And I'll Love You 'til the End

By Julia Kraemer <>

Rated: G

Submitted: June 2004

Summary: Clark returns from New Krypton and learns what it was like for Lois while he was away.

All usual disclaimers apply. The characters (except Connor and Grace) are not mine, but the property of DC Comics, Warner Bros and December 3rd Productions Ltd. No copyright infringement is intended.

A huge thanks goes to my wonderful beta-reader Laura. Your efforts are truly appreciated. With your suggestions my story got so much better. Thank you!


Present Lois' Apartment

It had been a long day at the Planet. The news had kept rolling in and Perry had only reluctantly let her go home. It was only 6:30 and an exhausted Lois Lane opened the door to her apartment. A familiar scene greeted her. Her son — the light of her life, her reason for breathing — flopped, in the middle of a pile of toy cars, on the floor in front of the TV, watching 'SpongeBob'. She carefully dropped her briefcase on the couch, wanting to surprise her little boy who was completely involved in his favorite cartoon and seemingly oblivious to his surroundings.

No luck.

"Mommy!" he called, and then jumped up and hugged her.

As usual, she didn't have the slightest chance to surprise him. He had his father's hearing.

"You're here! Finally!" he sighed dramatically. "I have sooooooo much to tell you."

"Really?" she asked and stroked over his dark hair.

He nodded excitedly. "Guess what I did in school today!" He briefly gasped for air, but didn't give his mother time to answer. Then he continued. "We made a kite, and it actually flies!"

"Wow, sweetie, that's."

Before Lois was able to finish her sentence, Connor interrupted again, "Grace took me to the park this afternoon, and."

"Sweetie, that's great, I wanna hear everything about it. But do you think I could sit down first? I'm sooo tired." She sank down on the couch and pulled him into her lap.

"Hey, buddy, didn't I tell you to pick up your toys before your Mom gets home?" Grace, Connor's nanny, asked when she came into the living room. She was holding a dishtowel in her hands and drying a big glass bowl.

"Hey, Lois, how was your day?" she asked. "You look tired, honey. Are you sure you sleep enough?"

"You're sweet, Grace, but I'm fine," she managed to reply before Connor reclaimed her attention.

Grace had been an absolute godsend. She had been Connor's nanny since Lois had gone back to work six weeks after her baby was born. When Lois had decided to hire a nanny, she had known she needed someone special to take care of her little boy. Someone who would be extremely flexible to work around her often unpredictable work schedule and who would love her son just as much as she did.

She had been very lucky to find Grace, who had quickly become a real part of their little family. She was in her early sixties, but still a tough lady. Short, grey hair framed her round, friendly face and added to the impression of a sweet woman who had always an open ear to fears and sorrows. Since her family lived in California she was a lonely woman in the need of companionship. It was a perfect fit.

Over the years, Grace had become a close friend and confidant to Lois and almost a third grandmother for Connor.

"I'm sorry to rush out, but I really need to leave now, Lois. We'll talk tomorrow, okay?" she said and threw the dishtowel in the general direction of the kitchen, where it actually landed on the counter, next to the sink. Then she grabbed her purse and keys, and added with a wink and a broad grin, "You know, Tuesday is poker night with the girls."

"Have fun, and try not to rip off the others again, you hear? The time will come when they won't play with you anymore. Oh well, we'll see you tomorrow," Lois managed to respond before the door snapped shut.

"I'm hungry, Mom. I haven't eaten in *days*! Can we have dinner now?" Connor whined.

"Oh, so Grace doesn't feed you?"

"Nope!" he giggled.

"All right, looks like we better get you something to eat fast. I wouldn't want you starving to death. So, what do you think? You wanna go out for dinner or should we just order a pizza?" Lois was way too tired to cook, not that she liked cooking in the first place. Over the years, she had learned how to cook. At least she now knew how to prepare some foods Connor always wanted. She had become a real master in making grilled cheese sandwiches and she even managed to cook pasta -with tomato sauce from the jar- or heat up some pizza bagels in the microwave.

"Um, I want cheeseburgers," he decided.

"Good, let's go then. Where's your coat?"

While Connor put on his shoes, she looked lovingly at him. It still amazed her that her child was such a perfect image of Clark. Clark had been gone for over five years now. Most of the time she still missed him terribly, but she had learned to move on without him in her life. She had her son, whom she adored. He was now the new center of her life.

Besides Connor, there was still her work. It had taken her a while to adjust to working without her partner, best friend and fianc,. Those first months had been pure torture, and more than once she had been ready to quit. If it hadn't been for her passion for journalism and the support of her friends, she wouldn't be working at the Daily Planet anymore. Still, she had gone back to working alone. She didn't have the strength to accept a new partner and team up again. As time went by, though, her work had once again become her sanctuary. Most of all, because it kept her busy. That was exactly what she needed and desperately sought. Distraction from the tearing pain in her heart and soul. Only once in a while, she allowed herself to mourn her lost love.


Present Lois' Apartment

"And I wanna meet Mickey Mouse and Goofy and Donald Duck, and I wanna go on the roller coasters over and over again and. Mommy, when can we go to Disneyworld?" Connor begged.

It was almost 9 o'clock when they finally got home from dinner. They walked up the stairs, talking about Disneyworld. Lois laughed at her son's redundant persistence. Although he was a spitting image of Clark, he had inherited his mother's fiery temper and obstinacy, and got into trouble very easily.

She let go of his hand and searched her purse for her house keys. Preoccupied with the search for her keys, she didn't see the large figure standing in the hallway, and bumped into him. "Sorry", she murmured softly without even looking up. Then she was struck by a weird but eerily familiar feeling, which started to crawl up her spine. Finally, she lifted her head. At a total loss for words, she gasped "Clark!" and dropped her keys and purse. She stared, stunned, into those ever so familiar features of this man standing right in front of her.

Connor looked at his mother in confusion, picked up the keys and unlocked the door. "Mommy, who is this?" he asked while he pulled at her coat to get her attention.

"Honey, go brush your teeth and put your pajamas on, and I'll talk to. um. my friend here."

"But, *Mom*!" he protested. He was curious about that man who was obviously the reason for his mother's odd behavior. Somehow, the man seemed familiar, but he couldn't figure out why.

"Go; I'll be right up to say 'good night'," she mumbled distractedly.

"Okay." Connor sighed, rolled his eyes and headed towards the bathroom. "But you have to read a long story tonight. You promised!" he muttered, but didn't wait for an answer before he kicked the door shut behind him.

Lois' eyes had never left Clark's since they had entered her apartment. Her sight had turned fuzzy, and she had a rustling sound in her ears. The room seemed to be spinning around her, and it made her almost nauseous. Her mind was absolutely blank. Finally letting out a deep breath, she embraced him tightly in an urgent need to feel him. Her heart was racing and her legs had turned to jelly. She was barely able to stand. Being in his arms again triggered an outpouring of so many emotions that had been locked up safely for so long.

Time stood still for the moment, and neither spoke a word; they just enjoyed the tight embrace and made sure the other was real and not just an illusion.

Clark could feel her body trembling while she pressed herself against him. After a few short moments, he felt her disengage from the embrace and he reluctantly let go of her. "God, Lois." he breathed. Even though his voice was about to break, he managed to continue. "I missed you so much."

She was still too startled to be able to form whole and coherent sentences. "I. I don't know what to say. I mean you. you were gone for so long. and. um." she broke off and twisted her hands nervously. She had averted her gaze from Clark and was now focusing on her hands. She didn't know what to say. His sudden reappearance had caught her completely unprepared and she wasn't sure how she felt about it. She felt guilty about her mixed feelings. After all, she was supposed to be overjoyed by Clark's return, wasn't she? "I've got to check on Connor and make sure he's getting ready for bed. Would you excuse me for a sec?" she mumbled and restored eye contact for a split second before she escaped to Connor's room.

Clark, meanwhile, tried to gather his jumbled thoughts to put the pieces together. He looked at the pictures hanging on the wall of her living room. A wall of memories. Some were of his or her parents. There was one of her sitting in a hospital bed and holding a baby. The rest were pictures of that little boy at different ages. The apparently most recent one was a picture of a birthday party. The boy was about to blow out a candle on his birthday cake. The candle was shaped like a four, so it must have been his fourth birthday. She had a child, and he was four years old. Was it possible that the little boy with those expressive brown eyes and the short dark hair was his son?

They'd made love for the first time the night before he left. He had felt incredibly guilty about leaving her after their night of passion. It had felt like abandonment and had made it a lot harder to actually leave his home planet. Still, he had never regretted it and had cherished those memories ever since. In fact, they had kept him alive and sane in the commotions of war.

Was it possible that this little boy was the result of that night?

He had hoped she'd be able to move on without him. For her sake. He loved her so much, he wanted her to be happy. After all, he had been gone for a long time and neither had known if he was going to return. Still, it surprised him how well she seemed to be doing. There had also always been this little selfish part of him that wanted her to think of him and to wait for him. On the surface, she appeared to be happy. But he hadn't had a chance to find out if that was also true for her soul. Still, she seemed to have moved on with her life; she hadn't even been able to speak to him, let alone to look him in the eyes.


"He is my Daddy, right?" Connor asked after Lois had finished reading his bedtime story.

She had told him so much about Clark and had shown him countless pictures. Connor had to grow up without a father, but she had wanted him to know as much as possible about his dad. "Yes, sweetheart, he is," she finally answered after a short, reflective pause.

"Do you think he will like me? Can I go meet him and play with him now?"

"Oh, I'm sure he will love you but it is very late already and you better go to sleep now. After all, you have school tomorrow. You introduce yourself in the morning, okay?" she said softly while she covered him with his comforter and kissed him on the tip of his nose. "I love you, honey. Sweet dreams."

"I love you, too, Mom," he answered, and curled up in his bed, hugging his favorite stuffed animal.

Lois kissed him good night. Then she turned on his nightlight and was about to leave the room. Connor stopped her by asking, "Mommy?"

She stopped in the doorframe and turned around. "Yeah?"

"Will he stay with us or is he gonna leave again?"

"I don't know, honey."

"I want him to stay."

"I know, honey. Good night. Go to sleep now, it's late."

"Okay, Mom," he said quietly and added, "can you please make him stay?"

She looked at him thoughtfully and shrugged. There was nothing she could do. She had no control over Clark and his plans for the future. She wasn't even sure if his plans actually involved her and Connor. The last thing she wanted to do was to give her son false hope and see him disappointed afterwards. He was still so young and innocent; she would never ever let him get hurt. Therefore, instead of answering she blew him a kiss and eventually left the room. It always broke her heart when she once again realized how much Connor missed his dad. Even though he'd never met him.


Lois took a few deep breaths in an effort to pull herself together. She had to face him. Her knees were still shaking and her mind was racing, trying to overcome the confusion that had taken her over and didn't allow her a single clear thought since the second he had reentered her life. This was the moment she had dreamed of since that awful morning five years ago when Clark had left Earth, possibly forever. He had promised to come back, and he had kept this promise, but finally seeing him again felt different than she had expected.

Clark was still standing in her living room, staring at the pictures on the wall. He hadn't moved an inch since she had left him. Lois watched him for a few seconds; he hadn't noticed her presence yet. He looked so exhausted. And lost. As if he didn't even know what he was doing here. At last she approached him, took his hand in hers and started talking, words jumbling together.

As if she could read his mind and the single, burning question occupying it, she said, "His name is Connor. Connor Joshua Kent."

"Connor Joshua?" Clark repeated and listened to the sound of his son's name.

"I've always liked those names, and it's."

".my initials," Clark finished for her.

"Yeah, I just couldn't bear to give him your full name, so I figured your initials would be fitting. Anyway, he turned four about five months ago. He is so amazing. Well, I guess all mothers say that about their children, but Connor is very special. You know, he can even write his name already. He started pre- school last year, and he is one of the best in his class, and."

He let out a sigh of relief as he realized that she still had that habit of babbling when she was nervous or distressed. It gave him a warm, comforting, familiar feeling. He turned towards her and looked her deep in the eyes, still clutching her hand.

"Please tell me about him. Everything," he pleaded. "I just have to know. What did I miss?"

"Uh, that could take a while. You're talking to a mother who is awfully proud of her boy," she answered, and grinned at him.

The unbearable tension was finally easing. For the moment, it seemed like he had never been gone at all, as if nothing had changed in the last five years. They were back to the friendly bantering which had once characterized their relationship. In reality, though, they both knew that everything had changed.

Clark smiled back at her, and their gazes locked for several moments. Emotions almost overwhelmed them. That spark between them was still there.

"I have time." He had as much time as they needed. He was with Lois again; he was finally home. He was going to listen to Lois' narratives forever if that was what it took to make her happy again. "So how about we start right from the beginning?" he suggested, trying desperately to prevent getting too close. He had the feeling that that would be too much for her at this point. "I'm so sorry, Lois. I shouldn't have left you alone."

"Clark, don't beat yourself up about this. We agreed that going with Zara was the right thing for you to do at that time. Nobody knew what was gonna happen," she tried to reassure him, but Clark didn't listen.

"No, no, it's just." he shook his head in misery. "God, Lois, I can't say how sorry I am. I can't believe. You must have been shocked. I mean, when you found you were pregnant on top of." he paused again, closed his eyes, swallowed hard, opened them again and sighed, ".everything else." His emotions once again threatened to overtake him and kept him from speaking. He felt horrible about not being there for Lois and Connor. He had missed so many years of his son's life; he would never be able to forgive himself for that. As soon as he found his voice again, he continued. "I am so sorry I couldn't be there for you. If there was anything I could do to make it all better I would, you know I would."

The memories of that time flashed back into her mind. She didn't like to think back, the memories hurt too much. It had been a very difficult time for her. She'd had to deal with feelings of abandonment and despair, not knowing if she was going to see her baby's father ever again. Not really knowing where he was and if he was all right. The pregnancy had been a shock. No kidding. But, after all, that little person growing inside her was the reason she had not given up on living her life, even though it had become awfully empty without Clark in it. The baby had given her strength and motivation to move on.


Five years ago Lois' Apartment

"All right, Lois, I've been watching you burying yourself in your grief and in your work and neglecting yourself for the last couple of weeks. This has to stop. You've got to take care of yourself. Look at you! You're a mess!" Lucy exclaimed.

"Thanks," Lois answered sarcastically and folded her arms in front of her to adopt a defensive posture. There was no way she could deal with this now. She wasn't feeling well and just wanted to lie down to get some sleep.

"Listen, I know how much you loved Clark, and how much you've lost." Lucy grabbed Lois' arm and forced her sister to look into her eyes. "He's gone, and you just can't keep sitting here, drowning in self-pity, waiting for him. Who knows, maybe he's not coming back. It's already been three months since you last heard from him. Don't you think he would do everything to come back to you *if* he was still alive?"

Lucy still didn't know where Clark was. Lois had been ready to tell her younger sister several times but had always changed her mind at the last second. She hadn't told anyone. She needed to keep the secret for him so they could have a normal life when he came back. Telling anyone was a decision she and Clark had to make together. However, she felt very guilty about not telling Lucy. After all, her sister had been there for her, she had moved back to Metropolis when it had become clear that Clark wouldn't come home. Lucy had been making plans for moving back to Metropolis after having finished school anyway. But she hadn't planned on coming back so soon.

Lucy knew that there was something about Clark that Lois wasn't telling her. She didn't buy the story of Clark having disappeared without a trace while on assignment. On the other hand, she knew Clark wouldn't leave Lois without a really good reason. She was curious about what might have happened to him. Still, she had decided to leave that issue at rest until Lois was ready to talk.

Lois refused to listen to anything her younger sister said, even if she was making sense. Lois spun on her heel and left the room in frustration. How should she explain that Clark couldn't just come back? As long as there was still that terrible civil war going on on New Krypton, he had to stay there and act as the New Kryptonian's leader.

The reason he had left her in the first place.

Lucy followed her. "Lois, I didn't mean to hurt you, but you can't go on like this. This is just self-destructive."

"I know that, too!" The tears started to overtake her again. She hated those emotional outbursts, but they had become quite common for her since Clark had left. It upset her that she didn't have her feelings under control anymore. This wasn't characteristic for her; she'd never been a person who let her emotions loose. "Don't you see, Lucy? I can't just make my heart stop hurting. I can't stop needing him."

Lucy dipped her head slightly and looked at her sister skeptically. Lois' behavior was so strange. She'd never seen her sister in such an irrational state. "You're not pregnant, are you?"

"*WHAT*!!? Why. why would you ask me that?" Lois was shocked.

"Are you?"

"*NO*, I AM *NOT*! How would you ever think that?" She tried to hide the shaky undertone in her voice. In fact, she had had a sneaking suspicion that she might be pregnant for a while now, but always had repressed the thought instantly. She couldn't deal with it. Not now; she wasn't ready. So far, her experiences with babies and children in general had been less than pleasant. She wasn't even sure if she wanted kids at all. She just couldn't imagine being a mother. Less than ever without Clark.


Immediately after Lucy had left, Lois had gone directly to the drugstore to buy a home pregnancy test. She desperately wanted to prove her sister's and her own suspicions wrong. Lucy was her little sister, for heaven's sake; she couldn't be right about this. The test was going to be *so* negative, if she had to make it negative herself.

Now she sat in the bathroom on the edge of the tub and stared bewildered at the test strip. She was shaking violently and had trouble holding the test strip in her hand. Tears streamed slowly down her face. A clear blue line. Positive. She was pregnant. Her world had just crashed to pieces before her.

It was official. She was pregnant. She took the box again and checked it for product information. Those home pregnancy tests weren't a 100% accurate, were they? The box said 99% accuracy, so there was a one percent chance that the test was actually wrong. She sighed and shook her head in resignation. If she thought about it, it all made sense. She hadn't had a period in the three months since Clark had gone, and she had been feeling extremely under the weather lately. There was just no way she could deny it any more.

She quickly dialed her sister's phone number with shaking hands. "Lucy, would you please come over?"

After she hung up the phone she couldn't hold back her tears anymore and started to cry.

Ten minutes later, Lucy unlocked the front door and found her sister sitting on the bathroom floor, shaken by heavy sobs. She still held the cordless phone in one of her hands. Lucy's gaze fell on the test strip lying next to her big sister. Lois must have dropped it when she had seen the result.


Present Lois' Apartment

They had moved to sit on the couch. She had pulled her hand away from his soft grip while she was talking.

"And during that time you decided to have the baby?" Clark asked. She hadn't exactly mentioned that not having the baby had ever been an option. But he could hear the sorrow in her voice while she was talking and realized that having the baby or not had been a difficult decision for her. Imagining the pain she must have gone through, he almost forgot the hell he had experienced on the battlefields of New Krypton. He quickly pushed those painful thoughts away. He didn't want to think about that now. He needed to hear about everything Lois and his son had gone through while he was gone. There would be plenty of time to share his experiences with her. He was back, and he would never leave her again.

If she took him back.

"Well, yeah, kind of. I just realized that burying myself in self-pity and grief wouldn't change anything. But it still took me a long time to accept the fact that I was going to have a baby, and even longer to tell everyone."


Five years ago Daily Planet, Newsroom

After everyone had left the Planet after a long day at work, Lois took a box and started to clean out Clark's desk. Clark had been gone for almost four months. They had been short-staffed since then, so Perry had hired a new reporter. This new guy was going to start working for the Planet next week and was going to need Clark's old desk.

It was after 10 pm. She had waited for everyone to leave before she gathered all her remaining strength to force herself to do the inevitable. She had been putting it off for almost two weeks. Once, Jimmy had started to clean out Clark's desk, but Lois had become furious and hadn't stopped yelling at him until he backed off.

She also needed this time for herself, without being disturbed, to say goodbye to Clark, to let him go. In her heart, she was still holding on to him, hoping for his return. She would wait for him forever, but also needed closure to be strong for their unborn child.

She reluctantly placed his nameplate and the picture frame with Clark's parents in the box. She held the picture with the two of them, her and him, looking happy, so happy, for a while and looked at it. They were both laughing, obviously very happy and very in love. Why was it already over? It was too soon. It hadn't even started yet. Not really. In the course of hours her life had fallen apart, and she had no idea how to put the pieces back together. How could she move on?

Clark had been her life, her heart and her soul. A new wave of sadness and desperation started to overwhelm her and she tried to choke back the tears.

He had been gone for three months, two weeks, six days and a little bit more than ten hours. She was still counting the hours. Every jingle announcing the arrival of the elevator still made her turn her head immediately, expecting to see Clark enter the newsroom. So far, she'd been disappointed every single time. But she would never abandon hope. As long as her heart kept beating, she'd wait for him. And one day, he would be back. He just had to be.

For everyone else, Clark Kent had been on an undercover assignment to find out if the organized crime in Metropolis was taking advantage of Superman's departure from Earth, and he'd never returned. He was reported missing, but after almost four months everyone started to believe that he had to be dead and would never come home. No one dared say it in front of Lois.

Perry was still in his office, watching Lois put Clark's belongings in a box. Once in a while, she angrily wiped the tears away which silently but unstoppably ran down her cheeks. He decided to walk over to her to offer some comfort. When he reached her, he put his hand on her shoulder in a fatherly gesture.

"I can't do this, Perry. It's like giving him up. He's only been gone for four months." Lois took a shaky breath and sat down on the edge of Clark's desk.

"Lois, you don't have to do this now. I know it is not easy. You can wait a couple of days. Or maybe you want someone else to do it." Perry said softly, and patted her shoulder.

"I couldn't even bury him. So how am I supposed to move on if I don't even get to say goodbye to him?" she choked, and covered her face with her hands. Perry stood next to her, unable to say anything. There was nothing to say that could relieve her pain. He just took her in his arms and held her shivering body. Not so long ago, she would never have allowed herself to show her vulnerability in public. She always had been determined to deal with her problems by herself. Then Clark came along. He taught her how to open her heart. Now she was thankful for finally being able to receive and appreciate comfort, and leaned into Perry's embrace.

"Do you want to have some coffee or. maybe something to eat and talk about this?"

She lightly nodded. Perry still didn't know about her pregnancy, and she was beginning to show, especially since she had lost so much weight during the last few weeks. She had found out about the pregnancy three weeks before and hadn't told anyone yet, except Lucy. It was as if it was less real if no one knew.


Holding a cup of decaf in her hands, she sat across from Perry at the table in the conference room. They sat in the darkness in a comfortable silence and sipped their coffee.

Finally she whispered, "I'm pregnant," almost inaudibly.

Perry looked up with a questioning expression on his face. He wasn't sure he'd heard her correctly. This was the last thing he'd expected. Actually, he was quite shocked. Lois had blurted out the news so unexpectedly. He searched his mind for comforting words. "Does Clark know?"

"No," she shook her head. "He doesn't know. And I'm already four months along," she said a little louder than her confession before.

"Honey, you know we're always there for you, no matter what?"

"Yeah, I know," she sniffled. "Thanks, Perry."

"So, what are you gonna do now?"

"Have Clark's baby, I guess."


Present Lois' Apartment

"We talked for hours that night, and I finally started feeling a little better about the whole situation. Knowing that Perry and all my friends would be there for me made it more bearable. The next morning, I got on a plane to Kansas and told your parents. You can imagine how thrilled they were. They'd lost a son, but they were gaining a grandchild. It almost made it easier for them."

Silence filled the air between them.

Eventually, Lois pulled away and got up. "Would you like some coffee, Clark?" She couldn't stand the building tension between them anymore, and needed to back off for a few minutes. This was so different than her dreams about his return. She still loved Clark, but something had changed. She didn't know if it was just her or just him or if it was a combination of both. Maybe time had separated them. Five years was, after all, a very long time.

Without waiting for an answer, Lois headed towards the kitchen. Ignoring Clark, who was still sitting on the couch and watching her, she opened drawers and cabinets in search of some chocolate to make her feel better. Chocolate always helped in hopeless situations like this.

"Connor must have taken my last chocolate bar. I told him to keep his hands off my chocolate. Boy, he is gonna be in trouble tomorrow," she muttered quietly.

As a last resort, she opened the freezer and found a half-empty container of ice cream. It wasn't chocolate, but cookie dough was almost as good. Relieved, she took a spoon out of the dishwasher and leaned against the counter across from the fridge. Facing away from Clark, she began eating ice cream right from the container. Savoring the rich, soothing, cooling taste of the ice cream, she closed her eyes and took several deep breaths. Her thoughts were still swirling in her head and obviously didn't intend to settle down any time soon.

"How are my parents? Do you still talk to them?" Clark asked curiously when he entered the kitchen, and leaned against the counter next to her. He had realized her need for distance and wanted to give her that by lightening the mood with this more casual question. At least he hoped this would be a casual question.

She jumped when she heard his voice, and immediately tensed up again. She had finally reached a certain stage of relaxation, and hadn't heard him approaching. Couldn't he leave her alone for just one minute to give her a chance to regain her composure and think about what she wanted?

"Yes, of course. Connor is their grandchild, and you know I'm closer to them than to my own parents. They just love to spoil Connor rotten. I spend a lot of time in Smallville. And they come to Metropolis a lot. When life gets too tough here, when I just can't bear it anymore, I visit them for a couple of days to. well, you know, recharge my batteries. Connor really likes to help out on the farm or go fishing with your Dad. Last summer he even spent two weeks with your parents all by himself. I missed him terribly, but he was so proud he managed without me." Lois smiled as her mind slipped to the memories of the quiet and comforting hours she had spent with Martha and Jonathan in Kansas.


Christmas, four and a half years ago Smallville, Kansas

Lois wasn't sure if it was such a good idea to agree to Martha and Jonathan's suggestion to spend Christmas with them in Smallville. She'd been there a few times since Clark had left, but it was different now. She had planned to lock herself up somewhere to survive the holidays somehow. Perry had invited her to spend the holidays with him and his loved ones, but she couldn't stand the thought of celebrating Christmas when there was nothing she could celebrate. Martha, at least, had promised her a quiet Christmas dinner and holiday celebration without much excitement. Compared to Perry's or her mother's invitation, it definitely seemed like the best option.

Jonathan had picked her up from the airport in Wichita the day before Christmas Eve, and Martha had welcomed her at the farm with tea and a freshly baked apple pie. She was six months pregnant, and Martha and Jonathan were both excited about her swollen belly and the fact that they could actually feel their grandchild kicking. Last time she had been there, she hadn't been showing yet. Now she knew she was having a little boy and couldn't wait to share the news with the new grandparents-to-be.

Lois had just found out the baby was a boy at her last doctor's appointment. Initially, she had been reluctant to go to a normal doctor. She'd been worried the doctor would be able to see that the baby was half-Kryptonian. The many risks of pregnancy and all her other worries about Clark had led her to decide that her life and her baby's life were worth the risk of the doctor discovering something unusual. So far, though, her pregnancy was progressing normally.

Christmas Eve was spent in the quiet comfort of the farmhouse. Just her, Martha and Jonathan. They had enjoyed Martha's great home cooking. After dinner, they sat in the living room, next to the fireplace, and talked about Lois' latest stories for the Planet, her life in Metropolis and Martha's newest works of art.

After a while, Martha quietly got up and went upstairs. A minute later, she returned with a gift box and handed it to Lois.

"I know, we had said no presents, but I wanted to give this to you anyway. So I figured why not for Christmas?" she said, and handed the present to Lois.

Lois unwrapped it, opened the box, put the sheets of wrapping paper aside and discovered a dark blue baby blanket. A look of surprise washed over her face when she realized what she was holding in her hand.

"The baby blanket Clark was wrapped in when you found him." she whispered and took it out of the gift box. "Oh Martha, this is too much. I can't take this. This blanket means so much to you."

"You can, Lois. I want you to have it for our grandson. After all, even if. when," she corrected herself quickly, "Clark returns, he is gonna be too big to be wrapped in that blanket," Martha answered with an easy smile.

"Thank you so much. I really appreciate this and I will take good care of it," she promised with tears in her eyes while she gave Martha a hug.

Lois had decided to stay until New Years before she would return to Metropolis. She spent the days relaxing in front of the fireplace listening to the crackling fire or standing at the window watching the snow fall silently. She really liked the calmness of the cold winter days in Kansas, and finally found the peace she had been seeking for so long. Sometimes she sat in the rocking chair, gently rocking back and forth, both hands placed on her swollen abdomen. She could feel the baby move inside her and enjoyed the private moments with her yet unborn son.

There were endless hours of spilling her soul to Martha about Clark, the baby and everything else that bothered her. They often thought back to the happy days when Clark had been still with them, and the memories became less and less painful. At least as long as she was there. She could feel his spirit still present in this place where he had grown up, and that comforted her. The pain would become stronger back in Metropolis when everything would remind her that Clark was not there.


Present Lois' Apartment

Clark desperately wanted to take her in his arms and hold her close. He wanted to make the pain in her heart and soul disappear. But he also realized that she felt more and more uncomfortable in his presence. They had been talking for hours already. It was past midnight now. She repeatedly got up from the couch and paced up and down the living room while she spoke. She didn't even look at him anymore and tensed immediately when he caught her gaze, even for a second. She was lost completely in those ever so painful memories.

"Lois, do you want to take a break? You don't need to tell me everything right now. Maybe you should go to bed and we carry on with this tomorrow," he suggested.

"Let me just get another cup of coffee," Lois answered distractedly and walked away from him. She wanted to get it all out as soon as possible. It hurt so much to dig out those memories, but Clark deserved to know. True, he had left her, but it had been a decision they had made together.

Where was this going? What did he expect from her? At the same time, she desperately fought the urge to throw herself in Clark's arms and cling to him tightly to reassure herself he was really there. Instead, she kept running away. It was much safer to run away. She knew it couldn't be that easy to get him back just like that. The closeness to him made her lose her sanity, and for the moment, she couldn't handle it anymore. She had buried her hope for a future with him not so long ago and now he turned up again so suddenly and crushed the peace she had finally found without him. Even though it was just an imaginary peace, she had forced herself to believe. If she was honest with herself, she knew deep inside her that she would never be able to find her peace of mind without him.

"Are you all right, Lois?" Clark asked, concerned, when she returned from the kitchen without a cup of coffee in her hands.

"Yeah, I'm fine," she answered coolly and sat down on the couch across from him to put some space between them and to continue her story.


Four and a half years ago Daily Planet, Newsroom

Lois and Jimmy were working on a story about gun smuggling. Every once in while, Lois got up and paced around the newsroom. Perry watched her from his office and finally decided to ask her what was going on.

"Lois, Jimmy! How's it going with your story? Makin' any progress?" he bellowed across the newsroom.

"Uh, not exactly. Those people just seem too good to be true. But I'll find out what they're hiding and where they're hiding it, that's for sure. Wouldn't be the first time!" she answered and took a sharp breath and squeezed her eyes shut.

"Are you okay, Lois?" he asked and eyed her suspiciously and successfully stopped her pacing.

"Yeah, I'm fine."

"Are you sure? Because to me it looks like you're in labor."

"No, it's just my back. It's killing me. Boy, I could really use a good back rub. Oh and by the way, you guys know the baby's not due for another three weeks," she answered reassuringly, and exhaled slowly.

"Well, honey, I've been watching you all morning and it looks like you might be having contractions."

"That's ridiculous. Don't worry about me, Chief, I'm just fine. Really. It's way too early for. Oh my God!" she cried out.

"What? What's wrong?" Perry and Jimmy called out simultaneously.

"Um, my water just broke. I guess I could be a little more in labor than I thought," Lois answered, voice slightly panicky, while she could feel the amniotic fluid run down her legs.

"Uh oh!" was the only thing either Jimmy or Perry managed to say.

"Ouch, that really hurts!" she cried. She leaned on her desk and took deep cleansing breaths when another contraction hit.

Perry came back to his senses and realized that Lois' labor had already progressed farther than anyone had realized. He'd been watching her for a while now, and he could tell from her behavior that the contractions were coming rapidly, and she probably needed to get to the hospital quickly.

"All right, honey, since when have you been having contractions?"

"The *backache* started some time late last night," she answered, and rolled her eyes.

"Oh my. We'd better get you to the hospital as soon as possible. Looks like that baby is going to be here soon. Can you walk?"

"Yeah, I think so. Jimmy, would you call my mother and my sister and tell them to come to the East Side General. OOOHH!" she moaned again and reached out for Perry's hand to squeeze.


A couple of hours later, Lois lay in her hospital bed and struggled to recover from the anaesthetic from her c-section. Her baby had struggled to come into the world. The umbilical cord had wrapped around his neck, strangling him, making his heart rate drop with each contraction. The doctors had decided to perform an emergency c-section when the baby's heart rate had suddenly dropped alarmingly low.

She tried to move, but stopped immediately when shots of pain raged through her body. Then she slowly opened her eyes and saw her mother in a chair next to her bed, a look of concern on the older woman's face.

"Lois, how are you feeling, darling?" she asked softly.

"Horrible. Like I was run over by a Mack truck!" Lois moaned dryly and drifted back to sleep.

Another half an hour later, she managed to fight the remains of the anaesthetic and the pain medication completely, and woke up. Her mother was still in the room. This time, she was sitting in a chair by the window, quietly talking and humming lullabies to a tiny bundle in her arms. When she realized that Lois was awake, she got up and walked over to the bed.

"Is he alright? Let me see him," she whispered, her voice still raspy, and reached for her baby.

"Yeah, he is fine. The doctors were just in time. They did some tests, and they say not to worry. He's perfect," Ellen reassured her and handed her the baby.

At the sight of her new baby boy, tears filled her eyes. She hadn't even heard her baby's first cry. He hadn't been breathing, so they had taken him away very quickly. Now she finally held her son in her arms and was overcome by a happiness she had never felt before. Only Clark's presence could make this moment more perfect. When she looked at the baby's tiny face she recognized Clark's features, which had already started to fade away in her mind.

"Hey there, buddy, how are you doing? You know what, you look just like your daddy," she whispered, and forgot everything around her.

"So, what's his name?" Ellen asked impatiently, and made Lois realize her presence once again. "You made such a big secret of it. Now that he's born, we have to call him something," she persisted.

Lois hadn't told anyone the baby's name because she wasn't sure herself. Of course, it would be a nice gesture to name him after his father, but Lois felt that that would make her feel like she had given up on Clark, like she was naming her son in honor of his dead father.

Meanwhile, Martha, Jonathan, Lucy, Perry and Jimmy had also entered her room with blue "It's a boy" balloons, presents and flowers. Now they stood around her bed and looked expectantly at her to reveal the baby's name.

She looked at the baby one more time, took a deep breath and announced, "Connor. His name is Connor. Connor Joshua Kent."


Present Lois' Apartment

Tension filled the room. Even though they both tried desperately to keep their composure, unexpressed emotions stirred beneath the surface of their artificially casual conversation and threatened to break free any second.

Clark watched Lois get up and rearrange the pile of magazines on the coffee table and the pillows on the couch before she sat down again and folded her hands in her lap. He gasped slightly; she was still so beautiful. It took his breath away. His gaze fell on her left hand, and before he could reconsider, he stated matter- of- factly, "You don't wear the engagement ring anymore."

Lois looked up and met his gaze, but broke the eye contact immediately. What she had to tell him now would hurt him just as much as it hurt her.

"I took it off when Connor turned four, a while ago. I finally decided to stop mourning for you, to be a well-adjusted mother for our son. Connor deserves a happy childhood with a happy mother."

"I understand, I guess. But. well, it took me by surprise. I didn't expect you would ever take it off. I mean, you promised."

Although he didn't intend to sound reproachful, for her it did sound like an attack, and made her become impatient and slightly annoyed. He had no right to do this. He had been gone for five years! He couldn't expect her not to move on with her life.

"Then tell me, what *did* you expect from me, Clark?" she interrupted him harshly.

He just looked at her, speechless, and took a step back. In his eyes she could see the pain, but she had to get this out. Now. This was too important for both of them.

"You were gone for five years. For five long years! At what point was I allowed to move on with my own life? Six years? Ten years? Never?" she asked, getting louder and becoming furious. How could he simply come back and expect everything to be as he had left it behind? Everything changes in such a long time. So had their relationship. It just wasn't the same anymore. For the moment, she wasn't even sure if she still liked him. She had hidden those feelings for so long they might have vanished.

Or had they?

"I only made it through this hell on New Krypton because I thought about you every hour, every minute, every second. I constantly thought about you. How our life together would be and how happy we were going to be. The faith that you were waiting for me on Earth kept me going and gave me the power to combat Lord Nor and defend those Kryptonian people. Then I come back and see that you don't need me, and even worse, obviously don't even want me anymore. So what am *I* supposed to do?"

His disappointment was apparent in his voice and even though he tried to remain calm and patient, his anger surfaced. How could she do this to him? He had done everything to come back to her and she didn't want him.

Lois stared at him with a serious expression and no tears in her eyes.

"Clark, I can't deal with all this right now. You show up and want everything back you left behind, but I. I can't give you that. Nobody can give you that. It's different now. *I'm* different."

Clark stared back at her. Speechless. His hopes and his future were crumbling around him and he couldn't do anything to stop it.

In her dark brown eyes he could read determination. Determination to keep her heart locked and never let him in again. He had ruined everything the day he had left Earth and her to help the people on New Krypton. The people who were supposed to be like him. The people who had treated him like an outsider while he had saved them and their stupid society. The people who had sent him away right after that civil war was won, because he didn't fit in in the Kryptonian society and they couldn't accept him as a permanent leader. Not that staying had ever been an option. Still, the Kryptonians had been so eager to get rid of him. The day the peace treaty had been settled, they had put him on a space ship and had sent him away without a word of thanks.

"Maybe you'd better leave," Lois whispered after a while of absolute silence.

"Maybe you're right," Clark croaked. He gave her a last sad look, turned around and left.

Lois literally had heard his heart breaking. She leaned her forehead against the door after she closed it behind him. Tears were flowing down her cheeks accompanied by heavy sobs which took over her body and forced her to sink to the floor. She pulled her knees up and rested her head against them while she hugged her legs. A picture of misery. How could she let him leave like that? Sure, she had asked him to go, but the more she thought about it, she hadn't expected him to actually leave. He had even left without any objections.

Yes, it was good to make him leave. It was the right thing to do. Otherwise, something else would have taken him away from her again. Life so far had proven that, and she just wouldn't be able to live through it again.

On the other hand, there was Connor. She had promised him he could meet Clark in the morning. He had been asking for a father almost from the day he could speak. Who was she that she could deprive her son of his father? And who was she that she could deprive Clark of his son? How could she be so selfish and send her son's Daddy away without giving him a chance to at least meet his father and spend some time with him? She owed him that.

And she owed it to her heart. She had waited for Clark for so long. She had to give him a chance to make her happy and let her find her peace of mind again.

She got up from the floor and headed over to the window facing the street. She opened it and climbed out onto the fire escape. She saw him walking down the street. He didn't look back. He seemed beaten and abandoned. It broke her heart. She had done that to him. He had come back in joyous expectation that she would be waiting for him, just like she had promised five years ago. And she had sent him away.

"Clark!" she called through the dark, chilly night.

He kept walking down the road without looking back.

"Clark!" she called again. "Don't go!"

He stopped, slowly turned around and looked up to her.

"Clark, I don't want you to leave. Never. Stay with me and never *ever* leave me again!" She burst into tears and reached out for him.

Within seconds, Clark ran up the stairs and wrapped her in his strong arms. Lois buried her face in his neck and finally relaxed against his chest. She took in his familiar smell and the feel of his well-shaped body pressed against hers. For the first time tonight, she relished being so close to him, felt comforted and began to reestablish her faith in a future with Clark.

"I never gave up on you. Deep in my heart, I still believed you would return. It just got *so* hard to sustain and justify that confidence. I keep the ring under my pillow, so you can be with me every night."

Clark grinned, fumbled around his neck and pulled out the necklace with Lois' wedding ring she had given him the night before he left.

"I never took it off," he confessed while he smiled at her and tightened the embrace.

They held each other close, drawing strength from each other for the long and hard road to rebuilding their relationship that lay ahead of them.

"Mommy!" A sleepy little voice interrupted the intimate moment.

Lois and Clark turned around and saw Connor standing in the middle of the living room, clinging to his battered stuffed rabbit with one hand. With the other hand, he held his pajama pants, which were too big for him and kept slipping off his hips.

Lois freed herself from Clark's tight embrace and knelt down next to Connor. "Sweetheart, go back to bed. It's really late." With a look at the clock on the wall she added, ".uh, way too early to get up."

"I had a bad dream and can't go back to sleep. Can I stay up with you for a while? Please," he begged and looked at her with big brown puppy dog eyes.

"All right, you can sit with us for a while," Lois told him and placed him between her and Clark on the couch. Connor stared at his father with wide eyes and Clark stared back at his son.

"So, you are my Daddy, right?" he asked innocently, yawned and got settled on the couch, leaning against Clark.

"Yes," Clark nodded and smiled at his son. It was amazing how much trust that little boy already had in him, even though he barely knew him. "Do you want to tell me about your dream?"

But Connor was already halfway back to sleep, and didn't answer. He lay curled up between his parents on the couch. His head dropped into Clark's lap. Clark lightly stroked his son's dark hair and looked at the boy's small face. He was stunned by how much his son looked like him.

"He looks a little like me," he stated quietly before he turned to Lois, who also stroked Connor's hair. Their hands met again, so did their gazes.

"Are you kidding me, Clark? Connor looks *exactly* like you! He is the spitting image of you at the same age. You couldn't tell you two apart. It almost killed me to miss you so much while having a smaller version of you, somebody who looked at me with your eyes, right in front of me all the time."

The tension in the room grew. Clark again felt the pain Lois had suffered during his absence. But he also saw a new emotion in her eyes that hadn't been there before. Relief that he was finally back. And faith. Faith in a future *with* him.

"We'd better put him back in his bed. He looks so sweet and peaceful here, but that's a lie. He is a real pain in the neck lying next to you. When he dreams he starts kicking and rolling over. I guess he's kind of a restless sleeper," Lois declared while she looked lovingly at the little sleeping angel, and bent down to pick him up.

"Let me," Clark pleaded, and scooped him up in his arms when Lois didn't show any objections.

He carried the sleeping boy over to his room and put him down on his bed. Lois followed them and sat down on the other side of Connor's bed, gave him another goodnight kiss and pulled the covers over him.

When Lois lifted her head, she realized that Clark was watching her. She bent over to him and looked him straight in the eyes. When their lips drew closer, Connor started to stir in his sleep and interrupted the kiss his parents were about to share.

"Yeah, he learned that from Jimmy, too!" Lois joked in reference to Jimmy's talent for interrupting them as soon as they started kissing. "Jimmy is his role model, and one day Connor wants to be just like him. I guess he is on his way." With a big grin on her face she took Clark's hand, led him back to the living room and snuggled against him on the couch.

Neither of them had realized that it was already past 3 o'clock in the morning. That wasn't important. What *was* important was that they were back together. The details were still unsettled, but their hearts were reunited.


"Tell me more about Connor. How did you manage all by yourself?"

Meanwhile, Lois had lit a candle on the coffee table and they had switched from drinking coffee to drinking red wine. She nestled into Clark's strong arms that embraced her from behind, and sighed happily. It felt so right. This was the place where she belonged. If it was up to her, she wouldn't leave it ever again.

"Oh, you seem to underestimate our friends and family. You can't imagine how crazy they all were — well, still are — about him. Your parents spend a lot of time with him. Then there's Perry, Jimmy, my sister Lucy, oh and — believe it, or not — my parents, and the most important person, Grace. I really had a lot of help, and he was such a good baby. Well, at least until my temper showed up when he turned two," she added sarcastically and rolled her eyes.

"He gave you a hard time?" Clark chuckled.

"Oh yes!" she nodded. "Now I know the expression 'terrible two' definitely doesn't come out of nowhere. Anyway, we get along most of the time, and kids are supposed to argue with their parents, aren't they."


Four years ago Daily Planet, Newsroom

Lois was already an hour and a half late when she stepped into the elevator to ride up to the newsroom. Connor had hardly slept through the night, and she had trouble keeping her eyes open. A cup of real coffee, *with* caffeine, was just the thing she needed now. Thank God she wasn't breastfeeding anymore. Above all, Grace had called in sick this morning, and she couldn't reach her mother to ask her to babysit. Since she had a really important interview with the new state Senator today, she couldn't stay home either, so she'd decided to bring him in to work. At least he would be tired and probably sleeping all day.

Connor was six months old now, and their life had adopted a sense of normality. At least as far as normality was possible for a single mother with a six-month-old infant. Usually she went to work in the morning and left the baby with Grace, the nanny she had hired when she had returned to work after her maternity leave. Then she would come home in the late afternoon or early evening to spend some quality time with Connor. They were an almost happy little family of two.

Slowly that spark in her eyes had returned, and she didn't look as pale and as weary as before. Her heart was healing. At least to a certain stage. Her beautiful little baby boy helped to overcome that feeling of death inside her. He had become her new heart and center of life, and he seemed to be the only one able to cheer her up when she once again fell into one of those deep emotional holes of sadness that kept tracking her since Clark had been gone.

The elevator doors opened and she gathered Connor in his carrier, the diaper bag, her briefcase and her purse, stumbled into the newsroom and bumped right into Perry.

"Lois! You're late. And what the heck are you doing here with the baby? I thought you had a nanny," he greeted her grumpily and picked up the pacifier Connor had dropped again.

"Yes, I know, but Grace called in sick this morning and I couldn't get another babysitter on such short notice. I hope I'll reach my mother later or I'm gonna be in trouble for the interview. I suppose the Senator wouldn't appreciate it if I showed up with a baby. Oh darn it, he spit up on my jacket. When did that happen?"

"All right, honey. You relax and get settled. We will find somebody to take care of him."

"Thanks, Chief!"

"But make sure he doesn't distract my whole newsroom and keep us from work, you hear? This is still a workplace and we have to get a paper out tomorrow!"

"Perry, he is only six months old, he doesn't even crawl yet. So how is he supposed to." she protested but was interrupted by Jimmy who strolled by her desk.

"Good morning, Lois! I finished that research you wanted but if you ask me, there is. Hey, you brought the little one today!" He totally lost track of his thoughts and shifted his attention to Connor. "Hey, CK Junior, how are you today? Your Mommy looks pretty worn down. Did you keep her awake all night again, huh?"

Meanwhile, Perry had joined Jimmy and also leaned over the carrier and baby- talked to Connor. Lois just rolled her eyes as she watched the scene. Men! They just needed a baby around to make them make complete fools of themselves.

Clark would do the same. He would make a terrific dad. He would be totally crazy about his kids and would do everything for them. She missed him so much. It ripped her insides apart that he wasn't there to share those precious moments of holding, feeding or watching their baby sleep with her. Again, those sad thoughts threatened to reoccur, but she shook her head, pushing them away quickly. Fortunately, the phone started ringing and ripped her out of her daydream.

"Lois Lane?" she answered and almost burst out laughing when she watched Perry making funny faces for Connor, who was clearly unimpressed by all those efforts to make him smile.

"Oh, hi, Mother, it's you. You got my message?. Yeah, Grace is sick. No, it's just a cold. She's gonna be fine in couple of days, but she doesn't want Connor to catch it. Speaking of Connor, I need you to babysit him. Today, of course!. What do you mean, you can't?. oh, you got an appointment at the beauty parlor, I see."

Exasperated, she slammed the receiver on the cradle. "Oh this is just great," she muttered, slumped in her chair and agonized about who else she could ask to take care of Connor today.

"Lois! You brought him in today? My gosh, he is gorgeous, isn't he! How come we haven't seen him yet?" annoying Britney and even more annoying Patty from accounting screamed when they walked by and joined Perry and Jimmy who still surrounded Connor, who had fallen asleep in the meantime. "Can I hold him?" Britney asked and started to unbuckle the baby without waiting for an answer.

Finally realizing what Britney was about to do, Lois dropped the file she was holding in her hand and, in an approach of maternal instinct, threw herself in front of Britney to protect her baby.

"Would you leave him alone? He is sleeping, for heaven's sake!" She shot Britney and Patty an angry look and shoved them aside. There was nothing worse than virtual strangers fingering on her precious baby. It surprised her again and again how overprotective she had become since Connor was born. Apparently, even she had some of those so-called mothering genes.

After she had finally shooed everyone away, she turned to her baby and gently stroked his head. "Great, *now* you're sleeping. I'm glad at least you can catch up on sleep to keep me awake tonight again," she muttered but immediately smiled lovingly at him when she watched him yawning and stretching his little arms in his sleep. "Oh well, that gives me a chance to actually get some work done and make Perry happy."


Present Lois' Apartment

"Just another ordinary day in my life as a mom. Against all odds. Might be boring otherwise. Anyway, I ended up taking him to a press conference at city hall and to the interview with the Senator who was actually very excited and concentrated more on him than on my questions. I spent the rest of the day defending him against noisy co-workers who wanted to hold him or, even worse, take him and hand him around."

"You can't resist making him a reporter, can you?" Clark laughed softly.

"Yeah, there's nothing like early childhood education," Lois giggled and turned around in Clark's embrace to face him. She was now lying half way on top of him, tracing invisible patterns on his chest with her finger.

Suddenly they both stopped laughing. Their eyes met and locked. Before they knew what was happening they kissed. Sweet and innocent at first, the kiss quickly became more and more passionate and left them both breathless. It was amazing how familiar the kiss felt, even after all those years.

The kiss ended and they both smiled sheepishly at each other, gasping for air, until Lois put her head down on his chest and closed her eyes. It was almost five o'clock in the morning and she was tired. Clark stroked her head and played with strands of her hair.


"Mmh?" she answered sleepily and lifted her head up to look at him again.

"I was wondering. Um, did Connor develop any superpowers yet?"

"He is starting to develop some powers. But he isn't invulnerable and he can't fly and he doesn't have that enhanced vision of yours, but he is. different, if you know what I'm talking about."

Clark raised an eyebrow and looked questioningly at her. "No, actually, I'm not sure what you mean."

"Well, for example, he is stronger than other kids his age. If he gets hurt, his bumps and bruises heal faster than they should and he hardly ever gets sick."

"How does he deal with it? I remember that I was really scared when my powers started to develop."

"Well, his powers are developing very slowly, he hardly realizes it. And, as I said, it's just little things, nothing too obvious. I probably only recognize them because I kind of know what to expect. Or at least, I have a pretty good idea what he could be like when he gets older. So far, he deals very well with his abilities and understands that he must be careful with them."

"He is pretty special, though, isn't he?"

"Oh, Clark, you have no idea how extraordinary he really is. I don't know where I would be without him."


Five months ago Lois' Apartment

"Lois? We're back!" Jimmy called when he entered Lois' apartment. He had taken Connor to the park for the afternoon to give Lois a chance to prepare Connor's birthday party. He had turned four today and they would have friends and family over to celebrate.

When he didn't hear her answer he started looking for her and finally found her in the bedroom. She stared out of the window clutching a picture to her chest. Stains of tears on her face proved that she had been crying. On her bed lay opened scrapbooks, and a lot of pictures were spread out all over the carpet. Most of them were pictures of Connor, which Lois had taken at every occasion to document her boy's childhood for Clark, just in case he came back.

"Lois, are you okay?" Jimmy asked quietly after he knocked softly on the doorframe.

She didn't answer but turned around slightly and met his look. Now Jimmy could see that she was holding a picture of her and Clark in her hands. The one Clark had had on his desk in the newsroom of the Daily Planet. The one which showed them so happy and so deeply in love.

"Hey, what's wrong?" Jimmy asked sympathetically.

"I don't know. It's just. I wanted to get a new roll of film for my camera and somehow. um. somehow I ended up going through all those pictures again and then I. I." Lois choked out before her tears once again overwhelmed her.

She didn't finish what she was about to say and, instead, bent down to pick up a pile of pictures from the floor only to throw them scattering against the wall, yelling through shed tears, "*Damn it*! I can't do it anymore!"

Jimmy still leaned in the doorframe and watched her outburst of fury. He had never seen her like this. He had become used to outbursts of sadness but he had never seen her this angry before. Not even as Mad Dog Lane when someone unlucky tried to intervene in one of her stories.

"Lois," he tried to calm her and kneeled on the floor to gather the pictures.

"No! Just leave it!" she yelled. "Why am I doing this, anyway? He is not coming back. Ever."

"Lois," Jimmy tried again, this time a bit louder, trying to get her attention.

As fast as her anger had appeared, it was gone and left her behind all worn out. She finally was able to calm down but her sobs had become heavier again.

"I hate my life… I need him. It hurts too much when I'm not with him. I do my best to cope with being a single mother and having a job and not breaking down because I'm not with him. I'm trying to be a good mother for my son but what's that worth if I can't even give him what he wants and needs most. A father. What can I answer him when he asks for a dad again? God, I miss him so much."

"Lois, you are doing fine. You *are* a good mother. You love your son and give him everything he needs and more. Being a single parent is tough but you are doing a really good job." Jimmy tried to reassure her.

"I love my work and my son more than anything, but it is not enough to fill that gap in my soul. When I was with Clark I felt safe and complete, and without him I feel so lost and empty. Do you know what loneliness is? I do! I am lonely as hell and it kills me."

Jimmy slowly walked towards her and took her hand before he looked her in the eyes and answered. "You are not lonely, Lois. You have us, and we will always be there for you. We are like family."

Lois shook her head and looked away but made up her mind. "You know what, you are right. I have so many good friends. I am not alone. I can't change the fact that it apparently wasn't meant to be. The only thing I can change is my attitude. I won't keep standing here and wait for Clark's return like some silly idiot. It has been almost five years for heaven's sake, and if I am honest with myself I've *got* to realize that it is very unlikely that he will ever return. If he comes back I'll be happy to have him back, but until then I better prepare myself for the possibility that I am going to raise my child without him and move on. This time I will really pull through this. No more going back and forward."

This wasn't her first attempt of letting Clark go. There had been several efforts before. But guilt about losing faith in him and breaking her promise had always begun to eat her up after only a couple of days at the longest.

"I'm so tired of this. You know what, I will take my engagement ring off right here and now."

Her body straightened and her face adopted an expression of determination. She took a deep breath and pulled the sparkling diamond ring which meant so much to her off her finger, kissed it and put it in the top drawer of her dresser. 'Goodbye my love, I know you understand that I have to do this,' she sent up in a silent message to Clark, and shut the drawer.

With the ring she locked her love for Clark away in a safe but very distant place deep in her heart and secured that place with double deadbolts and duct tape to protect herself from being surprisingly overwhelmed by those feelings ever again.

"Lois, I'm proud of you. Now, wipe those tears away and let's have a party. Connor is dying to open his presents." With a reassuring smile and a pat on her shoulder, Jimmy turned around and left Lois' bedroom.

"Mom?" A little face showed up in the door.

"Yes, honey?" she responded and quickly wiped the last tears off her face.

"Are you okay? You look sad," he said and climbed on Lois' lap.

"I'm fine. Just missing your dad."

"Me too." Connor gave her a big hug and a kiss. "But today we're happy because it's my birthday, okay?"

As always, his little arms around her neck made her feel so much better instantly. Connor was her little anchor. He was the one who always cheered her up when her world once again came crashing down around her. She held him tight and whispered in his ear. "You are *so* right, honey!"

A moment later, someone knocked on the front door.

"I get it, I get it, I get it, I get it, I get it!" Connor jumped up, almost bumped his head against Lois's chin and ran through the apartment to open the door.

"Well, I guess that's the party guests!" Lois exclaimed cheerfully and followed her son to welcome their guests.


Present Lois' Apartment

"We had a great party that day. Everyone was there. Even your parents managed to come to Metropolis to be with us."

Clark looked at her and smiled admiringly. He was relieved that Lois didn't just have bad times during his absence but had also some very happy memories she shared with their son.

Smiling back, she said, "Wow, look at that, it is already getting light. Uh, no wonder, it's almost 6 am. Did we really talk all night and didn't even realize what time it was?"

"I guess so. Come on, let's go outside and watch the sunrise," Clark suggested, took Lois' hand and led her towards the window where he helped her to climb out on the fire escape.

Lois and Clark stood on the fire escape and watched the sun rise behind the skyline of Metropolis. The sky was blue, the air was still crisp and the dew was about to settle. It was going to be a beautiful spring day. At that moment, time stood still for the two of them.

Lois leaned back against Clark and rested her head against his chest. Clark enveloped her from behind and rested his hands on her stomach where she grabbed them and interlaced their fingers. Neither of them spoke a word. That morning was just about the two of them. About their love and what was waiting in their future together.

"What's with Superman? Is he back, too?" she finally asked.

"There are more important things than Superman right now. At the moment, I don't have any powers anyway. So I guess Superman will have to wait a while before he makes his reappearance."

"Good," she sighed contentedly and leaned deeper in his embrace.

"What is that supposed to mean?" he asked curiously.

"Well, that means I won't have to share you with anybody for at least the next couple of days, which is good because I don't intend to share you with anyone ever again."