By Stopquitdont <firstname.lastname@example.org> <email@example.com>
Submitted: April 2002
Summary: Clark is introduced to a new form of Kryptonite in rewrite of the episode "This Old Gang of Mine." Will he and Lois get through the hard times that follow?
I've read some really great TOGOM rewrites. None have ever taken this route. This is my take on that popular episode. This story would have been really bad if it hadn't been for my beta-reader, Jenni. Thanks a million.
Major change here is that I have already introduced Bernie Klein. I know it's way early, but his presence is required. I think it will explain itself. Other than that, it's easy to follow.
All disclaimers apply. None of the characters are mine. I just think they make for good entertainment. Please let me know how bad this is.
Clark had never been able to stand back while Lois was in trouble. Tonight was no different. He stepped forward and pushed the man's hand off Lois' arm.
"Who are you? Her bodyguard?" The man regarded Clark as no more than an inconvenience. He reached out for Lois' arm again. "Come on, doll. You'll be a wonderful distraction."
Clark moved himself firmly between the man and Lois. "I said, leave her alone." He shoved at the man's chest, pushing him back several steps.
The man was stunned that this idiot was brave enough to stand up to him. Before he could step back in to challenge him once more, one of his partners in crime drew his gun.
Lois' eyes widened as she caught the flash of the barrel. "Clark!"
He instantly saw what she was yelling about and turned to cover her body with his own. Things seemed to slow down to a crawl. The gun flashed a second before the bullet ripped through the flesh of Clark's back. His spine stiffened as the pain took him by surprise. He had actually been shot.
"You idiot! What did you do that for?" the voice of the genetic copy of Al Capone asked. Dr. Hamilton had seen his project of regenerating gangsters in an effort to change their behavioral patterns as a worthwhile cause. Instead he had created monsters, exactly like they had been the first time they were alive.
The copy of Clyde Barrow simply shrugged. "I didn't like that guy."
"Like him or not, you didn't have to shoot him. The cops will be all over us."
As if to answer his statement, the sounds of sirens pierced the silence that had fallen on the club. John Dillinger, the man that had been groping Lois, looked up at his leader.
"What do we do about the stiff?"
"Leave him. We need to scram." Capone, Dillinger, Bonnie and Clyde quickly disappeared through the door.
Lois was knocked onto her backside when Clark fell. She crawled on her knees to his side. His face was turned so his cheek was lying on the cold, concrete floor. His eyes held a light of shock and sheer pain.
"Clark? Clark, answer me." She reached to lift his head into her lap.
"Lois, no! Don't move me." He struggled to breathe through his pain.
Lois pushed his hair back out of his face. Clark was sweating and his jacket was becoming soaked with blood. "What can I do?"
He couldn't answer her. He was in agonizing pain. His mind was a whirl. How had the bullet pierced his skin? How was he going to get help? Finally, he managed a choked response.
"Just… stay close."
"I will. I will." She looked up with pleading eyes. "Someone call an ambulance." As her eyes fell back to her partner, her tears began to spill down her cheeks. Clark had covered her body with his. He kept her from being the one lying on this floor. She noticed his eyes were starting to droop. "Clark, please don't close your eyes. Stay with me."
"It… hurts… so much." He'd never felt anything like this before. Suddenly, he had a new respect for victims of anything that involved this much pain.
"I know." Lois continued to rub his face. "Talk to me."
"Are you… okay?"
She half laughed through her tears. Leave it to Clark to be more worried about her than himself. "I knew you were a boy scout."
"I couldn't let him…" His voice trailed off as he coughed.
"Shh. It's okay. I know. I know." She kept stroking his forehead and talking to him softly to keep him awake.
Clark's head was spinning. The reason the bullet penetrated his skin had to be Kryptonite, although most of the pain seemed to be coming from the fact that he was shot and not the usual effect the poison rock seemed to cause. Worst yet, he couldn't feel his legs. He needed help. To get it, he would have to reveal his secret to Lois. He hated to hurt her in this way, but it appeared to be inevitable.
The paramedics were there. Lois reluctantly moved back for them to tend to Clark. He was put onto a backboard with his head restrained, then loaded onto a stretcher.
"Lois?" Clark couldn't see around him and the fear gripped him tightly. Fear was a new sensation for him. "Lois?"
"I'm here." She took one of Clark's hands in hers.
"I'm sorry, Miss. You have to stand back so we can take him to the hospital," one of the medics told her.
"I'm going with him," she threw back.
"Sorry. Just family."
Clark was terrified now. He spoke before he thought about it. "She's my girlfriend."
Lois glanced down at Clark, immediately understanding he didn't want to go alone. "Yes. I'm the only family he has in Metropolis."
"Okay. But you have to ride in front." Lois nodded and held Clark's hand until they got to the back of the ambulance. She slowly released him and crawled into the front as he was loaded in the back.
The ride to the hospital seemed to last for hours though it was only ten minutes. Thoughts of Clark being shot and falling played over and over in her mind. She could see him, lying on the floor and perfectly still. Her heart wrenched at the thought of just how close she had come to losing him.
Finally, they arrived, and Clark was rushed into the trauma area. Lois was forced to watch through the window as the doctors worked on her partner. She was numb. Her mind couldn't yet process what had actually happened. Her partner was fighting for his life… because of her.
Clark's eyes searched the room as his mind ran through the events that had taken place. Doctors were rushing around him. The fear gripped him as various wires and tubes were connected to him. The pain was almost unbearable now. Closing his eyes, he knew he had to have more help than these people could give him.
A moment later, the doctor came out, called Lois over, and informed her that Clark was refusing further treatment until he could talk to her alone.
She came to his side and took his hand. "Clark, what are you doing? You have to let them take care of you. You've lost a lot of blood."
He squeezed her hand as he steeled his nerves to tell her what he had to. "Lois, I need you to listen to me." He waited until she met his gaze. "I need you to call Dr. Klein."
"Bernie Klein? Why?"
"He's the only one that can help me."
"But he's a scientist at Star Labs."
"Yes. He also studies Superman's biology." Clark squeezed her hand again. "He's my doctor, Lois."
She took in his words, noticing for the first time that he wasn't wearing his glasses. He couldn't possibly be saying what she thought he was saying. Slowly she reached down and smoothed his hair back on his head. "Oh God!"
"I am so sorry you had to find out this way. I wanted to be the one to tell you. But Lois, I need your help now."
Lois was stunned. Clark had just told her that he was Superman. How could that be? All the time they'd worked together. The things she'd told both of them came back to her in a flash. The anger was rising; the betrayal stung. How could he have done this to her?
Clark squeezed her hand again. She looked down into two very pain filled eyes. All she could see was Clark falling to floor over and over. In an instant her surprise and anger vanished as the fear for her best friend took over. "Don't worry. I'll get him here." She squeezed his hand for reassurance, then disappeared out the door.
Twenty minutes later, Dr. Klein was assessing Clark's condition. He had been shocked to find out the mild mannered reporter was the resident superhero, but he buried his surprise and got to work. They told the staff at the hospital that Klein was an old family doctor and the only one Clark trusted to treat him. Clark's secret was hidden fairly easily because he was totally vulnerable.
Lois paced back and forth in the small waiting room, her thoughts reeling. Her partner and best friend was Superman. How had she not seen that? Slowly, her mind drifted back to the events in the club. Clark, aka Superman, had been shot. That meant the bullet must have been laced with Kryptonite. But how? How would the gangsters have found out to do that? Worst still was the fact that the superhero was out of commission. And how long was anybody's guess at this moment.
Lois stopped as she watched yet another nurse go into the trauma area where they were working on Clark. A wave of guilt ran through her with such force it almost stole her breath away. Clark took that bullet to keep her from being shot. He had actually been *shot*. Because of her Superman was now just as vulnerable as anyone else. What had she done?
"Please let him be okay," she whispered to herself. She dropped her gaze to the floor as another wave of guilt hit her. It had been her idea to go to the club. And if Clark died, it would be her fault.
Tears rolled down her cheeks as that realization hit her. Could she really lose Clark? Yes. He had been shot and was bleeding. When she left the room, he was being put on oxygen because his breathing was shallow and his color was fading. Clark was very much in danger of losing his life. Lois could lose her best friend and Metropolis could lose its superhero.
She turned away from the hall and her gaze fell on the telephone hanging on the wall. She needed to pull herself together long enough to call Perry and Clark's parents. They would be worried sick, but they needed to know.
Lois' hand trembled as she lifted the receiver and dialed the number. After three rings, a sleepy sounding Martha answered.
"Martha… it's Lois." Her voice cracked before she could finish.
"Lois? What's wrong?" Martha sat up straight in her bed.
"Clark?" What could possibly be wrong with Clark? Had he been exposed to Kryptonite? But Lois didn't know who he was. "What about him?"
"He's been shot. We're at Metropolis General Hospital."
Martha gasped at Lois' words. How could Clark have been shot? Something was so wrong here. If he was at the hospital, then this was serious. The tone in Lois' voice told her the situation was indeed a cause for concern. Maybe now wasn't the right time to question her. There would be time for answers later. "We'll be on the next flight."
"And Lois… thank you."
Lois could only nod as more tears fell down her cheeks. She hung up the phone to call Perry, but he entered the waiting room before she could.
"Lois, honey, how are you?"
"Oh Perry," Lois sobbed as she fell into his open arms. "Clark's been shot."
"I know. I heard it on the scanner." He rubbed her back and let her cry. When she was done, he gave her his handkerchief. "Now, sit down and tell me what happened."
Lois let him lead her to a chair. She wiped her face, then looked back down the hall. "It's my fault."
"No, Lois. It's nobody's fault."
"Yes it is, Perry. He was shot protecting me. Dillinger was trying to get me to go with him. Clark tried to stop him, and Clyde shot him in the back. He took the bullet to keep it from hitting me." Lois lowered her gaze back to her hands. "He's lost so much blood," she whispered.
"Clark's a strong fellow. He's gonna be just fine. You'll see."
If only Perry knew just what price Clark had paid tonight. "I hope so, Perry. Did they get those monsters?"
"Yeah. The police picked them up a few blocks from the club. When they disarmed the crooks, they noticed the bullets were glowing. Lois, honey, it looks like the bullets were dipped in Kryptonite."
"Kryptonite?" Lois tried to act as if she were surprised. "They must have done that as precaution, against any run ins with Superman. But how'd they get it?"
"Not sure. I've got Jimmy looking into it though."
Lois nodded sadly at Perry again. So much had happened; so much was going to happen. It occurred to her that Clark would need help to protect his secret. If he hadn't told her, then he surely didn't want the world to find out. Which, when you thought about it, was probably a good thing. Clark would never have any kind of private life if the world knew about his alter ego; his family and friends could be used as leverage to make him do the bidding of every crook in town. Clark did have very good reasons for keeping his secret.
A half hour later and after some coaxing from Perry to have some coffee, Lois finally saw Dr. Klein coming toward the waiting room. She sat her cup down and met him at the door.
"How is he?"
Bernie's eyes held a clear worry in them. He shook his head slowly. "He's lost a lot of blood. We have to operate. He's fading fast."
Lois covered her mouth as his words hit home, her heart skipping a beat. "Will he… make it?"
"It's too early to tell. We will do everything in our power to help him. Would you like to see him before we take him to surgery?"
"Yes." She shot an apologetic look at Perry as she followed Bernie to Clark's room.
Lois nodded as she stepped into the room. Her pulse thundered in her ears; her mind going numb again. Until just now she didn't realize she had still been angry about Clark betraying her. But now… now all she could see was his life ending… and hers becoming that lonely, desolate place it had been before him. Had he really come to mean that much to her?
Her tears fell even harder as she saw all the wires and tubes running from her partner's body. A nurse was busily taking his vitals. Lois reached out and took Clark's hand in hers. It was cold, and he felt so lifeless.
"I'm so sorry," she whispered and brought his hand to her lips to press a light kiss on it.
Bernie sent the nurse out so he could talk to Lois. "Lois, I haven't operated in years. So I've asked for one of Metro General's best surgeons. Clark's completely vulnerable, so no one will notice anything. But this may take several hours. If the bullet's near his spine, it could be extremely risky. There is a good chance that he may not have the use of his legs.. if he pulls through."
Lois stared up at the doctor. "But he's… Superman."
"Right now he's just an ordinary man. I will do everything I can. He banked a little blood a short time ago. He and I have been working on a defense against Kryptonite exposure. We've given him those two units, but we have to stop the bleeding or…"
"I understand." Lois leaned over and kissed Clark's forehead. "Please. Help him."
"I will, Lois." Bernie gave her a small smile and motioned for the nurse through the window. Lois watched as Clark was wheeled down the hall. She prayed that it wouldn't be the last time she saw him. Slowly, she managed to make it back to the waiting area. All the shock, the surprise, and the anger had caught up with her. She was frozen; her mind was blank. She moved on autopilot.
Perry finally convinced Lois to go home somewhere near dawn. She forced herself to eat, shower, and change her clothes. Knowing she would not be able to sleep until she knew how Clark was, she went back to the hospital.
The sterile environment only furthered her state of abstraction. Lois' mind was full of thoughts, yet strangely empty all at the same time. She couldn't form a coherent thought to save her life. All she knew was that her partner and friend may be dying in the operating room.
Nearing lunchtime, Dr. Klein emerged from the operating room. Lois held her breath as he approached her.
"He pulled through. We managed to stop the bleeding fairly quickly. I'm hoping whatever makes him super will help him regenerate his supply naturally. I'm not entirely sure he could accept a transfusion from someone who wasn't Kryptonian. As I said, nothing was out of the ordinary. His body is amazingly like ours. Without his powers, there seems to be no difference."
Lois blew out an exasperated breath. If she didn't stop him, Bernie would be off and running. "Dr. Klein!"
"Right. The bullet was lodged in a vertebra in the small of his back. By some miracle it missed his spinal cord and most of his nerves."
Lois noticed the look on his face, knowing he had bad news to tell her. "But?"
"But… the Kryptonite casing on the bullet is one I've never seen before. We won't know what kind of damage it's done until he wakes up. It was in his system for a long time, and that could be a problem."
"What kind of problem?"
"Besides being rendered invulnerable, before he went to the operating room, Clark did not have any sensation in his legs."
"It's possible the poison has attacked his nervous system. I'm just hoping the damage is localized."
Lois felt her chest tighten at his implication. "Are you saying that if it travels through his system…?"
Bernie nodded sadly. "It could very possibly render him totally paralyzed. Or worse… it could shut down his organs."
"It could… kill him?"
"I'm afraid so."
Lois dropped her head and tried to catch her breath. She fell back into a chair as she tried to convince herself that this was not happening. "How long until we know?"
"We'll know more in about forty-eight hours. The swelling will be down some. I hope he'll be awake some time tonight or tomorrow. If the poison becomes a problem, we'll need to run interference to explain it."
Lois nodded, understanding what he meant, then stood up again. "I want to see him."
Lois followed Dr. Klein down the hall and into the intensive care unit. Clark had been moved to one of the small rooms so he could be monitored. He was so pale, and his hand was bruised where the IV had been put in. An oxygen mask covered his face. A few other tubes ran from various places on his body and the machines hummed to let the doctor know he was alive.
His hand felt a little warmer in Lois' this time. She held it tight, as if to will him to live through the contact. She pulled the guest chair close to the bed and sat down, running her hand through Clark's hair as yet more tears spilled from her eyes.
"Clark, I can't tell you how sorry I am. I never meant for you to get hurt." She lifted his hand to her lips, then pressed it to the side of her face. "You saved my life. How will I ever be able to tell you how much that means to me?" Lois ran her fingers over the needle where it was inserted into the back of Clark's hand. "Don't leave me, Clark," she whispered.
Dr. Klein allowed Lois to stay with Clark. She sat next to his bed, holding his hand, and talking to him softly. She felt the sound of her voice would help him just as much as anything else could.
"Clark, you hold on. You can't leave now. We have too much to do. We haven't won that Pulitzer yet." She smiled sadly and looked off into the empty space of the room. "You know it's funny. I always thought that winning the Pulitzer would finally let the world know that Lois Lane was a force to be reckoned with. I have lived to achieve that goal." She reached over to smooth Clark's hair back from his face. "Now I want us to get it together. So you need to come on back. Maybe this story will be the one."
The minutes clicked by and slowly Lois began to talk about them. "Clark, I never had a real friend till you. You're always there. The good, the bad, none of it fazes you. You stick with me through every crazy idea and stunt. Why is that?" But she thought she knew the answer to that one. Clark cared more for her than he admitted. She had felt the vibes from Superman. Knowing he and Clark were one and the same certainly explained a lot.
Various scenes from the past year ran through her head: her throwing herself at the hero and ignoring the man. Her anger was replaced with embarrassment. How could she have been so stupid? How could she have not noticed?
"I guess I saw what you wanted me to see, huh? I was so angry at you. I couldn't believe you hadn't told me." She half laughed. "Why would you? God, I must have hurt you so badly. You must think I'm so shallow. I think I'm shallow; running around swooning over you and not even knowing it. Some reporter I am."
Lois pulled his hand to her cheek. "Why do you put up with me?" She closed her eyes, trying to stop the tears that threatened to spill over again. She prayed she'd get the chance to ask him that question.
She had been there for a long time. Dr. Klein came in often to check on Clark. He would smile sadly, knowing Lois talked to reassure herself more than she did for Clark. He prayed the young couple would get the chance to speak to each other again.
Martha and Jonathan found Lois with her head lying on the bed next to Clark. Her hand was still holding his as she slept. They stood in silence as they saw the tubes and wires that ran from various parts of their son's body. Clark had never been sick and seeing him like this was almost too much of a shock. Martha took a deep breath and leaned in to wake Lois to get some answers to the many questions rolling around in her head.
"Lois? Honey, wake up." Martha rubbed Lois' shoulders as she slowly roused. The older woman gave her a small smile. "Come on. Let's get some coffee."
Lois allowed Martha and Jonathan to lead her down the hall to the small waiting room. She sat next to Martha as Jonathan brought her a cup of coffee.
"Thank you," she told him.
"Lois, you look wiped out. Why don't you go home and get some sleep? You've probably been here since you called us."
Lois turned to Martha. "No! I want to stay until he wakes up."
Martha took a deep breath. "Okay, honey." The older woman took one of Lois' hands. "Why don't you tell us what happened."
"We went to a club on an assignment undercover. Dillinger was hitting on me and Clark tried to stop him. Another one of the gangsters shot him. Clark stepped between me and the bullet. He was shot protecting me. It was my fault."
"No," Martha told her as she squeezed her hand. "It was not your fault. But…" She searched for the right words. She still didn't know how much Lois knew about Clark. Before she could continue, Lois was speaking again.
"How can you not blame me? Clark may die because of me."
Jonathan exchanged a look with his wife. Clark really was in serious trouble. "Lois, we're not exactly sure how to say this."
Lois looked up at Jonathan. She could almost read his thoughts. Their son was Superman. He wasn't supposed to be able to be shot. "I know who he is. The bullet had been dipped in Kryptonite."
Martha couldn't stop the gasp that escaped from her. Fear for her son's life gripped her like a vice. "You know?"
Lois nodded. "He told me so I could get Dr. Klein here."
"Dr. Klein's working on him? What does he say? Will Clark survive?"
"Martha, calm down," Jonathan spoke up. "Let Lois explain."
"Bernie said he's never seen this type of Kryptonite before. The bullet was lodged in a vertebra in his back, and he thinks the poison may have invaded his nervous system. If it has," she gasped through fresh tears, "he may die."
The older couple turned white as ghosts as the seriousness of their son's injuries hit them. They had come to take his invulnerability for granted. Some criminal had been able to find the chink in that impenetrable armor. Now they could lose the greatest gift fate had ever blessed them with.
Lois took a sobering breath. "I've been trying to make sense of all this. Why this had to happen; why I felt I had to go to that club. Clark is here because of another of my stupid impulses."
"Lois, dearest Lois. Don't you know Clark would gladly trade his life for you?" Lois looked up into Jonathan's eyes, then lost her resolve. He pulled her into his arms to hold her while she cried.
After several long minutes, Martha and Jonathan managed to calm Lois.
"Honey, you've got to hold it together… for Clark."
Lois nodded and wiped her face. "I want you both to know that I would never betray Clark's trust. I won't tell anyone who he is."
"We never doubted that," Martha told her. "But that does bring up a lot of issues."
"I've thought about that, too. We have to come up with an explanation for Superman's disappearance for a while. Hopefully, he'll recover quickly."
The older couple sat silently as they awaited word if their boy would live or die. A short time later, they reluctantly allowed Lois to return to his side. They felt she needed to be close to him to keep herself together.
Pain. It was everywhere. It threatened to send him back into the blackness he'd been in. There he didn't feel anything. But something was calling to him. It wasn't a voice. It was a feeling. A feeling of being safe. The tiny thread attached him to the world. He had to know what it was.
Slowly, he became more aware of himself. He could feel a warmth wrapped around his hand. Instantly, he knew that was the thread. That was the feeling. It washed through his body, making him safe and not so lonely. He squeezed his hand reflexively. Yes. It was there. He squeezed again. He had to see what this was. Very gingerly, he opened his eyes.
Lois felt Clark squeeze her hand and she lifted her head as his eyes fluttered open. This time it was tears of relief that fell down her face.
"Hi." She smiled and pushed his hair back off his head. "I am so glad to see those big brown eyes."
'Lois!' his mind screamed. She was the most beautiful sight he'd ever seen. She was here with him. She was the reason he felt safe. She was alive and holding his hand. He strained to hear her words. He blinked to let her know he understood.
"I need to get Dr. Klein. I'll be right back." He didn't want her to leave, but he nodded slightly as she reluctantly let his hand go.
Fifteen minutes later, Bernie came out of his room to speak to Lois and Clark's parents.
"He's awake and aware of what's going on. He says he's in a lot of pain. The pain medication should help since he's vulnerable. The swelling at the site of the wound appears to be going down."
"What about nerve damage? Is the poison affecting his organs?" Lois held her breath as they waited for the answer.
"It appears the only damage was at the site of the wound itself. A little of the poison attacked the nerves and tendons there. Now why that is I don't know."
"Clark is paralyzed from the waist down."
Lois felt her world fall apart. Her mind whirled. Clark was paralyzed. That meant so was Superman. What would he do? What would she do? "How long will he be this way? Won't he heal quickly? He's Superman." She already knew the answers before Bernie said the words.
"Lois, this whole thing has been one unexplained event after another. I cannot answer those questions. He may heal tomorrow or he could be paralyzed… permanently."
She turned to face his parents. The shock was clear on their faces. "I am so sorry."
"No, Lois. Clark's alive. You're alive. Somehow I think that was his intention."
Lois shook her head at the older man. How could they be so calm about this? Their son couldn't walk because of her. Dr. Klein's voice broke her thoughts.
"I intend to start studying this stuff immediately. I won't rest until this can be explained and reversed. I don't know why or how it's affected him this way, but I will find out."
"Thank you, Dr. Klein. We have every faith that you can help our boy," Martha told him. She turned and watched a defeated Lois enter Clark's room again.
Lois came back to Clark's side. "Clark?"
"Hey." He reached out for her hand. Once she'd taken his, he smiled up at her. "How are you?"
"Shouldn't I be asking you that?"
"I feel like I've been shot," he told her with a slight laugh. Instead of laughing with him, Lois started to cry. "Hey… don't cry. I'm okay."
"No you're not."
"I am. Bernie says the poison is localized. All my organs will be okay."
"Clark, you're vulnerable and you can't walk."
"Lois, look at me." When she raised her eyes to meet his, he continued. "This was not your fault."
"It was. I should be the one…"
"The one what? The one who got shot? Lois, you know I couldn't have stood back and watched you get killed."
"Why? Why did you step between me and that bullet?"
"I just told you."
"But you did it because you thought you couldn't get hurt. Only you did. And now you can't walk."
"I would have taken that bullet even if I was just an ordinary man. You have to know that. My invulnerability never crossed my mind. I *had* to protect you. You're alive. For that I would gladly trade my legs, my arms, my life," he finished in a whisper. Lois held his intense gaze as his words sank in. She could easily see that he meant every word he said. Since the moment she realized just how badly Clark had been hurt, Lois had been reassessing her relationship with him. The time she sat by his bed talking to him the night before had forced her to face her feelings for her partner. Now as she stood, looking down into his beautiful brown eyes, she knew he meant more to her than any other person alive. Clark was her partner and her *best* friend. He was also so much more.
She reached out to smooth his hair back from his face. "I won't let you… trade your life."
He raised her hand in his to his lips. "Stop blaming yourself. If I had it to do over again, I would… even if I knew they had Kryptonite." Clark conveyed his feelings to her through his impassioned gaze. He meant what he said. She shouldn't blame herself for anything. His intention was to keep her alive. He had done that. That she was standing here with him was worth any price he'd have to pay.
Lois was momentarily light headed as she felt the intensity of Clark's feelings for her. He meant what he said. "I know," she whispered. "Is it okay if I give you a hug?"
"I think I'd like that," he answered with a smile.
Lois leaned over to hug him lightly. "How will I ever be able to thank you… for my life?" she whispered next to his ear. She closed her eyes as a small voice in the back of her mind told her that Clark had not yet realized just what kind of price he'd paid to save her life. Now that he had, she fully intended to be there for him. A gift so precious could never go to waste.
Clark cupped her cheek as she leaned back to look at him. "Lois, having you alive and here with me is enough," he told her.
Lois covered his hand on her face with her own. "I'll be here… Always." She smiled and stood up. "Guess who else is here?" She opened the door and motioned for someone in the hall.
"Mom! Dad!" Clark smiled as his parents entered and came to his side.
"Honey, we are so glad you're awake," his mom told him as she leaned to kiss him.
"Hey, I'm okay." He let his mom hold his hand as his eyes searched the room for Lois. "Lois?"
"Yeah?" She eased around to the other side of the bed and took his other hand. "I'm here."
"Would you guys please tell her that she's not to blame for this?"
"We have, son. She just needs some time to come to grips with this. Her best friend nearly died to save her life. Let her sort through this."
"Okay, Mom." He turned to smile up at Lois. "I'm not sorry I did it."
New tears welled in her eyes as she smiled back at him and squeezed his hand tighter. "You should rest."
"Lois is right. Rest so you can heal."
"Only if you'll take her home so she can rest."
"No. I want to stay with you."
"Lois, you look wiped out. You probably haven't left since I got here. Please go get some sleep and something to eat. It'll make me feel better."
"Okay, but I'm going to your place with your folks."
"Sure." He raised her hand and kissed it again.
She leaned in to kiss his forehead. "I'll be back this afternoon."
"Make her take it easy for a while," Clark told his mom.
"We will. Now you rest." Martha kissed his cheek and reached out for Lois. Once Jonathan had said his good-byes, he joined the ladies. Clark's eyes fluttered shut as the door closed behind the small group.
Lois didn't have much trouble sleeping. She curled up on Clark's sofa with one of the pillows from his bed. It was early evening before she woke. After a trip to the restroom, she found a cup of coffee and the Kents on the balcony.
Martha looked up at the young woman as she came through the door. "Hi. Are you feeling better?"
"Yes. Thank you both… for letting me come with you."
Jonathan chuckled softly at her. "Lois, you are welcome with us any time."
"That's right, honey. You're family."
Lois smiled up at the older couple. "Now I know why Clark turned out the way he did and why he loves you so much."
"Ahh… well, we do our best." Jonathan rose and kissed Lois' head. "I'm going out to grab a few things at the store. You ladies enjoy your coffee."
Martha smiled over at Lois. "Do you feel better about things?"
"I won't lie, Martha. I feel horrible about Clark. It hurts to know that he can't use his legs because he stopped a bullet from hitting me."
"I know it hurts. You just shouldn't let it turn into guilt, then let that guilt take you over." Martha reached over to take Lois' hand. "Clark will need us all to be strong now. He has always depended on his strength. This is going to be difficult on him. He may say he's fine, but it'll be hard for him."
"I know. I'll do everything I can for him, Martha. You have to know that."
"I do. And what about him being Superman? Are you okay with that?"
"Martha, I was so angry when he told me. Even with him lying there, bleeding to death, all I could think about was how hurt and betrayed I felt. But I've had a lot of time to think about things. Things can change so fast. In one split second, Clark's whole world was turned upside down. How can I hold anything against him when he sacrificed so much for me?" Lois turned to look out in the distance. "Somewhere in the middle of all that thinking, I was forced to face my feelings for Clark."
"And that would be… because you found out he was Superman?"
"No. My feelings for him have nothing to do with Superman. I know that's why Clark kept his secret from me for so long. I gushed over the superhero and ignored the man. I hurt Clark so much." Lois met Martha's gaze. "He's a really special man. After everything I've done to him, he told me he would gladly trade his life for me."
"He loves you, Lois." Martha told her that before she could stop herself.
"I know, Martha. I've known for a long time. I just couldn't bring myself to believe it. I guess I felt like I was unlovable. But Clark… he does love me… despite me fawning over Superman… despite me ignoring him… despite my moods… Clark loves me despite the fact that a bullet took the use of legs while he was saving me. He loves me despite the fact that he can't be what destiny blessed him to be," she finished in a whisper.
Martha wiped at the tears that were rolling down Lois' cheeks. "And he'll love you more tomorrow than he does today."
"I hope so. I'm really high maintenance." The ladies shared a laugh through their tears. "Martha, I love Clark, too. And I know all this will catch up with him. It's going to devastate him. I also know he's given me a special gift… my life. I don't intend to waste it. I will help him, even if he doesn't want me to."
"I know, honey."
Lois leaned over and hugged Martha. "I just wish I'd admitted how I feel about him a long time ago."
Martha held Lois at arm's length. "Better late than never."
"I just don't want him to think I feel this way because I found out about him."
"He won't. You'll be able to show him. He'll feel it."
"Clark's so lucky to have you."
"And you. Now, come on. Let's get dressed so we can go see that boy of ours."
"I like the sound of that." Lois smiled a little brighter as she rose and allowed Martha to lead her back inside.
An hour later Lois and Clark's parents entered his room to find him sitting on the side of his bed.
"Clark! What are you doing?" Martha rushed to his side.
"It's okay, Mom. The nurse left me here. They took some of the tubes out and said I should try to sit up for a while."
"You look like you're in a lot of pain."
"No, Dad. The pain medicine works." Clark turned a smile to Lois. "How are you? Did you rest?"
"I did. And your dad made me eat." Lois eased to his side and pulled a bouquet of yellow roses from behind her back. "Thought this room could use some color."
Clark smiled a little brighter as he took the flowers. "Thank you."
"You're welcome." Lois returned his smile and rubbed his arm.
Martha took the roses and found something to put them in. Jonathan was talking to Clark when Dr. Klein came in.
"Good to see you up, Clark."
"Good to be up."
Bernie moved to check his vitals and listen to his heart and breathing sounds. When he was finished, he stopped to look at him. "First of all, you are improving quicker than most normal men. The only drawback is the lack of your powers and the paralysis to your lower extremities. Clark, I can't even begin to tell you I know the reason for this. But I do assure you that I'm doing everything I can to find out the cause."
"I know you are."
"Do you think sunlight will help?" Martha asked.
"It certainly won't hurt. Although there seems to be something keeping him from healing completely."
Clark clapped Dr. Klein on his shoulder. "I'm sure you'll figure it out. Until then, I need to know what to expect as far as being… like this is concerned."
"Of course. I'll have the nurses talk to you. Now… you were very critical for a while. I want to look after you here for at least another day. After that, I'll transfer you to a room on the second floor. I want you to stay there for a few days so you and your family can learn how to properly look after you once you go home. Clark, I won't lie. You have a long road ahead of you."
"But he has the best support system in the world," Lois told Bernie as she squeezed Clark's arm. He turned a bright smile to her.
Dr. Klein watched the exchange and smiled back at them. "I have no doubt."
Clark had meant it when he told Lois he didn't regret taking a bullet for her. He would do it again tomorrow. But he'd been fooling himself to think he'd heal quickly because he was Superman. After a week with no improvement or sensations to his legs, he realized that the resident superhero may never grace Metropolis again. In a numb state of disbelief, Clark allowed Martha and Jonathan to take him back to Smallville to start his therapy.
Lois wrote an article to explain the disappearance of Superman. The public was told he had to settle some personal issues involved with his own people. The general theory always had been that he visited his own world at times, as it was also believed that he'd been on Earth only the short time he'd been in the public eye. Although not a total lie, it was felt this explanation was unavoidable. She would write a story now and then just to assure the public he would be back. She hoped that was really true.
Lois didn't let Clark see just how deep her feelings were for him before he left for Smallville. Neither was very happy about the separation, but they both knew it was for the best. Clark needed to adjust to so much right now and so did she. The last thing she wanted was to add more to an already difficult situation. Besides, she needed to find out who made the deadly poison that took away the use of her best friend's legs.
Flying home to Smallville in an airplane was the first tangible proof to Clark that things had changed greatly. By the time he was settled in the den of the small farmhouse, Clark's mood had went from hopeful to hopeless. The flight allowed him time to look at his situation. He really was disabled. In an instant his whole life had changed.
The cold realization of his current state only darkened Clark's mood. Although he didn't regret saving Lois' life, he was becoming deeply depressed because he was no longer the strong superhero he had come to take for granted. All of his life he had believed he wanted to be nothing more than an ordinary man with an ordinary life. His life was now far from either. Almost as far as it had been before he was shot. He'd had years to learn how to deal with his powers. Being paralyzed and living with a wheelchair was thrust upon him in an instant.
Clark's parents wasted no time in getting the house set up to accommodate his 'disability.' Because he had been hurt doing his job, his insurance through work was footing the bills for his care. But it had been Perry himself that had arranged for a construction crew to come install ramps to the doors of the house. He watched as Martha and Jonathan rearranged furniture and turned half the den into his bedroom. And far too quickly for him, he was forced to endure hours of therapy each morning. Though he wasn't in constant pain, he did tend to hurt more following his exercises. It soon became apparent that he was as much, if not more so, in emotional pain as he was physical.
That emotional pain worsened the fifth night home. He watched a news broadcast of a forest fire in Northern California. It had started two days before and had claimed its first victim. Now, on top of everything else he was dealing with, his guilt for not being able to help was almost too much for him to handle. Clark had never realized just how much being Superman meant to him before then.
Martha had to watch as the bright light that had once been in her son's eyes faded to a bleak shimmer. Clark had always cared way too much for people. Saving Lois had not been an option for him. And the pain she saw on his face when he heard about a potential situation Superman could have helped with, was just as devastating to her. She knew he had expected to recover quickly and when that failed to happen in a couple of weeks, he seemed to just give up.
Telling herself Clark was being taken care of in Smallville was one thing. Being happy about it was another. She resigned herself to be happy to just speak with him on the phone, but it did little to appease her quilt or her growing concern.
The first night she spoke to Clark he sounded fine, in good spirits. By the end of the week, he wouldn't even come to the phone. Martha would tell her he was in pain or that he was busy with learning some new task. Deep down Lois knew he wasn't dealing well with his situation.
Lois felt as if she was dying inside. The feeling was foreign at first. She realized that she missed Clark desperately. That feeling was totally new to her. She had never missed anyone before, not really. So she focused her energy on trying to find out who was behind the poisoning her partner received at the hands of the genetic copies of the gangsters. All leads went dead so she tried to content herself on other things.
After a couple of weeks, Lois felt she had gone as far as she could without her partner. She needed to see first hand how Clark was doing with his therapy. Martha would tell her he was good and that things were going great, but she could hear the concern and sadness in her voice. Perry put up very little objection when she went to him for time off.
Lois arrived at the Kent farm two weeks after her best friend went home with his parents. Martha met the cab and helped Lois take her bags inside.
"Lois, I am so glad to see you," Martha told her as she led Lois to the kitchen.
"Well, I just couldn't make it another day without knowing how he was," Lois told her.
"He's…" Martha started to tell her the same story, but opted for the truth instead. "…as good as can be expected. He has physical therapy three times a week. That leaves him in a lot of pain. Sometimes he sits and stares out the window. Mostly he just lies in bed."
Lois stood at the table and looked at Martha. "That bad?"
"I just think he needs the right influence." Martha smiled as she sat down at the table with Lois.
"Where's Clark now?"
"Therapy… in the den." As if he'd heard them, Clark yelled out in pain. Martha met Lois' frightened eyes. "He does that. The exertion puts a lot of pressure on his back and causes him a great deal of pain."
Lois turned to face the den as she fought to hold in the tears that were filling her eyes. For a brief moment she wondered if coming here had been such a good idea. She smiled sadly as Martha sat her glass of tea on the table. They waited in silence for Clark's therapy to end.
When the nurse left, Lois got up and slowly made her way to the den.
"Clark?" She spoke softly from her position at the door.
He turned to look at her. Joy replaced the pain she saw in his eyes. "Hi," he said with a smile.
Lois smiled back at him, any thoughts that her visit might have been a mistake vanishing from her mind at his look of pleasure. She walked over to where he was sitting on the side of the bed that had been set up for him to sleep on. Without a word, she leaned over and hugged him.
Clark stiffened when she first put her arms around him, but then he relaxed and gently hugged Lois in return. Finally, she pulled back and placed a kiss on his forehead.
"Wow. What was that for?"
Lois pushed his hair back off his head. "You looked like you needed it."
Clark took Lois' hand in one of his. "I did," he whispered.
"Come on. Let me help you get in your chair. It's nice out. I thought I'd take you for walk."
Clark had not been outside since he came home. He really had no desire to… until now. Suddenly, the idea of being out in the sunshine was very appealing. Or was it being with Lois? Either way, he wanted to go.
Lois pushed his chair close to the bed and let him lean on her to get settled. With one last smile, she took up the handles and they started toward the door. They were met by a very surprised Martha.
"Where are you two off to?"
"I'm taking our boy for a walk."
"You are?" Martha asked in even more surprise. "I haven't been able to get him to sit on the porch, let alone go for a walk."
Clark hung his head, suddenly embarrassed at how he'd been acting. "I'm sorry, Mom."
She kneeled in front of him and lifted his chin to see his eyes. "Clark, you have been through a great deal the past few weeks. I never expected you to adjust all at once. But I am happy to see you're trying to now."
"I think it's time to," he told her softly.
She smiled and stood to place a kiss on his cheek. "I think you're going to be surprised at how much things will change once you start trying to help yourself."
"Thanks for putting up with me."
"Oh, honey." Martha smiled again and hurried into the kitchen so that Clark couldn't see the emotions on her face. She had been extremely worried that he'd given up. He only helped himself enough to make it through the day. He had withdrawn completely and had almost stopped talking to them. She and Jonathan felt he had to deal with all the different things he was feeling, so they hadn't pushed him. But just that morning she saw the fire die from her son's eyes. He felt useless, and he was angry. She had prepared herself for the worst. The man she just walked away from was definitely not the same one she'd seen earlier. It was amazing how one small woman could change a man's outlook just by being in the same room.
Lois pushed Clark across the yard and down toward the pond at the edge of one of the fields. She stopped next to a large rock and sat down so they could look at the scenery.
After several minutes of silence, Lois turned to face Clark. "Judging by Martha's reactions, you haven't been doing all that well."
Clark turned back to look out across the water. "It's been hard. A lot harder than I ever thought it would be."
"Clark, of course it's hard. You can't walk. For a man that has been used to flying on a regular basis, this has to be torture."
"It's not so much physical as it is mental. I'm just so angry."
"Are you… angry at me?"
Clark turned horrified eyes to Lois. "What?! No! Lois, I have told you that I would step in front of that bullet again to save you. And I would. Never doubt that."
"But you said you were angry."
"And I am. I'm angry at the people that made that Kryptonite. I'm angry at those gangsters. Mostly I'm angry at myself."
"Why?" Clark took a deep breath and looked away again. Lois reached out and placed her hand on his arm. "Clark, it's okay to admit that you're angry because you can't walk. I'd be outraged." She kneeled in front of him so she could see his face. "It's even okay to be angry with me," she whispered.
When Clark finally lifted his eyes to look at Lois, they were filled with tears. "I'm not sorry I did it. And I'd do again. I just… oh Lois, I'm so sorry."
Lois cupped her hand on his cheek. "You have nothing to be sorry for. I can't even imagine how you feel. But you need to get these feelings out so you can start to heal… both inside and out." Unable to stand his tears any longer, Lois took Clark in her arms again. "Let it out."
Slowly, reluctantly, Clark let all his emotions out. He sobbed quietly into Lois' shoulder, clinging to her as if she was his lifeline to the world. Long minutes later he calmed, but continued to hug her, his face buried in the hollow of her neck. Lois simply stroked his back and ran her hand through his hair to comfort him.
"You smell good," he told her without lifting his head.
Lois laughed softly. "Men. Why is it none of you can talk about your feelings?"
"I am talking about my feelings. I feel a little lightheaded here. You really smell good." His hold around her waist tightened slightly.
Lois turned her face into his neck and inhaled. "You smell like sweat."
That caused Clark to chuckle, and he eased up to look at her. "God, I missed you. I didn't realize how much until just now."
Lois pulled out of his grasp and sat down in his lap, wrapping an arm around his shoulder. "I missed you, too. I couldn't get any work done without my partner. Now, I know those arms still work. Let's go for a ride."
Clark smiled at her. "Yes ma'am." He released the brake on his chair and started it in motion. "Where to?"
"Mmm. Your choice. I want to see your childhood home through your eyes. Give me a tour."
Lois and Clark spent most of the afternoon touring the farm. Clark happily wheeled his chair, enjoying the closeness of Lois to him as she sat in his lap and asked question after question. Occasionally she would need to get up and help him over some rough terrain, but she'd always resettle in his lap and let him have control. She felt that was what he needed more than anything. For the first time since the shooting, neither thought of anything except enjoying the moment and their time together. As dinnertime approached, they made their way back to the house.
Jonathan met them as he came from the barn. "Well, hello. Lois, honey, Martha told me you were here." He hugged her, then patted Clark's shoulder. "I hope this joker didn't make you push him all over the farm."
"Actually, I rode most of the time."
Jonathan winked at his son. "That's my boy."
The older man wrapped an arm around Lois' shoulder. "Son, if I had a beautiful lady all to myself for the afternoon, I'd most definitely sit her on 'my' lap."
"Dad!" Clark's cheeks grew red with embarrassment.
Lois, although a little flushed, laughed with Jonathan. "Lighten up, Clark. I know it didn't hurt your feelings any."
"Well…" His voice trailed off as a sly smile ran across his lips. "Ah, Dad, I could use a little help."
"Watcha' need? I'll help you," Lois told him.
"Lois, I think he may need to go to the little boy's room," Jonathan whispered in her ear.
This time Lois was embarrassed. "Oh. Sorry."
"Don't be. I just want to get a shower before dinner. I still need a little help with that."
"We better get moving. Martha will tan us good if we're late to her table." Jonathan took up Clark's chair and led the way inside.
Lois settled in to stay with the Kents for the next couple of weeks. Even she could see how good her presence was for Clark. He immediately started to help himself more. She also had to admit that being here was what she needed as well.
Lois had realized that her partner had given up so much more than the use of his legs for her to live. She had listened to Martha talk about how important it had been for him to become Superman. What must he be going through now? The guilt was eating at her like a plague. She had single- handedly taken away the very essence that was Clark Kent.
Clark, too, recognized Lois' presence as being good for him. With her with him, he wanted to help himself. After breakfast each morning, he willingly did his exercises. He started asking Lois to go for walks and by the end of the first week he'd cooked dinner once. But he'd also noticed that Lois seemed to be withdrawing from him. Something was bothering her and he had to find out. It was almost as if by saving her life, she, in turn, was now saving his. She gave him the emotional crutch he needed to walk on. If something was bothering Lois, then it was bothering him.
"Lois?" Clark called to her as he went out onto the porch. She was sitting in the porch swing. The night was warm and definitely made you want to be outside.
"Yeah?" She managed a half smile.
"Can I talk to you?"
Clark pushed himself closer to the swing. "I need you to tell me what's wrong."
Lois looked at him without much expression. She turned her head to look out at the barn in the moonlight. "There's nothing wrong."
"Come on, Lois. This is me you're talking to. When you got here Sunday, you were a lot happier than you are now. Please. Tell me what's wrong."
Lois continued to stare out into the night. Slowly, the tears started to roll down her cheeks. "I don't know how to deal with this… guilt."
Clark's heart reached out to hers. He was well aware of what she meant. And though his guilt was for a different reason, he was also still trying to tuck his into a place where he could function again. "Lois, I'm not gonna tell you that you have to get over it because I feel constant guilt, too."
"Why? Well, because I can't help the way I used to. Or because I'm not at work helping my partner find out who did this to me." He took one look at her and amended his sentence. "To us. I feel really bad because I have to depend on my folks so much. And I especially don't like the fact that I'm making you feel bad."
Lois chocked back a sob and reached for his hands. "Oh, Clark. We're some pair, huh? Listen to me. You gave up everything when you took that bullet. You have nothing to feel guilty about. Angry? Yes. But never guilty."
"I do though. All my life I've depended on my strength."
"And it's that strength that will get you through this. Not the physical strength, but the strength on the inside. It takes a special person to be Superman. It'll take an even more special person to overcome this disability after having lived that life."
Clark squeezed her hands, then smiled. "I came out here to help you feel better and look at you. You're helping me… Again." They smiled at each other for a long moment before Clark spoke again. "Now you listen to me. I cannot overcome anything if you let this eat you up. The last few days have shown me that I need you. But I also need you to be strong. If you worry, I worry. Will you help me? Will you let some of this go?"
"No, Lois. You have to. I do not regret taking that bullet. Yes, I'm angry and I feel guilty about not being able to be Superman. I am happy, though, to still have you. Just… be happy with me. Think how much worse this would have been if I'd died."
Lois slowly smiled at Clark. She felt some of the weight she'd been carrying lift. "Okay," she whispered.
"Good. Now come on." He pulled her up and into his lap. "Mom and Dad have challenged us to a game of Scrabble."
Lois giggled as Clark turned his chair for them to go back inside. Maybe they could help each other heal. For the first time in her life Lois wanted someone's help. If she was honest, she needed it.
That conversation was the turning point in the healing process. Both began to look at things differently, seeing a second chance where there could very easily have been none. Lois still felt incredibly responsible and would silently cry at night for the things Clark had given up for her, but she never allowed him to see that. She did let him see her smile a lot and that appeared to be just what he needed.
Clark knew Lois would always have issues with what he'd done and with the fact that he was now in a wheelchair. He would have issues with it. He would be angry and forever feel remorseful about the things he couldn't do because he was no longer Superman. He would have bad days. He would struggle with his disability. But Lois' words then his to her, reminded him that they were both still alive. They should spend more time living than feeling guilty.
So by the second week they started talking about work and it was Clark who suggested they do a series on his shooting and recovery. Once their brainstorming was done, they called to present the idea to Perry. He was thrilled and set up a section on the front page to introduce the series. At the end of the week, a Lane and Kent by-line graced the pages of the Planet. Perry even called Lois and told her to stay with Clark for the rest of the month. She quickly agreed and promised to send in more pieces while she was there.
Lois replaced the phone from talking with Perry and turned to face Clark. "Hey."
"Hey yourself. Did I just hear right? You're staying a while longer and agreed to write some fluff pieces?"
"Well, I would like to stay… if you want me to. And yes. We're going to send Perry some human interest pieces."
"Lois, I would love for you to stay. And if I'm working with you, I'll write obituaries."
Lois giggled and went to sit on his lap. "No obits. I promise. Now… we've been here on the farm since I got here. How about you going out with me tonight? Nothing fancy. Dinner at Maisey's. Maybe a movie or a walk in town."
"You mean, like a date?"
"Yes." She looked him straight in the eyes and waited patiently for an answer.
"Sure. But… Lois, it'll be difficult getting around."
"Nonsense. I've been helping you all week. Go. Your dad said he'd help you get ready." She had stood up and was turning him toward the kitchen. She gave him a push and was gone before he could protest.
Clark shook his head at the little fireball next to him. She had obviously been planning this date for a few days. It seemed her and his dad had been busy. Jonathan had installed a bar in the truck for Clark to grasp to help pull himself up and into the seat. By watching her movements you would have thought Lois had been helping a paralyzed friend or loved one for years. She effortlessly swung Clark's legs into the truck and heaved his chair into the back. So in under five minutes they were heading to Smallville.
"Huh?" Clark's voice broke the silence in the truck. "Oh. Maybe one or two." She reached and took his hand. "I thought it was time for you to get out… see that you 'can' do this."
"Thank you, Lois."
"Everything." He squeezed her hand gently, and she gave him a smile. Soon they settled into familiar banter. With unspoken agreement, they fully intended to enjoy their evening together.
And enjoy they did. Lois met several people in town that Clark had grown up with or knew. They all asked how he was, but none told him they were sorry. This made Lois grateful because she felt it might darken Clark's mood and ruin their date. Clark was also grateful for their discretion. Right now he just felt incredibly lucky to be with this special woman.
After dinner they decided to walk so they could talk. Clark gave her a tour of his small hometown, telling its history and reliving memories of growing up. She basked in the conversation as she absorbed things about her partner. It didn't take her long to realize she was falling in love with Clark all over again.
They made their way back to the farm, choosing to sit on the porch instead of going inside. Lois once again sat in Clark's lap, leaning her head against his as they looked up at the stars.
"It's so beautiful here."
"I know. You don't see stars like this in Metropolis."
"No." Lois sat up to look at Clark. "I want to ask you something."
"When I go back, will you come with me?"
"I want you to come back with me."
"Clark, I know what you're going to say. I know you'll need a lot of help. I'm here. I'll help you."
"Lois, I need things I don't think you're willing to give."
"Like what? Helping you shower or change clothes?"
"That among other things."
Lois stood to lean against the rail. Sitting in Clark's lap was too distracting when she needed to make a point. "I want to help. I will help."
"Lois, this is full time."
"I know. That's why I want to move into your place with you."
"If you'll come home, I will move in with you so I can help you around the clock."
"I can't let you do that."
"Think about it, Lois. You'd be essentially giving up your life for me."
"Oh, Clark. I wouldn't be giving up a thing. I'd be gaining so much."
Clark was startled at the emotions he saw in her eyes. Lois had never looked at him quite like that before. Still she didn't have any idea what she was letting herself into. "Lois, you're not listening. There are days when I need a lot of help."
"I know." She kneeled in front of him and placed her hands on his knees. "Clark, I know sometimes you're in a lot of pain. I can rub your back and hold you. And I can do your exercises with you. We wouldn't need the nurse to come out. I can help you with showers and dressing. Yeah, it'll be a little awkward at first. Clark, I can do this. I want to do this."
"No. I know it's a lot of work."
"Not just that. Lois, sometimes it's downright embarrassing."
"I'm well aware of that aspect too. Clark, you're paralyzed. You will have control problems sometimes."
"I'm just not sure I want you… changing my clothes after I have an accident."
"But it's okay if your parents have to do it?" Clark grimaced at the snide comment, and Lois felt like kicking herself. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean that. I know you don't like for anybody to have to do this. I just… I just want you to come home."
"Why? Why is it so important that I come back?"
"Well, I want my partner back at work so we can figure out who did this to you."
"Oh." Clark hung his head and turned it away from Lois in hurt.
She took his face in her hands and turned him back to meet her gaze. "Mostly I want you to come because I don't want to be away from you," she told him softly.
"No." She slid her hands down his face and took his hands. "Clark, a few weeks before you were shot I went out with a couple friends. We went to this bar and eventually the topic of conversation turned to men. We each described our perfect man. When I was finished, both the girls looked at me in surprise. They said I must know him pretty well to be able to give that many details about him. The rest of the night they tried to get his name out of me. I just laughed and said he was my fantasy. Only… he's not a fantasy. I've met him. He's real."
Clark looked away from her momentarily. He felt pretty sure she was talking about Superman. Maybe she'd realized she liked him now just because she knew who he was.
"Clark, that night I described you to a tee." He met her gaze again, his eyes full of questions. "There have been so many in my past that have hurt me. That's why I've chosen to distance myself from any kind of intimate relationship. But you… you just kept easing under my barriers. Oh I fought it. I fought it like my life depended on it. But I can't fight it any longer. I don't want to."
"Clark, I love you."
His breath caught as he stared into her eyes. The way she was looking at him was what he'd been dreaming to see for so long. Still there was a part of him that doubted why she was telling him this now.
Lois sensed his emotions, squeezed his hands, and smiled. "This has nothing to do with Superman or your accident. Yes, I want to help you, but that's because you are like this."
"And if I wasn't?"
"I would still feel the same way. Clark, I won't lie to you. Your accident caused me to open my eyes. I admit that if you hadn't been shot, I might not have told you how felt as soon. But I would have eventually because it would have driven me crazy." She half laughed. "I have been in love with you for so long."
"Yeah. I know the feeling," Clark muttered.
Lois looked up at him with a smile. Instead of commenting on his statement, she continued to talk. "I'm only admitting this now because I don't want you to doubt my feelings for you. I was attracted to you almost from the beginning. That grew after we were tied up in the Eprad warehouse together. I told you some very personal things that night and I never heard it repeated. That made me look at you differently. I liked what I saw."
"So why the fascination with Superman?"
"Oh, Clark, he was safe. I could admire him and he couldn't hurt me. But you.. you were real. I was attracted and scared. So I lied to myself about how I felt. That didn't change things though. The attraction grew. When we came to Smallville to investigate Trask and he nearly shot you, I was torn apart. I was so relieved when I was able to touch you and know you were okay. That's when I really started trying to deny my feelings. You were my partner and my friend. I wasn't supposed to feel that way about you… only I did. Slowly, you became someone I knew I couldn't live without."
Lois stood and resettled in Clark's lap. "Do you know why I didn't marry Lex?"
"Because Perry and Jimmy stopped you?"
"No. I stopped the wedding right before they came in. The only thing I could think about as I was walking down the isle was you. I couldn't marry Lex knowing I was really in love with you. I was going to tell you that in front of the Planet that day."
Clark rubbed her back. "I didn't know."
"No. Then you said you lied. I was hurt so I kept my mouth shut."
"I'm so sorry. I was lying that day. When I said I was in
love with you, I was telling the truth. I just thought you needed a friend more than anything at the time."
"I know. I saw that fairly quickly once we started working together again."
"Lois, I don't know what to say here."
"Do you still love me, Clark?"
"I'm not sure I would know how not to love you."
Lois touched her lips to his in a tender kiss. She pulled back to see his face. "I love you," she whispered before kissing him again. This time it deepened further. Clark drew Lois closer as her tongue pushed into his mouth. He quickly matched her pace, meeting her tongue with his own. He moaned as she buried her hands in his hair. Needing to breathe, he broke the kiss.
They sat, looking into each other's eyes, trying to catch their breath. >From somewhere deep in Clark's mind, something nasty reared its ugly head. He gently eased Lois off his lap and to her feet.
"We can't do this."
"What? Why?" He turned his chair and started to the door. Lois was in front of him and letting her anger boil. "Clark, what are talking about?"
"Lois, look at me."
"I am. And I must admit you look fantastic."
"I'm in a wheelchair, Lois. I can't walk. I may never walk again. I need help to clean myself because I have accidents in my clothes like a little baby. I can't shower alone. I haven't figured out how to pull my own pants up by myself. There are places I can't go because of this damn chair. I can't drive. If I went back to work, I would slow down your investigations. And then there's… us. We can't have a relationship. Not now."
"And just why not?"
"Lois, why would any woman want to have a relationship with a cripple?" Without waiting for an answer, he pushed past her and into the house. She was left to watch him disappear into the shadows.
Lois was hurt. Hot tears spilled down her cheeks. She loved Clark, whether he wanted her to or not. She'd let him deal with his feelings for a time, then she'd give him a piece of her mind. And if he'd let her, she'd just hold him to show him she meant what she said.
Clark was even angrier now than he'd been before. He'd finally gotten the girl of his dreams to notice him, except now he was paralyzed. What could he give her? What could she possibly want? She didn't mean what she said. Lois was a smart woman. She would see that they could never have a life together.
He rammed his chair into the side of his bed. He wanted to just crawl in and sleep until all this was over. He pulled at the snap on his pants. Clark's anger overrode the rational part of his mind that told him he needed to call for help. He was a grown man and could undress himself. He realized almost immediately that was a huge mistake.
Lois had let her tears fall as she listened to Clark inside the house. He was angry, and she could understand why. After all he'd had to deal with, now she wanted him to jump into a relationship. When she couldn't cry any more, she decided to just go up to bed. Maybe everything would look better after a good night's sleep.
The Kents had retired earlier so she turned out all the lights and locked the doors. She wanted to check on Clark and make sure he was okay, but decided if he needed help he'd call someone. She took another step and heard a loud thud. She ran to the den. Clark had fallen onto the floor trying to change, knocking over his wheelchair.
Lois bent beside him on the floor. "Clark, let me help."
Clark pushed away from her as he sat up. "I can do it."
"Yeah. I see."
Clark looked down at himself. His pants were down below his knees. He met Lois' gaze, then started to laugh. She failed to see the humor, but guessed he was laughing to keep from crying. She laughed softly and moved to take Clark's shoes off. He stilled when she reached up to pull his pants off.
"Relax, Clark. I have seen men's underwear before."
Clark reached out and put his hand on Lois' face. She looked up at him. "Lois…"
"I know." She kissed his palm, then pulled his pants off. "Did you use the restroom?"
"Yeah. I can actually manage that as long as… well…"
"I understand." She stood and took him under his arms to help him onto the bed. Lois was glad for upper body strength because Clark weighed a ton. When he was sitting on the side of the bed, she swung his legs around. She helped him settle and pulled the covers up to his chin. "There. Snug as a bug in a rug." She kissed his head, then stood to leave. She stopped to pick his wheelchair up, then turned back to Clark.
"Clark, I love you. That won't change because you're paralyzed. It won't change if you never walk again. It won't change because you say we shouldn't be together. Your legs have nothing to do with who you are inside. I love 'you.' I will love you after I help you up from the floor a thousand times. I will love you when I have to help you shower or change. I will love you if you have an accident every day. If we have to walk ten blocks to meet a source, I hope it's down hill so I can get on and ride with you. And I would still love you when I have to push you up that hill to get back.
"You're paralyzed, not dead. I'm still attracted to you. I totally enjoyed our kisses earlier, and I want to do it again."
"What happens when you want more?"
"Then we do that, too. If you want too, of course." She came to sit on the bed. "Clark, you can still have a very enjoyable sex life."
"Yeah," he muttered. "I just won't feel anything."
"Look at me." She waited until he met her gaze. "Do you love me?"
A part of him wanted to tell her no. He knew she'd never believe it though. And the same protective nature that wanted her happiness above all else could never deny her anything. So he told her the truth. "Yes."
"Then let's just take it one day at a time. Please, Clark. Don't shut me out."
"Are you sure?"
"I am absolutely positive that I have to have you in my life."
"Even with all the work?"
"The rewards will make all the work pale in comparison."
Clark sat and just stared into Lois deep brown eyes, allowing himself to feel every emotion she had for him. Finally, he pulled her to him and gently kissed her lips. "I love you," he murmured against her mouth.
"I love you." She whimpered and wrapped her arms around his neck as she deepened the kiss. When she pulled back, she was grinning widely. "Nice." She kissed him once more, then pushed back. "Goodnight."
He held her hand as she rose to go to bed. "Goodnight." They reluctantly released each other's hand so Lois could go up to bed.
Clark watched until she was out of sight. He let his head fall back on the pillow as he thought about the things she had said. The smile would not leave his lips as he recalled her telling him she'd love him no matter what. He took a deep breath and prayed she would still feel that way in a few months.
It took another week to convince Clark that she really did want to live with him and take care of him. His parents even sided with Lois, telling Clark they thought he should get on with his life. Although they would worry, they knew Lois would take good care of their son.
Lois called ahead to Metropolis to have Perry get a wheelchair ramp installed in Clark's apartment. She was also reassured that they were looking forward to having Clark back at work. With just as many doubts as expectations, Clark left with Lois to go back to Metropolis.
Both were completely blown away when they got back. Not only had the ramps been installed, the furniture had been rearranged and things fixed to give Clark better access. Lois also had several boxes of her things sitting in the living room. The note attached said they just wanted to help and was signed by Perry and Jimmy. There were fresh groceries in the cabinets and fridge. The place was spotless and several arrangements of flowers and balloons welcomed them. A message on the machine told them all of Clark's bills had been attended to and that their dinner would be delivered at seven.
Lois suggested they put away some of their things. Clark emptied a chest so she could have room for her clothes. He also told her the living room closet was hers. She went to work to put away her clothes.
Clark rearranged his things in the storage space under the window seat. His feelings about Lois living with him were mixed, but he had to admit he was thrilled.
His face lit into a smile when he saw all of Lois' things on the counter when he went to the bathroom. Clark returned to find her setting out pictures on the bookshelf.
"Yeah." She turned to look at him. He obviously wanted to ask her something but wasn't sure how to. "It's okay. You can ask me anything."
"Well, I just… I guess I thought you'd stay long enough for me to learn how to take care of myself."
Lois came to sit on his lap, a gesture that had come to be very familiar to him. "When I said I wanted to live with you, I meant it."
Clark's brows rose. "You did? As in… 'living'? As in… our home?"
"As in our home. I mean… if that's okay with you?"
"Okay. Let me get this straight. You want to live here with me? Give up your place to call this one your home? Be my partner? My friend? My… lover?"
"Yes," she answered soundly.
Clark held her face as he pulled her into a kiss. "Does that feel like I'm okay with it?"
"Mmm…" was her reply as she kissed him again.
Clark drew her into a hug. "Lois, can we… take it slow?"
"Clark, I know you're not ready for intimacy yet. I'm not sure I am. I think we'll be intimate enough with day-to-day things. Let's just get to know each other and learn what things work best to help us and what things don't."
"Okay. Just as long as you know that I really, 'really' love kissing you."
"Ooo… and I love kissing you." She demonstrated by giving him another short but passionate kiss before getting up. "But right now, I want to get these things put away."
"I want to help."
"Sure. Grab a box."
They spent the next couple hours putting away her things before their dinner arrived. Over dinner they talked about another installment in their series on Clark's shooting. After the story was written and sent to Perry, they settled on the couch to talk. Soon enough it was time for bed.
Clark managed to get himself to the bathroom and even get his clothes off. Lois helped him into bed and disappeared to get ready herself. Clark watched with a heated gaze as she reentered the room in her gown. She smiled, clicked off the light, then crawled in next to him.
"Relax. I don't bite… hard."
Clark chuckled and pulled her to his chest. "I'm just not sure what to do here. I've never lived with anyone."
"Me either. But I know that I love you and this is where I want to be."
Clark kissed the top of her head and pulled her tighter. "I want you here, too. Goodnight Lois."
Clark listened to the steady beat of Lois' heart as he lay in the darkness. So much had happened in the last few weeks. He had been very doubtful about coming home. Lois worked just as hard to learn to care for him as she did on any story. But it was her emotional well being that meant more to him than anything. He didn't want her to feel she had to be with him just because she couldn't get past her guilt. Watching her the last few days, he could very clearly see that with him was where she wanted to be.
Then once again, Lois had blown his mind when she said she wanted to live with him as his girlfriend, as his partner in life not just work. He was excited about that, yet very nervous. Could he be what she needed him to be? Would he disappoint her? Suddenly, his words to her during their conversation on the farmhouse porch came back to him. He knew she needed him as much as he needed her. Together they would find out how this thing worked. He fell asleep with a smile playing across his lips. Together was starting to become his favorite word.
The alarm went off all too early for Lois the next morning. She had slept better than she had in a long time. Last night there had been no nightmares where Clark never made out of that club. There had been no guilt, no anger, and no fear. There had been only love. She rose and started gathering things for another workday. She nudged Clark.
"Come on, farmboy. Time to get up." A grunt was the response she got. She laughed and went to put on the coffee. When she was done, Clark had gotten up and gathered his clothes. "You know, you look pretty good first thing in the morning."
Clark smiled at her. "You too." His smile faded as she pushed him into the bathroom. He was not at all comfortable with her having to help him shower.
"Perry put in one of those bath chairs and a handrail. I thought you would be more comfortable if I just helped you get in, then out again when you were done."
Seeing his apprehension, she leaned over and kissed his cheek. "It's going to be okay. You'll see." She pushed him over to the shower stall. Once the water was started, she turned, took his clothes and placed them on the counter. Lois opened the shower door and pushed Clark as close as she could get him. She smiled as she spread a towel over his lap.
"Do you need me to help with your shirt?"
"No." Clark couldn't help but grin as he took off his shirt.
"Now, lift yourself up." Lois slid her hands under the towel and removed his briefs as he held himself up. "Grab the bar." He did, and she held the towel around his waist as he hoisted himself into the shower. "Ten minutes," she told him over her shoulder as she left for him to bathe.
Clark sighed loudly as the door closed behind her. He could feel the blood drain back down from his cheeks. He hoped this awkwardness would get better.
Ten minutes later they repeated the process in reverse for him to resettle in his chair. Lois pulled on his clean briefs under another towel that lay across his lap. Clark pushed his hand into her hair and raised her head to look at him. "Thank you."
"I felt this would be better until we get used to me helping you. It allows you a little modesty."
Clark leaned in to kiss her softly. "I love you."
"I love you." She placed a kiss on his nose, removed the towel, and helped him get into his pants. "Can you finish?"
"Yeah. Thanks. I'll go fix breakfast while you shower."
"Sounds good." She smiled as Clark wheeled himself from the bathroom. Although she had felt incredibly awkward, she was determined he wouldn't see it. The last thing either of them needed was him to start having doubts about coming home. This had to work. Both of them needed this so they could heal.
Lois entered the kitchen a few minutes later to find eggs and toast on the table. Clark handed her a cup of coffee, just the way she liked it. They finished breakfast and were soon ready to head to the Planet.
Jimmy met Lois and Clark at the top of the ramp leading to the bullpen. "Hey guys! CK!" He reached out to grab Clark's hand. "You look great."
"Thanks, Jimmy. I feel pretty good."
"That's great. Did you like the things we did for you?"
"Yeah. That was really thoughtful."
"Don't mention it. And Lois, the Chief had a moving company finish packing your things. All the boxes are labeled. They need you to go by and mark what you want to take to Clark's. The rest is going into storage over at Perry's."
"Wow. You guys are the best." She rubbed Jimmy's arm, then headed for Perry's office.
Jimmy turned back to Clark. "So, are you really okay?"
"Yeah. I'm fine. A little excited about Lois moving in with me."
"I bet. I take it you two are…"
"Yeah," was all Clark could say because the smile on his face was threatening to overtake him.
"That's great. Maybe you guys can double date with me and Angela some time."
"Sounds good. I better get my butt in gear. My partner looks a little peeved at something."
Clark joined Lois at her desk to find a message from one of her sources. It appeared to be a lead on the person who made the Kryptonite that was used in Clark's shooting. Lois had put the word out that she needed information as to why the gangsters felt they needed the substance and how they got it.
It took the team a week to find out that Intergang had manufactured the Kryptonite. It turned out to be a synthetic form. An unknown ingredient had been added in an attempt to stretch the small supply they had. It was learned that Bill Church had been trying to make a deal with Capone. The Kryptonite had been a good faith gift to slow down the superhero should he try to stop them. Capone had all their bullets dipped to be ready at any time. Unfortunately his gamble had paid off.
After another week, they found out where the deadly poison was being made. The front page of the Planet graced another Lane and Kent exclusive after the raid also uncovered thousands of dollars worth of illegal drugs.
While their professional relationship was stronger than ever, Lois and Clark were steadily building their personal relationship. They quickly fell into a routine of doing things. Clark relaxed as Lois proved to be very capable of tending to his needs. They ran into a major stand still mid-way through the first week when Clark had his first accident.
Reluctantly, he allowed Lois to help him get cleaned up and changed. She did so without a second glance. When he was dressed again, he locked himself in the bathroom for an hour. Lois finally talked him out and proceeded to blow her stack at him. She had told him that while she knew it humiliated him to be in that position, it hurt her that he wouldn't let her help him through it. A few tears and a couple hours later, Clark entered a new understanding of the relationship he shared with Lois.
With the first obstacle behind them, things fell into place. Lois helping him became second nature and neither looked at it as anything other than a necessity. His embarrassment was considerably less the next time he had an accident. After a month, it seemed to anyone on the outside looking in that they had been together for years.
Clark sat typing up his and Lois' latest story when a voice broke his thoughts.
He looked up to see Mayson Drake. "Mayson. Hi."
"How are you? I was out of town when you came back. I called several times, but your mom said you weren't taking calls."
"Yeah. I'm sorry. I had a really rough time at first. It was kind of hard accepting this thing." He gestured to the wheelchair.
"I'm so sorry."
"Don't be. I accomplished what I needed to." He looked past Mayson and smiled at Lois as she came off the elevator.
Mayson glanced at what he was looking at. "Then it's true you took a bullet for Lois?"
Lois walked up to stand next to Clark. "Hi, Mayson. How are you?"
"I'm good. I just thought I'd come by and check on Clark. He was telling me he was shot instead of you. Must be hard to see him like this now."
Lois' smile faded. Over the past two weeks, while chasing the story about the synthetic Kryptonite, she and Clark had talked into the night about their feelings, their guilt, and their grief. They had also acknowledged that the important healing both needed was not taking place. Many nights were spent holding each other to help wipe away the pain and the fears that haunted them. She couldn't believe this woman had the nerve to say something like that. "As a matter of fact, it is hard seeing him in this wheelchair. I blame myself every day for this. But the truth is, if the tables had been reversed I'd be the one in the chair. I'd take a bullet for Clark just as quickly as he took this one for me."
Clark placed a hand on Lois' arm to calm her. "Mayson, I don't regret what I did. Lois is alive. I never gave a second thought to being the one shot instead of her. I'd do it again in a second." He looked up at Lois, then back to Mayson. "I'd die for Lois."
Mayson's heart sank slightly at his words. All the secret hopes and desires she had about this man died as she saw his feelings for Lois. "Look, I'm sorry I upset either of you. I didn't mean to. I'm glad you're doing well… both of you. I'm also glad to see you're working as hard as ever. In fact, I thought you could help me on a case."
"Really?" Lois' anger was sated, her interest piqued. She focused her attention away from her and Clark and on Mayson's case. She and her partner had another great story to work on.
Lois lay awake long after she and Clark went to bed. They had talked for a while, but soon her partner had given in to sleep. She watched him in the pale light filtering in from the window. He was incredible: compassionate, warm, gentle, but strong and determined. In the short month they had been together, Clark had almost become part of Lois' very soul. She couldn't imagine life without him now.
She often lay awake watching him sleep. Gazing upon his soft features, you would never know the demons that haunted him. Only Lois knew how much Clark really hurt because he couldn't walk. She would listen as his fears for her spilled from the depths of his heart. She'd hold him when he cried from fear that he might never heal. And she was the one that he turned to for comfort.
Clark had slowly allowed Lois to be his crutch. She was who he looked to when he had a bad day. She was the one who made him laugh. Most recently she was the one who would protest when he'd put a halt on their kissing when it grew heated.
Lois ended up falling asleep with a smile on her face as she realized she had fallen in love with Clark all over again.
Clark sat up slowly in bed. He had been woken up by pain in his back plenty of times, but he couldn't figure out where this pain was coming from. With surprise it dawned on him that his legs hurt.
"My legs hurt!" His voice was a whisper. Maybe he was imagining this. He closed his eyes a moment. No. It wasn't his imagination. His legs really did hurt, and they hurt rather badly. With reluctance, he suddenly felt the need to have to wake Lois.
"Lois?" He gently shook her. "Lois?"
She sat up quickly. "What honey? What is it?"
"I need to go to the bathroom, but I'm in a lot of pain. Could you help me?"
"Of course." Lois jumped from the bed, switched on the lamp and came to his side. "Should I just get the urinal?"
"Lois, I'm going to be sick. I want to go to the bathroom."
"Yeah." She expertly helped him into his chair, noticing the lines of pain on his face. Beads of sweat popped to the surface of his skin as he resettled in his chair. Lois quickly got him into the bathroom and not a moment too soon. Clark was heaving in the toilet before his chair had completely stopped. She went for a cool cloth and held it to his head.
When he couldn't get anything else up, Lois wiped his face and got water so he could rinse his mouth. Clark gratefully allowed her to hold the cup to his mouth.
When he was able to talk, he looked at her through weak eyes. "You must really love me."
"You know I do." Lois soaked the cloth and wiped his face again. "Why do you think you got so sick? The pain?"
"When you're ready, I'll take you back to bed and rub your back."
"It's not my back that hurts."
"Lois, my legs hurt."
Lois stared wide-eyed at him. "Oh God," she gasped. "Clark, honey, that's great. Well, not great, but… Oh, you know what I mean."
"I know. I need to… go…" He motioned at the toilet.
"Oh." She retreated to the bedroom to give him privacy.
Clark wheeled back to his side of the bed where Lois sat waiting for him. She had him some pain medication and a glass of water. "What?" she asked of his strange look.
"Did you call me honey? Twice?"
Lois smiled at him. "I guess I did. Do you like it?"
This time Clark smiled back. "Yes. I do."
"Good." She gave him the pills and the glass. "Take these. Then I'll help you back to bed and rub your legs. First thing tomorrow we'll go see Bernie."
Clark nodded and soon he was settled back in bed. Although he couldn't feel her touch, he could feel the pressure against his legs. Lois felt this was a step in the right direction. She continued to rub his legs until he was sleeping again. This time she drifted to sleep with hope that Clark may regain the use of his legs.
Clark's legs still hurt the next morning, but nothing like they had during the night. He and Lois were soon in Dr. Klein's office at Star Labs. Bernie had done an examination on Clark and was still studying some of his figures.
"Well?" Lois asked impatiently.
Bernie looked up at them. "Clark, there is marked improvement in your legs. The area of your back where the wound was also appears to be… healing."
"Are you saying Clark is going to get better?"
"If this keeps going the way it seems to be, then yes, Lois. I feel Clark is healing. Whether or not he heals completely remains to be seen."
"Do you think I will walk again?"
"At this stage, I'd say it's a possibility. I have to warn you though. This is all just theory. From the studies I've conducted on the Kryptonite, there appears to be no reason why it should have affected you the way it did. I can only assume that the unidentified item used to increase the volume, has adversely affected you."
"So why do you suppose he's getting better now?"
"Nature running its course. The substance had to work itself out of his system. Clark's strong, otherwise healthy. That, along with the increased exposure to the sun and a good attitude, has made the difference. Just keep doing what you're doing. Take pain medication when you need to and rub your legs to help with the pressure."
"Thanks, Dr. Klein. I appreciate all you've done for me."
Bernie smiled at Clark. "Not half as much as you've done for mankind. I feel it an honor to have been able to help you. And oh! I almost forgot." He quickly sought another file. "Somewhere in all this research, I think I may have found a protection against Kryptonite."
"What?!" Both Lois and Clark said at the same time.
"Yeah. Mixing a few basic compounds appears to neutralize the radioactivity in the rock. Of course, it would have to be tested."
"Let's do it," Clark said without thought.
"Clark, to test it you would have to be…"
"I know, Lois. But the payoff could be that nothing like this ever happens again."
Lois smiled sadly, then squeezed his hand. Together they reentered the lab. Bernie opened the small lead box that contained the deadly rock. Almost at once, Clark was doubled over in pain. He was still affected by the substance even without his powers. The lid was closed again, and he was relieved of his pain.
Dr. Klein injected Clark with the antidote. They waited twenty minutes and exposed Clark again. This time nothing happened.
"You did it!" Lois exclaimed and threw her arms around the stunned scientist.
"Okay, okay. Now Clark, I'll need to see you almost every day to see how long this stuff works. I'm estimating about once a month should do it. And if you regain your powers, we will need to make a pill or liquid form for you to swallow."
"I can't thank you enough," Clark told the man. He and Lois left there a little happier today than yesterday.
Clark continued to heal. For the next week, the pain came to his legs often. Lois would rub until he thought she'd never want to touch him again. Yet, when the next pain hit, she was there. He also made his way to Star Labs to test the antidote. It appeared to be lasting.
Work was never better between the star reporters. They were writing better now than they ever had. Clark's shooting and recovery had earned the reporters several front-page stories. He thought he might ask Lois to write a book with him soon.
Being in a wheelchair seemed to be getting easier. His upper body strength had increased and, he could do most things for himself now. The new sensations seemed to be giving him more control over his body. He seldom had accidents anymore. For this he was very grateful.
Lois and Clark's personal relationship couldn't have been better. When they weren't working, they did most things together. Clark was slowly teaching Lois how to cook. They would take care of household duties together and spend hours just talking. Walking to the park at night became a favorite pastime.
Clark was amazed at the differences in Lois. She was still hard as nails when it came to her work, but with him it was not the same. The gentle banter was still there, and she would argue with him until she was blue in the face. It was the way she looked at him and touched him was what he lived for. She was not scared to show her love for him and had taken to doing it often. She would, for no reason, get up from her desk at work and come kiss him hard. She'd smile and walk away. Those kisses had started to leave Clark lightheaded and burning for more. That led him to asking her out at least once a week.
Lois enjoyed their dates. They agreed that work, family, and Clark's paralysis was off limits. Their time allowed them to get to know each other more. It also showed Lois that she was not only completely and hopelessly in love with her partner, she depended on him for her very survival. He had told her that's the way he felt about her. She had begun to think that maybe their relationship should become more permanent.
Clark woke some time during the night with a little discomfort in his legs and back. He was happy it wasn't more painful. He eased up on his elbow and found that gazing at his sleeping partner helped him relax. She was beautiful. Even in her sleep, you could tell she was full of fire. Slowly a hand reached out to trace her cheek.
Lois felt Clark's hand as he rubbed her face. His fingers trailed through her hair, and she could feel his gaze on her. This was too much. Her eyes fluttered open. Intending to smile and lighten the moment, she was unprepared for the raw emotion she saw in his eyes. Pure desire had darkened his brown eyes and hers raged immediately to match. Lois raised her hand to hold his cheek. This was all the encouragement Clark needed. He met Lois' lips with his own in a kiss of pure passion.
After a moment, Clark drew back to look at Lois. He held her face in his large hand. "Lois…" He moved to draw her closer. "I love you."
"I love you, too." She kissed him again.
"I'm ready, Lois," he whispered.
"Oh, Clark." Further words were lost as they became lovers for the first time.
Clark watched Lois as she was getting dressed. He was lying on the bed with a grin on his face. They had greeted the rising sun, sharing their bodies and all they felt for each other. He had been amazed at how much he felt. Expecting to not be able to feel a lot, he was surprised when his body responded to Lois' touches and even more amazed at how wonderful she made him feel. He loved Lois more than life itself and found it hard to believe she loved him in return.
Lois stopped at the foot of the bed and looked at him. "I suppose you'll wear that silly grin for days."
"Maybe." Clark shifted and sat up. His eyes grew wide, and he stared down at his legs.
"What? What's wrong?" Lois came to his side.
"Lois, my legs are tingling."
"Really? Oh Clark, that's great!" Her hands were immediately roaming his legs.
"Lois, honey, I can feel that."
"Umm. What else can you feel?" She leaned into him and kissed his neck.
"That is oh… nice…" His mouth found hers and in a matter of seconds, they were lost to each other again.
When they finally found their way apart later in the morning, they got dressed for work. Neither seemed to be able to concentrate on much but each other. Their eyes sought the other all day. Small smiles and heated gazes were exchanged. It was all they could do to finish the day.
Clark was shutting his computer down. It had been a long day, and he wanted nothing more than to get Lois alone. A wave of pain hit him. He yelled out, attracting several stares.
Lois was by his side in an instant. "Clark? What's wrong?"
He was bent over in his chair, sweating and shaking. "I don't know. I… I … my legs hurt."
"Is CK all right?" Jimmy had come to check on him, too.
"Yeah." Lois pushed Clark's chair to the conference room so they could have some privacy. "Jimmy, grab a glass of water."
"You got it."
When Lois got Clark in the room, she came to kneel in front of him and started rubbing his legs. "Clark, lay your head back and breathe. Take deep breaths. Let the tension out." She kneaded his taught muscles.
Clark was slowly beginning to relax. The muscles in his legs were beginning to loosen. He lifted his head to look at Lois. "Why do you stay with me?"
"What?" She saw the emotions in his face. "Clark, I love you. And well, the things you did last bight weren't half bad."
Clark couldn't help but chuckle at her sly smile. "It was pretty good, huh?" Lois nodded and continued to rub his legs. "Honey, I can really feel that. I think the pain was the sensation coming back into my legs."
"Oh, Clark. I hope so."
"Hey CK, here's your water," Jimmy told him as he came into the room.
"Thanks." Clark took the glass and drank the water down. "I think I can make it home now."
Lois gave him one last rub and stood. "Thanks, Jimmy." She took the handles on Clark's chair and made their way to the elevator.
The sensation in Clark's legs was coming back. By the end of the week, he had almost total feeling. Bernie advised him to start strength exercises so he would be able to try and walk soon. Standing by himself, next to the bed, is where Lois found him when she woke the morning of their day off.
"Clark?" She touched his back from her position on the bed.
He turned to look down at her. "Pretty good, huh?"
"It is." Lois eased up in the bed and leaned on the headboard. "Can you take a step?"
"I haven't tried. When I woke up, I thought I'd try to stand. I've been here for about half an hour." Clark very carefully lifted one foot from the floor. The step was small, but it was a success. He was amazed that he didn't feel like he'd fall. His legs were strong and supported his weight easily. "I guess being super helps."
"Yeah." Lois jumped from the bed and reached out to take Clark's shoulders. "Lean on me. I'll help." He placed his hand on her shoulders and allowed her to take some of his weight. Together they took a few careful steps. "Look at you!" Lois said through happy tears.
"I'm okay. This is just so great. I feel like it's me taking these steps. I guess it is in a way. What one does, the other does. And I love you and you're part of me…"
Clark stopped Lois' babbling with a kiss. He pulled back with a smile. "God, I love to hear you babble."
"If it'll get me a kiss, I'll flow like a river." She grinned and kissed his chin. "Come on. Take some more steps."
The day was spent talking, walking, and making love. It seemed that yet another corner had been turned in their ever-changing life.
Clark sat at his desk, trying to finish his latest story. His eye caught sight of his wife. He smiled as he watched her argue with Perry over another lead.
Lois Lane had truly changed Clark's life. From the moment he met her, his world started and ended with her. The night he took a bullet for her was the night his life began. It made Lois realize that he was someone she couldn't live without. And from then, she hadn't.
Lois convinced Clark to deal with his paralysis, move back to Metropolis, and start the healing process. She never left his side. It took nearly three months for him to fully recover, but his strength was never far. With her help, Superman was reintroduced to the world a few weeks later. A front-page article told of the superhero's plight to help in a world he didn't know existed. With the right wording, no one ever knew that the world referred to was the one he'd spent the last few months in. He was only seen as the savior of not one but two worlds. Clark Kent also became whole again.
Lois thanked the powers that be every single day for the man that she now shared her life with. He had taught her the meaning of love and spent each day reinforcing it. They would never again take so many things for granted. Life could change in an instant, even for the invincible superhero. She refused to lose him. So it had been Lois that had proposed to Clark.
Now, after a year of marriage, they were stronger together than they had ever been alone. As Lois turned and smiled at him, Clark told himself he'd have to drop by the prison and thank Clyde for his aim. Ironic. Some events could not and would not ever be explained.