By Melisma <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted April 1999
Summary: This fanfic account of the later scenes of "Brutal Youth" is told through Lois's eyes, as she realizes that both she and Clark must face being separated from each other by time.
"I don't understand any of this." Lois Lane looked up from the bank video stills she was holding when she heard Perry White's voice. He and Clark Kent were just coming out of Perry's office, where they had been trying to comfort a frightened, mysteriously-aged Jimmy Olsen. As her editor and her newlywed husband crossed the space toward her, the older man demanded in the gruff, blustery way she loved, "What in the name of *all* that is Memphis is going on here?"
"It's the fountain of youth, Chief," Clark said simply.
"And Jimmy figured it out," Lois added, proud of the young reporter's accomplishment, yet horrified by the price he had paid for it.
Clark picked up some of the stills she had set on the desk. "Here." He passed them to Perry. "These stills that Jimmy made from the bank security tape prove it," he explained, pointing at the photos as he spoke. "Here at 4:02 the gunman takes six hostages and puts them in the vault. Then he enters himself. At 4:04, when Superman arrives, seven people exit the vault. But no gunman."
"However, there is a new face," Lois broke in, eager to share what she had noticed. "This old man here," she tapped the offending image with her finger, "wasn't in the bank before."
"Lois!" Brenda's voice broke into her concentration. "Lois, line three." Lois nodded acknowledgement. "Thank you." As she excused herself and went toward the phone, Perry's sputtering voice followed her.
"Now … now wait a minute. Aw, Judas Priest! Are you telling me that this old guy and this young guy here … that they're the same person?!"
"Lois Lane speaking … " Lois had been expecting this call from her source. In fact she had been formulating a theory beforehand, so she was able to ask questions while simultaneously following Clark and Perry's conversation.
"Connor Shenk, the guy who busted out of prison," her husband was saying.
"And Olsen figured this out?"
Her questions answered, Lois hung up and walked back to them. "Well, that seals it," she announced. "That was my contact on the university board. Veda Doodsen wanted to conduct youth experiments on human subjects. When the university forbade her, she defied them and did it anyway. Guess who she used as guinea pigs?" she asked, looking at Clark.
"Prisoners," he said flatly. It wasn't a question.
"Yup, she lied her way in. Told the warden that she had the full backing of the university." A movement in the corner of her eye caught Lois's attention. It was Dr. Klein, who had been in Perry's office examining Veda Doodsen's latest guinea pig. "Dr. Klein, how's Jimmy?" she asked, though she was afraid of the answer.
"He's aging, rapidly," the scientist reported bluntly. In all the time she and Clark had known him, he had never had much of a gift for tact. He went on. "And there's no sign it's leveling out. Unless we can somehow reverse this process, or at least stabilize it, he'll be dead in a matter of hours."
Lois had known it was serious when she and Clark had found Jimmy under Perry's desk an hour ago, but to hear it like this just tore at her heart. She looked over at Clark. He had a determined expression on his face, as though Superman might be able to perform a medical miracle, and she began to hope. Then she looked at Perry. Poor Perry! He had taken Jimmy under his wing, she know, and often thought of him as one of his sons — just as she and Clark sometimes thought of him as a younger brother. Perry sighed and turned away, as if he was going to cry but didn't want to show it.
A phone began to ring loudly on one of the desks behind them, and Clark picked it up. "Clark Kent," he said. Then his eyes widened and he gestured frantically for Lois to join him. "Uh, yeah, hi Doctor," he said, then covered the mouthpiece and mouthed "It's Dr. Doodsen" to Lois. She hurried over and put her ear next to the receiver Clark held out between them.
"I'll get straight to the point," the older woman was saying. "Tell Superman with his help I can restore James Olsen. Tell him to bring the boy to me, but to hurry — even *I* can't raise the dead!" She hung up with a decisive-sounding click.
Lois and Clark shared a look. It was all they needed. She knew he couldn't refuse to do as Doodsen had demanded — Superman just *couldn't* refuse to try *anything* that might help, no matter how strange-sounding. Clark headed off toward the men's room, loosening his tie en route to save time.
Lois went back into Perry's office, suddenly realizing that they had left Jimmy all alone. She knew he must be terrified, needing some friendly contact. Kneeling beside him, she took his hand. "Jimmy," she whispered.
He started awake at her touch, then he relaxed when he recognized her. "Lois! I guess I screwed up pretty royal, huh?"
She smiled gently. "No, you didn't screw up," she tried to reassure him.
"All I remember is, I … I wanted the story," Jimmy tried to explain. "Ha! Guess now I *am* the story. I'm not *me* anymore."
Suddenly Lois knew what was bothering him. She tried to put it into words, because she knew Jimmy needed to hear it from at least one of his best friends, even if the men couldn't articulate it. "Jimmy, you're still you. The outside's not important. That's not why people love you." A familiar footstep made her look up. It was Clark, now changed into the Suit. She stared intently at him, trying to convey the sudden sense of foreboding she felt. But he just gazed back at her determinedly.
Quickly Lois and Superman explained to Jimmy what was going on. Then Superman scooped the young-old man up in his arms and flew out Perry's window.
After they left, Lois couldn't shake the feeling that Doodsen was up to no good. So many evil people had targeted Superman, Clark, her and their friends in the past that she wasn't surprised at how paranoid she felt. Quickly scratching out a note for Perry, she ran downstairs and hailed a taxi.
When she got to Veda Doodsen's brownstone Lois could hear a whining, generator-like noise coming from inside. In the window she could see that the room lights were dark, replaced by a bluish glow. Alarmed, she hurried into the enclosed porch area and turned the doorknob. The door was locked. Of course! What was she thinking? Veda Doodsen was a crook — she would be sure to lock her doors, especially if she was doing something nefarious at the moment. Trying to avoid the panic rising in her throat, Lois at last succeeded in picking the lock and stepped into a scene from her worst nightmare.
Encased in two glass tubes like museum specimens were her beloved husband and … someone else. Must be Connor Shenk, she decided. Yes, there was Jimmy over on a sofa near the window. Why wasn't he in the machine? As she watched, bright tendrils of white light arced from Superman to Shenk, and they both writhed as if in agony. The light hurt her eyes, so she shaded them with her arm. A mad scientist of a woman stood in front of the machine, a radiation vest over her blouse and goggles over her eyes. Veda Doodsen. Lois would have known her, even if she *hadn't* met the bitter and therefore dangerous researcher, earlier today.
So this was how Doodsen had turned Jimmy into an old man! The cold knot in Lois' stomach tightened as she looked back to Shenk and Clark. Benny Rockland, one of Jimmy's childhood friends, had stumbled into the Daily Planet newsroom and died on their sofa as a result of Doodsen's machine. Would her husband be the next one to go? Was she to be a widow after only two weeks of happiness? Even if his Kryptonian anti-aging process was able to keep him alive, would he be irrevocably damaged?
Suddenly one of the dials on the machine went over to the far right side. Doodsen gasped, "Too much power! The machine can't take it!" Tearing off her goggles, she ran toward the door. Horrified, Lois realized that she was abandoning her subjects. Desperate to save Clark, she grabbed Doodsen just before she reached the door and wrestled her inside.
Doodsen struggled fiercely, but Lois managed to force her back over to a stuffed chair. Furious, she raised her fist to punch the older woman but realized that this would not help Superman. Pulling Doodsen up, Lois growled in her most authorative voice, "Shut it down. Now!"
With her hand over her eyes to shade them, Doodsen almost meekly complied. Blessed silence filled the room, now back to normal lighting, as the tubes hissed open and Superman shook his head slightly. All three looked over at Connor Shenk's tube, shocked to find a gurgling baby looking up at them. Doodsen found her voice first. "*He* won't be pulling guns on anyone for a while!" she remarked icily. Suddenly Lois recognized what had happened — Shenk had forced Doodsen at gunpoint to restore his youth before Jimmy's. Somehow they had used Clark's lifeforce to accomplish this, but since his Kryptonian nature made him stronger than humans, he had overloaded the machine, turning Shenk into a baby. But, she worried, what had it done to her husband? And if he helped to restore Jimmy's youth, as she realized was the plan, would it help hasten his own aging? Would he even be able to regenerate again? A cold sword of panic thrust through her heart at the thought.
As she watched, Clark superflew Baby Shenk out of his tube and returned with Jimmy. Lois stared at her friend in horror. In just the time since she had seen him last, he had aged at least ten years, and seemed nearly comatose. "Let's go," Superman growled.
"If anything happens to either one of them," Lois added as menacingly as possible, "you won't have to worry about getting *any* older." That was, after all, why Veda Doodsen had invented the machine in the first place, to restore her own lost youth.
Doodsen must have heard Lois' sincerity because she turned the machine on and monitored the process carefully, turning it off at just the right moment, when Jimmy had returned to his previous youthful self. Lois looked from her friend to her husband, anxiously holding her breath as they both tried to shake off whatever effects the transfer had given them. *Please*, she prayed to whichever deity might be listening, *please let them be okay!*
"What a rush!" Jimmy exclaimed. He seemed to be okay, but …
Lois looked worriedly at Superman. Clark must have been a mindreader, because he stammered, "I … I feel okay."
"Is he?" Lois turned on Doodsen. "Is he okay?"
"It's too soon to tell … "
Several hours later Lois was back at her desk, supposedly writing up the story. But she couldn't concentrate on her prose. After the police had arrived to arrest Veda Doodsen, Dr. Klein had taken Jimmy, young Connor Shenk and Superman to STAR Labs so he could try to figure out what exactly had been done to them. Lois had tagged along, but it had quickly become evident that her presence was superfluous. In fact, if she stayed around much longer, it was likely her concern would give away Superman's identity. So she had returned to the Daily Planet to try to meet the press deadline.
Lois' thoughts were in a jumble now. She was terrified for Clark, of course. The main side effect of Doodsen's youth machine was that the "donor" aged rapidly, eventually dying of old age. Dr. Klein had shocked her earlier by telling her that Superman did not age as quickly as humans. But he had had so much youth drained from him that Lois worried that his super-regeneration would not be sufficient. How selfish and petty she had been with Clark — to think that she had been concerned about her own mortality compared with his, when now her husband was probably already aging at superspeed. It had been so long since she had seen him, Lois was afraid he was already dead. And life without Clark was … She couldn't imagine what life would be like without him.
*Come back to me, Clark*, she begged silently, looking wistfully over at his desk. It wasn't fair — when you got married you were supposed to have a long and happy life together, right? You weren't supposed to have your husband stolen from you only two weeks later. You were supposed to settle down, buy a house, have kids, just be Joe and Judy Regular, as he had once called it.
The sound of the elevator doors opening intruded into Lois' obsessings. She raised her head as Perry exclaimed, "Hey Jimmy! What'd Doc Klein have to say?"
"Gave me a clean bill of health," her friend announced happily.
"Haho! That's good news. Great to hear that, son," Perry rumbled.
Lois couldn't stand the wait any longer. She stood up and went over to where they were standing. "Jimmy," she asked, not trying to hide her worry, "did Dr. Klein say anything about Superman?"
He shrugged apologetically. "He was still examining him when I left."
"Oh … " Well, at least he was alive *then*.
"Lois!" Ralph called, "There's a message on your desk."
Snatching up the note, she read, "MEET ME AT 348 HYPERION AVE. LOVE, YOUR HUSBAND." With a relieved laugh that he was still alive, but still worried that he might not be completely okay, she grabbed her briefcase and dashed for the door.
When she got to the address, she realized that it was Veda Doodsen's brownstone. Why had Clark asked her to meet him here, she wondered? This time when she turned to doorknob, it was open. Cautiously she poked her head through the door.
"Clark?" she called, surprised to hear an echo. Obviously Veda Doodsen had moved, or had been moved out. The room was bare: no furniture, no knicknacks, and, thankfully, no machine.
"Lois?" Clark's voice made her look over to the front windows. There he was - her husband — sitting in the window sill, looking up at her with an almost reverent expression. The sunlight reflected off and through his hair like a halo, and she thought he looked almost mystical. He stood up and started to go to her, then stopped.
"What's going on?" she asked. As much as she wanted to hold him and never let him go, she could just as easily stand here and look at him all day. That was how good he looked to her.
"Nuthin'. C'mere." She walked slowly toward him. He stopped her when she reached a patch of sunlight on the floor. "Stand right there." Clark sat back down on the window sill, gazed up at her and sighed happily. "I was right."
Suddenly Lois felt slightly foolish. "Clark, what are we doing here?" she asked, looking around the room again. After all, this wasn't their place. What right did they have to be here? And would he *ever* tell her if he was alright?
"I just had this vision of how you would look standing in the light from this window. I *had* to see," he insisted.
"Are you okay? What did Dr. Klein say?" she finally asked, sitting down beside Clark and taking his hand anxiously.
"Jimmy … is gonna be fine."
"I *know* that. What else did he tell you?"
"Connor Shenk is already going through the terrible twos." Clark grinned. "Dr. Klein thinks he'll be back to his old, *old* self by next week."
Why was he beating around the bush? "What did Dr. Klein say about *you*?" she insisted. Didn't he know she'd much rather know how *he* was doing, not Jimmy or Shenk? She reached up and caressed his ear.
"Apparently my body has already … compensated … for whatever age drain there was," he finally admitted.
"Compensated? Then you *have* lost something." That's what she had been afraid of.
He laughed a little. "My friend is healthy. I'm sitting here with my wife. I haven't lost anything."
"You gave up years," she countered. Years that we won't have together, she wanted to add.
"I gave them up for a friend." Jimmy must never be allowed to know the sacrifice Clark had made for him — it would kill him, Lois thought.
"How many?" She *had* to ask.
"I dunno." He looked down, then hurried on, like he had to explain something he'd just figured out. "The truth is, no one knows how long they've got. Anyway, it's not the years that count, its the moments … right now … as they happen." He smiled again and kissed her.
A million thoughts still swirled through Lois' mind. Despite his protestations to the contrary, what *had* Clark lost? What effect would this horrible experience have on him … and her? She was sure that she would always value the time they had left together, after today. He was certainly right about one thing — life was made up of moments, and she should treasure each one they had. Lois nearly broke off their kiss to ask her husband what he thought, but then realized that he probably didn't want to think about it right now.
After a moment Lois asked coquetishly, "So how do you suggest we make the most out of *this* moment?"
Clark laughed again. "Maybe … we could look at wallpaper samples."
Huh? Where had *that* come from? "Wallpaper samples?" she asked, pulling back.
"Oh, well, what do *you* think for this room?" He stood and looked around them. "Wood paneling? Aged-down walls?"
Suddenly the light went on in Lois' head. "You didn't!" she gasped. So *that* was why he had taken so long to contact her, and why he'd wanted to meet her here.
He grinned back at her mischievously. "Well, you seemed to really like the place. I … I mean, it's in the city. It's got a lot of character." He walked past the fireplace, gesturing as he went, over to where the machine had been. "Plus, it has a secret compartment, which, well, I have to tell you, is very very difficult to find in a building of this style." He walked back over to her and put his arm around her. "All you have to do is say the word. It's *ours*, if you want."
Lois laughed, delight, wonderment and love for her darling husband warring within her for expression. "Well, you know *I* love it. But is it you?" she wanted to know.
"No. It's us," he replied. She couldn't stand it anymore — she twined her arms around his neck and kissed him, grateful that he seemed to be alright. All thoughts of crazed scientists and sacrifices and being separated by time fled her mind. She held him tighter, and he picked her up in his arms. She concentrated on the moment, right then, as it happened.
The sun shone in through the window. It was a beautiful day.