Submitted: June 2006
Summary: What if Lois was just suddenly gone? But no one seemed to miss her? Could Lois and Clark find each other without remembering they had ever known each other?
The characters and familiar settings in this story are the property of DC Comics, Warner Bros., December 3rd Productions and whoever else can legally lay claim to them, but the story is an original idea and belongs to me. I am not profiting from this story. It is purely for fun. No copyright infringement is intended.
A special thanks to the writers of Lois & Clark. I have borrowed from and worked off of numerous scenes from the television series, without the writers we wouldn't have this wonderful world to play in. And an immense thank you to my beta, Sue, for all her wonderful feedback and help.
Clark awoke from sleep with a start. Images were flashing through his brain. An attractive, young woman with short, dark hair; she was in trouble. He wasn't really sure who she was and yet he seemed to know her at the same time, like you knew an old friend. Her mouth formed the words, "Help me, Superman." Then there were more images; flashes of a house that he'd never been in, and yet it seemed so familiar to him, like he'd lived there before. Again, more images of the woman. Her smile, her eyes, they looked so loving, so warm and inviting. And then the vision was gone.
Clark tried to focus his thoughts, wrap his mind around those last few fleeting images from his dream, but they were gone. Argh! That was so frustrating! He hated waking up to a disturbing dream and not being able to remember what it was about or what had happened. Especially, when it felt so real and seemed so important.
Clark reached over to feel the space in the bed next to him. It was empty. Where was she? Huh? Who? Who did he think was going to be there? He slept alone. He shook off the weird feeling and looked around the room disoriented. He was in his bed in the same loft apartment that he had lived in for almost four years. But for some reason it looked so alien to him right now like he didn't really belong here, like he was supposed to wake up somewhere else, with someone else. It was the dream; it had really shaken him up.
Clark got out of bed and walked around his apartment. Everything looked the same, was where it should be. He took a deep breath, running his hand through his hair. He shouldn't have eaten that entire large triple-cheese, double-pepperoni pizza last night. At least, that's what he thought he ate last night, or had it been chicken cacciatore? No, why would he have eaten that? He never fixed food like that when he ate alone. Hadn't he eaten alone? Why couldn't he remember?
He walked into the kitchen and was greeted by an open pizza box. The remnants of some hardened cheese and a few scraps of pepperoni were all that remained inside. So he had eaten pizza last night, like he'd first thought. He shook his head again trying to clear his thoughts. Everything seemed so hazy.
Clark spent the next few minutes getting ready for work. He used his heat vision to cook a couple of eggs and then to shave off the light beard that he'd grown during the night. He took a quick shower and got dressed. He knew where every item was, right down to where to find a new tube of toothpaste when he discovered the old tube was depleted. And yet he still had a strange, disconnected feeling. Normally the after effects of a dream didn't last this long.
There was a knock at the door and Clark *looked* outside to see who was there. It was Jimmy. What was he doing here? Clark ran up the stairs and opened the front door.
"Morning, Jimmy," he greeted him.
"Morning, CK. Are you ready to go?"
"Go?" Clark asked and then he remembered. Jimmy was here to pick him up for work.
"Uh, yeah… to work? Like we do every morning?" Jimmy had a puzzled look on his face. "You feeling okay, CK?" he asked him.
"Yeah, just a little disoriented. I had a really weird dream last night."
"Well, tell me about it on the way. Perry will have my hide if either of us is late this morning. We've got a staff meeting first thing, remember?"
Actually, Clark didn't remember, not until Jimmy mentioned it. It was coming back to him, though. It had only been a couple of months ago that Perry had asked Clark to be Jimmy's partner. Jimmy's writing had been steadily improving, and he'd even managed to beat Clark to a couple of exclusive stories on Superman.
Of course, to be fair, Clark couldn't have written the stories while he was in the middle of performing the actual rescue. Jimmy had lucked out and had been in the right place at the right time. He'd gotten a few really good pictures and managed to write a couple of great articles. They had been unpolished of course, but Clark had been able to help him round them off. When Perry saw how well they had worked together on those stories, he had tried pairing them up on a few other ones.
Since Clark didn't have a car and they had begun to work together more, Jimmy had offered to pick him up in the mornings and give him a lift to work. Clark didn't really need a lift, but it gave them some time to go over their notes together.
Clark locked the door to his apartment and followed Jimmy to his Mustang - oh good, Jimmy had the top up this morning; Clark wasn't really in the mood for the *windblown* look today.
The rest of the morning went fine. No more weird feelings or confusion. On the ride to work they'd gotten their notes together on their continuing investigation into the corporate embezzling that had happened recently at LexCorp.
Personally, Clark didn't care that one of Lex's employees had embezzled money from him. The man was a criminal, but of course Clark didn't know that, Superman did. So all Clark could do was work in secret at trying to expose Lex for what he really was, just an exceptional criminal.
What was of interest to Clark, Jimmy, and Perry, was the fact that the thieving employee had been found 'swimming with the fish' in the river just two days after the theft had been discovered. Clark would've bet money on what had happened to the guy, but he was having a hard time getting Perry and Jimmy to see it. Luthor did so many good things for the city; it was hard for people to look past that and see the foreboding evil that Clark saw every time he looked in the man's eyes.
Their undercover investigation on the death had come up empty. The police were calling it a suicide; all the evidence pointed to a suicide. The man had stolen from Luthor. He was facing a long prison term and the wrath of a powerful employer. Besides having him locked away, Lex would ruin him. He would ruin any chance of a future life that the man might have had when he got out of prison. Everyone felt like the thief had decided to just take the easy way out; and, as much as it pained Clark, they just hadn't been able to find the evidence that would prove otherwise.
Perry had told them during the morning staff meeting that it was time to close the book on this story. It was going nowhere. It was time for them to write up what they had on it and move on. Clark had reluctantly agreed. It infuriated him to think that Luthor had won, again.
Clark had spent the rest of the morning going over notes and facts on the case with Jimmy, shaping it into a story, when a pair of arms had wrapped themselves around his chest from behind. A pair of lips kissed him softly on his neck just below his ear.
"Guess who?" a female voice whispered into his ear. It was a very familiar voice, but Clark couldn't place it. Uh oh, the feeling was back. The weird disjointed feeling he'd had that morning. He knew deep down that he knew the voice, should recognize it immediately; and she seemed confident that he would know it too. What could he say?
"I don't know, but with a voice like that I sure hope I find out," he said smoothly, hoping that whoever it was would buy it.
Her hands pulled away as she spun him around to look at her, and he found himself face to face with a ghost. Mayson Drake was standing in front of him, smiling broadly. He blinked. A ghost? Hardly. Why had that thought popped into his mind? Of course, she *could* have been a ghost, would have been one, if Clark hadn't gotten there in time to stop that car bomb from going off.
"Hi. What are you up to this morning?" he asked her. Before she could answer, Jimmy walked up and began a friendly chat with her. Jimmy really liked Mayson; he always had. He thought it was *cool* how she had come on to Clark and had pursued him.
Clark thought back briefly to when he had first met Mayson, over a year and a half ago. He had responded to a fire at a small restaurant in the downtown district. He used his super-breath to put the fire out and had changed back into his street clothes in an alley behind the restaurant. As he came out he'd seen a man, later identified as Baby Rage, standing over an older man who had been badly beaten.
Apparently the restaurant owner, Mike something - Clark couldn't remember his last name - had caught the hoodlum setting the fire and had gone after him. Baby Rage had beaten him so badly that he died later at the hospital. Clark felt guilty that he hadn't been able to save him. But Clark's testimony had helped put Baby Rage away for life without possibility of parole.
Mayson had been the D.A. assigned to work the case, and, at least for her, it had been love at first sight. That's what she'd told him later on, anyway. Clark had offered to stand trial and testify against Baby Rage, and Mayson had found that to be so heroic.
The odd thing about Mayson, though, was that, while she found Clark to be a hero, she was annoyed and irritated by his visits to her as Superman. She had refused Superman's help on the Baby Rage case and even seemed to distrust him, and the situation hadn't gotten any better.
It was a very difficult spot for Clark to be in. He had grown to love Mayson, deeply; she had made it difficult for him not to. He hadn't readily responded to her advances, but that hadn't dissuaded her. She had kept working on him until she finally had won him over.
But, even now, she still wasn't any closer to accepting Superman, and since Superman was such a big part of Clark's life that made things uncomfortable for him.
But with a city full of women infatuated by Superman, it was nice for *Clark* to have the devoted love of one woman. He focused his attention back to his friends' conversation and recognized the signals of distress coming from Mayson's face. Jimmy had been talking to her non-stop since she had walked up.
"Okay, Jimmy, mind if I steal my girlfriend away from you for a couple of minutes?" Clark asked him teasingly.
Jimmy blushed. "Oh. Uh yeah, CK. Sorry Mayson."
"No problem, Jimmy. Nice talking with ya," she told him. Jimmy flashed her a boyish smile and went back to his desk. Clark watched him sit down at the desk across from him and had another weird feeling wash over him. Was that where Jimmy always sat? Didn't someone else used to sit there? A woman?
"Clark? Are you okay this morning?" Mayson asked him, looking concerned. "You seem a little distracted."
"Huh? Oh yeah, I'm fine. I just… hey, what are you doing here this morning? Gotta hot case for me?" he asked, flashing her a flirtatious smile and hoping to change the subject.
It seemed to have worked. "Nope, I just had a craving for some…"
"Please don't say pizza," he interjected.
"Well, I was going to say *you*." She grinned playfully at him. "But since you mention it I am a little hungry. How about some Chinese?"
"Chinese sounds great," Clark replied, and then he heard it. Oh no, not right now. Mayson was going to kill him. But he couldn't ignore the voice that was screaming for help. He had to go.
"Actually, though," Clark began, backing away from his desk. "I need to uh… run by the dry cleaners first. I have a suit that I have to get to them by noon. I'll just meet you at The House of Hunan, okay?" Clark asked her as he continued his trek away from his desk and towards the door to the stairwell.
"Huh? Dry cleaners? Clark! Wait, I'll go with… " was all he heard as the door to the stairwell shut behind him. She was going to be mad. He knew it, but it couldn't be helped. He changed into his suit as he flew down the stairs.
Clark flew through the sky listening for another cry. There it was; he heard it again. He flew in the direction of the frantic voice and found the problem. A man was hanging from scaffolding on the side of an apartment building, several stories in the air. It appeared as if he'd been cleaning the windows. One side of the scaffolding had let go from the roof and the platform was hanging precariously by one side. The man was clinging to the dangling platform for dear life.
Superman came up underneath the man, gently securing him with one arm. With his other arm he grabbed a hold of the dangling rope that had secured the other side of the scaffolding. He flew both the rope and his passenger up to the roof. After setting the man down, he quickly re-attached the rope to the anchor and tested it to make sure the platform could once more hold the man.
"Oh, thank you, Superman. I thought I was a goner for sure," the man told him, shaking his hand gingerly.
Clark absent-mindedly shook his hand and said your welcome. This building seemed oddly familiar. Where was he?
"Excuse me sir, do you mind if I ask you what building this is?"
"Not at all. It's just an apartment building on Carter Avenue, why?" the man asked him.
"No reason. It just seems really familiar to me. I was getting a strange feeling of déjà vu, hovering outside those windows down there."
"Hmm, can't help you there. But thanks again for saving me. I've gotta start testing those lines better. I've done this job so long I guess I'm getting careless."
"Not a problem. Glad I was in the area. Take care." And, with that, Clark was back in the air. He glanced back at the pretty little apartment building wondering when he had been there before. Well he didn't have the time to contemplate that now. He had to get to Hunan to meet Mayson. Clark grimaced. Unlike her previous greeting, she was not going to be happy to see him this time.
Clark touched down in an alleyway not too far from the restaurant and made a quick change.
As he walked up to the restaurant he saw Mayson sitting at one of the tables on the outside veranda. He veered off from the entrance and instead entered the veranda from the outside gate. Mayson was concentrating - a little too intensely, Clark thought - on the menu in front of her.
"Hi, hon," he greeted her and gave her a peck on the cheek. "Sorry about the detour."
She closed her eyes and took a breath. Uh oh. Clark braced himself. "That's okay. I mean I wish you had let me finish talking. I was going to tell you that we could go together, but you obviously were in a hurry. Let's just figure out what we want to eat, okay?"
Clark wasn't sure why, but he'd been expecting her to blow up at him. To bawl him out for all the times he ran off leaving her talking to herself. But she didn't. She never did, even though he most assuredly deserved it. She loved him for all he was and wasn't; she just seemed to accept his seeming *oddities*. Why had he thought this time would be different?
They ordered lunch and ate and had pleasant conversation, and then she asked him the question he had been dreading to hear again.
"Clark, why can't you tell me," she began. Oh no, not today. He just didn't have it in him to lie to her today. "I know you're keeping something from me. We've been dating for quite a while now, and I feel like there's something keeping us from… from… *progressing*. I tell you everything about my life, my work, probably things I shouldn't even tell you. But I trust you, Clark. Why don't you trust me?"
"Mayson, please, can we not talk about this today. It's been a difficult day. Perry took Jimmy and me off the Luthor story and asked us to turn it in. I can't believe he is slipping through my fingers, again."
Mayson allowed him to change the subject, for the moment. "Maybe he really isn't a criminal. You haven't been able to find anything concrete on him," she reminded him.
"Just because I can't find it, doesn't mean it's not there," he responded bitterly. "Superman has told me things about him that would take the curl out of your hair."
"Oh, him again. Yeah, like I'd trust what he says anymore than I'd trust anything Luthor says." Her words cut him to the bone. How could she compare Superman to Luthor? How could she love Clark so much and be so wrong about part of him?
Clark pushed his chair back from the table, getting up. No, she definitely wasn't ready for the truth from him, not yet. He felt the anger and pain in his heart; he needed to leave before he said something he'd regret.
"I'm sorry, honey. Please don't go," she implored him. "I know he's one of your best friends, and I shouldn't have said that. I… I didn't mean it," she tried.
"Yes, you did. It's okay. I've just gotta get back to work," he lied.
"Oh, okay. You want to ride back with me?" she asked hesitantly.
He hated to disappoint her, but he just needed some time alone. "No thanks. I have a few things I need to do on the way back, and I just need some fresh air. I'll call you later tonight, okay?"
"All right," she told him, getting up out of her chair. She walked over to him and embraced him. "I love you," she whispered softly in his ear.
He gave her a gentle squeeze back. "I love you, too," he told her truthfully. He walked away from the table and glanced back briefly to give her a reassuring smile.
It was true; he did love her. And yet, part of him felt like something was missing. As much as he felt for her and knew that she loved him deeply, his heart still felt empty; and he didn't know if he would ever understand why.
Clark glanced at his watch and decided he had enough time for a quick side trip before he headed back to the office. After all, he *had* told Mayson he needed some fresh air and had some things to do. He ducked back into the same alley he had come from earlier and emerged at the skyline flying straight up and into the clouds.
Clark landed gently on the front porch of his parent's farmhouse, spinning back into his regular clothes. He walked up to the front door with his hand raised to knock, and the door unexpectedly swung out towards him.
"Oh! Clark! You scared me," Martha said dropping her plate of watermelon. He reached out in a flash, rescuing it from the dirty death that awaited it on the floor below.
"Thank you, honey," she said, taking the plate back from him. She looked up at him, the worry apparent in her eyes. "Are you okay? What are you doing here in the middle of the day?"
"Hi, Mom," he said, embracing her in a hug. "Um, physically? I'm fine. Mentally? Emotionally…?"
"Oh, I see. Looks like those psyche classes I took are going to come in handy, huh? Come on in and sit down, we'll have some watermelon and talk. I'll call for your father. He's out in the barn working; I was taking the watermelon out to him." Martha went to the door as Clark took at seat, and hollered out for Jonathan to come up to the house. She then came back into the kitchen and pulled out three plates, the saltshaker, and a bowl of sugar… that last item was for Clark. He was the only one who liked more sugar on the already sweet watermelon.
Martha sat down next to him at the table and began salting a piece of watermelon. "So, what's wrong?"
"Oh, I don't know, Mom. Everything and nothing. The day started off badly when I woke up having a bad dream. It was so weird. There was this woman who was in trouble…"
"Did I hear the word woman? Are you having girl problems, Clark?" Jonathan's voice interrupted him as he came through the front door.
"Hi, Dad. No, I was telling Mom that I had the strangest dream last night. It was so real. I can't remember most of it. I only remember the last few images. There was a woman who I felt sure that I knew, but I couldn't place her. She was in trouble and was asking for Superman. And then I was outside this cute little house. I flew inside it and down the stairway, taking in the view of every room. The weird thing is that I've never seen this house before; I don't even know if it really exists, but I knew every room, every piece of furniture. It all felt so familiar and comforting. And then I was awake, in my bed at my apartment."
"Well that doesn't sound so weird, Clark," Jonathan told him. "You make dozens of rescues every week, you probably can't remember every person you've rescued or where the rescue happened. Your mind was probably just piecing different clips together for you."
"I don't know, Dad. I've had the strangest feelings all day today. I can't remember things I should remember and keep feeling like I'm trying to remember things that I never knew. Does that make any sense?" Clark asked, sighing and running a hand through his hair in frustration.
"Well honey, in my psych class they taught us that the mind is oftentimes trying to tell us something by the dreams we have. Sometimes if the mind is trying to figure out a problem it will reveal the answer in our dreams. People can have the same dream over and over until they figure it out. Maybe you'll have the dream again, and if you don't, then it probably wasn't important," she told him encouragingly.
All of the sudden Clark felt a little silly talking about this. He was a grown man. How could he be here talking to his parents about a bad dream? He felt like he was about six years old.
"I'm sure it's nothing, Mom. That's not the only reason I came. I just needed someone to talk to, I guess. I had lunch with Mayson today…"
"Oooh. How did that go? Are you getting excited?" Martha asked him enthusiastically.
"Not so good. We got on the sore subject of Superman… again. I just don't understand how someone could be that blind. How could she love me and feel that adverse to Superman, who's such a big part of who I am?"
"Well, she doesn't know that, son," Jonathan chimed in.
"I know. It's just… ugh. Some of the things she says about him - me - just really hurt."
"When are you going to tell her the truth?" Martha asked.
"Soon. I probably should have already told her, but when she says stuff like she did today, part of me thinks she's not ready for the truth, not yet."
"So when will she be ready? Do you think you're ready to spend you're life with someone who's not been allowed to know you, completely?"
Clark squirmed uncomfortably under his mother's scrutiny. "I know what you're thinking, Mom," Clark began, his thoughts drifting to a certain small box in his bedroom back home in Metropolis.
"No. I'm not saying another word and neither is your father. It's your business. She's a smart girl, and she loves you a lot. She'll come around… one way or the other," his mom said with a funny grin on her face. She got up and grabbed a notepad off the counter. "Now, I want you to take this and keep it next to your bed tonight. If you have that dream again, write it down before you can forget it."
Clark smiled at her. "I may be a bachelor, Mom, but I do have a notepad at home."
"Okay, well make sure you don't forget. Put it by your bed tonight in case you need it."
"I will," he promised. "I guess I'd better get back before Perry and Jimmy start looking for me. Thanks. I'll see you both again, soon."
"Goodbye, Son." "Bye, honey."
The familiar sights and smells that met Clark as he walked off the elevator at the Planet brought his mind back to the present and away from the wandering thoughts he'd had on his flight back to Metropolis.
It didn't take him long to locate Jimmy, who was pacing back and forth between their two desks and Perry's office door.
"Oh, CK! Don't do that to me. Do you realize what time it is?" Jimmy had been waiting anxiously, no doubt, for him to get back so they could get their Luthor embezzlement story turned in to Perry. Jimmy had a newfound confidence, but he still wasn't ready yet to turn a story in without Clark giving it a final look of approval.
"Yeah, Jimmy, I'm sorry. I had an errand to run and it just took me a little longer than I thought. Have you got the article ready for me to look over?"
"It's already waiting for you on your computer. Just log in and pull it up."
Clark couldn't help but smile as he felt Jimmy's presence hovering anxiously behind him, waiting to see if he would find any mistakes or make any changes to the article. Clark was proud; under his tutelage, Jimmy had become one heck of a reporter. His grammar and punctuation skills had vastly improved. Clark only had to make a couple of minor revisions, and then he sent it on its way to Perry.
"Good job, Jimmy. Your writing gets better each time. One day you're not even gonna want to be my partner anymore," Clark teased.
"Thanks, CK, but I really doubt that. Perry said we could get out of here once he had our article. Do you want to swing by O'Connell's with me and grab a drink?"
"No, not tonight, Jimmy. Thanks. I've got some stuff I need to do at home. If you go on without me, make sure you call a cab home, okay?" Clark knew he was treating Jimmy like a kid brother, but he couldn't help it. He felt protective of him; he always had.
"Don't worry, I think I'll just go home early, too, and call it a night. See ya in the morning."
"Yeah, in the morning," Clark told him, shutting down his computer and straightening up his desk. He said his goodnights to several people that he passed on his way out and going down the elevator.
Clark opted to walk home and enjoy the cool, crisp onset of the evening air. His meandering walk took him past Centennial Park, and he stopped for a moment at the fountain, watching the streams of water gurgle and splash. Emotion suddenly flooded through him, hard this time. Feelings of anxiety and fear gripped the pit of his stomach, but then beyond that there was such an extreme feeling of hope and love that it almost overwhelmed him. He sat down next to the fountain, closing his eyes and feeling the emotions as they swept over his body.
Clark could feel unshed tears in his eyes. He had loved someone here, at this very spot. But he hadn't. He had never come here with someone he loved. And while he was in love now, he'd never felt these feelings before. Where were they coming from? They felt so real, and they were so strong they were almost suffocating. He had to get away from here.
Clark went to a secluded area and changed. He flew the rest of the way home, no longer feeling like continuing his walk. He touched down on his balcony, entered his apartment, and sat down on his couch in one quick, fluid motion. He realized his hands were trembling as he lay his head down in them.
What was happening to him? Was he losing his mind? Why did everything seem so wrong, so out of place all of the sudden? Clark wanted now more than anything to see that dream again. Everything had been fine until that dream. There had to be an explanation in it somewhere.
He got up and fixed himself a hot cup of soothing mint tea. It usually did the trick to relax him before bed, and he was ready to go to bed and see what his mind had in store for him tonight.
Clark brushed his teeth, splashed some water on his face and lay down in bed, trying to will himself to sleep. His mind was still going a mile a minute. It took a little while but sleep finally found him; and he dreamt.
He was standing next to his desk at the Daily Planet. The woman was there again, standing next to the desk that Jimmy now occupied. He couldn't remember exactly what she looked like from the other dream, but something told him this definitely was the same woman. He couldn't see her face, but she had the same soft, silky dark hair. He moved his eyes away from her enchanting form and realized that she wasn't alone. She was talking to… Perry? This dream was getting stranger by the minute. Clark looked on as Perry clasped her shoulder warmly and shook her hand. It seemed she was being congratulated for something. A name plaque on her desk caught his attention. It read: Lois Lane. He watched with anticipation as she began to turn around. He was about to see her face when a police siren shattered the dream and pulled him out of his sleep.
Clark grabbed wildly for the notebook and pencil he had set on his bedside table. Lois Lane, he wrote the name down first - it seemed so familiar - and then he quickly began jotting down some other notes; he even sketched out a picture of her from what he could remember. He could still hear the siren going off in the distance, but he needed to document what he could remember while it was still fresh in his mind.
He leapt out of bed, changing his clothes as he headed for the window. Why were there always emergencies in the middle of the night? He took off into the night sky to see what help he could provide.
The emergency had turned out to be a false alarm. A small child had tripped a fire alarm at an apartment complex. After checking to make sure there was no fire and everyone was okay, Clark had hurried back to his apartment in hopes of having another shot at falling asleep and dreaming.
Unfortunately sleep wouldn't come to him this time. He was so wound up from the false alarm and from his previous dream that he just couldn't get back to sleep.
He decided he couldn't lie in bed any longer. He swung his legs around to get out of bed and rubbed the last bit of sleepiness out of his eyes. As he opened his eyelids back up, the drawing he'd done caught his attention.
"Who are you, Lois Lane?" he asked the picture. "Did you really work for the Daily Planet? Did I know you at one time and I've just forgotten?" But no, he thought, he would remember *her*. He did remember her. Somehow she felt so familiar, so inviting. This was going to drive him insane.
There was nothing more he could do about it now. He'd ask Perry about her when he got to work later that morning. Right now he needed to do a light workout to take his mind off of it. He got out his broom and dustpan and began sweeping his apartment. He'd lift a piece of furniture up with one arm and sweep under it with the other, pushing small dust and lent piles into the center of the room where they could be swept up and disposed of.
By the time he heard Jimmy's knock at his front door, he'd done enough spring-cleaning in his apartment that his own mother would have been proud, and she kept her house as neat as a pin. It was amazing what you could get accomplished off of nervous energy.
"Coming, Jimmy!" he hollered, putting away the last of his cleaning supplies and grabbing his glasses off his bathroom sink. He ran up the stairs grabbing and tying his tie as he went and throwing his suit coat over his arm. He opened the door and stepped outside before Jimmy even had a chance to say…
"Uh, good morning, CK."
"You seem like you're in a chipper mood this morning," Jimmy observed.
"Really? Probably because I got an early start, or maybe because I know today is going to be a good day. I'm ready when you are," Clark told him. He was anxious to get to work so he could talk with the Chief.
The ride to work seemed to take longer than it ever had before, probably because Clark ended up losing all semblance of his patience. He'd even gone as far as to gripe at a couple of cars that were barely managing to travel the speed limit. Jimmy kept throwing worried glances in his direction. It wasn't often that Clark got impatient. But finally they made it.
Clark sprang from the car like a wind-up toy and ran inside the parking garage stairwell, not bothering to wait for Jimmy. He made his way up the stairs, through the building and into Perry White's office as quickly as was *humanly* possible.
He gave Perry a look of dismay when he entered the office and found the Chief occupied on his phone.
"Alice, honey, we really do need to talk about this; and I want to talk about it, but I've got to go right now. No, I'm not letting my work take precedence over… yes, I know that…"
As Clark sat there listening to Perry, he realized that he had no idea what he was going to say. 'Uh Chief, I had a dream about a girl who I don't know. In my dream she worked at the Planet, so I thought you might know her.' Geez, how dumb did that sound?
Clark got up from his seat, waving at Perry to let him know it wasn't anything important and left the office. Clark took a seat at his desk feeling a little disheartened.
"Hey, thanks for waiting for me!" Jimmy exclaimed, coming up to his desk. Then he stopped and took a closer look at Clark's face. "Are you okay? You know you've been acting a little strange this morning."
Clark hesitated briefly but then decided that he'd feel a little more comfortable talking to Jimmy about it than Perry.
"I'm sorry. I guess I've just had a lot on my mind lately," Clark began.
"Yeah, I could tell. Anything I can help you with?"
"Well, actually, yeah. That is if you don't mind me imposing on you."
"Imposing on me? What do you need?" Jimmy asked, looking a little concerned.
Clark paused briefly, he hoped what he was about to ask wouldn't offend his friend.
"I need you to do some research for me," Clark said, watching Jimmy's face. The look he had seemed to indicate disappointment. It hadn't been too long since Jimmy had been allowed to start writing articles, and Perry still had him do grunt work from time to time; but Clark could always tell that it bothered Jimmy a little. It was like a demotion or something.
"If you don't have time, I understand," Clark continued. "It's just that you are so good at it, and this isn't something I would trust to anyone else. It would really be a favor to me."
Jimmy seemed to brighten a bit at the praise and the trust Clark was implying. "Sure. I think I can find some time to help you out. What are you looking for?"
"I want to see if there are any articles in the archives - it would be back before I worked here - for a reporter by the name of Lois Lane."
"Lois? Why are you interested in her?"
"Do you know her?" Clark asked, suddenly hopeful.
"Well, yeah. I worked with her for a little while before she left."
"She left the Planet?"
"Yeah. It was a mess. She claimed another reporter had stolen a story that she'd written. Let's see, he worked on our international edition, Claude? Yeah, Claude. Ugh, I couldn't stand him. So pompous and arrogant."
"Uh, Jimmy." Clark said, motioning with his hand for Jimmy to get on with it.
"Oh, sorry. Well she didn't have any proof to back her allegation and there was a big stink over it. I guess at the same time though, her mom was going through a real rough patch. Seems like her mom was attacked or something like that and then had a nervous breakdown. Anyway, Lois ended up moving in with her to take care of her. Everyone hated to see her go. She had a lot of spunk, and things were certainly interesting when she was here."
"Do you know where her she moved to?"
"No, sorry, I don't. What's this all about?"
"It's complicated. I can't really explain right now, but, Jimmy, you've helped me more than you can imagine. Don't worry about digging up those articles. You've given me a great place to start. Thanks."
"Uh, sure," Jimmy responded, sounding a little confused. He walked off towards Perry's office, leaving Clark to his thoughts.
Clark's head was swimming. She was *real*. Not some figment of his imagination but a real person, who used to work for the Planet. Clark felt more determined now than ever that he needed to figure out who she was and why he was dreaming about her.
Clark turned on his computer and waited anxiously for it to boot up. Maybe he could look her up on the Internet, find an address or a phone number for her. The phone at his desk began ringing. Clark picked it up impatiently.
"Clark? Are you okay?" came Mayson's voice. She sounded concerned.
"Yeah. Why do you ask?"
"Oh," she responded quietly, and then paused. "Are *we* okay?"
Clark started to ask her what she was talking about when he suddenly remembered - he had told her he would call her last night, and he'd forgotten. Oh no, poor Mayson. How could he have forgotten? Well he knew how, he'd been preoccupied with thoughts of another woman. Clark felt his cheeks flush in shame.
"Oh god, honey, I'm so sorry. I promised I'd call you last night, and I forgot." Clark searched for other words to say, other ways to make her understand he hadn't meant to hurt her.
"I waited and waited last night. I was afraid something was wrong, or something had happened… or that maybe you were still upset with me. When you still hadn't called me this morning, I couldn't wait any longer."
She thought he had been punishing her after their little disagreement over Superman yesterday. Clark's heart ached.
"Please don't think that. I'm not upset with you. I just got pre-occupied and then got busy, and I just forgot. I'm sorry I worried you. I feel terrible. How can I make it up to you?"
"You can remember to meet me for dinner tonight. We need to talk. We have reservations at Sergio's for eight o'clock, remember?"
Clark pretended to forget. "Umm, Sergio's? Really? Hmm, must have forgotten to write it down."
"Clark! How could you forget? You're the one who asked me to make the reservations, like three weeks ago!"
Clark couldn't stop himself and a soft chuckle escaped his lips.
"You cad! You're teasing me!" she exclaimed. "All right, now I'm serious. Eight o'clock, Clark. Don't forget… again."
"I love you."
There was a pause.
"I love you, too," came her soft reply. "More than you know."
No, he knew and hopefully tonight she would, too. "Bye, Mayson."
Clark hung up his phone and saw Jimmy come out of Perry's office. He was headed straight for Clark with a grin on his face.
"Who's your buddy? Huh? I am!" Jimmy exclaimed.
"Huh? What are you talking about?" Clark asked, confused.
"Well I figured that the Chief might remember where Lois had gone when she left. I asked him, and he did. She moved to New York City, that's where her mom lived. Perry only knew because the 'Daily Bugle' newspaper had called him for a reference when they were interviewing her. She works for the Daily Bugle now."
"Jimmy, you are the best," Clark told him, clapping him heartily across the back.
"Well you know, when you're good, you're good. What can I say?" he said smiling as he walked back to his desk.
New York City? That wasn't all that far from Metropolis, especially not for Superman. He could be there in a matter of minutes.
Clark turned his attention back to his computer and finished logging in, feeling a renewed zeal. He didn't need to find an address or a phone number for Lois Lane; all he needed to find was the address for the Daily Bugle.
After a couple of tries he had it. He didn't really understand why he felt so compelled to do this; he just did. He had to know who this person was, if she was even the same woman from his dreams. He needed to solve this mystery so he could put it behind him.
Now, to find the time to make a trip up there. He looked around the newsroom. It was a pretty slow news day all in all. It had even been a slow day for Superman. No emergencies yet.
Clark headed over to Jimmy's desk. "Jimmy, I just remembered an errand I have to run. I have to, uh, pick something up for my date with Mayson tonight," Clark told him. Jimmy would buy that.
"Oooh, CK, hot date?"
"I hope so. I forgot to call her last night, and she's not too happy with me, though. I need to see if I can make it up to her. Can you cover for me? I'll have my beeper with me if there's an emergency."
"Sure, I've got your back. You'd better hurry and get outta here, though, before something comes up. You don't want to have your girlfriend mad at you, believe me, I know."
"Thanks Jimmy. I owe you one."
Clark headed off towards the elevators. If he hurried, he'd have enough time to run his *errand* and pick up something nice for Mayson in addition to what he already had planned to give her. Tonight was going to be special.
Clark was always amazed at the reaction he got when he flew to another city as Superman. People pointing and shouting, clapping and cheering. He guessed the citizens of Metropolis had just gotten used to having him around; a Superman sighting wasn't such an extraordinary thing anymore. But, the fame also made it harder for him to land inconspicuously and change into his normal attire. So after finding the building that housed the Daily Bugle, he decided to remain as Superman and just give the building a once over.
He landed on top of a neighboring building and sat down on the edge of the roof. He started to x-ray the building and got the oddest sensation that he was doing something *wrong*, being bad. Like he was looking into a girl's locker-room or something. Weird. He shook off the feeling and peered into the building. He stopped at each floor examining the faces of each of the women, and he found her. He recognized her from the few images he remembered from his first dream. She was riding the elevator down to the bottom floor.
She was really here, the woman from his dreams. This was what he had wanted, to confirm she was real and was the same woman from his dream. He wanted to assure himself that he wasn't crazy. But now that he knew he wasn't crazy, what was he? A dime-store fortune-teller? Why was he dreaming about her?
Clark knew that he should just leave. He should go back home, back to his life and forget about her. This was sure to only complicate his already complex existence. But he just couldn't tear himself away. On the contrary, he found himself beginning to move almost as if it were someone else moving him, like a puppet. He felt his body float down into the alleyway between the buildings and spin out of his suit. He went along, helpless to fight it, as his body walked around the corner towards the entrance to the Daily Bugle. He watched in fascination as his body led him directly into the path of Lois Lane as she walked out of the building.
"Ooof!" she exclaimed as they bumped shoulders. "Hey, watch where you're going!"
"Oh, excuse me! I'm so sorry. I wasn't paying any attention. Are you all right, Miss…?" he asked, pausing expectantly.
"Lane. And no I'm not all right," she said looking over at her shoulder and rubbing it. "I'm gonna have a bruise there tomorrow. What's your shoulder made out of, steel?" she asked him, seeming irritated.
Clark could barely hide his smile. Well yes, actually, it kinda is, he thought. He stood there staring at her, mesmerized by this woman who'd taken control of his dreams. She was smoothing out the jacket of her pale blue suit when she finally made eye contact with him. Her eyes narrowed slightly and she frowned at him.
"Do I know you?" she asked.
"I don't think so, but you do seem very familiar."
"Well of course *I* do. I'm the top reporter for the Daily Bugle. You've probably seen me on the billboards all over town," she replied smartly. "But where have I seen you? Do you work around here?" she asked.
This woman was a very *take charge* kind of a gal, wasn't she? Clark liked her instantly.
"No, actually I'm here to… take in a few sights," he said, wishing he could come up with a better explanation.
"Really? Well maybe you should pay more attention to where you're going and not what you're here to see. Just a little friendly advice. Have a nice time while you're here Mr…? I didn't catch your name."
"I didn't give it. It's Kent. Clark Kent."
"Hmm, Kent," she paused and seemed to be contemplating his name. "Well, have a nice time in New York, Mr. Kent."
"Okay, Clark. If you'll excuse me, I've gotta get going," she said, starting to walk away.
"Of course, nice having met you, Ms. Lane."
She paused in her departure and looked back at him. "Lois. Yeah, after the initial jolt, I guess it was nice to meet you, too. I'd say see you around, but New York is a big city. Don't let anyone hustle you. Bye, Clark."
Clark nodded his head at her in farewell. Goodbye, for now, he thought.
The smell of marinara sauce and fresh baked bread greeted Clark as he walked up the front steps of Sergio's. He checked his watch again. He was just a little early, but that was good. He had a little business to attend to first, anyway.
He walked inside and located the maitre d'. "I have a special request I'd like to make," Clark informed the slender, sophisticated looking man.
"Ah, yes, I can help you with that. May I have your reservation?"
"It should be under the name Mayson Drake. Two for dinner at eight o'clock," Clark answered him. Would she have put the reservation under her name?
"Yes. I have it here, sir. Donna Mayson Drake and Don Clark Kent." Clark smiled at the use of the formal titles. "What special accommodations do you require Mr. Kent?"
Clark handed a package over to the man and explained what he wanted him to do. The maitre d' then took Clark to their table and seated him. Clark waited for no more than a couple of minutes before he saw the host escorting Mayson to the table. She looked stunning in her off the shoulder, scarlet dress. It draped down her body to the floor, clinging in all the right places. Clark swore he could feel his blood pressure rising.
"Honey, you look amazing." Her face turned a shade complimentary of the color of her dress.
"Thank you. And you look, well, Clark, let's just say I wish we weren't in such a public place," she told him, looking up and down at his full black ensemble. He had on a black suit, shirt, and tie. It was supposed to be a very elegant combination, and he guessed that it was if Mayson's reaction was anything to go by.
"How was your day?" she asked him, making polite conversation.
"Okay, I guess. A little slow, not much happened news-wise."
"Yeah, same here. No new criminal activity lately. Kind of refreshing for a change."
They sat there in silence for a few seconds and then started flipping through their menus.
"Did you…" "I wanted to…" they both started talking at once.
"Go ahead," Clark told her. She smiled sweetly at him.
"I was hoping that we could talk about some things tonight, Clark."
Clark sighed inside himself. He knew what she wanted to talk about, but he had plans of his own. "Then I'll start by listening," he told her, taking his linen napkin off the table, unfolding it and laying it across his lap.
"Okay. I've been rehearsing this all day…"
"Good evening Madam, Sir. May I start you out with a glass of white wine?" the male waiter asked them, holding out a wine list.
Right on cue. Clark smiled apologetically at Mayson. "Yes, a glass of your house wine, please. Honey?"
"Yes, for me too, thank you." Mayson didn't wait long after the man left before she continued. "I've thought a lot about what I wanted to say to you, and some things I wanted to ask you."
Clark kept his eyes focused on her, listening intently, as his hand went into his inside jacket pocket and withdrew a lighter. He reached across the table between them and lit the one lone candle that was resting there on a delicate crystal plate.
At that action, the waiter reappeared with a bottle of wine and a beautifully arranged bouquet of red roses, which he placed on the table off to one side. Behind him came two other men, one carrying a violin and the other a cello.
Mayson looked at Clark, surprise showing in her eyes. "You didn't," she whispered, and then the violinist and cellist began to play Mozart's Violin Concerto number three. The first time Clark had brought Mayson to Sergio's, over a year ago, they had heard the musicians playing this song in the background. She loved it, she had said.
Clark watched her contentedly as she listened to the hauntingly beautiful music. Moisture was beginning to form in her eyes, and a tender smile graced her face. But, as special as this moment was for her, he felt the guilt in his heart.
He had done this for her, to make her happy because she loved him. And he loved her; but if he truly did, then why could he not stop thinking about Lois Lane? Why did his mind keep drifting back to a woman he didn't even know?
He pushed the feelings away and forced himself to concentrate on the moment, to focus on the real woman who sat in front of him; who loved him. The woman he had decided to propose to.
A few minutes later and the music came to an end. Clark discreetly tipped the musicians and thanked them. He looked back at Mayson; she was blotting the corners of her eyes on her white, linen napkin.
"The person who takes care of cleaning these probably won't appreciate the mascara I've left for them. Thank you, Clark. That was… out of this world."
Good, thought Clark. Only fitting since he wasn't from this world. He smiled at her and grabbed her hands in his.
"I'm sorry our lunch didn't go so well yesterday, and I'm sorry I forgot to call you. That wasn't how the past two days should have gone. Do you forgive me?"
"Yes, I forgive you."
"Do you trust me?" he asked her the hard question.
She paused for what seemed like a lifetime. "Yes, *I* trust *you*, Clark, but…"
"Then will you spend the rest of your life with me?" he asked her, pulling a ring box from his jacket pocket.
Clark lay down in bed with thoughts of Mayson still lingering in his head. She had said no. Well, not exactly no. She had said that she needed to think about it. It wasn't no, but it wasn't yes, either. And what was worse was that his own reaction had puzzled him more. Relief?
They had been seriously dating for well over a year now. There wasn't a *spark* there like he had read about some other couples having. But there was a deep love and affection, and definitely a physical attraction. At this point in his life, it had seemed like the natural thing to do. He was as close to Mayson and loved her as much as he assumed he could love any woman, given the circumstances of his life.
And yet, when she had refused his proposal, it hadn't hurt him as badly as he thought it would. He'd actually felt slightly relieved. How was that possible? How could he feel like that… if it were true love?
Clark yawned and his thoughts turned back to Lois Lane. He had fought them all night, kept himself focused on Mayson. Now, after what had happened, he welcomed them. He quickly fell off to sleep, and his daydreams turned swiftly into another vision.
Lois was there in front of him again, pacing anxiously, and this time they were inside his apartment. He glanced around the room. Inside his apartment? How could that be? He looked back at her. She stopped pacing and turned around slowly to face him. Her face showed the anguish that she was feeling. She was upset. Why? She came closer to him. Her mouth parted and she began to speak, her words full of emotion. She was saying that she was sick of it and that the only reason to hide is because we're scared. Scared of what, he wondered? She continued on, answering his question, we're scared of the fact that we're partners… best friends… and, this. And all of the sudden she was kissing him, deeply, passionately.
Clark sat up in bed in a panic. She knew him. She had been looking at him and had said those words to him… and, she had *kissed* him! But that was impossible! Neither of them knew the other. They had just met! Was his mind just making this up? Because he had been thinking about her all day and had gone to see her? Clark grabbed his tablet and began writing furiously.
After a few minutes he calmed down and glanced at the drawing still sitting on his nightstand. He grabbed it and worked on it some more, filling in more details.
Why was this happening? He felt so confused. He needed some fresh air. Clark got out of bed and spun into his suit. He'd make a few passes over the city and check on things. That would help clear his mind.
Clark landed on his balcony, not feeling any better than when he'd left. He went inside his apartment and spun out of his suit. He was on his way to the kitchen for a glass of water when he heard a voice, a voice that almost brought him to his knees.
"So this is what you've been hiding."
He spun around searching the room, and his eyes found the figure of Mayson sitting quietly in the shadows, on his bed.
"Why, Clark? Why didn't you tell me? You knew how I felt about Superman, you let me say all those things to you and you never said anything. You proposed to me! You proposed to me before you even told me who you really are!"
"I was afraid to…"
"No, I'm not finished," she told him, rising from the bed. She was holding something in her hand, but he couldn't see what it was. "You knew that I thought you were hiding something from me. You knew that and yet you proposed to me anyway. How could you think I would accept your proposal when I thought you were hiding something? How could you put me in that position?" she collapsed back down onto the bed, tears streaming down her face.
He walked over to her and she held up a hand to stop him. He had never seen her this upset before. "I came here tonight to tell you that I had made my decision. The most important decision of my life. I couldn't figure out where you were at this time of night, so I let myself in and waited for you to come back. But when you do come back, I find that the man I love is not who I thought he was at all… and," she paused opening her hand and letting a piece of paper fall to the floor, "I find this."
Clark didn't need to look at the paper to realize it was his drawing of Lois Lane.
"Mayson, I can explain."
"No, Clark, you can't. Not right now. I think we need to take a few days apart to think about this and sort through things. I need some time to come to terms with this, with you," she said, gesturing at him and around the room. "And then, when things have calmed down, we can talk about that." She pointed towards the drawing.
She stood up and walked to his front door. "I'll call you," she said back over her shoulder, and then she walked out the door.
Clark sat down on his bed. He felt empty, broken, and alone. More alone than he had ever felt. He glanced down at the paper lying on the floor. He needed to see this woman again. He needed to figure this out before it consumed everyone and everything in his life. He needed to put it behind him so he could move on.
Mayson wanted time? He'd give it to her. He had enough unused vacation time that he could afford to take some time, too. It was time for some extended sightseeing in New York.
Clark hung up the phone in his hotel room. That about covered it, he guessed. His parents knew what was going on, and he'd left a message for Mayson at work. He knew she had said she would call him when she was ready; he just didn't want her to call him and him not be there. His message said for her to page him if and when she was ready to talk.
Clark looked at his watch. Showtime. He walked the short distance from his hotel to the Daily Bugle building, going over what he was going to say in his head. At first, he thought it might be better to hide the fact that he worked for the Daily Planet. After all, she used to work there and she might find it weird or suspicious or something. But he'd thought about it and realized, if she was any kind of reporter, she could figure out who he was in a heartbeat if she wanted to. Better to just be honest with her up front.
He went inside the building admiring its architecture and modern design. It was nice, but not as nice as the Planet. Of course his judgment was probably biased.
After looking at a wall plaque that showed what departments were on what floors, he rode the elevator up to the top floor. As he stepped off he felt the familiar energy that existed on a newsroom floor. Everyone running around busy, phones ringing, people shouting orders; he felt at home instantly.
He glanced around the room finding Lois Lane sitting at her desk, engrossed in something she was typing. He walked up and sat down next to her, unobserved.
"Wow! I can't believe you're able to type so fast with that bruised shoulder," he remarked, smiling at her.
She turned towards him tearing her eyes from her screen, and she did a double take. "Kent?"
"Clark. Hi, Lois. Nice to see you again."
"What are you doing here?" she asked him.
"Well, I told you I was in town to take in some sights. I'm taking in the sights."
"Really? You know I've always considered the Daily Bugle to be one of the main attractions of New York," she said, her voice dripping with sarcasm.
"Maybe not to the average tourist, but certainly to a fellow journalist."
"You're a reporter?" she asked, lifting her eyebrows in appraisal of him.
"Yeah, I work for a little paper in Metropolis, the Daily Planet, ever heard of it?"
A shadow seemed to cross her face when he said that. "Oh really? Yeah I think I've heard of them before," she said guardedly. "So what do you want, Ken… Clark?
"A tour. I wanted to see the inner workings of another major newspaper, and who better to show me than one of its top reporters. A woman whose face is plastered all over billboards and bus stations around town?" he asked her playfully.
Clark couldn't be sure but he thought her face might have briefly turned a shade of pink.
"I'll, of course, offer to buy you lunch to make up for the trouble," he told her, keeping his fingers crossed.
"Lunch huh? Well, why not, it's been a slow news day today," she said, standing up.
"Do you need to finish what you were working on?"
She definitely blushed this time. "Oh that, no, it's fine. Just jotting some ideas down for a novel I'd been thinking about doing. Come on, I'll show you around."
"I actually used to work for the Planet," Lois told him as she took another small bite of her chocolate cake.
"I have to be honest with you. I knew that when we met yesterday, when you told me your name. Do you mind if I ask why you left?"
Lois made a show of looking at her watch, which Clark noted she wore on the wrong arm. Interesting. "Wow!" she exclaimed. "It's getting late. I really need to get back to work. Maybe we can talk about that another time."
Clark glanced down at his watch. Yes, it was getting late, but he hated to see her leave. He must have struck a nerve with that last question. Way to go Clark, being too pushy.
They'd spent most of the morning, lunch, and part of the afternoon talking, and laughing. They had mostly swapped war stories about the articles they'd written, but it had been really nice.
"So you're saying you might like to try this again?" he asked her hesitantly.
"Well I didn't exactly mean it that way, but yeah, why not. You know where you can find me if you have the sudden urge to tour our building again," she smiled at him. He was amazed at the feelings that her small smile elicited in him.
"Here, let me give you the number to my hotel room. I'm staying just down the street from the Bugle at the Continental New Yorker. I'll be in town for a few more days, if you get bored maybe we can hook up." He wrote the number down on a paper napkin for her and handed it to her.
He walked her out to the sidewalk and hailed a cab for her. He opened the door and waited for her to get in.
"That was really nice. Thank you, Lois. I hope I see you around."
"Me too." She flashed him a smile. He closed her door and the cab took off. Part of him desperately wanted to follow her back to the Bugle. What was wrong with him? He was beginning to act like a stalker. He took off on foot and headed back to his hotel.
He was kissing Lois and she was kissing him back passionately. He moved their bodies, still lip-locked, over to a bed in the room they were in. Clark laid her down on the bed, repeatedly kissing her hard and deeply. Lois began tearing at his clothes, pulling his shirt back and off his shoulders. Oh god, how was this possible? What was happening? Then she began fumbling with the zipper on his pants. He gave himself over to her. He could think of nothing else to do but respond. He began groping at the dress jacket she was wearing, pulling it back and slipping his hands underneath the shell inside it, feeling the soft skin it concealed. Oh, he wanted her. He felt a pulsating feeling deep down. No, not a pulsating feeling more of a vibration.
Clark woke up and felt his pants pocket. His beeper was going off. He fumbled the thing around in his hands, blinking his eyes, trying to make out the number. He immediately felt guilty. It was Mayson. She was trying to reach him, and here he had lain, dreaming of making love to another woman.
He glanced at the clock by the bed, seven-fifteen. After he'd gotten back from his extended lunch with Lois, he had decided to take a nap to escape his boredom. He had hoped he might see Lois in his dreams again, but he hadn't quite counted on that dream. Clark got up and began packing his things back into his suitcase. It was time to go home. He had only been here for one day but he'd seen enough. It was time to choose, the fantasy or his real life. It wasn't fair to Mayson. He would fly home to her and beg her to forgive him for his stupidity.
He grabbed his suitcase and things and headed towards the door. As he reached out for the handle there was a knock. He leaned over the peephole and looked out. It was Lois! What was she doing here? Well, he *had* told her where he was staying and had invited her to look him up. He had expected her to call, though, and he hadn't expected that it would be tonight.
He set his stuff back down, took a deep breath and opened the door.
"Lois! What are you doing here?"
"Clark, can I come in?" she asked him. Actually, after the dream he'd just had, he felt a little uncomfortable with her coming in, but before he could voice his objection, she pushed past him and sat down on the bed.
"Sure. Why not?" he said belatedly.
"I need to talk to you, and I couldn't say what I wanted to say back at the restaurant. It wasn't private enough." Clark wasn't sure he was comfortable with the direction this was headed.
"Well, I'd say this is about as private as it gets. What's wrong?"
"Okay. How do I say this? I don't want you to think I'm insane or anything…"
"Trust me, Lois, I wouldn't think that. Just say it." No, it was much more likely that she'd think he was the insane one before this was all said and done.
"All right, here goes. Did you come here, to New York, looking for me? I mean I just find it highly suspect that we just happened to bump into each other yesterday out on the street and that we both work for newspapers, you working for one that I used to work for. And then you show up at the Bugle the next day asking me to lunch. It's just all a little too weird for me especially with all those strange dreams I've been having lately, and you seem to be a very nice man but…"
"Whoa, Lois, slow down," he told her. Man she could really get wound up once she got going. He'd never heard so much babbling. "Did you say you've been having strange dreams lately?"
"Did I say that? Whoops, I thought I was just *thinking* that part," she said, sounding embarrassed.
"What kind of dreams?" he pressed her further.
She shifted uncomfortably on the bed. "Umm, I don't know if I can talk to you about them, they're kind of private."
"Would it make you feel better to know that I've been having strange dreams also? For the past three days to be exact."
"Really? No, that doesn't exactly make me feel better. This is so weird. So, wait a minute. I'm right then. You did come here looking for me, didn't you? You dreamt about me, didn't you?" she asked him pointedly.
"What makes you say that?" he asked back. "Did you dream about me?"
They both sat there in stubborn silence for a few seconds and finally Clark broke down. "Yes, I dreamt about you."
"I did too. Dream about you, I mean. What does this mean, Clark? Why is this happening?"
"I don't know. That's what I've been trying to figure out. I keep having these memories of things that never happened to me. The lines between real life and these weird dreams are beginning to blur. Sometimes I have trouble remembering what's real and what's imagined. But it seems like it's only been the past few days that it's been happening."
"Me too," she confirmed. "I thought I was losing my mind. I recognized you yesterday when you bumped into me, but of course I wasn't about to say anything then."
"How many dreams had you had up to that point?" Clark asked her.
"Just one, but then last night I had another one."
"Can I ask what they were about?"
She blushed and looked at him shyly. "They were about us."
Clark started to question her further but his pager went off again. He had laid it down on the table, and now it was vibrating and rattling across the surface. He didn't make a move to get it; he knew who it was.
"Aren't you going to check that?" she asked him.
"No, I know who it is. She's already paged me once."
"She? Your wife?"
Clark paused. He didn't want to get too deeply into his relationship with Mayson right now. "No, I'm not married. She's a friend of mine, her name's Mayson."
Lois' face visibly paled. "Mayson…? A woman about our age, kinda cute? Blonde wavy hair about shoulder length?" she asked him.
How could she know that? "Yes, as a matter a fact, do you know her?"
"No, not actually. I do, but only from my dreams. Clark, she's dead. Or at least in my dream, she died, I watched her."
"How did she die?" Clark asked her, holding his breath.
"In an explosion, someone put a bomb in her car," she said, her voice wavering. "What's going on here? I don't understand any of this." Tears were beginning to form in her eyes.
Clark couldn't help himself, he went to her and sat down beside her, embracing her. "It's okay. Shhhh. We'll figure this out together, I promise." He hardly knew this woman and yet this felt so right, so natural. Every part of his body was crying out for him to kiss her, hold her.
He slowly released her from his grip and looked into her eyes. "Tell me what you saw, in your dream."
"Did you save her?" she asked him intently.
"Yes. I saved her. We are *very* good friends. I had walked her to her car the night of the car bombing. She put the key in the door and unlocked it, which I guess is what triggered the timer on the bomb. I called her away from the car to, um, tell her goodnight one more time, and as she was walking towards me, the bomb went off. We were both thrown to the ground. She had a few cuts and bruises but was fine otherwise. Now, tell me what you saw," he insisted.
"No, Clark, I don't think…"
"Please. I need to know."
"Well, my dream was centered around us. We were walking through a city, Metropolis I think. It was all just images and feelings, I couldn't hear anything that was being said, but we stopped and we drew closer to one another. Then you kissed me. A long, passionate kiss, and when you broke away I kissed you back. Then for some reason you took off running. I chased after you but I couldn't catch you. I heard an explosion and when I found you, you were knelt down over the body of Mayson; her car was on fire. This was the only point I heard anything in the dream. You were saying her name, Mayson, over and over. She was cut up and bleeding; her body was limp. I knew without asking that she was dead. That was the point that I woke up from the dream, in a cold sweat," she finished and placed a shaky hand on top of his.
Clark resisted the urge to take her in his arms again and hold her. He'd always known that he'd saved Mayson's life that night, without Mayson even knowing it was Superman; but the reality of it hadn't hit home until just now. Even as his mind was trying to comprehend all of this, he realized that he *remembered* what she had just told him. He remembered Mayson dying in his arms, and yet, at the same time, he remembered saving her. He remembered both. This was almost too much for him to comprehend.
"Was that your first dream?" he finally managed to ask her.
"What happened in your other dream? The one from last night."
"I was inside an apartment that I've never been in before, but you were there, so I figured it was your apartment. I was telling you that we were just afraid, and you asked me what we were afraid of. I said of being partners and friends, and then… then I kissed you! Why would I do that, Clark? How could we be partners? Or friends? I don't even know you."
"I don't know, Lois. I don't know how any of this is possible, but I had that same dream, only from my point of view. That can't be just a coincidence."
"Really? You had the same dream? How many dreams have you had?"
"Several. In fact, I had another one just now when I took a nap on the sofa."
"What have they been about?"
"Well, the first one was just a bunch of images, really. Images of you, and a house. It seemed like you were in trouble, but I can't remember very well now." Should he tell her she was yelling for Superman? No, that wasn't really relevant, was it? "I figured out who you were in my second dream. I was at the Planet. Perry was congratulating you for something, and I saw your nameplate on your desk. Then last night I had the same dream you did."
"What about the one you just had?"
"Um, I'd really rather not tell you about that one," he said, feeling his face flush slightly at the memory.
"Too bad. It might be important so spit it out," she commanded him, once again getting that *take charge* tone in her voice that he'd heard yesterday when he bumped into her. There was such force in that voice that it couldn't be ignored.
He sighed. "We were kissing and touching and I think we were going to make love but I woke up before…" he said, his flush deepening.
"Really? Was the dream very detailed?"
"Uh, pretty detailed," he said, flushing again.
She didn't press him further. It seemed to Clark that her face was slightly flushed as well. "Okay. Well that settles it then. I'll come by first thing in the morning before I go to work and check on you. We can compare notes if either of us dreams again."
Clark's brain told him that now was the time. Now was the time to tell her about Mayson. To tell her that as much as he wanted to know what was happening, why it was happening, that he just couldn't do this. He needed to go back home to Mayson. It wasn't fair to her. But his heart was singing a different tune. His heart was telling him that he *needed* to figure this out. That this was important, that *she* was important. So he walked her to the door and told her goodnight, instead. And he lay down on his bed in both shame and anticipation and waited for the dream to come.
When the dream came, it was much like the first one, in that it was jumbled up, and there were just a lot of different scenes in different places; but the one thing that remained consistent throughout was that he kept changing into Superman in front of Lois. Time and again he saw himself, either first as Clark spinning into Superman, or as Superman changing back into his regular clothes. And each time, Lois was present. Then there were images of him kissing her as Superman, touching her as Superman, and of them floating together under the light of a full moon.
Clark woke up slowly this time, hanging on to the dream images as long as he could, savoring them. So she knew, or rather in whatever place or time he was dreaming about she knew, that he was Superman; and she loved him for it. She wasn't frightened by it or intimidated. Even in those fleeting images he could feel her deep love for him, both as Clark and as Superman.
Lois would be coming by, to ask him what he had dreamed. What should he tell her? He hadn't ever told anyone he was Superman, hadn't even had the nerve to tell Mayson. She had found out on her own. Mayson! Oh no! He hadn't called her back after her pages last night.
Clark rushed to the phone, picked it up and began to dial her number. Then he looked at the clock. It was the middle of the night. What would he say to her? He hated to wake her up. He hung up the phone and dialed her work number instead. He waited for her voice mail to answer and then left her a message.
"Hi, sweetheart. I'm sorry I didn't call you back last night. Uh, Superman's been very busy. I realized what time it was and decided I didn't want to wake you, so I called here instead to leave you this message. I hope you're able to forgive me for the things that have happened. I hope I'm able to forgive myself. But I'm not coming home. Not just yet. I have some things I still need to figure out. I hope you understand. I'll talk to you later, and… I love you. Goodbye, Mayson."
Clark hung up the phone and felt an emptiness in the pit of his stomach. His feelings were conflicted and left him feeling confused. He did love Mayson, but he felt love for Lois as well, and not a new love. A love that had been fed and nurtured, that had grown over time. A love that had been tested by fire. How was that possible for a woman that he'd barely even known for a day?
Clark knew that he should just wait for Lois to come by in the morning. That he should try to go back to sleep or do something to keep him busy until she got there. But he didn't want to. His mind was racing. There was no way he was going back to sleep, and he couldn't concentrate on anything but his need to see Lois again.
He knew approximately where she lived from their conversation yesterday at lunch. He could find her. He would find her. Out of habit, he started to spin into his suit when he realized that the window of his hotel room didn't open. He'd have to leave the normal way and find a place to change outside.
After one mistaken neighborhood and a few wrong houses, he found her. He hovered just outside her window, watching her sleep. She was tossing and turning, and her lips were moving. Clark hesitated momentarily, he didn't want to invade her privacy, but finally his desire overwhelmed his logic and he *listened* in on her.
"It won't work. It's too difficult," she said, pleading with someone. What was she dreaming? "No! Clark don't!" she screamed in anguish, sitting up in bed. Her eyes were wide with shock.
He moved to the side of the window even as he heard her voice. He was fast, but not fast enough, or maybe he hadn't wanted to be fast enough.
He heard her footsteps on the floor, coming towards the window. He felt the panic growing in his heart. He should just fly off, go back to his hotel; pretend he hadn't been here. But something inside him kept him from leaving.
The window beside him opened and he saw Lois' hair flutter next to him as she leaned out. She looked around and came face to face with him. Without saying a word, she reached out and touched his face, ran her fingers through his hair.
"So it's true," she said. It wasn't a question.
"What did you dream?" he asked her, turning to hover directly in front of her and the open window. She looked so beautiful in her silk lavender nightdress. He reached out and lifted the thin strap that had begun to fall down her arm back up to her shoulder. He resisted the urge to touch her further.
"A lot of different things, all connected. I could hear everything in this dream. We were at a farmhouse and an older couple was there, your parents, I think. We were watching TV and something bad was happening, and that's when you *changed*. You spun around and there was Superman standing in front of me, but for some reason I didn't feel surprised. Don't you think that's weird? Shouldn't I have felt shock? But it felt so right somehow."
He nodded his head. It did; as weird as it was, it felt right that she knew.
"Then I was somewhere else, inside some kind of invisible prison cell. This man and woman came in, and you came with them, as Superman. They told you that they would kill me unless you joined me in a separate cell. I tried to tell you no, but you said life wasn't worth living without me; and you stepped into your prison. Then, we were by ourselves and you were telling me that you could move fast enough to go through the shielding of the cell. I watched as you tried it with your arm. It hurt you badly; I could see the pain on your face. I begged you not to do it, but you were determined. The last thing you told me was to remember that you loved me. And then I woke up… and you were here." She reached out to him with her hand. He reached out and took her hand in his.
"Did you dream?" she asked him.
"Well, don't keep me in suspense. What did you dream?"
"Why don't I show you?" With those words he pulled on the hand he held, closing the distance between them. He put his other arm around her waist lifting her up and out through the window. He held her against his body and floated them up through a layer of clouds to the clear sky above. There wasn't a full moon like there had been in his dream, but the view was still spectacular.
"Beautiful, isn't it?" he finished for her.
"That doesn't even begin to describe it. This was in the dream you had tonight?"
He nodded his head at her and wrapped his cape around the two of them to keep her warm.
"Has the world gone mad? Or have we?" she asked him quietly.
"I don't know. All I know is that what I feel in my dreams is more real to me than anything else, except maybe this moment."
She smiled up at him shyly through her eyelashes. "Me too. I keep telling myself this is crazy. That I just met you yesterday. How can I be having all the feelings that I'm having?"
"Can I tell you what I really think?" She nodded her head at him. "I know this sounds a little crazy, but I don't think our dreams are really dreams at all. I think they're memories."
"But how could that be? Memories of what? Another life?"
"I don't know. I don't think so, though, since the memories are of us, together, in the same time and world that we live in now. Just different lives than we have now. Something changed. Something changed what was supposed to happen and somehow, I think we've managed to remember."
"Clark?" He could hear the uncertainty in her voice.
"I don't know if I can do this. Part of me wants to ask you to stay. Stay with me, don't go back to Metropolis. But another part of me tells me that it's impossible. I have my life, and you have yours; and you have someone else to go back to…" So she had guessed about Mayson. She knew. "I think you need to… go home," she said softly.
No, she couldn't mean it. The pain in Clark's chest was so intense that he felt like he might fall from the sky. If he hadn't been holding Lois, he would have. He looked into her eyes and saw the same pain he was feeling, and then he kissed her. He captured her mouth with his and let all of his inhibitions; all of his fears melt away, into that kiss. And then he felt what he needed to know, he felt her respond. He felt her relax in his arms. He felt her tongue as it tenderly explored the inside of his lips. He felt her arms as she wrapped them around his body.
After a few minutes, he finally found his voice again. "If this isn't what you want, if you want me to leave and never come back, I'll do it. For you, Lois, I'll do it." He saw the turmoil in her face, the anguish in her eyes, and for a moment he was afraid to hear her speak.
"No, Clark, I don't want you to leave. Come back with me. Come back to my house and sleep with me," she implored him.
Did she mean? He looked into her eyes trying to understand.
She understood. "Sleep with me. Hold me in your arms and dream with me. Let's figure this out together."
Clark floated them back down and inside her bedroom, and that's what they did. They lay together in each other's arms and drifted off to sleep.
Lois was standing there in front of him, smiling at him. He recognized where they were this time. They were in the bedroom area of his apartment. She started to walk toward him and stopped. She had on a spectacular black lace teddy. She modeled it for him shyly but seductively. Then she came to him taking the wine glasses he was holding and setting them off to the side. She had a wedding band on her hand. He looked down and was surprised to see a band on his own hand as well.
She embraced him passionately, capturing his mouth in a kiss so intense and full of desire that he felt as though he were flying even though his feet were planted firmly on the floor. He kissed her back deeply, fervently. He moved them towards the bed and laid her down gently on it, not breaking contact with her lips. He ran his hands up and down the sides of her body and brought them up and across her ribcage, feeling for the clasps on the front of her negligee. She shuddered with pleasure at his touches and arched her body against his. He could feel the passion swelling inside him. He wanted her so badly.
And then, he became aware of pressure on his chest, a hand touching his face. The sensations brought him, reluctantly, out of his dream. He opened his eyes and found Lois looking down on him. She ran her hand down his cheek, down his neck until it came to rest against his chest.
He took the hand in his own and looked deeply into her eyes. What had she dreamed? Had she seen the same thing?
"Lois, you were my wife."
She nodded at him, tears coming to her eyes. "And you were my husband."
"You're the only real love I've ever known," he told her as he pulled her down to him, kissing her gently but passionately.
She returned the kiss, one hand clasping the back of his head as she deepened it. He broke contact with her mouth, applying his lips to her neck, her shoulder and down her arm. He slid one strap down off her shoulder and reached for the other strap. Lois' hand came up and rested on top of his, stopping him.
"What about Mayson?" she whispered, her voice pained, barely even audible.
The words pricked his conscience. What about Mayson? He peered through the darkness trying to read the expression on Lois' face. They had been married. They had loved one another deeply; he could still feel that love, even now. And yet, he had shared the last year of his life with another woman; a woman who still loved him. She was waiting for him… to come back to her.
Clark clenched and unclenched his fists, the frustration almost unbearable. His mind could make sense of it. Mayson loved him; he had proposed to her. The honorable thing to do would be to break this thing off with Lois now, before anything happened, and go back to Mayson. But in his heart he knew that he didn't love her as much as she loved him and now he knew why. Why he'd always felt like something was missing. It was. Lois was missing. He needed her. He couldn't go on now, knowing what he knew, without her.
Clark reached out stroking the soft skin on the back of Lois' arm. He ran his hand down the length of her arm, taking her hand in his. "I won't lie to you. Mayson and I have dated for over a year, and I actually just proposed to her."
"So why are you here? With me?" Clark could hear the accusation and hurt in her voice. She pulled her hand away from his. "Why are you doing this?"
"At first I didn't know. When I started having the dreams, I thought I was going crazy. Then when I started piecing things together and found out that you were real, I guess I was just curious. I needed to see for myself that you were real. But when we met yesterday… Lois, I feel such intense emotions when I'm around you. For the first time in my life, I feel whole, complete. I don't want to lose that. I know it sounds unbelievable or maybe naïve, but I love you more than I've ever loved anyone. How is that possible, unless these dreams are real; unless that life had really happened?"
He tried to sense what she was feeling. He waited to see what she would say, but when she didn't respond, he continued. "I can't go back, Lois. I can't go back now to the way it was. You *are* my wife, we are supposed to be together. I know that in my heart. Somehow that life has been stolen from us."
"But they're just dreams, Clark. I know it's weird that we've both been having them, and I can't explain that; but I don't know if I'm ready to completely change my life because of a dream." Her words threatened to pull the breath from his lungs. He had just found her; he couldn't lose her now. But then he realized something. She was right. She only had her dreams to go off of. She didn't live in Metropolis anymore. She hadn't felt the same feelings he'd been having, while he was awake, conscious. He thought of one place in particular that the feelings had been especially strong.
"Lois, do you trust me?"
"Yes," she said softly.
"Then come with me, fly with me. I have someplace I want to take you. Something I want to show you."
Clark got up from the bed and spun into his suit. Lois got up from the bed but instead of walking to him she left the room. He started to follow her but she came right back, wrapped in long coat. Probably a good idea. He could keep her warm, but she probably shouldn't go parading around the city in her nightie. He went to her, scooping her up and carrying her to the window. She reached out and unlocked it for him; and he pushed the window open, floating them gently up into the night sky.
They landed gently in Centennial Park, not far from the fountain. Clark stepped back out of sight and spun out of his suit. He took Lois by the hand and walked with her towards the fountain.
"What are we here to see?" she asked him.
"Not see… feel. Just feel, Lois."
The closer they got to the fountain, the more Clark could feel the emotions beginning to return. Clark kept his eyes on Lois, watching her as they approached the fountain. Then something unexpected happened, he had a vision… a vision while he was awake. He stopped, watching it unfold in front of him.
Lois was standing in front of him. He led her to the fountain and had her sit down. It started to rain. She was getting wet but still seemed happy, just happy to be with him. Then he was bending down before her, holding a ring box out to her.
Could he help Lois see this?
"Lois, give me your hand, I want you to follow my lead." He grabbed her hand and led her to the fountain as he had in his dream. He sat her down at the fountain and looked at her, watching her face. She had a strange far off look in her eyes.
"I've been here before," she confirmed. "Just like this. You were here; you knelt down in front of me. Clark! You were proposing to me," she said, inhaling sharply.
"I came here the other day, on my way home. I felt these same emotions. They were so strong that they were overwhelming. I couldn't understand then what they were for, or for whom. Now I know. They were for you."
Lois looked at him with tears in her eyes. He knelt down before her, as he had in the vision. "Don't you see?" he asked her. "This was real. What we just saw was not a dream; it was a memory. That proves this was real. Not something we've dreamed up or imagined."
She began to cry softly. "What happened? Why did things change?" she asked him between her tears.
He rose up and went to her, holding her in a tight embrace. "I don't know, but we'll figure it out." He didn't know how but somehow he had to find a way. He wanted his life back… with Lois.
Clark lay in bed staring at the ceiling of his apartment. He looked over at Lois, sleeping peacefully beside him. He had wanted to bring her back here instead of flying all the way back to New York, and she had agreed. He reached over and pushed a piece of hair back from her face. She was incredibly beautiful in the light of the morning sun. He looked back up at the ceiling again, and another vision swept over him.
They're bodies were locked together in an intimate embrace. They were kissing and touching one another, and… they were floating. Lois lay balanced on top of Clark as he raised them up higher and higher into the air, until finally Lois' shoulders and hips came to rest against the ceiling. Soft moans escaped her lips as their souls became one entity; and they shut out the rest of the world, their love for one another becoming their only focal point. Their bodies swaying and rocking like the waves of the sea.
A soft cry escaped from Lois and brought Clark out of the memory. Her slow steady breathing told him that she was still asleep. He let out a soft sigh as he dealt with the intense emotions that were flowing through him.
"Are you okay?" Lois asked him sleepily. Maybe she hadn't been asleep after all, or else he had woken her up.
"Yeah," he answered her softly. He turned to face her and she sidled up next to him. She stopped when she reached his body, pressing up against him; her face took on a look of astonishment… and then it was tinged with a hint of a smile.
"Hmm, you feel more than okay to me," she said with a soft giggle.
He looked away from her eyes, unsure of how to respond. Lois reached up to his face, pulling it to her own and kissing him. Clark, embarrassment forgotten, pulled her in tighter to him, kissing her back, his tongue leaving his own mouth to explore the inner depths of hers. He leaned up in bed pulling her up with him, not breaking contact with her lips.
At length he pulled back to allow her to breathe. "Lois, do you feel anything, remember anything, being here with me?" he asked her.
"Mmm hmm. I've been remembering all night." She ran her hands up his body beneath the sheet, sending extreme sensations all through him. "What we had before, in our other life, was so beautiful. I want that again."
Clark searched her face, looking for the answer he needed before he dared to proceed. He saw the affirmation in her face as he reached out to slide the straps of her nightdress down her arms, the way he'd wanted to before. He pulled on the garment sliding it down her body until it came to rest at her hips, revealing her beautiful form. He began caressing the soft flesh now exposed to him. Then he leaned down and brushed tender kisses across her navel. He started to move his attentions higher up her body but hesitated. He looked into Lois' eyes, pleading for permission. A soft groan escaped his lips as she took his hand placing it where she wanted him.
Her lips parted and a throaty whisper escaped them. "Make love to me, Clark."
That was all he needed to hear.
Their bodies moved in rhythm to music that only they could hear. Clark was overwhelmed by the passion he felt coming from Lois, in her kisses and her touches. He couldn't imagine being able to think about anything but the moment they were in; but then the visions started. They came fast and hard, like the movements of their bodies. The first time he saw Lois; the first time they kissed; images of him rescuing her countless times as Superman. Flashes and feelings of their first date, their wedding; the first time they made love. It was all coming back to him in this one glorious moment. The emotion was so overpowering that Clark began to lose focus on what he was doing.
That loss in concentration didn't go unnoticed. "Oh god, don't stop Clark. Please, don't stop," Lois begged him. Her voice drew him back in, and he intensified his efforts to please her.
Her breathing was coming in short, ragged bursts. "Oh, Clark… oh… I remember. Oh, yes! Oh, Clark! I remember everything," she said excitedly in between elated gasps.
After a few more moments of euphoric bliss, he began to gently lower them back down to the bed. Lois sighed contentedly against his chest. She then slid sideways and down off his body, causing sensations that made him want to take her back up and start all over again. She rolled over to face him, looking at him expectantly.
"Hello, Wife," he said softly. "I've missed you."
"Hello, Husband," she responded, giggling delicately. "Oh, Clark, that was…"
"Yes?" he prompted her.
"Exactly how I remember it… no, definitely better," she said, smiling.
Clark felt in that moment like he was happier than he'd ever been. He felt so whole. He felt like he finally knew where he belonged. He started to ask her if she'd like to go back for seconds, when there was a knock at the door.
"You expecting company?" she asked, her body tensing. She began looking and feeling around for something on the bed, and she then hung off the side of the bed searching the floor.
Clark tapped her on the shoulder. "Looking for this?" he asked her mischievously, holding the garment up, just out of her reach.
"That's not funny, Clark. Someone's outside!"
"Yeah, and they don't know we're here, and I intend to keep it that way." He smiled playfully at her, but his look soon turned to concern when he heard a key being placed into the lock on his door.
"Come on, we've gotta hide. Someone's trying to come in," he explained, scooping her up and flying them both to his closet. He shut the door to all but a sliver and they both peaked out at their intruder.
Clark had to catch himself so he didn't let out a startled gasp when he saw Mayson come walking into the room. He felt a stab of guilt in his heart when he saw her - the woman he had been prepared to marry. The woman he'd never made love to, and yet he had been able to make love to Lois so easily behind her back. He felt hands tugging on his body, pulling him back deeper into his closet, into the secret compartment where he kept his suits.
"Clark, it's okay. You don't need to feel guilty," she whispered it so softly that only his super-hearing could have picked up what she said.
"Don't I? Lois, you have nothing to feel bad about, but I told Mayson that I loved her."
"And you did. It wasn't a lie, but you were never meant to be with her. You can't have it both ways."
"I know that, but I still can't help feeling a sense of betrayal when I look at her. I remember *our* life together, Lois; but at the same time, I remember my life with her."
Lois was quiet for a few seconds, and when her voice came it managed to be even more quiet than before. "Clark, I hate to ask you this but did you? I mean did she? Have the two of you…?"
"No, Lois. I still am and will always be, forever yours." He reached out in the darkness to cup her face with his hand, and he felt the tears as they ran down her cheek. He embraced her, feeling the softness of her exposed body under his hands; he still hadn't given her garment back to her. He could feel the excitement building in him again, and he reluctantly turned back to check on Mayson. She was headed for the front door. She was leaving.
After they were sure it was safe, they cautiously came back out into the room.
"I hate this, Clark. I feel so dirty, sneaking around like this. I know in my heart that we're married, but I feel a kid who almost got caught sneaking back home too late one night."
"I know. I'll tell her; I promise you, honey. I just wasn't quite prepared to tell her under present circumstances."
She smiled at him. "I know. Can I have my nightie back now?" she asked.
"Only if you think you're woman enough to take it from me," he told her, darting off into another room.
"Hey! No fair! No using super-speed!" she cried out, chasing him.
Clark couldn't remember the last time he'd been so happy or he'd had so much fun. He had found his soul mate again, and he wasn't about to let her go for anything. He sighed blissfully in the aftermath of their recent lovemaking.
"Clark?" Lois asked him hesitantly, snuggling up closer to him in bed. "What are we going to do now?"
"You mean right this second? Oh, I could think of several things I'd still like to do… to you," he replied suggestively.
"No, stop that," she said, making a weak attempt to fight him off. "I'm being serious."
Clark sighed. "What are we going to do about what?" he asked.
"About us? No one would believe us if we told them; no one will understand."
"I don't know, honey. I may have to leave Metropolis, maybe come to New York with you, start over," he said, trying to reassure her that he would do whatever was necessary to be with her.
"It's not fair," she said after a long pause. "I want things to be the way I remember them."
"I know; me too. But right now, I'm just so happy we found each other that I can live with making a few changes to my life if it means I get to spend it with you."
"Yeah, I know. I just wish there was someway we could fix whatever it was that happened to change everything."
"Lois, about that. From the memories I have pieced together everything seemed to change when you left the Planet and moved to New York. Jimmy told me about Claude, but I remember the story about Claude from before, too. So that part isn't any different. But Jimmy also mentioned something to me about your mom having been attacked and having a nervous breakdown. You haven't said one word about her these past few days. Where is she? What happened all those years ago?"
Lois turned away from him and got out of bed, walking to the balcony window of his apartment and staring out thoughtfully. "It's been so long, but I still remember it so clearly. Mom called me and told me that she'd been getting scary phone calls. Each time there was a man's voice on the other end that would ask her if she was alone. For several days that's all he said 'Ellen Lane, are you alone?' Then he would hang up. The day she called me, he had asked her 'Ellen Lane, are you alone? Do you know where your daughter is?' That's when she called me. She wanted to make sure I was okay."
Clark had walked up behind her while she was talking. He reached out putting his arms around her, holding her. She laid her arms on top of his and continued on with her story.
"Anyway, the day before the thing with… um, Claude," Clark could hear the regret in her voice, "There was a letter in my chair when I came in to work. It said the only way I could ensure my mother's safety was if I kept an eye on her personally. I immediately called her to check on her and she said she was fine. She said that actually the phone calls had stopped. I asked her if she wanted to come stay with me for a while, but she assured me that she was okay. Then, the day I found out that Claude had stolen my story and submitted it to Perry as his own, I received another message. This one was on my answering machine when I got home that night. It was a man's voice. He asked me if I knew where my mother was."
Lois' body shook slightly as she relived the memory. Clark's arms tightened around her, lending her the support to continue.
"I immediately called her, but she didn't answer. It was late, Clark. She should have been home, so I called her again. No answer. I took the first flight I could get and flew up to check on her. I knocked on her door and there was no reply. I had my own key so I let myself in, and I found her unconscious on the floor. My mom used to have a problem with alcohol, so this wasn't the first time I'd found her passed out like that. But she hadn't touched a drink in years, and I didn't see any evidence that she'd been drinking. When I inspected her more closely I realized she had a large bruise on her head. Someone had hit her over the head; she had a nasty welt. When I couldn't get her to wake up, I called an ambulance."
"I'm so sorry, honey, I wish I could've been there for you."
"Me too, but I didn't even know you yet, back then. After the mess with Claude, and then having to be gone so long taking care of my mom, my career at the Planet had suffered considerably. It took days for mom to recover enough to be able to go home, and then she still needed someone to look after her. Plus, she was a nervous wreck. Every time the phone rang she would about climb the walls. Then I got another message. I answered the phone one morning and the male voice on the other end said if I wanted to ensure my mother's safety I would remain in New York with her. With my career in limbo, Daddy missing in action, and Lucy off in another country with her latest boyfriend, I moved in with mom to take care of her."
Clark nuzzled her hair and kissed it softly. "So, it was more than she could handle, and she had a breakdown?" he asked her.
"Yeah. She just wasn't the same after that, and I caught her drinking several times after that. One day it just finally overcame her. I couldn't take care of her after that, Clark. I tried, but I just couldn't. So I checked her into a place that could. That's why I haven't mentioned her. She's still in there. She's getting better, but she still has a ways to go."
"Where is she?"
"Actually, I was hoping that maybe we could go visit her while we're in Metropolis. There weren't any private institutions in New York City, at least none that were any good, that were taking new patients back when I admitted her. But I found one in Metropolis that was. MNC - The Metropolis Neuroscience Center…" Lois broke off when she felt Clark shudder. "What's wrong?"
"Honestly, I don't know. There's just something about that place, that name, that sent revulsion through me."
"Well, it's not a nut house, you know. It's very scientifically advanced."
"I'm sure it is, and that's not why I had an aversion to it, because I thought it was a nut house. It's something else, maybe some more memories I haven't seen yet."
"Hmm, maybe so," she agreed.
"So who's her doctor?"
"Her primary attending physician is Dr. Maxwell Deter." Clark again felt the urge to shudder, even more strongly, but suppressed it so Lois could continue. "Dr. Deter has worked with her ever since I brought her there, trying to help her with her memory suppression of the events that happened that night. He says if she can remember exactly what happened then she can learn to deal with it."
"Hmm, sounds like someone we ought to see. Maybe he could help us with our memory suppression."
"Yeah, or he'd lock us up and throw away the key. Ours isn't exactly memory suppression. We're having memories of a life that hasn't actually happened… err, it did happen, it's just not happening now. Well, but it sort of is, I guess, since we found each other again…"
"Lois, sweetheart, you're babbling. I agree about us going to see her. How long has it been since you've seen her?"
Lois' face flushed with embarrassment. "A couple of months. I've just been so busy, and I let time get away from me. Plus, there was that mess a while back with Dr. Mendenhall. He was founder of the center and he was doing experimental research on some of the patients. Some bad stuff was happening and Dr. Deter found out about it and turned him in."
"Really? Weren't you concerned then about your mom staying there?"
"A little, but my mom was under Dr. Deter's care; and he's a really good doctor. He wouldn't have let anything happen to her. I actually think he might have a little crush on me. He's always trying to take me out for lunch when I come for a visit," Lois smiled coyly.
Maybe that explained the adverse reaction he kept feeling every time Lois mentioned the good doctor's name. Well, he was going to have to put that feeling aside. They needed to go to MNC and talk to Ellen Lane. Her attack was the key, Clark just knew it. Everything up to that point was the same in both sets of his memories. That was the catalyst that caused Lois to move to New York and caused them to never meet. But was that the reason for the attack? Did someone intentionally try to keep them from ever meeting? But how could that even be possible and why do it? For what purpose?
"I definitely think now would be a good time to go visit your mom. Maybe she's remembered something about that night. I'd like to go with you, if that's okay."
"Well, besides needing you to come along so you can take me up to New York for a quick trip to get some clothes and things," she said, fingering the nightie she had finally wrangled away from Clark, "I wouldn't have it any other way," she told him, taking his hand in hers. Clark felt his heart swell in response, and he squeezed her hand. He never wanted to be apart from this woman again. Not for the rest of his life.
"Mom?" Lois said, knocking lightly on the door leading into Ellen's room. "Can we come in?"
"Lois?" Clark heard a voice that he recognized as Ellen Lane coming from inside. The door opened, and a woman he remembered from his past life stood there grinning at them.
"Oh, Lois, it is you!" she said, opening the door wider and throwing her arms around Lois. She hugged her sweetly and then stepped back, looking at Clark with an appraising eye. "And who is this?"
"Um, this is…" Lois paused. Clark knew why. What should she call him? He knew what she probably wanted to call him - her husband. But that probably wouldn't sit well with her mom. And yet boyfriend sounded so cheesy, like they were back in high school or something. Clark intervened on her behalf.
"Clark Kent, Mrs. Lane. I've known your daughter for a long time. She's told me a lot about you. I feel like part of the family already," he said, throwing a teasing smile at Lois.
"I like him. He's cute," Ellen told her daughter. Then she turned to Clark, "I keep telling her that she needs to find someone. I don't know why she turned Dr. Deter down. I know Max is my doctor, but that shouldn't matter. But then again, if she had you, I can see why," she said, giving him an appreciative look.
"Honey, you didn't tell me *Max* had asked you out," he told her with emphasis.
Lois blushed. "Well, I wouldn't exactly call it that. I told you he asked me out for lunch a couple of times."
"Lunch nothing," her mother continued.
"Mom," Lois tried to interrupt her.
Ellen didn't take the hint. "He wanted to take her to Aspen for the weekend not too long ago. Woo, talk about a romantic getaway. Snow-capped mountains, roaring fireplace, I was at a loss to figure out why she turned him down."
"Okay, Mom, I'm sure Clark doesn't want to hear about that," Lois told her with a warning tone in her voice.
Ellen seemed to pick up on it, finally. "So tell me, Clark, how did you meet my Lois?"
Clark's mind was still back on the thought of Lois in the mountains with another man. He definitely didn't like this guy, Deter. So, Ellen's question caught him off guard. He thought fast. "We, uh, met through some mutual acquaintances at the Planet. I'm a reporter for the Daily Planet where Lois used to work."
"Oh, how nice. I imagine the two of you have a lot in common then."
"You have no idea," he told her meaningfully.
"That's good. A couple needs to share common interests; obviously that was the problem with Lois' father and me. Though I doubt anyone could have much in common with that man. He's…"
"Mom, how have you been?" Lois jumped back in and asked her.
"Oh, pretty good. Max seems pleased with the progress I've made. I can call him if you'd like to talk with him."
Lois looked at Clark's face and seemed to be making a private appraisal of that possible situation. "No, that's okay. I'd rather just talk with you." Clark couldn't say that he was disappointed at not having to meet the good doctor.
"What progress have you made?" Lois asked her.
"Not anything helpful lately, most of what I seem to remember is just nonsense."
"Nonsense?" Lois asked her.
"Yes, remember how I've told you that I seemed to remember talking to the man before he attacked me?"
"Yes, and I remember telling you that didn't seem like it made much sense. Why talk to you, allow you to possibly ID him before striking you and then leaving you lying unconscious on your living room floor?"
"I know. But I've begun to remember some of the things I heard him say."
"Really? What?" Lois asked intently.
"I remember him asking me how it felt to know I would be single-handedly saving the world from its own doom."
"By getting hit over the head and left for dead? What a weirdo!" Lois exclaimed.
"Did you recognize him? Or did he happen to say his name?" Clark asked her, unable to sit quietly any longer; his reporter's instincts coming into play. Maybe they would recognize the name.
"He stayed in the shadows so I never saw him. That's the one thing I've been able to remember very clearly - he never told me his name. The only name I've been able to remember makes absolutely no sense at all."
"What Mom? What name?"
"Just Herb?" Clark asked her.
"Yes, that name is in the one other thing I remember my attacker saying. He said 'Herb, I almost wish I could let you live long enough to see this through. But your time traveling days are over.' I heard that right before I felt the blow to my head. Max and I have talked extensively about this part of my memory, trying to decipher what I seem to remember happening. So far we haven't had much success. Anyway, Max thinks…"
"What am I being accused of?" came a man's voice from the doorway.
"Max!" Ellen shouted excitedly.
"Good morning, Ellen. Hello again, Lois. Back to torment me some more?" Dr. Maxwell Deter walked up to Lois giving her a light hug and then gave Ellen a pat on the shoulder. His eyes slowly made their way around the room until they met up with Clark's. Clark narrowed his eyes slowly in estimation of the man.
"Hmm. I don't believe we've met," Deter said, extending his hand. Clark took the hand, squeezing it just a little too harshly. Deter withdrew it, shaking it. "Wow, that's some grip you've got there."
Lois cleared her throat, probably as a warning. "This is Clark Kent, award winning journalist for the Daily Planet."
"Lois is seeing Clark, Max, so you don't have to spend the rest of our time today trying to woo her," Ellen said and Lois blushed fiercely. It was Deter's turn to narrow his eyes at Clark in estimation of his competition.
"Really? I had no idea you were seeing someone, Lois. This must be a recent development, but that would explain why you haven't returned my phone calls the past few days."
Phone calls? There was definitely something more here than Lois was letting on.
"Yeah, sorry Max," Lois apologized. "I know I told you I'd give you an answer, but I've been busy lately; and I wasn't sure how to break the news to you."
"Lois, here, turned me down flat when I offered to take her to Aspen with me," Deter said, directing his commentary to Clark. "Told me she wasn't ready for something like that; but she said the next time I took a trip to try her again. I'm planning a trip to San Francisco next month. I thought the excitement there might be more her style, but obviously she's had a better offer in the meantime."
Everyone stared at each other in awkward silence for a few moments and Deter began talking again to break it. "So, how are you feeling today, Ellen? You look spectacular. Hey, if I can't flirt with your daughter, I'll content myself to flirting with you instead," he said, flashing both women a handsome smile. Clark felt himself frown. He *really* didn't like this guy.
They didn't stay any longer than they had to at the Center. Clark had endured enough of Deter to last him the rest of his life, and Ellen hadn't been able to give them any more useful information. They were just getting ready to leave the Center when a vision hit Clark. He had been standing there watching Lois as she gave Deter a light hug and said goodbye. That's when it hit him.
There were flashes; Lois hitting her head, being in a wheelchair at a clinic, and then looking at him confused. She didn't seem to know who he was. She waved goodbye telling him she'd see him. The vision shifted and Lois was standing in front of him telling him that she was in love, but she hadn't told *him* yet. Him who? He wondered. Her mouthed formed the name 'Maxwell Deter'. Then there were images of Deter telling Clark that he mustn't tell Lois about how he felt about her; that it could destroy the progress that had been made with Lois' mind. Then Lois was in front of him yelling at him - What was wrong? It couldn't be worse than what she was imagining, was she dying? She was yelling at him to tell her, and he blurted out, I love you!
Clark came out of the vision, feeling the anger rising in him. This man had tried to take Lois away from him and would have done it again if he'd been given the chance. Clark strode purposefully towards them as Lois was trying to break free from Deter's attentions. He turned his hearing on them as he got closer.
"Well, if things don't work out between you and Mr. Kent, please look me up. We'll go to dinner again sometime," Deter was saying to her.
"Oh, uh, that's nice of you to offer but…"
"You don't need to worry about things working out between me and Lois. They already have worked themselves out. We'll be leaving now, Mr. Deter," Clark said, deliberately leaving out the respectful title of 'doctor'. He took Lois by the arm, leading her away from Deter and out the front door of the Center.
"What was that all about?" Lois asked him. "I realize that you might be feeling a little jealous but nothing's ever happened between Max and me, I swear. You practically bit his head off back there," she said, a look of astonishment on her face.
Clark knew why she had that look. He was normally calm, mild-mannered even, but that man brought all kinds of unpleasant thoughts into his mind, mostly of what he'd like to do to him. "He tried to take you from me once… before…"
"Really? Did you have another vision?"
"Yeah, back there in the clinic. I had brought you here for him to treat you. I guess you were suffering from some sort of amnesia. You didn't remember me, and you ended up falling in love with him."
Lois was standing there staring at him, a look of concentration on her face; it almost looked like she was staring through him. "Clark, I remember. Oh, honey, I'm sorry. No wonder he had your dander up."
"I wouldn't say he had my dander up, exactly," Clark said defensively.
Lois laughed softly and then kissed him lightly on the lips, letting it linger for a few seconds. "Come on take me home. I think I know just the thing to make you feel better. Maxwell Deter isn't going to steal me away again, I promise."
Clark looked at her questioningly, his eyebrows lifted. Did she mean what he thought she meant? She smiled shyly at him. He left her side briefly to make a quick trip through some nearby trees, re-emerging dressed as Superman. He scooped her up and took to the air.
"Honey, what about the car? It's a rental!" Lois asked him incredulously.
"Forget the car, flying's faster. I'll come back for it later," he murmured, nuzzling her neck and kissing it. She giggled softly.
They flew back to his apartment in record time. Clark set them down on the balcony of his apartment building, his hands already working with the buttons on Lois' blouse. Her hands were busy groping for the zipper on the back of his suit. They made their way inside the apartment to the privacy it held, leaving a trail of clothes in their wake.
They fell together on the bed, their bodies a tangled mass of arms and legs, reaching, groping, feeling.
"Clark?" Lois said his name breathily.
"Did you recognize…" Lois was interrupted by the kiss Clark was applying firmly to her mouth. "Ungh," she groaned when their lips parted. "That name?"
"What name?" he replied absent-mindedly, nibbling on her ear. He moved his hands down her body, sensuously caressing her.
"Ohhh! Clark! Umm, Herb."
"Herb?" the name sounded familiar, but all higher brain functions were failing him at the present moment. "Lois?"
"Can we please talk about this later?" he begged her, applying a little incentive to a certain part of her body.
"Oh god, yes, Clark. Later. Much later," came her urgent reply.
"It's like having a second honeymoon. Except that we never really got to have the first one," Lois whispered in his ear.
Clark adjusted her body lying next to him in bed so that he could look into her face. He wished he could stay wrapped in this moment for a little longer, but Lois' stomach was vying for attention from him. "No, but I seem to remember that we had to stop to eat that time, too. I don't need to eat, but I tend to forget that you do."
Lois giggled. "Sorry. I was hoping you didn't hear that. I guess I can't live on love alone," she paused and then squeezed him a little tighter. Do you remember those two weeks we spent on our honeymoon?"
"More clearly than any memory I've ever lived."
"I don't want you to think that I don't love *this*. I do, but…"
"You wish there was someway to get things back the way they were."
"Yeah. I miss everything. Not just you. I miss working at the Planet; I miss our house, our life." Her eyes looked a little glassy.
"I know. We still don't have all of our memories back yet. Maybe there are still more clues to be found. You were saying something before about that name, Herb."
"Yes. Doesn't it sound familiar to you? Mom said she remembered her attacker saying that name."
"She also mentioned something about time travel, though. As much as I hate to admit it, your mom really may need the help she's getting. Time travel? That's a little out there."
"Yeah, I know, and yet something about it feels so familiar."
Clark started to say something else when he heard a soft rumble coming from Lois' mid-section, again. "I think I'd better take care of another need you're having before we do anything else," he said, getting out of bed and spinning into his suit.
Lois giggled. "How about some Chinese? I seem to remember that you know a great little place that has fortune cookies with fortunes written in Chinese."
"Your wish is my command, my lady," he said, making a little bow before her. She giggled again.
It hadn't taken Clark more than a handful of minutes to grab Lois some authentic Chinese food and make it back to his apartment, but he arrived to find her sound asleep. Apparently her need to recoup some energy was more than just needing to eat something.
He floated himself down onto the bed next to her, trying not to disturb her. He lay awake for a while just watching her sleep, watching her chest heave as she breathed in and out, watching the movement of her eyes as they fluttered behind her eyelids. She was dreaming; and the last thought he had before he joined her was of a man named Herb and time travel.
That really was H.G. Wells, Lois was saying. And that really was a man from the future. I think he's gone back in time to try and kill you as a baby. Do you think you can build this? She asked him, handing him an old, complicated looking blueprint. Clark took the paper looking at it, taking in all the designs. It may take a few hours, he told her. Then came the flashes. Scenes of him and Lois traveling through time, saving him as a baby; and H.G. Wells taking Tempus away.
Clark woke up grabbing for the notepad that he still had by his bed. He sketched out the drawing of the time machine he'd seen in his dream. He could fix this. He could go back to when things had changed and fix it. His excited movements managed to wake Lois from her slumber. She sat up and leaned against him, looking over his shoulder at his drawing.
"We seem to keep dreaming the same things, don't we? So Herb is H.G. Wells. Does that make Tempus the man who attacked my mom?" she asked him.
"It would seem so."
"But why would he do that? And why hasn't Mr. Wells come here to help us? I seem to remember him always showing up at the most inopportune moments." Clark nodded his head at her remembering their honeymoon night. "Why hasn't he shown up now, when we really need him?"
"Think about it, Lois. Remember what your mom told us. Her attacker said 'I almost wish I could let you live Herb, but your time traveling days are over.' I think we have to assume," Clark paused, emotion threatening to overwhelm him. It was true that Mr. Wells had always shown up just when they didn't want him to, but it was always to help them; always with their best interests at heart. It was always to save Utopia. "That he's dead. I don't think he'll be coming to help us. Tempus hated Utopia, and I think this was another attempt to destroy it. If he could get rid of H.G. Wells and keep us from ever meeting, Utopia might not ever happen."
"But he failed. We found each other. I think we would always find each other, no matter what," she said, wrapping her arms around him.
"Lois, honey, I need to know something."
"I need to know how badly you want to get back to our life before." Clark wished this could be easier.
"I would give anything to go back to the way it was before."
"Even if it meant someone had to die?"
Lois scooted around the bed and pulled on him until he was facing her. "Clark, what's wrong? What are you talking about? Have you figured out a way to fix this?"
Clark took a deep breath and closed his eyes. He opened them to find Lois' worried eyes staring back at him, patiently waiting for his answer. "Yes. I've found a way to fix this."
Her eyes went wide with hope. "How?"
"In my vision, I saw the blueprints for the time machine. I built it. I remember building it, what parts I need and what I have to do. I think maybe I could build it, again."
Lois grabbed a hold of him excitedly and hugged him tightly. "That's wonderful! So let's get started."
Clark winced visibly and reminded her, "Remember I said, even if it meant someone had to die?"
She pulled away from him, looking at him with concern. She searched his face with her eyes, and finally a knowing expression came across her face. "Mayson," she said simply.
He nodded his head at her. "I can build this machine, and we can go back, stop Tempus from attacking your mom. We can change everything back. But, if we do, then Mayson dies, again." Clark looked away from her, trying to hide the emotion in his eyes.
"It's not fair," came Lois' soft reply.
"I can't let you do it, Clark. If you do this, you'll never forgive yourself, and we can still have a life together, now."
"But how can I forgive myself for robbing you of the life you had, when it's in my power to go back and give it to you? Plus, there are other things to consider. Tempus has killed H.G. Wells, or at least we assume that's what happened. Is it fair to trade his life for hers? What about other people who may have died because of Tempus changing history? People I may have saved, if things had been different? I don't know what to do. This is so frustrating," he said, running a hand through his hair.
As he stood contemplating the disturbing thoughts running though his mind, a buzzing sound caught his attention. He glanced around the room; it was coming from Lois' purse. "Do you have a cell phone or a pager?" he asked.
"Yeah, a cell phone, why?" she answered.
"I think it's going off. Your purse is vibrating."
"Oh!" Lois exclaimed, running to her purse and rummaging through it looking for the item. By the time she found it, it had stopped vibrating. "It was Jonah."
"Oh, I forgot, you don't know him. Mr. Jameson. J. Jonah Jameson, the editor for the Daily Bugle and my boss." Lois listened to the voice mail he'd left for her, cringing and squinting her eyes at the loud booming voice; Clark could hear it even without super-hearing.
"It seems that my honeymoon has come to an abrupt end," she told him, sounding disappointed. "There are two other reporters out sick, and he's practically begging me to come back to work."
"Begging? Sounded more like demanding to me," Clark noted, feeling slightly irritated. He knew she would have to go back to work sooner or later, but he'd hoped it would be a little later than sooner.
"Oh, that's just Jonah. He's all bluster and no bite, trust me. Clark, how many days did you ask off for?"
"I didn't know how long it was going to take me to figure this out, so I took the whole week off."
"Has Perry called you yet, to try and get you to come back in?" she asked hopeful.
"No, actually he hasn't. I'm sure Jimmy's trying really hard to make an impression on him while I'm gone. Are you suggesting I come with you?"
She smiled shyly at him. "Well, I was hoping…"
"Then I will. Let me pack a few things, and we can be on our way."
"Actually, what I was thinking is that you could run me up there so I could get Jonah off my back; and while I'm doing that, you could come back here," she paused meaningfully.
Clark tried to read into her pause. What did she want him to do? And then it hit him, he knew. "I could come back here and pack; and have that talk with Mayson."
She nodded her head at him. He felt a knot beginning in the pit of his stomach. He knew she was right. He needed to talk to Mayson. It wasn't fair to just ignore her like this, leave her out of the loop. But he definitely wasn't looking forward to it. "Okay, grab your stuff and let's get you back to work before Mr. Jameson calls looking for you again."
Clark started to follow Lois up the pathway leading to her front door. She stopped and turned to face him. "Honey, I'm just going to take a quick shower, throw on some appropriate clothes and head over to the Bugle as fast as I can. I know you're dreading what you have to do; but the sooner you do it, the sooner you can put it behind you."
"Yeah, I know. I just hate leaving you."
She smiled affectionately at him. "I hate that you have to leave me, too. But I did live all by myself for years without you."
He smiled sheepishly at her and bent over to apply a soft kiss to her cheek. "Okay, well don't forget to talk to Jonah about whether or not he might want another reporter on board. Since he seems so desperate right now, this might be a good time to bring it up." Clark wanted to be as close to Lois as possible until they decided for sure what they were going to do. And if they decided to live the life they had been dealt, then all the better if he was already in place working for the Bugle.
"Yeah, I will. Now go, and hurry back."
Clark reluctantly turned away from her and took to the sky. He looked back and watched her as she continued her walk up to her front door. He couldn't tear his eyes away from her. She turned back and waved to him. Then, she lifted her key and inserted it into her front door, and Clark heard it - a tweeting noise as if something was being armed. No!
"Lois, stop!" he screamed at her. He knew her mind had heard him, but her body wasn't reacting fast enough to his warning. He watched as she began to turn the key. He was already on his way down to her to push her out of the way, but it felt like he was trying to swim through wet cement. Everything seemed to be moving in slow motion; and, as fast as he was, he wasn't fast enough.
The explosion blew Clark backwards and threw him into the trunk of a nearby tree. He braced his feet against the tree and pushed off, propelling himself towards the wreckage in front of him.
He couldn't see her body in the tangled mass of boards and rubble. He scanned the area with his x-ray vision and located her beneath the remains of the front door. He ran to the pile to jerk the debris off of her, but he froze. He was terrified of what he would find.
A soft moan snapped him out of his trance. A spark of hope ignited in him and then died just as quickly as he began lifting pieces away. The site that met his eyes caused his legs to give way beneath him. He dropped down on his knees next to Lois. There were cuts and abrasions on her exposed skin and a trail of blood was leaving her mouth. He was afraid to x-ray her body, afraid of what he would see. She was still alive; he could still sense her heartbeat, but the beats were coming slow and soft. Her eyelids fluttered open, and she looked at him, the pain obvious in her eyes. He reached out for her and hesitated, afraid that if he touched her she might break - that this moment might break.
"Oh, Clark," came a soft whisper from her barely parted lips.
"Shhh. It's okay, honey, you're going to be all right," he said, fighting back tears. "I'm going to lift you up and fly you to the hospital. You've got to hang on for me, okay?"
"I love you," she breathed out. No! No, please! She was trying to say goodbye.
"No, Lois, please don't do this. You've got to fight. Stay with me," he said, openly crying now as he lifted her off the ground and out of the rubble as gently as he possibly could.
"Clark… I…" She tried once more, and then she was gone.
Clark hugged her body to him gently, rocking back and forth. "No! No, don't leave me. Please," he begged her. He laid her down in a patch of soft grass and began administering mouth to mouth. Over and over he tried to breathe life, push life, back into her lungs, but there was no response; she was gone.
Clark felt nauseous; the world seemed to be spinning, and he passed out.
The sound of distant sirens awakened Clark; but, as he came to, he wished he hadn't. He wished he could have slept forever. The images came back into his mind. Lois waving, the explosion, her crumpled body. Why couldn't *these* images have been a dream? A nightmare? He turned slowly on his side and looked at his wife lying next to him on the grass… as much as he willed them to be, the images weren't dreams; they were real.
Tears began rolling freely down his face. He sat up, scooting over next to her and lifted her body up into his arms. She was so beautiful, even now.
The sound of the sirens was getting closer. Obviously someone had seen the explosion and called the police. They were coming, coming to take Lois away from him. They would take her body and - revulsion swept through Clark - they would do an autopsy. They would examine her body for evidence of what had happened; who had done this. They would try, but they would fail.
He reached a hand out to her face and brushed the hair from her eyes. Oh how he wished he could just scoop her up and take her away from here, from this. They wouldn't understand; they didn't know how much she meant to him. To them he was just Superman, a godlike entity impervious to harm. But inside that outer facade there was Clark, the man who had only truly loved this one extraordinary woman.
Clark carefully lowered Lois' body back down to the grass. He hated to leave her here, but there was nothing more he could do for her here. He climbed unsteadily to his feet, willing his body to move. *They* would fail, but he would not. He needed to find something that would show him who Lois' attacker had been. He would not fail. He would find them, and they would pay. He began to sweep the area for prints, for any evidence of who had been there. He flew in and out of the house, looking for something, anything; he didn't have much time.
The phone inside Lois' house began to ring. It rang and kept ringing. It stopped; then it immediately began ringing again. Clark, frustrated with his efforts to find any evidence, picked up the phone.
"He… Hello," he stammered out, not quite finding his voice.
"Clark? Well, Clark, it *is* you." the male voice on the phone said.
His body immediately went rigid. "Who is this?"
"Oh, that's right; you probably don't remember me do you? That's a shame, if I had only been standing there in front of you I could have pulled some glasses off my face or something and you'd have gotten it right away," the voice said with a pleased sounding chuckle.
The voice sounded so familiar. Clark could almost see his face. "Tempus?"
"Oh, see there, was that so hard?"
"Tempus! You're going to pay for this. Whatever it takes, I will find you."
"Tsk tsk, Superman. How are you going to find me? Even if you come after me, I have a time machine. Do you? Oh, whoops, I forgot that pesky little detail. Of course you don't. Herb's not around to give you one anymore. Poor Herb. I really did like him, but he always insisted in meddling in my business and thwarting my plans. Just like you and Ms. Lane."
"You'll pay for what you've done, Tempus."
"Me? This is your fault. You shouldn't have found her, Clark. If you had just left well enough alone, she'd still be alive. It's your fault she's dead. I've been living here, in this time, for the past few years. I really like the decadence of this particular era, but I also stayed to keep an eye on things. When I noticed that Superman had shown up in New York for no apparent reason - you know they plaster stuff like that on every local television station there is - I took a quick trip back into the future and found Utopia alive and well. I knew then that you had found a way to remember her, and you had found each other - again. Ugh! So you left me with no choice but to remove her from the picture entirely. Will you be able to go on, to create a Utopian society now without your precious Lois Lane?"
Clark didn't want to give him the pleasure of a response, and the sirens were right outside now; he had no time left. He slammed the receiver down on the cradle, crushing both items, and flew out the back door of the house. The ache inside his chest threatened to overcome him, to pull him from the sky; but he knew what he had to do now. The decision had been made for him. There was no other choice. With that knowledge, his pain began to ease and he flew back to Metropolis.
If only he'd just built the time machine sooner and taken them both back, fixed their past; this would never have happened. Lois would still be here with him now. He needed her. Clark knew he couldn't live without her, didn't want to live without her… and he didn't have to.
He heard the knock at the door seconds after he sensed the person just outside. He sighed, emotionally steeling himself before running up the stairs to open the door.
He opened the door, and Mayson looked up at him, her eyes full of concern. "Clark, I was so worried. What's going on?"
"Thank you for coming. I was afraid when I called that you wouldn't even want to speak to me after the way I've treated you these past few days."
"Of course I'd come. I'll always come."
The words pierced his heart. He fought back tears and took her by the hand, leading her inside his apartment. "I asked you here so I could see you one last time; apologize to you before I leave."
He knew he was doing this more for himself than for her. She wouldn't know what he had done, but he would have to live with this decision. He needed to see her one last time.
"Leave? Where are you going?"
"It doesn't matter. What matters is that Superman has something to do, something that has to be done, and I won't be coming back after I leave."
Mayson turned away from him, her eyes tearing up. "How can you do this to me? How can you propose to me one day, and then a few days later tell me that you are leaving and never coming back? Clark, I love you. I've come to terms with the other half of your life - Superman. Please, don't let him take you away from me."
It would have been easier if she had been mad at him. She had the right to be mad. This, her pleading with him not to go, this was almost unbearable. "I'm sorry, Mayson. I really am. But this is something that I have to do."
"I hope whatever it is, it's worth it."
It was. Clark knew it was, but that didn't make this any easier for him. "Me too," he told her softly.
He wrapped her in his arms, holding her one last time. He knew that he was trading one life for another, but Lois wasn't supposed to die. It had been Mayson who died in an explosion, not Lois.
She wouldn't know, he told himself. Neither Lois nor Mayson would know. They wouldn't know what had happened, what he had done. But this wasn't actually something *he* was doing. He was only correcting something that Tempus had done. He kept telling himself that, over and over. It was the only way he could face what he had to do.
"I know that I haven't always been honest with you, but please know that I love you; and that this hurts me more than you'll ever know," he told her softly.
She wrapped her arms around him tighter, not wanting to let him go.
"Goodbye, Mayson," he said, pulling away from her. He kissed her gently on the cheek and then stepped away from her, spinning into his suit. He smiled sadly at her and flew out the open door behind her.
"I love you," he heard her whisper softly. Then he was gone, shooting up through the clouds.
Clark sat in the shadows watching Ellen Lane's house. Lois had told him that her mom was attacked when she came home that night, the night that Clark had arrived here on. It seemed to Clark that Tempus must have broken into her house and waited for her to get home and then attacked her.
His thoughts turned back to Mayson. The ache in his chest hadn't subsided yet. Could he live with himself? With the decision he'd made? Clark didn't know. Could he really justify condemning one woman to death to save another? He had to. It was Lois. There was no other choice.
But did he have to? Could he maybe… save Mayson, too? He did have a time machine. He could go to that fateful night, stop her from getting in that car. The thought made the pain in his chest ease a little. First, he had to get the future back on track. He wouldn't be able to make the attempt to save her until after he had set things right - here.
Clark's mind continued to wander while he waited. Yes, he could go through time and save Mayson, it was possible. But, so many things could change by tampering through time travel. Tempus had changed one thing and completely rewritten the future. Clark could justify coming here to stop Tempus. He wasn't really changing history as much as he was preventing someone else from changing it.
But was it his *right* to change real history? Even if it saved Mayson's life? What if it caused someone else to die somehow? What if it changed things between him and Lois? He sighed. It was something he would need to talk to Mr. Wells about the next time he saw him, if he saw him.
Clark directed his attention back to Ellen's house, still no sign of Tempus. He felt sure if he waited long enough he'd see Tempus breaking into her house. Unless… unless he was already in there. Was he? Clark focused in on the house, scanning it, and found him. He was inside sitting arrogantly in one of her living room chairs, drinking what looked like a cup of tea. Clark felt the anger swelling inside him.
It was now or never. He didn't want to risk Ellen coming home. Clark took off with a purposeful stride across the street. He walked straight up to the front door and moved through it without stopping, forcing it open.
"Tempus this ends here," he said, moving menacingly towards him. It was taking all of his self-control to not pick him up and physically hurl him out of the house - maybe hurl him off the planet.
"You are so right," Tempus said, agreeing with him. "It does end here, Clark." Tempus rose up out of his chair pulling a box out from behind him. Clark cut the distance between them as Tempus grabbed an object from inside the box and shoved it at him. "For you."
Clark felt pain go shooting through him and staggered under the effects of the Kryptonite.
"Do you think I'm *stupid*?" Tempus asked him. "Did you honestly think I would come unprepared? It seems I never know when you're going to show up or where. My little trip to the alternate universe provided me with this little piece of home. What's the matter, Clark? Feeling a little homesick?" he asked him with an amused chuckle.
"What have you done with H.G. Wells?" Clark managed to ask him as he backed away from the deadly rock.
Tempus made no move to stop him. "Herb? I'm afraid I had to hit him over the head pretty hard to subdue him after I jumped through the time window with him. He's out cold on the floor behind me."
"What are you going to do with him?" Clark asked, trying to keep him talking so he could move further away from the poison leaching through his system.
It didn't work this time. Tempus got up and walked toward him causing Clark to sink to his knees on the floor. The pain was so intense that it was making it hard to breathe.
"I'm going to kill him, after I kill you of course. I had planned to kill him all along; though, I really didn't plan on killing you, not this time. My plan was to separate you and Lois. I was hoping if the two of you never got together that there would be no Utopia. If I let Herb live, he'd no doubt rectify that situation and ruin my whole plan. And yet, now you're here and about to die, so I guess my plans have changed," Tempus smirked.
"Your plan… wouldn't have… succeeded," Clark said through clenched teeth. His vision was blurring, and his ears were ringing; but he kept talking, kept fighting. For Lois' sake, he had to fight this. "I came here… to stop you… Lois and I… still remembered."
"Really? Darn, I had really hoped I was on to something. Oh, well, I suppose it doesn't matter now, anyway; though it would have been nice to know my plan would have succeeded. Okay, boy wonder, it's time for you to say goodnight. There's no little goodie-goodie Miss Lane here to stop me tonight."
"No, but I will stop you Tempus, if it takes my last breath!" came the voice of H.G. Wells as he hurled himself at Tempus from behind.
Tempus was caught off-guard and the chunk of Kryptonite went flying from his hand and across the room as Wells' body made contact with first his arm and then the rest of his body, knocking him to the ground.
Clark got up as fast as his weakened body would allow and grabbed hold of Tempus, using his remaining strength to pin him securely to the floor. "Mr. Wells, get the Kryptonite and get it back inside that case."
H.G. Wells complied, finding the Kryptonite and entombing it back inside the protective case.
"Come on, we need to get him out of here before Ellen Lane comes home. We need to make this like it never happened," Clark explained hauling Tempus up off the floor and out the front door. Mr. Wells followed close behind them.
Once they were back at the location of Clark's time machine and had Tempus safely tied up and perched on the front seat, Mr. Wells took Clark out of earshot from Tempus and asked him the question Clark had been waiting to hear.
"What happened, my boy?"
"I could ask you the same thing," Clark responded.
"Oh, my, yes I guess you could. Well, I had decided to pay Tempus a visit, back in your present day, to make sure he was still in prison and not causing any more trouble. You remember he had been imprisoned for bank robbery after that fiasco Lois and I had with him in the alternate universe. I came to inform him that the Utopian courts had finally brought his case to trial and they would be coming to get him shortly to take him back to face judgment for his crimes."
"You went to see him in your time machine? How did you get it inside the prison?"
"Oh, goodness no. I borrowed a time window from a man named Andrus; he's a peacekeeper in Utopia. Amazing little device, which reminds me," Wells said, walking over to Tempus and pulling a small device out of his inside jacket pocket. He held it up allowing Clark to inspect it.
"Oh come on, Herb, you don't really need two time machines now do you? That's just getting greedy," Tempus said, squirming against the ropes that held him to his chair.
With one look Clark silenced him and put a stop to his efforts to struggle. Tempus slouched in his seat, a look of resignation on his face.
"But on the subject of the time machine, how did you manage upon this one?" Wells asked him, pointing to the time machine Clark had built.
"It's a long story."
"Well, I think at this point we have all the time we need. Why don't you start at the beginning."
"The one thing I don't understand is why I couldn't save her? I can fly around the world in a matter of minutes, why couldn't I move fast enough to save Lois from that explosion? It's like something… I don't know, almost like something prevented me."
Wells was nodding his head. "The curse."
"Your memories should be coming back, now that we've successfully stopped Tempus. Remember your wedding night, Clark? I came to your apartment to stop you from, uh, well…" Wells broke off, blushing.
Clark remembered that part; H.G. Wells had interrupted their honeymoon to stop them from making love. What happened after that was a little fuzzy, but it was slowly coming back to him. In fact, memories seemed to be coming in and out of his mind, changing and rearranging. It was a little disconcerting. But that particular night he remembered. Wells had said if they had consummated their marriage that Lois would die because of a curse that had been put on her. They had gone back in the past to stop Baron Tempos from having the curse cast on Sir Charles and Lady Loisette.
"I remember. But we stopped that curse from being cast."
"Yes, you did, in the original version of history. But by Tempus coming back here and stopping you and Lois from ever meeting, and you said he also killed me, he changed the history we knew. Because I was dead, I never came to you to take you back to the past to stop that curse."
"So when Lois and I…" Clark broke off, realizing what had happened. "By finding her and reuniting with her, I condemned her to death." His knees buckled and he sat down hard on the ground. It had been his fault.
"Don't beat yourself up about it, my boy. There was nothing you could have done. How could you have known? You couldn't. And now it's all behind you. We'll take you back to your own time and it will be as if nothing ever happened."
"Will it? Will I remember this?" Clark felt like he had already begun to forget some of it. It seemed foggy, not real.
"Hmm. I don't know; that's difficult to say. Since memories leaked through to you of your previous history, I don't know if you will remember this or not. On my best guess, though, I don't think you will. This reality was never meant to happen, and we've prevented it from happening. I believe these memories will disappear once you get back to your own time and future."
"But how did I, and Lois, remember our other lives? If Tempus came back here and successfully changed things, how could we remember things that never happened?"
Wells' brow was furrowed in deep concentration. "To be honest, I don't really know my boy. In my time travels I've run into many unexplainable and mystifying events, things I couldn't really justify through science. In this case, it may have something to do with the deep connection that exists between the two of you. One thing I've learned about time, though, is that it is always in motion. But, even though it is always in motion, parts of it always remain constant."
"What do you mean, constant?"
"For every person who lives there is always a past, and always a future, but there is also always a *present*. Tempus went back in the past and changed things, but from your *present* mind's perspective you went to sleep one night and woke up the next morning with different memories, everything had suddenly changed. And there is also the connection that you and Miss Lane have which seems to be a constant down through the ages; you have a love that spans across time. I have a feeling that, because of the bond you share, your minds simply rebelled."
(Original: "There is always a past, and always a future, but there is also always a *present*. One spot in time that is the reality of the universe. This is the time that you came from. True, Tempus went back in the past and changed things, but from your *present* mind's perspective you went to sleep one night and woke up the next morning with different memories, everything had suddenly changed. I have a feeling that because of the strong connection that you and Miss Lane share, your minds simply rebelled.")
Clark didn't exactly follow everything Mr. Wells was telling him, but he realized one thing… when it came right down to it; it didn't matter. All that really mattered was that it was finished, and Lois was safe.
"But, on that thought," Wells was continuing, "We need to figure out exactly when to return you. What was the last thing you remember?"
Clark thought back, what was the last thing he remembered happening? When the memory came to him his face flushed, better to not start with that immediate memory. "The last event I remember was that there had been an incident in the news about Lois having an affair with Superman. They had faked a picture of us, uh, in a very friendly pose."
A reddish hue came into Wells face.
"The last actual day that I remember, there had been a press conference that Superman attended to expose the photo as a fraud and to assure everyone that Superman was not having an *illicit* affair with Lois. Now, the last actual moment I remember…" Clark broke off, feeling that initial flush come back into his face, "was later that night. Lois and I had sat next to a roaring fire in our fireplace at home and then had done a little celebrating of Superman's vindication. Then, I guess we must have gone to sleep. The next thing I remember clearly was waking up in my bed at my apartment, feeling confused."
"Well, I shall do my best to return you to that exact time, while you were sleeping. We'll use the time machine you built to take you back, and then I'll take care of it from there."
Wells began to walk back towards the time machine. Clark looked at the time machine. Something was nagging at the back of his mind. It seemed important. Hadn't there been something he'd wanted to ask Mr. Wells? Clark closed his eyes, trying to concentrate. He was sure there had been something he wanted to do, but it just wasn't coming to him. So many memories were changing or slipping away… like a dream that he was quickly forgetting.
Clark finally sighed in frustration. It was no use; it wasn't going to come to him. Had it really been that important? He had stopped Tempus and saved Lois, and they were going back. That was the important thing. Clark followed Wells to the time machine and climbed in next to Tempus.
"What are you doing to do about him?" Clark asked, concerned.
"I'm going to take him back to the point that he abducted me…"
"Yeah, yeah, back to prison, I know," Tempus said, interrupting him. "But you have to admit, it was a good plan. I still think it has merit, the idea of separating you and Lois. It just needs a little more work. Next time…" Tempus said, smiling smugly at Clark.
"There will be no next time," Wells said, scolding him. "You won't get another chance to try this again. Andrus will be along shortly to take you back to Utopia to face your medicine."
"Oh, don't be such a killjoy, Herb. Besides, not even you know exactly what the future holds." And with that last statement they were gone, traveling through time back to the lives that were waiting for them.
Lois was standing there in a doorway just out of Clark's reach. "Goodbye, Clark," she said. Goodbye? What? Where was she going? "I love you," she said through tears. Clark started towards her and then, suddenly, the room began to stretch in an unearthly manner. As the room continued stretching, Lois was being pulled away from him. What was happening? Clark started running towards her, his arm extended, trying desperately to reach her. He began running faster and faster until finally he was flying, but still he wasn't any closer. Lois, no! He reached even harder, and she reached out for him, too. For one brief, hopeful moment their fingertips almost touched; if he stretched just a little more maybe he could grab hold of her hand. But then a figure appeared in the shadows behind Lois and grabbed her, wrenching her away from Clark's grasp. Lois, no! Lois! The figure pulled her away from him through the doorway into weird shimmering, swirling air. Clark continued to struggle, trying to get to the doorway; but, before he could reach it, the door slammed shut. She was gone.
Clark woke up, breathing hard, his mind trying desperately to hold on to the last few images of the dream. Where had the dream taken place? Who had pulled Lois away? Argh! He hated waking up to a disturbing dream and not being able to remember what it was about or what had happened. Especially, when it felt so real and seemed so important.
He shook off the cold chill that had settled on him and reached over in bed to wrap his arms around Lois. But she wasn't beside him. He immediately sat up feeling around for her, scanning the room for her. She wasn't there.
"Lois!" he shouted.
No answer. God no, he thought, what had happened?
"Lois!" he tried again. He headed for the doorway on a dead run to go look for her and almost knocked her down as she came walking into the room.
"Oh! Clark! You scared me. What's wrong? I'm right here, stop yelling; you're going to wake the neighbors." Lois told him.
Clark relaxed. What *was* wrong? Well, he'd had a nightmare, but he just had the nagging feeling that it was more than that. Like he'd come close to losing her, somehow. It all felt like a bad dream, and he didn't want to think about it anymore. She was here, and she was safe; and that was all that mattered.
"It was nothing, honey, just a bad dream. I'm sorry I scared you," he said, pulling her into a close embrace and kissing her deeply.
"Mmm, didn't get enough earlier, huh? On second thought maybe we shouldn't worry about waking the neighbors," she said, giggling, searching for his mouth again with hers.
Clark couldn't have agreed with anything more.