By The Hawk and The Wolf Lote <firstname.lastname@example.org> and Jon Wolff <email@example.com>
Submitted: March 2003
Summary: After years of corresponding Lois finally meets her pen pal CJ and eventually discovers his true identity. What barriers do they need to overcome? Will their relationship survive? (This version of the story is revised and expanded with new new material and consolidates the previous three parts.)
Chapter 1 - The Stranger
Boston, MA., U.S.A.
The cool autumn breeze was helping the trees shed their summer leaves, which by now were bedecked in the orange and browns of the waning summer. It was especially cold that evening, even for autumn. But that was the way Boston's weather worked. Someone mentioned that you just have to wait for a few minutes for the weather to turn around suddenly.
A lone figure walked quietly along the river front street, glancing up occasionally at the setting sun. She shivered a little from the cold wind, not having properly dressed for the sudden drop in temperature. The only thing she had on which helped protect her from the cold was her scarf which she tied around her head. She stopped and sighed again as she watched the sun dip between the buildings and homes along the river.
It was at this time of the day, at sunset, that she felt the loneliest. Lois was far from her native home of England and felt like an outsider here. She had tried to fit in, but her peers at the University did not understand her desire to break into a career that was almost exclusively populated by men. It had kept her apart, not only from the others in her journalism classes, but also from her family. Neither her mother nor her father understood her choice of careers. Even her best friend warned her of the problems of choosing a career dominated by men.
In response, she had erected many emotional barriers, keeping her apart from others at the university. Tonight she would spend another evening alone. She had gotten to the point that even when she wanted to break through and reach out to others, she found that her self-imposed walls were far too high to climb.
The only exception seemed to be with the one friend that she never met in person — her pen pal, CJ. Lois was still amazed at her relationship with CJ. She never meant to develop such a close relationship with him. But somehow he had gradually become the person with whom she shared her deepest thoughts and feelings. She would tell him things that she shared with no one else, not even her sister. It had started innocently enough. She had been part of a correspondence club of people from around the world who were all fans of her favorite series of romance adventure novels. The Dakota Smith novels had the combination of adventure and romance that appealed to her. Even after the author had retired and the series had ended, fans from around the world had continued to publish newsletters, exchanging ideas and stories about the series and its two main characters. She related to the main female character of the series somehow. The character was strong, independent, and smart, but with a sense of isolation. She only felt at home when on some adventure with her secret love, Dakota Smith.
The members of the club would never meet, only corresponding by mail and newsletters. Her friends from England, Labette and Wendy, had been faithfully publishing the newsletter for the past 6 years. In her secret life, with her fellow fans, she was free to express what was truly in her soul. Her dreams, her desires, her passions.
Only there, anonymously, did she peak over the barriers that she herself had erected. But, still there was always the fear if people would see the true Lois, that they would think she wasn't good enough, that somehow she was inadequate, and they would be disappointed. So she remained the tough, intractable Lois Lane, never showing her vulnerability to the world.
Then she got her first letter from CJ. He had written a letter commenting on a short story she wrote for the "Fans of Dakota Smith" (FoDS) newsletter. Usually the comments she got from her stories were either compliments or urgings to write more. But CJ had actually pointed out areas where she could improve her story, writing suggestion modifications. She was quite indignant at the time. How dare he! She was the professional writer (well, aspiring professional), not him. She wrote back, letting him know that she didn't ask for a "beta reader" of her writings, thank you very much.
After she shot off her hastily written letter to the return P.O. Box on the return address, she reread CJ's letter. Begrudgingly she had to admit that some of his suggestions had some small merit. Well, actually, reading the letter for the third time, she had to admit that some of suggestions were very good. Insightful, in fact. She wrote a letter the very next day, apologizing, and admitting that maybe she had been a little hasty in her first letter.
The next week she received a second letter from CJ. The very first paragraph immediately teased her about her first incensed letter, and her quick retraction in the second letter. He quickly amended his teasing by telling her that he believed her writing to be of professional caliber, and started to point out all the parts of her writings which he liked.
For some reason, which she could not fathom at the time, she wrote back to him again. This time she picked up on the teasing demeanor of his letter, and teased him back on his perceptive compliments of her clearly superior work. She even did her best to draw in a little face with a mischievous smile after her comments.
From there the letters between her and CJ become a regular occurrence. It turned out the CJ was something of a world traveler. Her letters from CJ would come from places all over the world. Somehow he would arrange for his mail to be forwarded from his P.O. Box in Kansas. With each letter they would share more and more of each other's lives, thoughts, and feelings. Soon Lois found herself running to her postal box everyday in hope of another letter from CJ. Somehow, against all reason, a man that she had never met face to face, had become her dear friend.
It turned out that CJ was something of a writer himself, supporting himself by writing freelance news stories for the wire services. He would send her clippings of some of his work from time to time. The stories never had a name in his byline, merely "AP Correspondence". When questioned about this, CJ merely wrote that it was easier for him to get stories if his name wasn't known. And what stories they were. Tales of international criminals being exposed, injustices committed by immoral governments, even a couple of exclusive interviews with Superman after the Man of Steel had completed one of his trademark spectacular rescues.
Now in her final year of school, she reflected on where her relationship with CJ would go from here. By mutual agreement, they never exchanged last names; they were just Lois and CJ. What would CJ say if she wrote that she wanted to take the next step, and meet each other face to face. Her old fear was that if she was seen in the light of day, he would find her lacking. She didn't think that she was beautiful, well not the kind of classic beauty that men go for. Her features were too strong for that. And her forceful personality didn't help either. She didn't delude herself in thinking that she was perfect, and in fact thought the opposite of it. Besides her passion for journalism, she thought that she had nothing else going for her.
Of course, part of her knew that the man who had been writing to her these last few years would insist that she wasn't inadequate. He would always complement her and let her know that she was special. But she knew that he only said those things because they had never met. If they had met in real life first, they could never have been friends. She sometimes wondered what he was like in real life. He often spoke of life with a passion that she was not used to, and she would read the narratives of his experiences as he traveled around the world. In their letters, they would often tease each other mercilessly and then within the same letter write of serious things, such as life, God, love, the universe.She often wondered what he was like in real life? Was he really the confidante that she had come to depend on?
Looking back, he was the one person she had kept connected to in the world. The one who always encouraged her in the pursuit of her dream to be a journalist. That was unique especially in her world where friends would tell her that journalism was too competitive for a woman. He was the one person who encouraged her to believe in her dream and to persevere even if the whole world seemed to be against her. She took strength from his encouragement and shelter in their correspondence. Would she be disappointed if they were to meet, just as she feared that he would be disappointed meeting her? Lois shook her head for she knew the answer to that. She could never be disappointed at meeting CJ. How could she when at times it seemed that he was the only person that kept her sane.
But now she hadn't heard from him in over a week, since he said he had some business to attend to with the government. She missed him, the regular, almost daily letters from him. She imagined that he might sneak a surprise and try to meet her.then she shook her head. It felt good to imagine him doing it, but she doubted he would. He wouldn't do such a sneaky thing to her and besides neither of them had ever met before. That made her wonder if she would know him if he passed by her on the street someday. She ruefully thought that if they did meet, he would be the one who was disappointed.
She suddenly realized that she had been brooding by the river too long, and it had grown dark. She usually did not like to walk alone in the darkened streets of the city, but now she had to finish her journey by street light. She needed to get to store or she wouldn't be eating tonight. 'I guess I worry too much, the store is just around the corner, and this is a pretty safe neighborhood.' She continued her walk toward the store, looking over her shoulder every so often.
Two blocks from her destination, she turned once again to look behind her. As she faced forward again, she suddenly ran into a man standing in her path. He was too old to be a student and looked to be a little on the drunk side. With him were two companions who looked equally inebriated. The man she bumped into yelled at her, "Hey! Watch where you're goink,. gominig,. um, walking."
"I'm so sorry," she replied. She really didn't want to deal with these men, so she quickly started walking toward the store again. Before she could get past the men, one of them grabbed her by the arm and spun her around to face them again. "Where are you going honey? Maybe we want to say hello and talk for a while."
Lois was now starting to panic a little. All three of these men were large, and her rudimentary self defense training would be no match for all three of them. The man she had collided with pulled her closer. "Now what's this scarf for? You need to take this off for us to get a good look at you, baby."
The man holding her reached up and yanked her scarf off her head, revealing her short, dark hair. She tried to scream, but one of the other men had come up next to her and clasped his hand over her mouth. "Now that's not very friendly. We just want to play for a while. Don't you want to play with us?"
Her eyes were wide with anger and fear by now. She couldn't believe that these men were attacking her here, this close to the University. Her mind frantically searched for a way to escape the men holding her. She struck her foot out and struck the man holding her in the shin. He howled in pain and backed away a couple of steps. Seeing her opening, Lois made a move to run away from the men.
But the man she had kicked was too fast for her and he was able to grab her before she got away. She was struggling and planning her next move when she heard a sound behind her attackers. She hoped that it was someone coming to her aid. A policeman or maybe even that hero, Superman. But after a moment she recognized the sound as that of a single set of footsteps moving closer to her and her attackers. The men seemed to be oblivious to the soft noise. As she looked around for the source of the footsteps, the men started dragging her to a darkened corner of the street. "Time to play," the man holding her arm sneered.
Just as he started to lean in closer to her, an arm appeared out of the darkness and grabbed the man by the arm and spun him around. The attacker was shoved back against the other two men by a man who had appeared out of the darkness.
Lois got a good look at the stranger who had come to her rescue. He was tall, with dark hair. He wore jeans and a plain black leather jacket. As he came into the light, she could see a look of controlled fury in his dark brown eyes. His face was strong, with a two-day growth of stubble, which added to his menacing look. Even through the leather jacket she could tell he was strongly built and he had an imposing demeanor. He faced the trio and growled, "I believe this young lady would like her scarf back." The voice was low, with a tone that matched his eyes. Lois now forgotten, the men turned to face the stranger.
The first man shouted an expletive at the stranger, and launched at him in an attack. The stranger, with a minimal of movement sidestepped his opponent, struck him squarely in the solar plexus with his fist, causing the attacker to double over. He then brought the edge of his hand down on the on the base of the attacker's neck, knocking him the ground unconscious. By this time, Lois had forgotten the cold and paid rapt attention to the movements of her rescuer. Though not a fan of violence, she couldn't help but admire the ease with which he had dealt with the attacker.
The second attacker was now upon the stranger and tried to punch him in the face. Lois could have sworn the man actually connected with the stranger's jaw, but seeing the stranger unfazed, thought that the blow must have missed. Without pausing the stranger snapped his arm up, and struck his attacker in the nose with the back of his fist. His assailant crumpled to the ground. The stranger then turned on the third man. The third man looked into the eyes of the stranger, frozen in fear. After a few seconds the attacker turned and ran off into the darkness.
Lois could see the stranger was now standing still, trying to compose himself. After looking up at the sky for a moment and sighing, he turned to her and asked, "Are you all right Miss?" His tone was still low, but now much less menacing. All she could do was nod her head.
The stranger looked around the ground, then went over to pick something up. He seemed to pause and study the object in his hands for a moment — it was her scarf. He walked up to Lois, holding her scarf out to her and said, "I believe this is yours." She instinctively backed away from him, still unsure what to think of him.
He winced at her instinctive retreat before schooling his face to project a calming demeanor. "Don't worry, you don't have to be afraid of me. I know that I must have looked a little scary to you for a moment, but I didn't have time to deal with those men any other way. I'm sorry if I frightened you."
She didn't know what to think at this point. The stranger didn't appear to want to hurt her, yet he had just easily defeated three large men with a minimal of effort. Did she have the right to be scared? She looked up into his eyes and saw that the fury was gone. Now only gentle, brown eyes looked down at her. She even saw a hint of apprehension in his face. 'What did he have to be apprehensive of?' she thought.
"Sorry," she said. "It was just a reflex. I guess I'm still a little jumpy."
She reached out her hand and accepted the scarf from him. She inspected it and decided that it was completely ruined. She was heartbroken — the scarf had been a present from CJ. It was too dirty to put on now. Having lost her motivation to go to the store, she decided to head on home. She looked at her rescuer again. He seemed to be waiting for her to say something. 'Oh yes, I probably should thank him,' she thought.
"I guess I should thank you for your help. I don't know what would have happened if you didn't show up." She didn't know what else to say to him, she wasn't use to depending on others for help. The barriers of a lifetime were still firmly in place and prevented her from showing him the gratitude he deserved. "I think I better be getting home." She turned to go back to her apartment.
"Wait!" he said as he ran to catch up with her. "Why don't you let me escort you to your destination, just so you aren't nervous about walking in the dark alone?" She looked at him a mildly suspicious expression. He then added, "I assure you, I only have honorable intentions. I only wish to see you get safely to where you are going."
She couldn't believe it; he hadn't taken the hint and left her alone. He seemed oblivious to her protective barriers.
"Listen," he said, "it's just that since I rescued you, I feel kind of responsible for your safety. At least for tonight. So actually it would make *me* feel better if you let me escort you to your next stop." She looked at him as he spoke, and could see him pleading with her with big brown puppy eyes. 'Puppy eyes.Why does that sound familiar? Oh well, I might as well let him have some peace of mind. After all he did save me from those guys.'
"OK," she said hesitantly. "Since it seems important to you, you can walk me home." With that, Lois started off in the direction of her apartment, her rescuer keeping pace besides her.
"So where were you going?" he asked.
"Well, I was on my way to the store to get something for dinner. But now, I just want to go home."
"So how are you going to get dinner then?"
"I guess it's a bowl of cereal again for me tonight," she replied with a small laugh.
"That doesn't sound appetizing at all. Hey.how about I show you a little caf‚ I know around here. Five minutes walking, tops. They have great food and since it's really more of a lunch hangout, it won't have much in the way of customers at this time of night."
"Thank you, no. I'm afraid that I'm on a tight budget. But that was very kind of you to offer." Lois was now getting afraid. What did this stranger want from her? He did rescue her, but did he have something else in mind? It couldn't just be because he was being nice. That wouldn't be possible, would it?
"Then it's my treat." He had a warm smile on his face now making Lois completely baffled. He wanted to treat her to a meal? She didn't know what to say. She could feel herself running deeper into her inner barriers, hiding away from the man next to her.
"I couldn't possibly let you buy me dinner."
"Because I hardly know you. And it would be unfair of me to take advantage of your generosity like that."
'There, that should do it,' she thought.
Still looking straight ahead as they walked, he said, "You know I'm not a homicidal maniac. And I don't kidnap unsuspecting college students and sell them into secret slave markets. And the restaurant is a fairly public place. I happened to have made an extra bonus at work this week, so I have plenty of money. So the only reason that you can't go with me to dinner is that you don't like me."
She could see the teasing grin on his face. Again she was astounded. He just met her and he was actually teasing her. She could see in his face the twinkle in his eyes as he spoke to her. This was the kind of exchange she had in her letters, but never face to face. She was so amazed that all she could say was, "I didn't say that I didn't like you. I really don't know you enough to say if I do."
"If you do what?"
"Um. like you."
"So maybe you could like me, despite the fact that I could be a maniac."
"Hey! I never said you were a maniac!"
"So you can't possibly be afraid to go to dinner with me then, right?"
"Of course not!"
"OK then, this way." He pointed her towards another street and he led her down to the riverfront.
'Wait a minute,' she thought. 'What just happened? How did I agree to dinner? Oh my.I just agreed to go to dinner with a complete stranger! How did he trick me into doing that?' She tried to retrace the steps that led her to agreeing to have dinner with him. When she got down to it, she realized he did it by being nice and by kidding around with her. Just like a friend would. CJ would sometimes do things like that to her, but no one she met face to face had ever done that to her. How did it happen?
She shook off the suspicion that he could be a stalker. Granted that he had mentioned about her being a college student but that could be just a good deduction on his part, he seemed to be very intuitive. Besides, stalkers didn't rescue their victims and offer to treat them to dinner. Perhaps he was just a very kind and friendly person, if not a little playful given the way he maneuvered her into accepting his invitation.
True to his word, within five minutes they were standing in front of a small Italian caf‚. He opened the door for her and she entered in front of him. The inside of the caf‚ was small, but nice. A jukebox in the corner played soft music and each of the tables was lit by a single candle. The proprietor greeted them and showed them to a table in the back. The stranger pulled out the chair for her and helped her get seated. After removing his jacket and putting it over the back of his chair, he seated himself too.
She couldn't believe that she was actually here. Who was this man? She didn't even know his name. How could she relax? Why was he really here with her? It couldn't be only because he wanted her company. If that was all, he would be soon disappointed.
"Clark," he said, breaking into her thoughts.
"My name is Clark."
"Well I hate to think I'm 'just' anything, but yes I do have a last name." His gave her a little grin which made her forgot her question for a moment. "So what is yours, Miss?"
"Lois," she said back to him.
She thought about how to answer him. Perhaps it would be better for him not to know too much about her. "For now, just Lois."
"Well, you see, we already have something in common, we never give out last names to people we've just met. We'll probably be old friends by dessert." His mischievous grin showed again on his face as he handed her one of the menus. "By the way, you are not allowed to look at the prices of anything on the menu. It's an American tradition that a guest never looks at the prices on the menu."
Lois gave him another suspicious look. "There is no such tradition. I didn't just fall off the boat you know." She was surprised to realize that she was smiling a little as she made that comment. "And just why would you think I wouldn't know American traditions, maybe I was born here."
"I didn't say you just fell off the boat. Besides you probably flew here. And it's your accent that gave you away. It's subtle, but I can tell you're not from around here. Hmmm.. I would guess. somewhere in England, probably London. And as far as the tradition.well if it isn't one, then I'm starting it tonight."
"Actually I'm from a little town south of London," she said, a little amazed. "That was a pretty good guess." She was right; he was very intuitive. Then after a beat she added, "And you are not allowed to start your own traditions. Traditions are things that are started by. um. well you just can't do it!"
"Is it that the rule?"
"Yes it is," she said with a satisfied look on her face. "That's it exactly."
"Doesn't matter to me, I was never very good with following rules anyway. So the new tradition stands, now look at your menu so we can order before breakfast time." He follow suit to his words and picked up his own menu and began to examine it.
"Humph. Just for your information, you didn't win our argument." She was grinning now as she picked up own menu.
From behind his menu she heard him say, "So that's what we were doing? Does that mean we have to make up later?" Lois looked over her menu with a shocked looked on her face. Before she could say anything, he held up his hand and said, "I'm just kidding. Sorry. Now pick what you want to eat." He had such mirth in his eyes that she couldn't really be mad at him. Shaking her head she looked at the selections on the menu.
After a while, the waiter took their order and they were left alone at the table again. The uneasy feeling was coming back, and she knew that the barriers were beginning to move in front of her.
"So how about them Red Sox?" he suddenly asked.
"You know Red Sox. Baseball. The season is coming to a close. I'm trying to start a conversation. Feel free to jump in whenever you're ready."
"Oh, sorry. I don't know much about baseball."
"Then talk about something you like. Anything will do. I happen to be very versatile myself, so any topic that tickles your fancy will suit me. Here, let me get you started. What's your favorite color?"
"My favorite color?"
"Yes, your favorite color. And if you don't answer quick enough I'm going to. hog all the breadsticks."
She said, "Blue". And then quickly grabbed one of the breadsticks out of the basket in front of her.
"Hmmm. good reflexes. I better watch out for you." His mischievous grin was infecting her, and she felt herself begin to relax.
"Favorite movie?" he asked.
"Oh, let me see. Too many, really. How about 'Robin Hood'?"
"Really? Interesting. a fan of adventure and romance. Favorite popular singer?"
"That's easy, Frank Sinatra."
"Now that really interesting. A girl from England is a Sinatra fan. Well you can't go wrong with him. Let me see.favorite time of the day?"
"I should have guessed. Let me see.what else? Oh yes. Favorite flavor of ice cream?"
"Hey this is very important. It's an indicator of your true personality. So answer this very carefully."
She was almost scared to answer. "Chocolate?"
"Was that a statement, or a question? You know there's no right answer. Only the answer that's right for you."
"I'm sorry. I guess it was a statement."
"Good, so what does that say about you?" He appeared to think about it for a moment rubbing the stubble on his chin thoughtfully. "So you like chocolate ice cream and your favorite color is blue. That means you want to enjoy the richness of life, but prefer simplicity. You want to be adventurous and deep down, you're a closet romantic. You probably would gravitate to books that combine romance with adventure. You're shy, though inside you can be quite articulate, so you probably like to write. Also, you are probably a student, and studying something in the writing arts. And in your eyes, I see that sometimes you are very sad because you here alone, away from your family, and feel isolated."
She was flabbergasted. How could he have guessed that from those few simple questions? It was astounding. She was starting to feel a panic build inside her again. She heard something from his side of the table and realized that he had just asked her a question, but hadn't really heard him. "I'm sorry, what did you ask me?"
"I said, how did I do? Was I close?"
"I.you were.it was.how did you do that?"
He lost his playful expression and started to look concerned. "I'm sorry," he said softly. "Did I do something that bothered you?"
"No! Well, maybe a little. I'm sorry but I just not used to doing this."
"Doing what? Talking to someone?"
"Yes, no, I mean.I mean I usually only express personal feelings in my writing. This is different for me to talk like this, so openly, face to face with someone."
"Well I could arrange to sit at another table with my back to you, and we could exchange notes all evening."
That made her laugh. She looked at him through her eyelashes and said, "No, I don't think that will be necessary." He was such a paradox. He came to her rescue like an avenging angel. She saw no fear in his face during the fight, only contained fury. Now the fury was gone, replaced by the gentle, teasing man in front of her. And he seemed to be enjoying her company. Without her noticing, a couple of her carefully erected barriers had crumbled away inside of her.
"Wait here a second," he told her. He got up from the table and deposited several nickels into the machine. After punching a few buttons, he returned to the table. Just as he sat down, she could hear the voice of Frank Sinatra coming from the jukebox singing 'Fly Me to the Moon'. She rewarded his sweet gesture with a grin.
Looking at him smiling back at her she thought, 'Damn, a smile like that should be illegal.'
"So tell me about your studies," he said, interrupting her thoughts. "Was I right about guessing that you are enrolled some kind of writing program."
"Oh, you don't want to hear about that, it'll bore you to death," she said.
"No really, tell me. I have very diverse interests."
"Are you're sure?"
"You know, you really don't have to question everything I ask you. If I promise only to be honest with you, would that make you fell better?"
"O.K., I'm sor." Before she could finish he held up his hand and said, "If you apologize to me one more time, you're not getting any dessert. And I happen to know that it's chocolate."
"No!" she said in mock horror. "Anything but that. Very well, I agree to your terms you evil man".
A couple of more barriers fell within her as she laughed with him.
For the next 15 minutes she went though the work she was doing at the University and her dreams of becoming an international journalist. Surprisingly he was genuinely interested in what she said, and did not even question her choice of careers. They were so engrossed in their discussion, that they barely registered the fact that the waiter had put their food and beverages in front of them.
They both ate their food slowly, taking frequent breaks to talk about the things that interested them. Two hours later they were picking at the remains of a piece of Chocolate cake, and in middle of a lively discussion.
"So let me get this straight," he said. "A bunch of people from around the world write their own stories based on this series of novels. Novels which haven't been published in over four years. And you all write to each other and exchange these stories. And you even have a contest of sorts every year by mail?"
Lois looked at him indignantly and replied, "Yes. What's wrong with that? It's a lot of fun, and some of my best friends are part of this group. Do you have a problem with that?"
"No no no, not me, I was just curious." His tone was purposely a little sarcastic and Lois knew it.
"Don't give me that 'I'll just humor her' tone. You just don't know what you're missing. Just for that I get the rest of the cake." She then grabbed the plate between them and pulled it close to her.
He looked at her was a grin that bordered on evil. She was having the best time that she had ever had with someone. It felt strange and wonderful at the same time. He never made her feel self-conscious and had treated her as an equal the whole evening. She couldn't wait to write CJ about what had happened to her.
Why did writing to CJ about tonight suddenly make her feel a little guilty? 'Well anyway, he will be pleased that I had finally taken his advice about trying to meet someone,' she thought to herself with a smile. 'Even if it's entirely coincidental and I had no hand in it.'
Actually, now that she thought about it, it was more like she was tricked into taking CJ's advice by the man across from her. Maybe she did worry too much about how people reacted at her. CJ said it was a waste for her to only show her 'real' self to her pen pals through the mail. She smiled at the thought of him telling her 'I told you so'.
Clark then interrupted her thoughts. "You know you should use that thing more often."
She looked at him confused. "What thing?"
"That smile. It helps light up the room."
Now she was embarrassed. She tried to think of something else to change the subject. "So you never told me if you're from around here."
"Actually, I'm not, I just passing through. I have to get to New York by tomorrow."
"Really? It's going to be pretty difficult to get through all that traffic tomorrow. I saw in the newspaper that Superman will be making his big announcement about those visitors from space. I heard rumors that he even might be going with them for a while to help them out. It's going to be a madhouse trying to get to the city with all the reporters there." She thought about it for a moment and then said, "I wish I could get an interview with Superman before he had to leave.that is if he was leaving. Just think of the story I could write. I wonder if he has to go, if he's leaving anybody special behind here on Earth?"
"I think he is," Clark whispered softly.
"So you really have to go?" she asked him breaking out of her reflections. It just didn't seem fair to her that finally she had finally met someone she felt. comfortable with, and he had to leave already.
"I don't have much of a choice. I made a commitment to go.to go back into the service and they're shipping me out tomorrow."
"Do you know when you're coming back?"
His eyes looked very sad for a moment as he said, "I'm not sure."
Trying to cheer him up a little she said, "Well it sounds very exciting. What exactly will you be doing?"
"Nothing I can talk about. Anyway, this was my last free night for a long time."
"And you spent it with me," she said in a soft voice.
"Sure, I had a great time. I thought that I was going to be alone, but instead I got make a new friend. And as a bonus I got to beat up a couple of idiots. What more could I ask for?"
She shook her head and laughed at him. He was really a strange one. But that was all right.
"I guess I should be escorting you home. I have a long trip ahead of me, and you probably have class tomorrow."
"I guess so." She realized that she was sad that the evening had to end. She knew that tonight would always be special to her. She had learned that she didn't have to be afraid of people seeing the real Lois. Even though this man was very different from her, and came from a different country, they were now friends.
"So, will you be able to write to anyone where you're going?" she asked hopefully.
"Unfortunately, no. I'm afraid I'll be out of touch for quite some time. I'm glad that I got to meet you Lois. I hope that. everything works out for you." She could see the sadness in his eyes as he spoke. She still couldn't believe that she had made friends with this man— that she had connected with him like an old friend. He even seemed sad at the prospect of their parting.
"Time to take you home, Miss." He got up and retrieved his jacket. They both noticed that they were the last people to leave restaurant. As they exited the restaurant, Lois felt the cold wind cut through her clothing. She hadn't brought a jacket, since she didn't realize the adventure she would have tonight.
Suddenly she felt a heavy coat placed over her shoulders. She began to protest his gallant gesture. "I can't take your coat, you'll get cold."
"I'll be fine, the cold really doesn't affect me that much. Besides, this is definitely a registered American tradition." She gave him a smile of thanks.
They walked in relative silence back to her apartment. He walked her to her door and waited for to unlock it and step inside the threshold. As she opened the door, turned to him and said, "Lane."
"My name is Lois Lane. Just in case you get back someday and want to find me again."
"And mine is Kent. Clark Kent. Just in case I can get a letter to you some day."
They stood there for a couple of minutes, neither one of them knowing what to say next. Finally Lois broke the silence. "I guess this is goodbye then." She felt like she was losing something precious at this moment.
"Yes, it is. Good luck with everything. But before I go, I need to perform one more American tradition. This one has been practiced for centuries by soldiers before they are shipped out for duty." Before she could react, he leaned over and softly kissed her on the lips. He touched her gently on the cheek and said, "Goodnight Lois. Be happy".
With that he turned and walked off into the darkness. She touched her cheek where he had placed his hand, and smiled sadly. She entered the house the rest of the way and closed the door. As she entered her bedroom she realized that she still had his coat. She rushed to the front door and looked outside, only to discover that he was nowhere in sight. She went back inside and returned to her bedroom.
Would he realize that he left it here and come back? She decided to look in his coat pockets to see if she could find an ID with an address. If he didn't come back, she could mail it back to him.
She searched through the outer pockets first, then tried the inner pocket, finding an envelope there. Taking it out, she looked at the front for an address. Instead, she saw that it only had her name on the front. She was curious and afraid at the same time. How had he got this in here? He was with her the whole time and she didn't see him write anything. That would mean that he knew her name before she told it to him. So he must have known her from before, but she knew that she never met someone like him, she would have remembered that. She knew that she should be apprehensive, but just couldn't generate that feeling towards her new friend. There must be some explanation.
She held the envelope in her hand, unsure of what to do. Curiosity got the better of her and she ripped it open and took out the folded piece of paper from the inside. It was a letter addressed to her:
Since you are reading this, then I know that we have met. I was just going to write you and let you know that I would be leaving and wouldn't be coming back for a long time. But somehow it seemed too impersonal. You always told me that if you ran into me in the street, we would never become friends. I decided to put that to the test.
If we have become friends again tonight, then you will now be in possession of my coat and this letter. I knew you would never agree to meet me, even though you may never hear from me again. So I decided to take on a 'secret identity' so you wouldn't be self-conscious. Now you know that we could be friends no matter what. It also proves to you that you don't have to stand behind those barriers you've erected for yourself.
Don't be afraid to spread your wings and soar. You can do anything you set your mind to, I can feel it from the words you have written to me these past few years.
This will be my last letter to you for quite some time. I have volunteered for some duty which will isolate me from normal society for a long while. Take care of yourself, and don't be afraid to show other people the girl I know I'll see tonight.
Clark Jerome Kent*
She clutched the letter and covered her mouth with her hand. She could feel her eyes glistening with unshed tears. Her friend had broken all the rules to give her a last goodbye. But as he said, he was never very good at rules. He did it to let her know that she was special. She smiled as she thought of the gift of friendship she had been given this night. She vowed not waste this gift.
Carefully she folded the letter and placed it on her desk, then took his coat and hung it up in her closet. After performing the mundane tasks of getting ready for bed, she lay down under her covers and said a short prayer for his safety, wherever he was sent.
After turning off her light, she looked at the moon, its light streaming though her bedroom window. Thinking again about the letter and CJ's — Clark's — gift, she decided that tomorrow, instead of the sunset, she would watch the sunrise and look forward to the new day. With that final thought she drifted peaceably to sleep.
Chapter 2 - Lois's Story
Boston, MA., U.S.A.
It had been a month since he left. The weather had turned chilly in Boston and some of the trees were now bald. From the vantage point of her apartment, which overlooked the river, Lois could see the sun slowly setting. The world seemed so calm, so peaceful. So at odds with what she felt.
For Clark, her Clark, was far away, and she knew that whatever he was facing was neither calm nor peaceful. Just like every other time that she thought about him, she said a little prayer for his safe return. She knew that he said that he would be gone a long time, and she accepted the fact that there might be a chance that he might never come back, but hope sprung eternal within her. After all, Ulysses spent almost twenty years lost in the world, yet he overcame great obstacles to return to his wife.
She knew that she wasn't CJ's wife, nor was she even his girlfriend.
'Clark, not CJ,' she reminded herself. It was not easy to think of him as Clark instead of CJ, her pen pal of many years. They had a formed a bond, CJ.Clark and her. Even before he had appeared out of nowhere that day to save her life, and meet her for the first time, he was one of the closest friends she ever had. With him gone, it was like something was missing from her life.
The first week was the worst; after so long of looking forward to his almost daily letters, she went into a form of withdrawal without any of his letters in her mailbox. She started to reread all of his earlier letters to her as part of her self-defense against depression. She remembered one he sent her with Tennyson's poem of the story of Ulysses. It was one of his favorite stories he wrote. He sent it to her just before she left England for the U.S., in the hope that it would make her look upon her trip as an adventure.
What he didn't know was that she too was familiar with that story. With a smile on her face she recalled the letter she wrote back, explaining her sometimes obsession of ancient societies and cultures. Their friendship had blossomed in part because they had so many things in common, almost as many as the differences that they had.
She realized that her mind had wondered off track again. If Clark had been there, he would have teased her for letting her thoughts ramble on like that. He could always tease her out of any mood that she was in, even though it was only through the letters. They had a special relationship, one that neither had asked for when they started corresponding, but one that both had cherished. Or so she'd like to think. It was this bond that she held on to this past month. This bond had helped her keep her hopes up that he'd do his best to stay alive and come back to her.
The sun had now set, the temperature had fallen even further. Lois shut her window and then turned around to head off into the kitchen. It was time to prepare dinner. She brought out the cookbook that adorned her tiny shelf above the sink. It was a birthday gift from CJ.Clark, which he sent her after she had written to him describing what a disaster she was in the kitchen. Lois smiled as she read the note he had written on the inside of the front cover.
If you follow these recipes faithfully…(no deviations, no substitutions, mind you <grin>) maybe you won't be a total disaster in the kitchen. Someday I'll send you some of my own special recipes. Good luck and have fun trying these.
Later, he did send her three original 'CJ specials'. They were so simple to make that she cooked them often. She especially loved his 'penne pasta ala CJ'. She didn't mind him teasing her for being a disaster in the kitchen. At least, she could be honest with him. Most men would have been horrified. After all, they seemed to have this impression that every woman was born knowing the inner workings of the kitchen. She hoped that the men of later generations would learn not to assume such things. In that sense, Clark was quite forward in his thinking. He was special. one of a kind. After all, who else had encouraged her to pursue her dreams of becoming a journalist. None. Not even those closest to her. If not for Clark's support, she wouldn't have traveled across the Atlantic and worked to support herself as she attended classes in journalism.
She made the simple dish and sat down to eat on her own. Friends had asked her to join them for dinner, but she had declined. Today, she needed time to herself. This past month, she had become more outgoing and tried her best to overcome her barriers. She knew that she had to so not to belittle Clark's efforts in proving to her that she didn't need to hide behind her self imposed barriers. It was not easy, of course. After all those years, the barriers had become habitual and instinctive. Still, putting in the effort, she had slowly, but surely, began to lower those barriers. Now she wasn't afraid to go after what she wanted. She attacked her studies with renewed vigor. She joined the campus newspaper and started bringing in real stories. Already one of her stories had exposed a member of the book store staff who had been cheating the university out of money and there was an offer from the Globe for a junior position once she completed her courses in December.
After the story was published, she thought that perhaps the men in her journalism classes would start getting defensive about a "mere woman" bringing in a story like that. Surprisingly, she found that she didn't need be so defensive about her dreams of being a journalist. The guys in her class were not really ogres. Many congratulated her on landing her first scoop. She discovered that it was her old defensive attitudes that had put them off in the past. Now more open, she had started to make new friends in her class. And she found that the most of the men were decent and shared some of her interests.
Unfortunately, none of those guys were Clark. Without realizing it, she seemed to compare each one with Clark, and they all came up short. It was today that she finally realized this, so she needed time to think and understand how this had happened. What made her compare all other men to Clark? Why was he constantly on her mind? Everything seemed to remind her of him. It was not easy for her to even read the fan club's newsletter without remembering that he was gone.
So where had her introspections led her? To the realization that he had been the something that made her life complete, the one thing that had enable her to 'soar' - to be herself. With him, there was no need to wear masks, and she was free to express herself. There was never any fear that he'd ever reject her because of something that they disagreed upon.
And they did disagree upon a lot of things. A number of the letters that she reread were actually heated 'discussions' on various topics. That was the way their relationship was, and they could agree that is was alright to disagree about some things.
A smile crept on her face when she remembered asking him if he appreciated her benevolence, allowing him to hold on to his obviously wrong opinions from time to time.
But as soon as it came, the smile quickly disappeared. Now, not having him around, it was like a part of her was gone. She felt incomplete without him. She suspected that her feelings for Clark had gone beyond mere friendship. It scared her to think that she could feel that way, even for Clark. But at the same time, her feelings to him warmed her heart more than anything.anyone else had. She wished she could have made him stay.
But even if she could have prevented him from doing his duty, she wouldn't have. He wouldn't be Clark if he didn't feel the tug of duty towards a just cause. If he didn't answer that call, he would not be happy. Through their correspondence, she knew that he had a noble soul. One that wouldn't let others suffer, not when he could do something to prevent it. He'd rather sacrifice himself than let another die in his place.
He used to talk passionately of a utopia, a world where hate doesn't exist, where strife is a thing forgotten, and where truth and justice reigns. She knew that he couldn't refuse when asked to serve. to fight for a just cause. It was the chance for him to try to make this world a better place.
The last knight in shining armor, she once teased him. He was a little embarrassed and denied the title. She then of course teased him that maybe he was right since a knight wouldn't tease a lady so. In his answering letter, he mentioned that it was because he liked her that he teased her the way he did, and not worse. Some kind of American tradition. She laughed again when she remembered their dinner a month ago, where he promptly made up an 'old' American tradition about menus. It made him even more adorable, just making her lo… No, she couldn't go there right now.
Now, because of his sense of duty, he was off somewhere and she had to wait patiently. And she didn't do the 'patient' thing well. She knew that it was one of her weaknesses, but the situation had her straining what little patience she possessed beyond anything she had ever faced before. It was killing her not to know where he was and what he was facing. Still, her sensible self told her that she should not let whatever that she imagined affect her hopes. Only God knows when a person will die. As long as she heard no news of him, she would continue to carry a hope that he would come back. She couldn't imagine a life without him, her friend who cheered her when she was down, and teased her when she got too serious.
Soon, Lois finished her dinner and washed the dishes. She then settled down on the sofa and started to read the newspaper, looking over the headlines. As usual, one of the top stories was the speculation on how long Superman would be gone to help his people. Her mind once again drifted to thoughts of Clark, as it often did when she was alone. It was ironic that the world lost its hero the same time that she lost her personal hero.
She shook her head to clear her thoughts. She really needed to start going out more with friends. Being alone just made her thinking about Clark too often, and it was driving her crazy. Not that she wanted to forget, but every time she remembered him, she nearly always cried. She hated the fact that he could affect her that way. She had always prided herself for being in control of her feelings. How had he made her lose that control? She suspected she knew that answer, but was unwilling to face that answer right now.
'Clark, where are you now?' Lois thought as she gazed out of her window into the clear night sky. The stars were twinkling and the moon shining into her bedroom window. She wondered if he was out there looking up at the same moon and stars. If he was, was he thinking about her? Or was he too busy staying alive? Was he hiding from the enemy or planning an attack on the enemy's camp? What was he doing and thinking?
"Stop it, Lois," she snapped aloud. "Thinking that way is getting you nowhere."
She quickly got up and put the newspaper away. Maybe some music would make her feel better. She walked over and switched on the radio. As her little radio warmed up, the song "Someone To Watch Over Me" began to drift into the room. Lois began to cry softly, remembering that Clark had introduced her to that song. It described Clark so well, for he had truly become that someone who had watched over her. Which was probably why she felt so lost without her guardian angel.
'Lois, you're hopeless. Clark wouldn't want you to cry like this. He wanted you to be out there, trying to experience life to the fullest. Just like he did, through all his travels,' the sensible part of her scolded.
'I know. I know. Don't you think I want to stop being such a crybaby? It's definitely not like me to cry at anything. What ever happened to 'Mad Dog Lane'? I didn't cry when my parents divorced. I didn't cry when my father didn't even remember my birthdays, or when my mom beat me up when she became drunk. So why am I crying now? So just go away and leave me alone.'
'Lois, he'll come back one day. Meanwhile, you have to get on with life.'
'Of course, I'm getting on with life. I've made some new friends, haven't I? I'm still working hard for my classes and making time to go out and experience new things. What else do you want me to do?' Lois asked, frustrated at herself.
'Accept that there is nothing your worries can do to change anything. If you and Clark are meant to be together, you'll meet once again. Until then, you have to prepare yourself for what lies ahead.'
Lois sighed. She knew what her sensible self said was right. Even though it was a difficult thing to do. But nothing good comes easily. 'This relationship has taught me and is still teaching me a lot.'
'You better be worth it Clark,' Lois said softly to herself.
Lois walked to the bedroom and prepared for bed. As she lay down beneath the covers, she said her nightly prayer for Clark. Now it was time to sleep, so that another day would come. another day closer to the day when Clark would return. As she started to fall asleep, she once again remembered his goodbye that night a month ago. She could feel his lips on hers in that bittersweet kiss. 'Next time, I won't be so scared. Next time I'll tell him .'
But she never finished her thought, as she drifted off the sleep.
Chapter 3 - The Return
Boston, MA., U.S.A.
Autumn had arrived once more. The red and gold leaves decorated the trees and the ground along the riverside. A lone figure sat on a bench underneath one of the trees, facing the river unmoving. Many who passed her by wondered if she was real or a lifelike statue.
It was a year ago, today, that he had came to her rescue not far from where she sat. Since then, she hadn't heard from him, not even a letter. In her hand was his final letter which he had left in his coat on that fateful night. She had read over so many times that she could recite the contents in her sleep. She kept every piece of correspondence he ever sent her, but this letter was the most precious. It was a symbol of their friendship. A symbol of hope. Hope that he would return to her one day. She carefully refolded the letter and placed it inside her coat pocket.
She had taken his advice and flew like the angel he teased her to be. She had been more open with people taken more time to enjoy life, and to pursue her dreams, just as he had encouraged her. Still, through all those times, she would wonder where he was, what he was doing. He was always in the back of her mind. Every time she saw a sunset, she would pause to say a prayer for him. Sunset was a time they both enjoyed and written about in their letters to each other. But he taught her to enjoy the sunrise too, so she didn't forget to pray for him then also.
She never realized how much he meant to her until he was gone. Someone said that you'd only realize how important a thing is to you after you no longer have it. So it was with him. There wasn't anyone to kid around with her anymore, or to discuss the serious things in life, the way she used to do with him. There was no one to tease her out of her moods, to calm her when she felt frustrated. The new friends she had made had not been able to replace him.
Today, on the first anniversary of their one and only face- to-face meeting, he was on her mind again. Hoping against hope, she retraced her steps from that night to the river front, illogical though it might be to her normally practical mind. But she guessed that some things just defy logic. Feelings are notorious that way. It was an impulse that led her here, to this the bench. So here she sat, replaying the scenes of their meeting over and over again, hoping that if she waited long enough for the sun to set, he'd appear before her once more.
The sensible side of her tried to wake her up to reality. 'Lois, you are just wasting your time. Clark is not going to appear. If he had been able to, he would have written long ago. Don't set yourself up for disappointment.' Lois, of course, knew that the sensible part was correct and she'd just be disappointed later, but still there was another part of her that still dreamt of what could be. Clark once sent her a song on a 45 about wishing upon a star from some old Walt Disney animation. He wrote how he would wish upon one for her sometimes, relating his experience in the desert of Arabia, where he had the opportunity to see the stars so clearly. How did he describe them? Oh yes, 'the stars are so bright that you can read by them'. He had wished upon one just for her happiness. A dreamer he was, amongst other things. And he had taught her how to dream. If only he could be around to see how good a teacher he had been. She thought that maybe he would be proud of her.
As she watched the sun set, she remembered one of the first letters he had sent her. He had described his adventure on the mountain tops of Colorado, where he'd witnessed two sunsets while climbing near the tall peaks of the Rockies. The sun would first set behind the peak, before it would disappear below the horizon. He described to her how, at the moment before the sun would dip below the peak, all the animals, even the insects, would become absolutely still. It was as if nature had paid homage to the setting of the sun.
It was one of the things that they shared in common. She had seen a similar view from the Blue Mountains of Australia while on vacation with her family. Today, the clouds took on a beautiful hue of pink set against the darkening blue of the sky. The clouds swirled around like wisps of cotton candy. She wondered what it was like to be able to be up there amongst them.what was the poem Clark had once sent to her?
Oh, yes, it was the poem called 'High Flight' which went something like.
"Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth, of sun-slit clouds, and have done a hundred things you have never dreamed of.."
He must have been a pilot at some point in his life. Clark was a man of many dimensions. Adventurer, writer, and an explorer, with the soul of a poet and a philosopher.
After he was gone, she rarely read the newsletters of the fan group anymore. She still kept in touch with the friends she had made there, but it would seem her heart wasn't in it any longer. It wasn't that she was no longer a fan of the books, it was just that it reminded her too much as to who was missing. A few of the regulars in the club did ask her what happened to C.J. Unfortunately, she could say little about it.
Before she knew it, the sky had darkened and the light on the horizon was no longer visible. Night had fallen and it was time to call it quits. He wasn't going to appear. While the sensible part of Lois nodded matter-of-factly, the less sensible part of her couldn't help but be disappointed. It made her reluctant to move, as she slowly got up and turned to leave.
When she turned, she came face to face with a man standing in front of her. She gasped as she locked eyes with a scruffy looking stranger. He was tall, a full grown mustache and beard covering his face. But what made her gasp was the look in his eyes. The dark brown eyes were so sad and haunted. They reflected a look of a person who had seen too much evil and little else for a long time. Her heart slowed down once again as recognition set in, helped by the sad grin that emerged on the man's face.
"Clark?" Lois asked hesitantly.
He nodded his head in acknowledgement, then said, "I thought that you had turned into a statue until you finally moved. Reminded me of the legend I heard once in the Malay Peninsular about a statue coming to life."
The grin was now mischievous and it infected her as she started to grin back. "Oh really, something you've seen yourself?" she teased back.
He burst out laughing. "I've missed you, you know."
"You could have sent me a letter or something, if you truly did miss me." Lois tried to sound angry, but couldn't stop the teasing tone in her voice from the happiness at seeing him once again.
And yet, it was still a serious question. Why hadn't he contacted her before now?
Clark was perceptive enough to recognize the seriousness of the remark even though spoken with a lighthearted tone. "Lois."
She sighed, "I'm sorry. I had no right."
"You had the right. I wish I could have sent something, but I had no way to get word to you. Besides, I don't know if I could have exposed you to what I had to experience this last year. I know you worried, and I came as soon as I could. Even if I hadn't made it back, I had made arrangement so you would have known what had happened to me. I didn't want you to always wonder. if something did happen to me." Lois could see the haunted expression darken his face once more.
"But you did make it back," Lois whispered softly. She reached out to touch him before, but he had turned away from her, trying to recover himself. What in the world had he been through? Had the experience changed him so much?
No, that couldn't be. Somewhere buried in this stranger before her was her friend Clark, the man who had taken time to get past her barriers with his gentle, teasing ways. She was determined to find him and bring her friend back.
She decided to start right now. "So how long were you standing here, watching me?" she asked, changing the subject.
He turned back to her, the mischievous grin slowly returning. "Let me see, I saw the sail boats in the afternoon, then I noticed the cloud forming over the river, and then setting sun. A long time I suppose. I didn't know if I.how I." He stopped, seemingly at a lost for words.
She smiled and said, "It's O.K. Clark, all that matters is that you're here. With me. So, how would you like to be treated to dinner by a living statue?"
Her comment broke his gloomy expression and in mock horror, he said, "You can't break an American tradition, and you know how strongly I believe in traditions. No, sorry angel, I have to treat you."
"What did I say about making up traditions?" she scoffed, a devious sparkle in her eyes.
"I'm definitely on firm ground here," he said, with a genuine smile growing on his face. "It is traditional that the man pays for dinner."
"Oh come on Clark, get with the twentieth century. Do you think I follow such archaic traditions? You treated me the last time, so it's my turn to treat you now."
"Fair enough. How about the same place?" He smile grew as he stepped closer to her.
She wondered what he was up to, but soon found out as he closed her coat for her. The coat was the one he had left with her when they met a year ago. She had worn it in remembrance of that night a year ago. She looked into his eyes as he zipped up the coat and saw the pain in them. "Clark." she whispered.
For a while, both were stood there, silently getting lost in each other. Clark was so close, that Lois could feel his warm breath caress her lips.
At last, Clark broke the silence. "There! Now you're set." He took her arm and led her down the street. After a few minutes walk they arrived at the Italian restaurant they visited last year. The same proprietor greeted them and led them to the exact table they had the previous year. Something seemed suspicious to her as Clark helped her to get seated.
"Clark, do you happen to know the proprietor?"
He smiled, mysteriously. "Maybe."
"I knew it! You know him and you set this up. We wouldn't have gotten the same table by sheer coincidence."
"Another brilliant deduction," he said with a grin. "I told you, you were smart. You just didn't want to believe me."
She snorted in reply and picked up her menu. Behind it, she was thinking, 'It's surprising how comfortable I feel with him. Granted we'd been friends for quite some time, but we've only met once before and that wasn't even a true meeting since I didn't know who he was at the time.'
Lois stopped herself from analyzing things too much, instead refocusing her attention on how to draw Clark out of the silence he had fallen into since his return. The haunted look had returned as he pretended to study the menu.
"Would you say that our friendship thus far is based on honesty?"
He seemed to contemplate her question for a moment. In fact Lois could have sworn that he briefly looked guilty in response to her question. Finally he said, "Of course. I've never lied to you. I may have not told you everything, but I've never lied to you. And I believe you've done the same for me."
She nodded her agreement. "And can we say that we've been able to confide in each other so far? About anything, no matter how bad it is."
He was silent and turned his gaze away. Finally, he sighed. "A lot of it, I can't tell you. It's.classified. But I guess there are things I can tell you. Do you really want to hear them?" A hesitant note was evident in his voice.
"Yes I do. You should know by now that I'm not some porcelain doll. Keeping all this inside you will just tear you apart, and it would kill me to see this get to you Clark. I want your happiness above all else."
She could see the appreciation in his eyes as he spoke. "OK, but stop me anytime you want to." He started to tell her about what he had witnessed and done that burdened his soul so much. His narrations were only interrupted by the waiter taking their orders and later delivering their food. They were tales of fighting men so evil that life had no meaning to them. Woman and children slaughtered for not giving in to the enemy, or simply for being in the way. Finally after a victory, if it could be called that, picking up the pieces of what was left to start to rebuild.
Through it all, Lois sat quietly and listened, despite her shock at what she heard. What she really wanted to do was to wrap him in a hug and rock him as she used to do for her sister when she was in pain. But the need for him to tell his story stopped her. So she listened quietly, sympathetically, trying to absorb as much of his pain as she could.
When he finished, he finally looked up to her, as if to gauge how much she was revolted by what he had described. What he found instead was a pair of eyes brimming with tears at how much he had had to endure. "Clark, it wasn't your fault. You had to do your duty."
"Shhh., it's over now." Lois got out of her chair and knelt besides him, wrapping her arm around his waist and laying her head against his chest. "It's time for you to live again. You did nothing to be ashamed of, so don't allow yourself to feel guilty. You've so much to offer the world."
"Do I?" he asked, almost bitterly.
"Remember what you told me in one of our letters about God wanting us to make the most out of this life with the gifts He has given us. This is the time to do so again. You have such a gentle soul. It's the reason you're feeling this guilt. Don't let this one guilt overshadow what you can give the world. That gentle soul is still inside you Clark."
"I'm not sure what I can give the world anymore," he said sadly.
"You have so much to give, even if you're out of the military. You are such a terrific writer, almost as good as me," she grinned at him. Then after a beat she asked, "By the way, how did a journalist get involved with the military?"
"It's a long story. A very long story."
She released him and looked straight into his eyes. "I've got all night."
"Please Lois, not tonight. Later, I promise, but no tonight."
Reluctantly she relented. "I'm going to hold you to that promise buddy." She punctuated her statement by poking her finger into his chest. Returning to her chair, she quickly switched topics. "Well now that you are back, at least now you can go back making the world a better place through your writing. Maybe even write a book or two. You can give a lot to the world through your writing."
"You know, Lois, talking to you has been the best thing for me," Clark said smiling at her enthusiasm.
Lois blushed, not used to being complimented. "All I did was lend a sympathetic ear."
"Perhaps that's just what I needed."
"Any time you need one, you know where to find me."
"I do." He grinned mischievously. "Though you might get sick of me eventually."
She grinned back. "No way! Though you might get sick of me sticking my nose into your business."
He shook his head, denying it, and turned serious once more. "I thought I might have scared you off with my confessions."
Taking the cue from him, she replied seriously, "No Clark. You could never do that. Never. I.I care a lot about you." The last was said in a somewhat hesitant voice.
"Thank you," he said softly. "Your friendship means a lot to me. I wouldn't want to do anything to jeopardize what we have together. that we can share with each other and tease each other. I thought that perhaps you would somehow change your image of me by telling you all of this. I'm glad that it didn't."
"Your friendship means as much to me," Lois replied. "I missed your letters, for the past year. I was hoping that you'd turn up today just like you did last year. Crazy, huh?"
"No, not at all. I did turn up," he answered with a shrug.
"Yeah, but watching me at the river like that without telling me you were there is not exactly the act of an officer and a gentleman," she teased him.
"Hmmm, well it's not like I saw much, after all, all you did was to stare at the river." He gave her an evil grin. "What was so fascinating about the river anyway?"
"OK, so I was doing a lot of introspection. I do that from time to time, you know."
"So tell me what you were thinking about."
"Too much to tell you in one night. Right now I was thinking that we'd better leave, everyone else is gone."
Clark looked around. It was true, they were once again the last customers.
"I guess we won't be able to have that chocolate cake like we had before," Lois sighed.
"Sure we will," Clark replied. Calling the waiter over, he ordered a piece to go. After the cake was delivered to their table, Lois paid the bill. She protectively took possession of the bag with the cake as they got up to leave. She looked at Clark in wonder as he engaged the proprietor in a conversation in perfect Italian on their way out. After leaving the restaurant, they strolled along the river again, neither wanted to end this night so soon.
"Shall we sit somewhere and share this cake?" Lois asked, almost timidly.
"Sure. You're the native Bostonian now, you get to choose the place." There was a note of relief in his voice.
"Let's go to my favorite place, Killion Court."
"Oh, yeah, I remember your descriptions from your letters. Lead on," Clark said.
They arrived there after a few minutes' walk. The dome at Killion Court looked majestic, illuminated by dim lights from either side of the courtyard, casting shadows into the yard. The overall effect turned the ordinary court into a magical garden. At this late hour, Lois and Clark were the only ones there. During the last year Lois would come here at night to sit watch the stars. Tonight, the clear autumn sky was filled with them. The clouds had drifted away and were no longer obscuring the view of the heavens above.
Always the gentleman, Clark took off his jacket and spread in on the ground as a mat. They made themselves comfortable and started to eat the cake in easy silence. At last, Clark said, "You know you never answered my question about what you were thinking about at the river."
"And here I thought I had managed to dodge it," Lois grinned mischievously.
"You can't escape that easily." He grinned back.
"Hmm, what should I say?"
"How about the truth?"
"OK, OK. I was remembering our last meeting," she said, embarrassed. Clark said nothing but waited for her to go on.
After a while, she continued, "You weren't being fair, you know. I mean, you knew who I was but I didn't know about you. By the way, how did you manage to know who I was? We'd never seen each other before then."
Clark grinned at the sudden switch in her thought process. He knew he had better explain, or she wouldn't let it go. He knew she could be very stubborn when she wanted to know something.
"Would you believe we had a metaphysical connection?" He saw her raised eyebrow and said quickly, "I didn't think so. Well, truthfully it was the second night I was wandering around river getting up enough courage to look you up. I had your address from when I sent you your birthday present a couple of years ago. But then I heard your cry for help. I didn't know it was you until I picked up your scarf. I knew it was you the moment I touched it."
"And the letter?"
"Well I wanted you to know that we could have been friends if we just met on the street, so I had prepared it before arriving in Boston."
"Hrmph.I still think it was unfair," she said with a mock pout. "If I had known it was you, I could have properly said goodbye."
"Our kiss goodbye wasn't proper?" he shot out, an evil grin on his face.
Her heart started to race a little at his comment, but she managed to get out indignantly, "Clark! Stop it. I'm being serious. You didn't give me the opportunity to say goodbye while you managed to sneak one yourself. But I did appreciate the letter and for proving to me how wrong I was to hide behind my barriers."
"Did you actually take some of my advice?"
"Yes, I took your advice. I think I've been more open now than before. And I've pursued my dream to become a professional journalist. It's not always easy. There are still times I feel those barriers coming up on me, but those times are fewer and fewer, thanks to you."
"You know it's not necessary for thanks. We are friends, aren't we?"
"Yes we are Clark. The best one I ever had," she said very softly.
She stared at his face for a few moments before continuing, her eyes misting up a little from emotion. "For many a night, I wondered where you were. I prayed for your safety every night before I went to sleep. There were times last year that I imagined you dead or somewhere where I wouldn't hear from you ever again. That was the toughest part, not knowing."
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to scare you like that."
"I know, you couldn't help it. And I'm not blaming you, but you asked me what I was thinking about today."
"Thanks for caring," he replied softly.
"Friends don't keep track of things like that, someone told me once," she replied, as she grinned through her watery eyes. "Anyway, enough about what I was thinking. What made you stand there and watch me nearly the whole day?"
He gave a sheepish grin. "I wanted to.no reason."
"Clark," she warned, knowing that he was about to forego the explanation.
"Lois, lets just leave it at that."
"You know, you're not being fair. I spilled my guts and shared my thoughts. Yet, you clam up the minute I ask you your thoughts. I thought that friendship was a two way street."
"Clark, finish it or I'm going home." She rose up, nearly upturning the cake.
"I'll walk you home, then." He followed her up. This time, the unfortunate cake crashed to the grass.
"No." Now she was upset. Usually, she could be a reasonable person. OK, maybe not usually, and when her temper flared up, it was a *little* hard for her to calm down.
"Finish it, Clark," she demanded.
They stood there facing each other, Lois struggling to control her anger and Clark looking undecided.
"Are you sure you want to hear this?"
"I wasn't trying to spy on you, and I did want to see you. I just didn't know whether you were waiting for me or…Well I was also feeling apprehensive, I guess. I didn't know whether it was the right thing to try to meet you again. Lois…I…" He paused, trying to recollect himself. "It wasn't an easy decision the first time round and it was even harder this time. It's dangerous for my heart to see you like this. I almost decided to go away without disturbing you."
"Why?" she asked. "Why was it difficult to decide to meet me?"
"I had doubts; you might have been disappointed when you met me again."
"I thought I was the one who always said that?"
"You don't hold the monopoly on doubts."
"Clark, just like you had proven that we could be friends when we meet on the streets, I think I've proven that you didn't disappoint me, right?"
He nodded and looked down at the upturned cake. "You did, but there are parts of me that you don't know. That you may never know. You may not be able to understand my doubts."
"Maybe I can't know everything about you right now - and I emphasis for right now - but I know your heart. And believe me, I know all about having doubts. I was at the river today waiting for you. Did you know I was battling the sensible part of me all day? My logical self was convinced that I would never see you again, and that I was wasting my time. I felt very foolish."
He looked up to find her staring at him. "Not as foolish as me. I stood there the whole time staring at you. A lot of the people passed by giving me very strange looks," he said with a sheepish smile.
"I bet!" She smiled back, her temper was gone now and her good humor had returned. "We are a hopeless pair, aren't we?"
"I'd say." They both started laughing as they resettled down on the ground. The conversation took on a less serious tone as they started comfortable bantering once again.
At last, they realized how late the hour was. Both hated to give up the companionship they've found, but it was time to go. "I'll walk you home," Clark told her.
Lois nodded and together they walked slowly to her apartment in silence. When they reached it, Clark waited for her to open the door.
"Clark." "Lois." They spoke at the same time. Clark indicated for her to go first.
"Will you stay in touch, this time?" she asked.
"Yes.if you want me to."
"Please, I've missed you so much."
"Oh boy, is this awkward." Lois was exasperated with herself. "I don't want for us to lose touch, and part of me doesn't want you to go now. I know this sounds crazy, but I think that you're my best friend. I've missed you. I missed seeing the little 'mischievous grins' you would draw in your letters and the way you would tease me. I've missed the smile I saw that night a year ago. I spent the whole year not knowing if I would ever hear from you again, and I don't want to go through that again."
"I know. I've missed you too. I'm glad that you want to stay friends, because I want to keep this friendship too."
"Then, this is not goodbye. Just 'till we meet again' kind of thing." She smiled almost shyly. She looked down at the ground and softly asked him, "Do you have to leave Boston again?"
He looked sadly at her as he said, "Yes, I do. It would be too dangerous for you, and for my heart to stay here close to you. There's still something left undone. After that I have to find a way reenter, um.civilian life again. I'm not sure I have the heart to go back to my previous.occupation. I need to find myself, and to make sure I can be fit on this world again."
"I'll be here for you, whenever you need me," she told him breathlessly.
"Lois, I can't ask you to wait for me to get myself together. It's not fair to you. I have a lot of scars that need to heal right now. I won't be good to anybody for a while."
Lois, the ever practical woman, stood there considering his words and agreeing with his logic. He would be no good for her at this point, she could see that. So she did the only logical thing she could think of to do — she flung her arms around him and whispered near his ear, "Don't go. Stay with me, let me help you find your way back. I need you Clark. I need you more than life itself. Please, stay. I.I.love you."
She could feel his arms envelope her body. They stood there, unmoving, each wrapped around the other for a long time. Finally Clark drew back and said to her softly, "Lois, I can't stay, not until I finish what I started a year ago. You would be in too much danger. But I will be able to write to you this time. When it's all over someday, I'll be able to come back to you. But for now, I have to leave."
Lois was trying to hold back the tears, if not for her, then for his sake. "Promise you'll write or call. If you disappeared again, I would die inside."
"Of course. As often as I can. Will you be staying here for a while?"
"Yes, I'm with the Boston Globe, so I'm not going anywhere for a while."
"All right then, my angel, I should go now. Good night and sweet dreams."
"Good night, Clark. I'll be waiting for your first letter."
He reached up and touched the side of her face with his hand. They each looked deeply into the other's eyes, memorizing what they saw there, as if it would be the last time they would have this chance. This time, unlike a year ago, they both move slowly toward each other, until their lips touched. They took their time to start softly, before they each deepened the kiss. The kiss was one of first love, of longing, and of a last goodbye. At the same time, it was a promise of what could be, of what tomorrow could bring their hearts, and what their souls could someday share. All of that in this single kiss. It was only a moment in time, but for them it needed to last an eternity, for they were uncertain what the dawn would bring.
Finally, they broke their kiss, and looked at each with all the love they could express with their eyes and Clark whispered softly, "I think I've fallen in love with you too." With that, he released her from his arms, turned around to walk off into the darkness once more.
Instinctively, she reached out to hold on to him, only to let her hand fall back to her side. For a long while she stared after him even though she couldn't see him anymore, unwilling to let go of the connection they had made. At last, she turned to go inside, sadness and joy warring within her. It was not the ending she had dreamed of for the past year, but because of what they had shared here this night, it was beautiful nevertheless. Once again they had connected to each other, and this time she had been able to ease some of his pain and remove the haunted look in his eyes. And even though he had to leave tonight, she knew that, this time, they would not lose contact. Their friendship. their love had survived this past year, and she hoped that she had become stronger because of it. Perhaps one day soon, he could come back to her, and next time fate would allow them to remain together.
Chapter 4 - The Dawn
Boston, MA., USA
Dawn, September 12th, 1960
1 hour after Chapter 3
"Damn, that was stupid!" Clark said out loud to himself as he flew back toward the transport ship. Of course, a year ago he would have been more worried about flying out in the open without his Superman suit. But now he didn't really care enough to bother with it. 'Why did I make promises to her that I'm not sure I can keep? Damn!'
He landed in the secluded area next to where the Kryptonian transport ship was hidden. He spoke his Kryptonian password into the speaker at the side of the ship, and an entry hatch opened giving him access to the interior. As he entered the ship, the hatch automatically sealed itself behind him.
"Ching!" Clark shouted out as he made his way toward the ship's command center. As he entered the control center, he saw Lt. Ching closing a service panel behind one of the control consoles.
"Lord Kal-El, welcome back. Was your. meeting with Lois Lane successful?"
Clark just glared at Ching and plopped himself down into the large command chair without responding to his question. He was not in the mood for Ching's differential treatment, and frankly he was fed up with the whole aristocracy thing a long time ago. To top it off, he was in an especially sour mood after having to leave Lois again.
Finally after a few moments, Clark sighed and said, "Listen Ching, I told you that I want you to drop the 'Lord' stuff around me. I'm not Lord anybody these days, I thought I made that clear. As soon as we find Nor, I'm shipping him back with you, and I'm staying here. So you might as well just call me Clark. Or if you can't bring yourself to saying an Earth name, then just Kal will do." The dejected tone in his voice matched his current state of mind.
"Lor. Kal. I realize that you have expressed your desire to stay on this planet, but can you truly leave your people after you fought so hard to help preserve us? Think of your people, how much they have come to depend on your leadership."
"Bull! You know as well as I do that most of the council just humor me half of the time. The only thing I was good for was leading men to their death in battle. Some justification for me staying!"
"My lord, you don't really believe that, do you? I know that our people would have never survived the war without you. You have been a hero."
"Don't! Don't you dare say that word to me. I can't even remember what it was I was fighting for. Your whole system and outlook is so distorted, I don't even know what was right and what was wrong. Except for a few "noble" families, most of *our* people live out their lives in drudgery. Most of them didn't even know why we were fighting this idiotic war." Clark had gotten up by this point and was pacing the control room in an agitated state. "Why did I ever listen to you?"
"Kal," Ching said softly, "you and I both know that Nor is a monster and has to be stopped. He would have made all of our lives a living hell, both noble and commoner alike. Then he would have come here to try and conquer this planet. You helped save us from that."
"You want to know what I helped you to do? I helped send thousands of men to their death for a war they didn't start or even understand. Do you know what it was like telling the wives and mothers of those men that their husbands and their fathers were gone, and would never return? I couldn't even lie anymore and make their deaths sound noble. You people should have never let Nor get as far as he did before doing something." Clark grabbed Ching's shirt with one of his fists and shouted, "It's your fault that that stupid war was fought. If you hadn't clung to those brainless rules of your make-believe nobility, I wouldn't have to go to sleep every night with the screams of those men in my head." He then shoved Ching back, and turned away from him. He put his hands on the back of the command chair and hung his head trying to regain his composure.
Ching remained silent, unsure of what to say to the man in front of him, who in many ways he had come to admire over the last year. While he did not understand the emotions he displayed, Kal-El had never acted in any way less than the most noble of men. He knew that the values of the culture in which Kal-El was raised differed significantly from his own native Kryptonian culture. But those differences had been the key in the victory over Nor. Kal-El's concern for every member in the army of the House of El, had made those men fiercely loyal to him. In the end, the soldiers of Nor simply abandoned him, leaving Nor little choice but to flee New Krypton.
"What about Za-ra?" Ching asked quietly. "She is your wife. Will you be able to leave her?" There was a hesitance in Ching's voice as he asked the question.
Clark shook his head and replied, "Ching, Za-ra and I don't love each other. She was a good friend these past few months, but we were never in love, even after a year of being together. I never believed in that arranged marriage. I only remained with her to keep the stability of the council during the war."
Ching looked at Clark, shocked. "You mean you could share a bed with a woman for a year, and then just walk away? I. I'm shocked that you could think so little of Lady Za-ra!"
Clark turned to look at Ching and gave him a small, sad smile. "Ching, we didn't really share a bed. We agreed never to consummate our arranged marriage." The tenseness in Clark's face subsided as his smile turned into a sly grin. "Besides, the Lady Za-ra is in love with someone else, someone she might be able to be with, after I release her from her commitment to me."
Ching's eyes turned from shock to embarrassment. "I am sorry, my Lord. I should have known better." Then after a beat, "Lady Za-ra is in love with someone else?" The apprehension in his face was unmistakable.
"Why should you have known better? Is it because noblemen are supposed to be above that kind of behavior?" Clark asked him, slightly amused.
"No, because I should have known the man I have come to admire better than that. The man I would consider my friend."
This elicited a genuine smile from Clark. He walked over to Ching and placed a hand on his shoulder. "Just as I should have known better than to take out my frustration of this war out on you." After contemplating something for a few seconds, he looked at Ching and said, "So, my most trusted Lieutenant, I must ask you a favor regarding Lady Za-ra."
"Of course, anything."
"Za-ra has been in love with this man for a long a time. Long before I met her. She couldn't share her true feelings with him because of her duty to her people, and to my family. I want you to make sure, after I'm gone, that she has the chance to tell her true love the feelings that she has held back for so long. Could you do that for me?"
Clark could see the hesitation in Ching as he answered. "Of course my Lo. Kal. May I ask who this person is? Someone on the council?"
Hearing the sadness in Ching's voice, Clark started to feel guilty and decided to end his friend's misery quickly. "No, no one on the council. Not a nobleman according to Kryptonian tradition, but the most honorable man I have met on New Krypton. And a true friend." He looked straight at Ching as he said that. "Take care of her, Ching," Clark finished with a grin.
Ching stared at Clark, perplexed for a moment. Then the light finally dawned on him. "Oh. Ohhhh. Really? For a long time? Then it wasn't just me having these feelings?"
Clark chuckled at Ching's reaction. "Ching, I could tell that Za-ra was in love with you the first day I met you two. My last official act as the head of the council will be to dissolve Za-ra's marriage with me, and make it possible for you two to be together by declaring you as my replacement after I'm gone."
Lt. Ching was left speechless. It was unheard of for a nobleman to act in such a way. A year ago, Ching would have been shocked at such an action. But after knowing Kal-El for the past year, he had come to expect such things. Ching had slowly come to realize the advantages of Kal's caring attitude. Right now, what his Lord and friend had just done for him made him feel. good. Like he was special to him. And most surprising of all was that Kal-El genuinely felt that way.
When had the Kryptonians lost thought ability to care for one another in this way? In the short time Kal-El had been with his people, Ching knew that he had forever changed the way they would think and feel. They would reexamine the mistakes they had made, that had brought them to the brink of destruction. Kal-El had showed them the… nobility of caring for every person.
When they had first met, Ching had scoffed at Kal-El for taking on the role of this planet's hero and protector. What he didn't understand at first was that the powers Kal- El had developed under Earth's yellow sun were not what had made him the true hero that he had become. It was the strength of his heart, and the depth of his caring for all people, both Earthling and Kryptonian. This one man, with or without his powers, had made a difference, both here and on New Krypton.
Ching looked at him, truly grateful, not only for saving New Krypton, but for the gift Kal had given him, allowing him to be with the woman he loved. Making a decision, he looked at his friend and very deliberately said, "Thank you. Clark."
Clark looked back at his friend with a smile of appreciation. "I guess we better start looking for Nor then, so I can get you on your way as soon as possible. Did you get the ship running again?"
"Unfortunately, no. The stabilizer is still out, so there's no way to power up the main engines without destroying the ship. We'll just have to wait until the other transport ship gets back to the star cruiser, so they can ferry the replacement parts back here, and I can repair the damage."
"Alright then," replied Clark. "I guess I'll just take a spin around the neighborhood and recharge my batteries."
Ching looked at him quizzically. "Ka.Clark, why would you want to spin in this area, and what batteries are you recharging?"
Clark shook his head, amused. "Sorry, it's just an Earth expression. I meant I'm going flying where I can find some daylight, so I can recharge my powers in the sun."
"Oh, well why didn't you just say so then?"
"I did say. Never mind, I'll see you in an hour or so." With that, Clark left the control room and headed toward the exit hatch. After exiting the ship, he shot quickly into the air, heading east to meet the rising sun. Of all his powers, this was the one he missed the most. Nothing could clear his head more than soaring through the sky.
As he flew toward the sun, his thoughts drifted back to his time with Lois once again. He didn't know if it had been a mistake or not to go see her again. It was a miracle that he had found her so quickly after getting back to Earth. She still affected him the same way as when they had first met, that long year ago. Actually, more so now. That first time he went to see her, it was really to say goodbye. He was completely convinced that he was never coming back to Earth, and he would die on that other planet. But he didn't, and had returned to Earth. And something inside of him led him to seek her out again. When he had found her, he couldn't help himself, he had to see her again.
He smiled as he thought about their long friendship. Their long distance friendship, meeting only on the pages of their letters to each other, was so unexpected. He had been a vagabond for most of his adult life. But, wherever he would go in the world, Lois would be with him. He had carried her in his heart to whatever remote corner of the globe. now the universe, he found himself in.
He thought about how it all had started. Traveling around the world and writing for the National Geographic had allowed him to remain fairly anonymous as Clark Kent, not getting too close to any one person. It helped him maintain the double life he had chosen to pursue. When helping out with his super powers anonymously had become too difficult, he had created the Superman persona. As Superman, he was able to remain the aloof superhero, separated from everyone else. It eliminated the chance of any criminal or group holding someone hostage over his actions. Not being tied to any one place had allowed him to keep separate from the rest of humanity, both as Clark Kent and as Superman.
But then Lois came along.
He had picked up the fan club's newsletter that fateful day, purely out of amusement. Jack Ranger, a friend of his Dad's, had been writing that adventure series ever since he could remember. He was astounded that people still wrote about the series, even after Jack had retired. When he would visit Jack, he would look though some of the newsletters just out of curiosity. Most of them were the usual fan stuff, but one letter caught his eye. It was a "fanfic" using Jack's characters which was eloquently written. The story and the characters were expressed in such a way that it had drawn him to send a critique of what she had written. She in turn sent a very indignant response to his letter, followed the very next day by a letter apologizing for being so abrupt in her first letter.
He was amused by her paradoxical nature, and immediately wrote her back, teasing her about her letters to him. Of course he also filled it with sincere praise for her story. Soon, they exchanged post office boxes, and their letters became frequent contacts between them.
After the first few letters, without intending to, they had started to share very personal things with each other. Soon, he became anxious for every letter that came from her. Wherever he was in the world, he would make time to fly to his post office box in Kansas to get any letters she had sent him. Happiness was found in the pages of her letters that often he would reread several times. Sometimes, when he was feeling particularly lonely, he would write down his feeling in free form. Not really a letter, but more an introspection of his emotions and thoughts. He would send them to her unedited, just for the sake of sharing them with her, so she could come to know him better. Soon, the passing of time for him became defined by the moments between her letters, and the day was not bright if he did not hear from her. Every letter she had ever sent him was now etched into his heart.
That was why he had been afraid to meet with her in person. Not even knowing what she looked like, or how her voice sounded, he knew that the moment he would meet her face to face, he would be in danger of falling in love with her. In fact he was pretty sure that, before he had even met her on that day a year ago, he had already started to have some of those feelings. Feelings he couldn't afford to have, given the life he had chosen to lead. But the day before he left the planet, thinking that he would never return to Earth, he couldn't keep himself from trying to meet her just once and saying goodbye.
True to his prediction, from the first moment he had looked into her dark eyes, and saw how her smile could light up the whole room, he had fallen the rest of the way in love with her. And then last night, when they had kissed, he almost didn't have the strength to leave her again. Only the threat of that maniac Nor, walking around the planet somewhere, could get him to walk away from her a second time. He knew the next time he met her, he would not be able to leave ever again.
Even though he had told her that he would come back someday, he knew that he couldn't offer her any kind of normal life together. He didn't even know what he was going to do when this was all over. He thought that he could never return to his previous life, such as it was. Not after what he had seen and experienced. Which meant, of course, that if he really loved her, he should never see Lois Lane ever again.
Chapter 5 - The Search
Boston, MA., USA
Early Morning, September 12th, 1960
(Morning after Chapter 3)
Lois woke early the next morning, her alarm blaring in her ear. "Urgh." She slammed down one of her hands onto the buzzer, finally causing it to become silent. "That's better," she murmured as she struggled out of the swathe of blankets and quilts. Unlike the other mornings, this morning seemed brighter. Last night was a godsend. To have Clark appear once again had raised her spirits like no one else had been able to in the past year. To be able to share her innermost thoughts as well as playful banter with him was wonderful after such a long absence. She drew her large pillow close and hugged it wishing it was Clark instead.
She couldn't believe it.didn't want to believe it, but it was true.they finally voiced their love for each other. How did that happen? For the last year, she had tried to deny her feelings, only to blurt it out last night. Was it a dream that he returned her feelings? Did he really say it or did she just dream his whispered words? She wished he was here, now.
'But Lois, why did you let him go then?' a part of her asked. The sensible side knew that it was not only the job he had to go and finish. No, she knew that he needed time to face his demons before they could go further in their relationship. Somehow, he had to believe that the obstacles could be faced together. She wished that she could have convinced him of that last night.
The biggest obstacle was Clark's experience in the past year. While he had poured out much of it to her, she knew there were much more that he had not shared… could not share with her. What conflict in the world could possibly have given him such pain and hurt? Was he involved in the war in Vietnam? Of course, he never really mentioned that it was war that he experienced. She deduced it from the descriptions and hints he gave last night. 'That's strange. Where had he disappeared to this past year? Was it so covert that it never made it into the news?' Lois thought, her curiosity aroused.
She swung her feet off her bed only to trip over his jacket.the jacket he had left with her a year ago. As she picked it up, her mind strayed back on the past two meetings and their endings. The two kisses they had were vastly different in nature. The first was chaste, a goodbye kiss between two friends. But the second was entirely soul shattering for her. It was an acknowledgement of what they felt for each other. She had always known through the long years of their friendship that what they had with each other was unique. The soul baring letters that they've exchanged, sharing so much of their dreams and hopes, their disappointments and difficulties with each other. He was, even before she met him, one of her best friends whose opinion mattered to her.
At what point, she wondered, had their innocent exchange blossomed into something more. She hadn't realized it until a month after he left. 'No, Lois. You know that's not true. You know that the feelings were there long before you two met,' the honest part of her corrected.
It was true; she had always felt a connection with him that she found with no one else. She found herself confiding in him things that she told no one else. His letters were amongst the things she looked forward to. Not a day passed that she would check her post box for a letter from him. Little notes and long letters.all were cherished by her, so much so that she would get worried if she didn't hear from him after more than two days.
That thought made her wonder if she would hear from him soon. He had promised to stay in touch. Already she was worried about him. He did mention that there were still things left to be settled, meaning that he was probably doing something dangerous. She tried to imagine what he could be doing, but it seemed almost impossible, since she had no experience with war or battles. She just prayed that he was going to be all right, and that whatever little good their meeting last night had done to him, would not be eradicated by whatever he had to face.
'OK Lois, time to stop brooding and get your tush to work. You wouldn't want Jim to be mad at you again, would you?' She smiled at the thought of her editor being mad. He was one of the best newspaper editors in the business. He was a growling bear of a man, but Lois knew that underneath he was a pussycat. At times it seemed that the only people he wouldn't yell at *all* the time was herself and Perry, the young copy boy. She secretly knew though that Jim considered Perry to be his surrogate son. When Jim thought no one was watching she would see him throw an arm around Perry, probably to relegate another war story about being a journalist during WW II.
She quickly finished her morning rituals before stepping out of her townhouse. She loved her new place since it overlooked Charles River and was near to Boston Common. Sometimes in her mind, she tried to relive the events of the War of Independence. English though she might be, she couldn't help admiring those early Americans for their indomitable spirit and their willingness to sacrifice in the fight for independence.
Like most days, she decided to walk to work instead of hailing a cab. It was a long walk, but Boston was a great place for long walks. As she traveled through the Common, she saw a group of people with placards. They were a group of protestors against the government's stand about Vietnam. Lois marveled at how peaceful this protest rally was. She had heard and reported about some of the more violent protests in the last few months.
Being a British citizen, she had no real attachment to the U.S. in general. However, she could understand these people's protest against their government's policy. The war in Vietnam was a political war. There was no reason for the lives of American soldiers to be lost. It would seem that the government was trying to enlist civilian men into the arm forces for the war. That would mean even more lives could be lost and families affected. Lois didn't understand the motivation for it at all.
Why couldn't there be less war and more cooperation in the world? Why was injustice so prevalent? Injustice imposed on people by their own governments. Injustice imposed on the poor by the rich. Injustice imposed on one people by another just because they were of different races, creeds or faiths. While Britain had always prided herself on being civilized, Lois had no illusions about her people's history of supporting regimes that were beneficial to them even though those regimes were doing injustices to their people. It was the way of many governments all over the world. She hoped that her articles would help change all that someday. As a reporter, she did her best to expose the injustices and evils committed by people to others. She had not bowed down to the pressures of those in power to carry their propaganda for them, like many of her colleagues had done.
She soon arrived at the lobby of the Boston Globe. Signing in at the front desk, she exchanged a few words with Will, the security guard who had been working there for ages. Like any other day, he would have an anecdote ready for her. This time, it was about one of his grandkids who decided to be Superman and tried to jump out of the second story window.
"Luckily, there was this young man who was passing underneath the window. He managed to catch hold of J.C. before anything could happen to the lad. He gave J.C. a good scolding. Of course, J.C. still hasn't learned his lesson," said Will to end off his story.
"Well, I'm glad that J.C. is O.K. So did you catch the name of J.C.'s rescuer?" Lois asked.
"So you can write about a good Samaritan rescuing a little kid?" Will grinned. "He didn't really say much or give his name. He had this strange look in his eyes, and didn't look like he'd seen the inside of a barbershop in a while. But he didn't strike me as a vagrant. Yet those eyes of his. He looked… I guess the word I was looking for was 'haunted'. That's it. He had a haunted look in his eyes."
Will's description had Lois thinking about Clark once more. In fact it sounded a lot like him. Well, if it wasn't him, it must have been someone a lot like him. She smiled at Will and said, "Well, he sounds like a true gentleman. I've got to go. Have a nice day."
She smiled and waved at him, before entering the elevator. After she exited the elevator on the third floor and entered the newsroom, she couldn't help but smile at the organized chaos. This was where she felt most at home. This was her family, even though she didn't quite like a few of the people in that 'family' and could barely tolerate others. Still there were more that she liked and got along famously with.
One of them was moving in her direction. It was Jim's personal secretary and Society columnist, Catherine Grant. "Lois, where have you been?" Cat asked her. "Haven't you heard?"
"Haven't I heard what?" Lois asked puzzled. She had never seen Cat so excited as long as she knew her. She was usually cool as a cucumber, a lady in every sense of the word.
"Superman's back. There had been sighting of a man flying rescuing people out of a burning building. He wasn't wearing his usual suit, but who else could it be? After all, how many people can fly like Superman?"
Cat had this dreamy look on her face that didn't surprise Lois. After all, she'd seen too many such looks on other women's faces when they mentioned Superman. What surprised her was the news.
"Superman's back? Are you sure?" Lois asked, just to be sure she was hearing right. Superman was big news. After his leaving last year, no one expected him to return at all. There are many questions to be asked. Where had he been? Did the aliens return with him? Why was his return so low keyed?
"Yes," Cat replied.
"Did anyone get to interview him?"
"Not yet. Jim is chomping at the bit to get an exclusive." Cat gave a grimace.
"What does Jim expect? Superman's going to swoop down and pick up one his reporters for an exclusive interview? It's not like Superman appeared here in Boston. or did he?" Lois finally put the two comments together.
Cat only shrugged and said, "He's been asking for you. I think he wants you to track down Superman."
Lois wrinkled her nose, to show what she thought of Jim's expectation. Cat grinned in reply and turned back to her desk. Lois made her way to Jim's office, thinking of how much Cat's support had helped her when Lois was first hired. Cat had taken Lois under her wings and taught her the tricks of the trade. Cat was a good journalist, with a flair for drama. Her column on the Boston Society was definitely a hit.
"LOIS!! In here! Now!" Jim's voice could be heard all the way to the other end of the newsroom.
"Coming, Chief!" Lois shouted back, as she hurried to his office. "You bellowed?"
He looked up from whatever he was reading and waved her in. "Lois, did you know that Superman is back, and has been spotted around town?"
"Cat just told me," Lois said.
"Well, then what are you standing here for? Why isn't my top reporter already out there, trying to get some answers and an exclusive interview from Superman?" He glared at her.
"That's because your top reporter just got into work after a long weekend off and had just heard about this only a few seconds ago." Lois leaned forward in her chair and smiled reassuringly. "But I'll get right on it, Chief."
"I told you not to call me 'Chief'!"
"Whatever you say Mr. Olsen," Lois replied in a purposely sickly sweet voice.
"Grrrrr," he growled at her. "Never mind, I prefer 'Chief' over that voice. Not 'git and bring me back a Pulitzer."
Lois gave a mock salute before leaving his office.
"Perry!" Lois bellowed from her desk. Within two seconds Perry appeared.
"You bellowed, my queen." Perry White was Lois's best information gofer, and a friend. He was still in high school, but knew where to dig up the most obscure facts. His father was some kind of agent for the federal government, and just by looking over his father's shoulder, Perry had gotten Lois some of her best information.
"Yes, I did. I need you to compile all the sightings of Superman since yesterday, with a list of the people who reported the sightings. And I need it an hour ago." She grinned to soften the force of the demand.
In return, Perry bowed regally to her, his eyes twinkling, and dashed off to fulfill her request. An hour later he handed her the list she needed and she spent the next few hours on the phone with the people on the list.
She decided to break for lunch, after a fruitless few hours. No one was able to answer her questions, other than affirming that Superman, or someone like him, was back. He seemed to have spotted a beard and seemed a little gaunt. There was, from most accounts, an air of sadness about him, probably due to whatever he had experienced in the year he had been away. It would seem that there were more questions than answers about Superman's reappearance. Funny how Clark returned about the same time.
'About the same time…' A growl from her stomach turned her attention away from the coincidence to the subject of food. A favorite topic of hers.
She decided on a sandwich from her favorite deli, and walked to the Hatch Shell on the Esplanade. As Lois sat there enjoying the free noon concert (a trend started way back in 1910) her thoughts drifted back again to Clark. and Superman. Where had he been? Where had they been?
She shook her head to clear her thoughts. 'Clark is going to say that I'm a workaholic since I can't get my work out of my head, even for a short lunch,' she laughed inwardly. She couldn't wait to hear from him. She didn't get a chance to tell him last night, but she had written him tons of letters in the last year. She wondered if he'd be surprised if she sent all of them to him.
The jazz music drifted through the air as she switched her thoughts back to Superman. His reappearance was a puzzle. There was an air of mystery surrounding it, unlike the time when he left. When he left, he had given a press conference stating clearly his destination, his intentions and more. Why had he come back unannounced? Did he think the people would reject him? Or was there something else going on?
The descriptions of Superman she had gathered earlier didn't quite fit into the picture that she had of the superhero. She had reviewed the articles written on him and the photos taken of him. In fact, if truth be told, it sounded more like Clark, rather than Superman. The gaunt, haunted look. The beard. The air of sadness surrounding him.
'Hmm.that's such a coincidence. Clark came back at the same time as Superman did,' she thought idly. 'And in the same condition too. Not only that, he left around the same time that Superman did.' She toyed with the idea that Clark could be Superman but dismissed it almost instantly. Her CJ was nothing like Superman. Superman had a reputation of being aloof. While he helped out so many people and did heroic feats, he hadn't the human touch that was characteristic of Clark. But then again, who'd expect it of him. After all, he wasn't human.
Clark, on the other hand, was very human. In fact, too human. He had felt too much. Last night's outpouring was typical of CJ. He cared a lot about the people he met in his travels, describing them in a manner that brought them to live to her as she read his letters. She knew that he tried to help some of the poorer families financially, as much as he could. When he was unable to do something about the injustices he saw around him, it frustrated and upset him. Many times, in his letters, he voiced the feeling of helplessness to help. That was the reason she knew he left to serve his country, wherever it might have been.
But then she went back to the reports of Superman. The haunted look. J.C.'s rescuer had a haunted look. But Superman never displayed much emotion before. What had happened to him out there?
"Hello, stranger. Why are you sitting here all by yourself?"
She turned towards the speaker, shading her eyes against the sun's glare, and saw her partner grinning at her. Sighing, she motioned him to sit.
"So you never answered my question. If not for Perry, I wouldn't have known where you disappeared to," her partner said, sitting down beside her, and tried to steal what was left of her sandwich.
She snatched it away before he could pick it up. "Hey, Claude! That's mine. Get your own," Lois protested.
Claude flashed her an unrepentant grin. "Aren't you supposed to be nice and share?"
"You're on your own buddy." she retorted.
"Hey you're supposed to be nice, I happen to be the senior partner, you know."
She stuck her tongue out at him, all the while marveling at the ease with which she was relating with Claude. A year ago, she would not have been so open with anyone. But Clark's appearance that night changed things and made her more open with people. It also meant that she was able to develop friendships, just like the friendship she had with Claude.
When she first started at the Globe, she was immediately partnered with Claude who took her under his wings and taught her what she needed to know to survive in the world of journalism. He had been a good mentor, and they had written many great articles together. Soon though Lois started to grow beyond the need for his mentorship and their partnership became more equal. She became tenacious and single minded in pursuing the stories. She would not rest until she exposed the facts and brought them to the light of day. Beyond all expectations, Lois became one of the most respected journalists within her first year at the Globe.
Claude had been attracted to her at first. But she couldn't return that attraction, for the simple reason her heart was already taken. Lois spoke to Claude about it, and he was surprisingly understanding. She soon saw him as an older brother, something she never had before.
Claude studied her for moment. "There's something different about you. What is it?" After a moment of thought he asked, "So, he came back, didn't he?"
Lois glanced at him before turning her gaze on the band that was playing. "Yes," she answered softly.
"So, what happened?" Claude was surprised that Lois wasn't acting happy.
She sighed. "Sorry, Claude. I'm not ready to talk about it. Thanks for asking anyway."
"You know that I'm here for you if you need anything."
She smiled at the sweet offer. "Yeah, I know."
For a while, neither of them talked as they listened to the music playing. Each was absorbed in their own thoughts. Claude wondered what this guy who had stolen Lois's heart was like. While she had shared a number of things with him, this mystery man was not part of those things. All he knew was that he had been her friend for a long time, but had only met him face to face once. On Friday, before they left work, Lois told him that she was hoping that this guy would turn up this weekend.
"Jim wanted me to search for Superman. Did he say anything to you?" Lois asked suddenly.
"Yes, he did mention it. But I think it's an impossible task. How do you find a superhero who doesn't want to be found?"
"You don't. What you do is make him find you," Lois said smugly.
"You have a plan?" Claude asked skeptically.
"Not at the moment. But I'm going to do some more research on the guy and will let you know if anything turns up."
For the next few days, Lois did her research on Superman's activities in the past few years. He first appeared on the scene about six years before he left for New Krypton. She took note of the rescues he had carried out, the criminals he had put away, and treaties he had endorsed, especially the Arab-Israeli Peace Accord in '56. She shuddered to think what might happened if Superman hadn't been there to avert the war.
Lois was impressed by the superhero's deeds even as she was amazed at how little they actually know of him personally. Questions like where he lived in those years, why he had traveled from New Krypton, or was he really from New Krypton at all had never been asked. But as Lois gathered her information, those questions occurred to her. If he had not been from New Krypton, where was he from? Could he have lived amongst the population of Earth all the while?
That question made her look for mysterious rescues and other such activities. She wasn't surprised to find so many events around the world that fit into the realm of "guardian angel" stories. It was especially apparent that many of those events were actually focused in the U.S. She began to discover a pattern that emerged approximately 10 years ago. She wondered exactly when Superman came to Earth.
Jim and Claude were amazed at her tenacity. She tracked down every rumor of a Superman sighting, no matter how small. Jim had begun to think that those rumors were just that, rumors, and nothing more. He thought that Lois was wasting her time when she could be more productive pursuing other news. When he told her that, Lois quietly accepted his instructions to stop her research. She bundled up all the notes she had and took them home. She knew that she was on to something, and she wasn't about to let Jim's opinion sway her. Instead, she used up her vacation time to do the research. After all, she had nothing better to do.
She had waited for Clark's letter patiently. But she hit her limits when, after a week, no letter came. She didn't know what to feel. Hurt, angry, betrayed… He had promised her that he'd write, hadn't he? And he had never broken a promise to her yet. Then, why hadn't any letter arrived? Was he too busy to even send a brief note to relieve her of this anxiety? Where was he? What was he doing?
'That does it!' she thought to herself after one week of waiting. She knew that she couldn't let him go, so she took the other option. She would track him down. 'But how?' she asked.
'Duh, Lois. How else? You're supposed to be becoming the best investigative reporter in the business. You've been trying to find Superman, right? Well, it should be a cinch to find someone who can't fly.'
But by the end of the night, she found that her Clark was almost a ghost. No permanent address except for his P.O. Box in Kansas. His parents had died four years ago, and he had sold the family farm. She could track Clark's movements only through the articles he wrote. Then a year ago, he simply disappeared without a trace. No government agency claimed him. No military service had a record of a Clark Jerome Kent.
'Who are you, Clark Kent? What were you running from?' It was only through contents of the frequent letters he had sent that made it possible for her to know the places he had been to. The desserts of Arabia, the plains of Africa, and almost everywhere in America. What had he been doing in those places? Furthermore, she found no record of any major conflict the U.S. had been involved in over the last year.
But what amazed her most was the fact that they had been friends all those years and she had never thought to question what he did, or other basic things even acquaintances would know about each other. Now she had two mysterious men to track down. And her instincts told her that somehow they were connected.
Chapter 6 - The Debut
Boston, MA., USA
September 19th, 1960
For all his indecision, Clark couldn't stop from helping when he saw the need. Now a week later since his return to Earth, he had performed at least 40 rescues, caught a sundry number of muggers, stopped three bank robberies, and of course had brought two cats down from trees.
But still no sign of Nor. Nor must have learned how to blend into Earth's culture already. If that was so, Clark had little hope of finding him until it was too late. 'Thank God he doesn't have my super powers', Clark thought. It would take at least 8 years for Nor's body cells to adopt to the yellow sun, and start converting solar energy to super powers. Clark shuddered to think what would happen if Nor laid low for eights years, then emerged with super powers, bent on enslaving the Earth. He had to find him long before that happened.
Ching was still trying to get his small craft operational with the repair parts that were delivered yesterday. But with no sign of Nor, Clark was beginning to think that there was no hurry at all to finish the repairs. Poor Ching was getting very anxious about getting back to New Krypton, and of course, Za-ra. Clark definitely needed a better plan to find Nor.
He landed in the alley behind a diner in north Boston and spun into his jeans and t-shirt. After the second day of appearing at rescues, he decided it was best to don the Superman suit again. It was much easier performing the change now that the New Kryptonian scientists had showed him that trick with hyperspace displacement. What amazed him the most was the fact that his clothes were always in the same place, as long as he vibrated at the same exact frequency each time. In the past, having to find hiding places for his boots had been a real pain in the neck.
Clark checked his wallet to make sure that he had picked up enough cash from his stash hidden in the Artic. He figured that at the present rate, his cash stores should last him at least another three months. He would have to figure something else out by then. Maybe he could start selling freelance stories again. He even toyed with the idea of "interviewing" himself and selling the article to the major news wires. But he didn't want Clark Kent too closely associated with Superman. One past exclusive interview with himself was enough. It was amazing to him that no one had made the connection after all these years. Of course, being a loner most of his life, he never let anybody get to know him very well as Clark Kent.
He debated eating lunch or not. His body had begun to adjust to not needing food again, and Clark now ate more out of habit than anything else. He knew that he needed to have a little food every so often for his body to feel comfortable. The scientists on New Krypton had postulated that his body first tried to derive nourishment from food, and in the absence of food his cells drew energy directly from the solar power he absorbed everyday.
Now that he thought about it, he did always feel a little more 'super' when he had a good meal in him, so lunch it was then. He stepped into 'Mom's' Diner, took a seat in a back booth, and started scanning one of the menus. After a couple of minutes, 'Mom' came over to take his order. 'Mom', in reality, was an ex-linebacker for the New England Patriots, George 'Tank' Wilson, who blew out his knee in the 1951 championship game. Tank was what Clark called a loveable pessimist. Always expecting the worst to happen, he had a perpetual gruff demeanor. But beneath the gruffness, Tank was one of the most straightforward and honest men Clark had ever met. Clark often spent part of his meal time here discussing everything from politics to the merits of various movies and books.
"See that's why I thought the ending made sense," Tank was later espousing to Clark, who was half way through his meal. "I mean, most of those stories, especially the ones from *females*, would always have one of those clich‚, mushy endings. They don't realize that a good slam at the end of a story now and then is good for the soul. I knew that a woman had written that one, so I was cringing at the end. I thought for sure he was going to cave when she gave him those sad doe eyes. But when he said, 'Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn', I jumped out of my seat and applauded."
Tank chuckled to himself and then continued, "Boy, that dame in the seat next to me really got peeved when I did that. I tell you son, some women have no sense of poetry. No sense at all." Tank then turned around and headed back to the counter.
Clark just laughed and shook his head. Leave it to Tank to root for the sad ending. 'Boy he would really enjoy my life story then.'
The thought which had started out as humorous, suddenly turned to sad thoughts of Lois. The ache in his heart had not gone away since the day he had to leave her. He knew that he was doing the right thing… at least he thought he was. As he began to run into more and more dead ends, he started to think that someone like Lois was just what he needed.
That is, to help him find Nor. In the year he had been gone, he had lost his network of informants. Clark had learned that Lois had become a formidable reporter, and would probably have the contacts he needed. But he shook his head, not thinking that he could go back and remain composed around her. Damn, he knew that he was still in love with her, but he had nothing to offer her. He didn't even have a job. And there still was the problem of Nor.
He was torn.
Clark rubbed his face with both hands in frustration. He noticed that he had started to become a little stubbly again. 'Better shave before changing into the suit again. Wouldn't be good for people to see a scruffy Superman.'
Clark got up and dropped some money on the table to pay for his lunch. He went into the restroom and locked the door. Another advantage of Mom's was that the bathroom was a single user type. Made it convenient for doing private things like what Clark had to do now. After washing his face in the sink, Clark stared into the mirror. He activated his heat vision, bouncing it off the mirror, and removed his 5 o'clock shadow. Rubbing his now smooth chin, he muttered, "Better."
Clark left the diner and returned to the alley in the back. After making sure that no one was watching, he spun into his suit. Just as he was about to launch into the air, he noticed that something felt funny. It was his feet. Looking down he saw that his boots were on the wrong feet. 'What the… How did that happen?' Shaking his head he switched them at super speed. 'Whatever possessed Mom to select such complicated footwear?' Satisfied that he was together properly he launched himself into the air.
He flew to New York and started to patrol the city, looking for any major disasters or obvious crimes. After stopping two muggings, one attempted rape (Lord, in broad daylight!), an armed bank robbery, and cleaning up a major pileup on the Jersey Turnpike, it was 4 hours later. If people didn't know that Superman was back yet, they sure did now.
'Well, time to go to another city for a while,' Clark thought. 'Maybe I'll go back to Boston. They've been having some trouble lately. Yeah, that's it, they've been having some trouble lately, so Boston would be a good place to go.' Satisfied with his internal reasoning (that is, if he was a two year old but still it was a good excuse), he shot off towards Boston. Seconds later he was patrolling the downtown area.
There had been a rash of bank robberies in the area. The criminals had somehow gotten hold of some high caliber army machine guns. The police had already lost 3 men fighting against that kind of firepower.
An hour into his patrol, Clark's hearing picked up a silent alarm coming from the center of Boston. He shifted into high speed and headed towards the source of the alarm. As he got there the police cars were just pulling up. He scanned the inside of the bank and saw three masked men carrying high caliber automatic weapons heading for the front door with bags of money clipped to their belts. A fourth robber had a female hostage by the arm and a Colt 45 pointed at her head. "Damn," Clark muttered. With the barrel of the gun resting on her temple, he couldn't risk trying a super speed swept to disarm them.
As Clark tried to formulate a plan, one of men pointed his automatic weapon at the front door, and let go with a barrage of fire at the police cars out front. Shifting into hyperspeed he flew down in front of the police and caught most of the bullets heading for the police cars. A couple made it through blowing out windows in one of the police cruisers. Clark then landed directly in front of the bank door, to shield the police from anymore weapons fire.
A man shouted from inside the bank, "One step closer and we start making dead bodies in here. Now back off."
Clark cautiously took a couple of steps backwards but remained blocking the front door. He needed to think of something quickly, these guys were entirely too trigger happy for him. Again he scanned the inside of the bank with his X-ray vision. The thugs with the automatic weapons had set them up on the counters, with one pointed to the front door and the other two pointed at the hostages in the bank. The ringleader still had his 45 stuck in the head of that woman.
'Double damn,' Clark hissed through his teeth. He started to think through the possibilities again when a noise permeated through his thoughts. It was coming from the back of the bank. He extended his X-ray vision to the back room of the bank. He searched for the source of the sound, and was rewarded when he spotted a person sneaking out of the room towards the front of bank. Towards the robbers! What the heck was that person thinking? He focused on the person and discovered that it was a woman. Somehow she seemed familiar. What a minute, she was more than familiar. Clark put one hand over his eyes and shook his head. "Lois…," he sighed.
*A few hours earlier, Boston Globe Archives*
Lois got up and stretched herself. "Thanks, Amac," she said to the Boston Globe's archive keeper. Her real name was Annie but everyone called her by her nickname. "You've been a great help, getting me all these articles."
"No problem, Lois. It's my pleasure. You know how I enjoy these little forays into the archives. But what brought you to the 'dungeon', anyway? I'd have thought you'd send Perry down?" Amac asked.
Lois shrugged and grinned sheepishly. "Usually yes, but the articles I asked you for are… for personal reasons."
"This Clark Kent person who wrote these articles? Must be someone special, eh?" Amac teased her.
Lois blushed but didn't say anything to confirm it. "Well, I'd better get back to the newsroom. Mr. Olsen just assigned me a new story. Seems like there's been a rash of bank robberies going on in town. From my sources, it looks as if they're being carried out by a single gang."
Amac just waved her on, not really interested in the events of that haven't even made the news. "Just go out and get a new article for my archives, Lois," Amac said with a mischievous grin.
Chuckling at Amac's comment, Lois gathered her pad and files, carrying them up the staircase. She wished they had a lift installed that reached to the basement where the archives were. Unfortunately whoever designed the building never thought about the poor reporters who had to consult the archives frequently and carry up and down massive files. 'Must be a man who designed it.'
"Hey, Lois! Let me get that for you."
To Lois's relief, Claude took her burden the moment she emerged from the 'dungeon'. "Where have you been?" she asked him as she pushed the lift button. He was looking very smart today.
He grinned widely. "Guess who landed a date in a middle of the Kennedy interview?"
"Claude! That's unprofessional!"
"You think so? It's not like it was Senator Kennedy that I landed a date with," he said, laughing.
She gave a mock pout. "Ha! O.K., so give. Who did you land a date with?"
"The Senator's sister." He flashed a triumphant grin.
Lois shook her head, laughing at the audacity of her partner dating a Kennedy. "You sure her brothers won't come after you? I hear they know guys, who know guys…"
"Ha ha! Very funny." They got into the elevator. "So what's all this? Don't tell me you're still researching Superman."
"So I won't tell you," she teased before turning serious. "Actually, they're not about him though there's an article in there of an in-depth interview the journalist had with him."
"I'll bite. If not him, then what are these about?"
Lois hesitated to tell him. After all though Claude knew about Clark, she hadn't told him the whole story. Coming to a decision, she said, "Remember my friend Clark Kent?"
Claude lifted his eyebrow. "These are articles about him?"
"No. These are his articles. He's a journalist."
"What are you doing reading them?" Claude was now curious.
She shrugged. "Just wanted to."
Claude would have asked further when the elevator doors opened and Perry was standing right outside. Perry, spotting his two favorite reporters, broke into a big grin. He had been hoping they'd get together as a couple, but while Claude had been interested, he knew Lois hadn't. He briefly wondered who it was who held Lois's heart.
"Hi Claude, Lois. Look at my new 35mm camera!"
Lois smiled at his enthusiasm. Even though she graduated from college in January, she felt quite old. The drive to get the news, that adrenalin rush was definitely there but she rarely found the energy to be enthusiastic about other things, including her old passion for the Dakota Smith stories. Sometimes the work took too much out of her. Then again the situation with Clark didn't help either. She missed her friends from the fan club, and vowed that she'd write them a letter soon.
She tuned back to Claude's and Perry's discussion on the merits of his new camera, the latest on the market. It didn't interest her so she tuned them out, settling down at her desk, looking through the file on Clark again. The interview with Superman was on the top. As she read it, she was struck by the depth of it. It seemed that Superman spoke more personally to Clark than he had with any other interviewers, some of which were the best in their field. She wondered if Superman knew Clark personally.
That sparked off an idea. Didn't Jim want her to find Superman? Well if she could find Superman, perhaps.
Claude and Perry looked at her amused. Jim was looking for her, and the way he was shouting at the top of his lungs definitely meant that he was not happy. She gave them an innocent shrug and headed for Jim's office.
"You know Chief, if you keep shouting like that, one day you might find that all your reporters have died of heart attack," she remarked as she strolled into his office.
"Hrmph! Where's the story on the robberies? I thought you'd have it by now." He glared at her.
"Chief, you just gave it to me yesterday. They haven't struck yet. But my source indicated that they might strike this afternoon." Coolly she glanced at her watch. "Will you look at that! It's almost lunch time. I think I'll go downtown for lunch and maybe do some banking." She winked at Jim Olsen.
He just growled and shooed her out. "Don't come back without a story, you hear!"
"Sure, Chief. Whatever you say."
"And don't call me…," the door slammed firmly behind Lois after quickly departing, "…Chief."
Cat looked up from her desk, amusement showing in her face. "Going banking, eh? Be careful."
"Don't worry, Cat. Careful is my middle name." Cat snorted and Lois laughed before making a stop at her desk to collect her purse.
Heading downtown, she had a light lunch before entering the bank where her source said would be the next target. In the crowd, it was easy for her to slip into the back room to wait for the bank robbers. She had done her homework and knew the layout of the bank. There was an escape route, a concealed side door that was rarely used near the teller counter in the front. She hoped that in the event the robbery happened, she could unlock the door so that the police could come in through it. She knew that the back door was locked and had an alarm triggered to it. If she tampered it, the robbers would definitely discover her presence. The best bet would be the concealed side-door. She just hoped they wouldn't think to search the back room since it was rarely used.
Well that was the plan, anyway. Of course, like some plans, it didn't quite go the way she envisioned it. When the robbers entered the bank and started shooting, Lois found herself in a bind, unable to make it to the side door because of the position and number of the robbers. The robbers had already let go of one barrage of automatic weapon fire, just a friendly reminder for the bank patrons, causing a couple of bullets to whiz past her head. 'Well,' she thought philosophically, 'I was the one who wanted to be close to the action.'
She was trying to be fearless, but not completely succeeding. Slowly she began to calm herself down, and opened the back door a little wider, wincing at the creaking noise. It seemed much too loud to her ears. Looking around, she exhaled a small sigh of relief as none of the robbers noticed the noise.
As quietly as she could, she made her way towards the side door, praying at every step that the robbers were distracted enough not to notice her.
'Now what? OK, I've got 4 trigger happy goons pointing guns at approximately 30 people. The woman I love trying to get herself killed, and there's a parking lot full of cops itching to do something.' Clark was brought out of his introspection by a tapping on his shoulder. Expecting it to be the police officer in charge he turned around to see… nothing. Perplexed for a moment, he then looked down and saw a policewoman, at least a foot shorter than him, not 4 four inches from his chest, staring up at him with folded arms. And she didn't look too pleased.
Realizing that he probably didn't look very intelligent just gaping at her, he cleared his throat and asked, "Can I help you, um…" Clark paused, waiting for the woman to fill in the blank.
"Lt. Smith. Lt. Nan Smith, Special Operations Commander. You know, the police. Would you mind letting me in on what the hell you think your doing, flying in here, and escalating an already bad situation, without so much as a 'Howdy Do'?"
Without blinking, Clark held out his hand full of 50 caliber bullets and said, "Catching these." Clark then crushed the bullets in his hands and dropped the remnants to the ground.
Without changing her expression she simply said, "Oh. Well, I can live with that. O.K. then, assuming you're the same Superman who left a year ago, have you used your vision powers to assess the situations inside?"
'Wow,' Clark thought with an internal chuckle, 'some tough customer. Glad she's on our side.'
"Well Lieutenant, there are four perpetrators inside, three with 50 caliber automatic weapons and one, probably the leader with a Colt 45. Two of the 50 calibers are trained on the hostages, and one on the front door. The leader has the 45 pointed at the head of one woman." Clark turned back to look through the bank walls. After several moments of contemplation he turned back to the lieutenant. "Lieutenant, I have an idea…"
Five minutes later Superman was gone and Lt. Smith was in front of the bank with a bullhorn in her hand. "All right you in the bank, we want everybody to be able to walk away from here, alive. So I'm here to help us all figure out how to get that done." As soon as she finished speaking, the ground in front of her exploded in a short burst of gunfire. Lt. Smith, still holding onto the bullhorn, didn't even flinch during the barrage. She slowly raised it to her lips again, and said into it, "I said I want everybody to walk away, alive. In two minutes we will be calling the bank's phone. Pick it up so we can talk." She calmly turned around and walked back to the Special Ops van.
At the precise agreed upon time, she picked up the phone and dialed the bank's phone number. After a couple of rings she heard someone pick up the phone and starting to shout into it. "No deals, no negotiations. In 10 minutes we are walking out of here with some of these bank customers. If we see even one police car, we'll just blow them all away." And then slammed down the phone again.
"That went well, I think," said Lt. Smith aloud. "Yep, my negotiation skills are definitely improving." Turned to her men she said simply, "Positions." The police officers scattered to their assigned positions.
What the leader of the bank robbers didn't know was that during the few seconds his attention was on the phone call, Clark had moved at super speed into the bank's back room, through the back door. He had disengaged the alarm earlier so he wasn't worried about alerting the robbers to his presence. He cracked the door leading to the front open enough to get a view of the main floor. The first sight that caught him was that of Lois creeping slowly on her hands and knees to the back of the teller counter.
Lois was perspiring profusely; she could feel the sweat running down her back and front as she slowly make her way to the teller counter. If she could reach the counter she would have some cover then. The path to the door was unobstructed for now. She wished she had Superman's speed. She could have just run for the door in an instant.
As Lois crept to the door, she could hear the imaginary voice of her editor in her head. 'Lois, what the heck were you thinking of? You didn't need to become a hostage to cover the story.' Jim often appointed himself to be her voice of reason. At this moment, she might just agree with him.
Then again she knew her response would be, 'Well, for one, this is more exciting and it gives me a whole new perspective to write. I'm not just reporting, I'm living it.' Distantly she heard a loud blaring noise which her subconscious mind marked as a police siren. Idly she wondered why they were making such a racket.
But Jim's voice wouldn't let it drop there. 'You're a reporter, you don't need to live it in order to write it. I do like the extra dimension to the story, but really Lois…'
Before she could respond, she found herself looking at the end of a gun barrel. She followed the barrel to its owner who motioned her to stand up.
"So where are you going pretty thing?"
Clark cringed at the sight of Lois creeping across the bank floor. 'Oh no, now what? I have to save her… so I can kill her later. What the heck does she think she's going to accomplish out there? Never mind, I better continue with the plan.'
Clark studied three goons with the automatic weapons. True to form, they had gotten lazy, and their hands were off the triggers. Clark focused his vision on the first automatic weapon, and zoomed in on the trigger. Using his most precise heat beam, he sliced through the trigger, but stopped from completing his task to wait for Lt. Smith to perform her prearranged distraction. He picked up one of the 22 caliber slugs he got from the police and put it between his thumb and finger and took careful aim. Five seconds later, a siren blast sounded loudly outside. Just as the sound started, he flicked the slug at the damaged trigger. The bullet went by so fast, taking the trigger with it, that the robber didn't even notice it. For the next minute, Clark repeated the procedure for the other two automatic weapons. Lt. Smith provided a squelch from her bullhorn and a loud plea for another phone conversation for those two. Now he can take care of the leader.
Just as Clark was about to seek out the leader and take care of him, he heard the leader say, "So where are you going pretty thing?"
'Lois. Just what I need,' Clark groaned.
Lois stood up slowly, staring directly at the gun pointed at her. She cursed herself for getting distracted and not paying close enough attention. Still, she wasn't about to let a little thing like a gun deter her. She took a deep breath, and suddenly smiled and said, "Hi, Lois Lane - Boston Globe. I was just going over there to interview some of the host. um, customers. You know, get their feelings, what's it like to experience a genuine bank robbery. Hey, but you're here now, why don't I interview you? So is this your first bank robbery?"
"Shut up lady, I don't want to be interviewed. Are you crazy?" the leader growled at her.
'Yes,' answered Clark silently.
Not missing a beat Lois replied, "Why not? I thought all bank robbers wanted to be famous. You know, like Jesse James. You guys could become legends: the Boston Bandits. You know my boss loves stuff like this, you'll be famous by tomorrow."
One of the other thugs piped in. "Hey boss, I like the sound of that."
The leader turned his head to yell at his man. "Are you nuts, too? Shut your face and watch the customers."
Clark saw his opportunity with the leader's head turned away from Lois for a second. He immediately shifted his senses and body into hyperspeed. Time slowed to a crawl as he moved out of the closet at supersonic speed. He knew his sudden departure would cause a momentary vacuum where he once stood, manifesting a small sonic boom. But by the time they heard it, he would already be done with them. First job was to disarm the leader and get him away from Lois. As he moved past, he removed the gun from his hand and crushed it. He then flicked him with his index finger to knock him to the floor, away from Lois. He then went by the other three goons in order. The last one had instinctively tried to pull the now missing trigger to his weapon. He pushed them all gently away from their weapons to insure that they couldn't make them go off another way. He finished his sweep by searching all four of them and removing another hand gun and knife from each. He was done before the leader hit the floor.
Standing near Lois, he shifted his senses back to normal speed. He grinned a little, since he always got a little kick out of the mayhem he caused with papers and lightweight objects when moving at hyperspeed. Remembering the police outside, he went to the front door, stuck his head outside, and blew a sharp "all clear" whistle.
Lt. Smith and eight of her men almost immediately came in through the door and started to detain the robbers. "Nice," Lt. Smith commented briefly to Superman. "Not bad for an amateur. You have potential."
"Thanks, I think." Clark saw the Lieutenant look up at Lois and walk over to her.
"Don't tell me that you happened to be in this bank, just when the robbers hit."
"Actually," Clark said, walking up behind Lt. Smith, "she snuck into the back room before it started so she could get a story." Clark punctuated the statement with his most stern, arms folded stance.
"No I did not!" Lois denied indignantly.
"Why were you in the back room then?" Clark challenged.
"I got a tip; said they were going to hit the bank. So I got there early and hid in the back." She gave him a 'so there' look.
Lt. Smith spun around back to Lois, obviously unhappy with Lois's behavior. "Lane, the next time you pull something like that, I am going to personally throw your butt into a cell for obstruction of justice."
Lois looked over the Lieutenant's shoulder and gave Superman the 'Gee, thanks a lot' look of death. But then she blinked, shook her head, and looked at Superman again. It was like there was something out of place, and by shaking her head it would make it right. But when she looked again it still wasn't right. Without looking away from Superman, she said out of the side of her mouth, "Yeah, sure. Sorry Nan, I got carried away. I'll try to be good next time."
"Hmm Hmm. Right. And I'm the Easter Bunny. Go, get out of here and write up your story."
Lois now looked at Lt. Smith and said, "Thanks Nan, and I'm really sorry." Remembering her idea, she then turned to Superman and said, "I've been looking for you. I need to talk to you."
Clark was totally taken off guard by her statement and could only get out, "What?"
"I said I need to talk to you. Hey, can you take passengers? I heard you can take passengers when you." She made a wavy motion with her hand.
"When I…" Clark made the same motion. "… what?"
"Fly, of course. What else would <hand waving motion> mean?" She now had that 'guys have so much trouble with the obvious' expression on her face.
"Um, nothing I guess." Then getting his thoughts back together he scowled and asked, "Wait a minute, just what were you doing, sneaking into the bank like that? You probably would have gotten yourself killed if I hadn't showed up." Clark tried his best to remain stoic, and not let the panic at the thought of her dying, creep into his voice.
Lois walked right up to Superman, put her hand on her hips, and said, "Hey listen buddy, you may be Superman, but no one appointed you my judge or guardian angel. I have done fine until now on my own, even without a spandex covered set of muscles looking over my shoulder. What, don't think I can handle the tough stuff, because I'm a woman?"
"I never said."
"Well I can. I've been doing fine for the last year. I had the situation perfectly under control. I thought you're supposed to be the fair minded Superhero anyway. What happened to fighting for truth and justice and fair play?"
"Actually it's just truth and ."
"And another thing, Mr. 'I know better than you' Superhero, I don't need you telling me what to do, I can take care of myself. And for your information, I didn't sneak in. I walked in. Now come on, we have to go. You need to help me, and since you saved my life, you owe me an exclusive interview."
Clark's face was now a perplexed scowl, trying to follow her logic. 'She had the situation under control, but I saved her life. And since I saved her life, I owe *her* an interview. Oh my God, I created a monster. I thought I was just encouraging her to be a little more self confident.'
Giving up trying to understand, Clark simply surrendered to her demands. He nodded his head toward the front door and said, "Let's go." She looked surprised that he gave in so easily, but didn't hesitate to follow him out the door.
"Ready?" he asked. When she nodded he scooped her up, held her in his arms, and asked her where she wanted to go.
"Well I guess we can talk in my conference room at work."
"Very well," he replied, and launched Lois and himself into towards the sky.
Lois clutched at Superman when she found herself airborne but soon relaxed. There was something familiar about being in his arms, hauntingly familiar. It was like being in Clark's arms. The feeling of safety, belonging - it felt right to be there. But how could that be?
"Are you all right?" Clark asked, his voice gentle.
She found herself looking into familiar brown eyes, eyes that could see her soul, so it seemed. Yet how was that possible? 'Lois, you're nuts.'
"Yes, I am. Superman."
Clark was trying his best to ignore the urge to hold her closer and at the same time enjoying the closeness of her being in his arms. He hadn't expected to be flying with her, though that had been in his dreams for a long time. He had wished he could take her flying since the time they had first discussed sunsets and he had ended up sending her a copy of 'High Flight'. He had no doubt she would be appreciative of the view.
"Yes, Miss Lane?"
Lois couldn't bear looking at those eyes anymore. It brought home to her how she missed Clark. She wished the flight was over so she could move away from the disturbing sensations she was feeling. She might not be very well versed in man-woman relationships, but she had no doubt that she was attracted to Superman, something which was unsettling to her. She felt as if she was betraying Clark.
'Yeah, the one who promised you that he'll write and then disappeared without a trace,' her inner voice surfaced to remark sarcastically.
'Stop that! I'm sure Clark will keep his promise. He has always done so before. Maybe he's in trouble or something. Look we don't know how dangerous is the situation he's in. I'm not going to doubt him now.'
'You're being na‹ve, Lois. What makes you think he's coming back? From your research, this man's a ghost. Maybe everything he's told you had been a lie.'
'I don't believe that. I can't.'
'Why? Because you love him?'
'No! He's my best friend. We've shared so much.'
'Maybe you have, but he might be making up all those things. Just look at the facts; this man barely exist. The only thing that pinpoints to his existence is a paper trail that died a year ago.'
'Shut up! I don't want to listen.'
"Miss Lane?" Clark asked, worried at her long silence.
Lois broke off the debate and raised hooded eyes to meet his gaze. "Are we there yet?" she asked quickly, trying to quell any question from Superman.
Clark frowned. He didn't care for the long silence, wondering what was going on in her head. "You can see it from here." He pointed to the building that housed the Boston Globe.
Smiling, he only nodded in return.
Jim Olsen and Perry White got off the elevator together when it reached the newsroom. Perry had his new 35 mm camera in his hand.
"I'm telling you Chief, SLRs are the wave of the future. You see exactly what the lens sees, the lenses are interchangeable, and they are even coming out with automatic motor drives to advance the film."
Mr. Olsen didn't seem impressed. "Will it take the pictures for you, too?"
"Come on Chief, check this out." Perry took off the 50 mm lens and switched it out for a zoom lens. "A few seconds of change and I can get candid close-ups. Last month I used a 300 mm lens to get those photos of Senator Harriman for Lois. I bet I can even see that plane out the window there with this lens."
Perry pointed his camera toward the window and started to track the incoming airplane. He could hear the Chief saying, "But the film is so small, and it looks too grainy for the big blowups. White! White! White, are you listening to me?"
But he wasn't listening, because the plane he had been tracking with his camera began to change shape. It wasn't a plane at all in fact. And it was too big to be a bird. As it got closer, he could see something fluttering behind the flying form. Then the form began to take a recognizable shape in his lens. Instinctively he began to take pictures of the incoming apparition as it headed for the Globe large window. And as the flying apparition got closer it took the form of a person… no persons flying. It was, it was.
Superman flew through the large open window into the Globe's newsroom. As he sailed into the bullpen he found a clear area to land, set himself down, and then set Lois gently down on her feet. It had taken all of his super will power not to hug Lois close to his body during the flight. He was so tempted to brush a kiss on the top of her hair more than once during the flight.
Both Jim Olsen and Perry White were stunned into silence, and could only stare at Lois with Superman standing beside her.
"Hi Chief… Perry. This is Superman and I'm going to interview him in the conference room for a little while. Unless you have something else for me Chief." Her breezy demeanor acted as a cover to her uncertain feelings. She couldn't help but be flustered by the flight back to the Globe.
Jim Olsen's expression quickly changed to that of a man salivating over a steak after a week's fast. "No, no, take all the time you need."
"Great! Come on Superman." She turned and marched to the conference room, Superman in tow. After they past through the door, she slammed it shut, and then closed all of the blinds.
"Chief, did you see what I just saw?" Perry asked tentatively.
"Well White, if you saw a Pulitzer in the making, then yeah, that's what I saw too."
She didn't dare look at Superman or anyone else, scared that he might see her nervousness. "So take a seat, and we can begin," Lois said as she rummaged around the conference for a pad and pencil. When she found the pencil, she stuck it behind her ear and continued looking for a pad. All the while never breaking her flow of conversation.
"So I'll probably start with the big questions, like 'Where have you been?', 'Why did you come back now?', 'Are you back to stay?'. You know the usual. I have coffee here if you want some." She turned her head quickly to face him and asked, "Do Kryptonians drink coffee? I don't see why not. I mean you are invulnerable, so it can't hurt you. Not even the newsroom coffee. But then again you may not like coffee."
He watched her movements drinking in the sight of her, only half listening to her babble. He could hardly believe the past hour or so. First finding her life in danger, then being granted the chance to fly with her as he imagined doing so many times in the past. Now just being near her was a balm to his soul. He felt like he could watch her forever.
She returned to look for a pad without waiting for a response from him. She then announced triumphantly that she had found the pad, and then sat down at the table next to Superman. She looked down at her hands, and then with a perplexed expression started to search the area of the table.
Clark couldn't help but smile. She was fantastic. And he, obviously, was an idiot. How could he think that he could live without her? But he had to deal with that later. For now he would simply go along and see what she wanted. He leaned over closer to her and raised his hand to her ear. He grasped the pencil stuck there and held it in front of her eyes.
She took it from him, grinning sheepishly. "I guess I put it there, didn't I? You may have noticed that I'm a little nervous."
"Nothing I noticed, no."
"Yeah, right." Her grin grew a little bigger. Then after a moment to get her thoughts in order, she launched into her questions. Clark spent the next hour answering what he could about his time on New Krypton and his return. Of course, he couldn't tell her everything in this interview, but now he was hoping to tell her in private, someday.
"OK, thanks Superman. I'll just add it to the bank story, and have this in the paper tomorrow. Anything you'd like to add?"
"No, not really."
Lois looked at him, trying to gauge him. She had not given in to her nervousness, and during the interview, her mind was so focused, she had almost forgotten the reason for her nervousness. Now that it was over, it came flooding back. To ward it off, she jumped up and said in an overly cheerful voice, "All right then. That's it then." before hesitating.
Clark watched her. "Yes, Miss Lane?"
She drew a deep breath, slowly letting it out, coming to a decision. She turned a pleading eye to Superman. "Now that we are done with that, there is something else I need to ask you. I promise you that this is totally private and will never by published."
"What do you need, Miss Lane?"
"I need you to find someone for me. He had to go on a dangerous job, but he promised to keep in touch with me. Now I'm really worried about him. I think he could be hurt, that's why he hasn't contacted me yet. Of course if he is all right, then I need you to track him down so I can kill him for making me worry." At the thought, she grinned evilly.
Clark had a bad feeling what the answer to his next question was, but he had to ask it anyway.
"So who is it?"
"His name is Clark Kent."
'Oh boy…' Clark thought.
Chapter 7 - The Storm
Boston, MA., USA
September 19th, 1960
'Now what?' thought Clark. 'I could tell her that I know that Clark is all right. But then why hasn't he… um, I contacted her. I could say that Superman… I mean I haven't talked to Clark… me, so I didn't know that I needed to talk to Lois about… me.' He scowled in confusion trying to make sense of his internal conversation. Something didn't sound right in his reasoning to Superman. Clark. (Hey, even the narrator is getting confused here.)
"Superman?" Lois said tentatively. "Do you know something about Clark you're not telling me?"
"Lois. I do know that…" he started, but was suddenly cut off by something that intruded on his super hearing. He looked off in the general direction of the sound, employing the concentration techniques taught to him by a Shaolin master in China many years ago. He blocked out all other distractions, until his consciousness zeroed in on the source of the sound. It was a construction worker dangling from an outstretched girder, several stories from the ground, about a mile from the Globe. From what he could pick up, the worker didn't have much time left, hanging on literally by his fingernails.
Clark looked back at Lois, torn between his duty and his heart. "Lois, I have to go. Someone is in trouble."
"I guess it's a job for Superman."
"Something like that," he said with a tentative smile. He rushed out of the conference room and lifted into the air, about to fly though the window. Then he heard Lois shout at him, "Wait! What were you going to say? How do I get in contact with you?"
Clark looked over his shoulder and said, "I'll be around." He then launched himself out the window at high speed, causing stacks of papers from several desks to flutter to the ground.
While Lois was still standing near the window watching Superman's departure, Cat ran up with a dazed expression on her face. She stopped and just stared out the window completely stunned. Finally Lois could hear her softly say, "That was… that was … Right here, that was, you know, it was…" Cat was now waving both of her arms in the general direction of the window Superman had just flown though.
She then spun towards Lois, pointed an accusing finger at her, and said, "YOU! He talked to you and you didn't get me. I've been waiting six years for a chance to talk to him, and YOU didn't get me. Did you know I even once thought about jumping off the roof just to get him to come to my rescue, so we could talk?" Her expression swiftly shifted from irritation to anticipation. "Wait, wait! You're going to talk to him again, aren't you? Aren't you?"
"Yessssss. That is, maybe," Lois said very cautiously, giving her the 'Are you in your right mind?' look.
"Then I have to get busy, I need to write him a letter. You have to give it to him. That's it. Finally I'll get to tell him…" Cat suddenly stopped, composed herself for a moment, cleared her throat, and then continued, "Yes, well I better get working on that letter. See you later Lois. I'll just drop it on your desk later this afternoon." Cat then calmly, but quickly walked to her desk by Jim's office.
'Wow, that was interesting,' Lois thought. 'I never knew that Cat could be so *over the top* about someone. I realize Superman is impressive, in his own way, but really… I can't imagine going nuts like that over someone you hardly know. And Cat is so level headed most of the time. Who would have thought?' Lois chuckled to herself, and went back to the conference room to get her notes. It would take her at least a couple of hours to transfer her notes into a coherent story. If she hurried both the interview and the bank robbery could make the morning edition. She could do a follow up on the Superman interview for the next edition, adding more human interest to that version.
Suddenly she stopped as something struck her. 'Lois? He called me Lois. Why? He had been calling me Miss Lane since.well since the robbery. And something about the way he said my name seems very familiar.' Lois felt frustrated as she tried to sort out what it was that bothered her about the way Superman said her name. It was there, just out of reach, teasing her with a sense of haunting familiarity, yet never revealing itself completely. It was as if she was seeing the various pieces of the puzzle without being able to put them together in a coherent whole.
'Stop it, Lois. You're obsessing. Let it go and start doing your work. It'll come to you when it's ready to.' She sighed, knowing her inner voice was right. Settling down at her desk, she reached for the typewriter and started the story on the robbery.
Two and half hours later, Jim Olsen was putting the finishing touches on Lois's stories before handing them off to the copy boy. He walked out to the newsroom and spotted Lois slumped over her chair, a warm Tab in her hand, looking like the events of the day had finally caught up with her. He came up behind her, and placed a gentle hand on her shoulder. "Honey, it's time to go home."
"I can't Chief, Superman might come back, and I need to talk to him."
"Lois, go home. I'll be here putting the paper to bed. If Superman shows up, I'll point him to your place. No offence honey, but you look terrible. Now go home and rest." Catching Perry walking by, Mr. Olsen waved him over to Lois's desk.
"Perry, put Lois in a cab, and tell the cabbie to charge it to the Globe."
"Jim, I can't ask you to… ** YAWN ** …do that. I'll be fine."
"I'm not being nice, this is an order. I don't want you falling asleep at your desk tomorrow. Now git."
Lois let out a big sigh. "I guess you're right, Chief." She collected her purse from her desk and headed for the elevator with Perry close behind her. Halfway there she stopped, turned around, and returned to her desk. Searching her desktop for a moment, she found the envelope addressed to Superman that Cat had deposited there an hour ago. Perry gave her a perplexed look, but Lois just held up her hand, and shaking her head said, "Don't ask." After reaching the elevator, she pushed the button, and turned to Perry to relieve him of his duty.
"It's OK Perry, I can make it on my own. You go and take care of your own stuff."
"But the Chief told me to help you. I want to help."
Lois smiled sweetly at his gesture. "Thanks, but I'm a big girl now. I'll be fine, really."
"OK, if you're sure," he replied at little uncertainly.
"Good night, Perry."
She stepped into the elevator, pushed the button for the ground floor, and waved goodbye to Perry as the doors closed. Reaching the bottom, she walked out into the street, and was able to hail a cab fairly quickly. It was twilight now in Boston, and the city was winding down for the day. Getting into the cab, she closed her eyes, and leaned back in her seat, letting the rhythm of the cab's motion help sooth the stress of the day away. It had been a long and eventful day, probably the longest of her career. Even as she was relaxing, a myriad of thought swirled in her head. Banks and robbers and superheroes and lost friends. Somehow there was a pattern in the chaos of her thoughts, but in her exhausted state she could not pluck it from the maelstrom in her mind.
There was something there, just beyond her reach, one small piece that would allow her to order the chaos. Sighing, she knew she was going to dwell on this puzzle all evening, and it would get her nowhere. So she decided to leave that behind, and dwell on what had almost happened to her today. Superman was right, she had gone too far today. If he hadn't showed up, she probably would be just a statistic now. She really had no right… well maybe a little right… to yell at him like she did. It must have been the adrenaline of the moment that had set her off. Thinking through the events again in hindsight, Superman's comments were not condescending like she was usually used to from most men. They seemed to be out of some desperate concern for her.
'Desperate concern? Why would he have that attitude, he doesn't even know me. At least not before today.' That struck her as strange just like the use of her first name. It was as if he knew her, not the reporter Lois Lane, but Lois the person. But how was that possible? They had never met before that morning. Maybe she was being fanciful. 'Maybe he does care that much about everyone. But all the reports I've studied never particularly described him as demonstrative or emotional. Why would he start now? Had his experiences on New Krypton changed him that much?' The puzzle of Superman intrigued her, but she was frustrated not having the answers.
Her reflections were interrupted when the cab stopped in front of her brownstone. She paid the cabbie, and made her way up the steps to her front porch. A rumble in the distance signaled the approach of an autumn storm. Lois looked out at the sky and became mesmerized by the looming storm clouds approaching from the east. The last, red tinged rays of the setting sun shone over the river, and illuminated the approaching clouds from below. She watched in fascination as the red angry mass rolled over the darkening sky, covering the moon and the few early stars of twilight. There was a sense of tension in the air, of angry anticipation. Through the clouds she could see streaks of lightning flash, illuminating the sky briefly before plunging it back into darkness.
A great bolt of lightning streaked across the sky, emphasizing the boiling turmoil in the sky. The same turmoil that was inside of her. A turmoil that had been there for so long, ever since Clark appeared to her that night, a year and a week ago. They had had a comfortable relationship through their letters, so much so, that she didn't realize how much she came to depend on those letters to keep her feeling alive.
Then the letters stopped coming, filling her with dread as to his well-being. But selfishly she also dreaded the fact that she might have to live her life without him, without those letters to brighten up her days. Then he appeared to her, befriending her as a stranger, only to reveal himself to her and tell her that he had to go away, for God knows how long, and that he might not be back. Thrilled by the meeting, she was plunged back to despair at his absence. This time, the sense of dread was worse because she knew that he was in a dangerous situation, and yet unable to know what was happening to him, unable to 'talk' to him as she did before through those frequent letters. One of her frequent nightmares was that she'd be waiting for him to come back while her best friend laid in an unmarked grave somewhere.
She did write to him, and kept the letters with her, but it wasn't the same as when he was around, getting a response from him within a few days of sending them. She dealt with those feelings as much as she could, distracting herself with work and her new friendships. She did so much want him to be proud of her. Then after a year, when she had more or less come to terms with her situation, he emerged out of the shadows once more. This time he came with his heart in his hands and promises on his lips, only to disappear once more. It felt like her emotions were being played with like a yo-yo.
Lois couldn't take her eyes off of the clouds, not even flinching when a bolt of lightning streaked across the sky. The turmoil in the sky matched that in her heart. She had been rushing ahead so fast lately, that she never stopped to think where she would end up. Searching for Clark, searching for Superman, getting the bank story… As usual she had just jumped in, not checking for what was at the bottom of her leap. Now, with a lull in her headlong rush, she suddenly felt scared, and cold.
Lois wrapped her coat tighter around her shoulders, but instead of turning around to go inside, she sagged down onto the steps of her brownstone, exhaustion clearly etched in her features. Exhaustion not only from the events of that day, but from the roller coaster of emotions that she had been in for the past year. With a weariness in her soul, she buried her face in her hands. "Oh Clark," she sobbed into her hands, "I need you so much, you have to come back to me. I'm trying to be confident and brave, but sometimes it's hard. Harder than I ever thought. I was so sure I could do it alone, but even when I succeed, it leaves me hollow inside. I don't want to feel this way anymore - you have to come back to me."
The rain began to fall with a ferocity that wore her down even further as it washed away the dirt and grim on the pavement. The rain mingled with the tears flowing down her face, but Lois didn't seem to notice.
Suddenly she noticed that she no longer felt the rain falling on her, but for some strange reason she could still hear it. Lifting her face from her hands she looked up to see Superman standing next to her. He was holding his cape above her like a tent, keeping the rain from falling on her. She sat there, stunned by his presence. She knew she shouldn't be since Jim had promised to send him her way when Superman came back. Then slowly embarrassment took over as she realized that he must have seen her breakdown. What would he think of 'Mad Dog Lane' breaking down like this on the street? Her face flushed with color as she slowly stood up.
"Hi Superman," she said, trying to cover up her embarrassment. She thanked her lucky stars that it was raining heavily and so her tears weren't obvious.
"Lois, you need to get inside before you get sick." There it was again, the concern in his voice and the use of her name somehow so familiar, it nagged at her again.
"Sure, Superman." She removed her keys from her purse to open the door. Going inside she beckoned Superman to follow her in. "Thanks for coming over Superman, I appreciate you helping me find Clark. Did you have trouble finding my house? Mr. Olsen isn't the clearest person when giving directions." She missed the puzzled look on his face. "Did you have a busy afternoon?" she asked further as she turned to him.
"I left the Globe this afternoon to rescue a construction worker about to fall. Then, as often happens, I got caught up in a series of rescues and arrests. Some days are just like that."
Clark couldn't keep the sadness out of his voice. He realized that he needed to keep in character, especially around Lois, but it was hard not to want to break down. Especially after his last rescue. He wished he could just tell her about the fire at the Projects, but he knew that he couldn't remain stoic with her if he started. It was just too painful, and the temptation was too great to look for solace from the woman in front of him. So he just followed her silently.
They walked in silence into her kitchen area and she motioned for him to be seated at her kitchen table. Clark noticed that her clothes and hair were soaking wet from the rain. "Lois, you're wet. Here let me dry you off before you catch a cold."
"How are you going to do that?"
The weariness in her voice was evident to Clark. He was concerned by it, and by what he had seen earlier. Why had Lois been crying? When he left her, she had looked so determined, so sure of herself. Had something happened between then and now? She made such an effort to ignore what happened on the steps, that he could hardly ask her about it. Not as Superman, anyway. He silently cursed his decision to stay away from her as Clark. Well, at least he could dry her off before she caught a cold.
"Just hold still." He adjusted his heat vision to a dispersed, low intensity beam and slowly swept it over Lois's body. In just a few seconds her clothes and hair were dry.
As she felt her clothes and her hair with her hands, a look of wonder spread across her face. "Thank you, thank you very much." After a moment she regained her composure and asked, "Would you like some coffee, Superman?"
"Will I actually get a cup this time?" Lois looked quickly at Superman and could have sworn that she saw him covering up a grin. A mischievous one at that. Every minute she spent with the Superhero, she seemed to find out something else about him that no one else seemed to know. Superman actually had a sense of humor. Somewhat wicked too, if she read his comment right.
'Speaking of which,' she thought, 'just what did he mean by that.' She started thinking back on the afternoon, and their interview at the Globe. After a moment's thought, the light dawned on her about what he meant.
"Oh, yeah. Sorry about that, I guess I was a little nervous. This time I really mean it, let me just fix us some…" Her voice drifted off as she searched though her pantry. After a couple of minutes of fruitless searching, she looked back at Superman with a sheepish grin. "Guess I still owe you a coffee later."
Clark grinned, happy to see the small smile on her face. He suddenly had a thought about how to cheer her up… at least a little he hoped. "Tell you what, Lois. You get your coffee pot ready, and I'll be right back."
"What do you…" But she never finished her question before Superman disappeared in a flash of superspeed. "Fine. I guess I'll get the pot ready.' As she got the coffee pot out and filled it with water, she caught a reflection of herself in the darkening windows. 'Maybe I'll freshen myself up as well. Look at what a mess I am after that crying session.'
Lois finished setting up the pot, and went to her bathroom to freshen herself up. She was just finishing up, ten minutes later, when she heard Superman knocking at her door. She let him in and saw that he was carrying a couple of small brown paper bags in his hand. As soon as he walked in, she could detect the aroma of freshly ground coffee coming from one of the bags.
"You went and bought coffee?" she asked, amused, as she led him back into the kitchen.
"Not really. I know a guy in Kona who said I could drop by for a bag anytime I want." He saw her questioning look and added, "I pulled his drowning son out of the ocean a couple of years ago. This is the first time I ever took him up on his offer."
"Must be nice," Lois said with a grin. Then it suddenly hit her what he said. "You went to Hawaii just to get me coffee."
Superman shrugged and said, "No big deal. For me it's like going to the corner store."
Lois didn't know what to say except to shake her head in amazement. She took the bags from him. One was filled with the grounded coffee and the other had a small carton of heavy cream and a small box of sugar. She displayed the cream and sugar for Superman with her eyebrows raised in an unspoken question.
With a small grin he said, "I didn't think you would have real cream and I brought sugar just in case."
"I see. I guess you don't have to worry about calories, do you?"
"Not really, no."
"Not fair," he heard her mumble as she turned to prepare the coffee.
As she scooped the grounds into the pot she tentatively said, "So you were going to tell me what you know about Clark Kent." She stared resolutely at the pot, not willing to look at Superman as he gave her an answer.
He didn't answer her right away, which made her even more nervous. Finally she could hear him clear his throat. Another strange gesture for a superhero.
"I can tell you that Clark is safe for the time being, but he just can't contact you right now."
Lois just stared at the pot without moving. Then something snapped in her and she spun to face the Man of Steel directly. "Why? Why can't he contact me? How do you know this? How do you even know Clark?"
Clark was taken back by Lois's blunt question. How was he going to answer her without hurting her even further? He knew by now that he had made a stupid mistake not contacting her earlier. 'Damn,' he thought to himself, now I'm stuck with the search for myself, for Lois. After a beat he thought, 'Glasses… secret identity… It seemed like a good idea at the time.'
He was honestly stuck at how to answer her. What he really wanted to do was to just reach out and hold her. To tell her it was all right, but he knew that he had lost that right for the moment. And he didn't want to lie to her anymore, so he answered her with the only thing he could say that wasn't a lie.
"I can't tell you that right now Lois, I'm sorry."
"Please, I'm begging you. I have to know something."
He turned away from her, unwilling to face her pleading eyes. He looked out the window and watched the storm outside grow, sending torrents of rain into the Boston streets. "Lois, he is really safe. He just needs to finish something, then he can tell you everything."
But Lois was not about to back down. "How do you know all this? What is your connection to Clark?"
Clark chuckled softly at the irony of the question. Without turning to look at Lois he replied, "It's a long story. A very long story."
"Lord save me. Why is it that every time a man wants to avoid a question, he says, 'It's a long…' Lois suddenly stopped talking and she stared at the man looking out her window, her eyes growing wide. Superman didn't seem to be taking notice of her at the moment, so she quietly walked over to her desk at the opposite side of the room. First she picked up the research file she had on Superman, and scanned it for a few moments. Then she picked up the notes she had been making on Clark over the last several days. After looking over those for a minute, she slowly replaced the notes on her desk and walked over to her cupboard.
Looking over at Superman through narrowed eyes, her anger creeping upward to reach boiling point, she reached into her cupboard and grabbed one of her larger coffee mugs. She walked over to the table and stood directly behind Superman. She studied him for a moment, then softly asked, "It's a long story, huh?"
That seemed to break Superman out of his reverie. "I'm sorry, what did you…" Before he could finish his question, a coffee mug exploded on the back of his head.
"What the… Lois! What did you do that for?"
"I know that didn't hurt you, but, boy, that felt good to me. You lying sack of …, well I'm not going to finish that thought, but you get the idea. Do you have any idea what you put me through the last week? Not to mention the last year! I thought you were hurt, or worse. What the hell were you thinking?"
Now Clark was completely lost. What was she talking about? "Lois, I don't understand what you are talking about."
"Don't understand, huh? How about this!"
She then said in a sickly, sweet voice, "I promise to stay in touch."
"When did I." But Clark never finished that particular question, because the only time he had ever told anyone that he would stay in touch, had been to Lois.
He was a dead man.
Gathering up his courage he finally said, "I had hoped to have more time to think of a way to tell you all of this."
That just seemed to set her off again. "I don't care how much time you want. I was just sitting out on my front steps, crying my eyes out over you. But now I know that there was no reason, because you can't even be hurt, can you? Why did you stay away and ignore me? Were you lying about your feelings, too?"
Clark was panicked; he didn't want to lose her. "No, never that. Never think that my feelings for you aren't real Lois, I just didn't know what to do. I had just come to the conclusion today that I had been an idiot for lying to you, and not contacting you. Please believe me."
"Why? Why should I believe you now? Why did you have to lie to me, and put me through all of this?"
"I just didn't know how to tell you about Superman," he said honestly. "I never told anybody about this before."
"What are you talking about, Clark? What does that have to do with anything?"
Now Clark was confused. What did she mean by that? "Lois, what are you talking about?"
"I'm talking about the fact that you lied to me! What does being Superman have anything to do with it?"
Clark was completely lost at this point. "I thought that's what you were upset about."
"What? About you being Superman? That has nothing to do with it. Yes, it's very interesting, and I have a million questions for you later. But why should I care that you're Superman?" She became thoughtful for a moment before saying, "Though it does present some interesting possibilities." Then returning to her tirade mode continued, "I don't care what you do with your life Clark, I care how you live it, and how you treat me. What you did to me by lying is not the way I want to be treated. I think that I reached the lowest point of my life on that doorstep just now, and it's your fault. I spent a week searching for you, thinking that you were lying dead somewhere. Do you know how that feels, Clark?"
Clark saw the tears forming in her eyes, and did what was natural for him. He moved toward her to comfort her. But she backed up and pointed an accusing finger at him. "Don't even think about it."
Clark sighed, and sat himself down in the nearest kitchen chair. Lois just stood there hugging herself, tears brimming in her eyes.
"Lois, would you like to sit down and talk about this? I promise not to touch you."
She let out the huge breath of air that she had been holding, walked over to the chair next to him, and sat down with an air of resignation. She just stared down at the table, not saying a word, wiping the tears from her eyes.
"Lois, I know that I probably sound really dense at this moment, but if you're not upset at me for being Superman and not telling you, just what are we talking about here?"
In a very small voice Lois replied, "You said you would stay in touch. That this time you wouldn't leave me."
Clark reached out and placed his hand on hers. This time she did not back away, but neither did she look at him.
"Lois, as I said, today I came to the conclusion that I have been a complete idiot for staying away, and I should have included you in what was going on in my life. When I first returned to Earth, I had thought that I had nothing to offer you. I didn't even want to return to being Superman. But I couldn't stop myself from helping people when they needed it. And today, after the bank robbery, I decided that I wanted… no, that I needed to tell you. In fact I was just working out how to explain all of this to you, when I got sidetracked with that 'searching for Clark' thing." After a beat he then asked, "Being Superman really doesn't bother you?"
Lois smiled slightly at that, and sniffed away some tears again. "So you admit that you're an idiot, eh?" she asked, a teasing tone creeping into her voice.
Chuckling softly, Clark replied, "Guilty as charged." He then got up and went to retrieve a napkin from the counter. He returned to the table and handed it to Lois, who accepted it with a grunt. She blew her nose into the napkin, and then lifted her head to look at him. She studied his face for a few moments, then her eyes traveled down his chest, to his belt, then suddenly she snapped her head back up to look him in the eyes.
"Where did you get that costume? Is that what all Kryptonians wear back home?"
Amused by the sudden changed in topic he said with a small grin, "Hardly. My Mom made it for me. And I call it a suit."
"Your mom made that for you? You must have had some mother. Doesn't leave much to the imagination, does it?" she asked, inspecting him again with a gleam in her eye.
"You should have heard what she said when I first tried it on," he muttered.
"What?" she asked with a watery chuckle.
"Well, during the whole process of developing the suit, I was concerned that people would recognize me. That's why she made it so flashy, to distract people from recognizing me. When I first tried this one on, my mom said it wouldn't be my face they would be looking at."
Lois had to giggle at that. "Your mom sounds like quite a woman. Was she from Krypton, too?"
"No she was a Kansas farmer with my Dad. They just happen to find a baby in a crashed space capsule one day in an abandoned field."
"You came as a baby? I thought you had been here longer that 6 years, but I never imagined that you had been raised on Earth. Why did your real parents send you here?" she asked, now shifting into her curiosity mode.
"To save me. Krypton was on the verge of a planet wide disaster, so my parents put me in an automated ship, and launched me to Earth. My ship departed just before the planet was destroyed."
"You're the last of your kind? Oh, Clark…"
Clark smiled at her response. He knew that Lois was soft hearted where it counted. He knew that he should explain his relationship to the New Kryptonians to her.
"Well there are the New Kryptonians, but they're 23 generations removed from my native planet. The colony had a falling out with the Kryptonian government, and they simply broke ties with each other."
"So why did you have to go with them last year?"
"It seems that even 23 generations removed, I was somehow related to the ruling family of ancient Krypton. So they used me to gain temporary stability in their government while combating a man named Nor, who was bent on setting himself up as the Emperor of the colony."
"Ruling family? You've got to be kidding me. What are they, medieval spacemen?"
"In a sense, yes. Their technology developed much faster than their social structure. They were just on the verge of establishing democracy, when Nor attempted his coup. Nor had already killed the colony's head of the government, so they needed me as a stop gap leader, until they could defeat Nor." He didn't want to go into how Za-ra and he were betrothed in an arranged marriage in order for him to take leadership of the government. The whole mess with the New Kryptonians was confusing enough for him. He was sure it would be even more confusing for Lois who had no idea of the culture and history of Krypton. Hopefully, there would be time later to explain all of that.
"I see," she said, somewhat skeptically. "So if Krypton was about to blow up, why didn't they try to get to New Krypton and save at least some of the population?"
"Krypton abandoned its space exploration soon after because they thought it a waste of time. They didn't realize that it was a decision that would doom the entire population 400 years later. So in a sense, I am the last true son of Krypton."
"Clark, I'm sorry. That must be hard for you to know that you're the last of your kind."
"I was a little sad at first, but truthfully I've always considered Earth to be home. I just learned all of this alien origins stuff within the last couple of years."
"What's your real name, then?"
"I'm Clark Kent. I've always been Clark Kent. I just put on the Superman suit to help people and not get bothered afterward. Though I was told recently that my birth name was Kal-El."
Lois mulled over his words for a minute. "You know, I realize, intellectually, that you're CJ… Clark. But part of me can't believe that the man I've known all these years is really from another planet."
"Here, maybe this will help." Clark got up from his seat and started to spin while, at the same time, vibrating his body at the exact rate needed to open his hyperspace portal. As the portal opened, he could see, just where he left them as usual, the clothes he had worn at lunch. It was now 205 milliseconds into his spin maneuver. He carefully removed his boots, then his suit, tossing them up into the air, allowing his spin vortex to keep them in place. He then removed his cape and placed it into the hyperspace area. 545 milliseconds had now passed. He grabbed his clothes and shoes out of hyperspace and got dressed. He finished by taking his suit and boots out of the air, and placing them next to his cape. He then shifted his vibration rate, causing the hyperspace portal to close around his suit. It was 930 milliseconds into his maneuver when he started to decelerate his spin. This was the trickiest part of the maneuver, because if he stopped too fast, the air within the spin vortex around his body would be rapidly expelled away from him, causing a dangerous concussive force within a 100 foot radius.
He spent a full 3 seconds slowing down to a stop, now facing Lois, dressed in his clothes from lunch, and wearing his glasses. Lois was just staring at him with her mouth open. All she could get out was a whispered, "Wow."
"Is this better?"
"Huh? Ummm, yeah that's fine. Sure." Lois started making some hand gestures, a vaguely circular motion, scowled at him, then asked, "Where did it go?"
"You mean the suit?" Lois nodded. "Oh, I stored it in an inter-dimensional fissure in hyper dimensional space," Clark answered matter-of-factly.
Lois shook her head, trying to grasp what he said. "An 'inter' what in 'hyper' where?"
"Oh, sorry. You see, I found out that the universe has several collocational dimensions separated by different quantum frequencies. The dimensions are overlaid within a hyper dimensional matrix, which some species in the galaxy, including the New Kryptonians, use for relatively faster than light space travel. When I spin, I vibrate at a very fast rate, which allows me to create a rift in the local space-time continuum. The rift opens into the hyperspace matrix, and I can place anything I want there. If I vibrate at the same exact frequency, with the same exact spin rate each time, the rift opens up to the same pocket of hyperspace, and anything I put there is still there. The spinning allows me to create a vortex which protects normal space from the hyperspace rift, so nothing get sucked in. Pretty fascinating, when you think about it. Some of the New Kryptonian scientists think that it is possible for life to exist in these other quantum realities. You know, sort of like alternate dimensions." He had that same look on his face that all men had when taking about gadgets and cool technology.
Lois just stared at him blankly during his whole explanation. When he had finished she just nodded her head, then said softly, "Sorry I asked." She composed herself then, and motioned for Clark to join her at the table. He sat down quietly in his chair, and waited for her to speak.
Thinking carefully for a moment, she finally began, "Listen Clark, I know I reacted pretty harshly just now, but you have to understand that opening up to someone is very hard for me. In fact it's something I vowed that I would never do. But then you just popped into my life, and slowly over the last few years, I've given you more and more pieces of myself, until I had given it all. Last year, when you saved me and we had dinner together, was one of the best and worst times in my life. I thought that I had found someone who I could trust with my heart, someone who liked me just the way I was. Who could see through all the crap in my life and draw out the real me. But then you just left, only leaving me with a fond memory."
Clark went to say something, but she held up her hand to stop him. "Don't say anything yet, Clark. I need to get through all of this before you say your piece."
"OK Lois, I'm listening."
"Then you came back to me, and all the feelings I had been holding at arms length came crashing down on me. I had been trying so hard to be strong, to be the person you said you saw in me. But every accomplishment, every victory just left a distant empty feeling inside. Empty because you weren't there to fill the void for me. Sometimes I hated you for making me feel that way. But most of the time I just wished that you would come back to me to stay. I may appear strong to the world now, but it's really a facade. For I knew that I was always stronger with you, even if you were with me only in your letters."
"Clark, nearly everyone who ever said that they love me either abandoned me or abused me. Then you tell me that you might be falling in love with me, and you vanish again. You have to know that I can handle anything, except you leaving me again. Though that Superman thing is just sinking in right now." She grinned sheepishly at her last comment.
"Lois, I'm not perfect, but you're right. I shouldn't have assumed that you are better off without me than with me, without asking you first."
"Superman has flaws. Boy, that would make a great story."
"Lo - isss…"
"I'm kidding Clark, lightened up." She finally looked up into his eyes and studied them for a while. Suddenly she realized why she found those eyes so familiar that morning, and why she felt safe in those arms. Then she noticed something, a thing that was nagging her ever since he changed his clothing. Looking perplexed she asked, "Why the glasses? You can't tell me you really need them. And how come you weren't wearing glasses when you met me last year? Or last week for that matter?"
The sudden shift in topic almost took him off guard. But strangely, he found that he was getting used to it. ('Scary,' he thought.)
"The glass is lead crystal and blocks my vision power. It came in handy when I was 10 and couldn't control my heat vision. After a while, I just got used to wearing them. When I started to be Superman, the glasses added to the illusion that Clark Kent and Superman were different people.
"As to why I wasn't wearing glasses when I met you, er." He shrugged as he analyzed his own actions. "I think subconsciously I wanted you to see me, the real me. Not Superman, and well, not CJ either. I guess I wanted you to meet Clark, the real person behind all the personas."
"Yeah, guess that makes sense." Lois looked out the window and sighed, focusing on something out in the distance. "Hmmmm… illusion. Guess that's a big part of your life, secret identities and illusions. Even with me. First you were CJ to me. Then you became Clark, now you're also Superman. Of course you're still CJ and Clark to me too. Then there's the Kal-El thing too. Though I guess we still need to discuss why you had to leave for a year. Or why you're not done yet." Then after a beat, "I can't believe it, my CJ is really Superman."
She turned her head to look at him. "All those years, all those travels, and you were Superman. Why?"
Now used to her sudden changes in thought, he answered without a beat, "Why, what?"
"Why the traveling? Did you just like moving around? Did you just respond to emergencies and stay there a while? Why the vagabond routine?"
"I couldn't afford to let anyone get too close to me. I was never really that confident about the Superman disguise. I was always worried about the coincidences between Superman and me building up, and having people discover who I was. I would have no life after that, I'd be mobbed wherever I went. When I first started all of this I didn't count on Superman becoming such a… such a…"
"Yeah," he said with a shrug.
"Clark, I hate to break this news to you, but you have no life now." She held up her hand to stop him from responding. "Wait, let me finish. What I meant was that you've built up this little cocoon around your life, and packaged your existence of Superman into this separate little compartment that you don't seem to want to acknowledge. You refer to Superman in the third person, like he's not even a part of you. Like it or not Clark, you are Superman. And running away from place to place doesn't make him any less real. All you're doing is running from human contact. Believe me, I know what I'm talking about; I became an expert at avoiding people and relationships.
"But you know what? I've been slowly coming out of my own cocoon in the last year. I've been able to relate to people more, be a little more assertive in expressing my opinions."
She gave him a dirty look when he let out a small chuckle at that comment. "The point is Clark, that being in a cocoon did not make me happy. Coming out has been tough, but it has been rewarding. Being Superman doesn't mean that Clark Kent has to live in a cocoon." She took a breath, and then something seemed to hit her.
"My Lord, you really are Superman. He… you… flew all the way to Hawaii to get coffee for me! I can't believe it. Do you know that I have a friend at work who probably wants to have your babies? Oh, I forgot, I have a letter for you from her. I guess I should give it to you, though I'm dying to know what she wrote. I guess that would be an invasion of privacy, wouldn't it? But she is my friend, so it might be OK, and I did deliver it for her. Or at least I will deliver it for her. You will read it, won't you? She'd be so disappointed if you, I mean Superman, never got it. By the way, I guess I should thank you for saving me today, and the interview as Superman. I might even win an award for that. You don't think that's cheating, since you probably gave me the interview just to be nice to me? Gee, I think the coffee is done, would you like a cup?"
Clark shook his head, trying to follow everything she'd just said. He gave up for the moment and decided to just answer her last question. "Coffee would be nice," he said cautiously.
"Alright, then. Don't move, I'll be right back." She quickly left the table and walked to the coffee pot on the counter. She reached into the cupboard and pulled out two coffee mugs, and set them down. Just as she reached for the pot, she could hear Clark ask, "So, what now Lois?"
She could hear the apprehension in his voice. The question froze her actions, and she just stared at the wall, unmoving. What was going to happen now? What did she want?
She turned to look at him, and immediately saw the anxiety in his eyes. She then looked at him, really looked at him. First she looked at CJ, the friend who she shared herself with all these years. Then she looked at Clark, the man who stepped into her life, and made real, the friend of her letters. Then she looked at Superman, the hero to millions. The hero who saved her life. She even looked at Kal-El, the man who had to save a whole culture, and survived the experiences of war. She finally looked at the man sitting before her, and she suddenly knew what she wanted to come next.
Her expression softened into a small smile, and she said to him, "Clark…" pausing to find the right words. "We exchanged letters with each other for years. Through those letters, I let you into parts of my soul that I shared with no one else. Piece by piece I gave you my soul, and without realizing, piece by piece I gave you my heart. And even though you mostly tried to act as my confidant, and my encourager, you slowly gave more and more of yourself through your letters to me. I sometimes could even hear the loneliness in your words. There were so many times I wished that I could magically transport myself to where you were, so I could hug you, and dispel the demons that sometimes plagued you. I see now that some of your loneliness came from what you had to experience as Superman."
She took a breath to gather the courage to continue what she had to say now. "Clark, where that leaves me is that, you are now a part of my existence. Sitting there on the steps I came to the realization that nothing I can accomplish in my life will matter very much if you are not in it. I am completely in love with you. Even after learning what I did about you today, it doesn't change anything. I fell in love with you, all of you, and what you are in life doesn't really affect that. Because after spending all these years exchanging what is in our hearts, they are now connected. So I guess to answer your question, what do you want to happen now?"
Clark took in everything Lois said, and considered her last question. She just threw it back to him to say what will come next. What did he want to come next? It didn't take much thinking to realize that Lois was right, their hearts were now intertwined and existence without each other would be too painful. So making a decision, he got up and walked right up to where she was standing.
"What I think should happen now is this…" He lowered his head towards her and brushed his lips against hers. He suddenly felt her arms around his neck, and Lois deepening their kiss. The experience was so heady, and his super senses just heightened the experience. He could feel and hear the rapid beating of her heart against his chest. The essence of her scent assailed him, and her lips tasted sweeter that the finest honey.
"What I think should happen now is this…" she heard him say. She realized that he was going to kiss her. In fact she would have been disappointed if he hadn't. She already knew that his kisses could take her breath away, but this one would be different. This kiss would seal a commitment between them. This kiss could mark the beginning of a lifelong journey with the man in front of her. His lips gently touched hers, and she knew that it he was asking silent permission to kiss her more fully. Without conscious thought she immediately deepened the kiss, expressing all of the pent up emotion and passion to him. In that moment, their lips touching, she knew that this man, wherever he had come from, and wherever he was going, would be the other half of her soul from this day forward. When they finally broke their kiss, both wore dazed expressions on their faces.
Finally Lois said with a grin, "Good answer."
Clark broke out in his own silly grin. "Thanks, but that's not the complete answer."
"Oh Clark, I don't know if I'm ready for… you know…"
"Yes I do know, and that's not what I'm talking about." Under his breath he muttered, "…at least not for now." She promptly smacked him in the chest with her hand.
"I meant that I want to figure out how to build a life with you. I don't want to be a vagabond any more Lois. I want a life with you. That is if you think you can put up with my crazy existence."
"Well, I may be able to adjust," she replied with a wicked grin. "There's still all that groveling you have to do. And I guess having Superman at my beck and call would have its advantages. Not to mention the plans I have for you to help me win the Pulitzer."
"I see. How do you know that I will be willing to grovel?"
Without saying anything, she took his face in her hands, and kissed him soundly. Then she planted soft kisses on his chin, around his jaw, and down his neck.
Clark was finding it hard to breathe while she was doing this, and emitted a small groan when she reached his neck. "I guess… groveling… *hmmm* …could be arranged." At this point Clark had closed his eyes and lost the capability for coherent thought.
She stopped kissing his neck and said, "Some 'Man of Steel' you are. More like putty."
"You stopped," he said with a perplexed look on his face, seeming at a loss as to why she had stopped.
Lois snorted at his remark and expression. "Men! Space Men! Nice to know that even men from other planets can get distracted so easily."
"Is that a bad thing?" he asked with a mischievous grin.
"Not as long it's only me who can distract you."
"Lois, trust me, you are the only one who ever has had that effect on me."
"Good answer again. You know, you might just be trainable, so I guess you'll do."
With mock indignation he exclaimed, "Wait a minute, what do you mean, 'Trainable'?"
Just as he said that, a loud knocking came from the front door.
"Now who would that be this time of night?" Lois mused. "Jim must have sent Perry to check up on me."
"Should I be jealous that other men are checking up on you?"
"Not unless you want to count my boss, who is old enough to be my father, or a copy boy from the office who is still in high school. Now behave yourself and pour us some coffee, I'll be right back."
Lois turned, and walked out of the kitchen to the front hallway. She opened the door, and expecting Perry to be standing there, started to say, "Perry, I told you that I'm a big…" She stopped, seeing that it was not Perry, but a man in his mid thirties standing on her doorstep. He had on a trench style raincoat, and was bald with a goatee beard. "I'm sorry, I thought you were someone else, can I help you?"
"Yes," she answered suspiciously.
"You are looking for Clark Kent." It was a statement, not a question.
"What business is that of yours?" She asked, now starting to feel uneasy.
"I have a message for Mr. Kent from an old friend."
"Oh, and what would the message be?"
"Just this…" The stranger pulled a .38 caliber Police Special from inside his coat, pointed it at Lois's chest, and pulled the trigger.
Chapter 8 - The Partnership
Boston, MA., USA
September 19th, 1960
As Clark started pouring coffee, he smiled as he thought about the kiss he just shared with Lois.
'Maybe we can have a life together. She is so amazing, and the fact that I'm Superman didn't even seem to faze her too much. Though I hope she knows what it means for us, what kind of life I have to lead. Plus the fact that I'm not even human. I wonder if that has hit her yet. If she decides that she wants to build a life with me, we probably won't be able to have children together. I doubt our genetics are compatible enough… I think. Maybe the science council would know. My father did pick the Earth because of its compatibility with Kryptonians. Whatever that means. I…'
Clark stopped his reflection, as his superhearing kicked in, and heard Lois talking to someone at the front door. He noted the hesitancy that had developed in her voice, and decided to take a peak at who was there. Lowering his glasses, he looked through the wall to the front door. The man at the door seemed familiar to Clark, so he zoomed on to his face to see if he could recognize him.
Panicked recognition came over his face as he saw that it was Quinn, one of Nor's lieutenants. A particularly nasty one at that. Not pausing to even think about it, he shifted into hyperspeed, taking a chunk out of Lois's kitchen entryway on the way to the front door. As he rounded the corner toward Lois, he could see that Quinn had a pistol pointed at Lois, and had already fired the weapon at her. Clark took a millisecond to select the best path to stop the bullet without hurting Lois, and sped to deflect the bullet.
Even at this speed, Clark could see the bullet moving towards Lois's chest. He knew that he didn't have much time, and had little room for error. He passed Lois on her right side and placed the palm of his hand in front of her chest. The bullet immediately struck his hand, shattering it into small fragments. Without slowing down, he kept moving until he reached Quinn, ripping the gun from his hand, and then searched him for other weapons. He found a Kryptonian energy hand weapon and a communications device hidden in his jacket. He placed all three on the floor by Lois then went back to Quinn, grabbing him by the front of his shirt.
Clark shifted back to normal speed, and lifted Quinn into the air. Quinn's expression was alternating between shock and fear. Clark immediately pulled Quinn into the house and slammed the door with his foot.
"Lois, are you right?" asked Clark.
"Did he… did he just try to shoot me?" she asked, her voice a little shaky.
Clark just nodded his head.
Lois's expression immediately hardened, and she glared at the man in Clark's grasp. "I am so sick of people pointing guns at me today. What is it; do I have a target on my chest? Who are you, and why did you try to kill me?" Something suddenly dawned on her, and she looked at Clark. She saw that he was still in his normal clothing with his glasses still on his face.
Hesitantly she touched him on the shoulder, and whispered softly to him, "You saved me without putting your 'suit' on."
Without taking his eyes off Quinn he said in a normal voice, "Don't worry Lois, he knows who I am. Don't you Quinn?" Quinn was still stunned into silence.
"Who is he?" Lois asked.
"Remember that Nor guy I mentioned to you? Well, after being defeated, he fled to Earth, hoping to escape justice. Now I'm trying to track him down and send him back to New Krypton to face trial. This bozo is one of his stooges. I'll explain it all later, but right now I have to get rid of him." Clark started walking to Lois's back door with Quinn still hoisted in the air. He opened the door, and stepped out to Lois's back patio, Lois close behind him. The rain had stopped for the moment, but everything on the patio still dripped with rainwater. He lowered his glasses, and seemed to be looking for something in the night sky.
"Clark… what are you looking for?"
Clark looked directly at her and said, "Just making sure no aircraft are flying by. I don't want to hit anything when I toss him into orbit."
"Clark! You can't just …" she started, but stopped when she saw the look in eyes… the 'just go along with me' look, in his eyes.
"Um, I mean, what if someone saw you?"
"It's OK, I'll be careful." He then lifted Quinn high above his head, and drew back his fist as if he was going to hit him. Quinn just stared at Clark, frozen in fear
"You know Clark, maybe he can tell you something about Nor. You are looking for him, aren't you?"
Clark seemed to ponder this a moment, then drew his fist back again. "Naw, these guys are too loyal to Nor. He'll never say anything, so I might as well just get rid of him now."
"Well if you're sure…" Lois said with a shrug.
In a panicked voice Quinn shouted out, "No, wait! Please! I can tell you anything you want to know about Nor. Really!"
Clark looked thoughtfully at Quinn a moment, and then turned to Lois. "I don't know, do you think he would tell us the truth? It might be a trick."
Lois shrugged, "I'm not sure. You know him better than me. You think he would give up Nor for his life?"
"YES!" Quinn shouted. "Absolutely. I didn't sign up for this. Nor never told me that I would have to face Lord Kal-El directly."
"I don't know Lois, he did try to kill you."
"There is that," Lois replied thoughtfully. "Still, it would save a lot of time looking for Nor."
"You have a point." Clark brought Quinn sharply down to his feet, but remained grasping him by his shirt.
Clark formed his most menacing look, smoldering his eyes red with his heat vision. "Let's hear it Quinn. If I don't like what you tell me, or I think you're lying to me, you're still taking a little trip."
Quinn quickly answered, fear evident in his voice. "Nor has hidden himself in an out of the way area… some province called Kansas. He wouldn't explain why he chose such a place, but he seemed to find some humor in it."
"How did you know to come here to look for me here?" Clark asked angrily. "No one knew about Lois, so how did Nor find out?"
"He has a spy aboard your ship. The spy was able to place a listening device in your scout ship. We have been monitoring you since your arrival."
"Damn," Clark muttered to himself. Then to Quinn he asked, "Who?"
"Councilor Mank-En's maidservant. Apparently she has some romantic interest in Lord Nor."
Clark starred at Quinn for a few moments. His super senses could detect that Quinn was telling the truth, though Clark noted that he had achieved the desired level of terror in him. Making a decision, Clark reached into pocket with his other hand, and pulled out a small communications device. Pressing a button on the side he said into it, "Ching."
After a few moments he heard Ching respond to him over the communicator. "Yes my Lord. I mean Kal… Clark. *Sigh*"
"Don't worry Ching, you'll get the hang of it. Can you read my position?"
"One moment." After a small pause, "I have your coordinates; do you require me to rendezvous with you?"
"Yes. Take the ship to an altitude of 6 krons directly above my coordinates. When you arrive, open the hatch, I have a present to deliver."
"I see. I look forward to his arrival. Ching out."
Clark replaced the communicator and then looked back up at Quinn. "One last question; why kill Lois?"
"Lord Nor wanted to send you a message. He believes that your greatest weakness is your fondness for the creatures of this planet. He thought killing the Earthling would make you hesitant to come after him. And…"
"Creatures!" Lois shouted. "I'll show you who's a creature you rotten piece of pond scum."
Clark actually had to prevent Lois from taking a swing at Quinn. "Lois, don't worry, he'll be punished appropriately. Kryptonian law is far less lenient than American justice."
"Humph," she pouted.
Clark turned back to his prisoner. "OK, Quinn, finish. And what? What else did Nor hope to gain by killing Lois?"
Quinn dropped his eyes, hesitant to continue. "Nor wanted to hurt you. He blames you for his loss on New Krypton, and he just wanted a measure of revenge."
Clark had to control himself from carrying out his threat of sending Quinn into orbit. He turned to Lois and said, "I'll be right back." He released Quinn's shirt and said, "We're leaving. If you struggle I'll drop you, and I'm not going to waste my time trying to retrieve you." Quinn nodded complacently in agreement. Clark got behind him, and grabbed him by the sides of both arms. After scanning the sky one last time, he shot off quickly into the night in a whoosh of air. As he rose into the air Clark's thoughts turned dark as he thought of the near miss with Lois's life.
'I got sloppy, and it almost cost Lois her life. Another split second, and Lois would be dead right now. I let my feelings for Lois muddle my thinking. I should have remembered that I'm still involved in a war until Nor is caught. You'd think that after a year of fighting my instincts would be better than that. Just because I'm back on Earth, doesn't mean I can let my guard down. I was fooling myself thinking I can start a relationship with Lois now. I still have a job to do, and I can't get distracted, not even by Lois. As soon as I get back, I'm getting her out of harm's way until this is finished.
'Worse though is the fact that I was tempted to carry out my threat on Quinn. In fact I'm not sure he would be alive right now if I hadn't stopped him from shooting Lois. I need to concentrate on regaining my control again. I can't let myself use my war instincts here on Earth. With my superpowers, I can kill too easily. I can't allow myself to cross that line when I have these powers, or it will lead me down a path I can never return. If I'm to go back to being Superman, I need to be able to live up to the symbol I created. I need to be able to trust myself. If I can't then I might as well return to New Krypton.'
Clark quickly reached a 6 kron (5.6 mile) altitude above Lois's townhouse, and rendezvoused with the scout ship. He slipped into the open hatch and closed it behind him. After cycling the airlock and opening the inner hatch, he walked into the ship with Quinn in tow. Ching was waiting for them on the mid-deck holding a pair of manacles.
Lois watched as Clark disappeared into the starlit sky. The storm had stopped though she would be hard pressed to say when. Then all of a sudden, she found herself collapsing onto the floor, her legs no longer able to support her. A small rational part of her mind noted that her body was experiencing a delayed reaction to all the 'excitement' she'd had that day. The shock of almost dying was just the culmination of the earlier events.
She was glad that Clark wasn't around to see her falter. She smiled wistfully at the thought as she realized there was still a last barrier between her and Clark - her pride. It was especially true now that she knew who he truly was. She couldn't afford to be the weaker half of any partnership they formed. She needed to be strong. And since she wasn't gifted with superpowers, she had to be strong in other ways. She would try her best to be an equal partner in their relationship.
Struggling she managed to pick herself up from the floor, and started to put away the coffee and straighten out her apartment. After all, there was no way of telling how long Clark was going to be gone. After straighten up for a couple of minutes she decided to take a shower. After gathering a change of clothes, she turned on the water and entered the shower, her thoughts still with Clark. She felt like there was still something that he wasn't telling her. 'Of course, there were ways to extract information from a reluctant source,' she thought, grinning evilly. 'Clark's not the only one who knows how to press for information.'
"First things first," she mumbled as she lathered herself with the lavender bath gel she loved so much, "I'm going to get him to explain this situation with this guy, Nor. I definitely do not care to be a target." She gave an indignant snort as she imagined what she would do to Nor when she got her hands on him.
Rinsing herself off, she continued her reflections. 'And besides I'm not about to sit still while this guy tries to hurt Clark.' That brought her short. No one had ever mentioned it - not even Clark - but could Superman be hurt? Was there anything that could physically harm him? She hoped not, but that wasn't any kind of reassurance. What if Nor found something that could harm Clark? Or even kill him?
She shuddered even though the shower was warm. She couldn't imagine what her life would be without Clark in it. Even in the last year, she had been able to cling to the knowledge that he was somewhere out there. There was still the hope that he would return. If he were dead.she shuddered again, not able to complete the thought.
"No! If there's a way I can stop this guy from harming Clark, I will." She didn't know why but she felt calm after arriving to the resolve even though the image of Clark hurt continued to flash across her mind.
She finished her shower, dried off, and put on her fresh clothing. She felt much better, as she knew she would. A shower always refreshed her as nothing else could. 'Except maybe a kiss from Clark,' she mused. She returned to her living room, and settled down near the fireplace to wait for Clark.
*Back on the Scout Ship*
"You know Lord Kal-El, " Ching began, "you were well within your rights to kill this criminal."
"Yes, I know, but Quinn traded his life for information on Nor. Didn't you, Quinn?"
Quinn just stared ahead without saying a word.
"Ching, lock him up. If he gives you any trouble, you have my permission to deal with him at your discretion." Clark looked poignantly at Ching, hoping that he would pick up on Clark's silent message, not daring to use his telepathic link so close to Quinn.
Ching, for his part, knew that Lord Kal-El still abhorred the thought of using lethal force unless he was given no other option. But he was obviously trying to scare Quinn into submission, so he played along.
"It would be my pleasure, my Lord. Quinn has much to answer for." Ching stepped forward and placed the manacles on Quinn's wrists and escorted him to a holding cell. After locking the cell, Ching started to make his way to back to Clark. As Ching neared the bridge he could feel Clark contacting telepathically.
<"Ching… Nor had someone plant a listening device aboard our ship. Do an internal sensor sweep to find it, and destroy it. Then call Councilor Mank-En and inform him that his handmaiden has been spying for Nor. Make sure that you tell him that Lord Kal-El wants her arrested, not punished on the spot.">
<"I understand my lord, it will be taken care of.">
Ching went to the engine room and performed the needed scan, finding the device within minutes, hidden in the ship's avionics compartment. After destroying the device, and making the necessary call to Councilor Mank-En, Ching went to report to Clark, who was still on the bridge.
Ching arrived there to find Kal-El staring out the forward windows into the distant night sky.
"My lord, it is done. The listening device has been eliminated, and Councilor Mank-En has received his message." Clark just gave a grunt in response without looking at Ching.
"Clark, is there something that troubles you?"
Without looking away from the window he said, "She almost died because of me, Ching. I got sloppy, and she almost died, even though she has nothing to do with this conflict. I don't know if I could live if she…" Clark stopped talking, his mouth set in a tight grimace.
Clark broke out of his trance, and turned to face Ching. "I know where Nor is now. Prepare the ship, and call in all the search parties to meet at the rendezvous point. What's the status of our ship?"
Surprised by Clark's sudden change in demeanor, Ching answered slowly, "The ship is nearly ready. Another scout ship is meeting me in just under 10 decasils to bring the needed parts to finish the hyperspace drive. I will call the other ships to rendezvous with us. Would a kilosil be satisfactory?"
"Yeah, that'll do. I'll meet you there then." Clark then abruptly turned to leave. Before Clark could take a step, Ching put his hand on Clark's shoulder to stop him from leaving.
"Clark, my friend, you are worried about Nor?"
"Worried?" Clark asked angrily. "What I am is furious. When I get my hands on Nor, he will have wished that he never left New Krypton. I'm going to… I'm going to…" He closed his eyes tightly, trying to gain control of his emotions. After a moment he was able to gain control, and open his eyes.
"Ching, I vowed that I would never use these powers I was given to kill anyone. I vowed to stand for something, something above the pettiness and evil in the world. But today, I was so tempted to let my anger get the better of me. I spent too much time in that damn war, but I can't react like I did on New Krypton. It's too easy for me to destroy… to kill with these powers. I'm afraid that in fighting Nor, I'm starting to become like him. I'm afraid that I have lost myself."
Ching looked sympathetically at his friend. Slowly he began, "Clark, you are the noblest man I have ever met. Quinn was fortunate it was you who caught him, and not a New Kryptonian. If I had caught him trying to kill Za-Ra, I doubt he would have lived to talk about it. If there is one thing I have learned from you, it's compassion. Something we forgot about while struggling to survive all these years. Don't doubt yourself, my friend. War always takes away from our soul, even the most war harden of us. Believe me, there is no way that you have, or will become like Nor."
Clark looked sadly over at Ching, and said with an ironic chuckle, "You have such confidence in me. I may not deserve it."
"Yes, you do." Then Ching formed a sly smile and said, "You know, it is usually I who gets these… What do you call them? Ah, yes… 'pep talks' from you. You wouldn't want to upset the balance of the universe, would you, my Lord?"
That elicited a small smile from Clark. "Can't have that now, can we? All right Ching, get the troops together and I'll see you the rendezvous point."
"May I ask where are you going now?"
"Back to Lois. I need to get her out of harm's way. I can't let Nor get the chance to use her as a hostage against me."
Clark walked back to the airlock and entered it, cycling it through, and then opened the outside hatch. He 'stepped' out into the air and watched as Ching moved the ship away, presumably toward the rendezvous point. He then quickly spun into his Superman suit, and started flying back towards Lois's house. Within a few seconds he landed back on her patio. Looking inside, he saw her sitting on her sofa in the living room, staring at her fireplace. He walked quietly through the patio door, and into her living room.
Lois had been staring at the fire for some time, figuring out the best way to approach Clark with her concerns when suddenly she felt a familiar tug on her consciousness.
Before he could announce his presence, Lois quietly said, "Hello Clark." She turned to look at him, and smiled tentatively, a little shaken by the realization that she could sense him. "I take it that you took care of that guy?"
"Yeah, he's 'on ice' for now. Ching has him in a cell on our scout ship."
"My second in command from New Krypton. And my friend."
Staring back at the fireplace, her face neutral, she said softly, "I see." Then after a beat she asked, "So you're 'Lord Kal-El,' huh?"
"Yes, I am," he answered tentatively.
"So that would make you what? King? President? Emperor?"
"Um, I would be the Head of the House of El, the ruling House of the colony of New Krypton. So I guess that would be like a King."
She nodded her head slowly, saying with a distant voice, "A king…"
Then with a small smile she said, "You know I always wanted to do the 'good cop/bad cop' routine. I've seen Nan do it a couple of times. She always seems to be the 'bad cop'."
She returned her gaze back to Clark. "Would you like to get comfortable?"
"Um, sure," Clark replied. He spun back into his clothes again, leaving his glasses in his shirt pocket. He tried to read Lois's expression, but she was eerily calm. "Lois, are you OK?"
She nodded her head, saying, "Yes. I think so. (*sigh*) I don't know. I know I should be scared, but I'm not. I'm more worried for you for some reason. Why am I worried about you, Clark? Can Nor hurt you? Can anything hurt you?"
"No, not on Earth while I have my powers."
"Clark, I don't understand something. If you're Superman, why did it take you a year to defeat Nor?"
"I only have my powers when I'm close to a yellow sun. Krypton and New Krypton orbit red suns. At least Krypton *used to orbit* a red sun," he added sadly. "There is something in the radiation of a yellow sun which gives me my powers. While I was on New Krypton, I had no powers."
"So why doesn't Quinn have powers like yours?" she asked curiously.
"I was told that it takes many years for the Kryptonian body to adapt to the absorption of solar energy from the yellow sun. It's some kind of cumulative effect. Since I came here as a baby, my powers started manifesting themselves while I was still a child. I was about 8 years old when the first of my superpowers started to show themselves. Even then, they came on slowly, a new one developing every so often. The power of flight was the last one to develop when I was 17. I'm not sure if the process is faster or slower in an adult Kryptonian. That's why I need to find Nor quickly. If he disappears into the woodwork, he could pop up years later, with powers at his command that would make him virtually unstoppable by anyone on this planet."
"Yes, except me. But I can't be everywhere. And now that I know Nor escaped with some of his supporters, he is even more dangerous. I need to stop him, here and now."
"And you know where he is now," Lois said, still with an unreadable expression. "So you're going to go off again, try to find Nor, and do whatever you have to do to him."
Clark sat down next to her and took her hand in his. "You're worried, aren't you? Lois, you have nothing to worry about. As long as we're on the Earth, Nor can't hurt me. It's just a matter of me finding him, and handing him over to the Kryptonians."
She turned to him and asked, "Can you absolutely guarantee that to me? Are you 100% certain that nothing can hurt you?"
Clark looked down at their intertwined hands. Slowly he answered, "I… Well I'm pretty sure. But I guess that nothing in life can be an absolute guarantee."
"So what happens if he found a way to hurt you? What then? You disappear again, and I never see you again. Why is this all up to you Clark? It's not even your war, let them clean up their own mess."
"Do you think that I could really do that, Lois, and still live with myself?"
"No," she replied in a small voice.
"Listen to me. I do have help, and I seriously doubt that Nor can hurt me in any way. But before I do go, I have to get you out of harm's way. I going to take you to a little hide away I know in France, where Nor and his men can't find you. When this is done, I'll come and get you."
Her resolve was strengthened by what Clark told her. She would not be swayed by his persuasion, no matter what. "No," Lois said calmly.
"What?! Lois, Nor knows about you. He's going to find out that Quinn has failed, and try to go after you again. You can't be here alone when I leave."
"Then I'll have to go with you."
"Lo-isss. You can't go with me it's…"
"…too dangerous. Yeah I know. So what? I'm not a porcelain doll Clark. Do you think it's too dangerous for your Kryptonian friends?"
"Well, it's their duty. But this isn't your battle Lois. I don't want you to become a collateral casualty of a war from another planet."
Lois released Clark's hand, and crossed her arms in front of her chest. With a challenging voice she said, "It's not your war either Clark, but you still fought for them. Why was that?"
"Because it was the right thing to do. Because they needed me."
"So are you saying it's not right for me to be by your side? That you don't need me?"
"No, it's not that, it's just…"
"It's just that you think that you have to take the responsibility of the world… the universe… on your own shoulders, and you're too scared to let anyone help you."
"But I'm invulnerable, Lois. You're not. I can't get hurt."
"That's a crock, and you know it. As powerful as you are Clark, you're not a god. I can't believe you are invulnerable to every force in the universe. Have you ever gone against an atomic weapon?"
"No," he said sheepishly.
"So what happens if Nor lobs a nuke at you? Could you survive?"
"I… I…" he fumbled. Then finally he said quietly, "I really don't know."
"Hmmm… Then I guess maybe you can get hurt. Listen Clark, how long have we known each other?"
"Well, if you count all our letters, about 6 years."
"And do you think I have changed in those 6 years?"
Clark gave a little chuckle. "You seem to be a tad bit more assertive, um I mean confident."
She gave him a mock glare then continued. "And is what you said to me true? Do you want to find a way to build a life with me."
"Yes, I do."
"Then I need to build a life with all of you. That includes Superman. If you exclude part of your life from me, then it won't be a complete relationship. I realize the risks of you being Superman, more than you probably realize. Maybe six years ago I would have been too scared to face those risks. But like it or not, you helped me grow up Clark. I'm a big girl now, so if you want to love me, you have to take me - and include me - as I am."
"I guess I understand. I never thought of it that way before. I never had to…"
"… think about it, before. Yeah, well you're stuck with me now. So, Clark, these are your choices. A - you leave me here *all alone*, or B - you take me with you."
Clark saw the determined look on her face, and knew that he no real options, unless he wanted to take her somewhere forcibly. He thought about that for a moment, but decided that he rather face a nuke, than an angry Lois Lane.
"Get your things together Lois, I… *we* have to meet Ching in 40 minutes."
"I knew you'd see things my way," she said gleefully, placing her hand on his chest. "I'll be ready in 15 minutes," she shouted over shoulder as she jumped off the sofa and ran toward her bedroom. She stopped, turned around, and came back a couple of steps. "Do I need any fancy clothes, you know, in case I need to greet some 'Lords' or something?"
"Casual is fine, Lois."
"Good." She then turned, took two steps, stopped, turned, and returned to the same spot again. "Warm weather or cold?"
"It's a little cool in Kansas this time of the year," Clark replied again.
"Got it." She then turned, took two steps, stopped, turned, and returned to the same spot yet again. "Do I need a raincoat?"
Clark gave a short laugh, and then replied, "Tell you what Lois this is what you need: Clothes for about 3 days, all casual, no raincoat, a windbreaker, your toothbrush, and shoes sturdy enough to walk through the dirt. Will that do it for you?"
"Why didn't you just tell me that to begin with," Lois said as she rolled her eyes mockingly. She turned and walked to her bedroom to pack, this time actually making it all the way to the bedroom.
Fifteen minutes later Lois was ready. Clark, now in his Superman suit, was standing outside on her patio, waiting for her. He accepted her shoulder bag, which he slung over his shoulder, and asked, "Ready?"
"You know if I hadn't taken a bath before you came back, there was no way that I would have been ready in fifteen minutes," she drawled.
He raised an eyebrow. "Are you trying to train me, Lois?" he asked, amused.
"You betcha," she said with a grin.
Clark shook his head, laughing. Then he turned serious. "Nervous?" he asked.
"Me? Nervous? Why would I be nervous? Just because my superpowered boyfriend is about to pick me up and fly me to a real space ship, so we can go hunting for an alien megalomaniac bent on world domination, and - just for added incentive - wants to kill me? Of course I'm not nervous. Why do you ask?" she asked with a wide-eyed expression.
With a smile Clark replied, "Good, as long as you're not nervous."
She looked down sheepishly and said softly, "Well, maybe I'm a tad nervous. I mean, when I thought about it all when I was in the shower, it kind of hit me what's involved here."
"So, you want to change your mind? I can still take you somewhere safe," he said hopefully.
"No, I want to go Clark. Really. You never know when you might need me," she said, giving him a half hearted attempt at an evil grin.
"All right, let's go then." He scooped her up into his arms and look into her eyes with a look of concern.
"Clark, I'll be fine, really." She smiled at him sincerely, some of the butterflies in her stomach being chased away by being in his arms.
She stroked his cheek with her hand and raised her head to give him a kiss. He met her halfway and they indulged in a long, tender kiss. Each one drawing strength from their love for each other. After the kiss, they looked at each other, and they both knew that now they were ready to tackle the universe - together.
Clark slowly lifted them into the night sky. After reaching the proper altitude, he chose the correct direction, and head toward the rendezvous point.
After a few minutes in the air of enjoying the scenery below, Lois looked at Clark, perplexed, and asked, "Why aren't I cold?"
Clark smiled at her question. "I have this protective aura which extends to anything close to my body. It's what makes me invulnerable while under a yellow sun. When I carry you, I subconsciously extend it to protect you."
"I take it you've flown a woman in your arms like this before?" she asked suspiciously.
"Of course." At her raised eyebrow glare he continued, "My mom, of course. She used to love to get rides from me."
"Humph, very funny. So how long until we get there?"
"We're here," Clark answered, indicating in front of them with a nod. Lois looked over to see four small craft hovering in midair.
"Wow, real spaceships. Wait, won't someone detect them, like the Air Force, or someone?"
"No, they're employing a stealth technology, making them invisible to sensors, um, radar. So they can't be detected. Hang on, we're going to go into my ship."
Clark flew up to his scout ship, the airlock door already open for them. He touched down inside, and gently set Lois down. After securing the outer hatch, he cycled through the airlock, and opened the inner door. He led Lois inside, and headed for the bridge. Halfway there they were met by Ching.
"Lois, this is Lt. Ching, my second in command and my good friend. Ching this is Lois Lane, my… my…" He looked at Lois for a moment, smiled, then turned back to Ching.
"My soulmate," he finished. Lois smiled lovingly back at his comment, her heart soaring at his acknowledgment of their bond.
"The pleasure is mine, Lady Lois. I have been hearing about you regularly for the whole trip here. It is an honor to finally meet you." He turned back to Clark and said, "We have received the shipment of our parts. You should know that the Lady Za-Ra is on board." Smiling, he added, "I had a chance to tell her about what we discussed. She wanted to thank…"
"Kal-El!" came a voice from down the corridor. A medium height woman in a black uniform came running down the corridor, and flung herself into Clark's arms.
"Oh, Kal-El, you don't know how grateful I am for what you have done. I don't think I will ever be able to repay you."
"Ah-um." Lois cleared her throat to get everyone's attention. Her soaring heart plummeted to the ground at maximum speed when she saw the familiarity the woman - the very *pretty* woman - was showing Clark. "Think, maybe I should be introduced?"
Releasing Clark, and moving a step away from him, Za-Ra replied, "Oh, you must be Lois. Sorry, I just was so excited to thank Clark for what he did. I'm Za-Ra, Clark's wife while he was on New Krypton." Za-Ra smiled sweetly at Lois.
Lois was not smiling back.
Chapter 9 - The Confrontation
September 19th, 1960
"Kal-El!" came a voice from down the corridor.
Lois was at first startled by the shout, wondering if it was some kind of an attack. When she strained her neck to look behind Ching, she saw a medium height woman in a black uniform come running down the corridor. Surprised at such unprofessional behavior from someone who appeared to be an officer, she was shocked when the woman flung herself into Clark's arms. Was this the usual greetings between Kryptonians? 'Somehow I don't think so,' she thought with a mental snort. Her eyes narrowed as the woman continued to cling to Clark.
"Oh, Kal-El, you don't know how grateful I am for what you have done. I don't think I will ever be able to repay you."
'What exactly had he done for her? Given her his first child?' she thought sarcastically, before stopping at the flash of insight. With drawing comprehension and dread, she felt her heart breaking into a million pieces. She remembered the last interview that Superman gave before he left for New Krypton. The woman currently in his arms was there, in the picture, standing beside him. Superman had introduced her to the mass of reporters as one the rulers of New Krypton. How could she have forgotten that fact? 'Because I was so caught up with Clark's revelations. How could he!' Her temper started to rise as she began to realize that Clark hadn't bothered to mention this woman before.
"Ah-um." Lois cleared her throat to get everyone's attention. "Think, maybe I should be introduced?" She was glad that her tone didn't give away the hurt and anger she was feeling. Out of the corner of her eyes, she saw the guilty look Clark threw her but ignored it to focus on the woman before her.
Releasing Clark, and moving a step away from him, Za-Ra replied, "Oh, you must be Lois. Sorry, I just was so excited to thank Clark for what he did. I'm Za-Ra, Clark's wife while he was on New Krypton." Za-Ra smiled sweetly at Lois.
Lois gritted her teeth at the audacity of Clark to have told Za-Ra about her and yet hadn't even mentioned Za-Ra to her. Had she misjudged him so much? Seeing how uncomfortable Ching and the others were getting by her prolonged silence, she extended her hand. "I guess I don't have to tell you who I am," she said with a sidelong glance at Clark.
Clark winced at the sharp tone. He knew he was in big trouble. To delay the coming explosions, he decided he'd better try a quick change of subject. "Za-Ra, I wasn't expecting to see you here. Aren't you supposed to be on the mother ship?"
"I was until Ching told me that you caught Quinn and have some idea of where Nor might be hiding. I'm not going to be left out of the fun while you boys run off to save the day. Right, Lois?"
Za-ra's comment made Lois do a double take. Still trying to deal with all her emotions, Lois wondered why Za-Ra was looking to her for some female solidarity. She could appreciate the sentiment since she just finished having a similar conversation with Clark. Taken off guard she could only reply, "Of course."
Ching frowned. He had audibly argued with Za-Ra about her decision, worried that some harm might befall her. He couldn't imagine what he'd do if she were hurt. But his 'secret' fianc‚ seemed to ignore all his protests, brushing them aside easily. He had hoped that Lord Kal-El…Clark would persuade Za-Ra against her actions. But now he had his doubts.
Clark saw the worried look on Ching's face and knew that his friend had tried his best to dissuade Za-Ra from joining the search. He could empathize with him when dealing with stubborn women. After all, he just lost a similar argument with Lois. So he only said pleasantly while throwing a meaningful look to Ching, "Great, we could use all the help we can get. Besides we can use your expertise in calibrating the scanners to pinpoint Nor's exact location."
Lois looked at Clark as if he had grown two heads. How could he accept Za-Ra so readily, and yet had given her a hard time when she proposed to come with him? She was slowly becoming aware of exactly how he felt about her. The louse!
'Come on, Lois. I thought he was your best friend?' her inner voice said, playing the devil's advocate.
'Yeah well, the operative word is *was*. I'm starting to feel like I don't know this man. He's not the CJ I've gotten to know and love through our letters. He's not even the Clark I met last year,' she fumed, the hurt simmering within her. Thinking back on their last meeting where he confided in her about his war experiences, she got even more upset. 'No doubt, while he was in New Krypton, he took Za-Ra's comfort as well. The hypocrite.'
Before she could go on ranting in her head, Za-Ra stepped up to her and suggested a tour of the ship. The young woman looked so eager to please that Lois hadn't the heart to refuse. Za-Ra wasn't the one at fault here. She probably thought Lois to be a friend of her husband and nothing more. Bestowing Clark with another side long look (of death), Lois left with Za-Ra to explore the ship. In the midst of the conflicting emotions, she couldn't help but be thrilled by it. What self-respecting reporter wouldn't? She was the first human to be on and explore an alien vessel. To a reporter, it was the chance of a lifetime.
"You're in serious trouble, Clark," Ching pronounced immediately when the ladies disappeared from view.
"You think?" Clark asked, slightly annoyed by Ching's amused tone. He sighed, "I wanted to tell her about Za-Ra before they met, but there really wasn't anytime. She barely found out about my Kryptonian side, before Quinn attacked. Now I don't think that even my superpowers are enough to save me from Lois's wrath."
Ching chuckled. "Well, I'd better get back to work," he said before leaving Clark to his own devices.
'Some friend,' Clark thought to himself. He was intelligent enough to recognize though that he would be equally amused if their roles were reversed. Clark needed to make things right again with Lois. 'This relationship has to go down as the most complicated courtship in the annuals of history,' Clark thought cynically to himself. Clark thought for a few minutes how to explain all of this to Lois. Suddenly he hit upon an idea. Why not get help.
Clark closed his eyes and concentrated. He called out telepathically to Za-Ra and explained the situation to her over their link. She assured him that she would be able to help a little, but it would be up to him to follow through with an appropriate amount of groveling.
Lois only half-listened to Za-Ra's explanation about the sights on board and the various facilities while her mind and heart warred within her. She barely noticed when Za-Ra stopped speaking for a moment as she stared off into the distance through the porthole.
"You know you're very lucky to have Kal's… I mean Clark's love and devotion," Za-Ra stated.
That remark drew Lois's attention. "What did you say?"
"I said that you're lucky to have Clark's love and devotion," Za-Ra repeated.
"Why?" Lois tried to figure out what Za-Ra's game was. She had sounded a little envious, but not jealous. Why would a woman say that of her husband's lover? Not that Lois was Clark's lover, of course.
"Why do you say that?"
"In the past year, Kal-El… I mean Clark, often spoke of you. You're the main reason he's alive today. I had hoped for so long to be free to feel that way with someone. What I wouldn't give for such a chance." Za-Ra's tone was quite wistful.
'I doubt that. He's just got a good sense of self- preservation,' Lois thought with a sarcastic scowl.
Za-Ra didn't seem to notice Lois's expression. She continued saying, "Of course, for many years I had been blind to the fact that I already have that kind of devotion all along. If not for Clark, I wouldn't have realized it."
Lois was lost. She felt like she was an actress in a film where everyone except her had been given a script. Apparently Za-Ra wasn't in love with Clark. 'She could've fooled me,' said her inner voice, sounding much like Jim Olsen.
"And what he did before the council, well I'll be grateful to him all my life. I do hope you know what a treasure you have in him," Za-Ra told her seriously.
"Er.what did he do?"
"He didn't tell you? Well, I'm not surprised. He can be rather, what do you call it - unassuming? - about his accomplishments."
"Modest," Lois corrected her automatically. "So what did he do?"
"He made the council agree to an annulment of our marriage, and got them to approve my marriage to Ching." Za-Ra's smile threatened to blind Lois.
"Ching?" Lois was surprised. "The same guy up there with Clark?"
"Yes, Ching. Don't be fooled by the gruff exterior," Za-Ra advised her. "He happens to be very romantic, in his own way. In our struggle to survive, the idea of romance has been mostly lost on our colony. I'm just glad Clark showed us how to express what we felt for each other, and helped clear the path for us to be together."
Za-Ra knew at this point Lois was confused as to her real relationship with Clark, but she also knew that she needed to find this out from Clark, and not from her.
Lois, at this point, couldn't help but feel exhausted. In one day, she had been through the gauntlet of so many emotions, that she was now totally drained. "Za-Ra, my apologies but I'm rather tired. Can you show me where my cabin might be?"
"Oh, of course. Here, this way."
Lois soon found herself deposited in a luxurious room with a huge bed directly in the middle of the room. It wasn't what she expected of a 'cabin' but she wasn't about to refuse. Before leaving, Za-Ra turned to Lois and said, "Lois, I know that this must be difficult and confusing for you, but there is much that Clark hasn't had a chance to tell you yet. When you do see him, ask him how it is that Kryptonian law allows him to grant me an annulment."
Lois just nodded her head in agreement. After Za-Ra left, Lois fell back onto the bed and covered her eyes with one arm. Unable to hold off the exhaustion she felt, she quickly fell into a deep sleep.
That was how Clark found her when he returned from the meeting with the other scout ships, still sound asleep in his bed. He smiled at her tenderly as he looked at the innocent picture of her sleeping peacefully, curled up on her side. In her sleep, with her barriers down, she looked so relaxed and vulnerable, not at all like the little whirlwind he knew her to be when she was awake. It was all he could do not to gather her up, and rush her away from the danger of being here with him. He felt like he had aged more than ten years when he found her sneaking around in that bank, and later when Quinn tried to kill her. He wasn't sure how he would be able to exist without her anymore.
Lois stirred in her sleep, as a familiar presence seemed to intrude itself into her consciousness. Blinking, she found her eyes meeting familiar brown eyes. She started to smile when her memories of earlier events flooded back into her mind. She sat up abruptly and snapped, "What are you doing in my cabin? I didn't remember issuing you an invitation."
Clark bit back a chuckle as he watched the transformation from vulnerable, innocently sleeping Lois, to the tigress before him. "Considering that this is my cabin, I didn't think I needed an invitation."
"YOUR what!" Her eyes narrowed and she slowly got out of the bed. "Did you purposely have Za-Ra bring me here? The ever-obliging wife willing to cater to her husband's every whim. That's exactly it, isn't it? You thought maybe you could have a good time with your Earth girl when you had a spare moment. Soulmate, indeed! How na‹ve do you think I am? Let me tell you something buster, you may be able to toy around with Kryptonian women, but this Earth woman is not so easy." She poked his chest to emphasize her point. "I don't know what game you're playing, but you better believe that I'm not going to be playing along any more. And furthermore, what kind of sick game are you and Ching playing, handing him your cast-offs. You expect that I'm going to be next? If you think so, well I've got a news flash for you. Now, I think that I would like you take me back home. Good luck with Nor."
Despite being the brunt of her tirade, Clark couldn't help but be amazed that Lois didn't seem to need to take a breathe during her entire angry outburst. Of course he expected the verbal attack - he knew that his 'little angel' had a fiery temper. He caught her before she could stalk out of the room and gently sat her on the bed while he knelt before her. "Lois, give me a chance to explain, please."
She half-heartedly struggled out of his hold before abandoning it for a defiant look. "You've got nothing I want to hear, Lord Kal-El."
He sighed to himself. Lois wasn't about to make it easy for him. "Lois, I'm sorry. I know that I have been an idiot with some things where you're concerned, but there wasn't really any time to explain about Za-Ra. I didn't expect that you and Za-Ra would meet so soon." He knew from the blaze in her eyes that it was the wrong thing to say.
"What's that suppose to mean? Oh, I know. I'm your soulmate on Earth. She is your Kryptonian soulmate. How convenient to live on two worlds!"
"Lois, you know that's not what I mean. Do you think I would do such a thing to you?"
"Who knows?" she shrugged, hurt. "You're not the CJ I knew. Maybe he doesn't exist. Maybe you just conjured him up so that you can toy with me. Just like you've been toying with me tonight."
"That's nonsense, and you know it! Lois, I love you, only you. Not Za-Ra nor anyone else in this universe. I wasn't lying to Ching when I called you my soulmate. My only soulmate. I've shared with you what I've shared with no one else."
"I bet you said the same thing to Za-Ra." Lois wanted to believe him so much, but the image of Za-Ra in his arms was hard to ignore. Then completely switching gears, she looked him right in the eyes and asked, "OK, so how is it you can just declare an annulment? Some privilege the 'Lords' have when they get tired of their wives?"
The sudden change in subject made Clark blink for a moment before answering. With a very cautious voice he replied, "No… I can annul my marriage to Za-Ra because we never… consummated the marriage. The marriage was one of political convenience only, so that the government could stabilize while we fought Nor. She's more like my sister, than anything else. That's all she ever was to me. Besides we both were in love with other people long before we met."
"She's in love with Ching."
"She told you? Yeah, they had been in love for a long time but neither was aware of the other's feelings. The feudal system in New Krypton doesn't allow for commoners to marry their betters or vice versa."
A light slowly dawned in Lois's mind. "Until you came along."
"Yeah, I guess that's right. I immediately saw that they were in love with each other. Ching was very resentful of me taking his place by Za-Ra's side. Not that I wanted to be," he quickly reassured Lois. "But it was an arrangement made a long time ago, even before we were born. I was supposed to reunite Krypton and New Krypton by marrying into their ruling noble house of Ra. The house of El was the ruling house on Krypton and from my mother's side, I descended from the house of Ra. So I was the perfect candidate."
"But Krypton exploded long ago, long before Za-Ra was born, if I'm right in guessing her age."
"That didn't matter. They knew I had managed to escape the explosion and had been searching for me ever since. As far as the council was concerned, we were betrothed and I'm the rightful ruler of New Krypton alongside Za-Ra, no matter what either of us wished. Since they approached me in the midst of a civil war, I couldn't in good conscience refuse to help them. So Za-Ra and I agreed that we would play the married couple for the duration until everything was settled and I could go home. to you."
This last was spoken so softly and with such longing that melted Lois's resistance. "But why didn't you tell me about her?"
Clark looked down to their intertwined hands. In the course of his explanation, he had unconsciously let her go and their hands had found each other. "It's not exactly an easy topic to bring up in casual conversation. I just wanted a little time to explain it all to you to avoid you getting too… upset."
"I guess I understand," she agreed grudgingly. "Wait, when did you meet Za-Ra for the first time?"
Again Clark was confused by the seeming non sequitur of her question. "A few days before I left for New Krypton. Why?"
"That was before you met me that night a year ago."
"Yes…" Clark replied slowly, wondering where she was taking this.
"You said both you and Za-Ra had been in love with other people long before you met her."
It dawned on him where she was taking this. He knew that until last week, he had been very coy about his feelings for her. He also knew that he wanted to be completely honest with her, so he needed to let her know everything that had been in his heart for the last few years.
"Lois, don't you know… Well maybe you didn't know since I never told you. Lois, I have been falling in love with you for years." He heard a small gasp come from Lois, but he continued. "Each letter I got from you, made me fall more and more in love with you. I tried to fight it. I thought we could never have a relationship because we came from such different worlds. And because of the danger my life represents. But I couldn't help it. Even though we had never met, even though we had never touched, I was still falling in love with you. At one point I thought maybe I just loved the 'idea' of falling in love with you. But after that one night, a year ago, I knew that I was hopelessly and completely in love with you. The hardest thing I have ever done in my life was say goodbye. I was torn between being with you, and doing my 'duty', but I was committed. And even when I came back I wasn't sure that you would want to have a relationship with someone as 'different' as me.
Lois reached up and touched his face tenderly. "Clark, do you honestly think I care that we are from different worlds? The only thing I care about is the fact that I only feel complete when you are with me. Clark, like you I fell in love with you long before we met. Your disappearance only made me realize it. Without you, I'm lost. But I think you know that now."
"I do," Clark replied as he turned and kiss the hand that Lois had placed on his face. "I guess sometimes I can be an idiot."
"Hmm.I can't argue that," Lois teased, feeling a lot better.
"Hey!" Clark mock pouted. Then he grimaced. "As I said, I was being an idiot. Originally I thought I could avoid seeing you again while I was hunting Nor. And after the business with Nor, I would be free, and Za-Ra and Ching would be together."
Lois bit her lips as the implications became clear. "You weren't going to return, were you? You weren't going to contact me at all." Hurt was evident in her voice.
"Lois, please. You saw me a week ago. I was in no shape to start a relationship. I'm not even sure that I am ready for it now. Just look at how I've handled things with you. But after the bank incident, I had realized that I had been an idiot for believing that I could go on with my life without you. I was still trying to figure out how to tell you about everything, when you figured it out yourself." Then with a resigned chuckle he added, "I'm not even sure why you put up with me and all the craziness in my life."
Lois caressed her beloved's face, pushing back the hair falling across his forehead. "I put up with you because I love you. Just like you put up with me because you love me. Together we'll find a way to make this work. Clark, I know that it'll be difficult and there are issues you need to deal with after fighting in a war. But I do believe we can overcome the obstacles together, even if we're from different worlds."
With his face still in her hand, Lois gently pulled him closely to her, inviting him into a kiss. Their lips tentatively touched at first, but quickly their kiss became heated…passionate. They both were lost in each other again, each putting all their emotions and desires for each other into their kiss.
Finally their lips slowly parted. They both wore silly grins, as they stared at each other, experiencing the bond that they both knew existed between them. Clark pressed his lips against her palm again. "I don't deserve you."
"Of course you don't." Lois flashed him a cheeky grin.
He grinned back, grateful that the worst was over. 'Of course,' he thought warily, 'I can't count on that when dealing with Lois.'
"So you still haven't explained why you didn't tell me about her this evening."
"Well.I didn't think it was necessary to talk about it before we left. Things got kind of crazy there if you remember. I wanted us to have a little time to talk about it after I got you somewhere safer. Besides I thought that since I was getting the marriage annulled, it wouldn't be such a big issue."
"You lunkhead! Do you think that I wouldn't be interested to know the man I love was married before? Or that I wouldn't be interested to know whether he has feelings for his wife or ex-wife, whichever is the case?" She smacked him on the arm.
"Hey!" Clark said as he rubbed his arm where she hit him.
"Don't tell me that hurt, Superman."
"Lois, you know I don't have any feelings for her, other than as a friend."
"We were friends, too."
"Come on… we were never really just friends. Even if neither of us realized it."
"That's true," she replied with a sly smile. "Hey, what about your easy acceptance of her joining the search for Nor?" Lois wasn't about to let him off without settling all the issues.
"What about it?"
"When I suggested to come along, you give me all that croc about my safety. But when Za-Ra mentioned it, you just said, 'we can use all the help we can get'."
He looked resigned as he said, "I didn't have much of a choice. Ching already tried reasoning with her without much success. So I wasn't about to waste my breath, especially since *you* agreed with her. If I were to argue about it, she'd just point out that I brought you along. So I took the safe way out, and left it to Ching to make sure she understands all the danger."
"Hrmph. Why do you boys think we women can't take care of ourselves? Some kind of hormone kicking in whenever you see a woman. Something that immediately says 'hey, she's incapable of fending for herself.'"
"Oh no! Our secret is out!" he exclaimed with a mischievous grin.
"Ha Ha. So what have you got on Nor? Tell me all about him." Lois swung her legs onto the bed and lay down on her stomach, facing him.
Clark watched her in disbelief. Just a second ago she was upset at him, now she was calmly asking about Nor. He doubted that he would be able to understand her even if they spent all their whole life together. But heck, it was worth a try.
He wondered if she realized how seductive she looked there on his bed. He had to mentally slap himself to get himself into focus again when he heard her say, "Well, don't just stand there. Sit down and tell me about Nor."
He sighed. "Yes, dear."
She grinned wickedly. "Now, you're learning."
"Wait," he said, "let me get more comfortable." He then spun out of his Superman suit, and into a pair of comfortable jeans and a black t-shirt.
Lois, looking at him with a mixture of awe and amusement, said, "Your life is so weird. The funny part is that I'm starting to get used to it. Strangely, it seems almost natural to be sitting in the stateroom of an interstellar spaceship nonchalantly discussing an escaped alien megalomaniac."
Shaking his head, he settled down beside her. "Don't worry, I felt the same way a year ago. Anyway about Nor…he comes from an influential noble house, one of the most powerful on New Krypton. As its head, he believed that it was his due to become the ruler of New Krypton. However since Za-Ra is betrothed to me, there is no legitimate way for him to become ruler. Therefore he tried to sabotage their efforts to find me, and when that failed he incited a civil war. Za-Ra's father died in the struggle, leaving Za-Ra in charge with Ching as her bodyguard. However the way the old system goes in New Krypton, women rulers can't legally be ruler on their own. She needed to marry a high ranking noble."
"So she came here to get your help."
"Yes. After our 'marriage', Nor was enraged and he renewed his assaults. He… He was ruthless, and the atrocities he committed… that I witnessed…"
Lois looked up to see the pain in his eyes. She rolled and positioned herself to lie in his lap, and grabbed his hand, massaging it. "Shh, Clark. Take your time," she told him softly.
Clark stroked her hair with his free hand, drawing comfort. "We managed to defeat his forces but he slipped through the cracks. Our intelligence discovered that he was heading to Earth, as a form of revenge against me. Sources close to him revealed that he had planned to hole up on Earth until he developed superpowers and tried to wreck havoc and conquer the Earth."
"I guess he didn't expect that you'd follow him here."
"I think he did. If not he wouldn't be in Kansas."
"Why Kansas? I thought that you didn't live there anymore."
"True, and I haven't been back to Smallville in a quite a while."
"You think that's where he might be?"
"I'm not sure, though he might have gone there to find out more about me. My father's friend, Jack Henrich, still lives there and so do a few of the people who knew me when I was child."
"Jack Henrich? As in the Jack Henrich who wrote the Dakota Smith series?" She slapped his arm.
"Hey! What was that for?"
"For not telling me that you know him personally, that's why. I've been dying to meet Mr. Henrich for years."
"How was I supposed to tell you? We were exchanging 'anonymous' letters. Besides, you never mentioned that you were 'dying' to meet him. You just said it would be nice." Clark teased her.
"Ha! O.K., go on. So you think he was there to find out more about you. Is there anything that could be worth his efforts?"
"I don't really think so. I sold my parents' farm after they died, so there's nothing really left."
"How did he find out you're from Kansas? I thought you had left Kansas when we started our correspondence?"
"It's common knowledge on New Krypton where I landed and where I was raised. It's kind of Kryptonian lore now, my being the last true son of Krypton and all. Since my folks are gone, I didn't see the harm."
"Do you still keep in touch with people back in Smallville… like maybe Mr. Henrich?" Lois asked coyly.
"I still keep in touch with a few people, including Jack." Then thoughtfully he added, "You know, he always thought it was pretty funny that there were people out there who were crazy enough to continue discussing his work long after it's been done."
"And yes, after this is all over, we can go meet Jack."
"Thanks, you're the best." She punctuated her statement by giving him a quick peck on the cheek.
Before they could go on talking, his communication device chirped. Pressing a button, he barked, "Yes?"
"My lord, we might have located Nor," Ching's voice emerged from the device.
"I'll be right there. Kal, out."
Lois scrambled up, smoothing her hair. "I'm coming too."
Clark hesitated for a second before nodding, and they left the room in unison.
Arriving at the bridge, Clark asked, "What have you got?"
Za-Ra and Ching straightened out from the sensor array readouts. "It seems that Nor was here and left. We detected energy signatures consistent with his ship in the area of Smallville. In fact in the area of your landing."
"You mean the exact location?" Clark asked.
"Yes. What's more there seems to be some excavation completed within the last kilosil." Seeing the confusion on Lois's face, Ching added, "I'm sorry Lois, a kilosil is about 80 of your earth minutes."
Clark looked thoughtfully at the sensor readouts. Lois walked up beside him and asked, "Do you think it was Nor that dug up that area?"
"It looks like it. The question is why was he digging up Shuster's Field?"
Chapter 10 - Strangers and Partners
September 20th, 1960
"Ching, how much of this ship is working?" Clark asked still studying the screen.
"All primary systems are online, except for warp capability. We have the new anti-matter flow regulator, but it remains unattached in engineering. Why do you ask, my Lord?"
"So we have fusion engines and cloak capability?"
"Good," Clark said softly to himself. Then more loudly, "Ching set a course to that field, and get us there as quickly as possible under full cloak. Za-Ra, contact the other ships and have them initiate a search pattern starting at Schuster's field to try to locate Nor's ship from the air. Tell them to remain cloaked."
After Ching and Za-ra went to their respective tasks, Clark looked over at Lois who was studying the readouts on the sensor panel. He wondered what she was seeing, considering that all the readouts were in Kryptonese. "So what do you think?" he asked with a bit of amusement in his voice.
"I think that I don't understand a damn thing on this panel. I also think that something stinks about all this. What's so interesting in that field that Nor would take the time to dig it up? He had to know that you would find out." After a moment's further contemplation she said softly, "I've got a bad feeling about this."
She glared at him a moment and replied, "No, reporter's instinct. I've dealt with guys like Nor before." She thought about it for a second, then mused quietly, "Besides the fact that he's an alien and wants to take over a whole planet." Then louder, "Well, guys with his kind of attitude at least. They have big egos, but they don't like to do anything unless they think they can win. So the fact that he exposed himself like that means he thought he would be gaining something that would let him win. What is, or should I say was, in that field?"
"Well, it's where my ship crashed 33 years ago. My mom and dad saw the crash while driving in their pickup and went to see what it was. When they found me inside they didn't know what to think. To them it looked like someone had stuffed a baby into a cannon shell and shot it into Schuster's Field. After my Mom removed me from the ship, Dad loaded it into his pickup, and hid it away."
Lois could see that Clark was now fondly reminiscing about his adopted parents as he continued. For a moment she felt a pang of jealousy. She wished she were as close to her parents as he seemed to be. She wished the reason were as trite as them being British; unemotional and all that the British were accused. But in actuality the British were as emotional as any other group of people. Her parents just were never the demonstrative type. She knew that he father had always wished he had had a son, which was why growing up her father-daughter activities included things like listening to stories of fighting Rommel in WW II, or learning how to shoot a rifle. And of course, they were never really supportive of her decision to pursue journalism.
She tuned back in when he continued, "Mom told me that the instant she saw me she knew that I was meant to be hers. They were able to make up a story about me being left on the doorstep, so it was easy for them to adopt me."
Putting aside the momentary pang of jealousy, Lois smiled at him and placed her hand on his arm. "They sound like great people Clark, I wish I could have met them."
"So do I. Anyway, after I sold the farm, I moved all my stuff to a safe hiding place I have in the Artic. So I'm not sure what Nor hoped to find in that field."
"Would he be able to use his ship's radar thingies…"
"Sensors," Clark corrected for her.
"Whatever. Could he have used his *sensors* to find out if your ship was buried in that field?"
"Sure, it would have been easy to pick up, even if it was buried several yards underground."
"So," Lois said thoughtfully, "he must have seen something on his sensors important enough to dig up that field. What could it be?"
"I can't imagine what would make him take that kind of chance. He knows that he is as good as caught as soon as I find him."
"That's what bothers me the most Clark. I'm worried about what he can do to you."
"Lois, you don't have to worry. I am …"
".invulnerable. Yeah, yeah, so you said. And you know my answer to that one Mr. 'nothing can hurt me' Kent."
Clark had to exert his super willpower in order not to roll his eyes at Lois's last comment. "Don't worry Lois, I *promise* to be careful."
"Well buster, you just make sure you keep that promise," she said as she poked his chest with her finger. "So how long before we're in Kansas?"
"Clark glanced over his shoulder at the navigation board and said, "About 30 seconds."
Lois was astonished at his statement. "Boston to Kansas in those few minutes? That's amazing."
"If you think that's fast, I could have been there 4 minutes ago if I flew there myself."
Lois raised her eyebrow at his comment. "Sorry to have to slow you down," she said, her voice dripping with sarcasm.
Clark chuckled at her comment as he looked over at Ching who was returning to man the ship's controls. Za-Ra took the seat next to him and started to sweep the area with the ship's sensors.
"Ching, put us down at the edge of the field, away from the main road," Clark ordered. "And keep the cloak engaged. Maybe we can take a look and figure out what Nor was searching for."
Clark waited patiently as Ching searched for a suitable landing site to set down the ship. Clark gazed at Lois, who was absorbed in watching the monitors on the control panel. Despite their gentle teasing, he was still genuinely worried about Lois's safety. Images of bodies littering the streets in the wake of Nor's rampages assaulted his memory. He knew what Nor was capable of, and the idea of Lois being taken from him by that monster gripped his heart in fear. Lois was now a part of him, and if she were killed, a part of him would die with her. The most important part. He was not sure that he would be able to function any longer without her. Since his parents had passed away, he had learned to exist alone in the world. But now, after being with Lois, he knew that he could never go back to that way of life. He needed her to help him be who he had become.
Many a night, after a difficult rescue, he longed to have the comfort that Lois would provide him. For a long time, before he met Lois in person, he would fantasize about being with her… spending time with her… lying in her arms to let her sooth away the hurt of a failed rescue. In his dreams she would be there always for him, filling the empty spaces of his life. He couldn't allow her to be taken from him now. Even if it meant giving up his own life to save her.
And all that he had to balance against her need to be her own person, and not to wrap her in a cocoon. She had, he realized, grown into quite an amazing and strong woman. Instead of getting scared or breaking down when Quinn had tried to shoot her, she had simply gotten mad at him. And she was willing… insistent actually… to join him in tracking down Nor. He didn't know whether to admire her determination and courage, or simply be scared out of his wits. The one thing he did know was that he was completely and totally in love with the woman standing in front of him.
He quietly walked up behind her and wrapped his arms around her. She looked over her shoulder into his eyes with a perplexed look. Clark leaned over and kissed her lovingly on the cheek, and whispered softly in her ear, "Lois, please be careful."
Lois turned in arms and gave him a perplexed look. "Did I miss something, or is this control board really dangerous?" she asked with an amused grin.
Clark chuckled self consciously and replied, "No, just thinking about what's in store for us trying to track down Nor."
Lois patted him on the chest. "Don't worry Clark, I'm a big girl. I've learned how to take care of myself, and dying isn't in my short-range plans. You still owe me a real courtship buster, so I plan on sticking around. So what brought this on?"
"I don't know, I was just…"
"…obsessing as usual. OK, Clark *I will be careful*. There, now you nothing to worry about."
"Oh yes, now I feel much better," Clark said as he rolled his eyes.
Lois started to turn back to the control board, so Clark released his grip on her. But before he could get his arms completely away from her, she grabbed his wrists and pulled his arms around herself again. She leaned to one side and rested her head against his right bicep. "Just because I can take care of myself, doesn't mean I want you to stop taking care of me or stop making me feel secure." She turned her head and looked lovingly into his eyes.
Ching interrupted the moment by clearing his throat. "My Lord, we are landing. How should we proceed?"
Clark tore his eyes from Lois and looked at Ching. "Um… I guess we'll go have look. Can you tell where he landed his ship?"
"I will be setting down within a few steps of where Nor's ship rested."
"Good. I assume the long range sensors are clear."
"They are. No sign of Nor's ship," Za-Ra replied.
"Then set us down, and let's take a look." Clark walked over to a storage locker and opened it up to reveal a set of rectangular black boxes about half the size of a cigar box. He grabbed two, then walked over to Ching and handed him one. They both touched one face of their boxes in several places, which caused displays and lights to come to life. Lois stared at them with a scowl on her face.
Clark, noticing her expression, said, "These are sensing devices. They can remotely analyze almost anything within a 100 yard radius."
"Wow," exclaimed Lois. "You know what those things would be worth on the open market?"
"No, and I'm not going to find out. I'm already worried enough about how the New Kryptonian's presence might have affected Earth's cultures. I don't want to even think what would happen if any advanced Kryptonian technology got into the wrong hands here on Earth.
"Yeah, but just think what good could be done if it's in the right hands. Say like… mine."
Clark gave her his best 'Don't even think about it' look. Lois smiled coyly and shrugged her shoulders, but made no further comment. Without taking his eyes off of Lois, Clark spoke to Ching. "Secure the ship, and let's go take a look. Lois is with me. Za-Ra, get her a communicator."
Za-Ra walked over to Lois and clipped a small circular device to her belt, while Clark went over to Ching to discuss their search patterns. After Za-Ra showed Lois how to operate the communicator, they all proceeded together to the back exit hatch. As they descended the exit ramp, Lois could see that they had indeed landed in a large field in the country. The air was cool, but not unpleasant, with the sun still hanging high in the early afternoon sky. "Must be Indian Summer," she heard Clark say next to her.
"So this is where it all started," Lois said as she watched Ching and Za-ra move off to search another area of the field. "So where exactly did you land?"
"Over here, I'll show you." Clark started to lead Lois to another section of the field. As they walked, Clark began to tell Lois the story of his arrival on Earth, as told to him by his father. They were about half to the landing sight, when Clark suddenly stopped speaking, and came to a halt as a wave of dizziness came over him. He tried to shake his head clear of the dizziness, which only served to make him lose his balance and fall backwards to the ground.
"Oh my God, Clark!" shouted Lois as she quickly kneeled down besides him. She helped him up into a sitting position, and then placed herself behind him so that he could lean against her. "What's wrong Clark, why did you fall down?"
"I don't know. Suddenly I feel a little weak and dizzy."
"How is that possible Clark? I thought you were invulnerable under a yellow sun."
Clark shook his head again hoping that it would clear away some of the cobwebs he felt forming in his brain. "I don't know Lois. I didn't think it was possible to get this way when I have my superpowers. Quick, call Ching to get over here."
Lois pressed the control on the device on her belt. "Ching, get over here now. Clark's hurt."
"How is that possible?" asked Ching over the commlink.
"I don't know! Just get your butt over here!"
In less than a minute Ching and Za-ra had run over to join Lois. Clark was now sitting up on the ground on his own, his head resting in one of his hands. As soon as he got to where Clark was sitting, he raised his sensing device in front of him, and slowly swept it over Clark. He frowned when he read what was on the display. He then pushed a couple of controls on the device and then swept the area around them. He read what was on the device's screen and without taking his eyes off the display said, "Clark is suffering from radiation poisoning. We are being affected too, but it seems to be affecting Clark 100 fold greater for some reason."
"Where is the radiation coming from Ching?" Clark managed to get out.
"Hardis crystals. This field covered with Hardis crystal residue. Very small amounts, but definitely there. Strangely they are emitting up to 90 times their normal radiation. Enough to be dangerous to carbon based life, if exposed for long periods of time. We should be OK for short term exposure, but Clark…" Ching swung the sensing device over to Clark. "Clark's body is reacting very badly to the radiation. I can't tell why." Ching scowled at his instrument and then started pressing different buttons in rapid succession.
Lois turned to Ching and said, "Listen, I know this is all very fascinating, but if that stuff is affecting Clark, I think we should get him out of here. Now."
"Oh yes, of course." All three of them helped Clark to his feet. Ching then helped support Clark on one side and Lois did the same on the other side, and they started back towards the ship.
As they were making their way back Lois looked at Za-ra and asked, "By the way, just what the heck is a Hardis crystal?"
"They are a naturally occurring gemstone on Krypton… or least they were. They were something of a novelty item, since they tended to give off a soft glow from some kind of natural radiation they emitted. The radiation was harmless, so they were used often in jewelry and ornaments. The most common ones were green, but they were varieties of red and yellow I believe."
"Well there's nothing like that here on the Earth, so how did it get here?"
"I'm not sure, unless somehow some material from Krypton got caught in the warp field of Clark's ship. His ship barely cleared Krypton's gravity well when it exploded. It's amazing that the ship did not get damaged from the debris of the planet before it was able to engage the warp drive."
Before Lois could make another comment, Clark interrupted them. "You know I think I can make it on my own now." He demonstrated this by standing up straight again, and removing his arms from Ching and Lois's shoulder. Lois hovered over him, worried that he might collapse again.
"Clark, if you feel up to it, I would like to take some more readings of you," stated Ching.
"Sure, go ahead." Clark stood still while Ching directed the device at him again. After studying the device for a few minutes he declared, "It's your superpowers."
"What?" asked Clark.
"It's the solar energy stored inside your body. It's combining with the radiation from the crystals to affect you like that. Do you still feel a little weak?"
"In fact I do, but it seems to be passing."
"Yes, well your powers let you heal quickly. The combination of the crystal's enhanced radiation and the solar energies stored within you could be deadly to you. It's lucky that there was only residue of the crystals in the area. A crystal of any significant size would more than likely cause you pain, and possibly lead to death."
Lois frowned, a glimmer of an awful idea occurring to her at Ching's statement.
"Well lucky for me my ship only collected a little residue. So if these were harmless crystals before, what caused them to change?" Clark puzzled.
"Well I would venture to guess that the crystals were somehow altered by being in the presence of the warp field. They must have somehow absorbed some of the energies resident within the field."
"If I knew anything about warp fields I might say that made sense," Clark said with amusement. "However I'll just have to take your word for it. Well since I can't…"
"Oh no!" Lois suddenly exclaimed, cutting Clark off.
"What Lois, what's wrong?"
"Clark, I know why Nor was here."
"How could you know that?"
"Don't you see? The residue wasn't something that had clung to your ship. It was the residue from Nor's excavation. He's got some of those crystals and he's plans to use them against you," she explained while she paced.
Ching looked at her perplexed and said, "Excuse me Lois, how could you possibly know that? I haven't searched enough yet to know…"
"Ching," Clark cut in. "We have to trust Lois's instincts. She has this knack of jumping to the right conclusion from the flimsiest of evidence, no matter how far fetched her logic seems."
"Thanks Clark," replied Lois, stopping her pacing to bestow him a smile. But then she scowled at him and said, "What do you mean far fetched? Never mind. Look there's not enough of that crystal dust out there to do any real damage to Clark, is there Ching?"
"No, not really," he replied. "What we witnessed was as bad a reaction as he would experience with the amount that is currently in the ground."
"See, then it wouldn't be worth Nor's time to dig anything up around here. No, he must have found some big chunks of the stuff with his ship's radar thingies… um, sensors, and dug it up. Any time now, Nor is probably going to call and want to meet Clark in a deserted place somewhere to spring some kind of trap using those…"
A loud chirp from the Ching's communicator interrupted Lois. He unclipped it from his belt and look at the small display screen. "There's a message coming through the ship's main communication array. It appears to be Lord Nor trying to contact Lord Kal-El." All three slowly turned their heads to Lois, who was looking back at them with a self-satisfied expression on her face.
"It's a gift," Lois stated matter-of-factly, with a small shrug of her shoulders.
Clark gave out a snort, then said to Ching, "I'll take that call." He then took the communicator from Ching and spoke into it. "This is Kal-El."
"My dear Kal-El, I am so glad to have been able to get through to you so quickly," the voice on the other end said. "I hear that you have been looking for me."
"What do you want Nor?"
"What, no time for pleasantries? No matter, to the point then. I am calling to offer you a proposition."
"What do you have that could possibly interest me, Nor?"
"I tire of all the running and fighting. I wish to propose an alternative to you, face to face. I propose a one-on- one meeting to discuss how I may fit into this new regime. I do not wish to rot in jail, and frankly I don't see myself running for the rest of my life. I want to propose an alternative that would be agreeable to both of us. My only condition for meeting is that you hear me out first, before taking any action."
"Seems like a reasonable request. Where and when do we meet?"
"I propose in 2 hours at the coordinates I am sending you. But I have one more condition."
"'My only condition' . 'One more condition' . Lois muttered under her breath. "I wouldn't trust this guy as far as I could throw him."
Clark threw a quelling glance at her before replying, "Which is…?"
"You come alone. I trust you Lord Kal-El to hear me out, but I don't know about the others. Therefore if I sense any others in the area, I will not show up. Is it agreed?"
"Agreed. Two hours from now then. But I have one condition. If I don't like what I hear, you will go to prison."
"As you said, that seems reasonable. Nor out."
Clark handed the link back to Ching, and then said, "Alright Ching, lets get the scout ships back to the rendezvous point. I don't want to scare him off. Tell them to stand down for now, but be prepared to prevent Nor from trying to run away." Clark then spun in his Superman suit, and continued, "I'm going to sweep the meeting area for traps, and you take Lois with you."
"No way! There is no way I'm going to let you walk into this alone. Didn't you hear me? This is most definitely a trap. You've got to take backup with you. Just have us hovering by with the ship's invisibility doohickey on."
"Lois, that won't work. Nor will be able to sense other Kryptonians telepathically, and I don't want to spook him away. This may be my best chance to capture him."
"No! You are not going alone. There must be a way for Ching to cover you while you're there."
"There's not. If there another Krypton within 20 miles, Nor will be able to sense their presence. I have to go alone, it's the only way to get him out in the open."
"Clark, you can't!"
"I have no choice."
Lois stared determinedly at Clark for a moment. Her eyes lit up, and she turned and whispered something into Za-ra's ear. Za-ra thought about it for a moment, then shook her head. Lois smiled and muttered 'Good' to Za-Ra and turned back to Clark and said, "You do have a choice…"
Chapter 11 - The End and the Beginning
20 minutes ago
Nor stared at the monitors receiving pictures from the hidden cameras he had left in the field where he had found the crystals. He watched as Kal-El's ship touched down at the edge of the field. He leaned closer as the cameras followed Kal-El and his Earth pet walking across the field toward the area where left the crystal residue. He watched intently as Kal-El faltered and collapsed to the ground.
"Excellent!" He shouted as he slammed his fist down on the console. "It is even better than I expected." After he watched as Ching and the Earth woman help Kal-El back to his ship, he reached over and turned the monitors off. Leaning back against his chair, he thoughtfully stroked his beard. A malevolent smirk grew on his face as he formulated his plan to rid himself of Kal-El. Satisfied that his plan would work, he activated the communications panel on his control console and signaled Kal-El scout ship.
Woodland Field on the Outskirts of Smallville
Late Afternoon, 2 hours later
September 20th, 1960
Superman scanned the area surrounding Nor one last time with his X-ray vision before touching down a few yards from him. Nor stood in front of his ship which was resting just outside the line of trees of the forest. The sun was beginning to dip low in the sky making long shadows from the trees into the adjacent field. He looked down on more time at the small sensor hidden in the palm of his hand. The display indicated that none of the crystals that Lois feared Nor would have were within 70 yards of where he stood. Lois had dubbed the crystals 'Kryptonite' to differentiate them from the original harmless ones.
Clark stowed the sensor in one of his cape pouches, and slowly approached Nor. A quick check with his enhanced vision revealed no hidden devices on Nor's person. In fact the only thing in Nor's possession was his communicator clipped to his belt. Clark stopped a few feet in front of Nor and said, "All right Nor, I'm here alone. So let me hear this proposition of yours." Clark knew that he should just grab Nor right now and whisk him to a prison cell, but he had promised to hear him out.
"Ah, to the point as usual Kal-El. So refreshing after dealing with those idiots on the council all these years. You know I admired you greatly, even though we were on opposite sides. I often imagined what we could have accomplished together. You do have this certain talent for getting the 'sheep' to follow you."
Clark was already beginning to lose his patience. "You were getting to the point?" he asked, the disdain apparent in his voice.
"Yes, the point. My proposition is simple. I propose that we join forces and take over this planet for ourselves. I can arrange for a small group of loyal followers to come here and within a few years we will have a super powered army with which to rule this planet. I've decided that I like it here - better than I like that ball of dust we call a colony."
Clark stared at Nor with an incredulous look on his face. "You are insane if you think that I would consider that, even for a moment. There is no way I would enter into any kind of partnership with you. This is my home, and I swore to myself to use my powers only to help and protect the people of this planet. Especially against maniacs like you."
"No chance you would reconsider?"
"None. Any last statements before I take you in?"
"I can't tell you how disappointed I am. Not terribly surprised, but still disappointed. I guess this is goodbye then Kal-El." With his last word Nor press a small button in the center of his communicator. Two small trap doors on the ground on either side of Clark sprung open. Each compartment issued a sickly green glow. Clark immediately fell to the ground in pain. A third trap door opened directly in front of Nor, revealing a energy pistol.
Nor looked smugly down at Clark who was groaning on the ground in pain. "Amazing things these crystals. Of course I must destroy them all after you are dead. I can't have anybody using them on me after I develop super powers here. They were quite a find. I didn't think that I would locate them as easily as I did. A scientist who was working for me theorized that these crystals would have this effect on you. It's a shame I had to have him killed to silence him. And my little experiment in that field was such a success. You were so predictable, following the little trail of clues I left for you to find. It's hard to leave just the right amount of clues without making it look like it was done on purpose."
Nor bent over and retrieved the energy pistol from the hidden compartment in front of him. He turned the power on and began the charge cycle, setting the weapon to its highest discharge setting.
"You know I believe that if I left you here long enough you would simply succumb to the radiation, but I'm in a hurry. So I think I'll just finish the job quickly." Nor looked at the weapons charge meters, waiting for it to come up to full charge.
Clark tried to crawl away from the Kryptonite on his hands and knees, but there was so much of it that it was overwhelming him. The pain was excruciating, greater than anything he had ever experience before in his life. It was even getting hard to breath. He didn't want it to end this way. He couldn't let Nor win, or he could very likely enslave the entire planet. Clark gathered all his remaining strength and managed to get out in a horse whisper, "Lo… is." He then coughed violently, and collapsed completely to the ground.
"How heart warming," Nor sneered. "He's calling for his pet. Well don't worry, I'll make sure to comfort her when she's grieving your death." Nor raised the weapon, and pointed it at Clark. "Goodbye Kal-El."
Clark heard the energy discharge of the weapon and the bright flash where Nor was standing. He thought he would feel the brunt of the weapon's discharge, but he felt no different. Maybe the pain of the Kryptonite was dulling his senses and he couldn't feel any more pain than he was already experiencing. Then Clark heard a dull thud. He turned his head toward the noise, and saw Nor lying face down on the ground. It was the last thing Clark remembered before losing consciousness.
The trees behind Nor's ship
10 minutes ago
Lois crept as quietly as she could toward the edge of the tree line. Her objective was to get to the back of Nor's ship so she could get a clear shot at him without him seeing her. The energy rifle that Ching had given her felt strange in her hands. It was much lighter than a normal rifle of the same size. And firing the weapon had been equally strange. It had almost no retort, making her learn a whole new set of shooting skills and reflexes than what her father had taught her.
She reached the edge of the forest, and snuck across the short distance between the trees and the back of Nor's ship. Once she reach the ship, she checked the rifle once more to make sure that it was fully charged and ready to fire. She had it set on the highest possible setting that would stun Nor without killing him. She slowly crept around the edge of the ship until she had a clear view of the back of Nor. Clark had already landed and was walking toward him. She could see that they were speaking and that whatever it was, Clark was not too happy about it.
Suddenly she saw three trap doors open on the ground. A green light coming from two of the trap doors washed over Clark, and he immediately feel to the ground. 'Damn!' Lois exclaimed to herself. She quickly got down on one knee and raised the rifle. She took her time and carefully lined up Nor's back in the sights of the rifle. She knew that she would probably have only one shot at this, so she took careful aim. Satisfied that she had a clear shot, she slowly squeezed the trigger. The rifle discharged and the energy bolt hit Nor squarely in the center of his back, knocking him to the ground unconscious.
Not taking the time to congratulate herself, she ran over to where Clark was lying. She quickly deduced that the trap doors were made out of some material that blocked the radiation, since Clark was fine until they popped open. She put her rifle down in front of her, and hit the switch on her communicator. "Ching, get down here now." Not waiting for a reply, she went over to one of the trap doors and tried to push it close with her hands. It stubbornly refused to move.
Before she could try a second time, she heard Clark trying to say something. She went over to where he laid and placed her ear close to his mouth. "What is it Clark?"
"What?" Panic was evident in Lois's voice. "Come on, Clark."
Lois concentrated trying to decipher his slurring. She sound out what he thought he said over and over until… "Nor's communicator!"
She rushed over and with some effort turned the unconscious Nor over on his back. She ripped the communicator off of his belt and examined the buttons on the face. Not knowing which one was which, she pointed the device at the trap doors and pressed them one at a time. On the third button, the trap doors closed, shielding Clark from the Kryptonite.
"Thank God!" She rushed back to Clark and checked to make sure that he was still breathing. Even though he was taking labored breaths, she could see that he was still alive. The look of agony was slowing dissolving from his face, and even breathing slowly become more regular. She looked over to Nor briefly to make sure that he wasn't stirring. Satisfied that he wasn't going anywhere soon, she turned her attention back to Clark. She sat on the ground next to where he lay, lovingly stroking his face with her hand. In the background she could hear the sound of the scout ship's engine approaching.
Clark's eyes fluttered open, and he struggled to gain focus. He knew that the hand that was touching him was that of his beloved. With great effort he managed to give her a little smile. After a minute he was able to get out in a gruff whisper, "I guess you were right, Nor didn't count on a human sneaking up on him."
"I knew he let his arrogance get the best of him," she replied with a concerned smile. "How do you feel sweetheart?"
"Well the pain is gone, but I feel like I just went 15 rounds with Sonny Liston. I think I'll start to feel better in a little while, just like the last time. It'll probably just take a little longer. By the way, that was a heck of a shot."
"Well you can thank my father for that." She smiled at him lovingly, and bent over a placed a kiss on his forehead. She heard footsteps approaching, and saw Ching approaching with Za-Ra and a couple of other Kryptonians. Before they reached Lois, Ching turned to the other Kryptonians and said something to them. They nodded and walked to Nor's ship and walked up the entry ramp. Within a minute the ramp retracted and the ship took to the sky, disappearing in the distance.
Without saying a word, Ching walked up to Clark and pulled out his sensing device and took some readings. "Do you still feel weak Clark?"
"Your body had absorbed a good deal of radiation. It's slowly being dissipated, but I would estimate at least two of your Earth days before your body is completely purged. I believe that your body will use all of your solar energies combating the radiation, so I expect that you will not have access to any of your abilities until the radiation is purged from your body."
Lois shook her head and said, "You know Ching, you could have just said that Clark won't have any super powers for a couple of days, until he gets better."
"I believe I just said that."
Lois chuckled a little and replied, "Never mind." She looked down at Clark again, giving him a tender smile. "I'm sorry I took so long, I should have just shot him as soon as I saw him."
Clark replied with a weak chuckle, "Yeah, but that would have made it look like I was taking back my promise to hear him out. That's against the superhero union rules."
"You big dope," Lois said with mirth, as she bent down and planted another kiss on his forehead. "I wonder what all your adoring fans would think if they knew you made corny jokes."
"I have adoring fans?"
"Well I have at least one friend at work who wants to be the mother your children," Lois replied, remember Cat's reaction to Superman and the letter she wrote to him.
"Well I already have someone else in mind for that," he said drowsily back to Lois.
Lois breath caught in her throat at his comment. She knew that she loved Clark… that she was in love with Clark. But that comment really hit home what that meant. Suddenly a lifetime with Clark flashed in front of her eyes… Them buying their first home, bringing home their first child, Christmas with the family, little league games, having Clark in her bed every evening, growing old together, flirting with each other and embarrassing their children, making up after a fight, having him at her side for their whole lives. What was scary to her once, now seemed like a dream come true. One she wanted to come true with Clark, the love of her life.
Lois could feel her eyes misting as she watched Clark lying on the ground, recovering from the Kryptonite. She watched his eyes flutter open, and he gave her a weak smile. But then he looked at her face, and his own expression changed to one of concern. "Are you all right Lois?"
"Yeah, I'm just happy that you're OK. Do you want to try to sit up or stand?"
"I like to try to stand up."
Lois motioned for Ching to come and help her. Together they were able to get Clark to his feet. Lois let Clark lean against her for support, as he got his balance. Just as he was about to say something to Lois, they heard Nor let out a groan and start to regain consciousness. Ching walked over to him and waited a moment to let him become fully awake. He then grabbed Nor by his tunic, and jerked him to his feet. "You don't know how long I've waited for this moment," Ching said to him scornfully. He shoved Nor in the direction of the scout ship, and drew his weapon, pointing it straight at Nor. "Move!" he shouted.
Nor said nothing, but gave both Ching and Clark a hateful glance. He then looked at Lois with a scowl. Looking at the rifle on the ground beside her, it dawned on him what had happened. He looked directly at Clark and said, "You lied! I didn't think you were capable of going against your word."
"I didn't," Clark answered. "I promised you that I would hear you out, and that I would meet you alone. Lois was behind the ship, not with me, and I did hear you out. I told you what I would do if I didn't like what I heard."
The look on Nor's face showed that he still didn't believe that it was an Earth woman who had defeated him. "I never thought that you could be so devious Kal-El, I underestimated you."
"Truth be told, it was Lois's idea. Good thing I have her around to keep me out of trouble," he said with a mischievous grin. Lois gave him a small nudge in the ribs, but didn't take her eyes off of Nor. She crossed her arms and gave Nor the most self-satisfied looks she had ever managed in her life. In years to come, Ching would remember this image of the two of them, standing there leaning on each other, the picture of the perfect symbiosis of a man and a woman. He felt as if in that moment, he had watched the creation of a legend. He looked at his beloved Za-Ra, standing next him, and he knew that he would strive to be as good of a partner as he knew Clark was to his Lois.
Nor's turned and stalked off in the direction of the scout ship, Ching close behind him. As walked toward the ship, Nor slipped his hand down to his belt, slipping out a small capsule hidden in the interior. He let his hand, which was grasping the capsule, fall to his side. With a small movement he dropped the capsule on the ground behind him. As soon as it struck the ground, it exploded with a brilliant flash that temporarily blinded everyone.
It took a couple of minutes for everyone's vision to clear, just in time to see the scout ship lifting off from the ground. Clark walked up to Ching while watching the ship disappear into the distance. Still looking into the sky he muttered, "Damn. I guess you left the keys in the ignition." Ching could only reply, "Huh?"
Recovering quickly, Ching grabbed his communicator and ordered all other ships to pursue Nor. Clark was still staring into the sky and shaking his head. "NORAD is going to have a field day with this. So much for minimizing Kryptonian influence on Earth culture." Then after a beat, he turned to Ching and said, "I assume he won't be able to get very far with the Warp engines down."
"That's correct, my Lord. When he tries to engage the warp field, he'll discover that the engine controls are locked down. Hopefully then he will give up peaceably." Ching thought about this for a moment, and muttered to himself, "… he will discover the engine controls are locked down…" His head snapped up and he exclaimed, "My lord, he does not know that the flow regulator is not in place, and he may simply try to override the controls without checking the engine compartment. If he does that, the engine compartment will be flooded with anti-matter. That would immediately… I believe the Earth term is 'blow him to kingdom come'."
"Holy…Ching give me that communicator." Clark took his communicator and opened a channel to the scout ship. "Nor, this is Kal-El. I need to speak with you."
There was only static in reply. Clark turned to Za-Ra and said, "Za-Ra, ask the other ships how far Nor is from the gravity boundary, and make sure they know that the ship may blow." Za-Ra talked into the communicator for a minute, and then listened to the reply from the other end.
"They said in 55 seconds Nor will reach the gravity boundary of Earth and will be able to engage the warp drive. They will be keeping their distance."
Clark talked into his communicator once again. "Nor, I know you can hear me, so listen to me carefully. That ship's warp engine does not have a flow regulator attached. If you override the engine lockdowns manually, you'll kill yourself."
For a moment their was no reply, then the sneering voice of Nor could be heard over the communicator. "Nice try Kal- El, but I'm not going to just wait for those ships to catch up to me and capture me. As I said, I'm not going to rot in prison." With that the link closed.
Clark just shook his head and looked up into the darkening sky. Under his breath he whispered, "No I guess you won't be rotting in prison." A few seconds later, a new star suddenly appeared in the sky, and then as quickly disappeared. Lois walked up to Clark and wrapped her arms around his waist. She looked up at the same point in the sky that Clark was still looking at. "I say good riddance," she stated fiercely.
Clark wrapped his arms around her shoulders, and looked down into her eyes. He said softly to her, "I just hope that was the last death of this war. I'm too tired of seeing things solved by death." He then closed his eyes and rested his face against her head. Lois held on to him as tightly as she could, trying to sooth away a year war and heartaches. They stood there like that until one of the other scout ships came to pick them some time later.
Lois's townhouse, later that evening…
Lois and Clark were sitting together on her sofa, Lois curled up against Clark's body, her head resting on his chest. "So how are you feeling Clark?" she murmured against his chest.
"I feel fine. No more pain or weakness, but no superpowers either."
"Well Ching said that it would be a couple of days before they come back. So I guess we need to get you regular clothes, you can't be sitting around in that costume…"
"Suit," he corrected.
"*Suit*, she said as she rolled her eyes. "Besides the fact that you can't be Superman for the next few days, you really need to — 'sniff sniff' — change out of that thing."
"Gee thanks Lois. Well I case you haven't caught me at my best," he said with a chuckle. "But clothes may be a problem right now. Most of my clothes are either in the Artic, or sitting somewhere in hyperspace. I'm afraid this is all I have at the moment."
"The Artic? Why are your clothes in the Artic? Never mind, you go shower and I'll run out to the department store and grab a couple of things for you. You know you're getting to be real high maintenance Kent." She got up from the sofa to look for her purse
"Am I?" he asked with a smirk, getting up to walk her to the door.
"Good thing for you I'm a very tolerant person."
"You're a very tolerant person," Clark repeated slowly.
Looking at him with an evil grin she said, "Watch it buster, you don't have any superpowers, so watch your step. I'm going now and I since I'm starving and I know you can cook, I expect you to have a meal ready for me before I get back. And I want to have some of that Kona coffee. Though every time we try to have coffee something seems to happen. But I did say I owed you a cup, and it would count even if you made it, because it's my house. Hmmm, maybe we shouldn't tempt fate and actually try to have coffee, because something else might happen, so maybe we should stick to soft drinks until your superpowers are back. Wouldn't it be weird if coffee were some kind of cosmic trigger that causes us to get into trouble? That would be a shame, because I really need my coffee in the morning. Not than I have any soft drinks, which means I need to buy some on the way home. Do you like Cream Soda, or do you just want cola, or maybe root beer. I bet you're the root beer type. So what do you think?"
Clark expression showed that he was trying hard to follow Lois's stream of thoughts. He grabbed on the one little piece of information he caught as Lois's thought whipped by in his head, "Uh… root beer would be great. Um, Lois, what will I wear after my shower when I'm cooking?"
"Just wrap a towel around you silly." An evil smile reformed on her face. "Actually I can think of a few fantasies I've had that involved you in only a towel. One of them is in the kitchen." She punctuated her statement by waggling her eyebrows at him.
"Lo-is!" He couldn't believe this was the same shy woman he met last year. She had changed more than he thought possible.
"Clark! Hey, like you haven't had any thoughts about me?"
"Well…" he replied with a blush.
"Ha! OK, I'm going. I'll be back as soon as can." She leaned over and gave him a quick peck on the lips. She was going to turn to go to the front door, but her eyes seem to be locked on his. For a few moments they just stood there, staring into one another's eyes, their lips still tingling from the brief contact. Suddenly they were in each other's arms, kissing each other passionately. They couldn't get enough of each other, savoring the emotions conveyed in their kiss.
They finally broke the kiss, both breathless from the experience. "Wow," Clark finally said.
"Yeah, wow." Then after a beat, "I guess I better go."
"I guess you should."
"OK, I'll be right back." Reluctantly they released each other slowly from their embrace. Lois backed toward the door, not taking her eyes off of Clark, who was apparently frozen in his spot. She eventually startled herself by bumping into the small table behind her in her entryway. Looking at the table and letting out a self-conscious chuckle she said, "I better watch where I'm going." She threw him a kiss, turned, and left through the front door.
After the door had closed, the spell that was holding Clark in his place was broken, allowing him to turn and make his way to the bathroom. On the way there he mumbled to himself, "Definitely going to make that a cold shower. A very cold shower."
Entering her townhouse an hour later with clothes and drinks in hand, Lois immediately smelled the wonderful aromas wafting from the direction of the kitchen. With an impish grin on her face, she threw her keys and purse on the entryway table, and made her way to the kitchen with her shopping bags in hand. Entering the kitchen she started to say mischievously, "Hi honey, I'm…"
But the sight of Clark froze her in her tracks. He was cooking something at the stove as promised, dressed just as she had suggested - in nothing but a towel wrapped around his waist. She just stood there transfixed by the sight of him, the bags finally falling from her limp arms, forgotten. The sound of the bags hitting the ground got Clark's attention, and he turned his head to look at her.
"Oh good, your home," he said cheerily, completely oblivious to her reaction. He turned his attention back to the frying pan. "I hope you got me something warm, I'm starting to get cold standing here. I keep forgetting how spoiled I am by having superpowers."
'Hmmm… I have something that would warm you up,' Lois thought to herself. She then shook her head, and mentally slapped herself. 'OK, Lois - focus. Just get him the clothes.'
She bent down, picked up the bags, and walked purposely over to where Clark was standing. She held up the bags from the CostMart and said, "He, I bought you an assortment. Why don't you go and get dressed while I keep things going here for you." She deliberately made sure that her eyes were firmly fixed on his face and no lower.
He turned and smile at her. Trading his cooking utensil for the bag, he instructed her, "Just keep stirring the stuff in the pan so it doesn't burn, I'll be out in a jiff."
With a goofy smile on her face she replied, "Sure."
He gave her a strange look for a moment, then shrugged it off, and starting walking to the bedroom. Lois couldn't help but turn and watch him leave the room. "Damn it's hot in this kitchen," she muttered to herself. Remembering her duty, she opened the refrigerator and set the bag of drinks inside, and then returned to the stove to stir the food in the in frying pan. The smells coming up from the stove were wonderful, making her wonder what other hidden talents Clark had. She already knew he could cook from all the recipes he had sent her over the years. And she knew that he spoke several languages from what he had written in his letters. Yet for all his powers and talents, he was such an unassuming man, never one to brag or call attention to what he does. Even when in the 'suit', he never stuck around for praise or accolades. She was finding it very easy to fall in love with him. 'Of course, having that body doesn't hurt either,' she mused with an evil smile. "Woof!"
"Did you say something Lois?" Clark asked as he reentered the kitchen.
Startled, Lois turned a little too quickly towards Clark, flinging bits of food in his general direction from the cooking utensil in her hand. "No! I mean I was just thinking how good this smells. And about the recipes you've sent me. And that… that… maybe it's done, so I was thinking that I should call you to check on it, because I don't trust my judgment very much, so definitely you should check it. But I'll turn down the flame first, so I won't burn anything. So really, I didn't say anything at all. Nothing really. Is it done?"
Clark eyed her suspiciously for a moment and then said with a playful voice, "No sugar for you tonight young lady."
Clark walking calmly over to the stove, turned off the burner, and softly said, "It's done, why don't you put out some plates?" He gently took the cooking utensil out of her hand.
Lois smiled back at him and replied, "Sure, I think I can handle that." After she got the table set, Clark, served them each a helping of his concoction in their plates. As he served the food, he silently mused on the paradox that was this woman. This afternoon she calmly squeezed off that that shot, that brought Nor down, and saved his life. And now she got completely flustered for heaven knows what reason. It was completely enchanting to him, her combination of strength, guile, and shyness. He had found it very easy to fall in love with her. 'Of course the way she looks doesn't hurt either.' <Clark waggles his eyebrows as he thinks that>
Behind him, Lois grabbed the sodas from the fridge. After sitting, they started eating, enjoying their meal in comfortable silence for a while, until Clark chuckled to himself.
"What?" asked Lois.
"I was just thinking that this is the first quiet moment we had together since our second 'date'. You think it's always going to be this way for us?"
With a lopsided grin Lois replied, "I don't know. My life has been kind of like this for the past year. So the two of us together might be a real danger to the general population."
Clark laughed at her comment. "I guess so. How's the dinner by the way?"
"Oh, it's delicious, just like I expected. You know I may have starved to death - or worst, forced to eat fast food - if you hadn't sent me all those recipes. I have the whole collection of what you sent me over the years. The instructions are so simple, yet complete, that I dubbed it my 'Cooking for Dummies' collection." She thought about what she said for a moment, and then asked, "Hey, don't you think that would be a great title for a cookbook?"
Clark pondered the idea for a moment, but said, "Naw, it would probably insult people and no one would buy."
"Yeah, you're probably right. So Clark, what are you going to do now? I mean do you have a place to stay, now that Ching and Za-Ra have left."
"Actually I was going to bring that up with you. I don't really have a place to stay and most of my stuff is in my secret hideout in the Artic. So I need to get my powers back to get my stuff. So I'm kind of homeless at the moment." He looked at her with hopeful eyes.
Her look became very evil as she answered, "Hmmm, I bet you're hoping that I'm one of those people who love to take in stray dogs and give them a home."
She chuckled and threw her napkin at his head, which he politely let bounce off his forehead, and back into his plate. "Well you have to earn your keep. Do you vacuum floors?"
"Do you do windows?"
He stroked his chin thoughtfully for a moment then replied, "I guess if I have to…"
"You do. And there are cooking duties."
"But of course, anything else?"
"Let me think… So you'll do anything I'll ask."
"Anything," he said, a little more quietly than before, his smile disappearing from his face.
Suddenly Lois was finishing her fantasy of him cooking in her kitchen with nothing on but that towel. A quick mental slap again brought her back to reality. She couldn't really believe she was having such thoughts about anyone but something about Clark. she guessed she was feeling very secure in their love. Serious now, Lois said, "You know that you're welcome here anytime Clark. But you know it might be a little difficult being together here. I was wondering what you… I mean are we…"
Clark cut her off by saying, "You want to know what my intentions are."
"Yeah, that. Where do we go from here?" she asked anxiously.
"Well, what I was thinking was…" As he spoke got up from his chair and knelt down in front on her chair. "My intentions are to ask you to marry me and spend the rest of your life with me."
Lois's breath caught in her throat, and she couldn't speak for a properly for moment. "But… um… I mean… Clark we hardly know each other! And we've had only two proper dates. One of which I didn't even know it was really you."
"Lois, I spent years falling in love with you. That day we met, I was pretty sure that I would fall in love with you. I knew that it didn't really matter what you looked like either. Though you are beautiful, which is a REAL nice bonus." Clark gave her an appropriate leer. "But I discovered something that day, before I even met you."
"What was that?"
"I discovered that I was already in love with you. All those letters, all those feelings and thoughts we exchanged. I had already given my heart to you. All those years of keeping my heart hidden away, because I thought I was too different to love anyone. I just decided not to let myself love anyone in that way. But then that choice was taken away from me when I starting writing you. So I ask you, are you in love with me Lois?"
Suddenly it was very clear to Lois that this man was her other half, and they needed to be together. There was nothing else to say except, "Yes Clark, I am in love with you too. And if that proposal is serious, I accept."
Clark leaned up and captured Lois's lips with his own. Their kiss was soft and sweet, a seal on their promise to spend their lives together. They sat there for the next hour hugging, kissing, and planning their future together. After cleaning the dishes, Lois setup the spare bedroom for Clark and they both got ready for bed.
They mutually agreed that anything more than kissing should wait for their wedding night. Lois returned to work the next day, placating Jim about her absence by bringing him the exclusive story of the Superman's battle with Nor (leaving out the part she played and the existence of Kryptonite). True to his word, Clark kept himself busy by doing house chores and cooking her meals. She had to laugh on the second morning when she found a packed lunch prepared for her sitting on the kitchen counter, complete with her name written on the bag.
Coming home on the third day she was given a heart attack, when she entered the house and called his name. The voice that responded came from the ceiling. After shoving her heart back down her throat, she looked up to see him standing on the ceiling with a duster in his hand.
"I take it the super powers are coming back," she said matter-of-factly.
"How did you guess," he replied with a grin. He floated down from the ceiling and right himself to land on his feet. He gave her a soft kiss on the lips, which she responded to by throwing her arms around his neck and kissing him back very passionately.
Finally their kiss ended and Clark said with a gleam in his eye, "You know you're making it hard to wait for this marriage thing."
"Sorry, I can't help myself."
"Well since we're on the subject, since my powers are back, I'm going to go retrieve my stuff, then I need to make Clark Kent reappear from his year long sabbatical in the Borneo jungle."
"Oh… so that's where you were."
"Yep. That means I'll be gone for a couple of days getting my life back together."
"Oh," said Lois with a pouty voice.
"Hey, as soon as Clark Kent returns, we can set a date for getting married."
"Well, I guess I can put up with that for a few days. Clark, about our wedding…"
"I don't want to wait or plan or anything like that. As soon as we can, let's just elope. We can do a reception later. What do you think?"
"I think that's a great idea." Clark gave her one more soft kiss. "I better get going. Dinner's in the oven. It'll be ready when the timer goes off."
"Come back as soon as you can Clark."
"I will." He then stepped back and started to spin. A few seconds later he was standing in front of her in his Superman suit, holding a watch in his hand. "So that's where that watch went to, I was looking everywhere for it last week. Here Lois, hang on to this for me."
She laughed as she took the watch from him. "Your life is so weird sometimes."
He shrugged his shoulders, then with a whoosh he was gone.
"Come back soon, love," she whispered softly.
Two days later, office of the Boston Globe.
Lois walked into the bullpen after returning from her latest interview. She was sure that the Senator had lied about the funding, but it was going to take some time finding evidence to prove that. Just as she dumped her purse on her desk, Mr. Olsen came up behind her and said, "Don't get too comfortable honey, I need you to meet someone."
"Can't it wait Jim? I need to organize my notes when the interview is still fresh in my mind."
"No, it can't. I need you to meet the new guy I hired today. He's a seasoned pro, but he's new to the Boston area. Since Claude is gone on assignment for the next month, I decided to team him up with you so you can give him the 'lay of the land' sort of speak."
"Oh please, you know I'm not in the mood to…"
"Wait, did something happen that I wasn't aware of?"
"Did someone suddenly come down from the main office and change the newsroom into a democracy?" Jim asked in a mock concerned voice.
Lois gave him a smirk and shook her head. "All right Chief, let's meet this guy." She then took off for his office. Mr. Olsen, caught off guard by her sudden movement, had to hurry to catch up with her. As he strove to catch her he shouted, "And don't call me *Chief*".
Lois got to his office, and as she opened the door she turned back to Mr. Olsen and complained, "I better not have to hold this guy's hand all the time."
A voice from within the office responded, "Well I'll try my best to keep up with you Miss Lane. Though I know it might be a challenge."
Lois stopped dead in her tracks and turned to face the voice she knew so well. She looked at the man in the tailored suit and glasses, standing there looking at her with a grin on his face. Lois crossed her arms and spoke to Jim, without taking her eyes off 'the new hire'. "So this is the guy you want me to break in, huh?"
Mr. Olsen answered slowly, picking up on the fact that there was something going on here that he was not privy to. "Yes, this is…"
"Well you clean up nice, Kent. So you think you can keep up with me?"
"I'll try my best."
"Hmmmm. I guess he'll do for now Chief." Lois couldn't keep the smile off of her face.
Mr. Olsen looked back from Lois to Kent and back to Lois again. "I just have to guess there is some joke going on here that I don't know about. And I don't care about it either, just go and bring me back headlines."
Lois grabbed Clark by the arm and dragged him out of the office. As they made their way into the bullpen, Mr. Olsen could hear Lois say, "There's this Senator we need to investigate…"
Mr. Olsen gave out a chuckle, but then looked up crossly and shouted, "And don't call me Chief!"
… and the beginning.
Author's notes (Lote): On behalf of Jon and myself, I'd like to thank Merry and Tricia for their help in betaing this story, even with the crazy and demanding schedule we set for them. This story started in August 2001 and was completed in December 2002, due to the demands of RL on Jon and myself. To my co-author, it has been a pleasurable collaboration, and a personal journey through some very trying times. September 11th shook and coloured our lives more than either of us had realized it when we started out our collaboration. Many of the emotions, of war and its effects on Clark and Lois, were honestly emotions we both experienced when Jon reactivated his commission and served in Afghanistan. Even now, as I'm writing this dedication, he is on active service. God speed, wolf.