By Chiara Prato <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted November 2000
Summary: What happened to Alt-Lois when she disappeared in the Congo? Alt-Clark has to help her through a slow recovery from what was obviously a very traumatic experience.
At first hand I have to thank my editors.. the number of whom is growing very quickly.. and they are all so special to me!!!! So Thanks Ray, who made the big effort to translate my English into real English, and then Elena, who literally forced me to end this, and then Sarah, Helene, LabRat, Wendy, Ann who helped me with a lot of tips, mis-spelling, mistakes, and sometimes helping me to rewrite pieces and stuffs. THANKS GUYS!!!!!
I guess we all wondered what happened Lois in the other universe when she vanished in the Congo. And I guess everybody believe that Lois Lane died in Africa, and that the other Clark is fated to be alone. That's why I wrote this. She is the soulmate of that sad Clark. He needs one!
Ok… I hope you like it… and please let me know if you do… or if you don't…
This time I stop babbling… and… Ok… the return… here we go!
"Chief, we caught that journalist as you ordered, what should we do with her? You want me to kill her?"
"No … she's quite pretty …She'll be just the thing for my collection …I think I'll keep her for me!"
The man nodded. "As you wish …Shall I bring her to your bedroom?"
"No …it must be her choice!"
The man looked at his boss and then looked into the room with the screaming woman.
"Let me go! You can't keep me here! I want to leave, now!"
"I don't believe she'll accept your offer."
His boss looked at him with a superior expression on his face.
"She'll do it, sooner or later!"
Alt Metropolis 1996
Clark sank down on his couch and sat for a very long time in darkness. It was all so difficult now. He had seen Lois again, seen her happy in the arms of her Clark. And it hurt. He couldn't tell, not even to himself, if what he felt for her was true love. It was a need. The need of a love like that between Lois and her Clark. He needed that kind of love. It was the only thing he really needed. Since his secret had been revealed everyone had started to treat him differently and this had made him feel more alone.
He had also seen his parents. He knew that they weren't in fact his own parents, but they had so much love to give. Clark, the other Clark, would never feel as alone as he did, with the kind of family he had.
And instead, he was sitting there alone. What he wouldn't give to have his soul mate close to him.
"Chief, the girl is getting worse and worse!"
"She is going to surrender, she is close to breaking."
"She won't do it … I'm very sure about that."
"Are you contradicting me? "
"Chief … I've been watching her for more than three years now …"
"As have I … I have the videotapes, remember?"
"Chief … I've never been a softie … but you can't continue to treat her this way … Why don't you just kill her?"
"Maybe we haven't been persuasive enough … but if you don't want to do this anymore … I'll find someone else… "
"NO… I'm not saying that."
"Then be quiet and open the door!"
The man entered the completely dark room. He was wearing a pair of infrared glasses that allowed him to see without being seen. To touch her without being seen.
"Darling …you see … I've come to visit you again … " The woman didn't move. She sat huddled in a corner of the room. She kept herself immobile, her arms tight around her knees. Her eyes were open but they stared into space. She didn't change her expression when she heard him enter. She remained totally unresponsive.
The man's anger grew. He forced her to get up, pushing her against the wall. "Don't make me angry, Darling … sooner or later you are going to surrender … or I'll kill you!" The woman's expression never changed at all.
The man went out, slamming the door behind him. The lights in the little prison were on again. Then he turned toward the two-way mirror that covered most of one wall in the room and stared through it.
With a glassy-eyed look the girl went to the shower, opened it and stood for a long while under its jets of hot water.
"It's as I said … she is not well!"
"I'll give her two weeks. If she hasn't surrendered during the next two weeks … I'll kill her." And with that he left.
Two weeks?! He was going to be leaving this afternoon. How much time would he have left to see her? Just a couple of days? How would he make her change her mind? It was impossible. She hadn't changed her mind in three years … nothing would be able to change her mind in the next two weeks.
Five days later
Luckily the day was almost at an end. He had just finished putting the finishing touches on his article, but it was nothing thrilling. Perry had just left the Planet a few minutes before. Sometimes he became homesick for his old job, his old love, and he stopped by. Now Mr. Olsen was on the phone with someone but this was not very interesting to Clark.
The phone rang and he answered it without thinking.
"You are Superman, aren't you?" The caller didn't wait for him to answer. "You must help her … he'll kill her in ten days. She'll never surrender!"
"What are you talking about?"
"It's been three years that he has kept her locked up in that cellar. It's as if he has already killed her, but now he wants to do it for real … and he'll kill me too, for what I'm doing … " The line was very scratchy and the man spoke with a very strong, very strange accent.
"Just tell me one thing at a time … Who is in danger? Who wants to kill her?"
"We kidnapped her three years ago … she was investigating, she is a reporter … you must save her!" The man gave him detailed instructions for finding the big house in the Congo. Clark's hands trembled as he wrote down the address.
'Don't get too excited, Clark … it might not be her!' But his heart began racing furiously.
A second after the call ended Clark was flying toward the Congo. He had never flown so fast. He saw the house from afar, it was exactly as it was described to him. He X-rayed it and saw some armed men, but this fact didn't bother him.
There was a room hidden under the house, the windows were bricked up. There really was someone being held in there.
It was a woman. She had brown, very long hair. She was thin and very weak. She was curled up in a corner of the room that was her prison.
He landed near the outer wall of the room where the woman was held. Seconds later the walls collapsed as if they were made of paper.
Clark made a few steps toward the woman before she raised her eyes. She had a lifeless and almost absent look. They stared at each other for a while.
"Lois … " The woman inclined her head, gazing at him. Then she slowly got up and started to walk. She was weak, she could hardly stand. She made it to the new exit and she stretched her hand toward the night. She looked out. It was dark but the sky was completely full of stars and a full moon lit up the night. In a few seconds Clark was beside her. The armed men that guarded the house were running toward them. Clark heard their steps coming closer and closer. Lois, meanwhile, moved very slowly, just a step at a time, walking past where the wall had been. She did not speak. She raised one arm until her hand covered the moon completely. Then suddenly … she opened her fingers and let the moonlight fall on her face.
A guard ordered them to stop. Lois was lost in herself, having found her beloved Moon, and took no notice of the guard. Clark disarmed him in less than a second, then he was again next to Lois. He held her and called her name but she failed to move.
"I'm taking you to Metropolis … you mustn't be scared." He held her in his arms and slowly rose from the ground.
"Stay calm … we'll be there in a few minutes … I'm able to go much faster, but I want to be sure that you are OK," he told her in his kindest tone. Lois trembled and Clark didn't know if it was because she was scared or cold.
"It will just be a little while longer … " Suddenly the light changed and they saw the sun. Instinctively Lois hid her face against Clark's chest, he smiled to himself at that gesture, then slowly she got used to the intensity of the light. Clark heard her breathe deeply and he slowed his flying a little. She was trying to taste her first rays of sunshine in three years.
He felt her rest her head against him again and he looked at her as she was closing her eyes, a few tears were rolling down her cheeks.
Clark took her straight to the hospital. Once there, he immediately called Perry who said that he would be there as soon as possible.
Lois was terribly frightened. Doctors and nurses were in and out of her room every few minutes performing tests and taking samples for others. Clark was near her every minute he could. He realized that she was frightened by physical contact. Every time he brushed her cheek or her hair or the times he held her hand her heart rate rose dramatically, the same thing happened with the doctors and nurses too. The few times she was alone she would crouch, almost hidden, in a corner of the room.
The doctors said that Lois needed rest and rehabilitation. They decided that she should be transferred to a nursing home as soon as her condition would permit it.
Perry arrived in less than an hour. He flung himself into the room and ran to Lois' bedside. Lois' heart started to beat quickly as she was being held in Perry's embrace. But Clark's biggest surprise came when he saw her smile at the nonsense words that Perry, clearly thrilled, kept repeating. She trusted Perry, he was more of a father to her than her real father had been. She wasn't scared of him at all. Clark would have given his own life to be worthy of so much trust and affection. Lois stretched out her hand covering her almost-father's hand.
"Lois, honey … tell me you're OK!"
"Perry, since I found her she has said nothing, not one word … " Clark said, clearly broken hearted. He knew he had found the right woman for him, but still, she had never seemed so near and yet so far away. The doctors preferred to have their patient rest, so a few minutes later Lois' visitors were asked to leave.
Clark didn't go far away from the hospital. He sat on the roof of a building across from it, not wanting to leave her alone. The news of her discovery soon spread across the country. Once he saw that she had settled down to sleep Clark went back to the house where she had been held captive to search for clues as to who had held her but he found the secret shelter was now a pile of debris. It had been completely destroyed. Clark was unable to find anything that he could use in his vain search for justice, or for the first time in his life, vengeance.
His arrival had not been unexpected. A hurt and quite shattered man dragged himself toward him. Clark recognized his voice immediately.
"Superman … I must give you something … " he pointed Clark toward a building not far from where they were, Clark helped the man over to it. "There were television cameras everywhere. There was no place in that cage where she could not be seen."
"Who was it that kept her prisoner!?" But the man ignored the question. He pulled out about twenty videotapes and gave them to Clark. "These were the only ones I was able to keep … My boss wanted all of them for himself, and he had me destroy the less interesting ones. I believe they may be useful to you in helping her." The man was making a great effort to speak now. He had been beaten severely it seemed before Superman arrived — and by experts.
"Thanks," Clark said.
"That girl impressed me … I never thought … she never gave in. And that just made him fly off the handle … That first day he said she was too independent and that he was going to take care of that, but he has been unable to do so all this time. Lois might have died, her investigation was getting too close. Sooner or later she would have found out about him and he could not permit that. But he felt she was too pretty to die, so my bosshad her brought here. He said he was going to make her his lover, perhaps his accomplice, but that surely she was going to be his sooner or later." He was still for quite a while and Clark was unable to think of anything to say. "Around two years ago I asked him why he kept her like this … I mean I didn't understand why he kept her in that state. I wondered what the difference would be for him if he just raped her. Don't misunderstand me, I'm a killer, not a rapist, I wouldn't have approved of it, but I'd understand it. Instead he didn't … he said that he wasn't going to do it, not for some moral grounds … but because if he raped her she'd try to kill him. It had already happened, a woman didn't forget having been raped, NEVER. At the same time she'd have to agree to be with him of her own choice, she wasn't going to have any revenge, she'd be submissive and obedient for the rest of her life, it became a matter of principle. He couldn't admit that he had underestimated someone either. Lois Lane, she was just an interesting challenge for him … a trophy to add to his already rare collection … he destroyed many inestimable treasures … and Lois was part of them."
Clark smiled sadly, "I think so too."
"It's useless for you to wait … I'm not going to give you the answer you want … " Clark looked at him in surprise. "I'm not going to tell you who my boss was, I have a code of honor … I betrayed my chief when I thought it was the right thing to do. He was cheating at a game he created himself … he didn't give the girl a way to win. I didn't think that was right. In my own way I've always tried to do what was right. Perhaps that seems stupid to you , but it's the way I think."
"You have no idea how much I want to have this man in my hands right now … but I understand what you are saying … you saved her life in any case, I'll find another way to expose him."
Clark was back sitting on the roof of a building in front of the hospital. There were a few hours left until sunrise. Suddenly a noise broke abruptly into his thoughts. Immediately he jumped up and flew to the hospital. Three armed men were trying to take Lois away; one was pointing his submachine gun at a pair of nurses, one was checking the hallway, while the third carried Lois toward the elevator.
In a split second the three men were disarmed and immobilized and Clark was standing next to Lois.
"Are you OK? Lois … " She kept staring off into space, it seemed as if she was not aware of anything around her, but her racing heartbeat, as picked up by his super-hearing, told him this wasn't so! What had they done to her all that time … the truth was that he, Superman, didn't have the courage to view those videotapes.
Clark got her to look directly into his eyes. "I'll always protect you, Lois … You can trust me. I swear, I won't let anything happen to you." He brought her back to her room and helped her get into bed. He leaned against the door for a bit before checking on the kidnappers and then Lois. He heard a nurse calling the police. A doctor came into the room to check on his patient.
"This isn't a safe place for her!"
"You're right … and a nursing home sure isn't going to be any safer … but what if you take her to a safer place?"
"Where? I don't even know how to help her … "
"To be honest, Superman, neither do we … the truth is if we can't find out and understand what they did to her we won't be able to help her … "
Clark was silent for a while.
"Someone gave me some videotapes … I haven't watched them … I believe they can give us an idea of what she has been through."
"May we see them now?"
"The sooner we do it the sooner we can intervene … " The doctor hadn't even finished his statement and Clark was gone. Within less than a minute he was back, with a box containing the videotapes. The only markings on the tapes were labels with dates on them. The dates spanned the entire time she had been missing, but the intervals were irregular, some were recorded during the space of a few weeks, othersmonths apart.
Clark and the doctor sat down to watch the tapes.
In the first tape Clark thought he saw the Lois he had always looked for. Strong, independent, angry and resolute. She was so like the way Perry had always described her. She was so angry. Clark almost smiled, it hurt him to see her held captive. But she was so belligerent. She had a fire in her eyes … what he wouldn't give to see that fire in her eyes again.
The first videotape wasn't very long. The doctor decided that this might have been only a first examination, just a quick look at the captive. He next put in a tape that was a couple of months later. This one was recorded during the evening. Lois was still so beautiful, she was sitting in front of a window where light was entering. It might have been from the moon. It was silver.
Lois seemed to smile at it. It was impossible to hear what she was saying, but she seemed to just be chatting with it. She kept this up for quite a while in a whisper that the video camera was unable to record.
They watched three other videotapes and in those Lois was still quite aggressive. It was already months into her captivity there but she was still strong and belligerent. They moved on to a fourth, the camera had been changed because this one was able to record all that Lois whispered also.
She was starting to look tired, it showed in her face. There was a man who brought her food. Clark recognized him immediately as the same man who had given him the videotapes.
"Help me get away … let me go … "
"You know I can't."
"But if you could, I'm sure you would do it."
"I will not, you know that … "
"When is he going to be back?"
"Let me get away … " The man put the tray down.
"Try to eat today … OK? You aren't eating enough."
"Bring me something so that I can write … at least you can do that … "
"You know he doesn't want that."
"But he won't know it! We can hide it before he comes back!"
"With all the video cameras?"
"I can hide them behind the bathtub … "
"Lois … I have to put one in there too, before he comes back!"
"What! … no … you can't do that!"
"I told you before … I'm not the one who makes those decisions!"
"Let me get away … please … " The man smiled at her.
"Eat … I'll come back later … " Lois wiped her face with a quick move. There was a tear rolling down her cheek but she turned herself to avoid letting the man see her crying.
Then, finding her courage, her stubbornness asserted itself again, "If he believes that I'll let him see me naked he's wrong … I'd rather die first. He may kill me but he'll not bring me to his bed!"
"Lois, if only you'd do as he says … everything would be easier for you … you'd live better … "
"You really think that? I prefer to die than … " Clark saw her shudder at the thought. "That is what he's afraid of … that is why he doesn't want any sharp objects here … he's afraid that I'll kill myself … and then he won't have his toy anymore!"
"I must go … I've stayed too long this time!"
"No … stay … "
"I can't!" The man went out, closing the door behind him. Lois leaned heavily against the wall behind her. She lightly hit her head against the mirror. Later, much later, when she would tell Clark of her time as Lex' prisoner, she would remember the mirrors most of all. There had been so much irony in them. Before, she had always found it very embarrassing to look at herself in the mirror. In her prison three quarters of the walls were mirrors. She had known that behind them lay rooms, she had known that sometimes her jailor spied on her from there — sometimes she had seen light, beyond the mirrors.
She would think, then, that her guard had left a light on on purpose, to help her find some place where she could hide. If she'd known from where she was being spied upon she might also have been able to figure out how to 'protect herself'.
And there were darker ironies too. Ones that took her longer to admit to, later, held in Clark's arms as she haltingly, falteringly, told him everything about hercaptivity and how she had felt as Luthor's prisoner. How, during her time imprisoned, she had not been able to find out the identity of her jailor nor of the man who took care of her. She had been so scared of him, the first few days she was there, but after such a long time in captivity, she had begun to yearn to know him. He had cared for her very much, tried to make her tasty food, and sometimes he was able to bring her a piece of chocolate, usually hidden under the napkin.
Clark asked the doctor to look beyond what was on screen, to analyze the person. He looked closer, and saw that she still smiled. She wasn't desperate yet. She trusted, in herself maybe, but she seemed sure that sooner or later she would be able to escape.
The doctor left to complete his rounds and when he returned he and Clark kept at it all night, viewing the tapes.
In a lot of the videotapes it looked as if Lois was thinking out loud. Sometimes it was stories, or fables or just ideas for books. Her only partner in this dialog was the Moon.
In one particular tape it was night. The pale light of the Moon could be seen clearly and Lois was sitting bathed in its rays. Suddenly the door opened. She got up abruptly as the metallic voice started to talk to her. The voice coming from the man was distorted. The room was completely dark, apart from the moonlight. Clark tried to focus with his enhanced vision to bring out as much detail as he could.
The man wore a device that caused his voice to be distorted, and he also wore a large pair of infrared glasses that covered most of his face. "You like to talk with the moon, don't you? You know what I think, I think it keeps you company … doesn't it? It's a good thing to have a friend that keeps you company, isn't it?" Lois was barely able to see the man's shape in the darkness. Lois drew back a step, but seemed to realize that she was dangerously near the wall. Trapped, she changed direction, walking quickly away. The man grabbed her just the same and held her to him. Clark watched the disgust twist in Lois' face as she turned it from him.
"Sooner or later, you'll give in. Why don't you stop playing and come with me, you know you'll decide that you'll do it anyway!"
"In your dreams! Don't count on it! I'll never be with you!!! Never!!!" Clark saw the man's hand start to move over Lois' body, saw that she rebelled against this with all her strength. So much so that she hurt herself in the vain attempt to escape his grip.
Clark clenched his fists.
"You'll see, darling … it's futile … "
"Go to hell!" she screamed.
"You know, darling, you can say goodbye to your friend the Moon … this is the last time you'll see it!"
"What is your decision, do you come to my bedroom or do you stay here?!"
"I prefer to die!"
"Don't say that too often! I just might grant you your wish."
The man went away and Lois sat down against the wall holding her knees to her chest. This was the same position in which Clark found her.
"I can't lose you too!" she whispered.
The videotape ended moments later. Clark was almost desperate looking for the next one.
The next videotape was dated about a month later.
Clark played this next tape with trepidation. The man's threat had been realized. The room was lit now by only artificial light. Where before there had been a substantial window now there was just a wall. The difference in the plaster seemed only to reminder her of what she had lost. Lois was no longer able to distinguish day from night.
Sometimes she would get up from the mattress, make her bed and then go to the shower. She would turn on the shower and climb under the shelter of the jets of water, completely dressed.
The light in her eyes was dying.
She seemed resigned to her fate.
She smiled at the opening of the door, her stomach told her that it was dinner time. She turned off the shower.
"You are taking too many showers … it can hurt you."
"I know … but here it's too hot to die … besides I'm able to determine from the water temperature what the weather is outside … and if itis day or night. When evening is coming the water gets hotter … the tubes run outside, right?"
"You always ask too many questions!"
"I'm a reporter, remember? I've got to keep myself in shape!"
The man seemed about to tell her something but then he broke off. "You and I must stop speaking to each other or the boss'll do to me what he did to the window!"
"Let me go!"
"Lois! You've asked that every day for more than two years!"
"Two years? I can't have been here as long as that!"
"I'm sorry … I shouldn't have said that. I'm really sorry … "
"He isn't going to let me go, is he?" The man lowered his head.
"Lois … we aren't going to be able to talk anymore … it's safer this way … so I can take care of you."
"Thanks … " The man caressed her head.
"This evening he'll come … " Lois held his hand.
"We'll never talk again … but stay with me … please … "
"I'll do my best for you."
Lois watched him go out and started to cry, Clark hadn't seen anyone sob like this. These were the tears of a person who had lost all hope. Without even realizing, Clark crushed the video recorder remote that he had been holding.
Clark got up from his chair and went to her. For the first time since he had become Superman, he shamelessly imposed himself, anyone else would not be allowed to stay in the hospital this long but for Superman exceptions were made. This time though he would visit Lois as himself; he was dressed as Clark Kent, the simple Daily Planet reporter. Lois' heart rate went wild when she saw him coming towards her in the darkened room.
"Lois?!" Clark looked but found the bed empty. He could hear her heartbeat. Looking towards the source of the sound, he saw her crouched as tightly as possible against the corner. "No … please … don't be afraid of me … it's Clark … I'm your friend … I'll protect you … I will not let anyone hurt you ever again!" — Clark knelt in front of her putting himself directly in her line of sight — 'I swear it!" He stayed next to her for a few seconds and he saw she was shivering.
"You're cold … come on, let's get you back in bed and under those blankets." He held out his hand, vainly hoping that she would take it. "OK … let's do it this way … I'll carry you to bed, if that's OK, and if you don't want that you can go by yourself, but you have to move from here." Clark drew his hand closer to her very slowly in order to see how she would react.
He saw her body contract and she drew back another inch, but it was enough for him.
"You're right … you don't know if you can trust me … I understand that." Clark said, sadly. He heard her heart rate slow down to near normal. He smiled at her. "Come on … go … " She looked at him for a long time, keeping her eyes on him even as she moved away.
Clark made plans with the doctor to move her from the hospital the next morning. After that earlier incident he couldn't think of a safe place at first, but then the doctor thought, 'Who would take her away from Superman's place?' Clark found a phone and called Perry's number. It was late but he knew that wouldn't matter to Perry, he loved Lois so much, he had seen how good it had been for the man just to hold her again. Clark told him what had happened, "The doctor suggested that I bring her to my place … that she would be safer there, but I don't want her to be scared … she has no home to go to … but she's never been to my place. Maybe you could be there when we arrive? We are going to be there at ten o'clock. I'm sorry to give you so little notice … but here … "
"Are you kidding? Don't apologize … I'll bring Alice too … maybe her help can be useful … "
"Are you with her now?"
"Surely you don't think I'd let her be alone tonight … "
Perry was silent for a moment. "You miss her a lot, don't you?"
"The other Lois!"
"Yes … but that's not why I'm here! She needs my help … " He turned to her and saw her walk toward the bed, she passed very near him and she kept staring at him. Her eyes didn't shine like the other Lois' eyes, they didn't shine like this Lois' in that first videotape.
"It's Perry … " he told her, "Chief, do you want to speak with her?"
"Not yet, Chief."
"Let me talk to her anyway."
Clark moved the phone close to Lois' ear. "Lois, honey … you are very lucky with Clark there with you, you don't have to be afraid of anything. You'll see, you'll get through this, and tomorrow morning I'll come visit you at his place … and I'll bring you a great big tub of chocolate ice cream!" Clark saw her smile slightly and it was the best present she could have given him.
The next morning Clark took her to his place. He'd have preferred to take a taxi, but besides all the reporters crowding the hospital he didn't know how ready Lois was for that much contact with the city. He helped her put on a robe and tie it tightly around her waist, the hospital gown she wore not being the best clothing for flying.
"We're going to fly pretty quickly, like we did yesterday … you just need to stay calm … Perry will be there waiting for us, or at least he'll be there soon."
Lois stayed very stiff in his arms, Clark was learning to judge how she was feeling by her heartbeat, even if she didn't talk her heart did it for her. He knew she was scared, but not as much as before. Again, she leaned into him.
"I'm not flying as quickly, but this way you'll be able to see the city … I hope you like seeing it from up here!"
Lois was looking at him. Clark thought that was quite strange that she seemed less scared now, flying, than she had been the previous evening in the hospital when he had tried to put her into bed. Suddenly she shivered.
"Cold?" She nodded imperceptibly. Clark was so surprised that he stopped flying and Lois stiffened. He was sure, that was a "Yes". She had answered his question. He couldn't be wrong. It was the second time she had answered his question. Last evening it could have been an instinctive reflex to draw her back, but this time he was really sure.
Home was silent, Perry hadn't gotten there yet. Clark set her down on the ground carefully. Lois trembled from the cold. It was quite an inclement day and the clouds covered the sun. "I'm sorry … maybe the robe wasn't warm enough for you … " Clark thought to himself, embarrassed, 'I don't feel the cold … so I'm not always able to judge it.' "I can warm you, would you like that?" Her heartbeat raced again suddenly but he pretended not to notice. "All you have to do is stay still right there … " With a couple of short blasts of his heat vision Clark brought his new friend's temperature back to normal. She was clearly surprised. Clark wondered if she realized that all of this was real and not a captivity-induced dream.
"How about I prepare the things for a shower? I guess you'd like to change your clothes, wouldn't you?"
He grabbed her hand and accompanied her into his bedroom, he stopped in front of a chest of drawers and opened one. He took a moment to look through his T-shirts. "Mhmmm, do you like this one? No this is better for you … " he corrected himself and extracting one, closed the drawer. He did the same for a sweatshirt and a pair of boxer shorts. "I haven't any female underwear, as you can see … we can go shopping later, if you want? Maybe Alice would like to accompany us … would you like that?"
Lois stayed impassive. Clark told himself that he was stupid, he couldn't pretend to think that she would decide to talk so suddenly.
"Come with me, I'll accompany you to the bathroom, then I'll make you a nice breakfast with some orange juice. You've got to regain your strength … " He gave her the towels, the hair dryer and all she needed to take a shower. "I'm going to wait for you in the kitchen …" He saw her staring at the big mirror near the shower stall. 'Stupid!' Clark said to himself. "That bothers you?" He didn't wait for an answer, he found a large bath towel and covered it. "Lois, there aren't any television cameras here … I know that this isn't your place … but I will not let anything hurt you , not if I can avoid it", he told her as he walked out the door, shutting it behind him.
Lois took an eternity in the bathroom, Clark had to resist the temptation to walk in and check on her, more than once he came near the door and listened for sounds from the room. He could hear the water flowing and Lois breathing very deeply. He felt she was calm and this was enough to calm him, at least part of him.
Someone knocked on the door at the same time that Lois turned off the water.
Clark offered Alice and Perry a cup of coffee and orange juice, then he knocked on the bathroom door. "Lois … they're here." The door opened at almost the same moment.
Lois walked a couple of steps, then she stopped, closed her eyes and breathed deeply. She reopened them and took another step. She swayed. Before she could touch the ground Clark was there, supporting her.
"Hey … if you keep doing that you're going to scare me … " Clark told her sweetly, but he really was quite worried. Perry and his wife walked in from the kitchen. Alice was touched. She was by Lois in a moment and didn't even give Clark enough time to set her on the couch. The older woman cried and laughed simultaneously, all the while touching Lois' face and arms.
"Honey … you're here, you are with us again. I … " Perry held his wife in his arms. "I'm so happy!"
Lois remained immobile, but as on the previous afternoon with Perry, a smile appeared on her face, a smile she immediately tried to hide.
Clark felt her lean against him. "Are you dizzy?" He set her on the couch. "These haven't been easy days for you, have they? But you'll see soon everything will be normal again. … I'm going to call the doctor, just to be sure that everything is fine … "
The doctor said that there was no need to worry, that this was normal, that Lois just wasn't used to standing. A long shower and all the emotions of the day brought it on. She needed physical therapy and it wasn't prudent to have her walking around too much.
"But I promised her!"
"Clark, you can't expect her to be able to get around like she would if she had just come back from a week's vacation! You can understand that, can't you?"
"You're right but … I don't want her to think I lied to her … I'll only take her to one shop … then I'll bring her home … and I'm not going to tire her."
"Do what you want … it seems as if you know her better than anyone else … but take care of her!"
Clark rejoined the other three people.
"Did you hear that? Only one shop … then I let you rest … but before we get to that you must have your breakfast." In a moment he was beside her again with a full tray.
"Clark, if you feed her like this she's going to be as big as a barrel! You can't expect her to eat all that?"
"She can eat what she likes … " Lois looked at him and she seemed amused, but there was still something within her that kept her hiding her true feelings.
Lois looked at the tray and for a moment her eyes shone. Clark and Perry looked at each other. Her hand stretched toward the large tub of chocolate ice cream. She caressed it but didn't open it.
Clark had made it for her, but she didn't seem to want to touch it. Clark dipped the spoon into the ice cream and offered it to her. Clark heard her heartbeat race wildly. What could she possibly be afraid of?
"No … honey, don't … I won't force you … but you must eat … You have that Pulitzer waiting for you … remember?" Perry caressed her head.
She looked at him, then she moved her gaze to Clark, trembling.
What could scare her this way?
Clark looked at Perry with such a helpless gaze that it almost hurt. Alice tried again to spoon feed her. She refused the food this time too.
Perry had to leave soon, he had a very important meeting that morning, but Alice decided to stay for a while.
Realising that Lois would feel better in female clothes than in men's shorts, Clark decided to fly into town to buy her something to wear. He understood that Lois needed to change before she went out. She needed to wear something that would help her feel more at ease and not so lost as she wandered around the town. He knew that Lois was going to be out and about for the first time in a very long time.
Clark spun into his Superman suit and smiled a bit self-consciously at Lois's transfixed expression. No matter how many times she'd already witnessed his spin change, she still harboured that look of awe and half-worry that she couldn't hide from him when faced with his obvious yet unbelievable abilities.
When he flew back he gave her the new clothing: he wasn't sure about her size, or which style Lois would prefer. So he had chosen a simple pair of jeans and a sweatshirt.
Clark had a lot of talents, but he wasn't so used to choosing female clothes. They were a little tight, but Lois didn't seem to care about that. She quickly dressed, with Alice's help, and then she was again near Clark.
He proposed flying them to the shop; they were going to take a cab on the return journey. Clark thought that doing both the car trips would be too tiring for Lois.
Then he gave her a reassuring nod and extended his arms out to her. Lois didn't hesitate, wrapping her hands around his neck as he easily lifted her in his arms. Clark securely held her to his chest before Alice determinedly strode towards them and locked her arms around his waist. Careful not to drop his precious burdens, Clark flew them slowly to Metropolis' center, not taking his eyes away from Lois to make sure she wasn't scared of a means of transportation she wasn't quite used to yet.
They came to a shop that was a favorite of Lois' years ago. Alice helped her to choose a dress and to put it on. She was very tired after that so Clark hurried to bring her back home. In minutes she was on the couch, asleep.
"Clark, how did you find her?"
Clark told her the whole story. He told her about the videotapes.
"Perry died inside when she vanished. For him she is really like a daughter. We tried to find her parents and sister. Who knows where they are? Lucy seemed to hang around with a guy who rode a motorcycle, I believe he played in a band. Her mother didn't make herself easy to find and her father … 'Doctor Lane is in surgery now … we'll have him call you back …' that was yesterday evening. I don't know. You didn't know her … she was always like a tornado … she buried herself in her work to hide her loneliness, like Perry always did" — she paused for a moment. "I must go now, but you swear that if you need me you'll call me!" Alice went toward the door and gave him a kiss on the cheek. "I remember that in the Daily Planet basement there are still some of Lois' things, dresses and some furniture I think. Perry put them there when the landlord wanted Lois' stuff out of her old apartment. I guess you could go there and see … "
In the late afternoon the doctor came again. He wanted to check on his patient and her strange nurse. He gave her some tonics and suggested exercises to do before she would be able to start physical therapy. He guessed that she would not be psychologically up to that kind of treatment yet. It was too early for her.
When the doctor left, Clark accompanied him to the front door. "I want to thank you again for taking Lois' case on personally. For agreeing to treat her here, rather than at the hospital. I know how busy you must and…"
"You don't have to thank me, Mr. Kent… I realised you really want to take care of her…and this is nothing…I owe you a lot…You saved the lives of my wife and daughter, when the Magnolia St. Elementary School collapsed… and by the way… I am a fan of Lois Lane, yes!…My youngest sister wanted to become a journalist from when she was small, because she wanted to be like her favourite investigative reporter! So…I'd do it anyway…for her… "
"Lois would be glad to know that!"
"Maybe I'll tell her… when she's more ready… Take care of her, Clark… Metropolis needs her to be Best Reporter again!"
"I'm not able to persuade her to eat. I don't know what to do…"
"I looked at the videotapes … you noticed the one for the last couple of days before you found her?
"Yes, I saw the dates on them."
"There's this voice there, the man who kidnapped her … all you heard was his voice … it's not possible to see him, I understand that he didn't let her eat for two days, then he started to force her … each bite was a … sexual intercourse … with him … since that time she didn't touch her food any more. Yesterday we gave her intravenous feeding … you try to convince her, or else tomorrow we'll have to do another one. She can't go without food for too long … I guess that was why she was not able to stand this morning."
"I'll do everything I can… Thanks so much doctor."
It was dark outside, Clark had cooked her something light to eat, something that wouldn't hurt her after her long fast. He sat down beside her and took a little bit of food on a spoon.
"Please, Lois … " The woman turned her face in order to make it harder for him to force her to eat.
Clark's tone became more firm, "Lois, I'm not going to force you to eat! But you need to! No one will ask you for something in return … " Then his face softened and he became teasing, "apart from doing the washing up … " She turned her face to meet his gaze. Clark tried again with the spoon, and this time she accepted it. Clark looked at her in wonder. He was honestly surprised but he wasted no time in giving her more to eat. It wasn't a very big meal, just four or five spoonfuls, but it was a start.
Lois saw Clark's eyes and the smile shining on his face. How long had it been since someone had "glowed" like that for her?
Lois slipped again into Clark's T-shirt and shorts, getting ready for the night. Clark offered her his bed, assuring her he was going to sleep on the couch. At that same moment someone knocked on the door. Lois froze suddenly, the noise had scared her.
A middle-aged man, with a thrilled expression on his face, looked at Clark.
"Mr. Kent? I'm Sam Lane. I know my daughter … it's true? Is Lois here? … Where … "
Clark shifted a bit and pointed toward the couch. The man hurried toward it.
"Lois … Lois, honey … you're alive … you're back … " Lois looked at him, but she didn't give any type of reaction.
Clark marveled, with Perry there was a very small reaction, but with this man she seemed to be almost indifferent. Clark concentrated on her heartbeat. It was accelerated, well, both of the heartbeats he listened to were, he wouldn't be able to distinguish them.
"Lois … say something … Princess … let me hear your voice … "
"Dr. Lane, Lois doesn't speak."
But the man seemed not to be listening to him. He held his daughter tightly and stayed this way for a couple of minutes. Lois found it hard to sit and keeping herself stiff in that embrace seemed to tire her very much, so it was that in that position she swayed. Dr. Lane moved aside and helped her to lean against the back of the couch where he looked her over carefully.
"Honey, you aren't well … I know you're safe and sound … well you are alive, but you aren't healthy — " The man felt her pulse, checked her eyes and did the few things he could do without his instruments. "What did they do to you? I'll help you recover, do you want that? I've always neglected both of you … I know and you don't know how much I want to make that better, please, let me help you to feel better."
Clark's eyes met Lois'. She seemed not to have any reaction to the man's words. Clark wondered why. If he'd been able to embrace his parents again he would be so happy, his meeting in the other universe proved that. Lois it seemed had more reaction to Perry than to her real father.
Dr. Lane stayed by Lois' side for a while, continuing to hold her hand. Clark noticed that it failed to create any feeling in her, it was like she wasn't there. He wondered if he should ask the man to leave, but the happiness on that strange man's face was so great that he didn't feel it was the right thing to do.
Clark informed him of what the doctor from the hospital had said about Lois, that she wasn't psychologically able to withstand physical therapy to tone up her muscles, and to help her regain her normal life. Clark was sure that this was essential for her. He was sure that only in this way would she start to talk again.
Clark brought Lois to the bedroom. He kept her in his arms until he reached the bed. Lois seemed so tired. He closed the windows, there was cold air coming in, and he left the bedroom door open so that she might see the light from the next room. Then he went back to his guest.
"Sam… you can call me Sam.. Super… Mr. Kent."
"I don't know how I can repay you for all you are doing for her." Clark seemed to want to interrupt him but the older man kept on. "No … let me say this. I don't know exactly what Lois went through during all these years but it must have been terrible. Maybe it's a good thing that my baby doesn't speak, she'd say some horrible things about me and she's probably right. I was a very good doctor and an execrable father. I was with my patients more than my family, I always was. But when I thought I'd lost her forever … it was worse than dying … I don't know if you can understand it … " Clark smiled, this man babbled as much as everyone who knew Lois said she had. "Let me help her … it's the only thing I can do in order to get her to try and forgive me."
"I'm sure you'll help Lois to recover quickly."
"Thanks … I'd hoped you would say that. I was never there for her. I was always out at my job … and I'm not speaking about when she was a baby, it was a few months before she vanished. She was wiped out … she had lost the love of her life … He was a reporter … oh my God, I don't even remember his name … Claude, yeah that's it … I believe they had been living together. I know they were close, very close … I never met him … "
"I don't know him … I mean I never heard about him … "
"He didn't work for the Planet, but they loved each other very much … "
The man stayed silent for a long time, then he brought his hands up and covered his face.
"God I'm such a disgraceful father! The last time I met with her, talked with her, was before she vanished, it was at Claude's funeral. The rest of the time it was only messages on an answering machine, no more than that. I guess she accepted that story about the weapons trafficking as a way of helping her forget all the hurt she had within herself."
The two men stayed quiet a long time, then the older man spoke again. "It's late … I guess you want to go to sleep … you do sleep, don't you?"
Clark smiled. "Yes, I sleep, usually … "
"This world, it's really strange, I mean … my baby is sleeping right in the next room and I'm here talking with a man who can fly. I love this crazy world!" The man started to laugh and Clark joined him.
The doctor looked in on his daughter again before he left. Thanking Clark again, he told him that he would be coming back the next day.
Clark had been sleeping for a couple of hours when a strange noise woke him. He slowly walked toward the bedroom where Lois was sleeping. He called to her.
He saw her sitting near the open window: "Lois … you'll get sick … why don't you go back to bed …" She shook her head firmly and he was immediately surprised. She looked at him, then she looked out the windows, then again at him, she did this three or four times. Clark came near the window and peered outside. It was a calm night, moonlight lighting all there was to see.
"The Moon?" She nodded. "Your bed?" She nodded again. Clark went to the bed and grabbed a blanket. He walked over to Lois and wrapped the blanket carefully around her. "Can I stay with you?" She stared at him for a couple of seconds then seemed to smile. Clark sat near her. Suddenly she leaned against his shoulder. Clark hesitantly slipped his arms around her, embracing her, he seemed to sense her smile.
The next morning Lois found herself in her bed. She sat up and looked around. It couldn't be a dream, it had to be true. She wasn't dreaming, Clark really existed,he really had brought her back to Metropolis. She had really come back to Metropolis. She started to really believe it. She got up and walked toward the kitchen. Her heart raced crazily and that alerted Clark to her presence.
"Good morning … " Clark looked at her and was astonished. Lois' eyes shone in a way he had never seen before. He was beside her in a moment.
"Lois?" She stretched her hand to his face, then slipped it down to his shoulder and then on to his arm. It slipped back to his shoulder and started to touch him with more strength, over and over, until it hit him, she has testing to make sure he was real.
A smile shone on her disbelieving face. She was safe, finally she was safe. Lois started to laugh, keeping her hand lightly on his shoulder. She laughed so much that she became breathless. Clark held her in his embrace and she lost herself in those arms. The laughter became a cry and then she started to sob, for the relief she felt at finally being found, that the hell she had suffered had really ended, for the happiness she felt to feel herself free again and to find that she was mentally sane. There really was a man who could fly, who had made her fly, he wasn't just a joke perpetrated on her by her insane mind. He was there and he was holding her tightly to him.
Clark asked for some time off from the Daily Planet and Mr. Olsen granted his request. He thought it quite strange, but he accepted that Clark would want to spend his vacation taking care of a woman he barely knew. Clark took her to do the errands she needed and to help her try to find her other family.
They talked quite a lot during the next three days, well, Clark talked a lot and Lois listened. He was starting to understand what the other Clark must have felt like the first time he met his Lois. For Clark what he felt for this woman was different from that which he felt for the first Lois, it was deeper, more caring. He was able to understand what she was thinking just by looking at her. She still held a deep sadness, but at least she felt herself alive again.
Suddenly he was needed to help with a disastrous avalanche in Europe that was having some devastating side effects. Clark explained the situation to her and flew off. Lois stayed and wandered about the house. She watched television, listened to some of Clark's CDs and let herself wonder about her new friend's tastes, she read books, tried writing something, went up in the attic and looked at Clark's stuff there. She found several souvenirs, photos and a mountain of paper: mail, books in several languages, old photos; a lot of them were from when he was a child with his parents, there were articles about him, but most of the other articles were by him.
She read quite a bit, especially Clark's work, it was strange, he had a completely different writing style from hers. It wasn't bad, it was from a different perspective, a different point of view.
After all this Clark was still not back, the whole day had passed. She heard some news on the TV, his help was really a miracle to the people in need. Lois decided to go to sleep, but the house scared her a bit. She had been living alone since she was sixteen years old, it had been hard but she did it. But the last three years had marked her deeply. She slept the whole night through in Clark's bed, without feeling the need to hide herself in some corner of the home.
Lois was dipping a spoon in a big tub of chocolate ice cream when she heard whistling in the next room so she leaned around the corner to check on what was making the noise. She heard the steps a few moments before she saw him materialize. She got up from the couch quickly and ran toward him. She stopped a few feet from him, smiling. Stretching out her hand she stroked his cheek, wiping the dirt from his face. He looked so tired, after all he had been gone a day and a half and had been going nonstop the whole time.
"Hi … It took longer than I expected … I'm sorry … " She shook her head, and kept smiling. "Were you bored?" She shook her head again slowly and pointed to the attic. "I need a shower … " he added before he left the room.
She ran to the kitchen and put water on to boil so that she could make a cup of tea for Clark, she opened the refrigerator looking for something to cook, but the refrigerator was quite empty. With what he had available there was nothing she could cook for him.
She went back to the sofa and picked up her ice cream and started to eat, waiting for her friend Clark to get out of the shower, refreshed. But by the look on his face Lois could see that he was still quite tired. Lois went and poured the tea and offered it to him. Clark smiled and she grinned back.
"Thanks!" She extended the ice cream toward him. "No thanks … I'll drink this." He pointed to the cup. "And then I'm going to sleep … did you eat all that ice cream?" Lois smiled, covering her mouth with her hand in embarrassment and rolled her eyes.
"Lois?" Clark's voice took on a more serious tone, but still very sweet. They looked at each other for a long time. "I'm glad that you're here … I'm glad that you're back!" Lois caressed his cheek again.
Clark said goodnight to her and approached the couch. Just before he sat down Lois caught his hand pulling him toward her. "What are you doing?" She pointed to the couch and firmly shook her head, then she pointed to herself and then to the couch; she pointed at Clark and then toward the bedroom
"You want me to sleep in the bedroom?" She nodded. "But you're still weak … " She pointed to herself again and then towards the couch. "No, Lois … " She made a move as if she were losing her patience, then without hesitation she pointed to the couch and beat her breast, then she forced him toward the bedroom and pushed him in that direction. "OK … OK, thanks, I understand … " Lois smiled and stopped pushing him. Clark turned and gave her a kiss on the cheek. "Night … sleep well … "
She nodded again with a smile. A couple of moments later, when Clark was under the blankets, Lois knocked on the open door. "Come in … tell me … I mean … what?" Lois approached the side of his bed, she bent toward Clark and gave him a light kiss on the cheek, then she nodded and went back to the living room, closing his door so he would not be disturbed by the light.
One afternoon, Clark flew her to the Daily Planet. As Alice had said, there was still of lot of Lois' stuff in the cellar of the building. Clark helped her to move some of them to his place. While she was looking around, Clark carried several boxes to Clinton Avenue. Lois kept looking at what she was going to take away. She put one hand on a box and Clark listened to her heartbeat racing furiously. On the box there were written only a couple of words: Lois & Claude.
"It's all right?"
She nodded, without trying to explain. She set her hand on the box again, then nodded, staring at him.
"You want this one too?"
She smiled, a sad smile, different from her previous ones.
Hours later, at home, Lois kept staring at the box, without making any attempt to open it. Clark was called away by an emergency, a gunshot somewhere near his place. He was able to hear it without the need to hear police alarms to alert him.
Lois stared at the box for another couple of minutes, then she stretched her hand toward the scissors that Clark had given her earlier, and with all the care she could, she opened it. In the same moment that the box was opened, she saw her face smiling at her from a picture. She remembered clearly the moment when it had been taken: he'd proposed and in the same moment, he had taken this picture. She'd agreed. She could see all the love they'd shared in her eyes: they were so happy then. There was a ton of mail under the phone and hidden between some of the letters a smaller photo of the man she loved. Lois didn't realize she was crying until tears rolled onto the glass of the photo. She wiped the tears with the back of her hand. Then a little scrap of velvet caught her attention. She opened it out and within a ring appeared. Her engagement ring. She held it to herself, with the photo.
'Oh, God, Claude. I've missed you so much.'
Lois wondered who had packed up all her things in these boxes and in such a logical way. There, in her memory box, there was also an almost empty bottle of Claude's cologne. She closed her eyes and breathed it in very deeply. The last time she'd breathed it…
"I like your cologne. You know it, don't you?"
"Of course, ma cherie, I love yours too…" Those had been his last words. They had been at a jeweler's shop choosing their wedding rings. Suddenly the door had opened and an armed robber came in with a shotgun in his hands. He had his face covered, Lois had only been able to see his eyes.
He cried out not to move…to lie down on the floor, not to make any false moves and to give him money and jewels.
Someone made an abrupt movement…the armed man turned towards them and shot. Lois was still able to remember the hurt, the fear. Claude had fallen before she could help him. She remembered her voice calling his name, she remembered the smell of blood, she remembered the hurt as though someone was pulling away at her own heart…
"Claude, Claude, Claude!!!" She remembered the warmth of his body. She remembered his face becoming pale. She remembered that his eyes didn't stop looking for her. Then she didn't remember anything. She simply didn't remember anything about else about that day. She didn't remember the police questions or how she was able to get back home. Nothing.
"Lois?" A hand was on her shoulder and that made her come back to the present. She laid her head to those fingers, caressing the hand with her cheek, then she nodded, smiling sadly.
Some days later …
Just as he had every day for the past few weeks, Sam Lane went to visit his daughter. Lois smiled that day when she saw him coming.
"I have so much vacation time saved up, I've never taken much, so I decided to take some now," he said. "To tell you the truth … I want to dedicate myself to you … " he added, caressing her face, "I thought that I might help you with your physical therapy. I have quite a lot of experience in rehabilitation. I also thought it would be better with me than with a stranger, don't you think? At least you'll save a lot that way."
"Sam, that would be terrific, wouldn't it?"
Lois grinned, stretching her hand toward her father.
"There is just one small problem, my physical therapy equipment is quite big … I don't think it would fit in your house. Do you know any other place for it?"
Clark was quiet for a moment. "How much space do you need?"
"Three rooms … more or less this size."
"The place doesn't have to be here in Metropolis, does it?"
"What are you thinking about?"
"In a few days I've got to go back to work again … and Superman hasn't been as visible around the world lately."
"Do you always talk about yourself in the third person?"
Clark smiled. "Sometimes … when I don't like what I'm saying … anyhow, Lois would be alone for several hours … and I don't think that is the safest thing. I was thinking … I have a place … we can go there, Lois would be much safer. It's quite solitary, anyone not welcome would have a hard time finding it, but it's not that far from town, about ten minutes by car … "
"It seems to be perfect!"
"Would you like that, Lois?" She stared into Clark's eyes. Clark smiled at her, but she didn't move a muscle, she remained quite passive, she didn't like this proposal.
"When can we go there?"
"Tomorrow, if that's fine for you."
"What about transportation? I mean I'll have to send all the machinery there … I'll need an address."
"No … I'll take care of it myself, no one must know that Lois is there!"
The man stared at him and Clark shook his head. There were still things about Lois that he didn't know. Sam told himself that he was going to have to take a moment and ask some more questions, maybe the next time his daughter left the room.
Lois didn't want to move or to communicate with Clark in any way. She barely acknowledged her father when he said goodbye, she sat in front of the TV and turned it on. Clark moved to sit next to her calling her name. She turned the volume on the TV up, in answer.
"Lois!" She switched off the TV and suddenly got up without looking at him. Clark was unable to understand what was wrong, he turned and walked in front of her. "Want to try and make me understand?" She stared at him, angry. She tried to move away, vainly, then she came back, turning her shoulder to him.
"Make me understand what happened!" Lois breathed hurriedly but Clark was unable to determine if it was from anger or because she felt hurt. "I've done something … that … hurt you?" She shifted her gaze away from him. Clark put his hand under her chin and slowly raised her head. "You know don't you, that I never want to hurt you … but I'm sorry, I don't understand." A sound interrupted him, "I … must go … there's been an explosion … I'll be back as soon as possible." And he flew away before she could say anything.
Lois sat on the couch again and switched on the TV. The images played before her but she really took no notice of them. She took the time to stop and think. Clark didn't want to send her away … he really wanted to take care of her. In his eyes there was something she couldn't remember ever having seen before. Nobody had ever looked at her that way. She couldn't believe that he would lie. He didn't want to send her away. She would never be able to describe that last look before he disappeared, but it was so full of love that she almost regretted her own anger. She decided to apologize to him somehow. She noticed he was on the screen in front of her. The pictures of Clark saving people trapped in a building were being shown on LNN. It was all so strange. She kept thinking about that man, the way he looked at her as if he had been waiting for her his entire life. She went into the kitchen and got some cookies and a glass of milk. The one problem with the tonics her father prescribed for her lately, she was always hungry. 'I really am going to be as big as a barrel!' she smiled to herself.
Then she looked back to the TV and met the gaze of the figure staring at her from the screen. And his voice, *that* voice. He spoke about some park he was going to donate to some organization. Lois started to tremble. Instinctively she threw the glass against the television, drawing back. It hadn't ended. Her nightmare wasn't over. She kept moving back until she found the corner of the wall where she crouched against it, trembling.
It was almost completely dark when Clark came home. He wondered why there were no lights on. He looked around, scanning for a sign of her presence. He could hear her heartbeat but he didn't see her immediately. The television screen lit up a small space around it. Clark noticed the broken glass and the trail of milk on the floor that started in the kitchen. He approached her, calling her name and he heard her heartbeat race. In a blur he was beside her. She was trembling in a way he hadn't seen since that first evening he had found her.
"Lois … honey … " He stretched his hand toward he and she threw herself into his arms.
What could he say? How could he make her better? He had a strange feeling that this scare was not linked with her angry attack that afternoon. He was quite sure that the two things were clearly separated.
He was able to do nothing but hold her while she burst out sobbing. He held her for a long time until she started to cough. He pulled away from her, smiling.
"I stink of smoke, don't I?" She nodded, wiping her tears and he smiled at her again. "You look like a chimneysweep … come on!" He helped her to get up and wiped the dirt of cinders from her cheek with his hand. "It was a pretty bad explosion … and I … well I seem to be the head chimneysweep, don't I?" She smiled at him. "I'm going to clean up and change clothes … OK?" But Lois grabbed him, not wanting him to leave. "I swear to you, before you can say … well I swear, I'm going to be quick!"
It was a reluctant Lois who let him leave. She kept watch on the doorway through whichhe had disappeared. Less than a minute later he was beside her again, washed and dressed. He moved his arms around her waist. "Better now?" She nodded, but she didn't know whether he was talking about her or himself.
Lois kept herself within that half embrace, he stared into her eyes. "Lois … how can I help you? Help me to help you … what happened?" She started to tremble and pointed to the television. "Was it something you saw?" She nodded, then shook her head. "Was there something on TV that scared you?" She nodded again. Clark tried to think. When he came in LNN was on TV, it must have been the news that scared her so much.
Later that night Clark was in a deep sleep on the couch. A strange feeling made him wake. He felt as if he were being observed. He opened his eyes and looked around. A pair of eyes were looking at him.
"Lois, are you all right?" She nodded but he was unable to see it.
He saw her move closer to him. She was trembling again. "Can't you sleep?" She shook her head.
"Can I do something, to make you feel better? Some herbal tea … something … " He seemed to almost hear her smile in the shadows, but she shook her head. Now she was just a few inches from him. Clark sat up on the couch. She sat next to him. Clark watched her, his eyes wide in astonishment, while she moved the covers and slipped under them, then she carefully made him lie down and she did the same next to him and held herself against his body. Then suddenly she sat upright again, gazing at him. Was she asking his permission?
Clark caressed her cheek with the back of his hand and this time, he was the one who nodded. Lois lay down again while he slipped his arms around her in order to avoid her falling from the couch, while she rested against his chest and her trembling slowly stopped. They slept together lost in that embrace.
A voice woke him again, a voice so close to him that Clark seemed almost able to touch it. He opened his eyes and turned toward the voice.
"Don't go … please … don't go away … " Lois was dreaming, and in her dream she was speaking. He stayed immobile and listened to that voice. So much longing, so much yearning. Her tone was so sad and so sweet in the same moment, what he wouldn't give just to have those words be for him? Unable to move for fear of waking her he lay still and listened to her, then suddenly … unexpectedly, "Clark … don't go away…" Instinctively Clark's arms tightened around her, just to make her feel his presence, a gesture which made her stop talking.
He was breathless for a long while, with such emotions as these he simply forgot to breathe. How long he had waited to hear that voice. How many times had he dreamed about hearing *his* Lois calling his name. And now she was in his arms. He couldn't believe it. His heart was racing wildly. Lois stretched in his arms, she opened her eyes and looked at him. Clark smiled and she grinned back. Lois' head was resting on his chest and his rapid heartbeat had woken her up. How ironic, he was the one who was grounded to her heartbeat to be able to know how and what she was feeling. Everything was all right, he was calm now. She leaned her head back down to his chest and fell back to sleep. Clark smiled, caressing her long hair.
The next morning, while Dr. Lane started his first physical therapy exercises with his daughter, Clark went to the Daily Planet. He had some things to do before he had to bring Lois, her father and all his equipment to Smallville. While he was there he grabbed the phone and dialed the number for LNN. He spoke to the person in charge of programming. Being Superman gave him advantages sometimes. He asked for the complete list of news items covered for the previous afternoon. The answer came a few minutes later, he would receive a fax with a list of the news items and the exact time they aired.
There was nothing that he thought would be able to traumatize her that way, a large portion of the afternoon was about Superman and the explosion the previous day. There were news items about the orphanage in Metropolis, one on drug use, coverage of Luthor donating a park to the Old Artists Foundation. Nothing strange. Nothing scary. Clark didn't understand. Suddenly he got a phone call that forced him to head home quickly.
Dr. Lane invited a delivery boy into the apartment. That was imprudent, but the boy didn't seem dangerous. The boy, who looked about seventeen years old, had a big bunch of flowers for Lois. Sam signed the receipt and gave the boy a tip.
Lois was curious, she took the flowers and picked up the card. Something made her change her mind. She gave a gaze at the bunch and she froze. Even before she read the card she became very pale. Those flowers. She remembered them all too well. It was the same type of bouquet that she'd received monthly from her captor, while he had tried to convince to come to him on her own.
Her hand trembled crazily while she opened the card.
"I miss you darling, one of these days I'll come for you."
Lois backed away abruptly and the bouquet of flowers fell on the floor. She started trembling as she had the previous afternoon, maybe even harder. She now realized that he knew where she was, that he could get her whenever he wanted. Maybe even right now!
Sam found her like that, shaking horribly and gave her a sedative, then he immediately phoned Clark. Clark was there next to Sam before he could even hang up the phone. Sam showed him the card and told him what had happened.
"I was right. Damn! Can you leave right now for the place I told you about yesterday?"
The man nodded.
"Well, get ready … Lois is going to sleep for a while, isn't she?"
"A couple of hours at least … I didn't give her anything too strong. I only wanted to get her calmed down.
"I'll be back in a couple of minutes. I'm going to make up the bed for Lois, then I'll be back to get her and you too. In the meantime … get comfortable."
Sam opened his mouth to answer but Clark had already vanished. He was gone less than two minutes before he was back to take Lois away. He covered her very heavily, as it was very cold out, then he flew her toward his childhood home. He carefully laid her on the bed and two minutes later her father was standing next to her.
Clark brought all the machinery in less than an hour. He then looked around. The house was not in great shape. It had been deserted for years and years. He had not been able to sell the house, it was something he couldn't do, it was one of the few things he longed for. How he loved that old place, how much he had loved the Kents. He gazed down at Lois as she lay sleeping.
Sam went about setting up his equipment. He found this story all so strange, but almost funny, to have flown with Superman. He wondered why his ex-wife and his other daughter could not be found.
Lois woke up slowly, then she opened her eyes and realized that she was not at Clark's place. She sat up in bed abruptly, very scared. Clark was beside her in a flash.
"It's OK … you're safe here … it's all right … " Lois embraced him. Being in his arms made her feel safe and secure. When Clark relaxed his hug a bit she looked around her.
"It was my parents' bedroom … I lived here with them … Martha and Jonathan Kent. The best parents I could ever have had … they really loved me so much … " The look in his eyes became very sad. Since she had met him she had never seen that look. Clark closed his eyes and breathed deeply, then smiled at her again.
"I have something for you … " He put his hand into his pocket and pulled out a wristwatch. It was very similar to the one he wore, but in a feminine version. "I asked Mr. Olsen to modify it for you. It has a special device in it which emits a sonic frequency that only I can hear … if you are in trouble for any reason , and I'm not with you … press this button and I'll be right there in a moment … " Lois caressed his cheek to thank him for his concern. Then she put it on and for a while kept looking at her wrist. Judging from the expression on her face Clark could tell that she liked it. She looked at it again then embraced him and gave him a big kiss on the cheek.
Clark wondered why the child-like expressions she had sometimes seemed so charming in a woman like her.
Clark took her on a tour of the house and the yard. He showed her the fields around the house, which, he said, had been tall and thick with corn when he'd been a child. His parents had been farmers. His greatest wish was to be able to transform the home into the cozy place it was when the Kents were still alive.
"I know it's not much now … but if you want we can go into Smallville. We can rent a pickup and get everything we need to make the place more homey … would you like that?"
She nodded. "For the next few weeks this is going to be your place. I want you to feel comfortable here and that's why you are going to choose the colors for the walls and all the rest." Lois nodded again and again; she seemed eager to get started.
She ran into the house toward her father. It was only a few feet, but it was enough to already leave her breathless. For a moment he imagined her ready to say "Dad, we are going to go out …" he stayed silent for a couple of moments waiting for the voice that did not come.
Dr. Lane looked at his daughter, he couldn't remember when he had seen her so beautiful. She was blossoming again. Then he thought for a moment. The last time he had seen her shine that way was when she told her family that she was going to marry Claude next spring. That spring never came.
Lois was really thrilled, this was the real thing, her first time to get out and around and explore the village. The few quick tours around Metropolis had always been so short. Today though, she had all the time she wanted. She stopped to look in all the shop windows in town, even if she didn't want to go into the shops. She had both arms around the one of her escort. Clark enjoyed himself just looking at her. Soon Lois stopped in front of a dress shop.
"You want one of those?" Her eyes shone and Clark didn't bother to wait anymore. A few moments later Lois had already chosen her dress, even before the owner of the shop had moved toward them.
"Clark?" An uncertain voice made them turn.
"Yes … "
"Oh my goodness! Johnny, come here … it's little Clark Kent! Run!"
The older lady moved over to Clark and embraced him.
"How much you've grown … but you still look the same … Oh, Martha would be so proud of you. I've seen what you can do … Oh … little Clark … " He smiled, embarrassed, but he returned the older lady's affections.
"Lois, I'd like to introduce you to 'Mom' Bolt."
"Well, now I'm a grandmother … I was just thinking … It seemed like yesterday that you and Martha came through that door. You've been away for so long … I never guessed that I'd see you again. Did you come to show your girlfriend where you were born?" then she realized her mistake, "Well, I mean where you grew up, I guess." Clark laughed.
"No… well in a way … Lois is going to stay at the Kents' place for a while…"
"That's quite a silent friend you have … or maybe she is just shy."
"Lois doesn't speak."
"Oh, I'm sorry honey … " Lois smiled a friendly smile and shook her head.
"Don't worry about it, Mom Bolt … "
"Johnny!" she cried again and a young man about Clark's age poked his head around the back door of the shop. "What is it, Mom?"
The boy looked at the stranger in the shop for a couple of seconds. "For God's sake! Clark!" The two men started to chat and Clark watched out of the corner of his eye as Mom Bolt brought Lois over to pick out her dress.
They talked a long time and when at last Clark heard the two women coming back he turned toward them. He stood there silent, unable to speak for a while.
"You are … gorgeous … " he said at last.
"Really!" added his friend.
Lois was doubtful, but she was happy anyway. It was strange to be out with Clark, he made her feel so safe that she was able to receive compliments from a stranger and not be scared by them.
"So, you need any help at the Kents' house? My brother and I are going to give you a hand …"
"Well we could use some help … but … "
"No buts, go do your shopping … then before dinner me and my brother Doug'll take you and all you've bought back to the farm!"
"Thanks!" Clark was deeply touched by the offer.
For the first time in a very long time someone was treating him like an ordinary person; well, excluding Lois. With her it was different, but the world had stopped treating him normally. Johnny had offered to bring their stuff home. That pleased Clark. They behaved around him not like he was the invincible Superhero, but like his wonderful parents' son.
Lois watched him for a long time when they had left the shop. It seemed to be another Clark who was standing near her, he was still the same kind, sweet and caring person, but he seemed calm, relaxed, almost as if he wasn't afraid to be himself. She wondered if she and her new friend were more similar than they seemed. Both of them, it seemed, hid their real personality from the world. It was strange, the Clark, the Superman, she had seen on TV was different. He was much more confident in himself, he seemed almost more stalwart.
"If I remember correctly in that coffee shop they had the best ice cream … you want some?" Lois nodded.
They went in and asked for the biggest ice cream sundaes they had. The boy serving them was clearly overwhelmed and very nervous. They sat at a table near a picture window so they were able to look out. What a strange effect it was. It was like he had returned to his past.
Lois looked around with a funny expression, then Clark saw her get up suddenly and he followed along right after her.
"What did you see?"
Lois stopped in front of a frame. Inside there were two pictures. One was of Superman, with his cute red cape. The other was one with a child sitting on a man's knees, while a woman, standing, held them. It was just an old discolored picture, but it was very sweet. The three people were sitting in that coffee shop. The colors had changed, but it was still very similar. Lois turned, pointing at him and then at the picture.
"It was I … I guess I was about two and a half years old, we were here … " Lois caressed his cheek, then she stretched her hand toward the photo and caressed it, then him again.
"Do you want to know if I miss them?" Lois nodded. "You can hardly imagine how much. I've had four wonderful parents and I've lost all of them … it's strange isn't it?" Lois held him tightly to herself. Clark stayed that way, quiet, for a long time. Lois looked at him. He had his eyes closed firmly and he was taking very deep breaths. After all these years it still hurt so much for him. It was strange, she was thought to be dead for years and her mother hadn't even phoned her. She even avoided being found.
Then Clark took a deep breath and pulled himself away from her. "The ice cream is waiting for us!"
A child approached them from behind the ice cream counter. "Mr. Superman … ehmmm well … I want … "
"Please, call me Clark."
"Thanks Super … I mean Clark …well my dad talks with me about you … and so … I wonder if you … well … " Clark looked at him, intrigued. "Well … Dad tells me that when you were a child you saved my mother … she is the best mom in the world … and so … I want … I wanted to thank you … " Clark looked at him, his eyes widening in recognition.
"You're Michelle's son?" The boy nodded. "Oh gosh, I didn't think you were so big already! Where is your mom?"
"At home with my sister … "
"How did you know I was here?"
"I was in the other room with Dad, I came in here and I saw you."
Clark caught the little boy in his arms and sat him on his knees.
"Dad said that he'll be coming out soon … he had ice cream all over his hands."
"Steven and Michelle's son… Oh boy."
A few moments later a man ran out of the back of the shop.
"Clark!!! I can't believe you're here. You're back … We thought we'd never see you!"
The two men hugged while Clark kept the laughing child he held wrapped in his free arm
They sat and had a long chat, while a happy Lois watched them.
Steven told some stories about Clark as a child. These were little different than the ones they had heard earlier that day and that was why Clark felt a little embarrassed.
Steven told how nine year old Clark didn't hesitate to throw himself into the river that flowed near Smallville when Michelle, who was four years younger, fell in trying to recover her favorite doll.
The adults around didn't have time to react, the boy dove in and swam with all his strength just to make sure that he would not be pulled down stream and then he caught little Michelle and brought her back to shore.
"Since I've known who … what you were able to do, I've always asked myself if you … well if you already had your powers when you did that … "
"I wasn't easily hurt, but I didn't have the strength I have now … and all the rest of my powers were developing slowly. I guess I was just a little stronger than an ordinary child."
"Boy, that was courageous!"
"No … I only had quicker reflexes … otherwise you'd have gone into … "
"I don't think so … I guess none of us would have done that, " he said sadly. "None of us children … that's because you know that he was always ready to protect us … every time … " The man turned to Lois. "You have no idea how many times he was ready to take the blame for other kids when he did nothing wrong … and our parents wouldn't punish him … it was very evident that he was not the guilty party … "
"It wasn't a big deal…"Clark whispered that statement but Steven gave him a tap on his shoulder.
"You know all too well that isn't true, Clark … if there was someone that was born to become Superman, well that's you … and I'm happy you *are* Superman. Just think, your powers in the hands of a crazy evil person … he'd conquer the whole world … in a moment!"
A mischievous light flashed in Clark's eyes, "How would you like to see me with a crown on my head and a scepter … I already have the red cape … " Then he shook his head. "Lois, I want you as an adviser of mine … most times you are quiet but you would never be boring." Lois laughed and threw a straw at him.
"Well, my advisor doesn't like that idea … "
"You are a strange one, Clark Kent!"
Lois stared at Steven's son. He was looking at Clark in a most incredible way. It was like he'd seen a comic book character materialize in front of him. She wondered if that was the look he tried to get away from, not the charmed look of a friend's son, but that same look from the rest of the world. She wondered if she too, somehow, ever looked at him that way. 'I hope not,' she told herself.
The afternoon kept on this way, shopping and meeting people. Clark was so happy and Lois enjoyed herself listening to all the anecdotes of Clark's childhood that they told her about.
He had been a strange child, the type that usually only existed in a writer's fantasy: cute, caring, always ready to help his friends, generous and never overbearing. She wondered if all the alien people from his planet were so "ideal", the perfect son, the perfect friend, the perfect pupil … who knew how he would be as a boyfriend? She knew he was single, he had said that the first day they met. She wondered what girl would be ready to share her partner with all the world. She wondered if *she* would be ready to do it. Then she became scared of her own thoughts, she had sworn to herself that there was not going to be another man in her life. Not after Claude. Now she barely remembered his face, how was it possible that so much love had vanished in that way?
It was almost dark when they got back to the farm. Johnny and his brother drove them and brought all the stuff they needed to paint the house.
Lois had fallen asleep leaning against Clark on the way to the farm.
"Lois … we're home … "
"Five minutes … " she murmured.
Johnny turned toward them. "I thought she was mute … "
Clark kept looking at her. "No … she doesn't speak because she's had a lot of trauma … but she'll do it whenever she wants … I guess she still doesn't trust enough to do it yet."
" I'm sure that if there's one person in the whole world who can make her able to talk again … well, you are the one!"
"I'm not saying it just to be nice … I'm sure of it!
Clark smiled at him then moved his mouth again toward her ear. "Honey, we're home." Lois, this time, rubbed her eyes and nodded. Clark reached toward her to gather her in his arms, but she refused. This surprised him, but he was more surprised by the smile she wore when she did it.
Clark took the largest part of the cans of paint himself, while the guys brought the brushes and the rest of their things.
Dr. Lane was a little worried about his daughter. He'd thought they were only going to be gone for half an hour. He checked out his daughter, who wasn't very happy about it, she seemed to be getting tired of always getting checked over. Sam decided to let her go.
The guys stayed a while. They cooked something to eat and then they stayed to talk for hours. Sam was the first to go to sleep and Lois stayed a while longer before she realized that she was unable to understand what they were talking about.
Clark offered to accompany her to her room, she was really tired, it was a day that had been full of emotions and she had walked a long time too. But she refused firmly, she was perfectly able to go to her room alone.
Before going upstairs she gave him a light kiss on his cheek and then she disappeared up the stairs.
"She is very nice… your friend…"
"Yes, she is."
"How long have you been together?"
"No … I mean … we aren't a couple … I've only known her less than ten days … "
"Well, wasn't it for her that you broke up with Lana?"
"No … Lana didn't accept me for what I am … and I understand her … I mean it's not normal that your husband flies in through the windows, right?"
"Then it's not your friend's fault? Lana said that you broke up with her because another woman came into your life!"
"That's not true. I mean, there was a girl when I broke up with Lana, but she only helped me to be what I am now … She went back to the man she loved just as soon as she could. Nothing happened with her. She was in love with someone else."
"I don't know … I felt something for her … something very deep. But I knew we were not fated to be together, it's very complicated … "
"Well, when was anything ever simple for you?"
"We are so glad to see you again, Clark … When you broke it off with Lana we thought we'd really lost you forever … I mean you never came back … after your parents …"
"I couldn't come here. Don't misunderstand me … All the time I spent here helped me to survive when I was in the orphanage. But when I came here I really realized what I had lost, and it hurt."
"Guys, you have no idea how much I've missed … you … this place … and all the other … "
"Why are you back … I mean, why now?'
"For Lois. I brought her here because it's a safe place. She is in real danger … and I can't protect her twenty-four hours a day. Here they won't be able to find her."
"You know that you can count on all of us … don't you?"
"I know that … I've always known it."
The next morning Lois woke up and stretched, enjoying the warmth of the blankets. She was feeling great. Calm, peaceful and serene. It felt like a hundred years since she'd felt that way. She got out of bed, trying not to make any noise. She made her way down to the kitchen where she got some orange juice and made herself some toast. She sat there eating with a big smile on her face. She felt free. Absolutely and perfectly free.
She waited, sitting by the window until the men got up. She didn't want to wake them. It was a strange day, it was cold and there was fog, not too much, but it was enough that it made the country seem like an enchanted place. She wondered lately if she was not daydreaming too much. She had used her fantasies to survive, but now, she didn't need them. No more.
The two men saw her there by the window when they got up. They hadn't slept much longer than she had. Her father kissed her and started to check his machinery. Clark caressed her head and then moved to the fridge. Not long after, that strange man had cooked a large country breakfast.
Lois was not too happy about having to start her exercises, she'd have preferred to go for another walk, but she knew she wasn't able to. Her muscles already hurt from the previous afternoon. So while Clark painted most of the house, and fixed part of the ceiling, Lois did her exercises. She stopped abruptly after three long hours of that "torture".
"Princess, I know that's not much fun … are you tired?" She nodded.
"I'll let you take a little break … we'll restart later with something a little less strenuous … " She gave him a kiss while he undid the bonds that tied her to the machine. Mentally she appreciated it that it was her father helping with her therapy. She didn't know how she would have reacted if someone else had held her that close to the machine. Probably she would have run away after a few minutes.
Lois went downstairs. Every muscle in her body hurt. She stopped in the middle of the stairs, she seemed to be in another house. Everything was completely cleaned. The walls had just been painted. The furniture was set in its proper place. She was amazed. She stood and admired her "almost" new place. It was a pity it was so far from Metropolis … she would have liked to live there. She wondered if she would be able to go back to Metropolis, maybe she could stay in Smallville and write her romance novel. With all the time she had had to think about it, all she had to do now was write it down, it was all completely clear in her head. She was going to be safe here, she was sure of it.
Clark came in a little later.
"Hi! Are you taking a break?" She nodded. It seemed that the sun had come into the house. Clark was happy, Lois was certain of it. She wondered how he felt about the house. It was so strange, she didn't miss her apartment. She missed it when she was trapped, but not for the place but for the safe feeling she had when she was in it.
Clark was dirty with paint, but varnish looked so funny on him that Lois couldn't help but stare at him, amused. He had been painting very quickly, he had probably used his powers.
"Come with me, I want to show you something … come on … " He grabbed her hand and dragged her outside.
"I swear I completely forgot about it … I don't know how it could happen … but I forgot … " He stopped in front of a tree and pointed to it. "You like it?" Lois didn't understand what he expected her to see, she looked at the tree trunk like she was supposed to see something in it, but she saw nothing. "No, not there … look up!" Lois looked up and finally saw the "surprise", there was a shelter up in the tree. "My father built it for me … It was going to be my birthday present. It's called "The Fortress of Solitude". Dad said every boy should have one of those … "Lois smiled sadly. How alone he must have been for so much of his life.
"I'm being stupid, aren't I?" he told her with sadness in his voice. "I know I seem like an immature child … or maybe I just am one … " Lois forced him to look into her eyes, taking his head in her hands. When he couldn't avoid looking at her, she, always staring him right in the eyes, slowly shook her head.
'You are not stupid … you couldn't be,' she thought.
Clark lowered his head until it touched Lois'. She held him to her and he did the same.
"God, Lois, I'm so glad you're here! You can't believe how much … " She raised her eyes and they locked with his and she leaned her hand on his chest, nodding.
'Me too. Clark… me too…'
They kept holding each other for a long time, both of them aware of how lucky they were that they had met each other. Lost in that, Lois felt herself ready to speak his name. It was a great effort for her. It was going to be the first word she had consciously said in a long time. Clark felt her breathe in deeply. A moment before her voice left her mouth she felt Clark stiffen in anguish. He pulled himself away from her suddenly.
"An earthquake … in Japan. I'll be back as soon as possible … I swear. If you need help, use the watch… " He gave her a tender, light and very quick kiss on her lips, vanishing before she was able to reciprocate.
She leaned against the tree, trying to hold back her tears. It was only a second since he had gone and it already seemed like a century. It was the most difficult separation in all her life. Even that time when Claude had gone to Europe to cover a story and he was going to be away for a whole month she hadn't suffered so much. In fact at the time she'd been happy, happy for the big opportunity this represented for him. She had still been too inexperienced a journalist for her to be able to go with him. But this time …
It was like her heart had been taken away. She was scared of those feelings. They were too strong for her. She hadn't felt anything but hurt for more than four years, since the spring Claude died. She was afraid to let herself go. She was scared of being hurt again. Scared of not being able to love someone again. The three years she had been abducted had marked her deeply, but the hurt for Claude had probably marked her more.
Her father called to her to restart the exercises. They really were lighter than the previous ones but they were hard anyway. Lois understood where Clark had heard about the earthquake, her father's radio spoke of nothing else. The most violent earthquake in the history of Japan. The news of Superman's arrival was like a miracle to the people.
Lois kept at it, without too much will, until the middle of the afternoon, then a brief break for something to eat and a massage to prevent the buildup of lactic acid. Lois' muscles would have been crying out loudly if there had been anyone able to hear them.
The newscaster kept talking about the catastrophe in Japan. Superman was working without respite in order to rescue anyone he found alive. He started with the hospitals and then with the houses. He had helped to build a field hospital and to move the critically injured. The news said that he seemed to be unable to stop himself. There had been two new tremors, perhaps as large as the first one, but he was unstoppable.
Lois understood that he wasn't going to be back this evening and suddenly that the house seemed empty. She felt selfish, she wanted him only for her, at least for a few days. Just enough time for her to restart her "normal" live. She told herself that she was being stupid … he was saving millions of people and she wanted to be so selfish as to keep him away from the world. Then she told herself that she had spent so much time from the rest of the world that she would really make an effort to share the man she loved with …
'What? Lois Lane, what the hell are you thinking? … You can't love Superman!!!'
'But I don't love Superman, I love Clark!'
'But Clark is Superman.'
'No … Clark becomes Superman when he wants to help, Clark is the real person … Superman is just something he does … without asking for something in exchange, but that has made him more alone than he was before! And I love the way he does what he does, but Superman is not the one I love … '
'Oh God, I'm becoming schizophrenic … I'm fighting with myself … '
'Calm down Lois … it's normal … you did it for more than three years … it's normal.'
'OK … but this has to stop now.'
"You're distraught, Princess … but it's all right. It's more important that you're relaxed. You were very good today … I never thought you were going to resist so much … " Lois smiled at her father.
"We never did talk too much, did we? It was my fault … I know … and I understand also that I was and an absentee parent … but God, honey, you don't know how much I'd like to hear you speak again."
Lois knew that her silence was hurting him. She had felt ready to do it today with Clark, it was just a moment, but if it would have been two seconds longer, she was sure shewould have done it. That was because with Clark she felt safer than she did with her own father. She still wondered to herself if he didn't have a girlfriend, she didn't think about if he was a faithful person, but overall she did wonder if he really loved her or if he were simply the most caring person on Earth.
'You're doing it again, Lois … you're talking with yourself. Why don't you do that with your father?'
'I'm sorry, Daddy … but I can't do it. I know I'll do it … but … I still can't …'
The evening seemed as if it would never end and soon she decided to go to sleep. She pushed aside her plate, having eaten little of her dinner. She was worried for her friend. She knew that he was not going to stop to eat or sleep. She was so tired, her muscles were hurting from the workout. Her father had done all he was able to help her avoid cramping, alternating exercise and massage, but her body was aching so much. She was almost immobile for three years, a lot of that crouched in a corner. And for the first time in a long time she was aware of her muscles … *All* her muscles!
The next day flew by like the previous one had, as did the next .
The third day that Clark was gone, Dr. Lane and his daughter went shopping in Smallville.
Lois tried to remember all the places she'd gone with Clark. She knew that there she wasn't going to be in any danger.
'You are too paranoid … what danger can there be here in the country? Nobody even knows you're here, not even Perry … '
They shopped for what they needed and afterward Lois stopped by the dress store that Clark had brought her to before.
"Hi! Clark isn't back yet, is he?" Lois shook her head while the woman held her in a tight embrace.
"I listened to the news yesterday … He isn't stopping, poor baby, he'll be dead tired when he comes… " Lois smiled sadly.
'Oh, how I'd like to be able to help him. How I'd like it if he wouldn't feel like he had to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders … '
"And are you OK, Honey?" This time, Lois' silent gesture was more firm… "And who is this nice gentleman? You're lucky … you always have really cute men around you." Lois laughed, embarrassing her father.
"Dr. Sam Lane, Sam to you … " he said, kissing the lady's hand. "And the lucky father of this wonderful daughter … " Lois blushed and averted her gaze. In all her life this was the first time her father had said something nice about her, and more than that he did it in front of someone else. She was starting to love this place.
Lois walked away from her father and started to browse around the shop until she found what she was looking for. She'd read somewhere that tomorrow was Clark's birthday. She wondered if he really was born on that day. Who knew if he would even be back by then?
The shop was a typical general store. There was a little of everything. She hadn't noticed all this stuff a few days ago. Then suddenly a T-shirt impressed her, she picked it up sure that it was exactly what she wanted. Then she thought to herself that it needed something else … but what?
While she was there she bought all the curtains she needed for the house and some pillows. Then she remembered that one of the things she loved to cook was chocolate cake. And, to make sure she didn't make a mistake with the recipe, she bought a recipe book. Clark was a really good cook, but she wanted to get back into cooking too.
Lois was looking at a painting while her father was busy moving the stuff they had bought to the rental car they had just gotten.
"Do you know who did this painting? Martha …Clark's mother did, she was very good with artistic things … in fact she was good at most everything!" Lois kept staring at the painting, she wanted to be able to ask a lot of questions of Mom Bolt, but she didn't feel herself ready to talk yet.
'You are a journalist … you don't speak … but you make yourself understood anyway!'
Before putting the last of her things in the car, Lois turned again toward Mom Bolt, then she changed her mind, but a moment before leaving she turned again.
"Sweetie, is there something you wanted to ask me?" Lois nodded, embarrassed, while her father waited quietly and watched her.
Lois kept staring at the older woman for a while.
At the beginning she pointed to herself, trying to mean her friend, but she soon realized that this was not the right way to go about this. She stilled and thought for a second and then traced an "S" on her chest.
"Clark?" Lois nodded.
"You want to get something else for Clark?" She shook her head, but then she nodded. Her hand moved to suggest something small and then she mimed a woman cradling a baby.
"Clark's mother? You want to know something about Clark's parents?" Lois' smile was triumphant. Her father was quite amazed, she might not talk but she was able to communicate somehow.
Lois sat down next to her and the lady asked, "What do you want to know?"
The woman spoke at great length and Lois listened attentively to every word. She talked about the crash, and what had happened after that, she talked of Martha and her strange paintings. She said that Wayne Irig, a neighbor of the Kents', might have some of them. He was a close friend to Jonathan and when the house was closed up he took as much as was possible. The strange thing was he never used any of the Kents' stuff, he simple took it and put it all in his cellar. He had also bought the farm, before Clark bought it back from him years later.
"He has a lot of stuff … and of course he also had some of her paintings … she was so good at painting … just like she was in the kitchen! Wayne said that if someday Clark wanted them he'd find them at his place." Lois smiled.
"Of course he is a little strange … but he is one of the nicest people … He knows a lot of … I'll ask him to stop by and visit you … is that OK?" Lois nodded, holding her hand.
"So…what do you have in mind?"
Lois pointed to the calendar and indicated the date of the next day.
"Tomorrow? That's Clark's birthday, right?" Lois nodded, smiling. It was amazing how easily the woman understood her.
"And that's why you're asking all these questions?" 'Lois smiled. She remembered — people used to tell her she was full of questions all the time. It was what had made her such a great reporter! She was suddenly glad that she'd asked. She had been hesitant at first, but the thought that she still had the talent to ferret out information with questions made her full of wonder and happiness.
"And your other present for Clark is going to be information about his parents?" Lois nodded again.
'It seemed like such a good idea … why do I suddenly feel so stupid?'
"Lois, that's a really nice thing to do. Tell you what, I'm going to help you … and you did want to surprise him? I'll give you a recipe for Martha's cake. It became a popular dish in this county … a lot of people tried to copy it, but just a few of us have the original recipe … "
Her father forced her to keep up with her exercises. She was fast becoming tired of the situation, she was tired of being treated like a child. Her father behaved toward her as if she were disabled. He treated her in a way that she wished he had treated her all those years ago. But he couldn't keep treating her as if she were nine years old, she wasn't now and maybe she never had been. She wanted to rebel, but her father had such a sweet and worried look about him. He, the side of her family the farthest away, had decided to take his vacation in an out of the way place like Kansas just to take care of his daughter. He avoided phones and faxes and all other interferences between his baby and the rest of the world.
At that moment she decided that she would give her father a couple of weeks, no longer. At least all of her father's attentions didn't bother her as much as they used to.
It was almost six o'clock when a car came up the driveway. The first snowflakes of the season were just starting to fall from the sky. How many years ago was it since she had seen snow like this, not dirty, city snow, but clean white snow like here on the meadow?
Lois quickly undid the belts that tied her to the machinery. Her father called out for her to be careful, but she was already on the stairs by that time.
She opened the door and saw a man extracting three large paintings, then a fourth one, much smaller, from his car.
She helped the man with the paintings and her father was behind her a few seconds later. After the incident with the flowers he didn't normally allow Lois to open the door alone. Clark had warned him that whoever had kidnapped her probably wouldn't need too much time to figure out she was in Smallville. That was why he avoided phone calls to Perry and had asked Dr. Lane to do the same. No phone calls and the cell phone was off, they were too easily traceable. When Sam had asked him if all this concern wasn't too much Clark answered that the man was able to organize Lois' kidnapping from the hospital in just a few hours, and that the kidnappers had mysteriously died during the night, in a fight at the prison.
The man gave her the larger paintings without hesitation. It seemed that Mom Bolt had been very persuasive with him, but on the smaller one he hesitated a quite a bit.
"This is my favorite … Martha loved all styles … but mostly moderns … but sometimes she made some "normal" paintings … And this is one of her most lovely." He gave it to her.
Lois took it in her hands and was unable to hold back the shock of her amazement. A painting of Clark as a baby, one could see the resemblance in that face. That painting told everyone who looked at it of the love Martha had felt for her baby.
"Yeah … it has the same effect on me too."
It was quite some time later when she sat down to read her recipe book. The recipes didn't seem too difficult and she amused herself by cooking one. She had all the ingredients, and incredibly it turned out very good.
But she made completely far too much. With what she had made for two people surely five people could have eaten; however, it was so good that her father took two helpings himself. Lois wasn't really hungry, her stomach still wouldn't let her eat like normal people yet. She covered the pot and then she put the cake she had made in the oven. She was quite tired but she forced herself to clean the kitchen. Even if the recipe had gone well, the kitchen was a disaster. She put off going to sleep and finished what she had started.
When Lois finished she found her father reading one of his medical books in his bedroom. Lois switched on the stereo Clark had brought on the day of the move. The soft music seemed to pamper her, she held a blanket around herself and sat on the couch and stared into the fire blazing in the fireplace. Clark had brought almost half of her old Metropolis home out here, just to make her feel more comfortable. Alice had been right, there was a lot of Lois' stuff at the Planet. Perry had been very hurt by her absence.
Soon she realized it was time to sleep. She looked at her watch. She had never let it leave her wrist since he had been gone.
'Stop it, Lois … it's time to go to bed.' She got up and made her way to the stairs. Suddenly a noise on the porch made her jump.
She turned toward the window and slowly approached, looking outside. She listened to the steps on the wooden porch, then slowly the door opened.
Lois ran up to him and held him, keeping him tightly to herself for a while. 'I missed you … I missed you so much!!!'
Clark embraced her back but with a bit less emphasis. Lois slowly let him go and raised her eyes toward his face. He was pale, tired, with dark bags under his eyes. But he was smiling at her as he strained to keep his eyes open.
"I'm a disaster … you've gotten yourself all dirty … "
She shrugged her shoulders and kept holding his hand. Lois caressed his unshaven face. What a strange effect the beard had on his face. She accompanied him to the couch.
"I've got to have a shower … I really need it."
Lois smiled and let him go and Clark walked slowly toward the bathroom. Lois ran to the kitchen to warm up the dinner. Probably he'd be too tired to eat very much but she knew that he hadn't eaten anything during the entire time he had been away. She brought two chairs near the couch and put the plate on them, Clark was still not back. She wondered if he felt OK. She was just about to go check on him when he came back into the room.
As soon as she saw him she rushed over to him and put her arms around his waist and helped him to the couch. Clark was practically asleep on his feet. He was able to eat what she had cooked, but he moved very slowly. Lois couldn't stop watching him. The time she spent taking his empty plate to the kitchen was enough for him to fall fast asleep sitting up on the couch. Lois tried waking him to help him to bed, but she soon gave up. She took her blanket and spread it out, covering him with it. With great effort she helped him to lie down. She leaned down to kiss him on the cheek, at the same time Clark moved a few inches and his arm wrapped around her holding her tightly to him, all this without his ever waking up. Lois closed her eyes and reveled in being in that position.
'Just a couple of minutes … then … I'll go to my room,' she thought.
She lay next to him and curled up under the same blanket. She felt safe held in that embrace. Even if he was sleeping he would be perfectly able to use his strange powers to protect her. She never wanted to get up again.
It was still very early when Sam went down to the kitchen for a glass of water. The embers in the fireplace were glowing but the fire had been out for a while. He looked and saw a shadow of someone on the couch. Lois, he guessed. He approached her and the image of who was on the couch became clear. His daughter embraced by that man, with such a peaceful look, as he had never seen on her before on her. And the man was holding her with a look that clearly spoke of affection, maybe even love. He covered them with the blanket that had slipped to the floor during the night. Neither of them seemed cold, from what Sam knew Clark didn't feel the cold and Lois just held herself more tightly to him for warmth.
They seemed really happy together.
Sam let them sleep and went back to his room without making any noise.
Lois was the first to wake up some hours later. She opened her eyes and took a deep breath. Clark felt her move in his arms. He opened his eyes too and stared deeply into hers. "Good morning, " he said. She stretched up to kiss him. Clark was very surprised when their lips met each other. Lois pulled away a few inches to see if he was uncomfortable with the kiss. Clark stared at her, immobile. From her position she was able to hear his racing heartbeat. She held herself to him again and hid her face against his chest. Clark wrapped his arms around her tenderly.
Lois' hand slipped up his arm, up to his shoulder then on to his cheek. Clark looked around the room.
"I can see that you worked hard while I was away, I like the curtains you put … " He was going to say more when he noticed a parcel on the table in the sitting room. On it was placed a card.
With his enhanced vision he didn't have to strain to read it, even in that position.
"Happy birthday with love Lois"
"It's … it's for me? How did you know?"
She shrugged her shoulders.
"Can I open it?"
She nodded, smiling.
Clark got up to get the present. "You shouldn't have … but thanks … "
Lois made a motion for him to hurry up and open the present, she was becoming impatient. Then she stopped him with another move. She ran into the kitchen and took the cake she had baked out of the refrigerator.
She took the cake, a knife, two forks, and a couple of smaller plates and she poured some milk for herself and Clark and brought it all into the living room on a tray. She rejoined him on the couch.
Clark held his present. Lois stared at him, trying to figure out if he had peeked. He laughed, recognizing that look.
"I didn't peek … I swear. Can I open it now?" She nodded.
"You also baked a cake?" She nodded again.
"That's just great!" She smiled, he didn't seem to recognize it.
Clark opened his present and started to laugh loudly. Lois was so happy that he liked her present.
Clark stared at the T-shirt for a long time and kept laughing.
Lois was the only one who would think to buy him a super-hero T-shirt. He held her tightly.
"You are completely crazy!" he said, his movements almost making the tray fall.
Lois grinned back and motioned toward the cake.
"Exactly what I need. I'm starving!!!"
He took the first bite. "It's so good … I've never eaten a cake so good in all … " he stopped suddenly. The taste was so extraordinarily familiar. He started to chew more slowly, tasting heartily. What could this strange feeling be …?
Lois realized that he was having a hard time placing the taste, she gave him the sheet Mom Bolt had given her the previous day.
Clark's look changed suddenly upon reading:
"Martha's Famous Cake."
Lois stared at him, he was very still for a very long time, time to Lois that seemed an eternity. She told herself she was stupid. She was completely wrong. She had made him sad, when all she had wanted to do was to make him happy. She lowered her eyes and moved a step backward. Clark caught the move and took her hand.
Lois kept staring at the floor.
" It was such a nice thought!" He thought for a while, searching for the right words. "It was really very nice of you. It's one of the nicest presents I've ever had."
Clark's voice was sincere, but Lois was not so sure. But there were also the paintings and suddenly she wasn't sure she wanted to give them to him.
'They are his … it's right that he have them… '
Without looking at his face she brought him over in front of the opposite wall. On the floor were the four paintings. She bent down and gave them to him, keeping his portrait until last.
"And what are these?" Then he recognized the signature. Clark laid them against the couch in order to look at them, one at a time. Lois simply watched him.
Clark kept the portrait of himself in his hands, caressing the profile with his thumbs.
For a couple of minutes he stared at it, almost without breathing. Lois was immobile, scared that she had been completely wrong in giving them to him.
Clark saw her from the corner of his eye as she approached and laid a hand on his arm in a tentative gesture.
He pulled her into his arms and held her tightly. "Thank you … thank you … thank you … " he kept saying, over and over. Lois hid her face between Clark's shoulder and neck. He felt the warmth of her tears against his body, and at that moment he realized that he was crying too. He wiped his eyes with the back of his hand and then pulled Lois away a bit to look deeply into her eyes.
"That is the most beautiful thing anybody has ever done for me … I … I really don't know how to thank you … " Lois held herself against his body, enjoying the comfort she found there.
Some hours later Lois peeked her head around the back door. It had had been snowing since the previous evening and not stopped until just a few minutes ago. She wanted to dive into that white sea. She felt a little embarrassed, but she had dreamt of the snow so many times while she had been held captive in that place …
She went outside, slowly, trying not to make any noise. She took a few steps, it was very hard as the snow came up to her knees. She reached the hill behind the house and sat down at its peak. She was so lost in her own thoughts she didn't hear the sound of approaching footsteps.
Suddenly a snowball hit her on the shoulder.
She grabbed some snow and threw it while turning toward the point the snowball had come from, there was no one there. She turned back and suddenly Clark was in front of her with his hands full of snow. Lois hit his hands, pushing them toward his face.
"That's not fair!!"
Lois smiled slyly, raised her eyebrow and ran away.
Clark ran right behind her, matching her efforts to move through the snow. 'He's not taking advantage of his powers!' she realized.
Some minutes later both of them were covered with snow from head to foot. Lois was flushed inthe face from the cold and the exertion of the run.
Clark was some way behind her and didn't notice in time that Lois stepped the wrong way and hurt herself. Instinctively she did what she had been doing for such a long time when she needed to protect herself: she crouched down.
Clark heard her hold her breath for a couple of seconds and he was next to her in a blink of an eye.
"Are you hurting?" Lois nodded, reaching down toward her knee.
"Are you able to get up?" Lois leaned against him for help, tried to take a step, but her leg refused to cooperate. A second later Clark was already gathering her up in his arms. She stretched her arms around his neck and rested her head against his chest. From her position she was able to hear Clark's heart beating quickly.
Clark used his x-ray vision to check her injured knee, it was a little swollen but not seriously damaged. An ice pack and some ointment and it would be good as new in a few hours.
Clark made her sit on the couch while he got the ice and ointment and applied it to her knee. He then sat down beside her while she rested. Lois leaned over and put her head on his chest. She stayed in that position, close against his chest with Clark holding her, for a long time, each enjoying the other's company.
The next day it was already time to go into town for supplies. Lois hadn't thought that Clark would be so hungry upon his return from Japan and the supplies were used up quickly. Clark apologized for himself, saying that he could go in alone, but Lois wouldn't hear of it. They went to town together.
Most of the snow had already been cleared and the roads were free. The car moved quietly through the snow covered scenery. Lois had a strange look on her face and Clark was unable to help himself looking at her every time he could take his eyes from the road.
Lois suddenly realized she was being observed and she blushed and turned her eyes from her friend.
"Are you all right?" She nodded without looking at him. Clark kept staring at her. She gave him a very quick look then kept her gaze focused out the windshield in front of her.
"You are strange … " he said to her, smiling. Lois looked at him, as her eyes shone, and pointed at herself. 'Am *I* the strange one?'
There weren't many people around, maybe it was too cold. Clark went into a couple of shops to buy some things while Lois stopped and looked in the shop windows. She was a bit cold, but suddenly her desire to meet people was not so strong. That, and she guessed that Clark might want to see his friends alone. In order to move away from the window she made a step backwards, she didn't notice that at that same moment someone was leaving the shop.
Lois turned and raised her hand in order to apologize for herself.
"I never would have believed he'd have the nerve to bring you here! Did you come to show everybody how happy you are???"
Lois instinctively took a step backward. 'How can I explain that I'm not the person she thinks I am?'
"Well, my darling Miss Lane! You should at least apologize for yourself!" Lois slowly started to shake her head. She didn't understand what was happening.
"Don't think that I don't know. You are with him just because he is Superman! And believe me he'll understand it sooner or later … then he'll remember we've been together since we were children … and he betrayed me!! What makes you believe that he won't do the same to you!" Lois kept shaking her head, not knowing how to react.
"Ah … " the woman added, "there is one little thing I've wanted to do since the start of this story …" She made a step toward Lois and with a resounding smack hit her in the middle of her face. "That's for taking my man!!!"
Clark came out of the shop with a big box in his hands, just in time to catch the end of the scene.
Lois kept staring at the woman in front of her. Clark was next to her within a second. He set his hand on her shoulder but Lois turned away.
"Lois, are you OK?" The woman looked at him for some moments with eyes that were filled with rage. "Lana, what the hell are you doing?!"
"She deserved it, didn't she?"
"No!! She had no part in it!!!"
Lois stared at him and her mind was screaming, 'Him too!!! Like all the others … he broke up with her because he had another woman … he is just like all the other men!!! Claude, where are you when I need you?'
Lois went back to the car without looking at anyone.
"What the hell were you thinking??" Clark was fuming.
"You might have at least had the good taste not to bring her here … These are *my* *friends* *here* … do you have to show everybody the face of the girl I was dumped for???"
"It's not her fault that we broke up!!! You know that only too well!"
"Oh no?" she said ironically.
"NO! I've known her less than three weeks!!"
"Oh right, well … and that woman that looks so much like her … that one that appeared in the newsroom two years ago … that one called Lois Lane … that one that blew up our wedding … who was she?"
"It was another person!"
"Liar!! How many Lois Lanes have you known?"
Clark stared at her calmly and with an almost scary, cold look. She had never seen that look upon his face before.
"Two … Lana… two."
And he walked away without saying another word.
Lois sat in the car, her hands clasped in front of her so tightly, they had turned bone white. She seemed to be even colder than she was earlier. Clark got into the car. "I'm sorry… she didn't hurt, you did she? Well, I hope this … " Clark stretched his hand toward her, but she moved away from him roughly.
"Lois … " But she turned toward her window with no intention of communicating with him.
'He's a liar just like all the others … Oh why?!'
"Lois … look at me!" he implored, but she refused.
"It wasn't like Lana said … I didn't break up with her because there was another woman … it is right that there was someone else in my life … but nothing happened between us … she was the best friend I'd had in all my life … she helped me to become what I am now, to make me accept who I really am and not the person Lana wanted … but then she went away … She was in love with someone else … " He paused for a moment, then he added sadly, "nothing happened between us."
'How can I believe him???? The last time I trusted someone I found myself being held captive for three years … I can't allow it … I lost Claude … my heart couldn't bear losing someone I love, again!!! I've got to stop loving him … it's the only solution … Oh Clark, why?!?!?!'
Clark kept trying to talk to her but Lois refused to listen to him. When the car stopped near the house Lois flew out the door, not waiting for the engine to be turned off. She heard him crying her name … she ran to her bedroom and closed him out.
Lois ran away before Clark was able to persuade her to listen to him.
He saw her vanish into the house and lock herself into her bedroom.
He called to her … vainly.
He tried to speak with her, but the door stayed closed and no answer was forthcoming.
Clark spun into the Suit and flew away, not caring where he flew.
Clark needed to find something to do, something to keep his mind busy while waiting for an idea to come that would help him explain the truth to Lois. The truth about the other Lois, about the other universe, how much the first Lois Lane had changed his life, how meeting her had eventually given him a sense of himself, how much he felt himself complete when he held her in his arms. He wondered if she would understand, he wondered if she would be willing to share her life with him.
Lois was his only thought throughout the day. He visited a very worried Perry, reassuring him of Lois' safety. There had been no news about Lois' mother or sister. He wondered why.
Lois left her room after two hours, when she heard her father talking rather loudly. She knew Clark wasn't home, she'd seen him vanish into the clouds and hadn't heard him return. She took a shower and changed into a clean pair of pants and a sweatshirt. She didn't realize that she had left the watch Clark had given her in the bathroom.
Lois watched her father for a few seconds. He was engrossed, with his head in the workings of one of his machines. She went down to the kitchen and opened the fridge. She started to take out the ingredients she would need for the recipe she planned on making for that night's dinner. One of the greatest advantages of having had a French boyfriend was that she had learned her way around a kitchen. She had never thought she was able to cook, but Claude had been a very good teacher.
Lois looked around, she needed some flour. She remembered perfectly that she had bought some and she remembered that Clark had put it in the cellar, but he had called it the larder.
'I can't wait for Clark to come back and my father is so engrossed in that stupid machine … he'll be at it for the next two days before he moves from it! AND I don't want to wait for Clark … '
She went out and stood in front of the entrance to the cellar. It was the first time since she had escaped from her prison that she had come to a place like this one. Frankly, she wasn't feeling very calm.
'What do you want to do? Do you want to wait for him??? You do that and you'll make him feel indispensable!!!! And people like him always enjoy that!!! YOU ARE LOIS LANE!!! Nobody ever did anything for you at your old place. You never asked anyone for anything! And besides it's just a stupid sack of flour!!!!'
Lois took a deep breath before opening the door. 'Come on, just a couple of seconds and you'll be out again!'
She flung the door open, letting it fall completely open, then she went in.
The flour was probably in the cupboard just inside the door. Just ten steps. She made first one and then another, then she became quite worried and she moved more slowly. The light from outside was enough for her to see clearly all the way.
She stretched her hand toward the furniture in front of her and suddenly the light changed.
She turned immediately toward the door, she had seen it close, she ran but before she was able to gain the steps it closed completely. She started to breathe frantically. It was so very dark …
'Calm down Lois … you'll get out, you just have to find that damn handle … but where in the hell is it?!?! There aren't any handles here!!!' She tried to push with all her might until the shoulder she was using to force the door started to hurt. She started to beat upon the door. … No answer.
It was all so dark…
'Calm down Lois … You're going to get out soon … ' she told herself, then she let herself slip to the floor. Her hair was still wet, as it had been when she was in the Congo and she marked the passing of time by the temperature and the weather.
She shut her eyes in order to help them adjust better to the darkness. She opened them slowly and looked around her but there was only darkness. Then suddenly something a little lighter than its surroundings caught her attention. She leaned towards it and with mounting horror realized that it was a mirror. 'NO … wait I have my watch!!!' Instinctively she touched her wrist, but she was terrified when she realized that it was missing.
'NO!! It can't be just a dream … there was Daddy … and Perry … and Clark!!!!! Please Clark, help me!!!!' The tears rolled down her restless cheeks with no way to stop them. 'Please Clark, tell me you exist … Tell me that man isn't going to come in here right now!!! Tell me it's all over … I need you!!! I wouldn't be able to survive without you … I lost Claude, I can't lose you too … I couldn't stand it.!' She stared into the mirror, or at least the little she was able to see. 'I can't bear to see that man again! Clark!!! Tell me you exist!!!'
She thought she heard the sound of a helicopter in her head. The last three years that sound had announced that that man was coming. Was this why they had switched off the light? But then she *really* wasn't in a tiny town in Kansas … How could she think that a man existed that could fly? How could she think her father would help her … How could she think that a man as extraordinary as Clark would love her?
She crouched, as she did so many time before, waiting for the opening of the door. She wondered if the man was going to keep his promise and he would kill her, eventually.
Clark was flying over the Atlantic ocean when he suddenly felt as that something was wrong. Lois was in trouble. It was such a strong feeling, he could feel her fear as he had never felt her before. In a few seconds he was again home.
He ran into the house calling her name. Her father raised his head from his machine. "I saw her half an hour ago … she went to take a shower, maybe she's drying her hair … " Clark didn't wait to hear the rest of the statement, he ran to her bedroom but found no trace of Lois, but he did see her watch sitting in the bathroom.
Clark left the bedroom and within seconds he had checked the whole house, but he found nothing. He went outside into the yard near the fields and again, nothing. He turned and saw the cellar door and noticed that it didn't look right. It was closed differently than it should be, the hook on the outside was closed but not tightly. Sometimes the door closed on its own as it was quite heavy. He walked towards it and then his super-hearing perceived a heartbeat.
He opened the door quickly. He looked in and saw Lois move back along the floor, she trembled and she was crying. She had to make a concerted effort just to breathe, that was how scared she was.
He crouched down and softly called her name. "Lois … It's me … " Lois kept moving backward, her hands were covering her ears in an effort to block out the sound of the voice she hated, the voice she believed had come again for her.
The sudden light had blinded her and she didn't recognize him.
Lois felt the man move closer to her and she prayed that all of this would end quickly.
Clark extended his hand in a halting manner toward her and brushed her hand lightly. Instinctively Lois moved away.
'Please … don't make me have to start this all again with her … ' he prayed, but at the same moment Lois stretched her hand toward him.
His hand was warm, the way he moved, the feeling she had just being close to him was like nothing she had ever felt for any man before, but with only one… and now he was near her. Lois threw herself into his arms, crying and kissing him.
At first Clark was surprised, then he answered her kisses that were burning on his lips.
Clark's kisses wiped away her tears and Lois felt as if she were in paradise in his arms, arms she had been afraid to imagine.
She cared about nothing now but being in the arms of the man she loved. She cared not about Lana nor the rest of the world, she cared just for Clark. In that one moment he was her world, as she was his.
'I swear to you, I've never been better in my whole life … but don't stop kissing me!'
She thought about answering him aloud, but she was sure that the surprise of that would make him stop what he was doing, and that was the last thing she wanted.
They stayed holding and kissing each other for a long time. Lois had been quite shaken by the experience and more so from the intensity of the feelings it had brought back to her. She hadn't realized how deeply she loved him until the moment when she was sure that she had lost him forever.
Once she had calmed down Clark made her sit down and he started to tell her all about his past. He told her about his relationship with Lana, about how they were going to be married, about how she was the only one who knew of his true origins. He told her how one day a woman showed up suddenly at the Planet.
"She was a reporter that had worked at the Planet years ago, before I started there, but she was thought to be dead."
"The first thing she did when she saw me was to kiss me … It was one of the most incredible feelings I've ever felt … I don't know how to explain it to you … it was like I'd known her ever since …"
" … Lana wasn't very pleased with that kiss … Anyway the woman convinced Perry to partner us, and he of course agreed. He was so happy to see her again, he would have done anything for her. When we were alone, well … almost alone … there was a strange man with her … he said he was HG Wells." Lois made a face at that statement. "Yep, the writer … and she told me the truth: she was Lois Lane, she knew everything about me … how I was found by my adoptive parents, about Jor-El and Lara, my real parents, she knew about my super powers … '
"She and Mr. Wells had come from a parallel universe … I've been there too, you know. It's quite similar to ours … well, anyhow … In our Metropolis a man named Tempus was trying to get elected mayor … he was a violent and power-hungry man … he based his whole political campaign on the preparation for the imminent arrival of an enemy … You know Metropolis … at the time Tempus was around it was even more violent … nobody walked around unarmed, it was too dangerous … People were scared … Lois told me how in her world there was another Clark, he was from Krypton too … and all the rest. He had created a secret identity … Superman … and this permitted him to have an ordinary life as Daily Planet reporter Clark Kent and to help the world as Superman."
"Anyhow, Lois helped me to create a Superman in this dimension too, but Tempus exploited that, he said that I was an alien and I was the enemy he had come to destroy. … At the end Tempus vanished back to his own dimension but not before my secret was revealed to the world. So … that, in fact, is how Superman was born. I asked Lois to stay here with me … but she loved her Clark … and she was right to go back to him. Lana never accepted the fact that I was *different*. When she understood I was no longer going to hide it she went away. It is probably true I would have broken it off with her if she hadn't … but it wasn't Lois' fault! She loved and loves her Clark. When she left, I couldn't believe you were dead … I felt you weren't … I tried to look for you … I swear. … I looked with everything I had, with all my power … and I never gave up hope … " He stilled then and stared at Lois. Suddenly she looked sad, it was as if what he had told her had hurt her.
He knew what she was thinking. He took her hand in one of his and gently forced her to look into his eyes.
"You're wrong … I'm not in love with you because you seem so much like her … " Clark could hear Lois' heart beating wildly at his words. He lowered his gaze a little embarrassed. "I love you, period … I love you because I feel that you are the one I want to spend my whole life with … even if it scared me for a while … I love you because when you touch me I can feel shivers all along my spine … I love you for the way you light up a room every time you smile. I love you for the way you get mad when we don't do something the way you want it done. I love you because I feel that you are the right one for me …" Lois' hand trembled as she reached for Clark's face. She touched his cheek and he turned toward her for a kiss. She found herself in a passionate kiss, being held in an embrace that she wished would go on forever.
After a while Clark continued his talk. "You know when I went to the other universe … I felt very jealous. That Clark is really the luckiest man on Earth… His parents are still alive and they are extraordinary… He has Lois close to him… I envied his relationship with her … but not for Lois, even if she is wonderful… but for what they have together … for the magic of their relationship … it's what I've always looked for… what I hoped to find … and that is what I feel when you are near me … They say they're soul mates … who knows … maybe we are too!" He stopped a moment. "Lois? I've never spoken so much in all my life … since the moment I met you … "
Lois smiled against his chest. It felt so good to listen to him speak, being held in his arms, she was able to listen to his words and his heart at the same time.
Dr. Lane really worked miracles on his daughter's muscles. In no time she was perfectly healed and they were planning to go backto Metropolis soon. There they planned to pursue an investigation into Lois' kidnapper. Clark hadn't been able to find anything useful so far, there was very little useful evidence at all. The house where he found Lois was owned by a man who had died ten years before Lois' kidnapping. The man who had helped Clark to find *his* Lois had vanished, and of course the kidnappers from the hospital had been killed.
Lois was cooking crepes for Clark and her father, the radio was on in the background. She was stirring the batter and listening to the two men speak about the most incredible things they had seen in their lives. It reminded her of the ending of "Blade Runner".
Suddenly a voice crept into Lois' mind. The spoon she had in her hand stopped in midair, Lois was paralyzed for a few moments, then … almost trembling, she turned toward the radio. It wouldn't take much to go and switch it off, but just the idea of going near the source of that hated and feared sound seemed unbearable to her.
Clark noticed immediately and stopped what he was doing, he was beside her in a second.
"Hey … what happened?" Lois trembled, even if she had tried to stop she knew she couldn't.
Lois pointed to the radio.
"It's that radio that's bothering you?" She shook her head, never stopping her staring at the hated device.
"It's the person who's talking?"
She nodded, slowly.
Clark could hear her heart racing wildly. She was scared almost to death. He made her set the spoon on the table and took her into his arms, but Lois was much too stiff to relax into his embrace.
" … and that was Lex Luthor's speech … from Metropolis … and from Marian McBrite that's all … '
"Lex Luthor??? He was the one who kidnapped you???"
She nodded again, slowly, all the while her heart was racing furiously.
"The third richest man in the world … of course he would be able to organize a kidnapping so quickly … " Clark was quite nervous … he wanted to pace back and forth across the room to help him calm down … but he knew that Lois needed him close to her.
"We'll be able to catch him … he'll pay for all he did to you … " She folded into his arms, feeling safe. "Now we know who he is … we can be on guard … don't you think? I swear to you that I'll do everything in my power to see that nothing happens to you … You'll see, I won't let anything happen!!!" Lois smiled when he gave her a kiss.
'I feel so safe when you are with me … and not because of your superpowers, but for the way you hold me, the way you kiss me … '
Clark was obsessed all day; he was worried. He had never liked Luthor, he'd always thought he wasn't the philanthropist that everyone believed him to be. There were too many strange accidents at his company … too many people disappearing, mysteriously vanishing, among his employees.
A few days after Clark's arrival in Metropolis, the city, the whole country, was shocked by the deaths of the "pioneers" of the Prometheus project. Clark didn't know what to think at the beginning but, after some investigation, he didn't need a lot of time to find out that Luthor was probably involved. There just wasn't any evidence, and when someone seemed ready to talk he just vanished, or he was moved to a different job, usually with a large increase in pay.
Again the radio interrupted them, there was a news flash, a couple of kids were trapped in a mine shaft. It was impossible to excavate because of the danger of landslides in the area and the shaft itself was filling up with water.
Clark was gone in less than half a second.
Lois stayed to look out the window for a few moments after he was gone. There was something … she had a strange feeling that she was unable to understand.
She shivered with that feeling. As she was looking out the window she saw a shadow move, then suddenly the door opened and two armed men came in. Lois instinctively reached for the watch on her wrist, then she thought about the two children in the shaft. If she called Clark they would certainly die. She knew what it meant to be a captive. She decided to give Clark time to free them.
She stepped back a couple of steps and from the back door she heard two more people come in. Seconds later her father was coming down the stairs but he was stopped by one of the men who was pointing a shotgun at him.
The sound of footsteps caught her attention. They sounded loud against the wood of the porch.
She would recognize those footsteps if she lived to be a thousand. They had been in her nightmares for too long. Lois took a deep breath.
Strangely she was not trembling, she wondered why.
"Oh … Darling … how are you? I can see you feel better … perfect, this way you'll be in much better shape when we finally get to play together." Lois threw him a hateful glance but she didn't move an inch.
Her father tried to move forward to protect his daughter but the man in front of him stopped Sam with a blow from the stock of his shotgun. Sam fell to the floor immediately. Lois turned toward her father but her legs were immobile. She didn't want to let Lex Luthor know that she was scared, he had been playing with her for far too long. She knew he wasn't going to stop.
"Oh, Dr. Lane … you should know that you can't trifle with armed men … " Luthor approached, offering his hand to help the older man stand, a hand that Sam promptly refused. "You should be more polite to the one that is going to take your daughter away … "
"Superman will be here before you can do anything!!!"
"Really??? With those poor children trapped … That was a good idea, wasn't it? It's such a pity that he's to stupid to realize that the children are fakes … they're in a place that is so impervious he's going to need a lifetime to reach them." Realizing what was happening, Lois pushed the button on her watch before he had even finished his statement.
Clark studied the situation, he could hear the two children moaning even without his superpowers. One of them cried because his leg was hurt and the other because he wanted his mom.
He tried to calm them down, but the two kids seemed not to hear him. A loud, noisy crowd had formed around them, the news had spread quickly and drew plenty of curiosity seekers. He was able to see the children even without his x-ray vision and he saw that they were stuck in the shaft in an unnatural position. The children seemed quite hurt, they weren't moving, but their moans were uninterrupted.
Clark said that he was going to get to them quickly but one of the security people told him that the ground was quite unstable and if he touched things the wrong way it could start a landslide that would overrun the nearby town.
Clark stood there for a while, examining the options he had, trying to find a solution.
At that moment Clark noticed something strange, he heard the children's voices stop simultaneously, then he heard what sounded like an auto-reverse device in action and next thing he knew the children's voices started up again at the same time. Clark tried to explore the shaft a bit more closely this time. He saw for the first time an audio tape player, then he looked more closely at the children and saw that they weren't real, none of this was true.
He stood still for a moment, not knowing how to react, when another sound came to his ears. He knew he hadn't heard it before but there was only one person who could be making it.
He flew away in a second.
Lex stood directly in front of Lois and was looking at her with the air of one who has the situation well in hand. He had found her and nothing was going to go wrong. His men had invaded the house, two of them had the woman's father covered with their guns and two others were on lookout watching both entrances. Sam kept staring at his daughter, his body trembling as he thought of her fate.
If only Lex had Clark's super-hearing he would have realized how much the woman's heart was racing.
"You know, darling, I think this time I'm not going to wait until you decide … of course with your cooperation it would be more fun … but you'll see, we'll enjoy ourselves anyway." He stretched his hand toward her and brushed her shoulder. Lois slapped him in the face with all the strength she had.
Lex stepped toward her pointing his finger at her. "Your father is going to die by the time I count three if you are not more affectionate with me … "
'He can't do that!' Again he laid his hand on her shoulder and Lois made to avoid the contact. She was able to see that the anger on the man's face had grown beyond all measure.
"All right, as you prefer … you want to play hard to get, then I'll make this worth your while! ONE … now, what do you want to do?!" His hand started to move toward her arms and she stepped back.
"And now we come to number two … now then have you decided what is going to be the destiny of our dear Dr. Lane, Darling?"
Lois looked at her father and saw that he hadn't the power to do anything to help her.
Sam smiled gently at her and shook his head.
Luthor moved his mouth toward Lois' and instinctively she turned her head.
"As you prefer … then this is thr … " Lois caught his arms, her eyes barely holding back her tears.
'I can't allow him to do it … I can't let him do it!!'
"Did you change your mind? If I had known it would be this easy I would have captured your father earlier … but I didn't think you cared that much for him."
Sam made as if to run toward his daughter but the same man who hit him stopped him again. Lois made to defend her father, but Luthor held her fast by her arm.
"Take him upstairs." Lois moved toward her father again. "Do you want your father to come with us??? Do you want your father to be with us when you make me become a very lucky man? Do you want him to be with us when … " Luthor continued, uttering a stream of obscenities that Lois tried not to listen to.
Luthor changed his position … holding her from behind her shoulders, hindering in this way any movement she might make. "Come on … before your friend comes back …"
'Clark … '
Lois hadn't even finished her thought when a gust of wind took her away. Just at that moment her tears flowed unrestrained from her eyes.
A moment later they were on the porch, Clark gave her a light kiss on the lips to calm her down. "Are you all right?" She nodded, wiping her tears and still trembling. "Stay here and don't move …" She nodded again and she saw Clark streak into the house.
Seconds later he untied Sam after he had tied his guard with his two friends. He had done this so quickly, they hadn't had time to react. From downstairs, Clark could hear Lex's screams.
Clark appeared in front of him.
"Shoot! Kill him!!!" Luthor's men emptied their cartridge clips but Clark caught all the bullets with ease. He had a strange smile on his face, almost as if he found this funny. When the gunshots ended he turned toward Luthor and showed him the bullets in his hands. He smashed all but one of them holding it out toward Luthor.
"There's just one thing you didn't count on Luthor, I'm a lot faster than a speeding bullet … and now you're going to be spending a long time in jail, it's funny, isn't it?"
The two henchmen dropped their guns and tried to run away but Clark immobilized them before they had taken one step.
He next grabbed Luthor and tied him up tightly, the whole while listening to Luthor's insults. Clark stared at him for a moment with satisfaction such as he'd never felt in his life. It was Lois' voice that brought him back to reality.
Lois' voice? Clark was out of the house in the blink of an eye
Lois saw her father exit from the back door some moments after Clark had gone in. She ran toward him and held him tightly. Doing the same to her, Sam tried to move her further from the house for protection. It was then that they heard the sounds of gunfire. Lois tried to run back to the house but her father wouldn't allow her to go back.
"CLARK!!!" she cried, desperately.
Seconds later he was standing next to her.
"I'm fine … they didn't hurt me … " She kept caressing his face making certain that he really was all right. "It's over, Lois … This time it's really over."
She didn't hear him, she just kept kissing him and calling his name. "I love you, Clark … " she kept repeating. He held her tightly, holding back his impulse to shout to the world how happy he was that she had said his name, that she had told him she loved him.
" Me too, Lois, more than anything in the world!"
She kept saying his name, they never even noticed when Sam got his mobile phone to call for the police. He left the two of them alone. He could hear his daughter saying the name of the man she loved without stopping, she seemed to be making up for lost time.
"Forever, Clark! "