By ML Thompson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Rated PG 13
Submitted October 2000
Summary: This is a ghost story wherein Clark Kent haunts his former partner as they try to find out who killed Superman. But once they get closer to the truth, they both become haunted by a new spectre: will they will get a second chance or are they 'Out of Time'?
What if Luthor's plan in the 'House of Luthor' had succeeded? He would have married Lois and Superman would be dying in a kryptonite cage in the basement of Lex Towers. Beware, early in this story, Clark does die. Sorry. But the question remains, will Lois and Clark get a second chance or are they 'Out of Time'?
No copyright infringement is intended. I recognize that the characters are not mine. I am just borrowing them for a little fun and not for any profit.
Lois pushed open the sliding doors and stepped out onto the sandy beach of the exclusive resort. The sun was already making the air hot, but Lois didn't feel the heat. She felt cold. She pulled her robe further around her and glanced back into the room she had just left. She sighed in relief. He was still asleep. She walked a little further away, as though putting some distance between them would protect her.
She thought back over the past month. Where had things gone so terribly wrong? She snorted. She knew exactly when things had started to go wrong. It was when Lex proposed. She hadn't known him well enough to contemplate marriage, but she'd still said she would think about it. Why hadn't she just said no right then and there? She knew the answer to that too. She had been flattered. Lex Luthor, the third richest man in the world, a man many speculated would never marry, was asking her. It was quite a head trip. Then things spiraled out of control. The Daily Planet was destroyed. She got a new job at LNN. Clark told her he loved her. Her rejection of him resulted in an estrangement between them. She told Superman she loved him. He rejected her. Craving some sort of stability in the shifting sands that had become her life, she accepted Lex's proposal.
From then on, things seemed to take on a life of their own. She went from being someone who was known only by name, to being hounded by paparazzi. Her picture showed up on every rag in the country — as well as quite a few legitimate papers and magazines. Lex pushed her to marry him quickly by claiming that the tabloid headlines would only get worse if they delayed. She still didn't quite remember agreeing.
She thought back to yesterday morning. She had been in tears as she stood in front of the mirror getting dressed for her wedding. She hadn't wanted to go through with it, but it was already too late. She had seen the press beginning to congregate at the front of the building. The wedding was being televised — although she couldn't imagine anyone wanting to watch it. The problem was she had given her word to Lex — she couldn't back out now. If she did the whole world would know her for the fool she was. Her reputation as a serious journalist would be in tatters. No. Going through with the wedding had been the only viable option. That didn't stop the cold.
Yesterday morning was also when she first realized that there was more between her and Clark than simple friendship. What, she didn't know. She realized it only minutes before the wedding march started. She realized it walking down the aisle. And she realized it as she was exchanging her vows with Lex. She had just kept wishing for a little more time to sort things out. Somehow she thought… What difference did it make now what she had thought? She was out of time. She had married Lex Luthor.
But the worst part of the day had been last night. For some reason, Lois hadn't counted on last night. Of course, she had known that marriage to Lex would include intimate relations, but she had never let herself consider what it would be like to be with Lex when she had these feelings for Clark. The only way she had been able to get through it was by closing her eyes and imagining that it was Clark touching her. Afterwards, the guilt had come. Guilt for betraying Lex by thinking about Clark. Guilt for betraying Clark by being with Lex.
Lois took a deep breath as she watched the sunlight play on the waters of the Mediterranean Sea. She knew that she couldn't allow a repeat of last night. She had married Lex and she was determined to at least try to make a go of her marriage. That meant that she had to put Clark out of her mind.
She felt tears come to her eyes as she thought about doing that. Clark was her best friend — the only real friend she had ever had. And maybe if he hadn't told her that he was in love with her or if she hadn't come to realize that his feelings were not altogether unreciprocated, they could have continued to be best friends. But there was no way that could happen now — not if she had any chance of making her marriage work. She could not continue to play 'what if…' with Clark and find happiness in her new life. She had to put Clark behind her.
Arms were suddenly wrapped around her from behind. "Come back to bed, darling," said Lex into her ear before kissing her neck.
Lois closed her eyes. She had hoped for a little more time before he woke. She swallowed hard, before nodding and allowing him to take her back into the bedroom.
"Something must have happened to him," Martha said.
"You don't know that, Martha. Maybe he's somewhere licking his wounds. I mean, he has to be torn up about Lois' marriage to Luthor," replied Jonathan.
"But, Jon, that's just it. Superman hasn't been seen since the day before her wedding. Do you really think he would disappear before she married Lex Luthor? Afterwards, I could understand, but not before. Besides, you know as well as I do what he said he was going to do."
"You mean about stopping the wedding by any means possible?"
"Exactly. I think he was planning, if he couldn't find the evidence he needed on Lex Luthor before the wedding, to show up at her wedding as Superman and whisk her away. But I watched the wedding. Clark never showed up. I tell you, something must have happened to him."
Jonathan sighed. The truth was he was worried about Clark's disappearance too. After all, if Clark needed a safe place to recover, he would probably come to the farm. "So, what do you want to do?" he finally asked.
"We're going to Metropolis to find our boy."
Clark groaned softly. He tried to move his head. He wanted to see something other then the top of the green cage, but his head would no longer move. He had no idea how much time had lapsed since he had heard the sounds of wedding music being piped into the cellar. Or how long it had been since he had heard Lois' sweet voice say, 'I do.' In Clark's heart, that had been the moment of his death. The rest was just a formality.
He wondered briefly if Luthor wasn't doing him a favor. After all, death couldn't be as painful as seeing Lois with that monster and knowing there was nothing he could do. The only reason he didn't want to die now was that he truly believed that Lois would need him some day. Now, he wouldn't be there when she did.
He knew it wasn't long now. He closed his eyes. He didn't want his last thoughts to be of the cage. He thought instead about Lois. Her face, her voice, her drive, her humor, her tenacity, her… "Lois," he murmured as death finally claimed him.
"Clark!" Lois gasped, coming fully awake.
"What is it, darling?" asked Luthor, waking up beside her.
"Nothing. Umm… Just a dream, I guess."
"Humm… Well, it sounded like a nightmare. Do you want to tell me about it?"
"I really don't remember it," Lois lied. She lay back down, trying to get her breathing under control. "Good-night, Lex," she said, rolling over on her side away from him.
"Good-night," Lex responded, quickly falling back to sleep.
Lois lay there and shivered. She felt for it. It was gone. Since early in their relationship, Lois had felt some sort of invisible bond to Clark. At first, it drove her crazy. Then, as their friendship grew, it became a source of comfort — a constant connection to him. It was some sort of intangible thread that seemed to link their souls. She closed her eyes and reached for it. She trembled when she couldn't find it. 'Come back to me,' she silently cried, fighting off the darkness. She hadn't felt this alone since before she met Clark. She buried her head in her pillow, trying to muffle the sound of the quiet sobs that rocked her body.
"What do you mean, there's nothing until tomorrow?" gasped Martha.
"I checked with all the airlines. Even if we took a milk run, the plane wouldn't get to Metropolis until tomorrow. So I booked us on a flight tomorrow." Jonathan sighed. "Look, Martha, I think we have to prepare ourselves for the possibility that…"
"No! My boy's alive. I'd know it if…"
"Martha!" Jonathan exclaimed, reaching out to catch his fainting wife.
"Excellent," said Luthor into the phone early the next morning. "You are sure?"
"Absolutely," replied Mrs. Cox.
"You know what to do with the body?" asked Lex.
"Yes. I've called Nigel and he's taking care of everything."
"So, are you enjoying your honeymoon?"
"Definitely. That's one of the benefits of winning the war."
"Plundering the wealth. Swapping sweat with the enemy's woman."
Clark was disoriented. The last thing he remembered was being at LNN. He had just asked Lois if there was somewhere private they could go to talk. He knew Lois was considering Luthor's proposal. He had decided to tell her how he felt — that he was in love with her. Now… Where was he? He looked around. All he could see was white. Not white walls or white ceilings. Just white. It was as if his eyes were closed and a bright light was being directed at his closed eyelids. He shook his head. His eyes were open. What was going on?
"Did you know that this island was once owned by Aristotle Onassis? Apparently, he used to bring Jackie here," said Luthor.
"Humm…" responded Lois, taking the last sip of her drink.
"Of course, that was early in their relationship, when things were good between them," he added. He had expected a little more of a reaction. After all, the Kennedys were the American version of royalty.
"Could you get me another drink, Lex?" Lois asked, handing him her glass. "Only this time, don't skimp on the vodka. That last drink had hardly any kick to it at all."
"Lois, that was your third drink."
Lois glanced over at him. "So?" she challenged.
"It's only one o'clock in the afternoon. And you didn't eat breakfast and you barely touched your lunch."
"It's my vacation. I just want to relax. Do you have a problem with that?"
Lex had never seen Lois in a mood like this, but he let it go. Let her have her tiff, or whatever it was. Nothing was going to bring him down from the natural high the phone call earlier today had given him. It had taken him a year, but he had won. He had won! He walked over to the bar and fixed Lois another drink. He was just settling back into his chair when a voice on the radio interrupted the classical music playing in the background.
"We're sorry to interrupt your afternoon," came the voice over the radio. "But we've just received word that Superman is dead. That's right folks, Superman's dead. Apparently his body was found this morning tied to the remains of the large globe that used to mark the front of the Daily Planet."
Lois' drink slipped from her hand. She ignored it as she rushed to the radio to turn it up. The alcohol in her system almost caused her to slip. By the time she got there, the radio had gone back to playing music. She found the tuning button and began to search frantically for a station that would have more details. She finally found 'Voice of America.'
"…no word yet on how someone managed to kill him, although from the way his body was found, it's pretty obvious that foul play was involved. We will keep you informed as any new information comes to light."
"I have to go home," Lois said, spinning around to look at Luthor.
"But, darling, we're on our honeymoon."
"I have to go, Lex. I have to be there. I at least want to go to his funeral and say good-bye. Can you understand that?"
Luthor looked at her for a moment. Yes, he certainly could understand that. His wife had been in love with the superhero after all. Besides, it could be fun attending Superman's funeral under the pretext of comforting his new bride — Superman's friend. He nodded and then left to make the necessary arrangements.
Lois sank back down into her chair after he left. She felt completely numb.
"Martha, come here," yelled Jonathan. Since Martha's fainting spell, they had been taking turns monitoring LNN. They were now fairly certain that something had happened to Clark. What they didn't know was if it was as Clark or Superman. They tried calling Perry and Jimmy in an effort to see if it was Clark. They were very careful — just saying that they were trying to get in touch with Clark. When neither Jimmy nor Perry knew anything — although they both suggested that he was probably off somewhere getting drunk — Martha and Jonathan turned on LNN. Surely if something had happened to Superman, it would be big news.
When Martha came into the room, Jonathan flicked off the television. He wanted to prepare his wife for what she would see.
"Why is the T.V. off?" Martha demanded, reaching for the remote control. Jonathan's hand stopped her.
"Martha, I think you should sit down."
"I don't want to sit down," Martha said, again reaching for the remote.
She relented, allowing Jonathan to lead her over to the couch. When she was sitting, Jonathan sat down beside her. She looked over at him, her expression one of complete stone, waiting for him to speak.
"He's dead, Martha," Jonathan said, confirming what she already knew. "I just want you to be prepared when you see the T.V."
She gave a blank nod. He handed her the remote. She stared at it for a long time. Now that the moment was here, she couldn't quite bring herself to turn on the television. She finally pushed the appropriate button. The television took a moment to warm up, but when it did, a sob escaped from Martha's throat. The television was showing Superman. He had been strung up by his hands from the remains of the Daily Planet's globe. His boots and cape were still on and it looked as if the insignia from his suit had been stitched to his bare chest. Other than that, he was naked. LNNŐs only concession to this shocking image was a white dot over his genitals.
"We'll collect his body tomorrow," Martha finally said, in a broken voice.
"We can't, Martha."
"What do you mean, we can't? I'm going to Metropolis and I'm bringing my boy home."
"Martha," Jonathan said softly. "It's not Clark that's dead. It's Superman."
"What does that matter now? He's dead."
She just looked away. She knew Jonathan was right. They had, since the attempt on Clark's life by Jason Trask, discussed the possibility of Clark's death. They both knew if he was killed as Superman, they would have to distance themselves from it. They would also have to try to find an explanation for Clark's disappearance. Otherwise, they would be hounded by the press, but more then that, they would become the target of every bad guy who had been brought down by Superman this past year.
"I'm still going to Metropolis," Martha said.
Jonathan let out a short breath. "Martha…"
"There will probably be a million people lining the streets for his funeral. I want to be one of them. I want a chance to say good-bye."
Jonathan looked into his wife's very moist eyes for a moment before nodding and taking her in his arms.
Clark closed his eyes, shutting out the white. Time had no meaning to him. There seemed to be no beginning or end. He found that images of his life were already beginning to fade. He had to concentrate. His apartment. He concentrated on his apartment, detailing in his mind every aspect of it. He then held his breath and opened his eyes.
Clark gasped. He was standing in the middle of his apartment. He looked around at the familiar surroundings. He let out a sigh of relief. It had all been some sort of very strange dream.
He turned at the sound of a key in the lock. He tried looking through the door. No luck. He tried again. Still he failed. Kryptonite exposure. He didn't remember feeling kryptonite, but that was the only time he had ever lost his powers. He tried floating. Now, that he could do. Why were some of his powers affected and not others? He turned his attention back to the door as it opened.
"Mom, Dad, am I glad to see you," Clark said as Martha and Jonathan entered.
"What is it Martha?" Jonathan asked.
"Nothing," said Martha, shaking her head. "I just got a funny feeling that Clark would be here."
"I am here," objected Clark.
"I know, honey. It's hard seeing all his things and knowing that he's not coming home," Jonathan said, putting an arm around his wife.
"But I am home," objected Clark. He placed himself directly in front of his parents, trying to get their attention. They just ignored him, proceeding into the room.
"I'm going to try calling Lois," Martha said.
"She's on her honeymoon," Jonathan reminded her.
"I know that, Jonathan, but I imagine she'll come home when she hears the news. Besides, she might know something."
With that Martha went over and picked up the phone.
Clark was stunned. honeymoon? What were they talking about? Who had she married? He knew Luthor had asked her to marry him, but she hadn't accepted yet. And he was about to tell her how he felt about her. Something was very wrong.
"I tried. Apparently, she has returned, but with all the calls she's getting from the media, the receptionist wouldn't put me through," Martha informed Jonathan when she got off the phone.
Clark could hardly stand this. He had to know what was going on. Lois. His mom had indicated that Lois would know. He wasn't getting nearly enough information here. He went to the door and reached for the doorknob. His hand went right through it. He had a feeling of panic. He was trapped here. Suddenly, he remembered how he had gotten here. He closed his eyes and concentrated on Lois' apartment. When he opened them again, he was standing in Lois' darkened apartment.
Lois didn't even bother to check her messages. There seemed to be hundreds, and the secretary responsible for taking them was still spending all her time answering the phone.
"I'm going for a walk, Lex," she announced, grabbing her shoes and jacket and heading for the door.
"Do you think that's wise, darling? You saw the reporters congregated in front of the building."
"I'll find a way past them," Lois announced, turning and heading out.
Luthor smiled as he watched her go. He had, one by one, removed every single one of her support systems. First, he destroyed the Daily Planet, leaving her floundering professionally. Then, he gave her a job where her colleagues were loyal to him — and he had given them instructions to maintain a professional distance. Next, he had given her friends enough information about his involvement in the destruction of the Planet to make them suspicious of him, but not enough to prove it. After that, all he had to do was sit back and watch her drive away all her friends by her defense of him. It had worked beyond his wildest expectations — especially with Clark Kent.
Now, Superman was gone. Luthor figured the death of her hero would leave her completely alone in the world. She would soon come to realize that she couldn't afford to lose him too. It was bound to make her desperate to keep him. That would give him the leverage he needed to get her under control.
There was only one wild card in his carefully shuffled deck — Clark Kent. Kent would have to die to ensure that he didn't find a way back into her life. Well, that and the fact that Kent knew that Superman had come to see him before his wedding. There was only one little problem. He had, as of yet, been unable to find Clark Kent. Still, it was only a matter of time before he did. In the mean time, he would have Lois followed on the off chance that she could lead him to Kent.
Lois had no problem evading the press. After years on the other side, she knew every way around them. That knowledge had gained her more then one exclusive interview. She then lost the tail she assumed Lex had sent for her protection. She could take care of herself and right now she didn't want an audience.
When she had heard about Superman's death… Actually, after the shock had worn off, she had almost been relieved. She felt bad about that, but after her dream last night, she had been worried that something had happened to Clark. Since she couldn't seem to come up with a plausible excuse to call Clark on her honeymoon, she had dealt with it in good family tradition — by getting drunk. Until then, she hadn't understood the comfort her mother found by getting lost in a bottle.
Then the news had come about Superman's death. She breathed a sigh of relief. Somehow, she must have mixed up what had happened to Superman with Clark. She again searched for her connection to Clark, but was still unable to find it. She refused to speculate about what that might mean. He was okay. He had to be okay. She would mourn for Superman, but she would go on. She wasn't so sure that would be the case if something happened to Clark.
Once she was certain she was alone, she grabbed a cab. She gave the cabby the necessary instructions and leaned back in the seat. Only a few more minutes and she would know for herself that he was okay.
Lois spent the entire trip trying to ignore the little voice in the back of her mind that kept trying to point out that all she had to do to know if Clark was all right was to pick up the phone and call him. She ignored the nagging feeling that there was more to going to his apartment than just a need to know that nothing had happened to him. She wasn't breaking the vow she had made to herself to put him behind her. She would just check up on him and then go back to the penthouse.
"Where's your new bride, sir?" asked Nigel, seeing his boss sitting alone in the study of his penthouse.
"Out crying for her dead lover," Luthor replied evenly.
"Doesn't that bother you, sir?"
"No. I'd be more concerned if she weren't. You see, Nigel, I planned this. Superman lived to know that I had married Lois Lane. Yet, by killing him I ensured that Lois would be completely alone in the world. I intend to use this opportunity to make my wife completely subservient to me."
Nigel looked intrigued.
"Did you get the tissue?" Luthor asked.
"Yes, sir. Once he was dead, it was easy enough. But there is one thing I don't understand."
"What's that Nigel?"
"Well, you tried making a clone a few months ago, sir. Why would you think this time would be more successful?"
"Because this time, with no Superman, there's no hurry."
"I don't understand."
"Cloning a fully mature human is on the edge of science. As a result, our first attempt wasn't perfect. The clone was destined to die. However, the cloning procedure itself isn't scientifically all that radical. That is, if you don't mind waiting for a child to mature. I have a scientist who claims he's perfected it — on sheep of course. We've kept his breakthrough very quiet. Although, I believe there are some other scientists who are also close to a solution."
"So what are you saying? That someone is going to have a child created from Superman's cells?"
"Not just someone, Nigel. Years ago, I had a vasectomy rather than having to worry about women claiming I got them pregnant. The procedure is reversible, but with this development, I don't need to do that. My wife will have Superman's 'son' and I will raise him. I plan to make Superman's son in my image. It is the ultimate revenge and the ultimate power."
"How are you going to convince your wife to go along with this?"
"She won't know. She'll just think that we're having problems conceiving. So we'll have in vitro fertilization done. What she won't know is that instead of injecting my sperm into the egg, I will have the egg genetically altered so that she'll have a superpowered child."
"Won't she figure it out when the child starts to develop Superman's powers?"
"By then, I'll have tight enough control on my wife that she won't dare oppose me — or she won't survive her opposition."
"I don't think that's such a good idea, Martha," objected Jonathan.
"Clark wrote it because he wanted her to know," Martha argued.
"That was when Jason Trask almost killed him. He didn't know then that she would marry Lex Luthor. You know as well as I do that Luthor is probably the one who killed him."
"I still think she has a right to know. Besides, if anyone is going to make the connection between Clark's disappearance and Superman's death, it's going to be her. At least if we give her the letter, she'll understand the importance of keeping it a secret. Besides, she loved him, Jonathan."
"Martha, we've been through this before. If she loved him, she wouldn't have married Luthor. She might not even find out that Clark is missing. I mean they hadn't exactly been seeing much of each other since her engagement. With her wedding…" Jonathan shrugged.
Martha let out a short breath. "Okay, if she returns the call, we'll see, but I won't seek her out to give her the letter."
"Fine," replied Jonathan. "I'd be surprised if we ever even hear from Lois again. She's got a new life now. It's what she wants."
Just then, there was a knock at the door. Jonathan walked over and opened it. Jonathan's mouth dropped open when he saw Lois standing on the other side.
"Is Clark here?" she asked in a small voice, her eyes quickly scanning the room.
"Umm… No," replied Jonathan.
"Do you know where he is? Or when he's coming back? I have to talk to him." She noticed that Clark's parents seemed a lot older since the last time she had seen them. She tried to ignore the sinking feeling in her stomach. "I suppose he's somewhere trying to find out what happened to Superman. I guess I should have expected that. I don't know what I was thinking. That he'd be home at a time like this. So where has he gone? Has the city contacted him about funeral arrangements?" Each statement was said a little bit more quickly then the last. No pause was given between sentences, not even after the questions, as Lois sought not to see the grief so evident on the faces of both Martha and Jonathan. Finally, Lois ran out of air. An oppressive silence hung over the room for a minute until Jonathan finally broke it.
"Lois, why don't you have a seat?" said Jonathan quietly, laying a hand on Lois' arm.
She jerked her arm away. "I don't want to have a seat. I really should go find Clark. He might need my help tracking down Superman's killer. I…" her voice suddenly broke. She sank quietly down onto the steps. She sat in silence for a moment, fighting to control her voice. "What happened to Clark?" she asked quietly.
Martha and Jonathan's eyes met. Martha's eyes held an unspoken question. Jonathan nodded in reply.
"Why don't you come over and have a seat on the couch, honey?" Martha suggested. Lois didn't reply, but when Martha put her hand under Lois' arm to help her up, she allowed herself to be led to the couch.
"Clark asked us to give you this if it ever became necessary," Martha said, handing her an envelope.
Lois looked into Martha's eyes for a moment. What did she mean by necessary? But then she tore open the envelope and pulled out the letter.
'Lois. If you are reading this, I guess you already know that either Clark or Superman is dead. Since I don't know which one, I'll just have to start by telling you something that you probably don't want to hear right now. Until our encounter with Jason Trask, I never really thought about death much, but I guess that's a moot point.
'I'm writing this because I want to be the one to tell you. I'm not sure how to say this so I guess I should just tell you as simply and honestly as I can. Lois, I'm Superman.'
Lois gasped. No. This wasn't happening. She handed the letter back to Martha. "Look, I know Clark loves a good joke, but this is just cruel. I'm going to go find Clark." She got up and headed for the door.
"Lois…" started Martha and then stopped as she watched Lois.
Lois strode to the door. Her hand was on the doorknob when suddenly she sank to her knees, the sobs racking her body. Martha was there in an instant, wrapping her arms around the younger woman. Lois turned and returned Martha's embrace. The two women knelt together on the floor for a long time crying in each other's arms.
"What do you mean, you lost her?" Luthor demanded.
"I'm sorry, sir," replied a very nervous man. "I lost her at about the same time she lost the reporters."
Luthor waved his hand, dismissing the man.
"Incompetents," Luthor said to Nigel. "Find me someone who can do this job. I want to know where my wife is at all times."
Once Martha and Lois regained some control, Jonathan helped them move back to the couch.
"Listen, while you finish reading Clark's letter, I'll go make some tea," said Jonathan, handing Lois the letter again. After all, it was essential that Lois understand the importance of keeping this information quiet. They figured Clark would address the issue himself. If he didn't, they would have to.
Lois took a deep breath before turning her attention back to the letter.
'I'm sorry I wasn't able to tell you in person. I guess I owe you some sort of explanation for that. I don't want you to think I didn't trust you. I could give you lots of reasons. I could tell you that I have never before told anyone. I could tell you that I was at a complete loss about how to tell you. I could point out the dangers to you if you knew. I could even tell you that I was afraid that you would be mad at me. All of that would be true.
'But none of those are the real reason. Lois, I've fallen as hard for you as you have for Superman. I guess the main reason I never told you is that I wanted you to fall in love with the real me — Clark — instead of the celebrity — Superman. If you are reading this letter, I guess that never happened.'
Lois let out a sob when, in a moment of absolute clarity, she realized just what her feelings were for Clark. She did love him. In fact, she had been in love with him for months. She was just too scared to admit it — even to herself. "It did happen, Clark," she said softly.
"What happened?" Martha asked. Lois just shook her head and continued to read, tears streaming freely down her face.
'Lois, I have a favor to ask of you. It is imperative that no one make the connection between Clark and Superman. I'm worried about what will happen to my parents if they do. Trask made it clear that he not only intended to kill me, but that he considered my parents human traitors for raising me. As a respected journalist, you are in a position to help them concoct a cover story that will explain both the deaths of Clark and Superman. I know what I'm asking of you. I know that I'm asking you to compromise your journalistic integrity, but I am asking you, for both me and Superman, to help them. It may save their lives.
'There's just one more thing that I want you to know, although it may not matter. I fell in love with you on the day we were first introduced in Perry's office. I think you are a remarkable woman, Lois Lane. Love, Clark AKA Superman.'
Lois stared at the letter for a long time.
"Do you mind?" Martha asked, gesturing to the letter. "We never read it, but…"
Lois looked at Martha for a moment, before nodding and handing her the letter.
Once Martha had finished reading the letter, she asked, "How did you know?"
"Know what?" Lois asked.
"Well… It just seemed as if you were expecting us to tell you that something had happened to Clark."
"Oh." Lois paused. "It's going to sound crazy."
"Try us. After discovering a baby in a spaceship, we find that not much surprises us anymore."
Lois actually managed a small smile. She took a deep breath and began. "Last night… I had a dream that something had happenedto Clark. Then when I…" She let out a short breath. "I tried to find Clark — in my mind, I mean. I know it doesn't make any sense, but I've always had some sort of connection with Clark. I could always feel him. When I woke up, he wasn't there."
Martha then told Lois how she had known. When Martha finished, they compared the time that she had awoken from the dream to the time that Martha had fainted. Given the time differences, they realized the times were the same. It might not hold up in a court of law, but they were both confident they now knew the time of death.
Martha and Jonathan also satisfied themselves that Lois understood the importance of keeping the connection between Clark and Superman a secret — even from her husband. It was a very dejected young woman who finally said good-night and Martha and Jonathan were left with no doubt that she had loved their son.
Lois pulled the keys out of her purse. She was here because she wanted to be alone. She didn't want to go back to the penthouse right now — for reasons she couldn't quite put into words, she didn't want Lex to know how devastated she really was. She unlocked the apartment and made her way inside. Once there, she sank down against the door. She didn't even bother to turn on the lights. What was the point? She had never felt so completely lost. She wondered if death might be preferable to this living hell.
"Lois," said a familiar sounding voice.
Lois shook her head. He wasn't here. It was just her grief. But then her name was repeated. Lois was immediately on her feet. It sounded like him, but she knew it couldn't be.
'Who are you?" she asked into the darkened apartment. "Don't try anything, I know karate."
She heard a soft, almost relieved laugh. There was no mistaking that sound. "Clark?" she asked hesitantly.
"Yes," Clark replied.
She looked in the direction of the voice. She could make out a silhouette in the darkness. She reached over and flicked on the light. She let out a sob as she saw Clark standing by the sofa. He was alive. It only took her a moment to cover the distance separating them. He reacted quickly, moving around to the other side of the sofa. She stopped and looked at him in confusion.
"Umm…" Clark said, clearing his throat. "It's just… Something strange is happening here, Lois. I don't know what it is or if it's contagious, but I don't want you exposed."
Lois felt a sinking feeling in her heart. "What do you mean?" she asked quietly.
"Well, I was in my apartment earlier this evening. My folks were there, but they couldn't see or hear me, although Mom seemed to sense something. Then, while I was waiting for you, I discovered… It's easier if I show you. Maybe you'd better sit down."
"Just show me, Clark."
Clark sighed before reaching out and touching the back of the sofa. His hand disappeared through the fabric. "I can't open doors or grab things, but I can sit down and not sink to the floor. I guess that's an advantage." He shrugged. "I have no idea what happened to me. I mean, the last thing I remember is being with you at LNN. I asked you to go somewhere private to talk and then…" He gestured helplessly.
Lois looked at him thoughtfully. To her knowledge he had only been at LNN once — the day he told her he loved her, but that had been weeks ago. Unless this was somehow in the future. She shook her head slightly. What was going on here?
"That day at LNN — what did you want to talk to me about?" Lois asked, wanting to narrow down the options.
Clark shifted slightly. "Umm…" he paused, not quite looking at her.
She looked at him curiously until suddenly she understood his problem. As far as he was concerned, she didn't know that he loved her. "Did you want to tell me that you're in love with me?" she asked quietly.
Clark looked up at her in shock. "Umm… well… umm…" He fell silent again. This wasn't quite the way he had planned to tell her.
"You already told me, Clark. You told me weeks ago." Lois walked over and sat down on the couch. He followed her example, being sure to sit as far away from her as possible.
He studied his nails for a moment. "What did you say?" he finally asked.
Now it was her turn to look at him in shock. Of course! He didn't remember any of it. So what should she say? Should she break his heart all over again? How could she do that? Especially now that she knew she felt the same way.
"I love you too, Clark. I didn't think it was possible to love anyone as much as I love you." Okay, so it wasn't exactly a lie. After all, she hadn't said that this was what she had told him when he first told her how he felt. Of course, she knew that was the assumption he would make.
Clark let out a short breath. "Really? Oh, thank God. When I heard my folks talk about you being on your honeymoon, I sort of worried…"
"Worried?" Lois asked nervously.
"It doesn't matter, Lois. So, I take it we got married. boy, I really wish I could remember that."
Lois looked down. She knew she should correct him, but she really didn't want to. What he was saying was what should have happened. For a few minutes at least, she wanted to believe it too.
"I wish I could touch you," Clark said quietly.
"Try, Clark," Lois encouraged. She needed that physical contact too. She had a feeling she knew what was happening here — at least she had a theory. She wanted him to touch her. She wanted to prove that feeling wrong.
"But what if I have something contagious?"
"I don't think that's it. Please. I need you to touch me."
Clark sighed before moving a little closer. He cautiously reached out his hand. He hesitated before gently touching her cheek with the back of his fingers.
She closed her eyes and let out a quiet breath. "It feels like a breeze on my skin," she said softly.
He started to move his hand away.
"No," she gasped, instinctively reaching out to hold his hand against her cheek. Her hand went right though his. They both stared in horror at their respective hands for a moment, before Clark raised his hand once again to her face. A sad sort of sob escaped from the back of her throat as his hand traveled over her face and neck.
Clark turned so that he was sitting cross-legged on the couch beside her. At the moment, he was less concerned about his physical state than he was about Lois. If she needed to be touched then that's what he would do. Besides, he wasn't exactly averse to touching Lois. They would figure out the rest later.
He moved both hands up to her face, gently touching her. She moved so that she was also sitting cross legged on the couch — their knees softly touching. She brought her hands up slowly and touched his. She could feel the same brush of air under her fingertips. She closed her eyes and allowed her fingers to run up his arms and over his shoulders. She allowed the feeling of him to guide her movement. She brought her hands slowly down his sides, before moving them up the muscles of his chest.
They sat there for a long time just gently touching, when Clark said, "Have you noticed?"
"What?" Lois asked, opening her eyes.
"The more we touch, the more… substantial our touch becomes."
Lois looked down at where her hand was gently stroking his chest. He was right. Whereas before she only felt a gentle breeze under her fingertips, she could now make out the muscles of his chest. Were she to push, she was sure that her hand would still go through him, but he was much more substantial then when they first touched.
She smiled slightly as she felt his hand slowly make its way over her cheek. Clark moved his hand around to the back of her head, and then, leaning forward, gently pulled her toward him. She knew that if she didn't allow his hand to direct her movements, he would be unable to do so. So she leaned in. She closed her eyes as his lips approached hers. Their lips met, and in an instant, the contact between them was strengthened. They both jumped back slightly in shock.
"Wow!" exclaimed Clark.
"I guess the level of intimacy of the contact also determines the speed of this procedure."
"I'd say," said Clark. He raised his eyebrows slightly. "So, what do you say we try that again?"
She smiled, leaning back toward him. Their lips met again, the contact between them increasing.
For Lois, the kiss was almost painful. Clark was dead. Of that she was now certain. What was happening now was either a grief induced hallucination or Clark was a ghost. Still, she continued to kiss him because as she did, she could tell that the bond between them, which had been broken by death, was being restored. She could, once again, feel his presence. And it was that which, more then anything, she couldn't live without. As a result, not only her body but her soul craved his touch.
When the kiss broke, she took his hands in her own and raised them for a moment to her lips before taking a deep breath and moving his hands to the top button on her blouse. It didn't even occur to Lois that she shouldn't be doing this — that she was married to Lex. Her mind was completely absorbed in what was happening between her and Clark.
Clark looked into her eyes for a moment, seeking reassurance that he understood her silent invitation. Once he was satisfied, he slowly began undoing the buttons on her shirt. His eyes left hers and followed his hands as he undid first one and then a second button.
Clark was drawn to the skin revealed as if he were metal filings in close proximity to a magnet. He abandoned her buttons to run the back of his hand down the soft skin of her neck. Lois drew in a sharp breath. His fingers seemed to be blazing a trail of fire across her skin.
After a moment, Clark looked up again into Lois' eyes. "Are you sure about this, Lois? I mean, this is sort of weird. Maybe we should just…"
"I'm sure, Clark."
A slow smile spread across Clark's face. "Well, I guess we are married, so…" Clark didn't notice Lois' sharp intake of breath as he continued. "Although, I must admit that I don't remember our vows." He paused. "Say them?" he finally asked.
"Say what?" Lois asked in response, trying to pull her mind away from the sudden realization that had come crashing around her with his last comments. She was married to Lex. No matter what this was, she had to stop it.
"Your vows. Please, I don't remember them and I just want to hear you say them once. I know mine. I've always known that my love for you was eternal." He raised a hand to her cheek. "It's just that… It feels like I've waited my whole life to hear those words from you."
Lois gave him a sad smile. Surely, she could at least give him this. She ran her hands through his hair and looked into his eyes as she said, "Clark, I will love, honor and cherish you. For better or worse. For richer or poorer. In sickness and in health. Until death…" Her voice came to an abrupt halt as she realized that the final thing had already happened.
Clark heard the words, but it didn't register with him that there were still three words to be said. She had ended abruptly enough that it sounded as if she had simply ended. He smiled slightly and moved his hands back down to her blouse.
It took Lois a moment to realize that Clark was continuing to unbutton her blouse. She drew in a sharp breath. He thought they were married. He would never be doing this if he knew the truth. She couldn't continue to keep this from him, but the idea of discontinuing now caused a physical pain in her chest. She closed her eyes for a moment, steeling her resolve, before her hands came up and stilled his.
"What is it?" Clark asked softly. When she didn't respond, he reached out and placed a finger under her chin, pushing slightly upward, telling her he wanted her to raise her head. She did so. "What's wrong, Lois?" he asked again.
Lois let out a short breath. "I'm not quite sure where to start."
"Well… what about starting at the beginning?" he suggested, while gently stroking her cheek.
She nodded, almost imperceptibly. "Okay… Well, I guess I should start with the day we talked in the park after we left LNN."
"I thought…" Clark cleared his throat. He wasn't exactly sure what he thought, but at this moment he had a sinking feeling about where this was going. He suddenly wasn't sure he wanted to hear what she had to say. "Look, Lois, why don't we just leave this for later. You know, I was thinking that…"
"Clark, please. I don't want to have this talk either, but you have to know the truth."
Clark closed his eyes. He liked believing that she loved him and that they had gotten married, but it didn't quite jive with what he had overheard his parents talking about. They had talked about her being on her honeymoon, not them being on their honeymoon. He had pushed those doubts to the back of his mind when she told him she loved him. Now that she wanted to start with their talk that day at LNN, his doubts once again came flooding to the surface. And if they weren't married, but she was on her honeymoon…
He opened his eyes avoiding hers, instead looking at her mouth before reaching his hand once again behind her head to draw her lips back to him. This time she didn't come.
Lois realized that Clark had a pretty good idea what the truth was already. Knowing that, she decided just to skip through everything that had happened between them.
"Clark, I'm married to…"
"No, Lois. Please don't say it. I don't want to know." Clark got up and walked again until he was behind the couch.
"I'm sorry," whispered Lois, looking down. "It was a mistake. I love you. I didn't lie about that."
Clark let out a short breath. "Oh, well then, I guess that makes everything all right," Clark responded sarcastically. "How could you marry him, Lois?"
Lois didn't respond. She just stared absently at her hands. She knew that she was responsible for this outburst, not only by marrying Lex, but by letting Clark believe that she had married him instead. She glanced up at him. His face was a mask of emotions. There was the anger, certainly, but behind that, Lois could see the anguish. Anguish which she had certainly intensified with her lie — okay, so not lie exactly, more like deception. At least that's what she tried to tell herself.
What Clark saw in her eyes when she looked up was an apology, but behind that was something which shattered his heart. He could tell she was in a lot of pain. How long had she been married to Luthor? Not long, obviously. Had she discovered yet just how much of an animal he was? Had he hurt her? No. He couldn't think like this. If he did, his resolve to pull away from her would crumble.
"I have to go, Lois," Clark said, making his way to the door.
Lois was up in an instant. She made it to the door before him and automatically reached out and laid a hand on his arm.
Clark looked down at the feel of her hand. He felt a weight settle in his heart as he did so. It was an all too painful reminder of what had transpired or, even more importantly, what had almost transpired between them only minutes ago. Her touch, although not exactly solid, was certainly tangible.
"Clark, please don't go," Lois pleaded.
Clark met her eyes. "I have to, Lois. I can't stay here. Not when…" He never finished his sentence, but then he didn't have to. He knew and Lois knew all the reasons he couldn't stay. He gently removed Lois' hand from his arm and walked the remaining distance to the door.
"Clark, we need to talk. I have a theory about why you…"
"Lois, I can't," said Clark, not turning to look at her.
But she couldn't let him go. Not like this. Not when he didn't even know what had happened to him. And if his parents couldn't see him… She was the only one who could tell him what was going on.
Clark's hand stopped only inches from the doorknob when Lois said, "Superman is dead."
Clark spun back around. "No!" he gasped.
"Yes, his body was…"
"It's not possible."
"…found in front of the Daily Planet building."
"But you don't understand."
"Don't I?" Lois said softly, raising an eyebrow.
"No. It isn't possible. I… He can't be… It's just…" His voice trailed off as his mind sought to, but couldn't quite, reject the information he was being given.
"Do you remember this?" Lois asked, holding out an envelope.
Clark was confused by the change of subject. She handed the envelope to him. He went to take it from her, but when she released it, it floated through his hand and down onto the floor. Suddenly, the realization was too much to bear. Clark sank down against the door.
Lois let out a short breath before lowering herself onto the floor beside him and picking up the envelope. She removed the letter and opened it up so that he could see it.
"Your parents gave me this today."
He took a look at the letter, quickly discerning what it was. "Have you read it?" he asked, although he was fairly certain he already knew the answer to that.
They sat in silence for a few minutes before Clark spoke again.
"Lois, I know I should have told you about Superman. I really didn't…"
Lois gave a snort. "Do you really think I care about that — given everything?"
"I suppose not."
"Clark, losing you is the worst thing that has ever happened to me. I don't know how I'm going to…" Her body began to heave with quiet sobs.
Clark instinctively reached out to take her in his arms. Suddenly, he stopped, pulled back and got to his feet. "I have to go," he said firmly. He reached for the doorknob and his hand went through it. He let out a frustrated breath, and stepped through the door into the hallway.
>From the hallway, Clark could hear Lois' crying and her continued >pleas with him not to leave her. He closed his eyes. He thought of >the Arctic ocean and suddenly the hallway disappeared leaving him >standing on an iceberg. He sat down dejectedly on the edge, dangling >his legs in the water.
After Clark left, or after her hallucination ended, whichever it was, Lois cried for a long time. Once a sort of numbness set in, she called Lex to tell him that she was going to stay at her apartment for the night. He gave her such a hard time about it that she went back to the penthouse simply to end the argument. Normally, she would have become more stubborn when confronted by Lex's demands, but with everything that had happened, she no longer had the strength to fight.
The next morning, she got up, got dressed and headed to the police station. She had promised Martha and Jonathan last night that she would try to find out what she could about Superman's death. They couldn't do it without raising unwanted questions.
"Inspector Henderson," Lois said, walking into his office.
"I've been expecting you," Henderson said softly.
Given his usual gruff exterior, his gentleness today almost pushed Lois to tears. She steadied herself and said, "I understand you're the one investigating Superman's death."
"What have you found out?"
"Well, that depends."
"Whether you're here in a professional or a personal capacity." When she didn't seem to understand, he continued. "As far as we know, Superman doesn't have any family — at least not on earth. Now, everyone knows that there is… was a special relationship between you, your partner and Superman. I'm prepared to treat you and Kent as family on this, but only if the information will not be released to the public at this time."
"I'm here as family," Lois responded quietly, the grief she felt by saying the words giving them a slightly strangled sound. But, it was true. She was here for Martha and Jonathan and she truly believed the only reason she wasn't family herself was because of her own stupidity — after all, Clark had made it clear last night just how serious his intentions were. Of course, the Clark she had seen last night was probably just a figment of her overactive imagination, but she still believed the images it had portrayed.
Henderson got up and came around to close the door. He gestured her to a chair. Once she was seated, he filled her in.
"We conducted an autopsy."
"How? Superman's invulnerable."
"He wasn't when we found him." While Lois tried to grapple with that information, Henderson continued. "The cause of death was some sort of weird radiation exposure."
"You mean he was exposed to a nuclear explosion or something? But that doesn't make any sense. I saw him stop the meltdown at the Lex Corp Nuclear Power Plant and he wasn't affected."
"It wasn't nuclear radiation. In fact, it wasn't a type of radiation that any of the specialists we consulted have ever encountered. We have no idea how he was exposed to it. We also don't know who strung up his body. But, I promise we'll do everything we can to find out." Henderson paused for a moment.
"We do have an approximate time of death," Henderson continued.
"About 4:00 p.m. the day after your wedding."
"That's what we figured," mumbled Lois.
"What?" asked Henderson, looking at her curiously.
"Nothing. Why is it only approximate?"
"Normally, the time of death is figured out by looking at degree of rigidity, body temperature and other such considerations. In Superman's case… Well, he wasn't human so we don't know how much of that remains the same." Henderson shrugged. "Oh, there's one other thing that's kinda unusual."
"Apparently there is a sizable piece of flesh missing from his right thigh."
"What? What does that mean?"
"We have no idea, but I can tell you that it was taken after he died."
"What's going to happen to his body?"
"Some scientists have petitioned the city of Metropolis to have his body to conduct scientific experiments."
"What!" gasped Lois.
"Relax. The city of Metropolis has refused them. I think they're afraid of the public outcry if they were to agree. So they're going to have a state funeral for him. They'll be taking care of the arrangements and the expenses, but I'm sure that if you get in touch with them, they will be happy to have your input. They're hoping some family will step forward. In the absence of actual family… Well, anyway, that's really all we have at the moment."
"Thanks, Henderson," Lois said, rising to leave. "By the way, will you let me know when his body…" Her voice broke. Henderson waited in silence as Lois struggled to get herself under control. "…when his body is sent to a funeral home?"
"No problem. If you need anything else, please contact me. And Lois… I'm sorry."
She gave him a sad smile. Henderson instantly realized just how devastated Lois really was.
Lois slipped into a nearby bar after leaving the police station. She was surprised to find one open this early. She wasn't looking for a drink, but after the other day, she figured Lex wouldn't question it if she went to a bar, and she needed to lose the tail — again.
She sighed. Well, she had known it would be difficult to have a private life married to Lex. She just never realized that it was Lex's surveillance she would be trying to avoid — and she assumed the man following her now worked for Lex. It was sweet of him to be concerned about her safety, but she didn't need the protection. She understood that a man in Lex's position had to take precautions. She just wished he had talked to her about it first.
She slipped out the back door of the bar and made her way to Clark's apartment to tell Martha and Jonathan what she had learned. She didn't want to have to explain to Lex why she had gone directly from the police station to Clark's place. Besides, if she lost the tail often enough, maybe he'd realize that she didn't need protection.
"Tell me something," Lois asked, when she arrived. "I have dozens of reporters camped out in front of Lex towers. Why aren't there any here?"
"I think some of it is because Clark gave you a lot more Superman exclusives than he kept for himself. There were some here earlier. We told them Clark was out of town. They hung out for a while, but then I think they decided that the fishing might be better elsewhere," Jonathan informed her.
"Besides," Martha continued, "…considering how your relationship with Superman has been portrayed by the tabloids… I think your reaction to his death is of more interest than Clark's would be. So, were you able to find out anything from the police?" Martha asked, handing Lois a cup of coffee.
"Yes. Apparently Inspector Henderson is handling the case. When he was satisfied that I was there for personal, not professional, reasons, he was quite helpful. Oh, that brings up a point. Henderson told me that if I contacted city hall about the funeral arrangements for Superman, they were prepared to treat me as family since Superman has…" She swallowed hard. "…had no known family. So I thought… Well, if you have any special requests or… Well, if you want to be in the funeral procession or come to the burial or something, I'm sure I could arrange it."
Martha gave her a wry smile. "Thanks, honey, but I think it's best if we're not visible. We simply intend to watch the procession with the crowds."
"Can I watch with you?" asked Lois in a small voice.
"Of course, honey. I think Clark would like that."
"Umm… That reminds me. I had… well, sort of a strange experience last night."
"What kind of experience?"
"After I left here, I went back to my apartment… Clark was there. Well, sort of. I mean, I know it was probably just a hallucination, but he didn't know he was dead. It was…" Lois shrugged. She was immediately enfolded in Jonathan's bear-like embrace. She cried quietly against him. Finally she pulled back, "I'm sorry. I seem to be doing that a lot lately. Do you think I'm losing my mind?"
"Oh, honey," said Martha. "You're grieving, that's all. I'm sure that's all it was in your apartment too. It's not uncommon for people who lose loved ones to think they see them afterwards."
Lois looked at her and nodded. She was right. It was probably just a dream or a hallucination or something.
"So what did you find out at the police station?" Jonathan asked.
"Right. Well, it's sort of weird. Apparently Clark was killed by some sort of radiation exposure."
"Kryptonite!" exclaimed Jonathan.
"What? You mean the rock that Jason Trask from Bureau 39 claimed could kill him?" asked Lois.
"That's the one. According to Clark, Trask told him that it emitted a type of radiation that could kill Superman. When Clark was exposed to it, he collapsed. Fortunately, we were able to get him away from it before it did any permanent damage, but he did lose his powers for a few days. So, who might have kryptonite?" asked Martha.
"Well, Clark destroyed the piece Wayne brought to our place, but Wayne did say that he sent a piece in for testing," said Jonathan. "I never thought… That must be the one that was used."
"Do you think Bureau 39 is behind his death?" asked Lois.
Martha and Jonathan looked at each other for a moment, both wondering the same thing — should they tell Lois what they thought. Finally, they seemed to come to some unspoken agreement.
"Lois, we have a theory. I'm not sure you're going to want to hear it, though," said Martha.
"Is it Lex?" Lois asked. Watching them struggle to come to a decision had brought back everything Clark had told her about Lex.
"That's what we think."
Instead of immediately denying it, as she would have only a few days ago, Lois looked at the two people sitting with her. She could see no reason why they would make up a story about Lex — unless they had been unduly influenced by Clark. But under the circumstances, maybe it was time that she heard the whole story for herself — even if it was only to rule Lex out as a suspect. "Why do you think that?"
Jonathan began by filling her in on the history between Superman and Luthor. Then Martha took over.
"So when you decided to marry Luthor, Clark knew he had to stop it. We expected if he wasn't able to find a way before your wedding, he would show up at your wedding as Superman and whisk you away. When he didn't… That's how we knew something was wrong. No one has seen or heard from Clark or Superman since the day before your wedding. Luthor had to be worried that Superman would stop the wedding. I just think the timing is too coincidental for it to be anyone but Lex Luthor. I'm sorry, Lois."
Lois took a deep breath and let it out slowly as she tried to evaluate what she was being told. "So you think that Clark was killed because of me?"
"No. Not directly. This had as much to do with Luthor and Superman as it had to do with you. Think about it, Lois. You and Lex hadn't even been dating very long before he asked you to marry him. And the tabloids have made you out to be Superman's girlfriend for the past year."
Lois hated it, but it suddenly all seemed to make sense. She was just a pawn in a battle between Superman and Lex and she had allowed it to happen.
"But Superman could have stopped me from accepting Lex's proposal in the first place. I don't understand."
"I don't think Clark really believed that you would say yes to Lex. And he kept hoping that you would discover the man behind the splashy suit."
Lois looked down. "I did, you know. I realized the morning of my wedding that I cared about Clark as more than a friend. I just didn't have the courage to stop the wedding."
"Oh, honey, don't do this to yourself. Clark wouldn't want it."
Lois gave them a sad smile. They obviously didn't blame her, but that didn't stop her from blaming herself. If they were right and Lex was responsible, she had been an unwitting accomplice. She pushed that thought to the back of her mind. "Oh, yeah. I almost forgot. Henderson told me one other thing."
"Well, apparently when they found Clark's body, someone had taken a piece of flesh from his thigh."
"Why? Do you think someone was just taking a souvenir?" asked Jonathan.
"If someone wanted a souvenir, wouldn't they just have taken some hair or the cape or the boots. Why would anyone want some of his flesh?" asked Martha.
Lois suddenly looked at them in horror.
"What?" they both asked in unison.
"Do you recall when someone made a clone of Superman?"
"Of course," began Martha. "Oh. You don't think…"
"I certainly do. We've got to find whoever killed him. We have to prevent them from making another clone. If it is Lex, I promise I'll find out."
"That raises another problem," said Jonathan.
"What?" asked Martha.
"I don't think we can allow the city of Metropolis to bury him. I mean, what if someone else decides to do this?"
"You're right," said Lois, her mind already working through the solutions.
"But how do we get his body without telling anyone who we are?" asked Martha.
"We steal it," said Lois evenly.
After his outing in the Arctic, Clark came back to Lois' apartment. At first, he went to his place, but it was just too hard witnessing his parents' grief. So he came here. Lois was no longer home. She had obviously gone back to Luthor's penthouse, so he decided this was as good a place as any to decide what to do now. He knew her lease came up for renewal in another month so he hoped that she was planning to hang on to the place until that happened. After all, with his death, his parents would be looking to get rid of his apartment. It would be even harder if there was no where for him to go.
When morning came, he decided to take action. He figured if Lois could see him, maybe others could too. So he tried finding Perry and Jimmy and even Cat, but couldn't. He tried talking to people on the street, but no one was able to see or hear him. He even tried going to a fortune teller and a medium, but there was still no response. So he came back here, hanging around in an apartment in which he was unable to even turn on the light.
Clark was at a complete loss. The only person he seemed to be able to communicate with was Lois and she was married to Lex Luthor. So, what was supposed to happen now? Was he condemned to this half existence for eternity? Would he have to watch the woman with whom his soul seemed to be connected married to someone like Luthor? Would he just have to watch as life went on without him?
No, he couldn't do this. He closed his eyes and tried to go back to the whiteness. At least there, his memory was dying. He concentrated and tried to see the whiteness. He opened his eyes. He was still in Lois' apartment.
Clark walked into the kitchen and looked around. He stuck his head through the fridge door. He sighed. He couldn't see what, if anything, was in the fridge. He figured that answered the question about whether the little light in the fridge stayed on when the door was closed. It was good to know that at least some of the great mysteries of life were answered after death.
With nothing better to do, he stuck his face into the cupboard. He sighed. Tea. What he wouldn't do for a cup of tea. Not that he was either hungry or thirsty, but those were things that he had never had to worry about before and he still loved tea. He walked over to the kitchen table. Only one of the chairs was pushed out far enough from the table for him to sit down without being in the middle of the table. He put his elbows on the table. They went right through. He growled in frustration.
"Bad day?" asked a voice from behind.
Clark spun around. Lois was standing in the doorway to the kitchen. He really missed having superpowers. Normally, well at least when he was living, she would never have been able to get that close without him hearing her.
"I'm sorry," Clark muttered. "It's just… I didn't think you'd be here and it's just too hard to stay at my place with my parents there." He shrugged dejectedly. "I don't know what to do, Lois. I mean, for some reason you're the only one who can see or hear me. And I don't know why I'm here. And I don't know what I'm suppose to do about it. And… And… And… I can't even have a damn cup of tea."
Lois was startled. Clark didn't ramble. She did. And he didn't swear. She let out a slow breath before speaking.
"Well, I don't know about the rest, but let's see what we can do about the tea," Lois said softly, walking over to the cupboard.
"Lois, even if you make tea, I can't pick up a cup. So it won't do any good."
"I have an idea," Lois said, continuing to make the tea. "It may be a little radical, but I just want to see if we can do this. Then… Clark, there must be a reason you're still here. We'll find it, okay?"
Clark snorted. When he didn't respond, Lois looked over at him. She didn't think she had ever seen Clark looking so completely dejected before. She walked back over to the table. She lightly ran a hand through his hair. She found that she could even brush a stray lock off his forehead. "We'll figure this all out, Clark."
"And then?" asked Clark.
Lois swallowed hard. What then? If he was her hallucination, would he just disappear? If he was a ghost, would he just go to whatever lay on the other side of death? No. She wouldn't think about that now. "We'll figure it out when we come to it." She walked back over to the counter and busied herself with the tea.
Neither said anything as they waited for the water to boil. Lois was desperately trying not to think about the future. Whether she was hallucinating or not, for right now she had Clark back. She wondered briefly if she was losing her mind, but then decided that if this was what losing your mind was like, she'd take it. The only problem would be if she recovered. Even if they could never be more than friends, she didn't think she'd be able to stand losing Clark again. She now knew, without any doubts, exactly how dark the future looked without him
For a moment, a nagging little voice in the back of Lois' mind reminded her of the vow she had made to herself to forget about Clark. She immediately silenced it. After all, that vow had been made before she knew Clark would die. Besides, if she was the only one who could see or hear him… Her conscience tried to tell her that she was simply justifying her desire to be with Clark, but she ignored it.
Clark spent the time thinking about Lois' marriage to Lex Luthor. In fact, for the past number of hours, it had been a consistently reoccurring thought. Even if she was the only one who could see him, he wasn't sure it was good for them to have contact. She had chosen Luthor. He was dead. What good did it do either of them for him to take advantage of this indefinable connection that seemed to exist between them? Still, he didn't leave.
The water boiled and Lois quickly attended to making the tea.
"You have to warm the pot first, Lois," Clark informed her.
She gave him a dirty look. "I know how to make tea, Clark," she responded.
Clark's lips twitched. "I don't know, Lois. It seems to me that I remember a time when you forgot to add the tea and everyone drank hot water."
Lois' eyes flashed. "So, a girl makes one mistake…"
"And then there was the time…"
"Watch it, Kent. A guy in your position doesn't want to get the only one who can hear him refusing to talk to him," Lois warned. Of course, she was thoroughly enjoying the casual banter that had always existed between them. Clark could sense that.
"Oh, I don't know. Now that I'm a ghost, you could find yourself haunted for life if you tick me off."
The smile in Lois' eyes faded to be replaced by something much deeper. "Promise?" she whispered. They held eye contact for a moment before Lois turned back to attend to the tea.
When it was ready, she poured a cup and brought it to Clark. She set it in front of him. He reached out and his hand went right through the cup.
"I told you," he said to Lois.
"Okay, well let's try something." She picked up the cup of tea herself. She raised it to his lips. "Drink," she instructed.
He moved his hands up to hers before trying to take a sip of tea. It worked. He looked at her in surprise.
"Lois, it worked. Why did you think…"
"How come your suit was never damaged?" Lois asked.
"Your Superman suit. Why didn't it get burned off when you were in a fire? Why didn't you get bullet holes in it when you were shot?"
"There's an aura that surrounds my body… You think that's what's happening here?"
"Clark, yesterday you were able to undo the buttons on my blouse. I've thought about that a lot," Lois said, pushing a stray strand of hair behind her ear.
"I have too," Clark mumbled.
"Excuse me?" Lois said, not certain she had heard his comment.
"Nothing," responded Clark.
A small smile passed over Lois' face before she continued. "Anyway, the only thing that makes sense to me is that my blouse was touching me. I thought…"
"You thought great," Clark said, raising her hands which were still holding the cup back to his lips. "And all kidding aside, this is really good tea."
"You have taste buds?"
Clark smiled. "No. And to tell you the truth, I really can't taste it." He raised her hands with the cup to his lips again and took another sip. "But I swear, this is the best tea I've ever had."
Lois looked at him curiously for a moment before realizing that he seemed to be relieved to have at least solved one small problem. She smiled. "Well, look at it this way. Since you can't cook at the moment either, you're probably better off not being able to taste anything I might make."
Luthor grabbed the insistent telephone. "What is it?" he demanded.
"Mr. Luthor, I have the Mayor on the phone."
Lex calmed himself. Given the advantages the Mayor could provide, Luthor always tried to tolerate him — although the man could test the patience of a saint. "Put him through," he advised his receptionist.
"Mr. Mayor," Luthor said when his receptionist advised him to go ahead. "What can I do for you this morning?"
"I was hoping to speak to your wife, Mr. Luthor," said the confused man on the other end of the line. He had asked to speak to Lois Luthor and didn't understand why he had been put through to Lex instead.
"She's indisposed at the moment," replied Luthor. "Is there something I can do for you?"
"Well… We were wanting to talk to her about Superman's funeral. You wife is… was a umm… friend of the superhero and we're hoping she can answer some questions for us."
Luthor was silent for a moment as he considered the issue. He had realized some time ago that Superman did not arrive on earth a year ago. He had grown up here. Maybe Lois had some information that could be helpful in tracking down the friends and family of the Man of Steel and maybe she would give something away if she were involved in funeral preparations. Luthor smiled. If he could find these people, maybe the game could go on.
"I'm sure she'll want to be involved. But as you can imagine, she's taking his death hard. What if I come and sit in on the preparations? Maybe I can get her there later."
"That would be most helpful," replied the Mayor, although he did wonder if Luthor would be of any assistance without his wife.
"Fine. When are you meeting?"
"In about an hour."
"Good. I'll see you then."
Luthor was just hanging up the phone when Nigel arrived.
"Good news, sir?" asked Nigel, seeing the pleased expression on the face of his boss.
"That was the Mayor, Nigel. It seems that my wife and I are going to be helping with Superman's funeral preparations. Don't you think it's ironic?"
"That first I kill him and then I help plan his funeral."
"Yes, sir. Delightfully ironic."
Clark looked at Lois for a long moment before he asked the question on his mind.
"How did I die?" he asked softly.
Lois looked at him in shock for a moment. She let out a short breath. It was still hard to believe that Clark didn't remember any of it. If anyone had a right to know about the events of the last few days, it was him. She just wasn't sure she wanted to be the one to tell him. Still, she took a deep breath and proceeded to fill him in on what Henderson had told her.
"I don't think we can leave my body with the city," Clark replied after she finished.
"That's the same conclusion your parents and I came to," Lois informed him.
"They can't claim my body, Lois. It would be too dangerous for them."
"We know, Clark. So, we're waiting to hear from Henderson when your… umm…"
"Yeah, is sent to a funeral home. Then we're going to steal it."
"You're going to what?" demanded Clark.
"You heard me. I mean, it's not exactly as if your parents wouldn't have a right to claim your body anyway. We are just doing it a little… unofficially."
Clark let out a short breath. "I'm going with you."
Lois nodded. He certainly had the right to be there. Although, without a body, she did briefly wonder if he would be of any assistance.
"There's something else you should know. Apparently someone took a tissue sample from you. I think they may have wanted it for…"
"Cloning! Lois, we've got to find it."
"I know, Clark."
There was a moment of silence before Clark spoke again. "Does the world know that Superman's dead? I mean, you told me that my body was found in front of the Daily Planet — what does that mean?"
Lois pulled in a sharp breath. "Umm… yeah, the world knows."
"I assume it's being covered on television. I'd like to see. Would you mind turning on the television?"
Lois was silent. She really didn't want him to know how his body had been found if she could help it.
"Lois, please," Clark said softly.
He rose from the table and took her arm. He tugged gently and she rose. He led her into the living room and over to the couch. He then took her hand and placed it on the remote control. She hesitated.
"Clark, I really don't want you…"
"It's okay, Lois. I know it must be bad. I still want to see. Maybe it will trigger some memories. If I can remember who killed me, it will go a long way in helping us find out who has those tissue samples."
Lois nodded and pressed the power button on the remote. The T.V. came on.
"…have confirmation that both the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury will be attending the funeral?" asked the man on the screen.
"I don't think I've ever heard of a time when those two have both been present at the same function."
"That's right, Bill, but Superman's death seems to have struck a cord with everyone. A statement was issued by the Catholic Church saying that the Pope and the Archbishop intend to use this trip to get together and strengthen the ties between the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England."
Clark looked over at Lois. "Maybe some good can come out of this after all."
She reached over and took his hand before saying softly, "I'd rather have you back."
"You'll always have me, Lois," Clark responded.
Lois looked at him for a moment, but didn't respond. She wasn't even sure if he was here now, so how could she know how long she'd have him? They turned their attention back to the television.
"It does seem as if a lot of previously competing interests are taking this opportunity to set aside their grievances and talk about reconciliation."
"That's true. Our Middle East correspondent reported earlier today that a number of Arab leaders have asked for meetings with the Prime Minister of Israel while they're here in Metropolis for the funeral. That's also true of the Russian President and Chechen rebels. It seems that the whole world is striving to commemorate this event by taking to heart the values that Superman stood for."
"Thanks, Bill," said the anchorman, before addressing those watching. "For those of you just joining us, we are continuing our round the clock coverage of the death of Superman. I'm sure most of you have already seen this, but we would like again to show you the shocking sight that greeted the citizenry of Metropolis yesterday morning."
With that came the image of Superman's body strung up in front of the Daily Planet. Clark drew in a sharp breath. Lois' hand tightened around his in response. It took her a moment, but then she stared at their joined hands. Her hand hadn't gone through his when she had squeezed.
"Well, that's quite a final image," Clark finally said.
"I take it that doesn't help you remember?"
Clark shook his head. "But maybe something else here will," he continued as he watched the police cut his body down. "Do you mind if we continue to watch?"
"No. But, Clark, I do have a bit of good news that might make this a little easier to take."
She looked down at their joined hands. Clark suddenly realized just how substantial their touch had become. "Can you still put your hand through me?" he asked.
She held his hand in hers and tried pressing her fingers into the palm of his hand. Her fingers momentarily disappeared into his hand, but it was like pushing her fingers into a very ripe tomato without the skin. She instantly withdrew them. Unlike a tomato, there was no residue left behind on her hands, for which she was very grateful.
"Well, it seems we've gone from jello to tomato," Clark laughed.
"It isn't funny, Clark," Lois rebuked him.
He was about to give a glib response, but stopped when he looked in her eyes. She was on the verge of tears. "I know," he said, pushing a strand of hair behind her ear in a gesture of comfort before turning his attention back to the television.
"World leaders are expected to be here in record numbers. There is only one country so far that seems to be sending the Minister of Foreign affairs."
"Which country is that?"
"Canada. Apparently, the Prime Minister has sent his regrets, but he can't make it. I guess he is skiing with his family and won't be able to make it back in time."
Lois turned to Clark. "Clark, is there skiing in Canada this time of year?" she asked.
"No," Clark responded.
"Then what do you suppose that's all about?"
Clark just shrugged.
The entire city counsel was already present and the meeting was well underway when Luthor arrived at city hall.
"But St. Paul's Cathedral is larger. It seems that the city is going to be overrun by celebrities for this funeral," objected Councilman Anderson.
"Do we know Superman's religion? That might decide the issue of which church, or whatever, should be used for the funeral," asked the Mayor. He looked around at those gathered, who in turn glanced around at each other.
"I don't think he ever said what his religious beliefs were," said Councilman Beck. "Would Mrs. Luthor know?" he asked, turning to Luthor.
Luthor shrugged. "She might." After all, if she did know how he had been raised, she might know what church, or whatever, his family belonged to.
"Why don't we use the football stadium? That might allow more of the people of Metropolis to attend."
"I spoke to the Police Chief about that possibility this morning. He said that with all the world leaders that are expected, security would be a real problem if we had it in the stadium."
There was a murmur of agreement. The city didn't want to have to call in the military to help with security. They were afraid of the message that might send. And they certainly didn't want any incidents.
"Well, we've had offers from all of the city's big churches, mosques and synagogues. Why don't we narrow it down to those that would work in terms of size and then leave the final decision to Ms… I mean Mrs. Luthor. When will she be available?" asked the Mayor.
"I'll be sure she's here tomorrow morning," Luthor said.
"Do you think maybe you could give her a call to see…" asked Anderson. His voice trailed off at the look on Luthor's face. "Or maybe not," he concluded quietly.
"Okay, well I guess the next question is who's giving the eulogy," the Mayor informed them. "I could do it. Or maybe we could get someone like Perry White. He was quite a spokesman for the Man of Steel when he was alive."
"My secretary got a phone call from the White House. Apparently, the President wants to do it," said Beck.
"Well, I guess that rules me out," said the Mayor. "So, are we all in agreement about the President giving the eulogy? After all, I'm not sure how we can say no."
The group muttered their agreement.
"Now, does anyone know if Superman had any family that should be included in the procession?" the Mayor asked, bringing up another point.
"I'll ask my wife about that too," said Luthor, realizing that this was a perfect opportunity for him to find out exactly how much she knew about the superhero.
As Martha and Jonathan made their way toward Lois' apartment building, they made note of the handful of paparazzi hanging around. However, since there were a number of apartments in the building, they were confident they could slip in without being noticed. After all, these people were obviously hanging out here in case Lois showed up.
"Come in," Lois said, when she answered the door in response to their knock.
"You look better, honey," said Martha, feeling somewhat reassured by the return of color to Lois' cheeks.
"That's because of Clark," said Lois, closing the door behind Martha and Jonathan.
"Clark?" asked Jonathan.
Martha and Jonathan shared a knowing look.
"I'm not going crazy," Lois said, looking over at Clark for reassurance that the statement was true.
"We didn't mean…" began Martha.
"Look, I know how it sounds. And if I were in your position, I'd probably think I was losing my mind too. But he really is here."
Lois gestured to Clark. "Right there."
Martha and Jonathan looked where she had gestured, but saw nothing.
"Do you want to help me out here, Clark?" she demanded.
"honey, it's okay. You don't have to…" Martha began.
"Tell her that I'm the one who destroyed her Magnolias when I was eight. It wasn't Betsy, our cow. I was playing football with Tommy and I made a great catch into the middle of her flowerbed."
Lois immediately repeated the message.
Martha looked at her in shock. "How did you know about that?"
"Clark told me."
"Right now. I told you…"
"He's here?" Martha asked uncertainly.
"Now, Martha, you know he's not here. Lois could have known about that…" Jonathan started, afraid that Martha was getting her hopes up.
"I didn't," Lois objected.
Martha looked at Lois, the hope obvious in her eyes. She wanted so desperately to believe what Lois was saying.
"Look," said Lois. "Ask me anything. Things I couldn't know."
The older couple found a couple of seats and looked at each other, using that mysterious form of unspoken communication that takes place between husband and wife.
"Okay," began Jonathan, once they had decided the issue. "How old was Clark when he started to fly?" She had only learned about Superman from them so she couldn't know that from before Clark died.
"Eighteen," said Clark.
"Eighteen," repeated Lois.
"How did he find out he had heat vision?" Jonathan continued.
"I lit the barn on fire," said Clark.
"Really?" asked Lois, looking at Clark.
"Yeah. I guess I was fifteen. I had a fight with dad. I walked outside the barn, turned and glared back at it and it caught on fire."
"He lit the barn on fire," Lois said.
"Did it burn down?" asked Lois.
"It would have. But dad…" Clark's answer trailed off as Jonathan began to talk.
"No. We put it out in time. Well, once I managed to snap Clark out of his shock. Lois, how did you know?"
"I told you. Clark is here."
Martha got up off the couch. "Where?" she asked.
When Lois told her, Martha began walking towards Clark. Lois continued to direct her until she was standing directly in front of him.
"He's right in front of you," Lois said.
"How far?" Martha asked.
"A couple of feet."
Martha looked briefly at Lois before nodding and turning back toward Clark. She raised a hand slowly and began to stretch it forward. Lois watched in fascination as Martha's hand stopped upon coming into contact with Clark's chest.
"I think I feel something," Martha said softly. "But it's probably just in my mind."
"Mom," Clark breathed. He too could almost sense a soft movement against his chest, but this feeling was even less than when he and Lois had first touched.
"I wish I could touch you," Martha said, her voice betraying her emotion.
"I wish you could too," Clark responded.
"I have an idea," said Lois, getting up and coming over. She walked up behind Martha and placed her hands over Martha's.
Martha gasped. "I can feel him," she said, running her hand over her son's chest.
"I can't believe that worked," Lois said, almost as surprised as Martha.
"How'd you do it?" Martha asked.
"I don't know. But we discovered that Clark can interact with the physical world, as long as that world is being touched by me."
"That's remarkable. Jonathan, come here," said Martha.
Jonathan was still skeptical. He walked toward where the women were talking. "I'm not so sure about this," he said.
Lois just took his hand in hers and raised it to Clark's shoulder. She heard Jonathan let out an unexpected breath.
"My boy," he breathed. He tried to gently slap Clark's arm. His hand sunk into Clark's shoulder. He jumped back.
"He's not exactly solid, Jonathan," Lois informed him. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine. It just sort of surprised me. The important thing is that my boy is here."
Once everyone settled down again, Martha and Jonathan informed Lois that Henderson had left a message on Clark's answering machine. Apparently, he had done so when he hadn't been able to get through to Lois. The body was being taken to Harbourview Funeral Home this afternoon.
"I say we do this after dark tonight," said Jonathan.
"I agree," said Lois. "I don't think we can count on them keeping him there long. Besides, someone else might be considering stealing his body."
"Now there's a pleasant thought," groaned Clark.
Lois reached over to where Clark was sitting and lightly stroked his knee.
"Have you explained to Clark what we're doing?" Martha asked, noticing the gesture.
"Yes. He realized the necessity of it before I even told him what we planned to do."
"Okay, so you're the expert, Lois," Jonathan said. "What do you suggest?"
"I'm not sure if I should be offended or not," said Lois, a touch of amusement in her voice.
"Don't be, honey," Martha put in. "It's just that Clark has told us about a number of your adventures. They're sort of out of our league."
"Okay, I think the first thing we need to decide is what we're going to do with him once we have him."
"Shouldn't we first figure out how we're going to get him?" asked Jonathan.
"I don't think so. Because what we need to pull this off will probably depend on what we're doing. I mean, if we're just planning to take him to another funeral home or burying him ourselves, we would probably want to do this differently than if he is going to be with us for a few days. I mean, if you wanted to take him somewhere out of Metropolis, shouldn't we get a refrigerated truck?"
"I don't think that'll be necessary," said Jonathan. "At least at home, the funeral home does the embalming as soon as the body arrives. Once that's done, refrigeration isn't necessary. But we do need to get an enclosed truck."
"I want to take him home," added Martha, answering Lois' original question.
"We were wishing we could bury him on the other side of the old fishing pond," Jonathan informed Lois.
"I'd like that," Clark said.
"Clark approves," Lois informed them. "So, we need to figure out where we're going to get a truck on short notice. I suppose we could rent one, but I really don't like the idea of having one of us attaching our name to the rental form. It could lead the police to his body."
They sat in silence for a few minutes. Clark was the one who broke the silence, at least for Lois. "What about Louie? I mean, he knows guys who knows guys."
"I imagine he could round one up, but do you think we can trust him with this?" asked Lois, leaving Martha and Jonathan looking at her oddly, even though they knew what was going on.
"We tell him as little as possible. And we make sure he doesn't tell anyone else, but yes. After all, unless we get… Actually, I guess unless you guys get caught, he probably won't connect the rental of a truck with the theft of Superman's body." To Lois' look of disbelief he added, "I hope."
Lois looked at him thoughtfully for a moment. "I agree. I think we can trust him. After all, he's always had a soft spot for me."
"I noticed," Clark responded with a grin. "And I don't buy the notion that it's only because you were his daughter's tennis partner." Lois picked up a cushion off the couch and threw it at him. It went right through. "You know there are some definite advantages to being dead," Clark added looking at the cushion.
"What are you two talking about?" Jonathan asked. "Keep in mind that we can only hear one side of the conversation."
Lois filled them in. They agreed that this was probably their best shot. After all, if they rented a truck the traditional way, it would mean identifying one of them to a party they didn't know. At least this way, the only one who would know was someone Lois trusted.
Lois immediately went to the phone and made a call. Louie was only too happy to get her a truck. When asked that he not tell anyone who it was for, his only comment was to ask if she thought he was born yesterday. He would have the truck waiting for her by five o'clock, he assured her.
Martha, Jonathan, Lois and Clark spent the rest of the day mapping out their plan. They decided they needed to take a trip over to the funeral home to figure out their plan of attack. As they were getting ready, Martha mentioned for the first time the paparazzi they had seen outside.
"Are you sure they were paparazzi?" Lois asked.
"People hanging around watching the building, carrying cameras. Who else could it be?"
"It's just that no one knows I've been hanging out here. I thought all the paparazzi were at Lex Towers." Lois shifted. "I guess it's better that it's the paparazzi than anyone else."
"Why would you say that?" Clark asked.
Lois shrugged. "I've been followed since I got back to Metropolis."
"Who's following you?" Clark asked.
"I think Lex is having me followed," replied Lois evenly.
"What?" exclaimed Clark, jumping up. "How could he…"
"It's okay, Clark. I'm sure he's just concerned about my safety."
"I take it he finds the fact that Lex is having you followed offensive?" asked Martha.
"I guess you could say that," responded Lois, looking over at Clark's stormy expression. "But I'll be okay. In fact, being married to Lex may help us figure out who has the flesh from Superman's thigh. And before you say anything, Clark, as long as he doesn't know that I suspect something, I'll be fine. And besides, for all we know Lex might be completely innocent here."
Clark didn't look convinced, but he lowered himself slowly back into his chair.
"So how do we get past the paparazzi?" asked Jonathan.
"Well, I say that we check the back entrance. Clark can do that," suggested Lois.
"I suppose that makes the most sense," said Martha.
"If that way isn't clear, maybe you should stay here," Jonathan suggested.
"Oh no. I'm going. I've been losing the paparazzi since we got back to Metropolis. I can do it again."
Fortunately, the back door wasn't being covered. They slipped out easily. They then hailed a cab to take them to a car rental facility. They decided that it was better if they rented a car since they didn't want to be sitting in a cab when they checked out the funeral home. Martha, Jonathan and Lois waited in the car while Clark checked out the interior of the funeral home.
"You know, it could be really handy having an invisible partner," Lois informed Clark on the trip back to her apartment. When they got there, Jonathan and Clark went on in, but since it was almost five, Lois and Martha decided to go pick up the truck.
"So, what's going on between you and Clark?" asked Martha when Lois pulled the car back out into traffic.
"What do you mean?" asked Lois, trying to use her most innocent voice.
"Lois, I may not be able to see the way Clark looks at you, but I have noticed the way you look at him. And I know my son. I've known he was in love with you since he first mentioned you."
Lois looked intently at the road.
"Relax, Lois, I know this is none of my business. I just don't want you to get hurt." Martha paused for a moment before saying, "You must know there's no future with Clark. Maybe he's here now, but there's no guarantee that he'll be here tomorrow. And then there's Lex to consider."
Lois immediately felt her temperature rise. This was her life. She was a big girl and could damn well make her own decisions. How dare Martha… She looked over at Martha to respond, but stopped when she saw the sincere concern evident on Martha's face. Lois immediately softened. After all, Martha was only saying what she had been thinking.
"Nothing is happening, Martha. Even if I wanted something to happen, you know Clark. I'm married — he wouldn't forget that. Although I admit that I was tempted not to tell him."
"What do you mean you were tempted not to tell him? Didn't he know?"
"No. He doesn't remember anything since before I accepted Lex's proposal." Lois cleared her throat. "Actually, since before he told me he loved me. I have no idea why."
Martha was thoughtful for a moment. "I wonder…"
"Wonder what? Do you have a theory?"
Martha nodded. "You know how people who go through a trauma sometimes don't remember it? Accident victims and so forth."
"But, Martha, he doesn't remember a lot more than just his death."
"Well, sometimes accident victims don't remember the entire day before the accident. And Clark experienced more trauma than just his death around that time."
"You mean like my rejection of him."
Martha nodded. "And the destruction of the Daily Planet, not to mention the loss of your friendship and your acceptance of Lex's proposal."
"So you think the total trauma of that time has wiped out his memory."
"It's only a theory," said Martha.
"I guess it's better than any theory I have."
They drove along for a few minutes more before Martha spoke again. "Lois, I want you to know that Jon and I consider you family. I hope you can think of us the same way. We'll miss Clark that much more if we lose you too. If you ever need us, just call. We'll always be here for you."
Lois' eyes got moist. "Thanks, Martha," she said softly.
Jonathan entered Lois' apartment. Although he couldn't see anything, he assumed Clark was still with him. "Listen, Son," said Jonathan. "I have something I want to say." He paused. "That is assuming you're even here. I guess if you're not, no one will know that I'm talking to myself." He took a deep breath before plowing ahead. "I know you can't respond, and I know it might be none of my business, but there's something I want you to think about."
Since his father's face bore a look he only saw on it when his dad was seriously troubled, Clark gave him his full attention.
"We raised you right, so I know you'll do the right thing. I just want to make sure you understand just how vulnerable Lois is right now. She took your death really hard." Jonathan took a deep breath. "You need to remember that she married Lex Luthor of her own free will. She'll have to decide for herself what to do about that. I just don't want you doing something to make it more difficult for her. She needs to make a decision that's right for her. After all, who knows how long you're going to be here."
"I know that, Dad," Clark responded, although he knew his father couldn't hear him.
"I just don't want you to hurt her," Jonathan concluded. "I guess that's enough said." He paused briefly before saying, "I guess, though, if you're really here, there's something else I'd like you to know. Your mom and I are really proud of you, Son. The luckiest day of our lives was the day we found that spaceship in Schuster's field."
Clark was sincerely touched. His mom had always been much more comfortable expressing her emotions than his dad. He was also touched by his father's obvious concern for Lois.
"Where's my wife, Nigel?" Luthor demanded.
"Umm… Well, sir, it seems that she spent the entire day at a bar near the police station. She went in after her trip to see Inspector Henderson about Superman's death and she has been there ever since."
It was dark when a truck made its way toward the funeral home. As they drove by, Clark jumped out.
Jonathan stopped the vehicle a short distance from the funeral home and the women got out. Then Jonathan drove the vehicle to a back alley that they had found earlier in the day. There were no streetlights but there was a good view of the back doors of the funeral home. He turned off the engine and waited.
Lois and Martha slipped into an alley and approached the funeral home from the back. Since the funeral home was not in a residential neighborhood, they weren't overly concerned about being spotted. However, there was still the danger of being noticed by the odd businessman staying late, so both women had their hair hidden under caps and were wearing the obligatory dark clothes. To avoid leaving fingerprints, they also wore gloves.
Clark met them at the back of the funeral home. He had done a final reconnaissance inside to be sure everyone was gone.
"It's clear," Clark told Lois as they approached.
"Clark says it's clear," Lois informed Martha, before pulling out her lock picking equipment and bending down by the door to jiggle the lock. Clark stepped further away from the women huddled by the door in order to check out the area. No one was around. He really wished his enhanced vision had survived death. However, none of his superpowers had. He could float, but he suspected that had to do with him not having a body rather than having had superpowers. Just then he heard Lois make a satisfied sound as the tumblers fell into place and the door clicked open.
"I hope there's no alarm system," Lois commented.
"I wouldn't think they usually worry about break-ins at a funeral parlor," said Martha, being more familiar with security problems in Smallville than Metropolis. "Although I must admit I'm a little surprised that they wouldn't have thought some security was necessary given who they're holding here."
"That's our city leaders," responded Lois in disgust. "On the other hand, this is one time I'm glad they didn't think ahead."
"I wonder how they'll react when they find out his body's been stolen," asked Martha.
"If they live up to tradition, everyone will find someone else to blame. Which way should we go, Clark?"
"Follow me," Clark responded, leading them from the back entrance, past a reception room and a small chapel. He stopped at a door at the far end of the hall. "In here," he instructed.
Lois turned the door handle, but it too was locked. She sighed and bent down with her lock picking equipment. "I wish I at least had a little bit of light," she complained.
"I don't think we can risk it, honey," Martha said, confirming what Lois already knew.
Breaking this second lock took a little more time because Lois had to go solely on feel, but she managed to do it. Soon, they were inside a room that smelt deeply of formaldehyde. Both women took an immediate step back.
"What's wrong?" asked Clark, being unable to smell anything himself.
"It stinks," Lois informed him. "Listen, Clark, I think we can do this ourselves. Why don't you go watch out front in case someone decides to make a surprise visit?"
With that Clark nodded and left. Given the fact that only Lois could see or hear him, he made the perfect lookout.
There was enough light coming through the windows to allow Lois and Martha to search the place without turning on the lights. Superman's body was not exactly where Clark had told them it would be, so they had to look through a number of caskets to find him.
"Omigod," Martha whispered when she opened an elaborate casket with gold handles.
"What is it?" Lois asked, immediately coming to her side.
"My boy," she sobbed.
Lois was actually relieved that was all it was. Martha's response had her wondering if something more had been done to Superman's body. However, he was lying in the casket looking… almost as if he was sleeping. They had a Superman suit on him and his cape had been positioned with great care around his body. They had added makeup to give him more color. If he hadn't been so incredibly still, the women might have been tempted to shake him to wake him up.
"We've got company," Clark yelled from the front room.
Lois grabbed Martha. "We've got company," she whispered and the two women dashed for a nearby closet. They scampered into the close confines and had just gotten the door closed when a light came on in the room.
"Are you sure he's here, sir?" asked a deep distinguished sounding voice with an English accent.
In the closet, Lois had to stifle a gasp when she heard a second man say, "Yes, Nigel. Inspector Henderson left a message for my wife to that effect."
"What is it?" Martha whispered in her ear.
"Lex," she responded. She lowered herself to her knees to look through the slats in the closet door. It confirmed what she already knew. Nigel St. John and Lex Luthor were here.
"I just wanted to see his body once, Nigel. I have a couple more things I want to say to him — when we last spoke I was getting ready for my wedding, so there wasn't much time. Where is he?"
Both men looked around the room before Nigel said, "He's over here, sir."
"Ahh…" said Lex, a note of supreme satisfaction in his voice. "You don't look quite so smug now, do you?" he said to the lifeless body. "I won! You were a worthy advocate, but I won! I married the woman you loved and look at you. She's mine and you went into eternity knowing that. Now…" A smug look crossed Luthor's face. "…I intend to find out who you really were. You see, I know you were raised on Earth. When I find out who was responsible for that, I will make sure they regret ever knowing you." Luthor chuckled. "So you see, the game goes on."
Lois felt Martha's hand tighten on her shoulder at the words.
"And tonight," continued Luthor. "…while you lie here, eternally helpless, I will once again go home and claim my prize — Lois Lane. And I will think of you the entire time."
Lois was just about to swing open the door and confront Luthor right then and there when she heard another voice.
"You won't get away with this, Luthor. I'll bring you down if it's the last thing I ever do," Clark spat.
Lois suddenly stopped and looked out through the slats again. After Clark's promise, Luthor pulled his jacket further around his shoulders and looked suspiciously around the room.
"What is it?" Martha asked into her ear.
"Clark. He's not taking this too well."
"Can Luthor hear him?"
"No, but he sure senses something."
"This place gives me the creeps, Nigel," said Luthor, involuntarily shivering. "Let's get out of here."
"Very good, sir," Nigel responded, before both men made their way to the door.
It was a few moments later before Clark's voice said, "It's safe to come out."
"Lois, I'm so sorry about…" Clark began as the women emerged from the closet.
"Let's just get this done," Lois snapped, her voice tight.
Clark took a deep breath and went back to watching for any other unexpected visitors.
It was quite a task getting Superman's casket onto what is known in funeral homes as a church truck. From there it was just a matter of pushing the church truck down the hall to the back door. Clark checked outside and, once he was satisfied it was safe, told Lois. Lois opened the back door briefly and waved in Jonathan's direction. He backed up to the back door and the three of them loaded the casket into the covered truck. It was only moments more before the truck disappeared carrying three passengers, one ghost and one dead body.
"What happened?" Jonathan asked. "When I saw those two men enter, I thought…" His voice trailed off at a look from his wife. "What?" he asked in confusion.
"Later," Martha said quietly. Lois just stared blankly out the window. They drove along in silence for a few minutes before Clark spoke.
"I wonder if it's possible for me to get back in my body," Clark mused.
Lois looked at him in shock. Of course. Why hadn't she thought of that? "Find a deserted place and pull over," she said to Jonathan.
"What is it, honey?" Martha asked.
"Clark just wondered if he could get back in his body."
There was a new air of excitement in the truck as Martha and Lois offered Jonathan advice on where to go. Clark tried to offer his opinion. However, since Lois was the only one who could hear him and she was too busy giving her own advice, he didn't get any recognition.
Finally, Jonathan pulled into a parking lot at Central Park. There was a dark corner at the far end. There were a few cars but, given the late hour, there were no people around. Three people got out of the truck and went around to the back. One ghost simply walked through the barrier separating the front and back of the truck. Jonathan was the one to open the casket.
"Any suggestions?" Clark asked.
"Clark wants to know if there are any suggestions," Lois informed the other two.
The other two occupants of the truck just shrugged their shoulders.
"Okay. Well, here it goes," said Clark walking up to the casket. He took a deep breath as he looked down at his lifeless body. He wondered briefly if there was any point to this since the embalming process had obviously already taken place. Still, it couldn't hurt to try. He climbed over the side of the casket. Only Lois could see as he lowered himself so that he was lying inside his own body. As he did, Lois explained to Martha and Jonathan what he was doing. All three held their breaths, beseeching the deities, as they waited.
"It's not working," Clark finally announced, sitting up while his body remained lifeless.
"Try again, Clark," Lois urged.
Martha reached over and took Jonathan's hand. Lois' comment informed them that this wasn't working.
Clark lay down again and tried to feel his body, willing it to move. He closed his eyes for a moment, forcing himself to concentrate on moving just a finger. Nothing. He tried again. Still nothing. Finally, he sat up, letting out a frustrated breath.
"This isn't working, is it?" asked Jonathan. Lois shook her head as she watched Clark's ghost climb out of the casket. It was a completely deflated group that got back in the front of the truck.
They arrived shortly at the car they had rented earlier. It was decided that Martha and Jonathan would take the truck while Lois took the car back to her apartment. She would return it in the morning. Clark accompanied Lois to the car as Martha and Jonathan drove off.
Luthor carefully pushed open the grungy door to enter the bar. He sniffed in disgust at the crowded, smoke infested establishment filled with members of the working class. He looked briefly around at the half drunk, wildly flirtatious crowd. This was no environment for his wife. He was determined to put a stop to her… He looked around again. There was no sign of his wife.
He took a moment to remove a twenty dollar bill and a picture from his billfold before walking up to the bar.
"Have you seen this woman?" Luthor asked the bartender.
The bartender looked at the picture and let out a low whistle. He then glanced back at the man requesting information from him.
"I'm near the end of a double shift. It's hard to remember who's been here," replied the bartender.
Luthor held his temper at the man's behavior when he looked at Lois' picture. Instead, he showed the bartender the twenty in his hand. "Maybe this will refresh your memory," said Luthor. The bartender went to reach for it, but Luthor pulled it back, deliberately holding it just out of the man's reach.
"Yeah, all right," started the bartender. "She was here earlier, but I don't think she stayed long." After he finished, he reached again for the bill in Luthor's hand. Luthor immediately backed up, putting the bill back in his pocket.
"Let this be a lesson to you. Always…" He emphasized the word. "…get the money up front. And never…" Again he emphasized the word. "…drool over my wife."
With that Luthor stormed out of the bar, cursing the surveillance team for its incompetence.
Lois was obviously not in the mood to talk, but Clark tried anyway. He was cut off abruptly by Lois in the closest thing to anger she had directed at him since his death. Knowing that pursuing what had happened in the funeral home would be counterproductive at this time, he backed off, directing his attention instead to the road. As he recognized familiar sights, it suddenly occurred to him that she wasn't heading for her apartment.
"Where are you going?" he finally asked.
"To the police station," she said, as if that fact should be perfectly obvious.
"Lex killed you. I'm telling Henderson what we heard."
"What?" Clark exclaimed. "You can't do that."
"Why not?" Lois demanded.
"Lois, Luthor never actually admitted to killing me."
Lois thought back to what she had overheard. "He admitted that he spoke to you just before my wedding."
"But according to what you told me, Superman didn't die until a day after your wedding. Think about it, Lois. You're Luthor's alibi at the time of my death."
"But he could have had you incapacitated before my wedding. Martha said you disappeared the day before my wedding."
"I agree, he could have. But Mom can't come forward to tell Henderson when I disappeared without revealing who I am. We don't have enough to go to Henderson. Besides, have you thought about how you'd explain being at the funeral home, especially when Superman's body turns up missing?"
Lois pulled the car over to the side of the road. She hated to admit it, but Clark was making perfect sense. And when she thought back over the conversation Lex had had with Superman's body, Clark was right. She was now convinced that Luthor was responsible for Clark's death, but Lex hadn't said anything that could be construed as an admission of guilt. In fact, he had said that the last time he had spoken to Superman was before his wedding. And since Clark hadn't died until the day after… She brushed away a tear that had inadvertently slipped down her cheek.
Without saying a word, Lois suddenly pulled the car back onto the road making a death defying u-turn and heading toward her apartment, leaving tire tread on the road behind her.
Martha and Jonathan pulled the truck onto the side of the street a short distance from Clark's apartment. They looked around and decided it should be safe here. Before returning to Clark's, they went in the back of the truck to spend some time alone with Clark — or at least his body.
When they reemerged, they were visibly shaken. When they were with Lois, it was easy to believe that Clark was still here, but that wasn't so easy when sitting beside his lifeless body. They managed to collect themselves, being careful to ensure the truck was securely locked.
They wanted to stay for Superman's funeral — or, as may be the case now, his memorial service. They would take Clark home for burial then. There was not a lot of energy in their steps as they made their way back to Clark's apartment.
Once there, Jonathan held his wife in his arms until she sobbed herself to sleep.
Luthor pulled out his cell phone and called the penthouse. Mrs. Cox answered.
"Is my wife there?" he asked immediately.
"No, I'm afraid she's not," the woman answered.
"Has she called in?"
Luthor didn't even bother to say good-bye as he hung up the phone. He immediately dialed another number — Lois' apartment. There was no answer.
"Take me to Lois' apartment," Luthor demanded of Nigel.
"Very good, sir," replied Nigel, pulling the limo out onto the street.
Bill Church had some doubts about this. He and Lex Luthor had a tacit understanding that neither was to tread on the other's turf, but if this was for real, it would be worth risking Lex Luthor's wrath. Intergang, under Church's leadership, would definitely become the dominant force for evil in the world — provided that he could come to an understanding with Dr. Monro.
There was also the danger that Luthor would use his super race to destroy Intergang. It was for that reason that Church broke his understanding with Luthor to visit Metropolis.
Church's car pulled up in front of a modest house in a respectable neighborhood and, together with two bodyguards, made his way to the house and rang the bell.
It was only a few moments before a ruffled man with unruly white hair answered the door.
"Dr. Monro, I presume," Church said.
"Yes," Simon Monro said cautiously.
"I understand that you're working on something that might be worth a lot of money to me."
Monro's eyes narrowed. "How much money?" he asked.
"How does ten million dollars strike you?" Church asked.
Monro smiled. "Won't you come in?" he asked, stepping aside to allow the men outside his door to enter.
Lois and Clark entered her apartment in silence. Neither had said much since their conversation in the car earlier. Both were lost in their thoughts of what Luthor had said at the funeral home.
Lois now knew that, whatever genuine feelings Lex might have for her, his primary motivation in marrying her was that he, unlike her, had realized how Superman felt about her. She could hardly believe that she'd been suckered into it. However, she also knew that, as much as she might hate it, she could not let him know what she knew. After all, her marriage to Lex gave her access to places others were not allowed. She was determined that if he had married her in order to get revenge on Superman, she would turn the marriage around so that she used it to get revenge for Superman.
Besides, if Lex suspected that she knew he had killed Superman, her life would be in real danger. After all, if he had found a way to kill Superman, what chance did she have against him? She briefly considered the possibility of leaving him, but quickly rejected that. After everything he had done to get her to marry him, she doubted that he would let her go easily. And given how famous her face had become and the connections and resources Lex had at his disposal, she figured her chances of hiding from him were not good. If Clark were still alive, maybe she would consider leaving Lex, but now… She knew Clark would still do everything he could to protect her, but how much could he really do from beyond the grave. No, the only way to free herself of Lex was to bring him down. That meant staying with him until she could.
Lois knew what that might mean — intimacy with Lex. After all, they had only been married a few days. She had begged off sex last night by claiming that she was too upset about Superman, but after overhearing his comments today, she doubted that excuse would work again. She had an idea about how to avoid it tonight. She hoped that it would work, but even if it didn't she didn't see any other way around it. She glanced over at Clark. She also knew that she couldn't tell him any of this, but his silence told her, as much as any words could, that he was thinking similar thoughts.
Clark kept replaying Luthor's words at the funeral home in his mind. The situation Lois was in now was entirely his fault. If he'd been more careful not to show his feelings for Lois when in the Superman suit, maybe she would have been spared all of this. Clark was being particularly tormented about an incident when he had pretended to be under the influence of the pheromone compound. He had seen it as the perfect opportunity to tell Lois how he felt about her without any repercussions. But Luthor had been there. Luthor had heard Superman tell Lois that he loved her and had watched Lois melt when she kissed Superman in response. At the time, Clark had seen Luthor's presence there as a bonus — an opportunity for the man to see where Lois' true feelings lay. Now… He rebuked himself for being so careless.
Clark couldn't stand the thought of Lois going back to the penthouse again. He just wasn't sure how to broach the topic, but he had to try.
"Umm… Lois, I know you don't want to talk about this, but…"
"It's none of your business, Clark," Lois responded as briskly as she could.
"It's my fault you're in this position. If I'd been more careful about my feelings for you when I was in the suit…"
"Have you ever considered that I wanted to marry Lex? Maybe I don't particularly care why he married me, just that he did. After all, Lex is handsome, rich, powerful and successful. Before our marriage, he was considered Metropolis' most eligible bachelor. What woman wouldn't want to be his wife?"
Clark let out a sharp breath. He felt as if he'd just been punched in the gut. "You don't mean that."
Lois knew what she was doing to Clark — and she hated it — but the alternative was to let him know how much she hated the idea of going back to Lex's tonight. If she did that, although there was no way he could prevent it, she also knew that he would never let her go alone. And, if she was right that Lex wouldn't take no for an answer tonight, she didn't want Clark there. It would destroy her if he was forced to witness her with Lex.
"Don't I?" she responded, folding her arms across her chest and raising an eyebrow.
"You can't stay with him, Lois," Clark tried again. "Please, you heard what he said tonight. I'm terrified of what he'll do to you if you go home."
"What goes on between Lex and me is none of your business. I'm his wife." She forced herself to not react to the obvious pain she was causing him.
"That's what my dad said too, but that was before we overheard him tonight. You can't…"
"Can't? Lex Towers is my home now. Lex is my husband. You don't have any right telling me what to do with regard to my husband. If you keep this up, you'll find yourself figuring out who killed you without my help."
Clark drew in a sharp breath. He couldn't stand the thought of Lois with Luthor under the best of circumstances. Under these circumstances, it was almost unbearable, but she had obviously made her choice. And she was right. He had no right to assume that he could talk to her about her relationship with her husband. It was just so hard when her husband was the monster Clark knew Luthor to be. He clenched his hands by his sides.
Lois noticed the gesture and decided that she could make one concession to her comments. "I'll be careful, Clark," she said softly. "And thanks for caring."
His final warning was cut off as her fingers found his lips. "Don't, Clark," she said softly.
Just then there was a knock at the door. Clark quickly made his way over to the wall beside the hall and stepped through. He was back inside almost immediately.
"It's Luthor," he informed her, trying to keep the panic he felt for her out of his voice.
Lois immediately sprung into action. She went to the cupboard and pulled out a bottle of vodka and a shot glass. She opened the bottle, and poured half it down the sink before rinsing the shot glass in it. She spilt a bit on the kitchen table and then wetting her hands with it, applied it to her neck as if she were a man putting on after shave. As her last act, she rinsed her mouth with vodka, spitting it into the sink. With that, she made her way to the door just as the knock was repeated.
"What?" slurred Lois as she reached the door. She fumbled with the locks before opening it to reveal Luthor. As she opened it, she stumbled back into the room, causing Luthor to step forward and steady her. She deliberately fell against him, allowing him to get a good whiff of her new perfume.
"Hi, honey," she slurred.
"Oh God, Lois, you're drunk," Luthor said in disgust.
"I am not," Lois objected, scrambling against him to regain her footing. Once she had, she swayed backwards, once again losing her balance. She landed on her butt on the floor.
Clark couldn't help but admire the performance. She made quite a convincing drunk. He sobered as he realized that, considering that her mother had a problem with alcohol, she had probably learned this act growing up.
"We're going home," Lex informed her.
"Home," slurred Lois, before lying back on the carpet and closing her eyes.
Luthor tried to get her to walk, but she mostly refused. He half dragged, half carried her out the door of her apartment. As he went to close it, he looked back inside. He felt that same disturbing feeling he'd had in the funeral home earlier.
When he finally got her outside, he was approached by Nigel. Lois took note that the paparazzi who had been here earlier were no longer around. But then she had not been at home when darkness fell. When her lights failed to come on, they must have decided she wasn't here.
Nigel helped get Lois into the car. Once that was accomplished, Luthor fished through Lois' purse while speaking to Nigel in front of the open door.
"Check out her apartment. I swear I could feel another person there. If it's Kent, you know what to do," Luthor said, handing Nigel a set of keys that he had dug out of Lois' purse.
"Yes, sir," said Nigel. He instructed one of the two men who had made up the surveillance team outside the bar earlier to drive the limo to Lex Towers before taking the other and heading back inside Lois' building.
Lois listened to all this from her 'drunken stupor.' If Clark had been alive, it would have been hard to maintain her act after hearing that. Although it wasn't a direct threat, the way the words were said left Lois with no doubt about their meaning. Even knowing there was nothing Lex could do to Clark, it was hard not to react, but her only hope of avoiding sex with Lex tonight was by being so repulsive that he wouldn't want her, so she continued to play the role. Besides, the fact that he was talking so openly in front of her told her that he was not questioning her performance.
"So tell me exactly how this cloning process works, Doctor," Bill Church said.
"First, you grow the cells to be cloned until you have a good supply. This normally takes some time but with Superman's physiology the process has been remarkably fast. I already have enough that I could do this process tomorrow. It is magnificent almost being able to see the cells multiply before your very eyes. I found…"
"Doctor!" Church interrupted.
"Right. Well next you have to transfer to the cells to a minimal media. That allows the cells to live, but stops them from dividing and causes them to enter quiescence. Once again, the cells have already entered the necessary state. Then when the cultured cells are in a quiescent state, you take an unfertilized human egg and remove the nucleus. This can be tricky because you have to minimize damage done to the egg. Once the nucleus has been removed, you take one of the quiescent cells in its entirety and implant it inside the coat around the egg. Finally you electroshock the egg. That fuses the two cells. Once that's done, the egg is implanted in the human mother where she will carry it to term."
"So how certain is this process?"
"Well, a lot of the cloned embryos will not survive because of cellular damage and other mishaps. So you have to do a lot of them and expect that most won't survive."
"Okay, I'm interested," said Church, the doctor's frankness convincing him that what the doctor had was genuine. "There is one condition, however. I get everything."
"You mean that you want me to betray Lex Luthor completely?" asked the doctor.
"That's exactly what I mean. Of course, I'll need your assistance, so you can count on my protection."
"Okay, well give me a few days to get everything together and ready for transport. How do I contact you when I'm ready?"
"I'll contact you," Church responded.
Lex had the driver carry Lois into the penthouse. She muttered incoherently the whole time. Lex made noises as if he were listening, but his mind was back in Lois' apartment and the strange sensation that Superman… No, that wasn't possible. He had seen Superman's body himself. Superman was dead. Still, he was interested to see what Nigel would discover.
But first, there was some business to attend to. He watched as the man carried Lois into the bedroom and put her on their bed. He thanked the man who left immediately. Luthor then attended to his wife.
Lois tried not to notice as Lex removed her shoes. Maybe if she pretended to be passed out he would leave her alone. That might have worked except that when he stripped off her slacks, she couldn't help but react. She did remember in time to keep the slur in her voice.
"Not tonight, Lex," she said.
"Tonight," Lex said, continuing to remove her clothes.
Since Lois couldn't do more to stop this without alerting Lex to the fact that she wasn't really drunk or that his touch now revolted her, she simply closed her eyes and tried to distance herself from the encounter. She knew that the furthest thing from Lex's mind was the idea of making love to her. He was proving something to himself and a dead superhero. She felt tears come to her eyes. If she thought her wedding night was bad, this was a hundred times worse. Her only consolation — if it could be called that — was that, given her drunken condition, her active participation wasn't required or even expected.
She reached out in her mind for her connection with Clark. This time, she found it. She hung on to it for dear life as Lex proved his point. The physical pain caused by the encounter might have been dulled had she really been drunk — but she was stone cold sober.
Nigel entered Lois' apartment which Luthor hadn't bothered to lock. Then, together with the other man from the surveillance team, quickly searched it. Clark wondered what they were looking for. They checked closets, behind furniture and even under the bed, but they ignored drawers. He didn't have to wait long to have his question answered.
"No one seems to be here, sir," said the man with Nigel.
"I've noticed," Nigel replied sarcastically. "Do you think that tomorrow you can actually manage not to lose her?"
"Yes, sir," replied the younger man.
With that, the two of them made their way out of the room, locking the door behind them.
It was then that Clark felt it. It wasn't much more than a feeling, but the ache in his heart that accompanied it was incredible. He somehow knew that at this moment Luthor was fulfilling the vow he had made to Superman's body earlier tonight.
Clark sank down into the couch. Lois had made it clear that he had no right to interfere in her relationship with Luthor, but it was so hard feeling her pain and doing nothing. Not that there was anything he could do. If he still had his powers… Actually, if he still had a pulse, it would be almost impossible for him not to storm Luthor's private fortress and drag Lois out of there. Even knowing that his presence there would do nothing more than humiliate Lois, it was so hard to do nothing.
But Lois was right. This was her decision. If she wanted to leave Luthor, he would do everything in his power to assist her. Until then, all he could do was be here for her. Although he couldn't begin to fathom the reasons for her decision, especially after what they had overheard tonight, he loved her too much not to respect her right to make that decision. However, it didn't make sitting here, feeling her pain, any easier.
Clark swallowed hard, dropping his head into his hands. "Lois," he whispered, trying to somehow communicate all his love to her.
Lois felt Clark's love almost immediately. Fortunately, the whole affair was over quickly and when it was, Lex left. Lois took a moment to compose herself. She didn't think she had ever felt quite so dirty. She had no intention of ever telling Clark what had happened here tonight, although since she had sensed him, she wondered if he already knew.
She heard voices in the next room. She pulled herself painfully out of bed and snuck over to the door. Lex hadn't closed it completely when he left. She placed her ear by the crack and listened.
"What did you find?" Lex asked Nigel.
"Nothing, sir," Nigel replied, handing Luthor back the keys to Lois' apartment.
"I could have sworn that there was someone there. Are you sure he didn't get out before you got there?" Luthor asked, returning the keys to Lois' purse.
"I don't think so. I imagine he would have waited for you to leave before attempting to do so himself."
Luthor nodded. "Well, then, we still have to find Kent. With Superman dead and Perry retired, he's the only one that Lois is likely to turn to. If she does, I will never be able to make her completely subservient to me, and I won't accept that, Nigel."
"Why do you think she'll turn to Kent? I thought you considered him unimportant."
"I do, but since the incident with Miranda's pheromone compound, I've had people keeping an eye on their relationship. I don't think there's anything going on, but for some reason, Lois seems to respect him. I will not let him become a problem. Besides, he can tell her that Superman came to see me before our wedding."
"I see your point, sir. May I suggest that we hire someone to find him? I think I know just the man — Albert Spindle. He's rather an odd duck, but he's good."
"Good idea, Nigel. By the way, how's the good doctor doing?"
"He is proceeding rather more quickly than he originally estimated — something to do with Superman's physiology. He informed me yesterday afternoon that he should be ready to implant the cells into the egg as early as tomorrow. Of course, there's certainly no need to do it that quickly — if you want to wait."
"I'm going to think about that, Nigel. I didn't expect Lois to be quite so much of a problem. Maybe this would calm her down."
"How will you convince her?"
"Who says I'm even going to tell her? After all, considering how much she's been drinking lately, I'm sure we could do this without her even knowing."
"How, sir? Doesn't the procedure require her to have an operation? Surely she would notice that."
"That's true, but according to my research, the procedure can be done without leaving visible scars, and since she's been drinking a lot lately, I think we could convince her that she had an accident while drinking and driving. Especially when she wakes up in a hospital bed after losing consciousness. The doctor can help with the details."
Nigel smiled at the ingenuity of his master.
The conversation appeared to be coming to an end, so Lois quickly crawled back into bed. It was probably best if she appeared to be asleep when… if he returned. She didn't want a repeat of what had happened earlier if she could help it.
As she lay in bed with her eyes closed, she thought about what she had overheard. She had been unable to hear everything, but she thought she had gotten the gist of the conversation. It confirmed that Superman came to see Lex shortly before their wedding. It also seemed that Lex might be the one who had taken the flesh from Clark's leg. At least, the conversation between him and Nigel sounded like a conversation that could have been about cloning, but the last attempt to clone Superman had been imperfect. Unless, Lex had found a way to perfect it. It also sounded as if Lex had some plans for her — although she didn't know what. But then, nothing could possibly be worse than what he had already done to her.
Lois woke up the next morning and looked at the bed next to her. It was empty. She didn't know whether he'd come to bed or not. She went to move and gave a small gasp. It hurt to move. Suddenly the images of last night came back to her. She closed her eyes for a moment. Finally, she took a deep breath and got up. At least it wasn't going to be hard to fake a hangover this morning — it felt as if her whole body was on fire.
She threw on her robe before wandering into the main part of the penthouse, hoping Lex was already gone.
"So you're finally up," said Lex, looking at her over a copy of the Wall Street Journal.
"Yeah," said Lois without enthusiasm. "I'm up."
"Well, you may want to hurry and get ready."
"Ready for what?"
"I met with the city council yesterday to help plan Superman's funeral."
"You're helping to plan Superman's funeral?" Lois asked in disbelief, before she could stop herself.
"Of course. After all, I am the city's most prominent citizen. Anyway, they want you there today. I told them as a close friend of Superman's you'd be happy to help out."
With everything else she wanted to do today, Superman's funeral preparations were not on the top of her list. The only problem was she couldn't think of any way to decline that Lex would believe. She also knew that Clark would be going crazy. She wanted to at least call him and let him know she was fine, but he couldn't pick up the phone. She figured she could call and leave a message on her answering machine. If he was there, he would overhear it, but afterwards, he wouldn't be able to erase it. And if Lex found out, he would want to know what she was doing.
She turned and made her way to the washroom to have a shower. There was no choice but to go to the city council meeting and hope it was short.
When Inspector Henderson arrived in the morning, the Chief immediately called him into his office. Henderson looked at the other cops in the station. As if of one accord, they shrugged their shoulders.
"Now, Henderson!" the Chief exclaimed when Henderson hesitated.
Henderson followed the Chief into his office. He took note of the fact that the blinds had been drawn. He looked around the office. His eyebrows went up in surprise as he recognized the man there.
"Mr. Mayor," Henderson said, offering his hand.
"Inspector Henderson, the Chief seems to think you're the man for this assignment, but I need your word that this will be kept absolutely confidential."
"Yes, sir," Henderson replied.
The Mayor gestured him to a chair. "Superman's body was stolen last night," the Mayor informed him.
Ignoring Henderson's question, the Mayor continued. "We need his body found quickly. I will be discussing the situation with the city council and a few select others today, but other than that, we have to keep this quiet."
"I'm not sure how I can find his body if I can't tell anyone that his body is missing."
The Mayor nodded. "Just do what you can. If this gets out it could become a public relations nightmare. You won't believe some of the people who are flying in for his funeral tomorrow. Also, I want you to sit in on the city council meeting today."
"I don't know what good that will do," responded Henderson.
"Bring yourself up to speed on what happened," said the Mayor. "I'll expect you there at eleven a.m."
"Okay, then. I'll see you at eleven," responded Henderson, although he considered the meeting with the city counsel a waist of his time.
The Mayor rose and took Henderson's hand. "We're counting on you, Henderson. The reputation of the city depends on it."
"I'll do my best, sir," Henderson responded.
Once the Mayor left, he turned to the Chief.
"This is impossible," Henderson said.
"I know. I think he does too. Just do what you can. But for God's sake, don't let anyone know he's missing."
"Who reported it?"
"The funeral home called my office this morning. I don't think they'll say anything. It's not exactly the type of publicity they want. But make sure they understand that when you speak to them."
Lois sighed as she made her way into the council chambers at City Hall. She really didn't want to be doing this today — not when there were so many other things she had to do. But there was no way out of it without making Lex suspicious. She just hoped this would be short.
She had just settled herself when she noticed Inspector Henderson enter the room. A gasp escaped her mouth before she could stop it. There was only one reason she could think of for Henderson to be here. With everything that had happened last night, she had completely forgotten about stealing Superman's body. Henderson's eyes met hers for a moment. She looked down.
Henderson looked at Lois curiously for a moment. She was one of the few people who had known where Superman was being taken. He hadn't even considered that she could be a suspect until this moment, but there was something about her behavior that made him instantly suspicious. But unlike other suspects, Henderson realized at once that if she was the one who had stolen his body, there was more to this story then he realized. He settled himself down in a chair at the table and decided to be very careful about what he told the council, at least until he could talk to Lane… umm, Mrs. Luthor.
Luthor… That was someone else he needed to talk to. After his trip to the funeral home this morning, he knew that someone had given Nigel St. John the keys to the funeral home. He also knew St. John's relationship to Luthor. He glanced between Luthor and his wife, suddenly wondering exactly how much they knew about each other. Were they involved in this together? Maybe. But somehow, in spite of their marriage, Henderson couldn't quite see those two working together on anything concerning Superman. He wasn't quite sure why he thought that. Certainly Superman and Luthor were always cordial to each other in public. Maybe it was just because of the rumors that had circulated about Superman and Lois.
The Mayor entered the room after everyone else arrived. "Good. Everyone's here," the Mayor said. "Now, for those of you who don't know him, I've invited Inspector Henderson here today. We have… sort of a problem that I'll let him fill you in on."
Suddenly, Henderson wondered about the wisdom of this. If the Mayor wanted to keep this quiet, could they really trust a bunch of politicians to do so? However, he had his instructions. He realized that his job here today was basically to save the Mayor from the embarrassment of informing the council that the city had lost the body. He took a deep breath before giving the City Council and guests, the bad news. There were a number of gasps, followed by questions and accusations.
"How could this have happened?" asked Beck.
"We're still looking into it," Henderson responded.
"Weren't you charged with finding out who killed Superman?" asked Beck.
"I was," Henderson informed them.
"Well then, wasn't it your responsibility to make sure that Superman's body was taken care of?" the man asked.
Henderson cleared his throat. "Our main security precaution was to keep the number of people who knew where Superman was being taken to a minimum."
"Then who knew?" asked the Mayor.
Henderson glanced across the table at Lois for a moment. He caught a quick look of desperation on her face before she looked away. He glanced at Luthor and wondered again how much those two told each other.
"I'd prefer not to say at this time, but I can tell you that we are doing everything we can to find Superman's body."
"So what are the chances of finding him before the funeral?"
"If you're still planning on going ahead with it tomorrow, I'd have to say not good. If you could delay it for a week or so, I'd at least stand a chance at…" Henderson was interrupted as the room exploded, everyone talking at once. He sighed. How on earth did these people ever get anything accomplished?
"Calm down, everyone," said the Mayor. "Now, I've told the Police Chief to make sure this is kept under wraps until we can decide what to do."
"Well, we can't delay the funeral," said Beck. "There are important people coming in from all over the world. How can we go to them and tell them that we're delaying the funeral?"
"And what would we give as our reason?" asked Councilman Diana Young. "If we tell people that we lost Superman's body, Metropolis will be the laughing stock of the world."
"Well, why do we have to have an open coffin?" suggested Beck. "If this is being kept quiet, why don't we just pretend we have him and proceed with the funeral?"
In the end, this suggestion was accepted by everyone. Lois shook her head. The reporter in her was itching to write the story on this cover-up. Another part was relieved at the idea of keeping this a secret. The fewer the people who knew, the better for ensuring that Martha and Jonathan could get Clark's body back to Smallville.
She glanced over at Henderson. His eyes were still on her. She swallowed hard, hoping that she didn't look as guilty as she felt. She hated sitting here listening to the City Council tear Henderson apart for something she'd done. However, it did seem that he was at least willing to keep the fact that she had known about the funeral home to himself. She did imagine, however, that he would want to talk to her.
"Well, thanks for coming in, Inspector. I'll be waiting for your regular reports. In the mean time, no one can know about this."
"Yes, sir," replied Henderson. He knew he would get blamed if it did get out — even though it was more likely that one of the people in this room would leak the information to the press. Henderson rose and made his way to the door.
Once he left, the city council turned, almost of one accord, to Lois.
"So, what can you tell us?" asked the Mayor.
"About what?" asked Lois, suddenly wondering if they somehow knew that she had taken Superman's body.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I just assumed that Mr. Luthor would have passed on our questions."
"I'm afraid I haven't had a chance," said Luthor.
"Well, we're hoping that maybe you know a little more about the Man of Steel than we seem to," said the Mayor.
Lois suddenly felt like a cornered animal. She definitely knew more about the Man of Steel than the rest of the room, but that wasn't what made her nervous. She could clearly recall her husband's comments at the funeral home about finding Superman's family. No wonder he wanted her to be involved in the funeral preparations.
"I've had my share of exclusives from him over the past year, but basically everything I've learned about him has been printed."
"Well, does he have any family that we should include in the funeral procession?" asked the Mayor.
Lois noticed Lex's eyes on her as she answered. "As far as I know, any family he has would be on Krypton," she replied evenly.
The Mayor sighed. "If that's the case, it might be nice if you… and your husband, of course, were part of the funeral procession. After all, the world needs to see that he had friends. I'm also thinking of having Perry White and… Oh — what was your partner's name?"
"Clark Kent," Lois answered, trying to keep her voice from trembling.
"Right. Mr. Kent, be part of the funeral procession. Now I've spoken to Mr. White and he has agreed. But I've been unable to get a hold of Mr. Kent. Could you do that?"
"Umm…" Lois began. She noticed once again the interest in Lex's eyes. "I'm afraid I haven't seen him for quite some time. I don't know where he is. Have you tried calling his place?"
"Yes, but all we've been able to get is an answering machine."
"Well, I don't know what else to suggest. Clark and I just worked together. I really don't know where he might be."
"Oh, I'm sorry. I thought you two were good friends," said the Mayor.
Lois just shrugged. The truth was that, if she hadn't seen Clark since his death, it would have been fair to say that their friendship had ended when she accepted Lex's proposal.
"Well," continued the Mayor when she didn't continue. "I guess we'll just have to keep trying. I guess the next big question is about Superman's religious beliefs."
"Excuse me?" asked Lois, thoroughly confused.
"Well, first there's the question of which church to hold the service in… That is if it's even a church we should be using. There are about six religious establishments that could handle it."
"I don't think Superman ever endorsed a particular religion. I think he figured that to do so would be divisive. Why not choose whichever one is the farthest away from the place you plan to bury him?" she suggested.
"Why the farthest away?" asked Beck.
"Well, if the news reports are true, I would think there'll be at least a million people lining the streets. Giving the funeral procession a long route might make it a little bit easier for the common people coming to pay their respects."
There was a murmur of agreement around the table.
"Then who should we get to participate — for the religious portions, I mean?" asked the Mayor. "We've had offers of assistance from…" He pulled out a number of pink pieces of paper. "…umm… the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Dalai Lama…" He fumbled with the papers for a moment before continuing. "Billy Graham… One of the Chief Rabbis of Israel… Al-Imam Al-Sudais…"
"Who's that?" asked Beck.
"He's an Islamic leader from Saudi Arabia," answered Lois, when the Mayor looked baffled.
"Anyway, you get the idea," the Mayor said, holding up the remaining phone messages. "So who do we have participate if we don't know Superman's religious convictions?"
"Why not have all of them play a role? That would be in keeping with the values of unity and brotherhood that Superman stood for. If any other religious leaders offer, you could also try to fit them in. Just make sure they're all cognizant of the time restrictions, or this could be a very long service."
Once again there was general agreement.
"What about you, Ms. Lane? Do you want to say something?" asked the Mayor.
Lois just shook her head as tears immediately sprung to her eyes. It was going to be hard enough just getting through his funeral without having to speak.
Lois was the first one out of the conference room when the meeting was over. Clark must be frantic by now. She had to get away from Lex. Maybe he would be delayed long enough so that she could be half way out of the building by the time he…
"Lois," said a man when she exited the room.
'Damn,' thought Lois. "Henderson, can I call you later?"
"I'm afraid there is no later. I need to see you down at the precinct now," said Henderson. "And you too, Mr. Luthor." Henderson noticed that Lois seemed to tense with the knowledge that her husband was also there.
"Can you tell me what this is about?" asked Luthor.
Henderson glanced at Lois. Her eyes were definitely pleading with him. It didn't occur to her that Lex already knew that Henderson had left a message for Lois and since he had never passed it on, would assume she didn't know about it.
"I have some questions for both of you. If you wouldn't mind coming down to the precinct with me."
"Of course, Inspector," said Luthor. "My wife and I will do whatever we can to help. We'll meet you there immediately." After all, Luthor didn't like the idea of someone stealing Superman's body either. What if someone else had the same idea he'd had? He was annoyed with himself for not considering that before leaving the body strung up on the ruins of the Daily Planet building. Although he had to admit that he liked the final image he had given the world of the super hero.
Lois sighed. There was nothing she could do but go along. Lex's hand found the small of her back. She steadied herself before allowing him to guide her out of City Hall and toward the limo.
Clark stood in Luthor's office in the penthouse suit at Lex Towers. Getting here was no problem. He had been in this office a number of times over the past year.
Lois had made it clear when she left last night that he was to stay away from here, but it was almost noon. She must have known he would be worried. Why hadn't she even called? Okay, so he couldn't answer the phone, but she still could have left a message.
He slowly made his way down the hall into the living quarters. He heard voices and for a moment found himself searching for a place to hide. Then he shook his head. There was no need to hide — well, unless Lois was here. Then… maybe. But it wasn't Lois' voice he heard.
His mind still would not allow him to just walk toward the room the voices were coming from. Instead, he unconsciously stepped lightly as he approached.
"We have to do this right. Otherwise, Mr. Luthor will make sure we pay the price. Mr. Luthor doesn't allow mistakes," said the female voice.
Clark covered the remaining distance cautiously. What could be so critical? Maybe Luthor had killed Lois and the people up ahead were disposing of her body. Luthor would certainly want that done right. He felt his heart begin to pound.
"I know it's important to do it right, but why does he want it done that way?" asked a second female voice.
"It's not up to you to ask why. That's the way he wants it done."
Clark peeked around the corner.. He held his breath as he spotted the women. They were looking at what was obviously Luthor's… well, and Lois', bed. He could just see the foot of the bed. It was a mess. He braced himself to see Lois' bloody body as he moved further around the corner.
"But what does he have against hospital corners?" the second woman asked.
The first woman sighed. "I have no idea, but this is the way to do it."
Clark snorted. The women were looking at an unmade bed and discussing how Luthor liked to have his bed made. If he wasn't already dead, the women's comments probably would have given him a heart attack. Well, at least if the maids were here, it meant that Lois wasn't being held captive here. Still, he checked out the rest of the penthouse just in case.
"So what did you want to see us about, Inspector?" asked Luthor, when he and Lois entered the station.
"I need to talk to each of you," Henderson replied. When they began to make their way toward him together, he continued. "Separately."
"What do you mean, 'separately'?" Luthor demanded.
"I mean, individually," replied Henderson. "Mrs. Luthor, perhaps I could start with you."
"Certainly, Henderson," Lois replied before Lex could object.
Lex silently fumed as he watched Henderson lead Lois into his office and close the door.
"Have a seat," Henderson said. He waited until she was seated before asking, "So why'd you steal his body?"
"Excuse me?" asked Lois.
Henderson let out a short breath. "Lois, you knew that he had been taken before I ever told City Council."
"I don't know what you're talking about, Henderson."
"I could count on my hands the number of people who knew that Superman's body was at that Funeral Home."
"Don't give me that, Henderson. What about the people in the forensic unit? What about the people at the funeral home? And you left messages for both me and Clark. Why isn't he in here? Maybe it was him."
Henderson narrowed his eyes and looked at her for a moment. She obviously knew that he'd left a message about this for Clark. That indicated that she and Clark had discussed it. Was he involved too? "Look, Lois, I know if you took Superman's body, there had to be a good reason."
"I didn't do it, Henderson," Lois maintained.
Henderson nodded. He had lost. If she had done it, she wasn't going to tell him. "All right. I'll get your husband in here and talk to him."
"Why do you need to talk to him?" Lois asked, her voice trembling slightly. What if Henderson revealed to him his suspicions? This could get really dangerous for her.
Henderson suddenly stilled. If he didn't know better, he would swear that she was afraid of Luthor. Well, so much for their being in this together. And if it was a choice between Lois and Lex, he would trust Lois — at least in this instance. She would never try to capitalize on Superman's death. He wasn't so sure about Luthor.
"I heard that one of the people who worked at the funeral home gave a key to Nigel St. John," he decided to tell her. "I need to ask him about that."
Lois let out a breath.
Henderson smiled. "Don't worry. I won't say anything about what we talked about."
Lois got up to leave. "Thanks, Henderson," she said quietly.
"Just tell me one thing."
"How hard should I be looking for his body?"
Lois stopped and looked at him for a moment. "That depends. I mean, now that the city has decided not to tell anyone, do we really need to find it?"
Henderson smiled as he watched her leave. Yep, she had the body. Of course, there was no way he was going to follow up on that. He didn't understand her reasons, but she had to have them. No, in this case, he trusted her.
He would still go through the motions, but other than that…
"Mr. Luthor," said Henderson. "Would you have a seat?" Henderson said before walking over and closing the door to his office. It might be kind of fun seeing if he could make Luthor sweat a little bit.
It was easy to lose Lex when he went into Henderson's office. Given the fact that he was accompanying her, she suspected he wouldn't have a surveillance team following them. He hadn't counted on this. As a result, she now had her opportunity. She quickly made her way out of the police station.
She no longer believed that the tails sent to follow her were for her protection. It was more likely that Lex wanted to keep tabs on her. That meant it was now even more important for her to lose them.
Since the library was nearby, she decided to quickly run in there. She figured it would only take her a couple of minutes. It would give her a chance to do some quick research as well as making sure there was no surveillance or paparazzi following her before she headed back to her place.
She made her way over to the section about paranormal phenomena and began looking through books until she found one on ghosts. It seemed to be the ultimate edition on ghost facts. She pulled it out and carried it over to a chair. She quickly began looking through it.
She had something very specific she wanted to know — how to get a person back in their body. She found a number of different ideas, most involving things like spiders' legs and frog guts — nothing she thought sounded credible. Then she came upon a chapter that seemed particularly intriguing. 'Why Spirits Linger.' In spite of her intention to be quick, she found herself beginning to read.
It took her some time to finish the chapter, but when she had, she felt as if the life had been sucked out of her. She stuck the book back where she had found it and rushed out of the library. She had to get back to her apartment. She wanted to see Clark.
Lex settled into a chair in Henderson's office.
"Can we make this quick, Inspector? I have a full day." With that comment, Luthor glanced out of the office hoping to spot his wife. He couldn't see her.
Henderson noticed where he was looking and resolved to keep the man here as long as possible. If Lois was looking to escape, and Henderson considered that a very real possibility, he would give her time to do so.
"Certainly, Mr. Luthor. I just have a couple of questions."
Luthor directed his attention back to Henderson.
"Something unusual came up in my investigation of the disappearance of Superman's body."
"And that would be?"
"When I was questioning the staff at the funeral home, your name came up."
"Well, not exactly. Apparently, Nigel St. John made arrangements to borrow a key from one of the employees of the home last night. Mr. St. John works for you, doesn't he?"
Luthor was absolutely calm. He had dealt with cops like Henderson all his life. He had no fear of them. He was supremely confident that he could handle this. In this case, by using the truth — or at least a version of it.
"Yes. He was getting it for me."
Henderson raised his eyebrows. He hadn't expected a straightforward answer. "For you?" he asked.
"Yes. I wanted a chance to say a private good-bye to Superman. He has done so much for the people of Metropolis. His death is a great tragedy, but I assure you, Henderson, his body was still there when I left."
The next question was obvious — at least to Henderson. Where was Mrs. Luthor last night? Still, Henderson didn't ask it.
Clark approached the door as he watched the locks turn. He held his breath, praying that it would be Lois. He had been pacing since coming back from Luthor's, trying to decide what to do now.
He finally began to breath as Lois pushed open the door. There were dark circles under her lifeless eyes, but she was alive.
"Lois," he breathed.
Her eyes seemed to regain some life as she regarded him, not saying anything.
"Are you all right?" Clark asked softly.
"Sure. Why wouldn't I be?" Lois responded, looking away.
Clark wanted to follow up on that. It was obvious that she was anything but all right, but he knew there was no point. She was, once again, making it clear that she didn't want to talk about her relationship with Luthor. Clark pulled in a long slow breath. He wanted so badly to just go take her in his arms and never let her go. He would do anything to protect her from that monster, if only she would let him.
Lois took a quick look at Clark before going to hang up her jacket. He knew. That much was obvious just from looking at his face. He must have felt her last night when she had reached out to him. She wanted to tell him everything, but she couldn't stand to see the look in his eyes when she did. Besides, that wasn't what was bothering her at the moment. There was that book and what she had learned from it.
"Where have you been?" Clark finally asked, almost more in an effort to break the uncomfortable silence than anything else.
Lois cleared her throat. "I was at a city council meeting helping plan your funeral. Then I was summoned to the police station. I'm sorry if you were worried, but you didn't have to be."
Clark wasn't so sure about that, but decided to let it go. "I guess we should try to find out who killed me. After all, they're probably the same people who took that flesh from Superman."
"I guess," said Lois, her eyes once again going lifeless.
Albert Spindle drove slowly past Kent's apartment. There was not a lot of activity on the street so he parked and walked back. When he got near, he glanced around and then, confident that he would not be noticed, he slipped around to the side of the building. There was a large window that gave him a good view into the apartment.
"Damn," he whispered, as his long hair escaped the ponytail he had tied it into. He knelt down and straightened his hair, before looking carefully through the window.
He didn't see anyone inside that matched Kent's description. But there was an older couple. He watched for a couple of minutes. Well, he wasn't going to be able to start his investigation until they were gone.
He slipped away from the window and back out onto the street. He needed a spot to keep an eye on the place. He looked around. He smiled when he saw the 'For Rent' sign in an apartment building across the road.
Clark regarded Lois curiously for a moment. He had learned over the past year that the way to get Lois out of a depression was by getting her thinking about work. She loved investigating. It invigorated her. But today…
"Lois, what's wrong?"
"I told you, Clark. Nothing's wrong," Lois snapped.
Lois looked at Clark for a moment before coming to a decision. She walked up to him and looked in his eyes as she said, "Why don't we just forget about the investigation?"
"I mean it, Clark. Let's just forget about all of it and run away somewhere together. Please, Clark." On the last words, Lois began running her hands provocatively up his chest.
Clark closed his eyes for a moment before capturing her hands in his. What she was suggesting was certainly tempting but…
"Lois, we have to find out who killed me. Otherwise, there is a danger of someone creating another clone."
"Why is that our problem?" Lois demanded. "Let's just let the world take care of itself for a change."
Clark raised her hands to his mouth, gently kissing her fingers, while looking into her eyes — eyes that were definitely pleading with him. But Clark knew that something was very wrong with this picture. Maybe Lois' suggestion was just a reaction to last night, but Clark suspected there was more to it than that.
"What's going on here, Lois? You don't run away from things," Clark said quietly.
Lois immediately walked away from him and commenced staring out the window.
"Talk to me, Lois."
She let out a short breath. "If we find out who killed you, I'll lose you again," she finally confessed.
"What are you talking about?"
"After I left the police station, I stopped by the library. Clark, if we solve your murder, you have to leave. That seems to be a common thread amongst ghost sightings. Once they solve their murder, they leave this plane of existence. I don't want to lose you, Clark."
Clark looked at her for a moment. "I want to stay, Lois. Especially now. And there is nothing I'd like to do more than run away with you."
"Then let's just do it. Why is it always our responsibility to make sure the world is safe?" Lois knew her chances of surviving if she ran away from Lex weren't good, but the alternative seemed to be losing Clark. Given those consequences, she was willing to risk it.
"Lois," was the only answer he gave her.
She looked at him for a moment, her eyes still pleading with him. Finally, reality set in. He couldn't let his body be used in someone's diabolical plot. Even if it meant that he would have to leave her, he had to do this. She swallowed hard before nodding.
"Thank you, Lois," he said. He then cleared his throat, knowing he was about to step into forbidden territory, but unable to stop himself. "I don't want you going back to Luthor's tonight," he said softly.
Lois' breath caught in her throat. "Look, it's still early," she finally responded. "Let's not worry about that for now." She really didn't want to think about what she was going to do tonight until she had to. She knew that as soon as the murder was solved, she was going to leave Lex. The problem was that when they solved Clark's murder, he would be gone too. She had never felt so conflicted in her entire life.
Just as Clark was about to respond, there was a knock at the door. Lois went and opened it to find Martha and Jonathan standing on the other side, holding a file box.
Spindle made his way over to the apartment. The older couple had left. He glanced around to make sure no one was watching before removing his lock picking equipment and quickly opened the door to the apartment.
Once inside he looked in all the usual places. He found Kent's daytimer. No indication there of where Kent might be. He pocketed Kent's private phone directory. Surely someone listed in there would know where Kent was. He looked through Kent's closets. There didn't appear to be any noticeable lack of clothing.
He stopped for a moment when he noticed the tie rack. Who could possibly need that many ties? And talk about bizarre ties. He couldn't resist. He took a moment to pull one of the brightest ones off the rack. He placed it around his neck and walked to the mirror. How could this guy wear these?
After returning the tie, he quickly got back to work. He looked through all the personal papers he could find. He didn't see anything that would tell him where Kent had gone.
He did, however, spot a picture of Kent with the older couple he'd seen here earlier. It appeared that they were Kent's parents. They must know something. The question was how was he going to find out what? He smiled before pulling out a number of small listening devices. He placed one in the living room, another in the bedroom and one in the phone. Soon he would know at least as much about Clark Kent as his parent's did. He took one final look around before exiting the apartment.
"What's in the box?" asked Lois.
"It's all Clark's notes on Lex Luthor," Martha informed her. "I thought they might be of some use if you're still trying to find out who might have the flesh taken from Superman."
"Thanks," said Lois, taking the box from Martha and carrying it into the room.
"Can we help?" asked Jonathan.
Lois glanced over at Clark. Part of her wanted to delay finding out the truth as long as possible. Another part of her… "Sure," she finally said unconvincingly.
Martha looked at her curiously for a moment. "What is it, honey? I would have thought you'd be anxious to get to the bottom of this."
"I am," Lois assured her. "It's just… I found out today that as soon as we discover what happened to Clark, he'll go on to… well, whatever lies beyond death. I'll lose him," she concluded sadly.
"Oh, honey, I'm sorry, but you knew that was going to happen. And you can't really want Clark to continue in this half existence."
Lois looked over at Clark, her eyes becoming suspiciously moist. "I guess not," she replied softly.
Martha's hand came up and lightly rubbed Lois' shoulder. "Okay," she finally said. "Then let's see what we can find."
With that three people began sorting through papers. They would discuss what they'd found with each other, Clark often filling in the missing details. When supper time came, they ordered in and continued searching.
Finally, Martha came across something she found of particular interest. "Take a look at this," she said, handing a paper to Lois.
"Of course," gasped Lois. "Why didn't we think of this before?"
"What do you have there?" asked Jonathan.
"It's a list of the scientific projects that Lex Corp is involved with," Martha informed him.
"Right," said Lois. "If this is a cloning experiment of some sort, there must be scientists involved."
However, in spite of this breakthrough, they didn't get much further. Clark had very little information on Luthor's scientific endeavors. This was the type of information that was kept very quiet — ostensibly to keep competitors from benefiting from Lex Corp's scientific breakthroughs.
It was dark by the time the group decided that it was time to call it a day.
"I guess we'll have to pick this up in the morning," said Lois sadly. There was obviously going to be another night at Lex Towers.
"We can't in the morning," Martha said.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have assumed…" began Lois.
"No, honey, it's not that. Superman's funeral is tomorrow morning."
"Oh, right. I completely forgot."
"So, are you still planning to come with us?" Jonathan asked.
Lois gave them a sad smile. "I don't think I can. Lex and I are expected to be part of the procession. If I don't want him to suspect anything, I think I should go with him."
"I guess that makes sense," said Martha, unable to see Clark suddenly shove his hands deep into his pockets.
"That's what I thought too," said Lois, not passing on Clark's unspoken but obvious objections.
"Okay, well after the funeral, give us a call if you can get away and we'll be glad to do whatever we can to help."
"I'll do that," Lois assured them. With that, Martha and Jonathan made their way to the door and said good-night.
Once they left, Lois took a deep breath before walking to the closet and getting her jacket.
"Where are you going?" asked Clark.
"I think it's time I went back to the penthouse," Lois said, concentrating on putting on her shoes.
Clark opened his mouth to object, but then, realizing there was nothing he could say that she didn't already know, closed it again. His teeth clicked together as he did.
It was now Lois' turn to look at him and his turn to avoid eye contact. "Look, Clark, if I don't go back, he'll just come and get me." When he didn't respond, she walked over to him, taking his chin in her fingers and pulling his face around to look in his eyes. "You're right, Clark. I can't run. If I do, he'll find me. The only chance I have to be free of Lex is to bring him down." She ran a hand down his cheek. "You know I'm right, Clark. I got myself into this. The only way out is to break him before he breaks me. And for that, I need my partner. Will you help me?"
Clark let out a breath before saying, "Of course I'll help you, Lois."
Martha and Jonathan were exhausted when they entered Clark's apartment. The emotional toil of the past few days had worn them down. However, it wasn't themselves they were thinking about.
"I'm worried about Lois," said Jonathan.
"Me too. She's obviously in a lot of pain. Did you see how pale she was tonight?" When Jonathan nodded, Martha continued. "I told her yesterday that she should think of us as family."
"I hope she took you seriously," Jonathan replied.
"I think she did. I really wish we could do more for her, but I think all we can do is be here for her when she needs us."
In an empty apartment located across the road — although not quite as empty as the owner of the building thought — Spindle overheard the conversation, but since it didn't tell him where Clark Kent was, he did nothing more.
Lois sat dutifully by Lex's side on the platform in the large ornately decorated building. The building was quickly filling up with people. Lois suspected it would be standing room only.
When she had arrived at the penthouse the previous evening, Lex had been involved in a business meeting, so she had gone straight to bed. She had been so exhausted that, despite her fears, she fell quickly asleep. The next thing she knew, it was morning and time to get ready for the funeral.
As she sat waiting for the funeral to start, she kept thinking about what Martha had said about condemning Clark to a half life. She was right. Lois knew that the time would come when she would have to let him go. The tears that slipped quietly down her cheeks now were not fake.
"I'm sorry I got stuck in a business meeting last night," Luthor said softly.
"That's okay. I needed some time alone anyway," Lois replied just as softly. "This whole Superman thing has really thrown me," she added, hoping that she could allay any suspicions he might have because of her behavior.
Lex nodded. He figured that made sense. He had torn up every aspect of her life to make her vulnerable. It was understandable that she would have some difficulties adjusting to the new realities of life. And her drinking over the past few days was certainly to his advantage now. He had intended to take this next step slowly, but he wanted her pregnant as soon as possible. He figured it would make her even less likely to stray. After all, she would need him that much more if she knew that in a matter of months, she would have a child to raise. And for that, she wouldn't be able to turn to Kent. Not only was Kent unemployed at the moment, but Luthor also knew that Kent despised him. As a result, he knew that Kent would refuse to have anything to do with a child he believed had been fathered by Luthor. No, if Lois was pregnant, she wouldn't be able to turn to Kent for help. After the funeral, he would set things in motion.
"Charles and Di are here together?" Lois whispered to Lex in disbelief.
"Apparently they decided to leave their personal differences behind long enough to honor Superman," replied Lex, looking over at her. "Maybe we should learn a lesson from them," he suggested. "After all, you've been a little distant since we heard about Superman's death."
Lois bit back the retort that came immediately to mind and said, "I'm sorry, Lex. I know I haven't been the best wife lately." She almost choked on the words, but they had to be said. "I promise, I'll try harder." Then, fighting back the bile that rose in her throat, added, "I think Superman would have wanted that. After all, he believed in the sanctity of marriage."
Lex smiled at her. It was obvious that she didn't have any idea what his relationship with the Man of Steel had really been like or that he had been responsible for his death.
Lois saw Perry and Alice enter. They immediately made their way over to the platform. Lois and Lex rose as they approached.
"I'm glad you could make it, Perry," Lois said softly.
"The fishing can wait," Perry responded immediately before taking her in his arms. "Are you okay, honey?" he asked softly. "I know you and Superman were close."
Lois gave him a sad smile, fighting like crazy not to completely lose her composure. "I'm fine, Perry," she replied unconvincingly.
"He was a great man," Alice said. "From what I've heard, he's still making a difference. Countries that have been enemies for years are giving peace a second look."
"He brought out the best in all of us," Lex responded.
Once Perry and Alice left to find their seats, Lois looked once again at the crowd that was assembling. It was a collection of who's who from all over the world, but there were so many faces missing that should have been there — Martha and Jonathan, Jimmy, Jack and even Cat. None of the people Clark was closest to had even been sent an invitation except her and Perry.
It was as she was scanning the sea of faces that Lois saw Clark, standing at the back of the room, watching her. Their eyes met for a moment. She should have known that he would be here, watching over her — just as he always had.
The people had been gathering on the streets since early this morning. Martha and Jonathan joined the crowds. As if by some sort of unspoken agreement, the street was almost silent. Loudspeakers had been set up all along the route, allowing the crowds outside to hear the funeral even if they couldn't be present.
Jonathan's arm was the only thing that seemed to be keeping Martha in one piece as the service started up. They hardly even heard the service, as the grief which they had been repressing for the past few days was released. They held on to each other as they, along with all of Metropolis, said good-bye to a remarkable man.
Lois spent the entire service trying to maintain her composure. She didn't notice any of the various speakers or singers. She didn't notice the inspirational pieces that were read or the tributes or the prayers that were given. Instead, her eyes kept finding their way over to Clark standing at the back of the room. Time was running out for them. The funeral was driving that solitary fact home to her with painful clarity.
Clark's eyes never left Lois. It was tearing him up to see her in so much pain. He felt as if his heart would break as he watched the tears flow freely down her cheeks. That's why, when the funeral was over and the car drove to the graveyard for the burial, Clark decided to watch outside Lois' line of sight. He felt as if his presence at the church had only made things more difficult for her.
As the burial concluded, Lois started worrying about how she would get away from Lex this time, but it turned out to be less of a problem than Lois thought due to an unintentional intervention by Perry and, of all people, the President of the United States. After the burial, albeit of an empty coffin, Perry once again approached Lois and Lex.
"We were thinking," Perry began. "…that you might like to have a late lunch with us." He directed his comments primarily to Lois, but a quick look at Luthor made it clear that he was included in the invitation.
Both the people he was addressing were about to decline, for different reasons, when another voice interrupted.
"Mr. Luthor, may I have a moment of your time?" said the man.
The four people turned and looked as the man regarded politically as 'The Most Powerful Man In The World' approached.
"Certainly," replied Luthor, immediately leaving the crowd to speak to the President of the United States. He could do no less. And although Luthor regarded the President as little more than a hired servant to the people — the people who had contributed to his campaign of course — he couldn't very well ignore the power the man had to make his businesses prosper. Besides, Luthor liked to forge powerful and useful acquaintances and there could be no more powerful and useful acquaintance than the President.
It was only a moment before Luthor returned. "I'm afraid I won't be able to accept your lunch invitation," he informed Perry. "It seems that Saddam Hessian has requested a meeting with the President while he's in town for Superman's funeral. Given my oil interests in the Middle East, the President has requested my input before the meeting."
"Saddam Hussein?" asked Lois. "I would have thought he'd be detained if he set foot on American soil."
"Haven't you heard?" said Perry. "The President declared Metropolis a free zone during the funeral. Of course, the military is making sure that no one who isn't an American gets into the U.S. through Metropolis who otherwise wouldn't get in."
Lois made a mental note to pass this information on to Martha and Jonathan so that they waited until it was safe to leave the city with Clark's body.
"That must be a huge logistical problem," said Alice.
"I imagine it is," Perry confirmed.
"Anyway," said Luthor, annoyed by the interruption, "I'm afraid I'll have to take a rain cheque on lunch."
"Oh, I understand," responded Perry.
"But I'd love to go," Lois responded immediately, seeing an opportunity to escape her husband.
"It might be best if you came with me, darling," said Luthor.
"Nonsense," responded Perry immediately, sensing that Lois' decision needed to be upheld. "It's not like she'll be invited to participate. Besides, you know his reputation with women. Do you really want him anywhere near your wife?" Perry concluded with a grin.
Luthor looked briefly over at the President and had to admit that Perry had a point. If he were certain of Lois' affections, it wouldn't have been a problem, but Lois' behavior since the death of Superman had left him wondering about her feelings for him. Did he really want to encourage her acquaintance with the President?
"Perry won't be here that long," Lois injected, trying to give him another reason not to insist that she come with him. "It would be nice to spend some time with him."
"Well, I guess it would be boring to have to sit around with the wives while we talk business."
"Where exactly are you going?" asked Lois innocently. "If we finish up early, I'll plan to join you."
"He has a suite at the Lexor Hotel. The presidential suite, of course. We'll probably be there most of the afternoon, so when you finish up, come join us."
As Luthor watched Lois, Perry and Alice walk away, Nigel approached. "Have her followed," Luthor hissed to his second in command. "And this time make sure they don't lose her."
Lois hadn't noticed that Clark was following as they walked through the graveyard toward Perry's car. She hadn't noticed that he had hopped up on the trunk once she got inside. She was too busy trying to make pleasant small talk with Perry and Alice while trying to plan her way of escape. Lois was also attempting to use her conversation to distract her from the gaping hole in her heart that the funeral had caused.
"You're being followed."
Lois jumped at the sound of Clark's voice and his head suddenly appearing beside hers as he stuck it through the back window to warn her.
"You can't do things like that," Lois responded, trying to convince her heart to start beating again.
"Things like what, honey?" Perry responded from the front seat. He had been surprised by Lois' forceful outburst to his comment about the type of bate he liked to use when fly fishing.
Lois gave Clark a dirty look before saying, "Oh, umm… well… there was a fly back here annoying me."
Clark burst out laughing.
"Quit it," Lois muttered.
"Quit what?" asked Perry, now quite concerned.
Now Lois was really taken back. She hadn't realized that she had made that last comment out loud. While she tried to find a response, Clark changed positions, slipping into the seat beside her.
"Nothing, Perry. It's absolutely nothing," she glanced at Clark emphasizing the hidden meaning in her words.
"Why not just tell them the truth, Lois. Tell them that the spirit of the now dead Superman is sitting beside you. I'm sure you can convince them that you're being haunted by my ghost."
Lois cast him a dirty look as she tried to concentrate on what Perry was saying. "I'm sorry, Perry. I missed that."
"I was just asking if you were all right. You don't seem to be acting like yourself."
The statement caused Clark additional amusement. "Careful," he warned her. "You say anything about ghosts and goblins now and they're probably going to have you committed."
Lois studiously avoided looking to her left and said, "I'm fine, Perry. It's just been a little hard accepting Cl… Superman's death."
Perry nodded knowingly. "I was surprised that Clark wasn't there. Do you know where he is? I left a message for him on his answering machine when we got in last night, but there was no reply." What really surprised Perry was that Clark was letting Lois go through this by herself. She was obviously taking Superman's death hard. And although she was now married to Lex Luthor, what she obviously needed was her best friend.
"I'm not sure where he is, Perry."
"Liar," Clark replied.
Lois ignored him to continue to answer Perry's question. "Martha and Jonathan are in town. I was talking to them and they aren't sure he's even aware of Superman's death. Apparently, he took my marriage hard and has been off somewhere licking his wounds ever since."
"Very good for a spur of the moment excuse," Clark said.
"Thank you," replied Lois.
Again, Perry looked over his shoulder at her curiously and Lois silently cursed Clark for provoking a response out of her. However, thankfully, this time Perry did not ask her for an explanation. He was actually a little scared to. It was almost as if Lois was having a conversation with an imaginary friend.
The trip continued in silence for a few minutes as the older couple in the front seats shared looks of concern with each other about the young woman behind them. Lois stared forward, trying to ignore Clark.
Clark could tell that, in spite of the fact that she was trying to cover it up, Lois was in a lot of pain — the same pain he'd seen on her face at the funeral. He suddenly had an idea about how to ease that pain — mainly by reminding her how annoying he could be. He figured sweet and sensitive right now would only push her over the edge. He smiled slightly. Besides, this could be fun.
Clark looked over at Lois. She was still studiously ignoring him. He reached over and gave her a small jab in the side. She jumped, releasing a sound much like that of a startled mouse. When Perry's eyes met hers in the rear view mirror she tried to smile at him.
Next one of Clark's fingers began to run down her arm. This time the jump was less pronounced — but it did provoke a response. Lois swung her hand to the side, causing the back of her hand to hit Clark's chest.
"Ow," Clark said, rubbing the imaginary hurt. He was rewarded by a sudden twitching at the corners of Lois' mouth. It had worked. He had lightened her mood.
Suddenly, remembering the reason for his intrusion, Clark spoke. "Oh, the tail. I almost forgot. Lois, I came in here to warn you that you're being tailed."
Lois looked over at him then and was about to respond, but this time she caught herself and instead just nodded her head before looking at the front of the car and saying, "Perry, I need your help with something, but I need you not to ask any questions."
The nondescript car was having no problem following its quarry. The car in front of them seemed to be completely oblivious to the pursuit.
"I wish they didn't have those tinted windows," complained the well dressed passenger.
"Relax, Brady. She got in the car. It don't matter none if we can see her. We just got to follow the car," replied the gruff driver.
Brady gave a snort in response to his companion's comments. They were the ones who had lost the new Mrs. Luthor in the bar the first day after the master had returned from his honeymoon. Brady had no intention of repeating the mistake.
They lapsed into silence as the car pulled in to a McDonalds. They then watched curiously as the car made its way into the line for the drive through window.
"What do ya think? Should we get into line behind them?" asked the driver.
"Absolutely not, Mike. We don't want them to get that good a look at us. Just drive to the other side and we'll pick them up again when they come out."
Mike nodded and pulled around to wait near the exit so they could pick up their quarry again when it reemerged.
"Thanks, Perry," said Lois as she quietly opened the back door and emerged from the car, being sure to stay down so that she couldn't be seen.
"Sure thing, honey. Don't worry. We'll keep them occupied."
Lois nodded. She knew her former boss would keep up his end of the bargain.
"You will let me know what this is all about later though, won't you?"
"I'll try, Perry. And please, don't tell Lex?" the last phrase was said as a question.
"Don't worry. I'm an old newspaper hound myself, remember."
Lois smiled and closed the door, sneaking through an employee door at the back of the restaurant as the White's car pulled ahead to order.
"So where do we go from here?" asked Clark once they exited the restaurant.
"I don't know," confessed Lois. "I mean, we now have the names of the various scientists who work for Lex. We could try talking to them."
"I don't think that's such a good idea."
"Lois, if you go asking questions, it's going to get back to Luthor."
Lois let out a short breath. "Then we have to go around them to find out who the most likely suspect is."
"Would Luthor keep any information at Lex Towers? I mean with you living there."
Lois crinkled her eyebrows. "I think it's worth a shot. But before we go, we should give your folks a call."
Spindle picked up the phone again as he watched the people he believed to be Kent's parents return to the apartment. He moved over to the camera and snapped off a couple of pictures for good measure before making his call. This was the last call he had to make. He had finally gotten through to everyone else in Kent's personal phone book.
"Hi, is Clark there?" he asked for a final time.
"I'm sorry. You have the wrong number," a voice informed him before hanging up. Kent didn't seem to be staying with any of his friends. He slammed down the phone in frustration. Someone must know where Kent went.
Just then he heard his surveillance device pick up a ringing phone. He reached over and snapped on the telephone recorder.
"Martha, Jonathan. Are you there?" asked a female voice on the answering machine.
He let out a frustrated breath. It obviously wasn't Kent. However, on the off chance that it might give him a clue to Kent's whereabouts, he listened in.
"Hi, Lois," said a man's voice a moment later. "I'm sorry, but we've been letting the answering machine take calls rather than having to explain about Clark's absence."
'Lois.' Wasn't that the name of Luthor's wife? They had mentioned her yesterday.
"I understand, Jonathan," Lois replied. "I just thought I'd let you know that Clark and I are going to check out the penthouse at Lex Towers. We'll come by afterwards and let you know what we find."
"Are you sure that's such a good idea, Lois?"
"I'll be fine. Lex is in a meeting at the Lexor Hotel."
Jonathan let out a breath. "Okay. Please try to come by afterwards."
"What's wrong, Jonathan?"
"Nothing. I just think Martha could use a visit from you and Clark. She took the funeral a little hard."
"I understand," Lois said softly. "I'll bring Clark by as soon as we finish."
Spindle fished in his pocket for a small card. He picked up the phone again and dialed the number on the card. A gentleman with an English accent answered.
"I think I might know where you can find Kent," Spindle said.
Lois hung up the phone and walked into the convenience store where Clark had gone while she placed the call to his folks. He was looking at the magazine rack. Lois walked quietly up beside him, scanning the rack. Most of the magazines had pictures of Superman's body strung up in front of the Daily Planet adorning their covers. Only a couple had more dignified pictures of Superman on the cover — although they undoubtedly had the other photos inside.
All of the magazines had either dots or strategically placed letters to ensure decency. Lois sighed as she took another look at the rack. She hated having Clark see this. After having done so much good for the world, it wasn't fair to see his body being desecrated in this fashion.
Suddenly, one of the magazines at the top of the rack caught her attention. It was a magazine that had never really held any particular interest for her — before today. It was Playgirl. The picture on the front was the same as on most of the magazines with some strategically placed letters. Lois swallowed hard as she read those well placed letters — 'GET THE FULL PICTURE INSIDE.'
"Don't even think about it," Clark growled into her ear, having noticed where she was looking.
Lois suddenly turned an exquisite shade of red. "Think about what?" she finally managed to respond, not quite looking at him. How could he possibly have known how much she wanted to just get a quick peek inside?
"Oh, that," Lois said, gesturing to the magazine in a way she hoped seemed dismissive. "Don't worry, Clark," she continued lightly. "I'm more interested in conducting a personal reconnaissance." To emphasize her meaning, she ran her eyes slowly over his body.
Now it was Clark's turn to turn red. "Lo-is," Clark growled again.
Lois laughed. She patted him lightly on the chest before saying, "Relax, Clark, your virtue's safe with me." With that she turned and headed out of the store.
Clark smiled and shook his head as he watched her leave. Then he chuckled as he realized that some of the customers in the store were watching her with puzzled expressions on their faces. That must have seemed like one very strange woman. He chuckled and then jogged after Lois.
They had been following the car now for a good half hour and there was still no sign of it stopping.
"Something ain't right here," said Mike. "These guys seem to be goin' in circles."
"I've noticed that," Brady replied in frustration.
"So what're we gonna do?"
Brady let out a short breath. He pulled out his cell phone and tried to make a call. The line was busy. He hung up the phone in frustration.
"Any ideas about where to start?" asked Clark when they entered the penthouse.
"Probably his office," said Lois. "I mean, it's not exactly like we need absolute proof that he's the one behind your death — although that would be nice. If we can just get details on his scientific experiments, that might lead us in the right direction."
"I agree, but I'd feel a lot better if we could get this over with quickly so that Luthor doesn't walk in right in the middle of our little fishing expedition."
"Relax, Clark. He's in a meeting with the President of the United States and he said he'd be there all afternoon. We have nothing to worry about."
"That's what worries me."
Lois looked over at him for a moment. "Has anyone ever told you that you're a worry wart?"
"Yes. You tell me that constantly."
"Maybe that should tell you something," Lois said as she went to open the top drawer of Luthor's desk. It was locked. "Great!"
Lois let out a short breath. "This could take some time if all his drawers are locked." She fished through her purse looking for her lock picking equipment.
"Why don't you start with any drawers that are unlocked? I'll start looking around to see if I can find the keys. After all, I can't open drawers or move papers around. At least this might save us some time."
"Fine," said Lois, pulling open the second drawer on Lex's desk as Clark began looking around the room.
Purely from instinct, Clark pulled his glasses down his nose to scan the room. He growled in frustration as he remembered that he didn't have his powers.
Lois looked up at the sound. "What's wrong?" she asked.
"Nothing. It's just… This used to be so much easier when I had superpowers."
Lois smiled at that. "I bet. Hey, tell me something. Have you been using your superpowers during the past year to help us get stories?" Her tone was accusatory.
"Well… yeah," said Clark sheepishly.
"Umm… I love that," Lois said with a grin.
Clark shook his head and resumed his search of the room. As easy as searching a room was with his powers, that's how difficult it was searching a room without even his body. He couldn't move anything. So he had to do everything by looking around things. He looked around on the various surfaces and then under the various surfaces.
He glanced around the items on the desk. He looked under the ledges around the desk. Next he crawled under the desk. It was then that he encountered Lois' legs. She had chosen a short black dress for the funeral and at this moment he was looking at an incredible amount of leg. He drew in a sharp breath, his search instantly forgotten.
"Get out of there, Kent," Lois said. However, the laugh in her voice undermined her words.
"I'm not sure I want to," Clark responded, before letting out an appreciative whistle.
Lois laughed, backing up from the desk to look at him under it.
"I'm almost certain you won't find the keys to this desk where you're currently looking."
"Maybe not, but I can't object to the scenery," he responded, his eyes leaving her legs to meet her eyes.
"I don't remember you being quite this incorrigible," she laughed.
"You just never noticed before," Clark responded immediately.
Lois' look darkened. "I was a fool, Clark," she said softly.
Clark backed out from under the desk. "Come on," he said gently. "We really should get back to work."
She nodded and recommenced her exploration of the papers in the drawers of Lex's desk. Clark began looking at various pictures — or more accurately, behind various pictures. At least as far behind as he was able to see. There was one large picture on the far wall. He leaned as close to the wall as he could. When that wasn't far enough to see anything, he stuck his head part way into the wall to get a better look. Then he stuck his head completely through the wall. Suddenly he pulled back.
"Hey, Lois, come look at this," he said. She looked up at the excitement in his voice.
"What is it?" she asked, getting up from behind the desk.
"There's an entrance to a private elevator behind here."
Clark nodded. Lois struggled for a moment to remove the picture.
"Wait," said Clark.
"Well, if Luthor is using this elevator, there has to be an easier way to get access to it."
Lois nodded and began looking for a release of some sort. It only took her a moment to find it. She clicked on what appeared to be a light switch nearby and the painting moved. She stepped up to the small door and pressed the button by it. Immediately the door slid open. It was a small elevator all right. It wouldn't hold more than one person at a time so Clark got in first and then floated up through the ceiling until he was sitting on top. Then he stuck his head back inside and gestured Lois in too.
"I really hate it when you do that," Lois said before stepping into the elevator. There was no choice of floors. There were only two buttons. One was marked up and the other was marked down. She figured this was up, but tried pushing the button just in case. Nothing happened so she tried the other one. The door closed and the elevator began to move.
"This better be important, Nigel," Luthor said impatiently.
"It is, sir. I just heard from Spindle. He's got information on the whereabouts of Kent."
"Where is he?"
"With your wife. Apparently they're at the penthouse."
"Just give me a moment to make my excuses, Nigel. While I do, contact Dr. Monro. Tell him to meet us at his lab."
Nigel smiled. "Very good, sir."
The elevator came to an abrupt halt and Clark suddenly fell through the ceiling of the elevator. The door opened and both Lois and Clark tumbled out of the elevator together. They fell to the floor, arms and legs entangled.
"Sorry," muttered Clark. "I guess I haven't quite got this ghost thing down yet."
Lois laughed. "Well, it being your first time and all, I guess it's understandable."
Clark began to move. He was stopped by Lois' hand on the back of his neck. He looked down at the woman who lay beneath him. Both suddenly realized just how solid their touch had become. They stared into each other's eyes for a moment before Clark lowered his lips to hers. The kiss was almost questioning. She let out a breath before proceeding to kiss him back. Suddenly she pulled back.
"I'm sorry," gasped Clark as, for the first time, he realized what he'd done. "I don't know why I did that. I just…"
Actually, that wasn't exactly true. Clark had a pretty good idea why he had kissed Lois — at least he knew what had lead up to it. Although, after that first evening at her apartment, both Lois and Clark had tried to revert back to just being friends — in deference to her marital status -there had been a subtle change in their relationship. For example, although they had always been physically affectionate with each other, touches had started to linger, looks had gotten longer. Even Clark's flirtatious teasing, was now being returned. So, when he found himself sprawled on the floor with Lois under him, he had simply reacted.
Lois reached up and placed her fingers across his lips. "You weren't the only one kissing, Clark," she said quietly. "It's just…" She didn't look at him as she continued. "I'm afraid that you'll feel guilty if we continue. I couldn't bear that."
Clark let out a short breath before raising a hand to gently stroke her cheek. There was nothing to say. She was right. After all, she was married and he wasn't exactly available. Clark leaned over and gave her a chaste kiss on the forehead before getting up. He offered her his hand and proceeded to help her to her feet before saying, "Thank you, Lois."
She gave him a sad smile before looking around. Her action caused Clark to remember that they had yet to check out the room and he also looked around.
"It looks like some kind of wine cellar," Clark commented. Suddenly Clark seemed to hear a voice in his head. 'You know they say that civilization was invented so that men could cooperate in the making of wine.' He shook his head. What an odd thought to suddenly have.
Lois didn't notice Clark's distracted visage. "Most wine cellars I know don't have cages," Lois added, before making her way over to a cage sitting in the middle of the room. It had a faint green glow to it. "Why would Lex want a cage down here?"
Clark started toward the cage before stopping. "What do you want, Luthor?"
That was odd. Why would Luthor be asking him for a favor? Yet he could swear that he heard that response somewhere in his head. Again he shook his head and continued toward the cage.
"It doesn't appear to be made of any metal I've ever seen," Lois commented. "What do you think it could be for?"
Suddenly, Clark went pale. 'Bars won't hold…' He was sure he'd said something like that as the cage dropped down around him and then… the searing pain. "Kryptonite," he whispered.
"What?" exclaimed Lois. "Clark, what are you saying? That this cage is made of kryptonite?"
Clark held up his hand to silence her as he continued to look around at the room as more and more memories started coming back.
'I live in a fantasy world? Perhaps. But my fantasy is about to come true.' He could almost see Luthor's face taunting him on the other side of the green bars.
'She's beautiful, therefore to be wooed. She's woman, therefore to be won.' Clark paced slowly around the cage. He could almost swear that Luthor had said something like that to him as he lay helplessly on the floor.
"What is it, Clark?" Lois asked, looking at his furrowed brow.
"This is where it happened, Lois," he said softly.
"Where what… Omigod. This is where you died?"
Clark didn't take his eyes off the cage as he nodded. The memories were still coming back in bits and pieces.
"Luthor lured Superman here under the pretext of wanting me to talk to Clark about attending your wedding," he began softly. "I don't know exactly how I responded… but I refused. Then… the cage… the kryptonite…
"The next day was your wedding," Clark continued, still slowly circling the cage. "He came to taunt me." Suddenly his eyes widened.
"What is it, Clark?" she asked.
"Nothing!" he replied immediately.
Lois put her small frame immediately between Clark and the cage. "What is it, Clark?" she repeated much more forcefully, holding on to his lapel.
"He said…" His voice faltered.
Clark couldn't meet her eyes when he answered. "He said that he loved you but that you were just a little too independent. He promised to take care of that. He then taunted me about your wedding night before he left."
He glanced absently around the room again. "There was wedding music. He must have had a speaker down here to let me hear the wedding."
Lois closed her eyes upon hearing the pain in his voice as his memory began to come back.
"I heard you say, 'I do,' and I felt my entire world collapse. I don't know how much longer I lived.
"I remember everything, Lois. I remember telling you that I loved you. I remember your response." He paused briefly before he let out another jagged breath. "I remember your conversation with Superman later that night."
Lois remembered it too. She had just told Clark that she didn't love him only to tell Superman that she'd love him if he didn't have any powers. She couldn't meet his eyes.
"I even remember you accepting Luthor's proposal," he concluded softly.
"How could you remember that, Clark? You weren't even there."
"I was there, Lois. I was right outside the window. I didn't mean to eavesdrop. I had come by to warn Luthor that if he hurt you, he'd answer to me. But before I could make my presence known, I saw you and…" He shook his head, not trusting his voice were he to continue.
Lois let out a sharp breath. "I'm so sorry, Clark," she breathed.
"It's okay, Lois," Clark said softly, running the back of his fingers over her cheek until she caught them in her hand and brought them to her lips.
"What did Brady say?" Luthor asked as they entered Lex Towers.
"He said that Perry White has been driving around with Mrs. Luthor since they left the graveyard."
"Idiot. Can't he tell when he's being played?"
"I think he was beginning to get that impression."
Luthor let out a breath, as he and Nigel made their way up to the penthouse.
"This is going to have to be done carefully. I don't want either Lois or Kent to know what I have in mind. I want Kent killed and I don't want Lois seeing it. I want her to think he was killed in an accident of some sort. While you do that, I'll prepare my wife for our trip to see Dr. Monro."
"We're doing this tonight, Nigel. I will not tolerate this continued behavior on the part of my wife. If I have to lock her in the penthouse long enough for her to give me a child, then that's what I'll do."
"I understand, sir."
Luthor entered the penthouse and he and Nigel did an immediate search of the rooms. What had happened became obvious when they saw the picture that normally hid the elevator moved to the side.
"It would appear that she's in the cellar, sir," Nigel said. "How do you want this handled?"
Luthor removed a key from under a vase — somewhere Clark had been unable to look. He walked to the elevator and inserted it into a lock on the wall nearby. He turned it in the lock before turning back to Nigel.
"Let's take a trip to the wine cellar, Nigel," Luthor suggested.
"Yes, sir," said Nigel, a small smirk on his face. After all, the wine cellar's door was always kept locked from the outside. With the elevator disabled, Luthor had effectively trapped their prey.
"Did he know the kryptonite would kill you?" Lois asked.
"Of course he knew. Otherwise, why bother?"
"But couldn't he just claim that he was detaining you to ensure that you didn't interrupt the wedding and that afterwards he would let you go. After all, it seems that you didn't die for at least a day afterwards and he never tried to harm you directly. I want him for murder, Clark, not unlawful confinement."
Clark was thoughtful for a moment, trying to remember.
'How strange to hear you say my name and know it may be for the last time,' Luthor's voice said again in Clark's mind. 'But am I making a mistake? Will the pain of losing the challenge that you represent be worse than the pain of constantly losing to you? Nah. I'll be back when it's over. Then you and I will have a nice little heart to heart. Have a nice death.'
"He knew, Lois," Clark said quietly.
Now it was Lois' turn to be thoughtful. "I'm sure when the police examine this cage, they'll be able to link it to the radiation exposure that killed Superman. Still… It would be nice to have something more. After all, you can't testify. And we still have to find that scientist."
"What did you have in mind?" Clark asked.
Before Lois could answer, both Lois and Clark heard a noise at the door. They stared at it for a moment as someone began to turn the locks.
"The elevator," Clark urgently whispered.
Lois took a quick longing glance at the elevator, but before she could do more than that, the door started to move. She dove behind some wine barrels just a moment before the door swung open to reveal Lex and Nigel. Nigel remained standing just inside the door as Lex began a slow trip down the stairs, looking carefully around.
He smiled slightly when he spotted a shadow on the far wall that clearly belonged to Lois. However, he didn't want her to know that she was being actively pursued so he said nothing. Instead he made his way toward one of the kegs of wine, grabbing a wine glass on the way. He turned the spout and allowed a small amount into his glass. Instead of raising it to his mouth, he raised it to eye level, studying it intently.
"A rich color," he commented, looking up at Nigel.
He lowered the wine to his nose and swirled it in his glass.
"A full bodied aroma," he told Nigel. He lowered it to his lips.
"He just seems to be down here to check the wine," Clark whispered. Even though he couldn't be heard, he whispered out of habit.
Lois shifted her position to get a better look. In doing so, her foot hit against the edge of a barrel. She cringed at the resulting noise.
This was what Luthor had been waiting for. "Who's there?" he demanded, setting down the wine glass and approaching Lois' hiding place.
Lois decided that the best defense was a good offense and, before Clark could stop her, stood up.
"Lois?" Lex asked, the incredulity in his voice obvious. "What are you doing hiding back there?"
"Umm… Well, I was wandering around your study when I found the elevator," she began, gesturing to the elevator. "I couldn't help myself. I wanted to see where it went." She shrugged.
"But why were you hiding?" asked Lex.
"I was afraid you'd be mad at me," she said, looking down.
"I wouldn't be mad at you," Lex assured her, walking over. "You're my wife and this is your home. I really should have given you the complete tour myself. It's just been sort of crazy since we got home." He leaned down and gave her a quick kiss.
"What's the cage for, Lex?" Lois asked, trying to sound as casual as possible. She thought it would seem strange if she didn't mention it. After all, it was sort of obvious.
Lex put his arm around her, leading her in the direction of the cage. "It's an invention of one of my scientists," he said casually. "It is to trap dangerous animals for transportation into safer environments without hurting them."
"Really? What's it doing here?"
Luthor smiled. "It was something I was working on before our wedding. I just never had a chance to send it back to the laboratory. Actually," he continued, looking up at Nigel, "maybe you should make arrangements to send it back today." He felt Lois' shoulders sag slightly under his arm.
"Why don't we go back upstairs, darling?" Luthor suggested.
Seeing no way around it, Lois nodded. So much for calling Henderson about the cage. She had no doubt that it would be long gone before Henderson could ever inspect it. If only she hadn't been caught.
They walked to the top of the stairs and Lois stepped through the door at the top. Luthor gave Nigel a meaningful look before following. Clark came too, his mind trying to think of something he could do if Luthor tried to hurt Lois, but he was unable to think of anything. However, he could at least be there for her.
Dr. Monro was working frantically in his lab. He had to get everything looking normal. If Luthor was coming here this afternoon to check things out, Monro didn't want him knowing that he was on the verge of selling out to Bill Church.
As soon as Luthor left, Monro would finish his arrangements and then, if Church didn't call, simply disappear from Metropolis. He would worry about getting in touch with Bill Church later, but Monro wasn't equipped to play the role of a double agent. He wanted out of here as soon as possible.
He would take the cultured cells with him and then start a fire to destroy everything else so that Luthor couldn't start this procedure again under the assistance of another scientist. That would fulfill his deal with Bill Church — and Church's offer of ten million made this opportunity irresistible.
"We haven't had any time alone since we got back," Luthor said in his most charming voice as he walked over to the liquor cabinet. "I know that Superman's death has been hard on you. I've probably not been as understanding as I could have about that. It's just…" He turned and glanced at her for a moment. "Well, I guess I've sort of been jealous of him in the past."
"Jealous?" asked Lois, suddenly wondering if she could get some sort of admission out of Lex.
Luthor nodded before turning back to the cabinet. "You seemed sort of star struck with him for a while there." As he spoke, he poured them both a glass of wine. He opened a small packet of powder and emptied it into her glass. He then picked up the glasses and the bottle before making his way back to her.
"I don't want any," Lois objected when he handed her a glass.
"I just thought that you might like to taste some of the wine that I make in the cellar," he said stretching the hand holding the glass toward her again.
She looked at the glass again. It might seem funny if she didn't take the glass considering the amount that she had apparently been drinking lately. Coming to the conclusion that a little bit wouldn't hurt, she took the glass from his hand.
Luthor smiled and sat down next to her on the couch. He laid his arm on the back of the couch so that his hand was behind Lois' head. He smiled as she took a sip of wine. His hand slipped into her hair.
Lois forced herself not to react to his touch. She also forced herself not to notice Clark's entrance into the room.
"Do you like it?" Luthor asked.
"Like what?" she asked, her mind trying to remember what they'd been talking about.
Lois looked down at the wine glass in her hand. She hadn't even thought about it. She quickly raised the glass to her lips again.
"So what do you think?" he asked.
"It's good, Lex." Then, deciding that engaging him in casual conversation might make him let down his guard and tell her something that he might not otherwise intend to, she asked, "You made this?"
Luthor nodded. "I've been making my own wine now for years. I find that it relaxes me."
Lois took another sip. "Maybe you should go into the wine making business."
Luthor smiled. "Does owning a vineyard count?"
Lois shook her head. Trust Lex to have a vineyard. "No, it doesn't," she informed him. "Being the owner isn't enough. You have to get your hands dirty for it to count as leisure time."
Luthor chuckled. "I'll keep that in mind," he responded, thinking about the possible double meaning of her statement. He then watched in satisfaction as she raised the glass to her mouth and emptied the remainder.
Lex got Lois another glass of wine and they continued their casual conversation for a few more minutes before Lois realized she wasn't feeling well. "That wine really seems to have gone to my head," she said, raising herself off the couch.
Clark, who had been observing things outside Lois' line of vision, in an effort to keep her from giving his presence away to Luthor, suddenly began paying attention. He watched as she rose from the couch and then jerked forward when her legs seemed to give out from under her, but Luthor was closer and caught her, lowering her back to the couch.
"I thhhh… think I should… go to bed," Lois slurred.
"Lois, are you all right?" Clark asked coming over to her.
"I'm fine, Clark," she responded.
Luthor smiled. "It's me, darling. Clark's not here. Do you know where he is?"
Lois looked at him curiously. "He's right there," Lois responded, pointing over Lex's shoulder.
Clark almost felt as if he should find a place to hide when Luthor turned toward him. Then he remembered that Luthor couldn't see him. But Lois could. Clark quickly stepped back out of her view. It was probably better if he were out of sight. Luthor must have given her some sort of drug for her to be this affected by the wine. He would have to be careful to stay out of her line of sight. Otherwise she might say something that would get her in real trouble.
Luthor glanced over his shoulder. No one was there. It was obviously just the drugs talking. When he turned back around, Lois had passed out.
"What have you done to her?" demanded Clark, closing in on Luthor. "If you've hurt her, I swear…" Clark began before attempting to push Luthor away from Lois. However, his hands went right through the man.
Luthor shuddered slightly before bending down to check on his wife. "Lois," he asked softly. She muttered incoherently in response.
Clark took a quick breath. She was obviously still alive, and somewhat conscious although seriously drugged.
At that moment, Nigel entered the room.
"Get the door," said Luthor, as he picked his wife up in his arms.
"Yes, sir," Nigel said, moving to the door to do as ordered.
Clark forced himself not to panic. He tried to think but didn't have any idea what to do. Was Luthor going to kill Lois? Did he realize when he found her with that cage that she knew he had killed Superman? There was only one thing Clark knew for sure. No matter what happened, he would not leave her. He didn't think he had ever felt this helpless in his life. He was so used to being strong enough and fast enough to handle any situation. Now he didn't have those advantages — and Lois was in danger. He had to find a way to protect her. He wouldn't accept any other possibility.
"Did you make sure the way was clear?" Luthor asked as they approached the elevator.
"Yes, sir. No one will see us."
"Good. What about Kent? Is he dead?"
"He wasn't there, sir. Spindle must have made a mistake."
"Damn. We have to find him, Nigel."
Just then the elevator doors opened to be boarded by two men, a semiconscious woman and a ghost.
Spindle had been listening to Martha and Jonathan Kent as they ate lunch. They were taking Superman's death really hard. But then most of the city seemed to be having the same reaction. It was crazy. Most of them had never even met the superhero. People were such sheep.
He noticed a car pull up in front of the apartment. A couple got out and made their way to the door. They knocked and a moment later, the door opened.
"Hi, Jonathan," Spindle could hear over one of the bugs he had planted in the living room. "We were in town for Superman's funeral and when we noticed that Clark wasn't there, we thought we'd stop by and have a talk with him." Perry and Alice had decided to pay Clark a visit when the tail quit following them. It was obvious that Lois was in some kind of trouble and, if there was anyone she'd accept help from, it was Clark.
"Come on in," Jonathan responded, gesturing them in. Perry and Alice stepped into the room.
"Hi, Martha," Perry said, before introducing Alice to Clark's parents.
They were seated and Martha was serving coffee before they got down to business.
"I'm afraid we don't know where Clark is," Jonathan told the Whites. "We figure he's out somewhere trying to regain his balance after Lois' marriage."
"Actually," said Perry, glancing over at his wife, "Lois is sort of the reason we're looking for him."
"What do you mean?" asked Martha.
"Well, we saw Lois at the funeral today. We were supposed to have lunch with her afterwards and… Let's just say that I think she really could use a visit from Clark. Will you tell him when you see him?"
Martha and Jonathan assured them that they would. Once the Whites had left and the door was closed behind them, Jonathan spoke.
"We've got to come up with a better excuse than that we don't know where Clark is."
"I agree. Otherwise, people are going to start connecting Clark to Superman."
Spindle leaned forward in his chair. What connection between Clark and Superman?
"And if that happens, if people find out that Clark is… or was Superman, we're going to have real problems."
Spindle's mouth dropped open. Wow! He went to pick up the phone and then stopped. He needed some time to figure out what to do with this information. Not that he objected to this information being made public. No, the question was how to make as much money as possible with the release of this information. And then there was Luthor to consider. He was working for Luthor. By rights this information should go to him. The question wasn't whether he would betray Luthor, but how to do it without getting himself killed.
By the time the limo arrived in the underground parking lot at the lab, Lois was partly conscious. Since it was a Saturday, no one was around. Nigel and Luthor partly carried, partly assisted Lois as the three of them, followed by one ghost, made their way into the lab.
Dr. Monro was startled when the three entered the laboratory. He had thought Luthor was just coming by to talk about the procedure. What was the woman doing here?
Nigel and Luthor settled Lois into a chair.
"Go and make the necessary hospital arrangements," Luthor told Nigel. "Then, when the operation is over, we'll have her transferred there."
"Yes, sir," said Nigel, exiting the room.
"What operation?" Dr. Monro asked.
"It is my understanding that you need to harvest my wife's eggs to conclude the cloning procedure," Luthor said.
"It's… it's not that simple," stuttered Monro. "We need to give her drugs for a few weeks to increase the number of eggs available."
"There isn't time. This will be done today, Doctor," Luthor responded.
Clark gasped as he suddenly understood what was going on. "Lois, come on, wake up," he said, coming over to the chair that she was in. "We've got to get you out of here."
"Clark," Lois slurred, a lopsided grin on her face. She reached up and stroked his cheek. Clark was desperate. He placed his hands under Lois' arms and attempted to lift her. It almost worked. But then, she put all her weight on his hands and his hands went through causing her to collapse back into the chair.
The noise directed Luthor's attention back to his wife. Dr. Monro used the opportunity to reach into a drawer and remove a small revolver. He had promised Church everything. Normally, just collecting the eggs was a far cry from being ready to implant them in the woman, but given how quickly Superman's physiology seemed to react, he wasn't sure that would be the case. And if there was one thing of which he was certain, it was that Luthor would want to try to conduct the whole process now. After all, it was obvious that the woman was not exactly making a conscious decision to participate. If he waited, Nigel St. John might return leaving the odds two against one. This was his only chance.
"What are you doing?" asked Luthor when he turned his attention back to Dr. Monro. Clark turned and looked in response to Luthor's question. He too noticed the gun.
"It's nothing personal. I can just make a lot more money from this than you're willing to pay," Monro said before pulling the trigger.
Lois was brought somewhat further into reality by the loud sound. She watched in fuzzy horror as she saw Clark instinctively throw himself at the bullet. "No!" she screamed. Then she watched as the bullet went right through Clark and imbedded itself in Luthor.
Luthor looked stunned for a moment before collapsing on the floor.
Clark looked back in horror as Dr. Monro, deciding that the woman was too great a risk to be left alive, turned the gun in her direction. As Clark stumbled to his feet, he saw Monro begin to depress the trigger and knew there was no way he could reach Lois in time to push her out of the way. He began to run toward Lois. There was no way he could stop the bullet. He had to push Lois out of the bullet's path. What he wouldn't do for a little super speed right now.
Lois saw Monro turn the gun on her and knew that this was it. She could never get away in time, especially given how fuzzy things seemed. She saw Clark moving and looked over at him. Suddenly things seemed so clear. If she died, she could be with Clark. It felt as if a weight had been lifted from her shoulders. She relaxed back into the chair waiting for the bullet that would reunite her with Clark.
Clark heard the gun fire and knew that he was too late. Without super speed, there was no way to get to Lois in time. "Slow down," Clark yelled.
Suddenly everything seemed to go deathly quiet. Clark looked around in confusion. He could see Lois sitting absolutely still, looking up at him through drug hazed eyes. He noticed, in his peripheral vision, that Monro was also standing completely still, gun still in the outstretched position. But what caught his attention was the bullet. It seemed to be hanging in midair. He blinked. It seemed as if time had stopped. He was the only one that seemed able to move. Then suddenly he realized that everything had not stopped. It had just slowed down. The bullet was still moving toward Lois — it was just moving very slowly. He dived at Lois, pushing her out of the way when suddenly time seemed to return to normal and the bullet whizzed past them.
Clark helped a drugged Lois stumble to her feet and in behind a table just as a second shot was fired.
"What's going on?" Lois asked groggily.
"We've got to get you out of here," Clark said. "You've got to help me. I can't do this alone."
"Why don't you just let him shoot me, Clark? Then we could…"
"No!" Clark exclaimed, pulling her further behind cover.
"There's no getting away," Monro said from his position on the other side of the counter. "You see, I'm between you and the exit."
Clark looked around. Monro was right. They, or more accurately Lois, was trapped.
Just then, the door opened. Monro swung around to see Nigel St. John enter. St. John's gun was already drawn, having heard the last shot. St. John fired and Monro collapsed to the floor.
Nigel made his way quickly over to his charismatic boss and felt for a pulse. There was none, but before he had time to do more, the door was again thrown open. It seemed that the gunshots coming from the room had attracted someone else's attention.
"Freeze, police," said a woman's voice from the doorway. Clark watched as Nigel raised his hands. Two uniformed police officers slowly entered the room. One approached Nigel, confiscating the gun, while the other searched the room.
"We've got another body over here," said the officer. He then made his way around the counter. "And we have a live one over here," he said when he spotted Lois.
Lois wrapped the blanket she had been given further around her as Henderson drove up. He got out of the car and, after a brief word to the police officer, approached Lois.
"What happened here?" he asked.
"Shooting… He killed him."
"Who killed who?" Henderson asked.
"Clark," Lois slurred, when Clark, who had been listening in approached.
"Clark?" asked Henderson. "As in Clark Kent? What does he have to do with this?"
"He saved my life. Why did he do that?" she asked Henderson. "Why did you do that?" she then asked Clark.
"Are you okay?" Henderson asked, picking up her wrist and feeling her racing pulse. He then put his hand up to her face and looked into her eyes.
She had obviously been drugged. He wasn't going to be able to get anything out of her in this state. He started to get up, but was stopped when Lois grabbed his sleeve.
"Why didn't he let me die?" Lois asked, the confusion thick in her voice. "He should have let me die."
Now Henderson was seriously concerned. "Can I call someone to come get you?" he asked.
Clark saw the opportunity and took it. "Tell him to call me," Clark told her.
"But you're here."
"Just do it, Lois," Clark said in exasperation.
"Well, yeah," said Henderson, puzzled by her odd response. "But I think it might be best if we got someone to drive you home now. I'll get you to come into the station tomorrow to answer some questions."
"Call Clark," she said, looking at Clark for confirmation that that was the right thing to say. Clark nodded his approval. "Call Clark," she repeated.
Henderson nodded and got up to get Kent's phone number. The sooner Kent got here the better. Lois neededhelp, and if there was one thing Henderson had no doubts about, it was that Clark Kent would make sure she was all right. However, all he got when he called Kent's place was an answering machine. He wasn't sure what to do, so he left a message. He could only hope that Kent got the message soon. In the mean time, he had the paramedics check Lois out before putting her in his car. She immediately stretched out on the back seat — Henderson hoped she would sleep.
It wasn't long after the phone call that a taxi approached. It was stopped by the police briefly before being allowed through. An older couple exited. They spoke briefly to an officer before being directed over to Henderson.
"Excuse me," said Jonathan. "Are you Inspector Henderson?"
"We're Martha and Jonathan Kent. Clark Kent's parents. We got your message that Lois needed someone to come get her. What's going on?"
Henderson looked them over for a moment. They didn't look like Clark. On the other hand, they had honest faces and seemed to be genuinely concerned about Lois.
"We aren't exactly sure what happened. There was some sort of shoot out in the lab," he said, gesturing to the building behind them. "Lois was there. She seems to be drugged. I can't get much out of her. I think it might be best if she comes in to see me tomorrow."
"Is she all right? Should we take her to the hospital?" asked Martha anxiously.
Henderson shook her head. "The paramedics checked her out and she just needs to sleep it off."
"Was anyone else hurt?" asked Jonathan.
Henderson nodded. "It seems that the scientist who was working here was killed. So was Lex Luthor."
"We have Luthor's assistant, Nigel St. John, in custody since he was found with a gun in his hand. He's clammed up so we don't know who shot whom. Lois was found drugged, lying behind a counter. She asked me to call Clark."
"We'll make sure she's taken care of, Inspector," Martha informed him.
"There's one other thing you should know." When he was sure he had their full attention, Henderson continued. "She keeps asking why he didn't just let her die."
Both Martha and Jonathan drew in sharp breaths. "Where is she, Inspector?" Martha asked. Henderson directed her to the car, but then followed as they went over. Before he let her go with these people, he wanted to make sure that she wanted to go with them.
Martha carefully opened the door to the car and helped Lois sit up.
"Are you okay, honey?" Martha asked softly.
It took Lois a moment to focus on her. She raised a hand to the older woman's cheek, trying to steady the continually shifting image of Martha. When Martha's face finally seemed to stay in one place, Lois asked, "Why didn't Clark let me die, Martha?"
Martha took a deep breath. "Because he wants you to live," she answered simply, understanding the question immediately. Obviously, Clark had something to do with the fact that Lois had survived the incident in the lab. From Lois' question, she realized what Lois was thinking — if she died, she could be with Clark. "Come on," Martha said rising. "Let's get you home."
Lois looked at her for a moment before nodding. Then Martha and Jonathan each offered her a hand to help her to her feet. Satisfied that this was the right thing to do, Henderson backed off. They would take care of her.
"Remind her to come in to see me tomorrow," Henderson said, as they loaded Lois into the taxi.
"We will, Inspector," Jonathan replied.
Spindle had the phone in his hand and was dialing as he watched Lois Luthor enter Kent's apartment with his parents. He had watched the news earlier and, upon learning of Luthor's death, decided he was a free agent. That meant that the information he had about Superman was now available to the highest bidder.
"Good-evening. Dirt Digger. Can I help you?" asked a voice on the other end of the line.
"I hope so. I have some incredible information about Superman. For the right price, it's all yours," replied Spindle.
"Come look at this, Jonathan," Martha whispered over her shoulder. She was standing in the doorway to Clark's bedroom. After they left Henderson, they had brought Lois back here and tucked her into Clark's bed. They decided to bring her here where they could keep an eye on her. They had considered taking her back to her place, because they knew that Clark would take care of her. But if she had a problem, he wouldn't be able to call for help. Besides, after her comments, they were concerned that she might attempt suicide.
Jonathan came up behind his wife and looked into the room. "Well, I'll be," said Jonathan.
Lois was sleeping contentedly, but what caught their attention was that she was lying on her side with her head and arm resting several inches off the bed, as if she were sleeping against someone's chest. The only thing was that Martha and Jonathan couldn't see that someone.
Clark lay with Lois in his arms, looking at his parents. He had sat in a chair near the bed watching Lois for a long time, but when she had started whimpering in her sleep, he lay down next to her and pulled her into his arms. She stirred slightly, before sighing contentedly and falling back to sleep against his chest.
Martha and Jonathan backed quietly out of the room. Since it was late, they had taken some foam that Clark had in the apartment and had made up a bed in the living room. They would spend the night out here.
Clark lay there after they left thinking about the events of the day. He had been unable to prevent Luthor's death and he found himself slightly disturbed by that fact. Of course, when he considered things logically, he knew there was nothing he could have done, but he felt guilty because he was relieved that Luthor was dead.
Clark thought about Luthor's plan to clone Superman by making Lois have Superman's 'child.' Although, Clark had to admit that having Lois bear Superman's child was not a thought that was completely new to him, it was obvious that Luthor planned to keep her in the dark about the child's paternity. He shivered when he thought about his child being raised by someone like Luthor.
Clark knew that it was only a matter of time now before he would have to leave. Something deep inside him was confirming Lois' theory. There was no need now to solve his murder in a way that would stand up in a court of law — after all, Luthor was dead. But they had certainly solved it to their satisfaction. Luthor's comments combined with Clark's memory of the events surrounding his death; the cage in Luthor's wine cellar; and the fact that Luthor had the flesh taken from Superman's body, left no doubt as to who the perpetrator was.
Clark looked at the woman sleeping in his arms and wondered briefly if she had been right. Maybe he should have let her die, but even if he had, there was no guarantee that it would have brought them together. After all, today he had witnessed the death of two people and hadn't seen either one of them since. It might have been the same for Lois. Besides, there was no way he would ever be able to stand by and watch Lois die if there was anything he could do to prevent it. Still… He lightly kissed her forehead and tried not to think about the moment he would have to leave her.
Lois awoke the next morning feeling slightly disoriented. She looked around briefly and recognized that she was in Clark's room. She sat up. She grabbed her head as the room began to spin. When it finally stopped, she looked down at herself and realized that she was in one of Clark's t-shirts. Slowly the events of yesterday began to come back to her.
She groaned as she moved herself out of the bed. She found Clark's robe and threw it on before padding softly into the living room.
"You're up," Martha said, noticing the young woman.
"Sort of," Lois murmured.
Martha immediately got up and got a cup of coffee for Lois. When she handed it to her she explained that Jonathan had gone to fetch something for breakfast. Lois nodded absently and sank down into the couch with her coffee.
"How are you feeling?" asked Martha, coming over and placing her hand on Lois' forehead.
"I'll live," Lois said, adding as she noticed Clark, "Unfortunately."
Martha let out a breath. They needed to deal with this. Although Martha didn't notice, Clark let out an identical breath. Both Martha and Clark began to speak at once.
"Hold on," said Lois, holding up a hand to each of them. "My head is killing me as it is. Having both of you yelling at me at the same time doesn't help." Of course, neither Martha or Clark had been yelling, but that was hardly the point.
"Why don't I let Clark go first," suggested Martha.
"Thanks, Mom," Clark said, taking a seat beside Lois and picking up her hand in his. "I know you're mad at me for yesterday. You think that if you died, we could be together."
"That's exactly what I think, Clark," Lois replied.
"I'm not sure that's true," Clark said.
"What do you mean?"
Clark took a deep breath. "Since I've been dead, I haven't seen anyone else that is. I haven't even seen Luthor or that doctor. If you had been killed, we may have been separated forever. For all I know, I'm stuck here. I don't want to lose you too."
Lois' expression softened. "But Clark…" she began, as tears began to make their way down her cheeks.
"I want you to live, Lois. I want you to have a great life. I'll be here as long as I can. But even if I have to leave, I want you to go on. It's not your time yet. Can you understand that?" His hand came up and brushed the tears off her cheeks as he talked.
Lois let out a jagged breath before nodding.
Clark got off the couch and knelt down in front of her. He ran his fingers gently over her cheek. "At least with Luthor dead, I know you'll be safe," he said softly.
She met his eyes for a moment as both suddenly realized what Luthor's death meant — she was free. Clark leaned in and kissed her. She wrapped her arms around his neck and held him in her arms for a long moment. When she finally pulled back, Martha spoke.
"So I guess things are okay now?" Martha asked softly.
Lois nodded. "Don't worry, Martha. Clark has convinced me not to throw myself in front of a bus or something. It's just… Oh, I don't know."
"So how much do you remember about yesterday?" Martha asked.
"Surprisingly, a lot. I even think I know what Lex was planning to do with the flesh he stole from Superman's leg." With that she glanced at Clark.
Clark studied her for a moment after she looked away. He thought he saw something in her eyes. Something he was unable to identify.
"Well, Henderson wants you to go down to the station today and tell him what you know."
Lois nodded. "I'll do that. But first I want to go home and have a shower and change."
Henderson was pleased when he looked up and saw Lois standing in the doorway to his office.
"Feeling better?" he asked, gesturing her to a chair.
"Other than the hangover, I'm fine," Lois replied, settling herself across from Henderson.
"Good. You were sort of out of it yesterday. There were times when I could swear you thought I was Clark Kent."
Lois snorted. "You wish. Anyway, I think my memory about yesterday is pretty much intact, although there are certainly gaps." What she didn't tell Henderson was that when she had gone back to her apartment, Clark had filled her in on the parts she didn't remember.
"That I can believe. So, what can you tell me?"
With that Lois proceeded to fill Henderson in on what had happened.
"So you think that Luthor was responsible for Superman's death?" Henderson asked.
"I'm positive, Henderson. I don't know if the cage is still there, but I saw it. And if you take a Geiger counter over there, I imagine there'll be traces of radiation — the same kind that killed Superman."
"And the flesh from Superman's leg?"
"Luthor was planning to clone Superman."
"Didn't someone do that a few months ago? I thought it wasn't perfect."
Lois gave a snort. "It wasn't, but this time he planned on doing it the old fashioned way."
"What old fashioned way?"
"He was going to use Superman's cells to genetically alter one of my eggs. He was then going to implant it in me so that I would bear a child.He would claim it was his, but in reality it would be Superman's. I think he figured if he could raise a child with superpowers, he could control him."
"Wow! And you knew nothing about this?"
Lois shook her head. "Not until yesterday."
Henderson silently contemplated things for a moment. "Then I'd say we need to find Superman's body to make sure no one else decides to try this."
"I don't think that's necessary," replied Lois, not looking at him.
Henderson smiled. "So you think whoever took Superman's body was trying to prevent something like this from happening?"
"That would be my guess," said Lois, now meeting Henderson's eyes. "There's just one more thing."
"And that is?"
"I need everything you found at the lab yesterday."
Henderson looked at her for a long moment before saying, "Well, I guess it never really did belong to Luthor. And so far, none of our scientists have looked at it. I can't think of any reason we need to keep it. And since Luthor is dead…" He narrowed his eyes in contemplation, before nodding. "That's probably a good idea. I'll have everything packed up and ready for you to pick up later today."
"And…" said Lois.
"I don't want anything in the lab damaged. Could you make sure that it is packaged up so that doesn't happen?"
Henderson looked at her for a moment before deciding that it was none of his business. "I can do that. I'll send some of our lab boys over there."
Lois smiled. "Thanks, Henderson. You know for a tough, cold-blooded cop, you're okay."
Henderson laughed. "Well, for a tough, cold-blooded reporter, so are you."
Clark paced impatiently in Lois' apartment after she left. Why had she wanted to go see Henderson without him? What was she up to? He thought he'd convinced her not to do something that would get her killed, but what if he was wrong? She seemed to have something specific in mind when she left. He tried to leave the thought alone.
He thought back to yesterday. What exactly had happened in that laboratory? He hadn't said anything to Lois and he didn't think she had noticed that something strange had happened to time. He had said 'Slow Down' and everything had. He wasn't complaining. It had given him the time he needed to save Lois' life. But what had happened?
He took a quick look out the window. Where was she? He looked at the clock and growled in frustration. It had only been ten minutes since she left. He knew that it would be an hour or two before she returned. The problem was that he was beginning to feel it. He couldn't quite analyze where the feeling was coming from, but he knew the time had come for him to go to whatever lay beyond. He didn't want that to happen without at least having a chance to say good-bye to Lois.
He thought for a moment. If he could slow down time — if that was what he had actually done — why couldn't he speed it up as well? "Speed Up," he yelled into the room.
He jumped as he heard the locks on the door moving. He slowly approached the door. It didn't necessarily mean anything. Someone could be breaking in. Lois could have given keys to someone. His parents could have found his copy of her keys. She could have simply forgotten something. Still, his eyes were glued to each lock as it turned.
The door opened and Lois stepped inside. Clark gasped.
"Are you okay?" asked Lois, hearing the sound. "Did I startle you or something?"
Clark simply shook his head, staring at her in disbelief for a moment. He blinked a couple of times trying to come to terms with what had just happened. Or, had it?
"Umm… Did you see Henderson?" he asked hesitantly. If what he thought had just happened hadn't, that was going to sound like a really dumb question.
Lois swallowed hard. "Umm… well, yeah and I spoke to your folks and there's something we have to talk about."
"Me first, Lois," said Clark excitedly. If she had spoken to both Henderson and his folks, then he had speeded time up — or something. Just like he had slowed time down yesterday.
Lois nodded. She really did need some time to figure out how to tell him this anyway. She had been thinking about it since this morning. That was why she had insisted on going to see Henderson alone. She had already discussed it with Clark's parents and knew they would support her. Clark. She wasn't so certain about Clark. But before she would do this, she needed his blessing. She wasn't sure what she would do if he didn't agree.
"Lois, do you remember when Dr. Monro shot at you yesterday?"
"What do you remember?"
"I saw him fire the gun and then you were pushing me out of the way."
"And before he shot. Where was I?"
"The other side of the room. Clark, what are you getting at?"
"Lois, how did I get to you so quickly? I don't have my powers."
Lois looked at him thoughtfully for a moment. "I'm taking it there's a reason for this line of questioning."
Clark nodded. "Do you remember me yelling 'slow down'?"
"Well, at that moment, everything slowed down. I even saw the bullet almost hanging in the air. It gave me time to get to you."
"Clark, I was the one drugged."
"So, today when you went out, I said, 'Speed up.' You immediately walked in the door. To me, only ten minutes had passed since you'd left."
"Somehow, I am no longer bound by time."
"How is that possible?"
Clark shrugged. "I take it time seemed to go by at a normal pace for you today."
"And the same yesterday?"
"Lois, I think that somehow I'm outside time."
"How is that possible?"
"The only thing I can think is that after death, we must leave the realm of time to enter eternity. Since I'm in eternity, I can move back and forth inside it — whether it be to move quicker than time or slower than time."
"Wow!" responded Lois, trying to come to terms with this information. Suddenly, she was struck by a thought. "So then, you don't have to leave just because we solved your murder. You could just slow down time," she suggested hopefully.
Clark took a deep breath. "I don't think that's how it works, Lois."
"How do you know?" asked Lois, feeling a little desperate.
"It's just… Well, that's why I wanted you to get back here quickly. I'm running out of time, Lois. I have to go soon."
"How do you know?"
Clark reached over and lightly stroked her cheek. "I just do. I wish…"
"Clark, there's something I have to talk to you about," she injected. She took a deep breath before continuing. If they only had a limited amount of time, they needed to talk about this now. "There was a reason I wanted to see Henderson alone."
"I got him to agree to release all the stuff Dr. Monro was working on to me."
"That's good, Lois. Then you can destroy it so that no one else can…"
"I'm not going to destroy it, Clark," Lois cut in.
"What? Lois, you have to. If someone gets a hold of it…"
"Not just someone, Clark. Now, I've already talked to your parents and they'll support me in this."
"Support you in what?"
"Clark, I'm going to have your child."
"What?" Clark exclaimed.
"You heard me. Lex may have wanted me to do this for him. I wouldn't have done it for him. But I want to do it. For you. For your parents. For the world. But mostly, Clark, for me."
Clark let out a short breath. "Lois, you can't."
She moved out of her seat and knelt down in front of him, taking his hands in hers and looking into his eyes. She took a deep breath before continuing. This was probably the most important moment of her life. If she failed to convince him now, there would be no second chance. "Clark, from what you're telling me, I'm going to lose you soon. I don't have to worry about money — as Lex's wife, I'm sure I'll be well provided for." Normally, Lois wouldn't want anything that belonged to Lex, but if this allowed her to have Clark's son, she'd make an exception. Besides, there was a certain justice to using Lex's money to raise Superman's son. "I don't particularly care about working at LNN," she continued. "It's not nearly as much fun helping to produce the news as I thought it would be. I've spoken to your folks. They told me if I decide to do this, I can come live at the farm."
"Lois, how can you expect me to agree to this? A child needs his or her father."
Lois' hand came up to his cheek. "I know, Clark. And I wish more than anything that I could give him that. But I can't. I need to do this, Clark. I want to have your son. I don't think I'm going to survive losing you again if I don't. Please. I won't do this without your permission. But please don't say no to me."
Spindle could hardly believe the stuff he was getting. He had sold his Clark Kent is Superman story to the Dirt Digger, but that wasn't the end of it. The listening devices were still in Clark Kent's apartment and he just knew that the next story would be even juicer. Lois Lane was having Superman's child. He placed another call to the Dirt Digger.
Clark looked down for a long moment thinking about her request. What he wouldn't give for her to have his child if he was alive — but he wasn't. Besides, would this really be his son or simply a clone of him? He couldn't do this — or more accurately, he couldn't let Lois do this.
"Lois…" he began, but then he made the mistake of looking into her eyes. She seemed to know what he was going to say and he suddenly realized he was about to break her heart. How could he do that? How could he do that now? He looked back down for a moment, trying to figure out what to say. "Are you sure this is what you want?" he asked.
Realizing that his question meant that he wasn't rejecting her proposal out of hand, Lois took a deep breath. "I'm sure, Clark. I've never been more certain of anything. I want to have your child."
"But this won't be my child, Lois. It won't be our child."
"Yes it will. Look, Clark, having this procedure done won't remake you. A child is more than just a collection of DNA. A child becomes the person they become because of all the experiences they have in life. This child would have your physical characteristics, but he will be as much a product of the life experiences he gets from me as he will a collection of your DNA. I figure that makes him our child."
Clark took a deep breath. "And who would you trust to do this procedure? It's cutting edge science. And if anyone got wind of what you were doing, you'd be in real danger. And I won't be here, Lois. I won't be here to protect either of you."
"I'll be getting all of Dr. Monro's notes. And I just met a scientist down at Star Labs that for some reason I think we can trust."
"Dr. Klein. I don't know why I think he can be trusted, but I do. And I swear that if you agree, I'll check him out very carefully before going ahead with this. If he can't be trusted, I'll find someone who can be."
Clark swallowed hard. It was so hard to think of this knowing that he would never be able to be a part of his child's life. On the other hand, how could he refuse Lois? "Okay. I'll agree under one condition."
Lois let out a breath she didn't realize she was holding. "Name it."
"You can't do this for at least a year."
"I just want you to be sure."
"I am sure."
Lois looked at him for a long moment. "Two months," she countered.
Lois offered him her pinky, which he immediately took with his. Once that was done, Clark whispered, "Come here."
She smiled and moved closer between his legs. His hand came up to her cheek. "I love you, Lois Lane," he whispered, refusing to use her married name, before leaning in to kiss her. Before he could, however, the phone began to ring. Lois and Clark both let out identical sighs before Lois got up to answer the phone.
"Hi, Martha. I talked to Clark and he… What? Slow down." There was a long pause. "Omigod. Are you sure? Okay, I'll be over there as soon as I can. Okay, bye."
"Lois, what's going on? Are my parents all right?"
"Yes and no. I mean… The cover of the Dirt Digger has a story saying that you're Superman."
"What? How did they find out?"
"The story refers to a conversation between your parents that is apparently on tape. Martha and Jonathan scoured your apartment and found three bugs. I guess we didn't count on the tabloids bugging your apartment."
"We should get over there, Clark. We have to figure out what to do," Lois said, turning towards the door.
Clark placed a hand on her arm, pulling her down onto the couch beside him. "I can't, Lois."
"What do you mean, you…" Suddenly her voice trailed off as she realized what he meant. "How long?" she asked, her voice suddenly very hoarse.
"I don't know."
Lois leaned forward then and kissed him. If this was the end, she wanted to spend the rest of the time they had together in his arms. The current emergency would just have to wait. Her tongue gently pressed against his lips and then slid into his mouth as his lips parted for her. She felt the soft touch of his tongue against hers as their tongues gently played with each other. Lois closed her eyes tight, trying to memorize this feeling — wishing desperately that she could taste him. She felt him wrap his arms around her, pulling her tight against him as he deepened the kiss.
Lois didn't think she had ever felt anything like this. It was as if her entire body was a mass of liquid. She ran her hands up his chest before burying her hands in his hair, desperately trying to get closer. Suddenly, she pulled back.
Clark looked at her in shock. "What?" he asked, a bemused look on his face. He felt completely confused by the sudden absence of her mouth.
"If you can go forward in time, can you go back?" Lois asked.
"Can you go back?"
Clark looked at her in shock. "Why do we have to talk about this now?"
"Clark, can you go back?"
"I don't know," he confessed.
"Now is all we have. Clark, please."
Clark didn't understand the point, but if it was that important to Lois… He closed his eyes. "Go Back," he said before opening his eyes.
"If you can go forward in time, can you go back?" Lois asked.
Clark shook his head slightly. "I just did, Lois," he informed her. To her confused look, he added, "You just asked me that question a few moments ago. We talked about it and then I did it."
"So you're telling me that you can go back in time."
Clark nodded. "Why is this so important, Lois?"
"If you can go back in time, why can't you go back to before any of this started. You could go back to before I accepted Lex's proposal. You could change this. You could change all of this. You could convince me not to marry Lex. And if I wasn't marrying Lex, you would have no reason to go see him. You wouldn't have died and no one would know that you're Superman. Clark, you could stop all of it."
"By going back in time."
"And doing what? As I recall, I did everything I could to convince you not to marry Luthor the first time around. What do you expect me to do? Should I tell you that you can't marry Luthor because I can see the future and in it you'll fall in love with me, Luthor will kill Superman and you'll be begging to have my baby."
"I wasn't exactly begging," she objected, then to his smile added, "Okay, maybe a little."
"Anyway, if I told you all that, you'd have me committed. Besides, I don't think it matters what period of time I'm in. I only have a few minutes left before I have to leave this plane of existence. If that happens, I doubt the Clark I'd go back to will remember any of this."
"But you now know that Lex is a murderer. You could find me and tell me."
"In the future, Lois. I don't have any evidence to suggest Luthor was anything but an upstanding citizen before your marriage."
Lois fell silent. Clark was right. There was no way she would buy any of it. She had been completely convinced that Clark's warnings about Lex were the result of his jealousy. If only she could…
"Clark, you have to take me with you."
"What?" Clark asked. Now he was convinced that she'd lost her mind.
"Look, Clark, I know what you're thinking, but it's our only chance. If I were to go back, with what I know now, I could change this future."
"I agree, but how do you suggest I do that?"
"Clark, there's a connection between our souls. I think that's why I'm the only one who's been able to see you. And I know that you felt me the other night. You must be aware of that connection."
"I am. I just didn't think that you were."
Lois smiled. "I've always been aware of it. Although in the beginning it used to infuriate me. I think that's part of the reason I was so hard on you when we first met." Lois paused, trying to bring them back to the point. "Okay, then if your soul is outside time, can't we use that thread that binds our souls to go back in time together."
Clark looked skeptical.
"What do we have to lose, Clark?" Lois asked.
Clark let out a short breath. "A little more time doing this," he said, leaning in to kiss her.
She allowed his kiss, but then pulled back again. He let out a short breath. "I guess we can try," he finally conceded. He took a deep breath. "Okay, I guess we both need to find that connection between us and then I'll try to go back, bringing you with me."
Lois snuggled into him and they both closed their eyes, reaching for each other with their minds, hearts and souls. Suddenly, Clark broke the contact.
"I'm not so sure about this, Lois. I mean, I might not be the only one who won't remember. Even if I somehow manage to take you with me, there's the danger that you won't remember either. I could just be condemning you to a time loop. After all, I lost a lot of my memory during my first trip through eternity. Maybe I should just try to go back to the time you told Superman you loved him. I might have enough time left to tell you I love you too and then…"
"No!" exclaimed Lois. "I want Clark. And if Superman had told me he loved me, I'm not sure I'd have got beyond the suit to see the man beneath. Besides, Clark, that wouldn't solve our kryptonite problem either. Taking me back is our only option."
"But, Lois…" Lois cut him off with a kiss.
"Let's just try, Clark," she said softly, before once again closing her eyes and finding that thread that bound her to Clark. She grabbed it and held on to it for dear life. This would work. This had to work.
Clark nodded slowly. If this worked, it was the best option. But that was a really big if. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes.
When they had as firm a hold on each other as they could, Clark thought about the last time he had felt any peace — back before Lois had told him about Luthor's proposal.
"Go back," he said.
"He shoots, he scores," said an animated voice.
Clark shook his head and looked around. He was floating in front of the television in his apartment watching a hockey game on T.V. He must have dozed off for a moment. boy, that was some dream. He shook his head again. What was the dream about again? He had a feeling that it was important for him to remember. It was about… Well, he could remember kissing Lois. He sighed. Right. Like that was going to happen at any point in the foreseeable future. Lois was dating Luthor.
He turned his attention back to the hockey game. He couldn't even remember who was playing. boy, that must have been some dream. Just then there was a knock at the door. Clark quickly lowered himself back to the floor, grabbed his glasses and made his way to the door.
He opened it to find a young man standing on the other side.
"You ordered a pizza?" the man asked, offering him a pizza.
"Umm… yeah," Clark replied. He probably had before the dream had scrambled his brain. "Come on in," he instructed the young man. "I'll just get some money," Clark said before going to get his wallet.
Lois shook her head slightly. She looked down to see what was in her hand. It appeared to be a glass of champaign. She glanced to her right when she heard a familiar voice.
"Spend the rest of your life with me, I hope," said Lex Luthor.
She laughed nervously. What was going on here? Lex was dead.
"I'm serious," Lex said, looking over at her. She stopped laughing. She already understood that when Lex was serious about something, she'd better take it seriously too. She glanced around briefly as Lex stood up. She appeared to be on Lex's private jet. There was a violinist playing nearby. She looked up at Lex.
Luthor reached into his pocket and pulled something out before speaking, "Lois Lane, will you marry me?" Lex said, opening a box to reveal a ring that was all too familiar to Lois. It was the ring that she had worn for the past few weeks.
Lois gasped, but not, as Lex suspected from surprise at his proposal, but from her sudden realization that it had worked. They had come back to that one critical moment in her life that she had wished so hard that she could redo.
"I'm sorry, Lex. I can't marry you," she said, trying to sound sorry. She felt like slapping him across the face for his audacity, but at this moment she was in his airplane with him. So she held in her revulsion.
"Why?" Luthor asked, taking a seat beside her. "Maybe we can work through it."
"We can't, Lex," she responded. "In fact, I know we're supposed to be going to Italy for supper tonight. But I'd really like it if you just took me back to Metropolis."
"Please," Lois interrupted.
Luthor looked at her for a moment. Maybe he could still change her mind. "Will you at least tell me what the problem is?" he asked.
Lois wasn't sure exactly what to say. Should she tell him that she knew that he was a monster who would try to kill Superman? Probably not the best course of action. She swallowed hard. She didn't want to make him mad at the moment, but she needed to give him something that he couldn't argue her out of. She could try talking about how much she liked her job and her friends, or how they hardly knew each other, but she had done all that last time and he had brushed aside her concerns.
"Look, Lex, it isn't you," she finally said. "And it's not something that can be fixed. You see…" She hesitated. "I'm in love with someone else."
"Is it Superman?" he asked. "Because I don't think he shares…"
"No. It's not Superman," Lois said, cutting him off. She didn't want to give him a reason to take out his revenge on Superman if she could help it — especially since he could already have kryptonite.
Luthor furrowed his brows. "Then who?"
Lois let out a breath. She really didn't want to go there. "I'd prefer not to say. I haven't even told him how I feel." Well, that was sort of true — at least in this time. "But… I can't marry you, Lex. It wouldn't be right to marry you when I'm in love with someone else. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to lead you on. It's just… I guess it never occurred to me that this was anything more than a casual relationship — given your reputation with women." She paused. "You really are very charming company and…" She gestured to their surroundings, "…you certainly know how to sweep a girl off her feet, but I think it would be best if we ended our relationship."
"I see," said Luthor, although he really didn't see at all. But he would. By God, he would and then…
"Do you think you could ask the pilot to take us back to Metropolis now?" Lois asked.
"Umm… certainly," said Luthor, leaving to give new instructions to the pilot.
Lois practically flew up the stairs to Clark's apartment. She knocked and waited impatiently for the door to open.
"Lois?" asked Clark. "I didn't expect…" His voice was cut off as Lois threw herself into his arms, her mouth finding his with unerring accuracy. Clark was so surprised that he stumbled backwards into the room, tripping down the steps, until he was lying flat on his back on the floor with Lois on top of him. She had lost contact with his mouth in order to trail kisses over his face. She hadn't even tried to brace herself as if she simply accepted that he would ensure she wasn't hurt.
Clark's mind was still trying to figure out what was going on. Why was Lois here? Why was she lying on top of him, kissing him? Had she once again been exposed to the pheromone compound that made people drunk on love? As hard as it was, he had to slow things down here. He took her shoulders in his hands. He pushed her back from him so that he could crawl out from under her, but he didn't move off the floor.
"What are you doing, Lois?" he asked. It was a reasonable enough question, but Lois ignored it.
"We did it, Clark. We actually did it. I can hardly believe that worked. I know you thought I was crazy when I suggested it. But it worked."
"Umm… What worked, Lois?" he asked.
Now it was Lois' turn to be stunned. He didn't remember. He was right when he speculated that he wouldn't remember. It was sure a good thing she had come with him. "Umm…" she said, trying to figure out where to start. Suddenly, she knew exactly where to start. "I'll tell you all about it later, Clark. I promise. But right now, I have a request."
"What, Lois?" Clark asked.
A slow smile crept across Lois' face. "Kiss me."
"Lois, have you been exposed to that pheromone compound again?" he asked.
Lois moved closer. "No, Clark. I promise you I'm in my right mind. Finally. I just know what I want."
"And that is?"
"What?" The expression on Clark's face was one of absolute bewilderment.
Lois smiled. The look on his face was absolutely priceless. Lois had no fear of rejection. She already knew Clark loved her. All she needed to do now was convince him that she felt the same way. She decided to try the direct approach first.
"I'm in love with you, Clark. I know I've never given you any reason to believe that, but I swear it's true." When he just continued to look at her as if she'd lost her mind, she shrugged. If one strategy didn't work… "Well, I mean… If you aren't interested…" She started to move away.
That snapped Clark into action. "No!" he exclaimed, reaching out and pulling her back over to him. "I didn't mean that you should…"
"Would you just kiss me?" Lois interrupted with a laugh.
It didn't take another request before Clark's lips found hers. She sighed contentedly, wrapping her arms around Clark's neck, burying her hands in his hair as her tongue sought entrance to his mouth. She felt him groan as their tongues met for what was, for him, the first time. She reveled in how good he tasted. If she thought kissing his ghost was good… Wow!
There was still the matter of the kryptonite Lex had. There was still the bombing of the Daily Planet to stop. But for right now… As far as Lois was concerned, there was only one thing that couldn't wait. After coming so close to running out of time, Lois finally understood just how precious time was. She didn't intend to wait another day before correcting a year's worth of stupidity. She had learned her lesson. She had no intention of waiting for time to run out again.
My thanks to Loralyn Lind for letting me use her theory about time and eternity. Her theory is that after death, we enter eternity which, she speculates, is outside time. Without her theory, I would never have found a satisfactory ending to this story. My thanks to Everest Funeral Home for patiently answering all my ridiculous questions. Thanks to the people who answered my question about religious leaders on both Zoomway's message boards and by e-mail. My thanks to Jo March and Gerry Anklewicz for reading this story and giving me their input. I would also like to thank Carol Malo for her prompt editing of my story, allowing me to get it posted in time for Halloween.
To those of you not from Canada, let me explain the Canadian Prime Minister comment. When the king of Jordan died, the Canadian Prime Minister did not attend the funeral. He was skiing with his family and said he couldn't make it out in time. It became a major issue in the House of Commons. So when the opportunity presented itself to make fun of my beloved country, I couldn't resist. No offence is intended.
Also, I know nothing about Cloning. In order to create the doctor's words to provide an explanation for how cloning works, I relied heavily on following site: http://www.k12.hi.us/~kau/hclass/project4/cloning/Cloninghomepage.html. You will notice that I stick pretty close to the wording in the instructions on how to create a clone. The problem is that I don't understand the procedure enough to know which words are important and which words can be substituted for other words. So I'd like to credit the author of that website for his or her work.