday I said I was, but I was just being facetious." She stood up and started pacing around the room.

Clark sat there, stunned that she was making such a big deal out of what he thought was nothing. They didn't even know if they could ever have children together, and plus he had read somewhere that a woman is only fertile for a period of 72 hours each month.

He hoped they had nothing to worry about.

Maybe Lois knew her cycle better than he did.

But, knowing their luck, it probably was her fertile time of the month.

Lois continued, "My life just keeps getting better and better." She sat down at the table and buried her head in her hands. "Oh Clark, why is my world crumbling around me? What have I done wrong?"

Clark got off the floor and sat in the chair next to her. Her face betrayed what she was feeling even more than her words. She looked like a broken woman, as if everything she had accepted in life seemed to be crumbling around her.

His heart went out to her. Clark wasn't ready for a baby either; the thought of parenthood possibly terrified him even more than it did Lois.

She looked up at him and saw the same fear that she was sure her eyes betrayed as well. "Clark, you haven't said anything. What are we going to do?"

Clark looked into her expectant face. She hoped he could say something to ease her mind about everything that was happening. Unfortunately, he didn't have the answers this time. He was just as lost as she was, and possibly even more. "I don't know, honey, I really don't know. The only good thing is that we really don't know if we can even have children together. I might have a completely different genetic code than you, preventing us from ever having children."

"True," she said tentatively. She wasn't sure if that was reassuring or terrifying.

"I don't know for sure, though. I think the chances that we actually got pregnant today are really small."

Lois raised an eyebrow as if to ask how he knew.

"I mean, there's only a small window of opportunity each month for a woman to get pregnant, isn't there. We could have completely missed that window, right?"

Lois looked into his expectant face and said, "I don't know. I don't think I could know for sure with out measuring that for at least a couple of months."

Clark's face dropped. Half of him had expected Lois to agree with him and tell him there was no way it could have happened.

Oh, this couldn't have happened at a worse time!

Clark slouched down in his chair dejectedly.

Lois reached her hand out to him and he gripped it tightly.

She said, "Clark, here, why don't we eat this wonderful breakfast you brought us. We have plenty of time to talk about this. We don't have to be at work for another two hours." Clark nodded silently. They each grabbed some of the luscious looking pastries and started their breakfast in silence.

It was Lois who broke the silence first, "Maybe it wouldn't be so bad to have a baby. Now definitely isn't the right time, but someday."

Clark raised his eyebrows. Where did this change of heart come from? Just yesterday, she never wanted to have kids.

All this stuff with her dad must have softened her, but in one day? She must have always had a spot in her heart for children.

Maybe she wanted a child of her own to love so she could make up for what her parents had done to her when they robbed her of her precious childhood.

"Okay, Clark. Spill it. What's bothering you? You were like this the other night too when we started talking about having kids. I thought you loved kids. You're always telling me what a great mother I'll be."

Clark ran an agitated hand through his hair and squeezed her hand. He did love kids and wanted to have some of his own so badly, but when he thought of all of the negative consequences, he no longer thought it was a good idea.

He took a deep breath and said, "I don't know were to start. I mean there are just so many things. Okay, first, if we can even have children, I'm worried that our bodies won't be compatible. That our baby will hurt you because your body will try to reject it or something."

Lois looked up at him incredulously. Her body would never reject anything that was a product of such a wonderful thing as their love.

"Clark, don't be silly …"

"I'm not being silly or overprotective. I'm an alien, Lois."

"Clark! Don't say that!"

"Why not? It's exactly what I am. That means that I am not human. As much as I try to pretend that I am, we have to face the fact that I'm not. We don't really know anything about my physiology."

Lois shook her head. She couldn't believe he was getting himself so worked up over something like this. She knew his doubts had merit, but she had a feeling deep in her gut that said they would not have any problem having children. "Well, if you're worried, maybe you should have Dr. Klein run some tests on you to see if we can have children safely."

Clark nodded at her suggestion. At least tests would ease his mind. As soon as he had the chance, he would go to Doctor Klein and have him run some fertility tests on Superman.

Lois got out of her chair and pulled him out of his. "Let's continue this upstairs. I have to finish getting ready for work."

As Lois brushed her hair, Clark sat on the bed, still brooding. She turned to face him. "Clark, please tell me what else is bothering you. I hate it when you're like this. I know you're still hung up on this baby thing. I'm looking at it like if it happens, then it happens. What's wrong?"

Clark sighed, she had caught him again, and this time she had called him on it. "I just keep thinking about Superman. I know Lois and Clark would make great parents. But when you work Superman into the equation, I am not so sure what kind of father I will be. Look at how often I have to leave you to go out in the Suit. I don't know how I could do that if we had a baby. I don't want to leave you alone to do everything by yourself. I don't want to end up like your father. I don't want my other job to end up more important than my family. And I don't want you to resent me because of Superman."

"Oh, Clark, that's what you're worried about?"

"Well, yeah. In a nutshell."

"You're wrong. I may need Clark, but the world needs Superman. I knew that when I agreed to marry you."

"Lois!"

"Clark, don't try to tell me you'll end up like my father. You will never be like my father or even like Perry, for that matter. I know better than anyone that you'll love our children more than anything in the world, and they'll know it, too."

"Yeah …"

"You're not the kind of man to leave your children out in the cold. I know our kids will know and love their daddy, just like I wish I would have had the chance to know mine."

She laid her brush on the dresser and walked to the bed. She kissed Clark gently on the lips, and hoped that she might have erased some of Clark's doubts about himself and his job as Superman.

Lois was sure that if they had a child, he would try to cut down on his public appearances and routine patrols to help her with the baby. They wouldn't end up like the Lanes, the Whites, or the Olsens because they had something the three other couples didn't, an equal partnership.

Clark knew that if he and Lois ever had a child together, that child would be a miracle, and he or she would be treated as just that. He or she would be treasured and loved, and no matter how Superman interfered, that child would know how much they were loved.

Clark kissed back, reaffirming his love for her, and his pledge to himself that he would put his wife and whatever future family he may have far ahead of any other obligation.

When Lois felt him kiss back, she knew he had accepted her challenge. They were partners who would work together, no matter what obstacles stood in their way.

Although they both hoped Lois was not pregnant now, they did agree that they wanted to have children together someday, and that their children would definitely know they were loved.

As soon as they got to work, Lois and Clark tried to get their minds off their mistake by throwing themselves in to their stories. Lois, unable to get her mind off of her father, couldn't really concentrate. She wanted to find out more about her father's disease, especially to see if she could find some miracle cure.

Where was Jimmy? She needed him to help her with some research, but he was conspicuously absent from the newsroom. That wasn't like Jimmy; he had the same mentality as she did when it came to work. He would come in even if he was dragging on the floor.

She opened the Planet's search engine and found some interesting statistics about cancer. She also got leads for several of Metropolis' finest medical researchers and physicians who were taking the most initiative in the fight against cancer.

These physicians could possibly give her some information about experimental treatments for her father.

First on her list was Dr. Molly Rosenbaum, one of the world's leading radiation oncologists. She was famous for using many controversial treatments which were not widely accepted in the medical community. Most notably, she had started a pilot program using MRI guided RF ablation of tumors in the liver and kidneys. These treatments had an incredible success rate. She'd been known to save patients with what other doctors thought were terminal cancers. Others in her field both admired and hated her because she was so successful where others failed.

Dr. Michael Suffert was the other person she wanted to interview personally. Michael was a personal friend of hers from college who was just starting to make a name for himself as an oncologist because of his incredible success rates, despite his young age and relative inexperience. She knew Michael would be happy to help her with the human interest article she was going to write. Michael always had such compassion for those people in need, so Lois was sure he would try anything to help her father.

Lois briefly looked up from her work when she felt a sharp breeze across her back. Sure enough, Clark's desk was empty and his notes were scattered all over his desk and his word processor program was still running.

There must have been a horrible emergency for him to risk flying out of the newsroom at Superspeed.

Lois didn't have to wait long before she knew exactly where Clark was.

Someone in the newsroom had turned up one of the TVs, and a large group had gathered around it.

Lois got out of her chair and joined the group. LNN was showing the aftermath of an earthquake, which had reached 7.9 on the Richter scale with its epicenter 20 miles south east of San Francisco.

Lois's mouth dropped.

Lucy! Was she okay?

Lois sure hoped so.

She didn't live near the epicenter, but an earthquake that powerful still could have affected her rather badly.

The LNN reporters on the scene told of the mass destruction of buildings, roads, and bridges. Superman was helping the local fire and rescue crews put out the numerous fires, and he tried to rescue any trapped survivors.

Even with Superman's help, the death toll still stood at five.

Lois knew Clark would come home blaming himself for every one of those lost lives, even though there was nothing he could have possibly done to prevent it. The earthquake was a force of Mother Nature, and she was more powerful than even Superman.

The TV cameras panned the Bay area and Lois almost cried when she saw the mass destruction. Clark sure had his hands full.

Just then, Jimmy ran into the room, hoping no one would notice how late he was. He had just had the most incredible time with his father, and it was worth any punishment Perry could dish out at him.

He was delirious with happiness before he looked around the newsroom. Everyone, including Perry, was gathered around the TVs on the far side of the room. He immediately sobered when he saw the destruction of the earthquake.

All of a sudden, his wonderful morning of male bonding with his father seemed insignificant. A whole city had fallen to its knees in a matter of seconds.

Of course it was wonderful that he and his father had finally found some time to spend together, but as he looked over at Lois he realized that her sister Lucy, a girl he still had feelings for, lived near the Bay Area.

As LNN switched to its 'Dollars and Sense' report, the crowd dissipated back to their own desks each solemnly contemplating the poor victims of the quake.

Perry did not even have to holler at his staff to get back to work. Most of the 'Planet' staffers were happy to be able to work, and not have to think about the quake.

When Lois got back to her desk, she picked up the phone and dialed Lucy's number. All of her common sense told her that Lucy was probably fine, but she needed to know for sure.

Unfortunately, the phone company could not handle all of the calls that had flooded California, and she could not get through right away. By the third try, Lois finally got through.

The phone rang twice before Jenny answered, "Hello?"

"Um, hi. Is Lucy there?"

"Yes she is, but she's kind of busy right now, is this important?"

Lucy and Chen were busy cleaning some of the damage from the quake, and Jenny was making herself very busy supervising. Besides, she still wasn't talking to Lucy.

Lois was upset. Didn't this girl know there was a major earthquake near them? Wouldn't people be calling to see is their loved one was unharmed? "Yes, this is important. This is her sister. I was just calling to see if she was okay. I heard about the earthquake, and wanted to make sure she was safe."

Jenny was shocked. Lucy had a sister. She had always denied having any relatives whenever Jenny questioned her about her family. Jenny's eyes grew wide as she realized just why Lucy had been trying to keep her sister's identity a secret.

Jenny looked like a cartoon character with light bulb appearing over her head and bells and whistles going off to signal she had an idea.

"So Lucy's sister, huh? Does your name just happen to be Lois?" Aah, her investigative skills were absolutely brilliant!

Lois wondered what this was all about. Hadn't Lucy told her roommates about her? Obviously not. "Yes, it is. I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name."

Jenny jumped up and down in glee. She was talking to THE Lois Lane, the one reporter with more Superman exclusives than any other, the woman many people considered to be Superman's girlfriend.

So that was why Lucy never talked about her. It was all starting to make sense.

"My name's Jenny. You're Superman's girlfriend?" Jenny was practically shivering with excitement. "Tell me what he's like in bed! I need to know!"

Lois was appalled. What kind of roommates did Lucy have? This girl seemed like a real winner.

She obviously subscribe to the National Whisper to believe such obvious fabrications. "Excuse me? I'm a happily married woman, and I don't appreciate you insinuating that I'm having an affair with Superman! So if you don't mind, I'd really appreciate it if I could just talk to my sister."

By then, Lucy had come into the room and had heard the last little bit of Jenny's conversation. She couldn't believe Jenny had asked Lois if she slept with Superman.

Lucy knew that couldn't be true because if Lois had slept with him, Lucy would be the first to know. After all, Lois could never keep her mouth shut about the men she dated, and Lucy was always the first, and often the only, person she would tell about anything in her romantic life.

It was Lucy who had comforted her after her first serious boyfriend in college, Eric, had dumped her when she wouldn't sleep with him, and then after that jerk Claude had used her and stolen her story.

And to Lucy's knowledge, that had been the first and only time Lois had slept with anyone before Clark.

Lucy grabbed the phone out of Jenny's hand, ran into her room, and shut the door leaving a stunned Jenny still waiting for Lois's response, only this time without a phone in her hand.

Lucy flopped on her bed and apologized for Jenny's behavior. "I'm sorry about Jenny, Lois. I should have grabbed the phone sooner, but I was in the other room. She's really obsessed with Superman, and as soon as she made the connection, you were doomed."

Lois smiled and said, "Yeah, I realized that. I can see why you never told her you had a sister who knows Superman."

"Exactly. What's up? Don't tell me Dad."

"No, no! I called to see if you were okay. Obviously you must be since I'm talking to you."

Lucy surveyed the damage in her apartment. The quake hadn't been too bad there, but she knew that in San Francisco, it had been devastating.

They had a lot of cleaning ahead of them, but at least they were all unharmed, and there was no structural damage to the building.

"Yeah, it wasn't too bad here. I'm just lucky I don't live farther north. It's really horrible up there. I saw a news report a while ago that said Superman is there. It's days like this that make me miss Metropolis. I'm just glad I only have one more semester to go after this."

Lois breathed a sigh of relief. Lucy was really okay.

Now that she was sure her sister was safe, Lois needed to get something off her chest. "I'm so sorry about the way I acted last night, Luce. I don't know what came over me. I should have been able to see your point of view. Whatever you decide to do is okay with me. You don't have to forgive him if you don't want to. I just wanted to give you the chance."

Lucy couldn't believe it. Her sister was actually admitting she was wrong!

Wow, marriage had certainly done wonders mellowing her!

"Thank you, Lois. That means a lot to me. I know I haven't been the most rational person on earth about this, but you have to look at it from my perspective. I don't know what I'll do about him in the long run, but I know I can't even stand to look at him right now. Maybe that will change after I work it out in my own mind, but as of right now, I still want him to die and rot in hell."

Lois nodded, she didn't realistically expect her sister to change her mind so abruptly after seventeen years of hatred, but Lucy's rational tone did tell Lois that Lucy was, indeed, thinking more rationally.

"Well, I'm glad you're okay, Lucy. I'm at work now, and Perry's looking like he's going to come over here and yell at me, so I'm going to let you go. I'll call you later this week or if anything comes up with Dad."

"Okay, bye, Lois," Lucy said with a small smile on her face. She was glad they were back on speaking terms.

She missed her sister more than ever. Here in California, she was so isolated from everyone she loved. Her home was in Metropolis, and she was sure that after graduation she would move back.

Besides, Lois had been telling her how that Jimmy Olsen she had dated before, and really liked, had been asking about her.

From what she remembered, Jimmy was actually a decent guy. And if Lois recommended him, he couldn't be all bad. Why hadn't she dated him more than once? Oh yeah, that was when she was in her dating street punks phase.

Jimmy was too much of a goody two shoes for her tastes at the time. Now, the prospect of a date with Jimmy Olsen seemed entirely wonderful. She hoped he would give her another chance.

***

After Lois had hung up the phone, Jimmy passed her desk and circled back around looking nervous. Lois noticed her friend's odd behavior and when he turned to face her, she asked, "What's up Jimmy? You're making me dizzy just watching you!"

Jimmy stopped, and grinned sheepishly. "I was just thinking about your sister. She lives in California, and I was just wondering if you talked to her to see if she's okay."

That was so sweet of Jimmy. She knew he probably had some feeling left for Lucy, even though he hadn't seen her in two years. He had fallen hard for her a few years ago. Lois wasn't sure why they had only gone on one date, but she knew that Jimmy had really liked Lucy. She wasn't sure if her sister returned his feelings.

Lois smiled warmly and nodded. Time to play matchmaker. Or at least test the waters. "Yeah, I was just on the phone with her. She's fine. Actually, she was talking about moving back to Metropolis after this semester's finished and she finally graduates."

Jimmy's eyes brightened. Lucy was moving back to Metropolis! Did he have a chance with her now that she had matured from that 22-year-old who only wanted rebels without causes? He sure hoped so. "She's really moving back? Oh wow, that's great!"

Lois secretly giggled. She knew Lucy and Jimmy would make a perfect couple. He obviously liked her, and she knew Lucy liked him. Plus, they shared so many things in common. Now Lois just had to think of a way to get them together, but that would have to wait at least until Lucy finished school.

Lois suddenly remembered something. "Jimmy, where were you earlier? It's not like you not to be here at the crack of dawn."

Jimmy's face broke into a grin that extended all the way to his eyes when he remembered his morning. "My dad came over for a surprise visit late last night. He took an earlier plane just so he could spend a couple of uninterrupted days with me. Last night, we went out to dinner, went to the Metro's game, and then we spent the rest of the night at that new sports bar down by the river, you know, The Pro Club. It was wonderful. We talked, we laughed, we had a good time, and I think we finally bonded."

A tear ran down Lois's cheek. She casually brushed it away, hoping Jimmy would not notice. She didn't want to upset him with her problems. He deserved his happiness!

Lois was so happy that Jimmy and his father had the time to develop a new relationship.

But she and her father possibly only had a matter of weeks to say goodbye.

***

Superman had his hands full with the clean up in San Francisco. It seemed like every building was either on fire or in danger of collapsing or both. It took him three hours just until he considered the city safe enough for the emergency crews to handle the rest of the damage on their own.

He did one last scan of the fallen buildings and concluded that there was nothing more he could do at the moment.

He flew away with a heavy heart, mourning the eight lives that had been lost. An earthquake of this magnitude could have killed many more people.

Clark had saved literally hundreds of lives, but he still couldn't put those eight people's deaths out of his mind.

He flew away from the Bay Area and surveyed the rest of California. He was pleasantly surprised to find that the massive damage was not very wide spread. Even though the rest of the state was mostly undamaged, he still worried about Lucy and whether she was okay. He also worried about aftershocks and vowed to keep an ear open to the area.

Superman flew above Lucy's apartment building and checked to see if it had been damaged in the quake. Seeing no major damage, he was satisfied that she was in no immediate danger and he flew away and headed for Metropolis.

Knowing Lois, she had probably already talked to her sister and knew she was fine, but Lois would appreciate him double- checking just to make sure.

As Superman flew away, Jenny just happened to be looking out the window, "Guys come over here right now! Look up in the sky, if that isn't Superman, I don't know what it is! I knew he'd be worried about me. He checked to see if I was all right! I knew he cared!"

Lucy raised her eyebrows. Why on Earth did she live with such a lunatic? The longer this Jenny kept up her Superman delusion, the harder it would be for Lucy to live with her.

Lucy shook her head in disbelief. Even when Lois was obsessed with Superman, she hadn't been this bad. "Jenny, would you get over it. Superman doesn't even know you're alive. He doesn't care about you specifically any more than he cares about me, Chen, Max downstairs, or even my sister Lois. He thinks of us all as precious human lives which need to be protected at all costs."

"But …" Jenny sputtered.

"He's a role model, a perfect person, always working without a break to make our world a better place."

Chen chimed in, "Yeah, Jenny, I heard what you did on the phone when you were talking to Lucy's sister. You had no right to ask her how Superman was in bed. My Lord, girl, don't you have any class? I am not saying that she did sleep with Superman, but even if she did, it's none of your business. You should know better than to believe those supermarket tabloids that make her out to be Superman's girlfriend. You claim to read the Daily Planet, so you should know that she and her partner Clark Kent got married a few weeks ago."

Jenny did not need to take this harassment from her two best friends. Her face turned bright red as she turned and ran out of the room and into her bedroom.

She slammed the door and turned on her music very loud to a station that she had never listened to before, KGAR 99.5, the local country music station. That would annoy them. Served them right!

Lucy and Chen looked at each other with wide eyes. Jenny had gone off the deep end!

Country music. She was trying to drive them crazy. Jenny always did things like this to deliberately annoy them. She knew it bothered Chen and Lucy. They both hated country music with a passion. So that was why Jenny did it.

The two other girls rolled their eyes and decided not to give Jenny the satisfaction of knowing that her music bothered them. They set about the task of cleaning the rest of the apartment from the earthquake's damage. There were still books scattered all over the living room, dishes broken all over the kitchen floor and counters, and many other minor messes that demanded their attention.

As they set about their tasks, they could hear the strains of music coming from Jenny's room.

"A part of you will live in me."

Lucy froze with her and on a book she had been putting back on the bookshelf.

"Please remember me."

The song that was playing hit very close to home. She didn't immediately make the connection, but she felt herself drifting closer to Jenny's door so she could hear the song.

"When all our tears have reached the sea, a part of you will live in me way down deep inside my heart. Days keep coming without fail."

Lucy shook her head. No, this song wasn't about her father. Forget it, no way. This song was not going to make me think about him. But her traitorous legs carried her closer to Jenny's door.

This song was just too overpowering.

She remembered the song now. She had heard it before at Lois's house.

Clark enjoyed country music — not all the time, but he was from a farm. Somehow he had converted Lois especially to the more mainstream country artists.

They had this CD. It was, oh yeah, Jim, no, Tim McGraw. Yeah, she knew Tim McGraw. He was the sexy guy with the black hat and the really high voice.

Lucy shook her head as she heard her father's voice in her head more clearly. No, no, no, I don't feel bad for you. You don't deserve my sympathy.

She leaned her head against Jenny's door as the feelings of pity for her father washed over her.

"Please remember me."

It was like her father was standing next to her whispering in her ear. He wanted her to forgive him and to remember him as he died. But she didn't want to forgive him. He didn't deserve it!

Lois's words washed over her again. "You can't stoop to his level. We have to be adults here."

But Lucy wasn't ready to forgive him.

She just couldn't bring herself to think of him as a person. He had hurt her so badly, and she couldn't change those memories in just a few days.

"Remember me when you're out walking. When snow falls high outside your door. Late at night when you're not sleeping And moonlight falls across your floor And I can't hurt you anymore."

Lucy couldn't bare to her the rest of the song. If she had to hear any more, she might break down right there. In fact, she was seriously considering calling her father and making amends.

Then she realized how stupid that would be.

What would she say? She hadn't talked to him in so long. She'd have no idea what to say.

No, she didn't want to talk to him right now.

Lucy hadn't forgiven him; she did have pity for his situation.

As much as she tried to remember the good times before he left, the pain and hurt overshadowed any good memory she may have had. Lucy put her headphones on and turned up the volume up so she could drown out Jenny's song.

Jenny had calmed down and finally turned her music down. When she came out into the living room, she found Chen picking up the rest of the books where Lucy had left off.

"Where's Lucy? I wanted to apologize to both of you for acting like a chicken with my head cut off. I especially wanted to tell Luce that I'm sorry I acted that way towards her sister. I totally disrespected her. I don't know what came over me."

Chen raised her eyes to the sky. She thanked whatever higher being there that Jenny had finally seen light. The girl had no chance with Superman. It was time for her to stop her extreme obsession.

Chen answered, with a slight smile, "She's really hurt and confused. Her father's dying Jen. Did you know that she and her father haven't spoken in almost ten years?"

Jenny opened her mouth in shock. Wow, ten years. Jenny couldn't even go ten days without calling her parents. Sure, they fought, but she loved them and needed them in her life.

Chen saw Jenny's look of disbelief and continued, "I guess her dad did some pretty horrible stuff to her family. He pretty much left them high and dry, and Lucy was hurt very badly. And now she doesn't even want to say goodbye to him."

"That's awful!"

Chen nodded. "I know it is, but I can't really blame her. She was eight. How many eight-year-olds can deal with a parent abandoning them? I mean, in her mind, she's probably still that little girl who was hurt so badly."

Jenny sighed. "I haven't been too understanding, have I? I've only been concerned with myself. I mean, ever since I saw Superman, I haven't been myself. I should have seen something was wrong and tried to help her, not tried to get a date with Superman."

Chen put her hand on Jenny's shoulder. "I think your little tantrum before helped her even more than your words could have. That song you were playing, it seemed to strike something in her.

She started crying, but she kept creeping closer to your door so she could hear the words more clearly. She looked like she wanted to run away, but something kept drawing her closer. Then she snapped and ran into her own room. I think she's a lot closer to forgiving him than even she realizes."

Jenny nodded. "I think that song was about a lost lover, but some of it is really powerful. If she wanted to remember him at all, that is the song to trigger her memories."

Chen grinned hopefully. "Yeah, I just hope that's what she's doing in there. I hope she's trying to remember some of the good times she had with her father, not trying to block out everything that reminds her of him."

Jenny grinned and joked, "Yeah, I hope she gets over this really soon. 'Cuz then she'll be in a better mood when I ask her to introduce me to Superman!"

Chen's eyebrows shot up. She hadn't realized Jenny was just kidding. "Oh no, not again. I thought we had Jenny back, but now we're back to Jen, Queen of the Planet Spaceball. Jen-ny, come on. You know you don't have a chance with him, and you shouldn't take advantage of your friend like that. She told me she's only met him once before yesterday, and you think she has all these connections. That's the last thing she needs right now."

Jenny started giggling uncontrollably. "I was just kidding. Geez, Chen, take a chill pill."

Chen glared at her friend. "Puh-lease, 'Take a chill pill,' that was totally out five years ago. I know that and I wasn't even in your country. Besides, I bet Superman's really a happily married man with a wife and a couple of kids. Couldn't you just see that?"

Jenny's face took on a look of mock terror, "You can't mean that Chen! Take it back! You've just broken every woman's heart. You know as well as I do that it isn't true. What kinds of fallacies are you proclaiming? You heretic!"

Chen broke out laughing. She really had Jenny going this time. She didn't honestly believe Superman was married, but it was the best way she knew to get under Jenny's skin. "Hey, it could happen."

The two girls looked at each other's mock serious expressions and they both broke down. They fell onto the couch in a fit of giggles and looked at each other and said, "Nah."

***

Clark finally returned to the newsroom around noon. He scanned the room for Lois and saw her at her desk on the phone. He was still upset about those people who had died in the quake. However, as soon as he made eye contact with Lois, some of his bad mood was lifted.

She hung up the phone and started towards him. She had heard about the deaths from the quake, and she knew that he was probably making himself sick brooding about those deaths.

It wasn't his fault. He had saved so many more people that would have surely died without him.

LNN had reported that at least three of the eight people who died were heart attack victims. Not even Superman could have done anything to save them.

They walked towards each other and when they met, Lois wrapped her arms around his neck and whispered into his ear, "I'm so proud of you. You were wonderful!"

When Clark didn't respond to her, she pulled him into the conference room. Clark didn't offer any resistance, so she pulled him by the hand and then gently guided him into a chair.

She perched on the side of the table over his chair and pulled his head into her lap and stroked his hair gently. She periodically bent down and gently kissed the top of his head. "Clark, you can't blame yourself. It isn't your fault."

Clark shook his head and straightened in his chair, "Eight people died, honey. I didn't get there in time. They didn't have to die."

Lois reached down and pulled him into a hug, "Clark, sweetheart, you can't say that. You got there as fast as you could. Look at how many people you did save. Only eight people died in one of the worst earthquakes I can remember.

Plus, you wouldn't have been able to save them in the first place. At least three of them had heart attacks. And don't tell me that you can stop heart attacks."

Clark blinked, and shook his head. "I know I can't be everywhere at once. But it just hurts so badly when there's someone I can't help."

Lois pulled him close. "I know, honey. I know how much it hurts. When I was Ultra Woman, I found out just how hard it was, but try to look at the bright side. Only eight people died. It could have been so many more. You put out all the fires and you prevented most of the buildings from collapsing. You saved so many more lives than you could ever count."

***

Ellen Lane stepped off the elevator into the newsroom. She looked for Lois or Clark, but she didn't see either of them anywhere. She scanned the room and didn't see them near their desks, at the coffee machine, or even by the vending machines. Finally, something moving in the conference room caught her eyes. She walked towards the room, but stopped when she saw what was going on inside. From her point of view, it looked like Lois and Clark were all over each other.

Didn't they have any decency?

Were they crazy being so close right in front of their colleagues?

Ellen froze in her place, and stared at her daughter and son- in-law.

Jimmy walked up behind her. He tapped her on the shoulder and she flinched. "I'm sorry ma'am."

She turned around,

"Oh Mrs. Lane I'm sorry, I didn't recognize you from the back. I was just going to see if I could help you."

They both turned towards the conference room and Ellen hoped she remembered his name correctly. Jimmy? Timmy? Jimmy. "Jimmy, are they always like that? They're all over each other!"

Jimmy shook his head. Obviously Lois's mother didn't spend much time with the couple, but this time he knew they had a reason.

CK had looked so depressed when he walked in. Whatever was wrong with him, Lois sure knew the way to fix it. His expression had lightened considerably.

Jimmy said, "I think it's nice that they're so in love. Besides, they're still newlyweds." Jimmy winked.

Ellen rolled her eyes, and said, "Well, this is just unprofessional. I'm going to go in there and tell my daughter exactly what I think of her behavior."

Jimmy raised his eyebrows. Lois wasn't kidding when she talked about her mother in a bad light. This woman really was a human hurricane.

She walked straight into the conference room, and Jimmy's reflexes weren't quick enough to stop her.

Clark jerked away from Lois when he heard the doorknob turn. Lois looked up into her mother's disapproving gaze. Ellen stood there shaking her head at her daughter and son-in-law.

Lois and Clark looked up at her sheepishly like teenagers that had been caught making out in their parents' house.

"Lois Joanne Lane, I thought I raised you better than this! Look at you! You're all over each other here in public, at your workplace of all places." Ellen paced around the room, glaring at them.

"Mother! Please, we weren't groping each other. Something horrible happened to Clark, so I was just giving him a hug. I'm sorry it offends you!"

Clark ran his hand through his hair nervously. This was somehow worse than the day his mother had caught him with Lana up in the hayloft when they were 16.

And now he didn't have to apologize.

They were married adults who were just hugging.

"Ellen, I'm sorry. We didn't mean to offend you. I did have a really bad day, and Lois and I were just talking. I'm sorry if it looked like anything more."

Lois secretly rolled her eyes she whispered under her breath so only Clark could hear, "I can't believe this. She's crazy. I feel like a teenager again."

Clark nodded slightly and Ellen flopped into a chair.

What was she thinking? They were married, weren't they? At least they were with each other and not like they were with someone else. From the look she saw in Clark's eyes, Ellen realized, not for the first time, that Clark was, indeed, a decent man with an air of innocence. "I'm sorry, Lois, Clark, I was wrong. You are married, and you weren't doing anything lude or distasteful. I'm just upset right now, with your father and everything. If I wasn't an alcoholic, I'd take a bottle of vodka right now and down it in one gulp."

Lois rolled her eyes. Her mother was so quick to run into things like a chicken with her head cut off. She never looked before she leapt into a situation, and often ended up being embarrassed. But then again, Clark always told her that she did that, too, even though she never believed it.

***

Sam Lane slowly stepped off the elevator. He ran into Jimmy just like Ellen had.

Jimmy took a double take when he realized whom he had run into. He had only met Dr. Lane a few times, but it was amazing how much he had changed.

Lois was not kidding when she said he was deathly ill.

He sure looked like he was ready for the undertaker. The things that shocked Jimmy were Sam's eyes, which were surrounded by dark circles so he almost looked like a raccoon. They were sunken into his head, and they had lost all of their previous luster.

He looked so depressed! In fact, Jimmy almost felt depressed looking at him.

"Dr. Lane, how are you?" Before Sam had the chance to answer, Jimmy continued, "If you're looking for Lois, she's over in the conference room."

Sam nodded, without even looking at Jimmy, and started towards the conference room.

Jimmy stared at Sam's back almost in disbelief as he walked away. This was not the man Jimmy had seen three weeks ago at Lois and Clark's wedding.

Sam seemed like a man who knew he was going to die who had lost his every desire to live. Maybe he was a man without anything to live for.

Ellen spotted Sam walking off the elevator. She still couldn't believe how terrible he looked. This definitely wasn't some scheme to get her back. Every doubt she had about his sincerity was erased when she got close enough to see his eyes.

When he opened the door, Sam was shocked to see Ellen there. He fought the urge to run right back out the door when he saw her.

She couldn't take her eyes off him. His eyes were so inexpressive.

The old merry glow she knew so well was nowhere to be found. He looked like a man who had lost all of his desire to live, but what did she expect?

As much as she had resented Sam, and even hated him, she hated herself for not believing him sooner. She couldn't condemn him to die alone.

Lois and Clark left the conference room so that Sam and Ellen could have their reunion without their prying eyes. In fact, neither of the elder Lanes noticed their absence.

They perched on Lois desk, talking about the story they were working on, but they each had to fight the urge to look into the conference room to spy on Sam and Ellen.

Ellen got up from her chair, and some unexplainable force pushed her towards Sam. She knew she wasn't telling her feet to move, but somehow they were carrying her right towards him.

Sam opened his mouth to tell her how grateful he was, but his lips would not from the words.

Ellen reached up and covered his mouth with her hand. "Let me go first. I have so much I want to say."

Sam nodded and let himself be dragged towards the table.

They sat facing each other, and Sam waited patiently for his ex-wife to start.

She felt slightly disconcerted when she felt his unfaltering, unfeeling gaze. "Okay, Sam. I'm sorry I didn't believe you before, but could you really blame me?"

Sam shook his head.

"After all you've done to me, the lies, the stories, the affairs … I don't know why I'm giving you this chance."

Sam opened his mouth to speak again, but Ellen would not yet give him a chance to get a word in edgewise. "Sam, the only reason I'm doing this is because I don't want you to die alone. That's my biggest fear in my own life, and I wouldn't wish that on anyone else, not even you."

Finally, Sam found his voice. He said, simply, "Thank you. Thank you so much."

They sat quietly, just looking at each other until Sam found the words to express his feelings, "Oh Ellen, I'm so sorry. If I could do it over …"

A lone tear slipped down his cheek as he remembered all of the mistakes he had made in his life. "I'm so sorry, that's all I can really say, Ellen."

Ellen blinked back her own tears. She was willing to give him a chance. And, most importantly, she vowed not to let him die alone.

She tentatively stood up, and reached out her arms to Sam in a gesture of peace.

Sam didn't know what to do. He was still in a state of disbelief that she was even there.

Had she meant what she'd said?

Was she really willing to be with him when his time came?

He needed some encouragement to respond to her peace gesture, so Ellen leaned down to him and pulled him into her comforting embrace.

Sam clung on to her for dear life, so glad he finally had a life preserver, something to live for.

Ellen and Lois had decided that he was worth their sympathy, even though he had doubts that he actually deserved it. He wished he could do something to ease their pain.

***

Lois glanced into the conference room and almost jumped for joy when she saw her mother hug her father. She squeezed Clark's hand, and said, "Look at them. I think she must have forgiven him."

Her eyes shined with tears of happiness as she saw her mother and father finally reconcile after all the years of pain and suffering.

Clark wrapped an arm around her shoulder and he gently squeezed.

***

Perry watched the whole scene from his office. He saw both Sam and Ellen go in to the conference room.

When they hugged, Perry was struck by a feeling of remorse. He wished he had been the one hugging Alice.

He had called her and his sons, and Larry and Alice were thinking about coming to Metropolis next week, to try to give Perry another chance.

Neither had promised anything, but he was hopeful.

After all, if Ellen had forgiven Sam after everything he had done to her, Alice could forgive him. His sins were nowhere nearly as bad as Sam's had been.

***

Sam and Ellen emerged from the conference room, both looking happy and peaceful.

Sam looked to be in much brighter spirits now. A spark had returned to his eyes, and he looked like a man who had regained the desire to live.

Lois smiled gratefully. Finally, someone seemed to be smiling on her family. True, maybe they had come together again only because of Sam's illness. And maybe Lucy would never come around, but Lois decided to take one day at a time with her new family, and to cherish every day that they had left together.

***

An hour later, the Lanes had finished their lunch.

Lois couldn't wipe the smile off her face.

She couldn't believe how well her parents had gotten along during the meal; not the single hint of a fight. And during the meal, no one made any mention at all about Sam's illness.

It seemed like he might have even forgotten about it, if even for an hour.

When they were finished, Sam finally said what had been on his mind ever since he had found out about the disease.

"Ellen, Lois, thank you so much." His eyes shined like he was almost ready to cry. "I wish Lucy was here too. I know, I know. I should just be happy that the two of you are here. Believe me, I never really expected the two of you to forgive me, and I know that it's selfish of me to expect you to be here for me." He reached across the table and covered one of both Lois's and Ellen's hands as he continued, "The real reason I want you to be here is not for me, believe it or not."

Ellen raised her eyebrows. "Really? Somehow I have a hard time believing that."

Sam shook his head. "I deserved that. Really, I don't want to die alone, but after what I did to all of you, I would have accepted my fate. I wanted to get the chance to apologize to my family. I didn't want to die without telling you how sorry I am for everything."

Ellen and Lois looked at each other. They both wished Lucy could be here to see this. Sam was obviously sincere about everything he was saying. He looked Lois and then Ellen straight in the eyes with his own teary eyes, and said, "I don't want you to have to live with the terrible memories of everything I've done. I know I can't erase the bad memories you already have, but I can try to create some good memories before I die."

When they left the restaurant, Lois suggested that they take a walk in the park.

As they walked through Centennial Park, Sam saw a major point of interest. "Princess, do you remember when your mom and I used to take you and Lucy over to that playground over there once a week so you could play on those swings?"

Ellen smiled with the memory, "Lois, you and Lucy would swing for hours. And when we'd get tired of pushing you, you girls would try to swing by yourselves."

Lois's eyes twinkled. "Oh yeah. I remember all the games Lucy and I used to play here. After you two got tired of pushing us, we'd pretend we were circus girls on the flying trapeze. We wanted to fly all the way up to the tallest trees, but we never could."

Lois ran over to the swings just like she had so many years ago and began swinging like a little girl. To some onlookers, she might have looked rather silly, a grown woman in a business suit and high heeled shoes swinging high and giggling, but to her parents, it was almost the sweetest thing they had ever seen.

Sam and Ellen followed close behind, laughing at the memory of their two little girls at the playground. Lois was sure a sight now on those swings. They wondered how long it had been since they had last taken her here. It was well before they started having marital problems. She might have been eight or nine the last time they had come here.

Sam got into the mood Lois had created and started pushing Lois on the swing. She squealed as Sam pushed the swing higher and higher towards those ever-elusive trees.

Ellen giggled at the sight they made, a grown woman acting like a child again and a sickly man reliving the days when he'd had his health.

Suddenly, Sam stopped pushing. His face had turned bone white and his eyes had almost rolled to the back of his head.

Ellen rushed over to help him. She guided him to a swing and helped him sit down.

Lois stopped the swing and got up to help them. "Oh my god, are you all right?"

"What happened, Sam? You're as white as a ghost."

Sam had to catch his breath. Something had come over him just when he was pushing the swing. He must have been pushing too hard. He couldn't breathe. He panted, trying to get as much oxygen into his lungs as possible. When he finally regained the ability to talk, he said, "I don't know. Something just came over me. I couldn't breathe, and I felt like I wanted to fall over. Then I got really dizzy. I must have been pushing too hard."

Lois's eyes got wide. "Oh I'm so sorry. It's my fault …"

Sam shook his head violently, and cut her off, "No, don't say that! It's not your fault. I was the one who didn't know my body's limitations. We were having fun."

Sam stood on shaky legs, and opened his arms to Lois, his little girl.

Lois allowed herself to be enveloped in his embrace. She buried her head into his shoulder and wondered how many more times they would have like this together.

When Sam felt strong enough to walk, Lois and Ellen helped him over to a nearby bench where he could sit somewhere with a back.

Sam leaned back into the bench and closed his eyes. That walk had really worn him out. It was only about thirty feet, but to him it felt like thirty miles.

Lois thought this was the chance to bring up her research. "Daddy, have you considered trying some experimental treatments for your disease? I found this doctor who has an unbelievable success rate in prolonging the lives of people with what others doctors thought were terminal cancers. Her name is Molly …"

"Rosenbaum, right, Princess? I know her. She's a real miracle worker. I hate to say this, but she was the first person I went to for a second opinion. I figured that if anyone could help me, it was Molly. But, unfortunately, she couldn't do anything for me. All of the treatments she uses are for cancers that haven't progressed as far as mine has."

Lois's face fell. She really wished Dr. Rosenbaum had been able to help him, if only to extend his life by a few months, or even a by few weeks.

Ellen wiped a tear from her eye, and squeezed Sam's hand. "I'm sorry, Sam."

He nodded. "Let's just make the most of the time we have left together.

***

When Lois got back to work, she found Clark at his desk on the phone. When he saw her walk in, he cut off his conversation, and waved her over towards him.

"So how did your lunch go?"

"Lunch was wonderful!" She perched on the edge of his desk. "Mother and Daddy got along so well. We had a civil conversation and a nice meal together without someone getting mad and storming out of the restaurant."

Clark smiled in response. He knew how much it meant to Lois to have her family together. It had been nearly eighteen years since her father had left, and she had always longed for them to be a family again.

"Then we walked in Centennial Park, and we remembered how Lucy and I used to swing on these swings every time Mom and Dad took us to the park. So for old times' sake, I started swinging. Then my dad got into the spirit and he stared pushing me. It was so much fun. I felt like a kid again. But then he stopped pushing suddenly. He looked really bad. His face turned bone white and he was gasping for air. I think he's so much sicker than any of us realized. I really think he's dying! He's dying, Clark!"

"Did you tell him about the doctor you found who might …"

Lois interrupted, "That's just it. He has seen people for a second opinion. Everyone told him his disease was too far advanced for them to do anything for him accept to ease his pain. I don't know what to do. I don't want him to die!"

Tears streamed down Lois's face and as she thought about what she would do without her father. Even though he had not been a big part of her life, he was still her father, and she loved him.

Clark stood up and took her in his arms. He stroked her soft hair and whispered soothing words into her ear.

Neither was sure what to do. Sam Lane was dying, and no one could change it. They had to make the most of the short time they had left with him.

There was nothing else they could do.

***

A few months later, Lucy was up late studying for her finals. This was her last semester in school and she wanted to go out with a bang.

She wanted A's in all three of her classes, so she was studying night and day.

Lucy was looking forward to the end of her scholarly days so she could finally get a real job. She was sick of waitressing, and she was also sick of California.

California was a nice place to stay for a while, but it wasn't where Lucy wanted to spend the rest of her life. She missed Metropolis, her home.

After graduation, she already had a job lined up back home. She would be teaching first grade at an elementary school on the outskirts of the city.

It was perfect.

As Lucy studied, Jenny talked on the phone. It annoyed Lucy that Jenny was two years younger than she was, but Jenny already had a degree and a job. Jenny was being more annoying than ever these days.

Chen had spilled the beans to Jenny about Lucy's father, and now Jenny, along with prodding Lucy to talk to her sister about Superman, prodded her to call her father at every opportunity.

This infuriated Lucy.

She had told Chen about her father in confidence. What right did Chen have to go and tell Jenny?

Jenny, wearing her Superman shirt and glow-in-the-dark boxer shorts, came up to Lucy quietly.

Lucy felt her presence and turned around. "What do you want, Jenny? Can't you see I'm studying?"

Jenny nodded; she said, "I'm sorry, Lucy. I didn't realize you were busy. I just wanted to talk to you."

Lucy turned away from Jenny and buried her head in her book once again.

Jenny sat next to her anyway, and said, "I know we haven't gotten along very well ever since Superman, sigh, came here and flew you away, and I wanted to apologize. I'm so sorry. I know I acted like a fool, but do you really blame me?"

Lucy still didn't even move her head, so Jenny continued, "Obviously you've never had an obsession, something that overtakes your whole life that totally consumes your thoughts at all hours of the day. That's how I am with Superman. Picture this from my perspective, Luce. Here I find out that my roommate, one of my very good friends, knows the man I am obsessed with, and she doesn't even introduce me. How do you think that made me feel?"

Lucy finally looked up with an incredulous look in her eyes. She raised her eyebrows, and spat, "How did it make you feel? Whatever."

Jenny continued, unfazed, "Now I know I was wrong. You really don't know Superman that well. Chen told me that you've only met him a couple of times. I'm sorry."

Lucy shook her head. This girl was just so annoying. "Can't you just leave me alone?"

"No, I can't. I think you're making a mistake. You have to talk to your father, if even to tell him off. I mean, you have to get your feelings off your chest. I know this is killing you inside. You've changed, Luce. I can see it when you walk, your shoulders are all slumped over and you keep staring at the ground. And when you talk, your voice always has an edge to it."

Lucy rolled her eyes, "Jenny, you're insane. Could you please just leave me alone?"

"Fine, I'll leave you alone. Just think about what I said. I have better things to do. I'm going to read your sister's article about cancer. She and her husband really have talent. I feel so sorry for every person they write about — even when they write about criminals."

Lucy slammed a hand into her book. Why did she have to bring up Lois's articles?

Jenny was a conniving one. It was probably all part of an elaborate plan for Lucy to get Superman to come to California again.

Lucy wasn't sure how this all tied in to Superman, but she was sure Jenny had it all figured out in her little mind.

***

Back in Metropolis, Sam had been progressively worsening. He had lost almost 60 pounds, and now only weighed about 125. He looked horrible, his eyes bugged out of his head, and he looked like a shadow of the man he had once been.

Ellen, Lois, and Clark took turns keeping him company and trying to keep his mind off his impending death.

With each day, Sam got weaker and weaker.

He could barely stand under his own power, and he had trouble doing anything that required physical exertion of any kind.

Today, while Lois and Clark were at work, Ellen came to Sam's apartment. She brought a basket of food so they could have a mock picnic on his bed. But when she let herself inside, she couldn't see Sam anywhere.

"Sam!" Her pulse quickened. Where could he be? "Sam?"

No answer.

Panic overtook her, and she wondered if something terrible had happened to him. She rushed into his bedroom and saw him lying listless on the floor.

A muffled cry came from the nearly lifeless body, "Help! Ellen!"

Ellen rushed to him, and put her hand under his head. "Oh, Sam, what happened? Are you okay?"

"Ellen, I can't get up. Help me up!"

Ellen gently reached down to help him, but he wouldn't budge. "Sam, I think I'm going to have to call 911. I can't help you."

"No, no don't call 911, if I go into the hospital, we both know I'll never come out. The only way I'm leaving the hospital is in a body bag."

Tears formed in both Sam's and Ellen's eyes as they realized the truth in Sam's statement.

If he went in, he'd never come out.

But Ellen couldn't move him. "Don't you want to be comfortable for your last days? I don't want to have to be picking you up off the floor every day. Plus, if you don't get off the floor soon, you might die right here. That isn't what you want, is it?"

Sam shook his head slowly. He made a critical decision. "Go ahead. I know I can't move under my own power, and you can't lift me. I need Clark. But this is probably best."

Ellen called 911, then as she waited for the ambulance, she called Lois at work. Of course this would be the day she wasn't there. She left a message with Jimmy Olsen who promised to page her every few minutes until she answered. Then Ellen called Lucy. She would probably hang up, but Lucy did need to know.

"Hello?"

"Lucy, hi, it's your mother." Ellen said, her voice tight with emotion.

Oh no. Something must have happened with that man who had the audacity to call himself her father. "Hi. What's wrong? You sound horrible."

"It's you father. He collapsed. I don't think he has much time left. A couple of days, a week at most."

"So, what does that have to do with me?"

"Lucy, please. Do you really want him to die without saying goodbye to him?"

"Yes," Lucy said, and she hung up the phone.

Lucy fell back into her chair, sobbing. So it had finally happened. Her father was really on his deathbed.

But what was she going to do? Was she really going to let him die with out even saying goodbye?

Was her mom telling the truth when she said he had changed? Did he really feel bad for what he had done? Did she love him deep down despite what he had done to her?

She didn't know the answers off hand, but she didn't have a long time left to think about them. She had to make the decision about her father in the next day, or else it would be too late.

***

Late that afternoon, Lois, followed closely by Clark, ran into Sam Lane's private room at Metro General Hospital — ironically, the place where Sam and Ellen had met.

He looked so small and pale in his hospital gown, wrapped up in the white bed sheets.

He was shivering in the cold, so Ellen brought out the comforter and covered him with it.

Sam looked up at Lois. "Hey, Princess, Clark, I'm sorry you have to see me like this. But I guess when it's the end, you can't control how you look."

Lois fought back the tears that were threatening to fall. Her father really was dying. Reality had finally set in.

She had been getting good at denying the fact that he was eventually going to die.

The more she denied it, the less real his imminent death became.

Now that he was so close to death, she broke down.

Clark pulled her close, trying to provide strength and stability in a world that was crumbling around her. Her father was dying, her sister didn't care, and she had tried to deny it for so long, it hit her like a ton of bricks.

Ellen, too, started crying when she saw Lois start. Clark extended an arm to his mother-in-law, and the three of them hugged each other, drawing strength from Clark's powerful arms.

***

Early the next morning, Sam Lane got a surprise visitor. Perry White, editor of the 'Daily Planet', gently knocked on Sam's door.

Sam nodded for him to come in.

What was Perry doing there? They hardly knew each other.

"Uh, hi, Dr. Lane. I hope you're up to a visitor right now."

Sam nodded. "Yeah, the more visitors the merrier. It makes me feel loved, even though I know I'm really not. Oh, and please call me Sam."

"Well, Sam, I know we don't know each other too well, but I had to tell you something. Thank you so much for the opportunity to get to know my family again before it was too late for me. When Lois told me about you, it made me look at my own life. I mean our lives aren't too different. But because of you, I'm starting my reconciliation before it's too late."

Perry ran an anxious hand through his thin hair and adjusted his tie worried about how Sam would react to what he had said.

"I'm glad I could help you, Perry. I mean, it was too late for me, but I'm glad someone's getting his life back together like I should have so many years ago."

Perry nodded solemnly, and Sam tried to lighten the mood a bit. "Lois tells me you're a big fan of the King. It just so happens that I am a huge Elvis fan, too."

They spent a few hours talking about the King, until Sam started to tire.

As Perry left, Sam called out, "Why don't you come by again? It's been fun talking about the King again."

"Absolutely."

***

Later that night, Ellen and Lois had gone out to get something to eat, leaving Clark to keep Sam company.

"Hey, Clark, can you get me a glass of water," Sam croaked.

"Oh sure," Clark said. He poured a cup of water and handed it to Sam.

Clark was such a considerate young man. Lois was very lucky to find someone like him. "Now Clark, my boy, when I'm gone I want you to remember to look after my little Princess. I know I shouldn't have the right to say that. After all, I left her when she was twelve, but I've always loved her. I don't want anyone else to hurt her."

Clark nodded silently, "Don't worry, Sam. I love her and I'd never do anything to hurt her."

Sam reached out to Clark and covered Clark's hand with his own. "And when you have children, please don't ever abandon them. You saw what happened to me."

Clark blinked. Had Sam read his mind? "Sam, I am so afraid that I won't be a good father. Both Lois and I have such demanding jobs, and we hardly have time for each other, let alone time for a baby."

Sam shook his head. "Clark, the fact that you're even admitting that makes you a better father than I ever was. I know you and Lois are going to be wonderful parents whenever you're ready, and my grandchildren will know they are loved. And that's all I ask of you, whatever you do, don't do what I've done."

Then Sam collapsed back into the bed.

Clark ran out to the nurses' station, and they rushed in to check him.

A doctor looked at him, and didn't give him much chance to survive the night.

Without consulting Ellen or Lois, Clark decided to fly to California to get Lucy. She had to say goodbye to her father, no matter what she might think.

When Superman knocked on Lucy's window this time, he wasn't greeted by Jenny's loud squeals. Lucy must have been the only one home because she alone came out to see who or what was knocking at the window. "What on Earth do you want, Superman?" she asked, even though she guessed that something had happened to her father. Darn, and she had just bought a plane ticket to Metropolis so she could say goodbye to him.

She continued before he had the chance to respond. "You're here because something's happening with my father, right? Well, it just so happens that I just bought a plane ticket to Metropolis so I could say goodbye to him. Your services are not necessary."

Clark finally got the opportunity to speak, "Lucy, you father's taken a turn for the worst. They say he only has a few hours left, so we have to hurry."

He swept Lucy into his arms and flew as quickly as possible without hurting her to get here there in time to say goodbye.

Clark dropped her off at the hospital entrance and found a nearby alley where he changed back into street clothes. He took a different entrance, so he made it up to Sam's room before Lucy did.

Lois looked over to Clark asking silently if Lucy had come with him. He smiled slightly and nodded as Lucy walked into the room.

Lois and Ellen both gathered her into a group hug, both overjoyed that she had finally decided to at least say goodbye to her father.

"Mom, Lois, I'm so sorry. I don't know what else to say."

Ellen squeezed her younger daughter's shoulder, and wiped a tear from the young woman's face. "Oh, Lucy, you have nothing to be sorry for. You're here now, and that's all that matters."

Lucy looked over to the bed where her father lay. "Can I have a couple of minutes alone with him? I need to tell him something."

Lois, Clark, and Ellen all left the room, and Clark shut the door behind him.

Lucy perched on the edge of Sam's bed and his eyes fluttered open. W

as this a dream or a fantasy? Sam could swear that this was Lucy, his little angel, sitting here on his bed. No, it couldn't be. But then he heard her tearful voice.

"Daddy, I'm so sorry I wasn't here for you. I should have forgiven you sooner, just like Mother and Lois did. But, you have to understand, I was eight. The memories I have of all the good things you did for me are all overshadowed by the hopelessness of an eight-year-old. I guess I just tend to magnify the bad things, although you can't blame me …"

Sam finally found the words to speak. They came out softly so Lucy had to tilt her head to listen. "Oh, Lucy Lou, you came. You have no idea how much this means to me. I'vw wanted the chance to apologize to you before I die. I'm so sorry, Lucy Lou, I was so bad to you. I was a horrible father, and I don't blame you for hating me."

"Daddy, I don't hate you. I may have before, but now I think I sort of understand what you did. I didn't want you to die without knowing that I do love you, and deep down inside, I always knew I was your Little Angel."

She bent down to give him a hug and a kiss on the cheek. There she felt the dampness from the tears of joy he had been crying ever since he had first laid eyes on her.

He clung to her, as if for dear life, but soon she felt the grip loosen.

She slid out of his clutches and realized his body was now lifeless.

Immediately she pressed the button to call the nurses' station, with tears streaming down her cheeks. Lucy didn't need conformation; she knew her father had died.

The door opened and Lucy was greeted by the anxious stares of her family. "He's gone," was all she could say before she completely broke down.

They all cried as the nurses and a doctor went into his room and confirmed what they all already knew.

Sam Lane had passed away at 7:03 PM EST on December 4, 1996.

The next day, the 'Daily Planet' ran the first in Lois and Clark's feature series about cancer survivors. Only, it had been amended from the original.

The addendum to the article held personal significance for the paper's top investigative team.

It was an obituary for Dr. Samuel David Lane, MD, a pioneer in the field of robotics, reconstructive surgery and sports medicine.

More importantly, he was a father, and a husband. Ellen Lane, Lois Lane, and Lucy Lane would always remember him that way. Yes, they would remember everything about him. But most of their memories would be good.

He had led a life full of mistakes, but in the end, he had died in an atmosphere filled with love.

His family had finally forgiven him.

THE END

Originally: 10/99

Edited: 4/04

Notes: The song Lucy heard Jenny play is called 'Please Remember Me'. It is on Tim McGraw's album 'A Place in the Sun'.