By Poussin <>

Rated: PG

Submitted April 2008

Summary: What should have been the finest day of Lois' life becomes a real nightmare when she learns that her fiance is a criminal, when he commits suicide to escape the police, when Superman is found in a coma in a kryptonite cage, and when she learns that Clark is missing... right when she becomes aware that she loves him. Would she have a chance to tell him someday?

"NOTE : I thought about that story while hearing the song "Somewhere" by Within Temptation (*You'll find the lyrics of the song at the end of the fanfic). I even borrowed the title of this song for my story.

I would like to thank Olympe, who beta read the beginnings of the story for me, and Jeanne who has been a wonderful General Editor. I am very grateful to both for the useful advices they gave me about my usual grammar mistakes. Thank you, girls. You're great!"

SOMEWHERE... by Poussin



"What do you want, Luthor?"

Superman was all keyed up. He always hated being in the company of Lex Luthor, but after these last nightmarish weeks, he was particularly short of patience. Lex had chosen a bad moment to waste his time with pretence.

Everything in the manners and the falsely affable conversation of the billionaire was increasing Superman's disgust for the man in front of him by the minute. Luthor was speaking to him as if they were old friends.

He would never have come to see him if Lex had not specified that he wanted to discuss Lois with Superman in the message that he had left with Clark. All that kept him from going away without listening to what Luthor had to say was the certainty that, with the help of his friends Perry, Jimmy and Jack, he had finally managed to amass enough proof to put Luthor in jail for the rest of his life.

"A favor," Lex answered with the assurance of a man who was not used to seeing his desires denied. Superman couldn't believe his ears. Luthor was asking him for a favor? Luthor had an even more disturbed mind than he had imagined.

"From me? You must be joking."

"Hear me out," Lex replied, "my &&fiancee, Lois Lane, should be deliriously happy at the prospect of our forthcoming wedding. Unfortunately, she is not."

While he was explaining to the superhero why he had contacted him, Luthor continued to enjoy his wines. A glass in the hand, he moved on to another barrel placed farther in the cellar while speaking. Superman followed him automatically, while keeping his distance, and advanced up to the centre of the room.

"She misses her friends from the Daily Planet. Especially Clark Kent."

Superman hadn't expected this kind of discussion with Lex when he decided to answer his demand to come to see him. It relieved him profoundly to hear Luthor say that Lois wasn't happy at the prospect of marrying this monster.

Since she had rejected him when he admitted his feelings for her as Clark and accepted the billionaire's proposal instead, he didn't really know what to think about Lois any more. And during the investigation that he had been leading with Perry, Jimmy and Jack since the explosion of the Daily Planet with the goal to bring down Luthor, the fear had not left him. What if what they found didn't matter to Lois? What if she really loved Luthor? He did not want to &&envision such a thing, but the mere thought caused him sleepless nights.

But as Lex said, Lois was not happy, and in the current situation, it was very good news. He was really relieved to know it. Hearing that the reason for Lois' unhappiness was that she missed Clark really pleased him. But he was there as Superman, and it wasn't a good idea to show his nemesis how he really felt.

"So?" Superman asked, trying to look detached and annoyed.

"You and Clark are friends. He passed a message on to you and you came," Lex explained.

"I'm not following."

"I'm asking you to use your influence to convince Clark to attend our wedding," he clarified. "You're invited, too."

"You live in a fantasy world, Luthor. Neither Clark nor I will ever do anything to support your marriage to Lois," Superman answered angrily. Lex Luthor must really be crazy to have imagined, even for only one second, that it would be otherwise.

"I see," he said, looking disappointed. With a small resigned pout, he resumed, "Then, I suppose, you're of no further use to me."

He opened the faucet of the barrel to which he had gone earlier, and at once a cage fell from the ceiling, imprisoning Superman in the middle of the cellar. Superman wasn't able to hold back a chuckle of contempt in front of a gesture so stupid and useless.

"Bars won't... hold me, Luthor."

He felt stunned. He knew the symptoms; there was some kryptonite nearby. He did his best to hide it, hoping that Lex would believe that his plan wasn't working. With a determined face, he moved forward to the bars of the cage. Twisting them and getting out of there before all his powers abandoned him was his only chance to escape the hands of this madman and convince him that the kryptonite had no effect on him, contrary to the rumours which he had obviously heard.

"Oh? I think they will," Luthor exulted.

He seized a remote control put near the barrel and pressed the button. Immediately, the bars began to glow with a greenish light just as the superhero was squeezing them in his hands. The pain increased, and Superman screamed, unable to hold on. The bars burned his hands and he had to release them. His &&strength was leaving him very quickly and he collapsed on the ground.


Perry filled Jimmy's and Jack's plates, as well as his own, with the very spiced crayfis etouffee which he had prepared for supper while listening to both boys reporting to him what they had found during the day. They were beginning to have enough proof to nail Lex Luthor for the explosion of the Daily Planet &&and totally acquit Jack.

They didn't have anything else to do except to wait for Clark's return to find out if they could also prove that Lex was the infamous "Boss". And they all hoped so. They wanted to send him behind bars for a long time.

"What about you, Chief?"

Jimmy's voice brought Perry back to reality. At the moment, they couldn't prove anything but the payoffs to the board members that prompted their decision to approve the purchase of the Daily Planet by LexCorp, as well as the fact that Luthor had sponsored the explosion of the building of the newspaper. He had done so through his assistant Mrs. Cox who, in turn, had engaged John Black to execute the work and make Jack look guilty.

"Well," Perry answered, while sitting down at the table with both teenagers, "now, Lexel Investments did have additional insurance on the Daily Planet building."

"How much?" Jack asked.

"About twice what it would've cost to rebuild it. Lex Luthor cleared a cool seventy-five million on the deal."

"That's a motive," Jimmy exclaimed. "We nailed him!"

Yes, they could bring down Lex Luthor for insurance fraud, but Perry still hoped for Clark to return to the apartment with proof of all the other crimes they believed Luthor had committed. Al Capone had been arrested for tax evasion, but how much better it would have been to arrest him for all his other crimes? Perry hoped that history wouldn't repeat itself with Luthor, and that *he* would see himself publicly condemned for all of his crimes.

"So, what are we waiting for?" Jack asked with a bit of impatience. Naturally, he was even more eager to bring Luthor down than the others because it was he who was the billionaire's scapegoat.

"Clark," answered Perry. "Sit down, he is bound to arrive any minute."

Both young men took their seat, ready to taste their chief's cooking. After eating dinner, Perry intended to go see Franklin Stern, a businessman whose past problems with Luthor were no secret, to get him to rebuild the Daily Planet. Taking revenge on Luthor was good indeed, but rebuilding the newspaper would still be better.

While they were waiting for Clark, they had no reason to suspect that he wasn't about to return to his apartment.


Having spent the evening in the opera with Lois, Lex couldn't wait to return to the cellar to see the agony of his enemy. He was a little disappointed to notice that he was still conscious. He had hoped that Superman had already died. But the disappointment turned quickly into jubilation. The insufferable superhero would die very slowly. It was absolutely perfect. And he could take advantage that the superhero was still conscious to have a little more fun.

Lex knew, of course, that Lois was in love with Superman, and he suspected the Man of Steel of being in love with Lois as well, although he did not understand why Superman had not simply admitted his feelings to Lois to prevent their engagement. But whatever his reasons, Lex knew that Superman loved Lois and that it would make him suffer as much as the kryptonite to imagine the two of them together. He thus spent more than a quarter of an hour to exult in front of the cage by describing all the fantasies &&that he hoped to realize with Lois as soon as their marriage would be pronounced the following morning.

To his great disappointment, the Man of Steel did not react in any way, except for the soft groans of pain that escaped from his lips from time to time while waves of pain were rolling over him, leaving him weak and weaker. Lex decided then to change tactics. If he couldn't hurt Superman in his love for Lois, he could hurt him by using his desire to keep her safe against him.

"I love Lois, but she's much too independent, don't you think? Well, leave that to me."

This time, Luthor got what he waited for. Superman raised his head and looked at him with unmasked hatred, and Luthor savored his triumph. It was he who had taught the fallen hero the meaning of hatred and the urge for murder. But it was too late for the super fool. He was going to die in atrocious sufferings. Once again, Lex Luthor had won! He was the better of them!

"Clark Kent knows where I am," Superman said with difficulty, as if using his voice had become too big an effort for him.

"That's right. I'll have to kill him, too. That reminds me. Which..."

"Luthor," Superman interrupted him.

"Strange to hear you say my name and know it's probably for the last time."

After a short silence, Lex went away from where he had been to scoff at his enemy, closed the door of the cage behind him and put the keys in his pocket.

"I'll be back later... when it's all over, and we'll have a little..."

He broke off to look dreamily at an axe hanging on the wall of the cellar.

"...heart to heart," he finished. "Have a nice death!"

Whistling joyfully, Lex went out of the cellar and got ready to go to bed. He had had an excellent day. And the next promised to be even better. It was the day he would marry Lois Lane, and watch Superman die. Finally.

In the corridors leading to his private apartments, Lex crossed the path of his personal assistant.

"Ah. Mrs. Cox! Just the person I needed. I have just had a small conversation with our guest in the cellar."

"Is everything okay, Lex?" She asked.

"Yes! Everything is perfect! I believe that he is going to suffer much longer && than we had dared to hope!" Luthor exulted. His assistant smiled, apparently as delighted as he was. "But he raised an interesting issue during our conversation. We also need to eliminate Kent."

"Good, Lex. Do you have a precise idea how he should die, or do you prefer that I take charge of the details?" she asked in her most professional tone.

"We'll discuss it tomorrow, after the wedding, Mrs. Cox. I plan to fully enjoy the death of our friend in blue first before getting rid of *his* friend."


Lex Luthor was ready for his wedding. While waiting for the ceremony to begin, he had come down again to the cellar to scoff at Superman one last time before marrying Lois Lane. Lex planned to kill him just after the ceremony. A wedding present to himself, sort of. And the spectacle that welcomed him when he came down the stairs really pleased him.

Superman was lying on the ground, motionless, unconscious, helpless. Luthor entered the cage and woke Superman with a kick in the ribs. Superman opened his eyes, screaming, and stayed on the ground. He was doubled over in pain and moaned slowly, once again at the edge of consciousness. Lex provoked him a little, but he doubted that any of his words penetrated into the mind of this not-so-Superman. So, he contented himself with watching his enemy suffer, occasionally kicking him to hear him scream again.

Yes, this was probably one of the most beautiful days in the life of Lex Luthor, and he was well aware of it. He wanted to commit every single moment to his memory. Some magnificent recollections he was building up! And the day had hardly begun. In a few minutes, the wedding ceremony would start, and then he could kill Superman. Then he would go to the reception, and he would be the center of attention, and all his assembled guests would come to share in his happiness. And he could finish the day by planning Clark Kent's death and finally, Lois Lane would belong to him and only to him before sunset. If only every day could be like this one!

Smiling, he closed the cage on the superhero who relapsed into unconsciousness, put the key back into his pocket and climbed the stairs. It was time for him to marry Lois Lane.

He was still smiling when he entered the chapel where hundreds of guests, most of them very important people, were already sitting, waiting for the wedding to begin. He had entered by a small lateral door and directly went to take his place in front of the altar.

By a&& nod of the head, he indicated that the ceremony would start. The pianist began playing the wedding march, whereas two servants positioned at the foot of the central path opened the big main doors of the room to reveal Lois, luxuriously dressed in a long wedding gown made of satin and lace, embroidered with pearls to heighten both its beauty and its worth. His smile grew even broader, his upper lip curling upward. Just a few more moments, and Lois would belong to him.

Finally, he had won.


When Lois heard the first chords of the wedding march, she knew that the moment she dreaded had come and got ready to face the future that she had chosen. It didn't matter much what her mother had just said to her; it was too late for her to listen and follow her heart. She had agreed to marry Lex Luthor; she could not leave him now, in front of all his associates and friends, in front of all these people. She could not humiliate him like that in public. It was too late. She had to face the consequences of her actions, in spite of her doubts concerning this union.

She was not in love with Lex, never had been, and although she had maintained the hope when she had accepted his proposal, that it could change in the future, she also knew that it would never happen. She would never love her husband. She would never feel anything more than friendship for him.

Then why had she said yes? She did not know it any more. Before, there was another man for whom she felt only friendship, but she had rejected him. And she did not remember why. Why had she chosen Lex rather than him? She regretted it now.

She had barely seen him these last weeks, since she had rejected him when he had told her that he loved her. And the two only times when she had seen him since then, they had quarreled and had exchanged some very hurtful words. The day after his declaration of love, they had almost spoiled Perry's retirement party with their argument.

After that, weeks had passed by without her having heard anything from him, and she had missed him. She never expected that she could miss her partner so much when he wasn't there. She needed to know that he was fine. She had phoned him, but he remained so very distant...

She thought that, having heard his voice, she would feel better, but she had missed him even more than before. She wanted to see him again. And some days later, she had decided to go to him. She had never arrived at his apartment. On the way, she had caught sight of him in the street, hanging up a telephone in a public cabin, and then walking down the street, going home. She had stopped the car to speak to him, but they had quarreled again.

He had refused to come to attend her wedding and had left without another thought. That had been just the previous day, early in the afternoon. And since then, she couldn't get him out of her mind any more. Having seen him again, even just for a few minutes, had made her aware of the empty space she had in her life ever since he had gone out of it.

She had made a mistake when she had said to him that she loved him only as a friend some weeks earlier. She had deceived herself. She felt much more that that for him. She was not sure what she felt exactly, but it was stronger than the feeling of friendship. It was her fiance for whom she felt only friendship. Could she be in love with Clark? The idea would have seemed ridiculous to her, even just twenty-four hours earlier. She would have answered that she loved Superman. But she had to admit now that during these last weeks, she had seen Superman even less often than Clark, and she had not really missed him. Not like she had missed Clark.

But what she felt for her former partner was of little importance, and it was better not to wonder about her feelings any more, no reason to try to see more clearly there. She had pushed him away and had become engaged with Luthor. She would spend her life with Lex. She had to try harder to forget Clark.

As soon as she heard the first chords of the wedding march, she chased Clark out of her mind and got ready to face the future she had chosen for herself. Less than one second later, the doors opened, and she was able to see Lex smiling at her. For one tiny moment, she was disappointed that the man near the altar was Lex, but she stopped at once and smiled back at him before beginning to walk slowly towards him.

But in spite of all her best efforts, she was not capable of thinking of anyone but Clark: His gentle smile and the glance full of worship he had graced her with one evening when they worked late during their first investigation together; the desire that she had been able to see on his face when she sat on his desk, showing her leg in front of him while she was under the influence of a powerful aphrodisiac; the haunted expression on his face when he had bent towards her to give her a farewell kiss that night, back when he had decided to resign and to leave Metropolis.

"Goodbye, Lois."

This recollection was so vivid in her mind that she still heard the words that he had pronounced that night, as if he had just said them to her. And all her being rebelled against this goodbye. She did not want him to leave. No! She needed him in her life! She loved him.

That realization brutally reminded her of her current situation. She had already gone all the way up to the altar, where she had joined Lex to get married. She had realized her feelings for Clark too late. The wedding ceremony had already begun.

She needed to see him, so she turned her head around towards the guests, but he was not there. None of her friends were there. Neither was her family. Only her mother had made it. She felt even more depressed. She really needed his presence. Her mother smiled to her sadly to encourage her to do what she had to do, and Lois thought again of the discussion that they had had while she got ready for the ceremony.

She had put on her dress, and she repeated in front of the mirror her name as Lex's wife in every possible combination, Lois Lane Luthor, Lois Luthor, Mrs. Lex Luthor, but she had never managed to make the name Luthor sound right. The name Kent sounded so much more natural. She had started crying, and her mother had said to her that if she had the slightest doubt, she did not have to marry Lex and that what mattered most was to follow her heart.

She turned again to the altar as Lex answered, "I do." The archbishop then turned his attention to her.

"And do you, Lois, take this man to be your wedded husband from this day forward, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do you part?"


She knew what she had to answer, what everybody awaited as an answer, what she had committed herself to answer by accepting Lex's proposal, but the words did not want to come out of her mouth. She tried again.


Her voice refused once more to obey her, and she once again heard in her head the voice of the archbishop. "Do you take this man to be your wedded husband, to love and cherish, till death do you part?" No, she couldn't promise that. Not to Lex at least. She just couldn't.

"Lois?" Lex asked, worried by her long silence.

"I... can't."

There. It was said. She had refused to marry him. She had finally chosen whom she really wanted. A little late, but hopefully not too late. The wedding would not take place. She could not marry Lex. She was not capable of doing this.

She turned to him, sorry to inflict that pain on him, and saw the shock on his face. But he had no time to react. The doors of the room had just been thrown wide open to allow Perry and Henderson to enter, followed by Jack, Jimmy and a whole brigade of policemen.

"Stop the wedding! Lois, you can't marry this man!" Perry shouted from the room entrance.

"What is the meaning of this?!" Lex furiously asked the people who went to him and Lois at the end of the path.

"The meaning, Luthor, is that you're through. We have all the evidence against you we need," Perry answered in an icy tone.

"But what the hell is he talking about?" Lois wondered.

"Evidence? Evidence of what?" she asked, perplexed. But nobody paid her the slightest attention. Everybody looked at Luthor. Henderson showed him a paper that he had in hand while he began speaking to him.

"I have a warrant here charging you with arson and other crimes too numerous to mention."

"You must be out of your minds. All of you," Luthor retorted but the inspector continued without taking notice of the interruption. Lois didn't understand anything at all. Her world had just collapsed.

"You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney..."

Lex felt the fury invading him while he was listening to the policeman reading him his rights, but he could not allow such an insult pass.

"Will you stop that! I can afford a thousand attorneys! I'll have your head... badge for this. Someone get the Governor on the phone!! Wait, make it the President!!!"

At this precise moment, he saw two policemen taking away his now handcuffed assistant, Mrs. Cox, and the reality of the situation caught up with him. The time of his little games was over. When Henderson tried to seize him, he got free by an abrupt gesture and struck down the policeman. He began running towards the lateral door he had used earlier to enter the room, striking down the policemen who were in his way. Henderson got up and began pursuing him, followed by all the policemen who accompanied him.

The shock dissipated little by little, and Lois began sobbing. How had she got herself into such a mess? She needed Clark, but in front of her, there were only Perry, Jimmy and Jack. Clark had not come. She cried even harder and her mother got up from her seat and ran towards her to comfort her.

"Oh, honey! I know that you must be terribly disappointed... "

"Why?" Lois asked bitterly. "Finally, my friends came to my wedding..."

All except one. She had really messed everything up.


Lex ran down the stairs leading to the cellar. He had the policemen following him. He did not have any time to waste. But even if it meant being taken, he wanted to make sure Superman was dead. He tore the axe off the wall without stopping and rushed to the cage in which the superhero was still lying on the ground, unconscious. He looked for the keys in his pocket but he could not find them. He must have let them fall in his flight or when he fought against the policemen who tried to block his way.

Furious that fate had turned against him and prevented him from killing Superman, he violently drove the axe into the closest barrel. He heard the policemen who got closer to the door of the cellar. He couldn't afford to waste any more time. He ran towards another exit that would allow him to get back to his office, to the last floor of the tower, and from there, he'd take his private elevator, which was his last chance to reach the parking area, and leave the building without being caught.

He ran as fast as he was able to, the policemen on his heels, but when he finally reached his office, he saw Henderson enter by the other door. He was trapped. He could not get to his private elevator any more. He rushed onto the balcony, but the policemen followed him there. Bereft of all hope to be able to lose them, he climbed onto the edge of the terrace.


"I've always been such a good judge of character!" Lois complained, while Perry, Jimmy and Jack escorted her outside the LexTower where she had almost married Lex Luthor.

She was still wearing her wedding gown, and her tears were still pouring freely. She had never felt so sick in her entire life. She had been the best investigative reporter of the city, and she had been blinded by the beautiful words of Luthor like a newbie. She had almost married an international criminal without any morality, and she did not even love him. Fortunately, she had realized her feelings for her former partner just in time and had stopped the wedding in front of the altar even before the police arrival to arrest him.

"Lois, don't blame yourself. He fooled us all," her former editor in chief, whom she considered a surrogate father, tried to comfort her.

"Not me," Jack objected.

"I never trusted him," Jimmy added.

Clark neither, Lois added mentally, remembering all the times when he had tried to warn her about Lex. She had never listened to him. Oh Clark! She so needed to see him.

"Where's Clark?" she asked. Perry, Jimmy and Jack stopped then and exchanged worried looks. Lois felt fear invading her. Why was he not here with the others? What had happened to him? Where was he?

"Where is Clark?" she insisted. She needed an answer. It was Perry who gave her one.

"We don't know. He... Nobody has seen him ever since he went out yesterday. We have no idea..."


Clark was missing.

Lois felt the cold invading her at the thought that maybe she would never see him again. She had just understood that she loved him, but it was too late. He had disappeared. He was not there any more. And it was possible that he would never return. She would never see him again. She would never have the occasion to ask him to forgive her and to say to him that she loved him. And the last words that they would have exchanged would have been words spoken in anger.

The movements and the screams of the crowd around her brought her back to reality. Everyone looked towards the sky, and automatically she raised her eyes. Lex was standing on the wall of the balcony of his office, on the last floor of the highest tower of Metropolis, his arms flailing furiously. And suddenly, he jumped.

Everything appeared to happen in slow motion. She saw him falling as in slow motion. And at the same time, everything took place so fast. It was as if less than one second had passed by before he crashed onto the ground, only a few feet away from her.

In shock, she collapsed on the ground. Sitting on the pavement, she emptied her stomach in the gutter. What a nightmarish day! And it wasn't even noon.

Perry, Jimmy and Jack squatted beside her to support her. But it was Clark whom she needed. It was to Clark that she turned when things got rough. But he was not there. Perry had said that they had no idea where he could be, that nobody had seen him since the day before, but somebody had to know. Clark had to be somewhere.

Determinedly turning her face away from the vision of the broken body of her ex-fiance, Lois clung to the hope that it was only one of his usual temporary disappearances. He was going to return, of course. He wasn't the kind of guy to abandon her. He simply had to return.

"Where is Clark?" she asked once more.

Perry sighed in frustration. He wished he could give her another answer, but he didn't have one.

"We don't know, Lois. He did not return to his apartment yesterday evening. We have been waiting for him all this time, but he hasn't come back."

"Yes, but then we saw that he had left notes on his desk concerning Luthor, the proof and everything. Thus he must have returned to the apartment before the chief arrived. That's all we know for sure," Jimmy explained.

"He had to go out again, apparently," Jack added. "He had a message from Luthor on his answering machine, but the light did not flash. That means that he had listened to it."

"Lex wanted Clark to contact Superman. He had something to tell him about you," Perry followed on. "We don't know anything more about it."

Lois felt panic-stricken and reassured at the same time. Clark had disappeared because of Lex's call, but Clark had probably gone out again to fetch Superman. What could have happened to him with Superman around?

"And have you called Superman to ask him if he knew where Clark is?" Lois asked confidently. Superman probably knew, and as soon as they talked to him, he would reassure them that Clark was all right.

But the way they looked at her, with pity in their eyes, disturbed her profoundly. They had more bad news for her; she knew it from their hesitance to answer her.

"Superman doesn't answer when we call him," Jimmy explained. "No one has seen him since yesterday, either."

"Yep, and last night, a mudslide in Chile buried hundreds of people. And Superman did not go to help with the emergency. It's not as if he wasn't answering our calls because he was occupied elsewhere. It's as if he, too, was missing," Jack continued.

Lois feared for the worst. It wasn't rare that nobody knew where the Man of Steel was. It wasn't rare that he wasn't spotted for a whole day. But those were days when nothing was happening. *Not* days when a disaster occurred in Chile, and when we called for his help here in Metropolis. That was when Lois realized that Superman had not shown up to save Lex, either. And she knew that that had absolutely nothing to do with Luthor's criminal past. Superman did not work like that. If he had been able to, he would have saved Lex, as he would have saved those people in Chile. He had not made it because...

Because Superman was missing, too.

It was a strange thought. He was invulnerable, so what could have happened to him? It wasn't possible. Nothing could happen to him; he was Superman! He had not disappeared. He was simply somewhere else. Somewhere where nobody thought of looking for him. Like Clark. He had to be somewhere, just... somewhere else.

In fact, thought Lois with a flutter of hope, maybe they even were somewhere together. That had to be it! It seemed so very logical to her. Clark had heard Lex's message about speaking to Superman. He had gone out again to contact the superhero, and at the same time probably mentioned to him what they had discovered regarding the criminal activities of Luthor. And they were working on the case together. Soon, they would return to Metropolis, and they would be surprised to learn that Lex had died.

There was no need to worry anymore. They were fine. They were together. And Superman would never let anything happen to Clark. He'd protect him. Thus no reason to worry. She just needed to wait for their return, and then she could say to Clark that she loved him. And she could apologize for all the mean things she had said to him.

The sound of an ambulance, which arrived and parked in front of the building, broke the course of Lois' thoughts. She expected that the men who came out of the ambulance would take Lex's body to the morgue. They couldn't leave him like that on the pavement. But the paramedics left the vehicle, very quickly carrying a stretcher inside the tower. Somebody else had been hurt. Lex had probably hurt one of the policemen pursuing him when he tried to run away.

Lois began to tell her friends her theory, that Superman and Clark were probably together and safe. That they had to be fine.

But the paramedics were returning from the building already, accompanied by Henderson and numerous policemen. Lying unconsciously on the stretcher was Superman. The world slowed down again around Lois while the ambulance drove off, taking away the unconscious body of the superhero. Superman was not well. He was not protecting Clark. He was unconscious. And Clark was still reported missing since yesterday.

It was too much for Lois. She had had too many shocks that morning. She fainted.


When she woke up, she was sitting in the back of a police car parked in front of LexTower. The door of the car next to her was open. And Perry, Jimmy and Jack were still there, near her. Henderson was with them. She could see that Lex's body had been removed, and a good part of the crowd had scattered.

Henderson gave her a cup with some water and she drank. Her mind cleared up, and she felt desperately tired. Clark had disappeared just when she had realized that she loved him. She had always lost all those that she had loved. Why had she thought that it would be different this time?

"You better, Lane?" the inspector Henderson asked with concern.

"Yes, thank you."

"Good. It's okay if I ask you some questions?" He started again on a more professional tone.

She would have liked to say no. She did not feel well enough to answer an interrogation right then, but she also knew that she had to do it. Wasting time would only aggravate the situation. They couldn't let the leads get cold if they wanted to find Clark, so she agreed with a nod.

"So, tell me. What do you know about the illegal activities of your fiance?"

Lois shot him a look. Was he accusing her of being Lex's accomplice?

"Absolutely nothing, Inspector," she answered with sourness. She had difficulty hiding her anger at this very offensive question.

"Don't get all defensive, Lane. I accuse you of nothing. I know that if you had suspected something, you would have tried to expose him in an article, and then you would have come to talk to me about it. But I have to ask. It's my job," the policeman tried to calm her. "But I believe all the same that it is possible that you saw or heard things without knowing what it was all about, and that that could help us."

Lois accepted his excuses and searched her memory for whatever it was that might indicate some of Lex's criminal activities, but to which she had paid no attention at the moment.

"Err... No, I never saw or heard anything strange. He never discussed work with me or in front of me. It was rare, at least, and nothing suspect, that is for sure. Oh... yes. There has indeed been something. Maybe," she added thoughtfully after a memory returned to her. "Last week, while we were preparing the plans for our future apartment, his assistant came to interrupt us to review his timetable with him. She spoke about tests for...err... about the series K, I believe. Or something like that. Then Lex went out to take a phone call, and when I asked this woman what the series K was, she said to me that it was confidential, and that Lex did not tell me everything. I have no idea what this series K could be. It may be a part of his legal business. Or maybe not. I don't know."

"All right. Nothing else?"

"No, as I told you. He never talked business in front of me. And when I tried to ask him, he always answered me that he didn't want to annoy me with such boring things, and he changed the subject. Dear God! I can't believe I was that stupid!"

"He fooled a lot of people. You shouldn't feel guilty. But try to remember, please. Nothing else? You sure?" Henderson insisted.

"He has a bunker under Metropolis. He showed it to me when Nightfall threatened to collide with Earth. It was very secure and well enough maintained. Maybe he was just being careful in case he would need it, or maybe he used it regularly, I don't know, to hide certain things that he didn't want to see revealed in broad daylight," Lois added. But when the inspector reopened his mouth to ask another question, Lois interrupted him. "But Lex is dead now. Investigating him can wait! Clark is missing. You have to find him; it's more urgent!"

"Clark?" Henderson asked, surprised.

"That's right, Inspector Henderson," Perry interrupted. "He didn't come back yesterday evening. He err... he accommodated us, all three of us. We have been waiting for him all night long, but he never returned."

"I believed that it was Kent who had found the evidence that you brought me this morning, the proof that Luthor was the Boss?" Henderson asked.

"Yes, it's true. He is the one who started our investigation, and he's the one who found the evidence we brought you this morning. Apparently, he discovered all this yesterday. We waited for him, but when he did not return, we tried to find out where he could be, and we looked in his desk, where we found all his notes, which we handed to you. Thus, he must have returned and left again. Then we listened to the answering machine. He had a message from Luthor who wanted Clark to contact Superman for him. And this is all I know," the former editor in chief explained.

"Hm," Henderson grunted. He frowned, being lost in his reflections. "So, Luthor used Clark to lure Superman into his trap, and then Clark disappeared," the policeman recapitulated after a moment of silence.

"What trap, Henderson? What did Lex do to Superman?" Lois asked. In the tumult of all her feelings, she had totally forgotten that she had seen an ambulance taking away an unconscious Superman. She was terribly worried. What had Lex done to him?

"We don't know exactly. When Luthor tried to run away, we split up into several groups to search the whole building and cut off any possible route of escape. He went directly to the cellar, and the group of policemen who had followed him there had found Superman, unconscious, a prisoner in a cage. Apparently, Luthor had come down in order to kill him with an axe, but we think that he hadn't had the time to do it because we were pursuing him. We have no idea what he had done to Superman before that to put him into this state," Henderson explained.

"Wow!" Jimmy exclaimed. "I, I thought he was invulnerable. How did Luthor manage to discover a way to hurt him?"

"There are some rumors in the street," Jack added. "I heard a lot of them, before. One says that there is a pebble that can kill Superman. An allergy, or something like that. A stone from his planet. Maybe it's not only rumors."

"I have already heard that. Some months ago, a former soldier who was persuaded that Superman was a threat thought he could kill him with a piece of a meteorite. Clark called that Kryptonite. But the guy was completely crazy, and we have never found the slightest proof that that rock existed somewhere else that in his imagination," Lois added.

"You've never seen it?"

"No. Apparently, a piece had been sent to a laboratory for analysis, but the piece has disappeared. The guy from the lab swore that he had seen it, a green rock, fluorescent, but he wasn't able to prove it to us," she answered.

"We found Superman in a green cage, a fluorescent one," Henderson announced.

They all looked at each other silently, understanding what it meant. The most powerful man of the world could really be killed by a simple rock.

"Well, now at least, we know what Luthor has done to Superman. But that doesn't help us to find Clark," declared the detective before turning to Lois to ask her, "How does Clark usually contact Superman? Where does he go?"

"I have absolutely no idea. Clark and Superman are even more careful than Lex to keep their secrets. They never said anything. In fact, I've never even been sure that Clark knew how to contact him. It was just an impression that I had, sometimes, as if they talked to each other a lot, and were much closer than anybody imagined them to be. It was just a little too easy for Clark to get Superman to give us exclusives, you know. And sometimes, when I spoke with Superman, he seemed to know things I told Clark. Then I wondered, but I wasn't sure. A few weeks ago, late in the afternoon, I asked Clark to tell Superman that I would like to talk to him if he saw him, and Superman came to my apartment in the evening," Lois remembered with shame. How could she have done such a thing to Clark? Reject him, and then ask him to contact another man so that she could declare her undying love for him? She had really treated him awfully, but it wasn't the moment to feel sorry for what she'd done. "After that, I was sure that Clark really had a way to contact him, but I don't know how," she concluded.

"Yes, Clark knows how to keep his secrets, that's for sure," Jimmy added. "Every day, he disappeared, sometimes some minutes, sometimes some hours, and no one ever knew where he was."

"Thus, Clark is in the habit of disappearing without telling anyone?" Henderson asked.

"Yes, but not like that, Inspector," Jack explained. "Usually, he never disappears for such a long time. And he wouldn't have left like that, right after having managed to find everything he needed to nail Luthor. Clark hated him! He wanted to nail him for a long time. He was the one who launched our investigation. He absolutely wanted to see him in jail and to prevent the marriage! He wouldn't have left without explanation after he achieved his goal! To get Luthor arrested before the wedding was everything that has mattered for him in weeks!"

Lois was profoundly touched by Jack's testimony. Even when they weren't on good terms, Clark had continued to think of her. Everything he did to stop Lex was done only for her. Maybe she hadn't thrown away her last chance to be with him after all, if they ever found him.

"My God," she prayed silently, "help us find him!"


Lois was lying on her bed, wearing a bathrobe. Having answered all of Henderson's questions about Luthor, Superman and Clark Kent, Perry had taken her to her apartment. Fortunately, she had not returned the keys to her apartment yet, as Lex had wanted her to do as the date of their wedding approached, or she wouldn't have anywhere to go any more.

Since Perry had retired, he had moved to Florida and, thus, didn't possess a house in Metropolis. He lived at Clark's for the moment. She wouldn't have been able to ask Jimmy, either, since he had lost his apartment when the Daily Planet had exploded, leaving him without a salary to pay the rent. He, too, had found refuge at Clark's. And Jack had been accommodated by a homeless shelter until he had been accused of having bombed the newspaper's building. Then, he had been sent to a center for young delinquents to await his trial, and when he had escaped from it, Clark had also taken him in.

As for Clark... He had disappeared. How would she have been able to ask him to accommodate her? And she didn't even know if she would have been welcome, anyway, after all these weeks of silence, a silence they only broke to quarrel.

Naturally, deep inside, she knew that he wouldn't have let her down, but her pessimistic side made her doubt it. In their team, Clark had always been the optimist; it was he who always saw the good in everyone. That he hadn't been able to see any good at all in Lex should have told her something.

So, after all, she had been lucky to keep her apartment, at least. Otherwise, the situation would have been even more complicated.

When Perry, Jimmy and Jack took her back home, she insisted on remaining alone. They had wanted to stay with her. They thought that she shouldn't remain alone after all the shocks she had undergone during the morning, but she couldn't bear their company. She needed to be on her own to digest all that had happened.

Within the last twenty-four hours, she had seen Clark again and had quarreled with him, and then she had realized that she loved him, but she had persisted in marrying Lex, whom she believed to be a friend and a good man. She had finally said no in front of the altar, to learn almost right then that her fiance was one of the worst criminals of the planet, and finally, she had seen him commit suicide. He had struck the ground hardly some feet away from her by jumping from the biggest tower of Metropolis. That happened less than one minute after she had learned that Clark, the man that she really loved was missing. And before having the time to understand everything that had just happened, Superman had been taken away in an ambulance in a coma.

She needed to be alone to recover. She wouldn't be able to do it with her friends there looking at her with worry. It would have been even more stressful. They had eventually agreed to go away, and she had quickly got rid of the wedding gown she was still wearing, and had taken a very long and warm shower to relax. That hadn't worked. And since then, she had been lying on her bed without moving, still wearing her bathrobe, and kept rehearsing the events of the day in her mind.

The interrogation of Henderson had been very disturbing, too. He had asked her to tell him about all the details that she could remember, about every evening she had spent with Lex during the time they were dating. He was obviously hoping for more evidence of Luthor's countless crimes.

Then he had questioned her about Superman. About everything she knew about him. Everything he had never said to her, either in an interview or in private. And about everything she had ever seen him doing. She and Clark were the two persons in the world who knew the superhero best. So, because Clark had disappeared, the police considered her as the person closest to him and counted on her to inform them.

Regrettably, the more Henderson questioned her about Superman, the more she realized that she knew practically nothing about him. She didn't have the slightest idea of what he did in his his spare time, when he was not saving somebody, nor of where he went... Nothing. She knew nothing about Superman that could be used by the police. The only personal thing she knew about the superhero was that he possessed a globe that could produce the hologram of an old man dressed in white, bearing the famous S on his chest.

This globe had been in Clark's custody until Jack had broken into his apartment, then it had been sold on the black market. Superman had found it some days later, but categorically refused to make any comment on it. All he ever said was that it was a personal object that had been stolen from him, and that he was delighted to have it back.

Henderson had found this information very interesting. If they could find this globe, they could probably learn much more about Superman. Maybe they could even find somebody who knew something about how a Kryptonian body worked, what effects kryptonite had on Superman and how to cure him. The man in white might know all this. And they desperately needed that sort of information because Superman was in a coma, and the doctors had no idea how to treat him.

To most of the questions that Henderson had asked her about Superman, Lois had answered that she did not know. And all her instincts shouted to her that if Clark had been asked the same question, he would have known the answer. She had been suspecting for a long time that Clark knew more about the superhero than even she, but before this interrogation, she had never really realized the full extent of what she didn't know about him, and Clark probably knew all of it because she could feel, deep within her heart, that he knew the answers.

Henderson had then questioned her about Clark. About everything she knew of his life, in a general way, and about everything he had done these last few weeks since the explosion of the Daily Planet. Unfortunately, she had been unable to tell him much. Perry, Jimmy and Jack had filled in the blanks on their and Clark's investigation of Luthor.

What disturbed Lois more than anything else was all the questions about Clark's life in general which she had been unable to answer. If someone had asked her before if she knew her partner well, she would have said 'yes' without hesitation. She would not even have thought about it. She knew him very well.

But having undergone a deep interrogation about him, she knew that it was wrong. She knew little about him. There were numerous mysteries in his life, which she had never even suspected. He kept far too many secrets, and he kept them well. She had not even suspected their presence. In fact, there was a whole piece of his life that was totally unknown to her.

Jimmy and Jack had raised a point. Clark used to disappear all the time, at the least convenient moments, for very variable durations, and had never really had any satisfactory excuse. She had no idea with whom he met regularly except people from the Planet, or if he had taken part in extra-professional activities. What did he do when he was not with her? She had no idea.

He had traveled a lot, and nevertheless she knew almost nothing about the places he had lived, about the people he had met. Did he stay in touch with them? About how many languages did he speak? Some, she knew, but how many and which ones? That, she didn't know.

During their investigations, he had often shown that he knew things of which she was totally ignorant, but which turned out to be true in the end. Sometimes he said that it was by instinct or luck, other times that he had a snitch who had said this or that to him, but it occurred very often, and she didn't know anything about these snitches, or how he got his information.

It had been the same with Lex. For months, Clark had been telling her to be careful with Lex, that he was not what he seemed to be, but Clark always refused to be more precise. And nevertheless, he knew things he wasn't supposed to. Lois didn't have the slightest doubt about that any more.

And every time he had an "intuition" that helped them arrest the criminals whom they had investigated, she had accepted his explanations without even a hint of disbelief: intuition, luck, an unknown snitch... There were a lot of things Clark must have kept hidden from her, and she never realized it.

Just like Lex. He had spent months lying to her, and she had swallowed everything. She thought she was a hard-to-fool investigative reporter, but she had to admit that she was totally gullible. That was hard!

But she knew that she should not compare Clark to Lex. Lex lied because he was a criminal. And she knew that, whatever it was that Clark was hiding, he had to have a good reason to do it. The difference between him and Lex, was that Lex also lied about his real personality, his very character, and she refused to believe that of Clark. He was a good man; she felt it.


The noise of somebody knocking on her door woke her up. She had fallen asleep in her bathrobe the previous day. She had not even eaten a thing. Her stomach had not allowed her to. But as soon as she opened her eyes, she realized that she was starving.

Slowly, she got up and went to the door. She looked through the peephole, then opened the door. It was Henderson. "Do you have more questions for me, Inspector?"

"Hello to you too, Lane. Slept well?"


She moved to allow him to enter. He took seat on the sofa, and Lois sat down across from him.

"I came because I thought that you would like to know what our investigation has led to," Henderson said. Lois looked at him at once with great interest and a hardly disguised impatience. Had they finally found Clark? Was he well?

"Yesterday, I spent most of the afternoon interrogating Luthor's personal assistant, Cox. She told us everything about his criminal activities, and believe me, you don't want to know the details. His activities reached far beyond Metropolis. He committed crimes in about all the countries of the World, and the dimension of his criminal activities is much larger than we expected, even after the evidence we got from your friends. He really was into everything."

"Awesome, Henderson," Lois cut him with impatience, "but what did she say about Clark? What did Luthor do to him? Where is he? What happened to him?"

"I'm sorry. She doesn't have the slightest idea," the policeman answered. "Luthor told her the day before yesterday, in the evening, that he intended to have him eliminated, but he also said that he would work out the details *after* the ceremony, that he wanted to see Superman die before getting rid of Kent. She had no idea if he had taken measures in his own hands or not. As she said, it would be rather unusual. He entrusts his missions to her, to Nigel St. John or to Asabi, or sometimes but rarely to other employees. But apparently, once he had entrusted an affair to one of them, he didn't put one of the others on it. To prevent them from knowing too much about the extent of his little schemes, and in order to always have a plan B when something failed. So she was very surprised that he should have asked someone else to let Kent disappear since he already had talked to her about it."

"Yes, but he did it!" Lois retorted. "So, have you interrogated St. John and Asabi? What did they say?"

"Unfortunately, Lois, neither of them has been arrested. They succeeded in disappearing in the confusion. We are looking for them, but at the moment, we have no lead. I am sorry."

Lois was living a nightmare. Clark had disappeared before she could tell him that she loved him, before she could ask him for forgiveness for all that she had done and said to hurt him. She had been so stupid. When had her life become so miserable?

"So, what you're saying, Henderson, is that the only persons who know where Clark is and what happened to him are Lex, who died, St. John or Asabi, who are both untraceable, and maybe, with any luck, Superman, who is in a coma?" She recapitulated.

"Afraid so."

Lois felt as if she was about to break down. She couldn't bear it any more. At least, she wasn't hungry any more. It wouldn't be this morning either that she'd be able to swallow anything.

In Henderson's expression, she could see that he believed less and less in the possibility of discovering what had happened to Clark, unless luck began to turn their way. Things weren't going well.

Life could be ironic sometimes. All the people whom she loved had left her. Her father as well as all her former boyfriends. And then, when she discovered that she loved a man whom she knew without a doubt would never abandon her, he vanishes without leaving a trace. And hearing from Jack that Clark's main motivation to investigate Luthor was to prevent her impending marriage proved to her that, even if their relationship was at its worst, he'd never let her down. Not that she needed that proof any more.

In face of the irony of the situation, Lois burst out laughing. It was the hysteric and joyless laughter of somebody who was about to lose it completely, and Henderson didn't really know what to say to help her overcome the shocks that had befallen her during the last twenty-four hours.


Two weeks had passed by and still no news of Clark. Lois practically hadn't left her apartment during the whole time, except to run some errands when it was strictly necessary. But it hadn't been very often; she had nearly stopped eating altogether. Some days, she didn't eat at all, and the few meals she took were pretty frugal.

She had spent the whole time sitting or lying on her bed, trying to remember something, anything from the last year that could give them an indication, a lead, to find Clark. But she had come up with nothing but a headache.

All the recollections she kept rehearsing were far from helping her to find him. Their only purpose was to remind her that she had spent a whole year close to a wonderful man, without ever noticing him. She had always been ignoring him, in favor of Superman and Lex. She had never paid him a lot of attention. Neither had he been the one she dreamt of in nights she spent alone at home.

Why did she have to lose him in order to realize how much she cared for him. She so regretted not having noticed how much she loved him when he had still been there.

Instead, she had waited too long to face her true feelings, and now it was possible that she would never have the chance to tell him. Clark had disappeared without leaving any tracks to follow. She had no idea what might have happened to him. And she was becoming increasingly desperate. She missed him so much. She needed him, but he was not there any more, and it was all her fault. If she had listened to what he had to say about Lex, she would never have agreed to marry him, he would never have taken those horrible risks trying to prove Lex's guilt before the ceremony, and Lex would never have made him disappear. It was completely her fault that he was missing.

And even if no proof had yet been found allowing the police to connect Lex to Clark's disappearance, except for the message which had been left on her partner's answering machine the evening he was last seen, Lois did not believe in coincidences. That could only be Lex. She now knew that Clark had had an enormous secret in his life, that there had been a whole part of him he had been hiding jealously, and in theory, it was well possible that it was that thing that caused him trouble. It was possible that he had disappeared because of something bound to his secret.

But Lois did not believe it. The whole situation was too suspicious. Lex had left this message on Clark's answering machine the same afternoon that Clark had finally found the proof against him. And Clark had disappeared a few hours later, before being able to inform the police of his discoveries. It was just by luck that he had left his notes on all that he knew on his desk, before disappearing forever. That had at least allowed Perry, Jimmy and Jack to find them and inform the police. And Lex had committed suicide.

The following day, Perry had come to see her to announce to her that Stern had finally bought the Daily Planet and that the reconstruction had already begun. Waiting for it to be done, Perry had started to contact all his former employees, asking them to return. Some had accepted, others had declined. And a week later, the reunited team, with several new people, had put the newspaper back in print. The reconstruction wasn't completely done yet, so they had to work in temporary offices and subcontract for the printing. Nevertheless the Daily Planet was back on the newsstands. But without Clark Kent. And without Lois Lane.

She was still too shell-shocked to be able to resume work already. She needed more time. Perry understood it perfectly well. Every day, he came to give her news. Every time, she hoped that he would have further information on Clark's whereabouts, but that was never the case. He informed her nevertheless on the progress of the police investigation on Clark, and on Luthor's shady business.

She had hoped for a long time that due to having Lex's files, the police would eventually find a document or something explaining what he had done to Clark, but the police hadn't found a thing.

In her line of work, Lois had come across people being happy when the police found the dead body of a loved one, who had been missing for a long time. She had never been able to understand it. But today, she knew why they reacted in this way. These people could finally begin mourning; they finally knew what had happened to the person whom they loved. Lois wouldn't be happy if one day the police announced to her that Clark's body had been found. But now she understood this need to know what had happened to him, even if bad came to worse. If he were dead, she'd much rather know it than continuing to hope for his return forever. She needed to know if he was well or if he had been hurt, or even killed...

Since the Daily Planet had resumed business a week earlier, Perry had put Clark's photo on the front page every day, asking those who would have information to contact the newspaper. And Lois had begun to hope again. Somebody must have seen what had taken place and would call the newspaper, and Clark would be found. She would see him again, would say to him that she loved him. He would forgive her and everything would be fine. But nobody had called yet, and Lois had finally sunk into a profound depression.

She had thought of suicide, but she had rejected the idea quickly. Clark was going to be found. Alive. And then he would want to see her, and she would be there. It was out of the question that, when he would be back and ask to see her, someone would take him to her grave. She could not put him through that. She would be there waiting for him until he returned.

The last time she had seen him, they had quarreled and parted irritated. She could not leave things like that. It wasn't an option. She absolutely had to see him at least once again to sort things out. She could not let their friendship end in anger.

Due to repeating that, Lois had succeeded in chasing away the idea to kill herself to escape the suffering of not knowing what had happened to him. But she wasn't well for all that.

Since the previous day, Perry had added in the newspaper that a reward would be paid to those who would be able to provide information that would lead them to find Clark. And they had finally received some phone calls. Perry had asked Lois if she wanted to follow the leads. She would have liked to accept, but she couldn't.

She was aware that Perry had asked her to do it because he was conscious of her depressive state. He tried to help her by making her feel useful. But she couldn't accept it. Finding Clark was too important, and she wasn't fit to lead the investigation effectively. Apparently, she hadn't been able to investigate anything for a long time, she amended mentally. Lex had been fooling her for more than a year! A fine investigative reporter she was! She couldn't trust her capacities any more.

Perry hadn't insisted and had entrusted Jimmy and Jack with the mission to verify all the tips that they received from the persons who phoned. Unfortunately, at the moment, nothing had come from all that. All they got were lies from people hoping to get the reward.


Henderson was sitting at the wheel of his car in the parking lot of the hospital. He knew that he had to start the engine, but he didn't want to. He needed a little moment to rest. The work of a lieutenant was always difficult but these last two weeks had been particularly exhausting. The task ahead of him might turn out to be even more difficult. He wasn't in any hurry to see Lois again.

For the last two weeks, he had been leading the investigation on Luthor -- and every day new revelations on his illegal business turned up, providing the already overworked police with even more work; the investigation on Clark's disappearance -- where unfortunately, he cruelly lacked any information; and insure the protection of Superman, who was still in a coma at the hospital. On top of all that, every criminal seemed to take advantage of the current incapacity of the superhero, and consequently, Henderson had to rely on other people to take care of all the necessary work.

He had taken some very strict measures as for the safety of the superhero. Only he and the persons whom he granted access were entitled to enter Superman's room. And at the moment, he had authorized only some very famous doctors, who had submitted themselves to a preliminary investigation, and the most trustworthy of his men to enter it. He had also added Lois to the permanent list of the persons authorized to see Superman. But she hadn't come to the hospital yet, not even once.

The room itself had been perfectly secured, shutters had been put in the windows, and the door was permanently guarded by two of his men in the corridor and two others inside, even during the medical exams. Other policemen were deployed all over the hospital.

The police station had already received uncountable numbers of death threats against Superman. There were a lot of criminals who wanted to take advantage of the critical state of the superhero to get rid of him forever, and consequently, Henderson had to take measures to insure Superman's safety.

Every day, he went to the hospital hoping that the doctors would tell him that Superman had finally awakened, that he was saved, but that hadn't happened yet.

The first two days, the Man of Steel had been in a very critical state, and the doctors were extremely pessimistic as to his chances of survival. None of them knew anything about his kryptonian biology, and thus they couldn't try anything without risking inadvertantly killing him. They had nevertheless found a pulse at once and discovered that his heart was where they would have expected to find it in a human.

During the first hours of his stay in the hospital, his heart had stopped beating twice, and it was by sheer luck that the doctors had managed to coerce it to beat again. But from the third day on, his state began to stabilize, and everybody dared to hope again. It was possible that he was recovering and that his state was likely to improve any time.

But two weeks had already passed by and no improvement had been noticed. He remained stable but did not appear to wake up. And the doctors who looked after him might have been running tests on him, but they hadn't succeeded yet in finding the cause of the problem. By means of tests, they had noticed that the kryptonian biology was very close to the human one, although there were slight differences, notably at the level of the cellular structure of tissues and blood composition, but without any point of reference, how could they know what was normal for him and what was not?

This day, while he was walking out of the hospital where Dr Stephenson had repeated to him that no change had occurred in the health of Superman, Henderson had received a phone call on his mobile phone from Sergeant Zimac, another inspector of the central police station, who worked under his orders.

Several days earlier, Henderson had charged him with a very unpleasant mission, but which turned out regrettably necessary since they were lacking any clues about Kent's disappearance. Zimac had to search the entire river for the reporter's body. Henderson should have done it much earlier. Before Superman appeared in Metropolis the previous year, two thirds of the missing persons were found in the river, most of the time near Hobb's Bay. It was terrible statistics, but the appearance of Superman had changed that for the better. But with the current condition of the superhero, Henderson knew that if Superman didn't quickly wake up, he would soon begin again to search the river regularly when one would report a missing person to the police.

In fact, he should have done it much earlier in their searches for Clark Kent, but Henderson didn't want to take that path. To look for him in the river was to accept that the chances of finding him alive were thin, and he did not want to think this way. Kent was one of his friends; he was a good man. And Henderson preferred to organize the searches thinking he was still alive, rather than to envision places where the police could find his corpse. It was why he had delegated this part of the searches to Zimac. Henderson felt unable to do it himself.

And Zimac had called him while he was reaching the parking lot of the hospital to announce that the entire river had been searched and that they hadn't found anything. Clark Kent was still missing, and they still had no lead, no clues whatsoever to find him.

And now, he had to pay Lois a visit to tell her. She deserved to know that, at the very least, her partner wasn't rotting at the bottom of the river. They weren't any nearer to finding him, but at least, there was always a chance that he was alive. If they had found his corpse, it would have been the end.

He knew that it was killing Lois not to know, but he doubted strongly that she would have felt better if he had returned her a corpse coming from Hobb's Bay. In fact, he was sure that if she learned that he had died, she would lose any will to live herself. It was the hope to see him again that made her hold onto life at the moment.


The sudden silence that had fallen on the temporary offices, rented by Stern so that his team could continue to put out the Daily Planet until the former premises were restored, warned Perry that something unusual was occurring, and he raised the eyes from the article he was correcting to see what it was.

He was bewildered to see Lois crossing the room with big steps in his direction, without caring about the glances of all her colleagues aimed at her. She had dressed with a very professional suit, had put on some make up and even carried her professional bag in her hand. It was a real sight. He really hadn't expected that.

He had seen Lois several hours earlier, in the middle of the morning, and she was still as destroyed and lost as the previous days. In fact, Perry was very worried about her, and having returned from her home, he had called one of his friends, whom he had not seen for years, but who was a quite famous psychologist. He wanted to speak to him about Lois, to know how to help her.

So he was very surprised to see her in the newspaper office, with the same professional air full of confidence that she always displayed at work. He knew that in addition to the shocks that she had undergone, she also suffered from a serious crisis of confidence, due to the fact that Luthor had been deceiving her for months. He didn't understand what had taken place since this morning to put her back on track. Had the police finally found Clark?

She stopped in front of his desk, and he noticed that he was still fixing her open-mouthed. He cleared his throat in search of something to say to her, but she spoke before he had the time to say something.

"Perry, I want to see all the files that we have on Lex Luthor's businesses implicating Nigel St. John or Asabi," Lois threw out at once.

"Why?" was the only thing that Perry was able to answer her. He was so surprised by this new development.

"Cox, St. John and Asabi were Lex's right hands. He distributed the dirty work to these three. Cox was arrested two weeks ago, but she doesn't know a thing about Clark's disappearance. Thus Lex necessarily charged Nigel St. John or Asabi to do it, and they both managed to escape the police when Lex committed suicide, and they haven't been found yet," Lois explained quickly.

Perry thought for several moments about what Lois had just said. Had she just implied that she was going to investigate into the disappearance of Clark? At the prospect, Perry felt as relieved as worried. Relieved that the best of his reporters was working on the case, but worried also because he knew how fragile Lois had become. He had remained silent too long. Lois spoke again.

"I want to know everything about what they had done for Lex in the past and how they had done it. I am going to pursue them... these bottom-dwelling scum-suckers! I am going to find them, and I am going to make them tell me all that they know about what has happened to Clark," she continued with more fierceness.

"All right, Lois. If you are sure that you feel well enough for this investigation, I am going to ask Jack to give you all the information you need."

"Thank you, Perry."

She turned around and got ready to go away when Perry retained her.

"Lois? Can I ask what took place to make you suddenly decide to take charge of the case?" He asked slowly, his anxiety for her clearly visible on his features. She was staring at him for several seconds silently before answering.

"I don't want to wait any more, lamenting, until the police bring me back a corpse."

Before Perry could add anything, she went away and settled down at an empty desk. The reasons that had urged her to return to work were naturally more complex than what she had said to Perry, but she did not feel well enough to go into details.

When Henderson had come to see her and had admitted to her that he had had the river searched for Clark, Lois had become furious. He hadn't told her sooner that he was looking in Hobb's Bay because she knew that it was the place where they looked when they had no more hope to find somebody alive. And if the police looked for him in the river, that meant they had lost hope for Clark.

She had really been crazily furious that the police had wasted their time looking for a corpse, while everything that she wished was that they would find him alive. It was irrational. She knew that statistically, he was probably dead, but she refused to accept it. She needed to believe that he was still breathing.

She also knew that if the police had searched the river, they had no other lead to follow. That meant that Clark's case currently was at the very bottom of the police's list of priorities. The police hadn't found anything in Hobb's Bay. For them, the search ended there. They could do nothing more until a new lead appeared out of nowhere. And in spite of all the beautiful words of Henderson, who had promised her to not leave the case until the mystery of Clark's disappearance had cleared up, Lois knew how things worked. And she knew that the case would not move any further.

And she had understood that if she wanted to have the chance to see Clark again some day, alive and well, she would have to look for him herself. As soon as Henderson had left, she had thought about the means that she could use to find him, and she had to face the lack of clues. But then she had remembered a discussion that she had had with the policeman two weeks earlier, and more exactly, of something that she had said to him:


"Then, what you're saying, Henderson, is that the only persons to know where Clark is, what happened to him, are Lex who died, St. John or Asabi who are both untraceable, and maybe, with any luck, Superman, who is in a coma?"


And she had had the 'click'. She could do nothing to resuscitate Lex, nor to help Superman to wake up, but she could find Nigel St. John and Asabi. She wasn't sure any more of her skill as an investigative reporter, but she knew that with the motivation that she had to find Clark, she would be capable of doing it.

At this moment, she had sworn to herself to look for him until she would find him. She would never give up until she found him, or until she died trying.

Then she had got ready to go to work, and she had come to the temporary premises of the Daily Planet. For Clark, she had just reanimated "Mad Dog Lane", and she was hard on the trail of her preys. She would find these two rotten thugs, and then, she'd finally find Clark.

Jack arrived at her desk with a pile of files reaching a height of about two feet, which he deposited on a corner of the table.

"That's what we have, for now, on Asabi's dealings. New files come every day. There are three times as much about St. John. So when you are finished with those, drop me a note, I'll bring you the others."

"Thank you, Jack."

"Good luck!" he finished with a last glance towards the enormous pile of files before going away and returning with Jimmy with whom he was in charge of verifying the tips that they got from the persons who phoned them in, hoping to get the reward for finding Clark.

She went to work immediately. She wanted to track down constants in the way both men worked. That might allow her to find out where they were hiding and to catch them.


She didn't need more than a few days to track down Asabi. But she was afraid of having the mind not clear enough to interrogate him herself when she faced him, and she didn't want him to escape again, either. Thus, she handed the information to Henderson, and Asabi was arrested.

Henderson interrogated him for a very long time, but he didn't know anything about what happened to Clark Kent, either. He was aware, naturally, that his employer hated the journalist, but he didn't even know that he had planned to get rid of him. Luthor hadn't mentioned anything about it to him.

For Lois, there was no doubt anymore that St. John was responsible for Clark's disappearance, and she doubled her efforts to find him. It was more difficult. Nigel had been a part of the Secret Service and he knew how to be discreet.

To work through all the files that the Planet and the police had concerning the businesses that Luthor had confided to his butler had not helped her a lot. Nigel St. John was a resourceful man. Nevertheless she found all the aliases that he had been going under in the past and launched a research on each name on the list. But she didn't come up with anything helpful. She had contacted all her snitches to obtain information about him, and finally, that had paid off.

One of her most reliable snitches, Bobby Bigmouth, had asked her for St. John's photo, and had called her back two days later to tell her that he had circulated the picture to all those who could help this guy to build up a new identity, and somebody had recognized him. He was now going under the name William O'Neill. He had asked for a false passport to be made.

Once again, Lois handed the information over to Henderson. After checking the names of all the passengers of planes and ships that had left the United States during the last three weeks, he discovered that Nigel had taken a plane to London only a few days after Luthor's death.

Henderson warned Interpol, and eventually, St. John was caught. He had been quickly turned over to the United States. But during his interrogation, it turned out that he did not know either what had happened to Clark. Luthor hadn't said a word to him about it.

And Lois fell into despair again.

It had been her best chance to find Clark. Lex had wanted him dead, and Clark went missing shortly before her wedding, but none of Lex's three usual henchmen for the dirty work knew anything about this matter. Either Lex had used somebody else -- it was unusual, but it had happened before- and Lois would probably spend years to discover who, among the thousands of employees of LexCorp, had been charged with the task of getting rid of Clark, or Lex wasn't responsible at all, as unlikely as it was.

And if it was mere coincidence that Clark vanished at the same time as Luthor's fall took place, Lois would have no more lead to follow, and that was a possibility she refused to contemplate. Nobody could disappear without leaving a trace. He had to be somewhere. And there was necessarily somebody who knew where. She just had to look elsewhere.

But at the moment, she allowed herself to cry because of the uselessness of her pursuit of Asabi and Nigel St. John. Not to mention the enormous task that she'd face if she really wanted to investigate every person who had been working for Lex for the past year, all of it only to find out who the Boss would have sent to complete this mission.

While she was crying silently, sitting at her desk in the temporary newspaper offices of the Daily Planet, Jimmy approached her.

"Maybe it's a good thing, all things considered, that Asabi and St. John don't know anything about what Luthor did to Clark," he said in a reassuring tone.

"And why is that so, Jimmy?" Lois asked while drying her tears.

"Because that could mean that we have all been looking in the wrong direction. Maybe Luthor is not guilty here; maybe he didn't have the time to do anything of what he wanted. Clark went missing while warning Superman, and Superman was trapped by Luthor, but there is nothing there to indicate that Clark had been trapped with him. Maybe this doesn't have anything to do with Luthor, but with Superman. He could have put Clark out of danger somewhere before visiting Luthor, in case it would be a trap," he explained with hope.

Jimmy sometimes came up with silly theories, but it was nevertheless a possibility. And if Superman had put Clark out of danger somewhere, far away from Metropolis and where he couldn't read a newspaper, he could even be unaware of what was going on in Metropolis.

She really had to discover how Clark contacted Superman. Maybe by knowing that, she would discover where Clark was.

Except, naturally, if it was indeed Lex who was behind it. Or if it was something else, connected to Clark's secret, that happened to him. It was possible as well that he was a random victim of a crime.

The more she thought about it, the more Lois saw the countless number of possibilities. Nobody had the slightest clue. Anything could have happened to Clark. And she didn't know if she would ever be able to find him.

She was feeling so terribly lost.


For days, Lois had studied relentlessly the files on the criminal businesses of her ex-fiance, trying to know to whom Lex would have been able to confide the task of getting rid of Clark. But the more she studied these files the more it seemed to her useless to continue.

Lex almost never asked somebody else other than his assistant Mrs. Cox, his butler Nigel St-John, or his servant Asabi, and when he did , it was always because he needed a very particular competence. It was highly improbable that it was the case concerning Clark. And even if that didn't exonerate him completely, she doubted all the same, more and more, that Lex was the origin of her partner's disappearance.

It was of no use to pursue mercilessly in this way; she was only wasting time. Luthor was still a suspect, but he was now at the bottom of the list.

She just had to find somebody else to put at the top of the list. But there, she missed inspiration.

Methodically. She had to proceed methodically if she wanted to have a chance to succeed. No one could find the good answers if one didn't ask the good questions; it was one of the first lessons she had learned in the school of journalism. So, what were the good questions?

At first, who would have an interest to made Clark disappear, except Lex Luthor?

At once, a very long list of names formed in her mind. When one is an investigative journalist and when one reveals to the world the criminals' secrets, one isn't much appreciated. All those whom he had helped to arrest, by the stories he had written alone or with her, could want to take revenge on them. And even if most of the time, she was the one to be attacked, a criminal could have shown a little originality and attacked Clark.

She thus had to draw up the list of all the persons damaged by the stories they had written during the past year.

Or the stories he had written alone. It could explain why it was he who had been attacked this time and not she, even if most of the stories that he had written alone were social stories, not really the kind of stories that could attract him enemies.

Unless it goes back to an article that he had written before Metropolis. He was a very good investigator, thus he had certainly had to have written some investigative journalism during his travels. Maybe he had enemies who went back to this period. Somebody who just got out of prison, maybe? She needed to dig.

But that brought her directly to the second question that she had to ask herself. What did she really know about Clark? What did she know about his past, for example? Not much, she had to admit. Raised on a farm in Smallville, he had played football at the secondary school, had studied journalism at the university of Kansas, and then he had traveled all over the world for a few years. Where had he been, who had he met, what had he done during this period of his life? She had no idea. She had to try to discover more on his past. His disappearance was maybe connected to something that he had lived back then.

And when Henderson had interrogated her the first day, she had noticed that Clark was hiding a big mystery in his life. It could be connected to his past. Maybe not. It was possible that he had been involved in something dangerous that she would never have suspected.

No, she was becoming paranoid. It wasn't because Lex had lied to her and hid a criminal's life that Clark's lies were hiding the same thing. Clark wasn't like that. She knew it deep inside. She loved him; she couldn't imagine him doing something reprehensible.

Whatever it was that took place during his years of wandering, whatever was the mystery he was hiding, his parents certainly had to know. Clark was very close to them. They knew probably what it was all about. She should speak to them.

And for the first time, she envisioned the disappearance of Clark from the point of view of his relatives. They were very close, and Clark went missing. Their only son had disappeared. They must be absolutely destroyed. She had not spoken to them since it had happened. She had been too monopolized by her own sorrow.

She was nevertheless aware that Perry and Henderson had contacted them to give them news and ask them some questions in case they would know anything that could help in the search of their son. But they had said nothing. Maybe there was nothing to say. Maybe it wouldn't be there where she could find an explanation. Or maybe they lied, protecting at all costs the famous secret of their son. No, she was being paranoid again. Lex's lies made her doubt everybody, now. The Kents were charming people; she appreciated them a lot. They probably weren't hiding a thing. They had to want that their son was found safe and sound as much as she was wishing it!

Nevertheless, she should speak to them all the same, to be sure.

She asked Jimmy to examine all Clark's stories, the ones he wrote alone and those he wrote in partnership with her, which had led to arrests to see if some of these criminals had just got out of prison or if they could have contacts with criminals still outside, people known to have been involved in kidnappings, murders, etc.

When her young colleague left to begin the researches that she had asked for, Lois dialed the Kents' number with a trembling hand. What could she say to two loving parents who had just lost their only child?


Martha was sitting at the table of the kitchen. She read again the Daily Planet article about Superman's health. "No noticed improvement." These words that she was reading again and again were hurting her, and nevertheless, she couldn't refrain from reading them one more time.

She didn't understand. When Clark had been exposed to kryptonite the first time right there on the farm, he had fainted, but he had woken up quickly after he had been taken away from that cursed rock. His powers had disappeared for two days, but he had eventually got them back. No sooner had his powers returned than Trask had exposed him again, and Clark had collapsed on the ground. He was at the edge of fainting, but he had managed to get rid of the kryptonite. His powers had returned 36 hours later.

And a short time before the fall of Luthor, he had phoned home to tell them that he had felt the presence of kryptonite near him while he was talking with a security guard in a bank, which had had a problem with its alarm. He had said that he had felt stunned and that he had had to hold on to the guard not to fall but that the sensation had disappeared very fast. He hadn't even lost his powers that time.

Thus Martha understood that the reaction of his son to kryptonite depended on its time of exposure, on the nearness of the rock, and probably on other things also. But she also knew that once taken away from the kryptonite, he had always recovered rather quickly. And now, he had been a complete month in a coma.

Her eyes slid on the photograph that accompanied the article. It was a picture some weeks old of Superman carrying in his arms a baby whom he had just taken out of a burning building behind him. She started to cry by looking at this photograph of her son. How anybody could be so cruel to try to kill him?

A complete month without any improvement noticed, but he wasn't near kryptonite anymore now. He should have quickly recovered. Why was he always unconscious? Had he crossed a tolerance limit or something like that, beyond which he couldn't return any more?

She looked again at the photograph, and she wondered if she would ever see her son again. She had always wanted to be a mother, but she couldn't. She had prayed for years, and the day she had found Clark in this field had been the most beautiful day of her life. He had never been sick or hurt, and she had never had to do what every other mother had to do, stay with her sick child and take care of him. She had been grateful for it. She didn't want to see her child suffer. But then, he was in a coma, maybe even dying, and what she wished more that anything in the world was to be with him.

But she couldn't. They would never authorize Martha Kent, a simple farmer's wife from Kansas, to stay with the famous Superman until he woke up. It wasn't as if she could say that she was his mother. She was obliged to stay away.

She had briefly intended to go to Metropolis all the same, as soon as the news had reached her, but Jonathan had dissuaded her from it. In the eyes of the world, Clark had disappeared, and they, they were to be worried about not knowing what had become of their son. If they went to Metropolis, they could never hide to the others that they were more worried for Superman than for the disappearance of Clark. They knew where Clark was; it wasn't a problem for them, but they couldn't let anyone else discover it, so they had stayed in Smallville, looking every day in the newspaper for news of their son.

They were hoping every day to finally see the story that would declare Superman out of danger. But the doctors hadn't noticed any improvement, and it seemed more and more obvious in their comments to the press that they had lost hope to see him waking up some day.

The telephone rang, and she dried her tears quickly before going to pick it up. It was probably Perry who called them to say that they still had no new lead to find Clark but that they weren't abandoning hope. He had promised them not to abandon the searches until Clark was found, and he continued to print Clark's picture in the newspaper every day.

Martha knew that it was perfectly useless, but she couldn't tell him that. And she was extremely grateful to him for all his efforts. She had made the resolution to tell him that Clark was Superman if he eventually died. But in the meantime, she preferred to keep the hope that her son would eventually return to consciousness, and until then, she would continue to keep his secret.

She picked up the phone.


The phone conversation with Martha hadn't helped Lois to understand what Clark was hiding. They had both shown themselves very emotional, and Lois had eventually admitted by lamenting to Martha that she had realized that she was in love with Clark too late to be able to tell him. Martha had seemed very touched when she had listened to her confession.

But Lois couldn't bear any more the wave of emotion which had submerged her while talking with Clark's mother, somebody who missed him as much as herself, somebody who understood perfectly what she was living. The exchange had become too emotional for her, and she had terminated the conversation soon after.

If she were to let herself go now, she would never be able to come back again, and she would no longer be able to take charge effectively of the investigation on Clark's disappearance. She had to regain her self-control and act.

Jimmy would still need hours before finishing all the research for which she had asked, thus she needed to find something else to do in the meantime. She couldn't bear waiting with crossed arms.

And because the phone call to the Kents had not helped her to understand what was Clark's secret, she had to discover it another way.

Resolved, she got up from her desk, put on her coat, took her bag, and went to Perry's desk to ask him for the keys that she needed. It was time to go to Clark's apartment. She hadn't gone back to his place since the time when they were still friends, before his disappearance, before the explosion of the Daily Planet, before Lex's proposal.

After their quarrel, the atmosphere between them was too turbulent for her to go there, and after his disappearance, she just hadn't had the strength to go back.

Lois remembered vaguely that Perry had told her that he had spoken with Clark's parents, and that, between them, they had decided to continue to pay his rent so that when he returned he would find all his things just as he had left them. At that time, Clark's apartment had still sheltered Perry, Jimmy and Jack. Since then, Jimmy and Jack had found a small apartment they had decided to rent together to save on expenses, and Perry had bought a new house in Metropolis. Contrary to what he had believed, the time had not come yet for him to retire in Florida.

But Perry still had the keys of Clark's apartment. He kept them till his return. And Lois needed it if ever she wanted to go there.


To convince him to entrust her with the bunch of keys had been easy. The problem had been to enter the apartment. Lois had hesitated for a long time on the doorstep. She wasn't sure she was ready to see the place again where he had lived, but she had finally taken her courage in her hands and entered.

The apartment was exactly as she remembered it, but it seemed to her much colder and empty. It was too silent. Every time she had come in the past, she had always found the place warm and alive, but now, everything seemed cold and dead. The difference was that Clark wasn't there any more.

A new wave of despair seized her. She so missed him.

Furiously, she dried her tears. It wasn't the moment to cry. There was still hope. She could still find him. Jimmy was examining his old stories, and that could maybe carry its fruits. And she, she had come there with a mission. She had to discover what he was hiding. That could allow her to find his whereabouts.

It wasn't the moment to cry about his absence. It was rather the moment to concentrate on the means to bring him back.

She searched his apartment from top to bottom, in search of the slightest indication that could lead her to discover his secret. She knew that Henderson and his men had already looked everywhere and hadn't found a thing, but maybe she'd be luckier. She could see maybe something that would have escaped them.

She didn't find anything that could help her. She now knew more about him than previously, but nothing that could help her find him.

She had examined his book collection, and to her great surprise, they were in numerous different languages. He spoke far more foreign languages than she had imagined. She had examined all his picture albums. Pictures were chronologically arranged there. She had examined them all.

She had smiled in front of his baby photos. He was so good-looking, and it was so evident that his parents loved him more than everything else in the world. He had grown to become a child full of energy and joy of living. She had even laughed at certain pictures apparently taken by surprise. Apparently, he had had a very happy childhood.

So she didn't understand why, abruptly, he had stopped smiling as much in photos taken when he was about 11-12 years old. She could see that he had become very reserved and distant and that he felt alone. Many teenagers had problems to bear at this stage of their life, but she could feel that there was more than that. Something had changed him. It had apparently been a very difficult period of his life.

He had begun to wear his hair pretty long for a boy. And soon, the only pictures of him smiling were those taken during his football matches, or the pictures where he was with a young blonde cheerleader. His girlfriend, apparently. Something in his face at that time seemed very familiar to her, but she couldn't place it.

At about 17 years of age, he had begun to wear glasses, and he cut his hair short again. Pictures became rarer while he was at the university, and then she arrived at pictures taken during his journeys around the world.

He looked happy to be alive again. He had really traveled to a lot of places, seen and done a lot of things. Lois hadn't realized that he had traveled so much. All in all, there was nothing there that could help her to discover his secret.

She went through a folder that grouped together many stories that he had written during his journeys. They were almost all in foreign languages, and she had no idea of what that was all about. His byline, Clark Kent, was the only thing that she could comprehend.

But when she reached the files at the bottom of the folder, she found another group of stories, written in different languages too, but Clark wasn't their authors. Why did he preserve these old stories from the period of his journeys? Some stories were written in English and she could read them. They were about mysterious rescues, about miraculously saved people, and if she trusted the pictures of the stories she couldn't understand, they probably were about the same subject.

Here was finally something interesting. It almost seemed as if Superman were already present at the time but that he helped in secret instead of doing it publicly. And Clark, apparently, knew it; Clark had followed him all over the world to Metropolis. Lois remembered when the court had ordered Superman to leave the city. Clark had resigned; he was ready to leave. And when Superman had been allowed to stay, Clark had returned.

It was a shock. Here was the reason why Clark seemed to know so much about Superman. He had studied him for years, but he had never tried to expose him, even though he would have probably been able to compete for a Pulitzer! No, instead, he and Superman had become friends.

Wow! Lois thought. Clark was really an excellent investigator, much better than she had ever been. He was the one who had managed to unmask Luthor, and before that, he had probably managed to unmask Superman, although he had never said anything about it. That earned her respect, but that did not help her to know where Clark could indeed be right at the moment.

And that did not help her either to understand how Clark was managing to contact Superman. And she would have liked to know. Not that that could be useful for her as long as Superman was at the hospital, in a coma, but if she was ever able to learn more about the superhero, that could permit her to find a person who would be able to help the doctors to understand how his kryptonian biology worked and to help them look after him.

What was it that Superman had said the first day when she had seen him? Ah yes, that it was his mother who had made the suit for him. Thus he had relatives. They had to know that Superman was in a coma; it was in every newspaper, and nevertheless, nobody had shown himself. It was so strange.


When she returned to the Daily Planet, Jimmy had finished the researches she had asked him for, but they were of no use either.

All those whom they had put behind bars during the past year were still serving their sentence, and they had apparently no contact with persons with the capacity to attack Clark. And those who were awaiting judgment were strictly watched.

And anyway, the police had already studied all these leads, verified all the alibis. There was nothing to hope on this side.

There was nothing more to hope for. Lois did not know any more where to look. She had looked under every stone in the road, and she had seen nothing that could give her the slightest idea of what had happened to Clark. It was as if he had evaporated into thin air.

She didn't know what more she could do to find him. She had already looked in all directions, and nevertheless, she must have neglected something. Nobody could disappear so completely. He had to be somewhere.

And as long as the police had not found his corpse, she would continue to believe that he was alive somewhere. And as long as he was alive, she would have a chance to find him.

She just needed a clue, a starting point, anything to indicate to her where she should continue the searches. And in the current situation, there was only one person who could maybe give her that indication. But he was in a coma.

Clark had disappeared by passing on to Superman Lex's message. Superman would probably know what Clark had done after that, while he himself was heading for the billionaire's trap. And with this information, she could investigate new leads and maybe discover enough clues to find Clark.

But Superman was in a deep coma for almost a month. His doctors simply did not know what to do to take care of him and help him to wake up, and they began to doubt that the superhero would ever survive his ordeal.

She could not let him die. Besides the fact that he was precious to the World and that she liked him very much, as a friend, although she had tried to deceive herself for months and had sincerely believed to be in love with him, he was important all the more for her today because he held this small bit of information that she so needed to find Clark.

Nevertheless, was there even something that she could do to help Superman to wake up when even his doctors, among the most renowned of the country, didn't understand why his state wasn't showing any improvement?

Maybe that was the problem -- the doctors who looked after him. It was the first time they treated somebody who wasn't human. Maybe they weren't open minded enough to understand how an alien biology could work? Maybe what Superman really needed at the moment was a doctor used to investigating less usual science fields? Somebody who would keep his mind open to every possibility?

Lois wasn't on speaking terms with her father, but she knew that he was a very bright doctor and that he had investigated numerous parallel fields to conventional medicine. She would forgive him everything if he could help Superman.

She picked up her phone and called her father. While she waited for him to pick up, she hoped that Henderson wouldn't cause too many problems signing all the necessary papers so that her father would be granted access to Superman.


During the next dozen days, Dr Sam Lane re-ran all the tests that the other physicians had already run, but it didn't help him to be closer than the others in finding a solution. He dreaded the moment when he would have to admit to his daughter that he had failed.

Since soon after she had called to ask him to be a part of the doctors' team who treated Superman, he had seen his daughter sinking more and more every day into depression.

At the beginning, she was well. She was as determined and stubborn as he had always known her. Then the former premises of the Daily Planet had reopened, and the entire news team had repossessed the building. Slowly, he had seen her withdraw into herself. She seemed constantly lost in her thoughts, forgetful of her surroundings.

Worried, he had discussed his daughter with the editor in chief. He knew that she was very close to him, that she perceived him a little as a surrogate father, the father that he hadn't known how to be for her. And this man had explained to him that Lois had realized that she had fallen in love with her partner the same day when he had disappeared and that she had fallen into a brief depression, which she had managed to overcome only by plunging completely into the search for this man that she loved. The problem being that, now, she had no further lead to follow, nothing to keep her mind busy, and she was sinking again. The return to his former premises, those where she had so many recollections of him, hadn't helped her.

Sam had met his daughter's partner, Kent, only once, while they were investigating the cyborgs, which Sam made, and the guy had made a good impression on him. He had quickly realized that this Kent was in love with Lois, but she didn't seem interested. Apparently he had been mistaken.

Sam really hoped that Lois would find her partner. She was feeling so bad that her editor in chief finally put her on forced leave and gave her the phone number of one of his friends, a psychologist. At the beginning, she didn't want to hear about it, but Sam had managed, with the help of this man, Perry White, to convince her to consult. She was really in a bad state.

And Sam knew that she was placing all her hopes on the possibility of Superman waking up. Sam would have so wanted to help his daughter and to do that for her. That is, find a means to save Superman to help her to get on better. But he had failed. A bad father up to the end, he wasn't able to do whatever was needed to arrange things. He felt guilty to have failed. He wanted to succeed for her.

But he didn't know what to do, and now, he had to go and tell her.


Everything was over. Her father had just told her that he had tried about everything, but that he had failed. He had found no means to cure Superman. And if Superman never woke up, she would never find Clark.

During the past weeks, she had refrained from crying and had wiped her tears away as soon as they were beginning to flow, repeating to herself that it wasn't the moment to lament, that there was still hope. But now, there wasn't hope any more. It was over. The time to cry had finally come, so she let her tears pour freely.

It was her only answer to her father's words. She began crying harder than she had ever cried in all her life, because every time she had cried before, she knew in her heart that things would get better after a while. But today, it wasn't the case. It was the hope to see Clark again someday that she had lost. She had lost Clark. And after that, nothing could go well ever again.

She was crying so hard she had difficulty breathing. Through her tears, she saw how much her father seemed distraught to see her like that, and contrary to what she had told him years earlier when she had left the familial house, she knew that he loved her. And she also loved him. For him, she tried to show herself strong and retain her tears until he couldn't see her anymore. But she was incapable of it. Now that she had allowed her tears to pour, she couldn't stop them any more.

After some moments of hesitation, her father got up from the armchair where he was sitting and came to join Lois on the sofa. He embraced her and comforted her. It was something that he had never done before, not even when she was a child, and Lois was very touched by the gesture. Although she has already cried so hard, a new ball of emotion came to tie up her throat.

They stayed like that for a long time, and Lois eventually calmed down. When the torrent of tears had become simple spaced out sobs, her father spoke again. While he was holding his daughter in his arms, he had had the time to think of the situation, and he had an idea.

"Princess, listen to me. I thought of something. I am at wit's end as to what to do to help Superman, but I know someone who could. Maybe. He was one of my friends at the university. He's not really a physician. He's rather a physicist. I hadn't seen him for years, but our paths crossed accidentally a few months ago, and we talked a little. He told me that he was working on trying to discover how Superman's powers worked. He thought that if he could understand how Superman could break certain laws of physics, it could lead to enormous scientific progress. I don't know how advanced he is on his work, and maybe he won't be able to help Superman either, but it's worth a try. His name is Bernard Klein; he works for STAR Labs."


When Lois had calmed down enough, she placed a phone call to Henderson to repeat to him what her father had told her about Dr Klein and to ask the policeman to do the preliminary investigation on the scientist to grant him the access to Superman.

"No need, Lois," answered Henderson by phone. "We have already made our investigation on Bernard Klein. We can trust him. I am going to prepare the papers for him and let him know. He's going to be ecstatic! He has been asking permission to work on Superman for weeks!"

"How's that?" Lois wondered out loud. "Why have you already investigated him if you haven't allowed him to approach Superman yet?"

"He's a physicist, Lois. One of the best. Thus he's the one we entrusted the kryptonite cage to, to study it and discover how a rock could hurt Superman. And, of course, we investigated him pretty thoroughly before giving him the kryptonite! But he wasn't allowed to approach Superman because he's not a physician. And nevertheless, how he asked for it!"

"Oh. And did he discover why Superman becomes ill in the presence of kryptonite?" she asked.

"No," answered the policeman. "He had uttered the hypothesis that it could be because of the radiations emitted by the meteorite, which would affect only kryptonians and not human beings, but Superman's doctors said that it wasn't that. Apparently, he doesn't have any of the symptoms of an irradiation."

Lois turned to her father, who could hear the conversation because Lois had put the speakerphone on, and he shook his head negatively, confirming the diagnosis of the other doctors. Symptomatic to an irradiation, the elements of the blood deteriorate and are destroyed. In the case of Superman, he had effectively noted that his blood had very little white globule and plaques, but their count remained stable, while in cases of irradiation, their deterioration should continue even after the victim is taken away from the radioactive source. No, it simply appeared to be a difference of blood composition between the human and the kryptonian races.

"Okay, Inspector. Give Dr Klein his chance all the same. We never know. At the point we are..." Lois concluded.


It was already pretty late when Henderson called Dr Klein to tell him that he was finally allowed to work on Superman. The wisest thing would have been to wait until the next day morning before going to the laboratory, but he was too impatient for that.

It had been 41 days since Superman was at the hospital, in a room transformed into a real safe, with policemen everywhere to insure his security. And it had been as much time since Bernard Klein had asked the authorization to work with the team who was looking after Superman.

Although he had medical diplomas, he had never practiced. He had preferred to use his diplomas of physics to do research in this domain. So he didn't think he could be of a big help as a physician, but he had spent the entire year trying to understand the functioning of the powers of the superhero, and he had elaborated numerous theories, and it was perfectly possible that one of them would allow the other doctors to understand the kryptonian biology and save Superman. He thought that his knowledge could help, but he had been refused the access at every one of his demands.

So now that he was allowed to work on it, he didn't want to lose a single minute, and so he got ready to go to the hospital immediately.

He arrived at the hospital over half an hour later. It was already night. He went through the required controls and was finally able to enter the room where Superman was lying.

And he had to admit to himself that the term of "safe" was not so exaggerated. With the armored shutters that blocked the windows, the two policemen armed in front of the door, and two others inside the room, and all the security checks he went through to arrive there, Klein really had the impression that Superman was guarded as strictly as the national treasury. Well... Maybe not, but all the same, they hadn't skimped on the security.

The superhero was lying on the hospital bed in a simple hospital gown. His suit was nowhere to be seen. A monitor allowed him to see his heart beat, and he was receiving an intravenous injection that he needed so as not to suffer dehydration.

Dr Klein began at once to take some samples of tissues, blood, saliva, hair, and skin, which he planned to examine during the night to forge himself a better opinion of his state of health. Naturally, all these tests had already been run by all the previous doctors, but he preferred to redo the tests himself rather than to be content with the results that the others had obtained.

Provided with these samples, he went to the hospital laboratory. It wasn't up to the standards of the STAR Labs laboratory where he usually worked, but it would do perfectly for the tests that he wanted to run.

He immediately settled to work. The first thing that he needed to verify was if, effectively, Superman wasn't suffering from irradiation. All the doctors had refuted this hypothesis, but he was sure that it was true. He had spent over a month studying the kryptonite that they had sent to him, and it was the only theory that he had succeeded in elaborating that seemed valid.

But when he studied the cells of Superman, he had to face the evidence. He didn't seem irradiated unless irradiation has other symptoms in a kryptonian body. It was very well possible that his cells destroyed themselves in the presence of the radioactive source but that the damages stopped as soon as he was taken away from the said source.

It could explain why the count of his globules and plaques was so weak. Maybe it wasn't the normal composition of kryptonian blood. It could be the result of his exposure to the kryptonite. And that would also explain why the count remained stable ever since he had been brought to the hospital. He would perform some other tests to be sure of it. He resolved to bring a sample of Superman's blood to STAR Labs to expose it to the kryptonite which he had over there and see the reactions.

And even if his hypothesis were false, this test was important anyway. It hadn't been done, and yet that could allow them to understand how the kryptonite acted on his system. And this information was vital. Without it, nobody could conceive of any treatments against the effects in question.

In the meantime, he continued to run a whole range of tests, envisioning and rejecting most of the theories that he had elaborated during the past year on the way Superman's powers could indeed work. It was frustrating to notice that all the theories he tested showed themselves false, but at the same time, it was also progress. He knew now in which direction he shouldn't waste his time.

He was so absorbed by his work that he had not seen time fly, but the morning had come, and the first employee of the team of hospital laboratory technicians had arrived and got himself a coffee before beginning to work at his station.

While drinking his coffee, he opened the curtains to let the daylight enter the room. Silently, he settled down at his desk and began to conduct the tests that the doctors had required for the other patients of the hospital.

Dr Klein was so lost in his notes that he hadn't noticed what took place around him in the room. Having stopped writing some of his observations on his pad, a new idea came to his mind, and he turned again to his microscope to look at the sample of Superman's blood on which he was working.

As soon as he looked in the microscope, he noticed the change. The sample at which he was looking counted much more globules and plaques than earlier. But what the hell was happ--?

He turned to the laboratory technician and noticed for the first time the presence of the other man.

"What did you do to my sample?" Dr Klein asked, slightly angry.

"Absolutely nothing!" the man answered on the defensive. "I just arrived one minute ago!"

"Really? And what did you do since you arrived?" Klein insisted in a very suspicious tone.

"Nothing, I told you! I took my coffee, I opened the curtains, and I was about to begin the analysis of the blood of err... Mister Johnson," he said verifying the name of the patient on the file opened on his desk in front of him.

--'I opened the curtains'--

Dr Klein turned to his microscope, bathed in the sunlight, which entered by the big windows. He smiled. He had to run some other tests, but he could have found the solution.

He remembered vaguely of the theory that another scientist had exposed a few months earlier, while Superman was accused of causing an unprecedented heat wave in Metropolis in full winter. It had been theorized that the powers of Superman worked with solar energy. When it had seemed evident that the cause of the heat was due to a leak in the nuclear power plant of LexCorp, everybody had abandoned the hypothesis of Superman feeding on the sun.

But the opposite had never been proved. Maybe the solution was there. Maybe he just needed sun to invert the damages created by the kryptonite on his system. It could be why he hadn't already woken up, after almost one and a half month of coma, thought Klein by remembering the hospital room in which Superman was kept. The windows were blocked by shutters to guarantee his safety against a possible sniper or something like that.

He needed to make more tests.

He returned again to his microscope and seen that the cell count had continued to increase. It was a very good sign. An excellent sign. He immediately called the other doctors who treated Superman to speak to them about his theory and show them the sample. He hadn't spoken to them yet, but they were a team, and he had to inform them before proceeding to the necessary tests to prove his theory.


Some of the doctors of the group were a little bit skeptical, but most found all the same that the theory deserved to be tested. And they spent the next two days studying the reaction of tissues taken from Superman at the sun exposure, under different conditions, and the hypothesis of Dr Klein had very fast been confirmed.

Superman just needed sun to recover. He was always in a coma because he had been deprived of natural light by the safety measures that surrounded him. It was rather ironic. Without knowing it, they had put his life in danger by trying to protect him.

But now, they knew what he needed, and they could act to give it to him.

The most difficult part was to convince Henderson. He was responsible for the security of the superhero. Whatever happened, he would be held responsible by the whole world. It was an enormous responsbility to carry. To expose him to the sunbeams also meant making him more vulnerable to the attacks of the criminals who wanted him dead.

So when Dr Klein and Superman's other doctors told him that he had to place Superman outside directly in the sun to allow him to wake up, the first reaction of Henderson had been to refuse. But he could see that the group of scientists was very serious indeed, and that they were also very sure. Superman needed to be exposed to the sun.

After a long conversation, they finally admitted that Superman did not really need to be put outside. Just staying in a sunny hospital room could be enough. It was already better, from the security point of view, even if that forced him to take important risks.

Henderson thus worked out a system to replace the men who guarded Superman every four hours, and every new team would take Superman into a new hospital room. The team going away would know the room to which Superman was transferred, and those in place would have no right to communicate with the outside world during their work time. At sunset, Superman would be returned to the room with the armoured shutters. Henderson would be the only one to always know where Superman would be. That should make it more difficult for criminals to kill him. It wasn't perfect, but it was better that nothing. And with a little luck, the superhero would wake up quickly, and they wouldn't have to follow that procedure for such a long time.

As soon as Henderson had been able to confirm the arrangements with the management of the hospital to have about twenty rooms reserved and distributed throughout the building so that he could choose from among them for Superman's transfer, he put the new system into operation.

Before every room transfer, Henderson accompanied one of the doctors to the room that Superman was about to leave so that the doctor could examine him, do a blood test and so determine the speed at which he was recovering.

The first day had been rather disappointing for the doctors. They had effectively noticed an improvement in his state, but the superhero recovered less quickly than what they had hoped for, and Henderson had to accept a second day as stressful as the first one. He was so afraid of an attempt against his life that he was tempted to play the guard himself. Unfortunately, he also was in charge of other cases. Nevertheless, he didn't leave the hospital, preferring to work on the spot.

While the sun settled the second day and while Henderson got ready with his men to transfer Superman again towards the secured room for the night, Henderson noticed that Superman's fingers moved a little. His eyelids winked some time before opening. The lieutenant had never felt so relieved in his entire life.

"Hey! Happy to see you back!" the inspector told him grinning.


Superman ached everywhere. He would have liked to move, but he was too tired for that. His members seemed to weigh tons. It was better to remain immovable some minutes further. He didn't know where he was or why he ached everywhere, but he felt instinctively that he was in no danger, and that he could grant himself some moments to recover before trying to move again. His whole body made him suffer, and it was not something he was used to. The simple act of thinking made him suffer. He had a terrible headache.

All that he knew was that he was in a warm and quiet place, and it was everything he needed. He could feel the beams of the sun on him, and it felt so very good. So he didn't move, taking a little rest before having to make the slightest effort, which, he knew, would be horribly painful to him.

He did not know how much time had passed by since he had become conscious of the pain that cursed through him, how long since he decided to remain immovable, not strong enough to face the pain a movement would cause him, when he became aware of the moves occurring around him, metal noises that resounded in his head and amplified his headache.

Something was happening. He had no more choice. He had to know where he was, and what was taking place, and if possible, he had to end it to go back to the tranquility he craved. So he tried again to move, but his members always seemed so heavy, and he only succeeded at moving his fingers. He tried to open his eyes. The effort was exhausting, but finally he was blinded by the light. He only saw white everywhere; the light was too strong. His eyes burned him, so he knew that at least he had managed to open them.

"Hey! Happy to see you back!" A voice threw near him on a joyful tone.

The white halo that blinded him seemed to dissipate very fast and he noticed a silhouette bent toward him. A man. He was still a little bit vague, but he recognized him. It was Inspector Henderson. He tried to open his mouth to ask him what was happening, but his voice choked in his throat, too dried out.

"Don't try to speak. The doctor is on his way. He is going to arrive in a second," Henderson told him.

Doctor? Behind Henderson, he could see that all the white that had blinded him earlier wasn't only the light, although the room was enlightened. The walls were white. He was stretched out in a hospital room, or a laboratory maybe. He felt frantic for a short moment. He was at the mercy of scientists, of researchers. He ached everywhere; what had they done to him? But the panic dissipated very fast. He trusted Henderson, and the inspector seemed happy to see him opening his eyes, and he had said that the doctor was going to arrive as if it were a good thing, thus it was probably not them who had made him this way. He had said that the doctor was going to arrive, as if he were going to come to take care of him.

But what had happened to him? He tried to remember. His head was hurting him so much he needed a moment to remember. Luthor. Luthor had kryptonite. He had locked him into a cage made of kryptonite. He wanted to kill him. He was going to marry Lois. He had to prevent him from...

"Lu-- Luthor," Superman succeeded in saying with a frog voice. This first word seemed to irritate strongly his throat. He was so hurting.

"He died. Don't worry, Superman. Luthor died," the policeman answered him.

"Lois?" he asked, his voice obeying him a little better this time, although it still hurt him to speak.

"She's fine. Don't worry," Henderson told him before repeating, "You shouldn't speak."

Two men with white gowns entered the room, and Superman understood that they were the doctors who were going to examine him.


Lois couldn't stand still anymore. Since her father's phone call had woken her, she was incapable of going back to sleep.

Superman had woken up, her father had told her. He had regained consciousness as the sun was setting, and he would be fine. The news had provoked a discharge of adrenalin in her. She had the impression to have roamed in darkness for such a long time, and she had just perceived a light.

When her father had told her of the awakening of the superhero, Lois had revived her hope to see Clark again, soon. She had been so happy. But the following words of her father had soon cooled down her joy. He had examined Superman with another doctor, and he was still far too much weak to undergo an interrogation.

She would have to continue to wait to discover what Superman knew about the disappearance of Clark. "If he ever knew anything," she added mentally with pessimism. She had never been particularly optimistic -- Clark was enough for them both -- but since her partner's disappearance, she became even more cynical. She had never noticed how dark her thoughts could be in the absence of the light that Clark brought in her life. She needed that light back.

Her father had added that he had given a painkiller to Superman after the exam so that he could rest during the night. It would do him no good to tire himself pointlessly while he was still so weak. He had called Lois to inform her right after administering the painkiller.

It was now the middle of the night, but Lois knew that she wouldn't find sleep again. Not after having learned that Superman was finally saved and out of danger.

She knew that he wouldn't be able to answer the questions about Clark before some time, but the impatience made her unable to remain calm.

She got up from her bed and went to the kitchen to prepare an herbal tea, which could hopefully help her find serenity. But she stopped as soon as she stepped into her living room.

She hadn't really cared about doing housework or tidying the apartment since she had realised that she had no more lead to follow, except to continue hoping for the awakening of Superman. By sinking into despair, she had lost any interest for the world that surrounded her, and her apartment was showing the effects of it. It was usually always impeccably tidied and clean, but more than two weeks of carelessness had transformed it.

While she was wallowing in her depression, she didn't mind, but now that a new ray of hope had returned to her, she saw the shambles pervading as if for the first time.

She gave up the herbal tea and started to tidy and clean everything. It would be more effective to tire her out and allow her to return to bed, anyway.

For hours, she had bustled about trying to restore the usual appearance of her apartment, and when she saw the first sun beams, she smiled for the first time in a very long time. At the hospital, they were probably exposing Superman to the sun again, and now that he had regained consciousness, the progress would certainly be faster. Soon, very soon, he could tell her what he knew about Clark's disappearance. She was so eager.

A little tired, she went back to bed. She could always finish her housework later during the day.


A pinching sensation on the arm woke Clark. He opened his eyes and perceived the white walls. His recollections were a little bit vague, but he remembered that he had woken up in a hospital room, that doctors had examined him, had given him something to drink and a soup, and then they had injected something into him, and he had fallen asleep again.

Turning his head to the right-hand side to see what had pinched him in the arm, he saw a doctor taking a blood sample. His memories were vague, but he was almost sure that he was not one of the two doctors who had examined him the previous day.

"Hello Superman. You slept for a long time; it's almost noon. You feel better?" the doctor asked on a cheerful tone.

"Err... Yes, thank you," Superman answered. He felt still weak and tired, but that couldn't compare with the soreness he felt the previous day. Then, he could hardly move, whereas he knew without needing to try that he could now move if he wanted. The pain had also declined. He still had a light headache, but his thoughts were clearer.

"Who are you?" he asked the doctor who was labeling the test tube, which contained the blood that he had just taken from him.

"Oh yes, sorry! I had forgotten that you hadn't met me yet. I can be scatterbrained sometimes. I am Dr Klein, a physicist researcher at STAR Labs. I have been working on your doctors' team for only the past four days. I had asked to be a part of the team from the beginning, but..."

"Dr Klein, please," Superman impatiently interrupted him. This man was a real chatterbox. He would have probably continued talking for one hour straight without taking a breath if he had not interrupted him. Lois was often the same. But then, he wasn't well enough to bear it. His headache had progressed by listening to him for only a few seconds. Then something that he had said came back to him. "Four days"... No, "four days only". Dear god, for how long had he stayed in the hospital?

"How long have I been here?"

"Well, you stayed in a coma during approximately one and a half months. You woke up only yesterday evening. We discovered how to treat you only three days ago. The kryptonian biology is different from the human biology, and it is accidentally that I finally discovered that you needed sun. You see, I was in the laboratory to study your tissues all night long, and a laboratory assistant opened the curtains and then..."

"Dr Klein!" Superman repeated abruptly, interrupting again the stream of words which threatened to blow his skull.

"Yes, sorry," the physicist apologized looking contrite, and Superman felt guilty for having spoken so dryly to this man who had probably saved his life, and who rather looked like a good guy.

"Thank you for having saved me," the superhero apologized.

"You're very welcome. I was delighted to be able to help you."

"Do you think I can have some aspirin?"

"Does aspirin work on a kryptonian body?" wondered Dr Klein.

"I don't know. I've never had to try," Superman answered, tired.

Dr Klein smiled to him with compassion.

"Well, let's test it. Even if that doesn't help you, it would amaze me if it did you any harm."


Was it the aspirin that had had an effect, or was he just getting better? Superman didn't know, but the headache had gone away. He felt very well. He was now probably as strong as a healthy normal human being, but he still hadn't his powers back. He had tried to concentrate to see through the walls of the room or listen to the conversations of the people who passed in the corridor, but he hadn't succeeded.

The last time he had been exposed to kryptonite, his powers had returned, but the exposure had been very short. This time he had remained for hours in Luthor's cage. And he didn't know if this time his powers had disappeared forever. It was possible. He knew so little about his own body.

The doctors who had studied him while he was in a coma knew more than he about his own body. What was it that Dr Klein had said? That he needed sun. The sensation of the sun on him had always helped him to feel better, stronger in a certain way. But he didn't know until then if he was imagining it, or if that were true. Apparently, it was.

He should ask Dr Klein if he thought his powers were going to return. He said that he would come back to see how he was doing in two hours. It had to be two hours by now! He was so bored, stretched out on his hospital bed without doing anything that if someone told him that five hours had already passed since Dr Klein had left him alone, he would believe it. Perhaps he should also ask him if he could have a newspaper, or anything else.

The door opened, interrupting his thoughts. It was the Dr Klein.

"So, feeling better? Still a headache?" he immediately asked.

"No, I'm perfectly fine. Thank you. Look, I wondered. Will my powers return?" Superman asked, ill-at-ease.

"What? You don't know?" the physicist wondered.

"It's because...Well, let's just say that kryptonian biology isn't my strong point. I know nothing about it," the superhero admitted, even more ill-at-ease.

"I see. You're more into literature. I like reading, too. But it's especially books on physics that I read, you see. I began one last week, which is absolutely fascinating..."

"Dr Klein?"

Certainly, this man was incapable of concentrating on a subject without deviating from it. And he apparently liked speaking ceaselessly. But Superman couldn't help himself and found him to be very amiable. He liked him, and he was rather satisfied that he was the one to look after him rather than a cold scientist who would remind him too much of a situation of an alien at the mercy of researchers who could find it fascinating to have the opportunity to discover how it worked.

"Yes? Oh! Yes, sorry. Yes, your powers will return. You just need a little time, rest and sun. I'm still not sure to have understood how, but your cells react to the sun light in a surprising way, and the damages caused by the radiations of..."

The nice doctor broke off when he heard Superman sighing in discouragement.

"I'll spare you the details," he concluded.

"Thank you, Dr Klein," Superman answered, really grateful to the scientist to have broken off alone this time. "I also wondered if I could have a newspaper?"

"No, I'm sorry. I don't believe it would be a good idea," the physicist answered after a brief hesitance. "You need rest, and I doubt that reading stories about the crimes that you couldn't prevent would help you to relax."

"You have no idea how bored I am!" Superman insisted.

"I'll go see what I can find," Klein answered in a conciliating tone, before leaving the room.

He returned one quarter of an hour later with a television placed on a small table on castors. He put it in a corner of the room and connected it.

"Here it is. I hope that you like television. Let us see what's airing..."

The scientist used a remote control to switch on the screen and channel-flick. Superman was able to have brief outlines of the news of the world, but Dr Klein changed channels so quickly that he had no time to understand what took place. Finally, the good doctor stopped on one of the channel.

"And here it is. A good movie to relax! That should help you to wait until inspector Henderson arrives. He said that he would be here within a little more than one hour. He wants to speak to you about his investigation. I just called him to tell him that you are well enough to answer some small questions," Dr Klein explained and entrusted the remote control to one of the two policemen who never left the room, before going out.

Superman turned his attention to the television to reduce his boredom and quickly recognized the film on the screen. It was "The Princess Bride", a children's tale. He sighed. He had no right to see the news; he had to content himself with children's tales! Let's hope that Henderson wouldn't be too long in arriving.

He had already seen the film and he had liked it, but he really wasn't in the mood to see it again, especially that this time, the story woke bad recollections. The Princess Buttercup had chosen to marry the vilainous Prince Humperdinck, without a thought for the poor farmboy Wesley who was in love with her. Wesley had even a second identity; he was the Pirate Roberts, and he was tortured by the bad Prince and was left for dead, while the wedding ceremony was taking place in the castle.

Certainly not the film that he needed at the moment. At least Lois wasn't Luthor's wife. His recollections of the previous evening were always a little bit vague but he remembered that Inspector Henderson had told him that Luthor had died. He had also told him that Lois was fine.


He so wanted to see her again. But at the same time, the wound that she had caused him by rejecting him was always painful. He knew that at the end of the film, Buttercup went away with Wesley and that they lived happily ever after. Unfortunately, it was where any resemblance with his life stopped. Lois would never notice Clark, son of farmers from Kansas.


Superman faced unblinkingly the lieutenant who looked at him flabbergasted. Both men had been conversing for more than one hour. And until then, everything went off smoothly.

When Henderson had arrived, Superman was really happy to see him. And the lieutenant seemed even happier to see him doing better. And after some polite phrases, Superman had asked him for news of Lois, but the policeman had shown himself rather evasive, just saying that she was fine and had quickly changed the subject by beginning the interrogation.

He had asked him to tell what had happened, what Luthor had done to him. His story had only been confirming what they had already guessed. He had asked him then what he knew about the criminal activities of Luthor, causing the billionaire to hate him enough to try everything to find a means to kill him, and their researches in the documents of Luthor proved that he had looked for these means desperately.

Superman had then told him all that he knew about Luthor and all that he suspected, without having ever been able to prove anything. The sabotage of the shuttle Messenger, the murders of Samuel Platt and Antoinette Baines, the tests that Luthor had made him undergo by putting in danger innocent people's lives, sometimes causing even their deaths when he had stopped answering calls for help, the experiments on the children with Mentamide, the transformation of the boxers to cyborgs... Everything. He told everything.

The story was long, but Henderson listened to him patiently, taking notes, just interrupting him from time to time to ask a question when a point was not clear enough.

When he had finished, having told all that he knew about the implication of Luthor in the destruction of the Daily Planet, Henderson went on:

"This is all that Clark Kent discovered during his investigation. Did he tell you all this, or are you the one who had supplied the information to Kent?"

The question took him rather by surprise. Did he tell it to himself or did he tell it to himself? Naturally, Henderson couldn't be aware of the irony of his question. Nevertheless, he was waiting for an answer, and because Clark was the investigator of his two personalities, the answer came to him easily.

"It's Clark who informed me about what he had discovered," Superman answered.

"Thus, you spoke to him after his investigation on Luthor was done?" Henderson insisted.

"Yes," Superman answered on a more suspicious tone. He didn't know why, but he had the impression that the question of the policeman was a tricky question.

"The day before we found you in the kryptonite cage, Lex Luthor had left a message to Clark Kent asking him to contact you and tell you to go to see him. Is it indeed why you went to talk to Luthor?"

Superman agreed again, the feeling to be about to be trapped even more insistent.

"Is it then when Kent spoke to you of his discoveries? When he passed on to you the message of Luthor?"

He shook his head again affirmatively, wondering what was the inspector's point.

"What did Kent do after that?"

"I'm not following. Why are you interrogating me about Clark?" Superman asked, evading the question.

It was at this moment that the discussion with Henderson had begun to turn badly.

"Clark Kent is reported missing. Nobody knows what happened to him. We had reconstructed his day. He investigated Luthor all day long. He had some phone conversations with Perry White, Jimmy Olsen, and Jack Wilson during the day. After their last conversation, he had been seen by Lois Lane walking in the street towards his apartment while she was passing by in a car. They quarrelled and he continued on his way. It was the last time anybody had seen him. We know that he had returned to his apartment, put down his notes on Luthor and the proofs that he had in a drawer of his desk, listened to the message of Luthor on his answering machine and went out again. But we know nothing more of him after that. It's as if he had completely vanished," the policeman explained patiently. "But you have just said that he had effectively found you and spoken to you. You are now the last person to have seen him alive. Then I repeat, what did Kent do after that?"

Here it was. The tricky question that was outlining on the horizon. And what could he answer, indeed? It was obvious that the disappearance of Clark Kent couldn't have gone unnoticed. It was even less possible as he was accommodating Perry, Jimmy and Jack at the time. It was evident that they had noticed that he had not returned in the apartment. But what could he say about his absence?

If at least, he had had time to think about an answer, but he hadn't really seen the question coming. Since he had woken up some hours earlier, he hadn't thought of what the coma of Superman during one and a half months had meant for Clark Kent's life. Instead, he had thought about what would become of his life if his powers never returned, in spite of the reinsurances of Dr Klein; he had thought of Lois and of his parents; he had wondered what was happening outside -- anxiety which had urged him to ask Dr Klein for a newspaper, instead of which, he had been entitled to a fairy tale! -- but he had never thought of the problematic situation of the disappearance of Clark Kent during one and a half months.

And nevertheless, it was so obvious. He should have thought of it. And thought about an excuse to tell everybody. But because he hadn't, he was now silent, not having anything to say to the inspector who was still waiting for his answer. But he had delayed it too long.

"Superman, what did Kent do after having spoken to you? Where did he go? What happened to him? Did Luthor trap him at the same time as you?" Henderson insisted.

But once again, he didn't know what to answer, then he kept silent. He needed more time to think of a valid excuse.

"Say something!" the policeman was beginning to get ennerved. "Do you realize how afraid all his friends are? If you know something, say it, dammit!"

After a short hesitance, he eventually gave the only answer which he could. The answer that would allow him to gain the necessary time so that he could find a better answer.

"I won't tell you where Clark Kent is, but he's okay," he added in an attempt to calm the policeman by reassuring him on his fate. He felt guilty for causing all his friends anxiety. He could at least let them know that he was well, even if he hadn't found yet how to explain where he went. "As soon as I can leave here, I will fetch him and bring him back."

Here at least was something that would guarantee that Superman and Clark's simultaneous returns would not be suspicious. It was at least a problem about which he would not have to worry.

But Henderson didn't take his answer well. The policeman stared at him, unbelieving, and even seemed a little bit angry, but Superman faced him unblinkingly. He couldn't tell him anything else.

"You refuse to say where Clark Kent is?" the policeman repeated, as if not believing his ears. "You know where he is, but you refuse to say it?"

For several moments Superman didn't stumble and returned his glance silently during which time Superman was able to see increased anger on the face of the policeman to be replaced by a cold fury while the inspector was putting his feelings under control again. Henderson then spoke to his men in the room in a moderated voice without losing eye contact with the superhero.

"Could you please go guard outside of the room. I have to speak with Superman in private."

Both policemen on guard went out and closed the door behind them.

"You do realize, Superman, that to hold on information necessary for a police investigation and refuse to answer is a crime? And you could also be considered as an accomplice of what happened to Clark Kent. If we never find him, you could even be considered as the accomplice of Luthor for Clark Kent's murder. We have a witness, his assistant, who told us that Luthor planned to have him killed. She related to us that Luthor had told her that you were the one to raise the point that Luthor needed to eliminate him. I am sure that we could build a case with that, plus your refusal to tell us where he is while you admitted to know it," Henderson threatened him.

"You're not serious, Henderson," Superman answered, not believing what he was hearing. But the policeman continued without caring about the interruption, on the same falsely amiable voice.

"In fact, we acquitted the three closest people to Luthor regarding Kent's disappearance, but we didn't find whom he had asked to take care of it. It was maybe you. After all, you are the last person to have seen him alive. That makes you, in any case, a suspect. And I am sure that a good Attorney General could obtain a guilty verdict. With your powers, there would be nothing easier for you than to make his body disappear."

"He's not dead!" Superman exclaimed. "I told you! He's fine!"

"Then where is he?" The policeman asked one more time, losing any pretence to threaten Superman to build up a file against him for the disappearance of Clark Kent.

"I... I won't tell you, but I will bring him back to Metropolis as soon as I can get out of the hospital," Superman repeated, "and you could verify for yourself that he's okay."

He hoped that he had found a good excuse for all this in the meantime!

Henderson sighed in frustration.

"You're crazy if you think that I'm going to be content with saying that to Lane! That Kent is well, and that she doesn't have anything else to do than to wait for you bring him back to her! She had worried so much she'd almost become insane! Perry had to put her on forced leave, and she had to start psychotherapy because she didn't know where her partner was! When the tracks dried up, she fell into a real depression, and you are her last hope! And you refuse to tell us where he is?!"

Henderson had begun his sermon calmly, but he warmed up as he spoke, and he ended by shouting almost.

Superman looked at him, shocked.

"Lois? She..."

His voice shied away, so much he was shocked. Twice, he had asked Henderson if Lois was well; twice, he had answered him that she was. But she wasn't. The disappearance of Clark had apparently strongly shaken her, much more than all that he would have been able to imagine. She had sunk into a profound depression, so serious that she had to see a shrink. Simply because she didn't know where Clark had gone.

He had never expected such a reaction from Lois if ever Clark went out of her life. After Luthor proposed to her, they had been in cold war. After the quarrel during Perry's retirement party, the day following his love declaration to her, which she had rejected, they were hardly friends any more. During the weeks that followed, they had not seen each other nor spoken to each other, and that hadn't seemed to bother her too much.

Of course, he was aware that during these weeks, the weeks when she was preparing her wedding with Luthor, she had thought of him from time to time as a friend. It was evident that she hadn't completely chased him out of her mind. she had phoned him one evening while he was reading a magazine in his bed, ready to go to sleep. She wanted to know how he was. And the day before her wedding, she had come and asked him to attend the ceremony. He no longer remembered her exact words, but she had then told him that she missed their friendship.

So he knew that if Clark Kent disappeared, Lois would be sad and would miss him. But such a reaction, he hadn't seen it coming. What did that really mean? What did that tell him about her true feelings for him? He wasn't really sure. Could that still be only friendship?

Whatever it was that had caused such a reaction from Lois about Clark's disappearance wasn't what mattered most at the moment. The important thing was that she was suffering, really suffering, and he couldn't bear it. To imagine Lois in pain was an atrocious idea that he didn't want to contemplate.

He had to do something to make things better. What? He didn't know. But he couldn't leave her like that, without helping her. But what should he do? Tell her where Clark was? He wasn't ready to tell her the truth. That day in the park and later at her apartment, she had been very clear. She was in love with Superman, and she loved Clark only as a friend. He hadn't overcome yet the suffering she had caused him then. He wasn't ready to tell her the truth, and he still hadn't found any excuses.

But Lois needed him, and he wasn't about to let her down. She loved Superman. Well, Superman could indeed try to comfort and reassure her on Clark's fate, even if he couldn't tell her where he was. He still could try to ease Lois' pain. She needed him. And if he had to be totally honest, he needed to see her, too.

"You're right, Inspector. It's not up to you to tell Lois that I refuse to reveal where Clark is. I have to do it myself," Superman announced calmly as soon as the shock had eased enough to let him speak again.

The policeman looked at him, completely baffled. He wasn't expecting that answer to what he had said.

"You're completely crazy. You cannot face Lois in your current state and especially not if you're planning to refuse to tell her where Clark is. You're not well enough to face her," Henderson retorted.

"Maybe not," Superman granted, "but that doesn't change anything. I want to speak with her."


Lois had managed to sleep for only a few hours. She had woken up again around midday. She had immediately checked her answering machine hoping to have received a call advising her that Superman was finally fit to answer the questions of the police and had told them where Clark was and that they had finally found him, safe. But she had no message. Horribly disappointed, she drank a cup of coffee and resumed the housework on her apartment right where she had left it. Her impatience, added to her inactivity of these last two weeks, caused her a surplus of energy, which she absolutely needed to use. She also had to find a means to occupy her mind. If she contented herself with waiting until Superman felt better by dreaming about what he could reveal, the impatience would make her completely crazy.

In a few hours, she had completely finished. Her apartment was minutely ordered and impeccably cleaned. Nevertheless, she had been even more obsessive on the domestic tasks than was her custom.

But now, it was hardly 4am, and she was again unoccupied. She needed to find something to take her mind off of things until Superman was well enough to answer the questions of the police. She decided to take a shower. After her long hours of housework, she definitively needed one.

She was just coming out of the bathroom when her telephone rang.

Her heart jumped up in her chest. Could it finally be the phone call she was waiting for? The one that would inform her that Superman had spoken and that Clark had been found?

She already imagined herself getting ready at top speed, jumping into her Jeep, and going to the police station where he probably was making his testimony. She would see him and would run towards him, and as soon as he would see her, he would take her in his arms to hold her, and everything would be well.

But she knew that it was a completely crazy idea -- A dream that had very few chances to come true. First, after all the horrible things that they both had said during their quarrels, it wasn't very probable that he would welcome her with open arms, even if he was now making his testimony to the police station. She should make her excuses first. Then, she also knew that there was a greater probability that Clark would be found dead than alive, if she trusted the statistics in the matter. She knew it, even if she refused to envision this possibility. And finally, they weren't even sure that Superman knew what had happened to Clark. It could be a new dead end. All this without counting that this phone call could have nothing to do with the disappearance of Clark.

Consciously, she knew all these things, but she couldn't refrain from hoping that things would happen as in a fairy tale.

The blood pressure beating in her temples so hard in excitement, she picked up the telephone quickly.

"Hello?" she asked with excitement.

"Lois? It's Henderson. I'm at the hospital," the voice began at the other end of the phone, but Lois interrupted him impatiently.

"That's it? You were able to speak to Superman?" she asked, full of hope.

"Err... yes," the policeman answered, ill-at-ease.

"So? What did he say?" Lois got impatient.

"Err... He wants to speak to you."

"What? About Clark?" Lois cut him off, in a hurry to make him say what she wanted to hear.

"It's... It's about Clark that he wants to speak to you."

Lois' mind finally registered the distant manners of the inspector. He was absolutely not excited at the idea of finally finding Clark. And nevertheless, he had already spoken with Superman, thus he already knew what Superman had to say concerning Clark. But he wasn't excited at the idea of finding him.

She felt as if the lightning had struck her. That couldn't be true. She began crying.

"Oh my God! He's dead! That's it, right?" She sobbed in the phone. "He wants to tell me personally. Is it why he wants to speak to me? He died, then? Everything's over?"

She was crying harder and harder, and she felt almost paralyzed by the pain, now that she knew that there was no more chance to see him again one day, to ask him for forgiveness, and to tell him that she loved him. Without really realizing it, she said it all in the phone, while crying. But finally, the words that Henderson were saying, more and more loudly to make her listen, reached her.

"Lane! No, Lane! Listen to me! He's okay. Clark is okay. Listen to me. Lane. No, he's fine."

The words eventually went through the pain that had made her deaf. She stopped crying as soon as she understood their meaning.

"He's okay?" She repeated more calmly, looking for a reinsurance.

"Yes. Clark is fine," Henderson answered her.

"You found him?" she asked, the hope returning.

"Err... Not yet," Henderson hesitated. "But Superman assures us that he indeed is okay; don't worry. And come to the hospital quickly, please. He wants to speak with you."

Understanding that she wouldn't learn anything more by phone, she accepted and hung up. She ran to her bedroom to get dressed with the first clothes that she found and jumped into her Jeep to go to the hospital where the answers she had looked for for such a long time were awaiting for her.

As soon as she had arrived, Henderson had welcomed and accompanied her in the building and through the security. Throughout the way, she harassed him to know what Superman had said, and finally, while they were reaching the door of Superman's room, the inspector informed her that the superhero refused to reveal what he knew about Clark's disappearance, except to say that he was well.

It was as if a wall had just collapsed on her head. Why was he refusing to speak? If he didn't, she would never have Clark back.

She had tears in the eyes when she finally entered the room, followed by Henderson.


Superman raised his eyes as soon as he heard the door opening, and his heart underwent a shock when he saw Lois for the first time since they had quarreled in the luxury car, which she had borrowed from Luthor, when she was trying to convince him to come and attend the marriage.

It wasn't the same woman any more who was there in front of him. His heart seized up at her sight. She was dressed haphazardly, without make up, her hair was a mess, and she had red eyes full of tears. To be told that she had fallen into a depression and to see her in this state were two different things. He had never seen her like this, and he didn't want to see her so miserable ever again.

Before he had a chance to speak, she dashed to him and began to beg him, within view of both Henderson and the two policemen who were on guard in the room.

"Where's Clark? Please, where is he? Tell me, I beg you, Superman. I need to know."

It was impossible for him to answer her pleas, and nevertheless, it was impossible to do nothing when he was seeing her suffering so much. He couldn't bear it. He had no solution. Incapable of looking at her much longer in the eyes, he looked around him and saw Henderson behind her who fixed him hard, as if to challenge him to refuse again to relieve Lois' despair. But he didn't know what else to tell her.

"Lois, Clark is fine," he told her reassuringly, trying to smile at her in spite of the ball which had just formed in his throat. How he would have liked to have a better answer to give her! But he had nothing else, except for the truth, and he still wasn't ready to tell her. And especially not with Henderson and two of his men in the room.

"But where is he?" Lois insisted, crying freely now.

"I can't..." Superman began, but he was unable to finish his sentence in front of the image of despair which Lois gave him, and he felt a tear pouring down his own cheek, in spite of himself.

"I beg you! I need to know! I love him and I never had a chance to tell him. The last time we saw each other, we had an argument. I beg you. I need to see him again!" She begged, crying desperately, afraid of not being able to convince him to speak.

Superman had difficulty keeping from crying himself by seeing Lois so annihilated by sorrow. He couldn't continue to let her suffer so much. It didn't matter much that he wasn't ready to tell her the truth; he owed her. And he couldn't justify his silence by thinking that she was only interested in Superman; she obviously cared a lot for Clark. She had even just said that she loved him. He had to tell her, and he was going to. Just not with the police in the room.

He tried to get control of his feelings, and he turned calmly to Henderson.

"Inspector, please, could you leave us alone? I'd like to speak in private with Lois."

Henderson began to walk towards the door, but his two men made no movement to follow him.

"In private, please, officers," Superman repeated looking at the two policemen. Henderson stopped and appeared to hesitate.

"Henderson, you know perfectly well that Lois won't try to kill me. And I can't speak to her in private if I have two nannies in the room," the superhero insisted.

Finally, Henderson made a gesture to his men, indicating to them to go out in the corridor.

"We are just on the other side of the door, if necessary, Superman," the older man informed him before going out.

Finally alone, Superman turned to Lois, whose tears had calmed down a little. She was curious to know what he had to tell her in private. She tried not to hope too much. After his earlier refusal to speak, it probably wouldn't be what she despaired to hear, anyway. She absolutely had to make him change his mind. She started to beg him again.

"Please, Superman. For pity's sake."

"Lois, I am going to tell you where Clark is," he interrupted her. "But first, you have to promise me not to say anything to anybody."

"I swear!" she exclaimed immediately. "I just need to know. I want to tell him that I made a mistake. And that I love him. And I hope that he will forgive me for everything I said to him, and that he will still love me, too."

She had just repeated for the second time the words that he had hoped to hear for a whole year, and he felt moved by her declaration of love, and especially by the emotion with which she had spoken them. He wouldn't backtrack; he really had to tell her.

But as he got ready to speak, he saw a shadow under the door and sighed. Henderson and his men were not simply on the other side, they probably were listening to the conversation. Didn't he have the right of one minute of privacy?

"I don't want anyone else to hear what I am going to say, so I am going to speak to you in the ear. And you will not answer. You will not say anything in response in order to prevent anyone from understanding what I am going to tell you. Promise me, Lois."

"I promise. I won't say a thing."

"All right. Come here, so I can speak to you."

She moved closer and sat down on the edge of the bed where he was half lying lengthwise, half sitting while resting against his pillows. He got up a little more and bent towards her. His mouth in her ear, he began to speak.

"I... I am...

No. He couldn't tell her who he was so abruptly. She was way too emotional and fragile to bear such a shock. He had to be more tactful.

"I was born on the planet Krypton, only a few days before it exploded. My biological parents sent me to Earth to save my life. When I came here, I was just a tiny baby. My spaceship crashed in a field in Kansas, near... Smallville. I was found by a pair of farmers who adopted me and brought me up as their son. They were the Kents. And they decided to call me Clark."

Lois moved back abruptly and looked at him fixedly, attentively, looking on the supehero's face for her partner's features. He smiled to her reassuringly and she finally seemed to recognize him. Lois' eyes filled with tears, and when she began smiling, she seemed to shine with happiness. But when he saw her lips move, he quickly put a finger on her mouth before she could emit a sound.

"Shh. No word; you promised," he reminded her tenderly. She agreed by a nod of the head, eyeing him hungrily.

"I know that we need to speak about it, but it's really not the time or the place. When I leave the hospital, and when Clark returns, we will be able to discuss this, really in private," he promised before bending again towards her ear.

"And you don't need to ask me for forgiveness. And I still love you, too. I always will."

She cried from happiness as hard as she had cried from despair during the last weeks, and he took her in his arms, holding her tight against him.

He leaned back against his pillows, bringing Lois to lie near him on the bed. She continued to cry from relief against his chest, slowly calming down, while he held her in his arms, kissing her hair or her forehead a few times.

They stayed in this position even after her tears had dried up. She didn't want to move. She had despaired to see Clark again one day, and now that she was in his arms, she wasn't ready to move away. Her head against his chest, she could hear his heartbeat through the tissue of the hospital gown he was wearing, and it was the most beautiful sound that she had ever heard. The most soothing.

But the evening had already come. No sun entered any more through the window. It would soon be the time to transfer him again to the room with the shutters.

They heard a knock on the door before it opened, and Henderson came into the room with his men. He was surprised to see Lois stretched out beside Superman, in his arms, but quickly regained his composure.

"Sorry to interrupt you, but the visit is over. It's time to return him to his room for the night."

Lois seemed to be about to protest, but Superman spoke before she had the chance.

"He's right; it's late, Miss Lane. You should go home. I promise you that we shall soon see each other again. I feel much better, and I am sure that I'd be authorized very soon to leave the hospital. I will bring back Clark to you immediately afterwards," he told her.

When she reluctantly agreed by a nod of the head, he added, "In the meantime, maybe you could contact his parents and tell them that he's fine and that he will soon be back. They must have died from anxiety. You should speak with them."

Again, she agreed. While she was going out of the room, she realized how hard all this had to be for Clark's parents. Contrary to her, they had always known where their son was, but they couldn't approach him. And if he had never woken up, they would never have been able to see him one last time or even to attend the burial. He would have been buried as Superman, and they were only farmers from Kansas. She was determined to call them to reassure them on his health. The information that leaked out in the press held more rumors than confirmed news. Henderson was anxious to keep a maximum of secrecy around him.

And then she would also tell them that she knew their secret, and maybe Martha would agree to tell her some stories about Clark. She had so many questions, and she knew that she wouldn't be able to ask him as long as he was at the hospital under narrow surveillance. Every mother has stories to tell about their sons, and this one had probably never been able to speak freely about hers. Lois liked Martha Kent. She remembered the phone conversation that they had had when she had admitted to her that she was in love with Clark. They had cried together. Lois knew that they would get along well, and she was in a hurry to get acquainted better with Clark's family.


Whereas she got ready to go up in her Jeep to go back home, Henderson arrived in the parking lot and retained her.

"So, Lois. Where's Clark?" he asked out of the blue.

"He's well, Inspector. Don't worry. Superman said that he would bring him back as soon as he could get out of the hospital," Lois answered him, after a long hesitance. She couldn't tell him anything else.

"It's not what I had asked you. Where is he?"

"I don't know," she lied. But Henderson wasn't a dupe for a single second.

"Bullshit! You came here completely desperate at the idea that Superman would never say what he knew about Kent. Then, you talk alone with him, and when I return, you're cuddling, and you're not worried any more. Then, don't tell me you don't know! Superman told you where Clark is. You know it; don't lie. Where is he, Lane?" he insisted, a little bit angry.

Lois hesitated. She needed to find an excuse, but what? Obviously, even Clark hadn't found any valid excuses, or he would have already told one. The silence lasted long.

"I'm not going to let it drop, Lane! The police have used too many resources to try and find Kent for me to let it go. I will discover where he is. And you would better pray that he's indeed fine because by refusing to answer you are guilty of obstruction of justice!" he threatened her.

"All right! If you insist! I'm going to tell you," Lois granted, looking exasperated. "But you have to promise first not to repeat it. Never. Nor can you write it in your report. Nothing."

"Okay," he answered, a little bit suspicious.

"Superman put Clark out of danger at his own place, before visiting Lex. You know, in case it would be a trap," she explained. It was the theory Jimmy had expounded to her some weeks earlier when she was trying to find Clark, when it began to seem obvious that Lex wasn't involved in his disappearance. She had found the idea silly, but it was the only thing that came to her mind that could explain why Clark had disappeared but was fine, and why Superman was refusing to cooperate.

"His own place?" Henderson repeated, unbelieving.

"Yes," Lois insisted, trying to look full of confidence, even when she knew that it was evident in her expression that she was lying. "In his secret refuge. That's why he doesn't want to tell where Clark is. He doesn't want to give his address."

"A secret refuge?" Henderson repeated, even more unbelieving. "And why didn't Clark leave it when he learned that Luthor had died and that he was in no danger? When his face made the headlines of the Daily Planet every day as a missing person?" he asked in a sarcastic tone.

Lois put herself at once on the defensive. She couldn't let him call her bluff. No matter if she had to continue inventing more and more pitiful and incredible lies to cover her story.

"It's in the Arctic! It's not as if he could be hitch-hiking to come back! There aren't a lot of people around, or the secret refuge would not be secret any more! And I'm not even sure that they have newspapers over there," she answered on a caustic tone.

Henderson chuckled, so it was evident that she was lying. But it was obvious as well that she wouldn't speak. She would keep Superman's confidences.

"All right. So, I won't hold you any longer," he eventually said, letting her get into her car to leave, before going back towards the hospital rooms.


Henderson entered without knocking in the secure room where Superman had been returned for the night. As usual, two of his men were in front of the door, and two others inside the room. The doctor who had to examine him before the night to take note of his progress of the day had not arrived yet.

He went directly to the bed where the superhero was.

"So, a secret refuge in Antarctica, eh?" Henderson asked in a friendly tone, with a small smile aside.

"Sorry?" Superman answered him, perplexed.

Henderson suppressed a small laugh. It was so obvious that he absolutely didn't know what it was all about. Even if Lois Lane had managed to lie credibly -- which she hadn't -- Superman would have screwed everything up.

"It's okay, Superman. I've just grilled Lois, and she told me everything," the policeman announced, looking at the superhero. He noticed immediately how much he became worried and nervous, and he smiled.

"Yes, I know that you put Clark in security in the secret refuge you have in Antarctica, before visiting Luthor."

"Oh!" Superman exclaimed, apparently relieved, before stopping and frowning. "She shouldn't have told you, but it's too late now. Just...promise me that you won't disclose the fact that I have a secret refuge in Antarctica."

"Oh. I promise, Superman," Henderson retorted, holding back a snigger. Then he regained his seriousness and bent towards the superhero to speak in a too low voice so that the two other policemen in the room couldn't hear what he said.

"I'm going to do you a favor, Superman, to thank you for all the help you've given the police in the past. If you really bring back Clark safe and sound, and if he doesn't have another version of the story to tell, then I'm going to accept that as the official version. Otherwise, I swear to you that I won't leave you alone," he warned him, threateningly. "And something else. You really are an amateur criminal. Before saying whatever it was to the police, you should always agree on the details of the story with your accomplice."

To the incomprehension on Superman's face, Henderson explained: "Lois said that your refuge was in the Arctic."

He saw Superman blush slightly. The defender of the truth taken in obvious offence of a lie. And he wasn't good at it.

That's when a doctor entered the room. Henderson moved back to let the doctor examine Superman. But when he tried to take the usual blood test, the needle twisted itself instead of penetrating into his skin.

The doctor looked at the twisted needle, stunned, and Superman smiled. His invincibility was back. His other powers would probably return very fast now. He certainly should be able to leave the hospital the next day.


As soon as she was back home, Lois phoned the Kents. It was late, but she wanted all the same to call them before going to bed. It had been one and a half months that they were worried for their son. They deserved to be reassured as fast as possible. And Lois was sure they wouldn't mind the lateness of the call when they'd hear the good news, even if she were waking them up.

And effectively, she had woken them up, but they hadn't minded. On the contrary. They were delighted to finally know that their son was recovering well. Lois could hear them cry for happiness.

She had told them, naturally, that she knew their secret, and that she was sure that Clark was fine since she had seen him personally. She had felt a little ill-at-ease to tell them herself that she knew their family secret. After all, she was almost a stranger for them.

She had met them personally only twice: The first time, when she had accompanied Clark to Smallville for an article, and the second, when his parents had come to Metropolis when Clark had lost his memory. Then, it had been Superman who was reported missing.

She really liked Clark's parents. They were fabulous people. Not surprising that he had became such a wonderful man. He had been really lucky to be found by them, and not by persons less well-intentioned. The history would have been very different.

As soon as she had given them the good news, they had decided to come to Metropolis. If Clark was about to get out of the hospital, then they wanted to be there to see him again as soon as possible.

They had immediately reserved two places for a flight that left Wichita at dawn to land in Metropolis in the middle of morning. Lois went to look for them at the airport.

They wanted to settle down in Clark's apartment until he could leave the hospital, so Lois drove them there. She felt very touched by the way his parents had taken her in their arms when she had come to pick them up at the airport. They had welcomed her at once into the family and made her feel comfortable by assuring her that they were delighted that Clark had told her his secret.

She had wanted to go to the hospital to see him that morning before fetching the Kents, but she had fallen asleep so late, having reviewed in her head what had just happened, that she hadn't been able to get up early enough. She would have wanted to see how he was, and tell him that his parents had arrived. Now that she knew where Clark was, she had difficulty staying away. But she had got up too late to go to see him before going to the airport, and now that his parents were there, she would feel too guilty going, knowing that they still couldn't see their son. So she stayed with them in Clark's apartment.

When they entered, she noticed that the apartment didn't seem to her dead and cold as the last time she had seen it, but just empty. It was incredible how much the world around could seem changed while remaining the same, simply because she perceived it differently through her feelings.

It hadn't taken long for Martha to start telling Lois all the stories about Clark's childhood that went through her mind. Lois had been right. Like all mothers, Martha had dreamed her entire life of the day she could speak about her son to somebody. And Lois was more than delighted to be the one to hear all this.

They had again looked at Clark's photo albums, but this time, with the comments and explanations of Martha, and Lois had the impression to have known him her entire life.

His life had become to her a real open book. His happy childhood, his sad air at the adolescence when he had begun to feel different because of his developing powers, his hair that he had let grow long because his invincibility had already shown itself and he had no more ways to cut his hair, and his journeys to try to find his place in the world until he found her instead.

This comment from Martha made Lois blush, but she insisted.

"It's because you live in Metropolis, Lois, that Clark stopped going all over the world. He looked for somewhere where he would feel home, and you were the one to offer him that."


Later during the day, Lois phoned the hospital to have news of the progress in Superman's health. She was delighted to learn that he had got back all his powers, and that the doctors were at present filling out the papers to let him go.

From then on, she became more and more impatient. And his parents also.

They had turned on the television and had seen Superman flying away from the hospital in a live report on LNN. They had all three rushed onto the balcony, expecting to see him appearing any second, but nothing occurred.

Quickly, they had become very worried again. Where was he?

It was two hours later when they heard the front door opening. When they saw Clark entering, they all dashed towards him at the same time to take him in their arms.

"But where were you? We were so worried!"

"I got rid of the formalities," he explained. "I visited Henderson to explain to him that Superman had put me out of danger in his 'secret refuge in the Arctic'," he added with a wink to Lois.

"I know that it was a stupid excuse. It was Jimmy's theory," she defended herself.

"And indeed, it's also the official story, now," he concluded with a grin.

"Jimmy is going to be very satisfied to have guessed the truth," she joked.

They spent the rest of the day celebrating their reunion. They were all so happy that he recovered from his exposure to the kryptonite, and that they were finally able to have him back. And he, he was happy to see them all again. He had missed his parents and Lois very much during the few days since he had woken up.

The evening fell too fast to the taste of each. They all wanted to stay together as long as possible. But the Kents had got up very early to take their plane, and they finally said good night and went to bed in Clark's bedroom. Clark would take the sofa.

As soon as Lois and he were all alone, they became a little bit nervous in each other's presence. The day before at the hospital, they had both admitted their love for each other. At the time, Lois didn't know she was speaking to Clark, and he, he was so upset by what he had made her go through, in spite of him, that the words hadn't seemed natural.

But now that they were alone together, with clearer minds, they were very ill-at-ease. They didn't know what to say or what to do. They weren't just friends any more, and nevertheless they weren't more than that either, not yet. They had entered an unknown territory, and they didn't really know how they had to act.

After a long moment when no one said anything, nor made any gesture, Clark broke the silence, his voice a little uncertain.

"It's awkward, eh?"

Lois raised her eyes towards him and realized that he was as nervous and uncomfortable as she was. In a way, she found that reassuring.

"Yes," she answered him, with a small embarrassed smile by lowering her eyes again.

The silence fell again between them, even heavier than before with unspoken things. She felt the need to say something to reduce this embarrassed distance between them, but she didn't manage to find the courage to tell him how she felt. He already knew it. She had already told him the previous day that she loved him, but at the time, she was unaware that it was Clark whom she had in front of her. In a way, to tell it to Clark, to his face, turned out to be more difficult than what she had ever imagined. She just couldn't bring herself to break the silence by telling him the words "I love you" for the first time.

And there weren't a lot of other things that she could tell him. Any other sentence would seem meaningless and would look like an attempt to avoid the subject. And she didn't want him to believe that she was trying to avoid the subject. Twice now, in the park and at the hospital, he had found the courage to tell her to her face that he was in love with her. He deserved that she did as much. But it was harder than she thought.

After some further moments of silence, Clark approached her, looking hesitant, and offered:

"Would you like to go for a walk?"

"Yes, sure," she answered grinning. Maybe having had a little fresh air, she would feel braver.

She put back her shoes and got up from the sofa where she was sitting and began to advance towards the door.

"Err..." Clark objected nervously, "I thought we'd rather go out from the other door."

He accompanied his sentence with a small nod of his head towards the door that led to the balcony. Lois understood, amazed, that he had just offered to take her flying. She smiled wider to him, as delighted as a child in front of her Christmas presents, and followed him on the balcony.

Without changing to Superman, he flew away with Lois in his arms. She had always liked flying with the superhero, but this time, she found the flight even more magic because she was with Clark. It was also the first time that he took her flying just for fun. Usually, he had just saved her from something.

The sight of Metropolis from the night sky was magnificent, and Lois couldn't help herself from being amazed by all that she saw. The flight was simply fabulous.

After a while, he rose even higher through the clouds to show her the stars above. Lois had never seen anything more beautiful. She had never felt so happy as she was at this moment in Clark's arms, hung between stars and clouds.

When she looked at him again, and looked him in the eyes, he broke the silence again.

"I love you, Lois," he told her with an intensity that made Lois shiver with emotions.

"I love you too, Clark."

She had made a mistake. The words had gone out of her mouth very easily. They were asking to be pronounced and she didn't remember any more why she had had so much difficulty saying them -- why she had felt so shy. There really wasn't any reason. She felt so good with him. In his arms, she could relax completely.

"I love you so much," she repeated, before he bent towards her and kissed her.



SOMEWHERE (Within Temptation -- The Silent Force -- 2004)

{*Lost in the darkness

Hoping for a sign

Instead there's only silence

Can't you hear my screams?*}

{*Never stop hoping

Need to know where you are

But one thing's for sure

You're always in my heart*}

{*I'll find you somewhere

I'll keep on trying

Until my dying day

I just need to know

Whatever has happened

The truth will free my soul*}

{*Lost in the darkness

Tried to find your way home

I want to embrace you

And never let you go*}

{*Almost hope you're in heaven

So no one can hurt your soul

Living in agony

Cause I just do not know Where you are*}

{*I'll find you somewhere

I'll keep on trying

Until my dying day

I just need to know

Whatever has happened

The truth will free my soul*}

{*Wherever you are

I won't stop searching

Whatever it takes me to know*}

{*I'll find you somewhere

I'll keep on trying

Until my dying day

I just need to know

Whatever has happened

The truth will free my soul *}