By ML Thompson <email@example.com>
Submitted February 2001
Summary: A day that should have been a dream come true for Lois and Clark turns into a nightmare, forcing Lois and Clark to make some tough decisions. This time will love mean holding on or letting go?
No copyright infringement is intended. I recognize that the characters are not mine. I am just borrowing them for a little fun and not for any profit.
Clark sank to his knees beside the body. Dark red blood was already beginning to pool around the man's head. Clark reached out a trembling hand and felt for a pulse. He closed his eyes when he discovered there was none. The man was dead. Time seemed to stand still until suddenly the area was swarming with police.
"Police. Don't move!" commanded a voice behind Clark.
When it was obvious that the man by the body wasn't trying to escape, the police officer moved closer. "All right. Raise your hands slowly and place them on the back of your head," the officer demanded.
Clark followed the instructions. It was only a moment before he felt the officer grab one of his arms and swing it behind his back. He felt cuffs being fastened around his wrist before the same was done to the other arm.
Once the police officer had secured Clark, he read him his rights. The words, which were familiar to Clark, informed him that he had the right to remain silent and the right to a lawyer.
"Do you want to tell us what happened here?" the officer finally asked.
"He's dead," Clark answered. "I killed him."
EARLIER THAT SAME DAY
Clark stepped out of Star Labs and immediately looked for the sun. When he found it, he turned to face it, allowing the rays to soak into his skin. Lois was going to kill him. A pit began to form in his stomach as it always did when he knew he and Lois were about to have a fight. She would go ballistic the same way she always did when he did something she considered stupid. It hadn't been stupid, of course. It had been necessary and had it been successful, Lois would have been thrilled. The problem was it hadn't been successful and, as a result, Clark was once again without his powers.
For years now, in fact since before he and Lois were even engaged, Clark had been working with Dr. Klein trying to create a vaccine that would protect him from the effects of kryptonite. This time, Clark and Klein had both been convinced that they had succeeded. Without Lois' knowledge, Clark had been taking a pill every morning that they hoped would build up his immune system against kryptonite.
Now that he had been taking it for a month, they decided today was the perfect day to conduct the test. Superman was not scheduled to attend any charitable appearances for the next couple of weeks, so if he did lose his powers he would at least be saved from cancelling those.
So he'd come to Star Labs today to have Dr. Klein expose him to kryptonite. The drug had no effect and Clark collapsed. Klein removed the kryptonite almost immediately, but not soon enough to prevent it from once again robbing Clark of his powers.
He stuck out his hand and a cab stopped beside him. As he climbed into the back, he thought again about Lois. After three years of marriage, Clark knew how she would react. She was going to kill him.
Lois hung up the phone in utter disbelief. When she had gone to see the doctor at Clark's insistence a couple of days ago, she certainly hadn't expected this. She had expected the doctor to tell her she had the stomach flu. Dr. Klein had made it abundantly clear when she and Clark first started talking about children that it was impossible for Superman to procreate with an earth woman. The news had devastated both of them.
Lois shook her head slightly as she thought about the events that had led to this point. When she and Clark were engaged, she'd received a pamphlet from the Rinky Dink Preschool. They had a five year waiting list and wanted five hundred dollars to reserve a spot. Clark asked if they required a child and Lois informed him that no child was necessary — just money.
"That's something we haven't talked much about," Clark responded as he used his heat vision to dry another plate.
"What? Money?" Lois asked.
"Oh," Lois said. This was one topic she hadn't allowed herself to ponder since their engagement. When she was in her early twenties, she'd decided she didn't have time for children. That belief was reinforced over the years as her career took off. So she held her breath as she waited to be asked whether she wanted to have children, but the question never came.
"Do you think we'll make good parents?" Clark asked instead.
Lois squirmed uncomfortably. Clark obviously just assumed they would have children. Not knowing exactly how to respond she said that she thought so — when the time came. She then corrected herself to say that he would and that she'd probably catch on.
As a result, they hadn't talked about whether they were going to have children. Lois spent a lot of sleepless nights following that discussion pondering the issue. She had even briefly considered breaking up with Clark. She knew if she told him she didn't want to have children, he'd say that was fine, but his simple assumption that children would be part of their future informed her just how much he wanted a family. She guessed it was understandable. He had no blood relatives. Of course he wanted something that would connect him to earth in a tangible way.
In the end, it had been his concerns about having a family as Superman that persuaded her that they would deal with that issue when the time was right. So when Superman had been told he couldn't have children with an earth woman, Lois was surprised at how devastated she'd actually been.
Of course, Clark had been devastated too. He'd tried to hide it for her sake, but catching him in the middle of the night staring longingly at a bassinet his parents had sent from Smallville told her exactly how hurt he was far more eloquently than any words could have.
They tried adopting. However, they had been denied. The woman claimed Lois was simply too much of a high risk to be allowed to adopt children — dangling over the jaws of death in circumstances so terrifying that she usually required rescuing by Superman was how the woman had phrased it. They tried to fight the decision, but it soon became obvious the agency wasn't about to change its mind.
Lois and Clark hadn't as much as discussed having children for about a year now. This wasn't a conscious decision. It was just that neither could quite bring themselves to initiate a conversation guaranteed to bring the other pain. So they just avoided the subject; Although, Lois would still catch a look of longing in Clark's eyes when he'd hold a friend's baby or they'd hear that someone they knew was pregnant.
Her mind drifted back to the present and she placed a hand over her stomach, smiling as she imagined the look in his eyes when she told him what the doctor had just told her. She was pregnant. According to Dr. Klein, it was impossible, but that didn't stop her from being pregnant.
Before she had a chance to decide how to tell Clark, she heard the elevator doors open and knew that Clark had just stepped into the newsroom. She looked up and, as usual, their eyes met — both pairs of eyes softening at the sight of the other. Lois got up and began making her way towards him as she considered what to do. Part of her wanted to blurt out the news as soon as he was close enough, but the part of her that wanted to find some special way to tell him won out.
"Hey, stranger," said Lois practically bouncing over to him.
Clark smiled. One thing about Lois was that it wasn't difficult reading her moods. "So what's got you so fired up?" he asked.
Lois' smile split her entire face. "I just happen to think I'm in love with the most wonderful man in the world," she responded.
"Should I be jealous?" Clark asked.
She hit him playfully on the chest before taking his hand and leading him into the conference room. The blinds were drawn so Lois closed the door and pulled Clark into her arms for a leisurely kiss.
"Well, whatever it is, the answer's yes," said Clark.
"What do you say we go out to Giorgio's tonight for supper?" she suggested.
Clark raised his eyebrows. Giorgio's was the most expensive Italian restaurant in the city. "Well, you know what pasta does to me," he said.
She smiled. "That's why I suggested it," she purred back.
"Okay, Giorgio's it is. Should I call and make reservations?"
"No, I'll do it," responded Lois. "Tonight is my treat, so I'll do the work."
"I'm liking this mood of yours more and more," Clark said, pulling her into his arms for another kiss. "So what did I do to deserve all this?"
"Can't I just do something special for you? I'd cook, but we both know what a disaster that usually turns out to be."
"The first course, maybe. But dessert is always great," he said, nibbling at her neck.
She pushed him away with a laugh. "We should get back to work. Oh, do you think — unless of course it's unavoidable — the world could get by without Superman tonight?" Then at his immediate look of discomfort, she asked, "What is it?"
"Nothing. I'm sure the world will…"
"Clark!" she interrupted.
Clark let out a short breath. Well, if anything could change her mood, this could. "Well, I just don't think that Superman… I mean, Superman…"
"Spit it out, Kent," Lois demanded.
"You know how Dr. Klein and I have been working on a vaccine to combat the effects of kryptonite?"
"Yes," Lois responded cautiously.
"Well, we thought we'd found one. Anyway, I went to Star Labs today to find out if it works and…"
"Clark, you didn't."
"There was no other way to know if it was effective, Lois," Clark explained patiently.
Lois folded her arms across her chest. "So you're telling me that you voluntarily exposed yourself to kryptonite and now… What? You don't have your powers, I suppose."
Clark took a steadying breath. "Lois, honey…"
"Don't honey me, Clark! How could you do something that idiotic? What am I saying? Between you and Dr. Klein, I'm not sure who is worse."
"I don't know what you want me to do, Lois," Clark responded, his anger finally starting to come through. "If I'm going to find a way to combat kryptonite exposure, I'm going to have to accept that I might lose my powers a few times."
"Don't give me that, Clark. If you knew it was necessary, why did you wait 'til afterwards to tell me about this little 'experiment'?"
"I didn't tell you because I knew how you'd react," Clark responded immediately.
"How I'd…" Lois' voice came to an abrupt halt when the door to the conference room swung open.
Perry immediately knew he'd interrupted a fight. Both Lois and Clark were flushed. They were unable to look him or each other directly in the eye and the tension in the room was thick enough he could almost cut it with a knife.
"Sorry to interrupt, boys and girls, but I thought you'd want to know immediately. Jefferson Cole escaped from prison."
"We're on it, Perry," Lois responded, turning and walking out of the conference room with a final glare at Clark.
Clark looked at Perry before shrugging helplessly and then, taking a deep breath, following his wife.
Perry watched them go. Once they were beyond hearing range he chuckled. Watching those two interact was always entertaining. They loved like no couple he'd ever known and fought the same way. He had no doubt this particular quarrel would resolve itself soon enough — they always did. However, it was bound to be a bumpy ride for the rest of the day.
Still, he had no doubt that the news team of Lane and Kent would get to the bottom of Cole's escape from prison. They had learned years ago how to continue working together even when they were fighting. In fact, Perry suspected that working together helped them get beyond the initial flare of tempers to work quickly through whatever problem existed between them.
Jefferson Cole looked at himself in the full length mirror. He turned, inspecting the suit again. His assistant, Sullivan, had done well. Cole's former assistant, Wolcott, was still in prison so Cole had no choice but to get someone else. He wasn't too concerned about that. After all, Wolcott was something of an imbecile. He snorted. Maybe that was harsh. After all, compared to Cole, most people were idiots. In fact, the only person in his class who immediately came to mind was Albert Einstein — and he wasn't sure that Einstein was really in his class either. After all, Einstein's genius was tempered by ethics. Cole didn't have that problem.
He turned and looked at the expensive suit again. "Very good, Sullivan," said Cole, appreciating the choice of suit Sullivan had purchased for him.
"Why was it so important to have an expensive suit, professor?"
"The way people treat you is determined by a preordained set of criteria that most people won't even acknowledge exist. If you and I were to walk into a car dealership, the salesmen would take one look at me…" He gestured to his suit and clean shaven face. "…And then take one look at you…" He gestured to the jeans and t-shirt his assistant was wearing and regarded the young man's scruffy beard. "…And come to help me first."
"Why would they do that?"
"Because, I look like money and you…" His eyes once again swept the young man in front of him. "…look like you couldn't afford a go-cart."
"Why would I want a go-cart?" asked Sullivan.
"Just forget it," replied Cole in disgust. "Now, did you get the gun?"
"Of course, professor," responded Sullivan. He led Cole over to a drawer and opened it to reveal a number of different guns.
"What's this?" asked Cole.
"I said I wanted a gun," Cole responded. "One twenty-two caliber pistol. One, Sullivan, not an arsenal. Having more weapons than we need is sloppy. And I'm anything but sloppy."
"Well, I just thought…"
"Don't think!" Cole interrupted. "You aren't equipped for it. I spent the last couple of years in prison coming up with this new plan. I won't have you ruining it by thinking."
"Yes, professor," stammered Sullivan.
"Now, get rid of these extra guns immediately. Then I'll fill you in on what I need you to do next."
Cole waited until Sullivan was gone before grabbing a nearby hand held tape recorder and raising it to his mouth. "Memo to self: find new assistant." He lowered the tape recorder and looked around his new accommodations — at least Sullivan had done well in finding this place. It was perfect for what Cole had in mind. Maybe it was worth giving Sullivan a chance. He raised the tape recorder back to his mouth. "Memo to self: cancel previous memo."
Lois had been bent over her computer for more than an hour when she gasped. She doubted Cole would leave Metropolis. He seemed to be fixated on getting his revenge on her, Superman and Dr. Klein for sending him to prison years ago. When he'd gotten out the last time, he'd proven that. He'd had her framed for a murder she didn't commit and had tried to frame Superman and Klein for a scheme to kill most of Metropolis. They'd stopped him, of course. This time he'd been sent to prison for life. If he was upset about the few years he'd spent in jail the last time, he had to be really ticked off now.
As a result, Lois had spent the past hour checking out all purchases and rentals in the city. She'd started by looking for recent rentals under the name of Cole's associates since he had no one he could really call a friend. She had come up empty, but then she'd had a wild idea. She could hardly believe what she was seeing now that her hunch had turned something up.
"What is it?" asked Clark when he heard her gasp. He abandoned his own research and came over.
"You're not going to believe this," said Lois. "Jefferson Cole has rented an apartment."
"In his own name?" asked Clark in disbelief.
Lois gestured to the computer screen. "See for yourself."
As Clark leaned over Lois' shoulder touching her as he had so many times in the past, she closed her eyes. He could be such an idiot at times, but at least he was her idiot. She would make sure that in the future he at least told her before exposing himself to kryptonite, but there was no point staying mad at him. And given the news she had for him, the last thing she wanted was to fight. She let out a breath as he studied her computer screen. They had to work at the moment, but as soon as they left for the evening, they'd have a talk and get things back on track so that they could enjoy the rest of the evening.
"You're right," Clark said in disbelief. "It appears to have been rented about a week ago — before Cole escaped from prison. I suppose it could be another Jefferson Cole."
"Dr. Jefferson Cole?" Lois asked.
"You're right. It's probably him," Clark responded.
"But that's crazy, Clark. Surely he must have figured that someone would check and find out he had an apartment. It's got to be a trick," said Lois.
"Maybe. Or maybe he thought his best strategy was to hide in the open. After all, who would think that he'd break out of prison only to rent an apartment in Metropolis in his own name."
Lois nodded. "Okay, so we go check it out, but…"
"We watch for any tricks."
"So what are we waiting for?" asked Lois jumping to her feet and grabbing her jacket.
Clark smiled as he watched her enthusiasm. "Nothing, I guess," he responded, before following her towards the elevators.
"I'll just be a minute, Clark," Lois said as he pulled the jeep up in front of their brownstone. "If this is a trap, I don't want to be wearing these shoes," she said, hopping out of the jeep.
"Okay, I'll just wait here," Clark informed her, turning off the engine.
As he watched her run up the steps, he thought about their fight earlier. It really hadn't been fair of him to participate in this experiment without talking to Lois about it first. After all, if something happened in the world and he had to just sit back and watch, she would be the one who would bear the brunt of his bad mood. He would tell her that as soon as possible and would promise not to do something like this again without talking to her. Then, maybe, they could make up — and he had to admit he absolutely loved make-up sex. He smiled at the thought.
Getting her shoes was not the only reason Lois had wanted to swing by the brownstone. She had forgotten to make the reservations at Giorgio's. She hoped she wasn't too late. Of course, if she was she'd find somewhere else and act as if it was a better choice anyway, but she figured when she told the woman who owned the restaurant why she wanted the reservations, she'd get a table. The restaurant was a family business and the lady of the family just loved having her restaurant used for proposals, birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions. One good thing about Clark not having his powers was that he wouldn't be able to overhear her phone call. She smiled.
She dug into her purse and pulled out her keys before opening the door and stepping inside. She quickly made her way to the phone. She wanted to make the reservation first so that if Clark decided she was taking too long and came in, she'd at least be finished with the phone call.
"Lois, how nice to see you again," came a familiar voice from behind.
Lois spun around to find Jefferson Cole with a gun trained on her.
"What do you want, Cole?" she demanded. "Don't you know that every police officer in Metropolis is looking for you? Shouldn't you be half way to Mexico by now?"
Cole smiled. "I had a little business to take care of first. You know, I spent a lot of time in prison going over my last plan. I decided that it was a little too complicated. So this time I'm going to get my revenge the old fashioned way." With that he pulled the hammer back on his gun.
"Superman!" Lois yelled, her fear causing her to momentarily forget that Superman didn't currently exist.
In the car, Clark's blood went cold at the sound of his wife screaming for Superman. He threw open the door of the jeep and dashed from the car, heading towards the house as fast as his non-superpowered body would move. His stomach leapt into his throat when he heard a gunshot. Drawing on every bit of strength he possessed, he took the stairs two at a time. As he arrived at the top step, his forward motion was brought to an abrupt halt by a man fleeing the house.
Clark recognized Jefferson Cole immediately. He grabbed the man's lapels as the force of their bodies colliding spun them around.
"What have you done?" Clark demanded.
Cole smiled. "Well, you can either stand here and chat with me or you can see for yourself. But I'd make up my mind quickly which is more important to you. Your wife didn't look too well when we said goodbye."
Clark immediately released Cole and rushed into the brownstone. He gasped at the sight of his wife lying on the floor, blood beginning to stain the front of her shirt. He rushed to her.
"Lois," he said. When she didn't answer, he released her to scramble to the phone that was lying off the hook. He quickly raised it to his ear. When there was no dial tone, he hung up before picking it up again and calling 9-1-1.
As soon as he had placed the call, he rushed back to his wife who was still lying unconscious on the floor. He pulled her body into his lap, placing a cushion from the couch over the wound in an effort to stop the bleeding.
"Don't leave me, Lois," he begged over and over again as he waited for help. He had been such a fool. If he'd had his powers, he'd have been able to get to her before this happened. There had been a few seconds between Lois' scream and the gun going off. But him and his stupid ideas. In order to try to find a way of protecting himself from the effects of kryptonite in the future, he'd allowed himself to suffer the effects of it now — and had thereby left his wife vulnerable.
He was rocking her gently back and forth, tears slipping down his cheeks when the paramedics finally arrived.
All the color drained from Perry's face as he listened to the person on the other end of the phone.
"What is it, Chief?" asked Jimmy, when Perry finally hung up.
Perry looked at the young man before him. It took him a moment to bring Jimmy into focus and a moment more to digest the question.
"That was Inspector Henderson," said Perry slowly. "It seems Cole was at Lois and Clark's house when they went home."
"So they caught Cole?" asked Jimmy confident that, once again, his friends had caught the bad guy.
Perry shook his head. "Apparently, he shot Lois."
"What?" exclaimed Jimmy.
"She's been taken to Metropolis General. They don't know if she's going to live," Perry said, rising slowly to his feet. "I've got…" The normally gruff editor's voice broke. He cleared his throat. "I've got to get over there."
"I'm coming too," said Jimmy.
Perry looked at the younger man. He was about to tell him his presence was needed here — to get tomorrow's paper out. But then he nodded. Jimmy had as much right to be at the hospital as he did. "Come on," he said as he grabbed his jacket and headed for the door of his office.
Jefferson Cole arrived back at the apartment shortly after leaving Lane's apartment.
"Well, phase one is complete," Cole said in satisfaction.
"Umm… I've been monitoring the police scanner," Sullivan informed him.
"And?" prompted Cole.
"Well, Lois Lane, professor… She's alive."
Cole smiled. "Of course, she is," said Cole. "I've studied the human anatomy extensively. I chose my point of impact very carefully. I don't want her dead, Sullivan — at least not yet. Too quick. Too easy. I want that cocky little reporter to suffer like she's made me suffer. I want her to suffer more deeply than she would have believed possible."
"But I thought…"
"That's why you shouldn't think," Cole reminded him. "Remember… This is only phase one. You'll understand better when the final scene plays out."
"But what if you're wrong? What if she does die? The police scanner did say that her condition is critical."
"C'est la vie," Cole responded with a shrug. "In either case, we need to get ready for phase two."
Perry and Jimmy knew they were in the right place when they spotted Clark. He was sitting alone in the waiting room of the ICU. If they hadn't known Lois was the one who'd been hurt, they would have thought they were there for Clark. He had no color in his face and was sitting absolutely still, staring absently at his hands. His clothing was covered with dried blood and his face with dried tears.
"Clark?" asked Perry coming over to where the younger man was sitting.
Clark didn't even look up.
"Are you okay, son?" Perry continued.
Clark finally looked up, but didn't seem to recognize his boss. It was a moment before Clark's gaze cleared and he seemed to realize who was talking to him.
"I'm not the one who was hurt," Clark responded in a flat unemotional voice.
"I just meant…" Perry shook his head. "How is she?" Perry asked instead of attempting to explain his original question.
Clark shrugged his shoulders. "They took her in there…" He gestured absently towards two large swinging doors. "They wouldn't let me go with her." His voice remained without inflection. "They're performing surgery. They won't know anything until it's over."
Perry and Jimmy exchanged concerned looks. "Have you called her parents?" Perry finally asked.
Clark blinked. He hadn't even thought of that. "Umm…" he said, before starting to rise.
"That's okay, son," said Perry, placing a hand on Clark's shoulder. "We'll take care of it. We'll call your folks too."
Clark let out a breath and sat back down. He resumed staring at his hands as Jimmy and Perry went to make some calls.
"Is he okay?" asked Jimmy.
"I don't know, Jimmy. If Lois doesn't make it, I'm not sure he will either."
Clark didn't particularly notice when Perry and Jimmy left. In fact, afterwards he wouldn't remember much about this time at all. He just sat staring at his hands. This was his fault. If he hadn't gone to see Klein today, if he hadn't consented to being part of an idiotic experiment whereby he'd lost his powers, Lois would be fine. He kept hearing his wife scream for Superman. But there had been no Superman. Thanks to him, there had been no Superman and now Lois was fighting for her life.
Clark covered his ears in an effort to keep from hearing that final scream echo in his head. Was that the last word he would ever hear his wife say? How could he live knowing that his stupidity had killed her?
Their fight. She had still been mad at him when she'd been shot. What if she died without ever knowing how sorry he was for participating in Klein's experiment without discussing it with her first? He buried his head in his hands.
He closed his eyes for a moment, but opened them immediately when he again saw his wife's limp body lying in his arms while her blood soaked his pants and shirt. She had been so horribly still. He'd placed a cushion over her stomach in an effort to get her to quit bleeding. He couldn't seem to think of what else to do. For a man who had done so much medical work in the past six years, why hadn't he been able to think of how to help his own wife? He was such a fraud. Superman was unable to protect his own family. If that were true, what good was he? He didn't deserve any of the accolades that had been paid to Superman over the years.
He had never felt so utterly useless in his entire life. He was sitting here in a hospital waiting room while his wife might well be breathing her last breath. The doctor could walk out any second and shake his head informing Clark that he would never again look into those soft brown eyes that seemed to darken in color when she was passionate, that he would never again feel the fire that ignited in his belly when she touched him, that he would never again hear the excitement in her voice when she had finally succeeded at getting to the bottom of a story. Instead, all he would ever hear again was her desperate cry for a Superman who had, in the final analysis, failed her.
He looked again in the direction of the doors where he'd last seen his wife. It should be him in there. He would give anything to be able to take her place — to be lying in there himself knowing that she was safe. She was his life — his whole world. If she died, how would he go on?
He wouldn't go on. Oh, his physical life would — but he wouldn't. He would just be sleep walking through the rest of his life. He shook his head. He would not think about that right now. He couldn't. His chin quivered slightly.
Clark tried praying, but couldn't seem to put together any sort of coherent prayer. So he just repeated, 'Please, God,' in his mind. He would let God — if such a being existed — fill in the rest of the prayer. His thoughts were interrupted by Jimmy's return.
"I went to your place and got you a change of clothes," Jimmy said, coming over.
Clark looked up and focused on his young friend. He attempted to give Jimmy a smile in acknowledgment of his friend's kindness. However, when he saw the tears forming in Jimmy's eyes as a result of his endeavor to smile, he knew he had failed. He shrugged and looked once again at his hands.
Jimmy noticed Inspector Henderson approaching and left Clark to speak to him. As he did, Perry approached.
"How's Lane?" Henderson asked the two men.
"We don't know yet."
"I need to speak to Kent. Apparently, all he said when the police showed up was that Jefferson Cole shot Lane. We need to get any other information he might have."
"Listen, Inspector," said Perry, glancing over at Clark who was still staring at his hands, "I just don't think he's up to answering any questions at the moment."
Henderson glanced over at Clark and had to agree. "Okay, I take it Lane's in surgery?"
Jimmy and Perry nodded.
"I'll be back in a little while. I do need some answers from him though," Henderson said before turning and walking out.
Just then the doors Clark had been watching for, he didn't know how long, swung open and a doctor still in scrubs entered the waiting area. Clark, who'd barely noticed the arrival of his friends or the police inspector, was on his feet and standing in front of the doctor almost instantly.
"Mr. Kent?" the doctor asked.
Clark nodded, barely able to wait for news, although not willing to interrupt for fear that to do so would only slow the good doctor down in getting to the point.
The doctor gestured him back to a chair.
"Just tell me, doctor," Clark demanded, refusing a seat.
The doctor let out a breath and nodded. "As you know, the bullet ripped through her stomach. The surgery was a success. We managed to repair most of the damage, but she lost a lot of blood. It will be a while before we know if she's going to make it."
Clark let out a breath. "How long?" he asked. He felt Perry's hand tighten on his shoulder.
"It will be a number of hours yet."
"Can I see her, doctor?"
"Not yet," the doctor said. "It will take us some time to get her moved. Until we do that, we can't let you in."
"But she's alive," Clark repeated.
"Yes. We do need to talk about the baby, however," the doctor continued. "It…"
"Wait," Clark said, holding up a hand. "There must be some mistake. What baby?"
"You didn't know?"
"You wife was pregnant, Mr. Kent."
Clark gasped. "But we aren't able to have children… She's pregnant?"
"I said, she was pregnant, Mr. Kent."
Clark suddenly felt incredibly dizzy. He stumbled and had to be steadied by Perry.
"Mr. Kent, there is no way the baby will survive the trauma of the surgery. It…"
"Wait," demanded Clark. "So you're telling me that my baby is still alive?"
"At the moment, but I wouldn't count on that continuing to be the case. It's virtually impossible that the baby will survive all this."
"But there's a chance?" asked Clark, struggling to hang on to any hope — no matter how small.
"In theory. However, I need you to…"
"Oh, God," gasped Clark. "That must have been what she was so excited about earlier today. She must have known. That must have been why she wanted to go to Giorgio's."
"That's why she's been sick lately. We're going to have a baby."
"Mr. Kent, you're not going to have a baby. The child won't survive. In the mean time I need your permission to do everything possible to save your wife's life."
"What do you mean?" asked Clark. "Of course, I want you to do everything possible to save her life."
"I mean…" The doctor cleared his throat. "Like I said, it's virtually impossible to save the child." He took a deep breath. "Mr. Kent, pregnancy is very hard on a woman's system. I expect the child will abort on its own. However, if it doesn't… Well, we won't interfere if your wife's condition continues to improve."
"What exactly are you asking me?" Clark asked.
"Even if the baby survived the trauma of surgery, it can't survive if your wife doesn't. I need your permission to place your wife's welfare above that of your child. I need your permission to terminate the pregnancy if it's necessary to save your wife."
"You're asking me to choose between my wife and my child," Clark gasped, stumbling backwards into a chair.
"Like I said, Mr. Kent, the child is not going to survive anyway…" the doctor's voice trailed off. He'd made his point. It was time to let the young husband digest what he'd been told.
Clark sat in stunned silence. Dr. Klein had made it very clear that Superman couldn't have children with an earth woman. The news had devastated both of them. He could still see Lois' face when he'd told her the news. Yet, here she was, pregnant. It was incredible. It was terrible. To find out that your wife was pregnant and that the child wouldn't survive in the same conversation was almost too much to bear.
Now, here he was being asked to instruct the doctor to sacrifice his child if it would help to save his wife. Lois would never forgive him if he did that. She would want to take the risk. She would want him to find a way to save both.
"I don't think I could bear to lose her, doctor," Clark said softly — his voice breaking on the words.
The doctor nodded. He had his answer. He acknowledged Perry and Jimmy, told them that he'd send the hospital chaplain down and made his exit.
"C.K., I'm so…" Jimmy began. His voice trailed off at a look from Perry.
"Let's give him a moment," Perry suggested.
Clark sat in stunned silence. He may have just ended his marriage right now. If Lois survived and the child didn't, she might never forgive him. But a Lois Lane that never forgave him was better by far than no Lois Lane.
So this is what he got for his arrogance. He thought he was invulnerable. He thought he could do anything and so now, not only could he lose his wife, but he'd also lost his child. What type of man was he anyway if he couldn't even protect his own family?
She was pregnant. Had been pregnant — he corrected himself. How could anyone be expected to make the decision the doctor had just forced him to make?
Clark had never felt more impotent than he did at this moment. He kept telling himself that there had to be something he could do to change things, but the only thing he could think of was to storm into intensive care, collect his wife and take her home — after all, if she wasn't injured, she wouldn't be in the hospital. So didn't it follow that if he got her out of here, she wouldn't be injured. He knew it was irrational, but it was still the way he felt. Fortunately, Clark allowed his rational side to win over his emotional side. She needed to be here. He knew that.
He felt like screaming, but couldn't figure out who to scream at. Was it God's fault? The impulse to yell at God was certainly there. So was the impulse to yell at Dr. Klein for exposing him to kryptonite, at Perry for assigning them this story, at Lois' parents for making Lois so determined to succeed in everything she did, at Lois for insisting that she needed different shoes, at the fates for letting him fall in love with Lois, at himself for… He buried his head in his hands.
It was only an instant later when Clark finally found a focus for his anger. Jefferson Cole! The agony of the previous few minutes was instantly replaced by a fury greater than Clark had ever known. There was nothing he could do here. However, that didn't mean Clark couldn't do something. Although it might not help Lois, Clark could at least ensure that Cole paid for his part in this. The address of the apartment. He had the address of an apartment that had been rented in Cole's name. He rose to his feet and headed at full steam towards the hospital entrance.
Clark knew only one thing at this moment — Jefferson Cole was going to regret what he'd done to Lois. He was going to regret it with every fiber of his being. Clark would see to that personally. In that instant, all the beliefs Clark had about the sanctity of human life deserted him. Cole had killed his child and possibly the woman he loved more than life itself. There was nothing left for Clark to do except make Jefferson Cole pay for his crime.
It was as if a smoky glass had suddenly dropped down in front of Clark's eyes. He could no longer rationalize any of this — he could only feel. And what he felt was rage. The kind of rage that blinds you to all reason. The kind of rage that settles down in the depths of your soul and consumes your entire essence until your focus narrows down to a single definable goal — revenge.
"Clark?" asked Perry. "Son, where are you going?"
"I'm going to kill him," Clark responded, not slowing his pace for even a moment.
"Jefferson Cole," Clark spat as the doors to the hospital slid shut behind him.
"He didn't mean that, did he?" asked Jimmy.
"Of course not," Perry replied. "At least the Clark Kent I know wouldn't have. But then… Follow him, Jimmy. Make sure he doesn't do anything foolish."
Jimmy immediately turned and left. When he got outside, he looked around. Clark was hailing a cab.
"C.K., wait up," Jimmy said, heading towards Clark.
"Go away, Jimmy," Clark snapped, climbing into the cab and driving away.
Jimmy stared at the cab in disbelief. What had happened to his friend? He looked around for another cab, but by the time he found one, Clark was gone.
Cole looked around his apartment.
"You got rid of the extra guns?" Cole asked Sullivan.
"Good." Cole looked out the window before continuing, "Then what's taking him so long?"
"Who?" asked Sullivan.
"Kent. How long can it possibly take for him to put the pieces together?" He raised his tape recorder. "Memo to self: next time, leave a trail of bread crumbs."
"You want Kent to come?" Sullivan asked.
"Of course I want Kent to come. Why do you think I wanted you to rent this place in my name?"
"But after what you did to his wife…" gasped Sullivan.
"He's going to be upset with me," responded Cole.
"I'd say that's an understatement," muttered Sullivan.
"And tell me, what do you think will happen to Lois Lane if she fights to live only to find out when she finally comes to that her husband was destroyed while she lay helpless in a hospital bed? Is everything set up?"
"Then I want you to get out of here. Go across the street and get ready for phase two."
Afterwards, Clark would have no recollection of how he got to the apartment building which had been rented in Cole's name. In contrast, his memory of the events that transpired there, although hazy, were such that he would never be able to forget.
Jefferson Cole gasped when Clark entered the room. It was not because he hadn't expected to see Kent. It was because there was a madness in Kent's eyes that startled even Cole. Gone completely was the mild mannered reporter Cole had always believed Kent to be — and for the first time, Cole wondered if he'd underestimated Kent. He'd always figured Kent was nothing more than Lois Lane's shadow. What if he was mistaken? Maybe his life really was in jeopardy.
Clark stormed into the room, his eyes searching for Cole. Once they found him, they never looked away. When Cole moved behind a table to slow Clark's forward movement, Clark simply threw the table over. Clark was not running. His pace, though quick, was deliberate, almost calculated as the rage burned within him.
"Mr. Kent, what are you doing here?" said Cole.
"You know damn well why I'm here," Clark responded, never slowing his pace.
Cole continued to move back towards the stairway. "You should be thanking me, Kent. I can't imagine it could have been very pleasant being married to that woman."
Clark didn't respond. Instead he just continued towards Cole who was now matching his pace, backing away. As soon as Cole reached the bottom of the stairs, he turned and literally fled up them. Clark was behind him, grasping at Cole's pant legs as he followed.
"What? Didn't you have life insurance on her? I'm sorry about that, Kent. I really am, but there's not much I can do about it now," Cole continued.
"She's not dead!" Clark hissed. "At least not yet. Although I'm not sure the same can be said for you." With that, he dove at Cole. Cole managed to sidestep the attack. While Clark recovered his footing, Cole pushed open the door at the top of the stairs and rushed through onto the roof. He managed to get the door closed before Clark could get through.
Clark fumbled in anger with the door for a moment before finally getting it open. Had he been thinking rationally, he might have wondered why Cole was continuing to try to provoke him. He might have wondered if there was a trap on the other side of the door. However, he was, at this moment, far too enraged to conduct any sort of logical analysis of the situation. So he threw open the door to the roof and stepped out. He spotted Cole almost immediately and dove at him.
Clark was surprised when Cole seemed to evade him again. Clark landed on all fours a few feet in front of Cole and then watched in horror. Cole had lept backwards to avoid Clark's tackle and, as a result, had placed a foot on the edge of the roof. He teetered there for a moment, his arms swinging wildly as he tried to recover his balance before falling backwards over the side of the building. Clark stared in silent disbelief at the place where he had last seen Cole before slowly crawling over to the edge of the building and looking down.
Time seemed to slow down. Clark stared at the still form lying on the ground below. His anger — now gone — was replaced by an incredible sense of guilt. He had come here to kill Jefferson Cole and that was exactly what he had succeeded in doing. He immediately lost the contents of his stomach.
"Up there on the roof," Clark heard a voice say from down below. He suddenly realized that the whole thing had been witnessed by others. Completely drained, Clark stumbled back down the stairs, out the door of the apartment building and over to the body.
Clark sank to his knees beside the body. Dark red blood was already beginning to pool around the man's head. Clark reached out a trembling hand and felt for a pulse. He closed his eyes when he discovered there was none. The man was dead. Time seemed to stand still until suddenly the area was swarming with police.
"Police. Don't move!" commanded a voice behind Clark.
When it was obvious that the man by the body wasn't trying to escape, the police officer moved closer. "All right. Raise your hands slowly and place them on the back of your head," the officer demanded.
Clark followed the instructions. It was only a moment before he felt the officer grab one of his arms and swing it behind his back. He felt cuffs being fastened around his wrist before the same was done to the other arm.
Once the police officer had secured Clark, he read him his rights. The words, which were familiar to Clark, informed him that he had the right to remain silent and the right to a lawyer.
"Do you want to tell us what happened here?" the officer finally asked.
"He's dead," Clark answered. "I killed him."
It was some time later when, Henderson drove up. He got out of the car and his jaw dropped at the sight of a dead body and Clark Kent standing there wearing handcuffs. He was covered in a mixture of the dried blood of his wife, vomit and the much fresher blood of the man lying on the concrete. His hands appeared to have been skinned and one of the knees of his pants was torn.
"What's going on, officer?" Henderson asked the young officer detaining Clark.
"This man killed the man on the ground."
"Are you sure?" Henderson asked in disbelief.
"He admitted it, Inspector. Besides, we have witnesses who saw him."
Henderson looked at the desolate expression on Clark's face and knew instantly that it was true. "Who's the victim?" he asked, although he suspected he already knew the answer.
"Jefferson Cole," the officer said. The officer then proceeded to fill Henderson in on what he knew. Henderson walked over to the body, confirming that it was really Jefferson Cole.
"Okay, I want you to get witness statements," Henderson said after the officer was finished. "Also, I want you to contact the U.S. Marshall. Cole escaped from Metropolis Prison. I'll take charge of Mr. Kent."
"But, Inspector, there needs to be two officers present when a prisoner is transported."
"It'll be okay, officer," Henderson said confidently. He knew Clark Kent wasn't in any condition to be much of a problem.
"Inspector," Clark said, speaking for the first time since Henderson had arrived. "Do you know how my wife is?"
Henderson took a long look at Clark. However, instead of responding he directed Clark to the back door of his car. "How about we take a trip by the hospital and see?" he asked quietly.
Clark let out a breath. "Thank you, Henderson," he said simply before allowing Henderson to help him into the car. Without superpowers and with his hands cuffed behind his back, it was not a simple task.
Perry looked up in horror at the sight of Clark being brought into the hospital with his hands cuffed behind his back.
"What's going on here, Henderson?" he growled.
"Clark's under arrest. Before I take him to the station for processing, I thought I'd bring him by here to see how his wife is doing."
"What's the charge?"
"That will be the D.A.'s call. I suspect they'll charge him with second degree murder. However, given the circumstances, I'd say Clark has a good chance of pleading this down to manslaughter."
"What?" gasped Jimmy.
"Cole?" asked Perry, already putting the horrible pieces together.
"Isn't murder two a little steep?" asked Perry. "I mean, given the circumstances."
"Mr. White, why was Clark at Cole's apartment?" Henderson responded. When both Perry and Jimmy looked away, Henderson continued. "That's what I thought. No one has the right to take the law into their own hands. Now, if Clark's lawyer can persuade the D.A. that there was ample provocation, and I'd think that's a very real possibility under the circumstances, he might be able to plead him down to manslaughter. However, in order to do that, Clark will have to show that there was insufficient time for him to calm down before he killed Cole. But then, I'm not a lawyer. I would advise you to get one for Clark."
"How's Lois?" asked Clark, frustrated by all this small talk when his wife was lying in a hospital bed.
"We heard from the doctor a few minutes ago. She's still not conscious, but they're optimistic."
"Oh, thank God," breathed Clark. "And the baby?"
"Baby?" asked Henderson.
"The baby's still alive but the doctor doesn't believe that will continue to be the case much longer."
Clark nodded. "Do you know if they'll let me see her?"
Perry gestured to a nearby nurse. "Can Lois Lane have visitors?"
The woman took in the people addressing her, including the man covered in blood with his hands cuffed behind his back.
"Only one at a time and only family."
"I'm her husband," said Clark.
The nurse regarded him critically.
"It's okay," said Henderson, withdrawing his badge from his pocket and showing it to the nurse. He suspected the nurse was concerned about admitting a man in handcuffs into the room of his wife when she'd been shot. After all, he could well be the perpetrator. "He won't hurt her," Henderson went on to assure the nurse.
The nurse nodded and gestured for Clark to follow her. When Henderson started to accompany them, the nurse repeated her previous instructions.
"I'm sorry, Kent. I can't let you go in there alone. I'm bending the rules enough as it is."
"Ms…" started Clark, taking a look at the nurses name tag, "…Gunn, couldn't you make an exception. I promise he'll stand at the back of the room and won't say a word." With those words, Clark gave her his most sympathetic smile.
The woman studied him for a moment. In spite of his appearance and the presence of handcuffs and a police officer, there was something gentle in his eyes. She let out a short breath before nodding.
"But before you go," she added, directing him over to a chair. He made his way over before turning back to Henderson.
"The handcuffs?" Clark asked.
"Please, can't you just cuff my hands in front of me? I just want to be able to touch her. It may be my last chance."
Henderson nodded and did as Clark had requested.
"Thanks, Henderson," Clark whispered.
The nurse returned a moment later with a basin of water, soap and a cloth and quickly, but efficiently, cleaned Clark's face and hands.
"You don't want to give her any germs," the woman explained.
Once that task was done, the woman led them into the ICU. There were a number of beds with the hospital's most critical patients on the parameter of the room. In the middle was a nurses' station and at the end of each bed sat a nurse, whose sole responsibility was the patient in front of him or her. The nurse with Clark led him over to the appropriate bed.
"Thanks," Clark said softly to the nurse, before turning his attention to the woman in the bed. Quietly, he made his way over. There was equipment situated around her bed and a number of wires and tubes running down and attaching themselves to the woman he loved. Covering her face was an oxygen mask. He took in a deep steadying breath before taking a seat beside her.
Tears slipped quietly down his cheeks as he reached out and gently took one of Lois' hands in his. He was careful to avoid touching the IV which had been implanted in the back of her hand. He bent over and gently kissed her. "My love," he whispered. "I'm so sorry. I don't know what I was thinking. I guess I wasn't thinking." He paused. "They say that you're doing well and that our baby is still alive. I wish…" His voice trailed off. "Whatever happens, Lois, know that I love you." With that, he bent over and gave her another brief kiss.
"We need to get going," said Henderson's voice behind him.
Clark swallowed hard, looking at his wife for one long agonizing moment, before nodding and rising to accompany Bill Henderson from the room. He stopped briefly at the door to take a final look at Lois, wondering if Lois would ever understand what he had to do now.
Clark paced in his cell. This was all so wrong. Where he should be was at Lois' side, but it was his own fault that he was here instead of in that hospital room. If he'd kept his priorities straight, if he'd remembered that his wife needed him to be there for her, this wouldn't be happening. Instead, in one blind instant of rage he'd got his revenge. It hadn't been sweet — as advertized. It had left Clark feeling cold inside. He had never before purposely taken a human life; in fact, he valued and cherished life. Yet Professor Jefferson Cole was dead because of him.
The check in procedure had been humiliating. However, there were a few things to be grateful for. When he'd lost his powers this morning, he'd taken off the Superman suit — so at least that hadn't been found under his regular clothes and without his powers, he didn't have to worry about floating in his sleep — that is if he was able to sleep tonight.
An officer walked through the holding cells, checking on the prisoners.
"Excuse me, officer," said Clark. "Would you be able to call the hospital to find out if my wife is okay?"
"I'm not your message boy," the officer snorted before walking away.
Clark took a deep breath. What had he done? Lois was lying in a hospital bed — whether alive or dead, he didn't know. If he'd had his powers, he would have been able to sneak out to check on her without being noticed, but he didn't have his powers so that wasn't an option. What would happen if she regained consciousness and was told that their baby was dead and that he was in prison? And how would she ever be able to forgive him for what he knew he had to do tomorrow?
Lois struggled against the darkness. Her first thought was how dry her mouth felt. She could hear voices but couldn't make out the words. Suddenly, she groaned inwardly when she heard her mother's voice. Clark. She needed Clark. She forced her eyes open and looked around but couldn't see him. She had been right. Her mother was here and, in typical Ellen Lane fashion, was arguing with her father.
"Mom," Lois said softly in a raspy voice.
Ellen spun around. "You're awake," she said in relief.
"Water?" Lois asked.
Ellen immediately looked for a nurse just outside the private room Lois had been moved to when her condition stabilized.
"How you feeling, princess?" asked Sam Lane, taking his daughter's wrist and checking her pulse.
"Where's Clark?" Lois asked, ignoring the question.
"I don't know," her father responded. "We just got here. He wasn't here when we arrived. Perry and Jimmy are waiting outside though."
"He should be here," said Ellen as an indictment of her son-in-law. She brought a glass of ice chips over to her daughter and gave her a spoonful.
Lois let the ice melt and wet her mouth before speaking. "I'm sure he has a good reason," she responded. After all, there could have been an emergency that had taken him away for a few minutes. Then she stopped. He didn't have his powers. How could he have gone to help out with an emergency when he didn't have his powers? She immediately tried to sit up.
"What are you doing, Lois?" Ellen asked. "You can't…"
"I need to find Clark," Lois said.
"You can't…" Ellen repeated as Lois started struggling to get the oxygen tubes away from her nose.
"Hold on, princess," interrupted Sam. "I'll find out where Clark is if you'll just relax."
Lois studied her father for a moment before nodding. She really didn't feel too good, but she was suddenly terrified by Clark's absence. She could recall that Clark had been waiting in the jeep when Cole shot her. Without his powers, he could very well have been shot too. Was he dead? Was he lying in a different bed in this hospital fighting for his life? She had to know.
"How do I tell her that?" asked Sam when Perry filled him in on the reason for Clark's absence.
"Isn't there some way you can delay her?" asked Perry. "It might be better to wait 'til she's a little stronger before telling her."
"It might be, but she seems to know something's wrong. If she doesn't get an answer that she believes, she's going to be out of bed — searching the hospital for answers."
Perry nodded. That was the Lois he knew. "Why don't we try talking to the doctor about it?"
Sam shook his head. "The doctors are undoubtedly gone for the night. Would you consider talking to her? I haven't given her much reason to trust me over the years, I'm afraid."
Perry swallowed hard and nodded. It was not a task that he looked forward to — telling Lois that Clark had been arrested for murder. Still, the woman lying in that hospital room was important to him. He would tell her. The two men entered Lois' room.
"Hi, darling. How are you doing?" asked Perry, planting a big grin on his face.
"Where's Clark?" Lois demanded, not fooled by Perry's attempt to look as if there was nothing wrong. She could tell immediately that Perry was here to break the bad news — whatever that was.
"He's fine," Perry assured her. "But I tell you, we've all sure been worried about you."
"Perry!" Lois warned.
Perry let out a short breath. He made his way over to Lois' bed and took a seat beside her. "He is fine, Lois. But there has been a… complication."
"What type of complication? Why isn't he here, Perry?" Lois demanded.
Perry shifted uncomfortably. How had this suddenly become his responsibility? "Umm… Do you remember what happened to you?" he asked.
"Yes. I was shot by Jefferson Cole. Wait a minute. I thought you said Clark wasn't hurt."
"He wasn't. But Cole's dead and Clark's responsible."
"Well, it was self-defense. Did the police insist that he go down to give a statement while his wife is lying unconscious in the hospital? When I get my hands on Henderson…"
"It wasn't a case of self-defense," Perry interrupted.
"What are you talking about, Perry? Clark would never hurt someone unless it was unavoidable."
Perry took a deep breath. "When you were hurt and we didn't know if you were going to live, Clark was in a state of shock. Then when he learned that you were pregnant…"
"The baby!" exclaimed Lois, instinctively placing a protective hand on her stomach. "Is the baby…"
"The baby's alive," Sam immediately injected. He didn't add that there wasn't much chance of the baby surviving. She had enough to handle right now.
"Well, anyway," continued Perry. "When Clark found out about the baby… Well, he completely lost it. It still wasn't known if you would live and well, with the baby…" He shrugged slightly. "Anyway, when Clark learned all that, he decided to go after Cole. He went to an address that you had found…"
Lois nodded in recognition.
"…I don't know the details, but Cole ended up dead and Clark was arrested."
"He couldn't be at fault," Lois insisted.
"I'm sure everything will work out," Perry assured her. "He's being arraigned tomorrow. Once bail is set, I'll get the Daily Planet to post it so Clark will surely be here later in the afternoon. We'll worry then about getting it all sorted out."
Lois let out a breath and nodded. Together the team of Lane and Kent could handle anything. They'd get to the bottom of it. "Thanks, Perry," Lois said softly.
Perry squeezed her hand. "You're welcome, honey. Listen, Jimmy's waiting outside. Do you mind if he comes in to see for himself how you're doing? Then we'll get out of here and let you spend some time with your parents."
"Oh, I almost forgot. I need to call Clark's folks. I've been keeping them updated. The earliest they could book a flight to Metropolis was tomorrow."
"Do they know that Clark's been arrested?" Lois asked.
Perry nodded. "They don't know, however, that you're awake. I'll let them know."
"Thanks, Perry. Tell them I'm fine and to wait until Clark's out of prison before coming to Metropolis. We'll give them a call as soon as he's released on bail," Lois said. She knew that Martha and Jonathan would want to be here. She also knew that they were struggling financially this year — the crops were not as good as they'd hoped. She'd send Clark to fetch them tomorrow. He should have his powers back by then. She figured Martha and Jonathan would understand the hidden message in what she'd asked Perry to tell them.
"Sure thing, honey. Boy, I sure am glad you're okay. You had me pretty worried there for a while."
Lois smiled. It wasn't often Perry was able to express his feelings. As a result, it always meant so much to her when he did.
"The baby's still alive?" gasped the doctor the next morning.
The nurse nodded.
"It isn't possible," the doctor insisted. "The trauma of the mother being shot combined with the trauma of her surgery… The baby couldn't possibly be alive."
The nurse handed him the evidence. The doctor studied it for a moment before shaking his head. "Okay, well… I guess I should get in there." With that he headed into Lois' room.
Once there, he checked her out — listening for her heartbeat before listening to the baby's heartbeat. He shook his head in disbelief. The baby was indeed alive.
"So do I pass?" asked Lois.
The doctor sank into a chair beside her. "I don't know how it's possible?" he said in confusion.
"Huhh… Oh, the baby."
"What about the baby?" Lois demanded immediately.
"The baby's fine, Ms. Lane. But that's just what I don't understand. You see, the baby shouldn't have survived. There must be something about that child's genetic makeup. But for some reason that kid really wants to live."
Lois gave a small smile. The doctor was more accurate than he realized. The child she was carrying was a Kryptonian/human hybrid — obviously resulting in something of a super child. "Wait a minute," she suddenly said. "Is that what you told Clark? Did you tell him that his baby wouldn't survive?"
"I'm afraid so, Ms. Lane."
"He didn't even know I was pregnant," Lois gasped. "That must have been… Oh, god, he must have been devastated."
The doctor cleared his throat and rose from the chair. "Anyway, you're doing fine. In fact, I'm absolutely stunned by how quickly you seem to be recovering. Considering how close we came to losing you, it's amazing how well you seem to be doing."
"Then when can I get out of here?"
"Hold on a moment. You had a close call. So did your baby. I'm planning to keep you here for a couple more days at least. Then you will need to rest a lot for the next three or four weeks. No matter how good you're feeling."
"Ms. Lane, I'm sure you don't want to do anything to jeopardize the life of your unborn child. It would be a shame to lose him or her now. And if you don't take it easy, that's exactly what will happen."
Lois let out a short breath before nodding. She hated to admit it, but he was right. She had no intention of doing anything to risk the life of this child. This might be a miracle child, but that didn't give her the right to see how much of a miracle it was.
Clark soaked up all the sun he could get in the police van which transported him to the court house. He was glad to find that the cells in the court house where he was held had barred windows. He needed the sunlight. He would never recover his powers without it. He sat the entire time in the stream of light coming in the window. While he was waiting, the door to his cell opened and a man entered.
"My name is Chris Morris. Mr. White called me last night and asked me to represent you."
"I don't need a lawyer," Clark said. "Do you know how my wife is?"
"Mr. Kent, I've taken a look at your file. Right now, you need to worry about yourself. You've been charged with second degree murder. That's twenty years to life imprisonment. Now, in my opinion, you've got an excellent case…"
"I don't need a lawyer," Clark reiterated, before closing his eyes and leaning back into the sunlight. "And unless you have some information about my wife, I'd really prefer that you just left."
The man continued trying to convince Clark to at least let him see what he could do about getting the charge reduced, but Clark just ignored him. Over the years, he'd seen the things that people claimed in order to avoid responsibility for their actions and he wanted no part of it. He had killed Jefferson Cole. He would own up to that fact — whatever the consequences.
Finally, the lawyer realized there was no point trying to talk Clark out of his intended course of action and left. Clark let out a sigh of relief when the lawyer was finally gone. He didn't need a lawyer for what he needed to do. His only concern now was that Lois would understand. He really wished someone would get him some news about how she was doing.
He closed his eyes and concentrated. He floated up slightly. He breathed a sigh of relief. His powers were back. Still, he'd have to wait for a week or two before doing what needed to be done. He didn't want anyone connecting Clark with the announcement Superman would have to make.
Jimmy and Perry made their way into the courtroom. It had taken all their powers of persuasion to keep Lois from coming with them to Clark's arraignment. However, they had assured her that as soon as bail was posted, they would get Clark over to the hospital. They tried to get a message to Clark about Lois and their unborn child. However, so far everyone had been spectacularly unhelpful.
They sat there for most of the morning, waiting for Clark's case to be called.
"Docket number 892348. The people versus Clark Kent," the clerk finally announced.
Perry and Jimmy sat up straighter at the announcement. Clark was brought in wearing coveralls instead of his blood stained clothes and sporting handcuffs and leg irons. When Clark entered the room, Jimmy, tired of all the problems of trying to get a message to Clark and knowing how frantic Clark must be about Lois, spoke up before anyone could stop him.
"Lois is awake and doing well. Your baby's doing fine too," Jimmy yelled.
The judge immediately rebuked the young man. However, all Jimmy saw was the look of gratitude and relief on Clark's face and the feeling of Perry's hand patting his back.
"Where's your attorney?" the judge asked.
"I believe I have the right to represent myself. I'd like to do that," Clark responded.
The judge looked over at the district attorney.
"We don't have a problem with that, your honor," the D.A. replied. "Mr. Kent is well educated and literate. He's covered trials for the Daily Planet. If he wishes to represent himself, we're prepared to let him."
"Very well," said the woman behind the bench. "But I'm going to appoint counsel to act in an advisory capacity." She glanced around the court room and spotted a young man from the public defenders office. "Mr. Wimpleton, you will act as an advisor to Mr. Kent."
"Your honor, I've got a very full case load at the moment. I just don't think…"
"I don't care, Mr. Wimpleton. You will act as Mr. Kent's advisor."
Wimpleton came over and sank into a chair at the table beside Clark. From the look on his face it was obvious the man wasn't exactly happy about this new assignment.
"The charge is murder in the second degree," said the judge. "Do you wish to enter a plea?"
"I do. I plead guilty."
There were gasps from nearly everyone in the court room.
"Clark, what are you doing?" asked Perry from the body of the court.
"Mr. Kent, I really must advise you…" began Wimpleton.
"Order in the court," demanded the judge, pounding her gavel on the bench.
"Your honor, may I have a moment to speak to Mr. Kent?" asked Wimpleton, once the hubbub quieted down.
"I think that might be advisable," replied the judge.
"I don't want to speak to Mr. Wimpleton," Clark injected. "I know the charge — second degree murder. I know there is a sentence of twenty years to life and I want to plead guilty."
"You realize that by pleading guilty you give up your right to a trial?" the judge asked.
"I understand that, judge. However, I am guilty of the murder of Jefferson Cole. I want to take responsibility for my actions and for that reason, I think my only option is to plead guilty."
The judge studied Clark for a moment before nodding. "Well, Mr. Kent, if that is what you want to do I can hardly stop you. Are you prepared to give your allocution to the crime now?"
"I am, judge," said Clark.
"Clark, what are you doing?" asked Perry from behind.
Clark turned toward his boss. "I'm taking responsibility for my actions, Chief," Clark responded.
"At least talk to Lois before you do this, son," Perry continued.
Clark gave him a sad smile. "She'd just try to talk me out of it. I killed Cole, Perry. The right thing to do is to admit it and take whatever punishment the court deems appropriate."
The judge pounded her gavel on the bench — once again bringing silence to the courtroom.
"All right, Mr. Kent, tell us in your own words what happened."
Clark nodded and began to speak. "Jefferson Cole shot my wife so I decided that I was going to make him pay. I had an idea about where he might be so I went there. I had only one thought on my mind…" Clark paused for a moment. There was an incredible amount of shame in his voice when he continued. "I went there to kill him."
"If you thought you knew where the man who shot your wife was, why didn't you call the police?" asked the judge.
Clark shrugged. "I didn't want him arrested," Clark admitted, not looking at the judge as he did so. He shoved his hand deep into his pockets and stared at the table in front of him. "I wanted him dead," Clark finally whispered.
"What happened when you got there?" the judge prompted.
"I found Cole at his apartment. He was alone. When I tried to tackle him, he evaded me and ran up the stairs. I followed until we were both on the roof. I dove for him. When he tried to avoid me, he fell off the roof. When I looked over the side, he was lying dead on the pavement."
The judge looked over at the district attorney. "Are the people satisfied?" she asked.
"Yes, your honor," the district attorney responded.
"Then on the basis of your plea and the facts as stated, I find you guilty of murder in the second degree. Let's come back…" She flipped open her calendar. "Next Tuesday for sentencing."
"Fine with me, your honor," said the district attorney.
"Is there any way we can get that over with today too?" asked Clark.
The judge looked at the clerk before responding. "Well, there is a light docket today. Does the district attorney have any objections?"
"No, your honor. Mr. Cole was an escaped felon and he didn't have any family. I don't see any reason why we can't proceed with sentencing now."
"Are you sure you want to do this, Mr. Kent? After all, you could call character witnesses…"
"I'm sure, judge."
"I'll be a character witness, judge," said Perry rising from his chair. Jimmy followed the chief's lead. Henderson, who had just entered the court room, also immediately volunteered.
"That's okay, guys," said Clark. "You don't need…"
"I'd like to hear what these witnesses have to say, Mr. Kent," the judge interrupted. Given Clark Kent's unusual behavior today, she wanted to hear from people who knew him before pronouncing sentence.
"What do we tell Lois?" asked Jimmy as they approached the hospital some time later.
"Great shades of Elvis, how am I supposed to know?" Perry responded. Both he and Jimmy were still in a state of shock. Never in his entire life had Perry seen justice — or lack thereof — move so fast. He, Henderson and Jimmy had all given glowing character testimony for Clark. However, the judge had informed them that she didn't have much discretion. The soonest Clark would be eligible for parole would be in twenty years.
"How could he do that?" a woman's voice came from inside Lois' hospital room. "Didn't he even think about how you would feel about him pleading guilty? Imagine our daughter married to a murderer! It's disgraceful. That's what it is, you know. Couldn't he have thought about his family before doing something like this. Didn't he think about how we'd feel."
Jimmy and Perry both recognized the voice of Lois' mother. They looked at each other.
"I'd say she already knows," said Perry.
They cautiously knocked on the door of Lois' room.
"Come in," said a man's voice.
Jimmy and Perry stepped into the room to see Lois staring in disbelief at the television screen while Ellen continued on her rant.
"What happened?" Ellen demanded when the two men entered the room.
"I can't exactly say that I know, Ellen," Perry responded. He made his way over to Lois. "I'm sorry, honey," he said softly.
Lois' eyes finally left the screen and focused on her boss. "What did he do, Perry?" she asked so softly that Perry almost didn't hear her. He had expected to see Lois in ballistic mode. This was infinitely scarier.
"He said that he had to accept responsibility for his actions," Perry responded.
"He really killed Cole?" Lois asked, still unable to comprehend that her gentle compassionate husband could do that.
Perry nodded. "He told about it in his allocution to the crime."
"But why, Perry?" Lois asked, trying to make sense of things.
"Lois, when he took off after Cole… Let me back up here. I don't think I've ever seen Clark quite as lost as when we were waiting to hear from the doctor during your surgery. I kept thinking that if you died, he wouldn't survive either. Anyway, then the doctor came out. He informed us that your surgery had gone well, but they still didn't know if you were going to make it. He also didn't think the baby would survive."
"Clark didn't even know I was pregnant," Lois added. "We've wanted to have a baby for so long and didn't think we could."
"I got that impression from Clark's comments. Anyway, the doctor told Clark that there was no way the baby would survive if you died. So he asked for Clark's permission to terminate the pregnancy if it became necessary rather than risk your life."
"Oh, god," Lois gasped. Given how badly Clark wanted children, he must have been devastated at having to make a decision like that. "What did he say?" she finally whispered.
"That he couldn't bear to lose you."
Tears were by now, flowing freely down Lois' face.
"Anyway, it wasn't long after that that Clark stormed out of the hospital looking for Jefferson Cole. I don't think…" Perry paused before changing what he was about to say. "No, I know he wasn't in his right mind. I tried to send Jimmy to keep an eye on him but he got rid of Jimmy."
"I'm sorry, Lois," Jimmy piped in.
Lois gave Jimmy a sad smile. Things were suddenly becoming painfully clear. Clark had just snapped. He didn't know if the woman he loved — the only woman he'd ever loved or trusted his heart or his secret to — would live and he'd been forced to make a choice between her and a child she knew he would want. It had all turned out okay. She was alive and the hybrid child she was carrying was tougher than anyone knew. Still, it had been enough to send her normally gentle husband over the edge.
"Tell me what happened when Clark got to Cole's apartment," Lois finally whispered. Once Perry had, Lois responded. "But then he didn't kill Cole!" she exclaimed. "Cole fell."
"Sorry, honey," Perry said. "But I spoke to Bill Henderson after Clark was sentenced. He told me that if you try to kill someone and they die like Cole did — trying to get away — you're guilty of murder."
"Twenty years," Lois whispered after a long moment of silence. "How am I…" Her voice broke and she fought for control. "I have to see him," she finally said.
"Princess…" Sam Lane started in his most placating voice.
"I mean it, Dad. I need to see him."
"Okay," said Sam, recognizing the steel in Lois' voice. "I'll make arrangements to get you down to see him tomorrow."
She glanced up at the clock. It was close to five o'clock. She let out a breath before nodding. Besides, she really wasn't sure she'd be able to get out of this bed today. She'd go to see him tomorrow. And she did need some time to figure out what she was going to say to him — other than that she loved him, of course. Nothing would ever change that and he probably needed to hear that more than anything right now.
After sentencing, Clark was taken to the Metropolis Prison. If he'd thought the procedure last night had been humiliating, this was a hundred times worse. Prison officials weren't only interested in making sure new prisoners weren't bringing in any contraban. They also intended to make sure the prisoners knew from the start who was in charge. Therefore, they were subjected to a type of spiritual lesson. By the time Clark was escorted to his cell and met his bunk mate, he was thoroughly depressed.
Twenty years of this. Twenty years of having someone else tell him where to go and what to do while he was there. Twenty years of not being allowed to fly. But most of all, twenty years of not feeling Lois' warm body next to him when he fell asleep at night.
How was he going to be able to face her? From what Jimmy had said, both she and his child were doing okay — at least physically. On the other hand, he had just condemned her to raising their child on her own. No. He wouldn't let her do that. She needed a man who could love her, be there for her when she cried and provide her with the stable home life he knew she craved. His son or daughter needed a man to look up to, get piggyback rides from and help with his or her homework. That didn't give Clark a lot of choices under the circumstances. He knew she would fight him, but this was one fight he couldn't allow her to win. She had to get on with her life and the only way she'd be able to do that was for him to let her go. His heart clenched in his chest at the very idea. Still, it was the right thing to do, the only thing to do, so he hardened his heart. He would do it the next time they talked.
Then there was the question of Superman. He had just made it impossible for him to continue being Superman. He had an idea of how to handle that. He would take care of that as soon as possible. With Lois' pregnancy it was critical that no one connect Clark Kent's incarceration with the cessation of Superman's activities.
However, he'd had no choice but to plead guilty. He'd killed Jefferson Cole. Taking responsibility for his actions was the only honest thing he could do. He hoped Lois would understand that and he hoped that some day, his child would understand that as well.
Lois waited until her parents left before picking up the phone. She was dreading this phone call. She didn't know if Clark's parents would have heard yet about Clark's plea. Part of her hoped they had. After all, how could she possibly explain what had happened when she barely understood it herself? On the other hand, wasn't it better to have them hear about it from someone who loved Clark too instead of hearing it, like she had, from some cold unfeeling news broadcast. She dialed the number of Martha and Jonathan Kent in Smallville.
"Hello," said a woman's voice.
"Hi, Martha," Lois said hesitantly.
"Lois! Jonathan, grab the extension. It's Lois," Martha said before directing her attention back to Lois. "How are you doing, honey?"
"I'm doing fine. The baby's also doing fine."
"Baby?" asked Martha.
"What baby?" asked Jonathan.
"I'm sorry, I thought Perry was keeping you filled in."
"He was, but he never said anything about a baby. Lois, are you pregnant?"
In spite of everything, Lois smiled at the sound of hope in Martha's voice. "Yes, Martha. I'm pregnant."
"But I thought Dr. Klein said you two couldn't have children," said Jonathan.
"He was wrong."
"Oh, honey, I'm so happy for both of you. I know how much you two wanted children," said Martha.
"As if Martha isn't thrilled to death at the idea of being a grandmother," Jonathan piped in.
Lois laughed through her tears. Hearing them sounding so hopeful was both incredibly sweet and terribly painful.
"Have you heard about Clark?" she finally asked.
"Perry told us he was arrested, but he didn't give us many details except to say that Clark would be out on bail tonight," said Jonathan.
"So is he there with you?" Martha asked.
"What's wrong, Lois?"
Lois fought to keep her voice steady. "Well, apparently Clark pled guilty to murder."
"What!" exclaimed both Martha and Jonathan in unison.
"I don't understand," Martha added.
"I hardly do either," Lois confessed, before proceeding to fill Martha and Jonathan in on everything she knew.
"Do you want us to come to Metropolis, honey?" Martha asked when Lois finished.
Lois pulled in an involuntary jagged breath. "I was hoping you'd offer," she whispered, her voice teary.
"We'll catch a flight sometime tomorrow," Jonathan said. "We should be there tomorrow evening."
"Thank you," Lois breathed, closing her eyes. In the three years she'd been married to Clark, she'd come to rely on Martha and Jonathan almost as much as Clark did. With Clark in jail, she needed them here.
"Oh, honey," Martha said. "You don't have to thank us. We're your family."
Lois was accompanied by both her parents as she made her way to the prison the next morning. That was one of the benefits of being the child of a doctor and a nurse. Lois wasn't keen about going with them. On the other hand, she still couldn't move well enough to make the trip on her own — and she had to talk to Clark. The nightmares she'd had last night told her very clearly how much she needed to talk to him. There was only one man who'd ever been able to calm her fears, and unless she talked to him, her fears would just get worse.
"I need to go alone," she informed her mother when they finally called her to tell her that she was next.
"But, Lois…" Ellen began.
"Alone!" Lois repeated in a voice and with a look that left no room for argument. Ellen nodded and sat back down.
Lois passed through security and entered a room with one long table. Down the center of the table was a glass barrier that prevented any contact between the prisoners and the visitors. The table was divided into booths. At each booth was a phone for the visitor and a phone for the inmate. Lois took a seat at the empty booth.
As she waited, she regarded the men and women in the room. The sight terrified her. Most of the visitors were women who appeared to be coming to visit boyfriends or husbands — like her. The idea of twenty years of only seeing Clark through a glass left her feeling incredibly cold.
She glanced at a sign displayed prominently on the wall behind her. 'All conversations can be monitored.' She pulled in a breath. Although she and Clark had nothing to hide of a criminal nature, they definitely had something to hide. She would have to be careful about what she said to Clark.
Lois heard a door open and looked up to see Clark being escorted into the room. A tear trickled slowly down her cheek. How was it that he could still look so gorgeous dressed in prison grey?
Clark drew in a sharp breath at the sight of his wife on the other side of the glass. He'd been told that she was okay. Still, it did his heart good to see that fact for himself. Of course, that didn't change what he had to do. He had to let her go — no matter how much it hurt to do so. No matter what it did to him, he wouldn't allow her to sacrifice the next twenty years of her life for him.
He took a seat at the table across from her. When he noticed the tear slipping down her cheek, he instinctively reached towards her cheek, but his hand was brought up short by the glass between them. He gave her a sad smile and picked up the phone.
Lois' hand came up and touched his through the glass as she too picked up the phone.
Lois glanced around at the sign behind her and back at Clark. He nodded in recognition of her unspoken warning.
"How are you?" they asked in unison.
Both let out a breath when they realized what they'd done.
"I need to hear about you," Clark finally said.
Lois nodded. "I'm doing fine. And they tell me that our baby must have some pretty hardy genes."
"She's really okay?"
Lois actually smiled. "She?" she asked.
He looked slightly sheepish. "It's just a feeling," he responded.
"Yeah, Clark. And I think we can safely say that he…" She emphasized the word. "…is yours. That's the only way he could have survived the last couple of days."
Clark smiled for a moment in appreciation of her light teasing. He would miss that. Suddenly, the full weight of what he'd done and what he was losing as a result seemed to hit him.
"Oh, Lois, I'm so sorry. You were right. If I hadn't participated in that dumb experiment at Star Labs…"
"Don't, Clark," Lois responded.
They both fell silent for a moment as an awkwardness that neither had ever known with the other settled in.
Lois cleared her throat. "I need to know what happened, Clark. I need to understand."
Clark nodded. "I really don't know how to explain it," Clark said, gesturing helplessly. "I was just so incredibly angry. I…"
"No, Clark, that's not what I mean. I think I understand what happened with Cole."
"You do?" asked Clark in disbelief. "Could you explain it to me?"
She gave him a sad smile and traced his hand which was still against the glass with her finger for a moment.
"Do you remember when John Doe tried to kill me?" Lois asked.
Clark nodded. John Doe — who was actually Tempus — had planted a hypnotic suggestion in Lois' mind which caused her to drive her car off a cliff.
"Well, after that, you went to John Doe and threatened that if he did anything to me, he'd see your ethics disappear."
"What does that have to do with…"
"You told me that you did that because you were afraid of losing me. I think that's what happened here. You were not only struggling with my possible death, but you had just been asked to decide between me and our baby."
"You know that?"
"Yes," she responded softly.
"Oh." He paused before whispering, "You must hate me."
"Hate you? Clark, I could never hate you. I love you. I always will. Besides, it wasn't a fair choice — especially for someone who wants children as badly as you. So I think I can understand what happened. What I don't understand is why you pled guilty. Clark, I don't believe any jury in America would have convicted you of second degree murder when they heard the whole story."
Clark removed his hand from the glass and stared at the table in front of him for a moment before answering. "I know that, Lois," he said softly.
"Then why, Clark?"
Clark let out a breath. "Lois, I planned to kill Jefferson Cole. That's what I set out to do and that's exactly what I did. The fact that maybe I could have gotten away with it isn't the issue. I committed murder." He cleared his throat. "Maybe it wasn't fair to you, but I had to take responsibility. If I hadn't, I never could have lived with myself."
Lois watched him lightly trace some doodling on the desk in front of him for a moment as she considered his answer. One of the things she loved most about Clark was that he never walked away from responsibility. He felt responsible when there was a single person he couldn't save. He took responsibility when she did something stupid telling her that that was what being partners was all about — when one person does something, the other takes responsibility for it too. He had understood what he was doing when he'd stood in front of that judge and pled guilty. He had been taking responsibility — just like he always did.
"I love you, Clark Kent," she whispered into the phone.
Clark's head came up at that. "I love you too, Lois," he responded.
"So what do we do now?" Lois asked.
Clark swallowed hard. This was the moment he'd been dreading. He closed his eyes briefly, steadying his pounding heart and making sure his voice wouldn't tremble before saying, "I want you to divorce me, Lois."
"What!" Lois demanded, the tenderness of only a moment ago being replaced by a sense of fear, disbelief and anger.
"Lois, I'm not going to be eligible for parol for twenty years. I don't want you waiting for me. I don't want you coming to see me. I want you to get on with your life. I want you to meet someone else and fall in love and…"
"I'm not going to divorce you, Clark!" Lois interrupted. "I love you. When I took my wedding vows, it was for life. Not until something came along which made life a little difficult."
"This isn't a little difficult, Lois. This is twenty years we're talking about. I don't want you to be alone. Besides, what about the baby? She needs a father who…"
"He has a father."
"…can be there for her. I want you to get a divorce and I want you to find someone else."
"No! I won't do it, Clark."
"Then I will," said Clark. "I don't want you coming to see me anymore." With those words, Clark got up from his chair and made his way to the door that would lead him back into the prison.
"Don't you dare walk away from me, mister," warned Lois, hitting the palm of her hand against the glass for emphasis. "And don't think I don't know that you can hear me," she added. However, her words of warning went unheeded. She watched in helpless confusion as Clark walked through the door into the prison and out of her life for good.
"Miss," said a man's voice behind her. When she didn't respond, he repeated the word in a louder tone of voice. She turned. "There are other people waiting for visits. I'm going to have to ask you to leave."
Lois nodded absently before rising and making her way back out of the room.
Clark placed a hand on the wall in the hall outside the visitor's room to steady himself. He had known it would be hard ending his marriage, but nothing could have prepared him for the pain of that moment. He had wanted to stay around to let Lois get over her initial shock so that they could discuss it rationally. However, once he'd said the words he felt as if a piece of himself had died. He needed to get out of there before the pain he could hear in her voice could undermine his resolve. This was the right thing to do. She might not understand that now, but maybe, someday, when she fell in love with someone else, she would.
"Kent!" said the guard, interrupting Clark's thoughts.
Clark nodded and forced himself to put one foot in front of the other as the guard led him back to his lonely cell. This had been harder than pleading guilty. Lois was more than just his wife — she was his soul mate. Losing her was like losing himself. He didn't know what was worse — twenty years in prison or a lifetime without Lois Lane.
He snorted. That wasn't true. A lifetime without Lois was infinitely worse than twenty years in prison, but he couldn't… he wouldn't let her put her life on hold for the next twenty years and if he hadn't ended their relationship now it just would have gotten harder to do so.
At least now she could begin the grieving process so she could begin to heal. Besides, what he needed to do was accept his sentence. That meant putting the outside world out of his mind and concentrate on accepting his new reality — life behind bars.
It had been twenty years, two hundred and forty months, one thousand and forty weeks, seven thousand three hundred and five days since Clark had made that terrible decision to plead guilty to the charge of murder. Lois had replayed that day in her mind every day since. If only she had dragged herself out of bed that morning and gone to Clark's arraignment. Perry had tried to stop him from pleading guilty. The lawyer Perry had hired for him had tried to stop him. Even the judge and the public defender had tried to stop him. But none of them were her! She didn't know — would never know — if her being there would have made a difference. After all, sometimes Clark took his sense of responsibility a little far. Still… She sighed. She should have gone to the arraignment.
The past twenty years had been hard. She'd lost the brownstone shortly after C.J. was born. It had been rough letting go of the place where the happiest three years of her life had been spent, but she'd simply been unable to keep up with the mortgage payments on her salary alone.
Clark had been as good as his word. He had refused to see her since that day in the prison when he'd told her never to return. There had been more than once that she'd been tempted to follow his advice, but had never been able to follow through. After twenty years, her love for him was as vivid as it had ever been.
Lois arrived at the prison early. She often imagined what he'd look like after all this time. She wondered what he'd think of her. Both excitement and fear coursed through her as she waited for him to walk through those gates. It was the moment she'd lived for for the past twenty years.
It was then that she saw him. She opened her mouth to call to him, but stopped at the sound of another woman calling his name. She turned to see who was there. She gasped.
Mayson Drake was standing there. Lois watched in horror as Clark saw Mayson and made his way over to her. They were immediately lost in each other's arms as Clark sought out Mayson's mouth with his own.
Lois sat bolt upright in bed — sweat covering her. She panted for a few moments as she tried to sort out what was dream and what was real. Mayson was dead — had been for years — but Clark was in prison just as he had been for the last couple of weeks. She let out a breath. This wasn't the first night she'd had this dream since Clark had sent her away. She'd certainly tried to see him since that horrible conversation, but so far he was proving, once again, that he could be as stubborn as she was.
Lois lowered herself back into bed before looking over at the clock. It was four ten a.m. She closed her eyes, hoping she could fall back to sleep.
The hardest thing about prison — other than not seeing Lois — was the lack of sunlight. Clark had searched everywhere that he was free to go in the prison and there was not one room with a window through which he could spend time in the sun. The prisoners got half an hour in the yard every day and Clark found himself looking forward to those thirty minutes. However, even that wasn't always pure sunlight. Although an overcast day did allow some sun to get through, Clark missed the days when he could simply disappear above the clouds to soak up the sun when he was feeling punkish.
At first, Clark had been concerned about having his superpowers discovered in the lack of privacy the prison provided. However, he'd managed to find creative solutions for most of his unique problems. He controlled his floating by tying himself to the bed every night. He'd stolen a sheet from the prison laundry — where he was currently working — and had torn it into strips which he used to tie himself to his bed. Since he slept on the top of a bunk bed which was fastened to the wall, this method seemed to be working. After all, his floating was not based on strength. It could be controlled by very little external pressure.
He'd also found a way to deal with his shaving problem. Before he'd leave the cell in the morning, he'd shave by bouncing his heat vision off a steel plate he'd managed to find and polish up. Then he'd go to the washroom and shave with the rest of the prisoners. On those days when his bunk mate made this method of shaving impossible, he would simply not shave.
He glanced up at the clock. There was still one thing he hadn't yet taken care of. He'd been keeping an eye on the news and so far no one had seemed to notice Superman's disappearance. However, before questions were raised, he knew he needed to attend to that issue. He knew he would be alone in the laundry later, and so he'd notified the press that Superman would be appearing on the steps of City Hall to make an announcement later today. He had kept track of the guard's schedule and figured he had almost thirty minutes when he'd be alone. Given the fact that he could move fast enough to be almost invisible, he was confident he could be gone and back before anyone discovered he was missing.
His folks had come to see him most days. They were planning to go back to Smallville soon. He'd miss them when they were gone. It was so nice seeing someone who cared about him. They kept insisting that he see Lois, but Clark was adamant in his decision. She'd come with his folks on a couple of occasions in hopes that he would recant, but he knew he couldn't. If he backed down, even once, it would keep her bound to him. That wasn't the life he wanted for her. So he'd maintained his position — although to do so was killing him.
He knew Lois was still not back at work although she was recovering nicely according to his parents. He was glad for that. At least if she wasn't at work, she wouldn't know about this appearance by Superman until it was over. He would have to go home to get a suit, but he would fly through the house at superspeed, dressing on the way. She might be suspicious, especially when she heard the familiar swoosh and doors opening and closing, but he should be gone again before she had a chance to react. Of course, if he was lucky, she'd be out of the house or in the washroom or something when he made his way through. Still, his entire body reacted to the idea that he might see her — even if only for less than a second.
"Kent, let's get a move on," came the gruff voice of a guard. Clark scurried to obey. The last thing he needed today was trouble with the guards. They could ruin everything.
Lois was off the couch and at the front door the second she heard the key turning in the lock — just as she was everyday. She waited anxiously as Martha pushed open the door and stepped through.
Martha saw her and, as usual, shook her head. Her heart broke when Lois visibly deflated in response to their silent communication. Every day Lois asked Martha to talk to Clark about seeing her and every day, Martha did. The response was always the same. No.
"I'm going into work," Lois said after taking a moment to compose herself from this latest rejection by Clark.
"Lois, it's too soon," responded Jonathan.
"I've got to do something, Jonathan. I can't just continue to sit here hoping that Clark will change his mind. Maybe work will allow me to…" Her voice trailed off for a moment. "I promise, I'll take it easy. I just need to be doing something."
Martha and Jonathan nodded their understanding. Work was how Lois always dealt with pain. She'd get lost in her work allowing her to forget whatever crisis was happening in her personal life.
"Jimmy, grab your camera and get down there," Perry shouted.
"I'm on it, Chief," the young man responded. He was just heading out the door when he saw Lois.
"Hey, when did you get back? I thought you were supposed to be off for another couple of weeks."
"I was, Jimmy, but it was just too hard sitting at home without Clark."
"I'm sorry," said Jimmy. "Hey, I saw him the other day. He seemed to be doing okay."
"You saw him?" Lois asked the pain in her voice obvious even to Jimmy.
"Yeah," said Jimmy in confusion. Why was that such a big deal? Surely Lois had been to see Clark. "Why?"
Lois shook her head. "Well, I suppose I should go see what Perry might have for me to do," she said instead, slipping past Jimmy and into the newsroom. She could hardly believe the pain that Jimmy's admission had caused. Clark would accept visits from everyone but her. She was his wife. If anyone had the right to see him, it was her. However, he'd informed the prison officials that he wouldn't accept visits from her and as a result, she'd been barred from seeing him.
Perry looked out into the newsroom and saw a dejected young woman making her way towards the office. He got up out of his chair to greet her.
"What are you doing here?" Perry asked.
"It just got too depressing sitting around the house, Perry," Lois replied. "So I decided to come back to work. What have you got for me?"
"Well… I really don't need you today. I've got Frank handling the city counsel meeting today and I've got Ralph covering the pile-up on the interstate. I just sent Jimmy with Simon to cover Superman's press conference. Like I said, there's really not a lot happening…"
"Superman's press conference?" Lois asked in disbelief.
Perry nodded. "I thought you would have heard about it. Yeah, he's supposed to be giving a press conference in…" Perry checked his watch. "…fifteen minutes."
"Where?" demanded Lois.
"In front of city hall. I sent… Lois, where are you going?" Perry demanded of Lois' back.
Clark had been both relieved and dismayed when he'd gone to get the suit and Lois hadn't been there. He had so desperately wanted to see her — even if only for a fraction of a second. He decided it was a positive sign that she wasn't there. It had to mean she was feeling better. And although his parents had been giving him daily reports on how she was doing, Clark still worried. The stress of his situation couldn't be good for the baby.
He wondered — and not for the first time — if pleading guilty had been fair to Lois and their child. Perhaps he should have fought the charges. But almost as quickly as the thought had come, he dismissed it. What hadn't been fair to Lois and their child was for him to have taken the law into his own hands — acting as judge, jury and executioner by taking Cole's life. Pleading guilty had just been owning up to his previous actions. Still, he regretted with his whole heart what he had done to her — to them — to their child.
Still, there was business to take care of and then… Superman would be a thing of the past. He took a deep breath and landed in front of the microphones that had been set up in front of city hall. As soon as he arrived, the crowd of reporters quieted down.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, I called you here to inform you that for personal reasons, I will be unavailable to assist as Superman in the foreseeable future," Superman informed the crowd. He had considered saying that he again had to return to New Krypton. However, that would be a lie.
Lois pulled her jeep up near where the crowd was assembled, got out and pushed her way through the crowd to where Jimmy was taking pictures. She listened in silence to Superman's announcement with a sinking feeling in her stomach.
"Superman, what do you mean by 'the foreseeable future'?" asked a reporter from LNN.
"Just that. At this point, I am unable to say when or if I will be able to return to my previous responsibilities," Superman responded.
Lois studied Clark's face. There was a sadness there that she had never seen before. Still, it was so incredibly good to see him. She drew in a jagged breath. He must have heard it, because a moment later their eyes met.
"What exactly are these personal reasons?" asked the reporter for the Star.
"I'm not prepared to answer that question," Superman responded, pulling his eyes away from Lois. He waited for a moment before saying, "Well, if there are no further questions…"
"So you plan to just abandon the people who lo… care about you because you have a few problems?" said a familiar female voice.
"Lois," hissed Jimmy.
"I'm serious, Jimmy. If Superman has problems, he should be leaning on his friends, not turning his back on them," Lois responded, loud enough that everyone around heard.
Superman swallowed hard. He was hoping she wouldn't be here. He was tempted not to answer the question since she wasn't demanding an answer from Superman. She was demanding an answer from Clark. How could he respond without doing so as Clark?
"Ms. Lane, there are just some problems that a man has to handle by himself. It wouldn't be fair to drag the people he cares about down with him…"
Lois raised her eyebrow. "Shouldn't that be a choice for his friends?"
"Sometimes a person's friends need to get on with their lives," Superman responded.
"Shouldn't that be their decision?"
"Not when they don't know what's best for them."
"Oh, so now you know what's best for your… umm… friends?"
Superman shifted uncomfortably, looking around and noticing the curious looks on the faces of those watching the exchange. This was quickly becoming a full fledged Lane and Kent fight. It was obvious Lois was starting to have problems remembering whom she was addressing.
"I'm afraid I do need to get going. Thank you everyone for your time," Superman said and a second later he was gone. However, as he flew off, he heard one final word come out of his wife's mouth.
"Coward," she yelled after him.
Lois looked around. Jimmy was staring at her open mouthed. "What?" Lois demanded, before turning around and walking away.
In the back of the crowd, no one noticed a young man with a scruffy beard who was holding one of many private video cameras. He continued to tape until Lois Lane arrived back at her car before lowering the camera and making his way out of the crowd.
Clark arrived back at the prison and snuck back in only moments before a guard checked on him. He breathed a sigh of relief when the guard was gone. He'd done it. He'd retired Superman and no one here was any the wiser.
He thought back to the press conference and found his mind unable to think of anything but the moment his eyes had met Lois'. The emotions had hit him as hard as the day he had initially met her in Perry's office. He set down the sheet he was folding and ran his hands through his hair. He had looked away from Lois to avoid the power of the feelings her mere presence could evoke in him. He gave a humorless chuckle. At least by arguing with him, she'd given him something to think about other than how incredible she looked and how much he missed her.
Lois pulled the jeep into the parking lot at the Daily Planet and turned off the engine, but didn't get out. She closed her eyes, trying to control her involuntary trembling. If Clark hadn't flown off when he had, everyone would know Clark's secret identity. By the time she'd shouted 'coward' at him, she'd forgotten she was addressing Superman.
She let herself calm down before getting out of the car and heading into the Daily Planet. As soon as she entered the newsroom, she heard Perry shout, "Lois! My office! Now!" She scurried to obey.
"Yes, Perry?" she asked, not quite looking at him.
Perry studied her for a moment. He'd seen her unprofessional performance at Superman's press conference on LNN. "Do you want to tell me what went on out there today?" he asked.
"What do you mean?" Lois asked, still not meeting his eyes.
"Lois, have a seat," he said. He waited until she did so before continuing. "This isn't about Superman, is it?"
Lois finally looked at him. Thank god for Perry. She and Clark had often speculated about whether Perry had figured out the Clark/Superman connection. She wondered again. After all, why else would he provide her with an excuse for her behavior that didn't connect Clark with Superman?
"No," she whispered.
"Do you want to talk about it?"
She shook her head.
"Okay, then I want you to take a trip over to the prison and have a chat with Clark before going home," Perry said. After all, there was only one person on the face of the earth that could talk Lois down when she got like this. "And that's not a suggestion!" he added.
Lois nodded, rose and walked to the door of his office before stopping and turning back towards Perry. Suddenly, she covered the distance back to Perry's desk.
"But that's just it, Perry. Clark won't see me."
"He thinks I need to get on with my life. He thinks I won't be able to do that if I continue to see him."
"So when was the last time you saw him?"
"Umm… The last time I saw Clark was the day after he pled guilty. Perry, I don't know what to do. I mean, I've thought about using a fake ID to get in to see him. But even if I did, there's no way I can get through to him in that visitor's room. I mean there's a glass between us and we have to…"
"I've been there, Lois," Perry interrupted.
"If only I could have some real time alone with him. I know I could get him to see reason. I just wish…"
Just then Lois' voice trailed off as Ralph stuck his head in Perry's office.
"What is it Ralph?" Perry asked.
"I just wanted to say… Lois, I bet you've changed your opinion about conjugal visits at Metropolis Prison since hubby was thrown in jail."
"Ralph, get out of here," growled Perry. "Sorry about that, Lois. Ralph can be… What is it?"
Lois was no longer listening to Perry. About six months ago, Lois had done an article about Metropolis Prison offering conjugal visits to spouses of inmates. At the time, she'd come down pretty hard on the prison system for wasting money on that type of program. However, Ralph was right. From this end, the program suddenly looked a lot different. "Humm… oh, sorry, Perry. I was just… Perry, do you know someone in the prison system who owes you a favor?"
"Yeah, I think so. Why?"
"I need your help, Perry," Lois said before proceeding to fill him in on her plan.
It was the next day and Lois was back in the full swing of things. She was discussing an idea for a story with Perry and Jimmy when a man in a suit walked up.
"Lois Lane?" he asked.
"Yes," Lois responded.
"I have a delivery for you," the man said. He pulled out an envelope and handed her a clip board, indicating that he needed her to sign for it. She did so and he handed her the envelope.
She opened it and pulled out what appeared to be some sort of legal document. She gasped when she realized what it was.
Jimmy looked at the document over her shoulder. It was a divorce petition and had on it the names of Clark Kent and Lois Lane.
"You're divorcing Clark?" Jimmy asked in disbelief.
"No, Jimmy," Lois responded immediately. "He's divorcing me!" With those words, she glared at Perry. "Have you heard anything from your friend?" she demanded.
Perry nodded. "He's making the arrangements. I'll have details for you later today."
Lois nodded before quickly making her way towards the washroom. She wasn't about to break down in front of the entire newsroom.
"I don't understand," said Jimmy when Lois was out of ear shot. "Why would Clark divorce her? I mean, he's the one in jail."
"Because he loves her," Perry responded.
"He wants her to have a life and doesn't believe he can give her that. So he wants to give her her freedom to find someone else."
"But he must know Lois doesn't want a divorce."
"He does, Jimmy."
"Someday, Jimmy, if you're really lucky you'll understand what it is to love so much that you want the other person to be happy even if it means that you're going to lose her."
"So you think Clark's doing the right thing?"
Perry considered the question. "I think Clark is doing what he thinks is right. The problem is that he is overlooking one little detail."
"That his wife is never going to get past him. It took her a long time to trust someone enough to let herself fall in love. If she loses Clark, I doubt she'll take the risk again."
Clark didn't question the extra time in the sun — even if he didn't know where he was going as the guard escorted him across the yard. That was one of the things that was hard to adjust to — guards often didn't explain their actions. He was escorted to one of a number of concrete structures on the other side of the yard. Clark had seen these structures when he'd been out in the yard previously, but had never inquired as to their purpose. The structures didn't have any windows. Clark didn't bother looking inside. If that was their destination, he'd learn what was inside soon enough.
The guard pulled out a string of keys and after fumbling through it for a moment, opened the door.
"Inside," he said and Clark stepped through the door. As soon as he was inside, the guard closed and locked the door behind him. He looked back at the door in confusion wondering what was going on before reaching for a light switch by the door and turning it on. He looked around the room. There was a table and two chairs and a bed. On the other side of the room, was a door like the one Clark had been brought in through. There was also an open door that obviously lead into a washroom.
Clark snorted. This was an improvement over his normal sleeping arrangements, but why was he here? He walked around the room before taking a seat on the edge of the bed.
Lois had spent a lot of time getting ready for tonight. She wasn't leaving anything to chance. She'd taken out a dress that she knew Clark loved on her. She'd made a trip to the most expensive lingerie store in Metropolis. She had spent a lot of time there finding the exact outfit for this operation — after all, the next twenty years of her life depended on it. She wanted something that would be absolutely irresistible, but wouldn't immediately draw Clark's attention to the scar on her stomach. She knew he would love her body no matter how many scars she had, but her objective tonight was to prove to him that they belonged to each other and she didn't want to distract him with recent events before she'd had the opportunity to convince him of that fact.
Perry had done well setting this up. He had made it very clear that Clark Kent was not to be told whom he was meeting and that he was given no choice in the matter. She had twelve hours — and if this went the way she was determined to have it go, twelve hours every month for the next twenty years.
Given what was at stake, Lois was incredibly nervous. She was also incredibly aroused. The idea of seducing her husband… There was something about it that she found absolutely irresistible. Of course, should she fail, she would be condemned to spending the next twenty years alone. And twelve hours a month was infinitely better than nothing.
She pulled in a long breath as she was escorted through the visitor's gate. She was searched thoroughly. The procedure itself was humiliating, but Lois kept her mind on the goal here — to keep her husband.
Finally, Lois was led inside the grounds and between the fences separating the prison yard from the outside world. As she walked along, she could hear the cat calls and whistles from some of the prisoners in the yard, but she ignored them.
Clark heard the increased noise in the yard. It sounded a little like when a beautiful woman walks past a construction sight, but it was not a noise common in prison. Curiosity getting the best of him, he looked through the walls of the room to see what had attracted such attention.
He was immediately on his feet with his back pressed up against the door he'd been brought through when he saw his wife being led to the door on the other side of the room. Suddenly, what was going on here became very clear. Somehow she'd arranged for a conjugal visit. How had she done that? What was he thinking? She was Lois Lane. She could do almost anything. He didn't know why he hadn't realized what was going on when he'd seen the bed. Lois had actually done a story on conjugal visits about six months ago. He should have been expecting this.
He was torn. He'd give practically anything to make love to the beautiful woman on the other side of that door. But it wasn't fair to her. What type of life would that be for Lois? And if he gave in just this once… No. He had to be strong.
Suddenly the door opened and Clark groaned. She was wearing the good perfume — the stuff she knew drove him crazy. She was wearing a dress that always made him a little dizzy and he didn't think he'd ever seen such controlled passion in her eyes. Her heartbeat was faster than normal, indicating that she was a little nervous although he couldn't see it in her demeanor. He pressed himself harder against the door behind him — reminding himself that he had no right following the dictates of his body. He had to let her go.
"I didn't agree to this," Clark objected to the guard who was escorting Lois.
"Then file a complaint," the guard said, closing the door, effectively trapping Lois in the small room with him. Clark swallowed hard.
The silence in the room was almost palpable.
Lois silently watched Clark. Except for a brief glance when she'd first arrived, he was refusing to look at her. She felt tears come to her eyes but fought them back. There would be plenty of time for crying later. If she lost it now, he would become even more resolute. He would insist that the only way for her to quit hurting was for him to let her go. She focused instead on seducing her husband — and found enough pleasure in that prospect to push all thoughts of tears out of her mind.
It was less than a minute later when Clark's eyes began, almost of their own accord, to run up her body — as if completely mesmerized by the woman he'd married. He took his time, taking in every curve, every detail. The yearning Lois saw in his eyes when they finally met hers was encouraging — even if it was undermined by the words that came from his mouth.
"You shouldn't be here, Lois," Clark murmured.
"And why not?" Lois responded, raising an eyebrow and taking a single step towards him. "Oh, right. You want me to what? Find someone else if I remember correctly."
"Lo-is," groaned Clark.
"Well, that is what you want me to do isn't it?"
"Yes," Clark admitted as he fought to keep his voice steady on the word that was breaking his heart.
Lois paused as if considering the possibility. "You know, I've heard Dan's still available," she finally said.
"Scardino?" Clark gasped.
Lois nodded. "Maybe you'd like me to give him a call. He asked me to marry him, you know," she added. If he was really going to stick to this outrageous idea, she was determined that he not be able to hide behind platitudes. She was determined to make him understand exactly what he was suggesting.
"He asked you to marry him?" Clark asked. This was the first he was hearing of this.
Lois nodded. "When I told him I couldn't see him any more. I wonder if he'd be interested," she mused.
Clark felt his stomach clench into a tight ball. It was hard enough thinking about Lois with another man in abstract terms, but to have her put a name and face on that man was almost too much to bear. Why was she tormenting him like this? He had despised Scardino when he'd pursued Lois years ago. The thought of her in a relationship with Scardino, the thought of Scardino raising his child, was agonizing torture.
"Lois, don't please," he pleaded.
Lois ignored him. "You know I'd do anything for you, Clark. So if you really want me to give Dan a call, I suppose I can. Or maybe you'd prefer Jimmy," Lois continued.
"Jimmy," Clark said in a voice so low she barely heard it.
She nodded. "I mean, he's always had a crush on me. And he is your friend too. What do you think, Clark? Would you prefer to have someone you like or someone you don't like share my bed?"
"Lois," Clark begged. As much as he disliked Scardino, the thought of Lois with Jimmy was worse. His chin quivered slightly at the very idea.
Lois glanced down at her dress. "There's one thing that I'm a little concerned about though. Maybe you could help me out. Do you think I've still got what it takes to attract a man?" she asked. "I mean, I've noticed that some of my outfits are getting a little tight around the middle in the last few days." As she spoke, she reached behind her and unzipped the dress and let it fall to the floor, taking another step towards Clark. "What do you think, Clark? Do you think either Dan or Jimmy might like what they see?"
Clark almost whimpered at the sight before him. The black teddy, hose and garters wrapped around the body of his wife were breathtaking. Between the fact that it had been over three weeks now since they'd made love — a record for them — and the idea of anyone, let alone Dan Scardino or Jimmy Olson, seeing his wife like this… Every instinct in his body was telling him to act — to claim her as his own. He took an unconscious step towards her.
Lois noticed the gesture and smiled. She knew she wasn't playing fair, but she didn't care if she was being fair or not — she intended to win. There was just too much at stake to let him continue to hide behind that misplaced sense of nobility he had. And she knew she had to break him — to prove to him that he couldn't say good-bye to her. She took another step towards him.
"Do you have any idea how much I want you to make love to me?" she whispered. "I want you to touch me, kiss me, hold me. I want us to be one. Don't fight it, Clark. Make love to me."
"Lois," Clark practically begged. His mind was desperately fighting his traitorous body's reactions to the sight and smell of her together with her words. What was it about this woman that had always been able to undo him so completely? She was beautiful. There was no denying that fact. She was sexy — especially in her current attire. But it was more than just a physical attraction for Clark. There was a bond between them — a bond he had sensed from the moment they'd met. It pulled Clark towards her much the same way as the moon pulls the earth's tides. He could fight it as much as he wanted, but like the tides the result was always the same. He closed his eyes, determined that this time he would beat the tides. He had to. For her sake, he had to.
She continued slowly approaching. Summoning all his strength, Clark started backing away. However, since he was only one step from the door, it only took two small steps back before he once again had his back to the door.
Lois smiled slightly, stepping up in front of him and gently reaching out to place her hands on his chest. Her hands remained still for a moment, as if afraid that any quick movement would cause the frightened animal in front of her to bolt. Then her hands began to move slowly down his chest and stomach. She felt the muscles of his stomach tighten under her finger tips. Once she had accustomed him to the light touch of her hands, she began slowly undoing the buttons on his shirt — her eyes holding his captive. When she had succeeded in this task, she quickly pulled the front of his shirt from his pants before he had time to react and continued her slow exploration without the hindrance of his shirt. When he groaned, she leaned over and began nibbling her way lightly down his neck.
"Lois," groaned Clark, "we have to talk."
Lois smiled against his neck before whispering, "So… Have I ever objected to you talking before?" With that she went back to slowly exploring his neck with her lips as her hands continued trailing over his sides. She moved closer to bring the soft curves of her body to brush lightly against his harder one — tantalizing and arousing him.
Clark let out a breath. "That wasn't quite what I meant," he said. "Lois, please. I thought no meant no. Or does that only count when a woman says it?"
That finally got Lois' attention. She pulled back from where she was investigating his neck. "Do you really want me to stop?" she asked softly.
Clark looked at her for a moment. He knew that all he had to do was to tell her that he wanted her to stop and she would back away for the time being — especially after he had equated her actions with a rapist. But did he really want her to stop? His mind knew that he had to tell her to stop. It wasn't fair to her to allow this to continue. It could only lead to more pain, to more heartbreak. He closed his eyes, forcing his mind to form the words that needed to be said. "Yes," he said, "I want you to stop." He suddenly relaxed. He'd done it.
"Really?" she asked. "You really want me to stop?" She leaned over and lightly raked her tongue across his chest following the last question.
Having not prepared himself for this follow-up question or her further action, he felt his will-power collapse, "No. I mean…" His voice suddenly trailed off. He'd opened his eyes at her question and made the mistake of looking down at his wife. Her eyes were dark with love and passion. Her face was flushed and she was nibbling softly on her lower lip as she waited for his answer. Why did she have to be so incredibly sexy? How was he supposed to resist her? One kiss. Surely he could allow himself just one final kiss.
Lois smiled when suddenly one of Clark's hands came up to her cheek before he leaned in to kiss her. Their lips lightly brushed against each others. Clark instantly realized his mistake. If he thought she looked and smelt incredible, it was nothing compared to the way she tasted. He leaned back in for a second kiss. This time, Lois' arms found their way around his neck and her hands slipped into his hair. He groaned, lost in the sensations of her love for him — finding there, as he always had, a world where nothing existed except the two of them.
His hands seemed to gain a mind of their own, as he sought to learn the secrets of his wife's body all over again. She seemed to melt into his touch. He released her mouth, his hands coming up to her face. His fingertips lightly traced the lines of the beloved face that had haunted him, both awake and asleep, from the moment he'd first laid eyes on it. After a leisurely exploration, his fingers left her face to trace their way down her throat. He alternated between using his fingertips and his knuckles — soaking up the soft noises coming from the back of her throat in response to his touch. Her hands continued to trace their way over his chest and across his rib cage — leaving a series of complicated patterns in their wake. He closed his eyes when her hands finally came down to rest on the top button on his pants.
Lois slipped her two index fingers lightly beneath the waistband of his pants before walking backwards, drawing him with her towards the bed.
Clark was amazed by his inability to resist the gentle tug of her hands on his pants. With nothing more than two fingers pulling at the fabric, he was as powerless to resist her lead as if he were being held by kryptonite chains and being dragged by elephants. The gentle brush of the back of her fingers against his lower stomach was igniting an irresistible heat within him that was threatening to rage out of control at the slightest provocation. Just one last time, he told himself firmly, surely he could have this one last time of making love to his wife — as a way of saying good-bye.
Once Lois felt the mattress of the bed brush against the back of her legs, she drew Clark back into her arms, again finding his mouth. He returned her passion in kind — blindly seeking out her mouth and body with the same desire and intensity that she was showing him.
It was only a short time later when Lois found herself sprawled across the double bed with Clark's hands exploring every curve of her body while his lips sought out all the sensitive places on her neck.
"I knew you couldn't send me away," breathed Lois as her fingers ran gently through his hair. "I knew you couldn't really say good-bye."
Clark stopped kissing her throat. He swallowed hard as the meaning of her words sunk in. No matter the passion that existed between them, no matter how much he wanted this one last time of getting lost in her body, he had to set the record straight. He had never before made love to her under false pretenses and would not do so now. So, even if his confession ended her willingness to love him, he had to tell her the truth. He slowly moved up to place his lips by her ear. "This is good-bye, Lois," he whispered.
Clark was stunned when even with his superpowers, he was unable to react quickly enough to stop Lois from flipping him onto his back. She was suddenly leaning over him, pinning his hands to the bed by the sides of his head. Gone was the soft responsive woman who'd been under him only moments before and Clark was suddenly staring into the eyes of… Mad Dog Lane.
"You said you wanted to talk," said Lois, her voice and face as hard and unyielding as Clark had ever seen. "Fine, you've got your wish. We're going to talk. Actually, I'm going to talk. And you, Clark Jerome Kent, are going to listen!"
"Lois…" he began, but then stopped. There was nothing she could say to change his mind — he knew that. But he figured he at least owed it to her to hear her out. He let out a breath before nodding.
"Good," she said. "Clark, do you remember before we got engaged — when you broke up with me 'for my own good'?"
"Lois, this isn't the same."
"Do you remember?"
"Of course I remember, but…"
"Well, when you told me you'd made a mistake and that you wanted us to get back together, do you remember how I responded?"
"You said something about no one having the right to decide how you should live your life but you."
"Right. I also told you that I wasn't sure we should get back together. I told you that I'd survived you breaking up with me that time, but…"
"You didn't think you would the next time," Clark finished. "Lois, this isn't the same."
"It's exactly the same. You promised me then that you would never do that to me again."
"I'm not doing it, Lois. How am I supposed to keep my promise from inside here? It can't be done. You need to have a life and you can't do that if you are sitting around waiting for me for the next twenty years."
"Understand this, Kent. In twenty years I will be standing outside those gates out there to take you home."
"You have nothing to say about it, Clark. Just like I can't force you to continue to see me, you can't stop me from being outside those gates when they release you from prison. And whether you ever agree to see me again, I will…" She emphasized the word. "…be waiting for you in twenty years. The only question for us to discuss is what's going to happen for the next twenty years." She gave him a moment to let that sink in. "Now you can refuse to see me. You can even proceed with this stupid divorce."
"You got the papers," Clark said, cringing.
"I got the papers," Lois confirmed.
"I told my lawyer to give you everything," Clark said in defense of himself.
Lois raised an eyebrow. "Well, now that's a comfort," she responded sarcastically. "But as I was saying, you can proceed with this divorce. What you can't do is force me not to wait for you. You can't force me to find someone else. That is simply not going to happen. Now, maybe, if I wasn't so hopelessly in love with you, your plan might have merit — maybe. But I am in love with you. The thought of having another man touch me…" She paused for a moment. "How did you feel when I talked about Dan and Jimmy?"
"Lousy," Clark admitted.
"So did I, Clark. Don't you understand? If I can't be with you, I don't want to be with anyone. You showed me what making love is. How can you now ask me to settle for something less?"
"I just think if you don't come to see me, someday…"
"And if our situations were reversed… If I were the one looking at spending the next twenty years in prison. Would you want to be with someone else?"
"Of course not, I…"
"Then how can you expect me to find someone else? It's not going to happen, Clark. I will wait for you. So, I guess the only question is what's going to happen between now and your release. Now the way I see it is, we can get divorced. However, if we do that, we'll have all those expenses again in twenty years when we have to get remarried."
She released one of his hands to place her fingers over his mouth. When she continued, her voice was a lot softer. "Clark, if we get divorced, then we won't be allowed monthly conjugal visits. They only allow those for married couples," she informed him. "Now, you don't have to see me, but I've got to tell you that one night a month sounds a whole lot better than nothing. At least it does to me. And to me, one night a month with you is better than every night with anyone else.
"Besides, baby," Lois continued softly, "I think you need me as much as I need you." With that she ran her fingers lightly down his cheek. "Please, don't send me away," she concluded on a whisper. "I don't think I could bear it."
Clark pulled in a sharp breath. Lois only ever called him baby when they made love, but in a way, wasn't that what she was doing right now? God, he loved this woman. How could he ever let her go — especially since he knew in his heart that she would fulfill her promise. In twenty years, she would be standing outside that gate to take him home. After all, that was what he would be doing if their situations were reversed. His chin quivered and his hard body trembled at the sudden power of the emotions that seemed to flood through his system. He reached up and placed a hand on the back of Lois' head, brining her mouth down to his.
After the kiss, she pulled back again to look into his eyes. "So no more talk of good-byes?" she asked — her voice quivering in trepidation. She held her breath waiting for his answer.
Clark let out a short breath. "How could I ever say good-bye to you?" he responded, before pulling her willing mouth back to his. It wasn't long before they were once again affirming their love for each other in a very tangible way.
The young man from Superman's press conference made his way towards the old bell tower situated near Metropolis Harbor. He looked around the street to make sure no one was watching before slipping under the boards nailed across the door and making his way inside. He wasn't sure using this as a hideout was a really good idea. After all, it was the place Cole had used when he'd been released from prison a couple of years ago. Still, it wasn't his decision. He sighed and made his way to the stairs that would take him up to the bell room.
Lois snuggled up tighter against Clark's chest. Clark responded by reaching down and pulling the blanket further around her shoulders.
"Cold?" he asked.
"Not now," she responded with a tired but satisfied smile on her face. "Have I ever told you what a great lover you are?" she asked.
Clark smiled. "Well, I had a great teacher."
Lois buried her face against his neck and chuckled. "It helped to have such an eager student," she responded through laughter.
They fell silent for a moment before Clark spoke. "Did Dan really ask you to marry him?" he asked.
Lois shook her head slightly. "When I told him that it wasn't fair for me to keep seeing him, he guessed that you were the reason. He told me that he was interested in getting married and asked if I could say the same of you."
"So he did propose."
"No. He never said whether he was interested in marrying me or if he was just interested in the idea of getting married. Anyway, I just kept wishing he'd leave so that I could go to your place. So I wasn't really listening by that point."
"By the way," Clark continued, "how did you know Scardino's still available?"
Lois quickly diverted her eyes and began chewing on her lower lip.
"I don't," Lois finally admitted, her eyes finally coming up to meet his. "I haven't heard anything about Dan since before we got married."
A slow smile made its way across Clark's face. "You are a wicked woman, Lois Lane," he responded before pulling her to him for a kiss.
Lois pulled back for a moment as something she'd wondered about before she'd arrived made its way to the forefront of her mind. She leaned in and whispered briefly in Clark's ear.
Clark shook his head. "No, Lois, I x-rayed the place when I first arrived. There are no listening devices. We can talk freely." He paused before a thought struck him.
"Hey, how did you manage this?" he asked, gesturing around. "I mean, they never asked me if I wanted to see you?"
Lois smiled. "Perry has a friend in the prison system." She paused, shifting to look him in the eye. "How are you doing, Clark?"
"Fine. No responsibilities, no decisions to make, no…"
"Clark!" Lois warned.
"No, really. I am doing fine. I mean, it's not where I want to be, but…" He shrugged.
"How are you handling your… well your youness?"
Clark smiled. Lois always had such a unique way of referring to his powers. "Well, I tie myself to the bed at night so I don't float, I shave using an old pie plate. Things like that. I guess what I miss most — well, other than you, of course — is the sun."
Clark shrugged. "We only get half an hour outside every day and there aren't windows that look outside. I guess I've never really thought about how much time I actually spent in the sun before."
"But you're okay?" Lois asked.
"Fine. I have requested an outdoor work assignment, but I guess that's popular work. I'm on a waiting list."
Lois looked at him thoughtfully for a moment.
"What about nightmares, Clark?" she finally asked. After three years of sleeping with him, she knew that although he seldom showed fear or vulnerability when he was awake, he would often have nightmares. Her suspicions were confirmed when he looked away. "Tell me," she said softly.
He let out a breath before shaking his head. "I can't, Lois," he whispered. How could he possibly tell her that in his nightmares, he would be attacking Cole and suddenly that would change and he would be attacking her or their child? His nightmares shamed him almost as much as killing Cole.
She nodded. He would tell her eventually. She'd see to that — just as she'd always managed to do in the past. It would be more difficult, though, since the next time they'd really be able to talk would be in a month. "I'd go anywhere in the world with you. You do know that, don't you? I mean, if you ever decided that you couldn't…" Lois began.
Clark placed his fingers over her lips, cutting her off.
She closed her eyes and nodded. She knew what he was telling her. Although he would have no problems breaking out of prison any time he wanted, he would never do that.
"How are you doing?" Clark asked, gently laying his hand on her stomach.
She looked at him for a moment before pulling back the covers on the bed and taking his hand and placing it on the scar on her stomach. He had already seen it when they'd made love but she wanted him to examine it to know for himself that she was all right.
He looked down at the scar before leaning over and kissing it.
"It's hard to believe that it's only been a few weeks," he said, looking at the scar.
"That's what the doctor said too," Lois said, raising his face to look into his eyes.
"What are you getting at?" asked Clark.
"It's healing fast, Clark. The doctor is amazed by how fast."
Clark studied her. She was obviously getting at something. "The baby?" he finally asked.
"That's what I think. Do you know how we've speculated that if someone shot me when we were making love, your aura would protect me?"
"You've speculated. I really don't like thinking about finding out if that's the case."
Lois smiled. "Anyway, I think the baby might be responsible for saving my life. I think that somehow the baby's aura is providing me with some protection — sort of as an extension of its own aura." Lois shrugged. "It's just a theory."
Clark nodded. He supposed it was possible that the baby was somehow changing, at least temporarily, Lois' physiology. "Tell me about the baby," he requested.
She smiled and proceeded to fill him in on everything she knew. She watched his face — reveling in how he was soaking up every word.
"Thank you, Lois," he said when she had finished. "I can't even begin to tell you how much it means to me that you'd have my child."
"It's my very great pleasure," she responded.
"I just wish…"
"Don't, Clark," she said, knowing where he was going with that wish and cutting him off.
"But this isn't fair to you. I mean, I've left you to raise our daughter on your own."
"No you haven't. I intend to seek your advice about raising our son a lot."
He smiled. "But, Lois, I'm just worried that…" He shook his head.
"What is it, Clark?"
He let out a breath. "She's going to be ashamed of me, Lois," he finally whispered.
She shook her head. "No, Clark. He's going to know the same thing I do. That you are a good man who made a mistake."
"Lois, I killed a man. I'm a murderer. You can hardly call that a 'mistake'."
"Technically, you're a murderer," Lois corrected. When Clark raised his eyebrows, she continued. "I read your allocution, Clark. You said you went to Cole's apartment to kill him. Is that true?"
He didn't look at her as he nodded.
"Is that the first time you've ever wanted to kill someone?" she asked.
He didn't know where she was going with this, but he addressed his mind to the question anyway. "No," he finally admitted.
"Who else have you wanted to kill?"
"Luthor after he kidnapped you from our wedding."
"Tempus when he planted that hypnotic suggestion in your mind to drive your car off a cliff."
She nodded. "And did you?"
"No. But I did kill Cole."
"Cole died while trying to get away from you and while technically that might be murder… Clark, if you had gotten your hands on him, how were you planning to kill him?"
"Lois, I don't see the point in…"
"Just humor me, Clark."
He let out a breath before nodding. "I didn't really think about it. I guess I'd have wrapped my hands around his neck and…" He shook his head.
"But that's just it, Clark. You never had a chance to find out if you would have actually been able to go through with it. With both Lex and Tempus, you always managed to get control before you did them physical harm. I don't believe you would have actually killed Cole if you had gotten your hands on him."
Clark studied her for a long moment. She did have a point. He really didn't know if he would have been able to kill Cole with his bare hands. Not that it mattered. His actions had still been the proximate cause of Cole's death.
"What does this have to do with our daughter?" he finally asked.
"Your son is going to know that you made a mistake. But he is also going to know that you immediately owned up to what you did and took responsibility. He's not going to be ashamed of you, Clark."
Clark didn't exactly believe her reassurances, but let it go.
"So you are going to withdraw your divorce petition. Aren't you?" she asked hesitantly.
"Are you really sure that's what you want, Lois? I mean, I'd certainly understand if…"
"Clark! How am I going to get it through that thick skull of yours that I don't want a divorce?" She let out a short breath. "Okay, I'll tell you what. If I ever do want a divorce, I'll tell you. Okay?"
He looked at her for a long time before nodding. "All right. I'll call my lawyer tomorrow and tell her to withdraw the petition."
She leaned over and kissed him.
"So how long do we have?" he asked.
She laughed. "I have to leave at seven a.m."
He smiled. "So you're telling me we've got all night?" he asked, wriggling his eyebrows at her.
"Yeah. Do you think we can find a way to keep from getting bored?"
"Well, I'm pretty sure I can think of something," Clark said, nibbling lightly on her shoulder.
"Pretty sure of yourself. Aren't you, Kent?"
Clark just smiled and began making his way further down her body. Suddenly he raised his head. "Hey, I thought you believed that using prison resources and taxpayer money to allow couples conjugal visits was a waste of resources?" Clark asked.
"I changed my mind," said Lois, completely unrepentant as she pulled Clark's head back down to her body.
A man was standing in the shadows looking out over the city when the young man made his way to the top of the bell tower.
"Did you get it fixed?" the first man asked.
"Then why is it still dark in here, Sullivan?"
The young man made his way over to a cord hanging from the ceiling and pulled it on. Light flooded the room.
"Good. Now, let's watch that video of Superman's press conference," said Jefferson Cole.
Sullivan went over and started to hook the video recorder up to the TV.
"I still don't understand how you convinced everyone that Clark Kent killed you," Sullivan said.
"Well, I realized that when I set Lois Lane up for murder, I made one mistake. She knew she wasn't guilty. This time…" Cole smiled. "This time I even managed to surprise myself. I didn't expect to be so convincing that Kent would actually plead guilty."
"But how did you do it?" Sullivan asked.
"You know about my hologram generator."
"It sends a signal to the cerebral cortex that makes everyone in the vicinity believe they're seeing something that isn't there."
"That's how you made people believe that Lois Lane was stocking a witness who was scheduled to testify against her and how you convinced a roomful of people that Perry White was testifying against Lane."
Cole nodded. "The hologram generator was used to generate the necessary images and the voice synthesizer made people hear the voice of Perry White. Anyway, once I got up on the roof of the apartment with Kent chasing me, I hid. It took him a moment to open the door. Once he got out onto the roof, I used the hologram generator to convince Kent that he was attacking me and then, that he pushed me over the edge of the roof. The hologram generator also convinced people on the ground that they were seeing the same thing."
"I understand that, professor. What I don't understand is where the dead body came from or how come no one saw me dragging it out onto the street."
"Well, Sullivan, the dead man was a homeless man who had plastic surgery in exchange for as much alcohol as he could drink. I killed him just before I shot Lane. I used a pipe so that it would appear that his injuries could have been caused in a fall. I had you spill that extra blood around his head so that it would appear as if he'd just died."
"Whose blood was it?"
"His. I got some of his blood during the plastic surgery. I needed it to be his blood in case a thorough examination was done. However, since I also provided witnesses, I figured that the cops would be somewhat sloppy. Kent certainly helped by pleading guilty so early. I was concerned that things like fingerprints would cause problems. Although I was prepared to alter the records if necessary."
"So when did this guy have plastic surgery?"
"Before I moved against Lois, Superman and Klein last time. He was supposed to be my escape plan. Unfortunately, the way I was caught made it impossible for me to use him."
"But how come no one saw me take his body and lay it in the street?"
"Well, as you know, the hologram generator makes you think you're seeing something that isn't there."
"With a few simple modifications, I was able to stimulate another part of the brain so that people wouldn't see something that was there."
"Like you. So how's Lois taking hubby's incarceration?"
"Not good. She really freaked out at Superman's press conference."
"Did you get it on tape?"
Sullivan smiled. "The whole thing," Sullivan responded, turning on the television so that Cole could watch the press conference for himself. Cole watched the whole thing in silence.
"How could he do that?" Cole demanded when the press conference was over.
"Quit! How can I get my revenge if he isn't around?" Cole took a deep breath, forcing himself to calm down. "Don't give in to despair. When life hands you lemons, make lemonade." He thought for a moment. "Oh, this is good. Superman has admitted to the world that he's having personal problems. I can make that work." He smiled at his new assistant. "Now that things have calmed down with Kent and everyone believes I'm dead, it's time to get going on phase three."
Sullivan smiled. He had a feeling he was going to enjoy this phase.
"I must admit," said Cole, "that it was good seeing Lois break down on that tape. Having lost Kent and Superman in a couple of weeks is obviously taking its toll on her."
Lois walked into the brownstone and looked around at the empty living room. She wished Martha and Jonathan were still here, but she understood their need to get back to the farm. After all, they'd been here for about two weeks.
It had been so good having Martha and Jonathan here. She didn't think she'd have survived the first couple of weeks of Clark's incarceration without them. But now that they were gone, the house seemed so empty — especially today.
She had mixed feelings about taking the day off. She had made the decision since she didn't know how it would go with Clark and had it been a disaster, she wasn't sure she'd be in any condition to go to work. What she hadn't counted on was how painful it would be if things did go well. Last night had been incredible. Knowing how close she'd come to losing Clark reminded her just how empty life had been before him. That had made being with him last night so much sweeter.
So why did she now feel so incredibly lost? Pulling herself out of Clark's arms this morning, knowing that she wouldn't be able to as much as touch him for another month, had been one of the most painful things she'd ever done. She tossed her purse and coat in the direction of the couch and slowly made her way up the stairs. She pushed open the door to their bedroom and stood in the doorway.
Finally, working up the courage, she stepped into the room. She couldn't seem to take her eyes off the bed. She made her way over to it, sitting down on her side and slowly running her hand down Clark's side.
Suddenly, all the tears she'd been forcing herself not to cry when she was with Clark erupted. She lay down on the bed, curling into a fetal position and, keeping her hand on the space where Clark should have been, sobbed. There was only one thing to be grateful for at this moment — Clark wasn't able to see her. If he were, he would never allow this to continue. He'd go back to insisting that they get divorced. But as much as this hurt, the idea of losing him completely was a hundred times worse.
Once there were no tears left, she fell into an exhausted sleep.
Everyone in the bar fell silent and stared when Superman entered the bar accompanied by a young man with a scruffy beard. However, the two ignored the crowd and made their way to a table at the back.
"Can…" The waiter cleared his throat. "Can I get you something?"
In a van outside, Jefferson Cole raised the voice synthesizer to his mouth. "Bourbon. And make it fast," he said.
"Bourbon. And make it fast," Superman demanded.
The waiter quickly took the order of the young man with Superman before scurrying to do as commanded.
"Superman?" asked a man coming over. "I am George Hinds. I just wanted to thank you for saving my daughter's…"
"Get lost," Superman said.
The man's mouth dropped open, but he didn't leave.
"I said get lost," Superman repeated, rising to his feet. "If you don't get lost now, I'll show you the quick way to the door," Superman said loud enough that everyone in the bar heard.
People, who had been stunned at seeing their hero in such a normal setting, were now staring in disbelief.
"What are you looking at?" Superman demanded.
Everyone immediately turned back to his or her table.
"Where's my drink?" Superman demanded. When there was no response, he continued. "If I don't get my drink in the next five seconds, this place will be nothing but a pile of ashes."
With that, the waiter immediately sprang to life. He set the drink in front of Superman. His hand trembled as he did.
"What's this?" asked Superman, using the same loud intimidating voice.
"Your… drink," the waiter stammered.
"I didn't order this. I ordered a beer."
"No, you… Beer. Right. I'm sorry, Superman."
"Quit your whimpering and get me my drink," Superman said in disgust. The waiter brought a beer and once again it was the wrong drink. After about four drinks, Superman finally stormed out of the bar complaining about the service. The young man went with him.
When finally out of sight of the people who had dared watch him leave, Superman suddenly vanished. The young man made his way over to a nearby van and climbed in. "That was great," Sullivan said to Cole. "I don't think anyone knew quite what to think. But why didn't you have him do some damage to the bar? I mean, wouldn't that have made an even better story?"
"Because a hologram can't interact with the surrounding world. That's why he didn't consume the drink. If we want to have him cause damage, we'd have to plant explosives before hand. That will come. For now, we are destroying Superman's reputation. Given his announcement about having personal problems, behavior like this sets the scene for when Superman starts destroying things."
"But what if Superman shows up and denies that it's him?"
"Who's going to believe him? People like believing in a good scandal. As they say, vindication doesn't sell papers. The hologram, together with the voice synthesizer, will give us what we need to discredit him for now. We'll take it further when people's shock from this type of behavior calms down."
"Are you sure people will hear about it?"
Cole smiled. "With the price The Star pays for sensational tips, I guarantee it."
"I don't get it," confessed Jimmy the next morning as he stood with Perry and a few other Planet employees looking at the morning edition of The Star.
"It's simple," Ralph responded. "He finally snapped. When something seems too good to be true, it usually is."
"Look, everyone has a bad day," said Perry. "And he did say he was having some personal problems."
"I never thought of Superman as having a personal life," confessed Jimmy.
"Everyone has a personal life, Jimmy," said Perry. "Superman has just been careful to keep his out of the spotlight."
"I wouldn't mind getting a look at his women," said Ralph. "I bet that guy has a different one every night."
"What's going on?" asked Lois, approaching the group — many of whom slunk away at her arrival. They were not about to be one to bring bad news about Superman to Lois when Clark had just been sent to jail for twenty years.
"Superman's flipped," said Ralph — who was not quite as wise as the rest — as he handed her the paper.
Lois stared at the paper for a moment, quickly digesting the essence of the article in front of her with growing disbelief. It was possible, from a purely technical view point, that Clark had left prison to go to a bar. But who was the person with him? And if he was prepared to leave prison, what was he doing in a bar instead of coming home? It didn't make any sense, but then there were a lot of things which didn't make much sense. After all, the most honorable man she'd ever known was doing twenty years in prison for murdering a man.
"It isn't him," she finally said.
"Do you have any evidence to back that up?" asked Perry.
"No, but it isn't him, Perry. It just doesn't make any sense."
"Come on, Lois," responded Ralph. "Just because he isn't living up to your ideals of the perfect man…"
"It isn't him!" Lois repeated before going to her desk and picking up a phone. She wanted to make arrangements to talk to Clark about this.
Perry walked over. "Well, for now, I think we should just deal with this as an isolated incident."
"Perry…" Lois began to object — placing the phone down.
"I don't see the story here, Lois," Perry said. "What I do see a story about is…" he began before proceeding to give her another assignment that had nothing to do with Superman.
Lois let out a breath before nodding and grabbing a pad of paper to make some notes on her new assignment. Perry was right, and if she didn't get back to doing some real work soon, she was going to be looking for a new job. With Clark in prison, the last thing she needed was to find herself on the unemployment line. Besides, the Star had a habit of often being flexible with the truth. Who knew what had really gone on in that bar last night? She'd follow up on this on her own time.
Lois looked up from her desk and groaned when she saw Ralph standing there. "What is it, Ralph?" Lois asked in a resigned voice.
"Well, I was just thinking."
"I didn't think you knew how," Lois mumbled.
"What?" asked Ralph and then, without waiting for an answer, plowed ahead. "I was just thinking. Well, with Kent in prison for twenty years, you'll probably need a man around the house on occasion. You know, to fix things or…" Ralph winked at her. "…to take care of any other needs you might have."
Lois immediately tensed.
"I was just thinking that maybe we could work out some sort of understanding."
"Why you little…" began Jimmy, having heard Ralph's proposal and understanding the hidden implications as well as Lois did.
"Jimmy!" interrupted Lois. "Ralph has a point."
"Definitely, I mean twenty years is a long time to go without… getting my needs taken care of." With these words she rose from her desk and moved closer to Ralph, taking his tie in her hands. "And if you hadn't been so kind as to remind me that the prison offers conjugal visits to married couples, I'd probably be taking you up on your offer. But you did." She smiled as his look of arrogance vanished. "And after a night with Clark… Well, let's just say that I think it would be hard settling for five minutes with you." Then with a charming smile, she turned and walked away.
Jimmy bit back a laugh that immediately rose in his throat. "Bad luck," he said to Ralph before walking away himself.
"I don't understand what we're waiting for," said Sullivan.
"I don't want to move too fast," Cole said in exasperation. "I want people to have a chance to absorb this act by Superman before having him move again."
"But the Daily Planet didn't even print the story."
Cole smiled. "They will next time," responded Cole before pulling out his tape recorder. "Memo to self: make Daily Planet target of next Superman appearance."
Lois hadn't gone to see Clark about the appearance of Superman at a bar. Since there had been no further incidents, she figured there was nothing substantial to the story. Besides, they had agreed she would only come to see him once a week in addition to the monthly conjugal visits she'd managed to arrange. Clark insisted that his wife should not be spending her evenings at the prison, waiting to see him. He wanted her to create some kind of life for herself. After all, it wasn't as if this was a temporary thing. She'd argued with him, but in the end, had conceded. He had agreed to keep seeing her and she was afraid if she pushed things too hard, he would go back to his previous position.
Still, she had taken a trip down to the bar. The bartender was insistent about what he'd seen, although he did concede that Superman didn't do anything superhuman while he'd been in the bar. So Lois figured it could be someone like Barry, the Superman impersonator they'd met back before she'd known that Clark was Superman. After all, Barry had looked a lot like Superman. Even she had been fooled initially.
But when the television talk shows stopped talking about Superman's unusual behavior, she'd decided to just let it go. She'd mention it to Clark the next time she saw him. There didn't seem to be any serious damage done. The commentators were just writing it off as an isolated incident. After all, Superman may have been rude, but no one had been hurt.
Cole watched from a window in a nearby building as Lois emerged from a cab on the street below. He immediately signaled Sullivan.
"Look!" exclaimed Sullivan to everyone on the street. "It's Superman." As he spoke, he pointed to a caped figure seated atop the Daily Planet globe.
Lois looked up and gasped at the sight of her husband sitting casually where indicated. She didn't notice that the large sign above her was creaking loudly.
Cole moved swiftly, loosening the last bolt holding the sign on the building. It went crashing to the ground.
Lois dove out of the way of the falling sign at the last possible moment.
Superman floated into the air and hovered above Lois Lane who was laying prone on the sidewalk. Superman shook his head and said in a voice loud enough to be heard by everyone around, "You really should learn to be more careful, Ms. Lane."
"What are you doing, Clark?" Lois whispered in a voice only Superman could possibly hear. However, he acted as if he hadn't heard her. Instead, he laughed.
Suddenly, Superman flew off without so much as another word. Lois watched in disbelief as she waited for that familiar sonic boom. It never came.
"Lois, are you all right?" asked Jimmy, rushing over to where she was lying.
"Yeah," said Lois, still watching the spot where she had last seen Superman.
"I can't believe he let you come so close to being hit."
"That wasn't Superman," said Lois, although she knew her voice betrayed her uncertainty. Was it possible that Clark was having some sort of nervous breakdown? The other appearance by Superman could certainly have been Barry, but this time… Still, there was no way her husband would stand by and watch if she was in danger. Would he?
"What are you talking about, Lois?" asked Jimmy, offering her his hand. "It certainly looked like Superman to me. Besides, he flew. If he isn't Superman, how could he possibly fly?"
Lois ignored Jimmy's hand, rising to her feet under her own power. "I don't know, Jimmy. But I can tell you one thing. I intend to get some answers. Tell Perry I'll be in later."
Lois took a seat on her side of the glass in the prison visitor's room as she waited for Clark to be brought in. She glanced again at the sign informing her that conversations could be monitored. This was going to be difficult when they would have to be constantly aware that someone could be listening in. She automatically sat up a little bit straighter when Clark was escorted into the room.
Clark smiled at the sight of his wife. It wasn't quite a week since he'd last seen her, but he refused to think about that. She was here. He hadn't realized just how much he'd missed her until this very moment. He took a deep breath as he watched her for a moment longer before taking a seat.
Lois met his eyes before glancing up at the sign. He followed her gaze and then looked back at her and nodded before picking up the phone.
"You look beautiful," he said softly.
She gave him a soft smile before automatically bringing her hand up to touch him. It was stopped by the glass.
"I wish I could touch you," she whispered.
Clark cocked his head to the side for a moment, as if pondering the dilemma, before looking around them. Lois creased her forehead as she tried to read what was going through his mind.
When Clark was satisfied that no one was watching, he traced a small section of the glass with his fingernail. He paused as if slightly confused before doing it again. Then he took his index finger and lightly tapped the spot, right at the table, where he had cut the glass. Nothing happened, so he tapped again, this time a little harder. The piece of glass that had been traced earlier with his fingernail slid across the table.
Lois quickly covered the glass with her hand. When he indicated that she should push it back through the hole he had created, she did so. She smiled when his head came down and lightly kissed her fingertips, before straightening up. She pulled her hand mostly out of the hole, so that the guards wouldn't notice it if they came by. His hand came down and, keeping his hand mostly on his own side of the glass, let his fingertips lightly rub against hers.
"Better?" he asked into the phone.
She smiled. "Much," she said softly.
"You have no idea how great it is to see you," he said.
"Oh, I think I have some idea," she responded, allowing him to see in her eyes the same love she saw in his.
"It's not quite a week," Clark said. "Not that I'm complaining, but is anything wrong?"
She let out a breath. "I had something a little unusual happen today." She glanced again at the sign before continuing. "Did you hear about an incident a little while ago where Superman went into a bar and caused a scene?"
Clark nodded. "It wasn't… I mean…" He glanced at the sign again. "I don't believe it was Superman."
"That's what I thought at the time. I mean, I went down and talked to the patrons at the bar. None of them saw Superman do anything superhuman. So I figured it was Barry or some other Hollywood type look alike."
Clark raised his eyebrows, impressed by his wife's idea. He hadn't considered that. "Sounds reasonable."
"That's what I thought, too. Well, until today."
"Why until today?"
"Well, today I was on my way to the Planet and I saw yo… Superman sitting on the globe. As I was looking up at him, a sign fell, almost hitting me."
"Are you okay?" Clark asked immediately.
"I'm fine, but Superman just sat there watching."
"Well, if it really is a look alike, he wouldn't have been able to do anything to stop it."
"Yeah, but after it fell, he flew over and told me to be more careful."
"And then he flew off."
"Of course I'm sure, Clark."
"It wasn't… him, Lois. I swear."
"Then who was it, Clark. I mean, maybe Superman really is having problems. Maybe the 'personal problems' he told us he was having are causing him to do things he wouldn't normally do and maybe he doesn't even remember."
"But for that to be the case, he would have to be having blackouts. And I…" He let out a frustrated breath. After all, anyone in prison would know that he hadn't seen Superman since he'd been in prison. So how could he assure his wife that he wasn't having memory lapses?
"You don't think he's having blackouts?" Lois asked, helping him out of his dilemma
"Well, you could always try asking him. It just doesn't seem like Superman to me."
Lois nodded. She understood what he was trying to say. "Okay, then if it isn't Superman and it isn't Barry…"
"Who is it? Have you considered the idea that it could be a clone. After all, that's been done before."
"Yes. But that time someone had gotten one of his hairs from a charity auction. I don't think Superman has given any hair or anything else to anyone since then in order to prevent cloning."
Clark nodded. He'd been very careful about that since he realized what could be done with his DNA. Clark shrugged helplessly. "Then I don't know how to explain it."
Lois let out a frustrated breath. "Well, if it really isn't Superman…"
"It isn't," Clark reiterated. It hurt to realize that Lois only half believed him. However, he too was baffled by what Lois told him happened outside the Daily Planet. And given everything that had happened, he could understand her confusion.
"Then someone is trying to discredit him," Lois continued. "Why would someone want to do that now? After all, Superman said he would be taking time off for the foreseeable future."
"Unless someone wants to make sure he can't come back."
It wasn't much longer before the guard informed them that their time was up. Before leaving, Clark quickly replaced the glass and gave a short blast of heat vision to fuse the glass together enough to prevent anyone else from getting the glass back out. He sat there as Lois was escorted from the room — wondering how he'd survive waiting to see her again.
A guard behind him reminded him that he had to go. He reluctantly rose and then smiled as Lois looked back at the last moment. "I love you," he heard her whisper. He mouthed the words back to her and sighed, before being escorted back to his cell.
As Clark walked down the dark prison hallway, he thought about cutting the glass in order to have contact with Lois. He hoped she hadn't noticed, but he'd had problems cutting and removing the glass. After years of practice, Clark knew exactly how much pressure to apply. However, when he first tried to cut the glass, it hadn't cut. He'd managed to cut it by applying more pressure. He might have thought that was a fluke, but he'd had the same problem when tapping the glass out. He hadn't been using his powers for anything these days except shaving so it was probably just lack of practice. He decided that from now on, he'd practice a little bit every day. After all, he had to be able to control his powers or there was the very real danger of hurting someone.
Lois was trying to make sense of things on her trip back to the Daily Planet. Clark was right. He hadn't allowed anyone to get hold of any of his genetic material… She smiled and placed a hand on her stomach. Well except for that… since he'd found out what could be done with a hair.
Actually, that wasn't exactly true. When he'd had tests done to see if he could have children, he had given Dr. Klein sperm samples. Dr. Klein had assured him that the samples had been destroyed. Still… Given developments, she would check with Klein again.
What else could it be? Since the man had flown, it couldn't be someone pretending to be Superman. Still, she would check on the whereabouts of Barry and other Superman look alikes.
Clark had certainly been convincing that it wasn't him — having some kind of breakdown. After all, if he was having blackouts during which he was doing something unusual, he would at least know that he was missing periods of time — wouldn't he? Besides, would he really just sit there while her life was in jeopardy? No. Nothing would convince her that he would ever stand by if she was at risk — whether or not he was having some sort of breakdown.
She stepped out of the elevator at the Daily Planet and made her way to her desk.
"Where's that story, Lois?" Perry demanded.
"What story?" asked Lois.
"The one about Superman standing by when someone tried to knock you senseless."
"That wasn't Superman, Perry."
"Then who was it? Elvis? Honey, sometimes even the people we think we know do something out of character."
"Superman wouldn't let anything hurt me."
"Well, even Superman has done things we didn't expect."
"What are you talking about?"
"Do you remember when Superman was affected by red kryptonite? He let me be kidnapped. He just stood there and watched while they threw me in the van."
Lois froze. Was it possible Clark was being affected by red kryptonite? That would certainly explain the behavior. Still… "I'm not writing the story, Perry. Not until I know more about what's going on. If you want a story saying that Superman watched as a sign almost ended my life prematurely, ask Jimmy. He was there."
"Slow down, Lois. All right. I'll give you some time to investigate this. You just be sure to get me a story."
"Yes, Chief," responded Lois. However, if Perry was right and Superman was somehow being affected by kryptonite, she wasn't sure she was prepared to write that story. Still, first things first. And the first thing was to get to the truth.
Over the next couple of weeks, there were a number of incidents where Superman showed up somewhere he wasn't expected or did or didn't do something that was. Cole's favorite had been watching the expressions on the faces of some of the citizens of Metropolis when Superman went to a porn flick. Cole found the one with the longest line to allow as many people as possible see where he was going. "So I like to watch naked women. Sue me," Cole had had Superman say to a family that gawked a little longer than normal. Cole had laughed out loud when the couple put their hands over the ears of their children and quickly escorted them in the opposite direction.
Cole flipped through a number of different channels on the television in front of him, pausing for only a moment on each channel as T.V. personality after T.V. personality discussed Superman's breakdown. He stopped on one he found particularly entertaining. The host was interviewing someone from the government.
"This is what the military has been worrying about for years," said the bureaucrat.
"But surely Superman hasn't done anything that requires government intervention."
"Not yet. However, what happens if he does? We have no way to stop him from doing whatever he wants. This is exactly the type of thing that Jason Trask was concerned about."
Cole clicked off the television and smiled. This was going even better than anticipated.
Clark waited until his bunkmate left for the washroom before picking up the pie plate he'd polished up and looking into it. He focused on his beard stubble. He activated his heat vision to shave as he did every morning. His heat vision flickered slightly but then died. He tried again. Nothing.
He glanced around — he was alone. He tried floating. Again he was unsuccessful. He tried using some of his other powers. He had none of them. What was happening to him?
He considered what Lois had told him about Perry's red kryptonite theory for a moment. Was it possible that he had somehow been exposed to red kryptonite? No. Ever since Lois had suggested that possibility, he'd kept his feelers up for red kryptonite. He was sure he hadn't been exposed to any. Besides, red kryptonite only made his powers erratic. They'd never taken them away — unless it was to transfer them to someone else. Only green kryptonite took his powers away completely and he always knew when he'd been exposed to green kryptonite.
Besides, this loss of his powers had been gradual — not instantaneous. He had noticed for the past couple of weeks that he'd been losing strength and body mass. Whatever this was, he was confident it wasn't kryptonite.
So what was the problem? He let out a breath. He suspected he knew the answer to that too — and it was a lot simpler than red kryptonite. Lois was going to flip. Fortunately, he still had another week before their next conjugal visit. He knew she was going to figure it out then. He had to find a way to tell her that would keep her from panicking.
Lois was frustrated. She'd been at this for a few weeks now and was no closer to an answer than she when she had first started. She had talked to everyone who had seen a Superman sighting. She had tracked down everyone who had been involved with red kryptonite in the past. Perry's son had been the most helpful, but as far as he knew, the only piece was still safely locked away in the vaults at Star Labs.
Lois had pumped Dr. Klein's brain for any ideas, but he too was at a loss. He had assured her he'd personally witnessed the destruction of Superman's sperm samples — although he'd appeared somewhat shocked that she even knew about the tests. He'd also assured her that any skin or other samples he'd needed from Superman over the years had also been destroyed. He was always very careful to ensure that he was personally present during their destruction. She was shocked when he told her that the military had come by to inquire about kryptonite. He had denied having any, but didn't think they believed him.
Lois had followed up on the clone idea. She discovered that the man who created the last Superman clone had died. The people who had created the clone of her before her wedding were in jail. She had been unable to find anyone else with the knowledge necessary to clone a fully mature human — or, in this case, Kryptonian.
She had spoken to Clark a few more times. He was adamant that it wasn't him. She still wasn't certain — but by now, he should at least be aware of blackouts if he was having them.
But what explanation did that leave? She had no idea. Perry was grumbling for the story, but how was she supposed to provide him with a story when she didn't know what was going on herself. She really missed working with Clark. It was just so difficult talking to Clark when she always had to edit what she was saying. The good news was that tonight she was spending the night with him. Maybe they could finally work this through — before the military decided to do more than talk to Bernard Klein.
If Clark wasn't doing all these bizarre things, trying to stop whoever was with kryptonite might reveal that fact. However, she still wasn't certain it wasn't Clark. After all, he could escape the prison without anyone noticing and he was known for keeping things from her to prevent her from worrying. No. No matter what Clark was going through, she still couldn't believe he would risk her life or spend the evening watching a pornographic movie. It just didn't make any sense. Still, if there was any chance it was him, she didn't want kryptonite anywhere near him.
Clark walked as slowly as he could across the yard to the small building where Lois would soon be brought. It was a beautiful day and he wanted every second in the sun he could get. His powers hadn't returned. He still hadn't figured out how to tell Lois. He hesitated at the door of the building. He didn't want to go in that dark room — even if in a few minutes, Lois would be joining him there. Besides, it wasn't even as if he could fake that he was all right. Lois would know — especially since he had no doubt that she would want something he knew he was physically unable to give her.
"Can't I wait out here," Clark asked the guard.
"Inside, Kent," the guard said.
Clark dropped his head and nodded before stepping through the door of the building. He closed his eyes when the door closed and he heard it lock. He reached over and flicked on the light. He leaned back against the wall. He really wasn't feeling good. In the past week since he'd lost his powers, he'd been getting progressively weaker. As a result, he was conflicted about seeing Lois. It would be so good to see her, talk to her and hold her without having to constantly worry about someone watching or listening in. However…
The door opened and Clark felt his breath catch in his throat as his wife walked through the door. She had once again taken great care with her appearance before coming to see him. Not that it was necessary. His heart would skip a beat to see her walk through that door in sweats.
Lois felt her heart begin to race as she approached the building in which she knew Clark would be waiting. Other than that one time when he'd cut the glass so that their fingers could brush against each other, it had been a month since she'd touched him. She had never understood before just how much strength she got from casual contact with him.
She stepped through the door and pulled in a sharp breath. He looked horrible. She didn't think she'd seen him looking any worse — not even after he'd been exposed to kryptonite.
"Clark, what's wrong?" she asked once the door was closed. She quickly covered the distance separating them. When she touched him, he pulled away. "Clark?" she asked, trying not to let his rejection hurt her.
"I'm sorry. I just…" he started before shrugging and looking away from her. "I'm just not in the mood." He didn't know what else to say. He was concerned about letting her touch him — concerned about his inability to respond appropriately. Maybe if he claimed that he wasn't in the mood, she wouldn't know exactly how sick he actually was.
She stepped back and studied him for a moment. She didn't think Clark had ever not been in the mood. There was something going on here and she was determined to get to the bottom of it.
"Not in the mood to what?" she asked. "Give your wife a hug?"
He looked at her with that last comment. "Oh, I'm sorry," he said, taking her in his arms and giving her a hug.
As soon as his arms went around her, she wrapped her arms around him and immediately noticed that something was definitely wrong. He'd lost some of his bulk. She ran her hands over the muscles in his back and shoulders confirming her suspicions. He seemed to realize his mistake when he felt her hands begin to move and pulled away.
Lois backed off and looked at him. "Okay, give," she said.
"What?" Clark asked, feigning his best innocent voice.
Lois walked over and took a seat on the edge of the bed. "I'm not in the mood for this, Clark. Why don't you just tell me what's wrong? You know I'm going to get it out of you eventually. Does this have anything to do with the weird things Superman's been doing lately?"
Clark let out a breath. He didn't think he had the energy to fight her right now either. He walked over to a chair, placed it in front of Lois and straddled it, resting his arms on the back of the chair as he faced her.
"I've lost my powers, Lois," said Clark simply.
"What? How? Kryptonite?" Each word was said louder than the last.
"No," said Clark softly.
"You know how I get my powers from the sun. It's like I'm a battery and the sun recharges me."
"Well, in here I only get a half hour outside every day. I've requested an outdoor work detail, but it seems a lot of guys are anxious to work outside. I'm sure it's just a matter of time before I get an assignment. Once that happens, I'll be fine."
"I don't understand, Clark. You've never needed to be in the sun before. I mean, I know your powers come from the sun, but…"
"I've always needed sun. I just get enough of it in my daily life that it's never been a problem before."
"But in jail, you can't get it naturally and they don't give you enough time outdoors. Clark, how long have you known this?"
"Well, I knew when you were here last time that I wasn't getting enough sun. I just didn't know it would affect me like this. I umm…" He seemed to lose his train of thought. He shook his head slightly. "I'm sorry, where was I. Oh right. My powers. Well, I've had less and less power every day, but I didn't lose my powers completely until about a week ago."
"That's why you had problems cutting the glass in the prison visitor's room."
Clark nodded. He should have known that wouldn't escape her attention.
"And that's why you haven't done it since."
Again Clark nodded.
"Clark, why didn't you tell me?"
"How? We have people listening in when we're in that visitor's room. Besides, Lois, I'm sure it'll be okay. I just don't have my powers."
Lois regarded him critically. "How do you know it will stop there, Clark?" she finally asked.
He got off the chair and came over and sat beside her on the bed. "I'll be fine. An outside job will come through any day now."
"You can't stay here, Clark."
"I'm serious, Clark. Look at you." She paused. "Tell me something. When you told me you weren't in the mood, were you saying you didn't want us to make love or that you… umm… couldn't."
He looked away.
"That's what I thought. Clark, you don't deserve a death sentence for what happened with Cole."
"It's not going to come to that, Lois."
"How do you know?"
"I'll get a job outside and everything will be fine. I promise. Besides, without my powers I'm not going anywhere."
She pulled in a sharp breath. She hadn't considered that. Now that he didn't have his powers, it wasn't as if he could just walk out. "Okay," she said slowly. "Then we've got to get you an outside work assignment. Maybe Perry's friend can do something to speed that up. Wait a minute. You said you haven't had your powers for about a week, right?"
"Well, that proves that the Superman that has appeared around town for the past few weeks isn't you."
"I told you that, Lois."
"I know you did. It's just… Well, you do have a habit of keeping things from me."
Clark snorted. "I guess I can't argue with that — given the circumstances."
Lois looked over at Clark. Her hand came up and gently stroked his cheek. "I love you," she whispered before leaning over and kissing him.
After a moment, he pulled back. "Lois, I just don't think…"
She kissed him again before whispering, "Do you know how much I've missed sleeping in your arms?"
Jimmy pulled his old car over to the side of the road. After the incident with Superman outside the Daily Planet, Perry bawled him out for not getting pictures. So when he spotted Superman standing at the entrance to the bridge, he pulled the car off to the side of the road and grabbed his camera. He checked the light and set his camera accordingly before beginning to snap pictures. It was night, but there were enough artificial lights that taking pictures wasn't a problem. A small crowd had soon gathered. They watched as Superman disappeared under the bridge. As Jimmy was approaching to get more pictures, there was suddenly an explosion. The force of the explosion threw Jimmy on to the ground behind him as the bridge started to collapse.
"Superman just blew up the bridge!" exclaimed a man standing nearby.
Jimmy watched in fascinated horror as the bridge teetered for a moment before slowly collapsing into the river. He ran out of film and quickly reloaded, slipping the used one into his pocket, and began snapping pictures again as Superman reemerged from around the bridge. Superman watched as cars began slipping into the bay. People rushed to provide assistance, but not Superman. He stood on the side with an evil smile on his face.
Suddenly, Superman seemed to notice Jimmy. He came directly over.
"You!" he said.
"Yes, Superman," Jimmy said hesitantly.
"Take out that film."
"It's either that, or I do it. And if that's necessary, you won't have a camera left either."
Jimmy quickly opened the back of the camera and removed the film.
Superman smiled — but it was like no smile Jimmy had ever seen.
"Now, get rid of that film," Superman said.
Jimmy threw the film as far away as he could. Seemingly satisfied, Superman turned away.
"Superman, why did you destroy the bridge?" Jimmy couldn't seem to stop himself from asking.
Superman turned back towards him. "It was getting in the way of my swimming," Superman responded before disappearing into the night sky.
Jefferson watched in satisfaction as people screamed and tried to scramble from their cars in the fast flowing water. He was pleased, if a bit surprised, that so far the real Superman hadn't as much as denied that he was doing all these bizarre things. He was even more pleased that Superman hadn't shown up here. This was the first time he'd actually made people believe that Superman had caused a disaster. He had been nervous about taking it this far. But so far, so good. Still, he was glad this phase was finally over. After all, there was always a danger that Superman or some nut with a camera could have ruined his plan. Now, it was too late. If Superman did show up to deny this, no one would believe him. Not with all the crazy antics he'd pulled in the last few weeks.
Whereas many had planned to destroy Superman, only one man had succeeded. No one would remember all the good things Superman had done. No. All they would remember was his blowing up the bridge. Too bad everyone thought the man who'd destroyed Superman was dead.
"Well, Sullivan," Cole began, leaning back in the bucket seat in the van, "that's phase three complete — the destruction of Superman. Now on to phase four, the destruction of one Dr. Bernard Klein."
Lois shifted her position in Clark's arms to look at him as he slept. She didn't know if she'd ever been any more frightened than she was at this moment. Clark had done everything he could to alleviate her fears, but she knew him too well to be fooled. He was like a shadow of his former self. His eyes, which had always held a hidden twinkle, seemed dull. His mind, which had always been sharp, had problems focusing on the conversation.
Physically, he was different too. Not only was there a loss of body mass, but he seemed listless and Clark was never listless. Then there was the fact that they'd not made love — even after a month apart. That probably concerned her more than anything. During the three years they'd been married, the one thing that had never changed was their passion. They still couldn't seem to get enough of each other. In that respect, they had certainly never out grown the honeymoon stage of their relationship. Yet tonight, Clark simply didn't have the energy. It terrified her.
She wondered briefly how much longer he could last without sunlight. She prayed she would never find out. There was only one option, now that he couldn't break out of jail, and that was to get him an outdoor work assignment. And she would move heaven and earth if she had to, but she would get him that assignment. She had to.
"Humm…" said Clark, opening his eyes and seeing her there. "If I'm dreaming, don't wake me up."
She leaned forward and kissed his chest. "Then don't wake either of us up," she replied softly.
"I love you, Lois Lane," he breathed before once again falling back to sleep.
Lois considered their discussion about her research into the phoney Superman. It hadn't been very helpful. Clark really hadn't been overly interested. He'd tried to give her a few ideas, but he'd just been too distracted. Still, at least now she knew that it was a phoney Superman. That meant there was no point in following up on the red kryptonite theory at least.
Lois stood in the lobby at Star Labs thinking about exactly what she was going to say to Dr. Klein. It wasn't as if she could go in and tell him what was going on with Clark. When the security guard told her to go on up, she took a deep breath and plowed forward. There was a risk to doing this, but she needed to find out if he had any theories about exactly what was happening to Clark and if there was anything they could do to stop, or even slow down, the effects of lack of sunlight.
"Lois, I'm glad to see you. I've been working on a theory about Superman. I've been thinking that maybe exposure to a yellow sun over a period of time causes a break down in the cerebral activity and…"
"Dr. Klein, the Superman who has been acting erratically is not the real Superman," Lois interrupted.
"Really! Well, that certainly throws a wrench into my theory. How do you…"
"I don't have time for a discussion about that right now. I have a question for you."
Klein didn't turn a hair. "What's the question?"
"What would happen to Superman if he didn't get a sufficient amount of sunlight?"
"I don't see how that's possible. I mean, even on an overcast day, a significant amount of sunlight gets through. And in the unlikely event that Superman wasn't getting enough sunlight, he could just fly up above the clouds to get additional exposure."
"Well, let's say that Superman didn't know he wasn't getting sufficient sunlight."
"I don't see how that's possible. Superman seems to have a highly developed sense of sunlight. It's sort of like… Well, a dog is a good example. Dogs have a well developed sense of the amount of water they need. If they have a good water supply, they will never drink too much or too little."
"And if they don't… Have a good water supply?"
"They die of dehydration."
"What?" Lois demanded.
"Well, that's not what would happen to Superman, of course."
"No. Sunlight acts for Superman the same way that food works for us. It provides him with energy for regulating, building and maintaining the body's processes. If he didn't get enough sunlight, it would be as if he was starving to death. Still, I don't see how that could happen."
"Well, what would you suggest if for some reason Superman couldn't get sufficient sunlight. Would sunlamps or something like that help?"
"Maybe. I mean, it certainly wouldn't be as good as getting out into the sunlight, but…"
"And if he didn't get enough sunlight for an extended period of time. What would happen?"
"I imagine it would be much the same as the side effects a person starving to death would have."
"Well, chronic malnutrition causes such things as impaired vision, listlessness, increased susceptibility to disease, an inability to concentrate, loss of body mass, impairment of mental capacity by affecting cognitive ability, a decrease in motor skills, physical capacity and agility and in the most extreme cases, death. Severely malnourished people can become unable to function even at a basic level."
"Oh, God," breathed Lois.
"But I don't see how that could happen to Superman," Dr. Klein reiterated. "No one could hold him in a place without sunlight long enough to do any real damage."
"How long would it be from the denial of sunlight to death?"
"I'd have to conduct a number of tests to be able to answer that question, Lois. With people dying of starvation, it depends on a person's supply of body fat since fat is our most efficient form of stored energy. However, most people can only survive without water for about a week and without food for sixty to seventy days. It would be fascinating to study how much stored energy Superman has. Maybe I could convince Superman to come in so that we could carry out experiments about the exact amount of sunlight required to preserve his full strength. But again I don't see how…" Dr. Klein's voice trailed off when he discovered that Lois had already left the room.
"I don't understand it," said Jimmy as he looked through the pictures again. "I know Superman was in these pictures."
Perry picked up a picture of the bridge and then glanced up at Jimmy with a look of disbelief on his face.
"Perry," said Lois, interrupting the men. "I need to talk to you."
"Not now, Lois. Jimmy and I are…"
"Now, Chief! It's important."
Perry turned and looked at Lois. She was obviously extremely upset. "Okay, come on," said Perry, leading Lois into his office.
"Okay, Lois. What's so all fired important that…"
"I need a favor."
"I need you to get Clark into an outdoor work program."
Perry was already shaking his head by the time Lois finished the request. "Lois, I burned all my bridges to get you monthly conjugal visits. I'm not holding any more cards. Sorry."
"Please, Perry," said Lois.
Perry was taken back. The tone in Lois' voice told him that she was begging — and one thing he'd never seen Lois do before was beg. Her next words confirmed that.
"I'll give up…" Her voice broke. "I'll give up all further conjugal visits if you can get Clark an outdoor work assignment."
"It's that important?" Perry asked.
"It's a matter of life and death."
Perry let out a breath. "I'll see what I can do."
"Now?" she begged.
Perry walked over and picked up the phone. When he had, he turned back to her. "Get out of here. See if you can make any sense out of what Jimmy's saying about his Superman pictures. Apparently Superman destroyed a bridge last night."
"Yeah, there were about ten lives lost. Now, get out there and see what Jimmy's pictures tell you. I'll see what I can do for Clark." He figured it was best to get her working rather than standing here fretting.
Lois nodded and left the room.
Perry watched her go. Why was it so important to Lois to get Clark an outdoor assignment that she would even give up her conjugal visits to do so? Normally, conjugal visits were only allowed every three to six months and not until a prisoner had been in prison for at least six months. He'd pulled every string he could find to get Lois into that prison. And even more to get her monthly visits. He had done it because he figured Lois wouldn't survive for three to six months without Clark or him without her. They seemed to offer a lifeline to each other.
Now she was prepared to give it up just to get him an outdoor work assignment. Maybe it was time he paid Clark a visit. He would do so tonight. Having reached that decision, he picked up the phone and dialed.
Clark picked up his tray and got into the line for lunch. He really wasn't hungry, but eating gave him something to do that would take his mind off how lousy he was feeling.
"Oh, I'm sorry," said Clark when he stumbled slightly into a fellow inmate.
The man, almost twice Clark's size, turned towards him. Clark took a deep breath. It was obvious from the look on the man's face that he had no intention of accepting Clark's apology. Clark had always walked away from a fight. However, that philosophy didn't work in prison. Clark had done a few stories over the years about life in prison so he knew that the worst thing he could do was to be mistaken as weak.
When he'd had his powers, it had been simple enough to control this type of situation. After all, he could simply take a man's hand and apply enough pressure without causing a scene to convince the most ferocious character that Clark wasn't worth the trouble. There was also a certain amount of respect due him for the crime he'd committed. He was a murderer after all. However, the man in front of him now didn't seem to know that Clark wasn't someone to be messed with.
Clark squared his shoulders. Whatever happened next, he was determined not to go down easy. He couldn't afford to if he expected to survive in this environment without his powers. The bigger man shoved him. Clark held his position and glared at the man.
"If you're smart, you'll walk away now," Clark said, garnering a certain amount of respect from the men around him.
"You sayin I ain't smart?" the man asked in response.
"Only if you don't walk away now," Clark said, refusing to be intimidated.
"Yeah," said the man, pushing Clark again. "So what you gonna do if I don't?"
Clark stepped up and pushed back. That was all it took before the two were in a full fledged fight. Clark was too busy struggling for his own survival to notice the whistles being sounded or men shouting encouragement for one side or the other. He didn't realize that the guards were there until arms were suddenly holding him back as he continued to struggle towards his opponent who was also struggling to get at him. Both men were bloody. Although, thanks to the quick intervention of the guards, neither was seriously injured.
After leaving Perry's office, Lois walked over to see what Jimmy was working on. Jimmy proceeded to fill her in on what had transpired last night.
"It wasn't Superman," objected Lois.
"I was there, Lois. Superman destroyed a bridge. When I asked him why, he told me that it was because the bridge was getting in the way of his swimming."
"It wasn't him," Lois repeated.
"Look, Lois, I know this isn't what you want to hear, but it definitely was Superman. I saw him do it. He admitted it to me."
"It wasn't Superman, Jimmy," reiterated Lois in exasperation.
"How do you know?" Jimmy asked, folding his arms across his chest. He knew what he'd seen. Lois wasn't even there.
"I… umm…" Lois' voice trailed off. After all, what could she say other than 'I know because I spent last night in Superman's arms.' Or 'I know because Superman doesn't have his powers.' "I just know, Jimmy."
There was a moment of awkward silence. It was obvious Jimmy wasn't convinced. "There is one odd thing, though," said Jimmy trying to break the silence.
"Well, after having Perry bawl me out for not getting pictures when Superman watched that sign fall outside the Planet, I was sure to get pictures this time." With that, he handed her the photos.
"I don't see Superman," said Lois, quickly flipping through the photos.
"That's what so unusual. I took an entire roll of film. Superman confiscated the second roll, but I'd already pocketed this one."
"But there's no Superman here."
Jimmy took one of the pictures. "He was standing right here. I swear, Lois," Jimmy said, pointing to one of the pictures. "I remember thinking that Superman looked… I don't know, smug I guess. But he didn't come through on the pictures."
"Lois! Jimmy!" bellowed Perry from the door to his office. "There's a press conference about Superman at city hall. I want you two on it. Jimmy, take your camera."
"Yes, Chief," responded Jimmy.
"Oh, and Lois…" said Perry, coming over to where she was standing. "I got Clark an outdoor work assignment — starting tomorrow."
Lois let out a breath of relief. "Thanks, Perry," she said softly, relieved even if she felt like crying at what she'd had to give up to get it.
"And, Lois, I didn't have to give up your monthly visits to do it."
Perry wasn't quite sure how to react to Lois' hug. He stood there for a moment when she threw her arms around him, as if he'd never been hugged before. Finally, he lightly patted her back. "What are you all looking at?" Perry demanded of the odd looks the other members of the Planet staff were giving them. "Don't you all have work to do?" People immediately turned their attention back to their work as Perry gently pried Lois' arms from around him. "And you two, get down to city hall," he said before storming back into his office.
Cole and Sullivan watched the press conference on the television they had set up in the bell tower.
"I don't understand, professor," said Sullivan. "I mean, if we had Superman show up at the press conference and cause a disturbance, it would undoubtedly put the final nail in his coffin."
"Sullivan, if our Superman showed up at the press conference, it would vindicate the real Superman, not finish him."
"At a press conference, there are cameras."
"The hologram generator targets the cerebral cortex directly making anyone in the vicinity think they're seeing Superman. It can't do that on camera. That's why I've been so careful to ensure that no one got any pictures of Superman over the past month. After all, if they did, they'd know that Superman wasn't really there. A hallucination can not be captured on camera. I almost blew it last night when some guy started snapping pictures. I'm glad you noticed him so that I could have Superman make him destroy the film.
"I see," replied Sullivan. Sullivan had been in the crowd last night and, as Cole had instructed, had watched for anyone with a camera. When he saw someone taking pictures, he'd informed Cole who'd had Superman take the film. He hadn't understood why until now.
Clark Kent didn't react as his punishment for fighting was announced — even though he knew he'd just been handed a death sentence. Fighting had become something of an epidemic in the prison and so the warden had decided to make an example of both the participants in this fight — he'd given them both a month in the hole.
"Sorry, Kent," said the guard who escorted Clark to his new accommodations in a nine by nine cell under the main part of the prison. There were no windows and no light and Kent would eat his meals there and sleep there and not be allowed out again until the thirty days were up.
Clark gave the guard a smile indicating that he appreciated the sentiment. "Would you do me a favor, Stan?" Clark asked. "Would you tell my wife that I'm sorry?"
The guard nodded as he turned the key and opened the door to the cell that would be Clark's home for the next month. The guard wasn't sure what Kent was apologizing to his wife about — he figured it was none of his business — but he'd pass the message along.
Clark stepped quietly inside the cell and then flinched at the sound of the metal door clanging into place behind him. He looked around the darkened cell. The only light was coming through a small opening in the door through which food would be provided. So this was where he would spend his remaining days. He knew he didn't have enough energy reserves left to survive the next thirty days without any sunlight at all. He didn't know if he'd survive for thirty days with the half hour of sunlight he normally got, but without any, he didn't have a chance.
He took a seat on a mattress on the floor of the cell and thought about Lois. That was the hardest thing about leaving this world — leaving Lois behind. Still, maybe it was better to have it over with quickly rather than slowly starving to death a little more each day. At least with his death, she would be able to grieve and then get on with her life. Not that she would see it that way, of course. Still… Lois. He sighed.
The reporters outside city hall were as thick as fleas. Lois pushed her way through the crowd to a position from which she could ask questions. She watched in silence as the mayor made her way to the microphones set up on the top step outside city hall. She was flanked by a man in a military uniform and a second man in a business suit.
"I have a bad feeling about this," Jimmy whispered to Lois.
"So do I, Jimmy," Lois responded.
The mayor waited until the crowd, who was throwing questions at her, quieted down before speaking.
"As you are all aware," began the mayor, "last night Superman went from simply being a nuisance to being a threat. The latest word is that twelve people are dead as a result of Superman's destruction of the Metropolis Harbor bridge. There are another five still in critical condition at Metropolis General Hospital. As a result, we have decided drastic measures have to be taken…"
The entire crowd immediately erupted with questions. Finally, one question was heard above the crowd. It came from an LNN reporter.
"What do you mean by drastic measures?"
"I've asked the military for their assistance in bringing Superman to justice," the mayor said.
"And if Superman doesn't want to be brought to justice?" the reporter continued.
The mayor gestured to the general who stepped up to the microphone. "Ladies and gentlemen, I am General Donald Chaser. Earlier today, we expropriated some kryptonite from Star Labs. We plan to give Superman a chance to surrender himself peacefully. However, should he not do so, we are prepared to use deadly force."
Lois stared in silence at the general. For once, she had absolutely no response. It wasn't as if she could say that Superman couldn't have blown up that bridge because he was locked in Metropolis Prison last night without his powers. Or that he couldn't have blown up that bridge because she'd spent the night with him — talk about resurrecting old rumors! Since she wouldn't use either of those explanations, she said nothing.
There were a number of other questions posed by various members of the press, but Lois hardly even noticed. If only those pictures of Jimmy's had turned out, maybe she could see something… Wait a minute! Maybe Jimmy's pictures had turned out.
"Jimmy, let's get back to the Planet," Lois said, turning and heading out of the crowd even before the press conference was finished.
Once they were back at the Planet, Lois immediately began rifling through the photos. Jimmy watched in fascinated silence.
"You don't have a single picture with Superman in it," Lois said.
"That's what I told you earlier," Jimmy replied in frustration — not understanding where she was going with this.
"You're sure you took his picture?"
"Yes. Of course, I'm sure. I mean, why would I have taken the pictures otherwise?" He picked up one of the pictures. "I mean, there's nothing else worth photographing in this picture."
"But you have been known to panic. It seems to me I remember a time when you got a picture of your own shoes."
"But nothing was happening during these first pictures," Jimmy objected indignantly.
"Relax, Jimmy. I just need to be sure that Superman was in these pictures."
"He was, Lois. I swear."
"Then that's it." She shook her head in disbelief. "That's why there was no sonic boom when Superman left me outside the Daily Planet. I don't know why I didn't see it before."
"I don't understand," said Jimmy in confusion.
"Jimmy, do you remember when Jefferson Cole framed me for murder?"
"He used a device he called a hologram generator to make it seem as if I were stalking one of the witnesses with a gun and then later, used it to make a court room full of people think that Perry was testifying against me. Don't you think it's quite a coincidence that people are seeing Superman do some strange things just after Cole breaks out of jail."
"But Cole's dead. Clark… umm… Cole's dead."
"But last time he had an assistant. Jimmy see what you can dig up on…" She tapped her finger on the desk as she tried to remember the man's name. "Wolcott!" she exclaimed triumphantly. "If he's still in jail, see if you can find someone else who might be trying to continue with his work."
"Sure. What will you be doing?"
"I'm going to see Dr. Klein," Lois replied, grabbing Jimmy's camera and a couple of the pictures before heading for the door.
"It's not my fault, Lois," Dr. Klein said the instant Lois appeared in the doorway.
"The kryptonite. I tried to deny that I had it, but one of my assistants panicked because of Superman's recent behavior and he told them where to findit."
"That's not why I'm here," Lois assured him. "I have a theory about Superman and I want to run it by you to see what you think," Lois said before proceeding to fill him in on her theory.
Dr. Klein studied the pictures Lois showed him thoughtfully. "It does make sense, Lois. But you're going to need a lot more than a couple of pictures that don't have Superman in them to prove it."
"I know that, Dr. Klein. After Jefferson Cole was convicted, his hologram generator was given to Star Labs for safe keeping. Do you still have it?"
"Of course we do."
"I figure he could have made another one while he was in prison, but I brought Jimmy's camera to see what happens when we take pictures of holographic images."
"Good plan," said Dr. Klein enthusiastically before excusing himself to fetch the required item.
Lois looked up when he came back a few minutes later. "Where is it, Dr. Klein?" she asked.
"I don't understand. That area is secured. Someone would have to have high level security clearance to get in there."
"Oh, I'm sorry. Lois, the hologram generator… It's missing. What am I going to do? This is completely unauthorized."
Sullivan slowly made his way up the stairs to the bell tower. In his arms were a large number of books, and on the top, precariously balanced, was a stainless steel canister.
"Be careful with that!" yelled Cole, rushing over and taking the canister off the top of the pile.
Sullivan set down the books. "What's so important about that canister, professor?"
"This," said Cole, holding up the canister, "is my greatest invention. It is hybrid-kryptonite. It will kill almost every living creature but will leave inanimate objects completely untouched." The excitement in Cole's voice showed his fervor for this particular topic. "If it hadn't been for Dr. Goody-two-shoes, the Blue Clad Boy Scout and Ms. Nosy Reporter, I would have become famous as the inventor of liquid death. So, did you have any problems getting it from Star Labs?"
"Of course not," replied Sullivan. "I'm an employee. They trust their employees."
"Just remember, Sullivan, you wouldn't be an employee if I hadn't fed you the answers to Star Labs' employee exam through that ear piece we came up with."
"Yeah, well I guess I owe you for that, professor. It is a great job."
"And more importantly, it gives us the access we need."
"So will this hybrid-kryptonite kill Superman?"
"Unfortunately, no. But we don't need it to to finish the final phase. Now that the military is hunting down Superman, I'm sure it's only a matter of time before the boy scout in the primary colors is properly dealt with. That leaves only Bernard Klein for us to deal with."
"Jimmy, what have you found out about Cole's former assistant?" Lois asked.
"He's still in jail."
Lois let out a breath. "Did you find anything that might help?"
"Well, I found out that in addition to his job at Star Labs, Cole taught a course at Metropolis University for a few years. That's how he knew Wolcott. The dean told me that some of his students… Well, there were concerns that some of his students were becoming a bit intense. In fact, he said some of them almost seemed to worship Cole. So I got a list of his students and old yearbooks. Now I figure that if he rented an apartment before he got out of prison…"
"His assistant must have rented the apartment for him. Very good, Jimmy," said Lois, impressed by Jimmy's reasoning. He really was getting pretty good at this. "I found out that the hologram generator is missing from Star Labs. I've got a list of employees. Let's see if these lists intersect anywhere and then if any of these people rented an apartment in Metropolis under the name of Jefferson Cole."
Jimmy smiled. She hadn't just told him to do it. She was planning to work with him — treating him more like a colleague than a researcher. He had to admit, he liked the change.
Perry walked through the big gates to the prison. He really should have come to see Clark before now, but he hadn't been able to make himself do it. It was just so hard thinking about Clark in this place. Still, after Lois' behavior today, he had to see for himself how Clark was doing.
"I'd like to see Clark Kent," he gruffly informed the guard.
The guard looked down the list of inmates before saying, "Sorry, I'm afraid Kent isn't able to have visitors."
"What? Why?" Perry demanded.
The guard shrugged. "They don't give us that information."
"Well, when can he have visitors?" asked Perry.
"It says here that he won't be allowed visitors for the next month."
"But surely there has got to be some room for exceptions," said Perry, now even more concerned. "I was Clark Kent's boss. We've come across a problem that only Clark can help me with. It really is important that I talk to him."
"I'm sorry. No exceptions."
Perry let out a breath before turning and slowly heading away. As he did, someone approached from behind.
"Excuse me," said a guard. "Did I hear correctly? Are you here to see Clark Kent?"
"Yes, I am," said Perry, turning towards the man.
"My name's Stan Leskowski. I'm a guard here."
"Do you know why Clark can't have visitors?"
Stan nodded. "Kent got into a fight in the cafeteria today. It wasn't his fault. In here you can't back away from a fight. The guy he took on was twice his size. But as a result of the fight, Kent's been thrown in the hole for the next month."
"The hole? I thought that type of punishment has been banned in prisons."
"Not here," responded Stan. "Listen, the warden doesn't usually use the hole, but there have been a rash of fights in the past few weeks. I guess Kent just ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Perry nodded. "Well, thank you, Stan," he said offering the man his hand.
"You're welcome. Oh… by the way, do you have any contact with Kent's wife?"
"Well, Kent asked me to pass on a message for him. Could you tell her that he said he was sorry?"
Perry nodded. "I'll let her know."
Lois was deep in thought when she arrived at work the next morning. She and Jimmy had found out that five of Cole's former students — three men and two women — were now working at Star Labs. They were planning to take their pictures of these people to the landlord of the apartment rented in Jefferson Cole's name. Hopefully, he could identify one of them. If not, they'd have to expand their list of suspects.
Still, Lois wasn't sure what motivation any of these people would have. Cole was dead. So why would one of his students continue with a plot to destroy Superman? And did that mean she was still in danger? After all, Cole had failed in his attempt to kill her. She snorted. At least they couldn't do anything to her now that would be any worse than what Cole had already… She paused. What Cole had already done? But that didn't make any sense. Surely Cole wouldn't have planned to die just to make her suffer by having Clark go to jail. She shook her head. It was obvious he'd had some sort of plan, but he really couldn't have intended to lose his own life to carry it out. Still, if someone was picking up where Cole left off, shouldn't they have come after her — to finish what Cole started.
"Morning, Jimmy," said Lois.
"Perry's been looking for you," Jimmy responded.
Lois made her way to the chief's office. "You wanted to see me, Chief?"
"Yeah, close the door and have a seat."
Lois studied him for a moment before closing the door and turning back to the desk.
"Have a seat, honey," Perry said again.
Lois refused to sit down. When someone told you to have a seat, it usually meant they had bad news. "Look, Perry, why don't you just tell me whatever it is you have to tell me. I've got a busy day ahead of me. It looks like we may have a lead on the Superman story and I…"
"Lois, I went to see Clark last night," Perry interrupted.
Lois steadied herself against the wall. If he had gone to see Clark and he wanted to talk to her about something that required her to sit down… "What is it, Perry?" she demanded.
Perry got up from behind his desk and moved out in front of it. "Apparently there was some sort of incident in the cafeteria yesterday."
"Is Clark all right?"
"He's fine. He's just… Well, apparently he's been assigned to the hole for thirty days."
"Is that what it sounds like?" asked Lois, the fear growing in her by the moment.
"Apparently so," said Perry. "It's a small cell that…"
"Are there windows?"
"Does he get time outside?"
"No. But I've been on the phone with prison officials all morning and they assure me that as soon as the thirty days are up, he will still get the outdoor work assignment. Lois!"
Perry wasn't quick enough to catch Lois' limp body as she collapsed to the floor.
There was no way to tell time except by the delivery of food. Clark had known it was supper time when the guard brought him his dinner last night and he knew it was breakfast time when breakfast was delivered. Other than that, Clark had no way to keep track of the passage of time. He hadn't realized exactly how much light still managed to make its way into the prison until he was deprived of light completely.
Once lunch was delivered, he would have spent a day in this cell. He would keep track of the days as they passed. Maybe by sitting very still and conserving his energy he could… Who did he think he was kidding? He could already feel the effects of being in this cell for a single day. He'd never live through another twenty nine. He estimated that he had a week at the very most, but even that was being very optimistic. It was more likely that he'd be unable to walk at all in a day or two. Then, even if they took him out of here and put him in the prison hospital, he would continue to starve to death from the lack of sunlight.
Yet there was no way he could tell anyone what the problem was. Lois was pregnant. He would not do anything to risk his child's life or safety, even if it meant he died as a result. And telling anyone in here that he was Superman would put both Lois and his child in danger. Even if Superman was no longer active, there were still people out there who would love to get their revenge — or to kidnap his child in case he or she had superpowers. Besides, if he told people that he was Superman and therefore needed sunlight, they would just think he'd gone insane. After all, without his powers, there was no way to prove who he was.
"I'm sorry, Lois," he whispered into the darkened cell. He should have done as she wanted and flown off with her. He should have talked to her before pleading guilty to a crime that no jury in America would have convicted him for. He should never have allowed his emotions to get control of him in the first place. His place had been at the hospital, by Lois' side, while she was fighting for her life — not off getting his revenge. He was more sorry than he could possibly say. He had condemned the woman he loved to raising a child on her own — his child. A child that he would now never have the chance to know.
Lois ignored Jimmy and Perry's reassurances that Clark would be fine, because she knew that wasn't the case. However, she couldn't very well tell them what the real problem was. When she'd seen Clark the other day, it was obvious how badly in need of sunlight he already was. He would never survive thirty days with no sunlight at all.
Dr. Klein said that people could live without food for sixty to seventy days — depending on their energy reserves. Given the fact that Clark had lost his powers briefly just before going to prison, she doubted his energy reserves had been very high in the first place. He had already been in prison for about fifty days and although he had not been deprived of sunlight completely during that time… Thirty days with no sunlight. Lois doubted he could survive half that time if his condition when she'd last seen him was any indication.
She had to break him out of prison. It was the only option. Surely, if Jefferson Cole could do it, so could she. She'd investigated enough jail breaks in her life to figure out something. She'd even broken out of jail once herself. Of course, that had been with the help of Superman. All he had to do was to use his pinky to bust the lock on her cell. She let out a short breath. Okay, so she didn't have Superman this time. So how…
When she was a kid, she'd wished she could be invisible. Now she'd give almost anything for that ability. If she was invisible, she could just walk into the jail, get Clark and walk back out, but she wasn't invisible. She smiled slightly when she thought back to the conversation she and Clark had had about the subject shortly after they'd first met. They were investigating a story about an invisible man — actually, he wasn't really invisible, he just appeared invisible.
"When I was a kid, Lucy and I used to play this game. We'd ask each other, what would you rather do, fly or be invisible?" Lois informed Clark late one evening.
"And you chose?" Clark had asked in response.
"Mmm, invisible. I wished I could walk through all those closed doors. I guess I still do."
"And what do you think you'd find there behind all those closed doors?"
"Mmm, I don't know. Something different, wonderful. Something I don't have, can't have. So, what about you?"
"Invisible or fly?"
"Fly," responded Clark.
"Really?" asked Lois, surprised by the answer.
Clark nodded. "Yeah."
"You know, I never thought I would say this, Clark, but you and I have something in common."
"Superman. You wanna fly like him, and I want to fly with him."
Little had Lois known at the time that she was talking to the flying man himself. But right now, more than she ever had before, she really did wish she could walk through all those closed doors and this time, she knew what lay behind them — the man she thought she'd never meet. If only there was some way… That was it. Alan Morris — the invisible man.
She pulled herself up off the couch. "Excuse me," she said to Perry and Jimmy. "There's someone I need to talk to." She rushed from the room. She knew Alan had gone to work for Lex Corp in research and development. Since Lex's death, the company had been broken up. She hoped Alan was still living at the same address.
A short man opened the door of his modest house.
"Ms. Lane!" he exclaimed immediately.
"Hi, Alan," Lois responded.
"Helene," Alan called to his wife. "You're not going to believe who's here."
"Who is it Alan?" Helene asked, coming to the door. "Ms. Lane!" Helene exclaimed with the same excitement as her husband. "Well, come in, come in."
Lois smiled. "Please, call me Lois."
"Oh, Ms. Lane, we are so grateful to you and Mr. Kent," said Alan, ignoring Lois' request. "If it wasn't for you, Helene and I would never have found each other again." He then became serious, "We were sorry to hear about Mr. Kent."
"So what can we do for you?" asked Helene.
"Do you still have those suits that make you appear to be invisible?" she asked.
"Well, officially, no. After Golden Boy Barnes broke into our house to steal the suits, we told everyone that I'd destroyed the remaining suits."
"But you didn't," Lois said.
Allan smiled. "I kept a couple. Sometimes Helene and I use them to go for a walk. It is so much fun watching people interact when they don't know you're watching them. Why? I mean, you aren't going to print this, are you?"
"No. I just need to borrow the suits."
"Oh, I don't know, Ms. Lane," said Alan hesitantly. "I mean, they really are dangerous if they fall into the wrong hands."
Lois opened her mouth to respond, but that was unnecessary. Helene spoke up instead.
Helene had been watching Lois closely since the woman had arrived. She was only too well aware of the way a woman looked when her man was in trouble. Lois Lane had helped save her husband and Helene suspected that Lois needed the suits to save her own. "Alan, I think this is important," said Helene. "I think we should give her the suits."
Alan let out a short breath before nodding and going to get the suits. He knew from the last time he'd dealt with Lois that she could be extremely persuasive. Between her and his wife, he figured it was best just to give in now than to have to give in later.
Perry sat in his office thinking about Lois' actions over the past couple of days. He'd known Lois Lane for more than ten years now. She often had a habit of over reacting. However, he'd never seen her in the panic she'd been in during the past couple of days.
He'd known for some time that Clark was Superman. He'd never said anything and he never would. However, knowing that Clark was Superman had made Perry respect Clark that much more for being willing to serve a prison sentence. Lois' initial reactions had been predictable, but then yesterday she'd stormed in here begging him to do whatever was necessary to get Clark an outdoor assignment. What was that all about? She had even been prepared not to see Clark again if he could pull it off. Then there was her reaction today to the news that Clark had been sentenced to the hole for thirty days. There was something very wrong with this picture.
But what? The key had to be Lois' insistence that Clark get an outdoor assignment. Why was that so important? He leaned back in his chair and thought about that. Outdoors. What was so important about getting Clark outdoors? What was so important about getting Superman outdoors? Suddenly, Perry gasped. The sun. Superman needed sunlight the way most people needed food. It was the only thing that made any sense. Especially when he put that information together with Lois' questions about the hole before she fainted. Obviously, Clark was not getting enough sun in prison. And if Lois' reaction was any indication, it was killing him. So now he'd been given a thirty day sentence without sunlight. No wonder Lois had reacted the way she had.
Okay, so what was Lois going to do now? He snorted. He knew exactly what she was going to do. She was going to break Clark out of prison.
He saw Lois enter the newsroom, obviously on a mission.
"Lois!" he bellowed into the newsroom.
"Not now, chief. I need to…"
"Now, Lois," Perry responded in a voice that said he was not about to take no for an answer.
Lois came into his office with a look of annoyance on her face.
"I've been thinking," said Perry. "I want you to take some time off and I want you to take it now."
Lois stared at him in disbelief. That was one of the things on her to-do list before breaking Clark out of prison tonight.
"I also have an idea," continued Perry. "Now, it's my guess that you're going to want a place somewhere out of the city — privacy and all that. And that you're going to need a place you can get to quickly."
Lois' mouth fell open. Did he know? After all, that was one of her biggest problems — where to take Clark where he could get some sunlight without being seen. However, she also knew, from her prison breakout, that it wouldn't take long for the police to set up road blocks.
"Anyway," continued Perry, pulling some keys out of his desk. He took a moment to remove a key from the key chain. He set it on the desk in front of him. "I thought you might like to make use of my fishing cabin. There's no one up there and it's close to the city. You could probably get there before… oh, I don't know, maybe prison officials knew there was any reason to set up road blocks."
"You know," Lois whispered.
"Not officially. But if a man in my position didn't know unofficially, he wouldn't be a man in my position."
Lois shook her head. "No. I can't accept this. I don't want you getting in trouble."
"For what? Leaving the key to my cabin on my desk where just anyone can pick it up." With those words, he turned and walked out of his office.
Lois watched him walk into the bull pit before turning back to the desk. She looked at the key for a moment before snatching it up and stuffing it in her pocket. She made her way back out into the newsroom.
"What are you still doing here?" asked Perry. "I thought your vacation started five minutes ago," Perry said for the benefit of everyone in the newsroom. "Have fun in Seattle."
"Thanks, Perry. I think it will be good for me to get away for a while."
"So what am I going to do around here with half a newsroom?" Perry growled before turning and walking away.
It was some time later when Perry called Alice. Without giving her the details, but still letting her know what was happening, he asked her to do something for him. She was only too happy to help out. Although she did think Perry had gone a little crazy with one of his requests. Still, if he thought it was important, she'd go along with it.
Lois pulled the rented windowless van into a wooded area she had found earlier today near Metropolis Prison. She checked the contents of the van one final time. She had some of Clark's clothes as well as her own. She also had a sunlamp. She hadn't found a way to hook it up in the van. That meant she'd have to wait until they got to Perry's cabin before she could get it going. At least Perry had a generator. Clark wouldn't be able to get any real sunlight until tomorrow. In the mean time, maybe the artificial sunlight would help.
She pulled Alan's suit on over her clothes and stuffed the extra suit inside before stepping out of the van into the darkness. She looked through the woods at the Prison before turning on the suit and walking towards the main entrance.
When she finally arrived, she stood silently outside — waiting. That was going to be the most difficult part. She would have to wait for people to go through doors before being able to go in herself. Otherwise, it was possible the guards watching the activity on the numerous cameras would notice her. Even though she was invisible, doors opening and closing by themselves would surely attract attention.
A woman walked up to the prison door, opened it and walked inside. Lois followed her through the two sets of outside doors. She had chosen to come just before midnight since the guards' shifts changed at midnight. She figured all the traffic might make this easier. Besides, if Clark disappeared at midnight, his absence might not be noticed before morning.
She waited outside security until one of the guards left for the night. She slipped inside the first of two secured doors and waited silently between them. She hopped no one could hear the pounding of her heart — it sounded so loud in her own ears. It seemed like an eternity before another person exited, allowing her to slip inside the second door.
She'd found some blueprints for the prison earlier in the day and so had some idea about where she was going. She made her way quietly down a hallway, making sure to move off to the side any time someone approached. The last thing she needed was for someone to bump into her. As she made her way towards the stairs she knew would take her down to the cells referred to as 'the hole', she realized there was an additional benefit to coming at midnight. The prisoners were locked down for the night. Otherwise, there was a very real danger if she was discovered by an inmate. They could make arrest seem like the least of her problems.
She had to wait for about half an hour for someone to go through the doors that led to the hole. Inside was a long hall with about a dozen cells off to one side. The cells had solid doors — preventing her from being able to see which one Clark was in. She spotted the guards' room at the other end of the hall. She made her way quietly down. There was one guard inside watching a movie on television. She spotted a ring of keys sitting on a nearby table. She made her way over and very quietly picked up the keys and stuck them in the pocket of the suit so that they too would be invisible.
There was some sort of official type book lying open on the table. She glanced in it, hoping it contained information about Clark. She let out a slow but quiet breath when she saw Clark's name and the cell number. She slowly backed out of the room.
"Clark," came a familiar voice in the darkness.
Clark smiled. He knew it wasn't real. After all, he'd been hearing Lois' voice for the past few hours. It was still comforting to hear it again.
"Hi, honey," he responded.
"I'm going to get you out of here," the voice said again.
Clark smiled. "I'm too tired, Lois. Why don't we just go to bed?"
Outside his cell, Lois fumbled with the keys. There were a couple dozen keys on the key ring. She had to find the right one without letting the guard or anyone else hear her. It seemed to take forever. Finally, she found the key. There was a loud clanging sound when the cell door unlocked.
Lois froze as the guard appeared in response to the noise. He walked down the hall until he was standing almost in front of Lois. Lois didn't move a muscle. In fact, she didn't dare breath for fear that he would hear her. He stood there, his head cocked to the side as if listening for something before shrugging and walking back into the office.
Lois didn't breath again until she saw the guard sink back down into the couch and resume watching the movie. Then she turned her attention back to the cell door. She opened it with agonizing slowness, just far enough for her to slip inside.
She pulled in a sharp breath at the smell that greeted her. If she hadn't heard Clark's voice earlier, she would have wondered if she was already too late — the cell held the smell of death. She gave her eyes a moment to adjust to the small amount of light coming from the partially opened cell door.
Her chin quivered at the sight of Clark, curled up in the corner of the cell. He hardly looked like her husband. She quickly made her way over.
"I'm getting you out of here," she said again. When he just looked at the crack in the door, she suddenly realized he couldn't see her. She took off the headpiece.
"Lois?" he mumbled in disbelief.
She nodded and opened the suit, pulling out a second invisible suit. "I need you to put this on."
"Why?" he asked.
"I'm getting you out of here."
"I'm too tired, Lois. Why don't we just wait 'til morning?"
Lois began struggling to get the suit on his uncooperative body. "Please, Clark, I can't do this alone."
Hearing the desperation in her voice moved Clark to action. He knew he was hallucinating, but even in a hallucination he couldn't very well let Lois hurt — and her voice was full of hurt. He pulled on the suit as instructed. Lois helped him to his feet and then had to catch him when his legs gave out from under him.
"You have to walk, Clark. I can't carry you. Can you do that? Can you do that for me?"
"I'd do anything for you, Lois," Clark slurred.
Lois gave him a brief kiss before slipping the headpiece over his head and turning on Clark's suit. She then slipped on her own head piece and turned her suit back on. She found his arm and, wrapping it around her shoulders to give him support, made her way back to the door of the cell. She looked outside through the crack. The guard was still watching his television program, so Lois slowly opened the door a bit more in order to get her and Clark through.
Once in the hallway, she leaned Clark against the wall before softly closing the cell door and turning the lock again. Once again, a loud clang sounded when the lock clicked into place. In the guards' room, the guard jumped off the sofa and made his way into the hallway. This time, he walked down the hall, trying each door.
Lois got Clark over to the other side of the hall only a second before the guard checked the door on his cell. She placed her arm across his chest to hold him as tight to the wall as she could while the guard continued his trip down the hall before making his way back to the room again.
Lois let out a breath. That had been close. She wrapped Clark's arm back over her shoulder and began leading him to the stairs.
"I've missed you, Lois," said Clark. "I'm sorry about all of this. I didn't mean to die and leave you to raise our baby alone."
Lois stopped and, after taking a look around, responded. "Clark, you've got to do me a favor."
"I need you to be very quiet. Can you do that?" There was no response — Lois couldn't see Clark nod. "Clark?"
"I'll be quiet, Lois," he whispered.
This time, Lois didn't dare wait until someone came through these doors. It could be hours before someone else decided to come down here. So she withdrew the keys and fumbled with them until she found the right one to open the door. Once back in the main part of the prison, it was easier. She was able to get Clark out of the prison quickly.
She gave them both a moment of rest outside the prison. Clark was incredibly weak and his weight was resting heavily on her. After a moment, she directed them into the bushes on the other side of the road and found the van.
Lois was exhausted when she finally pulled the van to a stop in front of Perry's cabin. She was not looking forward to having to get a bed made up and the sunlamp set up — as well as getting a fire going and all the other little things there would be to do yet tonight.
She looked over at Clark. He was incredibly still — too still. She stretched out a trembling hand and lay it on the side of his neck — checking for a pulse. She let out a breath she hadn't realized she was holding when she found one. He was alive — although she wasn't at all sure he'd make it through the night. That made the sunlamp her priority. She decided to let him sleep until she'd gotten things set up in the cabin.
She pulled the key out of her pocket and opened the door to the cabin. She'd only been here once — when she'd first started working at the Planet. Perry had decided it would be good to get a bunch of his reporters away to bond during a weekend of fishing. That had been the weekend she and Claude had first gotten together. It was not a pleasant memory. Still, desperate times and all that.
She knew that Perry always left an oil lamp and matches just inside the door of the cabin. However, when she opened the door, she realized there was light coming from a fire in the fireplace — the glow was soft since the fire was down to not much more than embers. She froze.
"Hello," she finally said hesitantly. When there was no answer, she finally picked up a lantern and matches and lit it. There was a paper lying on the table. She made her way over and picked it up.
'Perry suggested that you might be coming by for a visit, so I took the liberty of stocking the ice box, making sure there was lots of gas for the generator and starting a fire. He also seemed to think you might enjoy a sunlamp. So I got it set up by the bed. All you need to do is start the generator and you'll have real artificial sunlight. Hope things work out. Love, Alice.'
Lois fought unsuccessfully against the tears that began making their way down her cheeks. With Clark so out of it, she had been feeling so alone. This reminder that she wasn't was exactly what she needed right now. Even the bed had been made up with the covers turned back.
Lois made her way back to the van and woke Clark up.
"Not now, Lois," mumbled Clark.
"I need your help, sweetheart. Just one more move and then you can sleep as long as you like."
Clark growled but after a bit more cajoling, woke up enough to help her take him into the cabin, remove his clothes and get into the bed. Then she went outside and started the generator. She came back inside and turned on the sunlamp. She moved it over so that it was shining on Clark.
"That feels so good, honey," Clark moaned softly.
She sat down on the edge of the bed. She ran her hand gently through his hair. "Do you want the covers pulled back so that you can get more light on you." When Clark nodded, Lois pulled back the covers.
"Thanks," Clark mumbled, closing his eyes and soaking up the artificial sun. It wasn't as good as the real thing, but at this point, Clark wasn't fussy. He didn't think he'd ever felt anything this good in his entire life.
Lois sat beside him, just watching him. She knew that breaking him out of prison had been the right thing to do. He never could have survived in there for the rest of the month. She still wasn't sure he'd make it through the night, but at least he now had a chance.
"Don't die on me, Clark," she whispered. He made no reply.
She sat there for a long time before finally getting up and tending to the fire. She then went outside to get the rest of their things out of the van and hide the van. As she brought in the sunlamp, she wondered about the sunlamp that Alice had brought here earlier. It seemed that Alice was somewhat confused as to why a sunlamp was necessary. However, the fact that Perry had requested it, indicated that he knew why getting Clark out of jail was so important.
It took her about an hour before she got everything done she needed to do tonight. It was close to four in the morning before she was ready to turn in. She looked over at Clark. She had heard something years ago about prisoners in concentration camps when they were liberated. After years of starvation, they ate so much that their weakened bodies couldn't handle it and they died. She wondered if they should be careful about how much sunlight Clark got. After all, he didn't have his superpowers at the moment. That meant he could get a sunburn like anyone else. She turned off the light. The room reverted into its soft glow from the fire.
"Lois?" Clark asked softly.
Lois crawled into bed next to him. "I just think you've had enough for now. We don't want you to get a sunburn," she said as she snuggled into his arms. He stunk — the smell of death clinging to him — but since he didn't have the energy to go wash in the pond tonight and she was still terrified about his health, she wasn't about to be anywhere but next to him tonight. "How are you feeling?" she asked.
"A bit better, I think." There was a long pause before Clark asked, "Did you break me out of prison?"
Lois chuckled softly. "Look who's finally catching up," she said, turning in his arms to look at him.
"You shouldn't have done that," he said and then after a moment added, "I'm sure glad you did that. I don't think I'd have lasted in there much longer."
"I know, Clark," she whispered. "Just don't die on me now. Okay?" Lois was relieved to hear his soft chuckle in response. The sunlamp must have helped. He seemed a little more lucid than he had been when she'd broken him out of prison.
Lois didn't sleep. She kept looking over at Clark — making sure he was still breathing. At about six o'clock, Clark's breathing got more labored. She watched him struggling to breath. She had no idea what to do. Finally, she turned the sunlamp back on. It took a while but his breathing seemed to return to normal.
However, she was still concerned about the sweat on his forehead. She got a cloth and wet it before gently running it over his face. He finally seemed to wake up slightly.
"Hey," she said softly. "You had me worried there for a while."
He gave her a slight smile before closing his eyes and drifting back to sleep. She gave him a few more minutes under the sunlamp before turning it off again. This time, however, she didn't even lie down. She was scared of falling asleep. What if he had problems again and she was asleep?
By the time the sun started to rise, she was thoroughly exhausted. She opened every curtain in the cabin, letting all the sunlight in she could. Then she lay down next to him and drifted off for a few minutes.
She had only been asleep for less than an hour when she felt him stir. She was awake immediately.
"Clark?" she asked softly.
"Lois," Clark responded weakly.
Lois moved out of the bed. "Would you like me to help you outside?" she asked.
He closed his eyes for a moment before nodding.
Clark spent most of the day in the sun. By the time it set, Lois was starting to believe he was going to live.
Perry looked up to see a man in a shirt and tie and dress jacket but wearing blue jeans flanked by a short black woman and a young man with a ponytail enter the newsroom. He got up from behind his desk and made his way towards them.
"Can I help you?" Perry asked the intruders.
"We're looking for Lois Lane," the man said.
"She's not here at the moment. Do you want to tell me what you need to see my star reporter about?"
"Her husband escaped from prison last night."
"What?" asked Jimmy, coming over. "Way to go, C.K."
The man in charge looked over at Jimmy. "This is no laughing matter, young man. Now is Lois Lane here?"
"And who exactly wants to know?" asked Perry.
"I'm U.S. Marshall Glen Calvin. This is my team," he added, pulling out his identification and handing it to Perry. He gave Perry a moment before continuing, "Now where is Ms. Lane?"
"She's on her vacation," Perry informed him.
"And when did she take this vacation?"
"She left yesterday."
"I don't suppose you know where she was planning to go," Calvin said.
"Can't say that I do," Perry responded.
"I heard her say something about Seattle," said Ralph.
Perry hid a smile while Jimmy glared at Ralph.
"Seattle, huh?" asked Calvin.
"That's what she said," Ralph continued.
Calvin handed out business cards while saying, "Well, if anyone hears from her, give us a call."
Lois let out a frustrated breath as she read the instructions on the box of macaroni and cheese again. She was determined to make something hot for supper instead of just the sandwiches they'd been eating for the past few days. Macaroni and cheese had seemed easy enough. Still, she must have done something wrong. The food in front of her looked more like soup than macaroni and cheese.
Clark entered the cabin and came up behind her, looking over her shoulder at the pot on the small stove.
"There's something wrong with these instructions, Clark," Lois said in exasperation.
He picked up the spoon and stirred the macaroni soup before asking, "How much milk did you add?"
"Well the instructions call for fourteen cups of milk and I didn't add nearly that much. There wasn't nearly enough room in the pot."
Clark took the box from her hand and looked at the instructions before bursting out laughing.
"What's so funny?" Lois demanded.
"I think that's a quarter of a cup of milk. Not fourteen cups."
She took the box back from him and looked again at the instructions. This time she noticed the line between the one and the four. "Oh, Clark," Lois groaned in frustration.
Clark wrapped his arms around her from behind. "Don't worry about it, honey," he said nibbling lightly on her ear. "What do you say we worry about eating supper later?"
Lois closed her eyes as Clark's lips trailed down her neck. It had been a few days since Lois had broken Clark out of prison. The first day had been hell for Lois, but Clark had gotten progressively stronger. Today, for the first time, he really seemed like his old self — and if he was suggesting what he seemed to be suggesting…
"What exactly are you suggesting?" she asked. He didn't answer. Instead he intensified his efforts on her neck. She moaned, before turning in his arms. His head came up and their lips gently found each other.
She suddenly pulled herself out of Clark's arms and started towards the door. Clark was confused. "Lois?" he asked.
"I just think I should take a moment to turn off the generator. We don't want to use up all our gas."
It took her a few minutes to get that done and to get things cleared up around the cabin — to make it look a little less as if there were people living here. She walked back into the cabin and smiled at the sight that greeted her. Clark had lit a few candles. That, together with the fire that was burning in the fireplace, was the only light in the cabin. Clark had moved the mattress off the bed to set it in front of the fireplace and was sitting on it with his back against the old couch. Beside him was a bottle of wine and two glasses.
"Where did you get the wine?" Lois asked.
"I guess this is one of the things Alice thought we needed."
"Well, she did seem to think of everything else." Lois looked around for a moment. "Is this a private party, or can anyone join?"
"Only my wives," Clark responded, using the corkscrew to open the wine.
Lois sashayed over to the edge of the mattress. "Well, I guess that includes me. But I have to tell you that if any of your other wives show up…"
"I'll send them away," Clark promised.
Clark poured two glasses of wine before setting the bottle on the floor beside the mattress. He handed one to Lois who was still standing beside his makeshift bed. She reached over and took both glasses from him, also setting them on the floor. He looked at her in confusion, but that ended when she crawled over onto the mattress and suddenly attacked his mouth. The wine instantly forgotten, both spent the next hour getting reacquainted with the other's body.
Calvin sat with his team in the dark conference room in the offices of the US Marshall. They had followed up on a lot of leads over the past few days and were still no closer to finding Clark Kent or Lois Lane.
"White knows something," Calvin said with absolute conviction.
"How do you know that?" asked the guy with the ponytail. "After all, he's only their boss. Why would he risk himself by helping an escaped felon?"
Calvin narrowed his eyes and studied his young apprentice. "You've got to learn to read people better, young man, if you're going to be good at this job. Now find out everything you can about Perry White. I want to know everything. Who his friends are. What he owns. What type of television shows he watches. What his relationship is like with his wife. What his relationship is with Lane and Kent. I even want to know what he ate for breakfast this morning."
"Yes, sir," said the ponytail before going to do as instructed.
Lois pulled the blanket further around her as she snuggled back against Clark so that both could watch the fire. His arm was instantly around her. She handed him his glass of wine and then took a sip of her own.
"God, Clark," she breathed, "you have no idea how much I needed that."
She could feel Clark's chest shake against her back as he chuckled behind her. "From the way you wouldn't even let me drink my wine before attacking me, I got that impression," he said with a laugh before kissing her neck.
She swatted him lightly against the chest. "I don't recall you objecting too much," she responded.
"I don't recall me objecting at all," he said before yawning. "Although, I must admit that making love without superpowers sure takes a lot more out of a guy."
Now it was Lois' turn to chuckle. "I'm too much for you, huh, Kent?"
"No. I'm just wondering if I'm enough for you — without the powers and all."
"Did you hear me complaining?" she asked.
Clark smiled. "I guess not. Well, unless I mistook the meaning of all those little chipmunk like noises you were making and you were actually complaining." He barely managed to get the words out before laughing.
She swatted at him again, before saying, "You love it and you know it."
"You're right. I wouldn't have it any other way." His mouth came down to her throat and he explored it for a few moments. Finally, he pulled back and they sat in silence for a time just enjoying each other's presence and watching the fire play on the logs in the fireplace.
Clark was the one who broke the silence. "Lois, I understand why you broke me out of prison, but…"
"Did I think about what would happen next?" she asked.
She let out a short breath. "No, Clark, I didn't. All I knew was that you weren't going to survive thirty days in the hole and I wasn't about to let them kill you." She paused. "You can't go back there, Clark. It would be tantamount to a death sentence." When he was silent, she continued, "You had one moment of weakness. You don't deserve to die for that."
"So what are you suggesting?"
She bit her lower lip for a moment. "Once your powers are back, I think you should go to a country without an extradition treaty. You can fly fast enough to be almost invisible. I'll join you."
"But what about your life in Metropolis, your job at the Daily Planet?"
"Clark, you are my life," she whispered. "Don't you understand that by now?"
"You can't go back to prison, Clark. If it's that important to you, we can find some other way for you to pay your debt to society, but I won't let you go back to prison."
Jimmy and Perry drove in silence as they headed onto the private road.
"Are you sure they're here, Chief?" asked Jimmy.
"No, Jimmy. I'm not. But I think they need this information and since there are no phones at the cabin…"
Jimmy nodded. It didn't even cross his mind that by doing this he was breaking the law and could go to jail for harboring an escaped fugitive. Lois and Clark were his friends and even though he didn't know why Lois had broken C.K. out of prison, he trusted them. Besides, Perry was right. This news could change everything — that is if Perry's hunch played out and from what Perry had found, it was a pretty impressive hunch.
Perry White was well aware of the price involved in this endeavor if he got caught. He and Alice had gotten married again about six months ago. Alice agreed with him that they had to help the kids, but it would still be hard on her if he ended up having to serve a prison sentence. Still… After what he and Jimmy had discovered, there had been little choice but to come. He pulled to a halt a short distance from the cabin. Lois and Clark weren't expecting company and he didn't want to spook them — they might take off before they realized who had come to see them.
Lois and Clark had been trying to figure out what to do for about an hour and still had no idea. Lois' idea was certainly an appealing one, but it was hard for Clark to agree not to return to prison. His sense of justice told him that he had committed a crime and that he had to pay for his crime. However, he couldn't deny Lois' claim that returning to prison would probably result in his death.
Still, lots of people died in prison — it was a dangerous place, after all. Did the possibility, okay probability, mean he shouldn't be required to serve his term? He had to agree that his personal situation was different from anyone else. Lois had argued most effectively that if someone was being denied food in prison, they would certainly be justified in claiming it was cruel and unusual punishment. Since they couldn't take the matter to court for adjudication, they would just have to find their own method of dealing with it.
Realizing that they weren't going to solve this tonight, they'd decided to leave it until tomorrow and had reverted to watching the fire. It wasn't long before Lois turned in his arms again.
"What?" asked Clark.
"How are you doing, Clark?" she asked.
"Good," Clark affirmed.
She narrowed her eyes for a moment.
"Really, Lois," Clark said again.
"Do you mind if I see for myself?" she asked.
A slow smile spread across Clark's face before he opened his arms, indicating that she should feel free to do whatever she wanted.
Her check started out innocently enough. She was pleased to see that the muscles of his chest and legs seemed much more substantial. She was confident that it would only be a short time before his powers also returned. However, looking at the body of her husband didn't allow her thoughts to remain completely innocent for long — particularly when her touch provoked a low masculine growl from Clark.
She ran her fingertips lightly along the sides of his body for a moment before leaning over to trail soft kisses across his pectoral muscles.
Clark's breathing deepened under her gentle ministrations. Along with the feel of her mouth gently making its way across his chest, he could feel the occasional brush of her hair on his bare skin. His hands came up to her head and his fingers gently swept their way through her hair.
"Umm… Lois," groaned Clark, "I don't think this is how most nurses…" He lost his train of thought for a moment as her lips began trailing their way down his chest. "…check their patients."
Lois smiled against his chest before blowing a cool stream of air against a spot that had been moistened by her kisses. Another growl escaped from the back of his throat in response.
"What?" she asked. "Don't you think this has something of a healing effect? Besides, how would you know, Clark? You've never been in a hospital."
"Well, if this is the type of treatment they give, maybe I should consider going to the… Ouch!" he exclaimed when she nipped him in response to what he was saying.
She looked up at him sheepishly. "Sorry. I forgot about the powers."
He took her head between his hands and pulled her gently towards him. She went willingly, in search of his mouth. As she did so, she gently moistened her bottom lip with the tip of her tongue, a move guaranteed to drive Clark crazy. Her lips brushed softly against his.
"What's that?" she exclaimed, jumping back.
"What's what?" asked Clark in confusion.
"I'm sure I heard something," Lois responded, straining to hear.
"Yeah, my heart beating," he responded, pulling her back to him.
"Clark, I'm serious. There's something out there."
"I'm sure there are lots of things out there. Squirrels, raccoons, chipmunks, birds…" Each option was interspersed with kisses.
He was probably right. There were lots of little creatures out there. She relaxed in his arms. She wriggled against his body, looking for just the right spot to settle into as she deepened the kiss. Her movements, as she was well aware, were guaranteed to increase Clark's interest. Clark's arms drew her in closer before tracing lazy patterns down her back to settle his hands on the small of her back.
Bang, bang, bang, came a knock at the door.
Lois and Clark jumped apart, suddenly scrambling for clothes. Clark managed to find his jeans and pulled them on quickly. Lois grabbed a robe and threw it on.
"My glasses," Clark whispered. She directed him in the appropriate direction.
However, before their movements could enter the full panic stage, they heard a familiar voice.
"It's Jimmy and me," said their editor's gruff voice.
Both Lois and Clark let out a sigh of relief.
"Umm… just a minute," Lois replied. Now having a moment to pull on her clothes, she took it. As soon as she was decent and she saw Clark pulling on his shirt, she opened the door.
"Did we come at a bad time?" asked Perry, with an amused glance around the cabin. Lois followed his gaze and realized it was very obvious what had been going on in this room before their company had arrived. The mattress was still lying in front of the fire with sheets and blankets scattered around.
"No, no," Lois gasped, looking helplessly at Clark. He moved quickly, putting the mattress back on the bed. "We were just watching the fire and talking," Lois added, but by the entertained look on Perry's face and the growing color in Jimmy's cheeks, she was certain she hadn't been very convincing.
"So what are you doing here?" asked Clark.
"Right. Well, Jimmy followed up on your theory, Lois. And then I did some digging of my own. We thought you'd want to hear what we found."
"What theory?" asked Clark.
"Oh, right," said Lois, looking uncomfortably at Clark. She knew he was going to be upset about the so-called Superman's latest stunt. "Well, during our last night together at the prison, Superman apparently blew up a bridge."
"What?" exclaimed Clark.
"It's true, C.K." said Jimmy. "I was there. I saw the whole thing. He even spoke to me."
"Was anyone hurt?" Clark asked.
"Umm… a number of people died. Others are still in intensive care," Lois said gently, taking Clark's hand as she did so. "Anyway, Jimmy took some pictures," continued Lois. She gestured to Jimmy, silently asking if he had the pictures. He handed them to her and she passed them along to Clark. She gave him a minute to look through the pictures.
"I don't see Superman in any of these," said Clark.
"Exactly," said Lois. "Clark, do you remember when Cole made a courtroom full of people think that Perry was testifying against me?"
"Yes. What…" His voice trailed off as he looked again at the pictures in his hand. "Of course, the Superman sightings. It's been a hologram."
"Besides," continued Lois, "if Superman was going to destroy a bridge, why would he use explosives? Why not just rip the foundations out from under the bridge?"
Clark nodded. "Okay, so how do we go about proving that?"
"Well," said Jimmy, clearing his throat. "Lois and I found five of his former students who also had a job at Star Labs."
"So they would have access to the hologram generator?" asked Clark.
"Right. I went to see Dr. Klein and he said the hologram generator was stolen," Lois added.
"After Lois left, I took the yearbook pictures of the five former students to the landlord who rented an apartment to Jefferson Cole and he identified one of them, Alex Sullivan, as the guy who rented the apartment. I tried finding him. However, Sullivan has disappeared."
"Anyway," continued Perry, "When Jimmy filled me in on what you two were investigating, I started thinking about what reason Sullivan would have to continue with Cole's work. Cole was determined to get revenge on Lois, Superman and Dr. Klein. But why would Sullivan want to continue that with Cole dead? I mean, there's no money in it."
"So what did you come up with?" asked Lois.
"Nothing. So I got to thinking. I thought about how Cole framed Lois for murder and then wondered if he might have done the same for Clark."
"But I actually killed Cole," Clark added.
"Did you?" asked Perry.
"What are you talking about, Perry?" Lois asked.
"Clark, did you touch Cole at any point after you got to his apartment?" Perry asked.
Clark considered the question for a moment. "Yes. I grabbed at his pant legs as he was fleeing up the stairs. Why?"
"Was there any point between then and when Cole went off that rooftop that you lost sight of him?" Perry continued.
"Perry, what…" Lois started but fell silent when Perry raised his hand.
"Yeah," Clark affirmed. "When we got to the top of the stairs, he ran out onto the roof — closing the door behind him."
"And once you got on to the roof, did you have any physical contact with him?"
"No," Clark said after taking a moment to think about what had happened. "I remember actually being surprised at how he managed to avoid me."
"I think that was because what you saw was a hologram," said Perry.
Clark shook his head. "I touched him when he was lying on the ground. He was very real and very dead."
"I wondered about that," said Perry. "So I followed up on something. Apparently not much investigation was done into the death because you and Henderson identified the body as Jefferson Cole and with you pleading guilty so early… Well, there just didn't seem to be any point."
"What are you getting at, Perry?" asked Lois.
"I called in a favor or two and got them to compare the fingerprints on the dead body with the prison records for Jefferson Cole."
"And?" asked Lois, hardly able to wait for Perry to get to the point.
"They didn't match," Perry said, savoring the moment.
"What? Are you saying that Jefferson Cole is still alive?" Lois said, the excitement rising in her voice as the implications of what she was learning began to set in.
"That's exactly what I'm saying."
"But then Clark… Clark pled guilty to the murder of Jefferson Cole. If Cole's still alive…"
"The conviction will be overturned," Perry concluded.
"I think we're forgetting something here," Clark said, in a much more subdued tone of voice. "There was still a dead body. Maybe Cole is still alive, but that doesn't mean I didn't kill someone."
"You killed a hologram, Clark," Lois insisted. "I don't know how he got the body into the street, but I'd wager a year's wages that if a full autopsy is done the coroner won't be able to say the man who died was killed in that exact location or at that exact time or even from a fall from a height. Clark, you didn't kill anyone."
Clark looked at the three people sitting around him who were nodding and smiling. "I didn't kill anyone," he finally whispered.
"You didn't kill anyone," said Lois, plopping herself into Clark's lap and wrapping her arms around his neck. "And we're going to prove it, partner."
"So any ideas about where Cole might be?" Clark asked, enfolding his wife in his arms.
"Actually, C.K." said Jimmy, "I might have an idea. When I was looking for Sullivan, one of his friends mentioned that they'd seen him near the bell tower a couple of weeks ago."
"The same place Cole used during his last attempt to get revenge," said Lois. "Do you really think he'd use the same place?"
"Well, with everyone thinking he's dead, he probably doesn't expect anyone to know he's there," said Clark.
"So do we take this to the police?" asked Jimmy.
Lois shook her head. "I think we make sure Cole is there before we tip our hand. Cole's no idiot. I'm sure he has sources in the Metropolis P.D. After all, last time he had sources inside the D.A.'s office."
"So, what do you want us to do?" asked Jimmy.
"There's the matter of the military's threat to bring down Superman," said Lois.
"What?" exclaimed Clark.
"The mayor gave a press conference asking Superman to surrender himself for the destruction of the bridge," Perry explained. "If he doesn't, the military will bring Superman down itself."
"How?" asked Clark.
"They got kryptonite from Star Labs," Lois explained. "Anyway, why don't you two see what you can do to delay the mayor's decision while we prove that Superman didn't destroy that bridge."
"What are you going to do?" asked Perry.
"I think we should follow up on the bell tower," said Lois. "We'll wait a couple of days for Clark to feel a little better, but then we'll check it out." She wanted to be sure that the military threat was neutralized by the time Clark's powers returned. After all, they might need Superman's help to bring Cole in.
"Are you sick, C.K.?" asked Jimmy.
It wasn't until that moment that Lois realized what she'd said. How could they explain what was wrong with Clark? After all, only Superman was affected by sunlight. So why was Clark sick?
"Umm… It was just a little cold," said Clark with a glance at Lois.
"Prison is a drafty place."
"Anyway," interrupted Perry, "we probably should be heading back. I'll see what I can do about the threat to Superman tomorrow."
"Is everything ready for phase four — the destruction of Dr. Bernard Klein?" Cole asked.
"Good. Then we'll proceed with it sometime tomorrow afternoon."
"Because that's usually the busiest time at Star Labs and we want as many witnesses as possible. You know, Sullivan, this is almost too easy." He picked up his microphone and held it to his mouth. "Memo to self: find hobby."
Lois drove the van along the narrow gravel road. She hated leaving Clark. Even though her mind told her that Clark was fine, it was still hard not seeing his half dead body in her mind when she wasn't in his presence. Still, they were running out of both gas for the generator and groceries. So they'd agreed that she would go into one of the small towns on the outskirts of Metropolis to get some groceries.
The gravel road exited onto a highway. She brought the van to a stop and waited for some approaching traffic.
Two black SUVs approached, putting on their signal lights to turn. As they turned onto the gravel road, Lois watched in horror. The only place they could be going was the cabin. She noticed the men in the first SUV and they noticed her. She watched in her side mirror as their vehicles came to a stop. Somehow, the US Marshall had found them.
What should she do now? Her first instinct was to turn around and try to overtake them in an effort to get back to Clark. However, before that instinct could guide her actions, a better plan stopped her. They didn't know if Clark was in the van with her or back in the cabin. Maybe she could lead them away from the cabin. Before she could evaluate this new plan further, she put it into action. She moved her foot off the brake and hit the accelerator. Gravel flew from under the tires as the van spun onto the highway, causing an oncoming car to swerve to miss her.
She was rewarded by the sight of one of the SUVs turning as quickly as possible on the narrow road to follow. However, she felt a pit in her stomach at the sight of the second vehicle continuing on its route to the cabin. She let out a frustrated breath. What was she to do now? There was only one thing. She had to lose her tail and find the evidence she needed to clear Clark. If he could avoid being taken, great. If not, she had to find a way to clear him before she was arrested for harboring an escaped felon — or even for assisting in a jail brake, although they could never prove that.
She pressed her foot to the accelerator. The SUV was having problems getting turned on the narrow road. That meant she had the lead. She had to take advantage of that fact.
Clark smiled when he heard a vehicle pull up in front of the cabin. Lois must have forgotten something. He made his way to the door — opening it and stepping outside. He immediately froze. It wasn't Lois. He looked around helplessly as the doors to the SUV were thrown open and men with guns rushed from the vehicle. Instinctively, he turned and ran in the opposite direction. He felt a bullet whizz past his head as he dove into the lake.
Lois had finally lost her pursuers. However, it was entirely possible, if not likely, that Clark had been caught. That meant she only had one chance at this. She had to find Cole now. The bell tower. She'd check out the bell tower. That thought was immediately followed by a little voice inside her head — Clark's voice saying, 'It's too dangerous, Lois.' She snorted. Please! She was only going to see if Cole really was there. She wasn't going to do something dangerous — like try to apprehend him. Once she knew that Cole was alive and hiding in the bell tower, she'd contact Henderson. He could make the arrest.
Then when Cole was safely in custody, she would find the hologram generator, clear Superman's name and Clark's name. After all, if she recalled correctly, the holograms were held in the memory in the hologram generator unless specifically erased. So, if they were correct in their analysis, the image of Cole falling off the building and the images of Superman, should still be stored in the hologram's memory. She imagined Cole would have kept them — they were his great triumphs after all. And knowing Cole, he would be watching and rewatching them — reliving his great victory.
She had to admit that Cole's plan had been good. He had corrected the mistakes he'd made in his attempt to frame her. Even she had been convinced of Clark's guilt. That was why she hadn't even bothered to investigate Cole's death. If it hadn't been for Clark's denial of Superman's activities, they never would have known something was wrong. If Cole had known that Clark was Superman, this could be turning out very differently. After all, by framing Clark for his murder, Cole had effectively gotten his revenge on both her and Superman. The fact that he didn't know and had thereby gone after Superman was their salvation.
She pulled the van over to the side of the road about a block from the bell tower. She looked around before getting out.
She didn't see anyone so she quickly made her way to the bell tower. Walking around the tower, she looked for signs that someone was there. There were boards across the door frame. She reached under them and tried turning the doorknob. The door opened. She pushed it, easily swinging it open. Bending down, she slipped under the boards and into the tower, closing the door behind her.
She stood silently in the dark, allowing her eyes to adjust, before heading for the stairs.
"Well, Ms. Lane, how nice of you to join us?" came a familiar male voice from behind her.
Lois spun around and was looking into the barrel of a gun. She followed the gun up until her eyes met those of Jefferson Cole.
Perry took a deep breath as he entered the mayor's office. He had been thinking about this meeting since leaving the cabin last night. This would have to be handled with the utmost care, but it was essential that in the final analysis, he win.
"Mr. White," said the mayor extending her hand to shake the hand of a man she knew had the power to advance her career or destroy it. In the past, he'd shown himself to be fair and impartial in political matters, but she'd agreed to meet with him on such short notice because she recognized that no voice in Metropolis held more sway over public opinion than Perry White's. "As I told you on the phone, I only have a few minutes to give you today. If you want more time, we could schedule something for later in the week."
"All I need is a few minutes," Perry assured her.
She gestured him to a chair and he took it, fumbling uncertainly with the large brown envelope he was carrying.
"I understand that you asked the military for assistance in bringing Superman down," said Perry, getting immediately to his reason for this meeting.
"Yes. I think it's our only option. Now I know that the Daily Planet has been a big proponent of Superman's since he first arrived on the scene, but even you have to agree that his behavior over the last couple of months has been… well, disturbing to say the least."
"I understand. However, the Daily Planet has reason to believe that the alleged activities on the part of Superman have been… well, let's just say that Superman isn't guilty of the things he's being accused of."
The mayor snorted. "The people who were on that bridge when Superman blew it up will say differently."
"Well, they're wrong," said Perry.
"Can you prove that?" asked the mayor.
"Not yet, but…"
"Then I don't see that there is anything I can do but continue to demand that Superman turn himself in and instruct the military to take him down if he doesn't," the mayor said rising to her feet. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a very busy day."
Perry stayed seated. "Ms. Mayor," he began with controlled calm in his voice, "all I'm asking for is a few days to prove that Superman isn't involved in this atrocity. I'd hate to think of how the people of Metropolis will react to news that you had information that Superman might not be guilty and still proceeded with a plan that could very well end his life."
"The people of Metropolis will understand that I did what I thought was best for them. If Superman is innocent, he can always surrender voluntarily."
"I'm afraid he can't do that," said Perry, knowing that at the moment, Superman probably didn't exist.
"And why not?"
Perry let out a short breath. "I'm not at liberty to provide you with that information."
"Fine," said the mayor. "Then, as I said, I have a busy day." With that she walked over to the door of her office and opened it, making it clear she expected Perry to leave.
Perry got up and started towards her before stopping and hesitantly looking at the envelope in his hands. After a moment of silent contemplation, he walked back to her desk. He hated doing this, but he would not let her kill Superman when all the evidence indicated that Superman was innocent. Since she was not prepared to listen to reason, there was only one way of ensuring that he was granted the time necessary to vindicate Superman.
"There is another matter we should discuss," he said, laying the envelope on her desk.
The mayor let out a breath and closed the door as she made her way back to her desk. "And that would be?"
"Well, a few years ago, one of my reporters came across a story that you were trading sexual favors for political benefits."
"What? It's not true. I never did anything of the kind."
Perry held up his hand. "I know that. It turned out that our source was a world class liar." He paused and then gestured to the envelope on her desk. He waited until she opened it and saw what was inside before continuing. "There were no political secrets being exchanged or political favors being granted. However, that doesn't mean that the source's story was completely without merit. As you can see from those pictures… Well, if I recall correctly, the man with you is not your husband. In fact, if I recall correctly the man in those pictures is also married. Now, I didn't run them because I didn't think that your indiscretions in the bedroom were relevant to your ability to be a good mayor, but…"
"What do you want?" the mayor hissed.
"…the people of Metropolis might have disagreed with me."
"What do you want?" the mayor repeated.
"I could have destroyed you back then, but I didn't. All I'm asking is that you not destroy Superman without giving us a few days to investigate this. Call the military off until my people can find out if Superman really is responsible for the destruction of that bridge and the resulting loss of life."
Cole gave Lois another push. She reluctantly opened the door and walked into Star Labs.
"Need to see Dr. Klein again, Ms. Lane?" asked the young man on reception.
Cole kept a hand on her arm and jabbed the gun into her back again. "Yes," Lois answered in response.
"Go on up," the man said.
Lois and Cole walked on by. Cole watched in amusement as the young man ran his eyes up the back of Lois' body before shaking his head and letting out a breath through his teeth.
"I don't see how you think you're going to get away with this," said Lois as the elevator doors slid shut. "That security guard is probably already on the phone to the police."
"Then you'll be rescued any minute," Cole said calmly, keeping a grip on her arm.
The elevator doors slid open and the two occupants stepped out. Cole kept Lois' direction focused by giving her a nudge with his gun every so often. They arrived at the door to Dr. Klein's lab and after a further nudge by Cole, entered.
"Lois, what are you doing here?" asked Klein. "The US Marshall was here looking for you. They seem to think that you had something to do with Clark's…"
"Dr. Klein!" interrupted Lois. She didn't know if Cole had heard about Clark's escape from prison, and if he hadn't, she didn't want him to. She jerked her head to the side to alert Klein to be careful of what he said in front of Cole.
Klein looked at her with a funny expression on his face before jerking his head to the side, in imitation of her earlier gesture. She did it again and he followed suit.
Cole burst out laughing.
"Who's there?" exclaimed Klein.
"What?" asked Lois.
Cole reached into his pocket and withdrew something about the size of a cell phone. He flicked a button.
"How did you get in here?" demanded Dr. Klein.
"What's going on?" asked Lois.
"This," said Cole holding up the device in his hand, "is the latest advancement in hologram technology. By making a few small adjustments to the original hologram generator, I was able to cut down on the size of the device and add a few improvements. As well as generating images, this will make it so that people don't see things."
"That's why I couldn't see you when you entered the room," said Dr. Klein, his fascination with anything scientific overcoming his concern about Cole's presence in his lab.
"But then why could I see you?" asked Lois, slipping her hand into her pocket to push the record button on her trusty tape recorder.
"Before you made the mistake of arriving at the Bell Tower, I had scanned myself and the gun into the machine. As a result, the security guard downstairs and every one we encountered along the way only saw you, Ms. Lane. You could see me because I kept physical contact between us. The reasons it works are too technical for you to understand, so I'll save you the embarrassment of trying to explain it."
"Can I see that?" asked Klein, his eyes sparkling with curiosity as he stepped closer. He stopped and the precariousness of their situation suddenly hit him when Cole raised his gun.
"Now, I've been waiting a long time for this. Of course, Lois, you really didn't need to be involved in this final part. I would have been content just to see you suffer for the twenty years your husband was incarcerated."
"How did you do that anyway?" Lois asked. "Now, I've already figured out how you got Clark to think he'd pushed you off the roof, but what about the dead man?"
"I used this," he said proudly, holding up the gizmo in his hand. "I got my assistant to drag the body…"
"A body that looked just like yours," Lois added.
"That's right, Lois. A body that had had plastic surgery to look just like me. It's amazing what some people will do to get a few bottles of vodka. Anyway, after I killed him, I had my assistant drag him over into the appropriate spot. He used this gizmo to keep people from seeing him while he did so. Then, when your husband…" He suddenly smiled. "You know, if I hadn't had this plan already in place, I think he might actually have killed me. He was more than a little upset about me shooting you. Anyway, when Kent 'pushed me off the roof' my assistant turned off the transmitter and everyone around, including Kent, saw the body. Naturally, they assumed it was me."
"You're responsible for Superman's activities over the past couple of months too. Aren't you," Lois said more than asked.
Cole smiled. "He made it so easy for me by admitting that he had personal problems and taking that early retirement. Now he can never come back. And the best part is that no one will remember all the good things he did. All they'll remember is that little incident with the bridge," Cole responded.
"But all those people! You killed them!" exclaimed Klein.
"When are you going to learn that geniuses are exempt from the rules of mere mortals," Cole replied in exasperation.
"It's over, Cole," said Lois. "Now that Dr. Klein and I know…"
"But you won't be around to tell them, Lois. And since Bernard will be charged with your murder — and this time there will actually be a murder — he isn't likely to be believed. After all, everyone saw you come in. No one saw me. Besides, I'm dead. Remember?"
Since Cole's attention was focused on Lois as he spoke, Dr. Klein used the opportunity to change positions. He felt quietly under the edge of the counter. He discreetly pressed the button he found there.
"Get over here so that I can see what you're doing," Cole demanded. Klein hurried to obey.
Bells and whistles were going off noisily at the security company.
"What is it?" demanded an older man coming into the room.
"Another alarm at Star Labs," the young assistant said.
"Where's it coming from?" he asked, cringing while he waited for the reply.
"Dr. Klein's lab," the young man said. "He probably hit it by mistake again. Do we just ignore it?"
"Everyone knows I don't keep a gun in here," said Klein. "So if Lois is found shot, everyone will know…"
"You're not going to kill her with a gun," Cole informed them casually. "Oh no. The plan I have is much more poetic." He gestured Lois towards the isolation room at the far end of the lab. She backed towards it. "Get inside," Cole demanded once she was there. Once she was safely inside, he closed and locked the door from the outside before turning on the intercom so that Lois could still hear him while he explained the plan to Klein.
Cole reached into the small bag he brought with him, removing a silver canister.
"What's that?" asked Klein suspiciously.
"This, Bernard, is my greatest invention. And if it wasn't for you blabbing all the confidential details to Lois, it would now be available to anyone wanting a little revenge. However, after today's little demonstration, I would imagine it will become a hot item again. He opened the canister and removed a small glass cylinder holding a green substance.
Cole carefully removed some of the substance using a large syringe.
"Hybrid-kryptonite," Klein gasped.
"Got it in one, Bernard. Maybe you aren't quite as dumb as I thought you were. On second thought…" Cole's voice trailed off as he pushed the needle on the end of the syringe into a hose that sent air into the room in which Lois was locked.
"I won't let you…" Klein began, but backed off at the sight of Cole's gun again pointing at him. He gave Lois an apologetic look. "I'm so sorry, Lois. I should have destroyed that stuff years ago."
"Destroy my greatest invention!" exclaimed Cole. He finished inserting the liquid. "Now, it should only take a few seconds before the air conditioning unit will be pumping hybrid-kryptonite into Lois' final resting place."
"Superman, help?" yelled Lois in her loudest voice as she struggled with the door. She knew there was no Superman. Still, it was the only thing she could think to do. After all, there weren't any door handles inside this room, let alone locks to break.
Cole laughed. "Haven't you heard, Lois? Superman's on vacation."
"I'm sorry, Clark," Lois breathed, realizing that she was breathing one of her last breaths. And she was sorry. She was sorry that Clark would probably die in prison because she wouldn't be able to give him the information necessary to save his life. And she was sorry about their baby. Maybe the woman who'd refused to grant them an adoption was right — maybe she had let herself dangle above the jaws of death once too often.
"Did someone yell for Superman?" asked one of two police officers who were currently crouched outside Dr. Klein's lab. The security company had erred on the side of caution, and after a brief discussion, had called the police.
"That's what I heard," his partner replied.
"Then place a call to headquarters. Tell them we have a hostage situation down at Star Labs and need back-up. Also, tell them that there's a danger of Superman showing up. Have them call the military."
The other officer backed slowly away to do as instructed.
Clark sat quietly in the back of the van, looking down at his hands and the handcuffs once again shackling him. He sighed. His move to dive into the lake had been one of his dumber moves. It made him a lot slower than everyone on the shore. When he'd reemerged above the surface of the water, there were a few men on the shore with their guns drawn while another man was already starting up the motor boat tied to the dock. Clark had recognized his dilemma and, after one final moment of contemplation, surrendered.
"Superman!" he heard his wife scream. His head shot up at the sound. His powers were back! This time he had no intention of letting her down.
"Okay, we're ready to…" the young man with the ponytail began. His voice trailed off in confusion when he realized Clark Kent was no longer in the van.
Lois crouched in the corner of the small room furthest away from where the air conditioning unit was already beginning to spit green slime into the room. She made herself as small as she could and closed her eyes, waiting for the pain that people had claimed accompanied their exposure to this deadly substance.
She knelt there for a moment, feeling the first of the drops land on her. She held her breath at the initial sting. More of the substance followed the first until she was thoroughly spattered. It stung, but… Lois, finally stood up. She wasn't dead. She wasn't even seriously hurt. She reached down and ran her fingers over the slime on her arm.
"No!" exclaimed Cole. He didn't know how, but somehow he'd been betrayed. His hybrid-kryptonite hadn't killed her. She didn't even look hurt. "What did you do to my masterpiece?" he demanded of Klein before turning back towards Lois. Well, regardless, she was not going to survive this. He quickly covered the distance to the door and threw it open, stepping inside, gun raised.
Lois dove away from the gun in a last ditch attempt to save herself.
"Ms. Lane, you are about…" Cole began before suddenly screaming in pain and collapsing to the floor.
It only took Lois a moment to fill in the pieces. The hybrid-kryptonite didn't affect Superman. Now it wasn't affecting her. Yet Jefferson Cole collapsed upon entering the room. There was only one possible explanation — the baby. Just like her bullet wound had healed quicker than expected because of the baby, the hybrid-kryptonite must not be affecting her for the same reason.
"Don't come in here!" exclaimed Lois when she saw Dr. Klein heading towards the room. She grabbed Cole and dragged him to the door.
"I'll explain later," said Lois, cutting him off. She bent down and felt for a pulse. She couldn't find one. "Dr. Klein, call 9-1-1."
As Dr. Klein was getting up to do as instructed, a red and blue superhero arrived.
Lois smiled at the sight, before frowning. "Is it really you?" she asked.
Superman smiled. "It's really me," he responded. "But it looks to me like you have things under control here."
"We do. Unfortunately…" she pointed to the man on the floor.
Clark rolled him over and gasped at what he saw. "Cole?" he asked in disbelief. Lois nodded in response.
"But how…" Clark began.
"Freeze!" commanded a voice from the doorway.
Lois, Klein and Superman spun around to see a half dozen military officers holding guns on Superman.
"We've got kryptonite bullets," said the soldier. "Don't make us use them."
Lois and Klein immediately put their bodies between Superman and the soldiers.
"Get out of the way," the soldier demanded.
"You can't hurt him. He didn't do anything wrong," said Lois.
"He blew up a bridge."
"That's not true," continued Lois. "We have proof that Jefferson Cole blew up that bridge." With that, she pulled the tape recorder out of her pocket and held it up for the soldiers to see.
"Who's Jefferson Cole?" asked the soldier.
Lois and Klein both pointed at the man on the floor.
"Just get out of the way," the soldier demanded.
Just then a young officer approached cautiously. He whispered something to the commander.
"What?" exclaimed the soldier.
"We have orders."
"But, I have him."
"Apparently our orders have changed. We have been ordered to stand down."
The commander let out a short breath before nodding. He looked at his men. "Let's go," he ordered and a moment later, the soldiers were gone.
'SUPERMAN VINDICATED,' by Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen. 'A device was found today that shows that the appearances by Superman since his announcement that he was taking some time off, were faked…'
'COLE FAKES DEATH,' by Perry White and Lois Lane. 'The body believed to be that of Jefferson Cole was actually that of…'
'CONVICTION OF CLARK KENT OVERTURNED,' by Eduardo Chevez. 'Clark Kent, a reporter for the Daily Planet who was convicted of the murder of Jefferson Cole, appeared in front of a judge today. Given the fact that the man whom he was convicted of murdering was still alive, his conviction was overturned. The wife of Clark Kent, Lois Lane, practically flew across the courtroom into her husband's arms when the judgment…'
'D.A.'s OFFICE WILL NOT FILE NEW CHARGES AGAINST CLARK KENT,' by Lois Lane. 'A spokesman for the D.A.'s office announced today that charges will not be filed against Clark Kent for the murder of the homeless man that was killed a couple of months ago. The D.A.'s office is now convinced that the man was actually killed by Jefferson Cole in an effort to…'
'NO CHARGES IN JAIL BREAK,' by Lois Lane. 'The D.A.'s office will not be bringing charges in connection with the dramatic jail break of Clark Kent. They announced today that the two months Mr. Kent spent in prison…'
Dr. Klein was pleased to see Lois and Clark enter his lab.
"I've been examining the improved hologram generator that Jefferson created as well as his adjustments to it. You know, it really is quite a brilliant piece of work. I've discovered that…"
"Dr. Klein," interrupted Clark. "I'm afraid we don't have much time. We just thought we should stop by and explain… Well, why Lois wasn't affected by the hybrid-kryptonite."
That got Klein's attention. "Yes, I've been wondering about that. I'd like to run some tests on you, Lois. There is obviously something in your immune system that allows you to…"
"Actually, it's more likely to have something to do with my reproductive system," Lois interrupted.
Klein looked confused as he evaluated the possibility. "I don't see what that would have to do with…"
"I'm pregnant, Dr. Klein," Lois informed him.
It took a moment for that to sink in. It never even occurred to him to consider congratulating Lois. Instead, his mind was focused on her theory. "Do you think that's it? I guess it is possible that pregnancy releases some sort of hormone into the woman's system that…"
"Actually, I think this is a little different," said Clark.
"Well, this baby," Clark said, looking at Lois, "Well, it's Superman's offspring."
Incomprehension was the look on Klein's face for a long moment. Then his mouth dropped open and his eyes darted between Lois and Clark. He really had no idea what he was supposed to say to this revelation. Congratulations? That didn't seem quite right since for Lois to be pregnant with Superman's child meant that… He glanced between Lois and Clark again. He knew there was a reason he didn't do clinical work.
"It's okay, Dr. Klein," said Clark with a chuckle as he noticed the man's discomfort.
"I'm sure you're wrong, Clark," said Dr. Klein. "I mean I'm sure Lois would never…" His voice trailed off as he thought of another thing. "Besides, Superman can't have children with an earth woman."
Lois smiled. "I think you're wrong about that, Dr. Klein." She laid a hand on her stomach. "Because this child is Superman's."
Klein looked uncomfortably between the two people in front of him again.
"Should we put him out of his misery?" Lois asked.
Clark chuckled, removed his glasses and slicked back his hair. Klein stared at him in disbelief for a moment. He looked between Lois and Clark, this time with dawning recognition. "You're… you're…" He gave up trying to form the name he was finding it impossible to say.
"Yes, Dr. Klein, I'm Superman. And Lois is pregnant."
Klein let out a short breath. "You're… Of course, how did that ever get past me? Some times I find that I get so caught up in my thinking that I don't even notice what's in front of my eyes. How could I have been fooled by a pair of glasses?"
"Don't get me started," mumbled Lois. "Anyway, we decided you should know. My pregnancy… Well, there could be complications and we thought…"
"That's why you think you weren't affected by…" Klein's voice trailed off. "That's it!" he suddenly exclaimed.
"Hybrid-kryptonite. Lois, Clark, I'd like to run some tests. I think the secret to finding a vaccine for kryptonite lies in the fact that Superman isn't affected by the hybrid-kryptonite. I'd like to run some tests on you too, Lois. After all, it could provide us with some idea of what has changed in your system… Wait a minute! Lois, did you say you're pregnant?"
Lois nodded her head, looking towards Clark in confusion. "That's what we've been telling you."
"Well… Umm… Congratulations," Dr. Klein said, before launching back into his theory about how the hybrid-kryptonite could point them in the right direction to find a vaccine.
Finally, Clark interrupted him. "Dr. Klein, we decided to tell you this because… Well, with Lois' pregnancy, we wanted to ask you if you would consider being our child's doctor just as you have been mine."
Dr. Klein's eyes teared up. He understood the trust Lois and Clark were placing in him with this request. "I'd be honored," he finally said.
"They're coming!" exclaimed Jimmy when he set down the phone.
The entire newsroom turned towards the elevator doors. There was a 'ding' announcing the elevator's arrival. They prepared for the doors to open so that they could, in unison, welcome back their friend and colleague, Clark Kent.
The elevator doors opened to reveal Lois and Clark. However, instead of a lively welcome back a hush fell over the newsroom. Lois and Clark, oblivious of their audience, were lost in each other's arms — both seeking out the other's mouth in a kiss that left no doubt about the heat that existed between them.
Suddenly, the newsroom seemed to erupt — but instead of 'Welcome back' there was cheering, whistles and cat calls. The noise seemed to bring Lois and Clark back to their surroundings. They looked around them sheepishly.
"Well, it's good to see things are back to normal," Perry said when the commotion finally calmed down. "What's everyone standing around for? It's not like we all haven't seen that before. Back to work. We have a paper to get out." With those final words, he turned and headed back to his office.
"Hey, C.K.," said Jimmy approaching Lois and Clark as they entered the newsroom. "It's really good to see you back here."
Clark smiled. "Thanks, Jimmy. It's good to be back," he added. Lois' grip on his hand tightened and he squeezed hers reassuringly in response. "By the way, Jimmy, I need to thank you for all your help. Lois told me what great work you did on this."
Jimmy beamed and then blushed as Lois gave him a kiss on the cheek. "Thanks, Jimmy," she whispered before she and Clark moved on past Jimmy and towards the chief's office. Jimmy raised a hand to the spot on his cheek where she had kissed him as he watched them go. Wow! He let out a short breath and shook his head. Would he ever be as lucky as Clark?
They were stopped several more times by people welcoming Clark back before finally arriving at the editor's office.
"Perry?" asked Lois from the open doorway to Perry's office.
Perry looked up and gestured them inside. Once they were settled, Clark spoke.
"Perry, I just want to thank you for everything. Without your help…"
Perry held up his hand, cutting him off. "That's what family's for."
"Still, what you and Alice did… Well, without that cabin… Thanks, Perry," Lois added.
Perry smiled and then cleared his throat, his expression changing from concerned friend to tough editor, "Just bring me some prize winning stories."
"We will," Clark assured him. "By the way, do we want to know how you convinced the mayor to call off the military?"
"No," Perry responded simply.
Lois and Clark rose to leave. When they got to the doorway, Lois turned back towards Perry. "Perry, there's something that's been bothering me."
"Well, why the sunlamp?"
A slow smile made its way across Perry's face. "Didn't you enjoy it?" he asked.
"Well, yeah," Lois answered slowly.
"Then where's the problem?" Perry asked, giving Clark a wink.
"It's just…" Lois began, but her voice trailed off. What was there to say without telling Perry that Clark was Superman in the unlikely event that he didn't know.
"Come on, Lois," said Clark, taking her arm and leading her from Perry's office.
Once outside, they heard Perry laugh. They looked at each other, both thinking the same thing. He knew. He had to know — unofficially. But then if a man in his position didn't know unofficially, he wouldn't be a man in his position. Still, both Lois and Clark suspected he would never admit he knew. What would be the fun of that?
Lois rolled over lazily — her arm automatically reaching out to assure herself of the warm body lying next to her, but it wasn't there. Her eyes were immediately open.
"Clark?" she gasped. Had last night been a dream — his strong arms holding her, loving her in the sanctuary of their own bed? It had been so incredible having him there beside her, but had it been real?
"It's okay, Lois. I'm right here," came a decidedly male voice.
She glanced in the direction of the voice and let out a sigh of relief at the sight of her husband settled in a chair watching her. She allowed herself to sink back into the bed as she studied him — her heart rate returning to normal.
"What are you doing there?" Lois asked softly.
Clark shrugged, as if slightly embarrassed. "I just wanted to sit here and watch you sleep," he confessed.
She smiled and stretched her hand out to him. He responded to her silent invitation immediately — coming over and taking a seat on the edge of the bed. He took the hand she had offered him, raising it to his mouth to gently press it to his lips, his eyes never leaving hers.
"I thought I'd lost you," Clark finally confessed.
She let out a breath. "You'll never lose me, Clark."
"But that's just it, Lois. I almost did. I might not have killed Cole, but I could have."
"But you didn't, Clark," she said. Then she closed her eyes. She understood what he was trying to say and he deserved more than her easy dismissal of his concerns. "Clark, we can't change what happened. And I'm not sure we're even supposed to try. I think we're suppose to learn from our mistakes so that maybe, in the future, we can avoid doing the same things."
Clark smiled. "When did you get to be so smart?" he asked.
"Well, I guess being married to you is starting to rub off," she replied. "So what did you learn?" she prompted.
He contemplated the question for a moment before placing a hand on the small bulge that was starting to develop in Lois' stomach. "That there are some things a whole lot more important than getting revenge," he finally said.
She smiled and brought her hand down to cover his.
"So, what about you?" he asked. "What did you learn from this?"
She was silent for a moment. "Do you remember just after we were married — when you gave up some of your life force to save Jimmy's life?"
"You told me then that it wasn't the years we'd have together, it was the moments," Lois continued. "It's so easy to forget that. I want to remember, Clark. I want to remember to always celebrate the moments we have together."
Clark smiled and bent over to press a soft kiss on her lips. "So, how do you suggest we celebrate this moment?" he asked.
"Not by looking at wallpaper samples," she responded, pulling his mouth back to hers.
Clark chuckled slightly against her mouth. "Well, I guess we can come up with something else," he murmured, his hands slipping down under the sheets to run along his wife's body.
She smiled. "Welcome home, Clark," she whispered moving over to allow him to crawl in beside her.
My thanks to Carol Malo and Gerry Anklewicz for reading this story and catching many of my mistakes. They both contributed a great deal to this story and I am extremely grateful to them. My thanks also to the people who answered my questions about Kraft Dinner and ICU units on listserv. I would also like to thank Elaine Burton, the local assistant crown attorney (equivalent to the American district attorney) for confirming my murder scenario. And I would like to thank Jeanne Pare for her assistance in editing my story for the archives.
I would acknowledge that the characters from the US Marshal's office were taken from the movie, The Fugitive. You will note, however, that I changed the names. But those characters definitely inspired mine.