By Jana L. Officer <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: March 2003
Author's Notes: This is for Carol Malo who gave me huge amounts of *much appreciated* help throughout the creation process for this fic.
Special thanks to Anna, Carol, and Carol, my awesome brs. Also thanks to everyone who was in IRC that read the first paragraph and were eager to read more, that was great encouragement! Thanks, also, to everyone who nagged me along the way.
This is my little effort to respond to the song challenge from almost a year ago. :) I believe it was StopQuitDont that made the challenge. There are a few lines of dialogue from the episode That Old Gang of Mine, which will sound familiar. The song that inspired this is called "Love Remains" and is sung by Collin Raye. The particular words that inspired me to write this are as follows:
"We all live, we all die but the end is not good-bye. The sun comes up, seasons change. Through it all, love remains. An eternal burning flame, hope lives on and love remains."
It was the bitter cold she would remember most. Years later, she would remember it and would shiver, even on the warmest days. It was as if an icy hand had reached in and grabbed her heart with a Herculean grip. The cold permeated throughout her body, until it was all she could feel. The moment Clark fell to the ground, Lois' world became so very cold.
As Clark collapsed, Lois knelt beside him and frantically searched for signs of life. Panic set in when she realized he wasn't breathing. She then watched, unable to react, as Capone and his gang dragged her lifeless partner away. Disconsolate and shivering, Lois sat on the floor and sobbed until the police arrived. The chief investigator at the scene took a brief statement before driving her home with a promise to find Clyde Barrow and the others. Lois barely heard his sympathetic words. It didn't matter. Nothing mattered anymore. She was already lost in the frigid abyss that is grief.
Clark carefully kept his body limp as he was shoved out the car door. He braced for the impact as best as he possibly could. He rolled a few times, then lay still until Capone's car had disappeared around the corner. He started to get up, but saw someone peering around the corner. He again let his body go limp and held his breath while he tuned his super hearing in to the person around the corner. He waited while the footsteps hurried away. When he was satisfied that the person was far enough away, Clark spun into his Superman suit and flew home.
Once he arrived at his apartment, he spun out of the Superman suit and back into his normal clothes. Agitatedly, he paced back and forth while he tried to calm down. He dropped his jacket onto the sofa as he pondered what his next move should be. Distracted, Clark didn't hear the faint ping as something fell out of his jacket pocket to the floor. The more he thought about his situation, the more he realized that staying in Metropolis would be a mistake. There were too many things that could go wrong. He hastily crammed a few necessities into a suitcase, grabbed his jacket off the sofa, then spun back into the Superman suit and headed to Smallville. The item that had fallen out of this pocket stayed on the floor unnoticed, partially hidden beneath the sofa.
Lois awoke with a start, a chill running down her spine as she tried to focus her morning eyes on the bedside alarm clock. 8:00 a.m.? "I overslept," she muttered incredulously as she sat up. "Can't remember the last time that happened." She shivered and pulled the covers up to her chin. It was only then that she realized she was buried under every blanket she owned. Why was she so cold? A moment later, it all cascaded back to her: being driven home by the detective, changing into sweats, and crying herself to sleep. Clark was gone. Unable to bear the memories of the previous night, Lois laid her head back down on her pillow and wept.
It took Lois awhile to calm down enough to get out of bed. She then slowly walked around her apartment for a few minutes and tried to clear her head, but at every turn she was confronted by thoughts of Clark. Memories of different things they had done together were intertwined with memories of the night before. No matter where it started, every thought ended with her partner lying lifeless on the ground. She finally decided that anything would be better than being alone with her memories. With little hesitation, she headed out the door.
When she arrived at the Daily Planet, Lois felt many sympathetic glances and a few stares from her coworkers. She averted her eyes as much as possible as she wandered slowly to her desk. She sat down unsure of what to do next. She didn't even know why she had come to work in the first place; she just knew she couldn't stay home. She was so lost in thought that she didn't even notice her editor in chief approach.
"Lois?" Perry's normally booming voice was gentle, concerned. "You didn't have to come in here today."
Lois shrugged and forced herself to look up briefly at Perry. "I couldn't stay home," she explained softly, almost more to herself than to him. "I just kept thinking about Clark, lying there. I feel like it's all my fault he was killed." She stopped there because she didn't trust her voice to continue.
"You can't blame yourself," Perry's voice was incredulous now. "You had no way of knowing what was going to happen."
"No, he died trying to protect me. In one *lousy* second, I lost my partner and my best friend." Lois was no longer addressing Perry but merely thinking out loud. "He died without ever knowing. I never told him…"
"Miss Lane?" Lois looked up momentarily. "I'm sorry to bother you. Detective Wolf, Homicide. I need to get your signature on the statement you gave last night." Lois nodded at the man who looked vaguely familiar and took the paper to sign automatically.
"You guys got any leads on these animals?" Perry's voice was quiet but demanding.
"Not yet, but we will." Wolf took the signed paper back from Lois and nodded slightly. "Thanks," he said as he turned to walk away.
"Yes, Miss Lane?"
"If you get any leads…please…" Lois' voice trailed off, but she lifted her head and locked eyes with the detective.
"You'll know as soon as I do," he said with sympathy, pity even. He then nodded again and walked away.
"Thank-you," Lois whispered with a sigh.
Clark's death was, of course, the story everyone talked about all day. Voices were subdued as the bare minimum information needed for other stories was exchanged. Then it was back to discussions about how much Clark had meant to the Planet, how young he had been, and the obligatory, "Such a shame." Lois caught only snatches of conversations here and there, because almost everyone stopped talking as they passed her desk. They would toss her sympathetic glances or simply look away, then continue their conversation as soon as they supposed they were out of her ear shot.
She didn't really care that so few of her coworkers talked to her; she had too much on her mind. She wasn't really in a mood to hear canned words of sympathy from people who didn't really know Clark very well anyway. Undisturbed at her desk, Lois traveled back to the previous night as her mind recreated the evening. They had taken a cab to the club. Lois grimaced now as she recalled their conversation on the drive over. They had talked about absolutely nothing important. It had been such a silly conversation. Pointless, in retrospect. Clark had shown up and hurried her out the door. She didn't even have time to do her lipstick in her apartment; she had to do it in the car as the cabby swerved through traffic. After she applied her lipstick, Lois realized she had left her purse in her apartment.
"I think you should know it is all your fault that I forgot my purse," she told him indignantly.
"Oh really?" he laughed.
"Yes, and it's not funny! You have to hold my lipstick for me now." They were joking back and forth, but she really would need him to hold onto the lipstick for her.
He took it from her and eyed it carefully. "Night Magic, hmm?" He then thoughtfully sized her up before pocketing the lipstick, "Okay, I'd hate for you to lose something that important." He winked and she rolled her eyes.
She could still see the twinkle in his eyes as he teased her. Had she known what would happen later that night, she certainly would have thought of something more meaningful to talk about than lipstick. Well, actually had she known, she never would've let her partner near the club in the first place.
"Um, Lois?" The voice was timid as it shook her back to the present.
Lois lifted her head from her hands to meet Jimmy eyes. "Hmm?"
"Lois, I-I'm I'm sorry." He seemed to be searching for more words, but finally simply patted her shoulder. She could tell he was fighting tears himself. "If you need anything-"
"Thanks, Jimmy." She patted his hand and did her best to put on a brave face.
Jimmy nodded, "I also wanted to let you know there's a Detective Wolf for you on line two." He patted her shoulder again. "And really; Lois, if you need anything you know where to find me."
"Thank-you, Jimmy." Jimmy walked away, his head down and his shoulders hunched. She picked up line two and hoped for some sort of good news. "Lois Lane."
"Miss Lane, Detective Wolf. Listen, we received an anonymous tip that someone dumped a body near a dumpster not far from where Mr. Kent was shot."
"Did you find Cl-," she stopped mid-sentence; she had to word this differently. "What did you find?"
Wolf sighed, "Nothing. Garbage. No sign of a body. I just wanted to let you know because I told you I would keep you updated."
"Yes, I appreciate that," Lois tried to hide her disappointment. "Thanks, Detective."
"We'll find them, Miss Lane."
"I hope so."
"I'm sorry I don't have more now. Good-bye, Miss Lane."
"Bye." Lois groaned in frustration as she hung up the phone. No sign of Capone and the others or of Clark's body. It didn't make sense.
Lois left the Daily Planet building with the intention of searching for the dumpster the tipster had called about. She drove to the club, then started searching for dumpsters. It was only then that she realized the impossibility of her task. She had never paid attention to just how many dumpsters there where in the city. She managed to search five in the area near the club. By the fifth, she no longer smelled the distinct smell of refuse and didn't even hesitate before she climbed in. She had been digging for several minutes when she spotted someone peeking out a nearby window. "Excuse me!" she called to the person, who disappeared back behind the curtains when she looked up.
"Who are you?" came the reply.
"Detective Lane, homicide." Had she given it much thought, she would have made up an alias, but her mind had too many other things going on to worry about something so trivial. "Did you call about someone chucking a body in the dumpster?"
"No. I didn't make no phone call to the police. I mind my own business."
"Well, maybe you could-"
"Miss Lane?" Lois jumped as she felt a hand at her shoulder. The voice belonged to Detective Wolf.
"Detective Wolf, what are you doing here?"
"Still checking out dumpsters, just in case the tipster had us looking in the wrong place. What are *you* doing here?"
"I didn't know if you tried the right dumpsters," she began feebly. "I thought maybe I could find something."
The detective softened his gaze and helped her out of the dumpster. "I know you want to find Barrow and the others Miss Lane. So do I. Believe me, the best thing you can do right now is to let me do my job. I don't want to have to worry about one of the gangsters coming after you."
"But-" Lois began.
"I will keep you updated, I promise. But you have to promise me you'll leave the detective work to me. And no more impersonating an officer. That could get you in all kinds of trouble." He paused and met her gaze. "Is it a deal?"
Lois didn't see a way out of it, so she simply nodded. "I won't get in your way anymore. I just-" she broke off, not even really sure what she was trying to say. She rubbed her cheek in defeat.
He waved off her apology. "It's not a problem. Just go home, okay? You aren't going to find anything here." She opened her mouth to argue with him, but he put up his hand to stop her. "Trust me. We've already scoured every dumpster in the area. Good night."
She didn't really want to go home, but at that point she didn't really have any other options. As she mustered up all the fine points of every self preservation skill she knew, Lois drove herself home. Back in her apartment, she fixed herself a cup of hot tea and pulled a half gallon of chocolate ice cream from her freezer. She was in the middle of her second sip of tea when the phone rang.
"Hello," Lois answered in a subdued voice but heard only a click. She rolled her eyes, fully aware that in Metropolis wrong numbers were common and started back to her ice cream and tea. She stopped in mid-stride as she remembered the same thing had happened only weeks before at Clark's apartment. She had been too terrified to stay at her own apartment because the Prankster was on the loose. She showed up at Clark's place and he had protected her. He was always protecting her. Tears filled her eyes as she thought about him. She brushed at her tears with one hand as she walked to her bedroom. Her heart was breaking and there was nothing anyone could do to help. With a deep, troubled sigh she climbed into bed and curled up in a ball beneath the covers.
"Lois?" She could hear the familiar voice through a dense fog.
"Clark? Is that you? What are you doing here?" Lois squinted but still couldn't see his face, only a shadow in the distance. "Clark, come here!" She began to walk toward him, but with each step she took, he seemed to fade. "Clark, wait!" But he vanished into the shadows of the night. "Clark?" her voice was frantic now as she tried to follow him, but then she woke up, shivering and in tears.
The next morning, Lois dragged herself out of bed and dressed in the first clothes she found. She gave a dismayed grunt when she reached the kitchen and realized she had gone to bed the night before without putting the ice cream away. Now melted ice cream was all over the counter. She briefly considered cleaning the mess but decided against it. No, she needed to leave quickly. It was a race between Lois and her memories, and she couldn't face the consequences of losing.
For the third time in twenty minutes, Lois slammed down the phone, tears of sadness and frustration falling unbidden from her eyes. At least she had gotten past the area code this time. "I can't do it," she realized it as she said it out loud. She just wasn't ready to call the Kents yet. As much pain as she was in, they had to be worse off, but she just couldn't call them.
Upset with herself and not sure what to do next, she wiped the tears from her eyes and hurried to Perry's office. Perry was standing with his back to the door, but he turned to face her when she came into his office. For the first time Lois noticed how haggard he looked. She briefly considered retreating; Perry looked to be having a private moment of reflection, but he sent her a look of empathy and gestured to a chair. She sat down, shoulders hunched and didn't even look at Perry when she started.
"I can't do it, Perry. I just can't call them."
"Honey, I understand." He didn't need to ask, it went without saying that she meant the Kents. "They, um, they seemed to be doing okay, considering."
"What? When did you talk to them?" She didn't know why she should be surprised; of course Perry would call the Kents to pay condolences.
"Yesterday. It was a short conversation. I didn't want to butt in, really. Just wanted to tell them that, ah, well um- I just wanted to let them know…uh…" The editor-in- chief was at a loss for words. He bowed his head for a moment or two in complete silence, then looked down at Lois. "They asked about you."
Lois simply nodded. This piece of information was not surprising. How like the Kents; how like Clark. She bit her lip absently as she thought back to how considerate her partner had always been. It was a trait she hadn't always appreciated, but that had been a constancy in their-
"Lois, did you hear me?" She looked up at Perry and shook her head. She wasn't even aware he was still talking. "I said I want you to take your time. Don't come back right away. You have too much to think about to be sitting around here. But if you need anything…"
"Thanks, Perry," she squeezed his hand before she continued, "but I need work right now. The Planet, it's all I have."
"No, really. I need to be here. I'll make a deal with you though," she paused, wanting to word this carefully, "I won't work on regular news stories. I just want to be working so that I can solve Clark's…" Lois' voice trailed off, she couldn't say it, couldn't even think it.
Perry sighed heavily as he rubbed his eyes with one hand. "You need to be here?"
"Okay, but don't overwork, Lois. I'm concerned about you."
She went back to her desk from Perry's office and absently picked up her coffee cup. She started to take a drink when she noticed Detective Wolf walking to the elevators.
"Detective Wolf!" Her coffee sloshed in her cup as she tried to catch up.
"Miss Lane." Wolf turned to face her. "I figured you must be at home. I had to take a statement down the street and I wanted to let you know we had a strange tip come in this morning."
Lois raised an eyebrow, "And?"
"Some poor guy had his car die at an intersection. The guy in the car behind was apparently pretty miffed about getting stuck. He threatened him and everything."
"So?" She was feeling impatient and just wanted Wolf to get to the point.
"So, he swears it was Baby Face Nelson that threatened him."
"Baby Face Nelson?"
"Yeah, seems like quite the coincidence, doesn't it? Dead gangsters showing up all over Metropolis. My guess is Nelson is just the latest."
"Sure sounds like it. Hey thanks, Detective." Lois reflected on the development as she walked back to her desk. Her thoughts whirled. Someone was still out in Metropolis recreating villains.
Lois picked up take out on the way back to her apartment. When she arrived home, she again ignored the mess in the kitchen and instead set up camp on her sofa. She propped her feet up on the coffee table and tried to get her sore muscles to relax. She closed her eyes as she attempted to focus on her conversation with Detective Wolf. Baby Face Nelson had been spotted in Metropolis. It wasn't a particularly startling piece of news. It was disturbing though. Apparently the mad scientist who was responsible for all this wasn't finished yet.
Mad scientist. The thought triggered something in her memory. She began to shuffle through the paper work beside her on the couch. There had been one prominent name she and Clark had come across when they had first begun investigating the gangsters. She should have already looked into this more, but she had been too preoccupied the past few days. The name Emil Hamilton jumped out at her from the top of one of the papers. Pulling the paper from the stack, she read the information that had been dug up on Hamilton. The information on the professor seemed more familiar with each word. "Outcast." "DNA modification."
"I'm not surprised. DNA modification is expensive." Immediately she jumped. Hearing Clark's voice permeate her thoughts was a little disconcerting. It caused her to lift her head and search the room for the welcome sight of her partner's face. The sight she hoped for didn't appear. Instead, only her fish looked back at her.
Lois' thoughts drifted back to Professor Emil Hamilton. Apparently he had the know how to do this sort of thing. And the drive. His theories had outraged the scientific community. Undoubtedly, the urge to prove his colleagues wrong was strong. He certainly seemed to be the prime suspect, but how to find him? Experience had taught her that suspects in crimes rarely want to be found.
"And, right now it looks like Emil Hamilton is an accomplice to murder," Lois said aloud. She did so without much thought but gasped as she realized the weight of what she had said. Clark had been murdered- which meant he was dead. She avoided saying it and thinking it as much as possible, but that changed nothing. It merely shielded her heart a little. She didn't have any tears left, not now anyway. Instead, she sighed and for the first time felt the emptiness she had tried so hard to avoid.
Lois began to feel herself nodding off. She tried valiantly to resist the urge to close her eyes, but couldn't. She drifted off to erratic sleep with apparitions of gangsters flitting through her mind.
At the Kent farm in Smallville, Clark was unable to sleep. He hadn't really been sleeping much since his "death" anyway. There was too much to think about. He went over the events of that fateful night again and again, but every time he came to the same conclusion; he had done the right thing. So why didn't it feel that way? He knew the instant the gun went off that something would have to change. His choice seemed simple when the bullet was racing toward him; reacting in any other way than the one he chose would mean losing the private life he had spent his adult years striving to protect. So he had fallen. What he had failed to realize in that split second was that pretending to be dead would mean losing everything anyway.
The life he loved so much in Metropolis was done. He couldn't think of a way to fix things. Everything was a mess. And Lois… he hated deceiving her, hated hurting her even more. But that's what he was doing. In order to preserve his identity, he was causing other people hurt. It wasn't something he was used to. As Superman, he had grown accustomed to helping people. Now, people for whom he cared a great deal were hurting and not only couldn't he help, but it was because of him that they were hurting. "I'm sorry, Lois." He spied a boulder and kicked it, sending it into orbit. "I wish I could do things differently. I'm so sorry." He said it fervently, as if somehow his impassioned apology would cut across the distance and actually reach Lois in Metropolis.
Lois awakened to sun streaming in through the partially open blind. Immediately, she was aware of the warmth she felt. It was unexpected, but welcome. She stood and walked to the window, still basking in the gentle warmth. She pulled the blind up and stared out, not really sure where she was looking. The sun was out in full force; the rays warmed her skin as she stood at the window. "I'm going to find you, Clark." She said it softly, but with determination. In that instant, a realization occurred; she expected to find Clark alive. She tried momentarily to convince herself otherwise. Clark was dead, after all. She had finally admitted as much to herself last night. So why the complete about face this morning? Whatever the reason, she no longer believed her partner was dead. As she discovered this, she noticed that the warmth she was feeling wasn't just the sun. She could also feel the tiniest flicker of warmth in her heart, like a candle lighting the darkness.
"I think Clark might still be alive." Lois was sitting at a chair in Perry's office when she made the announcement.
"Lois, honey-" Perry's expression was troubled. "I know this has been rough. We've all been worried about you. But, darlin'-"
"Perry, please just listen to me," Lois pleaded. "I know it sounds crazy and I know I don't have any solid proof, but I just don't think Clark is dead."
"Lois," Perry's voice was gentle, "you've been through hell. I think-"
"Perry, I would know," she leveled.
"Know what?" He searched her face.
"I would know if Clark were dead." She paused to make sure he was listening before she continued. "I know that sounds crazy. I'm not sure I even understand it myself. I just know that I would know."
"Lois, you've been under such a strain lately. I'll do anything I can to help you. You know that, right?" Lois nodded as Perry pulled a sheet of paper out of this coat pocket. "I've been doing some digging. I found a list of psychologists that specialize in grief counseling."
"Perry, I really don't think I need-"
"Then just take the list. You don't have to go. Just think about it, okay? I don't want to push you into anything, I just thought maybe it would help to talk to a professional." He patted her hand.
Lois sighed as she left Perry's office. She didn't know what she had expected; of course he would think she was in denial. He had no reason to believe her; neither did anyone else for that matter. She sat at her desk and her eyes automatically fell on a picture of her with Clark taken earlier in the year. They were smiling at each other and her hand was on his arm. There was something else about the picture though. The average passerby would miss it, but for her it was obvious. Their eyes gave it away; there was some sort of intangible bond between them. It was something at which she had marveled every time she looked at the picture. It was that bond that was keeping her going right now; she was sure of it.
Staring at the picture of herself with Clark, Lois felt a strange and inexplicable sense of peace. Maybe no one else believed it, but she knew Clark was still alive; he had to be.
The next few days went by slowly, uneventfully. Detective Wolf kept in touch, as promised, but had no new leads. Meanwhile, Perry tiptoed around Lois as if she would break at any moment. Lois herself began to think that maybe she was crazy or delirious for believing Clark was still alive. No one else believed it, after all. Even Jimmy, supportive as he tried to be, didn't believe that Clark could be alive. No one did. No one but Lois. She had never been the one to believe in something without proof. Clinging to hope long after others have given up was new to her. It surprised her how demoralizing it could be to have faith in something when no one else did. Believing in something, anything, for so long was completely new to her. She didn't know how much longer she could hold on by herself.
As Lois mentally reviewed the past few days, she noticed a piece of paper place haphazardly at the edge of her desk. A quick glance told her it was the list Perry had supplied her with days earlier. She ran her fingers absently over the corner of the paper as she pondered the list. Maybe she was delusional. Maybe she *did* need professional help. Having someone to talk to would be nice, in any case. Moments later she thought better of it. The only person she really wanted to talk to right now was the one person she *couldn't* talk to right now- Clark.
"Johnny Torrio was rushed to the hospital this afternoon." Detective Wolf began speaking before he even reached Lois' desk. He handed her two pictures. The first was an old mug shot, the second was a Polaroid. There were differences, but the pictures seemed to be of the same person.
"Johnny Torrio?" Lois racked her brain, but the name just didn't sound familiar.
"A Mafia boss in New York and then Chicago. Apparently he was the first to try to organize the Windy City. He had a young apprentice-"
"Exactly. Torrio was Capone's- well, mentor, for lack of a better word. He taught him a great deal about organized crime. Seems maybe Capone is the one deciding who to bring back."
Lois chewed her lip as she considered the new information. "It does seem that way. Hmm. Well, why was this Torrio character rushed to the hospital?"
"Appears he had a heart attack. That's what killed him back in 1957 too." Wolf gave her a wan smile before continuing. "Ironic, isn't it? Struck down by the same thing twice."
His comment concerned Lois. What if Torrio died? They would be back at square one. "What did the doctors have to say? Is he going to die?"
The detective shook his head. "No, doesn't appear that way. When I left the hospital he was in 'critical, but stable' condition. Whatever that means."
"It probably means he won't be talking for awhile." Lois sighed.
He nodded. "Probably. My information is still sketchy right now. I'm hoping Torrio will wake up and feel like doing some talking. Don't worry though, I'll get to him as soon as the doctors will let me. At least he certainly won't be out roaming the streets of Metropolis anymore. Don't *you* show up at the hospital though, okay?"
Lois narrowed her eyes briefly, then nodded. "But I want to know what he has to say."
"You will. I promise."
"I think you two should go to Metropolis." Clark stood in the Kent kitchen and faced his parents.
"Clark, do you really think that's a good idea?" Jonathan gave him a questioning look.
"Yeah, Dad, I do. I can't go. Too much of a possibility that someone will see me. I think it is important for you and Mom to go though. People will start to wonder if you don't at least show up to get things in order."
"Do you mean we need to plan a funeral and everything?" Martha looked uncertain.
"I don't know." Clark shrugged. "Maybe. You can see how things seem to be going when you get there. Maybe no one will expect you to have one since my body was never found." He sunk down into the sofa, exhaustion threatening to overtake him.
"Clark, honey, you don't look so good." Martha studied him closely. "Have you been sleeping any since- well, you know."
"Not really, Mom. Too much to think about. I did get a couple hours last night." He shook his head; sleep seemed rather unimportant to him as of late. The only reason he had slept the night before was overwhelming fatigue. It went without saying that he had been upset lately. That wasn't the worst part though. No, the worst part was having absolutely no idea what to do. He hadn't felt this helpless since the days when Lois had been engaged to Lex. He sighed and buried his head in his hands, but kept his eyes opened. Closing his eyes would mean once again being confronted with the jarring image of Lois kneeling over him in tears. It was an image that would move many less sensitive people to tears. For Clark, it was heart breaking.
"Clark," Martha sat down beside him on the couch, her eyes searching her son's face. "Clark, honey, we'll go. And we'll- um- we'll talk to Lois. You can stay here if that's what you think you need to do."
"Maybe being alone will give you some time to think," Jonathan suggested. "You can't hide out here forever, son." Clark felt a pat on his shoulder before he leaned back in the couch and nodded off. When he awoke, his parents were gone. The absence of daylight told him that he had been asleep quite some time. Refreshed and alone with his thoughts, Clark tried to think rationally about his current predicament. Maybe he could find a way to undo things after all.
Lois decided to drive around for a while after leaving the Planet. Going home to her apartment seemed to become more difficult with each passing day. As she drove, a sudden feeling of exhaustion came over her and she pulled to the side of the road. She looked up in wonderment when she realized where she was. Without planning it, she had driven to Clark's apartment. She sighed, bracing herself for the expected flood of tears, but none came. In fact, sitting in her jeep outside Clark's apartment gave her an odd feeling of calm. She sat for a few minutes and just let the feeling wash over her. Finally she decided she felt brave enough to go up to his apartment. It was something she felt she needed to do.
Lois was walking up to the door when it opened. She jumped and for the tiniest fraction of time, she expected to see Clark walk out. Her heart leapt and then promptly dove when the Kents walked out. She squeezed her eyes shut momentarily; it was so easy to forget.
"Lois!" Martha's voice registered both surprise and concern.
"Hi, Martha, Jonathan," she stopped, unsure of what she should say, "I-I didn't know anyone would be here, I just wanted to, well, I just thought maybe-" She stopped there as tears began to fall, which surprised her. She thought she was all cried out.
"Oh, honey," Martha engulfed her in a hug as Jonathan patted her on the back.
It was a full minute before Lois stopped crying, then she gently pulled back and looked Martha in the eye, "I'm so sorry-about Clark, about that fact I didn't call. I wanted to really, I even tried, but…"
"It's okay, Lois. We wanted to call you too, but we thought we should give you some time first."
"Lois," Jonathan's voice was gentle, "Clark wants- would want us to make sure you're doing okay. He is always," he halted and closed his eyes before he continued, "was always worrying about you. Listen, we were just leaving to pick up a few things at the market. Would you like to come with us? We could talk."
She considered this, but shook her head, "Thank-you, but if it's okay with you, I'd like to stay here and just look around. I'll still be here when you get back, it's just that I want to… I *need* to be here." She looked at the couple and just hoped they would understand.
"Yes, that's fine, honey." Martha gave her another hug and then let her into Clark's apartment.
With a promise they would be back before long, the Kents hurried off to the store. As she watched them disappear, Lois couldn't help but think they were acting a little funny. In an odd sense, it seemed they were taking all this better than she was. Immediately after that thought, Lois chastised herself. Not everyone grieves in the same way, she reminded herself.
Alone in Clark's apartment, Lois stood in one place and tried to drink in the sight. Everything was in place, the pictures, the awards. For some reason, she half expected to look around and see his things gone. It didn't seem right that his Kerth award and his football trophies were sitting there, untouched. Her gaze swept to the couch and she felt memories steal over her. She began to walk toward the couch, her thoughts on the night she fell asleep here with her head on Clark's shoulder.
When she was a few steps from the couch she did a double take. Something was part way under the sofa, almost hidden. Lois stared hard at the shiny object lodged under the edge of the sofa, barely daring to breathe. Could it be? Ever so slowly, she reached down and picked up the familiar silver tube. It was her Night Magic lipstick. She felt her head begin to spin and had to sit down to abate the dizziness that was sweeping over her. She passed the lipstick back and forth in her hands absently as she puzzled over what her find could possibly mean. How could the lipstick she had asked Clark to hold have ended up on the floor of his apartment? She had given it to him when they arrived at the club. It just wasn't possible for the lipstick to end up in his apartment; it didn't make sense.
After sitting for several minutes, Lois stood and began to pace around the apartment. As she walked, her mind ran through thought after thought in hyper speed. Clark's body still hadn't materialized and her lipstick which she *knew* he had with him that night was here in his apartment. "He is alive," she said aloud with certainty. There just wasn't any other way that her lipstick could have ended up in his apartment. Her partner had to be alive. Relief flooded over her as she again sat down. She had been feeling it for a few days, but now she had concrete evidence.
She was too busy concentrating to hear the door open. "Lois, we're back." She jumped as Jonathan's voice broke the silence in the room.
"Sorry, dear," Martha apologized. "We didn't mean to scare you."
"Um, no, it's okay. I was just thinking about- about Clark." Lois thought quickly. She felt more sure than ever that Clark was alive. It was something that the Kents should know. She just didn't think she should tell them yet. She was mostly grasping, and she knew it. She didn't think it would be fair of her to give them false hope. No, she needed more before she could tell them.
When Lois got back to her apartment, she surveyed the mess as if seeing it for the first time. She hadn't given it much thought before, but now the mess annoyed her. She rolled up her sleeves and dug in. Cleaning had always been rather therapeutic to her and it was more constructive than sitting around eating chocolate. She stayed up and cleaned until her apartment was sparkling. She made up her mind to go to Perry with the lipstick first thing in the morning. As she climbed into bed, she tossed off all but one blanket. She didn't need the extra warmth anymore.
"Lois, it's just lipstick." Perry looked as if he wanted to believe what she was telling him, but couldn't. "You could have dropped that any time you were at Clark's apartment." He sighed before continuing, "That's not evidence of anything. It just means you dropped it at one time or another."
Lois began in a rush, "Perry, listen, I know it's a stretch, okay?" She slowed a little. She wanted Perry to know she had really given this some thought. "I know it seems a little hard to believe. I also *know* that you want to believe me."
His expression turned melancholy for just a moment. She could tell he was fighting an internal battle of sorts. Finally, he squarely met her gaze. "There is just no way of knowing when it ended up in Clark's apartment."
"But, Perry, there is. I had this with me the night he was shot. I made him hold it for me. Don't you get it? My lipstick couldn't have ended up at Clark's apartment unless Clark did- Clark couldn't have ended up at his apartment dead. He would have been alive, at least to that point." By now, her voice had become pleading. She wanted, no, needed Perry to believe her. She needed him to understand. If she could convince just one other person, she would feel better about this. Right now, she felt as if she were clinging to an invisible lifeline.
Her editor in chief looked away for a moment. When he met her eyes again, his expression was filled with sorrow and concern. He, again, seemed at loss for words. "Lois, hon," he finally began. "This has been hard on me, too. Clark was special; he was like a son to me. I-I don't want to accept the fact that he is dead." He rose from his chair and walked around his desk to put a protective hand on her shoulder. "The thing is, if I…you, if *we* don't accept his death, we are never going to be able to move on." He lowered his voice and hunched down so that he was face to face with Lois. "I realize that right now moving on isn't something you want to think about, but at some point, maybe not today or tomorrow, but at some point you will have to move on."
Lois recognized that Perry was not going to be convinced. With a quick pat on his hand, she stood and walked out of his office. She couldn't blame him for his disbelief. It made sense. After all, his professional life was about facts backed up by more facts. She was normally the same way. Never one to take people or ideas on faith, she needed to "see it to believe it."
She looked around for Jimmy; maybe he would understand and believe her hunch. When she didn't see him, she sighed and dropped into her chair. On her desk, was Detective Wolf's card. Lois pondered calling him and realized that even if he thought she was crazy, he should still at least know about the lipstick. Energized, she quickly dialed the detective's extension.
"Detective Wolf, Homicide."
"Detective, this is Lois Lane."
"Miss Lane, I was about to call you. Torrio woke up today."
"Really? Is he talking?" It was the first possibly promising piece of news anyone had come up with in days.
"Yes, really. And no. He seems to recall a couple words quite well though- fink and lawyer."
"I'll bet," Lois mumbled it, but Wolf caught it anyway.
"Well, I'll keep putting pressure on him." He said it smoothly.
Listening to the detective, Lois could almost believe that Torrio would eventually give in. "How will you get him to talk?"
"Well, here's the deal. I've spent a fair amount of time around the hospital talking to physicians about him. His heart attack wasn't your average heart attack. In fact, one doctor seems convinced that he is a poorly done clone and that is what caused the heart attack. Says his molecular structure is imperfect."
"Is that true?" Lois didn't know the significance of the information the detective was relaying, but she figured he would get around to the point.
"Well, it's what the doctor thinks. That's good enough for me."
"So, how will this information be useful?"
"I'll bargain with him," Wolf answered simply. "This doctor thinks Torrio could die at any time. He has the imperfect molecular structure and now his system is unstable after the heart attack. If he knows this then maybe he'll be willing to talk if he thinks I can buy him time."
The pause on the other end of the line was deafening. She was about to repeat her question when Detective Wolf found his voice. "Miss Lane," his voice was quiet and tinged with something that sounded like sadness or frustration, "sometimes the answers we find aren't clear and easy. Sometimes we have to make do with what we're given. Maybe the doctors will be able to help Johnny Torrio and maybe not. That's not my concern. I don't like manipulating the truth, but if that's what it takes to keep the good guys ahead, well, I'm okay with it."
"Well, just keep me posted. I'd like to know if he does talk."
"Thanks, Detective. I guess I'll talk to you later then."
"You called me," he started, then paused. He gave her several seconds to reply before carefully prodding her. "What can I do for you?"
"I realize you're busy and I know this probably won't make much sense…" She trailed off, no longer sure if calling Wolf had been a good idea. She wasn't up to fighting many more losing battles today.
"Miss Lane?" Wolf interrupted her thoughts.
"Why don't you start by telling me why you're calling." His voice was coaxing. "Let me decide if it makes sense or not."
"I had lipstick with me the night Clark was shot. I didn't have anywhere to keep it, so Clark put it in his coat pocket. Last night, I went by his apartment. When I was looking around I found the same lipstick on the floor." She took a breath as she waited for him to tell her it was just a coincidence.
He mulled this over before he responded. "You're sure it's the same lipstick that he had in his coat pocket that night?" he asked.
"Positive." She said it quietly, barely daring to hope he would draw the same conclusion she had.
"Okay. Thank-you, Miss Lane. If you don't mind, I'll send a runner to pick it up. I'd like to take a look."
"No, that's fine." He was, at the very least, humoring her and for that, she was grateful.
"I don't know what it means, but I will do my best to find out. Thanks. I'll be in touch."
In Smallville, Clark was pacing again. From conversations with his parents, he had managed to derive that Lois seemed "lost." Whatever that meant. He just knew that it wasn't good. Lois Lane was many things, but never lost. If only he could go back to Metropolis, but it was still too risky. He wanted desperately to somehow undo what he had done. He just couldn't figure out how. He needed to see her, to be close to her. She had been his constant inspiration from the first time they met. He was sure that being near her would help him to come up with the perfect story. And he was going to need a whopper this time.
That night, Lois struggled with what to do. She didn't want to be home alone, so that ruled out going to her apartment. She could go to Clark's again, but that would mean facing the Kents. She knew nothing more than she had when she ran out of Clark's apartment the night before. Another visit to Clark's apartment would have to wait until she had some answers. Finally she decided to just stay at the Planet. She wasn't particularly tired anyway. This way she could really do some research.
Jimmy didn't need to be talked into helping her. Instead, he agreed readily and headed down to the morgue to pull up all kinds of information: DNA modification, Professor Hamilton, Johnny Torrio. She wanted which anything might come in handy. Their search proved to be quite fruitful. When Jimmy finally returned, Lois quickly learned he hadn't found anything new on Hamilton. He did, however, come up with three piles of paper with information on DNA modification and Torrio to go over. They poured over the information together in companionable silence. Occasionally, one of them would come up with something worth noting and would mention it. Then they would go back to working in silence. At midnight, Lois sent Jimmy home. He didn't want to go, but eventually agreed. Lois suspected that he left mostly just to appease her, but that was okay. She needed to think and he needed his sleep.
At three in the morning, Lois was fighting to stay awake. She had managed to glean some interesting information while weeding through stuff that she already knew or didn't comprehend. As she understood it, mistakes in DNA modification could lead to clones that appeared the same as the originals, but quickly deteriorated. She could only hope that Johnny Torrio would be awake and ready to talk before he deteriorated any more. Her eyes trailed, as they often did, to the picture on her desk "Where are you, partner?" she whispered to Clark's picture. "Where are you?"
Lois read about the benefits and drawbacks to DNA modification for hours. It was six before she decided to stretch her legs and grab a fresh cup of coffee. She wished there was something more she could do, but she was pretty sure Detective Wolf wouldn't appreciate it if she showed up at the hospital. Studying about DNA modification was, more than anything, a space filler. It helped keep her mind occupied. She retrieved a cup of coffee quickly and retreated back to her desk to start reading about Johnny Torrio.
"Lois?" She heard a tentative voice calling her, but didn't want to wake up, not yet. She had been dreaming. Reality wasn't really where she wanted to be right now. The speaker had other plans. "Lois?" This time the speaker also gently shook her shoulder as he spoke.
She finally lifted her head to look at… Jimmy? What was Jimmy doing in her apartment? A quick glance around the room explained one thing- Jimmy wasn't in her apartment. She was still at the Planet. In fact, she was still at her desk. That would explain the soreness in her neck. She had no idea what time it was, nor did she have any idea how long she had been asleep. "Jimmy, what did you need?" she finally asked.
"I'm sorry to bother you, Lois."
She shrugged. "It's no big deal. I'm just tired. What did you need?"
"Detective Wolf is on line three for you."
"Oh!" Lois instantly felt her drowsiness disappear. "Thanks." She waved to Jimmy, then quickly picked up her phone. "Lois Lane."
"Johnny Torrio's awake." Detective Wolf's voice was excited. "I think he's ready to talk."
"I'll be right there!" Lois didn't wait to hear Wolf's reply. She didn't even bother to hang up the phone, just grabbed her purse and bolted to the elevator.
When she arrived at Metropolis General, Lois hurried to ICU. A uniformed officer stood beside the nurses' station. "You Lane?" he asked as she approached him. Too out of breath to speak, Lois simply nodded. "You can go on in. Room 412. Detective Wolf is waiting for you."
Lois knocked twice on the door before letting herself in. She did a double take when she saw the man in the hospital bed. His features matched the pictures she had seen, but somehow he looked different than she had expected. She studied him carefully before realizing that she had expected to see some sort of monster. Instead, the man in the hospital bed was sickly and aging.
Detective Wolf stood when she came into the room, then pointed to a chair near the door. Lois took her cue and sat, not really sure she was ready to hear whatever Johnny Torrio was about to say.
"What's the dame doing here?" Torrio's voice was raspy, but she could hear the underlying fierceness.
"She has a vested interest in what you have to say." The detective sat back down in the chair beside Torrio's bed.
"Does she?" His smile was thin.
"I have some questions for you. I want straight answers and I want them now. Believe me, you don't want to mess around." Lois was surprised to hear the edge in the usually soft-spoken detective's voice. "Start talking." It was a command, not a request.
"Well maybe I don't feel like talking, huh?" Another thin smile crossed Torrio's lips. Lois shivered; the guy was positively icy.
"That's fine," Wolf remarked coolly. "And maybe you die an accelerated death because you're an imperfect clone." He stood. "I suppose that's your decision to make."
"A clone," Wolf answered, his voice still cool. "A copy. Or, in your case, the better term would be cheap knock- off."
Torrio's eyes flickered momentarily, but he quickly regained his poker face. "I don't believe you," his eyes bore into the detective as he said it. "I think you're bluffing. I think I'm going to be just fine in a few days."
"That's not what your doctors are telling me."
"Okay then, we're done." Detective Wolf turned and headed for the door.
"Wait," Torrio growled at last. Wolf slid back into his chair wordlessly. "I'll talk. What do you want to know?"
"Who has been making the clones?"
"Some dopey professor." Torrio had a bored expression on his face.
"Hamilton?" Lois asked, ignoring the look Detective Wolf shot her.
"Okay. Could be."
"Emil Hamilton?" Wolf asked. Lois felt some relief to know that Wolf knew about the professor.
"Is he still making clones?"
Torrio nodded briefly. "I guess so. Unless he found a way to sneak out."
"And why would he need to sneak out?" Wolf pressed.
"Al's got him locked up in the basement." Torrio paused, then gave Wolf a pained expression. "You know, I taught that kid everything, but suddenly he thinks he gets to be in charge. Lemme tell ya, he has another thing coming if he thinks…" Torrio stopped in mid-sentence and shook his head.
"So where are they now?" the detective asked evenly.
"Don't know." When Wolf raised an eyebrow, Torrio hurriedly explained, "They're pulling a job today at two. They're probably off somewhere getting ready for it."
"A job where?" Wolf asked, showing interest for the first time that day.
When Torrio hesitated before answering, Wolf glared. The simple action seemed to jog the old gangster's memory. "Bank of Metropolis. They're going to rob the Bank of Metropolis today at two." He seemed angry at himself for giving up the information. "Wolf, you'd better get me some good medical help for this," he snarled.
"Your information better be accurate," Wolf answered without missing a beat. He stood and he and Lois walked out of the room.
"I'm going with you." Lois informed Detective Wolf as soon as they were out of the room.
"With me where?" The detective asked her, his expression blank.
"Look," Lois began, "I know you're going to set up a stakeout on this bank to catch these guys." She changed her tone to pleading. "I won't get in the way. I just need to come along."
"It's dangerous-" he started.
Lois held up her hand to stop his argument. The action bought her some time to think up a retort. She didn't really want to badger the detective. After all, he had been working hard on this case and he hadn't hung up on her when she called about the lipstick. Nevertheless, she just couldn't afford to give up any ground. If it took strong- arming him, then so be it. "I'll go whether or not you say I can." She knew she sounded defiant, but she couldn't change that once the words were out of her mouth.
"I figured," he finally admitted ruefully.
"Okay," he sighed. "But you are coming with me and you will stay in the car. Got it?" She simply nodded. Now wasn't the time to open her mouth.
Lois called Perry to let him know what was going on, then spent the next hour at Metropolis PD headquarters. Her boss said he didn't mind if she went along with Wolf. He even seemed to think it was a good idea. Over the phone, he had reminded her that she didn't have to be at work in the first place and that she needed to do whatever she needed to do. Apparently he still believed she wasn't coping well. He probably hoped the event would help her come to terms with reality. His version of reality. She didn't fault Perry for his skepticism. With any luck, she would have more proof for him later in the day.
She watched as officers from the Emergency Services Unit prepared for the upcoming event. Some dressed in business suits, some in plain clothes, and some in uniforms. While activity swirled around them, Wolf took time out to explain to her that those dressing in business suits would be taking the place of the bank's six tellers. He felt it would be an unnecessary risk to involve innocent people. As he spoke, her mind wandered to the possibility of being in the bank when the sting happened. She wanted especially to get her hands on Clyde Barrow and John Dilligner. If only-
"No." Wolf cut into her thoughts as he shook his head.
"No, what?" Lois asked. She really hadn't a clue what he meant.
"We made a deal. You are staying in the car."
"That look. I see that same look on officers' faces all the time. It's not going to happen, Lois. You are staying in the car and that is final."
She wanted to argue, but knew she couldn't risk losing the opportunity. Instead, she finally nodded. "Okay, it was just a thought anyway."
Clark was tired of pacing back and forth and doing nothing. According to his parents, more clones were showing up in Metropolis. People he cared about were in danger. Even if he couldn't go back to being Clark, he still had to help them. This was a job for Superman. Before he could change his mind, Clark spun into the Superman suit and headed for Metropolis.
When he arrived, his first stop was the Daily Planet. He was dismayed to see that Lois wasn't at her desk. He hoped she was home, safe and sound. Jimmy was sitting at his old desk, holding the Clark Kent nameplate. He seemed to be in his own world, so Clark cleared his throat before approaching.
"Oh, Superman," Jimmy said looking up, but not letting go of the nameplate.
"Jimmy, I'm worried about Lois."
"Yeah, she's taking Clark's death really hard," Jimmy whispered.
"I wanted to talk to her. Do you have any idea where she might be?"
"She was going to the Bank of Metropolis with Detective Wolf. Capone and his gang are planning on pulling a job there at two today. She got special permission to go with- " Clark was gone before Jimmy finished his sentence.
At the Bank of Metropolis, Detective Wolf was coordinating events through a headset. Lois listened intently to the commands he gave. The man had an intensity about him. It seemed to her that no one bothered to argue with him. He was definitely a person who could get things done. She was busy concentrating when someone knocked on the driver's door. She jumped at the sound and looked to see Superman standing beside the door.
"Lois," he began as soon as Wolf rolled the window down. She couldn't be sure, but for the briefest moment, his eyes seemed to light up. "I'm, well, I'm sorry," he finally said softly. "I should have…" She could hear the melancholy in his voice and something else; regret, his voice was filled with regret.
She waved his attempted apology off quickly. Superman no doubt felt responsible, but there was nothing he could have done. Besides, it was odd and not a little disconcerting to hear words of sympathy now that she was so convinced her partner was alive. She feared falling back into the cold world of grief where she had resided after Clark had been shot. It would be all too easy if she listened to anyone else who believed he was dead. Finally, she met Superman's gaze and squared her shoulders. "Please, no apologies."
He nodded, "Okay." He turned his attention to Detective Wolf, "What can I do to help?"
"You can go inside and lie low," Wolf answered quickly. "We're still waiting for Capone and his gang to show." Superman nodded and was gone instantly.
Clark found a corner in the Bank of Metropolis and began watching for trouble, but his mind was on Lois. He had been so consumed worrying about the mess he had gotten himself into that he had forgotten Superman would have been expected to pay condolences. He wanted to offer Lois some sort of explanation, but had no idea what he would say. Instead, he had stumbled over a few words and hurried away. He still didn't have any solution to the fact that he was supposed to be dead. The one comfort to him had been the simple act of seeing Lois. Somehow, she looked at peace.
Detective Wolf tossed Lois a warning look as he slowly climbed out of the car. He needn't have worried. She could certainly take care of herself. Not that the detective needed to know her plan. When Wolf was finally inside the bank, Lois opened the door. She felt the tiniest bit of guilt as she slid silently out of the car, but quickly banished it. Clark needed her- she was sure of this fact. That was enough to convince her not to stay in the car.
Boldly, Lois hurried around to the back of the building. No turning back now, she told herself. As she reached the back, she saw the door propped open and slipped inside without hesitation. She found herself in a small room, an office of some sort. She peaked out a squeaky clean window and waited. It was several minutes before a vintage car came around the corner. After it stopped, several gangsters piled out. She felt immediate dismay as she realized the propped open door seemed to be their choice for entry. Quickly, she scanned the room and decided her best bet would be to hide under the desk. When they entered the office, she was hidden beneath the desk with the chair pulled tightly against her. None of the clones ever even looked her way as they marched toward the front of the bank.
The sound of shouting and then gunshots filled the air moments later, and Lois shuddered as she recalled the last time she had been in the vicinity of someone firing a gun. The next sound she heard was a faint, but distinctive whoosh. A grin played across her lips; Superman was in action. A quick assessment told her the situation and she climbed out from under the desk. Her hope was to corner one of the clones. "And then what?" she asked herself. Before she had time to come up with an answer, Bonnie Parker came running in her direction.
"Not so fast," Lois said as she stuck out a foot. The simple plan worked and Bonnie tripped. Lois was ready to take a swing as Bonnie attempted to stand, but an officer stepped between the women. He handcuffed Bonnie and began reading her rights as the two headed out the door.
Lois followed the pair outside. She had hoped for a chance to talk with Superman, but could only watch the sky as he flew away. It looked as if Al Capone was with him, squirming and yelling. Lois watched without emotion. It had been a long day. Suddenly, she felt a hand on her shoulder and turned to see Detective Wolf.
"Weren't you supposed to stay in the car?" he asked.
"I just wanted to-"
"It's okay. I didn't actually expect you to stay there the whole time. We're going to get back to the station now. I want to know what these guys know about the whereabouts of your partner's…" he trailed off as he saw her expression fall.
"Let's go," she sighed.
"So…" Lois began as she climbed into Detective Wolf's car. He had offered her a ride back to the Planet and she had readily accepted. It had been a long day and she didn't feel like the battle it would take to get a cab this time of day. Hours of questioning had yet to produce any evidence that Clark was alive or that Capone and his gang knew anything that would be useful. To her, it seemed like the straw that broke the camel's back.
"So, the good guys won," he filled in for her. "That doesn't always happen. Today was a good day."
"I guess." It was a half-hearted response. Lois had busied herself with staring out the window into the semi- darkness. She was glad that Capone and the rest of the thugs were going to jail, but what she really wanted was something that everyone seemed to think was impossible. Her breath steamed up the window and absently she began tracing Clark's name.
"I'm sorry we didn't learn anything new about your partner." His voice was muted, but Lois didn't appreciate the intrusion into her thoughts.
She finished tracing the letter R on the window before facing forward again. "Perry thinks I'm crazy for believing that Clark is still alive somewhere," she finally said. Tears gathered in her eyes as she haltingly continued. "Everybody else probably does too… What do you think?" The question surprised her.
They had reached the parking garage underneath the Daily Planet building. Detective Wolf pulled his car in and parked, then turned to face her. "Here," he said as he handed her a small paper sack.
"It's your lipstick," he explained. "I rushed it through evidence."
"Thanks." She opened the bag and took her lipstick out, then ran it between her fingers a few times. Finally she placed it carefully in the side pocket of her purse. "Detective, you never answered my question."
His expression became far away, as if he had forgotten she was even in the car. When he answered, he spoke softly. "I think everyone needs something to hold on to, something that keeps them going. It is what motivates us to wake up in the morning, the candle that lights up our nights." He paused thoughtfully. "When you find whatever that is… when you find it, you don't let go."
Hope. He was talking about hope; she was sure of it. "Are you saying I should keep believing Clark is alive, no matter what the evidence says?" she asked, almost afraid of what his answer would be.
"I'm saying you obviously have a very special bond with your partner- never let go of it."
Lois turned to the window and let her breath steam it up once again. "Clar" was clearly visible. She started to wipe the letters away but thought better of it. Instead, she reached up with her index finger and traced a K after the R. Satisfied, she got out of the car and began to walk toward the elevators. After a couple of steps, she changed her mind and walked toward the alley. It was a slightly longer walk and would give her time to think before facing Perry, Jimmy, and her other coworkers. She wasn't sure she felt like interacting with people, not right now. She knew Perry and Jimmy would be concerned about her though. She at least needed to fill them in on the day's events.
She inhaled sharply as she reached the rear entrance to the parking garage. The fresh air was cold, but she welcomed it. She paused and looked up briefly in reflection at the starry night sky. After a few moments, she looked ahead and began walking again. The alley that stretched out before her was deserted except for a lone figure walking toward her. She looked up at the figure and her breath caught in her chest. It couldn't be.
"Clark?" She watched as the familiar figure approached: glasses, broad shoulders, and an easy gait. This was the same scene that had played out in her dreams except that this time she could make out his face. "Clark!!" She ran to him and threw herself into his arms. Instantly, she was enveloped. She had never realized just how good it felt to be in his arms. Now, she never wanted to leave. She cried, but for the first time in days her tears were happy tears. "You're alive! Oh, Clark, you're alive!" she repeated as she buried her head in his shoulder. He tightened his arms around her and she felt her world being put back together. "I knew it. I knew you were alive."
"How?" Clark asked, keeping his arms tightly wrapped around her.
Lois lifted her head to meet his gaze, unashamed of the tears that still filled her eyes. "I just knew," she said finally. He searched her eyes for what seemed like forever, then nodded in acceptance. She put her head back down, this time resting it against his chest so that she could hear the even rhythm of his heartbeat. It had to be the most beautiful sound she had ever heard. "Clark?" she asked after a few seconds of silence.
"Hmm?" He, too, seemed content to stay where they were.
"You were shot. I saw it. How…?" She trailed off because she really didn't know what exactly she wanted to ask him.
"Oh. Superman found me. He froze me with his super breath. Then he flew me to some specialist he knows. He found me just in time."
More tears filled her eyes at the thought of Superman not finding him in time. Suddenly, she remembered her lipstick. "One thing I don't understand, Clark." She took a step back.
She dug into her purse until she found her tube of Night Magic lipstick, which she handed to him. "How did my lipstick end up on the floor of your apartment? Didn't you have it in your coat pocket?"
He looked surprised and a little uneasy, for just a fraction of a second, but the look passed almost as quickly as it came. "Oh, um… I think Superman brought my things to my parents. They probably dropped it when they were at my apartment."
She contemplated it and then nodded. It seemed like a plausible explanation. Her mind moved on to other questions; she had so many. "What did this specialist do, exactly?"
"Well," Clark gave it some thought. "You know, I'm not sure exactly. Medicine isn't really my thing." He smiled apologetically.
"Oh, Clark," she said, throwing her arms around him again. "I don't care if they used crazy glue; you're back!" He laughed gently in response.
She stayed by Clark's side while Detective Wolf interviewed him and while Perry and Jimmy marveled at his return from death. She constantly touched him: his arm, his shoulder, his chest, anything that would reassure her that Clark was, indeed, at her side. She was terrified of waking up to find that he wasn't really there, that this was a cruel dream. But every time she squeezed her eyes shut and then opened them, he was still standing at her side. Every time she touched him, she could feel the warmth that indicated life. Every time he talked or laughed, the welcome sound fortified what her other senses were trying to tell her. Clark was alive. She had been right to believe in all that she couldn't see. For once logic had failed and she didn't care.
"Miss Lane," Detective Wolf's voice broke into her thoughts. "It was a pleasure working with you." He smiled and stuck his hand out for her to shake. He turned back to Clark with a grin, "You're my first homicide case that ever solved itself. Thanks." He then turned to leave.
"Detective," Lois called after him. He turned to face her and she smiled. "Thank-you. I can't tell you how much I appreciate all you did."
He waved off her thanks. "Please, I'm just glad everything worked out the way it did." He paused deliberately, then shrugged. "I don't get that enough in my line of work. Good night." He nodded at Lois and Clark, then headed for the door.
Clark yawned and stretched. "I need to get home. I want to get a good night's sleep so that I can go back to work in the morning."
Lois was glad to hear she would have her partner back at work tomorrow, but she still wasn't ready to let him go. "You want a ride?" she offered.
"Sure," he answered simply.
On the drive to Clark's apartment, Lois listened as he spoke animatedly about the day's events. She was content, for once, to simply listen. He had a way of lighting up when he spoke. And in everything he did, he gave off this inexplicable warmth. At first, she had dismissed it as being a Kansas thing. The more she came to know him though, the more obvious it became that this warmth was something distinctively Clark. It was one of the things that made her love him. Love him? What was she thinking? This was Clark, after all. He was her best friend, someone she cared about, not someone she could fall in love with. In the next instant though, she knew that was exactly what had happened. She was in love with him. She knew it with a certainty that she had never felt before. Maybe that was what had kept her going all this time.
When they arrived at his apartment, she still wasn't willing to let him out of her sight. Instead, she walked him to his door. He turned to face her as they reached his door. "Well…" he started.
She wanted to say something brilliant, something that would put all she was feeling into words. Instead, she leaned forward and kissed him gently on the cheek. They had so much to talk about, so much to catch up on. There were so many things that needed to be said. Today had already been too emotional though. She didn't want to start a conversation as deep as the one they needed to have when she was this spent. It would have to wait until she was thinking more clearly. That was okay though. Her feelings for Clark weren't going to change anytime soon. There would be time to say what she needed to say. "Good night, Clark," she whispered. He put his arms around her and lifted her into a bear hug.
"Good night," he said as he lowered her back to the ground. "I'll see you tomorrow?"
"Definitely, partner." She turned and walked away. The faintest smile played on her lips as she walked outside. Detective Wolf had been right; she certainly had a very special bond with Clark. The bond was something she planned to hold onto for a very long time.