By Margaret Brignell <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted September 2000
Summary: The final installment in the "Only You" series. Lois and Clark struggle to find themselves and each other. But will Metropolis allow them?
This is the fifth in a series of fanfics that came out of an idea by Laurie F. She liked my Pre-Metropolis Clark stories (The Rules, The Long Road, and The One) and thought this set would also make a good story.
In order to fully understand this story, you need to read "Only You: If Only", "Only You: Promise", "Only You: Recall" and "Only You: Reality" if you have not already done so:) It might also help to have seen the episode "Tempus, Anyone?"
I acknowledge that I am just borrowing the characters created for the television show "Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman." However, the story and additional characters came from the brain of myself and the people who are kind enough to proof my work:) It should be noted that in this story too, the British spelling prevails:)
I would like to thank my proofers, Laurie F., Lynda L., Lauren W., APP, Hazel and Peace for their input and support.
Special thanks to REB in Kansas for local colour, and to Debby S. for providing a copy of the relevant scripts:) Both helped me make the story believable:)
Words surrounded by * are emphasized.
Previously in "Only You" Clark lost his parents at age ten and bounced around a variety of foster homes. Lana Lang is not the only one who knows the secret of his origins. Clark recently discovered his love for Lois Lane who has now confessed she isn't as good at relationships as he had thought.
The saga continues:
Only You: Fantasy
by Margaret Brignell June 1998 email@example.com
Metropolis, New Troy — June 14, 1997
Lois felt dazed and confused. The last thing she remembered was being hit on the head. Now there was a bright light shining into her closed eyes. Her body throbbed with pain, and the sound of someone's maniacal laugh only made the pain worse.
Fingers gripped her jaw. She opened her eyes and glared at the laughing dentist. Between clenched teeth she declared, "You're not going to get away with this."
The dentist laughed again. "Sure… but it's fun." He finished filling her tooth and stepped back away from her, a satisfied grin on his face. Leaning forward so that his nose almost touched hers, he whispered, "Now, my assistants will help you die!"
Lois struggled as a burly guy dressed in camouflage fatigues pulled her up and out of the chair. He pushed her in the direction of the hut door. The demented dentist laughed uproariously. "Lois! If I were you I'd run! Boris here is known to rip people's arms out if he isn't careful!"
Gulping back a sob, Lois pulled away from Boris and tried to get to the doorway to make her escape, but she got tangled in the chair, and then in the hem of her pants and then some loose army fatigues lying on the dirt floor and just as she finally made it to the door and freedom, she felt Boris grab her by the throat…
"…It's the Metro Radio Morning Show! Ladies and gentlemen, 'King of the Airwaves'—Harold Stein!"
Lois jerked to a sitting position and swallowed a scream.
"All right! Very good, very good and at my side is my queen, Rowena…!"
It was her clock radio. She was home. She was in bed. It was morning and the sun was struggling to get in between the drawn curtains. She breathed in and out, in and out, until the trembling stopped. It had only been a dream, a horrible dream. She took a very deep breath, then swinging her feet over the edge of the bed, slipped them into her slippers and stood up. She crossed the room and shut off the radio on her way to the bathroom. The excruciatingly energetic voice was no match for her mood.
She brushed her hair away from her face, held it in place with a hair band and started to wash. Dr. Friskin would be here in less than an hour for their appointment. She needed to focus on getting ready for the interview and then going to work. Pushing the memory of that ghastly dream into the back corner of her mind, she concentrated on the task at hand. As she went through her morning routine, memories of last night filtered through, blocking out her uneasiness.
Last night Clark had come and brought her Chinese food…authentic Chinese food…and they'd talked, and they had kissed. Lois smiled at the memory of that kiss. It had been beautiful. It had been the perfect ending to a great evening. Well, if you ignored the fact that she'd spilled the beans on her lack of experience. But all in all, it had been a truly memorable evening. She'd opened her childhood memory box and then she had remembered! It felt good to not to have those gaping holes in her mind. She could hardly wait to let Dr. Friskin know that good news.
She tried calling Clark at home and then at the office, but all she got was his voice mail. She wasn't exactly sure what to say, so she didn't leave a message. She could talk to him when she got to work. Hopefully, by then he would be finished with whatever he was doing right now.
"So what you're telling me, Professor Daitch, is that within six weeks this asteroid will collide with Earth?" Clark removed his eye from the telescope eyepiece.
Professor Daitch was wringing his hands, "Yes, and you're our only hope for diverting it."
"Pardon me, Professor, but I beg to differ. There's always the tactical nuclear option," General Zeitlin interrupted. "I still maintain it's our most reliable solution."
The professor and the general had gone through this argument several times already. The general wanted to blow up the asteroid before anyone knew it was coming. The professor and the President's secretary wanted Clark to deal with it, with the full knowledge of the public.
Clark thought that the general wasn't being very realistic about no-one ever finding out about the danger. Clark knew there were enough amateur astronomers to discover the asteroid before the general could 'take care' of the problem, and that would create world-wide panic. He turned to the general and said, "You can't keep this a secret."
Secretary Cosgrove intervened, "The President *will* tell the people, but he wants to avoid panic, too. He simply wants to get you on board before making an announcement."
"I see. So we're agreed that the nuclear option isn't viable at this time?"
"Yes. With something this size, I think there is no military option." Cosgrove frowned at the general. "We've looked into modifying a rocket, but the President's scientific advisors believe, at best, it would be a fifty-fifty proposition."
General Zeitlin sputtered. "I beg to differ! The military option is the *only* viable solution!"
Secretary Cosgrove was getting agitated and snatched at Clark's arm. "Please say 'yes'! The country needs your help, Superman. So does the world."
Clark could also see the general's blood pressure rising. "General, how much lead time do you need for your solution?"
"Two weeks, maybe as little as ten days."
In an effort to maximize the possible solutions, Clark said, "So, if I try to resolve the problem in the next four weeks, and fail, that would still leave you time for the tactical nuclear option?"
The general pursed his lips, as if considering the matter. "Yes, that would be so."
Secretary Cosgrove slapped Clark on the shoulder and said, "I'm sure you can do it! I've never really liked the possibility of nuclear rain falling down on our heads."
"Of course," Clark sincerely agreed. "However, I will be flying a million miles into space to stop this piece of rock the size of Metropolis. I know that it's travelling faster than any spacecraft we've ever made; but if I stop it out there, then there won't be any question of nuclear fallout."
General Zeitlin asked, "Can you?"
Clark shrugged, "I don't know. I guess we're about to find out what I can do."
Promptly at 9:00 a.m. Dr. Friskin arrived at Lois' apartment for their first weekly appointment away from Dr. Friskin's office. Lois had barely let Dr. Friskin get seated when she blurted out her news.
"Dr. Friskin, I remember! Finally, I remember!"
"That's wonderful, Lois. What triggered your remembering?" Dr. Friskin asked as she recorded Lois' remarks.
"Clark came over last night and helped me unpack. We found the keepsake box I created when I was little, and as I went through it I suddenly remembered everything! I remember the great things, like winning my first Kerth and starting at the Daily Planet," she paused for a second, her tone turning wry, "and some of the not so great things… but, I remember!" She ended on a happy note.
"Very good, Lois." Dr. Friskin continued taking notes. "It's good that you remember both the good and the bad things. You've mentioned a couple of the good things. What kind of not so great things do you remember?"
"Well, there's my parents and why they are like they are, and Steve and…" Lois stopped, the image of the laughing dentist sprang to the front of her mind.
"What is it, Lois?"
"I… I had this nightmare… Clark and I had this wonderful time last night and I remembered so much, and it was great… and then I had this horrible nightmare and it spoiled everything." Lois clenched her fist, and then deliberately relaxed her hands, trying to remain calm.
"Can you describe the nightmare?" Dr. Friskin asked, pen poised over her notebook.
Lois nodded. "There was this mad dentist… He danced around me, gloating and threatening me. He was enjoying torturing me… He was filling a tooth, I think." Lois paused, trembling.
Dr. Friskin made some notes. "Do you have any idea why you would be dreaming about a dentist?"
Lois shook her head, and glumly said, "No."
"Dreams usually combine things you thought about that day. Did you think about a dentist yesterday, make an appointment with your dentist?"
Lois shook her head.
"What you describe sounds a bit like the dentist in 'Little Shop of Horrors', did you watch that recently?"
Lois shook her head, again. "I've never seen it."
Dr. Friskin made more notes. "Someone did actually put a mechanism for mind control in your back molar. Are you sure it was really a dream?"
"You think it was a memory?" Lois wanted to deny the possibility, but… She got up and started pacing. "You're right! It was a memory of what Tempus did to me! I can't get it out of my head. His laugh. I can still hear his laugh." Lois covered her ears. She visualized the scene in the hut. Suddenly it was as if she were *in* the hut:
"This…Superman…What are you going to do to him?"
"That's on a need to know basis, Lois…and you won't need to know—because you'll be *dead*!"
Lois blanched. The last thing she saw was the man giving a chopping hand signal. She felt a sudden dull pain at the back of her head, the room swayed and she fell into darkness.
Then she was back in the hut tied into a chair with a bright light shining into her face. She had closed her eyes to get away from the brightness and clenched her teeth to prevent herself from whimpering from the pain she was feeling. She felt like she had been dragged across rough ground.
The bright light flickered away for a moment. She opened her eyes and quickly closed them again—shutting out the sight of Tempus, laughing as he danced around her. "Now, Lois, open wide. I have to give you a filling. It won't hurt, at least not yet!" Then there was another bout of laughter.
She felt fingers grip her jaw. She opened her eyes and glared at the him. Between clenched teeth she declared, "You're not going to get away this."
"With what, Lois?" His grip on her tightened.
Lois struggled helplessly. "This… It's sadistic."
Tempus laughed again. "Sure… but it's fun." Not so gently prying her jaw apart he whispered, "Now, Lois, it doesn't pay to try to avoid the pain. The more you try to avoid it the better it is. I want to torture you, terrify you… send you into spasms of sheer horror." He grinned at her. "It's all part of the plan."
"Plan?" Lois stared in horror as his left hand approached with some kind of sharp dental implement. What kind of madman was this?
"I'm a villain, Lois, we always have a plan." He laughed again. "But, not just one plan, Lois. *Plans*! A horde of plans! I have the power to hold the world in my fist. If by some miracle you survive, and this…," he waved the instrument about, "…doesn't prevent you from meeting a big, brawny guy in blue, then I have other plans. Plans that will ultimately succeed in changing the future. Someone must destroy Superman—before his descendants create Utopia."
Trying to stall the inevitable, Lois asked, "Why?"
"Utopia!" Tempus grimaced and continued, "Because, Lois, Utopia is a terrible place. A world of peace. A world without greed or crime." There was a definite sneer in his tone of voice, as if lack of such things was somehow immoral and decadent. "A world so boring you'd blow your brains out but there are no guns." He moved her jaw so that she was forced to look into his eyes. "You want to know the future, Miss Lane? No one works, no one argues, there are nine thousand channels and nothing on! Well, I'm going to do something about that." He let go of her jaw to hit his chest for emphasis. "One man is ready to lay down his life to save this world from Utopia! And that man is me!"
This guy was definitely a taco short of a combo plate. However, before she could try to divert him so she might be able to get away, he once again grasped her chin so there was no possible means for her to escape. He then manoeuvred the instrument into her mouth, ignoring her struggles. He squinted into her open jaw and continued in a whisper, "And if all else fails, I will go back to the nether reaches of time and destroy everyone in *every* dimension in order to make sure that all the versions of Superman in all of the dimensions are destroyed." His voice became intense. "Of course, it will mean my own end too, but by redirecting an asteroid to be on a collision course with Earth, I will truly save humanity from a fate worse than death!" He finished whatever he was doing and stepped back away from her, a satisfied grin on his face.
Appalled, Lois cried out, "You're insane!"
Tempus cackled again. "I knew you would say that! I knew it! I love predictable behaviour! Now, my assistants will help you to leave." Leaning forward so that his nose almost touched hers he whispered. "They will make sure that you die! However, Lois, if by some chance you *are* able to get that big guy dressed in blue to come and rescue you, then you'll know what *real* suffering is!"
A burly guy dressed in camouflage fatigues pulled her up and out of the chair. He pushed her in the direction of the hut door. The demented Tempus laughed uproariously. "Lois! If I were you I'd run! Boris here is a throwback to more primitive times, he's not as gentle as I am."
Gulping back a sob, Lois pulled away from Boris and dove for the doorway to make her escape. Just outside the hut, Boris caught her and started to beat her into submission. Somewhere deep down within herself she called on her martial arts skills and kicked out, catching him off guard. In the moments that she had gained for herself, she scrambled to her feet and ran in a last hopeless plunge through the trees, stumbling and grasping at branches as she desperately tried to get away.
Dr. Friskin was holding her by the arm, asking her something, but she didn't know what. "And, the pain. I remember the pain, and the beating and the gunshot, and… and… r-r-running for my life." She remembered running, and running, and running, and the pain, and the sound like thunder, and the sudden increase in pain…and… She remembered! She remembered everything! She remembered every terrible moment! Lois' knees no longer supported her. She slowly slid to the floor — as Dr. Friskin and her living-room receded into the distance.
Lois opened her eyes, and found herself lying on the love-seat in her living-room. She looked up into Dr. Friskin's concerned face.
Lois felt disoriented. "What happened?"
"You fainted. Whatever you remembered was too much for you to endure."
"I thought I was going to die…and I did. Only Clark came, and now I'm not dead. And Clark loves me. I have a second chance at life! And…and, I don't know what to do." She knew she was sounding hysterical, but she didn't care.
Dr. Friskin helped Lois to a sitting position. "Lois, it's only natural that you feel overwhelmed right now. You're remembering a very critical part of your life. You say you don't know what you are going to do now that you remember this event. What would you like to do?"
"I don't know. I'm confused." Lois pushed her hair away from her face with her fingers. "I want to be well and last night I thought I was finally through with my problems. Now I not only remember, I remember too much! I can't think about what to do next because all those memories keep crowding out everything else." Lois grabbed a Kleenex from the box on the end table and blew her nose.
Dr. Friskin moved back to the chair she had been sitting in before Lois' collapse. "Lois, you need to understand that this period in your recovery, when you first have your full memory, will be harder to deal with than when you only had partial memory. You need time to deal with these newfound issues and memories. I think it would be a good idea if you didn't go into the office for a few days."
"But… I can't just take time off work. It's impossible!"
Dr. Friskin leaned forward and with a reassuring tone in her voice explained, "Lois, you need time to deal with your memories. Right now, you aren't able to control what you remember, and how you will react to the memories. Do you really want to go through what you just did in the middle of the newsroom with half the Planet watching?"
Lois shook her head. "Not really, and I don't want to go back to the way I was at Suttcliffe." Lois paused and took a deep breath. "But, I can't just sit here and stare at four walls. That *would* drive me insane!"
"No, I agree. You should not be alone at this juncture. Is there someone who could come and stay with you?"
Lois shook her head. "No."
"Could you go and stay with your parents for a few days?"
"Well, you could go somewhere else. Is there anyone you can feel comfortable visiting?"
Lois nodded, slowly. "Yes, I have a friend in Kansas City. When I talked to him last week, he said that he and his wife would love to have me come and visit."
"That sounds wonderful!" Dr. Friskin closed her notebook. "I think you should do that as soon as possible. Now let me call Mrs. DeVries to emphasize that you need some time off. Dealing with your newly found memories *will* take time."
"No, I'll call her."
"Good. Do that today. You shouldn't be alone for long periods of time, until you get your memories under control. Please call me if you have another relapse."
Lois nodded her agreement and saw Dr. Friskin to the door, and then called Timmy.
Timmy and Lori were wonderful. They didn't even mention that it was only 8:00 in the morning in Kansas, and had no problem with her last-minute visit. They even made it sound almost as if it were *their* idea and *not* an imposition.
Clark stepped off the elevator into the Planet newsroom, just after 10:00 a.m. and immediately scanned the room for Lois. She wasn't anywhere in sight. Disappointed, Clark walked down the ramp and across the newsroom floor to his desk.
He was about to sit down and flip on his computer when the newest office boy, Tony, told him that Mrs. DeVries wanted to see him.
Mrs. DeVries rose as he entered her office. She asked him to sit and then got down to the reason for his being there, "Clark, I wanted to ask you to take on some of Lois Lane's work while she takes a few days off work."
"Lois! Is she all right?"
"I think she's basically fine. Her doctor has recommended she take a few days off to recover from an experience she had last night."
Clark felt the blood drain from his face. Last night they'd kissed. Was that the 'experience' that she needed to recover from? "She…she seemed fine when I last saw her. What happened?"
"I didn't ask for details. I just know that Dr. Friskin strongly recommends some time off while Lois copes with this latest development, and I've granted it." Mrs. DeVries let this sink in, then continued, "Now, I know you and Lois have finished with the Reagan/Bush assassination case, could you make sure Lois' and your own files are sent to the morgue?"
Clark nodded. He was having trouble keeping his mind focussed on the here and now.
"There's an amateur astronomer out in the Midwest who thinks the sky is falling, I'd like for you to check that out."
Before he could stop himself, Clark blurted out, "That won't be necessary."
Mrs. DeVries looked up from her notes. "Why not?"
Clark now remembered he'd promised not to say anything until the President had made his announcement. He opened his mouth, wondering how he could get around his gaffe.
"Never mind. I assume that Superman knows what it means." Mrs. DeVries sat in her chair. "Should I be preparing for some kind of announcement?"
"A big announcement?" Mrs. DeVries must have read the answer in his eyes. "But, Superman is sworn to secrecy, right?"
Clark nodded again.
She exhaled. "Okay, Clark. But when the Superman story hits, just make sure we get the exclusive, huh?"
"The Daily Planet always gets Superman exclusives." Clark wondered why she had even asked. Was he missing something here?
Mrs. DeVries gave an exasperated sigh. She ran through the rest of the potential stories on her list, finally dismissing Clark to get started on two of the less time critical ones. Clark knew from past experience that this was her way of telling him to get on with whatever Superman had to do, but try to get some kind of copy to her as best he could.
Clark left Mrs. DeVries' office and went back to his desk. He was in a quandary about whether or not to phone Lois to find out what was wrong. He really wanted to talk to her, but he was afraid. If Lois really was having trouble dealing with their kiss, he wasn't sure he really wanted to know. But then, Lois had made it clear that he should be helping her to help himself.
He had promised Lois to make an appointment with Timmy Neer for help with his emotional struggles. He definitely needed help now, so he dialled Tim while he waited for his computer to boot up.
"Dr. Neer's office."
"Tim? Is that you?" Clark was surprised to hear Tim's voice, he had expected voice mail, or a receptionist to answer.
"Clark! How are you doing? Why are you calling my business line?"
Clark coughed quietly and waited for the new office boy to get out of eavesdropping distance. Nervously, he said, "I wanted to make an appointment to see you, professionally."
"Let me see. If you can wait until 2:30 Kansas time, I have a free opening then."
"This afternoon?" Clark had thought he would have to wait several weeks for an appointment.
"Normally, Saturday is my day off. However, today I have someone else coming in if she can get a flight, so I can fit you in then."
"Thanks, Tim. Two-thirty it is!"
Clark hung up the phone, relieved to have done something positive towards resolving his problems. Lois was right, he did need help. Clark picked up the phone again and dialled the number from memory.
Lois was puttering around her kitchen, making coffee and putting last night's dishes away when the phone rang. "Hello?" She heard the person on the other end breathe in and instantly knew it was, "Clark?"
"Hi, Lois." She heard him swallow. "Mrs. DeVries said you were taking some time off. I wanted to be sure you were okay."
"I'm fine, mostly. Dr. Friskin thinks this transition is going to be hard for me. She insists I take some time off. Can you come over? I'd like to talk in person."
She didn't hear an immediate response. She thought she heard a click at the other end of the line. Then behind her, she heard a whoosh, and when she turned around Clark was standing in front of her.
"I'm here. What did you want to talk about?"
Lois' heart leaped as Clark entered the room. Without thinking, without hesitation she ran up to him and threw her arms around his neck. "Oh, Clark, I'm so sorry! I phoned and you didn't answer and I didn't know how to reach you and then Dr. Friskin insisted I not go into work, and there was the nightmare, only it wasn't and then you called, and…"
She looked up into his eyes. She saw something in his face. It was almost as if he were afraid of what she might say. Suddenly, she didn't know how, but she knew that his insecurity had gone into high gear and his fear of rejection was foremost right now. She exclaimed, "Clark, I am *so* glad to see you!"
She saw his apprehension melt into a blush as he said, "I'm so glad you're glad."
Suddenly nervous about throwing herself at him, she walked back to the end of the love-seat and hung up the phone. By way of explanation she answered his unasked question. "I had this nightmare, Clark. Only it wasn't a nightmare, it was a memory."
"A memory?" She saw his concern. "What kind of memory?"
Lois swallowed. As a delaying tactic, she said, "Look, let's sit down. I have coffee made. This might take a while." She walked into the kitchen, pulled two mugs out of the cupboard and poured coffee. She fixed his the way he liked it, carried the coffee to him and sat beside him on the love-seat.
Lois wondered how to tell Clark about her experience and feelings. Taking a deep breath she said, "I'm not sure where to begin."
Clark took the mug Lois handed to him, and took a sip. He was glad to see his hand wasn't shaking. This was the moment when he would learn exactly what was upsetting Lois so much that she had to take time away from work. After the way she had greeted him, he was pretty sure it wasn't about their kiss, but you never knew. Taking a deep breath, he said, "Begin with last night."
She nodded and sipped her coffee. "You know how I found my memory box, and remembered everything?"
Clark nodded. This wasn't exactly going in the direction he'd expected, which might be good, but he still wasn't sure.
Lois took a deep breath. "Well, I had this nightmare about Tempus. Only it wasn't a nightmare, really. It was a memory which surfaced while I was asleep. When I was telling Dr. Friskin about it, I… I remembered everything—and I fainted."
Fear clutched Clark's heart. He put the mug on the coffee table and put his arm around her. "You fainted! Are you okay? Shouldn't you be resting?"
Lois grinned wryly. "Clark, I'm fine. Really. Yes, I fainted. It was a silly thing to do, but now I'm fine." She stroked the frown on his forehead, trying to erase it. "Stop fussing!"
"What did you remember that had that much effect on you?" Clark was still anxious, but valiantly trying to hide his concern.
"I remembered everything that happened to me in the Congo. I remember Tempus acting like a demented dentist and putting that thing in my back molar."
Clark held her closer.
"I remember the beating his henchman gave me, and kicking back, and running through the woods, and running, and being shot, and then…nothing. The next thing I remember I was in Sutcliffe."
Clark held Lois, hugging her, rocking her comfortingly, and stroking her hair. He did this partly to help her while she told him her story, but also partly to help himself cope with the realization that Lois had remembered the details of the events which had created that bloody mess he had found in the Congo.
Trying to keep his emotions in check, Clark whispered. "Oh, Lois. I'm so sorry. I had no idea you would ever remember that! I hoped that the trauma would make you forget it all."
In a tiny voice, Lois said, "Me too."
Clark continued to hold her until she stopped trembling.
Lois drew back and taking a deep breath, brushed the tears from her cheeks. "Thank you, Clark. I needed that."
He kissed her hair, lightly. "I'm glad to help."
Lois smiled up at him. "Did anyone ever tell you how great you are?"
Clark gave her a wry smile. "Not recently, no."
"Ah, then you obviously need me to tell you these things."
Choked up, and unable to utter a word, Clark just nodded.
"I think Dr. Friskin is right, Clark. I do need time to sort through all this."
"Yeah. Mrs. DeVries gave me all of your assignments, so hurry back, huh?"
"She did not!" Lois stood, arms akimbo, in an exaggerated attitude of indignation.
"Sure, she did. Okay, only one or two, but she *did* give them to me."
Clark saw a glimmer of laughter in Lois' eyes. "Ah, you think that just because you're invulnerable you can get away with this sort of thing without retaliation, don't you?"
Clark felt a bubble of laughter trying to break through his anxiety. "Me? No, never! I *can* be hurt you know."
The laughter faded and Lois looked at him seriously. "I know. I see it in your eyes, sometimes."
Clark blinked. "You do?"
"Uh, huh. Like when you first came in here. I could see you were waiting for me to tell you that I couldn't see you anymore."
Awed, he said, "Lois, you always amaze me. How could you possibly know that?"
"It's obvious. At least to me."
Clark didn't know what to say. He let his gaze wander around the apartment and through the bedroom door noticed her suitcase open on her bed.
"Are you going away?"
"Yes. Tim and Lori asked me to stay with them for a few days. I just have to pack and book a flight. I told them I'd let them know what time I'd get there.
Playfully, he suggested, "Three o'clock."
"Huh?" Lois looked up at him puzzled.
Clark grinned slowly. "Okay, maybe 3:30. I have a 2:30 appointment with Tim. When I go to Kansas, I usually fly out and get the local bus from the Greyhound bus terminal so it looks like I came into town by bus to the casual observer." He took a deep breath and asked, "Can I give you a lift?"
Lois blinked. "That would be great, Clark. But, I think it might be too obvious if we arrived together. I was going to rent a car at the airport, can you drop me off there instead?"
"Sure!" Relieved, Clark breathed out again. "I can do that."
Lois said, "Great! You can do your usual thing and by the time I find Tim and Lori's house you should be finished with your appointment."
Clark smiled and asked, "What time did you want me to pick you up?"
"You're not leaving, are you?"
"Well, I do have those assignments from Mrs. DeVries. Plus, Mrs. DeVries said there's an amateur astronomer out in the Midwest who thinks the sky is falling. The President needs to know that, so I have to go see him."
"You're going to meet the President now?" Lois sounded surprised.
Clark winced mentally at letting this much slip, he made a quick attempt to fix things and temporized, "Yes, he's going to be giving a press conference soon and he needs to know about the astronomer."
"The sky is falling?" Lois shook her head, obviously puzzled, and moved closer. "Clark, what's going on here?"
Clark swallowed and clearing his throat said, "I…I promised not to tell anyone until the President makes his announcement. I'm sorry."
In an exasperated tone of voice, Lois said, "You haven't told me *anything* yet! But if I guess, will you tell me that I got it right?"
Since it was extremely unlikely that she could possibly guess right, he nodded. "Yes, if you guess right I'll tell you."
Lois sat very still for a few moments, an endearing frown between her eyes. He wanted to remove that frown but, before he could figure out how, her brow cleared.
"Clark, is there an asteroid on a collision course with Earth?"
Open-mouthed, Clark nodded. "How did you know?"
"Tempus told me."
Clark was feeling bewildered. How could Tempus have told her about the asteroid? "Tempus?"
Lois nodded. "In my dream…memory…he said that he would go back into the nether reaches of time and send an asteroid on a collision course with Earth so that he would destroy all of the Supermen in all the different dimensions. He said it would be his last plan to truly save humanity from Utopia. He said he was ready to lay down his life to save this world from a 'fate worse than death,' as he called it!"
Horrified, Clark gasped, "Oh, God! Billions of people are going to die because Tempus has a problem with me!"
"Had, Clark. I think Tempus is probably dead now."
"How can you be sure?"
"Well, if the asteroid is bearing down on Earth, and Tempus wasn't just blowing smoke, then all of Tempus' other plans must have failed and this is his final suicidal plan in action."
"But, the asteroid hasn't hit yet."
"No, Clark, and with you on the case it isn't going to!"
Clark saw the utter faith and trust in Lois' eyes. She couldn't see him failing—ever. It felt wonderful to have someone believe in him that way. "Thank you, Lois."
He winced as a scream pierced his ears.
"What is it, Clark?"
Distracted at trying to listen to Lois and the woman calling for help, Clark said hurriedly, "Someone needs me. I've got to go." He turned towards the window and then suddenly remembering that they hadn't discussed the flight to Tim's, turned back to face Lois. "I'll be back later, in time for us to get to Kansas City. I'm not sure exactly when. It depends on how things go. Dress warmly, you'll need to be protected from the cold high altitude. See you later!" He whirled around and into the Suit and flew out through her balcony door. Behind him he heard her gasp, and then a whisper, "Fly safe, Clark." It made him feel good.
Lois' jaw dropped. The view from Clark's arms was amazing. They were flying… or was it floating?… high above the landscape below. She'd had no idea how breathtaking this would be! Just a few moments before, Clark had picked her up on her balcony and Lois found herself at his eye level, gazing into his brown eyes and wishing that this moment would last forever. When she finally broke contact with his eyes, she discovered they were floating high above the skyline of Metropolis.
Clark had come for her a few minutes ago and, making sure she was dressed warmly, had picked her and her suitcase up and whisked them off the balcony. She had been about to say that she hadn't closed the balcony door when she had seen it close, apparently on its own. Looking up at Clark she was just in time to see his lips relax from a pucker.
Awed, she said, "How did you do that?"
"I just blew it shut. I was gentle, it'll be fine."
Lois nodded and then looked around. It was then that her jaw had dropped. The scenery was amazing, not to mention breathtaking. She looked up at Clark again and smiled. His face was solemn, as if he were concentrating on three things at once. She looked down, and for a moment her heart lurched. They must be at least 30,000 feet up! Then her heart and breathing returned to normal. Somehow, with Clark holding her it didn't seem dangerous at all.
"How long will it take to get to Kansas City?"
"About ten minutes. I could be there sooner, but I'm afraid that more speed would mean more friction and you could be hurt."
"Oh." Lois didn't know what to say.
"Besides, this way you get to see the scenery." Clark smiled down at her as he cradled her closer to his body. Lois wanted this trip to go on, and on.
However, before she had time to even wonder how soon it would be before they arrived, Clark stopped in mid-air and said, "We're right over the Kansas City airport. The only way for us to get in unseen, is for me to move really quickly. Here, hold this corner of my cape and I'll wrap it around you. It's going to seem kind of fast. But don't worry, I haven't lost a passenger yet." He grinned at her.
The next thing Lois knew she was enclosed in his cape and then she felt the bottom fall out. It was as if the cable had broken on an elevator and they were plummeting to the basement. However, before she could even think of screaming, he came to a standstill and when the cape was removed from around her, she saw they were standing in an alcove of a multi-level parking lot.
Pointing off to the left, to the opposite side of the parking garage, Clark said, "The car rental booths are in the main terminal over there, near the taxi stand. I'd better leave before anyone notices me."
Lois nodded, in a blink of an eye, Clark was gone!
Kansas City, Kansas — June 14, 1997
With some trepidation, Lois found her way to the shuttle bus to the main terminal. Once there, she used the rest rooms to change out of her heavy winter outfit and then packed it into her suitcase. She located the car rental booths where she was given the keys to a white sub-compact, a one-page map of Kansas City (Missouri on one side, Kansas on the other) and directions to the pick-up shuttle bus stop.
It took only a couple of minutes for the shuttle to get her to the car pick-up lot where she had no problem finding her rental car. After putting her luggage into the trunk of the car and adjusting the driver's seat, Lois noted the location of Mission Hills on the Kansas side of the map the rental car company had given her, and slowly eased her way into the Saturday afternoon traffic heading in that direction.
Lois drove through Kansas City, Missouri, crossed the Missouri River and turned south towards Mission Hills. Within minutes she was driving through the community towards Tim and Lori's address. As she drove, she passed elegant homes along curving, tree-lined streets. When she pulled into the Neer driveway she noticed that their entrance was not immediately visible from any of the neighbours; everyone in the neighbourhood seemed to be strong on privacy and had either tall hedges or decorative fences to ward off casual glances from nosy neighbours.
A woman about her own age, dressed in jeans and a tie-dyed T- shirt, came out of the front door and met Lois as she got out of the car.
"Hi! I'm Lori. You must be Lois, come on in." Lois pulled her bag out of the car's trunk and followed Lori into the house. As she closed the front door, Lori said, "How was your trip?"
"It was fine. Smoothest flight I've ever taken." Lois grinned.
Lori patted her on the back and guided her in the direction of the kitchen. "So, Lois, what's up? Tim said there was some kind of trouble?"
"Well, not 'trouble,' exactly. I've been having nightmares and Dr. Friskin thinks I need some time away from my job and Metropolis."
"Wouldn't have anything to do with that Lana woman, would it? She's enough to give anyone nightmares." Lori plugged in the coffee maker. "One of these days I swear I'm going to throttle that b… "
Tim entered the kitchen just in time to save his wife from uttering death threats. "Lois?"
Lois stepped into his path, and said, "Here Tim," and flung her arms around his neck.
Tim hugged her back, and pushing her away stage-whispered, "Did I remember to tell you I'm married now?"
Both Lori and Lois said, simultaneously, "Tim!" Then, both broke up laughing.
"Oh, no! I'm doomed! Now there are two of you to gang up me." Tim clutched his temples and sat down on the bench seating on two sides of the kitchen table. "I could use some help here… Clark!"
Lois' heart leaped as Clark entered the room. It had been less than an hour since they last parted, and yet it seemed like they hadn't seen each other in days. She ran up to him and threw her arms around his neck.
Clark hugged her to him and whispered, "I'm glad you made it okay."
Lois sensed Lori and Tim leave the room to give them some privacy.
Lois hugged Clark tighter. "Well, Clark, I only had to drive here from the airport. Of course I made it okay."
Clark's lips brushed her hairline. "Well, with your track record, you never know."
Lois batted his chest with the back of her hand, moved towards the centre of the kitchen and leaned against the island counter. She needed some distance to allow her breathing to return to normal. "So now that we're both here, what do you intend to do?"
Clark was gazing at her with adoration in his eyes. "Well, I'm finished with my appointment with Tim. I've got a few hours free. If you're not too tired, what say we go out on a date?"
"Date?" Lois' heart revved up again. "You mean like two people spending time alone together, talking, and stuff?"
Clark grinned, "Especially, 'and stuff.'"
Lois smiled back. "I would be glad to go on a date with you. But how? It seems like the tabloids have spies everywhere."
"Well, where I'd planned to take you would be isolated, so no-one would know we were together. But, if it would make you nervous to be somewhere remote without any way out, except through me, we can try a more conventional type of date."
"I trust you, Clark. I trust you more than anyone I've ever known. Why don't we go on a date—Clark-style?"
Clark's smiled broadened until she was almost blinded by the joy on his face.
A mountain-top meadow — June 14, 1997
Clark had brought her here because it would afford them some privacy. For once, there was no chance of prying television cameras or paparazzi lurking behind any of the trees. The only way to get to this meadow was to fly. Since anyone else would have a very noisy entrance, he could be sure to have Lois out of there before any potential spies could even get close enough to see the two of them.
He had flown her here, and then flitted back and forth bringing the picnic items—a blanket, hamper of food, wine and glasses. They had talked about everything under the sun, and then some. Lois had told him about her life before the Congo. He had told Lois about growing up in Smallville. It seemed to him that they were both trying to find out as much as possible about the other because they both knew this might conceivably be the only time they had the opportunity.
Finally they finished the food and took time to recover from their orgy of conversation. Lois lay on her back and stared at the evening sky as if she had never seen it before.
"You know, Clark. I don't think I've ever been this close to the stars. They seem so much brighter than in Metropolis."
Clark rolled over onto his stomach, so that he could see Lois' face as she lay beside him. "That's because we are closer, and there aren't all those lights getting between us and the heavens."
Lois' gaze moved from the sky to his face, but her expression of wonder didn't change. "We *are* closer, aren't we?"
He knew she was no longer talking about stars. "Yes, we are. And all those things that keep getting between us aren't in a place like this."
Lois ran her fingers along the side of his face. "Thank you, Clark. Thank you for bringing me here. It's been the best date I ever had. I really liked it."
Happier than he could ever remember being, Clark put his arms around her and before he knew it they were kissing. He was completely absorbed in the kiss, oblivious to the world around him. There was no past, no future— only *now*. It almost felt like their souls were combining and floating like gossamer. Then Lois drew away and gasped.
His attention snapped into place. He had floated up so high that they had a view of most of the western half of the North American continent. Panic-stricken, he implored, "Lois! Are you okay? Can you breathe? Are you cold?" Clark was frantic that he had put Lois in this kind of danger.
Lois patted him on the shoulder and then spoke to him clearly and gently. "Clark, look at me! I'm fine! I can breathe just fine. I am not cold. I was just startled at the view, that's all."
"But… but… " This was so weird, because she was right. She looked perfectly fine. Clark made an effort to get his own breathing back to normal.
"It's like I said last night, Clark. When I'm close to you, I'm protected by what you are. You're lifting me, so I become an extension of you. I breathe normally. I don't get cold. Just like you."
"But you're not strong like me, or invulnerable. So I'm not projecting my abilities onto you—it doesn't make sense."
"Clark, you're not projecting your abilities on to me. It's something else." She paused for a moment, her forehead wrinkled in thought. "I think it's like this: I can't fly on my own. If you were to let go right now, I would plummet like a stone back to earth. I think it would also mean that I would no longer be able to breathe in this atmosphere and I would feel the cold. However, right now you *are* flying and holding on to me. So, I don't plummet to the earth, I can breathe just fine and I don't feel the cold. It's all part of the package, Clark. You don't want me to fall, so you hold onto me, somehow you also extend your, whatsitsname…" Lois waved her hands in frustration "…aura, around me and that protects me from the atmosphere up here. I don't think it's a conscious thing you do…you just do it."
Clark was torn between scepticism and belief. "Because I'm such a darn nice guy?"
"Well, Clark, that goes without saying, but no, I don't think it's because you're nice. I think it's because that's just how it works for you."
Hesitantly, Clark asked, "So, you think this is going to happen every time we kiss?"
"Well, I kind of hope it does." Lois smiled.
Clark felt so emotionally touched he was barely able to say, "Me too!"
He slowly floated down to their picnic site, amazed that not only did Lois seem to accept him as he was, but that she also was able to explain many of the things about him that he hadn't really figured out himself.
Kansas City, Kansas — June 15, 1997
After a morning call to Clark, and then breakfast, Lois made every effort to relax. She was beginning to realize how driven her life had been before she went to the Congo. Work had been her entire life. Then there had been that four year hiatus from the only life she had known, while she was at the hospital in London, and now… now she had to re-learn how to work and live. Right now she desperately wanted to get the first flight back to Metropolis and dive into her work so she didn't have to deal with all of this. Dr. Friskin had emphasized the need for her to learn to balance her life. Lois stared pensively at the wall in front of her. What did normal people do to relax?
Just then, Lori and Tim came back from church, and Lois helped Lori fix lunch. After lunch, she and Lori played a friendly game of badminton until Lois was overcome by a sudden memory of the beating in the Congo and had to rest.
While she lay on the sofa in Lori and Tim's Rec Room, once again trying to figure out what she needed to do to relax, Lois watched television. She wasn't in the mood for sports and the only other things on were infommercials for cookware she would never use, and old reruns of Gilligan's Island. She stopped flipping channels when she came across Lana giving a sales pitch for her book. Lois turned off the TV and went in search of Lori and Tim. She didn't need this kind of aggravation.
Kansas City, Kansas — June 20, 1997
Lois was lounging on a lawn chair in the shade of a tall tree. It was Friday morning and Lois had been at the Neers' for almost a week. She lay back thinking about the past week, remembering her dates with Clark and revelling in the fresh air and sunshine. At the beginning of her stay, she'd had a few relapses with memories overwhelming her, but now she was feeling fine. She hadn't realized how stressed out she had been until she came here. At first she'd had difficulty coping with the relaxed pace of life here. Now, just having the time to sit back and relax and think about things was heaven.
Each afternoon, Clark had come to visit. Some days, like today, he had an appointment with Tim. Others he came just to be with her. Every day they had gone to a different place for a date.
After that first picnic in the mountain meadow, there had been others in a variety of the faraway and exotic places of the world: Thai food beside a waterfall on the side of a mountain in the Malay Peninsula; Balti beside a fast-rushing stream somewhere in the Outer Himalayas; and fresh baguette, cheese and grapes in some woods in the Loire region of France. Yesterday, they had eaten a marvellous meal at a crowded cafe on the Left Bank. It had taken Lois a long time to convince Clark that being surrounded by crowds could be just as private as isolated geography. And, she had been right. No-one had noticed yet another couple holding hands in romantic Paris. However, Clark had been so edgy throughout that lunch, she wasn't sure she'd be able to convince him to do it again. It hadn't helped that right after their visit to Paris, Lana had been on the Larry Kidsign Show promoting her book and being poisonous about herself and Clark.
Lois felt a presence and opened her eyes to see Lori standing over her, holding a tray.
"Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't wake you, did I? I've just finished making iced tea and wondered if you'd like some?"
Lois sat up. "Sure, that would be perfect." Somehow Lori always seemed to know what Lois really needed. She had even rearranged her shift schedule at the library to accommodate Lois' visit.
Lori placed the tray on a small table between the two lounge chairs and poured two glasses of tea. She handed one to Lois and sat down on the other chair before picking up one for herself.
Lois wanted to let her feelings be known. "Lori, I want to thank you so much for everything you and Tim have done for me…and for Clark. You've both been so great."
"You're more than welcome. I see the kind of life Clark has to lead, and Tim and I would do anything in our power to help."
Lois was once again impressed at the way people went out of their way to help Clark lead a normal life. There was that innate something in Clark that seemed to reach out to people and inspire their cooperation. Well, it seemed to work with most people, anyway.
Curious about how Lori had come to know Tim, she asked, "How did you all meet? At college?"
"Uh huh. I was playing a fortune teller at a fund-raiser and Clark and Tim came in for a fortune. After telling Clark his fortune, I fainted and Tim took over as fortune teller while Clark escorted me back to my room."
Lois spluttered. The coincidence was unbelievable. "Not you, too!"
"Me, too?" Lori tilted her head to one side.
"Five seconds after I met Clark I fainted too."
"You have *got* to be kidding me! The poor guy…does every female he meets swoon at his feet?"
They both giggled together. Lois felt even closer to Lori. It was good to have found a friend like her.
"Hey, wait a minute!" Lori stopped giggling. "When I told Clark his fortune I said he would become one *and* find someone for whom he had waited a long time. I thought it was the other Lois—it must have been *you*!"
"You're kidding me!" Lois stared at Lori. Was Lori able to give accurate predictions of the future? She seemed so *normal*!
"Nope, that's exactly what I predicted. I'm glad he's finally found you. He deserves to be happy." Lori poured Lois another iced tea. "So how is Clark handling this whole thing with Lana?"
Lois felt herself withdraw from the question. She thought about some of the conversations she and Clark had during his daily visits since she had arrived in Kansas City. "I dunno. He's been kind of moody. Just about the time I think he's getting some distance from her, boom she's on TV again spouting her latest grievance and he's right back where he was…feeling guilty for just existing."
"Clark always did feel responsible for the entire world. Even before I knew what he could do, it seemed like he was feeling guilty for just being. It makes me so mad. He could be such a wonderful person, if she'd just let go."
Lois countered, "I think it's Clark who has to let go. He can't control Lana, but he should be able to control how he feels. He just doesn't seem to be able to do that. I'm hoping Timmy can help."
"Tim will do what he can. But, like you say, it's really up to Clark."
"How do I feel? I don't know, really. In some ways it's like I'm two people. There's Superman who seems to be able to handle just about anything and deals with world crises without so much as a twinge, and then there's Clark who is afraid to tell his ex- girlfriend to 'get a life.'" Clark turned from staring out of Tim Neer's office window at Lois and Lori chatting on the far side of the garden. "Mostly, I feel confused."
Tim marked some notes, in Braille, on a pad in front of him. "But you recognize that both of them are *you*?"
"That's the odd part. I'm Clark. I've always been Clark. Superman is just a costume. But when I'm dressed as Superman I seem to be more in control. I just wish that Clark had more of Superman's confidence and that Superman was more…I dunno…real, I guess."
"You want to become a blend of the two?"
Clark threw up his hands in an effort to indicate his ambivalence, then realizing that this was a waste on Tim, said, "Part of me does, and part of me wants to remain Clark. Sometimes I think I should just be Superman all the time. It would be a lot simpler." He began to pace. "Tim, what's the point of my life? Why do I keep messing up?"
"Well, for one thing, people mess up. It's part of being human."
"But, that's just *it*. I'm *not* human!"
Tim reached out and touched Clark, causing him to stop pacing. "Clark, you arrived on this planet as a baby, you were raised by humans, all your socialization skills and emotional development *are* human. You have to recognize that before you can progress any further."
"Then why do I feel more confident when I'm Superman? Why does *he* not mess up?"
"Superman has never messed up?"
Clark shrugged, "Well, maybe once or twice early on, but the more I become him, the less mistakes I make. It's kind of weird, really."
"So, you've accepted the alien part of you, but not the human part?"
"I guess…maybe. I don't know. I'm still confused."
"Look, Clark, I think we should finish this session for today. You may not believe it, but you *are* progressing." Tim stood up. "You think about what we've discussed and we'll explore this further in your next session. Okay?"
Clark sighed. "Okay."
They went out into the garden to meet up with Lois and Lori.
When Clark and Timmy came out into the garden, Lois drew in her breath. No matter how often she saw Clark, the sight of him made her heart go pit-a-pat.
Clark waved in her direction and guided Timmy past a chair that had been left in his path. When they were within conversation distance, Clark smiled and said, "Hi. How's it going?"
Lois flushed at the caring look on his face. "Fine. I was just thinking how wonderful it is just to be able to sit back and ponder without interruption."
"That's the nice thing about Kansas. You can always count on having time to think." He grinned down at her.
She got up to stand next to Clark. "Yes, but you grew up here. It's not a novelty for you."
"Maybe not, but since my parents died, peace and quiet have become a rare event in my life." He took her hand in his.
She intertwined her fingers between his. She really wanted to get to know him so much better. "So, when are you planning on taking me over to Smallville? You've taken me to all kinds of other places, but I really want to see where you grew up."
She saw him grimace. "I don't think we'll be able to do that. I'm known there, and the media is always looking for a story."
"Well, I wasn't thinking of you going as *you*, I thought you might want to wear a disguise. I want you to show me around, and I have no intention of being hounded by the paparazzi."
"What kind of disguise?"
"Something simple, so that if you need to change into Superman, you can. I was thinking sunglasses and a baseball cap."
"Huh? What kind of disguise is that?"
"Well, if you wear a t-shirt, jeans, sunglasses and a backwards baseball cap you'll look like any regular tourist. Who's going to be looking for Superman as a tourist, huh?"
"I dunno. It sounds kind of a stretch to me. Besides, you're pretty recognizable too."
"I'll be wearing a kerchief and sunglasses. No one will ever know it's me." She grinned at him. Then seeing the scepticism in his face, said, "Look, just try it. If it doesn't work, just get us both out of there as fast as you can."
"Did I mention that you are very pushy?" Clark was looking at her over his glasses. By now she knew this meant she was in *deep* trouble.
She felt he needed a push in the right direction. "Oh, I'm sure you've mentioned it once or twice. Now, can we get moving here?" She flapped her hands at him, shooing him towards the house.
Clark threw up his hands. "Why do I even bother opening my mouth?"
"Well, you might actually persuade me to do something different one of these days." She grinned at him mischievously. "It's been known to happen."
"Not in this lifetime, I'm sure." He sighed dramatically. "So what exactly do you have in mind?"
"Well, I was thinking of driving over to Smallville and seeing the sights. You can tell me what to look for, we'll make like real tourists. It'll be fun, you'll see."
Clark rolled his eyes. "Okay, but don't say I didn't warn you. This could be the worst plan you've ever come up with."
After lunch, Lois took special delight in choosing a t-shirt for Clark from some Lori and Timmy had collected over the years. It took her several minutes to persuade him to wear the "SMALLVILLE: Home of Superman" T-shirt. Especially since it had the S logo all over the front.
"Look, Clark, we're going to Smallville as tourists, we're obviously interested in his life story. What else would we be wearing, if not souvenir T-shirts?" She pointed to herself wearing a matching t-shirt. "We'll be Joe and Judy Regular on a sightseeing trip of Superman sites. It'll work, you'll see."
She got behind the wheel of her rental car and waved Clark to get into the passenger seat. "Okay, Clark, let's get this show on the road!"
Clark sighed. "Okay. I give up. Just remember when I have to airlift us out of there—this was your idea." He got into the car and fastened his seat-belt.
Lois grinned and said, "Sure, Clark. Whatever you say."
She drove through Kansas City and took I-35 south. Fifty miles down the highway she took the turnoff for Smallville. It wasn't difficult to find. There were numerous signs telling the world this was the "Home of Superman" and proclaiming things like, "Superman's first home on Earth," "Home of the Super Child," and so on. The road into Smallville was lined with souvenir shops and "Super" attractions, like the crib he first used, and roadside stands offering tours of the places he had frequented as a child— from his first landing place on Earth to his last home in Smallville.
Lois was appalled and wondered what Clark thought of all this. "Is any of the town the same as when you were a child?"
Clark shook his head. "Not really. When I was a kid, Smallville was your typical Midwest town. Since no-one knew about me being Superman, there wasn't any of this here then."
"Okay, so you give me the inside tour of Smallville. Then, since we have a cassette player in this car, we'll rent an audio tape, go on one of those 'authentic' tours, and see how far off base they are."
Clark told her to turn right at the main intersection, just past the Smallville Press. "I used to work part-time and summers at the Press, with Mr. Kratz."
She took the right he indicated and slowly drove past a white sandstone church with stained glass windows and a steeple on the right hand side of the street. "That's the church where I told Lana about me." He took a deep breath. "You know, one of the first things she was concerned about at the time was that I would tell someone who would go to the tabloids…ironic, huh?"
Lois reached over and squeezed his hand, sympathetically. She was starting to realize how much Clark needed her help and support to free himself from his past.
At the next side road he told her to turn left. A few hundred yards down the road was a parking lot with an entrance fee. Clark told her to keep driving. "That's Shuster's field, where my spaceship landed. There's nothing to see. I don't know why people would pay to park there."
He told her to turn right at the next side road, then left along the Topeka access road. On the right hand side, Lois could see a charming farmhouse with a few trucks and pieces of farm equipment in front of the out-buildings. What spoiled the effect was the eight-foot high security fence, with electrified wire on top, surrounding the entire property.
"That's my parents' farm. There's a couple caring for the farm right now. They're really good. I only visit on the spur of the moment, because they don't want to know I'm coming in advance. Even then, somehow the news always leaks out and they're inundated with the media for days afterwards."
Lois wondered if going there would help Clark deal with his past. "Do you want to visit them while you're here?"
He shook his head and told her to turn around in the next available road and come back this way. She did that. They drove back past the Kent farm and as they approached the next main intersection, she could see another farmhouse in the distance.
"That's the Irig place where my Mom and Dad left me while they went to Seattle for the funeral. The Irigs were really nice people. Mrs. Irig died of cancer a few years later. Mr. Irig passed away last year."
Lois murmured a sympathetic response. Clark continued the tour. He told her to turn the corner back towards Smallville and then pull off to the side of the road.
"Back there is where my parents died. The truck was coming down the road from Topeka. Mom and Dad were coming over Siegel Knoll, the truck didn't stop—they were killed instantly."
Lois saw the bleak expression on Clark's face and prompted, "And, you saw it happen?"
He nodded. "I was pretty fast, even then, but I wasn't fast enough."
She had heard about the accident before, but being here had more impact. Lois stared at the scenery. It was so *pretty* and yet this was the place where Clark's life had been shattered. This was where his feelings of inferiority had started. He'd been blaming himself for this accident since he was ten years old. "If I ever get my hands on Tempus, I'll *kill* the b…!"
Clark interjected, "Calm down, Lois, it all happened a long time ago."
"Yeah, right! Then why are you still suffering?" Clark needed to feel angry at this. It didn't seem right that he take it so calmly.
Clark shrugged. He told her to drive slowly back to Smallville. They passed the entrance to the Irig farm. Again there was a security fence and electrified wires. Near the next intersection was an old broken down barn.
"That's where Lana and I used to meet and talk when we were kids."
Lois wondered if that was the only thing they did there, but kept quiet. They drove past the church again. He told her to turn left on the main street. They drove past Adnyl Rexall Drugs, which Clark pointed out as the place where he and his school friends hung out. Towards the outskirts of town, he told her to slow down and stop in front of a white frame house with a white picket fence.
"This is Lana's parents' house. They don't live here anymore. The media just about drove them crazy. They can't sell the house and yet they can't live in it. It's not a good situation."
"Why can't they sell? I would think the souvenir hunters would snap it right up to get a piece of your past."
"It's zoned residential, and people buying homes for their families don't want to move into a tourist magnet."
Lois nodded, unsure what, if anything, she could say in response. Clark told her to do a u-turn and she drove down the main street, past the drug store and the newspaper office. On the other end of town, he had her pause in front of another nice looking frame house.
"This is the Kratz house. They were my first temporary family. Mr. Kratz let me help him at the newspaper. That's how I started in journalism."
Lois took in the house and yard, happy that Clark had found this family to push him into a career that matched her own. Clark didn't tell her to go to another location, so she asked, "Is there any more to this tour?"
"No ma'am. That's just about it. Those 'official' tours probably cover anything I might have missed."
Lois drove out to the roadside stands with the official tours and rented a taped "Super Auto Tour of Smallville." The tour seemed to have missed the whole point of Clark's life in Smallville. It concentrated on his arrival in Shuster's field and his habitats while in the town, without any background, or rationale as to why he would have moved so much. There was no mention of the Kents or their role in Clark's life, other than to briefly mention that Superman owned the old Kent farm on the Topeka access road. Lois was disgusted.
"You'd think they would at least acknowledge your adopted name! What a farce." She returned the tape to the stand and got her deposit back.
When she got back in the car she rested her hands on top of the steering wheel and, turning to Clark, asked, "Okay, now what?" So far all she had seen were static buildings. She wasn't sure what else he could have showed her, but it didn't seem enough somehow.
"Drive out of town, and over Siegel Knoll. I want you to see something on the farm." Lois nodded, hoping it wasn't just another building, and followed his instructions. He had her drive into a copse of trees and park the car so it wasn't immediately obvious to passing traffic. From the protective group of trees he took off with her in his arms. He landed at the base of a tree which contained a child's fort.
As Lois removed her scarf and sunglasses, Clark explained, "This is the tree-house I made with my Dad when I was five or six. At the time I wanted to live here, so my parents wouldn't have to be afraid for me."
Lois turned to look at Clark, but again he wasn't showing any emotion. "You mean to tell me that at *that* age, you were already concerned about how your life affected others?" He nodded.
"God, Clark, how did you survive? You must have been in a constant state of anguish."
"No, not all the time, but knowing I could be taken away for what I was—that was always there."
Sympathy grabbed at Lois' heart. "And, it got worse after your parents died, didn't it?"
He nodded, again. "Yeah. I had no-one to turn to for advice. That's why I confided in Lana. She seemed to understand."
Lois took his hand and squeezed it. At least now he was getting to the crux of his childhood. "So what did you want me to see?" He let go of her hand, spun into the ground and pulled up a tiny space ship.
Awed, she said, "That's the one you came in?"
Clark nodded. He reached into the centre of the ship and pulled out a small bag containing a round ball. "Here, let's go up into the tree-house. No one will find us there. There aren't any children on the farm and we can't be seen from the house or road…that's why Dad chose this particular tree, so I could play without being seen."
With anticipation, Lois climbed up to the tree-house door and entered. She looked out at the countryside through the openings that constituted windows. "This is really nice, Clark. It must have been great fun playing here."
Clark took his glasses off. "It was also the one place I could be myself, without having to be too careful."
He held the ball while still in the bag, and rolling the bag down away from the ball so that he didn't touch it directly, he balanced the ball on one of the window sills. It looked like a globe of the Earth. Then he touched the globe with his forefinger.
To Lois' astonishment the globe changed from the blue marble Earth to a vibrant red world.
She heard the word "Krypton" uttered somewhere inside her head. This was followed by a series of speeches by a man explaining Clark's Kryptonian background, his real name "Kal-El," why he and his wife had chosen Earth as the destination for their child.
At the end of the recitation, Lois looked at Clark and swallowed. This seem all so familiar! "Clark! Tempus told me this story just before he almost killed me. It was almost *exactly* this story. How could he *know* this?"
"I understand Tempus is from a future where one version of Superman and Lois Lane created a Utopia. Mr. Wells told me Tempus loathed that lifestyle and vowed to destroy the Superman who had created it. He told me that, in Utopia, people studied Superman's life like we would Shakespeare, or Washington. The story of Superman's origins was probably told beginning in kindergarten."
Lois stared at the globe as she absorbed Clark's words. "Thank you, Clark. Thanks for letting me see this." She tore her gaze away from the amazing piece of alien technology and looked into Clark's eyes.
He blushed and lowered his gaze to the globe. "You're welcome. I want you to know *everything* there is to know about me. Tim has helped me understand that I tend to hold back essential information, even from people who are close to me. It's not good for me to do that. It only makes my relationships superficial and detached." He raised his head and looked into her eyes, again. "I don't want *us* to have that kind of relationship."
Lois leaned forward and cupped his jaw in her hand, stroking his cheek with her thumb. "Me either. I really *do* want to know you…all of you. I can understand why you hold back. After all, you had to spend so much of your life hiding and pretending, it must come as second nature by now." She wished she could explain better.
He turned his face so that he was kissing the palm of her hand. Lois felt a surge of desire. Clark gently pulled her hand away from his jaw and intertwined his fingers in hers. "I want the hiding and pretending to end, but I'm not sure how to do that."
Lois could feel the blood pounding in her ears. She swallowed, trying to keep focussed on what Clark was saying. He was trying his best to be open and she could see he was waiting for her to comment, so she said, "We'll think of something, Clark. It's not something that can be solved overnight."
"We…" He leaned forward and softly kissed her lips. When he drew away, he continued, "I like that…I like that a *lot*."
Breathless, she said, "You're not alone anymore, Clark."
Lois was astonished to see the depth of his emotions on his face. So often Clark hid his feelings and now she saw them raw and exposed. He was manfully holding back tears, she was sure of it. She wished he would just let go and allow himself to feel the pain.
Softly, she asked, "Clark! What's wrong?"
"N-n-nothing. I'm happy, really. It's just that…I've always felt so—so *alone*, and now…"
Lois was in his arms, shushing him, caressing him, and kissing away the frown on his face.
"You'll never be alone again…I promise." Lois felt certain of this. More certain than she had ever felt about anything before in her life.
"Thank you, Lois. You have no idea what that means to me."
Lois pulled away from him slightly and felt herself blushing. "You're welcome. I want you to know how special you are to me."
Clark stroked her hair. "And you're so special to me. That's why I wanted you to know everything before… before I go tackle that asteroid…just in case."
Lois put her hand over his to feel closer to him. She wished he hadn't mentioned the asteroid. Knowing about it, and his role in preventing a tragedy, was making her anxious. "I'm kind of worried about this asteroid thing, Clark. I know you're preparing for what you have to do, but it still has me scared."
Clark shrugged. "I'm a little scared too. But Dr. Klein is putting me through every conceivable problem that I might come up against. I know that getting to it shouldn't be a problem. But, with the amount of momentum it will have, I'm not sure if I have the strength to push it out of its current path."
Lois recognized Clark's insecurity as another thing that Clark needed to talk through. He needed her help in understanding this problem and she would try her best to give him that help. "What's the biggest thing you've moved up until now?"
"I've stopped planes from crashing by holding them aloft, and I've held up falling buildings, but that's it. I've pretty much stuck to the theory that the item becomes a part of me. But this asteroid is so *big*, as big as Metropolis, that its momentum will make it really hard to turn aside. It's got me kind of nervous."
Continuing her role as prime advocate, Lois emphatically stated, "You'll do it, Clark. You can do anything."
"Not quite *anything*." Clark slowly stood up and picked up the globe.
"Clark, you're always saying those kind of things." Lois hoped he would see how his negative self talk was hurting his chances of success.
"No I don't! What kind of things?" Clark looked genuinely puzzled.
"All those 'I can't', 'not quite anything', and 'I'm sorry' statements. You're always negating yourself. I wish you'd just be more positive." Lois felt exasperated. Why couldn't Clark see that being negative only bred more negativity?
"Oh, I'm s… Er, thank you for letting me know. Tim has been dancing around that very thing, I think, but I guess he was waiting for me to figure it out for myself." Clark gave her a wry smile.
Lois walked over and hugged him. "Clark, if I get too pushy, just tell me to go fly a kite, okay?"
"Would that work?" She was glad to see a twinkle in his eyes.
"Probably not, but at least it would be a change from 'I'm sorry.'" Lois grinned up at him impishly. Then, as she watched him place the globe back in its bag, asked, "What are you going to do now, Clark? Bury them again?"
"I was going to, but I think I'll take them back to Metropolis. I buried them here because I didn't have any other safe place to hide them. Now that my apartment is about as secure as any place can be, I can store them there."
Lois watched as he quickly put the bagged globe into the ship and, putting the ship on his shoulder, took off in the general direction of Metropolis. She still found his take-offs and landings breathtaking.
Lois paced up and down, swatting away mosquitoes, wondering why they'd suddenly descended the second Clark left. She tried to visualize what this place must have been like when Clark was small.
In a matter of minutes he was back.
Clasping his hand, Lois turned in what she figured was the general direction of the farmhouse. "How much is the farm and house like what you knew when you were a kid?"
"Not much. The house is your typical farmhouse. We could visit it if you want, but the special things my parents had there have been slowly removed or replaced. I've got a trunk back in Metropolis with the parts that still mean something to me. The farm is pretty much the same, except for the security fence." He stared off into the distance. Lois figured he was looking at the farmhouse which was beyond her line of sight.
"You're right, Clark. Let's not visit the house and just head back." She replaced her scarf and sunglasses in readiness to leave.
Clark picked her up and flew back to the concealed car. Lois got behind the wheel. Clark put on his sunglasses and ball cap. She drove back through Smallville and stopped in front of the drug store.
"You wait here, Clark. I have *got* to get something for these bites. The itch is driving me crazy."
Lois shut off the engine and got out of the car. She scratched at one of her bites as she gazed along the street trying to visualize what it must have been like before all the 'Supermania' stuff had arrived.
She stepped through the door of the drug store, and a tiny bell tinkled. She moved towards the pharmacist's counter hoping to find some calamine lotion that would take this itch away.
A nice-looking man, about Clark's age, was behind the counter.
"Excuse me." She continued once she had his attention, "I'm looking for something to stop this itch." She raised the arm with the swollen mosquito bite.
"Oh, yes, right over here." He reached over the counter and pulled a pink bottle of medicated calamine lotion off the shelf. "This should help."
"Great. I'll take it." Lois reached into her purse to pull out the required amount. Over at the soda fountain the TV was blaring the latest sports event out of Metropolis. The Monarchs vs. the Washington Senators or some such thing. Lois wasn't terribly interested. Why was it she could never find small bills when she wanted to? She was sure she'd had a five dollar bill when she started out this morning. She was scrounging in the bottom of her purse, then her head snapped up when she heard Lana Lang's name linked to Clark.
"You'd think she would have given up by now, wouldn't you?" The pharmacist was looking at the TV screen with a troubled look on his face.
"I guess you knew them back when they both lived here, didn't you?" Lois almost held her breath waiting for his answer.
"Yeah, we hung around together when we were in high school." He rung up the sale on the cash register.
"What was he like? Clark Kent, I mean?" She might as well get an opinion from someone who actually knew Clark as a child. While she waited for him to reply, she took the brown bag containing her medication from him.
"Nice guy, quiet, unassuming. Lana only had eyes for him…the rest of us didn't stand a chance." He handed her the change from her payment.
"You wanted to date Lana Lang?"
"Yeah, but don't tell any of those reporters. I'd be surrounded if they ever found out."
"You can count on me." Lois grinned at him and left the drug store.
She got back into the car, opened the bottle and slathered the lotion on her bite. "Nice pharmacist, wanted to date Lana back when you guys were in high school."
"Lois! You were in there for less than two minutes, how the *heck* did you find out that Pete Ross was interested in Lana in that short space of time?
"I'm a reporter, Clark. Remember?" She grinned at him as she started the engine.
Clark rolled his eyes. "So what else did he tell you?"
Surprised, Lois asked, "You mean to say you didn't hear?"
"I don't listen unless I really think I'll need to know the information. So I didn't."
"Okay. He said you were a nice quiet guy and Lana only had eyes for you…that the rest of the guys never had a chance with her."
"I guess once you've dated Superman, no-one else is good enough."
"I wasn't Superman back then."
Lois paused for a moment, thinking. "Maybe not, Clark, but it's possible that Lana has trouble with other guys because you're so perfect. It must be quite a letdown to date the average shmo after dating you."
Clark looked perplexed. "Perfect? If I'm so *perfect* how come I'm in therapy?"
Lois patted his arm. "Trust me, Clark, you're darn close to perfect… you just have these one or two minor foibles to work through."
Clark looked at her over his sunglasses. "Did I mention how maddening you can be sometimes?"
Lois grinned at him, trying to brazen it out. "Hey, Clark, it's part of the package."
Clark threw up his hands in mock disgust. Lois pulled away from the curb and headed back in the direction of Kansas City. They rode in relative silence.
Lori met them in the Neers' driveway. Clark scooted around the car to open Lois' door and putting his arm around her waist, guided her into the Neers' front foyer. Lori followed them into the house asking, "So, Lois, how did you find Smallville?"
Not knowing how to describe the experience, Lois said, "Interesting."
Lois and Clark were under the stars in Tim and Lori's garden saying goodnight. Or, at least, *trying* to say goodnight. They weren't making much progress.
"Clark? When exactly are you going to be dealing with the asteroid?"
"EPRAD is still working on the optimal date. Meanwhile, I'll continue preparing at the EPRAD facility to make sure I have the moves down before I attempt it live."
"Practice makes perfect. You *will* come back, won't you?"
He could tell that she was talking out of sheer nervousness. "I'll do my best."
"You always do." Lois smiled up at him, turning his heart to mush.
"Yes, Clark?" She was looking up at him, love in her eyes.
"I've been meaning to ask you something. I know you've only known me for a few weeks, and we're only just really getting to know each other. But there's this whole thing with the asteroid coming and I would really like to know…" He paused, trying to get up the courage to finish his sentence.
Lois stroked a lock of hair away from his face. "Know what, Clark?"
"I…" Clark paused again. "I'm not sure this is a good time." He started to pull away from her, about to give up what he had started.
Lois gently pulled him closer. "Clark, you're reverting back to that nervous 'I'm sorry' mode again. What did you want to know?"
Clark swallowed. "Lois…" Then in a rush he said it. "Will you marry me?"
Clark stood trembling, waiting the eternity between breaths for her answer. Lois gazed up at him, her eyes wide.
"Yes, Clark. Yes, I *will* marry you." She slid her arms around his neck and whispered. "I've been waiting for you to ask."
Clark fumbled in his pocket for the ring he'd recovered from its special place when he had gone home this afternoon. Taking her left hand in his, he slid the ring on the third finger. "I want you to wear this. It was my mother's."
"It's wonderful, Clark. I'll wear it as a symbol of our pledge." She moved closer and they kissed.
A few minutes later they drew apart. They were floating high above the Grand Canyon. "Clark, I really love the way we end up in the most gorgeous places when we kiss. You are *amazing*."
Clark felt himself blushing, then realizing that they were too close to the flight path into Las Vegas he gently drifted back towards the Neer garden. He set them both down back in the exact same place they had been before their small diversion.
"I know it's going to sound kind of crazy, but to me it feels like our souls join when we kiss. It's almost as if we become one being in that moment." She brushed her fingers across his lips. "I kind of like having a soul mate." Lois smiled and said, "So how soon do you want to get married? Before or after your encounter with the asteroid."
"After?" Clark wasn't sure what the right response should be. He wished he could just say what he felt.
"Why not before?"
"I'm not sure that would be a good idea. I know I want to be with you." Clark kissed the end of her nose, causing her to giggle. "But, there *are* a few obstacles we have to overcome."
"Obstacles? Oh, right." Lois ticked them off on her fingers, "The tabloids, your ex-fiancee, my anxiety about inexperience, the hoopla that's going to descend the second we tell anyone we want to get married…"
"Not to mention my emotional hang-ups, my lack of initiative in dealing with most of these obstacles up to now, and the total lack of any idea on how to tackle them in the future." Clark made a face.
"Clark! You're getting negative on me again…now *stop* that."
"Yes, like I said before, you need to stop that negative self- talk. We'll find a way…we *have* to."
"I know, but I hate the thought of the media crawling through every little part of our lives when they find out we're engaged."
"Why do they have to find out?" Lois had her plotting expression on her face. "Can you stay clear of me publicly for a while?"
"It's gonna be tough, but I guess I can do that." Clark grinned at her. For some strange reason this made him feel happy. "You did say 'publicly', didn't you?"
Lois nodded. "Yes." She paused for a moment and looked down at her left hand. "I guess I should hide this, otherwise people are going to ask questions."
Clark hugged her close. "I'm sorry, Lois, I guess it's going to be much harder to get married than either of us ever thought."
"Maybe not." Lois stepped back, unfastened the gold chain from around her neck and slipped the ring from her finger onto the chain. Once the chain was around her neck again, the ring was hidden inside her top. "There, now no-one will see it."
"I wish you didn't have to do that!" Clark felt miserable that Lois wouldn't wear his ring where everyone could see.
"Clark, it's okay. I mean, why do people wear their rings on the third finger? It's just tradition, right?"
Clark nodded glumly. "Partly. I think it has something to do with an ancient belief that the veins from that finger had a direct route to the heart. So people wear their loved one's ring on that finger."
"Well, if it's because I want the ring close to my heart, this," Lois touched the ring under her blouse, "is as close to my heart as it can get."
Warmed by her thoughtfulness, Clark drew her close and hugged her. "Thank you, Lois. I needed to hear that. Now if we could only deal with the actual wedding plans as easily."
The next morning, Lois phoned a frazzled sounding Mrs. DeVries to let her know she would be back to work on Monday morning.
"Good, Lois. Sorry to be so abrupt about everything. It's been crazy. We could really use you around here right now. The President is making a big announcement tomorrow. Clark tells me it is truly a big announcement."
"Yes, I think it will be. Since you need me a day early, I'll be in tomorrow. I really am better." Lois reassured her.
"Great!" Relief tinged Mrs. DeVries' voice. "See you first thing."
"Yes, first thing."
Metropolis, New Troy — June 22, 1997
Clark watched Lois sitting on the far side of the press gathering as she fiddled with her notebook, waiting for the Presidential entrance. She looked up in Clark's direction and smiled as she made that small gesture he knew meant she was touching the ring next to her heart. He was about to move over to be near her when the assistant asked for everyone to rise for the President.
President Jackson walked slowly and calmly to the lectern set in the exact centre of the podium. He drew a small breath and glancing down at his notes, gestured for everyone to be seated, and began his speech.
"My fellow Americans, and our friends and neighbours throughout the world, I am here to tell you about a very serious issue. You have already heard rumours of an asteroid on a direct path with Earth. You have also heard rumours of summit conferences and talks with EPRAD and Superman. I am here today to confirm all of those rumours and to put to rest others." The President paused and then continued. "The asteroid is indeed on a direct path to Earth." The crowd of reporters gasped. President Jackson continued, "Superman will be flying into space to divert this asteroid before it can harm us."
The lead reporter from a rival paper waved her hand and as the President acknowledged her presence said, "Linda King, Metropolitan Star. Can we be sure that Superman has the strength to do that?"
"My advisers have every confidence in Mr. Kent. If you like, you can ask him yourself, he's right behind you."
Linda King whirled around and glared at Clark. "Well?!!"
Clark felt exposed. This person was interviewing Superman. He was Clark! Should he change into the Suit?
Then he saw other reporters bearing down on him, all of them demanding answers. They wanted Superman to tell them the answer. They wanted Superman. He should be Superman. Clark felt afraid. The noise made by the mass of reporters sounded so much like the crowd clamouring for the Beast in the play he had seen the day he found the globe. Cameras were aimed in his direction. Larry Kidsign was smirking from behind the mass of people who were pressing forward and straining to hear his response. This was his worst nightmare come true!
He was Clark! Didn't anyone understand? Clark! He began to feel panicky inside and then he heard a calm voice say, "Clark?" He focussed on the source of the voice. It was Lois, standing at the far side of the room—away from the crowd who had knocked over chairs in the surge to surround him. Lois, who knew he was Clark. Lois, who would always know he was Clark.
In that split second he realized that he didn't have to be dressed as Superman to answer the questions. Clark could give the answers. Clark could be the mouthpiece for Superman. Clark could handle this!
Clark stood up, looked at Linda King and then up into the closest camera lens now aimed at him. "This will work."
"How can you be so sure?"
"Because it *has* to!" Clark stared at her, daring her to call his bluff. Clark felt proud of himself for being able to sound so positive after feeling so panic-stricken just moments ago. The nightmare was gone and wouldn't return. He was sure of that. When Superman got back from space, he would ask… no demand… that Clark be treated as Clark and Superman as Superman. He needed that. If Lois and he were going to have any kind of life, they both needed that.
The crowd of reporters turned back to face the podium. President Jackson recognized the anchor for LNN's evening news program. "Ken Maltais, LNN. How big is the asteroid and when is the expected collision date?"
President Jackson replied, "The 'Nightfall' asteroid is close to seventeen miles across. It is travelling close to 30-thousand miles an hour. EPRAD scientists estimate impact on July 22, 1997, if nothing is done to intervene. However, as I have said, Superman will be flying into space to divert this asteroid before it can harm us."
The President recognized another waving hand. "Basil Bryce, Zenith News. What if Superman fails?"
"General Zeitlin has offered a tactical nuclear option. However, we are reserving that as the final alternative, since the fallout could be extremely hazardous to all of us."
The President recognized the next hand. "Larry Kidsign, CBA Studio. So what you're saying is that we're totally dependent on the word of some alien? He can't even keep his marital promises. How can we believe he'll follow through on this commitment?"
President Jackson looked Kidsign in the eye, and said, "Mr. Kidsign, Superman is risking his life to save all of us. We have an alternative plan if he should be unable to move the asteroid. It is not a question of following through on a commitment. It is a matter of life and death."
"Yeah, right." Larry Kidsign grinned knowingly at the people around him. "And why should I believe anything a politician tells me, huh?"
The Press Secretary interjected, "That's enough. Your aspersion on the President's initiative…" President Jackson turned to the Press Secretary and said, "No, I'll answer the question."
He turned back to face the assembled press. "Mr. Kidsign, Superman is the only person standing between this planet and total devastation. I can ask the Attorney General but I believe that statements such as yours might, in this particular instance, be considered sedition and a threat to national security."
The camera closed in on Larry Kidsign's face. Larry's expression had changed from smug to smoldering anger. He stood up and stalked out of the room.
President Jackson ignored the departure and recognized the representative from CBC Newsworld.
Clark overheard someone say, "Looks like Larry's met his match."
The correspondent from CBA Studio NewsLive, who was standing to Clark's right, muttered, "I don't know about that. Larry Kidsign's ego is pretty indestructible."
When Lois got home from the Planet that evening, there was a message from Tim asking for either she or Clark call. He said he had been trying to contact Clark ever since the President's press conference, without success.
She dialled and Tim answered. After the initial greetings, he said, "I'm worried, Lois. In the middle of that press conference, Clark was dealing with issues he's spent a lifetime avoiding. Have you talked to him?"
Lois said, "Not since before going to the President's press conference. I got caught up in a story at the office and Clark was on the far side of the room when I got there. Clark seemed to handle it pretty well, I was proud that he was so positive about everything."
"Yes, it *was* good that he was able to handle it. Let him know I want to talk to him the next time you see him." It sounded as if Timmy were about to hang up, and then he said, "Just a second, Lois, Lori wants to talk to you. Don't forget to tell Clark to call me."
"I won't forget. Thanks for being concerned, Timmy."
"No problem. Here's Lori."
Lois heard fumbling sounds and then Lori came on the line.
"Hi Lois! Can you believe the hysteria about the asteroid? It's on every single channel!"
"I believe it." Lois responded. "It's no different than if you knew a hurricane was going to hit your house. People want to be prepared."
"Yes, I know, but *Clark's* on the job. Nothing is going to happen with him in charge. It won't even come near the Earth."
"I hope not."
"Now who's getting negative? Clark can do it. I know it and you know it."
Lois rallied. "Yes, I know. It's just that this is the biggest thing he's ever tackled. Nothing is for sure."
"True, but I have every confidence in Clark, unlike that excuse for a television host, Larry Kidsign."
"I'm trying to avoid thinking about Larry Kidsign and his ilk. I'm trying to stay positive. Clark is concentrating on getting the job done."
"Well, that's good. But, if I were Clark, after that scene at the President's conference, I wouldn't want to be in the same room as Larry and any knives. You'd probably find one in your back."
Lois murmured her agreement. "Fortunately, Clark's invulnerable to knives."
Later that evening, Clark came over to unwind. There had been a flood in Bangladesh and between that and dealing with a population gone mad over the news of the asteroid, he was exhausted.
Lois had him to call Tim first thing, and then they watched TV. Mostly what was on was hysterical coverage over the asteroid announcement. This got boring pretty fast, so they lowered the sound and left the television on in the background while they talked, just in case some real news was announced. Lois had just finished serving coffee when a promotional ad came on:
"The Larry Kidsign Show — whose eyes and ears in every corner of the globe have first and foremost brought you the news about celebrities and their vices — have done it again! Superman is not as squeaky clean as you have been led to believe! We at the Larry Kidsign Show have found the love nest where Superman and Lois Lane hoped to escape notice! But no-one is beyond the reach of Larry Kidsign! For the complete story, watch Larry Kidsign's Weekly Special Event! Thursday, June 26th, 10:30 p.m., 9:30 Central!"
"Oh, *boy*!" Clark looked over at Lois. "I was sure we were safe in Kansas. How did they find us?"
Seething, Lois said through gritted teeth, "I don't know, but if I ever get my hands on the person that told them where we were I'll personally *strangle* them!"
"We've been back two days? Why wait until now to tell the world where we were?"
"Ratings? The asteroid has pretty much wiped everything else off the air. Not to mention he looked pretty steamed at the press conference today."
"You're probably right. Larry Kidsign probably can't stand the idea that a real news story is stealing his thunder." Clark paused for a couple of seconds, and then asked, "What do you think we should do about that?" He indicated the TV and its unwelcome announcement.
Lois shrugged. "I have a friend from the old days, before I went to the Congo. I found her new phone number when I was researching that oil baron recluse story earlier today." When Clark looked puzzled, she explained, "You know, the guy who built an entire house deep underground to use in this kind of emergency. Anyway, she used to be pretty good at getting into people's private lives. I'm hoping she can help teach me how to deal with the Larry Kidsign's of this world."
Clark nodded. "I hope she can!"
Metropolis, New Troy — June 23, 1997
"EARTH DOOMED!!" "ARMAGEDDON!!!" "SKY IS FALLING!!!!"
Newspaper headlines screamed from the newspaper stand as Lois passed on her way to the Daily Planet. Only the Planet's headline wasn't in 200 point caps. It said simply, "Superman to the rescue!"
Lois spent the rest of the day covering the panic over the impending asteroid. In the few free moments she gained between interviews she left a message on her friend's answering machine. A return message on her voice mail had suggested they meet Thursday evening at 7:00 p.m. at the roof-top dining room at the Lexor hotel. Lois wished there had been a chance to talk. It would have been nice to get re-acquainted before they met face-to-face.
However, before she could even think about trying to make another phone call, Mrs. DeVries announced yet another meeting to follow up on the latest events.
Clark had made only one brief appearances at the Planet since the Press Conference on Sunday. In between fighting crime and helping people who seemed set on killing themselves to get away from the asteroid, he was spending long hours at EPRAD preparing for his trip into space and even longer hours at S.T.A.R. Labs for physical tests and measurements of speed and dexterity.
After this latest meeting Lois completed her latest summary of the asteroid situation as it was being exhibited by the population of Metropolis. People seemed to be divided into two camps: those who had complete faith in Superman's ability to save them vs. the people who were sure the world was coming to an end. The monitors in the newsroom were on all the time, displaying the varied reactions to this latest crisis.
The more reliable networks, like LNN, were running a series of interviews with experts in everything from astronomy to religion. The less substantial networks were showing summaries of what the main networks were showing. Others were just giving themselves as a platform for public opinion or a place for people to vent. Some channels were even trying to carry on with their normal programming. Lois wasn't sure if she were pleased about that or not. Did it mean that they had so much faith in Clark that they thought the asteroid was non-news? Or, did they think there was no hope and so you might as well carry on as usual until the rock fell on you?
Occasionally, everything would come to a halt for a live press conference by officials of EPRAD, S.T.A.R. Labs or the government whose messages could be summed up as, "Everything is going according to plan. Don't worry. Be happy."
In one of her many trips to the coffee machine, Lois heard one scruffy, young, know-it-all on a CBA Studio public forum declaring, "No way could Superman stop the asteroid!" Lois muttered to herself as she poured coffee into her mug, "He's *diverting* it, you idiot. Diverting it! Don't you understand anything about inertia? They've explained it every hour on every channel, since Sunday!" Throwing caution to the wind, Lois dumped sugar and cream into her coffee cup and stalked back to her desk. On the way back she noticed the guy had left and now Lana was being interviewed, yet again, about her now defunct relationship with Clark. Didn't the woman ever give up? Lois slammed her mug down on her desk to the detriment of the paperwork nearby. Fortunately, nothing got too soaked before she grabbed some napkins to clean up the mess.
Lois took a deep breath. She had to learn to relax. Getting mad at the Lana's of this world did no-one any good. Besides she had more important things to worry about.
Metropolis, New Troy — June 26, 1997
The waiter finished pouring the wine and removed himself from the table. Lois was glad, she really wanted to be able to talk openly and was getting paranoid about who, or what, might be listening in. The media had been in a frenzy during the past few days, rife with rumours and innuendo about Larry's story and how it impacted on the asteroid development.
Cat Grant dragged her eyes from the rear view of the waiter and gave Lois the wicked look that Lois remembered she always used to worm information out of her current target.
"So, Lois, what's it like?"
"What's what like?"
"Being intimate with Superman?"
Lois clenched her jaw. If *this* was the line Cat was going to take, she'd better cut the conversation right now. She folded her napkin and put it beside her plate in readiness to get up and leave. She pushed her chair back to do just that, when she saw Cat pull a small ornamental box out of her bag, place it in the centre of the table and slide a switch on one side.
"Forget the question, Lois. I'm not here to pry. I just want to frustrate those dimwits over there from the National Whisper. This little technological marvel will defeat their listening devices."
"I did wonder. After all, *you* were the one who taught me to keep the interview subject as calm as possible, and keep the really controversial questions to the end just in case the interviewee decided to stalk out."
Cat looked repentant. "Yes, you're right. I'm sorry I upset you. It's just that I love using this gizmo to get at those dimwits and I forgot that you might feel hurt. Sorry about that."
"That's okay," Lois stared at the small device, recognizing it as a more sophisticated version of one the FBI had shown her when she had gone to them for security advice earlier in the month. "That must have cost a *fortune*!"
"It did, sweetie, but it was worth every penny. I love asking some really juicy question right before I turn it on, just to get their knickers in a knot." Cat flicked her hair in the general direction of the group of National Whisper reporters currently scrambling to figure out what had gone wrong with their bug. "Now we can talk without them listening in. What did you want to see me about?"
"I wanted some advice, Cat. You were so great to me when I first started out in the newspaper business. You were *the* person who taught me how to do an interview and get results. You always knew how to get the smallest detail out of people, without them even realizing they'd spilled the beans. I was kind of hoping you could teach me…um…"
"Teach you how to deal with people like me?"
Lois nodded, relieved at Cat's astuteness, and stared at the tablecloth while the busboy put a roll on each of their side plates. After the boy had left, Cat continued. "I'd be happy to, Lois. I won't even charge my usual fee."
"Fee?" Lois said, in surprise.
"I now give personal image advice to the rich and powerful. I got tired of trying to worm information out of people. I was starting to have difficulty distinguishing myself from those Whisper types over there." Cat flicked her hair in their direction again. "I decided to use my expertise and help the people I'd been quizzing all those years to defend themselves against the kind of people their mothers hadn't even realized existed, let alone warned them about."
"Cat, I had no idea! How long have you been doing your consulting thing?"
"About three years. Actually, it was your 'death' that kind of initiated the change. I suddenly realized how short life is, and I wanted to make a difference. Back then, things were getting really grim and I needed a switch in careers. I decided to visit Europe and get some perspective, so I quit my job at the Planet and travelled for a while." She paused for a moment to sip at her wine. "A year ago, I came back to Metropolis to find that the shy guy I'd hit on in the photocopier room before I left was as close to a living god as anyone could imagine. I knew that in the old days I would have made the most out of that brief encounter and realized that I didn't want to do that to *him*. I decided to form my own company to protect famous people from the likes of the person I used to be…and I've been in business ever since."
"You're doing well?" Lois wondered why she had felt surprised, she should have figured this out when she first came across Cat's name in relation to that recluse story.
"Yes." Cat paused as the waiter placed her soup plate in front of her. "*Very* well."
"What was Clark's reaction?" Lois asked, after the waiter had left earshot, and then added a clarification, "to your hitting on him in the photocopier room."
"He turned me down—quietly, politely, but definitely. He said he already had a girlfriend. I thought about doing a snatch and grab from the girlfriend, who obviously didn't appreciate him, but I didn't." Cat sighed and started on her soup.
"You realize the girlfriend was Lana Lang, don't you?"
Cat paused, her spoon mid-air between the bowl and her mouth. "Then I *definitely* should have done the snatch and grab. I should always go with my gut instinct. When I try to do the decent thing, I always mess up."
Lois didn't know how to respond, so she just continued eating.
By the end of the meal, Lois was still no closer to explaining her current problem to Cat. She was wondering how she could steer the conversation in that direction when suddenly Cat told her, "Keep quiet, don't say *anything* no matter what and for heaven's sake keep your temper in check."
"Just *do* it! Larry Kidsign is heading this way and *this* won't protect us from a personal encounter with him." Cat snatched up the counter-spy gizmo and stuffed it in her purse.
As the man Lois recognized from all those interviews with Lana Lang walked up to the table, Cat went into one of her instant friendship acts. Lois recognized the ploy from the days when she and Cat had worked together. She almost felt sorry for Larry Kidsign because when Cat did this act the more she hated the person the more she appeared to be their friend.
"Why *Larry*, darling, whatever brings you *here*?" Cat stood up and gave him a two cheek European style greeting.
"Cut the act, Cat, I'm on to you. I see you're wining and dining Ms. Lane to get her to tell you what I already know."
Lois did *not* like the way this man was looking at her. His expression was of a cat looking at a mouse-hole, knowing that there was a mouse inside.
"So, what do you know?" Cat cut the ooze in her voice to zero.
He waggled his finger at her. "Tut, tut, Cat. Why don't you ask Ms. Lane?"
Lois couldn't help demanding, "Ask me what?"
"You're *good* Ms. Lane, I will say that." His smug smile broadened. "I almost believe you don't know what I'm talking about."
Cat stepped in, "Okay, Larry cut the hype, what are you trying to say?"
Larry patted Cat's cheek and turned to go. He briefly turned around again, "Just ask her where she was last week." He turned to go again, and then turned back. "On the other hand, don't bother. I'll tell *you*. She was with Superman in his love nest in the Antarctic and I have it on good authority she's pregnant with his child. You'll find out *all* about it on tonight's Larry Kidsign show. Bye-bye, sweet cheeks." He pinched Cat's cheek and swaggered off towards the restaurant exit.
Lois sat in her chair stunned, the blood pounding in her ears. She had thought she was finished with reliving her nightmares. This was the knife that Lori had spoken of. Clark wasn't vulnerable to real knives, but this…this would really hurt him. She was having a hard time believing this was happening, not to mention she was having difficulty breathing.
"Lois, are you all right?" Cat was beside her.
Lois swallowed, but couldn't speak. How could you fight lies like this?
"Come on, girl. Where's that Lois Lane spunk I remember so well?"
The waiter approached. "Is everything all right, ma'am?"
Cat replied. "My friend isn't feeling well. We'll be leaving now. Could you bring the bill, please?"
In what seemed no time at all, Cat had paid the bill, and bullied Lois into the elevator heading down to the main lobby of the Lexor hotel. They were alone in the elevator and Cat turned on her gizmo again.
"God, Lois, I thought you were going to faint. *Are* you pregnant?"
Lois shook her head and whispered, "No!" She was still in shock that Larry Kidsign had found the perfect way to hurt Clark even more.
"Look, Lois, when we get off this elevator every rag in town will be on our trail. We need to talk, but how?" Cat chewed on the end of one of her elegant finger nails.
"I can arrange that." With the need to resolve this immediate problem, Lois felt her lost bounce recovering.
She pulled her cell phone out of her purse and speed-dialled Metro Cab giving them the code words to get Henry or Joe to the rear entrance of the hotel and prepared to lose "sleazebuckets." She punched the mezzanine button on the elevator panel and they got off and headed to the rear entrance of the hotel. Lois slipped through a maintenance door, pulling Cat through and shutting the door behind her.
"Lois, what the heck do you think you're doing? My car's in the parking garage. We should head there!"
"No, Cat, Larry and his cohorts will be waiting for us there. Just follow me." She ducked out the exterior door, just as Henry pulled up to the doorway.
Lois pushed Cat into the back of the cab and jumped in after her. She barely had time to click in her own seat belt and tell Cat, "Fasten your seat belt—this is going to be a bumpy ride," before Henry peeled away from the rear of the hotel.
"What you been up to now, Lois?" Henry looked at her in the rear view mirror as he dodged through traffic with reckless abandon.
"Nothing, Henry. Absolutely nothing."
"Well, that ain't what I'm hearing. There's been umpteen ads for tonight's Larry Kidsign show with all kinds of hints and innuendo about you, and what you done…and they don't make it sound very nice. What's *that* all about?"
"He's going to tell people I was at Superman's love retreat in the Antarctic last week, and that as a result I'm going to have his child."
"Last week? You told me you was with your friends out there in the west last week. You just tell *them* that. That'll fix 'em!"
"Henry, if I tell them *that* they'll be down on my friends like a pack of wolves! They don't deserve that. I have *got* to find another solution. I've got to!"
In the rearview mirror, Henry looked nonplussed. "It does make it hard, don't it? If you was to prove you weren't with Superman, the people you *were* with get 'sleezebuckets' up their nose."
By this time Henry was parked in a quiet residential street, his motor running but the lights out. He turned around. "I think we lost 'em. Where do you want me to take you now?"
Lois looked at Cat. She was very pale. "God, Lois, how often do you go through *this*?"
"Not often. It's been what, Henry, two…three times?" Henry nodded.
"You wanted my help. If it's not because you wanted a positive spin put on you having a wild time with Superman, with the obvious result, what *did* you want me to help you with?"
Lois looked at Henry, and figured he would keep her secret. He'd been great up until now.
"Clark has asked me to marry him."
"Thank you, Henry." Lois smiled and turned back to Cat. "I wanted your help in showing me how to keep those jackals at bay so we could have a nice quiet wedding. I guess that's out of the question, now!"
"And, it's not because you're…?" Cat looked her up and down.
"No! We're in love and want to get married, and for some reason that seems to be a big crime in this world! I want to be with Clark, and he wants to be with me and…and I *love* him."
Henry looked over his shoulder and said comfortingly, "Now, don't go on so, Lois. You and Clark is real special. You deserve to be happy. Don't let them sleezebuckets get you down."
She'd known that it was going to be rough keeping their wedding small and intimate, but now it looked like it was going to be impossible! They might not even be able to marry at all, without some 'sleazebucket' dogging their every move. And forget about children, what kind of environment was *that* for bringing up kids?
"I love Clark and I want to marry him. What's so wrong about that?" Lois could feel the tears of frustration running down her cheeks.
Cat wrapped her arms around her and hugging her, said, "Nothing, Lois. Nothing's wrong with that! If you love him, you *should* marry him."
"But, how? Now they're manufacturing things that never happened and I can't do a *thing* to say otherwise! If I just deny it, I'm 'obviously' lying. If I say where I really was, I can never see my friends again. God, I may never even be able to see *Clark* again." Lois knew she was beginning to sound hysterical but she couldn't help it, she felt so *trapped*. "It's like fighting Jell-O!"
"Look, Lois, this isn't something you can solve in two minutes in the back of a cab. Why not come back to my place and we can talk this through…and watch Larry Kidsign to find out *exactly* what kind of 'evidence' he has."
Lois sniffed back her tears and said, "Okay."
Henry asked for an address and slowly moved through the city in that direction. Once on the right block, he looked in the rearview window.
"Ms. Grant, I'll drop you both at the side entrance. Is that okay?"
Cat nodded. Henry waited for them to enter the building before he drove off.
Lois and Cat stared at the TV screen. The Larry Kidsign show was in full swing.
"And, so you have the proof that Ms. Lane and Superman are going to become parents?"
The man nodded. Larry Kidsign gave the signal to roll tape and added his voice over to the video.
"Well, as you can see, folks, Lois Lane and Superman were having a hot time in the cold Antarctic. I spoke to Ms. Lane this evening and she denies all knowledge of this incident." Larry laughed uproariously.
The video showed Lois and Clark (mainly dressed as Superman—when he was dressed) in a *very* compromising situation. Despite the deft editing of any actual details, there would be no doubt in the audience's mind as to what would be the result of such implied impropriety.
"So, it's your choice, folks, is Lois Lane pregnant by Superman or does she, as she claims, only have a working relationship? You decide!"
The program broke for commercial.
"Lois, you look so pale. Don't take this so to heart. Most people know all this 'true gossip' stuff is faked. Don't worry about it."
"I don't know if people *do* know it's faked. I mean, if *I* didn't know that scene never happened, I'd believe it. If I heard her deny it, I'd think Lois Lane was covering up for something." Lois was trying to concentrate on breathing in and out. She had to stay focussed!
"What you need, Lois, is a *lawyer*. I have just the person for you." Cat pulled her Rolodex towards her and leafed through it. She dialled a number and spoke to the person answering. When she hung up she told Lois she had an appointment with Constance Hunter at 10 a.m. the next morning.
Metropolis, New Troy — June 30, 1997
Constance Hunter had obtained the medical records from the Sutcliffe Hospital for Post-Traumatic Stress to prove Lois was there and directed her to get a medical assessment, immediately, of her lack of gravid condition. She seemed overjoyed when the doctor's report not only confirmed that Lois was not now pregnant, had never been pregnant, and was in fact a virgin.
When Lois talked to Cat about this, Cat explained, "Honey, if you're a virgin that tape is a *fake*. It proves they made it up!"
"But, they'll just say my doctor is lying." Lois was puzzled.
"Yes, but it's not just *you* that *knows* the tape is faked. Your doctor knows it, your lawyer knows it, *I* know it. Soon the whole world will know it!"
"I don't know, Cat." Lois grimaced. "I'm not sure I'm all that keen on the entire world knowing I've never been with a man. It's not exactly high on my wish list for the basis of my fifteen minutes of fame…if you know what I mean."
"Do you want to be married to Clark, or not?"
"Of course, but what's that got to do with it?"
"Well, if we work this right, not only will you be married to Clark, but everyone will be ecstatic at the idea, and trust me no- one has to know the details."
"Could you explain this to me…slowly…in words of less than two syllables. I don't understand what you're trying to say."
Cat sighed. "Lois! The world is looking for a super-hero that is above us, better than us, more… ethical than us. If he's having fun and games with girls in a love nest in the Antarctic he's not 'above us,' if you get my drift. If we can prove he *is* above us, then you'll have the support of everyone in your forthcoming nuptials."
"But, I don't want *everyone* at my wedding, just me and Clark and maybe a few friends."
"Why not have both?"
"Huh?" Lois felt like she had lost complete understanding of this entire conversation.
"Lois, many cultures hold two weddings to make the marriage complete…mostly to distinguish between the legal and religious reasons for marrying." Lois was about to interrupt but Cat held up her hand to stop her. "Why can't you and Clark have two weddings? One between you and Clark that is *your* wedding and one between you and Superman that is the wedding the world wants to see?"
"I dunno, Cat. It seems kind of bizarre…*two* weddings? Why go to all that expense?"
"Lois, you're not getting the picture here. The first wedding is when you and Clark say your 'I do's' and go on your honeymoon, at your expense. The second wedding is the one where the world sees Superman marry the love of his life and live happily ever after, at public expense, okay make that corporate expense… it'd be like a fairy tale ending to a magical existence."
"Fairy tale? I'm no Cinderella."
"Actually, I was thinking 'Sleeping Beauty', the animated version… leave it to me." Cat said cryptically and then walked over to her computer and started typing.
"She wants us to do *what*?" Clark was wondering if he'd heard Lois right. Two weddings? It seemed a little excessive.
"She thinks if we have a personal wedding and a public wedding that everyone will be happy—that the world needs to see Superman get married, but *we* need to get married ourselves, first. It sort of makes sense."
Clark looked into Lois' eyes and saw the hope there. How could he possibly say no?
"You want this?" Clark stroked her hair.
"No—but I can see the sense of it. I want *us* to be married, quietly with our friends, and have a honeymoon without *any* Super interruptions. But, I can see that the world at large will feel ripped off if we don't have a wedding in front of them. Having two seems like a solution…our *real* wedding and a storybook wedding for public consumption."
Clark suddenly started to see the positive side of this idea. "You're right, she does have a point. A wedding in private would allow Superman to disappear for a few days without anyone being the wiser. I'm sure that after the public wedding the lowlifes in society will be making hay while they think Superman is off being otherwise occupied." Clark grinned at Lois and was gratified to see the return glint in her eye.
"Clark, you're sure you're not just saying this because it's something I've expressed an interest in? You know how you tend to just go with whatever your beloved wants." She grinned at him, wickedly.
"Oh, right, blame me for feeling I should follow through on my promises… I always thought of it as a *good* thing." He entwined his fingers in hers.
Lois moved a tad closer, and said, "Oh, it *is* a good thing, on the whole, but sometimes you take the principle too far." She looked up at him, her lips slightly apart, her eyes laughing.
Clark could never figure out how she did it. One minute they'd be having a perfectly reasonable conversation and then, the next thing he knew, he would find himself kissing her and any thought of conversation would be impossible.
He slowly lifted his lips from hers. "Lois, you're a witch. I swear I've never lost track of reality as much as when I'm around you."
Lois stroked his hair as they gently drifted downward. "No, Clark, you have it backwards. This *is* the reality. All that other stuff is just an illusion, a bad dream, an ordeal to get through until reality returns."
Clark was about to tease her about her twist on reality, but the expression on her face gave him pause. "You're not kidding about this, are you?"
Lois shook her head. "Clark, I was *dead*, yet I wasn't dead. The tabloids claim to have actual video footage of us copulating, and yet we've never been intimate. None of that is *real*."
Puzzled, Clark said, "If this isn't reality, what is?"
Lois took a deep breath. "To me, reality is our love and expressing that love with a kiss. Eventually, we *will* express our love more intimately, but that is *not* the reality right now. No amount of video footage or tabloid 'truth' to the contrary is going to change my reality, that I love you and we're still progressing towards the full expression of our love. All the rest of the *stuff* that's happening to us is just a bad dream that one day will go away and we'll live happily ever after."
Clark gently kissed her temple. "Lois, that sounds like a fairy tale."
She pulled back and gave him one of her best give-me-a-break looks.
"Clark! The man I am going to marry can *fly*, how can I believe our life is anything *but* a fairy tale?" She started waving her hands, so he backed off. "You know—wicked witches, evil sorcerers, fairy godmothers—we have them all, just look around you."
Clark thought about it for a second and could see her point. There was Lana and the tabloids in the first category; Tempus in the second; H.G. Wells, Tim and Cat in the third. "I never thought of it that way before."
"Well, Clark, that's because you didn't have me to tell you these things." She grinned impishly. "*Now* you do."
Clark grinned. Lois always knew how to keep his perspective. "So does that mean you're the beautiful princess and I'm the frog prince?"
Lois laughed, and then stopped. "You know, Cat said she was thinking of using 'Sleeping Beauty' as the motif for the storybook wedding. I thought she was nuts at the time, but maybe the whole fairytale feel to our lives *should* be emphasized. It seems like a much better take on our lives than the 'Superman cavorts with co-worker in his sleazy hideaway' fantasy that the tabloids have dreamed up."
Clark stroked her cheek. "You know, what always bothered me about those storybook endings was that the rest of their life was always summed up in 'and they lived happily ever after.' I always wanted to know the details, like what they did every day that kept them happy. Did they fight and make up? Did they never fight at all? I could never figure that out."
Lois looked at him thoughtfully, "Clark, guys don't usually worry about that kind of stuff."
Clark shrugged. "Well, through most of my childhood I was looking for some hope, and…"
"And, for the fairy tale ending of 'happily ever after?"
"Well, yes. But, the rational side of me figured it might not have been so uniformly 'happy' as it seemed."
Lois exhaled. "Clark, you *think* too much. Of course they fought, and the making up was the best part." She looked directly into his eyes. "If everything is always perfect, you start finding problems with the way things are. It's human nature. You need *real* problems to solve in order to be happy. Maybe that's why we're so happy now. We have a real problem that we *have* to solve, if we're ever going to get to that fairytale wedding."
Clark, torn between hope and foreboding asked, "Any idea how?"
Metropolis, New Troy — July 10, 1997
Clark came to say goodbye to Lois just prior to leaving for his rendezvous with the people at EPRAD for his final pre-launch instructions.
They had tried to stay out of the public eye as much as possible in the last two weeks. Clark worked at EPRAD while Lois worked at the Daily Planet. Lois was still wearing her engagement ring on a gold chain around her neck.
Right now, they were both having a lot of trouble with a simple farewell because they both knew this might be their final one.
"Lois, I wish you could be there to see me off. I'd feel so much better if you were there."
Lois stroked Clark's slicked back hair, getting grease on her hands, but not caring about it overly much except to wonder if she should wash her hands or wait until he came back. This might be the last part of Clark she had to keep.
"I know, Clark, but the way the gossip is right now, I don't think I'm all that popular. There seems to be a movement to blame me for our 'indiscretion' and I'd rather not add fuel to the fire."
Clark stroked the side of her face and then lifted the chain that bore his ring so he could see it. "Lois, when I get back we're going to put an end to these lies, once and for all. I'm tired of hiding and pretending. I want the world to know I love you and am going to marry you!" He gently lowered the chain so that the ring rested above her heart.
"Yes, Clark, I think that's a good idea." She gave him a quick kiss. "Now *go*, before I tie you down here so I can't possibly lose you."
"Okay, Lois, but you know that no matter what we'll always have each other."
Lois nodded. "And, Clark, I'll be listening to all the broadcasts, just so you know."
"I know." He took her hand in his and squeezed it, reassuringly. "Cat said to tell you to watch Larry Kidsign tonight, she and Constance have some kind of plan. She said something about the timing being 'perfect.'"
"Yes, Clark. I'll watch and let you know what she meant. Now *go*, before I change my mind and chain you to my kitchen counter!"
Clark did a swift pass with his lips against hers and was gone with a whoosh.
Lois stared at the television screen, she couldn't believe what was happening in front of her eyes. Constance had just served Larry Kidsign with a subpoena for libel.
"Mr. Kidsign, you have deliberately and maliciously concocted a video purporting to be the true actions of my client. The video is a phony. My client has *not* performed the actions you have displayed as 'true' events…and *I* have the proof right here." Constance waved a report in Larry Kidsign's face.
"How can you deny what everyone sees to be true?" Larry looked smug.
"Well, for beginners, the actor playing Superman is known to be a porn film star by the name of Barry Lieberschmidt… the woman playing Lois Lane is also a known X-rated film 'star', and I have a doctor's report stating that my client is not now, and never has been, pregnant."
Constance waved off to the right and a man dressed as Superman, who looked incredibly like Clark, walked into view.
"Barry, tell Mr. Kidsign what you know. I'm sure his audience would be thrilled to know the details."
"Sure, Ms. Hunter, I was hired by Mr. Kidsign's agency to make a video. Me dressed as Superman and Lulu made up like Lois Lane. He said he wuz gonna make me famous."
"And, what else did he say would happen?" Constance Hunter asked him, her arms folded across her chest.
"He said Lois Lane would be made to suffer for what she done to Lana Lang."
"And, why was that?"
"'Cause Lana Lang had Superman first and this woman, Lois Lane, come and stole him from her."
Larry Kidsign was frantically signalling for a commercial break but his production team seemed to be more interested in the drama on stage than a commercial break because the scene continued.
"You believed that?"
"Nah, but the $50,000 for a few hours work was all right. For that kind of money I'll say I believe anything."
Larry Kidsign decided to interrupt this takeover of his air time. "Well, isn't *that* special? I suppose now you're going to say you are *not* Superman pretending to be a fly-by-night actor?"
Before either Constance or Barry could respond, the screen blanked and refocused on a man standing in front of the Metropolis Observatory.
"We interrupt this program to announce that Superman is just now taking off for his mission to save our planet. We're here live at the Metropolis Observatory to watch Superman lift off for his attempt to divert the asteroid."
Lois watched the live feed as Clark, dressed as Superman, stepped into the centre of the open space behind the reporter. Clark fiddled with the tiny oxygen tanks around his neck. There were some people in uniform behind him. Lois recognized Dr. Daitch and General Zeitlin as well as many of the members of the media standing behind ropes, off to one side.
Some technicians were hovering around Clark, fussing with the equipment. The voice-over explained that Superman would have a direct link to ground control who would be able to hear everything he said. Ground control would relay any critical information to the public at large.
Superman said, "Testing. Testing," into the microphone and the television station relayed this.
A couple of technicians tested the pair of oxygen tanks hanging around Clark's neck. The voice-over explained that Superman could hold his breath for up to twenty minutes, but Dr. Daitch had given him a six-hour supply of oxygen… six hours for the average human. It was assumed that Superman could use the small containers for much longer than that.
"Superman has been preparing at the EPRAD centre, learning the asteroid's structural weak points and it is thought that if Superman hits it at maximum speed he will achieve a 50-megaton explosive force."
Clark stepped into the centre of the clear area right in front of the camera and said, "I think everybody should stand back now."
Lois watched as Clark took a deep breath and took off into the night sky. The camera followed him for a few seconds until he was out of sight. There was a brief shot of the interior of EPRAD control as they tracked Clark's progress. The picture then returned to the reporter at the observatory.
"Well, there you have it, folks! Superman is on his way to save us all from destruction. We'll be back when Superman reaches his target. In the meantime, we return you to our regularly scheduled program, in progress."
The scene returned to the Larry Kidsign studio, where Larry, Constance and Barry were watching the monitors which were still tuned to the Metropolis Observatory.
"You were saying, Mr. Kidsign?" Constance Hunter grinned at Larry Kidsign and then turned to the camera and said, "So, as you can see, although there is a remarkable resemblance between Superman and the man pretending to be him in Mr. Kidsign's video, Superman is on his way into space and his look-a-like is right here in the studio. My client does not wish Mr. Lieberschmidt any harm. She would however wish him to disclose, in writing, his role in this hoax so that there will be no doubt of both her and Superman's innocence in this matter."
She looked at Barry for acknowledgement and then, looking into the camera, continued, "So, I put it to you, did Lois Lane spend time last month in some secret hideaway with Superman? Or, did Barry, as he claims, spend time last month taping a video with a Lois Lane look-a-like to present this scenario to you, for your viewing 'pleasure?' You decide!"
Lois felt a bubble of laughter rise in her throat as the studio audience began whistling and hollering, "Barry—Barry—Barry!"
Metropolis, New Troy — July 11, 1997
Lois no longer felt so joyful. She had kept her all-night vigil in front of the television, trying to *be* there for every news bite on Clark's sojourn into space, wishing she'd paid extra for the picture-in-picture feature on her new television. She had just come back from the kitchen, with her umpteenth cup of coffee in hand, when the LNN news reporter at EPRAD came on with his current report with their "Superman for the Earth" logo superimposed behind him.
"Continuing our special LNN Report: Superman for the Earth —And now, here is Frank Madison at EPRAD Command and Control."
The scene switched to the Command Centre at EPRAD. "Several hours ago, Superman said his final goodbyes to the crowd. He was described as calm, but determined. Witnesses say his last words were to the President — I'm quoting now — 'I'll do my best.' And with that he took off, gaining speed as he rose into the sky. And this time the entire world was watching."
Over the reporter's head, the television station had superimposed the EPRAD time clock which now read 14:19:56:17, and counting…
The reporter held one finger to his ear. "It is now 14 days, 19 hours, 56 minutes and 12 seconds to impact! Just a moment. I'm being told we have a transmission from Superman. Let's take that 'live' feed, direct from mission control."
The "Superman for the Earth" logo filled the screen and underneath it the words: "Voice of SUPERMAN." Lois heard Clark's voice, distorted by distance, and the equipment he was using.
"I can see it now. In fact, it's hard to see anything else. It's immense!"
The television studio relayed a close-up of the EPRAD tracking monitor. All Lois could see was a little speck next to a much bigger speck.
There was the voice over of Ground Control responding to Clark, "Roger, Superman. We copy you on the ground. Do you have stress point acquisition in visual?"
Lois leaned forward, straining to hear Clark's response.
Ground Control responded, "Stand by for final briefing procedure."
"I know what I have to do." Lois thought Clark sounded a tad peeved at the formality.
"Superman, you're cleared for initiation on your cue." There was a brief pause. Then Ground Control continued, "And there's a lot of people here who want you to know you're the best friend Earth's ever had."
Clark sounded more cheerful as he responded, "Thanks. Well, here I go."
Lois felt herself flinch. She was scared for Clark, which wasn't alleviated when she heard Clark say, "I look like an ant next to this! I'm going as fast as I've ever gone before."
Ground Control intoned, "Impact in five, four, three. two…" While at the same time Lois heard Clark say, "Here goes, my friends."
The transmission cut to loud static. Lois took a deep intake of breath, shocked at the sudden loss of connection.
Then a voice from the television intoned, "This is EPRAD control. We have lost transmission with Superman."
Lois drew a sobbing breath. Fighting panic, Lois talked her way through it. Clark had to be okay! His microphone had been destroyed. That was all. He was fine. Of course he was fine. He *had* to be!
The television reporter appeared on the screen and said, in a grave tone of voice, "Ladies and gentlemen, EPRAD has just informed us that they have lost contact with Superman. I repeat, they have lost contact with Superman."
Lois sat staring at the television, wishing she could *do* something. All the wonderful moments with Clark flitted across her mind. The time they had gone swimming in the clear, cool pool at the base of the waterfall in Hawaii; sipping espresso while people-watching at a street-side cafe in Paris; floating over the Grand Canyon; kissing him. Would they ever be able to do any of these things again?
A crackle from the television set brought her out of her reverie.
"Ladies and Gentlemen! The EPRAD Ground Control personnel have been able to trace Superman. He's on a direct collision course with Earth. If he doesn't slow down he will crash through the atmosphere and possibly burn up!"
Lois gasped. Collision? It couldn't be! Clark would slow down! Wouldn't he?
Then camera panned the general milling about on the EPRAD control centre floor while everyone watched the tracking system showing a tiny dot headed for Earth's atmosphere.
"Impact will occur in three, two, one…" There was a pause. "Evaluation of his trajectory indicates that Superman will hit down in the Hobb's Bay area of Metropolis, unless he changes course." Another minute of silence and then, "No he is not changing course. A rescue team, led by Dr. Klein, is on its way from S.T.A.R. Labs. Superman went through a full physical with the team at S.T.A.R. Labs before his attempt. They are the best group to help him should he be injured."
Lois grabbed the phone and speed-dialled Metro Cab. She barely got out "This is Lois Lane…" when she was interrupted by the dispatcher. "Henry's on his way. We heard what happened. I'm so sorry Ms. Lane… we *all* are!"
Flames! Cold! Darkness! Pain! The flames were licking his skin. Things whirled and swooped around him. The pain was intense! Why didn't someone stop this?!
He felt numb… he could see the truck… the car! He had to get there… he *had* to! His breath was coming in sobs. He heard the sound of metal meeting metal. They were dead! Something flipped and rolled over and over, and finally something tumbled making a hole. Then, there was silence—except for the voices saying, "There he is!" A different voice saying, "Criminy, look at the size of that hole!"
The pain was unbearable. He felt something cool on his forehead.
"He's hurt! Doctor! It's serious. We're losing him!"
Then the silence gathered around him again and went dark.
Lois fumed at the snarled traffic. "Henry, isn't there a better way?"
"I'm doing the best I can, Lois. Everyone and his brother's cousin wants to get to Hobb's Bay before everyone else. We should be glad that we're not in the middle of the morning rush hour traffic that we'd usually have if everyone else wasn't home watching the launch on TV. That would be gridlock!" He looked at her in the rearview mirror and shrugged. Then, as if a lightbulb had been turned on, his expression changed. "Hang in there Lois. I think I have an idea."
Henry abruptly swung the car around in a u-turn and headed in the opposite direction. Eventually he was approaching the Hobb's Bay area from a different angle, one that not many others had thought of.
Lois listened to the reports on the radio of Clark's crash-landing and subsequent discovery by the S.T.A.R Labs medical team. Dr. Klein was doing his best to keep the media and the crowds away from the crash site. Nonetheless, there were rumours that Clark was seriously injured. One report stated that Superman was succumbing to his injuries. Lois knew this couldn't be true, it couldn't be! Clark *had* to be all right!
When the cab got stuck in traffic again, this time within two blocks of the crash site, Lois jumped out of the cab and told Henry she'd see him later.
Things felt kind of muffled. Sound came and went. Light came and went. He wasn't sure if he felt hot or cold. He could hear the murmur of voices, but not what they said. Then suddenly, everything came into focus.
"He's coming around!"
He opened his eyes and squinted into the brightness. He was lying in what seemed like a large earthen pit in an alley between a couple of brick buildings. There were some people peering down from the edge of the pit. A few, dressed in white, were down in the pit with him.
"Can you tell me how many fingers I'm holding up?"
He tried to focus on the man in front of him, but things spun and swirled. Then everything snapped into place. "Two."
The man nodded and smiled. "What is the last thing you remember?"
"I…I don't know."
"Where are you from?"
"I don't know."
"Where are you now?"
"I don't know."
The man in white glanced up at another one and shook his head, then asked, "What is today's date?"
"I—I—don't exactly know."
"What year is it?"
"I'm not sure."
"What is your name?"
"I… I can't remember." He was starting to feel panicky. Shouldn't he know this stuff?
"Who am *I*?" The man in white pointed to his own chest.
"I don't really know…"
The man smiled reassuringly. "That's okay, don't look so worried. I'm Dr. Klein. You visited me the other day and we talked. Do you remember having a favourite colour?"
"Blue. No, wait a minute. Red. I don't know, Doctor. Maybe yellow?" Clark worried that he wasn't meeting expectations.
Dr. Klein patted his shoulder. "Don't try so hard, there's no right or wrong answer. Let's try something else. Everything you remember about the last few days."
"Only that everything came crashing down. That's it, I'm afraid."
"If I told you your name was Clark Kent and that you were also Superman, what would your reaction be?"
"Clark Kent? Do you know that for a fact?" Clark Kent sounded like a nice name. "What's Superman?"
Dr. Klein turned away from him and spoke softly to someone dressed in a white jacket. "I think he's had serious trauma to the head. He remembers almost nothing of his life—even when prompted. I think we should take him to the lab, pronto!"
Clark heard a voice inside his head say '…and dissect you like a frog.' Who were these people? Why did they want him to go to a lab?
Before he could verbalize his fears, the doctor turned back to him and asked, "Do you think you could walk to that ambulance over there?"
He didn't respond. Hoping that his fears were groundless, he stood up and climbed out of the pit. As he straightened up at the edge of the hole, he felt a cool breeze wafting over his torso. He liked how the cool breeze caressed his skin. He was wearing almost nothing, except some bright red pants with a yellow belt around his hips. Here and there some kind of blue stuff, burnt at the edges, was sticking to his skin. He noticed that there were a lot of people crowded against yellow tape with the words "Police Line" on it. He wondered why they were here. This didn't seem like a place where they would dissect a person.
Suddenly, one of the people ducked under the yellow tape, a woman flung herself into his arms, saying, "Oh, Clark, I'm so glad to see you," and to his astonishment she kissed him full on the mouth!
He gently but firmly pushed her off, astounded by the ardour of her kiss.
"Miss. Who are you?" He was almost sure the woman doing this should have had dark hair.
The woman was looking at him, dumbfounded. "Clark! Oh, honey, it's me, Lana! How can you not remember what we've meant to each other? We were engaged." She stroked her hand across the chest. "We meant so much to each other! Now you don't even remember 'us!'"
He didn't know what to say. He had no idea who this woman was. She had blond hair which for some reason he thought should be red. With the word 'engaged' he envisioned the other woman with dark hair. Yet another image of the dark-haired woman and an old man standing behind her flitted across his mind. The old man was saying "Lois Lane. And still a bit feverish…"
At that moment the same dark-haired woman he had been seeing in his head came up behind Lana and said, "Clark? Are you all right?" She was that woman he'd been envisioning! … but not quite. There was something different… better, in fact.
She lunged forward and hugged him. "Oh, Clark, I am so glad you're all right!"
She made him feel safe and secure. Safe in a confusing and bewildering world. Safe from being dissected. Safe to go with this man, Dr. Klein. He just wished he could remember what she had done that made him feel so good about her.
Lois was just calculating how she could get Clark out of this crowd and somewhere quiet and safe when Dr. Klein stepped forward.
"I'm sorry, Ms. Lane." He took Clark by the arm. "We're going to have to take Superman to the lab for more tests. He seems to be suffering trauma and needs medical attention."
Lois felt the blood drain from her face. Clark needed medical attention! He appeared to be just fine, but then she took a closer look at Clark's face. She had seen that exact same expression on her own face whenever she'd looked in a mirror for the first few weeks of her stay at Sutcliffe. He seemed bewildered—almost as if he had no idea who he was or where he was. Could the news media have got it right? Was Clark really badly injured? He looked fine on the surface, but… She swallowed.
"Dr. Klein, how badly is he hurt?" When she saw the doctor hesitate to tell her, she persisted, "I'm asking as a friend. Please, Dr. Klein, I want to know."
He nodded consent to her request, and said, "We're not sure. At first we thought he was fatally injured, but in just the last half hour he has improved tremendously. In many respects he seems unhurt. On the other hand, you're the only person whose name he has remembered."
"Clark has amnesia?" Lois was having trouble processing the information.
Dr. Klein patted her arm, tentatively. "Yes, he can't even remember who he is. We think the impact of re-entry has caused the human equivalent of a concussion. We'd like to determine the exact extent of his injuries. I'll call you as soon as we know exactly what his condition is. Where can I reach you?"
Lois couldn't take her eyes off the bewildered expression on Clark's face. "The Daily Planet. I'll be at my desk until you call."
"Right. It will probably be a couple of hours."
"I'll expect your call." She turned to Clark, and touching his arm to get his attention, said, "It's okay, Clark. Dr. Klein is going to help you. I'll see you later, okay?"
Clark nodded. He seemed to understand, but still looked slightly doubtful.
Lois watched the ambulance attendants guide Clark into the back of the ambulance and felt desolate when the doors closed. Dr. Klein was the best possible person for the job. She knew he would do as he had promised. But, she wished she could be with Clark. If only they could be open about their relationship, then she could have gone in the ambulance with him. Instead, she had to pretend to be just a co-worker and stay on the job.
She watched the ambulance squeeze its way through the crowd, with the help of a couple of police officers, until it disappeared from sight.
As she turned to head back towards Henry to have him take her to the Planet, she saw Lana in front of yet another television camera. She heard Lana in mid-spew about how Clark had dumped her for Lois Lane, tramp and husband stealer. Now 'that husband stealer' was at it again. Clark had been talking to *her* then that *woman* had meddled in their relationship, yet again.
Lois walked purposely up to Lana to tell her just what she thought of her attempt to gain the limelight at Clark's expense. Lana turned just then and proclaimed, "And here's the tramp, pretending she has the right to help Clark in his hour of need! Clark was talking to me when she butted in! I'm the only one who can help him. Not this hussy!"
Lois' blood-pressure sky-rocketed. Now she was mad! Really mad! Before she could think about stopping herself, she grabbed Lana by the arm, swung her around and almost nose to nose voiced her opinion between gritted teeth.
"Well, if it isn't Lana Lang in the flesh! Downtrodden woman of the universe out to get every last second of her fifteen minutes of fame!"
Lana spat back. "I thought you would be right beside your man, Lois. What's the matter? Clark not in the mood today? The big guy have a headache?" The sneer in her voice exactly matched the expression on her face.
Lois heard the crowd around her gasp at the insensitive way Lana referred to Clark's injuries.
"Lana, are you absolutely insane?! I know you have trouble handling the truth, but Clark put his *life* on the line for all of us today and all you can worry about is whether or not we're sleeping together! Get with the program, Lana! Clark is hurt! He could have *died*. I thought you cared about him."
Lana stepped back, a look of disdain on her face. With a shake of her blond tresses she proclaimed to Lois, the cameras and the crowd at large, "Of course I care for him. Much more than you do…you *witch*!" She moved her face closer to Lois. "Clark loved *me*. He wanted to please *me*. Then *you* came along and persuaded him to wear that stupid costume and rush off helping people that didn't deserve help in the first place."
There was no sound from the crowd, no coughing, no whispering. Nothing. Lois heard the silence. It was obvious that Lana didn't because she continued her harangue.
"What did you do to him? Why did Clark turn from everything he knew and everyone who loved him to follow you around the world?"
Lois gasped at her nonsense. "I didn't do anything. Clark chose the life he was meant to lead."
Out of the corner of her eye, Lois saw every camera and video in the area focus on them. Lana was getting the attention she had always craved, but perhaps not exactly the way she had wanted it. The crowd was no longer silent.
Lois continued, "Lois Lane from a parallel dimension helped him because Tempus had kidnapped her from *her* dimension to destroy Clark here, before he could become Superman. *She* knew what Clark could be, and helped him to be that. I had nothing to do with it. I wasn't here then."
"And you expect me to believe that?" Lana looked and sounded scornful. "How naive do you think I am?"
"Lana, I was in the Sutcliffe Hospital for Post-Traumatic Stress in London for four years. I have the medical bills to prove it. I have several eye witnesses who saw me collapse in the patient lounge in London at the same time that Clark was swallowing the bomb in Metropolis. There is video tape of the other Lois at the television studio at the same time. How much evidence do you need to demonstrate I'm telling the truth?"
Lana looked less confident but was still stuck in the same groove. "Clark *promised* me that he wouldn't use his powers, and he broke his promise. I can never forgive him for that! Clark never keeps his promises. He promised to marry me then broke our engagement. I told him it was *me* or Superman and he chose that *stupid* costume!"
Lois heard the crowd gasp. "So, you did everything in your power to prevent Clark from being Superman, and you're now mad that he defied you?"
"He *promised*!" Lana looked sulky.
Lois threw up her hands. "So, some promise he made in his teens is more important than him saving the entire world? I give up. I will *never* understand you."
Lois turned on her heel and strode over to the nearest intersection, ducked under the police tape and looked back once, just before turning the corner, to see the media congregating around Lana. She wondered what self-centred twist Lana would give to the events of the last few minutes.
"Why didn't you want Mr. Kent to become Superman?"
The television in the Planet newsroom was tuned to the coverage of Superman's crash to earth.
"I thought it was best for him. One man can't change anything, no matter what his powers."
"Oh, so you don't think that crushing the Nightfall Asteroid would change anything."
"No! That's not what I meant. I didn't think…"
An angry voice interrupted Lana. "No, you don't think. That's just the problem, isn't it, Ms. Lang? You wanted a nice normal guy and come hell or high water you were going to make him into a normal guy and too bad for the rest of us poor slobs."
"No! That's not…"
"If you wanted a normal guy, why didn't you go out with some other guy in Smallville?"
"Yeah. Why this man? You knew he was different. If you wanted 'normal' why not pick someone else?"
"Poppycock! If you love someone you don't try to make them into someone else. What was it? Power? Is that what you wanted? Or did you think you could really make him be like everyone else?"
Lois turned away from the screen.
Mrs. DeVries came up behind her. "How long has that been going on?"
"Almost two hours, in between shots of reporters standing outside S.T.A.R. Labs waiting for news about Clark, and the feed from EPRAD Command and Control showing technicians staring at their screens, they show the crowd grilling Lana. I guess the producers think it makes better television than all that watching and waiting. A different group of people interrogates Lana about every five minutes. They all ask the same things, more or less, over and over. Even *I'm* starting to feel sorry for her. She's always wanted the limelight, and now she has it—with a vengeance. She has no-one to defend her from that mob. No friends, nothing! Larry Kidsign fled to the Bahamas to avoid being subpoenaed in the pending lawsuit for perpetrating that hoax on Superman, and no-one else on the Larry Kidsign Show wants anything to do with her."
"What about her parents?"
"Her parents headed for Smallville the second they heard about the asteroid. They wanted to be away from the large city when it crashed — like the asteroid was going to know the difference." Lois snorted.
Mrs. DeVries changed her tone of voice and gently asked, "How's Clark?"
Suddenly subdued, Lois replied, "I don't know, really. Dr. Klein said he would call as soon as…" She grabbed her ringing phone.
"Ms. Lane, could you come to the lab and see Superman? He's asking for you."
Lois' heart leaped. Clark wanted to see her! "I'll be right there!" Lois was about to hang up but paused when she heard Dr. Klein continue.
"Oh, and Ms. Lane, could you please stop by his apartment and pick up a change of clothes. His outfit burned up in the atmosphere and we didn't think to have him bring a change of clothes to the lab for such an emergency."
"Yes. I'll be there as soon as I can."
Mrs. DeVries was smiling, reflecting the expression on Lois' face. "He's okay?"
"I think so. He's asking to see me and they want me to bring him a change of clothes." Lois speed-dialled Metro cab, grabbed her laptop from the top of her desk and her purse from the bottom drawer, and headed towards the elevators.
"Don't forget, Lois, we have the exclusive on this one."
Lois stabbed the elevator button, turned and called to Mrs. DeVries, "You always do with Superman stories."
The elevator doors closed and the cage whisked Lois to the main floor.
Clark sat patiently waiting for Lois.
At least they said he was Clark. He didn't really know for sure one way or another. Lois he was almost sure about, but maybe not. He thought the woman he had envisioned in his head wasn't really the same woman as the one he had met today, but he wasn't sure why he thought that either.
So far Lois had been right. These people didn't seem like they were there to dissect him, but to help. Everyone had been very kind and had explained everything they were doing…and why. It was very reassuring, except that he still couldn't remember!
He sighed. Dr. Klein had explained that he had hit his head very hard and as a result he was having some memory difficulties. The doctor's advice was to relax and just let time heal the problem. Eventually Clark would remember, Dr. Klein seemed almost positive about that. 'Eventually' couldn't come soon enough!
He had felt dizzy just before the doctor went to make his phone call, so Dr. Klein had said to just sit under these sun lamps and rest. The doctor seemed to think the lights would help him remember that much sooner. It didn't make any sense, but Clark did feel better than he had earlier.
The room they had put him in was large, white and sterile. He was sitting on the edge of a lab table, waiting for Lois. After what seemed an interminable amount of time, he heard the door of the lab open and Dr. Klein came in again.
"Clark, Lois is on her way. She's dropping by your place for a change of clothes so you can dress and leave for home."
Clark's heart leaped. Lois was coming to him! "Thank you."
Home? His place? Not even a glimmer of a memory came to mind. He wondered where it was. If he knew *that* then he'd be able to figure out how long it would take Lois to get here. He hoped it was soon.
Henry pulled up in front of Clark's apartment building. Lois was just about to get out of the cab when it hit her.
"Oh, for crying out loud! I don't have a key! How am I going to get Clark his stuff?" She'd been in too much of a hurry to get here to even consider the problem before.
Henry grinned at her in the rearview mirror. "It's okay, Lois. Our owner called Mr. Kent's landlord. He said he'd be here by the time you got here."
"Thank you! You are *amazing*!"
"Nah, it's all part of the service. Like I said, ain't nothing too good for Mr. Kent."
As Lois exited the cab, she saw a tall man standing beside Clark's front door. She walked up the steps to greet him.
Leading with her right hand, she said, "Hi, I'm Lois Lane."
The man took her proffered hand and shook it. "Jules Lahey, at your service."
"Thank you for coming. I was so anxious to get to Clark, I completely forgot about needing a key."
"Not a problem, Ms. Lane. Clark needs people like you in his life. I'm glad to help." He pushed a key into the door and turned it. "There you go. Here's a spare key. Please lock up when you leave. I've notified my security people to allow you access to Mr. Kent's apartment, until he's well enough to decide what he wants to do about that arrangement."
"Thank you. Thank you, so much!" Lois shook his hand again and watched him walk down the street and get into a Mercedes Benz. She turned and entered Clark's apartment, closing the door behind her.
She stopped at the top of a short flight of stairs leading down towards his living room and kitchen. The place was just so Clark. What amazed her was how *neat* the place was. It was almost as if the maid had just left after making everything spotless. Did Clark always keep it this way? Or, had he done a special clean-up prior to his trip into space?
Whatever his normal practice, his current neatness definitely helped her find and pack his things in the suitcase she found in his front closet. In no time she was back out at the taxi, pushing the suitcase across the back seat of the cab, so she could climb in after it.
"You got everything?" Henry asked over his shoulder.
"I think so. Let's get over to S.T.A.R. Labs, I want to get this to Clark as soon as possible."
Clark heard someone at the entrance to the lab. Anxiously, he heard Dr. Klein speaking to that someone and then the door opened. He held his breath as the dark-haired woman, Lois, entered the room carrying a suitcase.
He slid off the edge of the lab table as the stranger walked across the room towards him. He was mesmerized. She was so beautiful. It took his breath away.
In a soft voice that sounded like liquid velvet she said, "Hi, Clark," and smiled. Before he could say anything in return, she continued, "Dr. Klein says you can go home. I've brought you some clothes so you don't have to wear *that* while you're in transit." She pointed at the hospital gown he had been wearing ever since he got to S.T.A.R. Labs.
As she put the suitcase beside him on the lab table, all Clark could do was gaze at her, captivated. He knew her name was Lois, but what did that mean to him? He had asked for her, and they had brought her. Now, he didn't even know what to say. He decided to go with the obvious and said, "Thank you."
She gave him a searching look. "Clark, it's okay. I understand that you don't remember. Of all people, *I* know what that is like. Let's start at the beginning, huh?"
He nodded, wondering what she meant.
She put out her hand, and shook his. "Hi, I'm Lois Lane."
Clark shook her hand in return. "Hi. They tell me I'm Clark Kent." He paused, then continued, "This is the weirdest feeling. I feel I know you, but there seems to be two of you, and yet I know that *you* are the one right Lois Lane." He paused, again, trying to calm his nervousness. "I'm sorry, I know I'm not making a whole lot of sense, but that's what it feels like."
She came closer and patted his arm. "It's okay, Clark. Believe it or not you're making perfect sense. I'll explain when we get to your place." She turned to the table and picked up the suitcase. "Here, Clark, go change. I'd like to get out of here and talk."
He took the suitcase from her hand and walked over to the shower facilities adjacent to the lab. Inside the suitcase were the clothes, as promised, and a small bag containing soap and such. He stripped, took a quick shower and towelled off. He put on the shirt and pants that Lois had brought. He was just finishing buttoning up his shirt when he felt the stubble on his face. He had forgotten to shave. He stood looking in the metal mirror in the change-room. He had no idea what to do. There was nothing in the things that Lois had brought to indicate what he needed to do to shave. He was scared.
He didn't know how long he stood there staring at the toiletry bag before there was a knock on the door. "Clark, are you all right?"
He opened the door a crack and said, "I don't know. I know it sounds crazy, but I've forgotten how to shave."
Lois pushed the door open further. "It's okay, Clark. You don't shave the way other men do, anyway. Go stand in front of the mirror."
Puzzled, he followed her instruction. She pulled a small hand mirror out of her bag and handed it to him. Perplexed, he looked at her for further guidance.
"I'm not sure what exactly you do, but you once told me that you shaved using mirrors to reflect your Special vision to burn off the stubble."
She nodded. "You can heat things up with your eyes and burn them. It's how you shave and cut your hair, since your aura protects you from harm… most of the time."
He looked in the mirror on the wall, feeling absolutely baffled about what he was to do next. He glanced down into the small mirror Lois held to one side and then it just happened. As if he had been doing it every day for years, he saw the stubble vanish from his cheeks wherever his eyes gazed. He blinked and missed a patch then when he gazed at that spot again the stubble evaporated.
He was almost afraid to look at Lois, just in case this vanishing thing happened to more than just facial hair. He felt a sudden awe at what he was capable of doing. "How did I do that?"
She stroked his now smooth cheek. "I don't know, Clark. You never really explained it to me. I just know that's how you shave." Reluctantly she stood back away from him and taking her mirror said, "Look, I'll let you finish dressing. I didn't mean to interrupt. I was just afraid you had gotten sick, or something."
"Thank you." Clark gazed after her. She hadn't seemed to think what he did was amazing. It was like this Special vision, was almost normal to her. Did other people do things like he did? Then again she had said that he did it differently. He mentally shrugged and continued dressing. He found aftershave in the bag and slapped some on his face. Then he came across eyeglasses in a case and slipped them on. Suddenly, he felt safe and secure again. If he wore the glasses there was no danger of him using his Special vision inappropriately. That was one of The Rules.
He ran a comb through his hair and then after putting the grooming aids back in the suitcase, opened the door of the change-room and went out to meet Lois again, suitcase in hand.
The taxi drew up in front of a short apartment building. Clark didn't really recognize it, but figured it must be his home since there wouldn't be any other reason for stopping here.
Lois urged him to get out of the cab. Henry, the driver, had introduced himself earlier, pulled the suitcase out of the trunk and placed it on the top step leading up to the front door. Clark reached for his wallet, only to find he didn't have one. Lois pulled her purse and black case from the back of the cab, thanked Henry, and the driver got back in the cab and drove off.
"Doesn't he want to be paid?" Clark was puzzled. He was pretty sure taxi drivers expected payment.
Lois pulled a key out of her purse. "It's okay, Clark. Henry does pro bono work for you when you need it."
"Oh." Clark didn't know what else to say. He picked up the suitcase as he followed Lois up the steps and through the door after she had unlocked it. He stopped at the top of a short flight of steps staring at the room below. It was a nice room but he had absolutely no feeling of recognition. He put the suitcase down.
"Does this look familiar?" Lois asked as she lay her purse and the black case on a trunk in front of the sofa.
"Maybe… I don't know… Not yet." Clark tried to think positive thoughts to combat his current panic. Someone had once told him to think positive.
Clark slowly walked down the steps and wandered around the room. He looked at the titles of the books on the shelves. It seemed a very eclectic collection. Many of the books were in other languages. Surprisingly, he was able to read the titles, but couldn't remember where he'd bought the books. He picked up a picture of a middle-aged couple.
"I'm not sure, but I think I know these people." There was something painful associated with them.
"They were your parents."
Lois nodded solemnly. "Yes, they were killed in a car accident when you were ten."
"Killed!" Then Clark saw it in his mind's eye. The truck, the car, his small self running faster and faster. "I ran as fast as I could, but I wasn't fast enough." Lois took his arm and led him to the sofa, pushing him to sit down. "It was horrible. I saw it all. The semi hit the car. There was the sound of metal meeting metal. The car flipped and rolled over and over, and finally slid into the ditch upside-down. Then everything was real quiet. I could see they were dead!" He searched for comfort in Lois' eyes. "Why did they have to die, Lois? Why?"
Lois took a deep breath. "It's a long story. I'll try to start at the beginning. Why don't I make us a cup of tea and I'll fill you in."
He nodded and followed Lois into the kitchen area of this loft apartment. He didn't want to be alone. Lois looked in several cupboards to find tea, cups and a kettle. She filled the kettle and put it on the stove to boil. She found a teapot and filled it with hot water to warm it up. "It's lunchtime, are you hungry? I could fix us a snack."
Clark wondered what being hungry felt like. "I don't know, I don't think so. If you're hungry, go ahead."
"It's okay, I ate while I was waiting to hear from Dr. Klein."
Clark nodded. It was really pleasant standing here with Lois, watching her do this small thing for him. He knew it was for him. He wasn't sure how he knew, but he felt that under normal circumstances Lois didn't do the domestic things his mother had done.
His mother. He remembered her in the kitchen at the farmhouse pulling a tray of cookies out of a hot oven and shooing him away, telling him that he would have to wait until they had cooled a little before eating any. He remembered his father would come in and say how a kitchen never really smelled like a kitchen except when cookies were baked and ready for eating. There was no context to this memory. He didn't know where the farmhouse was, or why this particular baking session had stuck in his mind. But with that brief glimpse of his parents he knew they had loved him very, very much.
"My Mom used to make tea for my Dad when he came in from doing chores. She'd bake cookies and we'd all sit around the kitchen table and munch on our snack. Then she'd shoo me and my father out of her kitchen so she could clean up."
"Clark! You remember! That's wonderful!"
Warmed by her joy in his ability, Clark said, "Well, not a lot, but I know Mom and Dad loved me. The memory is kind of blurry, except for the eating the cookies part."
"It's a start, Clark. Don't rush yourself. You'll remember, it just takes time."
Clark nodded. He was grateful that this woman cared for him. "So, how do I know you?"
"We work together. We're journalists at the Daily Planet."
"Journalists? I'm a journalist?" This didn't ring any bells either.
"Yes. We're partners. We investigate stories and write them up."
"And we are friends, right?" Clark wanted to know more.
"Sure we're friends." Clark saw her swallow and turn to fiddle with the tea-making.
He felt there was something more to their relationship. "Are we… more than friends?"
Just then the kettle whistled. Lois emptied the warmed teapot, measured tea into the pot and poured boiling water over the leaves. "Sit in the living room. I'll explain everything when we're both seated and drinking our tea."
Clark walked over to the counter, put the teapot and cups on a tray and just as he was going to pick up the tray, suddenly the floor tilted and he grasped the counter to steady himself.
"Clark! What is it?"
"Nothing. Really." Clark took a deep breath, everything straightened up again and he pushed himself away from the counter. "I just felt a little dizzy for a second. Dr. Klein said this might happen and to just rest, in the sun if possible."
"Oh, Clark, of course! You need to be in the sun if you're going to get better quickly. Why don't we sit out on the terrace. The sun is shining out there, and should for the next few hours. Sitting in the sun will be good for you. You get much of your strength from it. I know you don't know that yet, but it's true. So, let's just go out there and sit in the sun."
Lois picked up the tray and carried it out onto the terrace. He followed her. She placed the tray on top of a low patio table and arranged the lounge chairs so that they could both reach the tea. Lois sat down on the shady side of the table. He sat in the sun.
With only slight trepidation, Clark said, "Okay, Lois. I think I'm ready for the truth… whatever that might be."
Lois chewed on her lower lip, "I don't really know where to start. Maybe it would be best if I just tell you in the order I learned it?"
When he nodded his assent, she sipped her tea, swallowed and started her story. "Four and a half years ago, in April, 1993, I was onto the biggest news story of my life. Guns were becoming a necessity in every day life here in Metropolis and mysterious gun runners were supplying most of them. My source told me that the link tying my story together was in the Congo, so I talked Perry— he was my editor back then—into letting me follow my lead…which I did. I went to the gunrunners' encampment outside Pointe Noire and was captured…and tortured."
Lois was trembling. He could see how much this memory was upsetting her. Clark reached over and touched her hand. "You don't have to go into that if you don't want to, just skip over to the part where I come into it."
"Well, that's kind of hard to do, but I'll try. The man who captured me said that he had killed the President and Vice- President in 1982, and your parents in 1966…"
"He killed my parents?" Clark was puzzled. "But it was a truck that ran into them."
Lois put her hand on his arm. "He had his ways. He used some kind of inter-dimensional thing to kill the truck driver so that the truck would run into your parents' car and kill them. It was one of the many things he did to make your life miserable. He was also trying to stop me from meeting Superman…you."
"Me!? Why me?"
"Well, I didn't know it at the time, but apparently Tempus is afraid that you will marry me and that our children will create the Utopia he came from, and detests."
"Yes, Tempus came from a future place called Utopia which was created by Superman's descendants."
"So, he thought that if we met we'd marry? You said that we're friends and co-workers, but I know there's something more. Are we married? No, we can't be. You don't live here or you'd know where the tea things were." Clark, afraid to look Lois in the eyes, looked down at his hands.
Lois touched his hand to get his attention. When he looked up she drew the gold chain bearing her engagement ring out into view. "Not yet, but we're planning to be."
Clark stared at the ring and took a quick indrawn breath to calm himself. Then he realized something else. "That's Mom's ring!" He must really love this woman if he had given her Mom's ring to affirm their engagement. Then fear squeezed his heart. Why wasn't she wearing it on her finger? "But…but…if we're engaged, why aren't you wearing my ring? Are you ashamed to be marrying me?" He held his breath waiting for her answer.
Clark's relief was almost tangible.
Lois sighed as if in frustration. "It's kind of complicated. But really Clark, it's not so bad having your ring on a chain around my neck. It's much closer to my heart there." She pulled his hand into hers and squeezed it, making him feel much better. "Why don't I go on with the story so you have a better idea of why things are the way they are."
"Where was I? Oh, yeah, in the Congo listening to Tempus telling me what a noble person he was. He told me a little bit about you and how he was going to destroy the world with an asteroid he had gone back in time to redirect and then had his goons torture me. I was hurt very badly and then he implanted one of his sadistic gizmos in my mouth. I tried to escape but was shot. I ran, and ran, but eventually I lost consciousness. When I woke up I was in the Sutcliffe Hospital for Post-Traumatic Stress in London. I couldn't remember a thing about who I was, not my name, nothing."
"London! How did you get there?"
"You took me there."
"I did? Is that how we met?"
"Not exactly." She breathed in. "I'm sorry Clark, for someone who summarizes things for a living I'm really doing a bad job with this one. I'm not getting this story right at all."
"It's okay, Lois. I'll try not to interrupt until you're finished."
"Okay. Meanwhile, back at Sutcliffe. I was there for four years. I couldn't remember anything. Whenever I tried to remember I had this excruciating pain in my head."
"You lost your memory for *four* years!" Clark was scared, what if this limbo state he was in were to go on for years? How could he bear it? Turning to Lois he asked, "What made you remember?"
"You helped me there too…but let me try to get this in the right order."
"Then in April 1996, I saw a television news report where Superman, you, saved a studio full of people from a bomb. It wasn't until later that I found out that the reason I had the excruciating pain at hearing the word "Superman" was that device Tempus had implanted in my back molar which controlled what I could remember. It was a year later when you came to find me at Sutcliffe."
"But, if I took you there, why did I wait four years to come and get you?"
"Actually, you came for me the morning after you dropped me off, it just took four years of "real" time to do that."
Clark blinked. "I think you've lost me. I dropped you off in April 1993 and came for you in April 1997, and yet it was only one day for me, but four years for you? How? Why? What?…"
Before he could continue with his barrage of questions, Lois interrupted. "H.G. Wells took you back in time to rescue me. You left in April 1997 to pick me up in April 1993, you took me to Sutcliffe for help, and then returned home to 1997. The next morning you came for me, but since you had taken me to Sutcliffe in 1993, I was there for four years in between you dropping me off and picking me up again."
"H.G. Wells the writer?" He looked at her. She couldn't have meant *that* H.G. Wells, could she? "You're kidding me, aren't you?"
Lois shook her head. "No. It's all true. Believe it or not."
Clark blew out a calming breath. "Okay. So, while you were chasing gun runners and trying to remember your life for four years, where was I? I mean, if I didn't actually rescue you in 1993. What was I doing?"
Lois shrugged. "I wasn't here, so I'm not altogether sure what you were doing, in detail. What I do know, is that right after I 'disappeared' in the Congo, you were hired at the Daily Planet. You worked there as a reporter for three years and then in April, 1996 the other Lois came from the parallel universe."
"Yes. Each of us has a counterpart in a parallel dimension. Tempus kidnapped that Lois and brought her to our universe in an attempt to destroy you. He wanted her to let you know you could be Superman and then he planned to use your newly publicized alien origins against you."
Clark was starting to feel disoriented again. "So, I'm an alien and the woman I remember—the one that looks like you—is the other Lois?"
Lois nodded. "Yes, she knew that you came from Krypton and helped you to become Superman. Tempus tried to destroy you and failed, and then she went back to her own world with H.G. Wells."
None of this sounded in the least familiar, but for some reason he had no problem believing it was true. Then the image of a man saying "Lois Lane. And still a bit feverish…" came into his mind again. Then other images of the same man flitted through his memory.
"I kind of remember an old man with glasses. He had this really weird looking machine that kind of appeared out of nowhere. I guess that must have been H.G. Wells."
Lois nodded. "I think so. I've never met him, or seen his machine. Although I understand he was there when you came for me in 1993. However, I have seen the videos of the attempted bombing at the television studio last year and he was an older man with glasses."
Clark decided to move on to the next thing that puzzled him. "Earlier you said that I wasn't crazy when I thought there were two of you. Now I understand why. But, there is one other thing that puzzles me…"
"Only one?" Lois grinned at him.
Clark grinned back. "Well, there are one or two others, but the one that has me most puzzled at the moment is that other woman."
"The blonde that came up and kissed me right after Dr. Klein first asked me all those questions. Why do I think she should have red hair? And, she seemed to think she knew me…in fact she said we were engaged. But that can't be, because you and I are engaged. I don't understand."
Lois looked uncomfortable. "That's Lana Lang. I think she bleached her hair when she started working in television. You both grew up in Smallville, Kansas. You were engaged to her. Then you became Superman." Lois nervously gathered the empty cups and put them on the tray.
"Why did we break up? Was it because of you?"
Lois' head snapped up. "No! We hadn't even met then." She took a deep breath. "I think you might want to remember that part for yourself. If I tell you, it'll only make me seem like I'm vindictive… and I'd rather not have you think that of me."
She picked up the tray of dirty dishes and turned towards the terrace door into the apartment. Clark stood up and gently took the tray from her before she could go inside. They stood with the tray between them. "It's okay, Lois. I would never think badly of you. I'm sorry I upset you."
"Oh, Clark, it's not you that's upset me. It's just been a really tough day, I didn't get much sleep and I guess I'm not coping as well as I'd hoped."
Clark put the tray down and took her into his arms. He didn't know hardly anything about her, but he knew that she was hurting and needed him. It must be really hard on her to have her fiance not be able to remember her and then ask about his previous relationship.
Apologetically, he said, "Lois, I'm so sorry. I was being selfish. You've been so wonderful in helping me and I shouldn't have asked you about that Lana woman. I guess I lost my tact along with my memory."
"No, you had a right to ask. How else are you going to find out? It's just that she really gets on my nerves. I have a real problem dealing with the fact that she's still controlling your life." She made as if to leave the protection of his arms. "I should grow up."
He loosened his arms around her. "How is she still controlling my life?"
"She's the main reason I can't wear your ring in public. She's been on national television bad-mouthing you. The television show that was sponsoring her invective even faked some graphic footage of you and… me. Only my lawyer called their bluff." She waved her arms in the air and he backed off. "Clark! I just want us to be together. You and me… no television cameras, no crowds, no… no nothing! And now, you're sick and the television cameras will be on you all the time, and we'll never get to be alone ever again!"
"We're alone, now."
He saw her gather her composure and slowly relax her shoulders. "Yes, Clark, you're right. We're alone right now and I'm letting all the baggage I'm carrying around spoil it for us. I'm sorry."
He reached forward, pulled her to him and gently kissed her. Their souls seemed to float and swoop around each other like pastel butterflies. He remembered other kisses, somehow different, but just as sweet. He slowly let his lips drift away from her. Lois looked dazed.
"Lois? Are you okay?"
She nodded slowly. "Very okay." She slowly pulled away from him. "You know this is the first time when we've kissed that we've actually stayed on the ground? Is that a good thing or a bad thing? What do you think?"
Puzzled, Clark asked, "I don't know. Where else would we be?"
"The ceiling, the Grand Canyon, the lower stratosphere. You name it, we've been there." Lois smiled up at him. "It's kind of interesting not knowing where we're going to end up."
"I wish I knew me, you make me sound truly remarkable."
"You are, Clark. You are." Lois slowly released her hold on him. "However, right now you're not up to par. If you can't even float a few inches off the floor when we kiss, you need to rest and gather your strength. Dr. Klein said resting in the sun would be good for you, so why don't you rest out here on the terrace while I do some work. Mrs. DeVries must be chewing her nails by now wanting to know what's going on."
"Our boss. Now, you rest. You're going to need it, believe me."
Clark thought she was exaggerating his problem. He didn't even feel tired, but decided to go along with her plan rather than put up a fight. After a few minutes lying on a lounge chair he began to unwind. He'd lie here for just a few more minutes and then he'd go watch Lois work. It would be interesting to see her working. It would be interesting just to watch her, period. It would be interesting to find out more about her. It would be interesting…
"Yes, Dr. Klein. He's asleep in the sun. He had one minor dizzy spell, but other than the fact that he can't remember and doesn't have his powers, he seems just fine."
"That's good, Lois. Keep an eye on him. If he doesn't wake up in a couple of hours, wake him. Do that every couple of hours. The trauma of hitting that asteroid then his plunge through the Earth's atmosphere and his crash-landing was harder on him than he realizes. Not to put too fine a point on it, Ms. Lane, he almost died. If it wasn't for his dense molecular structure he'd still be comatose. It's possible that the trauma to his head could even now result in a coma. So be sure to wake him up and make sure he's alert every couple of hours."
"How will I know when it's okay to stop?"
"When he's invulnerable again and can fly. Based on the tests we did prior to his departure, I'd say he would be pretty much fully recovered when you can determine he has those two powers back. Do you think you will be able to test for that?"
"Yes, I don't think I'll have any problem knowing when he's got his powers back. I'll let you know if he gets his powers back."
"Do that, Lois. I want to commend you on your efforts in helping Clark."
"Thank you, Dr. Klein."
"Don't mention it. Don't forget to keep me posted if anything happens."
Lois hung up the phone. She looked out of the window overlooking the terrace and reassured herself that Clark was sleeping peacefully. He needed to sleep for the full two hours Dr. Klein recommended if he was going to get better soon.
Brrrrng!!! Lois dove for the phone to stop it ringing before it woke Clark.
"Lois? You're there. Great! How's Clark?" It was Mrs. DeVries.
"He's resting at the moment. Dr. Klein thinks that he can recover faster if he just rests."
"How's your story coming?"
"Almost finished. I hope you're not expecting a blow-by-blow description of Clark's recovery, because I'm going with just the high points."
"High points are fine with me. The Daily Planet isn't a tabloid. I want the hard facts from you. Clark is better at the human interest type story…even when it's about his alter-ego. I'll let him write the 'how it felt to crash to Earth' piece."
"That's good, because I don't think I could write about his ordeal in detail."
"He *is* all right, isn't he?"
"Yes, except that some of his special powers haven't kicked in yet. I don't think I want the low-lifes around here knowing that, though."
"Mmm. Good point. However, if you don't say something about his incapacitation people will want to know why he's not helping out with the next phase of the problem."
"Next phase? What next phase?"
"Turn on the TV. It's all on LNN. Basically, we're now three days away from being crushed by a giant fragment from that asteroid."
"Oh for crying out loud. When is this all going to be over? Never mind. As soon as I hang up I'll upload my story to you. I'll let you know when Clark is able to work again."
Lois hung up the phone, plugged her laptop into the phone line and uploaded her story while she flipped on Clark's television and changed the channel to LNN.
"…that was Ken Maltais at the EPRAD Centre. Now back to our studio in Metropolis."
The anchors at the desk in the studio, under a sign reading 71:16:03, adjusted their miniature microphones and the man said, "There you have it, folks. The experts are telling us that there are less than 72 hours before the mile-wide fragment from the asteroid collides with Earth."
The female anchor took over the coverage. "For those of you that have just tuned in, EPRAD has determined that a fragment of the asteroid that Superman broke apart is hurtling on a direct collision line with our planet. General Zeitlin has said that every effort is being made to implement his tactical nuclear option, but there is some doubt that he can pull it off in time, since Superman was giving him the two-week lead time the military needed to be fully functional…"
Lois whirled around. Clark was standing in the doorway leading to the terrace, looking a little rumpled—as if he had just woken up.
"Clark. You should be resting!"
Clark had woken up to the sound of the television. He had heard the anchor explaining that there was a problem. Ignoring Lois' reprimand, he strode over to her side and repeated, "What's happening?"
"There's a fragment from the asteroid heading this way. The military aren't sure they have enough time to get to it to destroy it. It's due to collide with us in less than three days."
He glanced at the graphics displayed on the television screen and was stunned at the inevitability of the collision to come. He had to *do* something, but… "I have to learn to fly again. They need me."
Lois looked shocked. "Clark! You can't be serious! You only rested for an hour. You're still sick!"
He looked at her helplessly. What was he supposed to do? "It's my fault that thing is heading this way. I have to try!"
"You remember that?"
"No, the man on the television said Superman had broken the asteroid apart. Since I'm Superman, it must be my fault the fragment is heading this way. I have to try to help."
Lois sighed. "Well, I don't think 'fault' is exactly the right word for this, but if you're going to try to help you need to assess what you can do, right now. Can you float?"
Clark's brow furrowed in concentration but nothing happened. He shook his head.
"You told me you learned to float by stepping down from a barn loft. Try standing on the trunk you're using for a coffee table and see if you can float if you step off it."
He did as she directed. The first time he just stepped down. The second time he tried it, the step took longer to get to the floor. The third time he tried stepping and lifting his other foot off the trunk. This worked. He drifted to the floor in slow motion. Once on the floor he concentrated again and this time he managed to gain a half inch of air between the soles of his feet and the floor. What a relief!
"Good. Do you remember how to fly?"
Clark concentrated for a second and then shook his head. He had absolutely no idea how to fly. He wasn't even sure he knew what he'd done to be able to float!
"Oh well, we'll just try doing this in stages. Why don't we try having you float down from the wall of your terrace, it's only about twelve feet to the ground, so you should be able to jump down if you can't float."
Clark blinked. She wanted him to jump off a twelve foot ledge? Well, it might work. He *had* floated, he'd just have to try to recreate that moment again from the terrace wall. He had to learn how to fly soon. He had to!
"Sounds like a plan." Clark led the way to the terrace. He stood on the wall and looked down, he couldn't do this. It was impossible! He turned and started to step back down to the floor of the terrace. "I can't."
Lois smiled reassuringly. "Okay, Clark. I can see you're nervous. Why don't I help you? I'll count to three and on three you step off the wall."
Clark swallowed and nodded assent. He steadied himself on the wall and took a deep breath.
Lois counted, "One…Two…Three!" and then *pushed* him off the wall!
He fell smack into some garbage cans in the alley below his terrace. Now he was *mad*—really, really mad! Just who did she think she was pushing him like that? Clark was suddenly face-to- face with Lois. She was standing on the terrace, he was standing in mid-air. He almost fell back down when he realized where he was, but other than a slight wobble he managed to stay in front of her. He frowned at her. "What did you do *that* for?"
Lois was grinning. "I told you, you could fly. You should have seen yourself zooming straight up from the alley."
Clark glared at her, "walked" onto the terrace wall and then stepped down onto the terrace. "Don't *do* that ever again!"
"Clark, I figured you *knew* how to fly, but you needed a little push…so I pushed. I'm sorry if I scared you." Lois sounded contrite.
"Scared me! I just about had a heart attack." Well, that might have been an exaggeration, but he'd certainly felt helpless for a few seconds there. "I hit hard. I could have been hurt!"
Lois looked a little anxious. "Did you hurt yourself?"
Clark was about to state emphatically that he had most certainly hurt himself, when he realized that he didn't actually hurt. Puzzled, he said, "No. Although, I think I should hurt, don't you? I hit hard enough!"
Flinging her arms around his neck, she exclaimed, "Oh, Clark! It's the sign that Dr. Klein said to look for. He said if you regained your invulnerability and were able to fly you would be better!"
"Well, I still don't remember whole chunks of things, but if I can fly and my aura is back, I think I should go and help General Zeitlin with his little problem. Otherwise, whether or not I can remember anything will become a moot point."
Lois hugged him and said, "Of course you have to, Clark, but are you strong enough? You've only just made a tiny flight, it's going to take more than that to get out to the asteroid chunk."
He didn't know how he knew, but Clark was confident that he could fly that far. "Look, why don't I do another test flight and see if I can, huh?"
Lois nodded. Clark dashed to the closet and changed into one of the Suits. He was back in front of Lois in no time. Lois' jaw had dropped. "How the heck did you do that? One second you're there in regular clothes, I blink, and then you're Superman!"
Clark grinned. "Trade secret. I'll be right back."
Lois watched him take off, her heart in her mouth. Was he going to be okay? His take-off had been its usual amazing self, but was Clark overextending himself? She stood on the terrace, chewing her nails, waiting for Clark to return.
Barely before she'd had time to think of another thing to worry about, Clark dropped from the sky right in front of her.
Lois lunged forward and hugged him as hard as she could. "What took you so long?"
"Electrical storm over Cleveland."
"Uh, huh. I flew around the globe once. The only problem I had was over Cleveland. I was coming down to landing altitude and ran into a brutal electrical storm."
Lois was so relieved to hear that he had been able to fly for some distance that it took a couple of seconds to take in what he had said. "You flew around the *world*? Didn't that exhaust you?"
Clark shook his head. "I seem to be getting stronger by the minute. Maybe flying closer to the sun through part of my flight helped too."
"That's wonderful, Clark!" Lois was so happy to see that he was getting better, she could hardly contain her joy.
"So, now that I know I can fly for extended distances, I'd better get over to EPRAD and help them out." Clark pulled her to him and kissed her softly on the lips. He whispered, "I won't say good- bye. Good-byes seem so final, somehow, and I have every intention of being back here by this evening."
Lois nodded, too emotional to say anything. She gave him one final hug, then watched him take off in the direction of the EPRAD facility. She watched him until he was out of sight, then realized she'd better phone Dr. Klein and let him know that Superman was flying again, then Mrs. DeVries.
The LNN anchor was trying not to sound hysterical with relief. "This just in, Superman is at EPRAD and ready to assist in the effort to divert the asteroid chunk! We now go to Ken Maltais at EPRAD for more details on this latest development."
Lois was rock-still sitting on the sofa in front of Clark's television, trying to remember to breathe in and out. Her anxiety was much greater this time than it had been at the first attempt, because she now knew how fragile Clark's health was.
"Ken Maltais here. I've just spoken with Dr. Klein. He has run some tests on the Man of Steel, and says that although Superman is capable of flying the distance required to get to the asteroid, he does not yet have the strength to push it out of its current path. Superman is now discussing alternatives with the team at EPRAD." Maltais put one hand to his ear. "Just a moment, I'm getting some more information… Superman is coming out with General Zaitlin, they will be explaining their plan to avert this crisis."
There was some shuffling of camera angles and the LNN camera finally focussed on a make-shift podium in front of the main entrance to the EPRAD facility. Lois saw Clark in the Suit walk out, side-by-side with General Zeitlin. The crowd of reporters, who seemed to have miraculously appeared in front of the podium, went silent.
General Zeitlin walked up to the microphone and after testing it said, "Ladies and Gentlemen. We have a plan for the redirection of the asteroid chunk. As you know, the main difficulty with the tactical nuclear option has been time. This is primarily due to the need to find a window for the rocket to take off in the correct direction with the best possible forecast for success in hitting the target at the correct acquisition. Superman has offered to take the nuclear device to the chunk and place it in the exact location that the EPRAD experts feel would do the most good in redirecting the asteroid, without jeopardizing the people of Earth. His offer eliminates the need for finding a window for launch."
A reporter out of the line of sight of the television camera asked. "Will Superman be moving the asteroid chunk?"
Clark stepped to the microphone. "No. Although I have regained a lot of my abilities, I am still not strong enough to move the asteroid. I will be taking the nuclear device to the rock, placing it in the most advantageous place to redirect the chunk of asteroid. Then I'll return to Earth and the EPRAD experts will detonate the bomb."
"What about the fall-out?"
General Zeitlin replied. "The explosion is designed to move the chunk, not break it apart. The backlash from the explosion will be away from the Earth — on the sun side of the chunk. If you can visualize the chunk coming in from the outer edge of the solar system, the backlash will be on the side facing the sun, pushing the asteroid off course. There will be no fall-out."
Clark replied, "I've seen the simulations. I agree with the General that this is a safe way of moving the asteroid enough to miss the Earth in its travels."
"How sure are you?"
Without missing a beat, Clark responded. "I'm betting my life on it."
Lois remembered to breathe normally again. She inched closer to Clark's television as the ground crew once again prepared him for take-off. Clark made a few final adjustments to the tiny oxygen tanks and then picked up the nuclear missile. Steadying it on his shoulder he slowly took off and angled away from the camera. The coverage switched from a tiny dot in the blue sky to a blinking dot on a tracking screen.
"Ladies and gentlemen. Superman is risking his life to save us again! Let us pray that he succeeds." Lois did and at the same time heard murmurs of thanks and praise of Superman from the crowd which had gathered at the launch site.
She was starting to feel hungry. The three donuts she'd eaten while waiting for word from Dr. Klein weren't sustaining her any longer. She stood up and headed for Clark's kitchen to get a snack. When she'd eaten, she'd pack up and go home. There was no telling when Clark would be back.
She had just finished her sandwich and rinsed off the dishes when there was a chorus of cheers from the television. She ran back into the living room in time to see Clark landing feet first in front of the EPRAD centre.
"Superman is back! Ladies and gentlemen, Superman has returned!" The anchor was almost screeching with excitement. "We go live to EPRAD and Ken Maltais…"
"Ken Maltais here at the EPRAD facility. Superman has just landed. The staff of EPRAD are conferring with him as we speak." Maltais pressed a finger to one ear. "I am being informed that the EPRAD crew are counting down the seconds to detonation." The scene switched to the main EPRAD control centre. Ken Maltais voice described the scene. "Everyone is holding their breath. Now let's listen in to EPRAD command…"
"Ten, nine, eight,…"
Lois remembered to breathe.
"…five, four, three, two, one. Ignition! Detonation!"
The hushed voice of Ken Maltais continued the commentary. "There's nothing to see yet. The displays show no change, the time for the information to get back to the monitoring systems is… There it is! Ladies and gentlemen, that was the detonation! There is a small, but perceptible change in the chunk's path. Now back to EPRAD control."
"One degree deviation, two, three, four, five. It will miss!"
Ken Maltais appeared on screen again. "Thanks to Superman and General Zeitlin's crew, the chunk of asteroid is going to miss the Earth by several thousand miles! Those of you on the Pacific coast will be able to see the asteroid chunk as it comes close to the Earth's atmosphere in a few hours. To repeat — the asteroid chunk *will* miss the Earth."
There was cheering in the background as Clark and General Zeitlin came out of the main entrance of the EPRAD centre. Almost immediately they were surrounded by the press.
"General Zeitlin, Superman, how does it feel to be the world's heroes?"
General Zeitlin coughed and stood in front of the microphone. "I am not a hero. If Superman had not recovered enough to transport the missile to its impact point, I am almost certain we would be dealing with a major catastrophe. I am pleased that this plan worked. However, I cannot claim to be a hero."
Clark in the Suit took over the microphone from the General. "I'm not a hero, either. I did what had to be done. I'm glad it worked out. Now I would like to get back home and rest."
"Superman, how soon until you're fully recovered?"
"I'm not sure. I seem to be recovering steadily. Dr. Klein advises rest, so I'm planning to do just that. I hope to be fully recovered in the next few days."
"What are we going to do while you're recuperating?"
"The usual emergency services tell me that they can handle most events while I rest. If an overwhelming emergency arises, I'll be there."
"After you recover, then what will you do?"
"I plan to get on with my life." Lois smiled, knowing she was going to be part of that life.
"What does that mean?"
"With your cooperation, I plan to separate my private and public lives."
"Yes, if I'm dressed in this outfit, I am performing a public function and will honour my commitment to the public good. If I am not dressed in this Suit, I am a private citizen and would appreciate the courtesy of being treated as such."
The crowd murmured for a few minutes and then a lone voice from the back said. "I think Superman deserves to have some respite from constant observation. I say let's give him the privacy he wants when he isn't dressed as Superman." There were murmurs of agreement and the crowd began applauding. On this note, Clark ascended into the air and zoomed to the stratosphere.
Lois backed away from the television in the general direction of the terrace, pretty sure that Clark was coming home. She heard a sort of whoosh and when she turned around saw Clark on the terrace. She practically flew into his arms and covered his face with kisses.
When she finally came up for air, she whispered breathlessly, "I am really happy to see you! *Really* happy!"
Clark held her at arms length. He had a wide grin on his face. "I kind of figured that part out."
"Oh, Clark, I was so afraid for you."
"It's okay, Lois, I did what I could."
Lois nodded. "Yes, you did."
Suddenly Superman wasn't there and Clark was back in his regular clothes. It seemed like some kind of sleight of hand. "You remember how to do that?"
"What else do you remember?"
"I remember being in the garden at Lori and Tim's when you agreed to marry me. I remember the day I found you in the Congo and the moment we met at Sutcliffe. I remember a lot of things, but there are still huge gaps."
Lois nodded. "I know what you mean. I had the same problem until you had me open my 'memory' box."
"I gave you a 'memory' box?"
Lois smiled. "No, I had this box of memorabilia that I'd kept since I was little. I called it my 'memory box'. You helped me unpack and found it. Finding it was the key to the rest of my memories."
"Too bad I don't have a 'memory box' too."
"No, but you do have the globe."
"Yes, the one your birth parents sent with you when they…" Lois whirled around, taking in every corner of the room. "I don't see it here, but I *know* you brought it here that day you showed it to me in Smallville." She turned back to face Clark. "Do you remember where you put it?"
"No. What did it look like?"
"Small and round, about the size of a softball. You put it inside your spaceship and carried it back to Metropolis. Now where would you put a spaceship in here?" Lois started to pace around the perimeter of the living room. "It's small, but it's not *that* small." She stopped at the archway to his sleeping area. "Clark, what is up at the top of the spiral staircase?"
Clark shrugged. "My library?"
Lois grabbed his hand, and pulled him to the spiral staircase. "Let's go up and look, shall we?"
"Okay, but wouldn't a spaceship be kind of big to fit in my library?"
"No, Clark, it's only a little bit bigger than the trunk you're using for a coffee table. You came here as a baby. It didn't need to be very big."
Lois led the way up the spiral staircase and when she reached the top she saw it. There in the corner between the easy chair and a bookcase lay the tiny spacecraft Clark had dug out of the ground in Smallville.
Clark followed Lois up the stairs and jumped when she let out a whoop of joy. When he was able to see what she was looking at he drew in his breath.
He approached the spacecraft with feelings of awe. This tiny vehicle had held him, protected him, taught him and carried him through space. There was a momentary vision of a man and a woman and feelings of love and distress all mixed together. His hand seemed to have a mind of its own as it reached into the ship and pulled out a small leather bag containing something round.
He rolled the globe out of the bag onto the palm of his left hand. The globe changed from Earth to a red planet and the word "Krypton" echoed through his mind.
Lois tugged at his arm. "Clark, are you okay? Maybe you'd better sit down."
Clark nodded dumbly and sat in the easy chair. There before him was Jor-El, his father, and his mother, Lara. In between the words and pictures being displayed by the globe he saw other scenes, finding the ship in the warehouse, Lana saying, "Clark, I can see you're upset, but we have this commitment. We can't just not go. Please, Clark, you promised," himself hiding his emotions in the shower, seeing the Beast at the stage production being hunted and feeling like it was himself who was the prey. Then he remembered the truck hitting the car with Mom and Dad in it. All the feelings he had felt the day his parents had been killed, and the repressed emotions from the day he had first discovered the globe, gathered together and overwhelmed him. The tears gathered and broke through his defences. He had lost the people who loved him to a fiery death, not once, but twice.
Lois sat on the arm of the chair, gathered him in her arms and rocked him, telling him to go ahead and cry. It was okay to cry. Crying helped let go of the pain he was feeling.
A long time later, Clark wasn't sure how long, the pain was finally muted. The tears had washed away the years of being unloved and unwanted by anyone. They had even washed away his mistaken belief that Lana had loved him. Now he recognized her possessiveness for what it was.
"I'm sorry, Lois. I guess I hadn't realized how much grief I'd been holding back." He wiped the tears from his cheeks with the back of his hand.
She stroked his hair away from his face. "It's okay, Clark. You needed the release."
"I guess it just hit me all at once that anyone who loved me died in a fiery death and that no-one else had loved me."
"I love you."
Clark looked at Lois and realized that yes, indeed, he was loved. Unconditionally, infinitely, and forever—he was indeed loved. He gathered her to him and kissed her, passionately and fervently. He felt their souls combining and floating like gossamer, and was only aware again of his surroundings when they gently bumped into the ceiling of his loft library. Breathlessly he whispered, "I know!"
She softly brushed her hand across his cheek. "Clark, I think I understand something I didn't before. You're not *just* here for me. You're here for all of us." She stroked his hair away from his forehead. "I want *us* to have a life together, but I also realize that you are Superman. Being Superman is *the* most important thing you can do. Without Superman, the Tempuses of this and all the other worlds will succeed."
Clark slowly drifted back to floor level. "I'm starting to realize that Superman is important, too. However, I also came to another realization."
"That without Lois Lane, there is no Superman. I was brought up as Clark Kent. I met one Lois Lane, who showed me the way to be Superman. Now I'm going to marry you, Lois Lane, and in doing that *we* defeat Tempus."
"Yes, because what Tempus was afraid of was that Superman's descendants would found Utopia. Mr. Wells said that the people of Utopia based their whole society on the values and principles Superman lived by. I don't see that happening unless Superman married someone who helped bring up their children to follow those values and principles. Do you?"
"You talk as if it were all past, as if it were history."
"To Tempus, it was. What I've realized is that he was wrong in thinking that killing me would stop Utopia from forming. I think Utopia is inevitable in one dimension or another. No matter what Tempus did, one version of Superman at the very least would succeed. I think he realized that too, because in the end he tried to destroy all versions of Superman and everyone else, including himself, with that asteroid."
"But you diverted the asteroid."
Enlightenment came to him. "Yes, I think that in any dimension where Superman prevents the asteroid from smashing Earth, in that dimension Utopia will become reality."
"Did the other Clark—the one you met—defeat the asteroid?"
Clark shrugged. "I don't know. If I see Mr. Wells again, I'll ask him."
Lois slowly moved out of Clark's arms and sat down in the armchair. "Clark, I think you're right. I think what you did today was not just to save the Earth from destruction, but to also put our world on the path to Utopia. How soon do you think that will happen?"
"How soon can we get married?" He grinned at her.
Lois punched his shoulder, playfully. "You and your one-track mind."
Soulfully he quipped, "Hey, I'm only thinking of the world's future."
Lois just rolled her eyes. "Cat will help arrange a spectacular wedding between Lois Lane and Superman, but it will take a few weeks."
"Didn't she also say something about two weddings? How about a quick trip to Las Vegas? I understand you can get married pretty much right away there."
Lois looked pensive. "I kind of wanted something more private, just the two of us and maybe a couple of friends as witnesses. I don't see getting that kind of privacy in Vegas."
The realist in Clark recognized the truth in this. "Tim and Lori said they would like to be involved. I wonder how long it takes to get a licence in Kansas?"
"Three days." Lois looked at him dead-pan.
Clark spluttered. "How long have you been plotting this?"
"Plotting, nothing! I was just doing research. It's part of my job, remember?" She was having trouble keeping a straight face.
"When were you planning we go buy the licence?"
"Is right now too soon?"
"It's just after 5:30 in Kansas. I don't think the municipal office will be open now or on the weekend. If we go first thing Monday morning, we can be married Thursday."
Lois looked a tad disappointed, and then rallied. "Where? I'm not sure I want to show up at Smallville town hall to get married. We'll be deluged with people trying to see the wedding."
Clark grimaced. "Not to mention it will probably bring the Langs out on another verbal rampage."
"Do you still care for Lana?"
"No. I now realize that she didn't really love *me*, what she loved was the power she had over me. I think she gets that from her mother."
"Her mother? What makes you think that?"
Clark remembered the conversation he had overheard on the porch at the Irigs. "One of the things I remember from the day of my parent's funeral is a conversation I overheard between Mrs. Lang and another neighbour. I didn't know what it meant at the time, but now I realize that even back then Mrs. Lang was determined that Lana and I should be a couple."
"Huh? You were ten years old. Why would she have those plans for the two of you at *that* age?"
Clark shrugged. "Who knows? Mrs. Lang never had a great grasp of life's facts. For all I know she thought that I was some kind of royal prince left at the Kents' doorstep by a wicked witch."
"You nut." Lois giggled. "But realistically, how much damage can Lana and her family do when it's known we're getting married?"
"I think Lana's credibility is at a pretty low ebb right now. I've asked that Clark Kent and Superman be treated differently. I don't really want everyone peering at everything we do, twenty- four hours a day. I'm hoping that people will honour my request."
"Clark, you are so naive! The paparazzi will be following the hero that saved the world, taking photos every step of the way. They *always* hound the public's favourites." Lois was the picture of indignation.
"Well, Lois, those other favourites don't have x-ray vision."
"Well, of course not, but what's that got to do with it?"
Clark stroked the side of her face. "Lois, if all the pictures of Clark Kent are always overexposed and all the pictures of Superman are always crystal clear, do you think they might get the hint?"
Lois looked mischievous. "Clark, you are surprising. I didn't think you would be that ruthless. But that won't help us having witnesses to every little thing we do."
Clark grinned. "People are pretty grateful right now. I think they might leave me alone, at least for the next few weeks."
Lois smiled. In that case, what say we talk to Cat tomorrow about the 'fairytale' wedding, and hold a press conference to announce it. We can go to Kansas and get a licence Monday morning, and Clark Kent and Lois Lane can be married on Thursday. Now is a good time, because people think you're not up to full strength and it won't seem odd that Superman isn't flying around all the time. The Superman/Lois Lane wedding will be for the people of the world. We'll keep our wedding in Kansas low-key, just us, Lori and Timmy. It's a wedding just for *us*. Our last private event before we devote our lives to the service of the people of the world."
Warmth and love flooded over Clark. "Did I ever tell you that you're the smartest person I've ever known? Pretty, too." Clark stroked her hair.
"So you think it's a good plan?" Lois looked a little apprehensive.
"Well, given the circumstances, yes. Personal privacy is really important to me, but I'm willing to go public when I'm in the Suit. It's like I said at the news conference earlier, Superman is here to help. If that means giving up some privacy while he's on the job, I'm willing to do that."
"So marrying me is just part of the job?" Clark caught the twinkle in her eyes as she stood up.
"No, being on stage in front of billions is part of the job, marrying you is going to be a private affair…very private!" He kissed her on the nose. "Now Ms. Plotting Lane, if you would like to descend yon staircase, we can continue this conversation in an area where both of us can be seated in comfort."
"Party pooper." Lois grinned up at him and then turned to descend the spiral staircase. She hadn't noticed how dark it was getting outside. She looked back up over her shoulder. "Clark, it's getting late. I should leave you to rest."
"I can give you a lift home, if you'd like."
"I like, but I think you've done more than your fair share of lifting today. I'll call a cab. Besides, it will add veracity to your story that you're resting up." She leaned forward and brushed his lips with her own. "I want you to be completely healthy when we go to Kansas on Monday. I wouldn't want you dropping me somewhere over Kentucky."
"Have I ever dropped you before?"
"Nope, and I don't want you starting now. You listen to me and get a good night's sleep."
"Yes, ma'am. Did I ever mention you're way too pushy for someone your size?"
"Hey, I'm way too pushy—period!" Lois grinned and then her face relaxed into a more serious expression. "All kidding aside, I really do think you should rest. You've gone through a lot today. Promise me you'll go right to bed and sleep."
"I'll go right to bed. But I'm not making any promises about sleeping."
Lois picked up the phone and dialled Metro Cab. "Just try to rest, that's all I ask."
The cab came within minutes and whisked Lois away. Clark watched her as far as he could, but resisted the temptation to follow her home. She had been right. He *was* tired. It would feel good to lie down knowing there was no need for him to leap out of bed to help out in any emergencies. He stripped, took a shower, donned his pyjamas and fell into bed. Despite his earlier statement that he wouldn't be able to, he was asleep within seconds of his head hitting the pillow.
Kansas City, Kansas — July 17, 1997
Lois gazed into the full length mirror in Lori's guest room. She looked… wonderful. The cream-coloured silk dress suited her figure and enhanced all her best features. The rainbow of fresh flowers fastened into her hair like a coronet added a colour and vibrancy to her appearance she couldn't ever remember seeing in her mirror. She heard a knock at the bedroom door. Flushed with anticipation, Lois turned to the door as Lori entered.
"Lois, you look breathtaking!"
Lois blushed even more. "Thank you! It's all because of you. How did you know this would look perfect?"
"I just knew. It's a gift." Lori grinned at her. "Are you almost ready? Clark has just about bitten his nails to the quick."
Lois took a deep breath. This was it. She and Clark were about to be married. It had been almost a week since Clark had been injured, but the time had whizzed right by. What with that big story breaking on corruption in the water and sewage department, and the meetings with Cat for the fantasy wedding, there hadn't been much time to concentrate on this wedding. But it was time now, and she was feeling overwhelmed and happy and excited and…
"Yes, I'm ready." She picked up the bouquet of flowers that matched those in her hair and followed Lori out into the garden. As she stepped onto the patio, music started to play. Timmy had activated a CD of instrumental music… Edvard Grieg. Then she saw Clark and nothing else mattered.
For the next few minutes every second seemed to last forever, and yet time seemed to speed up. She felt as if she were in a fantasy world, and only every once in a while did she come back to reality.
"Do you Clark Jerome take this woman…"
"Do you Lois Esther take this man…"
Lois had to wrench her eyes from gazing at Clark to respond to the minister's question. In a daze Lois saw Clark place his mother's ring on the third finger of her left hand. He had given it to her as an engagement ring, but they had decided that it would make a wonderful wedding ring to symbolize their life together as one. Also, she could wear it publically as an 'engagement' ring for their public wedding. Meanwhile, Cat was having a jeweller create a special wedding band that would incorporate this ring as the central setting. So, this would be her wedding ring forever.
"…by the authority vested in me by the State of Kansas and in the name of God, I now pronounce you husband and wife." The minister from Lori and Timmy's church paused momentarily to let his words sink in, then turning to Clark said, "You may now kiss the bride."
The kiss lasted but a brief eternity, and Clark managed to keep his feet on the ground. Which was a good thing since the minister didn't realize that Clark was *the* Clark Kent. Lori had explained that the reverend was so busy with his parish duties that the worldly picture never seemed to penetrate his mind. What was finally beginning to penetrate Lois' mind was that she and Clark were wed! It seemed an impossible dream.
Lori and Timmy hugged them both. Lois couldn't thank them enough. They had done everything in their power to give Lois and Clark a special and private wedding. They had done so much in just a few days! The minister had to leave to perform a baptism, so they thanked him profusely, and Lori led him through the house to the front door.
As soon as the minister left, Lois and Clark changed into their "going away" outfits, which consisted of black slacks and black turtle-neck pullovers, to better hide in the night sky. Then they had champagne to celebrate with Lori and Timmy.
"So, Clark, where are you taking Lois for your honeymoon?" Timmy asked.
Clark slowly smiled. "That's a secret. I've made special arrangements in a very special place."
Lori whispered into Lois' ear, "He's told you, hasn't he?"
Lois shook her head. "We've hardly had any time to talk in the last three days. He's been very cagey about the whole thing. I don't care as long as we can be alone together—no phones, no radios with emergency weather reports, nobody yelling for Superman within a thousand miles. That's what I hope, anyway."
Clark walked over to them. "Lois, your wish is my command." He scooped her up into his arms and with a quick good-bye and much thanks to Lori and Timmy he took off.
Lois gazed into his eyes, oblivious to the scenery around her. The one time she looked away all she saw was water and clouds. She snuggled closer to Clark. "Are we there yet?"
Clark grinned. "Almost."
He swooped downwards and landed feet first on a terrace beside a small thatch-roofed bungalow amidst a tropical jungle. He led her into the cottage, and through to the far side. Inside she caught quick glimpses of a canopy bed surrounded by yards of white netting, a slowly whirling ceiling fan and bamboo furniture covered in exotic cushions. Then as he led her past white gauze curtains and through the sliding panels leading out of the far side of the cottage, she caught her breath. In front of her was a panoramic view of a tropical beach, complete with palm trees and an inactive volcano in the distance. The glass-like surface of a soaking pool was at her feet. She turned to Clark and breathed, "It's absolutely gorgeous, Clark! Where on earth are we?"
"The South Pacific, just leeward of the Society Islands. There aren't any phones, there are no radios and I don't think anyone within a thousand miles knows who Superman is. It seemed like the perfect place to be alone."
Lois turned away from nature's wonder to look at the one she had just married. "It is *perfect*!" She turned towards the bungalow which she now recognized as a luxury hotel cabana. "Clark, this must cost a fortune! Are you sure?"
"Even if it had cost a fortune, I'd have brought you here. However, the owner likes me, so he's lending me this cottage for a week." He took her hand and led her back into the cottage.
Gazing around her, Lois asked, "How many of his grandchildren did you save?"
Clark blushed. "Nineteen."
"Nineteen!" Lois gaped at him. She thought she'd been kidding about the grandchildren. "How did you manage that?"
"Well, there was this school fire, and most of the children on this island are related to the man who owns all of this. So when I rescued the kids from the fire, they were almost all his grandchildren."
"So, he knows you're Superman?"
"No, I've never been really sure what he knows. The word he uses doesn't seem to have a translation. The closest I can come to the sense of what he's saying is that he believes I'm some kind of angel."
"And because of that he's lending you all of this on such short notice?"
"When I saved his family he told me that when I was ready to bring the woman I was sure was my essence — the only woman for me — as my bride he would guarantee that there would be a room for us." Clark drew her into his arms. "I called him about two seconds after you said you'd marry me to let him know I'd need a room soon. I think we lucked in on getting this cottage. I'm pretty sure this is the best he has."
"No, Clark, I think he saved the best for you." Lois didn't know how she knew this, but she was confident it was true. "I'm not sure how you do it, but somehow you touch people in such a way that they are willing to do anything for you."
Clark tugged her closer and kissed her gently. Lois felt the familiar entwining of their souls and wasn't surprised to find herself eye-level with the lazy revolving fan. The sound of the waves gently lapping on the beach below, the rustle of the wind in the ferns surrounding the bungalow, the aroma of the tropical flowers all combined to heighten her senses. The romance and wonder of their love strengthened and intertwined with the exotic world around them. Swirling and swooping in ever escalating exuberance, her feelings culminated in a bubble of laughter at the sheer joy of being alive… and with Clark!
An island in the South Pacific — July 24, 1997
Lois sat in quiet contemplation of the frangipani petals floating on the still waters of the soaking pool. The air was filled with the sounds of birds calling for the sun to return and the smell of exotic tropical flowers. This was their last night in paradise and she wanted to remember every last moment. Clark would be back soon from his visit with their host and then they would be leaving. It had been a week and an eternity since their wedding day. She should change out of her sarong and into something sensible for the trip back to Metropolis.
Before she could move on her good intention to change clothing, she heard Clark's footstep on the porch at the front of the bungalow and was about to call out to him when she saw he wasn't alone. With Clark was an elderly coffee-coloured man whom she could only assume was the owner of this wonderful place. She rose to meet them in the bungalow's living room.
"Lois, this is Jaya Atrakaj. He insisted on meeting the woman who has filled me with light."
"Light?" Lois smiled at Mr. Atrakaj who smiled back with the most perfect set of teeth that Lois had ever seen.
"He says that when he last met me I was dark and drab inside, now he sees joy and light. He attributes the change to you."
Mr. Atrakaj said something in a language that Lois could not even hope to identify. She looked at Clark inquisitively. Clark was blushing.
"He says he is glad to have met such a worthy woman, one who can provide a man with light and life. He also says to tell you that his bungalows have good magic and create beautiful children."
Lois smiled and asked Clark to give her thanks to Jaya Atrakaj, but could hardly wait for him to leave so she could ask Clark what he meant. Clark and his host continued their parting conversation. Clark made some kind of exotic ritual with his hands which was echoed by Mr. Atrakaj and then the charming old man backed out of the bungalow.
"Clark, what did he mean 'his bungalows have good magic?'"
"In his religion, places have either good magic or bad magic. Since his bungalows have good magic couples who honeymoon in them are sure to have beautiful children."
"Sounds really nice." Lois moved towards her partly packed suitcase. "I hope he's right."
Clark came up behind her and turned her to face him. "You realize that we may not be able to have children?"
"Do you know that for sure?" They had discussed this before, but never quite so openly and honestly.
Clark shook his head.
"What about Tempus' Utopia? Surely, Superman was compatible with at least one Lois Lane in one dimension or the other."
"Yes, but there's no guarantee those descendants came from you and me."
"Maybe not. But maybe they did. Why don't you visit Dr. Klein when we get back. I'm sure he'd be more than happy to do the research." Lois paused. "Even if we can't have children, Clark, I'm sure we'll be happy. I know I am right now."
"Lois, I too am happy right now. Whatever the future holds, we can handle it together. I'm sure of that."
Lois stroked his cheek. "Me too." She turned back to the suitcase. "Now, what would you recommend for our trip home?"
"Home? Where do you want to stay until the rest of our plan is implemented?"
"I guess it would be best if I continued in my apartment. But the second I'm married to Superman, I'm moving into Clark Kent's abode. You hear me?"
Clark grinned. "I hear and obey!"
Metropolis, New Troy — July 26, 1997
Lois fiddled with her notebook, waiting for the dignitaries, and Clark, to make their entrance. She could hear the newscasters from LNN providing live coverage to the television audience. She doodled a few more lines and then she caught a glimpse of Clark's cape. It was going to start soon.
A crowd had formed in front of the United Nations building. A dais and podium was set up for the inevitable speeches. Thousands of people had gathered in the square in front of the podium to watch the ceremony. Speculation was rife that he wouldn't be able to continue as Superman, that his injuries had been so severe that the second trip into space had weakened him for life. No-one had seen him do any Super saves in over two weeks. Newscasters were speculating that this ceremony was the world's final thank you for a wonderful, if short career as a super hero.
World leaders filed out onto the staging. Secretary General Shirley Temple Black walked to the podium and waited for the crowd to hush before beginning her speech.
"Today we are gathered as a world united in gratitude and thanksgiving for the service that Superman has done for the whole planet. As a small token of our deep and utter thankfulness I hereby present him with the highest honour the United Nations can bestow. Superman?"
Clark came forward and lowered his head so that the Secretary General could place the ribbon around his neck. He straightened up and stepped to the microphone.
"I want to let you all know that if it had not been for the people of this planet who had confidence in me and my abilities, I would not have been able to do what had to be done. I did not do this alone. As you know, the entire team at EPRAD, S.T.A.R. Labs and General Zeitlin's tactical team were involved in the success of this mission. I will do my best to help the world in the future. As Superman, I dedicate my life to the needs of this planet."
The crowd cheered. Over the next half hour, several world leaders each made heartfelt speeches of thanks to Superman and the teams of scientists who had averted the catastrophe. Then the session was opened to questions from reporters.
Linda King from the Metropolis Star asked, "There have been rumours that your powers were weakened by the second trip to the asteroid. Can you *be* Superman?"
"Stories of my weakened state have been greatly exaggerated. I have spent the last two weeks recovering from my injuries. I can safely say that I am as healthy as I have ever been and as Superman, I plan to continue doing my work to help in any emergency to the best of my ability."
"Will you still be working at the Daily Planet?"
"Yes, after much consideration and discussion with my partner and Planet management, we have decided that Clark Kent will continue working part-time at the Daily Planet."
"Yes, I plan to concentrate my time on helping people as Superman. It has been difficult to fit this in with my job at the Daily Planet, so we have come to an agreement that I will be working on less time-sensitive work at the Planet."
"What about your partner?"
"Lois Lane will continue working as the best investigative journalist in Metropolis."
There was some low muttering among the competitive newspaper reporters. "So you won't be partners any more?"
Clark turned to Lois and smiled, then turning back to Linda King he said, "Well, perhaps not in the office but we will be life partners. We'll be married."
"Married!" The crowd cheered.
Another reporter called out, "So when's the big event?"
"We haven't finalized an exact date for the big event, yet, but it will probably be in about three weeks. Ms. Catherine Grant is organizing the wedding. Ms. Grant will answer any questions that you may have at a press briefing later this afternoon, at the Daily Planet."
Lois made sure she had a smile on her face for all the cameras that were now aimed in her direction.
The next few weeks seemed to just whiz right by. Clark was once again amazed at the number of details required for a really stupendous wedding. He was grateful to Cat and Lois for dealing with most of them since he was busy as Superman with both natural and man-made catastrophes.
Superman had been busy most of the month convincing the low-lifes of Metropolis that he was just as strong as he had ever been. It was only by accident that he heard that Lana had voluntarily taken up residence at the Lawrence Mental Health Institute at Pete Ross' suggestion. Pete and Lana were now an item. He mentioned this to Lois who looked not quite innocent on receiving the news. Suspicious, he asked, "Lois, did you have something to do with that?"
"Who, me? Why Clark, whatever do you mean?" She blushed as Clark gave her one of his best peeved looks. Stammering, Lois confessed that in between fittings and planning sessions, she had made a private phone call to the pharmacist in Smallville and asked for his help. "Well, Clark, I couldn't let her be miserable. I mean, we're so happy, I want everyone to be happy. Are you mad?"
Clark shook his head. "No. Lana just took the wrong direction back when we were young. I'm not sure your matchmaking is doing Pete any favours, but he doesn't seem to be aware of that."
"I was thinking that Pete was exactly the right person for Lana. He really does care for her. And, after all, if she complains about him, all he has to do is bring out the Larry Kidsign show tapes to shut her up."
"Lois, sometimes you are not a nice person."
"I never said I was." Lois grinned.
He and Lois reorganized his apartment so that Lois could move in after the fantasy wedding. They would look for a more permanent solution to their accommodation problems once the furor of the wedding had died down.
He had paid a visit to Dr. Klein and was now waiting for the test results.
This past week he had been occupied with calling his old school friends, and asking them if they wanted to be in the limelight, or would they forego an invitation to the "Wedding of the Century" to keep their privacy. Most had been anxious to come.
However, Pete Ross had said, "No thanks, Clark. I don't think it would be good for Lana to come to your wedding. She's finally getting a grip on reality, and that just might set her off again. I'm making an executive decision here, and turning down the 'opportunity' for both of us."
"Thanks, Pete. I was wondering if I should get in touch with her. Is she going to be okay, do you think?"
"Uh huh. Her self-loathing hit an all time low after the Larry Kidsign hoax. She never had really liked herself, but after that she projected her self-hate even further onto Lois and you. It's her way of coping. That's why I suggest you wait a while before getting in touch with her. She's now seeing the best psychotherapist in Kansas. He thinks that with time she will learn to like herself and get over her need to control the world around her."
"I'm glad. I never wanted to hurt Lana…"
"I know, Clark, it's just Lana can be so *persistent*. I'm learning to cope with that."
"Good, I'm glad things are working out for you."
Now the day was at hand that everyone had been waiting for—the wedding of Superman to Lois Lane. Clark was first and foremost, unless you counted Lois, among the people who could hardly wait.
Metropolis, New Troy — August 15, 1997
"Lois, when you get to the first pew at the end of the aisle, you stop." Lois nodded. "Sam, you lift Lois' veil, kiss her and hand her off to Superman." Lois' father followed the instructions. "Clark, you lead Lois forward and stand in front of me." The archbishop turned to Lois again. "Lois, just as Clark is leading you forward, hand your bouquet to your Matron of Honour." Lois nodded again, and mimed the action.
The wedding rehearsal was in full swing. Cat had made sure that the press was banned from the cathedral and only those in the immediate wedding party were allowed inside the building. This was so different from what Lois considered her *real* wedding. Everything was so formal and staged. No one involved in this one seemed real. Her mother was dithering, as usual, but in her element in seeing this as a social coup. Her father was his usual distant self.
Lois would have liked to have had Lori as her Matron of Honour again, but knew that calling attention to their friendship would only mean future problems. Lori understood, and was happy to be just a guest at this spectacle.
Lois realized that having someone she felt close to in her entourage was pretty much out of the question. Since Cat was directing the whole presentation, she couldn't be in the wedding party. This left Lois' sister, who had finally come to see her— most likely because she would be world-famous if she did—, and a distant cousin, as bridesmaids. Carolyn DeVries had agreed to act in the role of Matron of Honour.
Clark had fared only somewhat better. Perry White was acting as Superman's Best Man, with James Olsen as one of the principal groom's men and a rather scared looking young man who had been the winner of the LNN "Superman's Groomsman" contest, as the contestant who had the best idea for raising money for the Superman Foundation.
Henry too had understood about not bringing attention to himself and had been happy to accept invitations for himself, his wife and their grandchildren to be part of the elite inside the cathedral. Lori and Timmy would also be among the six or seven hundred invited guests.
Lois sighed and wished this rehearsal would be over soon. Her stomach was reacting to her stress again.
"…and then when I say that you are man and wife, you, Clark, will lead Lois forward to the table over here to the right. Lois, you will be seated first to sign the register and then after you rise, Clark will sign. Then the Matron of Honour and the Best Man will sign as witnesses. While they are witnessing the document, Clark, you lead Lois to the top of these steps and stand together as husband and wife in the presence of the congregation. When the signing is complete, the organ will begin to play and then I will present you as husband and wife and then you will form the recessional out of the cathedral."
Cat stepped forward. "Reverend father, there's going to be a slight modification to the recessional for Lois and Superman. Because of the crowd that will be outside, Clark will take Lois up and out of that stained-glass transom window above the south side of the sanctuary. Once they are outside over the south transept of the cathedral they will stand together, as husband and wife, so that everyone outside will be able to see them." In response to the archbishop's perplexed look, Cat continued. "Thousands of people want to see this wedding. Floating above the crowd will give the maximum number of people an opportunity to see the newlyweds."
Lois overheard Perry mutter something about this seeming more like a television production than a wedding, and grinned.
"So be it. Who will ensure the window is open for the couple to pass through?"
"I have two men placed on the roof to swing the window open on cue."
"Very well, let's rehearse the signing and the recessional."
They all walked dutifully over to the empty table, faked signing nothing, and then Lois and Clark walked together to the top of the three steps leading down to the main aisle of the cathedral. Cat starting to hum the piece by Tchaikovsky they had chosen for the recessional and Clark turned to face Lois, smiling down at her upturned face.
Lois nodded, and gasped as Clark swung her around in a dizzying twirl and started the slow swirling ascent to the upper reaches of the gothic ceiling. She leaned into him, trying to ignore the whirling building spinning around her.
"Lois! What's wrong?" Clark sounded frantic.
Lois felt them dropping back to the carpeted floor in front of the altar. Just as her feet touched the ground she toppled into Clark's arms.
Clark was distraught. Lois was ill, the blood had drained from her face just as he was about to touch down and now she was fainting against him. His heart racing, he picked her up and carried her down the steps intending to lay her down on one of the front pews.
Cat rushed up to them. "Lois, what's wrong? Are you all right?"
Lois struggled in Clark's arms until he set her down on her feet. "I'm fine. I just haven't eaten much today and when Clark spun me around like that, I felt sick. That's all. I'm fine!"
Clark could sense Lois' vital signs and knew that she was far from being fine. "Cat, is there somewhere quiet where Lois can rest for a few minutes? We need to rehearse this, but not for a few minutes, okay?"
Cat nodded her understanding. "Sure, Clark. There's a vestry just off the corridor through that door."
Supporting Lois as she walked beside him, he guided her through the arched doorway and across the hall into the small vestry Cat had indicated. He pulled a chair from a stack against one wall for Lois to sit on, and closed the door.
In trepidation, he asked, "Are you okay? Your vital signs aren't looking at all normal."
"I'm fine, Clark. I just got dizzy when you swung me around and I haven't eaten much, so I felt kind of weak."
Clark pulled another chair off the stack and sat down next to her. "Lois, if doing this whole theatrical event is making you unable to eat, we can forget it. It's not like we need this ceremony to be married. We're already married, this is just for show." He stroked the little frown line from her forehead.
Quietly, Lois said, "Clark, I was going to wait until this was all over to tell you."
His heart in his throat he asked, "Tell me what?"
"Well, you know how Dr. Klein is going to have your test results next week, to see if you and I are compatible?"
Puzzled at where this was leading, Clark nodded.
"Well, you don't have to get the results. I can tell you right now that you and I are definitely compatible."
Clark blinked. Was she saying what he thought she was saying? "You mean…?"
Lois smiled and stroked this face, "Yes, Clark, we're pregnant."
Stunned, he asked, "How? When?" Could this be real?
Lois giggled. "Well, Clark, Mr. Atarkaj was right, there was good magic in his bungalow. Do you remember all those close calls with the ceiling fan?" Clark nodded, too emotional to speak. "I think you know exactly…"
Joy flooded through every aspect of Clark's being. Lois was his wife and they were going to be a family. The fulfilment of his dreams. It was almost like he was living in a fantasy.
"Lois, you have no idea how happy this makes me!" Clark pulled her into his arms and hugged her gently.
She pushed him away and when he could see her face, she took his face in her hands and said, "Yes, Clark, I know exactly how happy this makes you, because I feel that way too."
Metropolis, New Troy — August 16, 1997
"Ladies and Gentlemen, our cameras are high above the floor of the Cathedral to witness this extraordinary event. Superman is about to marry an ordinary woman…"
Clark tuned out the play-by-play and tried to concentrate on the organ music that was being played as a prelude to the "Wedding of the Century." Clark tugged at his new Suit. It felt odd and confining. Cat had insisted that he wear a Suit that would only be used for this one event and then go into the Smithsonian for all time. Because of that, the suit had been designed more for appearance than comfort or practicality. The material would show well on television and the cape was weighted so that it would flow elegantly whenever he walked or floated. He wondered if Lois' so carefully designed dress felt just as confining to her.
Then he almost jumped out of his skin as the eight trumpeters, dressed like old-fashioned courtiers complete with banners hanging from their instruments, blew the first chords of the processional. Clark slowly walked with his groomsmen across the front of the Cathedral to the altar end of the main aisle. He turned to face the congregation, looking straight down the main aisle to the doors where Lois would soon enter. High windows on both sides of the transept over the aisle gave the Cathedral an ethereal quality. The high vaulted ceiling echoed and re-echoed the sound of the trumpets. There was some flurrying and hurried coughing as the second bar of music was played by the trumpets. Then just seconds after Clark saw the rear doors of the cathedral begin to open, the organ joined in, providing depth and volume to Clarke's "Trumpet Voluntary" processional, as the crowded cathedral rose to its feet.
The sun was shining in through the high windows along south side of the cathedral transept. Shafts of light illuminated the altar, organ and congregation. Clark's heart rose to his throat as behind her bridesmaids he caught sight of Lois. He could see the joy in her face. His happiness overflowed as he watched Lois slowly walk towards him. He heard the television voice again, "…in a cream, silk satin gown, with a Watteau train falling from her shoulders to the floor in a wonderful echo of the groom's cape. The groom's El sign is embroidered in embossed threads on her train…" He and Lois had decided that this ceremony would be the marriage of Kal-El and Lois Lane, and he was pleased that Lois' dress was embroidered with his birth family sign.
Before he knew it they were going through the ritual of marriage again. It seemed right that they should be joined again, this time openly and himself as Superman. This was the public persona of what he was meant to be. With their dual lives they could live and be happy and still give the world the help it needed. Before he knew it, the archbishop had declared them wed and they were signing the register.
Moments later, Clark paused at the top of the altar steps, held Lois' hand, and gazed out at the crowd in the cathedral. Everywhere he looked he saw love and acceptance in people's eyes. The fears and anxiety he had lived with all his life were over. These were the people he had dedicated his life to serving. This was his world. This was the moment he had been waiting for all his life.
Then he heard the organist switch pieces and begin the recessional that Cat had thought so appropriate for this fairytale wedding. He turned and faced Lois and holding her gently and being careful to not impede her dress' train from swinging as Cat had deemed proper, he slowly ascended, turning to the music so that, to the people watching, it would almost seem like they were dancing on air. He remembered that someone at some time had added words to the music and the phrase "once upon a dream" flitted through his mind. Yes, this was a dream come true!
He heard a polite cough at the rear of the cathedral. Looking in that direction he saw a man in an old-fashioned suit standing under the entrance arch to the church's centre aisle. As the music swelled to match their spiralling flight, he heard H.G. Wells whisper, "I told you… *Nothing* is impossible, my boy!"
Clark's blood sang and his heart almost burst with happiness as he gazed down into Lois' eyes. Then, Clark, with Lois as his partner, glided up and out through the opened transom window — to their future together…
…and to live happily ever after.
Processional: Prince of Denmark's March [Trumpet Voluntary]
Recessional: The Sleeping Beauty Ballet Suite [op. 66]
Last updated: September 20, 2000