By Carol M <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: August 2001
Summary: When Clark goes missing from an assignment, it's up to Lois, Perry and Jimmy to track him down. But they may be in for more discoveries than they bargained for.
This started out to be a fun little thing, but then the characters took on a life of their own and well, this is what came out.
Thanks to the readers — especially merry — for bugging me when this didn't want to get finished and for invaluable advice where it should go!
The sentence "Two big tears came and sat in her eyes for a moment, but were persuaded with a determined effort to sink back again into those unfathomable wells that lie in the depths of a woman's eyes." came from one of my all time favorite books, Marcia Schuyler by Grace Livingston Hill. It's one of my favorite lines from anywhere and it seemed to fit.
The characters do not belong to me but others with more money and power than I. I just wanted a break from reading the Federalist Papers.
Lois sat down, completely exhausted. It had been a very long day. One of the longest days she could remember having in a long time. She put her feet up on her desk and let her head flop back over the top of the chair. All she wanted to do was go home, take a long hot bath and sink into her bed, covers pulled up to her chin, and go to sleep.
But she couldn't.
Part of the problem was that it was seven in the morning.
Part of the problem was that she had a story to write.
The biggest part of the problem was that her partner had disappeared.
Clark Kent could be the most exasperating human being at the Planet — or on the planet, for that matter. She thought he cared for her. He had even told her he loved her at one point. He later retracted, but she didn't buy it. Somehow, she knew. He was completely in love with her. Head over heels in love with her.
And it scared her.
It scared the… well, it really scared her.
To think that someone had fallen for her was a very scary thought.
She didn't understand what he saw in her. Anyone who thought they knew her would think that she had it all under control. That she had the self-esteem of a T. V. star or something. That she had everything all together, no problems, not ever. Those few who really knew her knew better. Clark was one of those people.
He knew everything about her. All of her weaknesses. Her dreams. Her fears. Everything. She didn't know how he had gotten so close to her. It certainly hadn't been her intention. She kept up her defenses around everyone. They never cracked. Well, rarely ever. Only around Clark. And it irritated her to no end. Clark had a way about him. He could get around anyone's defenses. Grudgingly, Lois admitted that was part of what made him such a great reporter. People trusted him. Lois trusted him. That was the most amazing part of all.
But he had this annoying habit of running off. Just when things would be going really well, he'd remember that he had a movie to return or a library book overdue. Funny. She'd never seen him at the library. Lois had never thought about it before, but she hadn't.
The voice of the ever-present editor-in-chief interrupted her reverie.
"What?" Lois didn't move, risking the wrath of Perry White.
"MY OFFICE! NOW!"
Lois moved her feet, one at a time, to the floor. She slowly pushed herself up from the desk and started towards Perry's office. She was going to kill Clark. He hadn't even given her an excuse this time. He had just left. She had turned around to say something to him as they were walking out of the warehouse and he was gone. He had never done that before. He usually made some lame excuse and looked at her with those big brown eyes — how could she have ever thought they looked like mud? — silently pleading with her to understand. And she always said that it was okay. She understood. But this time she didn't understand. How could he just desert her like this? He knew her fear of desertion and he did it anyway.
She was going to kill him.
Clark didn't have the time or energy to worry about Lois' wrath. He was in too much pain. That's right, pain. He didn't like being in pain and was grateful that it happened only rarely. However, on those occasions when someone managed to get close to him with the deadly green rock Lois had named Kryptonite, he wasn't able to be thankful that it was a rare occasion — he only cared that he was in pain NOW!
And this time it didn't look like there was going to be anyone to rescue him.
He had no idea where he was and he had no idea if anyone even knew he was gone. He had no idea how he was going to get out of this one.
Lois sighed and sank onto the couch in Perry's office. "I have no idea. We were leaving the warehouse and when I turned around he was gone." She shrugged. "Who am I? Clark's keeper? Maybe he went home. He's got to be just as tired as I am."
"Did you call?"
"No. And I'm not going to. If he's not responsible enough to show up and help finish this story, then he won't get part of the byline. I don't care if he is my partner."
"Lois." The warning tone in Perry's voice was obvious to anyone who happened to be listening. Anyone but Lois.
"I don't care, Perry. He needs to be responsible enough to show up and finish the job. Otherwise, he's just outta luck. Period. End of discussion."
"Call him, Lois."
"Fine. I'll call him. But I'm not going to spend half my day looking for him. I'm going to call his apartment. If I don't get an answer — and somehow, I doubt I will — then I am going to write the story on my own and go home to a hot bath and a warm bed. Kapesh?"
"Fine, Lois. But if he doesn't turn up…"
"He'll turn up, Perry. He always does. He's like that little pink bunny. He keeps going and going and going and never actually goes away. He's always there, beating on that annoying little drum until you want to smack him."
"Fine. Fine. But don't say I didn't warn him."
"Warn him about what?"
"That I'm going to smack him."
"Lois. Story. Now."
"Fine." Lois walked out of the room and to her desk. She turned on her computer and spent the next hour working on the story. The more she wrote, the madder she became. Clark hadn't answered his phone and he hadn't shown up. She wasn't about to admit that she was even the teensiest bit worried. She was too mad for that. She LANed the story to Perry and gathered her things. She hollered to Perry that she was leaving and stalked up the ramp. She left in the elevator, muttering about the irresponsibility of some reporters.
Lois was worried. Really worried. Clark had never checked in with Perry. Clark had never called her. Clark had never called his parents. Clark never just left without telling anyone.
It had been almost thirty-six hours before Lois started to worry. After she finished her story, she had gone home and taken a bath and gone to bed, just like she had told Perry she was going to. She slept well into the afternoon and spent the rest of the day just resting and doing some things around her apartment. She tried to call Clark a couple of times, but didn't worry when she didn't get an answer. They were probably just missing each other. When Clark didn't show up at work the next morning, she still didn't worry. Perry had probably put him on a story. Perry was in a meeting all morning with the suits upstairs and Jimmy was out taking pictures of something or other so there was no one to confirm or deny her thoughts. It wasn't until Perry came down from the meeting about one in the afternoon that Lois started to get worried.
"LOIS! CLARK! MY OFFICE NOW!" Perry stormed through the newsroom on the way to his office.
Lois stood and started to head to the office. She stopped dead in her tracks when she realized what Perry had said. Perry thought Clark was here.
"I said my office, Lois. Now!"
Lois didn't move. Her mind was moving a mile a minute, but her hearing wasn't keeping up.
"LOIS! NOW!" When Lois still didn't respond, Perry walked over to her. His voice belied the sweetness of his words. "Lois, darlin'. I know that work interferes with your real life, but I need to ask you to do something for me, if you don't mind." His voice changed. "MOVE!"
Lois stared off into space as she replied, "Clark's not here."
"What do you mean 'Clark's not here'?"
"Just that, Chief." Lois finally turned to look at her mentor. "Clark isn't here. He's not at home, he's not here. I have no idea where he is. I thought you had sent him out on a story or something."
"You're serious? Clark didn't come to work today?"
Lois shook her head.
"Well, have you tried to find him?"
"I called his house, but there's no answer. There hasn't been."
"Did you go by?"
Lois shrugged. "Why would I? He's a big boy. He doesn't need me to check up on him."
"Find him. And find out where Superman's been."
"What are you talking about?"
"I mean, no one's seen Superman in a couple of days. There was a big bank robbery a little while ago — I'm surprised you're not already on it — and he didn't show, even after several people yelled for him. Find him and find out what's going on."
"And no throwing yourself off a building for him to catch you either," Perry added sternly. "I'm not losing my star reporter because the superhero's sick or on vacation or something."
Lois sighed. "Yes, sir."
"But, first, try to find Clark and he can help you find Superman."
Lois nodded and headed back to her desk. Superman was missing, too? That was odd. She reached for her Rolodex and looked up the number of Jonathan and Martha Kent. Her conversation was kept short and light — she didn't want them to think that anything was wrong. She casually asked if Clark had told them about the big story they had landed yesterday. Martha told her that she hadn't talked to her son in almost three days and would Lois please have him call soon. Martha was his mother and she worried, after all. Lois promised to have Clark call soon and set the phone down.
She had never known Clark to be so callous. Maybe he was hurt or something. She grabbed her jacket and her purse. She strode purposely towards Perry's office. She poked her head in. "I'm going to Clark's. His parents don't know where he is either and someone has to find him. If he's not there, I'm going back to the warehouse and see if I can find any clues."
Perry looked up from the work he was doing. "Find him, Lois. We need him here." His gruff voice threatened to let his emotions through. He was worried now, too.
Lois' first stop was Clark's apartment. She banged on the door with her fist, making enough noise to wake the dead. But there was no answer. She dug into her purse and found the key that Clark had given her. She opened the door and looked around.
"Clark?" She walked inside and called again. "Clark?"
She saw the glass that she had used just before they left on their stakeout two nights earlier. He had complained because she hadn't rinsed it out and placed it in the sink. She had told him to lighten up and pushed him out the door before he could take care of it. No matter how tired he was, the first thing he would have done when he came home would have been to clean the glass.
He couldn't have been home.
Lois borrowed the phone to call Perry and told him what she suspected. He insisted on sending Jimmy to meet her before going to the warehouse to look for clues. Lois locked up and drove off to meet the young photographer.
Clark rolled over and groaned. At least he was still alive. The effects of the Kryptonite must be starting to wear off, but they hadn't worn off that much. Rolling over had taken all of his strength. He managed to open his eyes and try to look around. His vision gizmos weren't working and the room he was in was dark. Pitch black. He couldn't even see a crack of light under a doorway. He had no idea how long he had been out but knew it must have been quite a while. He tried to send a silent plea to Lois or anyone else to come and get him. He couldn't take much more of this if they brought back that Kryptonite. If they left him alone for a while, he might be able to do something, but not anytime soon.
Lois and Jimmy met at a cafe just around the corner from the Planet. Lois' reporter instincts were kicking in and she had a feeling that this wasn't going to be easy. They would need their strength. They grabbed a couple of sandwiches and ate in the car.
Lois drove to the Hobbs Bay area. She parked down the street from the warehouse and they cautiously made their way towards the last place Clark had been seen.
"So, Lois, what exactly are we looking for?"
"I don't know, Jimmy, but if there's something here, we'll find it. Just look around and see if you see anything suspicious."
"Define suspicious, Lois. This is Hobbs Bay. Everything is suspicious." Jimmy hurried off as he saw the look Lois gave him.
Lois and Jimmy looked around the alley next to the warehouse, careful to never get too far from each other. Brave as they were, they weren't stupid. They found nothing.
"There's nothing here, Lois."
Lois sighed. "I know, Jimmy. Let's go inside."
"Whoa. Inside? I don't get hazard pay, you know."
"Now, Jimmy." Lois led the way towards the door. She cautiously opened it and looked inside. It was darker than she remembered. She took her flashlight out and motioned to Jimmy to stay right behind her.
"What are we looking for?" Jimmy whispered.
"I don't know. Something that doesn't look right," Lois whispered back as she moved farther inside.
"Could you be a little more vague?" Jimmy landed on top of her as they fell over a box. "Lois, are you okay?"
"I'm fine. Get off me."
Jimmy gladly complied and helped Lois to her feet.
"There's something wrong here, Jimmy."
"All of these boxes were stacked neatly when Clark and I left the other day."
"So? Someone couldn't find what they were looking for."
"No, there's something odd about this." Lois flashed her light around. "There's been a fight here."
"How can you tell?"
"Really, Jimmy, if you want to be a reporter, you need to learn these things."
"So teach me, oh wise one."
"Look over there." Lois pointed. "And over there. See the scuff marks on the floor? And the blood on the side of that crate? All of the crates over there are marked 'fragile' but they look like they were knocked over carelessly. Someone was probably pushed into them."
"What does this have to do with Clark?"
"I don't know. I didn't think there was anyone in here when we left."
"So you left and someone jumped Clark?"
"Maybe. I don't remember anyone ever jumping Clark before. He's too well-built. Usually he just looks really sternly at someone and they back down. He doesn't look like a guy to mess with. You and I know he'd never hurt a fly but most other people don't." Lois continued to look for more clues.
"Look at this, Lois. Does it mean anything?"
In the dust on the crate Jimmy was looking at was the impression of a rectangular object. Lois moved to investigate.
"Maybe. There wasn't anything there when I was here with Clark." She looked more closely at the dust imprint, shining her light on it. The rectangular shape was about the size of a briefcase. "Jimmy, take a picture of this. There seems to have been something written on it or maybe raised print. The dust isn't even. Maybe we can figure out what it said."
Jimmy obliged and the two continued to look around. When they found no other clues, they left.
Clark tried desperately to remember what had happened. He had been following Lois out of the warehouse when… That's where he started getting hazy. He had heard a noise and gone to investigate. It wasn't often that he was caught by surprise, but this time he was. Someone landed on his back from above, knife to his throat. Clark closed his eyes and concentrated. It hurt. His head was throbbing as it never had before, but he had to remember. The guy had told him not to move. Clark obliged, waiting for a chance to get away. Another man came out of the shadows and set a briefcase down on a crate. He pulled out a gun and the guy jumped off of his back. Man #2 motioned at someone in still in the shadows. Clark had seen the biggest man he had ever seen emerge. Clark remembered being grateful that he was Superman or he would have never had a chance. He allowed the big guy to move close to him when the leader opened the briefcase. Clark couldn't see what was in it, but felt the effects immediately. It was Kryptonite.
"You're going to call him."
"Who?" Clark had struggled to not show his pain.
"So I can kill him. Too bad your partner got out of here. The Big Blue Banana seems to have a special affinity for her. But you'll work. Now call him."
The man had nodded at the one Clark was calling Bruiser in his mind. He had known he'd never be able to fight back. And he hadn't. The Kryptonite had already weakened him to the point that he was extremely vulnerable, but he had managed to wait until the first punch landed to collapse.
Clark groaned again as he tried to look around the dark room. After the third punch and his third refusal to call Superman, he blacked out. He had no idea what had happened after that.
Lois and Jimmy stood close together and close to the twice- lifesize blowup of the photo Jimmy had taken. There was definitely something imprinted there. Jimmy had scanned the photo into his computer and now turned to it to try and manipulate the photo enough to read whatever was written there.
After half an hour of Lois looking over his shoulder and driving him crazy, Jimmy thought he had it. He had enhanced and mirrored and done everything else that he could think of to do and as soon as this one loaded, he felt they would have it.
Lois looked closely at the screen. "Oh, no."
"What? Why is that such a big deal?"
"You already said that. So the briefcase came from Star Labs. So what?"
"I have to call Dr. Klein." Lois reached for the phone and dialed the familiar number.
"Dr. Klein? Lois Lane. Do you still have that substance under control? What do you mean 'What substance?' There's only one substance that I'd be worried about and you know it. A break-in? When? And you're sure it was taken? Thanks, Dr. Klein."
"What is it, Lois?"
"Let's go. We have to find out who broke in to Star Labs. I'll explain on the way."
Lois and Jimmy left the conference room, looking for all the world like a reporting team on a mission.
"What do you mean you don't have any leads?"
"I'm sorry, Lois. We have no idea who broke into Star Labs and they won't tell us what was taken. It's 'top secret.'" Officer Doze couldn't keep the sarcasm out of his voice. "You know I'd help you if I could."
"I know, Doze." Lois sighed. "I just can't help but think that this somehow has to do with the disappearance of Clark."
"Yes. No one's seen or heard from him in almost thirty-six hours and I'm worried. It's not like Clark."
"You're right. It's not like him. I'll put out the word that if anybody sees him, they're to tell him to check in right away."
"Thanks, Doze. We're going to go talk to Dr. Klein and see what else we can find out."
"He's being very tight-lipped, Lois."
"He'll talk to me," Lois told the officer as she walked off and then added softly — almost under her breath, "if he knows what's good for him."
Lois and Jimmy made their way to Dr. Klein's lab. They found the scientist pacing in a very agitated manner.
"It was locked up. Honest. I can't imagine how anyone was able to open the safe. It's supposed to be foolproof. No one could get in without knowing the secrets."
"Dr. Klein?" Lois tried to get his attention.
"I would never let that stuff out of my sight. If there was anything I could do about it, I'd never let anyone take it."
"Lois, what is he talking about?" Jimmy asked.
Lois sighed. "Jimmy, can you keep a secret? I mean a take-it-to-your-grave, never-spill-it-even-under-Chinese- water-torture* secret?"
Jimmy shrugged. "Sure."
"I mean it, Jimmy. No one can ever know about this."
"Fine. I won't tell anyone."
"It's called Kryptonite."
"Kryptonite? Does it have anything to do with Superman? Didn't he come from Krypton?"
"It has everything to do with Superman. This substance is a meteorite from Krypton and it has a very adverse affect on Superman. He doubles over in pain, loses his powers and it could probably kill him if he was exposed to it long enough. Dr. Klein kept the only known piece of it here, locked up in the lab, in a lead-lined box. If it's wrapped in lead, it won't affect him. There is probably more out there, but no one knows for sure. We've destroyed some of it, but Dr. Klein was using this piece to try to make an antidote or something, maybe even a vaccination."
Jimmy leaned against Dr. Klein's desk. "Wow. Something that can kill Superman. It's got to be someone who can afford to pay for expensive equipment to break in or pay the people with the equipment to do the job."
"You're right. Dr. Klein?"
"Oh, Lois. Hi. Where's Clark? We need his help."
"He's missing. We can't find him anywhere. We did find the imprint of a Star Labs briefcase in the dust at the warehouse we were at yesterday morning. We think that after I left, someone jumped him and is trying to make him call Superman so that they can use the Kryptonite against him."
"Good theory, but who?"
"Well, it has to be someone with considerable resources. Are there any surveillance tapes or anything that we can look at?"
"Sure, but the only people on the tapes are ones who work here. The police already checked."
"Let me look anyway. Please?"
Dr. Klein shrugged. "It can't hurt." He showed her to the security room and the tapes and how to use the machines. "Let me know if you find anything that we didn't."
Lois and Jimmy sat down and started looking through the tapes. They started with the ones that were around the time of the break-in. There were five different tapes from different cameras and the first four didn't show them anything even remotely interesting.
Lois rubbed the back of her neck as Jimmy put the last tape in. She was starting to realize just how much she missed Clark. If he was here, he'd be rubbing her neck for her and doing a much better job. But he wasn't here and so it was her job to find him.
Jimmy fast-forwarded the tape to the time that the break-in occurred. This tape showed the hallway outside Dr. Klein's lab where the safe was located. The door was wide open and there wasn't anyone inside, at least according to the tape. Across the hall from the open door was a window into another lab. Lois leaned in and looked closely at the window.
"Jimmy, stop the tape."
Jimmy complied, turning the tape off.
"No, Jimmy, pause it."
Jimmy pushed play again and paused it.
Lois realized again how much she missed Clark. He would have known what she meant. She pointed at the screen. "What's that?" There in the window was a reflection of someone in Dr. Klein's lab.
"It looks like a person."
"I know that Jimmy, but that person is in the lab. Can you load this on your computer and get us a clear picture of what he's doing?"
"I'm going to talk to Dr. Klein."
Dr. Klein had offered one of the powerful Star Labs computers for Jimmy to try to work his magic on.
After two hours, Jimmy finally was able to show just the man in the window. They watched as he opened the safe and took out the briefcase containing the Kryptonite.
"Jimmy, we need to get a good look at his face."
"I know, I'm working on it," Jimmy replied as his fingers flew over the keyboard. "I think I've… got… it. There we go."
On the screen appeared a blurry image of a man. Lois' sharp intake of breath made it obvious that she knew the person in question.
"Who is it?"
"Never mind that now. Let's go."
"Bobby, I need information and I need it now."
"You got food for me?"
"Bobby, you know me. I've brought you food more times than… than… well, lots of times. I didn't have time to stop and get any, but you know I'm good for it. Clark's missing and I've got to find him."
The tears in Lois' voice and her eyes were enough to convince Bobby. "I'll take a rain check, but just this once. Don't think it'll ever happen again and if it gets around, I swear I'll deny it. What do you need?"
"I need to know where this man is." Lois held out a picture printed from the video image.
Bobby let out a low whistle. "You sure know how to pick 'em, don't you?"
"Lois, what is he talking about?"
"Shh, Jimmy." Lois wasn't pleased that Jimmy was being so persistent. "So can you help us, Bobby?"
"Sure. You know I can, but it's gonna cost you, and I mean more than a good dessert. We're talking protection. Superman style."
"Bobby, I swear. As soon as I can find him, I'll have him keep an eye out for you." And Lois knew that she would, as soon as she found him. But finding Clark came first.
"Okay. Well, here's the deal. This guy is called Joe. That's all anyone knows about him. No one really knows who he works for, but whoever it is has money. Three years ago, the rumor had it that he worked for Luthor but no one could ever confirm it and no one really thought Luthor would be involved with someone so slimy."
"Any idea what he's been up to lately?"
"Well, he's been doing some big jobs. High-tech ones. He knows his electronics. Word on the street is that he's the one who did the LexTech job."
Jimmy let out a low whistle. "Man, he must be good. They have the best technology in the world, better than even the Department of Defense."
Bobby just looked at him. "Who's the kid, Lois?"
"Oh, an errand boy that Perry is trying to let be my photographer and protector until we find Clark. What else? Spill it, Bobby."
"I heard this morning that he had a big job earlier this week, some lab or other."
"Maybe. The guy didn't know. Anyway, someone with lots of money wanted something out of this lab and it had something to do with Superman. Maybe. Where's the Big, Blue Boyscout been anyway?"
"What do you mean?"
"It's all over the streets. No one has seen him in like three days. The real crooks are starting to feel invulnerable."
"As far as I know he's around." Lois shrugged. "I haven't seen him in a couple of days either, but that's not unusual."
"I thought you two were tight."
"We are, kind of. But it's not like he calls every day or anything. So where is Joe now?"
"Last I heard he's holed up over at a warehouse on 5th near the pier."
"Any idea who's financing him now? Luthor's been dead for a long time now."
Bobby shook his head. "Sorry. That's all I got. The warehouse is supposed to be a front for the mob or something, but don't hold me to that."
"Thanks, Bobby. As soon as I can, three 10-course meals — all for you. You're the best! Let's go, Jimmy." With that, the ever determined Lois Lane headed out for her next story that this time could save the life of her best friend.
Lois sank into the chair at her desk. She sat there with her eyes closed, trying to hold back the tears. She and Jimmy had looked at all of the warehouses on 5th near the pier, just like Bobby had told them to and they had found nothing. Not a darn thing.
It was closing in on 48 hours since she had last seen Clark. They had left the warehouse just before six a.m. on Tuesday and it was now almost five in the morning on Thursday. She couldn't do this much longer. She hadn't slept in almost 24 hours and she was just plain exhausted.
Maybe she'd just close her eyes. Just for a minute. Clark would understand if she was a few minutes late finding him. It was just that she was going to close her eyes, just to rest for a minute… She jerked her head up — she wasn't going to fall asleep. Just clo…se… her… eyes… for… a… minu…
"LOIS! LINE 1!" came a call from across the room.
Lois jerked straight up in her seat. "Wha…? Huh?"
Lois rubbed her eyes and glanced at the clock. 8:09. How long had she been asleep? And how had she missed the paper waking up? She reached for the phone, trying to stifle a yawn.
"Lois, it's Bobby. You didn't hear this from me and if you ever tell I'll deny it and you'll never see me again. *I'll* never see me again. Got it?"
Lois was instantly wide-awake. "Of course. Spill it, Bobby."
"There's an abandoned warehouse on 7th and Pine in the Hobbs Bay area. It belongs to a company called Computer Corp. There's no reason for a small upscale computer company to have a warehouse there, or a warehouse of that size at all. Joe was seen there last night. That's all I know. And that is another three ten course meals. Giving you info on this guy could get me killed."
"It's yours. As soon as I get all of this straightened out."
"Any word on Supes yet?"
"I still haven't talked to him, but I've been busy. He's probably helping out in Europe somewhere or something."
"Sure, Lois. Remember, I get Superman protection on this deal."
"I know. I'll talk to him as soon as I see him."
Lois hung up the phone. "JIMMY!"
The bleary-eyed young man slowly stood up from his desk. "What, Lois?"
Lois stood up and grabbed her purse. "I need you to find out everything you can on a computer company called Computer Corp. They have a warehouse on 7th and Pine."
Jimmy sat down slowly. "Sure, Lois."
"Now, Jimmy. I'm going down there. Call my cell phone when you have something."
A new voice joined the conversation. "Slow down there, Lois. You're not going down there by yourself."
"But, Chief…" Lois started to protest.
"No buts, Lois. You're not going down there by yourself and that's final. Now, you can wait for Jimmy or you can take Ralph. Your choice."
Lois sat down, grumpily. "I'll wait."
"Get some work done while you're waiting."
"Yes, sir." Lois wasn't happy that she was being kept from this.
Perry started to walk towards his office but stopped and turned. "And, Lois, honey." His voice was softer than it had been. "We'll find him. You and Jimmy bring me whatever you find and we'll figure it out together."
Perry would do anything for her, she knew that, but she was too worried about Clark to appreciate it. Two big tears came and sat in her eyes for a moment, but were persuaded with a determined effort to sink back again into those unfathomable wells that lie in the depths of a woman's eyes.
She managed to squeak out her thanks. She turned on her computer and waited for it to boot up. "Jimmy, I'll see what I can find on the Internet. You work your magic elsewhere."
"Anything, Jimmy?" Lois sat wearily by his desk.
"Nothing. Well, not nothing, but nothing we can use. C. C. is owned by companies that are owned by companies that are owned by companies that nobody knows anything about. I can't break past this layer."
Lois looked at the younger man sympathetically. He was just as tired as she was, if not more. She had at least taken a three-hour nap earlier, even if it was at her desk in a rather uncomfortable position. Jimmy didn't look like he had slept at all.
"When was the last time you slept, son?" Neither had noticed Perry walking up behind them.
"There'll be enough time for sleep when I'm dead. Clark needs me, needs us, to find out what's happened to him."
"You're not going to do any of us any good if you're too tired to think straight and get hurt or something. Trust me, I've done it a time or two." Lois threw up her hands in exasperation. "I'm even starting to sound like him." The tears began to fill her eyes. "That's something Clark would say or do. More worried about everyone else than about himself."
Perry put a comforting hand on her shoulder. "Now, Lois, he's rubbing off on you. You're his best friend; it's only natural."
The tears spilled over. "Then why didn't I know that something was wrong sooner? It was almost 36 hours before I started to get worried. If it had been me, Clark would have been looking for me right away."
"That's because you always seem to get yourself into some kind of trouble all by yourself. Clark only gets in trouble if he's tagging along with you. No one would think that he'd be in trouble, just that he'd gone home because he was tired or something. Now, Jimmy…" Perry stopped in mid-sentence.
Jimmy's head was on his desk and he was starting to snore. "Help me move him to the couch in my office, Lois." Lois and Perry worked together to move the copy boy who was so much more to Perry's office. Once he was settled in, Perry turned to Lois. "Let's go."
"That warehouse. Your partner is gone and Jimmy's out and something tells me this is urgent. The reporter instincts are still there, Lois. I didn't become editor-in-chief because I could yodel, you know."
A smile slowly spread across Lois' face. "You're on, Chief."
With that they walked into the newsroom and to the elevator.
A big grin spread across Perry's face. "It's good to be on a story again."
The two old friends and new partners tiptoed to the only window that they would be able to see in. Perry struggled to boost Lois up a little bit so that she could see.
"Oof. Perry, you're a little out of practice, aren't you?"
"So I'm not quite as strong as Kent, I'll get the job done."
Lois finally was able to peer inside. "I don't see anything, Perry. It's dark in there."
"Well, let's go in then." Perry helped Lois to the ground. They walked over to the door.
"I know, Lois." Perry pulled something out of his pocket.
"Watch and learn." Seconds later, the door opened as Perry picked the lock.
"I'm impressed, Perry." Lois pulled two flashlights out of her bag. She handed one to her boss and walked inside as she turned hers on.
They spent the next few minutes looking around the nearly empty warehouse.
Lois, for all her intentions to be quiet, couldn't help but give a small cry as she noticed something on the floor.
"What is it, darlin'?" Perry hurried to her side.
"Clark's tie. The one he had with him on the stakeout."
"He was wearing a tie on a stakeout?"
"He was being stupid. I said something like 'Clark, that tie is so loud, you need a remote for volume control'. He grinned and put it on over his black T-shirt. He took it off and stuck it in his jacket pocket before we actually got to the warehouse. He had to have been here and it fell out of his pocket."
"Well, at least we're on the right track." Perry started to look around for more clues.
Clark woke again and was able to push himself to a sitting position this time. The effects of the Kryptonite were starting to wear off a little bit, at least. He heard footsteps above his head. His superhearing was a long way from being usable, but he tried to listen carefully to see if he could figure out where he was and who was holding him.
He couldn't really make out what was being said but caught a word here and there. Stupid… tie… volume control…
"Lois." His voice was barely a hoarse whisper. She'd never be able to hear him if that was all he could squeak out.
He heard another voice, but couldn't quite make out who it was or what the voice was saying. Probably Jimmy. Maybe there was some hope after all.
"Well, look what we got here." The voice came from behind where Lois and Perry were bending over looking at what turned out to be nothing.
Lois and Perry looked at each other. The gig was up.
"Turn around slowly, hands in the air."
Lois and Perry complied and came face to face with the man from the Star Labs video.
"I'm not even going to ask how you got here. You probably wouldn't tell me anyway. Let's go. Larry! Take 'em downstairs!"
Another man appeared out of the darkness, also holding a gun.
Lois, never one to remain quiet, began to speak. "Don't you know who you're dealing with? We're both personal friends of Superman. He'll be here in no time to save us. All we have to do is call him."
"Go right ahead." For all of his technical knowledge, Joe wasn't all that street smart. "We've got Kryptonite and as soon as the big banana shows up, it'll be lights out for Supes."
Lois had opened her mouth to call for the hero, but quickly clamped it shut. She mentally kicked herself. Of course he had Kryptonite. He was the one who stole it from Star Labs. Calling Superman would have been the worst thing she could have done.
Perry and Lois followed Joe to a door hidden in a dark corner of the room. The stairs were narrow and treacherous, but they made it down without incident. Larry brought up the rear, making threatening noises that kept Lois from trying anything. The room at the bottom of the stairs was brightly lit and it hurt Lois' eyes.
Joe unlocked and then pulled on a heavy door opened reluctantly with a slight sucking noise.
Lois heard a groan from inside. She looked more closely. "CLARK!" She ran inside and sat on the floor next to him. "Clark, are you okay?"
She barely recognized the face that looked back up at her. "Clark, what did they do to you?" Her voice was barely a whisper.
Joe laughed. "How touching. We'll see if Superman finds the three of you now." Joe walked into the small room, pushing Perry in front of him and carrying the silver briefcase. "I'll just set this right here and let you think over what's going to happen when your hero shows up." Joe set the briefcase on the floor and opened it. "Have a nice day all."
The door shut and only the green glow lit the room. Clark groaned in obvious pain.
Lois leaned over him. "Clark, what is it? What can I do?"
"Close… it…" Clark could barely get the words out.
"Close… the… case…"
"It's the only light we have, Clark."
"Please…" Clark's voice trailed off as he lapsed into unconsciousness.
"Clark! Clark! Wake up!" Lois shook him gently.
Perry listened to Clark's breathing that was becoming more erratic by the breath. Not sure why it was so important to Clark, but knowing that it was, Perry shut the case. The light that allowed them to see a little bit immediately disappeared.
"I can't see him, Perry!"
Perry crawled over to sit by Lois' side. "His breathing is better, Lois."
"It is, isn't it?" Lois was only slightly relieved. "But he's still not awake."
"He's obviously had a rough couple of days, darlin'. He'll snap out of it before too long."
"Well, I want to see those cuts on his face and see if I can clean them up." Lois crawled back over to the briefcase and opened it.
As the green light began to fill the room, Perry noticed Clark's breathing take a turn for the worse again. "Close it, Lois." His voice carried the authority that Lois knew not to question.
She complied and crawled back to his side. "What is it, Perry?"
Lois listened to Clark's breathing. "It's fine. Getting better by the minute."
"But it wasn't. As soon as you opened that dang thing it got worse."
"So? He's having spells. It happens." Lois was concerned about her best friend, but didn't see what Perry was getting at.
"No, Lois. I think there's more to it than that."
"Think about it for a minute, Lois. How long has Clark been here?"
"A couple of days."
"How long since he first arrived in Metropolis?"
"A little over a year." Lois shrugged into the darkness. "I don't see where you're going with this."
"Bear with me. How long has Superman been missing?"
"I don't know. Who knows where he is? It's not like I call him every day or something."
"How long has it been since he's been on a rescue?"
Lois thought for a minute. "Monday afternoon, I guess."
"So, a couple of days."
"How long since Superman showed up?"
"Since the space shuttle almost exploded. Why are you asking all these questions about Clark and Superman? What do they have to do with…" Lois stopped. "It's been a little over a year since Superman showed up. It's been a little over a year since Clark started at the Planet. Neither one has been seen in a couple of days. I think I see where you're going with this, Perry, but I don't know that I buy it. Clark related to Superman? I don't buy it."
"I don't think that they're related, Lois. I think that Clark IS Superman."
"You're crazy." Lois didn't give it another thought.
"You're an investigative reporter, Lois. Put the pieces together."
For what seemed like an eternity, Lois sat in the darkness and contemplated what Perry had said.
Could Clark be Superman?
It didn't seem possible. The timing was right, she'd give Perry that much, but she'd have to think about this some more.
"You might be right."
"Wha…?" Perry sat up, shaken out of the slumber he had fallen into.
Lois sighed. "I said that you might be right."
"Clark being Superman."
"Oh, that. I know I'm right. What took you so long?"
"I don't want to believe it. I still don't want to, even though I think I've convinced myself it's possible. I've been so close to both of them, to him. How could I not know? You must think I'm galactically stupid or something."
"Why would I, Lois? I just figured it out myself and only then because both times we closed the Kryptonite, he seemed to get better. Kryptonite only affects Superman, not humans. Therefore, Clark must not be human. He wanted it shut pretty bad. He must be in some real pain. You know, I don't think I even have an Elvis story that could apply to this situation."
"That's a first," Lois mumbled almost under her breath.
"I heard that and I'll come up with plenty soon enough, just for that remark."
Lois and Perry sat in silence, listening to Clark's now even breathing, each contemplating this revelation. Perry felt bad for Lois. He knew this was harder on her than it was on him, no question about it. She had been in love with Superman forever. Clark had been her best friend almost as long. She was feeling hurt and betrayed and he didn't blame her. He heard her soft sobs through the darkness.
Perry moved to sit closer to his star reporter. He put an arm around her shoulders and pulled her head to his shoulder, holding her as she cried.
"Why didn't he tell me? How could I be so stupid? How could Clark — Superman — be so cruel?"
Perry had no answer for her, so he did the only thing he could do. He held her a little closer.
The voice startled her. It was weak and barely made it into her consciousness.
"Clark?" she murmured. "Where are you, Clark? I can't find you anywhere. I've looked everywhere and I can't find you."
The voice was a little louder this time, but not much.
Lois finally realized where she was. "Clark! You're awake!" She squeezed the hand that had somehow found hers.
"Lois, help me."
"I'm right here, Clark. Perry and I are right here."
"I know, Clark. We closed the case. You're going to be okay."
"They want to kill Superman."
"I know, Clark."
"They'll do anything to you to get to…"
Lois' eyes watered as she realized that he was trying to protect her.
"I know, Clark."
"It's me they want, not you."
"I know, Clark."
Clark finally opened his eyes and stared into the black space as he realized what he had just said. And what Lois had said back. He struggled to sit up.
Lois gently held him down. "Just rest, Clark. I know the Kryptonite has really drained you."
"What do you mean?"
"I know you're Superman, Clark. So does Perry."
"We figured it out, Clark. We could see the effect that the Kryptonite had on you."
Clark sighed. "You must hate me."
"No, I don't hate you."
"You probably never want to see me again."
"I don't mind seeing you, as long as it's not in here. I'm ready to get out of here."
"I'm sorry I can't get us out."
"It's not your fault, Clark. You're hurt."
"I'm Superman, I don't get hurt. I can always save everyone, remember?"
"No, you can't. Sometimes you just can't get there in time. You couldn't save Lex, for example."
"I wanted to, you know."
"You were with me. How could you have…" Something clicked for Lois. "Why were you with me instead of saving him?"
"I lost my powers, Lois. He locked me in a cage made of Kryptonite and put a speaker in so that I could hear you marry him. He left a key behind, thinking that I wouldn't be able to reach it. Somehow I managed to get out and change and meet you outside just as he fell. I tried to fly, but I couldn't. I couldn't save him."
"He locked you up?"
Clark nodded and then realized that she couldn't see him. "Yes."
"So you couldn't have saved him?"
"No. I could barely walk, much less fly."
"It wasn't your fault then. If he hadn't exposed you to the Kryptonite for so long, you would have been able to save him."
"I should have saved him."
"You can't blame yourself, Clark. You aren't perfect."
"No, I'm not. I'm Superman, and Superman can do anything, remember?"
"I used to think that, too, Clark. You were always the one telling me that maybe he wasn't the demi-god everyone seemed to think."
"Now I know better, and you do too, if you'll admit it to yourself."
"I know that, but remember everyone's attitude's after I didn't save Luthor? And now, how many people have I not been able to save in the last — how long have I been in here anyway?"
"It's sometime Friday night. You disappeared Tuesday morning."
Clark groaned. "So Superman hasn't been seen in almost a week. The criminals must be ecstatic."
"Bobby said they were starting to wonder if you were gone," Lois admitted.
"Great." Clark sounded almost despondent.
"You can't be everywhere at once."
"I know that and you know that, but most everyone else doesn't."
Lois and Clark sat in silence, listening to Perry snore, for several minutes.
"How mad are you, Lois?"
"I was pretty mad."
"I've had some time to think about it. I guess I understand why you didn't tell me at first — no matter how infatuated I was with Superman, I would have written the story."
"And I was just some hack from Nowheresville, so you wouldn't have cared less what it did to me."
"True." They sat in silence again. "But, Clark, you know me better than that now. You are my very best friend in the whole wide world and I would never do anything to hurt you. You know that. So why didn't you tell me?"
"I wanted to, Lois. You have no idea how badly I wanted to tell you. My dad has pounded into my head since I was little that if I ever told anyone they would come and dissect me like a frog. It's hard for me to even think about telling anyone. I wanted to tell you, but how? I'm over at your apartment for dinner one night and between dinner and desert I just blurt out, 'Lois, I'm Superman'? Come on. You'd have been pissed — if you even believed me. You are the best friend I have ever had, ever and I don't want to lose you. I knew that the longer I waited the worse it was going to be, but I was afraid of what would happen — no matter what."
"You're not going to lose me, Clark. I might have gotten mad for a while, but you have found a way to make yourself indispensable to me and I can't imagine my life without you."
"You can't imagine what it means to me to hear you say that."
Jimmy woke with a start. It took him a minute to orient himself. He finally realized that he was in Perry's office and someone was shaking him.
"Jimmy. Jimmy, wake up. Come on, Jimmy, you've got to help us."
Jimmy sat up and shook his head to clear the remaining cobwebs from his sleep-addled brain. "Mrs. Kent. Mr. Kent. What're you doing here?"
"We're looking for Clark. We haven't heard from him and he's not answering his phone."
Jimmy rubbed his eyes. He took a deep breath and plunged in. "Clark is missing."
"What?" The exclamation came from both Kents at once.
"No one has seen him since Tuesday morning. He and Lois were on a stake out and he just disappearing. We started looking for him on Wednesday when we finally realized that he wasn't just home sleeping or returning a movie or getting a haircut or something. Lois and I went back to the warehouse and found signs of a fight. There was something in the dust. Turns out it was the imprint from a briefcase stolen from Star Labs. It had some stuff in it that could…" Jimmy's voice trailed off. "I'm not really supposed to tell anyone this, but I know that Lois and Clark both trust you. It had something called Kryptonite in it."
The startled gasp from Clark's parents made Jimmy look up.
"You've heard of it?"
Martha answered for both of them. "Clark told us all about it."
Jimmy breathed a sigh of relief. "At least I'm not violating anyone's trust then. I would hate to do that." At Martha's annoyed glance, he hurriedly continued. "We went to Star Labs and found a picture of the guy who took it. One of Lois' sources gave us some info on the warehouse where this guy had been seen. We found out all we could, but it wasn't much. That's the last thing I remember. Perry or Lois could tell you more."
"They're not here. A guy named Ralph told us they left together right after you fell asleep."
Jimmy stood up. "They must have gone to the warehouse." He walked into the newsroom and grabbed his jacket.
Jonathan stopped him with a hand on his arm. "We're going with you, son."
Jimmy nodded and the three left the room.
"OW!" Jonathan rubbed his elbow gently and, seeing the looks he was getting from his two partners, whispered, "Sorry, I'm not very good at this stealthy stuff."
Jimmy, Martha and Jonathan moved almost silently through the door Perry had opened before them.
"I can't see anything," Jonathan complained in a whisper.
"Here." Martha dug through her cavernous purse and pulled out two flashlights, one attached to her key ring. She silenced the rattle by encompassing the keys inside one hand.
The three shined the flashlights around the nearly empty warehouse.
"Someone's been here," Jimmy quietly told the other two.
"How can you tell?" Jonathan asked.
"Look here. There's scuff marks and look at this." Jimmy reached down and picked up something up off the concrete. "I think this is one of Clark's ties. Only Clark would wear a tie like this."
"They are unique." Martha shook her head. "I can't take credit for his taste in ties."
The three continued to probe the warehouse until Jonathan came across the door hidden in the corner.
All three exchanged looks and Jimmy slowly opened the door.
"We need to talk."
"I mean, really talk."
"There's so much I want to tell you."
"There's so much I want to know."
"I'll answer any of your questions."
"You're right. You will."
Clark chuckled. "Somehow, I knew I wouldn't have a chance to get away from my favorite tenacious reporter."
"I'm your favorite?"
"Well, it wouldn't be right for me to be my own favorite reporter."
"That never stopped me."
"I know. You've always been your own favorite."
"I'd smack you upside the head if you weren't hurt."
"Do you want to talk here?"
"That's up to you, Clark. You're the one with the secret."
"He could wake up any time."
"So we'll change the subject. Besides, he figured it out first."
"Ask me anything, Lois. I'll answer the best I can."
"Are you Clark or Superman?"
Clark sighed. This was a difficult question to answer. "Both I guess. I like to think that Clark is who I am and Superman is what I can do, but that's not completely accurate. Who I am, all sides of me, make up me. Does that make sense? Would I still be the same Clark if I wasn't Superman — or didn't have his powers anyway? Would I be an effective Superman if I wasn't Clark — if that was all I did? What if someone else had found my spaceship instead of Jonathan and Martha Kent? What if? There are so many what ifs about my life, about everyone's lives. Do you remember my friend from high school, Carol?"
"Didn't I meet her at the Corn Festival?"
"I think so. I talked to her the other day. She's getting ready to have her first child. Her mom died when she was ten and I remember how hard it was for her and her dad and her sister. She misses her mom more now than ever, with the baby and all. But something she said really hit home. She talked about what her life might have been like if her mom had lived. She said that her life would have been so different. In fact, she's not even sure she would have met her husband and wouldn't be having this baby now. She made me realize that everything happens for a reason. We are the people we are today because of each and every little thing that happens to us shapes us and makes us the people that we become. We won't be the same people five years from now because the events in our lives will change us."
"So are you Superman or Clark?"
Clark sighed again. "I think that I am more Clark than Superman, I mean as far as my personality and stuff goes — I kind of made up a personality for Superman hoping that no one would connect him with Clark — but I wouldn't be Clark if I wasn't Superman. Does that make sense?"
"I think so." Lois sat silently for a few minutes. "Does it bother you to talk about yourself in the third person?"
Clark laughed. "That's what my mom worries about the most, but I kinda have to. I mean I can't talk about the things I did that are Superman stuff. I can't just say I was somewhere Superman was, but Clark wasn't. I have to say that I talked to him or else it's all over. I'll never have a private life again if everyone knows that Clark Kent is Superman."
"I guess I can understand that." Lois sat silently for another minute. "Are you going to be completely honest with me?"
"Then there's something I have to ask you."
"Shoot." Clark shifted painfully so that he was sitting more upright. He could feel Lois' arm moving next to his.
"I know what you said, but I have to know the truth, because I really didn't believe you."
"Why did you tell me you loved me?"
The trio of Jimmy, Jonathan and Martha made their way stealthily down the narrow staircase, guided only by the light shining through the crack at the bottom of the lower door. When they reached the bottom, Jimmy listened carefully at the door.
"I don't hear anything," he whispered.
"Then open it," the ever-practical Martha whispered back. "Just be careful."
Jimmy slowly opened the door, wielding Martha's Mag light as a weapon. He looked carefully around the room.
"There's no one here," Jimmy sighed in obvious relief. Clark's parents joined in the sentiment.
Martha immediately asked the next thought to cross their minds. "Where are Clark and the others then?"
Jimmy pointed to a door across the room. "Let's look in there." Still brandishing the flashlight, he walked into the brightly lit basement, followed closely by the Kents.
Jimmy pulled on the heavy door, but was unable to move it. "Mr. Kent, help me with this, would ya?"
Jonathan groaned as he helped Jimmy pull on the door. "If we find Clark and the others, I think we'll be past the Mr. Kent business."
The door creaked as it swung outward.
Clark sat in the darkness, contemplating the question that Lois had asked him. Of all the things he expected from her, upon finding out his secret, that wasn't the one he had been expecting.
"Clark? Aren't you going to answer me?"
"I am. Really. I was just thinking. It's like this, Lois…"
Suddenly, the door to the room opened, bathing them in the light.
Clark emitted something resembling a scream as he covered his eyes.
Lois closed her own eyes tightly for just a moment and then opened them as she prepared to defend herself and her friends.
Perry sat upright, suddenly wide awake as the light hit his closed eyes.
Before any of them could react, three familiar forms rushed into the little room. Martha knelt over Clark, making exclamations that only a mother would understand. Jonathan and Jimmy were close behind. Jimmy was worried about Clark, that much was obvious, but he looked to his other friends once he knew Clark was being taken care of.
Lois stood. "We've got to get out of here before they get back." She turned quickly into the leader they all knew she could be. "Jonathan, you and Perry carry Clark. Jimmy grab that case. Let's go." She didn't watch to see if her orders were being carried out, but took the flashlight from Jimmy and pulled Martha with her.
Clark tried to protest. "Lois, let me go first."
"No, Clark," she called over her shoulder. "Now move it. All of you."
Perry mumbled good-naturedly under his breath about uppity reporters as he tried to help lift Clark. In seconds, Clark was in an upright position, leaning heavily with his father on his right and his editor on his left. Jimmy helped steady the three men and then picked up the silver case.
"Is this what I think it is, Lois?" he asked as he began messing with the clasp.
"Yes. Don't even think about opening it. Just move."
A new voice entered the conversation. "Well, lookey here. Hey, Joe, they're havin' a party without us." The voice stepped out of the shadows holding a 9 mm handgun.
Joe and Larry followed him through the open door.
Joe looked around. "I don't like not being invited to a party, Bob."
Lois stared at the three men intently. It seemed that only Bob was armed with a handgun of any kind. Who knew what the other two had, but it didn't seem to be guns. She was about to find out.
As Lois prepared herself to kick the gun out of Bob's hand, she knew that Clark would be of no help and the two men holding him would be slow to her aid. Jimmy might do some good, but Martha wasn't a spring chicken anymore. She was old enough to be a grandmother, though she wasn't yet.
As Lois took a deep breath and stared at the black metal, she saw a leg come into her line of sight.
The gun went flying across the room as Martha came in for a second shot at the unsuspecting gunman. This shot hit him in the stomach. "Someone grab that!" she shouted, as she continued to hit the larger man.
Larry started to come to his partner's rescue, but Lois was ready. She used a kick that her karate instructor would have been proud of, stopping Larry in his tracks. As he turned to her, she was ready. He charged, only to find himself lying on the floor facing the ceiling.
Joe was making a dive for the gun lying in the middle of the floor when he came face-to-face with the briefcase he had worked so hard to steal. The blow snapped his head back so that when his forehead finally struck the concrete, he was blessedly unconscious.
Within minutes, all three were either out cold or groaning on the floor.
Clark, still unable to stand upright on his own looked at his mother in surprise and admiration. "Mom, where'd you learn moves like that?"
"I'm taking karate lessons," Martha shrugged as she used her foot to keep Bob on the floor. "I knew they'd come in handy someday."
"What about me?" Lois asked.
Clark laughed painfully. "I already knew you could take out any man alive, Lois. You do it on a fairly regular basis."
"I could probably even take out Superman if I wanted to," her voice and expression left no doubt in Clark's mind that he was going to have to come clean about the incident before the wedding and the retraction as soon as they were all safe. "But right now I'd rather get out of here."
Lois and Jimmy used the belts of the trio to tie them up on the floor and the ragtag bunch started up the stairs, more careful this time.
Jimmy stood in the room and pulled out his cell phone. "Inspector Henderson, please. Yes, I'll hold, but make it quick. We found Clark Kent." Jimmy barely had time to take a breath before he heard another voice on the line. "Yes, sir. This is James Olsen. I work with Lois and Clark at the Planet. We found him, but we could sure use your help." With that Jimmy gave the location of the warehouse and was glad to hear that a squad car was in the area and would be there in a few moments.
Glad he had given the briefcase to Lois in exchange for the weapon he stood guard over the three men, unwilling that they should have any opportunity to escape.
Two hours later, all nine of the people from the warehouse were still at the police station. Granted, three of them had less welcoming accommodations than the others, but they were all there.
"Is that all, Henderson?" Lois questioned wearily. The surge of adrenaline that had come while fighting Larry had long since worn off. "I'd like to get Clark to his doctor and go home."
Henderson sighed. He knew if he kept Lois here much longer the infamous Mad Dog Lane personality was sure to come out. "That's it for now. All of you are free to go, but we may have more questions for you later. I'll give you a call."
Lois watched as Jonathan and Perry helped Clark to his feet. His strength was starting to return and he tried to refuse the help.
"No, really. I'm feeling better." Clark's words were punctuated by an almost fall against the closest wall.
"I'm going to help you, son." Jonathan wouldn't take no for an answer and Clark knew it.
Lois looked pleadingly at Perry.
"Come on, Jimmy." Perry put his hand on the younger man's back, leading him out of the station.
Jimmy started to protest; he wanted in on helping Clark out.
He was cut short by the editor. "I can't believe I've been gone so long from the paper. I'm going to need your help to make sure that everything is in top shape. Besides, I want to hear about what happened after Lois and I left. Did I ever tell you about the time that Elvis and the Colonel…"
The Kents and Lois smiled at each other as they listened to Perry drone on about one of his endless Elvis stories.
"Come on. We can take Clark to Dr. Klein at S.T.A.R. Labs. I need to give him something anyway."
After they settled Clark in Lois' Jeep, which one of the Planet employees had been kind enough to drop off, Clark told his parents.
"Who knows what, Clark?" Martha was tired enough that she didn't catch her son's meaning right away.
"She knows, Mom."
"Oh." As it sank in for both of his parents, they remained quiet, knowing their son would explain in time.
To their surprise, Lois was the one to speak next. "It was Perry who figured it out first. When they stuck us in the room with him, they left the box of Kryptonite in with us. I wanted to leave it open so we could see, even after Clark asked me to shut it. Perry closed it, but I opened it again. Perry realized that when the box was open, Clark's breathing became erratic and that it must be affecting him." Lois tried to keep her voice businesslike, but struggled with her emotions as it all sank in. "I would have let you die, Clark." The tears started to overflow her eyes. "If Perry hadn't been there, I wouldn't have closed the case and you would have died. I almost killed Superman." It was a good thing that they had pulled into a parking spot at the laboratory as the tears were clouding Lois' vision.
Clark reached over and took her hand in his.
Martha laid one of her hands comfortingly on Lois' shoulder. "It's okay, honey. You would have figured it out soon enough and Clark would have been fine, just like he's going to be."
Lois just let her head sink to the steering wheel, her body wracked with sobs.
Clark's tortured move to comfort her was stopped by a rap on the glass. Dr. Klein had arrived.
The Kents exited the vehicle, but Martha had to help the distraught woman out. She put a supporting arm around Lois as her husband helped her son.
"Let's get you inside, Superman." Dr. Klein was going to remain in the dark for now.
Clark had slicked his hair back and taken off his glasses in the Jeep. They weren't ready to disclose the big secret to anyone else just yet.
Once Clark had painfully seated himself on the exam table, Dr. Klein began to question him. "Now, Superman, what happened?"
"I was helping Lois and Clark on an investigation. We felt that the suit and the cape were a bit obvious so Clark loaned me some clothes. Some guy jumped me and before I could do anything about it, someone opened the case with the Kryptonite in it. They beat me up." Clark tried to shrug it off.
"Do you have any idea how long you were exposed?"
"Not really. The first time was long enough that, combined with the concussion I think I have or had, that I passed out for several hours. They didn't know I was Superman, just some guy that they thought they could get Superman to save. They exposed me to it a couple more times threatening me and trying to get me to call for… well, me. When I didn't, they'd hit me and leave me locked up again. I wasn't strong enough to get away. Lois and the others found me."
Dr. Klein gave Clark a check-up and then discussed the findings with him. "Well, Superman, it seems that you are already starting to recover from the effects of the Kryptonite. Some of these cuts should have needed stitches, but they are already starting to close up. I would think that you'll be fine in a couple of days, but I don't know how long it will take for your powers to come back. Long story short — no permanent damage."
"Well, that's good." Clark stood carefully. "I'll get out of your hair. And thank you, Dr. Klein."
"Anytime — but I'd rather not see you under these circumstances again."
Clark smiled. "Understood. You got the Kryptonite from Lois?"
"I did. I'm keeping it in a safer place this time."
"Come on, Perry. Please." Lois didn't like begging. "Clark's getting a week off."
"Oh, fine. But only because I can't get you to be quiet any other way. Take a week. Spend it in Smallville with the Kents. And if you see Superman, tell him to check in on Metropolis as soon as possible. Don't want the criminals getting the wrong idea."
"Yes, sir. And thanks, Chief." Lois smiled and hung up the phone. She turned to the Kents. "It's all set. Off to Smallville for a week."
"This was a good idea, Lois." Martha packed some more of Clark's things. "Getting Clark out of town so no one realizes that he and Superman are all beat up at the same time was a stroke of genius."
"I'll just have to make sure that Superman gets back a lot sooner than Clark does."
Martha rolled her eyes.
"You're talking about yourself in the third person again."
"Does he do that often, Martha?" Lois wanted to know more.
"Usually just when he's talking about you."
"We're going to miss our flight." Jonathan walked in to pick up another set of bags. With that, they left Clark's apartment and headed to the airport.
"I hate flying."
"Really? I never knew that. I thought you would enjoy it. You certainly seem to."
"Oh, I enjoy flying, but there's something *wrong* about flying inside a machine." Clark shifted uncomfortably in his seat.
Lois laughed. "Only you would think that, Clark. Here, does that help?" Lois picked up his hand and cradled it gently in her own.
Clark smiled at her. "Yes, it does help." He took a deep breath. "I haven't had a chance to thank you, Lois."
"For saving my life. For not giving up when you couldn't find me. For not hating me."
Clark smiled at her.
"Just not anytime soon. PLEASE!"
Clark's grin started to grow, but quickly changed to a yawn.
"I didn't think you needed sleep."
"I do." Another yawn. "Just not as much as most people." Another yawn. "But I am pretty wiped out from the last few days. The exposure didn't help." He leaned his head against the window and closed his eyes.
Lois looked at their hands. They looked so right together. "Clark, before you go to sleep, you never answered my question." Lois opened her mouth to say something else, but was interrupted by a loud snore. Clark was already asleep.
Lois sighed. She was going to have to wait a little while longer for that answer. She moved the armrest out of the way and snuggled up against Clark and was soon asleep as well.
Clark opened his eyes as the aircraft touched down in Kansas, puzzled by the weight on his arm. He looked to see the chestnut brown hair of his best friend on his shoulder. He smiled. He had dreamed of this moment for over a year, being close to this amazing woman. Of telling her everything. It wasn't the way that he would have chosen, but at least it was done.
"Lois." He shook her gently. "We're here."
"Huh? What?" Lois shook her head. "I had the weirdest dream. You were missing and when we found you there was Kryptonite…" She looked at her partner and best friend, surprised to see the black eye and cut on Clark's forehead. "It wasn't a dream, was it?"
Clark shook his head. "I wish it had been. My head wouldn't hurt so bad right now if it had been. I don't get headaches very often, you know."
"So… none of it was a dream? What Perry said was real?"
Lois let her head fall back against the seat and stared at the ceiling. "I need time to absorb this."
"I know. I think that's part of the reason Perry gave you the week off. He knew that you, and we, would need some time to deal with everything."
"Come on, kids," Martha cut in, standing up across the aisle. "We want to get home before dark."
Lois stood and moved out to let Clark out of the aisle. Clark retrieved their carry-ons and they moved slowly at times, not at all at others, towards the exit.
There wasn't an opportunity to talk on the drive to Smallville. Clark shared the front seat with his father while Lois and Martha sat in the back. Clark and Lois both dozed off again on the drive.
As they followed the elder Kents into the farmhouse, Clark put his hand on Lois' arm.
"Lois, we need to talk."
Lois smiled at him, a sad little smile. "It can wait, Clark. We're both tired and we have all week together. Let's just get a good night's sleep, okay?"
"Are you sure?" Clark's concern was evident in his battered eyes.
Lois nodded. "Yes, I am." And she turned to walk inside.
"Lois, you'll be in Clark's room, and Clark, you'll be on the couch — unless you two…" Martha trailed off as she pointed the two of them.
"Mom, we" Clark pointed to himself and Lois, "are not…"
"Well, I'm a progressive mom. What do I know? I thought you two would be together by now." She shrugged and walked into the kitchen.
Clark shifted uncomfortably as he was left alone with Lois. "Uh, I'm sorry, Lois. I don't know what got into her."
"It's okay. Don't worry about it." Lois moved awkwardly towards the stairs. "I'm, uh, going to call it a night."
"We'll talk tomorrow."
Clark took a deep breath and crossed the room in one large step. "Lois?"
Lois stopped on the first step and turned to look into Clark's eyes. She was almost as tall as him now.
Before she knew what was happening, Clark's hands were holding her arms gently and he was coming closer. She closed her eyes. She wasn't ready for this, but it was going to happen anyway and she was powerless to stop it.
Clark didn't know what possessed him to move to her side, but he couldn't stop himself. She was so close to him, just a few inches away.
And then it was like a magnet had magically been flipped and they were drawn together. All time stopped as their lips touched. The living room faded into blackness and suddenly they were surrounded by stars, fireworks and a meteor shower rolled into one. Lois' arms snaked around Clark's neck and her hands found their way into his thick dark hair. Clark's arms wrapped around her waist and he pulled her closer to him. The kiss intensified until even Clark was out of breath.
Finally, Clark pulled back. The living room walls miraculously reappeared and Lois gasped as she realized that she was in Clark's arms, floating several inches off the floor.
"Uh, Clark?" she whispered.
"Yes, Lois," he whispered back.
"Are your, uh, powers back?"
"I don't think so. Why?"
"I think we're floating."
Clark looked down and then smiled at her. "So we are. Being around you is good for me."
Lois reached up and took off his glasses. "How did I ever think your eyes looked like mud?"
"Nothing." And her arms moved back around him. "I was really wanting some more of this." And she kissed him again.
This was the more reasoned kiss. They both knew it was coming and both wanted it desperately. They knew they still had things to work out, but for now it was enough to be together, to lose themselves in the kiss and forget about the rest.
Martha walked in, mouth open to say something, but it snapped shut quickly when she saw her son and Lois floating, heads almost touching the ceiling, wrapped in each other's arms. She smiled as she turned and left them alone. She had known it would happen soon.
Lois was a pacer. She paced when she was worried. She paced when she was scared. She paced when she was trying to think something through. She paced a lot.
She was pacing now. Clark had walked her to his room after they had shared a few more kisses. He had kissed her softly goodnight and closed the door behind her.
Lois had changed into her nightshirt and laid down, more than ready for sleep, but it hadn't come. Finally, she rose and started pacing around Clark's room. She looked at the pictures and trophies from his high school years, the mementos of days gone by. She wandered aimlessly through the room, randomly opening drawers and poking through the closet.
She didn't know what possessed her to look under the bed, except that she had looked everywhere else. There was nothing there so she paced some more. She explored every nook and cranny of the room and even the closet. She couldn't explain why she did, but she was driven by some inexplicable force. In one corner of the closet, the carpet was loose. She carefully pried it up and found a little hole in the floorboards. Stuck down in the hole was something wrapped in burlap. Lois pulled out the object and when she unwrapped it, she was surprised to see that it was a book. A journal.
Clark's powers were slowly returning. His super-hearing wasn't up to par, but it was better than that of the average human. He could hear Lois pacing around his old room. He sighed. He had hoped that she'd be able to get some sleep, but apparently she was having as hard a time as he was.
The kisses they had shared had been incredible. He had never imagined that he could feel the way he felt about Lois. And to have those feelings returned was astounding.
He lay on the couch with his eyes closed and tried to make sense of all that had happened over the last few days, the last few hours. He didn't intend to fall asleep, but he did anyway.
Lois debated whether or not to read the journal for all of about three seconds. She opened the book and started skimming. The first few entries were pretty boring. Just a kid who liked to write, that much was obvious, talking about the days on a farm and in junior high.
About halfway through the journal, she started to read more carefully. This entry looked interesting.
<<I've known that I'm different for a while, but things just keep getting worse. Dad keeps telling me not to tell anyone or they'll come and dissect me like a frog. I'm not sure who "they" are, but it doesn't sound good.
It's a good thing no one was around this afternoon. It was kinda cold today and I was sitting in the yard thinking how nice a fire would be. The next thing I knew my eyes felt like they were burning and the shed was on fire. Dad came running, and just looked at me. He went to go get the hose and I didn't know what to do. I took a deep breath and let it out real slow, wishing that the fire would go out. The inside of my mouth was freezing and suddenly the fire started to die down. I tried it again and sure enough, by the time Dad got back, the fire was out. I don't understand what happened. I wanted a fire and got one. I wanted it out, and it went out. Maybe it has something to do with what makes me weird.
I mean, I can run faster than anyone, and I don't even feel like I am running as fast as I can. I don't know how fast I could really run. Sometimes it seems like I can hear things that I'm not supposed to, but I don't understand why.
I can't ever tell anyone about any of this. TJ and Joey can't ever know; Lana can't; I can't even tell Matt, my best friend in the whole wide world. I don't know what do to. I feel bad not being able to tell them. I've always been raised to tell the truth and to be honest with my friends and the people that I care about. I'm all alone here in this world. I have my folks, but that's it. There's no one else for me to talk to. They try to understand, but they just don't.
Dad told me last week how they found me. I haven't even been able to think about it until now. It is so out there that I'm not even sure that I believe it.
I know Mom can't have kids — I'll never have any brothers or sisters — and I've known my whole life that I was adopted. I knew my adoption wasn't normal — I thought I was the son of one of mom's cousins — but I never knew how odd it was.
They were driving past Schuster's Field one night and saw something in the sky. Dad's curious nature wouldn't let him pass it by without looking closer. They found a… well, a spaceship with me in it. They had no idea where it came from. For all they know I'm some kind of experiment from the Soviet Union. Our sworn enemies. And I could be some kind of experiment that went wrong. Or I could be a U. S. experiment. Or I could be from outer space. Wow. That was really hard to write. I haven't even admitted to myself that it was a possibility. Dad never mentioned it, but it's possible. I could be an alien.>>
Lois could feel the tears welling up in her eyes. It was obvious the young Clark had cried some as well. In a couple of places on the page, the ink was a bit smudged where the paper had gotten wet.
He had been so lonely. It was obvious how he felt that there wasn't really anyone that he could turn to.
Lois slowly turned the page, wondering what was the next power to develop. To her surprise, the next entry was dated just a few months earlier.
<<I haven't written in here in years. Mom got it for me because she knew how rough growing up would be for me. And it wasn't easy, but after finding out that I could be an alien — and now I know I am — I just couldn't bring myself to write anything down. It seemed too dangerous, so I hid this in the back corner of my closet and haven't looked at it since.
Now I need help working through things. Lois is getting married to Lex Luthor, Superman's sworn enemy. She can't see that.
As awful as that is, that's not the problem. The problem is that I love her. I love Lois Lane. There, I've said it. I love her, more than life itself. There would be nothing better in this world than to be the one she was going to marry. To spend my life with her.
I even told her that I love her and she blew me off. She asked to see Superman and wanted me to get a hold of him for her. When I showed up at her apartment, she told me that she loved me and that it wasn't the powers or anything else. She said she would love me even if I was just an ordinary guy. I wanted to believe her, but I don't see how I could. She had just finished rejecting me as Clark and then turned around and told me she loved me as Superman. More than anything, I wanted to tell her that I loved her too and to fly away with her. I wanted to take her to some little island in the Caribbean or to go see a priest that I know who knows the secret — at a little monastery in North Africa — who would marry us. Anything to get her away from Luthor. I couldn't do it. I couldn't let her love Superman without loving Clark, too.>>
The next entry was a few days later.
<<Lois called off the wedding at the last minute — while they were at the altar. Luthor jumped off the top of the building and I couldn't save him. I wanted to — I swear I did — but I couldn't.
I told Lois that I really didn't love her — that I would have said anything to keep her from marrying Lex. I lied to her again, even though I did have my fingers crossed. The one thing I never want to do is lie to her about anything. I've made such a habit of it the last year that it is almost becoming second nature and I hate it. I guess I know that she could never love me back and I don't want to lose her friendship, so I told her I don't really love her.
Nothing could have been further from the truth. I love Lois with all my heart, but I don't know how to tell her the secret. I don't know how to tell anyone. I think Perry might suspect, but no one knows except for me, Mom and Dad and that priest, who has taken a vow of silence. I want to tell her everything, but how? I've been alone way too long. I don't know how to be honest with her.
I just don't know what to do.
But I do know that I love Lois Lane.>>
By now, tears were running down Lois' cheeks. It was obvious the older Clark had cried some too. Again there were blurry spots on the page. She had always thought that Clark really loved her, but now she knew. She knew how torn up he was about his feelings for her. About wanting to be honest with her, but not really knowing how.
And now she understood Clark a little bit better.
And she loved him all the more.
Finally, she laid down, ready at last to sleep.
Or so she had thought. Lois had thought that she would be able to doze off after reading Clark's journal, but found that she was absolutely unable to. All the thoughts and feelings that had come to the surface while reading what were very personal entries in a very private diary churned inside her mind refusing to allow her to retreat to the netherworld of slumber.
Finally, she stood. She slowly and carefully made her way downstairs, not wanting to wake Clark's parents. She reached the couch and felt carefully at both ends for Clark. She didn't feel a thing, except couch material and pillows. Lois sat on the floor and sighed. Where could he be? She rested her head on the couch and contemplated her next move. She would go find Clark, but she had no idea where to look. He couldn't fly yet, so a rescue was out of the question and she really didn't know the farm all that well.
Lois brushed at a spider web near her face, idly wondering where it had come from. She was annoyed when it came back several more times. She finally looked up to see how she could get rid of the offending item. What she saw made her scream.
Her scream set off a series of events that were difficult for her to recall later.
The first, she later thought, was Clark, falling on top of her. He had been floating in his sleep and her scream scared him into losing altitude, so he fell. Right on top of her.
That's how his parents found them, sprawled on the floor between the couch and the coffee table. Jonathan was in front of Martha on the stairs, having stopped to grab a metal baseball bat from Clark's room on his way. In retrospect, he wasn't quite sure what he planned on using it for — Superman was in his living room after all — but he had grabbed it anyway.
As Martha clicked on the lights, she tried desperately not to laugh as she saw her son and the love of his life squirm. They were trying to disentangle themselves, but they only managed to look like a kind of weird spider with arms and legs flying everywhere.
Jonathan was also quick to assess the situation and began to chortle himself. He had been filled in by his wife on the events of the evening before, including his son kissing Lois near the ceiling.
Finally, Lois and Clark were able to right themselves and both sat on the floor trying to compose themselves. The startling event was still a blur to both of them.
Martha was unable to resist commenting on the awkward situation. "You know, I offered you two Clark's room. You really don't need to sneak around."
Lois' mouth dropped open and Clark muttered an embarrassed, "Mom!" as he quickly moved as far away from Lois as he could without knocking the coffee and end tables over.
Martha could hold back the laughter no longer. "I'm just kidding. You two need to lighten up." Jonathan broke out into a full-fledged chuckle. "Why don't we get some milk and figure out what happened?" She and Jonathan walked toward the kitchen, leaving the other two still trying to decide what to do. "Well? Aren't you coming?"
Clark quickly managed to get to his feet without destroying the living room and then turned to help Lois up.
Her face was bright red as she refused his help and stood on her own. With a flip of her hair, she held her chin high and walked into the kitchen where the older Kents were waiting. Clark looked around desperately for a T-shirt, but couldn't find one close-by. He'd just have to continue to be shirtless.
The silence around the table was awkward bordering on ridiculous. Finally, Martha spoke.
"Look, why don't we just figure out what happened? We heard Lois scream, and I know my son well enough to know it wasn't anything he did, so what was it?"
Lois stared into her tall glass of milk as Clark told what he remembered.
"I was asleep," he shrugged. "The next thing I knew you were flipping on the lights and there we were." As hard as he tried to be nonchalant, his face was turning a couple shades of red, all the way down to his undressed chest.
Lois sighed. "I didn't want to tell all of you this — nothing personal, Martha and Jonathan — but I couldn't sleep. I looked around Clark's room…"
"I know you, Lois. You don't look, you snoop. You were snooping around my room, weren't you?"
Lois waved it off with one hand. "Look, snoop, it's a fine line."
Clark rolled his eyes at her.
"Fine. I was snooping."
Martha and Jonathan shared a look borne of years of nonverbal communication. She and their son were meant to be together.
"So? What did you find in my room that was so interesting? A couple of old yearbooks? Some gym socks that never got washed?"
"No." Lois took a deep breath before continuing. "I found your journal."
"My what?" Clark looked genuinely puzzled.
"Your journal. I guess your mom gave it to you."
The light turned on in Clark's head. "You found my journal? In the back corner of the closet, under an old box of weights, beneath the carpet, standing on end and wrapped in burlap? That journal?"
Lois nodded guiltily. "I was snooping. It's what I do."
Clark started to roll his eyes at her again, until he remembered the last two entries he had made. "You read it, didn't you." It was much more a statement than a question.
Lois nodded again. "Yes, I did."
"All of it?"
"Enough of it."
Martha and Jonathan shared another look. She stood and began to pick up the glasses that sat in front of her and her husband. "I think that's our cue to clean up and go."
"Thanks, Mom, but I'll clean up." Clark looked dejectedly into his glass of milk.
"Thanks, honey." Martha gave Clark a kiss on the cheek and Lois a squeeze on the shoulder. "We'll see you two in the morning." The younger couple nodded as the Kents left the room.
A silence settled in the kitchen after they were gone. Lois refused to look at the man sitting next to her and he did the same.
"So…" Clark began, unsure of what to say.
"So…" Lois knew she should begin, tell him everything, but she just didn't know what words to use.
"So you read my journal?"
"Most of it."
Clark sat silently. He knew what he had written in there and he knew that she had read it and would demand an explanation.
"I skipped most of the beginning."
"You couldn't have skipped most of the end?" Clark asked with a rueful grin.
"Nope. That's not the way snooping works." They sat in silence for a few more minutes. Finally, Lois took a deep breath and continued. "I read the last three entries the most thoroughly."
"I guess I never thought what it must have been like for you growing up. I never thought of Superman as a child, just a superhero. Learning how to use your powers had to have been difficult."
"It wasn't easy, that's for sure. I don't think any other set of parents could have handled it. You read about the shed, I take it?"
"Dad about flipped when I told him what had happened. How I thought I started the fire by looking at it and put it out by thinking it out and blowing really hard. Being fast was about the only power that had really manifested itself at that point, though I could see and hear really well, it wasn't bordering on abnormal yet."
"How did you do it?"
"Master your powers?"
"My mom and dad helped. When the super-hearing really started to kick in it was like there were hammers pounding on my brain. I couldn't block anything out. I heard everything. And I do mean everything." Clark took a sip of his milk.
Clark turned five shades of red. "Well, one of the first things, one of the weirdest things, was my parents, uh… well…"
Lois was soon the same color as Clark. "I get it. You really don't need to go into any more detail than that. I walked in on my parents once, when I was like nine. It's an experience that I have tried desperately to block out."
"After that, I learned how to tune things out pretty quick. I am usually pretty good at it. About the only things I can't tune out are calls for help and…"
Clark smiled into his milk. "I can hear you from anywhere. I was over near Japan once, helping clean up an oil spill. You were mad about something or other, probably that I had run off again and couldn't help you. You hollered 'Clark' and I heard you — all the way around the world. I don't eavesdrop or anything, not on purpose anyway, but for some reason I'm tuned into you and your voice like I never have been with anyone else." Clark laughed just a little bit.
"I have heard Perry around the world before, but I don't think that had anything to do with super-hearing."
Lois laughed at that as well, but sobered as she remembered everything else. "Clark?"
"Why don't you think I could love you?"
"The last entry. You said you didn't think I could ever love you. Why?"
"You deserve the best."
"What's better than Superman?"
"I'm not just Superman, Lois. There is so much more to me than a few powers and a flashy suit."
"It hurt when I told you I'd love you even without the Superpowers, didn't it?"
"The thought that you had a secret identity, that I might know you in another guise, had never occurred to me until we were in that room with the Kryptonite and Perry brought it up."
"Perry's a pretty smart cookie."
"And I'm not?"
Clark looked stunned. "That's not…"
"That's what you mean, isn't it?" Lois stood and started pacing around the room. "I'm stupid. I mean, you've been my best friend for almost a year now and I didn't see it. I've been kissed by Superman. I've been kissed by Clark. And never even noticed the similarities. How dumb am I? You must think I'm galactically stupid. I mean come on. How many medications must you be on as many trips as you made to the 'pharmacy'?" Lois made quote motions with her fingers to emphasize her point. "And books! I've never seen you at a library! And Cheese of the Month… Please!" Tears were starting to stream down her cheeks.
Clark had been trying to interrupt since she began. Finally, in desperation, he took her by the arms and kissed her. Soundly.
Lois struggled for just a moment, but then gave into the kiss with a small groan. Her arms, seemingly of their own volition, found their way from his strong chest, up his bare shoulders and around Clark's neck and into his hair. She felt his arms tighten around her waist and she lost herself in the kiss.
Long minutes later, they both pulled apart as though cued by some director off stage.
Clark stepped back. "I'm sorry."
Lois was still attempting to assimilate what had just happened. And Clark was apologizing? "For what?"
"I didn't know how else to make you stop babbling. I shouldn't have kissed you just then."
Lois smiled at him and reached one hand out to touch his cheek. "If you're going to kiss me like that, I may babble more often."
Clark moved one hand to wipe the tears that were still flowing down her cheeks. "I never thought you were stupid, Lois. You're one of the smartest people I know. I just tried to make sure that you never had any reason to connect Clark and Superman. And Lois?"
"I *am* a member of the Cheese of the Month Club."
"There really is such a thing?"
"Yep. And it really does spoil if it stays in my mailbox too long." Clark pulled her towards him and let her rest her head on his shoulder. They just stood there, enjoying the feel of each other's arms.
"I do have a question for you, Lois."
"What exactly happened tonight?"
"What do you mean?"
"I was asleep and the next thing I knew we were on the floor. Were you trying to maul me or something?"
"What? You think you're just that irresistible?" The smile on her face softened the words.
"Well…" Clark shrugged. "If the cape fits…"
"You are impossible." Lois smacked him lightly on the chest only to brought in a little closer and held a little tighter. "Why a cape, Clark?"
"Mom made it. The tights she had me try on — and there were some doozies too, I think she still has them somewhere — were so, uh, revealing, in other areas, that I was really glad to have my backside covered."
Lois laughed with him at that. "You even told me, well, Amy, that you're mom made it for you. When you kept the shuttle from blowing up."
"I did. We had just, and I mean just, finished making it when I saw the news report. I flew there as fast as I could and made my, uh, big debut." He rested his chin on the top of her head, feeling so comfortable here with her like this. "You still haven't told me what happened."
Lois picked at imaginary fuzz on his well-formed chest. She didn't know how she was supposed to be able to think with his warm body so close. "Well, I thought I could sleep after I read the journal, but I was wrong. Finally, I got up to look for you. I went downstairs, trying not to wake up your parents. When I got to the couch you weren't there. This spider web kept getting in my face. When I looked up to try to get rid of it, there you were. Floating in midair. I freaked." She tried to shrug, but was being held just a little too tightly. "And then you fell. Right on top of me."
Clark chuckled lightly. "I must admit, waking up with you underneath me was an experience I wasn't sure that I'd ever have." He blushed as he realized what he had said. "Not that I thought about it all that much before…"
Lois laughed at him and looked into his eyes. Those deep chocolate eyes that she never knew how much she loved until that week. "I must admit, being on the floor with you on top of me has occurred to me once or twice, but that's not quite how I pictured it." She was turning the same color red that he was, but wanted him to know that he wasn't alone. "You know what one of my favorite memories of last year was?"
"When we were on that stakeout and you, uh, well, threw me on the bed and kissed me. Then that cleaning lady walked in."
"I, uh, knew she was coming and felt I HAD to something." He rubbed her shoulder with one hand. "But I have to admit, I enjoyed it. It was one of the more enjoyable parts of my job."
"Well, we'll have to see if we can't end up on more stakeouts together."
"So you can kiss me some more."
"Do we really have to be on a stakeout for me to kiss you?"
"I guess not."
"Good." With that he lowered his face to hers, lips covering those soft ones he loved so much. Unfortunately, she was yawning at the time. They both laughed, but Clark was a bit concerned for her well being. "You need to get to bed."
"I know, but I don't want to leave you just yet."
"How about this then. Why don't we go sit on the couch and when you fall asleep, I'll carry you upstairs."
"That sounds like a good idea."
"You go ahead and I'll clean up and be right behind you."
Lois kissed his jawbone and walked into the living room and sat on the couch. She was startled when he sat down next to her immediately. "I thought you had to clean up."
"You cleaned up the kitchen already?"
"Yep." Clark settled back against the arm of the couch, one leg propped up along the back of it, and pulled her close to him. He spread the blanket over her. "Super- speed."
"You're feeling that good already?" She snuggled into his still-bare chest.
"I already told you, you're good for me."
They sat in a companionable silence for some time. And that was how his parents found them the next morning.
And then Bureau 39 barged in with Kryptonite. Clark was still without his powers and was unable to stop the bad guys from killing all four of them.
"Where are we going, Clark?"
"You'll see." Clark led her by the hand across the fields on his parents' farm.
Soon they arrived at what appeared to be a child's tree house. As they stood beneath the tree, Clark put his arm around Lois. "This is my 'Fortress of Solitude'. My dad and I built it when I was kid. It was the only place I could go when I was developing powers and needed to get away from everything."
"Can we go up there? Is it still safe?"
Clark laughed. "Yes, it's safe." He pulled her a little closer and kissed the side of her head. "I've never felt safer in my life."
Lois blushed just a bit and started for the rope ladder.
"There's an easier way to get up there."
Lois turned. "Really?"
He stood close to her, hands resting lightly on her waist. Slowly, he floated them into the tree house.
"This is nice, Clark." She looked around and sneezed. "A little dusty, but nice." He cleared a spot on the floor for her to sit down.
"There's something I want to show you." He went over to a trunk that sat along one of the walls. He opened it and took out the globe he had found the year before. "Do you remember this?"
Lois nodded. "It's Superman's globe." Something clicked inside her. "Your globe."
Clark nodded back as he held it in the burlap his father had wrapped it in so carefully. "It's the globe that told me where I was from, what my heritage is." He looked over at Lois. "Only one other person has ever seen any of it, that I know of, and that's when it was stolen." He took a deep breath. "I want you to see it."
"Are you sure, Clark?" Lois was touched that he would want to let her in on this part of his life.
"Very sure." Clark picked up the globe in his other hand and it began to float in front of him. "I've watched this a couple of times since we found it, but not even my parents have seen it. I mean they know about it, but I've never shown them the messages. It's something I only wanted to share with you."
Lois' eyes began to tear up once more as an image appeared in front of them.
"That's my father, Jor-El." Clark spoke softly and then became silent as the image began to speak.
"Kal-El, my son. I wish that I could see you now. You have grown into a fine man with a great capacity to love. In Kryptonian society, we don't value this so much, though it does exist. I have loved your mother since the first day I saw her." A picture of Lara appeared in front of them. "We were married upon her birth, and went through the formal ceremony much later. We didn't actually meet until two days before the ceremony and I have loved her ever since. I know that earth society is much different, especially in the area we are sending you. Kansas is very different from Krypton and they to value love above almost all else. The only reason you are seeing this message is because you have become the man that we always wanted you to be. A man who is strong in character. A man who is pure of heart. A man who puts the need of others above his own. A man who is a man.
"You are here today with the other side of you. You have a birth wife as well, but she will have perished along with the rest of us when the planet meets its end. Unfortunately, we were not able to send Zara with you. So you have found someone who completes you, who is the other side of the whole. Someone who will make you stronger together than you are by yourself."
Tears were running down the faces of both Lois and Clark and he would have sworn there was emotion in the normally stoic voice of his father.
"We are proud of you, my son. We can't know exactly what you have become, but we know that life on Earth will not always be easy for you. We love you and have since the moment we knew you were coming. We always will." Jor-El's image turned slightly so that he was facing Lois. "And we are proud of the woman you have chosen, or who has chosen you, to complete you. It could be no other way. Thank you, whoever you are, for bringing happiness to life of our son. We cannot begin to repay you. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts."
The image faded and the globe settled back into Clark's hand. He carefully wrapped it up and placed it back into the trunk. He returned to sit next to Lois, one arm wrapped securely around her as she snuggled in next to him.
They sat in silence for a few minutes. "Thank you, Clark."
"For sharing that with me."
Clark laughed. "I don't think I had much choice." He turned to look at her and cradled her face in one hand. "I hadn't seen that before and I don't think I ever would have if it hadn't been for you. So it's I who should be thanking you. It was a side of my father I had never seen."
Lois suddenly had a thought. "I wonder…"
"I wonder if there's all different kinds of messages stored in there that you will only get to see when you've reached a certain point in your life. Like when you're holding your child or something."
A devious grin spread across Clark's face. "My child, huh? Lois, we just started dating. It's a bit early to plan a family isn't it?"
Lois blushed. "I'm serious, Clark."
Clark shrugged. "I know. I suppose it's possible. Kryptonian society was obviously a lot more advanced than ours. The globe knew you were here with me and knew that I am totally and completely in love with you." He kissed her gently.
Lois stood a big grin on her face. "Come on. We have an experiment to do." Clark laughed as she picked something up and stood close to him. "Float us down, Superman. We have work to do!"
"…and so, Lara and I thank you. For raising our son and for loving him like he was your own. We can never fully express our gratitude."
The image faded and the Kents sat in silence.
Martha was the first to speak. "Thank you, Clark. For sharing that with us."
"It was Lois' idea, Mom."
"Well, then thank you, Lois, for having the great idea."
"Anytime, Martha. I know how special it made me feel when Jor-El talked like he knew me and I just hoped that there was a message on there for the two of you."
Later that night, Clark took Lois for a float in the clouds.
"About kids, Lois…"
"You were right, Clark. It's a bit early to talk about a family."
"I know that. But, Lois, as much as we'd like to pretend otherwise sometimes, I'm not human. I'm Kryptonian. I don't even know if I can have kids."
Lois wrapped her arms around his neck. "We'll worry about that when the time comes. Right now, there's something else I'd rather do."
"Well, I've never kissed anyone in the clouds before."
A slow, sexy smile crossed Clark's face. "Really?"
"Neither have I."
And with that, there were no more words.