By Rona V. <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: May 2008
Summary: In this counter-piece to the author's vignette "Monday," Alt-Clark finally gets to learn where Lois has been all these years.
This is a counter-piece to my short vignette "Monday." Thanks to the requests of the gentle readers, this story is Lois' story, and told from her point-of-view. It isn't important that you read "Monday" first, although doing so will give you just a little more back story as to what is going on here. The story deals with the Alt-Clark and Alt-Lois introduced in the series. Please keep in mind that this is an Alt-World where Charlton Heston and Elvis Presley were presidents, so I've taken some liberties to make a few other things different as well.
Many thanks go to everyone at the boards who gave this little tale life by demanding a sequel to "Monday." Thanks also to the readers who commented on this story while I was posting it, encouraging me to actually finish it.
Thanks to Sara Kraft for her GE work in preparing this story for the archive.
Any and all feedback is not only welcome, but greatly coveted.
Disclaimer: Most of these characters aren't mine. I'm not writing this story for profit, but rather because I have an unhealthy obsession that needs to be sated.
I used to think my life couldn't possibly get any weirder.
I was wrong.
Friday, Jenna came home with the news that Wayne Irig had passed away. I've only met Mr. Irig on a couple of occasions and therefore didn't know him very well, but he seemed like a nice man. I'm appropriately sad that he has passed on. However, Jenna's news has more profound implications, which I realize instantly -- this estate was being leased from Mr. Irig. If he had passed on, it meant management of the property was going to be passed on as well.
Jenna's standing in the kitchen, calmly unloading cartons of food from Maisie's Diner as she fills me in on the news. The potato salad in her left hand looks so good that I'm salivating, but I ignore my pressing hunger as panic sets in. "God, Jenna, what am I going to do? What if we have to move? What if they find me?" I wail, as I snatch a bag of fried chicken away from her. She turns her innocent blue eyes on me, remaining irritatingly stoic as she reclaims the chicken and pushes me into a chair at the table.
I hit the chair with a thunk and gape like a fish out of water as Jenna turns to grab a couple of plates out of the cabinet, her blonde ponytail swishing behind her. "Look, Lois. I know you're worried, but..."
"Worried!?" I leap from the chair. She thinks I'm worried? I can show her worried. "Jenna, this isn't even close to worried. I am way beyond worried. That -- " I point at the front door, " -- is worried." I sweep my arm across in front of me, gesturing at the back door on the other side of the house. "And that is the whole range of emotions between worried and where I am now. I am the back door, Jenna. I'm so beyond worried, that it's clear across the house."
Jenna furrows her eyebrows a little at me and shakes her head. "You're weird, Lois. I mean I've always known that, but that has to be the weirdest analogy I have ever heard. Here." She hands me a plate she has dished up while I've been ranting and raving. "Eat. Let's talk."
I sigh and slump back down into my chair. "I knew this was all too good to be true," I mutter as I fork an innocent lump of potato. It crumbles under the pressure, and I can't help but relate a little to the potato, as I think about what is going to happen to me if I have to move away from my little safe haven in Kansas.
Jenna ignores my grousing and plows on. "Okay, here's what we know. Wayne was leasing this farm to me. He is now deceased, which means the management of the farm is going to have to fall to someone else. I talked to Rachel Harris today, and she mentioned that she managed to get in touch with the farm's owner. He's planning on attending Wayne's funeral on Monday. Rachel said she wouldn't be surprised if he comes by here on Monday and tries to sell the place to us. She said this farm has bad memories for him, and he'd probably rather get rid of it outright than try to continue managing it."
"But, we can't buy this place! It's acres upon acres of land, and we don't have that kind of money. We're going to have to move!" I'm starting to feel a little more desperate. I stab at another potato and it obligingly crumbles. It's a little like therapy, destroying these helpless little starches. That was my dream, I think as I watch one potato crumble under my fork. I smash another potato. That was another dream.
"We may be able to afford it. We don't know what kind of offer Mr. Kent will make. Maybe he'll be so desperate to get rid of the farm that he'll practically give it to us. Or maybe he'll change his mind and let us keep leasing it out. It's not like there's a long line of people waiting to get their hands on this barren land. There is no point in worrying right now about something we can't control. And you know that if we have to move, Daniel will find another place for us somewhere else."
I sigh, and force all of the nervous energy to seep out of me. She's right. There's no point in dwelling on what hasn't come to pass yet. "Okay, fine. We'll see what Mr. Kent has to say when he's here on... " Suddenly, Jenna's words catch up with me. I feel the gears in my mind grinding slowly against each other as they try to process the information.
There's no way. It can't be. It's just not possible. I've never had a single ounce of good luck in my entire thirty-seven years. "Mister... K -- Ke -- Kent?" The name stumbles over my lips and I'm sure at the moment I must look a little like a deer in the headlights.
Suddenly Jenna's eyes are shining and I can tell she's biting back a grin.
"As in... Clark Kent? As in... Superman?" I know I have to be right, but I can't stop myself from asking.
Jenna nods once, firmly.
"Oh!" I leap out of the chair and throw my arms around her. I'm hugging her and then I'm swatting her away playfully and nudging her shoulder with my fist. "I can't believe you kept this from me all this time! You just sat there and let me freak out. You fink!"
I can feel my laughter bubbling up out of me, unable to be contained any longer. I'm laughing and smiling, and suddenly I feel as though a weight has been lifted off of my chest. Jenna's grinning from ear to ear as well. She was enjoying torturing me, but I know she's enjoying seeing this more.
Jenna's been protecting me for the last eleven years. Even though this is her job, what she gets paid for, I know she has practically sacrificed her life for me. Over the years we've become as close as two sisters could be. She might not biologically be my sister, but she's been all I've had for eleven years. We're close, and I can't help but think about how much I'm going to miss her if this all works out.
She must be reading my mind, because she tightens her hug briefly before stepping back to wipe a stray tear from her eye. "This is your chance, Lois. If there's anybody in this world who can solve this case and let you get back to your life, it's going to be Superman."
She's right, of course. I've been wanting to track down the big blue boy scout since he appeared on the scene eight years ago. As soon as I saw him on the television, I knew he was the answer to my prayers. I've just been unable to do anything to get in touch with him or attract him here. I have been too afraid any maneuver on my part might reveal my location to those whom I've been hiding from.
And then fate just delivers him into my hands.
Jenna visibly gathers herself together. She swipes one last time at her face, then straightens her back. Her tears are gone and her trademark toothy grin is back. "Well, if he's going to be here on Monday, we'd better get this place straightened up. Need to make a good first impression, you know." She begins to collect the plates, as my potato salad is now long forgotten.
My life just keeps getting weirder and weirder.
The days after Jenna delivers the news to me -- that Clark Superman Kent is coming home to Smallville at long last -- pass quickly. We scour the house, tidy the yard. Jenna spends hours meticulously cleaning her truck. When Daniel was here a couple of months ago, he repainted the house and barn, so they look as good as... well, not new exactly, but better than they did before he was here. Jenna borders on obsessive-compulsive, so she wants everything to be the picture of perfection. She can be something of a slave-driver.
I'm not really complaining, though. I'm glad for the non-stop cleaning. It gives me something to do to keep my mind off of Monday. I have been filled with adrenaline since Friday, and I know my nerves are on edge. This is it, really. I'm only going to get one shot to tell Mr. Kent my story and hope he is willing to help me.
My nerves have become a thick coil wound tightly into my stomach. They've prevented me from sleeping much, and the quality of what sleep I have managed has been poor. Sunday night, I barely sleep at all. I spend hours staring at the ceiling above my bed before I finally give up and wander into the kitchen. It's four in the morning, so I put on a pot of coffee and then patiently watch it brew.
Once the coffee is done, I sit down at the table with my notebook to start sketching out a timeline and organize my facts. I think if I'm organized, it might help me explain my story a little better when I have the opportunity. I don't get very far in my intentions, though. I'm not sure how long I stare at the cover of the leather-bound book, unable to open it, as I'm lost in my thoughts.
This book, with the word "Journal" stamped smoothly into its dark cover, holds every reminder there is of my past life. There is nothing else left of the old me except this paper and this ink. Jenna and Daniel are the only ones who know who I really am. In Smallville, I'm not Lois Lane. Lois Lane is dead. I think I'm most affectionately known around town as Crazy Katie. Crazy Katie, the reclusive and slightly deranged sister of sensible and practical Emily Fulton.
As far as the citizens of Smallville are concerned, I'm harmless but very eccentric. The story, as everyone knows it, is that I am unable to socially interact with other people, but believe I can communicate with nature. Out of concern for me, my sister Emily took it upon herself to take care of me and moved the two of us to the country after our parents passed. She thought being in a rural area would keep me away from the crowds of people who didn't understand me, and also give me the land to roam and enjoy the nature I so adore.
That's the story, anyway.
Thus, I have only met a handful of townsfolk in the eleven years I've lived here, and only then because those people have ventured near the farm. I know the town only through the stories Jenna has relayed to me over the years. To keep our cover, she works in the kitchen at Maisie's Diner, where she hears and sees a lot of funny things. They're cute little anecdotes, but despite her best efforts to keep me at least a little in touch with reality, the good people of Smallville are really only two-dimensional characters to me.
I shake myself a little to bring my thoughts back to the present. I open the book, where the first sight that greets me is my press pass. It has been dulled down by the years, but is still a representation of every dream and hope I ever had. Lois Lane. Award-winning, respected reporter. Daily Planet. All gone. I had three beautiful Kerth Awards sitting in my curio cabinet at home. I wonder where they are now. All the hard work I poured into achieving those little symbols of my success was in vain. Because I was too blind to realize when I'd gotten too close to a story. Too ambitious to know when to step back and let the proper channels handle things. Too reckless to check the water level before jumping in.
I used to think the most important thing in life was getting the story. Be there first, be the best, get the scoop that blows everyone away. Win a Kerth, win a Pulitzer. Prove that a woman can make it in this man's world. Show everyone that Lois Lane is the best there is.
I was wrong.
The most important thing in life is *life.* Having family, having friends, having freedom. I'd give anything to be able to just run down to the corner store to pick up a loaf of bread. I'd like to be able to go shopping to pick out my own clothing without worrying about being discovered. I can't call Perry or Lucy. I can't take a vacation. I can't do any living. On a stupid, careless, worthless Tuesday, I traded my life for a story, and I can admit it now -- it wasn't worth it.
Sighing wistfully, I pick up my pen and start to trace my outline again for the thousandth time. This is pointless, going over every detail, but it's something to do. Maybe Jenna is starting to rub off on me -- I want this to be perfect.
Jenna finds me around six o'clock, scrubbing grout in the kitchen. My notebook has been abandoned in favor of what I think might be a new mildew problem on the tile backsplash. I've gone through an entire pot of coffee, and I'm pretty sure I look a little disheveled.
Jenna stands like a statue in the doorway. Her hands are on her hips, her hair is bed-rumpled, and she looks like she might possess a little of Superman's heat vision. I'm glad at the moment that she doesn't. She can be rather formidable, which is impressive considering her petite frame. Jenna Scardino is tough enough that even I don't want to tangle with her. And I'm Crazy Katie Lois Lane. Either identity you pick, people cower in fear of me.
"Lo-is. It's six in the morning. Can you pick some other time to test my ability to hear through the walls?" She picks up the empty coffee pot, frowns at it, shakes it upside down a couple of times as if that is the secret to making more coffee appear, and then sets it down on the counter with an exasperated sigh. "And could you at least have some coffee ready for me if you insist on waking me up?"
"Sorry," is all I can manage, as I studiously inspect the grout. There's this little fleck of grey right at the joint where the counter meets the wall. It is stubbornly resisting my attempts to remove it.
Jenna either doesn't hear my melancholy tone, or she's chosen to simply ignore it. She's already going about the motions of brewing another pot of coffee. "I had to get up anyway. I traded my lunch shift off in favor of working this morning. Daniel is going to be in town later this afternoon."
Suddenly, grout doesn't seem all that interesting anymore. "What!? You've had enough advance warning that he's going to be in town to change shifts at the diner, but you didn't see fit to tell me?" I feel betrayed. She can't leave me here on my own to handle Clark Kent. I can't do it all by myself!
"You've had enough on your plate, Lois. I didn't think you needed something else to worry about, so I didn't see the point in telling you. I'm getting off around two and going to meet him down at the cave. If we think he wasn't followed, we'll be back here sometime this evening."
"But... Kent! Superman! He's coming today, sometime today, and I have to talk to him. If you're out traipsing around with Daniel, I'm going to have to do this all by myself. I can't do this alone, Jenna. I can't." I'm floundering here, trying to figure out how I'm supposed to cope with this.
Jenna whirls on me, those heat vision eyes flashing brightly. "Oh, for Pete's sake. Yes, you can. You're Lois Lane. You can handle this perfectly well all by yourself. In fact, I think you'll handle it better alone than you will if I'm hovering over your shoulder and interjecting my own random comments. This is my husband, Lois. I only see him a few times a year. If I tell him not to come today, I don't know when I'll see him again." Her face softens a little. "Please don't ask me to tell him not to come... "
She would, if I really asked her to. If I told her, without a doubt, that I needed her moral support when dealing with Mr. Kent, she'd stay. Even if it meant it would be another six months before she sees her husband again. I can't deprive her of that. I know what it's like, missing family, not being able to talk to them.
I'm fixing to relent when a thought occurs to me. "Crazy Katie!" I exclaim. "You can't leave me to talk to Mr. Kent alone. I'm supposed to be Crazy Katie."
"Uh... Lois. You're forgetting something important... " She trails off, her eyes indicating to me that I'm supposed to understand what she's implying.
I wave my hand at her, encouraging her to continue. I have no idea what she is talking about, and no patience to deal with her vague statements today.
"The whole point of this is to prove to him that you're not Crazy Katie. To tell him the story of Lois Lane... " She quirks an eyebrow, obviously wondering if the light bulb has gone off over my head yet.
It has. I wince and shake my head to clear the fog in my brain. "Of course. Sorry, I'm a little flustered. Go on. I'll see you and Daniel both tonight?"
Jenna smiles and squeezes my shoulder. "You'd better believe it. And I'm expecting good news when we get back. I'm going to go hop in the shower and head off."
She's walking around the corner toward the bathroom when she turns back. "Oh, Lois, by the way... you might want to freshen up a bit before Superman gets here. You look like crap." She flashes me a grin and darts off as my sponge hits the wall above where her head was.
After Jenna leaves, I start to go a little stir-crazy. I take her advice and indulge in a long, hot shower to soothe my tense muscles. I figure Mr. Kent won't be here until at least the afternoon, so I throw on some comfortable jeans and my favorite red shirt. It's cool in the house, so I grab a flannel and move back into the kitchen to straighten my earlier mess.
I've cleaned the wall where my poorly-aimed sponge hit it earlier, wiped down the counters, washed and stowed the coffee pot. Then I decide I should sweep again. Maybe eat some breakfast. Then I have to clean up after that. Before long, I've gone into round two of scrubbing the house from top to bottom, and time has passed rapidly. I finally surrender to any remaining dust bunnies and grab my notebook to review a couple of points.
As I sink down into the comfortably worn old armchair, I glance at the clock. It's now right at three o'clock. Jenna and I anticipated we'd see Mr. Kent after the funeral, so I have maybe half an hour to look over my notes before I need to get acceptably dressed.
The funny thing about having days to prepare for Mr. Kent's arrival is that I've also had too many sleepless nights, no thanks to all of my nerves and excitement. Before I can even realize I've fully passed out in my armchair, I'm being jerked awake by the sound of footsteps crunching up the drive.
Since I'm half asleep, my mind instantly makes a connection to the Thompson boys. They've made it their life mission to see what they can do to draw out Crazy Katie. I think it might have started off as a dare, but if it was, it has gone too far by now. Over the years, they have made their share of messes around the farm.
Crazy Katie. Right. I'm playing a role here, and I have to maintain it even in the face of freckled little brats. I snatch up the unloaded gun -- it really is only for appearances -- that is sitting by the front door, and fling the door open.
Only to come face to face with a wall of muscle.
This is not a good start.
"I'm so sorry!" I exclaim. I can't believe I succumbed to exhaustion. I can't believe I even momentarily forgot that Mr. Kent was supposed to be arriving today. I can't believe I greeted him with a gun in his face! I quickly lower the gun, and start to explain myself. "I thought the noise I heard was those blasted Thompson kids again. I don't really shoot them, I just try to scare them off. They're always stealing or vandalizing or..." No, no, no. Stop babbling Lane! You're screwing this up way too quickly! "Never mind. You must be Mr. Kent. I was told you may stop by today. Please, come in."
I step back, in hope that he'll follow me inside. Otherwise, I'm going to die of embarrassment right here in the doorway of a quaint little Kansas farmhouse. I think he's gaping at me, and he hasn't said a single word yet. This can't be good.
Finally, he seems to accept my invitation. "Lois?" he asks, looking a little dumb-struck.
Okay, that's a little better. He spoke. I nod my assent at whatever he said, anything to get him to actually enter the house. "Come in, have a seat. Can I get you some tea? Coffee? Maybe a soda? Do you like wine? I think we have a bottle of wine around here somewhere. My sister said that Rachel said you'd be here to potentially make us an offer on the farm, and that's something we need to talk about, but I have some other things we need to talk about first, and I'm so glad you're here, because you're not going to believe the story I have to tell you... " I trail off as my brain finally starts to actually catch up with my auditory senses.
Wait a minute. What did he call me?
Lois? How does he know I'm Lois?
My steps falter. No, this can't possibly happening. I thought he was a good guy. He can't be on *their* side.
A hand touches my arm and I feel electricity arc through my body. It tingles in a delicious way that I've long forgotten. I look up at him, suddenly forgetting my train of thought. It has been derailed by the most gorgeous chocolate-colored eyes I have ever seen.
"Lois?" He queries again.
Yes, I was right. He knows I'm Lois. I have to get my though process back on track. Come on, Lois. Forget the eyes. Forget that nice little... freckle? Oh, god, who knew a freckle could be so... No. Lois. He knows I'm Lois. This could be a disaster. Come on, Mad Dog Lane still has to be in there somewhere...
I stiffen my spine, find a defensive posture, and shake his hand off. "I'm sorry, I'm afraid you've gotten the wrong information. My name is Katie. Katie Fulton. I was told you'd be here to discuss the sale of the farm. I don't think we're going to be interested, but I appreciate you taking the time to stop by."
Okay, that's something. Maybe if I can get him leave quickly enough, I'll have enough time to gather my notebook and leave Jenna a note before I flee to our safe spot. This man is from Metropolis, and no matter how nice he is to look at, he knows who I am. I've got to get out of here, now. This was a stupid plan. It's time to abandon ship.
Instead of taking my hint, he firms up. He becomes this unrelenting rock, rooted to the middle of my living room floor. "No, Ms. Lane, I know who you are. And you're definitely not Katie Fulton."
Fight or flight? Fight or flight?
He must see my thought process, because his shoulders slump, and he looks defeated already. "Please, Ms. Lane. Just give me a few minutes of your time. I think we should talk."
There's a desperate tone to his voice, and I evaluate the options quickly in my head. I can give him five minutes of my time, and then I'm out of here if I can make it. Really, I'm already helpless. This is Superman, after all. I'm only going to make it out of here if he wants me to. "Okay, fine," I assent. "You have five minutes. You'd better make it worth my time."
He nods, and gestures to the chair. "Have a seat. I think you're going to need it."
I have been sitting in my armchair, impatiently watching the second hand on the wall clock tick by the time for three full minutes, waiting for Mr. Kent to start to speak. He has been pacing, looking for all the world as though he is trying to come up with the most plausible excuse he can manage to tell me how he knows my identity. I'm ready to escape as soon as possible, and if he doesn't get started soon, I'm not going to give him the full five minutes.
I'm about to stand when he ceases wearing a path in my carpet and stands directly in front of me. "Lois --"
"Katie," I snap back at him.
He shakes his head and crouches down to kneel in front of me. I'm perched on the edge of the chair, prepared to stand, so his movement brings him down to eye-level and disconcertingly close. "I'm not sure what has happened to you to cause you to think your name is Katie, but I can assure you it isn't. I'm sorry if this is going to come as a bit of a shock to you, but your name is Lois Lane."
This is irritating me, how he won't give up this stubborn insistence of his. "How exactly do you know I'm this alleged Lois... Lane, you said? Really, mister, you're suffering from a serious case of mistaken identity."
"No, I promise you I'm not. I can't possibly be wrong about this. Your name is Lois Lane, and you were once a reporter for the Daily Planet in Metropolis. You... *died* in the Congo, eleven years ago."
I am starting to find this man infuriating. Can't he just let it drop? I've never met him before, so there's no way he can know who I am unless he's not as good-intentioned as he has led the world to believe he is.
I snort. Fine. He wants me to pin him down, I will. "I don't look dead to me. Alive and breathing healthily, actually. And really, if I've been dead," I bite the word out at him with all the sarcasm I can manage, "for eleven years, and you've been in Metropolis for less time than that, how could you even remotely know who I am?"
I'm not sure what reaction I'm expecting from him, but it certainly isn't this. He's adopted a smug look, one eyebrow raised and a hint of a grin at the corners of his mouth as he asks, "Oh? And how could you even remotely know how long I've been in Metropolis?"
He's mocking me! How dare he! "It is common knowledge Mr. Kent. Everybody knows your life story." I stand up and jab one finger squarely in his chest, about where the "S" should be. It's the equivalent of jamming my finger into a brick wall, but I'm not about to let him have even the slightest hint of how much my finger now hurts.
"Indeed, Ms. Lane. I know who you are, because I am a reporter for the Daily Planet. You're a legend around there. It's common knowledge."
Oh. Well, there is that...
"I think we should start over. I'll fix us something to drink, get you some ice for your finger, and then I'll explain everything from the beginning."
I open my mouth to protest, but change my mind. Despite the situation, I'm still holding out hope that maybe he isn't evil after all. I can at least hear him out. Plus, my finger really is throbbing.
"Okay, fine," I answer, turning on my heel and heading into the kitchen. "But I'm fixing the drinks."
The process of pouring two glasses of water takes a little longer than it should, since my right hand is currently out of commission. Mr. Kent is smart enough to know not to challenge me on this, so he sits silently at the table while I struggle through the stupid simple task of popping ice cubes from trays and dropping them in glasses. However, I do finally prevail, and with one more triumphant "Ah-ha!" on my behalf, we're at last seated at the table with drinks and some leftover fudge cake Jenna brought home a couple of days ago.
"Okay," I begin, as I hold my icy glass up against my right hand. "You said you had something to talk about. Go ahead."
"No, let's do this right." He holds his right hand across the table in the traditional gesture. "Clark Kent. It's nice to meet you, Ms. Lane."
I wave my right hand back at him. "You'll have to forgive me, but I'd rather not go for a handshake right now, Mr. Kent."
He winces at the reminder and withdraws his hand. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to hurt you."
"It's fine. I'm pretty sure nothing is broken."
"Oh! What if you did break something? I should have thought about that!" Before I can blink, he's kneeling before me, coaxing my right hand gently away from my body and sweeping over it with his eyes. It takes me a second to process that he must be using his x-ray vision on me. It's a surreal revelation when combined with the way my hand is now tingling where he is holding it.
I nervously laugh a little, partially at me, and partially at the Kryptonian. "Relax, I was only kidding. Nothing is broken. It's not the first time I've jammed something, and I'm sure it won't be the last."
He seems appropriately sheepish. "Sorry, I just always worry I'm going to hurt someone. It's easier than you would think to forget my strength." He sits back down at the table, at the end this time, not across from me.
My heart melts just a little. Can this man really be evil? He seems as good-intentioned as he does on television, if not more. And definitely far more gorgeous. I thought he was a good-looking man before, but it turns out that cameras don't do him any justice. They don't convey this edge of vulnerability I see around him. Nor do they show all of the personality I can see lurking just beneath the surface.
"Can I ask you one question?" I blurt out before I can think better of it.
"Why did you come to Smallville today?" I don't know exactly what answer I'm looking for, but it's the first question that comes to mind.
He looks a little confused, as if he didn't expect my question any more than I did, but answers anyway. "I came today to go to Wayne's funeral. He was very important to me when I was growing up. I owed it to him to at least pay my respects."
That's a satisfactory answer, I think, but I press on. "How do you really know who I am?"
He grins, showing me a flash of pearly-whites. "That's more than one question, Ms. Lane."
"Please, just answer the question." This is important. This is how he can prove to me that he can be trusted. If he answers this right, it may change my life forever.
He doesn't answer me, though. Instead, he slumps back in the chair and hangs his head. His eyes are downcast and his hands are folded tightly together, knuckles white with tension. I can feel my heart breaking as the silence presses on. I thought today would bring me a chance at freedom, not reveal to me that my potential savior works for the wrong side.
When he finally speaks, his voice is barely above a whisper. "I know who you are, because I've been looking for you for a long time."
My heart plunges to my stomach. I never expected him to verbally confirm what I was most afraid of. It's too late, I think. Too late to run. He has me where he wants me -- comfortable, open, vulnerable. There's nothing I can say or do now that will save me, so I may as well get the most information I can out of him before I'm dead.
"I'm amazed it has taken you this long. I mean, I live on your old farm. I was under your nose this whole time and it took you, what, eight years to find me? Or have you been working for them even before you became Superman? Did they recruit you once they found out about your powers, or was this all part of some scheme? How did you get involved. And who is *them* anyway? I'd at least like to know who wants me dead before you kill me."
His head snaps up. "Kill you? You think I'm here to kill you?" His voice sounds alarmed, and if it is possible, his knuckles have turned even whiter. "Where did you get that idea? This is because I'm an alien, isn't it? You're afraid of me. I should have known. So many people are, I don't know why I thought maybe... "
His eyes look haunted; they touch something deep inside of me. I never thought Superman could have fears as well as anybody else. I want so badly to believe he's a good man -- that he isn't here to kill me, and maybe even able to help me -- but this hope is warring with my instinct to fight for my life.
I decide to speak bluntly. Maybe we can get this over with quickly. "I don't care if you're from Krypton or Kansas, Mr. Kent. Your origins have nothing to do with this, really. The fact is, you showed up on my doorstep a half an hour ago, knowing it was Lois Lane who was going to answer that door. Even if you know something of me from working at the Daily Planet, I've been gone for eleven years. Having never met me before, I seriously doubt you could put a name to my face as quickly as you did unless you knew what you were looking for. That was your first mistake."
I hold up a hand to forestall whatever he is about to say. "Then, you admitted not five minutes ago that you've been looking for me for a long time. Why would you be looking for a woman who is presumed dead, unless you honestly suspect she is not dead? The only ones who suspect I'm still living are those who specifically wanted to kill me in the first place, and I don't think they're going to be satisfied until they've seen my dead body. So you have to be working for them. The Gamma Group. I'm just asking to know who they are before you finally do away with me. Think of it as a last wish. I want to know who the mastermind is behind the Gamma Group."
I'm shaking by the time I finish speaking. I've laid everything out on the table; now I can only await my fate.
"Oh, Lois... no. I promise... no, that's not it." Mr. Kent slides his chair a little closer to mine, and I flinch. "Oh, what did they do to you?"
He reaches out, almost tentatively, and places his hand over mine. "I promise you, I'm not here to kill you. I don't work for any organization, other than the Daily Planet. I've never heard of this Gamma Group, but if they're trying to kill you, I can swear to you that I'm going to bring them down. From the way you have spoken, you know who I am. You know what Superman stands for. I would never hurt anyone, especially not you."
"If that's true, why were you looking for me?" I ask.
Mr. Kent removes his hand from mine, and runs it over his face. The gesture reminds me of someone trying to physically ease a tension headache. "Do you remember when it was revealed that I was Superman?" he asks from behind his hand.
I do remember that. It is incredible, the things this man can do, and it left an impression on me. One half of the saga appealed to the reporter still deep within me, the other half appealed to the girl who was in search of a savior, desperate to get back to her life in Metropolis. His unveiling was almost a defining moment in my life, if I had only had the means to get in touch with him when I found him.
And now he's sitting here in front of me, having to prove to me that he's a good-intentioned man.
"Yes, I remember. But what does that have to do with me?"
"This is quite possibly going to be the most incredible story you've ever heard in your life, but I swear it's true. I'm going to need you to keep an open mind while I explain everything, okay?"
I guess it can't hurt. I nod at him, indicating he should continue.
"Well, I had a little help becoming Superman... "
My life does keep getting weirder and weirder.
For the last half hour, I have sat and listened to... what did he call it? The most incredible story I've ever heard in my life? That's an understatement. Incredible doesn't even begin to describe it.
This is crazy. Everything is crazy. That I've been stuck on a farm in Kansas for eleven years. That Superman is sitting next to me at my kitchen table. That there's an alternate universe in a parallel dimension that contains another me, another Clark Kent, another Superman. Perhaps the craziest thing of all is that I believe him. I have no idea why, but I do. There is one, albeit small, thing that helps corroborate his story for me. I didn't think much of it at the time, but I can remember that woman at the mayoral debate. She looked a lot like me, although I'd have never cut my hair that short. I just never put two and two together.
There's another Lois Lane. One who has convinced this man, this super man, to look for me because... why, exactly?
"Why?" I echo my thoughts.
"Excuse me?" Mr. Kent looks a little confused, like he's pondering exactly which part of his tale I'm questioning.
"Why were you looking for me? This Lois you met... how... " I'm struggling with finding the right words to express what I'm thinking. "Why did that influence you to seek me out?"
He seems to understand my question. "She was this amazing, incredible woman. So full of life, energy, passion. I thought, maybe if I could find the Lois Lane of this world and bring her back, the world would be a better place. If she -- you -- possessed even an ounce of what that Lois did, I'd be lucky to know you, maybe even count you as a friend."
I sit back in my chair and think about this. Does he expect me to be this other woman? I don't know if I can live up to that role. She sounds too good to be true. The years have been hard on me; I'm not sure I possess the same sort of spirit.
"Mr. Kent... "
"It's Clark, please."
I try it on. "Clark." Yes, that does feel right. "I can't be this other Lois. I can't be anybody but me. I have a feeling we've had very different lives, gone through events that have shaped us into being different people."
Would I have ended up like her if I hadn't been forced to Smallville?
Clark's eyes light up. "Does this mean you believe me? Everything I've said to you is the truth, I swear."
It's so crazy, this weird life of mine. I have no reason to believe him, but something inside of me just feels like I should. This seems so right. The sensation leaves tears pricking at the backs of my eyes as I smile a little. "I don't know why, but yes, I believe you. The whole crazy story."
Clark's face breaks into this mega-watt smile. It should be illegal, it's so gorgeous. "Lois, I don't expect you to be anybody but yourself. I know you're a different person than the other Lois I met, and I respect that. I want to get to know you, for who you really are, if you'll let me."
I don't understand why, but that sounds like the most beautiful thing I've ever heard. I can feel my lips shifting into my own grin, mirroring Clark's.
"I think I'd like that."
Clark holds out his hand to me. I grasp it, feeling that now-familiar energy tingle up my arm. "Tell me who Lois Lane is," he says, locking eyes with me. They seem to bore into my soul, and I think for a moment that life has never been this perfect. "I've been looking for you for a long time. I can't believe you've been living on my farm. Can you tell me how you got here? All I know is that you went to the Congo, and then just... disappeared."
I shake my head. "No, I never made it to the Congo, but it's good everybody believes that."
"What happened?" he asks, his eyes conveying how seriously he is taking me.
What happened? That's such a good question. How do you tell someone how your life suddenly went so wrong so quickly? I feel a pang of sadness for who I used to be, for my former life. I love Jenna and Daniel, but I loved being Lois Lane. I miss Metropolis, my friends, my family, my life.
That sadness disappears as quickly as it swooped down on me. I have a new friend, a new ally. I'm going to tell him my story, and I bet he'll do everything in his powers to restore me to my former life. I can only go up from here, right?
"Well, it started in 1993 when I was investigating this gun-running ring... "
As I'm telling Clark my story of how I transformed from being an ace reporter at Metropolis' Daily Planet to a hideaway in rural Kansas, I'm transported back into my memories. Back to a time when I was at the top of my game, living what I thought to be the perfect life: hard work, the smell of fresh newsprint, and success.
Oh, how wrong I was.
Even since childhood, I was always determined to be the most successful reporter there ever was. In my adult life, I worked even harder because I was female. Never mind that at the tender age of 26 I already had three Kerth Awards under my belt. That wasn't enough for Lois Lane. Nothing was ever enough. I was ambitious in every sense of the word. I needed something bigger, something better, something that would win me the Pulitzer.
I took every lead seriously. I believed that any tiny tip could lead to *the* story, the story that would change my life. As a result, I was all over a tip I received in early February of 1993 from one of my most reliable sources. Drew encouraged me to look into the shipments going out at the docks. He wouldn't tell me what exactly I was looking for, only that it was highly illegal and I'd know it when I found it.
He had never been wrong before, so I did some quality snooping (which a few legal officials might call breaking and entering) in the offices at the docks and unearthed handfuls of ship manifests. They were all pretty standard imports and exports -- nothing that would have caught the eye of customs officers. Despite this, one set of manifests seemed to catch *my* attention. They detailed shipments of computers to the Congo government. On the surface, computers didn't seem fishy to me. But I just knew, somewhere deep down inside of me, in the part that is completely Lois Lane, that these were the shipments I was looking for. Maybe it was because computers weren't such a hot commodity then -- especially not for a country like the Congo -- and it sure did seem like an awful lot of them were being shipped. Maybe it was because I'd never heard of the exporting company, Horizons Incorporated. I don't know what it was exactly I suspected, but I was determined to find *something.*
Some people call my reporter's instincts adrenaline. Some call it blind luck. I call it persistence. I knew something had to be amiss. A handful of manifests that appeared to be legitimate weren't going to throw me off the scent of a hot story. I sat in front of the mind-bogglingly slow copier and made duplicates of every one of those manifests. Once I had a pocket stuffed full of paper, I high-tailed it out of the offices and headed back to my apartment to begin my deep investigation of Horizons Inc. I never noticed the security camera tracking my every move.
I spent days doing research on Horizons. As I suspected, it was nothing more than a shell company. I dug deeper into layers of companies, layers of protection. I spent every waking moment working on getting to the bottom of who Horizons was. I finally came to a dead end at a company called The Gamma Group. I'd never heard of them, either. I couldn't find any information on them. For all intents and purposes, they didn't even seem to exist. They were just there. Purpose? Nothing. Mission statement? Nada. All I had was the date of incorporation and the CEO. Established in 1985. Owned and operated by Sevanto Ellis. I wanted to weep at how far I had come to find nothing at all.
Never one to be down for long, I decided a full expose on Mr. Ellis was in order. That research was where I found the motivation to continue. Sevanto Ellis was practically just a ghost. According to what I could find on him, he'd died in 1991. No photographs, no heirs, no will and testament. Just a death certificate stating that he'd died of a myocardial infarction in 1991.
This was finally something to stroke my wounded instincts. A dead man couldn't be shipping computers to the Congo.
I spent the next several weeks watching every shipment that came in and out of the docks. It didn't take long for me to find the ship I wanted. I learned its patterns, its schedule, the dock workers. I waited and bided my time -- something which is very hard for me to do -- until the night finally came that I could board the ship and see what was really going on.
What I found that night far surpassed my expectations.
The ship was full of crates, all lined up in neat rows. I just had to know what was inside of those crates. I knew, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that they would not hold computers. It took longer than you would expect to locate a crowbar, and even longer to actually pry a crate open. It was hard work, and I wasted precious time. For the first time in my life, I found myself thinking it might be a little easier if I had a partner, preferably a male, who could do some of the strong work. But Lois Lane doesn't really need anyone. It might have taken more time than I intended, but I got that crate open. Inside, I found twelve computers, stacked neatly three wide, two deep, and two tall.
I was ready to howl in frustration at the legitimate packaging when something caught my eye. Wedged tightly between two of the computers was something that glimmered in the light of my flashlight.
I remember thinking how lucky I was to find that one diamond. I've come close to striking out on a story only to find that one little clue to revive it more times than I'd like to admit. I thought that diamond was a godsend, because it prompted me to haul out one of the computers and crack it open.
It was breathtaking, the sheer number of diamonds inside that empty computer case.
Clark has been listening to my tale with rapt attention, but he has now adopted an adorably confused look. His forehead is creased, faint lines have appeared around the corners of his eyes, and his head is cocked ever so slightly to the side, indicating that he most likely has a question. I pause in my narration, giving him the opportunity to ask about whatever he is thinking.
"I don't understand," he begins hesitantly. "Didn't the police handle it from there? How does this lead to investigating a gun-running ring?"
I can't help it. I have to laugh at his question. If that's how the other Lois Lane operates, I can see why she's still living a wonderful life in Metropolis while I'm stuck on a farm in Kansas. Perhaps if I ever meet her, she can teach me a thing or two about staying alive while investigating. No, maybe not. I think I've learned that lesson all on my own.
"I didn't report it to the police. Yes," I interrupt the start of his protest, "I know *now* that would have been the smart thing to do. But at the time, the only thing I could think of was to find out what else was hidden away on that ship. I went through every computer case in that crate, but they were all empty except for the one full of diamonds. I went through two more crates, and turned up nothing."
"Then what did you do?" he asks, seemingly forgetting my indiscretion.
"I found the log for the merchandise on the ship. It was marked as returned defective merchandise. That was when I suspected the diamonds were a pay-off for something else. I figured the only thing I could do was wait for the ship to be loaded to go back out and find out what was being sent to the Congo in return for the diamonds. While I was on my way back home, I had an... encounter... that emphasized to me how big of a case I was on the brink of unveiling."
"An encounter? What do you mean?"
Clark looks concerned, and for good reason. It wasn't the first time I'd been threatened away from a story. At the time it happened, it only served to make me more excited, rather than to scare me off as intended. However, given what I know now, I feel a little shaken when I look back on that night. It was Tuesday, May 4. This was a point when I could have walked away, when I could have given up the story and gone about my life. Maybe I should have.
"I was almost home -- rounding the corner of my street, actually -- when a man stepped from the shadows and grabbed me." I feel tears coming to my eyes. Clark notices, and tightens his grip on my hand, giving me the strength to continue. "He told me I was getting in too deep with the shipping story. He said I should back off, and in case I needed any incentive, he was going to give me something to remember."
I can see fury brewing behind Clark's eyes. "What was the incentive?" he asks, looking like he might break something if I let go of his hands to give him the freedom to do so.
"He roughed me up pretty good. It wasn't enough to go to the hospital, but I knew for days afterwards that I'd met up with that guy." I tip my head to the side and brush my hair away from my neck to show Clark the jagged scar running below my ear. "He gave me that, along with some bruises and a cracked rib."
Clark reaches out to slowly run his fingers over the scar. His touch is tender, but he quickly pulls back. A part of me wants to admonish him for being so presumptuous, but a more dominating part mourns the loss of his gentle fingertips.
"You at least reported this to the police, didn't you?"
I shake my head. "No, I was afraid that it would ruin my chance at getting the story."
"But surely someone noticed!"
"Oh, they did, but I told them I'd been mugged and they ought to see the other guy. The cops don't really pay much attention to muggings. It happens far too frequently in Metropolis, and it's too hard to catch the guys who do it."
Clark nods his reluctant agreement. "That's true. It's something I've helped change since I've come forward as Superman. Still, this wasn't a mugging, Lois. You should have reported it to the police."
I know that now, of course. No story is that important.
"You're right, but what's done is done. I can't change the past. Shall I continue?"
Clark doesn't look happy, but he relents. "Yes, continue, please."
My encounter with Mr. Dark-Alley-Snatcher did nothing at all to put me off the case. When I got home, I cleaned up my wounds and wrapped my torso the best I could. The next night, I was back down at the docks, ready for another exploration of the ship.
I wasn't able to get on the ship that night. During the day, the shipment from the night before had been unloaded. Now the new shipment was being prepared with a steady stream of workers loading crates into the ship. I watched from a distance, unable to determine anything about the merchandise in the crates. I'd like to say my reflexes were slow from the previous night's assault, but I'll admit that my guard was down because I was focused solely on the events in front of me. That's how, for the second night in a row, I found myself with a hand clamped over my mouth. In one heart-stopping instant, I thought it might be the end of me after all.
"Lois, don't say a word," hissed a voice in my ear. The hand came off my mouth and I whirled around, prepared to go on the offensive, only to find myself face to face with my source.
"Drew?" I exclaimed, glad to know my would-be attacker wasn't a threat after all. I was about to berate him for taking years off my life when he hushed me and beckoned for me to follow him.
We finally stopped about two blocks away at a point that Drew deemed satisfactory. For the first time, I was able to take in his appearance. He looked more haggard than I had ever seen him. His blonde hair was unruly, his clothes rumpled, his eyes tired. "Lois, you can't be on this story any more," he implored me. "It's too dangerous. If I had known what this was when I first tipped you off, I never would have told you about it. You've got to drop it."
Lois Lane? Give up a story? I knew he just had to be crazy. There was no way I was giving this up, especially since the more I learned, the more people became concerned.
"Horizons is just a face, Lois," Drew continued. "There's a company behind these shipments who is far more powerful, far more dangerous than I ever anticipated."
"The Gamma Group, you mean?" I asked. Drew must not think as highly of me as I had expected, if he didn't realize I had come that far in the investigation by then. "Who are they? Who is this Sevanto Ellis guy? What is on that ship, anyway, that is so important? What are they trading for the diamonds?"
"I can't tell you that, Lois. I can't tell you anything else. I shouldn't have told you anything in the first place. You've learned way too much already. I thought this was an open-and-shut investigation, but the players in this thing are way more dangerous than I ever realized when I first contacted you. There's someone powerful behind this Gamma Group, and they know you've been snooping around. There's a price on your head as it stands. Being down here, you're just asking for trouble. Go home, Lois. Forget about this story."
Drew was gone before I could question him any further. If his plan was to run me off the story, he hadn't succeeded any more than knife guy had the night before. I was even more determined to find out what was on that ship.
Two nights later, my opportunity came. In the wee hours of the morning, I managed to sneak on the ship and crack open a newly-packaged crate. Just as I had seen before, the crate was full of computers. And just as before, the computers were merely cases containing no hardware. But this time, there weren't any diamonds to be found.
Inside of each and every computer case I opened was a gun.
I missed so many opportunities to do things the right way during that investigation. I had so many chances to make the right decision when I instead opted to do things my way for the sake of the story. This was one of those moments. A smart girl would have phoned the police. The Lois Lane of today would phone the police. In 1993, I ignored that option. I gathered every ounce of incriminating evidence I could find, and headed straight home to call my friend John. John owned a plane chartering company, and better yet, he owed me a big favor. I was going to the Congo. I was going to find out what those guns were being used for, and who was receiving them.
I didn't get to call John that night. It was actually a couple of days before I had the chance to speak with him. When I returned home from the docks, I got one of the most startling discoveries of my life -- home wasn't there anymore.
In the hours of confusion that followed, I learned that while I'd been cracking open computer cases on a ship in the harbor, someone else had sent a bomb hurling through my bedroom window. My duplex was nothing but charred shell of bricks by the time the firemen arrives to douse the flames. To this day, I am still eternally thankful that my neighbor, Old Lady Jackson, had moved out just two weeks before in favor of a retirement community. But while she was safe, I was now suddenly homeless.
Honestly, having my duplex torched rattled me more than anything ever had before. It also left me completely incensed. I let that emotion take hold of me, ignoring any parts of fear or panic that tried to emerge. If these people were really going to try to kill me, I was going to make sure I got them first.
When I got through dealing with all the necessary preliminary legal red tape, I marched into the Daily Planet and informed Perry White that I was going to the Congo on the trail of a story. I told him everything he needed to know without revealing too much. Like the sensible man he was, he initially forbade me to go. I told him this was the Pulitzer on the line. He threatened to fire me. I threatened to quit. In the end, I prevailed and left the Daily Planet with his blessing, even if it was given somewhat grudgingly.
With my home now gone, I checked into a hotel for the next couple of days while I got all of my affairs in order. In my one and only smart move, I checked in under a pseudonym, allowing me to be left alone for the duration of my stay. I spent the time tracking down John, calling in favors, and lining up my trip to the Congo. I spent a small amount of time wallowing a little, too. Even though I didn't lose anything more than material possessions in the destruction of my home, I had been proud of my little duplex. It was the first place outside of a dormitory that was mine, and mine alone. After one good cry, I went on with my life. Time passed quickly and soon I was ready to embark on the greatest journey of my life.
It was a Tuesday morning when I walked out onto the tarmac in a quieter, less frequently used section of Metropolis International with one meager suitcase of recently purchased clothing and my trusty notebook. John personally met me and introduced me to my pilot, a slight girl with fierce blue eyes who didn't look like she could be more than five years my senior. I exchanged obligatory pleasantries, tucked away my suitcase, and settled in for the flight. My eyes were on the future, the story, the thrill of the chase. I didn't know that I'd just taken my last look at Metropolis as I fastened my seatbelt and prepared for takeoff.
An hour into the flight, I got my first clue that my life would never be the same again. The cockpit door opened and a man walked into the cabin where I was seated lining out story notes in my journal. He immediately captured my attention, as I thought the only two people on the plane were me and my little pilot. I didn't think that perhaps there was a co-pilot.
The man was neatly groomed, wearing expensive jeans and a button-down shirt, his short hair combed back into a stylish coif. Even though he looked far too clean-cut to be criminal, in my years as an investigative reporter I'd learned not to judge appearances as an indication of personality. It was with some trepidation that I watched him from under my eyelashes as he seated himself across from me, taking his time in making himself comfortable.
After some final fidgeting, he raised his eyes to mine, and softly said, "Lois. Lois, I begged you not to do this," as he took my notebook gingerly out of my trembling hands.
The voice, if not the words, were enough to clue me in. I hadn't recognized him without the blonde hair and rough street attire, but a careful examination of his face revealed the truth. I knew this man. I'd been getting story tips from him for years.
"Drew?" I asked, incredulous as to how he was somehow seated on a private plane across from me.
Wearing a wary smile -- one of those that looks a little tired and grim and highly fake -- Drew nodded. "Yes, as far as you've always known. Until now. Unfortunately, my hand has been forced. Today, you get to learn who Drew really is." He held his right hand to me. "Special Agent Daniel Scardino, FBI."
Special Agent? FBI?
My head was spinning. If my informant was actually an FBI agent who had tracked me onto a chartered jet, what had I gotten myself into? Suddenly, I felt sick. In the pit of my stomach, in the same spot that always tingles when my reporter's instinct kicks in, I felt a knot begin to twist itself into existence. This couldn't be good. Drew's warning suddenly seemed much more relevant than I'd thought before. With my mouth becoming increasingly dry, I voiced the only question that could come to mind before I lost my ability to speak.
"I'm in trouble, aren't I?"
"I'm afraid so. Lois, you've gotten yourself into a nasty situation. The Gamma Group is far more powerful than I ever realized. They know you're on to them, and they're not going to let you find out what you're looking for. The first two warnings were exactly that, Lois. Warnings. You haven't seen anything this group is capable of yet. This whole trip was a set-up. We think John tipped them off. If we go back to Metropolis right now, there's a group of men waiting to intercept this plane and make sure you don't make it away from the airport alive. Another similar group of men are waiting in Point-Noire on the chance that we make it all the way there. Today, one way or another, Lois, you're going to die. They'll never let it happen any other way."
My mind was stuck on the word "die." I was only twenty-six. In the prime of my career. Far too young, far too ambitious to die. This couldn't be happening to me.
"I'm... going to... die?" I ask, the words coming out in trembling spurts.
"Well, maybe not in the traditional sense of the word. If you're willing to listen to me and trust me, you'll be very much alive by the time the sun sets tonight, but you're not going to be Lois Lane again for a very long time. Are you willing to hear me out?"
Ready to embrace any scenario that got me out of this sticky situation alive, I nodded my agreement.
"In roughly two hours, a device that has been planted on this plane is going to detonate."
"Device?" I interrupted, suddenly finding my voice as fear clamped around my heart.
"A bomb, Lois. Please don't interrupt. I've only got so long to explain what is going to happen here. Save your questions for the end, and I'll answer as many as I can."
I nodded dumbly.
"In two hours, a bomb on this plane is going to detonate. We are going to parachute out of here, alive and hopefully uninjured before the explosion. Another plane, identical to this one in every way we can manage is going to take over our route and finish the flight to the Congo. When it lands, the men who inspect it will find that there was an error in their device that caused it not to detonate. They'll swear it's the same plane, including a pilot who looks very much like Jenna up front. The only difference will be that that plane doesn't include a Lois Lane. Hopefully, they'll either think you escaped from the plane before they were able to inspect it, or that you never got on the plane in Metropolis. They're going to be looking for you, but by that time you'll be far away from either location."
Drew... no, Daniel's information seemed so surreal to me. What was this, a spy movie? I was going to parachute? Out of a plane that was going to explode? And if I couldn't go back to Metropolis, I was going to go... where, exactly?
"What is going to happen to me then, if I can't go back to Metropolis?" I queried.
"Have you ever heard of the Witness Protection Program?" Daniel asked.
Of course I had.
"It's like that, only more strenuous. Until this case is cracked, you're going to be spending your days under an assumed name on a farm in Smallville, Kansas with a bodyguard. If you agree, I need to give you a crash-course in skydiving. If not... well, there really isn't much else I can do for you."
God, if only I hadn't been so stubborn. If only I had learned not to go blindly ahead in a less drastic situation than this one. I was faced with two choices: death, or death by name. I only had one real option. How long could it take to crack this case anyway?
An hour and a half later, I was standing next to Daniel and my soon-to-be sister, staring at the ground beneath me. I felt a pang of sadness at the weeks, possibly months, I would be missing of my life. I resolved then and there to be more cautious in the future when working on stories.
"Ready?" Daniel yelled at me over the roar of the wind, holding out one hand to me, with his other hand already firmly clasped around Jenna's.
I nodded and grabbed Daniel's hand like the lifeline it was.
"Okay, on three. One... two... Three!"
And with one firm push from the floor, Lois Lane fell away from me and Crazy Katie Fulton was born.
Drawing myself out of my memories, I brush a tear away from my cheek. I feel ridiculous, letting Clark see me weep over something I've wept over thousands of times before. I've become complacent living the live of Katie Fulton in Smallville, but at times I find myself missing my old life tremendously. Especially the family and friends I never got to say goodbye to.
Clark thumbs away a tear and squeezes my hand. I draw in a deep breath and count to ten silently to steady myself. Once I've found my composure again, I let out a weak smile and continue on.
"We made it back to the States alive and in one piece with the assistance of the FBI. I was in a good deal of pain, what with the cracked rib, but I was given medical attention at a base in Miami. Then we spent a couple of weeks traveling around, making sure nobody was on our tail before we ended up in Smallville. My new identity was created, I was given my life story, and I begin to practice the role of Crazy Katie. Daniel and Jenna filled me in on everything they knew about The Gamma Group. By the time they got through, I knew I had made the right decision.
"Honestly, Clark, I fully expected to be here a few weeks, maybe a few months at the most. I never realized I'd be here for eleven years. Living this life has been difficult for me. I'm so isolated."
I pause to remember that first morning I woke up on the farm. It was a beautiful summer morning, the grass thick with dew and a warm breeze promising the heat of the day to later come. As I stood on the porch that Tuesday morning, holding a cup of coffee and watching the sun rise over the prairie, I knew that this was the rest of my life. I'd never felt so alone as I did in that one moment when the first rays of sunlight revealed the vast expanse of land stretching as far as the eye could see. My new home. My new grave.
"I love Jenna, but it's hard to have only one person to talk to every day. I have gone through some rough times, including initially adapting to this lifestyle. A couple of years into my stay, when hope started to look bleak on ever getting back to who I was, I contemplated escaping. I got almost halfway to Metropolis when I witnessed a fatal robbery at a convenience store where I stopped for gas. It scared me in a way I had never been terrified before. Daniel had to come rescue me and bring me back here. I haven't left the farm since. I've lived in fear ever since then.
"I've never given up complete hope of going back to Metropolis, but sometimes it seems so far away. The information on The Gamma Group dried out a couple of years ago. We've never caught them. We still don't know who the mastermind is behind them. Some of the lower-ranking workers have been tried and convicted for crimes, including the gun-running scheme. But whoever the master organizer is -- nobody knows. He's still looking for me. He knows I never made it to the Congo, but the Congo government made it look like I did arrive there and then just vanished. We're pretty sure they used that tactic hoping it would draw me out of hiding. Of course, it hasn't. I'm still here."
I give a shaky laugh. "And that's my story. It doesn't involve dimension-hopping, but it is rather fantastic."
Clark's eyes grow serious. "Do you still want to be Lois Lane? Do you still want to go back to Metropolis someday, if we can find this man and put him behind bars?"
"I do. I want to talk to my sister. I want to see Perry again. I want to walk amongst the population. Go out to dinner. Get a real haircut." I stop to consider the implications of his words. "Are you really saying you'll help me get my life back?"
Clark pulls me up into a hug. It feels so comforting, being held in the arms of this man whom I've only known for a few hours. "Of course I will," he whispers earnestly into my hair. "I think the world could use Lois Lane again."
I'm about to laugh with glee when I hear the front door open and Jenna's heartfelt laughter echoes throughout the house.
"Lois?" she calls out, my name cut off short by a giggle and a colorful admonition.
"In the kitchen!" I yell back.
Jenna rounds the corner, her smile lighting up her face. Daniel waddles in behind her, his arms wrapped tightly around her stomach, his own face the picture of pure delight. Both pause in their tracks as they spot the man who is standing behind me with his hands resting lightly on my shoulders.
"Superman," Jenna whispers, a hint of awe in her voice.
"Clark," I say, unable to keep the smile out of voice, "I'd like you to meet Jenna and Daniel Scardino. They're the ones who are responsible for rescuing me and taking care of me for the last eleven years. Jenna, Daniel, this is Clark Kent. He's going to help us solve this case."
"Thank God!" Daniel says, as he shakes Clark's extended hand. He then turns and winks at me. "I was getting tired of putting up with Lois, here. She's a real handful, you know."
Clark lets out a laugh that fills the room. "I'm starting to realize that."
With every expectation I had for my first meeting with Clark Kent, the day went above and beyond my greatest hopes. After Jenna and Daniel came home, we spent hours talking over everything. We discussed my investigation and the subsequent consequences. We talked about me, about Jenna, about Daniel. We talked about Superman and Smallville. There were serious moments as we mapped out our plan of attack, but a great deal of time was spent simply getting to know one another, telling stories from our lives. We cried a little, but laughed a lot.
By the time the clock struck two, we knew we needed to call it a night. Clark announced that he needed to get back to Metropolis, and I walked him to the door as Jenna and Daniel retired to their bedroom.
"You'll be back tomorrow?" I ask, as I open the door and step out onto the porch with him.
"Absolutely. We're going to do this together, Lois. I'll be here to help you every step of the way as much as I can." He looks like he wants to say something more, but he doesn't. I feel energy crackling between us as he takes a step back.
It's the craziest feeling. I feel as though I have known this man my entire life. I don't want him to leave, but I know he has to go for now.
"Clark?" I ask, just to draw out his stay one minute longer.
His eyes lock with mine. "Yes?"
"Thank you for everything."
He looks confused, but he doesn't say anything. He steps forward and places his hand on my cheek, threading his fingers into my hair. "Anything you need. Any time." He places a gentle kiss on my forehead and steps back again. "I'll see you tomorrow," he says one last time before he is gone in a gust of wind.
After I'm sure he's long gone, maybe even back in Metropolis, I step back into the farmhouse and close and lock the door behind me.
As I lean against the closed door, I'm struck with a feeling of hope. This is it. This is the beginning of change. Finally, something is going right for me.
For the first time in eleven years, I'm looking forward to Tuesday.