Submitted: November, 2006
Summary: What's going on in Metropolis? Four Supermen? Three Lois Lanes? Add in a few Jimmys and a couple of Perrys and things are bound to get interesting. Written in response to a challenge fic.
All characters and settings are the property of someone else, definitely not me, and whoever else can legally lay claim to them. No copyright infringement is intended. This story was written purely for fun, not for profit.
A thank you to the writers of Lois & Clark, without them we wouldn't have this wonderful world to play in. A thank you as well to the writers of the original Superman movies as well as Superman Returns.
Thanks for going on this ride with me Sue and James. I wasn't really sure what I was doing at first. And thank you for your help Nancy with my medical questions. And also a thank you to all of you who made suggestions for the story on the message boards. And of course I would be missing a thank you if I didn't thank CCWB for his challenge that inspired this in the first place.
Okay, this story requires a little introduction (okay a lot of introduction, sorry). If you take the time to read this it might make your read of the story more enjoyable. This fic was written in response to a challenge that Jensguy/CKWB posted on the message boards. He wanted to see several different Superman come together in one story. He was specific on which Supermen could be used, what point in time they were to be used at, how many universes could be involved (okay I bent this rule a little, he requested a limit of three, but I had to stretch it to four) and that multiple Lois Lanes, Jimmys, and Perrys were optional.
The four Supermen I have gone with for this story (based on CCWB's criteria) are Christopher Reeve's after Superman IV*, Brandon Routh's at the end of Superman Returns**, and two of Dean Cain's — both our Clark after the episode "Voice From The Past" and Alt-Clark after the episode "Lois and Clarks". I have also used all of the Lois Lanes available and threw in a few Jimmys and Perrys for good measure too. With all those different portrayals of the same characters, it's bound to get confusing. To try and alleviate some of that confusion, I never write in the same universe twice in a row — at least until they all end up in the same universe <grin>. I've separated each section with a line of asterisks and that is your cue to know that we are moving on to a different scene and a different universe and at the asterisks I've labeled the section as either LNC; Alt-LNC; Superman Returns; or O. Superman for Chris Reeves (original Superman) — I've also listed the character POV after that. So maybe that will help and hopefully I've written the characters and scenes well enough that it won't take you too long to figure out what universe you're in.
(*Since I am using Christopher Reeve's version after Superman IV — CCWB's request — we will be going with the idea that there were two, yes count them, two amnesia kisses with Lois. One in II and one again in IV — if you don't believe me, re-watch IV sometime… wait, no, nevermind, don't do that.)
(**I am going with the premise that Bryan Singer intended for Superman Returns to be a follow-up to Superman I & II and therefore is continuing the story line started by those two movies — instead of being something totally new and of it's own. I had heard a rumor that this was the case and so I'm going with that as a basis for that part of this story…)
Oh and anytime you see these: < > that denotes that the characters are remembering something that was said in the past.
That's it. I've read scripts and re-watched scenes, and did the best that I could to remain faithful to all the movies and our beloved show. I hope you enjoy.
Now, without further adieu…
With hope all things are possible. But at what cost does that hope come? How can one person's life so greatly affect the lives of so many others?
*LNC — CLARK POV*
Clark glanced over at the sleeping form of his wife and snuggled up a little closer to her, sharing his warmth with her. He had almost lost her, again. Lex Luthor may have died down in that tunnel but his ideas had lived on through his son. Lex Luthor Junior had been as bent on possessing Lois as his father had.
<You'll do anything I ask because you're cursed with a flaw I don't have. You can love. And you love her…>
He did love her. So much.
Clark reached out to brush a piece of hair away from her eyes. It would be time to get up soon, but for now he was just content to lie here next to her and watch her sleep. She looked so beautiful in the light of the morning sun.
He was still astounded at all the things they'd had to overcome together. She had come so close to…
<I think you know what I'm about to do… You won't feel a thing…>
Oh, god, Lois. What if he couldn't have saved her? Brought her back? He closed his eyes against the thought. Too close. It was the second time he had frozen her like that. So many things could go wrong.
But it had worked and she was safe… until the next time.
Lois shifted against his hand that was now gently caressing her face. She rolled over and looked up at him. Her eyes were soft and new, still full of sleep.
"Good morning." He kissed her cheek softly.
She smiled at him. "Mmm. Good morning. What are you doing awake already?" She laid her arm on top of his and began lightly caressing it with her fingertips. Her touch sent vibrations up his arm and down his back, causing goosebumps to light up his skin. "Don't get me wrong, this is a pretty nice way to wake up, but Perry gave us the day off today. I was kind of hoping to stay in bed a little longer."
"I was just watching you sleep and thinking…"
"About what?" Her fingers left his arm and she moved her hand up to rest against the side of his face, rubbing her thumb across his cheek.
"About everything we've gone through, and that I could have lost you so easily… Thinking again about whether or not things would settle down now for a while and just be normal." He brushed one hand lightly across her chest and down her abdomen, letting it come to rest against her stomach.
"Hah! Define normal." She took his hand and brought it up to her mouth, kissing the back of it softly. "We have been through a lot, haven't we? I can't imagine what could possibly happen now."
She grinned at him, letting go of his hand. She brought her hand up between them, her fingers closed in a fist. "Let's see, Lex Luthor is dead… we think," she said, holding up one finger to keep count. "His heirs have all been dealt with… at least the ones that we know of." A second and third finger went up. "Tempus is behind bars… for now." The final finger came up.
Clark held up his thumb next to her fingers. "And you're not behind bars," Clark added, the relief evident in his voice. He grabbed the hand she'd been counting with and began applying kisses to each one of her fingers and then he kissed her palm.
"Mmm, for now." She snuggled a little closer to him.
"For now? You're not thinking of getting into more trouble again already are you?"
"Define trouble. The kind of trouble I had in mind would be pretty fun," she said as she slipped her hands under the sheet.
Clark's eyebrows went up in surprise. He could handle that kind of trouble. He wrapped his arms around her, pulling her tightly against him. At least for tonight, for this moment, he had her in his arms, and she was safe.
*SUPERMAN RETURNS — SUPERMAN POV*
"Goodnight!" Jason yelled out his window to Superman.
Clark smiled at him, hovering just a few feet away.
A startled gasp came from the lips of Lois Lane who hadn't realized until just then that he was there. Clark looked down at her. She looked so beautiful, wrapped in a delicate robe and bathed in the light of the moon. He wanted nothing more right now than to scoop her up and fly her off over the city with him… if things were only different.
"I love you…" Her voice had started out strong but then faded away into a whisper. If it hadn't been for his super-hearing he wouldn't have heard her.
But he did hear her.
She did love him. His heart swelled at her words, her admission. She had lied to Richard when he had asked her if she had been in love with Superman. Clark had known she was lying, he could tell by her body language what her true feelings were, even if her heart wasn't ready to admit them yet. It had felt so right the night he had taken her in his arms and flown her over the city. She felt so right in his arms.
He thought back to *that* night. The one glorious night they had shared before he had left. He remembered how she had felt in his arms that night. How soft her skin had been beneath his fingers.
That night… The night their love had created Jason.
Clark had missed her so much while he was gone. He had thought about that night a thousand times and had died a thousand deaths at having taken that knowledge from her. Why had he made her forget? Why had he ever left?
<Richard's a good man and you've been gone a long time…>
She was right. He had been gone a long time. And she had moved on… with Richard.
How did he feel about him? Richard had saved his life. He was grateful to him for that and for the fact that he had been there as a role model and father figure for Jason while Clark had been away. She was right, Richard was a good man. He had been there for them when Clark hadn't. He had been there for the birth of his son, had helped raise him, provide for him.
Clark knew that DNA wasn't what made someone a parent. He knew that better than probably anyone did. His parents had been Jonathan and Martha Kent. They had raised him, provided for him and he loved them deeply. But he also loved Jor-El and Lara. Clark had always wished that he could have known his biological father; that Jor-El could have been a part of his life, besides just through the crystals he'd left for him.
Yes, Richard was a good man but that didn't mean Clark wasn't going to fight for what was his. Jason was his son too. He didn't want his son to look back years later when he knew the truth and wonder why Clark hadn't been there for him. Surely his son would want him to be a part of his life if he knew the truth. And Lois…
"Will we see you… around?" she asked, giving him a small smile. She was looking up at him with what he wanted to believe was hope in her eyes.
I love you, Lois, more than you'll ever know. He wanted to say it, but he didn't. She had to know, didn't she? How hard the decision to leave her had been for him? How sorry he was…
She would have to make her own decision and he didn't want to make it any harder on her. But when she had come to him at the hospital and revealed to him that Jason was his son, she had to have known that he would want to be a part of his life… Their life.
Please don't shut me out, Lois.
"I'm always around." He smiled at her as he lifted up into the night sky. Even as high and as fast as he could fly, he didn't think he could match the feeling in his heart at this particular moment.
He turned and headed towards a familiar destination. He hadn't found an apartment yet in Metropolis, and the commute back and forth to Kansas was getting a little old. But tonight he would have flown back home anyway.
He needed to see his mom. He needed to tell her that she was right. That he wasn't alone. Not anymore. Not ever again.
He had a son.
*O. SUPERMAN — SUPERMAN POV*
Clark flew through the night sky looking down on the city below him. It was amazing how peaceful the city looked from this high up. But maybe that peace would become a reality.
<I made a vow never to interfere in the destiny of this planet…>
But he had broken that vow. He had tried to the best of his ability to end the nuclear threat, to do away with the weapons of mass destruction. But in the end he had realized one very important thing.
No matter how much he wanted to bring peace to this planet, it wasn't his to give.
The people had to want it. They had to demand it with such resolute determination that the governments of the world would have no choice but to grant it to them. And when that happened he would be there, guiding them and helping them in whatever way he could.
<You are not one of them…>
No, he wasn't one of them, could never be. But this planet was now his home and the majority of the people he shared his home with wanted the same thing he did. A peaceful society…
Yet there would always be a few like Lex Luthor who were selfish, always in opposition to the efforts to make this world better for the good of everyone.
<They can be a great people Kal-El, they wish to be…>
One day he would help lead this people, this planet, towards a Utopian society, free from wars and violence. A world at peace. It was something he wanted as much as they did. In fact, there was really only one other thing he wanted in his life. But she was something he couldn't have.
He flew down, headed towards Lois Lane's apartment.
He had tried to make it work. When she had found out he was Superman, he'd gone as far as to give up his Kryptonian heritage to live his life with her as a human, to forsake his life as Superman and devote himself to her.
He thought about the night they had shared, in one another's arms. The way she had let her guard down with him and given herself over to him fully. It was a night that haunted his dreams and shadowed the moments he spent with her, even now.
It had been wonderful being with her, truly and wholly himself, but it hadn't lasted.
The world had needed Superman. He'd had to return, to fight General Zod and the other criminals from Krypton. He had wanted so badly, once the war was over, for Lois to stay his friend, lover, hopefully so much more… She was the one person who understood him, who truly knew him for who he really was.
But it had been too hard for her.
<Don't you know this is killing me? To have you come in here every day, and not be able to talk normally to you, or show you how I feel about you, or speak to anybody else about you…>
He'd done the only thing he knew to do. He had used his Kryptonian powers to take those memories away from her in one last parting kiss. He didn't want her to have to carry the weight of his secret. It should be his burden alone to bear.
After that kiss, she had come back to him as the Lois that he knew and had fallen in love with. He had been so… relieved. Pleased to have her if nothing else, as his friend… Glad for her happiness even if it cost him his own.
Content to love her in the only way he could, by protecting her. He had once moved heaven and Earth in order to save her life, to bring her back to him. And he knew he would do it again if it meant that he could spend even one more day, one more hour… one more moment with her.
*ALT-LNC — ALT-CLARK POV*
"Thank you for your help, Clark. For leaving your world to come with me," Wells said as they stepped down from the time machine. "We defeated Tempus and saved the Superman of my world. I couldn't have done it without you, my boy." He squeezed Clark's shoulder lightly.
"How could I have refused? The Clark of your world is a good man." And he's married to a good woman. Clark felt the familiar dull ache in his heart as he thought of Lois. No, how could he have refused to go there and help her, to see her one last time? Even if it meant he would have to leave her again, that she would have to break his heart all over again.
"Yes, he certainly is. The two of you have a lot in common."
Clark sighed quietly. They may have a few things in common, but not *everything*. Certainly not what he wished he had. "Mr. Wells, do you really think there's a chance that we could find my Lois? You said you feel like nothing is ever impossible, but I've lost track of the hours I've spent flying and looking for her, hoping to find some shred of evidence that she's still alive… Trying to find that one clue that will tell me where I can find her. I'd finally given up hope."
"Never give up hope, my boy, with hope all things are possible. In a universe full of absolutes, hope is the one thing withstanding. If she's out there, we will find her."
"But what if she doesn't want to be found? What if she's happy where she is now?" The thought made Clark ache inside. "What if she's started a new life and there's a reason why she never came back? She's never known me. Do I have the right to do this, to find her?"
Wells regarded him with a troubled expression. "You're the only one who can make that decision, Clark. I can't make it for you. You must do what you feel is right, in your heart. But I will say this, knowing Lois as I do; if there were a reason that she didn't come back, don't you think she would have a least told someone? Rather than let everyone think she was dead? Her family, her friends at the Daily Planet?"
Clark nodded his head. What Wells said made sense but he still felt so conflicted. Conflicted? Or maybe it was fear?
He had wanted so badly to find her, had wished that there were some way. But now, now that the answer was staring him in the face, he was afraid. Did he have the right to change her life?
But Wells could be his last opportunity to find her. If he let him leave now, he might never get another chance. "Could you maybe give me a few days to think about it? Come back and check on me?"
"Yes, I think that is an excellent idea. I need to be getting back to my own universe to check on Tempus and make sure he is staying out of trouble. Once that is done, I can come back here to check on you, see if you've come to a decision."
Clark nodded at him, relief flooding through him. Yes, he still had hope. "Thank you."
Wells smiled at him. "I'll see you in a couple of days, Clark."
*LNC — LOIS POV*
TEMPUS AKA JOHN DOE ESCAPES FROM PRISON — POLICE BAFFLED BY DISAPPEARANCE
By Lois Lane and Clark Kent.
Lois set the paper down on her desk and sighed heavily.
Clark was right. Why couldn't things just be normal, for a little while?
Preoccupied with her thoughts, she didn't hear Clark come walking up behind her until she felt his hands on her shoulders.
"Hi, honey," he said, kissing her lightly on the cheek. He'd been gone a lot the past couple of days and it was so good to feel him standing there behind her, to feel his lips press against her.
She turned around and gave him a curious glance. "Who are you?" Off of his worried look she continued, "Oh yeah, my husband, my hero. I've missed you."
He smiled at her. "Me too." Then his smile faded. "Superman still hasn't found anything yet."
"Nothing?" she asked, not being able to keep the disappointment out of her voice.
"Not even a hint of anything." He sounded frustrated.
They hadn't seen much of each other lately, since the news hit that Tempus had escaped. At first, Clark hadn't wanted to search for him, he'd been afraid to leave her alone for even a short length of time. But she had finally talked some sense into him, made him go — yeah, like anyone could make Superman do anything, but she could.
They both knew that Tempus had to be found. They wouldn't be able to rest easy until he was. Clark had taken the cell phone in case she needed to contact him in an emergency and had checked in on her a few times in person. But it wasn't the same. Not the same as having him there with her.
And it seemed to be a wasted effort. It was very disturbing that Tempus had disappeared without a trace and even Superman couldn't find any indication of where he'd gone.
"I don't like this, Clark. Something's not right. Where could he be?" She knitted her eyebrows together, trying to resist the urge to pace.
"Who knows, maybe Mr. Wells came and took him… back to Utopia or something." He was grasping at straws.
"No, he wouldn't have done that, not without telling us something. What bothers me almost as much, though, is where is Mr. Wells? Surely in his travels he would see that something's amiss. Why hasn't he tried to contact us?"
"I don't know. I guess until he does, we're just going to have to keep our eyes open and stay alert to anything that doesn't feel right."
She wrapped her arms around him tightly and held him for a moment. "How about this, does this feel right?"
His arms came around her in response, giving her a gentle squeeze. He slid his hands up her back until they came to rest on her shoulders and his thumbs and fingers massaged her tenderly, melting her tension away.
She sighed, content for the moment — nothing could have felt more right.
*SUPERMAN RETURNS — SUPERMAN POV*
He knew something was wrong when he saw Richard come into the newsroom and go running by his desk, headed towards his uncle's office. Clark looked over at the empty chair where Lois usually sat. She hadn't come in yet this morning.
He looked back at Perry White's office and could see Richard gesturing wildly. He was about to *listen* in on the conversation when a small hand placed itself on his arm.
Clark looked down into the face of his son.
Richard and Jason were both here and Lois wasn't? Something was definitely wrong.
"Hi," Clark said casually. "Where's your mom?"
"I don't know."
He didn't know? Clark wasn't very experienced with children. He wasn't sure exactly what questions to ask to find out what he needed to know.
"You don't know?"
"No. When I woke up she was gone." Jason reached up and rubbed his little nose. He looked like he might have been crying. Clark put one arm around him and patted him softly. "I called Daddy…" He paused looking intently at Clark, making him a little nervous. Did he know? He had looked at him like that before, when he'd seen Superman on TV. Could he sense the bond between them, feel the connection they shared? "…and he came and got me."
"Richard picked you up? He didn't sleep at the house last night?" Jason shook his head.
Clark couldn't help but feel a little relief at that news. But it was small respite considering the circumstances. In this one instance it would have been better if he *had* been there.
So between the time Clark had left their house last night and Jason had woken up this morning, she had disappeared. He didn't like this at all. Lois might run off without telling anyone where she was going but she wouldn't leave Jason like that at home by himself. Something was wrong.
"Did you see or hear anything last night?"
"No," his little voice said quietly.
"Don't worry, Jason. I'm sure she's fine. We'll all help look for her, okay?"
"Even Superman?" His little eyes lit up and his face was so hopeful. Clark resisted the impulse to pick him up in his arms and hug him. Yes especially Superman, my son.
"I'm sure he will. Why don't you go wait in Rich… your dad's office," he said, catching his slip. Everyone else at the Planet called it his daddy's office, so therefore Clark should too; but that didn't mean that he had to like doing it. He knew by right that Richard was Jason's dad, but Jason was also his son and it really pained him to have to call Richard his daddy. But he would do it, for Jason he would do it. "I'll go see if I can find Superman, okay?"
Jason nodded his head and gave him a small smile.
Clark got up from his desk and headed off to go find a place to change. He looked back to see his son walking obediently off to Richard's office. When he turned back around he ran right into to Jimmy Olsen.
"Oh, Mr. Kent, Clark, I'm sorry," Jimmy said, looking a little sheepish. "I was actually coming to find you."
"I'm really busy at the moment, Jimmy. Can it wait?" Clark said, looking past him towards the elevator.
"Uh, yeah, sure…"
Clark started to move off when Jimmy interrupted him.
"Actually, no, um sorry, it probably can't," he said, holding out an envelope for Clark. "This came for you with a note saying that it be delivered to you immediately."
"Okay, thanks," Clark said, grabbing the letter and heading off again.
"Yeah, sure… Wait! The note said it had something to do with Lois Lane."
*O. SUPERMAN — SUPERMAN POV*
Clark flew down into an alleyway close to the Daily Planet. He came walking out a few moments later, reaching up to adjust his Fedora hat.
She hadn't been home. Clark had scanned her apartment twice, just to make sure, like that was going to make her suddenly appear. He had gone by her apartment to check on her, like he did a lot of mornings before he went in to work. He had thought seriously about actually stopping in to see her as Superman this time. He hadn't stopped in to actually talk with her in a while and he was feeling an urgent need to simply chat with her. But she had obviously already left for work.
He talked to her every day at work, of course, but it wasn't the same. They only talked about work, very little about anything in their personal lives and there were days, like today, that he craved that interaction with her. He may have decided that he couldn't be with her, not the way he wanted to, but that didn't mean he could stop loving her. He would never stop loving her.
Clark hurried his pace as he neared the entrance to the Daily Planet. If he got there late, would she even notice? He entered the building and walked onto one of the elevators, allowing himself to be pushed and corralled until he was at the back of the elevator. He found himself wedged tightly between a fresh-faced Jimmy Olsen and a large, older woman who smelled like she had bathed in the heavy cologne she was wearing.
"Good morning, Mr. Kent. Nice day today isn't it?" Jimmy asked, smiling at him.
"Uh, yes, Jimmy. Good morning."
Another whiff of perfume bathed his nose. Wow. What was it about some older ladies and their love of pungent colognes? He felt like he was going to suffocate. If only there were some way he could get her to move a little bit, give him some space. The smell was accosting his super-sensitive nose.
In fact, he felt a tickle beginning inside his nose. It itched. Clark reached up and rubbed it a little. Wait a minute… It itched? Clark never itched.
Just then he sneezed.
"Gesundheit, Mr. Kent. Are you okay? Not getting sick I hope," Jimmy said with his usual cheerfulness.
"No, Jimmy. I think it's just allergies." Allergies? Yeah, right. He didn't have any allergies.
"Really? In the middle of winter? Those must be some bad allergies." Jimmy shook his head slightly.
"Achoo!" he sneezed again, right on the shoulder of the woman wearing the heavy perfume. She glared at him looking a little annoyed.
"Uh, sorry, I think it must be your perfume." Sure. Since when did perfume make him sneeze? Since when did anything make him sneeze?
"Hmph," she huffed. But she moved over a little bit, giving him some breathing room.
"Golly, you really ought to see a doctor about those allergies. I'm sure there's something they could give you for that," Jimmy said, sounding concerned.
Not likely. What was going on? His nose felt like it was closing up on him. He could hardly get any air in and out. Is this what people meant by a *stuffy* nose? Something was wrong. He reached up and rubbed his nose, sniffing a little bit.
The elevator slowed, finally arriving at their floor. Clark was anxious to get out of the confined space and away from that perfume. He'd never felt claustrophobic before, but right now he was getting close. He made his way to the front of the elevator only to find a man in a black trench coat standing there blocking his exit.
"Um, excuse me, this is my floor," Clark said politely.
"No, excuse me," the man said, stepping aside.
"Certainly, Mr. Kent. You know, your friend's right. You really should get a doctor to look at those allergies." Clark didn't recognize the man: brown eyes, brown hair, average height — pretty nondescript — but he swore it looked like he was smirking at him.
"Uh, yeah, thanks."
Jimmy filed off the elevator behind him. "I know the name of a good ear, nose, and throat doctor if you want it."
Clark hid a smile. You had to like Jimmy, always eager to help. "No, that's okay, Jimmy. I think it was just that woman's perfume."
"Well, okay. I'll see you later. I've gotta take these photos in to Mr. White before he comes looking for me. See ya."
"Yeah." Clark sniffed a couple more times and was relieved when he felt his nose begin to open up. It must have been the perfume. How weird. He shrugged it off and headed towards Lois' office. He could feel the anticipation building in him. She didn't usually give him the time of day as Clark, but seeing her, working with her, was just enough to abate the ache in his heart.
Clark found himself surprised and a little disappointed when he walked into her office to find it empty. She wasn't in there and from the looks of things she hadn't been there yet that morning. No purse or briefcase. Not even her keys were lying on her desk.
So she hadn't been at home when he'd gone by and she wasn't here. Where could she be? Could he have beat her here? Not likely. He had stopped briefly after leaving her apartment to clear some wreckage at a traffic accident before coming in to work. She should have made it here first.
He turned and walked out of her office, headed towards Mr. White's office. If anyone would know where she was, he would.
*ALT-LNC — ALT-CLARK POV*
Clark was exhausted. That last rescue had really taken it out of him. He hadn't slept well the last few nights. He'd lain awake at night thinking about his conversation with Wells, waiting for him to return. Sleep had finally managed to find him tonight and then he'd been awakened to screams and sirens.
There had been a fire in an apartment building downtown. Apparently a couple had lit several candles in preparation for a romantic evening together. They had fallen asleep leaving the candles burning. One of the taller thin candles had melted unevenly, falling over and catching the tablecloth on fire. Their living room was a little worse for wear, but the couple was okay. The fire trucks had arrived just shortly after he had, but it was over by then. He had already carried the couple outside, in their pajamas no less, and had put out the fire.
Clark had come straight back home and typed up the Superman rescue article and then sent it electronically to James Olsen, the current owner of the Daily Planet. He had sent a quick page to Mr. Olsen's beeper to let him know the article was waiting for him. Since Clark's former editor-in-chief, Perry White, had taken on the office of Mayor, Mr. Olsen had insisted on Clark sending his stories straight to him.
They had a new editor-in-chief; in fact it was Perry's nephew, Richard White. He was good, but he'd never be able to replace Perry. No one was like Perry. Clark missed him.
Mr. Olsen had confidence in Richard White, but Superman's stories came at all hours of the night and if it was a hot enough story, or if they were lacking a good lead for the front page, Mr. Olsen would bring a few people back in to make revisions for the morning edition. A Superman story always made for good sales. Mr. Olsen was a genius at investing his money and he made certain that all his investments brought him the biggest returns; the Daily Planet was no exception.
This was one of the few times that it paid for people to know that he was Superman. Because of his *second job*, Mr. Olsen had afforded him the option to work from home if he wanted, which was almost necessary sometimes. He didn't have a partner like Lois to work with who could pick up his slack or cover for him when he was off being Superman. He couldn't count the number of times he'd had to work on assignments or type up his stories in the middle of the night, simply because that was the only time he'd had available.
He could use a partner like her, in more than one way.
Clark sighed, glancing over at his bed. He had hoped that little writing exercise would help him calm down. But it hadn't. He was still too wound up to sleep and now he was thinking about *her* which meant he'd never get to sleep tonight.
Clark floated up to stand on the ceiling and paced back and forth slowly. He looked down, watching his cape fluttering below him as he walked, and realized he'd been so preoccupied in his thoughts that he hadn't changed out of his suit yet.
Especially one thought in particular — Where was Wells?
Not that Clark was complaining for the extra time. He still wasn't sure he'd made up his mind about finding Lois. He wanted to, wanted it more than he'd ever wanted anything, but what would he do if he found her? What would he say?
Wells was right; with hope all things were possible. But what if what he found broke his heart? What if she really had died? Then all his hope would be gone.
It worried him that Wells hadn't come back yet. He had a time machine. He could come and go at any point in time. He had said he would see Clark in a couple of days. It had been three days and there was still no Wells.
Clark sighed again trying to release some tension and a yawn escaped from his mouth. He was surprised to find his eyelids were getting heavy. Maybe he'd get a little sleep after all.
He floated down to his bed and was about to undress when he saw a familiar shimmering light coming from the balcony of his apartment.
Wells? Excitement and anxiety surged through him. It was time to make his decision. Clark hurried out onto the balcony. He got there in time to see the time machine shimmering and flickering and then it disappeared.
What the heck? He walked out onto the balcony further, looking around.
Why had Wells come and then disappeared before Clark could even talk to him? He reached up and ran a hand through his hair, feeling frustrated. He was about to turn around and go back inside when he saw them, two women lying on the floor of his balcony.
Lying very still.
Clark went over to them and bent down to check their pulse. The rhythm was coming steady and strong. The women were just passed out, unconscious. He sighed a breath of relief and when he did he smelled something strange. He took in a deep breath, testing the air. Chloroform?
Make that knocked out.
Why would Wells drug these two women with chloroform and then drop them here at his apartment, without so much as a word about what was going on? Who were they?
He leaned down closer to one of the women, reaching out and pulling a strand of her long, dark, curly hair out of her face. He didn't recognize her but something about her seemed very familiar, like he was drawn to her. He hadn't felt this way since the day Lois Lane had walked up to him at the Daily Planet and planted a kiss firmly on his mouth. He smiled at the memory.
He glanced over at the other woman. She also seemed strangely familiar somehow. She resembled the first woman in several ways. Her shape and build were roughly the same and her hair was even the same color, just shorter and straighter.
The curly-haired woman was beginning to moan and move. Clark slipped one hand beneath her and raised her up towards him. Her eyelids fluttered a few times and then she opened them to look at him.
She stared at him wide-eyed and a small gasp escaped from her lips. "Who are you? Why are you wearing that suit?"
Clark looked down at his clothing. He had forgotten that he still had his suit on. But what did she mean who was he? She didn't know? "Um, I'm Superman. Surely you've heard of me."
"Heard of Superman? Yeah, I'd say I've heard of him. Superman and I are close friends. In fact we…" She hesitated for a moment and then continued, "Anyway, I know Superman and you are not him. Now take off that ridiculous costume and tell me what's going on."
She doesn't recognize him as Superman? That didn't make any sense. Who did she think Superman was? He needed to get some answers from her but his suit seemed to be making her uncomfortable. Well he could change, that wasn't a problem. Since he had tried out that *spin* thing Lois had told him that her Clark did, he had done it more often and actually kind of liked it. It made it really easy to change clothes.
Clark spun out of his suit and into the clothes he had with him, a pair of blue jeans and a black, button-down shirt. When he stopped spinning he realized that the woman was just sitting there with her mouth open, looking a little pale.
"Ahhhh!" the scream came from the other woman who Clark hadn't realized was awake yet. "Where am I? Who are you? Who is she?" she asked in rapid succession, looking back and forth between him and the other woman. "No one moves like that except for Superman, and you're not him. Are you another clone?" She curled her lip at him as if in disgust. "Or are you another one of General Zod's men?"
Another person who didn't recognize him as Superman? What was going on here? She thought he was a clone? Who was this General Zod person? This was getting weirder by the minute.
*LNC — LOIS POV*
"Mmm. I've missed you," Clark told Lois, slipping a hand inside her nightshirt and caressing the soft skin that it covered. "I've been gone too much the last few days."
Goosebumps lit up the skin on her neck and the backs of her arms causing her to shiver. "No arguments here. At the rate we've been getting together lately, it'll be years before we have a baby."
His smile faded for just a second, not long, but long enough for her to notice. "Lois, we still don't know that we're even going to be able…"
She placed one finger over his lips, silencing him. "Not now. I don't want to waste our time talking about that now. You've been gone too much, remember?" She smiled wickedly at him. "So, what are you going to do to make up for it?" she asked, leaning into him to nibble on one of his earlobes.
"Hmm. I'm going to make sure you miss me even more the next time I'm gone." He tilted his head and seized her mouth in a long, slow kiss. Lois groaned softly into his mouth and then she pulled away from him, pushing him back with one hand against his chest.
"Maybe I should make *you* miss *me* more and then you wouldn't be gone so long the next time. If you hadn't shown back up when you did, I was going to put on some lingerie, stick my head out the window and yell for Superman."
She nodded her head at him and smiled. "Help, Superman."
"Superman, huh? Tell you what…" he trailed off, tilting his head in an all too familiar pose.
"What's wrong?" she asked.
"I heard a noise downstairs. Hang on, I'll be right back," he told her, jumping up out of bed.
Oh, what now! He'd only been home two minutes! She got out of bed and followed him downstairs.
"Do you *see* anything?" she asked, walking up behind him. He was staring at the front door.
"Not unless you count a paper taped to our door as something. He opened the door and grabbed the note off of it, pausing to read it. He looked back up at her and all the color had left his face.
"Clark? What is it? What's wrong?" She took the paper from his hands and looked at it. Her fingers trembled as she read it.
I'M COMING TOMORROW NIGHT TO TAKE YOUR WIFE, SUPERMAN. AND THERE'S NOTHING YOU CAN DO TO STOP ME.
*SUPERMAN RETURNS — SUPERMAN POV*
'Something to do with Lois Lane' he heard Jimmy say as he ran off. He reached into his pocket as he walked, pulling out the envelope Jimmy had given him with a shaky hand. Oh, Lois… What had she gotten herself into this time? Please let her be okay.
He looked down at the envelope as he continued walking. Who could this possibly be from? It had the word 'IMPORTANT' written in big bold letters and then 'Deliver Immediately'. Those were the only words on it other than his name.
Clark slid one finger under the flap of the envelope as he neared the corner to the elevator and reached inside to pull out the letter. As he came around the corner he collided with a man in a trench coat. The letter slipped from his fingers and fell to the ground.
"Ooof!" the man exclaimed.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I wasn't watching where I was going," Clark apologized. He watched as the man bent down and picked his envelope up off the floor. Clark restrained his desire to grab the envelope away from him.
"No problem. You're Clark Kent, reporter for the Daily Planet, right?" he asked, extending a black leather-gloved hand to Clark.
Clark took hold of his hand to shake it and the man grasped his hand firmly around Clark's, his gloved fingers wrapping around the backside of his hand and up his wrist. "Yeah, that's me. Have we met? I'm sorry I've been gone for a while and I'm still getting to know everyone since I got back." He searched his memory, trying to place the man; brown eyes, brown hair, just an average looking guy. Clark had met too many people the last few days, he simply didn't recognize him.
The man was still holding on to the envelope and wasn't making a motion to give it back. Clark was beginning to feel a little uneasy so he reached out and took it from him. The man's grip on it was firm and Clark had to pull on it a little to get him to let go of it.
"No, we haven't met, but you wouldn't know me anyway," the man said, his tone gracious but the look on his face was anything but. "I'm not from around here. Nice meeting you Mr. Kent." Clark could almost swear that the man smirked at him as he turned away and walked off. The man stopped a little way down to look at one of the older historic Planet editions that was on display under glass.
Clark looked back down at the envelope in his hands, again reaching inside it to pull out the letter. He started to unfold the note to read it when he noticed that his hand was itching. He reached over and scratched it.
Wait a minute. His hand was itching? Since when did his skin ever itch?
He scratched it again but that only seemed to make it worse. The itch was becoming a burning sensation. Something was wrong. He scratched it again, a little harder. The itch was getting so bad that it was almost painful. What was going on?
He resisted the urge to dig his fingernails into it and instead focused in on it to see what the problem was. An ugly red rash had begun to form. It didn't look pleasant. There were nasty red bumps breaking out and spreading across his skin, almost in front of his eyes.
How was this possible? Had that man done something to him? He looked up at where he'd been standing, but he was gone now.
Don't be paranoid, he told himself. How could he have done anything to his hand? Clark concentrated, pushing the itchy feeling out of his mind long enough to take a look at the letter. He began to unfold it again and his breath caught in his throat when he saw the words written on it.
I KNOW YOU'RE SUPERMAN AND I KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO MS. LANE. I WANT TO HELP YOU. MEET ME AT MS. LANE'S HOME AND I'LL EXPLAIN EVERYTHING.
Someone knew he was Superman? Clark felt panicky. How was that possible? He'd crafted his life as Clark Kent so carefully, given no one any cause to suspect him.
And yet, someone knew.
He felt his hands beginning to sweat and that only seemed to increase the irritation on his skin. He looked around to make sure no one was watching and he gave the letter a little zap of his heat vision to destroy the evidence.
So this person wanted to meet with him at Lois' house? Then that's where he would go, but not as Clark Kent, as Superman. It was time for a quick change.
He looked back down at his hand. As quickly as the rash had come on, it seemed to be disappearing. The redness was going away and the bumps were going down. Just like that, all of the sudden. Clark breathed a sigh of relief. It felt much better now.
It had just been a fluke.
*O. SUPERMAN — SUPERMAN POV*
As Clark approached the door to Mr. White's office he could see he and Jimmy going over some pictures. Mr. White looked pretty animated about something. Clark reached out to knock on the door not wanting to barge in on them.
Mr. White paused mid-sentence and glanced up at him briefly, waving for him to come in.
Clark opened the door and went inside, cringing a little at the intensity in Mr. White's voice.
"…and this is the best you've got?" Mr. White said, pointing at one of the pictures.
"Aww, gee, I thought that one was pretty good." Jimmy's face looked a little chagrined.
"Uh, Mr. White," Clark said, attempting to get his attention.
He ignored Clark and continued on his tirade. "Pretty good? Jimmy, this is the Daily Planet. Pretty good doesn't cut it here." Clark couldn't help but notice the red hue in Mr. White's face. It must not be a good morning news-wise.
"I need to talk to you," Clark tried again, but Mr. White cut him off.
"If you want to be a top photographer for this paper, then you're going to have to do better than this." He slapped the photos in front of him with the back of his fingers.
"Yes, sir," Jimmy said a little dejectedly, wincing at the physical attack on his photos.
Mr. White glanced up briefly to acknowledge Clark, his anger at bay for the moment. "Kent. I'm glad you're here. Have you seen Lois this morning?" Mr. White asked him and then went back to thumbing through the stack of photos in front of him.
He didn't know where she was either? Now Clark was beginning to get worried. "No, sir, I haven't. That's actually what I…"
"You haven't? Hmm, that's not like her. She's usually here about the same time I get here, sometimes earlier." He paused on one of the pictures and held it up to the light, squinting at it. Then he looked back over at Clark. "Well I'm sure she's probably just out tracking down a hot lead. When you see her let her know I'm looking for her." He went back to scrutinizing the picture he was holding in his hands.
No, that wasn't like her. Clark supposed she could be out tracking down a lead; that was possible. She could have just gotten so wrapped up in her work that she forgot to call or tell anyone where she was going. That definitely sounded like something she would do. He was just making too big a deal out of this; it was probably nothing.
Yeah, keep telling yourself that.
"Kent," Mr. White said sharply, startling Clark out of his thoughts. "What are you still doing here? Don't just stand there, go out and get me some news!"
"Uh, yes, Sir. Sorry." Clark headed back out of his office, and Mr. White went back to *discussing* Jimmy's photos. Jimmy didn't look happy and Clark felt a little sorry for him.
He closed the door to the office and could feel his stomach beginning to knot up. No matter what he tried to tell himself, something just didn't feel right. It had been so early this morning when he'd gone by to check on her. Surely she wouldn't have been out on a story that early.
Maybe she was sick?
She might have gone out to get some medication or something when he'd flown by and that's why she wasn't home. That would explain why she wasn't at work, too.
He'd go check on her again. She'd be there now.
*LNC — LOIS POV*
"Come on, let's go," Clark said, reaching out to take Lois by the hand.
"Go? Where are we going?" The color had returned to his face, but his eyes looked worried. She didn't like where this was headed.
"We're getting you out of here," he told her in a voice that he probably thought left no room for dispute, but if he thought that, he was wrong.
"What? No, Clark you can't be serious." She shook her hand free from his grasp and backed up a few steps. She refused to hide away from the rest of the world every time a threat presented itself.
"Yes, I am. Come on let's pack a few things and I'll take you to my parents' house."
He attempted to take her by the hand again but she jerked it back out of his reach. "Clark, I'm not going to your parents' house. Come on. Do you really think I'll be any safer there? For all we know this could be Tempus. He would find me no matter where you put me. But even if it's not him, whoever this is obviously knows who you are. Don't you think he'd look for us at your parents' house if he couldn't find us here?" She could see the fear in his eyes. She had to get him to calm down and look at this rationally.
"I don't know." He threw his hands up in the air in frustration. "But you can't stay here." He was thinking purely on emotion. Lois sighed, and men say that women are the overly emotional ones.
"Honey, please, think about this logically. If you take me to your parents and leave me there, I'll be in even more danger there, by myself. And if either of us stays with your parents then we'll be putting them in danger, too. Is that what you want?"
He looked conflicted, almost disturbed. "No, of course not. But you can't stay here. It's not safe."
"Well, I can't leave," she countered stubbornly. "You need me here. You need my help to figure out if this is Tempus or, if not, who this person is and stop them."
"No, Lois, I can't risk…"
"Yes, Clark, you can. We can. I mean it." She folded her arms across her chest, imitating the look he'd given her so many times as Superman. She wasn't going to budge on this.
Clark sighed and ran a hand through his hair. Lois knew he was frustrated with her, but she also knew that she wasn't going to run and hide every time a little danger presented itself. She was married to Superman, there was always going to be danger. She wasn't going to spend the rest of her life in hiding.
"Okay, but I'm not taking my eyes off of you for even a second," he said, mirroring her stance. She hid a smile. "What did you have in mind?"
"Well someone had to put that note on our door. Maybe one of our neighbors saw something or someone. Let's go talk to them."
*ALT-LNC — ALT-CLARK POV*
"Who's General Zod?" Clark asked, confused.
"Oh, yeah, you're Superman all right," the curly-headed woman noted sarcastically.
"I am Superman," he replied, exasperatedly. "Listen, I don't know what's going on here, but I plan to get to the bottom of it. Who are you?" he asked, addressing the curly-headed woman. He'd get to the other one in a minute.
"Who am I? As if you didn't know." She rolled her eyes at him. "You probably kidnapped me to try and lure Superman here." She paused. When Clark didn't respond, she sighed dramatically. "Uh, Lois Lane? Award-winning investigative reporter for the Daily Planet? Ringing any bells?"
No, no it couldn't be. Could it? Clark backed away from her, stumbling and dropping down to the floor on his butt. He felt a little light-headed. Could this be *his* Lois?
He felt his hopes start to rise, and then they fell just as quickly. No, she couldn't. As much as he wished she were, he realized she couldn't. She knew Superman and said she was friends with him. He'd never met his Lois and this woman didn't even recognize him.
This was getting more bizarre by the minute. So she couldn't be his Lois and she certainly wasn't the other Lois he knew. But she said she was Lois Lane. That could only mean she was from yet another universe. But why would Wells have brought her here?
And who was the other woman?
Clark looked over at her. She had been watching this entire exchange in silence. She was now rubbing her head and frowning at *Lois*. "Excuse me did you just say that you're Lois Lane?"
"Yes. Who are you? You seem familiar…" She squinted her eyes, examining her. "Do I know you?"
"I don't think we've met but you obviously know me well enough to go around masquerading as me!" she huffed. "I'm going to report you to the Bureau for identity theft!" She accentuated her point by shoving a finger towards the other Lois.
"What?" *Lois* and Clark both exclaimed.
"*I'm* Lois Lane," the other woman said, pointing to herself. "Hard-hitting reporter for the Daily Planet, not to mention a close friend of Superman," she continued, her voice rising in pitch. "Just wait till I tell Perry about this. I told him that identity theft was becoming an ever-increasing problem. I wanted to do a story on it but he'd laughed it off. He never does…"
"Hah!" the curly-haired Lois chuffed, cutting her off. "If you're Lois Lane then I'm… I'm…"
"Looney Tunes?" the other Lois supplied helpfully, cocking an eyebrow at her.
"No, the Easter Bunny!" she bit back in annoyance. "If you're Lois Lane then answer me this. When was the first time you saw Superman?" Clark watched as the curly-headed Lois stepped towards the straight-haired Lois, taking her turn shoving a finger at her.
Oh dear, he thought, this wasn't looking good. "Ladies, please, if I can just…"
"When he caught me in mid-air and then caught the helicopter I'd fallen from after an accident had sent us over the edge of a building. What is his favorite color?" She put her hands on her hips.
"Pink. What is the name of his home planet?"
Pink? Really? Not his — his was burgundy. "Lois…es, if you would just listen to me for a second I think…"
"Krypton. What is the one substance that he can't see through?"
"Lead. What was the exact date that he left Earth to go to Krypton?" She mirrored the other Lois' stance, putting her hands to her hips.
"What? Superman never left Earth, and Krypton was destroyed. What planet are you from?"
"Hah! That proves you're not Lois, err… me. I know as well as everyone else that Superman left Earth because scientists thought they'd found remnants of the planet Krypton. You're an imposter." She folded her arms in triumph.
"Imposter? Imposter!" the other one all but screeched. "I'll show you who's an…"
"Ladies! Please! Lois!" Clark begged, hoping desperately to find some way to diffuse the situation.
"What?" they both exclaimed, finally turning to acknowledge him.
Clark sighed. This was going to get confusing. "I think I know what's going on here. This is going to be difficult for you to believe, but go with me here for a moment." He paused to take a breath. "I think you're both Lois Lane."
They raised their eyebrows at him in unison, looking at him like he'd just grown a third head. Yep, definitely both Lois Lane.
"Oh this should be good. Okay, I'll play along," curly-haired Lois said. "If that's true, then how is *this* possible?" She waved her hand between herself and the other Lois.
"I believe that you are from different universes," he began.
"Um, I think you've been reading one too many science-fiction books," the straight-haired Lois said, crossing her arms.
"No, actually I've been traveling with one too many science-fiction writers. Do the two of you know the author, H.G. Wells?"
"Then you know he wrote a fictional book about time travel, The Time Machine. But he didn't just write about it. He built a time machine," he allowed a little excitement to creep into his voice. "I've seen it. More recently he discovered that there are alternate universes out there, besides the one he came from." He hesitated, waiting to hear the retort that was surely coming.
But it didn't.
Instead they both looked like they were indulging the rantings of a tabloid journalist from the National Whisper, but since they didn't interrupt him, he continued.
"I know it sounds hard to believe," he continued evenly. "But I've seen it with my own eyes. I've traveled to a different universe. One that's very similar to my own but that has its own Superman and its own Lois Lane. The H.G. Wells I met wasn't from my universe. He was from that alternate one."
"Uh-huh," curly-Lois said, smiling indulgently at him. "Time travel? Alternate universes? Sure." Her voice was practically dripping with sarcasm.
He held his hands out in front of him in a defensive gesture. "Just trust me for a minute. Come inside with me and let me show you something. I have a picture of her, the Lois Lane of that world." They both regarded him skeptically but followed him when he went inside his apartment.
Clark picked up a small picture frame off of one of his end tables, turning on the lamp that was sitting next to it. It was the picture that Lois had carried in her wallet. She had given the picture to him before she'd left that first time he'd seen her, when Tempus had brought her here, into his world, into his life. It was the one keepsake he had of her… of the time he'd spent with her. The constant reminder of what he'd never have.
He handed the picture to curly-Lois. "This is the Lois Lane of that universe and that's her husband, Clark Kent."
"That Lois married Clark Kent?" the straight-haired Lois exclaimed as if in shock.
"*This* is Clark Kent?" curly-Lois asked. "He doesn't look like Clark Kent. In fact, he looks a lot like you, if you had the glasses on." She looked at him, back at the picture, and then back at him again.
"Well, yeah, that's because he *is* me, or the equivalent of me in the other universe. I don't wear glasses in my universe because everyone here knows that I'm Superman. I don't need the disguise."
The look on both the women's faces was not good. They looked like he'd just told them with undeniable proof that the Earth was flat. He did not have a good feeling about this.
"No, it can't be. Can it…? Wait, yes it can. I remember… Oh, god… Did you know?" curly-Lois asked the other Lois, backing up to sit down on Clark's sofa.
"No. You either?" the other Lois asked, sounding like all the air had been sucked from her lungs. She plopped down beside the other Lois like all the strength had left her legs.
"Not until he said something, but then it all came flooding back, like a dream." The curly-haired Lois raised a hand to her forehead, rubbing it lightly.
"Me too! How is that possible?"
"I don't know, but it all makes so much sense now. Why couldn't I see it before? Superman leaves Earth to go find Krypton, and Clark… what?" she exclaims incredulously. "Decides all the sudden that he's going to go on a soul-searching expedition to… to find himself? How could I have bought that?" Clark could hear the irritation creeping into her voice. "Then Clark comes back and the very day he starts back to work at the Planet, Superman saves me from a plane crash? How could I have been so blind?"
"I know what you mean. Superman was missing and then all the sudden Clark got sick. I was so worried about him. I went over to his apartment to check on him when he didn't return any of my phone calls. Then the day Clark comes back to work, feeling better, Superman shows up at press conference." She was shaking her head in amazement as if she could literally see the pieces of a puzzle fitting together.
Clark could feel the panic starting in the pit of his stomach. They hadn't known that their Clark Kents were Superman? What had he done?
The pain intensified into a cramp. He had spilled that huge revelation to them on the assumption that what? That the Lois he knew had known Clark's secret? Of course that didn't mean that every Lois would know! What was he thinking? He felt like crawling underneath the couch they were sitting on.
"He… He kissed me! And then it was gone!" curly-Lois exclaimed, agitated.
"Me too, twice!" the other Lois chimed in, her voice so high it was almost a squeak.
"Twice?" curly-Lois asked, looking confused.
"Loises, please, I may have misspoken…" Clark tried to interrupt. Was there anyway he could turn this around? Salvage this somehow?
"Yes, twice," the straight-haired Lois confirmed, ignoring Clark. "It wasn't bad enough that he took those memories away once. Just a few days ago he gave them back to me. He took me for a flight over the city. It was wonderful." Her voice had lowered in timber and seemed to be taking on an almost dreamy tone. "We talked and we flew and I remembered everything. And then he took them away, again," she bit out, her voice rising again. "Oooh, when I get my hands on him…"
"You're preaching to the choir, sister," Lois agreed, raising one hand up in front of her for emphasis. "Just a couple of days ago I went to see him in the hospital and I told him about…"
"I could be wrong!" Clark cried out, interrupting them. He was mortified. Oh those Clarks of those other worlds were going to kill him! What had he done? "Just because I'm Clark Kent doesn't mean that in your world, your Superman is," he said lamely.
Oh, yeah, they'd buy that one. He internally rolled his eyes at himself. Geez, Clark, was that the best you could come up with? Well it wasn't like he was practiced at keeping his identity a secret. Everyone here knew he was Superman.
"Oh, no. He is. I remember everything now," curly-Lois said, her voice betraying her anger. "I remember discovering he was Superman. I figured it out on my own."
"Me too," the other Lois said, the heat in her voice matching the other woman's. "He was lighting a fire and there was an accident. His hands went into the fire…"
"And came out without a mark on them. No burns. I knew it was him. He didn't want to tell me. He tried to hide it, cover it up, but it didn't matter, I knew it." Clark could see the muscles in her jaw working. She was furious.
"He flew me to his fortress in the Artic and we… we…" the straight-haired Lois broke off, her irritated posture relaxing, becoming almost taciturn. Clark watched as she and the other Lois seemed to share a moment between them. They what? "But if he was willing to take away my memories of that wonderful night ever happening, it must not have meant anything to him," she concluded, a note of regret in her voice.
Did he…? Did they…? Make love? Oh, what had he done? What had their Supermen done? Why? "I'm sure that's not true," he tried. "He was probably just afraid…"
"Well if that's how he wants it, then fine." The straight-haired Lois stood up and began to pace the room. "I can play his little game. It didn't mean anything to me either, then. I mean, how could it? I have nothing to show for it." She opened her arms out in front of her as if to show that she had nothing.
"I do." Curly-Lois had been sitting there quietly for the last few moments, not saying or doing anything. This admission came as a surprise.
"What?" Clark asked. Surely she didn't mean…
"What do you have?" the other Lois asked her curiously, coming back to sit down beside her again.
*LNC — CLARK POV*
Clark picked up a small pebble and launched it through the night sky into the atmosphere, his frustration getting the better of him. "What a night for our neighbors to have a neighborhood watch meeting. No one was around to see anything!" He tightened his grasp on Lois' hand as they turned up the walkway towards their brownstone house.
"I'm sorry, honey. I had forgotten about that meeting. They'd left an invitation in our door a few days ago. As observant as our neighbors are, though, they probably wouldn't have seen anything anyway. Although I guess it's a good thing they aren't too attentive, otherwise they might figure out your little secret." She flashed a small smile at him, giving his hand a playful squeeze.
He knew she was trying to lighten the mood, but he really wasn't in the… mood. He looked over at his wife and tried to return her smile. He managed a weak one and then watched her smile widen, trying its best to infect him. Her smile normally could melt his heart like butter. But not tonight. Tonight it only served to put an ache deep in his stomach. What if he lost her? What if he never got the opportunity to see that smile again?
Lois stopped walking and grabbed his shoulder, turning him to face her. "What's wrong?"
"What's wrong? Do you really need to ask?" he asked in disbelief. "There's a lunatic who's planning to come here tomorrow and take you away from me. Did you forget?"
"Do you really think that's going to happen? Do you really think Superman can't protect me?" She smiled again, but he could feel the hesitancy in the smile this time. She knew the answer as well as he did. There was always a chance. It was the fear that weighed on his mind every single time he left her to answer a call of help from someone else.
Clark sighed heavily and turned away from her, resuming his walk towards their front door. He felt panicky. Why wouldn't she just let him keep her somewhere safe? Just for tonight?
But what about the next night? And the night after that? What about the next person who wanted to hurt her? The next time…
"What if he has Kryptonite?" he asked her pointedly. "Or some other weapon to use against me that I don't know about? He seems to think there's a reason that I won't be able to stop him. He said so in his letter."
"Yes, but he's obviously afraid of you," she continued trying to reason with him, even when he didn't feel like being reasonable. "Why not just come and take me instead of leaving some stupid note?"
Clark could see something taped to the outside of their door. Another note? His stomach cramped and he let go of Lois' hand, running the rest of the way to the door. He grabbed the note and closed his eyes, hesitating just a second before opening it and looking down at it.
THEY'RE COMING TO TAKE HER — CRIMINALS FROM NEW KRYPTON. YOU MUST PROTECT HER.
Lois caught up to him and peeked around him, reading the note. "So maybe this isn't Tempus after all? If so then that first note must have been from the criminals. But who is this note from? Ching? Zara maybe?" Her voice had taken on that "reporter tone" as if this was just another story instead of something that was about to happen to her.
Clark sighed, glancing back at her. "I don't know. But what worries me more is that if these criminals are from New Krypton, then they'll have the same powers I do, and it sounds like there are more than one of them coming."
Clark looked back down at the note and then up into the night sky at one particular star. It twinkled as he gazed at it.
Why are you doing this? What do you want with Lois?
*ALT-LNC — ALT-CLARK POV*
"A son? You had Superman's son?" the other Lois asked the question that Clark had wanted to. He couldn't seem to find his voice.
He watched as the curly-Lois nodded her head silently. If there had been room on the sofa, he would have sat down; it felt like all the feeling had left his body.
Superman had a son in another universe.
Then his shock turned into something else. Jealousy? Anger? Regret? How could those Clarks have done this to their Lois Lanes? How could they have treated them this way? Clark felt like he was going to be sick. Didn't they know what they had? The very thing he wanted so badly?
He would trade his very soul for a chance to be with her, with his Lois. They had her and they were willing to throw it all away.
"So you had his son and he still didn't let you remember that night, let you remember who he was?" the other Lois asked her softly, moving a little closer to her and laying a hand on her shoulder. "You'd think that would make me feel a little better about my own situation, but somehow it doesn't. How could he do that?"
"Well, in all fairness, he didn't know about Jason." She exhaled a tight breath. "That's my son's name, Jason. He left for Krypton fairly quickly after *that* night." She paused, her eyes going distant as if she was remembering something, but then she shook her head softly and continued, "After Superman so abruptly left Earth, I was lonely and unsure of myself, and that's when I became involved with Richard White."
"Perry's nephew?" the other Lois asked her.
His editor-in-chief? Really? The guy was definitely attractive but…
"Yes. He was so kind, and understanding. But he was fun and exciting, too. He has his own plane and he would take me up in it and fly me over the city." Her voice sounded a little wistful and Clark found himself feeling a little jealous. He wasn't really sure why; this wasn't even *his* Lois, and she certainly had a right to look elsewhere after the way her Clark had treated her. "When he did that, I could *almost* forget about Superman. Superman had left and I wanted to forget him. Richard helped me to do that… We're actually engaged."
Engaged? He wondered what her Clark thought about that… not that he didn't deserve it.
She flashed them her engagement ring before continuing. "Anyway, we got pretty serious, fairly quickly. When I discovered I was pregnant I just assumed it was Richard's. Jason came almost two months early but I just thought he was premature. The doctor's tried to assure me that he wasn't — but in my mind that was the only explanation. I hadn't been with anyone but Richard, or so I thought. Anyway, Jason was small and a little sickly as a baby, so that just added to that assumption. I would have never imagined…" She broke off, letting out a shaky breath.
Clark walked over and stood beside the couch, close to her, wishing he could comfort her. "When did you find out… he was special?" he asked her quietly, laying one hand softly against her back. He stroked it soothingly, encouraging her to continue.
"Just a few days ago. I was in danger and… and Jason saved me. It was amazing." Clark could hear the wonder in her voice. "I didn't understand how it had happened at first, but I knew it was the truth. In my heart, I just knew, and actually I began to remember parts of *that* night with Superman. I still didn't remember that he was Clark Kent," her voice took on an edge, "and until now I wasn't sure how I had forgotten any of it to begin with. But I did remember… some things…" Lois broke off, her face looking flushed.
"Have you told him? Superman?" the other Lois asked her gently.
"Yeah. I had to. At first I was so mad at him," she admitted, her anger showing itself in her voice. "After Jason saved me we were locked up for a little while and all I had were my thoughts. Deep down I just knew it must be Superman's fault that I had forgotten that night, and then I was even more mad at him for leaving… if that's possible. I was determined to make him pay for what he'd done. He was going to give me answers."
Clark felt a little uncomfortable at the intensity and bitterness he heard in her voice. He almost wanted to say something in that Clark's defense, but there wasn't really anything he could say. He didn't know exactly what had happened, but from what he did know, Clark didn't have a defense. He swallowed the lump that had formed in his throat. Why did he feel guilty? He hadn't done anything.
The other Lois was quiet too. What was she thinking? Probably that she felt the same way. She was probably ready to exact her pound of flesh from her Clark as well. Clark wasn't quite as sorry now about having let the secret slip. The longer he listened to these women the more irritated he got with their Clarks.
He watched as Lois looked away from them and took a piece of her curly hair in between her fingers, playing nervously with it. When she finally began talking again her voice was much quieter, softer. It was somehow hollow and yet brimming with emotion all at the same time.
"But I couldn't yell at him, hurt him, the way he'd hurt me. I couldn't make him pay… because I almost lost him — again. He'd been exposed to Kryptonite and had been badly injured. I've never seen him like that before. He was lying so still in that hospital bed, hooked up to all kinds of monitors. I didn't know if he was going to…"
She broke off, biting her lower lip. Clark watched as she dabbed at her eyes, refusing to let the moisture that had started to form show itself. He wanted to hold her, provide her some comfort, but he restrained himself, contenting himself to just continue rubbing her back gently.
The other Lois just sat quietly, waiting for her to continue, and after a bit she did, even softer than before. "At that point it didn't matter how mad I was with him. I was afraid I was going to lose him. I wanted him to hang on. I wanted to give him something to hold on to. I knew what I had to do. I didn't even know if he could hear me or not, but I told him… about Jason." Her face held regret and yet hope all at the same time, and a couple of tears were beginning to streak down her face. "I wanted him to know. I needed him to know, in case…"
It caught Clark by surprise when she turned to him and wrapped her arms around him tightly. Without thinking, he lifted her up off the couch into his arms and held her gently. Even this small bit of contact was excruciating for him. It wasn't fair. He would never treat his Lois this way.
Or would he?
Isn't that what he was doing to her now? By not finding her? By not giving her the opportunity to meet him? Wells had called them soul mates. It seemed almost like destiny that he and Lois were to be together and yet he had been considering not going to look for her.
"And now," Lois continued, Clark could feel her breath against his neck as she laid her head down against him. "Things are a mess. I told Superman about Jason because I felt like he had a right to know that Jason was his son. But I didn't know that he was Clark Kent. That complicates matters. I work with Clark. I see him everyday. Jason sees him everyday. How is this going to work?" Clark could understand the apprehension in her voice; how could it work? It was going to be difficult. "He may be Jason's father but Richard is his dad. Richard is the one who held my hand during labor, who held our son in his arms and handed him to me in the delivery room. He's the one who changed his diapers and let Jason spit up on him when he had a tummy ache. That's what defines a father, isn't it? But…" She broke off, shaking her head in frustration.
"But you know Superman, Clark, will want to take responsibility if Jason is his son," the other Lois stepped in. "He'll want to be a part of his life. That's just how he is."
Yes, at least that's how he'd feel. He would be elated to know that he had a son, but he'd also feel an enormous amount of guilt if he were that other Superman. He had gotten her pregnant and had gone off on a selfish crusade, leaving his Lois behind to fend for herself. It might have been true that her Clark hadn't known that she was pregnant, but how could he have shared the intimacy with Lois that he had and then take her memories away and leave her like that? Clark couldn't imagine doing that. Surely there had been a reason?
"Yes. And now… what do I tell Richard?" she asked rhetorically. Clark could feel the moisture on his skin from her tears and his heart ached for her. "He's a good man, a good father. Doesn't he have a right to know that this isn't his son? His biological son? Richard has always been very patient and understanding with me but how could he understand this? And if I tell him that Jason's not his son, what does that mean for Jason? Would he be safer if I just went on pretending that Richard was his father? If people find out that Jason is the son of Superman it could put him and Superman both in danger. People might try to use him against Superman." She broke off, her voice filled with a heaviness as if she was realizing just how complicated this had all become.
Clark brought one hand up to her back again, providing a comforting touch. He felt her arms squeeze him gently. "And then there's Clark," she continued. "I couldn't possibly say that Clark Kent is Jason's father. Clark and I are barely friends, much less lovers. No one would believe it, least of all Richard. I mean, what would I say? That we had a fling before Clark went off on his supposed soul-searching expedition?" She sighed deeply. "Everything's just such a mess now. Why did he have to leave? Why?" Her voice and her face betrayed a barrage of emotions — anger, frustration, disappointment, and if Clark wasn't mistaken, just a little guilt.
Guilt? Why should she feel guilty?
She buried her head against Clark's chest. "And now I don't even know if I'll see any of them again," she mumbled against him.
He wrapped his arms around her more tightly and held her against him. He wasn't sure exactly what was going on, or who had caused this to happen, but he was determined to find out. He had to help these Lois Lanes. And then, when everything got straightened out, he was going to find *her*. No matter what he found or how heartbreaking it was. He would find her. That was a promise.
*SUPERMAN RETURNS — SUPERMAN POV*
Clark approached Lois' house cautiously. The note had said to come here, that whomever this was wanted to help. Clark didn't dare trust someone who he'd never met, especially someone who seemed to know that he was Superman.
He x-rayed the house and found a man sitting at her kitchen table. The man had a long, tan-colored coat on with the collar turned up and a brown, felt hat pulled down over his face. Clark continued scanning him for any hint of a concealed weapon or danger, not that he needed to worry about that, but it might help reveal his intentions.
Nothing. The man had nothing on him. Clark strode purposefully inside the house and into the kitchen.
"Where is Lois Lane? What have you done with her? Take me to her now," he demanded, standing over the man menacingly.
He seemed unfazed. "I can't take you to her Mr. Kent, not just yet," he said calmly.
"Why are you calling me by that name?" Clark asked, trying his best to sound confused.
"What? You don't prefer the name Clark Kent? That is the name your human parents gave you. Would you perhaps prefer Kal-El?" Clark couldn't see the man's face and part of him was tempted to rip the man's hat and coat off, but he restrained himself. "I know more about you Mr. Kent than you could possibly imagine and this line of questioning is only going to waste valuable time," the man stated, his tone of voice leaving no room for argument.
Clark sighed, frustrated. So much for trying to dissuade his belief that he was Clark. He was tempted to go haul the man up out of that chair and force him to tell him what had happened to Lois and oblige him to silence about his identity. But that would just waste time and the man was right about one thing, they didn't have time to waste. "Who are you, then? How do you know what's happened to Lois and why do you want to help?" he asked in his sternest Superman voice.
"You will find this hard to believe, but you must," the man said, his voice earnest. "I'm a time traveler. Not only am I a time traveler, but one from another universe, an alternate universe. Who I am *exactly* doesn't matter. In fact, it would be better for everyone if you didn't know who I am. Just know that I want to help you because I can. I'm probably the only one who can. What happens in this world is tied up in what happens to my own world."
The man was a smooth talker but that certainly didn't mean he had Clark or Lois' best interests at heart. "Assuming I believe any of this, what has happened to Lois?"
"From what I've discovered, Lois was kidnapped by a fellow time traveler named Tempus. It was he who discovered how to travel inter-dimensionally to other universes. He is quite clever. But he has a hatred for Superman, whether it be the Superman of his universe, or any universe for that matter. He is constantly trying to cause trouble for Superman; it's what he lives for," the man said, his tone very serious. He sighed a small breath and then continued. "In one of the universes that I've traveled to there is a Superman who is without his Lois Lane. She is missing. He has searched for her but is unable to find her. I believe that Tempus has dropped your Lois off in this world."
Clark shook his head in disbelief. "But why? That doesn't make any sense."
"There is no why," the man replied sharply. "He did it because he could. To cause trouble. Oh, I have no doubt that it is part of a larger scheme, but what that is, I don't know."
"But if what you're saying is true, how can I help her? How can I bring her back?" Clark still wasn't sure he could believe this man, but he felt a panic starting inside him nonetheless.
"I can help you with that. But first you must understand something. Tempus has more than likely fed lies to this other you. He has probably told him that an imposter would be coming to try and take Lois. This other Superman will be prepared to defend her with his life. Are you prepared to fight for her? Even if it means fighting yourself?" the man paused as if to give that thought time to sink in. "I also need to prepare you for the fact that this other Superman will not look exactly like you."
"What do you mean he doesn't look like me?" How could he be Superman and not look like him?
"As there are an infinite number of universes, there are infinite versions of Superman out there also. Each of them with their own set of DNA, each of them just slightly different from the next." Clark could hear the amazement in the man's voice. "The Superman of that world looks very different from you, but I assure you that he is indeed you. Do not underestimate him — he has the same powers that you do."
"So what is it exactly that you expect me to do?" Clark said, feeling a little out of sorts and a little more than impatient. This man was either crazy, or he was right, and for some reason Clark didn't think he was crazy. Maybe he just *wanted* to believe him. If he believed him at least there was hope. Hope that she was okay.
"Go with me to that universe in my time machine," the man said simply, as if it was obvious.
"Really? On what? Just blind faith?" Clark was amazed at his audacity. "There are people here who count on me. People other than Lois that I have to look after." His thoughts turned to Jason. How could he leave him here? Abandon him? Even if it was to go find his mother?
<We'll all help look for her…>
Because he had promised him he would. And he wasn't leaving Jason alone. Clark winced; he would still have Richard, his dad.
But how could he trust this man? What if this wasn't really where Lois had gone? "What if Lois comes back and gets into trouble while I'm off in this other universe?"
"I assure you that won't happen because Lois is indeed in this other universe. And the only way you're ever going to see her again is by coming with me and rescuing her." The man folded his arms in front of him as if to signify that there could be no argument.
Time travel? Inter-dimensional space travel? Could Clark really believe this man? Did he have a choice?
No, he didn't. He had to go, had to try this. If the man was lying and nothing happened, then he would have only wasted a few minutes in his search for Lois. But… if he was telling the truth, this might be his only chance to help her. No amount of searching here would do any good.
"Tell me what you plan to do, first," Clark said, still unsure of the man's intentions.
"Very well. First let me give you this device," he said, handing Clark a small piece of equipment, it appeared to be a transmitter of some sort. "It will allow you to contact Superman on a super-high frequency that only you and he will hear. Now come with me, my time machine is just outside. I'll explain the rest to you on the way."
*ALT-LNC — ALT-CLARK POV*
"Thank you. I didn't realize how much that had been weighing on my mind, and then finding out that Clark is Superman… I guess that just kind of put it over the top." Lois pulled away from Clark, wiping her eyes and straightening her clothes. After composing herself, she was all business again. It was uncanny how alike she was with the other Lois he knew and loved.
"So what are we going to do?" she asked him in a tone that suggested she thought he should have an answer. The problem was — he didn't. "I need your help. I've gotta get back there, to my world. I've got a five-year-old son back there who is alone in the house and probably scared."
"We're going to have to work together to figure this out. I know you're concerned. I am too," he assured her. "But at least Jason has your Superman to look after him. If he knows he's his son, believe me, he's not going to let anything happen to him. When Clark doesn't see you at work the next morning, I'm sure he'll go to check on you and Jason." Wouldn't he? Surely he would.
"Actually, Jason will probably just call Richard when he wakes up and finds me missing. Richard… wasn't home last night…" She broke off, going quiet for a few seconds and then continued, "Jason has all of Richard's numbers and he knows what to do in an emergency. I'm sure he'll be fine. I'm just worried." Lois sat back down on the couch next to the other Lois who had quietly been observing the whole conversation.
"Clark?" the other Lois finally spoke up. "Can I ask you a question?"
He could hear the hesitation in her voice. It made him a little nervous. "Sure," he answered with the same hesitation.
"Where's your Lois? You've talked an awful lot about the Lois from the other dimension and showed us a picture of her, but you haven't mentioned your Lois. I've looked around at the pictures in here and I don't see any of you and her." She frowned at him, looking curious.
Clark sighed long and deeply, hoping that would stave off the familiar ache that was trying to return. It didn't work.
He didn't really want to talk about this, especially not with them, but if he knew Lois, she wouldn't give up so easily.
"I haven't found her. She was on assignment in the Congo before I moved to Metropolis. She never came back from that assignment. I've looked for her, tried to find her. A lot of people think she's… dead…" he trailed off and hoped that information would be enough to satisfy her. "But, I'm getting off the subject. We really need to try and figure out how the two of you got here, so…"
"Lois, did you go on that assignment in the Congo?" the straight-haired Lois asked the other, going into reporter mode.
"Yeah, I did. You?"
Clark tried again to change the subject. "Okay, but back to what I was saying, I think we should start…"
"Uh-huh. You know what the weird thing is?"
"That both of us went on that assignment and didn't have any problems?" curly-Lois ventured, joining in on the inquiry.
"Yeah. We came back just fine. It wasn't even really that dangerous," straight-haired Lois said, creasing her eyebrows and frowning. "What could the difference have been between our universes and this one?"
"Good question." Curly-Lois put one hand up to her chin, tapping it lightly with one finger as she contemplated the answer. "Obviously the other Lois that Clark knows came back from the Congo as well. What could have happened here? Do you think…?"
"Lois!" Clark said loudly, addressing the curly-haired Lois and trying to interrupt.
"What?" they both answered in unison, turning to look at him.
Ugh. This was going to be way too confusing trying to call each of them Lois. "We need to talk about what happened to you if we're going to figure out how to fix this, and I'm going to need to be able to keep the two of you separate when I'm asking questions. Can I maybe call one of you Lane? And the other one Lois?"
"You can call me Lane," the straight-haired Lois offered. "Some people call me that around the office, I should be able to keep it straight."
"Great. That's a start." Now if he could just keep them on track. "Okay, now, *Lois*, do you remember anything about the person who took you? Was he an older gentleman? How was he dressed?"
"No, I'm sorry. I don't remember anything about what he looked like. I went to bed and then I woke up here, on your balcony. The only thing I do remember is waking up very briefly when he put the rag of chloroform to my mouth and nose." She scrunched up her nose briefly at the memory.
That wasn't of much use. He sighed feeling frustrated and turned towards the other Lois. "What about you, Lane?"
"I remember a voice," she said, closing her eyes as if to concentrate. "When he was trying to sedate me with the rag, he was mumbling to himself. But it wasn't an old man's voice."
Maybe it wasn't Wells then. It really didn't sound like something he would do, drugging these women and dumping them here on him without so much as a hello. What it really felt like, what it just screamed of, was Tempus. A shiver ran down his back. But why? Why would he do this? What was he hoping to accomplish? "Do you remember anything specific about what he said? Any words?"
"Maybe. I'm not sure. Do the words 'end of Utopia' make any sense to you?" she asked, opening her eyes and looking at him hopeful.
Clark cringed. It was Tempus. That would probably explain why Wells hadn't shown back up yet. "Yeah, unfortunately. I think we may be in a little more trouble than I'd hoped."
"Clark?" Lane asked, looking down and fingering the pajamas she was wearing, "I'm sure you're not used to having female houseguests, but do you think you have any clothes you might loan us?" She smiled uncomfortably at him. "I don't know what kind trouble you think we're in, but I personally don't want to confront whatever's about to happen in my nightshirt."
He looked back and forth from one Lois to the other, realizing they were both in their pajamas and despite the dread he'd been feeling he couldn't help but smile. "Yeah, let me see what I've got."
*UNIVERSE UNKNOWN — WELLS POV*
Wells woke up slowly, his eyelids feeling like deadweights. Where was he? What had happened? The last thing he remembered was being in the prison rec yard, talking to Tempus.
He struggled a little bit, trying to move, and realized that he couldn't. He had been tied, bound, and gagged — but not blindfolded. Although that didn't seem to matter since he couldn't really see anything. He bit down on the gag in his mouth. Ouch! It wasn't anything soft, that was for sure, and it seemed to have a distinctively metallic taste. Yuck. What was it? He tried to remember something, anything, but nothing would come.
Tempus! It had to have been him. What had he done?
He blinked his eyes a few times, trying to clear the haze. His head was pounding so hard that he couldn't seem to see straight. Then he realized that part of the problem was he couldn't see very well period. The room was dark, only lit by one dim light bulb in the center of the room. He looked around, scanning his surroundings.
It looked like he was in some sort of abandoned building, maybe used for storage. There wasn't a stick of furniture in the room, just some old boxes and crates. The floor looked like it hadn't been swept in months, and if his ears weren't deceiving him, he thought he heard rats squeaking and scurrying around. A slight shiver ran through him.
There was a small window across the room from him; he could see the light from the bulb reflecting back off the glass. If there was just some way he could make his way over there. But he didn't relish the thought of crawling across the floor like an inchworm.
As he was contemplating a good way to move, a shimmering light split the darkness of the room around him.
He knew that light…
It was the time machine! Tempus was coming back. Wells watched as the machine materialized and Tempus stepped down out of it.
"Why, Herb. You are up. Oh good, I was getting rather bored talking to myself," Tempus said in his usual cynical manner.
"Hhmmhuff?" Wells tried to say his name around the gag.
"That's me… I suppose. What's the matter, Herb? Time got your tongue?" he asked, chuckling a little.
"Huhh?" Wells asked him. Then he realized what it was that he was being gagged with. It was his pocket watch. He sighed inwardly. He'd be fortunate if the watch ever worked again as much as he had drooled on it.
"Huhh hoo ooo hinn ooo har hoohin?" he tried to ask through his gag.
"Oh, please. I can't take this anymore," Tempus said in disgust, walking over to Wells and reaching for the gag. "I'll take this off if you'll promise to be a good little time traveler and not make too much noise. If you so much as even breathe the name Superman, I'll have to hit you over the head again."
Wells winced. So that's why his head hurt so much. Tempus untied the gag, and Wells allowed it to slide from his mouth. He flinched as he watched it hit the floor. He loved that pocket watch.
"Tempus! I demand that you untie me at once. What do you think you are doing?" Wells was angry. He didn't get angry very often, but Tempus always managed to bring it out of him.
"Why hatching the most brilliant plan I've had yet for doing away with Superman and ensuring that Utopia will never come about." Tempus smiled proudly. "I really have outdone myself this time."
Wells sighed to himself. Would he ever give up? "You are very vain, you know that? When will you learn that you'll never defeat Superman or the values he stands for?"
"Ahh, but I will. You see this time I prepared better. This time I'll have help." He leered at Wells. "And this time, I'm not just trying to ruin one Utopia."
"What do you mean 'one Utopia'?" All the sudden Wells didn't feel very well.
"Well, Herb, when I was playing around with inter-dimensional time travel and discovered our favorite little alternate universe, I did some additional research. You'll never believe what I found." He paused and Wells didn't say anything. "Well, go on, ask me what I found."
Wells sighed. "What did you find?" he asked him flatly.
"I found that there are an infinite number of universes out there." Off of Wells' astonished look, he continued, "That's right, not just one alternate universe or a couple of them, but an infinitesimal number. I traveled to a few of them, to see what the differences and similarities were. Do you know what I discovered?" He sounded almost giddy as he told his story.
"What?" Wells found himself earnestly asking, wanting to know. He couldn't help himself.
"The universes are all connected to one another in a never-ending loop. One universe leading into another and that one leading into another and so on until they come back around full circle onto themselves again. I found that the universes closest in proximity to our own were the most like ours. The further away you got, the more things changed," he explained elatedly, his eyes sparkling. "So I cut through to the other side of the sphere. I visited a universe that was the farthest point away from our own on that loop. Do you know what I found there?"
Wells shook his head, lost in thought as he listened to Tempus. As much as he despised the man, he had to admit that he'd definitely studied up on this.
"Superman. Of course," he huffed out. "It seems I just can't get away from him no matter where I go or how far I travel. But what was more amazing to me is that in that universe, Clark Kent is a mere shadow of himself. It seems that there, Kal-El chooses to be Superman, and Clark Kent is just his disguise when he's not off doing something Supermanish. I was fascinated. So I decided to try the same thing with our alt-universe — I traveled to the opposite of it."
Wells found himself leaning in a little bit, hanging on every word. What Tempus had discovered was remarkable. He had indeed done a lot of research.
"I found a universe there, much like the other one. Clark Kent was a pale ghost of a person and he lived his life mainly as Superman. I was intrigued by the differences I began to see between those universes and our own. For example, did you know in the one opposite to our own that Superman has a child?" he asked Wells, raising an eyebrow at him.
"How could you possibly know that?" Wells frowned skeptically at him.
"I told you. I did my homework," he said, acting indignant. "I find it astonishing that the Lois and Clark of our world want to have a baby and aren't sure they can but the Lois and Clark from the other world already have a child and instead aren't sure they can have each other." He smiled contentedly. "Then there's our alternate universe. Clark can't find his Lois and wants desperately to have her and the Clark from his other universe has already had Lois — trust me — but has denied himself from her. Don't you find that remarkable?" He smirked at Wells looking infinitely pleased.
Wells furrowed his brow and shook his head at him, finally coming to his senses. "Fascinating," he grumbled. "Is there a point to all this?"
"I was getting to that." He gestured with his hands as if to shush Wells. "I've traveled to several other universes as well, and what I found by comparing them is amazing. While there are an infinite number of other universes, they all seem to be tied to one of the four universes I mentioned — ours, our alternate, and the other two opposite to us. Those four universes almost seem to be anchors of some sort, of which all the other universes are connected to in some way or another. I figure if I can find a way to prevent Superman from creating the Utopias in these four universes, that I may in fact completely extinguish the hope of a Utopia across the inter-dimensional plane." He rubbed his hands together in delight.
"Mad? Brilliant? It's all the same," he replied cheekily.
"Superman will stop you," Wells said defiantly. "The Supermen from those other universes are not going to sit by while you corrupt their worlds and take away their futures."
"No, I wouldn't expect them to." He smiled.
Wells looked at him confused.
"I expect them to help me." Tempus chuckled happily to himself. He looked down at the watch on his wrist. "In fact, as much as I've enjoyed our little chat, I really should be leaving. I have a little appointment to go to." Wells watched him walk over to one of the boxes in the room and pull out a long, tan coat and a brown hat. He already had on a black trench coat, what was he going to do with that other coat?
Tempus walked over to him and knelt down close to him, reaching into his pocket. "Now, don't take this the wrong way, Herb, but I can't have you trying to find a way out of here or screaming for Superman to help you, so…"
Before Wells realized what was happening, Tempus shoved a rag across his mouth. No! He wanted to kick himself for not holding his breath. The last thought that crossed his mind before he passed out was to realize that Tempus had said he might be able to scream for Superman. But what world was he in?
*O. SUPERMAN — SUPERMAN POV*
Clark flew towards Lois' apartment, the apprehension growing in him. If she wasn't here, where could she be? Why hadn't she called in? What if she was in trouble?
Images flashed through his mind of her suffocating in a sea of dirt and rocks as her car sunk deeper into the crevasse created by the earthquake; her body lying limply in his arms, broken and battered; her head dropping lifelessly back as he lowered her body to the ground.
No! His heart lurched in his chest. She was all right. She had to be. He had promised himself that he would watch over her, not let anything happen to her.
He had saved her before, and if she were in trouble, he would find her. He would save her again.
No matter what.
When he was close enough to use his x-ray vision, he began scanning her apartment building. But it was a useless gesture; what his heart had already known, his mind had to accept. She wasn't here.
He started to turn back — he was going to fly over the city, search for her from the air, scan every house, every building, every structure for her — when something caught his attention. There was a piece of paper stuck to one of her balcony windows.
He flew down to her balcony and walked over to the window, grabbing the paper off of it.
I KNOW WHERE MS. LANE IS. PLEASE COME INSIDE AND I'LL EXPLAIN EVERYTHING.
*LNC — LOIS POV*
"Lois, Clark, have we had any more information on the Tempus fugitive? John Doe?" Perry asked, frowning at them. "It's been two days. The police don't have any leads. Has Superman been able to find anything?"
"No, Chief, nothing," Lois answered. "He's still looking, but it doesn't seem hopeful."
"It's like he just vanished into thin air," Clark added. "Superman is as frustrated as the police are."
"Well, I guess that's going to be an easy follow-up piece for you to write then, isn't it?" he growled. "People of Metropolis, there's an escaped lunatic in your midst, the police have no leads and Superman can't find him. Meanwhile there's a lovely dog show in town this weekend!" Perry's voice rose as he got more involved in his rant. "Judas Priest! This Tempus piece is the biggest story we've got going right now and all you people can give me are shrugs and we-have-nothings?"
Everyone in the conference room was silent and Lois cringed a little. She and Clark had *something* of course, the notes that had been left for them, but they didn't even know if those had any connection to Tempus or not. And those weren't something they could share anyway.
Perry sighed and waved a hand at the room in dismissal. "Meeting's adjourned. I know it's late in the day, but none of you are going home until we have something for the front page. Now, get out there and get me some news people! Pound the pavement, beat down the doors, camp out at the police precincts, but get me some news!" he barked.
Lois followed Clark out of Perry's office. She could feel the frustration in him that mirrored her own. Not just frustration that they couldn't bag this as a great story, but frustration because time was running out and they still didn't know what they were up against.
She slid one arm through his and around his back, giving him a gentle squeeze. "A lead box for your thoughts."
He smiled weakly at her. "Unless Tempus is inside, I don't want it."
"Maybe it contains something black and frilly," she told him, smiling lopsidedly at him.
"Hmm, you know I don't look good in lace," he attempted, half-heartedly.
She smacked him playfully. "Come on, Clark, cheer up."
"Cheer up? What is there to be…" He broke off and got a funny look on his face. The look that told her he was hearing something she couldn't hear.
"What is it? What do you hear?"
He didn't answer her, he merely held up one hand to silence her. After a few moments she was about to protest being left out of the loop when he suddenly closed his eyes and a look of concentration came across his face. She knew that face; she'd seen it before when Zara and Ching had communicated telepathically with him. He was talking to someone! Was it them?
After a few more moments, he opened his eyes. They were wide and confused.
"Who was it?"
*UNIVERSE UNKNOWN — WELLS POV*
Wells gradually woke up again, once more to an empty room. Tempus hadn't come back yet. He shook his head lightly trying to clear the haze of the chloroform.
Tempus had said he had an appointment to go to. With who? He also remembered Tempus saying that he was going to recruit the other Supermen to help him. How he was going to do that Wells had no idea. Was that who he'd gone to see? He wasn't sure exactly what Tempus was planning, but he knew he had to stop him.
And he wasn't going to be able to stop him on his own.
Wells wriggled around until he got himself into an upright, sitting position. He put his back towards the direction of the window. It was completely dark now, Tempus must have either turned the light off before he'd left or else the bulb had burned out, but he thought he remembered where the window had been when he'd seen it earlier.
He began to scoot himself backwards with his bound feet. He was going to be filthy after this little expedition.
He inched little by little across the floor, planning out his next move. Once he made it over to the window, he just needed to figure out a way to break the glass. The window looked like it was close enough to the ground that he could break the glass with his feet. Then all he had to do was yell as loudly as he could and hope that if there were a Superman in this world, he would hear him.
He had made it a few precious feet when he saw a shimmering light, signaling the return of the time machine. The resulting panic allowed him to move faster than he'd been moving and he made it back to the spot Tempus had left him in before he reappeared.
When the lights from the time machine died down, he heard footsteps and then the one lone light bulb in the middle of the room came on. Tempus was standing next to the switch on the wall. He turned and looked at Wells.
"Awake again, already, Herb? Did you sleep well? Not too many nightmares, I hope," he said with mock concern as he came walking over to where Herb was sitting on the floor.
"Tempus this is lunacy. You are never going to get those other Supermen to help you with whatever it is you're planning," Wells told him, sounding more convinced than he felt.
"Why, I already have, Herb. It's done." Tempus chuckled, obviously pleased with himself. He started to pace back and forth in front of Wells as he spoke to him. "Would you like to know how I did it? After all, a truly ingenious plan can't fully be appreciated for its brilliance unless you're able to share it with someone."
Wells rolled his eyes at him in disgust. Tempus truly was the most arrogant and conceited individual he had ever met. Wells wasn't about to dignify what he'd said with a response.
Tempus stopped pacing and turned to face him. "Oh? Not even the slightest bit curious? I bet you are. I'd venture to say that you're practically itching in those stuffy clothes you wear to know what I have planned. Did I saying itching?" He snickered at some unknown joke.
Wells pretended to be uninterested, but the truth was that he really did want to know what Tempus had up his sleeve. If he could find a way to warn Superman, it would help to know what Tempus was up to.
"Well, I'm going to tell you anyway. It's just too much fun not to share, and since you aren't going to be there to see it happen…"
Wells wasn't quick enough to hide the concern that flashed across his face.
"Oh, don't worry," Tempus sneered. "I like you too much, Herb, to do away with you… at least for now, anyway. No you won't be around to see what happens because it's going to happen in our universe and you're not in *our* universe. Thanks to you and meddling Lois Lane and Clark Kent, I'm a fugitive in our universe. I can't stay there for too long without drawing unwanted attention to myself." Tempus scowled at Wells.
"Then where are we?" Wells asked, confused.
"Oh, now shame on you, Herb. I can't give all of my secrets away. But I can tell you that you are in a small warehouse building that I *borrowed* down in the lovely Hobbs Bay area of Metropolis. So you might want to think twice about causing too much of a ruckus — you might attract some unwanted attention." Tempus smiled patronizingly at him and then put a finger up to his chin. "Now, where was I?" He snapped his fingers. "Oh, yes, I know, I was about to tell you how I got the Supermen from those distant universes to help me." He paused expectantly.
"How?" Wells said with obvious distaste at being strung along like this.
"I took away their Lois Lanes."
"You what?" Wells exclaimed.
"Yes, that's right," he said happily. "I knew I'd get their attention if I took her away from them."
"What have you done with them? Where are they?"
"Where are Lois Lanes? Oooh, that was some bad grammar." Tempus snickered. "Don't worry, Herb. I took them to a universe that has no Lois Lane. I thought they could be the replacement."
"To the alternate universe? Tempus, how could you be so cruel?" Poor Clark.
"Cruel? I don't know; I found it all so ironic somehow. God, I really do love irony. Anyway, I told both the Supermen equally unbelievable stories about what had happened to Lois, and somehow they both bought into them."
"Well? What did you tell them?" Wells asked exasperatedly.
"Oh, *now* you're interested?" Tempus made a big display of looking at his watch. "Well, I suppose I've got a little time." He laughed at his absurd joke. Wells rolled his eyes; he had all the time in the world. "Let's see now, where was I? Oh yes, how I tricked the *Supermen*," he sneered as he said the name. "Well with the first one I visited, the Superman that has the son, I convinced him that an evil time traveler named Tempus had kidnapped his Lois."
"But that's you!"
"Yes, but he didn't know that. I never told him who I was. Anyway, I told him that this Tempus — clever fellow by the way — dropped Lois off in a universe where Lois didn't exist. Our poor alternate Clark's universe. Which is true of course, I did take her there. However, I also convinced him that Tempus had no doubt lied to the Superman there, and that it would be difficult for him to get Lois back from the other Superman — that he would no doubt defend her with his life, blah, blah, blah. But, what I didn't tell him was that I was taking him to *our* Clark's universe and not the one where his Lois really was."
"But why? What's the point?"
"Hold on, you keep interrupting me. I'll get to that part, but not yet. Let's see… Ah, yes, the other Superman, the one I just visited." Tempus began to pace again.
"He was easy. You see the Lex Luthor in his world had recently used Superman's DNA to create a clone of sorts and he'd had to fight that clone off. As I understand it, the thing pretty darn near killed him. Shame, it didn't work. I have to hand it to Lex; it was a decent idea. So I merely told *that* Superman that an evil time traveler named Tempus," he did a little bow, "had kidnapped Lois Lane because he hated Superman, in any universe, and wanted to see him suffer," he paused to smile, reveling in telling his tale, "which is true, I do. I told him that Tempus had created clones of him that were holding Lois captive in another universe. The *clones* of course being our Superman and the Superman from the other distant universe. Then I convinced him to get in the time machine and I dropped him off in our universe to find the pair of *clones*."
Wells shook his head in disgust. "So you were hoping to what? Make them all fight each other? Kill each other? You are insane. They'll never do that."
Tempus looked a little disappointed. "Aww, you don't like my plan, Herb? Well that's okay. I've got a second one. You see I really didn't expect the first one to work, at least not for very long. But it will be interesting to watch, nonetheless. I'm always in the mood for some entertainment."
"So if you've already taken them both there, then why are you here? Did you just come to gloat over your plan before you went to watch it unfold?"
"Because I had to come back for this." Tempus walked over to one of the crates in the room and opened it, pulling out a smaller box. A box that looked suspiciously like it was made of lead. He reached inside the small box he held in his palm with his thumb and fingers and withdrew them to reveal a chunk of glowing green rock.
"You have Kryptonite?" Wells exclaimed, feeling his stomach knot up.
"Tsk tsk. Of course I do." Tempus stood up straight and tall, held the Kryptonite in his hand close to his face, and plastered on a fake-looking smile. "Kryptonite… never leave home without it. Catchy slogan don't you think?" He dropped the facade and put the rock back inside the lead box and into one of the pockets of the black trench coat he was wearing. "Tell me, Herb, did you know that Kryptonite doesn't seem to work in quite the same way when you take it to these incongruous parallel universes? It's quite fascinating. It must have something to do with changes in their DNA structure, or differences in the molecular make-up of the Kryptonite. I'm not quite sure…"
"What do you mean?" Wells felt his curiosity perk despite the dread he was feeling.
"Well, I did a little experiment, just to be certain that Kryptonite had the ability to kill these other Supermen like it does in ours. But when I furtively exposed them to it, they reacted differently. I noticed it when I exposed one of the Clarks to it in an elevator. He didn't fall to the floor writhing, didn't even look uncomfortable. Instead, I noticed that he began sneezing. There was a woman in the elevator with heavy, pungent cologne on. That got me to thinking. So I tried it out on the other Clark. I applied a little poison ivy oil to his skin and he broke out in nasty rash where I touched him. Isn't that marvelous?"
"Marvelous?" Wells asked in surprise.
"Yes. You see, it proves I *can* still kill the Supermen with the Kryptonite. It requires a little more work and forethought but basically I just need to expose them to something that will create a violent enough allergic reaction to kill them and I think I've got that covered."
Tempus patted his pockets and looked around the room. "Well, I've got the keys to the car," he said, patting one coat pocket and then pulling out a handful of gold jewelry. "The gift for the Supermen," he said, tapping the other coat pocket where he put the Kryptonite. "I think that's it. I don't think I've forgotten anything… Oh wait, yes I have." He walked to the time machine and reached under the seat, pulling out a gun. "There, now I'm ready. Don't wait up for me, Herb. I may be a little while."
Tempus tucked the gun away inside his trench coat and climbed into the time machine. He plopped a handful of the gold in the tray as a deposit and pulled the handle, disappearing from the room.
Wells sighed mightily. This did not look good. Not at all. But he had one ace up his sleeve. He knew where he was now. He had figured all along that Tempus had left him in one of the four universes he was working out of. Tempus had made it clear that it wasn't their own universe — plus he'd just left to go visit that one. He'd also managed to let Wells know that it wasn't one of the other two distant parallel universes. He had spoken about going to *visit* those — and Wells didn't think he'd make his home base in a world that he wasn't familiar with.
So that left just one option.
Thankfully Tempus hadn't chloroformed him again. Wells looked over at the window. It was time to recruit some help of his own.
*LNC — CLARK POV*
Clark felt a strange inertia as he ended his conversation with the Kryptonian. He hadn't communicated telepathically in a while and it left him feeling a little drained and distant, or maybe that was because of what the man had said.
"Clark? I said who was it?" Lois was asking him.
He shook his head trying to clear his mind. "I don't know who he is, but he is definitely Kryptonian," he whispered to her. "I was able to communicate with him telepathically." He took her by the arm and led her inside the conference room where they could talk privately.
"Yeah, I caught that much, but what did he say — you know I can't exactly listen in on that conversation," she remarked dryly.
"He's here at the Daily Planet, up on the roof. He wants me to turn you over to him," he told her unhappily. "He says that once I see the two of you together that I'll realize this is what you really want… His words, not mine."
"I beg his pardon? Who does he think he is?" she asked in disgust, putting a hand on her hip.
"I don't know, but what's even stranger is that he didn't contact me telepathically. He contacted me on high frequency that you wouldn't be able to hear. I decided to try contacting him telepathically since the note had said the criminal was from New Krypton. Here's the weird thing," he said, shaking his head, "He seemed surprised when I contacted him, like he hadn't done that before. If he really is from New Krypton, how is that possible?"
"I don't know, but I'm ready to find out. Come on, let's go," she said, grabbing hold of his arm and tugging on him.
"What?" He planted his feet, holding his ground, not allowing her to move him even an inch. She thought she was going? Guess again.
"Let's go. Let's find out exactly what he wants and who he is," she replied firmly, still trying to force him to move.
"*I* am going to go find that out. *You* are not," he told her, almost using his Superman voice.
"Clark, we've been through this before. If you leave me behind, he'll more than likely just come after me. And then you wouldn't be here and then where would I be? In worse trouble, that's where," she explained, trying to rationalize with him. The trouble was he was in no mood to be reasoned with.
She wasn't going.
He shook his head stubbornly. "No, Lois, you aren't going to win this one. I'm not going to willingly take you with me into a dangerous situation." He looked away from her, his heart lurching in his chest and images flashing through in his mind.
<I'm leaving you. I want a divorce…>
He could still see the anguish in her eyes. She hadn't meant it. Lex Luthor Jr. had made her say it, had tortured her until she almost passed out to make her say it. He had tortured her almost to the point that he had killed her to keep Clark under his control, to use her against him. Then Clark had almost had to kill her in order to save her.
No, he wouldn't go through that again. He couldn't take the chance. He couldn't take her with him. Couldn't she understand that?
"Please. Don't ask me to take you," he begged her. "I can't. Let me do this one on my own."
"What if this person or persons has Kryptonite? Or something else deadly to use against you? You might need me there." Her voice had an almost pleading tone to it.
"That's a risk I'm willing to take," he told her firmly.
"Well I'm not!" she exclaimed angrily. "How could you think I would be willing to risk your life when you aren't willing to risk mine?"
He sighed, loving how much she cared and worried about him, but wishing she would make this easier on him. "I have to go. He'll just come after us if I don't. I have to do this without you. Goodbye, Lois. Be safe. I love you." He squeezed her tightly to him while he was talking to her.
Then he was gone.
Faster than it had taken her to blink her eyes at him, he had disappeared — moving faster than anyone could see him through the newsroom, inside the stairwell, and up the stairs to the roof.
*LNC — BRANDON ROUTH SUPERMAN POV*
(Note: "Alternate Clark" here is referring to "LNC" Clark)
Clark watched as a man dressed like him, in a smart looking business suit and tie, appeared from the door of the stairwell. He stepped out onto the roof of the Daily Planet building and walked towards him. This Clark did look different from him physically just like the time traveler had told him he would.
So this poor Clark had lost his Lois Lane? He had been forced to live his life without her, and now he was being tricked into protecting her from the man who was trying to save her.
Clark felt sorry for this alternate version of him, but he had to get Lois away from him. He had to reason with him, get him to see that he had been lied to. That Lois didn't belong here.
"Clark Kent? Superman?" Clark asked his double.
"Yes. Who are you?" his alternate self asked, halting his approach and keeping his distance.
The man who'd brought Clark here had instructed him to wear *street* clothes and not his Superman suit. He'd said it would only increase the confusion and make things that much more difficult; and if that were the case, then it would probably be better if he didn't tell this other Clark that he was Clark Kent, not yet. He didn't know what lies had been told to this alternate Clark, or to Lois for that matter.
All Clark really needed was to see Lois and her see him. He would reveal himself as Superman to her; he didn't care about that now. He would tell her, and she would tell this other alternate Clark that she didn't belong here, that she belonged with her Superman.
So Clark ignored his double's question and asked one of his own. "Where is Lois? I instructed you to bring her with you. Where is she?"
"Somewhere safe. Did you honestly think I would bring her here, put her in danger? I don't know who you think you are, but it would be in your best interests if you just turned around and left this world, right now," he said in a commanding voice, the muscles in his jaw line twitching.
Clark had to repress a smile. This man was definitely Superman. He didn't need to see a flashy suit to tell him that. If the situation wasn't so dire, he'd probably enjoy getting to know this version of himself. But, as it was…
"That's not something I can do," Clark said with regret. "I came here for Lois Lane and I'm not leaving without her. I know you have her best interests at heart, but you don't understand what's going on here." He sighed in frustration. "If you don't have her with you, then we're finished here. I'll just have to find her on my own."
Clark was caught off guard when, as he started to walk towards the entrance to the stairwell, his other self hit him with a blast of super-breath. It didn't hurt him, but since he hadn't been expecting it, it knocked him several feet back and he fell down.
"Don't do this. I'm begging you," Clark pleaded with him as he got back up to his feet. He didn't want it to come down to this. "I will fight you if I have to. Let me go." His other self advanced towards him and he continued to back away from him.
"No," the alternate Clark said, shaking his head. "I can't let you walk away unless it's to leave this place, to leave us alone." The beseeching tone of the other Clark's voice moved him. He really was trying to protect Lois. He couldn't fault him for that.
Clark had backed up as far as he could go; he was at the edge of the roof. He turned and made a little sprint away from his other self. He could loop around and come at the stairwell from the other side. "I can't do that. Lois doesn't belong here," he said in earnest. "She's in danger as long as she stays here."
"Yeah. From you!" The alternate Clark shot another blast of breath at him. This time he was expecting it, though, and he turned and met the blast with a breath of his own, neutralizing it.
The alternate Clark didn't look surprised. This Tempus person must have told him that he would have powers also.
He was about to turn around and make a break for it when he heard another man's voice behind him.
"What have you done with Lois Lane?"
*LNC — LOIS POV*
Lois blinked. He was gone! He had left without her, hadn't even waited for her last objection, hadn't even given her the chance to say goodbye.
Well she'd be damned if she was going to sit around down here and worry about what was happening to him up there. She bolted for the elevator at a run. She pressed the button impatiently and when it didn't move fast enough, she headed for the stairwell.
She ran up the stairs as fast as her legs would carry her. She'd been a little lax lately about her exercise routine and she was feeling it now as her lungs screamed in protest at the speed and longevity she was trying to force out of her legs as she climbed the stairs to the roof.
She had to hurry. Her mind played tricks on her as she ran. She could see Clark slumped against the roof, writhing in pain from Kryptonite or she could see him being beaten down, defeated as he was attacked by multiple enemies. She could almost hear him crying out her name.
As she neared the door that led out to the roof she slowed. She needed to slip outside quietly if she was going to be of any help at all. She really needed to go unnoticed if that was possible. Maybe the criminal would be so distracted with Clark that he wouldn't notice her.
She cracked the door open and peeked out cautiously. When she didn't see anyone, she slipped outside as quickly and quietly as possible. She kept herself pressed close to the wall and crept silently along it, listening for the voice of her husband.
She couldn't be certain, but it sounded like there were three distinct voices coming from somewhere on the roof… so there *was* more than one of them. It was a good thing she'd come. What if Clark couldn't fight them both off?
*LNC — CHRIS REEVE SUPERMAN POV*
"Where is Lois Lane?"
"What?" both of the clones asked.
"Listen, I don't have time for this. I know who you are. You're clones of me and you've taken Lois Lane captive. Now hand her over," he demanded, his patience running thin. He wasn't going to play games with these abominations.
The one clone who looked the most like him shook his head slowly, seeming amazed. "I don't know where she is, but even if I did, I wouldn't tell you."
Well, if that one didn't know, then other one must. Clark strode purposefully over to the other clone, grabbed him by his shirt and lifted him into the air. "Where is she? Tell me!"
The clone twisted around in his grasp, planting a foot against his chest and pushing against him. Their bodies flew apart, landing on opposite sides of the roof.
The clone he'd fought with stood up and put his hands up in front of him in a defensive gesture. "I don't want to fight you but I will if you force me. I'm not going to willingly turn Lois over to you. You're dangerous."
"Me? I'm dangerous?" he asked in amazed disbelief. "What universe are you from?"
"Exactly," the clone agreed with him.
Unbeknownst to Clark, the other clone had been coming around behind him and he launched himself at him, holding his arms tightly around him.
"Clark, help me secure him," that clone said to the other one. Clark? Why had he called him Clark? Surely this Tempus person hadn't named the clones after him? What a psycho!
"Why should I trust you? You're in league with him," the other clone said. His voice was hesitant, but he was advancing towards them even so.
Clark wasn't going to allow him to get close enough to gang up on him. He hit him with a hard blast of super-breath and watched as the clone was knocked back off his feet. Clark struggled against his captor, winning out against him, extricating himself from the hold he had on him.
He hated having to resort to violence but it seemed that these clones were as unreasonable as the one he'd fought before. He had to find a way to neutralize them. He shot a beam of heat vision out at the clone who had been holding him, but the clone ducked at the last second and moved cautiously to the side, walking over towards the other clone.
The other clone got up and rose to his feet and the three men stood staring at each other. It was a stand off.
As he contemplated how to get the upper hand a woman came running around the corner, yelling at them to stop. Who was she? She seemed almost familiar somehow. One of the clones turned to her and cried out, "Lois, no! Get back, get out of here. Please."
*LNC — LOIS POV*
"Your name is Lois?" one of the Kryptonian men asked her, staring at her looking perplexed. She did a double-take. He was wearing a Superman suit.
Before she could ask him about it the other Kryptonian spoke up. "As in Lois Lane?"
"Of course! Who else would I be?" she snapped. "Clark, are you okay?" she asked anxiously, as she ran over to him. He didn't look like he'd been hurt. But he did look like he was… upset. Most likely with her.
"I'm fine. Irritated, but fine. Would you please get out of here? What were you thinking coming out here like this?" he asked her exasperatedly, moving to put his body between her and the other men.
She flashed him a look of annoyance. "I was thinking that you might need some help fighting off a pair of Kryptonian criminals."
"But I asked you to stay put." His eyebrows were knitted together in that look that said 'why don't you ever listen to me?'
"Yes, you asked me, but I never agreed. How could I? You didn't even give me a chance to present further arguments? You just took off and left me standing there, grasping at the air."
"You're so stubborn!" they both cried out at one another.
The two Kryptonian men were staring slack-jawed at her and Clark during their exchange. Finally the man in the regular clothes found his voice. "This isn't possible. He said the Lois in this world was dead!" he said, sounding confused.
"Dead?" She side-stepped Clark to face him. "Who said that? Who told you that?" she exclaimed unhappily.
He frowned at her. "He wouldn't give me his name. He was a time-traveler. He said a man named Tempus had kidnapped my…"
"Excuse me did you just say Tempus?" Lois asked, interrupting him. Ah ha! She knew it. He was involved. Wait until she got her hands on him.
"Yes. The time-traveler said Tempus had taken my Lois to a universe with no Lois… and yet here you are," he observed, sounding baffled.
Lois looked at her Clark. They exchanged a look of amazement between them and then Clark asked the question they were both thinking. "So you're from another universe? And in that universe you're…"
"And so am I," the one in the super-suit chimed in, perplexed. "What's going on here?"
"Tempus. That's what," she told them. She should have known. But what was his game? What was he up to? "This *time-traveler* who brought you here, can you describe what he looked like?"
"No, actually, I can't," the one in the super-suit replied. "He had on a trench coat with the collar pulled up and he had a hat on."
"You just described the man I saw, too," the other Superman confirmed.
"Clark, I'd bet money that the time-traveler *was* Tempus," she said, her voice tight. In fact, she'd bet all of next year's salary on it.
"So would I," Clark agreed. She could see the growing concern in his face. "Did you notice anything about his voice? I'm guessing it wasn't an older man's voice. It didn't have an English accent did it?"
She knew he was trying to rule out Mr. Wells' involvement, but that wasn't necessary for her. Her gut was telling her that this was Tempus all the way, and she believed it.
"No. There was definitely no accent, and his voice didn't sound old," the Superman in regular clothes informed them. The other Superman was nodding his head in agreement.
"Definitely not Wells then. This has Tempus written all over it. So what was the story he fed you?" Clark asked, addressing the Superman in uniform.
"He said that *Tempus* had created a couple of clones of me and they had kidnapped Lois and brought her to this universe."
"Hmmm, and in our universe he left Clark a note saying that two criminals from New Krypton — long story — were coming to take me," Lois explained, a light coming on in her head. "So he told each of you stories that would inevitably pit you against one another."
"But what did he think we would do?" Clark pondered, shaking his head. "Kill each other? He knows us better than that. What could he have possibly hoped to accomplish?"
"Maybe all he wanted was a little entertainment," came a new voice from around the corner.
As all three Supermen turned towards the sound of the voice, Lois winced. She knew that voice without having to look. It was Tempus.
*ALT-LNC — ALT-CLARK POV*
It turned out that Clark didn't really have any clothing that would fit the Loises. So, he had popped out quickly — well not exactly quickly, he'd had to cross a few time zones to find a store that was open at this time of night — and bought them some clothes and shoes.
He was a little embarrassed that he hadn't thought about the *pajama* thing before Lane mentioned it to him. He had no idea how long the Loises were going to be stuck here with him. And with Tempus involved, there was no telling what manner of problems they were going to face. It wouldn't do to have them running around in their pajamas, especially once morning got here.
"So, what kind of trouble are we in exactly?" Lois asked him, tying a bow in the laces of one of her tennis shoes.
"Maybe we can help," Lane chimed in, rolling cuffs into the jeans that were a little too long for her.
"Yeah, except for you to help me that means I'd have to know what I needed to do, and I don't." Clark sighed and ran a hand through his hair in a reflexive gesture. They expected him to know what to do. They expected him to be able to help them get back to their worlds. They were placing their hope in him, but he didn't have anything to offer them. "I believe that the person who kidnapped both of you is a man named Tempus. He's a time-traveler like H.G. Wells. In fact he's the one who discovered inter-dimensional space travel, which makes sense that he's behind this since the two of you come from other universes. But Tempus is evil. He hates Superman and he goes to great lengths trying to destroy what Superman stands for."
"So where do you think he is now?" Lois asked tentatively.
"I have no idea. But I know one thing, if he's behind this and he has Wells' time machine, then we are in a lot of trouble because that means something has happened to Wells." He shook his head in frustration. "And with a time machine, Tempus could be anywhere, literally. He could be in any universe, at any time."
"So what are we going to do? Just sit here and wait for him to try something?" she protested.
"I don't know. I don't have any better ideas just yet," Clark admitted uncomfortably. "I'm positive he'll come back here at some point, though. If nothing else just to gloat over what he's doing. Tempus loves his maniacal schemes, but he loves bragging about them even more." Clark rolled his eyes. "I think for right now, we're just going to have to be on alert and wait for him to show back up. Hopefully Wells might still find a way to help us, too." Clark smiled at each of them, trying to impart a confidence in them that he wasn't feeling himself.
What was Tempus up to? Why had he dropped these two Lois Lanes on him? What could he possibly hope to accomplish by doing that?
"Clark?" Lane said his name, pulling him out of his thoughts.
"Do you miss your Lois?" she asked him softly. "I mean I know you never got a chance to meet her but I just thought… I don't know… it seemed like you miss her."
Her Clark's rejection of her had obviously affected her greatly. This was the second time she had asked him about his feelings for *his* Lois. He felt a sadness in his heart for her and it moved him to share his feelings with her. "I do. I don't understand how I can miss someone so much who I've never known. Part of it is probably because I've spent some time with the Lois from my alternate reality, the one married to Clark Kent. Tempus had brought her here from her universe trying to cause trouble. She sought me out, hoping I could help her. She drew me to her like no woman ever had before. She made me believe in myself. It's because of her that I even became Superman."
It made him ache to relive the memories, but he would do it for this Lois if it helped her to see her own importance. Because Clark believed deep down that she had to be as important to her Clark as his Lois was to him.
"What do you mean?" Lane asked, looking intrigued.
"Well before I met her, I had hidden my abilities, only used them on the sly. She showed me the kind of man I could be. She helped me become Superman. She even made my first suit for me." He felt a lump beginning in his throat. "I'm ashamed to admit that I actually asked her to stay. Not to go back to her own universe, not to go back to *him*. I wanted her so desperately." Clark turned away from the women, not wanting them to see the emotion in his face.
"What did she say when you asked to stay?" Lois asked him, walking up and laying a hand on his shoulder.
"She said she couldn't," he replied sadly. "I told her I needed her and she said that *he* did too. I asked if he knew what he had and she said they both did. That was a year ago."
He took a few deep, cleansing breaths trying to compose himself before he continued. "Then, just a few days ago, Mr. Wells showed up and asked me to come to her universe, to help her. Tempus had trapped her Clark in a time window, leaving their world without its Superman and Tempus running amuck. I didn't want to go." He looked down, not being able to meet their gazes. "I'm mortified to admit that a part of me didn't want to help her Clark come back to her. But I loved her too much not to help her." He sighed feeling some relief in being able to admit that to someone.
"Clark, that's heartbreaking," Lane said, her voice wavering. "There has to be some way you can find the Lois Lane of your world."
"Yes. I agree," Lois said, sounding determined. "Maybe there's something we can do to help. We could at least maybe help you pin down the area of the Congo that she, uh we, had been reporting in."
"Thank you. I appreciate the offer." And he did, but he doubted that they could help. How could they find her when he had failed? He really felt like there was only one person who could help him. "Actually Mr. Wells was supposed to be coming back to see what he could do to help me find her. In fact, he was already supposed to be here; that's why I think Tempus has done something to him. But what? That's the question. I mean, he could be anywhere…"
["Help me, Superman!"]
Clark tilted his head, listening to the voice calling out to him.
No. Could it be?
"Clark? Are you okay? What's wrong?" Lois asked him, looking anxious.
"He's here!" he exclaimed excitedly.
"Where?" Lois asked.
"Who?" Lane questioned.
"H.G. Wells. He's yelling for Superman to help him. He's here!"
Clark ran out to the balcony and flew up into the sky, leaving the Lois Lanes behind to gape at him.
*LNC — TEMPUS POV*
"Tempus! What do you think you're doing?" Lois demanded, turning to face him.
"Why, hello Ms. Lane, good to see you again, too," he said, flashing a fake smile at her. "What am I doing? Well as much as I was enjoying this little show, I didn't have any popcorn and the plot wasn't all that I'd hoped it would be," he explained smugly. "So I decided it was time to walk out. Would you care to accompany me?" He extended a hand towards her.
"What?" she exclaimed, looking appalled. "I'm not going anywhere with you."
"Oh, I'm afraid you are. See, it's time to put plan B into effect." Yes, the back-up plan. He always had a plan, but he had learned the hard way that it never hurt to have more than one.
"No, it's time to put you back in prison," Clark said, crossing his arms. Tempus could hear the barely contained anger in his voice. Good, when one's enemy was upset he wasn't usually thinking clearly.
"You know, I figured you'd say something just that boring and unoriginal," Tempus said flippantly. "That's why I brought this little piece of home with me." He reached inside his pocket and brought out the small lead box, pulling the piece of Kryptonite out of it. He quickly advanced on Clark, causing him to collapse to his knees in pain. "Your home." He smirked as he set the Kryptonite down a few feet from Clark.
Tempus saw the other two Supermen back up in alarm at the sight of the glowing green rock.
"No! Clark!" Lois screamed and launched herself towards Tempus and the deadly rock. He allowed her to catch him and as she struggled with him, trying to get to the Kryptonite, he reached inside another pocket and pulled out a rag.
He shoved it in her face. "I apologize for this Ms. Lane," he said, his voice anything but apologetic, "but I can't keep track of three Supermen and you too."
She struggled against him, clawing at the hand he held over her mouth with her fingers; she managed to draw some blood. Tempus let go of her clasping his hand in pain. He glanced up and could see the Supermen heading towards him. They had probably figured out that the Kryptonite didn't seem to be affecting them. Yeah… poor saps…
Tempus looked back over at Lois. She had managed to free herself from him but it was too late. Her lungs had absorbed enough of the chloroform that she had passed out and fallen down limply beside him.
The Supermen were headed towards the piece of Kryptonite. Tempus had to act fast. If they got their hands on it and got it away from Clark Kent or worse yet, threw it into orbit, he'd be neck-deep in cow manure.
"Uh, uh, uh boys," he sneered. I wouldn't do that if I were you, or you're going to be sorry." He said, shoving a hand in one of his pockets.
"No, it's you who's going to be sorry," the one in the super-suit told him arrogantly.
"Okay, don't say I didn't warn you." Tempus pulled out two vials from a pocket in his trench coat. One had powder in it and one had liquid. The Superman in uniform was closest to him. Tempus uncorked the vial of powder and threw the contents at him.
A huge cloud of dust resulted and the effects of the dust on Superman were immediate. First, he began to wheeze, and then he was coughing. A few more coughs and breaths and he was grabbing his throat, gasping for air.
The other Superman looked over at him in shocked disbelief. Tempus used the distraction to his advantage, advancing on him and tossing the vile of liquid into his face.
"Ahhh!" he cried, bringing his hands up to his face and trying to wipe the liquid away. A red, bumpy rash began to form on every spot of skin the liquid had come in contact with.
In a few minutes his eyes would swell shut. Oooh, and then maybe his throat if Tempus was lucky… not that he needed to rely on that.
Tempus looked over at Clark. He was still writhing on the ground but he made an effort to get up, looking worriedly in the direction of Lois' still body. He looked over at Tempus. "What… have you… done to her?" he asked as he collapsed back down, groaning in pain.
"Don't worry, Mr. Kent, just a little chloroform. She'll be okay soon, which is more than I can say for you."
Clark's eyes closed against the pain and he began pulling himself along the ground towards Lois' body.
"No, no, bad Superman," Tempus said, walking up to him and kicking him in the stomach solidly.
"Ungh!" Clark cried out, pulling himself into a fetal position.
"You don't sound well, you'd better lie still," Tempus told him, accentuating his words by kicking him again for good measure.
"What… did you do… to them," he rasped out between clenched teeth.
"Oh that? Why I just gave them a little allergy attack," he told him. Tempus wasn't sure what he was enjoying more, Clark's pain or the chance to explain his own genius. "You see I discovered something unique about Kryptonite and inter-dimensional space travel. Kryptonite from your universe doesn't affect these Supermen like it does you. It weakens them, but not in the same way. It weakens their immune systems, makes them vulnerable to allergens, maybe germs too — hadn't tried that one. In this particular case, I exposed one of them to airborne allergens, like chemicals, pollen, dust, animal dander, mold spores," he counted them off on his fingers. "You get the picture. The other one I exposed to poisonous oils, like Poison Ivy. I find the result quite satisfactory," he said smugly, looking over at the weakened Supermen. He also put a little special ingredient in the mix, so that hopefully what he was about to try next would work.
Tempus looked back down at Clark when he didn't receive the pithy comeback he was waiting for. Clark wasn't struggling nearly as much and his breathing seemed to be coming labored. Tempus smiled happily to himself before turning to look again at the other Supermen. The one's face had swollen up and looked like red-colored orange peel. It was swollen and covered with bumps that were blistering open and oozing puss. Tempus was delighted. He was reacting much stronger this time; it must be because he had been exposed before or maybe because of longer exposure to the Kryptonite this time.
He looked over at the other Superman, he was now lying on his back on the ground, wheezing and rasping heavily, small squeaking sounds coming from his mouth. It had worked as he'd hoped it would — it had thrown him into a full-fledged asthma attack. And since Superman had never experienced anything like this before, he was being overcome by it.
Tempus chuckled to himself, feeling for once like he was on top of his game. Well, no since taking any chances. It was time to finish this. He reached into another pocket and withdrew two syringes. He pulled the cap off of one and advanced towards the blinded Superman. "Poor Superman. Feeling poorly are we? I know what you need. A little shot of penicillin ought to do the trick. You know they're giving it to people nowadays for every little thing, even a scratch on the arm." Now if the small bit he had exposed him to in that first dose had taken effect…
He took the needle firmly in his hand and stabbed it into Superman's arm and recoiled in shock when he hurt his hand. He pulled the syringe back and looked at it. The needle had broken off.
"Still have your skin of steel I see," he said, wincing.
So the Kryptonite had made their immune systems vulnerable, but their super-bodies, super-strength, and probably their super-powers were still intact. Well, no matter, he'd just squirt it into their mouths instead. The Kryptonite should insure that it would be absorbed that way.
Superman struggled against him as he gripped his chin and forced the syringe between his lips. He was still strong, but he was blind, confused, and in pain — he wasn't able to stop him.
Tempus moved quickly to the other Superman, injecting him between coughs.
He stood back contented to watch the carnage. "Goodnight, my not-so-super-men."
*ALT-LNC — WELLS POV*
If Wells had to continue screaming this loudly for very much longer he was going to lose his voice.
"Help! Superman! I'm down by Hobbs Bay!" He gulped in a few deep breaths of air. "Help! Hurry! He'll be back soon!" His voice broke a little bit with the last couple of words.
He cleared his throat and swallowed. "Superman! Help!"
And then he heard it.
"Mr. Wells? Where are you?" Clark's voice sounded small and far away.
Wells drew back from the hole he'd broken in the window and searched the skies looking for Superman. He could make out his red and blue suit flying off in the distance.
"Here! I'm down here below you! Superman! Down here!"
He watched relieved as Superman flew down and landed on the ground just outside the window.
"Hurry, Clark," he said urgently. "We must get out of here. Tempus will be back any moment."
"Good, let him come, I'll give him a piece of my mind," Clark told him, the anger apparent in his face. "He kidnapped two Lois Lanes from two other universes. He chloroformed them and dumped them on me."
"Yes, yes, I know. But he has Kryptonite, Clark. Please, get us out of here now, before he comes back." Wells glanced around worriedly, certain that Tempus was going to appear any moment.
"Get back," Clark instructed him.
Wells slid down the wall he was next to and scooted backwards on his butt out of the way, watching as Clark broke through the window and cleared away the shattered glass. He picked Wells up under one arm and took to the sky.
Wells struggled to continue watching the window they'd come from, looking for the shimmering light that he was sure would be coming at any moment. But then they were flying away at top speed and Wells couldn't see anything but clouds and velvet blackness bejeweled with stars.
*LNC — TEMPUS POV*
Tempus was so involved in the scene unfolding before him that he never saw Lois coming until it was too late.
She knocked him to the ground and he let out a surprised "oompf" as the air was knocked from his lungs. Much to his chagrin he realized he had let go of the gun when she had hit him and it had gone careening a few feet away. Lois got up off of him and started for the gun. He grabbed her leg and tripped her, pulling her back down to the ground.
"I can see now that you didn't get enough of that chloroform into your lungs, a mistake I mean to rectify," he growled.
"Let go of me!" she screamed, kicking at him with her other leg.
An anguished groaning sound caught both of their attentions and they looked over at the allergy-plagued Supermen. They were writhing on the ground, clutching their abdomens and grasping at their throats. Perfect. It had worked better than he had expected. He had hoped they would be allergic to the penicillin. After all they were from alien origins; there was no telling how the penicillin would react with their systems. But this, this was better than he had hoped. They were actually going into anaphylactic shock.
"No!" Lois cried, grief-stricken. She shoved an elbow into his face, connecting hard with his jaw. The pain was excruciating but he held on to her tightly. He rolled them over and pinned her beneath him.
"You need to relax, Lois, you're going to tire yourself out," he mused, smiling at her.
She brought her knee up sharply between his legs, causing him to cry out in pain. She rolled him off of her, getting up and running towards the gun. Tempus crawled painfully over to where her husband was lying on the ground still squirming weakly against the effects of the Kryptonite. He pulled him into a sitting position and slid in behind him, putting Clark's body between himself and Lois. He looked up just in time to see her bring the weapon to bear on him.
"Put it down, Ms. Lane," he said, grabbing the Kryptonite laying nearby and bringing it up to Clark's face. Clark tried to flinch away from it, inhaling sharply through clenched teeth. Tempus wrapped his other hand around Clark's throat in a strangle hold. "Unless you want to kill him."
She hesitated, looking anguished.
"Go ahead, shoot, you'll hit him, not me," he told her smugly, with more confidence than he felt.
It was an empty threat. This really wasn't going the way he wanted. If she advanced on him, she'd eventually be in position to shoot him.
Hmm, it was better to lose one battle in hopes of winning the war. If he could get her to cooperate with him, she might save the lives of these Superman, at least for now, but she would strand them here. A world with three Supermen and no Lois Lanes was a pretty bleak prospect. An idea came to him. Could he enjoy their *pain* as much as their death? Yes, he could, especially if it was *Clark's*.
And besides, he didn't need this world. With these two Supermen trapped here, he could rule their worlds. There would be no Utopias there.
"I'll make a deal with you Ms. Lane," he said smoothly. "Do you see that tarped object behind you? That's the time machine. I arrived here on the roof of the Daily Planet building before any of you and disguised the time machine. We can leave right now; we can leave and take the Kryptonite with us and save your husband's life and the lives of these other Supermen. But you have to slide that gun over to me right now." He held his breath.
She snorted at him. "Yeah, right, I do that and you'll finish them off for sure. I can't trust you."
"Ms. Lane, I'm hurt." He smirked at her. "You have no choice. Wait, no, you do have a choice." He squeezed a little harder on Clark's throat. He was beginning to gasp for air. "You can stay here and watch the Supermen die, or you can come with me and they live. Your choice. I give you my word. Now give me that gun."
She wavered and Tempus let go of Clark's throat, placing his hand over his mouth instead and pinching his nose shut. Clark tried to struggle against him, tried to fight, but he was simply too weak. Tempus wasn't sure how long it would take to suffocate him. He knew that Superman could normally hold his breath for a very long time, but he was weakened by Kryptonite and Tempus had been choking him. He was willing to bet it wouldn't take long.
"No! No, please. Okay." She tossed the gun in the direction of the time machine and walked towards him.
"Ahh, you're smarter than you look, Ms. Lane. Good move."
She bent down next to Clark and kissed him softly on the cheek. "Clark, I'm so sorry."
"Yes, Clark, she's so sorry. Sweet dreams, loverboy," he sneered. "I wish I could be here when you come out of this and find yourself alone, but someone has to keep Lois company."
He hated to give up this world, but he now owned two others. In fact, why stop at two? He could have three. After all, he might not have the privilege of killing these three Supermen but there was one more that he knew of who probably needed to be put out of his misery by now.
Tempus smiled to himself. It was time to cause this Superman the misery he had coming to him. He and Ms. Lane had interfered with his plans one too many times. Yes, if he couldn't kill his body, he could at least kill his soul. And then maybe later he could come back…
Tempus grabbed hold of Lois roughly and dragged her towards the time machine. He paused to pick up the gun; then he shoved her into the machine and down into the passenger seat. He handed the Kryptonite to her. "A deal's a deal I suppose. I'll let you hang on to it for safe keeping," he said with a smirk, keeping the gun pointed at her.
He sat down and quickly programmed in their destination. One quick stop to make first and then it was on to see the sporting action — Clark verses team Lois. He wondered where the score stood?
He looked back over at Lois and smiled wickedly at her, bringing the gun up to point it at her head, mere inches away. He had to time this just right. He risked a glance over at Clark who was trying to pull himself up off the ground.
"On second thought, Lois," he said as he looked back at her. "I just don't think I trust you enough to keep you around. Clark!" he hollered back at him, "say goodbye to your sweetheart." He reached down with his free hand and pulled on the handle of the time machine. As the light shimmered around them, he pulled the trigger on the gun.
*ALT-LNC — MARGO KIDDER LOIS (STRAIGHT HAIRED) POV*
"What's he like?" Lois asked the curly-haired version of herself.
"Who?" the other Lois answered absently, still looking towards the spot on the balcony where Superman had flown from.
"Jason. What's it like raising Superman's son?" She looked earnestly at the other woman. What an awesome responsibility to be bestowed with. The mother of the son of Superman. She watched as the other Lois took one of her curled tresses in her hand and began to pull it and smooth it between her fingers. She turned away from the balcony and came to sit back down on the couch next to her.
"I don't know. I've actually only truly known Jason was Superman's son for a few days. I guess somewhere deep down I might have suspected it, but not until I saw him throw a grand piano across the room, to save my life, did I truthfully know." A smile crawled wistfully across her face. "He's such a smart little boy, but he's so different. He's always been different. I guess now I know why."
"What are you going to tell him?" On the one hand she almost felt a little envious of the connection this Lois had with her Superman. But on the other hand, she didn't envy her the situation she was in.
"I don't know," she replied, the frustration clearly present in her voice. "I don't think right now that I can tell him anything. I don't think he would understand. He's only five, after all. I think if Superman or Clark or whoever he wants to be around Jason, if he wants a relationship with Jason, we're going to have to introduce him slowly, let the friendship blossom. I think we need to wait a while to tell him that he's the son of Superman." Her smile fell a little, looking small and sad. "It could have been so different if he just hadn't left…"
"But how long? How long will you wait? That's the tricky part, isn't it? If he's already demonstrating super-feats, you can't put it off for too long; he'll figure it out on his own," Lois found that she was really concerned, as if it were her decision to make, which it wasn't.
"I know. How devastating would it be for him to figure it out by himself and realize that everyone he knew, everyone he loved and trusted, had been lying to him all along?" Worry lined her face and shadowed her eyes. "It's a very fine line that we'll have to walk. Plus, if he's coming into his powers, he'll need Superman to talk to. He'll need his help."
After a long pause, Lois finally asked her another question. "Do you love him?" She realized after she asked the question that she wasn't really talking about Superman, but Richard.
The other Lois pried her eyes away from the piece of hair she'd been toying with and turned to look at Lois. She sighed and it seemed that she knew whom she was being asked about. "Yes, I do love him. He was there for me when Superman wasn't. He's a kind man and a good father to Jason. He's honest… probably a better man than I deserve. A part of me would even go as far as to say that I wish Superman had never come back." Tears formed in her eyes even as she said the words.
Lois felt a little shocked at this admission, but she didn't interrupt. She waited for her other self to continue.
The other Lois looked away from her again and reached down to play with a string of thread that had pulled away from the seam of Clark's couch cushion. "But that's only a very small part of me. The other part of me was overjoyed to see him that day when he saved the shuttle and rescued our plane. Not just because he saved my life but because he was alive." Her eyes sparkled as if she was reliving the memory. She twisted the thread and wrapped it around one finger, pulling it tight. "I can't tell you how many nights I sat up wondering where he'd gone, why he'd left without saying goodbye, if he was ever coming back… if he was dead." She let out a shuddery breath and tugged hard on the thread, snapping it off next to the cushion. "And it's even harder now that I know I'm part of the reason he left to begin with."
Lois couldn't stop her mouth from falling open at her admission. "What do you mean? He left to go to Krypton. What did that have to do with you?"
She nodded her head, looking back up into Lois' eyes. "Yes, he left to check out what the scientists had found, but he also left because of me," she choked out the last couple of words.
"Because of you?"
"Yes. I didn't remember any of this until just earlier when our memories came back. But after that night in the Arctic, that wonderful, amazing night, things changed. I mean surely he knew they would change, but I guess he wasn't prepared for the extent of the change." Her voice held a little irritation in it. "I don't see why he couldn't understand my being a little angry with him. I wasn't angry at first, but the longer I thought about things, I *got* angry. I wanted to know why he had lied to me all that time. Even when I figured out who he was, he had tried to lie about it, cover it up."
Lois nodded at her. Her Clark had done the same thing. Why were their Supermen so afraid to let them find out about them?
"Anyway," she went on, examining the thread she held between her fingers. "He tried to talk to me about it, tried to explain how he felt…" Her voice trembled as she spoke and she took a deep breath before continuing, "But I wouldn't listen. I was still angry with him and I was… embarrassed."
"Embarrassed?" About what?
"I felt like the world's dumbest reporter," she said, shredding the piece of thread between her thumbnail and fingernail. "There I had worked with him, been friends with him, but hadn't seen him for who he was. I'd let a pair of glasses fool me and I felt like some brainless little groupie who had been fawning all over Superman without really knowing who he was. I felt humiliated. So I began avoiding him. I wouldn't talk to him." She sighed ruefully. "I didn't know what to say. I could tell he was hurt, miserable, confused… but so was I… And I was too proud to take the first step."
"And you think that's why he left?"
She nodded. "I know that's why he left. Before I remembered everything, I had thought he left without saying goodbye but that's not true. He did say goodbye. He came to me with that story about those scientists' finding remnants of Krypton and telling me that he needed to go, that he needed to see it for himself. He said he thought we could both use some time to think." She shook her head sadly. "I asked him not to leave and he asked me to give him a reason why… and I didn't. I let my pride get in the way and I said something nasty instead." She let go of the thread in her hand and watched it fall to the floor.
Lois could see the glistening moisture of tears in the other woman's eyes. What had she said to him? Lois wanted to ask her that or maybe reassure her… say something, but before she could form any words, the other Lois continued with her story.
"I could see the pain in his face, and it hurt me to know that I had caused it. But before I could take back what I'd said, he grabbed me and kissed me," she said, closing her eyes. "It was unlike any kiss I had ever had, before or since then. It seemed to penetrate into me, to my very core. The feeling wrapped itself around my mind and for a moment I couldn't think of anything else." She opened her eyes and they were far away and clouded with tears. "When I came back to myself, I was alone in my apartment and he was gone. And that's the only truth that I knew. Superman was gone. I didn't know why he'd left, I only knew that he hadn't said goodbye." She blinked; her eyes finally releasing the moisture they'd been holding, tears streaming down her cheeks.
Lois was surprised to feel tears of her own spilling out and rolling down her face. She reached up and brushed them away.
The other Lois let out a shaky breath. "And now that he's back things are so complicated."
Complicated was an understatement. Lois' heart went out to her counterpart. She had several hard decisions ahead of her.
"We actually had a fight last night," the other Lois admitted, sighing softly, looking down at the couch and feeling for another loose string to play with.
Her and Superman? No, she didn't think so… "Who? You and Richard?" Lois asked her.
The other Lois nodded her head, picking at one spot on the cushion seam. "Superman came to visit Jason last night. I didn't know he was there. I went outside for… some fresh air…" Lois smiled inwardly at her — yeah, fresh air. It seemed as though this Lois had the same hang up she had, although she'd been trying really hard to give it up… She'd been mostly successful. "I heard Jason say goodnight to him, and there he was, hovering just up above me. I wanted to tell him that I loved him, but I held back," she said, prying her eyes from the couch to look at Lois.
Lois saw the regret in her eyes. "Why?"
"Jason was right there and I didn't want him to hear…" She scratched the cushion seam roughly with her fingernail until another thread popped loose. "And I had left Richard sleeping in the bedroom. It just didn't feel… right. I went back inside as soon as Superman left and when I climbed back into bed, Richard woke up." She grimaced and pulled on the thread, unraveling it a little.
When the other Lois didn't immediately continue, Lois prompted her. "And?"
"And… he asked me where I'd gone. I wanted to be honest with him so I told him that Superman had come by to check on Jason. And then he asked me if that was all Superman had come by for. I asked him what he meant by that and he said he was sure I knew what he meant. Anyway, it just escalated from there and it ended with him saying he was going to go stay the night at his uncle's house." She sighed a shuddery breath. "That's why I told this Clark," she nodded towards the balcony, "earlier that I was so worried about Jason. I knew that when Jason woke up and found me gone, he wouldn't even have his dad there. He'd be alone," she looked back down at the thread, flicking it back and forth with her fingers.
Lois put one hand on her shoulder and gave her a light squeeze.
"So now," she continued, sounding miserable, "I've got one man, Richard, who thinks I haven't given up my love for Superman, and he's right. And I've got another man, Superman, who I tried to shield my heart against. I tried to deny my love for him when he came back into my life. But I do love him… I hope he knows that." Lois watched as she tried to carefully smooth and tuck the thread back down into the couch cushion.
"I'm sure he does," Lois encouraged her softly.
"Yeah, maybe," she said softly, looking up at Lois. "But I was… unkind to him the night he took me flying, after he came back. He wanted so desperately to make amends with me for leaving. We almost shared a kiss, but instead I pulled away from him. Instead I told him that he'd been gone a long time and Richard was a good man." She grabbed hold of another one of her long curly tresses and tugged sharply on it, looking frustrated.
"Well, I can't say that he didn't deserve that after everything he put you through," Lois assured her. "I mean, my Superman definitely isn't perfect. He took my memories from me twice after all, but at least he didn't leave me." Lois could hear her voice rising in timbre and she worked to calm herself. "You were right to want to punish him. I would have done the same thing," she finished a little quieter.
"I guess. But sometimes I say things that I really shouldn't." She paused, looking regretful. Lois could feel for her there, she felt the same way about herself. "Like with Richard… I hate it that Richard and I fought like that." She paused and then continued, "I guess I probably should have seen it coming, though."
"Because Richard had already asked me a few days ago if I had been in love with Superman… before — back before he left," she said wearily. "But I knew what he really meant, what he was getting at… Was I still in love with him."
"What did you tell him?" Lois asked her curiously.
"I lied." She spat the word like it was distasteful as she chose one single thread of hair to pull from her head. "I told him I wasn't. But that was such a lie. I was and I still am." She let go of the hair. It floated softly to the couch cushion and she sat quietly staring at it.
And there was the truth of it, for the other Lois and for herself. It seemed that they were almost fated to be forever hopelessly in love with their Supermen. They may hate them, be angry with them at times for their insecurities, their stupidity. But they still loved them nonetheless.
Would either of them get a chance again to see the men they loved so much? Her Superman had a lot to answer for, as did the other Lois'. She wanted the chance to tell him how wrong he'd been about her, to make him see how selfish he'd been.
But more than anything, she just wanted to see him again.
*LNC — CLARK POV*
The sound of the bullet being fired reverberated through Clark's body with a throbbing pain as if he was the one who'd been shot.
"No!" he wailed in anguish as he struggled towards the spot the time machine had been sitting… but it was gone. She was gone. He let his body drop down to his knees, barely noticing the pain as bits of rock from the roof dug into them. The pebbles and rough concrete surface scraped the weakened skin on his hands and arms as he fell forward against the ground, leaning on his forearms. He laid his head down in his hands, wishing he could hide from what he'd seen… what he'd heard.
His chest hurt so badly that he couldn't breathe. If he hadn't felt his heart beating he would have sworn it had been ripped from his chest. He could feel the wet trickle of tears as they created paths down his face. "No," he sobbed quietly. "Please, god, no. Lo-is!" he cried out.
It all felt so surreal, it couldn't possibly have really happened. It couldn't. And yet here he was, on the roof of the Daily Planet on his hands and knees; there were two Supermen lying on the ground behind him still alive, and his wife… was gone.
Killed trying to protect him… them.
His worst fear had come true. When it came right down to it, he hadn't been able to save her.
But maybe she wasn't dead, his mind argued with him. Maybe the bullet had missed. Or maybe it had just grazed her.
Or maybe she lie somewhere in a pool of her own blood, her life force slowly ebbing away. His breath caught in his throat. "No, please… Lois… I'm so sorry. I… I love you," he whispered into the silence in front of him.
He pushed himself up from the ground and sat, staring into the empty space in front of him where Lois had been just a few moments ago, loving him, risking her life to save him.
He'd lost her. She'd gone with Tempus in order to save his life, to save *their* lives. But she had ended up trading her life in that bargain. He should have taken her to his parents' house. He should have ignored her when she told him no and just done it.
No, he couldn't have done that. It would have meant taking away the very things he had loved about her. He couldn't keep her hidden, locked away from the rest of the world. He had to let her live her life, make her own decisions. That's what Luthor and his son had tried to do to her. They had tried to cage her up, force her to love them, to do things their way.
But loving her had brought such an awful price — the horrible fear of losing her.
…And he *had* lost her.
He felt a new wave of emotion coming on and he gave into it, letting it take possession of him. It forced a weakness into the pit of his stomach, causing it to roll and churn.
He was going to be sick.
He leaned over grabbing his stomach and heaved. He hadn't eaten anything in hours; he'd been too anxious to even think of food. But his stomach, his body, wasn't trying to expel something physical, tangible, from its depths. He doubled over as he was seized with wave after wave of shuddering spasms.
When it finally stopped, he just laid there clutching himself and weeping quietly. It couldn't be real. Please don't let it be real. Why? Why Lois?
He knew why. She had decided she could save them. She had traded her life to save the lives of three Supermen.
He looked over at the other two Supermen, wiping the tears from his eyes so he could see. They were lying motionless. Were they okay? He knew he should go check on them. His brain knew that but his heart didn't care, it didn't want to, and he struggled to make his body comply. With great effort, he found his way to his feet and staggered over to them.
"Clark? Are you okay?" he asked the nearest one, the one in regular clothes. His voice sounded strangled and raw, the way his heart felt.
"Yes. I think so," he said, his voice betraying his pain. His hands went up to his face feeling the rash that was beginning to subside and diminish. He squinted through the small slits that had become his eyes. They were still puffy and swollen but at least he could get them open.
"Can you see?" Clark asked him mechanically. It felt like the words were coming from someone else's lips, someone else's voice. They were hollow and far away. It seemed that some part of his brain was still managing to function, though, to fight through the unbearable pain in his heart.
"Yes. It's getting better," he said, cringing a little.
At least her sacrifice hadn't been in vain, but it was of little comfort to him. He robotically turned towards the other Clark. "How about you? Are you okay?"
The other Clark sat up coughing raggedly one last time. "I think I'll make it. What happened?"
What happened? His whole life, his whole reason for living, had been snatched away from him… stolen from him. He bit back the tears that were coming again. But that wasn't what they were asking. They didn't know what had happened to Lois. They were simply wondering what had happened to them.
Would they even care, he wondered bitterly?
That wasn't fair. Of course they would care. It wasn't their fault it had happened. He sighed a long, slow breath before trying to answer them. "It was Tempus," he said shakily. "The man who brought you here was in fact the same man who kidnapped your Lois Lanes — Tempus. He told me that Kryptonite from my world doesn't affect you in the same manner that it does me. It breaks down your body's immune systems allowing you to become allergic or sick."
"Then he's been to my world before," the Clark in regular clothes said, getting up from the ground. He face looked almost normal again. Almost.
The other Clark in the super-suit was nodding his head. "Mine, too. That was why I'd had that sneezing fit in the elevator," he said, realization dawning on him.
"And why I'd broken out in that rash. I couldn't figure out what was happening or how. Obviously he had been testing the effects of the Kryptonite on us," the Clark in clothing said, looking around as if searching for something. "What happened to Lois?"
Clark's breath caught in his throat and it took him a moment to answer. When he did, he voice was barely a whisper. "She's… gone. Tempus was going to kill us and she cornered him. He agreed to let us live if she went with him in his time machine…"
"What can we do to help? Surely there's some way we can go after her?" the Clark in the super-suit asked, getting up from the ground.
Clark couldn't take it; he finally lost it, giving way to tears again.
"Clark…? What's wrong?" the Clark in clothing asked him, his face filled with concern.
"You don't understand. She's *gone*. He… He… shot her," Clark said still in disbelief, going quiet for a moment. When he continued, his voice was thick with grief. "I wish just this once that she had listened to me. I told her not to come out here. I told her to let me handle this one on my own." He heard both the agony and the anger in his voice. Why hadn't she listened? Just this once?
"I know it can't mean anything to you, but if she had — listened to you — we'd all be dead now," the Clark in clothing told him earnestly.
"You're right. It doesn't mean anything to me," Clark harshly bit out, turning away from them. But he was lying. He was thankful that the other Clarks were okay. But he would have gladly traded his own life for Lois'.
They were silent for a few moments, giving Clark time to grieve, time to come to grips with what had happened.
He felt so lost. So empty. He didn't even know what he needed to do. How did he proceed from here? Where did he go first? Who did he talk to first? How did he explain what had happened? Where her body was? How would he tell her parents? Jimmy? Perry? His mind swam with questions, overwhelming him, threatening to drown him.
He looked over at the other Clarks. They sat quietly watching him, looking forlorn and sharing in his pain. He was sure they were imagining what it would feel like to lose their Loises.
And then he realized… they *had* lost their Loises.
They didn't know what had happened to them, if they were okay… if they were dead. They were just as lost as he was.
A small thread of guilt tugged at his heart. "I'm… sorry… for lashing out at you. I didn't mean…"
"No. Don't apologize. I can't imagine what you must be feeling right now," the Clark in clothing said quietly. "Please, don't…"
"Yes. We're so sorry, Clark. If there's anything we could have done, please believe we would have," the Clark in the *suit* said sadly.
"I know," Clark told them softly. And he did know. He believed them. But it still didn't help the pain.
"Are you sure that she's… gone?" the Clark in the suit asked him carefully. "Maybe the bullet missed. Did you see her actually…"
"No," Clark cut him off, not wanting to hear anymore. "I didn't. All I know is that he had the gun pointed to her head. He told me to say goodbye to her and as the time machine shimmered out of sight, I heard the sound of the gunshot." He barely got the words out before his voice broke.
After a few more moments of silence, the Clark in clothing asked him a question, one that he was surprised to hear. "So, your Lois knows…" he began and then paused, sucking in a shaky breath of air, "…knew that you're Superman?"
"Yes," he confirmed quietly. "Doesn't yours?"
"Mine doesn't," the one in the suit responded. "I told her once, actually she figured it out," he said, smiling a small lopsided grin. "At first it was wonderful because I didn't have to pretend anymore. I didn't have to love her as Superman one moment and be bumbling, clumsy Clark around her the next. But all too soon she realized that she would have to treat me differently as Clark. She would have to keep my secret. She asked me if I knew how hard, how confusing that was for her. I hated to see her that way, hated to put her through that. So I used my Kryptonian powers to take that knowledge away from her." His voice was pained and sounded full of regret.
Clark wondered briefly how he'd *taken* that knowledge from her. What *powers* was he talking about? Normally he would have been intrigued by something like that, intrigued and yet repulsed at the same time, but he just couldn't bring himself to care right now, to feel anything. He just nodded his head at him, knowingly.
"My Lois didn't take it too well at first either when she found out that Clark Kent and Superman were one in the same," Clark admitted to him. "It took her a little while to warm up to me, but she did finally come to terms with it." He shook his head softly, managing to smile through his pain at the memories. Their courtship had been anything but easy, that was for certain. "Why didn't you just love her as Clark? Wouldn't that have solved the problem?"
"Because Clark isn't who I really am," the Clark in the suit responded, as if the answer should have been obvious. "He's this awkward, backward façade that I show to the world to hide who I really am."
Clark shook his head trying to shake off the weird inertia he was feeling. A kind of reverse déjà vu. "So you don't really think of yourself as Clark Kent?"
"No. I'm never truly myself when I'm Clark. Why?"
"Because in my world that's who I am. I am Clark Kent. That's who Lois… was in love with and that's who she… was married to." The pain spiked sharply in his heart and threatened to overwhelm him.
"You're *married* to Lois?" the Clark in clothes asked.
"Yes," he managed quietly after a few seconds. "We were finally married a few months ago. It was a long, strange, and difficult trip to get there, but believe me it was worth it," his voice choked in his throat. He paused for a second and cleared his throat. "It's the best thing that's ever happened to me," he managed to get out. Then it finally dawned on him. "So neither one of you are married to your Lois Lanes?"
"No. I just couldn't see any way to make it work," the one in the suit replied, sounding amazed.
The other Clark shook his head, looking sad and regretful. "No. My Lois discovered my identity as well but I'm ashamed to say that I also took that knowledge away from her, thinking she couldn't handle the strain of keeping my secret." He sighed long and heavily. "I… I left her."
"You left her?" Clark exclaimed.
He nodded slowly. "Scientists in my world thought they had found remnants of Krypton. I wanted to go see it for myself. I went to explore those remnants and while I was gone, she…" he paused, color creeping into his cheeks. Clark couldn't tell if it was from embarrassment or something else… regret? Anger? What had happened?
"She what?" Clark finally asked when he didn't continue.
"She gave birth to my son."
*ALT-LNC — ALT-CLARK POV*
Clark turned to Wells and reached out to stop him from opening his apartment door. "Mr. Wells, I think I might have made a mistake…"
"Mistake? Whatever do you mean, Clark?" His eyes were concerned. Clark thought he knew why.
"I don't mean a mistake about finding my Lois. I've made my decision on that…"
"Have you, Clark? What have you decided?" Wells interrupted him, sounding anxious.
Clark felt a nervous flutter in his stomach. "I want to find her Mr. Wells. I don't care what I find, or how bad it may hurt. I want to know what happened." And that was the truth. Even if it broke his heart, he wanted to know what had happened to her. He couldn't go on, he couldn't *live* until he knew, and then he hoped he would still want to live.
Wells nodded at him, a smile breaking through on his face. "Then know you shall."
"But right now what I'm talking about is these other two Lois Lanes," Clark continued, forcing his voice into submission. "You see, I told them something they didn't know…" He took in a deep breath and cringed a little. "I let it slip that Clark Kent is Superman. I didn't realize that they wouldn't know. Actually they should have known, they had figured it out on their own; but for some unknown reason, their Supermen somehow managed to wipe the memory from their minds. So obviously they didn't want them to know and I've gone and messed that up." He was speaking rapidly, nervously, and he took another breath trying to calm himself. "I don't know how this will affect things or what I've changed by them finding that out. Is there a way we can fix this?"
Wells remained silent, looking thoughtful. "Let me ask you a question. Would *you* fix it? If you had the opportunity to take the knowledge away from them, would you do it?"
Clark was taken aback by the question. "I don't know." He paused. No, he did know… with absolute certainty. "No, I wouldn't. I think they have the right to know. I was actually upset by the fact that the other Supermen had purposefully deceived them like that…" He shook his head at Wells, frowning. "But I didn't ask if *I* could fix it. I asked if there was a way to fix it."
Wells nodded his head. "Yes, there is a way it could be fixed, assuming we can get our hands on that time machine, but I don't want to be hasty in my decision," he said earnestly. "Let me talk to the ladies and see how they feel about things, if they want to go back to the way it was before. Time travel and memories are a tricky business. Let's first see how this knowledge will impact things. Don't be too quick to beat yourself up, my boy, something tells me that this might not be as bad as you think it to be." He smiled warmly at Clark.
Clark smiled back at him feeling a little relieved and he opened the door to his apartment, ushering Wells inside. The two women were pretty much in the same spot Clark had left them. They were sitting on the couch together and they seemed to be engaged in a passionate discussion about something.
"Ladies? I would like to do the honor of introducing you to Mr. H.G. Wells, nineteenth-century writer and time traveler." He turned to look at Mr. Wells and extended a hand, gesturing towards the two women. "Mr. Wells, Lois Lane and Lois Lane."
*LNC — BRANDON ROUTH SUPERMAN POV*
"You… you have a son?" the Clark of this world asked him, jolting him out of his thoughts. Clark looked up at him and the pain he saw in his eyes was excruciating. His counterpart turned his face away from him, looking wistful.
Why had that knowledge seemed to hurt him so badly?
Because she was gone…
Clark knew why it had hurt him… He hadn't had children yet… and now that chance might be lost to him.
"Yes," Clark answered him quietly. "His name is Jason. While I was away, thinking I needed to find some link or some long lost connection to my Kryptonian family, Lois was back on Earth starting a new family. And I… I missed it." He felt the moisture in his eyes and bit back the tears that were trying to form.
"What happened?" the Clark of this world asked softly. Obviously he could tell there was more to the story. Clark let out a pained sigh. Maybe it would be good to talk about it with these other Clarks.
"It was several years ago…" He broke off going quiet for a while. He closed his eyes and allowed his mind to wander for a few moments, thinking back to *that* night.
"This place is amazing Superm… Clark. You built it?" Lois asked him, looking around and admiring the beauty that surrounded her. She pulled a few strands of curly hair that had been tousled on the flight here away from her eyes.
He smiled, pleased at her reaction. "Yes, Lois. I call it my Fortress of Solitude. I come up here when I need to get away from the rest of the world. When I need to seek help or guidance from my Kryptonian father, Jor-El. He left me the collective knowledge of my world, of planet Krypton, in some special crystals."
"I'm sorry," she said simply, quietly.
"Sorry? For what?" he asked, confused.
"Sorry that you've had to be alone for so long. That you didn't have anyone you could confide in."
Clark thanked her silently with his eyes and smiled softly at her. "Maybe I have someone now…"
She smiled shyly at him through her eyelashes. "You've always had me. If you'd only told me… I could have been there for you. Maybe I could have helped you. Why Clark? Why did you hide from me?" she asked him, her smile falling and her voice filling with hurt.
He could hear the pain in her voice and it settled itself deep inside his heart. Why had he hidden himself from her? Because Jor-El had told him that he wasn't one of them? That he couldn't be one of them? Why? Why couldn't he be? He had been raised here. He had human parents. He resembled a man in every other way, except that he had these unique powers and abilities.
Maybe his father had been wrong.
"I guess I was afraid," he told her, his voice cracking and his throat suddenly dry.
"Afraid? Of what? Surely not of me?"
"No. Not of you. Of what could happen to you."
"What do you mean?" She furrowed her brow at him and frowned slightly.
He sighed. "For one thing, if we were *involved* I would have to worry about who would try to use you against me. That there would be those out there who would learn that you were important to me and would try to hurt you, threaten your life, in order to control me."
The look on her face told him that she hadn't thought of that.
"And that's not the only reason either. I'm not from Earth, Lois." He swallowed trying to work moisture into his parched throat. "I'm not entirely sure that I would be… compatible with a human woman." "What?" She looked dazed.
He looked away from her feeling the heat in his face. Now it would be her turn to be afraid. She had fallen in love with someone who wasn't human, who wasn't sure he could give himself to her in the way that she deserved.
"So you're telling me," she continued in a deathly quiet voice, pulling him to face her, "that you're a… a… you've never… I mean with another woman?" The brightening color in her face fairly glowed in the white brilliance around them.
He shook his head at her feeling the color in his own face deepen. How embarrassing. How disappointing… for her. To know that you've been in love with someone and to find out that you might not be able to… express that love.
"I don't believe it," she said firmly, crossing her arms in front of her.
What? She didn't believe it? What that he was a… inexperienced? Or that he didn't think he was compatible with her? "Lois…"
"No. No, Clark. How can you be sure? If you've never… done that… or even tried, how can you know for sure that you aren't compatible?" "My father, Jor-El, left instructions and knowledge for me and he told me…" he began, feeling flustered.
"So you're just going to believe him? Without question? Without at least… trying?" she asked. She sounded disappointed, and maybe a little irritated. "What if he's wrong? He never lived here. He may be a smart man, Clark, but that doesn't mean he's automatically right."
Clark shook his head at her. "I can't take that risk, Lois. I could really hurt… someone. Not on purpose, but… I have to keep myself under constant control, always consciously keeping my strength in check. I grew up learning how to control myself, so that when I turned a doorknob to enter a room I didn't rip the door off the hinges. So that when emotion welled up in my heart and I decided to hug someone, that I didn't crush their ribcage when I embraced them. I trained myself to be careful with my powers."
"But that proves it. You can control yourself. You can… train yourself, to be careful," she said earnestly.
"It's not that easy, Lois. That kind of an _expression of love is about losing restraint, about relinquishing control. If I come to that point, I may not be able to control myself." He lowered his gaze, his heart aching.
"But you won't know for sure until you try." She came closer to him, placing her hands on his arms and running them up to his shoulders. He took her wrists gently in his hands and moved them away from his body.
She turned away from him in disappointment and he saw her body shudder slightly. Was she… upset? Oh, please, don't, Lois…
"Are you okay?" he asked and then noticed the goosebumps on her exposed flesh. He suddenly realized that this wasn't the warmest place in the world. "Are you… cold?"
She nodded her head silently at him.
"I can take you home, if you're ready…"
"I'm not… ready. Could you just hold me for a while?"
Clark hesitated. Was she tempting him? But then he saw her shiver again and he went to her, embracing her. He pulled her body into his, wrapping his arms snuggly around her.
Her breath caught in her throat. "Oh, Clark, you're so… warm," she murmured. "Why hadn't I ever noticed that before?"
Probably because he hadn't ever held her like this before. She laid her head down against his shoulder and nestled her face up close to his neck. He could feel her soft, warm breath against his throat.
He felt the moisture and the soft plumpness of her lips as she pressed them against his throat in a feather-light kiss. A kiss that slid through him, causing his stomach to drop and hollow out. He managed a couple of deep breaths before her mouth seized hold of his.
He reacted in surprise, trying to pull away from her, but as strong as he was, her hold over him was even stronger. He felt weak in way he'd never known before.
"Please, Lois," he moaned into her mouth. "I can't. Please…"
Lois' response to his plea was to deepen the kiss, her tongue pressing forcefully against his lips until she gained access to his mouth. She slid her tongue along the inside of his lips, tasting him, and then she withdrew.
"Do you want this, Clark?" she asked him pointedly.
He swallowed the lump in his throat. "Yes, but…"
"No. No buts. If you don't want to do this, if you tell me you want me to stop, I will. I would never force this on you. But you have to tell me that you don't *want* this. Tell me, Clark. Tell me you don't *want* this, that you don't *want* me." Her voice was raw and pleading.
"I…" She ran her hands up his chest and pulled lightly at the collar of his suit. "Oh, god, Lois. You have no idea how much I *want* this."
No he couldn't. He should stop this.
"Clark?" the Clark of this world prompted him, his voice drawing Clark out of his thoughts.
His heart ached so badly that he wished he could rip it from his chest. He opened his eyes and shook his head softly. "I should have never left. After the night we shared together, I should have stayed by her whether she wanted me to or not. I know that now, but back then I was a different man. I was inexperienced, afraid."
"Did she know at the time…? Did she know that Clark Kent was Superman?" the other Clark, the one in the suit, asked him.
"Yes, we… we made love shortly after she figured that out."
"How did she figure it out?" the Clark in the suit asked. He seemed strangely curious.
"There was an accident. I was burned, or I should have been. I think that maybe I let it happen. I think deep down I wanted her to find out." He shook his head, amazed, as he thought about it.
"Was she mad?" the Clark of this world asked him.
"No. Surprisingly, she wasn't. At least not at first. I was so happy. I couldn't believe how good, how right it felt for her to know. I took her to the fortress I had built in the Arctic. We talked and we… I was afraid at first, afraid I might hurt her, but she wouldn't let it go. She believed we were compatible, and we were… more so than I could have ever imagined," he said longingly.
"Jason…" the Clark of this world confirmed.
Clark nodded his head at him. "For that brief time the world stood still. It was wonderful. She made me feel so… complete. It was going to be so perfect." His breath caught painfully in his throat. "But then the reality of it set in when we came back to our regular lives and she realized that she had to treat me as two separate people, had to treat me differently as Clark. She had to see me everyday as Clark and know who I really was, live next to me as the man I wasn't." He left out a sigh of grief. "In just a few short days it all fell apart. Her anger had finally found her. She was so upset — mad that I had deceived her; angry that she had to pretend." He ran a hand through his hair in frustration as he relived those painful memories. "I tried to talk to her, tried to work through it with her, but she just kept pushing me away. She wouldn't speak to me and when she did, the edge in her voice cut me, wounded me."
The Clark of this world was nodding his head at him. Had this world's Lois been angry with him when she'd found out? Had they fought? Had words? Been unkind to one another? But yet things had turned out so differently for them. Clark knew it was because this Clark would have never left his Lois. A sharp pain hit him in the stomach, threatening to overwhelm him.
"That's when the scientists came to me," he continued, "telling me about their discovery. I was so confused by what was happening with Lois. My heart hurt so badly at what had happened and it hurt even more to see the pain she was going through. So I decided to leave." The words ached in his throat. "I decided that I needed time. Time to think things through, to clear my head."
"So you left?" the Clark of this world exclaimed in shock.
"Yes, but first I went to her to tell her where I was going. Why I was leaving." He let out a shuddery breath. "Initially she was shocked, and then she asked me not to leave. I felt indignant that she should expect me to stay when she was treating me so horribly. So I asked her to give me a reason to stay. I thought it was a reasonable request, but it seemed to set her off. She said I was running away, running away from the consequences of my actions and hiding from my responsibilities. Before I could answer her, she slapped me across the face and told me I was a liar, and a coward; and she didn't care if she ever saw me again. She told me if I really wanted to leave then that's what I should do. She said the world didn't need me and neither did she. Her words wounded me in a way that Kryptonite never had. I was devastated and yet I still loved her." He could feel the tears welling up in his eyes and he didn't try to stop them from coming. "So in that final moment, before I left her, I forced one last kiss upon her. One last kiss that would make her forget her pain, even if I would never stop thinking about mine."
"Oh, Clark. I'm so sorry." The Clark of this world said quietly, giving his shoulder a soft squeeze. The two men looked at each other, each understanding the pain that the other man was feeling. They embraced tightly for a brief moment sharing the hurt, the loss, and the grief.
Clark withdrew and realized that it had felt really good to talk with these Clarks about what had happened. "Initially I hadn't meant to be gone so long, but there were complications and I really didn't think I had anything to come home to anyway. But if I'd known…" he said, his voice drowning in regret. "I would have never left. I would have stayed there beside her whether she wanted me there or not. I shouldn't have left anyway. As it is now, I don't know…"
"What do you mean? Doesn't she know it's your son?" the Clark in the suit asked him.
"She knows that he's Superman's son, yes," he told them, sighing softly. "But she didn't know that at first and while I was gone she met another man and fell in love. His name is Richard. He was there when I wasn't, and he helped her raise Jason. Richard is the only father he's ever known."
"But you're right to want to be a part of his life," the Clark of this world said quietly. "I love my father… our father? Is Jonathan Kent your father?"
The other Clark in the suit nodded, looking sad. "Yes, but he died several years ago from a heart attack."
Clark nodded his agreement. The same thing had happened to his father. He missed him dearly.
The Clark of this world looked stricken, the sadness in his face again returning; Clark wasn't sure it had ever actually left. "I'm sorry," that Clark said softly. "In my world, this world, he's still alive, and I love him and my mom dearly, but that doesn't mean that I don't wish that I'd been able to know Jor-El… and Lara. If I'd had a chance to grow up knowing him, being loved by him, I would have welcomed it with open arms. I'm sure your son would feel the same way about you."
"You don't know how much I wish for that. But *our* circumstances were a little different. Our biological parents tried to save us; they were *taken* from us. I, on the other hand, have no excuse. What will my son think of me?" Clark asked, realizing how much the thought scared him. "How will he feel when he learns, if he learns, that I'm his father? I wasn't there to hear his first words; I wasn't there to read to him at night or hold him in my arms as he fell asleep. I can't even begin to tell you how wonderful and how terrible it was for me to learn that I had a son. Wonderful to know that I wasn't alone any longer, that this amazing little life had come about as a result of the love that Lois and I had shared. Yet terrible because of everything I had missed out on. Will he be able to forgive me? Or will he shut me out, or even… reject me?" That thought scared him even more. "And after everything that's happened, will I even get the chance to see him again? Get the chance to let him know me?"
Both of the other Clarks were solemn and silent they contemplated what those words meant for each of them. Would any of them get a second chance?
"I truly do feel for you," the Clark of this world told him sincerely, breaking the silence. "I wish there was something I could say that would help you but I think this is something that you and your Lois are going to have to figure out together. If you manage to find your way back to her, I think you should come clean with her. Tell her everything, even what you've hidden from her. I'm sure that your Lois is a stronger woman than you've given her credit for." His eyes looked wistful and glassy with tears.
"If she's anything like your Lois, I believe you," Clark told him, grasping him by the shoulder and giving it a squeeze.
"Somehow I have a feeling that she is," he said knowingly. "Clark, thank you. Thank you for sharing this with me. You have no idea what it means to me."
"What?" Clark felt confused. What it meant to him? "That I have a son? Why?"
"Because Lois and I weren't sure that it would be possible for us to have a child." Clark could hear the sadness, the pain in his other self's voice. "We wanted one but we weren't sure that we would be compatible. I had thought about mentioning adoption to her, but it just isn't the same thing as creating a baby of your own, someone who is a combination of both of you, who belongs to both of you." His shoulders slumped and a pitiful sigh escaped his lips. "I may not get that chance with her now, and it hurts so much to know that. Yet, somehow it gives me a feeling of completeness, too. To know that I could have given her a child, to know that hadn't been denied to her when she married me."
"I'm glad I could do that for you but I wish it could have been under different circumstances." Clark sighed, feeling the weight of the day closing in on him, suffocating him. "I have to find a way to get back; I can't stay here. Once again I left my world, thinking I had a good reason to leave, and now my son has lost his mother and his father. I shouldn't have left him alone. I know that he has Richard, but he can't grow up without his mother, hopefully not without me either. We have to find a way to fix this."
*UNKNOWN UNIVERSE — LNC LOIS POV*
Lois' body jerked in reaction to the gunshot. She was in shock. He really had fired the gun. She closed her eyes waiting for the pain to hit her, but when it didn't she opened them again, feeling confused. What? What had just happened?
They had arrived wherever they were going; the light from the machine was dying down. Tempus was fiddling with some of the controls and Lois looked around dazedly trying to discern where she was. There was one light bulb on in the middle of the room, illuminating it, but there wasn't much to look at. She appeared to be inside some old warehouse or storage building. The place was dirty and pretty much empty.
She turned to Tempus still reeling from shock, her body feeling numb. "Why…? Why did you do that?" she asked, irritated at the tremble she could hear in her voice. She was amazed that she could even hear her own voice after that gunshot. If it weren't for the silencer he had on his gun, she was sure she'd be deaf.
"Do what?" he asked innocently.
"Fire that gun at me and miss like that on purpose!" she spat at him.
"Why, whatever do you mean?" he asked, playing dumb.
She was sick of his games. "You know what I mean!" she screamed at him. "The gun was inches from my head. You can't miss at that range. Why didn't you kill me? Why pretend?"
"Why kill you?" he retorted, sounding amused. "By pretending to kill you I got what I wanted; I got to leave your husband behind, grief-stricken at your death…"
She leapt up out of her chair raising her fist to strike him and he grabbed hold of her wrist roughly, spinning her around. She could have kicked herself for leaving herself open to that attack.
"No, no, no, bad Lois. You asked, I'm telling," he quipped at her as he brought her arm around behind her back. He pulled against her arm and pain shot through her shoulder. If he pulled much harder something was going to break. She bit the inside of her cheek to keep a whimper from trying to escape. She wouldn't give him the satisfaction.
"There was no reason to actually kill you," he continued, his mouth close to her ear. "By pretending, I hopefully still got the same result."
"What result?" she bit out through clenched teeth.
"Why, tormenting Superman and keeping him from creating Utopia, of course. Somehow I doubt very much that Clark will be able to pull himself out of the depths of despair that your death has undoubtedly caused him… at least not enough to feel capable of leading our world towards a Utopian society." He let out a contented sigh and then pulled harder against her arm. A whisper-soft groan escaped from her lips as she felt a tendon pop in her shoulder. That was going to hurt tomorrow.
Tempus laughed quietly in her ear and let go of her arm, pushing her away from him and back down into the chair. She rubbed her wrist where he'd been squeezing it. It was tender; there would probably be a bruise later.
"Oh, and there's this little bonus." His eyes gleamed wickedly. "Since I didn't kill you I still have you to use as leverage against our favorite *other* Clark."
No! She couldn't let him use her like that against that Clark again. She wouldn't. But how was she going to get out of this? She sighed feeling discouraged and her thoughts turned back to her Clark.
She'd had to abandon him in order to save him. Was he okay? She hoped that the other Supermen she had left behind were okay as well, but especially Clark. She could only imagine what he was going through. He would think she was dead. He would think it was his fault; he would blame himself.
She felt her nose trying to run and the tears in her eyes. No! No, she wasn't going to cry. That would mean she'd given up hope, and she hadn't. She wouldn't. She'd find a way to get back to him. She had to. She couldn't think about this now, she had to concentrate on figuring out how to get out of this.
"I must say, Ms. Lane, that you surprised me," Tempus admitted to her. "That was very brave of you to leave the security of your world to go traipsing off through the galaxy with me, foolish, but brave," he had a fake smile of respect plastered on his face. She'd like nothing more than to slap it off, but she steadied her hand. She needed to play along. She needed to find out exactly where and when she was so she could formulate some kind of plan.
She needed a miracle.
"Yeah, well it's not like you gave me much of a choice," she sneered.
"There is that. But at least you can go to sleep tonight knowing that your dope of a husband is back home safe and sound — grieving no doubt, crying his eyes out — but safe at least… For now." His smile turned to a smirk.
"What do you mean 'for now'?" She felt her stomach beginning to tighten.
"Well I never promised I wouldn't go back later and try to finish the job. I simply promised to leave and take the Kryptonite with me in exchange for your cooperation." The innocence he was trying to exude made her physically nauseous. "Now I admit it will be a little harder for me to catch them off guard the second time around, but give me enough time," he snickered, "and I'll figure it out."
"They'll stop you, *he'll* stop you," she bit out.
"Oh, I have no doubt he'll try. His grief will spur him on even more I'm sure, but I welcome the challenge. The hunt is part of the game. After all, what would be the fun in the triumph if there were no tribulation?"
"You're insane!" she spat angrily at him.
"Am I? You know you're the second person today to tell me that. The other person was… well why don't the two of you just get together and have a little party. Herb? You have a visitor!" Tempus turned away from her and stepped down out of the time machine onto the floor.
"You've got Mr. Wells here?" Her face fell. If Tempus had him here, then Wells wasn't coming to stop this, to fix this…
But then her hopes rose. If Wells was here he could help her; they could work together. They'd done it before.
Together they'd find a way to get back.
"Yes, Herb's here. Now where do you suppose he got off to? His hands and feet were bound so he couldn't have gotten far. Herb? Come out, come out, wherever you are!" Tempus walked a few feet away from the time machine, his back to Lois.
Wells or no Wells, this could be her chance. Keeping her body planted firmly in her chair she stretched out her arm, quietly reaching for the controls on the time machine. A few quick movements and she had the location programmed.
She caught Tempus moving out of the corner of her eye and she jerked her hand back, letting it rest innocently in her lap. The sudden movement sent a sharp pain through her injured shoulder and she had to bite her lip to repress a yelp.
"You know, Ms. Lane, once I find Herb and get the two of you tied up nice and cozy, I think I'll go pay a visit to our favorite Superhero." He smiled smugly at her.
Which one? "Are we still in our universe then?" It didn't matter since she was getting the heck out of here, but she needed to keep him talking, keep him distracted, so she could continue programming the machine.
"Oh no. Not *your* Superman. No, our poor alternate Clark. You remember that he lost his Lois? Well, I've got him playing babysitter to a couple of versions of you. If they're half as spunky as you, Ms. Lane, I imagine he's ready for a shift change." He chuckled and bent down looking between a couple of large boxes piled up in one corner of the room. "Come on, Herb, I give up, let's play a new game — how many objects can my gun fire through?"
Lois reached over for the controls again, finishing the programming. She kept glancing up to make sure Tempus wasn't watching her, but he seemed too intent on finding Wells.
It was done. Now all she needed was to throw the lever and she would be back in her own time. She reached out, pulling the lever back, and… nothing happened.
What was wrong?
Then it came to her. The gold! She had forgotten that it took twenty-four karat gold to power the time machine. Where was she going to find that?
Well, Tempus had to have gold in order to power up the machine. She looked around the floor of the time machine frantically, trying to find a box or a pouch or something that he might have it in, but she didn't see anything.
She quietly bent over and felt around with her hands on the floor of the machine and under her seat, any place her questing fingers could reach. She felt all manner of disgusting items, dirt, fuzz, rocks, hay — hay? Where had he gone that there would be hay? Then there was something sticky, gum? Yuck! And another substance that felt slightly slimy, she didn't even want to speculate what it was. But nothing that felt like gold, or something that he might have had the gold in.
She sat back up and leaned back in her seat, putting her head down in one hand in frustration. All that separated her from her freedom and the chance to be back in Clark's arms was a little gold. She was sure that Tempus had the gold here somewhere, he had to, but where? There was no way she could leave the time machine to find it, without getting caught. She brought her face up from her hand and something shiny caught her attention. It was the gold bracelet on her left wrist.
The twenty-four karat gold bracelet.
Clark had bought her a matching set of gold jewelry, a bracelet and a necklace, for a journalism awards banquet that they went to a few months ago. She had received an honorary award for a piece she'd done and he'd bought the jewelry for her as a gift. The pieces weren't delicate — they were made from a thin but wide band of gold, about a centimeter wide — but they certainly weren't gaudy either.
Would they be enough?
She quickly and quietly unfastened both her necklace and her bracelet and hefted them in her hand. It wasn't a lot. She reached up and pulled the gold hoop earrings from her ears and as she deposited them into her left hand, the gold band on her right hand caught her eye.
Yes, it would need to go too.
She took it off and added it to her growing collection. She again lifted her hand, weighing the contents.
It still seemed lacking. If she only had a little more…
"Blast it, Herb, you didn't!" Tempus sighed exasperatedly. Lois looked up to see him inspecting a broken window on one wall.
Wells had gotten away!
If she was going to do this, it had to be now. It was now or never. She looked back down sadly at her left hand, particularly at her ring finger.
She was only going to get one chance at this.
She felt a deep pang of sorrow in her heart as she slipped the ring from her finger. Could she really bear to part with her wedding ring?
If it got her back to Clark she could.
She deposited her collection of gold jewelry into the receptacle and cringed as it made a few noisy jingling sounds. She glanced up and realized that Tempus was looking at her.
"Ms. Lane, what do you think you're doing?" he asked her smugly. That smug was about to be wiped from his face. "Don't tell me you're trying to plot an escape, too?" He began walking back towards the time machine.
There was no time left to plan, to contemplate, to *think* about anything. If he reached the time machine, it was over.
"I already have Tempus!" With that she pushed the last bit of gold into the chute and fairly willed the machine to life. To her delight and relief, it gurgled and groaned becoming animated. She threw the handle and watched with satisfaction as a look of sheer horror came over Tempus' face and he launched himself towards her.
But it was too late.
The last thing she heard was the disgust in his voice as he bellowed her name and then the light overtook her.
She just wished that she didn't have this niggling feeling in the back of her mind that she had forgotten something…
*LNC — CHRIS REEVE SUPERMAN POV*
"I agree," Clark finally jumped in. He had remained silent during most of the conversation. It was remarkable to him the similarities and differences between his experiences and the experiences of the Clark that looked so much like him. He was still in disbelief about some of what he'd heard.
That Clark had been able to make love to the Lois from that world without giving up his powers. That Clark had taken the risk he himself had been afraid to take.
Both of these other versions of him had taken risks that he'd been afraid to take. The Clark of this world had not only made love to the Lois of this world but had even gone as far as to marry her.
He knew now what he was ready to do; what he wanted so badly to do. "We have to find a way to fix this," he told them desperately. "I have to find a way to help my Lois. I have to have the chance to tell her how wrong I was. I've made so many mistakes… There has to be a way," he said in frustration. "I've literally moved heaven and earth before to save her life, to bring her back to me… I can't be stuck here in this alternate universe with no way to get to her. No way to save her." His voice sounded almost frantic.
"Trust me, we understand, Clark. We all want that… the chance to save our own Lois," the Clark from this world told him, his voice pained and heavy.
Clark sighed guiltily. "Yes, I know. Of course you do. I know… But I have to see her again. After listening to the two of you talk there's so many things that I didn't know were possible, so many things that I want to tell her." He blew out a deep breath and shook his head at the stupidity he'd been capable of. "I should have realized that it would take some time for her to accept the idea that Clark Kent and Superman were the same person. I should have believed in her enough, respected her enough, to give her time to adjust. I thought I was doing her a favor by taking those memories from her, but now I can see that I only did it because I was afraid. I shouldn't have taken that knowledge away from her, especially not the second time." His stomach cramped up as he thought about that second time. How could he have been so foolish?
"Second time?" the Clark who resembled him asked, his eyebrows going up.
Clark felt his face flush in shame at what he'd done. "Yes. A few nights ago, I'd been wrestling with a very difficult decision. I didn't really have anyone I could talk to, anyone I could turn to for help. So I'd flown with Lois. I had given her memories back to her," he said wistfully. "We'd flown over the city and talked, and she'd made me feel so much better. What's wrong with me? I could tell how happy she was — oh why did I do it?"
"Do what?" they both asked him.
He sighed in disgust, realizing the folly of what he'd done. Would she ever forgive him? "I don't really understand why I did it except to say that I was afraid. Afraid of what it would mean for her to know the truth and that she still wouldn't be able to accept it; afraid to face her anger at having it taken from her to begin with. So in my fear I took the memories away from her again. I just really didn't think there was any way we could be together." He realized how weak his excuses sounded when they were actually verbalized. He had no excuse. But if he got the chance to tell her, bare his soul to her, he would. And he would accept the consequences.
"Oh, Clark, she's going to kill you when you tell her," the Clark of this world lamented, a grimace shadowing his face.
"I know, she's going to be furious and she has every right to be," Clark admitted, feeling miserable. "But I would give anything now for the chance to tell her, to see her again. You're right; all of our Loises are strong women. I was wrong not to trust in my Lois, believe in her. I can see that now, with you and your Lois. If I get another chance…" He trailed off in mid-thought when a shimmering light off to the side caught his attention.
"It's the time machine… It's returning," the Clark of this world said forebodingly, his dark eyes flashing. "Prepare yourselves. If this is Tempus again we have a battle ahead of us, but we'll be ready for him this time," he growled. "Back up, put some distance between yourselves and the machine."
They each backed up and watched with trepidation as the time machine solidified.
Then several gasps could be heard as they realized who the sole occupant was sitting in the machine.
*ALT-LNC — KATE BOSWORTH (CURLY HAIRED) LOIS POV*
"I say, how extraordinary!" Wells said, watching them as they stood up from the couch. He walked over to them and extended his hand, shaking each of their hands in turn. Lois let go of the curl of hair she'd been fingering and grasped his hand, shaking it lightly. She couldn't believe it. This was really H.G. Wells the famous author and he really had accomplished time travel.
"So can you help us, Mr. Wells?" Lane said, jolting Lois out of her thoughts. Lois smiled to herself, the other her certainly didn't waste any time; she liked that. "What's our plan for getting out of here? Not that I haven't enjoyed my visit with you, Clark."
Lois tore her eyes from Wells and looked over at Clark. "Yes, our visit has been quite insightful," she agreed and shared a look with Lane. She'd learned more about herself and Superman in the past few hours than she'd been able to figure out in the past few years. "But I'm ready to get back to my son. Please tell me you've got a plan, Mr. Wells."
Wells looked at Clark with a face that said he didn't. And Clark didn't look too hopeful either.
"Mr. Wells, can you at least tell us what Tempus' plan was? Did he tell you why he kidnapped us?" Lane asked, her voice barely hiding her irritation.
"Why as bait for your Supermen, of course. He used your disappearances as a lure to get each of your Supermen to go with him into our universe."
"He what? Why? Are they okay?" Lane asked in rapid-fire succession.
"I'm afraid I don't know," Wells said, shrugging his shoulders and shaking his head slightly. "He had just left for that other universe, our universe, before Clark showed up and rescued me… and he has Kryptonite."
"Kryptonite!" Lane exclaimed, the color draining from her face. "Well we have to do something! We have to find Tempus, and that time machine. I'm assuming if we can recover your time machine that we could save our Supermen with it, am I right?" Lane asked, her exasperation leaking through in her voice. Lois felt her pain. If this Tempus person had gone after their Supermen and he possessed Kryptonite… her heart lurched in her chest — oh please let him be okay. Please.
"Of course. If I can get my time machine back, we can set all of this right," Wells said, eyeing her cautiously.
Lois turned to Clark. "Okay, let's start with where you found Mr. Wells," she suggested to him, trying to focus her emotion on something more constructive than despair.
"He was in an old abandoned building down by Hobbs Bay," Clark explained warily.
"Well, then let's go there and wait for Tempus to come back," she offered, walking past them and heading up the stairs for the front door.
"We can't do that, Ms. Lane. Remember that Tempus has Kryptonite. We can't risk exposing Clark to it." Wells sighed deeply. "Whatever we come up with, we can't allow Tempus to get the upper hand."
"Then Lois and I will go," Lane said, turning to look at Lois. She began to head towards Lois. "We can't be hurt by Kryptonite."
"Yes, but he has a gun and chloroform; and he's not going to be intimidated by the two of you. No, I think that's a bad idea." Wells said sternly, shaking his head. Lois watched as Lane hesitated in her approach.
"I agree. I'm not letting the two of you out of my sight with Tempus running loose," Clark chimed in, taking on a very Supermanly stance.
Lois rolled her eyes but couldn't help smiling just a little bit. It was uncanny sometimes how much this Superman seemed to be like hers. As much as that endeared him to her, it still wasn't going to make her listen to him. It was all well and good that he and Wells wanted to protect her and the other Lois, but if her Superman was in danger, she wasn't going to wait around timorously and do nothing. And if she knew herself like she thought she did, then neither would the other Lois.
"Fine," she said annoyed. "We'll get the police to go down there with us and apprehend him. We're wasting time here." She reached out and took the doorknob in her hand, turning it.
At that moment the door flew open, knocking her backwards. As her feet came to the edge of the first stair, she lost her balance and went backward. She would have fallen but Clark was there in an instant at the bottom of the stairs, catching her in his arms and steadying her.
They both looked up to the person standing in the doorway.
"Tempus!" Wells shouted.
*LNC — LNC LOIS POV*
"Clark!" Lois cried, climbing out of the time machine. Clark looked at her, his eyes betraying both shock and pleading hope in them. He stumbled towards her and she ran to him, embracing him fiercely. Her shoulder twinged but she pushed the pain from her mind, squeezing him tighter. Much to her chagrin he moaned a little, still weak from his Kryptonite exposure. "Oh, I'm sorry. Oh, Clark, are you okay?"
He captured her lips in a tender kiss. "I am now." And before she could say anything he was kissing her again fervently, urgently. He lifted one hand to her face cupping it as he slid his other arm around her waist, drawing her in closer to him. He moaned into her mouth but she could tell this time that it wasn't from pain. She whimpered happily against his lips as she kissed him back. He pulled away from her mouth and flashed her the smile that always managed to make her feel a little weak. She grinned inwardly; she had her own form of Kryptonite to deal with.
Then his smile slipped away and she finally noticed the tear-stained paths on his cheeks. He let out a quivering breath and a shadow passed across his dark eyes. "Oh, Lois…" he whispered, closing his eyes.
She was sure he meant to say more, but that's all he got out before he was kissing her again. The kiss held a passion in it that she'd never known before, not even when they'd kissed after she'd found him in that time window he'd been trapped in. It was wracked with grief and powerfully intense. His pulls against her lips were so forceful that they threatened to overwhelm her. She felt his body tremble against hers and realized just how afraid he'd been. She wrapped her arms around him and held him tightly. When he finally relinquished possession of her lips she leaned in close to his ear. "It's okay. I'm here," she whispered, kissing his neck.
He pulled back from her, looking at her as if seeing her clearly for the first time. A tear slipped out from one of his eyes, tracing the path the others had blazed before it. "How could you do that?" he asked, the pain in his voice tearing at her heart. He leaned his head down against her chest and she ran her hands through his hair. "God, I thought I'd lost you," he murmured against her.
"I had to. He was going to kill you. I couldn't…" She broke off unable to fight her desire to kiss him again. She claimed ownership of his mouth joining with his lips again and again, flitting her tongue inside his mouth to taste him and nipping ever so softly at his bottom lip. Her hands sought out his body as she kissed him, feeling him, frantically touching and grasping him everywhere they could find a hold… the back of his head, his shoulders, behind his back, his hips… the bulging muscles of his upper arms. Oh, he'd never felt so good. She'd made it back and he was okay. Everything was going to be okay.
"Ahem," one of the Clarks cleared his throat.
She pulled away from Clark, blushing a little, and turned to face the other Supermen. "Are you both okay?"
"I think we'll live," the one in the suit confirmed. "How did you escape?"
"Tempus has Mr. Wells, but Wells had managed to escape somehow. While Tempus was trying to figure out what had happened to him, I reprogrammed the time machine to bring me back here."
"I don't care how you're here, I'm just glad you're here… and you're safe," Clark told her, enfolding her into his arms and holding her tightly. After a moment he pulled away and looked into her face with slight concern in his eyes. "What happened to the Kryptonite?"
Lois broke away from his embrace and went running back to the time machine. What had happened to the Kryptonite? It had been in her lap, she realized dimly, when Tempus had thrown the lever and pulled the trigger on the gun. But what had happened to it after that?
When she reached the time machine, she got down on her hands and knees, looking and feeling around for the chunk of rock. But she knew she wouldn't find it even as she began looking for it; she hadn't come across it before, when she was looking and feeling for the gold. But hoping she might be wrong, just this once, she felt around anyway; again appalled at the items her groping fingers came in contact with.
She felt the prick of something sharp and pulled her hand back to look at it. She was surprised to see a dot of blood on one of her fingers. What had done that? She bent lower trying to see what her hand had come in contact with under the seat. She could see the edge of something sharp. She reached under the seat cautiously feeling for it and pulled it out ever so carefully when her groping fingers found it.
It was a broken piece of a large seashell. There were still bits of sand and water inside it. Where in the world had Tempus been in this thing? Somehow she couldn't picture him vacationing on a beach somewhere.
She chucked the shell aside and tried again. But after a few more passes she resigned to the fact that the Kryptonite just wasn't there.
It was gone. What had happened?
Her mind flashed back to her conversation with Tempus.
<"By pretending to kill you I got what I wanted; I got to leave your husband behind, grief-stricken at your death…">
Just after he'd said those words to her, she had lost her temper. She had wanted to hit him. She had… jumped up out of her seat!
She felt a cramp in her stomach as she finally realized what had happened. When she had jumped up, the Kryptonite had fallen from her lap. And if it wasn't in the machine, then there was only one place it could be…
The cramp in her stomach intensified into a deep ache. She had been in the other Clark's universe and she had just left Tempus there with the chunk of Kryptonite.
She had to go back.
She had put that other Clark's life in danger to get back to her Clark. She owed him so much for the times he'd saved her, helped her, and for bringing Clark back to her; and this wasn't how she was going to repay him. She had to help him.
She felt Clark's hands on her shoulders. "Honey? What are you doing? Did you… lose something?" he asked, his voice sounding dry and strained.
"Um, yes, about that…" she began, hesitantly. She felt his hands tighten against her shoulders as if to keep her from saying what she was about to say.
She turned to look back at him. "I have to go back," she said, biting her lip.
"What?" He released her shoulders and took a step back, looking at her as if she'd told him *she* could fly. "Are you crazy? Where?"
"But Tempus is trapped where you left him," he argued. "He can't cause any trouble with that Kryptonite… can he?"
She nodded her head at him slowly, regretfully. Unfortunately he could. She wished she had been thinking more clearly when she'd devised her escape plan… not that she'd actually had a lot of time. "Tempus told me that he and I were in the other Clark's universe. So, no, he can't cause any trouble for you with that Kryptonite, but he could for that other Clark."
Clark sighed quietly and his head dropped a little, his eyes not meeting hers at first; when he looked up at her, she could see the fear and the determination they held in them. "Lois, you're not going back there. I'll go, but I want you to stay here." He folded his arms across his chest.
"No way," she told him firmly. "You're going to need help and I'm the only one of the four of us who isn't affected by Kryptonite." She pointed at the other Supermen. "They're going to want to come too. That universe is where Tempus dropped their Lois Lanes. He dropped them there with that Clark."
"He did? Really? Have you seen them?" the Superman in the suit asked her, his face hopeful.
"Are they okay?" the other Clark in clothing asked her.
"No, I haven't seen them. And, no, I don't know if they're okay. I mean, I assume they are. All Tempus told me was that he had dropped them with our alternate Clark. If they're with him you have nothing to worry about… except that Tempus is there and he has Kryptonite." She winced.
"Lois, I have to agree with your Clark. It's too dangerous for you to go," the Superman in the suit told her.
"Yes, you should stay here and let us handle this," the other Clark in clothing told her.
She couldn't believe this! Now she was going to have to fight three Supermen hovering over her, smothering her, trying to keep her from getting into trouble. No way! Unh-uh. If they thought she was staying behind, they had another thing coming. She wasn't going to sit here like the dutiful little housewife waiting for one of them to come back and tell her that something had gone wrong, that her Clark was gone and she'd never see him again…
"No way!" she exclaimed adamantly. "Now you three listen to me. I'm not staying here to sit and wonder what's happening. To wonder if you're in trouble and me helpless to do anything about it. You're all welcome to accompany me back there if you'd like, but I'm going, with or without you." She folded her arms in imitation of her Clark. "Besides, I'm the one who knows where and when we need to travel to. I saw the date on the time machine before I reprogrammed it." She turned away from them and started to walk off. "Now come on, we're wasting time."
With that she headed back towards the time machine, not looking back to see if they were following her. She knew they were. As she took hold of the machine to climb in, the vacant space on the finger of her left hand caught her eye. An ache pulsed through her as she thought about everything she had gone through to finally get that ring on her finger, only to lose it today. But it had worked, and she had Clark, and he was what mattered to her more than any piece of jewelry.
She turned to look back at the three Supermen who were now following closely on her heels. "Oh, and uh, there's one more thing," she said, smiling at her audacity to bring this up now after her little speech about going with or without them, "we're going to need some fuel…"
*ALT-LNC — ALT-CLARK POV*
"Herb! Didn't anyone ever tell you that it's rude to leave your host's house early?" Tempus asked sarcastically. "Shame on you. I thought you had better manners."
Clark watched helplessly as the two Lois Lanes converged on Tempus. "Wait!" he yelled at them. Even from this distance he could feel a weakness beginning in his body. Tempus had the Kryptonite with him.
Tempus pulled a gun from inside the trench coat he was wearing. "I wouldn't recommend you come any closer, Ms. Lanes. I don't want to kill you. At least not yet. I want you to watch this hero die first." He smiled arrogantly at them. "He's not your Supermen, and neither of you are his Lois, but hey, as the bad guy I'll take what I can get."
"Lois, Lane, please, get behind me," Clark pleaded with them, eyeing the gun Tempus was holding. Clark felt weak enough already that if Tempus fired that gun, the bullet had a good chance of piercing his skin. But he had a better chance of surviving a bullet than either Lois would.
The two women moved back cautiously, their focus staying on Tempus. Clark continued to wave them back, trying to get as much distance between them and Tempus as he could. As they retreated Tempus came towards the group, pulling the Kryptonite from his coat; as he did, Clark felt his knees trying to buckle and he stumbled backwards away from the deadly green rock.
He had forgotten how much it hurt.
He groaned from the intense pain that was stabbing through his body, finally giving in to the torment and sliding to the floor. The throbbing ache moving through his system was so powerful that he couldn't even think straight. One singular thought was going through his mind — 'make it stop!'
It couldn't end this way. Not after all he'd been through, after everything he'd learned from these two extraordinary women. Not when he had finally decided to find his Lois.
Please, not now.
"Please…" Clark heard the singular word as it was uttered in a throaty whisper but it took him a second to realize that he was the one who'd said it.
Lois crouched down beside him and moved in front of him, as if to try and shield him from the Kryptonite. She laid one hand against the side of his face tenderly. "Hang in there, Clark," she whispered softly.
Tempus smiled wickedly as he walked even closer towards them, Clark's body spasming from the increased pain. He leaned down over Clark, holding the Kryptonite in front of his face. Clark had to clench his jaw to keep from crying out in pain. Lois took her hand from Clark's face balling it into a fist and struck at Tempus, trying to knock the Kryptonite away.
Tempus deflected her attempt and assaulted her, striking her cheek with the back of his hand. Her face jerked abruptly to one side and the force of the blow knocked her off balance. She fell into one of his end tables, knocking it over. The lamp from the table fell off, rolling to a stop in front of the couch.
Wells and Lane both started towards Tempus, but he pointed his gun menacingly in their direction, halting them in their tracks.
"Ah, ah, ah. No helping. Why don't you and Ms. Lane just get comfy and have seat on the couch there beside you. I'll be with you momentarily." Tempus gestured towards the couch with his gun and Wells and Lane sat down reluctantly.
Clark glanced weakly over at Lois who was pushing herself back up off the floor. He wanted desperately to attack Tempus, to make him pay for what he'd done, but he was too weak. "Leave her alone… Tempus," he ground out and then groaned with the effort. "It's me… you want."
"No, actually it's all of you," Tempus smirked. "But we'll start with you." He opened his hand, revealing the piece of Kryptonite concealed within it. The chunk looked jagged and splintered and it had a cruel looking spike sticking out at an angle. "Thanks to your wannabe girlfriend, Lois Lane, I have quite a formidable weapon in this chunk of rock. She allowed it to take a little spill and when it hit the floor it cracked. It's amazing how strong and yet how delicate this piece of space rock is. Anyway, a few more blows to the weakened fracture and voila… I have this thing of beauty." He held the serrated shard of Kryptonite out for inspection and the light in the room refracted wickedly off of it.
Before Clark even had a hope of reacting, Tempus swiftly thrust the jagged tip of the rock forcefully into the soft area of Clark's abdomen, just below the tip of his "S" crest.
"Aghhh!" Clark cried out in pain.
"Tempus, stop this!" Wells shouted.
"Shush, Herb, you'll get your turn soon enough," he told him smugly, keeping his gun pointed at Wells and Lane. "Now, Clark, I know that hurt and I wish I could claim credit for this ingenious idea, but sadly I stole it from someone else. You know, my third grade teacher, Ms… oh what was her name? Well, anyway, she was right; it really pays to do your homework." Tempus twisted the piece of Kryptonite back and forth, seeming to revel in Clark's pain.
Clark writhed in agony. He didn't know how much more he could take before the pain overwhelmed him and he lost consciousness.
"How long can I drag this out before I finally kill you?" Tempus mused. "Am I pushing my luck? Maybe… But it's just so much fun!" He chuckled maliciously.
"No!" Lane cried, abandoning all restraint and launching herself off the couch towards Tempus.
*ALT-LNC — TEMPUS POV*
Tempus watched as one of the Loises ran at him. Which one was it? They were dressed exactly alike, in jeans, tennis shoes, and white t-shirts. Hmm, he distinctively remembered snatching them in their nightgowns. He shook head in amusement; leave it to boy-scout, Clark, here to get them some clothes… He examined the Lois again. Ah yes, she was the one without the kid.
Not that it really mattered.
He jerked the piece of Kryptonite out of Clark's body and calmly raised his gun, pointing it at her. She came to a stop just inches from the end of the barrel.
"I warned you, Ms. Lane," he said, his finger sliding over the trigger. Just then a commotion behind him caught his attention and he turned to see another Lois and the other three Supermen come barging through the open front door. "Ahh, now it's a party," he said audaciously.
He felt a jerk on his gun and realized that during the distraction, Lois had grabbed hold of his gun and was now pulling on it, trying to get it away from him.
"No!" he heard one of the Supermen yell, most likely the one from her universe. Tempus decided he'd had just about enough Lois, any Lois, for one day. He jerked his weapon away from her and brought the butt of the gun swinging back for her head.
She tried to duck out of the way but she wasn't fast enough and he grinned with satisfaction at the sickening thud he heard as the gun connected with the side of her temple. She fell to the ground, rolling limply to one side. A bright red trickle oozed from the gash the gun had left behind.
"I'm going to make you pay for that," the Superman who had spoken before said, his voice thick with barely contained rage.
"I sincerely doubt that, but please, go ahead and try," Tempus said, sweeping a hand out in front of him. He held his breath, wondering if his gamble was going to pay off. The Superman strode purposefully towards him with fear-inspiring swiftness, but he stopped short, a few feet away and began wheezing. Tempus watched in morbid fascination as the Superman dropped down to his knees and began coughing.
"Delightful. That's just what I thought. You haven't healed up yet from our last encounter. The poisons are still in your bodies," he gloated, walking up and kicking the Superman solidly in the stomach. Tempus bent down over him, holding the Kryptonite close to his face. Superman choked and gasped, curling up into a fetal position. Tempus looked around the room making eye contact with each of the Supermen. "Supermen united, hmmm, I must say it's really not as awe-inspiring as I'd hoped," he sneered. "You can't hurt me. You might as well give up now," he bluffed.
The Superman from the other distant universe hurled a burst of super-breath at Tempus knocking him off his feet. "I can. I still have my powers. I can fight you as long as I don't get too close, and I don't think that will be a problem," he said, making a quick change into his suit and lifting himself into the air up towards the ceiling.
This could be a problem. Tempus struggled to get up and the Superman hit him with another burst, scooting him across the floor a few feet. It took everything he had to hang on to his gun and the Kryptonite, and that didn't leave him a free hand to grab on to anything. Superman could just keep blowing him around the room if he wanted. Or do something worse, Tempus realized, thinking of that legendary heat vision or cold breath…
He looked over, gauging how close he was to the curly-haired Lois — the attacking Superman's Lois. She was sitting, fussing over the alternate Clark, just a couple of feet away.
Feet. Her feet were much closer.
"Alright, that's about enough of that," Tempus said, shoving the Kryptonite into a coat pocket. He quickly reached over and latched onto that Superman's Lois by her ankles, pulling her with him as Superman hit him with another blast of breath. When they came to a stop, he wrapped an arm around her tightly and held his gun to her ribs with the other.
"No!" Superman yelped from his perch up next to the ceiling. "Please… don't," he begged.
"Why? Because I have some kind of love for you?" he sneered. "Or maybe because she has a little boy at home?" Tempus flashed him a wicked smile. A dark shadow passed over Superman's face and his blue eyes turned stormy.
Yes, that comment bothered him, didn't it?
Homework — always do your homework. That's what Ms. Whats-her-name always said. Tempus almost felt guilty for having put that beehive in her car. It had been a shame that she was allergic to bees…
He smiled widely at the memory. An idea was niggling at the back of his mind. Allergies? Didn't Superman's son, Jason, have allergies? Yes, he did…
"You know, Superman, I find it amazing what information people are willing to divulge when they're stranded on a teeny tiny island because they were too stupid to bring extra gasoline for their helicopter," he chuffed happily. He watched in anticipation as the wrath in Superman's face went a shade darker. Tempus could tell he was getting to him… He just hadn't hit the right button yet.
<Did you know in the universe opposite to our own that Superman has a child?>
Tempus had told Herb earlier that Superman had a son. He knew about Jason because Lex Luthor had been willing to trade his freedom from imprisonment on that island for a few interesting tidbits of information about the boy. For instance, the fact that Jason was Superman's son but yet he didn't seem to be affected by Kryptonite.
Well, maybe not from his own world but… what about Kryptonite from another universe?
"If I get rid of Lois it will make it that much easier to get rid of Jason, too… once I'm done with you, of course. If I'm to rule your world, I have to rid myself of all threats," he paused as an even more sinister idea came to mind. "Or… maybe I could convince him to help me? He is young and impressionable after all. Uncle Tempus — it has a nice ring to it, don't you think?"
That did it. He could tell by the flash of anger in Superman's face.
Tempus let go of Lois shoving her away from him, reaching into his pocket for the Kryptonite as Superman came bolting down towards him. Tempus jerked the chunk of Kryptonite out at him as Superman lifted him up by the collar of his coat, holding him in the air.
But then, rather quickly, Superman dropped him.
Tempus watched with gruesome satisfaction as Superman's face began to swell up. He backed away from Tempus, clawing at his eyes and grasping at his throat.
Tempus looked away from him and over at the Clark from his own world. He was standing back, keeping his distance, and was holding on to his Lois with both hands. She didn't look happy. Let her go, he thought, he'd finish what he started with her before. Tempus smiled wryly. "Well, how 'bout it, Clark? Third times a charm." He glanced around the room, snickering. "Err, make that fourth times a charm." He laughed happily.
"No, Tempus, but we're about to have the last laugh," Clark said smiling. He and his Lois were both looking at something behind Tempus.
Tempus started to turn around when all of the sudden he felt a sharp pain in the back of his head. The world seemed to be getting darker and he found himself slumping to the floor. He finished his turn as he fell and the last thing he saw before he passed out was Wells standing there behind him holding the remnants of a table lamp.
He really needed to stop underestimating the man…
*ALT-LNC — WELLS POV*
Wells looked down at the broken lamp he was holding in his hand. "That's for my pocket watch," he said contemptuously and allowed the lamp to slide from his hands. "I abhor violence, Tempus, but you drive me to it." He shook his head in disgust.
The curly-haired Lois scrambled over to Tempus. She snatched his gun away from him and pointed it at him, her hands trembling. "Is he…"
"Just unconscious, my dear. It would be a good idea for you to keep that gun pointed at him, though, in case he wakes up."
Wells bent over Tempus, feeling around in his pockets until he found what he was looking for. He withdrew his hand, pulling out a small lead box as he did. He took the Kryptonite from Tempus' limp hand and put it inside the box, sealing it up.
He heard a collective sigh of relief coming from all directions in the room. He turned to see the alternate Clark struggling to sit up from the floor. He scooted himself over to lean against the side of couch. "Thanks, Mr. Wells."
"You're quite welcome, my boy. Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I'll pop out of here for a brief moment and properly dispose of this little toxin." His gaze fell on the Lois who had been hit with the butt of Tempus' gun. Her Clark had crawled over to her and was now anxiously examining her. "Is she all right?" Wells asked him, concerned.
"I think so. All her vitals are good. I think that maybe she just has a slight concussion." The ache in his voice betrayed his grief and pain over what had happened to her.
"Mr. Kent, if you'll come with me, I can take you both to a hospital back in your universe," Wells told him. "I'm sure she'll be fine, but it would probably be a good idea for someone to take a look at her." He glanced over at the Clark from this universe and gave him a knowing look. Clark returned the look to him, nodding his head. Wells turned back to face the other Superman, watching him cradling his Lois in his arms. "Unless you'd prefer that I take you back in such a manner that neither of you will remember any of this?" he asked hesitantly.
That Clark's face lit up with hope, but also indecision. "You could do that?"
"Yes, I… could. If that's what you want, and what you think Ms. Lane would want. You see, your historical timeline has been altered inadvertently by Clark here," he said, pointing towards the alternate Clark. "He didn't realize that your Lois and the other Superman's Lois," he pointed at the curly-headed Lois Lane, "didn't know that their Clark Kents' were Superman. It seems in trying to figure out exactly who the young ladies were that he revealed to them who Superman really is."
Clark hissed, sucking in a breath between his teeth. "So, she *knows*?"
The alternate Clark nodded his head. "Yes, she does. And she remembers you taking that knowledge from her… both times. She wasn't very happy when she remembered. I would apologize to you for what I did, but I'm not sorry. I'm appalled at what you," he paused looking over at the other parallel Superman, "both of you did to your Lois Lanes. I can't believe you would take that knowledge away from them, keep them in the dark like that," Clark chastised them, his irritation bleeding through in both his voice and his face.
"I know… I was so wrong…" the injured Lois' Superman said.
The other Superman, the one that curly-headed Lois was now tending to, was slowly getting to his feet. "We both were," he said, looking at his Lois with sad, regretful eyes.
"I'm glad you realize that," the Clark of this world told them both. "But you're going to lose a lot of respect from me if you ask Mr. Wells to *fix* this. To put things back the way they were. Your Loises learned a lot about themselves, a lot about you, during this little encounter. I think you should reflect carefully on whether or not you have the right to take that away from them," he rebuked them, the tone of his voice deep and determined.
"Absolutely not!" the curly-Lois exclaimed, taking a few determined steps towards Wells. "Mr. Wells, all due respect, but you are not *fixing* this. I know I speak for both myself and the other Lois when I say that."
"No, Lois, I think you speak for all of us," her Superman interjected, smiling tentatively at her. "You couldn't force me to take this knowledge from you again. Not now," he finished softly.
Wells hid a small smile and turned to look at the other Superman. He was nodding his head in agreement. "Absolutely. When Lois wakes up, I want the first thing she sees to be me; and I want her to remember who I am, what she's learned. I had hoped to tell her after this was over anyway, this just accelerates that plan."
There just may be hope for them after all. "Very good, then," Wells told them. "Let's get you and Ms. Lane back to your own universe, shall we?" He looked back at the rest of the group. "I'll take them back and dispose of this Kryptonite and then I'll be back for Tempus." He turned and looked back at the Clark who was now carrying his Lois in his arms. "If you would be so good as to direct me to the location of the time machine?"
*ALT-LNC — ALT-CLARK POV*
Clark watched Wells follow Superman and Lane out his front door and felt a little sad and wistful that he didn't get a chance to say goodbye to her before she left. He hoped she would be okay and he found himself wondering how things would turn out for her and her Superman.
He felt a soft, warm hand on his shoulder and he turned to look up into the face of the curly-haired Lois. She smiled down at him gently. "Are you okay?" she asked him softly.
"I'll live," he told her, but truthfully he still was feeling pretty weak. He had only been exposed to Kryptonite one other time, also by Tempus, but he didn't remember being this weak afterwards. In fact, he had managed to swallow a bomb just shortly after he had been exposed. But then again, he hadn't been stabbed with it either.
He glanced down at his abdomen and was a little shocked to discover that the wound hadn't healed yet. He could see blood and tissue through the small hole in his suit and a streak of blood had stained the blue spandex below it.
"But I think I'll just sit here for a little bit until I catch my breath," he concluded, smiling weakly at her.
She bent down and brushed a feather-light kiss across his brow before turning to go back and check on her own Clark. He watched her turn and leave, and watched her fuss over her Clark's healing rash and swollen face, and felt the slightest pangs of jealousy.
That Clark didn't know what he had. Didn't know and didn't deserve her. He bit back the aching feelings that were pressing against his heart. She wasn't his Lois and she didn't belong here. She had to get back to her own world, to her son. To *their* son.
And he would let her go not because he had to, but because he wanted to. Because he wanted to believe if there was hope for them, for that Lois and her Clark, for all of those Loises and their Clarks, that maybe… just maybe… there was hope for him and his Lois, too.
All he had to do was wait for Wells to return.
And he didn't have to wait very long. Only moments after Wells had left, the door to Clark's apartment opened and he came walking back inside.
Wells' face immediately turned a few shades of red and Clark followed his gaze to a pair of lip-locked lovers standing off to the side at the bottom of the stairs — the Lois Lane from his alternate universe and her Clark Kent. They were in each other's arms, passionately kissing, tears in their eyes. Clark turned to the other pair of Clark and Lois to find them holding each other tightly, whispering words in each other's ears that Clark refused to listen in on.
A sharp pain clutched his heart and he turned away, closing his eyes, unable to look at any of them anymore. He felt a squeeze on one of his shoulders and opened his eyes to see Wells looking down at him, an encouraging smile on his face.
"Oh, my head!" Clark and Wells turned to look at Tempus who was struggling to get up from the floor.
"Tempus, you stay right where you are!" Wells exclaimed. "It's over. We have your gun, your time machine, and I've disposed of your Kryptonite. You just stay put." Wells turned back to look at Clark. "Just give me a few moments to dispose of Tempus properly, and get these Loises and Clarks back to their own worlds. Then we'll take a little trip, my boy, if you're ready."
"Ready to find my Lois? I've never been more ready for anything in my life," Clark told him truthfully, but feeling the old ache returning. He just hoped what he found wasn't worse than not knowing.
"Good luck with that," Clark heard Tempus mutter under his breath. Tempus chuckled, seeming pleased with himself.
"What do you mean by that, Tempus?" Clark growled at him.
"Oh, nothing. Nothing at all." Tempus smiled conspiratorially at them. "So now what? Time for me to go back to prison I suppose…?"
*ALT-LNC — ALT-LOIS POV*
Five years earlier… Congo…
Lois unlocked the door to her hotel room and pushed it open. Hotel room? You *could* call it that, but that was using the term loosely. It certainly wasn't like any hotel room she'd ever stayed in back in the States. This one came with a complimentary roach on every pillow.
Lois shivered a little, thinking about having to lie down in that bed again tonight. Bugs were one thing. She could handle the occasional cricket, ant, even spider crawling across her. But they had roaches as big as a small hand here in the Congo. She knew from experience. One had crawled across her face the night before. Ugh!
She flipped on the light in the room before going inside and looked around tentatively. She didn't see any movement anywhere; that was good. She bent down and set her briefcase on the floor, looking around down there also. That would be a wonderful surprise, wouldn't it? If she reached into her bag later to get her notes and grabbed something else instead? The thought sent chills down her spine and caused her to do a repulsed little dance.
She turned around to shut the door behind her and found herself face to face with a man standing there.
"Uh, can I help you?" she asked him. From just his clothes and the look about him — his fair skin especially — he didn't seem like he was one of the locals. He was grinning profusely at her, for some reason it made her feel a little uneasy.
"Ms. Lane? Lois Lane of the Daily Planet, right?"
An adoring fan perhaps? "That's right."
"Oh good. Have I got a story for you," he said, sounding overly enthusiastic.
"Listen, Mr. Whoever-you-are…"
"Tempus," he supplied helpfully, still with an amused grin on his face.
"Mr. Tempus," she continued a bit acridly. "If you have a story, you can contact the offices of the Daily Planet, or you can make an appointment to meet with me sometime tomorrow morning." Normally she'd jump at the opportunity for a possible story, or at least be intrigued by what he had to say, but there was just something about him… "I don't take stories from wackos in the middle of the night. Now if you'll excuse me, it's late…"
"No, I'm afraid I won't excuse you, Ms. Lane," he told her snidely. "You see, you're a part of this story…"
"Now listen here you…" She paused as she watched him pull out a gun and point it at her, the rest of her words dying in the back of her throat unspoken.
"What? No more pithy comebacks?" he scoffed at her. "See I knew you could be reasonable. Now come with me. I have something I want to show you." He grabbed her roughly by the arm and dragged her down the stairs and outside her hotel building.
Lois looked around to see if there was anyone nearby. Someone she could call to for help. But there was no one.
Would he really shoot her if she tried to escape? How crazy was he? She wasn't entirely sure but decided she'd better not risk it for now. Better to just play along with him and wait for the right opportunity.
"What do you want with me?" she asked him indignantly. She needed to try and keep him talking, find a way to distract him.
"I told you. I have a story for you. You'll love this story," he told her, his voice practically dripping with sarcasm. "It's quite epic. Fall of a hero, destruction of a dream, all that dramatic stuff that you reporters so enjoy writing about."
"But why me? Why choose me?" she asked flustered. Was that a face in the window up above her? Would they help her if she screamed? Probably not.
"Because like I told you before, you're a part of this story," he explained, sounding impressed with himself. "An integral part. In fact this particular story couldn't happen without you. It's kind of one of those write it as you go stories… choose your own adventure. In your case, you can either choose to come with me and get the story of your life, or… you can choose to stay here… and die. We've just turned the page. Let's see what happens next."
Lois began to feel a little panicked as they continued walking, turning down a dark alleyway. Gun or no gun, she was going to have to take a risk pretty soon. Dark alleyways were not a good sign when you were being held by a kidnapper at gunpoint.
She had to try something. She looked around one last time for any sign of life or something she could use as a weapon and that's when she spotted it…
A platform of some kind with two chairs sitting side-by-side.
It had all kinds of strange gadgets and parts on it, all moving and flashing and turning. What was it? Some kind of torture device? She felt a little queasy.
"What is that?" she asked, trying to keep her voice even.
"That? That, Ms. Lane, is a remarkable device. It allows you to travel through time, and with some modifications I made to it, inter-dimensionally as well," he said proudly.
"A time machine?" she snorted, trying to force a cynical laugh out.
"Oh, you can laugh now, but you won't be laughing soon, I assure you." His words had a dark and foreboding quality to them that chilled her to the bone. "Now, step up onto the platform and sit down."
She stopped short and stood unmoving, crossing her hands across her chest.
Tempus pointed the gun at her and cocked it. "Walk on willingly or be dragged on, it makes no difference to me."
She took a step forward. This wasn't a good idea. She should take her chances and run, scream for help. But somewhere in the back of her brain, the reporter inside her was saying 'but maybe there really is a story here'. If she sat down and nothing happened, that was one thing, but what if this really was a time machine? This man was arrogant and obviously dangerous, but he didn't seem to be insane. What if he was telling the truth?
She looked at the gun in his hand and his finger over the trigger. It wasn't like she had much choice, either. She climbed into the 'time machine' and sat down in one of the seats. He got in beside her in the other seat, not taking the gun off her. He checked a few things and turned some dials and then he reached down and grabbed a stick shift next to his seat. He pulled back on the stick and her whole world seemed to shift.
The landscape around her stretched and got distorted and then there was a bright shimmering light. She squinted her eyes against it but as quickly as it had flared up, it died back down. Everything moved and shifted again and suddenly they were sitting in a different place. They were still in an alleyway, but they weren't in the Congo any longer. She could tell from the surroundings.
She looked to either side of the alley. They were between two large buildings. She could hear the sounds of heavy traffic not too far off and the sound of a large jet plane flying overhead caught her attention. She looked up into the dark sky and saw the lights from the plane going by above her.
They really had traveled… somewhere. Had they really traveled through time, though? She highly doubted it. "Great! So where are we? Or should I say *when* are we?" she remarked condescendingly. "These buildings don't look like they're anything out of the future and they're definitely not something out of the past."
"Don't be so cynical, Ms. Lane. Before this day is out, you're going to be believing in a lot more than time travel I'm sure." He chuckled happily and walked a few feet away and around the corner. When he came walking back he was holding a newspaper in his hands. He flipped through it and brought it over to her, pointing to a date at the top. "That's today's date."
She took the newspaper from him; it was the morning edition of the Daily Planet. They were in Metropolis!
COUPLE KILLED IN APARTMENT FIRE — CANDLES THOUGHT TO BLAME
By Clark Kent
She looked up at the date where his finger was pointing. Then she pulled the paper closer to her face and blinked a couple of times.
How could that be? It wasn't possible! He had brought her almost five years into the future!
"How is this possible? Why?" she exclaimed.
"Amazing isn't it?" he said, looking smug. "I bet when you woke up this morning you didn't think you'd be part of a plot to destroy the future. Ahh, this is such a liberating feeling. The end of Superman is in sight, and little Ms. Lois Lane played a part."
"I don't know what you think I'm going to do," she bit out at him. "I'm not going to help you."
"Oh, I wouldn't expect you to."
She furrowed her brow at him and frowned. "Then what are you going to do with me?"
"Why, absolutely nothing!" He chuckled happily, obviously pleased with himself. "I'm done with you. I'm going back in time a few years to hatch a scheme that you're not part of. I'm going to run for Mayor and I needed you out of the way so you wouldn't interfere prematurely. I've got another someone else in mind for what I need. Superman is soon to be just a memory in this world, so enjoy the new world that you've helped mold and create. Things are about to change."
What was a — or maybe more correctly who was — Superman? Tempus kept mentioning him… wait a minute! All of what he'd just said finally caught up to her. "What? You're done with me? You can't just leave me here!"
"Really?" He waved the gun at her again. "There doesn't seem to be much you can do about it." He got back into his time machine, pulled the lever and, just like that, he was gone; and she was standing in the alleyway alone.
Lois backed up against one wall in the alley, breathing heavily. He had abandoned her here, in a world where she hadn't existed for the last five years. Everyone probably thought she was dead.
She looked back down at the paper she was still holding in her hands.
SUPERMAN SAVES COUPLE FROM FIRE — CANDLES TO BLAME
By Clark Kent
Had that article title been there before? Hadn't it said something else?
Superman. There was that name again. Tempus had mentioned him. He was the reason Tempus had brought her here.
Who was that? She didn't remember anyone by that name working at the Planet. She sighed. Perry probably hired him when she disappeared in the Congo and never returned. She had to get back! Her career would be ruined!
Well she might not know how to find Superman, but she was willing to bet she could find this Clark Kent person. She headed off to find a phone book. If he was listed, she could get his address and go have a chat with him. And if he wasn't listed…? Well, she was sure she could get someone at the Daily Planet or one of her *old* contacts to tell her where he lived.
*ALT-LNC — ALT-CLARK POV*
Present day… alt-universe…
"You're not going back to prison, Tempus," Wells informed him, looking around in search of something.
What was he after? Clark watched as Wells opened a few of his kitchen drawers.
"I'm not? Have you finally gone soft?" Tempus asked, scowling and keeping a wary eye on the gun that curly-Lois still had pointed at him from where she stood next to her Clark.
"No. I'm taking you straight back to Utopia this time. I'll let the Peacekeepers deal with you and your atrocities," Wells explained absently, opening Clark's closet door.
What was he doing in there? If Clark wasn't so weak, he'd get up from the floor and go check on Wells, but as it was, for now, he decided to just stay put. What was wrong with him anyway? He shouldn't still be this weak, should he?
Wells emerged from the closet a few moments later holding up one of Clark's ties like a trophy. Ah, he'd been looking for something he could tie Tempus up with.
Oh, no, not *that* tie, that was one of his favorites.
Clark was just about to say something when there was a knock at the door. He tried to *see* who it was but his powers still hadn't returned yet.
He watched as curly-Lois walked away from the couch where she had been standing with her Clark and the other Lois and Clark whom he'd been introducing her to. She held the gun out in front of her and moved tentatively towards the front door. The hand she held the gun in was shaking and her steps were a little wobbly. Clark imagined after what they'd all been through that everyone was a little drained.
"Lois, don't! Wait!" Her Clark shouted at her, not realizing that she had walked away, but she didn't stop. She reached out and opened the door a crack. A startled yelp escaped from her lips and she passed out on the floor.
The door opened wider to reveal…
The woman looked exactly like the Lois he knew and loved… only with longer hair. Her hair was cut in layers and hung down just past her shoulders. Was she… his Lois? His heart was racing. How…?
"Ms. Lane? Thank the irony!" Tempus exclaimed. "I had completely forgotten this was *when* I had dropped you. Hmm, I thought this date seemed familiar somehow…" Tempus' eyes glazed over for a moment and then they burned with a bright fire. "Quick, bend down and grab that gun!" he barked at her.
The new Lois looked down at the gun hesitantly. "What's going on here, Tempus?" she asked him, raising an eyebrow skeptically. "I'm not doing anything until we have a little talk."
"We'll talk. I promise. After you get that gun. Now pick it up!" he shouted hysterically at her.
Wait… what's going on here? She knows Tempus? How is that possible? Unless… Clark felt his pulse quickening as the anger ran through his veins like molten lava. This was Tempus' fault! He was behind this, behind Lois' disappearance. This *was* the Lois of his world, his Lois. His fury gave him new strength and he rose up from the floor. "No, don't listen to him!" he implored her, clutching his abdomen, his voice raspy with pain. Something was definitely wrong with him.
"To me?" Tempus said with mock indignation. "Do you know who this man is? He's Superman. He's the reason you were taken from your time and the reason I didn't take you back. It's his doing. Don't listen to him. Pick up that gun!"
"Shut up, Tempus!" Clark growled at him, pushing the pain from his mind. "You're going to pay for whatever you did to her." Clark was started over towards Tempus, when he caught movement out of the corner of his eye. *His* Lois had hesitated to pick up the gun but her look-alike counterpart wasn't going to give her a second chance. He watched helplessly as Lois rushed his Lois, headed for the gun.
His Lois' eyes went wide when she saw the woman who looked exactly like her running towards her. She let out a small gasp, but she quickly recovered and grabbed the gun before Lois could get there.
"Okay, just back it up. I don't know what's going on here, but I'm going to find out." She waved the gun at the other Lois and she backed up, returning to stand next to her Clark.
The curly-Lois' Clark was looking at his Lois, collapsed on the floor, his face lined with worry. Clark had wondered why he hadn't rushed to her side to check on her, but then he noticed his alternate counterpart's hand on that Clark's shoulder, restraining him.
His other self was giving him a chance to deal with this himself. His counterpart understood what a delicate situation this was and how far-reaching it's effects could be for Clark. But what was he going to do? How could he get her to listen to him?
"Let me explain," Tempus began, walking towards her.
"That's far enough. I think you've done enough explaining," she told him and then she turned to Clark. "Who are you?"
"My name is Clark Kent. I…"
"Clark Kent? Of the Daily Planet?" she asked, interrupting him.
"Yes. I worked with Perry White, at least that is, before he became the Mayor. You have no idea how worried he was about you. What happened to you?"
She ignored his question and looked over at Tempus, irritation written plainly on her face. "I thought you said he was Superman."
"I am," Clark told her.
She frowned, looking confused. "You are? But I saw your article in the paper, the one about Superman saving that couple. It was written by Clark Kent."
"Clark Kent is who I am. Superman is the persona I use when I'm making rescues or helping someone."
"What like Zorro?" she asked, her voice dripping with sarcasm.
"Sort of," he answered her mildly. "It's a little more complicated than that. Why don't you put down the gun and we can talk about it?"
"Nuh-uh, no way. Not until I convince this Bozo here to take me back to my own time period. He stole five years of my life and I want it back." She moved the gun from Clark to Tempus. "Take me back now," she ordered him, the muscles of her jaw tightening as she clenched it.
"Gladly, Ms. Lane." He smiled at her, looking relieved. "The time machine is waiting just outside. If you'll come with me…" Tempus started walking towards her.
"No. I can't let you go with him," Clark told her.
"Can't let me go with… who do you think you are?" she demanded. Clark felt himself flinch a little from the heat in her words. "Listen, I don't belong here. This megalomaniac kidnapped me and brought me here, something about stopping Superman, and left me. I'm going back where I belong."
"You can't. He's a criminal. I can't just let him walk out of here and escape into another time period."
Clark watched as Lois fidgeted for a moment and then she brought the gun back to point at him. "I… I don't care." He could tell she was lying. She did care, but she wanted to go back where she belonged. "This man may be a criminal but he's the only chance I've got. His time machine is my only hope."
"The time machine, maybe, but *he's* not your only hope, Lois," Clark reasoned with her. "I could take you back in it…"
Lois looked like she was wavering. "Really? You could…"
"He's lying!" Tempus exclaimed. "He doesn't know what he's talking about and he doesn't know where or when I took you from. He doesn't know how to operate that machine; you need me to take you back. You might end up in Europe during the Middle Ages if you go with him. Trust me, the black plague is not a pretty thing." He glanced at Clark with contempt.
Tempus had managed to work his way to within a couple of feet of Lois… and the gun. Clark closed the distance between them and Lois pointed the gun back and forth from one to the other. "Stay back!" she cried.
"You can't trust him, Lois. He's evil," Clark tried to reason with her.
"I assure you that you can trust me, Ms. Lane. I want out of here as much as you do," Tempus said smoothly, trying to corrupt her with his words. Clark could see why he kept trying to be a politician, he was good at it.
Clark was beginning to feel panicky. He had to get that gun away from her and it didn't look like she was going to relinquish it, no matter how hard he tried to reason with her. She didn't trust him and she had no reason to… she didn't know him. But he couldn't just let her walk out of here with Tempus, and he couldn't let Tempus get his hands on that gun.
He realized what he had to do. He was going to have to physically take the gun away from her. He hated it. Hated the thought of pitting himself against her.
She would hate him for it.
He sighed. This was the woman he wanted to love, the woman he had searched for, and she was going to despise him.
Then another thought came to him. What if she shot him? He didn't really think she would, but she looked like a caged animal. What if she shot him accidentally? Had he recovered enough to survive it? At this close range? As needle-sharp pain continued to shoot through his stomach he realized that he might not, but it was something he was going to have to risk.
But just as he was about to make his move for the gun, Wells spoke up from behind him. "Ms. Lane I think there is another reason you should consider for not going back with Tempus." Clark stayed his hand and waited to hear Wells' explanation. Maybe what he said would convince her to give up her weapon. Clark didn't want to have to force her. It would be so much better if she gave it up on her own.
"I'm warning you, Herb…" Tempus began.
"Shut up, Tempus," Clark snarled at him. "Lois, listen to him. This is H.G. Wells. He invented the time machine that Tempus used to bring you here."
Please, please listen to him, he thought.
"Is that true?" she asked Wells.
"Uh, yes, quite right, although I never meant it to be used in the manner Tempus has employed it. Ms. Lane, forget for a moment that Tempus is a fugitive, forget that there is a good chance that you can't trust him to keep his word. There is another reason you shouldn't go back with him. If you do, you will condemn that man to death." He pointed to the other Clark… his counterpart Clark.
She followed his finger and her eyebrows went up. "Who… who are you? You look exactly like Clark."
"He is Clark, my dear," Wells explained. "They all are. Each of these men," he pointed to each Clark in the room, "is Clark Kent, and each of the women with them are you, Lois Lane. They are from other dimensions, other universes. The time machine that Tempus brought you here in doesn't just travel through time; it also travels inter-dimensionally through space. Tempus brought them here to try and destroy them and the peaceful worlds they were trying to create. And if you let him take you back, to your own time period, that Clark is going to die, and the Utopia he was trying to build will die with him."
"No, that's not possible," she said, shaking her head and backing away from them. "One person can't affect the lives of so many other people like that. I can't believe that, I won't believe it! I have to go back. You can't ask me to give up my life like that." Her words were wrought with emotion — anger, fear, and… something else. Clark watched as the gun she was holding began to lower, slowly.
"Mr. Wells, how is that possible?" The voice came from the other Lois. Her face was pale and she was gripping her Clark's hand tightly.
Wells looked over at her. "The future is a very difficult thing to predict, my dear. One thing changed can vastly affect the outcome of other things. I feel that if Lois goes back to her time, then Tempus will have no reason to ever bring you or I here to this universe. He would be able to use the Lois of this universe to expose Clark if he wished. I don't know how that scenario would play out. It may not go well for this Clark either. But regardless, if Tempus never brings either of us here, we will never meet the Clark of this world. I won't know to come here and ask for his help…"
Clark's counterpart looked like he understood where Wells was going with this. "So if and when John Doe shows up in our universe and Tempus sends me into that time window…"
"You will never return. You will perish there. Without the help of the Clark from this world, Ms. Lane and I would likely have not been able to stop Tempus. Therefore, we would have never been able to rescue you," Wells concluded, his voice heavy.
Clark felt the heaviness in his heart. That was a lot of pressure to put on his Lois. He looked back at Tempus. There seemed to be a look of almost pure pleasure on his face. Clark tightened his hands into fists. Powers or no powers, he felt a very strong urge to beat that smirk off of his face. Tempus was enjoying this.
"Don't listen to these cretins, Ms. Lane," Tempus told her, his voice slick with persuasion. "None of this is your concern. You didn't cause any of this. Just come back with me and that will fix everything." A wide grin was spreading across his face.
"This all seems incredibly unbelievable," Lois said, sighing quietly. The gun now hung limp at her side. She turned to face Wells. "Will he really die? If… if I go back?" she asked Wells softly.
"There is no way of knowing for certain. But I have been contemplating the many changes that would result if you did indeed go back." Wells turned to face all of us. "None of *this* will ever happen. Everything that each of your have learned about yourselves about each other, all of that will be gone, and my guess is that so will the Utopias you were hoping to create."
Movement caught Clark's attention and he watched in horror as Tempus finally lunged at Lois, snatching the gun out of her hands and shoving her forward.
Clark caught her in his arms before she could fall.
"Well, now, isn't this just perfect," Tempus sneered. "If I take Ms. Lane here back to her own time period, I get what I've wanted all along. A world without a Utopia." Tempus paused and shook his head as if in amazement. "It seems I've unwittingly played a part in creating the one thing I hate the most. God, I… *hate* irony! Well, that's about to be rectified. Ms. Lane, you're coming with me. We're going back."
"No. I'm not coming with you," Lois told him defiantly.
Clark glanced down at the body of the curly Lois who had been lying passed out on the floor. She was now awake and was slowly crawling up behind Tempus. If she could distract Tempus just long enough, maybe Clark could get the gun away from him. He took a couple of steps away from his Lois where he was in position to launch himself at Tempus.
Tempus pointed the gun menacingly at Clark, putting his finger over the trigger. "I would think seriously about coming any closer, Mr. Kent, are you well enough to recover from a bullet wound?" Tempus smiled calculatingly at him and then pointed the gun back over at Lois. Did he know Clark was still weak? "Come, come, now, Lois. We've been through this before. Either come with me, or I'll shoot you in the leg and drag you with me. Your choice."
Curly Lois was almost there.
The next few seconds happened as if in slow motion. Curly-Lois got up from the floor and made a grab for the gun. She wrapped her hands around Tempus' hand trying to wrench the gun away. Clark could hear her Clark screaming at her in the background.
And then he heard the shot.
He could see the bullet, the path it was going to take. It was headed straight for his Lois.
He mustered up all of the strength he had left and threw himself in front of her.
The last thought that went through his mind before the bullet slammed into his chest was something he'd said earlier…
<He would trade his very soul for a chance to be with her…>
He just wished it had been for a little longer.
*ALT-LNC — ALT-LOIS POV*
"No!" Lois screamed, dropping down beside the man who'd saved her life. Why? Why had he done that? She had held a gun to him, threatened him. "Clark? Stay with me. Do you hear me?" She turned to look back at Tempus, ready to throw herself at him. He would probably shoot her, but she was willing to bet he wouldn't kill her. Not if he wanted to take her back to her own time period so badly.
But when she turned around she realized the curly-haired Lois Lane was already on top of things. She had managed to get the gun away from him and wrestle him to the ground. Both of the other Clark Kents were also there, helping her… they seemed ready to literally beat Tempus into submission if need be.
She looked away from them and saw the Lois who looked exactly like her coming towards her. "Lois? Are you okay?" her look-alike asked her.
She nodded her head at her and looked down at Clark. Her voice was choked in her throat and she couldn't get out the words she wanted to say. She couldn't ask if he was okay.
The other Lois got down on her knees next to them, pressing her fingers to his throat and laying her head against his chest. "He's alive," she confirmed and then turned to look at the rest of the group. "Clark, he's alive but he's not responding and he doesn't look good. You need to get over here. Hurry!"
"Shouldn't we call an ambulance?" Lois asked her double anxiously.
"No." Off of Lois' bewildered look, the other Lois continued, "I know this doesn't make any sense to you right now, but trust me when I say that there's not much a medical doctor can do for Clark. We can help him more efficiently, and we will."
He couldn't be helped by a doctor? The other Lois was right, what sense did that make? Lois looked back down at Clark and felt her heart lurch as she noticed his body shivering uncontrollably.
His eyes were clenched shut against the pain as his body trembled forcefully. It scared her.
She lay down across his chest sharing her body warmth with him, being careful to avoid his wound… both of them. She hadn't noticed it before but he seemed to have another wound slightly lower from the bullet wound. She took one of his hands in hers and held it tightly. She felt his hand tighten against hers in an appreciative squeeze and his body began to relax; the shuddering began to subside.
"Lois, honey, I need you to move so I can take a look at him," the other Clark was telling her. He had the same voice as the Clark who'd saved her. Would she hear *his* voice again?
She hesitated, first moving her head close to his ear and whispering to him. "Clark, please don't die. Please hang in there."
She leaned up and to her shock his eyes squinted open. The pain they held made her hurt. "Please don't let go," he whispered, his voice deathly quiet.
She looked down at his hand that she held in hers. She squeezed it reassuringly. "I won't. I promise." She rose up slightly from his body, keeping hold of his hand, and moved out of the way so Clark could look at him.
He bent down over him, looking intently at him. What was he doing? What could he possibly see?
"I have x-ray vision, Lois," he told her, as if in answer to her questions. X-ray vision? He turned and looked at his Lois. "There's something wrong here. My vision isn't working." He backed up a bit and concentrated on him again. "Okay, I can see it now. The bullet didn't go deep, but I think that the only reason it penetrated at all is because there is a tiny piece of Kryptonite lodged in his other wound." Kryptonite? What was Kryptonite? He looked over at her, his face telling her he understood her confusion. "It's poisonous to us, Lois. I'll explain about it later." He turned to face his own Lois. "It looks like the bullet missed his heart. We're going to have to dig it out — and the Kryptonite. Then I can try to cauterize the wounds until they can heal on their own. Go grab a knife from his kitchen." His Lois got up and ran off towards the kitchen.
He put his hand to one side of Clark's face and tapped him lightly. "Clark, can you hear me?" Lois watched as Clark nodded his head a little. "This is going to hurt. I'm sorry but it has to be done."
His Lois came back carrying a small knife. She knelt down beside the injured Clark and brought the blade close to the bullet wound. "I don't know if I can do this, Clark." Her voice trembled as she spoke.
"I know you can, honey. You've done it before, remember?" he told her, smiling reminiscently at his Lois. She had done it before?
She nodded her head at him shakily and reached out, touching the wounded Clark's face tenderly. She squinted her eyes as if in pain as she slid the tip of the knife into the wound.
Lois watched with her breath held tightly as her counterpart cut in with the knife, little by little, trying to locate and dislodge the bullet.
Clark groaned in pain, his body writhing. His grip on her hand tightened, almost to the point that it hurt. She bit her lip. She didn't care. Grip it harder, Clark, she told him silently.
"I'm so sorry, Clark," the other Lois whispered to him, her voice distressed. "We're almost there. I can see it."
He moaned again, a pitiful, heart-wrenching sound. Lois blinked back the tears that had come into her eyes.
And then, it was over.
The other Lois had the bullet out of him. She deposited the bullet in her Clark's hand and went back with the knife towards the other wound.
This time it was much more difficult. She seemed to be having trouble locating the piece of… what was it? Kryptonite? It must be very small. Lois noticed the tears coming out of the other woman's eyes each time Clark cried out from the pain. She could feel her own tears welling up again. Oh, god, please hurry. He can't take much more of this, no man could.
Just when Lois was about to reach out and take the knife away from her, the other Lois pulled her knife and fingers back, revealing a miniscule sliver of something bright green. That's what all the fuss was about?
The other Lois promptly jumped up and ran into the kitchen with it, she assumed to dispose of it. Lois looked back and watched as the other Clark focused his eyes on the two wounds. One at a time, a small wisp of smoke began to appear in each wound. Clark cried out again, lurching from the renewed pain.
She laid one hand against his forehead, holding him in place. "It's almost over, Clark. It'll be okay," she told him softly. Then his hand went limp in hers and his body relaxed as unconsciousness took him. She looked back at the wounds. They had closed up, cauterized somehow by the other Clark's vision. Wow! Who were these "Supermen"?
*ALT-LNC — ALT-CLARK POV*
Clark woke up, his body jerking against the last image he remembered, the gunshot to his chest. He tried to sit up but a pair of hands, a woman's hands from the feel of them, placed themselves against his shoulders pushing him back down. The room was dark, it must be night out. He could feel the familiarity of his bed beneath his body.
"Lie still. You're recovering nicely… I'm amazed at how your body works, how fast it heals, but you still need your rest." It was a woman's voice. It was Lois' voice. But which one?
"Lois?" He heard the slight crack in his voice as he spoke her name.
"Yeah, it's me, the one from our world."
"Are you real?" he asked, almost not able to believe it. Images were coming back to him now, memories of her asking him not to die, to hang on.
The feeling of her hand wrapped around his, squeezing it reassuringly.
He reached out for that hand, wanting to feel the warmth of it between his fingers, the softness of her skin pressed against his.
He had found her…
Actually, she had found him. He smiled through the darkness when her hand found his and wrapped around it.
He felt her lean away from him and then the lamp next to his bed came on. He squinted his eyes against the sudden light. When the room came into focus he found her and drank in the sight of her. She was standing there next to his bed. He could see the concern in her eyes.
"Yes. I'm definitely real," she told him, a smile lighting up her face. It was a beautiful smile. It did wonderful things to his stomach. "I was wondering the same thing about you, though. The others told me about you… Superman… about themselves. About the worlds they came from and how they found each other."
"Are they still here? How long have I been out?"
"No. They left. I told them to. I assured them that I would look after you. You've been asleep most of the day, it's getting dark outside," she said as she glanced towards one of his windows. "They stayed for a little while, telling me about things I had missed in the last five years and explaining a few things to me. They're all very fortunate to have each other." She smiled softly at him.
"Yes, they are. I had often wondered if they really understood how fortunate."
She nodded her head at him. "*She* told me about how long you'd been searching for me, trying to find me," she said, her voice very quiet. "She said you were very special to her."
The words tugged at Clark's heart. She had been very special to him as well. He had… loved her, even if she couldn't love him. But now… now he had the hope of something so much more. Now he had the person who his misplaced love had truly been for. "I had almost given up hope. Almost, but not quite," he told her honestly. "Mr. Wells had promised to help me find out what had happened to you when I was ready. I was about to take him up on his offer when this mess all started." He broke off when he saw a shadow pass over her eyes. He squeezed her hand gently. "I'm so sorry for what you lost." Five years of her life. That was a lot to lose, a lot to give up for people you didn't even know.
"Me too, but I've gained so much in return." She squeezed his hand back, her eyes brightening again.
Gained? What had she gained?
She must have seen the question in his eyes. "I've learned about other universes. I've made several new friends who, even if I don't see them again, I will never forget. And I've been given knowledge about my own possible future."
"Future? Did Mr. Wells share something with you?" He wished he had a way to contact Wells now. Ask him if… if she, he… if this…
"No, I asked, but if he knew, he wasn't saying. But I do know about Utopia. And I know how much the other Loises and Clarks love each other." She sighed and her face took on a serious expression. "Look, Clark, I won't lie to you. I'm not a sappy romantic. I don't believe in love at first sight. But I also know luck or fate or chance, whatever you want to call it, when I see it… And yet that still doesn't change the fact that I don't know you."
Clark pulled against her hand that he held, trying to sit up. He only made it part way before going back down to the bed, moaning from the lingering pain in his chest. He reached out with his other hand and touched the wound. He could barely feel it under his fingers. It was still there, but it was almost healed.
"You need to relax. Stop trying to sit up," she instructed him.
He smiled at her as he successfully pulled himself up into a sitting position and pushed his back up against the bed. She might not know him, but he knew her. "Are you always this bossy?" he asked her, hoping to get a reaction out of her.
"Bossy? You think I'm bossy?" she huffed.
"No, I think you're wonderful. You may not know me, but I know you, at least somewhat. If you'll give me a chance, I can let you know me. We can learn about each other."
She smiled at him. It sent tendrils of electricity through his body, invigorating him. If she kept that up, he'd be well in no time.
"I'd like that."
*O. SUPERMAN — SUPERMAN POV*
Clark sat in an uncomfortably hard chair beside Lois' hospital bed, keeping an eye on the monitors and the slow rise and fall of her chest as she took deep, even breaths. Occasionally his gaze would lift up to the swollen lump on her head where Tempus had struck her with his gun. He flinched at the deep coloring that stained the area surrounding it.
He knew he was going to have to wake her pretty soon. The doctors' had told him that she had sustained a pretty good concussion from her injury, but that she seemed to have a hard head — Clark had held a smile back at that comment — and the x-rays didn't show any fractures to the skull. Just some minor swelling that would take a few days to go down.
But she wasn't allowed to sleep for long stretches. She had to be awakened and checked on.
Clark shifted in his chair, trying to find a more comfortable position. The doctor's had told him that she was okay and that he could go home and get some rest, but he'd insisted on staying here with her. He wanted to be the first thing she saw when she woke up.
He hadn't had a chance to talk to her since he'd brought her in to the hospital. She'd been whisked away for x-rays and various other scans, exams, and tests. By the time they had allowed him in to see her, she had already dozed off… but now he was going to have to wake her, now he would have his chance.
But he just wasn't quite ready to wake her. Even with her bumps and bruises she looked so beautiful as she slept, so peaceful and content, and he knew she must be exhausted after what she'd been through.
Feeling his restlessness increasing, he got up and stood beside her bed. He reached out with one hand, pulling a few rebellious strands of hair away from her face. They were stuck to her forehead in places from the little bit of dried blood the nurses had missed when they swabbed her head, but he did his best to get them away from her eyes and tuck them behind her ear.
As his hand hovered momentarily over her bruise, he could feel the heat coming off of it. The ache inside him compelled him to lean over her carefully and brush a soft kiss across her forehead.
He sat back down but leaned forward close to the bed. "Lois," he whispered, "I know you can't hear me right now, but there's so much I want to tell you. So much I want to apologize for. I was so wrong… about so many things," he told her, practicing what he was going to say to her. His voice was shaking with emotion.
He let out a quiet sigh and continued softly, "If I'd known how you were going to react, what was going to happen… I should have never slept with you like that and then pretended like it had never happened. I was a coward to take your memories from you like that. You were so upset and I was afraid that I was going to lose you. I was afraid that you couldn't deal with it."
The pain in his heart threatened to overwhelm him and he was glad he was sitting down. "I should have had more faith in you. I should have realized that you needed time to adjust, time to figure things out. If I had it all to do over again… I hope one day you'll believe me when I say that I would. I hope one day you'll find it in your heart to… forgive me."
He felt his eyes welling up with tears and he tried to blink them away. "Oh, Lois, I'm so sorry," he laid his head down against her body and whispered softly, "I love you…"
He felt her stir beneath him and he rose up to look into her open, questioning eyes. "Clark?"
He nodded at her.
"Please tell me I wasn't dreaming," she implored him earnestly. "It's true, isn't it?" She reached out, touching his tie.
He loosened it and pulled down on it, unbuttoning the first few buttons of his shirt. She slipped her hand inside and felt of the slick spandex hidden beneath. Her eyes went wide and he smiled guiltily at her.
"I think you have a lot of explaining to do," she said quietly, her eyes looking sad.
Yes, he did. Explaining, apologizing, groveling at her feet. But it was a good sign that she was at least willing to hear him out. It at least gave him hope.
"Lois, I'm sorry…"
*SUPERMAN RETURNS — SUPERMAN POV*
"Clark, why did you ask Mr. Wells to bring us to my house?" He could see the confusion in her eyes, but there was an awareness there too. "We need to get back to the Planet. We need to let Ri… Jason know that I'm okay," she finished softly.
"I know. And we will. You know how fast I can get you there." He smiled hesitantly at her. "A few more seconds… minutes… won't make a difference." He sighed wishing he could gather her into his arms and just hold her for a moment. He closed his eyes, his mind flashing back to that night in the Arctic.
<You're so warm…>
He opened his eyes and looked at her intently, shaking away the fleeting emotions. "We need to talk."
She nodded at him. "Yes. Yes, we do, Clark. But I don't know if I'm ready."
"Will you ever be ready?" he asked her, hearing the fear in his own voice.
She turned away from him and took a deep breath. "I don't know. I… There's so many things I want to say to you… and all at once." She let out a shuddery breath.
He walked up behind her and set his hands lightly on her shoulders. "Tell me. I wasn't willing to listen before… but I am now. Please… talk to me."
"I don't even know how to express it all, Clark. I'm so… I'm just so… mad! I'm mad at you, and I'm mad at me. I'm mad at the way things have worked out and how impossible this whole situation has become." She sighed heavily crossing her arms in front of her and rubbing her hands up and down her arms.
It reminded him of that night they'd shared together, when she'd been so cold and he had warmed her. But her cold wasn't physical this time, and he didn't know what he could do to warm her. "I know," he said quietly, not withdrawing his hands from her shoulders but not daring to move them any further either.
"Do you?" she exclaimed bitterly. "Do you really? Have you thought about just how complicated things are? I told that other Lois that I understand that you want to have a relationship with your son. And I want you to. But Richard is the only father he's ever known, and Jason knows nothing about you. What am I supposed to tell him? What am I supposed to tell Richard?" She threw her hands up in the air in exasperation. "I can't very well tell him that Jason is Superman's son. I can't risk exposing that to anyone. So I have to go on pretending that Richard is his father. And… And I'm engaged to be married… to Richard." He could hear the quiver in her voice. "And he's a good man. And he deserves better than this… and…"
Before Clark knew what he was doing, he had gently spun her around in his arms and captured her mouth with his own. Her body, rigid at first, soon softened and then responded in fervor. She grasped at his shoulders, her hands moving up and behind his neck, pulling him more tightly against her. She moved her hands up to the back of his head, running her hands through his hair. "Ohhh, Clark," she moaned against his mouth. "Oh, god, you have no idea…" She pulled away from him and looked into his eyes, her own eyes brimming with unshed tears.
"Why!" she shouted at him suddenly, shoving against his chest with her hands, pushing him away. "Why did you leave me? How could you leave me like that?" she continued to yell, her voice breaking. Her body had begun to tremble and tears were coming freely down her face.
He didn't interrupt her. He had told her that he was ready to listen to her and he would wait for her to finish. He would wait for her… as long as it took.
Her face softened and she shook her head sadly at him. "Why… why did I let you go? God, why did I say those things to you? Why? I'm sorry. I… wish I could take it all back." She turned away from him again, her voice getting quiet. "I wanted you to stay. So badly. When you asked me to give you a reason, I wanted to tell you… me. Stay for me. But I didn't. I was so mad and so confused and then you kissed me! And then I lost everything." She was sobbing through her words. "You took every hope I had away with that kiss."
He couldn't restrain himself any longer. "Please… Lois. I'm so sorry," he said, his voice raw and thick with pain. "You'll never know the pain that's been in my heart since I came back. I know what I did was wrong. I hate myself for doing it. Tell me what you want me to do, and I'll do it." His voice was quivering and he fought to control it. "Tell me how I can fix this, how I can make it better. What I can say, or do, to make things right between us."
"I… I don't know…" Her words were barely even a whisper.
"Lois, please," he begged her. "I don't want to lose you. I… I love you."
And then before he could say any more she was in his arms again, her mouth seeking his, her arms wrapping around his body with urgency in her movements. "Oh, Clark. I love you, too. I do. I told Richard that I didn't, but it was a lie. I wanted to tell you so badly the other night when you came to see Jason, but… I couldn't. I stopped myself. It's not fair to Richard. He loves me and he's been waiting patiently for me to finally marry him…"
"Do you love him, Lois?" he asked her, holding his breath to hear her answer.
"I… I do. I did… I do. He… He helped me forget you. He helped me move on. He was… there," she said with a trembling voice, turning away from him, unable or unwilling to look him in the eyes.
He moved in close behind her, his mouth next to her ear. "If you ask me to leave, I will. It will kill me, but I'll do it. Just tell me to go and I will." His chest hurt so bad that it seemed almost like a physical pain instead of an emotional one.
One second, two seconds, three, four. His heart began to sink. He pulled back from her and started to turn.
"No," she said almost so softly that he'd needed super-hearing to hear her. "I don't want you to leave. I never wanted you to leave… I never *want* you to leave." She turned back and reached out with one hand to stop him. "Please… I just need some time. I… we have a lot we need to figure out. I have to decide… I just need time."
He stopped and turned to face her. "Then that's what I'll give you, Lois. Time. As much as you need. I can wait."
*LNC — CLARK POV*
"Oh, I never thought it would feel so good just to come home," Lois said, exhaling noisily as she walked through her front door.
Clark followed her inside, closing the door behind him, thinking the exact same thing. Thinking how lucky he felt to be coming home *with* Lois.
He watched her walk towards the stairs and then hesitate, looking up the stairs frowning. "Remind me again why we bought a house with stairs?" She sighed tiredly. "Right now what I really wish…"
Before she could finish what she was saying he had scooped her up and flown her up the stairs into their bedroom. He set her gently down on the bed.
"…is that you would carry me up the stairs," she finished, smiling the smile that surpassed the beauty and brilliance of a thousand stars. She giggled and Clark felt his heart flutter. "I don't suppose you offer a *full-service* package?" she asked him, kicking off her shoes and wiggling her toes.
"Yes ma'am." He pulled her stockings off slowly, massaging her calves and ankles as his hands moved down her legs to her feet.
"Mmmm," she moaned. Clark could see goosebumps rising up on her skin as she reacted to his touch.
He sat down on the bed beside her and put his hands to her shoulders. As he began to rub them, he heard her let out a hiss of pain and her body tensed up under his touch.
"What is it? What's wrong?" he asked her, concerned.
"Nothing. It's nothing." Her body was telling him far more than her voice could, though. She was hurt.
He slid the light dress jacket she was wearing off her shoulders and down her arms, pulling it carefully off her hands. Several dark finger-shaped bruises on her wrist caught his attention.
"It's okay, it's not bad," she told him lightly, trying to downplay it. "Really. It's my shoulder that's hurting. I think Tempus injured a tendon in my shoulder or sprained something when he twisted my arm behind my back."
It was a good thing that Wells had already delivered Tempus back to the peacekeepers. If Clark had still had access to him, he would have made sure that every inch of Tempus' skin looked the way her wrist did. "I'm so sorry…"
"Don't be. It's not your fault. It's my own stupid fault. After he pretended to shoot me he rubbed salt in the wound by telling me how devastated you would be." She was trying to be casual, but he could hear the tremble in her voice. "I let him provoke me into attacking him, and he was ready for me. It was a dumb thing to do, but I couldn't help it. It killed me to think of you back here, thinking I was dead…" her voice broke and she swallowed several times, looking away from him.
He took a quick *peek* at her shoulder and was relieved that the damage wasn't as bad as it could have been. It should heal up okay. He wished now that he hadn't let Wells take Tempus back to Utopia. Had Utopian society done away with the death penalty? He would have to remember to bring that up in later years when he was helping to mold and shape it. He normally was against the death of any human being, but in Tempus' case he might make an exception.
<Say goodbye to your sweetheart…>
He could still hear the sound of the gunshot in his mind.
"I was… so lost," he told her softly. "When I thought he'd shot you, it felt like he'd shot me instead. Until you came back to me, I had died on that rooftop with you," he told her quietly as he bent to brush kisses across her neck and shoulders. "But you know what?" he whispered.
"What?" she whispered back raising her shoulders up and tilting her head back, his kisses affecting her in just the right way.
"I learned something… something wonderful, through that whole experience."
She turned and looked into his face, her dark eyes brimming with questions.
"Do you still want to have a baby? I mean, are you *ready* for a baby?" he asked her earnestly.
Her eyes widened slightly, an anxious yet hopeful desire passing through them. "What are you saying?" she asked him, biting her bottom lip.
"You heard Tempus talking about the curly-haired Lois' son, Jason? Jason is the son of her Clark. Superman has a child in that universe," he said, feeling tears come to his eyes at being able to tell her that.
He could see the understanding come into her face. It was possible for *them* to have children. Her lips stretched into a wide grin and she threw her arms around him in passionate embrace. "Oh, Clark," she whispered against his neck, and then she was kissing him, soft at first but after a few light kisses they turned eager, forceful.
He returned her kisses with fervor letting all the pain, all the anxiety melt away. She was alive and she was here with him, for this moment that was all that mattered.
*ALT-LNC — ALT-CLARK POV*
Clark knew he needed to take things slowly with her. She was right — she didn't know him. He knew she had to learn about him, become his friend, before he could hope for anything more.
His brain understood that, but his heart was rebelling. For him, things were so different.
He ached to hold her. Did she know how badly he wanted to reach out to her right now, take her in his arms? Did she know how many nights he'd dreamed about her?
He moved one arm slowly over to her to rest on her hip. When she didn't protest it, he pulled against her drawing her in closer to the bed, closer to him.
He wouldn't touch her any further, wouldn't force her any closer than this. But his mind was crying out to her — please, please touch me again, lay your body against mine like you did when you asked me to hold on.
He watched, holding his breath as she came down to sit on the bed next to him. He took his hand off her hip and reached up to run his hand through her long, silky hair, relishing in the way it slid between, around, and through his fingers. She was here. She was real. She was really here. His mind swam with emotions and he closed his eyes allowing himself to savor them.
He felt her put her hand to his face, running it along his jaw line. His jaw flexed involuntarily to the touch of her fingers. He felt her other hand tighten against his and he gave hers a little squeeze in return.
He opened his eyes to find her face very close to his, her lips just a breath away. It took every ounce of control he possessed not to take those lips in his own. He wanted to, oh how he wanted to. But it wouldn't be right, would it?
She was practically asking him… inviting him…
He gave in and captured her lips with his own, kissing her deeply, passionately. He resisted the urge to touch her further, just enjoying the feel of her soft, moist lips pressed against his own. He had waited for this for so long. As strong as his feelings had been for the other Lois, they were stronger for her. He was drawn to her. He realized he always had been. The other Lois had merely been a substitute for his feelings when he couldn't find his Lois.
She pulled away from him and he reluctantly let her go, wishing it wouldn't end.
"Clark, I don't know if…"
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have done that. Please, I didn't mean…"
"…I have anywhere to stay tonight," she finished, pressing one finger against his lips.
Oh… oh. Of course she didn't. Everyone thought she was dead. She didn't have any clothes, a place to stay, nothing.
"I suppose I could call Perry up and ask if I could stay with him. Although I'm afraid I wouldn't get much sleep if I did that. He's going to want a detailed account of what happened to me… and I just don't know if I'm ready… for that."
He was certain she could stay with Perry and Alice, but he didn't want her to. He wanted her here, with him. "You could stay here tonight," he said softly, looking at her with hope in his eyes.
She smiled warmly at him and he could see color blossoming in her cheeks. But then her smile faded and she looked away. "I don't know if I should do that. I feel this incredibly strong attraction to you, pulling me to you… but I don't really know you. And yet I do, and you saved my life, and you have no idea how incredibly emotionally moving that fact is. I just don't…"
"…want to mess this up?" he asked, saying the fear that was in his own heart.
She looked at him curiously and nodded her head.
"This doesn't have to *be* anything. Just stay here with me tonight. You can sleep in my bed. I'll take the couch…"
"No, Clark, you're hurt. I can't let you sleep on the couch," she protested.
"Well *you're* not sleeping on the couch," he insisted.
She smiled at him. "Maybe we could *share* the bed… just for sleep," she amended quickly.
He nodded at her. "Just for sleep. I've got an extra blanket you could use."
At first she smiled at him, but then her smile began to fade and she shook her head. "If I stay here, if I lay here next to you, I can't guarantee that's where it would stop. I don't know if I can lay here that close to you and not touch you. Not… hold you."
"Lois, even if that's true, it will only go as far as you want it to…"
Clark was cut off by her lips covering his mouth. She broke away from his lips and murmured something about *that* being the problem and then she was kissing him again. Her arms went around his neck, her hands running through his hair. He let go of his restraint, wrapping his arms around her and kissing her back.
He moved one hand down to her abdomen, rubbing his hand softly across it through the black t-shirt she was wearing.
His t-shirt, he realized for the first time. He glanced down at her waist in between kisses to see a pair of black sweat pants cinched tightly at the waist. Maybe he'd had clothes that the Loises could have worn after all…
There was something extremely affecting about her wearing his shirt, his clothes. He smelled her hair; it held the fresh scent of shampoo. She had showered… here… in his apartment.
He lowered his mouth to the base of her throat, kissing her tenderly. He could already smell her scent on the neckline of the shirt she was wearing. He didn't know if he'd ever wash that shirt again.
He took possession of her lips again. She broke contact from his mouth and a small gasp escaped from her. Clark bit down on his lip, trying to regain control over himself.
Was this really happening? Should it be? He wanted it to so badly, but was that fair? He had so many pent up feelings and emotions for her, but she didn't.
How could she? She'd only just met him.
She pulled away from him, sensing his hesitation. "What's wrong?"
"This. This is all wrong. It's not fair of me to ask this of you."
"What? Kissing you? Touching you? You're not asking anything of me that I haven't already asked of myself. I don't know why I'm feeling what I'm feeling for you, I barely know you. Maybe it's because of watching those other Loises with their Clarks and how happy they were together. Maybe I want that. Maybe this is something bigger than us. I feel drawn to you, Clark."
He looked into her eyes as she spoke to him and was surprised to see the yearning they held in them. His heart swelled. "God, Lois, you don't know how many nights I've thought about you, wanted you. But if you would just stay here with me tonight, fall asleep in my arms, it would be enough."
She took his hands in hers and brought them to her mouth, kissing them. "Are you feeling any better?" She leaned down and brushed her lips across his fading wound.
"You're not still feeling weak?" She moved her lips to the base of his throat and kissed him softly, her tongue flitting out to taste him.
He groaned quietly. "Define *weak*."
She leaned into him, pressing her body against him. "This doesn't make you… *uncomfortable*, does it?" She smiled coyly at him.
"You have no idea…"
"Wrap your arms around me, Clark."
He hesitated, looking at her with a questioning glance.
"You said I could lie in your arms, that you'd be happy if I fell asleep in your arms. So put them around me…" She got up from the bed, pulling the blankets back, and climbed in beside him, into his waiting arms.
The rush of emotion as he held her in his arms was indescribable. Warmth, longing, desire, completion, contentment all came together in an explosive rush. An inexpressible happiness radiated out from inside him, overwhelming and short-circuiting every other function in his body.
He had found her and he was never going to let her go.
"Clark?" she whispered his name hesitantly, as if she was afraid to break the spell, "Have you… have you had much experi… I mean have you had very many… um, girlfriends?"
Was she asking him what he thought she was? His heart sank a little. He hadn't had a *lot* of girlfriends and most of the ones he'd had were back when he was young and a date meant some passionate kissing underneath a starlit sky at the drive-in movies.
But then there had been Lana.
She was the only woman he had ever been seriously involved with. He had shared his secret with her and she had accepted him and his special abilities. So when they had gotten engaged and she had wanted to make love with him, he hadn't denied her. She had known who he was and she had loved him. He had wanted to share himself with her, intimately.
But then she had rejected him.
When he had finally figured out who he was and who he wanted to be, she had forced him to choose — between his destiny and his love for her.
Clark felt his chest constrict.
Now the gift he could only give once, was gone. Even if Lois ever gave him the opportunity to love her like that, he couldn't share that experience with her.
He laid his cheek against her head, sighing softly. "Not a lot of girlfriends no, but one fiance, yes."
He felt her body stiffen against him.
"We're not together anymore," he explained and felt her relax. "She didn't want me to be Superman. She didn't want to share me with the world…" He broke off, suddenly afraid. This was *his* Lois; she was very much like the other Lois he had known, but she wasn't the same person. She had lived a different life; she'd had different experiences… had learned different values. What if she, too, couldn't accept what he knew he would always have to do? The ugly thought sent a sharp spike of pain through the center of chest. "Lana… made me choose…"
"And when you chose to help others she left you?" she exclaimed in disbelief. At his nod she continued, "Oh, Clark… I'm sorry." She laid her head down against his shoulder. "That's awful. How could she have done that to you?"
Clark chastised himself. Lois was nothing like Lana. How could he have even been worried about that? Lana was selfish. She wanted him all to herself, and she didn't care what that meant for the world, or… for him. When he had discovered that about her, he was no longer sad to see her go. He no longer wanted to be with her, even when she'd come back…
"She tried to get back together with me… just a few months ago." He clutched Lois a little tighter against him. "I came home one night and she was here on my front porch, waiting for me. She said she was sorry and that she had been wrong to let me go. She told me she missed me and wanted me back."
"What did you tell her?"
"I told her that I couldn't. I knew we weren't right for each other. I couldn't give her the kind of life she wanted. If I had taken her back, I would have been miserable because she would have always been resentful that I couldn't give myself over to her fully." He paused and took a deep, cleansing breath. "But I did give something to her, Lois. Something I wish desperately that I hadn't… that I can never get back. I…"
She pulled one of her hands out from around him and placed it gently over his mouth. "Shhh. It's okay. Don't say it." She moved her hand and smiled at him, her eyes full of awareness.
"I wish I could take it back," he said quietly. "I wish it had never happened."
"Then it didn't," she said softly, leaning up to kiss him tenderly.
How could she be so understanding, so compassionate, so… perfect? He'd never known anyone like her, not even the other Lois. This Lois was definitely everything that encapsulated and defined Lois Lane, and yet she was so different. All of the Loises were so different from one another. He smiled to himself, and he was holding the best one of all of them in his arms — though the other Clarks probably each felt the same about their Lois. He deepened the kiss, drawing lovingly against her lips again and again.
Maybe she understood because she'd had her own bad experiences that she wanted to put behind her?
"Thank you," he murmured as he broke the kiss. She squeezed him gently before laying her head back against his shoulder. "Have you… been in any serious relationships?" he asked her, his voice hesitant, cautious.
She shrugged her shoulders against him. "I've dated." She shook her head in disgust. "All of them turned out to be total losers once I got to know them." She paused and he waited expectantly for her to continue. When she did, her voice was soft, thoughtful. "My parents taught me that the love between two people was an incredibly beautiful gift, that I should take my time to find someone I felt was really worthy to share myself with. And they should know, my parents, they've been happily married for over thirty years." She looked up into his eyes and smiled at him, her cheeks reddening ever so slightly. "I just never found that *special* someone."
Clark's breath caught in his throat. What was she saying? That she was a…? His mind whirled at the admission and he found himself feeling a little uncomfortable in her embrace.
She must have sensed his distress because instead of letting him pull away from her, she embraced him tighter. "I didn't tell you that to make you feel bad. I told you because… because I just needed you to know." She put one hand behind his head, drawing him to her lips. She kissed him long and hard, her tongue running skillfully along the inside of his lips, sending tendrils of excitement through him.
She might have saved her body, but not her lips — she was an excellent kisser, one that only comes from experience. And why shouldn't she be? She had told him she'd dated.
When she finally broke the kiss, she didn't pull immediately away. Instead she looked deeply into his eyes and whispered, her voice husky with emotion, "I told you that because I wanted you to know how special you are… not just because of who you are to the world, but because of who you are to me."
"Who am I?" he asked, his eyes pleading with her.
"My hero," she told him simply. "Not just because you saved my life, but because you never gave up on me." Her voice got quiet and he could hear the pain in it. "Lois told me about my grave. She told me how Perry and Alice and all my other friends had said goodbye to me, but not you. You, who I'd never even met. You pressed on; you searched relentlessly for me. You never gave up on me."
"I couldn't. I decided that I had to discover what had happened to you, no matter what I found." The ache in his heart had long since departed. In fact, it had disappeared nearly the moment she had walked through his door, but he still remembered the way it had felt. How it had haunted his heart. "I was afraid that maybe you really were dead, but another part of me was afraid that when I found you, you wouldn't…" he broke off, not sure what exactly he wanted to say.
"I wouldn't what?" she asked when he didn't continue. "Wouldn't want to be found? Wouldn't care? "Wouldn't… want you? Is that what you thought?"
He looked away from her. "No, that's not what I really thought, only what I feared. I wasn't sure if the love I felt for you gave me the right to… intrude on your life and your feelings like that. But I just had to know…"
"Oh, Clark." She shuddered softly. "Lois told me something else when we talked. She told me that she and her Clark were like soul mates. I didn't believe her at the time. Didn't see how that could be possible." She shook her head in amazement. "I told you I had been waiting for someone *special*. Do you know how special you are? Not just because of what you can do, but who you are?" she asked him, her voice intense and passionate.
Not allowing him to answer, she joined her mouth with his again, kissing him deeply. When she finally released him she was breathing hard and her heart was beating wildly.
He knew what she was willing to do… but he knew he couldn't let her. "Lois, you have no idea how much I want this," he told her earnestly. "But not like this. I made a mistake with Lana, and I don't want to rush things with you. I've finally found you and I've been given a second chance at life… with you. I want things to be… perfect."
"So do I," she murmured.
"Then just sleep beside me tonight," he gently implored her. "Let me fall asleep holding you in my arms and this night couldn't possibly be more perfect."
She smiled softly at him and leaned down to kiss him lightly on the cheek. "Thank you," she whispered and lay down next to him.
His heart swelled to the point that he thought his chest could no longer contain it. He wrapped one arm around her body, entwining his fingers with hers.
He knew his life had just changed forever.