By Gerry Anklewicz <email@example.com>
Submitted: August, 2002
Summary: When Clark returns from destroying Nightfall, something has happened to him and it's up to Lois to figure out what it is.
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. My special thanks to the writers of "All Shook Up" since I use the basic concept of that episode for my story. I also use wording and ideas from a lot of other episodes, sometime having the sentences or ideas used in context and sometimes having them used out of context. The portions taken from the series include, but are not limited to, using actual words, paraphrasing, twisting sentences around to change the meaning and simply alluding to the idea. I sometimes have the same characters say or think a particular line, idea and/or segment and sometimes I give those lines, ideas and/or segments to someone else.
Furthermore, I recognize that putting the above disclaimer on this story does not justify the breach of copyright and/or the breaches of trademark contained herein. I rely on two things to keep me from being sued. First, the mercy of WB and any and all other holders of rights to the series, the individual episodes and/or the characters. Second, I rely on the fact that I am not deriving any profit from either the writing or the posting of this story.
I'd like to thank ML Thompson for allowing me to use the above disclaimer. I'd also like to thank ML for holding my hand, baby-sitting and encouraging me to finish this story. Her sense of storytelling is outstanding, and she's passed on some of her wisdom to me. I hope that I have done that wisdom justice. I want to thank Jude Williams as well for her insightful comments and her strong sense of grammar and sentence structure. Her nit-picking has made me a better writer. Thanks also to Carol Malo who read and commented on this story. Her advice was very helpful. I can't forget all the folc on Zoom's msb who stuck with my story and let me know if I was on the right track. Thank you. Thank you to Jeanne Pare, my GE who had to put up with too many typos. You've got a great eye.
Lois sat looking outside her living room window. It was a cloudless night: the stars twinkling more brightly than usual, the crescent moon shining its warm light on the city which was more quiet than it had been during the day when people were scrambling around. She didn't hear the usual rumble of traffic, the honking of horns or the wailing of sirens. Like Lois, the majority of Metropolis's residents must have been sitting home reflecting, worrying, perhaps unlike Lois, clinging onto their families.
The fate of their future days and nights rested on the shoulders of one man, not an ordinary man, but a man nonetheless. She had confidence that he could smash into the Nightfall Asteroid and change its course; however, she was still scared. What if he couldn't? Should she have taken Lex Luthor up on his offer? He had a place for her in his bunker beneath the city. An apartment resembling her own waited for her to pack a few bags and move in. It would have been so easy for her to accept his generous and flattering offer. He wanted her to survive whatever might happen so that he could have her as a companion. He cared about her and wanted to be with her. She'd never had such a selfless offer before. And yet, as tempting and as charming as it was, Lois couldn't accept. She had to be above ground, observing and recording the changes that were occurring in Metropolis, in the world. So she had turned Lex down and returned to her real home, The Daily Planet, where she finished writing the story based on the information the observatory gave at the news conference. She and Clark had finished the story, and each had gone home for the night. Tomorrow morning, Superman would go into space with only a tank of oxygen to protect him. He was their hope; he was their future.
Now, she sat looking out the window at the sky looking for evidence that this Nightfall Asteroid was really out there. She didn't see it. She only felt an awe for the peaceful night sky that blanketed the anxious city.
She felt a change in the wind before she actually saw Superman glide down toward her window. Smiling, she opened the picture window up so that the superhero could have easier access to her living room. Once more she was flattered that he would come to see her, perhaps to give her an interview about how he was going to approach breaking up the asteroid, perhaps to tell her how it felt to have the fate of the world in his hands. She stepped back from the window as he floated in. He looked impressive as he entered her room, arms crossed against his chest, shoulders back, that familiar stern look on his face.
"Sorry to disturb you, Lois," he said.
"No. No. You're not disturbing me. Actually, I was thinking about you," she said a little flustered. Every time she saw him she could hear her heart beat loudly in her chest and feel it tremble.
"Me?" he asked, some of the severity leaving his face.
"I was thinking about tomorrow. I was wondering how you were managing."
"I'm fine," he said, staring into her eyes. He needed to keep the conversation going, but he wasn't sure what to say. "How are you?"
"Worried. It's pretty scary what you have to do. A lot of people are depending on you." She stared at the superhero who was more agitated than normal. She wondered why he had come to visit her of all people. "Is there anything that I can do for you, Superman?" she asked hoping for something practical to do so that they could keep talking.
"No. Not really." He paused and looked for something to prolong his visit. "I would like a cup of coffee, if you don't mind." He himself wasn't sure why he had decided to come to Lois's apartment as Superman. He could have come more comfortably as Clark. He could have brought take-out, a video. He could have turned on the ballgame, if there was even one on. But he knew that he came because, before leaving to destroy Nightfall, Superman needed human contact. Staying at home alone would not have been enough. Flying to Smallville to be with his parents would not have met his needs. He wanted to talk about what lay ahead of him, and he needed to be with Lois.
He followed her into the kitchen watching her prepare the coffee. He knew that he made coffee better than she did, but he couldn't let her see that he was familiar with her kitchen.
"I haven't got too much to eat with the coffee," she said, "but I did stock up on cupcakes and Twinkies for Clark. I can replenish my supply tomorrow…" Her voice trailed off as she thought about what tomorrow might look like.
Superman interrupted her musing. "I had a long talk with Professor Daitch this evening. We talked about trajectory, point of impact, speed. I have a good sense of what I have to do." He paused, looking for words to reassure her. "There will be a tomorrow."
"So you're pretty confident about your success."
"I know what I have to do."
"I'm sure you do, but how do you feel about the whole idea of going into space?"
"I've been in space before, Lois. I boosted the Messenger and guided it to the space station."
"Yes, I remember very well." Lois carried the coffee tray into the living room, conscious of the formality between them. "Superman, is this an interview?"
"I suppose it could be. I guess that people want to know my reaction to the Nightfall Asteroid and how I plan to deal with it."
She placed the tray on the coffee table. "Just a minute then, I'll get a pen and paper." Disappointed that Superman hadn't come for more personal reasons, yet happy that she had the opportunity for this exclusive interview, she brought back her notepad and began jotting down what Superman had already told her.
"Other than the Messenger, have you done any other superfeats in space?"
"Not really. I've thrown some balls into space, and I've just flown around seeing how far I could go, how long I could hold my breath."
"So, this is pretty new to you?"
"Then why did you agree to do it in the first place? I'm sure that the army and other science facilities like Star Labs have alternatives."
"The best alternative is a nuclear one. Professor Daitch said that he wasn't sure how the fallout would affect earth. I'm the safest choice at the moment."
"But you're a man, not a weapon."
"Yes, but I can do this."
"Because I can and because I'm here to help."
"You don't have to do this. It's dangerous." She paused. "I'm scared for you."
"I don't really have another choice. I have all these powers and abilities that other people don't have. I can't turn away from a request for help just because it's a bigger challenge than I've ever faced before. I have to use my powers for a good purpose. Saving Earth from a possible ice age seems like a good purpose to me."
"Yes, to me, too." She put down her pen and looked into his eyes, partially afraid to ask her next question, but knowing that it had to be asked. "Aren't you scared?"
Shifting positions, Superman pulled his eyes away from Lois's. Following his gaze, she saw him stare at her notebook.
"Oh," she said, understanding his discomfort. She closed her notebook. "This isn't for the interview. I won't write it."
Superman got up from the couch and walked over to her fish tank, staring blankly at the movement inside. Even Superman, Lois thought, has trouble expressing his feelings. She knew she needed to help him, so she walked over to him and put her hand on his arm. "It's okay to be scared."
He turned, once more looking in her eyes. "I've never done anything like this before."
"Do you think you can do it?"
"Technically, it's very possible. I've been in space before and I'm just as strong there as I am here. "
"So what bothers you?"
"It's pretty big and it's very important. I feel humbled that the future of this planet is in my hands."
"What worries you the most?"
"Not succeeding and not coming back to earth."
Lois touched his chest, wanting to reassure him as well as herself. "You'll succeed and you'll come back. You have to. We need you…I…" she hesitated, "need you."
"Thank you, Lois, I need…needed to hear that," he said as he took her hand, then lifted it to his lips.
"This is the most difficult task I've ever done, and it frightens me in a way that nothing has ever frightened me, not even Kryptonite."
Lois looked at him in surprise. She hadn't known that Kryptonite actually existed. In Smallville, she and Clark thought that Trask was crazy because he believed the magic rock existed. Superman was confirming its existence to her. She began telling him the story of her experiences with Trask. Superman then told her about the tests that Lex Luthor put him through when he first came to Metropolis. Lois was surprised at how duplicitous the man was. On one hand, he offered her sanctuary; on the other hand, he wanted to quash any hope for the city. Incensed, Lois vowed to look into Luthor's background and finances. As one story led to another, they filled the next few hours with personal, but unimportant, talk. They drank several cups of coffee and finished off the cupcakes and Twinkies.
Finally, Superman got up. "It's one thirty in the morning. I guess I better go and get some sleep. I have to leave fairly early tomorrow."
"Thank you for coming over."
"No, thank you, Lois, for doing whatever you do that makes me feel so good about you."
"Good luck tomorrow."
"When I come back," he said, sliding his hand under her chin and running his thumb over her cheek, "we'll go flying." He placed a kiss on her forehead.
Lois closed her eyes. When she opened them a second later, Superman was walking toward her window. She ran up to him and turned him around. She meant to kiss him on his cheek, to wish him luck, but cupping his face in her hands, she let her lips go to his. He didn't pull back. He didn't push her away. Instead, she felt his lips press hers and his arms wrap around her shoulders. Her hands slid behind his neck caressing the skin and pulling him closer to her, savoring the moment.
Lois stepped back, looking up at his eyes. He was staring at her, questioning. And yet it was her question that needed to be answered.
"Why did you come here, tonight?"
This was a time for honesty. He had no desire to lie to her.
"I wanted…no…I needed to be with you before I undertook this mission." He leaned down and let his lips glide over hers again. He knew that kissing Lois was wrong. He had allowed his alter ego to take over from him because he realized that Clark Kent would not stand a chance with Lois Lane. Her heart would be with the superhero, not the ordinary man. And yet, he couldn't stop himself. He had needed to talk to her, to share his apprehensions, to be with her before he faced the unforgiving rock. He knew he needed to tell her the truth-but Clark would have to wait.
She reached her hands behind his neck and wove her fingers through his hair, pulling him closer once again. It was a moment she never dreamed of experiencing, words she never expected to hear from this private and aloof man.
His arms, encircling her, pulled her closer to him, his hand cradling the back of her head. His inner voice told him to stop, to leap out the window and go back home. Lois would never forgive him for his duplicity, but it felt so good to hold her, to kiss her. Just this moment.
She felt his mouth open slightly, his tongue touching lightly on her lips. She opened her mouth, letting her tongue meet his. She felt the texture of his lips and tongue against hers, and she inhaled his scent and his taste. She heard herself groan as his tongue continued to probe hers, as his hands began to slowly move up and down her arms.
They stood there, at her window, in a tight embrace, Superman's hands running up and down Lois's back, Lois's hands kneading his muscular shoulders.
"Do you have to go?" she asked. His lips began to trail kisses along her cheek to her neck. She shivered and pulled him closer to her.
"Not really." He began to nibble gently. "Except that I have this asteroid I have to destroy." He kissed her again.
She opened her lips to his probing tongue, allowing it to wash over her teeth and the roof of her mouth. His taste was intoxicating. She pulled him tighter and sent her tongue on a search for his, feeling its sleek underside. He moaned and she wanted her ears to fill with his sound, her mouth to fill with his taste.
"Stay here," she breathed.
"I want to," he stopped nibbling at her throat and held her in his embrace. He rested his cheek on her forehead. "But I'm not sure that I'd be here under honest pretences."
"I want you to stay the night."
"Lois," he said letting his fingers play with her hair, "there are things you don't know about me. Things that I can't tell you, but that might change your mind about having me stay."
"I know enough about you, the kind of man you are."
"Lois," he groaned.
But before he could get another word in, she interrupted. "I know it's just for tonight, and I know that we're both worried about what will happen tomorrow, if there'll be a tomorrow, but maybe this is the time when we do need companionship, another human being to connect with. And Superman, I've always felt connected to you, more than to anyone else I've known."
"Lois, I believe in that connection you feel because I feel it, too." He held her tighter. If he succeeded in destroying the asteroid and he returned to Lois, he couldn't let her regret anything that might happen between them, even though he wanted to stay with her. He wanted to comfort her and for her to comfort him. But he was concerned about her because he loved her and he hadn't told her that he was really Clark. "We have to treat this as if there will be a tomorrow, because there will be, I'm sure. Then how would you feel?"
"How would you feel?"
"I think I'd feel as if I'd taken unfair advantage of you."
"But this is my idea. Neither of us is being taken advantage of."
Knowing that he shouldn't, Superman took Lois's hand, raised it to his lips again, and led her to the couch. "We'll just be together for a while, and then I'll go," he said hoping that he would be able to leave her. He put his arm around her, allowing her head to rest against his chest. They sat in silence, Superman's conscience nagging at him. He had said and done more than he had planned. All he had wanted was to be with Lois for a few minutes, but once he was with her, he couldn't leave. He had confidence in what he could accomplish in the morning, but, as with everything unknown, there were risks. He had known, and he was right, that Lois would offer him comfort and he would gain strength from her. She was like the sun for him— always managing to say the right thing, to touch him in the right way, to revitalize him. But, he also knew that he was not being fair to her. She didn't know that the man who was holding her at this moment was Clark Kent. And before anything more intimate could happen between them, she would have to know. He sifted his fingers through her hair and leaned down to kiss the top of her head.
"Mmmm," she murmured. "Are you feeling better?"
"I feel calmer."
"So do I," she said snuggling closer to him. "You'll be fine tomorrow: I know you will." He pulled his arms tighter around her and placed more kisses on her hand. She shifted positions and stretched her neck to look into his eyes. They gazed back at her, and he read the same desire that he felt. He looked down at her moist lips, open and inviting. He couldn't refuse the invitation. Their kiss was soft and gentle, and then, when he deepened the kiss, she became more demanding, pulling him in, making him feel as if she wanted to become part of him. He returned the passion, tasting her sweetness. And then, his hands, of their own accord, began tracing her body, her neck, her shoulders, desiring to feel her warm, silky skin. And as he touched her, she followed her own path, rubbing her hands up and down his back.
"Does the suit come off?" she asked, breathlessly.
"Is this what you want?" He was still concerned that omitting to tell her that he was Clark Kent was unfair to her. He couldn't go ahead with loving her without telling her the truth. But if he did, would she reject him, tonight of all nights? And he needed her.
"Yes, I want you, this moment in time. This isn't a frivolous decision, Superman. I've wanted to be with you this way for a long time."
"And I've wanted you," he said as he unfastened the cape from his shoulders and pulled the zipper down. Lois moved her hands to the suit's collar, sliding the stretchy material off so she could place kisses on his shoulder.
"Lois, are you sure you want this because I'm not sure I'm going to want to stop later on," he said, knowing full well that if she asked him to stop he would because he would do whatever she asked.
"Yes, Superman, this is what I want, but not here." This time it was her turn to take his hand. She led him into her bedroom. At the side of her bed, she removed the top of his suit while he slowly undid the buttons of her blouse and trailed kisses from her collar bone to her breasts. With her blouse open, he placed his hand on her lace covered breast and continued tantalizing her with his kisses.
"Oh, this feels so good," she said as she put her arms around him and pressed her body against his.
"You're so beautiful," he said as he lifted them both in the air over the bed.
"I guess I have to hold on tight," she said as she wrapped her arms and legs around him.
"The tighter, the better," he said, once again nuzzling her neck. He floated them down, lying side by side.
"I think we need to talk…"
"No, this isn't the time," she said placing her mouth on his.
He let the kiss encompass him. No, he thought, it wasn't the time to talk. He continued kissing her. They would talk later, when he came back. Whatever would happen they would have tonight. And he let thoughts of Clark Kent drift from his mind as he focused in on Lois.
She woke up feeling his finger drawing small circles on her shoulder and his lips filling them in with kisses. She realized, almost simultaneously, that she wasn't alone, that she had made love to Superman, that he had told her that he loved her, and now he was placing soft kisses on her shoulder.
"Mmmm." She spooned deeper into him. "Is it morning already?" She pulled his hand around her shoulder so he could hold her more tightly.
"Yes, I hear the lark."
"No, it's the nightingale." She didn't want him to leave so soon. She brought his hand to her mouth and kissed his fingers. Actually," she said in between kisses, "I don't like the Romeo and Juliet reference." She turned around to face him. He looked scruffy, his hair mussed. He looked relaxed. He looked adorable. "I don't like the way they ended up."
"I didn't think of it that way." He placed a kiss on her nose. "We're not like them. I'm coming back," he promised.
"I'm sorry that I woke you up, but I didn't want to leave without saying good-bye."
"I have to get up, too," Lois said, realizing that she had his take-off to observe and a story to write.
He held her tightly, placing more soft kisses in her hair and forehead, not willing to let go, but they both knew that his time was limited. Her lips and tongue played havoc with his need to get up and leave. But Nightfall waited for him.
When he finally was able to release her to get up and get dressed in his suit, she began to gather fresh clothing. "Please, Lois, stay here. I don't think I could treat you as just another reporter at the space centre this morning."
"But I have a job to do. I have to report your take-off."
"You've got the interview. You can write it up and LAN it to Perry from here. Someone else can write up the take-off. Please, Lois."
"All right," she said grudgingly. "I think I understand." She surprised herself. Her normal need to go, especially when she was asked not to, hadn't kicked in. Even though every fiber of her body told her that her job was to report Superman's take off, she also knew that she couldn't keep a professional distance. Not this morning. She was afraid that the bittersweet joy she felt at that moment would be evident to everyone around her, especially Clark. It was nobody's business where Superman spent the night. Or that she spent the night with anyone.
He held her again, kissing her again. "I love you, Lois. I've loved you for a long time." And as the words came out of his mouth, he realized that he had just ruined any future that he, as Clark Kent, could have with Lois Lane, because the man who said those words to her couldn't offer her anything.
"I've dreamed of hearing that from you. I love you, too."
"When I come back, I need to tell you something important, and then we'll talk. I hope I haven't ruined anything." He kissed her one more time, and then he flew out her window.
When Superman was out of sight, Lois set up her laptop and turned on the TV. She then placed a call into Perry explaining that she wasn't going to be at EPRAD for Superman's take-off, but she had managed to get an interview with him that she would LAN as soon as she had written it up. Then, as she kept one eye on the TV watching Superman's speedy ascent into the heavens, she wrote her article. Yesterday, she would have been impressed to get such a personal interview from the Man of Steel; this morning, she was more concerned with keeping the private man, who had revealed himself last night, to herself while only revealing his public persona in her article.
Spending the evening talking to him was incredible. The more she got to know the man inside the suit, the more he amazed her. She realized that he was so much more than the seductive good looks and the astonishing powers. They laughed when he had described the incredulous look on her face when she first saw him on the Messenger. They laughed harder when he told her how hard he had tried to hold back from burping after he had swallowed the bomb. They talked about some of the stories that they had in common. Superman explained the science behind making invisible light visible, so that he could uncover Barnes' gang after they robbed the gold repository, and he told her how he had talked about how it feels to be different when he convinced the metamide kids to release Lex Luthor and to return to the orphanage.
Mostly, she learned that although he was the most powerful man in the world, he was such a gentle, considerate lover. His kisses intensified her passion. His touch drove her to heights she had never dreamed of. And when they had finished making love, he held her closely and whispered endearments to her, telling her the depth of his own feelings for her. She had once believed that loving Superman was safe and so she indulged her fantasies. Now, knowing the man, she found that loving him was filled with risks-risks that she was willing to take.
By the time Lois sent her article to Perry, showered and dressed, EPRAD Centre reported that Superman had smashed the Nightfall Asteroid and diverted the larger pieces away from the Earth's orbit. He had returned to Earth and was briefing EPRAD staff. The press was expecting a statement from him within the hour.
He would be coming back to her soon.
"Nice interview, Lois," Perry pronounced. "It'll go nicely with this picture Jimmy took."
"Thanks, Chief," she said, taking her coffee back to her desk. "What do you want me to do next?"
"Well, Jones is writing up the scientific aspect of Nightfall, Kent is out getting the ordinary person's perspective…see if you can find Superman and get a follow-up."
"Easier said than done, Chief. He usually finds me. And I don't feel like jumping off a building or even yelling, 'Help Superman!'" she said.
Lois turned as she heard the elevator's arrival. She looked over to see Clark walking past the coffee pot, down the ramp to his desk. He was rubbing his forehead and looking a bit perplexed.
"What's up with you, Clark? Rough night?"
"I'm not sure. My head hurts."
"Let me look." She removed his hand from his forehead and saw a big bump that had turned black and blue. "How did you get this?"
"I don't know. I just woke up and it was there."
"Did you hit yourself on the head with something? Did someone hit you?"
"I don't know, Lois. It was just there when I woke up."
"Well, put a cold compress on it and the swelling will go down. And take some aspirins for the headache." She watched Clark sit down and start up his computer. Reaching into her desk drawer, she pulled out a bottle of aspirin and handed it to him.
"Did you get good interviews this morning?"
"Interviews? Oh, yeah, on the asteroid. No, not yet. I better go out and get some quotes," he said as he got up.
"Clark, wait," Lois called to him. He looked confused. She wanted to make sure he was all right. "Let me go along with you, and we'll work on this together."
The rest of the day went well. Lois and Clark spoke to a cross-section of the people in Metropolis who gave their opinions about Superman destroying Nightfall. Some were awed by the hero's abilities, others felt that it was nothing special since he did have the powers, he was obligated to help, while others argued that he was dangerous. But they were glad that he had saved the Earth. Then there were those who thought that the Nightfall scare was a government conspiracy to put more power into the hands of the President.
After getting their street interviews, Lois and Clark returned to the newsroom where Clark wrote up the story.
"How's your head?" Lois asked.
"Fine, it doesn't hurt anymore. I guess the aspirin worked."
Lois leaned over and checked Clark's head. "I'm surprised that it didn't leave you with a bigger bruise. It looked pretty bad this morning."
Clark just shrugged his shoulders, not understanding Lois's concern. He looked at his watch. "Wanna go out for some dinner?" he asked, realizing that it had gotten late and they hadn't managed to eat lunch.
Dinner with Clark would be nice, thought Lois, but she wanted to be home just in case Superman dropped by early. Keeping busy during the day had kept her mind off his visit the previous night, but now she was eager to see him again. He had said that he wanted to talk to her about something important. Knowing that he had told her that he loved her, she was now curious about what else he had to tell her. She had so much more to learn about her lover.
"No thanks, Clark. Not tonight. I'm going to finish up here, and then I've got some things I have to do at home."
The somber mood of the previous night had drastically changed in the last few hours. People had left their homes and flooded the streets. Colorful flags and red, yellow and blue banners flew from windows, storefronts and cars. Children carried balloons in the same colours while teen-agers drove their cars down the streets, honking their horns as their buddies stuck their heads out of windows and sun roofs cheering at passers-by who waved at the enthusiastic teens. People of all ages passed each other and smiled, whooped and hugged each other, even kissed each other. There was dancing in the streets to music blaring from buildings. The mood was jubilant. They had something to live for. The world wasn't ending. It reminded the man leaning against a lamppost of the time the Metropolis Sky Hawks won the World Series.
Unlike the celebrants around him, he didn't feel as if Superman had given him a second chance. In fact, Superman had already destroyed everything that had any significance for him. He'd lost the only work that he had loved and that he performed successfully, and in a flick of a finger, he had been humiliated in front of his peers. At least, with the destruction of the world, people would have been so busy rebuilding their lives, they would have forgotten about his ignominy. He had actually welcomed the end of the world, but once again Superman had intervened and ruined everything.
And that Lois Lane, and her partner Clark Kent, made everything worse by disclosing his, and others', secrets to the rest of Metropolis and the country. As a result, he went from a somebody to a nobody in a second. Now, he would bide his time and wait for the right moment to take his revenge on Superman, if that were ever possible, but definitely on Lois Lane, her father, and Clark Kent.
Lois rummaged through her closet, trying to decide what to wear for Superman. She pulled out her favourite black cocktail dress, but immediately put it back when she decided it was too fussy. After all, she was staying at home. She then looked at a satin negligee that she had once bought on a whim, but also returned it to the hanger. Too provocative, not the image or the mood she wanted to project. She went to her favourite: a comfortable pair of slacks and a matching sweater.
Once changed, she set the table for the dinner. She hoped he would like the penne primavera and salad she had picked up at Santo's. Not wanting him to get the idea that she could actually cook, she left the container on the counter. She opened a bottle of Merlot and poured a glass, making herself busy while waiting for Superman to arrive.
Once the apartment was more than presentable, she sat down with her glass of wine. She was sure that he would arrive soon. He had something to tell her, and then they would talk. She wondered what he was going to say. It had to be something personal, something private that he hadn't told people before. Perhaps about himself, where he came from, how he lived when he wasn't out saving someone. She had often speculated on who this very special man was. Perhaps he would tell her about his life on Krypton, tell her about his parents. Did he have parents? Did he want her to meet them?
She got up from her seat on the sofa and walked to the window where she stared into the star-filled sky. It was a quiet night with no sign of Superman. After a few minutes, she moved over to the television, hoping that, if Superman was out on some rescue, LNN would have some news, but there was nothing. Everything seemed peaceful. No sign of Superman. No need for Superman. Lois flipped to a sitcom, but found it hard to concentrate. She tried to watch a movie, but the cliched plot irritated her. She flipped back to LNN where she caught the tail end of a story about Councilors Velinski and Tremonte fighting once again about the landfill dispute. Anna Velinski was pushing for Earthtek to build a new landfill site just five miles east of the source of the Hobbs River. Bill Tremonte was promoting the environmental lobby which was looking for another site where the water table wasn't so close to the river. She moved into the kitchen, wrapped the penne in foil and, along with the salad, placed it back in the fridge. She put the cork back in the wine bottle.
This was probably what it was like to have a relationship with Superman. Cold dinner. Wilted lettuce. Melted down candles. She wouldn't be able to make plans or depend on him. Not that he didn't want to, she assured herself. He just had responsibilities. She wondered if he would ever wait for her if she had to run late on a story or go out on a stake out.
She picked up the phone and called Clark. She might as well see how he was doing. She worried about the bump on his head.
"Hello?" his groggy voice answered.
"Clark, did I wake you up?"
"Lois? Is that you? Is anything the matter?" He sounded worried.
"No. I just wanted to make sure that your head was all right." Now that she was saying the words, it seemed rather silly to wake him up.
"Of course it is." He laughed.
"I just wanted to make sure that you didn't have a concussion or you weren't in a coma."
"If I was in a coma, I wouldn't be answering the phone."
"That's true. It sounds silly, but I was worried."
"Anytime." She paused. She really didn't have anything to say now that she knew he was okay. "Good night, Clark."
"Good night, Lois. I'll see you in the morning."
She listened for him to put the receiver down before she put hers down. She stared at the phone for a few minutes and then glanced at her watch. It was one o'clock. She had to go to work in the morning. She put the dishes back in the cupboard, scraped the wax off the tablecloth, and changed into her pajamas. She opened the window slightly, just in case…
Clark was already at his desk when Lois came in late. For once, he didn't go over to the coffee machine and bring her a cup of coffee. He was engrossed in his work. Lois was curious about what he was up to, so instead of settling at her own desk, she dropped her purse and headed over to Clark where she leaned over his shoulder to see what he was working on. The screen was blank.
"Why are you so glued to a blank screen, Clark?" she asked.
He shrugged his shoulders, keeping his eyes on the screen, but she could see that his ears were turning red.
"What's going on?" she probed.
"Yup! That's what it looks like to me, too. Nothing. So why are you looking at a blank screen?"
"I just finished doing some research on the net, and I was thinking about it." He still wasn't looking at her.
"What kind of research?"
"You can be persistent, can't you?"
"Yes, I can. So tell or I'll bug you all day."
"So, my choice is to tell you now or to let you annoy me all day until I can't stand it any more," he observed.
"That's about right."
"Fine. I was researching dreams."
"Do you have some kind of story related to dreams?"
"No. I've just been having some weird dreams lately, and I don't know what to make of them."
"There's nothing deep in dreams, Clark. They just happen and then you forget them," she said as she playfully slapped his shoulder and went back to her desk.
"When I was little, I used to tell my dreams to my mom and she'd make up all these positive reasons why I was having them. I used to dream of being on the road trying to get from one place to another. She told me that I'd be a world traveler when I grew up."
"She was just feeding your imagination, Clark."
"Probably, but I did do a lot of travelling," he answered wistfully.
"You had a pretty idyllic childhood, didn't you?"
"No. It had its ups and downs. I was a teenager like most kids, so life wasn't all that easy. But my folks were great."
They spent the rest of the morning at the regular story meeting, and then they went off to City Hall for a press conference related to the landfill debate.
By the time the meeting was over, Lois's stomach was pleading for a pastrami on rye with a big dill pickle on the side. Grabbing Clark's arm, she led him across the road to Moe's Deli. That would give them time to digest the information that the Mayor's spokesperson had given them about the advantages of opening up a new landfill site beside the Hobb's River.
While they ordered their sandwiches, Lois noticed Councilors Velinski and Tremonte enter the restaurant.
"Clark…over there…no, don't be so obvious," she whispered. "It's Councilors Velinski and Tremonte."
Clark acknowledged Lois's observation.
"I wonder why they're having lunch together. They're always on opposite sides of most issues."
"They could be friends and be apart politically," Clark speculated.
"I doubt it. Politically, they're like day and night. And wouldn't we know about their friendship since we cover City Hall often?" She stared intently at the two councilors. "I bet there's some kind of underhanded deal-making going on between them. I wouldn't be surprised if one of them was on the take. Oh I wish that we could listen in on their conversation." She surveyed the restaurant. "There aren't any seats around them that we could move to…Clark, are you listening to me?"
He stared at the two councilors intently for a few minutes and didn't respond to her query.
"Tremonte's son and Velinski's daughter have just gotten engaged," he finally stated looking back at Lois, "and Velinski is telling Tremonte about her plans for the engagement party. It will be at Oliver's, which holds sixty people comfortably, on the thirtieth. She'd like to keep it to family and very close friends."
"You're putting me on, right?"
"How?…Do you read lips or something?"
Clark paused for a second thinking about it and answered in the affirmative, if "or something" is considered the affirmative.
Their sandwiches arrived, and seeing that there was no story in the engagement party, Lois dug into her lunch.
Not quite understanding how the argument had escalated to this level, the two youths stood facing each other menacingly, each pointing a gun at the other. Sweat poured down their faces as each wrapped a finger around the trigger, the other hand supporting the weapon. Each looked for the facial twitch that would declare the next move. Around them, their allies moved back, step by step, in order to get away quickly in case one or the other opened fire.
They heard the police sirens approaching, but neither trusted the other enough to put his gun away and take off. So when the police arrived, they stood in the same positions, their friends using the opportunity to move behind the police barricades.
Superman swooped down from above and settled behind the police lines staring at the two combatants, their friends off to the side, the officers and then at the flashing light above the police car. One of the officers approached the superhero and explained the situation.
"I'm glad you're here, Superman," the officer said.
Superman standing firmly with his legs apart and his arms crossed in front of his chest, said, "No problem, Officer. I'll have them both…both…" He shook himself, shivered and looked around in confusion.
Superman's words were interrupted when one of the boys in the crowd yelled to his buddy with the gun. And then all hell broke loose. The two boys started shooting, first at each other and then at those around them. The boys in the background, and the officers, along with Superman, ducked behind the squad cars that were lined up parallel to the shooters.
The officers squatting beside Superman hollered, "Aren't you going to do something?"
Superman kept his eyes on the shooters for several seconds before he turned to the officer beside him and asked, "Me?" Superman gasped. "What do you expect me to do? Isn't that your job?"
The officer in charge, realizing that for some reason, they couldn't count on Superman, and realizing the danger to the lives of those around, raised himself onto his knees and carefully aimed his gun at one of the shooters. He signaled a second officer to do the same. He slowly nodded to his partner. On the third, almost imperceptible nod, both opened fire at once taking out the two shooters.
As the shots rang out, the other police began shouting at the boys who had moved away from the shooters. Aiming their guns at them, they hollered out to the boys to raise their hands and walk over to the squad car. Following a well- known routine, the boys raised their hands and leaned their hands onto the roofs. While two officers kept their guns on the two wounded shooters who were lying on the ground moaning, another two ran over to kick the guns away and to ascertain the condition of the perpetrators.
Superman slowly began to lift himself up, his eyes settling on one of the boys standing near the entrance of the alley. When the boy saw the superhero coming toward him, he took off in a run. Superman began to follow him at a normal running pace, down to the other end of the alley and into dark labyrinth where one alley fed into another one. Superman looked around but didn't see anyone. Dejected, he leaned against the wall and ran his fingers through his hair.
The man in the shadows who had been watching the superhero thought that Superman didn't look very much like a superhero at this point. He wasn't behaving the way the superhero had behaved in the past. He believed that his opportunity had arrived. He wasn't quite sure why he thought this or what it actually meant, but no one had ever accused him of being a coward. He knew an opportunity when he saw one. He moved himself out of the shadows and blocked Superman's path. The man saw fear and confusion, and then recognition, in Superman's eyes. The man brought his fist up and, using all his might, plowed it into Superman's face. Superman stepped backwards, his hand moving instinctively to his cheek where he had been hit. The man took two steps toward his victim and put all his weight into punching him in the stomach. Superman clutched his stomach and shielded his face with his hands. And then the man threw one more punch, just because he could. "Yes!" he cheered himself on.
A light from a flashlight shone on Superman and a voice called out, identifying himself as the police. The assailant watched Superman as he shook himself off, stood up, and ran down the alley away from the police officer.
"Sorry, officer. I heard someone in here, so I followed him. I didn't realize that it was Superman," said the man who had just bested Superman in a fist fight.
"That's okay, sir," said the officer. "Just checking."
Tommy Garrison walked out of the alley. "Yes!" he muttered to himself. "Yes!" he said more loudly, and "Yes!" he finally whooped. He had stared Superman in the face and he had won. He, Tommy Garrison, was the strongest man in the world. He had proven himself. He had wondered what made Superman so special, so different than other men, so different from him. But now that he had punched Superman twice and knocked him out, the Man of Steel was weaker than he was. If he could take on Superman, he could do anything. He raised his arms over his head in a victory salute to an imaginary crowd. "Tommy Garrison is the strongest man in the world! Tommy Garrison won the ultimate street fight!"
Garrison now knew that having bested Superman, taking revenge on Sam Lane and then Lane and Kent was very possible. For the first time since the Menken's boxing scandal had been blown wide open, Garrison felt that he had a future to look forward to.
Later that evening, Lois sat in her apartment, pleased with the story she and Clark had written about the landfill debate. Thanks to thorough research, they had obtained some irrefutable scientific data on the detrimental effects the landfill would have on the river, and hence on the city- information which City Hall failed to share with them.
Lois felt good about the way the day went. It was her evening that she was not sure if she was anticipating. Last night had been a disappointment. She wondered if tonight would be the same. She stared at the penne, salad and wine that were still in the fridge and decided that she would warm up enough penne for her own dinner.
She remembered as a teen-ager having dinner with her friend, Tina Constantine, whose mother always used to lecture them: "Remember, girls, you can't put all your hopes for future happiness on a man. You can only depend on yourself. Men are nice to have around, but you can't count on them. You have to make yourselves capable and independent. Get an education. Get a career. Like yourself. Only you can make yourself happy." Lois smiled. Mrs. Constantino's lectures paid off. Whenever she needed to hear them, they popped into her head. So, she warmed up her dinner and sat down at her table with a copy of Dr. Peterson's article on the dangers of landfill to the environment.
As she was finishing her notes on the article, she heard a familiar whoosh. Superman was hovering outside her window.
"Do you mind if I come in?" he asked.
When she indicated that he should enter, he floated in. All of a sudden she felt shy, unsure of what today was supposed to bring.
Superman, on the other hand, knew exactly where they had left off because he walked towards her, scooped her in his arms and kissed her. She laughed when he put her down and she stood back from him.
"Mmmm, that was nice," she said.
"I missed you," he explained, then held her closely again and repeated the kiss.
"Welcome home, but I thought you would come last night."
"Last night?" he asked looking at her quizzically. "I was here last night."
"No, you weren't. You were here two nights ago," she stressed the difference in time. "I waited for you last night, but you didn't come."
"Where were you? I didn't see anything on the news."
Once again he looked at her quizzically. He shrugged his shoulders. "I don't remember." He shook his head.
Lois put her hand to his forehead and then combed her fingers through his hair. "Superman, are you all right?"
"Fine. I feel fine. I just don't remember last night." He stared back into her eyes and put his arms around her narrow waist. "I do remember being with you though. Now let's see." He pulled her closer. "We were doing something like…" He lowered his head to hers and captured her lips. "…this."
"I think so," she murmured huskily. Although she was still worried about Superman, she didn't want to break the moment with too many questions. She let him consume her with his passion and she, in turn, received sustenance from him.
Several hours later, she lay, sated, in his arms. He was playing with a lock of her hair.
"I thought of you while I was in space. It was so quiet, so peaceful for a time. The stars shine so much brighter, and the blues and greens of the Earth look so inviting. I wanted a camera to show you how beautiful it looked. I wanted to come back down to Earth and carry you up with me, but I knew it was impossible."
She sighed and pressed herself closer into her lover's body. "Was it difficult shattering Nightfall?"
"No, not difficult. I knew exactly where to hit it and my velocity and direction were right on. I just didn't expect the flash of light that I sparked when I hit the asteroid. But, after that I just turned around and came back home. Re-entry wasn't a problem. I've done that before."
"Can I write about what it was like in space?"
"Sure. Just don't mention what I was wearing when I told you," he said lifting the cover to check his and Lois's lack of clothing.
Once again, Lois cuddled closer. "Will you stay the night with me?"
He brought his lips to hers, pushed her hair away from her face, and treated her to another deep kiss. "Of course. Where else would I go?" He kissed her lightly on the lips and then traced the curve of her neck with tiny kisses. "But I'm not quite ready to go to sleep yet," he said as he continued nibbling.
Lois stared at her computer screen forcing herself to stop reliving every moment of the previous night. She needed to finish writing Superman's account of his confrontation with Nightfall. But her mind kept wandering. As she wrote the details of the flight into space, she thought about the way his fingers traced the outline of her body while he told her, or the way his kisses forged a path between her breasts and her navel, or the softness of his lips on hers as he punctuated his description of the smashing of the asteroid. That had to be the most erotic interview she'd ever participated in. She typed a little more trying to visualize what it must have been like out there in outer space. That's what she had to get across for her readers. She could indulge in her own memories later on.
And yet as wonderful as the night had been, Superman had seemed different. As well as forgetting about the previous evening, he had never mentioned what he wanted to talk to her about. They had talked, but nothing seemed to be important enough to warrant the promise he had made to her that first evening. Not only that, but he had seemed different. Not in any tangible way. She didn't know him that well, but some secret ingredient was missing from their second liaison. Nonetheless, he had still been attentive, considerate, loving and incredibly sexy. Perhaps, it was just her imagination.
She focused on the article she was writing, rereading it from beginning to end. Yes, it had the right touch. She pressed some keys and LANned it to Perry. Looking into his office window, she saw that he received the LAN and was beginning to read it. She walked over to the coffee machine and poured herself a fresh cup. She returned to her desk to begin working on the landfill notes that she and Clark had collected the day before. You're only as good as your next story, she thought.
Her work was interrupted when Perry came out of his office waving a piece of paper in his hands.
"Lois, darlin', you've outdone yourself again. This is why you're a Kerth winner three times over," he said as he patted her on the shoulder. Then he turned to the rest of the news room, "Boys and girls, this afternoon, in the Daily Planet, you will read the definitive interview with Superman, by our very own Lois Lane."
Only Perry, she thought, could make her feel this good about her work. As usual, he had given her a gold star.
"But, darlin'," he said quietly so only Lois could hear, "I've marked a few, just a few mind you, places where you need to touch this up. And get rid of those misplaced modifiers."
"I thought that was what you were for, Chief?"
Perry guffawed as he left the article on Lois's desk and walked back to his office.
"So, Lois Lane wrote another great page one article?" Clark asked as he approached her desk.
"Read it and weep, Kent," she said as she handed it to him along with a pencil. She liked the way Clark edited her copy, as long as he didn't make any major changes. Curious to see Clark's reaction to such a great interview, Lois watched him carefully. He began reading the article and then stopped. He closed his eyes and swayed as if he was dizzy. Before she could get up to stand beside him, he walked over to his desk and sat down. He picked up the article again and continued to read it. In the time he could only have read a few words, he stopped reading and pinched the bridge of his nose. Then he spread thumb and forefinger under his eyes and rubbed. Shaking his head, he looked at the page again and seemed to finish reading it. Without picking up the editing pencil, he came back to Lois's desk.
"Good interview, Lois," he said listlessly. "You've described it so well, I thought I was there myself." He handed her the unmarked article.
"But, Lois, I'd be worried if I were you," he said walking back to his desk.
"If you write too many articles like this about Superman, people will assume that you have the inside track on him, and you could be in danger."
"Don't be silly, Clark."
"Tell him to spread his interviews around."
"Clark Kent, I can't believe that you're jealous because I've managed to get my share of Superman interviews."
"Not jealous, Lois. Just concerned. Remember Jason Trask."
"So? You were there with me," Lois countered. "And you're the one who knows how to contact Superman, not me. You be careful."
"How do I contact Superman?" he asked.
"Clark, stop playing games. Your sense of humour is annoying." She sat down at her desk a little angry that Clark was playing the overprotective mother hen again. She could take care of herself and decide when she should stop getting Superman interviews. He was the one who came to her after all; she didn't approach him. He wanted to be with her…except she couldn't tell Clark that, or anyone else for that matter.
She looked back at her unmarked interview. "Aren't you going to fix my misplaced modifiers and my dangling participles?" she asked, wanting him to treat her copy the way he usually did.
"Not today, Lois. I don't think I can concentrate on it."
"I thought you got a kick out of taking me down a couple of notches with your blue pen."
"You can do it on your own," he said pulling out a file of his own.
"Well, then I'll leave this with Perry and we'll concentrate on this landfill story. We can go over to City Hall to get a few good quotes from our favourite councilors and then write up the story."
Considering the sunshine and cool breeze, Lois suggested that they walk to City Hall and enjoy the good weather before it turned cold. They had the time since the council meeting would not end for another hour. Walking with Clark was pleasant. He had apparently gotten over the strange mood that had distracted him in the office, and their conversation about their story and about the aftereffects of Nightfall kept them occupied.
She liked talking to Clark. He made her feel as if she was the centre of his universe. She hadn't met many men who did that. She was surprised then when she found that she had lost Clark's attention. Following his gaze, she realized that he was looking up at a window on the fourth floor that had smoke coming out of it. As they watched, they heard an explosion and saw glass burst from the window. A woman rushed frantically to the window yelling. Lois grabbed her cell phone from her purse and dialed 911. Clark stood beside her for a second before he darted into the building.
"Wait," she called after him. "It's too dangerous." But he never heard her last words. He was moving very quickly, and he was already in the building. Now, Lois realized that she had two people to worry about. As she waited, she watched other residents who were running out the front door, turn and look up at the burning apartment. Many of the tenants were crying uncontrollably. Lois kept her eyes on the front door. After what seemed like hours, she saw Clark cradling a child in one arm while his other arm encircled the woman who had come to the window. Once they had crossed the road, the young woman took the child from Clark. Rocking her child, she tearfully thanked Clark for his help.
Lois watched the people milling around the front of the burning building. She was thankful that it was during the workday and most people weren't home.
One young mother held her baby and looked around frantically. "Where's Mrs. Thomas? Have you seen Mrs. Thomas?" she asked the other tenants. When she approached the woman whom Clark had saved, she asked her about Mrs. Thomas as well.
"Who's Mrs. Thomas?" asked Clark.
"She's an elderly woman who lives on the third floor. She's in a wheelchair."
"What apartment?" Clark asked.
"305," answered the woman.
Clark started to run across the road.
"No, Clark. Please. I can hear the fire engine sirens. It's dangerous," Lois pleaded. But once more her partner ran into the burning building ignoring her entreaties. She found herself clenching her fists as she waited for him to exit. She cringed when she heard another explosion. What had gotten into him? For the first time since she'd known Clark, he had rushed into danger without even thinking of the consequences. How could he be so heedless? She didn't want to lose him. She bit her lip and said a silent prayer.
The fire fighters arrived and began setting up their equipment. Lois ran to one of them.
"My partner…went up…third floor…Mrs. Thomas," she mumbled wanting the words to make sense, but coherent thought wasn't happening for her.
"Lady, calm down. Breathe," said one of the fire fighters in soothing tones. "Tell me what happened."
"My partner went in there," she pointed at the front door where Clark was exiting with Mrs. Thomas in his arms. "Clark. Omygod, Clark. He's all right and he's got Mrs. Thomas."
Fire fighters rushed around Clark, taking Mrs. Thomas, who seemed to be enjoying the role of damsel in distress, from his arms and placing her on a gurney. Lois ran towards Clark, but a fire fighter held her back. "Clark! Clark!" she called. He must have heard her because he looked up and smiled. He signaled to the fire fighter that he was all right and went across the road to encompass Lois in a deep hug.
"Oh, thank goodness you're not hurt," she said, returning the hug. "I was so worried."
"It's fine, Lois. I'm fine," he said as he pulled her in closer to him.
"Then why did you do such a stupid thing?" she asked, stepping back from him and slapping him on the chest. "You're not a professional. You could've been hurt." Her relief turned to anger at his stupidity and selfishness.
"All I could think of was that I had to help. Somehow, I knew I could do it," he said calmly. "Come on now. We've got two stories to write up for tomorrow's paper."
Several hours later, after they had called in the story about the fire and managed to get to City Hall in time to get some interviews and quotes for their land fill story, the two reporters were each writing up their stories. Lois looked over at Clark to clarify something Councilor Tremonte said when she saw him tilt his head and pause. She wondered where he had to go this time, but surprisingly, Clark shook his head and looked back at his screen.
"What happened there?" she asked.
"Just now. You looked as if you remembered you needed to drop off a video or something."
"I thought I heard something, but it must have been a ringing in my ear."
"Are you okay?" she asked beginning to be really concerned about his behaviour. "You've been acting strangely over the last day or so."
"No. I'm fine. Sometimes I think I hear things."
"Maybe you have a concussion from whatever hit you on the head the other day. Or maybe you hurt yourself at the fire this morning."
"No, I don't think so. I feel fine. Really."
"Let it go, Lois. I'm fine."
She watched her partner as he got back down to work. Maybe he was fine and she was just misreading him. He seemed unhurt after saving Mrs. Thomas and the other woman. Once other reporters had arrived on the scene, they made a big deal about Clark, one of their own, saving the child and the two women. They were calling him a hero. Clark seemed uncomfortable with that role. He kept saying that he did what anyone else would have done in that kind of situation. His impulse was simply to help these people who needed help. He wasn't doing anything extraordinary. That, of course, didn't stop the other reporters from using Clark's heroism as their leads. She didn't know him that well, although at times she felt as if she had always known him and could read him like a book, but she could see that he didn't want the media to play up his role in the fire.
Her thoughts were interrupted when Jimmy dropped an afternoon edition of the Daily Planet. The front page carried her interview with Superman next to a full length photo of him. She had to get a copy of that photograph from Jimmy to frame.
That evening Lois returned to her dark apartment after her Tae-Kwon-Do class. The exercising had felt good. Now all she needed was a hot shower and something to eat. She looked into her empty fridge. She and Superman had finished all the leftovers the previous evening. When she offered him the leftover penne, at first he looked at her as if she came from another planet. "I don't need to eat," he had told her. But then when he had seen her disappointment, he had taken the penne and wolfed it down. No, it was more like he had vacuumed it in.
She needed to do some serious shopping if she was going to be eating at home more. Meanwhile, she phoned her favourite pizza store and decided to place an order that would feed two. She had enough time to take a quick shower before her order arrived.
She decided that she'd keep the pizza warming in the oven for an hour. If Superman did not arrive by that time, she'd eat. In the meantime, she cut out her interview with Superman and pasted it in the scrapbook she had started to keep when the Man of Steel first arrived in Metropolis.
Once again she turned the TV onto LNN to see if she could find the whereabouts of Superman. He was on the interstate helping clean up another oil spill. She counted the number of oil spills that had occurred on New Troy highways since the superhero had arrived in Metropolis. She wondered if having Superman in Metropolis meant that companies took fewer precautions with big equipment like oil carriers. That might be an interesting story that she and Clark could look into.
She put two slices of pizza on a plate and poured a glass of diet cola. She started up her laptop and began writing the follow-up of the landfill story. She was unaware of the passing time until she heard a longed for tap on her window. She glanced at the time on her laptop surprised that she'd been working for an hour and a half. She had managed to finish one piece of pizza, but the second lay cold on her plate.
She got up to let Superman in. He moved toward her in two quick steps and just before he enfolded her in his arms, he stepped back.
"I don't think I'm presentable here," he said looking at his grimy suit. He pulled his cape to his nose and sniffed, "I smell like a gas station."
"Do you want a shower?"
"That would be nice. Would I be able to throw my suit in your washing machine?"
"Sure, no problem," she said.
"Wait. That's not a good idea. What would I wear?"
Lois raised her eyebrows. She had a good idea what she'd like to see him wearing, but her practical side took over. "Clark did his laundry here a few days ago because his washer broke down. He hasn't picked up his clothes yet. I'm sure you could find something that fits." She led Superman into the spare room where she had placed Clark's folded laundry. Superman took out some clothes and headed into the shower.
Lois went back to her laptop. She smiled as she thought how domestic the situation was, and then she continued working on her story. Once again she lost track of time until she felt Superman's arms around her, his lips running kisses up her neck to her ear. He smelled soapy and fresh.
"This is better," she said, turning around to face him. Her lips sought his, letting him know how much she missed him.
"I've just got a bit more to do. Why don't you turn on the television or something."
She turned around to finish up her story. She scrolled to the top and reread her lead. "Yesterday, Councilor Bill Tremonte confirmed that deputy Mayor Bristol, known for his pro-business, anti-environment stance, was accepting cash pay-offs to stall plans on naming the new Metropolis landfill sight which should be announced early next week."
"Your lead is too inflammatory, Lois," said Superman standing over her shoulder, reading her copy. "You might want to consider…"
"You may be Superman…" Lois pounced on him. "And you may be my lover, but you may not edit my lead." She glared at him. No one, she thought, had the right to comment on her lead except for Perry…or Clark. She reread the lead, because she had planned to, and began typing in changes until she liked what she saw.
"Then, I won't mention that you spelled 'site' wrong."
Lois quickly looked at her lead. He was right. 'Site' was misspelled. She quickly corrected the error, checked that she didn't make the mistake again, and e-mailed the article to Perry.
Superman, looking rather pleased with himself, moved to the couch and waited for Lois to join him. It didn't take long for her to join him. Now she had a chance to look at him. Wearing Clark's clothes, he looked less formal and less forbidding. She snuggled closer to him.
"You look good in Clark's clothes," she said.
"They feel comfortable."
"I'm worried about Clark, by the way. He's been acting strangely. Have you noticed?"
"Noticed Clark? Should I have?"
"He's your friend, isn't he?"
Superman thought for a moment. "Do we really want to talk about your partner?" He leaned down and kissed her, pulling her in closer. "I've waited all day to do this."
"What did you do all day?"
"Some rescues. Helped with an oil spill on the interstate. Pulled some people out of a fire. Nothing more than usual."
"Are you getting bored with the rescues?" she asked, surprised by his off-hand tone.
"No. I like to help. It's just that right now, I'd rather be doing something else."
"Would I happen to have a role in what you want to do?" she asked coyly.
Superman kissed her again. Lois was surprised that she wasn't drowning in his kisses the way she had the other night. It wasn't that his kisses weren't wonderful, it was just that they didn't stop rational thought. What baffled Lois the most was the number of questions that kept invading her consciousness while she was supposed to be enjoying the feel of his lips. She tried to shake off the questions, but focusing on the pressure of his lips on hers, his taste, the beating of his heart, all she could think of was who was this man kissing her.
She let him withdraw from the kiss and she repositioned herself to face him, eye to eye.
"Superman, what's your real name?"
"Superman," he answered without skipping a beat.
"No. I named you that after you rescued the Messenger. You must have another name."
She could see him thinking, and then a puzzled looked came across his face. He shrugged his shoulders.
"I don't think I have any other name. I'm Superman."
"Where do you come from?" she asked trying another tack.
"Krypton," he answered, again without skipping a beat.
"When did you come to Earth?" she asked.
"Just before I rescued the Messenger. I remember flying across the US until I landed in Metropolis, at the Messenger. And then I saw you."
"And before that?"
"Before I met you? I don't remember. It's like I was born the day I met you."
Lois would have taken what Superman just said as a compliment, but she was beginning to worry. This didn't make sense. The Superman she knew before was different. He was secretive about his past, evasive even, but he wasn't ignorant of it. Something had happened to him that she couldn't understand.
He kissed her forehead and then traced a line to her lips. She responded half-heartedly.
"Is anything the matter?" he asked.
"You. You don't seem like yourself." She cuddled closer to him hoping that their closeness would help her understand. "You've changed since you left to destroy Nightfall. You came back and you don't seem as grounded. You've been forgetful and, not evasive, but…I'm not sure how to describe it. It's as if you don't remember anything before coming to Metropolis." She did know how to describe it. 'Empty' was the word that came to mind, but she didn't want to tell him, not yet.
"I'm sure I have a past. Maybe I was in hibernation or something before I got here. Krypton must be pretty far from Earth."
"Do you remember Krypton?"
"No. Not really."
"Lois, this is silly. I'm me. I'm in love with you. Nothing else matters. It's as if our lives are starting right now."
"That's nice and romantic, Superman, but this is real life and we all have pasts, whether we like them or not. And you're too human. You're not one of my father's cyborgs." She thought for a minute about Tommy Garrison and the other prize fighters her father had created. They were fighting machines. No, Superman was much more human than any of them.
She admitted to herself that she didn't know Superman all that well. She might be jumping to conclusions. The first night she was with him may have been an aberration. Flying into space in order to destroy an asteroid larger than Metropolis had weighed heavily on his mind. He might have come to her out of a primal need to be with someone, without any real emotion. However, she was sure that on that night she had seen Superman stripped bare of the facade he wore in front of the world, and she'd seen that facade lowered other times in the past when he looked at her. No. This change occurred after Nightfall. Something happened to him out in space.
"Superman," she probed, "tell me again what happened when you were in space."
He gathered her in his arms and began to speak, "It was very peaceful once I left the Earth's atmosphere. Quiet. Soothing. I concentrated on what Professor Daitch and the others had told me, but every so often I would think of you and our night together. I really felt that talking to you that night had made me stronger. I kept my eye on Nightfall and watched it grow larger and larger as I approached it. Eventually, I closed my mind off to everything but the asteroid. I measured and zeroed in on the spot where I would have the greatest impact, and I flew right into it, centering all my strength into my fists.
"I felt my skin make contact with the rock, and then I think I heard the crunch as my fist went through it. All of a sudden, I was surrounded by millions of rocks of all different sizes hurtling around me, some coming at me and hitting me. There was an explosion of light, but I'm not sure if I actually saw it or I imagined it. Maybe it was just a bright light that I saw, or maybe I looked into the sun. Then everything was black for, maybe, a few minutes. I think I might have been knocked out, I'm not sure.
"When I could see again, I floated around, avoiding the drifting rocks, looking for Earth. I heard myself promise you that I'd take you flying, so I knew I had to get back home. It didn't take me long to find Earth and then I just propelled myself back until I landed. As soon as I could get away from Daitch, the military, and the press, I came back to you."
"I'm glad you came back to me," she told him, cupping his face in her hands and kissing him once more. She let this incredible man draw her into a deep kiss. Her hands laced through his hair and when she couldn't get enough of him, she drew his shoulders closer to her. Her hands slid down his back and under the t-shirt he was wearing. The feel of his skin made her moan with pleasure and longing.
"Let's go to bed, Lois," he said huskily. "I want to make love to you."
He scooped her up and carried her into the bedroom.
Lois glanced at the man sleeping beside her. There was a small smile on his lips. Lois bent forward and lightly placed her lips on his, then quietly slipped out of bed. She couldn't sleep. Rather than making her tired, the love-making woke her up. She went into the kitchen. A cup of hot chocolate would hit the spot.
Superman had deftly managed to deflect the issue of his strange behaviour by making love to her. She didn't even feel that he had done it deliberately. He just didn't see a problem. But she did. Although she did not know this man very well, she did know that something was wrong.
She tried to clarify what was itching at the back of her mind. It wasn't that they had become lovers. She didn't have this nagging feeling three nights ago. It started the next time she saw him. He had no knowledge of what he had done once he returned to Earth. How could he not remember what happened over a twenty-four hour period? And he didn't seem to know where he went or where he lived when he wasn't with her or rescuing someone. He was just around. Something must have happened.
She thought his description of his encounter with Nightfall was interesting. He hadn't mentioned being hit by the rocks the first time he told the story. She wondered if something happened out there that made him forgetful. But it wasn't amnesia, was it? She decided to find out. She started up her laptop and searched for amnesia.
Superman didn't quite fit into any of the possibilities suggested. His memory of the traumatic event, she assumed that he was hit on the head by a piece of the asteroid, was very clear according to his story. Most amnesia victims didn't remember the trauma causing event or events leading up to it or after it. Superman's recall was excellent except for the short period that he may have blacked out. Amnesia victims did black out. There were several kinds of amnesia, her research told her. In one sense, he had antegrade amnesia because he had problems remembering day- to-day events where he couldn't recall how he spent the day. Yet, he remembered parts of it. It might be infantile amnesia because he didn't remember his childhood, but he did know that he came from Krypton. There was a fugue amnesia where the memory was blocked and then came back all at once. Hadn't she read a story about that somewhere? The character in that story had no idea who he was. Anyway, the good news was that most amnesia was temporary.
She'd have to do some more checking and perhaps find a psychologist or psychiatrist to talk to. But, that would be hard because she didn't want to let anyone know that something might be wrong with Superman, and because he was Superman, there might be some significant difference.
Just as she shut down her computer, she heard her alarm go off. Was it six already?
"Lois?" he hesitantly called from the bedroom.
"I'm at my desk," she answered as she got up and walked back to him.
"Did you sleep at all?" he asked.
"I dozed off a bit, but I was doing some work and lost track of time. I'll be okay."
She dressed for work while Superman made coffee and toast for the two of them.
"What are you going to do today," she asked, again curious about how he spent his time.
"I'll go out and fly around, I guess, and be around when someone needs me."
"Is that what you always do?" she asked.
"What else would I do?"
She shrugged her shoulders and took a bite of her toast. She looked at the man sitting across from her. The itch hadn't gone away; as a matter of fact, it had become more bothersome. He looked relaxed, enjoying being with her, she hoped. He looked up and saw her watching. He smiled, and then turned his head as if he was listening to something.
"What is it?" she asked, knowing that he was going to leave.
"An oil tanker developed a leak off the coast of Los Angeles. I've got to go," he said getting up.
"How did you know?" she asked, curious about how Superman always knew where there was an emergency.
"I heard your neighbour's radio. They just announced it." He came over and kissed her. "I'll see you later." He went to the window and took off.
Very domestic, she thought as she began cleaning up the few dishes she had used. She was surprised that she knew as soon as she saw him tilt his head to listen to…nothing… that he was going to leave, that someone needed Superman. It was the same way Clark looked before he went off on some asinine errand…
The itch was becoming unbearable. It stopped bouncing through her mind and settled in one place, and she began to scratch at it.
She pictured Clark yesterday when he also tilted his head. She was so sure that he was going to come up with an excuse to leave. She was actually taken aback when he didn't. Superman tilted his head to listen in the same way, and he did take off because he heard about an earthquake.
No, she thought. No. It wasn't possible. Clark couldn't be… Superman couldn't be… It was just coincidence. They had some of the same mannerisms, that's all. The man who'd spent three of the past four nights in her bed definitely wasn't… In fact, she'd prove it.
She picked up the phone and called Clark. There was no answer. She phoned the office, punching in Clark's extension. He wasn't at his desk. She knew that didn't prove anything, but the itch was localized now. She knew where she had to scratch.
She took a deep breath, trying to control her rapidly pounding heart. She needed to think, to put this all together, but she didn't want to do it at the office where she would be interrupted. Not wanting to go into great detail, she left a message on Perry's machine, telling him that she was working on something and that she would come in later than usual.
She knew that it wasn't worth her while to wonder why she hadn't made the connection between Clark and Superman before. So she filed that for later consideration. First, she had to be sure that her hypothesis was correct. Was Superman Clark?
There was nothing about Superman that would tell her he was Clark except that he fit perfectly into his clothes. And Clark was a well-built man. She remembered seeing him in only a towel when they had first begun working together. Secondly, Superman had wanted to tell her something before he left, but once he returned from the asteroid, he hadn't remembered that part of their conversation. Could he have wanted to tell her that he was Clark? She was really reaching here. But, he had hesitated, not wanting to make love because it would be under false pretences. He had told her that there were things that she didn't know about him. That made sense now. She would have been making love to Clark Kent. How would she have felt when she found that out? Angry? Betrayed? She couldn't think of any other reasons to believe that Superman was Clark except that he was right when he commented on her lead. It was too wordy. But all the signs were circumstantial. She needed something concrete that she could link Superman to Clark.
For one thing, Clark was behaving as oddly as Superman. She remembered that he had come into the Planet offices the day Superman returned complaining of a bump on his head and a head-ache. She had even worried about a concussion. He'd acted strangely as a result, but she sloughed it off as part of the bump on the head. But, that was ridiculous. Superman didn't get a bump on his head like Clark would. On the other hand, the bump cleared up very quickly leaving no black or blue marks on Clark. Who knew what could have happened to Superman in space? Maybe his powers changed when he was further away from the earth's gravitational pull. That might have an effect on his powers.
She wasn't thinking logically. She had to slow down.
Her thoughts traveled back over the last two days and to Clark's behaviour. When he tilted his head and seemed to want to go off to wherever he went, he had said that he thought he had heard something. What if he had, but he hadn't understood what he heard? Then, he had been able to repeat back everything that Councilors Velinski and Tremonte had said to each other in the restaurant. She believed him when he said that he could read lips. Maybe he only thought he was lip-reading; maybe he actually heard it like reading subtitles at a movie and believing that you actually heard the words. Was he lying to her or did he actually believe he could lip read? And then Clark ran into the burning building, twice, and saved the women…and Superman mentioned that he had rescued people from a fire. Clark came out unhurt just as Superman would have. Could Clark be Superman and not know it?
Possibly. He had run into the burning building without giving it a second thought. He could save those people not because he was brave, but because he knew he was invulnerable. No wonder he had been so uncomfortable when he had been interviewed by the press. But why hadn't he disappeared to return as Superman? She was sure that was what he had always done before when he told Lois that he was going for help or going to call the police. This time, he had stayed as himself and had rescued the people. That didn't make sense, unless he didn't know he was Superman.
No. That was ridiculous.
Yet, what she had brushed off as Clark's teasing, that he didn't know how to contact Superman, could have serious repercussions now, if he really didn't know that he was the superhero.
Lois turned on LNN. Superman had finished cleaning up an oil spill off the coast of Los Angeles. She picked up the phone and dialed Clark's number. He still wasn't at home. She didn't know where he would go when he came back from California, but she would be waiting for him at his place…assuming, of course, that her hypothesis was correct and she wasn't having some break with reality herself.
Garrison sat in O'Shaunassey's Bar nursing a beer while watching the Metropolis Shamrocks play the Orlando Magics. The game ended in a victory for the Shamrocks, and Garrison, who was in a magnanimous mood, called for a round of beer for his friends. His buddies from Menken's gym crowded around him, slapping him on the back for his generosity as well as acknowledging the Shamrock win. It was a good day all around.
Ben, the bartender, flipped the channel to LNN to pick up the latest news. Garrison caught mention of Superman and turned to watch the coverage of the oil spill focusing on the praise that the newscaster was heaping on the superhero. If only he knew, thought Garrison. He watched for a short while as the camera followed Superman who siphoned the water out of the ocean and into the cargo hold of the large tanker. The camera, probably on a helicopter, then zoomed in as Superman closed the opening of hull and welded it together.
He heard the voices of the men in the bar cheering Superman's accomplishment as if he had scored a basket for the Shamrocks.
"Look what that guy can do," said Little Eddy.
"He ain't that great, Eddy," Garrison objected, knowing that Little Eddy had been intimidated when Superman just stared him down.
"Sure, he is Tommy. He done things we can't, no matter how strong we are."
"Yeah, that's what you think," Garrison bragged.
"Just because he knocked you out with a flick of the finger…" said Docker, another one of Menken's prot,g,s, "doesn't mean you can put him down."
"He ain't that great," Garrison said adamantly. He looked around at the disbelieving faces of his gym buddies. Little Eddy even waved him off and started walking away.
"You don't think I can beat him up, Little Eddy?"
"Maybe a sucker punch like ya did last time," Docker said.
"Sucker punch? Hell, no. I got in a few good punches. He was covering his face and holding onto his stomach. I got him good."
"Yeah, right. Quit yer dreamin', man," Eddy said.
"I ain't dreamin'. This happened yesterday. I found him in an alley and I went up to him and slugged him in the face, then I plowed him in the gut. He was bent over double."
"Come on, man. Someone take Garrison home. He's had too much to drink."
Docker put his arm around Garrison, aiming him to the front door of the pub, but the former fighter shook off his friend and turned to the rest of the men at the bar.
"I'm tellin' ya the truth. Believe it or not, I downed Superman, and I ain't drunk."
He stood up taller, pushed his shoulders back and headed out of the bar. In the street, a cold wind blew on his face. He wasn't drunk. He knew what happened, and it was time that others knew that he could take care of Superman. There was no way that he would let his buddies think that what they heard from him was drunken rambling. He'd get proof that he could beat up Superman. He'd go after the Man of Steel in a more public setting, but first he would get rid of Lane and Kent.
When Lois knocked at Clark's door, there was no answer. He wasn't home. She took out her lock picking equipment and set to work. Being an easy job, it didn't take long for her to get into his apartment. It was empty and quiet. She tiptoed into his bedroom. He was curled up in his bed, hugging his pillow, sound asleep. She moved closer. Lying there shirtless and without his glasses, she knew without a doubt he was the same man who had gotten out of her bed hours earlier. Any lingering doubts that Clark was Superman were all gone. She was tempted to lean down and kiss him, but she wasn't sure about what Clark's reaction would be. She looked around for signs of his dual identity, but his apartment, as it had always been, was simply Clark. She looked in his washing machine and his hamper for the suit, but it wasn't there. Nor was it in either of his closets. She'd have to ask him where he kept them.
She returned to his bedroom and this time she cleared her throat. "Clark. Clark. Wake up."
Her partner sat upright in bed, saw Lois and grabbed his glasses.
"Lois? What are you doing here?"
"I came to get you."
"Oh, I'm late for work again! I've been sleeping in lately; I don't know why." As he got up, he grabbed the sheet, wrapping it around himself, and headed for the washroom. "I'll be out in a minute and we'll go to work."
"Take your time." She went into the living room and flipped through a magazine lying on the end table, but she couldn't concentrate. She thought about Superman, no Clark, in the shower. Clark Kent was Superman. She had no doubts; as a matter of fact, it all made a great deal of sense. Clark's behaviour for the last six months made sense, now that she knew he was Superman. And she had made love to Clark! How did she feel about that? Well, she wasn't repulsed by him. He was her friend. But she did have a rule about sleeping with men she worked with…and Clark knew that…He also knew that she had broken that rule once before. She wasn't as angry or as upset as she would have expected to be…except that he took advantage of her that first time by not telling her he was Clark. But that wasn't totally fair to Clark, and she knew it. In fact, she had practically seduced him. She had asked him to stay, and she had led him to the bedroom. He had told her that he didn't want her to have any regrets about what happened when he came back from space. He knew that she would be angry when she found out the truth. So probably, that was what he was going to tell her. And she would've been angry, but now…it was more important to find out why Clark continued to his Superman identity even after he had made love to her. For some reason, either Clark didn't want her to know that he was Superman, and if that was true, then she was very angry, or, and this was what really worried her, Clark did not know he was Superman.
She went into his kitchen to perc some coffee. When Clark came out, she would have to confront him. This time, she thought, she'd try the slower approach. Lois turned around when she heard Clark enter. She liked to look at him, to smell him, when he had that newly showered dampness around him. She wanted to throw herself in his arms and just inhale him, but she knew that this wasn't the right time.
"Coffee, Clark?" Her casual tone surprised her.
"Thanks," he said, taking the cup she poured for him and adding cream and sugar. "Mmmm, this is good. Glad to see your coffee making skills are improving."
She poured herself a cup, signaling Clark to sit on the couch. "We have to talk. I've been worried about you."
"You've been acting oddly and I wonder if the bump on the head is more serious than either of us thinks."
"No, I'm fine," he said, his eyes drifting away from Lois's.
"No, you're not. Why aren't you looking at me? There is something wrong. I can tell."
"Lois. It's nothing."
"Nothing? What do you mean?"
"I haven't been sleeping well lately."
"Insomnia? What have you been doing?"
"Not insomnia. I think I've been sleeping, but not well."
"This doesn't make sense to me, Clark."
"I've been having…dreams."
"They've been disturbing, so I don't feel that I've been sleeping well."
"What kind of dreams?"
Lois was watching Clark carefully. She could see that he was uncomfortable talking about what was happening, and that he wasn't telling her the complete truth. To make matters worse, he was having a hard time maintaining eye contact with her. And now, he was blushing. Why on earth would Clark blush? What kind of dreams was he having?
"What kind of dreams?" she asked again, sensing that he was trying to avoid the question.
"Just dreams that seem so life-like that I really believe that I'm living the dream."
Lois opened her mouth to ask another question, but Clark cut her off. "That's all I'm going to say about it, Lois."
"Where were you this morning?"
"Here, in bed."
"Did you sleep here last night?" she challenged him.
"Of course, I did. Where else would I sleep?"
"Do you actually remember sleeping here?"
"Yes. I…I remember lying here in bed waking up after my dream…"
Lois didn't know what to say anymore. She wasn't getting anywhere with Clark. She knew, without a doubt, that he was Superman, but her friend was not ready to admit that he was her lover. The itch nagged at her again reminding her of her suspicions that he didn't know who he was.
"Clark, can you get Superman for me? I need to talk to him," she asked.
"How would I do that?"
"Don't you have some way to contact him?"
"Same as you."
"And that is?" Clark shrugged his shoulders, something he'd been doing a lot lately.
Lois saw that her ploy wasn't working. "I'll figure something out." She got up and put her cup in the sink. Picking up her purse, she said, "I've got to go. I'll meet you at the office later."
Lois never got to the office that day. When she was ready to leave, Superman knocked on her window.
"I was surprised when I saw you were home," he said when he came into her apartment.
"I was going to the office, but since you're here, I think I'll stay. If you're not in a hurry, I'd like to talk to you."
"Sure. I don't have anything planned. I thought I'd just hang out here until I was needed." Superman looked around the apartment, apparently not sure what he was supposed to do. Finally, he sat down on the couch and turned on the TV to LNN.
Why hadn't Clark gone back to the office? But, then she had asked him to contact Superman and here he was. It was a good time for them to talk. She joined Superman on the couch and taking the remote from him, turned off the TV. Lois realized that he took her move as an invitation to be more intimate as he sidled beside her, taking her in his arms.
"Yes, this is better than TV," he murmured in her ear and trailed kisses to her lips. She let him kiss her deeply. She couldn't stop herself from responding, but she also couldn't stop herself from thinking about what was happening to this man who made her heart beat wildly.
"This is so good, Superman, but I'd really like to talk a bit," she said after the initial passion had mellowed.
"Talk is over-rated, Lois," he answered, returning his lips to hers.
She enjoyed the sweetness of his lips for a few more minutes before she began again.
"I want to know more about you," she said. "Where you were before you came to Metropolis."
He paused, pushing her hair away from her face.
"I've always been in Metropolis," he answered.
She wondered if he looked puzzled because he was surprised by the question or if he didn't know the answer. She tried again, "How long have you been here…on Earth?"
"As long as I've been in Metropolis. Remember, I met you on the Messenger. I swallowed the bomb and you said, 'What are you?' Remember?"
Lois remembered that day very well, but she knew that he'd met her a few days before when he began to work for the Daily Planet. She also knew that he had a life before as Clark Kent. She had seen his pictures of his mother and father in what looked very much like Kansas. "Did you always have your super powers?" she asked, trying to see if he remembered his childhood.
"Lois, honey, do we have to talk about this?" He lowered his lips onto hers, once again. "You're so beautiful. I can't get enough of you. Even when I was away, I couldn't stop thinking about being with you." His hands began to caress her shoulders and then her back.
"Superman…" She couldn't say anymore because he pulled her close to him and deepened the kiss. She moaned with pleasure. He was quickly learning where and how to touch to get her aroused. But she couldn't let him distract her. There was something wrong with him and she had to help him.
"Tell me about your parents."
He stopped moving his hands for a moment and looked past her. "My parents? I don't want to think about them right now. I just want to think about you." He moved his hands lower on her back, untucking her shirt.
She tried to keep his hands still. "What were you like as a little boy?"
He stopped and sat up. "Lois," he said moving away from her, "If you don't want to do this right now, please just tell me. I'm getting a little confused. I want to make love to you, not talk."
"It's just that I was talking to Clark today, and we were talking about our childhoods, and I wondered about yours," she said hoping that might get him interested. He just raised his eyebrows as if to question in which direction her thoughts were coming from or going. "Have you ever talked to Clark about your childhood?"
"Clark?" he repeated. "I've heard of him, but have I ever met him?"
"You know, my partner, Clark Kent. He's your friend."
"Lois," he said, "I don't want to talk about other men, just you and me. I just want to love you." Once again he moved in and captured her lips. "You give me such joy."
Lois let herself be drawn in by him. She really wanted to talk, but she realized that, as persistent as she was, she was getting nowhere. Superman was closing the doors to all of her questions. It was not that he actually said that he didn't have the answers, he just avoided them, using the lovemaking as an excuse not to allow her to probe. She was persistent, but she could see that he wasn't going to answer her questions. She'd never thought of Superman as being stubborn before.
Lois sat at her laptop waiting for her internet server to load. Superman had left when he heard a cry for help. He wouldn't be back for a while since he said that he would patrol the city before he returned to her. That gave her some time to do some research and some thinking.
Clark Kent was Superman. Neither Clark Kent nor Superman knew that. She did. She wondered if anyone else knew. She was almost certain that neither Perry nor Jimmy knew. This was not something that Clark would announce freely, and, although he was friends with others, she was his best friend at the office.
She noticed that her screen had the internet home page open. She searched amnesia again and noted that there was a link on one of the pages to neuropsychological disorders. What the heck, she thought. She might as well follow the cybertrail and see if it led her anywhere.
After an hour, Lois shut down her computer. Dissociative Identity Disorder. DID. It made sense to a certain extent. Basically, Clark had divided himself into two distinct personalities-Clark and Superman. He carried on as both independent of each other. That was what she was seeing. What she didn't understand was why it happened. Trauma it said. What kind of trauma did he undergo? In space? But DID was mainly associated with adults who had been abused as children. In her talks with Clark in the past, he had told her wonderful stories of his childhood. What other kind of trauma could there have been?
She also realized that Superman, being Kryptonian, meant that he might not react to stimuli in the same way as a human being. Perhaps, the trauma was different.
She wondered about his childhood and his parents. If they were abusive, then they most definitely wouldn't admit it. But, they might have clues to his problem. His parents must know. She remembered that Clark said that he had been adopted. Perhaps the trauma occurred before he reached the Kents. After finding the Kent phone number, she placed the call.
Martha Kent answered the phone. When Lois identified herself, the woman's polite tone turned eager.
"Yes, Lois. How are you? What can I do for you, dear?"
"Well," Lois said, hesitantly. She wasn't quite sure how to broach her plan to this woman whom she'd only met once. "I'd like to come to Smallville to talk to you."
"To me? Well, of course, you're very welcome to come. May I ask why?"
"Martha. Call me Martha."
"Martha, I'm worried about Clark. There's something wrong with him."
"Something wrong with my Clark? Whatever could be wrong with him? He's a healthy boy."
"No. It's just…Look I don't want to worry you, and I promise I'll get to you within a few hours. Superman will fly me there as soon as he gets back."
"Superman?" There was an imperceptible change in Martha's tone. If Lois hadn't known about her partner's dual identity, she probably wouldn't have noticed.
"Yes. Superman." Lois didn't want to get into the whole issue over the phone, but she had started it. "Martha," she paused, "I don't want to talk about this on the phone, and I don't want to worry you. Please. No questions right now. We'll be there as soon as we can."
"All right, dear."
"Thank you," Lois said. "And, uh…can you tell me how to get to your farm?"
"Superman's been here before. He won't have any trouble finding it."
"He might. He seems to be forgetting important pieces of information."
"Oh!" Martha whispered. She gave Lois directions to the farm and hung up the phone.
When Jonathan came into the farmhouse for lunch, he found his wife sitting on the living room couch shredding tissue and staring into space. He came to her side and knelt beside her.
"Martha, Martha," he called. When she didn't answer, he placed his hands on her cheeks, turning her gently to face him. "Martha, what's the matter? Are you ill?"
Aware of her husband, she shook her head slightly. "No. I'm fine. I just got a strange phone call from Lois Lane." She explained to Jonathan the cryptic message she had received from Lois. "She's right, you know. There must be something wrong, but she doesn't seem to know what it is. She won't talk about it, and then Superman…" Not being able to complete her thought. "Something's happened to our Clark," she whispered.
"Let's not jump to any conclusions, Martha. I'm sure there's a reasonable explanation for this. All we can do is wait until they get here," he tried to reassure her.
Martha slid down from the couch and knelt in front of her husband, reaching to bring him closer to her. She put her head on his shoulder and let him enfold her in his protective arms.
"Sometimes we just have to wait," he whispered into her hair.
They helped each other get up.
"I think I'll go into the kitchen and bake those chocolate chip cookies that Clark always likes," Martha suggested.
"I'll go back to plowing the field after I grab a sandwich," he said. "Call me when they get here. I'll take the cell phone."
Several hours later, Martha heard the familiar swoosh that announced Clark's arrival. She waited for her son to enter through the kitchen door but was surprised when she heard a knock coming from the front of the house. She moved quickly to answer it.
Lois stood in front of Superman on the other side of the door. Martha opened the door widely welcoming the two visitors in. She kept her eyes on Superman, looking for some kind of recognition, but he just stared at her, nodded politely and then glanced around the room. He didn't appear to show any signs that he was familiar with her or with the room. Martha looked at Lois. Could Clark be hiding any knowledge of the Kents from Lois? That was a possibility, but she realized that what was also missing was the warmth that came from Clark. Superman seemed like a statue-cold and impersonal.
Martha couldn't forget her manners. "Please come in. Sit down. Let me just phone Jonathan to let him know that you're here."
Lois took a seat on the couch beside Superman, quietly taking his hand while Martha phoned her husband.
"Superman, how do you like the Kent farmhouse?" Lois asked getting up and wandering around the living room. She saw a series of family pictures lined up on the mantelpiece, each capturing a stage in Clark's young life. It looked like he started wearing his glasses when he was around eleven years old.
"Nice," he said. "What I would imagine a farmhouse living room to look like."
"Mmm, yes. Look at these pictures of Clark," she said trying to see if anything spurred his memory.
"Does anything look familiar here?"
"No. Should it?"
Martha came back into the living room and watched Superman look at the family photos while Lois stared at him, her lips drawn tight in worry.
"Lois, could we talk about what's on your mind, please?" Martha asked.
"Just let me talk to Superman for a minute. I need some things from Metropolis."
Martha looked on as Lois took her son's hands and spoke to him quietly, appearing to give him instructions. Lois's hand stroked Superman's face. He gently caught her hand in his and brought it to his lips. Smiling, he whispered something to her, then he bent his head and kissed Lois. Martha knew that what she was seeing was wrong. Clark should have been standing there with Lois, not Superman.
After saying a few words to Lois, he turned to the older woman. "Mrs. Kent, I'm just going to fly a patrol back in Metropolis and pick up some items for Lois." With that he walked out of the door and flew off.
A moment later, Jonathan walked in the house. "Why did Cl…Superman take off? I was hoping to see him."
Martha was just about to speak when Lois interrupted. "I sent Clark back to Metropolis because I needed to speak to the two of you without his hearing. I'm really worried about him." Martha and Jonathan's eyes opened widely. They exchanged a frightened look between each other and then nodded at Lois.
"Let me begin by saying that I know that Clark is Superman."
"Lois," Martha interjected, "whatever gave you that idea?"
"Martha, please. I know that you're trying to protect him, but there's no use denying it. And if you don't believe that I know the truth, then everything I have to say, and everything that's happened to Clark, won't make sense."
"Come, let's sit down. We really need to talk," Martha ushered the other two to the couch in the living room.
"Martha, Jonathan," Lois began, not wanting to delay, "I think that when Superman went to stop the Nightfall Asteroid, something happened to him that separated Clark from Superman."
"What?" Jonathan asked. Martha put her hand on his arm, signaling him to let Lois continue.
"I think when Superman left me the morning that he smashed the asteroid, he was both Clark and Superman. He promised me that when he returned that he had something important to tell me. I believe with all my heart that he wanted to tell me that he was Clark Kent. When he came back, I saw Clark. He had a bump on his head that he complained about, but he had no knowledge of how he received the bump or of Superman. It took me a few days to figure out; otherwise, I would have been here sooner. Neither Superman nor Clark know that they are one man."
Martha tightened her hold on Jonathan's hands. "What makes you say this?" Martha asked, not willing to admit that her son had a problem.
Lois recounted the preceding days that she had spent with Superman and Clark, including the relevant parts of their first night together. She outlined the evidence of the dual identity and the clues that had led her to this point. "I came here," she ended, "because I didn't know what to do, and I believe that you are the only people who can help me, who can help Clark."
"Oh my boy!" muttered Jonathan, not sure what he could do to help his son. "Martha?"
"Are you sure that he doesn't know who he is? He could just be withholding his identity from you?" Martha suggested. She knew that if she didn't take charge, the knowledge that her son had lost his sense of self would tear her up inside.
"He didn't recognize you, did he?" Lois asked. "He could have pretended, as you suggested, that he was here before." Lois stared at Martha demanding honesty. "Did you feel he knew you?"
Martha bit her lip. "No."
"Who else knows that Clark is Superman?" Lois asked.
"No one else," Martha said, acknowledging that both identities were housed in her son's body. "He'd decided when he was very young that he would keep it a secret. He didn't want to be different from his friends." Martha said, remembering the day Clark realized how different he was and the talk he had with his parents.
"Lois," Jonathan interrupted his wife's thoughts, "do you have any idea what this could be?"
"Well, I've done some research, but because he's Kryptonian and not human, I'm not sure how any of this fits. I don't think it's amnesia because each of them remembers something in the past, although Superman has a very limited memory. Each time I probed into his past he deftly distracted me from my questions."
"And how did he do that?" Jonathan asked.
Lois lowered her eyes focusing on her hands on her lap. "He got very amorous." She felt the blood rush to her face.
Martha chuckled. "Yes, I can imagine how distracting that could be."
"I'm not surprised that he didn't have answers for you," Jonathan said, recognizing Martha's humour as a mechanism she often used to deal with difficult matters. "Superman doesn't have the same history as Clark. Our son created Superman about six months ago so that he could help people without attracting attention to himself. His first outing was saving the Messenger."
"Yes, that's true," Martha added. "He told me that you once mentioned something about bringing a change of clothing to the office and that triggered the idea to design a suit."
"He had said that 'his mother made it'. That was you! " Lois stared at Martha for a moment. "Are you Kryptonian as well?"
"No, dear," Martha laughed. "We found Clark when he was a baby. We adopted him and raised him." She told Lois the story of how they saw a flash of light streaking through the sky, how they followed the light to Shuster's Field and found a space ship with a beautiful baby in it. No one had claimed the baby, so they had kept him, coming up with a story about a cousin's son whom they later adopted. People had believed it. Over the years, Clark had grown, healthy and strong, but it hadn't been until he was a preteen that they had begun to notice the changes that made him super.
"Did he have any traumas as a child?" Lois questioned.
Martha raised her eyebrows questioningly. "Like physical traumas?"
"Not that I can remember. He was a happy baby. As a toddler, he was curious and mischievous, but nothing happened to him. As a youngster, he managed to fall out of a tree or get hit playing ball, but they seemed to be the normal things that happen to boys."
"And," Jonathan added, "none of those injuries seemed to bother him. Nothing seems to be able to hurt him, except…"
"Kryptonite," Lois added when Jonathan paused. She understood that he didn't want to give anything away. "He told me about it. I saw how it affected him when we were here during the Corn Festival."
"Do you have any ideas what this could be, Lois?" Jonathan asked.
"Well, I did some research on the internet and found something called Dissociative Identity Disorder, DID. It's multiple personalities."
"Like that movie, The Three Faces of Eve, with Joanne Woodward?" asked Martha. Seeing Lois's questioning look, Martha described the film. "Eve is a housewife who is very unhappy. Her psychiatrist finds another two personalities residing in her body."
"Well, it's something like that. From what I can see, Clark and Superman are two distinct personalities who don't know anything personal about each other. It's as if they really are two separate people. Clark has human memories; while Superman has memories only of the times he is in the suit. He doesn't know where he came from. He just seems to have appeared."
"So, what can we do about it?"
"Well, that's the hard part. Most of the research I've found points to psychotherapy and perhaps medication to help."
"Medication? No, I don't think so," Martha stated emphatically. "Drugs have no effect on Clark at all."
"Psychotherapy means that we need to find a competent therapist or psychiatrist whom we can trust because he'll have to know Clark's secret," Jonathan said.
"There's another problem that I think we may have. I…I don't know how to say this, and I…I don't want to say the wrong thing, but…" Lois paused, trying to say this to the people in front of her who seemed so warm and loving, "but…the material I've read says that DID is a result of trauma… in early childhood, usually physical or sexual abuse. The child recedes into himself to avoid confronting the situation and creates a personality to deal with it."
The Kents looked at each other, understanding why Lois was acting so nervous. Moving over to Lois, Martha took her hand. "You have to believe and trust us here, Lois. We've never hurt Clark. By the time he had come to us, we had given up hope that we would ever have a child."
"Clark was our miracle," Jonathan added. "He gave our lives new meaning."
"We would never have done anything to hurt him."
"I'm sorry," Lois uttered, "I just needed you to know what the research said. I didn't want to accuse you of anything. But…"
"We understand." Martha patted Lois on the hand. "But, as you said earlier, Clark isn't human. We don't know what happened to him before he got to Earth or while he was on Krypton. We don't know if it was even a trauma that triggered the DID in him." She stood up. "We have a lot to think about now. Come, let me make some dinner. Maybe Clark will be back soon."
Garrison lingered at the elevator doors as he looked around the newsroom of the Daily Planet. He had no idea where he was supposed to go. A young man rushed passed him, as did other people who moved around with purpose. He spied a gorgeous woman on the telephone. He walked over to her with his letter in his hand.
"Lois Lane?" he asked, knowing very well that this wasn't her.
"Cat Grant," the woman said pointing at the nameplate on her desk. She hung up the phone and gave her attention to the man beside her.
"I got a delivery for Lois Lane," he said.
"Her desk's over there." She pointed in the general direction of a grouping of desks.
"Is she here? I was told to deliver this to her personally."
"No, she's not."
"Is…" he looked at the notepad in his hand, "um…Clark Kent here? He could sign for it too."
"No, he's not."
"I guess I'll wait around for a while until one of them gets here," he said.
Cat pointed to the some chairs a few feet away.
Garrison shrugged his shoulders and sat down in the seats. He continued to watch the bustle in the newsroom. The young man who passed him earlier brought a stack of photographs to the Cat woman and placed it on her desk. Now that Superman was no longer a problem, he could go after Lane and Kent. They were the ones who had ruined his life when they let the boxing commission know that he was the six million dollar man. Sam Lane had done a good job fixing him up, but Lane and Kent undid all that when their investigation into the Ultimate Street Fight blew up in his face. What good was it to be the strongest man in the world when he couldn't do anything with it?
Garrison looked around the bustling room, waiting for Lane or Kent to arrive. It didn't matter if they recognized him. The letter said who he was and where he wanted to meet her if she wanted to see her father again. She wouldn't know that he didn't have her father. And once he got her to the abandoned tenement, he'd just shoot her anyway, so what did it matter? He'd get Sam Lane eventually, too. He looked at the clock on the wall. He had been waiting for twenty minutes already. Maybe it was time to just leave the letter on her desk. Well, maybe he'd stay around and watch the gorgeous redhead for a little longer. Definitely eye candy.
"Have you seen Clark or Lois around, Jimmy?" she asked as a young man dropped something on her desk and was moving on.
"Nope. They haven't been in all day," he answered placing a file folder on another desk.
"What's up? Lane never takes a day off," Cat said to his retreating back.
"She went to Smallville with Clark," an older man said, coming around from the other side. "Family emergency or something," he added placing some copy on her desk. "This needs some more attribution, Cat. Don't you have some good quotations from Cecilia Jarvis about the influence of pop culture on debut parties? I know the woman has some great one-liners.
Tommy grasped the letter and moved off to the elevator. He'd have to find Smallville on a map, and then go there to get Lane and Kent. Actually, he thought, it had its benefits since Superman was in Metropolis so, even if he got back to normal, they would be too far away to help. Thinking about it, his plan to get Lane and Kent wasn't that good, anyway. What he needed now was a smarter plan.
After dinner, Lois stood on the porch amazed by the blackness of the night and the brightness of the half-moon. Yet, she couldn't sit back and enjoy the serenity of the setting. Instead, she paced back and forth, hoping that she would hear the whoosh of wind announcing Superman's arrival. She had phoned Clark at his apartment, but when the recorded message from the answering machine spoke to her, she handed the phone to Jonathan who asked Clark to call home as soon as he returned.
Dinner had been a pleasant distraction with the Kents. Their fluid movements in the kitchen reminded her of a well-choreographed and well-rehearsed ballet that had been perfected over the years. Constantly in motion, they worked together, never interfering with each other. It surprised her that two people could work so closely and not trip over each other's feet. If her parents had had to work together in such close proximity, World War III would have erupted and ended in a nuclear disaster. Watching the kind, loving couple, she appreciated who Clark was and she realized that while living in the Kent household, Clark could never have experienced any abuse.
She hoped that someday she could have a relationship with someone the way the Kents had. She tried to imagine what it would be like sharing a routine task with a husband…dusting, vacuuming, making dinner. Clark immediately sprang to mind. She surprised herself when it dawned on her that she already knew what it would be like. She and Clark, like Martha and Jonathan, worked very well together. They gathered information, investigated, interviewed people and wrote stories. They were working out the choreography, but they weren't bumping into each other as much as they used to. They were almost like the ballet…well, more like Punch and Judy considering all their bickering. She chuckled out loud.
"What's so funny, Lois?"
She turned to see Jonathan standing at the door.
"Just thinking about all the squabbling that Clark and I do, and yet we still get the job done."
Jonathan grinned thinking about the bickering that he and Martha did. It was all part of getting to know each other.
"Jonathan, I'm worried about him. I want all of him back. Superman, without Clark, has no sense of purpose, no sense of humour. He's a shell." She thought about the image of a shell and added, "Clark is the stuffing that makes him human. Right now, he's had a fall. I believe that he's bruised and hurt, but we can put him back together."
"I don't know what the solution is, Lois, but we'll find it. Remember, Clark is strong. Not just physically strong, but mentally and emotionally as well. He'll get better."
"This new Clark is still a complete person, one who has a past and a future. He may not be whole right now, but he can be filled out. I can deal with Clark if we can't put him back together again, but this Superman without Clark…"
"We live the impossible, Lois. We'll get through this." Jonathan put his arm around Lois and pulled her in close to him. His warmth reminded her of Clark. Acknowledging that she wasn't carrying the problem by herself anymore, she gave in to the tears that had been threatening all day. Jonathan drew her closer to him.
"He'll be fine, Lois. Don't worry. He'll be fine," he murmured, wanting to believe his own words.
The following morning, the Kents and Lois sat around the kitchen table playing with the breakfast Martha had prepared. Their minds were not on breakfast but on Clark who hadn't returned during the night.
"He didn't come back last night, did he?" Martha asked.
"No. He didn't," Lois answered.
"What does that mean? Where is he? "Jonathan questioned.
"He could be doing Superman rescues," Lois proposed, "or he could be Clark."
"If he's Superman and not on a rescue, where would he be?"
"The last few days, he came to my apartment. He said that he had nowhere else to go."
"But you're here now. Will he remember that he brought you here?" Martha asked.
"I hope so-if not, my window in my apartment is open so he can get in there."
"If he's Clark, he should return the message I left on his machine, and we'll tell him to come home," Jonathan offered.
Once again, the three looked at the scrambled eggs that they had moved around on their plates. When Martha realized that none of them had an appetite, she took their plates and cleaned up.
"I spent some time on the internet last night after I came in," Lois offered when they were standing in the kitchen. DID can be cured…"
"That's a relief," interrupted Jonathan.
"Yes, but the literature says that it's a slow process dependent on creating a comfortable setting and atmosphere of trust. According to a Dr. Maxwell Dieter, who seems to be quite an authority in this, the best way to treat a patient with DID is to allow him to unravel his personalities by himself. You can't just go and tell him that he's got DID."
"Do you think that we should contact this Dr. Dieter?" Martha asked.
"He's had a lot of success with his patients. He's got it pretty well documented…"
"Can he publish on the internet? Is that ethical?" Martha worried.
"He makes up names and changes some information to keep the identity of the patient hidden, but I don't think we should go to him, just yet."
"The fewer people who know Clark is Superman, the better," Jonathan warned, then excused himself to take care of necessary chores, leaving the two women in the house together.
"Martha, I've been looking at your artwork here, and it's given me an idea," Lois said as she placed the milk and butter into the fridge. "Art therapy is supposed to help people with problems, to help them express whatever is bothering them. You've got all the equipment here for painting…"
"Yes, I like that idea. All we need is for Clark to come home."
Jonathan returned the tractor to the shed beside the barn. He was thankful that he had his work to do. It meant that he could concentrate on something other than Clark, but as soon as he started heading to the shed, his thoughts returned to the dilemma that they were facing. Knowing that he wasn't a psychologist or a psychiatrist, he was worried that Martha and Lois wanted to take matters into their own hands. He had gone over the same argument in his mind while he tossed and turned in bed. He still believed that if people found out about Clark's origins they would take him to a lab and perform all kinds of tests on him. He told himself that it was ridiculous since no one had put Superman into a lab yet, but then they hadn't had an opportunity until now. However, he believed that he, along with Lois and Martha, did not have the expertise to deal with a psychological problem that might be a lot more complex than they assumed. They couldn't allow their son to go on much longer without having him understand who he really was. He knew that neither he nor Martha had abused Clark so he could not understand why he would be suffering from an illness that had its roots in childhood abuse. It didn't make sense. He didn't believe that the abuse occurred on Krypton because Clark was so young when he had come to them. Lois's theory just didn't make sense. But if Clark had been abused as a baby, then they needed some professional help. He walked into the barn to put away the equipment he had taken out to the fields with him. He spied some movement to the left of him that he attributed to Nelly, the barn cat, but he realized that whatever it had been was bigger than Nelly.
"Hello," he called out.
No answer. He moved to his left and called out again. "Hello. Is anyone there?"
This time he heard a groan.
"Dad?" the voice questioned.
"Clark? Is that you?" Jonathan moved faster toward his son's voice. Clark was getting up. He appeared to be waking up. "What are you doing asleep in the barn?"
Clark looked around as if he were confirming his father's statement.
"I don't know. What am I doing here in the barn?" he asked himself more than Jonathan. He brushed off the straw, then he rubbed his eyes, shaking his head. "I think I'm kind of groggy, Dad. I can't remember getting here or why I came." He looked down at himself wearing a shirt and tie. "Not exactly sleeping in barn kind of clothes."
"Come into the house, son. Mom and Lois are waiting for you."
"Lois?" Clark ran his fingers through his hair while following his father out of the barn. "What's she doing here?"
When the two women saw Clark enter the house, they both quickly came to his side.
"Clark, honey, how are you? Are you feeling all right?"
"Of course, I am, Mom. Why are you asking something like that?" He looked at Lois on the other side of him.
"Lois, what are you doing here? Perry said you'd taken a few personal days, but I never expected to find you here."
"I needed to talk to your parents."
"How did you get here so fast?"
"Superman flew me out yesterday."
"Superman again," he spat. "You really have something going with him, don't you?"
Lois stroked his face. "Yes, I do."
Clark brushed her hand away. "If that's true, maybe you should stop flirting with me," he said angrily.
"Clark…" Martha interrupted.
"No, Martha, that's all right…he doesn't understand. Anyway," she said quickly changing the subject so that he wouldn't see how affected she was by his behaviour, "the important thing is that you're here and I bet you need some coffee and something to eat. Let me get you something."
Lois poured him some coffee and popped some bread in the toaster. She kept her back to the table for a few more minutes than necessary, trying to control the hurt and the anger.
As Clark sat drinking his coffee and eating his toast, Martha approached the subject that they were all avoiding.
"Clark," she asked, staring at his eyes, "how did you get to the farm this time?"
"The way I usually get here," he said, shrugging his shoulders.
"And how is that?" Martha continued to probe.
Clark paused looking at his mother, then turning to Lois. "Mom, what is the point of all of this?" he finally asked.
"Do you remember how you got here?" she stressed.
"No," he said staring into his coffee.
"What's the last thing you remember?" Lois took her turn asking.
Clark turned his head to the side in thought. A few moments passed before he shrugged his shoulders. "I was in the office typing up some notes on our story."
"Are you saying that you don't remember what happened between the time you were in the office until you woke up in the barn?"
Clark nodded. "That's right. I know it sounds bizarre, but…"
"Do you have long periods of time during the day that are unaccounted for?" Lois interrupted.
"Sort of. But I've been sleeping, so I guess that the time has been accounted for, although sometimes I'm very tired." Clark took another sip of coffee. "I've answered your questions. Can any of you explain what's going on here?"
Martha looked at Lois, signaling her to speak.
Lois walked over to the kitchen counter and poured herself a cup of coffee. She was nervous because she wasn't sure how much she should tell Clark, but he had to know. How else could they bring him back? She poured milk in her coffee and returned to the table. The women had decided that they would follow Maxwell Dieter's advice and not tell Clark exactly what was happening, but Lois realized that he would have to know something.
"We think that you have some kind of problem that makes you black out and lose track of yourself and lose track of time. It's like you're sleepwalking where you're not aware of what's going on."
"What makes you think that?"
"Well," Lois prolonged the word. "We think it's the result of some kind of trauma, and the literature that we've read suggests that you need to figure it out on your own."
Clark paused for a short time. "How do I do that if I don't know what's wrong with me?"
Lois looked at Martha who looked back at her. Both shrugged their shoulders. "If we tell you everything, then you may get our perspective, our solutions on what's happening to you. You have to figure this out yourself."
"But I don't really feel that there's anything wrong. It's like having a tumor that doesn't have any symptoms. How am I supposed to know what's wrong?" Clark countered.
"Lois, that makes sense. Maybe we should tell him."
"But Martha, I've done all this reading and this Dr. Dieter is supposed to be the best."
Martha thought for a moment. "Art therapy!"
"What?" Clark asked.
At first, when Martha suggested that he just relax and do some painting, Clark balked. He wasn't an artist, after all. But Martha reminded him of how he used to sketch comic characters when he was younger, and how he filled up his notebook with all different kinds of designs and doodles. She even pulled out a sketchbook that he had used when he had taken art courses in high school. Clark tried to reject the idea, but Martha finally insisted. She told him that he didn't have to be an artist to benefit from art therapy. No one was going to see his work except for them.
She took him to the studio that Jonathan had helped her create and put a piece of stretched canvas on an easel.
"Take your time," she told him. "Just let the brush and the canvas dictate what you do." She then set up a canvas for herself and they both began painting.
Clark stared at the expanse of white in front of him and the coloured acrylics beside him. The white was wrong. He closed his eyes and he saw black. The canvas needed to be black. He dipped his brush into the black acrylic paint and smoothed it on. It felt good. It reminded him of when he was a little boy in kindergarten. It had been his turn to use the finger-paints. He had let the paint ooze through his fingers, and when there was no skin colour left on his little hands, he had spread the thick colour on the paper that the teacher had put in front of him. It felt good. He made circles and then experimented with the different textures that he could create using his hand, his fist and his fingers. When he had completed the first layer with a deep red, he washed his hands and dug into the bright yellow. He had made a big sun at the top of his picture and then he had put a happy face on it. When he had brought the picture home, Martha had placed it on the empty wall in the kitchen. That had become Clark's gallery.
Clark stared at the black canvas in front of him. It reminded him of space. Big. Black. Beautiful. Inviting. He mixed some paints together and randomly speckled some silver on the black background. It was soothing. A quiet settled over him. As he stared at his handiwork, he felt himself slowly rise and float into the picture. He was part of the stars now, part of the blackness of space. He felt at ease and he found the lack of sound comforting. He moved forward, he felt, at a high speed. Suddenly, in front of him, he saw a rock so huge that it overwhelmed him. Yet, he knew exactly where and how to crash into the rock and shatter it. A shower of light exploded around him and then he was bombarded by rocks.
Shaken, he jumped up and tipped the easel over. His mother, who had been working on multi-coloured circles…another bowl of fruit, he surmised, left her work and came over to him. At that moment, Lois walked into the studio. She saw mother and son standing in front of the fallen easel, looking at a black piece of canvas.
Lois looked at the black paint spread thickly over the canvas. She wondered how he had created the depth that he did. Surprisingly, she found the blackness tranquil rather than ominous. And yet, Clark was standing there with a look of shock on his face.
"What happened?" she asked. "Nothing," he answered staring at the fallen painting. "I just got caught up in what I was going to paint and I must've knocked the easel over. I jumped. Mom jumped. And here we are," he laughed self- consciously.
"What were you thinking when you were painting?" Martha asked as she bent over to set the easel upright.
Clark smiled. "I remembered what it felt like to finger- paint in kindergarten. I felt the wet paint in my hand."
"You liked that feeling, didn't you?" his mother asked.
"Yes. I did. I also remembered the gallery you put up on the kitchen wall."
Now it was Martha's turn to smile. "Me too. I couldn't get enough of your artwork and your stories and poems."
"What made you jump?" asked Lois.
"After I started painting the stars in, I felt like I was floating in space…I felt the blackness around me and it was okay. I liked it. But then all of a sudden, I was facing this big rock and I had to smash into it. I did, but it exploded and bombarded me with smaller rocks." Clark hesitated. "That scared me…so I jumped."
"Sounds like Nightfall to me," Lois said.
"The one Superman broke up?" Clark asked.
"I must've transferred what I read in your article to my mind. You wrote it so well, I believed that I was there."
"Or you were there," Lois said under her breath.
"How could I have been there?" Clark asked belligerently.
"You tell me."
"Lois…" Martha interrupted with a scolding tone of voice.
"Sorry, Martha. I don't do 'patient' very well."
"I'm not sure that I'm going to figure this out on my own," Clark said.
"Yes, you will, dear," Martha assured him. "Why don't you go and help your father with some chores now. Lois and I will clean up here, and then we'll get dinner ready."
Clark met his father at the flat bed truck loaded with bales of hay. Clark put on the pair of work gloves that his father handed him and carried bales of hay into the barn. Jonathan worked along side of his son, admiring the ease with which his son worked. Jonathan, having aged and put on extra weight, was finding this kind of physical labour more difficult. After an hour of working in relative quiet, Jonathan put down the last bale of hay and took a drink of water from the thermos that he carried on the tractor. He took a hefty gulp and passed the thermos over to his son.
"I thought that the work would be harder than this," Clark said. "But it was easy. Those bales of hay are deceptively light. I don't even feel as if I've put in any effort. You, on the other hand, look bushed."
"I'm not as physically fit as I used to be, but you're very strong."
"I don't remember working out or anything except playing some sports."
"You're just strong. Leave it at that for now."
The men put the finishing touches on their work and headed back to the barn where they took care of the animals for the night.
Clark enjoyed sharing the farmwork with his father. It was at times like this that he missed the quiet life with which he had grown up. Metropolis seemed so far away and seemed so hectic.
"I miss working with you, Dad," he said as the two walked toward the house.
"I do too, son," Jonathan responded, putting his arm around Clark.
After everyone went to bed that evening, Clark sat in the living room. Lois was staying in his room and he was sleeping on the couch, except that he couldn't sleep. He picked up a notepad that was lying in the living room and began to doodle. Once again he envisioned the same blackness that he saw in the afternoon. He was flying and it felt good. He wasn't drifting; he was controlling the flight as he moved closer to the rock. He felt a power surge through his fists pointing him in the right direction. Every curve and movement brought him closer to his destination, one that he had chosen to reach. His saw the huge rock coming at him through the blackness. He saw the rock, its crevasses, discoloration, cracks. It appeared very close as he flew towards it. He felt as if the rock would swallow him up.
He sat back and looked at his drawing. He shrugged his shoulders. What did that mean? The flying felt so right. That was what Superman must feel like when he was flying.
But what was wrong with him? He felt fine. He was just Clark. Why were his parents and Lois making such a big deal without telling him anything? How was he supposed to figure it out himself if he didn't think that there was anything wrong?
He ripped the sketch of the rock from the pad and started drawing again. Lois. It bothered him that she was here in Smallville. Why was she taking such an interest in his so- called illness? For the most part, she was disdainful of him. Once in a while she would show a glimmer of liking, but she'd hide it as soon as it was evident. He thought about their relationship: what it was and what he wanted it to be. No, they were just friends and partners, no more. It didn't help him that he couldn't take his mind off her.
He knew he was in love with her, had been since the first time he saw her, but he also knew that she was in love with Superman. There was no way that he could compete with the Man of Steel. He wondered how Superman felt about her, whether the superhero felt as strongly as he did.
He stared at his sketch of Lois. He hadn't really been paying attention to what he was doodling. His hand had moved almost on its own, a kind of self-hypnosis. There she was in a reclining position, looking up at him longingly. She was nude, but she seemed very real. He had seen her like this before, in his dreams, dreams that didn't want to go away. It surprised him that he was able to sketch her this way from those memories which seemed to return very frequently these days.
He ripped the paper off the pad and tore it into shreds. There was no way he wanted Lois or his parents to see what he had drawn. It was too intrusive, too personal. Dreams were meant to keep to oneself. "True, I talk of dreams,/Which are the children of an idle brain,/Begot of nothing but vain fantasy,/Which is as thin of substance as the air,/And more inconstant than the wind." For the first time, Shakespeare's words seemed to ring true. "Vain fantasy."
He ended his musings when he picked up the sound of movement in the washroom overhead. Lois. He thought he could hear her blouse fall to the floor. He closed his eyes picturing her movements overhead. He took off his glasses and stared up into space. It was as if he could see through the ceiling into the washroom. He saw her remove her clothes and fold them neatly on the toilet seat. She stood in front of the sink brushing her teeth. Clark let his imagination take him away.
Martha felt the heartburn eat away at her chest. She really needed an antacid tablet and, for the hundredth time, chided herself for not keeping a bottle upstairs. She got up, trying not to disturb Jonathan, and headed downstairs. She stopped halfway down and saw Clark lying on the couch looking up at the ceiling. When he removed his glasses, she realized that he was probably using his x-ray vision to look through the ceiling right where Lois was washing up. She wanted to go downstairs and scold her son, but before she could, she watched him get up, stand taller than usual, shoulders further back, and walk toward the stairs. Martha moved quickly to her own bedroom, peering out through the opening of the door.
Clark walked up the stairs and, without any regard for the doorknob or for Lois's privacy, opened the door. Martha was ready to go to her son and pull him out of there by his ear when she heard his voice.
Martha moved out into the hallway and stood looking into the washroom. Lois pulled back the shower curtains.
"Sorry that I slept so long. I've missed you," he said in a husky voice that she didn't recognize.
Martha watched as Clark, removing his sleepshorts and t- shirt, stepped in the shower.
"Superman?" Lois asked.
Martha proceeded down the stairs to the kitchen.
The early morning light poked through the curtains in his bedroom. He closed his eyes again trying to understand the latest variation of the dream he had been having. This time it had begun in the shower in his parents' home and then moved on to his bedroom. He was with Lois, was making love to Lois. He felt as if he were standing watching himself as another part of him, for it looked like him, was making love to her. In his dream, he knew exactly where to touch her for the response that he wanted. She kept trying to talk, to ask him questions, but he knew that a nibble on her neck or a kiss on her shoulder made her forget her questions. She wasn't angry; instead, she responded to him and participated as an equal partner. These dreams were even better than what he'd ever imagined before. And unlike other dreams he'd had, these felt surprisingly real.
Clark partially opened his eyes and looked around. He was sleeping in his old room filled with memories of his childhood. That part wasn't a dream. He let his mind wander away from thoughts of Lois to his new life in Metropolis. Even though he liked the idea of being independent and living away from home, he also liked to have this place, and especially his parents, to come back to. It provided a safe haven and a sense of belonging. Sometimes, for some reason he didn't understand, he didn't always have that sense of belonging. He stared at his comic book collection and decided that if he had time later in the day he would go through them. Maybe they were worth some money, if he had the heart to sell them.
He rolled over. And stopped. Lois. Lois Lane was in bed beside him, and they were both naked. When did this happen to him? How?
Just beginning to wake, Lois cuddled close to him. "What time is it?" she murmured into his chest while her hand slowly stroked his abdomen.
Clark jerked away from Lois, looking for his clothes. They were nowhere to be seen. But he must have taken them off somewhere? He wrapped the towel that he found at the foot of the bed around himself and hurried out of the room.
"Clark?" Lois called, as he left. She realized that he must have woken up, surprised and probably aghast that he was in bed with a woman who was just a friend. She realized also that she had a problem because how could she explain why he was in bed with her if he didn't know that he was Superman. This was getting too complicated. She decided that she would take a closer look at the literature provided, but meanwhile, she missed his warmth beside her.
Clark found his clothes neatly hanging from a hook in the washroom. It was almost as if he was reliving his dream. He couldn't understand what happened. He had been sitting downstairs drawing when he had heard Lois in the shower. He started daydreaming about what she was doing in the washroom. He must have fallen asleep and had his dream. That made sense, except what were his clothes doing in the washroom? His parents and Lois were saying that there was something wrong with him. He must be sleepwalking. He must have gone upstairs, gotten undressed, and gotten into his bed. It was his room and his bed, after all. Lois must have been asleep and not noticed until she woke up. Sleepwalking. That was what was wrong with him. Now he could deal with it.
He dressed quickly and went downstairs, hoping to see his mother.
"Have a good night, dear?" she asked, giggling.
"Mom, do I sleepwalk?" he asked not bothering to answer her question.
"No. Why do you ask?"
"Because I ended up sleeping in my room last night, and I don't remember getting there."
"Do you remember anything?" she asked, not really expecting to hear an answer in the affirmative.
"No." Clark decided not to go into details about his behaviour before he went upstairs or the dream that he had. "Is this what my problem is? Do I sleepwalk and not remember?"
"Sort of. But it's a lot more complicated than that. I cleaned up the living room a bit this morning and saw that you sketched something that you tore up," she said changing the subject. "Do you want to talk about it?" Martha directed Clark to the kitchen table. She brought him and herself a cup of coffee, and they both helped themselves to the toast she had on the table.
"I was sketching. I saw the same blackness that I saw yesterday, and the rock…I sketched the rock. And then I started thinking about Lois, so I sketched her…" He looked at his mother who stared intently at him, waiting. "I didn't like what I drew so I tore it up. It wasn't long after that I fell asleep."
"Do you remember anything before falling asleep?"
He couldn't share what he was dreaming. Not with his mother. Not with Lois either. "Not really."
"Too bad. I think it would help if you could remember a little more. The article Lois read said that once the patient starts remembering, then the therapist could use that to help."
"If there's something seriously wrong with me, and I'm not sure that sleepwalking and blanking out for a time is that serious, then why aren't I seeing a therapist? It seems to me that you're all amateurs at this."
"Good question, Clark. We haven't ruled out a therapist yet; we'd like to give you a few days to get back on your own. There are things that we'd rather not tell a therapist."
"Because they'd dissect me like a frog?"
"Something like that."
"Why would they dissect me?"
"Because you're special Clark."
"Please, you need to figure this out on your own. Let me get you some eggs for your breakfast, then you can go out and help your father. He really appreciates you being here to help him at the busiest time of year." Martha returned to the work area where she scrambled some eggs for her son.
Something didn't sit right. She wasn't sure how they could help him retrieve his other self on his own if they couldn't talk to him. And she had a feeling that Clark wasn't telling her everything that he remembered from last night. Could he have spent the whole night with Lois and not remember anything? He had loved her for so long, and now that they were together, he had no memory of it. What if he did know that he was Superman? Would that change his perception? Would he remember being with Lois? Too many questions: not enough answers.
She placed his breakfast on the table in front of him and poured him another cup of coffee. Then she stood back and watched her son. He was hurting and he didn't even know it.
The rock that kept appearing in his drawings told her that it must have had something to do with the asteroid that he had destroyed. Maybe that was a beginning.
When Clark finished eating and placed his dishes in the dishwasher, he pecked his mother on the cheek and headed out to join Jonathan.
"I'll meet you in the studio around ten, and we can do some more painting," she suggested.
"That'll be fine if Dad doesn't need me."
Clark left the kitchen and Martha sat down at the table her chin in her hands.
Lois found Martha alone in the kitchen, "Is everything okay? You looked pretty dejected."
"Clark doesn't remember what happened last night."
"I'm not surprised. When he realized that we were…uh…"
"In bed together?"
Lois looked over at Martha.
"Don't worry. I saw Clark switch to Superman and then join you in the washroom. I assumed he spent the night with you."
"I hope you don't mind…"
"Lois, dear," she said putting her hand on Lois's arm, "He's in love with you, and you're in love with him. How can I mind if you're the one who's making my son happy?" She patted Lois's arm. "We have more important things to talk about. Go on and tell me what happened."
"Well, he joined me in the shower, and then we went back to the bedroom. Once again, he pushed all the right buttons because he never answered any of my questions. So we went to bed…and well…you know."
Martha smiled and nodded.
"Martha, in the morning, I snuggled up to him, and he jumped at least a foot off the bed when he realized that I was with him. He ran out of the room as fast as a streak of lightning. He must've woken up and been Clark." She hesitated looking at the piece of toast in her hand. "…And the idea of being in bed with me must have repulsed him." Lois put the toast back on her plate. She no longer had an appetite.
"Or scared him."
Lois began breaking off pieces of toast and letting the crumbs fall on the plate. "Did you actually see him change into Superman?"
"As a matter of fact, I did. He had taken off his glasses while sitting on the couch and stared up into the washroom. All of a sudden, his shoulders went back, he stood up taller than usual and walked straight up the stairs. Even his face changed into what I've come to call his Superman mask…the one I see when he's on television. Even dressed as Superman, when he's home, he's got his Clark face."
"I wonder what triggered the change?"
"I would guess you did."
"Me? I don't understand."
"He must've been thinking of you while you were in the shower. I would guess that he had erotic thoughts. And Clark can't deal with those right now. But Superman can."
"Do you think that means that we can call Superman out if we tried?"
"It's a thought."
Tommy Garrison sat in Maisie's Diner drinking a cup of coffee. When he asked the waitress, an older woman with bleached blond hair wearing a tight pink waitress uniform, where some of the interesting Smallville sights were, she told him about a few places that he could use. Over the daily special and several cups of coffee, he got enough information about the people he needed to see. He knew that he had to keep his contacts to a minimum, but he also wanted to make sure that he got his revenge.
"Hey, can I have another cup of coffee and a local phone book?" he asked the waitress.
"Sure, honey," said Maisie. "Is there anything else I can help you with?"
"Naw, you've helped enough," he said and patted her backside.
Maisie turned around and glared at him, then walked to the counter and picked up the phone book.
He looked up the Kent phone number and then a local car rental. When he didn't find one, he called Maisie over again.
"Doesn't this town have a car rental place?"
"No need for one here," Maisie answered. "There is one in Smithsville which is about an hour's drive from here."
"What kind of hick town is this place?"
The waitress didn't answer his question at first.
"This is a nice town, mister. You don't have to stay if you don't want to."
"I just need a van for a few hours."
"Well, you can go to Frank Watson's garage on the western edge of town. He might have something you can rent."
"Thanks." He threw some money on the table and walked out.
His plan was changing, but his new idea might be better. He was having a hard time finding Sam Lane. He thought that the doctor had ended up working for Lex Luthor, but he was not in Metropolis. He had tried to check out some other medical holdings that Luthor had outside of the city, but he didn't have much luck. It didn't really matter. Maybe his revenge was better if Lane lived. Tommy had been facing his loss every day. Lane could face his for the rest of his life. What could be worse than knowing that you were responsible for your own daughter's death?
Dr. Sam Lane. It seemed so perfect when Lane operated on his torn muscles in his arms. The cybernetic muscles worked like charms. With training, he became stronger than any man around him. Then, when Menken took charge of his training and management, Tommy's life changed completely. His was a winner. No one could beat him. And then Lois Lane, and her partner Clark Kent, dug a little too deeply into the Ultimate Street Fight. They found out Sam Lane's part in it and ratted to the boxing commission. That left him high and dry. He was a has been. He had no chance to prove himself. He was an innocent bystander. To make matters worse, Superman humiliated him in the ring, and his friends wouldn't let him forget that fateful flick of a finger. That was worse than having the championship belt taken away from him.
Well, now he found Lois Lane here in Smallville, which meant that Superman was nowhere in sight. And he had bested Superman, so even if he were in town, Tommy could do it again. He planned to get Lane first, and he was sure that somehow Kent would follow. He put the paper with the Kent phone number in his pocket. He had a few things to attend to first.
The few acres of rocks, shrubs and trees off the north concession road had been left fallow for many years. Jonathan had always meant to clear it and use it for growing vegetables, but it had only been lately that Martha had been bothering him to clear it. She decided that she wanted to undertake growing organic vegetables and selling them at the Farmer's Market on Thursdays and Fridays. Having Clark at home gave him the opportunity to clear the land without bringing in Jed Jenkins' equipment. That would start to get costly. Normally, he didn't feel right about bothering Clark who was busy both as the reporter and the superhero, but now that he was here, the two of them could work together and clear the area.
He liked working with his son, and there were times when he wished that Clark would've stayed on the farm so that they could work side by side. It was an idle wish since he knew that there was so much more to this very special man who just happened to be his son. Enjoying the good weather and the companionship, he kept working until he found breathing was getting harder and his muscles were beginning to ache. He took the thermos of iced tea that he had prepared the night before and sat in the shade. Clark was working with an easy grace, lifting the heavy rocks, moving them over to the edge of the field unaware of his unusual strength. If he asked his son why he was able to do such heavy work, Clark would probably speculate that most fit people could.
Clark finally joined his father in the shade, sharing the iced tea. There was no sweat on his brow or heavy breathing to mark the hard work that he had been doing. The two men looked over at the field and nodded their heads.
"We put in a good morning's work, didn't we, Dad?"
"Yes, we did, son. It's good to have you home, even for a short time."
"Good to be home."
They continued to sit in the shade, soaking in the peaceful, sunny day, occasionally quenching their thirst with gulps of iced tea.
"We can start over at the eastern side after this break," Clark suggested.
Jonathan looked at his watch. "I thought your mother was planning to do some painting with you this later this morning."
"She was, but I think that this is important, and we might as well take advantage of this free labour."
"I think that the painting is more important."
"Yeah," he murmured half-heartedly, pulling at blades of grass around him.
"You don't think so."
"No…I don't know."
"I'm not sure I know what's the matter with me."
"Well, what do you think it is?"
"You're not going to tell me, are you?"
"Nope." He paused wondering how much he should or shouldn't say. He wasn't a psychologist or even a learned man; he was a simple farmer, but his son was not complete and needed help. "So, what is happening to you?"
"I lose sense of time. I probably sleep more than I usually do. I wake up in places that I don't remember getting to. I have the most realistic dreams I've ever had."
"What kind of places do you wake up in?"
Jonathan nodded his head, while Clark looked away staring up into the sky following the path of a flock of crows. He shaded his eyes from the sun.
"Flying must be incredible," he said.
"Flying. In one of the dreams I had, I was flying in space toward this huge rock. Lois said that it was probably the Nightfall Asteroid that Superman destroyed."
"Hmmpf!" Jonathan grunted.
"I could feel the resistance brushing past me, the cold of space, and then I approached this rock. It loomed in front of me, and I just pushed into it. It surrounded me and enclosed me."
Clark tried to catch his breath.
"Slow down, son. Take your time."
Clark closed his eyes trying to control the air flow in and out of his lungs. He visualized the air coming in through his mouth, down his esophagus and into his lungs. Biology 101. He had learned how it worked. He felt the rhythmic influx of breath.
"Are you okay?" Jonathan asked when he saw Clark's breathing return to normal.
"Yeah. That was weird. As I talked about hitting the rock, I felt that I was in an enclosed space while being bombarded by different sized rocks. Lights were flashing all around me."
"Take a drink of the iced tea, son."
"Dad, what's happening to me?"
"I don't know, Clark, but we'll work it out together. All of us."
"Of course, Lois."
Once again, Clark concentrated on the pile of uprooted grass that he had in front of him. He swept his hand across the pile to flatten it and used his finger to design a pattern in it. Finally, speaking to the grass, he said, "I've been having a lot of dreams lately."
"Dreams? What kind of dreams?" Jonathan was getting nervous. He was afraid that Clark was entering an area that he had no knowledge about. Dreams meant Freud and Jung, people whom Jonathan only knew about in passing. How could he help his son?
"Lois," he said. "I dream about Lois."
"That must be pleasant," Jonathan said. "I enjoy dreaming about your mother. Daydream about her, too."
"I have a feeling this is different." Clark rebuilt his grass sculpture. "It's the kind of dreams that I had when I was a teen-ager."
"But they're so real. But I feel like I'm watching myself." Once again Clark flattened the grass and spread it out in front of him. "I'm sure you're going to find this out from Mom anyway, so I might as well tell you." For the first time, Clark looked at his father. Taking a fortifying breath, he said, "I woke up beside Lois this morning."
"Hmmpf," he grunted.
"You don't seem upset or worried."
"I knew. Your mother told me. She saw you go to her last night."
"And you don't have a problem with that?"
"Well, both you and Lois are adults. You don't need our permission."
"That's not the point. I didn't know that…Mom saw me go to Lois last night?" Clark felt his face go red. It was bad enough that he woke up naked in bed with Lois, but his mother watched him as he went to her. This was too much for him to handle.
"That's what she told me this morning."
"Dad, I think I will go back to the house. I have a lot of thinking to do. Maybe painting will help."
The makeshift studio was empty when Clark returned to it. He moved around straightening up, separating brushes, mixing colours.
He couldn't understand how his mother had let him go to Lois's room without stopping him. No. He actually understood that. Martha had been matchmaking since he had told her about this woman whom he'd met in Metropolis. From that day on, whenever he spoke of Lois, she would have this gleam in her eye. Yes. He understood how she had allowed him to go to her room; he just couldn't understand how he had gotten there. This wasn't the sleep walking that he had suspected earlier. What on earth would make him go to Lois's room, even if it was his bedroom? And spend the night with her? Making love with her was more like a memory than a dream. It was as vivid and as real as his working in the fields with his father. When he thought about it, his senses came alive with her scent and the softness of her skin next to his. He could feel her respond to his touches. As real as it was, he still felt that he was an onlooker to the events, but then he also was sated as if he had made love.
He picked up the painting he had made the day before staring into the depth of the darkness that went on and on forever. He mixed various shades of brown and gray and used them to create a rock that began as a small speck on the canvas, and as he added pieces, fragments of shade and colour, the rock grew. He felt that he was moving towards it. His arms were stretched in front of him pushing away the blackness like a diver pushes away the water as he enters its mirrored surface. The rock, with Lois's voice, called out his name, pulling him closer and closer until he dove and penetrated the rock, thrusting deeper and deeper until he felt the walls enclose him and burst in an explosion of lights and chunks of stone. He found himself tumbling in space being bombarded by hundreds of rock pieces coming crashing into him.
Clark shuddered, trying to shake himself free of the image. He looked around. He was still in the studio. The painting had a hole the size of his fist. He couldn't stop trembling. Wiping his sweaty forehead, he wanted to go to the sink to wash his face, but he wasn't sure his legs would carry him. He remained in his seat staring at the destroyed canvas. There were questions that needed answering, but he didn't think that any would be forthcoming. His parents and Lois hadn't been very open with him.
Finally, he gained the strength to stand up. He walked over to the sink in the corner and splashed water on his face. The coolness felt good against his hot skin. Covering his eyes with his hands, he let the darkness surround him once again. He listened to his breathing, strong and steady. He saw an image of a shower. He was standing in front of Lois using his finger to trace a trail of water from her shoulders to the valley between her breasts and down to her navel. He then traced a similar path with his tongue. She tasted so sweet. And then he heard Lois's rhythmic heart beat. He smelled her perfume, and for a moment, he let the memories engulf him. He didn't want to fight the dream. He wanted her; he always had.
He heard her voice and then he felt her touch his shoulder. It was so real.
He jumped. When he opened his eyes, he realized that she was actually standing right beside him in the studio.
"Are you all right?" she asked putting her hand on his cheek. He trembled and took a step back.
"Yes, of course," he answered more formally than usual. "I am all right." The last thing that he wanted was for her to know what he was thinking about when she walked in.
"Clark, I'm neither blind nor stupid," she said looking at his pale and clammy skin. "You're not all right." She looked around the room. "What happened here?" She pointed at the fist-sized hole in the canvas.
"I've had another one of those visions…daydreams…whatever."
"And I must have punched a hole in the canvas."
"Just like that?"
"Well, I felt like I was launching myself, fist first, into the rock. I must've simulated the vision."
"I penetrated the rock, it exploded and the pieces of rock kept falling on me."
"You keep repeating that. Why do you think that is?"
"Are you using good psychotherapy babble here, Lois, or is this an interview?"
"I just want you to understand what happened."
"Noble of you."
"Don't get sarcastic with me, Kent. This is important."
"Sorry, it's just that it's very frustrating."
"I guess you can get crabby once in a while." She led him over to one of the chairs in the room and brought another one for herself. "What happened before you got to the rock?"
"I don't know what happened before. I'm just in nothingness, in space." He paused thinking about what he said to her. "Why would I be replaying the same scene over and over again?"
"You're the only one with the answers to that."
Lois realized that Clark was reliving his encounter with Nightfall. There was something about that experience that triggered this disassociation that Clark was going through. She needed to speak to Martha and Jonathan about why that particular incident acted as a catalyst. Their other problem was to get Clark to know that he was Superman and vice versa. Her other worry was that he hadn't, up to this point, acknowledged what had happened between them the night before. He was obviously startled when he woke up in bed with her. She wasn't entirely sure what he remembered. It seemed clear to her that she would have to help him remember, or at least admit, that he had made love to her the night before. She didn't think that Clark would be forthcoming with that information.
"So what were you doing in my bed this morning?" she asked deciding that beating around the bush would not get them anywhere.
"I must have been walking in my sleep," he paused as if he was mulling over what he was saying. "It is my room and my bed, you know."
"Sleep walking, eh? Naked, too. Do you use that line with all your women, Clark?"
He looked at her quizzically. He didn't understand what she was getting at. He figured that his very erotic dreams subconsciously led him to her because that's where he wanted to be. No. He'd just let her believe that he was sleepwalking back to his own room.
"What were you doing before that?" she asked.
"I was lying on the couch, thinking about the rock."
"And then what?"
Clark could feel the blood rise to his face and his ears go red. "Nothing. No. Nothing until I woke up in…until this morning."
"You just can't think about a rock and then end up in my bed. Something must have happened to trigger the move. Think, Clark."
"I've told you what I know." He got up and moved away from her.
"I'm not even a psychologist, but I know that you're lying."
"Lois, I'm not going to tell you…"
"Aha! I was right." She walked over to Clark and stood in front of him. "Clark?"
He felt her eyes pierce his brain as she demanded answers. It was almost as if she knew just by looking at him. As much as he didn't want to tell her, he couldn't fight the determined look on her face.
"What about me?"
"Lois? I won't let you badger me like this."
"It's not about me, Clark. It's about you. You need to say this."
"Okay, so I had a dream? Are you happy now?"
"None of your business!" Clark turned away from her and picked up the damaged canvas tossing it in the garbage bin beside the door. As he placed his hand on the doorknob, he heard Lois take a step closer to him.
"Does your dream have anything to do with you stepping into the shower with me?"
Clark stopped. He turned and gaped at her.
"You stepped in behind me and caressed my shoulders. You took the soap and washed my back until I turned around," she said, huskily. "Then you continued soaping me."
Clark didn't think that he could open his eyes or his mouth any wider. How could she have known what he had dreamt about? But before he could think any further, she interrupted his thoughts.
"What did I call you in your dream?"
Superman, Clark thought. He hadn't remembered that until this moment. Why would she ever do anything like that? Even in his own imagination he was jealous of Superman. Did she fantasize that he was Superman? But, that didn't explain how she knew enough to ask the question. He wasn't going to talk to her about this. Just as he turned around to head out the door, the phone rang.
Lois looked at Clark. "Don't answer that phone until you answer my question," she demanded.
Without another word, Clark turned around and purposefully marched over to the phone and picked it up.
"Lois Lane, please," the voice said.
"Who's speaking?" Clark asked.
"Let's just say an acquaintance."
"Mr. Kent, I'd like to speak to Miss Lane. Is she there?"
"Just a moment?" Puzzled by the voice on the phone, Clark handed the phone to Lois. Who would be calling her in Smallville who wouldn't identify himself? It was strange. Clark's curiosity was aroused. He very much wanted to overhear the conversation.
Lois took the receiver from Clark.
"Lois Lane?" the voice asked.
"Yes. Who is this?" Lois responded.
"Who are you?"
"Listen carefully and don't ask any questions. This is about your father, Sam Lane. He's going to be hurt very badly soon, unless you meet me at the park pagoda in Smallville. Don't bring your partner or anyone else. I also recommend very strongly, for your father's sake, that you do not tell anyone where you're going."
"I understand," she said. "I'll be there."
"In half an hour. I'll be waiting."
"How will I recognize you?"
"I'll recognize you," he said and hung up.
Lois stared at the receiver for a few minutes and then looked at her partner. He was in no shape to go and help her with this. It wasn't as if Clark knew he was Superman. If she left him with his parents, they would continue to help him, and she would take care of her father.
"What was that all about?" Clark asked.
"Nothing important. I just have to go and check something out."
"Are you sure?" he asked.
"Yes. Look, Clark, I think that you need to talk about what happened with your parents and let them help you work things out, then when I come back, we'll talk some more."
"Lois, let me go with you. I'm your partner."
"Yes, you are, but…" she thought for a moment, "this is personal. I have to go, but I'll be back soon."
She left the studio before he could respond. Clark watched Lois as she went into the farmhouse and then walked out a few moments later. She had her purse, a jacket and some keys in her hand. Martha must have given her the keys to the old Ford because he watched her get into the car and drive off. What he didn't tell her was that the conversation with the man was so loud that he couldn't help but overhear what had been said.
Trouble seemed to find Lois, even in Smallville. If her father was in danger, why had he let her go off alone? Well, he knew that she would have told him that he can't 'let' her do anything. She did things on her own. But, this was Lois and she would probably end up in trouble. He tidied up the studio quickly and went back to the house.
Smallville Park was situated near the outskirts of town on a small wooded ravine. The upper level housed Smallville Gardens with its formally manicured lawns, landscaped flowerbeds and greenhouse which grew the annuals that would be planted in the gardens. The ravine itself was left unkempt, allowing it to grow naturally except for the lawns on either side of the path which ran parallel to the creek. Several footbridges along the length of the creek made it possible to cross to the thicker wooded area. The path meandered alongside the creek for about a mile before it ended at the pagoda.
Lois left the car in the parking lot and followed the instructions that Martha had given her. She passed the greenhouse and found the path that led into the ravine. The sprinklers sat up on high pipes and swept rhythmically over the green lawns. She moved at a brisk pace once she reached the lower level of the path. There were only a few people walking or bicycling on the path. According to Martha, the ravine was much busier on the week-ends when it was invaded by young people who turned it into a hang-out and a stopping off point before they went to some of the more 'popular' areas in the woods.
Lois walked down the path confidently. There were enough people here that she had nothing to worry about, and Martha knew exactly where she was. She had no idea what her father was up to since he had left Metropolis as a result of the boxing scandal a few months earlier. Lex Luthor had given him a job in one of his medical research facilities and had given Sam carte blanche. She wondered if her father had done something to get himself in trouble with the organization that he worked for. Although Sam Lane was a foolish man when it came to interpersonal relationships, especially with his family, he was very astute when it came to his own research. He had been able to develop cybernetic parts for injured athletes, and as a result, he had been able to build the cyberboxers. Too bad Max Menken took advantage of Sam's abilities and tried to use them for greedy money-making schemes rather than for the greater good. She supposed that her father had meant well in the beginning, but she also realized that he needed funding to continue his research. He probably sold his integrity to the highest bidder. She wasn't surprised that he was in danger again.
She reached the pagoda. There was an elderly couple sitting inside, drinking water. Thinking that they might know something about the reason she was called, she went into the pagoda and sat down on the bench. She stared at the couple. When they smiled at her, she smiled back.
"Nice day, isn't it?" she commented.
"Lovely," said the white haired man.
"My husband and I walk here everyday," said the woman. "We've never seen you here before."
"I'm not from around here. I'm visiting the Kents," she added. She hoped that what she had heard about small towns and the friendly people were true. She didn't want to give away too much information, but she wanted to know if these were the ones who wanted to see her.
"Martha and Jonathan. Such lovely people," said the woman. Her husband bent over and tied the laces to his walking shoes.
"Dear, it's time that we head back. We don't want to miss our soap opera," he said as he straightened himself.
"Yes, Bob," she said, turning to face Lois. "It's been nice speaking to you, dear. Give our regards to Martha and Jonathan. Tell them Bob and Evelyn Newton say hello."
"I will," Lois answered as she watched the two walk back down the path arm-in-arm. With the couple slowly moving out of sight, Lois realized that she was left alone in the pagoda. There weren't any other afternoon walkers or joggers in the area. She wasn't especially worried because she knew that her Tae-Kwon-Do training would protect her. But not wanting to take any chances, she stepped out of the enclosure and began walking around, trying to find a spot that would give her a better view of the area. The pagoda sat surrounded by the woods on one side, and the creek and the open lawns on the other. There were the beginnings of a garden around the entrance where the earth had been turned over and some flowers had been planted. A wheelbarrow filled with more flowers rested beside the outer wall. She kept circling the outside of the pagoda in search of the person who had called her. The path was empty. Feeling the warm sun beating down on her, she moved back into the shade of the pagoda and sat down, waiting. Several moments passed.
Tommy Garrison crouched behind a clump of bushes watching as Lois Lane arrived at the pagoda. He bided his time while the older couple talked to her, relieved when they didn't linger. He then watched Lane as she observed her surroundings, and he held his breath when she looked directly at him, but his cover must have been good. Finally, she returned to the benches in the pagoda and sat down with her back to him. He got up quickly and moved deftly from his hiding place. Earlier, he had cleared a path for himself so he wouldn't make any noise as he approached her. It paid off as he quietly came up behind her, stretched his arms over the wooden wall, and clasped a damp rag over her mouth and nose. She squirmed, kicking aimlessly at her attacker for a few minutes, and then stilled.
Garrison leaned her body against the inner wall and went over to the wheelbarrow that he quickly emptied. He then took the piece of tarpaulin which he had prepared in the woods and covered the wheelbarrow with it before he went back for Lois Lane, who was out cold, and placed her in the wheelbarrow, wrapping her in the tarp. By layering earth and flowers over the tarp-wrapped body, he made sure that his passenger didn't look like a human shape before heading back to the parking lot. There he lifted the unconscious woman into the back of the panel truck which he had rented and drove off.
"Did Lois tell you where she was going?" Clark asked his mother.
"Just that she was going to meet someone at the pagoda." Martha then anticipated her son's next question. "I gave her directions how to get there, and I gave her the keys to the car."
"Mom, how could you?"
"She asked me. She obviously had something to do."
"Lois…" Clark said, running his hand through his hair and pacing in the kitchen, "has this way of getting herself into trouble when you least expect it. I don't trust this guy. He didn't sound right."
"What do you mean, 'He didn't sound right'?" she asked.
"He said it had something to do with her father, but he sounded threatening."
"Did she tell you this?"
"No. He spoke loud enough for me to hear."
"You must have pretty sharp hearing then." Martha guessed that he was using his powers without realizing it. At least he could use his powers without really having to think about it which told her that he wasn't blocking those when he wasn't Superman.
Clark puzzled over his mother's comment for a fraction of a second, but his thoughts turned back to Lois. "She's in trouble. I know it. I'm going to the pagoda," he said to his mother, taking the keys for the pick-up off the counter.
"Clark, are you sure you should go?" Martha asked, but Clark was already out the door and getting into the car before she finished her question.
Garrison drove the paneled van out of the parking lot of Smallville Gardens and headed south to the area the townspeople called the Bluffs. His plan, he decided, was a very simple one. He would drive the van to the edge of the Bluffs and let it roll off the cliff into the ravine several hundred feet below. He would rig the gas tank in such a way that it would explode and good-bye Lois Lane. Two birds avenged with one stone. Lois Lane would be dead, and Sam Lane would be in mourning for his daughter. Garrison smirked at his cleverness. He had warned Lane on the phone that her father would be hurt very badly. He hadn't meant a physical hurt. He laughed at his own cleverness.
He'd get to Kent later. He'd be a sitting duck once Lane was out of the way. She seemed to be the brains of the two. Kent had put up a brave front when he had joined him in the ring, but he didn't know what to do. He was lucky that Garrison had only wanted to tease him, not do any damage. Kent was nothing more than a pretty-faced princess who couldn't defend himself, and Garrison would take care of that when the time was right. Now, he was taking care of Lane.
The Bluffs were right in front of him.
Clark dashed down the path to the pagoda. Worrying about what was happening to Lois caused his heart to pump harder and faster. He felt the adrenaline push him forward. He kept his eyes on the pagoda, looking for a sign of Lois, but she wasn't there. He scanned the area for any signs of her, hoping that she would come walking out of the woods to greet him, but she didn't.
Then he noticed her beige jacket that blended in with the inside of the pagoda. He ran to it and brought it to his nose. He smelled Lois's perfume. He looked around; nothing else was there. He walked around the perimeter and saw several sets of footprints. Too many people had been there. But he did notice wheelbarrow tracks-two sets. One seemed to have carried a heavier load than the other. He followed the tracks until they went onto the path. He removed his glasses, to wipe his brow. He was surprised that his camping experience as a youngster had prepared him so well to track another person. When he looked down at the path, he realized that without his glasses he had a better view of the wheelbarrow tracks. He let his intuition guide him and he followed the tracks up into the parking lot. There, in an empty parking space, sat the wheelbarrow. Flowers were thrown aside and a very small piece of tarp which had caught onto a jagged edge of steel protruded from its lip. Clark didn't have to look hard at the piece of tarp to see that another piece of material was there as well. He recognized a piece of blue silk material from the blouse that Lois had been wearing that morning. She would be really mad when she realized that she had torn her blouse.
"Clark Kent. What a surprise seeing you here."
Clark turned around to see Dr. Newton and his wife standing near a car looking at him.
"Doc Newton, Mrs. Newton. It's been a long time since I've seen you."
"Yes, it has," said Evelyn Newton. "It's quite a coincidence, since we just met a nice young woman who said that she's visiting your parents." Evelyn opened her eyes in that certain way that only women can who have that matchmaking twinkle in their eyes.
"You saw Lois?" Clark asked.
"Yes, of course."
"Down at the pagoda. Bob and I were taking our daily walk…"
"Did you see where she went?" Clark interrupted.
"No. We left before she did, and she didn't pass us," Bob Newton added.
Clark stared at the piece of silk in his hand and at the wheelbarrow. Evelyn's eyes followed Clark's.
"What a mess!" she exclaimed. "That wheelbarrow, filled with flowers, was down at the pagoda; now whoever brought it up just dumped the flowers."
"Did you see who did it?"
"Yes, he was a big man wearing coveralls. He looked even bigger than you, more muscular," said Dr. Newton.
"Yes, yes, and not as good looking," Evelyn winked at him.
"He had something wrapped in a tarpaulin. He brought it up here. We saw him put it in a white panel van and drive off."
"In what direction?"
"He was going north on Fraser Street."
"Did you happen to have seen Lois with him?" Clark asked.
"No. He was alone."
"Thank you, Doc Newton, Mrs. Newton." He bent down, placing a hurried peck on the elderly woman's cheek, and walked to his pick-up.
All the information that the Newtons gave him did was put the wheelbarrow and Lois at the pagoda and then a short time later, the same wheelbarrow and a man were in the parking lot. He had put something big into his van and just left the wheelbarrow and the rest of its contents lying haphazardly on the ground. Not the kind of habits one would expect of a workman. Clark realized that the evidence linking the man and Lois was circumstantial, but he didn't have any other clues, and the man in the van was the only lead. He decided to follow up on it.
Garrison parked the paneled van fifteen feet from the edge of the bluffs. He shut off the ignition and walked around to the back where he opened up the doors and checked Lane's body. She lay there, now only covered by the tarp, still breathing and still unconscious. He left her lying there and grabbed his tools so he could begin work immediately. He'd gotten clear instructions from a mechanic he used to work out with at Menken's gym. Once you knew what you were doing, it was quite straightforward, he thought.
He began by planting some explosives near the engine and later he would reroute the gas pipe to the front of the van. Having practiced several times, he had it down pat. He would start the engine, push the van over the cliff, and when it hit the ground it would explode with Lane's body in it. She wouldn't be recognizable and he would be long gone before anyone could link him with the deed. Revenge was sweet.
Clark drove north on Fraser Street frantically trying to decide where the kidnapper would take Lois. He turned into several sideroads but couldn't find any sign of the van. Knowing that Lois's abductor had a substantial head start, Clark wasn't sure how he would even get any clues unless the van was parked in full view. He drove around and got back onto Fraser Street. Seeing that he was running low on gas, he drove into Hank Taylor's Exxon Station to fill up. He didn't want to be stuck on the road with an empty tank.
Clark stood at the pump watching the numbers add up when he was accosted by Hank's son, Bruce, who had played football with him at Smallville High.
"Hey, Clark, haven't seen you for a long time," he said running out of the hut in the centre of the gas islands.
"Bruce! It's been a long time." The two high school friends shook hands.
"This place sure looks different," he said noting the changes in the station. "Self-serve."
"My dad renovated the station and then retired after he had a heart attack. I'm running it now, and he's working for me…part time."
"Even Smallville is getting to be like the big city."
"What are you doing here?"
"Visiting my folks for a few days."
"How are they?"
"What are you doing out this way?"
"Looking into a possible story for the Planet. I was following a white panel van, but I lost it a while back."
"White panel, eh? I saw one flying down the road toward the Bluffs about a half hour ago. Noticed it because I wondered where Rachel was. She was missing out on one big speeding ticket."
"Down to the Bluffs," Clark said as he pulled out the cash to pay Bruce. "Thanks, Bruce. I'd love to stick around and catch up on old times, but I really have to find that van."
The two men shook hands. Bruce watched Clark get in the pick-up and head up Fraser Street. The city had stamped its mark on Clark, he thought. In a hurry, like the rest of them.
Clark drove toward the Bluffs. He didn't know what the caller had on his mind, but he did not have a good feeling. This was Lois after all. He parked the car a hundred yards away from the Bluffs and walked through the wooded area. He didn't have a plan, but he was sure that something would come to mind once he saw what was going on. He walked slowly down the well-trodden path. Bruce was right, the van stood near the edge of the bluffs. There was no sign of Lois, but he imagined that he could hear her heart beating rhythmically. It was a strange sensation, but it was pleasant. He liked to believe that there was a very special bond between him and Lois, and feeling her heart beat when she was near would bring them closer to that metaphysical level. But, he didn't allow himself to dwell on it. He needed to find whoever kidnapped Lois.
The man came around from the front of the van. He had a wrench in his hand, and he was greasy, as if he had been working on the motor. Clark stopped in his tracks. It was Tommy Garrison who had tried to fight him in the ring at Max Menken's gym when he and Lois were investigating the Ultimate Street Fight. Then, a recent memory of Garrison, in a dark alley, punching him in the face and in the stomach, flashed through his mind. The man carried a powerful punch that knocked the wind out of Clark. He couldn't remember the pain he must have felt, but he was sure that it was there.
Well, at least he knew his adversary. So, he knew what he was up against. Now he needed a plan. Was Garrison expecting him to show up? Perhaps, if he snuck up behind him and knocked him out, he'd be able to find Lois, he hoped. Having no idea where she was, he hoped that she was in the van, safe. He looked around for a weapon. Garrison was a professional boxer and he had the cybernetic implants Sam Lane had given him, so approaching him with his bare hands would be foolish. Clark noticed that Garrison put down the wrench and picked up a pair of pliers from a toolbox beside the van. If Garrison would go back to the front of the vehicle, he could sneak up and grab hold of the wrench.
He waited, amazed at his patience. Garrison opened the back doors of the van and pulled down a tarp from…Lois. She was asleep or unconscious he thought. But he heard her moan.
"Here, Lane, take a whiff of this. That'll put you back to sleep. I don't need to hear you mouthin' off or callin' for your friend, Superman. I'd rather do this without him here. And then I can savor the first part of my revenge. Three men will be mourning your death: your father, Kent and Superman." He laughed.
Clark wondered, not for the first time, why the bad guy had to reveal his motivations, even to an unconscious victim. He did not dwell on that thought for long because he had to move quickly before Garrison carried out his plan to kill Lois. He wasn't sure how Garrison hoped to accomplish it, but a van and a cliff could be a lethal combination. He watched as Garrison went to the cab of the van, and Clark moved quietly to the toolbox.
He picked up the wrench and crept toward the van trying to keep himself out of sight. Seeing himself in the side mirror and then seeing Garrison come charging out toward him told him how naive his plan had been.
Instinctively, he jumped out of Garrison's path, but Garrison rushed him and knocked him off balance. The wrench fell out of his hand. Clark stood up, keeping his eye on Garrison who had started dancing around him. Seeing that his opponent was unarmed, Garrison threw the pliers out to the side.
"Hey, princess. Looks like you've come to find out what it's like to fight a champion." He continued to dance around, taking small jabs that Clark ducked easily.
"Come on, princess, take a shot…Come on," he said, sparring with him.
"I don't work like that," Clark said, swerving to avoid another punch.
"Don't tell me you're a coward. You look like you can take me on. Come on. Try to beat the guy who knocked Superman down." Garrison kept talking as he circled Clark, occasionally throwing a punch that Clark avoided.
Clark wasn't sure how long they were revolving around each other, but they had managed to move themselves toward the back of the van. Clark glanced quickly to see if Lois was all right when he suddenly felt as if the air was knocked out of him. He fell backwards, tripping over a branch that was in his way. Once he caught his breath, he watched his opponent sidle over to the open van. Knowing that Lois was there, Clark got up quickly and launched himself at Garrison. The two men struggled, rolling on the ground, until Garrison managed to straddle Clark and pin his shoulders back. With one hand, he reached back and pulled out a gun. Clark didn't want to be shot, not now, not when Lois was in danger. Garrison aimed the gun at Clark's face, and then surprisingly, swung it around, pointing it at the van.
"Get in the van, unless you want her to die," he said as he got himself up, his eyes trained on Clark, the gun trained on Lois.
Clark had no choice. He already knew from what he had heard that Garrison wanted Lois dead. The longer he could stall for time the better; at least, that would give him some time to work out how to save Lois. He knew that if she were awake, together they would come up with a solution.
Clark complied. He got up slowly and moved toward the van. It didn't take long for Garrison to tie him up with the tire chains that were in the van.
"What do you plan to do?" Clark asked, stalling for time.
"Kill you and Lane. Then go after her father and Superman."
"You can't hurt Superman," Clark argued, wondering why he even bothered.
"Yes, I can. I did it before and I can do it again."
"Nobody can hurt Superman; he's invulnerable. Everybody knows that."
"A few days ago, I did. You're looking at the Ultimate Champion."
"I don't believe you," Clark said still hoping that he could keep Garrison talking.
"I followed Superman into an alley. When I punched him, he grabbed for his face, and then when I punched him in the gut, he fell backwards. He looked at me, knew that he was bested and took off. I…am…the…champ," he bragged.
Deja vu, thought Clark. He felt as if he were standing back and watching this happen to him. Wasn't that how he had seen Tommy Garrison recently. It was like a dream without a context.
"Where did this happen?"
"In Metropolis, south end of Hobbs Bay. Two kids with guns were facing off against each other."
Clark felt that even with the skimpy information Garrison had given him, he had been at that confrontation. He could feel how surprised he had been when the police officer had asked him to do something about the situation. He could feel how nervous he had been when the boys had begun shooting at each other. He remembered approaching one of the young bystanders for an interview and how the boy had run off. And then he was being punched by Tommy Garrison. It just didn't make sense.
"Okay, Kent. You can have some time with Lane and then it's hasta la vista baby for the two of you." He laughed as he closed the doors to the van.
"Lois," Clark called trying to nudge her with his foot. Garrison had tied him like a trussed-up chicken. His hands and arms were completely immobilized. If he could wake Lois up she might be able to help him get loose.
"Lois," he called again. "Please, wake up…We've got to get out of here."
She was silent; only her regular breathing told him that she was in a deep sleep.
"She can't help you, Kent," said Garrison as he got behind the driver's seat. "She's been knocked out and she'll be out for a while…a long while." He chuckled. Garrison turned on the ignition and Clark could feel the van move forward. Garrison jumped out of the van, leaving Clark and Lois to their fate. Clark heard him muttering, "Two down, two to go."
For Clark, his world moved in slow motion. He didn't see his life flash before his eyes; instead he saw Lois, lying there in front of him unconscious, the first time he saw her at his interview, in the space shuttle asking him "What are you?", kissing him on Trask's plane, holding onto him as he placed her on the ground behind the Daily Planet, making love to him, crying out his name… 'Superman'.
He was confused. Being on the brink of death, with no way of saving himself or Lois, left him totally confused.
Superman! Maybe that was the answer. He used Lois's answer to a life threatening dilemma. "Superman, help!" he called out at the top of his voice.
If only he were Superman, then he could probably expand his chest and break free of the chains. As he completed the thought, he looked down at himself. The chains were broken. He was free.
There wasn't time to think about what had happened. He slid over to Lois holding her tightly. He had felt the point when the van had left the ground and began its descent towards the bottom of the ravine. The seconds were ticking away. If only he were Superman, then he could break open the door and fly out of the van to safety. And just as the thought developed in his mind, he felt himself rise above the floor and move to the doors. Holding on to Lois, he pushed out with one hand and watched the doors fling open.
Rising into the air and clinging onto Lois tightly, he watched the van complete its descent and then explode as it came into contact with the ravine floor. He drew Lois closer to him, trying to shield her from the flames that propelled them into the air along with the flying debris. For some reason, the van must have fallen faster than they were. And then the explosion was catapulting them further upwards.
He gasped when he suddenly realized that it wasn't the explosion that was keeping them airborne. He was doing it. Somehow, he was doing it. He gasped again as he realized that he was Superman! He had just freed himself and Lois from a death trap and he was floating in the air, unharmed by the flying debris. Not only that, but he had propelled himself into a rock and penetrated it until it burst in a fiery explosion. He had destroyed Nightfall. The rocks that had fallen on him in space were the debris from Nightfall. And then visions of the night before he left to destroy the asteroid came back to him. He had made love to Lois. He had touched her soft skin. Kissed her inviting lips. He had given all of his love to her, and she had returned it to him. Lois had made love to Superman. He shook himself. Lois and Superman. No. That wasn't right.
He rose higher in the air and soared as quickly as he could toward the farm. He laid Lois on the couch in the living room, called his mother, spun into his suit and headed back to the Bluffs.
Garrison, who must have been running away, was standing two hundred yards from the Bluffs, turned to face the results of his handiwork. Clark, realizing that Garrison was a very strong man, swooped down like a bird of prey, grabbed Garrison by the hands and then flew him like dangling carrion to the sheriff's office.
"How are you feeling?" Clark asked, stepping up behind Lois.
They hadn't had a chance to talk before. It had taken Superman an hour to give Rachel Harris his statement and then he had flown back to get the pick-up at the Bluffs. The Smallville Fire Department had still been trying to contain the fire and keep it from spreading into the small wood. He had decided to help them out. When that had been finished, he spun back into Clark's clothes and drove the pick-up back to the farm.
When he had walked into the kitchen, Martha had been forcing liquid into Lois who, while still feeling groggy, was trying to object, but Martha had been adamant. Rachel Harris had arrived in the middle of Martha's explanation on the importance of water for washing out the poisons from a person's system. Rachel then took Lois and Clark aside to interview them about what had occurred at the Bluffs. Neither had been able to corroborate the other's statement, since they had experienced different aspects of events, but together they had managed to fill in the blanks. Clark told Rachel that Superman had arrived while the van had been falling down. He had broken the doors open and flown Lois and Clark to the safety of the farm. Clark just hoped that no one would examine the doors carefully and see that they had been pushed open from the inside.
Now Clark and Lois were standing on the porch watching the sunset.
"I'm okay. I feel woozy and cotton-mouthed," she said and then smiled. "And a little water logged, but I'm fine. How are you?"
Lois walked over to the porch swing and sat down while Clark remained leaning on the railing looking up into the sky.
"I remember everything that happened."
"Everything?" she asked, surprised at how sad he looked.
"Yes. I know that I'm Superman and that for several days I had forgotten who I was."
"I think I remember everything that happened in the last few days, but I think I'm seeing them in a very detached way, as if I were an observer rather than a participant." He actually did remember everything as clearly as if it had happened five minutes earlier, but he did not want to tell Lois that.
"I'm glad you're back," Lois said. "How did you remember?"
"It was in the van where you were lying unconscious and Garrison had me all tied up."
"Wait a minute, didn't you tell Rachel that you and Garrison were fighting?"
"Yes…oh, I see what you're asking. I just kept ducking his jabs and punches. I didn't realize that I was very capable of knocking him out with one punch. I kept my fists up, protected my face, and kept moving around so he wouldn't land any of his punches. I think I did what an ordinary guy would have done. I really worried about what one of his punches would feel like."
"So, what happened in the van?"
He moved over to the porch swing and sat beside her. "I realized that if I couldn't think of a way out of the van that we'd both be dead, and I didn't want to be responsible for your death. I wondered where Superman was when we needed him, and then when he didn't appear I thought about you calling me Superman and some of the other strange things that had been happening to me. I still didn't believe that I was Superman, but to distract myself from what was imminent, I tried to visualize what I would do if I were him. So I guessed that if he was tied up the way I was, he would expand his chest until the chains burst open. I did. And they did."
"How did that make you feel?"
"I was flabbergasted, but with very little time to think, I grabbed you and thought about what I would do if I were Superman. I'd push the doors out and fly out of the van."
"I did. So there I was floating in the air, holding you, watching the van fall to the ground, and I was up in the air. So I told myself that I better believe that I was Superman or we'd both be bug splat on the ground."
"You thought we'd be bug splat?"
"Well, no," Clark chuckled. "I just added that now to make the story more interesting. I don't really think that I was conscious of all these thoughts once I was out of the van."
"So when did you actually realize that you were Superman?"
"The van exploded, and as the flame reached up into the air and the debris came falling at us, I felt as if I was back somewhere familiar, somewhere that I'd been before. There were images that floated in my head. One was Nightfall. The other one…I don't know what the other one was. And then, I just knew…I just knew."
"And you remember everything?" she asked staring into his eyes.
"I think so," he answered turning away from her burning gaze. "Mom's going to call us for dinner in a second; I think it's time to go in."
"How do you…"
"Lois. Clark. Dinner's ready," Martha called.
"…know?" asked Lois.
"Superhearing," he said indicating his ear.
Clark followed Lois into the kitchen where they joined Martha and Jonathan to eat dinner. During the first part of dinner, Clark and Lois spoke animatedly about their afternoon's adventure, telling once again how Garrison lured Lois away from the farm and how he snuck up on her and drugged her. Clark replayed the fight he had with Garrison, the rescue, and his own discovery of his alter- ego. Martha and Jonathan peppered the talk with questions and comments.
"Oh, by the way, Martha," Lois said in between bites of Martha's savory chicken, "Bob and Evelyn Newton say hello."
Martha burst out laughing. Lois looked first at Jonathan and then at Clark. "I don't get it." Once again she eyed the men at the table, but they looked just as puzzled as she was.
Martha, on hearing Lois's question laughed harder, and she had to wait until she calmed down. "Oh, Lois dear, your comment about Bob and Evelyn just came out of left field, that's all. You had this unbelievable afternoon, and then…oh, by the way…It just felt so incongruous."
"It's just that they were at the pagoda before Garrison got there and we spoke to each other. I told them I was visiting you."
"I saw them in the parking lot," added Clark. "They described the van to me. I haven't seen old Doc Newton in years, Mom. How's he doing?"
"You know, Martha," said Jonathan, "I have a lot of respect for that man. He was a good doctor and a good friend."
"Yes. I remember."
"Remember what?" asked Clark.
"Adopting a child isn't easy. Adopting you was even harder."
"Why? I thought you just registered me as the baby of some cousin who died in childbirth."
"That was fine for neighbours and friends, and even family, but there were records that the court needed that we didn't have. For starters we needed a statement of live birth," Jonathan explained.
"It was Doc Newton who told us we needed that," Martha continued. "We told him our cover story, but he saw right through it. He had also known us for a long time and known how desperately we wanted a baby. In fact, he was the one who told me that I couldn't have children. I sat in his office for half an hour crying and talking before he let me leave."
Lois watched as unspoken words passed between Jonathan and Martha. Once again, she was amazed by the connection between the two. She focused back on Martha's words.
"What's important is that he believed that we found you, rather than kidnapped you or anything like that, so he prepared a phony Statement of Live Birth. He had a friend in the registry office in Minnesota who filed it for him. Then he helped us create and file a death certificate for a phony cousin in Minnesota — the mother listed on the statement of live birth. No father was listed which made it possible to adopt you without the father's consent. Once we were able to produce a certified copy of the death certificate and the statement of live birth, the rest was easy. We hired a lawyer and went through the regular steps for an in-family adoption. "
"Of course," added Jonathan, "if someone were to look too deeply into your birth, there would be problems. After all, there would be no record of my cousin's birth or her stay at any hospital when you were born. And everyone would wonder why a doctor in Kansas was signing death certificates and statements of live birth in Minnesota. But no one has ever had any reason to look into it. You were our son, and everyone accepted that — thanks to Doc Newton." Jonathan reached over to pat his son on the shoulder.
"But he went beyond that. Like us, he realized fairly early on that Clark was special," Jonathan went on. "He didn't know to what extent he was different or how he was different, but he knew something. Clark never got sick. He didn't get the usual childhood ailments, didn't have the normal scrapes and bruises. Basically, Doc Newton saw me and Martha as patients, but never Clark. In the beginning, he'd ask us how the boy was doing and mention the regular shots that kids get, but we found fairly early on that needles would have no effect on Clark, so we didn't bring him to the doctor."
"We did a few times," interrupted Martha, "when Clark needed to have a medical form filled out for school or for playing sports, but then the Doc checked him over and said he was in excellent condition."
"Do you think Dr. Newton suspects or even knows that Clark is Superman?" asked Lois.
"I never thought of that," said Martha. "He might, but he's never said anything.
"He's a pretty astute man."
"Well," said Clark, "if he does suspect, I don't think he'll say anything. He hasn't up until now. There's no reason for him to do so in the future."
Martha stood up and began to clear the table. Lois helped, and while Jonathan wiped the table, Clark began to wash and dry the dishes at a super speed.
"Impressive," said Lois.
"Handy to have around as well," laughed Martha.
They moved into the living room where Clark brought in a tray of tea. "I think that Lois and I need to get back to Metropolis or Perry will have our heads."
"Well, at least we have a good story to take back with us. Maybe we should write it up first and e-mail it to Perry before we head for home."
"That way he'll have the article when we arrive tomorrow morning, and he won't be able to holler at us."
"Works for me," said Lois.
Martha poured Clark a cup of tea and looked him straight in the eye.
"Are you sure that you're all right, dear?"
"I'm fine, Mom."
"Do you remember what brought on this…this disassociation?"
"No, but I don't think I have to."
"I'm not sure that I agree with you there. This could happen again. You need to at least understand what triggered the disassociation. According to what Lois found out in her research, there had to be some kind of trauma, whether mental or physical, that brought you to this point. Dr. Dieter …"
"Who's Dr. Dieter?" asked Clark.
"Most of the research that I read," began Lois, "pointed to a Dr. Maxwell Dieter, a psychiatrist at the Mendenhall Clinic in Metropolis, who is the foremost authority on Dissociative Identity Disorder. That was the closest we could find that explained your problem…"
"But I'm Kryptonian, not human…"Clark interrupted.
"We knew that, but we didn't have any links to Kryptonian medical sites on the internet." Lois watched Clark roll his eyes. She had missed that look while he hadn't been his complete self.
"Anyway," she continued, "there were several of his papers available on the net. Basically, he felt that the patient needed to find himself either through intensive psychotherapy, where the patient could fill in the details of his past without anyone offering him any personal information, or the therapist would take him through a series of sessions using hypnosis to help him recover his own memories." Lois looked at Clark who was listening to her intently. She proceeded, "Anyway, hypnosis was most successful to retrieve memories of the trauma that usually ate away at the patient. It was only after the patient faced the trauma that he was able to recover."
"So, what you're saying here, Lois, is that you think that I should undergo hypnosis in order to find out what trauma, if any, occurred to me to create this split in my personality."
"And none of you," he said, turning his head to look at each person in the room and giving them a slight nod, "has any problems with someone hypnotizing me?"
"I have a problem with that, Clark," Jonathan said. "That's why we did the art therapy here with you on the farm. There was no one we could trust with this. We don't know who this Dr. Dieter is. The fewer people who know that you are Superman, the better."
Martha patted Lois on the hand and as an aside said, "We're glad you know, dear. It makes you part of the family."
"I don't think I need to be hypnotized anyway," said Clark. "I remember now, and I don't think that there was any trauma in my life. I've lived here, and Mom and Dad are the best parents any kid could wish for."
"Thank you, dear." Martha walked over and placed a kiss on her son's forehead and put her arm around him. "But, Clark you don't know what caused this split and if it can happen again."
"But what kind of trauma could I have undergone if I don't know about it?"
"That's what you need to find out," Lois said.
"Do any of you know hypnosis?" Clark asked already knowing the answer. "And what reputable doctor would leave the room once he had hypnotized his patient?"
Martha, Jonathan and Lois sat in quiet thought. They knew Clark was right, but they also knew that hypnosis would uncover and clarify issues that Clark needed to deal with. Martha got up to collect the teacups. She began walking into the kitchen when she turned on her heels and spoke.
"Doc Newton?" Jonathan repeated.
"Of course, Jonathan. Think about it. He knows hypnosis. He used it with several people to help them lose weight or quit smoking. We also said earlier that he knows that Clark is different, and he has probably guessed that he is Superman."
"But he's retired," Jonathan argued.
"Retired doesn't mean he's incapable. Lois said that she saw him out walking with Evelyn and he was in great shape. I haven't heard anyone say that he's become senile. He knows all the secrets of the town, and I've never heard anyone say that he isn't trustworthy. Clark, what do you think?"
"I don't know. Hypnosis is a bit scary. What will I find out? Let me sleep on it, and I'll let you know in the morning." He got up and stretched.
Jonathan glanced at his watch. "Well, it is getting late and I have to be up early in the morning. I'm going upstairs. Coming Martha?"
"Yes, dear. I'm just going to tidy up…"
"Go ahead, Mom. Leave it to me. I'll put everything away."
Martha headed for the stairs. "Good-night Lois, Clark."
"Good night, Martha," Lois said. Before she could go into the kitchen to help Clark who had the tea dishes put away and was shutting the light in the kitchen. It amazed her how differently he behaved now that they both knew he was Superman. The powers were just as much a part of him as his kindness and gentleness.
It had been a long day and she suddenly felt tired. All she wanted was to go upstairs, crawl into bed, and fall asleep in Clark's arms.
Standing at the foot of the stairs, she called to Clark, "Are you ready to come up?"
Clark faced her, standing absolutely still. "No, Lois. I'm staying down here."
"But, I thought you remembered everything."
"I do, but…" He wasn't sure how to explain this to her. "I'm sorry, Lois," he finally said very softly, "I'm not the man you want."
"No, Lois. I'm not coming up." He began pulling out the couch and making up the bed.
Lois watched for a few seconds, and feeling an unexpected hollowness in her chest, she slowly forced herself upstairs.
Clark lay on the couch looking at the ceiling. He could hear the sound of the water in the sink, Lois brushing her teeth, and the sound of the occasional sniffle. He wished that it were still yesterday so that he could become Superman and just walk up the stairs and take her in his arms and tell her that it would be all right. Then he would lead her to his bed, and they could make love as they had the night before.
Instead, he was better. Right! he thought sarcastically. Now he knew that Clark Kent and Superman were one person, the one thing, the one person whom he wanted the most was out of his reach. She loved Superman, but that wasn't him.
She had been incredibly supportive of him, bringing him back to Smallville and helping him get better, but that was probably because she wanted to have Superman back. He was surprised that once she knew he was Clark, she still invited him up to her bed. Well, maybe Clark was the price she had to pay for having Superman.
He rolled over and found a comfortable spot on the pillow.
He wouldn't think about Lois now. What good would it do? Instead, he needed to decide what he was going to do about the hypnosis and Doc Newton. Whoever came up with the expression "sleep on it" didn't know what they were talking about. He knew he wouldn't fall asleep until he came to some decision.
Bob Newton was a successful country doctor because he cared about his patients. He diagnosed and wrote prescriptions, but he also offered huge doses of humanity. He knew that Clark's adoption was not above board, and yet, he had enabled Martha and Jonathan to adopt him, and the doctor most likely knew that Clark had abilities and gifts that were beyond those of normal humans. He was sure that when Superman made his appearance, Doc Newton, being a very perspicacious man, made a connection between Clark and the superhero. So, why not let him help? Even if Doc Newton hadn't made the connection, Clark and his parents trusted him enough to know that he wouldn't tell anyone.
If he needed to unearth this trauma, and he personally wanted some more explanation for what had occurred to him, he would allow Doc Newton to hypnotize him.
He rolled over again. Without concentrating, he could hear Lois's uneven breathing and the hushed sniffles that told him she was crying. He was sorry that he had hurt her, but he wanted a relationship with her to be based on her loving him as much as he loved her, rather than her infatuation with the superhero. Some things were just not meant to be. He extended his hearing to pick up the quiet lowing of the cows in the barn and the chirping of the crickets.
Lois lay cuddled into the pillow Clark had used the previous evening. There was an emptiness in her chest that could not be filled by all the tears that she had shed.
He had rejected her. He thought he wasn't the man she wanted him to be. Of course, he was. How could he be so blind?
She had come to Smallville because she was originally concerned that Superman was not behaving the way she had expected him to. He was different than he was the first night. He was still loving, kind and considerate, but when she talked to him, he didn't seem to have a lot to offer. He was, after all, nothing more than a shell. Anyone could have the superpowers. What was important was what was done with them. When she realized that Clark's behaviour was bizarre and finally that he was Superman, she wanted to help him, in part to get the Superman that she had fallen in love with back.
In Smallville, something had changed. When she was with Superman, he was a superhero and a wonderful lover, but not much more. Meanwhile, with the help of Martha and Jonathan, she got to know Clark as he really was. She saw how he grew up and how his values and principles had developed. She had seen how he interacted with his parents, and how much love a family could give one another. She also learned how much love the Kents could give her. She thought that families like that only existed on TV or in the movies. Working with Clark over the last few days had shown her that the qualities that she loved in Superman were really Clark's qualities. And she realized that it was Clark who made Superman who he was. It was Clark's warmth, kindness, humour, values—his quirkiness that filled out Superman.
Then a further understanding dawned on her when she remembered how Clark had shifted into Superman when she was in his arms flying over the Bluffs. She was groggy at the time, barely coming out from under the influence of the drug, but she knew that she was in Superman's arms. As she drifted back into consciousness, on the Kents' couch, she wondered where Superman had flown off to. It was at that moment that she startled herself awake thinking that she didn't want Superman to come back. She wanted Clark. She would not be heart broken if Superman never came back, but she would be devastated without Clark. She loved Clark Kent. That was the superman she wanted.
And now, he didn't want her.
What did he mean that he wasn't the man that she wanted? Of course he was. What kind of game was he playing with her? She fluffed the pillow and then hugged it, vowing to it that she would show Clark Kent that he was the man she wanted.
Up until five years ago, Doc Newton's office had been in the front of his house on States Avenue which ran off Main Street in Smallville. Clark used to like accompanying one or both of his parents when they had an appointment because he would receive a gift from the doctor's treasure drawer for waiting so patiently. Sometimes, Doc Newton had let him explore his examining room and had answered Clark's insightful questions seriously. When Clark was a teen-ager, Doc Newton had talked to him about going to medical school, but Clark, by that time, was more interested in unraveling the mysteries of politics and history rather than the mysteries of science. And Jed Brinkman had enticed him with a part-time job at the Smallville Post.
Now, Clark was going back to Doc Newton's home. The office had been remodeled and was now part of the living quarters. Doc Newton, reading a copy of the Daily Planet, was waiting for him on the front porch. Evelyn, in her usual subtle fashion, was nowhere to be seen.
"Good paper you work for, Clark," he said as Clark bounded up the front steps.
"I'm proud to be part of it, Doc."
"I've read your work. It's good. I think you chose the right profession for yourself."
"Come on in, son, and we'll talk some more," the genial doctor said, leading Clark into the house. "I don't have an office anymore, but we can talk in the den." Clark had never been in the back part of the house, but the decor of the living quarters reminded him more of Evelyn than Bob. The rooms were brightly decorated in muted yellows and greens, the furniture light coloured to blend in with the summer-like ambiance. But once he stepped into Doc Newton's den, he noted the dramatic change. The furniture was darker in colour. The bookshelves were lined with books, old medical equipment, now more valuable for their age rather than their service. The paneled walls had the doctor's diplomas and certificates as well as pictures of the doctor with various townspeople on whom he had practiced over the decades. The centerpiece of the room was a large leather reclining chair sitting beside a table with a lamp on it. Doc Newton sat in the recliner pointing at another comfortable chair for Clark to sit in.
"Tell me, Clark, why have you come to see me in my retirement?"
"Well…" he hesitated, "I had a problem for the last week. It's better now…I remember, but Mom and Lois, you met Lois the other day at the pagoda, think that I need to undergo hypnosis to get at the root of the problem. I'm not sure it's going to help, and I didn't want to see anyone…"
"You're trying to tell me that you want me to hypnotize you."
"Yes, so I can remember what happened when I… after I… " he hesitated again. "Doc, this isn't easy to explain."
"Take your time, son. I'm retired, now, so I have all day." The two men chuckled. "Start by telling me what made you think that you needed hypnosis and outside help?"
"Well, Lois thinks its some kind of dissociative identity disorder. I was two very different people, although they were both me. They just didn't remember each other."
"That sounds too serious to bring to a retired country doctor, Clark. I've only done some reading about DID, but that was more for interest than anything else."
"First of all, you may be retired and you may have worked in the country, Doc , but you were always up-to-date and very open-minded…and I trust you."
"Thank you, Clark. I appreciate that. Now, tell me exactly what's been bothering you since you say that you are better."
This was a lot more difficult than Clark had expected. It was one thing to plan to tell Doc Newton what was going on, it was another to say it. He had actually never told anyone who he was. He got up from his seat and walked over to one of the piles of newspapers that were on a side table. He glanced at the Smallville Post's picture of Superman's triumphant return to Earth after he had destroyed Nightfall. It had been less than a week ago.
"For the last few days, I'd split into two people." Once again he hesitated. He looked at Doc Newton who was watching Clark, nodding his head in encouragement. "I split into two people: Clark Kent and Superman." Clark saw the doctor casually nod his head. "You're not surprised, are you?"
"No." Dr. Newton paused for a moment. "I always wondered what made you different, and when Superman appeared, it all made sense."
Clark smiled. He and his parents were right when they said they could trust Bob Newton. Clark continued his outline, "Neither one knew who the other was, but one, Clark Kent, watched Superman as he functioned. I don't think Superman watched Clark in the same way, or was aware of Clark in the same way. Meanwhile, although Clark watched Superman, he didn't know that they were the same person."
"Do you always talk about yourselves in the third person?"
"I've started to. I need to keep them separate in my own mind so I won't make a mistake. It's actually less confusing that way."
"Tell me when you realized that both personalities were one."
"When I saved Lois from the exploding van, I kept thinking what I would do if I were Superman, and whatever I thought, happened. And then when the van exploded and I was floating above the wreckage, I knew without a doubt who I was and the memories of the last week coalesced."
"So, why are you here? You're back to normal, aren't you?"
Clark lifted the paper and quickly skimmed the article. "Yes, but I don't remember how I did this," he said lifting the paper and why I have these recurring visions of the explosion. I'm beginning to think that they triggered the disassociation."
"So it sounds like you have everything together, except for some memory lapses."
"To a certain extent. I'm worried that if I don't understand the trigger and come to terms with it, that this will happen again and someone might be in danger. It almost happened a few days ago." Clark fiddled with his glasses, then removed them and pinched his nose. He sat his glasses back in place. "Superman appeared at a stand-off. Two kids had guns. Something triggered the change and when the police asked for help, Clark said that he couldn't help. He actually headed to a bystander to get an interview while he was wearing the suit. They were lucky. The police handled it well and the two kids were only wounded. But, I believe that if Superman had been himself, the boys wouldn't have gotten hurt at all. I don't want to be responsible for someone getting needlessly hurt." Clark leaned forward. "I need to keep Superman and Clark Kent separate, but I need to be conscious of what I'm doing."
"What do you think happened there?"
"I remember watching Superman talking to the police officer and staring at the flashing lights on top of the cars. Then, all of a sudden I was Clark. When the officer asked me to stop the two boys, I didn't think that I could. After all, I'm just a reporter. When the boys started firing, I ducked with everyone else."
"What do you think triggered the change in personality?
"I don't know. I think that's what we have to find out here."
"I understand," said Dr. Newton. He then explained the procedure to Clark.
Clark sat on the easy chair and listened to Bob Newton's relaxing voice lead him into darkness and then onto the courtyard in front of the Metropolis Observatory where he glanced around at the reporters and bystanders waiting for Superman's departure. He missed Lois's presence, knowing that he had not been totally honest with her, knowing that he had to speak to her when he returned, but also knowing that she would be angry because he had lied. Now, he had to fly toward Nightfall.
He felt himself lift up into the air, feeling the air wash past him as he reached up and sped out of the Earth's atmosphere into space. As he climbed higher, he felt the temperature drop against his skin.
"It's so quiet," he began. "I can see Nightfall directly in front of me. I still have to travel another fifteen minutes, but it looks so big already. I don't know if I can do this. No. I can't think like this. I have to think about what I'm doing. There. That's the spot that Dr. Daitch said was the stress point. I'll just keep aiming directly at it. Wait. I'll adjust my position ten degrees to my right. I'll hit it from this angle. This will work better.
"I'm positive that this will work. It has to. I have to get back to Lois. I have to tell her. It would be so much easier to go back to her just as Superman. She wouldn't have to know about Clark Kent. She's just beginning to have some respect for him as her partner. They're even getting to be more civil with each other. I wouldn't shatter her illusions about Superman. She doesn't have to know that about Clark. No. That won't work. I know better than that. She'll be angry when she finds out, but if last night was any indication of how she feels, maybe she'll forgive me, at least sometime in my lifespan.
"The rock. It's getting bigger, but not as menacing as it seemed. It looks rather inviting— as if it's calling me to bury myself inside of it. I'll barrel into the asteroid, break it apart and bury myself in the rubble. That way I wouldn't have to tell Lois, and she won't be mad at me. I just want to bury myself in the rock like an ostrich burying its head in the sand, like a caterpillar in a cocoon.
"There, in front of me, Nightfall is pulling me in towards it-somewhere warm. I'm going to pick up speed now. There. There's the point where I'll impact with the asteroid. This is the time when I find out if the strength that I have on Earth is the same in space. I'm going to move my arm into position and I concentrate once more on the point. There, I've hit it and as I penetrate the rock it begins to shatter all around me.
"I'm in my cocoon now, wrapped in this warm blanket. I hear a baby crying. I see its hands reaching up…I'm crying, but the hands aren't mine…they belong to a baby and when I reach out to touch the cocoon, it's hard and cold. I can't…can't push it open. I try. I try. I…I…can't…catch…my…breath…"
Bob Newton clapped his hands when he realized that Clark was gasping for breath. Clark sat on the edge of the seat.
Once Clark regained his normal breathing pattern, Dr. Newton brought him a cup of tea. Clark sipped slowly, feeling the tea inch down his throat. "That was so real. I was visualizing every small detail around me." He gasped. "Doc, that baby was me. Why did I see myself as a baby?"
"I don't know, Clark. Generally, DID is a result of a trauma. Maybe, this trauma happened to you as a baby before you came to Earth. Do you remember anything about the time you came to Earth?"
"No. My memories start here…when I was older." Clark placed the tea cup on the table beside him and stood up. He wandered aimlessly around Doc Newton's den. "Do you think that I could remember that far back and never be conscious of it?
"More likely that you've carried the image around and when the asteroid exploded, somehow the image came to the surface and you gave it meaning." Bob Newton picked up the tea cup and took it into the kitchen. When he returned, Clark was looking out the window. "Maybe we should stop for today…let what you saw sink in, maybe make some sense out of it."
"No. I need to know, and I don't have the luxury of doing this slowly. I have to get back to Metropolis and my job…jobs. And," he paused, "I need to know-now more than before."
Doc Newton took the mug from Clark's hand and placed it on the table. He told Clark to relax and hypnotized him again.
"There's an explosion. Bright lights. White. Red lights. All around me but I'm moving away from the light. Noise. What's that noise? It's like rocks hitting my cocoon. They'll break my cocoon. The crying. I hear myself crying again, and small hands and arms flailing in front of me.
"Lois? Lois? Where are you? It's dark in here now. It's me. It's Clark.
"Those people…who are they? She's holding me, stroking my head. It feels so good. I can smell her warmth. She kisses my head and draws me closer to the rhythmic beating of her heart. 'Kal-El', she says, 'Be safe, my son.' She hands me to him. He puts his hand on my forehead. 'May your life be blessed and long.' I feel the wetness from his face as he places it next to mine. They're putting me in my cocoon. I see them standing side by side watching me. She wipes her eyes with her hands and buries her face in his shoulder. He puts his arms around her and holds her. They are moving farther and farther away from me. No. Stop. Come back. Don't go.
"The explosion. The ball bursts. Tongues of colour lick my cocoon. And rocks pound at me over and over again. I want her to hold me.
"And then it is quiet. There is only darkness. No sound. Only my breathing…
"The explosion. Another one, but the colours surround me and touch me. The cocoon is gone. The crying is gone. The rocks attack me from all sides; they hit my head, my shoulders, my back. I feel them hit me, but I'm not hurt. I look around. The asteroid is gone. Small pieces of rocks float in the air around me, each moving in its own orbit.
"Once again, it is quiet. I see the Earth off to one side and I change direction, heading to Metropolis. Lois is waiting for me."
"So what you're saying, Clark," Martha said after Clark recounted his session with Doc Newton, "is that the trauma was caused not by abuse but by separation…you were separated from your parents."
"And that when you left me," Lois postulated, "you felt the same kind of separation from someone you loved along with the guilt of not telling me the complete truth about yourself."
"That's what Doc Newton and I figured out. The explosion of the asteroid took me back to a time before my conscious memory began. I had an image that I didn't know was planted there. I must have relived an explosion on Krypton. The two people I saw calling me Kal-El were my birth parents.
"Kal-El. Is that your Kryptonian name?" asked Lois.
"I guess so. It feels right."
"So what happened next?"
"My birth parents placed me in the space capsule. Then around me there was an explosion: lights and fragments hitting me-not touching or hurting, but the noise was frightening. The capsule became my cocoon from the explosion and from the rocks falling on me, but it also took me away from the warmth and comfort that my parents gave me and put me into a dark place. I was alone. No one answered my cries. And then all was quiet except for my own breathing and probably my own crying. I had been separated from my parents, my home, without ever knowing why.
"At the same time as that image and those memories had come back to me, I was dealing with another image-Lois." He no longer spoke directly to his parents. He looked at Lois. "I pictured you the way we were the night before I left. I was at odds with myself: I had not been fair to you by not telling you the complete truth. I wanted to be with you, but in order to do so, I'd either have to tell you the truth, which frightened me because of all the possible negative reactions you could have, or I'd have to sublimate Clark completely in order for you and Superman to continue as a couple."
"So that explains the disassociation?" asked Jonathan.
"That's what we think. My psyche wouldn't have to deal with the separation and with Lois when I came back if Clark Kent didn't know he was Superman. The separation of my two selves made having a guilt-free relationship with Lois easier."
"That it did," mumbled Lois, who was trying to understand how Clark could admit to everyone in the room that he wanted a relationship with her, and yet the previous night he had brushed her off and told her that he wasn't the man she wanted. She clenched her fists and bit back anything more sarcastic. Instead, she deflected her thoughts to something that had been puzzling her since she figured out that Clark was Superman. "All this psychological mumbo- jumbo makes sense, but why did you have a bump on your head when you came back from space?"
"Doc Newton and I talked about that and the only explanation we could come up with was that the farther away from the sun, the more vulnerable I was. We threw that idea around for a while and thought that something about that one particular rock, hitting me on the head, actually caused me to black out for a second and may have initiated the disassociation. But to be honest, neither of us was totally comfortable with that hypothesis and we're still working on it.
"Doc Newton also suggested, and I agree with him, that bright lights like the strobe lights on top of the police cars, could trigger the disassociation. It was reminiscent of the explosions of Krypton and Nightfall."
Martha put her arm around her son. "It's good to have you back. I'm glad Doc Newton could help." She kissed him on the cheek.
"Interestingly, he's known all along that I was different, and said he wasn't surprised when Superman made an appearance. He's kept a scrapbook of Superman sightings and a separate scrapbook of my articles from the Daily Planet. He started it with my articles in the Post."
"He knew your were destined for great things," Jonathan patted his son on the arm. "Now what?" he then asked.
"I guess we go back to Metropolis. I think Perry will want a follow up on the Tommy Garrison story," said Clark.
"Thank goodness, we could give him that. I think that he wasn't too happy with the two of us being away on this family emergency." Directing her energies to another problem, to another story, would enable her to be close to Clark, but she knew they had to talk.
Lois was tidying up what used to be Clark's work area in Martha's studio. She took a paintbrush and began listlessly dabbing at one of the empty canvasses that Martha had lying around, but the paint was burning her eyes and she had to move away. Walking to the door, she stepped outside, hoping that the fresh country air would take away the stinging.
Clark was with Jonathan to finish up a few odd jobs on the farm before he flew her back to Metropolis. Clark had already finished putting a fresh coat of paint on the barn, and he was on the tractor with Jonathan headed out to who knew where. What most farmers considered large undertakings, Clark would see as a small job. She wondered if he would plant next year's crops in order to avoid flying her back to Metropolis.
"Thank you for taking care of my son," Martha said. As she came up behind Lois, she put her hands on the young woman's shoulders. The stinging finally stopped as it turned into tears rolling down her cheek.
"Sorry, Martha," she said wiping away the tears on her cheeks. "The paint…" She waved her hand in the air as if that would explain why she was crying.
"He's being an idiot."
"Yes, he does that sometimes," Martha laughed. "What is it now?"
"Last night, he told me he couldn't be the man I wanted. How does he know who the man I want is? Who is he to make those decisions without me? He makes his decision and there's no discussion. Finished. End of story."
"What are you going to do about it?"
"Yes, you. If I remember correctly, Clark said that you were tenacious. When you get onto a story you persist until you've gotten everything you need. You don't leave any stone unturned. That, he said, was what made you such a brilliant journalist. Where are you now?"
"Wallowing." Lois sniffed, using her tissue once more. "And I don't like wallowers." She sniffed again.
"Then do something about it. Do you love him?"
Lois stood back. She didn't have to think about that for very long. She did love him. She'd been infatuated with Superman, and she'd begun to treasure her friendship with Clark. It was that friendship, she had realized over the past few days, that was more important than the infatuation. She knew that, but perhaps Clark did not. She looked back at Martha.
"Yes, I love him very much."
"Then tell him, and make him tell you that he loves you."
Martha hugged Lois who felt at that moment what it was like to be loved unconditionally. She hugged the older woman back and let the tears fall freely.
"Clark, you don't have to help with all these chores. They'll get done in their own time."
"It's okay, Dad. I still have some time before I need to be back in Metropolis. We don't have to be at the office until tomorrow morning."
"That's not the point."
"Oh! You figured it out."
"Yes. It wasn't too hard. I can tell when you're trying to avoid Lois." Jonathan chuckled. "What's happening between the two of you?"
"She's in love with Superman, and I don't think I can be the man she wants. I'm only Superman part of the time."
"Do you think she brought you here because she was worried about Superman?" Jonathan got on the tractor. "Come on, son. It's time you stopped thinking with your head and started thinking with your heart." Jonathan hoped his words would penetrate Clark's invulnerable, Kryptonian skin.
Clark jumped on the tractor. He had often taken Jonathan's advice, but this time he knew that his father didn't…couldn't understand. Even though he knew he was Superman, he also realized that Lois only loved that one perfect part of him-and if he continued to be with her, she would come to know the real Clark Kent and resent him. He was also afraid that he would resent her for being so blind-not being able to see who he really was. No. He wouldn't take his father's advice this time.
Lois's bag was already on the front porch. She was sitting on the swing waiting for Clark to come downstairs from his shower. For a moment, she remembered Clark walking into the shower a few nights ago, but she shoved that thought out of her mind. She couldn't let her yearning for him get in the way. She might love him, but…
"Are you ready?" he asked, walking up beside her.
"Not yet. I think we need to talk," she said.
"Now? Before we leave?" he quibbled. "We really need to get back."
"I think this talk is more important."
"Lois, it's getting late." He looked at his watch and tapped his foot on the ground.
"Stop procrastinating. I'm not leaving until we talk." She stared at him, not letting him look away.
"I could just pick you up and fly you back." He stared back, trying to show her that he could be just as intransigent as she was. She pursed her lips and her nostrils flared. In response, he pouted, but one more look at her eyes told him that he would talk to her.
"Clark, follow me." She walked down the porch stairs.
"You take unfair advantage of me and it's my mother's fault because she told me I had to be polite to people so I let them get away with murder," he muttered as he quickly caught up to her. They walked down the path to the main road.
"I spent some time walking and exploring around here. It's actually very peaceful," she said, ignoring his grumbling. "The pond beside the shed over there is very pretty. There's even a nice shade tree to sit under and enjoy the view. Follow me."
Clark followed in silence. When they reached the tree, Lois sat down and motioned to Clark to join her. He found a stick and began drawing patterns in the hardened earth.
"What did you mean when you told me that you weren't the man that I wanted? How dare you presume to know what I want and don't want?"
"Which question do you want me to answer?"
"Don't be a smart ass, Kent. This is serious. This is my life that we're talking about here."
"So? What did you mean?"
"I made a mistake when I made love to you that first time."
The minute the words were out of his mouth, he knew he didn't mean what he had said. Making love to Lois hadn't been a mistake. It was the most incredible experience of his life. The timing was wrong. Not telling her that he was Clark was wrong. He was about to explain his slip of the tongue, when it suddenly occurred to him that if she believed what he said, then she would be so angry that she would let him go. Lois opened her mouth in shock, and then he saw the tears begin to form in her eyes. He repeated his words to himself and realized that he didn't want to hurt her. "No, No. I didn't mean it that way. It's not that I didn't want, hadn't wanted to since the moment I met you, it was just that I should never have made love to you as Superman…without you knowing that I was Clark. I knew that. I let myself get carried away by the moment. You were so open…I also understood that if you knew I was Clark you wouldn't give me the time of day…"
Lois put her hand on Clark's arm.
"And yet," he continued, "I couldn't bring myself to leave you. You calmed me and excited me at the same time."
She put her hand on his.
"I'm sorry, Lois." Feeling her touch him brought back too many memories that he had been trying so hard to push out of his mind. He took her hand off his and placed it on her lap. "After I came back from destroying Nightfall, I was no longer myself…Clark wasn't there anymore, so there was nothing keeping me away from you. But it was wrong."
"So you think that I want Superman," Lois said. She stared at her hand and leaned up against the tree, bringing her knees to her chest. She lowered her head and looked at him over her knees.
"Yes," he answered sounding unhappy.
"Do you love me?" she asked.
Unsure of what to say, Clark decided that the truth was the best at this time. "Yes."
"I love you, too," she said.
"There is no 'but'."
"Lois, you love Superman. The man who flies, who's faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive…just like the newscasters say. You love the man in the blue, red and yellow suit."
"One night," she said, sitting up straighter, staring him in the face, "Superman made love to me. It was incredible, but first, we spent a whole evening together. We talked about important things like our feelings, our fears, our hopes for the future; we joked and laughed, we were scared and we comforted each other. And then, because we were two people who cared for each other very much, who loved each other, we made love and it was the headiest experience I've ever had in my life. That Superman was a wonderful lover…"
"You see, that wasn't me. It was not Clark Kent. That's who you wanted me to be."
"Listen and don't interrupt. After Nightfall was destroyed and Superman came back to me, something was missing. Then I didn't know what it was. He was still a kind and considerate lover, but the connection, the warmth, the humour, the depth were gone. He was a shell. He still cared about people, about the world, but it was more mechanical than I had ever seen. When I tried to talk to him, he distracted me. It hadn't taken him long to learn what he needed to do to turn me on, and he used it to distract me from learning about him. Now, I know that there was nothing to learn. Superman was like a TV star. His character developed as time went on because of the way the writers developed him and the way the actor put himself into the role. Clark Kent is the writer and the actor."
"Let me finish. When I realized that Clark Kent was Superman, I knew that I had to put the two of you together or I'd be left with no one. Once I got back here to the farm and I was waiting for you, I realized that if we couldn't put you back together again and if Superman was lost, it would be a shame for the world; he has so much to offer. But if Clark Kent was lost, then my world would be totally shattered, because Clark has so much to offer me."
"Lois…" Clark got up and raised Lois to her feet. He cupped her face with his hands and stepped closer.
"I love you, Clark, not Superman," she whispered. "I don't want Superman, but I accept him as part of you."
"You are so incredible," he uttered, "I love you so much."
He leaned in to her lips and gently kissed her. She wove her fingers through his hair and pulled him closer to her. They deepened the kiss, oblivious to the world carrying on around them.
Martha and Jonathan stood arm-in-arm as Superman took off into the air with Lois in his arms.
"All's well with the world, now, Martha," Jonathan said, pulling his wife in closer.
One more disclaimer before I finish. My one trepidation about writing this story was that Dissociative Identity Disorder is real. I did not intend to belittle the disorder, anyone who has it, or anyone who treats those who have it. It cannot be treated lightly nor as easily as it was in this fanfic. In this case, because Clark Kent is Kryptonian and fictional, I was able to try a "do-it- yourself kind of remedy". Do not try this at home. Thank you to Barb P on Zoom's msb for letting me know that I was on the right track in dealing with the disorder. gerry