Trials of the Heart

By Alicia U. <alicia3456@aol.com> or <lxu2@po.cwru.edu>

Rated PG-13

Submitted February 2000

Summary: Nine months into their married life, Clark is having to spend a lot of time as Superman and Lois thinks she has the flu. A major revision of the author's "Better Family Hour" and "Silent Fears."

I originally wrote this story about three years ago after the series finale because it really upset me. After writing a series of stories to go with it, I decided to go back and read it again. When I read it, I realized that my writing was bad, and the story was even worse. I was only sixteen years old when I wrote it, and my writing skills were not well-developed. Now, three years later, and a little bit more mature, I went back and re-wrote the first two stories in the series, Better Family Hour, and Silent Fears. This revised version is drastically different from the originals. I am working on re-writing the other stories in the series and then continuing it. The next story in the series will be called "Trials of the Heart Part II: The Long Road Ahead."

AliciaU.

***

Part I: Better Family Hour

"Lois, honey, you've been in there for a while now. Are you okay in there?"

A very worried Clark Kent paced around his bedroom. His wife, Lois Lane, had been in the bathroom for the past half-hour, and he didn't even need his Superhearing to know that she was still losing her breakfast to the toilet's cold porcelain. Every time he heard her sigh, he wanted to rush into the bathroom to comfort her, but every time he got as far as the door, he turned around again. Maybe she didn't want him in there. What if she yelled at him for coming in? She sure had been sick a lot lately. This made it three times this week that she'd been in throwing up before work. Yesterday, Clark had made the near fatal mistake of entering the bathroom when Lois was like this. She just glared at him like all of her suffering was his fault. Of course it wasn't. How could it be his fault? He didn't get sick, so how could he have given it to her? Of course she had apologized when she realized how unfair she had been. However, Clark didn't want to take that risk again. He flopped back onto the bed and waited for her to come out, agonizing at every sound of sickness emanating from the bathroom.

"Oh, oh, how can I have this much in my stomach when I haven't even eaten?"

Lois finally got up off her knees and walked over to the sink. She splashed water over her face, trying to wipe away all the sweat, tears, and vomit.

"Come on girl, get a grip."

Lois looked up into the mirror and contemplated her reflection. She almost didn't recognize the face that stared back at her. Her eyes looked like those of a raccoon, surrounded by dark circles, and she could almost swear that her face had a sort of green tint to it. The image started getting blurry when she started feeling the headache again. That persistent headache along with the body aches were the worst parts of this sickness. Sometimes her muscles would hurt so badly she almost didn't want to move. Now she felt more sluggish than she had ever felt in her life. To make things worse, her nose was starting to feel just a little stuffy.

"Why can't I shake this flu bug? I've been sick for the past two weeks, and it's not getting any better. If anything it's getting worse!"

As Lois spoke to her reflection, she heard Clark open the door. She almost snapped at him for interrupting her, but she realized that Clark was only concerned about her. He only knew that she had been feeling poorly for the past three days, and she didn't want him to know how sick she had been for nearly two weeks now. Clark, worrywart that he was, would only worry himself sick about her and he would have insisted that they both stay home from work so she could rest. Lois did not want any of that. They had been following a story about a huge prostitution ring being run out of city hall, and it finally broke yesterday. Lois wouldn't have missed that kind of story for the world, even if she was dying.

Today, though, Lois accepted that staying home would be a good idea. Clark had an appointment to see Doctor Klein this afternoon, so he wouldn't be home most of the day. She needed to find out what was wrong, what was making her feel so poorly, and she wasn't sure if she wanted Clark to know about it before she was sure what, exactly, was wrong.

Clark came up behind her and touched her shoulder. Lois leaned back, seeming to tell him, without needing to utter a word, that it was okay to touch her, and that she needed his support right now.

Clark's heart leapt into his throat when he saw the look of pain and exhaustion in Lois' eyes. This flu was really taking it out of her. Maybe it was the stress of the past few months, but Lois had never been known to break down due to stress before. However, they had been through so much since the New Year, and it never seemed to stop. Most recently, a man named Leslie Luckaby had bought the Planet, and they hadn't even known it was up for sale. To make things worse, Luckaby worked for Lex Luthor's son, and both wanted to, in Lex's own words, "possess Lois Lane." That more than anything could have caused Lois to have a nervous breakdown, however she just dived into the problem and solved it in the way that Clark so admired. In the end, Luthor Jr. and Luckaby had perished in an explosion, but word on the street was that Luckaby had somehow escaped. Clark doubted the validity of those rumors, though, because he had seen Luckaby shot at point blank range and subsequently fall into murky sewer water, never to be seen again. All Clark knew was that if Luckaby was still around, he and Lois were in great danger because he and Luthor's son had discovered Clark's secret, the most powerful secret in the world, that Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter from the Daily Planet, was also Superman, the tights-wearing Superhero. Clark also knew that this information was not something that Lois needed to know about right now. She had to concentrate on relaxation, so that she could feel better soon. They would look into it as soon as she felt better. What would a few days be in the scope of an investigation?

Clark shuddered at the thoughts of Leslie Luckaby, and wrapped his arms around Lois' shoulders. She slowly leaned back and turned in his arms. Their eyes met, and Clark could see the question in her eyes before she even spoke. "Clark, what's wrong with me? I can't seem to shake this damned flu bug."

Clark kissed the top of her head, hoping to reassure her. He didn't know much about being ill, but he definitely felt Lois' pain. "Don't worry, honey. Just give it a couple of days. You've been working too hard lately, and things have been pretty stressful around here. I bet your immune system is having a hard time coping with all of that stress. I think I read somewhere that your immune response is sometimes compromised when you are faced with extremely stressful conditions."

Clark reached up to push her hair away from her face and wiped a tear from her cheek. She gently pushed forward, wanting him to support her weight. Her legs seemed like they would give out at any minute. Clark sensed this and gently picked her up and carried her to their bed. With one hand, he pulled back the covers and fluffed up a pillow while holding her with the other. He gently laid her down on the bed and covered her up.

"Lois, you are not going to work today. You need to stay here and rest."

Clark fully expected Lois to launch an all-out assault on him, but she shocked him with her lack of response. He raised his eyebrows as she sunk into the warmth of the bed, eyes already half-shut. She didn't even offer a little plea. Obviously something was wrong here; Lois never stayed home from work without the threat of physical violence.

As she was falling asleep, he heard her murmur, "Okay, Clark, don't let me sleep too long."

Clark left Lois in peace and went downstairs to the kitchen to call Perry.

Later that morning, Clark watched LNN in the living room, still not wanting to disturb Lois in any way. She needed sleep more than anything else he could offer her right now. He turned the TV down to a volume level where only he could hear it, and he lay silently on the couch, only half-listening to the international news stories. He was obsessing about his appointment with Dr. Klein later that afternoon.

Lately, Lois and Clark had been talking about the feasibility of a Kryptonian male and a woman from Earth ever mating successfully. They weren't sure if they even wanted to have children, but they wanted to know if they it would be possible, should they ever decide they wanted children. Lois was the one that was really unsure of the prospect of motherhood. She'd never been entirely comfortable around children, and the pitter-patter of little feet was a sound that she swore she could never enjoy. Clark, for his part, loved children. He had lots of little cousins, and always enjoyed baby-sitting them. He knew, however, that parenthood and baby-sitting were entirely different entities, and it was impossible to compare the two. With baby-sitting, he was only in charge of the child for a mere couple of hours without having to take any responsibility for its well being. As a parent, he would have to be responsible for an entire human life, and he wasn't sure he was ready for that huge responsibility.

Yesterday, Dr. Klein had called and told him that the results were in, and they looked somewhat promising. This raised his spirits, for even if they never decided to conceive, the fact that they could would be one more sign that he was almost normal.

He let his mind drift off into a daydream as to just what his and Lois' children would be like. Who would they look like? What would their personalities be like? Would they inherit his superpowers?

As Clark daydreamed, Lois gingerly walked down the steps. She felt a little bit better. The nap must have done her well, maybe all she needed was a good night's rest. When she walked into the living room, she saw Clark fast asleep on the couch. She smiled widely as she stared at his angelic expression. He was so cute when he slept, almost like a child. In this state, he looked so vulnerable, no one would ever believe he was the strongest man in the world.

While Clark was asleep, Lois had decided that she had suffered long enough from whatever this illness was. Her initial reaction after she got out of bed was that she was feeling better, but after she walked around, she felt worse, if that was possible. If this sickness had persisted for two solid weeks, she obviously needed medical attention, as much as she always tried to resist it. Even though she hadn't been to the doctor for over a year, she decided that now would definitely be the right time to renew that acquaintance.

She perched on the edge of the couch, near Clark's feet and called the doctor's office. Luckily, someone had canceled a 1:30 appointment, so she was able to get in at the same time as Clark had his appointment with Dr. Klein.

As she hung up the phone, Clark woke up. He blinked and shook his head several times.

"Honey, aren't you supposed to be sleeping? Was I sleeping?"

"I was sleeping, but I woke up. You, Mr. Sleepyhead, were zonked out on the couch when I came down here a couple of minutes ago."

Lois giggled and ran her hand through his thick, dark hair, mussing it up even worse than it already was, making his boyish charm so much more apparent.

Clark shook his head again, and said, "I didn't even realize I was asleep. Are you feeling any better?"

"Actually, yes, a little bit better. But I still feel horrible. I can't take it much longer, so I made a doctor's appointment for 1:30."

Clark was shocked. Lois was going to see a doctor? Lois never went to the doctor. Maybe she felt worse than even he suspected.

"Honey, are you sure you're all right? You'd tell me, wouldn't you?"

He gently draped his arm around her shoulder and pulled her close to him. She buried her face into his chest and said, "I don't know, Clark. I've been sick like this for at least two weeks, and I've never felt like this before. I know it's not the flu."

Lois' unshed tears, held for two weeks, now started to flow in torrents, and Clark was at a loss as to what to do. All he could do right now was hold her and try to comfort her. He had suspected that she had been hiding her illness from him, but all her wanted right now was for her to feel better.

"Clark, maybe I'm dying."

Clark sat up straight and made her look into his eyes, "Lois, you are not dying. Please don't say that. Whatever is wrong with you, it's not anything that could kill you, and I'm positive about that."

Lois collapsed back onto his warm chest and sobbed again.

Soon, both Lois and Clark had to leave for their respective appointments. Before Clark flew off, he kneeled in front of Lois and gently held her hand.

Lois squeezed back and said, "Good luck, sweetheart, I know how much this means to you," she paused and added, "To us."

He nodded and closed his eyes. "I hope both of our appointments turn out well. I know yours will, but I'm not so sure about mine. "

Lois reached down and hugged him, "Don't worry, I'm sure everything will turn out okay. I mean, the world owes us a break, right?"

Clark chuckled slightly in the midst of their emotional moment. Lois glared at him skeptically, albeit in jest, and Clark said, "Honey, that's just so true. We've been through so much, I just feel like something has to give."

They held onto each other, thankful that they at least had each other in the face of all the adversity they had overcome, adversity that would have, quite possibly, broken up nearly any other couple.

***

As Lois sat in the doctor's waiting room, she felt her stomach churning again. Just as the receptionist called her name, Lois felt the overwhelming urge to throw up again. She stood up on shaky legs with her hand over her mouth, trying to prevent anything from coming out. The receptionist saw this and rushed over to help her.

"Oh, Miss, let me help you. You look like you need to find a bathroom quickly!"

Lois slightly nodded in reply, not wanting to say anything because if she opened her mouth it would not be a pretty sight.

The receptionist, a grandmotherly woman in her late sixties, put her arm around Lois' back and helped her walk to the bathroom back by the doctor's office. When they got there, Lois gratefully smiled at the lady and ran into the bathroom. As soon as Lois was out of sight, the receptionist turned to walk back to her desk where she met a nurse.

The elderly woman said, "That girl is gonna be in for a shock when she finds out she's pregnant. Of course, she sure has the flu bug pretty bad too."

The nurse, another older woman, but a bit younger than the receptionist, smiled knowingly. Diane, the receptionist, had a reputation for being very observant. She could tell what was wrong with someone as soon as they walked through the door. That nearly flawless instinct came from her nearly fifty years working in a doctor's office of some sort.

In the bathroom, Lois heard the woman's comment and nearly fell over. Did she hear what she thought she just heard? There was no way, no way in the world she could be pregnant. It just wasn't possible! As she leant against the toilet again, she dismissed the whole pregnancy idea entirely.

"I can't be pregnant. Clark and I are always so careful. Plus when you're pregnant, you don't have all these flu-like symptoms, do you?"

As she splashed water on her face and rinsed her mouth out, Lois felt the urge to sneeze. Now she knew she wasn't pregnant.

"Sneezing is definitely not a symptom of pregnancy. Good. Now that that's settled, I can concentrate on fighting this flu, or whatever it is."

Lois tentatively ventured out of the bathroom and peeked around the hallway. Sure enough, the receptionist was smiling at her knowingly and there was another woman waiting for her to come out. This woman was also looking at her in the same way, and, quite frankly, it made Lois very uncomfortable. Those women must have been smoking the same kinds of drugs for lunch. How did they even get the idea that she could be pregnant? She, for one, knew that there was just no way on Earth that it was possible.

Lois glared at the receptionist, who was still watching her like a hawk. How dare these women mess with Lois Lane when she wasn't feeling well. Just as Lois was about to explode into a famous Lane tirade, a short, blonde woman in a white lab coat approached her.

"Well, Lois Lane, long time no see. When was the last time I saw you?" She checked the chart in her hand, "December 12, 1995. Two years ago! So, to what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?"

Sarcasm? How dare this lady be sarcastic right now? Oh this doctor really had some kind of nerve! Lois was in pain, and this woman just insulted her. If only her throat didn't hurt so much, she'd really let this so-called doctor have it!

Lois looked towards the ground sheepishly. She hadn't been to the doctor's office in that long because she'd just never made the time in her busy schedule to have a yearly physical done. In her opinion, her career was much more important than her health, especially when she was obviously just fine.

"Well, Dr. Stevens, for your information…" before Lois could finish her sentence, a horrible coughing fit overtook her. As she bent at the waist to help her lungs clear, she noticed the receptionist getting up and whispering something to the doctor and the doctor nodding.

Why are those nosy women talking to the doctor about my treatment? What is this, Dr. Telephone's office? What ever happened to doctor-patient confidentiality? Lois was absolutely livid when she finally stopped coughing, but she didn't want to pick a fight when she felt this sick, but when she felt better, these nosy women better watch out!

The doctor ushered Lois into an exam room and gave her a paper gown to put on.

"Okay, I'll leave so you can put this on. Take everything off but your undergarments and I'll be back in a minute." The doctor's expression softened. "I'm sorry about Diane. She always does that. Sometimes I think she'd make a better doctor than I do because she's right so often."

With that, the doctor left the room, giving Lois her needed privacy and also a minute to think. The room was very small, not larger than a walk-in closet, and smelled like antiseptic. That smell was so potent that even Lois with her stuffy nose could smell it clearly. The walls were decorated with diagrams of human anatomy, scattered among pictures of cute little puppies and kittens.

Lois quickly changed into the paper gown and hopped up onto the exam table. It was so uncomfortable, she could barely stand it. Every time she moved, she felt the paper underneath her move with her, making the most annoying crinkling sounds. She clasped her aching head in her hands and rubbed her runny nose. Lois thought to herself, 'So Diane is usually right, hmm. She sure isn't right today! How could I be pregnant? I have the flu, and that's it. After all, Clark and I use protection almost every time. Oh no, almost every time! There was that one time, but what are the odds? I know it's possible, but the odds have to be at least one hundred to one against it.' She shook her head. 'No, no, no. It just can't be!"

The doctor gently knocked on the door, "Ms. Lane, can I come in?"

"Yes," Lois said softly.

The doctor sat down on a rolling stool and rolled close to Lois. She grabbed a pen and Lois' chart. Lois stared at her in shock. How could this doctor just sit there so calmly when Lois' mind was racing so quickly? She hadn't considered the possibility of pregnancy before, and it was still only a small possibility, but now her brain was working overtime pondering if that receptionist woman could be right. What would she do if she was pregnant? She wasn't ready to be a mother.

"Is that Diane woman really always right? Isn't she ever wrong? Because I know I'm not pregnant. Where would she get that kind of idea from anyway?"

The doctor looked at Lois patronizingly. She ignored Lois' insistent questioning and started writing on the chart.

"What are you doing? What are you writing?"

"So, Lois, you say you've been having flu-like symptoms for the past two weeks. What kind of symptoms are we talking about here?"

Lois' eyes widened. The doctor just cut her off! No one cuts Lois Lane off, well, except Clark, but he's allowed to.

Lois pulled a tissue out of her purse and blew her nose. She coughed to clear her throat of the phlegm that had built up there. She didn't feel well enough to get into an argument with the doctor, as much as she might have wanted to.

"Well, there's been a stomach flu going around the office. I think just about everyone's been home with it, but I just haven't gotten any better. Everyone else was better in a couple of days, but mine has just been lingering."

The doctor nodded and made a few notes on her chart.

"Any nausea?"

Lois' eyes widened. What kind of doctor did she go to? She had just seen Lois coming out of the bathroom, and the receptionist had obviously told her that Lois was throwing up.

"Yes, I've been feeling quite nauseous the whole time I've been sick. It's almost constant. I can't keep anything down, and the smell of food makes me feel worse."

The doctor nodded and made some more notes on her chart.

"Congestion?"

Lois sniffled, "Yeah, sinuses, lungs, nose, you name it, it's congested."

"What color is the mucus you've been expelling? Is it yellow, white, clear?"

Lois had never really looked at her mucus before, she didn't think it was a strange color. If it was a bright yellow, she would have noticed.

"Why on Earth do you need to know that?"

"Because I need to rule out an infection. If you expel any yellow mucus, that means you have an infection, and I'll need to put you on antibiotics."

"Oh."

Lois looked at the tissue she had placed next to her on the table.

"It looks like it's clear. Is that bad?"

"No, that's a good sign. It rules out a bacterial infection, but not a viral infection. Let me take your blood pressure."

The doctor strapped the cuff on Lois' arm and pumped it up. Lois felt the pressure and the pulsing in her arm and hoped it would be over soon. Soon, but not soon enough for Lois, the doctor removed the blood pressure cuff.

"120/64, normal." She wrote it down on her chart. "Now let me listen to your heart and lungs."

She helped Lois stand up. "Now take deep breaths."

When she had finished, the doctor made some more notes and said, "Congested, but normal breathing patterns. Not pneumonia. Now lie down on your back so I can feel your spleen and lymph nodes to see if they are swollen. If they are, it means you might have mononucleosis."

Lois nodded. Mono was the one disease she thought was probable, but how? She thought kissing or exchanging saliva with an infected person spread the disease. Surely Clark wasn't affected, and she wasn't in the habit of sharing drinks or kissing strange men. But she was always in public places where people sometimes sneezed without covering their mouths, and that could have been enough to transmit the disease.

The doctor pulled Lois' paper gown back and pushed her cold hands into Lois' tender stomach. The sensation was weird for Lois, but not painful, and the doctor felt nothing swollen in her spleen or in any of the lymph nodes in her groin, armpits, nor neck.

When she finished, she closed the chart and said, "Okay, I'm going to leave so you can get dressed again, and then we'll talk about what our next course of action is going to be."

Lois nodded and the doctor left the room. That incompetent woman probably had to tell that Diane woman what she thought about Lois so that the whole office would know in a matter of minutes. As she stepped into her jeans, she wondered how a doctor like this could stay in business. She gossiped about her patients with the receptionist, a woman who probably didn't even have a college education. Even if she did have a college education, Lois still didn't want her doctor telling that nosy receptionist, or anyone else for that matter, about her condition. Five minutes later, the doctor knocked on the door again and Lois opened it. The doctor again sat on the swivel stool and opened the chart, making a few marks again.

"Well, Lois, from these symptoms here it looks like you have the flu, but I'd like to run some tests just to be sure. I want to absolutely rule out mononucleosis, and for that you need blood work done. I'll write you a prescription for the tests and all you have to do is go downstairs to room 124, and they'll take the blood right away. I was wondering, though, how is your job? You must be under a lot of stress as a reporter trying to generate excellent stories on short deadlines."

Lois sighed, "Not usually, but recently, it's been extraordinarily stressful. We've had a lot of big stories break around the same time, and it seems like it just isn't slowing down."

"Well, I think you have to slow down. Make time for yourself. There's always another story out there, but you only have one body. Your body needs rest and proper nutrition. You can't go at full-speed forever without a break."

Lois nodded. For once the doctor, Clark, and she all agreed. She did need some time off to recover from all of the recent events in her life if they were what was making her sick.

The doctor continued, "I also want to talk to you about what Diane said before."

Lois stared a cold stare at Dr. Stevens. The good doctor almost froze with fear when her eyes locked with the sharp daggers that Lois called eyes. Dr. Stevens, however, was not quite so easily intimidated. She wouldn't let Lois get the better of her.

She began, "You know Diane has been working in doctors' offices for at least 50 years now. She is the best I've ever met at diagnosing problems by just looking at someone."

Lois' eyes widened as big as saucers. "Could she be wrong this time? No, she IS wrong this time. I'm not pregnant. I can't be."

The doctor ran her hand through her short blonde hair, the lines of exasperation clearly forming in her forehead.

"Yes Lois, she has been wrong, but she is right much more often than she's wrong, especially about pregnant women. She seems to have a sense about those things. Diane says that there's a special glow a pregnant woman has, and you have it more than any woman she's seen walk through this office's doors."

Lois shook her head. "No, that woman must be crazy. I can't be pregnant."

"Are you sure of that? I mean absolutely positive."

Lois closed her mouth definitively. She closed her eyes, remembering the one time when she and Clark had forgotten to use protection. That morning had been one of the best mornings of her life, but now it could be turning into one of the worst in her life. As she remembered that morning, she slowly shook her head.

"No, I'm not absolutely positive. It could be a remote possibility. A very remote possibility."

"Have you been having unprotected sexual relations?"

Lois shook her head again, "No, not regularly. It was just that one time. It was such a blur that both of us forgot. But, but…"

The doctor interrupted, "Lois, that one time could mean a lot. Plenty of women have become pregnant even while using protection."

Lois shook her head. She wasn't plenty of women, she was Lois Lane, and that made her both different and better than all those other women.

"How long has it been since your last menstrual period?"

"I think it was about two months ago. But I am not worried because I have never been very regular, especially when I've been under a lot of stress. I am used to skipping months when I am working on big stories or if I am exercising a lot."

The doctor jotted some notes on a sheet of paper, and then some more notes on the chart.

"What in the world are you writing in there?"

"This is just your prescription for the blood tests I want you to get as soon as you leave here."

"No, not there. I mean in the chart. Don't I ever get to look at the chart?"

The doctor was shocked. She'd never run across any sick person who demanded to see their chart before. Lois knew that this was all just one big conspiracy. There had to be a reason that no doctor allowed his or her patients access to their charts in the office, but at a hospital anyone from the candy-striper to the patient's mother-in-law to the janitor had access to the charts. This would make a great story, if only she felt up to moving her hands across the keyboard.

The doctor changed the subject. "Lois, I'm not saying Diane is right, but I am writing you a prescription for a pregnancy test."

Lois opened her mouth in protest.

"I'm not saying you're pregnant, but we have to do the test because you and your husband have had unprotected sex and you've missed a period."

Lois opened her mouth to protest again, but the doctor continued, "This is just so you don't sue me for malpractice. I have to prescribe any and all tests that I deem necessary in your treatment, and I want to be as thorough as possible."

Lois fumed in anger. She didn't need the pregnancy test because she obviously wasn't pregnant, and that was that.

"Ms. Lane, I am also having them run tests for mononucleosis, pneumonia, leukemia, bladder infection, anemia, influenza, and strep throat. It's just precautionary."

Lois just nodded, still in a state of denial. It wouldn't come up positive anyway, so why did she care, unless it did come up positive by some strange fluke. But what if it did come up positive? What would they do? She and Clark were not ready for a baby; they hadn't even been married for a year yet.

The doctor ripped the prescription off the pad, and handed it to Lois.

"I want you to get the blood taken as soon as possible. If you go to the lab I told you about this afternoon, I should have the results in two days. But until then, I want you to take it easy. Stay home from work and rest. You body needs time to heal itself, and you need to recuperate from the stress of your job."

Lois nodded and said, "I'll get those tests right now because I don't really have anything better to do, and I wasn't planning on going in to work until I felt like I could sit at my desk for an hour without wanting to run to the bathroom."

"Goodbye, Lois, and good luck."

The two women shook hands, and Lois left the office.

As Lois walked past Diane, Diane said, "Well congratulations ma'am."

Lois held her tongue, although she wanted to give Diane a piece of her mind both for trying to diagnose her without permission and for the ma'am comment. She walked out of the office, head held high, without a look back at the elderly receptionist.

***

Meanwhile, Clark sat in Dr. Klein's office waiting for the doctor to come out of his lab with the results. Klein had been gone over fifteen minutes and Clark was getting restless. What could be taking him so long?

Clark got out of his chair and started to pace around the small room. Out of curiosity, he picked up one of the books on the desk.

"'The Quantum Mechanics of Bifurcation Points in Nonlinear Systems.' Now that sounds like some interesting reading!" Clark said sarcastically.

He flipped through the first few pages and put the book back on the desk. Clark knew it was a bad book when he, the man who could order dinner in 347 languages, didn't even know what the first word meant. Clark gave up reading and started pacing. After a few minutes, Dr. Klein walked into the room and nearly ran right into the pacing Superman.

"Oh, Superman, I'm sorry to have kept you waiting. It's just that I had to find the thing I needed to show you. Why don't you sit down?"

Dr. Klein indicated that Clark should take the seat right next to the desk. Both men sat down, and Clark waited for the doctor to begin. Dr. Klein seemed unusually nervous today. Maybe the news was not as good as he had made it sound before. Maybe Superman could never have children. Dr. Klein sure was sweating, and his pulse was way over 150. Clark was worried. This had to mean that something was wrong, and that Dr. Klein was afraid to tell him about it.

"Dr. Klein, what's wrong? Is it bad news? I can take bad news, you know."

Dr. Klein looked into Superman's eager eyes. He hated to do this to the young man because he had gotten his hopes up too high. Superman looked so anxious, so hopeful, Dr. Klein hoped he didn't have to dash the superhero's every hope. He paused to collect his thoughts and to take a deep breath before he began.

"Superman, first I want to say that if you have any relations with your, uh, honey, there should be nothing to worry about. She should be perfectly fine. Your, um, reproductive system, is just like any normal man's. There should be no way of hurting her."

Clark raised his eyebrows. The man was obviously nervous, and he was trying to avoid the question at hand. Clark shook his head and rubbed his eyes, this was going to take a while with Dr. Klein in this kind of mood, and chances were good that Clark would not be pleased with what Dr. Klein had to tell them.

"Dr. Klein, I know that already. Can we just get on with it?"

Dr. Klein's eyebrows nearly jumped to the top of his forehead.

"You know that already? May I ask, who's the lucky woman?"

Clark realized his near mistake right when he closed his mouth. This would take some quick thinking on his part to get this straightened out without lying to his friend. Clark took a deep breath and exhaled loudly. He didn't want to deal with this right now; he just wanted to find out the test results.

In an un-Superman-like tone, he snapped, "Why wouldn't I know that already? What do you think I am? Don't you think I have needs and desires like any other man?"

Dr. Klein sat up in his chair in disbelief. He'd never seen Superman like this before. He must have really struck a painful nerve with Superman for him to snap like that.

Superman shook his head, "No, wait, Dr. Klein. I'm sorry. I didn't mean that the way it sounded. I just have some things that I'd rather keep private, and my love life, or lack of one, is just one of those things. I promise, if I ever decide to tell anyone, you'd be the first to know."

Dr. Klein nodded and said, "I'm sorry to offend you Superman. I didn't mean to insinuate that you never… you know, but sometimes I forget that you are a man underneath that costume. I, as well as most of the rest of the world, sometimes just see you as someone that is just put here to save the world from disaster, and I forget that you are a person with needs, feelings, and desires."

"Now can we please get back to those tests?"

Dr. Klein nodded, "Certainly, Superman, let's take a look at this sample under my microscope."

The two men took turns gazing at the sample on the slide, and as Superman looked Dr. Klein said, "The sample of the right is your sperm, while the sample on the right is the sperm of a normal man of about thirty."

Superman nodded; the two samples looked almost the same to him, except that his seemed to be moving a lot faster.

"I think whatever causes your powers also affects your sperm. You have a higher sperm count, and your sperm seem hyperactive compared to a human's sperm."

Superman raised his head, "So what does that mean, exactly?"

Dr. Klein shook rubbed the sweat from his brow. He was sweating profusely now, and he couldn't calm himself down.

"Dr. Klein?"

Superman put his hand on his friend's shoulder. Dr. Klein broke away and started to pace.

"Superman, I hope if you've been having relations you've been careful, you do know what I mean when I say careful, right."

Superman nodded.

"Yes Doctor, both about the being careful and the knowing what careful means. But why? Does my hyperactive sperm have anything to do with it? If I had relations with L-, I mean a woman, and she became pregnant, would it hurt her?"

Clark breathed a sigh of relief. He had almost slipped in his fear for Lois' safety. He did think Dr. Klein should know his secret eventually, but now was not the right time.

Dr. Klein heard Superman's slip of the tongue and thought, 'Uh-huh, I knew he had a girlfriend.'

"No, Superman, it wouldn't hurt her. In fact, all the evidence I have indicates that you will be able to father healthy children with any woman of your choice."

Clark breathed a sigh of relief. He wanted children, but he would never put Lois' life in danger to have them. Now, at least, he knew that they would be able to have children if they ever so desired.

"Your sperm are actually so much like human that I want to do some more tests on you to see just how human-like your body is. I'd really like to do some genetic tests on you. Oh, but I've digressed. What I wanted to tell you is that your sperm is very powerful, and can live outside your body for days, weeks, and possibly even months. That is to say that if you had unprotected sexual relations, your chances of impregnating a woman are much greater than those of a human male."

Superman sat back down in his chair. He was remembering the morning, not long ago, when he and Lois had forgotten to use protection. It was the only time he could recall them ever forgetting, but with Dr. Klein's news he was frightened. What if she was pregnant already? She'd been sick lately. But the stomach flu had been going around the office. He sure hoped she wasn't pregnant yet. They weren't ready. After all, they'd only been married for nine months, and had just gotten used to being with each other so they weren't ready to bring another person into the picture.

Dr. Klein waved his hand in front of Superman's dazed face. When Superman didn't respond, Dr. Klein put his hand on Superman's shoulder and gently squeezed. This drew Clark out of his reverie. He blinked twice and found himself looking directly into his friend's eyes.

"Are you okay, Superman? Do you want to talk about it?"

"No, it's okay, Dr. Klein. I think I hear a cry for help somewhere. Um Spain, I think."

Before Dr. Klein could respond, Superman had already flown out the window.

***

Lois had finished getting her blood taken about half an hour later. She was still feeling very sick, but she did have the energy to drive herself home. When she walked in the door, she wondered if Clark was home yet. She needed to vent about the nosy receptionist and the inept doctor, but first, she needed to lie down. Her head was spinning again, and she felt like her legs were little toothpicks trying to support her body. She flopped onto the couch and closed her eyes, expecting Clark to come and help her any second now.

When five minutes had passed with no sign of Clark, Lois reached for the remote control to see if LNN was reporting any Superman sightings. His appointment couldn't have lasted this long.

As soon as she flipped on the TV, she saw what was keeping Clark. There was a huge train derailment just outside of Madrid, Spain, and Clark was helping to dig survivors out of the wreckage. 'So he won't be home for a while,' Lois thought. 'I bet I can make it upstairs by myself. It's going to be a long time until he gets back.'

Lois made her way slowly up the stairs, and she made a quick stop in the bathroom to grab a box of tissues. Soon, she was lying on her bed dozing to LNN, and coughing up a lung. As she fell asleep, she thought about the possibility of being pregnant.

She couldn't prove that she wasn't. That was the fact that irritated her the most. The doctor had a point, she hadn't had her period in two months, although that was a normal occurrence with her, but she and Clark had unprotected sex, even though it was only that one time.

When she finally fell asleep, Lois dreamt about what her life would be like both pregnant and with a baby. In her nightmare, Clark treated her like she was a breakable china doll, and he wouldn't even let her go to work. He was scared that she'd run off and do something stupid. Then, she had so much trouble with her child. He or she, Lois wasn't sure which, hated her and resented her for all of its life. She didn't like the child either, because it caused a rift in her relationship with Clark. Clark spent too much time with the child and not any time with her. And the child had powers, so Lois was left alone while father and child played with their Superpowers.

Lois awoke and bolted up in bed. She had been sweating, but now she was very cold and she pulled the blankets tightly around her. Thank God that was just a dream. If only she could be sure that wouldn't happen sometime in the future. She needed to talk to Clark about her fears and about her dream to straighten herself out about some of the horrible visions that had been floating through her mind.

Soon, Clark flew in through the window and spun into a pair of blue jeans and a tee shirt. He smiled when he saw her in bed and gently walked to her side of the bed.

"Hey, honey, when did you get back? How'd it go? Are you feeling any better?"

Clark gently brushed some of the damp hairs off Lois' forehead. She didn't look too good, and Clark hoped the doctor had given her something to help her feel better. When he kissed her cheek, he tasted the salt from her tears, and he wondered what could have gone wrong at the doctor's office.

"Lois, are you okay? You've been crying."

Lois sneezed three times, and Clark said, "Bless you, honey. Oh, you sure sound horrible. Is there anything I can get you?"

"Oh, Clark, I feel even worse than I did when I left. That doctor is the most inept person I've ever met. She is so unprofessional. Did you know she let a receptionist diagnose me? Hasn't she ever heard of doctor-patient confidentiality? I mean, honestly, a receptionist."

Lois was babbling again. At least that was a good sign that she was feeling a more like her old self again.

"She even had the nerve to tell me that I might be pregnant."

Clark raised his eyebrows. Oh no, maybe he was right in Dr. Klein's office. Maybe that one time they forgot protection they did conceive a baby.

"And then, that stupid lady wouldn't even let me see my chart. The nerve of some people."

She stopped and looked at Clark, expecting a response. Clark ran a hand through his hair and decided he needed to sit down. He climbed into bed next to Lois and wrapped his arm around her pulling her close to him.

"I'm sorry you had such a horrible time at the doctor's, honey. Did they tell you what else they think is wrong with you? I mean I know sneezing and a runny nose are not symptoms of pregnancy."

Lois snuggled into his chest, trying to find a comfortable position.

"I don't know. I think the doctor said that I probably have either the flu, strep throat, or mono."

"Mono? Isn't that the kissing disease? Who else have you been kissing that I don't know about?" Clark smiled gently to show that he was kidding.

"That's not funny, Clark. I might really have it."

Clark forced a somber expression onto his face and he said, "I'm sorry. I guess I'm just upset about how long that train wreck took to clean up."

"How long were you there?"

"Almost three hours," Clark sighed.

He pictured the horrible scenes again and clutched Lois for support. He could see the mangled train cars and the bloody victims clearly as he tried to forget what had happened. He closed his eyes tightly, trying to clear his mind of the horrible disaster he had just witnessed.

"At least everyone got out before the fire started."

Lois tired to comfort him, to wipe away all of the bad images he had seen today. She ran a soothing hand down his arm and just let him talk about it.

Clark shook his head. "I wish I could have gotten there before the train fell off the tracks completely. I could have helped so many more people escape without any injuries."

"Clark, don't say that. I heard on the news that you got everyone out with no casualties. I mean, sure, some people may be injured, but the important thing is that they're all alive."

Lois cupped Clark's face in both of her hands. She kissed the top of his head and asked, "Anyway, what happened at Dr. Klein's today?" trying to change the subject so that Clark would stop brooding.

Clark turned his head so he wouldn't have to look at Lois when he told her what Dr. Klein had found.

"Clark, look at me. It wasn't bad news, was it?"

Lois was worried. Clark wouldn't be acting this way if he didn't have bad news for her. She wondered just how bad the bad news was.

"Well, it depends on what you define as bad news."

"Clark Kent, stop stalling and just tell me what Dr. Klein said!" Lois demanded.

Lois turned Clark's head so he was staring directly into her eyes.

"Okay, Lois, the good news is that Dr. Klein said that you and I should be able to have normal, healthy children together without any unusual complications. My reproductive system is the same as any other man's except for one thing."

Lois' eyes brightened and she smiled widely. "That's wonderful, honey. We can have children together some day!"

She kissed him deeply on the lips. When they came up for air, Clark still did not look quite as happy as Lois felt.

"Clark, what's wrong. Aren't you happy about this? Wait, what's that one thing you were talking about? It's bad, isn't it?"

Clark nodded. "Yeah, it's bad. Well, not as bad as you might think, but still bad."

"Clark, get to the point."

"Okay, my sperm is hyperactive."

"Hyperactive meaning what, exactly?"

Clark looked into Lois' eyes and hoped she wouldn't be too mad when she heard what he had to say.

"Well, he said that my sperm can stay alive in your body for a very long time. We have to be especially careful every time we make love because we have a chance to get pregnant every time."

Lois raised her eyebrows and backed away.

"What!" Lois exclaimed.

She couldn't believe it. This gave more merit to what that Diane woman at her doctor's office said. She really could be pregnant if Clark's sperm could live in her body for a long time. Even if she wasn't ovulating, the sperm could be alive in her body until she was.

Clark hugged her tightly and said, "I'm sorry, honey. We just have to be careful."

"But we weren't careful all the time. And that means I could be pregnant right now!"

Clark swallowed the lump in his throat. He didn't want Lois to be pregnant yet, almost as much as she didn't want to be pregnant. As much as he did want to have children some day, now just didn't seem like the right time, and he knew Lois felt the same way. But if it was true, and Lois was pregnant right now, they would adjust their lives to adapt to a baby. They would love the baby, and he knew they would be good parents. "I know, honey. And I know we don't think we are ready for a baby right now, but we can change. It won't be that hard."

"That's easy for you to say. You won't turn into a blimp, and you won't have to take maternity leave away from your job, and you won't have strange people that want to touch your belly or try to predict the baby's sex."

Tears ran down Lois' cheeks as she continued, "You'll be busy as Superman, and I'll have to deal with our baby by myself. Oh Clark, I don't know what we're going to do."

Clark reached up and wiped the tears from Lois' cheeks.

"Oh honey, you won't be a blimp. You could never be a blimp; you'd still be the most beautiful woman in the world. And you don't have to take a long maternity leave if you don't want to, and I'll look into the Planet's paternity leave policy. I don't ever want to leave you alone. We could talk to Mr. Stern to suggest that they build a daycare center. And I will try to cut back on the emergencies Superman goes to. No more cats in trees or things that the authorities can handle."

"Would you really do that? Could you really do that?"

Lois closed her eyes tightly. Here they were planning like she was already pregnant. At least Clark was making concessions like the wonderful man that he was. He was such a wonderful man, and she probably didn't deserve him.

Clark cupped her face in his left hand and placed his right hand on the back of her head.

"Lois, of course I would do that. I would sacrifice my entire career as Superman for my family. I need you to make my life complete. You are the most wonderful person in the world, and I would do anything for you and for my family. If you aren't happy, I can never be happy."

They embraced quietly until Lois said, "I don't think I can take the suspense any longer. I can't wait two days to know if I'm pregnant."

"I could go to the drug store and buy one of those home tests."

Lois nodded and Clark looked expectantly into her eyes.

"That's a good idea. I'd go with you, but I still don't feel well enough to get out of bed. I'm so dizzy, and I feel like I'll throw up any minute."

Lois started coughing and she buried her head into Clark's chest. Clark kissed the top of her head and rubbed her back until the coughing fit passed.

"I wish I could do something to make you feel better."

When she had stopped coughing, Lois looked up and smiled, and Clark continued, "I'll run to the store and be back in five minutes. You know, I think I could probably get used to having a baby around here."

As Clark flew away, Lois muttered, "Speak for yourself." And she flopped back on the pillows.

***

Clark flew to the nearest drug store, not caring who would see him and recognize him, and spun back into his casual clothes in a nearby alley. He walked in the door and scanned the store for the pregnancy tests. He found them back near the pharmacy, and quickly walked over for a closer look. He was amazed at the shear amount of types of tests. He scanned each type and decided on three of the ones that claimed 15 minute waits. Unfortunately, when he got to the counter, there was a very long line.

Clark ran his free hand through his hair, then he pinched his nose where his glasses sat. He didn't need this kind of aggravation right now. He needed to get back to Lois, and quickly. The line seemed to be a mile long, and Clark, not usually an impatient shopper, wanted to scream. Of course he had to come to the drug store that was having double coupon and senior citizen day. He glared at the people in line in front of him, many of whom had carts full of items, and he especially glared at the elderly lady at the counter. This lady had two full carts, and she was arguing with the young girl at the counter about which type of Depends bladder control products were on sale. She maintained that the extra large extra leak guard protections were on sale 2 for $5.00, but the sales girl kept telling her that it was the regular leak guards that were on sale. The obstinate customer had demanded to see the manager, and she was not going to let any of the other customers go ahead.

Clark sighed and tilted his head back in exasperation. What did he do to deserve this today? He leaned against the counter and closed his eyes.

Suddenly, he heard a familiar annoying feminine voice calling his name. He always dreaded hearing this voice, especially now that he was holding an assortment of pregnancy tests.

"Clark. Earth to Clark, aren't you going to say anything to your mother-in-law?"

Clark muttered, "Kill me now, please. How am I going to explain these to her?"

He shoved the pregnancy tests onto the shelf behind his back and grabbed a pack of gum.

"Ellen, hi!" Clark smiled widely and said with a falsely happy tone, "What brings you to this side of town?"

As Ellen walked towards Clark, he again wondered what had possessed him to go to this drug store when he could have gone to any drug store in the world. What were the chances that today would be seniors day, and double coupon day, and the day that Ellen Lane decided it would be a good day to go to a drug store on the other side of town? The answer was obvious; God hated him.

Ellen smiled back at him and asked, "Clark, did I just see you shove something behind your back? You wouldn't be trying to hide anything from me, would you?"

Clark gulped. He thought he had hidden those tests so quickly that no one would ever have been able to see him do it.

"What? Ellen, what are you talking about?"

Ellen tried to peek behind Clark, and when she saw her targets, she grabbed at them. Clark couldn't stop her without being too obvious, so Ellen emerged victorious. She realized what she was holding, and screamed.

"Oh my God! My baby's going to have a baby. Clark, why were you trying to hide this from me? The two of you always do this to me. All I want to do is help my beloved daughter…

"Ellen."

"… And you two can't even tell me that my baby might be having a baby! I mean I can understand…"

"Ellen!"

Ellen stopped mid-sentence and looked up. Clark raised his eyebrows, obviously Lois had inherited the babble gene from her mother. He gently guided her away from the small crowd that had gathered around them. They walked outside the drugstore where it was a little less crowded so they could talk in peace without as many strangers trying to eavesdrop in on their private conversation.

"I'm sorry we didn't tell you. We don't even know for sure yet. Lois has been sick for a week or two and we thought it was just the flu. How many women think they're pregnant when they are coughing up lungs? Just today, it dawned on us that she could be pregnant because she went to the doctor and the doctor suggested it."

Ellen opened her mouth to speak, but Clark continued, "Yes, I know we should have thought of that before, but I guess we were in denial. But we're actually kind of hoping that it will be negative."

Ellen's eyes opened wide. She looked to be entering Ellen Lane tantrum mode.

"So I see, this is an accident baby. Leave it to Lois to have a baby when she isn't ready for one! I swear, that girl was always a problem child."

Clark was angry. How could she say things like that about Lois? Lois was probably the most responsible person he had even met in his life. And he had a hard time seeing her as a problem child in the sense Ellen was implying.

"Ellen, it's not that we aren't ready for a baby. It's just that we'd rather wait a year or two so we could be alone together. But if it happens now, we'll still be happy about it. Now Lois is waiting for me at home. She'll probably kill me for spending this much time here. I'm surprised she hasn't come looking for me already. I'm going to go buy those tests now."

Ellen sputtered, "Wait a minute, Clark. I'm coming with you. A girl needs her mother at a time like this."

Clark shook his head. The last thing Lois needed right now was her mother. In fact, Lois would probably kill him if he brought Ellen home with him.

"No, Ellen, I don't think that's a good idea. She doesn't feel well right now, and the last thing she needs is someone else fussing over her. I mean, she's almost ready to kill me as it is."

"But, Clark, she needs her mother."

"How about this? We'll call you as soon as we know the results. That way you won't be the last to know. Please."

Clark gave her his patented sad puppy eyes, guaranteed to make any woman melt, and he hoped it worked. He could see that Ellen was considering his offer. She must have been seeing the merits because her eyes were brightening.

"Okay, Clark, as long as you promise to call me as soon as you know."

"It's a deal."

They sealed their agreement with a handshake, and they both entered the drug store and went their separate ways.

Luckily, the line had died down and Clark was only behind one person in line. When the lady in front of him was finished, Clark dropped the pregnancy tests on the counter and pulled some money out of his wallet.

When he finally finished ringing up the order, the cashier said, "Fifteen dollars and thirty-five cents."

Clark tossed the money on the counter and nearly flew out of the store. In three seconds flat, he was back at the brownstone. When he flew in the window, he noticed that Lois had barely moved from the position he had left her in. She was still propped up against the pillows with almost her entire body snuggled up in the blankets. Her eyes were closed tightly, and it looked like she had been sound asleep the entire time he had been gone.

He sat on the edge of the bed and gently shook her shoulder. Her eyes fluttered open and she coughed twice then said, "So you're finally home. What took you so long?"

Clark rolled his eyes, "Honey, you wouldn't believe the bad luck I've been having today. First, I chose the drug store that was having senior citizens' day and double coupon day, and that made the checkout lines a mile long. Then, one woman got into an argument with the cashier, and then, you'll never even guess who I ran into."

Lois sat up in bed and reached out for him to hug her, and asked, "Who? Was it Ralph? A-choo. Or Jimmy?"

He hugged her as she wanted.

"Bless you. And no, it wasn't Ralph or Jimmy."

"Thank goodness."

"It was worse. It was your mother, Lois."

Lois fell back onto the pillows. This was worse than she could have expected.

"Did she notice what you were buying?"

Clark ran his hand through his hair.

"Did she notice what I was buying. Ha. That's an understatement. She nearly grabbed the boxes away from me."

Lois covered her face in her hands.

"Great, just what I need right now, my mother. What did she say about it?"

Clark put his arm around Lois' shoulders reassuringly and ran his hand through her silky hair.

"I think she said, 'My baby's having a baby,' more than once. Then she wanted to know why she didn't know yet."

Lois leaned her head back and looked to the ceiling.

"Please don't tell me she's here. If I know my mother, I know she asked you to let her come over here."

Clark laughed slightly. She really did know her mother that well.

"You're right, she did want to come over here, but I used some of that old Kent charm that has all of you Lane women falling over me, and she decided to go home and wait for us to call her."

Lois threw her arms around Clark's and gave him a big kiss on the lips. He had done something that she only rarely could do, dissuade Ellen Lane when her mind was set on something.

"Don't give yourself too much credit there, Farmboy," Lois giggled, happy that her mother wasn't there, temporarily forgetting their problem.

Clark, too, smiled and laughed out loud.

"Hey, she isn't here, is she? I think I deserve a little credit."

Lois pulled him close and planted kisses along his neckline, then around his chin until she found her way up to his mouth. There, her tongue invaded his mouth and they kissed for what seemed like an eternity and neither ever wanted to stop. When Lois needed to breathe, she reluctantly broke away and said, breathlessly, "So, is that enough credit for you?"

All Clark could do was nod, with his mouth still agape, because the kiss had rendered him speechless. Lois turned out of Clark's arms and stepped out of bed. She grabbed his hand and pulled him out too.

"Your reward is my not being mad at you for not getting here sooner. But I decided that not having my mother here was worth your 45 minute delay," she said with a big smile on her face.

Clark could tell that she wasn't quite as happy as she was trying to seem. He could see that she was very nervous about the pregnancy tests she would soon take because she had goose bumps all over her body, she was shaking, and her pulse rate was way over 120. Clark, too, was nervous about the tests. He wasn't sure how he'd feel if the tests came out positive. He was sure he wanted children, but did he want them now? It was obvious that neither had planned to have children so early in their marriage, but he wasn't sure if he would really be displeased if they found out that Lois was pregnant. Sure, there would be some hard times, and he and Lois would have to change their lifestyles, but maybe they were changes he wanted to make.

"Okay, honey, I'm going to take the tests. I'll be out in a couple of minutes."

Clark nodded as the bathroom door shut. As he waited for Lois to emerge, he thought about what it would mean if they really were going to have a baby.

The thought that he and Lois might have their own children warmed Clark's heart. He had always wanted children, someone with whom he could share his own flesh and blood. But, as he thought about it, he knew that right now was not the best time to have children. He and Lois were just getting accustomed to living together, and they were enjoying their freedom. They could come and go as they pleased without having anyone to answer to. Investigations could last until all hours of the night, and if they had a baby, there was no way they could ever be the same kind of investigative reporters that they were right now. And what about Superman? He couldn't just leave Lois alone with a baby every time he heard a cry for help. That wouldn't be fair to her or to their child. But, then again, he couldn't just give up Superman. What if Lois left him alone with the baby and he heard a cry for help? What would he do? Would he take the baby with him? He couldn't leave the baby alone or ignore someone's desperate cry for help.

As Lois walked out of the bathroom, he decided that he'd probably be happy with whatever result they got. He wasn't really ready to be a father, but, then again, who really was? Parenthood was just a big adventure that they'd just have to take one step at a time.

Lois, on the other hand, was not quite as sure. When she was in the bathroom, she was also thinking about parenthood. She had never wanted to be a mother before, but now the idea was looking appealing, someday. Someday meaning not right now. She and Clark were not ready for a baby. They had demanding careers. Clark even had two full time jobs. At this point in her life, her job was very important to her. She wasn't sure what she would do if she couldn't do her job at full strength. A baby right now would certainly hamper her lifestyle. It may have been selfish, but Lois felt that her own life was much more important right now, and she didn't want to share it with a baby.

But now, as she gazed lovingly at her husband who was sitting on the bed with his head in his hands, she wondered if having a baby with Clark would necessarily be such a bad thing. If their baby was anything like Clark, it would be a wonderful blessing in both of their lives. She knew that she eventually wanted to have children, but the key word was eventually. Right now was just not the right time for her to be pregnant. If the test came back positive, however, maybe she wouldn't be totally crushed.

When Clark noticed that she had come out of the bathroom, he stood up and walked over to the door. He gathered her into a reassuring hug and she buried her face in his shoulder.

"So, now we just have to wait for fifteen minutes."

Lois looked up. Who were they kidding? It was going to kill them to wait fifteen minutes.

"Yep. Fifteen whole minutes."

"Fifteen whole minutes," Clark repeated.

At the same time Lois and Clark both blurted out, "I don't know if I can wait that long!"

They both laughed nervously. And Clark squeezed more tightly. Suddenly he realized what they should do to keep at least Lois' mind off the impending results of the tests.

"Hey, honey, do you want to play cards or something? We haven't played speed in a while. I promise, no cheating."

Lois smiled brightly and said, "Yeah, that sounds fun! As long as you don't cheat."

"Scouts' honor," said Clark as he raised his right hand and saluted.

Clark got the deck of cards out of the drawer and dealt. The game was so frantic that all thoughts of their pregnancy tests were pushed to the back of their minds. Lois was in such heated competition, she didn't even realize that her nose had started running again. After they were done with a game, Clark grabbed a tissue for Lois to use. They had already played ten heated games when Clark noticed that it had been fourteen minutes. He covered Lois' hand to stop her from dealing.

"Fourteen minutes, honey."

"Yeah, it's almost time."

They hugged, and Clark said, "What ever happens, I love you."

"I love you too, Clark," Lois said tearfully. "So, which one of us wants to go in there and check?

"We could both go," Clark suggested.

Lois nodded and they started walking towards the bathroom hand in hand. They had just reached the door when the phone rang.

They both looked at the ringing phone debating whether to answer it or not.

"Should I get it?" asked Clark.

Lois nodded and Clark gave her a sympathetic look as he lunged for the phone.

Clark knew that Lois wanted him to answer the phone so that they would put off the moment of truth for a while longer.

Lois stood in the doorway and Clark picked up the phone on the third ring.

"Hello?"

Jimmy Olsen's voice carried across the phone line, "Hey, CK, missed you at work today! The chief wanted me to call you so I can update you on the story you guys are working on. Oh, by the way how's Lois doing? Is she feeling better?"

Clark rolled his eyes. Leave it to Jimmy to interrupt them, no matter what.

"I think she's a little bit better, Jim, we both might be at work tomorrow, depending on how she feels. So, what's up?"

"You know all those people whose money's been stolen? Yeah, well, I bet you'd really interested to know that they all used to work for Lex Corp."

Clark raised his eyebrows. They worked for Lex Corp, but so did 90% of Metropolis. Still it was interesting information, especially because of the rumors about Leslie Luckaby being alive.

"Really, but so did most of the rest of Metropolis."

"Yeah, I know that, CK, but this is big. Everyone that had money stolen got some of Lex Luthor's money when he died."

"Oh no."

"Oh yes, Clark. I'm worried. I know we've both heard the rumors about Luckaby. Do you think they could be true?"

"I don't know. I sure hope not."

Clark gazed at Lois, still standing in the bathroom doorway. She was listening to his conversation with a worried expression. Clark ran a hand through his hair and rubbed the bridge of his nose. They certainly didn't need this extra aggravation now, and certainly not from anyone related to the Luthor clan.

"Jimmy, let me know if anything else happens. If not, I'll see you at work tomorrow."

They hung up and Clark walked over to Lois.

"Are you ready, honey?"

"Wait, Clark, first tell me what Jimmy wanted."

She was obviously stalling again. Clark wanted to know the results, and he could just use his x-ray vision and peek at the tests, but he wanted to share this with Lois. He couldn't just cheat like that. As badly as he needed to know if he was going to be a father, he couldn't do that to Lois. They needed to find out together, even if it meant humoring Lois for a little longer.

"Well, he said that those executives whose money has been disappearing used to work for Luthor."

Lois' face paled when Clark mentioned Luthor. How she despised that man. He and his children were pure evil.

"And they benefited when he died?"

"Exactly."

"Oh no. Don't tell me that. So that means either he's back or he has another child."

Clark wrapped his arms around Lois. She didn't need this today.They both had enough on their minds without having to worry about the Luthor family.

"Or it could be one of the children we've already met."

Lois squeezed his shoulders tightly and shook him.

"Clark, is there something you know that you're not telling me?"

Clark avoided making eye contact when he said, "No, honey, what makes you say that?"

"Come on, you are a horrible liar. And, plus, Superman doesn't lie. You didn't even look at me when you said that."

Clark smiled. He was a horrible liar. There was no way he could ever lie to her. She always caught him.

"Okay, honey, I didn't tell you everything."

Lois coughed a few times, then buried her head into his shoulder.

"There's a shock," Lois said sarcastically.

"Lois, word on the street is that Leslie Luckaby is back."

Lois jumped back.

"What? Did you say Luckaby? Didn't Luthor, Jr. shoot him more than once? Didn't he fall into the sewer and die in the explosion? You can't tell me that he's alive!"

Clark wrapped his comforting arms around her shaking body.

"Oh, Lois, how did Luthor come back to life? I don't know, and I can't explain it. Plus, I don't even know if the rumors are true. They're probably just that, rumors."

"I hope so. I really hope so. We don't need that right now, especially if that test comes up positive."

Clark squeezed her tightly.

"Honey, speaking of the test, I don't think I'd be crushed if it does come up positive. I think I might be ready for the test of parenthood. It's going to be hard work and a lot of sacrifices, but we can do it."

Lois nodded. She, too, was thinking along the same lines. Even though she'd be much happier if the test were negative, she realized that she might be able to accept a positive result. If she was pregnant, she would do everything in her power to provide the best life for her baby. She and Clark would both make sacrifices so they could give the baby all the love it needed.

She whispered into Clark's shoulder, "Yeah, I might not be crushed either."

Then they looked into each other's eyes. Both had looks of determination as well as fear in their eyes as they sent a silent signal that they were ready to check the tests.

With Clark's arm tightly wrapped around her, Lois entered the bathroom. She closed her eyes and waited for her heart to settle down before she looked. Clark, too, didn't immediately look at the tests. He squeezed Lois' shoulders and said, "Okay, on the count of three we look."

Lois nodded and patted his leg reassuring him that she was okay.

"One. Two."

The suspense mounted. In one second they'd know what their future held.

"Three!"

They both simultaneously gazed at the three tests lying on the counter. Every test had the same result, positive, definitively positive.

Lois sank to the ground crying. It was just such a shock. She hadn't expected the tests to come up positive, no matter how much she had tried to ready herself. She was pregnant. That meant the end of her late night stakeouts with Clark, the end of the long hours at work, the end of her shapely figure, and, most importantly, the end of her independence.

Clark sat down behind her and gathered her onto his lap. He rocked her as she cried. It felt like someone had knocked the wind out of him. Breathing became a troubled task as he realized the impact of these three little plus signs. A baby was something he wanted, right? He thought so, but he still did have some doubts.

"Honey, I'm sorry."

"Clark, you have nothing to be sorry for. It's not really bad news, I mean, we wanted to have a family some day, just this is a little sooner than I would have wanted."

"Yeah, me too. One part of me is saying that having a baby together is a miracle, which it is. It is such a wonderful miracle. I'm an alien, you know. How can I even expect to have a baby with a woman from a different planet? But now I know I can, so it is the ultimate miracle. The other part of me is screaming that I'm not ready for it. We'll have to give up so much…"

"And our selfish parts are saying we can't do it, right," Lois interrupted.

"Yeah, that's about it."

They sat in silence, both knowing that eventually they would come to terms with the fact they were going to have a baby. Both were sure that they would soon come to enjoy the thought of becoming parents for the first time, but they had to get over the shock first.

For hours, they sat on the bathroom floor holding each other until the phone's ringing again interrupted them.

"I'll get it, Clark. It's probably my mother."

She grabbed the phone and said, "Hello?"

"Lois, why haven't you called me yet? Clark told me you were going to call as soon as you found out. It's been two hours. Have you found out yet?"

Lois rolled her eyes at Clark, who had been eavesdropping. Leave it to her mother to ruin a peaceful moment with her husband, even if they were wallowing.

"Well, hello to you too, Mother," Lois said sarcastically. "As a matter of fact, we were just going to call you."

"Sure you were, Lois…"

"Okay, Mom, we have some good news. Clark and I are going to have a baby."

Ellen was in shock. From what Clark had told her at the drug store, she almost hadn't believed that it could be true.

She sputtered, "Lois, oh my God! My baby. My little Lois is having a baby!"

Lois could just see her mom. She was probably dancing around the house already planning a baby shower. Ellen probably already had that coordinator she had hired for their wedding, Beverly's, phone number out.

"Oh, Lois, this is so incredible! I have to start planning your shower. It's never to early to plan."

Lois rolled her eyes. She knew her mother too well. But this was the perfect opportunity to get off the phone.

"Okay, Mother, you just do that. I'm sure you have to call Beverly now."

She hung up as soon as she said 'now.' Then she turned back to Clark.

"You know, that felt good, saying that we are having a baby. I think I might be able to get used to that."

"I'm sure I can get used to hearing that, too."

Clark smiled and kissed her deeply. They fell back onto the bed and their hands roamed along each other's bodies. Clark's hands stopped at her stomach.

When Clark stopped, Lois looked up at him.

"What are you doing?"

"I'm trying to feel the baby," Clark matter-of-factly.

Lois giggled.

"Even with your Supersenses, I don't think you'll be able to feel the baby for at least a few weeks. I am not sure when you are supposed to feel the first movements, but I am pretty sure it isn't until the second trimester or so. If this happened when I think it did, I am only about nine weeks along. That's early, even for Superman."

Clark bent down and kissed her stomach repeatedly. In between his kisses, he said, "Lois, I love you so much. I love our baby too." When he finished, he looked into her eyes. "Our baby is the best gift anyone has ever given to me. I know it is going to be hard for us to get used to, but I know I'll be able to cut back as Superman to take care of our baby."

"Oh, Clark, I feel the same way. It's going to take time to get used to, but I know that our baby is a blessing. It may be unexpected, but it won't be unloved."

Lois was caught in a coughing fit again. Clark got out of bed to get her a cup of water. When he came back, she had fallen back against the pillows and looked to be almost asleep. She needed her sleep, so Clark didn't want to disturb her, but she asked him to stay.

"Clark, please, I need you to hold me."

How could Clark say no when she looked at him like that? He climbed into bed next to her and wrapped her securely in his arms.

Lois quickly fell asleep peacefully wrapped in the warmth and security of Clark's arms. Clark, however, wasn't quite as peaceful. His mind drifted back to Lois and their baby. What would this pregnancy do to her? Would it be like a normal pregnancy? Clark couldn't take the chance of hurting her, no matter what the cost. They needed to let Dr. Klein in on their secret, if to do nothing else than give Clark piece of mind. His hand found its new resting-place, protectively draped across Lois' stomach, and he absently rubbed it.

He couldn't believe it, just this morning, neither even wondered if Lois could be pregnant, but now, not even twelve hours later, they knew that Lois was pregnant and that their lives were about to undergo many changes too numerous to count. But not all of the changes would be bad changes. Clark didn't know what the future held for them, but at least he knew it would be interesting.

Two hours later, Lois drifted out of her deep sleep and into a state of half-awake, half-asleep. Was what happened before a dream? She couldn't be pregnant, could she? Then, as she drifted back into full consciousness, she felt Clark's hand on her stomach and knew that she hadn't been dreaming. She was, indeed, pregnant.

Would having Clark's child really be that bad? After all, she was good at so many other things, why would parenthood be any different. Except this time, an innocent life would be at stake. She just hoped they knew what they were getting themselves into.

Clark felt her stir and said, "Lois, honey, are you awake? Do you need anything?"

Lois turned in his arms and looked into his concerned eyes. He was always looking out for everyone else, especially her. Sometimes that made her feel so loved and wanted, but other times it made her angry. Whenever she was sick, she loved it that Clark stayed home with her and waited on her hand and foot. He often even ignored cries for help when she was sick unless it was a major emergency. Would he do that the whole time she was pregnant? Would he be able to cut back like he said he would? What would they do if she left him home alone with the baby and he heard a desperate cry for help? He couldn't leave the baby, but he wouldn't be able to let innocent people die. Maybe they could find some way to have the baby hidden under his cape. It would be protected by his aura, so it might be safe for him to take the baby with him in dire cases. But would she want her baby off God knows where with Clark while he was being Superman? What if someone had Kryptonite? She would lose her husband and her baby. What if the cape flew up and someone spotted the baby? They had a lot to talk about before she could be totally comfortable about this baby. She was even worried that Clark was an alien. Would this pregnancy be different? Would the baby be normal? What if the Kryptonian gestation period was longer than nine months? Could she be pregnant for two years?

Clark squeezed her tightly, and Lois said, "Could you just grab me a tissue? I really need to blow my nose."

Clark easily reached behind him and grabbed the box of tissues that were on the bedstand. Lois blew her nose and then Clark wrapped his arms around her again. Lois saw that Clark needed to talk to her just as much as she needed to talk to him, but he didn't know how to approach her without hurting her.

"Clark, you're worried about what's going to happen to me with this pregnancy, aren't you?"

Clark looked up in surprise.

"How did you guess? Was I that obvious?"

Lois reached up and touched his face. He captured her hand as it passed his mouth and kissed it.

"No, it's just that I'm scared too. No one knows what's going to happen because no one really knows about your physiology or genetics."

Clark turned her slightly so that he could cover her stomach with his hand.

"That's not true. We could go to Dr. Klein. We've known him for a long time, and he's helped us so many times. Plus, he knows more about my physiology than anyone else in the world. I trust him with my life, Lois, and I would trust him with our child's life too."

Lois nodded silently. She had been thinking along the same lines. They needed Dr. Klein's help now more than they ever had before, even if it meant telling another person their secret. Dr. Klein was the one person in the world that could both help them and be trusted to keep their secret.

"Honey, I think we should try to see him tonight," Clark said.

"Yeah, a-choo…"

"God bless you."

"Thanks. We should get this over with as soon as possible. I think we have to know about any differences before I see a regular doctor again, so we need to know as soon as possible."

"Okay, let me call him to see if he's still in."

***

Dr. Klein had agreed to see Lois and Clark at eight o'clock, so at seven fifty-nine, Clark, tightly gripping Lois' hand, knocked on the door of Klein's office. The eccentric scientist opened the door and greeted the couple. What was left of his hair was sticking up in all directions as if he had been pulling at it in frustration.

"Clark, Lois, come in, come in. You sounded pretty worried on the phone. What's wrong?"

Lois squeezed Clark's hand and said, "Are you sure there's no one else here, Dr. Klein?"

Dr. Klein nodded, not entirely puzzled by her question. Lois and Clark often came to him to discuss sensitive information for stories where they wanted to take precautions so that no one else heard what they were going to say.

"Yes, I'm sure. Everyone else has been gone for hours now. I'm sure I'm the only one left. You were lucky you caught me this late. I'm usually home by now, but I was so close to getting this new laser in my fluorescence microscope working, I just had to stay here until it worked."

Lois gently nudged Clark, wanting him to listen to see if he could hear anything. When Dr. Klein turned around to walk into his office, Clark nodded to Lois indicating that it was all clear.

As they followed Dr. Klein into the office, Lois asked, "So, did you get it to work?"

"Actually, yes I just did, and I was on my way home when you called me. It only took me three days to do to get the polarity exactly correct!"

Lois nodded absently, and Dr. Klein could tell that she really didn't care about his new laser. Even he could tell that she was just making idle conversation until they were ready to talk about whatever they had come to talk about. He was proud of himself for figuring that out. It usually took him a lot longer. Maybe he should have gone into clinical work after all. But then he looked at his new laser and changed his mind. He smiled as he realized that if he did clinical work, he wouldn't get neat toys like these lasers to play with.

While he was thinking, Dr. Klein sat calmly at his desk patiently waiting for one of his guests to begin. Lois and Clark both looked nervous. Lois was staring at her fingernails and Clark's foot was tapping insistently. Dr. Klein wondered just what could be making them so nervous, but he had already realized that with Lois and Clark he always had to be ready for the unexpected.

Clark squeezed Lois hand and she glanced at Dr. Klein. He was obviously waiting for one of them to start. She cleared her throat nervously.

"Well, um, Dr. Klein, we know that you are an expert when it comes to Superman's physiology…"

Dr. Klein coughed, embarrassed, "Now Lois, I wouldn't call myself an expert. No one is really an expert when it comes to Superman."

Clark smiled at that comment and continued, "Yeah, but you are the Doctor that has studied Superman the most…"

Lois continued, "And we know about the fertility tests."

Dr. Klein jumped back from them.

"How on Earth did you know about that? That was supposed to be top secret. Who told you? Superman and I were the only two people that knew about those."

He looked absolutely horrified. Could someone in the lab had found out about the tests and told the press? He had to get a hold of Superman and fast!

Lois had a sly grin on her face when she said, "Well, we know about the tests because I told him to get the tests."

She wrapped her arms around Clark's shoulders as Dr. Klein sputtered, "Wait a second. Are you saying that you're Superman's girlfriend?" He looked at Clark incredulously. "And you're okay with this?"

Clark grinned widely and nodded. Dr. Klein looked like he was about to have a stroke. The doctor's face turned bright red; he couldn't believe what he had just heard. Maybe he didn't know all three of them as well as he thought he did. Why would a man that is so obviously in love with his wife let her try to have some other man's child? Clark obviously loved Lois with all his heart. Dr. Klein could see that whenever Clark looked at Lois. Then again, he also saw that look whenever Superman looked at Lois. When he thought about it, he realized that he had never seen Clark and Superman together at the same time. And he had remarked more than once that Superman and Lois acted as if they were married.

He looked directly at Clark and said, "You're him, aren't you? You're Superman!"

At Clark's and Lois' simultaneous nods, he continued, "Why didn't I think of this before? Was I blind? How long have I known the two of you and I never made the connection? What kind of scientist am I?"

Lois got up and put a hand on Dr. Klein's forearm to stop his ranting. He looked up and she sat back down next to Clark.

"Dr. Klein, I'm sorry we didn't tell you before, but you have to understand, he didn't even tell me. It took me, the person he spent the most time with, and also someone who considers herself an investigative reporter, nearly two years to figure out his secret."

Dr. Klein's mouth opened in shock. Clark hadn't even told Lois about himself. She had found out herself. That made him feel privileged to be told. But why would they choose to tell him now? Surely they must have a reason to tell him their secret.

"But why did you choose to tell me? And more importantly, why did you choose to tell me now?" And looking at Clark he said, "And what should I call you? Superman? Clark?"

Clark smiled and squeezed Lois' hand.

"Doctor, please, my name is Clark Kent. Superman is just a character I've created so that I can use my powers to help. In fact, my mother made the suit and Lois gave me the name."

Dr. Klein smiled, so this was the girlfriend that Superman, no, Clark, was talking about earlier that day. He had heard Clark's slip of the tongue when he had almost said Lois earlier and had been working on who it could be all day. Lois Lane would have been the last person he would have guessed because, even though she and Superman had been rumored to have had an affair, he knew both Lois and Clark personally and he knew just how in love they were. Now it made perfect sense.

Lois continued as Clark beamed with happiness, "We told you now because your tests were right. Clark and I can have children. We just found out that I'm pregnant."

The more Lois said the words 'I'm pregnant,' the better it felt to say them. She realized that they had eventually wanted children, and now they would just have to deal with it a lot sooner than they would have wanted, but it wasn't the end of the world.

Dr. Klein jumped out behind his desk and was shaking hands with both the expectant mother and father.

When the excitement of telling Dr. Klein their news had died down, Clark said, "Dr. Klein, we told you our secret now because we are worried about what carrying my child will do to Lois' body."

Clark looked up at Lois whose eyes were brimming with tears that she was trying to hold back. He squeezed her hand and she smiled in response.

He continued, "We don't know anything about my Kryptonian genes, so we don't know how compatible they are with Lois'. What if my genes can't mesh right? Would our baby be born deformed? Would he or she be able to reproduce?"

Tears flowed down Lois' face freely now. Obviously Clark had thought about this a lot probably even before they were married. Now Clark brought some of her hidden fears into the forefront.

Lois said softly, "And what will carrying Clark's child do to me?"

Both men turned to look at her. Clark kissed her on the cheek and pulled her closer.

Dr. Klein watched the couple's interactions and hoped he wouldn't have bad news for them. They deserved for everything to come out right for them because they had been through so much just trying to be together.

Lois continued, "What about the gestation period? What if Kryptonian women are pregnant for years?" She hiccupped," And what if having Clark's baby kills me?"

Lois' last statement made Clark get out of his chair and kneel on the ground in front of her. He took her hands in his and kissed them. Then, not noticing Dr. Klein in the room, he bent down and placed a kiss on her stomach.

He whispered, although not entirely convinced himself, "Lois, nothing is going to happen to you. Our baby is going to be healthy and normal, and you are going to be absolutely fine. I promise."

A single tear rolled down his cheek when he looked up into Lois' tearful eyes. She bent down and kissed him and whispered, "Thank you."

Dr. Klein cleared his throat reminding the couple that they were not alone. Their faces reddened and Dr. Klein said, "I could leave…"

Lois and Clark both said simultaneously, "No, it's okay. We're sorry."

They grinned sheepishly at each other and Clark said, "Dr. Klein, is there any way you could run some genetic tests on me? And would that help determine what will happen to Lois and our baby?"

Dr. Klein took a deep breath. He didn't know if it would work, but he sure would try.

"Okay, I already have the sample you gave me, and I could run some more tests on that, and I could take some cells from the inside of your cheek. Then I could map your DNA and try to match it with the known pieces of the human genome. It might take me a while, but I can do it."

"A while meaning how long, Dr. Klein?" Clark wondered aloud.

"I don't know. It all depends. I've never done anything like this before, Clark. I guess if I was a trained genetic counselor I could probably have the results in a day or two, but I'm not sure how long it will take me. It's been years since I have studied genetics seriously. I might be able to have them for you in a day, but, then again, I might not have them for a few weeks. It also depends on how well your genes match with the human genome. I can't promise anything."

Both Lois and Clark nodded as Dr. Klein continued, "But I will start working on it right away. You never know, maybe everything will go well for me and I'll be able to get the results tomorrow."

Lois got out of her chair and hugged Dr. Klein.

"Thank you so much, I don't even know what to say other than thank you. You've always been there when we've needed you, and I don't know what to do to repay you."

Dr. Klein blushed and said, "Oh, you don't owe me anything. The two of you are the closest thing I have to friends. I'm happy to help you."

***

Later that night, Lois woke up with a start. She was sick again, and she didn't know why. They hadn't had dinner, and she had only had water the whole evening. Even though she was pregnant, she was still worried about what else was wrong with her. Her head still felt like it weighed a ton, and her sinuses and nose were so stuffed up she could barely breathe. She was about to make a mad dash to the bathroom when she noticed that Clark was gone. Where was he? He must have heard a cry for Superman that he couldn't ignore. For some reason, she was starting to feel jealous of Superman. It was weird, she'd never seriously envied the people her husband saved before, but today was different. She was jealous of whoever was in trouble because they got to be with Clark and she didn't. That wasn't logical, and she knew it, but for some reason, she wanted Clark to be with her right now while she was sick.

She ran into the bathroom and dry heaved for twenty minutes. When she was completely exhausted, she made her way back into bed and cried herself to sleep. When Clark returned from the major fire just outside of town, he saw that Lois had cried herself to sleep. He mentally punched himself because he knew that somehow he was responsible for whatever she was crying about. Could it be the baby? He knew they both weren't ready for it, but he had thought they finally decided that they were happy about it. Could it be the fact that they didn't know what the pregnancy would be like? That was more likely. It killed him inside that he was so different. All he ever wanted was to live a normal life with a job, wife, and kids, and now that it looked like everything he ever wanted was coming to him, he realized that his differences could take the most important two of the three things away from him. Damn Krypton. Damn Superman. All he wanted was for his wife and unborn baby to be safe throughout Lois' pregnancy and for the rest of their lives, but if they weren't, it would all be his fault. It didn't dawn on Clark that the reason Lois was crying had nothing to do with their baby. She cried because she missed him and because she wanted Clark with her rather than off trying to save the world. Even if it was irrational, and probably induced by her illness, she was horribly jealous of Superman.

The next morning, Lois woke up still sick, only now it was more her nose and sinuses than her stomach. She smelled Clark's breakfast cooking and was about to get out of bed when Clark walked into the room carrying a tray of food. He had a goofy grin on his face, and she had to giggle.

"How are my favorite people in the world today?"

He put the tray down and bent down to kiss her. Then he rubbed her stomach to say 'hi' to the baby. Lois had all but forgotten her anger from the night before when she saw the look on his face. She thought 'He loves me, I know he does. If he had a choice, he would have been home with me, but he didn't. Whatever he was doing last night, it must have been a big emergency. Oh, look at how sweet he is, he brought me breakfast. And he's so happy about the baby.'

Lois smiled back at him and said, "We're doing a lot better today, Clark, but I'm still sick. I can't wait to see what I have so I can get some medicine to help."

Clark winced sympathetically as she coughed and blew her nose. He didn't really know what it felt like to be sick, but every time Lois was sick, he felt like someone was tugging at his stomach and tying it in knots.

Lois continued, "But at least I have an appetite today. What did you make me?"

Clark brought the tray up to her lap and helped her sit up.

"Well, I wasn't sure how much sold food you could handle, so I made you some toast and a bowl of oatmeal."

Lois nodded. He knew her so well. She probably wouldn't be able to keep anything else down and he knew that she wouldn't admit it herself. She dug into her breakfast and finished it quickly.

When she had finished she said, "My head hurts so much, honey. And now my throat is starting to hurt. I think I'd better take today off too, as much as I don't want to. I might be contagious."

Clark nodded, "Yeah, that's probably a good idea. I'll stay home too."

Lois shook her head slightly and then winced in pain. Her head sure hurt.

"No, you go in. I'll get the laptop and try to get some info on Luckaby and Lex Corp. You see if you can talk to Bobby Bigmouth or Eric the Red or anyone else on the street to see if they've heard anything about Luckaby. One day off is too much for Lane and Kent." She smiled.

"Are you sure, honey?"

Clark perched on the edge of the bed and cupped her face in his hand. "I don't want you to be alone when you're this sick. One more day won't kill us."

Lois pushed him off the bed and said, "I'll be fine. I'm probably just going to sleep most of the day anyway. We need to find out about Luckaby; he's dangerous, he knows who you are. Plus, all I need to do is yell for you and you'll be here if I need you."

Lois pulled on his tie to bring his face down to her level and kissed him hard on the lips.

"That's why I love you," she giggled and then she pushed him away. "Now get out of here."

When Clark was half-way out the door he stopped.

"Lois, are you sure you'll be okay?"

Lois shot him a murderous look and he backed out the door.

"Okay, honey, I'm going, I'm going. Just make sure you call for me if anything happens. I love you."

"I love you too."

When Clark had left, Lois sank back into the pillows and fell back to sleep.

Clark walked into the city room of the Daily Planet and stopped for a cup of coffee. There, Perry White, the Planet's editor-in-chief met him. Perry, a big man with an air of authority and a deep voice with a heavy southern accent, had a special place in his heart for his top reporting team. Lois was like the daughter he never had, and Clark was just like one of his own sons. He had noticed that Lois hadn't been feeling well for the past week or so, and now she had finally taken some days off.

"Clark, my boy, how's Lois doing? I'm glad you finally convinced her to take some time off, she needs it."

"Yeah, chief, she's really sick. She went to the doctor's yesterday, but they said they might not get her test results back until tomorrow. The doc thinks it might be mono or strep or the flu."

"You give my best to her, son. Let her know that we miss her around here."

Clark nodded, "I will, Chief."

Then Perry clapped him on the back and walked away.

That afternoon, around one o'clock, the phone rang, waking Lois. She was feeling better; the sleep must have done her good. She stretched and then reached for the phone, expecting it to be Clark calling to see if she was doing okay.

"Hello?"

The woman on the other end said, "Hi, Lois Lane?"

"Yes."

"This is Dr. Stevens. Your test results came back a little early."

Lois' eyebrows shot up, how often did test results come back early? The doctor must have felt sorry for the way she treated her the other day. And she sure had every reason to be sorry, in Lois' opinion.

"Really, so what's wrong with me?"

"I think it's good news, Lois. You have strep throat and if you tell me your pharmacy, I'll call in a prescription of antibiotics for you. You're not allergic to any antibiotics, are you?"

"No. What about the other test?" Lois asked even though she already knew the answer.

"That's the good news, Lois. It came back positive. You are going to have a baby."

Lois could hear that receptionist saying, "I told you so," in the background and Lois had an urge to come through the phone and slap that woman in the face.

"Oh, really?" Lois said in mock surprise.

"Now, Lois, do you have an OB-GYN that you normally go to or do you need me to refer you to one?"

"No you don't have to do that, but thank you, Dr. Stevens. I'll make an appointment with my doctor soon."

Lois didn't want to think about the kinds of OB-GYNs her doctor would recommend. They would probably be psychotic just like she was.

"Okay, make sure you make an appointment soon. Now we need to get that strep throat cleared up, so I need the drug store that you want me to phone your prescription into."

"We go to the Metro Drug on the corner of Hyperion and Fifty-fifth Street. Do you need me to get the phone number for you?"

"No, that's okay, we have it on file. The prescription should be ready in about an hour."

"Thank you for getting back to me so soon. We took a couple of home pregnancy tests yesterday, so we know that I'm pregnant, but we were worried that I might have some type of terrible illness. It's such a relief knowing that I'm not going to die."

"Your welcome, Lois. Congratulations. You sure sound happier about it today than you were yesterday."

"Yeah, well, my husband did a good job convincing me that having a baby around won't be so bad."

"Speaking of your husband, watch him carefully because strep is very contagious. Chances are, he probably has it already. And if you are not seeing any improvements in your condition in a few days, make another appointment with me. Strep is a potentially deadly infection if it is not treated properly, which is why I am recommending the antibiotics for you even though you are very early in your pregnancy."

"Don't worry, I'll make him an appointment with his doctor to see if he caught it, and I will make another appointment with you if my symptoms persist."

"Okay, good luck, Lois."

"Thank you, Dr. Stevens. Goodbye."

"Goodbye."

They hung up and Lois immediately dialed Clark's desk at work. It rang three times before he picked up.

"Clark Kent."

"Hi, honey, my doctor just called. The tests came back early."

Clark's voice sounded concerned, "Well, what did she say."

Lois smiled, "Congratulations, Daddy, we're definitely having a baby."

"That's wonderful news, honey. Are you sure you're okay with it?"

"Yeah, I think I'm okay with it. Oh, and she said I also have strep throat and I need some antibiotics. Could you pick them up after work?"

"Sure, are they at Metro Drug?"

"Yeah. So how's work? Do you miss me."

"Yeah, Perry said to tell you that everyone around here misses you, even though you've only been out for two days. How's everything at home?"

"Okay, I just woke up when the phone rang, so I haven't done any research into Luckaby, what about you?"

"I got word out on the street that we needed info about Luckaby, but no one's responded yet. Otherwise it's a slow news day so I'll probably be home early tonight. Are you feeling any better?"

"Yeah, I am, actually. My head still feels like it weighs a ton and my throat is killing me, but I am hungry. Maybe I can eat tonight without it all coming back out."

"That's good, honey. Do you…"

Clark's voice trailed off.

"Clark, does someone need you know who?"

"Um, yeah, Lois, I've gotta go. It's an overturned school bus. I love you."

"Be careful, Clark. I love you too."

She hung up and sighed. Hopefully he would get to the bus on time and save all of the children.

It was four-thirty by the time Clark got home with Lois' prescription in tow. Maybe she had chosen the right day to be home sick, if there was any right day to be sick. It must have been a very slow news day if Clark was home already. Lois heard him open the front door and got out of bed to meet him. They met at the stairs, and Clark wrapped her in his arms.

"Hey, honey, I missed you today," he murmured into her hair.

"I missed you too. I can't believe I slept all day. I didn't get any work done."

Clark ran his fingers through Lois' silky hair and said, "Lois, no one expected you to work today. You're sick and you need your rest. Even Mad Dog Lane needs to rest sometimes. You're not going to get better if you don't get the rest you need."

Lois sighed, "I know, Clark, but somehow I feel counterproductive."

Clark laughed heartily.

"Lois, you are the most productive person I have ever met. I'm Superman and sometimes I have a hard time keeping up with you."

As they walked down the stairs, Lois said, "I'm being serious here, honey. There might be a mad man on the loose who knows about you, and I spent all day in bed sleeping. What's wrong with me?"

Clark hugged her tightly and they sat down on the couch.

"Right now, what we need to do is forget about Luckaby for tonight and do something to get our minds off of him."

"Yeah, we could go to Smallville and tell your parents about the baby."

Clark's eyes brightened he squeezed her hand and asked, "Are you sure, honey. Are you comfortable enough to let someone else know?"

Lois gazed into the deep brown eyes of the man she loved more than anyone else in the world and smiled back at him. The look in his eyes was one of joy, love, and hopefulness and she knew that she wanted to share their joy with his parents, the two people who had taken her in as their own daughter. She needed to talk to Martha about her feelings about the baby and about the jealousy she had felt the previous night towards Superman.

Lois smiled slightly as she said, "Yeah, I'm sure. Your parents are going to be so happy about this. I'm sure they'll be thrilled about having a grandchild."

"They'll be so surprised because none of us ever thought I'd be able to have children. It'll blow them right out of the water when we tell them. I can see the looks on their faces now."

"So, how should we tell them?"

Clark smiled and ran a hand through his hair trying to think of a creative way to tell his parents about the baby. "I don't know. Do we really need to do something creative? Couldn't we just go there and tell them?"

Lois smiled, "Yeah, I guess we could. If you really want to."

Clark nodded, "I'm sick of playing guessing games. The one we played on Dr. Klein was a bit mean. I could just see what he was thinking about us in his eyes. With anyone else it might have been funny, but…"

"… since all Dr. Klein has ever done is help us it wasn't really fair?" Lois finished his sentence because she had been thinking the same thing.

"Yeah, exactly. I could just picture what he was thinking about us."

"Stop right there! I don't want to know," Lois exclaimed. "Whatever sick thoughts were going through Bernard Klein's mind about us, I don't even need to think about them. They'd probably make me scream at night. I do think that we should apologize to him, though."

"Yeah, that's a good idea." Clark moved closer to her on the couch.

Clark 's hands caressed her back lovingly, working their way underneath her oversized sweatshirt to her bare skin. His loving motions sent chills through her body and she moved closer. As his hands moved towards the front of her body, a soft moan escaped her lips. Her own hands pulled his shirt out of his pants and had begun unbuttoning his shirt. As she shivered with pleasure, she worked his shirt off and had begun on the top of his Superman suit.

With Lois' disappointed moan, Clark momentarily released her so to make things easier for her and spun out of the Suit and into only his pants and his unbuttoned dress shirt. Lois smiled in admiration as she looked at the chest she knew so well. Even though she knew every part of that chest by heart, it never failed to make her breath catch every time her eyes ran across it. Her hands itched to touch his bare skin and for him to touch her. They let their lips find each other and, as their tongues danced, their hands explored the bodies they knew so well, and they lost themselves in each other. They momentarily forgot everything that was wrong with the world as all either was focused on completely was the other.

Later, basking in the after-glow of their love making, Lois lay on top of Clark, drawing circles on his bare chest. Clark sighed in contentment. Right now he had everything he needed, and he never wanted to move again. Lois closed her eyes. For a little while, she had forgotten about her sore throat, stuffy nose, and headache, but now everything was back at full-force. She laid her head on Clark's shoulder hoping contact with him would soothe her pain, but when it didn't she reluctantly sat up.

"Honey, where are you going?"

Clark tried to pull her back down onto him, but she resisted.

"I'll be right back. I just need to take my antibiotic. My head is pounding again and now my throat is killing me, but I am not sure if I should take aspirin for my headache because of the baby."

Clark released her and helped her up. When she walked into the kitchen he followed her, asking, "Do you still want to see my parents? It's almost dinner time there, so maybe we can catch them before they eat."

"Yeah, why don't you call them to make sure they're home?"

Clark called his parents and asked if they would be home so he and Lois could visit. Martha invited them for dinner and wondered why they had chosen today to visit.

Martha called to Jonathan when she had hung up the phone, "Jonathan, Lois and Clark are coming over for dinner in a few minutes. Clark sounded funny, I think something's going on with them."

Fifteen minutes later, Lois and Clark landed in front of the Kents' farmhouse and Martha ran out to greet them, followed shortly by Jonathan.

Clark shouted, almost before they were out the door, "Grandma, Grandpa, we're here!"

Martha and Jonathan looked at each other with the same expressions of shock on their faces. Had Clark just called them Grandpa and Grandma? Did this mean what they thought it did?

Martha and Jonathan ran towards them both talking at once, both asking, "Clark, what did you just call us? Are you and Lois going to have a baby?"

Lois and Clark bridged the distance between them and Clark had a silly grin pasted on his face.

"Yes, Mom, Dad, Lois and I are going to have a baby!"

Martha reached out to hug Lois as Jonathan shook Clark's hand vigorously. Lois moved away from Martha and said, "Martha, it's not that I don't want to hug you, I do, but I have strep and I don't want you to catch it."

Martha reached forward again and grabbed her daughter-in-law into a warm hug.

"Oh, honey, I wouldn't care if you had ebola. You don't find out you're going to be a grandmother every day of the week."

Then Martha hugged her son tightly and Jonathan hugged Lois, also not caring about catching her strep.

"I'm so happy for you, Clark. I know you've always wanted this, and I'm so glad it's finally happening for you," Martha whispered into his ear.

Clark answered, "Me too, Mom. Sometimes it seems too good to be true."

Martha backed away and exclaimed, "Well, it's about time for dinner. It's a good thing I made a special apple pie for tonight because we need to celebrate!"

They walked into the little farmhouse and shared a quiet dinner, talking about how surprised the younger couple was to find out that Lois was pregnant. Then, while they ate their apple pie, Clark told his parents about the results of the compatibility tests that Dr. Klein had performed.

As Martha collected the dirty dishes, Lois followed her into the kitchen. After the women had disappeared into the kitchen, Jonathan asked, "Clark, would you mind helping me mend the back fence today? I was meaning to call you to see if you wanted to help me with it this weekend, but since you're here, would you mind?"

Clark nodded, "Sure, I think Lois wants to talk to Mom anyway. I'm sure there's something she isn't telling me, and she needs to talk to someone. Maybe if I'm not here, she'll open up to Mom."

Jonathan nodded. He was thinking the same thing. There was something in Lois' eyes that told him she needed to get something off her chest. Jonathan knew that Lois liked to talk to Martha, so he thought he should get Clark out of the house. The fence needed to be fixed, but it wasn't a high priority, but it would do to get Clark away from the house for a while.

When the women got to the kitchen, Lois collapsed into one of the chairs and sighed. Martha put the dishes in the sink and rushed over to Lois.

"Lois, what's wrong? I can tell something's on your mind? Do you want me to make us some tea, and then we can talk about it?"

Lois rubbed her eyes. Was she really that obvious? Maybe it was from Martha that Clark learned to be so observant.

"Tea sounds wonderful right now, Martha. But how could you tell I needed to talk to someone?"

Martha put her hand on Lois' shoulder as she passed to make the tea.

"Honey, you didn't look comfortable all during dinner. It might have been because you're sick, but I saw something else. Clark was so excited telling us about the baby, but you hardly spoke. And then during dessert, you hardly touched your pie, and you just cuddled up to Clark while he did all the talking. And you've had this clouded look in your eyes, like you wanted to say something, but you didn't want to interrupt. I figured it was something you didn't want to tell Clark about, but you needed an impartial ear to sound off to. So here I am."

Yes, Clark must have gotten his mind reading skills from Martha. She had to be the most observant person Lois had ever met. Lois studied her hands as Martha poured the tea, and then Martha sat down. Lois sipped the hot tea. It felt so good going down her sore throat. Martha looked at her intently. What could be bothering Lois? Finally, Lois looked into Martha's eyes.

"I feel like such a horrible person right now. I'm not sure if I'm happy about being pregnant. It just feels wrong! I mean, I feel so bad telling you about this because you had so much trouble having children."

Martha covered Lois' hand with her own, trying to support her daughter-in-law. Lois needed all the support Martha could provide right now and, regardless of how Martha felt, she waned to be there for Lois.

"It's okay, honey, just let it out."

Tears streamed down Lois cheeks as she said, "Clark and I have only been married for nine months. We weren't planning this yet at all. I mean, it was a complete surprise. I walked into the doctor's office thinking I was sick and I came out pregnant."

Lois wiped her cheeks and took a sip of her tea, then she continued, "I think I'm still in shock. There was only one time Clark and I forgot protection, but then Clark found out that we have to be extra careful because of his hyperactive sperm. And now I don't know what to do. When we first found out, Clark was as nervous as I am, but he's seemed to adjust so well. He's even talking about cutting back as Superman."

Martha raised an eyebrow and let Lois continue vocalizing her fears.

"But I just don't know. You and Jonathan were such wonderful parents, and I'm sure he'll be a wonderful father because he has had the two of you as an example. Look at my role models. Needless to say, they certainly weren't the best parents a kid could ask for."

"Thank you, Lois. But I'm not sure parental role models always play such a big part in shaping the way you will be as a parent. Often, if someone's parents were like yours, they try harder to make sure their children's lives are easier than their own was."

Lois squeezed Martha's hand and took another sip of her tea. It was starting to get cold, and she took a long final sip before she continued.

"Yeah, Martha, you might be right, but how do I know I will be one of those people?"

"Lois, I know you well enough to know that you are one of the most caring people I've ever met. I think you'll try your best to protect your children from whatever happened to you as a child."

"I hope so, but I'm not so sure about that. I've always been so uncomfortable around kids, but I know Clark has always wanted kids. He loves to be around them. You've seen how many children's charities he helps out as Superman. But me, I've always been uncomfortable around kids. In fact, most of the time I think they're as afraid of me as I am of them. Whenever I pick up a baby, it cries. What if our baby hates me? What if I hate our baby? I'm so scared that it will change my life so much I won't be able to recognize it as my own any more. I know we won't be able to work the long hours any more or stake out stories late into the night. What if we get a call from a source at two in the morning and we get scooped because our baby was sick? Maybe I wouldn't feel so bad if I had planned this, but it just seems like my life is being invaded and disrupted by some little person I haven't even met, and I didn't ask for it. I have to change my life and it's not my choice. I think that's what I'm really worried about. I didn't plan this, but I have to accept it. Oh, Martha, I must sound like a real ingrate right now. I'm so sorry."

Martha looked at the ceiling for guidance. Lois' words did upset her because there was a time when Martha would have given anything to have a baby, and she was having trouble listening to Lois and her doubts. She was blessed with a baby, something that Martha could not have on her own, and Lois didn't want it. Then Martha realized that Lois really did want her baby, she was only experiencing what many women feel when they find out they are pregnant unexpectedly. They wonder how their baby will change their lives, and if their lives will ever be the same. In Lois' case, she had some valid points. Her job as a reporter was very important to her. In fact, for almost five years it had been her entire life. Now her life was about to be turned upside down. How could anyone expect her to cope right away? Martha hoped, no knew deep down, that soon Lois would be happy about having a baby, but right now she had to let Lois get all of the fears about her pregnancy off her chest.

"Honey, it's okay. Just let it out."

"And then, I keep wondering what it will be like to get fat. I'm worried about what people will think about me. What will people think when I show up to interview them pregnant? Will they still respect me as a professional? More importantly, will Clark still find me attractive? I know he says he will, and that I would be attractive to him no matter what I look like, but how do I know he's not lying? What if some young, thin woman comes along and throws herself at him and Clark decides he likes her better?"

Lois knew she was being irrational, but she had to get that fear into the open. If she hadn't, it would plague her in her dreams and constantly invade her subconscious thoughts.

"Lois, I see the way my son looks at you. Believe me, Clark is in love with you and only you. In fact, I don't think he even sees any other women when she walks by. When you walk into a room, his face lights up in a way I can't even describe. Honey, Clark only has eyes for you, and you know that."

Then she whispered conspiratorially, "You know, I've heard that some men find pregnancy a turn on."

"Martha!" Lois exclaimed, having a hard time believing that she and her mother-in-law were talking about her sex life. But hearing that did ease Lois' mind somewhat.

Lois looked into her empty cup trying to think of the right way to tell Martha about her next concern. She didn't want Martha to get the wrong idea, that she didn't like being married to Superman or that she wanted Clark to stop being Superman, but she did feel very jealous of the time Clark spent as Superman. Last night, when he was out being Superman, Lois had wondered what he would do when they had their baby and he heard a cry for help. She didn't want to be selfish because the world did need a Superman, but she also wanted her children to know their father rather than just know him as a man that floated into and out of their lives. For more selfish reasons, she didn't want to be faced with raising her children alone. The kid would be half his, so he should take half of the responsibility. Clark would want to take responsibility for his child, but would he be able to put his baby over the rest of the world?

Lois shifted in her seat uncomfortably, and Martha knew that there was a bigger issue bothering Lois that she hadn't touched yet.

Martha prodded, "I know there's something else bothering you, Lois. So why don't you just talk to me about it? Unless it's something you'd feel more comfortable talking to Clark about…"

"No, Martha, I do need to talk to Clark about this, but I need to bounce it off someone first to find out if I am really crazy."

Martha patted Lois' hand reassuringly.

"Okay, here goes. I've been having some irrational feelings about Superman lately. Oh, Martha, it sounds so stupid even saying this out loud, but I've been so jealous when Clark has gone out as Superman ever since I've found out about this pregnancy. I keep thinking that someday he is going to neglect his responsibilities to our family in favor of the rest of the world. I want him to help me through every step of my pregnancy and throughout our child's life. I don't know why I'm feeling like this. He's told me more than once that he wants to cut back as Superman once the baby is born, and I really do know that he is going to be the best dad a child could ever have, but why do I keep feeling like this? Is it because of what happened with my family? Could I be reliving what happened with my father and just putting myself and Clark into my mother and father's places? Am I just being totally selfish?"

Martha interrupted Lois' babbling, "Honey, this sounds like something you really need to talk to Clark about. In fact, you need to talk about everything you've just told me. A relationship is nothing if you don't talk to each other. And maybe you are putting yourself and Clark into your parents' roles, but that is normal. It's what you grew up with, and in your sub-conscious, you might be thinking that is what is going to happen to you and Clark. But I am sure it's not going to happen. If I know my son, I know he is going to be a diligent father and he will keep his word about Superman. You know more than anyone that Superman always keeps his word. Lois, you just have to talk to him and he has to talk to you. Make him talk to you, honey."

***

When Clark and Jonathan had fixed the broken fence, they both leaned back against tall posts basking in the late June sun. It was only about six-thirty, so the air was still warm and the sun was still rather high in the sky. Jonathan wiped the sweat from his brow and smiled at his son.

"So, son, how does it feel to know you are going to be a father?"

Clark closed his eyes, "Well, Dad, at first I was really scared. I wondered what we would do and how it would change our lives, but now I've realized that whatever changes our baby brings, I'm ready to face them. Dad, I love you and Mom, you know that, but now I'm finally going to have someone that shares my own flesh and blood. I can't explain how wonderful that feels."

Jonathan nodded. "I know what you mean, Clark. And I'm so happy for you. I was just wondering, is something wrong with Lois? She doesn't seem quite as excited as you do about this."

"I don't know. This whole pregnancy caught us so off guard. She went to the doctor thinking she was sick, which she is, and later that day she found out that she was pregnant. The worst thing for her is that we hadn't planned this at all. I know we did talk about having kids someday, but we wanted to wait a few years. I know she is worried about what is going to happen with her career, and I think something is bothering her about Superman."

Jonathan put his hand on Clark's arm. He said, "Son, if I know Lois, she doesn't much like surprises, and this is probably the biggest surprise of her life. I'm sure that deep down she's really happy about your baby, but she just needs time to come to realize it."

Clark sighed, "Yeah, I know what you mean, but I do know what Lois is worried about. I think she thinks I am going to leave her when she and our baby need me just like her father did, but she can't be more wrong. Dad, I'm thinking about giving up Superman to spend all my time with Lois and our baby."

Jonathan looked taken aback. His mouth hung open as he thought of something to say.

He chose his words carefully so not to upset his son, "Clark, are you sure? I know you, son. You do have good intentions, but I know you won't be able to ignore cries for help. But you do need to rethink your priorities a bit. Maybe you should cut back on the minor emergencies you go to, and you probably should cut back on the charity events. I'm sure Lois doesn't expect you to give up being Superman. It's such a huge part of who you are, but I think she does want you to be there for her and your baby whenever you can."

Clark buried his head in his hands and shook it violently.

"Dad, if I can't be there for my family, then I am no Superman. And my being Superman might hurt both Lois and my baby."

Jonathan was not surprised at Clark's fears. He had himself wondered if Clark would ever be able to reproduce, being an alien, and most probably a different species. Now that they knew that Lois and Clark could have children, Jonathan hoped nothing would be wrong with his grandchildren, but in the back of his mind, he had been wondering just what a mixture of human and kryptonian genes would produce.

Jonathan patted his son's back and said, "Son, I know you're worried about what's going to happen to Lois and to your baby, I am too."

"Dad, you don't understand. What if our genes are way too incompatible and can't mesh correctly and the baby miscarries? What if the baby is born with deformities? What if carrying my child hurts Lois? I don't know what I would do if I lost her, Dad. Then I was thinking about mules. Maybe Lois and I are like horses and donkeys, close enough to the same species to mate successfully, but our offspring will be sterile. How could I do that to my kids?"

"Clark, stop thinking the worst. You don't know if anything bad is going to happen yet."

"I know, we went to Dr. Klein and told him everything because we think he can help us. He's running some genetic tests on me right now, and they will hopefully tell us just how different we are."

Jonathan nodded. He was about to suggest that Clark enlist Dr. Klein's help. Normally, Jonathan was the overprotective father that warned Clark about telling anyone his secret for fear that they would exploit him and that he would get dragged off to some government agency and dissected like a frog. However, Klein had proven himself to be a friend to Clark over the years, and his scientific knowledge was second to none. He would be a very valuable ally for Lois and Clark to have should anything bad happen.

"Son, you might not be as different as you think. The very miracle of you and Lois conceiving at all should tell you that. If you were so different, you would have never conceived in the first place. What you need to do until you get Dr. Klein's results back is to enjoy the fact that you're going to be a father. You and Lois need to put all of your fears into the background temporarily and just enjoy your news."

Clark's hearing kicked in just then. He heard tears coming from the house. As he listened more intently, he heard the end of Lois' conversation with Martha. She was telling Martha how she felt jealous of his Superman duties, and Clark's hearing tuned in at the worst possible moment. He sunk to the ground.

"Dad, what am I going to do? She hates the fact that I am Superman now for more than that one reason. The fact that I'm different is hard enough to cope with, but now Lois resents the fact that I have to leave her alone sometimes to be Superman. I told her that I was going to cut back, but I don't think she believes me." He pulled off his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose, "Why do I hurt her so badly? She knew what she was getting into when we got married, and she never seemed to mind before…"

Jonathan slowly sank to the ground next to Clark. He patted his son's shoulder, trying to calm the younger man down and he said, "This sounds like something the two of you need to talk about. Have you talked about it yet? Is this the first time you've heard this?"

Clark leaned back and rested his head against the fence.

"Well, we haven't talked, exactly. She's never told me that she's jealous of Superman before."

"Son, I speak as the voice of experience. What you and Lois need to do is talk to each other. Listen to each other's fears. Most importantly, get them out into the open. The hardest battle is that with yourself just to acknowledge your fears. And I'm sure Lois is fighting those same demons."

On the flight home, Lois and Clark both agreed that they needed to have a serious talk about their feelings about the baby. As soon as they got into the house, they were going to get ready for bed and cuddle together in their bed so they could talk about what was bothering them. However, their plans changed when they saw the blinking answering machine light.

Lois sighed. "Doesn't it ever stop?"

Then she let the message play. "You have one new message."

"Lois, Clark," Dr. Klein's voice rang out. "This is Dr. Klein. It's about 7:45 right now, and if you get this message before about 9:00 call me at STAR Labs. I finished your tests rather quickly for reasons I'd rather not discuss over an answering machine. But I can tell you it's good news."

Lois jumped and hugged Clark. Finally, good news. They really needed some good news right now. Hopefully they would find out that having Clark's child would pose no threat to her health and that their baby would be perfectly normal.

Clark breathed a sigh of relief when he heard Dr. Klein say that the results were good. At least his fears of hurting Lois would be gone soon, he hoped.

Clark glanced at the clock and saw that it was 8:45. They had to call Dr. Klein soon if they wanted to find out the results tonight. First, he wondered if Lois was feeling any better. She hadn't been coughing the entire time they were in Smallville and she had been able to hold down her dinner and her dessert, something she hadn't been able to do for a while. The best thing was that her fever seemed to be going down. When he held her, he no longer felt the burning fever. The antibiotics really seemed to be working.

"Lois, honey, you seem like you're feeling a lot better."

Lois smiled. "Yeah, actually I am. That doctor must have prescribed some miracle antibiotics or something." She backed away, suddenly remembering something, "I have to take another dose now, so you call Dr. Klein and tell him that we're coming and I'll get my medicine."

Luckily, they caught Dr. Klein just as he was walking out the door. He was excited about his findings, but the only thing he would tell Clark over the phone was that it was good news and that Lois and Clark should get there as soon as possible.

They hurried to STAR Labs, and Dr. Klein greeted them at the front entrance and ushered them into his office. The older man was practically bursting at the seams to tell them his good news. As soon as they reached his office, Dr. Klein's patience finally broke.

"Lois, Clark. I've finished Clark's genetic tests already. It was a lot easier than I thought it would be to do once I logged into the human genome database and most of Clark's alleles were found in the database, and the unknown ones matched up very closely with other human genes."

"What are you saying Dr. Klein? So, is our baby going to be okay?" Clark asked, eager to know what Dr. Klein's cryptic statements meant.

"Oh, didn't I say that? What I meant to say was that, Clark, you and Lois will have a perfectly healthy baby. And nothing is going to happen to Lois during her pregnancy that will be out of the ordinary for any woman carrying a completely human baby."

Lois and Clark breathed a collective sigh of relief. It felt like a gigantic weight had been lifted off both of their chests and now they were both able to breathe freely again.

Dr. Klein continued, "What I was trying to say before is that, Clark, you have many of the same genes as a human does. In fact, I was very surprised at how well your genetic and chromosomal structure matched up with the human structure. You have the diploid number of chromosomes, which I suspected in the first place, and you also have 23 pairs of chromosomes just like we do. The only differences I could find were on chromosomes 19 and 23, where two genes were a little different from the human genes. These are what I call the K-factor genes. I'm sure that these are the genes that cause your Superpowers. They were probably mutations of two human genes that I found that were very similar to these genes, and they probably mutated as an adaptation to your red sun."

Lois and Clark nodded. They were enthralled with Dr. Klein's explanation into Clark's genetics. Now that they knew their baby would be okay, they could relax and listen to Dr. Klein's reasoning.

Dr. Klein continued, "However, these mutations are not different enough to cause any major, unusual problems when you reproduce. In fact, I would not even call you a different species, Clark. From these tests, I can definitely say that Kryptonians are Homo sapiens. This is because you can reproduce together and also because your children will also be able to reproduce. Your K-factor mutations only provided protection for Krypton's red sun, and here on Earth, with the yellow sun, they give you your powers."

Clark grabbed Lois into a tight hug and spun her around in pure happiness. He really was normal, or as least as normal as someone who could fly and see through walls ever could be. His wife and baby would both be fine, and he was genetically compatible with a human. It made him want to jump for joy.

After Clark set Lois back on her feet, Dr. Klein continued, "So, Lois, you should make an appointment with an obstetrician as soon as possible. I'd be happy to help you if anything out of the ordinary happens, but I am sure that you won't need my help."

Lois nodded. "Thank you, Dr. Klein. You don't know how much this means to us."

Clark added, "I don't know if I can ever thank you enough for everything you've done for us."

"Lois, Clark, it was the least I could do. I feel privileged just to know Clark is Superman and to be the scientist he turns to for help. And please, call me Bernie. I think we are way past the formalities."

Clark agreed. "Yes, Bernie, and thank you so much for everything."

Lois gave Bernie a hug and a kiss on the cheek and he turned a shade of red that almost matched a tomato.

"Like I said," he gulped, "It was the least I could do."

When Lois and Clark got home, they finally settled down to talk, nestled together on their couch, Clark in a pair of sleep shorts and Lois in an oversized tee shirt and a pair of shorts.

Clark gathered Lois into his arms and said, "Lois, I know something is bothering you about me. I accidentally overheard you tell my mom that you don't think I'll be there for you and our baby because of Superman. Whatever made you think that?"

Lois shifted nervously. She hadn't wanted Clark to find out that way. Damn his Superhearing.

"I'm so sorry you had to hear that, honey. I didn't mean it to sound like that at all."

She turned in his arm to look into his eyes. There she saw fear and uncertainty about her feelings. Her eyes were moist with unshed tears because she hadn't wanted him to find out about her fears by eavesdropping.

Clark kissed her cheek and said, "Lois, I don't want you to be afraid that I'm going to leave you like your father did. I'm not your father, honey."

A single tear fell down Lois' cheek and Clark brushed it away.

"Oh, Clark, I know that, really I do. But I can't get the image of you flying away as Superman every time either our baby or I need you."

"Lois, I would never do that. You have always been, and will always be the most important thing in the world to me. I told you before that I am going to cut back on my Superman duties. Lois, I've been thinking about this almost constantly since last night. If I am alone with our baby, I'll just ignore any cries for help I hear."

"Clark, I don't think you'd be able to do that. And I don't want you to end up resenting me and our family because we stopped you from saving lives."

Clark's voice became husky with emotion, "Lois, I could never resent you. Cutting back on Superman is something that I am deciding to do on my own. I want our children to know me, and not just to be able to pick me out of a police line up. I want to do things with them like my dad did with me, take them to ball games, take them fishing, play catch out in the front yard, go to their school plays, concerts, and sporting events. Lois, I want to be the kind of father that they will respect, just like my dad was and still is."

"And just the opposite of what my dad was."

Lois closed her eyes as she remembered all of the major events in her life that her father had missed. He didn't even attend her college graduation. The next day, she got a card in the mail with $100 inside and a note written by her father's secretary explaining why he wasn't there. Deep down, she knew that she and Clark would always find time for their children, but, because of her own father, the nagging question about Superman still plagued her mind. Clark knew that he would even give up being Superman for his family. If his family needed him, he would always be there, no matter what.

Clark stroked Lois' cheek gently with the back of his hand, wiping away her tears, then she said, "I know, you aren't Sam Lane. Believe me, you are the exact opposite, but I think he scarred me for life so that every time I think of our children, I see myself alone with them, and that scares me."

"Lois, you're right, I am not your father. But maybe the reason you feel like this is because you've also never been comfortable with children and you think you'll be uncomfortable around our baby."

Lois nodded.

Clark continued, "Honey, I'm not quite as comfortable about having a baby as you think I am either. This was such a shock to me too, but I have to say that the thought of you and me having a baby together, someone who is part me and part you, it makes me so happy. It may not be easy, and it is definitely going to take some getting used to, but I think we can handle it together. And no matter what your sub-conscious may be telling you, we'll do it together."

Lois smiled. Clark always knew exactly what to say to make her feel better, but she still wasn't completely convinced.

"Okay, I admit it, I'm scared about the baby, but I am also so happy about it. I never thought I'd like the thought of being pregnant, but I am starting to get used to it. I'm actually looking forward to meeting this little person that's growing inside of me, and I wonder what he or she will be like. But then when I start thinking about it, what if the baby is just like me? From the stories my mom tells, I was not the best baby in the world. Then I wonder if our baby will even like me."

Clark put his hand over her mouth to stop her babbling.

He interrupted, "Our baby is going to love you as much as I love you. And I know that you are going to be the most incredible mother. You may not have much experience with children, but you make up for that with the amount of love you have to give."

Clark moved his hand so that he would have full access to her lips. He bent down and captured her lips in a soul-shattering kiss.

Clark's hands traveled up Lois' shirt and were about to pull it off when the phone rang. They looked into each other's eyes and said, "Jimmy."

Clark reached to answer the phone, "What?"

Jimmy was taken aback at Clark's rude greeting. CK was always so nice on the phone.

"Um, CK, hi. I was just calling to see how Lois is. Is she feeling better?"

"Yeah, Jimmy, she's a lot better. I'm kind of busy now, so I'll just talk to you at work tomorrow. Okay, bye."

Then Clark hung up the phone leaving a startled Jimmy talking into a dial tone.

"Clark, that was so mean," said Lois with a hint of laughter in her voice.

Clark looked remorseful for a second, but then his countenance lightened.

"Maybe that will teach him not to interrupt us any more. I hope he got the picture of just what we were going to be doing."

Lois giggled, "And just what were we going to be doing, Farmboy?"

Clark's eyes darkened with passion as Lois rubbed her bare leg seductively with an innocent look on her face.

"Well, I don't know…"

"Give it up, Clark. Come to mamma."

Clark didn't need any more invitation. He pulled Lois into his arms and they began to pull each other's clothes off.

Then Clark froze in his place. Lois moaned in protest because Clark had stopped touching her, but then she realized that someone needed Superman. This had happened to them before while they were in the throes of foreplay, but most of the time he just ignored it if it wasn't something big. From the look in his eyes, it was big, all right. Lois sighed and resigned herself to a night alone with Ted Koppel and Jay Leno.

"What is it?"

Clark broke out of his trance and said, "Ten car pile up right outside of town on the 481. They think one of the cars is going to explode and they aren't sure if everyone can get out in time."

Lois grimaced, "Well, what are you waiting for? Go!"

"Are you sure? You're okay with this?"

"Clark, get moving!"

"Okay, okay, I'm going. Jeez. I'll be home soon. Wait up for me?"

"Always."

Clark left her with a big kiss, promising they would pick up right where they left off when he got back.

Lois curled up on the couch and turned on the TV waiting for him to return.

Unfortunately, the pile up turned out to be much worse than Clark had expected. By the time he was finished and everyone was safe, it was nearly one in the morning when he was heading home.

He got home and saw that Lois had valiantly tried to wait up for him. She was curled up on the couch, wrapped up in a blanket and nothing else. He smiled as he remembered just what they would have spent the night doing had they not been so rudely interrupted. But now, Lois needed to sleep more then he needed to satisfy his manly urges. He picked her up gently and carried her to bed. Before he even had time to sit down, he heard a man yelling for Superman from the top of the LNN tower. He quickly scribbled a note to Lois apologizing for not being back sooner and then he rushed out again.

Lois felt the wind when he took off, and that woke her up. For a moment, she was disoriented because she hadn't even realized that she had fallen asleep. The last thing she remembered was watching the opening monologue of the Tonight Show. Now she was in her bed and under the covers. Clark must have come home and brought her up to bed. But why wasn't he here now? She shifted in bed and Clark's note fell into her lap.

Lois, I'm sorry I was gone so long. It was so hard getting everyone out of the cars safely. I brought you up to bed because you had fallen asleep on the couch. Someone's going to jump off the LNN tower, so I'll be back soon. Love you.

Clark.

Lois sighed. He felt sorry that he had to leave her, that's what mattered the most. And he was looking forward to their night together. Her sleep-clouded mind realized that he would be there for her and their child. He loved them that much, and she probably should not doubt him. He was the most honest, caring man she had ever met. She fell back to sleep with a contented smile on her face.

The next morning, Lois awoke before the alarm went off. She sat up in bed and realized that she felt a lot better. In fact, she felt well enough to go to work today. This was the first morning in a while that she hadn't felt the need to throw up; that boded well for the rest of the day. Those antibiotics must really be working.

Then Lois' eyes drifted over to Clark, who was sleeping peacefully next to her. She wondered when he had finally made it home. He looked so angelic when he slept. Lois traced the lines of his lips with the tip of her finger as she caressed his bare shoulders with her other hand. Normally he would have awakened at her mere touch, but today he did not even stir. Lois, wanting to get him back for all the times he had awakened her in this manner, climbed on top of him. Then she captured his lips with hers and kissed him passionately. It surprised her that Clark didn't immediately awaken with her kiss. He must have really gotten in late last night.

Finally, when Lois came up for air, Clark woke up. As he pulled her back down to him, he whispered, "Why did you stop?"

They started to kiss again, but just as something more was about to happen, the alarm went off, reminding both of them that they had to get to work.

Lois hopped out of bed and grabbed her bathrobe on the way to the bathroom.

She shouted over her shoulder, "I'm going in to work today, honey. I feel a lot better."

"Are you sure, honey?"

"Yeah, two days away from the office are definitely two days too many."

Clark slowly got out of bed and followed Lois to the shower. When he opened the bathroom door, he nearly laughed out loud.

Lois was looking in the bathroom mirror with a wad of towels stuffed in her bathrobe. She was wondering if this would be what she looked like in a few months time. As turned to look at her profile, she caught a glimpse of Clark standing in the doorway trying unsuccessfully to hold back his laughter.

Lois glared at him with a stare of death that made him instantly stop laughing.

"Don't laugh at me, Farmboy, you're the one that got me into this."

Then she smiled at his look of shock and she walked over to him. She wrapped her arms around his neck and asked in a quiet voice, "Will you still find me attractive when I am this fat?"

Clark grinned widely, "Lois, I will always find you attractive. You're the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. The first time I laid eyes on you, I was mesmerized by how beautiful you are."

"So, even if, say, you had the choice between the entire Dallas Cowboy's cheerleading squad and me, you say you'd pick me even while I'm pregnant?"

"Lois, of course I'd pick you."

Lois broke out of his embrace and opened her robe. The whole wad of towels fell into a pile on the floor and then Lois stepped into the shower.

"You'd better. So, big guy, are you coming in here with me, or what?"

Clark didn't need to be asked twice. Within a nanosecond, Clark had joined Lois in the shower. Lois' fears about her pregnancy temporarily put to rest.

A little later, Lois and Clark had both gotten ready for work and had eaten breakfast when Lois realized what time it was.

"Clark, we only have five minutes to get to work!"

Clark scooped her up and flew to the Planet.

"Thank God for 'Superman Express!'" Lois whispered into his ear after they landed in a nearby alley so that Clark could change.

Clark laughed, and then he grabbed Lois' hand and walked the final block to the Planet.

Before they walked in the revolving door, Lois put her hand on Clark's chest to stop him.

"Clark, I know you wanted to tell everyone about the baby today, but I still don't feel completely comfortable telling people about it yet."

Clark nodded; for his part, he was practically bursting to tell the news, but he respected Lois' need to keep this a secret for a while. Suddenly an idea popped into his mind.

"So, how about we tell them in a few months when you show up in maternity clothes one day."

Lois giggled and stood up on her tiptoes and planted a quick kiss on his lips.

"Thanks, honey, I knew you'd understand."

They walked through the revolving doors and into the lobby. People in the lobby remarked about how completely oblivious to the rest of the world they seemed. Lois and Clark were so lost in each other that Lois walked right into a wastebasket. The doorman and the security guard, who had watched Lane and Kent's relationship blossom over the years, shared a secret smile. Three years ago, they had placed a bet on how long it would take the two reporters to get married, and John, the doorman had won, hands down. Now both men were happy that the reporters that were so obviously in love were finally together and happy.

When they stepped off the elevator and into the newsroom, Perry greeted Lois.

"Lois, what in the Sam Hill are you doing here? Are you feeling better?"

"Yeah, Chief, I'm feeling much better. I think the doctor gave me some kind of miracle antibiotics because when I woke up this morning I felt better."

"That's good, and I'm glad you're back. But I don't want you overdoing it until you're sure you're back to 100%."

"Okay, Perry." Lois smiled at her editor.

Perry walked into his office and Lois and Clark settled down at their desks. They checked their email and voice messages, and then Lois headed over to Clark's desk to talk about their investigation into Luckaby's reappearance.

Shortly after Lois arrived at Clark's desk, Clark called out to Jimmy.

"Hey, Jimmy, could you come over here a second?"

Jimmy approached Clark with a little trepidation, especially after the reception he had gotten on the phone last night.

"Um, hi, CK, Lois," Jimmy said cautiously.

"About last night. I'm sorry I cut you off last night, but I was preoccupied if you know what I mean."

Clark nudged Jimmy and looked over at Lois. Realization dawned and the look on Jimmy's face changed to one of enlightenment.

"Ah, CK, you're the man!" Jimmy said without regard for Lois standing so close.

As Jimmy apologized to Lois for his indiscretions, Clark's breathing started to become labored. Lois rushed over to him and asked, "Clark, are you all right?"

She panicked. Something was wrong with Clark, how often does Superman have trouble breathing?

Just as Jimmy turned around, rushing to get him a cup of water, Clark collapsed onto his desk.

"Oh my God, Clark!" Lois exclaimed in complete hysteria.

Perry, who had seen the whole event unfold from his office, rushed out to take charge. He approached Lois, who was standing unable to move except for the involuntary shaking, and helped her into a nearby chair.

"Somebody call an ambulance!" he bellowed.

Perry checked to see if Clark was breathing while Jimmy tried to help Lois.

Lois whispered Clark's name over and over again and Perry checked Clark's breathing. Perry sighed in relief when he found Clark breathing, albeit faintly.

"He's breathing, but I think he's unconscious."

Lois, who had been rocking back and forth in her chair, leapt up and touched his face.

She cried hysterically with tears running down her face, "Clark, please don't leave me. I can't have this baby without you!"

Then she buried her head in his shoulder.

Perry and Jimmy looked at each other with eyebrows raised. They said, in shock, at the same time, "Baby?"

***

Part II: Silent Fears

Lois buried her head into Clark's shoulder, sobbing. What could have done this to Clark? This morning, he certainly wasn't exhibiting any symptoms. She blushed when she remembered just how healthy Clark had seemed. But, now, her super husband was lying face down on his desk just barely breathing. What could have caused him to collapse like this?

With tears running down her cheeks, she exclaimed, "I think we should move him so it's easier for him to breathe. Maybe we should lie him on his back on the floor."

Perry and Jimmy and Eric, a sportswriter, all came to Lois' aid. They gently guided Clark to the floor and helped to make him more comfortable. Lois crouched on the floor next to Clark and grabbed his hand. Perry pulled a chair up next to her and put a hand on her shoulder.

"Don't worry, darlin'. We called an ambulance. They'll take him to the hospital, and he'll be just fine."

Alarms sounded in Lois' brain, 'Oh my God, they're going to take him to the hospital. What if they notice that something's different? I have to get a hold of Bernie. He'll know what to do!'

"I wish I could believe that, Chief," Lois said solemnly.

Then a more urgent alarm sounded in her head. When the EMTs opened Clark's shirt, they would find the Superman suit. How would she explain that? He would be exposed right in front of all of his colleagues and friends. She had to think of something fast. First, she had to make sure he really was wearing the suit. If he had found somewhere else to hide it, his identity would be saved. He had mentioned something about trying a new way to hide the suit because wearing it was becoming too conspicuous. Hopefully, today was the day he had decided not to wear the suit. No matter where else he was hiding it, it would be easier to explain than if he was wearing it.

Lois rubbed Clark's chest, and, as unobtrusively as possible, she stuck one of her fingers through his nearest buttonhole. She covered a sigh of relief with another rush of tears when she felt bare skin under her fingers. Thank God today was the day he decided to hide the suit differently. Maybe he had known that morning that he wasn't feeling well and didn't plan to go out as Superman during the day. Whatever the reason, she was glad that at least one thing was going right for them today.

Suddenly, the elevator doors opened and the hushed newsroom became a flurry of activity again. Two EMTs ran out of the elevator rolling a stretcher down into the bullpen where Clark was lying. Perry met them at the elevator and indicated where Clark was lying. He said, "His name is Clark Kent, 31 years old. He was sitting at his desk and just collapsed all of a sudden."

The two men nodded and rolled their stretcher over to Clark.

It all seemed like a tornado of activity to Lois as she watched the two EMTs work on her husband. The two men calmly pushed back the onlookers, including Lois, to give Clark some room as they bent down to examine him.

One EMT asked, "Did anyone else see what happened?"

Jimmy spoke up, "Yeah, I did. CK, Lois and I were just talking around his desk and, all of a sudden, CK started gasping for breath. Then he just fell face first onto his desk!"

Meanwhile, the other EMT started working on Clark, checking his breathing and pulse. He barked, "Breath sounds are clear bilateral, but shallow, and he has a weak pulse."

The EMT not working on Clark asked, "Has he eaten or drank anything today? Or taken any medications?"

Lois answered shakily, "No, we missed breakfast this morning. He might have had a cup of coffee and maybe a donut here. I'm not sure. And he doesn't take any medication for anything."

His partner had enlisted Perry and Jimmy's help moving Clark onto the backboard, and Chris from sports had come over to help them lift the backboard onto the stretcher. Clark still was yet to move, and Lois was becoming more frantic. She just kept repeating over and over again, "He has a pulse and he's breathing. He has a pulse and he's breathing."

Then one EMT covered Clark's mouth and nose with an oxygen mask and started pumping oxygen into his lungs. He had ripped Clark's shirt open and was now attaching sticky round circles onto Clark's chest which Lois was pretty sure were for some kind of heart monitor device.

The other EMT, while asking Lois, "Does he have any kind of illness, hypertension, epilepsy, cancer, diabetes?" took Clark's blood pressure, pulse, checked his pupils, and did some other tests that Lois could not recognize. Lois was especially curious about the long, white, tube-like instrument with a red glow that the man attached to the top of Clark's index finger.

"No, he's never had anything. He's always been so healthy. As long as I've known him he's never been sick," Lois answered, almost truthfully.

The EMT who had taken the tests shouted to his partner so he could be heard over the newsroom's roar, "Pulse 75, BP 130/70, O2 97%, resps 12, capillary refill good, pulse in all extremities."

Lois wondered if those numbers were bad or good, but, for Superman, who really knew what normal was? She heard one of the men radio Metro General about Clark's condition while the other was trying to determine if Clark was responsive to touch or voice.

Lois gasped when Clark did not even flinch when the EMT rubbed his sternum or yelled so that Clark would hear him calling, if he could, over the low roar in the background, "Clark! Clark!"

"Yeah, Metro, we have a 31 year old male, unconscious, complained of shortness of breath…"

Lois blocked the man on the radio out when she saw the other EMT getting out the supplies to start an IV. What if the IV tube didn't go through his skin? How would she explain that?

The EMT found Clark's vein quickly, and the needle slipped in easily. Lois breathed another sigh of relief that the needle went in just like it would into a human, but now she was even more frightened. His invulnerability was gone. It made her wonder again just what had happened to Clark that made him so vulnerable. The man had already started a saline drip, and now he was strapping Clark to the stretcher and getting ready to move.

Lois grabbed Clark's hand and said, "I'm going with you."

The two men nodded and one said, "You'll have to ride in the front, Miss."

Lois didn't care where she rode, as long as she got to see if Clark was okay. She was also worried about what kinds of tests they were going to perform on him. What if they found something different? As much as she worried about their secret, those worries paled in comparison to the fears that Clark might not live long enough to even have a secret to protect. Somewhere in her gut, she had a horrible feeling that Clark may not even make it as far as the hospital. She could hardly remember what her life was like before Clark, even though she was sure she must have had one, but now she couldn't even imagine a life without him, just as she was sure he couldn't really recall what his life had been like before her. Their lives had started when they met, and now it was like both of their lives were ending. They had planned to live happily ever after, and now all of their fairy-tale dreams were crashing around them.

When they reached the elevator, they had to wait for it to reach the third floor. In the interim, Lois ran her hand across Clark's face, and was surprised at how clammy his skin felt. He was usually warm, but never like this. His forehead was covered in sweat, and his hair was getting wet around the edges. She smoothed his damp hair back away from his face and kissed his cheek. Sweat? Had she ever seen Clark sweat before?

The elevator arrived and the two EMTs, Lois, and Clark on the stretcher all piled into the elevator. To Lois, it seemed like an eternity before they reached the ground floor.

When they wheeled Clark through the lobby, the doorman and the security guard were both shocked to see just who was on the stretcher. Neither would have imagined that the man on the stretcher could be Clark Kent. They had just seen him not two hours ago, and he had seemed healthy enough. At least when they last waked through the lobby, Lane and he sure looked like they were enjoying themselves, and certainly not on the verge of collapsing. But now Lane looked pale and terrified as they wheeled an unconscious Kent out the door.

The doorman held his hand out to the security guard, looking for his money after the small group was out of the building. When the EMTs had asked what floor the newsroom was on, the security guard had bet the doorman $50 that the man they would wheel out would be Perry White. Both were horrified, to say the least, when it was young Clark Kent on the stretcher, but the doorman wouldn't let a little shock prevent him from getting the money he deserved.

The two EMTs loaded Clark into the back of the truck, and one of them climbed in with him. The driver opened the passenger door for Lois, and she climbed in. The driver started the ambulance and turned on the lights and siren. They pealed off towards Metro General, but they weren't going fast enough in Lois' opinion. She looked out the window and the sounds of the man working on Clark in the back, the siren, and the other traffic sounds all blended together in her mind. Her thoughts drifted to what her life would be like without Clark. He gave her so much support and love, that when she was with him, she felt like she could do anything. What would it be like for her baby if Clark wasn't there for it? Of course she would try to be the best mother she could be, but children need fathers, and Clark had waited so long to have a child. Now that they found out they could, indeed, have children and that they were soon expecting one, this happened. It wasn't fair to him! He deserved the chance to see his child grow, and she would do anything in her power to make sure he could.

Lois must have looked as bad as she felt, because the driver said, "Don't worry, Miss. We're doing everything we can for him."

Lois wiped away the tears that had fallen down her cheeks and rested her head on the back of the seat.

"I hope your best is good enough! I know I'm not going to be able to live without him."

He nodded. "How long have the two of you been married?"

"About nine months," Lois said with a small smile through her tears. "And two days ago, we found out that we're going to have a baby. Oh God, I can't believe I just told you that! We haven't told anyone yet!"

The medic regarded her solemnly, "Don't worry, I won't tell anyone. And I hope Clark will pull through for you and your baby."

Lois smiled at him. She knew that Clark loved her with every bit of his heart and soul, and that he would fight whatever was ailing him with all the super strength in his body.

Then the ambulance pulled up to the hospital.

All of a sudden, the world became a whirl of chaotic activity, and Lois had been caught up right in the middle of the tornado. She jumped out of the cab, and ran around to the back of the ambulance where the two EMTs were unloading the stretcher. Then she grabbed Clark's hand and ran along side of the stretcher as the EMTs wheeled it through the emergency room doors. Once they were inside, a tall doctor with a full head of gray hair and a neatly trimmed beard, dressed in full scrubs, met them.

"What have we got?"

As they wheeled Clark towards trauma room two, one of the EMTs said, "Clark Kent, 31 years old. Complained of shortness of breath before he collapsed and fell unconscious. No history of illness. BP 136/70, pulse 75. Patient is unresponsive, and his breathing is very shallow. We started him on 12 liters of O2 and we opened a saline line."

By then they had reached the trauma room, and an orderly was now trying to usher Lois out. She refused to go, fighting him with all her might. A nurse closed the door to the trauma room, and Lois was stuck outside in the hallway. Before the orderly lead her away, she heard the doctor order chest films, a portable CT, and several drugs that Lois couldn't pronounce.

The orderly pulled her away from the door saying, "Come on, ma'am. You aren't doing anything for him standing here watching and panicking. All you're doing is getting in the doctors' way. Let's go out to the waiting room so they can do their job. I'll get you a cup of coffee and you can get comfortable."

That's what he thought. It wasn't his husband in there with needles and tubes sticking out of him. At least the good thing was that no one knew Clark was Superman yet. She wanted to watch to make sure no one discovered anything they shouldn't. Why was she kidding herself? She wanted to watch not because she didn't want them to find out the secret, but because she needed to assure herself that Clark was still alive.

Before Lois had realized she was moving, the orderly had led her to one of the seats in the waiting room.

"Would you like a cup of coffee, ma'am?"

Lois found herself seated in an uncomfortable waiting room chair and looking up into the young Chinese orderly's face. He looked sympathetically down at her, seeming to know what she was going through. Lois wondered how many dozens of families this young man saw in her position a day. At least he didn't seem outwardly callous to Lois' fears about her husband in the trauma room, and, for that, Lois was extremely grateful.

"Um, yeah. Coffee would be good. Do you have decaf?"

The young man smiled and said, "Sure, one decaf coming up."

He scurried away reminding Lois vaguely of Jimmy, such an eager young man, always trying to please.

While she waited for her coffee, she pulled her legs up to her body and curled up into a ball. Then she started to cry. Why did this have to happen? Did God have to take Clark from her? Why, during what should be the happiest time of their lives, had this happened? Clark was such a decent man; the most decent man she had ever met, in fact. He didn't deserve anything bad to happen to him; he had spent a large chunk of his adult life helping people in need, but now when the tables were turned, would anyone save him? He meant so much to so many people, to her, to their baby, to his parents, and even to her parents. Why did God always have to make the good ones suffer?

The orderly returned with her coffee and saw that she was in a contemplative state, so he didn't want to disturb her. He knew better than to disturb people when they were grieving. They usually didn't appreciate his good humor when their loved ones teetered on the fine line between life and death. The young orderly set the coffee on the table next to Lois and made a hasty retreat.

Soon, Lois pulled herself out of her brooding state and realized she had to call Dr. Klein. Maybe he'd know what to do. But they'd have to devise a plan so no one would know that he was Dr. Bernard Klein from STAR Labs. Then the gig would really be up, so to speak.

She pulled her cellular phone out of her purse and dialed Dr. Klein's extension. It rang three times before the scientist answered.

"Hello?"

Lois responded frantically, but barely above a whisper, words meshing together, "Bernie, it's Lois. Something's happened to Clark. I don't know what happened, but he started having trouble breathing, and he collapsed on his desk. We're at the hospital now, and they're working on him in the ER, but no one seems to know what's happened to him." In a more hushed tone, she said, "And, Bernie, the needles went right through his skin!"

Dr. Klein gasped, "Oh my God! The needles went right through his skin? He's lost his invulnerability? This is horrible. I'll be down there as soon as I can. Where did you say you were?"

"Metro General, but, wouldn't it seem conspicuous if Superman's physician showed up to treat Clark Kent?"

"Already got that covered, Lois. I'll make up some medical records for him, and I'll pretend to be his personal physician from Kansas. It shouldn't be that hard, I don't have any friends at Metro, the doctor friends I have are all at University. It's a good thing they took him to Metro!"

"I don't care what you do, just please make sure no one catches on to the truth!" Lois begged. "And please hurry!"

They hung up only after Dr. Klein promised to be there as soon as possible with the falsified medical records. Lois thanked her lucky stars again that they had chosen the right week to tell Dr. Klein about Clark's secret identity. She also was grateful to him for being such a good friend to Clark and for agreeing to lie protect Superman's identity. Both had known all along that they could trust Bernard Klein with their lives, but today he had showed them once again why he was such a good friend.

As soon as she hung up with Dr. Klein, she decided to call the Kents in Smallville. Knowing the Kents, she was sure they would board the next plane to Metropolis to be with their son. And it would help her to have someone to share her concerns about Clark with, even though they would suffer just as much as she already was, they still deserved to know what was going on. He was their only son, and they deserved to know that their boy was lying in the emergency room of Metro General Hospital completely unconscious and barely breathing.

While Lois dialed the familiar numbers, she mentally rehearsed the conversation she would have with them. However, her best-laid plans went awry when she heard Martha's cheerful voice.

Lois froze when she heard Martha's happy tone. She felt sorry for what she had to say to her, the woman that had recently become a better mother to her than her own mother had ever been.

"Hello?" Martha said. And then when Lois failed to respond, she repeated, "Hello?"

Finally, Lois found her voice and just blurted her news out frantically and bluntly.

"Martha, it's Lois. Something horrible has happened to Clark! We were just sitting around his desk and he started having trouble breathing! I don't know what happened! He collapsed on his desk, and he hasn't moved since. He has a pulse, and he's still breathing. But all the needles went right through his skin! I don't know what's happening! And I am so afraid."

Martha's voice dropped to a hushed whisper, "Lois, slow down. What did you say? You're saying he just collapsed?"

Martha's heart pounded. Her greatest fear for her son had now come to light. Every time he donned the Superman suit, she worried for his safety. She knew that someday some crazy lunatic would do something to her boy to get rid of him. She despaired that today was that day. But why did it have to happen now? Clark's life had been going so right lately. He and Lois were finally happily married, and he seemed so happy when he told his parents that he and Lois were expecting a baby.

Jonathan had picked up the other phone when Martha's face had gone white. "Lois, are you saying that needles went right through his skin?"

"Yes, and I have no idea why! He just collapsed, and they're working on him now. They haven't come out to talk to me yet, so they're probably still working on him."

"Okay, honey, we're coming on the next plane to Metropolis. We'll be there soon."

They hung up, and Lois knew that it would take Martha and Jonathan at least three or four hours to get there.

When Lois sat back down in the waiting room, she saw a familiar face peeking through the door. Jimmy scanned the waiting room for Lois, and when he saw her, his heart fell. Her face was drawn and her eyes were puffy from the tears that had been falling ever since Clark had collapsed. Her eyes were focused on nothing in particular and she looked to be staring at the ceiling. She was absently ripping a coffee cup apart, a nervous habit that he had never seen her exhibit before.

Jimmy approached Lois cautiously, but when she saw him, she smiled shakily. He sat down in the chair next to her and put a friendly hand on her shoulder.

"So, have you heard anything?"

Lois sighed. "No, not a thing. It seems like they've been in there forever."

"I guess no news is good news, though."

Jimmy ran a hand through his hair, trying to think of something to lighten Lois' spirits when his own needed lifting themselves.

Lois cracked a crooked smile. "Yeah, I guess so. I hope so."

"I'm sure he's gonna be okay. CK's a strong guy. Anyway, Perry sent me down here to keep you company. We're all worried about him, and about you. Perry thought you were going to have a nervous breakdown before. Were you serious about having a baby?"

Lois nodded, not looking entirely happy.

Jimmy joked, "So, what, were you going to surprise us by showing up in maternity clothes one day?"

Lois giggled in spite of herself, and Jimmy was happy that he could get her to crack a smile, if even for a second.

"Jimmy, you don't know the half of it. It's kind of funny, actually. Clark just said that as we were walking in this morning. He seemed fine this morning, like nothing was wrong."

Lois broke down in tears again, and Jimmy hugged her, trying to provide some comfort.

"Lois, it's okay. He's going to be fine. Shh, he's going to be fine. I'm sure he's thinking of you and your baby right now, and he's going to pull through for you both." Jimmy bit his lip, not completely convinced himself.

Lois sniffled and nodded. "By the way, how did you know about the baby anyway? We just found out yesterday afternoon and we were going to tell everyone today, but then this happened…" Lois' voice trailed off.

"Shh, it's okay. It's just when Clark collapsed you said, 'I can't have this baby without you.' I guess that kinda gave it away."

Lois covered her face in her hands. She hadn't wanted her friends to find out about the baby that way. Actually, she didn't want them to know at all yet.

"Jimmy, I'm sorry. That wasn't the way we wanted you to find out. We wanted to tell you guys, but then this happened…"

The gray-haired doctor Lois had seen before interrupted Lois' apology by coming out into the waiting room. Lois knew who this doctor was and grabbed on to Jimmy's arm for support and prayed that the doctor didn't have bad news for her.

The doctor called out, "May I please speak to Clark Kent's family?"

Lois gasped. Finally they were going to tell her something, but would it be good news? From the expression on the doctor's face, neither Lois nor Jimmy could tell what he was thinking. His eyes were an icy shade of blue, and they held no emotions.

This couldn't be a good sign, and Lois knew it. Something horrible had happened to Clark in that little cubicle. He didn't make it; she could feel it. Their lives were both over, and all of their dreams for a long, happy life together were shattered. She had always known that their plans to live happily ever after together were too good to be true.

Jimmy squeezed Lois' hand and helped her to her feet.

He whispered, "Don't worry, Lois. I bet he's out here to tell you Clark is okay." What Lois failed to notice were the unshed tears that glazed Jimmy's eyes. Obviously he wasn't quite so sure that Clark was going to be fine.

She squeezed back and started walking on shaky legs towards the doctor. He met her half way and led her to an isolated corner of the waiting room. Lois said a silent prayer to whatever deity was listening to please let Clark be alive.

The doctor had seen Lois Lane and Clark Kent before. In fact, they had interviewed him once for one of their stories. However, he had never imagined that he would meet Metropolis' finest reporting team again, and certainly not in this situation. He almost didn't recognize the female half of the team as she walked towards him. The last time they had met, her eyes had shone brightly and all of her movements were full of animation and liveliness. Now, however, her eyes were dull and red, without any outward emotions, and she walked hunched over like a woman who had lost everything, a shadow of the woman he had once met.

When the two were seated, the doctor began, "Miss Lane, I believe we've met before. You and your husband interviewed me about Eric Birch's condition."

Lois absently responded, "Oh yeah, the serial rapist."

Why was the doctor stalling? Couldn't he just tell her what happened to Clark? Did he really have to prolong her agony? Lois tried to read the doctor's expression again, but, once again, she was unsuccessful. Even her usually sharp as a razor's edge reporter's instinct, which was only slightly clouded at the moment, gave her no intuition about what the doctor was about to tell her.

Finally, Lois broke down and sobbed, "What's happened to Clark. I need to know! If he's dead, can you please tell me? I need to know! Please, this is my husband lying in there, and it's tearing my heart to pieces not knowing what's going on!"

The doctor cracked a slight smile. Yes, this was the Lois Lane he had met, although more frantic than before, but, yes, she did have reason to act the way she was. It was her husband lying in a hospital bed toeing the thin line between life and death, and she didn't have a clue of his condition or a notion of what could be wrong with him.

Lois was almost ready to wring the doctor's neck. Did he have to stall? Was he doing it purposely?

The doctor realized that his inner conversations were probably just making Lois crazy. Her eyes had taken a maniacal quality, and she looked like she could probably commit homicide if he didn't tell her about Clark immediately.

Just before Lois grabbed the doctor's collar, he coughed to clear his throat and then he said, "Ms. Lane, we still haven't been able to figure out what happened to your husband or what caused it to happen, but his condition has stabilized. He has regained consciousness and he knows where he is, but he doesn't remember what happened. However, he is still in very critical condition, and we need to find out what caused this to happen."

Lois let out the breath she hadn't realized she was holding and a few tears of joy ran down her cheeks. Clark hadn't died! But he still wasn't out of the woods yet. The doctor had said he was in very critical condition. That meant that he was still in very bad shape. She, too, wondered just what could have done this to him. It had to have been Kryptonite, somehow. But he'd never reacted quite this severely to it before.

Lois whispered, "Oh, thank God he's alive! I was so sure I'd lost him."

The doctor continued, "We don't have any medical records for him on file, so we wondered if you could fill out some registration forms for him. And we need to know if he has some kind of regular physician he sees or any allergies to medications."

Lois sighed. Paperwork, how could those damned bureaucrats think of paperwork at a time like this. Her husband was lying in critical condition, and all they could think of was insurance and bills. She would write a story on this as soon as Clark was better.

Lois bit her tongue and forced herself to present a civil and controlled exterior even when her heart, mind and stomach were all tied in knots.

"Yes, he does have a regular physician. I've already called and alerted him of the situation, and he's flying in from Kansas now. But do I really have to fill out paperwork now? My husband is in critical condition and I would really like to see him! I know he doesn't have any allergies, and he's never had a medical problem before. Couldn't I just fill out the paperwork later, like once his doctor gets here? I just want to see my husband, to prove to myself that he's alive!"

The doctor stared into Lois' deep brown eyes and was met with all the emotion that she felt about Clark. He saw the intense love that she felt for him as well as the equally intense fear about his health. He realized that she doubted his sincerity when he had told her that Clark was indeed alive. She needed to be reassured that Clark was alive, if not well. The doctor relented and decided that it wouldn't do any harm to have her see Clark for a short time.

"Okay, you can see him. We've admitted him, and they've taken him up to the ICU."

"The ICU? Where is that? And isn't the ICU usually locked, and they don't let visitors in until the special visiting hours?"

The doctor rubbed his graying beard and said, "Yes, it is locked, but you can use the intercom to identify yourself to the nurses up there. I'll call up there and tell them to let you in for a short visit. You can't stay there long, though. The ICU has very strict visiting hours, and your husband needs all the rest he can get right now so he can fight whatever is hurting him."

"Thank you, doctor. I can't tell you how much this means to me. I need to see him, to feel him, to make sure he's still there. It may sound silly, but I need to reassure myself that he's alive."

The doctor nodded as he continued rubbing his beard contemplatively.

Lois continued, "But I just need to know how to get to the ICU."

The doctor pointed down a long hall adjacent to the ER.

"Take that hall to its end and you'll find an elevator. Go up to the second floor, and then make a left out of the elevator and a left at the first hallway. Then make a right at the first hallway you see after that, and the first two doors are to the ICU. Then all you have to do is use the intercom to call the nurses."

Lois got up hastily, eager to see Clark. Armed with the directions and the knowledge that Clark was indeed alive, she shook the doctor's hand and thanked him for his help. Then she approached Jimmy who had been sitting patiently in his chair at the other end of the room, trying to read what was going on between Lois and the doctor.

To Jimmy, Lois' eyes looked a bit brighter, so he hoped she had good news.

"He's alive," was all she had to say before Jimmy jumped out of his seat and enveloped her in a huge bear hug.

"I knew he'd make it. CK's a fighter!"

Lois sighed. Jimmy was such a good friend to both Clark and herself. Always loyal and always eager to help, he had come to support Lois at the hospital when no one else had. She owed so much to the sometimes overzealous young man standing next to her.

"Come on," said Lois, eager to see Clark, "They've moved him up to the ICU, and they're going to let me see him."

While they were waiting for the elevator, Lois saw a water fountain and remembered that she had to take her antibiotic. She didn't want to jeopardize her health or her baby's health. What good would it do Clark to have her sick too?

Jimmy and Lois easily found their way up to the ICU on the second floor, and Lois pressed the intercom's button.

A nurse's voice drifted out, "Can I help you?"

"My husband was just admitted from the ER, and the doctor said I could see him."

"Mr. Kent?"

"Yes."

"Hold on. The doors are going to swing out towards you, so stand out of the way. Come directly to the nurses' station in the center."

Lois looked at Jimmy who had taken a seat on a nearby bench and had picked up an old magazine.

He looked up and said, "Lois, don't worry about me. I'll be fine out here by myself. Just tell Clark we're all worried about him. I'll be out here when you come back."

Lois gave Jimmy a small smile of thanks before she timidly walked through the open doors. The doors swung closed behind her and she took in the horrible images of pain and suffering as she made he way towards the nurses' station. Her curious eyes wandered around to the little cubicles surrounding the nurses' station, and she almost wished she hadn't looked. Every patient she saw looked horribly ill, pale, unconscious, tubes sticking out of them, and monitors constantly beeping, assuring the nurses that the patients were still alive. Would Clark look like those other patients? As she walked towards the nurses' station, she clung to the doctor's statement that Clark had, indeed, regained consciousness. She couldn't bear the thought of Clark hooked up to a life-support system, and hopefully she wouldn't have to face that fear.

Finally, Lois made her way to the nurses' station in the middle of the ICU. Three nurses sat at the station and looked Lois up and down. All three regularly read the Daily Planet, and were curious to meet Lois Lane and Clark Kent, even though this was not the ideal situation. Even ill, Clark Kent was just as good looking as they had expected him to be, and Lois was just as beautiful as her pictures showed. Lois could tell that two of the nurses were giving her the once-over and whispering about her as she walked towards them.

"So, where's my husband?"

"Ms. Lane, Mr. Kent's in 15. Follow me and I'll take you there."

"Thank you."

As the nurse walked with Lois, she noticed how bad Lois looked. Her eyes were red and puffy, undoubtedly from crying, and her face was very pale. She was obviously taking Clark's sudden illness very poorly, but that was to be expected. If she hadn't look horrible, the nurse would have been surprised.

They stopped at the entrance to Clark's small room. The nurse left, and Lois was still a little nervous about going in. Her poor Clark looked so small and vulnerable and completely helpless lying against the white sheets. Even without his glasses and with his hair pushed away from his face, no one would have ever recognized him as Superman. Tubes were sticking out of his arms, and monitors were attached all over his body. Lois was almost afraid to walk into the room, worried that she'd do something to hurt Clark. The desire to touch him, to feel the warmth of his skin finally outweighed her fear of breaking him, so she quietly tiptoed into Clark's room. He almost looked exposed as she neared his bed. He may have been under several layers of blankets, but anyone walking by could still see his exposed chest and his entire face. She wondered, in the back of her mind, if anyone would possibly make the connection between Clark and Superman, however unlikely in his current condition, but it was still an important concern. This was the weakest she had ever seen him. He didn't look like he could even lift his head, much less lift a bomb into the stratosphere.

The desire to touch him, to know that he was really there, outweighed her concerns about his fragility, and she gingerly sat down on the corner of his bed. Timidly, she reached up to touch his face. The feel of his soft, warm skin under her hand reassured her that he was really alive. She ran her hand gently across his forehead, nose, and finally his lips. It was surprising how dry they were. They certainly weren't the same lips she had kissed so many times. As her fingers lingered on his lips, Clark's tongue flicked out of his mouth and caught Lois' finger before she could move it. Lois jumped. Had she felt what she thought she had just felt? Did Clark just lick her finger? That meant he was awake!

Clark's eyes fluttered open, and while his vision was still blurry he thought he had died and gone to heaven. He was staring into the large brown eyes of a beautiful angel. As his vision began to clear, he realized that the angel bore a striking resemblance to Lois. Suddenly, he heard the angel calling his name. It seemed so far away, but the voice was getting closer. Then it dawned on him; he hadn't died! The angel he was seeing that looked like Lois really was Lois! The image of his wife became clear and he heard her voice calling him.

"Clark, Clark, are you awake?"

Tears of joy and relief streamed down Lois' cheeks when she realized that Clark's eyes were indeed open. His deep brown eyes were still clouded over, and he seemed disoriented, but he was awake, and that was all that mattered.

Clark had trouble talking because his mouth was so dry, and Lois noticed him struggling to talk.

"Oh, honey, do you need some water? Is your throat dry?"

Clark nodded as much as he could without too much pain. Where was he? Why did every muscle in his body hurt? Why didn't he have any of his powers? He was getting more frantic by the second. Why were all these tubes sticking out of his skin? Why did Lois look so haggard, like she had been crying for hours?

Lois had poured him a cup of water from the pitcher that was sitting on the rollaway tray in the corner of the little room. She brought the cup over to him and helped him move his head up to drink it. It felt so good going down his parched throat, and he finally felt like he might be able to talk.

Lois had again settled back to her original perch on the corner of his bed, and Clark clumsily reached to grab her hand. It amazed him how much it hurt to make even that simple motion. Lois split the distance and clung to his large hand like it was a lifeboat and she never wanted to let go.

Finally Clark found his voice. It was weak and very disjointed, but Lois was just happy that he could talk.

"Lois, honey… What happened? Where am I?"

"Oh Clark," Lois sobbed, "It was horrible! You collapsed in the newsroom. We don't know what happened to you. It was like you had a heart attack, but you didn't. For the last few hours, you were unconscious, but the ER doctor said you regained consciousness in the ER for a few minutes. Now you're in the ICU at Metro General, and Bernie's on his way here."

Clark leaned back into the pillows trying to digest what Lois had just told him. He had collapsed? And now he was in the ICU? But he didn't remember collapsing. The last thing he remembered, although it felt more like a dream than reality, was getting a donut and a cup of coffee this morning at work.

"I… collapsed?"

"Yeah, we were all so worried about you. It was horrible."

Their eyes locked, and both had tears rolling down their cheeks. Lois' were from the fear she had felt earlier, and Clark's were because he had caused Lois so much pain. He had made a promise to himself long ago that he would never make Lois cry. That promise had been broken today in a big way. As he tried to sit up so he could hug Lois, his eyes rolled back into his head in pain. He had never felt anything so extreme, so sharp, so mind numbing. Lois gasped as Clark fell back onto the bed. She reached around all of the tubes and wires to hug him. As she laid her head down, he felt her tears against his exposed chest. He tried to reach up to stroke her silky hair, but it hurt too much to even move his arm.

She murmured into his chest, "Oh, Clark, I'm so glad you're alive!"

Clark whispered, "Me too, honey. Me too."

They just lay there for a few moments, each relishing in the other's closeness. To Clark, it had seemed like forever since he had held his wife in his arms. To Lois, it was a way for her to tangibly know that Clark was still alive, even though he wasn't well. But if anyone could help him, it would be Dr. Klein, and he was on his way.

Clark, always selfless, wondered, "So, how… are you… and the… baby… holding up?"

Lois cracked a small smile, "Actually, the whole time you were in the ER, I was thinking about the baby. If you hadn't made it, our baby would be a part of you, and it would be like getting to see you every day even if you were gone. It hit me that having your baby probably isn't as bad as I thought it was."

Clark fought against the muscles that didn't want him to move and slowly covered Lois' stomach with his hand. Even though there were no outward signs of Lois' pregnancy yet, they both realized the significance of that simple gesture. Lois covered Clark's hand with her own, and they both made an unspoken connection with their baby. The emotion level was high as Lois bent down to kiss Clark. Even sick, he responded as his sore muscles would allow.

When their kiss broke, Clark rubbed Lois' stomach lovingly.

"Clark, our baby is a miracle, and I am so sorry I ever had any doubts about it."

"Oh, honey, doubts… are… natural. I've had… so many… myself since… the other… night… but… I agree… our baby… is… such a… miracle."

Lois smiled again, and leaned down for another kiss.

A nurse had been watching this whole scene between the young couple, and cleared her throat announcing her presence when they started to kiss again. Lois jumped up, and the nurse gently tapped on the glass door.

"I'm sorry to interrupt you, but you have to leave now, ma'am."

Lois looked at her incredulously. "Why?"

"Because the Dr. Harris said you were only supposed to have a fifteen minute visit. He needs his rest before the other doctor comes to see him."

Clark grabbed Lois' hand, "I can… rest… with her… here."

The nurse shook her head and smiled.

"I feel bad about this, I really do, but you need your rest. Visiting hours start in an hour and a half, so it won't be that long before she can come back in. Plus, there's a doctor coming up to see you in a few minutes. It would probably be best if you went out to the waiting room for a little while, Miss."

Clark clutched Lois' hand tightly. "I… don't want… her to… go. Couldn't she… stay… a little… longer?"

Lois lovingly stroked his face and squeezed his hand back. "He's never been in the hospital before, and he's nervous. Can't I just stay a little while longer?"

The nurse shook her head sympathetically.

"I'm sorry, doctor's orders. Don't worry, Mr. Kent, she'll be back soon."

Lois resigned herself to the fact that she had to leave, so she leaned down for one last kiss. They shared a short, but sweet, kiss and Lois squeezed his hand.

"I love you," Clark whispered as he squeezed Lois' hand.

"I love you too," Lois answered as she guided his hand to her stomach. "We both love you."

Their eyes met, and they just stared into each other's eyes until the nurse coughed again.

"Okay, Miss, let's let him get some rest."

Lois gave Clark one final peck on the cheek before she stood up fully and started to leave.

Clark smiled weakly and strained to say, "I love you, honey."

Lois smiled back warmly, "I love you too."

Then she walked out of Clark's little room and back through the ICU, reassured by the fact that Clark was alive and conscious. He may have been weak, and he may not have been able to move, but he was still her Clark, and he was still completely alive. She sighed, it had been such a horrible day, and the day was not over yet. They still didn't know what was wrong with Clark, although she had every hope that Dr. Klein would be able to figure it out. And Clark could barely move, much less use his powers. His powers were nowhere to be found. Another huge problem was the whole Superman issue. What if some hospital employee found out that Clark was Superman? What if someone took a sample of Clark's blood and found out that it wasn't normal? Before Lois reached the doors leading out to the waiting room, she took a deep breath. Clark needed her to be strong. She wouldn't break down; she couldn't. He would be all right; he had to be.

Suddenly, a horrible thought gripped her as she turned the handle of the door. What if Dr. Klein passed Jimmy in the waiting room? What would he do? Would Jimmy make the connection between Clark and Superman? Lois didn't want to take that chance. She hoped Dr. Klein had enough common sense to take a back entrance to the ICU, but, knowing Dr. Klein, he would probably walk right through the waiting room, and Jimmy would see him. That was just the way her day was going.

Lois took a deep breath and pushed the door open. When she stepped into the waiting room, she noticed that Perry had joined Jimmy on one of the couches. They both looked worried, as they pretended to be interested in the magazines they were reading. Lois knew both of them well enough to know that neither of them was dealing with this well.

Jimmy looked like he had lost his best friend, which was not unusual, because he thought he had. He thought of Clark like the big brother he never had. Jimmy came to Clark whenever he needed advice about anything from work to women. He sat there now, pretending to read an outdated issue of Sports Illustrated, with his head in his hands and the expression on his face forlorn. His eyes had lost their usual shine and could only be described as bleak. When he moved to flip the page, his arm only moved slightly, and he never even looked at the page.

Perry didn't look much better. The older man held a copy of Newsweek, but he made no pretense of reading it. In fact, it wasn't even open. The editor stared off into space pondering the fairness of the world. He wondered why something like this could happen to such a decent man. His eyes were glazed over as he remembered the first time Clark walked into his office. At the time he didn't realize what a valuable addition to his life Clark would become. If Clark didn't make it, he didn't know what he would do. Over the years, Clark had become like a son to him, and, in fact, he was closer to Clark than he was to either of his biological sons.

The door slammed shut and both Perry and Jimmy were startled to see Lois walking towards them. Both men hurried to greet her, and Perry reached her first. Tears were flowing down her cheeks and the men rushed to comfort her. Perry gathered her into a comforting hug and Jimmy rushed to get her a cup of water. Jimmy busied himself trying to make her comfortable. Lois buried her head into Perry's shoulder and let out all of the pent-up emotion that she had held in while she was with Clark. It wouldn't have helped him to see her tears; he was nervous enough.

Perry, almost afraid to ask, drawled softly, "How is he, darlin'?"

Lois raised her head from his shoulder and backed up. Jimmy had returned with a cup of water for her, which she took gratefully. She sipped her water and started pacing around the small room.

Finally, she took a deep breath and began, "I don't know. At least he's awake."

Perry and Jimmy both breathed sighs of relief. In the nether reaches of their minds, both had almost expected Lois to tell them that he was still unconscious or, even worse, that he had passed away, although for both men, it was a fleeting thought, almost barely acknowledged.

"Thank God," Perry said, and Jimmy agreed.

Lois continued, "But he looked so pale. And he had so much trouble talking. He couldn't put more than two words together at a time. And he couldn't move, not even a finger. And they still don't know what's wrong with him!"

Jimmy moved to wrap a supportive arm around her shoulders.

"Great shades of Elvis, Lois, you're saying that they have no idea what's wrong with him. What kind of hospital is this?"

Lois shook her head. The last thing she wanted to do right now was talk about what was wrong with Clark. She really just wanted to curl up on a couch and cry. But that obviously wasn't going to happen any time soon.

Lois said quietly, "I don't know, Chief, I just don't know. Right now I just want to sit down."

Perry and Jimmy leapt to help her sit down. It was almost like she was the invalid.

"Just because I'm pregnant and my husband might be dying is no reason for the two of you to treat me like a china doll," Lois snapped as Jimmy helped her sit and Perry helped her put her feet up on a coffee table.

The two men backed away and Jimmy muttered a, "Sorry, Lois."

Lois leaned back into the chair and closed her eyes. Why had she snapped at them like that? They didn't deserve her wrath. What were they trying to do besides help her? And she knew that they were just trying to make her life easier.

"Look, I'm sorry. I guess all of the stress is just getting to me."

Perry and Jimmy could see just how stressed out she was. This morning, she had looked so vibrant, and so brimming with life, even though she had been terribly sick just the day before. But now she was a broken woman. Her eyes were red and puffy, evidence of all of the crying she had been doing. She looked tired, almost like she hadn't slept in days. Dark circles surrounded her eyes and her makeup had smeared all around her eyes, making the circles appear much darker. Her eyes, which usually telegraphed her every emotion, were now bleak and expressionless, and her every motion was apathetic.

Lois took a deep breath and continued, "I just can't believe this is happening. We just found out we're having a baby yesterday, and I feel so bad for not wanting it. Clark was so happy about it, but not me! I didn't want to be bothered with a baby right now. I'm so selfish. Now, if I lose Clark, our baby will be the only thing left of him."

Neither Perry nor Jimmy could think of anything to say to her to ease her pain. These demons were ones she would have to work through herself, and they both realized that she really didn't expect them to answer, just to be open ears for her.

Finally, Perry decided that she needed to see this from an objective perspective. "Great Shades of Elvis, Lois, don't put yourself through all this! Clark's a strong guy. We all know that. He's gonna be just fine, I know it."

Jimmy nodded in agreement and added, "Do you really think CK's the kind of guy that wouldn't be there for you and your kid? Come on, if I know CK, he's in there now telling the docs that he's all better and wants to go home."

Luckily, before Lois could finish her thought, her phone rang. At the same time a middle-aged man dressed in scrubs and a white coat and a sterile cap stepped off the elevator.

Lois pulled her phone out of her purse and answered, "Hello?"

"Lois, how is he?" Martha's worried voice came across the line.

Lois got out of her chair and walked away from where Perry and Jimmy were sitting. "Martha, he's alive, that's the good thing."

Martha gasped, he was alive, but for how long? "Lois, how's he doing? Have you seen him?"

As Lois walked down the long hallway, she nearly walked right into Dr. Klein.

"Hold on, Martha. One second, I have to talk to Bernie Klein."

Dr. Klein had been staring straight ahead, determined to get to the ICU without being stopped. As he was about to pass Lois, she grabbed his hand to stop him.

"Bernie, what are you doing?"

Dr. Kein stopped and stared at Lois, "I'm going to see Clark."

"No, I mean why are you coming this way. Perry and Jimmy are sitting in the waiting room. What if they recognize you?"

Dr. Klein rubbed his bald head. He hadn't considered that people might be in the waiting room that might recognize him. He wasn't thinking. They had to do everything in their power to keep Clark's identity a secret. He would have to be more careful not take any more chances that people might recognize him as Bernard Klein from STAR Labs.

"Oh, Lois, what was I thinking? There must be a staff entrance. I forgot that I am supposed to be a doctor. Every other time I've been here, I haven't been the doctor, so I'm just not used to going that way. I'll find that elevator and use it. Have you seen him? How's he doing?"

Lois closed her eyes, trying to hold back all the tears that were threatening to fall.

Her voice shook with emotion when she said, "Yeah, I was just in there. He woke up, that's the good thing. But you won't believe it when you go in there. He's so pale, and so weak. He kept trying to talk, but he could only manage a couple of words at a time. He tries to move, but it hurts him so much. And there are so many tubes sticking out of him, I can't believe it."

Dr. Klein gulped. He knew Clark would be in bad shape, but he had optimistically hoped that Clark might have recovered. If Clark's powers hadn't returned, he was in much worse shape than Dr. Klein could have ever imagined.

Meanwhile, Martha had heard Lois tell Dr. Klein about Clark's condition.

"Lois, honey, he's awake?"

Lois turned her attention back to the phone for a second. "Yes, he is, but he isn't doing well at all."

"We're at the airport and Jonathan's getting us a cab now, so we'll be there soon, honey. You said you're at Metro General?"

Tears spilled down Lois' cheeks as she said, "Yes, he's in the ICU. They should be able to give directions at the information desk when you come in. Or I could come down and wait for you."

"Oh, Jonathan's waving for me. I think he's gotten a cab. Don't worry about meeting us, we'll be able to find our way up there. You and my grandchild don't need any more stress trying to wait for us. We'll be there soon."

They hung up and Lois turned her full attention to Dr. Klein, who was pacing around the elevator lobby thinking.

"Okay, let me get this straight. You were at work, and he started having trouble breathing, then he collapsed?"

Lois sat on one of the benches near the elevator and started absently picking at one of the plants.

She sniffled, "Yes, that's what happened. I can't figure out why."

Dr. Klein wondered, "Did he show any symptoms this morning? Was anything out of the ordinary at all, even if it was small, this morning? Did he do *anything* differently?"

Lois replayed the morning's events in her mind. It seemed like so long ago, almost like a haze, like it might not have even happened. Only eight hours ago, they had shared a wonderful morning, what they had thought would be the start to a great day.

"Well, he did sleep late and I had a hard time trying to wake him up, but he was out late last night. I don't know how late he got in, so I wasn't surprised."

Dr. Klein nodded, that might have been the first indication of something wrong. "What else happened this morning?"

Lois blushed when she remembered what exactly had happened this morning. She wasn't about to tell Dr. Klein about their love life, but when Dr. Klein noticed her face was a deep crimson and her expression was a smile like that of a cat who had just caught a canary, he put two and two together to get the whole picture. "Ah, I see. So, he obviously wasn't sick this morning," Dr. Klein sputtered, and his face turned a shade of red that could have matched a tomato.

Lois coughed nervously, and turned her attention to the plant again. She didn't want to look Dr. Klein in the eye, embarrassed that he knew anything about her sex life.

Her desire to help Clark far outweighed any embarrassment she felt, so she swallowed her pride and looked the doctor in the eye.

She whispered, "He seemed fine all morning. We even flew to work. Of course that might have hurt him more than he let on, because he wasn't wearing the Suit today when the EMTs ripped his shirt open. He might have known something was wrong."

Dr. Klein nodded, knowing Clark, he probably wasn't planning to do anything as Superman today because he wasn't feeling quite so well, and flying must have really drained him. But, also knowing Clark, he knew that Clark would have gone out as Superman in his condition if it were even remotely possible, so he must have known he was sick. But why would Clark try to hide it from Lois?

"Would Clark try to hide something like this from you, Lois?"

Lois ran a hand through her already mussed hair and looked at the ground. There were so many times he had kept things from her to protect her. In his mind, protecting her meant keeping things that would hurt her from her and trying to deal with them himself, usually unsuccessfully. Lately, he had been trying to tell her everything. They based their marriage on the truth, and Clark had always gone out of his way to tell her the truth.

"I don't know, Bernie. I'd like to hope not, but it's possible. There have been so many times he's tried to keep things about his health secret from me, but l don't think he would now that we're married. Then again, he might have been trying to protect me. You know I've been sick lately, and now with the baby, he probably didn't want to trouble me. He probably thought it was nothing to worry about, if he realized he was sick at all."

Suddenly, Lois heard Perry and Jimmy's voices coming from down the hall.

"Bernie, you have to get out of here! Perry and Jimmy are coming!"

Dr. Klein didn't need to be told twice. The last thing Clark needed was for Perry and Jimmy to see him here. He knew the magnitude of his responsibility to keep Clark's secret safe, and it was something he didn't take lightly.

He scrambled to the stairwell just before Perry and Jimmy turned into the elevator lobby.

"Great shades of Elvis, here you are, Lois. We were wondering where you got off to."

Lois stood up, "Um, yeah. I needed some time alone to think, you know."

Jimmy shifted from foot to foot nervously. He looked uncomfortable standing there in front of Lois, almost like he was afraid that she might bite his head off if he said or did anything wrong.

Perry smiled, "I was just going to send the kid down for some coffee, and we were wondering if you wanted anything. You haven't eaten anything today, have you?"

Lois shook her head, "No, I'm not hungry. My stomach is all tied in knots. I don't think I'd be able to keep anything down."

"Now, Hell's bells, Lois, you getting yourself sick again isn't going to help Clark. Why don't you just get a little something and try to eat it."

Lois nodded and said, "Get me whatever you want. I won't eat it anyway."

"Okay, Jimmy, get me a cup of coffee and get Lois something healthy to eat. We'll be back in the waiting room." He led Lois away from the elevators saying, "You know, when Elvis was sick…"

Dr. Klein eventually found the staff elevator, and he made his way into the ICU. He stopped at the nurses' station long enough to introduce himself and to pick up Clark's charts, and then he made his way to Clark's cubicle.

In his teal scrubs and white coat, he could easily pass for a regular hospital employee. Somehow he had even managed to scrounge up an ID badge with his picture and his pseudonym on it from a friend from school that worked at the hospital and also had some experience making fake ID's.

He paused at the door to Clark's room and watched him sleep. Clark's face was scrunched in pain, even in sleep, and this disturbed Dr. Klein. What could have caused Clark to hurt like this? And he had no evidence of his powers either. From far away, Clark's skin appeared to have a greenish tint, and Dr. Klein was worried that the green tint might have something to do with Kryptonite. Thankfully, when he approached Clark's bed, the green tint disappeared, leaving only pale, bone white, pasty skin. It must have just been the way the fluorescent lighting hit his skin at a funny angle.

Before he did anything to Clark, Dr. Klein pulled the curtains closed around Clark's bed. He must have inadvertently knocked Clark's bed while he was pushing the curtains shut because when he turned around, Clark's eyes were wide open, and he looked to be having trouble focusing on Dr. Klein.

Dr. Klein was amazed to see how Clark had changed from the strong Superman he had seen yesterday to this pale, sick man lying here today. Before Clark could fully focus, Dr. Klein asked, "Clark, what happened to you?"

Clark tried to sit up in bed, but Dr. Klein gently pushed him back onto the bed.

"Wait, Clark, let me adjust your bed so you can sit up a little."

Dr. Klein found the bed controller hanging off the right side of the bed and he said, "Just nod when it's high enough."

They adjusted the bed until Clark was comfortable. When he was settled in comfortably, Dr. Klein tried to ask again, "Do you know what happened to you?"

Clark shook his head. His entire memory was almost blank starting when he left the house last night because he heard someone calling for him, but he couldn't recall who that person was and what that person wanted. The whole rest of the night was also a blur in his mind. In fact, the only thing he remembered was waking up with Lois on top of him in bed and their wonderful, passionate lovemaking that followed. He remembered flying to work, and then talking to Jimmy at his desk. Everything else about today was a blur. How late was it?

In a clearer voice than before, Clark answered, "I don't know, Bernie. My mind's a complete blank! I've been trying to fill in the gaps in my memory ever since Lois left, but where am I supposed to start with a gap this big? I can't remember anything after we got to work this morning or anything between when I left last night and when I woke up this morning."

Clark sunk his head into the pillow dejectedly. He didn't like feeling helpless, and he wanted to get better. More importantly, he wanted to find out what was wrong with himself. Even in the presence of Kryptonite, he had never felt this way before. Why did it hurt so badly?

Dr. Klein nodded and scratched his head puzzled, "Clark, you can't remember anything?"

When Clark shook his head, Dr. Klein scratched his head thoughtfully. Whatever happened to Clark could have, quite possibly, happened during the previous night, in the time that Clark couldn't recall. That seemed to be the most logical explanation, but how would Dr. Klein figure out what had hurt Clark if Clark himself couldn't remember what had happened?

Since Clark obviously wasn't going to be any help in recreating the events of last night, Dr. Klein began his examination. He checked Clark's vital signs and read the monitors and wrote his findings in his book. Then he pulled out his stethoscope to listen to Clark's heart and lungs. Strangely, Clark's lungs didn't seem to be blocked at all, but he was clearly struggling to breathe. Finally, Dr. Klein pulled up Clark's gown to examine his abdomen. The doctor poked around Clark's abdomen, checking all of his vital organs as well as his lymph nodes. Clark cringed and withdrew when Dr. Klein touched an especially sensitive spot underneath his last rib on the right hand side. As Dr. Klein ran his hand down Clark's right side, the pain became even more intense for Clark. It felt like sharp needles were coursing through his entire body, catching hold of his insides and punching painful holes throughout. Clark bit his bottom lip to keep from screaming. This was the most intense, most mind numbing pain he had ever felt in his life. As Dr. Klein prodded further, Clark began to tremble with pain.

Dr. Klein, however, didn't seem to care about Clark's pain. What he was interested in was the unusual, oddly shaped, discolored, bruise that was forming in every area Dr. Klein's fingers touched. As much as he hated to see Clark in pain, this bruise was possibly the key to Clark's illness. The bruise covered nearly the whole right side of Clark's abdomen. It was a strange color, almost like a mixture of green and purple.

As Dr. Klein prodded the bruise further, the pain became too much for even Clark to bear. He fell back onto the pillow, having long since given up trying to keep his eyes in focus. The world began to turn fuzzy, but Dr. Klein's exclamation woke him up.

"Look at this! It's turning greener as it goes on. This is the brightest green I have ever seen! Oh my God, you must have Kryptonite in your bloodstream!"

Clark, whose world was still fuzzy, sat up as far as he could in bed. Could it be true, could he have Kryptonite in his blood? Was it possible? The constant, excruciating pain was definitely the type of pain he felt when he was around Kryptonite, but the pain had never felt quite like this or lasted this long before. If the Kryptonite was inside him, it would explain why his entire body, even including his eyelids, hurt. But when did he get Kryptonite into his bloodstream and who did it to him? And how long could he live with the Kryptonite inside him? More importantly, how would they get it out?

Dr. Klein leaned down to examine the bruise more closely. With his face inches away, he noticed a small hole in the center of the bruise, something that would have probably gone unnoticed to anyone else, especially if they had never seen Clark before to know he had no scars or blemishes on his skin. It was very small, almost the size of a needle prick or of the tip of an ice pick. Puzzled about what his next course of action should be, he decided to get Lois to see if she had any ideas.

Meanwhile, in the waiting room, Lois and Perry sat in an uncomfortable silence, waiting for Jimmy to return with their food. Perry picked up the copy of Newsweek he had been reading before, and flipped through the pages, all the time watching Lois. Lois, for her part, had curled up in the corner of one of the couches with her legs pulled up to her chest and her head against her knees. Perry could tell she was trying to hide her sobs from him, but she wasn't hiding them well. Her shoulders shook with every new wave of tears, and every so often, she sniffled silently, and Perry's heart ached to see her like this, but he wasn't sure what he should do. Maybe she needed time to deal with this in her own way without anyone's interference. She probably didn't need him trying to calm her down right now, and it was more than likely that he would say something trying to comfort her and she would bite his head off.

After a few minutes of uncomfortable silence, Perry couldn't take it any more. It wasn't healthy for Lois to cry like this without talking out her feelings. Clark meant so much to her, and this was quite a shock to her system. It was completely unexpected because Clark had always been the healthiest man Perry had ever known. But Lois had been sick recently. What if she was blaming herself for making him sick? It wasn't helping Clark to have his usually strong wife in tears because she thought she made him sick. Perry got out of his chair and moved next to Lois. She looked up, eyes wet from her recent tears, and Perry said, "Lois, you aren't thinking you made him sick, are you?"

Lois gulped, that hadn't been what she was thinking, but how could she reassure Perry that she wasn't concerned about that because Clark was Superman and, therefore, not susceptible to her human illness?

"No, actually, that wasn't what I was thinking at all," Lois' face turned a bright crimson. "Actually I was thinking about our baby, and what kind of life he or she would have if anything happens to Clark. I mean, I probably won't be the best mother a child could have, so our baby will probably be really screwed up." Lois' tears fell in earnest now while Perry put a comforting arm around her shoulders.

"Now, honey, you can't really believe that. First, nothing's going to happen to Clark,Perry said, his voice filled with an optimism he wasn't sure he felt. "He'll be fine and back to his old self soon. Plus, what makes you think you'll be such a bad mother?"

Lois looked at him questioningly, but his smile remained reassuring.

"Great shades of Elvis, darlin', you'll make a wonderful mother."

"What makes you say that? I've never had any real experience with babies, and what little experience I've had with them has always been bad."

Lois wiped her eyes dry with her sleeve as Perry said, "Lois, I've known you for almost nine years, and I think I know you pretty well. And in all the years I've known you, I've never seen you give anything less than one hundred percent. Plus, when you hold your child for the first time, everything changes. You bond with your baby, and you never want to let it go. Lois, I know you and Clark will make wonderful parents. You both try so hard to succeed at everything you do, parenting will be easy compared to most of the things you've already overcome to get where you are now. It might even be fun."

Speaking from his own personal experience, Perry's eyes moistened when he realized that he had once had such a commitment to his own family, but then he had forgotten what was most important in life, and had forgotten his family. But now he looked back on the years he spent with his family, and hoped Lois and Clark would not make the same mistakes he did.

Soon, the elevator's bell rang and Jimmy, accompanied by Martha and Jonathan, stepped off into the lobby. They entered the waiting room to find Lois and Perry on the couch with Lois crying silently and Perry comforting her with a far-off expression in his eyes. Jonathan, however irrationally, immediately thought the worst had happened to Clark. His heart sank; they were too late! They wouldn't be able to say one final goodbye to their son, the little baby who had fallen out of the sky and had completed their lives. She knew there weren't many things that could hurt Clark, but today Clark had finally met his match.

When Lois noticed that the three had arrived, she got up to meet them halfway. The looks in the Jonathan's eyes telegraphed just what they thought had happened to Clark. Lois could just imagine what Martha and Jonathan were going through right now. Neither of them ever thought they would lose their child, since their son just happened to be Superman. Now they were faced with the possibility of having to bury their only son. It would just crush both of them if they ever lost Clark, and Lois knew that she would have to be strong for them if anything did happen to Clark. And as much as she didn't want to think about it, that possibility was looking more and more realistic to her the longer Clark was in there.

Jonathan's eyes met Lois' and he exclaimed, his voice shaking, "We're too late, aren't we, Lois?"

"Oh, no," Lois exclaimed, "You're not too late. He's still here. He's still here!"

Martha muttered, "Thank the Lord!" as she clutched Jonathan's hand tightly. She whispered, "Our boy is strong, I told you not to worry."

Jimmy, hands full of food, joined Perry on the couch, trying to give Lois and the Kents some room. They busied themselves laying Lois' food out on the table and then turning their attention to their coffees.

The stress of the day was finally getting to Lois, and all she wanted to do was go home and lie down in her bed and when she woke up, this would all be a dream and Clark would be lying next to her. Unfortunately, this was not a dream. Clark was in a bed in the ICU, and they didn't know if he was living or dead, or even what was wrong with him.

Martha asked, "Honey, how's my boy? Have you heard anything since I called?"

Jonathan offered Lois his handkerchief, which Lois accepted gratefully, and she wiped her teary eyes and blew her nose. She sniffled and responded, "No, they won't tell me anything. I hate this waiting. Why can't I be in there with him? I think it would do him good seeing familiar faces and hearing reassuring words."

Martha and Jonathan both nodded in agreement. Why did the world have to be so cruel to their son? All he ever wanted to do with his super abilities was help people. In fact, when his powers first manifested themselves, he always tried to help people in need wherever he could. But what did he get in return? People trying to hurt him in any way they could, that's what. And right when his life was finally complete, with a happy marriage to the only woman he had ever loved and with a baby on the way, one person had finally succeeded where everyone else had failed. This person had put Superman, their son and Lois' husband, out of commission, maybe even permanently.

Martha realized how fatigued Lois really was and how she was trying valiantly to be strong for them, so she wrapped an arm around Lois' shoulders and guided her to the couch and helped her sit down in the opposite corner from Jimmy.

Martha handed Lois a fork and said, "Honey, you need to eat something. You look horrible, and I don't want you and my grandchild to starve to death because you are neglecting your own health worrying about Clark."

Jonathan added, "Yeah, you need to take care of yourself and let us handle the worrying for a while. You deserve a break."

Lois sighed as she grabbed the fork and twirled it in her hand absently. Martha and Jonathan did have valid points. She wasn't just neglecting herself now, she was neglecting their baby's health too, and she couldn't do that. If she was the only one being hurt, she could handle that. It was the prospect of hurting her innocent baby that made her take a second look at how she had neglected her body today. She hadn't eaten anything all day and she had ignored her stomach's growling for a few hours now. At least she had remembered to take her antibiotic at the scheduled times.

Sighing, she picked up the plate of food that was sitting in front of her and decided that she was hungry enough to eat anything right now. Luckily, it was almost decent, for hospital cafeteria food. A tuna sandwich that didn't look too old and a salad that had more green than brown sat on the plate staring at her, enticing her to eat them.

The other four watched Lois devour her food, and Perry and Jimmy both started to feel uncomfortable. Now that the Kents were here, what did they need to be there for? Lois had more than enough support, and they both felt that they were just getting in the way.

Jimmy suddenly spoke up, "Hey, Lois, I got you a little treat. You're gonna love me for this."

He pulled a small cup of chocolate ice cream out from behind his back. Surprisingly, Lois gently took the cup out of his hand and said, "Thanks, Jimmy, I owe you." She didn't even crack a smile as she ate in silence.

Perry touched Jimmy's shoulder and cleared his throat, "I think the kid and I should probably be heading back to the paper, to see it gets put to bed correctly. That is if you don't need us any more."

Perry and Jimmy were probably the best friends Lois could have ever asked for. Jimmy had really proven himself today; it was almost like he had matured in a matter of hours. This morning, he had been the same boisterous kid they knew so well, but after today, Lois would look at him as someone that she could call whenever she was in trouble and he would be there to help her at he drop of a hat. Perry, too, had again showed how much he cared for his star reporting team. He was so strong, and he had helped her see that she, too, had to be strong for Clark.

Martha was agreeing. "Thank you so much for being here for Lois. We all appreciate everything you've done for both of them, but we're okay now, if you want to make sure the paper is okay."

Jonathan added, "We'll be sure to call you if anything changes."

When the two turned to leave, Lois stopped them. In turn, she hugged them, and thanked them for their help.

"Jimmy, I don't know what I would have done without you. Thank you so much for coming."

Jimmy blushed when Lois gushed over him, "Oh, it was nothing, Lois," he muttered. "You and CK are my friends and you needed me."

And then to Perry, Lois said, "I don't know what to say, Chief, besides thank you for everything."

Perry just nodded, knowing exactly what she meant.

Choking back tears, and trying to cover it in his boss-like tone, he barked, "Now, Olsen, we've got a paper to run! Let's go!"

After Perry and Jimmy left, Lois and the Kents sat in a contemplative silence, each concentrating on their own private thoughts. Finally, Jonathan ventured, "So, Lois, Clark mentioned something about genetic tests."

Lois sighed and closed her eyes. It seemed like so long ago when they were sitting in Dr. Klein's office and he gave them the good news when it was really less than 24 hours ago. Martha took this as a bad sign, so she scooted closer to Lois and wrapped a comforting arm around her shoulders.

Lois tried to smile. After all, it was good news, and they needed some good news right now. She forced a smile onto her face and for a moment she actually felt happy.

"Actually, we found out last night. It seems like Clark is normal. As weird as that sounds, and I can't really explain it now, for all intents and purposes, Clark is normal, and our baby should be fine!"

"Oh thank God!" Jonathan exclaimed. It didn't matter to him how it happened, but as long as they knew Clark's baby would be normal, he was happy. He had been worrying about Clark's ability to have his own children ever since Clark first started dating Lois seriously, and now his fears were completely erased. Lois would tell them exactly what had happened when they were in a less public place, and Jonathan had no trouble waiting for that explanation, especially if his grandchild would be a happy, healthy baby.

Suddenly, a page came over the hospital's PA system, "Code Blue! Dr. Rosenblum, to the ICU, STAT! Dr. Rosenblum to the ICU, STAT, Code Blue!"

Immediately after the page, a nurse's voice came over the intercom, "Lois Lane?"

Lois' breath froze in her chest and her heart skipped a beat. If the nurse was calling her, it could only mean that something catastrophic had happened. There were no doubts in her mind that it was Clark that had coded. From the nondescript looks on Martha and Jonathan's faces, she wondered if they were thinking the same thing. She didn't want to answer the intercom, but as it buzzed again, she realized that it was now or never. If Clark were dead, she would have to face reality sooner or later.

Lois tentatively approached the intercom and pushed the button, "This is Lois Lane."

"Ms. Lane, the doctor wants to see you. Step back because the door is going to open out at you."

Lois did as the nurse bade, and Martha came behind her. With a calming pat on the shoulder, Martha said, "Don't worry, honey, he's okay. They would come get you if something was wrong."

Lois nodded and smiled bravely as she squeezed Martha's hand.

"I hope so."

Jonathan added, "Lois, the doctor would have come out here to tell you himself if anything happened to Clark. They wouldn't call you over the intercom to tell you anything catastrophic. Believe me."

Lois nodded again. She took a deep breath and walked through the door, ready to greet anything that lay beyond. However, she wasn't sure how long her brave fašade would last. Ignoring the nurse's station, she made a beeline to Clark's cubical.

As soon as she was close enough to see into Clark's room, she breathed an enormous sigh of relief. Thanking God, she stood silently outside the little room just staring through the glass, watching Dr. Klein work around her husband, who was awake and alert.

When she couldn't stand watching Clark without touching him to make sure he was really there, as calmly as she could, Lois entered Clark's cubicle. Clark noticed her as soon as she appeared in the doorway. A wave of relief flooded him when he realized that she wasn't a mirage and that she was really walking towards him. Lois practically flew across the distance that separated her from Clark's bed with her arms extended to him. Dr. Klein backed away from Clark so Lois could hug him freely.

Being extremely careful so not to hurt him, Lois hugged him tightly and Clark responded in kind. When she buried her head into his shoulder, her silky hair brushed against his cheek, and he was able to smell her conditioner. He simply breathed that scent, remembering just how lucky he was to be able to hold his wife in his arms. Lois held on to him like she was drowning and he was her life preserver. She'd never let go. After all the agony she had been through in the past hour or so, with that little voice in the back of her head telling her that he was dead, she needed to reassure herself that he was alive and that it was indeed Clark who was hugging her back.

"When the nurse called for me, I was sure you had died. I was so scared, honey!" Lois cried, in agony as she remembered how she had felt when she heard the nurse calling her.

Clark hugged back as tightly as he could manage with all of the tubes sticking out of him, and tried to reassure her that he was there for her. Before they got married, he had promised himself that he would never make her cry, but today he had broken his promise. This was the most he had ever seen her cry, and it was his fault. A single tear fell down his cheek as he planted a soft kiss on her cheek.

"I'm still here. Don't worry, baby, I'm still here."

Lois sighed with relief and began planting soft kisses on his face, overjoyed that he was still alive and able to talk. She had been through a major emotional catharsis in the last few minutes, first thinking Clark was dead and now hearing his voice and feeling his lips against hers.

Clark leaned back into the pillow and enjoyed the feeling of Lois' lips on his own. He was still chiding himself for making Lois hurt so badly. Lois, the single most important person in his life, did not need to be worrying about him right now, especially after being sick herself for so long and after finding out such life altering news, as they had yesterday. They should be at home celebrating their news and Lois' recovery right now, not in Metro General's ICU worrying about what was wrong with him. What troubled him about his condition, other than the obvious physical trauma, was that he had no idea what caused that huge bruise on his stomach and that he had a strange amnesia about what had happened last night and this morning. In fact, the only thing he remembered in that time period was making love to Lois as soon as he woke up. He recalled their flight to the Planet and their conversation vaguely, but after that, the day was a blur.

Dr. Klein cleared his throat from his isolated corner of the cubicle. He had been looking the other way, to give the couple some privacy, but now he had given them enough time to reconnect. The one thing he was sure about with Clark's condition was that time was of the essence.

Lois reluctantly stood up when they heard Dr. Klein's cough. Not wanting to break contact with Clark, she reached down and grabbed his hand, holding onto it tightly, for fear that he might slip away again.

Dr. Klein traversed the short distance to Clark's bed trying to hide his embarrassment, "Lois, Clark, sorry to break this up, but if I am correct, time really is of the essence here." He ran a hand across his balding head, pushing back what little hair he had. "If my analysis is correct, we only have a short window of opportunity to correct his problem."

Lois squeezed Clark's hand, as she demanded, "Bernie, what is it? What's wrong with Clark?"

"I'm not entirely sure, Lois," Dr. Klein replied truthfully. As Lois' expression fell, he continued, "But I do have a theory."

Dr. Klein pulled the sheet off Clark's body. Before he pulled Clark's gown back again, he warned her, "I have to warn you, Lois, this isn't pretty."

An almost electric look passed between Lois and Clark filled with apprehension and fear about what lie beneath Clark's gown. He seemed outwardly okay, so what could be under his gown?

Lois nodded to Dr. Klein telling him without words that she needed to see what lay beneath that gown. Taking a deep breath, she prepared herself for the worst.

After making sure no prying eyes could see into the room, Dr. Klein finally pulled Clark's gown back. Both Klein and Lois gasped when they saw the bruise. Even though Dr. Klein had seen it before, he was still amazed at its sheer size and its color. Lois nearly passed out in shock. What was that? How did it get there? Why was it such a horrible shade of green?

Lois muttered, "Oh my God, it's Kryptonite!"

Dr. Klein nodded, "That's my guess too. However, I am not sure exactly what caused it, where else it is in his body, or just how concentrated this substance is." Dr. Klein paced around the bed, not sure if he should tell Lois the other fact he knew. "I don't think it could be pure Kryptonite, or even real Kryptonite, because if he had this much real Kryptonite inside his body, I don't think he would have survived this long. I think it has to be some kind of synthetic Kryptonite that doesn't have the exact same properties, enough to incapacitate you, and possibly even kill you, but not enough to kill you right away."

Lois and Clark shared a look of horror. Synthetic Kryptonite inside his body! Someone had synthetic Kryptonite and had somehow found a way to inject it into him. Lois saw her own fears mirrored in Clark's eyes. She had to be strong for him just like he had always been for her.

Then Lois did the only thing she could think of to do, what her mom had always done when she was a little girl to make her boo boos feel better. She bent down to give it a tiny kiss. When her lips made contact with the skin, even more of the surrounding skin turned the same hideous green. Clark gasped in pain and Lois immediately withdrew in fear.

"Clark, are you okay?" Lois hated herself for hurting him. He was in enough pain, so why did she have to do something stupid?

Eyes narrowed with pain, Clark managed only short bursts of words, "It's okay… honey… I'm fine… You… didn't do… anything."

Lois ran her hand down the side of his face trying to soothe him. She would gladly take some of the pain away from him if she could. It had to be so hard for him, never being sick before and not knowing what pain felt like. It probably made this pain so much worse for him.

Suddenly, Dr. Klein, who had been studying the bruise, exclaimed, "Look at this! I almost forgot about it!"

"What, look at what, Bernie?" Lois wondered.

Dr. Klein looked up and pointed to an area near the top of the bruise, right above Clark's navel on the right side.

"Here, don't you see it? There's a hole right here. It's even bigger than it was before!" Dr. Klein anxiously bustled over to the other side of the room to get a syringe and a vial. "Clark, whatever you were stabbed with must have been covered in Kryptonite and then you must have been injected with the liquid Kryptonite. It's the only thing I can think of to explain it."

Lois gazed at the hole, her curiosity almost getting the better of her, longing to touch it, to see what it felt like.

"Clark, this is going to hurt. I think there might still be something in there, so I am going to feel around and then I am going to take a blood sample to run some tests with."

Clark nodded and bit his lower lip. He tightly squeezed Lois' hand as if he was clinging for dear life preparing for the mind numbing pain that was to follow. Lois cringed as she imagined the pain Clark must have been going through. She let him squeeze her hand as much as he needed to while Dr. Klein examined his wound.

As Dr. Klein poked and prodded, Clark nearly passed out from the pain again. Lois' hand squeezing his was the only thing that kept him from fainting. Finally, the agony was over.

Dr. Klein exclaimed, "Okay, I have what I need. Clark, I think you may have something inside you, left over from whatever stabbed you. I have to get an x-ray of your abdomen to make sure where it is, and I have to run some tests on this blood to see just what we're dealing with here." He raised the vial full of Clark's green-tinted blood for the couple to see. "But I have to work quickly because, honestly, if there is Kryptonite in your blood and something inside you, you don't have a lot of time left. I'll have to get an x-ray before I go back to the lab. Let me see if I can get one."

Without waiting for Lois or Clark's reaction, Dr. Klein left the cubicle in search of a portable x-ray machine. Lois and Clark stared at each other with terror in their eyes. What would happen if the Kryptonite remained inside him too long? Both were too terrified to consider the possibilities.

Lois stroked his face tenderly, noticing the beads of sweat on his forehead.

"Are you hot, honey? I could help you take one of these blankets off."

Clark shook his head as much as he could.

"No, it's okay. Not hot… Cold."

Clark was sweating yet cold, that was a bad sign. Lois carefully wiped away some of the beaded sweat from his forehead and then brushed her lips across his forehead. His skin was hot and clammy, and she had never seen him sweat so much before. Dr. Klein had to get back soon! They needed to find out how to make Clark better!

Finally, Clark stopped sweating profusely, and began to feel a little bit better, at least as well as he had before Dr. Klein had played with his bruise. He tugged on Lois' hand to bring her closer to him. She bent down, and Clark captured her lips with his own. Their kiss was a light, gentle kiss that spoke volumes about just how much they felt for each other. When Clark had to come up for air, Lois reluctantly stepped back, trying to give him room to breathe.

The question that had been burning in the back of her mind all day finally found its way back into the forefront of her thoughts, "Clark, I need to know, were you feeling sick this morning?"

Clark sighed and shook his head. He honestly didn't know; his memory was almost a complete blank.

"Well, honey, I might have been, but I really don't remember. My mind is a total blank. Well, except, I remember you waking me up in an interesting way and then making passionate love to you before work. Then I remember our conversation about telling people at work about the baby."

"Um, well, about people at work knowing about the baby, I kinda slipped up on that one. I know we wanted to tell them together, but I sort of told them all already. I didn't mean to, but when you fell, I screamed, 'I can't have this baby without you!' And Jimmy said everyone heard. Oh, yeah, Jimmy, he was such a good friend to me today. He came down here and sat with me in the ER waiting room, then he and Perry stayed with me until your parents got here. Oh, yeah, your parents are here. They took the first plane as soon as I told them what happened."

Clark watched his wife with a silly grin on his face, just happy to hear the sound of her voice. Lois stopped talking and stared at him.

"I was babbling again, wasn't I?"

Clark reached up and cupped her face in his hand. He looked into her eyes, almost reverently and declared, in an almost prayer-like tone, "Lois, I love to hear your voice. Today, there was a point when I wondered if I would ever have the chance to hear it again. I don't care that everyone knows about our baby. Remember, I'm the one that wanted to tell everyone the minute we found out."

Clark moved his other hand to rest on Lois' stomach. She covered that hand with her own as Clark continued, "I know we wanted to tell everyone together, but this is almost better. Having Perry and Jimmy know about the baby probably gave you someone to talk to when I was unconscious."

Lois nodded, "You're right. I don't know what I would have done if they hadn't been there to talk to me, to guide me through it. I probably would have lost myself in the world I was imagining. It must be the hormones or something, or else it's a strange reaction to those antibiotics, because every time we've been separated today, I've gotten this strange feeling that you were dead!" By this time, Lois was sobbing in earnest.

Clark wiped some of the tears from her cheek and said, "Oh, honey, you aren't going to lose me that easily. I'll always be there for you no matter what. And I am going to beat this, whatever it is, for you and for our baby. I have absolutely no intentions of leaving you and our little son or daughter alone anytime soon."

He ran his hand across her stomach, taking her hand with him, making a silent vow to their baby that he or she would always have both a mommy and a daddy that loved it and would always be there for it.

They stood there silently, not wanting to ruin their peaceful, contented moment with any sound.

Suddenly, Clark remembered the original question that had sparked this whole tangent.

"You know, I really have no memory of anything that happened." Clark was trying desperately to recall even the slightest snippet from the previous night so they would have some clue as to what happened.

Clark looked like he was in so much pain as he tried to force himself to remember what happened. Lois smoothed his hair back and trailed her fingers down the side of his face and then down his neck and across his chest trying to soothe him in any way she could.

"Don't worry about it, honey. All you need to concentrate on right now is getting better. We'll find out who did this as soon as you are well."

Lois could tell that Clark was straining to keep a smile on his face. He was in so much more pain than he would ever let on to.

"Clark, what does it feel like? How bad is the pain, really? You don't have to be brave for me. Just talk to me."

Clark shook his head. She just knew him too well. How could she tell that he was hiding so much of his pain from her? And, God, what pain he was in.

He took a deep breath and said, honestly, not wanting any more secrets to come between them, "Oh, honey, it hurts so much! This is the worst pain I have ever felt in my life. God, it even hurts to wiggle my toes."

Lois cringed sympathetically. If Clark admitted that he hurt that much, he must really be hurting more. Never wanting to inconvenience anyone, he would never reveal just how much pain he was in. Especially to her because he had trained himself to protect her from anything that could hurt her. And he would rather bear the all the pain in the world than cause her any suffering.

Lois continued her soothing hand ministrations along his face, hoping to calm him down a bit. Whispering sweet nothings, trying to calm his nerves, she ran her hand across his face and through his hair hoping he would settle down and fall asleep. The thing he needed most right now was rest. He needed as much strength as he could muster to battle whatever was inside him. With her other hand, she held one of his hands, absently running her fingers along the palm.

"Clark, just close your eyes. You need to get some sleep."

Clark's eyelids were already beginning to feel very heavy and he was fighting an up hill battle to keep them open. Lois' invitation was all he needed to feel free to close his eyes and drift to sleep.

Before Clark was fully asleep, he muttered, "Stay with me, Lois. Please don't let go."

A single tear fell down Lois' cheek as she nodded frantically and promised, "I'll never let go, Clark. I'll never let you go."

Under any other circumstance, she might have laughed at how they had just sounded like Jack and Rose from the movie "Titanic." Unfortunately, right now, she didn't have time for humor. Clark looked so angelic when he slept, and so innocent. No one would ever suspect that he really was Superman, the Man of Steel, who could lift satellites into orbit, fly faster than a speeding bullet, or leap tall buildings in a single bound. If today had been any other day, she would have laughed at just how boyish he looked when he slept so peacefully, his chest rising and falling rhythmically, his nose scrunching up with each breath, his mussed hair falling in small locks onto his face, and his completely peaceful expression. As she watched his chest rise and fall, she began to feel the effects of the day. She was tired. Today had been probably the most stressful day in her life. Somehow, she allowed her own eyelids to droop, and before she knew it, she was fast asleep with her head resting on the bed near Clark's arm.

After a short while, Clark started stirring violently in his sleep. If it wasn't Clark's violent tossing and turning that woke Lois, it was certainly his scream, "No, no, please, no!"

Lois abruptly sat up on the bed. Should she wake Clark up? Was it safe to wake someone in the middle of a nightmare? Or was that sleepwalkers? She couldn't stand watching him in any more agony, so she gently shook him.

She spoke softly, but firmly, "Clark! Clark, wake up! You're having a nightmare. Clark!"

Suddenly, Clark's eyes flew open, and he seemed dazed and confused. His first incoherent words were, "L-L-Lois! I heard you calling me. Wha-what happened?"

Trying to soothe her obviously troubled husband, Lois ran her hands gently down his arms and around his hands.

"Shhhh, it's okay, Clark. Don't worry, I'm right here. It was just a nightmare."

Clark, in a more rational state of mind, realized that he was not just having a nightmare. He was remembering something horrible. Something horrible that had happened last night.

"Lois! Kryptonite! Luckaby! LNN tower! Ice pick! Pain! Needle!" As Clark spoke, he involuntarily trembled in fear. His arms thrashed wildly, like he was trying to stop himself from falling.

Lois grabbed his arms, holding them down to the bed. It was easy to do because he was so weak. Once he stopped fighting her, she stroked his sweat-damped cheeks to help him settle down. The involuntary shuddering soon stopped, but Lois continued her gentle caresses.

"Luckaby? Leslie Luckaby? I thought he was dead! But we can deal with that later, once you're better."

Clark's eyes took on a strange, far-off look. He was remembering something, and Lois didn't interrupt him. Giving him space to let him remember what happened was the best thing she could do for him. She kept stroking his cheek, in a calming motion, with one hand, and running her other hand up and down his arm.

Finally, Clark's gaze fixed on Lois. In a calmer tone, he started, "Last night, I heard someone calling for help from around the LNN tower. There were so many people screaming that someone was going to jump. I didn't want to leave you there by yourself, but then the cries got more urgent. When I got there, I spotted a man on the roof of the building who looked like he was about to jump off. Then, as soon as I got closer, he jumped."

Clark shook his head at the memory. Suicide attempts were always emotionally tough for him, especially because he could not understand why anyone would ever want to end their own life. Even when his life seemed hopeless, he had never even considered committing suicide. It went against his every moral belief.

Lois squeezed his hand, trying to signal him to continue.

"The man seemed so strangely familiar. When I got a clear view of his face, I realized why. Honey, it was Leslie Luckaby. Unmistakably Leslie Luckaby!"

Lois shook her head. Was Clark hallucinating? Leslie Luckaby was dead; she had seen him fall with her own two eyes. "Clark, honey, are you sure it was him?"

Clark sighed. "Yes, I'm sure it was him. Didn't I tell you that people have been seeing him around lately? The people I've talked to have said that he somehow survived, and is back trying to take over Intergang. I had Jimmy working on some background about anything that could be related to Luckaby resurfacing, although I didn't believe it myself until I saw him with my own eyes."

"But he couldn't have survived? Could he? We both saw him fall into that murky sewer water with a bullet hole in his chest. Didn't we?"

"I'm not saying I have the answer, honey. I don't have any more ideas than you do right now. Remember, I'm the one laid up in a hospital bed, barely able to move."

Lois shook all thoughts about Luckaby to the back of her mind. She had to focus on the situation at hand and force her reporter's instincts to take a back seat to her concern for her husband. But Luckaby was on the loose and he knew Clark's secret. That was bad, very bad. What did Luckaby want? She didn't know for sure, but she was sure that it had something to do with Superman's demise.

"I'm sorry, Clark. Go on, what happened after he jumped."

Clark closed his eyes, as if it pained him to even think of the memory. He continued, "Well, after I caught him and realized who it was, I had this bad feeling about what was going on. I mean, I rescued a dead man for crying out loud. I didn't know what to do. He whispered, 'Hi Clark, I've missed you.' I nearly dropped him in midair. I had almost forgotten that he knew my secret. Then he told me to take him back to the roof or else he would tell my secret to everyone waiting down below. I can't believe I listened to him. I knew it was a trap, but I also didn't want him to tell my secret to the entire world! Just think of what would happen to you, to our baby, to our lives. I know I should have just taken him in to the authorities, he's wanted for more crimes than I can count, but all I could think was that he knew my secret. I flew him up to the roof so I could decide what to do next."

Lois stroked his face, trying to wipe away the beads of perspiration that had again dotted his entire forehead. She tried to be reassuring when she said, "It's okay, Clark, you did what you thought was right. You can't beat yourself up in hindsight. He knows your secret, and you didn't want to do anything rash. What would you have done if he had blurted your secret to everyone on the ground? You had to decide what to do. After all, if it was still only you, me, and your parents you had to worry about, it would be different. Now we have to consider our baby and what kind of world we are going to be bringing it into. If the world knows you are Superman, what kind of life will our baby have? Being Superman's son or daughter with the world knowing would be so hard. We can't let the world know about you now. You did the right thing not acting rashly."

Clark kissed the palm of her hand as it passed by his lips. He took Lois' words to heart and realized that he had done what seemed appropriate at the time. Luckaby did know his secret and had threatened to blab it to anyone that was down below. Any other time, Clark would have taken the risk and turned Luckaby in to the police immediately, but now that he and Lois were expecting a baby, all of his priorities had changed. He couldn't take the risk that the world might find out his secret and that his child would suffer because of it.

"I know, you're right. But I just can't understand why I took him back to the roof. It was such a deliberate trick. I couldn't let him tell the world my, no our, secret. It wouldn't be fair to you or to my parents, or to our baby especially."

With a somber expression on her face, Lois said, "Honey, it's so sweet that you were thinking about us. Lord knows I always worry about you when you are out as Superman, but I don't want you to put yourself in danger ever again because of us, especially if it isn't an immediate threat to us. Clark, I don't care if the whole world knows you're Superman, as long as you come home to us safe and sound. That's the price I'm willing to pay to have you in one piece." Tears now flowed openly down Lois' cheeks.

Clark's eyes also glazed over in tears and his voice shook when he said, "I know, honey, I know. What good would I be to you if someone hurt me so badly I never came home?"

Lois ran a hand through her hair, trying to forget that Clark might have gotten into just the situation he had described. She had long since given up the pretense of keeping her hair styled today. After the long hours waiting and running her nervous fingers through her short hair, it was sticking up in strange patterns. Clark, however, thought she looked absolutely beautiful. But, to Clark, Lois could never look anything but beautiful, even when she woke up in the morning. To Clark's biased eyes, she was the most beautiful woman in all the world. And, especially today, Clark thought she took on an ethereal quality that he could not entirely describe. In fact, to Clark her presence caused more aesthetic sensations than the greatest piece of artwork he could imagine ever could.

Clark's eyes were glazed over, as if in deep thought. Now Lois was antsy, literally on the edge of her seat, waiting to hear what happened next with Luckaby. "Clark, honey, we really got off track. Are you trying to avoid telling me what happened after you took Luckaby up to the roof?"

That was where Clark had to stop and take a deep breath. What he was about to tell her was not something he was proud of. How could he have allowed himself to be suckered like that? The images of Luckaby and the Kryptonite filled his mind until he forced himself to concentrate on Lois' voice. He clung to the warmth of her touch and to her voice calling him.

"Clark, Clark. Earth to Clark."

Clark blinked a few times, trying to bring himself to tell Lois exactly what had happened on the roof.

Finally, he regained his voice. "Sorry, honey, I was miles away." He looked at her with sad eyes, and she sent him a comforting look.

He continued, "Okay, this is hard to say. I don't even know if I can get the words out of my mouth. It's just so embarrassing that I got tricked so easily."

Lois clasped his hand again. "Just let it out, honey. You'll feel so much better with this off your chest."

Clark took another deep breath. Now it seemed like it might be easier to get this incident out into the open.

He shuddered involuntarily when he remembered the maniacal look on Luckaby's face when he had Superman in such a prone position. Lois realized how unsettling this was for Clark, so she didn't pressure him to tell her. She knew he would talk when he was ready. In the meantime, Lois planted a reassuring kiss on Clark's forehead. She whispered, "No matter what happened, honey, you'll still be my Superman."

Clark's dry lips curled into an unconscious smile at Lois' comment. It was good to know that Lois loved him, and would always love him no matter what had happened, even if he had made a stupid, nearly fatal mistake with a homicidal maniac.

He began, "Okay, when you put it that way." His joking exterior faded and he became somber again, "As soon as I landed on the roof, Leslie pulled something out of his pocket. I felt him reach in, but I was still holding him, so I couldn't see what it was. I should have known it was Kryptonite. He tricked me so easily."

Clark's face was now twisted in pain as he remembered the pain he suffered the previous night. He continued, "Lois, it was horrible. He had what looked to be an ice pick in one hand and the chunk of Kryptonite in the other. I was paralyzed. I couldn't even blink my eyes. He took the pick and stabbed me, and I couldn't do anything to stop him. After that it gets really hazy. I think I must have blacked out for a while after he stabbed me. I don't know when or why he left, either. It seemed strange that he would just leave me on top of the roof to die like that without even waiting to see if I was really dead. Maybe he thought I was already dead. If I remember correctly, our Mr. Luckaby was not the most intelligent man we've ever met." He abruptly changed topics again, "I don't know how I managed to get out of there, honey. He must have taken the real Kryptonite with him wherever he went because when I woke up, I was sore, but I could move around. I could even fly."

Clark looked so vulnerable lying against those pillows, his face so pale, and writhed in emotion. "Honey, I had to get home, somehow. I had no idea what had happened, so I just flew home as quickly as I could. About halfway home, I started to lose altitude. I couldn't keep myself up any more. I don't know how I did it, but by some miracle, I made it the rest of the way home. It was like some unknown force was pulling me home."

Lois gasped. This had all happened last night while she was sleeping. How had she missed the warning signs this morning? What pain he must have gone through just to make it home. And he couldn't even remember what happened to him while he forced himself to fly home. Strangely, all it took was a little nightmare to trigger Clark's memories. Dreams were often said to be the window to one's subconscious, though. If Clark was trying to block these traumatic events from his mind, all he might have needed to cue the horrible memories could have been something as simple as a dream.

Clark's eyes rolled back as all the pain he had felt rushed back through his body. He clutched Lois' hand tightly and he waited for his pain to pass. Soon, he felt well enough to continue, and he took another deep breath, again trying to cleanse the bad memories from his mind.

"Honey, it was all I could do to get out of the suit. I didn't even have the energy to spin. I stripped out of the suit so slowly. I almost can't believe I got it into the hamper."

Leave it to Clark not to leave his dirty laundry on the floor, Lois thought wryly.

Clark continued, "Then I tossed on the pair of shorts I was wearing before, and that was all I could do. I fell into bed and I think I was almost unconscious by the time my head hit the pillow. The next thing I remember is you waking me up."

Lois wiped a tear from her red eyes again. It pained her to realize that Clark had been in pain all night and all morning and all she was concerned about was herself. If she had been more observant, like the reporter she claimed to be, she would have noticed that Clark was not all right. She was way too self absorbed to see that Clark was hurting. "Oh, Clark, I'm so sorry. I should have realized something wasn't right."

Clark smiled at Lois' concern, but he worried that she was dwelling on the fact that she hadn't noticed his illness.

In a husky tone, he tried to dispel her concerns, "Honey, if I didn't even realize there was something wrong, why should you have seen something? I had no idea I was sick this when I woke up this morning, Lois. I didn't remember anything about last night at all when I woke up. And did I seem so sickly when we made love this morning? It was pretty memorable. I mean, I had amnesia and I still remembered our love making." He gave her a lopsided grin, the grin that always melted her heart every time she saw it.

"No, Clark, it was wonderful. I would have never even guessed that you had been exposed to Kryptonite." Now his lips were just inviting her to kiss them. She bent down, resting her lips on top of his. He parted his dry lips and her tongue entered his waiting mouth. Feeling Lois' moist lips against his parched lips felt so good to Clark. They kissed deeply, each reminding the other of the passion they had shared that morning.

Right at that moment, Martha and Jonathan walked through the door of the cubicle. They both heard the younger couple's conversation about their sex life, and the older couple's faces turned a bright red.

Jonathan spoke first. He cleared his throat announcing their presence, and Lois jumped away from Clark. Jonathan began, "If you want us to leave for a while…"

Lois' face showed a hint of a blush, but she hid it well. "No, Jonathan, Martha, it's fine. Please, come in."

Clark's face broke into a wide grin when he laid eyes on his parents. "Mom, Dad, you came!"

Martha immediately rushed to the side of Clark's bed and bent down to hug him. "Clark!" she exclaimed, "How are you feeling?"

Clark hugged her back tightly, realizing that a few hours ago they must have doubted if they would ever see him alive again. For most of his life, before he met and fell in love with Lois, there was almost nothing more reassuring in his life than a hug from his mother, and if there was any time he needed a hug, it was now.

Jonathan followed Martha and stood on the other side of the bed with his hand on Clark's shoulder. "You sure gave us a scare, son," he said, his voice trembling with emotion.

Jonathan wrapped his other arm around Lois' shoulders. The little family unit huddled silently around Clark's bed, each silently praying that he would get better quickly.

Suddenly, Dr. Klein ran into the room.

"Good, you're all here. I brought this portable x-ray machine. Let me tell you, it took me forever to get one. They don't give these babies out to just anyone." He patted the machine and grinned. "I had to pull a few strings, but now it's all mine." He bustled around Clark's cubicle setting up the machine. "Lois I don't want you to be anywhere near this machine when I'm using it. X-rays are bad for your baby, especially in such an early stage of development. Could you wait out in the lobby until I come to get you."

Lois nodded. As much as she wanted to be there to see what Dr. Klein was going to do to Clark, her desire to protect her unborn child was much greater. She knew the dangers x-rays posed to fetuses, and she did not want to subject their baby to anything harmful. Lois Lane could never be called stupid; sometimes she did have her priorities right after all.

Jonathan squeezed his son's hand trying to pass some of his strength on to his son, giving him as much support as the younger man needed to fight whatever was hurting him. Then Martha planted a quick kiss on his forehead. Finally, Lois leaned down to give him a big hug and a peck on the cheek. If they had been alone, she might have drawn out their kiss, wanting him to feel her own strength and for him to grab on to that strength to bring him through this illness. But since they were surrounded by Clark's parents as well as Dr. Klein, Lois could only show her support with a comforting hug before she and the Kents departed. As they walked out the door, Lois turned around to see Dr. Klein covering Clark's upper body with a lead sheet. "You never know just what these things will do to you, yes even to you. We don't want to take any chances now and make things worse."

About fifteen minutes later, visiting hours had ended, but Dr. Klein emerged from the ICU to bring the Kents and Lois back to Clark's room. He had the results of all the tests, and judging from his worn out, haggard exterior, the results probably weren't as good as they could have been.

When they reached Clark's room, Dr. Klein already had the x-ray illuminated against a light board in the room. Lois perched on the edge of Clark's bed and grabbed his hand. Martha and Jonathan stood anxiously on either side of their son's bed and waited for Dr. Klein to begin. No one in the family knew what exactly the x-ray meant, but they did see something out of the ordinary.

Dr. Klein pointed to the x-ray, under the ribs to a sharp object that looked very out of place in Clark's abdomen. "Just as I suspected. Whatever he was stabbed with is lodged in his abdomen. I have to get it out. However, in the position it's in now, it could have punctured his stomach. But if it is, it must be acting like a plug, because there is no evidence of internal bleeding. I just worry that as soon as I take it out, it will bleed heavily."

The Kent family collectively gasped. This was bad, very bad.

Clark wondered, "It punctured my stomach?"

Lois grabbed his hand and stroked his face soothingly as Martha squeezed his other hand.

"Clark I need to get you to surgery to it. The sooner I get it out the better. We just have to pray that it isn't poking through any major organs, but I'm sure if it were you'd be in much worse shape."

Martha gasped, "Are you saying that this thing Clark was stabbed with could kill him?"

Jonathan wrapped an arm around Martha's shoulders, trying to comfort her, even though he didn't feel so sure himself.

Dr. Klein took a deep breath because this wasn't the worst news he had for the family. He took another deep, cleansing breath before he continued, "Unfortunately, that's not the worst news I have for you all."

Lois' heart sank, she knew it was bad. Maybe she had gotten her hopes that he would be better soon up too high.

Dr. Klein ran a nervous hand through his balding hair and continued, "From the blood I took earlier, I found large traces of Kryptonite throughout."

Clark fell back into his pillow. This was probably the news he dreaded more than anything else. He had that horrible poison floating around in his bloodstream and it was probably slowly infecting his entire body.

Dr. Klein continued, "So, I have to book an operating room soon. Can't have an anesthesiologist because no one knows about you, so I'll just have to do it myself. Then I have to get a dialysis…"

Lois interrupted, "Dialysis, is that how you're planning to get rid of the Kryptonite?"

"Yes, Lois. I thought that since it is in his blood stream, it would probably be best to try to dialyze it out."

Martha asked, "Isn't dialysis for people in kidney failure?"

"Yes, but this time, we will be filtering for Kryptonite. It works on the same principle. Clark's body can't get rid of the Kryptonite by itself, so I am going to run it through a dialysis machine that is set to filter the Kryptonite out."

Jonathan added, "That's a good idea. Makes a lot of sense. Will you do this dialysis while you our operating on him?"

Martha said at the same time, "Have you ever done this before, Bernard?"

Dr. Klein coughed nervously, "Well, um, Martha, technically no, not since my surgical rounds in med school. But I do know what I am supposed to do theoretically. And, Jonathan, yes, that is what I was planning to do. That way I'd kill the proverbial two birds with one stone."

Lois had been sitting silently, and Clark pulled her down towards him and wrapped her in his arms. He whispered, "Don't worry, baby, I'm going to be okay. I trust Bernie; he'll fix me, and I'll be there for you. Just don't worry about me, sweetheart."

"… So I will get a portable dialysis machine, and then I'll see if there are any open OR's so we can get in as soon as possible. If that's okay with you, Clark."

Clark squeezed Lois' hand and nodded, "Do it as soon as possible, please. I need this stuff out of me!"

Jonathan asked, "What happens if the dialysis doesn't get all the Kryptonite?"

The four Kents sat on the edge of their seats waiting for Dr. Klein's answer.

Dr. Klein paced around the bed thinking. "I'm not really sure, Jonathan. The tests I've run are all theoretical, but they all seem to indicate that if a tiny amount of Kryptonite remains in his blood stream, he should be physically fine, but just not super. He'd be normal in human terms, healthy and able to function, but without super powers."

Lois asked, "How soon can you get him to surgery?"

"I'll get a room right now. It's late, so I don't think there are any other surgeries scheduled."

Clark pleaded, "Please do it soon."

With that, Dr. Klein left to book the OR, get a dialysis machine, and prep for surgery.

Lois reached down and encircled Clark in a big hug. She kissed his cheek and whispered, "I'll always love you. Powers or no powers you'll always be my Superman. I love you, the man underneath the suit. Your strength all comes from within, and that makes you the man I love."

Clark kissed her back and whispered, "Thank you, honey. I needed that." He reached a hand up to touch her stomach tenderly. "And I'll always love the two of you too. No matter what happens, remember that."

Both Lois and Clark now had tears streaming down their cheeks, the air tight with emotion.

Martha and Jonathan, as much as they wanted to spend time with their son, realized that he needed this time to be alone with his wife.

Martha cleared her throat and said, "Clark, sweetie, your father and I are going to go out to the waiting room. The two of you need time alone."

Martha and Jonathan each took their turns hugging him, and then they left. Jonathan turned around at the door and said, "Lois, we'll meet you in the surgery waiting room."

Finally they were alone. Clark looked up into Lois' tearful eyes. He reached up and pulled her back down towards him. He gently caught her lips with his and then they kissed. It wasn't the most memorable kiss they had ever shared, but it did help both of them forget, if even for a second, what was about to happen to Clark. For that all too fleeting moment, it was like the world had stopped for the couple, and the only thing that mattered was their lips never losing contact.

As all wonderful moments do, their kiss came to an end all too soon. Lois ran her hands through Clark's hair silently praying that Clark would come out of the operation well. She trusted Dr. Klein explicitly, but she couldn't help but wonder if he had enough formal medical training to be able to do a surgery like this. Sure, Dr. Klein was probably the most intelligent man she had ever met, but that didn't mean he would be able to perform what sounded like a complex procedure. And this procedure was going to be done on the one most important person in her life, her husband, the father of her child.

Clark leaned back and enjoyed the feel of Lois' small hands' soothing motions against his sore head. He closed his eyes, praying that he would get to feel her hands against him again. If the surgery didn't go well, he might never be this close to his wife again. He might never get to see the birth of his child or be able to watch it grow up. Of course, he trusted that Dr Klein would be able to perform the surgery, but Clark was still leery about letting a man who had not formally practiced medicine in nearly fifteen years operate on him. But this was the only way he could hope to get better; he couldn't risk letting another doctor in on his secret because now there was just too much at stake. If that doctor wasn't trustworthy, his parents, Dr. Klein, Lois and, most importantly, their baby would be targets for any mad man who wanted to get to him. He was making the right choice. Dr. Klein would be able to do the surgery; he just had to. Clark tried to be optimistic so he could project those emotions to Lois. She didn't need her to be worried about him too; he had to convince her that Dr. Klein was completely qualified to do his surgery, even though he wasn't sure about it himself.

Lois' beautiful eyes were all red and puffy, obviously from crying all day. Worry lines etched her forehead and she just looked plain worn out. She looked like she hadn't slept in days. Rest was what she really needed right now, but he knew as well as she did that she wouldn't be able to rest comfortably until he was better.

With her mouth next to his ear, Lois whispered, "Honey, you know I meant what I said before. I'll always love you, no matter what happens."

Clark's lips curled into a cautious smile. He repeated, "I'll always love you, too, Lois. Remember that."

A single tear slid down Clark's cheek. He was never a man to show his emotions, but today, when he was so close to losing it all, tears just seemed to flow with their own will.

"Clark, are you scared? I mean, if you wanted him to get a real surgeon to do this…"

Clark cut her off, "No, honey. We can't do that. Then someone else will find out about the secret."

Lois brushed a stray lock of dark hair away from Clark's face. "Clark, you lunkhead, right now the secret isn't important. We need to do anything so you'll get better, no matter if it puts the secret in jeopardy or not! The most important thing in the world is getting you healthy again."

Clark shook his head as vigorously as his headache would allow. "No, I trust Bernie, honey. I trust him with my life. I'd never do anything that I thought would hurt me. Please trust me. I know you want to help me, but I think Bernie is the right person to do this. He is the only expert on my physiology, and even though I may have the same anatomy of other men, my body might work completely differently. The only person I would even consider letting work on my body is someone who has studied it so thoroughly, even though he hasn't performed any surgery in fifteen years."

When Clark said that, he realized that he, indeed, believed it. He truly did feel comfortable having Bernard Klein operate on him. It didn't matter that Dr. Klein's practical medical experience was rather slim; the only important thing was that Dr. Klein was the greatest authority, in fact the only authority, on his Kryptonian physiology, and that outweighed any other doctor's medical experience in Clark's mind.

Lois took a deep breath, trying to calm herself before she said, "Okay, Clark, if that's the way you feel, I trust him too. I trust your judgment explicitly. You'd never agree to anything that would put you in danger, at least not consciously. I just can't help worrying about you. I guess it's the same way you always worry about me."

Clark smiled. "Now you see how I feel."

Lois nodded."I think I'm beginning to understand." A small grin played on her lips. "It's just that things are so different now that we have another little life to think of." She brought her hand down to her abdomen. "I can't bear to think of our child having to grow up without a father. I can't even think of how I would go on without you."

Clark covered her hand with his. He brushed the tears off Lois' cheeks. "Honey, you don't have to worry about that. I'm always going to be there for the two of you." A tentative smile worked its way across his face. "I love you, honey, both of you. No matter what happens in that surgery, I will fight with all my power to come back to you." He tried to lighten the mood by saluting her with the boy scout hand shake. "Scout's honor."

Lois had to fight a giggle. This was too serious for her to giggle, so what was Clark doing trying to be funny? "Scout's honor?"

"Okay, what about pinky swear?"

This time, Lois couldn't fight the giggles that bubbled up inside her. She might have been giggling to relive all the stress she felt from the day, but no matter why, it sure felt good. Clark joined her, and when the orderlies came into the room to wheel Clark down to surgery, they were greeted by Lois' and Clark's giggles. The two men raised their eyebrows and one of them asked, "Are you ready, sir?"

The couple instantly sobered, and Clark nodded.

"Let's go, the doctor's waiting. Ma'am, you can walk with us and stay with him until he's prepped if you so desire."

They helped Clark onto a gurney, and then wheeled him down to the prep area. It was strange that there were no nurses or nurses' aids in this room, but Dr. Klein had probably made sure they had all gone home so he wouldn't have to explain anything.

While they waited for Dr. Klein to meet them, Clark grabbed Lois' hand tightly, almost like he would never let go. Lois knew he was very nervous, more than he would ever let on. He had never been sick before, let alone in the hospital or in need of surgery. So Lois knew he had to be nervous, even if he was trying to put up a brave, machismo front.

Soon, Dr. Klein came out pushing a portable dialysis machine. Lois turned away as he skillfully inserted a shunt into Clark's upper arm, so that the blood would pump through the dialysis machine. He explained that usually they would insert the shunt into the stomach, into either the abdominal aorta or the iliac, but he didn't want to disrupt the dialysis while he performed the surgery, so he inserted it into the brachial artery instead.

Lois stared in wide-eyed amazement at Clark's arm. From the way Dr. Klein inserted that shunt, it seemed like he still had some medical knowledge. Even though he might be rusty from not practicing for years, his skills must have been very sharp when he was in medical school. She wondered why he chose life in a lab instead of in practice. Then she looked at Dr. Klein more closely. Yes, it was obvious why Dr. Klein had chosen a career in research. The man had very bad interpersonal skills, and a horrible bedside manner. It wasn't that Dr. Klein wasn't very personable, he was, but he just seemed uncomfortable with people he didn't know very well.

Once Dr. Klein started the dialysis successfully, he was about to wheel Clark back into the OR. Before he rolled away, Lois bent down to give Clark a kiss. They lingered together for a moment before reluctantly breaking away. Clark squeezed her hand. "I love you, honey. And don't worry, I'll be okay." He bit his lower lip, "But if I don't come out of this, let our baby know how much I loved him or her."

Another burst of tears fell from Lois' eyes. Why did he have to say that? He was going to be fine. But she forced herself to somehow nod and said, "I know, Clark, and he or she will know too." She forced herself to smile. "But we don't have to worry about that, do we? You and I both know you're going to be fine." She bent down to kiss him again.

When the kiss broke, she whispered, "I love you, Clark."

Clark smiled and brought his hand to her abdomen. "I love you too, honey. You and our baby are my life force. I'll cling to that force and never let go."

Dr. Klein cleared his throat and said, "We have to get into surgery. Sorry to interrupt you, but we really have to get started. The dialysis has already started and I have to hook him to the monitors."

Lois nodded, and Dr. Klein began to push the gurney into the OR. As they drifted back, Lois left her arm extended, almost as if she still felt Clark holding onto her hand.

She watched until they had vanished into the OR, and then she resigned herself to going back to the waiting room. As soon as she entered the waiting room, Jonathan and Martha stood up.

Martha rushed to Lois' side and asked, "How is he? Did they get in all right?"

Lois nodded, "He's okay. As well as could be expected. I know he's nervous, but he trusts Bernie, and I do too."

Neither Martha nor Jonathan wanted to discuss their fears about Dr. Klein's surgical qualifications right now. If both Lois and Clark trusted their friend to perform the surgery, they shouldn't doubt him either.

They all settled into the uncomfortable waiting room chairs preparing for a long wait.

For the first hour, Martha and Jonathan tried to make idle conversation with Lois, trying to get her mind off what was happening in the next room. After a while, it became blatantly obvious that Lois was not a willing participant in this conversation. Jonathan snuck another glance at his daughter-in-law. He smiled when he saw that she was slumped in her chair, fast asleep.

Martha turned to him and smiled. "Let her sleep, honey. She's had a long, stressful day. Plus she's still sick. I hope she's taken her medicine."

"I think I saw her take a few pills. I know Lois wouldn't neglect her own health, especially now that she's carrying our grandchild."

Martha smiled. "Our grandchild. It feels so good to say, Jonathan. We used to wonder if we would ever have children of our own, and then we wondered if Clark would ever be able to have children, and now we're going to have a grandchild."

Jonathan shared a knowing smile with his wife. "I know, isn't it wonderful how life turns out, Martha." He wrapped his arm around her and pulled her close.

Martha nodded, and they sat in silence until Martha's stomach growled loudly. "I'm absolutely famished!"

Jonathan nodded and said, "It's been a long day. I haven't eaten a thing since breakfast, and I'm starving."

"It's late. The cafeteria's probably closed, huh?"

"Yeah."

"Jonathan, I saw a Chinese restaurant on the corner when we drove by. Would you mind running out to get some? I'm sure Lois is hungry too."

Jonathan nodded, "Yeah, be back in twenty minutes?" Then he left to get their dinner.

While Jonathan was gone, Lois awoke. She looked wildly around the room, almost as if she had forgotten where she was. All of a sudden, it hit her. It hadn't been a nightmare. Clark really had been injured and they really were sitting in a hospital waiting room, waiting for Clark's surgery to be over. Lois sighed and Martha moved to sit next to her.

"It wasn't a dream, was it, Martha?"

Martha smoothed Lois' hair back from her face. "No, honey, I wish it was."

They sat in silence, not really knowing what to say until Martha exclaimed, "It's not fair, Lois. All Clark has ever wanted to do ever since he found out what he can do is help people in need and this is what he gets. What has he done to deserve this?"

Lois nodded; that was exactly what she had been thinking. "You're right, it's not fair, Martha! He fights for truth and justice every day, and what does he get in return? It seems like every criminal in Metropolis wants to get a piece of Superman; and each time they try, they get closer to success. I'm really wondering if Clark's sacrifices are worth it any more."

Both Martha and Lois lapsed back into silence, contemplating what Lois had just said. After a few minutes, Lois finally realized that Jonathan was no longer with them. "Hey, what happened to Jonathan?"

Martha grinned as she heard Lois' stomach growl loudly. She had been right when she assumed that Lois would be hungry. "Oh, he and I were hungry, and we assumed you'd be too, so I sent him out to get some Chinese food."

Lois stomach growled loudly again. "Looks like the baby sure is hungry. I sure hope he or she likes Chinese food as much as I do."

"Well, I think we're in luck. The food is here," Martha said when she caught a glimpse of Jonathan walking in the door.

Jonathan set the bags he was carrying down on the table in front of them, and Lois started digging in almost before she could remove the bag. The elder Kents watched in amusement while Lois dug in like she had never eaten before. She looked up sheepishly and said, "Oh, oops, I guess you guys wanted some too."

Jonathan laughed at Lois' expression, "Don't worry, Lois."

Martha added, "It's okay. We'll eat whatever you don't. Believe me, you need the food more than we do."

"You know, this is the first time I've been able to look at food in so long. I can't remember the last time food's looked so appetizing. You know what I need right now, chocolate. Yeah, chocolate. I wonder if they have any double fudge crunch bars in that vending machine at the end of the hall," Lois babbled.

Martha and Jonathan shared a knowing look. Clark was right when he described her babbling, especially when she was nervous. It was a coping mechanism. Lois babbled when others would break down and cry, especially when stress was getting to be too much for her to handle.

Martha humored her and asked, "Did you want me to walk with you to see?"

Lois nodded, and the women went off in search of the cure-all chocolate bar.

When the two women got back, each with several candy bars, Lois had hit the complete manic stage. She couldn't sit down, and contented herself by pacing around the waiting room. Both Jonathan and Martha were getting dizzy just watching her walk in circles around the room. First, she walked fast, then she walked slowly, then she walked to get a drink of water, and then she got herself a cup of hot cocoa. Finally, after about half an hour, she was completely worn out. All of her manic energy had left, and now she was at a low. All she could do was collapse on the small couch and lie there silently.

"Lois, why don't you try to get some sleep? You look exhausted, honey." Martha tried to get her to further relax.

Jonathan added, "Yes, you certainly look beat. We'll wake you if we hear anything. I promise."

Lois didn't need any more invitation, and the next time Martha looked over to the couch, Lois was fast asleep.

Two hours later, Dr. Klein emerged from the OR. He stopped in the doorway and watched Lois tossing and turning on the couch and the elder Kents sitting calmly on two of the chairs. Martha's head rested on Jonathan's shoulder, giving Dr. Klein the impression that she was asleep too.

Jonathan heard the footsteps first and he turned his head to investigate. This jarred Martha, and she too turned to look. Both took deep breaths when they saw Dr. Klein in the doorway. He wasn't betraying any emotions, either good or bad; he only looked haggard, like he wanted to go home and fall into bed.

Dr. Klein walked towards the group, and Lois instantly awoke when she heard the sound of his footsteps. Still groggy, she exclaimed, "How is he?"

Dr. Klein collapsed into one of the surrounding chairs, exhausted from the last three-and-a-half grueling hours of surgery. He took a deep breath and began, "Okay, I was able to remove the ice pick from his stomach. The tip was lodged in his stomach, and I was able to repair the hole. He shouldn't suffer any permanent damage from that injury."

The three shared a collective sigh of relief.

"As for the dialysis, I am not sure how it worked. This is going to be more of a wait and see. I drew some blood from after we completed the procedure, and it wasn't visibly green as it was before. I am not sure if we got all of it, but if we didn't he will just have to go through the dialysis again. I also have to run tests on the substance in his blood to see just what it was."

For some reason, Lois got a strange feeling of optimism, the first bit she had felt all day. "He's going to be okay!"

"Now, Lois, we aren't exactly sure how his body is going respond. I believe he'll recover fully, but it will be a long process. That Kryptonite was circulating in his blood for over twenty-four hours, so I don't know how long it will take him to recover. And you know there is a chance that he will never be super again."

"Bernie, I don't care if you stuck him together with crazy glue and he'll never be able to move again, just as long as he is alive. That's all that matters." Martha and Jonathan both nodded their agreement. "Can I see him?"

Dr. Klein let out the deep breath he hadn't known he was holding. He wasn't sure what was wrong with Clark, and he knew Clark would probably need to be hospitalized for a long time before he was even ready to go home, but now he was relieved the major battle was won. "Sure, you can all go in. He's been asking about all of you ever since he woke up."

Lois didn't need a second invitation. She darted out of her chair and into the room Dr. Klein had emerged from. Martha and Jonathan were close on her heels.

As soon as Lois set eyes on Clark lying on the bed, something struck a chord inside of her. She knew in her heart that he would be okay. Their baby would have a father, and she would have a husband for the rest of her life.

Clark tilted his head and was greeted with the image of Lois perched on the side of his bed and his parents flanking both sides.

They shared a tearful reunion, and all of them knew that Clark would eventually be fine.

The next morning, when Clark was back in the ICU, and Martha and Jonathan were still at the brownstone, Lois and Clark just sat together thinking about what had happened over the last day. They knew Clark was going to eventually be healthy, but how long it would take, they didn't know. He could, theoretically be without his powers forever.

"Honey, what if I never get my powers back?"

Lois faced him. "I know it will be hard for you, Clark, but isn't it better that you are alive?"

Clark nodded slowly. "Yes, but I know myself. Believe me, I am grateful to be alive, but I'm not sure how I will be able to live without being able to help people."

"I agree; it has to be so hard going from having powers one day to having no powers the next."

"Honey, I'm not sure what I will do if I see something that I might have been able to help with as Superman, but now I won't be able to. What if I can't protect you or our baby any more?"

Lois stared poignantly into his eyes. "We'll get through it. I know we will, together."

Clark nodded. "I guess I am just lucky to be alive. This taught me not to take so many chances. I should have just taken Luckaby to the authorities, but no. I don't even know what I was trying to prove. Especially now, I have so much to live for."

Lois knew exactly what he meant. "I know, Clark. Doesn't it seem so strange that now we are going to have a baby? It's strange that just two days ago, we had no suspicion that I was even pregnant, but today we are going to have a baby. I don't know if I've ever been so happy."

Clark took her hand in his. "And you don't know how happy I am to hear you say that. All my life I wondered if I could ever be normal, have a wife, a family, and now all of my dreams are coming true. You and this baby are the greatest gift I could have ever wished for, and it's like my whole life is coming together at once. Even if I never get my powers back, I will still think I am the luckiest man in the world."

.Lois leaned down to kiss him. "Clark, I know this is going to be hard for you, but we'll get through it, together. And I am sure you'll get your powers back. I just have this feeling."

As they sat in Clark's little room, holding on to each other tightly, both realized that they were probably the luckiest people on earth.

THE END