By Wendy Richards and Tank Wilson
Submitted September 2000
Summary: Fourth in a series of "challenges" between these two authors, this story presents Lois and Clark with every parent's nightmare.
By Wendy Richards <firstname.lastname@example.org> and Tank Wilson <TankW1@aol.com>
Wendy: This is the fourth in this mini-series of endurance tests, and this time I went first. Now, I considered that Tank had been ultra-evil last time round (Mori A Amor) in giving me a plot based on science, which is quite definitely a weak spot of mine. So I decided, in the best traditions of duelling, to aim for my opponent's weak points. Those are pretty easy to find, since Tank makes no secret of his dislike of kiddie-stories, and also given that he delights in causing Jimmy pain and writing him as something of an idiot. So this should be a doddle, I thought: write a Part 1 in which children play a major role in the plot, and in which Jimmy is essential for the resolution. He'll never manage it, I thought. Famous last words!
Tank: Everyone thinks that Wendy is this sweet, lovable academic who is unbelievably prolific, and delights in writing angst filled waff fests for the gentle readers. And this is true. But there is a definite evil side to the woman. Here I am in the last fic, giving her just a slight problem for her to logically solve. Nothing devious there. But in this fic, knowing that my opinion of young children is that, at best, they are annoying, she just had to include not one, but two. Of course, that was not enough for Wendy, she had to add in the most useless supporting player in all of literature, Jimmy Olsen. Now, I'm a big comic book geek, but I never liked him in the comics either. So you can see that Wendy just revelled in nastiness for this little escapade. Everyone figured I would do something horrible to the kids and Jimmy, given how I feel, but then, that's what everyone would expect. What did I give them? You be the judge.
As before, you will find variations in spelling between the two parts. Tank writes in American English and Wendy writes in UK English; since the two parts are written separately, we preserve the authors' own styles.
All rights to recognisable characters are held by DC Comics, Warner Bros and/or ABC Television, and the authors do not intentionally infringe any copyright by the use of these characters in this work of fiction.
"Have a good time, guys!"
Lois and Clark were walking down the steps to the street as Jimmy called his farewell to them. Turning back to wave, Lois murmured to Clark, "I love the kids, really, but it's so great to get out for an evening on our own!"
His soft chuckle resounded in her left ear. "I know, honey. And I've been looking forward to tonight for a *long* time." He smiled, draping his long arm around her shoulders. "So — you still want to go to that trattoria in Naples?"
Lois grinned. "Sure — they do great lunch specials. And with our own very special mode of transport, we should get there just as the main lunchtime rush is over."
"Yeah," Clark agreed, but then he frowned slightly. "The only thing that bothers me is not being able to tell Jimmy where we are in case there're any problems. I can't exactly give him a phone number in Italy!"
"True," Lois agreed. "But we'll only be gone about three hours, and Jimmy's great with the kids. He'll be fine."
"You're right," Clark answered, then tugged her quickly into an alley around the corner from their house. Spinning swiftly into his 'uniform,' he then caught her up in his arms and took off rapidly; a giggle echoing around the deserted alley was the only evidence that they'd ever been there.
"Hey kids, what d'you want to do?" Jimmy asked, getting down on the floor to join the four-year-old twins. "Watch a video? Play Chutes and Ladders? Something el — "
A large plastic object hit him on the head. "I guess you want to do something else," he said wryly, retrieving the indoor football. "Okay, but remember, my head's not indestructible. Just watch it, okay?"
Jonathan, dark-haired, dark-eyed and renowned in the Kent family for his deceptively innocent expression, seized his toy tow-truck. Giving Jimmy a very sweet smile, he prepared to throw it in his baby-sitter's direction.
Jimmy ducked. A loud thump was audible, and Jimmy swung around to see that the truck had collided with Lois's bureau. He turned back to frown at Jonathan.
"Uh-oh," Jonathan said quietly, then stuck his thumb in his mouth.
"Jon don't suck thumb!" his twin exclaimed. Jo, like Jon, had dark hair and brown eyes, but there the resemblance stopped. Jo's hair reached to below her shoulders, and she gazed solemnly at her brother from beneath a heavy fringe. She had a quicksilver smile and was also a pretty child, but most definitely did not share her brother's choirboy-innocent looks. Lois had frequently commented that this was very unfair: Jon seemed to have inherited her own sense of mischief and belief that rules were only there to provide a challenge for her, while Jo was well-behaved (like Clark), but her habit of blushing meant that she got blamed for many of Jon's actions.
Jimmy grabbed hold of the truck, thankful that it didn't seem to have made a mark on the bureau, and returned his attention to the twins; Jon was now berating Jo, insisting that he *hadn't* been sucking his thumb, only sniffing it, and that she should stop talking baby-talk.
Rolling his eyes in resigned amusement, Jimmy selected a videotape, hoping that it would settle his young charges down. He'd seen The Lion King Part 4 dozens of times and it bored him rigid, but the twins loved it. They knew all the dialogue by now, and recited it aloud as they watched. It wasn't Jimmy's ideal accompaniment to TV-watching, but he figured it was better than playing fielder while Jon testing his throwing abilities and the bounce capacity of every toy he owned.
"Simba!" yelled Jon and Jo in unison as they recognised the character roaming across the screen.
"Pasta tonight, huh, Clark?" Lois teased as her husband chose farfalle con pollo from the extensive menu.
He turned his gaze to her and grinned. "You know what that does to me, honey." He gave the waiter the remainder of their order, then murmured as the man departed, "And I'm hoping that Jimmy will have the little terrors in bed and asleep by the time we get back… and that he doesn't want to stay for a chat afterwards!"
"It's good of him to babysit, still," Lois observed. "Entertaining two enterprising four-year-olds wouldn't be my idea of fun, and I'm their mother! Why someone like Jimmy would want to do it, I don't know!"
Clark smiled wryly. "I think he sees it as being part of a family, honey. You know Jimmy's situation. He never sees his mom any more, and after Jack Olsen got killed on that NIA operation which went wrong two years ago… well, I guess he feels pretty much alone. Perry treats him like another son, sure, but Perry's also his boss. We're his friends, and we *have* a family. I think he just wants to belong."
Lois nodded. "I'm sure you're right. I hadn't looked at it that way, but Jimmy does seem kind of lonely sometimes."
"Yeah. Though why are we wasting our first evening out on our own together, without the kids, without — " Clark mimed the word, " - Superman, talking about Jimmy? I came here to be with you," he added softly.
"Sounds like good company," Lois teased, taking a sip of wine.
An hour later, Jon and Jo had tired of watching Simba; Jimmy could tell they were getting restless by the drumming of small heels on the sofa, the deliberate revising of some of the dialogue, and the fact that Jon's gaze kept drifting over to the — forbidden unless Clark was around — child indoor climbing-frame. It was dismantled and stood in a corner of the room, but Jimmy was well aware that wouldn't be seen as a barrier by Jon. He wondered idly why Clark didn't seem to trust him to supervise the kids on the frame, but then decided he was just as glad that Clark didn't. It would certainly be easier if he didn't have to worry about possible injuries!
Deciding to take the initiative and distract the kids before they realised they were bored, he stood up. "Who wants ice-cream?"
Both children excitedly jumped to their feet and ran towards the kitchen. This was a familiar habit whenever he looked after the kids: they would not get dessert with their dinner, so that Jimmy could let them have it later as a treat. He enjoyed their excitement, though sometimes he mused that he could have lived without having to wipe their hands, faces, clothes and other parts clean afterwards, to say nothing of sticky marks on the furniture. He had never yet managed to persuade them to *stay* at the table as they ate.
Regardless of all this, Jimmy was very fond of his two god-children; and he was more than grateful to Lois and Clark for allowing him to spend time with them. Lois and Clark were the nearest thing to older siblings he had — these days, the closest thing to family. He would never have nieces or nephews of his own, unless, of course, he married and his wife had siblings. However, the way his love-life was going, getting married seemed a very remote possibility. Since breaking up with Anna, his last girlfriend, two years ago, he hadn't met anyone he could contemplate settling down with.
It was probably his own fault for setting his standards too high, he sometimes thought. He wanted someone intelligent, witty, with a job he could be proud to tell people about; someone who would appreciate him for who he was instead of trying to change him; and who had a warm, loving personality and wanted to have children. When he was being truly honest with himself, he admitted that he was essentially looking for someone like Lois; that didn't mean that he was in love with Lois, though. It was just that he envied his friend Clark so much.
Still, as long as they were his friends and he could be part of their lives, he was happy.
"No, Jon!" Reaching for the bottle of chocolate sauce before his godson had managed to drown his ice-cream completely, Jimmy put it out of either child's reach. Ignoring Jon's protests, he sat at the table between the two kids, making it clear that he was watching them carefully and would stand for no nonsense.
Predictably, this only made them laugh.
"You sure you want the chocolate cake, honey?" Clark asked Lois, a teasing grin flitting about his mouth.
"Hmm… I don't know… that cannelloni was very filling," she murmured indecisively. "On the other hand, it's ages since I had a good tiramisu, and it's great here."
"True… but then you don't get your chocolate fix."
She grinned back at him. "Yes, I do. You'll order the chocolate cake, won't you? Then I can sample yours!"
Clark rolled his eyes. "Why didn't I know this was coming? For all you know, I wasn't going to order dessert."
She stuck her tongue out at him delicately. "The day you don't order dessert, Clark Kent, is the day I'll know you're sick. And you don't get sick!"
A smug smile curved his lips upwards again. "You know me too well, honey."
"And don't you forget it!"
The sound of a key in the lock made Jimmy sit upright. Had he fallen asleep? He hoped not — he'd only just put the kids to bed, and he knew from experience that they tended to be very lively for half-an-hour or so afterwards. He needed to be alert to prevent any nefarious activity.
But the key… surely it was far too early for Lois and Clark to be back? He glanced at his watch — it was only eight o'clock. He didn't expect them until around ten.
So who was this? And how did whoever it was have a key?
Creeping towards the inner door, he mentally went through a list of all those he was pretty sure had keys to the house. Martha and Jonathan; but Clark had said nothing about them coming to Metropolis. He didn't think Sam and Ellen Lane had a key; somehow it didn't seem likely that Lois would contemplate it. Perry? Possibly but unlikely. Lucy? She didn't live in Metropolis any more, from what Jimmy knew.
The door opened suddenly, and a complete stranger walked in. Immediately Jimmy jumped him, trying to get a good hold on the man so he could overpower him. He was making a good job of it, having taken the visitor by surprise; but then he felt something round and cold and hard press against the side of his neck.
"I think you should let him go," a soft voice spoke in his ear.
Getting himself killed wouldn't stop Lois and Clark's house from getting burgled, Jimmy thought. And if he was alive, he could at least try to make sure the kids didn't come to any harm. Slowly, he released his prisoner; the man slumped to the floor, which suggested that he'd have come off the better had there been only one intruder.
"Right. Over there," the other man instructed, waving in the direction of the seating area. Jimmy moved, taking a surreptitious look at his captor at the same time. Tall. Bald. Scruffily dressed, unshaven and speaking in a rough accent, but somehow Jimmy suspected that it wasn't his real speaking voice.
"Sit. And don't move, and there's a chance I might leave you alive."
Again, Jimmy obeyed, though his mind was working furiously. The phone. Where? Over there. Too far away. Never get to it without being seen. Even if I dial 911 and leave it off the hook… never be able to do it. Unless he's distracted… Think. Think, Jimmy, *think*!
Know him. *Positive* I know him… but *who*?
The stranger was speaking again. "Upstairs. Get the boy. And hurry!" The man Jimmy had attacked ran for the stairs; now that Jimmy could see him properly, he looked like an ex-wrestler. Probably hired muscle. But why did they want Jon?
Jumping to his feet, Jimmy shouted, "Leave the kids alone!" He tried to run at the unshaven man, but received a blow across the face from the gun-barrel in return. His face stinging with the pain, he collapsed back onto the sofa.
"I told you to stay!" A shot fired, and a bare second later Jimmy felt an excruciating pain in his calf. "That'll stop you interfering!"
A child's frightened cries became audible, and the hired muscle reappeared in the living-room with Jon thrown over his shoulder. "The brat won't shut up," Muscles complained. "Want me to knock him out?"
Unshaven shook his head. "No. We don't hurt him — he's too valuable a commodity for that." He crossed the room, stopping just in front of Jon's red face. "So, Superman's son, you show fear. I am surprised."
Jimmy's breath caught in his throat. Superman's son? It couldn't be! Lois would never betray Clark like that — and anyway, both twins looked as much like Clark as they did Lois.
<But don't they also look like Superman?> a little voice taunted him. <Superman has similar colouring to Clark…>
He rejected that thought. Lois would not betray Clark with Superman, and Superman was also too honourable to seduce his best friend's wife. Jon was *Clark's* son; if this intruder thought otherwise, he was going to be in for a shock when Superman denied it publicly. At least this answered the question of what the men wanted: presumably they hoped to demand a ransom for Jon's safe return.
Unshaven's attention was still distracted; gingerly, Jimmy edged off the sofa, trying not to put too much weight on his aching leg as he half-shuffled, half-crawled across the few feet between him and the wall. If he could just get to the phone…
His fingers closed over the receiver.
Then another blow to the side of his head sent him flying.
"Espresso or cappuccino?" Clark asked, once their dessert plates were empty.
"Oh… cappuccino, definitely. Just make sure…"
"I know. Decaf, low-fat milk, low-cal sweetener on the side… and don't hold back on the chocolate," Clark answered. "Why you bother to remind me…" He grinned, then summoned a waiter, requesting their coffees in fluent Italian.
Lois watched him, smiling in awe at this wonderful man she'd married. Oh, she'd witnessed his language abilities many times before, but she never tired of marvelling at the things he did. Clark was just incredible. And he was all hers…
…apart from when he had to go and be Superman. Still, she could cope with that.
She realised that he was watching her; the waiter had gone. In his gaze there was an expression she hadn't seen for a while; a tender, loving and very sensual look. "Did I tell you this evening how much I love you?" he murmured, his voice low and husky.
"Yes, but I can stand to hear it again. And again," she assured him, a sensual smile curving around her lips.
It was dark, and there was so much pain… his head was throbbing, his cheek was incredibly painful, and his lower leg felt as if it was on fire. Jimmy just wanted everything to go away; he kept his eyes closed, willing sleep or unconsciousness to come and blot everything out.
A hand brushed his hair, and a small, scared voice said, "Uncle Jimmy! Please wake up — Unc' Jimmy!"
The memory of what had happened came back in a rush, as did the knowledge of his responsibility towards Jo. He dragged himself into a sitting position, trying to ignore the pain and focus on the problem at hand.
Jo was kneeling next to him, in her pyjamas, tears streaming down her cheeks. "Unc' Jimmy, where's Jon?" She broke off and sobbed. "Want Mommy! Daddy!"
<I want your mommy and daddy too> Jimmy thought despairingly, at the same time dreading having to tell his friends what had happened. He reached for Jo and pulled her onto his lap, hoping she wouldn't notice the blood and become even more frightened.
Unshaven had, after knocking Jimmy to the floor after another blow with the gun-barrel, ordered Muscles to get Jon out of the house and into the van. Wishing he was able to do something, *anything,* Jimmy had only been able to watch helplessly as Jon was carried, screaming, out the door.
Then Unshaven had come to stand beside Jimmy again. "I should kill you," he observed conversationally. "But I don't think I need to. You won't be able to ID me. And I know Superman won't want this publicised anyway. He doesn't want anyone to know he has kids — his life would be hell if that got out." He smirked. "You can tell him the boy will be perfectly safe and very well looked after. I have no intention of harming him. After all, he's going to be *extremely* useful to me in the future!"
Then he'd gone, leaving Jimmy in pain and near unconsciousness, trying to figure out why anyone would assume that Clark Kent and Lois Lane's children were the offspring of Superman, and of what possible use four-year-old Jon Kent could be to anyone, if a ransom demand wasn't being envisaged.
Just before he'd blacked out, he'd been aware of two things: cries from upstairs, which made him feel even worse than he already did because he just wasn't capable of getting to his feet right now to go to Jo; and a small, vaguely glowing, object lying on the floor close to his face.
"Time to go home, sweetheart," Lois suggested, leaning across the table to Clark and giving him a suggestive smile.
"Sounds good to me!" Clark pulled some Italian notes from his pocket - they never paid by credit card when they ate abroad — then held out his arm to Lois. They would walk out of the restaurant, stroll a little way down the street, then wander into a public park which had a number of quiet corners. That would afford him the privacy to change into Superman. Then they could be home within about fifteen minutes.
He smiled at the thought. They'd have to make small talk with Jimmy, of course, but Clark planned to give his friend a gentle hint that - just for tonight — they'd appreciate it if he made himself scarce. He'd make it up to Jimmy another time.
Then… He forced himself to concentrate on getting them home. There would be time enough for *that* activity once they got there!
Jo was still crying, and Jimmy was despairing of being able to persuade her to stop. He knew she was frightened — he wasn't exactly happy himself. He knew she wanted her parents. But there was nothing he could do about that right now, and he wanted to have another try at reaching the telephone. He had no idea where Lois and Clark were, so he couldn't contact them, but he could get the police, so a start could be made on tracking down Unshaven and Muscles. Jon needed to be returned home as soon as possible; he was bound to be scared and crying too.
He could yell for Superman…
But in between Jo's sobbing, he suddenly distinguished some words. "Hurts… it hurts…!"
Jimmy grabbed her shoulders. "Jo, *what* hurts? Where did the bad man hurt you?" He hadn't thought Muscles had hurt Jo — he thought all the guy had done was grab Jon and run back downstairs. If he'd hurt Jo…
But Jo didn't seem to have any visible injuries. Yet her face was screwed up, pain in every line, and she was shrinking into herself. Whatever was causing the pain, she was in agony.
Then… his attention was attracted again to the glowing object beside him. He'd paid it no attention before, but now he looked closer. It *was* green. He'd only ever seen Kryptonite once before, but although this object wasn't glowing as brightly he was willing to bet that was what it was.
And if *that* was what was hurting Jo… then she was Superman's daughter.
He also quickly realised that, in the circumstances, he couldn't call Superman — the Super-hero would naturally be anxious about his son, once he knew, but Jimmy couldn't be responsible for bringing the Super-hero here with Kryptonite present. He would have to summon help another way, and just hope that Lois and Clark would get home soon.
He grabbed the Kryptonite and flung it behind him; it landed near the door. Trying to ignore the implications of his discovery, he concentrated on comforting Jo and attempting to reach for the phone.
"…and we have touchdown!" Clark teased lightly as he set Lois on her feet in their alley.
She watched him spin back into his 'Clark clothes,' then slipped her arm through his. "Did you X-ray into the kids' bedroom as we flew over?"
He shook his head. "Meant to, but my mind was on other things… how long will it take us to check on the terrible twosome and get to bed, you think?"
Lois laughed softly. "Depends on whether you use Super-speed or not, my impatient husband!" She watched Clark unlock their front door, then followed behind him as he pushed open the inner door.
He stopped abruptly, and she crashed into him. "What the…? Jimmy? What's been going on here?" he exclaimed.
Just as Lois was trying to move around him so that she could see what was going on, he grabbed wildly at her, as if clutching for support he couldn't see. "Lois… Kryptonite…" he gasped, before slumping back against the door-frame and sliding to the floor.
As she dropped to her knees beside her incapacitated husband and began to search frantically for the Kryptonite, Lois heard Jimmy gasp, "Superman is *Clark*?"
"Superman is *Clark*?"
Lois, hearing Jimmy's exclamation, swiveled her head in his direction. The sight that confronted her caused her heart to miss a beat. Jimmy lay on the floor, in obvious pain; a crimson trail leading from the couch stained the carpet. An ever widening pool of blood spread out from around his lower leg. Jimmy had been hurt, but it was clear that he had been dragging himself along toward the phone.
Next to Jimmy, Jo lay crying, and as tears began to stream down Lois' face, she could hear her precious daughter moaning. "Mommy, it hurts, it hurts," was all the terrified little girl could say.
Lois was frantic. It was too much to take in; things were out of control. Her search for the Kryptonite temporarily forgotten, she focused her attention on her suffering friend and daughter. "Jimmy?" was all she could say, her voice thick with confusion and fear.
With a great effort Jimmy raised his head and upper body and propped himself against the far wall. "Lois, I'm sorry. He had a gun, they took Jon, there's Kryptonite…" Jimmy's face held a look of disbelief. "They knew, they knew!" Jimmy's head fell forward onto his chest.
Lois rushed to Jimmy's side. "Who knew what? Who took Jon!" It was no use; Jimmy was too far gone. He just kept repeating 'they knew' in an ever weaker voice.
Lois knew that Jimmy was in danger from blood loss but more moaning captured her attention. It was Clark. He had slumped away from the door frame and was sprawled on the floor near the front door like a puppet whose strings had been cut. Lois quickly rushed over to him, all the while her eyes frantically sweeping the room for the Kryptonite that her family was suffering from. She couldn't find it.
"Clark, Clark!" she screamed. "Where is the Kryptonite? I don't see it!" She had to lean down close to his mouth to hear what he was trying to say.
"Clark, say it again. I couldn't hear you. Please, darling, say it again."
"I'm lying on it."
His voice was barely a whisper. Lois rocked back on her heels as she saw Clark, with a huge effort, try to roll over, but he didn't succeed. Having expended most of what strength he had left, Clark seemed to slip closer toward unconsciousness.
Lois desperately tried to roll Clark over, but he was too heavy. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she strained against the dead weight that was her dear husband. "Clark, I can't do this alone. You have to help me!" Lois couldn't tell if Clark had heard her, but she gathered all her strength up for one last shove. "Come on, Clark, we can do this! On three, one… two… *three*!"
Together Lois and Clark were able to get him rolled over onto his side. He lay there with his back against the door jamb. Lois could see the telltale, sickly green glow emanating from under his side. Lois was just able to reach her hand under his body and wrench the offending crystal out. Her hand was scratched and bloodied but she felt nothing but relief.
Jumping up, she sprinted into the kitchen and pulled out the lead lined box which had been kept in the cupboard for just such an occasion. Not every household had lead lined boxes kept in strategic places throughout them, but this one did. The problem was, they came in handy far too often to suit Lois.
Once the Kryptonite was safely shielded and placed back in the cupboard on the uppermost shelf, until such time as they could turn it over to Star Labs for safekeeping, Lois hurried back into the living room. She picked her crying daughter up, trying to comfort her at the same time as she dialed 911.
It had been a few hours now. The paramedics had left after bandaging up Jimmy's wound. The bullet had passed through the fleshy part of his calf. It had bled a lot but it hadn't caused any serious damage. Jimmy had refused to go to the hospital, promising instead that he'd go if he had any further trouble. The paramedics hadn't liked it, but they couldn't force him.
Inspector Henderson had just left. He had taken Jimmy's statement, which described what had happened, leaving out one minor detail. Henderson had promised Lois and Clark that finding their son would be his number one priority, but they both could tell from Henderson's grim expression that he wasn't too confident. He had mentioned that all they could do now was sit tight and wait for the ransom demand.
Lois had put Jo back to bed. The little girl had been emotionally exhausted by the ordeal, but a combination of the resilience of youth, and a true lack of understanding of what had happened, allowed Lois to calm her daughter down enough for her to be able to sleep.
Clark had recovered fairly quickly and was sitting on the couch with his arm around Lois. Lois kept wiping at the occasional tears that would sneak out of the corner of her eye. Jimmy sat somewhat uncomfortably on a chair off to the side. They all knew that there was much more to be said, but no one wanted to be the first to broach the subject.
Jimmy stared at his hands, then, biting his lip, looked up at Lois and Clark. "Guys, I am so sorry. I tried to stop them but…"
"Jimmy, stop." Clark's level tone was forceful yet calming. "You can't blame yourself. You did more than anyone could expect. Getting yourself killed wouldn't have changed anything, except to make us feel worse."
"Thanks," Jimmy said quietly, all the while wringing his hands. After a couple of deep breaths, Jimmy finally spoke about what had been eating at him. "So, you're Superman, huh?"
A sad smile stretched across Clark's face as he pulled Lois tighter to him. "Yeah, Jimmy, I am. And I want to thank you for not saying anything to Henderson while he was here."
Jimmy shrugged absent mindedly. "You got to know I would never betray your secret."
"I know, and we trust you, Jim." Clark favored Jimmy with another smile. "I know you want to ask it, so go ahead and just ask."
"Okay." Jimmy hesitated and wrung his hands some more. "Why didn't you tell me before? I thought we were friends?"
"We are friends, Jimmy, but tell me, what's the very best way to keep a secret?"
Clark's question threw Jimmy for a moment. Then realization hit him. "Don't tell anybody?"
Clark nodded. "That's right. It has nothing to do with whether we trusted you or not, Jim. It had to do with protection, both mine and yours." Clark ran one hand through his hair, as the other automatically sought Lois'. "Just by what happened here tonight, you can see how knowing that I'm Superman can endanger those close to me."
Jimmy sat frowning at his shoes for a couple more moments. "Does Perry know?"
Clark shrugged. "If he does, it's not because we told him."
"Jimmy," Lois said, bringing his attention to her. "You mentioned that they knew. They knew that Clark was Superman?" Lois saw Jimmy nod. "Did they say anything else? What exactly did they say?"
Jimmy took a deep breath, gathering his thoughts before he started. "Well, as I told Henderson, there were two of them. One was obviously just hired muscle. The other guy was disguised but I think I recognized his voice. I just can't place it yet, but I know I'd heard it before." Jimmy withdrew into his own thoughts for a moment. "He knew who you were. He called Jon the son of Superman more than once. I also got the impression that he wasn't interested in ransom either."
Lois started. "Why not? What else would he want?"
Jimmy shrugged. "I don't know, it was what he said just before he left. He said I could tell Superman that the boy would be perfectly safe and very well looked after. He had no intention of harming Jon. Something about Jon being extremely useful to him in the future."
Lois just leaned her head against Clark and began to cry softly.
Clark had comforted Lois until she finally dozed off against him. He had eased her back more fully against him as he allowed himself to recline into the corner of the couch. Jimmy had also fallen asleep in the chair. Clark held his wife like a lifeline as he fought off the despair that threatened to overwhelm him.
The Kryptonite left behind was clearly of a low grade and hadn't been meant to destroy him, merely delay him enough so the villain could make his getaway clean. Perhaps that was all the fellow had, or maybe he was hoarding what supply he had by mixing small quantities with other minerals. It seemed obvious to Clark, from what the creep had said to Jimmy, that he wanted Clark to know that his son was still alive, but beyond his reach.
Clark had only two clues to go on. The perpetrator of this horror knew he was Superman, and Jimmy thought he recognized the voice. From Jimmy's description it was definitely a man, so that let out Diana Stride, and Jimmy had never met her cameraman Rolf, so that put him in the clear also. Besides, Rolf had a very distinct voice, and a terrible accent.
Clark seriously doubted if Jack had returned to crime and taken up kidnapping. No, he definitely would rule out Jack. That left Luthor and Tempus. Luthor was dead, so it must be Tempus. Jimmy could've recognized Tempus' voice from the time he ran for president, but something just didn't seem right. Tempus was determined to wipe out the existence of Utopia, and to do so he might indeed strike at Lois' and his children, but it didn't make sense that he'd only take one of them.
Soon Lois began to stir beside him as the morning sun's rays filtered through the window sheers. Jimmy must have sensed the movement because he also began to stir.
Lois blinked back the sleep from her eyes as she reluctantly pulled away from Clark. "I'll go put some coffee on."
Soon, with Clark lending the limping Jimmy a hand, all three were seated around the kitchen table, hot mugs of coffee in their hands. Lois got up to refill her cup, and stayed leaning against the counter top while she drank.
"Clark, I've been thinking about who knew you were Superman," she offered.
Clark nodded as he set his cup down. "So have I, and the only person I can come up with who might have done this is Tempus."
"Tempus?" Jimmy's facial expression matched the confusion in his voice.
"You would know him as John Doe." Lois answered.
Jimmy seemed to be momentarily lost in contemplation, then he slowly shook his head back and forth. "I'm not sure, but I don't think that's who it was. The speech patterns were different. I always got the impression that John Doe thought everything was amusing. This guy was just arrogant, almost imperious."
Lois and Clark locked eyes, both thinking and saying the same thing. "Luthor."
Jimmy brightened. "Yeah, that's who it sounded like, Luthor." Jimmy waved his hands around. "He tried to disguise his voice, but the inflections, the way he looked through me instead of at me. It sure reminded me of Luthor."
"But Luthor's dead," Lois said in a small, fear filled voice. Her gaze stayed on Clark. "We both saw him buried under tons of rock."
Clark's voice became steel. "And we both saw him fall how many stories from the penthouse of Lex Tower."
It took everything Lois had to keep from shaking. "Oh, Clark, not Luthor, not again. Will we ever be free of that maniac!"
Suddenly the tense tableau was broken by a shrill cry. "Mommy!"
Lois rushed out of the kitchen and hurried up the stairs to answer her daughter's call. She soon came back down with the little girl in her arms. Jo had her arms around her mother's neck. The little girl's eyes quickly fell on Clark, and then Jimmy, but continued to search the room. She was looking for something, or someone.
"Mommy, where's Jon? Why is he crying?"
Lois hugged her child. "Jon's not here right now, sweetie, he's…" Lois looked at Clark with a strange expression on her face; an expression that mirrored the one on Clark's face. "Jo, why do you think Jon is crying?"
The little girl laid her head down on her mother's shoulder, her long hair falling partially in her face. " 'Cuse I can hear him."
Both parents were thunderstruck. Jimmy nodded. "It makes sense," Jimmy opined. "I've read a lot of stories where twins shared some sort of psychic bond. They were able to sense when something happened to the other. Maybe this is something like that?"
Lois turned to Jimmy. "You don't understand, Jimmy, Kryptonians are telepathic. Clark's never had any others around till those New Kryptonians showed up so he never knew. Once they were gone, we figured that was that."
Clark stood, glancing back and forth between his daughter and Jimmy. "The kids being so young, I never thought to see if we could communicate that way. But being twins, it makes sense that if they had any talent in that regard they would develop it between each other." Clark reached out and took his daughter from Lois' arms. "Sweetie? Can you talk to Jon? Can you talk to Jon now?"
The little girl shook her head. "Uh uh, Daddy, he too scared. I can only hear him crying."
Clark pressed his forehead against his daughter's. "Try to concentrate on Jon, honey. Think about him real hard."
Father and daughter closed their eyes and Lois watched in amazement as their breathing began to synchronize. Soon both stopped breathing altogether. Lois was about to shake the two of them when Clark abruptly pulled back. Jo leaned her head against her father's chest and stuck her thumb in her mouth, something she constantly chided Jon for doing.
"I got it!" Clark exclaimed. "I've managed to latch on to Jon's cries, and I think I can follow them, like a beacon, right to him."
Lois came over and put her hand on Clark's arm. She looked up into his eyes, knowing that he wouldn't be able to lie to her under such scrutiny.
"Are you all right? Have your powers returned?"
Clark shook his head. "Not entirely, I'm about half way back. I feel pretty strong and I'm probably invulnerable enough to not be in danger, but I don't think I can fly yet."
"Probably invulnerable enough?" Lois cocked an eyebrow at him.
"Do we have any other choice?" Clark traced his finger along Lois' cheek. "I think Henderson is a terrific policeman, but I'd rather be there to protect our boy."
"I'll see if Mrs. Anders, next door, can watch Jo for a few hours. You get the car." Lois looked over at Jimmy. "I assume you'll want to come along?"
"Lo-is… " Whatever Clark had in mind to say was stopped by the look she gave Clark. After several years of marriage Clark had learned when a cause was lost even before it was taken up.
"He might have more Kryptonite. You'll need me." Lois tossed off breezily over her shoulder after taking Jo from Clark and heading toward the door and the kindly neighbor who sometimes watched the kids.
Jimmy was excited. He was actually going along with Lois and Clark on one of their big busts. The fact that Clark was also Superman just made it that much more incredible. But for all his excitement, there was still an element of guilt in his thoughts. It was Lois and Clark's son who was the captive, and it was his fault that he'd been taken. He just had to be in on the rescue, and help take down the bad guys.
He had quickly gotten something out of the trunk of his car before they had left. When Lois had seen what it was, she had given Jimmy a wink of approval. The feel of the cool aluminum in his hands felt good, and helped him keep his focus. It was lucky he hadn't taken his softball bat out of the trunk yet.
Clark spent most of the time with his eyes closed, concentrating, occasionally giving Lois instructions where to turn. After about two hours of driving, the trio found themselves well outside the city limits and deep into the countryside north of Metropolis.
"Clark." Lois spoke, interrupting his concentration. "I know where we are going." She looked over and saw that she had his attention. "Isn't Lampson's Quarry out here somewhere nearby?"
A look of revelation came over Clark. "You're right. It's about a mile over that way." Clark waved his hand off to the right. "It's the perfect place to hide out. It has several outbuildings, and except for our own little incident a while back, there hasn't been any action out there in over twenty years."
Five minutes later; one limping, bat-wielding photographer, one worried mother who was also an award winning journalist, and the worried father who moonlighted as a superhero, approached the largest of the outbuildings of Lampson's Quarry.
Clark had changed into his Superman outfit. If Luthor had made a point of kidnapping Superman's child, then he was going to have to deal with Superman. Clark scanned the building, locating the people inside.
"Okay, it's Luthor all right." Clark saw Lois' lips draw into a tight line. "He's sitting at a table looking over some papers in the middle of the room. Some muscle-bound goon is lounging in a chair near the front door, and Jon is sitting on a blanket near the back corner of the room."
Lois' lower lip quivered. "My baby, how is he?"
"He seems okay. He's busy unraveling the edge of his blanket." Clark drew the two of them together and drew a crude rectangle in the dirt in front of him. As he spoke he detailed and pointed to parts of his diagram. "Okay, I'm going in and I'll immediately take out muscles. While I confront Luthor, Lois, I want you to go in the window in this back corner. It's already partially open and Jon is only a few feet from it. Grab him and get out while Luthor and I have our 'discussion'." Clark pointed to the back of his diagram. "Jimmy, I want you staked out at this back door in case Luthor tries to bolt. If he runs he'll do something to distract me and go out that way." Clark looked up at his wife and best friend. "Everyone ready?" At their nods, he stood up and slowly walked toward the building.
The front door to the shack burst open and splintered as it hit the opposite wall. Clark winced briefly at the abrasion he suffered from the heavily weathered door.
Muscles jumped to his feet but Clark grabbed him by the shirt front and slammed him into the wall. The big fellow folded like road map. Clark turned his attention to Luthor.
Fear was the first emotion that flashed across Luthor's face; that was quickly quelled as Luthor stood, clapping his hands. "A grand entrance indeed, Superman, or should I say Clark." Luthor noticed the tiny smear of blood on the back of Clark's hand. "And not quite up to speed yet either."
"Why aren't you dead?"
Luthor laughed. "I guess I'm just favored by the gods."
Luthor was still pretty scruffy looking. His hair was unkempt. Clark could see the latex bald cap on the table. And he had at least a three days growth of beard going, but he still managed, with just his presence, to command the primary attention in a room.
"It was sheer good fortune. As I lay there being pummeled by falling masonry and rock, a few larger pieces landed beside me, which through the caprice of fate allowed for a cavity to be formed in the rubble." He began to pace back and forth behind the table. "Oh, I by no means escaped unscathed. I was quite battered and bruised, and it took quite a bit to claw my way out once the dust had settled. But as you see, I survived, and I eventually healed." Luthor stuck his hand in his left jacket pocket. "I have to admit that I'm surprised to see you here. However did you find me?"
"You can't keep a parent from their child."
Luthor whirled to see Lois holding Jon and backing her way back toward the window. "Ah, I see you brought the little missus." Luthor using his right hand, pulled a revolver out of his right jacket pocket and pointed it at Lois. "I'd stop right where you are, Lois."
Clark, as soon as he saw the gun, began to move toward Luthor. Lex, seeing the movement out of the corner of his eye, pulled his left hand out of his coat pocket, where he had placed it earlier.
"I don't think so, Clark." In his hand was an ugly rock which glowed a pale sickly green. "Can't have Superdad interfering, now can we." Luthor held the rock out at arms' length in front of him.
Clark was hit by a wave of pain and nausea. It was nowhere near as severe as he'd felt in the past, but he knew he couldn't get any closer without collapsing. He was able to stand his ground, but that was all. Jon had started crying again. Lois did what she could to comfort him.
"Oh, I admit it's not a nice, pure piece of Kryptonite, but it will get the job done." Luthor chuckled, the only one who got the joke. "You honestly didn't think I would leave my entire supply behind, did you? After all, when I raise the boy as my own, I do have to have a means to control or punish him if he ever gets out of line, don't I?"
"You're a monster," Lois cursed him, "You'll never get my child."
Lex's smile only turned up one side of his mouth. "This gun says I do." He thumbed back the hammer. "Say good night Gracie."
"Good night Gracie."
The metallic clink was surprisingly feeble when compared to the outcome of Jimmy's swing. Luthor never knew what hit him, as he went down like a steer in a slaughter house. The gun and the Kryptonite both fell out of nerveless hands.
Jimmy quickly retrieved the green rock and limped back outside via the door he had just snuck in through. A telltale clink of the bat was heard, followed shortly by a grinning Jimmy Olsen re-entering the room.
"I think I hit a home run that time."
Clark came over and put his arm around Jimmy, supporting the young man whose injured leg was in danger of giving way. "That you did, Jimmy… that you did."
Lois and Clark stood side by side, grinning as they watched the local county sheriff step back quickly to avoid the swinging bat, as Jimmy enthusiastically demonstrated how he had saved the day. The couple had already given their statements to the sheriff and had moved off several yards, closer to Lois' jeep. They both shook their head in amusement at the animated excitement their young friend was showing.
Clark had changed back into jeans and a casual shirt before the authorities had arrived. Jon was cradled easily in one arm, sound asleep. Lois cocked her head to look up at her life partner.
"So, what did you tell the sheriff about Superman?" she asked.
Clark shrugged. "I just told them he had to leave."
"And what about why the boy's father wasn't there during his rescue?"
Clark gave Lois a sardonic grin. "I just said that I trusted Superman, and my extremely capable wife, to take care of things while I called the authorities from our car phone."
Lois cocked a brow at him. "And he bought that?"
Clark shrugged again. "I don't know. I suppose he doesn't have a high opinion of Clark Kent's bravery, but frankly I don't care." Clark nodded his head in the direction of the squad car and Jimmy. "I don't think I've seen Jimmy this excited since we told him you were expecting."
Lois chuckled. "I think you're right." She instantly sobered. "And I think we were right when we guessed that Jimmy really does think of us, and Perry, as his family. I know he must be lonely a lot of the time."
Clark nodded as he put his free arm around his sympathetic wife. "I'm sure he is. But you know, there is only so much we can do for him. We have a family of our own to deal with."
Lois sighed. "You're right. I just wish that Jimmy would ask Lucy out again. I know it's been a long time since they actually dated, but ever since Lucy's new job brought her back to Metropolis a few weeks ago, I've been worried she's going to take up with some loser again like she always manages to do." Lois chewed her lip a bit. "I know she's an adult, but she *is* my little sister and I want to see her happy, and Jimmy is such a nice guy, and… what?"
Clark was grinning. "Lois, did you ever tell Jimmy that Lucy was back in town?" Clark swallowed a laugh as he watched his wife's mouth open, then close into a frown which also tightly knitted her brow. "I thought not. Oh, here he comes."
Jimmy bounded back toward the duo, his limp by now barely noticeable in his excitement. "Hey guys, you aren't going to believe this! I must've really hit Luthor pretty hard, cause his brain is really scrambled."
Lois retained her frown, but now turned in on Jimmy. "Whatever are you talking about, Jimmy?"
"Luthor doesn't know what's going on. He doesn't know where he is, or why." Jimmy barked out a couple of laughs. "He thinks it's still 1993. You should hear him threatening the sheriff." Jimmy began to act out the scene for Lois and Clark. "Do you know who you are manhandling? I'll have your badge for this! Just wait till I get my lawyers on this, you'll be lucky to be cleaning toilets in Metro Prison!"
Jimmy's laughter had caused him to stop. Then his laughter stopped when he saw the look on his friends' faces. Lois turned to Clark, placing her hand on his arm.
"Amnesia? Could it be? Could we finally be free of that madman, and his knowledge of who you are?"
Clark stood silently for a time. The others could tell he was concentrating on something. Lois guessed Clark was listening in on the sheriff and Luthor several yards away. "I don't know. From what I can tell, Luthor is totally confused by the situation." Clark directed his eyes toward Lois. Dual pools of brown locked onto each other. "I guess all we can do is wait and see… and hope."
Clark began to stroll off toward the car. Jimmy cast one last glance over at the sheriff's car as it pulled away, carrying one of the past decade's most notorious criminals. Lois hung back a bit, waiting for Jimmy. Jimmy shifted his attention back to Lois.
"Jimmy, I want to thank you again for what you did for us. I'd hate to think what would have happened if you hadn't been here."
Jimmy blushed furiously. "That's okay, it was nothing."
Lois laughed, putting her arm around Jimmy's waist as they began to walk toward the jeep. "Modest too, I knew there were reasons why I always liked you." Lois gave Jimmy a sidelong look out of the corner of her eye. "So, Jimmy, been seeing anyone special lately?"