By Sara Kraft <email@example.com>
Submitted November 2004
Summary: When Clark leaves for New Krypton, he leaves Lois with a little something to remember him by. But when H.G. Wells interferes, things may become too difficult to handle, especially when it looks like Clark may not make it home.
While this isn't my first fanfic, it is the first lengthy endeavor I've attempted. This story was originally posted to the archives back in 1996 (or was it 1997?). It all started because I was, like many others, severely traumatized <g> by the New Krypton cliffhanger. Wasn't this the most popular fanfic- inspiring episode before that whole TOGOM business? <bg> Anyway, in writing another story that transformed itself into a sort of sequel for this story, I had always planned on revisiting this story for a little touch up before I sent in the new one. What I didn't plan on, was catching a few big errors and re-writing almost the entire thing. Actually, it evolved into something I'd never imagined possible and I'm surprised at just how much of the story wrote itself. The main idea is the same and there are some parts that remain from the original. I'd like to think of this version as much better since I was only 17 when I wrote the first one. But anyway, I'll let you be the judge.
I'd like to thank Maria, Nina, and Mary — some old friends that helped me with the first version. A slightly later, but not quite finished draft made it into the hands of my writing class. I'd like to thank them for pointing out that there wasn't nearly enough angst, among other things.
I started with just one beta reader, and was lucky enough to end up with several more. So, in order of appearance, TJ Gruffs, Diane Harris, Saskia, and Paul Gabriel-Weiner… thank you ALL so much!!!! Another friend of mine was always there to listen to me whine and reassure me that what I was writing was not horrendous, thanks Rach!! Of course there's the IRC gang, who had to listen to me moan and groan as well. Thank you all for your support (and the occasional 2x4 <g>)!
This is the first story I ever posted on the boards, and it was quite an adventure. I'd like to thank everyone on the boards for their wonderful and quite encouraging feedback. I can tell you that without it, this story would have never seen the light of day. One person in particular, Erica Dias, was always there to keep me on my toes and chase me around IRC with a chainsaw. <g> Thanks, Erica!
There's another person I'd like to thank… and I'll try really hard not to gush <g>… Wendy Richards, I've always admired you and I love your writing — you're one of my favorite authors. I can't say just how bowled over I was when I saw that *you* were actually reading *my* story… and liking it too! I was more than delighted and I'll be eternally grateful that you stepped in to help me find a way through that last part that was giving me so much trouble. Thank you so much!
Just one more, I promise! <g> A huge thanks to Tricia W. for GEing this for the archive. I couldn't be happier that my GE was someone who was reading my story and posting feedback on the boards. Thanks, Tricia!!
Any recognizable likeness or words from the series are not mine, but simply homage to the great writers of the episodes from which they came. I borrowed a scene from a movie and that's where the story got its original title. Its new title is inspired by the song of the same name by the Calling. Everything else is mine.
"It seems that your soul is intertwined with hers, like…soulmates…where ever his was, there was yours, never one without the other. Two lovers destined to meet and fall in love over and over again throughout time…Your soul, it comes from a place beyond planets, beyond time, where we all come from. And the power of your love is what brings your souls together, time after time. You see, that is the one absolute; wherever she is, you are." H.G. Wells, Soulmates
Clark was leaving tomorrow. They were both trying not to think about Zara, Ching, New Krypton, or anything else. Clark had suggested a movie night. Just like old times, and hopefully a good distraction. She was looking forward to it actually, that is when she didn't let her mind wander. Clark was in the kitchen getting snacks and had left her in charge of picking out the movie. She'd settled on one that they had both seen before several times, knowing that tonight their concentration would not be so great. She was just settling down on his sofa when he came into the room with a bowl of popcorn and two cream sodas.
"So, what's the verdict?" Clark asked, not being able to guess from the previews playing on the screen.
"'Chances Are'." She gave him a smile, relaxing now that he was with her. He grinned back. She could see in his eyes that he remembered too. The last time they'd watched it, they hadn't really 'watched' it. They'd been still in the 'honeymoon' stages of their relationship. She'd teased Clark, saying he was like a farm boy on a first date behind the Tastee Freeze. He'd put his hands up in self-defense, claiming he couldn't help it. It was her fault she was so beautiful.
It wasn't so different now; they still had the same fire and passion, only stronger. They hadn't made love yet, but some of their make out sessions had been pretty heated. Now she was blushing. But that was okay, because he was blushing too.
"You mean chances are we'll miss half the movie again?" He winked at her as he set the refreshments on the coffee table.
"And what, may I ask, is so wrong with that?" She cuddled close to him when he took a seat next to her.
"Nothing, as long as I don't miss seeing Cybil Shepard half naked."
"Hey!" She punched him in the shoulder playfully.
"Ow!" He feigned injury and smiled at her, but his face sobered at his next words. "Don't worry, Baby, you're the only one I want to see naked."
"In time, Sweetie, in time." She hoped. She refused to believe that he wouldn't come back and they would get married and make love for the first time on their wedding night. That's the way it had to be. She had to believe he was coming back. She tried not to let it show on her face. Honest she did, but Clark knew her too well.
A tortured expression crossed his face. He cupped her cheek and his voice was pained. "Lois." He kissed her, full of longing and anguish. She could feel his torment, it mirrored her own. She clung to him; he was her lifeline. Oh God, what was she going to do without him? He pulled back slowly and looked into her eyes, his brow furrowed.
"Shh, Honey. I know." He stroked her cheek with his thumb, just like he always did. One more thing she had to learn to live without. "I know." He laid a small kiss on her forehead.
She shook herself mentally. "No. We're not supposed to think about tomorrow." She was determined not to ruin the last night they had together by being inconsolable. She touched his face, trying to memorize it. "Let's watch the movie, okay?"
He kissed her tenderly on the lips and agreed.
She snuggled closer to him, resting her head on his chest and he put his arm around her shoulders. "Ooh, good! Just in time for my favorite part."
Corrine woke up on a half empty bed and called out as she felt the barren spot next to her. "Louie?"
At the sound of his name, Louie jumped out of the bathroom. "Happy Anniversary!" He took her into his arms as she walked towards him, giving him an enthusiastic kiss.
"You're dressed," she pouted.
"Yeah, but I don't have to be."
"Well, get undressed and get back in bed. I have something for you," she said seductively as she slipped back under the bed covers.
"Okay!" Louie wasted no time in stripping down to his boxers and jumping back into bed. He immediately smothered her with kisses and attempted to make love to her but she interrupted him.
"No, Louie, that's not the way I planned it."
He sat back against the headboard, "So this is a planned thing?"
"Yeah, I wanted to be here in bed when I gave you your anniversary present, because this is where it was made."
His eyes lit up with excitement. "We're having a baby?"
"Mmm-huhm," she nodded.
Lois's minded wandered from the movie. She hadn't told Clark why she liked that scene, but maybe he'd guessed. In a strange turn of events, she, Lois Lane, had found her maternal instincts. Ever since they'd gotten engaged, her biological clock had started ticking. It was almost scary how much she loved him. She'd never thought she'd say this about any man, but she wanted to have Clark's baby. Not only that, but she wanted to tell him in such a perfectly sweet moment — like in the movie.
"You know, Clark, that's something we haven't talked much about." She glanced over at him.
He gave her a curious look. "What's that?"
The smile that took over his face warmed her heart. God, she could just see the love, the future in his eyes. She felt the tears again, pricking at the back of her eyes so she took a deep breath and rushed on. "I mean we're both agreed we want children, right? But with you being Kryptonian and all, we don't even know if that's possible. I know we could still adopt if that were the case, but even if we *can* have children, who's to say that we'll be good parents? Well, of course you'll be the *perfect* dad, but me…look at my example, I'll probably be the worst…"
He put a gentle finger to her lips. "Lois, Lois, Honey, slow down." He replaced his finger with a kiss then continued. "First of all, I *know* you'll be a *great* mom. And second, the rest is something we'll have to discover together, when the time comes. And maybe…" He hesitated and she knew he was going to bring up the subject they weren't supposed to even think about. His next words were spoken with such determination. "Maybe *when* I come back, I'll have learned some more about myself. Where I come from. Maybe I can convince Zara and Ching to help me figure out just how biologically compatible you and I are."
She smiled warmly at him. "Well," she moved closer to his face. "I wouldn't mind finding out on our own just how compatible we are." Adamant now to lighten the mood and take their minds off tomorrow, she started nibbling at his ear and kissed her way to his mouth.
"Yeah," he groaned, "neither would I." He covered her mouth with his.
She leaned against him, taking the kiss deeper, his leaving all but forgotten. She tugged at his lower lip with her teeth before probing her tongue back into the warm recess of his mouth. Finding his tongue, she suckled at it as her hands found the back of his neck. It seemed an eternity before she pulled gently away from his mouth. She needed air. She heard him groan in protest, but it soon turned to a moan when she started exploring his neck.
He was breathing heavily above her when he cupped her face and brought it back to his mouth. His hands were wandering now, caressing her through the thick material of her sweatshirt, and it felt wonderful. She gasped when she felt his hands move under her shirt. She moaned into his mouth and pulled him to her as she shifted to fall backward, encouraging him to lie atop her on the couch. She reveled in the feeling of his weight on top of her and reached to untuck his shirt. He paused to pull it over his head and tossed it behind him before capturing her lips again. She pulled him closer and she felt him smile against her lips.
"This is so sexy. You're so sexy, Lois."
She tried to pull him closer still, trying to convey her emotions as she kissed him. Clark groaned and his hand…
"Stop! Before you buy a new car…"
They both stopped abruptly, startled, and looked at the TV. She worked on catching her breath and felt the remote digging into her back. She pulled the offending gadget out to show Clark and he gave her a breathless smile. She let out a ragged breath and thumbed the power button, silencing the interruption and threw the remote somewhere in the room. She felt Clark's hand slipping outside the sweatshirt and smoothing it back into place. It was probably for the best, right? Though telling her body that would be a whole different challenge.
He sighed heavily, placing his arms on either side of her. He pushed up a little so that not all his weight was on her, though he kept their hips in contact. He could hear her heart was still racing from their interrupted passion. She was looking into his eyes and hers were dark with desire, but they had wanted to wait, right?
"Lois?" His voice was husky. He was having a hard time remembering why they'd wanted to wait and he couldn't bring himself to move just yet.
"Yeah?" She blushed under his heated stare.
He'd never seen anything more beautiful than the woman below him, flushed and just as breathless as he was. God give him the strength to stop.
But he didn't want to move or speak, afraid that if he moved, he would ruin this moment.
"I don't want to wait anymore. What if…"
Clark didn't let her finish. He pressed himself to her fully again and captured her mouth with his own. She found his hand and guided it back under her shirt.
The heat between them was electric. He could hardly believe the sensations she was causing inside him. Clark pulled back to look at her for a moment. "I've never seen anything more beautiful in my life."
She gave him a warm smile in return. "Why don't we continue this in the bedroom?"
He whole-heartedly agreed.
Lois woke up slowly and smiled, remembering the night before. His warm body behind her and his large arms enveloping her, assured her that it hadn't been a dream. His deep breathing told her that he was still asleep.
He moaned and nuzzled his face in the nape of her neck.
He could feel her smile. "For what?"
"For loving me."
She snuggled closer to him. "You're welcome."
He shifted behind her and started to get up, but she stopped him.
"Don't leave me yet."
He stayed. Her voice was almost panicked and it broke his heart. "Shh…Honey, it'll be okay." He held her close and stroked her hair. He laid a kiss on the back of her head. "We'll be okay."
All he could do was hold her. She fell asleep in a short time and for that he was thankful. He didn't want her to see him cry. The tears rolled silently down his cheeks as he tried to reassure himself with the soft rhythmic music of her heartbeat. Of all his abilities, he cherished that one the most. It enabled him to hear her heart beating. He could tell when she was sleeping, scared, excited, aroused. It was soothing, comforting. It's how he knew he was home.
Sometimes he cursed his heritage. It wasn't often, usually it had been when he was younger and feeling like he would never fit in. Now that he had finally found his place, somewhere he belonged, he'd thought it would never cross his mind again. But here he was, his arms around his fianc‚, his soulmate, his world, and he was torn. He didn't want to leave, not really, but part of his heart compelled him to his birthright. To do the right thing. And for this he cursed it.
Before Lois, he wouldn't have given a second thought to leaving with his people. He'd always longed for that connection, that feeling that he belonged somewhere. It was jarring now to know that there were others out there like him, that he wasn't the last of his kind. In a strange way, that sense of isolation wasn't there anymore. He was eager to know where he came from. Though New Krypton wasn't where he had been born, it was somewhere that he could learn of his heritage, how the Kryptonians lived, and what their customs were. He'd always wondered, and now he had the chance to discover it.
It bothered him that this opportunity had come only as the result of a civil war. He resented the fact that they didn't feel they could resolve the conflict on their own, that the only reason they had sought him out was to fight a war. A war he wasn't sure he understood. And he wasn't even certain that it was his war to fight. Sure, he shared blood and genetic material with these people, but from what little contact he'd had with Zara and Ching, he knew that they did not share the same ethics or values. How was he to fight with them, lead them? He had a hard time seeing himself as a part of any war, let alone leading one. He wasn't a killer. And he had a sickening feeling that he was going to have to compromise those morals by which he stood.
Would he be able to do it? Would he be able to ignore the part of himself that knew inherently that killing was wrong? Would he be able to tell himself that the lives of "his" people were worth the deaths of the evil ones who opposed them? And if he could, how would he live with himself afterwards? It was different than choosing who to rescue in an earthquake or a flood. He tried to save them all, but when he chose to take an injured victim to the hospital and his neighbor died because he hadn't been there, it was still hard to accept. Lois had always helped him deal with the guilt. But she wouldn't be there on New Krypton with him. She wouldn't be able to hold him after he took his first life. That would be the hardest part he knew, living everyday for God knew how long, without Lois. She was his world. He had fallen so completely in love with her, he wasn't sure now how to live without her.
He thought back to the moment they'd met, the moment he'd fallen in love with her, and it made him smile. It was the first time in his life he'd felt complete, like there was somewhere he belonged. It had taken years to show her that she deserved love; that they were meant to be together. And now they *were* together, in every sense and he was torn. He was being forced to choose between the love he'd thought he'd never have and the past he'd been sure he'd never find.
Clark awoke a few hours later. Lois had shifted in his arms so she was facing him. He gazed down at her. She was so peaceful in her sleep, not able to feel the pain of his leaving. Leaving was the right thing to do. At least he knew that intellectually, but emotionally and otherwise, this was going to be the single most difficult thing he'd ever had to do.
They'd decided days ago that Superman should say his farewell and make his exit from the Daily Planet. He and Lois would have their own private good-byes before heading there. It would be easier that way. They'd both agreed that he had to go, and without the barrier of the Superman fa‡ade and hundreds of people, he didn't think he'd be able to leave her.
He worried about Lois. Normally, he would have flown his parents here to be with her and comfort her at a time like this. But they couldn't be here. When Clark had made his final decision a few days ago, Lois and he had agreed that it would be best to make an excuse for Clark before Superman had to leave. So his father had "taken ill" and sent for Clark to help out on the farm. Neither of them could be sure when or if he would return, but this would explain Clark's disappearance for at least a few months. With any luck, he would be back sooner than that and Lois could "join" him in Smallville and they could be alone for a while. He glanced at the clock on his nightstand. 6:45. The press conference was scheduled for 9 a.m. That left two hours. Only two hours left with Lois until he left indefinitely.
He took one last look at her sleeping form and leaned down to kiss her. He smiled against her lips. Her heartbeat told him that she'd sensed him before she even woke. But she didn't stay asleep long. He pulled back reluctantly.
Her eyes flew open in a panic. "It's not time yet is it?"
His heart broke inside, though he tried not to let it show on his face. "No, Sweetie, we still have a few hours." God, this was going to be hard.
She relaxed, but only a little. She wanted to beg him to stay. She didn't want him to go. But she couldn't say it. He might just stay. And while it tore at her heart to think of him leaving, he needed to go. He needed to find out about his past, where he'd come from. If he didn't, he'd never truly know himself and she couldn't have that. If he stayed, she would never have all of him. There would always be that little part of him that wondered 'what if?' All she could do was hope and pray that he came back to her. That was the only thing she could do. Thinking anything else would destroy her. Their love had conquered so much already. This wouldn't be any different. That's the way it *had* to be.
She gave him a weak smile. She knew it was unconvincing, but she had to try. She had to be strong. They had to be strong. His hand caressed her face. She covered his hand with her own and kissed his palm.
He was wearing the same smile she'd just tried on him. "Want some breakfast? I could make some eggs and pancakes. Or waffles? You want waffles instead? Or I could fly in some croissants from France. Whatever you want. And some coffee, orange juice. The works."
This time her smile was genuine.
"Babbling is *my* job, Clark."
He let out an airy chuckle. "Look at us. We're a wreck."
"Yeah," she smiled, "but can you blame us?"
"I guess not. So, seriously, do you want some breakfast?"
"Sure. I'm pretty hungry actually. I guess we burned a lot of calories last night.
That earned her his mega-watt smile. "We sure did."
He moved to get up. "Let's take a shower, then I'll make us a five star meal."
She smirked at him. "You are insatiable, you know that?"
"Yeah, but can you blame me?"
The pleasant atmosphere at breakfast was a fa‡ade. They both knew it. Clark was trying to take her mind off the hours to come, and poor Lois; he could tell how brave she was trying to be. Life wasn't fair. They had been through so much to get to this point and now fate was throwing up another roadblock to their happiness. Would they be able to move this one? Would he make it back to her?
That scared him more than anything. Not the actual fact that he could die, but that he would leave Lois alone to grieve for him. He'd done it once before when Clyde Barrow had shot him down and he'd seen how badly she'd taken it. And now that they were together, he feared it would be much worse. He didn't want to put her through that kind of pain. An everlasting pain. She'd never know whether or not he'd died. He made a silent vow that he would do *anything* to make it back to her. Then they could start their life together.
"So…" he started lamely. He couldn't think of anything to say.
"What did you want to do?"
Her voice was quiet. "Just hold me, Clark."
"Come here." He held out his arms for her and gathered her into his lap when she came. He wrapped his arms around her and just held her. Without changing position, he floated them to the living room and landed on the couch. She clung to him like a child after a nightmare, only hers was just beginning. Her head was resting against his chest and he held her there, stroking her silky hair. "I love you so much, Lois."
"I love you too, Clark," she said against his shirt. "I love you too."
She didn't know how long she sat in his arms, her head to his chest, memorizing the sound of his heartbeat and the feel of his arms around her. She kept thinking maybe if she didn't move, didn't breathe too deeply, they could stay in this moment forever. Just him and her. No one else. And maybe they could disappear. Away from the Planet, away from the Earth, away from New Krypton. But that wouldn't happen and Clark confirmed it.
"Sweetie? It's time."
She stayed still, and whispered, "Okay."
Slowly, she moved to get up. At the same time his chest disappeared and in its place was her pillow.
She'd had the dream again.
Their last few hours repeated in a bittersweet mirage while she slept. At least she could be thankful she didn't have to relive the farewell again. That had been far too painful. She'd had to deal with that all on her own, pretending all the while that it was only Superman leaving, not her other half. His last words still echoed in her mind. It wasn't the first time she'd heard Superman get emotional, but it had been the first time for the whole of Metropolis and the world.
"Although I have always loved life here on Earth, and have called it my home, I have another home as well… one that needs me now. But wherever I am, I'll carry the best of Earth with me. And while I'm gone, I ask each one of you to look to yourselves for the strength, decency, and compassion that I know each one of you has inside. Emerson said self-trust is the essence of heroism. Inside each of you is a hero. And so I leave, knowing that a world full of heroes has nothing to fear."
But for Lois, there was something to fear. That Clark wouldn't make it back.
It'd been three months. Three months of pretending that she was fine, only just a little emotional because her friend Superman had left and her fianc‚ was away. Three months of pretending Clark was on the other end of the line when she got a call at work from Smallville. And three months of the anxious feeling in the pit of her stomach that she might be pregnant.
She wasn't sure how she felt about that. It was exactly what she'd been wanting for some time. Only not like this. Clark was supposed to be here with her, sharing in this nervous anticipation of a positive test result. She had one in her bathroom, but she hadn't taken it yet. It was denial that was stopping her. If she didn't take the test, she wouldn't be pregnant and Clark wouldn't miss out on the one thing she knew he wanted more than anything. Roots. Something that said, plain and simple, loud and clear, that he belonged on this planet. How could she deny him that perfect moment?
But she couldn't wait any longer. She'd already scheduled a doctor's appointment. That was a week ago and the appointment was today. She'd go into work first, then tell Perry that she wasn't feeling well. She didn't know if she'd be able to go back to work afterwards.
It was earlier than she normally woke up, so she got ready slower than usual. Standing in just her underwear, she stared at herself in the mirror. She ran a hand slowly over her stomach and pouched out her belly. Pregnant. She could get used to that. It wouldn't be so bad.
After dressing, she actually took some time to make herself breakfast. Well, okay some toast and orange juice. If Clark had been here, he'd have made her a real breakfast. Just in case. He'd be seriously overprotective of her if he knew there was even a chance that she might be pregnant. She'd pretend to hate it, but secretly love it. She sniffed, trying not to cry. Her hand slipped down to feel her belly again; it was fast becoming a habit.
She drove slowly to work and made her way up to the newsroom, biding her time until she'd leave again. It was quiet in the early hour, as she'd come to expect over the last few months. She spied Perry in his office. She smiled. Well, at least some things never changed. She ran through the motions as she did every morning since Clark had left: booted up her computer, checked her voice mail, and got herself a cup of coffee — decaf now that she had someone else's health to worry about. Before she could sit down to check her email though, she heard Perry call her name from across the room. She looked over and saw him leaning in the doorway to his office, his face lined with concern. She sighed and made her way towards him, now wishing that her co-workers were here after all. Well, maybe she'd leave earlier than she'd thought.
After she was securely inside, he shut the door. He knew Lois better than a lot of folks did. He knew she was working herself ragged, trying to stay busy so that she wouldn't have to face her personal life. Normally, he didn't mind this, because it had produced some award winning stories when she'd done it in the past. But this time, there didn't seem to be too many stories. The city had taken to heart Superman's parting words; crime was actually at an all-time low. That, and her heart just wasn't in it. He knew exactly where it was. Not in Smallville like everyone thought, but with a man on a space rock, millions of miles away. It just wasn't fair. It didn't seem that life would ever give those two a break.
Pulled out of his thoughts, he noticed that Lois had already taken a seat in one of the chairs opposite his desk. He took the one next to it. "Lois, Darlin', you know you can talk to me. You're not only my best reporter, you're like a daughter to me and it hurts me to see you so restless and alone. Honey, have you thought of taking some time off, joining Clark in Smallville? Relax a little." He knew Clark wasn't there, but maybe spending some time with his parents would help. She wouldn't have to keep up the fa‡ade there.
"No thanks, Perry. I'm fine. I've just been a little under the weather lately. Though, maybe since I'm not feeling so well, I'll go home and rest. I really should have just called in, but…I don't know. It feels weird not coming into work."
"Sure, Darlin', I understand. Why don't you go ahead and take tomorrow off too? Just rest up and then you can come back firing on all cylinders Wednesday."
She stood and smoothed out her skirt. He rose to see her out. She gave him a thank you and a weak smile as she exited his office.
Perry sank heavily into the chair behind his desk. God help that girl, stubborn as the day is long. But maybe these two days would help. He watched her through the window, glumly packing up her desk, and he hoped beyond hope that Clark would find his way back.
Clark Kent sat on his couch in the dark. He was depressed. Beyond depressed. Ever since that woman…since Lois…had visited from a parallel universe and turned his world upside down. That had been months ago. He'd been getting along just fine before her. Well, sort of. He'd been happy with Lana for the most part. But he guessed, looking back, he hadn't been *that* happy. Lana had been tolerant of his powers, but only that. Sometimes he'd even suspected that she was repulsed by his alienness, but Lana was all he'd had.
After his parents had died, she'd been his only friend. Well, the only friend he'd felt safe with. The only one he'd felt comfortable confiding in. He hadn't told her right away about himself. It wasn't until they were both 14 that he'd confessed his secret, told her just how different he was from everyone else.
He winced as he remembered her reaction. She'd been scared and maybe even a little disgusted by him. She'd quickly masked her emotions and had ended up being a really good friend and eventually his fianc‚. But still, that moment had never gone away for Clark. Sure, he'd pushed it to the recesses of his memory — he'd had to — but he still hadn't forgotten. He'd stayed with her out of comfort for the familiar, because he'd honestly thought that there wouldn't be anyone else, and because she was 'safe.' If he didn't get close to anyone, he couldn't get hurt again. Lana was better than no one and certainly better than someone else. Someone who had the potential to break his heart.
Someone like Lois.
It still baffled him how connected he'd felt with her after only just meeting her. He'd had this powerful feeling of comfort, of belonging when she was near. And ever since she'd left, he'd felt an immense sense of loss. He berated himself for it. She was never his in the first place. She belonged to another universe and her heart belonged to another man. One who happened to be just like him in so many ways.
He'd had a lot of time to think since she'd left. Too much in fact. He'd thought that maybe his feelings for her were really meant for *his* Lois. At first, it was just to make himself feel better, but it had ended up making perfect sense. At least in the fairy tale sense. That fantasy you always had as child that there was someone out there for everyone. One perfect match, the other half of a whole. A soulmate. The illusion you always had that you'd find that perfect someone and live happily ever after.
But then you had to grow up. A pipe dream was all it was. For a time, he'd thought maybe, if the Lois and Clark from the other universe were made for each other, maybe the Lois Lane of his universe was *his* soulmate. He'd clung to that dream. He'd held fast to the hope that maybe she really wasn't dead. Her body had never been found; she'd vanished in the Congo on a story. Maybe she was just lost, hurt, somewhere trying to find her way home. He'd looked for her. He'd searched all of Africa. He'd tracked down a hundred Jane Doe's matching her description and found a hundred threads of hope yanked from his heart, leaving him still alone. But he'd come to realize this was his destiny. Being alone. First his parents, then Lana, then Lois. Both of them. He'd created his own hell and now he was grieving for a woman, for a love, for a life he'd never known.
Sometimes he cursed his heritage, his powers. If not for them, he might have ended it. He'd have taken too many pills, jumped off a cliff, or something. As it was, he'd even tried flying into space with the intent of suffocating himself, but his innate need for air, that unfortunate habit of breathing had forced him back to Earth.
He took a deep breath and let it out. He needed to get away. He thought maybe he should move again, like he'd always done in the past when things had gotten too hard. But now that everyone knew who and what he was, it was pointless. He envied that other Clark. He had everything. Anonymity. His parents. And his Lois. What he wouldn't give to be in his place.
His doorbell rang and he just sat there. He didn't care. Most people had stopped bothering him, but there was still the occasional fan or reporter wanting an autograph or a story. The person abandoned the doorbell and started knocking. He wished they would just go away and leave him to his misery. Maybe if he ignored it they would assume he was gone and just go away.
His hearing kicked in. "Mr. Kent. I know you can hear me. It's H.G. Wells. Please open the door, I need desperately to speak with you."
It was *him*. The dead writer. Maybe he'd found Lois! That was what got him to the door to answer. He let the diminutive man with the bowler hat inside. "Can I help you?"
"Mr. Kent, yes. Well, actually, it is not I that needs your help, but rather Lois Lane."
"Lois?" he choked.
Lois had gone straight home after her doctor's appointment. Somehow, she'd found the strength to make some tea and settled on the couch. She moved a hand to cover her abdomen. It was official, she was pregnant. Her doctor had been a little surprised at Lois's reaction, but Lois had simply told her that her fianc‚ was out of town and she was a little more emotional lately. The woman had nodded sympathetically, but she didn't know Lois's real torment. Not only was her fianc‚ away, but it didn't look like he was coming back. The tears rolled silently down her face. Oh, Clark, come home! Please come home. She couldn't do this alone. They'd wanted children, but not like this. Clark was supposed to be here. It wasn't fair. Ever since the thought of being pregnant had entered her head, ever since they'd been engaged, she'd secretly anticipated this moment. She'd find out she was pregnant and find some clever way to tell Clark, that wonderful face of his would light up and he would pick her up and swing her around, finally stopping to let her slide down his body and they would kiss. Then they would make love, sweet and slow, commemorating the moment.
But Clark wasn't here and it killed her to think that there was a chance he wouldn't return. Her only comfort now, was that she would forever have a part of him with her. She took a pillow and hugged it closely to her, curling up on the couch and she cried herself to sleep.
"Yes, the Lois Lane you met from the alternate universe."
Clark's heart fell again. "Oh…yeah." He was stupid to have even thought otherwise. "What's wrong?"
"Well you see, that universe's Superman needed to leave indefinitely."
He cocked his head in confusion.
"It's a very long and quite complicated story, I'm afraid. But the problem is, Superman left and Clark Kent's identity is in jeopardy."
"But what could that matter? Look at me. Everyone knows about me and I'm fine." He didn't believe the last word, but logically, it was true.
"Yes, but you see, this Clark Kent has safeguarded his secret identity for years, earning the public's trust as a superhero and a respected journalist. Separately. I've visited their future and it seems that the public did not take well to the revelation of dishonesty. They felt it an unforgivable betrayal and their trust in Superman crumbled. And thus Utopia as well.
"And you want me to take his place?"
The bespectacled man nodded.
"For how long?"
"Unfortunately, I cannot say just how long."
"And this will fix things for her? For them?"
"Yes, my boy. I believe it will do the trick. So…will you help?"
He sighed, almost resigned to the fact that he would. Hadn't he just been wishing for a way out of here? An escape from himself? He wouldn't have to be Superman for a while. He'd be able to just be Clark Kent again, like before, when nobody knew what a freak he was. And he'd be able to see her again. Though that was a double-edged sword. It would be a salve for his heart, seeing her again, but at the same time it would be a fa‡ade. Just a ruse to uphold the faith and the trust of a Superman he wasn't sure he could ever truly be.
But what would be lost? He couldn't be any worse off than he was now. Right?
He looked back at the man that had interrupted his misery. "All right."
"Good, good. Well, you'll make a statement later today to your people and we'll be off."
"What about…can you tell me about my future? Is there a Utopia here? Is it worth it?"
The man sighed. "My boy, you are a remarkable man. What you do here in your Metropolis *does* make a difference. You've begun a different but just as sound foundation for Utopia. Here, you are a man the people can look up to. You give them all hope for a better future."
"And *my* future? How can I go on knowing that something so precious has been taken away from me before I ever had it? Is she…is Lois alive? Please. I have to know."
"I'm sorry. I cannot tell you what is in store for you. It would change everything. Sometimes we just have to rely on fate to take its course and trust that it will lead us down the right path."
Ironic coming from the man who dated to change fate himself, but Clark just nodded. He knew it was the truth, but right now, he'd lost that trust. Maybe Lois could help him get it back.
She awoke, disoriented with a cramp in her neck, still clutching the pillow. She looked around her, getting her bearings and it all came back to her in a rush.
She was pregnant and Clark still was gone. She wasn't going to cry. She wasn't. She was strong. And maybe one of these days she'd be able to hold back the tears when she woke up alone. She had to be strong. And now, she had to be strong for their baby too.
She rubbed her neck as she glanced at the clock on the VCR, 3:40 a.m., and swiped at the tears on her face. Out of nowhere, there was a knock at her door. She groaned. It was four in the morning for Christ's sake. Who on Earth could it be? The last thing she wanted right now was company. Let alone the emergency that must be waiting on the other side due to the hour.
She was going to ignore it, but the person was insistent so she got up stiffly and headed for the door. When she saw Clark through the peephole, she couldn't get the door open fast enough. She stared at him for a second before launching herself into his arms. "Oh, Clark!"
He was assailed by the woman in his arms and before he could think to stop it, she was kissing him. And he couldn't help but kiss her back.
She sobbed words out between kisses. "I thought…I'd…never…see you…again."
He knew he should stop her, but there was some force inside of him that wouldn't let him. The feeling inside him when their lips met, when their tongues met, it was almost like magic. She finally tore away and she looked at him, her arms still around his neck. He was having trouble concentrating on what he was supposed to tell her.
"Clark," she started smiling. "I think I figured out that little compatibility issue we were wondering about."
He was lost and she was waiting anxiously for him to make some kind of connection. "What issue?"
Her grin lost some wattage. "Don't you remember? The night you left…? I'm pregnant."
Her eyes sparkled and he could feel her heart soaring. Oh, how he wished he could pretend that this was his Lois. His baby. But that wouldn't happen and he had to tell her now.
He smiled wistfully and gently extracted her from his arms. "That's wonderful, Lois. I'm so happy for you." He could see the hurt and confusion in her eyes. Her eyes were still sparkling, only now it was with unshed tears. "Look, Lois, I'm not who you think I am."
"Yes," he said quietly. "But not your Clark."
Her heart was in her throat when she tried to swallow. She bit her bottom lip. Hard. To make sure this wasn't some cruel nightmare. But it *was* a nightmare, only she wasn't sleeping.
She opened her mouth to speak but somehow her voice failed her. She vaguely heard him try to explain before she crumpled to the floor, hugging herself tightly. She felt the sobs wracking her body and she could barely breathe.
She felt his strong arms wrap around her. Clark's arms. And he picked her up and carried her inside.
She just held him for a while, taking small comfort that he felt so much like her Clark. He sat them on the couch and continued to hold her. Life was cruel. Truly cruel. Here she was in Clark's arms, just like she'd been wishing for months. Only it wasn't really Clark. What if Clark was never coming home? Was that why this Clark was here?
She gently pushed herself away from him, curling up in the corner of the couch, her sobs subsiding. She was slightly embarrassed. She sniffled and tried her best to wipe the tears from her face.
"Why…why are you here?"
He looked flustered. "Um…H.G. Wells sent me. Actually, he just kinda unloaded me here."
H.G. Wells. The time traveler obsessed with Utopia. She knew that meant something but her brain was murky and wouldn't function. She just stared at him and waited for him to finish.
"All he told me was that your Clark had to leave as Superman. He said Clark's identity and ultimately Utopia was in jeopardy. I'm so sorry, Lois, he didn't tell me you didn't know. I would have called or…or something. I didn't mean…I never wanted to hurt you like this."
She sniffled again and shrugged off his apology. She didn't want to think about the hurt right now, so she focused on why this Clark was here, not why hers had left. "Why is Utopia in danger?"
"He said he visited the future and there was no Utopia. Lois?"
"I didn't think to ask at the time and I know of Thomas More's Utopia, but…this is going to sound stupid…what does H.G. Wells mean by Utopia? And why does he seem so obsessed with it?"
She smiled weakly. "I'm not sure why exactly he's so hung up on the idea of Utopia, but back when we first met him, he explained what it was and how he had been enchanted by the entire society. He said that Utopia was founded by Superman's descendants, that they based their society on the values and principles that Superman lived by." She placed a hand on her stomach and looked down. "I guess he or she is the beginning of this future society."
He smiled at her, but it didn't quite reach his eyes. "Well, now what Wells said makes a little more sense. He said that the public's trust in Superman died when they'd discovered his dual identity, his deception, and he was never quite able to regain it. And thus the foundation for Utopia crumbled."
"I guess I can understand that. Who would uphold or adhere to values and principles that were lined with deceit? Not that Clark had cruel intentions, but…well I just remember how hurt and angry I was when I'd figured it out."
"But you were able to forgive him."
She nodded. Yeah, she had forgiven him, but that's because she loved him, couldn't live without him. That and she'd understood why he'd done it. Not everyone could understand. Not everyone could forgive. It all made sense. Sort of. "So, H.G. Wells brought you here to be Clark?"
"For how long?"
"He wouldn't tell me. Weeks? Months?"
"Did he say if Clark was coming back?"
"Sorry, he didn't. And I don't think he would have if I'd asked."
She swallowed the lump in her throat. The one that hadn't seemed to go away ever since Clark had left.
Lois looked over at him. He was looking at her with such sympathy, pity almost. "I'm sorry, Lois, I didn't think about how hard this would be on you. I mean, Wells didn't even tell me why Clark had to leave."
"I guess the same didn't happen in your universe. Or maybe just not yet."
He shook his head.
"These people came — Zara and Ching. They're Kryptonians like Clark. And you. They came for him."
"You mean I'm not the last? But I thought…"
"I know. So did Clark. Presumably, after he…you…were sent to Earth, a small colony of young Kryptonians were sent to colonize a dead planet in order to survive. They came for Clark because he's…royalty. The Lord of Krypton, apparently.
"What? I'm a…Lord?"
"Yeah." She smiled faintly at his incredulity. "*The* Lord. Lord Kal-El of the House of El and rightful ruler of Krypton…well I guess now it would be New Krypton. And…well, it being the hierarchal society it is, Clark and Zara are betrothed."
"Zara is a Lady and she and Clark were married at birth to secure the royal bloodline. Or something like that."
"So that's why he left?!"
She looked down at her hands then back up at him. "No. There's some evil Lord Nor who wants to take over New Krypton. Clark went to fight. To lead his people. They said it was the only way. Oh, Clark! I'm so worried. They said he wouldn't have his powers up there. He could get hurt. He could…"
Die. This other Clark could die. He didn't know how he wouldn't have his powers, but now was definitely not the time to ask. It was a lot to take in, especially knowing that this could be his fate as well. And Lois. He looked at her. What could he say to console her? "Lois…" he was surprised to hear the pain in his voice. She was hurting and he could feel it. And at that moment, it struck him just how much she and Clark had both put on the line. Their lives, their future hung in the balance and he was here to… To what? Now he wasn't sure at all what his role was.
He looked up at her when she spoke. "I think I'm gonna go to bed."
He watched her stand and try to compose herself. "You're sure you don't need to talk?"
She shook her head and gave him a weak smile. "Thank you. But I think I just want to be alone right now. Let me get you a blanket and some pillows."
He nodded and simply watched her as she got him a pillow and an afghan from her hall closet.
Clark watched her retreat to her bedroom and heard the faint click of the door as it closed behind her. He settled down on the couch. It wasn't too terribly comfortable. Well, at least the pillow was. It smelled of her. A sweet scent that he'd already, unfortunately, become fond of. And that's when he heard it. The muffled whimpering. He tried not to, but he could hear her crying in the other room. It broke his heart to listen to her suffer. That connection was there again, but stronger this time. Maybe from the emotion of the situation, but it was different too. He didn't just feel connected to her somehow; he could feel her emotions as they coursed through her. He hadn't expected it, but he could feel the dull ache in her chest, the lump in her throat, and the sobs wracking her body.
He finally relaxed when her sobs died out and he could hear the slow rhythm of her breathing. And he was left alone again with his thoughts. What she'd said to him kept repeating in his head. He wasn't the last of his kind. There were others. He wasn't alone. And apparently he was royalty? And married? It was almost too much to handle.
On some level, he could understand why Clark had gone with the New Kryptonians. He remembered finding the globe a few years back. It had almost called to him when he'd gotten near. The small orb had seemed attuned to him somehow, glowing and coming to life when he'd picked it up. He'd cried when his birth parents had appeared in front of him to tell him why he was on Earth. His birth father had told him so precious little about his heritage and he'd always longed for more.
Now, he had one more thing to envy the other Clark for. It wasn't fair. He had it all. *And* Lois. It must have torn him apart to leave her. Clark wasn't sure if he'd have done the same. He didn't know if he was a strong enough person for war. For any of it. Arranged marriage. Hierarchy. His father hadn't mentioned that he was royalty. He'd probably thought it not relevant, not knowing that he might be summoned one day.
He wondered about this New Krypton. What was it like? Would it be better than his Metropolis? And Zara? What was she like? Certainly not like Lois. If his universe's New Kryptonians came, could he find a home with them? Would he feel like he belonged? Would he have that same feeling of serenity with Zara that he felt when Lois was around?
He checked on her again with his hearing. Her heartbeat was slow and steady. Soothing. How was he going to do this? Put up this fa‡ade for everyone to believe that they were a happy couple in love? And one expecting a baby at that. He was confident he could play the part, but what would it do to his heart?
Lois awoke the next morning, disoriented. She'd dreamt that Clark had come back and she was once again hit with an overwhelming sense of loss. Clark *had* come back. But not her Clark. The other Clark. And he was in her living room, waiting to remind her of what she couldn't have. It was a cruel but inescapable torture, having Clark here, but not really. If she tried hard enough, she could still smell Clark on her pillowcase, though she knew it had been washed since he'd last slept on it. She didn't want to get up. It she just stayed in bed, she wouldn't have to face the complicated mess her life had become.
H.G. Wells. Utopia. Parallel universes. An exact double of her fianc‚. Lois shook her head. No one else had to deal with such impossibilities. In fact, no one else would even believe they existed.
She sighed and resigned herself to getting out of bed. She changed into some sweats and headed out to the living room. He was there. Of course he was there. Where else would he have been? He was watching TV, the volume turned down so low that she could hardly hear it. He turned to look at her, probably having sensed her come into the room.
"Good morning." He gave her a timid smile.
"Morning. Did you…uh…sleep okay?"
"Yes, thank you. Want some breakfast? I could go get us something to eat? Eggs, pancakes, waffles? Whatever you want."
She stood and stared at him. Just like Clark had asked the morning he left…except. "Sure, though I have some things here if you want to cook."
He gave her an embarrassed look. "Um…I don't cook so well."
"Oh, sorry. I just assumed…sorry. Well, if you don't mind, I'd love something to eat."
"Sure, what would you like? Croissants from France?"
There he goes. Just like Clark again. And that lump in her throat was back too. She needed to get rid of that if she was ever going to survive the next few…Weeks? Months? She swallowed it again. "That'd be great…um…just remember you can't be Superman."
He paused for a moment, then nodded. "Be right back."
She watched the blur disappear and heard her front door open and close a second later.
Suddenly, she felt nauseated and she ran for the bathroom, shutting the door behind her. She just made it to the toilet before her stomach heaved.
Everything had come up by the time she heard that familiar 'whoosh.' She hit the handle as she sank to the floor, feeling the coolness of the tile through her sweats. A soft knock came at the door.
"Lois? You okay in there? I heard…well…is there anything I can do?"
She didn't bother raising her voice to shout through the door. She felt weak and she knew he'd hear her. "I'll be fine, Clark. Thanks." She grabbed some toilet paper off the roll and dried her eyes then blew her runny nose. God, she hated throwing up. "I'll be out in a minute."
Lois got up slowly, tossing the paper in the trash. She turned on the faucet, washing her mouth out and splashing some of the cold water on her face. She straightened and a red, drawn face met her gaze in the mirror. How was she going to get through this? Why couldn't Clark be here? Her Clark, not a painful reminder of his absence. It wasn't fair.
She yanked a towel off the rack and dried her face. Yuck. She still had that sour taste in her mouth. She snatched the mouthwash from the vanity and gargled for a full minute, hoping to obliterate her grief as well as the foul taste. She spat and wiped her mouth with the towel again. She glanced in the mirror, a determined look on her face. Well, it was time to face the world. Or at least…Clark.
She steeled herself, reaching into her reserves where she had hidden Mad Dog Lane so long ago, after Clark had broken down her walls and shown her what love was. What love could be like? She needed Mad Dog now. It was the only way she was going to make it. "All right, Mad Dog, here we go."
She found him in the kitchen pouring some orange juice into two glasses. He turned around and looked at her with a concerned face. Clark's face.
She just nodded.
"I thought…well, if you're not up to eating, I understand."
"No, I think I can manage a little. Ugh! Everything bad they say about morning sickness is true." She looked at him and was suddenly struck by how hard this must be for him as well. He was sacrificing part of his life to save her and Clark's future. And his future…well, all she could remember of his world was that his Lois was gone. Dead. And now, just as he was here to remind him of what she couldn't have, she was doing the same for him. Only worse, because for him, his soulmate would never be coming back. She didn't know what to say. Everything was just so… insignificant. All she could manage was, "Thanks."
"Oh. It wasn't any trouble. Just a quick flight…"
"No. I mean for everything. I know this has to be hard for you too."
Clark looked down to avoid her gaze. He didn't have a response for that. But thankfully, none was needed. She gathered the juices from the counter and set them on the table, seating herself in the process. "Come on, we can talk about how we're going to do this."
He nodded mutely, still stuck for words, and joined her at the table. He wondered where this new Lois had come from. He could still see the pain in her eyes, but it didn't show on her face.
"So," she began as she snatched a warm croissant from the bag. He watched as she pulled off a flaky piece and popped it into her mouth, thinking as she chewed. "Work. The Planet will be our main challenge. Perry, Jimmy, they'll be the ones we really have to worry about." She paused in thought.
"That's Mayor White and Mr. Olsen. Right?"
"Right, only you'll need to call them Perry or Chief and Jimmy."
He nodded and began to file away the information as she ticked it off.
"Jimmy calls you CK most of the time and he's a researcher slash photographer, not the owner like in your universe. Um…we're partners. For most stories we work together, some we have independently. We do a lot of legwork so that'll be good. The less we're in the newsroom, the better off we'll be. Let's see, what else?"
He stared at her in amazement as she spoke, wondering where she'd pulled this bravado from. She must be an incredibly tenacious woman. In her situation, he didn't know if he'd be strong enough to handle any of this. He hadn't been able to cope with much at all. Lois had, but so far, she'd mentioned only technicalities, nothing emotional. He wondered if she'd be the first to bring it up. Maybe he should.
"What about…" he hesitated, but he had her attention now after breaking his silence. "What about the…PDAs and stuff?" He hoped he sounded as embarrassed as he felt. He didn't want her to think that he was enjoying this or taking advantage.
Her face fell and her bravado faltered for a moment, but she seemed to banish the feeling quickly. "Well," she played with her hands and looked down. "Clark and I are usually pretty affectionate at work." Her voice became softer. "He always gets me coffee in the morning. Non-fat milk and artificial sweetener. I think he's known that since our first day together." She sniffled but continued. "So…he'll get us both coffee and we'll sit at my desk, going over our current stories. He touches me a lot. A hand on my knee, a brief kiss on the cheek, or if he's brave and Perry isn't watching, he'll kiss me on the lips. He's kinda shy that way, but think he's getting used to it. In fact, the newsroom is too. They used to take cover; it was like an air raid siren going off when we got into it. But they always knew Clark would apologize and I would forgive him, regardless of whose fault it was." She smiled slightly and dipped her head. "I still don't like admitting when I'm wrong. And even if we both know I'm wrong, Clark apologizes and we know we're okay. We both know where we stand."
He smiled at that. What an amazing woman.
"Even before Clark and I were together, Clark would gaze at me from his desk. I'd always pretended not to notice. God, I was so stupid! I never saw what was right in front of me. Well, I guess I didn't *want* to see it. Clark was so patient. He made me see it. Made me see him for who he was. Made me see that I really did love him, that I was just scared. We were best friends first and I was terrified I would have lost him. And now…I wasted so much of the time we could have had together."
She was silent after that, concentrating on the table and tracing the grain of the wood under the varnish. His heart ached for her, but at the same time he still envied her. And Clark, for their experience, their history together. He'd give anything to have that with someone.
"Lois, don't do that." He put a hand over hers, waiting until she looked at him. "Don't look back on what you could have done differently. I'm sure that if it happened any other way, your love today for each other wouldn't be as strong. It wouldn't be the same. Our experiences make us who we are. And who you are is whom Clark loves. Why would you want to change that?"
He believed what he'd said, but it was hard to comprehend that kind of love when he hadn't experienced it himself. All he could do was imagine. And for a moment, he imagined that she was his.
The tears rolled silently down her cheeks. "Thank you." It was all she could say. Here he was again, comforting her when he was hurting too. He was so much like Clark it was scary. But he was different too. She knew a little of his past and his present, how his life must be like, and she admired his courage. He was strong in more ways than one.
Just like Clark.
She imagined the man in front of her losing his parents at such a young age, bouncing around from different foster homes, never really fitting in anywhere. Not in the community, not in a family, not in the human race. It broke her heart to think how alone he must have felt. How alone he still must feel. And she wondered how he did it. How did he survive? He spoke again and she had her answer.
"So, do we go into work today, or what?"
He buried it all inside. Locked it up in his own personal steel vault, never letting anyone else in. Just like Clark.
"Um no, I went home sick yesterday. I…the doctor confirmed it then." She moved her free hand down to her abdomen. "I think Perry suspected and said for me to take today off too. I haven't been very productive lately anyway, with Clark gone."
He gave her an understanding smile and squeezed her hand before releasing it. "So, how long has he been gone?"
"Three months, four days and," she glanced at the clock, "two hours."
"Did…Does he know?"
She shook her head. "No. The night before he left…it was the first time we…"
"Oh, Lois, I'm so sorry."
"No, no. It's better this way. I mean he needed to go. He wouldn't have if he'd known." She hadn't thought much about that, but now that she said it, she knew it was true. At least she thought so. She wished it hadn't happened this way, but…it was better. She had to believe that.
It looked like he wanted to say something but he just nodded.
"Everyone thinks he's in Smallville, helping out his dad because of an illness. I wasn't sure what I was going to say after that. After it became too long to be believable…I just…I wasn't…I couldn't do anything else."
He put a hand on hers to comfort her. "Hey, it's okay. You did good."
She composed herself again. She had to get a hold of her emotions. Mad Dog Lane kept slipping up, losing her edge.
"So, besides Perry, are you going to tell anyone else about the baby?"
She shook her head. She wasn't ready for that. It was her moment. Clark's moment. Maybe she wouldn't have to wait that long and it still could be his. But probably not. Even still, she didn't want everyone else to know just yet. She couldn't handle that. "No. I'd rather wait…I…think we need a little time to adjust to our situation first."
He nodded. If he'd known what she was thinking, he didn't let on. And she was grateful for that. She grabbed his hand. "Come on, there's somewhere we need to go."
Lois picked up the receiver of the pay phone Clark had stopped them at somewhere outside of Smallville and dialed the Kent's number.
"Martha, it's me, Lois."
"Lois, it's so good to hear from you, Sweetie. How are you holding up?"
"I'm all right. Look, I didn't want to just come without calling first, would you mind if I stopped by for a visit?"
"Of course not, Lois. We'd love to see you. Just let us know what time your flight comes into Wichita and I'll come pick you up."
"Um, well, I'm already here, in Smallville."
"Really? Then what on Earth are you on the phone for? You know you're family, Lois. You're welcome anytime. So when shall I expect you?"
"About five minutes?"
"Okay, Hon. I'll see you then."
She replaced the receiver and turned to Clark. "So, you ready to meet Clark's parents?"
He just nodded and scooped her up into his arms. He glanced around the deserted lot and lifted them up in the air, heading towards Smallville and the farmhouse. She could feel his nervousness. It was still weird, that feeling of connection, and she didn't think she'd ever get used to it like she had with her Clark. It was always there, faint, then stronger when one or both of them were emotional. It was only a shadow of what she'd felt with Clark, but it was there nonetheless.
She saw the farmhouse come into view and Clark slowed. She could feel him shaking ever so slightly, so she touched his shoulder. "It's okay, Clark. You'll be fine."
"What if they hate me? For…for taking their son's place? For butting in?"
"No, Clark. They won't. They'll be grateful, just like I am."
He landed them a short distance from the porch and set her down gently.
"Now, you'll be okay for a few minutes here while I explain?"
"Then I'll call for you. So don't wander too far, Flyboy." She gave him a wink and was glad when he smiled at her teasing. "See you in a few," she called over her shoulder as she made her way up to the door of the farmhouse and knocked.
Martha answered and seemed thrilled to see her and before she knew it, she found herself in the older woman's arms. It felt so good to be hugged, so comforting. It was such a relief to be here. Martha was a lifesaver.
"Come in, Honey, come in." Martha ushered her inside and sat her at the table where fresh baked cookies and cold milk awaited her. "Help yourself, Dear. How are you doing?"
Suddenly it was all too much to handle. The dam she'd built so carefully over the last few hours broke, and the tears came in a flood. "Oh, Martha! Everything's a mess."
She felt Martha collect her in her arms once again and she shushed her. "There, there, Lois. It's okay. Let it all out, Sweetie."
She just sobbed in her arms for a long moment before she caught her breath. Martha guided her into a chair and grabbed a box of tissues from the counter, handing Lois one as she sat. "Now, Dear, tell me what's wrong."
"Well," she tried a watery smile as she dabbed at her eyes. "It's actually good news if you think about it…it's just." She smoothed out the tissue in her hands and stared at it for a moment. "Well…I'm pregnant."
She smiled again when she saw Martha's face light up. "Oh, Lois, that's wonderful!"
"I know." She sniffed. "I just wish Clark was here."
"Oh, Honey, I do too."
For a moment, Lois wished she could end it right there. It wasn't right. The other Clark was waiting outside, ready to intrude on her family. Her moment. She didn't fault him for it. She knew he felt guilty already, but it wasn't his fault. He'd come to help and she was grateful for that. She sniffled. "Actually, Martha, there's something else."
"Remember when Clark and I told you about the parallel universe and how I'd been stranded there for a few days?"
Martha nodded in recognition.
"And that universe had a Clark just like ours?"
"Well…" She folded the tissue in half, then in half again before she looked back up at Martha. She wasn't sure how she would handle it. "That Clark is here."
"H.G. Wells brought him here to sort of…stand in for Clark while he's gone. He said Clark's identity was in jeopardy. Something about Utopia and the future."
Lois looked worried, like there was something else she wasn't saying. "Lois?"
"Martha, he wouldn't say if Clark was coming home or not. What if he never comes back?"
Martha didn't want to think about it. She'd never tell Lois, but she'd been having those thoughts for the past few weeks. She couldn't think of anything to say, so she simply gathered Lois in her arms again. She'd always thought of this woman as her daughter. Now, the mother of her grandchild. "Oh, Lois." They both sobbed in each other's arms for a while.
This wasn't right. They shouldn't be blubbering about like this. She pulled back from Lois gently and wiped at the tears on her face. Something else, they had to talk about something else. "So this other Clark is here in this universe? Where is he?"
Lois looked sheepish. "Outside."
"Lois! All this time?"
"Yeah, sorry. I didn't want to shock you, Martha. I didn't want to give you false hope. I'll get him." She raised her voice slightly. "Clark, you can come in now."
Martha waited for the whoosh and the appearance of her "son," but instead there was a knock at the door. Wordlessly, she got up to answer it.
When she opened the door, she gasped inwardly. Even though Lois had told her, it was still a bit of shock to actually see him. When she looked closely, though, she could pick out the little differences that told her that this man was not her son. "Clark, please come in. I'm Martha, but you know that."
He held out a hand, but he looked so lost and so much like her son, she simply pulled him into her arms instead. After a moment, he seemed to collapse into her and to her surprise, he started trembling. He was crying. "Oh, Clark. There, there, don't cry."
He'd been caught off guard at first by the hug, but he relaxed quickly. It felt so good to be in this woman's arms, his mother in so many ways. He could pretend for a little bit. Couldn't he? He hadn't seen his mom in twenty years and he hadn't realized just how much he'd missed her until this moment. He'd never gotten to say goodbye, and now she was here…
But this wasn't his mom. He straightened abruptly, embarrassed by his display of emotions. He wiped the tears away quickly and composed his face. "Sorry. I just…ah…sorry."
"No, no, Dear. It's okay."
He knew she must think he was crazy. The surprise was evident in her face, though he could tell she was trying to hide it. He just stared at her, dumbfounded. She was older, obviously, than his mom had been, but she still had the same caring eyes.
"Why don't you join Lois and me in the kitchen?"
He nodded, still struck silent by the moment. Silently, he followed her into the kitchen where Lois was seated. She looked concerned.
"Clark? Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm okay."
She raised an eyebrow at him.
"Really. It was just a little more…emotional than I'd expected, seeing my mo…seeing her."
Martha looked a little baffled and thankfully Lois stepped in to do the explaining. "His parents died in a car accident when he was ten."
"Oh my! You poor thing! No wonder."
Before he knew what was happening, this woman was hugging him again. It was a brief hug this time, but still comforting.
"Here, Clark, have a seat. Lois." He sat as he watched her give Lois a look. "Would you go out to the barn and see if Jonathan needs any help?"
Lois left him alone with Martha. The woman looked at him and reminded him so much of his mother. She had the same look on her face that his mother had had when she'd sensed something was wrong. She'd always get it out of him, make him tell her what was bothering him. And he knew instinctively, this woman was no different. She sat down next to him in the chair Lois had vacated.
"Talk to me, Clark. Tell me about your life."
He looked at his hands and then back up at her. "I don't know where to start."
"You could start with your parents."
"Well," he hesitated before he started. "Up until they died, they were great parents. We got along great. A lot of the other kids would always complain about their parents, but not me. I think it might have been something to do with how they found me." He hesitated for a moment. He'd never told anyone but Lana the story of how his parents had found him. Though the woman in front of him probably already knew. Was there really a point in telling her?
She must have sensed his uncertainty. "Go ahead, Clark, I want to hear you tell it."
He gave her a weak smile and continued. "They weren't able to have kids and then I show up out of nowh…well the sky. They didn't take me for granted and I didn't take them for granted either. Especially when my powers started to develop. By the time I was ten, I was pretty strong and getting pretty fast." But not fast enough.
He knew better than to blame himself now, but still, he couldn't help but feel that it was his fault. He should have been able to do something. He looked back up at Martha. There were those eyes again.
"Go on, Sweetie."
He took a heavy breath and continued. "We didn't know that I was from Krypton then. We weren't sure. Mom and Dad thought maybe I had been some kind of Russian experiment, but they didn't treat me any different. They didn't think I was a freak like…well, like Lana did when I told her."
"Yeah. We were friends and after mom and dad died, we got real close. She was my only friend. It was hard to keep any 'cause I kept getting bumped from foster home to foster home. They thought I had behavior problems, but I was just trying to hide my powers. I was real quiet, but they thought I was being destructive, rebelling. I accidentally broke a lot of things and it only got worse when I started setting fires with my eyes."
"Oh, you poor dear."
"I survived," he said quietly. He tried not to think about how it had been. "Lana was a real rock for me. She always said, 'No one will ever love you more than I do and no one understands you better.' I guess looking back, she didn't really understand me at all, but that was why I thought I could trust her with my secret. When I told her, she was shocked and I could tell she was a little scared of me. She hid her reaction quickly though, and didn't mention it again. I didn't either. She did her best to treat me normally after that. We stayed friends and up until last year, we were even engaged."
"No, it was for the best. I wasn't really happy with Lana. She was always yelling at me when she'd find out that I used my powers in public. I couldn't help it. I couldn't just stand by when I knew I could help."
"Of course not, Dear."
"I'd told her what my dad had always said and she never let me forget it. Every time she caught me, she'd tell me, 'Clark, they'll lock you up and dissect you like a frog.'"
Martha chuckled. "Sorry, it's just that Jonathan used the same thing on Clark."
He smiled at that. "Funny how much is the same, huh?"
"Yeah. And it's funny how much is different too. So what happened with Lois?"
"Didn't Lois tell you?"
"Yeah, but I want to hear it from you. How did *you* feel?"
No one had ever asked him how he'd felt about the situation. Not that anyone could have, but who would've believed him anyway? They would have all thought he was crazy. He looked at the older version of his mom. The only person he could've told, had she still been alive. He'd been plagued by it ever since it'd happened, having to hold everything inside. Clark sighed, half with relief, half with trepidation, and began to tell his 'mom' of the day his world had turned upside down.
"Well, I was at the Planet when this woman came out of nowhere and kissed me." He smiled at the memory, the moment his life had changed forever. "It shocked me to say the least and then Lana came up behind us, introduced herself and that was the first time we met. It wasn't too much later that Mr. White told me she was my new partner and no sooner did she pull me into the conference room and turn my world upside down. She scared the hell outta me when she told me she knew who and what I was. She told me all about this parallel Metropolis, this other Clark Kent. I knew I shouldn't have talked to her. I should have just walked away, but I couldn't. I felt this weird sort of connection. I mean, the way she looked at me when I told her my parents had died. It was just, well, she was so sad for me. Here was this crazy woman, telling me all these crazy things and amidst it all, she showed me her heart, her compassion. No one had ever done that except for my parents.
"She showed me a picture of both of you, with him. He looked so happy. It was hard to see that. I didn't get to have that…what he has with you." He paused, swallowing the pain. "Anyway, she also showed me a picture of him in this funny looking costume."
Martha was smiling again.
"I made it for him."
He felt his cheeks getting red. "Oh, yeah. Lois told me that, sorry. I mean, it looked ridiculous at first, but Lois made the one I wear now."
"Lois made a suit for you?!"
"Yeah, the same one you did. Why?"
"Well, Lois isn't exactly the domestic type. I love her dearly, but she can' t cook to save her life. I never dreamed she knew how to sew." She grinned at him with a mischievous gleam in her eye. "Now that I know, I'll have to make her sew Clark's suits from now on."
"He has more than one?"
"Of course, Honey. You don…you wouldn't, would you? I'll make you some."
"If it's not too much trouble."
"No, no. No trouble at all. I'd be glad to."
"You're welcome. Now, go on."
"Well, Lois made the suit for me and convinced me to go out as this 'Superman' and help people."
She smiled at him and he realized he was smiling too.
"It felt so good, Martha. I'd never felt more free in my life. And it made me feel…" He didn't want to say it. He was embarrassed by his misplaced feelings for Lois. He wasn't sure how Martha would react. This was her son's fianc‚ he was talking about.
"How did it make you feel, Clark?"
He couldn't say it. What if she thought he was some kind of pervert?
"It's okay. Nothing leaves this room."
Somehow he knew it was the truth. He could trust her. And he saw in her eyes that she wouldn't judge him. He sighed and continued. "It made me feel…well, ever since that first moment I met Lois, I felt so many things. It was like I'd known her all my life. For the first time since my parents died, I felt like everything was going to be okay. I know it sounds stupid, but I…I think I fell in love with her. There was…still is, this connection. Crazy, huh?" He looked into the older woman's eyes and didn't find any ridicule.
"It doesn't sound crazy at all, Clark."
"I had a lot of time to think about that. This insane notion that I could love someone at first sight, someone that I didn't even know. I got to thinking that maybe my feelings for Lois were meant for the Lois in my universe."
"What happened to her?"
"I don't know. She was on an assignment in the Congo. Some gunrunning story. And…she never came back. I actually never met her. She was presumed dead. It's stupid, I know, to love someone I don't even know, who's most likely dead. I looked for her, but all my powers, all my abilities didn't help when it really mattered…just like with my parents."
She watched him try to hold it in. Just like her boy, always trying to be too strong for his own good. "It's okay, Clark. Let it out." She moved her chair closer to him and put a hand on his shoulder.
He buried his head in his hands to hide his tears. "I wasn't fast enough. I'd always watch from the porch for them to come home. That night, they were driving home from a town meeting. I started running when I saw the semi heading towards them. I was pretty fast, even then, but I didn't make it in time. I was too late. The examiner said they died instantly. No pain." He sniffled and the tears were streaming down his face now. "I wasn't fast enough. I let them die."
She gathered him into her arms, her heart aching for him. "Shh, Clark. It wasn't your fault. There wasn't anything you could do. It's not your fault." He cried harder in her arms, the sobs wracking his body. She comforted him the best she could and thanked God that the same fate hadn't fallen upon her and Jonathan. This poor boy had been through so much. She held him until he'd cried himself out.
He sat up slowly, embarrassed. "I'm sorry…I…I never told anyone before. Not everything."
She smoothed his hair back and looked at him, nudging the box of tissues towards him. "You're so brave, Clark. It must have taken a lot of courage to survive after something like that, especially alone."
"Th…thanks. I think I needed that." He blew his nose and wiped at his eyes.
"You sure did. And you're welcome. What do you say we go find Lois and Jonathan?"
"Sure." He wiped the tears from his face and sniffled. "I'd like to meet him."
Lois was in the barn with Jonathan. She'd told him everything.
"So, this other Clark is talking with Martha right now?"
She nodded. She hoped Clark was okay. She'd felt him suffering. It seemed to have lessened now, but the force of it had almost been overwhelming. "I think they might be done now."
He cocked his head. "Oh?"
"Well, he and I…kinda have this connection. I can feel his emotions and he can feel mine. It's the same with me and Clark, only stronger. I think that's how Clark's managed to save me so many times. He could feel when I was in danger."
"I know." She smiled wistfully. She wished she could feel Clark now.
Just then, Martha entered the barn with Clark right behind her. "Jonathan, Honey, there's someone I'd like you to meet." Clark stepped forward. "Jonathan, this is Clark Kent. Clark, this is my husband, Jonathan."
Clark extended a hand and Jonathan took it with both of his. "It's an honor to meet you."
Lois could feel Clark's heart skip a beat when he shook his hand. "Likewise."
"Thank you for everything you're doing for Lois. And my boy."
He didn't respond at first and she could feel his modesty. "You're welcome, sir."
"Oh please, call me Jonathan."
The moment got awkward. Clark stuck his hands in his jeans pockets and kicked some of the hay around on the floor. Jonathan cleared his throat. Lois was glad when Martha piped in.
"Who's hungry? I can have lunch ready in a few minutes."
Clark was nervous as they rode the elevator up to the newsroom floor the next morning. It was the same lobby, the same elevator, but they were headed to a whole different newsroom than he was used to. They'd gone early, so he would be able to adjust to his surroundings before dealing with too many people.
She took his hand as the doors opened, though he wasn't sure if it was for pretense or to bolster his confidence. She gave his hand a gentle squeeze and he calmed some. He could feel that she was just as nervous. They walked hand in hand down the ramp to her desk and set their stuff down.
He heard her speak under her breath to him. "That's your desk across the way there."
He followed to where she'd indicated with her nod and saw a desk just like his, except this desk had a picture of Lois on it. He smiled wistfully and nodded.
"We should go talk to Perry now, let him know you're back. So to speak."
He hesitated only slightly before slipping an arm around her waist as they headed for Mayor Whi…Perry's office. Here comes test number one.
Once inside, he closed the door after them and they both sat across from Perry. Lois grabbed his hand again.
Perry looked at him plainly, but there was a hint of something else in his eyes. A little gleam perhaps? "Welcome back, Son."
"Thanks, Chief." The words were a little awkward on his tongue after so many months of having his Perry as Mayor. He hoped he sounded natural.
"Everything okay at home now? Your pop okay?"
"Yeah…yeah, my dad's doing much better." Why did he feel that Perry had meant more by that question than he'd let on? He shook the feeling and continued. "I was able to get a lot done for him around the farm."
"That's good, Son. So, you ready to get back to work now? I'm not gonna cut you any slack anymore, ya hear?"
"That goes for you too, Lois."
Clark started to get up, but Perry spoke again. "And by the way, when the heck are you two gonna get hitched? Don't you think it's about time?"
He hadn't been expecting that one at all and by the feel of Lois's hand squeezing his, she hadn't either. He was grateful, though, when Lois fielded the question. "Yeah, Chief, but we're not in any rush. Clark just got back and all. We're just waiting for the right time." She looked over at him and gave him a loving smile. "Right, Honey?"
"Right." And for extra measure, hoping he wasn't overstepping his boundaries, he raised their hands and gave hers a kiss.
"Well, all right you two, git on back to work."
They got up to leave and he guided Lois out, his hand on the small of her back as he hoped a loving fianc‚ would do. Once they were safely outside Perry's office and back at Lois's desk, he whispered to her, "I'm sorry."
"You have nothing to apologize for, that's why you're here."
She chuckled and smiled. "Now that's just like Clark. Always apologizing for apologizing."
He shared in her good humor and gave her a crooked smile. He was glad she seemed to be doing okay with this.
A woman paused in front of them. "Welcome back, Clark. Glad to hear your father's doing better."
"Uh…thanks," he heard Lois's low voice again <Maria>, "Maria. Me too."
"Well, I'll let you get back to work." She turned to go, and threw a "Glad to have you back" over her shoulder as she walked away.
He turned to Lois. "So, maybe we should get working."
She nodded and jotted something down on a scrap of paper. She handed it to him and spoke under her breath. "Here, you should check…your…email and voice mail to see if any sources have contacted you."
He looked at the slip of paper in his hand, presumably Clark's passwords. He was a little taken aback by the trust this implied, but also realized it was a necessary gesture as well. "Thanks. I'll just," he rose and motioned towards Clark's desk, "go and do some catch up at my desk."
"Okay, Honey. Let me know if you get any hot tips."
"Sure." He began to walk away and hesitated. He thought he should give her a peck on the cheek or something, but he chickened out and just headed for Clark's desk. He was still a little off balance by the whole situation. Settling down at 'his' desk he was thankful that the computers were the same as in his universe. He flipped the switch on the power strip and grabbed the phone to check Clark's voicemail while he waited for the system to boot up.
She watched him from her desk. Many times over the past few months, she'd stared at that desk, willing Clark to appear. Wishing that this whole ordeal wasn't real, that Clark would just be there, like he always had, gazing over at her like she was the only woman in the world. And now, he *was* there, but it wasn't him. It was a different Clark, but he still looked at her the same. Whether it was part of the pretense or his misplaced feelings for her, she couldn't discern. This was harder than she'd thought it would be. She had to build that wall back up around her emotions. This was how it had to be. She could handle it. She was Mad Dog Lane.
She moved a hand to cover her stomach. Her baby. Clark's baby. Mad Dog Lane had never wanted a baby. But *she* did. She'd ached for one. And now… well, it was funny how her life had turned out. She'd gotten everything she'd ever wanted and everything she never knew she'd wanted. She just couldn't have them all at the same time. Had she done something to deserve this? It was almost comical what fate had planned for her. Maybe this was a test. Though to prove what, she didn't know.
Clark caught her watching him and smiled. She grinned back at him then focused back to her computer screen. It was blank. She flicked the power switch on and decided she ought to check her voice mail too. This was going to be a *long* day.
Perry sat quietly at his desk and sent a silent thank you to whoever was listening. Clark was back. He actually looked damned good too, a little dispirited, but good. He and Lois appeared to be happy, but he didn't get that same feeling from them that he'd had in the past. Maybe it was just pretense for the rest of the newsroom. After all, according to them, Clark had been just a few states away. Even still, he could feel in his gut that something wasn't right.
He suspected that Lois was pregnant. In fact, he was almost certain, but for some reason they'd chosen not to announce their wonderful news. He wondered what the hold up; the hesitation was about. He knew without a doubt that both of them wanted this baby, but they weren't acting like it. Clark should be ecstatic, thrilled. But he'd seen his eyes and that joy of finding out you were a father for the first time was absent. Maybe she hadn't told him yet. He'd only been back for a day, but…
Perry shook his head. Only time would tell.
Clark followed her out to her Jeep and climbed into the passenger's side when she unlocked the door. She started the engine after they were both settled. She'd turned the air conditioning on, but the silence inside the vehicle was stifling.
"So," Lois started as she pulled into traffic. "Um, did you want to stay at Clark's place? I have the key and the rent's paid for…if you want to. I mean, obviously you won't stay in a hotel and well, if you want to, you can stay with me, but my couch isn't that comfortable. You probably figured that out last night and…what?"
She'd caught him staring and he smiled. "Do you always talk so fast?"
She smiled and ducked her head a little before focusing on the road again. "Clark always accuses me of babbling."
"Like a brook," he chuckled.
It was cute, though it was probably something she did when she got nervous. She was nervous around him. But not that nervous. He couldn't feel it and for some reason that made him sad. "Clark's place is fine. As long as you don't mind. If you don't think he would mind."
"Uh, no. No, it'll be fine."
She was silent after that, though he was thankful this time the silence was not uncomfortable. Clark took the time to think about what a drastic turn his life had taken in that last 48 hours. He'd gone from being just Superman — and sometimes Clark Kent, the guy who could fly — to simply Clark Kent, reporter for the Daily Planet and fianc‚ of Lois Lane. It was almost like being transported back in time, instead of across it. Back to before Lois had shown up. Except this time it was…different. Worse? Better? He didn't know. From what he'd seen, this Metropolis was cleaner, safer. And there was a Lois in this Metropolis. That was better.
Better because he felt calmer, more at ease, more…himself. But at the same time, she reminded him again that there was someone out there who would have completed him, who would have understood and accepted him for who and what he really was. Someone who no longer existed. God, this was going to be hard, pretending to love someone he thought he might actually love.
And he loved her for all the wrong reasons. He had to remember that she wasn't his to love. His mind understood, but telling his heart would be a whole different challenge.
Her voice pulled him from his thoughts. "Yeah?"
"We're here. You looked like you were a million miles away."
"Close." He looked out the window, realizing that the car had come to a stop. "He has the same apartment?"
"Yeah. I didn't think about that. Guess I don't have to show you around then."
He smiled at that. They both got out of the Jeep and headed up the stairs to Clark's apartment. Lois let them in with her key. She found the light switch and Clark was transported across time again. It was uncanny how similar it looked.
"Sorry, it's a little dusty. I meant to come over and clean, and well…"
"It's okay. Nothing a few seconds won't fix."
That got a smile out of her. "I guess it would be most logical to go ahead and use Clark's clothes too. That way Perry won't have to wonder where you got the money for a new wardrobe. You dress a little differently than Clark from what I remember. Um…there's no food in the fridge, but we can go shopping later if you want. I know you don't need to eat. Clark likes to though, so maybe you do too. I don't know…I'm babbling again, aren't I?"
He grinned at her, "That's okay, it's kinda cute."
She blushed, but then looked slightly uncomfortable. "Okay, well, I guess you know your way around, so…is there anything else you need?"
"No. Thank you, Lois."
"I'll pick you up for work tomorrow at eight." She paused at the door like she was unsure of what to do next.
"Goodnight, Clark. I'll see you tomorrow."
He watched the door close and locked it behind her, though he followed her with his eyes to make sure she got to her car safely. He watched until she pulled away from the curb and he turned to take in his new surroundings.
There were a few differences now that he looked closely. The couch was in the same place, but it was slightly different than his, as was the entertainment center and the television. He moved to the mantel and touched the old football that was sitting there. The same as his. As was the stand underneath it — Smallville High 1984 Champions. The picture next to it, however, was foreign to his world. It was of Lois and *him*. They were both dressed up — Clark in a tux and Lois in a dress, her hair swept up, exposing her neck. The other Clark held Lois in one arm and…he zoomed in…a Kerth Award in the other. So he had won one too.
Clark turned back to face the rest of the apartment and there they were, all the little gems that separated him from this Clark. Hints of Lois. Pictures of her and them. And suddenly, Clark felt like an intruder. A voyeur. How was he going to stay here for weeks? Hopefully not months. It wasn't right. He sighed. Well, it had to be or he had to live with it. Literally.
He plopped on the couch and laid back. The bed was just too personal. At least for now. Besides, the couch was comfy. Too bad he wouldn't be able to sleep. He stared at the ceiling, foreign to his own, but still comforting in a strange way. He wondered how Lois was feeling.
Lois felt miserable. She'd managed to get changed and crawl into bed, but she couldn't sleep. She opened the drawer of her nightstand and pulled out a hardbound journal. She'd bought it a few weeks ago, but hadn't been able to use it. Now, she needed it.
It was your mom's idea to keep this journal. She said it would help keep me sane while we wait for you. I didn't take her advice right away, you can probably tell by the date. I guess it was too painful, thinking about writing to you when you can't respond. But something happened that I felt you needed to know about. I know you can't read this now, but I hope that if you come back, it will help you fill the void of your absence. It's been three months since you left, three months since the first time we made love. Clark, we made a baby that night. I wish you could be here. I know you want this even more badly than I do. I don't think I ever told you that — that I would have given anything to carry your child, have your baby. I didn't realize what I'd been asking, I didn't realize I'd be giving *you* up. As much as I want this baby, I don't think I would have made that deal. It just isn't the same without you. I can only imagine what your reaction would have been. In my mind and in my dreams, I can see your beautiful smile, taking up more of your face than I'd ever thought possible. Oh, Clark. I know how you'll feel. You belong here now, more than ever. I know you always doubted it before, but now you don't have to anymore.
Something else happened. I'm not sure how to say this, but remember the alternate Metropolis? The other Clark Kent? Well, he's here. H.G. Wells brought him here. He's supposed to protect your identity, keep the public believing that you and Superman are two different people. I guess this means you won't be coming back for a while. H.G. Wells told Clark that his presence here was to secure the future. Utopia. Turns out the people found out and reacted kind of like I did, but they weren't able to forgive you.
Clark being here, this wasn't quite what I'd hoped for when I was wishing for you to come home. But if it helps our future, our child's future, then I can bear it. It won't be easy, seeing him everyday, wishing he were you. Your love. Our love, will get me through. It has to.
Clark woke early the next morning. He'd been able to doze off for a few hours, but at five a.m., sleep had eluded him again. He made it through getting up and taking a shower without a second thought to his surroundings. It was only when he was standing in front of the closet with a towel around his waist, that he became uncomfortable. This wasn't his closet. These weren't his clothes.
But that was okay. He could do this. He'd been doing it for nearly twenty years, putting on someone else's clothes, pretending to be someone he wasn't. Lana had always said it'd be better that way. And because of what his dad had always warned him of, he'd believed her.
He sighed as he picked out an outfit for the day. He wasn't looking forward to stepping back into his old lifestyle, but he was looking forward to seeing Lois again. He glanced at the clock. 6:07. Two hours. Maybe there was something good on TV.
At 7:48, the doorbell rang. Lois. He opened the door and smiled at her. "Good morning."
"Morning. I know I'm early, but it looks like you're ready anyway. Shall we?"
"Sure. Just let me…" He fumbled in his pockets, not finding his keys. Of course. "Uh…never mind. Let's go."
He followed her out the door and waited while she locked up. When she was done, she held out the keys for him. "Here, I made you a set. I figured you could use them if you're staying for a while."
He took the keys and dropped them in his pocket. "Thanks." It seemed inadequate considering, but… He pushed the thought away and let her preceded him to the car.
It was nearing lunchtime when Clark finished up the article on the mayor's press conference Perry had assigned to him yesterday. The mayor had wanted to thank the citizens of Metropolis for the decrease in crime since Superman's departure. Clark himself was relieved that the city seemed to be taking care of itself for the most part. He was having difficulty as it was, ignoring the car accidents and such. But at the same time, he was itching to actually *write* something. Investigate something. Uncover greed or corruption. He sighed. He didn't really want to see any crime happening, but the lack of it left him too much time to think.
He'd only been here a few days and he supposed he was adjusting well. He'd only slipped up once and used his heat vision to warm up his coffee. Lois had caught him and had given him a warning look. Thankfully, it was nothing like the looks that Lana had given him. Lois was just concerned about his…well…Clark's secret identity. Eliminating the public use of his powers was easy, it was this faux romance that was giving him trouble. He was never quite sure if he was overstepping his boundaries. Lois continually reassured him that he wasn't, but it was still awkward.
When he had been with Lana, he'd never really been openly affectionate. He'd never had the overwhelming urge to kiss her right then and there. He'd always been able to restrain himself until they were in private. Even then, anything physical had been somewhat mechanical, forced, if only in the later stages of their relationship. He wondered how long he would have put up with Lana if Lois hadn't shown up. Would he have actually gone through with the wedding? Glancing over at Lois, he felt grateful all over again that she had found herself in his universe. Yes, the entire Lois situation still caused him a great deal of grief, but really, he was better off than he had been. His heart was just a little…well…a lot worse for wear.
He watched her as she typed furiously and he smiled briefly. On the ride into work, he'd kept stealing glances at her, trying to figure out where she had hidden all the pain and grief. He was amazed and worried at the same time. He knew all too well what keeping everything bottled inside could do to a person. Though he knew it couldn't be true, from all outward appearances, Lois looked feisty, determined, and happy.
Clark tore his gaze away from Lois and fixed it on her picture on Clark's desk instead. Now *that* smile looked genuine. Had his Lois been like that? Had she ever been that happy and carefree? Had she ever had that look of love in her eyes, meant only for the man behind the camera? Had she found love and happiness before she died? Or had she died without ever knowing her true love? Was *he* really her true love?
He wondered if Lois would notice if he took one of her pictures with him when he went home. It would be nice to at least imagine, to pretend that his Lois was the one in the picture. And that he was the one behind the camera.
A beep from the computer pulled him back to reality. Email from Perry telling him his story was fine and that he should take his beautiful fianc‚ to lunch. His mouth twisted at that. Time for role-playing again. He grabbed his coat and headed for Lois's desk. "Sweetheart? Are you hungry?"
She seemed shocked momentarily, but recovered quickly. "Sure, honey. Just let me save what I have so far."
She wasn't sure whether to cry or scream. Or maybe both, though it aggravated her that she obviously couldn't do either now. He was laying it on a little thick with all the terms of endearment, wasn't he? Or maybe she was just overreacting. But it hurt, hearing Clark's voice and those words only to remind herself that it wasn't real. It was all for show. And this most certainly wasn't her Clark. But she couldn't bring herself to be mad at him. Maybe it was that charming grin that reminded her of Clark. As they walked arm in arm to the elevator she wished that her heart could forget and just pretend. If only for a little while.
Inside the elevator they both dropped their arms awkwardly and rode in silence to the lobby.
"Where did you want to…"
"What are you in the mood to…"
They both smiled oddly at having spoken at the same time.
Lois spoke first this time. "There's a little deli just around the corner."
The deli owner, whom she and Clark knew well, had welcomed Clark back and asked them when they were finally going to tie the knot. She'd tried to ignore the little stab of pain as she'd smiled and told him they weren't in any hurry. Lois waited until she and Clark were seated with their sandwiches to break the silence between them. "So, do you think it will get less awkward?" She gave him an unsteady smile.
"I hope so. Lois? Are you sure I'm not doing too much? I don't want to step out of line."
She hesitated a moment before answering. "No," she sighed. "It's just all a little overwhelming right now. But I think anything less would be suspicious."
He nodded. "Lois, I've been wanting to tell you, I wish I weren't here under these circumstances, but it's good to see you again. You were a really good friend to me. I never got to thank you for all you did for me."
She smiled and felt a little more at ease. Friends. That was easier to handle. "You're welcome. Though I'm sorry about Lana. I didn't mean to…"
He was shook his head and cut her off. "No, it's better, trust me. Lana was keeping me from being myself. I wasn't really happy with her."
From what she'd seen, she knew it was true, but he'd also left a lot unsaid. Sure she'd 'saved' him from Lana, but she'd also given him a new burden to bear. Though he hid it well, she could tell he still felt so alone. "I'm sorry about…her…about your Lois."
He shrugged solemnly. "It's okay. Nothing you could've done about it. It's not your fault she's…gone."
They were both silent for a moment before he spoke again.
"You know, I looked for her. All over Africa. I even talked to her sister. But I couldn't find her. It was stupid, I guess, after so many years and all, but…"
"No, Clark, it wasn't stupid. It's love. And I'm sorry that you had to find it this way." Lois ducked her head. "I know it's my fault."
"Don't, Lois. There's no one to blame here. It's okay. I'll get by. I've done it before."
"Your parents?" It wasn't really a question.
"Yeah. You know, it was really great seeing Clark's parents. Do you think they would mind if I visited again?"
"No. I don't think they'd mind at all."
It'd been a few days since Clark had last visited the Kents. His first time seeing them alone a few weeks ago, he'd been a little worried about going, despite Lois's reassurances, but they'd welcomed him with open arms. And since then, they'd insisted he come to dinner at least once a week. That had warmed his heart like nothing else. He really felt loved. They made sure he knew he was loved for who *he* was, not just in place of their absent son. Being with them wasn't quite the same as having his parents, but he'd found that it was a *really* good substitute. Now, back at work, he couldn't wipe the goofy grin off his face. But that was okay; he was supposed to be happy in love and engaged to a beautiful woman.
He stared over at the woman in question. For the last few weeks, he'd been digging around and talking to Clark's sources. He'd found something! Mindy Church, a seemingly vacuous blonde, was becoming a little more active in the underground community. Clark had read over his counterpart's notes on the subject and was appalled, but not too surprised to find that he'd suspected the grieving widow to be party to a number of crimes. Not the least of which was trying to kill Clark. That fact had obviously not been published, but it was good that to know what he was dealing with.
So, after putting some feelers out, he'd found that Mindy Church may be trying to start up this Intergang now that it seemed Superman wasn't coming back. Mindy Church, it seemed, was quite a pro at covering her tracks. This was going to require a bit of digging. Real investigative work! And who knew, maybe even a little bit of surreptitious super help. He smiled to himself. There were definitely a few perks to this secret identity thing.
Her voice cut into his thoughts from across the way. He watched as she rose and headed towards him.
"Clark, what are you smiling about? You look like you're going to burst."
He wanted to tell her. In fact, he wanted her help on this one. He wanted it to be Lane and Kent, a real partnership. And the only one he could realistically expect from her. But he hadn't organized his research yet. He didn't want to look like some green reporter in the eyes of the great Lois Lane.
"Well, are you going to tell me?"
Apparently his smile had been contagious because she was smiling too. And she looked beautiful.
"Yeah, let's take a conference room though, this could be big."
Clark watched her with uncertainty as he told her what he knew. As he concluded his story, the smile that came over Lois's face was indescribable. The way her eyes danced caused his heart to do a little flip at the sight.
"Clark! This is great! Just what we need, a hot story to sink our teeth into. And to think, Clark and I had given up on Mindy Church! We thought she'd…"
At the mention of *his* name, the one he'd never be, his heart dropped a little altitude and he stopped hearing her voice. But the fact that he had discovered something that *he* hadn't found made him feel a little smug. And why shouldn't it? Just because he didn't have the perfect life that this other Clark did, didn't mean that he wasn't as intelligent. He wasn't particularly comfortable with his resentment towards his counterpart, but he couldn't help it. He was jealous. Plain and simple. This Clark had things he would never have. Thirty long years of happy memories with his parents. He still *had* his parents. He had a secret identity so that his life hadn't turned into a three-ring circus.
And he had Lois.
So he resented this man. The man that, had they met, he probably would have liked to know. They could have been friends. Brothers even. Aside from the New Kryptonians he'd just learned of (and still wasn't certain if they existed in his universe), Clark had always been alone in his uniqueness. No one else knew the freedom of flying under your own power. No one else knew the loneliness of knowing you were the last of your kind. So alien. So alone. Wouldn't it have been nice to sit down and talk with his counterpart? Had their powers developed the same? Had Clark felt the sheer joy and freedom when he'd discovered he could fly? Had he felt alone and alienated when he'd discovered just how different he'd been from his friends? Had he decided to live his life trying to be as normal as possible? Had his parents had the same accident? Had *he* been fast enough to save them?
Yeah, Clark decided it would've been nice to share the joys of their uniqueness and the agony of their alienness. But he was pretty sure that would never happen. Besides, it was easier to begrudge someone you knew you'd never meet. And if by chance they did meet, if Clark came back before H.G. Wells? Would he be able to set aside his feelings and connect with him? He was sure that Clark would have his own reservations when he learned of the role he'd been playing. Clark wouldn't reproach his counterpart for those feelings at all. He imagined he'd feel the same way.
Even without the confusion that would arise if his counterpart returned to find him here, Clark was struggling with his feelings. And he felt that *she* was the source of all this malaise. Lois. The one they shared, but not really.
She could never share her heart with him. Not when Clark had taken it with him to New Krypton. He tortured himself daily with this, trying to live in the moment and pretend that she was his, only to feel guilty and hopeless when he remembered that she'd never feel that way about him. That whenever he made it back, *if* he made it back to his own universe, that his Lois wouldn't be there. This Lois would have her Clark again — that's how it worked in this universe — and he'd be alone again. Back to the same old routine, but with a whole new heartache to endure. Right now, he was simply getting a taste of just how good he could never have it.
He watched her as she studied the research he'd gathered so far on Mindy Church. They were at Clark's apartment. She'd said it would be more comfortable and he'd agreed. She looked so determined, so focused. She was excited about this new lead. He smiled to himself. He was responsible for that. This was his story lead. Now it was theirs. Partners.
He imagined what it was like between *him* and her. This was probably how their partnership went, all day at work together, and late nights at one or the other's — mostly Clark's — apartment. Had they worked this well together from the beginning? No, Lois had said they'd fought a lot in the early days. But Clark had been patient with her, earning her trust and respect. And earning a place in her heart as well.
Had it been love at first sight for Clark too? He knew he really shouldn't call it that, but that's what it felt like, and he had to have a name for what tortured him. Had Clark felt alone and desperate when Lois hadn't returned his feelings right away? Well, even if he had, *he* hadn't had to live with the knowledge that she could *never* be his. *That* Clark had never known the pain and despair of knowing he couldn't have her. He'd never felt that heartache of knowing that someone he loved was in love with someone else. In comparison, it'd been easy for *him*. He'd probably been able to look to the future and see hope. Must have been nice to have that luxury, knowing that all he had to do was bide his time until she realized that she loved him too. Clark could bide all the time in the world — in any universe — and never have that. Why did his future have to look so miserable? And why did he have to be here, leagues away from ordinary, with the exact double of the woman whom he could never have?
"Clark?" She touched his arm.
No pretending. He couldn't pretend. He couldn't pretend that this was a loving caress. Unfortunately, he also couldn't pretend that there wasn't a little spark of electricity when she touched him. He couldn't pretend that there was no chemistry between them. He tensed and shut his eyes. No. No. No.
"Clark? Are you okay? Are you hearing a cry for help?"
Good excuse. He'd go with that one. "Yeah…uh…but the police are on their way now."
"Good." She smiled awkwardly. "I'm sorry you couldn't go."
"It's okay." The look she was giving him was full of concern, sympathy, and a little bit of something else. Something that he desperately wanted to explore even though his conscience was telling him otherwise. "I'm used to it." Yeah, used to it. All those emotions warring within him. Unfortunately, his desire was starting to overpower his integrity.
Something tickled at the back of her mind, she could always tell when Clark was lying and it seemed like he was lying now. But she wasn't sure what he'd have to hide from her. She shook the feeling and was overwhelmed by the one that took its place when she looked at Clark. Desire. Working with him like this brought back memories of the times she used to come over and stay late into the night, working with Clark on a story…or not working. She looked back at Clark. He was still staring at her. Oh, God, this was far too easy to pretend that he was her Clark. He had the same body, the same eyes, the same look of intensity when he was staring at her. Like he wanted to kiss her.
Maybe it *was* Clark and this had all just been a terrible nightmare. She searched his eyes for clues and found only Clark's need, his love for her. Maybe this was a dream. Of course, that was it! She'd had plenty of dreams of Clark lately. Erotic dreams. All these sensations running through her, they felt too brilliant to be real. And besides, Clark had been nothing but a gentleman. He'd never be leaning towards her, his lips parting. She closed the distance between them and sighed into his mouth. Oh yeah, this was definitely a dream. And one she was going to enjoy.
She moved closer to him, leaning into his strong frame as he rediscovered her lips. A moan escaped his lips and she devoured it, delving her tongue into his mouth. Her arms snaked around his neck and his hands came up to cup her face. She couldn't get enough of him. He was home! Clark was home. And right now he was doing the most wonderful things to her. The sensations searing through her were different this time. Better, more intense. After so long without him, it was like coming home again.
She pushed him to lie down on the couch and straddled his hips. She lowered herself to capture his lips again. Needing to feel closer, needing to touch him, she unbuttoned his shirt. Her hands ran along his smooth hard muscles and he groaned. She smiled against his lips and kissed her way to his earlobe.
"Oh God, Lois."
"Oh, Clark! I'm so glad you're home."
His hands stopped abruptly where they'd been caressing her back. Something was wrong. They'd never stopped in her dreams. This wasn't a… Before the thought could finish in her head, she found herself sitting on the couch alone, bereft from the loss of both her dream and the warmth of his body.
"Oh my God, Lois. I…please forgive me. I'm so sorry…I thought…I wasn't thinking…"
She looked up at him, still stunned. He was pacing and running his hands through his hair. Somehow he'd lost his glasses and his shirt was hanging open, revealing a very familiar hard, sculpted chest. At that moment, he'd never looked more like Clark. "I…" she swallowed hard, "I think I should go."
"Lois, I'm so sorry. Please believe…I didn't mean for this to happen."
"I…uh…I gotta go. I'll see you tomorrow."
Lois barely remembered to grab her purse as she rushed for the door. She had to get out of here. Slamming the door securely behind her, she finally breathed. The cold night air hit her, erasing the last of the heat she'd felt moments ago. Oh, God. What had she done?
He watched the door slam shut. His heart was still racing. Oh, God. What had he done? She was practically a married woman. He'd almost thought this was another one of his dreams. But that was no excuse. He needed to be more disciplined. Where was his self- restraint? How could he have let this happen? She'd probably never talk to him again. How could she ever trust him now?
He'd betrayed her trust. And over the past few weeks, he'd learned that with Lois Lane, trust was not something she gave easily. Aside from his delusions that he might have been brought here to fill Clark's void permanently, Clark had truly come to see Lois as a friend. Someone he could talk to about everything and anything, with the exception of his feelings for her. She understood him like no one else ever had, not even his parents. True, his parents hadn't gotten the chance to know the complex and hopeless man he'd become, but even still, he wasn't sure that they would have understood him like she did.
Lois knew everything about him, his past, his present, and the dismal future that awaited him back home. She empathized with him. She'd known his pain, when he'd recounted the tragic night of his parents' death and the helplessness he'd felt. When he'd mourned the loss of her counterpart and divulged the horrors he'd seen when he'd looked for her, she understood. *Her* soulmate was gone as well. She'd seen some of the hardships when she'd been in the Congo herself. And while she hadn't experienced the worst of what he'd witnessed, she'd often comforted her Clark after catastrophic disasters and rescues gone wrong. They both had the same feeling of apprehension and fear that their futures were destined to be bleak. They shared so much, yet they were so far apart.
And now, after what he'd done, they were even further apart.
When Lois got home, she had the urge to write in her journal. But she couldn't. Not if she planned on letting Clark read it someday. He couldn't know about this. It would kill him. If he ever came home alive. Lois sat on her bed and brought her knees up to her chest, hugging them tightly. She buried her head in her hands. Oh, God. How had she let that happen?
She tried to feel guilty, immoral for what she'd done to Clark. *Her* Clark. While she did feel guilty, she couldn't convince herself that what she'd done or felt was wrong. She could still feel him against her, his lips overwhelming her with his passion. Her mind told her it'd been wrong. Very wrong. But her body kept trying to convince her that it was only right. Her body didn't know the difference, that the man it wanted was *not* her fianc‚.
She'd never missed having sex before. She'd never craved it like she did now. True, her hormones were out of whack because of her pregnancy and probably contributing greatly to the problem, but it wasn't just sex that she was craving. It was that connection, that melding together of two souls. The feeling that she'd ever only felt a handful of times. With Clark.
Blaming herself wasn't really fair. Anyone would be confused in this situation, she guessed. Though she couldn't help but wonder what this connection she felt with Clark was about. Was it just because she was a Lois and he was a Clark? Was that all that was needed for a cosmic match? Did it matter that he wasn't *hers*? Had Clark ever really been hers to begin with? Maybe souls were shared between universes. The other Lois and who knew how many others including herself were really just one soul, mated with all the Clark Kents in existence. Was that why she felt so connected to this Clark? Or was she just comforted by the fact that he looked and acted so much like her own. She stared over at her nightstand at a picture of her and Clark. The faces were blurry and distorted. She whimpered as the tears rolled down her cheeks.
Had H.G. Wells known? Was he playing with the world like one cosmic jigsaw puzzle, finding missing pieces in different universes so he could have his precious picture of Utopia? She didn't think he'd be that cruel, but now she didn't know anymore. She didn't know anything. What if Wells never came back? What if Clark was never destined to come back and Wells had just been righting two wrongs? Her heart ached unbearably. Curling up under the covers, she tried in vain to drive away the cold that had leached into her soul.
They didn't say much to each other the following day. Lois had still picked him up for work, but they'd rode in uncomfortable silence on the way in. Now she was sitting at her desk, studiously ignoring him. And *he* couldn't concentrate. He was supposed to be getting more background information for their investigation on Mindy Church.
Would she even want to work with him still? She'd mentioned it in passing this morning, but the fire he'd seen in her eyes from yesterday was gone. In fact, she'd been avoiding eye contact really, so he wasn't sure if she was still excited about the story or not. He couldn't imagine Lois *not* wanting to work on a story, but there really wasn't much for two people to do right now, so her ambivalence might not be towards the story. Just him.
Clark was at a loss. Did he apologize again? Or would she be too mad to listen? She hadn't spoken much to him today and certainly not about last night. He'd really screwed up this time. He'd worked hard over the past few days to earn her trust and now he'd thrown it all away in one stupid moment. She must hate him.
There had to be a way to make it right. To let her see that she could trust him again. But to tell the truth, he wasn't so sure she *should* trust him. He didn't trust himself. Not when everything in his being was telling him that she belonged to him was his. An image of Tarzan and Jane popped into his head briefly, but that wasn't what he meant. It was like Lois was his other half. Like this silly notion of soulmates that he'd never taken much stock of until now. Lois completed him like no one else had even come close to doing. Even still, he knew it wasn't right. He was just confused. Lois wasn't his any more than…well…any more than "his" Lois might have been Clark's. He just didn't belong in this universe. Unfortunately, he was stuck here.
He wondered what H.G. Wells had been thinking. Was this all part of his plan? For him to fall for Lois? Was Clark not coming back? Was he supposed to stay here and take his place permanently? At first, that notion had seemed foolish, fantastical. But as the weeks went by, he couldn't help but think that maybe it wasn't so foolish. He looked over at Lois, busily typing away at her desk. Or maybe foolish was exactly what it was. There was no way that she'd fall for him. She loved her Clark too much. He couldn't blame her for that. Her enduring love almost gave him hope that the same kind of love could exist for him. That is, if his Lois hadn't died.
No, he couldn't…wouldn't be the one to tarnish that bond. Or Clark's memory, if it turned out that's all that remained of him.
So, while it really hurt to have Lois shut him out like this, it helped too. He'd have some time to cool off, so to speak. And it also gave him time to force his mind and body into agreement. His libido had to understand what they'd begun last night could not, under any circumstances, be finished.
Now, he just had to figure out how to get them back on speaking terms with one another. Surely they couldn't go on like this for long. They still had the fa‡ade to uphold. They were still supposed to be a happily engaged couple. Not to mention, with Lois's expanding figure, they'd have to announce their "happy" news soon.
Lois was busy at her computer, trying conscientiously to ignore Clark. After last night, she wasn't so sure she could trust herself around him anymore. This morning she'd woken up from a disturbing dream. Clark had made love to her tirelessly and afterwards, he held her tight and told her how happy he was that she'd let him take Clark's place. She'd opened her eyes, relieved to find that it'd only been a dream.
How could she betray Clark like she had? While she conceded that her confusion had been understandable, she still felt like she'd been cheating on her fianc‚, especially when they *had* continued in her dream. Not many people — if she'd been able to tell them the situation — would fault her. She had believed it was her Clark she was kissing. Or rather, she'd thought she'd been dreaming. But what if she hadn't uttered the words that had halted Clark in his tracks? What if he hadn't stopped? Would they have continued? Would she have cheated on Clark?
She just didn't know. And that was what was killing her. Was it loneliness that had caused her lapse? She'd thought their connection was special, that she'd recognize Clark just by the way their souls connected. There was an amazing feeling of rightness every time she and Clark had kissed or even just if they were sharing an intimate dinner. Wasn't that supposed to be unique to her and Clark? The thought that it might not be; broke her heart. What if she was right and H.G. Wells had really brought the other Clark here to take his place…permanently? What if this soulmates idea wasn't meant to be restricted to one universe?
And if that *was* true, who did HG Wells think he was? Interfering with the universe and *her* life? What right did he have? Did he get a kick out of playing God? Was he on some fantastical power trip? If she ever saw that insufferable little man again, he'd better watch out. Why couldn't he have just left well enough alone? Was it really so bad if there wasn't a Utopia? Lois sure as heck didn't care; she wouldn't be here to see it. And who's to say her descendants wouldn't better the world just because Clark's secret got out? In her opinion, Wells had only complicated her life more. Made it infinitely more miserable. And what about Clark? He'd been ripped from his home and his friends and dumped here. She knew how unhappy he was. She could tell this was killing him inside. HG Wells was a despicable, horrible man. He'd be getting more than a piece of her mind if and when he came back for Clark.
She let out an aggravated sigh. This whole situation was too confusing and infuriating to contemplate. At least without depressing her more than she already was. She had to focus on something else. Her computer screen stared back at her blankly. Clark was doing the research on Mindy Church and there wasn't too much she could help with at this point. That was almost a blessing though, because she didn't' think she could be near Clark right now. Unfortunately, that left her with nothing to do. She'd already finished up the fluff piece Perry had given her for the day. Maybe if she browsed through her old story notes, she'd find something. Anything. She chanced a quick glance a Clark; he was still talking to Jimmy. Well, at least he'd found a friend in all this mess.
Scrolling through the files in her notes folder, her breath caught when she got to the 'c's. There was no document simply named, "Congo." Impulsively, she clicked on it. Their universes were different, but she and this other Lois had obviously both gone to the Congo for a gunrunning story back in '93. Maybe she could retrace her steps and find where and if she'd escaped the other Lois's fate.
There were a few holes in her notes, but she'd narrowed it down to two situations in which she might have…not made it. There had been one night outside of Brazzaville that she'd narrowly escaped getting shot by one of the guerilla soldiers. She'd had to hide herself out in the forest that night with nothing but her jacket and the few essentials she'd kept in her knapsack. Maybe the other Lois had taken a different turn while running and had gotten shot. Or caught. If she had, she was probably dead.
Those men didn't take prisoners; they executed. She'd been held captive for a few terrifying days. If she hadn't escaped when she did and led the local authorities back to their bunker, she was sure she'd be dead. That's what they had promised her from what she'd been able to decipher. But for all she really knew, they did take captives. Maybe her counterpart *had* been held prisoner and later escaped, going into hiding so that they wouldn't find her. Maybe she hadn't had that same contact in Brazzaville that had gotten her safely home. There was a chance she was still out there, hiding, laying low. And if she knew anything, Lois Lane would make herself impossible to find, even for a man with super powers. That meant if her counterpart was alive, she would be the only one who could find her. She paused…or at least it was up to her to give Clark the leads he hadn't had in the past. She felt it was the least she could do after all he'd sacrificed and endured because of her.
She looked over at him and found him staring at her intently. He looked away quickly and suddenly found whatever it was on his computer screen fascinating. She moved her eyes back to her own screen, though hers wasn't quite so interesting anymore.
What must he think of her? Granted, she'd thought she'd been dreaming, but he hadn't known that was how it started. He must feel so used. She'd gotten him all worked up and tossed…well, no, he'd stopped them. But because of what she'd said. He'd been caught up in the moment until she'd reminded him that he wasn't the one she really wanted. She'd probably broken his heart. Or at least bruised his ego. How were they supposed to go back to the way they were? Sure, their relationship had been odd to say the least, but it hadn't been this awkward. She should apologize to him.
As soon as she *didn't* have the urge to…have her way with him.
By now, everyone in the newsroom probably thought they were fighting. Well fine, they were used to that. Right? Who knew, maybe it would get that ridiculous idea of marriage out of their heads. At least for a while. Lois bit her lip in an effort to hold back the tears that threatened at the thought. She knew for certain that they'd never take the ruse that far. But it brought back the same fears that had been plaguing her since this Clark had arrived. What if Clark never came back? What if H.G. Wells never came back for the other Clark? If that were her future, *would* she marry Clark? *Could* she marry Clark? Could she settle for second best if that what it came down to? Was their connection strong enough, more than just a complicated attraction? And if she made that decision, the one that would surely break her heart, would Clark settle for her?
No! She couldn't think about that. Clark *was* coming home. He *had* to. But what on Earth was she supposed to do in the meantime?
Clark sighed heavily. Lois still wasn't talking to him. Throughout the day, he'd seen her emotions range from anger (probably at him) to excitement (something she'd been working on) to extreme sadness. After last night, she was probably missing her Clark even more now. He knew she didn't have many friends and certainly not any that she could tell about this. He'd counted himself among her friends; she'd done so much for him, had always been there for him since he'd been here. He'd even hoped to think that she thought of him as a friend too, but he was sure she couldn't consider him a friend at all now. Friends didn't betray trust like that. Friends didn't come on to you when your fianc‚ was away. Friends just didn't do things like that. He wished he could be there for her. Be someone she could talk to, confide in. But he was certain that was the last thing she wanted, if anything, from him.
Then again, there were always Clark's parents. He knew she probably wouldn't divulge last night's events to them, but at least she could talk to them. He should offer to fly her out there.
Though the possibility that she *might* tell them about the other night scared him more than he wanted to admit. They would hate him too. Well, okay, maybe not hate, he didn't think that was within their capacity, but they certainly wouldn't respect him anymore. He didn't want to lose that. It would be like losing his parents all over, but worse. The option not to talk to him again would be theirs. Not some evil twist of fate that he could lay blame to. All the same, Clark's conscience couldn't deny Lois the comfort of family. Not if he could help her. It wouldn't be fair and that darned Boy Scout blood of his wouldn't allow him not to. Even if it meant giving up the only love he'd known in twenty years.
His decision made, his only obstacle now was whether or not he should be the first to break their silence. Should he be the one to offer the olive branch of…civility…between them? He remembered Lois telling him about the fights she and Clark had had. She rarely backed down first. She didn't like admitting she was wrong. Not that she was in the wrong here. He was. Completely. So, yes, it'd be up to him to break the silence. He owed her an apology. A big one. He only hoped she'd accept it.
The next day passed with the same awkwardness. The tension had been so tangible all day that co-workers had stopped to ask if he and Lois were all right, if the wedding was still on. He was touched by their concern. His co-workers back home had never been that sympathetic. But as much as he appreciated their concern, he couldn't and wouldn't tell them what was wrong. He'd just smiled weakly and said he didn't want to talk about it. They'd listened and understood, all except for Jimmy. Clark felt badly about not confiding in him. Clark and Jimmy were supposed to be buddies. Jimmy had looked hurt, though he'd attempted to brush it off as nothing. He just couldn't tell anyone. Not even Jimmy. Yet another reason why he and Lois needed to get past this.
He'd do it tonight. When she dropped him off at his place. He obviously couldn't do it at work, though it felt like he was putting it off. In truth, he was a little. He could've done it last night. The silence had just been too awkward. That and he was still arguing with his emotions. The air had felt charged with sexual tension, though he knew it was purely on his end. But his feelings, no matter how intense, couldn't' take precedence here. He had to suck it up, be a man. Or a gentleman, rather. The fact that he still wanted her, ached for her, didn't matter. They'd be headed home in about an hour. He had until then to compose himself. Meanwhile, he had a story to finish.
She couldn't stand it any longer. As much as she didn't want to be around him, as difficult as she found it to control her desires, she missed him. Clark had become a good friend since he'd been here. She was lonely, not just for *her* Clark, but for this Clark. The one that *was* here. And she could tell he was lonely too. He didn't really have any friends here. Well, Jimmy was a sort of friend, but when you got right down to it, there wasn't anyone that either of them could talk to about anything that was really going on. She missed having someone she could be herself with. She hadn't been herself in a long time. Not since Clark had left. But with this Clark, she could come close. He knew what she was going through. She knew what *he* was going through. They could comfort each other.
As long as they didn't have a repeat of the other night. She wasn't too worried about that happening, though. She was too much on edge at this point. But even if she did apologize and they started speaking to one another again, it would be different from now on. She'd messed up. Because of the uncontrollable hormonal behavior she'd been experiencing lately (which she still hadn't determined if it was her pregnancy or just missing Clark…or both…causing them), they'd have to be guarded around each other. Clark was probably already wary of her. What kind of friend was she to play with his emotions like that, take advantage of his feelings for someone she wasn't? Though her behavior had been unintentional, most likely Clark hadn't seen it that way. Tonight, she'd apologize to him. She just hoped that he'd forgive her faux pas. They'd be done for the day soon, but they had a little time left. She needed to calm her nerves. And her hormones. Lois looked over at him and their eyes locked for a moment before she looked down quickly and started to organize the files on her desk.
Oh, God. She was scared of him. Didn't trust him. She'd averted his gaze so swiftly when she'd caught him staring. She didn't look scared so much though, as she did hurt, hurt that he could do something like he'd done when she'd trusted him. Maybe she wouldn't accept his apology. Maybe he just shouldn't apologize at all. He could just leave. Let her get on with her life. If he staged some sort of public breakup, he could leave. Move somewhere far away. Then she'd be able to grieve for Clark's absence publicly. She could hate him for leaving her alone and pregnant. And then maybe H.G. Wells would see the flaw in his little scheme, whatever it was, and he'd take him back home. Back to where he could be miserable all by himself. No more pretending. Pretending to be happy. Pretending that he wasn't in love. Pretending that this wasn't killing him inside. He could just be himself again. His lonely, miserable, pathetic self.
Except whom would she have then? Clark's parents? But they couldn't be here everyday. He could. Even if it was only his miserable, pathetic self, she needed somebody, somebody who knew what it felt like, somebody who could understand. Leave Lois Lane?
No, he couldn't do that. As much as it would make it easier on him to just move on, he couldn't leave her alone. It wouldn't be right. And his leaving would just make things worse for her, especially if *her* Clark did come back. How would she explain wanting to even talk to him again?
He sighed heavily and looked at the clock. Time to face the music. He gathered his notes and research into a neat pile on his desk and placed them in a folder. After making doubly sure that every open file was saved and closed, he shut down the computer. He chanced a quick glance at Lois to see if she was ready. Well, close enough. He stood, grabbing his suit coat and putting it on. Slowly. Anything to delay the approaching storm. He was nervous. Nervous like when he'd asked Lana to marry him. No. Nervous like right before he'd told Lana the truth about himself. Afraid of what she might think and how she might react. He'd been right to be anxious then. Hopefully this time, his fears would be unfounded.
Securing the file folder in his grasp and pushing in his chair, he braced himself and headed towards Lois's desk. He cleared his throat. "Uh…Lois? You ready to go?"
She only nodded and started gathering her things. He waited for her, trying his best not to fidget. Her movements were stiff and robotic, but he listened to her heart and found it was racing. Probably with anger, or at least indignation towards him. They made their way to the elevator and down to the lobby in silence. Incredibly uncomfortable silence.
What if she didn't want to take him home? It wasn't like he'd be hard pressed for a ride. What if this was just one more thing she resented him for? She'd been driving him to and from work out of habit the past few months; what if she just couldn't find a way to tell him? Let him down easy? Well, they were both now standing outside her jeep now, each like they wanted to say something. He'd make it easy on her, rather than make both of them endure another muted, unnerving car ride.
She looked up at him, allowing him to really see her eyes for the first time in two days. They were filled with hurt. "Yeah, Clark?"
He looked away. "You don't have to take me home if you don't want to. I can…you know…" he made a flying gesture with his hand, "…get there on my own."
He waited for her sigh of relief and the jab to his heart it would bring with it. But it didn't come and he brought his eyes back to hers.
She knew it. He didn't want to be around her anymore. She couldn't blame him really. She tried to answer him, but her first attempt came out as a squeak. She cleared her throat and tried again. "If…if you'd rather, that's fine. I understand if you don't want to be near me anymore than you already have to."
Lois took in a deep breath and waited for his sigh of relief, bracing herself for the stab of pain she was sure would accompany it. She really didn't want to be alone right now and besides, they needed to talk. She needed to apologize. Even if he didn't want to be around her, he still needed to know that she hadn't meant it.
Here it comes.
There was pain in his voice. Pain and confusion. She looked back up at him, hoping the tears she felt building up in her eyes weren't visible to Clark.
"Lois, why would you think that? I thought that…well…I thought that *you* wouldn't want to be around *me*."
She swiped at one of the disobedient tears falling down her cheek. She thought she'd told them to stay put. "Well…I…I just thought that…"
The lump in her throat made it hard to speak though she really wasn't sure what to say anyway. She wasn't sure what to think. And suddenly all the emotions that had built up over the past two days, over the past few months, attacked her at once. She started sobbing, clutching at her stomach and covering her eyes the best she could with her other hand in some sort of feeble attempt to look not so inconsolable.
Apparently, and to her great relief, it wasn't any use because she found herself in Clark's arms, her head buried in his chest. She sagged against him, letting him comfort her, rub her back, and whisper against her ear. He stroked her hair and told her softly, "Oh, Lois, don't ever think that. Please. Please don't cry. I can't bear it when you cry. Shhh."
The intensity faded after a few moments, but she was still in his arms, trying to match her breathing to the gentle rhythm he'd established as he stroked her back. She didn't say anything for a long while and just let him hold her. She needed to be held, regardless of which Clark was doing the holding. He pulled back slowly and his finger on her chin brought her eyes back into contact with his.
Her voice was quiet and it trembled a bit. "So, you don't hate me?"
He shook his head. "No. God, no, Lois. I could never hate you. I'm just surprised that you don't hate me."
"Why would I hate you?"
He shifted his gaze and looked at his feet. "The other night…I want you to know, I'm sorry. I wasn't trying to…I thought I was…"
She felt the blush rising in her cheeks. "Me too."
"So, we're okay?"
She found his eyes again. Those reliable, reassuring brown eyes. "Yeah, we're okay."
He pulled her close again and wrapped his arms around her.
She stayed there for a moment, relieved to have her friend back. She pulled away slowly. "So, you want to get out of here? We could go to my place and talk."
"Sure. I'd like that."
Clark sat on her couch while Lois was in the kitchen making tea. He breathed a sigh of relief. She didn't hate him. In fact, this whole time, she'd been blaming herself. What a pair they both were. He'd been relieved to find that while he was still attracted to her, still wanted her, the fervor was far less intense now. He was glad that there were no hard feelings and they even seemed to be comfortable with each other again if the car ride was any indication.
Lois came into the living room with two steaming mugs. "Oolong tea," she announced, handing him one of the mugs. "Clark's favorite. No caffeine and it's rather soothing."
He smiled. "Thanks."
She sat down on the other end of the couch. "You're welcome." She blew on her tea a bit before she took a sip. "So, you dream about her? Your Lois?"
The question startled him a bit, but he answered. "Yeah." He couldn't be sure that it was *his* Lois he'd been dreaming about. He'd never seen her. But Lois didn't need to know that.
"It must be hard to wake up knowing…she's not there."
Yeah. Hard was one way to put it. He just nodded and the silence stretched out between them. But, thankfully, it wasn't oppressive like the last few days had been. It must be hard for her too, waking up to find Clark gone, night after night. Especially if she dreamt about him. He knew how she felt, though she had a shade more hope of her lover waking beside her in the future. He'd never have that. But it'd be nice to know what it was like, especially considering he might just stay celibate for the rest of his life.
He itched to know what he'd be missing, what he'd been missing. Not just the physical aspect, but the emotional as well. He looked up at Lois. She was sipping her tea and watching him. "Tell me about him, Lois. Was it easy for him to fall in love with you?"
She smiled wistfully. "Yeah. He always told me it was love at first sight for him. He'd always felt sort of lost, not really sure that he belonged here. But he told me he knew when he met me. He knew that he'd finally found his place. He said that was what kept him going until the day I told him I loved him too. All of him. Not just Superman or Clark, but the real him." She let out an airy chuckle. "We must have been a sight for Martha and Jonathan. Clark head over heels in love with me and me head over heels in love with Superman. I swear; he was such a lunkhead. Always jealous of himself."
"Oh?" That sounded, well, absurd.
"I guess this secret identity, dual personality thing is a little hard for me to imagine. You really thought he was two separate men? And he was jealous of himself?"
"Yeah. I guess love really is blind. But he was blind too. He was hurt that I loved Superman while I only tolerated Clark. We ended up hurting each other quite a bit before we made it to where we are…where we were when he left."
"I'm sorry, Lois. If you don't want to talk about it, I understand."
"No, I don't mind. Besides, there are a lot of things I never told anyone."
"I guess you couldn't, huh?"
"No. No one but Martha and Jonathan know Clark is Superman. Well, and Tempus. But he, thankfully, is back where he belongs in a Utopian prison. Hopefully being bored to death."
"Yeah," he smiled a little. He guessed if he wanted to blame anyone for the way his life was, it'd be Tempus. But he didn't want to think about that. "So, I guess other than Clark's little self-jealousy issue, he didn't have to endure too much suffering when it came to you." He smiled wistfully, wishing his life had only been that easy. But Lois wasn't smiling. "What happened?"
She set her mug down on the coffee table and tucked her legs beneath her. He set his mug down as well.
"I…" she took a shuddering breath. "I don't even know where to start with that one. Looking back on it now, I feel so stupid, so ignorant.
"A few years ago, the Planet was bombed. Destroyed beyond repair. Everyone — me, Clark, Perry, Jimmy — we were all just left floundering, our futures uncertain. The Planet was everything to me. I wasn't really sure what my life would be like without it. I was pretty emotional then, lost really. And Lex Luthor offered me what I thought was a lifeline. He proposed to me and I almost married him."
"Lex Luthor? The philanthropist? The humanitarian? You almost married him?"
She gave him a derisive snort. "Humanitarian? Ha! But I'll get to that. Yeah, I almost married him. I wouldn't have if…well…" She blushed and looked a little ashamed of herself. "I tried to convince Superman that I loved him and when he refused me, quite harshly, I felt Luthor was my only option."
"But why did you have to get married at all? And if Clark was so in love with you, why did he refuse you?"
She sighed. "Lex first, then Clark. This gets a little complicated. I felt so insecure with my life in upheaval and Lex was offering me stability, security. If you ask me why I accepted, I still couldn't tell you for sure. But I know I broke Clark's heart."
"But why? Why didn't he just tell you he loved you too?"
"Because at the time I was pouring my heart out to Superman, I'd just broken Clark's heart."
"I'm sorry. I'm not following." They were the same person. What was the difference?
"Clark knew Lex had proposed to me and he decided he'd do anything to keep me from marrying such an evil man."
He raised his eyebrows at that. "Lex Luthor, evil?"
"Yeah. A criminal mastermind. But anyway, Clark thought that if he confessed, I wouldn't marry Lex. He told me he was in love with me. But at that point in our relationship, I just wasn't willing to admit I felt about Clark that way, especially not to him. He was my best friend. I wasn't about to do anything to! risk that. That and the fact that I was so in love with Superman. So I told him. I watched his heart break while I told him I just didn't feel that way about him. The biggest mistake I ever made. And then I did the unthinkable. I asked him to find Superman for me."
"Exactly. But of course, Clark being Clark, he came to me later that night as Superman. I poured my heart out to him and expressed my all-consuming love for him. I told him I'd love him if he were just an ordinary man, living an ordinary life. For obvious reasons, he didn't believe me. I was devastated and that combined with the pain and uncertainty of my future, I told Lex I'd marry him. It wasn't until I was walking down the aisle towards another man that I realized I really *was* in love with Clark. I said 'I can't' instead of 'I do' right before the police burst in to arrest Lex. Turns out he was the one that bombed the Planet in the first place, not to mention countless other crimes he'd committed. He even tried to kill Clark."
"Wow." He was stunned by this revelation, and more than a little ashamed of himself for envying Clark for having it so easy. Or so he'd thought. Life hadn't been handed to him on a silver platter. Even still, he felt the other Clark's life was better compared to his. *He* still had Lois.
Lois's yawn caught his attention. "It's late. I should probably get going."
"Yeah, I didn't realize how tired I was." She gave him a drowsy smile and got up when he rose from the couch. "Thanks for listening."
"Anytime, Lois. It was…enlightening. Though I'm sorry to stir up so many bad memories."
"No, it was good to talk about. I never got to tell anyone the whole story before."
He followed her to the door and opened it, turning back to look at her. "Well, anytime you want to talk, let me know."
"Thanks, Clark. I will."
Clark waited until he heard the locks engage before he made his way out into the night. He turned into the nearest alley and took to the skies, flying high above the clouds so no one could see. He wasn't sure how he felt. Happy? Guilty? Sad? Relieved?
He was relieved that she was still talking to him. The guilt was still there, though. He didn't really belong in this universe. He was sure of that now. Hearing Lois talk about Clark they way she had, he knew that there would never be room for anyone else in her heart. Least of all him. It was a sobering thought. He was doomed to love someone he could never have, whether it was this Lois or his own. His counterpart *had* known what it felt like to love someone and not have that love returned. But lucky for him, he hadn't had to wait forever. *He* wasn't cursed with the knowledge that there was no one for him to love. Ever.
Clark found himself above the stratosphere, just drifting. Not part of the stars, not part of the earth. In his own universe, he'd come up here to think, just be by himself, wondering where he fit in, if he belonged. He still didn't have the answer to that question. He only knew one thing for sure; that he didn't belong in this world, where all he was, was a mere shadow of the luckiest man alive.
Even knowing that, he still wasn't sure he wanted to go home either. It wasn't that he wanted to stay here, there was nothing here for him but heartache. But wasn't that exactly what was waiting for him at home too? He didn't really have any friends. Sure, Perry could be counted as a friend, but really, now that Perry was mayor, he couldn't be sure that he wasn't just kept around for publicity. Good relations. Mayor White and his friend Superman, dedicated to keeping Metropolis safe for you. He sighed. Maybe Perry didn't think of him that way, but how could he be sure? There weren't many people he trusted completely. And Perry, unfortunately now, was not one of them.
The only one he'd really trusted had been Lana, and she was no longer speaking to him. Lana…and Lois. He'd trusted Lois. For some ridiculous, inexplicable reason, he'd trusted that crazy woman who'd stormed into his life. And he still trusted her. Only, when he went back to his own universe, she wouldn't be there for him to trust. Or to call a friend.
And that left him with…himself. Back to where he'd started before he'd even come here. Alone. Forever alone.
Lois was curled up in bed, staring at her journal. Should she write? Should she tell Clark what happened? Well, maybe Clark wasn't coming back. He'd been gone almost four months now. She sighed. She needed to write. And if Clark came back, she'd just…she just wouldn't let him read it. It was her journal after all. She picked up her pen and opened the journal, laying flat out on her stomach and propping herself up.
Clark's been gone for four months now. Well, just about. I keep feeling little flutters in my stomach. The baby. It's amazing knowing that there's a life growing inside of me. Part of Clark. Every time I feel it, I turn to tell him…and then I realize it's not him. It's the other Clark. I think about telling! him, but by then, the excitement's gone. I should be able to tell Clark. *My* Clark. All these little moments that we should be sharing, he's missing them. I'm trying hard not to resent him. Really I am. But it's hard. I know it's selfish of me. I shouldn't be mad or hurt that he's gone. But I am sometimes. He should be here with me, not with those heartless, soulless New Kryptonians. He must feel so alone. I hope he's not scared or hurting. Or dead.
I keep wondering if he would have stayed had he known about the baby. I want to say that he would have. If I know Clark at all, I know that he wouldn't have been able to leave me alone and pregnant. But I know it would have torn him apart. He never *wanted* to go with them. He just felt he had to. And he felt it was the only way he was going to learn about his origins. His heritage. I hope he has. Though, I worry he won't like what he learns. What I saw of Zara and Ching, I can't imagine that the Kryptonian way of life is a good one. What good is a life without love or emotion? My heart hurts for Clark because I'm afraid he'll find out exactly that. In a way, it's almost like the way the other Clark lives his life. Without love.
The other Clark, the one that *is* here now. The one I can't help but be attracted to. Oh, God, I still feel so guilty for betraying you, Clark. I didn't think it was him I was kissing. I thought it was you. I'd thought you'd come home, Clark. I was so happy, so relieved. And then, in an instant, the dream was shattered. It wasn't you at all. It was him. Would I have made love to him if he hadn't stopped us? Oh, Clark, I'm so sorry. I know it won't happen again. I guess I was just missing you too much. He looks exactly like you, sounds like you, he even kisses like you. What if destiny is writing me a new future? One without you in it? What if you're not supposed to come home? What if the other Clark is supposed to stay here? Would you be okay with that? Would *I* be okay with that? Everything in my heart screams 'no,' but you're not here. I've never tried my hand at poetry, but this poem's been drifting around in my head all day.
*I'm sad, but you're not here to brighten my day.
I'm crying, but you're not here to kiss the tears away.
I'm happy, but you're not here to share it with.
I'm down, but you're not here to give me a lift.
I'm upset, but you're not here to listen to me.
I'm guilty, but you're not here to set me free.
I'm scared, but you're not here to stop my fears.
I'm crying, but you're not here to stop the tears.
I'm hurting, but you're not here to ease the pain.
I'm crazy, but you're not here to keep me sane.
I'm blind, but you're not here to help me see.
I'm dying, but you're not here to save me.
I miss you, but you're not here.*
Clark made his way back to Metropolis, back to "his" apartment. But it wasn't really his. Just like everything else here. Not really his. This apartment. This job. Lois. The baby. Not really his. He just got to pretend for a while, like test-driving a luxury car that you knew you'd never qualify for. Clark would never really have this kind of life. The question was, would it cause him more heartache in the long run to pretend that this *was* his? Every time he got to touch Lois, every time he kissed her, he felt that little rush. That little feeling of home that was getting stronger as the weeks went by.
He spun into a pair of boxers and let himself fall onto his bed without even bothering to pull back the covers. He wanted to scream. Or cry. Or something. Even flying hadn't helped. Nothing helped anymore. Why was he here? There was no point to his life. No purpose in the grand scheme of things. Not here. And not in his universe. Was life just some cruel game? Some entertainment for the fates to see how much Superman could take before he gave up? Well if it was, he forfeited. "I give up! You hear me? I've had enough!"
But no one heard him. Holding back the tears was useless, so he gave up on that too, and let them fall freely down his face.
He wished someone, something, *anything*, would take the pain away. Everyone thought Superman was invulnerable. Hah! He closed his eyes, hoping to shut out the world, praying that the pain worse than kryptonite would just go away.
Lois was at his door…Clark's door…at eight in the morning. Just like usual.
"You ready?" she asked, obviously chipper now that they'd cleared the air between them.
He envied her, but he pasted a smile on his face and hoped his voice sounded at least half as chipper. "Yep." He grabbed his coat and locked the door behind them.
Once they were in the jeep and on their way, she asked another chirpy question, "So, did you sleep well?"
"Like a baby," he lied. He was just an actor in life's cruel play — he might as well be good at something. "You?"
"Yeah, thanks. So, I figured we could do a little more digging on Mindy Church today."
"Sure. There's not much else going on. We have to find *something* to write." He was playing a reporter. He liked investigating.
"Yeah, no kidding."
"Hey, I never told you…" Act excited. This is exciting. "I found a couple places, warehouses I think, that might be worth taking a look at. They're supposed to be abandoned, but there's been some late night activity lately at these locations. Could be Intergang." Okay, that was a little exciting. Unfortunately, that meant stakeout. In a car, all night, with Lois. It wasn't like he couldn't handle it though. He could.
He was an actor. Actors didn't cry unless it was on cue. They didn't kiss anyone either, unless the script called for it. And this script *definitely* didn't. Not while the two lead characters were alone.
"That's great, Clark! So, you think we should pick one from the list and stake it out tonight?"
Yep. Stakeout. But this was fun. Acting. *Real* investigating. "Yeah. We can see who's there and what they're up to."
"Ooh, good, this'll be fun! I haven't been on a stakeout in forever. It'll be just like…"
Her chipper tone fell flat for the first time that morning and she trailed off. Just like old times. That's what she meant to say. Like with Clark. *Her* Clark. But that was okay. He was an actor, playing the part of her Clark. Only, he'd have to step out of character for a moment to cheer her up. "I've never been on a real stakeout before. It *will* be fun, Lois." He gave her what he hoped was a meaningful and sympathetic look. She seemed to compose herself.
Looked like she was doing a bit of acting herself. Good. Then he wasn't alone. He just had to remind himself that this was strictly a PG movie. Maybe PG-13 if the bad guys got a little rough, but definitely PG.
"Yeah. It will." She paused for a moment. "You've really never been on a stakeout before?"
"Nope. Think about it, Lois. When would I have to?"
"Yeah, I guess you're right." She smiled a bit.
Good. They were both happy. He could slip back into character now. This was a happy movie. A comedy. Yeah. Funny was the word for it. Hilarious. He hoped the fates were having fun with their little game. H.G. Wells was probably their head honcho. Despicable little man, meddling in other people's lives. If Clark ever saw him again, he'd drop him off of the tallest building in Metropolis. He'd catch him, of course, but Wells wouldn't know that. The thought made him smile. Happy. That's right, he was supposed to be happy.
Clark seemed mighty chipper this morning. A little on edge even, like he'd had too much coffee. Not that caffeine would affect Clark, but still, he was a bit jittery. She tried her best to act cheerful too. He didn't need to know the kind of night she'd had last night. He didn't need to know that she'd cried herself to sleep. Again. Or that she'd woken up a little stiff, face down on her journal, and had reread the poem she'd written. She'd never really written a poem before, but that one had just flowed out of her. "But you're not here." The poem said it all. At least she had the excuse of her pregnancy hormones when it came to her emotions being out of whack. Clark didn't need to know the *real* agony she was enduring. He had enough heartache to handle on his own.
Though he certainly didn't seem that way this morning. Maybe it was because they'd cleared up their misunderstanding. Or maybe he was excited about the story. Despite everything else, she couldn't help but be a little excited too. A real story. A real lead. A real investigation. Mindy Church had better watch out. It wasn't just Mad Dog Lane after her, it was Mad Dog Lane on hormones. She almost laughed aloud at herself. But it was true. Not to mention she had a personal stake in this one. The little harpy had tried to kill Clark. They'd never been able to prove her guilt in that matter, but Lois knew it *had* to be her. And now, if Mindy was trying to take advantage of Clark's absence…whoo boy!
The sight of the Planet coming into view suspended her thoughts. Lois opted for the parking garage today — it looked a little stormy out. She and Clark made their way up to the newsroom in a blissfully companionable silence. She glanced at the clock as they walked down the ramp into the bullpen. They had a little time to go over their plan for tonight before the staff meeting.
She set her stuff down at her desk and Clark did likewise at his desk before he came back to stand by her. She wanted to see the list of warehouses he had. They could start there and pick one. Do a little background first, figure out who owned it, etcetera. Clark stood mutely beside her. "Well, lay it on me, Clark."
He smiled at her and to her horror, he moved into kiss her. His lips met hers briefly, passionately, and then they were gone. What the heck!? She'd meant the list of warehouses. She was aware of some of their co-workers staring. Quickly, she schooled her surprised look into one of delight. She looked at Clark. Though he was smiling, she could tell he was horrified that he'd misinterpreted her. Um…shoot. Think quick, Lane! "Honey, why don't we get our notes and move to one of the conference rooms?"
He only nodded, still smiling dumbly, but he did grab his file folder and follow her to one of the conference rooms. She was glad the blinds were already shut, she didn't want the rest of the office to see Clark's face right about now, nor did she need to fuel the gossip fires with an obvious need for privacy.
Clark barely waited until the door was shut. "Oh, God, Lois, I'm sorry. I thought you meant…well everyone thought we were fighting yesterday and well…" He hung his head. "I'm sorry."
"Clark." She waited until he looked at her. "It's okay, Clark. In fact, it was a good idea, really. I just wasn't expecting it. You're fine. We're fine. Remember? Now at least the entire staff knows we're not fighting anymore."
Her smile was contagious and he seemed to relax. He even chuckled a bit and the corners of his mouth twitched. "So, what did you really want me to lay on you?"
She let out a small laugh. "The list of warehouses," she smiled. And then she started giggling. They both did. After a few moments, the laughter died away and with it went the tension she was sure they'd *both* been feeling.
Clark smiled at his 'fianc‚' as she sat down next to him for the staff meeting. He was sure if he thought about it, last night's emotions would spring back readily, but he didn't. He was on a little high right now. He wasn't sure if the feeling was from his excitement towards his first ever stakeout or the fact that the tension between him and Lois seemed to have dissolved. Whatever it was, he was grateful that it had put a genuine smile on his face.
Perry stepped into the room and cleared his throat. "Good morning, everyone."
A chorus of, "good morning, Chief's," and, "good morning, Perry's," followed.
"Well, good news is, Lane and Kent here are no longer fighting." He gave them both a look that said while he minded the slight disruption in his newsroom, he was nonetheless happy to see that they were back to normal. A few chuckles arose from the other staffers before Perry continued, "Bad news is, there *is* no news. Someone *please* tell me there was some murder or mayhem last night. Anything."
The editor was obviously disgruntled by the lack of news. Clark took that as his cue to speak up. "Well, Chief, Lois and I did find a few loose leads that someone might be trying to start up Intergang again now that it looks like Superman's not coming back."
He felt Lois flinch next to him. Shoot. He hadn't meant it like that. He'd meant that was what Mindy Church thought, not him. Crap. He'd have to amend that later, at least to Lois. Meanwhile, he waited for Perry's reaction. The editor was staring at him oddly, almost indignant and aggrieved at the same time. But the look was fleeting and Perry cleared his throat. "Good, Clark…uh…you'll have to give me the details later, in my office."
Clark's mind raced as to what that look was supposed to have meant. He vaguely heard Perry assigning mundane stories to the rest of the staff, but his mind was on the editor's stare and the touch of emotion Clark had heard slip from Perry's voice. He glanced at Lois, wondering if she'd noticed it too, if she'd found it odd or disconcerting. But she was trying to look busy, scribbling on her notepad. Great. He was on for two today already and it wasn't even ten o'clock yet.
Lois sat quietly at her desk after the staff meeting. She'd sent Clark to his desk to get a little background on the warehouse they'd chosen for tonight, assuring him that she was fine. But she could tell by the frequent and anxious looks he kept casting her way that he wasn't convinced. She'd try later to assuage his guilt over his comment, but for now, she needed a little space. She'd be fine. Really.
She knew Clark hadn't meant to sound so blunt about Superman's absence. He'd only meant to convey what the criminal element was thinking. But it brought up a valid point. If the criminal element thought that Superman wasn't coming back, what did the rest of the world think? What should *she* think?
Was four months so long that people could start believing that Superman wasn't coming back? Sure, she'd been agonizing over just that belief last night, but her case was different. Wasn't it? She was the one missing him more than anyone else. Did it look that hopeless to the rest of the world? Should she be having the same thought? And what then? What on Earth did she do then?
Thankfully, she didn't have to wrestle with that subject because Clark had just approached her desk with a printout. He eyed her cautiously as he settled himself into the chair opposite hers.
"So…" he started carefully, obviously not sure of her emotional state. Well, she wasn't sure either, but she gave him a nod and a weak smile, encouraging him to continue.
"The first warehouse is on Fourth and Euclid, owned by a Gruffs Incorporated. They specialize mostly in antiquities — import and export — but this warehouse that they own isn't the one they've been using. It was the old building and they've since moved to a newer one. I'm having Jimmy find out who the corporate execs are, see if we can link any of them to Mindy Church."
"Good. Then we'll see tonight if antiquities are really what they're dealing in."
He nodded, clearly still weary of her feelings, though it appeared he was trying to be optimistic about tonight too.
She sighed. "So, what do you say we look up some information on the other warehouses now, just in case tonight proves to be nothing."
"Sure. I was thinking…"
Perry's gruff voice interrupted him from across the newsroom. "Clark, can I see you in my office?"
Perry returned to his desk and waited for Clark, wondering if he had really meant what he'd said. Was Superman not coming back? He wasn't sure what had happened to that boy out there, but it must have been rough. He knew Superman couldn't have appeared so readily after Clark, but it had been almost a month now and Perry was worried that Superman may have been lost up there in space, especially considering what he'd said. Understandably, Clark had been acting differently ever since he'd come back, but it was almost as if he were a different person. Well, in Perry's experience, he was aware that war tended to do that to people, change them, break up families, but he thought Clark was stronger than that.
Being Superman, Clark was stronger than most, not just physically, but mentally as well. From the day Perry had figured out Clark's secret, he'd paid even closer attention to his behavior. The editor had noticed that little rescues seemed to lift his spirits. Routine crime fighting enhanced the drive behind his investigative reporting. And the tragic disasters disheartened and discouraged him. But he'd also noted Clark's resilience. It would never take him long to be back to his chipper self, especially when he was around Lois. He remembered hearing that the sun was Superman's source of energy, it recharged his powers. And it seemed, very poetically, that emotionally, Lois was his sun. She recharged his heart and soul.
Perry was still amazed at how lucky they were to have found one another, two pieces of a whole. Though they hadn't said anything yet, he was certain there was a baby on the way as well. Truly a miracle.
So what had them both so anxious?
He'd seen Lois miserable and close to tears over the past few weeks and he'd attributed it to pregnancy hormones, but Clark…well Clark seemed to be more distant from Lois. And the fight they'd had certainly couldn't have been a sign that things were back to normal since Clark's return. Maybe it wasn't apparent to most, but he could tell something had changed between them. Clark didn't sit as close to her anymore. He seemed hesitant to touch her and when he did, it was usually brief. He didn't feel the same energy radiating off of them that he'd experienced in the past. Something was wrong. And he'd bet his career it had something to do with where Superman was hiding.
Clark's seemingly offhanded comment had jarred Perry. Had the war been so bad up there that Clark didn't even want to be Kryptonian anymore? Perry wondered if something had happened up there that had changed Clark in a fundamental way, so much that he just didn't want to be Superman anymore.
There was a soft knock and he looked up to find Clark in the doorway.
"Chief, you wanted to see me?"
"Yeah, Son, have a seat and close the door please."
He waited until Clark was settled and he took a deep breath before beginning. "How are you, Clark?"
"Good, good." He certainly did seem fine.
"What's up, Chief?"
He cleared his throat. "Uh…well…I just wanted a little rundown of this lead you mentioned."
"Well, some of my sources say that someone, namely Mindy Church, may be trying to start up Intergang again. There have been a lot of late night activities at warehouses that are either abandoned or not scheduled to have workers there at odd hours of the night. The criminal element appears to be taking advantage of Superman's prolonged absence."
"Ah…the way you said it earlier, that it looked like Superman wasn't coming back, I was just wondering maybe you knew something that I didn't." Clark looked at him curiously and Perry cleared his throat. "I mean, seeing as you and Lois are friends of his."
"No, Chief, I honestly don't know. I haven't a clue when or if Superman is coming home."
For the second time today, Perry's expression left him flummoxed. Maybe the old man really missed Superman. He seemed so…well…sad.
"I…ah…well all right, just keep me posted on this story will ya?"
"Sure, Perry." Clark regarded him again, trying to figure out just what his editor was thinking. Not finding the answer, he rose to leave and closed the door behind him as he exited the office. His mind swam a little as he made his way back to Lois's desk and reclaimed his chair.
"So what did Perry want?"
"Oh, he just wanted a more detailed summary of what we have so far."
She nodded. "So, whaddya say we get back to the list?"
"Sure thing." He flashed her a smile, trying to ignore the feeling that he was missing something.
"So, while you were talking to Perry, I looked up the next warehouse. Belongs to Harris Shipping, owned by a Diane Harris. The company deals in, get this," Lois paused and cocked an eyebrow at Clark, "antique musical instruments. Pianos mostly. Odd, huh? Anyway, they have on record that this building is no longer actively used, just storage for some old parts and moving equipment. Makes me wonder what they're doing at three in the morning."
"Yeah, no kidding." Clark shook his head in wonderment. "So, we should do this one tomorrow night. Even if tonight turns out to be productive, we should still look into this. Smells kinda fishy."
They were parked far enough down on Euclid for Lois to use the binoculars and still not be seen. Clark had taken his glasses off and they sat next to Lois's binoculars on the dash. Clark would let her know when something was happening. As of right now, the only peculiar activity going on was the woman sitting in the office, typing away at the computer and laughing maniacally at sporadic intervals. If *this* was the only late night commotion going on here, Clark was going to have to have some words with his source. But in the meantime, she might as well tell Clark about her story notes from the Congo.
"So, Clark, I um…I was going through some of my old story notes and I found something that might be useful. Well, maybe, it might not be anything at all, but I thought you could use it."
Clark glanced at her and smiled. "You almost went into babble mode there. What is it you found?"
"My story notes from the gun-running story in the Congo."
His face fell noticeably and the look in his eyes was unreadable. "Oh."
Maybe this wasn't such a good idea. This clearly pained Clark to think about. But she'd thought this could help. She floundered for the right words to say. "I'm sorry, Clark. I know the whole situation is painful, but I found a few things in my notes, places you might not have looked. They might be different in your universe, but what if they're not? And I'll also give you a list of aliases I go by when I'm undercover. She wouldn't have used Lois Lane, that's for sure. And I can only imagine how many Jane Does there are in your world fitting her description…"
She trailed off when he winced.
"Six hundred and forty-eight."
She felt a stab of pain to her heart. He said he'd looked, but…ouch. That must have been brutal. "I'm sorry Clark, maybe I shouldn't have brought it up. I just thought…"
"No, Lois. It's okay. Really. And you're right, maybe this will help…all these clues I never had before. I just…well…I don't want to get my hopes up again."
The pain would be too much a second time around. He left that unsaid, but she could feel his pain. The sheer agony of his hopelessness seemed to weigh almost as badly as her own anguish over her Clark's departure. But she had quite a bit more hope than he did, and that made all the difference. "Sorry."
"No, Lois. Don't be. It's not your fault. I appreciate that you looked. That means a lot to me."
There was silence in the Jeep for a few minutes. She didn't know what to say. What could she say? Empty reassurances were cruel at this point. She regretted bringing up the subject. She hadn't meant to stir up painful memories, but she had. She should probably change the subject. "So, what's going on now?"
She saw him concentrate his attention on the warehouse and figured he was extending his hearing as well as his vision so she stayed silent.
He turned her way with an amused look on his face.
"Yeah, the lady's talking to…well, the computer I guess. Something along the lines of 'I'll teach you to be mean to him, see how long your stubborn pride survives in a leaky tanker at the bottom of the bay.' Seems she's writing a novel or something. Interesting to say the least." His grin broadened and started laughing.
His laughter was contagious and it took a minute for Lois to catch her breath. "Crazy's more like it."
That only made them laugh harder. Lois swiped at the tears in her eyes as the laughter died out. "Oh, God, I needed a good laugh."
Clark let out a deep breath. "Yeah, me too."
"So, you think this one's a bust?"
"Yeah, probably so. Though, now I don't know whether to yell at my source or thank him for the entertainment." The corners of his mouth twitched again like he was holding back another chuckle.
She sighed contentedly and started the Jeep. "Let's head home."
Lois had woken up this morning well rested for the first time in weeks, maybe months. Last night had been fun, with the exception of her slip-up, but thanks to the crazy lady, the emotions didn't run on high for long. She'd picked up Clark for work and they'd chatted amiably about tonight's stakeout. Now they were both in the newsroom, working individually at their desks. Perry had still given them little assignments until they came up with a little proof. With any luck, they'd get that proof tonight. Her instinct was telling her this one was the big one. Not Pulitzer material, but something big, something to get her out of the slump she'd been in. Nothing could ruin this high.
Her phone rang and she picked it up. "Lois Lane, Daily Planet."
"Ms. Lane? This is Sonja from Dr. Keller's office. I'm just calling to confirm you one o'clock appointment for tomorrow."
"Uh…yeah…yes, thank you. I'll be there." She replaced the receiver. Okay, so strike that, there was something that could kill her rush. The doctor's appointment itself didn't upset her, she knew she needed to go for the baby's continued good health. Clark's absence was what killed her. This was yet another thing they should be experiencing together. She knew what this appointment was, the first one where she'd hear the baby's heartbeat. The excitement that should have accompanied that prospect was lost, dampened down by the fact that Clark wouldn't be there to hear it. Though, she thought sadly, if he were here, this wouldn't be *his* first time hearing it, not with that super hearing of his. She sighed heavily.
"What's wrong, Lois? Who was on the phone?"
Clark's voice startled her. She hadn't even noticed him coming to stand beside her. "Uh…oh, it's nothing. Just the doctor's office reminding me of my appointment tomorrow." At his look of concern for her well-being, she smiled and added in a whisper, "For the baby."
"Oh…um…okay. I'm glad it's nothing serious."
"Nope. Just a routine checkup."
He crouched down beside her and seemed a little hesitant. "You know, Lois, that reminds me…I don't want to rush you or anything, but…well…you're starting to show a little and…I was just wondering when you wanted to announce your news."
She was starting to show. She wasn't sure if the thought made her happy or sad. A small smile started at the corners of her mouth but died before it finished. They *would* have to tell everyone soon. And that was one more thing Clark would miss out on. He'd never be able to proclaim to the world that he was going to be a father. Everyone would congratulate him, but the real pride for him would be his connection to this planet, the human race. For once and for all, he'd feel like he belonged here. He'd feel just like any other proud father to be. Except that he wouldn't because he wasn't here. The other Clark was, and he was staring at her for all the world like he'd just told her he'd run over her dog.
"Lois, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have brought it up…I just thought that…"
She put a hand on his shoulder. "No, Clark, it's okay. You're right. I…I want to wait. Just a little while longer."
For him. Her Clark. She wanted to hold out as long as she could so she could give him his moment. He didn't blame her. And he hated that his being here would, indirectly, be the cause of more pain for her. To tell the truth, he wasn't looking forward to the moment either. "I understand, Lois. Whenever you're ready. I'm just gonna…" he rose and gestured back to his desk, "…get back to work. I just wanted to make sure you were okay."
He nodded and returned to his seat. Guilt tore at him. He shouldn't be here, Clark should. He felt he was stealing all these precious moments from his counterpart. Clark could only imagine what it would feel like. To declare to the world that he'd fathered a child. And with the woman he loved no less. This time the envious feelings didn't surface. He couldn't envy his counterpart for this. Not only was he not here to know or experience the certain euphoria it would bring, but what if he never did? What if the other Clark died without ever knowing the one thing Clark was sure his counterpart had always wanted? There was a difference in knowing, being resigned to the fact that the same would never happen for *him*, but the other Clark, he'd had that hope. And the fact that his counterpart could have actually been living his dream, his wish, but wasn't here, saddened Clark more than he could say.
Lois sat quietly in the Jeep next to Clark and stared blankly at the building owned by Harris Shipping. The state of disrepair and the broken streetlights surrounding it certainly suggested that the warehouse was abandoned. Her mind wasn't on the building though, it was on Clark. Her Clark. She resisted the urge to feel her abdomen. This Clark didn't need to worry about her more than he already was.
This wasn't just the appointment at which she'd hear the baby's heartbeat, she'd get to see it too. Not necessarily the gender, but she'd *see* the baby. She'd actually be able to witness the sight of the miracle growing inside her. That was something she hadn't known. Not until she'd called the doctors office back to see it she could reschedule the appointment. Postpone. Put off. Stall. The receptionist had told her there was nothing available for weeks and had gone on excitedly, oblivious to Lois's turmoil, trying to convince her that this would be thrilling. That she shouldn't put it off anyway. "Oh, and be sure to bring your fianc‚ too. He really shouldn't miss this," she'd said.
Lois hoped she'd sounded half as cheerful when she'd conceded defeat and hung up the phone. She didn't think of herself as a celebrity per se, but there were people that followed her and Clark's work regularly. Apparently the receptionist was one of them. Lois had only been to this office once, the woman couldn't have known who the father was. Unless of course she read the Planet.
Bring your fianc‚. The father. He really shouldn't miss this.
Exactly. He shouldn't, but he would. Unless by some miracle he came back before one o'clock tomorrow. She bit her bottom lip in an effort not to cry.
Clark's voice startled her and it took a moment to register *which* Clark he was. She glanced over at him, careful not to let him see her eyes. She was sure they were about to overflow. Clark was fidgeting and he seemed a little tense too.
"Lois," his voice was soft and full of concern, "What's wrong?"
She swiped at a tear that had escaped. "Nothing." Why did her voice sound so meek and unconvincing?
"Lois, talk to me. We're friends, right? Maybe it'll help to tell me."
She tried valiantly to keep from losing it. And she did a pretty good job. Her body wasn't wracked with sobs, but the tears did stream down her face, unbidden. Far past the point of being able to hide anything, especially form a man with super senses. Not to mention that pesky connection of theirs. She felt his hand come to rest upon her knee.
She looked up at him, meeting his eyes.
"I hate to see you cry. Please tell me what's wrong."
"I…" she took a deep breath before continuing softly. "Clark's gone and he's going to miss our first sonogram."
"Oh, Lois! I'm sorry."
He didn't know what to say. Nothing would help the matter. He couldn't bring Clark back. He could offer to go with her but he knew that would be worse for her. His wished he could be her Clark, but this time it was solely for Lois's sake.
"It's okay, Clark. Nothing you can do. It's just hard to think about all these little moments that Clark is missing. I mean, even if he comes home, there's no way to get those back."
"I know, Lois. If there were anyway to bring him back, I'd do it in a heartbeat."
"I know you would, Clark. Thank you."
He hated to see her in so much pain. Especially when there wasn't a thing he could do to ease it. Why was life so cruel to them both? The thought brought back something he'd overheard H.G. Wells say to Lois, "The hardest lesson is that love can be so fair to some and so cruel to others. Even those who would be gods." What kind of game was Wells playing at here? See how much I can make them suffer? H.G. Wells was infuriating beyond belief. If he ever…<Shhh! Be quiet and move quickly>.
Oh. OH! "Something's happening, Lois." He reached for the binoculars and handed them to her. He tried not to pay attention as she wiped at her eyes before lifting the device up to look through it. With his hearing engaged, he couldn't help but notice her heart rate increasing. She was excited. Good. Something to take her mind off all this…
"Clark, what's in those crates?"
He enhanced his vision and his jaw dropped. Guns. Hundreds of guns.
"What? Clark, what do you see?"
"Guns. Heavy artillery. And not just a little."
She looked at him excitedly. "Clark, this is it! It's gotta be!"
"Yeah. Now we have to find proof that this is Mindy Church behind all this and what exactly they're doing with all those guns."
"Do you recognize anyone?"
He looked back to the warehouse and shook his head. "Nope."
"Oh well, looks like Ms. Harris is going to be getting a visit from Lane and Kent."
There was a gleam in her eye when he glanced back at her. Yes, this was just what she needed, what they both needed to get their minds off all the pain. If only it hadn't hurt when she'd said 'Lane and Kent.' He'd never be the real Kent in this partnership.
Clark watched Lois as she pulled the Jeep into the visitor's parking space in front of the Harris Shipping corporate building the next morning. They had set up an interview with Ms. Harris earlier before leaving the Planet building. Lois was riveting to watch whenever she sunk her teeth into a story. Clark remembered how her eyes had lit up, and he had felt the excitement radiating off her as soon as she'd made the phone call.
Lois unbuckled her seatbelt and opened her door. Clark followed suit. Outside, he found himself quickening his pace to catch up with her. He made it to the large glass doors moments before she did and opened one for her, allowing her to precede him into the building.
As they approached the secretary's desk, he heard her ask under her breath, "So, do you think Harris is in on it?"
He just shrugged. He had a feeling she might be, but the secretary had already acknowledged their presence.
"Can I help you?"
Lois spoke up first. "Yes. Lois Lane, Clark Kent of the Daily Planet. We have an interview with Ms. Harris."
"Of course, go right in, she's expecting you." The woman motioned to the open door to her right.
They entered and saw a young, average-built brunette woman with fading blond highlights sitting behind a desk with a laptop in front of her. She closed it quickly and smiled up at them.
Clark wondered what exactly she'd been working on.
"Ms. Harris, I'm Lo—"
"Lois Lane and Clark Kent. I know. I read…your work." She was grinning an awful lot like she was delighted to see them. Clark became a little uncomfortable; she was eyeing him hungrily.
Lois noticed too and must have held back her glare because she just smiled sweetly. "Thank you, Ms. Harris. We—"
"Oh, please, call me Diane."
Lois smiled graciously again. "Diane, we had a few questions for you."
"Of course. Please, have a seat. How can I help you?"
"You own the old warehouse on Columbus and fifth, right?"
Clark smiled inwardly. Lois sure didn't waste any time. He noticed Diane's smile falter for a split second.
"Yes." He could hear Diane's heart racing, thought he wasn't quite sure if it was because she was lying of because she was devouring him with her eyes again.
Lois continued, "We're doing a story on the poor business practices of corporate owners. We're going down the list of all the folks who have warehouses that fail to meet Metropolis's strict building codes, and or have buildings which may be contributing to the rock-bottom real-estate prices in their particular neighborhoods. In order to give owners a chance to explain themselves before we go to print, we're asking each person with a warehouse in question, what these broken down buildings are being used for, and if there are any immediate plans to resurrect them? How do you respond?"
Oh, Lois was good. He had to marvel at her interviewing technique. Diane was decidedly uncomfortable, though she was hiding it well.
"Well, Ms. Lane, we don't have any plans currently, but we do use the warehouse for storage at the moment so the space isn't going to waste. Isn't this a bit of a…well…trivial story for a reporter of your caliber? And they sent two of you? My, news really must be slow."
"It's rare we find corporate owners so completely out of touch with what interests the public. This has been enlightening. Thank you for your time, Ms. Harris."
The woman didn't respond, she simply glared. Clark couldn't blame her, but he himself was smiling on the inside. Lois was incredible.
Outside the building once again, they headed back to the Jeep.
"Clark, she knows something! Did you see her face? Quick, listen. See if she's calling anyone right now."
Lois watched as Clark tilted his head a fraction. Her Clark had always done that too. She found the gesture odd. Did they need to tilt their heads? Did the motion help them hear better? She watched Clark's expression change. Yep. Harris was in on it. Whatever *it* was. And Clark was worried. "What do you hear, Clark?"
"She called Mindy Church. Looks like we were right."
"Yes!! I knew it. Now we just have to find some proof…"
"Lois, this could be dangerous. She told Mindy we might be on to them. And from what I've heard of Mindy, she's not someone you want after you. Maybe you should…"
"Oh, maybe schmaybe," she scoffed as she unlocked the Jeep and got in. Once both doors were closed she continued. "You're just like Clark. I'm not worried. I have my own personal bodyguard and early warning system, remember? She patted his chest for emphasis. And besides, she thinks Superman is gone, anything she tries won't be effective."
She watched Clark roll his eyes and let out an exasperated sigh. "But Lois, *you* have to be more careful now. The baby. Speaking of which, isn't your appointment in an hour?"
She frowned. Clark was right, she did have to be more careful now that she had a baby on board. In the excitement of the story, she'd almost forgotten she *was* pregnant. The last time she's had a lead this thrilling had been months ago. He'd mentioned her appointment too. She didn't want to think about that. Not when they just had a break in their story. "Clark, I'm canceling the doctor. I can reschedule. This is big. Huge! I can't leave you to work alone."
"Lo-is. Come on, you have to go. You'll only be gone an hour, right? I think I can work on my own for that long"
Her heart fell right along with her excitement. She *should* go. She just didn't want to. Not without Clark. She sighed and started the car. "Fine. I'll drop you off and meet you back at the Planet."
Lois sat outside the doctor's office in her Jeep. She didn't want to go in. She kept thinking, maybe if she waited just a little longer, Clark would come back and he wouldn't have to miss this. But she knew she couldn't. This was important. Never mind this being a momentous occasion, she had to know that her baby was okay. This pregnancy was unprecedented after all. And on top of everything else, she was more than a little worried that something could go wrong. *That*, she knew, would be devastating. And the thought was also what got her out of the car and inside the office. That, and the fact that she had to pee really badly. Honestly, did she *have* to come with a full bladder?
A perky young blonde glanced up as she entered. This *must* be the woman she'd spoken with on the phone.
"Ms. Lane! I'm so glad you could make it. I'm a big fan of your work. It's a pleasure to actually meet you."
Yep. Definitely her. "Oh, thank you." Lois wasn't still used to her apparent celebrity status, even after all these years. "It's always nice to meet a fan."
The woman blushed a little. "You must be so excited. Is Mr. Kent coming?"
"Uh, no. We had a big break on a story and he's stuck in the office. He wishes he could be here though." The lump in her throat was back.
"Oh, that's too bad." The woman frowned a bit. "If you want, we can make a videotape of the sonogram, that way he can watch it later?"
A hint of a smile found its way to her mouth. "I think I'd like that, thank you."
"Well, go ahead and have a seat, I'll let Dr. Sangio know about the tape then. The nurse will call you when she's ready."
Lois turned and found an empty seat in the waiting room, away from the other women. She hoped no one would talk to her. She'd heard that pregnant women were rather chatty in the company of other pregnant women. She didn't want to talk to anyone right now.
The babies and mothers from the parenting magazines in front of her seemed to stare at her. Almost like they were taunting her. Look how happy we are. Baby and me. That would be her in a few months. Except, she was sure that the women in the magazines had something she didn't. Husbands. Fathers.
She didn't know if this was something she could do alone. And that scared her. She hadn't thought much about that, but now that the thought had entered her mind, it terrified her. She wasn't prepared for this. The idea of actually giving birth, alone, was even more daunting than it would have been if Clark were here. And what if the other Clark was still here when the time came? Having him there would be…well, it would be nice to have *someone* there. He'd *have* to be there. Everyone would expect him to be. According to everyone else, *he* was the father. She felt her chin trembling. Oh, God. She couldn't cry. Not here. She did her best to dab at her eyes without being too obvious that they were brimming with tears. The scenes from the movies came to her — the doctor hands the baby to the mother. The mother smiles at her child and then she looks at her husband and they share a teary smile before he kisses her sweetly.
What if the other Clark had to be there for that? Everyone would expect the picture perfect scene from them. They were the perfect couple. Would everyone expect them to be married by then too? A tear escaped and she swiped at it quickly. How on Earth was she going to do this?
She raised her head. "Yes." She hoped her eyes weren't too red.
"Right this way."
Lois followed the nurse to an examination room down the hall. She eyed the table wearily. The nurse told her to go ahead and get up on the table and unbutton her slacks. She'd said the doctor would be along in a minute before she left Lois alone in the room. The paper rustled underneath her as she settled on the table. She took one more swipe at her eyes and blinked a few times. Maybe it wouldn't be too obvious that she was a blubbering wreck.
Dr. Sangio walked in then with a smile on her face. "Hello, Lois, it's been a few weeks. How have you been doing?"
She could tell Dr. Sangio had noticed her red eyes, but she wasn't saying anything. "Fine. A little emotional, I guess, but fine, thanks."
She smiled knowingly. "Hormones. They'll get you every time."
"Yeah, I suppose so."
"So, you ready to start?"
"Sure." She hadn't asked about Clark. Good. One less explanation she wasn't sure she could give. At least not without crying.
Dr. Sangio rolled a large cart full of electronic equipment towards Lois. The machined looked only vaguely like they did in the movies. The doctor flipped a switch and the small TV screen lit up, an eerie looking green, and Lois heard a few beeps.
"Okay, Lois, we try to warm this stuff up a little, but it still might feel a bit cold once it's on." She took a tube of jelly and squirted some one Lois's abdomen. Lois flinched at the sensation and watched silently as Dr. Sangio spread the substance over her belly.
"You ready to see your baby?"
Lois nodded. She was and she wasn't, but regardless of whether she was ready or not, the doctor touched the sonogram device to her stomach and the room suddenly filled with a rapid thump thump. The screen next to her changed to a grainy, unclear image. Lois tensed. Though, she wasn't sure if it was because of the pressure on her bladder or the one on her heart. The heartbeat was so fast. Was that normal? She looked at the screen, trying to find a baby, but she wasn't sure of what she was seeing.
Dr. Sangio must have seen the worry in her eyes. "A hundred and forty six beats per minute, perfectly normal. And this," she pointed to a green mass on the screen, "is your baby." Lois followed her finger as she spoke. "This is the spine and here's the head. It's hard to tell at this point in your pregnancy, but it looks like it might be a girl."
Lois couldn't hold the tears in and they streamed down her cheeks. Her baby. A girl. The doctor wasn't sure, but Lois knew. It was a girl. Clark's baby girl. And he wasn't here. He'd missed it. He wasn't here to hold her hand and kiss her. He wasn't here to see the miracle he'd help create. She was shaking and she could feel the wet heat of the tears on her face.
"Amazing, isn't it?"
Lois just nodded. She couldn't speak around the lump in her throat. She watched mutely as the doctor moved the device around a bit more and pressed a few buttons on the machinery. Dr. Sangio wiped the sticky gel off with a soft cloth. She handed Lois a few black and white pictures.
"Here, your baby's first picture. I know you're probably ready to explode, so you're free to go to the bathroom now," she smiled. "I'll give you a few minutes and then I'll come back in case you have any questions for me."
Lois watched her leave the room. She stared down at the pictures in her hand and traced the image of her baby with her finger. Another first that Clark had missed.
Sitting in the Jeep outside the doctor's office, Lois let out a shuddering breath. That had been difficult. Wonderful. Awful. Miraculous. The doctor couldn't say for sure that she was having a girl, but Lois had a feeling anyway. Her wildly thrumming little heartbeat had seemed to fill the room. And the moment she'd made out the tiny image on the screen, Lois had felt connected to her baby in a way that she hadn't thought possible before. She was responsible for this little life growing inside her. She had *created* her. She and Clark had. And that's what had been awful about the appointment. The moment she would have turned to Clark, squeezed his hand, kissed him gently…
That moment didn't happen.
As excited as she was about this story and the huge break they'd made today, she wasn't up to going back to work. She was grateful that their co-workers didn't know about the baby yet, otherwise they'd have been all over her, fussing over and coddling her. How'd it go? Did you see the baby? Do you have pictures? Why didn't Clark go?
Yeah, it was a good thing they didn't know. Unfortunately, she needed to tell them. Soon. But she really didn't want to deal with that. She and Clark would have to act even more in love and excited about their new family. Then the questions would start. Three hundred and forty two different ways to ask, "When are you getting married." She didn't think she was a good enough actor to field that one. Lois took a deep breath and started the car. Today was going to be a long day.
Clark looked up from his notes in the conference room when the elevator dinged. Unlike the other fifty-two times he'd checked, he knew it was her this time. He could hear her heartbeat. Unfortunately, he hadn't been able to accomplish much while she'd been gone. Their connection had kicked in full force and he'd felt the torment she'd been in. There'd been a brief moment of exhilaration but it'd quickly been replaced with sadness. Anguish. Clark watched Lois as she descended the ramp into the bullpen. She met his eyes through the window as she headed toward him and seemed relieved to see him. The comfort of a familiar face, he hoped. She entered the room and closed the door quietly behind her.
"Hey." She smiled weakly as she sat down next to him.
"Hey," he replied softly. "How'd it go?"
"Good. Everything's fine. The doctor couldn't say for sure, but it looks like a girl."
"That's great, Lois. I'm happy for you."
"Yeah." Her smile turned wistful and he followed her eyes as she stared absently at the papers scattered about the table. "Thanks."
She was quiet after that and he was too. What could he say? He knew she was still upset over the whole ordeal. Any further questions would surely lead to the one thing he was sure she didn't want to talk about. Her Clark and the hole his absence had left, especially now, as all the things that were supposed to be exciting were happening. The story. They could talk about the story. "So, I was wondering where we should head next. Where do we go from here, now that we know for sure that it's Mindy behind all this but we don't have any hard evidence?"
He watched her expression change from one of grief to one of determination. Determination to get the bad guy or to get her mind off of everything, he wasn't sure. But at least the anguish wasn't flooding off her in waves anymore. No, the tides had ebbed for the moment and now she was thinking. He felt useless in all this. The only information he had was what they'd researched. He didn't have any history, no prior knowledge in this universe. He felt he should be thinking too, trying to come up with something.
"Bermuda!" Lois declared with a gleam in her eye.
What? He'd thought that she'd been contemplating the story, not vacation spots. "Bermuda? Sorry, Lois, I'm not following."
"Joey Bermuda aka The Handyman. He's sort of a 'kill your enemy in a creative way' for hire kind of guy. He was the guy who went to prison last Christmas for numerous crimes, not the least of which was attempted murder. He never did say who hired him. Clark and I had a feeling that it was Mindy Church, but we never could prove anything. Which, by the way, infuriates me because *three* of those attempted murders were on Martha, Jonathan and myself. He never had any grudges against us, someone had to have hired him, and I'd bet my Kerth Awards it was Mindy. I'd give my eye- teeth to see that woman rot in prison!"
Wow. He'd never known all that. Lois was incensed now, angry, fired up. Like one of those dogs that gets hold a bone and won't let it go. "Don't worry, Lois. We'll get her this time. She won't even know what hit her."
Clark had never been more relieved to see a smile on Lois's face.
"So, are you coming with me to ask Mr. Bermuda if he'd like a one way ticket to early parole?" She beamed.
"Wouldn't miss it for the world."
Lois sat next to Clark in the visitors' room at the Metropolis State Prison, waiting for the guard to bring in Joey Bermuda. She'd been here a few times in her career, once with Clark, when they'd been investigating Resurrection. She sighed. She really needed to stop thinking about Clark and get her mind on the investigation. She wondered if they'd be able to get anything from Joey, if he'd confirm her suspicions about Mindy.
A heavy steel door opened and Joey Bermuda entered in hand cuffs, a prison guard prodding him forward with his nightstick. The guard forced Joey into a chair across from her and Clark and went to stand by the door. She smiled cordially at Joey.
"Ms. Lane." He smirked at her and gave Clark a nod. "Mr. Kent. So, to what do I owe the pleasure of this visit? Come to add to my sentence? Did you find something *else* to nail me for?" His defiant stare and arrogant tone didn't deter her.
"Quite the opposite, Mr. Bermuda," Lois countered.
"Oh, call me Joey. We're practically friends, right?" She didn't miss the sardonic tone in his voice.
She forced a smile. "Joey, we've come to make you a deal."
"Oh?" He leaned forward in his chair, the metal handcuffs clinking against the table as he brought his hands to rest in front of him. "What kind of deal?"
"We want Mindy Church. You tell us what you know and we'll talk to our friend at the police department about reducing your sentence."
"What makes you so sure I have anything on that witch?"
She raised her eyebrows at his comment. His posture was still edgy. He was interested all right. "We have our sources, Mr. Bermuda. But I thought you'd be more interested in being able to see your daughter graduate from high school. You know, aside from the pictures your wife *might* send you." She saw Clark smile out of the corner of her eye and she couldn't help but smile herself. She was good, wasn't she?
On the opposite side of the table, Joey wasn't smiling. "You don't play fair, Ms. Lane, but all right, here's what I know.
After their meeting with Joey Bermuda, Lois had driven both of them back to her place. Clark had agreed that there wasn't much left they could do at the Planet today. In truth, he'd agreed because he could feel she was miserable and distressed again. Something Joey had said had struck a nerve.
He sat in her living room while she changed and thought about the atrocities he'd heard. Mindy had hired him to kill Superman, that much they'd already speculated. Clark had been appalled when Joey had laid the details out before them. He could tell Lois hadn't ever imagined the maliciousness of the plan. Not just that they'd conspired to kill her fianc‚, but the fact that they'd stolen his spaceship and cultivated and grown a Kryptonian virus from it. Pure evil.
Clark shuddered. He hoped he never had to find out what Clark had been forced to. Clark himself had never been sick before, but just the thought of a Kryptonian virus, something that had no cure, weakening him to the point of death. To the point of needing Kryptonite to cure him. He remembered the horrible, wracking pains of his first and only Kryptonite exposure. This Clark must have been in Hell.
Lois emerged from her bedroom wearing a simple t-shirt and flannel pants. He tried not to pay attention to how beautiful she looked in such ordinary clothing. He was all too aware of where that kind of thinking had gotten him before.
"Are you okay, Lois?"
Her lips moved in an attempt of a smile as she took a seat on the other side of the couch. "Yeah…no…I don't know. I hadn't thought about how I'd feel. I mean, I *knew* that Mindy had tried to have Clark killed with some kind of virus that we suspected was from Krypton. I knew this was the information we were going to get from Joey, but…" She took a deep breath. "I…I didn't realize that was how they'd done it. That they'd preyed on Clark's compassionate nature, getting him to talk Mindy down from her supposed suicide. Somehow, that makes it even worse.
"I'm not sure how I feel. Okay, like I got run over by a steamroller. That's how I feel. Part of it's what we found out, but the rest is the torture of reliving the entire experience. Clark was literally dying. We had to put him in a coma…using Kryptonite."
Clark winced but said nothing as she continued.
"I thought I was going to lose him. He looked so pale, so vulnerable. He was just lying there so still towards the end. I got close to him, rested my head on his chest, just to assure myself that he was still breathing. He came back to me though, by some miracle, he made it back."
He watched her, feeling her pain, as she stared off into space, rivulets of tears marring her face.
"Makes me wonder if we'll be able to do it again. Can we cheat fate one more time? Will he come back to me again? Or did we use up our allotment of miracles?"
"Oh, Lois." He didn't know what to say. He could try and assure her that everything would be all right, that her Clark would come home. But he didn't know for sure. He didn't know anything. But he could offer to hold her. Comfort her somehow. He opened his arms and she came willingly. Clark held her head to his chest and stroked her hair. "Shhh. Don't cry, Lois." His heart ached and he knew the pain was only a shadow of what she was feeling. He felt her tears seep through his shirt.
Long moments later, Lois lifted her head from his chest. She didn't look him in the eye, he figured she was probably a little embarrassed. She sniffed and swept her hand across each cheek, trying to eliminate the evidence that she'd been crying. "Sorry."
"Don't be, Lois. You've had an extremely emotional day today. You have every right to break down and cry. And look at it this way, at least you're not alone. I always find it better when I have a shoulder to cry on…or a chest."
He looked down at his tear and mascara stained shirt and gave her a grin. He breathed a little sigh of relief when she smiled back at him. "I'm sorry, Clark. Look, I've probably ruined your shirt."
"Nah, don't worry about it, in fact, I just might keep it…Art by Lane, we'll call it. What would you say it looks like, a dragonfly?"
She looked at his shirt thoughtfully, a small grin forming on her lips. "I'd say it looks like a taquito."
Clark studied the black marks on his chest. He didn't see a taquito. "A taquito?"
"Yeah, I'm starving."
He let out a hearty chuckle at that. "All right a taquito it is. So I'm assuming you're in the mood for Mexican?"
She nodded vigorously, "Something spicy."
Lois plopped down on her couch with a contented sigh after she'd seen Clark out. Clark had gotten them some enchiladas, rice, beans, and of course some taquitos from the all night Mexican restaurant in her neighborhood. She'd probably never be able to think about a taquito again without smiling. The food had been spicy and delicious, just the thing to hit the spot.
She was just about to get up when the phone on the end table jangled, startling her a bit from her tranquil mood. Who was calling so late?
"Lois! I'm so glad I caught you at home finally!"
"Martha, hi! How are you doing? How's Jonathan?" Lois smiled again and settled fully back into the couch cushions.
"Good, good. How are you, Lois?"
"I'm good, Martha."
Lois noted the hopeful tone in Martha's voice. Yeah, when she thought about it, she did feel good. "Yeah." She smiled. Things were going well. She had a big story to work on and a full stomach.
"So tell me what's going on. And why have you been so hard to get a hold of lately?"
Lois could practically hear the smile in Martha's voice. "Clark and I are working on a story. A big one. Oh, Martha, it's just so good to *finally* be investigating something again."
"That's great, Lois. So you're really doing okay, then? I mean, you're getting plenty of rest and eating enough, right?"
"Well…" Okay, she wasn't getting quite as much sleep as she *should* be getting, but the loss was for a good cause. "I might have missed out on a little bit of sleep in the past few nights, but Clark and I were on stakeouts."
"Lo-is. That's not good for the baby. I want my little grandson or granddaughter to be healthy, you hear?" Martha's tone was light, but Lois could detect the motherly concern behind it. The thought made her smile. She knew Martha was worried about her just as much as she was worried about her granddaughter. But the doctor had said both of them were doing just fine— Oh, my! She'd completely forgotten to tell Martha about the sonogram. "Martha! I can't believe I forgot to tell you. I had my first sonogram today."
"Lois! That's so exciting! So how'd it go?"
"Oh, Martha, it was wonderful. I heard the baby's heartbeat and I got to see her too. The doctor said she couldn't tell for sure, but it's probably a girl. We're going to have a little girl. You should have seen it Martha, and heard it, the sound of her heart beating so fast, the sonogram monitor was all green and grainy and I felt embarrassed that I couldn't see anything, but then the doctor pointed her out and I saw. It was really a sight to see." Lois imagined herself a geyser, one that had just come sputtering to an end, and her shoulders slumped. "I wish you could have been there."
She wished *someone* could have been there. Clark in particular. But Martha's presence would have been comforting. Why hadn't she thought of that?
"Oh, Honey, that's great news! And I wish I could have been there too." Martha paused for a moment. "It's okay to be upset you know."
No it wasn't. She was supposed to be happy. Ecstatic. "What are you talking about, Martha? I'm fine." Lois swiped at the tears on her cheek. Her voice didn't sound *that* shaky. Did it?
"Lois. I know you're torn up inside. Let it out, Sweetie, it's okay."
Leave it to Martha to read between the lines. Lois wondered if that was a motherly sixth sense Martha possessed. Lois sniffled. "It *was* really great, Martha. But I couldn't help but notice Clark's absence at every turn. He should have been there. This is his baby, part of him. He's never had that before. Don't get me wrong, you know he loves you and Jonathan more than life itself, but this would have proved to him that he belongs here, given him roots." The tears were back now, full force. "He's missing everything, Martha."
"Oh, Lois. It's okay. He can still have all that. He'll make it back, you'll see."
"I hope so, Martha. I hope so."
Lois stayed on the phone for a while, listening to Martha's soothing voice. She knew Martha couldn't offer any real reassurances of when or if Clark was coming home, but just having her there on the other end of the line was comforting enough. After a few endearing stories of Clark when he was a baby, Lois said goodbye to Martha and found herself *almost* as content as she had been before the phone call. She finally forced herself to get up and head for bed.
After leaving Lois tonight he'd walked around the streets of Metropolis for a while. An hour or so, maybe, just taking it all in. There was still quite a bit of noise, even at the late hour, but the night was blissfully quiet compared to his own Metropolis. Now, back at home, Clark sighed heavily as he settled on the bed. It'd been quite a day. An extremely emotional day for Lois, he knew. The interview with Ms. Harris had left them both in an energetic mood, but right after, they'd *both* been a little emotionally drained by Lois's appointment. Lois had been exceedingly distraught and their connection had made it impossible for him to work. The emotions had subsided for a while. Until their meeting with Joey Bermuda. Lois had told him how Joey's revelations had upset her. He hadn't told her just how much he'd been shaken by the whole ordeal. Clark wasn't sure if his horror had been from imagining such a thing happening to him, or if he was feeling empathic towards what his counterpart had experienced.
Holding Lois while she'd cried herself out had been a challenge. There was no acting when they were alone. Just him and her. She'd felt so right in his arms, he'd started to wonder again what he was really doing here. And the idea kept slipping into his head. What if he was supposed to stay here?
But it was a stupid idea. Galactically stupid. Literally. Though try as he may, Clark couldn't get the idea out of his head. Was this whole charade really supposed to be temporary? Was Clark coming back? Or did it even matter if Clark came back at all? He just wasn't sure anymore. What if H.G. Wells had brought him here for a completely different reason? There was no Lois in his universe, and now there was no Clark in this one. Maybe Wells was trying to make things right in at least one universe. Logically, the scenario worked. This would obviously be the better universe. Superman and Clark Kent were two separate people here and it would be easier than having to explain Lois's presence in his universe.
He snorted. Yeah. Logically. Right. It was crazy. Stupid even. Lois loved Clark, not him. Wasn't that why she had been crying in the first place? Over her Clark. Not him. But what if Clark never came back? What if Wells didn't either? Could Lois learn to love him? Would she settle for him? Would she even begin to love him the way she loved her Clark? They had that connection. He guessed it wasn't as strong as the one she shared with his counterpart, but maybe it would grow with time. Maybe…
No. The whole concept was stupid. Foolish. He had to stop thinking this way. It wasn't right. No matter how much he wished it were. He didn't really belong here. He didn't really belong anywhere.
His universe didn't feel like home. Not entirely. There was something missing. Someone missing. He felt stupid for loving someone so much who he didn't even know. This Lois wasn't his and the other one, the one he ached for, wasn't really his either. *If* she was alive, she didn't even know who he was. And for that matter, he wasn't sure who he was either. He'd been Clark Kent for thirty years, but in the last year, he'd become someone completely different. The real him. Or so he'd thought. He'd been able to truly be himself in the time since Lois had visited. She'd shown him that the world would accept him and even respect him for who he really was. But she'd also shown him that there was so much more to life. He didn't exactly resent her for it, but it was so hard to know that there was someone out there who could make him feel more complete than he'd ever known, but someone who was dead.
It was cruel.
And now this. Going about day-to-day life with an exact replica of the person he longed for, and…playing house, for lack of a better phrase. Though it was more real than any game Lana had ever made him play. The way Lois touched him, kissed him, looked at him when everyone was watching was wonderful. He kicked himself for it, but he kept letting himself get lost in the moment, pretending that she was really his. And every time he touched her, he'd fantasize that the baby she carried was his too. How wonderful would it be to know that he'd help create another person? That the love shared between two people could result in such a miracle.
He couldn't even begin to imagine. For one thing, he'd never made love with anyone. Not even with Lana, though she'd certainly pressured him. It hadn't been because he didn't love Lana, or because he hadn't found her attractive. He had, but… He'd given Lana many excuses but never the real one. He'd never told her it was because he hadn't been *in* love with her. Sure he'd loved her, and more than just as a friend, but he'd always known deep down that something wasn't right. He knew, given Lana's dominance, he might have given in eventually, but his heart wouldn't have been there. Ever.
Lois had shown him where his heart truly lay, but unfortunately, not where to find it. Now he wondered if he'd remain alone and celibate forever. There were times when he'd thought about a one- night stand, but he'd always changed his mind. Somehow, he knew that the physical release would only imprison his heart further. It was just like when he'd fantasize…the love, the passion, the emotion…was all there in his mind until he'd finish alone. Now that he was here, in the wrong universe with Lois, the whole ordeal was even worse. His fantasies were of her. And not only did he have to spend countless hours with her, he had to do it knowing she wasn't his and would never be his. Clark eventually crawled under the covers and curled up on his side. The tears came then, as they always did and it made him feel foolish. Superman the crybaby. If the world only knew how pathetic their so-called hero was.
Lois woke up the next morning with heartburn. So maybe she *would* be able to think of taquitos without smiling. She crawled out of bed and ambled to the bathroom in search of the antacid bottle. "No more spicy stuff for you," she told the baby, her hand over her abdomen. Lois found the Tums and popped two in her mouth. Then two more. She grimaced at the chalky taste as she chewed, but hopefully they'd do their job and extinguish the four-alarm fire in her esophagus. Her reflection stared at her from the mirror and she stared right back.
Lois Lane. Journalist. Intelligent. Witty. Fianc‚. Mother-to-be. Lonely. Lost. Scared. She ran a hand down over her abdomen again, watching herself in the mirror. Her fingers found the hem of her shirt and she lifted it slowly, revealing the small pooch in her midsection. The image did look rather cute, though she couldn't help but feel like she was getting fat. She rested her hand against the bare skin of her stomach and just stood there for a moment. She imagined she could feel the baby moving inside, but just knowing that there was a little life growing inside her was awe-inspiring by itself. She sighed and let her shirt fall back down. She had a busy day ahead of her and she couldn't spend all her time brooding.
Lois made up a mental to-do list as she adjusted the water in the shower. She and Clark had to visit Henderson for sure. She wasn't keen on sharing her information, but maybe they could work out a little quid pro quo with the detective. After that, they had to figure out a way to prove that Mindy was guilty. Joey's testimony by itself wouldn't cut it. Besides, as much as the whole ordeal still affected *her*, the attempted murder of Clark and everyone she cared about was old news. Joey's cooperation would simply put one more nail in Mindy's coffin. They needed hard evidence of Mindy's current activity to put her behind bars where she belonged.
Lois ran through what they had so far as she undressed and got in the shower. One. Clark's source had alerted them to the presence of suspicious activity in the warehouse district, rumored to be Intergang, namely Mindy Church. When Lois thought about all the crimes Intergang and Mindy were responsible for, it was infuriating. She wanted to prove once and for all that Intergang *did* exist and that Mindy Church was the malevolent force behind the whole operation. Mindy Church would pay for her crimes and Lois would be the one to bring her down.
She'd gotten off track. Okay, two. Guns were being imported from somewhere and being stored at an old warehouse owned by Harris Shipping. Harris, the owner, was in on it and was somehow tied to Mindy Church. Harris had called Mindy in a panic after she and Clark had left. Unfortunately, having Clark's witness of the conversation didn't do much for them in the way of evidence. At least evidence they could use in court. Lois made a mental note to ask Clark later what Harris and Church had said, word for word.
In the meantime, three. Shoot. She didn't have a three. Unless she counted Joey Bermuda's testimony, but that wasn't relevant to their current investigation. Well, they'd have to get a 'three' today. Now, what did they need? Some kind of proof that Harris Shipping was going a little arms dealing on the side and that Mindy was the one funding it all.
Lois growled at herself. Why hadn't she though of that already? She was losing her edge.
She finished rinsing the conditioner out of her hair and turned off the water. Getting out of the shower, she grabbed a towel and wrapped it around her body. She'd better get moving if she and Clark were going to get any work done today.
"What do you *mean* you can't do anything?!"
Clark winced as Lois roared at Detective Henderson, her hands flailing wildly in the air. He watched the scene in silence, afraid to interrupt.
"Lois, what I mean is, you should have talked to me before making deals with convicted felons. My hands are tired here, I'm sorry. I'd love to put Ms. Church away just as much as you do, but at the moment, it seems that neither one of us have any solid evidence."
Lois sat down in a defeated huff. "But you will agree to lean down on the parole board on Joey's behalf *when* we get our proof?"
"I'll do my best, Lois. But you have to bring me that proof first."
"You can bet I will. Come one, Clark." She stood up abruptly and looked at him. "Let's go."
He followed her mutely out of Henderson's office and out of the precinct. He tried not to smile when he heard the detective's, "I know you will, Lane, I know you will." Well, that made Clark feel better about Lois's verbal assault on the poor guy. Not that Henderson hadn't given as good as he'd gotten, but Clark could tell now that the detective's relationship with Lois went a little deeper. Maybe not quite so far as friendship, but there was a definite mutual respect there.
Clark turned to Lois as they headed for the Jeep. "Where to now, partner?"
She unlocked the car doors and they both got in. "The Planet. We need to dig up Harris's financial records." She looked determined as she stared up the Jeep and peeled away from the curb. "There's got to be some extra money in there somewhere. I only hope we can link it to Mindy Church."
"And after that, we take the evidence back to Henderson, he arrests Mindy and Harris, and we write the story of the year."
She beamed at him and he smiled right back. This was fun. He hadn't done this, this real investigating, in a long time. For the past year in his universe, he'd been reporting solely on Superman feats. That's all his editor had wanted. And to tell the truth, that was really all he'd been able to do. He couldn't really go undercover, not with his wide spread celebrity. And anything else he'd try to investigate would be subject to extreme scrutiny because everyone knew of his powers. Had he "cheated" to get the story? Clark shook himself mentally. He wasn't going to think about that now. He was here, with Lois, and they were about to crack the biggest story of the year wide open.
Lois hadn't had the patience to wait for Jimmy to find the financial records. She'd gone straight to the database herself and now the evidence they needed was staring back at her from her computer screen. She looked over at Clark, smiling triumphantly. "We did it!"
He beamed back at her. "We sure did."
"You'd think Mindy would have put up a few more roadblocks for us. Seriously, only a handful of subsidiary and shell companies? She must really lack confidence in our abilities."
"No kidding. Now all we have to do is get all this compiled for Detective Henderson. So…you want me to do that while you get typing?"
She could kiss him she was so happy, not to mention relieved that she didn't have to do any time-consuming grunt work while she was so fired up. She settled for a hug instead and he welcomed her into his embrace, though she could tell he'd been a little surprised to find her there. Regardless, he held her tight for a minute before he pulled back.
"All right, let's get to work, Partner."
She could tell he got a kick out of calling her "partner." She smiled at him and nodded.
Lois could hardly contain her excitement as she and Clark followed behind Henderson on the way to arrest Diane Harris. She hadn't liked that woman and she wanted to see Harris's face the moment she found out she was caught. Besides, her reaction would add a little flavor to the story. Lois smiled as she pulled the Jeep in next to Henderson's sedan in the Harris Shipping parking lot.
Looking over at Clark, she saw him grinning too. She could feel the eagerness through that connection of theirs and it helped to feed her own excitement. So there *was* an upside to this connection thing after all. "Ready, Partner?"
"Wouldn't miss it for the world!"
They got out of the car and met Henderson and one of his patrol officers at the door. Henderson looked at them sternly, but she could tell he was just as keyed up as she and Clark were.
"Okay, you two know to stay in the background. You're only here to observe." He narrowed his eyes at her. "I mean it, Lois."
She threw her hands up in surrender. "Trust me, Henderson, I do *not* want to screw this up. I want to see that woman in jail. Plus, her testimony is key to getting Mindy behind bars where she belongs."
The detective nodded. "As long as we're clear on that." Then he gave her a smile and entered the building, the young officer tailing behind him.
She and Clark followed behind in what must have been the true definition of nipping at one's heels. Henderson glared over his shoulder at them and she and Clark backed off a little. But not much. The detective flashed his badge at the secretary before barging into Harris's office.
"Excuse me, Ms. Harris?"
The young woman looked up and shifted her eyes nervously between Henderson, the officer and Lois. Though she still managed to make eyes at Clark before she schooled her expression back to one of innocence. Incredible. Lois was fuming. It's not like Clark was hers, but Harris didn't know that. And she obviously didn't know just how much trouble she was in either.
"Can I help you?" Harris smiled sweetly as she snuck another glance at Clark.
"Diane Harris, you're under arrest for illegal arms dealing as well as working in collusion with a suspected felon, among other things."
Lois watched and relished the moment comprehension dawned on her face.
"Excuse me?" Harris tried lamely.
"You heard me, Ms. Harris." Henderson nodded to the patrol officer and the man grabbed his handcuffs and headed towards Harris.
"But…but!" For some odd reason, she looked at Clark desperately. "You're not going tot let them do this. Are you, Mr. Kent?"
Lois watched Clark's expression with amusement.
"Well, yes, I am."
Harris seemed like she was going to say something else but instead admitted defeat as the officer secured her hands behind her back and read her her rights.
"You'll pay for this," Harris growled, focusing her glare for the most part on Clark.
Lois had no clue what she was talking about. How did she think she'd manage to carry out that threat? Oh, well, probably just the ravings of a mad woman. Lois turned to Clark who was just as confused and shrugged. "Come on, Clark, we have a story to write.
The next day brought with it Mindy Church's arrest, a 40-point headline, and the first Lane and Kent byline anyone had seen in months. Clark sat next to Lois at her desk and surveyed the newsroom. Perry had allowed someone to make up a banner and even break open a few bottles of champagne. Clark wasn't surprised at the editor's laxity today. This was the first big story in months. A very good reason to celebrate.
Clark watched Lois pour her champagne into her desk plant and smiled, briefly wondering if anyone had noticed she hadn't actually had any. He felt good. No, that was an understatement. He felt euphoric. He didn't need the ability to fly to be on cloud nine right now. Lois smiled over at him as she set her glass down. She was happy. He could tell that much from her body language, but he could feel something was weighing heavily on her mind.
"Lois," he started quietly, "Are you okay?"
She sighed. "Yeah, Clark, I'm all right. I was just thinking that now would be a good time to tell everyone."
"Tell everyone what?"
He watched her hand move down to cover her abdomen. Oh. *That*. Clark wasn't sure he was ready for that emotionally, but if Lois was, then they should do it. Not that he really had a say in the matter. "Are you sure, Lois?"
She looked down before meeting his eyes again. "Yeah, it's time."
Clark stood and held out a hand for Lois to help her up. She took it and together, they made their way to the center of the newsroom.
"You ready?" she asked under her breath, squeezing his hand and pasting a huge smile on her face.
He smiled back at her for appearances sake and whispered, "Only if you are."
She nodded. "Attention everyone!" The raucous in the bullpen took a moment to subside. "Clark and I have an announcement to make."
"Finally getting married?" Ralph shouted from his desk.
Cheers and whistles erupted around them, but stopped abruptly when she spoke again. "No, not yet. But this is more exciting. Clark and I are going to have a baby." She gave her best smile and Clark, for his part, grinned happily and put a hand over the small swell in her belly.
The whistling and cheering resumed. Jimmy came up to Clark and clapped him on the shoulder. "Way to go, CK! Congrats, Lois."
As Jimmy hugged her, her smile turned genuine. She'd always forgotten how much her co-workers actually did care about her. She only wished it were Clark's hand she was holding. The commotion continued for another minute with co-workers coming up to them to give their best wishes. Lois was grateful when Perry stepped in.
"Hey you two, congratulations! You deserve the best. Unfortunately, that won't sell newspapers. And as for everyone else, parties don't increase circulation. Celebration's over, this paper doesn't run itself you know." The huge grin on his face belied his gruff command.
She knew Perry was, as he would say, 'happier than a preacher in a month of Sundays.' And she was happy too. Really she was, but the excitement of their front-page story was fading quickly. She looked at Clark and gave his hand a squeeze. She just wished she was with *her* Clark. This was *their* moment. And it was killing her inside that he wasn't here. She moved in close to Clark's ear. "I think we should kiss for the benefit of those still watching." His nod was imperceptible and he moved to graze her lips with his own. She took the kiss deeper for a moment before pulling away and raised her voice slightly. "I love you."
"I love you too, Honey."
She smiled at him and hoped her eyes sparkled when she did. They returned to Clark's desk and sat down to get back to work. "That wasn't so bad," she lied, trying to keep the smile on her face. If she didn't, she was sure she'd start crying.
He replied in the same subdued tone, "No, it wasn't."
But it *was* bad. He couldn't keep kissing Lois like this. Not with both of their emotions running so high and especially not after that night. He had to keep reminding himself that Lois wasn't his to love. Though, he wasn't even sure it was love. That was the most confusing part, this loving someone he hadn't even met. How could this all-consuming feeling be eating at his heart when he hadn't even laid eyes on his Lois? Would his Lois even be the same? Was she fiery and determined? Sensitive and compassionate? Would she love him the way Lois loved Clark? Would his heart beat in time with hers? Would he ever get to see her face? Look into her eyes? Love her? Ask her to marry him? Have a baby with her?
The not knowing, or rather the fact that he knew he probably never would have those things, was agony. But before he could torment himself further, the sound of a special news bulletin from the bank of televisions caught his attention. A mudslide in China. Hundreds were injured already and they were just beginning to count the deaths. He closed his eyes and tried to block out the noise, the screaming he could hear in the background. He'd been doing fine these past few weeks, but nothing like *this* had happened. He had to get out of here. Away from the TVs. If he could just be where there wasn't a television or radio for miles, he might be okay. China was far enough away that he wouldn't hear the cries of terror and pain.
That's where he ended up, sitting on the frozen tundra. He sat there for a long while, agonizing over his inability to help. For the last month, he'd been able to ignore the minor accidents and robberies and such, knowing the emergency services could handle them. He'd only be tense for a moment before he'd hear that help was on the way. But this? This was far worse. This was a job for Superman and unfortunately, he was impotent. He couldn't do anything. And it was killing him.
How had he ever thought he didn't want to be Superman anymore? Had he really thought he was sick and tired of being a hero to a seemingly ungrateful world? He knew this other Clark, this other Superman, was a far greater hero than he might ever be, but he did make a difference. He did save lives. He hadn't recognized it until he'd come to this Metropolis, but Superman was a part of him. Just being Superman had been what was sustaining him. Even when he'd been at his lowest point, he'd still answer a cry for help. Looking back, he realized it had helped him survive. Half of him — the Clark half — had been robbed from him in his home universe. And here the opposite was true. In both worlds, he was robbed of a piece of himself. But in both places, he had a void where Lois should be. At home, a physical void, and here, one imposed by their own circumstance. There was a Lois here that he couldn't touch. Couldn't hold. Because she wasn't his. She was…
Oh God! Lois! He'd left without telling her where he was going. She'd be worried. Or furious. Or both. And he'd left her alone. Right after "their" announcement. He knew she was exceptionally emotional right now and he'd left. He zipped back to Metropolis as quickly as he could, taking care not to be seen as he landed in the alleyway next to the Planet building. He hardly noticed it was raining as he jogged inside.
Lois's head snapped up again when she heard the elevator ding. But it wasn't him. Where had he gone? She'd seen the reports of the mudslide, but much to her relief, though she felt guilty for it, Superman hadn't shown up in China. Only an hour had passed. A really long hour. She'd found herself having to make excuses for Clark's absence again. She hadn't realized how out of practice she'd been. Perry had come up to her with a perplexed look on his face, asking where Clark was. She'd fumbled out something, barely noting the troubled quality in his eyes and the way he kept looking up at the television screens expectantly. And ever since, she'd been restlessly been checking the elevator and the stairwell doors every time they opened.
She didn't know why she was worried. He was a grown man. He could take care of himself. And he hadn't slipped up and rushed off to be Superman, so why should she be worried? Maybe it was the feeling in the pit of her stomach that something was wrong with Clark. Not that he was in any immediate danger, but something was bothering him, something big. The elevator sounded again and she anxiously waited for the doors to open. She sighed in relief. It was him. She had to resist the urge to jump out of her chair and greet him. He was watching her as he descended the ramp to her desk, looking apologetic as he approached.
"Lois," he started in a low voice. "I'm so sorry, I just…well…" He glanced toward the TV bank and she saw the relief in his face when he saw that the disaster was no longer being featured. "I had to get out of here. I'm sorry. I should have told you." He knelt down beside her chair and his voice became a pained whisper. "I could hear them scream. I couldn't watch. I couldn't listen…"
She ached for him. Her hand went to his face and cupped his cheek. "It's okay, Clark. Everything will be okay. Why don't we get out of here? There's not much left to work on today. We can start our follow up tomorrow."
He nodded slowly and rose. "Let me just get my stuff together."
Lois eyed him wearily all the way to the Jeep. And on the ride back to her place during which he hadn't said so much as a word. He'd followed her numbly to her door and sat heavily on her couch once they were inside. And he still hadn't said anything. She was starting to wonder why she hadn't just dropped him off at home.
Because he needs to talk, Lois.
He was just like Clark, never wanting to burden anyone with his inner turmoil. Though she had a feeling that the Clark sitting next to her, playing absently with the fringe on one of her throw pillows, was worse than her Clark. He'd lived most of his life without his parents, without anyone, to talk to. He must be far more adept when it came to keeping everything bottled up inside.
Which is precisely why you need to *make* him talk, Lois.
He looked up at her and the pain in his eyes tore at her.
"Talk to me, Clark."
He sighed heavily. "There isn't anything to say, Lois."
She followed his eyes when he focused again on the way the little cords of fabric slipped between his fingers. His hands were trembling. She opened her mouth to try something else, but his shaky voice stopped her.
"One hundred and thirteen people." Clark drew in a shuddering breath. She could tell he was doing his best not to cry. "One hundred and thirteen people died today because I didn't save them."
Lois inhaled sharply. She hadn't known the death toll. But Clark had found out. Of course he had. "Clark, it's not your fault."
He tried to protest, but she cut him off.
"Clark. Look at me." When his teary eyes met hers, she continued, "Clark, it's *not* your fault. There's nothing you could have done. People think that Superman's gone, they won't blame you."
"Yeah, but I blame me."
She didn't know what to say. Just like Clark, he felt responsible for every life he couldn't save. Normally, she'd be able to give her "what you *can* do is enough" speech, but that was precisely the problem here. He *couldn't* do anything. And when she thought about it, how fair was it to ask him to be here and pretend to be someone else? Even to the point of causing him so much pain?
"I'm sorry, Clark."
"It's not your fault, Lois."
"But it is, Clark. It's *my* life you're trying to preserve. I just feel…well…selfish, considering…"
She hadn't meant for that to snap him out of his mood, but it did. He looked her in the eyes again, some of the pain was still there — buried — but it seemed to have faded.
"Lois. Don't. I don't blame you. You shouldn't blame yourself."
He was looking at her so earnestly, so intensely. Did he realize what he'd just said? Probably no. She smiled in spite of the situation. "You're right, Clark."
He managed to smile. "Good. I'm glad, Lois. I'd hate for you to blame yourself for something you have no…control…over…" His smile widened a bit. "You know, if I didn't know better, I'd think you set that whole thing up. I should take my own advice, right?"
"Okay, Lois, I'll try."
"Good. Now let's get something to eat, I'm starving."
He chuckled. "So, what do you want?"
"Anything but taquitos."
That night alone in bed, after she and Clark had talked, Lois replayed the announcement in her mind. It'd been time. Today wasn't just the day she and Clark had gotten their page one story, or "just the right time" to tell everyone. It was four months to the day, today, that Clark had been gone. She wasn't sure if the announcement was in memoriam, or to spite him for not coming back. She felt both ways. And…she was starting to feel hopeless again.
She bit her lip and sighed heavily. Four months. Clark had been gone for four months. But why? Why had he been gone so long? His presence on New Krypton was supposed to have prevented civil war. Right? He was just supposed to set up shop — so to speak, find some creative way to get rid of that horrible Nor, and come back home to her. That couldn't take that long. Certainly not four months. But what if she was wrong? Completely off base? What if war *had* broken out, regardless or because of Clark's presence? Wars took years to fight. Not months. Years of death and destruction. People died fighting wars.
What if Clark was already dead? What if he'd been killed? What then? How would she know? The tears came again, flowing freely down her face. She wouldn't know. She'd never know. No one on New Krypton cared about her. Why would they travel across space just to tell her that Clark was dead? They wouldn't. She'd seen the way Zara and Ching were — void of emotion. And she knew they didn't care much for her at all. She'd be left here wondering. Forever. And Clark…she tried not to imagine him dead, but the image came anyway. He'd be buried on a dead rock all alone and she wouldn't even be able to mourn his death or visit his grave.
Lois covered her stomach with both hands. "At least I have you," she whispered.
Lois closed her eyes against the tears. Her doorbell rang and her eyes flew open. Clark would have called first. Who the heck was that at — she glanced at the clock — eleven o'clock at night? Seriously. She let out an aggravated sigh and got out of bed. Lois pulled on her robe and cinched it up as she headed for the door.
Her breath caught in her throat when she looked through the peephole.
She didn't know if she wanted to open the door. All those feelings of anger and hatred that had built up over the past few weeks suddenly turned to fear. Anxiety.
He was here to take Clark. Clark had done his duty, served his sentence, and now Wells was going to take him home. And she'd be alone. Again. And just as quickly as it had left, the anger came back with a vengeance and she ripped open the door. Or she would have if she'd unlocked it first. She growled and disengaged the locks. The door swung in easily this time and revealed the short insufferable man.
"What do you want?"
If Lois weren't shaking with anger, she might have smiled at the utter shock on Wells's face. But as it were, she just stared at him, waiting for him to come up with something intelligent to say.
"Uh…Ms. Lane…I take it you remember me from our last adventure together?"
"Adventure? Is that what this is to you? A little adventure? Gonna write a book about it? 101 Ways To Screw With My Emotions?" Lois took satisfaction in the fact that she'd made him speechless. Good. She didn't want to hear anything he had to say. "Get out of here!" Lois screamed and slammed the door in his face.
Her hands were still shaking as she re-locked the door. She turned and sagged against the door, sliding to the floor. Why her? She'd just gotten used to having Clark around. He was her friend. But so much more that that. She didn't want him to go. Why now? Why did Wells have to pick the absolute worst moments to come barging into her life? She didn't think she could handle things on her own anymore. Wells was going to whisk Clark away and leave her… "Oh my God! Clark!" Wells wouldn't take him without letting her say goodbye first. Would he? She scrambled to her feet and rushed to the phone.
The four rings she had to suffer through grated on her nerves. Pick up. Pick up!
The answering machine picked up. "Clark! Oh, God, please still be there. Wa-"
"Lois! What's wrong?! Are you okay?"
Relief flooded through her when she heard his voice. "Yes. No. Can you come over, Clark? And if you can find that annoying little man with a bowler hat, bring him along. I have a few words for him."
She heard Clark gasp on the other end of the line. And his voice came out strained. "He's here?"
"Yeah." She tried hard to hold on to the anger, but Clark's response and the anxiety she could tell he was feeling were flowing through the phone line in waves. "Just get here soon, Clark."
He hung up the phone with a trembling hand. Wells was back. That meant he was going home. He had been struggling here, true, but he didn't want to leave. He didn't want to leave Lois, not while she was so emotional. Would she be okay?
By the way she'd sounded on the phone just now, somehow he knew she wouldn't be. He'd better get over there. Clark spun into some dark clothing and was high in the air in seconds. It didn't take him long to find Wells making his way to Clark's apartment by foot. Clark swooped down and grabbed him unceremoniously by the back of his coat — much like a mother cat would carry her kitten by the scruff of the neck, though not at all with the same sentiment — before lifting high into the sky again. Clark smiled smugly at Wells's yelp of protest and made his way quickly to Lois's apartment.
After making sure there was no one around to see, he landed in front of Lois's door. He let Wells's feet touch the ground, but he kept a firm grip on the man's collar. Not that he thought Wells would run — well, he *might* — but Clark liked that small amount of control he had left. It might be all he had in a short time.
Clark rapped on the door and listened to the multiple locks disengaging. He could feel Lois's relief at seeing him when the door opened, and felt a similar relief towards seeing her.
Lois stepped aside for them to enter, and Clark ushered his prisoner not so gently inside. He paused, waiting for Lois to lock up again, and then followed her to the sitting area where he brusquely tossed Wells into one of the armchairs. Clark took a seat next to Lois on the couch. They both stared at Wells for a moment. Even under the circumstances, Clark found Wells's stunned silence slightly amusing. Clark glared at Wells, daring him to speak. Daring him to tell the Man of Steel he knew what was best for him.
After a few long moments, he risked speaking, "I may not quite understand this hostility towards me that you both seem to have, but I'm here because it is time for you to go home, Clark. Superman's identity should remain intact. And the baby's future is secure as well." He paused and looked at Lois, obviously expecting some kind of grateful reaction from her for the good news. Lois didn't flinch, so Wells continued, "So…yes…quite…whenever you're ready to go, Clark, we'll be on our way."
Just like that? That's it? No explanation why? No glimmer of hope for either of them? No, "I'm taking you back because Clark is coming home soon…" Who did he think he was? That wouldn't do. Nope. If Wells was here, the *least* he could do was give them some answers. "Why?" Clark challenged. "Why now?"
Wells played with his hands nervously, finally settling on a steepled position in front of him. Maybe as a bit of a barrier. Who knew? Clark could tell Wells was beginning to realized the situation he was in. "Well…quite frankly, though I'm hesitant to give away any information regarding your futures…"
Clark narrowed his stare.
"I…uh…well, all I can really tell you is that Clark is needed back in his universe."
That piqued Clark's interest, but Lois needed answers too. "What about Lois? Is her Clark coming home?"
"Well, I really am reluctant to tell you…"
Clark actually *heard* Lois fume next to him before she yelled, "Spill it, Wells!"
Wells looked Lois squarely in the eye, "Your Clark is coming back, but I really just can't say when."
Clark felt the relief flood through Lois, though she somehow managed to keep her composure. She wasn't going to let Wells off the hook that easily. "Why not? Is this part of your sick little game, too?"
"No. I cannot tell you because I don't know. I feared you might be so eager to know that I didn't look, and therefore I am able to resist you pleas, however much I may want to respond to them. See, you must both appreciate the delicate space-time continuum. It must not be tampered with too much or the future could change irrevocably."
Lois snorted derisively. "So what is it you think *you're* doing, Wells?"
"*Ms.* Lane, I am ensuring that your future and the future of your children don't become the dismal wreck of a world I saw when I last visited. Utopia was in ruins, it was the most depressing sight I've ever seen, and I'll thank you not to be so terse with me!"
Whoa. Clark hadn't expected that from the man. And from the looks of it, Wells hadn't expected the outburst himself. There was silence in the apartment.
Or at least there was until Clark heard Lois's quiet whimpering next to him.
"Oh, Lois!" Clark watched her as she fled from the room and the next thing Clark heard was her bedroom door slamming shut.
Wells looked appropriately stricken and ashamed. "Oh, my! I don't know where that came from. I-"
"Mr. Wells, I think it would be best if you left now." Clark held up a hand to ward off the protest he saw forming on Wells's lips. "Please, I accept that I'll have to leave, but if you could come back tomorrow, give us time to say goodbye, I'd appreciated it."
Wells still looked a little dazed, but he nodded and rose from the chair. Clark saw him to the door and locked up after Wells had left.
He sighed. He could feel how upset Lois was right now. He made his way to her bedroom door and knocked softly. "Lois? Can I come in?"
There was a weak "yeah" that he might not have even heard *with* his super hearing. He opened the door softly and found her lying face down on her bed, crying into her pillow. The sight and the emotions he felt coming from her were almost more than he could bear. He went to her, seating himself next to her on the bed. He laid a hand gently on her back.
"Lois." He didn't know what to say. There wasn't much he *could* say. "Lois, c'mere."
She raised her head slowly and he offered her his shoulder with his arms wide open. She came gratefully and he cradled her in his arms as she wept.
It was some time later when she calmed a bit and sat up to look at him. Her eyes were red and puffy and moisture still clung to her face like rain on a picture window. She spoke and her voice was soft.
"He said 'children', Clark. Which means Clark isn't just coming home, we're going to have more than one baby. That makes me so happy that everything he's missed he'll get to experience. But at the same time, I can't help but wonder what else he might miss. This is his first child. There's no other feeling like it, I know. Even though I know he's coming home, he's missed out on our first miracle together. You can't get that back. And what else will he miss? Her birth, her first words, her first steps? I know I should be grateful for the knowledge that he's coming home, but it's hard not knowing when. When do I get to have my life back?"
"Oh, Lois. I know. But he's coming home. Just try to focus on that. It'll get you through. I know it will."
She sniffled. "Thanks, Clark."
"Anytime, Lois. You know that."
Lois smiled at the man who'd been a true friend to her. Yeah, she knew.
Her smile faltered. There wouldn't be any other times. Clark had to go back to his own universe and she'd probably never see him again. She could feel fresh tears stinging in her eyes. "Clark."
He seemed to realize the weight of his words then too. But there was nothing she could say. She wanted him to stay. He was her friend and she hated the idea that she'd never see him again. But at the same time she knew he couldn't stay. Not if he was needed back in his universe and not if Clark was coming home. And for that matter, did Clark even *want* to stay? If she'd had to hazard a guess, she'd say no. Oh, she had no doubt that he valued, maybe even treasured the friendship they'd forged, but he didn't belong here. And though it hurt to think so, she knew she served as a painful daily reminder of what he wouldn't have — would never have — back home. And here she'd gone on, bemoaning her good fortune. How awful of her. How selfish. He was probably itching to get home now so he wouldn't have to deal any longer with the heartache she'd handed him.
"It's okay, Clark. I'm okay. You can go back to the apartment if you want. You don't have to stay with me tonight."
"Lois! Why would I do that? Why would I miss the chance to spend my last night here with my best friend?"
His *best* friend? Oh! She didn't say anything else, she simply returned to the comfort of his arms and he wrapped his arms around her willingly. She hugged him fiercely. "Oh, Clark! I don't want you to go, but at the same time-"
"Shh, Lois. I know. It's okay."
She sat there in his embrace for what seemed like a long while before she pulled away slowly. She wondered how long she'd be alone. How long would it be before Clark came home to her? And…
"Oh my God!"
"What? What is it, Lois?"
"How am I supposed to explain Clark's absence again? I don't even know how long I have to cover for him. Wells is lucky he's not here right now. I might just have enough energy to strangle him. Seriously. Did he even think this through?"
"I guess not, Lois." Clark shook his head.
"Well, I'll have to think of something."
"*We*, Lois. I'll help you, you know that. Now, what do you think would cause Clark to leave right now and stay away for a while, when everything seems to be going so great? Something that, knowing his personality, people will accept that he'd still come back to you? Whenever that is."
Lois thought long and hard. Clark just wouldn't leave her. Well, aside from the reason he had already left, but as far as their friends and co-workers were concerned, nothing short of…
Ohmygod. That was it. But just the thought made her ill.
"I think I have something that'll work, Clark."
"Oh? Do tell."
Clark looked intrigued, amused even. But this wasn't amusing at all. She sighed and told him her plan. He agreed grudgingly. It would be difficult, emotional, but neither of them could think of anything else. There simply wasn't any other way.
Wells had returned bright and early the next morning. They'd told him to meet them in Smallville in a few hours. They needed to put their plan into action first. Wells had grumbled something about the amount of fuel he was using up, but Clark couldn't care less about Wells's little problem. They had their own to deal with. And it was just a tad more serious.
Clark and Lois had made their way to the Planet in relative silence. They were both dreading what they had to do next as well as his looming departure. Clark looked at Lois's wary expression as they rode the elevator up to the newsroom. He should have been more insistent that she get some rest. It wasn't good for her *or* the baby. And neither was all this stress. He just hoped Wells was right about the baby's future being secure. He'd hate for anything to happen.
The elevator announced their arrival on the newsroom floor and the doors opened. This must be how men on death row felt as they walked the last mile. He shook the morbid thought from his mind and forced his feet to move forward. He had the urge to hold Lois's hand as they walked down the ramp into the bullpen, but he couldn't. They had to maintain the impression that something was amiss if their plan was going to hold any water after it was all said and done.
"Ready?" he asked under his breath.
"I guess I have to be." She smiled tightly, though he wasn't sure if it was because she wasn't supposed to be smiling or because it hurt to smile.
If Clark thought he'd been skilled with his acting abilities these last few weeks, it was nothing compared to what he was about to do. They stopped in front of Lois's desk. He reached a hand up to her shoulder. "Can I get you some coffee, Sweetie?"
She shrugged his hand away sharply. "No, Clark. And please don't touch me," she said coldly.
Her words stung, but he reminded himself it was all an act. He raised hand to touch her shoulder, but took it back quickly, hoping to appear uncertain of the gesture. "Honey, what's wrong?"
"Nothing. And don't call me Honey." She whipped around and stared him in the eye. The look was so vehement that he was a little worried it wasn't her acting.
"Lois! Come on, you've been like this for days now! What is it? Hormones or something? Please just calm down, all this stress isn't good for our baby."
"Excuse me?" Clark didn't have to act much, considering the tone Lois had taken.
"I can't do it anymore, Clark. The baby isn't yours."
Clark's face paled. He'd have liked to call it good acting, but he was surprised at how much those words actually hurt. The baby wasn't *his*. He knew that, but… "What?!"
She didn't say anything. They hadn't rehearsed this and he wasn't sure if she'd been planning to say something or not. Her face was tight with emotion and he could feel the pain this was causing her. Maybe she *couldn't* say anything.
"Lois." He wasn't too surprised at this point that his voice sounded so strained. "Lois, look at me." Her eyes met his and his heart lurched at the anguish hidden there. Pain riddled his voice as he said in a near whisper, "Then who's the father?"
He watched her eyes wander slightly and he followed them. She was making sure they had everyone's attention. They certainly did. The bustle in the newsroom had come to a halt and everyone was now standing in rapt attention, anxiously awaiting Lois's response.
Her answer was practically a whisper, "Superman."
Her voice had been so quiet, so meek, that he wasn't sure that anyone had heard her. The collective gasp surrounding them an instant later, however, laid his doubt to rest. "What?"
"Superman," she said, a bit louder this time.
Clark's mouth hung open for the benefit of their audience. "I… you… I have to go." And with that, his final line, he turned and fled from the newsroom.
Perry had watched the scene unfold from his desk, thanking Elvis that he'd left the door open on what *had* been a quiet day in the newsroom. He still couldn't believe what he'd heard. It just didn't make any sense. Clark *was* Superman. Wasn't he? Perry had been positive. Until *that* had happened.
Lois had blown up at Clark and confessed that she was carrying Superman's baby. And it *wasn't* Clark's. Clark had practically flown out of the newsroom and Lois had left not five minutes after.
How in the Sam Hill had he been so wrong?
At least *some* things made a little more sense now. He could understand now, why Clark had claimed ignorance on the subject of Superman's return. Lois's grief since Superman had left, upon Clark's return, and right up until the skirmish he'd just witnessed was more logical. That's why she'd seemed so edgy and distant from Clark since he'd come home. Perry had known *something* was wrong, but this, this was the *last* thing he would have guessed. Lois and Clark were just so right for each other. And they were so in love. But apparently, Lois *didn't* love Clark as much as everyone had thought.
What he didn't understand was why. Why would Lois do something like that? First of all, it wasn't in her character. He liked to think he knew Lois better than anyone, maybe even better than Clark did. But apparently, neither of them knew Lois that well. Even still, Perry had the feeling that something was off. Something wasn't adding up here. Had Lois and Clark had a fight before Superman had left? Had they fought over Lois's enduring love for the Man of Steel? Had Clark noticed something was amiss when Superman had told them he was leaving, possibly forever? Is that why Clark had gone to Smallville for so long?
No. Clark had been just as shocked as Perry had been when Lois had dropped the proverbial bomb just minutes ago. Maybe Lois had wanted, needed to say goodbye to her hero and the thought that she'd never see him again had driven her into his arms. Had it been just one night of passion? Or had she been unfaithful to Clark all along? No. Probably just one night. Perry liked to think he knew Lois well enough to know that much.
Whatever the circumstances had been, Lois had gotten pregnant, and now everything, Lois's awful secret had reared its ugly head, and things were never going to be the same.
With Superman gone, Metropolis had already lost one of the best men she'd seen in a long time, and she may have just lost another. Clark might never come back this time.
Clark waited for Lois in the alley behind the Planet. He heard her erratic heartbeat just before she turned the corner, and he made another quick scan of the area to make sure no one was around. Her heartbeat calmed a little when she saw him and the next thing he knew, she was in his arms. She buried her head in his chest and sagged against him. He felt her small frame start to tremble and he began to rub her back in small circular motions.
"Shhh, Lois. It'll be okay."
He rested his cheek against her soft hair and took a deep breath. They stayed that way for a while, just holding each other, trying to hang on to the last moments they had alone together. Clark tried not to think about the ache or the tightness in his chest. If he thought letting Lois go that first time back in his universe — back when he hadn't known just how much he needed someone like her in his life — had been hard, he'd been ignorant. This time it would be infinitely more difficult. He wasn't just saying goodbye to a vague impression of someone he thought he needed — someone he thought he loved — he was leaving the only person who had ever been a true friend to him. Someone who he *knew* he loved and whom he would never forget. Even if by some miracle he found his Lois, he'd always cherish the time he'd spent here. He'd learned a great deal about himself, how amazing his life could be. When he got home, he knew he'd be lost without her. He'd be stripped of his anonymity again, thrown back into a life he knew now, more than ever, lacked a wealth of happiness.
He'd live. He'd survive, just as he always had. And he knew he'd worry about Lois. Far more than he should, but she was a part of him now. His best friend. He wouldn't be able to *not* worry about her. He just hoped that her Clark returned soon. She deserved to be happy. *One* of them needed to be happy.
Clark sighed and straightened a bit. "Lois?"
He felt her shake her head against his chest.
"It's time, Lois."
Slowly, she seemed to accept it, and she looked up at him.
"I'm gonna take off pretty fast so no one sees, so it's probably best if you put your head back down until we're in the air."
She nodded and returned her head to its previous position. Clark wrapped his arms tighter around her and scanned the area one more time. Finding no one around, he shot into the air, only slowing when they were high in the atmosphere above the clouds. He adjusted Lois's position so she'd be more comfortable, and headed in the direction of Smallville for the last time.
Breakfast with the Kents had been strained, to say the least. No one was quite sure what to do with the m‚lange of emotions. The three of them — Martha, Jonathan, and Lois — were losing Clark, but at the same time, they knew that their own Clark was coming home. Lois wasn't sure how she was supposed to feel, but the predominant emotion coursing through her was extreme sadness. Her own emotions were jumbled, tangled, fighting inside of her because in some sick twist of fate, she was losing Clark again. Knowing *her* Clark would finally be coming home to her was of little consolation right now due to the whole uncertainty of the matter. But what really tore at her heart was the complete and utter despair she felt radiating from Clark. *He* was the one losing the most in this situation. He'd told her last night that she was his *best* friend.
She watched silently as he shared one of the few *happy* childhood memories he had with Martha and Jonathan. He was trying to hide his pain from them. Though, knowing Martha and Jonathan, they probably weren't fooled. Everyone was at least making a good show of a cheerful farewell. Lois knew what was hurting Clark the most. Martha and Jonathan. For twenty years, he hadn't *had* parents, they'd been cruelly and unfairly ripped away from him, and having Martha and Jonathan in his life, she knew, was a godsend for him. They accepted him for who he was, even as flawed and damaged as he believed himself to be. She knew they hadn't replaced *his* parents, but even still, the relationship was one to be treasured. And in a very short time, he'd lose that. Far worse than her own pain of losing a Clark again, in the same cruel turn of fate, Clark was going to lose his parents once more.
She prayed he'd be all right by himself. Day after day, night after night. Alone. No friends, no parents, no Lois. Oh, God, how she ached for him.
The fateful knock at the door came then, and, for a moment, no one moved. They were frozen to their seats as if by staying still they could stop time, prevent the inevitable. Finally, Martha moved to get the door and, a moment later, returned to the living room with a quite nervous-looking H.G. Wells behind her.
Lois regarded Wells skeptically. She was going to be calm about this. "Mr. Wells?"
"Yes, my dear?"
"I was wondering… If Clark isn't coming home right away, why does this Clark have to leave? I mean… I understand that, for some reason, he was needed back in his universe, but why couldn't you just take him back in time with your time machine?"
He looked shifty for a moment. Like he was actually thinking up a lie. Well, he *was* a fiction writer.
"Well, you see, Ms. Lane, I can't be sure of the effects on the body — even Clark's, with his superpowers — after dimension hopping *and* time travel within such close proximity. He really does need to go back now."
She thought about that for a moment. Something didn't seem quite right, beside the fact that he hadn't even been able to look her in the eyes when he'd said it. She was a reporter. It was her job to know when people were lying to her. And Wells had just fed her a large slice of baloney. But why would he do that?
"Wells, I know that's not true. You accomplished that very task when you brought me home from Clark's universe. Now, really, what's the deal?"
"Oh, right. Yes… quite… well…"
He was hedging. "Mr. Wells!" She growled. So maybe she wasn't going to be calm.
"Oh dear." She watched him sneak a peek at Martha and Jonathan, then at Clark, before his eyes finally made their way back to hers. "I hadn't wanted to reveal this. I thought that perhaps you wouldn't question me, but… Clark has to go because if he stays here, things may very well become catastrophic."
She narrowed her eyes at him. "How so?"
Wells looked around nervously. "Well, Ms. Lane, Lois, yours and Clark's relationship is in danger of becoming too… intimate."
"What?! But I would never… I wouldn't do that to Clark!"
"I know you say that now, Lois, but things happen. Mistakes happen. And I'm afraid Clark just can't stay here any longer. I'm sorry."
Lois didn't know what to say. As much as she wanted to convince herself that nothing would ever happen, she *couldn't* be sure… especially considering what had almost happened last week.
No one said anything, and the silence stretched on for minutes. Finally, Clark moved. He sighed heavily and started to make his goodbyes to Martha and Jonathan. Lois looked over at Wells. He was doing his best to fade into the background, become part of the wall, while Clark said his goodbyes. She *almost* felt sorry for the little man, but she still wanted to throw him out a window — one that was really high up. Maybe this adventure, as he called it, would make him think twice before intruding on their lives again. Especially now that it seemed he'd interfered with their lives even more than *he'd* expected.
Lois shifted her attention back to Clark. She pasted a weak smile on her face and tried not to cry. She didn't want to make this any harder for Clark. Watching him say goodbye to Martha and Jonathan was heart wrenching. These were the only parents he'd known since he was a child and now he was being orphaned once again. She was a little relieved that she could feel the pain emanating from him. Perhaps his own pain would keep him from noticing hers. At that moment, he turned to her with tears in his eyes and the feeling increased tenfold. Then again, maybe it wouldn't. He seemed to search her eyes for permission to leave before he approached her. "Lois," his voice cracked on her name.
She sought the solace of his embrace for the last time, and he drew her into his arms gratefully. More than anything, she wanted to whisper, "don't go." But she couldn't. He had to go. And regardless of what Wells had said, difficult as it may be to think about, he couldn't stay. This was it. The last time she would ever see him. He pulled away gently. Their faces were inches apart.
"Are you sure you'll be okay, Lois? I don't want to leave you like this. It isn't right. I could tell Wells I'm staying. He can't *make* me go…"
She gave him a watery smile. "No, Clark, it's okay. I'll be fine. Besides, Wells said your world needs you. You can't let them down." That wasn't the only reason, but she didn't want to think about Wells's reason for taking Clark now. Ever. She could tell by the look in his eyes that he would give it all up in an instant if she'd asked him to stay. He didn't need his world. He needed her. But at the same time, she knew he *wouldn't* stay. Not just because her Clark was coming home, but because he *was* Superman. Superman was a loyal man and he just wouldn't feel right abandoning his people. "You should go. They need you more than I do. Besides, Clark *is* coming home. We'll be okay."
He nodded. "I just… I wish there was some way I could at least contact you, make sure you're all right."
That and he'd be lonely. More than lonely. She knew he was leaving that part out — maybe to spare her, or maybe because it was just too painful to think about. She wished with all her heart that his Lois hadn't died. There was a *slim* chance she hadn't, but… "Maybe… you have new information… maybe you'll find her."
"Yeah." She watched him bite his lower lip. "Maybe."
One more thing that was too heartrending.
"Thank you, Clark. For everything. I don't know how I would have made it without you."
A small smile threatened at the corners of his mouth. "Thank *you*, Lois. For being a friend. I'll always remember you."
A few tears escaped her eyes and trailed down her face. "I know you will, Clark. I know you will."
He tightened his arms around her again and his words whispered against her ear, "Goodbye, Lois."
He throat closed up and she had to speak around the lump there. "Goodbye, Clark."
She held onto him for a moment longer, until she heard someone clearing his throat behind her. Reluctantly, she moved away from Clark, and was grateful when Martha and Jonathan came to stand on either side of her.
Clark looked at them all one final time and walked out the door.
Later that night, Lois sat with Martha in the living room of the Kent farmhouse. Jonathan had gone to bed hours ago, but Martha, bless her heart, had stayed up to keep her company. Martha had tried to keep the conversation geared towards happier times, like Lois's first trip to Smallville. She had even made Lois laugh by reminding her that she had accused Jonathan of being a cross- dresser.
"Oh, Honey! You should have seen the look on your faces when I asked if you and Clark were going to share a room! It was priceless."
"Martha!" Lois laughed in spite of herself. "Whatever made you think that in the first place? We'd only just met."
Martha just smiled knowingly and shook her head. "I knew you weren't sleeping together then, I was just trying to move things along a little faster. I could tell right from the start you were meant to be together."
Lois smiled wistfully. "I wish I'd known then, too."
"No, Lois. You needed time to get to know each other first. You two might have taken *forever* to realize the truth, but I think you needed it."
They sat in companionable silence for a moment.
"Martha?" Her voice was a bit shaky.
"Do you think Clark will come home before the baby's born?" Four months wasn't *that* long, but how much longer would it be before he *did* come home?
Martha reached out and gave Lois's hand a little squeeze. "I hope so, Honey."
Lois moved her hand down to feel the baby. "Sorry, Kiddo, I don't know if Daddy will make it home in time, but I know he'll love you anyway." Lois felt a small movement against her palm. She was about to dismiss it as nothing when it happened again. "Martha! She kicked! Quick, feel!"
She took her hand and guided it to the spot where she'd felt the movement.
"There, did you feel that?"
Martha gasped. "Yes! Isn't it amazing?"
Lois smiled and brought her other hand up to feel the small fluttering within her. "Yeah, it is."
They sat together for a little while, just the three of them, lost in the wonder of the moment. Martha focused on Lois's belly, rapt. If this reminder of what she had never been able to experience caused her any pain, she didn't show it. Lois was a little sad that she'd never be able to share quite a moment like this with her own mother, but having Martha here was infinitely better. Martha, unlike Lois's mother, knew exactly how she was feeling — so lost and alone without Clark, but at the same time, grateful for small miracles like this. Family. She knew what that meant now, and even with Clark's absence, Lois still felt incredibly loved and at home.
After the moment passed, they got back to talking, but it wasn't long before Lois noticed Martha's poorly concealed fatigue. She knew that Martha wasn't used to staying up so late, and she, herself, was starting to feel the effects of her recent lack of sleep. Lois gently but firmly sent her adopted mother to bed. Then, reluctantly taking her own advice, she made her way up to Clark's old room and climbed into his childhood bed. They'd shared it once before.
She smiled when she remembered that night. He'd been adamant that they couldn't, "you know," as he'd put it. "Lo-is, my parents are in the next room!" She smirked at the memory. She'd agreed that they should wait, but hadn't let *him* know that for some time. She'd teased him relentlessly before snuggling into his arms and settling in for the night. She'd always loved sleeping in his arms. There wasn't a more comfortable place in the world. In his in his arms and in his heart.
Lois eyed her journal on Clark's old nightstand. She'd brought it with her on a whim… well, on more that. Knowing that she'd be here after Clark left, she'd realized she'd need to write *something*, so she'd thrown it into her overnight bag. Lois wondered if she'd really let Clark read it when he came home, especially considering some of the things that were in it. Either way, it did help to at least *pretend* she was talking to him. It was comforting, somehow. She grabbed the journal and a pen, opened it up to a fresh page, and began to write.
The baby kicked for the first time today. I think she responded because I mentioned you. Your mom and I talked about baby names after that. You don't even want to know some of the ones she suggested, though I'm pretty sure she was just joking. I mean, didn't you used to have a cow named Mabel? Anyway, it took awhile, but we decided to name her after you. And before you protest, I know it's a girl because I just know. Besides, even if it is a boy, we can still name him Clark Junior. What name did you finally decide on, you ask? It's Kallie. Sort of a rendering of your Kryptonian name. Kal-el…Kallie. Your mom was thrilled with it. I'm pretty fond of it myself.
It was nice to have such a distraction after today; it was pretty emotional for us all. He left today. The other Clark. I hurt for him, Clark. There's so much he'll never have. He and I became good friends while he was here. I hate to see him leave, especially knowing that I'll probably never see him again. I'll never know if he's all right. The only thing that lifts my spirits now is the fact that you're coming home. Wells didn't say when, but at least I know for sure.
He and I had to do something, Clark. Something that will make our lives difficult when you come back. We couldn't think of any other way. We had to explain your absence again somehow. Clark, everyone thinks that I'm carrying Superman's baby. True as that may be, everyone still believes that Superman and Clark are two different people. I'm not sure how we'll handle it when you come home, but I know we'll think of something. We always do. You and I together make a great team. We always have and we will again. But what on Earth am I supposed to do in the meantime?
Lois had had to buy a plane ticket back to Metropolis. She would have loved to stay in Smallville until Clark came home, but it just wasn't feasible. She dreaded going back to work. The stares and the whispers would be harsh, but bearable… she hoped. She'd done the same thing before. Well, sort of the same thing. She'd endured the gossip and cruel things that were said when no one thought she would hear — back when the whole situation with Claude had happened. But this time it would be different. The harsh words would be *towards* her, not *about* her. Some people would surely hate her for what they thought she'd done to Clark. And then there would be the *other* reporters. The ones who were sure to call her, wanting to find out all the sordid details of her affair with Superman. What did she think about him leaving? Had he told her anything about when or if he was ever coming back to Earth? And how does it feel, Ms. Lane, to be carrying Superman's love child?
Maybe it wasn't such a good idea to go back to work. She'd call Perry. He'd know what to do.
In the meantime, she was going to stay here in her apartment and have some time to herself. She'd already emailed Perry from Clark's parents' house yesterday to let him know that she was taking a couple of days off. He'd understand. He'd probably want to know what the heck was going on, but he'd understand.
She wondered what the front page of the Daily Planet had been today. Perry wouldn't have run the story, would he? Hopefully not. The whole thing was unsubstantiated in all actuality, but she didn't know for sure what Perry would have done about the situation. The Planet had been sitting there in front of her door when she'd gotten home. She'd kicked it inside and left it there on the floor. She hadn't had the courage to unfold it. She would, eventually, but right now, she didn't want to even think about the mess she'd made for herself. Well, thinking about it was inevitable, but she sure didn't want to know whether or not her name had been on the front page of the Planet without something *she'd* written beneath it.
The phone rang, startling her.
And she sure as hell didn't want to talk to anyone right now. She silenced the ringer and turned down the volume on the answering machine. The light was blinking, almost screaming, at her. Thirty-four messages. Lois whimpered. How many messages did the darn thing hold? There'd never been more than five on the blasted contraption, even when she'd been on vacation. On top of it all, she had an unlisted number for crying out loud! She wondered just how far her little "rumor" had spread. Would The Dirt Digger, The National Whisper, and the Tattler have gotten a hold of the story yet? If they had, she was sure that more than a few of the messages would be from her mother, lecturing her on the evils of infidelity. Some from Lucy, too, screaming at how unjust it was to leave your *only* sister out of the loop on something as monumental as this. And the rest, she knew — regardless of whether her family knew yet — were reporters of every kind, crawling out of the woodwork and into her answering machine.
She wondered why there hadn't been any reporters camped outside her door when she'd gotten home. She hadn't thought about it in her relief to finally be home, but now that she did, she was a little worried — grateful — but worried. Though she wasn't about to question her good fortune. Maybe the word *hadn't* gotten out yet. Or at least, maybe the reporters hadn't been able to track down her home address yet. She was grateful for her good sense in making that information so inaccessible years ago.
Lois sighed heavily and looked around at her empty apartment. Why did it seem so cold and impersonal now? Empty. She was alone. What was she going to do all by herself?
And when was Clark coming home?
Lois awoke the next morning to the sound of heavy rapping on her front door. She groaned and pulled the covers over her head. Maybe she could get back to sleep. She didn't want to talk to anyone right now.
The knocking continued.
Lois growled and threw the covers aside. It was just as well since her curiosity was getting the better of her anyway. She grabbed her robe and headed for the door. She was a bit anxious to look through the peephole given all the not-so-pleasant surprises she'd had the last few weeks. The person on the other side could be anyone. Her mother. Lucy. Reporters.
Clark! It could be Clark! She rose quickly up to spy through the hole and saw a man standing on the bare edges of her vision. The man stepped towards the door and back into view, raising his hand to knock again.
It was only Perry.
Her heart managed to find its way from her throat back down to where it belonged and she unlocked the door. She noted the weary look on his face and the bags under his eyes.
"Lois, can I come in?"
"Of course, Perry." She stepped aside to let him enter, then closed and locked the door behind him.
Perry followed her to the couch in solemn silence. He collapsed to the couch with a heaving sigh, but stayed tight and unrelaxed, perched at the edge of the cushions. His eyes wandered almost imperceptibly to her abdomen and back to her face. Not for the first time, but certainly the first time in a long while, Lois felt uncomfortable under Perry's scrutiny. That, mixed with the disappointment at not finding Clark behind the door, was making her stomach churn and roil. Though while perhaps it was morning sickness, she doubted it.
"Uh… can I get you some coffee or something?" She offered, trying to break the tense atmosphere. Anything.
"No, thanks, Lois." He sat in silence for a minute, though it felt substantially longer than that. "So… you're about four months along then?"
She nodded and nervously toyed with the hem of her shirt.
Perry stared at a spot on the wall behind Lois. Four months. Exactly the time Superman had been gone. But that didn't necessarily prove anything. Clark *had* to be Superman, no two ways about it. He'd decided that was the *only* way it could be. What it didn't explain was why on Earth Lois and Clark had pulled this stunt. Clark obviously had to be out of the picture now for some reason. Had the New Kryptonians come back for him? Had Clark needed to go back?
"Lois," he tried to keep his tone even and non-accusatory, "I want you to tell me what exactly is going on here."
She looked up at him briefly, but quickly averted her gaze again. He watched as she fingered her engagement ring. "The baby is Superman's," she said quietly, sounding almost ashamed.
"And what, Perry?!" She stood abruptly and flailed her arms in his general direction. "I cheated on Clark? He'll never forgive me? And I don't know when or if he's ever coming back? Is that what you wanted to hear?" Lois stilled at the end of her outburst, crossing her arms in front of her and narrowing her eyes at him. Though the slight wobbling of her chin undermined the petulant look he suspected she was attempting.
He shook his head. There was a whole lot here she wasn't telling him. And why should she? He needed to tell her what he was holding back first. "Lois, I know Clark is Superman and I just want to know what's wrong. Did they come back for him?"
She started, and her eyes grew wide at his revelation, but only for a moment. Her look quickly became one of confusion and her arms fell to her sides. She titled her head in puzzlement. "Who?" she asked, seemingly baffled by his question.
Perry blinked. "The New Kryptonians…?" he prompted. Who else could he have possibly meant?
"Oh." Her eyes showed a trace of understanding, but they definitely weren't on the same playing field here. "Um… no."
Okay, strike one. "Did you two have a fight?"
"No… " She was back to playing with the hem of her shirt.
Strike two. And he was out of theories already. "I'm lost, Darlin'." He scooted back further on the couch and tried to make head or tails of the situation. "Why did you make everyone believe that you were carrying Superman's child? *I* know it's true, but the rest of the world didn't need to know."
"Oh, Perry!" Lois sank to the couch, defeated. "I've made such a mess of this. I didn't know what else to do. It seemed like the only way at the time, but what am I going to do when Clark comes home?"
He could see the tears forming in her eyes. But he was still lost. "*Where* did Clark go, Honey?"
"He went back ho — " she faltered. "Well…"
"He went back home?"
She was avoiding eye contact again, still focused on her engagement ring.
"Lois, Darlin', I'd love to help you figure out a solution to whatever mess this is that you've gotten yourself into, but I'm missing more than a few pieces here. *Where* is Clark?"
"Depends on which Clark you mean." She looked up at him with a wry smile.
"*Which*? Oh, hell's bells, Lois, now I'm really lost." The clues were leaking in slowly, but he still didn't have enough to put the puzzle together and get the full picture. And obviously this was something that was extremely difficult to say; otherwise he would have had the information already. "Whatever it is, Lois, you can tell me."
He watched her contemplate that for a moment. He knew she knew she could trust him, but something was making her hesitate.
She sat silent for a long moment. Finally, she took a deep breath and began. "What would you say if I told you that Elvis was alive?"
"Now Lois, as tickled pink as I would be to find out that was true, we *both* know it's not. Right?" He raised a worried eyebrow at her.
"What would you say if I told you that there's an alternate universe in which Charlton Heston is President of the United States, Lois Lane is dead, and Elvis is most certainly alive?"
"I'd say you must have fallen down and conked your head." In all seriousness, though, Perry wondered if she *had* hit her head. "Are you all right, Lois?"
"Yeah, Perry," she paused, taking another deep breath. "I'm fine. The Clark Kent that was here for the last four weeks was him. The one from that other universe."
Perry tried to wrap his head around that concept. Lois had no reason to lie to him, and certainly no reason to make up something as unbelievable as this. An alternate universe? She *had* to be kidding, but as he looked at her face — strained with emotion — the look in her eyes told him that she spoke the truth. "So Clark never did come back from New Krypton?"
She shook her head and he could tell she was trying her best not to break down and cry.
"Is… Is he coming back?"
She nodded. "But I'm not sure when. Could be tomorrow, could be months from now, even a year for all I know." Her chin started to tremble and a few lone tears escaped.
"Oh, Lois, I'm so sorry, Hon. I wish I'd known everything you were going through."
He watched her swipe at the tears on her cheek.
"It's okay, Perry, Clark and I became good friends. I was all right."
"I'll be fine… I think." Lois looked down at her ring again. The poor thing. Pregnant, with her fianc‚ Elvis knew where, and not sure when he was coming back. And this *other* Clark… They'd become friends and she'd lost him too. But *why* had he been here in the first place?
"So this other Clark, why was he here? And how in the Sam Hill did he get here?"
The look on her face told Perry she didn't think he'd believe what she was about to say. Certainly there couldn't be anything more unbelievable than *two* flying men living universes parallel to one another, let alone the fact that there *were* parallel universes.
"H.G. Wells," she said quietly. In fact, she'd said it so quietly that he *couldn't* have heard her right.
"H.G. Wells brought him here and took him back."
"H.G. Wells? As in Herbert — George — Wells? The *dead* writer?"
"Yeah." She glanced at him with a hopeful look in her eyes, pleading for him to believe her.
So there *was* something more inconceivable. "You *can't* be serious, Lois."
"Completely serious." She sighed. "He *is* alive — well, some of the time — and he's quite an insufferable man at that."
Speechless. He was speechless. Never in his entire career had he been without words. Not even the appearance of Superman three years ago had rendered him speechless. "H.G. Wells," he whispered in befuddlement.
"Yeah, I know it's hard to believe, Perry, but it seems that H.G. Wells has taken it upon himself to be the personal protector of all things Lois and Clark. Especially Utopia."
She smiled wryly. "Yeah, but I think that's a story for another day."
"Oh. All right, sure." He was quiet for a moment, still trying to get a grip on reality. Well, he guessed it was reality. "So… why exactly did Wells bring Clark here in the first place?"
"To protect *our* Clark's secret identity. He said it seems to have worked, but I'm not so sure it was for the best considering the situation as it stands now." She stared over at the window for a minute before she looked back at him, almost desperately. "Oh, Perry, tell me I haven't ruined everything. How in the world is Clark going to forgive me when he comes home?"
"Oh, Lois, Hon, I'm sure Clark won't blame you. I assume you did what you *had* to do."
"I know, Perry, but I meant, how in the world are Clark and I going to explain why we're still together? And what about Superman? He'll eventually reappear too, and what then?" She looked at him, desperate for an answer he didn't have.
"I don't know, Lois. I just don't know." He leaned back to rest against the cushions of the couch, mentally exhausted.
He was almost overwhelmed by all of this and it killed him not to be able to think of anything to help her. She was like a daughter to him and it hurt to see her in such turmoil. While he couldn't help her with this problem, there was something he *could* do. "Lois, I want you to go back to Smallville, spend some time with Clark's parents. Wait for him there."
"Perry! No. I can't do that. It wouldn't be right to leave you, not when Clark's gone too. Besides, I need to work. How am I supposed to afford the baby? It's far too early to take maternity leave and I know Clark's vacation and sick pay are all but gone."
"Now, Lois, don't worry about that. I'll take care of it. *Your* vacation and sick leave aren't used up and they are fully separate from your maternity leave. Besides, I plan to keep you working, and if for some reason Clark isn't back by the time your leave is up, *I'll* take care of it."
"I can't let you do that, Perry. That's *your* savings. *Your* retirement."
"Exactly, they're mine and I'll do what I please with them. Lois, Hon, I don't want you to worry about anything, and I don't want you in the newsroom either." He held his hand up to stop her protest and she quickly closed her mouth. "Not right now, Lois. You don't need to hear all of the salacious gossip, especially considering none of it's true… well at least according to the world. I'll think of something. Right now, this is only an unsubstantiated rumor. I'll find a way to take care of it."
Lois sat quietly for a long moment, perhaps thinking of a protest, but he could see in her eyes that the fight had left her.
"Thank you, Perry. For everything."
Her voice was meek, not the Lois Lane he knew and loved at all. That saddened him more than he could say. He wished he could do more, but most of this was out of his hands. He couldn't make her problems go away, and he couldn't bring Clark back any sooner.
She shifted, tucking one leg under the other, finally looking a *little* more at ease.
"I guess I should go ahead and book a ticket back to Smallville. It'll be good for my frequent flyer miles, they've taken a hit lately." She grinned in spite of the situation.
"Yeah, I guess they would have." Perry chuckled. "By the way, I'm paying for your ticket."
"No arguments, Lois. I'm paying for it and that's that."
"Do you want a job when you come back, or not?"
She rolled her eyes at him. "Fine, have it your way."
She smiled at him and it warmed his heart that she could despite everything that was going on. "I knew you'd see logic."
"Sure, Perry, logic… but seriously, thank you. You've done so much for me now and in the past, so much more than I deserve."
"Hey now, none of that talk. You deserve the world, Lois."
He watched her duck her head and blush. As much as he loved this easy banter with Lois, they were quickly heading into uncomfortable territory. He didn't do emotional, and he'd had his fair share of that today. He cleared his throat. "So let's go ahead and pack up some of your stuff, cover the furniture, and book that plane ticket."
Lois had woken up the next morning full of uncertainty. Her life was in upheaval. Everything had been stripped away from her. She didn't have Clark — either of them — and now she didn't have a job on top of that. Well, she *did* have a job, but not the one she'd come to love and depend on. Writing op-ed pieces had its perks and all, but it wasn't the same. Still, she was grateful she wouldn't be feeling *too* useless in the weeks to come.
He'd spent a few more hours helping her pack up her stuff and prepare the apartment for her extended absence. He'd even gone so far as to put her fish in a plastic bag with water so he could care for them at his house. She hadn't questioned just who was running the paper while he was there. She suspected he'd needed the time with her as much as she had needed him to be there. Someday, somehow, she'd find a way to pay him back for all the love he'd shown her.
Lois was on the plane headed in the direction of Smallville now. The only direction that made sense in her life anymore. The place where she could feel close to Clark, feel the comfort of his parents' love, and hopefully, the place he'd come home to her.
Almost nine months now. The better part of a year had passed since Clark had left for New Krypton. Lois was in Clark's old room in Smallville, *trying* to get some sleep. She'd become antsy over the past few weeks as she approached her due date. Lois had read all about the nesting syndrome of pregnant women in their last few weeks before giving birth. Some of her nervous energy was surely due to that as well as her anticipation of Kallie's birth, but she knew that wasn't the only cause.
Over the last few months, she'd come to accept the fact that Clark might not make it home for quite some time. She questioned H.G. Well's supposed wisdom that taking the other Clark away had been the best course of action, but she'd convinced herself that everything would work out in the end. If, for some reason, it didn't, she knew without a doubt that Wells would have come back in an instant. She only wondered now how, exactly, she and Clark were supposed to achieve their foretold destiny, especially considering what she'd had to do.
Something had occurred to her on the plane ride here, months ago. Clark was gone — both of them — and as much as she hated the idea, there had simply been no other way to explain Clark's absence *again*. People *needed* to believe that she was carrying Superman's child.
That had been her original plan, but in her haste to correct the mayhem she'd created in her life, she'd forgotten. She'd called Perry when she'd gotten to Smallville and told him to halt any plans of quelling the rumor and the gossip. Let it spread.
And it had.
Thankfully, no one knew where Lois Lane was submitting her op-ed pieces from. Given her supposed heated break-up with Clark, no one would ever guess that she was at his parents' house. Of course, there was the added bonus that everyone — all the tabloid reporters included — had left her alone. Only a few reporters had gone for the wounded fianc‚ angle and had called the Kents. Thankfully, they'd given up on that… Well, more like Martha had given them more than a piece of her mind and they'd stopped calling. So, now she had all the peace and quiet she could handle. More than she could handle. Too much time for thinking.
Though she didn't have to worry about it now, Lois was more than concerned about Kallie. If she and Clark *couldn't* find a way to put right what she'd done, everyone would know that Kallie was half Kryptonian. Superman's love child. *Everyone* — good and evil — would be after their daughter. She'd tried to think of ways to keep Kallie safe when the three of them finally went home to Metropolis. They could only hide out in Smallville for so long before they were discovered. She hadn't been able to think of anything short of moving to a deserted island — which wasn't out of the realm of possibilities when Clark returned — but that wasn't realistic. She'd shared her concerns with Martha and Jonathan and they'd attempted to come up with solutions, but their brainstorming session had proved fruitless as well.
She needed Clark. Plain and simple. Their minds worked far better together than separately. So, while it killed her to sit and do nothing but busy work for Perry, she'd decided to wait until Clark came home to figure things out.
Aside from her fears, her time in Smallville had been good for her. Being away from all the stress of pretense was freeing. More so, it helped that Martha and Jonathan were here. Their constant support was immeasurably comforting. But, at the same time, she was missing a part of herself.
Before she'd met Clark, Lois had been obsessed about working. Focused, she'd called it then. She'd thought if she pushed herself to be the best, become the best, she could prove to everyone that she *was* someone. She'd done that, established herself as one of the top reporters in the country — a fact that made her proud, made her feel valid.
To an extent.
She'd always felt like she was missing something and she'd refused to believe that it was a man. She didn't need a man to complete her. Her job — her career — had been enough to sustain her. Being a reporter was who she was.
Until she'd met Clark and had fallen in love with him. Not that she was less of a person without him, but she was *more* of a person with him. She *had* needed a man, but not just any man. Clark. She didn't need him to validate her, but he had become a part of her, she knew now, she couldn't live without.
So now, with Clark gone, and with her job in such upheaval, she was lost and alone. She had nothing by which to define herself, and she wasn't sure just who she was anymore.
Just Lois, she supposed.
She'd learned to live with that.
Over the past few months, she'd found a different Lois. One who'd actually learned to sleep in the dead silence of the countryside. One who'd learned to milk a cow, though, truth be told, she didn't really care to repeat that experience. One who'd learned just how hard it was to get around with a huge belly. (Those women she'd always rolled her eyes at *weren't* really playing it up for sympathy). She'd even learned a few things in the kitchen. She still couldn't cook to save her life, but at least now she knew the ingredients that went into Clark's favorite cookies.
Even with her newfound skills and sense of self, she still missed Clark terribly. And even though she'd accepted the fact that he might not make it home in time for Kallie's birth, she still wished for it. Her yearning was more than just her desire to have him experience the miracle, she was scared. That was one thing that she *hadn't* shared with Martha and Jonathan.
Was she going to be a good mother?
She *couldn't* express her self-doubt to them — the picture perfect parents. Oh, she knew they'd shush her and tell her not to talk nonsense, that of course she'd be a great mom, but Lois knew that would do little to allay her fears. No one could do that quite like Clark could. And in this situation, though she knew she would get the very same reassurances from Clark as from his parents, what would really encourage her, was the fact that Clark would be with her every step of the way. She knew, without a doubt, that Clark would be a terrific father and simply having him by her side would bolster her self-confidence.
If he were here.
THREE WEEKS LATER…
Though it had been a painful wait, Clark sent a silent thank you to Zara and Ching for insisting he let his body re-acclimate to Earth so that he would have his powers. It had been torture hovering in the cloaked spaceship above the city. Zara and Ching had assured him that he'd be better off waiting until his powers returned before going home. Given everything that had happened on New Krypton, they assured him he'd be more than a little frustrated without his powers back on Earth. Without them, he'd be impotent in a world in which he knew few weaknesses. Their arguments made sense and he'd reluctantly agreed, spending his days in an atrium filled with comforting yellow sunlight. He'd done his best to focus on the yellow sun, trying to burn out the dark memory of the red sun on New Krypton. Too red. Like blood.
No. He hadn't thought about anything that had happened on New Krypton. Not much, anyway. Needless to say, he'd been more than relieved to find himself floating above his resting spot after three days in the sun.
And now, here he was, hanging high in the sky above his apartment, willing Zara and Ching and his whole experience to fade away. He stared down at the building, half expecting it to be empty, but it seemed to be just as he'd left it — albeit with quite a bit more dust. A quick X-ray scan assured him that, under the dust, all of his stuff was still there. He extended his hearing, but only silence met his ears. He hadn't really expected anything, but there had been that small glimmer of hope that she would have been there, waiting for him. She was probably at her apartment, in bed, sleeping. It was late, after all.
He went to his bedroom to change his clothes. Never had jeans and a t-shirt felt so good. He hesitated at the clothes hamper, the black spandex balled tightly in his fist, and decided on the trash instead. The suit was too painful a reminder of his time on New Krypton. Too many days of fighting, too many nights of horror. Too much time without Lois. If he never saw that black suit again, it would be fine with him. For extra measure, he stared at the material until it ignited. He watched the flames in fascination as they licked the sides of the metal trash bin, watching them dance as if in celebration. He wished he felt half as joyful as the fire seemed to be. Clark sighed and extinguished the smoldering garment with his breath. The costume lay at the bottom — cold, dark and unrecognizable.
Clark closed his eyes and his mind quickly filled with images of fire, as if the one he'd just put out had been burned into his memory. But it wasn't that fire, it was an explosion of memories from months past. Months filled with death. Destruction. Terror. He took a deep breath, just as he'd done for the last nine months when things had gotten too much to bear, and he thought of Lois. He would have never survived without her. Now that he was *finally* back, he was dying to see her, to hold her again, but he was scared. He'd been gone almost a year. So many things could have happened in that time. So many things could have changed. He just didn't know.
He shook himself mentally. He would never know if he didn't move. He flew to Lois's apartment, at super speed so no one would see him in his street clothes. He came to a stop and hovered high above her building. He wasn't sure what to say or how to approach her. With a knot of apprehension twisting in his stomach, he looked down to get a glimpse of her, and his heart caught in his throat. She wasn't there.
It was four in the morning and she wasn't home. In fact, he thought as he scanned the apartment more thoroughly, it didn't look like she'd been here for quite some time. She'd moved? No. Her stuff was still there, but covered, packed up, like she'd been living somewhere else — with *someone* else — until her lease was up. Had she given up on him and found someone else?
No. Lois wouldn't do that.
She said she'd wait for him, always. No matter how unfair and possibly unrealistic that had seemed to him at the time, he hadn't thought she would. He refused to believe that she had. Think, Clark.
Oh. My. God. What if something had happened to her? What if she'd been killed and her parents — or Perry — hadn't had the heart to clear out her apartment? He gasped for breath. If something had happened to Lois and he hadn't been there for her, he'd never be able to forgive himself. He'd always just assumed that Lois would be here for him when he came back, waiting with open arms. He'd never guessed just how wrong he could have been.
His parents. They would know where she was, what had happened to her.
He headed towards Smallville with an anxious heart. Minutes later, he landed softly on the porch of his childhood home. Out on the horizon, the moon cast an eerie glow over the cornfields. He'd forgotten how much he'd missed the yellow sun rising over the Kansas plains and he wished he could see it now. He let out a heavy sigh and turned towards the door. It was still a bit early, even for his parents; he'd have to wake them. He was sure they wouldn't mind, but still —
His heart stopped.
There, in the living room, through the picture window… "Lois…" He barely heard himself. There she was on the couch, curled up so peacefully, but next to her…a bassinet. A baby.
He couldn't move. He couldn't breathe. He watched her open her eyes as if she had sensed him. It wasn't a dream. He could hear her heartbeat accelerate when she saw him. She called out his name and suddenly, the force that had paralyzed him lifted. He was inside in an instant.
Lois heard the screen door fall shut. Though still a bit surreal, the sound was more logical than what she'd just imagined. *He* had called her name, and then she'd seen him through the picture window — like a statue, only a rendering of his likeness, a figment of her imagination. Then she'd whispered his name and the statue moved. Suddenly, he was there, standing in the center of the room like a mirage. Lois got to her feet slowly, her breathing shallow.
Clark. Her throat was tight and for a moment she didn't want to move any closer, just in case he *was* a mirage. "Is it…are you…Oh, God, please tell me I'm not dreaming."
His voice and the emotion behind it were unmistakable. Her heart flooded with relief and she rushed towards him.
"Oh, Clark!" She wrapped her arms around him and held him tight, afraid that if she let go, he would disappear. It wasn't until he cupped her cheek and leaned down to kiss her that she knew that he was *her* Clark. And it wasn't until his lips touched hers that she knew for certain that he was real. The magic, the emotion, the love — it was all there. God, how she'd missed the feel of his lips on hers, the feel of his body against hers, his arms around her. She could stay like this forever.
A newly familiar sound tickled her senses as he ended the kiss. Kallie was awake. She smiled up at Clark and softly broke their embrace. "Clark," she headed towards the bassinet. "There's someone I'd like you to meet." She wiped the tears from her face and leaned down to pick up their baby. "Clark, this is your daughter, Kallie."
He looked stunned, immobilized by the power of the moment. "Wh — when? How?" He stammered, staring at Kallie with awe.
"I think you know the answer to both." She smiled at him knowingly.
He blinked finally and raised his eyes to hers. She'd never seen Clark cry before, but as he reached out and took his daughter into his arms for the first time, she saw tears forming in his eyes. His mouth opened then closed again. He was speechless.
She smiled at them. Her soulmate, her baby, her family.
Family. The word took on a whole new meaning now. "So," she wiped a stray tear from her cheek. "I guess we figured out that compatibility thing after all."
"Oh, Lois!" he choked. He held out his free arm and she went to him, sliding her arm around his waist. She brought a hand up to stroke Kallie's soft dark hair and looked up at Clark.
"I love you."
"I love you too, Lois." He kissed her tenderly. "I love you, too."
A short while later, Lois was sitting on the couch next to Clark as he held Kallie. Martha and Jonathan sat opposite them on the other couch, just watching them. They'd come down shortly after Clark had arrived, and there'd been another tearful reunion. No one had spoken of what had happened while Clark was gone, and Clark didn't say anything of what he'd endured on New Krypton. They simply sat and basked in the knowledge that things were right again.
Lois looked at her family.
She couldn't stop marveling at that word. It had never meant more to her than at this very moment. She rested her head on Clark's shoulder and looked down at Kallie in his arms — arms that were so strong, yet so gentle. She felt Clark lay a kiss on her head, and she smiled.
If only they could stay like this forever.
But Lois knew that wasn't possible. They had to deal with real life at some point, and she'd have to tell Clark what their immediate future held. She'd have to tell him what she'd done.
Martha's yawn caught her attention. The older woman spoke, breaking the calming silence, "Jonathan, maybe you and I should try and get a little more sleep before we have to get up."
Jonathan nodded and stood slowly. Martha rose as well and headed towards her and Clark. She smiled down at Clark and held her arms out. "Here, we'll take Kallie upstairs with us and give you and Lois some time alone."
Lois watched Clark as he leaned down to place a kiss on Kallie's head before he reluctantly handed her to his mother. Martha cradled Kallie carefully in her arms and smiled at her son. "It's so great to finally have you home, Clark."
"Thanks, Mom. I can't even tell you how wonderful it is to *be* home." Clark ran a gentle hand down Kallie's arm. "Really wonderful." He smiled up at his parents. "See you in the morning."
When Martha and Jonathan had left the room, Clark turned to Lois. He stared at her with such a soulful gaze — full of love and regret and longing. "Lois." He reached his hand up to cup her cheek, and she immediately covered it with her own. Such a simple touch, but she'd missed it so much.
"Clark," she said softly.
He leaned forward and rested his forehead against hers, moving his hand down to rest against her neck. "God, how I've missed you."
Everything — all the pain and grief and love — hit her at once, and she started to sob. He gathered her in his arms and held her tight. She'd missed those arms, his embrace. In his arms, she felt so safe, so loved. She just held on to him fiercely and listened as he told her that everything was going to be okay. He was here now, everything had to be okay. It would be.
But she pushed away the thoughts of the difficulty to come. Clark was home and all that was all that mattered right now. Everything else could wait.
Clark held Lois until her sobbing died down to a light whimpering, and finally just a few sporadic sniffles. He hated that he'd caused her so much pain, and that he hadn't been there to comfort her all those months. He'd missed out on so much, not just being there to comfort her. He tried not to think about it, but he couldn't. He'd missed everything. The moment Lois would have come to him and told him she was pregnant. He'd give anything to have heard those words from her — he'd only ever dreamed that that was possible. And that proud moment that he'd tell his parents, Perry, their friends — he'd missed that too. All the months that Lois had been pregnant, and all the little moments that came with that — gone. The birth of his first child, a little miracle that he and Lois had created, that moment was gone too.
He shook his mind from those thoughts. He was here now, and he'd never leave her again.
Clark pulled back from her gently and lifted her chin up so he could see her eyes. "Come on, why don't we try and get a little sleep?"
She nodded, but didn't move. She didn't want to leave his arms — he knew that instinctively — but that was okay with him because he didn't really want to let her go. He slid an arm under her legs and moved the other around just below her shoulders so he could carry her upstairs. He smiled when she nestled her head in his neck and wrapped her arms around him as he stood with her in his arms. He made his way up the stairs and into his old room. His bedroom was different when he glanced around. Better. Lois had obviously made it hers as well, and that made his heart swell. This room was *theirs* now.
Clark came to a stop near his old bed and let the arm under her legs fall gently down so her toes touched the floor. He let her slide along his body until she was standing on her own, but he still held her close, needing that proximity to assure him she was really there, that he was really home. He cupped her cheek once again, running his thumb against the smooth skin of her face. He stared for a long moment, just taking in the sight of her. The woman he loved more than life itself, whose visage had kept him alive on New Krypton. Her eyes looked a little more tired than when he'd seen them last, and her hair was longer now, but she was still his Lois. His beautiful Lois. The mother of his child. Just the thought of her, of the fact that he *had* a child, took a hold of something deep in his gut. And suddenly, the force of all his emotions brought his lips to hers. Her lips parted willingly, and he delved his tongue in to explore her mouth. The taste, the feel of her, was overwhelming. The relief of being home, in her arms, flooded him again. He wasn't sure now, as her hands grasped at the back of his head and threaded through his hair, how he'd ever had the strength to leave her. Their bodies seemed to meld together, and time slipped away for a moment. Finally, Clark felt the need for air. Even though he had his powers fully functioning, she still had the ability to take his breath away. He rested his forehead against hers as they both took a moment to recover.
Clark pulled back slightly and searched her eyes, wondering if she wanted to make love. He longed to be with her again, needed to be with her. But he'd been gone so long, and she'd just had a baby. He wasn't sure what the rules were here. He needn't have worried because she ducked her head shyly and nodded. For a moment, he wondered at her bashfulness, but dismissed it when she brought a hand up to cup his cheek and smiled at him warmly.
He smiled back at her and kissed her forehead. Stepping away from her for a moment, he pulled back the covers on the bed, and turned back to her. Months ago, he'd thought he'd never see her again, but now here he was and all he could do was stare. She moved closer to him, breaking his trance, and he raised his arm to brush her cheek with the back of his hand. "Lois, my beautiful Lois."
Clark pushed all other thoughts to the back of his mind and concentrated on just her. He ran his hands down to the top button of her shirt and slowly began to unbutton it, revealing her to him. He took the light material and guided it off of her shoulders, letting it slide off her arms and to the floor behind her, watching her watch him. There was a touch of anxiety in her eyes, but nothing that told him to stop. It'd been quite some time for *both* of them, he was sure his eyes betrayed the same of him. He could hear her heart racing, matching the pace of his own. Clark smiled at her gently, hoping to reassure her as well as himself, before he returned to the task he'd begun. The bra she was wearing was a simple white and her breasts almost seemed to overflow from it. They were larger than he remembered.
Lois caught his gaze and smiled shyly at him. "Breastfeeding," she explained, "They're… it makes them bigger."
He smiled at her. He hadn't thought about that. An ethereal light shone through the window — the glow of the waning moon or the timid sunrise, he wasn't sure — and illuminated Lois like an angel. She was curvier now, more… well… more, and she'd never looked more gorgeous. Take it slow, he told himself, take it slow, you have all the time in the world. He straightened again so he could look at her. He ran his fingers along the top of her bra and trailed down to the fastening of her slacks. Her eyes held a trace of uncertainty, and he paused.
"What's wrong, Sweetie?"
She shook her head and looked away. "Nothing."
He cupped her cheek and waited until she looked at him. "Lois, what's wrong?"
"Look at me, Clark."
"That's not what I mean, I'm… I've changed." She clanked down at her figure and back up at him embarrassed.
Her figure had changed, he could see that, but he thought it only made her more attractive. "Oh, Honey." He stroked her cheek with his thumb. "You," he paused to make sure she was listening to him, "are the most beautiful woman I've ever seen, and the fact that your body's a little different…" He ran his other hand over her bare stomach. "…A little curvier, doesn't make me want you any less. If anything, it makes you even more desirable, especially considering it's because you had *our* baby. Only you know how much that means to me, Lois. And if there's any doubt that I don't want you…" He pulled her into his arms and placed gentle pressure on her lower back, making sure their hips were in contact. "There shouldn't be."
The whisper of her voice caressed his neck and only increased his ache to be with her. Whatever doubts or insecurities she'd had, seemed to disappear and she started to kiss his neck. He closed his eyes at the sensations she was stirring inside him. After a moment, she stopped and he opened his eyes. She was inches from his face and the nervousness he'd seen earlier had all but vanished, replaced by a hunger. The same need he felt. Their lips met in a rush of passion, stoking the embers within him into a raging fire, and suddenly he couldn't get enough. She began working to free him of his shirt as he guided them to the bed.
Lois lay in his arms after they'd made love. She was quiet, not sleeping, but pensive. Despite the passion they'd just shared, he could tell something was wrong. Maybe she'd grown to resent him in the time he'd been gone. She'd seemed more than relived and happy to have him home, but he'd noticed a faint emotional barrier between them. He tried not to think that she might not *really* want to be with him any longer. He hoped the horrors he'd committed on New Krypton didn't show. He hoped she couldn't tell how different a person he was now. He'd changed, and he dreaded the thought that Lois might not like who that person was. War had changed him to say the least and he was ashamed of what he'd done. She hadn't said much about the scars she'd seen, she'd only ran her fingers over them and looked at him sadly. The scars didn't concern him that much. They'd already begun to fade since he'd been back on Earth, but there were emotional scars that were far deeper. Scars that would never heal, memories of death and destruction… Memories of murder. Maybe Lois could see that. See that he was a murderer.
But maybe he was just paranoid about it. Maybe there was something else on her mind. "Lois?"
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah," she said unconvincingly.
Clark shifted on to his side so he could face her. "Lois, what is it?"
She wouldn't look him directly in the eye, nor did she say a word.
He wasn't sure what to think, but he did his best to push his fears to the back of his mind. Better to find out what was wrong first. He reached up to stroke her cheek and held back a sigh of relief when she didn't so much as flinch. "C'mon, Lois, you can tell me."
Lois finally met his gaze, and Clark could see her eyes were moist with tears. "I… I did something really stupid. I… a lot of things happened while you were gone and…" She trailed off and looked at him uncertainly, and blurted out the rest. "Everyone thinks Kallie is Superman's child."
Clark felt his mouth open to speak, but no sound came out. He barely registered that Lois had recoiled from him ever so slightly, as if he'd be mad. Mad? Was he mad? Truthfully, he wasn't quite sure what she meant or if he had even heard her right. "What do you mean 'everyone,' and why would they think that?" He tried to keep his tone non-accusatory, which wasn't too hard because he was confused.
A few tears rolled down her cheeks, and he reached to wipe them away.
"I don't know where to start. Everything's just so complicated." Her voice broke on the last word, and he could tell she was trying her best not to fall apart. She took a deep shuddering breath and began. "Three months after you left, the day the doctor confirmed the pregnancy, there was a knock at my door. I can't even tell you how relieved I was that it was you on the other side of the door. Only it wasn't you, it was the other Clark, the one from the parallel universe."
Clark started. He hadn't expected that. At all. And he wasn't sure how he felt about that. He was glad she wasn't paying attention to him. She was playing with the edge of the pillowcase as she spoke, but he wasn't sure if she was avoiding eye contact or lost in the memory. He didn't want to upset her by his reaction because she seemed so distraught. He watched her fingers play over the material as she continued.
"He said that H.G. Wells had brought him to our universe to protect your secret, that Wells had told the other Clark that he'd seen the future and it was a dismal one because people had found out your identity. They never forgave your deception. So… Wells thought it would be best to bring the other Clark here for a time to prevent the future he'd seen.
"He only stayed about a month, and Wells saw fit to take him home after that. Though, I don't know how wise that was. He wouldn't tell us when you were coming home, just that you were. We had to explain your absence again somehow. It was the only way I could think of. The other Clark and I staged a fight and now everyone thinks that Kallie is Superman's child. I'm sorry, Clark. I've ruined everything."
He stayed silent for a long time, trying to absorb everything she'd told him. She kept a wary eye on him. She was scared of his reaction, but he didn't know what to say to assure her. He felt so many things. Anger. Jealousy. Sadness. Envy. None of which he wanted to tell Lois about. She was anxious and extremely upset. He longed to say something to comfort her, but he was stuck for words.
The other Clark had been here. Taken his place. Pretended to *be* him. What did that entail exactly? Instead of making him angry, the thought of just how much this *other* Clark had needed to "play" him made him want to cry. He'd most likely kissed her. That made him angry. But what really upset him was the fact that his counterpart had stolen from him. All those moments he'd missed. *He'd* gotten to have them. Somehow, that made missing out on those moments so much worse. Almost unbearable. But Lois was right beside him, visibly distraught and apprehensive about his response. As saddened as he was, he didn't want to upset Lois any more than she already was. And of course there was still the issue at hand, the one that had her most concerned, and really, the one that should be of his immediate concern as well.
"Lois…" His voice sounded strained, hurt.
Their eyes met finally, and Clark was struck by the fear in her eyes. Not scared of him, but by what he would say.
"I don't really know what to say, this is all so overwhelming."
She looked down at the pillowcase again. "I… I understand if you're mad at me. I — I'm sorry."
"I'm not mad." It would be best to lock away all this emotions right now. Lois was in a fragile state. They could deal with them later.
Lois glanced back up at him, uncertain.
"Yes, I'm feeling innumerable emotions right now, but I can't be mad at you. All of this was out of your control. I'm sure you did what you had to do."
"Oh, Clark." She gave him a watery smile, relieved that he wasn't angry with her. "What are we going to do? I've made such a mess of things. Our life, our future, Kallie. How are we going to explain why we're back together after what I said? How are we going to keep Kallie safe when everyone thinks… well, knows that Kallie is Superman's child?"
Clark thought for a moment. "Lois, did you ever substantiate what you said? I mean, how far did it spread?"
"No, I never gave a comment, but since it happened at the Planet, word spread pretty quickly and the tabloids ran in like a hungry pack of wolves. We didn't let the rumor die, Clark. We couldn't. How else would I explain why you'd left?"
"I don't know, Lois. You're right, I wouldn't have left you for any other reason. I have a hard time imaging leaving you for *anything* ever again. And I won't."
"I know, Clark, I know." She ran her hand through his hair and then cupped his cheek. "How on Earth are we going to fix this?"
"Couldn't you say it was pregnancy hormones? That you were mad at me and flew off the handle, saying the meanest thing you could think of to say? And afterwards, you just didn't know how to fix it. Not to mention, I was nowhere to be found."
He watched her mull the idea over in her mind, and a smile formed on her face. "I think that could work."
"See? We'll be okay."
"Yeah," she said softly. "I hope so."
Clark cupped her cheek. "Don't worry, Lois, I know it'll be rough, but we'll get through it. We always have."
She smiled warmly at him.
"C'mere." He lay again on his back and brought her close to him, wrapping his arms around her. She snuggled up close to him, and rested her head on his chest.
"I love you, Clark."
"I love you too, Lois."
Clark closed his eyes as he listened to Lois's breathing relax until he knew she was sleeping. He extended his hearing and the sound of four other heartbeats filled his senses. Lois. His mom and dad. And his daughter. Clark smiled as he drifted off to sleep. He was finally home.