A Gift for Life

By StopQuitDont <stopquitdont@bellsouth.net> and Jenni Debbage <jdse08662@blueyonder.co.uk>

Rated PG-13

Submitted October 2004

Summary: When Clark is diagnosed with terminal cancer, Lois suggests a radical plan to save his life. But can their friendship survive the new challenges?

An introduction for 'A Gift For Life' — also a warning.

A Gift For Life is a 'what if' story that takes place during Season 1 of 'Lois and Clark'. Although we use the background of the show, the plot quickly goes in its own direction.

The premise of this story is a serious and somewhat controversial one. Any reader who has issues with the idea of having a child as a donor to cure a loved one should probably not venture further. However, we have tried to portray this question as sensitively as possible and no character in this story treats the subject lightly.

For those of you who decide you would like to read the story, we hope you agree that we've handled the dilemma as responsibly as possible and that you actually enjoy the journey of Lois and Clark as they find their way through to a happy ending.

The usual disclaimers apply to this story. The main characters do not belong to either of us, but we have borrowed them for a time. We hope you like what we've done with them and we welcome all feedback, though we would ask you to be tactful… neither of us are invulnerable.

SQD & Jenni Debbage


Chapter 1: A Bolt from the Blue

The hum and chatter of the busy newsroom eddied around Clark Kent as he sat alone at his desk. People rushed by seemingly chaotically but always with a particular destination in mind; others talked intently on the phone or typed frantically on their keyboards, stopping only to refer to scrawled notes. And all in the pursuit of the same object — reporting the latest news.

Clark loved his job on the city beat of Metropolis' top newspaper. He loved the excitement of chasing down a lead, the satisfaction of seeing the finished product with his by-line splayed across the front page of the Daily Planet. But today he felt strangely disconnected and all he wanted to do was go home and rest.

He shook his head, trying to rid it of the cobwebs that seemed to be forming. He couldn't figure out what was wrong with him. Usually he didn't feel tired. Yet for the last few days he'd been feeling increasingly exhausted. He'd even slept the previous night all the way through, completely shirking his patrols, which were related to his other job as the city's resident superhero.

He took a deep breath and stood up to go get some coffee. Maybe the caffeine would help. Clark crossed the floor slowly, stopping at the railing by the stairs. He was seeing spots dancing before his eyes and was losing his breath. He clutched the desk closest to him for support.

"Hey, CK, you okay?" Jimmy had noticed his friend's battle to remain upright.

"Yeah. I just need to catch my breath, Jimbo." Even as Clark said this, he noticed a small bruise on the back of *his* hand. He didn't bruise! What was going on here? His mind was whirling and he barely heard Jimmy's next words.

"All right. Just holler if you need anything."

"I will." Clark rubbed his eyes under his glasses and took several more breaths. This wasn't right. There was something wrong with him. He had to get to Star Labs… now.

"Jimmy, could you tell Perry I needed to go home? I just can't seem to stand up any longer."

"Sure, CK. Guess you got that virus going around."

"Seems like it." For some reason he couldn't quite shake the feeling that this was more than a virus. Besides, Superman didn't get viruses.

"Take care and just get some rest." Jimmy advised helpfully but with that certain degree of irreverence that the very young have for illness. Throwing Clark a quick grin, he hurried off in the direction of the Chief's office, his mind already concentrating on the next inconsequential task his boss had in store for him. Jimmy knew he was at the very bottom of the pecking order in the bullpen, but he didn't mind too much. He was part of the team.

"I will, Jimmy," Clark replied to his friend's retreating back, struggling to straighten up and head for the stairwell. It was an effort to get changed into the tight blue suit, the spandex wouldn't give an inch, but he finally managed and flew excruciatingly slowly to the lab across town.


Bernard Klein was what some people would dub a mad scientist. While his skills inside the lab were extraordinary, his social and people skills were seriously lacking. However, he was the only scientist Clark had ever entrusted to care for Superman, and despite Klein's vague exterior, he seemed to treat the hero as a friend.

Dr. Klein reread his notes one more time, coming back to stand over Superman, who was lying on the table in one of the Labs' only exam rooms. The doctor had run countless tests and had kept the superhero in the lab all afternoon and most of the night.

"By the look on your face the news isn't good," Clark said wearily. He had long passed the point of panic and had moved on to resigned calm. By the time he reached Star Labs, several bruises had appeared on his body and he was more tired than he had been initially. In fact, he was more tired than he'd ever been in his life.

Bernard took a deep breath and looked down at the young man. "I don't know quite what to say here."

"Just tell me… please!"

"Superman, you have a condition much like Earth's version of leukemia." The doctor's bald patch caught the sheen of the overhead lighting as he bowed his head, no longer able to look the superhero in the eye.

"What?" Clark sat up like a jack-in-the-box, his shocked mind racing to decipher what he'd just heard. "I don't understand… are you sure?"

"Your body is exhibiting all the signs."

"I have… cancer?" The superhero's voice almost cracked on the word.


"H… How did this happen?"

"I'd have to run more tests to be certain, but I think it may have had something to do with your battle with the Nightfall asteroid last week."

"How do you mean?"

The doctor moved to perch on a stool, apparently feeling that need to sit as well. Klein squared his shoulders and went on. "I can't be definite until the test results come back, but I believe you may have ingested some tiny fragments of the asteroid. By the way it's now affecting you, I'd say the rock may have been from your home planet."

"You think Nightfall was a piece of Krypton?" Superman's eyebrows climbed toward his hairline in a gesture reminiscent of Clark, but somehow his need to keep his two identities apart had suddenly taken a backseat. Besides, the doctor very seldom came in contact with Clark.

"I think so. And when you hit it, that's what caused you to be shot back to Earth."

"But it didn't make me sick the way Kryptonite usually does."

Dr. Klein scratched his head. "That could have been because there were only traces of the substance in it."

"Enough to do some damage," Clark said absently.

"I'm going to keep looking into this. I'll know more in a day or two. In the meantime, you go home and rest. Take a day off, you deserve it."

"Yeah." Clark eased his feet to the floor. "Thank you."

"Superman, I'll do everything I can."

"I know you will."

Clark shook the doctor's hand and made his way out of the building and home to the comfort of his bed. He should feel something… but he didn't. Maybe he was in shock. Yes, that must be it! His brain was numb. Without even bothering to undress he fell onto the mattress and was soon sound asleep.


When Dr Klein was alone, he stared down at the file in his hand in disbelief. He'd just told The Man of Steel that he was seriously ill and the magnitude of the situation was threatening to overwhelm him.

Clinical work was certainly not his specialty; he'd long ago realized that dealing with people was something he wasn't good at. But he'd do anything at all for Superman.

"Cancer," Bernie mumbled absently as he rose from his stool. "Wow."

He tucked the file he held under his arm and slowly made his way out of the office to go home. There was nothing more he could do tonight. Tomorrow he'd be here early, running every possible test he could. If there was a way to help his newest patient, he was determined to find it.

With a final sigh, Bernard Klein killed the lights in his lab and locked up. Sometimes he really didn't like being a doctor.


Clark finally emerged from his sleep around ten the next morning when the insistent ringing of the phone pulled him from his haze.


"Clark? Where are you?" the antsy voice of his partner demanded.

"Not today, Lois. I don't feel like it." Clark was not up to one of Lois Lane's little rants.

"You sound awful."

"I feel awful. Just cover for me, 'kay?"

"I'm coming over." Lois' voice now held a note of concern.

"No, it's okay."

"Clark, you don't even sound like you're able to get out of bed."


"I'll bring aspirin and chicken soup. It always makes me feel better."

"Lois…" His protests were in vain. She was speaking again.

"See ya' in a few."

Anything else he was going to say was cut off by the dial tone because she'd already hung the phone up. He groaned and put the receiver back. Now he'd have to get up and change out of his Suit so Lois wouldn't find him like this. There was no way he could handle a battle with Mad Dog this morning.


Lois used the spare key under a flowerpot to open Clark's door. The apartment was dark and silent and her first instinct to call for her partner died on her lips. Instead, she crept quietly down the few stairs and into the bedroom, where she found the patient. He was sleeping on his stomach, his arms clutching his pillow. It occurred to her that he looked a little different, but she didn't contemplate it too long. Turning purposely on her heel, she took the hot soup into the kitchen to prepare him a bowl.

"Lois?" Clark called out as he wiped his eyes and slowly rolled onto his back to sit up, the sound of someone digging through his kitchen cabinets having awakened him.

"Yeah. Getting you some soup."

"Okay." Clark was too tired to worry about how she'd gotten in. He reached for his glasses and settled against his pillows. A few moments later, Lois came in with a tray.

Lois gasped slightly when she saw him. He was pale and had a few bruises on his arms and hands. Quickly she composed herself. "Clark, what happened? You look like you lost a battle with a wrestler."

He looked down at his arms, his mind racing for an acceptable explanation. "Oh, ah, I fell yesterday. It's okay. It doesn't hurt."

"You sure?"


She doubted that was so and was about to air her opinion, but even she could tell he wasn't in the mood for a debate. "Here." She set the tray somewhat precariously on the bed and handed him two aspirin and a glass of water. "This will help."

Clark thought to protest, but decided it was easier just to agree with her. He took the tablets and drank the water, actually feeling a little better after quenching his thirst.

"Thank you," he told her as she opened his napkin and handed him a spoon.

"Don't mention it. Partners are supposed to help each other out," she reminded him in a friendly manner as she took the empty glass and placed her hand against his forehead. "No fever."

"I just feel really tired."

"Well, eat. It'll help." She moved the tray over to his lap.

Clark offered her a faint smile. "Okay." He slowly began to eat the soup, which, thankfully, was from the deli down the street — he was sure he'd get even sicker had Lois cooked it.

Meanwhile, Lois turned round and started picking up the clothes that lay about his room. She couldn't ever remember a time Clark's place had been this messy. He must really feel awful, she thought as she straightened out the clutter.

"Lois, you don't have to do that."

"I know." She smiled and continued her task. A few minutes later she was done with her chores and Clark was finished with his food. She sat down to look at him. "Better?"

"Yeah. I believe I do feel better."

"Good. There's more in the fridge and the deli is open till midnight." She got up. "I hate to leave, but Perry needs me to cover some press conference downtown."

"Sure. Thanks again."

"No problem. Call if you need anything."

"I will."

"Think you'll make it back to the office tomorrow?"

"I hope so."

She nodded her head and smiled again. "I'll call you later."


Lois took his tray to return it to the kitchen on her way out.

"Put the key back," Clark yelled as she went out.

"I did," she returned just before the door closed.

Clark smiled into the emptiness of his room. He was feeling pleasantly stunned to be the recipient of Lois' concern. It wasn't often that Mad Dog softened enough to show her compassionate side.

"I must be a mess, if Lois noticed," Clark mumbled to himself.

She was easily one of the most complicated people he had ever met. Although he considered her a good friend, he wasn't sure if she was even aware that she could be someone's friend. His partner seldom focused on anything other than the next big story, so to have her rush over here with aspirin and soup meant a lot to him.

Lately it seemed as if his relationship with his partner had started to shift toward something more… more.

That thought brought a frown to Clark's face. If he was seriously ill, he might never get to find out just how close he and Lois could have become. He rolled over and buried his face in his pillow. He didn't want to think of anything right now, not until he knew for certain what he was facing.


Clark was feeling a lot better the next day so he ventured in to work and made it through his day with relative ease. The following day was even better. His energy had returned and the unsightly bruises had faded. In fact, after a few more days of feeling pretty much back to normal, he was beginning to think that Dr Klein's diagnosis might have been wrong.

He was poring through some files when his phone rang. He lifted the receiver as he searched for a paper he needed. "Clark Kent?"

"Mr. Kent, this is Bernard Klein from Star Labs." Clark froze. There was only one reason why the doctor would be calling. "Mr. Kent, I need you to see if you can contact Superman for me."

"Ah, sure. Should I tell him to be in a hurry?"

"Not necessarily, but I do have some news for him that he was waiting for."

"Okay. I'll tell him as soon as I see him."

"Thank you."

"You're welcome." Clark hung up the phone, trying to resist the urge to speed out the building. He couldn't afford for the doctor to suspect anything. Of course, if things became desperate, he may have to tell the man his secret. He hoped it wouldn't come to that.

He breathed a sigh of relief when his hearing picked up a call for Superman. Within seconds he could hear sirens wailing and knew the fire services would probably welcome a little super- powered help. At least there would be something to distract him for a while.


It was almost three hours later before Superman made it to Star Labs. Feeling slightly apprehensive, he entered the lab where the receptionist had told him Dr. Klein was working.

The doctor looked up from behind his desk as the superhero walked in. "Superman, glad to see you got my message."

"Yes. Do you have some news?" Clark asked abruptly, deciding to get right to the point.

"Yes, I do, but why don't you sit down." Klein jumped up and started pacing uncertainly in front of Clark. He knew the news he was about to confirm would be hard to take… even for a super man.

Oh-oh, that didn't sound so good, and Clark didn't like the haunted look on the man's face as he eased to the seat indicated and crossed his arms over his chest.

"Superman," Dr Klein started bravely, holding his patient's stare. "I have run tests for two days straight. I wish I were wrong, but all data points to, for lack of another word, cancer."

Cancer! He had cancer. Superman had cancer.

Clark's whole body tensed and he swallowed hard. He had the frightening impression that his throat was in danger of closing up. For days now he'd refused to believe the possibility, but he could no longer deny the fact that he was very sick. It took him a few minutes before he found the power of speech again.

"It's from kryptonite?"

"Yes, that would be my assessment. Your tissue samples show minute particles of kryptonite."

There was another silence as Clark allowed the information to sink in. It seemed his home planet had never done him any favors. Eventually, he sighed. "Where do we go from here?"

"If you were human, radiation would be my first choice. However, I've decided against that for the moment."

"Okay," Clark nodded grimly. He really knew nothing about this disease or its treatment. What he needed to do was some research, but meanwhile Dr Klein could provide some information. "So why not now?"

"Well, I have come up with some radioactive medication which I'd like to try first. It's similar to iodine treatments. You'll ingest a pill and we pray it'll cleanse your system."

"And if it doesn't?"

Bernie took a deep breath. "Then we'll just have to find an alternate solution. Rest assured, a lot of people survive leukemia."

"I'm not most people."

"I know. I'm hoping your ability to heal should help us here." Actually, Dr Klein was afraid that with this illness the very ability to rapidly reproduce cells might be a problem, but until he knew more, he wasn't about to worry his patient further. "I'll work on this non-stop."

"Okay. So, tell me what to expect." On the surface, Superman was regaining some composure, but inside he felt disorientated, as if this was part of a nightmare.

"Well, you can expect to be tired a lot more than usual and the bruising… but that will pass eventually. When you take the pills, you'll become sick and throw up. It's normal, even for you."

"I won't… lose my hair or anything, will I?" How could he continue to be Superman if Clark and he went bald at the same time? Of course, Superman could always wear a wig, but how would he keep it on when he was flying? Would his aura protect it… would he even have an aura? The hysterical thoughts chased around Clark's brain, but he reined them in. He really had to listen…

"No. The radiation in the pills is minimal. It won't harm anything but what it's designed to target. You take the pills for three days, then come back in ten so we can do a scan to see how effective the treatment was."

"Okay. And if it's not effective?"

"Let's just take one step at the time."

"I can do that." And he could. His regenerative powers had never failed him before. Why should it be different this time?

"Good." The doctor got up and retrieved the pills for Clark. "I wish I'd been wrong."

"I know. But no one could have known this would happen." The superhero fought his devastation as he looked down at the small metal container in his hand… Didn't pills usually come in a bottle? But then these were irradiated. Just holding the medication brought the reality of the diagnosis crashing down on him.

"Take care of yourself."

"I will." Clark rose to his feet. "I'll see you in ten days."

"No. Wait ten after the three. So I'll see you in thirteen days. And, Superman, if you have any friends, now might be a good time to get them onboard. You shouldn't have to face this alone. Oh, and speaking of friends, before you leave there is one more thing…"

"Yes?" Superman turned back to face the doctor and was surprised to see the older man's face turning a distinct shade of red.

"Hmm, these pills, Superman, they're radioactive, you know. Well, that means that you become radioactive to a certain extent, though your super-powered body should shield the people you come in contact with. Still there is a knock on effect… anything that leaves your body…your breath for example. Try not to breathe too closely on anyone…"

"Geesh, that should make rescues more difficult." Clark shoulder's slumped and he sounded more than a little dejected. He supposed he could cut down on his super duties over the next few days, and he could always hold his breath in extreme circumstances, but his ordinary life as Clark might prove harder to handle.

"Just don't get too close to anyone. No kissing any ladies, for example… or even men!" Bernard flushed furiously. "'Course, you might not do that sort of thing at all." He coughed behind his hand while the natty bow-tie he wore bobbed up and down in time with his Adam's apple.

There was another strained silence before Clark managed to ask with a touch of impatience. "Yes? Anything else I should know?" Right now all he wanted was to get home so he could be alone with his thoughts.

Bernie was tongue-tied. This situation was exactly the reason he found consultations so difficult. He just wasn't comfortable explaining personal details… equations and technical data were so much easier, but Superman was still waiting. "And there are other things… your waste products to be exact." The last statement came out in a rush, causing him to blush almost as badly as had the kissing comment.

Had he really said those things to Superman?

"Which means you have to be careful… I mean, I don't know your living arrangements or anything. You probably live alone in a mountain cave or an ice palace in the Arctic, so it shouldn't be a problem, but you have to be careful with… things. But, as I said, the radioactivity in the medication is minimal, and your fast metabolism will process it quicker than with other patients, so it will only be for two or three days."

The statement was garbled, but Clark got the meaning, maybe more from the accompanying embarrassment than from what was actually said. But why should Bernard think he didn't like kissing, or that he lived in such out-of-the-way places? Then again, he'd never sought to alter the strange conceptions that people had about the Man of Steel. In fact, the more bizarre the better… and wasn't this situation the most bizarre yet? He'd just been told he had leukemia!

"Don't worry, Dr Klein, I'll take care I don't contaminate anyone," Clark assured sadly.

"Oh, I'm not worried, I knew you'd understand." Klein looked relieved his patient had caught his drift so quickly. "And good luck with the medication, Superman."

Clark nodded with a half smile and exited the room.


Clark sat at his table as he swallowed the first pill. Now he was alone, he felt strangely detached. Who would have thought? Superman had cancer and might be dying. This was the first time he'd allowed himself to think of that possibility. He'd never been sick and had never worried about anything happening to him before. This just proved even a super man was vulnerable.

He'd thought about calling his parents, but what would he tell them? The truth, his conscience reminded him, but he hated to worry them unduly. Dr. Klein seemed to think these pills would take care of the situation. Why not tell them after?

And what if it didn't? His parents would be upset that he'd kept such a thing from them. That would cause them even more pain. Besides, a hug from his mother would feel really good right about now. He stood up and spun into his suit. If he was going to tell them, he needed to do it in person.


"He thinks this will work?"

Clark looked up at the troubled eyes of his mother. "He does." He reached out and took her hand. "I know you're worried."

"Of course we are, Clark. Our son just told us he has cancer."

"I know, Mom." He lifted her hand to his cheek, forcing himself to remain calm and seeking comfort from her simple touch, but taking special care not to breathe on her skin. "It'll be okay. You'll see."

"I hope so."

"Clark, you have to tell us everything right away from now on. You may need us to come to Metropolis to help you," Jonathan insisted, his mind still trying to process the shocking news.

"I know. I'm sorry. I should have told you guys two days ago."

"It's okay." His mom was fighting back tears as she smiled and patted his hand.

"Mom, please don't do that. If I stop and think about this not working, it'll take over and I won't be able to get anything done."

"Okay." She wiped at her tears and got up from the table. "How about some scones?"

"Absolutely!" Clark smiled as she got the delicious treats. He knew she'd break down later in the comfort of his dad's arms. She was allowed that. He also knew she'd be his rock if she had to be.

He spent the next two hours discussing some of the symptoms of his disease. His parents pointed out that he shouldn't attempt rescues when he was feeling overly tired or sick because he could end up causing more harm than good. Martha was the one to tell him he would have to take the time to cover any bruises so no one would notice he and Superman were suffering the same afflictions. Clark assured his parents he'd be careful and take care of himself.

With a few final promises and some comforting hugs, Clark left for Metropolis in much better spirits than he'd been in earlier. His parents were truly his foundation.


Dr. Klein had been right. The pills made Clark sick. He spent most of the second day in the men's room at the Planet throwing up, then carefully incinerating the proceeds. Even if he wasn't fit enough to be a superhero at present, at least his heat vision was useful. It was a strange feeling to be sick. He wondered how normal people did this. Of course, he could have stayed home, but Clark was determined not to give into the monster that was making his life miserable.

By the third day his energy had returned with a vengeance. He hadn't felt this good in a long time. He was positive the medicine had done its job.

Now, however, he was sitting on his sofa with his head in his hands. Was it only this morning when he'd visited Star Labs again, so full of optimism? Well, his hopes had very soon been dashed. The medicine hadn't done its job and Clark was just as sick as ever. Dr Klein had told him the radiation had had very little effect, then had given him some more pills that were similar to medication any other leukemia patient would take to stay well. There would be good days and bad days, Klein had said.

The doctor had also run more tests and learned the disease had not been the result of his encounter with the Nightfall asteroid. From the way the disease was progressing, Clark had apparently ingested the kryptonite several months ago. This seemed a fairly impossible theory because he hadn't known of the existence of the substance until recently. Bernie argued that it could have been present in minute forms on objects with which he'd been in contact without his knowing it. It could have even been on something that he'd brought from his home planet when he'd come to Earth.

Clark had thought about that. The only things he had from Krypton were his baby blanket and the 'S' shield that was on one of his suits now. Could it be possible it was on one of those? He'd asked Dr Klein about the probability that the substance would have survived frequent washings, only to be given an answer in the affirmative. He'd known for some time that his mother had removed the 'S' from his ship and put it straight into the envelope where it had remained until she had sewn it onto his first suit with so much pride.

On hearing that, Klein had immediately tested the shield and discovered it was permeated with dust from his planet. Whenever he'd worn the suit, he'd unwittingly come in contact with the deadly stuff and the process had begun. Poor Mom would be devastated when she heard about that. On second thought, Clark might keep that little piece of information to himself. He didn't want her hurting anymore than was really necessary; knowing he could be dying would destroy her enough.

Clark's only comfort was being told the illness was progressing slowly and the scientist's promise that he would continue to search for a cure.

"How long have I got?" he'd asked bleakly.

Bernie assured him many patients lived years after their diagnosis, and, with Superman's powers of recuperation, the doctor felt confident Clark would live five years or more. If he responded to the medication, it could even be longer. Although it didn't relieve his mind much, it was something. Clark left the office with four different bottles of pills which he'd have to swallow every day for the rest of what was left of his life.

And his life would change. Dr. Klein said that as the disease progressed, he would start to lose his powers. For his whole life he'd wanted nothing more than to be a normal man. It was ironic that he had to get sick to be one.

A strangled groan almost forced itself past Clark's lips as he considered the future. His first instinct was to fly to the Arctic and scream his anger and frustration into the icy wastes. But fear transcended those emotions and Clark went where he always would when he was lost and alone.

He pushed his misery away and flew to Kansas.


Chapter 2: Double Jeopardy

Clark and his parents had spent another emotional few hours together. Sadly they all knew that there might be many such nights in the future, but they were determined to support each other through the hard times ahead. After their long discussion and more hugs, punctuated with a few tears, Clark had finally come to accept that this was the hand fate had dealt him and he would play it out. While he felt well, he'd work and be Superman. Of course, the day would come when that wouldn't be possible and he'd have to come up with a story to cover his alter ego's disappearance.

As the days eased by, his thoughts began to drift to Lois. He wanted so much to tell her what was going on. He could tell her about his illness, but he wanted her to know everything. At the same time he didn't want her to feel sorry for him. And, of course, there was Lois' infatuation with Superman to consider. If she knew her hero was sick, Clark would be subject to who knew what from her. She'd be constantly hovering over him in an effort to make sure he was taken care of. The trouble was that he was pretty sure that Lois' misery would mainly be for Superman's passing, with Clark just an afterthought, and he wasn't sure he could handle that.

And to make matters worse, she was seeing Lex Luthor. Of all the people in the world for Lois to date, this man wasn't exactly the perfect choice. It hadn't taken Clark long to discover that Luthor was pure evil. The billionaire might be known as one of the city's most generous philanthropists, yet Clark knew he was behind most of the criminal activity in Metropolis. But if he told Lois that, she would never believe him. On the few occasions he'd been brave enough to broach the subject, she'd defended Luthor, demanding proof of why Clark didn't like Lex, which he didn't have, of course. So there was just no other option; Superman would have to up his efforts to expose the man.


The newsroom of the Daily Planet buzzed with the usual workday activity, but Clark was having trouble concentrating this morning. He was exhausted, even after sleeping eight full hours the night before, something he did a lot of these days. It appeared that his illness had certainly caught up with him.

A phone rang shrilly on a nearby desk, causing him to wince. "Would somebody get that thing?" he called testily.

Lois sighed in exasperation as her eyes drifted around to her partner. What was with him these days?

With a huff, she pushed up from her desk and approached Clark. As much as she hated to, she had to ask for his opinion on their current story. They'd had a number of arguments lately and she didn't want to initiate another encounter.

"Clark?" she said as she reached him.

He was holding his head in his hands and didn't look up. "Yeah?" His lack of focus had spiraled into a nauseous headache.

"Could you take a look at this?" She thrust the research file under his nose, but when he didn't move or respond, Lois took it as a sign that he was being difficult. "You don't have to or anything," she snapped angrily.

"Lois, please."

The tone of his voice made her take a closer look at him. He was pale and he had another bruise on his hand, only this time it spread up his wrist and disappeared under his sleeve. She'd seen quite a few of those on Clark lately.

"Are you okay?" Her irritation had been replaced by worry. He might be impossible sometimes, but he was still her partner and friend. If he was ill, she wanted to help.

"No." He shot up from his seat and ran toward the men's room, no longer able to control his retching. Lois watched, then immediately wanted to know what was wrong, so she went after him.

Ernie from classified was leaving the restroom and cocked his head disapprovingly at Lois when she pushed past him.

"What's wrong? Haven't you ever seen a woman in the men's room?" she growled over her shoulder while hurrying to the stall from where she could hear the muffled sounds of Clark's distress. "Clark? Do you need some help?"

"I don't think I can get up," he managed to say in a weak voice after he'd finished heaving the contents of his stomach into the bowl.

Lois heard the latch clink on the stall door and pushed it open. Clark had flushed the toilet and was slumped against the wall shaking almost violently. She gasped. Her first instinct was to phone the paramedics, but she felt he wouldn't thank her for that. So instead, she ran to find Jimmy and a few moments later they had Clark settled on the sofa in Perry's office.

Very carefully, Lois sat down beside him and held a glass of water to his lips, helping him while he took a sip. "Clark, this isn't some virus. What's wrong?" she prodded gently. Lois wasn't often ill, but she was pretty sure that a flu virus didn't cause this kind of violent reaction.

Clark was finally beginning to gather himself back together. He eased into a sitting position and looked up at the faces surrounding him. Perry was hovering like a protective father, with Jimmy standing a little further back, craning over the Chief's shoulder. Lois was balanced on the edge of the couch and he could sense her anxiety, which only made him feel worse. In a moment he was about to upset her again and that was something he didn't want to do.

Clark took another drink of the water and a deep breath. "I, ah, I have… cancer… leukemia to be precise."

You could have heard a pin drop in the room. It didn't even sound like anyone was breathing. Clark didn't have the heart to look at the three stunned faces of his friends, who, he was pretty certain, were staring right back at him, thunderstruck. He had just caused them an enormous amount of pain and he couldn't force himself to look into their eyes and see that yet. Besides, if he kept his eyes closed his head hurt less.

For a few minutes the other two men were as still as statues as they struggled to digest Clark's news, while from close by he heard Lois give an almost inaudible gasp of shock. Perry recovered first, taking it upon himself to steady his staff, these three young people who had become an integral part of the Planet and his life.

"Aw, son, why didn't you tell us? No, scratch that — it's not important." He sat on the other side of Clark. "Are you taking treatments?"

"Medication. It helps some days." Clark opened his eyes experimentally. Thank goodness the room had stopped swaying, but he still felt unable to face the others. Instead, he kept his eyes firmly fixed on the tile floor.

"Well, ah, what about chemo and radiation?" Perry asked in concern.

"We've done the radioactive iodine. It only had a minimal effect. Chemo hasn't been discussed yet. I guess that may be next."

"Damn!" The editor rose and paced across the room. This news had really hit him hard. Clark had come to the Planet full of enthusiasm and ready to make a difference to the world, and in the time he'd been here, the young man had come to mean so much to everyone, including Perry himself. Feeling that the room had suddenly started to close in on him, he spat, "I, ah… I need to go check on the copy." He strode out into the newsroom, afraid to reveal his softer side and fighting to control his emotions, which he knew Clark just couldn't take right now. Seconds later his gruff voice could be heard warning his troops that this wasn't the 'Waukeegan Gazette.'

In the office, Jimmy, finally took a breath. "Ah, man, CK, this blows!" Over the past months, Jimmy had come to regard Clark as the brother he'd never had. CK was never impatient or patronizing, and he always made time to give advice or just listen to an up-and-coming kid reporter. Very few others around here did that and Jimmy was grateful. But now it looked like all that was about to change… well, Jimmy didn't want to think about that. CK would be fine. He had to be.

Clark couldn't help but chuckle. "Yeah, Jimmy, it blows."

"How can you two joke about this?" Lois asked angrily as she stared between Clark and Jimmy in astonishment. "This … this is huge! This isn't a cold we're talking about here. Cancer, Clark!"

"If I don't joke, I may fall apart," Clark told her with a forced smile.

Lois softened at the look of hurt in his eyes, understanding that this was every bit as serious to her partner as it was to her… much more, probably. She reached out and rubbed his back, offering up as much comfort as she could. "Yeah, I suppose." Lois shrugged sheepishly. "Is there anything else I can do?"

"A couple of Advil might be good right now," Clark suggested, trying for a lighter note. God, it killed him to see the pain in Lois' eyes.

Lois smiled. "Sure, I can do that. Wait here, I'll be right back." She relinquished the glass of water to her partner and hurried away to procure the desired medication.

Left alone with Clark, Jimmy shuffled self-consciously, but he needed to let his friend know how much he cared. "Hey, CK, I don't know what I could do, but I'm here if you need anything."

"Thanks, Jimmy."

The young man nodded and patted Clark on the shoulder as he passed on his way back into the newsroom. His good friend had just told him a horrible thing and he needed somewhere quiet to think this through.

Out in the main office, Lois' hands fumbled to open the top drawer of her desk as she fought to control her emotions. She'd been completely dumbfounded when listening to Clark's explanation of his illness. So many times lately they'd had silly arguments and she'd felt like choking him. But not this! Her partner, her best friend had said he had cancer. She felt sick to her stomach as she tried desperately to process this information.

She glanced over at the man sitting in Perry's office. She and Clark had come a long way in their relationship since they'd met. Would it all end soon? Would she ever know…?

With a deep breath for courage, she headed back to deliver the aspirin.

Clark was staring down at his hands, feeling a little steadier than he'd been when she'd left him. He looked up when Lois touched his shoulder. Without a word, he swallowed down the pills she offered with another gulp of water. "Thanks, Lois. I guess I should try to get back to work now."

"In a bit — give the painkillers a chance to work." Lois took the glass and walked over to Perry's desk, placing it on the surface. At last they were on their own, so it was time to get some answers. Slowly she turned to face him, propping her behind against the editor's treasured piece of furniture. "Clark, why didn't you tell me?"

"Denial, I guess… telling people makes it more real! And as I recall, you've been pretty angry with me lately."

Lois hung her head because he was right. She'd been angry and short with him for the last few days after they'd had a quarrel about her dating Lex Luthor. For some unknown reason, Clark didn't approve and she had a suspicion that he was jealous, but that fact seemed insignificant now. "I know." She looked back up at him. "I guess I let my stubborn pride get the better of me."

"Yeah." Clark smiled at her. "Look, I'm sorry I didn't tell you. But I don't want you moping around feeling sorry for me. This is something that I have to accept."

"Have to accept? Are you crazy? Clark, you never stop fighting. Never!"

"Lois, I don't want to spend the rest of the time I have left sick. I'm already like that enough. I just want to do what I can while I can. Please understand!"

Lois was staring at him. He said 'the time he had left'. It was starting to hit her that this was more serious than she thought. "How long? How long do you have left?"

"A few years, maybe more I hope."

"A few years? Five, ten? How many?" she asked, fear sharpening her voice, as she swiped a hand across her cheek to clear away a persistent tear.

"Five maybe, without a cure."

Clark's pained expression brought the truth of that short statement home — this was very, very real. "Oh God!" Her hand came up to cover her mouth while more tears stung her eyelids. Lois stood and strode over to the window, gazing out into the bright sunny day.

How could the sun still be shining?

"Come on, Lois. Don't do this."

"Don't do this?" she said as she whirled to face him, unable to stop another tear from making a track down her cheek. "Clark, you're my friend, a good friend. Maybe even my best friend. How can you ask me not to be upset?"

Clark could only stare for a moment, his thoughts hanging on what she'd said. She probably didn't even realize she'd just admitted he might be her best friend, but he hadn't missed a word. And he hadn't missed the tears that she'd quickly scrubbed off her face. His heart clenched tightly for her. He'd never been able to stand causing Lois any kind of pain, but after spending so many days longing for time with this woman, her reaction felt wonderful. It meant she cared, really cared. Finally he managed to speak again. "I know you're upset, but if you think about the bad, the good won't seem important."

"The good? What good?"

"What good? Lois, I'm not dead yet. Most of the time I'm healthy. There's no reason to concentrate on an end that hasn't gotten here."

Lois could tell Clark had spent a lot of hours thinking about that end. He'd already come to terms with his fate and was trying to move forward. If he could manage to be a little positive, then so could she. Lois walked back over to where he sat and eased down beside him.

"Why don't we take the afternoon off and go to the beach?"

"I'd love to, but we need to finish this story." Clark reached for her hand when he saw her hurt expression. "I know this is hard to grasp and sometimes it doesn't seem real to me either. But Lois, I can't just stop living. I have to get up every day the way I've always done. I have to keep working. If I don't, I'll lose my mind."

She considered his statement for a while before she spoke. Maybe he was right. Maybe keeping a sense of normality would be best, and she could definitely help with that. "Okay. Think you can look at that file now?" A slight teasing grin danced on her lips and thankfully it had the desired effect because Clark smiled back at her.

"Sure." He managed to get to his feet with a little effort and together they left the office to finish their day.


Things started to change for Clark after that day. Evidently word got around the newsroom and everyone started to treat Clark with kid gloves. Lois was nice and Jimmy went out of his way to do things for him. Perry wouldn't even yell at him and it was killing Clark more quickly than the cancer was. This kind of treatment was exactly why he hadn't wanted anyone to know.

Clark stepped off the elevator into the busy newsroom, ready to face yet another harrowing day of his friends tiptoeing around him. Most mornings he found it difficult to get himself in gear, but he wasn't running too late today, so perhaps he hadn't been missed. Even if he had, no one would mention it. Jimmy wouldn't throw a joke at him, Perry wouldn't quip sarcastically and, most of all, Lois wouldn't complain loudly about his tardiness. And he hated it.

Looking over the bullpen, he spotted all the people he'd just been thinking about in the conference room, probably getting ready for the daily staff meeting. Maybe now was a good time to see if he could get things straight. He marched purposefully down the ramp, crossed to the room, and, as the glass doors closed behind him with a determined click, everyone turned toward him.

"Look, if I don't say something I'll explode," he started anxiously. As much as he hated to distress them, he hated it more to have them treat him as if he was… well, sick. "Everyone has got to stop treating me like I'm dying."

Perry's brows rose as he looked at Clark. "But, ah, isn't that… isn't that what's happening?" He hadn't meant to be so direct, but how else could he phrase it?

"Yes, Perry. I might die from this, but you guys are gonna kill me a whole lot sooner. We're all mortal! As long as I'm alive, I want to live all I can, and I can't stand another day of this special treatment."

"Excuse us for caring," Lois snorted at him.

"I love it that you care. I just don't love it that you remind me of my imminent death every day. When you don't yell at me, Perry, I feel left out," he said with soulful, sad eyes directed at his boss. "Jimmy, you fall over yourself to do things for me as if I were already incapable, and I can't even begin to tell you, Lois, how bad it makes me feel to know you're nice to me just because I'm sick. I don't think I'll be able to keep this up." He held his partner's gaze for a few seconds. "Come on, guys, can't you all put the idea that I'm sick behind you for a bit? My time will end all too soon, but I'd like my life to be as normal as possible until whatever end comes. If you keep reminding me of that approaching day, I won't be able to think of anything but that."

Clark took a breath and ran a hand through his hair. "It's nice to know I have such good friends. It may make the end a little easier. I just want the middle to be as memorable. Okay?" His eyes pleaded with them to understand. He loved them all dearly for their concern, yet that concern was smothering him.

Perry got up from his chair at the head of the long table and came around to put a hand on Clark's shoulder. "I get ya, son! My father said much the same thing before his death. He had an irreversible heart condition, you know. That first week after the diagnosis, we cosseted him until he bawled us out. But that second week was some of the best days of his life. Of course, we didn't realize it would be that quick. Neither did he, I think, because he almost forgot he was leaving us. One afternoon, he said good-bye to go to town just like normal, but he had a massive coronary before he even got to the car. He died the way he wanted to. Now if that's the way you want to live, that's the way it'll be. But son, I think everyone in this room will agree when I say that we're not letting you go without a fight. Ya' hear?!"

Clark grinned widely at his boss. "I hear, Chief."

"Good!" Perry patted Clark's shoulder for a couple of seconds before stepping around him and opening the door. "So what are you still doing standing here? We have a staff meeting in ten minutes and you have a story to finish before then, so get to it!" he ordered in his best 'Editor in Chief' mode, and the door slammed behind him on his exit. Obviously, Perry had decided that normal service should be resumed right away.

Smiling in relief, Clark watched him go then turned back to the others. "Come on, guys, take your cue from the Chief. Don't waste what time I do have left by killing me with kindness. After all, who knows how long any of us have?"

"You're right," Jimmy said as he stood. "Lois is living proof of that." The two men burst into laughter, while Lois stuck her tongue out at Jimmy. "Ooo, promises, promises!"

"Jimmy!" Lois yelled with a surprised look.

The young gofer guffawed a little anxiously at Lois' shocked face. After all, this was Mad Dog Lane he'd just teased suggestively, but she appeared to be taking it in the spirit it was intended. He thanked his lucky stars and turned back to Clark, slapping him playfully on the back. "From now on, CK, you get your own damn research, okay? I have to set up the meeting… and I was getting a little tired of hauling an old man around anyway," he kidded.

"Okay." For the first time in days, Clark grinned wholeheartedly as Jimmy walked away, still giggling at his own jokes. But when the door closed, Clark dropped into the chair next to Lois. "How about you, Lois? Will you just remember I'm Clark and forget that I'm sick?"

"Clark, I don't know that I can," she replied gently, twisting in her seat to face him and revealing her gaze, which was stark with pain. It was still too hard to accept that her friend might leave her.

Clark sighed. How could he deter her? "Would you at least try?"

Lois looked across at him steadily. "This is what you really want?"

"Yes. Lois, I know I've never been your favorite person."

"That's not exactly true," she was quick to correct him. "I just felt I was too good to be paired with a hack." She grinned to let him know she was only kidding, though, if she were being honest, at the time she really had been upset to be partnered with someone who in her opinion had little experience. It was amazing how wrong she'd been.

Clark chuckled ruefully. "Yeah. I remember you calling me that a time or two."

"I'm sorry. You proved pretty quickly that you were more than capable of keeping up with me professionally."

Clark's brows rose slightly. "Wow. I guess that's a compliment."

Lois smiled and ducked her head. "Yeah, well, enjoy it. You know I don't give them often."

"That's for sure." He laughed a little harder as she swatted his arm. "See, this is more like the way I'd pictured us remaining."

Lois sobered with his comment. "Clark."

"No, Lois. This is what I want. Don't make me feel sick. I do that enough by myself."

After a moment or two, Lois reached for his hand. "Okay. I can't promise I won't forget, but I can tell you I'll try to be the same old obnoxious person you've come to know."

Clark let his head drop back and laughed out loud. "Good enough. Come on. Let's go nail a bad guy."

"You got it, partner."

That was the best thing Clark had heard in days. If he hadn't said something about the way everyone was treating him, he was sure he'd have gotten sicker long before his time, and since throwing his guts up wasn't anything he enjoyed, he'd had to tell them how he felt. Thank goodness it looked as if he'd made the right decision.


Following the talk with his friends, Clark's life settled back to something akin to normality, at least, enough to satisfy him. Perry barked his orders once more; Jimmy was — well, Jimmy, and even Lois seemed to have gotten back her competitive edge. Clark, himself, was healthy and chose to keep up with all his usual activities, including the super stuff. On a particular afternoon, those activities had him making another of his lame excuses in the newsroom and speeding to a 'five alarm' fire on the South Side.

Superman had successfully carried ten people from the destroyed ruins of their apartment building and gone back to douse the flames with a little super breath, while beneath him the fire services worked diligently to protect the surrounding blocks from the greedy blaze. When it was clear the fire was at last under control, he took the time to stop and talk to the fire chief, who he'd met a couple of times on previous rescues. Superman considered the man an expert in his field and had come to regard him as something of a colleague, if not exactly a friend. The two were deep in conversation when a very familiar voice interrupted their talk.


Clark glanced over his shoulder to see Lois in hot pursuit of the latest super feat and he gave an apologetic shrug to the fireman.

"Go ahead, Superman," the older man grinned, his teeth showing white against his ash-smeared skin. "You've done all you can, my men can take it from here. Thanks again for your help." With those words the fire chief shook the hero's hand and waved him off toward the pretty young woman who was hovering at the edge of the safety barrier.

Pasting his best superficial smile on his face, Clark turned and started toward his partner.

"Hi, Lois."

"Hi." She slipped beneath the barricade and reached his side, with her notepad ready to go. "What happened?"

Superman took a few moments to tell her about the fire and the people he'd rescued. As was always the case with Lois, she asked all the appropriate questions and quickly jotted down his replies. In fact, she was deep into her interview when she was suddenly distracted from her writing. Looking up, she noticed Superman seemed to be swaying a little on his feet.

"Superman?" Lois reached out to help him get his balance.

The superhero shook his head, trying to rid it of the wave of dizziness that had swept over him. This was exactly what his mom had feared when she'd warned him to take it easy. Martha was continually worried that he'd overtax his strength, but he'd decided he had to be here — people would have died otherwise. Now he was paying the price for his stubborn determination. He grasped Lois' arm, thankful she was there for once.

"Just give me a sec." He bent to catch his breath. This was the last thing he needed to happen because Lois was far too perceptive, and she was fairly skeptical of coincidences. If she took the time to look closely, she could easily put things together and figure out his secret. Then again, he might actually need her help later on. Was that something he could live with? Was it something he wanted? Right now he didn't have the stamina to answer these questions. He just needed to get his breath and get away so he could think.

Meanwhile, Lois' mind was reeling. Superman appeared to be sick, but that was impossible. Superman was invulnerable—he didn't get sick. She watched as he brought his other hand to his face to rub his eyes vigorously and her mouth fell open slightly as she spotted an ugly purple bruise on the back of his hand.

That was crazy. Superman didn't bruise.

For some moments both remained still; Lois was lost in her thoughts while Superman struggled to regain his balance.

Finally, Superman straightened and released his hold on her arm. "Thank you, Lois. I guess I overdid it."

"I thought you… were… well…"

"Invincible? I do burn out after a while. I have to rest just like anyone else," he explained with a tiny touch of annoyance. The last thing he needed right now was for Lois to know just how horrible he felt.

"Oh yeah. Of course you do," she stammered uncertainly, still trying to grasp the fact that the Man of Steel was unwell.

He was about to offer his apologies and leave when he noticed she was looking at him strangely. "Lois, is something wrong?"

"Well… I didn't think you got hurt." She stared at him intently, her eyes darting between his face and the ugly bruise on his hand. This wasn't just burn out!


"There," she pointed to his hand. "You have a nasty bruise."

Clark's heart raced as he looked down at the ugly purple mark. He must have gotten this one recently because he could have sworn he'd covered all the others. He had to think of an explanation fast. "Ah, I guess I…" His head snapped to the side as another call rang out. There were times when his super hearing came in very handy. "I'm really sorry, Lois, but someone's calling." With that said, he disappeared in a flash, feeling very relieved to escape Lois' searching questions.

Lois was left to ponder this new bit of information. Was it possible the Man of Steel did get hurt after all? But what about all those things she'd seen him do in the past? He caught bullets on a regular basis. For goodness sake, he'd swallowed a bomb without any visible signs of injury! Her reporter's instincts told her there was more going on here than met the eye. Judging by the way he looked when she'd pointed out his bruise, followed by his abrupt exit, there was a lot more going on, and she was determined to find out what it was. Not only for a story either — Lois cared about her superhero. She hurried back through the crowd of gawkers and whistled for a cab.


Lois made it back to the newsroom and wrote up the story on the fire. However, she'd decided that, for the present, she wouldn't reveal her suspicions about the state of Superman's health. They were really just unsubstantiated facts anyway, and she wasn't quite sure where to start trying to find out what was going on with Superman. Maybe she should talk to Clark. He and Superman seemed to be close.

Speaking of her partner, she wondered if he'd returned from his mysterious errand. He wasn't at his desk so she scanned the bullpen and spotted him coming from the men's room. He was a little pale, she thought. Of course, he'd been that way a lot lately, so that wasn't a huge surprise. Lois stood up from her desk and reached Clark's just as he sat down. She sincerely hoped he wasn't getting sicker already, but she hid her concern, knowing he didn't like anyone to create a fuss.

"Hi, Lois. What's up?" His tone was cheerful, even though he looked dreadful.

"Nothing. You feel okay?" she asked, trying to act casually, but unable to quite bring herself to be completely unaware of his condition.

"I'm a little tired, but I'll live."

"Bad joke," she reminded him with a wry lift of her shapely eyebrows.

He smiled sadly. "Yeah, I guess it was." He sifted through a couple of files, hoping he could distract his partner from probing his state of health. "Did you get the story on the fire done?"

Lois didn't answer. She was staring at the hand that had just moved across the desk to open a folder. It looked a lot like another hand she'd seen earlier in the day.

Clark looked up at her. "Lois? You okay?"

Her eyes shot to his. Could it be possible? Nah, that was crazy! She couldn't be thinking what she was. Clark couldn't be Superman. Clark was sick. He was dying of cancer and he was her partner. She'd worked beside him for nearly a year. She would have known if he were Superman. Wouldn't she? Yet she couldn't deny that Clark was sporting a very similar bruise to the one she'd seen on Superman. Was that just a coincidence? Suddenly she wasn't so sure.

"Lois?" Clark prompted again, almost afraid to think of what was going on behind her blank stare.

But Lois was oblivious to his anxious questions. Her mind was already frantically processing everything she knew about the two men. They'd showed up in Metropolis about the same time. Clark had arrived first, with Superman putting in that very public appearance a few days later. Of course, as far as she knew, Superman hadn't been seen anywhere before that time, while Clark Kent had led a fairly normal life in Kansas, before going on his world travels. Maybe she should do a bit of research into that part of Kent's life, see if there had been anything strange going on.

Then there was the fact that she'd never seen the two men together — Clark always disappeared with some crazy excuse before Superman showed up. They did look a little alike — same dark hair and skin tone, and they both had an overwhelming desire to help. Both were the most moral men she'd ever met. But did that all add up to mean that Clark was Superman? She needed time to think. She needed to get away.

"I, ah, I just remembered I have… something to do," Lois stuttered, giving a very good impersonation of the evasive excuses Clark normally produced prior to his speedy exits.

Before Clark could say a word, she turned and nearly ran to the elevator. Why was Lois leaving in the middle of a work day? Had he done something to upset her?


Lois left the Planet to clear her head. She paced around the streets of Metropolis, wandering aimlessly, unaware of people or places around her. Her partner could not possibly be the Man of Steel. It just wasn't so. But, as the facts chased through her mind yet again, even she had to admit it was conceivable. All the disappearing acts, the excuses, and she'd never seen the two men in the same room together. Not to mention the number of times she'd tried to call Clark when Superman was halfway round the world dealing with an emergency, and all she could get was his answering machine. No wonder, even Superman couldn't be in two places at once! It made perfect sense — the perfect cover. Who would ever think to question that a mild-mannered reporter would be Superman?

But Lois was a reporter and it was her job to see beyond the exterior! What was it that Perry always said? 'If something walks like a duck, talks like a duck… then it is a damn duck!' It has to be…

Only Clark Kent wasn't a duck. He was a… rat! Why the hell hadn't he told her he was really Superman?

Lois felt like an idiot. Superman and Clark were one in the same. Suddenly she wondered why she hadn't seen it before now. It was so obvious. Of course, it was! That's why the disguise worked so well.

For a long moment, Lois thought about that and gradually she realized Clark wasn't the disguise. He was too real, too substantial. He had a life. He had a family. Superman was the disguise to hide the man while he helped people.

And all this time, she'd been completely in the dark! Slowly she let her anger rise to the surface. Clark, her friend, her partner, had lied to her. He'd let her believe he was two different people and she'd made a fool out of herself in the process.

Lois glared down the sidewalk she'd been walking on. That's it! There would be no more of this endless meandering. She was going to go over to Kent's place and give him a piece of her mind. In fact, she just might kill him before the leukemia got to him! Doing an about turn that would have satisfied the most meticulous drill-sergeant, she marched back toward the Daily Planet parking lot and her Jeep.

"Just wait till I get done with you. Man of Steel my foot. You'll wish you were."

She dove into the car, put it in gear and bulldozed her way into the traffic.


Clark shut down his computer after six to head home. He hadn't felt the best since returning from his stint as Superman, but being the only remaining member of the Lane/Kent partnership actually at work, Clark hadn't wanted to leave Perry in the lurch.

Surprisingly, Lois hadn't returned for the rest of the day, which meant she was probably more upset than he'd originally thought. Maybe he'd call her later to see if he could help in any way. A quick rescue, a minor car accident on the freeway, detoured him on his journey home, holding him back from taking the shower he hoped would make him feel better.

Eventually, though, the hot water had soothed away his aches and pains, yet it had done little to dispel his tiredness. He'd just stepped out of the shower and had pulled on a pair of jeans when Lois stormed into his room. He stopped drying his hair and looked up at her.

"How can you be sick? I thought you were invulnerable."

"I thought so, too." He froze when he realized what she'd said and how he'd answered her. "What did you say?"

"I said, I thought you were invulnerable." She placed her hands on her hips in what Clark had come to call her 'full battle mode' and glared at him, daring him to call her on this one.

"That's what I thought you said."

"And by the way you answered, I'm right." Her arms moved to cross over her chest in a gesture similar to Superman's, warning him not to deny it.

Clark sighed wearily and dropped his towel over the rail of the spiral staircase. "Yes, Lois, you're right." He didn't have the energy to come up with a plausible explanation. Besides, he wasn't sure he wanted to hide from Lois any longer.

"But you're sick."

"I know." Clark offered her an exhausted, yet gentle smile. "Come on. I need to eat while we talk. Maybe I can explain a few things."

"Oh you better believe you're going to explain a few things," she mumbled sarcastically as she turned and started toward the kitchen

Clark sighed again and followed her. This wasn't exactly what he had in mind when he'd envisioned telling her, but he was almost relieved she knew the truth. With his progressing illness, who knew when Superman might need her help in the future?

Almost on auto-pilot, Clark pulled some ready-made sandwiches and a carton of milk from the fridge and placed them on the table, while Lois fetched a couple of glasses from the cabinet. In the dimmed light, they sat on opposite sides of the table, and for a few minutes they concentrated absentmindedly on the food. Then very apprehensively Clark began to talk, his words falling softly into the quiet room.

It took him a full hour to tell Lois everything about himself and what he knew of his illness. Yet, when he reached the end of his revelation, she stayed silent for over ten minutes, obviously deep in thought, while Clark fretted with worry. Just how mad was Lois going to be?

"Dr. Klein hasn't found out anything else?" she finally asked, raising her eyes to meet his. Her anger had given way to the same helpless emotions she'd experienced when Clark had first told her he was ill. As furious as she'd been by his deception, she couldn't ignore the fact that this man was still her friend and he was still dying. And more than that… she now knew that she was in danger of losing Superman — the whole world would too. Somehow, for the moment, anger seemed a very trivial emotion.

Clark stared at her a moment, trying to read her expression in the semi-darkness of his apartment. He thought she'd have been more curious and angry about him keeping such a huge secret from her. "Not yet. I haven't spoken to him in over three weeks but if he knew anything, he'd call. Lois, are you okay?" he asked uncertainly. "Because you're taking this a whole lot better than I thought."

Lois pushed up from the table and started to pace. She could think more clearly on her feet, and right now, she needed to be as clear-headed as possible. "Clark, you're right. I am mad because you didn't tell me about this and you'll probably hear more about that later, but for now I need to grasp everything that's going on."

"Fair enough." Actually, Clark was very happy at Lois' more subdued reaction. He wasn't up to dealing with an irate partner right now.

"Okay!" Marching into the living room, Lois grabbed her bag and jacket. "Meet me at Star Labs in the morning and we'll see if Dr Klein has anything new." She ran lightly up the stairs but paused on the landing. "Oh, and Clark, try to get some sleep, 'cause I have to tell you, you look awful."

Then she was gone and he was left smiling as the door closed behind the tornado that was Lois Lane.


Chapter 3: We Have a Lot to Talk About

The following morning found the investigative team of Lane and Kent at Star Labs, trying to glean as much information as they could about Superman's illness from Dr Klein. At first, the doctor had been extremely reluctant to discuss the matter with the two reporters, and he would have shown them the door if Superman hadn't first phoned and given permission for him to speak freely. Clark had been tempted to attend in the Suit, only he'd realized that Lois was still a little spooked by the dual identity thing.

So, out of mutual respect, and in an effort to help the man who was a friend of them all, Klein did relent and relayed what little he knew concerning the Man of Steel's leukemia. Lois was disheartened by the lack of anything concrete which could be done for the superhero and shocked by the reality of his impending death. Clark, sitting by her side, kept his head down, hiding his feelings.

"So that's it? There's nothing he can do?" Lois questioned the doctor, who had now, after his brief explanation, lapsed into an uncharacteristic silence. She'd stolen occasional glances at her partner while Klein was speaking, only to find him withdrawn, his eyes downcast. If her guess was right, Clark was finding it difficult to listen to his prognosis one more time and was afraid to reveal the depth of his involvement. After all, the scientist was unaware that the man of whom they spoke was actually in the room.

Bernard shifted some papers around on his desk, seeming somewhat harried by Lois' belligerent manner. "Well, there is one way," he ventured, then hastily added, "but I don't think it's even possible."

Clark's ears perked up at that, though in this guise he couldn't afford to seem too anxious. Lois, on the other hand, had no problems with showing enthusiasm for any morsel of hope.

"What?! Dr Klein, if there's anything that you or Superman can do, then you need to tell him."

"Ms Lane, I shouldn't even be discussing this with you," he bridled. "There is such a thing as doctor/patient confidentiality, and I'd say I was skating on thin ice right about now."

"It's okay, Dr Klein. You know we'd never do anything to jeopardize Superman's position." Clark could no longer keep quiet. If there was something he could do to save himself, he needed to hear it… now!

"And we promise, we'd never use anything you told us for a story." Lois was quick to add, realizing that Klein was quite aware of their… well, her reputation. "We're not going to print anything of this. We just care about Superman and want to help as much as we can."

"Didn't Superman give you his permission to talk to us?" If necessary, Clark would leave and return as Superman, but he'd prefer not to waste time.

Klein looked at the two young people who were sitting a little more eagerly forward in their chairs. The doctor might not have the best people skills, but he did recognize sincerity when he saw it. "I know, Lois, Clark." Taking a deep breath, he reluctantly delivered his new theory. "Look, Superman has a type of cancer that's very similar to leukemia. It also resembles a certain type of leukemia. It's a type that responds well to bone marrow transplants. However, Superman can't very well receive marrow from humans. He'd have to have marrow from another Kryptonian."

Clark released the breath he'd been holding and with it went the small flicker of hope he'd been feeling. A marrow transplant was not a possibility for him.

"That's it?" Lois almost shouted. How dare this man give them false hope like that!

"Well, unless Superman knows of any other Kryptonians on this planet… yes." Klein looked almost as miserable as Clark, while Lois was directing a very curious glare at her partner.

"Are there?!"

"Not that Superman knows of," Clark said quickly.

Strangely, that seemed to satisfy the feisty lady reporter, Bernard observed. "Lois, I'm sorry, but Superman's biology is a little different from ours. His donor would have to match his blood group, and that means another Kryptonian…" Dr Klein's attention wandered for a few seconds as he mixed something in his beaker. "And yet, there is just a chance… and you know, I don't believe it would matter…" He sipped a little from the glass, proving to his two visitors that the blue liquid wasn't a chemical mixture as they'd thought. Suddenly Bernard chuckled. "Maybe he should get a girlfriend really quick!"

"What?!" Lois and Clark asked both at the same time.

Once again, Bernard almost squirmed in his seat at the sharp questioning, looking distinctly uneasy. "I shouldn't really say any more…"

"Dr Klein, please?" Clark's tone was pleading and Bernie found he couldn't resist.

"Okay, but you must understand that this is still theoretical… I've been looking at some tests, and, from what I can deduce, a child of his could supply the needed marrow to save his life, even if the child were half human." The doctor hadn't been lying when he'd told Superman he would work on this nonstop. Every minute he could spare, he'd spent investigating this alien illness. When he'd finally had to give up on finding a traditional cure, he'd moved on to more radical treatments, which had led him to the prospect of a transplant.

"What?" The two chorused again, while they exchanged shocked glances.

Bernie took another slug from his beaker for courage, then putting it down alongside a number of others, he faced them. "Superman has healing properties because of his special powers. If he were to father a child, I believe these properties would be passed along in the genes. Even though the child would only be half Kryptonian, since only Earth women are available, there should be enough uncontaminated antigens to reverse the effects of his disease." After all Bernie's intensive studies, he'd reached the conclusion that it was as simple as that… Cut and dried!

"So you're saying that if Superman has a child, said child could save his life?" Lois ground out, after she'd closed her mouth, which had dropped open with shock.


"Dr. Klein, how is it even possible for him to produce a child with an Earth woman?" Clark clenched his hands on his thighs, trying to recover from this stunning news. He'd always assumed he could have children with an Earth woman, had actually hoped this might be so, but he'd never known for certain.

"Superman is very capable, Clark. He has all the same parts as a man."

"No, no. You just said his biology was different." Clark was now sitting on the edge of his chair. Unconsciously, he'd given up all pretence of having only a friendly interest in hearing what Dr. Klein had to say.

"Yes, but only slightly. Let me show you." Dr. Klein retrieved a few samples from a locked refrigerator. "This is a small sample of my blood." He put the samples in the magnifier and pulled the image up on the screen. "And this is Superman's." The second sample appeared beside the first one. "Both blood samples have all the same components but the composition is a little different. For example, Superman's blood has less iron than a human's, but they are remarkably similar. Think of it as being a new blood group, if you like."

Bernard deftly removed the two slides and entered two others. Lois and Clark watched enthralled as two twisting strands of DNA showed up on the screen. "Now the one on the left is human DNA while the other belongs to Superman. As you can tell, there's only a minute difference here… one extra DNA marker." He pointed to a section on each image. "One small detail separates two races of human beings."

"Superman is human?" Clark asked with his eyes lighting up. All his life, that was the one thing he'd wanted to call himself.

"He's indeed Homo sapien. This hiccup in his DNA is what allows his race to live under what I theorize is probably a red sun on his home planet. Of course, that's purely conjecture, but according to the amazing information being sent back from some of the latest space probes, astronomers believe that red suns are not uncommon…"

"Dr Klein, I'm sure that's very interesting, but we're here to find out how to cure Superman." Lois ruthlessly dragged the scientist back on track.

"Superman! Right, Ms Lane!" the doctor gulped and sent her a penitent grin. "As I was saying, it's also what allows him to process yellow sunlight into solar energy, giving him his super powers. To cure Superman this particular property would have to be present in any bone marrow to be transplanted." Bernard left the projector and came to stand in front of the reporters. "But yes, Superman could father a child with an Earth woman as easily as any other male, and as this Kryptonian gene appears to be dominant, I'd stake my reputation that it would be passed along to any of his progeny."

Clark could only stare at the data before him. He had hardly taken in what Bernie was saying beyond hearing the word 'human'. It was official. He was human! That one statement made him feel so good he almost forgot he was dying of cancer… Almost.

Perched on the chair close by him, Lois noticed his bemused reaction and suddenly she understood why he'd never told anyone about himself, even close friends. He was afraid people would label him a freak. Being as she'd worn several labels over the years, and some very uncomfortable ones at that, she could certainly understand his hesitancy. And she was also ashamed to admit that regardless of all the good the superhero did for the people of this world, there would be quite a few who would view him differently if it became public knowledge that Clark Kent was an alien. Jason Trask wasn't the only weirdo out there.

But right now, there were more pertinent points rolling around in her mind, to which she needed answers. She returned her attention to the images on the screen. "Wouldn't a child have to be a certain age before a marrow donation could be taken?"

"Normally, they'd have to be about six months or older, Ms Lane. However, I believe a child of Superman's would have enough 'super' genes to make it possible for a transplant to be done at about six weeks old…"

"Dr Klein," Clark emerged from his trance to interrupt. "Perhaps Superman wasn't super when he was a child."

"Clark, you don't know that!" Lois warned.

"Actually, Clark, I'm hoping that he at least wasn't invulnerable and that his baby wouldn't be either, otherwise it would make the procedure more problematic. What we require are the remarkable healing powers and I'm sure that any child of his would carry those same wonderful abilities. So we wouldn't have to wait. And I don't think it would take a very large amount of clean bone marrow to stimulate Superman's body into producing more good marrow, especially if his own regenerative properties were boosted too."

"Why haven't his own healing properties kicked in this time?" Lois couldn't help but feel cynical. If these healing properties were so wonderful, Superman shouldn't be sick at all.

"In my opinion, the kryptonite he ingested is keeping his system just weak enough to let the damage take place. I've considered pumping out his stomach, or even putting him on dialysis to clean out his blood, but the toxin has been in his system too long. I thought the irradiated iodine pills might work, but any effect they might have had has been eroded by the spread of the cancer." Bernie shrugged helplessly. "Ms Lane, I've asked myself that same question a hundred times lately, but I honestly don't understand it. All I know is that it's happening and the only thing that I can think of that could save him is a bone marrow transplant. Stronger, healthy cells would take the place of his diseased cells and allow his system the valuable time it needs to heal itself. I'm sorry, I wish I had something more positive to tell you." Bernard's shoulders drooped and almost shamefacedly he excused himself and left the room.


Lois and Clark walked side-by-side out of the labs in contemplative silence, both processing the information they'd received. Actually, Bernard didn't realize how right he was when he theorized about Superman's healing capabilities, Clark thought as he climbed into Lois' Jeep. He hadn't been invulnerable when he was a young kid; he'd even broken his arm falling out of a tree, but he had mended very quickly. His mom and dad had had a terrible time trying to stop him removing his plaster cast far too early. It seemed pretty logical that a child of his would inherit the same power.

His partner, meantime, was reflecting upon another part of the data. Lois was stuck on the idea of Superman, aka Clark, producing a baby. The idea definitely had merit, but how did one go about that? She threw Clark a searching glance when she'd safely pulled out onto the main road.

"You know, the bone marrow transplant idea doesn't totally suck!" Lois injected into the silence.

"Lois, babies don't just drop out of trees!"

"No, and I guess you can't just advertise for some woman to have a baby for you, huh?"

Clark laughed softly, relaxing back against the headrest. "No, thanks for trying though." He suspected that her eyes were damp with unshed tears and he reached forward to squeeze her arm, offering comfort and gaining a little for himself. "Let's just move on. It's been nearly two months since I was diagnosed and most of the time I feel fine. Maybe I should start having a little fun. There are a few things I'd like to do before I start getting too weak."

"Too weak?"

"Yeah. Dr. Klein told me that as the disease progresses, I'll grow weaker. He thinks I'll lose my powers in about twenty four months or sooner."

"Could you do the chemo then?" she asked hopefully, grasping at straws.

"Maybe, but I suspect that by then the disease will be too far along."

"What about a really huge, mega dose of radiation? Like shutting yourself into a reactor?"

Clark wanted to smile. Leave it to Lois to keep churning out the ideas to help him. "I tried it, but it didn't work. In fact, I think it just pissed the leukemia off — I was sick for two hours straight. I didn't know a stomach could hold that much."

Now he did laugh, feeling it was time to lighten the mood a little. He'd been over the possibilities a million times in his head and with Bernard. He'd really gone through it one more time just for Lois' benefit, but now his head was hurting from thinking so much. He could use a little light relief.

"Gross," Lois chuckled.

Clark grinned some more when he saw her smile. "I've really missed you," he added warmly. Even after their chat in the conference room, they'd spent far too much time either treating each other warily or arguing about one thing or another. He'd also been terrified he'd lost her for good when she'd discovered his deceit.

It appeared Lois might be physic because she came back at him very quickly. "Yeah, well, you could change your mind. I haven't yelled at you for lying to me yet."

"Yell! Please yell. I've missed that too." They both laughed and settled into a pointless discussion about the attributes and the benefits of getting angry. Clark was already beginning to f eelbetter.


At the close of his sixth month with the disease, life took a distinct turn for the worse for Clark. Although, he tried to deny it for a number of days, Clark eventually had to admit that he was growing much weaker and the bruising was back big time. On his monthly medical check up, he'd broached the subject with Dr Klein and had at once been subjected to the whole gamut of tests one more time. Bernie had soon discovered that the disease had kicked into overdrive and Superman's life expectancy of five years had been cut in half. Clark was devastated. He would die in about two years, if he were lucky. It was time to start making his time count.

Clark adopted the habit of flying home every weekend and it didn't take his parents long to realize that Clark's condition had deteriorated. When he arrived at the farm on his third visit, they'd sat him down and with a little gentle persuasion and a lot of unconditional support, he'd finally broken down and told them about the progression of his illness. Martha and Jonathan had been desolate, yet, as always, they'd put their own pain aside in order to comfort Clark.

In the quiet times by themselves, they tried desperately to grasp the fact that they'd soon lose their son. Neither found that easy. Their feelings ran from disbelief, fury and helplessness to dread and acceptance. But they showed nothing of this to their son. For Clark, there would always be a reassuring smile and hug from his mom, while his dad provided encouraging shoulder squeezes and understanding pep-talks. Between them, they kept Clark moving forward.

At work, with the enthusiasm and drive that seem to belong to those who know their time on Earth is finite, Clark began to shine. His work had never been better, both surprising and inspiring his partner to such an extent that they'd finished off three major investigations in as many weeks.

But Lois was worried. Clark's behavior had changed drastically. He'd started to be overly friendly, even for Clark. He clowned around a lot more and refused to talk about his illness, unless it was a tasteless joke. Lois also noticed he didn't leave the newsroom as much to be Superman. Something had changed and she was going to find out what.


Lois paced around the conference room. Where was her partner? They'd arranged to come in earlier this morning, to review their interview with the mayor before leaving for City Hall. She checked her watch again and discovered that Clark was now twenty minutes late.

This had been a mistake, as Clark had hardly been a reliable timekeeper over the last week. Their colleagues were starting to notice… Perry certainly was. She was fairly sure though that the Chief was cutting her partner a little slack because of his condition. Of course, he would never admit to that, knowing Clark didn't like those sorts of considerations.

The elevator doors slid open, catching her attention and she was about to march out of the conference room to confront Clark when she noticed his sickly pallor and the dark circles beneath his eyes. He looked exhausted. Maybe he'd been out doing Superman duties, but she'd already checked the news channels and there were no reports of any superhero activities. In fact, those had been pretty sparse over the last few weeks, almost as if Clark were too tired to be Superman. Yes, something was definitely going wrong for her partner, and she wasn't going to remain in the dark about it.

Instead of meeting Clark in the newsroom, Lois waited for him to come to her. She wanted to say what she had to say in private. She saw Clark lift his head wearily and search the room. When he caught her eye, he smiled in embarrassment and made his way to join her. He'd lost the little lift in his step, and Lois felt a momentary pang of sympathy, but she buried it quickly. She had to find out what was going on.

"Clark, where have you been?" She launched her verbal attack at him. "You're nearly a half-hour late. We hardly have any time left to plan this interview!"

"Sorry, Lois," Clark answered, feigning nonchalance. "I was off being Superman." He made the flying signal in the air with his hand.

"Uh-huh," Lois said, just as vaguely. "What was it?"

"What was what?"

"The Superman stuff… catching criminals, rescue from a fire…"

"Just regular stuff," Clark shrugged off her questions. "But I'm here now, so what do we want to say to the Mayor?" He moved over to the computer and started scanning through the files.

"Clark, I've already checked the wires, and there haven't been any Superman sightings, so where were you?"

"Not everything I do gets reported, Lois! Now would you look at the time?" Clark indicated the conference room clock as he stood again. "You know, we're going to be late for the Mayor and Perry will kill us if we lose this interview. We should go."

Clark turned and left the room, heading for the elevator. He was being difficult, and Lois was fuming.

Okay, Superman, you've escaped this time, but you can't run forever. You are going to talk to me whether you want to or not, Lois decided as she strode after him. If he wouldn't tell her what was wrong, she'd go to the person who would know.


Later in the evening, Lois sat in her Jeep outside Clark's apartment. She'd just come from a visit with Dr. Klein, where she'd had to employ all her best interview skills to drag the latest details of Superman's case from the very reluctant doctor. Yet, as before, Dr Klein's resolve had been no match for Mad Dog Lane's persistence and he'd eventually admitted that the leukemia was progressing much faster than he'd anticipated. He'd refused to disclose — or maybe he didn't exactly know — just how much longer Superman had to live; however, since he was fairly worried that Superman might find himself in trouble during one of his rescues, he did warn her that he expected the super powers would start to dissipate over the next few months.

Now, Lois would be the first one to admit she wasn't the best student in science, but even she knew enough to read between the lines. Clark's life span had been reduced considerably and the 'stupid lunkhead' was trying to be strong about it all, but failing miserably.

She remained immobile in the cocoon of her Jeep as the unfamiliar feelings of guilt assailed her. So many times over these past weeks Lois had ranted and raved at Clark about his long-term deception over his secret identity. She'd fought hard to fuse the images of the two men into one reality. Yet, just when she thought she'd got her head around it, something would happen, or some memory of how she'd made a fool of herself with his two different personas would creep like a canker into her mind and she'd find herself snapping sarcastic remarks at him in revenge.

But, regardless of her own ambivalent feelings, she couldn't help but notice when Clark had started to act strangely and to deduce what might be the cause. She'd taken to watching her friend closely, had even challenged him on his behavior a couple of times, without success. However, Lois wasn't to be deterred and her single-mindedness had led her to Star Labs.

Well, the doctor had confirmed Lois' suspicions that things had gotten worse for Clark, and now she had to deal with that information the only way she knew how. She was here to see if she could talk to her partner… and this time he wasn't going to run away from her because just maybe there was something she could do to help.

The door of her Jeep seemed to creak ominously as she opened it, but she ignored the shiver that ran down her spine and made her way up the sidewalk to the apartment of her friend, knowing that, whether he admitted it or not, he needed someone to vent on. Tonight, dual identities and deceit would have to take a back seat, Clark and Superman both needed Lois Lane's support.


"Hi." Clark answered the door, and his eyebrows rose at the sight of Lois carrying a large flat box and a video. He quickly covered his surprise with a smile and acted a little happier than he actually felt.

"Hi. Want some company? I've got a video and pizza."

"Sure." Clark stepped aside and let her in. The uncomfortable notion that Lois' visit wasn't purely a social call assailed him. He really wasn't in the mood for company tonight, yet he knew that if he refused, she would take offense, and they'd be off on another of their interminable arguments. He certainly wasn't up for that.

The food was spread out on the coffee table so they could eat in comfort as they watched the movie — 'Lethal Weapon 3' — one more time. While the pizza was being consumed both pretended to be engrossed in the on screen action, but the minute she'd finished her meal, Lois steered the conversation toward her real reason for being here.


"Huh?" He slowly pulled his attention away from the movie to look at her… Only that wasn't the exact truth. His mind hadn't really been on the TV screen, it had been totally blank — he'd been zoning out a lot these days.

"Why didn't you tell me you got bad news from Dr. Klein?"

Clark tossed his napkin on the table and got up angrily. "Did you go ask him about it?" He snatched up the rest of the garbage to take it to the kitchen. This was just like Lois — always butting in where she had no business to be! If he'd wanted her to know he was sicker, he would have told her.

"Clark, don't do this!" She was right behind him at the kitchen counter.

"Don't do what, Lois?" he asked as he whirled back to glare at her. "Tell you my state of health is none of your business? Well, it isn't!" He threw his hands up in frustration. Just once he'd like for her *not* to dig deeper.

"I've told you before I just want to be here for you." She deliberately kept her voice low, offering Clark a listening post should he want it. He had to be so confused and scared right now, but before she could think of anything else to say that might placate him, he was shouting something else at her.

"No. I remember very clearly one of the things that you mentioned. You told me you hated for the world to lose Superman.

Lois bit at her lower lip then. She had told him that. They'd had a silly fight about a month after she found out who he really was and she'd finally let her resentment over his duplicity get to her. They'd been on a stakeout where Clark had calmly used his super vision to check out the warehouse they were watching. Suddenly, all the times he'd pretended he couldn't see, couldn't jump… couldn't even open a peanut butter jar swamped her and she'd exploded, throwing out the fact that her main concern was Superman's fate and not that of her partner.

Until she'd blurted out those words, Lois hadn't realized she was in so much pain over the fact that Superman was dying. Almost from that first meeting in the colonists' space-transporter, she'd been convinced she was in love with Superman, but finding out that Clark was the man in blue had thrown her emotions into confusion. After that mind-blowing revelation, she'd felt so hurt and humiliated she didn't know what to think any more.

To make matters worse, she couldn't deny that her heart was aching for her friend, the Clark she'd come to know at work and in their off-duty hours. But she'd been so mad with that friend for keeping her in the dark that on this particular night, she'd informed him that she hated for the world to lose Superman, merely in a defensive effort to hurt Clark.

And it had. It had cut him deeply. He'd fallen silent and it wasn't long before he made up an excuse to leave. He didn't come back to the stakeout, and for the next few weeks their quarrel had simmered on, until Perry had warned them that they were professionals and they ought to keep their private life out of his newsroom. So they'd been forced into calling a truce, and in the calm that followed, Lois finally allowed herself to leave her bruised feelings behind and to really look at the man under the Suit. She began to see Clark in a whole new light.

"You're right. I did say that. Not my most shining moment," she finally admitted, looking directly into Clark's eyes. "Clark, I know that hurt you and I'm so sorry."

"You're just sorry your ideal man was an illusion." Clark moved away from Lois, still unable to believe she was being sincere. To tell the truth, he wasn't sure how he'd expected Lois to react. Yes, she'd be mad, but the way she hurt him that night was… vindictive… or… defensive. He was perfectly aware that Lois had been deeply wounded by what she saw as a huge lack of trust on his part, and Lois' philosophy was always that the best line of defense was attack. He'd witnessed it a thousand times, but, right now, he didn't know if he had the strength to accept that — he had his own demons to fight. Yet she wasn't about to let him off the hook, because she'd come around to stand in front of him.

"No. I'm sorry I didn't stop to see the wonderful man my partner is."

Clark opened his mouth to throw out another smart retort, but closed it again when he saw the earnestness in Lois' eyes. Could she really mean what she said? Had she at last come to accept him for who he was?

"Clark, I'll gladly admit I was a fool. I let my 'moony-eyed cheerleader' attitude over the flashy superhero run away with my good sense." Lois shrugged self-consciously. "Who would believe it? Mad Dog Lane has a 'moony-eyed cheerleader' side. Wow, I can't believe I even admitted that. Clark, I did what I always do. I latched on to what I wanted to be real and true and pushed everything else aside. Now, while I can't lie and tell you I've worked this whole Superman business out in my head, I will tell you that I want to help you, the partner and friend I see suffering."

He turned and stared out the window into the darkness. What he wanted more than anything was for Lois to look at *Clark* in her 'moony-eyed cheerleader' way, but that was probably never going to happen. And he couldn't deny that he'd seen pain in Lois' dark eyes… pain for a friend, and maybe that was enough. More than anything, seeing others suffer because of him was tearing him apart… and this was Lois… his best friend.

Breaking the deafening silence, Lois reached out and touched his arm. "Clark?"

Fear and frustration were dammed up within Clark's soul, but at Lois' touch they overtook him and he started to shake. Clark's crossed arms hugged his body in an attempt to still the trembling.

Lois brought her other hand up and gently rubbed his folded arms. "It's okay to admit you're scared… even for Superman." she said experimentally. "And it can only help to let it out," she finished on a whisper.

Clark's chin dropped in defeat to his chest and his shakes gave way to shuddering as his whole body convulsed with pent-up emotions. When a sob escaped his mouth, Lois turned him around and wrapped him in her arms. He needed her… so much.

His hands clutched her back. "I don't want to die," he whispered.

"I know," she said, fighting to control her own tears as she held him.

Clark finally allowed himself to cry for the things he'd never have or get to do. He cried for all the things he'd miss or never experience. And he cried knowing this was the only way he'd ever get to hold Lois Lane.

Lois stroked his back and shoulders as his body began to calm, then gently removed his glasses so she could wipe away his tears without obstruction. Clark turned his face into her neck and grasped her tighter, as if she were his lifeline to the world. With sorrowing compassion, Lois simply readjusted her hold and gave him the time he needed.

It was much later when Lois drew back enough to see his face. "Come on, let's go back to the sofa, so you can lay your head on my lap. You look like you're about to drop."

"I am tired," he admitted with the ghost of a smile.

She took his hand and led him back into the living room, settling on one end of the sofa and pulling Clark down beside her. He curled up like a small child as she encouraged him to use her lap as a pillow, then she began to softly massage his head.

"That feels good," he told her after a few moments.

"Close your eyes and enjoy it."

"Can't. If I close my eyes, I see…" He stopped and swallowed hard, unable to finish his harrowing thought.

"It's okay. Just relax a little if you can."

There was another silence which he ended with a penitent admission. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you."


Lois didn't want to talk about the fact that he didn't have long to live. It was too painful… for both of them. And she still hadn't reached any conclusion about whether she was hurting more because Superman was dying or because Clark was. The thing was, it shouldn't really matter anyway as they were the same person, weren't they? She'd worked out that Clark made Superman who he was. Without the farm boy from Kansas, the man in tights would be nothing more than a shell. Yet, didn't it also follow that Clark was the man he was because of his alien differences?

She still found it all very confusing and she hadn't yet surrendered all of her anger. Only she was no longer sure what outraged her most… the fact that Clark — Mr. Greenjeans, was also the 'God in tights' who, by the way, was supposed to stand for truth and justice, but who had blatantly been dishonest with her by pretending to be two totally different men, or with the fact that fate was about to rob her of them both.

And in the face of that terrible truth, wasn't she being incredibly selfish to hold onto her anger? Whatever guise she thought of him as, he was still her friend and he was still dying. There was no confusion in her soul about that — she hated the fact that soon she'd be saying good-bye to that friend.

Clark's steady breathing told her his exhaustion had gotten the better of him. He was sleeping, so she propped her feet up on the coffee table and laid her head back. She'd stay here tonight and let him rest.


Somewhere nearing three in the morning Clark awoke. His super hearing had alerted him to a gang fight down in Suicide Slum and according to the police reports there was every chance there could be fatalities if the situation couldn't be contained quickly. He had no choice, Superman was needed.

Clark was grateful for what little time he'd had to sleep and he was well aware that it was due to Lois' ministrations. At least, he felt less tired, he decided as he climbed to his feet, careful not to disturb his sleeping partner. He smiled down at her, then his smile changed to a frown. Poor Lois would end up with a very stiff neck if she spent the rest of the night in that awkward position. Clark slid his arms beneath her and carried his precious bundle through to his bed. There he laid her down and she immediately rolled over, snuggling under the covers. He would thank her in the morning for being there for him, he thought as he stood back and spun into the suit. Then in a blur of color he disappeared.

Nearly an hour later, Lois sat straight up in bed, gasping for air. She'd dreamed they were burying Clark… and it seemed so real… so terrible. She thought they might have been in Smallville, but since she'd never visited the cemetery when she'd been there, she couldn't be sure. All his family and friends were present, standing in the endless rain by the grave beneath the trees. His parents were inconsolable. Jimmy was torn apart, while Perry cried silently… And she just felt so empty… as if she'd lost something that she'd never really had.

It took her a minute to realize where she was. Clark must have put her in his bed. She fell back with a sigh of relief, letting her racing heart calm down. He was still here, still alive. Slowly she drifted back to sleep.

A very different dream wakened her as early morning sunlight seeped in through the window and warmed her face. She quickly pushed back the covers and got out of bed. When she stepped into the kitchen after a detour to the bathroom, she found Clark cooking eggs for breakfast. He looked up and smiled at her.


Lois stared at him, trying to reconcile the images she'd just seen in both her dreams. It was as if her subconscious mind had given her the answer to his problem. Clark frowned at her expression.

"Lois, are you okay? You look like you've seen a ghost."

Now that was just too close for comfort. In that instant, she knew what she had to do. "Clark, I want to help make you well."

"You did more for me last night than you'll ever know."

"Not that. Well, that too, but I mean… more."

"More?" He lifted the pan and poured the eggs on the plate. "I'm doing all I can."

"Not quite." She pushed her hair back out of her face. This was probably the craziest thing she'd ever contemplated doing, but when had Lois ever let that deter her. "You can do one other thing."

Clark looked up at her as he picked up the plates. "What other… thing?" Clark stopped and stared at her He set the plates on the table before speaking. "The baby thing?! You're serious?"

"I've never been more serious in my life."

"And what? You're volunteering your services?" he quipped with a half laugh, attempting to joke her ridiculous suggestion away.

"Yes, why not?" Lois really wasn't feeling as confident as she sounded, but she'd made her play and she wasn't about to back down.

"Lois, we can't do that."

"Why not?" she repeated.

"Why not? Because bringing a child into the world for such an idiotic reason is ridiculous. How can you even be considering it?"

"Idiotic reason? Your life is idiotic?" she confronted him as Clark sighed and glanced away from her. "And I'm considering it, Clark, because a child of yours could save your life."

"Or the child could lose its father and you'd be on your own. Lois, Bernard's theory is only speculation."

Lois froze at Clark's first statement. She wasn't really sure if she could handle that scenario. In fact, she hadn't really thought past the marrow transplant stage. But, as always, Lois refused to contemplate defeat, so she buried that particular outcome in the back of her mind and tackled his second point.

"He doesn't think so. He thinks it would work. And if it does, you will heal. No more being scared or being sick or swallowing pills." She snatched up one of his now ten different medications laid out on the table in preparation for Clark taking them. "Wouldn't that be the best? Clark, one tiny detail could save your life."

"Tiny detail? Lois, a baby is not a tiny detail. This child might come into the world for one particular reason, but it wouldn't end there!" Lois might have tunnel vision, but her partner would always care about how his actions would affect others… especially if that other happened to be his own baby. "The baby would be alive; a little person alive, thriving, and in need of constant attention. You and I would have a child to care for… for life. A baby wouldn't cease to exist because a little marrow had saved its father's life."

"I know that." Lois insisted with a certain amount of bravado.

"Do you? Do you know how much responsibility a baby really is? You'd be someone's mother, and, correct me if I'm wrong, but you've never given the slightest indication that being a mother was high on your list of priorities."

"Maybe not, but I'm not intractable. I can change! Are you saying I couldn't do this?" Lois' arms had folded over her chest, shutting herself off defensively.

Clark noted her reaction and decided that perhaps he best back- pedal a little. "Lois, I think you could do anything you set your mind to. But I don't think you've thought this through. A lot of my friends back in Smallville have kids and, though I don't have a lot of practical experience, I know being a parent isn't easy. You'd lose sleep, change messy diapers and listen to hours of crying. Then would come the 'terrible twos' and, before you could draw breath, it would be time to start school. There would be PTA meetings, homework, school plays, and on and on. It's endless work; endless, hard, tiring work. And what happens if I die anyway? Then you'd have to raise this child on your own."

"Don't be silly. I'd always have your parents," she said to break the tense mood. She thought it had made him angry, but soon she saw his lips quiver.

Clark laughed softly and shook his head, unable to hold back. Once more the famous Lane reasoning had surfaced… and, in this case, she wasn't wrong. There was never any doubt his parents would be there for her. "Don't try to make this sound so… so…"

"So what? So easy? Clark, it is easy."

"No, Lois, it's not. We can't do this. I can't do this."

"Can't do it period or won't just because it's me?"

"No… period! I don't want you doing something you will probably regret just because you feel sorry for me."

"I don't feel sorry for you. I just don't see why I have to lose you if I don't have to."

Clark stared at her for a searching instant. "Oh, I get it. You're willing to do this to keep Superman from dying."

Lois stepped up to him and slapped his face as hard as she dared. "How dare you accuse me of being so shallow?" It was a totally impulsive reaction, even though she couldn't deny that just last night she'd thought herself foolish for not knowing which man she'd miss more.

But her dreams had proved that Clark wasn't just her partner at the Planet, or the farmer's son from Smallville. He wasn't just Superman, the treasured hero, either. He was all those things and so very much more, and it was the whole man that Lois wanted to save. With her help, a son wouldn't have to die; her partner and friend wouldn't have to suffer as cancer ate away at his body and the world would be spared its superhero.

So with all these reasons churning round in her soul, his sarcastic comment stung her with incredible pain. It took a lot for Lois to offer such undeniable generosity and Clark's words hurt. She turned and stormed into the living room to find her shoes.

Clark put a hand to the skin she'd just branded, stunned by her action. Then he twirled to go after her. "Lois, wait."

She halted at his words and walked back to meet him with a glare. "No, you wait. I am willing to do this for you — not Superman, not Clark, just you and I don't care who you think that is." As Lois threw out each of his names she accompanied them with a finger poked into his chest. "And, just maybe you should explore your own feelings about that because I don't think you're too clear on just who you are either. But don't ever accuse me of being shallow enough to do this so just part of you can survive. 'Cause, you know what? Both of you will die if I don't."

She turned again and started toward the door, jerking up her bag and jacket on passing, but she paused at the top of the stairs. "I'm headed to Star Labs to talk to Dr. Klein, regardless of what you think. Your smart-ass comment didn't change my mind, so the option's still open. Take it or not, it makes no difference to me." She slammed the door as she left, knowing that last part was a lie… it did make a difference to her.

Clark stared at his closed door, which happened to be shaking infinitesimally at her abrupt passing. Seconds later, he had to remind himself to draw breath. Now that his partner had gone, he felt kinda lonely and without much enthusiasm he returned to eat his eggs — Bernie had stressed the importance of his eating regularly.

Lois sure had given him a lot to consider and, boy, she'd certainly put his whole existence into a different perspective for him. Not that he was remotely contemplating taking her up on her suggestion. Still, he had time to eat breakfast before she could get to Star Labs. Maybe he'd just fly over there and see what was going on.


The Lab was quiet as the grave as Dr Klein stared incredulously at his early-morning visitor so, much so that Lois almost found herself touching her head to make sure she hadn't just grown another one. To be honest, she thought she might have to apply mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, as Bernard had nearly passed out when Lois revealed her intention to have Superman's baby in order to save his life. However, once she'd finally convinced the shell-shocked doctor that she was absolutely serious, he'd recovered sufficiently to talk over exactly what the options would be to make the child's conception possible.

With only the odd stutter, Bernie pointed out what the available methods were — natural, of course, in vitro fertilization, and artificial insemination. Lois gave the list a short review, but opted for artificial insemination when Dr. Klein pointed out that in vitro often resulted in multiple births. She was willing to have this baby, but she didn't want two or three or more. Besides, Klein was of the opinion that the 'K' gene, as he'd dubbed it, was so strong, it was bound to be passed on to a baby and therefore the child would be compatible with Superman.

And natural conception in Lois' opinion was a total non-starter. Throwing an intimate relationship with Clark into the mix, however briefly, just wouldn't be wise. They had enough problems dealing with each other as it was. Plus, you just didn't jump in bed with your friend, no matter what the reason. At least, Lois didn't! She hadn't jumped in bed with anyone lately, not since Claude, and she really had no inclination to repeat the experience. There was also the fact that she still hadn't completely reconciled his identity in her head. Okay, she'd accepted it, only occasionally she just couldn't seem to make up her mind how she felt about it, so adding 'sex' to their already unstable relationship could seriously send her into mental overload.

Since they'd arrived at a plan of action both felt there was no time to lose. Dr Klein drew some blood samples from Lois and she answered several 'cringe-inducing' personal questions, which had paled into insignificance during a very embarrassing physical examination. Her only tiny consolation was that she wasn't sure which one of them had been more mortified.

Bernard, for his part, was barely able to look at Lois as he stumbled through his explanation, completely abashed to be the one asking all the questions. He finally admitted that he was out of his realm, but that he was honored that Superman, and now Lois, had entrusted him with such an enormous and important task. He assured the young woman he'd do everything possible for them both. Like her, he was glad to be able to help, and hopefully, between them, they could save Superman's life.

Lois was very relieved when they reached the final procedure, which was to take Lois' temperature and to calculate when her most fertile days would occur. Thank goodness this was a private facility and she and Bernard could set their own agenda. She would have hated to go through all this at some hospital or clinic.

The process took Bernard over three hours and at the end of it, Lois was left feeling battered and numb. Strangely, it had all seemed incredibly impersonal… if you ignored the probing questions and that dreadful exam. Well, she'd have to get used to that if this actually happened. Which led her to wondering if she was doing the right thing. If this actually happened, she'd be someone's mother. Perhaps Clark had a point. Could she do that? Could she nurture another human being?

Yet what choice did she have? Clark was dying. Without her, any chance for him to recover would not be possible. The frightening impact of her dream had spurred her on to do this, but in the calm light of day, reality was setting in. She was really planning to have Clark's baby!

Just like anything else she did in life, she'd jumped into this before she'd thought about it. She'd told Clark it wasn't a snap decision — that she knew babies could be a lot of work, but that hadn't exactly been the truth. Yet, while she might not have thought through all the details of the situation, there was something inside her that wouldn't let her back down from this. Having this baby was the right thing to do. In Lois' mind, this child already existed. She just had to convince Clark to help breathe life into those tiny lungs.

Lois, finished off straightening her clothes again and returned to Bernie's tiny office to find the doctor studying some figures. "Dr. Klein? Is there something wrong?"

He looked up at Lois like a startled fawn, causing her to wonder just why she had that effect on the poor man. "No, no," he stammered, "everything looks just fine. All we need is Papa's donation and we can get this going."

Lois grimaced at that. She still had to convince Papa, and she had to inform the doctor of this fact. "Hmm, that might be a problem, Dr Klein."

"Why's that?" he enquired conversationally.

"Well, he and I sorta had a disagreement about this. He doesn't think it's such a good idea."

Bernard regarded her wide-eyed, this was beginning to be i ntriguing."The baby part or how to make it?"

"The baby, period! He doesn't think I fully realize how serious a business having a baby would be. But, Dr. Klein, I have to do this." Lois took a seat across the desk from Bernard and clasped her hands tightly to still their nervous twisting. "I can't explain it. All I know is that if I don't, and he dies, I would never forgive myself."

"I understand. Believe me, I happen to think what you're doing is fantastic."

"Thank you." Lois smiled wistfully. "But I'm not doing this for thanks."

"I know that!"

"I think he's a little concerned about what everyone would think, too. It's not exactly like we can tell everyone he's sick and I'm having his baby to save his life."

"Lois, you're not going to tell anyone you're having Superman's baby?" Klein looked totally horrified. "That could be very dangerous for you and the baby. If word of that got out, you could both become targets for any villain who wanted to control Superman or madman who had a grudge against him!"

"Oh no! Definitely not!" Lois had to remind herself that the doctor wasn't in on Clark's secret identity. Actually, that point wasn't too difficult to solve as everyone would be told that Clark Kent was the father — after all, many of the Planet staff were already aware of Clark's illness. But then, the doctor hadn't been informed that the two men were one yet… that was something else that needed to be addressed. Meanwhile, Klein was looking at her with a troubled expression. "Don't worry about that, Doctor. It really won't be a problem. My biggest hurdle will be to persuade Superman to take me up on my offer."

"Well, that may be where you have to get creative."

"What?" Now it was Lois' turn to look at the doctor as if he'd grown two heads. Somehow she'd never envisaged discussing her intimate plans with the 'nutty professor'. Still, right about now, she was grateful for any friendly ear.

"Think about it, Lois. Maybe he still can't believe that his life will be saved, even if you do have the baby. Maybe he sees everything he does from now on as the last chance he'll ever get to do those things. He might want more than just a cold, sterile conception for his child."

"I hadn't thought of that."

Bernard leaned across the desk, warming to his subject. "Lois, he may be dying and he may be Superman, but this would still be his child. He wouldn't necessarily see it as his savior."

Lois knew he was right. After all, Clark had said as much this morning. This would be Clark's first child. She had a fair notion that he thought it would be his only child. Why would he want to have one this way?

To save his life, she reminded herself. Perhaps Clark was the one who needed reminding of that, but he just didn't view it that way. Bernie had got it in one! Clark would never think of having a child merely as a method to cure him of a terminal disease. He'd told her this was an idiotic reason. To Clark, a baby would always be a precious gift — a living, breathing little person in its own right. She would have to get very creative about this if she was going to convince him this was the right thing to do.

"Do you have any suggestions, as a man, on how I could sway his decision on this?"

Bernie scratched his head for a few moments, wondering how he could put this delicately. "I suppose I know Superman better than most, but I'm not very good at close relationships… and I doubt that Superman is either. I mean, he and I don't really socialize. Though the little I've seen of the man tells me he's a special person… but he's also a man, a young, red-blooded man. You have to remember this would be his child, quite possibly his only child." Lois almost smiled as the doctor echoed her thoughts. "Maybe, he'd want something a little more… personal as far as conception is concerned."

"Are you suggesting I… offer him an old fashioned conception?"

Bernie shrugged. "Let's not get ahead of ourselves. I'm just saying you should find out if he even wants this child to exist. If he does, then consider all your options. I personally think conceiving naturally is always your best option. And with time running so short, you don't want to spend too much time debating the issue. I'd be happier if you could get pregnant before he loses his powers. We're in uncharted territory here, and I'm not totally sure whether the 'K' gene would become recessive and therefore not be passed on."

Lois leaned forward to grasp the desk, her knuckles showing white with tension. She had no problems with conceiving with the help of medical technology, but physically? Lois baulked at the idea! This was Clark they were talking about and she was back to the recurring question. Could she be intimate with someone she considered only as a friend? But what if it was the only way… She stopped halfway through that thought. Did it matter how the child was conceived as long as the end result was that Superman recovered?

In fact, if she was being truthful, she'd have to admit that only a few months back, she'd have been over the moon at the prospect of Superman sharing her bed… And if she was playing the honesty card, she also had to take into account that seeing Clark in just a towel, that first time in the Apollo Hotel, had raised her temperature a few degrees. But it was all so much more complicated now… not to mention a little egotistical on her part! I mean she didn't even know if Clark felt that way about her… though she had her suspicions.

And what happened if they conceived that way and he did recover? What then? Would they have problems being around each other afterward? An evil thought crossed her mind and she couldn't restrain a naughty grin. What happened if they did conceive naturally and she found out sex with Clark was something she wasn't adverse to? It could be a chance to fulfill some of those Superman fantasies… and she'd definitely find out how the 'suit' came off!

<Can it, Lois. This is serious…> she admonished herself, but it did shed a more enticing aspect on the whole situation.

Lois quashed her wayward thoughts, thanked Dr Klein and left. She'd have to rethink this a little… Okay, a lot!


Lois got back to the newsroom to discover a number of staffers grouped round the various TV screens, watching an ongoing emergency. The complex man in her thoughts was negotiating a stand off with a very nervous teen who had shot some of his classmates and was threatening to kill himself. Superman was trying to talk the young boy out of what he was doing. Ironic, Lois thought. 'You're a walking time bomb trying to save another one.'

She turned to see Martha emerge from Perry's office, which did surprise Lois as Clark hadn't mentioned his mother was visiting. The older woman smiled as she approached her desk.

"Lois. How are you?"

Lois smiled back and rose to accept her offered hug. "I'm fine. How are you?"

"I guess I've seen better days," Martha admitted quietly.

Lois could see that Martha had indeed spoken the truth. The woman looked tired and she seemed to lack her usual sparkle. "You probably have," Lois said sympathetically, realizing that she wasn't the only one who was dreading the loss of Clark. "Got time for a coffee?"

"Sure." The woman looked gratefully at Lois as she led the way into the conference room.

A few minutes later they'd settled on opposite sides of the table at the far end of the room and were sharing coffee and conversation. This was the first time Lois had talked to Martha since she'd discovered the family secret, and Clark had told her that his parents knew that she was no longer on the outside looking in.

"What brings you to the city?" Lois ventured, feeling fairly apprehensive. Clark might have assured her that his parents were glad she finally knew, but that didn't calm the butterflies that were fluttering around in her stomach.

The older woman smiled, recognizing the taut lines round Lois' mouth. "Well, first I'd like to welcome you to the family. Jonathan and I are really happy that you're in on the secret." Martha drew the 'S' sign on her chest to show exactly what she meant. "It's good to know he has someone in his corner looking out for him."

Lois blushed, thinking of the times when her short-tempered outbursts could hardly be described as 'looking out for Clark'. Yet it seemed that Clark had forgotten to mention these incidents to his parents. "I do try, Martha!"

"I'm sure you do, my dear!" The younger woman's flushed face wasn't lost on Martha, and she was sure there'd been a few lively confrontations between Lois and her son. Knowing this feisty young lady, she expected nothing less and it didn't bother her in the slightest. In fact, Martha was of the opinion that it had probably done her son some good. Sometimes, she felt his self- imposed isolation was unhealthy. But that wasn't her chief concern at present. "And, of course, I wanted to make sure Clark was taking care of himself. His dad and I worry about him, and he hasn't been home since he told us about the disease getting worse."

"Yeah. He just told me last night." Lois' voice developed an edge. Was there a chance that she might have found an ally?

"Clark can be so stubborn."

"Tell me about it." Lois stayed silent for a second, determined to create an effect. She hated playing games like this, but, in this case winning was crucial. "Did you know there's a way for him to get better?"

"What?" Martha sat up straighter, her interest immediately caught by anything that could give her a little hope for her son's survival.

The reaction was just what Lois was looking for, and she continued more gently. "Dr. Klein told him that a bone marrow transplant could save him."

"But how is that possible? Don't bone marrow donors have to be compatible with the recipient? He's not like everyone else." Martha threw a searching glance at Lois. "I thought you understood that?"

"I do! That's the only glitch. He'd have to find someone else from wherever he comes from, and, as we know that's not possible…" Lois paused again, only this time because she was unsure of how to say the next part. As it was, she just dived right in. "He'd have to… father a child."


"Yeah. The doctor believes a child, even a half Earthling child, would have enough of the genes that make Clark super to reverse the disease."

"Incredible!" Martha sat very still, her brow creased in concentration, trying hard to come to terms with this information. "We always wondered if he could even father a child with an Earth woman."

"According to Dr Klein, that part seems to be totally normal. Only one extra DNA marker separates Kryptonians from Earthlings."

Martha stared down at her coffee. Finally she chuckled softly. "He can't advertise for something like this, huh?"

Lois smiled back at her. She was once again reminded of why she liked Martha so much—they were so alike. "I said the same thing." They shared a short laugh, easing a lot of the tension. Then Lois dropped her bombshell. "That's why I offered to do it."

That remark halted Martha's laughter immediately and her face went blank. She stared wide-eyed and open mouthed at the younger woman.

"Can you believe it, he accused me of being shallow enough to offer just to save Superman. I slapped his face."

If it were possible, Martha's eyes opened even wider and she snorted. Only she wasn't sure which astounded her most — her son's obtuseness, Lois' punitive response, or the proposition itself. After taking a second or so to compose herself, she leaned over the table. "May I ask you, why did you offer?"

The older lady didn't want Lois to think she was prying, yet she felt the answer was important as to whether the young couple should go ahead with this proposal. But for all that, she couldn't totally crush her instinctive surge of hope. Clark was her son and she loved him dearly. The prospect of life without him was destroying her.

"I went to his apartment last night," Lois started her narrative slowly, very much aware that she needed to gain Martha's support. She couldn't see Clark agreeing if he felt his mother disapproved. "I held him while he cried and told me he didn't want to die. The most powerful man on this planet shook in fear. When I went to sleep I dreamed of his funeral. That was awful. And I dreamt of you and Jonathan and how much you'd hurt if Clark died. It was so realistic and horrible that I woke up hardly able to breathe. You have no idea the relief I felt when I realized it was only a nightmare. Then I dreamt of this tiny little person who could possibly stop all this from happening. One choice separates us all from losing someone very dear to our hearts."

Weird! That was the first time she'd ever admitted out loud that Clark could mean more to her than just a good friend. But then, in her heart, she'd always known that he was her 'best' friend and she'd never really had one of those before… she was just realizing how very precious they were.

Of course, someone who knew about the secret identity and everything involved with it, such as Martha, could easily assume Lois had made the comment about Superman and not Clark. After all, wasn't that what Clark had done? Inwardly, she wanted to scream. This dual identity thing was messing about with her brain and it only appeared to be getting worse.

"Lois, honey, we're not talking about a puppy here. A baby is very serious business."

If Martha had noticed Lois' inner battle, she didn't indicate a thing.

"I know it is. But so is Clark's life." She wiped at the tear that had found its way down her cheek. "I'm willing to sacrifice the rest of my life to save his, even if no one else feels it's a good idea."

Martha sat silently watching, as the younger woman struggled with her emotions. This was taking a toll on Lois, too. She wasn't sure if what had been suggested was such a good idea, but the fear for her son's life was ever present. Part of her wanted to tell Lois she agreed wholeheartedly and to suggest they start immediately. Yet the less emotional side of her wanted to shake some sense into Lois. If only Lois didn't see her whole involvement as a sacrifice. Before she could say anything though, Lois was talking again.

"This morning, I went to Star Labs and talked to Dr. Klein. You should have seen his face — I was sure he was about to have a coronary. Don't worry, though. I didn't tell him anything other than I wanted to help Superman." At Martha's mesmerized nod, Lois plunged on. "Okay, we went through the options and I decided that artificial insemination would be best. You don't know how much of an embarrassing conversation that was, I mean, with Dr Klein… not to mention the rest!" Her nervous babble was in full flow. "Anyway, he took some blood and did a preliminary work up. All I have do now is convince Clark to go through with this."

Martha found herself starting to laugh with something close to hysteria, causing Lois to regard her with dread. "I'm sorry, dear," she told her when she caught her breath. "It's just that this is all so overwhelming. If I don't laugh, I'm afraid I'll cry."

"That's exactly why I want to do this."

"But, Lois, a baby? And to conceive in such a manner."

"I've thought about that, too. I do know what kind of responsibility this would be. As for the conception, I don't think we should make matters worse by throwing a sexual relationship we're not ready for into the mix. After all, Clark and I aren't exactly a couple in that sense." Martha's brows rose into her hair — that was the biggest part of the problem. "I think everyone would have a hard enough time with the actual pregnancy. But I'll do this any way Clark wants to do it, as long as he will." Lois reached over and covered Martha's hand with her own. "Martha, it would also be your grandchild."

A grandchild! There was nothing that would give Martha more joy, but these weren't the ideal circumstances. Besides, Lois and Clark were the important people here. "And your child. Could you raise a baby with Clark?" Martha held Lois' eyes in a searching stare. "I suspect you still haven't really reconciled his identity in your head."

Oh no, Clark always said that he couldn't get anything past his mother and it seemed as if Lois wasn't faring any better. Yet Lois was nothing if she wasn't tenacious and she pushed her point home one more time. "If I don't do it, Clark will die. Does it really matter which one I care most about… I mean, how could I care for one and not the other! They're the same person and we're going to lose them both." Lois whispered. For her that fact was so much worse, and if she could do anything to prevent it, she would.

Martha leaned forward and took both of Lois' hands. Underneath the confusion, Martha sensed that Lois cared a lot more for her son than perhaps she even knew herself. And Martha had never really approved of Clark's obsession with seeing himself and Superman as separate identities. He was neither the mild-mannered reporter nor the superhero, but a wonderful amalgam of the two, and Martha had a sneaking suspicion that Lois had started down that road of discovery.

Mind you, she still didn't know if this was the right thing to do, but if Lois was determined to do it, she realized that even Superman wouldn't be able to resist her.

"Okay, Lois, I can't say that I totally agree with you, but I do understand why you want to do this and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for caring enough. If Clark decides to do this, then I'll support you both in every way I can."

So, it wasn't the 'across the board' backing that Lois had hoped for, but she was willing to accept any encouragement. She returned Martha's hand squeeze, as both sat smiling tearfully at each other. Above them on the TV screen, Superman's rescue wrapped up and he took to the skies, blissfully unaware of the alliance that had been reached by the two most important women in his life.


Clark had wanted to head to Star Labs to see what kind of scheme Lois was planning, but the hostage situation at the school had been too intense to leave, but a young man was still alive because of his efforts. With so many things going wrong for Clark these days, it felt really good to make such a positive difference.

He had flown by to talk to Dr. Klein and had been very shocked to find out that Lois had indeed been there to discuss conceiving a child. Not only that, she'd given blood and all the initial tests had been performed in preparation for possible insemination and conception of his child. This time it was Clark's turn to be blown away by a revelation!

Sure, he'd known Lois was serious about having a child for him when she mentioned it this morning, but he'd also decided she'd think it through and realize that the whole idea was actually way out of her league. But apparently she was extremely intent about following it through. Of course, he hadn't said yes and she could hardly manage this on her own.

Deciding there was little he could do at the minute, he headed home, flying pretty much on instinct as he contemplated his partner's obduracy. He could tell he was in for a rough ride over the next few weeks. Clark's acute sense of smell picked up some very appealing aromas coming from inside his apartment when he arrived. A glance inside told him why.

"Mom?" Clark smiled genuinely at his mom as he made his way down into the living room. Somehow life never seemed to be so bad when she was around. His mother was busy cooking, but looked up to return his smile, blinking back the tears which often threatened these days when she saw her son.

"What are you doing here?" He gave her a warm hug.

"I came to see if my boy was okay."

"You didn't have to do that."

"Yes, I did. You haven't been home in weeks." Martha sounded, unusually, just a tiny bit complaining.

"I'm sorry. I've been tired a lot more lately."

"I know. Now sit." She turned back to the stove and served him up some of her stew. "You probably could do with a good meal!"

"This is great," he said as he took his first bite. Martha settled across from him with a bowl of her own. "How long can you stay?"

"A week. Wayne Irig's youngest boy is home from the navy and he's giving your dad a hand."

"Oh, how is Tad?" Clark asked conversationally.

"He's good! Really liking life as a sailor, which is surprising since he grew up on a farm miles from the ocean. Still, look at you… you didn't settle for life in Smallville either!"

"Well, maybe farming isn't in my blood. Who knows if they even had farms on Krypton?" Clark laughed.

"I'm sure they did! It was probably a lot like Earth, if you're anything to go by… Aren't Kryptonians human too?"

That killed that particular conversation and they ate in silence for several moments. His mother could have heard that fact from only one of two people.

"I had a talk with a friend of yours today," Martha said, confirming Clark's suspicions. He glanced up at her. "She's really worried about you."

"Lois? I know." Clark shoved another bite into his mouth. "She's stubborn, too." His mom gave him a 'look who's talking' glare. He dropped his gaze but kept speaking. "I guess she told you what she wants to do?"

"She did."

Clark placed his napkin on the table and sighed, giving a fair imitation of one who was long suffering. "You know she actually went to Star Labs and got Bernard to do the initial evaluation for having a test-tube baby?" Martha nodded that she did know. "Thank God she has a knack for calming down once she's had time to think things through. Tomorrow she'll have realized just how insane her suggestion is." He poked his spoon around in his stew, finding himself a little less relieved than he might have been at his assumption.

"It's possible she already has," Martha suggested, feeling very ambivalent about that prospect. At the same time, she recognized she wasn't being totally honest with her son.

"Thank goodness."

"Yeah," Martha continued as she buttered a biscuit. "She said she and Dr. Klein had a long talk, and he pointed out that you might see this as your one and only chance to ever have a child, so you might not want to conceive that child through such a sterile process."

"He did what?! That's not exactly what I had in mind when I said Lois would see that the idea was crazy. I meant the entire idea, not just the insemination procedure!"

Martha ignored Clark's outburst and smiled helpfully. "Lois is prepared to be flexible. She told me that, although she felt a sexual relationship thrown into this mix might be a little too much, she didn't care how this baby was conceived. She'd do this any way you wanted to."

Clark was beyond shocked. He couldn't form a coherent sentence, so he stared at his mother, his mouth opening and closing in disbelief. The look in her eyes told him she was actually considering this to be an option. "Mom, I can't… sleep with Lois and, and… make a baby."

"Why not?"

"Mom!" He got up like a scalded cat and took his bowl to the sink.

"Clark, Lois is so determined to do this. Why won't you even consider it?"

"How can you?" he asked as he spun around to her.

Martha shot to her feet. "How can I? Because it could save my son's life that's how!"

Clark took a step back. His mother was heaving to catch her breath. She was mad, madder than Clark had ever seen her. Yet he recognized that her anger was only a cover for a totally different emotion. "Whoa… Mom. I didn't mean to upset you… but I seem to be doing that a lot these days."

"I didn't mean to get so upset," she said in a calmer tone. "But Clark, you will die if you don't do this." Her eyes pleaded with him desperately to understand her feelings.

Son and mother stared at each other for long moments, each silently acknowledging the uncertain dread which dogged their daily lives. Finally, it was Clark who gave way. "And what if I do? What happens afterward? How do I just go through the mechanics of… intercourse with Lois. Lois, Mom! I can't… do… that without it meaning something."

"Then tell her."

"Tell her what?"

"Clark Kent, don't you play silly games with me. Remember who you're talking to… I know exactly how you feel about Lois!"

"That's not what she wants. She doesn't have those kinds of feelings for me."

"Maybe this would change that," Martha hinted hopefully.

"Mom! I don't want her to have feelings for me because of some physical release. That wouldn't be real. I just can't do it." Clark turned back to the sink.

"Clark, it would be real, and it could ultimately save your life."

"My life isn't worth ruining Lois'."

"Lois doesn't see it that way! She's willing to make this sacrifice for you." The minute the words left Martha's lips, she almost groaned in frustration. In her anguish to convince Clark to at least try for a cure, she'd been less wise than she normally was.

"See, sacrifice!" he exclaimed as he faced his mother again. "That implies that Lois is giving something up! And what happens once the baby saves my life? How would we go back to a normal relationship after having sex out of necessity?"

"Then go through artificial insemination."

"And if we did? What will she feel for our child? How would I know she felt a connection to that child? Would she want it if I lived, or would she want me to take it and go away? Would she want me to have anything to do with it at all?" Clark stuck his hands in his pockets to keep them still, while his anxieties poured forth like an underground stream bubbling to the surface.

Martha's heart broke for her son. He was the most caring soul she'd ever known and he loved life so much. This had to be hard for him. But apart from his sorrow at his impending death, she recognized the guilt he carried around with him constantly, that very soon now he would have to give up his role as protector of this world. In some sense he had to be pleased that there was a chance he could carry on fulfilling this self-imposed duty, which his special gifts had placed on him. Yet, he was also a very moral young man. How could he reconcile his wish for self- preservation with the risk of bringing a child into the world which could so easily be hurt? She had to help him work his way through this.

"Oh, honey, of course Lois would care and she wouldn't keep you from your child. You'd both raise it. She and I talked about all that. Clark, Lois has really given this a lot of thought. She wants to do this. I may not agree with it fully either, but the fact still remains that this may be the only way to save your life."

Clark sighed and turned to run some water in the sink, then started to wash up the dinner dishes. It was his way of working through his own thoughts. His mom was probably right. Lois might be stubborn, uncompromising and often too fiery for her own good, but when she calmed down, she was always fair. She wouldn't expect him to ignore his baby.

But this was crazy. How could he just have sex with Lois to make a baby? Simple. He doubted he could. Okay, so what about creating the child artificially? Was that fair to the baby? Granted, a child was no less real just because it was created in a laboratory. But didn't the little life that would exist deserve to be created because it was wanted instead of being needed? Didn't it deserve two loving parents that would work together for its benefit?

Lois… sex with Lois. While that wasn't a terrible thought for him, the fact she'd be doing it without feeling was beyond terrible. He'd be sharing his body with her in the most intimate of all expressions, while for her it would just be a means to an end. He loved Lois. How could he just… force her into doing something she really wasn't comfortable with? How could she want him to? He knew the answer to that one… she didn't, she was just willing to sacrifice herself!

When he was done cleaning the kitchen, he leaned against the counter to face his mother, a tiny penitent smile touching the corners of his mouth. Despite all the reasons why they shouldn't do this, he couldn't help but find the offer very compelling. "We'd have to tell Bernard."

"I know."

He sighed again, straightened and spun into his suit. "I have to do a patrol." It was way past his regular time and he needed the fresh air. Maybe it would clear his head.

"Okay." Martha's hair was whipped about as he left the apartment. She understood this was his way of straightening out Lois' offer in his mind. While that offer was admittedly radical, the mother in her couldn't help but want her son to do everything humanly possible to save his life. But she knew this was his decision to make. Clark couldn't do this just to satisfy her, or his father, or even Lois. He had to do it for himself as well. She echoed Clark's heartfelt sigh as she made her way over to the sofa and dropped heavily on the cushions. Hopefully he'd figure something out tonight.


Chapter 4: And The Answer Is

Clark flew further that night than he had in a long time, hoping that during the flight he'd come up with some kind of answer to Lois's totally insane proposal. As much as he longed to make love to Lois — he'd fantasized about it often enough — this wasn't quite how he wanted it to happen.

And a baby… that was just too much to consider. There was just no way he could go through with that.

Yet, he'd felt himself drawn to her and had followed his instincts, as he always did where Lois was concerned. Hours later, he found himself floating above her apartment block and noticed that, though her rooms were in darkness, the window was left unlocked, a sure sign that Lois wanted to invite Superman inside.

Clark quietly let himself in and went to stand at the bedroom door to watch her sleep. He felt like an intruder, yet couldn't quite bring himself to leave. It wasn't often he got to see a peaceful Lois and she looked so beautiful in repose. Her steady breathing and the stillness of the moonlit room calmed him, making him almost afraid to move, but eventually his exhaustion won out and he settled in the chair next to Lois' bed.

Leaning forward, he cupped his chin in his hands and stared at the person he'd come to love above all others. If only he knew what had prompted Lois' foolish, but generous offer, or what she really felt for him. But then, he already knew the answer to both these questions.

If he agreed, Lois was willing to sleep with him and to conceive and bear his child… even raise that child. That had to be the ultimate act of compassion and caring, and Clark had never been fooled by the front Lois showed to the world. She was both of these things, and she'd fight to the end for whatever and whoever she believed in. There wouldn't be a problem if he could accept that, but he wanted more… he wanted Lois to love him.

<What would you have if you died?> his inner voice told him. He sighed deeply as he lay back, his eyes drifting closed. There was only so much a man, even a super man, could stand in one day.

Lois woke in the early morning hours to find Clark, dressed as Superman, sleeping soundly in her chair. He had stretched out and his head was thrown back against the cushions. It wasn't a surprise to find him there; she'd expected to see him the night before. She knew he had to be thinking about her proposal and they still had a lot to talk about. In fact, if Lois wanted Clark to agree, she realized she had to break down his very understandable resistance. This time it wasn't something she relished, riding roughshod over someone else's principles and beliefs, but there really was no other choice —the stakes were too high. With great determination, she rolled out of bed and went to kneel beside him.

Clark's eyes fluttered open when Lois put her hand on his forehead. He gawked at her for a few seconds, surprised to find her there, until his brain caught up with his eyes and he managed to mouth a weak, "Hi!"

"Hi. You're warm. Do you feel okay?" Her voice was full of concern as she continued to kneel at his side.

"Not really. I stayed out late last night. Guess I overdid it."

"You have to take better care of yourself," she suggested firmly, but not in a menacing way. The last thing she needed was to start this conversation with another argument.

Clark smiled a little. "I was hoping you'd do that."

Lois' expression was completely serious as she stood up. "I would if you'd let me."

He lay there, staring at her for several minutes, realizing this was Lois' opening gambit in breaking down his objections. "Lois, if we did this, and I'm not saying that we are, people couldn't know you were doing something like that for Superman."

"I know that. They'd think I was doing it for Clark."

Clark winced at that. "See, that's my first problem… I don't want people to think you're willing to have my baby just to save my life. Do you know how long you'd have to listen to that?"

"Clark, I really don't give a damn what people think," she answered, a bit sarcastically.

"I do!"

"Okay, fine. Just what do you propose we do?" She crossed her arms in the classic Lane-challenge stance, forgetting, for the moment, that she'd promised herself not to be confrontational.

"I don't know!" He sat up straighter, the heavy material of his cape dragging at his shoulders. "It would just kill me to have people think that way… and, in a few years, what if our child heard that repeated?"

"Let them think what they want to, Clark," Lois cut him off abruptly. "And by the time our child is old enough to understand, people will have forgotten the details. You know how it is, Clark… gossip is just a 'seven day wonder'. Let's not overanalyze this. Let's just do it."

"Do what? Go at it like rabbits and walk away in nine months? What, Lois? Tell me! Let's just do what?! Because that's not me!" He'd raised his voice to a near shout and his expression was one of complete agitation and confusion.

When he'd come here, he'd intended to talk this through as unemotionally as he could, to thank Lois for her unselfish offer, but to make her see how impossible it was. Then to suggest he get on with the rest of his short life, hopefully with her friendship to help him through the difficult times. Only the entire situation was wreaking havoc with his nerves and he'd lost his composure.

Part of him wanted to scream, 'yes, let's make a baby so I won't have to die,' while the more logical part of him calmly repeated, 'I can't do this!' However, his mind failed to comprehend exactly what 'this' was, or indeed why he was so against it! Didn't he want a chance to live?

Lois took a deep breath, quieting the fast beat of her heart — she couldn't afford to lose her own temper here. "Clark, I understand what you're getting at, and I have thought about this. I know what it'll be like having a baby… well, as much as any baby-less woman can know," she conceded with a wry grin. "It means we'll be linked for the rest of our lives, and I wouldn't expect anything different. So if you're worried about not being part of your child's life, then that's just not going to happen."

The sinews of Clark's neck stood out like bands of steel and Lois chanced laying a hand on his arm, hoping to soothe him a little, while her voice continued low and steady. "And yes, I do know it won't be easy and it will be a huge responsibility. I'm not even saying I'm sure how everything else will work, but it's something we can get through together. Clark, I'm willing to do this any way you want to. If I'm willing to try, why can't you even consider it?"

"I have considered it." He pushed up from his chair, shrugging off her hand and walked into the kitchen. God, his best friend, who happened to be the woman he was in love with, had told him she wanted to have his baby in an attempt to save his life. Did she honestly expect him to think about anything else?!

Lois lifted her little chin resolutely and followed, waiting for him to continue.

"I flew around most of last night, thinking of little else," he admitted when he turned to face her again. "Lois, how can we do this?" His expression pleaded with her to understand without him having to explain further, because he wasn't sure that he could.

"How can we not? Clark, you act like you're afraid to live."

"Don't be ridiculous. Living doesn't bother me; it's the act to get me there I'm having trouble with." The short bark of laughter that accompanied these words was mirthless.

"Is the thought of having sex with me that bad?"

"No!" Clark was quick to refute that idea. "It's the thought of you looking at me one day and regretting it. I would die if we made this perfect little person, who would be totally blameless in all this, and have you look at him or her and ask yourself what you were thinking when you agreed to this."

"I would never do that." That accusation hurt, but again she tamped down her normal explosive reply. "Clark, you can't think that I'd ever blame or take my frustrations out on an innocent child. I'm not that soul-less!"

Clark looked suitably chastised. He remembered the incident of the 'smart kids' when, despite herself, Lois had grown very fond of a young girl she'd had in her care while they investigated the case. She'd even visited Aymee and her younger sister in the orphanage a few times until the girls had been fostered upstate, and she'd been sad to see them go.

"I'm sorry, Lois. I know that. I've known that for a long time. I just don't think you're aware of all the consequences." Lois scrunched her face and glared at him. "Lois, a baby that we'd make, no matter how we did it, would mean more to me than just my life. It would mean… that we, you and I, came together as one. We'd share a bond forever, a very strong one."

"I've already told you I realize that, but I'm willing to do this anyway. In fact, I *want* to do this! Clark, if the roles were reversed and there was something you could do to save my life, wouldn't you? Scratch that. You've saved my life more times than I can count." She leaned her arms on the kitchen counter and thought of something else to say to try to convince him this was a good idea.

Meanwhile, Clark sighed and moved on to another subject which they hadn't tackled yet. "Lois, don't you think it's wrong to bring a child into the world to… harvest its marrow?" Clark visibly flinched over those words. He hated to refer to 'the idea' that way, but wasn't that exactly what they were thinking of doing? And obviously Lois wasn't any more comfortable with the phrasing.

"You make it sound as if the kid will be some kind of crop," she snapped at him.

"There will certainly be a lot of people who view it that way," Clark said baldly, looking decidedly ill at ease.

Lois couldn't deny that one. There had been a few times she'd questioned that aspect herself. Was it morally right for them to have a child to save another's life? They could argue that point all day long, but the simple fact was that she didn't believe there was a clear answer. There would always be those who would be appalled that a child should be conceived for that reason — they'd probably think that the two of them had played God. And yet, Lois was pretty sure that there would be others who would support them, say that it was an understandable act of love. In her opinion, it really boiled down to whether they both believed it was something they could accept.

As if reading her mind, Clark spoke again. "I guess there will always be arguments on that subject."

"Yes there would. But this isn't just a moral argument for us, Clark. This is a matter of what we could live with or without. Personally, I don't want to try living without you. Besides, wouldn't you like to be a father?"

"Not like this."

"But haven't you ever thought about one day being someone's daddy?"

"I suppose…"

"Good, because I think you'd make a wonderful father."

"At what cost?" That thought was whispered as he glanced away from her momentarily. It appeared his partner had already reckoned the cost and thought it worthwhile. The pity of it was that he just couldn't decide. "Lois, as much as I'd love to be someone's father, this is insane."

"I'll bet your mother doesn't see it that way, or your father. They would probably like for their son to try any cure available to save himself."

A picture of his mom's face when they'd last talked came into Clark's mind and he found he couldn't refute that point.

"If you were my child and you were dying, I'd want you to do everything humanly possible to stay alive. And in doing that, you're saving so many others." Lois wasn't averse to using some emotional blackmail when the stakes were so high, and she certainly wasn't averse to using a little physical attraction either. She walked closer, till she was standing directly in front of him. "I'm willing to trade a big part of my life for yours… to have your child."

Clark's eyes met hers. He saw so many emotions there. He saw compassion, honesty, anger, and fear. He also saw determination.

"Trade, Lois? That seems like we're negotiating a business deal here."

"I'm sorry, Clark. Bad choice of words!" Lois bit down on her lip in frustration, reminding herself to go very carefully here. Clark was so completely strung out about the whole situation — another wrong word and he'd probably bolt. "But this is your life! Clark, why would you be willing to die when there's a way to save yourself? Because you're worried about how I'll feel? Come on. I'm a big girl. I'm offering to do this. I know all the ramifications of what this will entail. Have you stopped to think that maybe, just maybe this child is meant to be? Think about it. This is a wild scenario."

"No kidding. That has to be the understatement of the year!" The quip was sarcastic and Lois blanched. Cynicism didn't suit her partner.

Clark opened his mouth to speak once more, but shut it again. Lois could be right. Maybe this was meant to be.

What was he thinking? This was not meant to be. He looked up when Lois put her hand on his arm once more.

"Clark, if the sex is the problem we can do this artificially."

He rubbed the back of his neck with a grimace, but this time he didn't step away. "That seems so… impersonal. Hell, the kid would already be coming into the world because of necessity instead of want."

"Now that's where I think you're wrong." Clark's eyes widened as Lois continued. "I agree with artificial conception being so impersonal, but regardless of how we conceive, would this child be any less loved?"


"Clark, you told me this child would mean a lot to you. Would he or she mean any less being conceived in one manner over another?"

"Of course not!" He was shocked she could even ask him that question. Yet honesty compelled him to admit he'd thrown a few unfair charges at her in the course of this argument.

"Then I think the real question should be, do you want this baby?'"

"And if I say yes, how do I stop feeling incredibly guilty for putting you in such a position?"

"You aren't putting me in any position! I offered to do this." She stared challengingly into Clark's eyes for a moment. "You still think I'm offering to save Superman, don't you?"

When Clark dropped his eyes from hers, she felt her anger rise. She hadn't wanted to bring the superhero into their… discussion… she refused to call it a fight. "Even after what I said earlier?" He couldn't answer, only look back up at her with pain-filled eyes. "Tell me," she said with more calm than she felt. "Why do you think I'm doing this?"

Clark let out a slow breath. "Lois, I just feel you haven't thought this through. You're mixed up over what you feel about me since you found out who I am."

"Oh come on, Clark. Be honest. Tell me the truth."

Clark's frustration peaked. "Fine! I don't want you to look at our baby one day and think the only reason he or she is alive is because, in one moment of sorrow, you had a flash of inspiration and saw a means to save Superman for the world!"

"Is that what you think I'm doing?"

"I don't know. I… all I know is that you say you want this. At the same time, I don't think you know what… or who you want." Clark turned from her and took a long, deep breath.

She laid a hand on his shoulder. "Clark, can't you forget about my Superman crush? Because, believe me, I have." Clark didn't see the fingers of Lois' other hand cross at that tiny, infinitesimal white lie. She still couldn't deny to a little weakening of the knees when she saw him in the Suit, but she'd convinced herself it was now a purely physical reaction. Her eyes, of their on violation, slid very quickly over his well defined form. After all, he did look good!

Meanwhile Clark was conflicted. Strangely that piece of information didn't please him as much as he'd thought it would.

"I know now that Clark is the real person and Superman is what you can do. But you can't deny that you invented Superman so you could use your powers to rescue people without giving away your secret. You might have been wearing the suit and cape at the time, but what was it you said in the newsroom? 'I'm here to help!' Those were your words, Clark, no matter which guise you were in when you said them. And you have helped everyone so much. You can't abandon us all now. You have a duty to do everything you can to save yourself for the world!"

Under her fingers, Lois could sense Clark's body go limp — like a rag doll in colorful clothes. He threw her a despairing look which told her she'd hit home. "You fight dirty, Lois!"

"Clark, I'll fight every way I can when I believe it's the right thing to do. But I'm not doing this because I once had a superhero infatuation or for any lofty reasons about saving humanity… that's your role." And that was another white lie… she did think it was important to save Superman, but it wasn't her main concern. "I'm doing this to save your life because I care very deeply about what happens to you… both sides of you. If I didn't, I wouldn't be making this offer. Can't you see that?"

Clark pinched the bridge of his nose in frustration. "I know you care, Lois. You have to. All I'm saying is that you should really think about all of this again." He looked back down at her. "What if I took you up on this? Have you really thought about what would happen after I got better? Assuming I do."

"You will! That's the whole point!"

Clark rolled his eyes and continued. "The point is we'd have a baby to raise. I wouldn't fade into the background. I'd be there for my child… our child. How would you handle that? I know how possessive you are and how uncompromising you can be. In this, you'd have to give."

"So I'll learn to be compromising and to share."


"No, Clark. I've already told you I'd never stop you from seeing your child. Actually, I'd be very grateful for the help, so your being around wouldn't be a problem," Lois added with a rueful grin. "Clark, if we debate this long enough, we'd find a million reasons not to do it. Who's to say we wouldn't be a super team as parents the same way we are at work?"

"But, Lois, I always thought that being in love would have something to do with having a child!" There was a plaintive note to Clark's voice, which Lois missed completely. She sensed he was wavering and she rushed to take advantage of his ambivalence.

"Clark, this is the nineties! Lots of babies are made without their parents being in love. And I'm not sure that I believe in that forever kind of love anyway. Take my parents… they thought they were in love when they got married and within a few years they could barely stand to be in the same room as each other — still can't, for that matter!"


"I know," Lois interrupted, raising her hands in surrender, "there are exceptions to the rule… your mom and dad for instance. But, Clark, you have to admit that marriage isn't doing too well in this day and age. Why else do you think so many divorce lawyers are living in luxury penthouses and driving around in Porsches?"

Clark shrugged his shoulders, unable to counter her claim. Besides, it saddened him to the core to know that Lois had such a jaundiced view of love. "I can't disagree with you there, Lois. I guess I'm just wishing for something that can never be… But, Lois, what if you're wrong about love?" He hated to bring up his next point, but his sense of fairness compelled him to ask. "You could change your mind in a couple of years, meet someone new and fall in love. What would you do if he objected to you having a sort of 'ex' in tow and a child?"

"Clark, now that is ridiculous! As if I would ever consider marrying a man who was so selfish and unreasonable that he couldn't accept another man's child, never mind falling in love with him in the first place."

Clark grimaced. "I guess I shot myself in the foot there!"

"So, we're agreed! If, on the off chance, I did meet someone I wanted to marry, it wouldn't be a problem. You'd still have a place in both my life and your child's life… divorced families do it all the time. But I doubt it will ever happen. Face it, Clark. I'm just not the falling in love type of woman. You're the living proof of that!"


"Well, you're the sweetest, kindest man I've ever met, and, if I was the falling in love kind, I'd have fallen for you ages ago!" Lois' weird logic hurt Clark deeply, even though it brought an ironic smile to his lips. "So let's forget about love for now… friendship is so much better, you can trust friends."

"I just can't ask you to have my child to save my life. Don't you see that that's wrong?"

"You didn't ask me. I asked you." He was about to protest, but she held up her hand again to stop him. "Don't say it." She took a few steps away from him before speaking again. "Clark, if I'd never met you, I would never have known what having a friend is really like. If I'd never met you, I'd never have known how wonderful having a partner could be." She met his gaze with tear- filled eyes. "If I'd never met you, I'd be dead," she told him flatly. "I don't think it's wrong that I should want to show you how much you mean to me."

"Is that what you're doing?"

"Maybe in a way I am. I may not know a lot about living because I've drowned myself in work. But I do know one thing. If I'd never met you, I would have died lonely and bitter, just me and the Planet. Before you that's all I wanted."

Clark dropped his head back and took another deep breath. She was pleading with him. Obviously, Lois saw this as something much more momentous than he'd ever suspected.

She smiled to lighten the mood some. "Just think about what an extraordinary little person this child could be? Coming into the world to save his father's life. With a start like that, how phenomenal could that child be?"

Clark half smiled at her. "Not to mention the fact it would be a living miracle anyway."

"Yep. It would be Lois Lane's kid."

Clark laughed out loud at that, letting the pent-up tension drain out of his soul, for the present. "In that case, it would be in big trouble."

Lois smacked his chest. "Watch it, Kent. It would be bad if you had to change all the dirty diapers."

His smile faded and he looked into Lois' eyes. "Lois, if you did this, I'd owe you that and so much more."

"You'd owe me nothing because by agreeing you'd be giving me all I need. Clark, I don't think I could bear to be without my best friend. I just want you to live."

"That you do." Clark shook his head and turned to get a glass of water, needing a few moments to compose himself. Lois had spoken with such sorrowing earnestness that he could no longer doubt the depth of her feelings to want to help him.

Lois grinned as she watched him down a full glass. "Better?"

"Not really. I stay thirsty all the time now. It's the medication."

"See, another reason to do this."

Clark chuckled as he lifted another glass of water to his lips. When he emptied it, he looked down at Lois. "Yeah. Good reason to have a baby."

She laughed with him. "Just think about it… a lot."

"I'm afraid it's hard to think about much else."

"Well, who knows? You might enjoy it," she exclaimed as she left the room to take a shower.



Over the next few days, Clark did little else but think about his conversation with Lois. In the newsroom, he tried very hard to concentrate on work… after all, it was his Planet salary which paid the bills. However, flying in the skies above the quiet streets of Metropolis on yet another patrol, Superman found himself hoping for the odd rescue or mugging which would at least be a distraction from his troubling thoughts. Unfortunately, fate wouldn't cooperate and everything in the city remained calm — except his mind!

Clark had dreamed that one day Lois would come to love and respect him as a friend, if nothing else. Well, after their little tˆte-…-tˆte, he could no longer doubt that she did. It was just that he'd had countless fantasies about the two of them being a lot more than friends and now she was offering all that to him on a silver platter, only not quite for the motives he'd hoped for. Could he really agree to having 'sex' with Lois when he knew that there was love in only one of their hearts?

And was he really convinced that she'd gotten over her Superman 'thing'? Since he'd flown onto the scene, Lois had been pretty crazy about his alter-ego and to have such a durable link with Superman could be like the icing on her cake! Then again, perhaps her infatuation hadn't outlived the discovery that her idol was really plain old Clark Kent from Kansas.

Yet, that was probably being very unfair to his partner. Lois' interest in the Man of Steel had never been that shallow. She did genuinely believe in the idea of Superman. As Clark had come to know Lois, he'd very quickly realized that part of her driving force was her desire to make the world a better place, and she saw the hero as her ally in that quest. Under those circumstances, he could hardly argue with her motives in wanting to save Superman — he actually agreed with them!

Then she'd hit him with her confession that she was afraid of dying lonely and bitter. He couldn't be sure if that was the truth or another ploy to persuade him to agree to her offer. She'd actually said she was prepared to fight in any way she could.

But in the natural scheme of things, Lois had a long life in front of her. Surely she couldn't rule out the possibility of meeting someone with whom she felt she could share her life? God, she'd even started to date Lex Luthor. Clark decided not to go there.

The fact remained, though, that Lois had a very bad track record in the relationships department. In the past, all of the important men in her life had let her down in one way or another, and she'd erected such high walls around herself to protect her from any further hurt and pain. Now, most people were afraid to get anywhere close to her… except himself. He seemed to thrive on Lois' attitude; he even loved their oral sparring matches, or he did when he felt well enough to handle them.

Maybe he was her hope for a better life as much as she was his. Could he leave the world not knowing if he was committing Lois to living her life alone? It could be that this baby was the one person who would keep Lois from slipping into an isolated old age. Even if he died and left her to raise the child alone, Lois was resourceful and there were lots of single moms out there doing a great job. He was sure his partner would be no different — failure just wasn't a word in Lois' vocabulary. She might resent him for leaving her alone, but she'd never pass on any blame to a child.

But did he have the right to put her in such a formidable situation? His mind whirled with so many issues and he just didn't know how to decide on such a life-changing scenario. He needed advice and there was one person who would always lay out his options honestly and fairly for him to consider — and she was waiting for him at home.


Martha was washing his bedclothes when Clark entered the apartment. She'd spent the last few days cleaning an already spotless home in an effort to divert her continuous anxieties over her son's current illness and Lois' unique scheme on how to save his life. She was fully aware Clark's thoughts were never far from that particular proposal either. When he hadn't come home a few nights ago, she'd known exactly where he was. A man doesn't have such a heavy proposition thrown at him and not have to talk to the person doing the throwing.

Since then, however, she'd kept her own counsel, difficult though that had been at times. Experience had taught her that Clark would come to her when he felt ready to talk. So she greeted him with a smile when he came in and went to cook his breakfast. Dawn might just be breaking, but Martha was used to starting her days early on the farm.

Clark spun into his civilian clothes and dropped heavily into a kitchen chair, unsure how to start.

Martha knew what was on her son's mind before he could voice it and decided to help him out. "Clark, you might never know for certain if you're doing the right thing. Sometimes life is like that… it presents us with choices and we just have to make up our minds to follow one and do it the best way we know how."

"She really wants to do this."

"I know." Martha retrieved the ingredients from the fridge and set them out on the table next to the utensils. She deftly cracked the eggs into the bowl. "And you… You want to do it, too, don't you?"

Clark watched his mother beat the eggs. "Mom, I can still cook!"

"Clark, you're exhausted and I'm used to making breakfast. Besides, I think better when I'm busy. And don't try to change the subject. I asked you a question."

"Yeah. I thought I did."

"And now? Did Lois say something to make you think differently?"

Under his mother's probing questions, Clark moved uneasily in his seat, although this was exactly what he'd been hoping to get from his mother when he'd decided to come home. "Mom, she basically said she felt this was her one and only opportunity to have this kind of life."

A faintly impatient frown marred Martha's brow. Really, sometimes she thought being psychic would be an advantage when dealing with Clark when he was obsessing. Getting him to verbalize his thoughts was very much like pulling teeth. She added the milk to the eggs and whisked harder. "What sort of life… a family one?"

"Yeah. She told me if she hadn't met me her life would have been so much lonelier and bitter."

"Do you believe that's true?"

Clark passed his mother the salt shaker. "I believe that she believes it's true." He stared into the mixing bowl, as if hoping to find the answers to all his problems there. "She seemed so sincere when she looked at me."

"But you're worried that she'll wake up one day and realize she made a mistake?"

"Well, yeah. Mom, as hard as just having a baby with her would be, having her resent our child would kill me."

"Did you tell her that?"

"No!" As Martha upped the tempo of her beating, he conceded, "Okay, I might have sort of mentioned it." Seconds later the mixing stopped and Martha removed a pan from the cupboard, placing it on the stove. Then she started raking through the drawers.

"Do you have any more matches? I ran out of them last night." Not being able to sleep, the kettle had been working overtime helping Martha to get through the long hours of darkness with endless cups of herbal tea.

"Here, let me!" Clark walked over and lit the gas with a tiny burst of heat vision. "I keep forgetting to buy those, something I can't afford to do when my powers start to disappear. Oh, and you'll need this!" Clark retrieved a brand new pot holder from the bottom drawer. "Something else I'm going to have to get used to using." He grinned sheepishly.

She gave his arm a sympathetic pat then emptied the contents of the bowl into the pan. "Don't worry, dear, I'm sure you'll get the hang of things. Now you were telling me about Lois."

Clark swallowed, looking doleful, and went back to his seat. "She told me she does care for me deeply."

"Then maybe she knows what she's doing."

"To be honest, I don't think either of us does." He looked down at his hands which to his surprise were shredding the edge of the tablecloth. "Mom, I'm seriously considering doing this."

At those words, Martha stopped her cooking and moved the pan off the heat. She quickly crossed to her son and took his hands into her own, though clearly the linen was beyond repair. "Clark, I know this is a nearly impossible thing to have to decide and, like I said, I don't really believe there is a right or wrong decision. It all depends on how you see things, and I won't lie to you — I've spent many sleepless nights debating the ethics of this inside my head." She lifted Clark's hands to her cheek, and turning her face she brushed her lips across his knuckles. "But I always come back to the same thing… I want you to live. If Lois having your child is the only way possible to make that happen, then I think you should do this."

Martha rested their entwined hands on the table and stared at the boy they'd found so surprisingly in a spaceship in a field. The son who had made their lives complete in so many ways and who now might be snatched away from them.

Clark returned her gaze believing that he'd never seen his mother looking so careworn, yet so filled with care.

"Clark, this might not be the way you'd have chosen for starting your child's life — you'd much rather be in a stable, loving relationship. But think about it, son. Only someone who has the ability to feel very deeply and selflessly could go to such extremes to save a life. Lois is prepared to do this for you, so that must mean something. And I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that Lois would always make sure her child never lacked for love — I could never support this otherwise. Ultimately, isn't that what matters most? The child's well-being?"

"Yes, and I'm pretty sure of that too, Mom. It's probably the main reason I've been able to even contemplate going ahead with this." He lowered his head to their clasped hands, masking his face, though his voice stayed clear. "Lois has been open and honest with me, but I really haven't been totally honest in return, and she deserves that much before we go any further." Martha watched while Clark straightened up. His eyes were damp with tears, but in their depths she could see the shadow of guilt. "Mom, I'm not just doing this to save my life. In fact, I'm not totally convinced the marrow transplant will work." He noticed Martha was about to speak and held up a hand to forestall her protest. "There's a part of me that wants to have this child just because it might be my only chance before I…" His voice drifted off while his gaze became so focused on a spot in the middle of the table that Martha waited in trepidation to see if it might burn. "For once I want something for myself."

"That's not wrong, Clark."

"I just want a chance at being a father, Mom, hardly an altruistic reason. Especially when your best friend is the one who's putting her life on hold and might be left actually 'holding the baby!" His eyes begged his mother to understand how he felt.

"Well, for the first part, Clark, I think it's only natural to want to procreate. It's what keeps the world going. And I think Lois knows what's she's doing."

"I don't think she has a clue what she's getting into!" Clark rose and started toward the bedroom, but stopped in the archway to face his mom again. "Mom, for all the reasons why Lois and I shouldn't do this, ethical ones included, there's one picture that seems to override them all in my mind…"

"What's that?" Martha asked in a whisper, sensing she already knew the answer.

"I keep seeing that baby, Mom. A tiny, beautiful, little soul that Lois and I have created… someone who would be my own flesh and blood… someone I would love with all my heart. And I know I want that more than anything. Now tell me that isn't selfish!" All the essence of Clark seemed to drain from his body and he turned to walk into his bedroom. If he was lucky he'd be able to catch an hour or so of sleep before going into work.

A large lump caught in Martha's throat seeing him so terribly bereft. She wanted to rush to him, take him in her arms to kiss away his pain, just as she had when he was a little boy. But her son was a grown man now and another woman held sway over his heart. If only, for just this one time, Clark wasn't in a situation where he had to fight so hard to escape.

But Martha had learned that there weren't any guarantees that life would be fair. People found the fortitude to get them through the hard times or they went under. At least, Martha could take comfort from the knowledge that her son had a great deal of strength and not just the physical kind. Lois too was probably the only woman that she'd ever met who could match that strength and between them they'd find a way through this. And if they needed a little encouragement along the way, then she and Jonathan would provide that in abundance. She sighed and went to dump the half-cooked eggs.


Lois, remarkably, had respected Clark's space and didn't press him for a decision, but she could tell he had the offer on his mind. So, when she answered the door to her apartment for him half way through the next week, she wasn't surprised when he breezed in without so much as a hello.

Clark shot straight in and paced between Lois' two spindly sofas, causing her to worry that he'd wear a trench in her floor. Suddenly he halted. "Lois, you really want to do this?"

"Yes." She didn't begin to pretend she didn't know what he was talking about.

"Absolutely positive? You won't back out? You won't regret it and you won't take the child for granted? You'll love this child as a person and not just as my savior? And you won't keep it from me? Or want me to take him or her and just move away? Or…"

"Clark, be quiet!" He clamped his mouth shut. "We've already been through all this. I won't do any of those things that you're afraid of."

"I guess I know that… but this is a really big thing we're doing and I have to be sure that it's right."

"Clark, to be honest, I don't think there is a right or wrong here. Some people will back us and some will probably think we're evil. The bottom line is that if we don't go ahead then we lose you and I'd regret that for the rest of my days. So I've moved beyond the rights and wrongs of it all. This is your only chance for life and I want to do it."

"That's what my mom said. She and I have talked for hours. I've talked to Dad, to the wind, to God. Lois, I don't know if I can just… sleep with you."

"I hope not. We have to do a little more than sleep," she told him with a grin, hoping to ease a little of the tension with humor.

"Lois. This is serious to me."

"I know it is. Clark, it's serious to me, too. And it's scary. I've never been pregnant before. But the fact remains that without a transplant you'll die and that's even scarier!"

Clark turned his head away briefly to collect his thoughts. "I, ah, I think…" He studied his fingers before looking up at Lois. "I think I'd feel better to just do the artificial thing."

"Okay. Does this mean you'll do this?"

"I want to, but I have to be completely honest with you about a few things first." She nodded and waited for him to continue. He perched of the edge of her couch. "Lois… I… I… I'm in love with you. I have been since the day I met you. That's one reason why this whole thing is just so… overwhelming."

Oh God! Lois took a few steps away from Clark, trying not to feel uncomfortable about his declaration. She stalked over to her fish tank and busied herself with scattering some food inside. Why did he have to complicate things with emotions? Yet, she'd known how he felt. She couldn't help but know it. It showed in the way he looked at her, in the way he always backed her up and took care of her when she was in trouble. She'd pretended that that was what friends did for each other, but she'd known.

Clark stared unhappily at his partner's tense back. "Lois, I didn't tell you that to put any kind of pressure on you in any way. I just felt you should know how I feel. You've told me how you feel, and I don't have any expectations that you could ever love me back… that way." When she turned and met his gaze again, he continued. "But that's why a child we'd have would mean so much more than my own life."

"I guess I understand why this decision was so hard for you." Her fingers twisted together nervously.

"Actually, I think maybe that's why I'm even considering this." She furrowed her brow in question, but instead of explaining himself, he stood up and paced over to the window, staring out into the night. Long moments passed before he moved back into the center of the room, his expression a strange mixture of seriousness and hope. "If you're determined to have my child, then I think I want it to happen… after we're married."

"What?!" Lois was staring at him like he had two heads.

"I want us to get married, Lois. I said I was going to be honest…" He looked down at his hands briefly. "I just told you this child would mean more to me than my own life. Lois, a baby is an innocent and we should at least make an effort to show him or her that no matter what, love and commitment will never be a problem. Not to mention the fact that I'd be devastated if someone happened to mention that we'd made a baby just to save my life."

Lois' eyes opened incredulously. "Newsflash, Clark! We are making a baby to save your life. Isn't that what this is all about?"

Clark cringed at Lois' plain speaking. "I suppose! I just don't want to have it shoved in my face by the Planet gossipmongers."

"Oh, so we're back to what other people think, and you want to get married so people won't talk? Don't you think they'll talk if we do?"

"Unfortunately. But at least they might think there was something between us."

"And what about the talk that you're dying? 'Cause that's already gone the rounds, and you know, most people are pretty upset about it!"

Clark shrugged. "Lois, that's why I want to do this."

"Because of people talking?" Lois' silky hair brushed against her cheeks as she shook her head in exasperation.

"No. Because I'm dying."

"But the baby is going to save your life."

"Hopefully, but we can't be certain." His eyes slid away from Lois once more. Why was he finding it so difficult to make her understand his feelings. "Lois, I just told you I love you. Do you know how much that means to me that the woman I love would be having my baby? I want to share that."

"We will share this. We don't have to get married to do it."

Clark was quickly losing his patience. How did he explain he felt he might not get another a chance to do this? "Think about the baby, Lois."

"I am thinking about the baby. I said I'd have your baby. I never said I'd marry you." She started to pace. Clark had thrown her for a loop, that was for sure. What was he thinking? This marriage thing had come right out of the blue. She stopped to face him when he started speaking again.

"Lois, just so you're clear about this, I meant what I said about conceiving artificially. Yeah, I want to get married and I want us to live together because I think that a baby deserves to be born into a family. But I don't expect this to be a 'real marriage'."

Deep in his heart there was nothing more that Clark wanted than a real marriage, but that was just a fantasy. He pushed a hand through his hair as he continued. "I'm not expecting us to jump into this like it's something we've planned and waited for our whole lives. I know it'll take a lot of getting used to." Oh boy, he was making such a mess of this and Lois was metaphorically backing away from him. "I won't push you in any way, but I just want you to understand how I feel." He met her gaze with fierce determination. "I think the biggest reason I'm doing this is because I feel I may never get another chance."


"No, listen to me, please. We could get married and have a baby and this not work. You have to know that's a possibility." She nodded reluctantly. "I'd leave you a widow with a small child. That's the part that bothers me, but at least, if we were married, the child would grow up believing that he or she was conceived in a fairly normal relationship. And at the same time, I'd have had what I've always wanted: a family."

At last, that seemed to touch Lois. Her defensive wall began to crumble. "If you remember, that's kind of what I told you about the baby."

"I just don't want you to look at me one day and ask yourself what the hell you were thinking when you suggested the whole thing."

"And you think I wouldn't do that if we were married?" She was still unwilling to let this go.

Clark studied her expression for a long while before he spoke again. "If we did this and the marrow transplant saves my life, a whole new ballgame comes into play." He reached out and took her hands pleading with her to listen. "If you decided then that being married was something you didn't want, I'd never force you to stay with me. And I'd never ask you to stay for the baby either."

"Then why the marriage in the first place?" She watched as Clark dropped her hands and turned away. An incredible air of pain and sadness overtook his whole being and, without words, she had the answer to that question. He didn't think he'd live and simply wanted to have some semblance of a life… with her.

"This will work, Clark. You're not going to die."

"You don't know that," he said as he turned around to her again. "You say you have to have this baby. And I'm telling you that if I do this, we're going to get married first!"

"And what does that mean? Do we… play house? You said you wouldn't force me to do anything. Anything meaning all but this!" Her voice had risen to a high-pitched wail. "A marriage won't make this baby any more real."

"No, but it'll make me feel like a man!" There… he'd said it and it had certainly gotten Lois' attention. "Lois, for the last few months I've been thinking of all the things I've never done and might not ever get to do. Having a wife and child was definitely high on the list." Actually, having Lois as his wife was his top priority but he thought he'd better not remind her of that. She was spooked enough as it was. "I wanted it but I just couldn't see that happening to me. I mean, I was always so scared of telling anyone the truth about me. I was sure any woman would run screaming…"

"Clark, that's not true! Lots of women have been attracted to you…"

"None of them knew I was an alien though." Lois looked down, unable to disprove his statement. "It's hard growing up discovering that you're… strange and getting stranger with every month that passes. Lois, when I said that marriage would make me feel like a man, it had nothing to do with my gender and everything to do with my race. Dr Klein might have said I'm human, but I'm having a hard time believing it. I'm from another planet. Do you know how that feels? To know you're the only person on an entire world that is so completely different?" He didn't wait for her answer, just continued with his explanation. "A family of my own would give me something I've never had before… a feeling that I truly belong on this planet."

Lois had no idea how to answer that. If she was being truthful then she understood, in a way. She just wasn't ready to raise the white flag… yet. Instead she got angrier as she saw a half smile appear on Clark's face. "What do you find so funny?!"

"That Lane compromise you told me about is shining through."

"Fine! I'll marry you. If it'll make you feel like such a big man." She stomped around him and flopped to the sofa, choosing to remain obtuse.

Clark sighed and eased down beside her. "Lois, were you listening? That wasn't what I meant…"

Lois held up her hand. "Don't say anymore." She took several breaths to calm her nerves, but was still unwilling to be reasonable. She hated to feel coerced. "I'll marry you. You're right… we should give the baby that much. And it's important that you should die feeling like a real man!"

Now Clark's impatience broke free. "Lois, my desire for us to get married has nothing to do with my ego!"

Lois glared challengingly at him. "Pardon me for my mistake, but it sounded like that to me!"

"Lois, for once in my life I want some of the things a normal, *Earth* human man takes for granted! Is that too much for me to expect, or do I always have to be alone?" His voice rose alarmingly and he could only return Lois' stare defiantly, unwilling to show her how much that revelation had cost him in terms of his feelings about his heredity.

This time Lois could no longer pretend to misunderstand and she let go of her anger in a rush. Her eyes filled with tears and she reached forward to touch Clark's hand. He flinched at first, then dropped his gaze to the floor.

"It must have been so lonely for you growing up. Always pretending to be someone you weren't and there must have been so many things you couldn't do."

"But there was nothing I couldn't feel," he said softly as he lifted his eyes back to hers. "That's why this is so difficult. I know it's crazy, and I know I shouldn't try to force you to marry me. At the same time, I'd like to feel, just once, the things that could be."

Lois melted at his impassioned speech and the look of forlorn longing in his dark eyes. She had to admit that she was the one who had started this whole thing — Clark would never have suggested it. The only way to save Clark was to conceive his child and if she had to marry him to do that, she would.

"You're not alone anymore and I will marry you, Clark," she told him sincerely, consigning her fears of such a commitment to the future.

"Thank you." He half smiled and squeezed her hand.

"Don't thank me yet. I'm really high maintenance."

Clark chuckled softly, deciding to let things die down. "I'll take my chances. But I do have another point. We have to tell Dr Klein."

"About you?"

"Yeah. He's the one who's going to do the insemination, and after the baby's born he'll have to do the transplant. I think he deserves to know all the facts."

"After? So we're going to do this?"

Clark smoothed his hands over his thighs. The time for prevarication was over; he was going to go through with this, even though he still wasn't sure it was the morally-correct thing to do. Who knew, maybe his mom and Lois were right when they said it had gone beyond a question of ethics. Clark didn't want to die, and though this wasn't a cast-iron guarantee to save his life, it was still a chance… his only chance.

Besides, it could possibly be the only chance to make his most cherished of dreams come true… to have a child with Lois. He closed his eyes and imagined the beautiful little life they could create together. In that instant he made a solemn promise to his child that he or she would never suffer because of the unusual reason for their conception; a promise to love and protect his son or daughter with everything he had and for as long he could.

And if Lois showed their child the same unselfish caring she'd shown him by agreeing to do this, then Clark was certain that their baby would know nothing but joy. Even if he was no longer around, Lois would protect their child… always.

The silence dragged on and Lois waited, hardly daring to breathe. She watched Clark's back straighten and when he turned to face her fully, she noticed there was a determined gleam back in his eye.

"Yeah," he said simply.

Lois visibly relaxed in relief and the smile that touched her eyes was full of compassion. "You won't regret it."

"I hope you won't regret it either. Anyway, I figured Bernard would be a great ally to have through all this."

Lois nodded her head in agreement. To lighten the mood and get back at him for the marriage thing, she decided to tease him a little. "Hey, you know we could just forget all that clinical stuff and just do this the old fashioned way."

"Dammit Lois, don't tease!"

"Okay, okay. We'll see Dr. Klein tomorrow."

"Why don't we do it tonight before I chicken out?"

"Sure. If that's what you really want." She went to get her jacket and followed Clark out the door, not totally happy with their compromise, but satisfied that he'd agreed to go ahead because that was her top priority.


Chapter 5: I've Got a Crush On You

Twenty minutes later the couple sat in Star Labs and shocked the resident 'mad scientist' with their revelation.

"Dr. Klein, are you okay?" Lois asked, a little concerned by the doctor's ashen face.

"Ah, yeah, I'm fine." He looked at the young man before him. For weeks he'd wondered if Clark and Superman were the same person. There were just too many similarities. And people thought he wasn't all there. Yeah, right! "Clark, I know this was hard for you to do: putting this kind of trust in me, but I consider you a friend. I won't let you down by betraying that trust."

"I know you won't." Clark gave Bernard a small smile. Revealing his secret hadn't been easy, but Clark knew he'd done the right thing. He could trust the man before him and to have him be his friend was invaluable at this point. This doctor was willing to go that extra mile to save Clark's life and he appreciated it very much.

"Good, now we have that out of the way let's get down to business." Bernard rose and, unlocking a filing-cabinet behind him, pulled out Lois' thin file. "When Lois and I did the preliminary tests last week, we calculated her most fertile days to start Wednesday. We'll run careful temperature tests to make sure that stays consistent. So plan on coming in Wednesday morning at seven."

"What happens then?" Clark hadn't been as informed as Lois had.

"Lois will be prepped for the insemination procedure while you give us a donation." Bernie chuckled at Clark's stunned expression. "Sorry. That part can't be helped. Anyway, once we have the sample it will be put into a machine so we can collect the best swimmers. Once that's done, Lois will be inseminated and hopefully we'll make a baby."

"How long before we know if it's successful?" Clark asked, wishing he felt as eager to conceive this child as he felt just to have all the facts.

"Unfortunately, we won't know for certain for seven days," Dr Klein said apologetically. "But all the research I've been doing on Clark's biological make-up has led me to a discovery that might actually be useful in this case." Both reporters leaned just a tad closer. "It seems there might be certain elements in his reproductive system that appear to be highly sensitive."

"Meaning?" Lois was far too impatient for a lengthy explanation.

"Meaning that I believe we'll be able to detect a change almost immediately after conception."

Even Clark was having difficulty waiting for Dr Klein to finish his explanation. "Could you expand on that just a little, Bernie?"

"Oh, yes, certainly. I believe it will cause enough of a significant change in Lois' bio-chemistry that a test will detect it after twenty four hours or so."

"But I thought you said that my body was essentially the same as a human male," Clark was quick to point out. After so many hours agonizing over this decision to go ahead, he wasn't sure he could stand a blow that might result in them changing their plans.

"You are, but your… fluids also carry the super genes. That's what I'm hoping I'll be able to detect in twenty-four hours, if they've combined with Lois' egg. The two together will create a reaction like no other and it should be evident fairly quickly, to someone who knows what they're looking for." He waited for his audience to absorb that before he moved on. "So, Lois can come in for a test to detect if those properties are present twenty-four hours following the insemination procedure. But even if they are, as we only have a small window in which to work this month, I would be happier if we repeated the procedure every day we can… just in case. No need to waste an opportunity. In seven days we'll run a subsequent test that will be conclusive either way. If conception has occurred, then you'll need to find a good OB."

"You can't handle that aspect as well?" Clark sounded disappointed and was still struggling a bit with even more information about his extraordinary body. He'd hoped to keep this whole process between the three of them.

"Clark, I'm a research doctor. What I'm going to be doing is out of my expertise as it is. And I assure you, after the initial speeding up, as it were, the rest of the pregnancy should be normal."

"So, I'm not going to turn into Superwoman?" Lois sounded a little disappointed; she thought flying would be kinda cool. Her partner, on the other hand, was looking extremely relieved. Lois took enough risks with her life as it was without having the odd super-power to encourage her.

"Sorry, Lois, I just can't see that happening," Bernie commiserated, then quickly returned his attention to Clark. "But, Clark, wouldn't you want Lois and the baby's lives in the hands of a good doctor?"

"Of course!" the younger man stated with some indignation. How could anyone think differently?

"I'm sorry, Clark. I didn't mean to imply anything."

"And I didn't mean to raise my voice. This is just an awkward situation." And it was. In a few short days, he and Lois would cross over into a whole other dimension in their relationship. Not only was it awkward, it was easily the scariest thing he'd ever had to face… more frightening than finding out he had leukemia. Living with the illness was daunting; the prospect of living with Lois Lane was stupendous!

"I know." Bernie clapped Clark's shoulder in sympathy. "But there are certain other things I have to explain — like we need six weeks after the baby's born to do the transplant. That means nearly eleven months total."

"That gives us about thirteen months to conceive, cutting it really close," Lois observed.

"No. That leaves you about four to six months. I estimate that's how long Clark has left before he loses his powers and I'd like to see conception take place before that happens. As I already pointed out, I don't want to take any chances that Lois' genes could become dominant over the 'super' ones. After all, harvesting the 'K' gene is the whole point of doing this. Besides, by the time Clark's powers have disappeared, his fertility could be severely compromised… albeit temporarily," Bernie added as he caught the stricken look on Clark's face.

"Guess we need to get busy then." Lois smiled when Clark glared over at her, the word 'harvesting' had sent an unpleasant chill down his spine. "Relax. This is all going to be okay. You'll see."

"Clark, this is an amazing thing she's agreed to do. Not many people can say they have friends like Lois." The doctor decided Lois needed a little support here, as it seemed that the fastidious young man wasn't yet totally comfortable with the situation.

Since Lois first mentioned this idea to Bernard, he'd been in awe of the woman. He'd also quickly squashed the scientific significance of the whole situation and concentrated on helping his friend. More than he wanted to further his research on Superman, he wanted to save Clark's life.

"I just want her to still be that friend after all this." Clark stuck his hands in his pockets, his expression more wistful than certain.

Understanding that 'her friend' was feeling slightly shocked by all this information, Lois leaned over and touched his arm reassuringly. "Relax, Clark. You worry too much!"

Bernie watched the couple leave a little while later after setting an early appointment in two days' time. He shook his head. 'That boy has it bad for that girl', he thought. 'Look out Metropolis'.


Clark gazed out the passenger window of the Jeep as he and Lois made the trip back to her apartment. She was lost in her thoughts as well. Finally she looked over at him.

"I guess we need to decide when we should get married."

"I was thinking next weekend." He glanced tentatively at his partner as he spoke, unsure of how she would react to the rushed timeframe.

Lois nodded her head. "That doesn't leave a lot of time for a big ceremony."

"We don't have the luxury of time, and I don't think 'big' is appropriate," Clark said softly.

"I guess not." Pulling the Jeep into place in front of her apartment, she put it in park and turned to face him. "I would like to have something that's a bit special — I think that would be enough. Even though we're doing this for… whatever reasons they are, it will be our first marriage. I hope."

Clark chuckled softly. "Yes, Lois, it's my first marriage." At this point he was very grateful for her unexpected stab at humor. It did help to relieve the uneasiness!

"Well, I just thought it should be something more than just an 'I do' at the Town Hall. It should have some kind of meaning… if that's possible in this wild situation."

And for some vague reasons that she couldn't begin to explain, Lois refused to get married without having it mean something… After all, she was the woman who secretly watched 'The Ivory Tower'! She couldn't help but sigh mentally. Her thoughts were so jumbled she was unsure if she'd ever be able to unscramble them again. Ever since she'd found out both Clark's secrets, she'd been on an emotional roller coaster ride. Thank goodness he was talking again and she wouldn't have to delve into her innermost thoughts for the moment.

Clark smiled tenderly. "Yeah. I think I would like that." He shifted to face her more fully. "Lois, would you go out with me tomorrow night?"

She lifted her eyebrows in inquiry at his question, wondering how they'd gone from wedding to going out. A date! Lois wasn't totally comfortable with that, but, what the heck; if she'd just agreed to marry the guy then a date shouldn't be a 'bridge too far'.

Besides, it might be a good idea to get used to spending more time with Clark. Pretty soon they'd be living together in the same apartment. She hadn't lived with anyone since she'd left home at seventeen and certainly had never lived with a man. Although she and Clark knew each other fairly well, sharing a home with him was another story altogether. But then, he was going to get much sicker and she intended to be there for him. Superman took care of the world and that was exactly what she intended to do for him in his time of need. Maybe a date was the best place to start on the road to comfort.

He reached to squeeze one of her hands. "Look, I am not getting married without at least one date." His voice was full of humor. "Trust me."

Lois relented and gave a tiny smile. "What time?"

"Seven. And dress casually."


"Good." He released her hand and got out of the Jeep. Clark walked Lois to her door, but quickly left her there, explaining his need to make a quick patrol.

She stood in her doorway and watched her partner's retreating back as he disappeared down the passageway, then she hurried inside and turned each of her five locks. If she was feeling a little bemused at his abrupt exit, she didn't object. This night had been full of surprises and she needed the time to get her head around the reality that she was soon to become a wife as well as a mother. She certainly had a knack for getting herself into complicated situations, usually requiring rescues by Superman. Only this time she was the one doing the rescuing and she couldn't help but feel good about that.


Clark was already at work when Lois got there the next morning. Whenever she stepped from the elevator he sensed her presence and lifted his head to offer her a welcoming smile when their eyes met.

He'd lain awake most of the night thinking about Lois and his impending marriage. His marriage… Now that was a mouthful.

He'd imagined how it would take place, what he'd say to Lois, and the first kiss… assuming Lois would let there be a first kiss. It wasn't surprising to realize he was looking forward to that aspect just a little. Maybe a little too much, he told himself.

But why was it too much? Lois had agreed to this. She'd said she wanted to get married… well almost! That had to mean she wasn't averse to the marriage and the thought had excited Clark, to the point of it becoming a problem. He'd been slightly embarrassed with his behavior during the night. Why he didn't know. It wasn't like he hadn't had a hundred erotic dreams about Lois before. This time, though, it was different. In a short time, they'd be married. He'd told Lois he'd rather get to know her than start a physical relationship neither was ready for. Only it appeared that his body was having trouble accepting that concept. Of course the reality was that she was marrying him just to pacify him. She wanted to have this baby and to do it he insisted on the marriage.

But what if this marriage turned out to be more than she thought it would be? He let his thoughts drift to the possibility of Lois actually coming to feel that this marriage was real. Would she let him show her that he could make her happy? Would she let him take care of her and the baby? There were far too many questions and not enough answers.

Somewhere in the wee hours of the morning he'd given up on his troubled thoughts and gone to sleep. He'd told Lois he wouldn't push her in any way and he fully intended to follow through with that promise, but surely there was nothing wrong with a little wishful thinking. Tonight he was taking his partner out on a date so he could propose properly. If he was going to show her he could make her happy, this was the first building block in the process.

Now he found himself looking up at her for the third time since she had come in and this time she met his gaze. She smiled and got up to walk the distance between their desks.

"Hi," she told him when she got to his side.


"You okay?"

"I'm fine, Lois. Why do you ask?"

"No reason. Well, you just keep looking at me. You haven't changed your mind, have you?"

"No. Have you?"

"No, no." Suddenly she was a little nervous.

He dropped the paper he was holding and leaned back to look at her. "Actually I was just thinking about our date."

"Really?" He nodded and she sat down on the edge of his desk. Since she'd decided to spend time with Clark, she might as well relax and enjoy herself. Or at least see where he led them. "Where ya' taking me?"

"That's for me to know and you to find out."

"You know I don't like surprises."

"I know," he assured her.

She huffed her indignation. "You're not giving?"

"Not an inch." He smiled and patted her leg. "Get back to work, will you? I hate having to pull your weight, too."

She laughed at that. "In your dreams, Kent. In your dreams." As she made her way back over to her desk, she thought she heard him say, 'I hope so.' That brought on another smile as she sat back down to start working on their latest masterpiece.

Since Clark had left the night before, she had thought of little else but this marriage deal. When she'd offered to have the baby for him, marrying Clark was definitely not in her plans. She never dreamed he'd even want to. However, knowing Clark was still a 'farmboy' at heart she really shouldn't have been surprised. Though, whenever she'd started considering his reasons, she realized he was probably incredibly scared and wanted someone by his side. If she were dying, she'd want someone to comfort and care for her, during the good times and the bad. She also understood his feelings of insecurity about his origins.

And she did get along better with Clark than any one else she knew. He was certainly the only person she'd ever been able to work with, and she'd always had feelings for Superman, so maybe she could live with this. Once again the famous Lane determination and drive was in full swing. Lois would give her partner this. She'd stand by his side and give him what he wanted… at least until after he was well on his way to recovery. Once he was ready to stand on his own two feet again, she'd take him up on his offer not to hold her to a marriage she wasn't comfortable with.

<Unless pigs learned to fly and you got used to being a wife… Was she crazy? Behave yourself!> she ordered that tiny inner voice and turned her attention back to her computer screen.


Clark showed up at Lois' that night dressed all in black: jeans, a sweater and a leather jacket. When she opened the door, he could hear the slight gasp.

"Wow," she was jolted into remarking, despite her earlier reservations. "You look great."

He looked down at himself. "Thanks. This will help hide us a little."

"Hide us?"

"Yeah. We're flying."

She gave him a surprised look as she grabbed her jacket, secretly thrilled at the thought of flying with the superhero. "You're not changing into your Suit?"

Clark led her out the door with a gentle hand on her elbow. "You're marrying Clark. I thought it would help a little with keeping us separate in your mind."

"I just thought when you flew you did so as… you know.

"Usually I do. But tonight I wanted to go out as me." They reached the bottom floor and he led her toward the back entrance. They stepped into the back alley and he stopped to do a quick scan, satisfying himself there were no prying eyes. "Ready?"


He lifted her effortlessly and rose above the city, the lights dropping quickly away beneath them. When they were above the cloud cover, he headed out of Metropolis. This was the first time he'd flown with her as Clark and it felt so good. It was nice to have someone who knew about him besides his parents and he realized he was looking forward to this marriage for another reason. Lois would become a confidant.

Snuggled in Clark's arms to keep out the evening chill, Lois decided there could be definite advantages to having a closer relationship with this man. She'd always loved flying with Superman on the few occasions he'd taken her up into the sky. It gave her a feeling of freedom and pure escapism that she'd never experienced before. To know that it would be something she could do on a regular basis in the future was very appealing.

Clark flew Lois to a beach community on the East coast and soon they were walking along the boardwalk which was referred to locally as the Strip. They chose a small caf‚ amid the seemingly endless shops and restaurants for dinner. The food was wonderful and the company had never been better.

The couple talked about everything except their impending marriage, the baby, or Clark's illness. For the first time since they'd begun their partnership at the Planet, they were each discovering a little more about the other. Lois found herself revealing more of her unhappy childhood to her partner than she'd ever told anyone else; Clark was just so easy to talk to. She'd even laughed delightedly at some of his reminiscences of growing up on a farm in Kansas. Too quickly dinner was over and they wandered out into the twilight.

It was late spring and although the weather had been warm of late, this night the air was crisp, and the sea breezes wouldn't allow them to enjoy being on the beach for very long. But they did stroll along the edge of the surf for a few blocks just to take in the sounds and feelings you only get from being on the beach.

Clark led her to a little club on a side street known for its mix of music. They enjoyed the jazz, beach music, light rock, and country tunes for nearly an hour before Clark asked if she was ready to go. With just a hint of disappointment, she agreed. Lois had enjoyed herself much more than she'd expected and she didn't want the evening to end so soon. They left via the air only to land in the alley behind some buildings in one of the larger shopping centers.

"What are we doing here?" Lois asked him. As the buildings were shut down for the night, she couldn't imagine why he'd bring her to such a place.

"Just wait! I'll show you." He winked mischievously as they rounded the corner where a young man was waiting at the back entrance to one of the buildings. "Dave!"

"Clark! Great to see you, man." The man shook Clark's hand.

"It's good to see you. Thanks for indulging me."

"No problem. But I'm dying to ask, what's it like flying with Superman?"

"It's… different," Clark answered evasively. He shot Lois a glance that told her he'd explain. "Are we set?"

"Yeah. The alarm system is off. I made the call and told them I was checking it for errors and tuning it up. That gives you about an hour."

"Great. By the way, Dave, this is Lois Lane." Clark placed a hand on the small of her back. "Lois, this is Dave Jenkins. He and I spent a summer interning here at the community recreation department."

Lois smiled and held out a hand to him. "Nice to meet you, Dave."

"And you." He smiled over at Clark. "I've got to say, Clark, she is beautiful."

"Thank you," Lois replied with a smile.

"Yes, she is," Clark told the man as he gazed at Lois a long moment. He tore his eyes from her and faced Dave. "Well, I guess we're wasting our hour."

"Sure, sure." Dave stood aside and opened the door for them. "Just remember, there are only a handful of lights on inside. Enough to see, but not overly bright either. Be careful."

"We will. Thanks again." Clark shook the man's hand again and he and Lois entered the building.

It only took a moment for Lois to realize they were in an aquarium. Seeing the large tanks filled with beautiful exotic fish in the low lighting gave it a mystical feeling. It was pretty amazing.

Clark led her to the automatic floor which wove its way through the inside of the building so the entire center tank could be seen. At one point it seemed to go right through the middle of the glass.

"This is great," Lois remarked after a few moments. The inside of the tank had more lights on than the rest of the building, allowing them to see all the fish clearly. She gasped when a shark swam right up to the glass. "Oh wow!"

Clark smiled down at her and put a hand on her shoulder when she leaned closer to him. He contented himself with watching her as she took in the strange, shifting sights around her. When they were about half way through the tunnel, he pulled a box from his pocket and held it around in front of her.

"Will you marry me, Lois?" he whispered softly, as the inhabitants of the tank glided in and out of the shadowy depths around them, completely unconcerned about their human visitors' actions.

Her eyes fell on the stone glistening in the pale lights from the tank. Once more Clark had astonished her. Her partner was full of surprises; first the marriage then the *date* and now the traditional proposal in a very off-beat setting. Yet this time she was not unhappily surprised, she had to admit.

"Oh, Clark. This is beautiful." And it was. The stone wasn't too large, but not small either. The cut was unusual. She looked a little closer, realizing it was shaped like the triangular emblem that held the stylized 's' on Clark's suit. Her eyes shot up to his, full of questions.

"I wanted something… special," he said in an echo of the words she used to describe their upcoming wedding. He pulled the ring from the box, put the black velvet container back into his pocket, and held the ring closer to Lois. "In the light, when you look close enough, you'll be able to see the 's' on the bottom side of the stone. I burned it in with my vision."

"Is that wise?"

He shrugged. "No one will see it unless they're looking for it. I just… I know what I said about this being for me… but Superman…"

Lois covered his hand and looked up at him. "He's also part of you, a very large part." She glanced down at the ring; entranced by the moment and the care he'd taken to make his proposal unique. "I'd be happy to marry you."

Clark smiled softly as he slipped the ring onto her finger. "It just didn't feel right to get married without a proper proposal."

Lois admired her new stone. "I'm glad you did." Her eyes roamed their surroundings appreciatively. "And you couldn't have picked a better place."

"You like it?"

"I do." She gazed at the shark as it swam over to them. "I especially like him."

Clark laughed softly. "I knew you would. Look." He pointed out two more sharks, gliding through the shadows beside them. "Cool, huh?"

"Very." They settled to finish looking at the rest of the display, but the mood had clearly been changed. It had become… much more intimate.


When they returned home, Clark walked Lois back up to her door.

"How about some coffee?" Lois felt strangely reluctant to end the evening at the door. Not tonight, not after what they'd just promised to each other.

"Sure." He followed her in and settled on one of the sofas, feeling remarkably at home while Lois put the coffee on. Their date had been a lot more successful than he'd ever dreamed.

She came in a few minutes later with two steaming mugs. Sitting lightly down beside him, she kicked off her shoes and pulled one of her legs under her. "I had a good time tonight."

Clark swallowed the coffee he'd sipped. "So did I. I love Myrtle Beach."

"Tonight was my first time there, but I think I like it, too. I wish it were warmer. We could go there for a honeymoon."

Clark stilled at her words. He leaned forward and set his mug on the table. "Is that what you want?"

"What? A honeymoon?"

"Yeah." This was a subject they'd never really discussed, and in this case it was Lois' turn to shock. He'd certainly thought about it, but had just as quickly dismissed it as something Lois wouldn't be keen on and he was conscious of his promise not to push her. Could he have been wrong?

Lois placed her cup down carefully, rubbing her fingers over the surface of the table as she thought about that one. Truthfully, she wasn't sure about a honeymoon, she hadn't really let herself think too far beyond the wedding itself. She'd absentmindedly blurted out the remark before she realized what she was saying. But wouldn't a honeymoon give them a chance to spend a little time alone to get to know each other without the world looking on and without all the pressures they were under to produce a child?

"Don't you?" She turned to watch him, trying to gauge his thoughts on the subject.

"Well…" He leaned back and rubbed his hands over his thighs. "Lois, I don't want to do anything that makes you uncomfortable."

"Clark, we're getting married. We're going to make a baby."

"Through artificial insemination, Lois."

"I know that. But who said we have to sleep together on a honeymoon? I mean a honeymoon is just a vacation with the 'romantic stuff' thrown in. We could use the time to get to know each other a little, get comfortable with each other enough to live together. And it would give me time to adjust to this whole thing before I have to face all the 'in' jokes which we're both going to be bombarded with when we return to work. Cat Grant, for one, is going to bug me relentlessly."

"You're right." He faced Lois. "You make a good point, but I think I can just about live with the jokers at the Planet. But, I can't lie. I am very… not uncomfortable exactly. This is a big thing, Lois, and I guess I'm nervous, maybe even a little scared."

"So am I." She covered his hand with hers. "I'm all those things and a little excited, too." Lois had mentioned her excitement in an effort to reassure Clark, yet, unbelievably, she found it to be true.


"Sure. We're getting married. That's worth getting excited about."

"Lois…" He looked down at their hands, then back at her. "This isn't a real marriage."

The tender expression left Lois' face and she snatched her hand from his. "No. I guess not." Why did Clark have to bring that up and look so pathetic, reminding her that he secretly wanted more? With her ambivalent feelings rising again to the surface, she got up and started to the kitchen, eager to put some space between them.

Clark followed, not quite understanding why he was being so perverse, yet unable to stop his hurtful words. "Come on, Lois. I think you should be honest here. The only reason you're doing this is to save my life."

She spun around to look at him. "I could do that without marrying you," she hissed. "Babies are born everyday without the security of marriage."

"I know that, but both of us know the only reason you agreed is because I won't have the baby otherwise. We shouldn't get carried away and make it more than it is." He was surprised by her reaction. Just the day before she'd been the one angry when he mentioned getting married.

"I know that's what I said, and part of me still doesn't want to do this. But, I've agreed to this and I'm prepared to do everything I can to make it work. Clark, I don't know how to fail. All I know how to do is give one hundred, ten percent with as much fire as I can muster. We may be entering into this to save your life, but it still doesn't make the marriage less real."

"Doesn't it?" He looked doubtful — there was one very important element of a relationship, which would be missing in their marriage.

"Why? What part of it isn't real? The baby will be born into a family! We're both committed to making a loving environment for that child! Which part of that do you have a problem with? Or is the problem that we've decided we won't consummate this marriage on our wedding night?" She put her hands on her hips and glared at him. "I thought we went through this already?"

Clark sighed and shoved a hand through his hair. Lois always did know what he was thinking. "So did I. I've tried to tell myself that this was for real. You'd said yes… and I even convinced myself that you wanted to do this. But sometimes I can't help thinking that I'm taking advantage of you."

"If it means you'll be okay, please take advantage of me."

He shook his head when their eyes met. "Lois, I don't know how else to say this. In one way, I want this so badly I can taste it, but I still can't ignore this feeling I have that it's wrong."

Afraid that Clark might be prepared to back out of the whole deal and try to face his illness alone, without the hope of any cure, Lois forced her own worries to subside. She stepped forward and placed her palms on his chest. "We both knew this wouldn't be easy, Clark. It's going to take a lot of adjustment on both sides. So, let's not keep analyzing this. You asked and I answered. Let's get married — no promises, no strings. Just take it one day at a time."

Clark smiled and rubbed the backs of her hands. "I think that's easier said than done."

"I know." She pushed her hands up around his neck, hoping he'd accept her proposal and silently asking him to hug her. He didn't disappoint. His arms slowly went around her waist and held her tightly. "One day at a time," she told him softly.

"Okay." He smoothed his hand up and down her back before stepping away. "So… I was thinking about the wedding."


"Uh huh. I was thinking of calling the Victorian House to see if we could have it there."

"The bed and breakfast on the north side?" He nodded. "Oh wow! I've always wanted to see that place."

"There's a small chapel in back." Clark started to relax as they returned to discussing plans… details were so much easier to handle than emotions.

"Great. That should be big enough for a cozy ceremony."

"And they have a ballroom. We could have a reception or just dinner, according to how many people you want to come." Clark led her back to the couch and sat down.

"Me? What about you?" Lois plumped down beside him, grateful for the return to a warmer atmosphere between them. "Wouldn't you like to invite some folks?"

"Just my parents. Maybe Jimmy and Perry."

"You sure?"


"Okay. Add my parents… I think." Lois wrinkled her nose disgruntledly and Clark laughed softly at her. "And Lucy. I'd never live it down if I didn't call her. Other than that, I think I could live without having it become a spectacle. Besides, people aren't exactly falling down to be my friend."

"Give yourself a break. You've been shut away in that newsroom since you finished college. It's only natural that all you know is inside those walls."

"I guess." She smiled and bumped against his shoulder. "Should we make a list and split what needs to be taken care of?"

"Why don't you let me handle everything? I mean, unless you want to help?" Clark asked, not quite sure of what the protocol should be with 'arranged' marriages but, since he was the one to insist on marriage, he felt most of the burden should rest on his shoulders. Lois had offered up the rest of her life just to save his; the least he could do was take over the wedding preparations.

Lois gulped mentally. How had she gone so long without figuring out Clark's secret? He really wasn't good at hiding his feelings and, right now, the need to do something for her… for them was written clearly across his face. "What do I know about planning a wedding?" She grinned, offering up a little control.

Until this moment she hadn't realized that maybe a great deal of Clark's reluctance and uncertainty stemmed from the fact that he no longer felt in charge of his life. For a man who had always been able to count on his strength and invulnerability, the disease must have stripped that security away from him, and having a baby suggested as his only possible cure, had to have left Clark feeling more than a little helpless. Perhaps giving him something positive to concentrate on would help him regain some direction and dignity.

"Probably as much as I do," he said with a chuckle. "I guess you should help. This is your wedding, too."

She cocked her head to look at him. Something in his expression told her that her thoughts were definitely correct; organizing the few wedding arrangements was important to Clark. "No. I think it would be okay if you took care of things. I just hate to leave you with all the work."

He lifted his hand to cup her cheek. "In a while you'll be the one doing all the work," he said, his voice filling with sorrow. For the first time the weight of what was to come hit Clark. Without thought, he leaned over and kissed Lois' lips. It was only a brief touch, but it said so much. When he withdrew, he was near tears. "I think I'm going to go home. I'm getting tired."

"Yeah." Lois was a little stunned, but not by the kiss. She could see the raw emotions on Clark's face, hear the pain in his voice and, at once, understood where his thoughts had taken him. She had no cheeky quip or witty riposte to offer to pull him out of his dejection. Instead, she followed him to the door and, reaching to take his right hand before he stepped through, she whispered, "Call me when you get home."

"Okay. I had a great time tonight," he told her again, just in case she thought his enjoyment had been spoiled by their little disagreement.

"Any time." She offered Clark a smile and received one in return.

"Good night, Lois."

"Good night."

She closed the door and leaned her back against the warm wood with a hundred new thoughts running through her mind. This whole deal wasn't working out the way she'd first thought. Moving in with Clark had certainly never figured in her plans, but she could see the advantages. He'd just reminded her that his disease would probably get worse, and he would need someone around to watch over him. And for all his bravado, he was scared. Heck, it frightened the life out of her too. Apart from the times long ago when she'd looked after her mother during Ellen's drinking sprees, Lois had never had to care for anyone that way. But she wasn't a quitter, and she wasn't about to let Clark back out either. No, if getting married was the only way that he'd accept her help, then she could live with it… for now.


Clark had called Lois when he got home and they agreed she'd pick him up the next morning for the first insemination procedure. He couldn't help but want Lois to already be pregnant before the wedding. He rationalized if that were so, she wouldn't back out. Then he quickly squashed his selfish thoughts. After all, only a few hours ago he'd been the one to have a few doubts. Lois was entitled to change her mind, if she wanted. But he refused to think like that! If there was ever a time for him to be positive, it was now.

The following morning was bright and held the promise of summer as Lois drove over to Clark's. The sun danced off her new ring, casting reflections on her dark hair as she pulled up to the curb in front of his apartment to find him pacing anxiously on the stoop. She offered up an encouraging smile and told him to relax. He smiled back and forced his nerves to calm.

At the laboratory Dr Klein was already waiting, ready to get down to work. After a quick greeting, Clark was given a cup and sent to a room to gather the sample needed for the procedure. It hadn't been the easiest task in the world and he'd embarrassingly reverted to his familiar dreams of Lois to get it done. When he was finished, he felt curiously numb and disconnected. With hardly a word he handed over the container and disappeared, leaving Lois and Bernard exchanging puzzled glances in his wake. However, when Lois went out to go to work, she found Clark leaning against the Jeep.

"Hey!" She approached him apprehensively. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah. How about you? Did everything go okay?"

His chaotic feelings had driven him from the building and into the air to clear his mind, but his concern for Lois had forced him back to the parking lot, and waiting by the Jeep had given him a chance to organize his thoughts. At least enough to support the lady who was taking such amazing measures to save his life… and change both their lives forever. Lois deserved that much from him. He just wished he had her fortitude. Man of Steel, that was a laugh… right now he felt like Man of Straw!

"Perfect. I have to come for a blood test in the morning and then we repeat the process. Unfortunately we only have a three day window this month. You will be there, won't you?" Lois sounded uncertain. Given the way Clark had run out, she wasn't sure he'd be willing to try again.

He nodded. "Kinda sucks the romance right out of it, though!"

"Clark!" She threw him a warning stare.

"I'm sorry, Lois. I'm just having difficulty coming to terms with all this…" His hand waved in the direction of the lab they'd just come from. "And I feel like a wimp, because you're going to go through a lot more than me and yet you're so brave…"

"Not that brave, Clark. There was a moment in there when I wanted to run away."

"But you didn't…" He had the grace to blush when he thought of his own truculent actions. "I just hope it's all worth the effort."

Clark looked so repentant that Lois' moment of annoyance faded away and she stepped up to place her hand on his arm. "Clark, this will work."

"Yeah." He pushed off the Jeep and opened her door, his mood lightening considerably. This whole procedure could take quite a while and his partner didn't deserve to put up with his grumpiness along with all the other things he was putting her through. "Come on. I'm hungry and you're buying."

"I am?"

"Sure. After next week you'll expect me to buy."


"It was a joke, Lois. Remember, one day at a time." He grinned and pushed the door shut. 'Day one', he thought as he jumped into the passenger's seat.


Clark would have liked to have told his parents in person that he and Lois were getting married, but there were just too many things going on and his tiredness was still an occasional problem, making a flight to Smallville difficult. Instead the three of them shared a long conversation over the phone.

The Kents weren't overly surprised at the news. Martha knew Lois would convince Clark to have the baby. She understood the young woman enough to know that when she set her mind to something, not even Superman could talk her out of it. It seemed this time, however, he'd talked Lois into something — the marriage idea had to be his. He was still convinced he was going to die and wanted to be happy for a little while before that happened. Martha was proud of the fact that he'd been honest with Lois about his true feelings and also proud of him for taking the time to propose properly, but not surprised. Clark would always be an old- fashioned farmboy at heart.

Meanwhile, the couple had to follow through with the insemination procedure again as the first try was unsuccessful. They weren't happy, as neither of them were comfortable with the necessary process, though neither were they prepared to give up at the first hurdle. In fact, if both were honest, they'd hardly expected it to work first time around. The second failure disappointed Lois more than Clark, but when the third and final try for the month failed, The Man of Steel was more than a little dejected.

Lois had to admit to a small amount of anxiety that their lack of success would cause Clark to give in, but it seemed that he was now committed to the idea. And that was hardly surprising… Clark was a young man; it was only natural that he should want to live.


Having been given the news of their latest non-event, Clark moved into the conference room to be alone with his thoughts. Lois had only had a small window to conceive this month and all attempts failed to produce a pregnancy. It wasn't a total disaster but he couldn't help but feel a little disheartened. Maybe this was never going to work. After all, he was Kryptonian, and even though Dr Klein had said that wouldn't be a problem, the doctor could have gotten it wrong.

"Clark?" Lois stuck her head through the door, her heart contracting at the sight of her partner staring sadly at an open file on the table in front of him. She doubted that he was even aware of what it contained.

"Yeah?" Surprised by Lois' voice, Clark's head shot up.

"May I come in?"

"Sure." He straightened in his chair and tried to pretend he'd been buried in his work.

Lois smiled gently at his attempt to cover his feelings, sitting down next to him before she spoke. "What's wrong?"

"I was just thinking."

"About not being terribly successful this time?"

"Yeah." He studied his hands for a long moment before he faced Lois. "I was hoping you'd be pregnant before we got married."


"Honestly?" She nodded helpfully, so he forced himself to answer. "I know this is a bit of a turn around for me because I haven't exactly shown a lot of enthusiasm here… but I'm scared you'll change your mind." The last statement came out in a rush.

"Not a chance," she reassured him.

"Lois, what if we get married and… you don't get pregnant?"

She returned Clark's look with all the seriousness his tone of voice deserved and reached to take his hands. "Clark, we're getting married in four days. One day at a time. After that day we'll either be getting to know each other while preparing to bring our baby into the world or we'll be getting to know each other while we enjoy being married." Lois was proud that her voice didn't falter on the word enjoy. Even now, she wasn't totally sure that getting married was the best thing to do. She was an independent career woman who had never pictured herself married… or with a baby for that matter. However, Lois Lane didn't back down from anything she set her mind to. So, this marriage, as unexpected and uncomfortable as it might be, would not force her to change her mind about helping her friend.

"I'd leave you…"

"You'll never leave me. I won't let you."


"No, Clark. One day at a time, remember?" This time it was Lois who mentioned their pact.

Clark sighed heavily and squeezed both of Lois' hands. His head eased forward to rest lightly against their joined fingers. Lois leaned over and pressed a kiss to the back of his head, feeling the need to offer a little comfort as much as he obviously needed to receive it. They sat quietly, sharing a moment of peace. Neither knew what would happen in the days to come, but both seemed to be making a silent agreement that whatever beset them, they would face it together.


Chapter 6: I Now Pronouce You

"But I love my apartment," Lois stated adamantly, standing in the middle of her living room looking both outraged and forlorn. "Everything is just the way I like it."

Clark listened once again to the litany, trying hard to retain his patience. Over the last few days the couple had tried to hash out the details of their lives together after the wedding, the main point being where they'd live. Unfortunately, those conversations always proved somewhat testy.

At the first mention of sharing the same living space, the reality of their whole situation was driven home for Lois. She and Clark would live in a confined space — together! That had to lead to huge compromises and forced intimacies which she really hadn't taken into account. Personal habits would be open for scrutiny and all those thoughts scared Lois senseless. For far too long she'd been her own person and had done just as she wanted to in the privacy of her home. She didn't have to watch herself or worry about someone else constantly being around. Could she live with that change?

"Okay, so I'll move in here!" Clark countered with his usual suggestion, knowing full well that Lois would object to that too.

"Clark! It's too small. My apartment is really meant just for one person or a cou…" Lois' voice died and her skin flushed hotly.

"Couple, Lois? Is that what you meant? I know we're not exactly a 'couple,' but most people will expect that being married, we might actually live together!" Lois found she couldn't meet Clark's furious stare. "And, correct me if I'm wrong, weren't you sharing this apartment with Lucy when I first came to the Planet?"

Lois pounced on that one. "Yes, and that was a disaster! Thank goodness it was only temporary until Lucy moved to California. You can't believe how cramped this apartment got! And we were hardly ever here at the same time. She stayed out late at night and slept most of the day… and she wore my clothes!" Lois forgot to be angry at Clark in her tirade at her sister.

"Lois, I can assure you, I'm not about to wear your clothes!"

To her surprise, a giggle defused much of Lois' rancor. She'd noticed lately that Clark had a way of getting round her justifiable tantrums. "You'd better not even think of it, buster. Get your own tights!" she retorted sassily. Clark's mouth dropped open, and for a moment they both enjoyed a good laugh.

"Lois, you are right, though," he said, sobering up. "This place is too small for both of us and, speaking of Superman, your windows are a bit too exposed for Superman to come and go from frequently. I don't mind the odd visit, but it's just not ideal on a regular basis."

"I know," Lois reluctantly agreed, crossing to stare out the window at the busy evening scene below. Her apartment faced the main avenue and there were other houses across the road. Someone was bound to notice Superman's presence eventually.

She was beginning to relent, though she still wasn't thrilled about the prospect of giving up her own home. It was too much like losing her own space; she'd worked hard to achieve her self- reliant life style, and this felt like some of it was being eroded.

She also harbored thoughts of needing the space again after the baby was born and Clark was well on his way to recovery. He *had* told her that if that were to happen, he'd gladly grant her a divorce. And though she hadn't realized it until their discussion, divorce was the *out* she was holding on to. She couldn't exactly reveal that to Clark, though.

"Lois, I do have an idea? Will you listen to me?"

She turned and found Clark standing near her, hovering anxiously… well, not actually hovering. She shrugged and passed him by on the way to her couch. "Okay, what's your solution?" Her eyebrows rose, as she made herself comfortable, though she looked anything but hopeful.

Clark walked back toward her, but he didn't sit. "You move in to my apartment." Lois opened her mouth to interrupt; they'd had this conversation before. "Lois!" Clark jumped in, "just hear me out." She subsided, and Clark continued with a sigh. "It is a little bigger than here, Lois. But you don't give up your apartment…"

"You think we should alternate between apartments?" Lois asked sounding incredulous. Somehow that didn't seem like a lot of fun.

"No! That's not practical. We wouldn't have time what with work and Superman… and my illness… Then if you get pregnant…"

Lois gave up some of her aggressiveness when she was reminded of the two reasons they were doing this. "When I get pregnant…"

A shadow of a smile touched Clark's mouth — Lois was always optimistic on that point. "Okay — when! But back to your apartment… What would you say to subletting it? At least, until we found a bigger place for after the baby's born. That way, you could take your time getting used to the idea of giving it up…"

Lois jumped up. "That's brilliant, Clark!" Actually, that was a slight exaggeration, but it was a decent compromise. Clark had unwittingly given her exactly what she wanted: an escape out of their marriage once things were better. And she had accepted the fact that Clark would need someone to take care of him in the next few months; she could hardly do that from a separate home. "I could sublet. Of course, it would have to be organized legally…"

"Of course," Clark nodded. "And, isn't that new woman who's taken over from Howie in 'travel' looking for a place to stay? She's from the NY Times and I thought I heard her say she was sick of living in a hotel."

"She does seem nice and normal, doesn't she?" Lois was still a bit apprehensive at the thought of a stranger living in her home, but it was better than the alternative. "And I could take everything I want with me, couldn't I?"

Clark inwardly cringed at the thought of Lois' sofas moving in with her, but he put on a brave face. "Everything!"

"Good, then that's settled," she concluded after a few moments reflection and Clark sighed with relief. "I'll get on to that first thing tomorrow. Now, what kind of take-out do you want? I'm thinking Chinese from that nice little place in Singapore…" Once again, Lois was okay with the marriage and peace between them was restored.

With the decision made, they began to pack up the things Lois wanted to take with her; the others would be placed in storage until such time as they were needed. Then they rearranged Clark's furniture to make room for Lois' stuff, and they told her parents.

Clark had only met Lois' dad once and had never met her mother, yet telling them he was marrying their daughter was something he felt he should do. So, at Clark's insistence, Lois had arranged a meeting at a fancy restaurant, believing that things were more likely not to spin out of control if they were on neutral territory.

Lois parents were, as she'd warned him before the meeting, their usual condescending and argumentative selves. Still, the evening went a lot better than either of them had expected, even if it had been awkward. Clark was sure that Ellen hadn't believed him good enough husband-material for her daughter, though Sam had seemed mildly friendly, when he hadn't been fending off sarcastic attacks from his ex-wife. At the end of the meal both Lois and Clark had been relieved to exit the restaurant, leaving the older couple bickering behind them.

Toward the end of the week they told Perry their plans and, to say the least, the editor was surprised.

"In the name of my blue-suede shoes!" He looked up at them from behind his desk, his hand arrested in mid-stroke of his red marker pen. "Marriage?! You two are getting married?"

"Comes as a bit of a shock, eh, Perry?" Lois' eyes were wide as she remembered how pole-axed she'd felt when Clark had first dropped that bombshell on her.

"Not an unhappy one, I hope, Chief?"

Perry swallowed, his editing of a poorly written article completely forgotten. "No, no! If you kids are happy, then I'm happy for you."

"Well, of course, we're happy, Chief," Lois insisted gushily, slipping her hand through Clark's arm and, in Perry's opinion, protesting too much.

If Perry had considered it, he'd probably have said that Lois would never get married, and Clark was the last man he'd thought she would choose. Lois hadn't really liked Clark when he'd first come to work at the Planet, believing he was some kind of country hick who would hold her back. Of course, she'd since admitted that she'd been wrong about his reporting skills, and they had become close friends of late… but marriage was the last thing he'd imagined for the couple.

Unless it had something to do with Clark's terminal illness. Perry hadn't spent years in the newspaper business without developing an instinct for reading between the lines.

"Then I guess there's nothing else to do but wish you both the best." He stood and came round to the couple, giving Lois a quick hug and shaking Clark's hand. "But don't you forget that this is a work place, not a dating agency or a marriage guidance office. I don't want you bringing any personal concerns into my newsroom."

"Perry, I think Clark and I are both professional enough to behave… professionally." Lois ended on a shrug.

"Yeah, sure thing, Chief," Clark echoed Lois' sentiments. "You're invited to the wedding, of course. It's this weekend at the Victorian House."

"That soon?" Perry managed to get out, almost choking in surprise. Now he was pretty certain there was an ulterior motive behind the wedding, but he tamped down his curiosity for the present. "I'll be glad to come, kids. Now get out of here, don't you both have jobs to do?!"

By the weekend, the entire staff at the Planet knew they were getting married and they quickly became the topic of office gossip. Most people were shocked Lois 'Mad Dog' Lane had agreed to marry anyone and Clark was most definitely not considered her type — he was far too nice! Without knowing the reasons behind this sudden wedding announcement, rumors ran wild.


"Loo-iss!" Cat purred as she slipped into a seat next to her.

Lois stopped typing and looked warningly up at the woman. "What?"

The 'society columnist', however, was quite impervious to Lois' cutting stare; Cat had a very thick skin. "You sly dog, you. Why didn't you tell a girl you were… you know… with Clark?"

"Cat, my relationship with Clark is none of your business."

"Oh come on, Lois. Just tell me."

"Tell you what?"

"How is he?"

"What?" Lois faced Cat, expecting to hear something outrageous.

"In bed? Is he as good as he looks?" Cat's eyes sparkled at the prospect of a piece of juicy gossip.

Lois almost told her she had no idea, but changed her mind. She opted to be a little evil instead. Cat really did get to her, so she smiled provocatively at the drooling woman. "What do you think?"

It worked perfectly. The older woman's mouth spread into a grin. "Ooo, he is. I knew it."

Lois shrugged and turned back to her screen. She had just added to the gossip but right now she didn't care. She was tired of all the comments and smart remarks.

Cat rattled on for several more minutes about Clark's attributes before she slithered her way across the room to find another helpless victim to antagonize. Lois shook her head and got back to work.

From his position at the copy room door, Clark had overheard the conversation between the two ladies. He smiled at Lois' boldness. Secretly he hoped she'd stay as open minded and spirited after the wedding… with everyone, including him.


As the days clicked by toward their wedding, Clark's thoughts were of little else. He found himself looking forward to his new life, his mind filled with expectations for the future. His only hope was that Lois felt the same way.

In a day he'd know exactly what she thought. He'd arranged the small, intimate ceremony at the bed and breakfast chapel, taking care of everything. He'd flown his parents in to be at the ceremony and had spent the afternoon with them. But he'd asked Lois if he could come by later that night, as he wanted to talk to her for a while.

Unfortunately, on his way over to Lois' a few rescues detoured him, so he was still in his Superman guise when he arrived at her apartment. Lois was dressed for bed and sitting on the sofa.

"Hi," she said as she looked up from the book she was reading.

"Hi." He sat down beside her, smoothing his cape nervously where he'd pulled it around him. "Whatcha' reading?"

"A book about pregnancy."

"Jumping a little ahead aren't you?"

"Just getting a good start."

Clark smiled and stretched out a little in an attempt to get more comfortable on Lois' sofa.

Lois put the book down on the coffee table. "Tired?"

"A little. It's been a long day."

Lois reached out to run her fingers across his cheek. "Do you feel okay?"

"Am I sick?" She nodded. "No. Just tired."

"You sure?" He met her concerned gaze. "You'd tell me if you weren't?"

"Lois, I'm fine. And I'd let you know if I wasn't."

"Okay." She patted his leg and sat patiently to give him the time he needed to say whatever it was he wanted to talk to her about.

"Lois?" he said after a moment.


"Never mind." The things he wanted to talk to her about had seemed pretty reasonable when he was flying round the city, but now that he was sitting next to her, he had a hard time getting started.

She turned to face him, pulling one of her legs up on the sofa next to him. If he'd made a point of arranging to talk to her, she wasn't about to let him chicken out. "Come on, Clark, what are you thinking about?"

Clark began hesitantly, "Why are you willing to do this? Really?"

Lois was quiet for a second, trying to get her many thoughts in order. "I don't know if I can answer that myself. All I know is I have to do it. But, Clark, haven't we already thrashed this out more than once? You can't be thinking of backing out at this late stage?" Lois' brow furrowed as she stared at him, daring him to answer in the affirmative. They'd come too far.

"No, Lois, I'm not… It's not that at all." Clark steeled his nerves to ask her what was really on his mind. "Lois…" He fiddled with the edge of his cape as he tried to get up the courage to tell her what he was thinking.

"What?" She reached out to touch his arm. "Clark, you can tell me anything."

He met her gaze. "Lois, I, ah, I booked us a room at the bed and breakfast for Saturday night."

"Good." She surprised even herself with that statement. Since she'd realized the depth of her skittishness at the idea of living with Clark, intimacy had been on her mind several times. Was he expecting more than she was prepared to give? Again, she wondered if this 'playing house' was such a good idea.

"It's just, well, we haven't… talked a whole lot about…" He sighed and looked away.

"About what happens after the wedding?"

"Yeah." He was really uncomfortable now. How did he bring up the topic of intimacy with her? "I don't expect anything. I know we'll be married and all, but that in no way implies… anything more."

Wow! That was a relief! Lois unwound visibly and for a moment she allowed herself to pat his hand, which was still playing anxiously with his cape. "I know. If it helps, you have to know I totally trust you."

"I'm glad. I just thought the time alone would help ease our nerves." And help her relax, he added mentally… not to mention himself! "These last few days have been a bit hectic."

"You could say that," she agreed. "Do you want to stay there for a few days or did you have somewhere else in mind?"

"One day at a time," he whispered. He met Lois' gaze slowly. "Maybe we could just… see how Saturday night goes."

Lois smiled affectionately at Clark. From what he'd said, or more importantly from what he didn't say, she realized what was on his mind. It seemed her partner might also be a bit uneasy about the parameters of sharing space.

"Clark, are you nervous about us living together?"

"Petrified," he confessed.

Lois mentally let out the breath she'd been holding. She was more than willing to allow him to broach this topic first. "Tell me how you feel."

"Lois, this is… well, it's just…" He stuttered to a halt again. Why did he always get tongue-tied when he was this close to Lois?

"Clark, I'm prepared for this: the marriage, the baby, everything. It's what I've chosen to do, and I'm not regretting it." She forced her voice to remain strong and confident, quite unlike how she felt inside. That 'one day at time' proposal was going to be her saving grace.

"That's the problem." He tried again, and she looked at him with questioning eyes. "I don't want this to be… I don't want you to ever feel like…" He sighed and ran his hands over his face. "Lois, maybe it would help if I just tell you what I do expect after we're married."

"Okay. And I'd like to tell you what I expect." There… he was the one who threw out the flag and Lois would take it. She shifted a little to listen to him.

"Fair enough," Clark said. He pushed his cape off his thighs and looked up at Lois. "I want us to become closer as friends. But the next few months will be hard, really hard on me both physically and emotionally. I'm hoping you'll let me vent a few frustrations now and then, and I'd like to listen while you vent."

"Vent! Yes, venting is good!" Lois jumped in, nodding her head vigorously, while Clark's lips twitched in a mixture of amusement and exasperation.

"Lois, I want us to share things, do things together. And I want us… to sleep together," he blurted the last part out, but, at her wide-eyed look of disbelief, he hurried to correct himself. "Just sleep… in the same bed. I'd just like to know you're close."

Ohmigosh! Lois wasn't sure how to respond. This wasn't something she'd even considered and, though she could understand where he was coming from, it hit her like a truck! Even if she did trust him to keep to his side of the bargain, she just wasn't ready for that amount of *closeness*. Sharing a home was bad enough, but sharing his bed was a whole different ball game!

She admitted, though, that this very question had haunted her dreams and a few of her waking moments. Clark's apartment had only one bedroom, so it was bound to be a problem, but she'd pretty much buried her head in the sand and assumed he'd sleep on the couch. Now she couldn't ignore the fact that he had other expectations…

She'd known for a while that Clark hadn't really accepted that a baby could save his life, and she understood that he saw this marriage as his opportunity to have some of his dreams come true, if only for the time he had left. Yet, Lois wasn't quite certain whether she'd be able to fulfill this part of his dreams.

She opened her mouth to voice her worries, but he held up his hand. "If… when you get pregnant, I'd want you to slow down a little at work. And I'd want to be part of everything. I want to go to appointments with you at the doctor. I want to put together baby furniture and feed you saltine crackers to combat morning sickness."

Lois gave him a questioning look. "Looks like I'm not the only one who's been reading up," she commented dryly.

Clark, blushed and shrugged helplessly, but he wasn't about to allow her to deflect him from his explanation. "And when the time comes for the birth, I want to be there as well, provided I'm healthy enough."

"Clark, I want some of that, too. I want us to spend time together, get to know each other, and do things together…"

"But?" Clark had a good idea what her objection was going to be. It had been pretty apparent by the look on Lois' face that he'd pushed too far.

Lois smiled at his quick understanding, but had to turn her head to tell him her true feelings. Clark had revealed early on that he loved her and that having a family would give him the sense of belonging he thought would never be his. Clearly, he saw the 'sleeping arrangement' request as a way of making his belonging more of a reality. However, that kind of intimacy was not something she could live with. Not now and she wasn't sure she ever could…

"But, I'm not willing for us to share a bed… even to sleep."

Clark sat quietly, unable to suppress a stab of disappointment. He wasn't sure what had led him to make such a suggestion. It had been a very bold step for him, but maybe the fact that he was dying prompted him to take the chance. And he'd just been thinking a lot about his upcoming marriage lately, or more importantly the lack therein. When Lois had protested so earnestly to their living arrangements, he'd realized his hopes for the future were only a pipedream and he'd never have any semblance of a real marriage, no matter what Lois said. He'd somehow reached the conclusion that at least being allowed to sleep with her would give him something tangible in an otherwise artificial situation. Didn't he have the right to expect his marriage to have some kind of meaning?

"Clark, I'm sorry. I don't have any objections to sharing your bedroom, if you feel you'd like me nearby," Lois rushed on, hoping to wipe the sadness from his face. "We could buy twin beds for your room."

She struck a nerve with that suggestion. "Lois, it will be *our* room. It will be your home from now on."

"I know that, Clark. But you have to remember that *this* was something I never planned…" Her voice trailed off when Clark turned to face her, his eyes revealing the depth of his hurt. She could kick herself, having spent the last few days trying to reassure him that this was *exactly* what she wanted — she'd said too much.

But Clark quickly collected himself, unwilling to let her see how much that statement had affected him. "You're right, Lois. You didn't want to do this. And I didn't want to have a baby just to save my life either."

Lois stared at Clark for a moment before reluctantly letting go of a slow breath. He was right. He hadn't come up with baby idea, had even fought against it at first. She'd been the one to insist and the only way to get what she wanted was to agree to marry him. However, she'd never said anything about sleeping with him. It seemed at this late stage they'd hit an impasse, and Lois couldn't see a way round it.

Before she could speak, Clark shifted and pulled himself upright on the sofa. "Look, I know I forced this marriage on you and for that, I'm truly sorry. I can't help how I feel and I hate that the idea is so horrible for you…"

"It's not horrible!" Lois objected.

"No. Just the thought of living with me is what bothers you," he corrected her with an edge of sarcasm.

She cocked her brows at him. It seemed she hadn't done a very good job at hiding her innermost feelings, but then those few debates they'd had over the past few days had probably been a real give away.

"Lois," Clark began again in an effort to smooth over this latest obstacle. "I'm not completely unconcerned about your feelings. I *do* know this is uncomfortable and scary, and I meant it when I said I didn't want you to feel that way. So… I'll apologize for suggesting the intimate sleeping arrangements. I'm not even sure why I did. I guess I thought…" He held her gaze as he continued. "it would make it seem real… but that was crazy. I realize it would just be more pretence."

Lois' heart softened when she saw the same raw expression he'd had on his face the night he suggested the marriage in the first place. "Believe it or not, Clark, I'm sorry and I *do* understand your point. Why don't…"

"No, Lois, you don't have to apologize." He smiled slightly and sat back against the cushions again. "And as much as I'd like for you to share a room with me, the thought of twin beds would just… slam home the fact that our marriage is… not everything it appears to be." He was careful not to use the comment he'd made about this not being real again. "How about I put a bed in the loft area for my bedroom and you'll have your own space?"

The fact that Clark was willing to abandon his own desires for the sake of her security touched Lois' heart, and she smiled warmly on him. "Thanks, Clark, I'd really appreciate that. You're a very understanding guy and I'm lucky to have you." Yet even though they'd cleared another hurdle he still seemed a little desperate. Lois leaned against his shoulder in an effort to lighten the mood. "Only I think you still have a *but*."

Clark did have a *but* of his own and he grimaced as he tried to explain. "You see, the Victorian House had only double-bedded rooms left. And our booking was short notice, Lois. They really are busy and they wanted confirmation right away. I just had to… and you did say you'd like to stay there," he finished lamely, his eyes staring dejectedly at the floor, so he had a very good view of Lois' hand sliding unexpectedly into his.

"Clark, don't worry about it. I think that spending one night in the same bed together won't be too stressful for me," she chuckled gently. "Especially since it will be our wedding night. And I really do trust you, so it won't be a problem. For the rest… can we take this slowly, not expect too much of each other?" Lois was relieved to see Clark relax and his fingers turned to clasp her hand. Now her smile broadened as she approached less sensitive ground. "As far as the baby goes, that's something we'd be in together. I want you involved… completely. If I have to go through all the changes, you're definitely going to wait on me, too."

Clark laughed softly. "I really hate to remind you that you may have to wait on me as my disease progresses."

"Then it's settled. We'll take care of each other and we're both going to work hard to turn this relationship into something very… unique."

"I'd certainly like to try," he agreed with a lopsided grin. After a moment, he met Lois' gaze and his expression became more serious. "Are you scared… about the marriage and all?"

"Not scared, nervous. I'm very nervous." And she was surprised that that was really how she felt. Since her biggest worry had been removed, the uncomfortable feeling had eased and that meant her alarm was contained… for the moment.

"I promise I'll do everything in my power never to hurt you."

"I know you will." She placed a warm palm on his cheek. "Just tell me you'll keep fighting and not give up… even if things start to look bleak."

Clark covered her hand on his cheek with his own. "As long as you do the same." She nodded in assent. Clark held her hand as he brought it to his lips, kissing her knuckles softly.

"I will, I promise." She laid her head on the backrest of the couch and looked at him, noticing the threat of tears in his expressive brown eyes. Even before she'd discovered he was Superman, Clark had always seemed so strong and dependable. He was her rock… always there for her when she felt down. So her heart clenched a little tighter at the sight of him holding back his tears. "Can I ask you something?"


"Are you scared?"

"Of dying?"

"Uh huh."

"I don't know if it's that exactly. More… confused… apprehensive." To tell the truth, Clark found it hard to describe how he felt. Sometimes the fear almost overwhelmed him, but mostly he felt kind of lost.

"What do you mean?"

"It's like I feel a number of things… I guess I'm curious. You know… what's it like? Will it hurt? What comes after? In the beginning, I'd get mad and think 'why me?' Sometimes, it doesn't seem real… like I'll wake up one morning and find it's all been a bad dream. But it is real… and I've come to accept that. I suppose the only time I get really scared is when I think about leaving everyone behind." Clark lay back next to her and stared up at the ceiling. "I'm more worried about causing someone else pain than I am of dying."

Lois slid her hand through the crook of his arm. Without realizing it, Clark had just summed up how she felt. When she thought about living without him an icy fear gripped her soul. "Now you know how much I feel about losing you."

Clark turned his head to look at her. "You really mean that don't you?"

"I really do."

Clark was about to say something else when his hearing kicked in. He sat up quickly. "I hate to jump up and run, but someone needs help."


He stopped at the window. "I guess I'm scared of not being able to do this anymore, too." He smiled and was gone in a flash.

Lois thought about what he'd said. More than his own life, Clark was afraid of hurting his loved ones by leaving them behind to grieve. She knew in that moment that marrying him and having his baby was the only thing to do. She may not have planned on doing it quite this way or was even sure if this was what she'd wanted for her future, but she'd committed herself and would put just as much effort into her new life as she would a tough case at work… or more! This was her life and Clark's.

Now where did that thought come from? Normally, Lois considered her work was her life.


The next morning, Clark felt better about himself and his impending marriage. During his previous night's conversation with Lois he'd discovered that, although she wasn't ready for certain commitments, her feelings for him might run deeper than he'd known… maybe even deeper than she realized herself. He could be wrong, but he hoped that someday his marriage would be the stuff that dreams were made of.

The day was spent making sure everything was taken care of. Clark picked up the marriage license and delivered it to the chapel, checking that their room would be ready for later. He also made sure his suit was ready and took care of the dinner he'd planned for after the ceremony. Then he returned home and packed a small bag. They wouldn't be able to take more than a week off from work on such short notice, so not a lot was needed. And it wasn't as if they'd made any decisions on whether they'd spend more than a night at the B&B.

That afternoon Jimmy treated Clark to a boys' day out. Jonathan came along to the ballgame while Lois and Martha went last minute shopping and traded what they called blackmail material. Clark didn't quite know what that meant but was sure he'd find out in the near future. Since Lois had insisted he couldn't see her before the wedding, they'd decided to meet at the chapel. She'd told him there was so much against them, going into this marriage, that she wasn't about to tempt fate and Clark was happy to let her have that indulgence. After all, this woman was saving his life.


Clark and his parents had shared a short but emotional few words before the ceremony. His father had pulled him into a bear-hug and told him how proud of him he was. Clark thought that odd, but Jonathan had explained it took a special person and a remarkable man to do what he was doing. A decision like the one Clark had made was not one to be taken lightly. He assured both his parents that not a moment of his marriage would be taken lightly. There was such a lot at stake and Clark couldn't afford to waste one precious minute.

Lois, on the other hand, had thought she'd be so nervous she wouldn't be able to see straight. But since she'd resolved the night before that this marriage was the only thing she could do, she had become strangely serene, and now that she was totally satisfied with her decision she was growing kind of excited as well. Lois loved a challenge, and this was certainly a totally new experience.

In front of the small altar, Clark stood waiting for his new life to start. He was dressed in a charcoal suit with his hair neatly in place. A small sound from the back of the chapel drew his attention and he turned to see Lois on her father's arm. She was wearing a beautiful, white lacy dress that hugged every one of her curves and he found himself drawing in an audible breath. He was even happier when he detected a similar response from Lois. Obviously she was just as affected by her first sight of her husband to be.

Lois and her father began their slow walk down the isle to the strains of the wedding march. When they reached the end, Clark smiled and shook Sam's hand as the older man gave his daughter over to the most powerful man in the universe. Not that Sam knew that little detail. Clark turned and held out his hand to Lois, signifying that he was still giving her a choice. Yet she didn't need his consideration, smiling warmly as she slipped her hand into his. He returned her smile and covered her hand with his other one, facing her slightly as the minister started the ceremony.

Clark took a deep breath as he gazed at Lois. She was beautiful. She was remarkable. And she was about to become his wife. Refusing to think about the real reason all of this was happening, he resolved just to enjoy the moment.

"Clark has asked to say his own vows," the minister told them.

Lois' eyes widened as she waited for Clark to speak. This was something they'd never discussed and it threw her a little off balance, but Clark was continuing and she forced herself to concentrate on his words.

"If anyone had told me a month ago I'd be marrying you today, I would never have believed them. Yet, for some reason, fate has blessed me and now I stand before you not to vow my undying love and support — you'd always have those even without the marriage to go with it. I stand here to ask you to remember always what this day means to me. It means I will be able to spend my life with my best friend. It means…" Clark took both her hands in his. "It means you saw enough in me to take a chance that I could actually make you happy. Lois, you have no idea what it is you're giving me." He lifted his hand to her face. "I do though," he whispered as tears filled his eyes. "You're giving me happiness. You're giving me security. You're giving me… life." He took her hands again, pulling them to his chest. "Today, I give my life back to you."

Lois felt the tears prick behind her eyelids. She'd always known that he cared for her as more than a friend and when he'd confessed his love for her, she hadn't doubted it for a moment, but she'd had no idea that his feelings were this intense. She felt immensely privileged… and it scared her to death.

Everyone was waiting for her to speak, and she had to say something; the last thing she wanted to do was to hurt Clark's feelings in front of their family and friends. The silence was becoming uneasy.

And she did love him. It just wasn't the same 'ever-after' kind of love that Clark had for her. Lois wasn't ready for that kind of devotion — she wasn't even sure if she believed in its existence. Yet looking directly into Clark's face she couldn't deny the truth shining in his eyes. Swallowing hard, she found her voice and for the first time in many years, Lois allowed her heart to lead her.

"Clark, I promise to take that life and hold it close to my heart. Until I met you, I never knew that such love existed. I love your compassion, your gentle strength and your beautiful soul. For me the world would be an emptier place without you in it. So today, I promise to give to you everything that I can to make your life happy and content."

Only Clark's parents understood the hidden meaning behind their words, but everyone was moved by the simple vows. Lois found her eyes filling with tears anew as Clark slipped the wedding band on her finger and kissed it softly. She repeated the gesture with the band she'd gotten for him, then Clark's mouth covered her own.

When their lips touched as husband and wife for the first time, the kiss lingered for several moments. Clark held Lois' face gently as he fought to control his emotions. He wrapped his arms around her and was overjoyed when she leant into his embrace. The sounds of clapping brought them back to their surroundings and Clark reluctantly let go of his bride, reality once more encroaching on the magic.


Being that the ceremony had been small, Lois and Clark opted for a dinner with their parents and friends afterward. There were the usual wedding toasts followed by some pleasant talk, which first revolved around the newly married couple then flowed naturally into general conversation about everything under the sun. Things seemed to be going remarkably well.

Clark couldn't help but notice Lois looked as if she were happy and relaxed. Her smile was bright and genuine, making her eyes sparkle. She sat close to him and didn't seem averse to touching him now and then. He didn't want to make any assumptions about being intimate, but he did allow himself to become a little bolder.

When she smiled and leaned into him after he'd rubbed a hand across her shoulders, he let himself relax even more. Though he did experience one tense moment when, getting caught up in the romantic atmosphere, Clark had intertwined his fingers with hers and lifting her hand to his lips he'd kissed it softly. He'd held his breath, expecting her to pull away, but she only smiled gently and left her hand to rest within his grasp. That had caused Clark to close his eyes as he struggled with a new wave of emotion for this incredible woman.

Soon enough though, the tension returned as they said their good- byes to their parents and their friends. The walk up to their room was accomplished in complete silence.


Lois smiled in trepidation as they stepped into the room Clark had reserved for them. It was a huge homey room, with a comfortable sitting area, which held a chintz-covered sofa, a coffee table and television. Clark had chosen well the place for them to become accustomed to being husband and wife, although Lois couldn't keep her eyes from straying to the bed that sat along the back wall.

It was certainly a large bed and it shouldn't pose too many problems for them to share without initiating any embarrassingly close contact. Of course, after listening to Clark's vows of earlier, Lois was well aware that Clark wouldn't see things in quite that way. And she did wish that she could offer him more than just the occasional amicable touch.

Well, perhaps for this one special night she could. Surely holding her dearest friend as he slept would hardly constitute a major breach in independent Ms Lois Lane's steely defenses. Tonight Lois chose to give Clark a little of what he was dreaming of, and as she made her decision she felt a great weight lift from her shoulders.

Lois unwound and smiled as her eyes lit on a large bouquet of roses. She pulled the card from the arrangement. They were from Clark, thanking her for becoming his wife.

"I thought it couldn't hurt," he said sheepishly.

"I love them. Thank you." She lifted her hand to caress his cheek briefly.

Clark closed his eyes as he felt a fresh wave of love flow over him. That seemed to be happening every time Lois touched him, but he realized he might be acting too hastily for his wife, and he didn't want her bolting for cover on their first night together. He forced his mounting desire aside and reopened his eyes to give Lois a tender smile. "You're welcome," he told her before he took his glasses off and lit a couple candles on the dresser with his heat vision.

"You could be useful to have around," Lois told him with her voice full of laughter.

"Just wait till you see me take out the trash," Clark remarked on a more casual note.

Lois laughed softly as Clark turned on a stereo that sat on one of the bureaus. He came back to her and held out his hand.

"Dance with me."

She smiled and stepped into his arms. Clark tucked her into his body the way a practiced lover would his mate. He held their joined hands between them against his chest, then wondered if he was being too daring… but, what the heck! Tonight, he would allow himself to be a little reckless.

"I haven't told you how beautiful you look," he said huskily.

"You don't look so bad yourself."

Clark smiled and twirled them around. "This is nice. I've always wanted to dance with you. You kind of shot me down the one and only time I've had the chance."


"At the White Orchid Ball. I cut in on your dance with Luthor."

Lois tensed at the mention of Lex's name. She hadn't bothered to tell Lex about her marriage to Clark. He'd been out of the country and hadn't gotten back.

"What?" Clark sensed her withdrawal.

"Nothing." Lois tried to settle back into the mood they had been setting.

Clark stopped and leaned back to look at her. "It's Lex isn't it?"

"Yeah. He's been out of town."

"So he doesn't know about us?"

"I'm sorry, Clark. If he'd called or I could contact him, I would have told him. And I will as soon as he gets back. I promise, he means nothing to me. He never did."

"Then why did you go out with him?" Clark really didn't want to spend his wedding night talking about Luthor, but like a human with the toothache, he found he couldn't leave the sore spot alone.

"I guess… I was a little dazzled by his sophisticated life- style. I'd never been to the ballet or the opera in New York, so I think I was a bit mesmerized by it all." Lois wasn't actually looking forward to dealing with Lex as lightly as she'd made out to Clark. But for tonight, she resolutely pushed her former, debonair suitor aside. "And I was lonely. I don't have to be any more, do I?" She smoothed a hand over Clark's chest, smiling at him in an effort to recreate the warm atmosphere.

Clark let his hand run up Lois' back. "Neither do I," he told her. He pulled her closer as another song started. With his cheek next to hers, they began to dance again. "This isn't dancing."

"It's not?"

"Nope. This is." Lois' eyes grew wide as he floated them up into the air all the while continuing their dance. "I've always wanted to dance with you," he repeated.

Lois was more than a little enthralled by her new husband's abilities, and she pulled her hand from his and slid both around his neck, silently asking him to hold her closer. She was beginning to enjoy the meld of the two men who'd held her affection.

Clark was perfectly amenable with this new state of affairs and wrapped her in the warmth of his embrace, holding her close to his chest until the song ended. When their feet were back on the floor, he lifted his head but didn't release his hold on her. They stood there, staring at each other for what seemed like an eternity. Finally he pulled away, reminding himself not to push too hard.

"Do you want a glass of champagne?"

"Ah, no," she answered, clearly shaken by his withdrawal. "I think given that we're trying to conceive, I should leave the alcohol alone."

Clark laughed in triumph, holding up a bottle of cream soda. "I thought you'd say that."

Lois smiled as she went to stand beside him. "What just happened here, Clark? It really felt like we were connecting." And why should she feel there was a connection? Wasn't she the one who had been harping on about not feeling the same way for Clark as he did for her? Of course, it was probably that she'd been carried away by the emotions of the day and the romantic setting of the Victorian House. She'd feel differently when they returned to their normal lives.

He sighed and turned to face her. "I know. I'm still really nervous, and I'm sure that you are too." Clark chuckled humorlessly as he handed her a glass. "Crazy, huh? We're… married, yet there's still so much we don't know about each other."

"I hope we'll change that," she replied as she took the offered drink.

"Maybe… I shouldn't have asked you to marry me." Clark walked over to look out the window at the small chapel behind the house.


"Because…" He looked down at his own glass and sighed. "Because my motives were selfish."

Lois went up to him and spread her hands over his back. "You know, everyone has a time in their lives when it's okay to be selfish, and I'd say this was your moment. And I guess that makes us even." Clark twisted to look at her with questioning eyes. "In the beginning, I only wanted to save your life, and no matter what I said, I suppose Superman did have an influence on my motives… then! Getting pregnant was the only way I could do that, but I kinda got used to the idea and now I 'selfishly' want your baby… sue me if that's wrong!"

Clark couldn't stop himself from laughing. It was weird, but somehow Lois' admission about Superman didn't have quite the same sting anymore. "I guess we're one heck of a pair." He held up his glass, silently asking her to do the same. "Here's to…" He quirked his brow at her. "What should we toast to?"

"Let's toast to… a new life."

"Ours and hopefully…"

"Our baby's," she finished for him when his eyes glanced at her mid-section.

"Yeah." He clinked his glass with hers and they both took a healthy drink. A knock on the door interrupted any further interactions. "I'll get it."

"What else did you do?"

"Honestly, Lois, this wasn't in the plans." Clark opened the door to one of the staff of the bed and breakfast.

"Sorry to interrupt, Mr. Kent, but I have a delivery."

"I see." Clark stood aside as the man pushed in a cart filled with several desserts and a couple presents.

The young man smiled up at Lois. "Congratulations, Mrs. Kent," he told her before turning to leave.

Clark came back to her side as Lois read a card she'd found. "Your mom," she told Clark.

"Ahh… I told her not to go to any trouble."

Lois was looking at the chocolate delicacy in front of her. "Speak for yourself," she told him as she picked up the container.

Clark chuckled and lifted one of the presents. "Hey, this is from your parents."

"What?" She peered over at the brightly wrapped gift. "Open it."

"You sure?" She could only mumble because her attention had already drifted back to the dessert she was indulging in. He opened the package to reveal a beautiful crystal picture frame. "Wow! Glad Jimmy took pictures."

"Mmm," was her only reply.

Clark smiled and picked up a card. "This one's from Jimmy." He chuckled softly when he read the contents. "He says his gift is our pictures." Lois only groaned in reply. Clark thought she was preoccupied with the chocolate, but one look at her face told him there was something else going on. "Lois, what's wrong?"

"Nothing." He gave her a 'this is me' look. "Okay." She put the container down. "Clark, the guy that brought this in," she motioned with her hand, "called me Mrs. Kent."

"Oh." Clark smiled softly and reached out to squeeze her arm. "Relax. I didn't ask you to change your name."

"It's just that I'm attached to Lois Lane."

"Yeah. Me, too."

She stopped the rush of protests that were about to leave her mouth. "You're okay with me keeping my name?"

"Absolutely. Your name is not who you are, but I think I like Lois Lane a little too much to give her up."

Her hands landed on his chest. "You're the best."

"I know." They shared a brief laugh before Clark grew serious again. "But this does bring up another issue." Lois leaned back to look at him. "The baby… I'd like for the baby to have my name."

"Oh, Clark, of course! The kid's already going to be cursed enough with me as his mother."

"Lois, you'll be a great mother."

"Think so?"

"I know so."

She couldn't stop the huge smile from spreading across her face. "So… let's not waste this chocolate."

Clark smiled and took a different selection from the cart so they could share. They settled on the sofa to talk and finish their wonderful treats. The earlier sexual tension had eased away and they spent the next hour talking and laughing happily, but as soon as the desserts were gone and the conversation came to a stop, Clark's anxiety returned full force.

Suggesting Lois share a bed with him had slipped out his mouth on impulse. He'd never dreamed she'd go for it, and he'd been right, but at least she'd agreed to share tonight with him. He'd been overjoyed at the prospect. At the same time, he'd been extremely nervous. And he was still nervous. Perhaps sleeping together would be a mistake. What if he couldn't control his impulses while he slept?

"Lois, you know, this couch is pretty comfortable, and I'm sure they have some extra bed-linen stashed away somewhere." He pulled his glasses down his nose and let his eyes look into the cupboards. Yup, there was another quilt. "Maybe you'd rather I sleep here?" He bounced a couple of times on the cushions, trying to pretend it was no big deal.

Even without Clark's outburst, Lois' thoughts had drifted in the same direction. Clark was offering her an out, yet, for some crazy reason she found herself rejecting it. At least, for one night she wanted to give something to this very special man. "Do you trust me?"

Clark looked over at her. The sudden question threw him, but he replied automatically. "You know I do."

"Then stay right here. I'll be back in a few minutes." Lois had the perfect idea. It wasn't quite the intimacy that most couples shared on their wedding night, but she felt that it might show Clark that she did care about his happiness.

He thought to question her but didn't. Suddenly he was absolutely petrified. He had everything he wanted, Lois was his wife, but this was all wrong. He should never have agreed to go ahead with the pregnancy, never mind forcing her into becoming his wife! He should have taken what life had dealt him and faced it alone… not involved Lois in something… not involved Lo… His thoughts stuttered to a halt as his eyes caught a slight movement in the doorway.

Lois came out the bathroom dressed in a long silk nightgown and robe which she'd chosen very carefully, making sure it covered her from neck to toe. Nevertheless it did cling to every curve and Clark's breath caught in his throat. She looked so beautiful. She carried a bottle and a brush in her hands and he wondered briefly what she was going to do with those.

She put the items on the nightstand before going back to Clark. She held out her hand to him. "Trust me… and try to relax."

Clark let his mind go blank as she took his hand and led him back to the bed. She pushed him down to sit on the edge, took his glasses off, then bent to take off his socks and shoes. When she was done, she climbed onto the bed with the brush and started to pull it through his hair.

"That feels good," Clark told her.

"I remembered you saying you enjoyed when I stroked your hair the night I came to your place and found out you were getting sicker. I thought it would be great way to release a little tension."

"Mmm. I think it's working," he told her with his eyes closed.


Clark really was loosening up, astounded that having Lois do such a little thing like brushing his hair should make him feel so good. "I used to brush Mom's hair all the time."

Lois laughed softly. "I can see you doing that."

"I still do sometimes."

This time Lois paused in her ministrations. "Really?"

"Yeah. It helps when I've been to a particularly difficult rescue. Concentrating on something so ordinary helps me reconnect to life."

Lois resumed her task. "Well, any time you feel you need to brush someone's hair, mine is available."

Clark chuckled gently, and let his mind go blank again as she continued her wonderful motions in his hair. He didn't notice when she stopped until he felt her hands on his chest. She'd unbuttoned his shirt and was running her hands over his smooth skin.

"Lois!" Clark gasped.

She felt him tense again and leaned forward to place her mouth to his ear. "Relax. It's okay… it's just a massage!" Even so, Clark groaned as she pulled his shirt from his body, not exactly sure that he could restrain himself at her intimate touch. Obviously, Lois had no such concerns as she reached for a bottle of what Clark now knew was lotion, put a generous amount in her hand, then placed her palms on his back. Slowly she began a rhythmic rubbing of his shoulders.

"Oh, God, Lois! That feels so good."

"I'm glad." It wasn't long before Clark was lying on the bed while Lois' hands continued to massage his back.

He closed his eyes again to feel the amazing sensations running through his powerful body. He wasn't sure how long she rubbed, but he did know it was the first time he could ever remember being so comfortable. He became aware of the fact that Lois was lying next to him on the bed. Clark rolled to his side and opened his eyes to look at her.

"Thank you. That felt great."

"I'm glad." She pushed a lock of hair off his forehead. "Feel better about… us?"

"Some." He moved to settle on his back. "Lois, you know why I wanted to get married, don't you?"


"I'm sorry."

She leaned up on her elbow to look at him. "Don't be sorry you love me — I'm not," she whispered and that was the truth. "I'm actually looking forward to our life now." And, though that really was true, it didn't stop her from being apprehensive as well… and petrified.

Clark lifted his hand to touch her face. "I think I am, too."

Lois leaned forward and pressed her lips to his briefly. When she leaned back, he was pleasantly surprised. "Why don't you go get dressed for bed? You can rub my back."

He grinned widely at her. "Okay." He hopped from the bed and disappeared into the bathroom. He returned, dressed in shorts and a tee shirt.

"Hey," Clark told her. "How would you like to fly to Disney World tomorrow?"

She smiled up at him. "Really?"

"Sure." He settled on the bed and nudged her to roll over. His hands started to work over her silk encased back.

Lois groaned appreciatively. "That's nice."

Clark leaned close to her ear. "Sorry about the gown, but I am not about to rub your back without something between your skin and mine."

Lois giggled at him. "But I don't bite… hard."


She laughed out loud at his tone. "Fair enough, and I promise I won't tease," she finally relented.

Clark grinned as he continued to knead her back. It wasn't long before he detected her even breathing that told him she was fast asleep. He settled to the side of her body and gazed down at her. Soft fingers moved her hair back off her face. "Thank you," he whispered to her still form.

Lois was unaware of just what she'd given Clark by marrying him. He hoped he could show her though. He leaned to place a soft kiss on her cheek before lying beside her. For the first time in a long while, there wouldn't be nightmares when he slept.


Lois and Clark flew to Florida the next day and checked into a hotel in the heart of Disney World. This time, however, Clark was careful to book a small suite with a living room and separate bedroom to give Lois her space and privacy. He smothered a sense of disappointment, but when Lois smiled gratefully at him as they stood by the check-in desk, he felt it worth his sacrifice.

Their suite of rooms was bright and airy with a tiny balcony to enjoy the sun and the evening air. Clark hoped the time they could spend there together would make up for the time he'd have to spend sleeping on the sofa. Though it was large and comfortable, he would have preferred to spend his nights the way he'd spent his last one. Sleeping with Lois had turned out to be a wonderful experience, even if she'd stayed well on the other side of the bed.

He stifled his feelings for his new bride and followed her down the corridor to the elevator. They'd decided to put their bags in their room and head out to see the sights of the 'Magic Kingdom.'

They spent the remainder of the day exploring some of the park and she was pleasantly surprised by how much she was enjoying herself. Clark was relaxed and kept her laughing with his light banter. He seemed so much different to her than he usually did in their normal day together; he was just… Clark! Never once did he mention work in any form and neither did she. How was it she'd never noticed that she had a lot in common with this man outside the newsroom?

If Lois were honest, she'd admit that she'd known for sometime Clark was a great guy outside work. She'd also admit that they 'did' have a lot in common and were quite compatible. However, since she was back in denial mode, she refused to recognize any of those facts. Instead, she focused on the present and that meant a great time with a good friend in a wonderful place — nothing more, nothing less.


The newlywed couple made it back to their suite nearing dark. Clark ordered them a steak dinner in their suite and the meal turned out to be a such a great ending to a wonderful day, that Clark hardly minded the fact that his bed was in the room next to Lois', instead of with her. In fact, he reminded himself he'd better get used to these living arrangements.

Lois was forcefully awakened by a very loud thud from the outer room sometime during the wee hours of the morning. She jumped up in shock and, grabbing her robe, rushed next door, without a thought of how Clark would be dressed. She just knew that something was wrong!

And her gut instinct hadn't failed her, for there on the floor, in a tangled mass of sheets and pillows was her husband, sitting rubbing the sleep from his eyes and gazing dazedly round the room.

"What happened, Clark?" she demanded in her best 'Mad-Dog Lane in pursuit of information' voice.

Clark raised his eyes to her. "I think I must have fallen out of bed," he suggested, but he still sounded a little confused.

"Bed, hah!" she almost barked. "It sounded like you fell from the ceiling!" Even in the dimmed light of the room, she could see he'd turned a guilty shade of red. "Okay, farmboy, are you going to tell me what happened here?"

Clearly Lois wasn't prepared to give up until she knew the truth. "Well, maybe I did," he said quietly, but rushed on as Lois crossed her arms and regarded him with an incredulous look. "It's no big deal, Lois. Sometimes I float in my sleep, and I must have fallen… that's all."

"That's all! You're life is so weird!" But she did uncross her arms and walked closer to him. "What would make you fall, though?"

Clark shrugged and turned his face away from her scrutiny. He didn't have any answers to that one. Could his powers have failed momentarily? He checked his hearing, which seemed to be in order, and his x-ray vision. Staring through the bedroom wall he saw the evidence of Lois' sudden exit from the king-sized bed.

Lois bit at her lip; her thoughts were obviously paralleling Clark's. "Has it happened before?"

"Only when I've been having a nightmare!"

"Were you having one just then?"

"Not that I can remember, but I suppose it's possible."

"Clark, you are feeling okay?" Lois searched Clark's face for any signs that he might be sick, and did she detect a fine sheen of sweat on his skin? But Superman didn't feel the heat. She came closer and placed her hand on his brow.

He let her hand rest there for only a moment before he climbed back onto the sofa. "I'm fine, Lois!" That wasn't exactly the truth; he did feel a little shaky, but he wasn't about to admit that to her. If Lois suspected he was unwell, she'd insist they go back to Metropolis, and he wanted to spend this time alone with her just enjoying themselves. This might be the last vacation time he'd ever have. He tugged at his damp t-shirt and shifted to fluff his pillow.

Lois allowed herself to be only partially reassured as she watched him ready his bed. She wasn't entirely convinced he was all right, but trusted him to let her know if he felt very ill.

"And you're sure?" she asked.

"Yes! Now why don't we both get back to bed and get some sleep?" He was starting to feel a little more settled. "Go on, scoot! We want to get an early start tomorrow; there's a lot for us to see.

"Okay," she gave in reluctantly and started toward the bedroom. "But I might leave the door open a crack, just in case you need me."

A small laugh broke over Clark's face as she disappeared through the door and he listened in to her movements as he heard her crawl into bed.

"Goodnight again, Clark," she called.

"Goodnight, Lois, sleep well!"


Now, with Lois' unease and Clark's sexual tension at sharing a bed removed from the equation, the couple spent the next two days in companionable enjoyment of the amusement park. However, the bedroom door did remain a little way open during the rest of their stay… on Lois' insistence.

They rode the rides, ate the food from the vendors, and played the many games on offer. Clark won Lois about a dozen stuffed animals and she only remembered seeing him as relaxed one other time… when they were in Smallville. And, since Dr Klein had stated that it would be best for Clark's sickness and her ability to conceive for them to live as stress free as possible, she made a mental note to visit her in-laws again soon.

"This has been wonderful," Lois remarked as they made their way toward the exit to the 'Magic Kingdom' on their final evening. They'd decided that morning that it was time to return to Metropolis and to work. Neither was completely happy about that decision, but knew they couldn't stay in Florida permanently.

Lois made a comment about some display that she found fascinating. When Clark didn't reply, she glanced over at him. He'd gone extremely pale and was having trouble breathing. "Clark!"

He stopped and bent to keep from throwing up.

Lois smoothed a hand over his back. "What's wrong? Are you sick?"

"Give me a sec," he ground out. She continued to rub while he struggled to catch his breath. He looked up at Lois with apologetic eyes. "I need to…"

She nodded and guided him toward a nearby restroom. Not wanting to leave him alone, Lois accompanied him inside, to the curious glances of several passers-by. She didn't notice anyone but Clark at the moment as she pushed the door to a stall open.

Clark dropped to his knees and heaved in relief. Lois never left his side. She placed a damp wad of paper towels on his forehead when he leaned back, and he rested in her arms while he caught his breath.

"I'm sorry," he told her.

She pushed his hair off his head. "Don't you dare."

"I ruined our trip."

Lois looked down at him with a tender smile. "We've had a wonderful trip," she told him.

"Lois… it's only going to get worse."

She leaned forward and placed a kiss on his forehead. "And it's going to get better."

Clark lifted his hand, with much effort, to touch her face. "You're amazing."

"Yeah, well, you'll change your mind once we're back at work and I'm nagging you over a story!"

"Nah." His hand fell to her arm. "Hold me," he whispered.

Lois pulled him closer into her arms while he recovered from his latest bout with the monster that was threatening to take him away from everyone and everything. It took him a few minutes to be able to release her and stand up again.

"How about we get you something to drink?"

"Sounds good," he told her as he went to wash his face and hands. Lois was waiting with a towel when he was done. "Thank you."

"That's my job," she said matter-of-factly.

That made Clark stop to look at her. "I hope you don't think that's why I married you."

"No." She took his towel and continued to wipe him dry. "You married me because I'm incredibly beautiful and charming," she answered him with an impish grin, covering her worried feelings with a tease.

Clark reached to grasp her hand. "You are," he told her.

"Clark Kent, now I know you are sick… No one thinks I'm charming!"

"I do! Beautiful and charming."

Lois stared at him for a moment before resuming her task. "So are you," she said so quietly, he almost thought he'd dreamt it. Lois also thought she'd dreamt it. What was she doing, blurting out stuff like that? She must have been so scared by Clark being unwell, that she'd wanted to offer him some kind of reassurance. In the future, she'd have to be more careful in her choice of words. It really was too cruel of her to give Clark hope for something she couldn't deliver.

Meanwhile, Clark sighed in contentment, not realizing that Lois was biting her tongue, and believing that yet another level of their ever-changing relationship had been reached. They'd told each other countless stories about their respective histories. Clark now knew and understood a little more about what made Lois so skittish about men, while she understood the immense loneliness he had felt as he grew up trying to adjust to why he was so different. Regardless of the misunderstandings and insecurities that still lay between them, they arrived home with their friendship much deeper than it had ever been.


Chapter 7: Ordinary People

Clark landed on his balcony and immediately sensed Lois. He could hear her heartbeat and admitted that he liked it. They'd gotten home from their honeymoon a little earlier, but he'd had to go out on a call for Superman shortly after unpacking. Now, as he took in the sight before him, he immediately realized he was glad to be home.

Lois was in his kitchen… cooking. Cooking! That was a surprise and he stopped to watch with a sappy smile plastered on his face.

Suddenly, she realized she was being watched and looked around to see him in the doorway. "Hi." She held up a finger and lifted the phone to her ear. "Okay, Martha… Uh huh." She did as she was obviously instructed. "Okay… That's it?… Wow. Thanks… Yeah… He's home. Okay… You, too. Bye." She cut the connection and laid the phone on the counter.

"Taking cooking lessons?"

"Just felt like living on the wild side," she said with a grin as she sprinkled cheese on her dish and slid it into the oven.

Clark shook his head and went into the bedroom to change. Mere seconds later he came back, dressed casually in flannel shirt and jeans, to find Lois fighting with a bottle of wine. "Here." He took the bottle and held it until the cork popped out.

"Okay," Lois said with crossed arms. "How did you do that?"

"Pressure. It's hard to explain."

"How 'bout the spin thingy? Show me that one."

"Right now?"

"Yeah. You're not dressed in the suit, but I guess the method is the same. You know, do it slower so I can see how you do it. That's if you feel up to it, of course. I mean, you were sick and we just got home and unpacked… and then you had to go rescue someone or something. So, if you're too tired, I'd understand…"

"Lois, take it easy. It's okay. I feel fine now." That wasn't totally true; he did feel a little tired, but his super powers were all there, and if this made Lois happy, then he'd do it. Besides, she seemed to be in somewhat of a relaxed state since their return. He certainly didn't want to ruin it.

Clark smiled and stepped back from her. He started spinning. Although it was slower, she had to concentrate to make out what he was doing. He undressed down to his shorts and t-shirt, then redressed again. When he stopped he'd left his glasses off and was grinning widely.


"Yes. Very. But you don't wear shorts beneath the suit? I mean they'd leave a line beneath the tights." Lois' gaze dropped to his thighs without thinking and she quickly dragged her stare back to his face.

"Yes they would… I wear briefs!"

Lois nodded sagely, then her eyes narrowed as another thought came to her mind. "How about the cape? What happens to that?"

"It's complicated, Lois. Let's just say I'm very good at fast vacuum packing." Clark grinned over his answer.

"Yeah, I noticed in the hotel, and your heat vision takes out the creases… neat! Packing and unpacking should never be a problem again." She turned happily, satisfied with the small insight into some of his powers and, retrieving the plates from the counter, she handed them to Clark.

He grinned broadly over the fact that Lois had made a passing reference to their future together, took the dishes and began setting the table. "Ah, not that I'm complaining, Lois, but to what do I owe this pleasure?"

"I just felt like cooking tonight." Lois twisted back to the stove, trying to hide her true reason. Martha had asked Lois to keep an eye on her son's health and feeding him properly seemed to feature pretty heavily in that process. She just hoped that the results were as good as her intentions.

Clark smiled over at her. "In that case, I'm glad I'm Superman."

Lois swatted his arm lightly. "I'll remember that."

"Did you tell my mother you'd make sure I eat well?"

Lois looked up at him with an incredulous expression. "How did you know she asked?"

"Lois, I know my mother."

"Excuse us for caring." She turned and took up two wine glasses, almost running into Clark when she went back for the wine and sparkling water.

"I like it that you care," he said softly.

"Good." She lifted the bottle and poured him a glass. "They say wine has cancer fighting agents in it," she told him as she held out his glass.

"I've heard that." He took a long sip. "But I guess the same can be said for Lois Lane."

She laughed at his lame joke. "Clark, it's really nice to see you relaxing a little."

"It's nice to be able to." They shared a gaze before he moved away to check his mail.

Nearly an hour later they'd eaten and cleaned up the dishes. Clark toweled his hands dry as Lois put a container of leftovers in the freezer. When he was done, he turned to Lois. "Thank you. Dinner was wonderful."

"You're welcome, but I couldn't have done it without your mom's instructions. Don't expect too much!" Her words seemed to remind her that this togetherness wasn't all it appeared, and she drew back, pointing over her shoulder. "I want to take a bath."

"Okay. I think I'll just go make up the bed in the loft. I'm a little tired and want to turn in."

Lois halted in her backward movement toward the archway. "Oh, I should help you with that."

"No, Lois, I can manage…"

"Clark, I want to! It's because of me that you're having to sleep up there, so the least I can do is make sure you're going to be comfortable."

Clark looked a little doubtful, but he could tell by the set of Lois' chin that she was determined and he wasn't up to quarrelling with her over something so trivial. "Okay, if you're sure."

"Clark, this is why we got married and are living together, so I can help you with domestic chores like this."

A sad smile crossed Clark's face as he went over her earlier words. She was correct; if it hadn't been for her insisting on separate bedrooms, this chore wouldn't need doing. Besides he wasn't quite sure what Lois would say when she saw the loft space. Any moment now, though, he was going to find out since she followed him up the narrow winding staircase.

He'd managed to clear the attic out and give it a quick freshen up with paint before the wedding, yet nothing would make the room look anything other than the storage space it was meant to be.

Lois stared around her as Clark stood back revealing the small attic. It was obvious he'd cleaned it out, and even painted it up with a bright lemon paint, but that couldn't disguise the dinginess of the tiny room.

A skylight in the sloping roof and the tops of the large bedroom window peeping above the floorboards were the only sources of natural light in the room. Through the glass in the ceiling, a partially cloud-cloaked moon shed an eerie path across the floor. Clark switched on the light, revealing a bare bulb hanging from the middle of the roof, while the only pieces of furniture in the room were a small camping cot and a side-table.

Lois blinked a couple of times. "Clark! You can't sleep here! It's terrible!" she walked down the center of the room, ducking the light fixture as she went. "Look at this. I doubt the only place you can stand up straight is in the middle of the room and this light thingy is in the way." She pointed angrily at the offending electric appliance.

"Lois, it's not so bad." Clark forced a smile as he came forward and quickly sat on the bed — there was no point in verifying her observation. "With the wedding so quick and everything, I didn't have time to do much in here. But with a proper bed… a few more bits and pieces and curtains… Oh, and I'll move the center light and put in a few lamps. I could even get my desk in the corner." Clark stretched out a hand to Lois and pulled her to stand in front of him. "It'll be fine, I promise. And you can help me fix it up, if you like."

She looked around doubtfully, trying to see how it could be improved and a few ideas crept into her mind. Her fish tank might fit in the other corner — there really wasn't room for it in the living room, and Clark wouldn't feel so alone if he had her fish to keep him company. Then another thought intruded. "But what about Superman?"

"What about him?"

"Don't you use the balcony to fly out of here?"

"Yes, and I can still do that during the day. And once I'm up here, I can use the skylight." He pointed to the glass in the roof. It was probably just big enough for him to get through. "Actually, it's a good idea, because I doubt if anyone could see me leaving from there, especially if I fly straight up. Don't worry, Lois, between us we'll have this room looking really homey."

Lois let herself be persuaded. She really did want a room of her own, and having Clark sleep permanently on the living room couch wasn't really an option. "Okay, we have to go back to work tomorrow, so we can work on it over the weekend." She lowered her head and gave him a quick smile. "You might not believe me, but I'm pretty good with a paint brush."

"Lois, I painted it!" Clark's free hand gestured round the room.

"Yes, but it's so plain… it could do with a few touches here and there. And maybe some pictures…" Lois started to walk around the small space, her mind obviously busy on decorations and furnishings. Clark was prepared to let her have her way. He kind of liked the idea of their doing home decorating together.

"Yes, you're probably right…" A huge yawn cut off his words and he felt a sudden lassitude overtake him.

Lois was immediately on the alert. "Tired? Are you okay?"

"Lois, there will be days when I'm tired. It doesn't mean I'm dying at that moment."

"I know. It's just…"

"I'm scared, too," he told her as he put an arm around her shoulder when he stood and walked her toward the stairs. "It's okay though. I don't think I'll die today."

"Don't kid about this."

"I'm sorry." He kissed her temple, then shoved her down the first few steps. "Go bathe, will ya'?"

"Yes, just as soon as I get some blankets for that bed." She smiled and disappeared down the stairs.

Once they'd made the bed up to her satisfaction and Clark had settled in, Lois went off to have her bath. She spent some time relaxing in the water and reviewing the day. All in all, they'd had a pretty nice honeymoon, if you could call two friends having fun together a honeymoon. But it had ended worryingly. Lois didn't like to see Clark being sick; it reminded her too much of his uncertain future. Yet he did seem to recover fairly quickly. She really had to have a chat with Dr Klein and find out what to expect in the next few months. Having decided on a course of action, Lois allowed herself to unwind.

A little later, smelling fresh and clean, she slipped on her robe and crept up the stairs. Clark was lying on his side facing the top edge of his picture window, yet somehow Lois sensed he was still awake.

Lois reached out to touch Clark's back tentatively. "Feeling okay?"

"Just tired."

"Okay!" She rubbed his back a few times, and Clark pulled her hand round to his chest, giving it a quick squeeze. Lois leaned over and her lips gently brushed his cheek. "I'll go to bed then. Goodnight, Clark, and if you need me during the night, just shout."

"I'll be fine. Goodnight, Lois." He turned slightly and placed a quick kiss on her palm, then released her hand. "Oh, and if you hear anything during the night, don't panic. I'll probably just be flying off to rescue someone."

"Clark!" Lois objected. "I don't think that's such a good idea. You're tired, and you need to rest. You were sick today."

Now it was Clark's turn to look doubtful, but he had to admit that Lois had a point. "It's okay, Lois. I usually sleep pretty deeply if I'm exhausted and I wouldn't hear any calls anyway. But if I do, I promise I'll be careful."

It was clear that this was the only concession that Lois was going to get — Clark was wearing his stubborn look. Lois tousled his hair and smiled. "Alright. Goodnight, Clark. Sleep well!"


The next morning Lois woke slowly, disorientated as she looked around the room. For a few moments she hardly knew where she was — then she remembered this was Clark's bedroom and that this, for the foreseeable future, was where she would be living. Somehow she couldn't quite bring herself to call it home.

That was strange; she'd been waking up these past few mornings in close proximity with Clark and it hadn't troubled her much. But then she concluded that might have been because they'd both been in neutral territory, whereas now she was definitely in Clark's place. Why hadn't she given much thought to this before?

And this *was* Clark's place. She'd literally thrown him out of his room and banished him to that small attic space. Still, she was going to help him do something to cheer up his small room, and the separate sleeping accommodations did make her feel more comfortable about this whole sharing thing. But just how was she going to cope with living with someone on a permanent basis?

The only person she'd shared an apartment with since she'd graduated from college had been Lucy, and that hadn't always been a successful arrangement. It had mainly worked because she'd seen very little of her sister. Lucy had usually been on her way out to party when Lois got home from work and she'd slept late most mornings due to the hours she kept, so the times that the two sisters had spent together were few and far between. That was hardly going to be the solution with Clark — they even worked together. Talk about over-exposure! And not just for her. She was high-maintenance; Clark would soon grow tired of her being around all the time.

Momentarily, a feeling of panic overwhelmed her, but she steered it aside as she pushed the last vestiges of sleep away and sat up in bed. Lois wasn't one to indulge her fears. She was an adult and she'd made her choice; she wasn't about to run out on her responsibilities just because she was feeling a little anxious. Ignoring the unease she felt, she climbed out of bed and walked into the bathroom to get ready for work.

In the kitchen Clark heard the noises of Lois waking, of drawers opening and closing, and minutes later the shower was turned on. He'd pulled on an old comfortable flannel robe to make breakfast for them, knowing that it would take him only seconds to get ready for work.

To tell the truth, he too was slightly uneasy, wondering what sort of reception he would get from Lois this morning. He'd been touched by her care of him last night, but you never knew with Lois if her mood of the night would be carried into the next day. His partner — he wasn't really in a position to call her his wife yet — wasn't a morning person, and she needed her first daily shot of caffeine before she could function like a normal human-being.

Clark quickly poured a mug of his finest coffee and placed it on the table alongside a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice and a few slices of toast. His stomach hadn't felt up to preparing a full Kansas-style breakfast this morning, but he was sure that Lois would prefer the continental type anyway.

Sitting down in front of his own meager breakfast, he toyed with his food while he waited for Lois to arrive. She didn't disappoint him, rushing in a few minutes later fully dressed for work and carrying her briefcase.

Lois eyed her place at the table and her partner a little like both were something from an alien planet. "Oh, breakfast. I don't often do breakfast… don't really have the time, though I will have that coffee." Lois sat down on the edge of the seat, ready to run off at any second. "Thanks," she said as she savored the drink, her eyes fixed on the contents of the mug. "You always make the best coffee, Clark."

"Morning, Lois," Clark addressed her as cheerfully as he could, while wondering why Lois was refusing to look him in the face. "And thanks for the compliment. I hope you like the rest of your breakfast."

"I'm sorry, Clark, but I don't think we've got time. We're running late already. Maybe we can grab a doughnut at the office." Lois ignored the tiny voice in her head trying wildly to tell her that Clark should really eat a balanced diet for the sake of his health.

The only answer was a strangled groan.


"It's okay," Clark ground out from behind his hand. "I just need to go to the bathroom. I feel like I'm going to be sick." He disappeared into the other room. Lois dumped her mug on the table and went to check on him.

"Clark?" She grabbed a cloth and held it under the cold tap for a couple of minutes, then lowered it to his face as she leaned over him. "What made you so sick all of a sudden?"

"Bad day. I'm sorry."

"You have to stop apologizing for everything." She wiped his face again.

Clark was about to agree when he got sick again.

Lois smoothed his hair back as he heaved. She wanted to help him or cry or something. When he leaned back into her body, she took all his weight as she kneeled. She wiped his face and the part of his chest which was now exposed by the gaping robe, trying to make him feel better.

"I feel awful."

"You think we need to get to Dr Klein?"

"Nah. I always feel this way when I'm sick." He turned slightly into her body. "Lois?"


"I'm glad you're here."

"I am, too, Clark." Lois blushed guiltily as she spoke, knowing she'd spent the morning having second thoughts about the fact that she was here in his apartment.

"If we hadn't gotten married, you wouldn't be here."

She smoothed his hair back off his head. "I know." Suddenly she pushed him straight up, her misgivings totally forgotten. Her hand and the cloth were full of blood. "Clark!"

He must have realized something was wrong because he lifted his hand to his nose. It was bleeding. "Oh God!"

"Lean forward and pinch it." She lifted his other hand to hold the toilet bowl. "Hold on while I get you some clothes."

Lois shot up from the floor, cleaned her hand, and ran into the bedroom. With a speed that would rival Superman, she pulled on a clean blouse, her own having been spotted by blood, then raced back in to him with a set of sweats.

His nose had just about stopped bleeding so together they were able to get him into his clothes. She helped steady him as he walked back to the bedroom. She pulled a pair of socks onto his feet, pushed his shoes on, and quickly got hers on. Clark never protested as Lois drove them to Star Labs and neither of them thought of the fact that Lois had helped Clark dress. All was forgotten in the need to get to someone who could explain why this was happening.


"I should have told you this was a possible symptom. Often leukemia will cause victims to have nose-bleeds. It's one of the ways your body is still fighting this disease." Dr Klein recorded some figures on Clark's chart, having completed a fairly extensive exam and satisfying both himself and the patient that the situation wasn't too serious.

"What about his white cell count?" Lois demanded.

"It's only a little altered from two weeks ago."

"So the disease hasn't gone wild?" That had been Lois' overwhelming fear when she'd seen all the blood earlier and she held her breath, still not willing to accept the doctor's verdict until he'd answered all her questions.

"No. It's still pretty much the same, but I have to warn you here that this disease can worsen very quickly and there's every chance you'll have more incidents like this one." He looked down at Clark. "Up your intake of water. Another reason you could have gotten this nose-bleed when you did was because the membranes inside the nose weren't moist enough and when you were throwing up, they ruptured. You need more water and you may consider saline nose drops now and then."

"Okay." Clark sat up and started pulling his shirt on as Lois automatically reached over to help him.

"I, ah, assume we're still moving forward with the baby thing?" Klein stammered.

Lois looked up and forced an awkward smile at the doctor. "Yes, why wouldn't we?" she asked defensively. "And so that you know, Clark and I got married."

Bernie's brows rose to meet his shiny scalp. "Really? That's fantastic. So does this mean you'll be shooting for a natural conception now?"

Clark's head shot up so his gaze met the doctor's. "Not right now. We'd…" He glanced over at Lois. "I'd rather go ahead the way we planned."

"Oh." Bernie looked a little disappointed. "But… with this new development we really should speed things up a little. I don't want to worry either of you, but I believe Clark is at the beginning of the e nd.It's not an exact science, of course, but I estimate his powers could be gone in a matter of months."

"Okay, Dr Klein," Clark told him, putting on a brave front, but not completely succeeding. "What do you suggest?"

"I suggest we widen the window and start the insemination procedure three days before Lois' fertile time and continue three days after, as well as at completely random times. Sometimes conception takes place when you least expect it." He turned back to writing something in the chart while he continued. "If it were me though, I'd try a little extra curricular activity as well." He glanced up again to find the couple both had astonished looks on their faces, which did puzzle him. The doctor couldn't imagine why two healthy, attractive adults would rather use artificial means of conception. Frankly, he thought that Lois and Clark made a great couple; yet, for some strange reason, neither one of them was willing to admit that fact. Then again, what did he know? He wasn't really good at 'people skills,' and it was their choice. "I didn't mean to…"

"No, it's okay," Lois spoke up quickly, still trying to assimilate what she'd just heard. The artificial insemination process wasn't pleasant, in fact, it was down-right mortifying and she'd just heard that she'd have to endure a whole lot more of these than she'd expected. When she'd first thought up this scheme, she'd optimistically believed she'd get pregnant very quickly. In fact, if she were honest, she'd never given much thought to the actual procedure. Lois quelled inwardly, but chanted her mantra, "We'll… we'll just take it one day at a time."

Dr. Klein nodded. "While you're here, let me take your temperature."

"Sure," she stated determinedly, while Bernie retrieved his thermometer.

To tell the truth, Dr Klein wasn't any more comfortable with increasing the procedures than Lois.


Lois sat very stiffly in the driver's seat of her Jeep as she started up the engine.

"Okay, Lois, what's wrong now?" Clark asked hesitantly — he wasn't sure he wanted to know. She'd been acting very strangely all morning.

"Wrong! Why should anything be wrong?" Lois busied herself with pulling out of Star Labs' carpark and refused to look in her partner's direction.

"Lois, I know you. When you came into the kitchen this morning, you were pretty evasive. Something has to be bothering you."


"Lois, this is me you're talking to, your hus…" No, that wasn't right! "Your partner!"

"Well, that just shows how little you know me," she lied; Clark probably knew her better than anyone. "I'm just eager to get to work. I'm looking forward to getting back into the swing of things at the Planet, but I'll drop you off at home first."

"I'm going into work too, though I suppose getting changed would be a good idea." He looked down at the old set of sweats he was wearing. "Not exactly the correct dress-code for work." Clark was babbling with the best of them. "But you could drop me off and I could fly in once I'm changed."

That got Lois' attention. "You're not flying anywhere at the moment, and you're not going to work!"

"Why not, Lois? I feel fine now. And you heard Bernie; my cell count isn't much worse than before. I don't really want to sit around at home getting bored. I'll go crazy."

"Better that than making yourself ill," she snorted.

"Lois, I don't think that's true. Isn't there a school of thought that says that having a positive attitude helps fight a disease?"

"I guess, but I just thought you might need the rest. Maybe you could come into work later." Now that her anxiety at the thought of Clark overdoing things was receding her voice sounded flat.

Clark reached over and placed a hand on her arm. "Lois, won't you tell me what's bothering you?"

For a few minutes Lois seemed to study the traffic and Clark was sure she wasn't going to let him in on her thoughts.

"It's hard, Clark. It's all a lot harder than I'd ever thought possible!"

Clark swallowed the lump that was forming in his throat. He'd known from the beginning that Lois was against the marriage, but they'd gotten through the last few days in a pretty friendly manner. Okay, she'd insisted on separate rooms, but she hadn't been so hostile until today. Last night she'd even suggested helping him fix up his tiny room. "Lois, are you having second thoughts about all of this?" he asked sadly. "Because you were the one who kept insisting we go through with the baby idea."

"And you were the one who insisted we get married!" Her habitual retort snapped out.

Lois glanced over at Clark, already aware that she'd hurt his feelings. Now why had she come out with something quite so crass? Yes, she was experiencing a little claustrophobia at having to share living space, but she *had* agreed to marry him, so she shouldn't have thrown that in his face… again! They'd been through this argument a number of times, surely it was time to move past it.

"Clark, let's not fight about this. And I'm not having second thoughts. It's just a huge difference thinking about artificial insemination and actually having to go through it. It's not the greatest experience, you know. And now Bernard wants us to do it more often!" Lois tried to keep the testiness from her voice but wasn't sure she'd succeeded.

In fact, she knew she hadn't when Clark replied tightly. "It's not the easiest thing for me either, to keep turning out those specimens."

"But, at least, you get to do it on your own!"

"Yeah, on my own… maybe that's the problem." Clark mumbled, unable to hold back that sentiment.

Lois concentrated on negotiating her Jeep safely through a particularly busy traffic junction, so perhaps she hadn't quite picked up Clark's last words correctly, she surmised. And if she had, she wasn't ready to address that subject. Besides, she seemed to have lost Clark's attention. He had twisted his head slightly as if he was listening to something else.

"Lois, pull over! Please!"

There was a note of desperation in Clark's tone that Lois couldn't ignore. Fortunately, she'd just turned on to Clinton Avenue and she slid the Jeep into the first available space.

"Clark, what's wrong? Are you sick again?"

"No, Lois." Clark gave a tiny smile at her concern. "Some woman is screaming for me. I've got to fly!"

At once, Lois' hand fell on Clark's shoulder, holding him back. "But you can't, Clark. You're not fit to be Superman yet."

He could tell by the look in her eyes that she was genuinely afraid for him, so he said apologetically, "Lois, I can, and I am. I can't ignore a call for help." His hand covered hers where it rested on his shoulder. "It might be a life and death situation."

"Yes, yours!" Lois argued.

"Lois it's not that bad… yet." The distant cry of 'Help Superman' came again, and Clark removed Lois' hand gently. "I have to go, Lois. But I promise, if it's a hard rescue, I'll come home and try to catch some sleep before I meet you at the Planet."

He gave her another sheepish grin and was gone.

"Fine, go do your Superman thing, but, if you get sick, don't forget I told you so!"

Lois grimaced and pulled out into the traffic again to head for the Planet. Why was it that she always had to have the last word?


Lois was still a little angry with Clark by the time she made it to the Planet. She couldn't believe that he'd flown off to a rescue like that, even though he still hadn't felt all that well. He was so stubborn… and it irritated her! Needless to say, she was not in a good mood when she arrived at her desk.

"Hi, Lo-is," Cat purred as she stalked up to Lois' desk. "Where's your other-half this morning? You don't look blissfully happy for someone who's madly in love." Cat grinned broadly as she waited for a comment from her victim.

Lois was still pretty lost in her thoughts and only heard about half of what Cat had said. She looked up from where she had been turning on her computer. "What?" she demanded, bewildered. What could Cat be up to now?

"Ahh. I was right. Marriage must not be all you thought it would be." The woman was looking very smug, almost as if she were on the trail of another bit of juicy gossip for her column. Well, Lois wasn't about to give her anything.

"Cat, what *are* you talking about?"

"Well, judging by your mood, I'd say there's trouble in paradise. What's wrong? Clark realize how irritating you really are?" Cat grinned wickedly as she watched her remark hit its target.

Even though Cat's comments usually did little more than annoy her, Lois felt her cheeks turn red. It wasn't so much that Cat was right in her assessment, but marriage was definitely something Lois knew nothing about and, at the moment, she was finding it very difficult to deal with. Of course, she also didn't want anyone to discover just what kind of marriage she and Clark had… especially this anyone!

"For your information," Lois said, her hands on her hips. "I've had a very stressful morning!"

Cat snickered slightly. "Yeah. I hear not getting any will do that to you," she said and turned to walk away.

Lois could only watch helplessly as the infuriating woman strode off. What was she supposed to do? Yell out for the whole newsroom to hear that the problem was not the lack of intimacy between herself and Clark, but that she'd *chosen* not to share a bed with him.

The hard thing was realizing that she herself was partly to blame for Cat's snide misinterpretation. She was the one who had led Cat to believe that she and Clark had been… 'doing it,' even prior to their marriage. Lois didn't want the gossip mill to know such a thing, but she also didn't want them speculating about the sexual side of this relationship now. Yet she couldn't have it both ways, could she?

And she definitely couldn't shout out that she and Clark had fought over his flying off to be Superman or because they couldn't agree on their insemination procedure. The last thing she wanted anyone to know was they were trying to make a baby. They'd find that out soon enough.

Before she could think about that further, Doug, from Sports, passed and offered her his congratulations on her new marriage.

Her marriage. That was more than a mouthful. Lois smirked weakly at the guy and eased into her chair as she waited for her e-mail program to come up, her thoughts definitely not on anything work related.

She had to be honest here and admit she hadn't put a lot of thought into this whole situation before jumping in. Wasn't that what she did though? Jump in without checking the water level first? Sure, she was committed to having this baby and helping Clark recover. She was even committed to this marriage… in a way. But that didn't mean she was going to give up her own identity.

<No way!> she told herself.

Visions of her parents' marriage flashed through her mind, of how Ellen Lane had tried, in the beginning, to please her husband and be the kind of wife she believed Sam needed. But even presenting him with two lovely daughters hadn't been enough to satisfy Sam and, eventually, Ellen had given up and taken to the bottle.

For a long time, Lois had presumed that none of the Lane women were good enough to hold Sam Lane's interest, but as she'd grown into an adult, she'd come to understand that the fault lay with Sam and not his family. Sam just wasn't suited to that kind of commitment, and Lois had quickly learned from her own experiences with the opposite sex, that very few men were.

Clark might be the exception, but Lois wasn't 'in love' with Clark. She may have agreed to this marriage, but one thing he was going to have to understand right away was that she wasn't about to go down the road her mother took. She was her own person and wasn't about to change for him or anyone!

With new resolve, she focused on her computer and got to work. It would be a cold day in hell before anyone changed 'Mad Dog.'


Clark had flown back from that first rescue, feeling really bad about his spat with Lois over Superman. He'd insisted it might be a life and death situation, but it had turned out to be some poor women, loaded down with sacks of groceries and a couple of young children, who'd forgotten her door key and had wanted Superman to let her into her apartment. He'd obliged and turned to head back toward the Planet, hoping that Lois wouldn't ask him what he'd been doing.

He was also willing to admit that he'd been pretty mean over Lois' hang-ups about the mechanics of the insemination procedures. It was true, he didn't want to give more specimens, but he recognized the importance of what they were trying to do, and Lois was making just as many sacrifices as himself. In fact, her participation was probably the more humiliating experience. They'd both accepted that the end result would hopefully be a good thing, and arguing about the process was a useless, childish exercise.

So, the moment he had a chance after arriving back in the newsroom, he'd offered up an apology for his behavior and agreed to allow Lois some space. He wasn't insensitive, and he realized just how skittish Lois would be about marriage. All her life, Lois had fought to keep her emotions in check because she'd been hurt so many times in the past. She'd been caught off guard by his insisting they be married but in the end she'd agreed, under protest. Now what she needed most was some time and space to get used to the practicalities of married life or, at least, sharing a home with someone. Hey, he needed some of that himself!

Thankfully, Lois had accepted his apology, and, surprisingly, even offered up a slightly grudging one herself.


At work, things between the couple didn't change much — they were still as good a team as they ever were. But, unfortunately, Clark had to admit that the situation on the home front was very different.

The first week hadn't been so bad. In fact, Lois had been unexpectedly civil toward Clark, when she'd finally made it home that first night. She'd told Clark that she'd stayed late at the Planet to catch up on some work on some older cases which she'd shelved for other more immediate investigations. Clark was pretty certain it was just an excuse, but he hadn't felt up to the effort of confronting her. One argument in a day was enough. Besides, it did tie in with his idea that she needed time to herself.

However, having Lois spending most of her time at the Planet wasn't an ideal situation, so Clark began tossing around ideas that would ultimately leave Lois alone in the apartment. It was his hope that she'd become comfortable in what was now her home, too.

Flying Superman patrols all night was out because Bernie had warned him of over-exerting himself. He was far too exhausted most of the time for that anyway.

Staying elsewhere wasn't an option either because of the initial argument they'd had about living together. How could he justify such an action after that? And being dishonest with her was certainly no way for them to start their marriage either.

Clark needed to become creative with his ideas, but meanwhile, the weekend they'd set aside to decorate his little room arrived. It started out the way he'd always imagined sharing his life with Lois would be. They'd hit the stores early, buying more paint — 'for contrast,' Lois had told him. They'd also chosen prints for the walls, a brightly colored bedspread and matching curtains.

At the furniture store, they'd selected a new bed — three- quarter size for comfort and practicality. An armoire with both drawer and closet space was also a must have due to space constrictions, both pieces chosen to match Clark's existing side table. A decorative table lamp later, Lois was satisfied that they had everything to make the bedroom more homey, so they'd stopped for lunch at their favorite deli.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent attacking Clark's small loft room, turning it into somewhere he'd be comfortable spending time. An offer to super-speed the painting was foregone in favor of being able to watch Lois show off her decorating skills. A choice Clark didn't regret because it allowed him to spend an enjoyable afternoon with Lois.

Lois was puzzled at first to find he didn't own a stepladder. How on Earth were they meant to paint the contrasting stripes she envisioned on the sloping roof of the room? He grinned as he suggested showing her.

Lois stuck her hands on her hips and regarded him with a 'don't mess with me' glare. She looked so cute with a streak of paint on her cheek, but she didn't protest as he placed his arm round her waist and floated her up to the slanting ceiling.

"Oh, oh!" she cried out in shock to find herself hovering in the air at just the right height. "Hey, you might have to let me get some paint on my roller." Without warning she dabbed his nose lightly and laughed at the comic effect. "That color suits you Clark, but it really should be red!"

"Very funny, Lois!" In a blur, Lois was back on the floor and Clark had dipped his brush into the paint and was stalking Lois round the room.

"Don't you dare, Kent," Lois warned menacingly.

"Turn about is fair-play, Lane, and you did start it." Lois unwittingly backed into a corner and there was no escape. "Besides, you need a streak right here, to match the one on the other side." Clark's hand reached out and Lois felt the brush tickle her skin.

Lois ducked under his arm as Clark laughed at the view she presented with a splodge of color on each cheek. She ran, rolling her 'weapon' down his back as she went.

"Superman has a yellow streak right down his back," she chortled.

Unfortunately, however, in her laughter, she hadn't noticed she was getting very close to her paint tray and before she knew it, she kicked it over. Sunshine yellow paint spread across the floor and Lois could only watch in horror as it trickled toward the stair.

Once more there was a small whirlwind in the room, and minutes later Clark stood triumphantly, having cleared up the mess, a satisfied grin on his face. "Having super speed does come in handy sometimes, Lois."

"I'll bet!" Somehow Clark's show of his powers unsettled Lois, reminding her of the strange state of her life now and why she'd agreed to this whole set up. But Clark's smile was disarming and hopeful and she wasn't about to dampen the atmosphere. It would be like kicking a friendly puppy. "Okay, superboy. It's getting late and you have to sleep up here tonight, so why don't we finish up this painting?"

"You want me to use super speed? I could finish this off in no time," Clark suggested, trying hard to retain his earlier glow.

Lois could see, though, that her agreement would disappoint him. "No, I don't think that's necessary. I'm enjoying the work," she reassured him with a smile, realizing that she really had been having fun. Sometimes physical work was very satisfying and it did keep her mind off other more problematic subjects. "Why don't we continue for a while and see how far we get?"

"Okay," Clark readily consented, proving to Lois that she'd been correct on her assumption about his feelings. "But are you sure you're ready for floating? I could fly to Smallville and pick up a stepladder?"

"No, that's okay. Floating is good, and it saves all the time we'd spend fumbling with a ladder in this small space!"

The slapstick comedy ended and they moved on, working busily but in perfect harmony. Finally, in early evening, they both stood back and viewed the room. Now the yellow walls had a few contrasting horizontal stripes in pale oranges and darker ochre, while the wooden accents were given a fresh stain. Clark cleaned and swept the wooden floor and Lois threw down a couple of ethnic rugs she'd found in one of Clark's cupboards. He'd collected them during some of his travels and they made a perfect addition to his new room.

"Looks good, doesn't it?" Lois said contentedly, her conscience at making Clark sleep in a bare attic now assuaged. "Tomorrow we can put up the pictures and, once the new furniture arrives, it should be really comfortable."

"Sure, Lois," Clark agreed, willing to go along with Lois to retain the easy atmosphere which had prevailed for most of the day. "I'm going to be fine up here. Now, I don't know about you, but all this work has made me hungry. I don't feel like cooking though. How about take-out?"

Lois could feel her edginess return. She couldn't see a way out of eating with Clark; it really was too late to pretend she had other plans. And surely it wouldn't be so difficult to share a meal with Clark — she'd been doing that for months now. She could always feign tiredness pretty quickly after they'd eaten and go to bed.

"Yeah, Clark, take-out sounds fine, and, since I'm the expert on that, why don't you go take a shower and let me deal with ordering the meal? Is pizza okay?"

He tried hard to ignore the fact that Lois' uneasiness was back in full force, yet he could hear her quickened heartbeat and the emotional withdrawal was undeniable. Was this the way it was always going to be? He really had to think up a reason for Lois spending time here alone. If she could feel comfortable in his apartment, maybe it would help toward making her comfortable around him. For tonight those plans would have to be put on hold. All the work had tired him out more than he'd thought possible. He just couldn't summon up the energy to fly very far.

"Pizza is fine, Lois. I'll go shower first. I think we both need to get rid of all this paint!"

The next day again started out fairly satisfactorily. The pictures were hung, the curtains put up and the new bedspread thrown over the cot, where it looked a little incongruous trailing on the ground by the narrow bed.

Yet, as soon as they ran out of things to do, the mood changed drastically. Lois seemed to close in on herself. She withdrew from Clark and retired to the bedroom to work on the computer, leaving him to sigh disappointedly and settle to watch the football game on television. By late afternoon, Clark gave up trying to pretend that everything was normal between them and informed Lois he was flying to Smallville to see his folks and asked if she wanted to go along.

Completely forgetting that she'd decided in Florida that visiting Clark's parents would be a good thing, she immediately came up with an excuse as to why she couldn't go along. He wanted to insist, but chose not to push her further. After all, hadn't he resolved to give Lois some space? In fact, perhaps he'd just discovered a way to do just that, without making it seem too obvious. He'd have to run it past his parents before he mentioned it to Lois, of course, and he was fairly confident they'd back him up, if he could persuade them it would help Lois become more acclimated to her new life.

The following week went by in much the same way. Lois stayed late at the Planet and Clark went home alone. She didn't even give him a chance to come up with his suggestion that she spend time in the apartment while he flew home to Smallville. It was a melancholy situation and he began to question his wisdom in getting married at all.


Chapter 8: Honeymoon In Metropolis?

Clark drummed his pen abstractedly on his desk, much to the detriment of the unsuspecting writing implement and wooden desktop. For the fifth time he lifted his head to gaze at Lois, realizing that she hardly seemed to notice he existed these days. He sighed gloomily and tried again to concentrate on his work.

"Really rubs you raw, doesn't it?" a husky, sultry voice spoke close by his ear.

Clark turned quickly to see Cat Grant pull up another chair and sit down next to him. Just what was it about Cat that made her so persistent when she was in hot pursuit of a juicy rumor? Scratch that, she was the 'society' columnist, and he supposed that this skill was likely a prerequisite of the job. He just wished she wasn't quite so good at 'sniffing' out scandals, or would, at least, turn her attention away from her work colleagues. She'd been goading both him and Lois for the past two weeks and he was sure that her comments, along with those of the many other gossips, were contributing factors to why Lois was shying away from him so much.

"What's that, Cat?" Clark asked in exasperation.

"To love someone so much and they hardly know you're alive?" Surprisingly, Cat's expression changed to one of genuine concern.

Clark rushed to assure Cat she was wrong. "I have no idea what you're talking about."

"Sure you do," she said as she placed her hands over his on the desk, detaching the mangled pen from his grasp and dropping it in the trashcan. "Tell me, Clark. Why did you marry her?"

He extricated his hands and turned back to his computer. "I don't think my *wife* is any of your business." He was a little upset that Cat would ask such a question — actually it was a little too close for comfort — and his voice sounded more truculent than normal. It was *nobody's* damned business but his and Lois' what they did.

Cat retrieved a tissue from the box on Clark's desk and daubed at the ink stains on her fingers. "Relax, Clark. You can have your *wife*, only I couldn't help noticing how distracted you've been all week, or that Lois has stayed late every night. Now I know everyone thinks I always have an ulterior motive, but I was just a bit worried for you… that's all."

Clark pushed up from his desk, his emotions clearly getting the best of him. "Thank you for your concern, but Lois and I are fine, Cat."

She held up her hands in surrender. "If you say so."

"I do," he commented, stifling a surge of contrition as he turned his back on Cat and headed toward Lois' desk. Cat had seemed uncharacteristically sympathetic, yet, suddenly, he felt the need to talk to Lois so that everyone could see for themselves that his marriage was just… fine! He refused to acknowledge the little voice inside his head that kept asking him what he'd really expected from this arrangement. It certainly hadn't been hearts and flowers, but neither had he foreseen himself stranded in such a 'mine-field.'

He stopped cold a good five feet from Lois' work-station. She was on the phone and he had just picked up with whom.

"No, Lex. I can't tonight… Yes. I'm sure… You, too." Lois laughed softly at something her caller said and tossed her hair to one side in an unconsciously sexy motion.

Was she actually flirting with the man over the phone? Clark could hardly believe what he was hearing and seeing. She smiled coyly and lowered her voice an octave. That was enough for him. He closed the distance to her and cleared his throat loudly.

Lois looked up to see Clark towering over her. "I'm sorry, Lex. I have to go… Yes… I will. Bye." For a few seconds, she'd been tempted to ignore the intrusion but, on this occasion, caution won out over obduracy. Nevertheless, she put the receiver down with a decided thud and eyed Clark again. "Did you need something?"

"Who were you talking to?" he asked, his jaw clenching in irritation.

Lois took in his stony expression, aware he was more than a little angry. "Why don't you tell me?" she said in an equally demanding tone.

Clark ignored Lois' question and plunged ahead with another of his own. "Did you tell him about us?"

"So you *were* listening," Lois accused him. She rose to her feet, preparing for a face off, the knowledge that he would do such a thing goading her to action. "How dare you eavesdrop on my phone conversations?"

"And how dare you flirt with your *boyfriend* right in front of me?" Clark threw back at her. He was beyond resentment now. He was hurt. Her constant avoidance of him of late, along with her flippant treatment of their marriage had pushed him too far and this conversation with Lex was the last straw.

Lois glanced quickly around the room. Their voices had risen, attracting the attention of their co-workers. That was the last thing they needed. "We'll finish this at home," she said in a lower tone.

"Oh really? Does that mean you're going to bless me with your presence tonight?" The words were harsh, yet Clark also lowered his voice, believing that the gossip-mill should not be fed any new fodder.

"And what is that supposed to mean?" Lois stared daggers through him.

"You're the award winning journalist. You figure it out!" Clark snapped his final statement before marching for the small flight of stairs which led to the coffee area and, traversing that at almost superspeed, he disappeared through the stairwell door.

Lois could only stand there and fume, but when she regained her senses and looked around, she found a medley of faces watching her in fascination, some shocked or upset, but a few had the gall to smirk! Not Cat. Cat was staring at her with one eyebrow raised quizzically and when she caught Lois' eye, she gave a tiny despairing shake of her head. Cat's reaction might have made Lois think twice had she been in a calmer frame of mind, as it was it merely annoyed her further. After all, Cat Grant was hardly in a position to question anyone's morals!

"What? Haven't you people ever seen a couple argue before?!" The newsroom staff immediately scurried back to work while Lois dropped into her chair with an indignant grunt. How dare these people listen to what she and her… what she and Clark talked about?

She couldn't concentrate for the next few moments. What had just happened?

<Clark called your bluff.>

This was no time for her conscience to remind her of the things she'd done… well, of the things she'd done!

<But what have I done?>

She answered that almost instantly. Since they'd come back from their honeymoon, she'd been avoiding him… and she had been 'flirting' with Lex… just a little. If Clark had realized this wasn't the first time she'd talked to Lex since his return to Metropolis three days earlier, the argument would have been even more explosive.

Lois attempted to squash a vague feeling of guilt as she acknowledged she was keeping some things from Clark. Though she might pretend otherwise, she was completely aware that that was no way to start a marriage.

<This isn't a real marriage!> her inner voice defended her, even as her conscience was quick to reply.

<But you were the one who'd insisted that just because it wasn't conventional didn't make it any less real!> Lois leaned her elbows on her desk and dropped her head into her hands, while earlier conversations with Clark unspooled in her mind. <And weren't you the one who'd implied that you would try to make a life with Clark for the sake of the baby?>

Lois hid her face behind the mask of her hands, but she couldn't hide so easily from her warring thoughts. *She* was the one who wouldn't share a room with her husband. *She* was the one who constantly threw up barriers between them and reasoned that it was to maintain her own individuality.

And, even if she *did* see a divorce at the end of this marriage, why spend so much energy worrying about the logistics of it now? After all, wasn't Clark getting what he wanted — peace of mind and legitimacy for their child? She had nothing to reproach herself for.

<But you never told him you'd lead a separate life. You actually inferred that you and he would get to know each other.>

Damn that inner voice for constantly suggesting she was being totally unfair to Clark. All he'd asked of her was that she marry him before this baby was born. In fact, he hadn't ever demanded things of her she couldn't deliver and he hadn't forced her into this. He'd even given her a way out! So, why did she find it so difficult to be civil to her husband? Heck, it was difficult for her to even call him that. And just how was she supposed to handle this latest situation?

She sighed and stood up from her desk. There wasn't much more she could do here tonight, so she might as well go home and prepare to eat humble-pie. However, that dish was probably too much of a bitter pill for Ms Lois Lane to swallow… and she really did need to stop talking to herself in such old, clich‚d metaphors! She was an award-winning journalist for heaven's sake and she ought to be able to come up with a few originals of her own. With all this stress, she could be losing her edge!

<You could be losing Clark!> her conscience came back at her with a stab of fear and Lois was prepared to admit that was a far worse prospect. <No, that's not going to happen! This transplant will work and life between us will return to normal… whatever normal is! So just go on home and try to have a nice peaceful evening with Clark. He's sick and scared and he doesn't need you making his life more difficult.>


Clark chose to fly patrols most of the night. If he'd gone home, Lois and he would probably have continued to argue and he just didn't feel up to it. He entered the apartment sometime after two in the morning as quietly as he could. Lois was asleep and he settled in for the night as well, feeling relieved, yet slightly peeved that she hadn't waited up for him.

<Geez, Clark! Give the girl a break, will you? You can't have it both ways!>

The next morning he showered and was gone before she even got up. Maybe he'd try her avoidance technique for a while.

Lois, however, had stayed up to wait for Clark but, as the hours of the clock crept slowly closer to midnight, she'd given up and gone to bed. By the time her alarm woke her from a troubled sleep the next day, he'd gone. Lois gritted her teeth as she checked the empty apartment then pulled a business suit from her closet.

She'd been prepared to admit that she might have acted a little unfairly toward him. After all, they had gotten along pretty well in Florida and, no doubt, Clark had expected that to continue. Only, back there, she'd allowed herself to forget that she'd be living with him for the foreseeable future. Now that 'sharing' was a reality, she found the forced intimacy smothering.

And when they'd decorated Clark's room that first weekend, she'd realized that for all Clark's insisting they would be just 'best friends,' he did want more than she was willing to give and she couldn't ignore that suspicion any longer. But that wasn't all of it. She too had caught a glimpse of how good things could be between them and that scared her senseless.

She'd slammed and barricaded the door on that 'cozy little scenario' — after all, no one knew better than Lois that such 'togetherness' didn't last. She chose to distance herself by spending as much time as possible out of the apartment, reminding herself again that this had not been her idea and she didn't have to like it. Lois was her own person and she wasn't the type of woman who enjoyed playing 'house'.

Last night she'd been prepared to sit down with Clark to explain some of what she was feeling. But, of course, the cowardly fink had been a no-show and his evasion tactics only served to irritate her more. Well, Super-cop-out, two could play that game!

She showered, dressed, and left for Star Labs. They had a procedure this morning. She'd made a commitment to have this baby and she would. But she hadn't made any more promises and Clark wasn't about to get them. The question of how things would be after the baby arrived completely escaped Lois' perception.

Clark had left the sample with Dr. Klein, so everything was ready when Lois arrived. At least, she was becoming more accustomed to the undignified process and it only took a short time before she left for the Planet.

When the elevator deposited her at the newsroom floor, she searched for Clark. He was retrieving copies from the machine and glanced up at her, but quickly averted his gaze. Obviously, he still wanted to play games…

Lois firmed her jaw and headed for her desk. If Clark Kent wanted to see 'Mad Dog' Lane in action, she'd show him with a vengeance.


Unknown to Lois, Clark had also been doing some soul-searching. During his lonely patrols and his uneasy sleepless night, Clark had made up his mind to just follow through with the insemination procedure without trying to push for any kind of 'real' relationship with Lois. He would settle for them just being friends. Now all he had to do was tell this to her.

He was surprised when Lois came up to him and asked if they could speak in private. Feeling a little apprehensive, he followed her into the conference room and shut the door.

"Look," she said as she twirled to face him, getting directly to the point in true Lois style. "You knew coming into this that I didn't want to do this…"

"I know."

"I work… a lot. That's who I am!" She had started to pace as she argued her case. "I won't change for you."

"I didn't say you had to."

"No, but you expect… something." She stopped and waved her hand in front of her.

"I just expect us to be friends," Clark told her. "We *do* live together. I just thought we could be civil toward one another."

"Then why did you go all macho about Lex?"


"No, don't tell me." She held up her hand to stop him. "Your jealousy always gets the best of you and makes you do stupid things."

"What?" Clark stared at her. "Jealous? Of Lex? Please," he said with a dismissive chuckle. "I'm not jealous of Lex."

"Oh really?" She challenged as she folded her arms across her chest.

"Yes really," he told her as he faced her down.

"Then what was all that yesterday?"

"Well, what man wouldn't have a problem when his *wife* carries on an obviously intimate conversation with another man?" Lois took a step back because Clark's voice had deepened and he had taken a step toward her. It made him appear threatening.

"My God, Lois. If you're going to do that, at least do it out of the newsroom."

"I know we don't need to feed the rumor mill, but Clark, this marriage isn't real," she so painfully reminded him.

That statement hit Clark like a ton of bricks. No matter what Lois had implied previously, she'd finally admitted the truth… their marriage was an illusion! He'd already come to terms with that unhappy fact. However, standing here now, feeling Lois' words slam into his heart, hurt a lot more than he thought they would.

He shoved his feelings aside. "You're right. It's not." His voice was clipped and he turned to leave.

"Clark, come on. What did you expect?"

"Nothing. I didn't expect a thing," he said softly without looking back at her. He reached out to grasp the doorknob. "Why don't we just agree to stay friends?"

She stepped forward and placed a hand on his shoulder. "Clark…"

"Just… don't." He couldn't stand her pity. He dropped his head a moment before turning and lifting his eyes to hers. "Friends. We said from the start we'd be friends."

"And I haven't been doing a very good job, have I?" He didn't answer, just looked back at the door. "I'm sorry. I'll work on it."

"And Lex?" He hadn't planned to say that. It just slipped out. He bit his bottom lip while he waited for her answer.

"I shouldn't have carried on a conversation past telling him I'm not available."

"Are you unavailable, Lois?" Clark turned and looked directly at her. He couldn't help it. He had to know where she stood.

Lois stared into Clark's deep, dark eyes for a long moment before she answered. While she might not be married in the true sense of the word, was she really prepared to embarrass Clark by openly dating another man? "Yes," was softly spoken.

Clark continued to look at Lois for a few seconds. He wished that was true, but he suspected she was only trying to make him feel better. Right now he wasn't sure how he felt, though he did spend a good deal of time wondering why he'd allowed them to get into this complicated situation in the first place.

<You didn't want to die alone.>

With that thought, he forced a smile onto his face. "Okay! One day at a time." When all else failed, he liked to remember that agreement.

"One at a time," Lois agreed with a small smile in return.

He nodded before he opened the door. They returned to work with a little more understanding between them. Where they'd go from here only time would tell, but Clark hoped this incredible tension would be somewhat relieved.


Things started to get a little easier for the couple after that. Lois made an effort to come home earlier and try to become comfortable in her new… surroundings. The problem was it didn't feel like it was really her home. She felt like an intruder, as if she were visiting. And more than once she'd had to ask herself if that wasn't what she was doing. By contemplating divorce as soon as Clark was on the road to recovery, she was essentially implying this *wasn't* her home. That she was just staying here until such time as she could leave.

Lois was partly aware that it wasn't helpful to feel this way. So, to ease her mind and to show Clark she was willing to work on their relationship, she sucked up her courage and decided to discuss how she felt with Clark… and this time, she wouldn't get sidetracked by a silly argument.

Lois chose her moment one evening when they'd unexpectedly left the newsroom together and found themselves agreeing to eat in the Italian restaurant on the next block from the Daily Planet. Somehow she thought it might be easier to broach this subject on neutral territory.

Yet, for the first part of the meal, she'd procrastinated by talking about their latest investigation at work. Now, as the conversation ground to a halt and her fork trawled through her pasta one more time, Clark laid his cutlery aside.

"Come on, Lois, what's on your mind?"

"Huh?" Lois looked up to find Clark's intent gaze upon her.

"Lois, normally, you can't get enough of Rosa's 'angel-hair pasta.' So what's different tonight?"

Almost defiantly, Lois stopped making pictures in her food and, rolling some of the delicate strands around her fork, she shoved it into her mouth. She'd moved so quickly, the thick sauce dribbled on her lips and she licked it away quickly, hoping that Clark wouldn't notice. But, of course, another glance at him through her lashes, proved that he'd caught her in the act. He was regarding her with a soft, though slightly quizzical smile.

"Okay!" Lois took one last bite of her food, then sat back. "There was something I did want to discuss with you…"

"Yes?" Clark patiently waited as she took a sip of her water, obviously trying to decide where she would start. "You know you can tell me anything," Clark reminded her gently in hopes of easing her nervousness. Was she about to tell him that she couldn't go on with the false marriage? He'd truly believed that things had been improving between them since they'd reaffirmed their agreement to take one day at a time.

"I know that, Clark. I might not show it sometimes, but I do think of you as my best friend."

She was smiling warmly at him, and he felt the cold fist which had contracted round his heart ease a little. Even if their living together was only a sham, he couldn't face the thought of it ending. Lois started to speak again so softly that he almost had to use his superhearing to listen.

"But…" Lois' voice trailed away. She understood this was a sensitive subject and it was one she really wanted to talk about, yet she didn't want to hurt Clark anymore.

Why was there always a but? Clark thought dejectedly.

"You know, Clark, I've never really lived with anyone full time since I was in High School. I had a huge fight with my Dad when I was a senior and I moved out. I shared a room in college for a while, and Lucy has lived with me at the apartment now and then, but it's all been on a pretty transient nature."

"And living with me is very similar." Clark couldn't hide his disappointment.

"No!" Lois stretched out her hand to cover Clark's "No, that's not what I'm saying." In her rush to ameliorate Clark's pain, Lois temporarily forgot her safety-net plan for divorce. "I just feel… stifled. As if, in learning to share, I'm losing myself."

"Lois, I never wanted you to give up your independence. It's one of the things that I lo… appreciate most about you!"

Lois smiled at Clark, grateful for his restraint; she really couldn't have dealt with a declaration of love at the moment, however casual it was.

"Clark, I'm just finding it all pretty scary — the compromises."

"Forced intimacy," Clark suggested, nodding his head. He really didn't mind these things, but he needed Lois to know he understood.

"Sharing responsibilities… never alone," Lois added, averting her eyes. There, she'd said it; she just prayed Clark would understand.

"Never alone," Clark repeated slowly. "Lois, maybe I could do something about that."

Lois' eyes rose to lock with Clark's. "What? I can hardly throw you out of your home."

"It wouldn't be like that, Lois. You know, my dad is pretty busy with the farm this time of year. Harvest is coming up and I usually fly out to give him a hand —'Superman style.'" Clark dropped his tone on the last words. "Mom wouldn't mind cooking my meals for me either. It would give her a chance to fuss over me — make sure I was eating properly."

"But are you well enough to fly out to Kansas every night?" Lois found herself doing an about face as her worries for Clark's health surfaced.

"I don't intend to do it every night, Lois. Maybe just two or three times a week. And, at least, when I'm at the farm I won't be so busy with Superman rescues… there's not much that goes on in sleepy Smallville."

"Two or three nights would give me a chance to do my own thing. So, if you're sure, then I agree," Lois said with a tiny smile. "But only on the condition that you'd tell me if you're not feeling up to it."

"I promise, Lois. And you should take the chance to make any changes that you want to the apartment. After all, for the moment, my home is your home, so you have as much right to be comfortable there."

Lois felt herself begin to relax andshenoddedinagreement.Okay,andmaybe we could eat together on some of the other nights when you're not with your folks. Course, you'd have to do the cooking; I wouldn't want to poison you."

"That's not a problem, Lois. I enjoy cooking."

"I'd ask you to teach me, but it's not one of my skills…"

"Yeah, I remember you only know how to make four things…"

"And only one without chocolate," Lois giggled.

Her partner's eyes twinkled and both of them began to laugh enthusiastically. Lois was the first to regain her senses.

"Friends?" she asked him hesitantly.

"Best friends!"

It wasn't what Clark dreamt of, but it was much more than he'd realistically expected. And as they walked home arm in arm, Lois seemed more content than she'd been since they'd returned from Florida. One day at a time — that was fast becoming his motto.


The very first evening that Clark had flown home to his parents' farm, Lois took up Clark's offer and rearranged the kitchen cabinets, and, when an immediate sense of satisfaction washed over her, she did the same in the bathroom. Lois couldn't deny that doing so *did* make her feel better about living in his apartment.

With the newfound confidence she got from adding her own touches to the apartment, Lois took it upon herself to take over some of the bills. Clark had been mildly upset that she hadn't discussed it with him first, but she quickly reminded him of their conversation in the restaurant, and that if this was *their* home, it also meant that the bills were theirs. But to avoid further confusion in the future, they split the expenses so the other would know who would pay what and when.

The harmony between the two carried over into their work and they managed to break two major investigations wide open in a little over a week. Perry loudly announced that his star reporters were truly a team. Unfortunately that announcement gave Lois another case of the jitters. The tense atmosphere returned, so Clark decided an extra night a week with his parents would be best for all concerned. However, he played up the excuse that his dad really needed the extra help on the farm. The last thing he wanted to do was make Lois feel he was avoiding her again as that would surely lead to another unwanted argument.


Clark had visited his parents four times during the week to give Lois time alone. It seemed to help restore a little of her confidence and Lois' attitude certainly did improve from the previous weeks. The night arrived when they were supposed to share dinner together but, much to his disappointment, Lois begged off with some excuse. Clark was tempted to remind her of their deal, but he was just too tired to muster an argument. Instead, he decided to go home early, alone, take a shower, grab a sandwich and head up to his room.

His shower did wonders to improve his mood and, feeling refreshed, he concluded he just might be up for a light dinner. Slipping into his jeans, but without his shirt and glasses, Clark stepped into the bedroom and came face to face with Lois.

"Hi. I didn't expect to see you home so early."

Lois could only stare at Clark. He stood in front of her, half naked, presenting a very… very nice picture. Where had that thought come from? Lois had seen Clark without a shirt before. He hadn't worn one for a bit on their wedding night.

<But he had his back to you.>

And at Star Labs…

<He was sick and you hadn't been looking.>

But… but… Lois' brain seemed stuck in limbo and she found it almost impossible to voice a single thought.

The only other time she could remember seeing him without a shirt 'and' looking was when he first got hired at the Planet and she'd picked him up for work at that seedy little motel he'd been staying at. Surely she couldn't find anything to say because Clark was standing in front of her bare-chested?

<Come on, Lois. You'd been tongue tied that first time, too.>

"Lois?" She hadn't spoken and looked a little distressed.

She shook her head and focused on Clark's face. "Ah… wh… what?"

"Are you okay? You don't look so good." Clark's face was a picture of concern.

"I'm fine," she told him quickly as she brushed past him to gather clothes so she could change.

"You sure?"

She stopped to look at Clark. What was it with this truth thing? She'd found herself more than once lately not being able to hide anything from Clark. "If you must know, you…" She waved her hand. "Took me by surprise."

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to scare you."

"You didn't." Her eyes traveled down to his broad chest again before returning to meet his gaze. "You just… well, you're dressed… nicely… scantily, but nice… very nice!" She turned away as a blush washed up her face. The last thing she wanted was for Clark to see how impressed she was by his appearance.

Clark looked down at himself, then his own embarrassment rose. "Oh," he said softly. "I, ah, I'll just go put a shirt on." He made his way toward the stairs, but stopped a few steps up. "Lois?"


"Thank you."

She looked up at him. "For what?"

He quelled the heat that was threatening to consume him again. Could Lois be more physically attracted to him than she was ready to admit? Clark could only hope, and he wasn't above encouraging her in that department. With one of his dazzling smiles, he answered simply, "I believe I'd like to take your statement as a compliment."

Lois stared wide-eyed for a moment, jolted by Clark's almost suggestive response. She hadn't wanted him to know he'd affected her. However, Clark's appreciation made her feel… heady, and that was something Lois hadn't felt in quite a while… perhaps ever! Not that she wanted to delve deeper into that — it was just that by making her feel this way, he'd given her a sense of power. Was that the right word? Simply put, Clark had made her feel good about her sexuality. It was kinda nice to feel that way and trust that the man making it happen wanted nothing more from her.

She offered him a small smile. "You're welcome."

He grinned back before continuing his journey upstairs. He'd been right. His gesture had a positive affect on Lois. Now if he could just figure out more ways to keep this mood going, just maybe he'd have a chance to unwind and enjoy his marriage.

Lois changed and Clark prepared them some soup with crusty bread, finishing off with a slice of Martha's home-made apple pie that they shared, sitting on the living room sofa watching a game show. The healthy debate over the answers was something else they seemed to need at the moment, forgetting more personal problems in the competitive, yet friendly squabbling. Two relaxed, more comfortable people went to sleep later that night, and even Lois admitted she was glad she'd come home early.


<What's wrong with you, Lois?>

Instead of getting on with her research, she'd been having a mental debate with herself all morning. Since she'd surprised a 'shirtless' Clark the night before, that's all she'd thought about. She kept glancing over at him just to get another peak. She was being as silly as a schoolgirl. This was crazy! She wasn't a teenager who couldn't control her hormones.

She looked at him again. He was just Clark. She'd seen him before. Heck, she lived with him.

<But you've never seen him quite like that!>

She groaned as she tried to focus on her monitor. Why was she acting this way? She and Clark were just friends. She didn't want anything more from him, especially *that* anything.

<Doesn't hurt to look!>

She smiled slightly at that thought. No, she guessed it couldn't hurt to look now and then. After all, they were married. Wasn't it okay to look at him from time to time? And he *was* easy on the eyes!

Lois was so caught up in her musings that she jumped slightly when the ringing phone cut through her thoughts. She snatched it up quickly, glad of the much needed distraction. "Lois Lane?"

"Lois, my darling, how are you? I know, I know. I promised I'd call you back last week. I've been busy with one of those messy corporate take-over bids, and you know how time just gets away… but I don't want to speak about mundane business deals with you. I've missed you. Even a day is much too long without hearing your beautiful voice." The man had hardly waited for a response as he glibly excused himself.

"Ah, Lex. Hi." Her mind was racing. She hadn't talked to him since the day she and Clark had that argument in the newsroom. She'd put him off again when he'd asked to see her.

"You sound shocked to hear from me."

"It's okay. Really."

"So, how about dinner tonight? Andre has a new recipe he's dying to try."

"Ah, well actually…" She turned to look at Clark. It was past time she told Lex she and Clark were married, but she hated to do that over the phone. After all, she'd been sort of seeing the guy, so he probably deserved to get the brush-off in person. Though she also hated to agree to a dinner without running it by Clark first. Judging by the way he was sitting so rigidly, he'd heard the invitation. "Lex, could you hold a moment?" Before he could protest Lois pushed the hold button and got up to walk over to Clark's desk.

<What is it with this… openness, Lane?>

For someone who'd maintained adamantly she would retain her independence, she was doing a darn good impression of being in a committed relationship.


"Yeah," he said without looking up from the file he was rifling through.

"Lex is on the phone."

"Oh?" He kept looking at the papers.

"He wants to have dinner tonight. I thought I could tell him about us."

Clark stopped then. His anger was beginning to rise slowly at the thought that she'd want to have dinner with that man. "And you have to have dinner with him to do that?"

"Come on, Clark. I don't want to tell him over the phone. That would be insensitive."

"So would having dinner with a man that's not your husband," Clark snapped.

"Clark, it's only dinner! That is so old-fashioned!"

"Then maybe I'm an old-fashioned guy!" he almost growled.

The rational side of Clark wondered whether he'd be so enraged if Lois was going to dinner with any other man but Lex Luthor — only he wasn't ready to listen to reason at the moment. He neither liked nor trusted the man, though he hadn't as yet been able to convince Lois of Luthor's deviousness, and that fact only added to his injured feelings.

Lois' brows lifted as she stared at him. She hadn't expected Clark to be so possessive. Since their last argument over Lex, he hadn't shown a single hint that he'd try to control her life in any way. Truthfully, he hadn't hinted he'd control it then. He'd just expressed his discomfort at having her openly flirt with another man… and he'd been right. What man wouldn't be hurt when the woman who was supposed be his wife did something like that? But her temper flared irrationally.

"When did being my husband give you the right to demand I do as you tell me to?"

"You're right, Lois," he said as he rose to his feet in exasperation. "As usual, you're right and everybody else is wrong. Do whatever you want to do. You will anyway." He turned and exited the newsroom through the stairwell door, while the rest of the staff looked on in amused speculation.

What was it with Clark Kent using those stairs when there were two perfectly good elevators? Poor guy, he probably needed the exercise to work off the pent-up frustration Lois was causing him!

Meanwhile, Lois was seething. The man who had just left was not the one she'd been with the last couple of weeks. Well, if he wanted another battle she wasn't about to surrender. She marched back over and jerked up the phone.


"Ah, I was beginning to thi nkyou'dforgottenme.

"No. What time is dinner?"

"Great! Is eight too late?"

"No. I'll see you then."

"Until then, my dear Lois," Lex signed off smoothly.

Lois replaced the receiver as her anger almost boiled over. Men! She belonged to no one! And how dare Clark suggest she couldn't do something? It was just dinner for goodness sakes. What was so horrible about that? She huffed in frustration. She was going to dinner with Lex and that was that. So 'Mr. have-dinner-with-your- husband' best get over it.

"What's wrong with CK?" Jimmy's voice came from behind her.

Lois whirled and was about to snap back when she noticed the look on her young friend's face. Jimmy wasn't part of the 'gossip pack,' he was asking because he was concerned, and she toned down her reply accordingly. "I'm not sure. We don't seem to communicate very well these days."

"Poor CK seems to have lost his 'cool,' but I guess feeling sick a lot would do that to a guy."

Jimmy gave her a sympathetic stare then turned sadly away, leaving Lois feeling slightly stunned. Her friend, whom she often regarded as a slightly wacky little brother, had cut straight to the point — one she'd allowed herself to overlook, frequently. She sighed heavily and turned back to her computer screen; if only she could handle her private life as easily as she did her professional one.


Dinner with Lex had appeared to be a good idea when she was mad. However, now that Lois was riding the elevator to the penthouse of the LexCorp Towers, she didn't feel at all like this was where she should be. Clark had only been in the newsroom a couple of times since their disagreement. He'd refused to look at her, so she knew it would have been fruitless to try to talk to him, and his stubborn attitude had only served to increase her determination. But as the evening wore on, Lois began to give serious thought to this dinner; and she couldn't get Jimmy's words out of her head.

Clark wasn't being unfair. She shouldn't be having dinner with Lex. They had been semi-dating before she and Clark got married, and she was pretty sure that Lex would be planning something… intimate. Lois shouldn't share an intimate dinner with anyone but Clark.

Maybe she did have issues with being a wife, and their life together wasn't exactly what most people have in mind when they think about marriage. Yet, for all that, she'd taken her vows very seriously when she made them. Suddenly, Lois realized she wasn't into 'open marriages.' She wasn't about to betray her husband, even in this small way. And that revelation stunned her.

For the past few weeks, Lois had been desperately clinging onto her own singularity and would not allow Clark to change her one bit, so why should she feel so strongly about the commitment she made when she took her vows? Because you don't know how to do anything halfway, and that includes this strange marriage, she accepted honestly. Not wanting to be married and lose your identity was one thing, betraying a promise was something else altogether.

She'd given Clark her word when they married and she wouldn't break it to prove she could maintain her individuality in spite of being his wife. In fact, she had a slight inkling that the two weren't necessarily exclusive. By the time Lois stepped off the elevator she'd reached the firm decision just to tell Lex she couldn't have dinner with him.

Nigel led Lois into the sitting room where Lex lounged in a high- backed chair, pouring himself a drink from a glittering crystal decanter. He was handsomely attired in a tailored suit and white silk shirt, while his dark curly hair was impeccably styled.

Lois took a few steps into the room and heard the door shut with a soft click behind her. She'd been right in her assumption — the room was cozy; a welcoming fire burned in the grate; the lighting was low and candles were waiting to be lit on an expertly set table, where two chairs were placed closed together.

Lex rose lithely when he saw her, confident and powerful as a stalking cat.

"Lois, you're early. What a pleasant surprise!" He approached her and leaned in to kiss her cheek, but was somewhat taken aback when Lois side-stepped him. Two tiny lines appeared between his drawn brows, yet he chose to ignore the let-down and continued, still pleasantly. "I believe Andre's creations will not yet have reached perfection, but we can't rush an artiste. Nevertheless, that gives us more time to ourselves to become reacquainted." Lex allowed a slightly seductive smile to touch his lips at that thought, but reminded himself that he mustn't rush his fences. When it came to sex, Lois acted very much like a startled fawn. "Would you care for an aperitif?"

She couldn't rid herself of the notion of being in the lion's den and she clutched her purse before her like a shield. "No… thank you," she added, quickly remembering her manners.

For the first time, Lex noticed what was wrong with the picture before him. Lois was indeed her lovely self, but she was still wearing her jacket. That was so unlike Nigel to neglect his duties! He'd talk to him later, but, at present, it seemed he had his girlfriend's ruffled feathers to smooth over. "What's wrong, my dear?"

Lois lifted her chin. "Lex, I just came to tell you I can't have dinner with you."

"If tonight's not a good time…"

"Tonight or any other."


"Lex, a few weeks ago I got married."

He was clearly shocked this time. "What?"

"I was married and I have a new life now. It would be best if any further communication between us remains strictly professional."

"But, my dear…"

"Lois. My name is Lois. I don't think my husband would appreciate you calling me your dear."

Lex quirked lifted brows at her. "I understand, but if you'll forgive me, this is just such a shock. I had sincerely thought you and I were becoming… closer."

"I know and I'm sorry for that. I shouldn't have let you believe there was more between us than actually was."

"So you were leading me on while you were contemplating marriage to another?"

Lois was about to deny that when she saw Lex's posture change and there had been steel beneath the velvet voice. He'd become threatening and immediately Lois went on guard. "No. I did not lead you on while I was contemplating marriage. As a matter of fact, it was a last minute decision. One I don't intend to explain to you or anyone else. I'm married and that's that. It's also the end of this conversation." Lois turned on her heel and marched from the room.

Lex stood alone in the middle of his sumptuous home, feeling bewildered and righteously outraged. His influential position and sexual-expertise had made him Metropolis' most desired 'catch' and he'd never had the slightest difficulty in attracting any woman he'd wanted, though he'd grown extremely jaded of late. Lois had been the challenge he'd been looking to find for so long. He'd already mapped out each and every move along the road to her surrender to him. Now it seemed that surrender would never take place. A feral growl rumbled in his throat and his eyes narrowed coldly. Lex did not take rejection well.


As Lois made her way to her Jeep, she began to think that maybe there had been something to all of Clark's arguments that Lex was more than he appeared to be. His resentful, and slightly menacing reaction to her news had scared her momentarily and that was something Lois hated. She made a mental note to do a little research on the billionaire. Right now she had to go home and apologize to Clark.

<Where had that thought come from?>

Again, her newly acquired sense of fair play was surfacing, but, if it kept her and Clark from arguing constantly, she'd play along.

She entered the apartment a short time later to see Clark sitting on the sofa watching a ballgame on television. He was dressed in a pair of sweats and a tee shirt. His sock feet were propped on the coffee table, but he was only half watching the game while he twirled a basketball on his… breath?

She'd have to get him to show that to her later when he wasn't so mad, because it was pretty obvious from his expression that he wasn't all that pleased to see her. She kicked her shoes off in the doorway of the bedroom and dropped her jacket on the bed.

"Did you eat dinner?" she asked as she came back through the living room on the way to the kitchen.

"Why? Did you bring leftovers from Andre?" Clark was as upset as he was furious. He hadn't really thought Lois would go through with her dinner-date with Lex. Why couldn't she have dropped by for a moment during the day to tell him what she needed to? She didn't have to spend time with him to let him know she was married. Of course that was the problem, Lois didn't consider that she was.

Lois stopped and faced the man on the couch. "Clark, I'm sorry. I know what I did was wrong. And I didn't have dinner with Lex. I told him I was married and left. You're right. I should be at home having dinner with you."

Clark blew the basketball so that it landed in the trashcan on the opposite side of the room. "Whatever," he said snippily as he rose to go into the loft.

"Whatever?! Dammit, it took a lot for me to admit I was wrong and you're just going to blow it off."

Clark turned to glare at her. "Yeah, well, it took a lot for me to remember why you married me."

Lois put her hands on her hips. "And what is that supposed to mean?"

"It means we've gotten along so well these last couple of weeks that I got carried away. I thought for a while that we might have been getting closer. But you reminded me of my illusion today. Thanks." He turned to go up the staircase to the bedroom, but he stopped with his hand on the rail to face her again. "I think it would be best if we just kept this… all business from now on. The sample will be waiting on you in the morning."

With that he continued jogging up the steps, leaving Lois too stunned to utter a word. Clark had transformed into a completely irrational, unfair… lunkhead! He'd made a decision not to even stay and talk and that was the end of it.

"Fine!" she yelled in frustration, stomping into the kitchen. If he wanted to act like a spoiled brat, she could too. And, if she didn't feel so strongly about having his baby to save him, she'd walk out and have the marriage annulled. But on top of everything else, she was not about to let him die and have that on her conscience. She'd have his baby, save his super hide, then kill him!


For the next few days, Clark hardly spoke to Lois. When he did, it was clipped replies in answer to a question she'd asked him. Every morning he'd be gone when she got up for work and he didn't come home until after she was sleeping. The tension was so thick between them you could cut it with a knife.

Lois went the two more times to Star Labs as Dr. Klein had instructed her to. Just as Clark had said, the sample was ready and it only took a little while to finish her part. She was thankful Bernie hadn't asked any questions.

At work they split the load and investigated separately. They finished a story and, surprisingly, the end result was just as powerful as any they'd done when on good terms. But still, Clark refused to budge an inch.


Lois was miserable. She hadn't known that the disagreement with Clark could have created such a huge obstacle. Usually when they argued, they sulked for a while, then smoothed things over and went on.

Although her anger had faded a day or two after their quarrel, this time Clark's had seemed to intensify. Of course, she realized that his annoyance was fueled by feelings of rejection, and she was unsure how to make it better. She couldn't go to him with any false promises because she didn't want there to be any more misconceptions about her feelings or intentions. Every day she tried to bridge the gap, but he refused to listen. Finally she decided to just give him his space and wait for him to come to her.

She was unaware Clark was having the same battle with himself. He was being such a child. It wasn't fair to treat Lois the way he was, but he couldn't help himself. She'd cut him deeply and he wasn't even sure why. He'd thought things had progressed between them since the night they'd talked things through. He'd even caught her watching him several times the morning after the 'shirtless' episode, and she'd blushed when she noticed he was looking at her. He'd really believed her feelings for him might be changing.

The call from Lex had made him angry. He'd known the guy was going to get back in touch eventually, but he'd thought he could handle it better. And he definitely thought, or at least, hoped that Lois would have told Luthor right then she was married and ended it. Instead, she'd chosen to have dinner with the man. Okay, so she'd asked first. Well, not exactly asked but she did consult him before agreeing, yet that hadn't mattered at the time. All Clark could see was that his wife was going to another man's house for dinner; a man Clark distrusted completely. He felt so betrayed.

Now all that seemed so silly, as did his behavior over the last few days. Lois didn't deserve his insecurities being thrown at her this way. She didn't deserve his snide comments and she certainly didn't deserve the silent treatment. She'd apologized and she'd meant it. He could see it in her eyes. And she hadn't eaten with Lex after all. If he could just suck up his pride and apologize, maybe they could get back on some sort of track.


Superman landed in an alley behind the Daily Planet. He'd answered a call that ended up being nothing more than a domestic spat between a husband and wife, which, in turn, reminded him painfully of his own situation. He and Lois were treating each other like strangers. When he wasn't spending time at the farm with his parents, he barely talked to her, and, even though he could tell she wanted to make some kind of peace between them, so far, his stubborn pride hadn't allowed him to accept the olive branch. Okay, that was about to change — he owed Lois a long overdue chat and probably a fair amount of groveling.

He straightened his tie after spinning back into his business suit and headed for the office, stepping off the elevator on the newsroom floor just as Lex Luthor stepped from the other one.

"Kent," Lex acknowledged with a grudging nod of his head.

"Luthor," Clark managed to grind out, while inside, he was seething. Trust Luthor to get in the way of his peacemaking with Lois; did the creep have some kind of weird sixth-sense? He watched as the man made his way down to Lois' desk, and engaged a little super hearing so that he could hear what was said. His mother would box his ears if she knew that he had fallen so low that he was spying on his wife.

Lois was typing almost as fast as Clark in supermode when Lex cleared his throat. She looked up and was startled to see who was there. "Ah, Lex!"

"Hello, Lois. I was downtown this morning and thought I would stop in to give you this." He pulled a modest sized box from behind his back.

"What is it?" Lois asked as she eyed the box warily, but didn't reach to take it.

"It's a wedding gift," Lex told her with a friendly smile.

Lois kept watching the man. Where had this sudden change in attitude come from? She'd been pretty certain that he'd been furious with her when they'd talked at his penthouse a few days before.

Her eyes drifted past Lex to where Clark stood at the railing outside the elevator and she could tell he was listening to their conversation by the guilty way he averted his gaze. Her first instinct was irritation, but she took a deep breath to calm herself. There had been too much tension between them over the last week and she didn't need to make the situation worse.

"Lex, I can't accept that," she told him apologetically.

He frowned disdainfully at her. "Afraid your husband wouldn't approve?" Very quickly a smile replaced the glare, but it didn't quite reach his eyes, and he shifted the box down to his side. "You're probably right, Lois. He might not be the type of understanding person who would approve of another man giving his wife gifts. Of course, I don't know this man…"

Ah, so that's what this visit was about. Lois hadn't actually told him who she'd married but, knowing Lex, it probably hadn't taken him long to discover her husband's identity. He was here to goad her into naming the man who, he believed, had usurped his position. Why had she never realized that Lex liked to play these sick games? Well, she wouldn't rise to the bait. In fact, this could give her the opportunity to bridge the gap considerably with her partner.

Lois took another deep breath and addressed her tormentor, "Maybe you should ask him how he feels about this gift." She stood and walked toward the stairs, up to the rest area, where Clark pretended to be busy making himself a coffee. Lex hesitated briefly before following her. She stopped beside Clark and waited for Lex to join them.

"Lex, this is…" She glanced up at Clark before forcing out, "My husband." That was still a term she wasn't comfortable with.

Clark stared at her for a moment before turning his attention to Lex. He could see the hesitation and uncertainty in Lois' expression and it hurt that it was there. If it bothered her so much to call him her…

"Well," Lex interrupted his thoughts. "The lucky man who has won the hand of this lovely lady." He extended his hand to Clark. "Congratulations, Kent."

Clark eyed the hand a moment before his wounded pride got the better of him. "Do you really expect me to believe you had no idea who Lois had married?"

Lois shot him a glare, as Lex's brows rose into his hair, amazed that this 'menial' should be so confrontational. He constantly underestimated Kent. His grin widened as he let his gaze roam over Lois.

"As a matter of fact, your lovely wife was not forthcoming with your identity." He met Clark's eyes. "Leads one to believe that maybe all is not what it appears to be with this… marriage."

Anger shot through Clark like lightening. He felt Lois place a hand on his arm, but ignored it. "I don't think my marriage is any of your business," he told the other man, his voice assuming a deadly tone.

"Relax. I came here to offer up my best wishes and to present Lois with this gift."

Clark let his eyes fall to the box, before lifting them back to Lex. "Somehow I don't see you as one to offer 'best' anything."

"Clark, Lex is trying to be friendly," Lois told him in an attempt to calm him. He was almost shaking with anger and she knew a storm was threatening if she didn't intervene.

Clark couldn't believe what he'd just heard. Once again, Lois was supporting that slime. He stared at her open-mouthed, unable and unwilling to voice his opinion of her statement. They held each other's gaze for a long moment, exchanging their feelings on the subject without saying a word. Finally, Clark turned back to Lex.

"Personally, I'd like to tell you exactly where you could put that gift…"

"Clark Kent!"

He shot Lois another glare that dared her to say anything else before facing Lex once more. "But we both know that Lois is her own person and can not be told what to do." With that, he strode toward his desk and sat down, giving a wonderful impression of someone who was thoroughly engrossed in the blank notebook in front of him.

Lois released a small breath as she tore her eyes from Clark. She was about to say something when Lex did.

"My… isn't he a little insecure?"

"Lex, don't," she warned.

"Come, Lois. Why did you choose to do this?" he asked her in a fierce whisper. His expression had grown irritated and serious. "You're so far above him."


"Kent is a nobody. He's a lowly reporter…"

Lois' stance stiffened and she squared her shoulders to face him. "I am a lowly reporter!"

"Yes, but with so much more potential. Even you know you're better than Kent! You deserve a husband who is worthy of you, my dear Lois."

For the first time since they'd married, except for the moments when he'd been ill, Lois felt a surge of protectiveness for Clark. "You don't know the first thing about Clark and I think this conversation is over!" She turned on her heel and stomped away from Lex.

"Lois," he hissed after her and reached out to grab her arm. Perhaps he'd gone a little too far in openly condemning Kent.

She whirled around on him with fire in her eyes. "Let my arm go!"

"Lois," Lex said softly, trying to appear conciliatory. "Let's talk this through…"

"The lady said to let her go." Clark was suddenly beside Lois in a forbidding pose.

Superman without the suit, Lois thought somewhat distractedly.

"What?! You listen to her conversations?" Lex eyed his rival condescendingly for some seconds, before looking down at Lois. "That should tell you something, Lois."

"Yes, it does. It tells me he is concerned because another man is holding his wife's arm without her permission." She stared pointedly at the hand gripping her elbow.

"Luthor, I would appreciate you taking your hand off her," Clark insisted, stepping slightly between Lois and Lex.

Lex smirked, then released Lois' arm. He'd honestly thought he could talk some sense into Lois when he'd discovered she'd married a nobody like Kent. He'd believed Lois was smarter than to throw herself away on some junior reporter, but it appeared he was wrong. No matter. He'd move on to some other helpless victim or two while he waited for this little infatuation to play itself out. Kent wouldn't be able to satisfy a woman with Lois' fire, and time would prove to all that he was right.

Of course, his own marriage to Lois was now out of the question — Lex Luthor wouldn't accept secondhand goods. He wasn't, however, averse to a little dalliance with an unhappily married woman. He only needed to have a modicum of patience and Lois would be ripe for the picking. But for now, he'd be gracious.

"Again, congratulations… to both of you." Lex barely managed to force a smile as he strode over to Lois' desk and set the gift down before quickly leaving the newsroom.

Lois glanced around at the curious coworkers who had stopped once again to see the show. The newlyweds certainly kept life in the newsroom interesting! However, seeing Lois' hard stare, they moved on to avoid her wrath.

Clark watched the elevator close behind Lex before turning to Lois. "Are you okay? Did he hurt you?" he asked as he reached out to check her arm.

"I'm fine," she said hastily and drew away from him, more shaken by Lex's visit than she cared to admit.

Clark stopped, hurt by her withdrawal. "Yeah. As always, you're just fine," he snapped before walking away from her.

"Clark." She was about to follow him when she was cornered by a research assistant. She stared dejectedly at Clark's retreating back. Were they destined to always mistake each other's reactions and end up in a full-blown argument? Lois was finally prepared to acknowledge that her feisty nature might not exactly be helping in their relationship. It was her way of coping with life and she wasn't sure if she could change… or even if she should!


Chapter 9: Chip Off the Old Clark

"Lois, where is my medication?" Clark called from the kitchen. They'd ended up home together tonight, though, not in any better accord, unfortunately. It was obvious that both wanted to discuss the situation with Lex, but neither was willing to be the first to speak.

"I put it on the right hand side with the glasses." She appeared in the doorway as Clark opened the cabinet.

His eyes fell on the little 'drugs-box' she'd taken the time to buy for his medication. It helped to give the shelf a much neater appearance, and the thoughtfulness of her action made him feel all the more guilty about their current situation.

"Find it okay?"

"Ah, yeah." He pulled the tray down to discover she'd gone a step further and bought another organizer that separated his various pills into daily doses. She'd even filled the cups with a week's supply. He let out a deep breath and looked up at her. "This is… very thoughtful. Thank you."

"You're welcome." She moved over and filled a glass with water for him. "I… did it to score a few points," she admitted softly.

He took the glass and looked back at the plastic box in his hand. "It worked," he whispered. There was a long silence before he looked back up at her. "Lois…"

"Clark…" They both spoke at the same time. "You first!"

"I just… I…" He stopped and tilted his head when his hearing picked a call for Superman.

She'd come to recognize that look. "Big?"

"Not really."

"Can't you just let the officials handle this one so we can talk?" Lois had geared herself up to discuss the situation with Clark and she didn't want to let the opportunity slip by. Besides, she was fairly sure that he'd been using his superhero work to stay out of her way.

"I have to go," he said apologetically. He dumped his pills into his hand and downed them quickly. "Sorry. I have to go."

"Yeah. Go!" Disappointment assailed her and she stomped into the other room, steadily mumbling. "Fine, just fine! Go be super while your… your 'whatever I am' just cools her heels… the same way I've been doing for the past week."

Clark had spun into his suit, but stopped when he heard what she said. He strode into the living room. "What?"

Lois twirled to face him. "You heard me!"

"Yes and I can't believe you said it!" He threw up his hands and paced across the room. He vaguely heard the emergency crews respond to the call, which only served to inflame him further — surely she understood that saving lives took precedence over personal problems.

"You can't? Why not? Am I not supposed to be angry about our relationship? You've been acting like a spoiled little brat!"

"Like you have room to talk!" he threw back at her, his anger distracting him from his pending rescue. It seemed that these days Lois could annoy him at the drop of a hat over next to nothing.

Lois gasped. "I wasn't the one to get my tights in a wad because of a little dinner."

"Dinner with a maniac that you just happened to have dated!" Clark glared at her as they faced off in full battle mode.

"That's what this is all about isn't it? You just can't let it go. Your ego can't stand the fact that your… partner won't allow you to dictate who her friends are!" Lois was way past remembering that Clark might actually be right about Luthor. Meanwhile, Clark was on a different tack…

"You can't even say it, can you? Why don't you just say it, Lois? You can't stand being married to me! But then again, how the hell would you know? Apart from our 'little arranged dinners,'" Clark said sarcastically, betraying what he'd come to think of those, "you've barely spent more than five minutes at a time with me since we came home from our… trip."

"I'm not the one who runs home to Mama every night!"

"You know I spend time with them to give you space. Which is utterly stupid!"

"You told me you wouldn't push me." Lois took a step closer to him.

"How can I? You're never home!"

"Why would I want to be? The only thing here is you!"

Clark felt as if he'd been kicked in the gut. Now he knew exactly how Lois felt about him and living here. It hurt so much he felt as if he would pass out. Why had he done this to himself?

Lois wanted to bite her tongue in half when she saw the tears in Clark's eyes. She was about to offer up an apology when he spoke.

"Why did we ever think we could raise a baby together? We can't even talk to each other without yelling." He turned dejectedly and headed for the stairs leading to his small room.

"Clark." Lois went after him, but he shook his head sadly.

"Leave it alone, Lois. I'm too tired to argue any more." He continued toward the stairs, unaware that his mumbling could be heard across the room. "Finally something Superman can't fix."

"What did you say?" she demanded.

He stopped on the bottom step, fighting desperately to contain his raging emotions before turning to her. "I said I've finally found something Superman can't fix."

"What is that supposed to mean?"

"It means that apparently I was naive to think that your little *Superman crush* would help me out with this marriage."

"I outgrew that when I realized that he was just as pigheaded and dumb as Clark Kent!" Lois's answer came crashing back at him, unforgivingly stark.

Was it possible for someone's heart to break and keep right on beating? Because Lois could swear that's what happened to Clark in just that instant. Why did she always lash out without thinking? She didn't doubt that Clark had translated that to mean she'd fallen out of love with her superhero when she'd discovered he was just an ordinary guy, which wasn't what she'd meant at all. If only she could take back those hateful words.

"Clark, I'm sorry…"

"Just stop!" He stared at her as the reality of their situation finally caught up with him. It would always be this way; Lois would never come to feel anything more for him than friendship and pity. He just couldn't take it anymore. There was only one thing left to do. "You can't help how you feel." His voice was calm — stronger than he would have imagined it to be considering his life was about to change completely… again. "I'll call a lawyer tomorrow and start annulment proceedings," he said flatly.

"Clark, come on. We can't do that," she told him.

"I, ah, I think I'll move back to the farm. I believe the fresh air and hard work will do me good until… until the end," he continued as if he hadn't heard her last statement, then, taking a ragged breath, he climbed the remaining stairs to his room.

"Clark, I won't sign," she told him. "I won't give you an annulment." He never acknowledged that she'd spoken. When he disappeared from view, Lois stomped her foot angrily. "Damn you, Kent," she said fiercely.

This couldn't be happening. They were about to let a disagreement ruin everything. But she had to admit that she'd said some very mean things, even by her standards. Now she had to try to fix this. It was just so hard for her to admit that maybe she'd been wrong. She hated being wrong. And even when she knew she should, she'd hardly ever been the one to apologize. It just went against who she felt she was. It lowered her defenses and allowed someone else in… someone who could hurt her. Only, she could no longer deny the fact that Clark had wormed his way under her defenses, leaving her more vulnerable than she'd been in a very long time.

Upstairs, Clark lay down on his bed, drawing his legs up and wrapping his arms tightly round them. Why did he have to love Lois Lane… and why had he insisted on marriage? He'd foolishly thought that she would be there for him as the end drew near. And it was so easy to picture their baby. He or she would be gorgeous.

When Clark was growing up and finding out just how unusual he was, he'd made the decision not to tell anybody, hoping he would fit in. But of course he never really could; he was just so different and he'd been afraid that, apart from his parents, he would always be alone — never have a wife and family of his own.

Then he'd met Lois and he'd fallen in love with her right there in Perry's office and no matter what happened between them, his feelings had never wavered. His illness and Lois' solution had come straight out of the blue, throwing him completely off balance. So, he'd taken a big chance, hoping to steal a piece of happiness by marrying Lois and praying that she might come to return his love in time. Yet that had been a pipe dream and he knew now he had to put an end to the marriage he'd had such high hopes for.

He drew further into himself as his pain soared in his heart. Luckily, he didn't have too much time to drown in his sorrows before the sounds of several fire engines drew him from his self- pity. Superman shot out of the small skylight and into the night air.

Downstairs, Lois listened as the familiar sonic boom rang through the air. She sank onto the bed and stared down at the floor. What was she going to do?


Unfortunately for the relationship between the couple, Superman was needed for the next two days to fight a fire that was raging out of control in the Hobbs Bay area. Several warehouses and three of the more seedy apartment complexes were ablaze, destroying peoples' livelihoods and homes, and, this time, there was no doubt that Superman's help was crucial.

Lois watched the scenes on television and even visited the site once, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Man of Steel, but he'd been much too busy to notice her there. She thought he looked so small against the towering flames, his normally colorful suit blackened by smoke, adding to her sense of his mortality. Would he be strong enough to do his job, or would the disease rob him of his amazing powers? Lois stayed for only a little while then returned to the Planet. There was nothing she could do to help him this time.

Nearly ten people lost their lives in the intense fight to stop the flames from spreading to more buildings, but finally, Superman and the various fire departments managed to conquer the deadly threat.

Without conscious thought, Lois had covered for her absentee- partner at work, informing the Chief that Clark was doing the 'ground work' on the fire, while she would write up the copy. At first, the older man had been worried that the hot smoky atmosphere would be detrimental to Clark's health, but, eventually, his instincts as a newspaper man won out and he began to look forward to another first rate story — and maybe a sidebar or two. Of course, Lois would have to keep Clark up to date on the current excuse for his absence… provided he'd actually listen to anything she said, or even agree to work with her again.

By the time Lois made it home on that second day, she was extremely relieved to hear the shower running in the bathroom. She might have been angry with Clark before he'd flown off to fight the fire, but fear for him had quickly overshadowed her anger. She was willing to admit that her lack of attention was partly responsible for their huge disagreement, although Clark's behavior wasn't exemplary either… far from it, in fact.

There was enough hostility to go around and apportioning blame wasn't going to solve their problems. If they were going to stay married, one of them had to try to repair the rift, and Lois was prepared to take the initiative. That had to be a first for her, and just maybe that action would go a long way to proving to Clark that she really wanted to be in this relationship.

Lois had picked up take-out on her way home, just as she had the last couple of nights, in the expectation he'd return. She began setting it out, hopeful that with a bit of luck, Clark would have dinner with her. Hearing a tired groan, she looked up as he came into the kitchen and her breath caught in her throat when she took in his appearance — his skin was much too pale and he was practically dragging his feet. It was obvious he was worn out.

"I brought dinner." She wanted to go to him, but wasn't sure of her reception.

"Good," was all he said as he took out his medication.

"Have you been able to come home to take that?"

"No." He moved over to fill a glass.

"Clark, you have to take your pills."

"I am," he snapped as he shoved the drugs into his mouth.

"You know what I mean!" Lois' voice betrayed a growing exasperation.

"Do you ever let up?" he asked when he lowered the glass.

"Come on, Clark, give a little here. We really need to discuss this!"

"I think we've said more than enough, don't you?" His voice was flat and his expression closed.

Lois' mouth set in a stern line. She'd lived in a state of nervous tension over the last few days and Clark's inflexible attitude hurt, but she'd try once more to reach him. "Perhaps… but Clark we can't throw everything away…"

"Be honest, Lois! There's nothing left to throw away. Maybe there never was anything… This whole idea was a mistake."

Those words hit her like a dose of cold water. Surely there had been friendship. Obviously, Clark wasn't ready to forgive and forget. In a mixture of anger and despair, Lois slammed her plate down and began scooping food on to it. "Fine. The jury's reached the verdict, the court's out and there's no appeal. Do whatever the hell you want."

Clark wouldn't allow Lois' comment to bother him. Instead, he snatched up his own plate and helped himself to some food. With plate and glass in hand, he headed for his room. Who was he kidding? Everything about her bothered him, and putting some distance between himself and Lois was the best thing for his peace of mind at the moment. His feelings were still smarting from their last confrontation and it had been a long couple of days. All he wanted to do now was eat and sleep.

Lois flopped into her chair and ate in silence. It seemed nothing had changed between them.

<Come on, be honest here, Lois! You really didn't try too hard to apologies.>

<But, if he refuses to talk to me, then there isn't much I can do!>

The little voices in her head started up again and she groaned in frustration. Reluctantly, she finished her dinner and got up to go to bed, praying that her conscience would calm down and give her a good night's sleep. This running argument was taking its toll on her too and she did feel tired. Unexpected tears clouded her vision and she gulped back a sob. At least, he was home and safe… and that was some comfort.


The incessant ringing of the phone pulled Lois from her sleep the next morning. It was her day off and she'd planned to spend most of it in bed. However, this caller had other ideas.

"Hello?" she said in a sleepy voice.

"Lois, it's Bernie."

"Bernie, hi. Is there something wrong?"

"No, no. In fact, I think something is right."

Lois eased to a sitting position. "What?"

"The blood sample from the last procedure is showing a completely different reading than it did three days ago."

"What? Is that a bad thing?"

"No…" She almost heard Bernie's embarrassed swallow before he confessed. "I think I was just doing the wrong test. I'm sorry. This really isn't my specialty. Would you mind coming in this morning and allowing me to run another test?"

"No, of course not. I'll be there in an hour."

"Great. See you then."

Lois put the receiver down and stared at the phone for a long moment. She could feel her heart race in anticipation. If she was pregnant, maybe Clark wouldn't follow through with that stupid annulment idea. Who would believe him anyway with his wife expecting? And when did she start thinking she *wanted* to stay in this marriage?

Of course she wanted to stay, she reminded herself. They had to have this baby to save his life. But that probably wasn't the only reason she wanted to stay…

"Oh boy, Lois," she growled aloud in frustration as her inner voices assailed her again. "Just what do you want?!"

Could she possibly feel more than she cared to admit for Clark? With every passing day it seemed she became more bogged down in a quagmire of mixed emotions. And she'd believed this living together thing got easier the more you got used to it. How wrong could she have been?

Never one to dwell on introspection, Lois promptly silenced her warring thoughts, pushed the cover back and went to take a shower. She wouldn't find any answers wallowing in bed!


Lois leaned her elbows on the table and cupped the mug in her hands as she thought about the news Bernie had given her today. The tests had been run a dozen times, all with the same result. She was pregnant, exactly ten days pregnant. That was considerably early to tell, but Dr Klein assured her that the blood tests were accurate. So, they had been successful. They, she and Clark, had created a baby.

<Isn't that what you wanted?>

But wanting something and actually getting it were two entirely different things. She was still committed to having this child to save Clark's life. That hadn't changed. What had changed was that she realized she was now someone's mother. Or she would be. There would be someone completely dependent on her for their needs. At the moment she could hardly take care of her own life. How was she supposed to take care of a baby?

<But you won't be alone,> her insistent subconscious piped up again.

She knew Clark would be there to help with the baby no matter what the state of their relationship. She'd known that from the beginning .Itwasthe underlying factor that had allowed her to offer to do this so readily. He would never leave her on her own to take care of this baby… Unless, of course, the transplant wasn't successful, and she refused to think of that possibility. Her big concern now was whether they'd raise their baby as friends or enemies.

She sighed and straightened to rest her coffee on the table. Lois briefly thought of not telling Clark just yet, but quickly shot that idea down. If she didn't tell him, she was sure Bernie would.

Before she could formulate a plan of action, she heard Clark land softly on the balcony. He made his way into the kitchen and to the cabinet that held his medicine.

"Clark?" Lois spoke more loudly than she'd meant to get his attention.

"Yeah?" He kept his back toward her as he gulped the pills quickly. Then, not waiting to hear what she had to say, he ploughed on with his own information. "I talked to David Livingston this afternoon. He'll have the papers drawn up by the end of next week." Finally he faced her, yet his eyes remained fixed on a point just above her head. "I'll go out and stay with my folks at night until everything goes through and I can move. I typed up my resignation today. I'm going to give it to Perry tomorrow."

His resignation? That came right out of left field and left Lois trembling… She would be alone. Life without Clark in it somewhere seemed suddenly bleak. "Clark, you can't leave the Planet! We're partners — you just can't! Besides, we can't get an annulment," she added the last more quietly.

"Lois, I just think this is for the best."

"I'm pregnant."

Clark's mouth dropped open in shock, but he quickly shut it as her words registered.

Lois finally caught and held his gaze. "I don't know if a judge would grant an annulment if your… spouse is pregnant."

He could only stare at her silently. He'd often thought of this moment and how it might play out when she told him she was pregnant, but this was nothing like the scenario he'd envisioned.

When it became apparent Clark wasn't going to speak, Lois rose to her feet. "I know this is not exactly what you wanted to hear…"

"Lois, no." He took a step to her. "It's just…" He shoved a frustrated hand through his hair as he looked for the right words here. "I'm sorry," he whispered softly. He definitely thought an apology should be first on the agenda. They'd both acted horribly in the last few days and he'd suffered a lot of pain and guilt because of it. He certainly wasn't proud of his part in the proceedings. "So sorry! I don't know how I could have been so callous… The things I've said…"

"I said some things too, Clark…" Lois dropped her head as the sting of hot tears pricked behind her lashes. She might be prepared to meet him halfway but she wasn't going to let him see her cry. "I have this temper… and sometimes I say things that I shouldn't. You probably know that…" Her voice died away as the tears threatened to spill over.

"I know," he said with just a faint echo of amusement. "But this… It makes all the rest seem unimportant." He moved toward her, unable to stop the swell of emotion growing inside him. "This, the baby… it's…" Hearing the catch in his voice, Lois dared to look up again. "Pretty…" His eyes drifted down to her torso. This woman was carrying *his* child and Clark couldn't stop the wonderful feelings that were spreading through him.

"Unbelievable?" Lois asked to help him out.

Clark's lips spread into a bemused smile and his eyes sparkled with unshed tears as they came back up to meet with hers. "Yeah, and amazing," he breathed out.

"We did it, Clark!" She couldn't resist the feeling of accomplishment. Suddenly she too was smiling tearily, experiencing emotions she'd never felt before. His obvious thrill was contagious. "Of course, it's early yet," she cautioned him. "I'm only ten days along."

Clark nodded. "How? I thought Bernie had already run the tests and said you weren't?"

Lois chuckled slightly as she remembered the frazzled scientist in his lab this morning. "He, ah, he wasn't running the correct test."

Clark's expression became wry. "Do you think maybe we should wonder what he's been inseminating you with?"

Lois gasped, but gave into a huge grin when she saw the twinkle in Clark's eyes. "Wouldn't that be horrible?" She grimaced with fake distaste.

Clark too cringed jokingly and they both laughed a little more before his face once again became serious. "Lois, this is…" He looked down at his hands before he spoke again. "I'd be lying if I said this doesn't feel really good… or makes a difference."

"Thank you for being honest. And I have to be too…" She paced over to the table and turned to face him. "I don't want to end this marriage."


"Why what?"

Clark pulled out a chair and eased down. "Why do you *not* want to end it?"

"Honestly… because I hate to fail." She took her seat and fingered her cup. "I hate to give up and if we divorced, that's what we'd be doing. I told you I'd compromise and I haven't done a very good job of it."

"I know this is a lot of work."

"It is," she admitted as she met his gaze. "I'm not afraid of work."

"Me neither." Clark looked at her for a long moment before he reached across the table to touch her hand, praying she would accept his simple gesture of supplication.

Unconsciously, her other hand came up over his as she remembered his earlier apology. "I'm sorry, too, Clark. I've made a lot of mistakes, but I've never done this before."

"That makes two of us," he reminded her.

"I know. And I guess it'll take me a while to get used to the fact that I'm not alone in this. I've never done… together before. It's new and confusing and scary."

"I understand," Clark smiled softly. "And you're not wholly to blame. I haven't exactly acted like a model partner either. I've been childish and self-centered…"

"True! I'm glad you noticed!"

"Lois, you don't have to agree so wholeheartedly!" Clark objected, yet his continuing smile belied any real irritation. "What do you say we start over? I'm just too tired to hash up the pain any more."

"I think I'd like that." Lois returned his smile, squeezing his hand. "We could start by sharing a long overdue dinner?"

"That sounds good. Just let me shower and I'll whip something up."


Clark stood, releasing Lois' hand with some reluctance. Truthfully, he wanted to hug her, yet wasn't sure how she'd react. Instead, he took a step toward the bedroom, only to turn back, unable to resist some sort of gesture. His hand came up to cup Lois' face. "I'm happy about the baby."

Lois swallowed hard, unsure of how she felt about this baby yet. Was she happy? Yes, because this child would save Clark's life, but he was happy just because the child had been conceived… period.

She smiled up at Clark, unwilling to deflate his joy. "Me, too," she forced out. Now if she could just learn how to deal with this next stage in her ever changing life…

Clark grinned again and let his hand drop, turning quickly to head toward the bathroom. Inside he was a mass of contradiction. He was happy — delirious about this baby, but, at the same time, he was terrified. Everything from now on was so uncertain. Would he live to see this child born? Could the baby really save his life? And if so, how would he handle that?

So many questions were running through his mind and, for the time being, he had to force them all away, so he could concentrate on something else equally important to him: Lois. It was obvious she was confused about her feelings, and probably insecure about her future mothering skills. He wanted to be there for her; to help her to adjust and, with a bit of luck, if their conversation was any indication, she just might be prepared to allow him closer to her inner-sanctum.


Clark made a simple pasta dinner and soon the couple sat in the quiet apartment sharing their meal.

"This is good, Clark," Lois mused, her eyes closing as she savored the first mouthful. "You know if I had to be married, I'm glad I picked a husband who could cook…" Her voice trailed off as she blushed self-consciously.

"It's good to know I get some things right." Clark grinned sheepishly as his skin color rose to match Lois'.

There was another silence which Lois occupied by taking another few bites of her food. Then she set her fork down determinedly. "Clark, about Lex…"

"No, Lois!" Clark interrupted.

"I just wanted to say why I accepted his dinner invitation… and things…"

"Lois, please don't," Clark reiterated. "I really don't feel up to rehashing all of that. He isn't worth it, and I meant what I said about starting over. We put all the disagreements behind us, including Lex!"

"Okay," Lois replied, still sounding a little doubtful, but she rose from the table and went to the bookcase in the living area. When she returned she set a gift-wrapped package on the table by his side. "Maybe you'd like to decide what to do with this," she said with the hint of an apology as she retook her seat across from him.

Clark didn't pretend not to recognize the object and he sent her an understanding smile, accepting it in the light she'd offered it. "Maybe send it back?" he asked gently.

"Your choice," Lois answered with a shrug. Lex Luthor was no longer a concern.

"I'll take this up to my room after dinner," Clark said, fingering the box, "And we can deal with it later."

"Fine." Lois smiled in satisfaction and eagerly continued eating. She finished her pasta and sat back. "What's for dessert?"

"Something chocolate, of course. Actually, it's only double chocolate-chip ice-cream. I didn't have time to make anything fancy."

Lois' smile grew wider. "That's my favorite!"

Later, both Lois and Clark relaxed side-by-side on the sofa, feeling more comfortable together than they had in quite some time. Large steaming cups of one of Clark's herbal teas sat on the coffee table in front of them. Lois picked hers up gingerly, staring into the clear greenish liquid.

"What's this, Clark? Are you trying to wean me off caffeine?" Her gamin grin peeked through her disgusted expression.

"That tea came highly recommended by an old herbalist I met in China," Clark offered, returning her smile. "It's good for you." Clark wanted to remind Lois of her condition, but felt he shouldn't push his luck. Much to his relief, this evening hadn't turned out as he'd first thought it would.

"You know, we should really try harder to make this marriage work, Clark."

"I agree. We have someone else to consider now," he stated, completely blowing his earlier caution.

Lois' eyes fell at that reminder, but she pushed her ambivalent feelings to the back of her mind. "I think we could start by you coming home in the evenings with me, Clark, barring super rescues, of course." It wasn't much of an offer, but even if they spent time watching TV in silence, at least she'd feel she was making an effort. She brightened at her next thought, though; sampling Clark's cooking could never be a chore. "And we should eat dinner together. After all, you know I can't cook, and, in my condition, I need to eat well!" Lois swallowed hard, aware that she herself had actually brought up the subject of her pregnancy.

"Sure, Lois, I can do that!" Clark couldn't help but feel a little pleased with himself. It sounded like Lois was going to allow him to take care of her. "Does this mean you don't want me to resign my position and move to Smallville?"

"Of course I don't… I never did! You have way too much work ahead of you now, buster. There's no way I'm letting you get by without helping." She grinned to show him that she was teasing about the last bit.

He chuckled softly and replied, "I wouldn't dream of not helping, Lois."

"I know you wouldn't. We're in this together." Strangely, right at the moment, she felt comforted by that knowledge. Lois reached over impulsively and patted his arm before taking an experimental sip of her tea. "Hey, this stuff is actually quite good… kinda weird, but I could get used to this."

While Lois seemed so agreeable, Clark decided pressing his luck wouldn't be such a bad thing. "Maybe we could even try spending our days off together again… Maybe even a trip to Smallville?"

However, from the studied glance Lois gave him, Clark could tell he'd pushed too far.

"Maybe… soon…" Lois didn't want to disappoint Clark so quickly, but she hoped that he would be prepared to wait a little to inform his parents of their impending grandparenthood. She wanted to become more at ease with her pregnancy before letting others in on the secret. Right now she just wasn't sure whether she could cope with all their happy fussing.


Things soon settled into a routine for the couple. As agreed, they began to spend more time together in the apartment, becoming sufficiently at home in each other's company that they found themselves adopting the same teasing partnership they once shared at work, before marriage had complicated their lives.

Lois' bottle of pre-natal vitamins found a place on the counter beside the sink. Clark said they reminded him that he should keep fighting for his life, which had started an emotional discussion one evening. That frank conversation had been a bit of an eye- opener for Lois as she came to realize that Clark often thought about his mortality. She'd known the night she'd held him after he'd discovered that his disease had worsened, but somehow, in the mayhem of late, she'd lost sight of it in a haze of misunderstandings, hurt pride and claustrophobia.

Now, hearing him voice his unselfish concerns about leaving her and the baby behind should the transplant fail, guilt assailed her… she'd been so self-absorbed. She'd allowed herself to forget that Clark was fighting a battle with his own relentless demon and, yet, he hadn't reproached her. Lois appreciated that. Deep in her heart the tiny flame that glowed for Clark flared and began to burn more strongly. Between them, a new level of friendship had been reached, and although not the perfect life, theirs was starting to resemble something in which both could find comfort.


At first Lois didn't give a lot of thought to her pregnancy. It seemed so surreal to her. But time wouldn't stand still, not even for her. When her sixth week approached, Dr. Klein suggested she and Clark find a good OB. He proposed a few possible candidates, but couldn't be very helpful as he had little contact with this field of medicine. Regrettably, he also told them there wasn't a lot that could be done to treat Clark until after the baby's birth.

Of course, in the meantime, Clark would still visit Star Labs for a twice-monthly check-up to monitor the progress of his cancer. Since he was Superman, he would need to know well in advance when his powers were waning so the public could be warned that the hero would be taking time out to attend to personal problems. An appropriate story was still to be concocted, but Lois was confident that she could invent a suitable excuse. Not that Clark was comfortable with the idea of lying, but he did have faith in Lois' ability to come up with something plausible and he totally agreed with the need to protect his secret. Thinking of how vulnerable his family would be if it were known that Clark Kent had been Superman, at a time when he was without super powers, gave him nightmares.

It was, also, something Clark didn't like to think about in a general sense. He hated letting down anyone who needed him. Lois, however, took the view that as the illness wasn't Clark's fault, he didn't have anything to feel guilty about. Thankfully, Lois' pragmatic approach eased Clark's conscience a little and, in the meantime, he would continue do what he could.

Lois had called the four doctors Bernie had recommended they might use as their obstetrician. She'd visited two and begun to let the actual situation sink into her conscious mind. She was pregnant… with Clark's baby. Soon everyone would know that fact — a circumstance that made her want to run and hide somewhere. How would she handle this? Already, she and her… partner seemed to be the favorite topic of conversation around the newsroom. Wouldn't they get a kick out of this one? She could just hear Cat now.

"Gee, Lois. You don't waste any time, do you?"

She cringed when she thought of the smart remarks she'd receive. Of course, Clark would be seen as 'the man.' He'd be congratulated for his… input. Wouldn't everyone just die if they knew exactly how this baby was made?

She sighed heavily as she pushed through the doors of the third doctor's office, feeling a little guilty for doing this without Clark, but this wasn't the most pleasant of situations. Lois had read the literature. She'd be poked and prodded and have to suffer many indignities over the next few months. If Clark wanted to be part of all this, then he should have carried the baby!

She giggled somewhat hysterically at that picture — he wasn't that much of an alien! Instructing her wayward thoughts to behave, she straightened her lips and greeted the receptionist. With any luck, she'd like this doctor — Bernie's idea of 'good men' didn't match her own — and she wouldn't have to look across the entire city to find another. The young woman behind the desk smiled and Lois grew anxious as she recited her practiced speech.

<He's worth it! He's worth it!> She found herself chanting, hoping to make it through the rest of the day. Kent would pay big for this one. Tonight they'd eat Italian… in Rome.


As she'd guessed, Clark had sulked a little in disappointment when he heard Lois had done the doctor search alone, reminding her that he would have been happy to go along, wanting… no needing, to be involved as much as he could. Yet, at present, he couldn't stay annoyed for long and his 'joi de vivre' grin soon replaced his pout. Uncharacteristically for Lois, she found herself apologizing and inviting him for the appointment that was scheduled for the end of the week.

Another of Clark's glowing smiles almost made her grow weak in the knees and, thankfully, he scooped her up to fly them off to Italy for dinner, just as she'd suggested. At least, in this position she no longer had to rely on her own abilities to stay upright, and she snuggled contentedly against him, amazed at the warmth she found in the circle of his arms.

It felt good to be able to spend quality time together after all the previous hostility and both relaxed to enjoy the flight. Flying had always been the one gift Clark appreciated most out of his amazing array of abilities, but it was so much better when you had someone to share it with.

They had flown together before, of course, but always with the purpose of chasing down a story or saving Lois' life when she'd gotten herself into a dangerous situation. Now, Clark couldn't resist the exhilaration that filled him as Lois gazed at the myriad of stars in their velvet darkness above her, while the silver orb of a full moon cast a sparkling, rippling path across the steely-gray waters. Her mouth opened in a wide 'O' as a school of dolphins played midnight tag in the ocean below them and, later, she pointed wondrously at a shooting star arcing across the heavens.

He saw it all anew through Lois' eyes and his heart sang as he hopefully supposed that this would be something they could enjoy for some time to come. Later in the evening, he took his courage in both hands and offered to do these foreign trips more often. A silly grin brightened his face as Lois readily agreed, barring, of course, super emergencies and bouts with his illness. It seemed that Lois too found delight in the feeling of total freedom that came with his gift to shed the pull of Earth's gravity.

That night, another fine strand was woven into the tenuous bond they shared. However, as often was the case with the couple, they didn't talk about their marriage, the baby or their uncertain future for the entire evening. Avoidance seemed to be an unspoken motto between them, though the topics were never far from either's minds.

As the early days of Lois' pregnancy went by the couple fell into a familiar routine and Lois couldn't help but admit that she was no longer uncomfortable living with Clark. They had both adapted to sharing space and things began to go more smoothly for them. Lois even found herself quite appreciative of the little things that Clark would do to ensure that her condition didn't cause her too much stress — like the early morning cups of tea and buttered toast that regularly found their way onto her nightstand.

At work, though, things went haywire. Several huge investigations were thrown at them and if it hadn't been for a little 'super' help, they wouldn't have been able to make as much headway as they did. Unfortunately, the hectic workload forced Lois to reschedule her appointment at the OB which, in turn, had caused a little tension between her and Clark.

He felt nothing was more important than taking care of the baby. Though, wisely, apart from a passing mention, he didn't press the point, sure that it would lead to yet another argument which he didn't have the energy for. Meantime, Lois made a second appointment and forced herself not to allow Clark's disapproval to bother her.

She wasn't exactly clear why his concerns should affect her, other than the fact that her body was her own and she would decide how best to care for it. Lois wasn't quite ready to acknowledge that there was someone else now who depended on her. She certainly wasn't ready to admit she was happy about this baby yet, and even less willing to accept the fact that she should slow down on her career. This was the 90s and lots of clever women juggled high-powered jobs with pregnancy and motherhood. Lois didn't see why she should be any less competent. Besides, no matter what Clark thought, he would always support her — they were partners in many ways and that was one thing she was now sure of.


Lois fidgeted in her seat, filling out the paperwork for her first pre-natal visit while, next to her, Clark flipped through a magazine, trying to appear calm. Lois hadn't liked any of the doctors Dr. Klein had recommended — where had he found them? So, somewhat against her better judgment, she'd decided to see her own doctor.

She trusted the woman and had been her patient for years, though she hadn't wanted to use her during the pregnancy. Lois' kneejerk reaction had been to keep this part of her life separate, but without a more reliable source, she had relented and made the appointment. It had been a pretty crazy notion anyway and it was about time she got used to the fact that this was real! Fortunately, before Lois could over obsess, she was called for her turn.


He looked up from his reading. "Yeah?"

"Aren't you coming?" After all the fuss he'd made about not being allowed to help with the doctor search, Lois wasn't about to let him sit in the waiting room!

"Well…" He lowered his gaze a moment and his voice dropped even lower. "Lois, the book said a pelvic examination is performed at the first visit…"

"I know. She'll also check my breasts, take blood, and I have to give a urine sample." He nodded nervously at the pictures her words had created. "Clark, I want you to come."

Where had that bravery come from? And just when had she made that decision? Lois hadn't felt this way when they'd left the Planet at lunch time.

"Lois," he breathed. "You'll be…" He waved his hands as his cheeks began to burn with embarrassment.

She quickly eased back down to the seat beside him and whispered, "Clark, if you can't handle an exam, how are you going to handle a birth?" Hadn't he told her one of his expectations was to be present during the birth?

<Why wouldn't he? This is his baby, too.>

She panicked a little. Giving birth was a long way off, but this exam wasn't. She wasn't sure if she wanted Clark to be present, yet she wasn't about to start an argument in a public place by admitting that. Besides, there was no way she could exclude the father from the whole process.

<Huh?> Boy, she really was stressed!

"Come on, Lois. This is different."

"Why? Either way you'll see my… well, you'll see a lot."

"Lo-is!" His face was on fire now.

"Clark… you're my husband. You're not supposed to be shy to see me exposed."

Now she knew something was wrong. Calling Clark her husband had just slipped out naturally and she hadn't skipped a beat when she made the statement about being exposed. Was she really just keeping up appearances, something that had never troubled her much before, or had she really grown so comfortable with this man?

He looked at her with an expression she couldn't define. "You haven't exactly… been… exposed before."

"I know." Lois squeezed his hand sympathetically. "If this makes you uncomfortable, you could just step out during the exam. But wouldn't you like to come back and meet the doctor? We may even get to hear the heartbeat." She offered him a smile.

For the first time since he'd known Lois, she was employing the same look he often used on her — the 'hurt puppy dog look' she called it. Clark wasn't sure if she realized she'd done it or what it meant, but he couldn't deny her after that. He grasped her hand and stood, letting her pull him behind her into the inner part of the office.

As the door closed, the receptionist shook her head and smiled in gentle amusement. She'd seen many first-time pregnant couples looking just as anxious as the handsome pair who had walked into her boss's inner-sanctum, almost as if they were walking into a lion's den. It was just as well that they didn't know what lay before them in the coming months, but she had a feeling that they'd do just fine.

Lois stepped onto the scales with a frown. Only a half pound. She could live with that. She shut herself into a restroom to give the urine sample. Next she sat at a table while her finger was pricked and her iron was checked. Blood pressure, temperature, and a larger sample of blood was taken from the vein in her arm.

"Could you leave a little so she won't pass out on the way home?" Clark ventured to joke with the nurse, whose sweet manner had gone a long way to put them both at ease. Lois, however, was still looking pretty frazzled by the whole process and she was well aware there was worse to come, so Clark hoped a little lighthearted banter would help steady her nerves. Heck, he needed steadying himself!

The nurse laughed as she filled the last vial, then sent the young man an appreciative look, which neither Lois nor Clark objected to, since the lady was old enough to be his mother. "I must say Ms. Lane, you have an adorable husband."

Lois glanced up at Clark. "He'll do," she agreed and he couldn't resist chuckling softly at her statement.

Finally they were taken down the hall to an exam room where Lois was given a paper gown and told to undress. Clark found himself blushing fiercely and he stepped into the hallway, allowing Lois some privacy to disrobe and settle on the table. In the little corridor, Clark dug his hands into his pockets and tried not to look too conspicuous — he was fairly certain that most husbands would not have shot out of the room like a scalded cat when their wives started to remove their clothing. No doubt the experienced medical staff could see right through Lois' and his pretence and he was very relieved when minutes later she called to him that it was safe to enter.

He hurried to her side with a sheepish smile. "Sorry."

"Don't be. I know this is uncomfortable for you. It's uncomfortable for me, too. I've never been pregnant before and it's kind of scary. If it helps any, I hate to get undressed and be poked at. But we have to do this. And I want you with me. You can chase away the willies." Again she was amazed by her feelings, finding that she'd meant each and every word — this was easier to get through with Clark by her side. Without her realization, Clark Kent had somehow started to slide his way under her carefully constructed defenses and Lois wasn't sure how much longer she would be able to deny it… or even why she should.

Clark reached up to rub her arm. "I *am* Superman," he told her quietly with a grin.

Just as Lois was about to answer, the door opened and a tiny older lady stepped into the room, her voice sounding much larger than her person. "Well, Lois Lane! It's about time you came in to see me."

"Hi, Doctor Lewis!"

"Hey, honey." The white-coated lady came closer to the table. "Oh and who is this handsome young man?"

Clark smiled and thrust out his hand. "Clark Kent. I'm Lois'… husband."

"I'm impressed." The doctor shook his hand in a very enthusiastic manner. "Your pictures don't do you justice, son."

"Thank you," he said, sounding a little bemused. Doctor Lewis wasn't quite what he expected.

"You're welcome. Lois, why didn't you tell an old lady you were married? He's quite a catch."

Lois glanced up at Clark to see him blushing once more. He was clearly embarrassed by the doctor's compliments, but for the first time since they'd been married, she had to agree with someone about how wonderful he was… he really suited that particular shade of pink! But maybe she ought to have warned him about Doc Lewis' avid bedside manner. "Thank you, Doc."

The doctor looked down at Lois' chart. "Well, I'll be. Seems there's a good reason for this visit." She met Lois' gaze. "I feel like a proud grandma."

Actually, that wasn't such a stretch of the imagination, Lois thought. Doctor Lewis was one of the few people she'd known since childhood, the woman having been a friend of the senior Lanes when they'd still been a couple. Of course, Lois had lost touch with her for a number of years and had only become reacquainted by chance when in adulthood she'd needed to find a doctor.

"Congratulations, my dears. You must both be over the moon. Shall we see how baby is progressing?" The three shared a happy laugh as the doctor moved forward to start the examination. After listening to vitals, she turned to pull on a pair of gloves. "I know this is the worst part, but I won't mash too hard."

A warning light switched on in Clark's brain and he shifted uncomfortably. "I'll, ah, I'll just step out until you're done with this part of the exam," he told the doctor.

"You don't have to go," she returned in her most reassuring physician's voice.

"I know." He cast Lois an apologetic smile before he opened the door and tried to make a dignified exit from the room when he dearly would have loved to use superspeed.

Dr. Lewis surveyed Lois with a slightly puzzled question in her eyes, causing the younger woman to shrug evasively. "He's too shy for his own good."

The doctor's stare held for a couple of long moments, then her face relaxed in a grin. She was sure that she hadn't been given the whole truth, but she was willing to play along. "Don't worry! I get all kinds, honey. I'm sure Clark will find his way pretty soon. He seems to be a real sweet boy. Now let's take a look."

The doctor proceeded to do the external exam, being as careful as possible, for which Lois was extremely grateful.

"Good, that's done, but I wish it were all that easy," the doctor said sympathetically as she moved back and lifted the receiver of the phone on the wall to call for a nurse. With a hand washing and change of gloves, the nurse was there and Lois was prepped for the internal exam.

After the most interminable minutes of her life, when Lois stared at the ceiling and surmised that she'd rather face the biggest gangsters in Metropolis than 'grandmother' Lewis, the doctor made an announcement. "Looks great, Lois. Get dressed and come into my office. Oh and don't forget to bring that nice husband with you."

"We won't be able to hear a heart beat today?" Lois asked as she struggled to sit up.

"Well, it's a little early, but we can try. Just let me get Daddy — he ought to be in on this. We can do it after you're dressed… and take your time; it will give me a chance to get to know Clark." Her hearty laugh rang out again as she disappeared through the door.

Lois nodded and eased to the floor to dress, wondering whether her mild-mannered partner would survive Doc Lewis' inquisition. Perhaps choosing a doctor who regarded her as extended family to see them through the pregnancy had been a mistake, even though the elderly lady had an excellent reputation.

A few moments later her question was answered as Clark and the doctor reentered, he looking relieved to escape, while the incorrigible physician's eyes twinkled. Clark smiled shyly at Lois as he moved to her side and waited patiently as Lois was prepared for the procedure. Yet he avoided looking at her exposed stomach for fear of letting his emotions show. He'd dreamed so often of seeing Lois in a state of undress, but he wanted it to be of her choosing. Not like this.

The doctor tried for several moments to locate a heartbeat. After various attempts, she lifted the wand from Lois' stomach.

"I'm sorry, honey. I guess it's just too early. We will be able to hear at the next appointment though."

Lois nodded, feeling a little disappointed. She hadn't known how badly she wanted to hear this child's heart until just now. Would it somehow make it all seem more real?

"Come over to my office when you're ready," the doctor told them, with what Clark had quickly learned was her customary smile.

"She's nice… really cheerful…" he remarked, turning discreetly away from Lois as she cleaned her stomach and straightened her clothes.

"Yeah," Lois agreed, with something between a groan and a laugh. "I'd almost forgotten how cheerful! That's me, I'm done." She walked up behind Clark and slipped her hand through his arm. "Come on, let's go hear what 'Grandma Lewis' has discovered!"

Nothing more was said as they exited the room and went to listen to the doctor inform them that everything appeared to be normal — a fact that made Clark secretly sigh with relief. Bernard had already assured the worried father that he could see no reason why an Earthling/Kryptonian pregnancy should not proceed normally, since both were species of Homo sapiens, but a second opinion was welcome.

Doctor Lewis finished up by asking Lois a few friendly questions about Sam and Ellen which were answered without much enthusiasm. If the doctor was dismayed by the unhappy relationship she suspected exited between Lois and her parents, she did intimate to the Mom-to-be that due to patient/doctor confidentiality she would not be the one to pass on the happy news. The couple were given an appointment for four weeks down the line and with that they said their goodbyes and left, both feeling fairly stunned by the experience of their first appointment.

"Let's fly out to see your parents this weekend," Lois told Clark as they walked back to the Planet. She figured it was best to tell them and get it over with. Besides, they might need the Kents' help later on and Lois didn't think it fair to hurt their feelings by keeping this news from them any longer.

"Okay. They're going to be tickled." Now that his nerves were settling down from the pre-natal visit, Clark was giving a very fair impression of being thrilled himself.

"I know. My parents will both have a heart attack. I can just hear my mother. 'Geez, Lois, what kind of man did you marry? Couldn't he at least use protection for a couple years? Or could he not control himself?'"

"Wouldn't she die to know just how much control I do have?"

Lois stopped to look at him. "I'd love to tell her, just to wipe the expression off her face."

"Lois, I don't want anyone to know…"

"No, no. I think I'd rather she thought you're insatiable." She smiled briefly before continuing up the sidewalk.

Clark jogged to catch up. "Did you just say you *want* your mother to think I'm insatiable?"

She looked over at him. "Yeah. I guess I did. I'm sorry."

"Don't be." He grinned and waggled his brows.

"Somehow I think you might have fun with this," Lois commented with a knowing smile.

"Yeah, well…" He shrugged as they continued down the sidewalk.

"You know," Lois started again after a moment. "I just realized that in a few months I'll look like a blimp."

"Come on, Lois, you're having a baby. You'll look great. I can't wait to see that cute little belly and…"

"And huge butt… not to mention a balloon sized bosom. Hot air balloon sized."

Clark couldn't repress a chuckle. "You won't have a huge anything or a balloon sized…"

"I will. I'll get fat and have to waddle like a penguin."

Clark stopped them and turned Lois to face him. "Does this bother you?"

"What? Clark, no!" Then she relented at his probing expression. "Okay, so maybe there's a part of me that's not… looking forward to the weight gain, but thank goodness I won't be very large during the heat of summer."

Clark nodded and looked down the sidewalk before meeting her gaze again. "Thank you."

"For what?"

"Doing this." Clark took a chance and reached out to grasp her hands. "Lois, you're having my baby. That feels incredible." Both their expressions had changed to match their burgeoning emotions, and Clark risked tucking a strand of her hair behind her ear. "I'd really like to kiss you right now." He held his breath as he waited for her reply. He couldn't believe he'd actually voiced his desire out loud.

Lois reached to clasp a hand behind his head and pulled him down to kiss him softly. She was smiling when Clark leaned back to look at her with a stunned expression. She wiped the lipstick from his mouth, then headed in the direction of the Daily Planet.

"Wow," was all he could say as he watched her retreating back. He collected himself and ran after her again, smiling brightly when she reached out to take his arm.

Lois had no idea where she found the nerve to kiss Clark like that. For the past week or so, she was having difficulty determining how she felt. Terrified was a pretty accurate way of describing how she felt about this baby. Confused was more the word she needed when describing her relationship with Clark. But the open expression of genuine appreciation on his face when he thanked her for this baby was more than even 'Mad Dog' could resist.

Besides, it was just one kiss. What could it hurt?


Clark was walking on cloud nine. He couldn't help it. He had a beautiful wife and a baby on the way, and though this wasn't exactly the picture book marriage he'd longed for all his life, he refused to think about that, his illness, or anything else that would destroy his now very full and happy life.

Since Lois had insisted that his parents should be the first to know about the baby, by the weekend, both were anxious to get to Kansas.

"Lois! Clark!" Martha engulfed each in a warm hug as they came through the back door. "Dinner's almost ready. Come in." Lois was shuffled in to sit at the table, then she turned her attention to her son. "How are you, honey?"

"I'm good. Dr. Klein says my white cell count is stable. I haven't been sick in about two weeks." He looked over at Lois for confirmation. She nodded. "No nose bleeds lately either. I'm good."

"That's great to hear. Sit down while I put dinner on the table." Martha had known a little of the difficulties the pair had been having, since Clark would talk to her some when he'd fly home at night. Not that he would ever say anything too disparaging about his wife, but reading between the lines, Martha deduced that Lois was having trouble dealing with the realities of married life. But if they were both here… Martha dared to hope.

Clark joined Lois at the table and a short time later Jonathan came in, offering his own quiet welcome. Now that they were together they could all share a great country meal and good conversation.

"So, when are we going to be grandparents?" Martha asked the couple as they all finished dessert.

Lois giggled helplessly at the expression on Clark's face. "You should have known you couldn't keep it from her, Clark. I think the woman has more super powers than you."

"I think you're right. Thanks, Mom. Since you already know… in about thirty-two weeks. Lois is eight weeks pregnant."

"Hot dog!" Jonathan was on his feet so he could pull Lois up into a hug. It wasn't often the large man got excited about something, but this was definitely one of those times. Family was everything to him and he'd been brokenhearted at the possibility of losing his only son. Now there was every chance that Clark would live and the grandchild he so desperately wanted was already on the way. And it would all be possible because of his indomitable daughter-in-law. He leaned back to look at the startled woman in his embrace. "I know I haven't said a lot about this whole situation, but I am thrilled."

"I'm glad, Jonathan. I've been a little tense about it all and it helps so much to know we have your blessing."

"You know, you're too good for my boy."

"Really? I think you have an okay boy."

"I do. But this baby will help make him better… and I don't just mean his health! Nothing like a baby to make you get your life in line."

Lois smiled and leaned in for another hug. Just why was she so pleased with this kind of affection?

Martha wrapped an arm round Clark's shoulder and smoothed back his hair as she had done when he was boy. "You know, sweetie, Lois isn't the only one who has to take care of herself. You should consider slowing down a bit."

"I know, Mom. I will. Right now I'm still on a high." He rubbed a hand up and down her back.

"Isn't it wonderful?"

"Yeah. It's the best." Clark pulled his mom to his chest for a warm hug. His approaching fatherhood had given him even more insight into how they felt about him. If he could just understand how Lois felt…


So began another change in Lois and Clark's relationship. Clark, choosing to ignore logistics, just wanted to live and enjoy life. It didn't matter to him that this baby had been conceived in an attempt to save his life… to him it was so much more than that. He simply wanted their baby to exist for its own sake and, in a lesser way, he hoped that it would build a bridge between Lois and himself so that one day his marriage would become a true one.

Not that he would ever voice that dream, but Lois knew it to be true. She could see the love he bore her shining in his eyes when he watched her, feel it in his touch and in the constant care he gave her. It was almost palpable and, though it scared Lois, she suspected that she would miss this feeling of being cherished terribly if somehow it disappeared from her life.

That realization forced her to try to see things through Clark's eyes. He loved her, saw her as his wife. He wanted so badly to tell her how he felt, but carefully kept those things to himself out of respect for her. That only confused her more. She'd never known a love that was so unselfish.

And how did you surrender yourself to another so completely? Losing control had always been taboo for Lois; in her experience, it only led to sorrow and humiliation. Yet Clark had never asked anything of her… he had no expectations, but he did *deserve* more. Could she give more, be the kind of wife he needed?

Was it time she admitted that she wasn't sure how to deal with the emotional overload from their ever-evolving relationship? Or was it time to admit that she simply had problems dealing with her developing feelings for her husband — to step away from the safe shores of friendship and venture into the stormy seas of love?


Chapter 10: Individual Responsibility

Lois concentrated on the screen in front of her. It had been a slow news day and Perry had assigned her one of those silly mood pieces she hated. Right now, she wasn't too enthusiastic with either the story or her editor. Was this the way it was going to be when they told Perry she was pregnant? Would she be pulled off the bigger investigations just because of her condition? Of course, this might not happen right away, but later… it was one of the things that Lois dreaded!

Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed Clark stand. Lois hoped it wasn't another call for Superman since Metropolis and the world had been keeping the superhero pretty busy these past few days and he was starting to look strained. She'd realized lately that she was more aware of his presence than before, even when she was supposed to be working. She was just about to acknowledge that with a wry grin, when Clark collapsed. She was on her feet in a split second.

"Clark!" She dropped to the floor by his side, struggling to get his head onto her bent knees.

He looked up at her with pain filled eyes. He looked horrible. He was queasy, perspiring badly, and starting to shake. "Bad day," he said softly.

"Very bad day," she replied through her tears — it seemed she was very weepy where Clark was concerned these days too.

Clark lifted his hand to his nose just as it started to bleed, but Lois quickly moved the hand away, pushing his glasses aside, to pinch the bridge with her fingers. It was a risk, she knew, but she doubted anyone would connect Clark with Superman, not with the way he looked at the moment. Several people had gathered to watch the show, but it was Jimmy who knelt to offer his assistance.

"Let me help you up, CK."

"Just…" Clark's body convulsed, attempting to expel the blood which was draining down his throat, but he fought desperately to stop it. Lois recognized his body's reaction and pulled him over to his side.

"Let it out."

"I don't… want to…" He spasmed again. "… throw up on… the floor."

"It can be cleaned up," Lois told him calmly, holding her worries at bay in an attempt to steady Clark's nerves, but he shook his head defiantly.

"Here, use this." Jimmy had grabbed the top off a box of copy paper, of all things, and thrust it into Lois' hand.

Clark must have thought the cardboard lid was acceptable, because he didn't resist the urge to throw up any longer when Lois thrust it under his cheek. She held his head while he heaved painfully, and when he was done, wiped his face with some tissues Jimmy had given her.

"Feel like getting up, now?" she asked gently.

Clark fell onto his back, struggling to catch his breath. "Yeah," he answered after a minute, yet he shook uncontrollably as Jimmy helped him sit up. Instantly, another, stronger hand was there at his side.

Perry had come into the newsroom to see what the commotion was, and now he leaned down to help Clark get to his feet. "Come on, son. You can rest for a bit in my office."

Clark didn't protest as he was led to the sofa in the editor's inner sanctum. In fact, he was thoroughly relieved when they lowered him onto its worn leather cushions. Obviously, Lois had followed because she immediately produced a cloth, pressing it to his nose to help stop the bleeding.

"Get him some water, Jimmy," she threw over her shoulder at her younger colleague.


Quickly, Jimmy did as he was asked, almost rivaling Clark's ability to superspeed. Meanwhile, Clark's shaking had improved and his nose had almost stopped bleeding by the time Lois lifted his head to put the glass to his lips.

"Drink," she commanded, but her voice was kind.

He took in several gulps, not realizing how thirsty he was, then he gently pushed her hand away. "Enough. I don't want to be sick again." His voice sounded faint even to his own ears.

"Okay." Lois held out the glass to Jimmy, who took it and disappeared through the door.

Once more, Clark held his fingers to his nose, afraid that it would suddenly start to gush again. Behind him he heard Perry yell for everyone to get back to work. Slowly he lifted his eyes to see Lois' worried face and whispered apologetically in the same strained voice, "You probably get tired of wiping my face after I get sick."

Lois smiled through fresh tears as she held the cloth to his nose again. "Here, let me. Actually, I get more tired of doing all your work," she teased.

Clark managed a smile and allowed her to finish cleaning the blood from his face before he fell back against the cushions. "I think I need to take a couple days off."

"I agree," Perry told him as he came back in the room. "I'll even let Lois take them with you so she can be there if you get sick like this again."

"You don't have to do that, Chief. I usually feel better after I sleep a little."

"Hush up now. I'm still your boss and I'm ordering you and Lois to get out of here. I don't want to see either of you before Monday."

Clark nodded, too tired to protest. Sometime later, when he'd gained some strength, he and Lois left.


Home had never seemed so welcoming to Clark as, with Lois' help, he shuffled down his stairs into the living room. Clark loosened his tie and collapsed on the sofa, surprised when he felt Lois reach down to remove his shoes. "You don't have to do that."

"I know." She dropped the first shoe to the floor, carefully placed his foot on the coffee table, and lifted the other foot. She took off this shoe, setting his foot along side the other one. "Lean up." Clark sat up a little so she could help him out of his jacket. "You got blood on this jacket. I'll take it to the cleaners, along with your shirt." She'd moved on to pulling his tie off, then began unbuttoning his shirt.

Clark stilled her hands between his own, causing her eyes to meet his. "I'm sorry about all this. You don't deserve this."

"No, Clark, stop apologizing!" She sat down beside him. "I knew what I was doing when I agreed to this. It's my job to take care of you."

Clark squeezed her hands. "Lois…"

She pulled her hands from his and resumed her task. "And I really don't mind! But… I'm not going to lose you this time," she said encouragingly, yet she blew out an exasperated breath when she saw he was wearing the suit. "Clark, you can't possibly be super today."

"I didn't feel this bad this morning."

Lois looked at him a moment. "I guess maybe this is my fault."

"What do you mean? My being sick is not your fault."

"I didn't help though. I was there when Dr. Klein said stress could make you sicker." The doctor had told them that several times, so surely all the tension they'd been through since they'd married hadn't helped matters. Her voice was small when she spoke again. "I was so wrapped up in my own concerns, I sorta forgot that… I'm so sorry."

"It's okay, Lois."

"It is now," she replied, her chin firm with determination as she pushed his shirt off his shoulders. "Clark, I promise to do everything I can to make sure you stay healthy. We've come much too far to lose you too soon."

At that thought, tears threatened her once again and she concentrated on making him comfortable to stem the tide. She pulled him forward and unzipped his suit, tugging it down to his waist. "We have to get you out of this tight spandex," she declared. "It's making you too hot!" Tending to Clark helped steady her nerves and she even managed to smile for him before she got up to go get him some more clothes to put on.

Ten minutes later he was easing down into her bed. Her bed? Changing into a set of sleep-shorts and T-shirt had made his head spin so much, he hadn't realized where they were going when she encouraged him to move — just followed her instructions blindly. Clark shot her a questioning glance.

"There's no way you can make it up the stairs. You need to rest and this is more comfortable than the sofa." He relented and sunk onto the mattress, too tired to argue with her. Lois sat and pulled the cover up to his chin. "When you go to sleep, I'm going to straighten up a bit. But I'll stay here until then." She reached out to brush the sweat-dampened hair off his face.

"You don't have to do that. In fact, you could go back to work, if you wanted to."

"And have Perry throw me out of the newsroom?" Lois said with mock indignation.

"Lois, he wouldn't!"

"I know, but I'm staying here." She smoothed his hair back again. "Close your eyes and rest." Clark gave in to his exhaustion as she continued to rub his head.


The day had faded into the softer hues of evening before Clark awoke to sounds of Lois in the kitchen. As he pushed up from the bed for a much needed shower, he couldn't help but hope she wasn't trying to cook. Poor Lois. Would she ever get a break when it came to culinary skills?

"Hi," Lois told him when he stepped into the kitchen a little while later, fresh from his shower and wearing a clean pair of sweats.

"Hi." He lifted the top off a pot on the stove. "Smells good."

"More of your mom's instructions. It's homemade spaghetti sauce."

Clark dipped a finger into the red mixture, then stuck it in his mouth. "Wow. I'm impressed."

"Good. But you better be careful what you do with hot pans in the future." She patted his chest in a salutary gesture. "You might have been burned!"

Clark had the grace to look sheepish. "Sorry! I keep forgetting!"

"No matter. I'm just glad you're feeling better and I hope you're hungry, too."

"I am." He sat down as Lois filled a plate for him. He ate nearly half of his dinner before he stopped to take a breath. "Sorry. Guess I was a little hungrier than I thought."

"You've been asleep for over nine hours."

"Really? Seems like ten minutes. I'm still tired."

"After you eat, you can go back to bed."

He nodded and shoved another fork full of spaghetti into his mouth. "I, ah, I noticed there was a notepad beside the bed. Did you call Dr. Klein?"

Lois came back over and sat down in front of him. "I wanted to know some of the things we could be facing, so I'll know how to take care of you."

"Lois, you don't have to take care of me. I'm not an invalid."

"I know that. Clark, I just want to be here with you and for you. It's a known fact that people who are happy fare better during an illness."

Clark couldn't resist the opportunity to tease her a bit. "Who said I'd be happy if you took care of me?" He smiled to let her know he was kidding.

Lois laughed softly as she reached for his hand. "You getting sick suddenly like that scared me… really scared me." She felt as if she didn't admit that, she'd burst. All afternoon, she'd fought those feelings, telling herself she'd imagined it. Everything was fine now. She was pregnant and soon Clark would be on the road to recovery. But none of that was true. Today had taught her that there was a long way to go before he was out of danger. She *was* afraid for him and Clark should know that.

That statement surprised him. From the look on her face, it surprised her as well. He hated that she felt this way because of him but, at the same time, it made him wonder just how deeply her feelings were starting to run for him. His head snapped up at a call for help.

Lois recognized the look and, for a moment, she thought to protest he wasn't fit enough to be Superman. Yet she knew how important it was for him to answer calls for help when he could — it made up a little for the time when he would have to retire the superhero. Besides, she trusted him to know his own limitations, so uncharacteristically, she gave him a nod of agreement.

"Sorry." He jumped up and ran into the other room, returning to the table when he was dressed in his suit. "I'll hurry and I'll be careful," he said, grateful for her forbearance. He smiled, then disappeared.

Lois folded her arms on the table-top, lowered her head to rest on them and cried softly. She didn't understand the motivation behind the confession of her fears. In fact, she hadn't realized she felt so strongly until today. But she was terrified for Clark. Did that mean she was starting to have deeper feelings for him than friendship? And would it be so bad if she did? He was her husband after all. She was supposed to have feelings for him. If only she wasn't so confused about everything.


Clark carried a stack of Lois' clothes from the dryer to hang them in the closet. He'd taken a long weekend off to rest and had spent most of the time sleeping, either in bed or lying on the couch. Between his naps, however, he and Lois had managed to find time to talk. Almost subconsciously, both had agreed not to delve into the complexities of their relationship, but to relax and just enjoy getting to know each other's likes and dislikes. He had to admit, he felt a lot better now — physically and mentally — and he didn't think it was too much of a stretch to believe that Lois did too.

But their addiction to the Daily Planet had called, so they'd returned to work first thing Monday, just in time for Perry's weekly staff meeting. Everyone was pleased to see him looking in good health again and, within no time, he and Lois had settled into the routine of the newsroom, catching up on emails, checking research and wrapping up some older articles. Perhaps it was not the most exciting aspects of a journalist's job but, at this point in his life, Clark was happy even with the mundane tasks.

Around mid-afternoon, having gotten a modest lead on a new story, Lois went off to follow up information from one of their most reliable sources, while Clark had been voted to come home to do the wash and start dinner — after his routine examination with Bernie at Star Labs, of course.

Clark had hung the last shirt in the closet and closed the door, when he turned to see Lois coming down the steps. "Hey."

"Hi." She kicked her shoes off and threw her jacket over the chair. "I'm worn out. I must have walked a hundred miles today." She reached for the cream soda Clark had retrieved for her. "Thanks." She took a long sip.

"Did anything pan out?" His eyes were warm and sympathetic as he watched her drop into the easy chair.

"No, it was a wasted trip." Lois blew imaginary bangs back from her forehead. "Bobby Bigmouth better do his homework better in future. You think he'd be more interested in 'food hygiene standards'! How about you? Did you get anywhere on your end?

"Not so far. I must have been put on hold a half-dozen times this afternoon. We'll go at it from a different angle tomorrow. Maybe go visit a couple of those fancy restaurateurs who weren't in the mood to talk today. We might even persuade Perry to bankroll some sampling." Clark's eyes sparkled teasingly.

"Okay." Lois replied with a big grin. "But don't tell Bobby! He'll want to come along."

"You got that right! Bobby would never turn down the chance of a good meal! I'm afraid dinner tonight won't be too fancy, though." Clark laughed with her as he opened the refrigerator to take out the makings for a couple sandwiches. "How about a sandwich to go with our soup… and a movie? I picked up a couple of videos at the store on my way home."

"Sure, sounds good." Lois nodded and pointed in the direction of the bathroom. "I'm gonna go take a quick shower first."

"Okay." Clark continued his task as Lois left the room. Twenty minutes later they were laughing at the comedy they'd chosen.

Their simple dinner had been finished and the trays carried back to the table. Now they were both stretched on the couch, their feet propped on the coffee table.

Lois looked around and watched Clark for a moment. "How did your check-up go today?"

"It was okay. Bernie didn't notice any significant changes."

"So your last nose-bleed wasn't the result of any deterioration?" She held her breath while she waited for the answer.

"No… he thinks I probably just overdid things…"

"Clark! You really should be taking things easier. Maybe we should talk to Perry… ask if you can work part-time or something!"

"I don't want to be treated like I'm an invalid… not yet, anyway…" his words trailed off as despondency threatened. "I just want everything to be as normal as possible."

Lois could understand very well where he was coming from. She'd been having those same anxieties — of having to sit on the sidelines while others did the exciting work — albeit for very different reasons.

"Look, Lois, Bernie already read me the riot act. If I promise to take better care of my body, do you think you could stop treating me like you're scared I'm going to die at any minute?"

"I haven't…" But at Clark's raised eyebrows, Lois blushed. She had been watching him very closely since his collapse in the newsroom. "Well, okay, maybe just a little, but it's only because I'm concerned…"

"I know, Lois, and it's nice, in a way… but you really don't need to babysit me. I've learnt my lesson and I'm fine… really… fit as a fiddle!" Clark allowed himself to float off the couch and performed a perfect somersault in the air, then settled back beside his partner, grinning like the proverbial Cheshire cat. "See!"

"Showoff!" She giggled. His return to a lighter mood was infectious. "I told you I was good for you."

He glanced at her and smiled. "Yes, you are!"

"Watch the movie, Clark!" Lois ordered, but the corners of her mouth were twitching.

He focused on the movie again, but his eyes drifted to his lap when Lois placed her hand over his. He felt a surge of emotion well within him. After all the uncomfortable weeks they'd spent arguing, it meant the world to him that she felt relaxed enough to sit cozily by his side and take his hand. Clark decided to take a chance. "I've been meaning to ask if you'd like to go to Smallville with me again this weekend. Mom's been asking me to bring you for another visit."

"Sure, I'd like that. Can we go skinny dipping in the pond?"

He started and snapped round to face her again, looking a lot like a petrified rabbit caught in the headlights. "Have you and Mom been talking about me again?"

Lois laughed happily as she remembered certain conversations with her mother-in-law. "She said you just couldn't resist stripping and jumping in that pond."

Deciding there was little he could do to stop these exchanges of confidences between the two, Clark gave a little grin and rested his head on his arm where it lay on the sofa back. "Geesh, I haven't done that in years. I remember when I was a kid, though, I don't know what it was about that pond but I loved to go skinny dipping in it. It started when I was two."

"Seems like a good habit to resurrect, and in that case, I can't wait to get to Smallville!" Lois nudged his shoulder teasingly.

"Lois!" This time, Clark joined in her merriment and threw caution to the wind. "You know, that works both ways. If you get to see me naked, I get to see you naked."

"You're on, flyboy."

Clark laughed even louder, though he did blush a little, not knowing whether it was from embarrassment or the thought of seeing Lois like that. After a moment, he and Lois simultaneously flopped back against the sofa, Clark staring up at the ceiling, his eyes suddenly serious again. "I wanted to thank you for staying with me this weekend. I know it wasn't much fun… with me being sick and all."

This time Lois grasped his hand in hers. "You don't have to thank me."

"I know." He turned his head and smiled at her. "Watch the movie, Lois!"

She stared at him a moment before smiling back, then turned once again to concentrate on the TV screen. One day at time, she thought. One day at a time she was learning what it was she'd gotten herself into, and at times like this, it wasn't at all bad!



He looked up from his work to see Lois standing beside his desk. "Yeah?"

"We need to go."


"Second prenatal visit is today."

Clark lifted his hand to smack his forehead. "Oh, God, Lois. I completely forgot."

"Don't tell me you can't make it."

"No, no. Just let me close this program." He hit a few keys on his computer and pushed up beside her. "Ready?"

"Yep." She smiled and they left to go check on their little visitor.

Clark wasn't quite as nervous as at the first visit, since he knew Lois wouldn't have to get undressed this time. Somehow the idea of that still had the power to send him into a tailspin. As it was, Doctor Lewis came into the examination room to find the couple laughing cheerfully.

"Glad to see you're so happy, kids," she said with a welcoming grin. "Nothing like a contented mom to keep the pregnancy healthy!"

Lois flushed, aware that that wasn't always the case, but she wasn't prepared to give this 'bloodhound' the slightest inkling that all was not as it seemed. "Hi, Doc Lewis. Clark was just telling me a story about when he was a boy."

"I'll bet you were a handful." The older woman glanced over at 'Daddy' while she prepared for the examination, taking in his broad shoulders and handsome face appreciatively. He really was a good-looking boy and she especially liked his expressive eyes; 'windows of the soul' poets said they were, and in this young man's case they might be right. Lois had got herself a good one here.

"Actually, Doc Lewis, Clark is the last Boy Scout left and he was a perfect kid, too." Lois placed her hand on his chest.

"Oh-oh!" the doctor speculated, "Now, if I remember correctly, Lois doesn't give praise lightly. You must be something special, Clark."

Actually, the doctor didn't know how close to the truth that was and Clark heard himself mumbling as the heat rose to his cheeks. "Well, I don't know about that!"

"Don't let him fool you. He's okay." Lois jumped in with a twinkle in her eyes. She had no idea where she'd gotten the nerve to tease him like this… and in public too, but she chose not to give it much thought. Things had been going so well between them the last few weeks, she wasn't about to spoil it by questioning her motives.

He beamed brightly at Lois' words before turning his attention back to what the doctor was doing. Dr. Lewis went through the ritual of checking all Lois' vitals, then instructed her to lift her blouse so they could listen for the baby's heartbeat.

A few moments later, the steady rhythm of a healthy heart filled the room.

"Is that it?" Clark asked as his eyes lit up.

"That's it. Sounds great, doesn't it? I might be a jaded, overworked old doctor, but that sound never fails to amaze me!"

"Oh wow!" Clark was mesmerized by the sound he'd help create. He was tempted to use his x-ray vision to take a peek and see what their miracle looked like now. Surely pictures in books couldn't possibly compare with the real thing. Yet he refrained from invading Lois' privacy like that until after he asked her if it would be okay.

"Should it be that fast?" Lois asked.

"Sure. A baby's heart beats faster than yours," Doc Lewis reassured the worried looking Mom.

"Don't you remember, Lois? We read about this in the book the other night."

"Oh yeah. I guess reading about something is a little different from the real thing." Her voice was slightly apologetic but faint, as if Lois couldn't quite believe what she'd heard.

"Just a little," Clark grinned and grasped her hand gently.

"Trust me, Lois, everything looks great." The busy doctor wound up the appointment — she had another patient due. Was there a baby boom in Metropolis at the moment? "I'll see you kids in four weeks."

Clark almost fell over himself to grab a towel to help clean Lois' stomach. He wasn't sure why he was suddenly so bold, but he just couldn't resist the opportunity to touch that incredible expanse of skin.

It was all Lois could do to keep from laughing at his enthusiasm, even though she was having a rush of new emotions again. Before today, this baby hadn't been real. It was more of a thought. But this… this made it… unbelievable and she wasn't sure how she felt about it.

She watched Clark a moment, allowing him to clean her stomach. But she had to close her eyes a moment later. Who would have guessed getting your stomach cleaned could be so…

<Where had *that* thought come from?!> Lois mused.

<Erotic!> That was the only way Clark could describe the sensations he was experiencing. He stopped when her stomach was clean and gazed at her. Slowly his hand came to rest on her skin.

"Clark, what's wrong?" Lois had immediately thought to protest when his hand touched her, but the look on his face was one she wasn't sure of. Was something the matter?

Clark didn't answer. He let his hand stroke ever so softly over her belly, so engrossed in the feel of her warmth.



He remained quiet and she wondered what was running through his mind, but before she could ask him, his head jerked up in a familiar gesture.

"Go!" Lois was relieved for the distraction. Clark's hand on her skin had been too much.

"No. I told you I'd come with you to all your visits."

"Clark, we're done. Go."

He gazed at her once more. "You sure?"

"I'm sure."

Clark took one last look at his hand resting on her stomach before he reached to pull Lois' blouse back down. He shot her a quick smile and was gone.

Lois finished dressing quickly and went back to work, her mind a jumbled haze of contradictions. How was it one person could have so many mixed feelings about something? One minute she was sure this baby had been what she'd wanted — the next she was scared to death. Most of the time, she was simply overwhelmed by it all. She had to admit that she really hadn't thought through the realities of what would be involved in this. Have a baby, save Clark's life. Sounded simple enough.

<Yeah, right!>

And Clark. What was up with him? She understood his enthusiasm which had triggered his burst of boldness. He was thrilled about the baby. It only took one look to know just what he felt about this child. It was that last expression she hadn't understood. She'd just have to ask him later what he had been about to say, or maybe not… Maybe it would be better not to open that particular 'Pandora's Box'!


Clark didn't return to the newsroom that day, causing Lois a fair amount of anxiety. She'd checked the news reports, but other than that one rescue which had called him away, there hadn't been any other Superman sightings. Much later, Lois found him sitting on the window seat in her bedroom, holding his shirt in his hands and staring at the floor.

"Clark?" He didn't look up so she went to his side. "Clark, what's wrong?"

"He died," Clark told Lois, his voice so low and flat she had to strain to listen.

"Who died?"

"A boy today… at the fire."

"Not even Superman can be everywhere and do everything."

"I know." He sighed heavily and pulled his shirt up to rub it across his face. "It just really hurts."

"I know." Lois echoed his first words, while her hand massaged the taught muscles in his back. "Do you need to… brush my hair?"

That seemed to cut through Clark's depression. He looked over at her with a sad smile. "How about a bowl of soup and… you let me look at the baby?"


"I want to see the baby. Kind of reassure myself he or she is okay."

"Clark, there's nothing wrong with the baby." She withdrew her hand and reached for his shirt.

"I know… I just…" Reluctantly, he released the shirt he'd been holding on to, allowing Lois to help him pull it over his head. By her silence, he guessed she wasn't too happy about his suggestion. "It's okay, Lois… it was just an idea."

She stopped to search his face, though that wasn't too easy as his head drooped dejectedly. His whole demeanor was one of sadness. She hated to deny him this, but she would feel… Well, she wasn't sure what she'd feel if he looked at the baby. Was that action a little too intimate for her? He'd be probing into her body. This may be his baby… but it was her body.

"Maybe I would like to brush your hair," Clark finally said with a hint of resignation. He needed some form of security right now and, if brushing Lois' hair was the only way to get it, he'd have to be happy with that.

"Clark, I'm sorry. I just…"

He smiled and reached out to squeeze her hand. "Don't be." He stood and tugged on her hand. "You go shower and I'll make us something to eat."

She wanted to say more, but what could she say? Even she wasn't sure how she felt… and she certainly couldn't explain it to him. Lois made her way into the bathroom for her shower. She guessed this was another of her struggles to hold on to her last bit of independence.

Clark sighed as he watched her go. He would love to be able to see that their baby was okay for himself. What Lois had against the idea of him taking a quick peek, he wasn't quite sure, but he wasn't about to violate her trust in him. It had taken so long for them to get to this level of companionship. If they reverted to the earlier state of hostility now, he didn't know if he'd have the strength to make it.


Lois' emotions were on one big roller coaster ride. There were days when she thought she knew exactly what she wanted and how she felt. Other days, she was so confused and scared she could hardly breathe. Her thoughts of Clark and the baby churned around in her brain until she felt she was drowning in a quagmire of ambivalence. She was completely committed to having their baby and saving Clark's life, that hadn't changed, but she hadn't expected to *feel* so much when the situation became a reality. Occasionally, her changing attitude toward Clark shocked her into meltdown.

A few mornings later as they drove into work, she and Clark had another disagreement, though somewhat milder on the 'Richter' scale. He thought it was time to tell people she was expecting. He'd argued that with her slight frame, she'd start to show soon and he would rather tell everyone before having to field inquisitive questions from their colleagues. He believed strongly that Perry and Jimmy ought to be told, at least.

Lois was so on edge that she'd almost reminded him this wasn't a conventional pregnancy and she wasn't exactly thrilled about it. He fussed over her health constantly, harping for her to be more careful — strictures that Lois wasn't at all comfortable with.

Then there was her weird cravings — she'd heard of those, but had had difficulty in believing their authenticity — yet they were real enough — mood swings too! And that damn morning sickness! No, this whole 'having a baby' thing was no picnic and she wasn't ready to tell folks and have them drown her in well wishes. But, she couldn't bring herself to mention all this to Clark. He was so happy and proud about the pregnancy! It would hurt his feelings considerably and that was something she realized she didn't want to do.

But Clark had been so stubborn, had chosen to force the issue by asking just when she planned to tell everyone. When she went into labor? As always, Lois hated to be coerced. After all, it wasn't as if this *had* to be done now. She still had a while yet. She was only twelve weeks along, for goodness sakes!

Now, sitting at her desk in the newsroom, she glanced down at her stomach. A casual observer would never know Lois was pregnant, but even she couldn't deny the small bulge that was starting to make its presence known, and not everyone at work was a 'casual observer'. Take Cat with her eagle eye and her nose for gossip, not to mention, sneaky Ralph who was always hovering around with his sleazy innuendos! She growled in frustration. Once again, Clark was right; amazingly that admission didn't bother her so much as it once had. It wouldn't be long before everyone noticed. She'd much rather tell them. So, why did she feel like some kind of classified ad?


Lois made it home long before Clark that night. On the way to the apartment he'd answered a call for Superman, and it was nearly ten o'clock before he stumbled through the balcony door. Lois looked up from the computer where she'd been checking methodically through 'dead' story files, anything to keep her from imagining what was happening to her superhero, and audibly gasped at the sight before her.

"Clark!" He was white as a ghost and could barely stand. She got to her feet and hurried to his side. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing! I'm just really tired," he told her baldly, his voice heavy. A robbery and six car accidents had left him feeling as if he'd fall from exhaustion. He made it as far as the bed before collapsing. "Sorry," he muttered in apology for taking Lois' bed.

Lois reached down and lifted one of his feet to help him pull off his boots. Clark looked up to protest.

"Lois, just give me a few minutes and I'll manage that myself."

"Yeah, right!" She wrestled with first one boot, then the other. Clark tried to sit up to assist her, but couldn't stay upright for long. He fell back and allowed her to take over. When his footwear was removed, she pulled him up to tackle the cape. "How does this thing come off?" she asked in frustration. When she'd helped him undress a few weeks ago, the cape was nowhere to be seen. At the time, she'd wanted to ask where it had disappeared to, but Clark had been too sick to field her curious questions. He wasn't much better now, so her curiosity would still have to wait.

"You have to take off the top of the suit first. The cape hooks around my shoulders."


He nodded as he struggled to sit up again. "Zipper's hidden…"

"Yes, I remember… found it." A second later, Lois was peeling the Suit from Clark's torso. "Cool," she said absently as she unhooked the cape.

"It's awkward and easier to wear like this — Mom says it hangs better." He tried an attempt at humor but simply ended up in a coughing fit.

"Enough of the jokes for now, Kent!" Lois tried bravely to return the tease, but her lip trembled in something that wasn't a smile.

When she was done, Clark fell back again. "Just give me a second and I'll get up."

"Don't be ridiculous." She surveyed him, pondering, then reached to grasp the bottom of his suit. "Please tell me you have something on under this."

Clark managed a tiny chuckle. "Yeah. But you don't have to do that."

"Forget it," was all she said as she concentrated on tugging his suit down his legs, which wasn't an easy task. Even though he'd lost some bulk because of the illness, Clark still weighed more than he appeared. Bereft of the suit, he was wearing black briefs and nothing else. Immediately images of the day she'd taken time to really look at Clark with his shirt off came to mind. He looked good that day and just as good today.

<Can it, girl. He's sick.>

"Roll over," she instructed him.

"Huh?" He did as he was told, and Lois pulled the covers up over him. "Lois…" he protested slightly.

"Just hush and get some sleep. You couldn't make it up those stairs if you tried."

"Thank you." He was already half asleep.

She smoothed her hand along the side of his head before going back to her desk. Sinking down into the seat, she regarded him gravely. Superman had assured her he knew his limits and that he wouldn't over-reach himself. Yeah, right! Somehow it didn't seem that way to her. Tomorrow they'd have to talk about him cutting back or he was going to kill himself. But for tonight… tonight he just needed to rest and she was going to see that he did.

Lois tried to continue with her work, but it wasn't exactly riveting stuff and she kept glancing over at Clark. He hadn't moved a muscle since he'd gone to sleep. Obviously, he was worn out completely, and she felt a strange tugging at her heart. She'd suggested this whole pregnancy thing before she fully realized just how sick he was or how sick he was going to get, and seeing Clark in pain mattered — it mattered more than she'd ever thought possible. With each passing day, she grew more determined to save his life.

The night hours advanced and she couldn't deny that she too was very tired. Pregnancy and all its symptoms tended to do that to a girl. She rose noiselessly to dress for bed, but when she returned from the bathroom in her nightgown, she was faced with a problem. Clark was asleep on her bed. She glanced up at the loft and decided she wasn't thrilled with the prospect of spending the night in that small room. Moreover, she couldn't keep a check on Clark from up there. What if he needed her? Of course, she could just grab a blanket and pillow and hit the couch.

Her gaze drifted to the empty side of her bed. Then again…

"Ah, what the heck," she mumbled before climbing into the bed next to Clark. "You *are* married to him for Christ's sake," she whispered fiercely. Besides, it wasn't as if anything was going to happen. She would simply stick to her side of the mattress and Clark was too exhausted to move. She could manage another night in the same bed.

She forced her eyes shut and turned her back to Clark, though she kept a check on his breathing, just in case he got into difficulties. The steadiness of the sound calmed her, the momentary awkwardness of the situation lifting quickly and she too was soon fast asleep.

Lois stirred drowsily the next morning with Clark spooned behind her. Slowly, she realized the reason she'd awakened so early was due to the male hand on her body caressing her stomach.

It felt… wonderful.

<I'm doing it again! When did I start thinking that way?!>

Clark sensed when she woke up, but regardless, he continued the motion he'd started with his hand, simply wanting to touch her and feel a connection to the baby. He didn't know when he began his simple exploration — probably in that twilight place between sleeping and waking, but it was too good to stop. And surely Lois would object if she was uncomfortable with his actions. Instead, she arched herself back against him, eliciting a moan. That was too much, taking the touch way beyond that of a father on his child. Gently he rolled her over and held her gaze while his hand continued its tantalizing movement. He stopped just under her left breast, and they lay, staring at each other, breathing heavily.

Clark recovered first; his rapt expression replaced with one of dread.

"Clark?" Lois was afraid that he'd mistakenly thought she was angry. "It's okay!"

"It's not that! I just need to go to the bathroom. I feel like I'm going to be sick." He disappeared into the other room, leaving Lois to take a moment to recover before she could get up. She threw on her robe quickly and went to check on Clark.

"Clark?" she called again as she pushed through the door, worry evident in her strident tone.

He was wiping his face with the hand towel when she entered the room, and judging by the perspiration that stood out on his forehead, Lois could tell he didn't feel especially well. He was still incredibly pale and was shaking slightly.

"You've got to stop pushing yourself so hard. You promised me you wouldn't." Lois couldn't quite hide the note of censure in her voice, brought about by fear for his safety.

"Yeah." His answer was brief as he tried to make his way back toward the exit, stopping to grasp the door frame because of his weakness. "Maybe we should make another visit to Dr. Klein. I'm sure he must be sick of the sight of me by now."

"Okay, and you know that's not true. Bernie is just as concerned as the rest of us." She reached out to help him make it back into the bedroom so he could get dressed. "You stay here," she instructed him after he eased down onto the quilt and went to get them some clothes.

An hour later Bernie was shaking his head. "Clark, we've had this conversation before, and I can't stress enough how important it is for you to slow down now. Your powers are starting to drain and you're only exacerbating the problem by answering every call for help. I'm sure the MPD and emergency services can deal efficiently with the more routine call-outs."

"Yeah, I know," Clark said, his tone devoid of emotion. He didn't like to admit that he'd been ignoring the obvious.

"You know what… about the powers?" Lois asked incredulously.

"I noticed a couple days ago. It takes more effort to do things and I have a little sensitivity to touch sensation."

"You knew you were starting to lose your powers and you've been pushing yourself like someone possessed over the last few days?" Lois found her anger starting to rise… more so because he'd made her a pledge to be careful.

"Lois, my powers aren't gone yet. I have to help while I still can. The people expect me to be there for them."

She was about to say more, her anger getting the best of her, but Dr. Klein spoke up, championing Lois' cause. "Clark, go home and rest. That's an order. If you keep over-exerting yourself as you've obviously been doing, your twenty or so months will be cut in half, and excuse me for stating the obvious, but in the long term that's hardly going to be beneficial for the people of Metropolis who rely on Superman — not to mention the people who love you. Is that what you want?"


"Slow down then," the doctor told him. "You are killing yourself faster than the disease."

Clark nodded and pulled his shirt back on. He noticed Lois didn't help this time. In fact he could tell she was mad. He just hoped she'd wait until he felt better to go through this with him.

They left Star Labs in silence, but when she pulled the Jeep to a stop outside the apartment, she didn't immediately move to get out.

"Why didn't you tell me?" she asked softly, but with an undercurrent of irritation.

Clark didn't even pretend he didn't know what she was talking about. "I knew you'd want me to slow down."

"Of course I want you to slow down. Is that so very wrong?" She turned to look at him. "You're making yourself ill. Can't you see this is hurting you more than anything? I trusted you when you said you'd take care."

"I know," Clark finally forced out with a deep breath. "Lois, I'm sorry. I should have told you."

"Yes, you should. Clark, I've been making an effort to be honest with you about everything. I know it's not quite in the same league, but when you asked me if gaining weight would be a problem, I told you the truth."

"And when I asked why you didn't want to tell people about the baby?" he reminded her so low that Lois had to strain to hear him.

"I owe you that one," she finally said after a moment.

Clark looked at her. "Lois, this baby means a lot to me. It doesn't matter that we're not… together. It doesn't matter that he or she was conceived in a lab rather than a bed. It just matters that this baby exists and I'm really happy about it. I want the world to know I'm going to be a daddy."

"I know, Clark, and you're probably right."

He reached out and grabbed her hands. "I know you're not convinced that you can do this mommy thing, but I promise everything will be okay."

Lois let the smile which threatened to curl her lips take over. "Not so long ago I seem to recall I was the one giving the speech about the baby being a good thing."

Clark grinned sheepishly. "I know. I just can't help it. When I heard this little guy's heart beat, I was hooked."

"Little guy?"

"Or girl! Wouldn't that be something? A miniature Lois Lane!"

Lois wrinkled her nose in reflection. "Oh! Is that a good thing?"

"Yup! I definitely think so!"

That elicited a laugh from Lois and she shifted to face him fully. "I'll make you a deal. You slow down… way down, and I'll… bond with this baby?"

Clark nodded with another smile. "Just relax. That's all you need to do… and I'll try to do the same with Superman."

"Okay. Now, let's get you back in bed."

Clark was about to protest, but their deal sprang to the forefront. "All right. I'll stay home today."

"And no Superman?"

"No Superman," he agreed.

Lois smiled brightly before they exited the vehicle. She wasn't exactly sure what she'd just committed herself to. Could she bond with this baby? She had no idea. She did know she could continue to look at things more from Clark's point of view. And if she could just see things the way he did, who knew how the future would turn out?


Clark could only smile as he made his way down the ramp into the newsroom. Lately, things had been going great between himself and Lois. She'd taken his advice and tried to let herself 'go with the flow'. And they'd spent time together, talking and doing the things 'normal' couples took for granted. Only, Clark treasured those times — a simple dinner shared with his wife was almost a monumental event.

Lois also became easier about her approaching motherhood and started to act like she was enjoying her pregnancy. Her morning sickness had recently ended, leaving her with an awesome supply of energy. She often had steam left long after Clark was too 'pooped' to party.

As he'd promised her, he had slowed down his super activities. Although, they did take a flight now and then just to enjoy themselves and see how the world was doing — a pastime Lois seemed to like as much as he did.

Today, Clark had even more reason to smile. The night before, Lois had decided to accompany him on the weekly shopping trip for groceries, explaining that this wasn't a sign she was becoming domesticated, but that she wanted to make sure he got all the little 'extras' she just needed to have. When they'd been browsing for some time through the frozen dessert section with Lois assuring him adamantly that the choice was a very delicate one, their heavily laden shopping-cart had become entangled with that of a haired-haired lady.

Clark's grin widened as he remembered the scene. The elderly woman's rather annoyed glare had softened as she studied Lois…

"My dear, I do agree! Ice-cream and chocolate are important necessities to ladies in a certain condition, normally accompanied by something quite bizarre…"

"Excuse me!" Lois turned her stare from the frozen cabinets to the little woman at her side.

Clark froze, waiting for his partner to verbally attack the unsuspecting shopper. Oh, no, and they were really the ones at fault here. He dived in, anxious to avert a skirmish, "I'm sorry, ma'am! My fault entirely! I wasn't watching where I was going. I hope you're okay?" He wondered if he should surreptitiously x-ray the rather frail looking lady, but decided it wasn't necessary when she turned toward him with a smile.

"Oh, no harm done, young man. And please excuse my butting in, dear," the stranger said with a warm smile to Lois. "Put it down to my being a rude old lady, but I couldn't help noticing that you're positively blooming. It was so many years ago for me, but I remember the look, that special glow… and the cravings that accompany it. Of course, it must be more difficult now — so many more choices than when I was pregnant. I don't know how you can ever make up your mind. Take my advice and get a wide selection. You never know what might take your fancy at any time…"

Clark stole a glance at Lois and found she too was grinning. "Oh, I know exactly what you mean," she admitted. "Last night I would have killed for 'rocky road' with pickles…"

"As sour as they come! I drove my husband crazy with cupboards full of jars!"

This was astonishing. Lois was actually laughing along with the stranger who was patting both their arms, as she continued. "I think I wouldn't be wrong in supposing this is your first."

"Yes, it is, though we have quite a little while to go. I'm only just out of my first trimester," Lois divulged.

"Then don't you rush things, my dear. Take this time to enjoy getting ready for your baby Time rushes by so fast and before long your children have grown and they have children of their own. Savor every moment, dears. They are all so precious." Her eyes had grown misty, but her smile was kind. "I really must go. Long shopping trips aren't much fun when you're my age, you know. Congratulations, and you, young man, take good care of your lady and her precious bundle."

She turned slowly and disappeared behind the next row of shelves as Clark called after her, "Thank you, and I will! She was nice," he said to Lois.

Lois' head was bent once more over the selections of ice-cream. "Yes, she was… very sweet… and wise!"

Obviously, Lois was taking her new mentor's advice to heart because she straightened up with a number of tubs in her arms and proceeded to place them in the already overflowing cart.

"Lois, I doubt our freezer has room for all of those… and it's really not necessary. I can come out to get you anything you need at anytime!"

"Clark!" Lois looked doubtful, but she lowered her voice. "You might have to cut back on 'you know who's' duties but you still go out. What if I really want these when you're gone. Men! You have absolutely no idea what a 'craving' is! That old lady did though, so I'm simply doing as she said."

His eyebrows raised in surprise. "I thought for a moment you were about to deck her!"

"Don't be ridiculous!" She sent him a look mixed with disapproval and bruised feelings. "What makes you think that I'm the type of person who goes around attacking sweet old ladies in supermarkets?" Then, satisfied that her purchases were safely deposited on top of the stack, she moved toward the checkouts. "I think we've got all the important things. That old woman was right about something else too… grocery shopping isn't much fun, even at our age."

She was striding forward when suddenly she halted and swung back to face him, saying, as if it were the most natural thing in the world, "Clark, I think tomorrow we should tell Perry and Jimmy that I'm pregnant."

"You do?" he squeaked.

"Close your mouth or you might catch flies. And we should probably tell my parents too, though I'm not looking forward to that… Maybe I could just send you. Nah, that would be like tossing the Christians to the lions, and I'm not a sadist. I'm sure we'll manage somehow."

He never ceased to be amazed by Lois Lane and shook his head in amusement as he began pushing his precariously balanced grocery cart in the wake of his wife.


Now, Clark's step was light as he threaded his way across the bullpen and, as usual of late, Lois sensed his arrival in the newsroom. "Hi. Where have you been?"

"Little side trip to be super. Nothing big," he quickly assured her when she looked at him with a worried expression.

"I hate to jump right into this, Clark, but I think Perry suspects something. Maybe we should go ahead and tell him and Jimmy about the baby now," she whispered.

"Baby? Did I hear baby?" Cat had been hovering close by, her radar on high alert at the whispered words.

Clark frowned down at Lois and shrugged. She shook her head slightly before turning a cool stare at Cat, unhappy that their coming announcement had been pre-empted. Besides, she'd wanted Perry and Jimmy to be the first to know.

"Yes, Cat. You heard baby. I'm pregnant." Lois decided there was no reason to deny it. In fact, she was surprised by how easily the words came out.

"Oh… my… God!" Cat stressed every word. She'd thought she'd gotten the worst shock of her life when those two married, but this? Lois was the last person she ever expected to become a mother.

"Don't sound so surprised," Lois said as she stood. "Even *I* am capable of producing children. Clark, come on! Now that the 'cat is out of the bag' we'd better let Perry know right away, before it's all over the newsroom." She glared pointedly at the glamorous gossip columnist before walking away.

Cat stared speechlessly at Lois' and Clark's backs as they headed in the direction of Perry's office, where, a few minutes later, the couple experienced a very similar response from their two best friends.

"Why does this shock everyone so?" Lois let their reactions get the best of her and she gazed accusingly at her editor and her research assistant.

"Well, ah, it's not that it shocks me… exactly…" Perry started.

"I think it's cool! Way to go, CK!" Jimmy quickly piped up, smiling and slapping his 'hero' on the back.

"Jimmy! He didn't do it alone!" Lois reminded him.

"No… no! Sorry, Lois." The young gofer blushed shyly at her. "It's great. Lois Lane pregnant. I think I should get my camera!"

Clark couldn't stop the soft laughter from escaping his mouth as Jimmy hurried from the room, but Lois cast him an offended glare. "What? Come on, Lois. It's funny."

"No. It's not."

Lois was about to unwind her frustrations on Clark when Perry spoke again, his voice heavily edged with worry. Truthfully, he wasn't sure if he had the right to ask this question, but his anxiety drove him on.

"Ah, correct me if I'm wrong, kids, but won't Lois and… and well, the baby, end up… alone? Now, don't get upset. I'm just asking because I'm concerned."

Clark knew someone would ask this question before long. He was glad it was Perry. "Chief, Lois and I are fully aware of what this means, but this is something we both want."

Perry scrutinized his star reporter consideringly for a long moment before he smiled and stood to extend his hand. "Well, just let me say congratulations. And, Clark, I assume I can count on you to take care of her. You know Lois is like a daughter to me."

"Absolutely," Clark agreed.

The Chief turned his attention to Lois, choosing to keep his conclusions to himself. "This is great, honey."

Lois pouted prettily. "It would be if everyone would stop giving me the shocked speech."

Perry chuckled and, coming round his desk he wrapped an arm around Lois' shoulder. "You do know I won't expect any slack from you?"

"You do know I won't let you and Clark tie me to a desk? I just want to make that clear. I'm pregnant… not made of glass!" She glanced back at Clark, who held up his hands in surrender.

"That's my girl." Perry led her over to the door. "Now, get out there and get me something for the afternoon edition."

Lois allowed herself to smile for the first time since she'd come into his office. "You got it."

Watching the couple go, Perry felt his eyes cloud over with unshed tears. When they'd dropped the bombshell that Lois was expecting, his first thought was that the kids had both lost their minds. Yet, after taking one long look at Clark, the pieces of this whole complicated puzzle fell into place. After all, he wouldn't be a man in his position if he couldn't read between the lines. As an old hound dog newsman, he'd been witness to many of the world's tragedies, and he couldn't remember the last time he'd been brought so close to tears. He just prayed that everything would work out well for these two young people — the alternative was just too horrible to contemplate.


"You're what?!"

Ellen Lane reacted exactly the way Lois had forecast when she was informed of her future status as a grandmother, even went as far as demanding whether Clark, or her daughter for that matter, had ever heard of birth control.

Instead of irritating either one, however, both Lois and Clark smiled at the predictability of it all and bit back a snort of laughter, which only succeeded in angering Lois' mother further. Ellen herself had fallen pregnant within a year of her wedding and soon after her daughters came along, her problems with Sam had begun. At first, she'd hardly noticed, yet little by little she'd realized that she'd taken a backseat to his work and then to his little peccadilloes. She didn't want that for her daughter. Immediately she started off on another one of her long tirades bemoaning the selfishness and faithlessness of the male of the species.

The couple sat side-by-side on Ellen's couch, Lois listening with long-suffering resignation, while Clark was polite, but completely bemused. He'd never seen the senior Ms Lane in quite this mode before, and he was inclined to believe he'd discovered just where Lois' babble gene originated. Relief washed over both of them when his hearing kicked in and picked up a call for Superman. Lois, feeling Clark's tug on her arm, made an excuse for them and fled with him.

It was nearly an hour later before they were able to get to Sam's house, but that turned out to be not such a traumatic revelation. Though a little surprised, he wished them well. After all, who was he to tell his daughter this wasn't a wise thing? He'd let her down too many times before. This time he'd support her.

"That wasn't so hard, was it?" Clark asked as he and Lois stepped into their apartment later that night.

"I suppose not." She kicked off her shoes and went to look at the mail they'd gotten from the box on their way in.

Clark came down to stand beside her. "Come on. Admit it. Don't you feel better now that everyone knows?"

"I guess." She was still absently thumbing through the envelopes.

Clark chuckled indulgently and she stopped her perusal of the mail to grin at him.

"Okay. It does feel better. Besides, it's not exactly like I can keep this covered much longer." She rubbed a hand over her swelling stomach.

"Yeah." Without a thought, Clark reached out to run his hand across her mid-section.

Lois tensed! Another hand was at her stomach, reminding her of so many others today… Marcia and Cindy in the ladies room; that new typist from the 'pool'. Even Eduardo who had a wife and children of his own had patted her tummy as he wished her luck… and, worst of all, Ralph who couldn't resist the opportunity to grope her when he'd caught her alone in the elevator. Well, she'd made him sorry he'd ever attempted that…

The moment Clark's hand made contact with Lois, his eyes shot up to meet hers. What he saw immediately made him withdraw as if he'd been burned. She was looking at him as if he was 'the Monster from the Black Lagoon'. His shoulders drooped and he stepped around her to go up to his room.

Why had she done that? Clark had surprised her when he touched her and he hadn't done anything quite as bold before… apart from that one time in the doctor's office… and that time in bed. But, she hadn't given him permission to do that. Then again, he probably felt he should be able to do such a thing. That was his baby in there and he most likely figured he had the right to touch her.

<But it's *my* body!> Her inner voice protested, her mind still transfixed between the intrusive familiarity of her colleagues and Clark's rights as a father.

She closed her eyes tightly. Why did she have so much trouble with these things?

"Clark." Her voice was barely loud enough to cross the space between them… but he did have super-hearing!

Super-hearing or not, he didn't respond, just continued walking. So she yelled at him, loudly.

"Clark, don't do this!"

Clark stopped dead in his tracks, shaking his head to clear it. "Sheesh, Lois, that hurt my ears!!"

"Sorry!" she offered contritely, "But it was the only way to get your attention."

He shrugged dejectedly. "Don't do what, Lois? Feel hurt because you looked at me like some… *thing* just now?"

"I didn't mean anything by it. You took me by surprise was all. I didn't expect you to touch me."

"Oh, I got that message loud and clear!"

"Well, dammit! You should have asked to touch me."

"You're right. I know you are," Clark relented a little, though his stance was still defensive. "But the disgust in your eyes hurt like hell, Lois."

"Your touch doesn't disgust me." She crossed into the bedroom, nearer to where he stood on the stairs. Though words were difficult for her to find, her eyes begged him to believe her.

"You couldn't prove it to me." Clark tore his eyes from hers and took a long, deep breath. "Okay, I'm sorry. I should have asked first. I just got caught up in the moment. But, Lois, I told you how I feel about this baby. I like watching your body change and I guess I just wanted to feel… the life we created. Nothing else."

The sorrow in his voice reached her, freeing her tongue. "I know, Clark. I forget that you're experiencing this from the outside." She sighed and flopped on the bed. "I don't know what's wrong with me. It's not like you haven't touched me dozens of times."

"But not like that." Clark moved slowly back down the stairs to where she sat on the bed. "It's scary, huh?"


"I'm scared, too."

She looked up to meet his gaze. "I know you are. Clark, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you. You should be the *only* one who does get to touch me like that. There must have been a hundred people try that today."

"Lois, I had no idea. No wonder you reacted the way you did. You must feel like a prize exhibit."

"It's still no excuse." She reached out to take his hand, placing it over her stomach. "This is your baby. I think you should bond with the little guy as much as you can… or girl!"

Clark stared at her for a long moment, his eyes warm with tenderness, before his gaze fell to his hand. Just then the tiny bundle beneath the skin made his or her presence known. Clark's eyes flew back to Lois' to find she was just as surprised as he.

"Oh wow! Clark, did you feel that?" Lois' voice trembled breathlessly.

"Yeah." He looked back down again as he felt another little flutter through his hand. "That's amazing," he said in awe. When the baby moved a third time, he shifted and kneeled before Lois, bringing his other hand up to hold her stomach. The movements stopped, much to their disappointment. He moved his hands gently, hoping to excite another flurry. "Has this happened before?"

"No… well, not like this. I've felt pressure and light flutters, but this…" Her hands came up to settle over his. There was nowhere else for her to put them that felt so right. "That felt incredible!" Suddenly things seemed so much different for the new mother.

Clark flexed his fingers and was rewarded with another movement. "Oh wow!" he laughed, his eyes moist.

"Clark," Lois whispered as she lifted her hands to wipe the tears from his eyes.

His eyes locked with hers, conveying everything he'd ever felt for her. Caught up in the moment, he leaned forward and kissed her softly. "Thank you," he whispered when he leaned back.

Lois was overcome with emotion, never expecting to feel such an overwhelming attachment for her baby. She lifted her arms to wrap them around Clark's neck, giving him the courage to return her embrace, holding her tight like she was the most precious person in the world for him. If he'd believed having this baby felt wonderful before, now it was absolutely unbelievable… words could no longer express his feelings.

She allowed him to hold her for several moments before pulling back. "I'm sorry I freaked out before. I want you to touch your baby."

"I won't make you uncomfortable," he stated firmly.

"You won't. And you didn't. It was just a long day of people fussing and being pushy. I made another mistake… sorry!"

He smiled up at her, no longer hurt by her outburst. "Hey, I'd probably feel a little freaked out too if everyone started treating me like a 'labrat'."

"Actually, you probably understand that better than anyone." Her gaze softened as they silently acknowledged the truth of that remark, and unconsciously, her hand smoothed his hair.

"You know, Lois, there might have been a little hormone overkill in your outburst, too."

"Let's hope not! Lois Lane on hormones?"

"Oh, I know. God help us all," Clark teased.

She smacked his arm before standing back up. Something had to be cooked for dinner and it wouldn't get done from here.

Clark stood with her, still laughing softly. "Lois, I'm sorry, too."

"We seem to say that a lot," she pointed out.

He shrugged helplessly. "Look at it like this. In twenty or thirty years, we should have it all down pat."

Twenty or thirty years? Was that possible? And Lois laughed out loud, a little hysterically, at that. "Come on… Daddy. Mommy is hungry."

Clark couldn't stop the enormous smile from spreading across his face at those terms. That was the first time Lois had ever referred to either of them that way. If his guess was correct, she'd just fallen in love with their baby. The thought made him almost delirious. For a long while, he'd wondered if Lois felt she'd made a mistake, but now the twinkle in her eyes told him otherwise. Life couldn't possibly feel any better than this.


Lois and Clark had commandeered the small conference room after lunch, spreading the research notes for their current story over the table. They were investigating an alleged fraud at one of larger pharmaceutical companies in the country, having been tipped off that certain amounts of money from government funded grants were being misused. Both had decided that this was definitely a job for the investigative team of Lane and Kent, but there was just so much technical data in amongst the research that Lois felt herself completely at a loss.

"Do you think we should ask Bernie to help us out here?" Lois asked, only half kidding. "Maybe he'd understand what most of this is all about, because I'm stumped!"

"Nah, the great Lois Lane stumped?!" Clark grinned. "I don't believe it, but I know what you mean…"

Clark's voice trailed off and Lois noticed his head tilt and his hand go instinctively to his tie; signs that he was hearing a call for the superhero.

"Sorry, Lois, there's a pile-up on the northern freeway. It sounds like a big one. I have to go…"

"Clark, is your memory going too?" Lois argued worriedly. "Bernard said you have to take it easy, and you were already out during the night."

"I know, Lois, but I feel okay right now," he told her apologetically. "I just can't sit here and ignore what's happening when I know I can help. But I promise, no big heroics. I'll just do what I can to help the emergency teams."

Clark was wearing one of those little boy 'I'll be good' looks and Lois didn't have the heart to refuse him. She knew how much it hurt him to turn his back on an emergency when his intervention could mean the difference between life and death for those involved. Lois gave in reluctantly. "Oh, get out of here. But remember your promise… no *super* Superman stunts… just routine."

His smile widened and with a quick squeeze of her hand he was gone.

For the rest of the afternoon, Lois kept a wary eye on his progress as the scene played out on the TV monitors in the newsroom. He'd been right — it was a big one, and Lois just hoped that Superman wouldn't be tempted to forget his promise.

The hours wore on, and between struggling to make sense of the research and keeping watch over Clark, Lois found her head starting to ache. Finally, the LNN news team switched from filming Superman's rescue to other stories and she gathered her things together and went home.

Lois let herself into the apartment, feeling very weary and fretting about how long it would be before Superman was free to return.

"Hi, Lois." Clark called from the kitchen where he was looking through the contents of the fridge.

"Clark, you're home!" Lois replied enthusiastically.

"Yup!" His head went back to the inside of the refrigerator. "I think there's enough in here to rustle up a stir-fry for dinner. What do you say?"

Having spent the afternoon worrying about him, Lois was caught off balance by the mundane thought of preparing dinner. "Stir- fry! Yes, that would be fine," she gave her opinion distractedly, shrugging out of her coat and laying it across the back of the couch. "Are you alright? How did it go?"

Clark moved over to the kitchen counters, his arms filled with various ingredients. "Oh, you mean the rescue," he said airily. "It went well. I'm afraid there were a couple of fatalities, but it looked like they were killed instantly, so I doubt if even I could have saved them. The rest was pretty routine." Clark fished out his chopping board from the cupboards and a knife from the cutlery drawer. He really didn't want to go into too many details about the past emergency. "And Eduardo showed up for the Planet, so I gave him a couple of quotes and it means that I don't have to write it up. Hey, are you just going to stand there, or are you going to help me with this?" He sounded like he didn't have a care in the world.

There was a sniffle from behind him, and Clark immediately spun round.

"Lois?" He was across the floor in less than a second. "Lois, what's wrong? Did something happen at work? I should have come back to make sure you were okay, but I figured it was close to quitting time, so I came home to get a jump on dinner. I've got to keep you fed properly now with the baby and everything." At the mention of the baby, Clark's expression changed to one of horrified shock. "The baby, Lois?! Is everything okay with the baby?"

"The baby's fine, Clark," Lois said hurriedly, swallowing back another sniff, not sure if she felt pleased or envious at his obvious distress over his child. "But its mother has just spent all afternoon poring over papers that might as well be in a foreign language and worrying about her husband…" The last word hung in the air between them. Lois hardly ever used that term out loud and after a frozen pause, she quickly went on, changing the subject. "So food sounds really good right now."

"Right, food!" Clark stammered.

He was caught off guard by her reaction. In one second she'd revealed that she had been worried about him today. The next, she was back peddling just like she always did when things became too emotional for her. He wanted to cry. Would he ever gain Lois' trust enough so she could just let go and be herself? Though he realized that lately they'd made more progress than he'd once thought possible, he still moved to give her a wide berth.

"But you don't need to help. Lois, you looked tired, so I want you to put your feet up." Clark led Lois to the sofa and gently pushed her down to sit. "Watch TV, or listen to music…" He picked up the latest issue of his travel magazine and offered it to her. "Or read… anything you want. Just make sure you rest."

Lois couldn't help but giggle at his antics. "Clark, isn't it supposed to be you who's resting?"

Turning away, Clark switched on some soothing music then moved back to the kitchen. "Lois, I'm feeling good. I saved some people today and helped the emergency services to clear up the mess and I'm still alive and kicking. There's nothing to worry about." Clark saw that Lois had laid her head back on the couch and closed her eyes. That was good, she wouldn't notice that he was looking guilty or that he was shielding his left arm.

When did Superman start lying? he mused, but he already knew the answer. The day he started trying to hide things from Lois again.


During the next few days, the reporting couple failed to find out any proof to back up the allegation of misuse of government funding by Pharmco and Perry instructed them to shelve their investigation in favor of more urgent stories. Reluctantly they agreed, though Lois was pretty sure that someone in the company had his hand in the cookie jar, and she'd made her objections very clear to Perry.

"Don't worry, Lois. We can put Pharmco on hold for now and do some checking up whenever we find some spare time," Clark assured his disgruntled partner, though he sounded very apathetic, which was completely out of character for him. "You know that some cases take time to crack."

"I've no objection to you working on this between cases, kids. If there is any truth in these claims then you've got yourselves a major story."

"Fine, Perry." Clark turned and walked out of Perry's office without a backward glance, leaving both his partner and editor staring perplexed at his retreating form.

"How's he doing, Lois?" The older man's frown betrayed his worry.

"He says he's fine, Perry, but I'm not convinced. He's been in such a quiet mood these last couple of days."

"Can't say I blame him." Perry came over to the window and stared through the slatted blinds at the young man whom he'd come to regard as closely as his own sons. "I can't pretend to know what he's goin' through, but it must be pretty scary."

"I know; that's why I'm trying to cut him some slack."

"Lois, is he taking care of himself?" Perry let go of the blind he'd been nervously holding onto and turned to face his other favorite member of staff.

She nodded. "He's taking his medication and the doctor seems to be happy with his progress. He's even been trying to take things easy."

Lois was in fact surprised that Clark had been sticking pretty close to the office and home lately. There had been the odd Superman rescue, but he'd given up on all his patrols and when she'd asked him about it, he'd curtly reminded her that that was what she'd wanted. Yet, catching her shocked reaction, he'd apologized immediately for his bluntness, excusing himself by admitting that he was finding it difficult to shake off his persistent exhaustion.

Perry pushed his fears aside and forced a smile. It wouldn't do the kids any good if he started acting like a hysterical mother hen. "Good, that's good. And he has you to look after him now. So if the doctor isn't worried, that's a positive sign. We should look on the bright side." Perry walked back behind his desk and sat down. "Now get out of here and back to work… before he wonders what we're talking about."

"Yes, Chief!"

Lois gave a cheeky salute and marched back to her desk, though she checked Clark over covertly as she passed him. She was alarmed to see his eyes closed and his right hand was rubbing his forehead. Did that mean he had another headache? He'd had a couple of those recently. Realizing that Clark wouldn't appreciate a scene, Lois picked up the first file she found and sauntered over to his side.

"Right, partner," she announced brightly. "What do you feel about the…" Lois looked down at the file name and her eyebrows rose. She really could have picked a more intriguing case. "… the accusation that some gang is stealing pedigree pets to order?"

"Huh?!" Clark's hand stilled and he squinted up at Lois.

"Would you believe it? It says here that there's money to be made from kidnapping these animals and selling them abroad." Lois continued reading wide-eyed. "And this is the story that Perry took us off the Pharmco investigation to cover?"

"Lois, most people love their pets. I expect it causes them a lot of heartache to lose them like that," Clark remonstrated quietly.

"I'll give you that," Lois conceded, remembering the kitten she'd rescued when she was ten years old. She'd tried to hide it in her room, but her parents had found her out and insisted that she take the tiny ball of fluff to the pet shelter. It had broken her heart when she'd had to hand over the pretty little animal and even the attendant's assurances that it would find a good home couldn't console her. "Hey, do you know there's a top show dog that was stolen two days ago?… A papillion, whatever that is, and the owner says it's worth over a couple thousand dollars… For a dog?!"

"Steal a few of these and you've got yourself a money-making scheme, and I don't expect that the police would be hot on your trail either. Like you, they'll probably think that it's hardly a life-threatening case."

"That's true," Lois grinned encouragingly, "which is all the more reason why we should investigate." Actually, Lois had decided that this would be a fairly easy case to crack and Clark needed a story that would hold his attention without tiring him out. Yet, right now, it looked like what Clark needed most was to lie down. "Clark, why don't I go interview this pooch's owner and you go on home? I'll clear it with Perry and I'll see you at home later."

Surprisingly, Clark didn't argue but told Lois goodbye, stood up slowly, and headed for the elevator.


Chapter 11: Home Is Where the Hurt Is

The apartment was quiet when Lois arrived home, her mind still reeling from stories of proud owners losing their expensive charges in mysterious and distressing circumstances. Clark had been right; whoever was behind this had tapped into a money- making business. Sure, it wouldn't make the perpetrators millions but it would keep them pretty comfortably off. Though Lois had originally scoffed at the case, it was just as illegal as any other robbery and it left behind some very grieved owners. She was determined to put a stop to it.

It was too quiet and Lois wondered if Clark had again gone out on a Superman rescue. He was just too helpful for his own good. He was going to kill himself, even after all their discussions, and arguments, about him slowing down.

Of course, he could be sleeping; he was doing a lot of that these days. She walked down the stairs and called softly, not wanting to wake him up from his nap. A soft groan could be heard coming from the bathroom.

"Clark?" she called as she pushed through the door.

"Uhhh?" A grunt was her only answer.

"Oh no!" She rushed to his side. He must have been sicker than she thought because he was lying on the floor. "Clark?" She knelt to check on him.

"Sorry," he told her, attempting a weak smile. "Another bad day."

"I see. Why are you lying on the floor?"

"It's cool down here — that helps with the nausea." His fingers knuckled his closed eyelids.

"Don't!" Lois caught his probing fingers in one hand while the other pushed damp tendrils of hair from his face. His skin felt clammy. "Clark, you're so hot!"

"I don't feel very good. Can you help me up?"

"Okay!" Lois grabbed his other arm to heave him off the floor, but when she touched him, he immediately flinched and rolled away from her, protecting his arm with his body.

"Clark, what's going on here?" she asked as she scrambled round him to look into his face. It didn't surprise her to see him biting down on his lip, probably trying to stifle another groan. Fear rose into her throat. "Please, tell me. Is something wrong with your arm? Will you let me see?"

There was no way he could hide his pain any longer. Something was seriously wrong with him, and he needed help. Clark struggled to sit up, with a little help from Lois. Once he felt steady enough, he extended his left arm to Lois, grimacing as she unbuttoned his cuff and rolled up his sleeve.

Hidden beneath the shirt was a dirty blood-stained dressing. "What's this?"

Clark closed his eyes again, feeling guilty at Lois' accusing tone. He couldn't blame her. He should never have tried to hide his injury. Lois carefully unwrapped the bandage, revealing a nasty cut which oozed pus, while the flesh around it was red and swollen.

"Clark, when did this happen?"

"At the multiple car crash a few days ago," he said sheepishly, through his agony. "I cut myself on a jagged piece of metal. I got a shock, but I didn't want to worry you and I thought it would heal quickly."

"Obviously not," Lois complained, her anger stirred by fright. "Clark, this whole thing is worrying me. You can't keep things like this in the dark."

"I know that now, Lois. I'm sorry, but please don't scold… I don't think I'm up for a lecture."

Seeing the beads of sweat standing out on his forehead, which was also creased in pain, Lois could well believe it. Her anger faded as quickly as it had come. "I'll save my tirade for later. Come on, let's go see Dr Klein again."

But it soon became obvious that Clark would be lucky to make it to her bed. Whenever he was standing, his legs began to shake and it was all Lois could do to get him into the next room. Like two drunkards they lurched across the floor until Clark tumbled onto the bed.

Lois took a couple of deep breaths to steady herself. "I think Bernie needs to come here this time. You lie down while I go call him."


Two worrying, exhausting days later Lois leaned up against the brick wall of the kitchen, talking to her mother-in-law on the phone. She kept her voice low. Clark had just managed to get to sleep and she didn't want to wake him again. He was so worn out.

"Martha, it's so good to speak to you."

"I'm glad you phoned, Lois. You know that Jonathan and I are here for you whenever you need us." Martha's voice was warm and comforting and Lois felt tears fill her eyes. But when the older woman spoke again there was a slight tremor in her voice, betraying her own concern. "How's my boy?"

"He's asleep, Martha. Dr Klein has managed to find some medication to reduce Clark's fever for now, but the cut won't heal… and the infection isn't responding to any of the antibiotics which he's tried out." Lois pulled over a chair from the table and sank into it weakly. "Clark's arm's a mess and nothing seems to be working."

"Lois, I'm taking it that his superpowers have gone, since he got cut."

"At the moment, yes. Bernie thinks that Superman overdid things and drained his powers. Then he cut himself when he went to help at a pile-up on the freeway the other day and picked up an infection. Added to the leukemia, his body just couldn't fight it off."

"So Superman has gone then?" Martha asked quietly.

"Not necessarily! According to what Bernie says, if the infection can be cured and Clark rests up and spends lots of time in the sun, then his powers might come back… for a time. Only, Clark has to learn to take things easier." Lois was warming to her subject and her nerves were stretched too tight, giving her words an edge. "But you know what he's like; he feels duty bound to rescue people whenever he thinks he's up to it."

"Duty bound to kill himself, that is." The fact that Martha would make such an emotive statement proved she was also sharing Lois' fears.

For some moments there was silence on both ends of the phone as the two women composed themselves, refusing to dwell on the possibility of losing Clark.

"Lois, how are you holding up?"

"I'm okay, Martha," Lois sighed.

"You sound very tired to me, my dear. How would you like it if I came to Metropolis for a few days to help you take care of Clark?"

"Oh, Martha, you don't have to do that!" Yet the surge of eagerness in Lois' voice warred with her words.

"I know I don't have to, but I want to, Lois."

Since Lois wasn't feeling too confident of her nursing abilities, Martha's assistance sounded very tempting. Yet, she reminded herself that Clark's parents ran their farm pretty much single- handedly; at least, as far as she knew. Neither of them could run to Metropolis at every emergency.

"That's kind of you, Martha, but what about the farm? Don't you have work to do?"

There was the sound of a quiet laugh from the Kansas end of the line.

"Lois, farm work pretty much slows down this late in the year. There's only the apple harvest left to get in. Clark usually helps with that, but the Irig boys will be only too happy to lend Jon a hand under the circumstances. It's the way it is in the country; neighbors help each other out in times of trouble."

"If you're sure, I really could use your help," Lois gave in gratefully. "Perry's been very good about this. I mean, Clark's on sick leave, of course, but Perry's given me time off to take care of him. But the Planet needs one of its top reporting team at work. If you could help out, I'd really appreciate it… Though I wouldn't go back to work full time," Lois stated firmly. "I couldn't let all Clark's care fall on you. I don't want you to think that I mind looking after him."

"I know that, Lois." This time it was Martha who reassured her daughter-in-law. "But you have the baby to think of too, Lois. It won't help things if you wear yourself out. The last thing we need is for you to be sick, as well." There was a silence while Martha gave Lois time to consider her words. "I'll talk to Jonathan and make arrangements for Maisie to come in to take care of things while I'm gone. I'll fly to Metropolis tomorrow."

"Thank you, Martha. Let me know when you're set to arrive and I'll pick you up… or ask Jimmy to come get you."

"That's not needed, Lois. I can take a taxi from the airport."

"Martha, please, it's the least I can do."

"Okay, honey. You keep your chin up, and I'll be with you tomorrow." A sniffle was her only answer. "And tell Clark we love him."

"I will, Martha. See you tomorrow."

Far away in Kansas the phone was placed on its cradle, while Lois sat in silence in the dusk, feeling the tension drain from her shoulders. Tomorrow she would have Martha's love and practical support to see her through the next few days. If only she could be sure that it would only be a few days and that Clark was going to get well.

Bernard had repeatedly tried to convince her that this was not the beginning of the end and that Clark was only suffering from a badly infected cut that was stubbornly refusing to heal. However, after two days of redressing his arm at regular intervals and trying to keep his temperature down Lois was feeling very fragile. Martha's offer of help was certainly welcome.

"Lois?" Clark called fretfully from the next room.

Oh no! He was awake again. Lois pushed herself up wearily and went to see what he wanted, but she met him coming through the archway into the kitchen.

"Clark, what are you doing getting out of bed?" Lois asked fractiously.

"I'm thirsty, Lois, and I didn't want to be a burden. I'm perfectly capable of getting myself a drink of water." But he gave the lie to his words as he staggered forward.

Lois put her arms out swiftly to steady him. "Yes, so I see. Clark, if you fall on the floor again that will make my job harder. Come on, let's get you back to bed and I'll put a glass and pitcher of iced water on the nightstand."

Clark gave a tiny lopsided smile. "I guess I'm not as capable as I thought."

"True!" Lois laughed back as she helped him lie down in bed. "Now stay, and I'll get your water."

Minutes later Lois was back and she poured him a glass which he quickly drained. "Good. Now try to get back to sleep. Bernie says that rest will help you recoup your strength and help you heal."

"You know, Lois, I think I'd sleep better if I knew you were sleeping too."

"I promise, as soon as you're asleep, I'll go lie down on the couch."

"Why don't you sleep here?" Clark held back the covers, inviting Lois to join him. "It would make me feel better."

His words were accompanied by one of his patented 'soulful-eyed' looks and it was one she could hardly resist. And she did feel tired.

"Okay, you win," Lois said on another smile.

She hurriedly put out the lights in the apartment and made her way back to bed in the dim light from the bedside lamp. Clark had made more room for her, and she sank gratefully onto the mattress, pulling up the quilt. He gave her a relieved smile and within minutes both of them were asleep.


Martha arrived at the apartment on Clinton Avenue the next afternoon and life became a little easier for the couple. Although Martha had never had to nurse her son since he was a baby, she did have quite a bit of experience with Jonathan and her friends back in Smallville.

Unlike Lois, she wasn't awkward when she treated Clark. Martha was completely at ease sponging Clark's face and chest to bring down his fever and coaxing him to eat her tasty homemade meals. She was also very adept at handling a fractious Clark.

All these things made Lois very grateful for her mother-in-law's presence because it meant the responsibility for Clark's welfare was now shared. She actually enjoyed Martha's friendly company and she too found herself the object of the older woman's care.

Martha had been shocked when Lois first opened the door to her and she'd been confronted by the tired, pale young woman. It hadn't taken long for her to find out that Lois hadn't been eating regularly and had been spending most of her nights napping in a chair by Clark's bed. Martha's kind heart had been touched and she'd taken charge of both her children, making sure that Lois ate properly and insisting that she spend her nights sleeping in the upstairs attic. After all, if Lois was going back to work then she needed her rest.

With Martha's help, things got a little better for Lois and Clark, and everyone would have been much happier if only Clark's wound was showing the same improvement. That, however, didn't appear to be happening. The open injury resisted all Bernie's antibiotic medication and it continued to suppurate, while angry streaks of infection marred the surrounding skin.

In the evenings and often long into the night, Clark's temperature would rise a few degrees, causing him much distress and leaving his family extremely anxious.

It was largely due to this state of helplessness that Bernard Klein came up with a very unconventional treatment. Suffering bouts of frustration over lack of progress, Bernie took to scouring the scientific and medical Internet sites where he found news of a rather antiquated, yet seemingly successful remedy.

Very quickly he passed the news to Clark, Lois and Martha and, when he was given the go ahead by the three, he contacted the research doctor in question, who happened to be an old college friend and who worked in a branch of Star Labs in New York. A sealed package of the 'cure' was sent post-haste in the internal mailing system which operated between these two sister-labs and the special dressing was just as urgently placed on Clark's injured arm. Lois, Clark and Martha had followed the procedure avidly, but, to their disappointment, the dressing had been sealed and the doctor's actions so uncommonly deft they hadn't been able to spot anything unusual.

That had been a few days previously and Clark couldn't help but wonder what was happening beneath the white sterile surface of the bandage — could being 'eaten' actually heal him? Now he and his mother were patiently waiting for Bernie's evening visit, when, for the first time, this dressing would be removed and the state of the wound revealed.

They'd expected Lois to be home in time for the visit, but she'd phoned earlier to let them know that the 'lost dog' story had broken and she was down at the police station giving her statement. The precinct was clearly doing an enactment of 'Pet Rescue', judging by the background noise of barks and whines. Above the din, Lois promised Clark she'd be home in time for his 'big moment' and, although she kept her voice light, Clark wasn't fooled. He knew she was concerned about what they would find… they all were.

The only sign Clark had that Bernie's unusual dressing might actually be doing some good, was the fact that his arm did feel less painful and that he could move it more easily than previously.

Clark looked over at his mother, who was reading quietly in a chair by the window, and tried to push himself up further in the bed. Martha was immediately at his side.

"Clark, let me help you."

"Mom, it's okay, really. I can manage."

Martha's hand slipped under his good arm to support him. "You shouldn't use your sore arm, Clark. Bernard said to keep it still."

"I know, Mom. But it does feel better. So perhaps these little bugs are helping."

"We won't have long to wait to find out."

"No…" Clark's voice trailed off as he leaned forward to look through the archway at the front door.

"Clark, Lois said she'd be back and she will," Martha said, understanding his unconscious action.

"Bernie will be here soon, too. She doesn't have much time, and, besides, why would she think it was important to be here?"

"Clark! I'm going to put that remark down to you being fretful. Of course, Lois is worried about what we're going to find. She cares about you. She hasn't even gone back to work fulltime, and she spends most of her evenings here with you. She even puts up with your temper tantrums."

"Mom, I do not throw temper tantrums!"

"I admit that's a bit strong, but you haven't been your mild- mannered self either."

"I'm not used to being ill and having to spend so much time in bed," Clark said petulantly, but with a change of mood, he smiled contritely. "I'm sorry, Mom. I know I've put Lois and you through a whole lot. I am sorry."

Dropping a gentle kiss on his brow, Martha returned his smile. "Well, you haven't been so bad, and Lois and I are here because we care."

The door opened with a bang, and a tornado-type Lois burst into the apartment. "I'm not too late am I?" she called as she came down the stairs, stripping off her coat.

"No, Lois. Bernard's not here yet," Martha replied and swiftly picked up the coat, which had been tossed on a chair in transit and was in danger of ending up on the floor.

"Good! I can't wait to see this." Lois settled beside Clark on the bed and looked at him speculatively. "You know, you do look better, Clark. You don't look so flushed."

"Hi, Lois," he grinned. "I was just saying to Mom that my arm feels better… I feel a bit stronger too."

"You do? That's great!" Anyone watching the smile that lit up Lois' face couldn't doubt her sincerity.

"How did things go down at the station?"

Her smile grew wider. "Clark, if you could have seen Bill Henderson's face when we turned up with all the 'evidence'! I think they're more used to inanimate stolen goods. It caused quite a fuss, I can tell you. But I'm glad that the case is cleared up. The thieves will go to prison, since they were caught with the stuff and the animals will go back to their homes. It's a good result, even if the story won't win us any awards."

"I don't think that's important here, Lois, and I'm sure you'll win that Pulitzer some day."

Having finished hanging up the discarded coat, Martha came back into the room with a glass of milk and a large sandwich, both of which she handed to Lois. "Clark and I ate earlier but you probably haven't had time to eat, so I made you this."

"Thanks, Martha. You know me so well. I managed to grab a roll at lunchtime, but I'm sure it wasn't as good as this will be… and I'm starving." Lois bit into the soft bread. "Chicken salad — just what I need." She munched through her mouthful before continuing. "And I better enjoy this now, before Bernie arrives; somehow I don't think I'll feel so hungry later."

"Thanks for reminding me, Lois," Clark groaned.

"Are you sure you don't feel anything, Clark?" Lois narrowed her eyes as she stared at the bandage around his arm.

"Yeah, I'm sure."

"That's because maggots only eat the dead flesh, Clark." Bernard Klein came through the archway into the bedroom, carrying a small medical chest, as three faces turned toward him in surprise. "Sorry, the door was open. I did knock."

"Bernie!" Lois said round another bite of food. "I must have left the door open when I got home. Come on in. We've been waiting for you."

"This is pretty exciting stuff, isn't it, trying out new procedures? Though you could hardly call this new… more a resurrected procedure. Did I mention it was commonly used by military men in the 1800s? Quite amazing!" the doctor remarked animatedly, till he noticed the quizzical stares turned in his direction. "I just thought you might like to know that… sorry!" He moved closer to the bed, lifting Clark's wrist to check his pulse. "How are you doing, Clark?"

"Better, I think."

There was a few minutes of quiet while Bernard continued with his quick examination of Clark. "I'd say that you could be correct. Are you all ready for this?" Bernie checked the three who were watching him in anticipation. "I have to remind you that I have no idea of what we're going to find. My colleague tells me that these maggots have managed to get rid of infections in wounds that refuse to respond to any other kind of treatment, so I'm hoping they've done good work here."

"You don't think that they might have needed reinforced teeth to make an impression on Clark do you?" Lois asked, hiding her worry under a tease.

"Ha-ha!" Bernard grinned back at Lois as his hands carefully began to unwrap the dressing.

"Lois, you might not have noticed, but I've lost my invulnerability… or this wouldn't be a problem." Clark's voice was also light but his eyes were riveted on Bernie's actions.

Lois put her plate down on the nightstand, her interest in food completely gone, and she was grateful to find her hand taken up by Martha. She gave her mother-in-law a tiny smile as both women sought to support each other.

It seemed like an eternity, but was in actual fact only a few seconds before the doctor lifted the dressing away, revealing an open but perfectly clean wound. "Well, I'll be damned. It worked!" Bernie said on a nervous laugh. "Who would have thought it?!"

And indeed the maggots had cleaned the cut. Bernard locked away the wriggling bugs, then he turned back to his patient, looking very relieved.

"Stan told me that the maggots just consume the dead tissue and leave the good. I was ready to accept it in theory, but I never expected them to work so well." As he spoke, Bernard was moving Clark's arm to check it out and gently prodding at the now pink flesh. "How does that feel, Clark?"

Clark's gaze was focused on his upper arm in amazement. "It feels okay. Still a bit sore, but it's not throbbing like it was before. Is the wound as clean as it looks?"

"I'd say so," Bernie answered. "But I'd like to keep a close eye on it over the next few days. It's still open, but now that we've gotten rid of the poison it should heal. I'll put a clean dressing on it and, Martha, could you change it every day?"

"Yes, of course." Martha sounded extremely relieved.

These past few nights when she'd sat up to nurse Clark as he'd tossed and turned feverishly in his sleep, she'd been extremely apprehensive. She'd disguised her worries for the sake of her son and his wife, but the fact that he was getting better almost took her breath away, and she sank behind Lois on the bed.

"I'd also speculate that your powers might come back in a lesser way, Clark," Bernie continued with his prognosis. "As soon as you feel able, I'd spend time in the sun to encourage that. But," Bernie pointed a stern finger at Clark, "and it is a big but, Clark, if you overdo things again your powers will disappear and you'll leave yourself open to all sorts of infections. This time the maggots worked, but who knows what will happen next time."

Clark looked suitably chastised… for now. He'd been scared himself. "Okay, Bernie. I'll do everything you say."

"He'd better, Bernard, or he'll have Lois and me to answer to." Martha had regained her composure and she watched as the doctor finished off the new bandage on Clark's arm, then put his equipment away. "Would you like a coffee, Bernard… perhaps something to eat? I made sandwiches…"

"Thank you, Martha. That would be nice. I came straight over here from work. Sometimes I get carried away and I forget to eat…"

"Now who else do I know like that?" Martha asked as she laughed happily, staring pointedly at Lois, who had the grace to blush. "Come on, Bernard, let's leave these two to talk. I think I can feed you. And, Lois, finish your sandwich."

"Yes, Mom!" Lois said teasingly, then catching Clark's eye, she blushed even more.

Clark was smiling. He felt good and he liked the sound of Lois calling Martha mom!


For the first time in nearly two weeks, Lois was finally able to take a break. Clark had regained a great deal of strength since the bandage had been removed three days earlier. Mostly, he spent his days on the balcony in the sunshine and was quickly recouping his energy. However, both she and Martha were adamant that he couldn't jump back into any super activities, even though he had minimal powers back. Their chastising didn't seem to be necessary, though, because Clark was content to just lie around, much as he'd been doing since this latest bout of illness began.

Lois took her coffee and went out onto the balcony to sit in the rocker and watch Clark sleep. The warm sun felt good during the day as the nights had grown cool. Lois, however, didn't much mind the cooler autumn nights, hoping to stave off the intense hot flashes she'd been having for the last few days. She'd chalked it up to stress over worrying about Clark, but Martha quickly reminded her of the growing baby in her abdomen.

Clark slept soundly on the chaise lounge, just as he usually did in the afternoons. The sun was restoring him a little at the time, much to everyone's relief.

Sighing, Lois pulled her legs up into the chair just as the baby made his or her presence known. Subconsciously, she smiled while her hand smoothed over the skin that was beginning to grow taut around her mid-section. She hadn't had a lot of time to think about things the last few days, but now that the worrying moments were over, everything began to hit her full force. She set her cup on the table beside the rocker and laid her head back in hopes of stopping the tears she felt stinging her lids.

Clark's bout with infection from the cut had been a very close call indeed. Bernie had since told them that while Clark's body had been unable to resist the invading bacteria, there was every chance the leukemia could have accelerated and in his weakened state he would have been unable to fight the disease. Much sooner than predicted they could have lost Clark.

As that fact sank in, Lois could barely stop her body from shaking in a mixture of terror and relief. She'd never considered that Clark could have very easily died from a simple cut to his arm. Thankfully, so far, there was no evidence that his cancer had progressed because of this latest battle, even though it could have. That realization was overwhelming.

She'd started out with this whole pregnancy thing to save his life, staying focused on that target and nothing else. Lois hadn't counted on Clark insisting they get married and she'd certainly never counted on her feelings for him deepening.

Sure, she'd always known she cared for Clark; they were good friends. There was no way to work with someone as closely as they did without coming to feel something for him. That was why she'd agreed to undertake such a task to save his life; why she'd given in and married him. And that's why she was shaking in relief now.

She lifted her head, wiping the tears from her cheeks, to look at the sleeping form of the man who had slowly come to mean more to her than she'd ever thought possible. It had taken nearly losing him for her to admit that though. In one single moment she could have lost her partner, her best friend, her… husband, and her baby's father. Life without Clark wasn't something Lois wanted to face.

For a long time, she'd been fighting so hard against the connection between them, too afraid of the pain of rejection to accept that her happiness relied completely on Clark's continued good health and their being together.

She eased from the rocker and over to the chair next to his, taking his hand in hers. Yes, she was very glad Clark was going to be okay. And maybe it wouldn't be such a bad thing to see if they could take their relationship to the next level. After all, this baby needed Daddy as much, if not more, than Mommy.

From the doorway of the bedroom, Martha smiled at the couple on the balcony. Her daughter-in-law might not be ready to admit to herself or the rest of the world the incredible feelings she held for her husband, but a mother and wife from Kansas could see it from where she stood. She turned and sighed happily as she busied herself with dinner preparations.


Chapter 12: I've Got You Under My Skin

"Are you sure you don't want us to drive you to the airport, Mom?" Clark asked as he watched his mother gather her things to go home.

Clark had been well enough for the last three days, so it was time Martha returned to the farm and Jonathan. Lois could handle things from here and, besides, the older woman felt the couple needed some time alone together. Neither would go back to work fulltime for two days yet, and this could be a great opportunity for the couple to bond.

"I'm sure, honey."

"It's no trouble, Martha," Lois added.

"I know. And I appreciate it." She offered Lois a warm hug before turning to her son. "You take care of yourself and follow doctor's orders or I'll fly out and tan your hide."

"Yes, ma'am." Clark smiled brightly down at his mom. "Thank you. I can't tell you how much having you here has meant." He leaned to hug her gently. "And thanks for looking out for Lois," he whispered in her ear.

Martha drew back and placed a warm hand on his cheek. "You take care of my daughter and grandbaby, you hear?"

"Yes, ma'am." He gave her a kiss on the cheek before bending to lift her bags.

"Clark, maybe we should let the cabby get that," Lois suggested.

"Lois, I feel fine. My strength is back and these hardly weigh a thing."

"Are you sure?"

"I'm sure. I'll run these down while you say good-bye." He smiled at her and disappeared with the bags.

Lois pulled Martha in for another hug. "I don't think I could have made it these last few weeks without you."

Martha drew back to look at her. "Honey, that's what family is for. We help out one another when we need to." Her hand hovered over Lois' stomach. "May I?"

The earlier anxieties Lois had about people touching her stomach disappeared and she nodded her approval, even smiled as her mother-in-law placed a hand on her stomach. It was the least she could do to offer Martha the simple gift of feeling her grandchild move beneath her hand. Besides, Martha asked before touching her, and Lois' heart went out to the older woman. This was something Martha had never experienced and to be able to do so now would surely be a special event.

Both ladies laughed softly when the little mound moved beneath Martha's hand.

"Oh, Lois." Martha continued to move her hand a moment while the life danced against taut skin. When she was satisfied, she looked up at Lois. "Thank you. That meant the world to me."

"Martha," Lois whispered as she gave her yet another hug. They both had tears in their eyes when Clark came back in.

"Hey, what's wrong?" He was immediately concerned.

"The baby moved for your mom," Lois told him as she wiped her face.

"That's great!" Clark's eyes drifted to Lois' stomach before he looked up at his mom. "I'm glad you felt that."

"Me, too." She smoothed her hand across Lois' stomach a final time before turning to the door. "Remember, I'm just a phone call away," she told them before she waved her final good-byes.

Clark's smile faded to a frown as he closed the door and followed Lois down into the living room. She noticed his pout as she sank onto the sofa.

"What's wrong?"

"I just hate to see her go," he said as he sat down next to her.

"Yeah, I do, too. But she's got to get home. She can't stay with us forever."

"I know." Clark put his head back and stretched his legs to prop his feet on the coffee table. "It was great to have her here though. I was glad she was here for you."

"I'll never again doubt your mom's strength," Lois said as she pushed her legs across the sofa toward Clark. Her feet came to rest against his side.

He glanced down at her feet before pulling them into his lap to rub. When Lois moaned slightly and laid her head back on the arm of the sofa, he smiled. This was a good sign if she was allowing him to touch her without so much as a single protest.

"Oh, Clark, that feels so good," she moaned contentedly as he continued to work his fingers over her tired feet.

"It's the least I can do for everything you've done for me lately."

Lois opened her eyes and raised her head to look at him. "Clark, I *wanted* to take care of you. Never doubt that."

"I don't."


"But… I guess I feel a little guilty about putting you through so much. This could have all been avoided if I'd just told you about the cut from the beginn ing.

"We don't know that for sure. You could just as easily have gotten the infection anyway, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't have told me from the beginning," sh eremindedhim.Thoughrehashingitwon'tchange a thing. You're okay now and I think you've learned an important lesson."

"I have," he said ruefully. "I will *not* be keeping things from you any more."

"Good." She smiled and pushed her other foot under his hand for a little attention. When he cocked a brow at her, she shrugged. "It was feeling left out."

Chuckling at her explanation, Clark lavished the same careful attention on that foot as he'd done the other. The next few days alone with Lois promised to be very enjoyable and he was definitely looking forward to them.


Lois and Clark had spent their final two days off relaxing at home. They'd argued about him going back to work so soon, but in the end he won, insisting that he couldn't sit around idle or he'd go crazy. He was anxious to return, so there was an extra spring in his walk as he entered the elevator and pressed the appropriate button.

"You promise to take it easy?" Lois fretted like a mother-hen.

"I promise."

"And you'll take it easy on the super stunts?"

He smiled down at her. "You have my word, Lois. Trust me, I don't want to spend two more weeks in bed with another infection. It wasn't exactly pleasant."

"I know." She rubbed his arm as the doors opened.

"Hey, CK," Jimmy greeted them as they made it down the ramp. "Glad to see you back, buddy." The younger man clapped his friend's shoulder.

"Glad to be back, Jimmy. And thanks for stopping by to check on Lois while I was sick."

"That's what friends are for, CK." He flashed a smile at Lois. "How's the baby?"

"Great. But Clark's been driving me crazy since he's been well, so don't you start!" She rolled her eyes as she remembered how Clark had insisted the night before that she eat all her vegetables.

"He's just trying to take care of you, Lois."

"I know." She grimaced a final time and proceeded to her desk as Clark was welcomed back by several staff members. Soon her partner was settled as well and Lane and Kent were on the job again.


Clark managed to keep his promise to take things easy and not get into too many Superman rescues. They'd been back to work for over a week and so far his health seemed to be improving steadily.

But with thoughts of the latest battle still fresh in her mind, Lois was less able to suppress an uneasy feeling of desperation. Her worst fear was that they'd be too late to save Clark. She'd wondered if she'd ever regret the decision to have his child and she had harbored doubts until just recently, but since they'd listened to the baby's heartbeat and felt him or her move, Lois was now fully prepared to love her child and be the best mother she could be.

Only she had to save Clark's life too. The reasons she felt so strongly about that often haunted her thoughts, but she'd pushed them away, concentrating on doing what needed to be done, until now. The realization that life without Clark wouldn't be much of a life at all kept coming back to her. In the past, she'd taken him for granted. If she lost him without ever exploring her feelings, she'd never be able to live with herself. The world might need its superhero, but Lois was beginning to unde rstandthatsheneededClark.

So, as was often the case lately, her mind was on Clark and she glanced over at him. He was chewing on the end of his pencil and, vaguely, she hoped it wouldn't end up as sawdust. He'd just replaced the phone on its cradle. Suddenly he smiled as he looked over some notes which he'd jotted down, obviously finding what he was looking for. A second later his hands flew over the keyboard. When he finished, he folded his arms behind his head, leaned back in his chair, and grinned widely. His eyes met hers and she couldn't help but smile back.

"Proud of yourself?"

"Very." He hit a key on his computer, got up to approach her and perched on the corner of her desk, still smiling. "I finished the Conner case — just got confirmation from the Mayor's office."

"No way." She typed furiously for a minute, then sat silently as she read his writing. "Damn!" She met his gaze again. "I hate you."

"I know. Sometimes all it takes is a fresh eye!" Clark stood, put his hands on her shoulders, and leaned to put his mouth to her ear. "Can you say top banana?"

Lois laughed as Clark went to grab them a cup of coffee. She'd made that statement to him so long ago. Boy, hadn't she been wrong? Perry would give Clark a gold star for that one, and he deserved it — that story had been sitting on the back-burner for too long. Months ago she'd have felt threatened by the competition but now, she was just pleased to see Clark back up to speed.

Trying to ignore the tingling sensation caused by his soft breath caressing her ear, she sat up to start new research on another of their 'pending' stories, when a conversation from behind her caught her attention. Clark had been detained by Ralph on his way back with the coffee.

"Kent, you're looking well."

"Yeah, Ralph, I feel really great. Thanks."

"Guess the little wife is doing something right." Ralph waggled his brows suggestively to drive home his point.


"Come on, Kent. This is me. You can share the amazing secrets of the healing properties your wife clearly possesses."

"Ralph, are you suggesting that I tell you about Lois' and my private life?"

"Nah, not all the boring details… just the good stuff." Ralph threw his arm around Clark's shoulder and leaned closer. "Is she *really* that good? I always heard that some pregnant women were insatiable. Never believed it until now though, but the look on your face says it all, my man!"

Clark stood a little straighter to intimidate slightly. "If I wasn't holding this coffee, I'd seriously consider taking you for a walk."

Ralph chuckled softly. "Sheez, guess she's got you wrapped as tight as she does her sources."

"Ralph, my *wife* is just that. Mine! What we do in our private life is none of your business."

The obnoxious man took a step back and held up his hands at Clark's menacing tone. "Okay, okay! Don't jump down my throat. I was just asking." He turned and started to walk away. "At least I'm not the one who started the pool on how long you'd last together," he mumbled under his breath, though that was a prevarication — Cat had jokingly suggested it and he'd jumped at the chance to set it up.

Clark's super ears picked up this parting remark. He set the coffee mugs down on the nearest desk and reached out to grab Ralph's arm. "What did you say?"

Ralph winced because Clark was causing him considerable discomfort. He decided that the expression on Clark's face was serious enough that he'd best answer the question. "There's an open bet… that, that you two won't make it past Christmas. There's even speculation that Lois only married you because she felt sorry for you because you're dying and that she never counted on the baby deal. That's why she's still with you. She can't figure out what to do. Some say she'll stay till the end, but others are betting she'll have had enough long before then."

The man finally ran out of steam and groaned because the vice- like grip on his arm tightened. Clark glanced down at his hand for a second, but didn't loosen his hold. He was so angry he was tempted to hit Ralph, but that could never be an option for him. When he'd gathered his thoughts, he glared at Ralph.

"Let's get this straight, shall we? The reasons Lois and I got married are no one's business but our own. I do seriously hate that she has to deal with my illness, when she should be spending her pregnancy getting to know our baby. But this child was not a mistake and we are both very happy about it. My *wife* is very well taken care of and will continue to be. With me, she'll always be cherished and loved. And if this damn place would care to mind their own affairs, she'd probably be as nice to you all as she is to me!"

Clark pulled Ralph just a tad closer. "And if I ever hear you say something as disrespectful about my wife as you just did, you and I *will* take that walk."

Ralph heaved a huge sigh of relief when Clark released his arm. The normally mild-mannered reporter had morphed into the Incredible Hulk, and Ralph scurried away with his tail between his legs. Clark was left alone in the center of the room almost shaking with anger, while others pretended they were completely oblivious to the confrontation that had taken place. He sent a final disgusted glance around, then quickly strode across the newsroom and out the stairwell door, deciding he could use a short flight to clear his mind.

Lois had heard most of the conversation too and was as annoyed as Clark. How dare these people do something as cruel as take bets on their relationship? Didn't they have anything better to do? She fought to keep her control and not jump to her feet to reinforce Clark's statement that everyone should mind their own damn business.

"Lois! Don't let Ralph get to you!" Lois turned to find Jimmy at her elbow, her young friend looking very sympathetic. "He did try to start a book, but he didn't get many takers and when Perry found out, he almost kicked Ralph out. Most people think it's great what you and Clark are doing." In fact, Jimmy wasn't exactly sure what Lois and Clark were doing, but he supported them anyway, as did most of the decent staff of the Planet. "I just wish I'd had the chance to tell CK that before he ran out."

Lois stretched out a hand to touch Jimmy's arm, feeling very grateful for his kind words. "Thanks, Jimmy. Maybe you'll get a chance to speak to Clark later, and if you don't, I'll let him know."

"Sure thing, Lois." With a quick grin Jimmy hurried off.

Lois settled back in her chair, allowing her mind to drift over Clark's words to Ralph. It was so like him to defend her, even though she hadn't always deserved his support. But all that was behind them. That was the way Clark wanted it — he'd told her so, many times.

It was the moments that counted, he'd said, and he longed to enjoy each precious moment with his baby, whether that was beyond the couple of years the doctor had diagnosed or not. More surprisingly, he wanted Lois to be part of his life too… in whatever role she chose.

She wasn't sure why Clark felt that way. She didn't see herself as lovable; she was far too prickly and independent — let's face it, those people weren't placing bets because of Clark. Yet there was no denying that Clark saw something in her to admire… and love.

Yes, he was *in love* with her, but she also understood that he would never speak of his true feelings, not wishing to coerce her in any way. Lois had never known that kind of selfless love… Until now, she'd always believed it existed only in fairy tales.

The question was, what was she supposed to do with that knowledge? She wanted to be the kind of wife Clark deserved, but she wasn't sure how. Lois hadn't grown up with a role model for 'happy families' and the relationships she'd experienced had only emphasized her distrust of commitment.

She'd also clawed her way to the top in a very male-dominated business, establishing and learning to value her independence. Now she could see that her past was causing her problems in surrendering herself to Clark, but to be fair, Clark had never asked her for anything that she didn't feel comfortable with… apart from the marriage, of course.

And she was now beginning to see that marriage to Clark was something she didn't feel uncomfortable with. Quite the opposite! Since he'd been so ill, she was coming to value her time spent with Clark more than she'd ever thought possible.

Lois had always dreamt that true love would come to her with a fanfare of trumpets and cymbals. But perhaps this was the reality — the quiet acceptance that her happiness depended solely on the continued existence of one very special person in her life.

She wasn't sure if she was capable of a lifetime kind of love. Yet one thing she did know… Clark meant more to her than anyone ever had before, and she could do something for her best friend.

"I can show him I care," she said softly. Her earlier anger at Ralph's cruel jibe was pushed aside in favor of helping to ease Clark's hurt. She knew he'd probably gone flying to calm his nerves, but just as soon as he returned she intended to talk with him — lend him her strength if he needed it.

With a new plan in the works, she smiled and refocused on the research before her. Who cared what certain idiots thought? She and Clark would get through this… together.


By the time Lois got home, Clark had dinner cooked and the table set. He turned from retrieving a dish from the oven and offered up a brilliant smile.

"Hi," he told her.

"Hi, yourself. What happened to you today? I thought you were taking it easy." She kept her expression neutral.

"I did take it easy. I promise. I was at the hospital with a young burn victim. You can read it all on my laptop. Perry was ecstatic."

Lois moved over to where his laptop sat on the coffee table. When she'd read his article, she made her way to the table. "You were there as Clark?"

"Well, after Superman dropped the little girl off. Since I haven't been at work in so long, I thought I could score a few points with an article about the victim as well as the fire itself." He settled in his chair and served Lois a healthy portion of salad to go with her lasagna. "Eat up… Mommy."

She couldn't completely stop smiling at that remark and, employing her recently discovered honesty, she had to admit that being taken care of was rather nice. They ate in silence for a while before Lois looked up at Clark.

"I, ah, I overheard your conversation with Ralph today."

Clark put his fork down and sat back. "I was planning to tell you," he admitted. "I've been sitting here trying to figure out how." He leaned to place a hand on hers. "Lois, I'm sorry."

"For what? You're Superman, not the morality police. You can't stop people from thinking and doing stupid things."

Clark's brows rose as he studied her closely. "You're not upset?"

"I was, but then I figured I'd enjoy the show. There's something very satisfying in seeing that slimeball taken down a peg or two!" She smiled mischievously, turning her hand over to squeeze his. "Besides, Jimmy let me in on the fact that Ralph isn't being knocked over in the rush of staffers placing bets. Clark, it's only a sad few, so let them think what they want. As long as we know the truth, who cares?"

"Wow! Ms. Lane, I believe you've turned a corner."

"I believe I have." She gave his hand another squeeze before releasing it. "Now let's finish this delicious dinner."

"Yes, Lois." Clark's grin widened as he thought about Lois. He had no idea why she was so… content, but he liked it.


Clark wasn't sure if he'd been dreaming lately or not. Things were so incredible in his life that he felt sure it wouldn't last. He was married to his partner, the woman he loved, and her change of attitude toward him lately made him feel like singing. Only he thought he'd spare Lois that one… somehow he didn't think her warming up to him would survive his out of tune warbling.

Then there was the fact that he would soon be a father — that was just so incredibly exciting.

<You're already a father.>

He smiled again, guessing that was true. Whether this baby was actually here or not, he was a father. He glanced up to see Lois looking back at him with a grin of her own. Maybe she was starting to feel the same way. His smile widened when she pushed up from her desk and approached him.

"Would you like to go out tonight?"

"You mean… like a date?" he asked with raised brows.

"Yeah. I want you to forget about everything and just go out with me."

His smile beamed even brighter. "Yeah. I think maybe I'd like that."

"Good. Seven. I'll pick you up."

He was about to question her reasoning — after all, they lived together — but she was already back at her desk. He shrugged and turned to get back to work. Thoughts of Lois would have to wait until after their story was done.


As the day progressed, Lois grew more and more excited about her date with Clark. They'd only had one other official date, even though they went out to dinner often, it seemed more informal than tonight. Tonight was just for fun, just for them. It was the first active step she'd voluntarily taken to show Clark that she *did* care for him.

She opened the door to the apartment just in time to see Clark stepping into the bedroom from his shower.

"Hi," he said as he toweled his hair. "I didn't expect you until seven."

"I know. I wanted to change. Tonight's casual. Why don't you wear those black pants you wore the first time we went out? You look good in black."

"Okay." Clark spun quickly, stopping fully dressed in the same outfit he'd worn the night he proposed.

"Showoff," she told him as she passed him to go change.

He chuckled and stepped in front of the mirror to finish getting ready. Ten minutes later they were headed out the door.


"This is terrific," Clark told Lois. She'd gotten them floor seats at the Metropolis Stars basketball game. He'd been surprised when they drove to the parking garage at the Planet and caught a cab downtown. When he'd learned their destination, he turned questioning eyes to Lois. She simply smiled and said it was her late wedding present to him. He hadn't thought much of that as his excitement took over. He hadn't taken in a ballgame in years and was as appreciative as a kid.

Lois laughed at his exuberance. This had been the best idea she'd ever had — a practical way of showing Clark she appreciated him and of expressing those growing feelings she couldn't voice. Maybe a game wasn't quite enough, but it was good to see him so relaxed.

"Hey, I noticed you played football in high school and college. Did you play basketball, too?"

Clark turned to Lois. "No. Actually I didn't take it up until just a few years ago. It's one of the few games I can play alone without cheating."

Lois laughed softly. "I hadn't thought of that. What about golf? I play a bit, and I'll take you on… if you promise not to use 'the powers'." She mouthed the last two words. "Oh, and we'll have to wait until after this little one is delivered," she said, patting her stomach, "but I'd like to play a… round with you!"

The sparkle in her eye and her naughty smirk told him she knew exactly what she was doing, but Clark didn't care. This was the first time Lois had actually suggested doing something together after the baby was born, and it sent Clark directly to Cloud Nine!

<Calm down, boy,> he instructed himself, believing it was best to continue taking one day at a time. Instead, he smiled, took another sip of his beer for courage and tried not to squeak, "You do? Do you want anything else? Now, I mean… do you want anything now… drinks, something to eat?"

"I asked you out, remember? This is my treat."

"I know. It's just hard to forget my manners."

Lois rubbed his arm, saying contritely, "I used to mock those manners — thought they were too Hicksville!"

"I know." He watched her over the rim of his cup. When he lowered the drink, he asked, "Do you like them now?"

"Absolutely. I have for a long while now. It's what makes you Clark."

"And here I thought you loved me because I could fly," he said softly.

"Now how could I forget that?" she teased back. "Do you think it'll be safe to do that now?"

"Lois, you're pregnant, not dead. I don't plan on dropping you. Besides, we've flown since you found out you were pregnant."

"I know that. I just wasn't sure with me getting bigger."

"You forget you're carrying a super baby," he told her with twinkling eyes.

She turned to him with a serious expression. "Clark, I meant it when I said this baby means a lot to me and I just don't want to do anything that would jeopardize its health."

"I know. Me neither! Maybe we could ask Bernie," Clark suggested, reaching out to squeeze her hand.

"Sounds like a good plan!"

"Thank you, Lois… for this."

"No. Thank you."

He could only look at her for a long moment. Lois had given him the world. How did he repay such a debt?

The cheering of the crowd broke into their intimate exchange, shifting the mood back to one of a casual date and the couple settled back to watch the game. Lois asked a ton of questions, all of which Clark answered happily. Afterward they stopped at a caf‚ to grab a cup of coffee and share a few more moments before they called it a night.

"I had a great time," Clark told Lois as he helped her take off her jacket once inside the apartment.

"So did I." She kicked off her shoes and started down the stairs. "I think we should go out at least one night a week."

"Like a date night?" Clark had to remind himself to breathe as his heart raced. Lois had certainly made a drastic change.

"Yeah. We could take turns choosing what to do and, I promise, we'll have a lot of fun. I had fun tonight, didn't you?" The last question was delivered with just a touch of uncertainty.

"Sure, I did! Couldn't you tell?" Clark grinned and bounded down the stairs behind her. "Okay, I'm definitely willing to give this date thing a try."


Later, Lois sat on the edge of her bed, thinking about the man she'd been out with tonight. She had enjoyed their 'date'… a lot, and she was looking forward to others. The amazing thing was, though, she didn't need 'dates'; she was happy just to be with Clark.

This was getting seriously scary! The Lois Lane who didn't need anyone was slowly slipping away.

Her hand covered her stomach and the new life they'd created. When she'd started out on this path, she'd never really considered how she'd feel about this child. Sure, she knew there would be a connection, but she'd never really seen herself as the mothering type. Though she'd been slow to come around, this baby now meant more to her than anything or anyone could.

Clark had come through from the bathroom and witnessed the play of emotions on her face. He sat beside her on the bed. "Pretty incredible, huh?"


"No regrets?"


Clark's eyes dropped to her stomach. "I was reading your book… the pregnancy one." She cocked her brow at him. "I wanted to know what's going on so I can help in any way."

"I think I like that idea."

"You don't think there will be anything wrong, do you? I mean, because of our differences." His eyes met hers again and Lois was surprised by a shade of fear, barely concealed in Clark's gaze.

"Clark, no. Dr. Klein and Doc Lewis both say the baby's fine. You've heard that beautiful heartbeat. It's normal and healthy."

"I know. I just think I'll feel better when we see the sonogram."

"Well, we only have three more days to wait. Will you relax then?"

"I hope so." His eyes drifted to her stomach, then back to her face. "Thank you," he whispered.

"You keep thanking me! Will you stop? You know I was the one to offer to do this… you didn't need to ask."

"That's what I mean, Lois. Not many people would offer to do such a huge thing for a friend." Clark's hand rose to trace Lois' cheek gently, then dropped to his lap. "I don't care what anyone else thinks, Lois, you are an amazing woman and I could never find a more generous and loyal friend."

Lois' eyes stung with tears at the emotion she heard in his voice. On impulse she leaned over and kissed him softly. Her hand held his face as she leaned back to look in his eyes. They stared into each other's souls a beat before Clark returned his hand to her face and kissed her again.

He drew back to look at her. "You told me earlier that the game was a late wedding present. Now I feel bad. I haven't gotten you anything."

"Sure you have." Lois lifted Clark's hand to her stomach. "My present's growing inside me," she whispered.

Clark's eyes filled with tears. He let his hand stroke her body. "I think this is my gift." He brought his other hand up to join the one on Lois' midsection. "Lois, what you're doing… this is … well, it's…"

Lois placed a finger over his lips. "No more thank yous," she reminded him, blinking back her own tears. She smiled through her haze as she stroked a lock of hair off Clark's forehead.

Clark smiled back before rising to his feet. He had to put some emotional distance between them or he'd never survive. "How about you get ready for bed and I'll brush your hair?"

"You've got a deal." She stood to go get changed, but stopped briefly to caress his face before disappearing behind the bathroom door.

Clark had to take a deep breath. It appeared things were changing for him and Lois more than he'd first anticipated. That kiss had almost made him forget his promise about not pushing her into anything physical. While he knew he would have stopped if she'd protested even slightly, and he was sure she would have, he didn't want her to feel the least bit uncomfortable with him. He'd worked hard to establish an easiness in their relationship and he'd be damned if he'd mess that up with a moment of weakness from his traitorous body.

But he still felt elated about the baby. Nearly twenty three weeks into the pregnancy and the silly grin he'd had from day one was still present as he changed. He was sitting on Lois' bed, brush in hand when she came back in the room. He patted the mattress and she sat cross-legged in front of him.

"That feels great," she told him as he pulled the brush gently through her satiny hair.

"See. You won't have to worry about a daughter not having her hair brushed out before we cart her off every morning."

Lois didn't know whether or not he realized, but he'd just admitted he might live to see his child grow. The idea delighted her and she let her head fall back to look at him upside down.

"Is that what you want? A girl?"

Clark let the brush stop and he shrugged. "I don't care what we have. He or she will be just as loved."

She lifted her head and twisted around on the bed. "Good answer, Mr. Kent."

"How 'bout you? You have a preference?"

"Actually… I think it's going to be a boy."

"Do you?"

"Mmm. It sounds crazy, but do you remember I told you I had a dream… The one the night before I first mentioned this." Clark nodded. "In the dream, I saw the baby. Don't look at me like that." She pushed at his chest. "I told you it was crazy."

"No crazier than anything else that's happened," Clark told her as he turned her away from him so he could continue brushing her hair. "So, you saw a boy?"

"Yeah. He was tiny with a head full of black hair and big, brown eyes."

"How do you know it was a boy?"

"Because he was naked. I'd just given birth."

"Oh." Clark dropped the brush to the bed and threaded his fingers through her hair.

"Having fun?"

"Yep. I've always wanted to do this."


"Uh huh. You have great hair."

"Thank you. You have great hands." She smiled in contentment as he kept up his task.

Some time later Clark smiled as he looked down at his sleeping wife. She'd fallen asleep with him caressing her hair. He laid her back on her pillow and settled to watch her sleep for a while before going up to his room. Clark knew he'd never get over the way he felt for Lois — for him, she was simply the most breathtaking woman alive.


"Clark, would you sit down? You're making me nervous."

"I can't help it. I'm excited."

"I know you are." They were going to be able to see the baby on a sonogram today and he'd been up since sunrise, too excited to sleep. He reminded Lois of a kid on Christmas morning. "I am, too."

He smiled over at her brightly as he continued to check out the machine that would allow them the first glance at the new life. His head snapped up when the technician came in.

"Hello. I'm Riley. I'll be taking the pictures of the baby."

Clark moved to Lois' side, helping her lift her blouse to prepare for the test. His eyes widened appreciatively at the growing bulge she now sported. This was the only time he got to see her like this and he reveled in every moment.

The technician squirted some gel on Lois' skin then worked the wand over her stomach for several moments before he turned the monitor for the couple to see. "There you go."

"Oh wow!" Clark was like a kid in a candy store. "Look, Lois, you can see the spine." He pointed eagerly to the very visible marks that indicated the baby's backbone.

"I see, Clark."

Riley continued to move the wand, stopping at different points to take measurements. "This is a hand," he told them. He moved to another point. "A foot."

"And that… is that his heart?" Clark asked.

"Yes, sir."

Clark tuned in his hearing and listened as the pace matched the blinking of the small blotch on the screen. He leaned over to whisper in Lois' ear. "I wish you could hear that like I can."

She turned to look up at him. "I do, too."

He smiled slightly apologetically and rubbed her head.

Riley took a couple more measurements, then printed out some pictures. Retrieving them from the machine, he handed them to Clark with a tolerant grin. He'd seen that same look on the faces of new parents before, but it never ceased to amuse him. "Your first baby pictures."

Clark took the offered items as if they were gold.

"Everything looks great and with these new measurements, we'll readjust the due date. You should expect this little guy or girl — sorry we couldn't determine the sex."

"That's okay. I think we'd rather be surprised. Isn't that right, Clark?" Lois asked as she glanced up at her partner, who was still clearly lost in the images before him.

"Yeah," he answered automatically without lifting his eyes from the paper he held.

Lois and Riley shared a knowing smile before Riley continued, "Anyway, expect this little visitor on…" He read over the measurements and dates again. "February 28th." Riley handed Lois a few towels to clean up with before he rose to leave.

Clark was so intent on the pictures he completely forgot about Lois and didn't hear the new due date. When she sat up, he lifted his head. "Oh, Lois. I'm sorry. I should have helped you." He was reaching to help her off the table. "Why didn't you say something?"

"I was enjoying watching you. You look so happy."

"I am." He leaned over to place a kiss on her temple. "Very happy."

"So am I. Did you hear the new due date? It's changed by a week."

Clark looked over at her while she straightened her clothes. "Really?"

"Yeah. Riley says February 28th."

The proud papa felt like bursting, his smile widening until it almost reached his ears. Lois could almost see the wheels in his head turning. The due date was also his birthday and he looked extremely pleased.

"You do know that's not an exact science?"

"I guess," he said as he glanced down at the photos again. "But it still feels good — the best birthday present of all time!"

Lois shook her head and smiled as they left the office. She reached out to take his arm when they stepped onto the sidewalk, pleasing the beaming father even more, and he sighed in contentment. If seeing this child on a monitor did this much for him, Lois wasn't sure she'd be able to stand it when Clark could actually hold their baby. She had a feeling he'd be unbearable, but she also suspected that she wouldn't mind at all!


Chapter 13: Don't Tug on Superman's Cape

Lois was glad the technician from the doctor's office had given them several pictures of the baby. If he hadn't, she might not have gotten to see one. Clark kept the others in his shirt pocket, showing them to anyone who showed the tiniest bit of interest… and even to those who didn't. Clearly, Clark's excitement had rubbed off on the Planet staff because she was being treated like a queen.

She seldom had to get her own coffee and was never without a snack. The only thing she didn't appreciate was everyone wanting to know if she felt all right. She was sure that as she grew larger, she would be plagued by the 'stomach-touchers' once more, just as she had when she'd first announced she was expecting, and that was something she now reserved only for Clark.

Clark whistled as he bounded down the stairs from another short rescue as Superman. As he'd told Lois, he was taking his 'super duties' very carefully. He'd only been out twice as the Man of Steel and wasn't planning anything else today unless it was a major disaster. He had a date with his wife and wasn't about to miss it.

He entered the newsroom and zoomed in on his two favorite people. She must have sensed him because she looked up and smiled.

"Hi," he said, perching on her desk when he made it to her side.

"Hey. You look happy."

"I am."

"Any particular reason?"

"I'm healthy, you're pregnant, and we have a date."

Lois' glance turned from Clark to the wall clock, her eyes widening in vexation. "Oh boy, I can't believe it's that time already." She jumped up and started gathering files, dropping them haphazardly into her desk's bottom drawer. "And we're going to be late!"

"At four in the afternoon?"

"Yeah. God, how could I forget?" She finished what she was doing and snatched up her purse. "Ready?"

"Sure." Clark stood to follow her, his eyes twinkling with appreciative amusement as he watched her rushing up the stairs ahead of him; the view of Lois from this position was kinda nice. "Where are we going?" he asked as the elevator doors closed behind them.

"You'll see."

He shrugged and shoved his hands into his pockets, looking forward to his surprise. When Lois planned the dates, there was no telling what they would be doing — she was nothing if not inventive!


"I can't believe you did this," Clark told Lois, sitting back in his chair and staring around at the brightly painted room.

"You don't like it?"

"Oh no. I love it." His eyes finished their survey of the cartoon character decoration and the cribs that lined the wall. "Especially this part." Clark's downward gaze intimated which part 'this' was, as he shifted the baby in his arms, careful to hold her tiny head gently.

Astonishingly, Lois had planned their date at the local orphanage. She'd once written an expose on 'babies for sale' and during the investigation had made friends with a staff nurse who'd helped her uncover the criminal activity. The villains in the administration department had been replaced long since, but her friend was still in charge of the nursery and Lois decided to take full advantage of her contacts.

At present there were five newborn babies staying at the orphanage, and Lois had decided that Clark would get a kick out of feeding and cuddling them for a time. She also felt that a little practical experience couldn't hurt to ease her own growing anxiety over caring for their baby when it arrived.

Somewhat experimentally, Lois hugged the infant, who yawned contentedly and snuggled into the warmth of her body. Now that felt pretty good — this mothering thing might have advantages! "I don't know how any parents could leave their baby," she surmised, her brow creased in worry and disapproval. They had been told the small girl she held had been abandoned only hours after birth.

"Yeah. I mean, look at them. Who wouldn't want to take these little darlings home?"

"Well, at least that one wasn't abandoned."

"Death or just being left… it's all the same, Lois. She's still alone." Clark ran a hand over the tiny head.

"Not for long. She's being adopted next week."

Clark smiled down at the wide-eyed baby in relief. "Maybe you'll be as lucky as I was."

"Or as lucky as me," Lois mumbled as she put the baby she held back into her cradle.

"What did you say?"

"Nothing. You ready? I think these little ones need to sleep. Besides, our date's not over."

"It's not?"

"Of course not."

Clark cast an apologetic frown down at his new friend. "Sorry, sweetheart. I have to go now." He took her to her crib and couldn't resist kissing her chubby cheeks before he left to follow Lois. They thanked their hostess and continued on their way.

A few minutes later, Lois pulled into the Northland Mall.

"The mall?" Clark's eyebrows rose speculatively — just what was Lois up to now?

"Yep. I thought Daddy might enjoy buying the baby his first outfit… or shoes or whatever you want."


Lois chuckled when his eyes lit up. "Sure. I'm definitely far enough along. The doctor says everything's going okay and we haven't bought a single thing for this baby. Why not start today?"

"Okay." Clark hopped out of the Jeep and was opening Lois' door before she could do it herself. He held her hand as they made their way toward the entrance. "You know we haven't really discussed… support."


"Financial support. Well, I mean… since we've been married we've split the bills, but you still have your own bank account and so do I. So I was just wondering how we do this… with the baby. Do we just split the cost? Or should we open an account just for the baby's expenses? Do you buy the crib? Do I buy diapers? And what about formula and daycare and…?"

"Clark! You're babbling… and that's my department!"

He clamped his mouth shut. "Sorry."

Lois was tempted to giggle at his expression, an attractive mixture of confusion and contrition, but took pity on him instead. "Look, why don't we grab a bite to eat so we can talk before we shop?"

"Sounds great. There's a great little grill on the second floor. They make the best grilled chicken."

"Let's go." This was one conversation she could definitely handle. She'd been musing over their financial status too and had reached certain decisions. It was now time to tell Clark, even if she wasn't totally sure of the choices she'd made. This was definitely 'taking the next step', and a big one for someone with as many hangups about putting down roots as Lois. Especially since Clark had just admitted again that he could live a lot longer than two years, but she *was* ready for this. Besides, she enjoyed hearing him mention his long-term future.

They arrived at the restaurant and after being seated by a friendly waiter who took their orders, Lois looked up at her partner, her teeth biting anxiously at her lip.

<Come on, girl,> she admonished herself. <You're willing to take a chance for your work; now it's time to take a chance on your private life!>

"Clark!" She seized the moment and caught his attention. "You know it's funny you mentioned the money thing. I've been thinking about that, too."

"Good, because I…"

She held up her hand to stop him. "Please, let me go first," she said almost pleadingly, and seeing compliance in his eyes, hurried on. "We've been living like roommates instead of a married couple. That, of course, is my fault. I went into this thinking that just because I was married didn't mean I had to change my lifestyle. That was wrong."

"Lois, I didn't ask you to change your life."

"No, I know. But you did ask me to marry you."

"Which you didn't want to do."

"Not at first. But I like being married, or more accurately… I like being married to you."

Clark grinned. "And I like being married to you, so there's no problem."

Lois smiled back and took his hand. "Clark, when you first mentioned our getting married, I had my doubts and reservations."

He nodded his agreement. "I think I got the message."

Lois shrugged. "Yeah, well I'm not very good at hiding my feelings and I felt like I was being controlled. That's not me and I reacted badly. I'm sorry for some of the things I said and did." Her eyes had dropped to study the table but she raised them at those words and Clark was touched to see tears sparkling in her eyes. "For so long I just couldn't decide how I felt about being married, but now I realize that it means a great deal to me and I think it's time to show you that."

Clark patted her hand gently to make her feel better. "I understand, Lois, but you don't have to keep apologizing. I forgave you long ago, even if there wasn't much to forgive."

"That's not exactly true, Clark. I can be pretty… 'blunt' when I'm angry," Lois admitted ruefully. "But I'm not talking about the past… this is about the future… practically speaking."

The confused look was back on Clark's face. Obviously, he didn't know what she was referring to but was about to find out. Lois leaned over and pulled some papers out of her purse.

Clark took them from her and read a moment. "You want to open joint banking accounts?"

"Yes. I also need you to sign some papers from my lawyer to be my power of attorney. There's paperwork there for insurance at work. I've made you the beneficiary on all my accounts. I have several CDs I want to add your name to and I'd like to open a savings account for the baby. All I need is your signature and we're ready to go."

Clark glanced down at the papers and back up at Lois. He sat forward in his chair, unsure of what to say or even how he felt. "Why?" was finally the only response that came out of his mouth.


"Why do you want to do this? You don't have to do it to make me feel more married or to prove you're committed or…"

"Clark, I want to do this." Her defenses shot up. "Surely you don't think I have some kind of motive behind this?"

"No! Of course, not! Lois, anything I have is yours. You have to know that. Money means nothing to me. Everything I have would be yours if I…" He let that statement go unfinished and looked at the papers again. "It's just… this is really final."

"You make it sound like some kind of death sentence."

"I don't mean to, but this is a big commitment. It would mean a lot more compromising. Neither of us could run out and spend money without talking to the other."

"Clark, you tell me now when you spend money. Not that I've asked you to… and I'm not suggesting that we should discuss every little detail… I mean, I'm not going to tell you when I buy pantyhose, or an extra box of candy for my bottom drawer… just more important items. Come on, help me out here! What do you think?"

Clark chuckled softly at Lois' babble. She was clearly nervous, but she was also right. He had started telling her weeks ago when they'd had an argument after Lois had taken it upon herself to split the bills. They'd eventually ended up taking a detailed inventory of all expenses and savings, and since then Clark had always told Lois if he spent more than twenty dollars.

"This would be extremely…"

"Natural for a married couple?" she suggested helpfully.

Clark looked at Lois for a long moment. Her serious expression told him she was determined to do this and that she knew exactly what it meant to their relationship. He studied the papers for several moments more before he put them down and pulled a pen out of his jacket pocket. He signed his name and handed the papers back over to Lois, still not exactly sure what had prompted her actions at this time. However, everything he had was Lois' and perhaps it was best that they made it official.

"Do I need to handle the transfer of funds from my account to ours?" he enquired, delighted in the sound of that last word.

<Ours!> he repeated happily inside his head, but had to quickly focus again as Lois, returning to business, handed out instructions.

"Nope. We bank at the same place and these papers take care of everything. There will be enough money left in your account to cover any checks you have outstanding, but you need to stop by tomorrow and grab a little cash. It'll take a few days to get the new checks."

"You have been busy."

"You know I don't do anything half way."

"I guess not." Clark shot her another bright smile as the waiter returned and set their plates on the table. "Let's eat — I'm really hungry tonight!"

He almost literally started to inhale his food, which wasn't always the case, his appetite being affected by his illness on occasion. If she'd known that rearranging their finances would have had such a desirable effect on him, she'd have done this weeks ago. Feeling extremely pleased with herself, Lois tackled her own meal. The sooner they finished the sooner they could go 'baby' shopping and somehow she thought that was going to be quite an experience with Clark.


Lois couldn't help but smile at Clark as she came into the bedroom from taking her shower. He was still holding the tiny pair of shoes he'd found on their shopping date.

"Are you going to hold those all night?"

"Busted!" He laughed sheepishly, looking down at the items in his hand. "Maybe! Don't you think they're cute?" He patted the window seat next to him, hoping she'd join him for a few minutes. When she did, he smiled at her. "I had a great time."

"Good. I was hoping you would. You won't think so when we write the checks for the credit cards next month."

"Ah, come on. We didn't spend that much."

"That's true." She fiddled with the laces on the shoes in Clark's hand.

"I guess we should think about making some of those credit accounts joint, too."

"Well, I was thinking since we'll be taking care of a baby *and* since they're expensive… maybe we should cancel all but a couple — easier to keep track of spending that way."

"Sounds fair." Setting the shoes down beside him, his arm slipped around her waist and pulled her closer. As soon as his hand lit on her stomach, it moved. "Oh wow! That was…"

"Fantastic?" Lois' face glowed with excitement. "You know, I think this baby recognizes your touch. It moves nearly every time you lay your hand on my belly."

Clark reached forward with his other hand and smoothed Lois' mid- section. Immediately the life beneath his hands came to life. He laughed softly, his eyes lighting up. "This is awesome!"

"You should feel it from my side."

"Yeah. I'll bet that's something."

"It is."

They chatted conversationally for several minutes as the baby continued to move. Finally the activity died down, much to Clark's disappointment.

"Guess the little guy's tired."

"Clark, he or she will move again," she told him as she turned her head to look up at him, her fingers moving over his hands where they remained on her stomach.

"I guess." But his expression was less accepting than his words.

Lois couldn't help but laugh at his pouting.

"It's not funny," he protested as he drew away and lifted the shoes again.

At the note of disappointment in his voice, she caught his arm, rubbing it gently. "I didn't mean to poke fun at you. I'm sorry."

He shifted back to face her. "So am I. I was just enjoying that."

"We both were." Lois reached to capture Clark's hand while she stared directly into his eyes. "I'll make sure when I get bigger and the baby starts moving like something possessed to *lie* against you so we'll both lose sleep."

Clark stared at her in shock. Had she realized what she'd just intimated? Somehow, he didn't feel confident enough to put it to the test just yet. Instead, he squeezed her hand gently as he rose to his feet. "Goodnight, Lois, and thank you for the date," he said softly as he released her hand.

"Goodnight and you're welcome."

With a final smile, he took the little pair of shoes and made his way to his room. Being able to hold her while she fell asleep would have made this day brilliant, but he wasn't ready to question where her change in attitude was taking them. Though he was sure there was only a faint chance he'd be rejected, he felt the next move should come from Lois.


Neither Lois nor Clark noticed that he seemed to be staying amazingly healthy. Over the next few weeks, he wasn't sick at all. There hadn't been any nose bleeds and the diminishing of his powers seemed to be at a standstill. He wasn't fully super any more, but he wasn't getting weaker either.

On the other hand, Lois' energy levels had increased incredibly, a state of affairs that proved to be invaluable at work. They cracked several major investigations in the span of a couple weeks. Lois even convinced Clark to start jotting down his thoughts about his illness, while she agreed to do the same from her point of view. Perhaps no one but themselves would ever read the results, but both felt that an account of the day-to-day living with a terminal illness might strengthen them sometime in the future.

Emotionally, they continued to grow closer. Conversations became more intimate and they shared their weekly dates as if they were a religion. There had been romantic dinners, a football game, a night at the ballet and the latest box office smash. Amazingly, though, both were just as happy spending nights watching a video at home.

The duo became comfortable almost immediately with their new financial arrangement, sitting down weekly to pay the bills, and Lois astounded Clark with how well she'd adapted to being part of a joint venture. Just as he had done, she kept him apprised of her spending and seldom bought anything over an allotted amount without first talking it over with him. He also noticed she'd started to confide in him a lot more than before, telling him of the frustrations of her past and her dreams for the future, a circumstance that gave him hope that one day soon she might be his wife in every sense of the word.

Some of the new accord between Lois and himself Clark accredited to spending Thanksgiving with his parents. The older Kents had flown out to be with them for the holiday and had shown Lois a real traditional celebration. This was something which Lois was completely unused to, and yet, once again, she found herself loving the warmth of being part of a family.

Martha had even persuaded Lois' folks to join them for dinner, and remarkably her parents had managed to get along with each other for the duration. Neither Ellen nor Sam were totally comfortable in each other's company, but they had tolerated the other's presence in a fairly friendly manner, which Lois had previously thought was an impossible situation.

Taking advantage of how well things had been going in their relationship, Clark asked Lois to join him for Christmas in Smallville. To his surprise, she readily agreed and even said she was looking forward to it immensely. In fact, she acted like it was a foregone conclusion that she should spend Christmas at the family home. This made Clark extremely happy and very optimistic. But realizing that Lois often went on the defensive and guarded her feelings when she felt pressured, he toned down his enthusiasm, content to let her lead the way. He still hoped for so much more, but for now he was happy with the closeness they shared.


Just one week to go and he'd be taking Lois to the farm for an old-fashioned Christmas. It was that thought which buoyed him up while he diverted a tornado on the plains of Oklahoma. Yet thinking of Lois also made him wish he didn't have to face her back at the apartment.

Since this freak storm had been completely out of season and the district unprepared, he'd come to help despite her protests. She'd been angry with him and theoretically he knew she'd been right. Redirecting this storm was a massive undertaking, but how could he not help? The huge twister had been heading for a small town and many people would have been killed or injured if he hadn't intervened. But he had to admit that controlling the whirlwind had stretched his powers to the limit. It was all he could do to contain the vortex and send it back into the higher atmosphere where it had begun. He'd even had to rest up before he could make the journey home. Now, as he flew slowly toward Metropolis, his only hope was that Lois would take pity on his exhausted state and decide to wait until later to argue about it.

Clark should've known better than to think Lois would let anything drop when she was aggravated. She did, however, let him sit down on the couch before she launched into her spew, which was more vociferous because of the time she'd spent anxiously awaiting his return.

At first, she'd filled her time by staying glued to the TV screen, watching the LNN reports, where she and Clark had first been alerted to the tornado that had appeared to take the meteorologists almost by surprise.

Some daring camera crew had gotten close enough to film Superman's progress as he darted around the giant funnel, weighing up his options on how best to deal with the whirling wind. He'd looked so small and insignificant against the towering vortex and her heart had missed a beat as she found herself praying to a god she hardly believed in to protect her husband.

But that had been hours ago, and she'd spent the interim period stalking the apartment, scanning the skies through the picture window and channel hopping, hoping to find that he'd stopped to deal with some other disaster. And all the while, her imagination was running wild. She pictured him as he'd dropped from the sky, exhausted and alone, to die of hypothermia in the cooling temperatures of the night.

She couldn't even warn the authorities that Superman might be in trouble… What could she tell them? That he might be sick with the same ailment as Clark Kent? That wasn't an option! So she'd waited as fear and frustration mounted.

She'd started out on this journey to save Superman for the world, now it seemed the world and the superhero might rob her of Clark. That was a prospect she didn't want to comprehend…

Then he was back, sitting in the living room…

"Clark, what are you doing?"

"Look, Lois, I'm not up for this tonight."

"Of course not. I'm not drowning or suffering from smoke inhalation or trapped in my mangled car in some twister in the Midwest."

Clark cringed at her strident and unwarranted attack, but he put up a feeble fight. "What do you want me to do? I can't let them die!"

"No one's asking you to. I'm just asking you to slow down. What do you think happened before you came on the scene? Clark, Metropolis has an excellent police and fire department and so does the rest of the country."

"I know that, but I just can't turn off my hearing and not respond to calls."

"Oh really? You didn't answer one single call the whole time we were on our honeymoon. Did you not hear any emergency calls or anyone shouting for help? You can't tell me you didn't hear anyone for three whole days. We've been to Smallville and on dates. And what about the weekend you took off because you were sick? Or even the two weeks you were in bed with that infection?" Lois ticked the list off on her fingers, pure fear making it difficult for her to keep still.

"That was different."

"How? Please tell me, because I'm really trying to understand here!"

"I want to do as much as I can before I lose my powers."

Clark's shoulders were hunched, his demeanor one of total fatigue, and in the background of her mind, she did understand his painful dilemma. Seeing him like this was causing her exasperation to recede. Only she couldn't allow that to happen, not if she wanted to stop him from pushing himself into an early grave — hadn't Dr Klein warned them! That very thought had tortured her through the hours as she'd waited.

Now she panicked, and wielded her emotions as a weapon. This was an art Lois had perfected through many years of hurt and isolation, but this time, she was fighting out of love.

"Does that include killing yourself?" She let her first barb fly, prepared to use any missile in her arsenal. "At the rate you're going you'll die before this baby gets here. Everything we've done will have been for nothing."

Clark gasped at her last remark. Lately, she'd been telling him how much she loved their baby, so how could she say something like that?

"Is that all this baby means to you, Lois?" Clark's voice was low and full of pain — pain that was etched in his ashen face as he struggled to his feet.

"Clark, no!" He was already half way to the bedroom before she reached out to grasp his arm, but he jerked from her as if he'd been branded.

"Don't touch me! I thought I was getting to know you. I thought you were starting to love our baby."

"Clark, I do love our baby." Too late Lois realized that in her fear she'd said something unforgivable, again. When would she ever learn? She moved in closer to him, her eyes begging him to understand.

"Stop!" That one outraged word hit her, bringing her to a halt, yet when he spoke again his voice was devoid of all emotion but sorrow. "Then you should have never said that! I don't want to die. At one time it was because I was just scared. Now… now it's because more than anything I don't want to leave our baby. The best day of my life was the day you told me you were pregnant. As much as I love you, I love this baby more. And it's not because he or she is part of me or because he or she might save my life, it's because this baby is alive and part of you. To me that means more than my life ever could."

Lois was left standing alone in the room, her heart tearing apart inside her. Clark was right! She shouldn't have made that comment, implying that the baby was 'nothing'. That wasn't what she'd meant at all, but she should have known how it would appear to Clark.

He had such a gentle heart, and once more she'd stomped all over it in her anger. That was the unhealthy side-effect of allowing terror to take over; it caused you to lose control and hurt those you cared most about. She had to find better ways of communicating with him when she was upset, without resorting to her old 'tried and true' methods of taking no prisoners.

Especially since his feelings were important to her, his very existence was important to her… as was the existence of their baby. But Clark could be forgiven for doubting that. She might have first suggested having a child to save Clark's life, but she'd stopped seeing their baby in that way long ago.

At exactly what point in time her feelings had changed, Lois couldn't say. All she knew was that this baby meant the world to her… So did Clark.

<Okay, girl, now you just have to learn to express your concerns without trashing your relationship with Clark. Should be a piece of cake!>


<How could I have been so wrong?> Lois ruminated, as she sat at the computer in her bedroom. <This was harder than negotiating world peace, never mind eating a piece of cake.>

And she had eaten humble pie! For days she'd tried to explain that she'd spoken unthinkingly out of anger and fear for him, but though Clark had been polite and still attentive of her condition, he'd been the one to 'build the barricades' this time, shutting her out. She understood that he wasn't mad, he was hurt. Having a baby was the most wonderful event in his life and somehow she'd managed to tarnish that. No wonder he refused to listen. She wouldn't give him the time of day if the situation was reversed. At least, the old Lois wouldn't — this was a new and improved version and she really had to make Clark see that. Her happiness depended on it.

She'd contemplated giving him some space to work through his bruised emotions, but Lois preferred the more active approach, so she found herself doing things for Clark: making sure his medication was up to date, keeping the apartment tidy… a job that Lois didn't completely enjoy… and bringing him coffee in the newsroom when he returned from his occasional outings as Superman.

Lois was aware of a few raised eyebrows in the office at that role reversal, but she didn't care what others thought, only Clark. And, lately, she did suspect that her perseverance was paying off. The last time she'd put his coffee mug on his desk, she was sure she detected a tiny smile that tried to answer her own larger one.

Actually, Clark was closer to giving up his childish huff than Lois realized. It was true that her words had wounded him deeply, but he knew her better now — enough to understand that perhaps she'd struck out at him because she really was afraid that he'd die and leave her and the baby behind.

So okay, she hadn't chosen her words well, but that was his Lois… full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes. He didn't want, nor did he have the right, to change her. Besides, he'd fallen in love with her feistiness, her loyalty and her passion, so he really should learn to live with them — to look beyond the exterior and see into her heart. If he ever won that heart then all the arguments and hurt would be insignificant.

Also, she'd said she was sorry and had been trying to make amends. She didn't deserve his continued brusqueness, and there never really had been any doubt in his mind that she loved their baby; the truth showed in her eyes. It was time to set things right and try to recapture the intimacy they'd been building before he'd allowed his exhaustion to make a mountain out of a molehill.

Clark had been resting in his room, but having reached a decision, he felt there was no time like the present to put his thoughts into action. Lois was downstairs. It would only take a moment to get down there and apologies for his churlishness. Rolling over to get off his bed, he noticed the pillow he'd hugged to his face was covered with blood.

"Oh damn! Not again!" he swore loudly, taken aback by the unexpected sight of his blood. It had been quite some time since he'd had a nosebleed and this was a big one.

"Clark?!" Lois called. "Are you okay?"

When she didn't receive an answer, she rose and ran upstairs, worry lending her speed. The sight of Clark clutching the sheet to his nose as he tried to staunch the flow of blood didn't reassure her. She rushed to his side and reached out to clamp his nose shut. "Lean forward. Always lean forward. It keeps the blood from running down your throat."

Clark did as he was told, relinquishing control to her. He had started to tremble slightly. There seemed to be more blood than ever before and it was scaring him.

Lois pressed the sheet firmly over his nose with one hand as her other held him forward. "It's okay. It's already starting to slow down. See?" She released the pressure on his nose warily, a little unsure herself, but, thankfully, it wasn't bleeding as badly. Her action seemed to calm him, yet she clamped his nose again in an attempt to stop the flow completely, smoothing her other hand up and down his back in comfort.

"I'm sorry, Clark," she whispered, her eyes filling with unbidden tears, blurring her vision. "I really do understand what it means to you *not* to be able to help people when they're in trouble. I've never known such a generous soul… but the world needs its Superman. Isn't it better to take it easy now?" She swallowed the massive lump that had formed in her throat before whispering, "And I don't want to lose you, Clark… I'm so afraid that you'll fly off some day and collapse where we'll never be able to find you… But I never meant to hurt you. I am so sorry."

At once, Clark lifted his hand to cover hers, which was still bunched in the sheet. "So am I," came his muffled reply. "I've been such an ass."

Lois leaned her forehead against the side of his face. "A lunkhead," she corrected.

A tiny chuckle escaped his lips. "Forgive me, please?"

"There's nothing to forgive." She kissed his ear softly and stood, once again removing the linen, only this time she was pleased to see that the bloodflow had ceased. "Good, it's stopped. Come on. Let's get you cleaned up."

Clark rose slowly, feeling a little weak. He allowed Lois to wrap her arm around his waist, but by the time he made it to the stairs he felt strong enough to go down alone. She rejoined him again at the bottom and his brows rose as she accompanied him all the way to the bathroom.

"You wash, I'll watch," he told her with a grin. Perhaps it was the relief that he wasn't going to bleed to death, or maybe he was just lightheaded, but he certainly felt daring.

Lois' mouth opened in amazement at his comment. Clark hadn't made a single sexual insinuation since they'd gotten married, but she was pretty certain that was the connotation of his suggestion. Lately, she'd been the one doing the suggesting… Habit prompted her to dampen his ardor, but an evil thought crossed her mind instead.

"Shower or bath?" And she glanced up at him through her thick lashes.

Clark stopped dead, returning her look in shock. "What?"

"Well, a bath would be relaxing, but the water would get bloody. Of course, a shower would have the added benefit of me being in there with you."

Clark's eyebrows rose out of sight. "Lois, I was just…"

Lois laughed softly. "Relax, Clark. I was only teasing you."

"Oh really? And what if I had taken you up on your offer?"

Lois reached out to unbutton his shirt. "I guess I'd have seen the rest of your package," she told him softly. Her eyes never left his chest as she pushed his bloody shirt off his shoulders. "Nice," she commented before turning from him to start his shower.

Clark was left to watch her exit the bathroom. He shook his head with a grin. Maybe he should have said yes. He would *love* to see her package!


Chapter 14: Swear to God, This Time We're Not Kidding

Clark was relieved beyond belief that he and Lois had made up. If they hadn't, he wouldn't be depositing her outside his parents' back door on the farm. They'd left Metropolis after work to spend the next three days in Smallville for what he'd promised Lois would be a magical Christmas. She'd admitted earlier that it wasn't one of her favorite holidays and given some of the reasons why.

The history of Lois' sad Christmases had touched Clark and, when he'd heard about the incident with the puny tree, he'd gazed at her sympathetically, assuring her that she could select whatever tree she wanted, large or small. There was also no way he'd forgotten her gift — actually he'd bought her a few — and he very much doubted that his parents had forgotten her either. He was less sure of his ground when he'd reminded her that, because of the baby, she'd never have to spend another Christmas alone, but she'd melted his heart as she smiled at him through her tears.

Somehow Clark recognized all the fears which had been imprinted on Lois since childhood by the collapse of her home and family, and he'd allayed every one. This year promised to be a very different experience for Lois, and she found herself looking forward to the holiday for the first time in many years.

Martha and Jonathan welcomed their kids enthusiastically and they all shared a wonderful meal before Lois and Clark settled in the den. The older couple had been invited to an early Christmas celebration and left right after dinner with profuse apologies. Martha explained that the local church always put on a party for the children and they always helped out, Jonathan taking on his annual role of Santa Claus.

The excuse was a good one; after all, the Kents were very active members of the community, yet Lois had the distinct impression that her mother-in-law wasn't averse to leaving them alone. In fact, she was sure she almost caught a conspiratorial wink between mother and son, and she definitely noticed Clark turning a distinct shade of red as he watched his parents disappear through the door.

"This is nice," Lois remarked airily, coming round the couch and sitting in front of the roaring fire. "Very cozy!"

She patted the cushion in invitation, then picked up the large album from the coffee table that Martha had given her to peruse. "Look at you," she squealed in delight, flipping through the many photos.

Clark leaned over to peer at the pictures from his position beside her. "On no, I can't believe Mom gave you the naked baby pictures."

"Come on." Lois patted his arm encouragingly. "Everyone has these. I think it's like some kind of unspoken requirement for a parent to embarrass their kids when they're grown up."

"If you get to see mine, I get to see yours."

"Sure. I have some at home."

"If I'd known that, I would've looked a long time ago."

Lois laughed and turned another page. "Clark, you have nothing to worry about! You were a gorgeous baby."

"Thank you," he offered politely, but he ducked his head to hide yet another blush.

"Do you think our baby will be this gorgeous?"

Lois had surprised him by taking a different tack, and he captured her gaze, saying seriously, "Our baby will be beautiful." He scooted closer to her side, but a yawn broke his mood.


"A little. You don't have to stop looking, but I might fall asleep on you."

"Okay." She rubbed his arm again and went back to her pictures.

It wasn't long before his steady breathing told her he was sleeping. She smiled and eased out from beside him to lay him flat on the sofa they'd made up before they sat to look at the pictures. He never stirred while she picked up his feet and pulled the covers over him. In her opinion, he was still pretty gorgeous and she couldn't resist tracing the dark hair that fell on his forehead before heading upstairs to bed. Thoughts of their beautiful baby, and the baby's father, sent her to sleep.


The following day, Clark gave Lois the tour of his childhood home. Unfortunately, the cold weather wouldn't allow them to enjoy the pond, so the skinny dipping had to be postponed until next summer. They had joked about that several times, both promising to make that return trip… so each could see the other's packages. Of course, it was all a game to mask the sexual tension that was steadily building between them.

Clark took her to Schuster's field where his parents had found him as a baby and he floated her up to his tree house to show her the globe which had explained who he was only a short time ago. As the ghostly figures of Jor-El and Lara materialized in the tiny room, Lois sat mesmerized, listening to the story of Clark's beginnings on that far away world of Krypton. How strange it was that two people should be born with so much distance between them and yet end up here together. It was almost as if destiny had taken a hand — but Lois didn't believe in destiny, unless it was one she shaped herself.

Later they ventured into town so Clark could buy her an ice cream sundae at Maisie's Diner. She met several people but failed to learn any dirt on Clark which she might use as 'friendly persuasion' in the future when Clark was proving to be difficult over some of her investigative methods. Obviously, what Maisie had told her when they came to Smallville the first time was true. With Clark, what you see is what you get. Yeah, and pigs can fly! Wouldn't they be surprised if they saw the 'real' him?

Following the trip to town, Lois climbed into Jonathan's old truck, along with Clark and his folks, and they all set out to find the perfect tree. The Kents had waited for them to arrive because it was traditional to do this part of the holiday celebration as a family. Lois was given the honor of choosing the tree and to Clark's surprise they returned with a large bushy specimen that was almost too big to fit into the living room. Clearly, Lois no longer felt the need to empathize with the stunted variety.

The two couples spent the evening hanging ornaments on the tree and around the room, everyone enjoying themselves immensely. In fact, the whole situation was doing exactly what Clark hoped it would for Lois. As she was on his home turf and this wasn't her favorite time of year, he thought she might be feeling a little overwhelmed, so he'd been very cautious about crowding her.

It seemed that his self-control had succeeded, because he'd seldom seen her so laid-back or ready to laugh so much, and she hadn't objected to the times when he had reached out to touch her now extremely large belly. She'd simply smiled and moved on to the next phase of decorating, finishing off the job when she switched on the tree lights with great aplomb.


Indeed, Lois couldn't remember the last time she'd experienced so much pleasure doing anything, let alone at Christmas. Since her father had walked out on his wife and daughters, she'd always regarded this holiday as something to be avoided at best, and at worst to be endured.

When she was a kid, she'd tried to make the day as special as possible for her baby sister, but it never seemed to work out, and she was always left feeling depressed and less than impressed by all the seasonal hassle. She'd only come to despise the day more as she'd grown older, often volunteering to work over the holiday. However, here with Clark and his parents, she found herself extremely moved… even the little observances were enchanting. The once hard-bitten newswoman was prepared to admit the whole experience felt kind of magical.

They'd ended up with the perfect tree and decorated it with care. For her benefit, the Kents told a story associated with each delicate ornament that was placed on the branches. Lois never would have believed that simple tree baubles could mean so much, and she'd been reduced to tears when Martha produced delicate glass ornaments for both her and the baby, the older woman hoping to promote the tradition with the next generation of Kents.

It seemed that Martha might get her wish too, because Clark had also found time to purchase them both an ornament. In the past week he'd put up a tree in the apartment and insisted that it stay up until after the New Year for luck, so these new 'special' ornaments would be carried back to Metropolis with care and would look great on their tree.

After the farmhouse was decorated to everyone's satisfaction, the small family played a board game, none complaining when Lois emerged triumphant and very pleased with herself. Jonathan warmly wished Clark well in the future because, with a competitive wife like Lois, he'd need it. The said wife looked daggers at her father-in-law and husband, though within minutes she couldn't keep up the pretense and burst into laughter, the others soon joining in with her merriment.

Lois was so busy she hadn't had time to stop and think about her feelings until she and Clark were left alone when the elder Kents retired for the evening. The following day was Christmas Eve and Martha confessed that she and Jonathan wanted to be up early to finish the farm chores so they could spend the rest of the day with their children.

Those parting words brought a smile to Lois' lips, and she had to admit that the concept of being part of a close family circle felt marvelous. From the moment she'd walked through the door, she'd been shown unconditional love, and, while the situation was extremely new for Lois, it was one she not only liked but longed for more of.

And Clark… he'd been wonderful to her. Except, seeing them together, no stranger would ever know that they were a married couple. They would simply think they were just really good friends. Since they'd arrived in Smallville, he'd been careful to treat her in a purely platonic manner. He did, however, extend a hand now and then to touch her stomach, and to her amazement, she realized she'd come to find security in his touch instead of the overpowering anxiety of those first few weeks. She appreciated his restraint, only she wasn't certain now that she wanted it.

Lois had volunteered for dish duty to give her in-laws a rest and to make some contribution to the family's workload. When she finished, she went in search of Clark.

He was lying on a makeshift bed he'd put in front of the fire reading a book.

"Hey, Lois, this says we should not only talk to the baby, we should read to him or sing to her," he told her when she walked into the room.

"Why did you do that?"

"What?" He peered over the book to look at her.

"Say him and her in the same sentence."

"Well, I guess I don't like saying *it*. And since we don't know for sure what the sex is, I'll just use whatever comes to mind."

Lois nodded and carefully lowered herself to the covers beside him. "I've told you before, it's a boy," she declared as she stacked a few pillows to lie down with him.

"Nope, I think it's a girl." Clark decided to stick with his gut feeling.

"Do you?" She looked at him with narrowed eyes, a certain suspicion crossing her mind. "You haven't looked, have you?"

"Lois, I would never invade your privacy that way! Not without asking anyway," Clark defended himself and she offered him an apologetic grin. "But yeah, I do think it's a girl. Don't know why, but the closer it gets to the birth, the surer I feel. Would that bother you?"

"No, no. Boy or girl it doesn't matter."

"Good." Clark shut the book and rolled over to face her. "Will it bother you for me to talk to the baby?"

"No. I want you to talk to her… or him."

She nestled snugly into the pillows and shut her eyes, while Clark stared down at her, desperately fighting the urge to touch her. He'd never seen her look so lovely as she did tonight. The fire glow played across the shadows of her face, tracing the thick lashes of her closed eyelids, molding the contours of her slightly parted lips and reflecting red hues in her silky hair. Clark's eyes strayed downwards over her swelling body and his breath caught in his throat… seeing Lois like this was exquisite torture.

But Lois' mind was elsewhere as she remembered a question she'd meant to ask him. She opened her eyes and surprised him gazing at her middle. Suppressing an amused chuckle, she single-mindedly returned to her query. "Clark, what were you going to say that day at the doctor's office when we heard the heart beat for the first time? You looked at me and you were about to say something when you heard that call for Superman."

Clark panicked, knowing he'd been caught staring and not too happy with the direction Lois' thoughts had taken. He'd been going to ask her how she'd feel if he said he loved her, but he didn't want to go there right now. They were getting along so well and the last thing he wanted to do was ruin the contented atmosphere they'd built between them. He quickly pulled away from Lois and snatched back his hand which had been hovering over her stomach. "It doesn't matter."

She would have liked to push him to confess all, but didn't want to cause any rifts between them either. Instead, she smiled and raised her hand to let it rest gently on his neck, stopping him from retreating.

Clark's breath caught, but he tried to ignore the way his skin warmed under her fingers, concentrating on the baby instead. "Lois, does my touching your stomach bother you? I know it did at first, and I don't want you putting up with it just for my sake."

"No, that's not the way it is! You must know that. I just had to come to terms with everything. I've done that and I want you to touch me… and the baby." And to prove that she meant exactly what she said, she took his hand and placed it on her 'mound'. "I like it that you're bonding with our baby."

"Good." He rubbed her gently. "Hey, little one. I'm your daddy. I'm really sorry about the way you were conceived, but I promise it doesn't mean you will be any less loved or wanted." Clark let his hand move across Lois' stomach again. "I can't wait to meet you. I'll bet you'll have your mother's fire."

"And your father's compassion," Lois added as her hand rested over his.

"She's a great lady, your mother. She's a brilliant reporter and a wonderful wife. But when you get here I think we'll see just how great she can be."

Not being able to resist, Lois' hand slipped round his neck to run her fingers through his hair while she watched him talking to her middle. She wasn't sure about the 'wonderful wife' part, but she was glad Clark thought so. "I know you'll have the best daddy in the world."

"I have to warn you. She'll be excessive and extremely protective."

"No, that's your job."

Clark looked up at Lois. "Are you kidding? When I grunt, you're by my side to make sure I'm okay."

"Can I help it if I want to make sure you're okay?"

"No." Now it was Clark's turn to chuckle softly at her defensive posture. "Relax, Mommy. I'm happy with you being as protective as you want to be."

Lois' fingers still tangled in his hair as she looked at him. The room was quiet with only the crackling of the logs to interrupt their interplay. It was so hot, and Lois didn't believe the only source was the fire. She sensed the change between them and knew he was about to kiss her. Her heart started to pound against her chest in expectation as he leaned closer…closer, till she could feel his breath on her skin. But, when only an infinitesimal distance separated them, he stopped and she felt like screaming.

<I want him to kiss me!>

"I'm really tired. Do you mind if we call it a night?" Clark ventured apologetically, trying to regain some calm.

Lois had to struggle to find her voice before she could answer. Clark had just awakened a side of her she hadn't known existed. Or, at least, existed where he was concerned… No, the first statement was true, she'd never felt quite like this and she wasn't sure what to do next. Retreat seemed to be the best option. "Ah, no. I'll just…" She motioned to get up.

Clark gave her a lopsided grin and gave her stomach one last rub. "Goodnight, little one." He helped her rise, then turned to lie down on his side.

"Goodnight, Clark," Lois forced out as she cast a final glance down at him, unable to believe the overwhelming frustration invading her body.

"Goodnight," he mumbled with as good grace as he could manage, hiding his face in the pillows and pulling the quilt around him. He just hoped it would cover the one obvious sign of his dissatisfaction.

A tiny sigh escaped Lois' lips as she made her way up to her room. Clark had actually started to kiss her, then pulled away. He'd kissed her before. Heck, she'd even kissed him a time or two. So why had he pulled away this time? What's more, why was she so despondent? She couldn't believe how incredibly hurt she felt, fighting against tears that threatened to spill from her eyes as she switched off the lamp and settled in bed. What had she done wrong?

She'd really thought they were getting closer. Their weekly dates had been going great. Most even ended with a wonderful hug. Unless she'd read the situation all wrong. But how could she? Clark loved her. Didn't he?

Maybe he *didn't* love her anymore. That was silly. Of course he did. She could see it in his eyes. So what was the problem? Was he simply not attracted now that she was showing more? But that couldn't be right either — Clark wasn't that shallow. Besides, she'd recognized the heated looks he'd given her tonight. And they were married after all. Wasn't it natural at some point for married couples to… to… bond?! So what was the problem?

<The problem is you!>

Her conscience was quick to remind her of her short-comings. She was the one who'd refused to share a bed with her husband; a husband she hadn't even wanted and hadn't failed to let know this fact. She was the one whose moods had run hot and cold toward the wonderful man downstairs. And she was the one who was too afraid to admit she cared for him as more than a friend — the *wife* who hadn't acted very much like one.

So, if she wanted a 'true' marriage, it was up to her to make the first move, only she wasn't sure how to do that. The trouble was that her past sexual encounters had been few and far between and all had been federal disasters… in particular, her last liaison with Claude.

At the time, she'd thought herself completely in love, though she recognized now that it was only a case of 'puppy love'. Nevertheless, she'd given her honor and her heart to the sexually sophisticated Frenchman, and he'd taken both and stomped all over them. Even now, she flushed at the memory of the hurtful rumors he'd spread around the newsroom, trashing her naive sexuality and breaking her heart.

Of course, with hindsight, she realized Claude had had a second agenda, hoping that she'd be too humiliated to report the theft of her story, which he'd waltzed off with as cavalierly as he had her declaration of love. And she'd played along with his game, retreating within herself and vowing she'd never again give into her emotions, especially with a work colleague. She'd sworn off physical love and chosen to concentrate on her career, perpetuating the legends of the 'ice maiden.'

Yet Lois' heart was not so immune as she had believed, and she'd fallen heavily whenever Superman appeared on the scene. The first flight with him had caused her to go weak at the knees and her heart to flutter uncharacteristically, though it hadn't only been a purely physical appeal. She'd admired his honesty and his selfless desire to help those in trouble. But more than that, she'd recognized a fellow feeling of isolation in him, and when Trask had so cruelly persecuted the Man of Steel, she'd rushed to help and protect him.

Now, she understood that Superman's ethics were Clark's, and she had to admit, too, that she'd felt an attraction to the 'hack from Nowheresville' in those early days. There had been the time she'd surprised him straight from his shower in that trashy hotel and the hug they'd exchanged in the bullpen when their first story came together. Yes, she had felt something for Clark and Superman, but the 'unattainable' hero posed no real threat to her bruised heart, while Clark, on the other hand, terrified her.

Finding out they were one in the same person had angered her, but even that had receded very quickly in the face of the terrible trauma that threatened them. Lois was the only one who could offer them… him a way to fight the disease and she hadn't flinched, even though the route to a cure would make great changes in her life. For once in a very long time Lois had felt needed as a person and not just an investigative reporter. The idea had appealed to her almost as a crusade, but in true Lois Lane fashion, she'd wanted to do things her way.

When he'd insisted on marriage, Clark had taken charge of the situation and all Lois' insecurities and distrust of relationships rose to the fore. She'd slammed the door shut on her growing attraction to him and, in the process, treated him very badly. That had been a terrible mistake and now she had to let him know of her change of heart and pray that she hadn't waited too long. Surely it wouldn't be too difficult… she was a woman after all, and she was going to trust in the desire that was stirring within her. She was not the frigid female that Claude had branded her.

Remembering the passion that had surged through her body as she'd waited for his kiss tonight, Lois realized that Clark had touched her in ways she'd never thought possible. But how ironic it was that he'd drawn back just as she'd decided to explore their physical bonding. She rolled over in frustration and squeezed her eyes shut. She needed to get some rest… tomorrow was another day.

Downstairs Clark was also arguing with himself. He'd wanted to kiss Lois so badly it hurt. A kiss! Who was he kidding? He wanted so much more. As they'd grown closer, fighting his need for an intimate relationship with his wife had become almost impossible, and he still couldn't be sure that she was ready for such a thing.

On nights like this, he was scared that if he had started to kiss her he wouldn't be able to stop, and there was no way he'd put her in such an uncomfortable position. Lois shouldn't have to do anything she didn't want to just because she was his wife. It had been a painful journey to reach the level of trust they now shared and there was absolutely no way he was going to jeopardize her belief in him.

But it was hard to ignore his physical need. He threw his arm across his eyes and moaned in frustration. Lois was so incredible; sexier than she'd ever been and his body often responded to the sight of hers changing with their growing baby. Over these last weeks, he believed she'd exhibited signs that she wasn't totally immune to a deeper relationship… if it wasn't just wishful thinking on his part. So was it wrong for a husband to want this from his wife? She certainly hadn't seemed particularly disinterested tonight. It would have been so easy just to let things happen.

<And so much less uncomfortable.>

Clark groaned again and tossed and turned on the pallet, seeking a more comfortable position for sleep. His traitorous body would just have to cooperate with him one more time. Tomorrow had to be better.


Next morning, Clark awoke feeling a little stiff from sleeping on the floor. Falling asleep in front of the fire had seemed like a good idea at the time. He sat up slowly and moaned softly as he worked the kinks from his neck.

"Are you okay?"

He looked up to see Lois standing in the doorway, holding two cups of coffee. He offered a small smile. "Yeah. Just stiff. Guess I shouldn't have slept down here." He groaned a little more as he stood, almost toppling back down.

"Clark!" Lois shouted in fright, scanning the room quickly as she sought for somewhere to deposit the 'pesky' mugs she held.

The room seemed to sway precariously, and Clark huffed in indignation at his uncooperative body, flopping down on his father's step stool. Lois' startled outburst had brought his parents into the room, and the three stared anxiously at his drawn expression and hunched figure. Within seconds, Jonathan was beside him to offer help if needed.


Clark unbent his body, slowly. "I'm okay. Just slow getting started this morning. I'll be okay after breakfast."

"I'll get it on the table." His mother was gone before she'd gotten into the room completely.

"Think you could drink this?" Lois asked him, picking up the mug again and holding it out to him.

"That would be great." He smiled to reassure her he was all right, even though he wasn't sure if that were true. He felt lightheaded and weak, but was determined not to ruin Christmas for everyone.

"I'll just go help your mother," Jonathan told him, a worried frown creasing his brow. "But shout if you need a hand."

"I will, Dad," Clark said watching his father leave, then turned his attention back to Lois and his coffee. He took the cup, grateful that his hand was steady. There would be so much fuss created if his family were aware of how shaky he felt. "Thanks."

"You're welcome." She sat down in the chair next to him and reached a hand to his forehead. "You're sure you're okay?"

"Yeah. I think I'm hungry. You know that's something new for me." He took a long sip of his drink. "Mmm, that's good."

"Glad you like it." She studied his face for several moments before she spoke again. "You'd tell me if you didn't feel well, wouldn't you?"

He pulled the mug from his lips, deciding to come clean… a bit. "Okay. I feel a little weak, but I honestly think it's because I'm hungry."

"Well, let's get you fed." She stood and extended her hand to him.

He took it and allowed her to tug him to his feet. Together they went to the breakfast table, once again taking comfort from each other's company, the heated tension of the previous night forgotten for the moment.

And food did make a difference. Clark was a little better and quickly reminded everyone they'd planned to go riding in the light frosting of snow, but Lois immediately objected.

"Clark, I'm not sure that's such a good idea. It's so cold outside and you're unwell!"

"Lois, I'm not. I really feel okay now." He tucked his arm behind his back, crossing his fingers at the lie. It was only a small white lie, as the strange dizziness had improved, but he couldn't tell Lois his true reason for wanting to go so much — that he wanted to experience all he could of life while he still had the chance.

Jonathan gave his son a searching look. His older bones weren't too keen on a horseback ride in the freezing weather either, yet he could sense Clark's neediness, and Martha's hand slipping into his informed him she, too, was aware of the importance Clark placed on the outing. At the moment, both parents were willing to indulge their son in anything that would make him happy.

"Right, let's get this show on the road. The forecast is for more snow later today." Jonathan surveyed the sky through the kitchen window and pronounced, in tones of one well versed in the vagaries of Kansas weather, "Those clouds building up sure look heavy with the stuff, so we should go now. We don't have to be out for long, but it is a family tradition, Lois."

Regarding the encouraging faces around her, Lois gave in graciously. "Far be it for me to spoil a family tradition, but I have to warn you I've only been on a horse a couple of times before and I'm pretty much a novice."

"Hey, I would never let you ride a horse on your own in your condition. But I will teach you later, if you want," Clark offered and Lois, seeing his obvious happiness was glad she'd acquiesced to his plan. "Red is quiet and strong and he'll carry us both without any problem."

Now that did make a difference. In fact, the idea of sharing Clark's horse was a pleasant one and she wasn't about to turn down the chance. "Then, in that case I'm all for it!"

Soon they were all bundled up tightly in warm clothing and had made their way to the barn to saddle the three horses. Clark was secretly excited about the fact that his beautiful wife would be tucked between his legs for the duration of the trip. Their ride would allow him to be closer to her than he'd been since they'd married without it being an overt sexual approach and, oh boy, the reality turned out to be so much better than the expectation.

He loved every moment of it, even if it did remind him of his frustrations of the night before — and of those to come, he thought ruefully. Neither had mentioned the episode in front of the fire, but he was still convinced that Lois had been relieved they hadn't engaged in that kind of intimacy. She might have grown accustomed to sharing living space with him, but what had nearly happened between them was on a completely different level and something she probably wasn't ready for. So, having her snuggled into his chest while wrapped in one of his mother's quilts was very satisfying. This warm interlude would stay with him way beyond the short duration of their horse ride.


For the rest of the day Clark had to fight the oddest feeling. He really did feel okay physically, but there was something he just couldn't put his finger on. Fortunately, he'd been wonderfully distracted by his partner, from the outing on the horse to the present minute. This evening, he and Lois planned to start their baby a memory book, Clark insisting that should things go wrong for him, he wanted his child to have some memories of Lois and he together.

Her first instinct had been to quell that idea, but catching the wounded shade deep in her husband's eye, she'd changed her mind. However, presently, she went off on some mission of her own and Clark couldn't help but wonder if she was still uneasy about the plan. He finished making up the sofa and went to find her.

"Lois?" Clark called as he slowly pushed the door open to his old room.

She didn't answer.

"Lois?" He made his way further into the room and pushed the door shut.

"In here!" She called from the bathroom.

"Is everything okay? You need some help?" He looked up when she waddled into the room. At thirty weeks Lois had swelled considerably. Her tiny frame hadn't been designed to carry a very big burden. They had been told the baby could possibly weigh eight pounds at birth, a circumstance that had caused Clark to apologize to Lois for days. He couldn't begin to imagine the pain she would have to endure for him and the knowledge suddenly terrified him.

Though, as he stood in the bedroom, fear wasn't the first feeling that came to mind and he couldn't get the grin off his face. She was dressed in one of his shirts and was simply adorable.

"That looks much better on you than it does me," he told her, unable to refrain from raising his eyebrows appreciatively.

She looked down at herself and blushed. The shirt had been hanging behind the bathroom door and Lois couldn't resist putting it on because it still smelled of Clark — the yearning for anything that reminded her of Clark still forefront in her mind. She was about to apologize for wearing it when a little demon whispered in her ear…

Was this her chance?

"Want it back?" she asked with a sultry smile. Now she'd admitted that her hormones had been raging out of control for weeks and added to that was the frustration from the night before, Lois was feeling exceedingly brave. This special man was her husband and she wasn't about to fight her urges any longer.

"Ah…" Clark could only stutter because she'd started to unbutton the shirt. The right thing to do would be to protest that she put the shirt back on, but at the same time he was incredibly curious to see what was beneath the material.

He'd been thinking of Lois constantly in just this way, and now she was starting to show him the kind of attention he'd always hoped for, he was barely able to control himself. After all, his reasons for not consummating his marriage had nothing to do with his lack of desire and everything about respecting Lois' decision not to become intimate. There was no way he would object, if she'd changed her mind.

But his heart was so afraid that if anything happened between them at this time it would be just sex… and he didn't want 'just sex' with Lois. He wanted them to make love, to share themselves completely. But Lois wasn't 'in love' with him.

While she might care for him more than he could've comprehended, his selfish pride kept telling him that if they slept together and she left him after he was cured, he would never get past the hurt. Somewhere along the way Clark had failed to notice that Lois seemed to be committed to their marriage even beyond any recovery. Why else would she have set up all of their accounts as joint ones? Why did she talk about things in a future tense the way she did? Or perhaps he was just too scared to allow himself to believe in a long life shared with Lois.

<Or maybe she's just placating you.>

That couldn't be right… Could it? Could she really believe he might die after all and want to spend what time he had left fulfilling his secret fantasies? Was this just 'pity' sex? Somehow that thought was even more depressing.

But, nah! Lois wasn't that kind of person. She'd never consider physical intimacies just to please him.

<She married you and is having your baby.>

That thought came quickly and was one he certainly couldn't deny. If marriage and pregnancy wasn't intimate, what was?

<And what if you *do* die? Without ever knowing the pleasures of sharing your marriage bed with your wife?>

Could that happen? Could he die? Unfortunately the answer to that was definitely in the affirmative. Suddenly the strange sensation he'd had all day made sense. As if he realized his destiny… his mortality, Clark accepted the hand fate would soon deal him and his mind and heart cried out to the woman before him. He wanted to know 'life,' to experience the essence of creation.

Lois… His beautiful Lois. His eyes drifted to her mid-section and he almost ran from the room. Oh, how he'd miss this child. He loved their baby beyond belief and would give anything to be able to see him or her just one time.

This was taking so long and Lois was almost frozen with panic. They'd probably reached the moment of no return and if this threshold was crossed there would be no going back. She'd half expected Clark to protest her taking the shirt off, and had she been relying on that safety net? If so, she'd badly miscalculated. Instead he was watching her with darkening eyes as she slowly revealed her swollen mid-section to him. Yet, when he stepped forward and placed a warm hand on her bare skin, the panic faded and only desire swept through her.

He had to touch that bare skin. Just one time. Clark moved to within inches of Lois and caressed the tight skin that covered their baby. "I've wanted to touch you like this for so long."

"You touch me all the time," she mentioned, trying to sound light. Even choosing to yield herself to Clark, Lois couldn't quite repress her self-consciousness. What if Claude had been right about her?

"Not without clothes between us." Clark lifted his other hand so he held her stomach gently. The baby danced beneath his touch. "She likes it, too," he whispered.

His voice had grown husky, adding fuel to Lois' mounting desire, and thoughts of her painful past faded from her mind. When Clark touched her, her hands stilled on the button above her swell, surrendering control completely to her husband. This was what she wanted.

He looked down on her, his eyes glazing over at the sight of their bodies so close together they almost touched, and in that moment he made the decision to stop thinking and just feel. He held her gaze while his hands, unexpectedly steady and true, came up to the material that still covered her body. Without a word, his fingers finished what she'd started, and when he was done, he pushed the material from her shoulders down to the floor.

"You're incredible," he told Lois as he leaned in to kiss her. This woman was his wife. This was not wrong!

The first kiss was more powerful than anything either of them had ever felt and it quickly set passions blazing. After several moments, Clark drew back to look at Lois, still willing to give her one last chance to withdraw… but instead she followed his movement, reclaiming his lips, and Clark was lost. She might not be in love with him; this might be just sex for whatever reason, but he couldn't leave the world without taking this memory of his wife with him.

"No stopping tonight," he whispered just before he lifted her in his arms and she came willingly, slipping her arms around his neck and molding her body into his embrace. They sank to the bed and in the soft evening light husband and wife discovered all the wonderful pleasures they'd been missing.


Clark stroked Lois' stomach softly as they lay in the afterglow of their love making, while her hand idly traced circles on the smooth skin of his chest.

"I love you, Lois," he whispered softly.

"I know." Her hand stilled and he noticed her teeth catch on her bottom lip. Lois was on edge again.

Why couldn't she just say it? he thought sadly. He was sure she felt the same way. He'd seen it in her eyes and felt it when they'd made love. At first, he wasn't sure why Lois was such a willing participant in their lovemaking. After all, he was so new to this, but surely Lois wouldn't, couldn't dissemble so much. They'd even made love twice before stopping and it had been more amazing than any of his dreams had led him to expect. She might not have voiced her love, but her actions had spoken so much louder than words ever could and that knowledge had thrilled him beyond belief. Still, it would be nice to hear her say it — and she hadn't drawn away. She was still quietly snuggled into his chest.

Perhaps she was terrified of losing him. His own fear had faded into a resigned calm, but Lois was always one to rail against fate. Maybe she was afraid to tempt that fate by admitting to falling in love with someone whom she could lose in the near future. Hadn't she always said that anyone she'd cared for had abandoned her…

Well, he'd never dream of leaving her, but honesty compelled him to acknowledge that he might not have that choice. "Honey, you know I'd never hurt you intentionally." He had to let her know how he really felt.

"I know." She shifted so Clark rested on his back and she could look down at him, anxious to burn every memory of this night into her soul. She wanted so desperately to be able to tell him how she felt. She did love him; she knew that now, and it wasn't that she distrusted Clark… not really. It was her own emotions she doubted. There had been quite a few federal disasters in her past… and she couldn't afford another. Clark was too important to her.

"I wish I could take all those memories away."

"What?" Was that another power that Clark hadn't told her about… Could he read minds?

"The memories that make it so hard for you to have faith in your feelings." Clark's hand gently touched her lips, stopping Lois' words. "No, you don't have to explain… just let yourself relax and enjoy the moment… Remember, it's the moments that count, Lois. Moments like these, and I don't know why I waited so long for this one," he whispered, tucking her hair behind her ear in a tender caress.

She captured his hand and brought it to her lips to place a kiss in the palm. "Oh, Clark, how did I ever get so lucky to find you? This is what I want. *You* and our marriage… our baby… This is my life and I'm not going anywhere."

Contentment like he'd never known before in his life filled Clark, and he was about to tell Lois so when their little visitor made his presence known. He cradled Lois closer so he could feel the movement against his body.

"That feels great." He chuckled softly as the baby continued to 'tango' inside Lois' body. "It's amazing how such a tiny person can move like that."

"Yeah, especially when you're running out of room for the little guy." She agreed that her baby kicking gave her a thrill, but it was also getting a little uncomfortable at this later stage of her pregnancy.

Immediately, Clark's expression changed to one of sympathy. "Oh, honey. I didn't mean to remind of you of how huge this child is getting. Mom said I was a little on the bigger side."

"I don't think there's much we can do about that." Lois half- grinned, ruefully. "And I'm sure I'll get through the birth okay… as long as I have you with me." That was said with a certain amount of nervousness. Lois didn't know what to expect and as always, she hated her body to be out of her control.

At once, Clark dumped the almost 'para-normal' feelings he'd been having for most of the day. There was no way he was leaving Lois to face bringing his child into the world alone. With fierce determination, he grabbed hold of life. "Lois, I'm not going anywhere. There isn't anything in this world or the next that could make me miss the birth of our baby."

"Good! I'm glad we've got that straight." For the time being, Lois chose to believe Clark's statement, so seriously was it given. There weren't many things that Superman couldn't do, and now that they were together in every way, they were stronger than each alone. Deciding that the subject needed a little lightening, she chuckled. "I just hope this kid takes after you and has your temperament. Martha said you were a good baby."

"You and she talk a lot don't you?"

"Yeah. You know I could never do that with my own mother. She's still wanting to know why you couldn't keep your… Well, she's upset because we're having a baby so soon after we got married. My mother tends to hang on to her grievances. I'm hoping she'll change her mind when she holds her first grandchild."

"Ah…" Clark rubbed his hand up and down Lois' arm. "I promise you that our baby will never feel any less loved because we didn't conceive naturally."

"I know that — I remember you telling him the other night." Lois couldn't help but smile at the memory of Clark talking to her stomach. "And any fool can see how much you love your baby already. Jimmy's getting tired of the latest round of sonogram pictures."

Clark grinned sheepishly. "I can't help it. This is the best thing that's ever happened to me."

"And to me." She leaned in for another soul-searching kiss. "Although, *this* is a close second."

"Mmm, huh-huh," he moaned his agreement, busily returning her kiss, slanting his mouth over hers in demanding hunger. All their fears for the future faded as, once more, they lit the flames they'd kept buried until now.

It was a long while later when they surfaced again, Clark taking all the time in the world to bring her to wondrous pleasure. And surely he'd succeeded as Lois was smiling brightly. "Wow! Who would've known all that was hidden under those conservative suits?"

"I take it you're not frustrated any more?" He sure knew he wasn't.

"Absolutely not. I am sated and utterly satisfied," Lois purred like a contented kitten.

"Good." Clark kissed a bare shoulder as he settled on the pillows next to her. He could spend forever just looking at his wife.

"Remind me to send her a box of candy."

"Who?" Clark blinked. Where was Lois off to now? Even Superman couldn't keep up with her quick thinking.

"The woman who taught you all this patience."

That took a moment to sink in, but then a beaming grin spread over his face. "She is partial to chocolate."

"Really?" Lois turned to face Clark, uneasiness beginning to creep into her soul. An idea had overtaken her and it wasn't a particularly pleasant one. Given her past experiences, she ought to have known… Men! Then again, Clark's life before he met her was really none of her business, yet she couldn't deny that it hurt… "You must have spent hours perfecting the things you did to me."

His eyebrows raised in surprise as he leaned over to look at the clock on the bedside table. "About four hours to be exact. Wow! I didn't realize we'd been here that long. You must be starved." Clark rolled over to get up, but Lois' hand pulled him back down.

"Clark… did I just hear you right?"

"Yeah. I'm going to fix you a snack."

"Not about the food." Lois sat up to look at him. This was serious… this was huge! "You were a virgin before tonight?"

Clark had been embarrassed to tell Lois that piece of information, but as the words came from her mouth, they didn't sound all that bad. His face flushed slightly and he smiled. "How did I do?"

"Oh, Clark." Lois covered his mouth with hers again. Her heart was singing and she felt so incredibly special. He'd saved himself for her. No wonder he'd been so skittish about them making love. That's why he wanted to get married. He was scared he'd die without ever having experienced one of the most common ways men often referred to themselves as having finally made it to manhood.

<No! Wait… That wasn't right.>

Lois leaned back to search her husband's face… a face that was filled with tender care… and a hint of anxiety, as he waited to hear her speak… to say anything.

Clark wasn't the 'macho' type, and he'd made it quite clear that he didn't *expect* Lois to consummate their marriage. He'd simply wanted Lois with him, to be close to her and their baby. Okay, he might have been afraid that he'd die without having known the basic concept of having someone to share everything with, but if he'd dreamed of anything more, he'd never considered it his prerogative. Companionship was all he'd ever asked from her, but now she knew that wasn't strictly true… More than life, Clark wanted to be allowed to love her — to bring his love out into the open.

Suddenly, she understood. The truth is simple. It fits like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle; it has no room for doubts or recriminations. And the truth is… that she'd never loved Clark more than she did now.

Sometime ago, she'd realized that falling in love with Clark would be so easy, but for so many complicated reasons she'd fought against that love. Only it had been too strong and giving into it was the most amazing thing she'd ever done. This was the forever kind of love and it felt great… It felt like she'd finally come home.

"You are the most wonderful person alive," she told him softly, still a little tongue-tied to voice the words she knew he wanted to hear.

Clark leaned over to smother Lois with another heart-searing kiss. He decided he didn't want Lois to say those first scary words in the aftermath of passion and was glad she hadn't. "I think you're pretty incredible yourself," he told her as he leaned back to tenderly caress her face.

Lois blinked back tears as her entire being seemed to be overtaken with Clark's love. In his eyes, she saw her future, and it was the only place she wanted to be.

Her lips traced his jaw back to his ear, where she nibbled gently. There would be plenty of time for talking later… much later.

"Oh, yes, definitely incredible," Clark reiterated, while he still had breath to speak. His world couldn't be more full.


Chapter 15: Green, Green Glow of Home

The most wonderful of dreams Clark had ever had roused him from his sleep in the early hours of Christmas morning. He smiled down at the woman next to him. She was truly incredible and didn't even realize it. He placed a gentle kiss on her face before he rose to go get a drink of water.

He belted his robe slowly as he eased down the hallway and the stairs. That strange sensation had faded and he felt better than he had in weeks, if he ignored the dryness in his throat. Maybe his mind had been playing tricks on him.

<Of course, it had! Bernie had been pleased with his condition at his last check up.>

Clark pulled a glass from the cabinet and filled it with water. He sipped it while he looked out at the fresh blanket of white snow that had fallen during the night. His mind was already taking him into the day. He and Lois would have a great time messing up that pristine surface, if he could persuade her to build a snowman. It had been years since he'd done that, but being with Lois had made him carefree as a kid again… Pity a snowball fight was out of the question. Maybe next year! And they had all those presents to open. Today would be a good day.

He chuckled softly and lifted the glass to his lips again. That cool water felt good! Suddenly he stopped as an intense pain stabbed between his shoulders blades. It felt like a large hand clutched at his chest, tightening its grip. The glass slipped from his fingers and shattered on the tile floor. An agonizing cough overtook him, bringing him to his knees.

Upstairs the other adults had been startled from their sleep by the glass breaking. All three slipped on their robes and rushed downstairs.

"Clark!" Lois called out from the bottom of the stairs.

He looked up at her with apologetic eyes. His hands were covered in blood that poured from his nose and mouth. The horrible coughing had stopped, but it felt like his airway had been closed.

<I'm so sorry.> His mind screamed as he fell over on to the floor.

Lois and his parents were by his side in a second. Lois' hands clutched his robe, pulling his head into her lap. "Clark," she cried through her tears. The bright red blood covered her gown, stained her skin. "Clark!"

He blinked back tears as he focused on her. "Lo-is? I… I… love… you… both." That was the last thing he said before his eyes drifted shut. Her lovely concerned face the last thing he saw before darkness descended.

"Clark! No, stay with me!" She shook him unthinkingly, but he was like a rag-doll. Her eyes flew up to his parents, begging them to do something to help.

Martha quickly took over the situation. She ordered Jonathan to call the ambulance while she cleared Clark's airway as best she could. Her CPR training was about to come in handy because Clark wasn't breathing. Disregarding the terror that threatened to paralyze her, she went to work.

By the time the paramedics arrived, that fear had turned to panic. Martha had managed to restore Clark's breathing only to have him slip away again a few minutes later. Yet she stayed focused, bluntly ordering Lois to help her — there was no time for tact. They worked frantically as a team until the medics took over. Clark's heart had also stopped beating, so the equipment needed to resuscitate him was set up with lightning speed.

Lois shook almost violently as she watched the paramedics place cold metal paddles on her husband's chest to shock him. Clark's large body jerked from the floor. A second shock was delivered, then a third. Lois would have collapsed if Jonathan hadn't been holding her. When one of the medics said they had him back, relief washed over everyone. But still they waited in dread silence as an intubation tube was forced down Clark's throat.

At last, Clark was deemed fit to be loaded onto the gurney while Lois sprinted upstairs to change so she could go with him in the ambulance. An hour later she looked through the glass of the treatment room in the medical center in Smallville. The emergency staff worked on him with deft hands, stabilizing him and trying to figure out why he'd collapsed.

Martha and Jonathan had soon followed in the car and came to share Lois' agonizing wait.

"Martha, he can't die now… not now." Lois' hand was appropriated by her mother-in-law. "It's too soon… He has to stay until we can save him."

Neither Martha nor Jonathan considered that a foolish request and Jon pulled the distraught girl up against his side, while his wife supported her on the other. "He will, Lois. He will. Clark will fight with everything he has to be with you."

"He loves you, honey," Martha whispered and Lois found strength in their words.

Together all three awaited the fate of the one person they loved so dearly.


Lois held Clark's hand as she sat beside his bed. He'd been hooked up to a dozen machines and had several tubes running from his body, all doing their job in keeping him alive. To see such a powerful man so vulnerable was killing her.

She leaned forward and kissed his cheek. A gentle hand on her shoulder startled her.

"Oh, Martha. I didn't hear you come in."

"I didn't mean to scare you." Martha held out a cup of coffee. "You need to drink this."

"I'm fine," she insisted.

"Lois, honey, think about the baby. You have to take care of yourself. You wouldn't want to lose this little fellow. And it's decaf."

Lois wiped her eyes and nodded. Martha was right. There was no way she wanted to lose their baby. She took the coffee and sipped slowly.

"They say I can fly him back to Metropolis tomorrow. He'll be stable enough to move then," Lois told his mother after a while. "I think it's better if he's where Bernie can take care of him." She had a lot of faith in Bernard Klein — hadn't he made Clark better last time?

"I think so too, sweetie, but can we afford that?" Martha hated that the question of expenses should intrude on her worries over Clark, and without thought she included herself and Jonathan in the equation. They would bankrupt themselves to keep their son safe.

"Normally, no. I doubt our health insurance would bear the whole cost, but Bernie pulled a few string with Star Labs…" Lois's voice died away, robbed of speech by tiredness and fear. Besides, Bernard hadn't really explained how he had swung the travel arrangements.

Martha understood and her hand came to rest on her daughter-in- law's shoulder. "That's good. Jonathan and I will take care of things here, then we'll be right behind you."

This time Lois didn't protest. How could she? This was their son. They just wanted to be near him in case…

She pushed those thoughts from her mind and focused on the future. The future she and Clark would have… together.


By the end of the following day, Clark had been installed in a room on the intensive care floor of Metropolis General Hospital. Bernard Klein had been to visit and he'd assured Lois that Clark was completely vulnerable, so there would be nothing unusual to link him to Superman. And as he would be overseeing all of the tests run on Clark personally, nothing should ever be suspected.

At first, the staff at the hospital had questioned a top scientist supervising the patient's care, but Klein had explained that he was working on some experimental medication per the request of Mr. Kent and his family, a claim backed up by the patient's wife. Being as how the good doctor had tenure at the hospital, nothing further was said and control of the patient's treatment was turned over to the scientist.

During the next twelve hours, Bernie commuted between Clark's room and Star Labs where he was running various tests. He'd tried to tell his distraught young friend that everything would be fine, but somehow his confidence wasn't reflected in his eyes. Even Bernie couldn't be sure this time. Clark was fighting a desperate battle for his life.

Lois kept vigil beside her husband's bed, not wanting to get more than a few feet away, praying that by her presence she could hold on to him.

"Lois," Bernie called softly into the darkened room. He'd thought the woman was asleep, but she turned to him immediately.

"Bernie, come in! Have you got any news?"

"You know, you should be getting a little rest, too, Lois." The doctor's voice was gentler than she'd ever heard.

"I can't! Not when I don't know what's happening to him. If you know anything, please tell me." Tears sparkled on Lois lashes.

"I have a few questions, Lois. May I?" At a tiny nod of her head, Bernie went on. "Has Clark been exerting himself lately… any Superman rescues for instance?"

The low light hid Lois' blush as she thought of just how Clark had exerted himself, but at least she could answer honestly. "No! No super feats since we got to Smallville."

"Then, did he seem unwell… a little tired, perhaps?"

"He had a dizzy spell yesterday… no that would be a couple of mornings ago, but he put it down to sleeping on the floor."

Bernard's forehead creased in a frown. "Not a good idea. The floor is much too cold… why would he be sleeping on the floor?" The last came as an afterthought.

"He should have been sleeping on the couch, but he made his bed in front of the fire. I think he thought it was roma… cozy. But I guess the fire died down during the night." Lois flushed again. "Is this why he's like this?"

"Not exactly! Has he had a cold?"

"I don't think so… though he was coughing a bit when we picked the tree, and when we went horseback riding. I knew we shouldn't have gone out. It was too cold, but he was looking forward to it so much and he said it was just a tickly throat; no big deal!"

"I'm afraid it was, Lois."

"Do you know something, Bernie?"

The tall doctor shrunk a little. He hated giving bad news. "It's what we'd suspected. Clark must have come in contact with a cold or flu virus and with his immune system weakened by his illness and the drugs he's been taking, his body couldn't fight it off. He has viral pneumonia in both lungs."

A strangled sob escaped the fingers that Lois pressed to her lips. "We went into Smallville to visit Clark's friends… I wanted to see all his childhood haunts. I should never have allowed him to…"

"Lois, you can't blame yourself, and you can't seal Clark in bubble-wrap. He could have picked up the virus in Metropolis before he left. Don't beat yourself up about this. You need to be strong for his sake."

The doctor walked closer to the bed, and pulled a clean handkerchief from his pocket, handing it to Lois, who accepted it gladly. She blew her nose loudly, then dabbed at her wet cheeks.

"You're right! Clark needs me." Lois had herself under control again. She looked searchingly at the doctor, who started to fidget a little uncomfortably. "There's more?"

"Yes! He's lost his powers and they're probably gone for good this time. The infection has damaged his lungs considerably and he's unable to breathe on his own… hence the endotrachael tube. His heart was taxed when he was in so much pain and the lack of oxygen might come into play."

"Come into play? What does that mean? Speak English, please, Bernie!" She was upset and just wanted to hear things straight out.

"His heart stopped on more than one occasion. There could be brain damage."

"Oh, God!" Her eyes filled with tears again as her gaze shifted back to Clark. "And the cancer?"

"His white cell count is up. Unless we get the pneumonia under control, it could take over."

"And if that happens?"

"He wouldn't make it to the birth," he told her grimly.

"Can we get this infection under control?"

"I believe so. The latest tests show that he's starting to respond to treatment. The next few hours will be crucial, but I promise I'll do everything I can to save him."

"I know, Bernie. Thank you."

He nodded, his heart heavy, and left her alone again.

Lois eased back into her chair and reached out to take Clark's hand. "How can I lose you now?" The tension of the past few days got the better of her and she lowered her head to the mattress and cried, hard gasping sobs. Yet Clark never heard them.


Unfortunately, it took a few days for the Kents to make it to Metropolis. The whole Midwest had been hit with raging ice-storms and Wichita airport had been snowed in. When finally the couple arrived at the hospital, they took one look at the exhausted girl and immediately carried Lois off home for a hot shower, some food, and much needed sleep. They reminded her that she was still carrying precious cargo and had to take care of it. Lois felt extremely guilty that she hadn't thought more about the baby and promised not to make that mistake again.

Clark was responding well to treatments, but he still remained unconscious and unable to breathe on his own. Initial brainwave tests were promising, but it was still too early to know for certain. Although his condition had been upgraded from critical status, he continued to lie weak and helpless in his bed, unaware of anything around him.

With Martha and Jonathan's help, Lois made good on her promise to care more for the baby. Her in-laws took over sitting with Clark in the mornings, giving Lois longer to rest in bed, and when she did trek to the hospital each day, she carried plenty of fresh fruit and a sandwich or some other healthy meal Martha had prepared for her. The table beside Clark's bed soon became covered with juice bottles, mineral water and fresh fruit. She'd firmly decided she was not about to lose this baby, or its daddy either.

During the day, she would read to Clark from the Daily Planet and ask his input on the simple stories Perry had assigned her so that she could continue to draw a salary. Actually, Perry had been very prepared to cut her some slack, but Lois felt she'd be better keeping her mind active while she waited for Clark to wake. She'd spend her time tapping away at the keys of her laptop, then hold it up so Clark could 'see' it, before she sent it through to their editor. Sometimes she'd pull out their baby's memory book and read from the few pages they'd started, although she refused to add anything without Clark, insisting they would do it together.

At night she would ease down on the bed beside Clark for a little while, just to feel him near. His hair was lovingly brushed and she'd asked the nurses if she could help out with his sponge baths. Somehow, she felt the more she did for him, the sooner he would come back to her. And the staff seemed to understand.

The New Year came and went. Lois watched the fireworks display in the harbor from Clark's window. At midnight, she leaned forward and placed a soft kiss to the corner of his lips, the plastic tube coming from his mouth a cold reminder of his condition. It broke her heart, but she vowed to never to give up on him.

The Kents stayed another week, but reluctantly had to go home to the farm. Wayne Irig and his sons, along with half the population of Smallville, had come down with a nasty case of flu and, though the land could take care of itself at this time of year, the animals needed tending. Since Clark was no longer on the critical list, both Martha and Jonathan agreed it was okay for them to leave.

However, before they left they'd discussed selling the place with Lois so they could move to the city to help out. She'd argued as Clark would have in defense of the old home place, but in the end the older couple decided to at least 'look into things,' though they promised to make no firm decision until they could talk to Clark.

This time Lois drove them to the airport and she squeezed them both in a tight embrace before making her way back to the hospital. She had never felt so alone. There might have always been someone there to offer her comfort, a shoulder to cry on. Perry and Jimmy came by as often as they could, and even her mother took to dropping in each day to see how 'our poor invalid' was doing — Lois was never sure if the 'invalid' was herself or Clark — but without Clark, she felt lost, incomplete… alone. She was grateful for the encouragement of her friends and family; she just wanted her husband, her best friend, back.


Lois looked down at her fingers as they traced the veins on the back of Clark's large hand, careful not to dislodge the IV shunt. Her in-laws had been gone for over a week, and she was beginning to think she was chained to this hospital room. She'd gone to her regular appointment for the baby alone; wrote the news stories for the Planet alone… only it took a real stretch of the imagination to call those articles 'news'; and every night she made her way home … alone. Being isolated had never bothered her before, but she'd gotten a glimpse of what her life could be like with a man who loved her and she desperately wanted more.

"Clark," she whispered through fresh tears, succumbing to her loneliness and a giant wave of self pity. "You have to come back to me." She leaned forward and touched her lips to his skin.

A few days ago, Bernie had pronounced that Clark's viral pneumonia was clearing up satisfactorily. There was a little damage to his lungs, but nothing that would keep him from being able to regain control of his breathing. There was also no evidence of brain damage, so why wasn't he waking up?

Of course, Bernie had this theory that Clark was not waking up because his mind was trying to give his body time to heal. Who knew? Maybe it was a Kryptonian thing, Lois surmised. Both she and Bernie had taken to opening up the blinds to allow the sun to soak into his body each day. Yet, though exposure to the sun did seem to be making obvious progress with his health, Clark still remained comatose.

Lois eased onto the bed and stretched out beside Clark. She lifted his hand to cover her large stomach. "You need to wake up, sweetie. This little guy will be here soon. You can't miss that." The baby moved beneath their hands. "He or she misses Daddy. You haven't talked to him in so long." Lois snuggled closer so the baby's movements were against Clark's body. "Feel that? That's our life. Clark, we did that. Don't you want to come meet her?"

She fought to control the tears that fell from her eyes and wet the cotton of his hospital gown. "I don't know if I can do this without you. Please come back to me." Her fingers reached out to smooth his hair and the stubble on his chin. "I'll shave you tomorrow," she promised.

She stayed that way, just staring at Clark, for a long while before she spoke again. "I love you, Clark," she whispered, her eyes fluttering shut.

The charge nurse stepped into the room to check on her patient's vitals, but seeing the couple on the bed, she moved quietly across the room and straightened the covers. Satisfied that Lois was not in danger of falling onto the floor, she dimmed the lights and left. Those routine checks could be carried out later. Clark was more in need of tender loving care.


Lois marched through the hospital entrance into the large foyer. She was late, and she hated to be late for Clark, even if he hardly knew she was there. She liked to think that even in his semi-conscious state he was aware of her presence.

But she'd dropped by the Planet to discuss the latest 'puff piece' that Perry had assigned to her. She despised these types of stories, but she reluctantly admitted that they didn't take up much of her time or energy, meaning she could devote both to Clark. However, once at the office, she'd been detained by her colleagues asking her how he was doing. Clark was very well liked by the staff, and she had proof of just how popular he was tucked away in her briefcase; greetings cards, magazines… even home- made fudge from Mrs. O'Hanlan, head of the typing pool. She would save the candy for when Clark woke up, but maybe he wouldn't mind if she sampled a piece or two.

Lois took the elevator up to Clark's floor and stepped outside. The reception area was much busier than normal and she even spotted an LNN camera crew. What was going on? She hoped it had nothing to do with Clark, but since all the attention was focused down a different corridor, her initial worry was probably unfounded. Sending only a cursory glance in the direction of the small, somewhat effusive crowd, she hurried toward Clark's room.

"Lois, this is a surprise!"

The one voice she least expected, or wanted to hear, interrupted her progress. She turned, not really happy with the delay, but finding it impossible to resist… almost like a mouse being hypnotized by a snake.

The group had parted and at the center of the commotion was Metropolis' most prominent citizen, apart from Superman, that was.

Lex Luthor smiled affably. "Excuse me, gentlemen and ladies. I've just noticed a close friend whom I haven't spoken to in quite some time. Will you give me a moment while I redress my bad manners?"

Lois prayed that the attendant circle would refuse his request, but of course, who would refuse Lex anything? And she was being nonsensical — the question was rhetorical; Lex wouldn't pay any heed even if it wasn't. She watched him bearing down on her.

"Why are you here, Lex?"

"Oh, hadn't you heard? I thought an intrepid reporter like you knew everything that happened in this city. Though perhaps you've been a little distracted." Lex let his glance stray down the passageway behind her. So his sources had been correct. Lois' *husband* was ill. Or more accurately, more ill than before. Oh, wonderful, he mused, but kept his face and voice pleasantly informative. "I'm here to open a new pediatrics ward which I've donated to the children of Metropolis. A place of excellence where young people struck down with terrible diseases such as cancer or leukemia can be treated and cared for. I feel it's the least I can do in my 'fortunate' position for my city."

"That's good of you," Lois said flatly, almost dismissively.

He was taken aback by her attitude; Lois had never treated him with such disdain, but he covered his surprise well. "Not at all! I can imagine nothing more terrible than to watch a child… or a loved one of any age go through such pain." He walked closer to her. "Perhaps you know all about that?"

Lois resisted the temptation to take a step backward. She didn't want him to know how badly he was affecting her. "You could say that, Lex, but I don't have time for this."

"I'm only concerned for your well-being." He reached out to grasp her arm, but thought better of it when he caught her warning stare. "Please don't tell me that Clark is ill."

"Not that it's any of your business, but yes, Clark is ill. He's had pneumonia and has been in the hospital for a while."

"I thought he was looking a little wan and tired… the last time I saw him."

"Don't play games, Lex. You are perfectly aware of Clark's cancer."

"Now why would I know that…"

"Because you tend to know most things, so don't pretend otherwise." A dagger-like glare ended the conversation from Lois' point of view and she started to move toward Clark's room.

"Lois… Lois, I know what you're doing…"

His words stopped her and she swung back to confront the now rather smug-looking man. "What would you know, Lex?"

"I know *this* is a sham… and I really thought better of you. Wasting your time on Kent the way you've been doing, and he's not even able to be the kind of husband you need. I on the other hand…" His sentence trailed off, but he allowed the suggestiveness in his tone to hang heavily between them.

"I don't know what you're implying, Lex, but I love my husband! In sickness or in health."

"Very admirable, Lois. But compassion can often be confused for love. What will you do when he's gone? I'm told the doctors fear he doesn't have long to live."

This time she marched toward him, cold anger freezing her voice. "I thought you weren't aware of Clark's illness?"

Lex simply shrugged. "Tell me, Lois, doesn't caring for a husband with cancer put a strain on your marriage?"

"Doesn't poking your nose into other people's business get tiring?" she challenged right back.

Lex couldn't help but grin at the fiery woman before him. It would have been so wonderful taming her. And what an amazing Mrs. Luthor she would have made. Now, however, that was hardly possible. She'd chosen a nobody like Clark Kent over himself. Some would say that her motivation was commendable, but it was certainly misguided… and she was carrying Kent's child. There was no way he could make this woman his wife now, was there? Of course, a nanny could be hired; there were private boarding schools available. He need hardly have contact with the brat. Perhaps after Kent died, he'd pay Lois another visit — see what transpired. A grieving widow with a child to raise might be grateful for his help, both financially and… otherwise.

He smiled suavely at her. "Might I offer you a piece of advice, Lois. An astute person always prepares for the future. Don't turn your back on any of your options. In fact, it might be a good idea to show some interest…"

"You're a snake, Lex! How dare you suggest a thing? And I wouldn't encourage you if you were my only option left in the whole world!"

"Come, Lois, don't be so hasty. We both know Kent will die from his cancer, and you once felt something for me."

"We don't know any such thing, and whatever I felt for you was a mistake. Furthermore, this is not *your* city, and when Clark and I are able, we will find a way to investigate your meddling in its affairs. So take some advice from me, Lex… get your own house in order!"

A chuckle escaped Lex's mouth at that. He was far too careful to be tripped up by the likes of mere reporters… wasn't he? Yet forewarned was forearmed. "Are you threatening me, Lois? I do so like a challenge. Remember me to your husband. Take care… and do think of me," he shot back quickly as he sauntered back to his entourage.

Lois could only watch his retreating back as the hospital staff and his acolytes closed around him. She fumed at the way they treated him with such respect. They didn't know the man — she hadn't known the man! Not till Clark had opened her eyes to his true character. How had she ever found him the least bit appealing?

She forced all thoughts of Luthor from her mind as she pushed the door to Clark's room open. The obnoxious man didn't warrant her time or energy. That was reserved for her husband and right now, he needed everything she had…

Clark's eyes were open, but almost immediately his eyelids drifted closed, leaving Lois wondering if she'd just imagined the warm glow of his glance. Did she just need the reassurance that Lex Luthor was wrong in his certainty of Clark's death that her mind was playing tricks on her?

For a long moment she watched breathlessly for him to awaken once more, but nothing happened. Clark lay quietly and Lois lowered herself into the chair by his bed to wait.


It was so dark. And cold. He didn't think he'd ever been so cold, or so disembodied. Where was he? Had he heard voices? Familiar voices! One self-satisfied and taunting… a man's voice. The other angry and defiant, yet softer, a voice he knew well… His mind searched frantically for something he recognized, finally alighting on the familiar warmth he felt beside his body.

Lois. She was here with him. He'd be okay.

Several hours later, the bright sun of a late January day beamed through the windows. It was too good to ignore. For a moment, Clark fought the clinging sluggishness that engulfed him before his eyes struggled open. There was a weight on his right arm and across his stomach, and he had to fight to move his heavy limbs. How long had he been here? How long had he been unconscious?

Slowly, painfully, he tried to lift his left hand until he realized it was trapped by a smaller one wrapped around it. He smiled when he recognized that hand. Finally, he managed to turn his hand enough to grasp her fingers and gently squeezed.

Lois immediately woke up when she felt Clark tug at her fingers. She jerked her head up and found herself staring into Clark's sleepy gaze. He had the most beautiful brown eyes in the world. "Hi, sweetie," she whispered through quick tears. "I sure am glad to see you back."

He strove to answer through the dryness in his mouth. Some days ago, the tube had been removed from his airway and replaced with an oxygen tube inside his nostrils. The cool air not only helped him breathe easier, it also dried him out, and his voice was creaky through disuse.

Not to mention that some 'sadist' had been sharpening knives in this throat! When he was able to speak, it was a hoarse whisper. "It's good to be back." He craned his neck to look around the room, trying to get his bearings. It seemed he might be in a hospital room. "How long have I been out?"

Lois smiled and got up to get him some water, which he accepted gratefully. "Take it easy, don't gulp! We don't want to overwhelm your system." He sipped again before shaking his head to indicate he'd had enough. "Better?"

"Yes. Thank you." His voice was still pretty reminiscent of a bullfrog's croak, but it was an improvement.

"You're welcome." She smiled again and reached out to stroke his face.

"Guess we missed work."

Lois laughed softly. "Just a bit, but don't worry about anything except getting well so you can come home."

"Lois, the baby. Is the baby okay?"

"The baby's fine." She placed his hand over her navel so he could feel the movement for himself and was happy to hear him give a deep breath of relief.

He smiled sadly. "I hope I get to see the birth."

"Would you hush? You're going to see your grandchildren play one day."

"I hope so." Clark held his hand up for her to take it and wasn't surprised to see it trembled. "I'm so scared," he whispered. "I'm scared I'm going to have to leave you both. I thought sure I had this time." Weak and dizzy, Clark couldn't hold back his tears.

Lois leaned over to hold him while he cried. She understood his fear. It was one she'd experienced every day as she sat at his bedside. And even if he made it through this time, she was afraid the transplant wouldn't work. She was afraid that one day she'd have to tell her child about the wonderful person his or her father had been. She squeezed her eyes to shut out the terrible images that flashed through her mind and prayed for their lives, together.


A week later, Clark was allowed home from the hospital but was still confined to bed. Lois continued writing the small articles Perry had given her from home, flatly refusing to return to the office until Clark was strong enough to care for himself during the day. The couple's routine returned to the 'normalcy' that they'd come to accept as the leukemia became more invasive, yet his general health was improving a little and both were thankful for small mercies.

Clark smiled over at Lois from his position propped on the bed as she folded the laundry into their respective drawers. "You are so beautiful," he said after a while. They hadn't talked much about the night they'd spent together in Smallville, but there was no mistaking the undercurrents between them whenever they were near one another.

"Yeah, right. Look at me. I'm starting to look like a beached whale."

"I think you look great."

"I think you're prejudiced."

"So?" He held out his hand to her. "Come here." She moved to take his hand. He pulled her down to the bed and covered her stomach with his hand. "Lois, this is our life. How can you say it's not beautiful?"

"Well, when you put it like that." Lois let her head fall back to rest against Clark's shoulder, content to let him cradle her in his arms.

As always when Clark's hand touched Lois' stomach, the baby started moving. He shifted her so she was lying beside him on the bed and leaned up over her as he continued to move his hand across her stomach.

"You know, I don't think I could feel any more for this baby, even if we'd made him the old-fashioned way. But I have to say, it's a much nicer way to make a baby."

Lois' mouth dropped open a little. This was the first time he'd made any direct reference to their love-making and she hadn't been prepared for his comment. Yet, he'd spoken quietly and tenderly, sending a jolt of electricity through her body. Her hand came up to his cheek, caressing it gently before she leaned up to kiss him. The kiss was brief and uncertain, but just as powerful as any they'd shared the night they made love. When she pulled back, she almost gasped when she saw Clark's eyes had darkened with desire.

His hand left Lois' stomach and came up to hold her face while he kissed her again, more sensually, and slowly deepening the contact. Clark's tongue flicked over Lois' lips asking silent permission for entry into her mouth. She didn't disappoint. He thrust his tongue into the wet depths between her teeth, the first touch causing both of them to moan.

Clark shifted and covered her mouth more fully with his own. They kissed for several moments, enjoying the taste of the other. When Clark broke the kiss, both were breathing heavily as they stared into the other's eyes.

Lois had moved her arms around Clark's back during the kiss and her fingers pressed into his smooth skin ever so slightly. "Wow!"

"Yeah." Clark's hand slid from her face down to rest on her shoulder. He leaned over and kissed her again. This one was brief, but no less passionate. Then he drew away and fell over onto his back.

Once again Lois experienced a sharp wave of frustration. She knew that was unfair. He'd been through a lot in the last month and she couldn't very well fault him for not feeling up to anything as strenuous as making love. Suddenly her disappointment couldn't compare with his health. Lois leaned up to push his hair off his forehead and realized he was fast asleep. Her heart melted as she scooted closer, enjoying the warmth of having him near. Napping with her husband held a lot more appeal then finishing the laundry.


A few mornings later Lois awoke to find Clark working steadily on his laptop. She rubbed the sleep from her eyes, struggling to push herself upright. "Whatcha' doing?"

Clark turned from where he was sitting at the desk to see Lois easing from the bed. "Hey you." He held out a hand for her to come to him and pulled her into his lap. "I'm writing an article to explain Superman's absence."

"I guess that does have to be done."

"Yep. Will you help?"

"I'll always help you." She turned and kissed him briefly.

Clark growled softly in appreciation of her action. "How's this little fellow this morning?" His hand patted her stomach.


Clark laughed softly as he watched her disappear behind the bathroom door. The baby may be hungry, but Mommy had to go.

When Lois returned to the bedroom, she was shocked to find Clark lying flat out on the bed. Oh no, they'd believed he was getting stronger and had even contemplated his return to work in the next few days. Surely writing one article wouldn't have tired him so much he needed to go back to bed.

But wait a minute! Clark wasn't exactly on the bed. He was floating a few inches above the surface… and he was smiling, a very smug smile in fact.

"Clark, what do you think you're doing?" Lois' voice was sharp with worry.

"I'm practicing! I had a nap the other day when you were out shopping and I woke up to find myself floating. Of course, the moment I realized, I fell, but I'm getting better at it. It's great, isn't it?"

In his excitement, Clark failed to notice that Lois was not quite so thrilled by his achievement as he was himself.

"No, it's not! Stop it! You're weak enough as it is, so don't drain your strength by forcing yourself to do 'super' things."

"But that's just it! I didn't force it… it just happened. And I really feel fine. I think all that sun you've been making me soak up is paying off, even if it is freezing outside."

"See! My point exactly! If you were super you wouldn't be feeling the cold." Lois crossed her arms in an imitation of her husband, only Superman never had such a 'bump' to negotiate around.

Clark grinned a little triumphantly. "Ah, but I'm not, actually, feeling the cold so much anymore."

A frown creased Lois' clear brow, but she waddled over to the bed and pulled him down onto the coverlet, sitting herself beside him. "I know how much being Superman means to you, Clark. I really do. It hurts you not to be able to help, but please, don't do this to yourself… to us," she finished quietly, as her hand rested on her stomach, touching the baby within.

"Oh, Lois, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to frighten you. I know it's impossible for me to be… him, right now… at least, not more than once…"

"Once! Why is it so important to do one more rescue?" She was trying hard to keep her promise to stay calm and talk this through.

"Not a rescue, Lois. You're exactly right about that… I'd kill myself, or the nearest thing to it. But I think Superman could manage a very short press conference, especially if Perry would allow him to hold it in front of the Planet."

The last piece of information went past Lois' concentration for the moment. "Why a press conference? Aren't we already explaining Superman's absence in our feature."

"I'm not sure that's enough. Think about it, Lois. Superman hasn't been seen anywhere in the world since before Christmas, and I know there's been a whole lot of speculation about that, even though you've been trying to hide the news from me. Did you think I wouldn't notice the remote control is missing…"

"The dog ate it!"

"And has the Daily Planet suddenly given up reporting the news and just consists of the sports and travel sections now? Or did our non-existent dog eat that too?!"

An embarrassed grin tugged at Lois' mouth. " I was hoping you'd be too ill to notice."

"Well, I was, at first." He squeezed her fingers to show he understood. "But we have to face facts. The Man of Steel went missing around the time I got really sick. Lois, have you ever stopped to wonder what will happen if I don't make it?"

"Clark, no! That's not going to happen."

"We don't know that… and that scares me. The public already associates Lane and Kent as being 'close' to Superman. We'll even have his last interview. If Superman and Clark Kent leave this plane of existence at the same time, don't you think it's possible some astute person might start to speculate…" Clark let his words trail away, leaving Lois to substitute which person he was most afraid of.

"Clark, we don't know that either!"

"No, I accept that, but I don't want to take that chance, do you? If anyone did suspect, you and the baby would be in danger from any villain who wants revenge or, even worse, anyone who wanted to get control of a future 'super' child." Clark took a deep breath, knowing he had to verbalize his biggest fear. They'd talked about Lex once or twice since they'd grown closer, but he wasn't completely sure if Lois understood the depth of Lex's criminal tendencies.

"Lois, I know you're skeptical, and I don't have any proof that would stand up in a court of law, but Luthor is evil and he wants you. I wouldn't be around to protect you, and the thought terrifies me!"

It would take a lot of 'reaching' to link Superman to Clark, and Lois' first thought was to dismiss his supposition, but she couldn't ignore the stark fear she saw in his eyes. Never again would she treat his concerns so offhandedly.

Besides, she couldn't put her hand on her heart and say he was wrong. She knew Luthor already had plans for her if Clark died. What would a man like that do to get his hands on Superman's baby? Over her dying body, of course, but she refrained from telling Clark that. It would hardly put his mind at ease.

"Okay, Clark, I'll go along with all that, and I do believe what you tell me about Lex. I have for long while now. I trust your judgment." Lois blushed charmingly and Clark's heart sang at her faith in him. "But I'm not sure how giving a press conference would help… even if you could manage it?"

"It would back up our article on Superman, and if everyone saw him fly in fit and healthy; say he had business to attend to on his home planet and would return when and if he could, then fly off, maybe there would be less chance people would connect him to Clark Kent being ill."

"See, there's a flaw in your theory right away. Even if you could fly, there's no way you look fit and healthy."

"I can't disagree with you there, but that's where Mom comes in. Along with all her other talents, she used to help out with the Smallville Theatre Society, sew costumes, paint scenery… was the makeup artist! She got pretty good too."

"Now why am I not surprised by that?" Lois grinned.

"I'm hoping she can make me look less pale. Maybe cover up these dark shadows under my eyes. And if I don't get too close to the crowds, hopefully they won't notice that their superhero is wearing makeup…"

"Exactly where in front of the Planet would this be?"

"I was thinking of flying down from the roof and landing on the Globe…"

"Good dramatic pose, but would it hold your weight?"

"I'd think so. It's a pretty heavy object; it has to be held securely for the public safety, and it would help if I levitate…"

"Assuming that you can!" Lois couldn't hold back her caustic retort.

"Lois! If I can fly, I can levitate, and believe me I'm not planning on hanging around! Of course, there'll be zoom lenses and TV cameras."

"Yes, but that shouldn't be a problem, just make sure to keep moving a little so they don't get a clear shot. And the roof thing is a good idea. We can hide Martha in the stairwell — hardly anyone ever uses it but you. She can do your makeup there and help you change into the Suit if you need it."

Clark gave Lois a long searching look, tinged with a large amount of appreciation. "So you're with me on this?"

A resigned shrug lifted her shoulders. "I think you might have a point… so yes!"

Lois would have said more, but Clark leaned forward and covered her mouth with his own. It was some time before he drew back, leaving both gasping for breath. "Oh boy, I really have to remember that I can't hold my breath so long these days," he teased. "But thank you, Lois. I would have tried to do it anyway, but with your help I know it'll succeed."

"Too right, Mr. Kent! I'm glad you realize that! So, while Martha is helping get you ready for your grand entrance, I'll keep watch on the stairs, until it's time for me to join the press pack… but, wait a minute, Perry will expect Clark to be there too."

"I got that covered! I'm going to tell Jimmy and Perry I have an appointment with Doc Klein at Star Labs to try out some new experimental treatment. That way, if I'm too exhausted to make it back no one will be surprised when I don't return. I'll ask Perry to assign Jimmy to back you, and as he'll want photographs, I'm sure he'll agree. And I'll make sure to ask where Ralph can eavesdrop…"

"It'll be all around the newsroom within minutes… good plan." Lois laughed, but then she sobered as Clark's earlier intimation sank in. "I just hope this whole thing doesn't affect your health too badly. When it's over will you fly back to the roof?"

There was a moment of silence as Clark squirmed uneasily. Lois wasn't going to like this. "No, I don't think that would be such a good idea. I don't want to take the chance that some eagle-eyed cameraman could spot me landing on the roof of the Planet… I was hoping to be able to make it to Star Labs. That way I wouldn't be telling too many lies either."

"Screw the lies, Clark! The state of your health is worth a lot more than a few little fibs!" Lois fumed. He'd known she wouldn't be happy with this part of his plan. "You're not risking flying to see Bernie! We come up with another idea or we scrub the whole thing."

"I do have an alternative, Lois," he ventured with an experimental grin, hoping to appease her.

"You've obviously given this some consideration, flyboy. Okay, tell me!"

"I thought if I could make it over the Planet and land in the alleyway behind… where Johnston's old garage used to be. No one goes there anymore, and if anyone was around there's a broken skylight in the roof I could drop through."

"Don't mention the word drop!"

"Okay, let's go for a controlled 'crash landing'…" That earned him a smack across the wrist. "But I'm confident it won't be anything so dramatic. And as a safety measure, I thought I'd ask Dad and Bernie to pick me up in one of Star Labs' vans."

"Sounds good, but I think they should hire a plain van, that way it won't be so obviously linked to Star Labs… And I want Bernie to check you out afterward, just as a precaution."

"That's fine with me, Lois. So we're on?"

Lois thought for a few minutes and Clark watched the expressions chase across her face. She really was delightful. He moved forward to steal another kiss, but his wife was gone.

"Lo-is! Where are you going?" he asked in a mild sulk.

"Going to phone Martha. We might as well get this show on the road!"


"This is one heck of an article, you two," Perry told his best reporters a couple of mornings later. "And you say you got all this from Superman?"

"Yup, Perry, straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak," Lois replied, glancing surreptitiously at Clark. She knew how much he hated to lie and particularly to his friends, but this was necessary. He never could lie well either, and now he was sick. He'd only been allowed back to the newsroom on the strict orders that he take it easy. What this crazy press conference was going to do to his strength was anyone's guess, but Bernard Klein had gone along with it and even agreed to help, just as Martha and Jonathan had.

Perry was continuing, the printer's ink-tinted blood that coursed through his veins rushing in anticipation. "I see follow-ups on the reactions of the public, interviews with emergency services, and more. I see possible explosions in crime figures, which is always good for the news business, Do you see it?"

"Yes, Perry, but there is a slight problem," Lois announced, noticing Clark blanch at the mention of the increase in criminal activity. Even the Chief seemed to look a little sheepish as he'd realized what he'd suggested in his enthusiasm… but that could mean that Perry knew. Only Perry's awareness or otherwise wasn't an issue at present. "Superman wants to give a press conference, and he'd like us to hold back on the story until then…"

"What?! Give our competitors the jump on us?" Their editor looked at them like they were bound for the 'funny farm.'

"No, Perry!" Clark jumped in. "He'd just like us to wait till the day of the conference. Lane and Kent still get the exclusive."

"Okay, that makes sense. Do you know where and when the conference will be held?"

"Tomorrow and he'd like to do it here, outside the Planet building," Lois took up the tale again. "If that's okay with you?"

"In the name of 'My Blue Suede Shoes,' of course it is! What a coup. Kids this is great! We can fill the front page for days."

Clark couldn't subdue a tiny grin. Trust the old newshound to see one article as a whole series. But Perry was speaking again and the timbre of his voice had changed.

"That said, I hate to lose the Big Guy." The aging man looked down at the printout in his hand, seeming less charged with energy. "And reading between these lines, I'd say he feels pretty sad about havin' to leave too."

"He does, Perry," Lois said softly, as she slipped her hand into the crook of Clark's arm. This had to be so hard for him.

The Chief's head came up. "I hope that boy isn't feeling guilty about this all. Sometimes there's things that happen in life that are even out of control of superheroes."

Clark gulped and tears sparkled on Lois' eyelashes. <He knows, he has to,> she thought. <But even if he didn't, thank you, Perry.>

"Let's pray he can sort out this business soon and get back to us. Now what are you two gawkin' at?" Perry bellowed, clearing his throat and returning to his customary gruff manner. "Since I can't use this till tomorrow, go get me some copy for this afternoon's edition."

"On it, Chief," Clark affirmed, opening the door and ushering Lois through, but she'd only gone a few steps when she collided with Jimmy, who was walking by, his head buried in a glossy tabloid.

"Jimmy! The National Whisper? 'Superman Shacked Up In Our Las Vegas Love Nest' by the Thomson Triplets!" Lois read aloud, scornfully. "Why are you reading this?"

The younger man's skin turned from red to white under Lois glare. "Checking the competition?" he hazarded.

"That trash is not competition… not even near it."

"I know, but these stories, I mean allegations," he amended at another razor-sharp stare, "are a hoot! You gotta read them, Lois!"

"No, I do not! And there's only one good place for that… thing, in the can!" She plucked the offending item from his hand and made good on her threat. "I'm sure the Chief would be really pleased to find you reading that in his newsroom. Don't you have work to do?"

"Huh, ye… yeah," Jimmy stammered, backing off. "I have photos to check on in the darkroom." With that he scurried away.

Lois turned back to Clark. "And don't you dare say 'I told you so'."

"Who me?" Clark held his hands up, smiling angelically and followed his wife to her desk. "Now, what do we have for today's paper that will keep Perry happy?"

The two worked steadily for the rest of the day, sharing lunch at their desks, until they were satisfied they had a reasonable story for the afternoon edition. It wouldn't make the front page, but the story on dockland degeneration and the current city council's subsequent neglect was an adequate filler.

Early in the evening, Lois stopped by Clark's desk. "Ready to go? We're winding down on time tonight to go pick your parents up at the airport."

"Not forgotten, honey." Clark rubbed her arm and stood up, wandering across to the rack to retrieve their coats.

She watched him go, admiring his easy stride. <When had he decided to start calling me honey?>

"Honey," she tried it out to herself. "I like it." She grinned widely as he returned and helped her on with her coat. "Honey?"

Clark blushed furiously. "Sorry," he told her, even though he was unable to wipe the grin from his face.

"Don't be." She patted his cheek affectionately. "Have you got any other names for me?"

"Sweetheart, darling?" he suggested. "My little tornado?"

"I like the last one," she decided, sending him a sultry look. "But talking of tornados we'd better 'blow.' Your mom and dad will be arriving shortly. I checked with the airline and their plane is on time."

"Ready when you are… darling." They moved together toward the elevator, sharing laughter.

"Oh, and Bernie's coming over tonight for dinner and to give you the once over to make sure you're up to your 'big performance' tomorrow."

"I know." Clark sounded resigned. He hated being poked and prodded, but he had gotten used to it by now, and he was prepared to admit that this time an examination was probably needed. Only he wanted to go home and just relax with Lois. "I'm looking forward to seeing Mom and Dad, and I don't mind Bernie visiting, but won't we have any time to ourselves tonight?"

"Sorry, husband," Lois rolled the name on her tongue, liking the sound of it. "Though I told Martha that she and Jonathan can have the double bed… They wanted to go to a hotel, but I insisted we wouldn't hear of it. That means we're sleeping in the loft. I hope you don't mind."

"No way! The narrower bed just means we have to cuddle closer." Clark grinned as his mind took a flight of fancy.

"Since you have a big day tomorrow, I was thinking that you turn in early tonight."

The elevator arrived and Lois stepped inside while Clark stood still, lost in his fantasy. They'd have to remember to be quiet if his parents were sleeping below.

"However, I'm thinking like a coach here," Lois continued as she turned to face him. "Strictly no sexual exertion the night before the big game."

"Lo-is, no!" But she'd pressed the down button and the doors were closing. Clark barely squeezed inside. "I really don't think abstinence is necessary."

Lois' laughter drifted like an echo over the bullpen. "On the other hand, maybe an extensive workout would be best…"


Chapter 16: The Family Hour


That was the banner headline displayed above the Planet's coverage of Superman's press conference and Lane and Kent's last interview with the superhero. The world had been stunned by the news, but on the whole the public had understood the Man of Steel's need to attend to problems at home. Somehow it made him seem more approachable. The people could identify with 'domestic issues.'

Of course, there were those who complained that Superman was ignoring their needs for the sake of his world, but most people wished him God speed and hoped he would be able to return to Earth someday.

Clark knew it was all a sham and that bothered him, but this time he was more pragmatic about his cover story. Everything had gone according to plan, and Clark Kent had even made it back to work the day after the conference, admittedly looking a little more frail than usual. However, that fitted perfectly well with the 'experimental treatment' he had supposedly endured on the day of the conference.

The frenzied interest the media and the public had shown at Superman's absence and his subsequent leaving faded day-by-day, reminding Lois and Clark, once again, that news stories were only 'seven-day wonders.' Meanwhile, they continued to enjoy exploring their new togetherness.


The couple attended their next regular visit with the doctor. Everything was fine and Lois and the baby were given an outstanding report. Only three weeks to go and both parents were getting very excited. Clark took his little family out for lunch before they returned to the newsroom.

Clark was basking in the newfound closeness with his wife. There was seldom a moment when he wasn't touching her. He held her hand when they walked and kept an arm around her shoulder when they sat close on the sofa. And he wasn't so shy about leaning over to kiss her softly, even in the newsroom, often causing Perry to remind them that this was their place of work and not 'Lover's Lane.' Lois paid little attention to the Chief's protests; any kiss from Clark moved Lois' world.

One day faded into two, and two into three; Lois was thrilled everyone continued to stay healthy. It had never occurred to her that routine could come to mean so much. Every morning she awoke and prayed to make it through the day; they were too close to lose Clark now.

Clark had wanted nothing more in his life than to be normal, and since his little 'flash' of super powers, when he'd talked to the press, he had been. Even floating in his sleep had stopped and there were no powers to help with the everyday things he took for granted. Yet for some reason, he couldn't be happier.

Of course, he knew exactly why he was so happy. Lois was here with him. She was his wife and he could no longer doubt her feelings for him. She was having their baby in less than two weeks. He wasn't sure what the future would hold, but he found himself looking forward to it all.

He also found himself thinking back to their interrupted Christmas Day celebration. He'd tried to apologize to his parents about it while they were in Metropolis for the press conference, but they'd thoroughly chastised him for feeling guilty. Martha choked up several times and had assured him that *he* was the best Christmas gift they could ever receive.

Between them, the 'four' Kents had discussed the tentative plans for the older couple's move to Metropolis, but Clark couldn't help but be upset about losing his old home. It was the first home he'd ever known on Earth. It had been his refuge when his 'growing up' had taken a very strange turn, and he'd wanted to have that same safe haven for his child.

Once again, Martha and Jonathan promised to think very deeply before taking any action, and even Clark couldn't deny that having his parents living near at hand would be a very good thing. When they'd said goodbye at the airport, he'd told them each he loved them and trusted them to make the right decision.

Now he made plans to celebrate his aborted Christmas with his wife.


Lois made it home around seven. She had gotten so large, she was finding it very difficult to last out even her 'shortened' day at the office. Maybe it was time to take maternity leave.

Her shoes were discarded by the door, much to the relief of her swollen ankles. When she turned, she had to take a quick breath. The entire apartment was covered in Christmas lights. A small tree sat on the table beside the sofa with gifts laid beneath. The table had been set for dinner and soft music played in the background.

Clark stepped into the room from the bedroom, dressed in red pajamas and holding a box. "We missed Christmas. I thought maybe I could make it up to you and say Happy Valentine's Day all at the same time."

"Oh, Clark. This is so beautiful." She walked slowly, down into the room.

He held out the box. "You must be tired, and I knew you'd want to be comfortable, so…" He smiled as she took the gift.

It held a nightshirt, red and large enough for her to relax in. The front read: 'Mommy needs special attention this year.' There was both a Christmas theme and one for Valentine's Day.

"How did you find a shirt like this?" she questioned, as she studied the unusual print of 'holly and hearts' which adorned the front.

"I had it made," he told her and started to guide her toward the bathroom. "Why don't you put it on and we'll eat."

"Sounds good."

A few minutes later, Clark held a chair for her and they settled to eat the light dinner in their pajamas. Talk revolved around work and their expectations for the baby. When dinner was done, they moved to the sofa and worked on the memory book for a while. Clark gave Lois a certificate for a full day at the spa, to be used after the baby's birth to make her feel special. He told her he'd wanted to do something to thank her for the wonderful gift she'd given him, but he had to tell her that there was no crying tonight. She laughingly blinked back her tears and presented him with his Valentine's gift.

Lois had tried desperately to come up with a gift that would encompass what she felt for him, and she wanted something that would symbolize the new status of their marriage. On impulse she'd opted for something a little extravagant.

"Lois?" Clark questioned as he looked down at what appeared to be reservations at a resort in Hawaii.

"A second honeymoon… Or a first if you look at how we spent our first one."

His eyes searched hers, praying that this was Lois' way of finally pledging her commitment. "Are you sure, Lois?"

She reached out and placed a hand along side his cheek. "Yes," was all she said.

Clark's lips spread into a smile and he leaned to kiss her softly. Both moaned and moved to deepen the encounter. Clark's hand slid across her stomach as he continued his assault on her mouth. After a few moments, he drew back.

"Honey, when was last time you felt the baby move?"

Lois furrowed her brow. Now that she thought of it, it had been quite a while. Was it this morning? Was it last night?

She splayed her hands over her bulge and her voice rose in alarm. "Oh, Clark, I don't know."

"Relax. The baby usually stops moving right before it's born. If I had my x-ray vision, I'd take a peek. Since I don't, how about we go see the doctor?"

"We still have nearly two weeks to go."

"I know. But Lois, this Kryptonian/Earth mix is unknown territory. What if she's ready now? Could be one reason you're so big. Besides, it's not uncommon for babies to come a couple weeks early."

"Or something could be wrong. Oh, Clark, we can't lose our baby."

"Lois, no." He cupped her face gently and demanded she calm down. "There is nothing wrong with our baby." Just to further relax her, he gave her a soft kiss. "Now, come on. I'll prove to you the baby's okay."

Thirty minutes later they were entering the exam room at their OB. The office offered an emergency clinic to cut down on so many anxious and unnecessary trips to the hospital by parents who were not quite ready to bring their baby into the world.

Unfortunately, Doc Lewis wasn't on duty and Lois' anxiety increased. She threw Clark a worried glance, but he simply shrugged and squeezed her hand encouragingly. At this moment, he was grateful for any competent physician.

The doctor smiled up at Lois after she examined her. "Well, young lady. I believe you need to get yourself over to the hospital."

"Why? What's wrong?"

"Nothing. You're nearly six centimeters dilated."


"How's that possible? She hasn't had the first contraction," Clark told her.

"And it's too early."

"I can't help that. You're ready to deliver." The doctor smiled again. "Believe me, everything is fine and it's not too early." She patted Lois' leg and left the couple to get themselves together.

Lois looked over at Clark with tears in her eyes. "I'm so excited."

"Me, too." Clark kissed her lips as he helped her dress.


As dawn broke over the Metropolis skyline, Clark stared down at his newborn's beautiful brown eyes as she gazed back up at him. He was crying as he tried to keep his hands from shaking too badly.

"How is she?" Lois asked in a tired voice.

Clark turned to face his exhausted wife. "She's absolutely perfect." He raised his daughter to his lips and kissed her gently. "I love you, sweetie." He walked over to Lois' bed and lowered their daughter into her arms. "God, Lois, I can't believe how beautiful she is."

"I know." Lois was smoothing her fingers over her baby's soft cheeks, while Clark's large hand stroked her thick black hair.

"We need to name this beauty," he whispered wonderingly.

"You pick."

"Come on, honey. I can't do that. She's your daughter, too."

Lois stared at the tiny face beneath her before looking at Clark with tear filled eyes. "Mira. Her name should be Mira."

"Mira? Why Mira, honey?"

"It's like miracle." Lois kissed her daughter's face. "She's our own living, breathing miracle."

"Yeah!" Clark was still staring entranced at his little daughter. "I can't disagree with you there. How about Mira Leigh?"

"Mira Leigh Kent…" Lois smiled down at the baby. "Happy birthday, Mira Leigh."

Clark smiled at his girls and brushed Lois' damp hair off her forehead. "Thank you."


"No, baby. I mean it. She's alive because of you. Even if the transplant doesn't work, *she* means more to me than my life ever could."

Lois cupped Clark's face in her hand. "I love you, Clark," she whispered.

Clark's hand covered hers on his face. "I didn't think it was possible, but you've just made me happier than I was a minute ago." He kissed her palm before he leaned over to kiss her lips.

Clark had waited his whole life to hear those words. Spoken softly, in the dim light of the hospital, they sounded sweeter than he could have ever imagined. Lois had entered into this crazy situation to save his life. He'd proposed the marriage out of some selfish need to experience a little of the life any 'normal' man would expect to have before he died. He'd often dreamed that those three little words would transform this last year into something even more special. But it wasn't the words at all. It was the knowledge that the woman in front of him meant them with all her heart.


Mira Leigh Kent tipped the scales at eight pounds on the nose. She was a big baby with bright eyes that searched the world around her, and just hours after her birth she offered up a smile to her father. Clark was so tickled he couldn't stop talking about it. He hadn't even been disappointed because she'd arrived a full ten days before her due date. Sharing the same birthday seemed to pale in comparison to just having her alive and healthy.

The older Kents hadn't made it in time for the birth, but planned to stay two weeks to get to know their newest family member. They arrived the same day Lois and Mira were released from the hospital to go home. It was a couple of extremely proud grandparents that met their grand daughter for the first time.

At his mom's suggestion, Clark took Lois to see a couple of larger apartments and after some discussion, and some financial help from Perry, they put a 'down payment' on a top floor apartment with a spacious loft and a very convenient balcony. Lois pointed out that Superman could fly in and out without being seen… once he was back in business, of course.

With plenty of help from both sides of their families and friends, the fastest move between houses in history was made within just a week and half. Both Lois and Clark were tickled when a large gang from the Planet showed up to help them set up home. They hadn't realized they had so many friends.

Wanting to show off their little Mira to everyone, Martha decided to host a dinner party the day before they returned to the farm. Since they'd been in Metropolis, they'd received a phone call telling them an offer had been made on their farm, and so they would be going home to tie up all of their affairs in preparation for their move into the city. The older couple were a little concerned about sharing their news with Clark, as he hadn't been exactly pleased when they'd first told him of their plans. However, he surprised them by agreeing.

Clark had given the situation a lot of thought and he'd discussed the move with Lois. Between them they'd decided that it would be really nice to have Martha care for Mira, rather than putting her in the daycare center at the Planet. Clark also felt that the threat of his dying was still very real, and he appreciated the fact that his parents would be near at hand. Lois would need their support if the worst happened… but he was so in love with life at the moment that he refused to dwell on such morbid thoughts.

Monday afternoon was not the ideal time for a party, but it was the only time everyone could come together. So, both sets of grandparents, along with Perry and Jimmy, who were now very much part of the family, joined the proud parents in celebrating the birth of the gorgeous baby girl who had changed everyone's lives.

Even Ellen had been hooked the first time she laid eyes on the child. She might not have agreed with the couple having a baby so soon after they were married, but her grandchild had melted her cynical heart. Perhaps this was time for a new beginning, even for her, and she made up her mind to be less critical of her daughter and her husband. After all, Clark did seem to be a very nice young man, and Sam was showing some interest in his family, at last. Maybe miracles did still happen, occasionally.

Martha had cooked a large meal and everyone was gathered around the table in the dining room. Perry droned on about his star reporters being partners in every sense of the word, and Jimmy snapped pictures endlessly.

Lois couldn't help but notice how lovingly Clark held his little girl. He wore a constant smile as he showed his baby to everyone.

When the small crowd moved to the living room, Clark stood and his smile faded. "I'd like to say something." The voices died down and all eyes turned to Clark.

"I've heard the comments about my daughter's name. It's kinda unusual, so you're all wondering where it comes from. Mira is short for miracle… and that's exactly what she is. Lois named her because of the significance of her existence. Or, at least, one aspect of it." Lois' eyes widened as he spoke. "As some of you know, I have cancer."

Ellen and Sam both gasped. The younger couple had not informed them of this. Even when he'd been hospitalized recently, they'd only been told he had pneumonia.

Clark had wanted to tell them some time ago, and Lois had agreed… in principle. But she hardly ever saw either of her parents. Since the boxing scandal, her father had immersed himself in other bizarre scientific projects and, though her mother kept an apartment in the city, she spent her time traveling. On the rare occasions when they did meet, Lois felt so awkward and on edge that she found it very difficult to communicate with them, especially about something so profound. She'd let time get away from her, but now she knew she'd been wrong.

"I'm sorry, Mother, Daddy. We really should have told you before now."

"Yes, we should, and I'm very sorry to have shocked you with the news like that," Clark added contritely. "I was given only a few years to live. That was cut in half as my disease worsened. I have a form of leukemia that has not responded to treatment. I hadn't planned to tell anyone what I'm about to say, but since you are all family…" He looked down at the baby in his arms. "Mira was conceived in an attempt to save my life. I needed a genetic match so that a bone marrow transplant could be performed, but as I'm adopted, no match was ever discovered. My doctor believed that a transplant would send my disease into remission, so Lois sug…"

Ellen jumped on that one immediately. "You mean, this whole marriage is one giant sham?"

"You talked my daughter into this crazy idea?" Sam spoke up next.

Perry, however, remained silent as he listened to the exchange. He'd suspected something like this, although he would have never said a word.

Lois was quick to correct her parents. "He didn't talk me into anything. I asked him to have the baby with *me*."

"Of course you did. You always did have to do things against the grain. So, why the hell did you marry him? You could have had a child for him without being married." The shocking news had stunned Ellen into forgetting her new resolution, and she stared at her daughter in disbelief. Hadn't Lois learned anything from her experience?

"Yes, Mother, I could have. But Clark wanted his child born into a marriage."

"Kind of convenient, I'd say." She shot Clark a disgusted glance. "And the added bonus of having to *make* a baby probably didn't hurt."

"Mother!" Lois had eased up on the sofa, her agitation stretched to the limit.

"Ellen! That's enough!" Sam's deep voice filled the room, but he quickly toned it down when he heard the baby whimper. "Please, if you'd hush and listen, they might explain what exactly is going on here."

Everyone, especially Ellen, was shocked into silence.

"Thank you," Clark told Sam. "Ellen, you'll probably find it hard to believe, but I love Lois very much. And I love our daughter… I have loved her from the moment she was conceived. Lois and I may have started out with one objective in mind, but things are very different now."

"I'm sure they are. You have the best of both worlds." Ellen's skepticism just wasn't going to let her drop the subject.

"I'm really sorry you believe that," Clark told her softly. "I do *love* Lois. And…" He ran a hand over Mira's head. "When I saw Mira for the first time, months ago on a tiny monitor, I knew then I couldn't make her suffer just to save my life."

Lois looked up at Clark with horrified eyes. "Clark?" She no longer cared what her mother thought.

"This baby means more to me than my own life ever could. I don't want to think about causing her a moment's pain, no matter what the reason." He looked up and smiled. "So… there won't be a transplant."

"What?!" Lois may have just had a baby two weeks earlier, but she moved like an athlete as she shot to her feet. "Clark, we've had Bernie explain the effects on Mira. I thought you understood…"

"That was before she was born. It's just so different now that she's her own little person. I can't do that to her, Lois. She didn't ask to be brought into this world for that reason. I won't have everyone looking at her like she's just a 'donor,' created to save my life, because she isn't!"

"No one would think that!" Lois argued.

"Your mother already does, Lois…"

"Maybe I was a little hasty," Ellen offered, but her voice was soft and the young couple were too intent on each other to pay her much heed.

"I can't put Mira through that, Lois. Please don't ask me to."

Lois was beyond anger. She was in a rage. This was something they should have discussed. How dare he make this kind of decision on his own? And if she'd been fearful before about living without Clark, now she was terrified. How could she go on alone?

"So you'd rather leave her than stay and be her father?" Clark could only beg Lois with his eyes to understand. "How could you? You bas…" she choked on the last word and pushed past him on her way up the stairs.

"Lois, please." Clark was about to follow when his mother put out her arm to stop him.

"What is wrong with you?" she asked in a low, clipped tone.

"Mom, you have to understand. This procedure will hurt her. How can I do that to her?"

"How long do you think she'll hurt if her father dies?" Martha, too, was shaking with anger. She reached to take the baby from Clark. He drew back, but her expression told him he best back down. He gently handed over his daughter to his mother. "I'm taking Mira into her room for her nap. You better talk to your guests. When they leave, I'd suggest you get yourself upstairs and make this up to your wife."

Clark sighed as his mother walked away.

"Clark, I don't fully understand what's going on inside your head," Sam started. "But I assure you, Mira wouldn't be in very much pain from a simple marrow extraction." The reasons behind all the young couple's actions no longer seemed important to Sam, and the doctor in him wanted to help. "I really don't think there are any medical reasons for you to worry."

Clark faced his father-in-law. "That's what Dr Klein said, but I've read that things can go horribly wrong. She'll be sore and it won't be easy to handle her."

"All that's true. But, the chances of things going wrong are very rare, and the recovery rate of a baby is so much quicker than that of an adult. Mira is a very healthy baby, and within a few days, she'll be as active and energetic as a child who hasn't been through a thing. Clark, please don't make a drastic decision because you're afraid of causing your daughter pain. She'll get over that short trauma far more easily than growing up without a father. Don't do what I did!" Sam's voice was thick with remorse.

"Clark, forget about what other people will say." Everyone cast a raised brow at Ellen, as she came forward into the middle of the room. "I know what you're all thinking — I constantly harp on about other people's opinion — and I've just given Clark a hard time because of that. But, Clark, even I can see that the most important thing here is not how you and Lois got into this situation, but how you're going to get out of it. And, I'm not blind. I realize that you and Mira are the best things that have ever happened to my daughter. Son, I may not be the best mother- in-law you could have wished for, but I can see the difference in Lois. If you died without trying this, she'd be devastated. You didn't see how badly she suffered when you were hospitalized."

"But how can I live with the incredible guilt of putting my own baby through this?"

Perry finally decided it was time to add his two cents. "Ah, well, son, I might 'shoot the breeze', now and then… well, you know, about Elvis and such… but I do know one thing. Clark, Mira may have started out as some hare-brained idea to save your life, but how can you not see that if she wasn't meant to be here, she wouldn't?"

"That's exactly my point, Perry. She has a purpose. Her life exists for a reason. I just have a hard time believing it's simply to save my life."

"I have to agree with you there, boy," Jonathan spoke up for the first time. "She's been alive for all of two weeks and look how much she's done in that short time."

"What?" Clark asked, a little confused. Where was his father going with this?

"Well, you have a mother-in-law there that thought you two having a baby was insane… until she met her granddaughter, that is. She might try to hide it, but anyone can see she's as proud as can be of that little girl." Jonathan smiled at Ellen, as she nodded her head firmly in agreement. "And what about Sam? He used to believe he needed a boy to make his life complete. I'm sure he has a few doubts now."

"A lot, Jonathan," the other man agreed. "I'm hoping this little treasure will help me mend a few fences, too, Clark."

"Then there's Perry. I'll bet he hasn't been out of that newsroom at lunch time in years," Jonathan continued.

"You got me there! And seeing Mira has made me realize that if I'd paid more attention to my sons when they were growing up, they might not be in so much trouble now," Perry admitted, doing his bit to stress the fact that a child needed both its parents.

"And what about Jimmy? He's an uncle now."

"Hey, that's right. Uncle Jimmy. I like the sound of that." The younger man beamed brightly. He would be the best uncle Mira could possibly ask for.

"Sure, Mira has a purpose. She has many. Over her life she will accomplish great things. She's already accomplished one. She's brought her parents together. Don't be a lunkhead and separate them. She's a very special little girl, and she needs a very special Mommy and *Daddy* to raise her." Jonathan clapped his son's shoulder, silently begging him to understand what he'd said.

Clark dropped to the sofa behind him. For weeks he'd seriously entertained the thought of not going through with the transplant. When he saw Mira only minutes after birth, he couldn't imagine subjecting her to undue pain and suffering on his account. At the same time he couldn't imagine not living to watch her grow. And of course, if she healed as quickly as Dr. Klein suspected, she'd hardly know there had been a donation taken from her body. Still, his mind warred over the morality of the whole thing. If he loved her half as much as he claimed, why do this to her? It no longer mattered that saving his life had been the whole reason for the conception in the first place. He loved this little person that he and Lois had created.

<If you love her, don't leave her> his inner voice told him. <Don't make Lois raise her alone.>

Clark felt someone sit beside him, and a woman's hand rested gently on his arm.

"Clark, it's time for us to leave; you have to discuss this with Lois. But, before you do, think of this — if Lois lost you, it would kill something inside of her. She's just learned to trust again… Don't take that away from her. Don't let her turn into someone like me." Ellen spoke sadly, without rancor, and everyone listening was touched deeply by her words.

Sam coughed and flushed guiltily, while Clark stared at his mother-in-law. Coming from Ellen, that had to mean a lot, and he realized there was a great deal of truth in what she had said. He rose and saw his guests out, and all the while the points for and against the transplant continued to reverberate in his brain. Ellen was right about one thing: he needed to talk to Lois, and the sooner the better.



She was sitting on the edge of her side of the bed staring out the window. "I'll have Dr. Klein take the sample without your consent. Then you'll be forced to either let him perform the transplant or die with the knowledge that she suffered in vain." Desperation had driven her to try to manipulate Clark, but her voice was infinitely sad; she knew her threat was an empty one.

He eased down beside her, unable to look at her while he spoke. "I'm just so scared to hurt her. She's perfect and I didn't think I could love her any more than I already do."

"Don't you think I know that?" she shot at him as she faced him. "Clark, you're talking to the woman who insisted she'd never have children. I hated the idea until I mentioned it at the start of all this. Even then I wasn't so sure. So much has changed since then. I've fallen completely in love with her. I can't imagine living without her now. But, sweetie, I can't imagine life without you either."

"That's what your mom said."

Lois' eyes widened. "She did? I always knew I'd need my mother sometime in my life. Clark, she's right. Neither Mira nor I want to go on without you."

Clark turned to meet her gaze. "Okay, baby, we'll do this."

"You won't regret it," she told him.

Clark stared at his beautiful wife as her eyes shimmered with unshed tears. He lifted his hand to cup her cheek. "I love you."

"And I love you."

"Do you have plans for tonight?"


"I'd like to have dinner with my wife. I can ask Mom to listen out for Mira for a little while. I'll grill steaks and we can eat in bed."

"Mmm, that sounds wonderful. There's something really lazy about eating in bed."

"Great." Clark kissed Lois tenderly before standing and turning down the quilt. "Come on!" He gestured. "You need to rest. Have a nap while Mira is sleeping."

"Yes, Daddy." She pretended to pout as he tucked her under the covers. "Just remember, if you get any crumbs in here later, you're the one who's sleeping on them."

"Okay! You're so cute when you do that." Clark rubbed his finger against her nose. "Rest. I need to go apologize to my mom. She was as upset as you were earlier."

"Well, she had a right to be. Her son told her he was going to lie down and die. How would you feel if you were about to lose Mira?"

The wind emptied from Clark's sails. He sank back to the bed. "Damn!"

"Clark, don't be so hard on yourself. This is a difficult situation."

"But, Lois… I just hadn't thought…" He looked back at her with tear-filled eyes. "Baby, I'm *so* sorry. I will never hurt you or anyone like that again."

Lois leaned up to press a kiss to his lips. "One day at a time."

Clark's world came full circle with that comment. He'd forgotten their agreement so long ago. Once again, he knew Lois was everything he'd ever wanted in life. He would fight for his life, if for nothing more than to return a small portion of the happiness she'd brought to him. And he'd fight to always be there for Mira.


Clark stood in the doorway of Mira's room and watched as Martha lowered her precious grandchild to the mattress of the crib. The older woman straightened and stood to look down at the angel before her. Clark slipped quietly into the room and wrapped his arms around his mother's body to pull her close.

"I'm so sorry," he whispered in her ear. "I keep forgetting I'm not the only one in this equation."

Martha put her head back against her son's chest, her hands resting on his arms. She didn't know what to say. The fear of losing her son was so great it made her physically ill some days. When he'd said he wasn't going to attempt to try the procedure to save his life, she'd been desolate. She'd wanted to scream in frustration. This had all been so difficult for him, and she didn't pretend to imagine how he must feel. However, she hurt just as badly and was terrified at the thought of losing him.

Clark slipped his hands into Martha's and the two stood in silence as they looked at the sleeping baby before them.

"I used to stand for hours watching you sleep," Martha whispered after a while. "I couldn't believe I'd been given such an incredible gift."

"I know exactly how you feel. Mira is amazing." He turned his mother to face him. "I just didn't want to hurt her."


He put a finger to her lips to stop her protests. "I'm going to fight. I know now to choose to leave her would be worse than any marrow donation could ever be."

"Thank you."

"Thank you," he told her as he pulled her in for a hug. "I love you, mama."

"Oh, honey, I love you."

Clark drew back to share a smile with his mother. "Come on. I'll buy you a cup of coffee. I'd like to take a walk. And I have to ask if you'd babysit tonight. I promised my wife dinner-in-bed."

Martha pushed her arm around Clark's waist and together they left the room. Neither knew what tomorrow would bring. All they knew was they'd face it together… as a family.


Chapter 17: Resurrection

Clark was certain the fates had conspired against him. From the moment he'd been born, he'd been constantly dealt a hand he didn't know how to play. An orphaned baby from a distant planet; a lonely youngster who couldn't figure out why his body was changing the way it was.

He was different — an alien who didn't belong — and he'd felt all those things in his life.

Those feelings of isolation had only got worse as he grew older, until he'd met the one woman that could make his life a little brighter. Once again, the fates had other things in mind. The woman of his dreams didn't even like him. Yet, he'd persevered. He'd learned to use his unusual abilities to help the people of his adopted world, and he'd become friends with that special lady. He could live with that. Then he'd been dealt the worst blow of his life. He had been told he had cancer and would die.

The woman of his dreams had come through for him, offering to aid him in his fight to live. It had taken a while, but finally he thought he had everything he ever wanted: a beautiful wife, a gorgeous daughter, a charmed life. However, the fates had conspired once again.

For days he'd been fighting an almost unbearable lethargy. The trembling had begun earlier tonight. It was as if he could feel his life slowly draining away. He guessed the added complication of a pouring nosebleed would take him sooner than he'd thought. He'd figured the end would be painful and horribly slow. But this was better. It would be over soon and Lois wouldn't have to watch him suffer. He guessed that at the rate his nose was bleeding, he'd be gone long before Lois woke up. No matter. He just wanted to sit and soak up her beauty and that of their daughter in his last hours.

He lowered the third towel from his nose to the wastebasket beside his chair. The constant ache in his body had faded about an hour earlier and he had never felt as calm as he did now. Another towel covered his nose to keep from soiling the furniture. Clark would have loved to hold Mira a final time, but there was no way he'd cover her with blood.

He smiled sadly and recalled the last five weeks. They had been the best five weeks of his life. Having a daughter completed him in a way that even having Lois couldn't do. God, how he'd miss them both.

Suddenly Lois sat bolt upright and gasped for air. Her eyes darted around the dimly lit room until she found Clark. Her feet hit the floor with amazing speed. "Clark!"

"Lois, what are you doing awake?"

She shook as she took in his appearance. Her dream hadn't been a dream at all. It was a premonition. "Oh, sweetie." Her heart broke for Clark. He'd planned to go quietly in the night without so much as a word.

"Lois…" He could tell she knew exactly what was happening.

"I know, honey. I know."

"It's time," he told her as his eyes filled with tears. Why did she have to wake up? Saying good-bye would be nearly impossible with her awake.

"You listen to me, Clark Kent." She held his face in her hands. "You are not leaving me."

"Honey, my body's worn out. It can't go on anymore. I can feel it."

"And I can feel you living." She lifted his hands to hold the towel to his nose, and with more urgency than she'd ever experienced in her life, placed a call to the emergency services for an ambulance, called Bernie, and phoned his parents.

Clark could only watch helplessly as, almost on auto-pilot, Lois dressed in a pair of sweats and readied Mira to leave. Twenty minutes later, he was unloaded and rushed into the ER at Metropolis General. Dr. Klein was waiting for them.


"It's too soon. Mira isn't old enough," Clark protested, his voice sounding strange from the work the medical team had done to cauterize the nosebleed.

"Clark, the tests I've run on her say differently," Bernie told him. "She has great genes." The doctor winked, then carefully inserted the needle he held into Clark's arm.

"What happens next, Bernie?" Lois asked. They'd been through the procedure a few times over the last week or two, but she had to be sure what to expect.

"We'll give Clark a massive dose of chemotherapy to destroy his diseased bone marrow… they'll be setting the drugs up in a moment. Once that's started, we'll retrieve some healthy marrow from this little lady and transplant it into Clark when the chemo is finished. Then we wait for the healthy tissue to kick-start Clark to produce his own good marrow." Bernie had the drip in place and he turned to Lois. "Is she ready?"

Lois nodded before she handed over her baby.

"I'd like to hold her," Clark told them.

"I think that would be wonderful," Bernie said as he lowered a now very relaxed baby to her father's arms.

"What's wrong with her? She looks funny." Clark struggled to sit so he could see his little girl better.

"Relax, sweetie. I gave her the medication Bernie told me to on the way to the hospital. She's just sleepy." Lois reached out to smooth Clark's and Mira's dark hair.

Clark cradled the baby closer, shaking almost violently as he attempted to steady Mira's arm for the insertion of the needle to start a saline drip. Lois was by his side in a moment, lending her support, and Clark grew calmer — Lois sustained him.

"No matter if this works or not, please remember your daddy loves you… *so* much," he whispered to the child. Tears squeezed from his eyes as he held his lips to her head. The baby didn't even flinch when the needle broke her delicate skin. "My little miracle." He continued to hold her until she was sleeping soundly.

"I need to take her now," Bernie told Clark.

He kissed her again. "I love you, Mira. Forgive me." He reluctantly handed over his daughter and watched while she was placed on a gurney to be taken to retrieve the life-saving marrow from her body.

Lois stepped forward and kissed his lips tenderly. "I love you and I'll be here when you wake up."

"I love you. Take care of our baby."

"We'll take care of her together." Lois placed a final kiss on his hand before Dr. Klein lowered an oxygen mask to Clark's face and a nurse efficiently connected the chemotherapy bag to the shunt.

Since Clark had stayed comatose naturally while his body healed from his bout with pneumonia, Bernard had decided that Clark should remain unconscious, not only for the whole procedure, but afterward as well. Mira's tissue samples had contained more super genes than he'd first thought, and the doctor theorized that her healing properties would work rather quickly once in Clark's system, particularly if Clark's body was completely relaxed. Hence, the need to administer anesthesia that would keep him under.

Clark's eyes drank in Lois' features as his body started to succumb to the medication. His hand lifted the mask one last time. "I love you and our daughter. Tell Mom and Dad they've been the best parents I could ever have had, and I'm relying on them to watch over you and Mira."

Lois fought the tears that threatened to spill over. Clark was so sure he'd never see them again. "I love you, too… always. And I will… we'll help each other," she assured him. She reached out to put the mask back in place.

Satisfied his family would be taken care of, Clark's eyes drifted shut.

Bernie monitored his patient for several minutes before looking up at Lois. "He's out." The first stage of the treatment had begun, and the doctor felt amazingly confident, but the young woman by the bedside needed some reassurance. "This is going to work, you know."

"He was dying tonight, wasn't he?"

"Yes. The blood loss would have taken him in a matter of hours."

Lois nodded and turned to leave, entrusting Clark's care to the capable hands of their friend and doctor. The process to take marrow from Mira would soon be starting, so she needed to go to her baby.


Test after test came back with the same results. Clark's blood was showing improvement by the hour. The newly created healthy red blood cells were attacking the white cells that had almost entirely consumed his system. There was even starting to be a marked improvement in his color. He was no longer pale and sickly looking in appearance. The rosy tint had returned to his cheeks just that day. Bernie had been right to keep him unconscious to allow the healing process to take place.

Clark only spent three days in the hospital before he was moved back home. Klein told the hospital staff that the whole situation was simply another experimental procedure in home care, which the family had agreed upon — providing the patient with familiar surroundings in which to recover. Since everyone had always viewed the doctor as a little unorthodox, no one questioned his orders.

Sending Clark home also allowed for his body to be bathed in sunlight each day. When he'd been in the hospital previously, Bernie and Lois had opened the blinds in Clark's room as often as possible. However, they both felt that total exposure was needed now, and they couldn't be sure that the medical staff wouldn't question that bizarre therapy, so the privacy of his own home was desirable.

Clark's bed was placed near the French doors leading out to the balcony of the couple's apartment. An early spring had brought sun and warmth, and each day Lois wheeled him outside to get the full benefits of the life-giving yellow rays.

This time, Lois cared for Clark with much more energy and optimism than she'd done before. This time she saw the future, and it included her husband.

As had been predicted, Mira barely noticed that she'd been a marrow donor for her father. She'd winced in mild discomfort the first day and night, and Lois' heart broke with each cry. Fortunately, for her mother's peace of mind, Mira had soon returned to her usual cheery self.

Several times a day, Lois made sure to take little Mira in to lie with Clark. His daughter's marrow might heal his blood, but the baby would heal his spirit.

Martha and Jonathan had come to Metropolis and this time wouldn't have to return to the farm. They'd finalized the sale of their property earlier in the same week Clark had fallen ill, so had planned to take the plane out the following day. They would stay with Lois and Clark for a short time until they could find an apartment. Right now, Lois was grateful to have them near.


Bernie was very pleased with Clark's progress and a week after the surgery, the doctor began gradually to wean Clark from the medication that was keeping him asleep. But Klein warned Lois and the Kents that the young man would have to wake on his own.

Lois sat next to the bed working while Mira slept on Clark's chest. This had become her morning ritual since he'd come home. Very often, she couldn't resist glancing over and smiling at the sleeping duo — they just looked so cute together, she thought. The only thing that would be better would be for Clark to wake up. Three days after the medication had been stopped he was still sleeping, and Lois' nerves were wearing thin.

<Come, on, Clark. Please open your eyes!>

As if he'd heard her thoughts, his large hands lifted to cover Mira's small body. Lois placed her laptop on the floor and sat up in her chair, her breath catching in her throat in anticipation.

Clark's hands roamed his daughter's back for several moments before he opened his eyes to gaze down at her. "Mmm… I've died and gone to heaven," he murmured.

Lois uttered a sound that was halfway between a sob of joy and a chuckle, as she rose to stand by his side. "Hi."

"Hey." His smile beamed as his eyes met hers. "Definitely heaven."

Lois' legs trembled with relief and excitement, and she leaned on the bed as she bent to place a kiss on his lips. But within moments she was staring at him again, treasuring his wonderful grin as never before. He was back with her, and this time, he would never have to leave her again.


Chapter 18 — Epilogue: Smart Kids

Clark described his life as surreal… but amazing. Yeah, definitely amazing! Just a couple of weeks ago, he had felt his body start to die that night in his bedroom, yet here he was, alive and well, awaiting the results of what he and Lois hoped were the final tests for his illness.

Dr. Klein smiled brightly as he looked up from his microscope. "Days like today remind me why I've chosen this field."

"The results are good?" Lois couldn't stand the suspense.

"The results are remarkable. My theory was completely correct. Mira's super genes encouraged Clark's to regenerate. Not only did this reverse the process, it has completely rebuilt Clark's system."


"Clark, I'd say you'll feel even more super than you ever have."

"Does that mean he'll be more powerful?" Lois glanced at her husband.

"I'd say that and more. Continue to take in as much sun as you can. You should start to feel your powers coming back within the week." Klein stood and approached his patient. "I have to tell you. I am thrilled I could help," he said, laying a hand on Clark's shoulder.

"So am I. Bernie, you made this possible." Clark indicated his daughter with a nod of his head. "You gave me the chance to be her father. You'll never know what that means to me." He took the doctor's hand and gave it a heartfelt shake.

"Just take care of her. And her mother. Oh, and, Clark, try to stay away from Kryptonite as much as possible in future. I'll expect to see you for a check up… in about six months' time. Unless you need me before that… which I'm sure you won't." Bernie quickly added as a shadow of apprehension clouded Lois' eyes. "The check up is just a precaution."

"Don't worry, Bernie, I'll make sure to call you at the first sign of trouble," Lois replied firmly. "We'll take care of each other."

"I know you will." Bernie winked at Lois and quickly left the room. It wasn't often he allowed his emotions to get the best of him. Today, though, he felt incredible. He'd come to think of Lois and Clark as friends and to be able to save the life of one of these friends was indescribable.

Moments later, Clark smiled brightly at his wife and daughter as they left Star Labs. He slipped his free arm around Lois' waist, Mira safely tucked next to his body on the other side, as they made their way toward the Jeep. The bustling scene around them drew Clark's attention. It was all so ordinary… ordinary but great, and he was still around to enjoy it because of one unique woman and a tiny child.

His father had been right the day he said Mira would accomplish many things in her life, and she'd already begun. By saving Clark's life, she'd unknowingly saved thousands of others. Yet the lives that mattered most to Clark were those of his family. Yes, Mira would do great things in time to come, and he would be there to see her grow.

"Penny for you thoughts," Lois said softly as they made it to the Jeep.

"I was just thinking how special this little person is going to be."

"She's already special."

"Yeah. She did a very special thing in saving her father's life, as well as the world's hero. I can never repay her enough… or you."

Lois reached out to cup Clark's cheek. "I think when she's old enough to understand all of this, she'll be most proud because she saved her daddy. And you can repay us by staying well and loving us, that's all we ask."

If there was one thing he'd learned in the past year it was that even super beings were hostages to fate. "Honey, I can't promise much about the first part, though I will be more careful. But the second one is easy. I will always love you both." Clark kissed Lois' palm, then concentrated on moving Mira into the carseat very gently, taking care not to wake her.

When he stood back up, he pulled Lois to him, his thumb caressing her cheek as he gazed earnestly into her upturned face. "The best thing Mira did was to bring her parents together. Who would've thought that something that began as a gamble to save me would lead to this?"

"My intentions were fulfilled," Lois told him tenderly. "I started out to save my friend. I can't tell you how happy I am that I made that decision."

"I'll be with you till the end, Lois."

"I know." They shared a brief hug before she pulled back to hold his face in her hands. "I will never regret my decision to save my super man."

In the bright sun, she sealed her statement with a kiss.



The sixty-point headline across the top of the Daily Planet the weekend of Mother's Day that year proclaimed. Over a year and a half after he'd been given just five short years to live, Clark Kent had made a full recovery with the help of his daughter's life-giving marrow. A month later, Superman made his debut back into Metropolis.

As he reviewed the front page, Perry White leaned back in his chair with a huge smile on his face… life sure was good. Elvis was still considered the King, his top reporting team had just returned from their second honeymoon, and had even hinted at the possibility of more children, and this time they'd be conceived naturally, he was sure.

Thankfully, one half of that team had regained his health, and Superman had returned to the skies. Of course, the boy in blue had to get over that nasty disease first.

The old editor chuckled softly. "I didn't become editor of a major Metropolitan newspaper because I can yodel."

But he would never tell… even an old newshound like himself knew there were some things more important than reporting the news. Not many, mind you, but… hey, what was all that commotion out there?

Perry stood and crossed to the window of his office, peering out at his newsroom. Lois and Clark had just arrived with their daughter, and most of his staff were milling around to coo at the baby. He'd just have to get out there and remind them that this was a work place, and that Mira should be dropped off at the daycare center, which she was attending while her grandparents settled into their new home.

And just maybe he'd say hello to his favorite little girl first… and bring her to take a look at his office…

Oh yes, Mira certainly was the sweetest baby in Metropolis, and he was positive no one would change a single thing.

Together, Lois and Clark had come through all the trauma stronger than they'd ever been, and he hadn't doubted for a moment that they would… They were his 'kids'… his smart kids!



I'd like to thank Jenni Debbage for all of her hard work and unwavering support for this monster. I approached her… how long ago now?… with a crazy idea, but never expected it to lead to a joint story. Writing with her has been a dream come true! My favorite author, Jenni has also become a valued friend. I treasure our relationship, even though after writing this story, I have to wonder if she'll ever work with me again! <bg>

Also, Carol Malo and LaurieD have been outstanding and unwavering beta-readers. We might have had to rewrite a few things, but I feel this piece is better because of it. Thanks, ladies, for tackling this monster with us. It's been a great ride!

Thanks to everyone reading this. Please feel free to send feedback to us both. We'd love to hear what you think.

In all things Super,



I'd also like to say a few words here. As SQD said, quite some time ago she approached me with a premise for a story and I have to say that it did intrigue me. At first, I was reluctant to do anything other than beta read, but very quickly I started to get a few ideas for the plot line and I agreed to co-write with SQD.

I have to say that it hasn't always been easy — we have had differences of opinions — but we've learnt to compromise, which they do say is good for the soul. <bg>

In both our circumstances the stresses of Real Life have sometimes interfered with the production of this story, but we've encouraged each other along the way and eventually come through to reach the end.

On the whole, it's been a very interesting and exhilarating ride and I hope we've come up with something that you the readers have enjoyed.

SQD is right on one thing, this monster has forged our friendship, but I have to wonder if it isn't SQD who would be reluctant to co-write with me ever again. <vbg>

I'd also like to thank Laurie and Carol for betaing and for offering wise suggestions and encouragement. This is a much improved story because of their input.

Finally, I'd like to thank Sarah for doing her usually expert job in GEing this story for the archive.

Yours as always,

Jenni Debbage