By IRC Round Robin
Rated PG-13 Submitted January 1999
Summary: After the Thanksgiving holiday, Lois and Clark are hoping to settle into their "normal" routine when they receive some startling news. Meanwhile, Dr. Friskin decides to write a paper about the dysfunctional Lane family and enlists Dr. Klein for her research.
An IRC Round Robin by ChiefPam <email@example.com>; Ckgroupie <NKWolke@t-online.de>; CrystalW <JCWimmer@aol.com>; Eraygun <Eraygun@aol.com>; Lansbury <Lansbury1@aol.com>; Mackteach <Mackteach@aol.com>; Misha <firstname.lastname@example.org>; zoomway <Zoomway@aol.com>
It was the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and Lois was enjoying a well-deserved day of rest. Family and friends had come and (thankfully) gone and she and Clark both had the day off work to be thankful for each other. Nothing, she thought contentedly, could ruin this day.
Normally, of course, it was inviting disaster to think something like that, Lois grinned to herself, but really … after all she and Clark had been through, it would take a lot to upset her.
That complacent state of mind lasted only until she opened the letter from her doctor. "Did we forget to pay a bill?" she joked softly, then felt all power of speech leave her as she read the information. A short time later, when Clark came downstairs looking for her, she was sitting on the sofa, the letter in her lap, lost in thought. When she didn't speak, he sat down beside her.
She started, suddenly recalled to the present. "Oh, hi… Clark, this letter…" Words seemed to fail her. Somewhat alarmed, he reached for it, but the motion galvanized her into action, and a small smile formed on her face. "Let me tell you, okay?"
"Okay," he agreed. "What is it?"
"Remember the Halloween party at the Planet?"
He rolled his eyes. "How could I forget? We had a dead madam on the premises, and half the newsroom was getting sick on bad shrimp."
"Including me," she half-smiled, "or at least that's what I thought. Remember, the next day, I had those awful cramps, and my period … well, it was bad."
Clark nodded cautiously. "I'm with you so far."
"Well, I went to my doctor, just to make sure it wasn't food poisoning. She ran a *bunch* of tests. I mean, I told her she didn't have to check for syphilis or anything, but she just said that they wanted to be thorough — you know, if there weren't so many lawsuits, it'd be easier to — well, anyway…"
Clark composed himself to patience. Obviously Lois had something important to say, but equally obviously, she was going to take her time about it. If it made her more comfortable, though, he could wait.
"And she said she'd call me with the results. But that next week was really busy, and she couldn't reach me, I guess, and I felt better so I never thought twice about it — I mean, would you?"
"No, Lois, I guess I wouldn't," he offered, still foggy on where this might be going, but beginning to be a little concerned. "Lois, you're all right, aren't you? You're not sick —?"
"No, no," Lois assured him hastily. "I'm fine … I think." She took a deep breath. "I got this letter today," she waved it in the air as Exhibit A, "and I don't know whether I should cry or leap for joy."
Clark's face clearly showed how out of his depth he was, so she took pity on him.
"The doctor said it wasn't food poisoning … well, maybe just a touch, but that wasn't the main problem. We had a miscarriage."
"Wha—?" He shook his head as if to clear it. "A miscarriage," he repeated. "But Dr. Klein said we couldn't … you mean we *were*?"
She felt tears well up in her eyes, but managed to smile. "Yeah… we were, but we aren't any more. I lost it." Her voice broke a little on the words, and her smile wavered. "Oh, Clark, we were going to have a baby, and we didn't even know it! I'm so sorry …" The tears did fall then, and Clark held her as she cried, rubbing her back and murmuring wordless sounds of comfort. A few minutes later, when she tilted her head back and looked up at him, he saw that she was already pushing the disappointment aside, ready to think about the amazing, the supposedly impossible thing that had occurred.
"Clark, I don't know how this happened —," she gave a watery giggle at his raised eyebrow," — well, of course I know *how* it happened, you know what I mean. Dr. Klein was so sure that I couldn't get pregnant, yet this test proves absolutely that I *did.* And …" she continued, seeing the dawning realization in his eyes that was reflected in her own, "… that means that if it happened once, it can happen again!" She hugged him tightly. "I guess we *can* have babies, after all!"
If Clark had ever wondered for a second how much she'd wanted this, the joy on her face now told him. He nodded, then spoke, his voice thick with emotion. "Yeah, I guess so. I love you, Lois."
"I love you, too, Clark." Energized now, she pulled out of his embrace. "Think Dr. Klein works Saturdays? I'd say we need to have a little chat."
Superman walked into Klein's office-lab and the doctor looked up and smiled.
"Morning, Superman. Normally I'm not here on the weekend, but Ruth .. .uh, Dr. Friskin and I took Friday off, and —"
"That's great, Dr. Klein, I'm just glad you're here," Clark said, and tugged at the neckpiece of his costume. "There's been a new *development* with my 'girlfriend'."
Klein rose from behind the microscope and smoothed his labcoat. He still felt terribly disappointed in the turn of events regarding Superman's girlfriend. Everything had looked so positive.
"Really? I .. I hope it's good news. You know there's always adoption if you two decide to get serious .. get married."
"Well," Clark sighed loudly, "it *is* serious . I'd like for you to examine *her* this time."
Klein looked thoughtful for a moment. "Certainly I'll examine her, Superman, but you must understand that unless something is very unusual about her," he shrugged, "I don't think the news will be much different."
Clark swallowed. "Would the fact that she had a miscarriage indicate otherwise?"
Klein's jaw dropped. "I … I.. well, *yes*, of course, that changes *everything*. Please, send her in!" Klein managed a poor comb-over of his sparse hairs as he watched Superman open the door. When Lois Lane walked through it, Klein dropped the comb .. and his jaw again.
"Oh, my lord!"
"Dr. Klein," Lois said, raising a hand. "I know you probably need a drink right now, and every tabloid thought you ever had about me and Superman is coming eerily true, but we really need you to focus right now."
"Focus! Focus?" Klein's voice became shrill with near hysteria. "Superman's girlfriend is Clark Kent's wife, and you want *me* to focus?!"
"Dr. Klein," Clark soothed, approaching the severely stressed scientist, "you and I have been friends a long time, and I would never do *anything* to jeopardize that friendship or your faith in me."
Klein, a man who looked like he'd just lost his religion, folded his arms. "What about Clark Kent's faith? Isn't *he* your friend, too?"
"We're very close," Clark smiled.
"Honey," Lois sighed. "Just do it, please, before Dr. Klein thinks I'm seeing Batman on the side."
"Batman," Klein muttered, and sat down shakily.
"Dr. Klein, I love Lois Lane with all my heart," he said, and began to spin. When he stopped, he stood there as Clark Kent. "That's why I married her."
"Oh my lord!" It came out as a squeak. Bernard Klein didn't even recognize his own voice anymore. For a minute, he just stared at the couple in front of him.
"Dr. Klein?" Lois asked tentatively. "Are you all right?"
"Oh my lord," he repeated, shaking his head.
"You already said that," Clark cut in a little nervously. "I know it's a shock for you, but we thought you should know about it, now that Lois found out that she had this miscarriage…"
"Oh my lord."
Lois and Clark exchanged worried glances. Would he ever say something different?
"Dr. Klein!" Lois stepped forward and patted him on the shoulder. "Dr. Klein?"
"Oh my lo - Lois?" The doctor looked up. "Ah, yes, Lois. Superman… uh… Clark, Mr. Kent… oh well." He shook his head again as if to clear it. "Did I really see what I saw?" he asked.
Clark nodded. "Yes, you did. I could repeat it if you want."
"No, no I don't think that's necessary. I think I got the picture. Well, this is certainly news." Dr.Klein watched Superman and Lois with newly awakened interest.
"Yes, but the really important news is that something must be wrong with those tests you did," Clark said a little bit impatiently. "We need to find out what it is."
Dr. Ruth Friskin was excited. She had finally found a wonderful subject for her work on dysfunctional families! Okay, the Lanes probably wouldn't like the idea of being her guinea pigs, but what an unusual model of a dysfunctional family they were.
The father, one of a kind even in his 'typicalness'. The mother, also exemplary. The children… well, perhaps Lois wasn't the best example of a child from a chaotic childhood, but even better … she could pass as the proof that people are able to survive anything. And there *was* something weird about her, too. This thing she had with Superman…
Dr. Friskin looked up from her notes about the Lanes. She would just *love* to find out more about that. She had a date with Bernard Klein tonight. She sighed happily. He was so nice *and* he was a friend of Superman and Lois Lane. Maybe Bernie knew more?
Dr. Klein sighed as he looked at the results again. They were conclusive, just missing the possibility that pregnancy could occur. He ran another set of numbers through the computer and his eyes opened more widely as he began to do figures in his head. It could work, he thought. It wasn't likely, but then…
His thoughts were interrupted as his date for the evening breezed into the lab.
"Honestly, Bernie! If you're going to be late, you really need to call me. I have no clue why you can't simply pick up a telephone. Have you seen anyone regarding this intense dedication to your work? I could recommend an excellent therapist. I feel I'm a little too *personally* involved to be objective here." She concluded her statement by kissing his cheek before looking up at his data.
He stood quickly, fumbling as he distracted her attention from the screen. He mumbled his apologies as he once more explained that he didn't need therapeutic intervention.
She laughed lightly, used to both his excuses and his workaholic nature, and not expecting either to change. "So, what gem of knowledge kept you from picking me up today?" she asked, looking at the screen once more. Her eyebrows raised as she saw the name on his monitor. "Superman?"
"Yes, well, I was… working on some…" he broke off, uncomfortable with lying to her, and yet not feeling free to discuss the matter. In truth, he was still slightly dazed by his recent discussion with the Kents. Now that he thought about it, it did make sense, and he wondered why he hadn't put the clues together before.
Seeing that he wasn't going to offer information, she let him off the hook. "I understand. You're his physician and you must maintain confidentiality. I won't press." She smiled her understanding, even as she planned to do a little digging at a less obvious time.
"So, we're late for dinner," he said swiftly, as he turned around to close the file he had been viewing. He had his answers anyway, or at least what he thought were his answers. He slipped his lab coat off his shoulders and left it on his chair while he escorted his date from the room. "Where did you want to go tonight?"
Clark looked up at his wife and smiled again. He was just deciding that he really needed to look away, to get some work done, when she glanced up and met his gaze. She returned his smile briefly, and returned her attention to her laptop. Clark watched her a moment more, then he couldn't resist. He crossed the room, and seated himself on the arm of the couch where he could gaze at her a little longer.
Lois typed a few more moments, then looked up with her best imitation of an irritated expression. "What??"
Clark broke into a silly grin. "I'm just looking at my wife," he told her innocently, then bent down to kiss her gently.
Lois returned his kiss, smiling. "It makes a difference, doesn't it?" she asked him quietly.
"No," he answered quickly. "Well, yes," he corrected, "but not the way you mean."
She understood perfectly, and put her arms around him to show him that. "I know. It opens up a whole world of possibilities that we didn't have before."
Clark sighed into her hair, enjoying the hug. "Exactly," he whispered.
Lois nestled closer to Clark. "I know this is going to sound strange, but I'm *so* scared right now."
"Yeah, I'm scared … but it's sort of wonderful." Clark gave Lois a quizzical look as she continued. "I guess I'd parked the idea of being a parent and all my fears surrounding it into an unused corner of my brain after we got that initial report from Dr. Klein. But now …"
"But now, they're coming to the forefront?" Clark asked. Lois sighed and nodded. Clark tilted Lois chin up so he could look her squarely in the eye. "Lo-is. I told you before you're going to be a wonderful 'mommy'."
"You really think so?" Lois murmured as she snuggled back into Clark's arms and placed her head on his chest. "It's not like I had the best role model." Before Clark could answer the doorbell rang. "I wonder who that could be at this time of the evening?" she said.
Clark paled a little as he X-rayed the door. "Oh boy," he said.
"Clark, who is it?"
"It's your parents and Lucy, honey."
Lois placed her hands on Clark's thigh and pushed herself off the sofa.
"I wonder what's happened? They don't come all together unless they're invited. You don't think something terrible is wrong, do you? No one mentioned anything on Thanksgiving, did they? Did you notice any of them acting strangely — no, wait, forget I asked that last one."
The questions came in rapid worried succession as she made her way towards the front door, leaving Clark on the sofa and not giving him a chance to get a word in to answer her. He caught up with her in the middle of the room.
"Honey, we won't know if we don't open the door and let them in."
Lois smiled at his logic. "I can always count on you to keep me on an even keel." She placed a quick kiss on his lips as she moved to open the door.
"Mother! Daddy! Luce! What a surprise." She looked at the silent people standing on her doorstep. The trio stood their ground, no one wanting to be the first to enter.
"Sam, you agreed to tell her. I am not going to be the one. She blames me enough already and I'm not going to be the object of her anger."
"Hello, Princess, sorry to barge in, but…" Sam took his former wife and younger daughter by the arm and pushed both through the doorway.
"Tell me what? Is everyone okay? Are any of you sick or dying? What do you mean 'object of my anger', Mother?"
The group moved into the living room and sat down. Ellen looked at Sam. "I knew you'd leave this up to me."
Lucy looked at both parents and back at Lois. "Everyone is healthy. In that sense we're fine. But, " she went on calmly, "because we're a total wreck of a family, that psychiatrist, Dr. Friskin, wants to study us. Can you believe that? She said we're the most atypical dysfunctional family she has ever seen.
"I'm not kidding."
"You heard me. We," pointing to her parents, "have made being a mess of a family a fine art, and now the *good* Dr. Friskin wants to study us."
Sam looked from Ellen to Lucy, finally resting his gaze on Lois. "Actually, Princess, it's more like Dr. Friskin wants to ask us some questions about our relationships with each other …" At Ellen's snort of disgust, Sam grimaced. "Now, Ellen … we aren't exactly the model family … or parents."
Ellen glared at Sam. "And who's the primary cause of that, Sam Lane? Let me ask you that?"
Sensing that a squabble best kept in private was about to erupt, Clark spoke up. "I'm sure that Dr. Friskin doesn't mean to open old wounds, Ellen."
Lois nodded in agreement. "That's right, Mother. She's just approaching our family … from a clinical point of view."
Lucy smiled. "Well, she does want to talk to you, Lois. And Clark."
"Yes, Clark. You. Now that you're married to Lois, you're part of the Lane family." Lucy grinned mischievously. "I remember her asking me the other night if you ever showed signs of jealousy of …" Her voice trailed off and her eyebrow raised teasingly.
Lois and Clark looked to each other, speaking simultaneously. " … Superman." They grinned, enjoying the shared secret.
Lois walked toward the kitchen. "Well, Dr.Friskin can ask all the questions she wants. *I* have nothing to hide. Anyone want something to drink?"
As Lois left the room, three pairs of eyes zeroed in on Clark. Fidgeting slightly, he looked at his in-laws. "What?"
Sam smiled and put his hand on Clark's shoulder. "Now, Clark. It's all right to feel a little … jealous."
Clark chuckled nervously. "Sam … I don't know what you're talking about. I have nothing to be jealous about."
Lucy winked at Clark. "Aw, come on, Clark. You can't tell me that when Lois was throwing herself at Superman you never envied the guy? Wished that you were him?"
Ellen nodded. "She still is a *good* friend of his, isn't he?"
Clark stood up. "We *both* are, Ellen. And no, Lucy. I never envied Superman." Seeing that they still weren't convinced, he sighed, sat back down and tried to explain.
"Superman and I are close … *very* close. Ever since he made his first appearance, there's been this … I don't know … maybe it's because I was an only child, but … I *knew* what he was going through. Being alone. Not really sure where he fit in …" He looked at Lucy. "You have a sister, Lucy. You fight with her and there may be times when you don't like each other. But she's still your sister." Putting his hand over his heart, he continued. "I only had my parents. Superman is the closest person to a brother that I know."
Lucy nodded, understanding.
Clark turned to Sam and Ellen. "I love Lois more than life itself. I know that Superman loves her as well. And, he'd do everything in his power to keep her safe from harm. Yes, Superman's a friend … a close friend. If I can't be there for her, then I'd trust him with her life. Jealous? No, Sam. There's no reason for me to be jealous. There's a lot of Lois to love."
From the kitchen door, Lois smiled at Clark's words. Clearing her throat, she re-entered the room carrying a tray of glasses and iced tea. She pointedly ignored the sniffling from her mother and sister.
Placing the tray on the coffee table, she began to pour. "So, anyone have anything interesting to say while I was out of the room?" She looked warmly at Clark and mouthed 'I love you' to him.
"So how's your paper on the Lanes going, Ruth?" Bernard Klein eased back in his chair as the waiter whisked their empty plates away.
"Oh, wonderful, darling!" Dr. Friskin leaned forward, her eyes sparkling, reflecting the glow of the oxidation of the paraffin in the candles.
Dr. Klein blinked and stared into his wine glass, slowly swirling the ruby liquid. It was interesting how ethyl alcohol affected his upper cerebral functions.
"…on the other hand, Lucy's been so helpful. She's given me access to her diaries, and a few of Lois' journals from high school, a period where it seems the most stress was placed on the Lane family unit…"
He watched the liquid swirl, drawing his attention down into the glass, much more fragile than his favorite Erlenmeyer flask, and much harder to put on a magnetic stirrer.
"…so between the journals and the quarrels I've observed between Sam and Ellen, I've got enough for a whole book!"
KLein glanced up from his glass. "A book? Then what are you going to write for 'Psychiatric American'?"
"Lois Lane and Superman, of course." Klein jerked up a little. "I haven't decided whether I'm going to attack the superhero infatuation angle or maybe go at it from Clark Kent's point of view."
"Clark Kent's point of view?" Klein's voice rose as he lifted his napkin to his upper lip.
"Why, the jealousy angle of course." Dr. Friskin sipped at her water glass and watched him over the rim. Bernie only sweated when…and they weren't in a closet now. "Apparently, Clark and Superman have always been friends, and continue to be so. I find that extremely interesting since they were both suitors for her affection."
"Surely you've witnessed some interaction between Clark and Superman- maybe you could tell me about them- how they behave…nothing that would compromise your patient's confidentiality, of course."
"Of course…" Klein whispered. How would Supe…Clark handle this? he wondered. He'd never seen them together before … it was all so obvious now. Ruth was a bright woman, and he was dead meat if the secret got out. He didn't feel so well, all of a sudden.
"Uh, well, I never thought about it that way, Ruth," he prevaricated, trying to think fast. He glanced around the restaurant, hoping that it would catch on fire or something … No such luck.
Inspiration struck. "Actually, I never got the idea that Superman was pursuing Lois, so much as it was the other way around."
Friskin cocked her head, considering this possibility. "Well, when I first saw her, she seemed to regard him as a suitor … one of the men in her life. Do you suppose she simply decided that Clark was a better choice? I suppose that would make him feel more secure," she mused.
She faced him again, "So your hypothesis is that it was her choice? That Superman may well have felt somewhat relieved when she chose Clark?"
He tried to process that. He'd had years of practice in thinking of Clark and Superman as different people, but that paradigm had shifted, and it was hard to find his way through the new matrix to a suitably non-revealing truth. "Well, I'm sure that he was happy for them," he offered weakly.
Friskin was distracted, lost in a new hypothesis. "Hmm, Superman as an unwilling recipient of proffered sexual favors… I suppose it's not too surprising. They do seem to have progressed beyond that stage, however." She frowned. "It's just that when I first saw him, he seemed very much interested in a woman. I had assumed that woman to be Lois, and *she* assumed he was interested. Hmmm…"
Klein took another gulp of his drink. "Maybe, maybe not. Um… a year or so ago, Superman did mention a girlfriend… Err, maybe I shouldn't have said that," he concluded, his heart sinking as he saw the interest dancing in his date's eyes.
"How fascinating, Bernie! I'm sorry, I shouldn't be asking you so much." She nodded decisively. "I've got an appointment with the whole family tomorrow. I'll ask them."
Klein tapped the edge of his glass; it had interesting harmonics. "Tomorrow? Do you mind if I tag along, Ruth?"
Friskin was pawing through her oversized purse. "You're displaying an interesting form of co-dependency, Bernie, and maybe just a touch of … ah, here it is," she said, pulling a pad from her purse.
She began to leaf through the pages. "Here it is, I knew it!" She beamed triumphantly. "Superman did mention Lois by name, and feared he was losing her to some other man." She laid the pad on the table. "It could be that Superman had something of a Messianic complex. Feeling he had to be 'savior to the world', but losing his personal self."
Klein smiled. Ruth, though she would never see it, was a lot like Lois Lane herself, always investigating, always digging .. He shook his head. "Well," he began carefully. "That could be it, a Messianic complex .. and couldn't that be a mask for an inferiority complex?" he added, having no idea what he was talking about.
"Yes!" she agreed. "Of course, he could place himself in the role of savior because on a human interaction level, he might feel inferior to mortal men who could offer Lois stability." Friskin smiled warmly. "Bernie, my dear, you missed your calling."
Klein took a long swig from his wineglass. "I missed *something*, that's for sure."
"Dr. Klein?" Lois said, opening the door on a very nervous-looking man.
"May I come in … now .. please?"
Lois swung the door wide. "Of course. It wouldn't be the Kent home if there weren't visitors at the crack of dawn," she said, but her sarcasm was blunted by a big yawn.
"I know this is very awkward," Klein said, and then yawned in response to hers. "But Dr. Friskin, and please understand I love her dearly, is scaring the pants off me." Lois turned and tried to focus her decaffeinated eyeballs. Klein blushed. "Figuratively, of course."
"Of course." Lois tipped her head towards the kitchen. "I need coffee, and so do you."
"I don't like coffee. It keeps me awake during staff meetings," he replied, and preceded her through the door. "Good morning, Superman," he said as he took a seat at the kitchen table.
"It's 'Clark', please, Dr. Klein, and would you like orange juice since you don't like coffee?"
"Amazing. You know I don't like coffee? Are you psychic?" Klein burbled.
Lois tugged Clark's earlobe as she reached for a coffee mug. "Super-hearing, Dr. Klein."
"Oh, right." He shook his head. "I'm not used to him being super in a suit and tie."
Lois kissed Clark's cheek. "He's *always* super, Dr. Klein. Trust me."
Klein blushed. "Yes, I'm s..sure that he is. I must have had the idiotic idea that the costume didn't actually come off."
Lois suddenly spewed a mouthful of coffee. Clark laughed and dabbed at her chin.
"Too hot, honey?" he asked innocently.
"Much too hot," she sighed. "Okay, Dr. Klein, why the sunrise visit?"
"Well, I wanted to let you know that Ruth has decided to use your relationship with Superman… Clark… your husband… well, he wasn't your husband but he is, and…"
"Dr. Klein," Clark said, breaking into the ramble, "what exactly does… Ruth… want to do?
"Oh, didn't I say?" Klein absently nodded to Lois as she gave him a glass of orange juice.
"No," Lois answered him. "You didn't say." She gave her husband a look of frustration that he countered with one of tolerance. He had more experience with babbling, and he knew how to take it in stride.
Dr. Klein dismissed the silent communication that went on between the Kents, and finally got around to his concerns. "She's decided to use your little… love triangle… as the basis for her most current paper."
Clark closed his eyes and sighed as he considered the information. He had known that having Dr. Friskin delve into Lois' family would be inconvenient, but this was unacceptable. "I thought she was only investigating the dysfunctional Lanes," he said slowly.
"Oh, that's for her book," he said dismissively. "I'm talking about the paper she's writing. She intends to explore your relationship with Superman."
"Well, that should be interesting," Lois said with more than a trace of sarcasm.
"She is the busy little writer, isn't she?" Clark added in a similar tone of voice.
"I don't suppose she ever considered someone else for her analysis, did she?" Lois asked hopefully.
"Well, no," Klein answered, "But… I suppose we could ask her to."
Lois mumbled, "Like that would do us any good," beneath her breath, and excused herself from the room.
Clark watched her go, wishing that he could join her, but was too well brought up to do so. "Dr. Klein, would you like some toast?"
At his enthusiastic nod, Clark stood, and began toasting bread. As he'd expected, he soon heard his wife's voice from upstairs. Well, he thought, at least she was more discreet than to throw her silverware on the floor and drag him down there with her.
"I can't believe the woman," she said. He did his best not to smile as she shifted into high gear. "I trusted her, and she's supposed to be a professional. Doesn't she realize that these are lives, not case studies? I have half a mind to let her know just what I think of her meddling in my family and my life. It's bad enough that she's dissecting my childhood, but now she's attacking my relationships with you and Superman … and you *know* what I mean. She's no better than a tabloid reporter with a degree in medicine. Just a nosy busy-body… If she weren't so close to Dr. Klein, I swear I'd punch that woman right in the nose! "
Clark took several deep breaths to prevent himself from laughing as he heard her rant coming down the stairs and approaching the door to the kitchen. As the door swung open, his smiling wife entered, dressed in a crisp pair of slacks and a soft sweater.
"Now, Dr. Klein," she said in a sweet and controlled voice, "there has to be some way to maneuver your girlfriend away from this particular topic. After all, I'm not the slightest bit interesting or unusual, nor is my family," she went on, taking a seat next to the doctor, her coffee cup in her hand.
"Dr. Klein, I have to agree with Lois. Isn't there some conflict of ethics if she tries to do more than one research project on a single subject?" Clark offered Klein the requested toast, and took a seat beside his wife.
"Well, I suppose you have a point. Still, just because a subject has been researched, that doesn't mean that there isn't anything more to learn from it. If I know Ruth, she will continue regardless of whether she can publish the results. She has such insatiable curiosity." His eyes became slightly glazed as he glanced off into the distance. "Truly insatiable."
"Okay," Lois cut in, not really wanting to know what the good doctor was thinking at the moment. "If she wants knowledge, then knowledge we'll give her." She turned to her husband with a look he knew all too well. "I've got an idea…"
"Honey, I don't think I'm ready to make another revelation so soon," Clark interrupted. They rose from the kitchen table and moved to the living room, where Clark and Klein took seats while Lois paced.
"That's not what I had in mind," Lois protested. "All we have to do is …".
"This is all my fault!" Dr. Klein suddenly interjected. "If I wasn't seeing Ruth socially she probably never would have connected with you again. I know what I'll do … I'll stop seeing her, maybe that will distract her —"
"Dr. Klein…" Clark began.
"Better yet, I'll leave town!" He jumped up and headed for the door, but found his way blocked.
"Dr. Klein, get a hold of yourself!" Lois shouted. Clark steered him back to his seat, and stood nearby.
Dr. Klein closed his eyes and took several deep breaths. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to go off the deep end. It's just I think of you and Super.. I mean Clark … as my friends, and I'd hate to think that I've put you in jeopardy somehow."
Lois gave Klein a warm smile. "You shouldn't just think of us as friends, Dr. Klein, we *are* friends."
Clark nodded in agreement. "That's right. You're probably one of the few people in the world who actually thinks of Superman as a real person. You've been someone that both Lois and I could talk to, and you've always been there when we've needed you. We're both proud to call you a friend," Clark said as he gently placed a hand on Klein's shoulder. "And we always will be."
Clark could feel the muscles of the older man's shoulder tighten as he straightened his back.
"Thank you. Now, what's your idea, Lois?"
Clark looked at Dr. Klein and was surprised. He sounded calm and collected. Just shows you what a little bit of reassurance can do for the soul, he thought. Clark's attention returned to his wife and both he and Klein listened and nodded as she explained how to get out of this sticky situation.
A half hour later, Dr. Klein's voice was shaky but confident. "I can do that. Yes, I can do that. I'm no actor but I can do what you want me to."
Lois looked at Clark and whispered. "If he pulls it off I will personally see to it he gets a special nomination for an Oscar this year."
Clark turned to hide his smile. "I guess we'd better put this plan in motion."
"Oh, and I'm close to figuring out the other problem too," Klein put in. "I have to check one set of figures and get right back with you."
Lois suddenly was by his side. "Close? Already? What do you think the problem, or I guess I should say the answer, might be?"
"Now, Lois. I want to check my data before answering that. But I do need to know some more information before I give you my conclusions."
"Anything. Just ask and I'll tell you whatever you need to know."
"Well, how far along do you think you were when you miscarried?"
"A little over three weeks. In fact, I've thought, and I can pinpoint the exact day of conception. During that time Superman was very busy and the Daily Planet kept Clark and me occupied. We only saw each other in passing for for about a week and a half." Lois began to blush as she explained. "We even had to make an appointment to … be intimate."
"That's it! That's the variable I was missing!"
"What?" both Lois and Clark said at once.
Clark's eyes widened as he turned to look at Lois. He reached out to her, pulling her close. "Honey? Are you all right?"
Lois shook her head as she continued to stare at Dr. Klein. "Did I hear you right? Are you saying that *abstinence* will make the heart grow fonder?"
Dr. Klein nodded. "Or at least make the chances of conception more likely."
Lois let Clark lead her to a chair. "Abstinence …" She looked up at Clark and saw the same look of disbelief on his face. Together they turned to Klein for further explanation.
While they had been absorbing the impact of Klein's pronouncement, their friend had pulled out his ever-present notepad and begun scribbling some calculations.
Klein was mumbling to himself. "… carry the two, drop the negative …"
"Dr. Klein?" Clark tried once more.
" … the square root of the derivative of the trigonometric function is inverse to the …"
Lois lost her patience. "Dr. Klein!"
"Hmmm?" Klein raised his head, startled at Lois' outburst.
Lois took a deep breath and tried to calm down. Reaching out for the scientist's arm, she tried to get him to focus. "What exactly did you mean by …" She swallowed before uttering the word. "… abstinence?"
Klein looked from Lois to Clark and back to Lois again. Glancing down at the notepad, he made one final calculation. "You can't … copulate … have … marital relations …" He looked once more at his notes. "… for three weeks … two at the very least." He ignored the audible sighs of relief and checked the figures again.
Klein showed his calculations to Lois. "You see, I was working under the wrong assumption. When I first tested Su … er, Clark here, I incorrectly made the assumption that one standard deviation on the chart would be sufficient …"
He looked at Lois. Seeing her blank stare, he tried to explain further. "Think of it this way, Lois. If we were considering human-human conception, then one standard deviation away from the norm would be ideal … 64% of all data lies within that range."
Clark smiled. "But, we're not talking human-human …"
Klein nodded. "Right, Clark. We're talking human-Kryptonian. That makes a difference … a *big* difference."
Clark put his hand on Lois' shoulder and gently squeezed. "How so?"
"Well, with your … um, enhanced capabilities …" Klein ducked his head in embarrassment for a moment before continuing. "The normal data doesn't apply. Being within two, even three, standard deviations is completely acceptable. Because of the probability factor," he explained, "an inordinate quantity of the 'little swimmers' would, ah … overwhelm the human female's system, thereby *decreasing* the probability of fertilization rather than *increase* it. By abstaining for a period of time, the 'playing field is levelled out' … so to speak … and the human reproductive system has an opportunity to … um, compensate … for the enhanced abilities and properties associated with having super-powers."
Klein sat back, beaming.
Lois shook her head. "So, can we have children or not?"
Klein smiled warmly and took Lois' hand in his. "You can, Lois. It just means that you have to have a 'cool down' period for a short while, that's all."
Lois smiled brightly at Klein. The scientist gasped as her arms went around him, enveloping him in a tight hug. "Thank you," she whispered to him. "Thank you so very much."
Klein cleared his throat and hugged Lois back for a few seconds. Catching Clark's eye, he shook his hand, feeling grateful that he could help these two people, his friends.
The doorbell rang, catching all their attentions. Clark lowered his glasses and sucked in a breath. "It's the whole gang. Sam, Ellen, Lucy …" he turned to Klein, ".. and Dr. Friskin."
Klein took a deep breath. "I can do this. I can do this." He continued muttering to himself in the eternity it took for Lois to walk to the door.
Ellen Lane brushed by Lois and stormed into the living room. Lucy winked as she passed Lois, and Dr. Friskin followed Sam, scribbling furiously in a small notebook.
"Now, Ellen…" Ellen pointedly examined the lint on the back of the sofa, and Sam threw up his hands in frustration.
Dr. Friskin pulled Lois aside in the entryway. "This is just a session with your family. I've got a few questions I'd like to ask you later."
"Just a session? Usually Mom and Dad wait until they're inside to start arguing!"
"Ah, well- I'd just asked them a simple question about your relationship with Superman."
"Relationship? We're friends! I know his wife- she'd rip out the throat of any woman who came near him…I should know, I'm the same way about Clark, ask anyone —and besides, they're expecting kids, any day now, ask Klein —we'll probably end up playing bridge together and carpooling the rugrats on alternate Thursdays, even though they'll fly and I'll drive … not Clark, though…"
"Lois?" Clark's voice stopped the flow of words.
Lois took a deep breath, aware of the steadying presence of her husband behind her, and the anxious look in Dr. Friskin's eyes. "What?"
"How much coffee have you had to drink this morning?"
Lois sagged a little into Clark's shoulder. It was working.
Friskin followed the cantankerous Lane clan into the living room, while Lois busied herself with fetching coffee (or orange juice) for all her visitors.
When Lois finally sat down, Ruth pounced. "You say you know Superman's wife??"
Lois smiled. "Yes, but that can wait until later. Right now you wanted to ask about my childhood, didn't you? It wasn't all that unusual, I don't think. A lot of couples had trouble in the '70s and '80s. Mother, didn't you have several friends in similar situations?"
Lois pointedly looked at Ellen, who was not shy about taking over the discussion. At length, she held out on all real and perceived injustices, overriding all of Sam's attempts to clarify and correct her version of history.
Ruth Friskin, perforce, took notes, and as the discussion progressed, she became engrossed in the narrative, asking leading questions at strategic points.
Lois took the opportunity to slip away into the kitchen, taking refuge in her husband's arms. "We're safe for the moment, but…"
"But she's not likely to give up." Clark finished for her. "Yeah, but I think your plan will work. And Dr. Klein knows what to say.
Lois pulled a face. "I know, but will he be convincing enough? I do have a back-up plan, you know…" A devilish grin played on her face.
Clark smiled back. "I don't think I want to know."
She giggled quietly. "It's nothing, really… just sending Superman to intimidate her out of writing the article."
He rolled his eyes. "I was right, I didn't want to know."
She shook her head. "Such a wimp I married. And to think I could have had Superman.."
"Nah, you couldn't have," he corrected her, grinning. "His wife would have torn your throat out, remember?"
Lois laughed. "You bet. So, is it time yet?"
Clark tuned into the 'interview' taking place in the front room. "Yeah, I think so … Ellen's just about to the part about paying for your college education all by herself. You'd better hurry."
"True," Lois snorted, "That part only takes her twenty minutes…" She slipped out of his arms once more and faded back further into the kitchen and up the back stairs.
It was more difficult than she'd anticipated to slip into the hot pink suit again. The last time she'd put it on, she'd had super-strength. Of course she could call Clark… She grinned. Nope, better not, or we'll blow the whole abstinence thing. With just a little more struggle, however, she was into the suit.
"Okay, Lane… show time," she muttered, then continued in a slightly louder voice. "Clark? Come help me 'touch down' in front of the house. I'm ready for my close-up."
Clark stopped and admired Lois in the outfit. "Mmm …I always thought that was such a great costume."
"So," she said, drawing a finger down his jawline. "You gonna be Superman … by my side, the indignant husband, all that?"
Clark frowned. "Honey, I …"
"Yeah, yeah," she sighed. "Superman doesn't lie."
Clark thought a moment and did the "spin thing" into his costume. "Then again," he said, slipping an arm around her waist, "my wife does all the talking and I just basically repeat everything she says."
"One more 'Larryism' and you're a dead Superman," she scolded as they drifted down the side of the townhouse.
"Yes, Ultra, dear."
Lois folded her arms. "I swear I'll call you Supester in front of my parents if you keep this up."
Clark opened his mouth, and then closed it … audibly.
"Okay, go up and make a sonic boom, and then we'll knock on the door."
"Nag, nag, nag," he laughed, and blurred into action. Lois plugged her ears. The boom rattled the windows, and in an instant he was back at her side knocking on the door.
Lois shrugged. "Not bad."
"You know sonic booms are illegal."
She bumped him with her hip. "You love doing that and you know it," she said, and then her breath caught a moment as her mother opened the door. Always that feeling that she'd be recognized.
"Ultra Woman? Oh, my," Ellen said, her breath catching in a manner similar to her daughter's. "We were just talking about you … that is, Dr. Friskin—"
"I know about Dr. Friskin's proposed paper," Lois said sternly, slightly over-pronouncing her words. "That's why my husband and I are here," she said, and moved past her mother purposefully.
Clark nodded to Ellen. "Mrs. Lane," he said, and followed Lois.
Ellen swallowed and placed a hand on her chest. "My poor baby might be in trouble," she whispered.
The assembled guests in the room stood. Two spandex-clad superheroes, even in Metropolis, was a rather awe-inspiring sight.
Lois ignored her mother's comments as she entered the room. She and Clark stood side by side and faced the family, even though it took all their strength to maintain straight faces. The fact remained that the matter *was* a serious situation, and this farce would simplify their lives for years to come… if they could just manage to get through the next few minutes.
"Dr. Friskin, Dr. Klein has told us that you have concerns regarding our connection with the Kents. We are here to assure you that we are simply friends, albeit good ones, and that our relationships go no further than that." Lois kept her voice steady and strong, using Clark's model as Superman as her guide. "In fact, Superman and I are expecting our first child, so the thought that either of us would be involved with someone else is completely out of the question." She turned to Clark as she said it, seeing the sparkle in his eye, and allowed herself a small smile.
"That's right," Clark added, returning his wife's loving glance. "Although even Dr. Klein hasn't been able to tell us how long gestation will be."
Dr. Klein stepped in, playing his part to the hilt, and nodded his head enthusiastically. "That's correct. That's what I was going over on my computer when you picked me up Saturday at the lab… I'm trying to calculate Kryptonian gestation."
Dr. Friskin nodded in understanding, realizing why he had withheld the information from her. She had been correct, it *was* a matter of patient confidentiality.
"Dr. Friskin, I've come to ask that you reconsider your paper on Lois' relationship with my husband. It's difficult enough to allow him to protect and assist the planet alone, while I am for all intents and purposes… grounded." She placed her hands over her flat stomach to emphasize her point. "Surely you can see that having the world speculating on my husband's fidelity cannot be a good thing for our child."
"Lois and I have never been any more than friends," Clark added. "Clark is comfortable with my being around her, just as I am comfortable with my wife being around him, and that's what's important."
"It's a matter of privacy and trust," Lois concluded. "And that doesn't belong in a scientific journal."
Dr. Friskin had listened to the appeal without interruption, and she began to nod in agreement. "I suppose you're right," she said quietly. "Although, perhaps the scientific community would benefit from learning of a friendship as strong as yours."
Clark's head popped up with a familiar alert expression just then, and he made excuses for himself and his wife quickly. Taking Lois' arm in his own, he quickly flew them out sight, leaving the stunned group in the doorway of his home.
"That was brilliant," Lois said brightly as Clark brought them in through the bedroom window. "And you were so convincing!"
Clark looked slightly abashed as he began to explain. "Um, Lois, I seemed convincing because…"
She understood immediately. "Because there is an emergency," she concluded for him. "Be careful."
He nodded and leaned forward to kiss her. "I love you," he told her quickly, stepping up to the ledge of the window. "And don't forget to brush out your hair."
She smiled as he took off from the ledge, and quickly began to change clothes once more. She tucked the costume away, then followed his instructions and ran a brush through her hair, allowing the stiffly moussed strands to bounce freely about her face once more.
"Well, time to see if it worked," she told herself quietly as she reached for the door to her bedroom. "Let's just hope it was the performance we had hoped for."
Going down the back stairs, Lois stopped in the kitchen and picked up the coffee pot. Backing out against the door, she took a deep breath and walked toward the living room.
Standing next to Dr. Klein, she fixed a look of disappointment on her face. "Oh! I thought I heard Superman and Ultra Woman …"
Sam took the coffee pot from her. "You did, Princess, but I suppose duty called. They left in quite a rush."
"More like a 'whoosh,' Dad" Lucy corrected. She held out her coffee cup for a refill. "It was pretty impressive."
Everyone settled into their seats. Lois watched as Dr. Klein walked toward Dr. Friskin.
"Ruth? Are you all right?"
Dr. Friskin looked at Klein, a slightly dazed look on her face. She quickly recovered. "Yes, Bernie. I'm fine."
Klein and Lois exchanged a quick look. "You're sure, Ruth?"
"Absolutely." She paused for a moment, gathering her thoughts. "Those two. Superman and Ultra Woman. A very impressive couple. There's a great deal of humanity about them … and a great deal of understanding about the human condition." She turned to Lois. "You're very lucky to have them as friends, Lois."
Lois smiled over the rim of her cup. "I know, Ruth. Clark and I are both fortunate to have the friends that we have." She winked at Dr. Klein, smiling softly at the blush of embarrassment that rose on his face. Placing her cup down, she looked at Dr. Friskin. "So … are you ready to start?"
Friskin looked about the room. Sensing the tension and trepidation in the air, she smiled at Lois. "Maybe tomorrow would be better. I think I might have to re-examine the reasons why I felt compelled to write about your family. I do have to admit that I'm interested in the dynamics that go on in your family and the interpersonal relationships that you've had to deal with, but as Superman and Ultra Woman reminded me, there's privacy and trust involved."
"And how does that make you feel, Ruth?"
She turned and smiled at Dr. Klein. "Let's discuss that, shall we, Bernie?"
Still smiling at each other, the two doctors walked toward the front door. Lois joined them. She held Friskin's hand for a moment.
"I'm sure you'll figure out the best way to handle this … Ruth." She turned to Klein and held out her hand to him. Shaking it warmly, she smiled. "Thank you again, Dr. Klein. You're a good friend to Superman … and to us."
Dr. Klein smiled back at Lois and squeezed her hand. "Tell Ultra Woman when you see her that I expect her at STAR Labs for a check-up soon. Say in about … three weeks."
Lois smiled brightly. "I'll tell her."
She closed the door after the departing doctors and turned to face her family.
As usual, it was Ellen who broke the silence. "I'm glad, Lois."
"Why is that, Mother?"
"Well, I think Dr. Friskin wanted to know more about your high school journals."
Lois frowned. "My journals? What about them?" Realization dawned and she turned to Lucy. "You didn't!"
Lucy grinned and moved toward the front door. "Just the one that had the stories about Joe Malloy …"
Growling, Lois chased Lucy out the front door. Ellen watched her two grown daughters exit and sighed heavily.
Sam continued to read the Daily Planet.
Three weeks later …
Lois stepped out of the bathroom, hunched over, toweling her hair dry. Through the thick terry cloth, she heard the familiar "whoosh" that signaled the return of her husband and the world's hero.
She didn't stop the smile that came to her face as she looked in the mirror. It had been three weeks. Three long weeks. Three long, frustrating weeks. Three weeks of kisses and touches. Three weeks of lying in each other's arms at night, whispering soft tender words of love.
She sighed. Three weeks. Three weeks of doing everything that should have resulted in nights of passion and lovemaking, but didn't. Three long weeks.
She heard Clark spin and couldn't stop the quickening of her heartbeat. She finished toweling, and shook her head, leaving her hair a softly tangled mass of brown. She looked into the mirror, her hands gripping the edge of her dresser.
She held her breath when in the reflection she saw Clark standing in the doorway of their bedroom. He had spun out of the suit and it was now hanging loosely from his hand. Catching her gaze, Clark smiled softly and walked toward her, the red and blue suit dragging along. Lois returned his smile in the mirror, watching as he walked, the muscles of his stomach evident through the unbuttoned front of the shirt he now wore.
She loved how he looked, the open shirt revealing his wide expanse of chest, his sleep shorts displaying muscular thighs and legs. She sighed, her breathing now shallow and rapid, her legs suddenly weak, and tightened her grip on the dresser in an effort to keep herself upright.
Clark tossed his suit onto the laundry hamper and stood behind Lois, close enough to hear her rasping breaths, close enough to smell her sweet scent, close enough to touch her.
"It's been … three weeks …" he whispered into her ear, his breath warm and exciting against her skin.
"Three … long … weeks …" she managed to reply. She turned her head back toward him and his mouth captured hers.
Lois released her death-grip on the dresser and brought her hands up behind her, her fingers tangling in Clark's hair, her fingernails raking along his neck. Clark moaned, his mouth moving from her lips to nuzzle at her throat.
He brought her against him, feeling her rapid heartbeat pounding against his chest, then sighed and held her tightly, floating them to the bed. He laid her gently on the bed, lying next to her, his hand tenderly on her stomach.
She smiled up at him. "But now," she whispered, "the three weeks are over… yes?"
"Oh, yes …" he murmured, as he drew her even closer, "…yes."
Clark kissed his wife softly, hearing her take deep breaths, her heartbeat slowing to normal. Laying his head on her breast, he lightly stroked her stomach.
Lois smiled at the top of his head, her fingers combing through his hair. She sighed. "Three weeks …"
He smiled and kissed the swell of her breast. "Three *long* weeks …"
"Think we made a new life?"
Clark raised his head and moved up until he was looking into her eyes. "Don't you remember what I told you? Every time we make love …"
" … it is life. I know, but this time …"
Clark silenced her with a soft kiss. "This time … we'll have to see. Until then …"
"… let's create some more …"
Clark smiled, love in his eyes. "I like how you think." He kissed the tip of her nose. "I like how you feel." He kissed her lips. "I like how you love me."
Lois smiled. "Let me show you what I like …"