By Louette McInnes and Patty Macy (firstname.lastname@example.org) and (email@example.com)
Summary: Three weeks before her wedding, thieves rob Lois' apartment and rough up Lois, who catches them in the act. Clark is worried the thieves will come back, and he makes plans to keep her safe. Meanwhile, Lex Luthor plots.
I had asked Louette about doing the following story back in November (long before the first spoilers came out for INPY). She was just starting "4 X LEX - ALMOST." This story idea didn't really fit there, so we came up with a separate story and got some "physics" advice from my son, Kevin, while he was home from USNA, Annapolis, over Christmas break. Kevin has been inside an enclosure similar to the one in which Lois finds herself. Patty Macy
The Tonga-Kermadec section of the Pacific Ring of Fire stretches like a huge crack in the world's underbelly, where the Australasian and Pacific crustal plates collide, dragging some of the crust down to melt and be re-born in fire and ash.
Superman flew high above the plume of black ash rising from Mt. Egmont, one of a string of volcanoes that dotted the North Island of New Zealand. The volcano was an old one that had been spewing out its ash and lava for 70,000 years to create the fertile dairy lands of Taranaki. The black sand beaches were also its legacy, so rich in magnetite iron ore that the beaches were mined further north to make steel. But the clash of plates had not stopped because humans settled the area. The last eruption in 1755 had produced its share of ash and lava, and now the periodic cycle was repeating.
The melting snow on Egmont's crown had mixed with the ash to make a devastating brew. Having studied the lay of the land, Superman quickly flew down to the east of the erupting mountain to divert the mudflow heading for the dairy town of Stratford, guiding the lahar into a less populated course. The local helicopter company, long experienced at mountain rescue, had been removing the injured and evacuating people when the ash clouds allowed, but Superman had to check many of the small towns close to the mountain. He had also taken several skiers from the carpark at the ski field and delivered them safely to the largest town in the area, New Plymouth.
The Maori tribes in the area believed that the volcanoes of the central plateau, Tongariro, Taranaki and Ruapehu, had fought long ago for the favour of the fourth mountain, Ngauruhoe. Ruapehu and Tongariro had ejected Taranaki in a titanic explosion of anger and exiled it westward where it had landed to create Mt. Egmont. It would rumble and complain until one day it could return to its rightful place. That rumbling was sending a stream of molten lava toward the town of Hawera, to the south. Seeing the red hot glow light up the dusky sky, Superman headed with some monsoon buckets to the nearby sea to use the seawater to cool the flow and prevent its further advance toward the town. It looked as if it would be a long day and night.
Lois, her briefcase hanging by a shoulder strap, juggled the two bags of groceries and her apartment key as she climbed the last few steps to her floor. Thinking of the moving van outside, she wondered who in the building was leaving. As she approached her door, she noticed it was open several inches.
"Oh, no!" she said in disgust, "I knew the neighborhood was having problems, but I didn't need this right now! Not with the wedding coming up."
She pushed her way in to dump the bags on a chair by the door, frowning and glancing around to see what had been taken. Shock stopped her in her tracks - the chair was gone, as were her couch and coffee table, and the kitchen table and chairs, the microwave, even the fridge.
A noise from the bedroom alerted her to the fact that the burglars weren't necessarily gone, yet. She dumped the bags of groceries on the floor and picked up the small table near where the couch should have been. Backing out of her room was a young man holding up one end of a bed frame. Lois hit him with the table, heard a satisfying crunch as it broke, then turned to try and find her phone. Before she could reach it, she was grabbed from behind by a second man. Blocked by the frame and his friend, he had come around through the kitchen instead. Moving with his pull, she swung around hard, hitting him on the jaw with her fist and knocking him backwards across the room, right into her fishtank. The tank and its occupants went smashing to the floor, the fish inside now flopping around and gasping for oxygen. This time, Lois ran for the door instead of the phone, and nearly made it before being head butted in the ribs by the first burglar. She was slammed into the wall, hitting her head and making her vision go blurry.
"Just as well I have a hard head," she thought, as the two men ran out. Lois tried to get up, but couldn't seem to stand up very well. The room wouldn't stay still when she opened her eyes, and her side had an excruciatingly sharp pain in it that blazed worse with every movement. She gave up, slid back down onto the floor, and yelled for help.
Clark flew down to his apartment at midnight. He hoped Lois had been able to finish the story they had been writing on a string of burglaries. He hadn't known how long he would be away when the LNN report had come across, saying several towns in the New Zealand province of Taranaki were in danger from a volcano. He was covered in ash and mud and just wanted a shower, then to fall into bed and get some sleep. The suit could wait to get cleaned since he still had two clean ones in the closet.
When he felt clean at last and was sure all the dust was out of his hair, he sat down on the bed. He hesitated, then picked up the phone and punched in Lois' number and heard it start to ring. He didn't think she'd mind the late call, and he really wanted to hear her voice.
"Where's Lois?!" Clark asked, shock and fear hitting at the same time.
"That you, Kent?" Henderson asked.
"Is she all right? Where is she? Why are you at her apartment?" the questions tumbled out as Clark moved quickly to grab some clothes.
"Lois is fine, Clark. She's at the hospital, a little banged up, and getting some stitches and some X-rays. We tried to get you earlier but couldn't find you. She tangled with two burglars who were stripping her apartment. Scared them off, but one of them slammed her into the wall and she banged her head and maybe cracked a few ribs."
"I was out of town following up on a story. I'll be at the hospital as soon as I can," Clark finished, and hung up the phone. He dressed quickly and headed out the back door, discretion giving way to worry as he flew, dressed as Clark, to the hospital, landing in a quite, dark corner.
A nurse showed him into Lois' room and assured him that his fiance would be fine and was just being kept for observation overnight because of a slight concussion.
He slipped in quietly, so as not to wake her, and sat in the chair by her bedside. She looked a bit pale, but he could see no real damage. Leaning forward, he gently brushed a stray strand of hair back into place.
"Clark?" she muttered sleepily, and opened her eyes. She smiled and reached for his hand to reassure him, then grimaced as pain lanced through her side at the motion.
He moved to sit very carefully beside her on the bed and bent to gently kiss her forehead. He tried to smile, saying, "*Two* burglars, Lois? Taking on one would have scared most people."
"Well," she said, looking a little sheepish, "I only actually *saw* one and I wasn't going to let him take my furniture. Besides, I just hit him to distract him while I phoned the police."
Clark shook his head and smiled, knowing Lois would never willingly back away from a challenge, and amazed at her courageous foolhardiness that nothing seemed to cure her of.
"*You* are going to rest and mend, and *I* am going to stay here and make sure you do just that and nothing more," he told her, taking her hand in his.
Lois smiled, feeling completely safe and protected, and drifted back to sleep.
"Clark! Just *look* at this place! They've hardly left me anything, and what they *have* left is smashed or damaged," Lois said the next morning after she was released from the hospital. She was standing just inside the door of her apartment. Mrs. Trezewski had been in and cleaned up the remains of the fish tank and its unlucky inhabitants, but the contents of drawers and cupboards were heaped on the kitchen bench, and the bedframe was still in the doorway of her bedroom. The cabinet that held her Kerth Awards was gone, and the awards had been unceremoniously dumped in a pile on the floor nearby. Lois walked over and started to bend and pick one up, then stifled a yelp as her cracked ribs on her left side complained. She let Clark retrieve the awards and set them on the kitchen bench with the other stuff, where she carefully inspected them for damage and tried to give them a slight polish with her sleeve.
"Can you believe this!" she complained. "They tried to clean out my whole apartment! We just got our next angle on the burglary investigation. Those two are going to regret this."
"I'm sure they will," Clark looked at Lois' expression and knew she wouldn't let this go. He knew how it felt when Jack had broken into his apartment and taken some of his things, especially the globe that had been in his spaceship, the one put there by his parents to tell him of his Kryptonian heritage. Her private world had been violated, her security destroyed.
"Look, why not stay at my place tonight?" Clark suggested. "You can't stay here. There's just not enough furniture. We can buy some replacements with the insurance money and you can come back then. Besides, unless you let me do some cooking, you'll be eating takeout for the next week until those ribs heal a bit and you can move more easily."
"I'm *not* going to be chased out of my own home." Lois was adamant.
"You're not. You just can't sleep on the floor with those cracked ribs. Think of it this way - you're doing me a favor and making a sacrifice for your fellow employees, who will thank me for making sure you get some sleep so you won't chew too many heads off tomorrow." Clark's tone was light and teasing.
Lois walked up to him and laid her right hand on his chest. "Do I get to sleep in your bed?" she grinned up at him.
"With you in it?"
Lois looked down, put on her best pout and started playing with his tie the way she had seen Cat do several times. Then she looked back up at him expectantly.
"No." he repeated. "Suppose I end up drifting in my sleep and land on you like I did at Larry Smiley's counselling camp. That would do great things for your cracked ribs."
Lois tilted her head and gave him a wicked little smile, "Can't blame a girl for trying."
"Just hold that thought a few more weeks," he replied, grinning. He raised his hands to gently cradle her face between them, and his expression became very serious. "You know how I worry about you. Suppose those men came back because they thought you could identify them? I might be too far away then to hear you call. I want you to get one of those loud alarms. I want you to promise me that."
Lois leaned to rest her forehead on his chin. "Clark, you can't expect to be there every minute and protect me from the normal risks of living in a big city." She looked up and saw the worry on his face, and said reluctantly, "All right, I promise to at least *think* about getting an alarm."
Clark had to go out, in the middle of fixing dinner that night, to rescue an old man from his burning apartment. He had refused to leave when a ladder was raised to his window, saying he wouldn't leave without Franky. The firemen had watched from outside as the man left the window and went into a bedroom. Superman's arrival solved the problem, as he quickly flew in the window and X-rayed the apartment. Franky, a little Welsh terrier, had hidden under the bed and was soon rescued with his owner.
With dinner being so late, Lois admitted being tired and went off to the bedroom while Clark quickly cleared up and did the dishes.
"You *could* tuck me in," Lois called as Clark finished putting the last dishes away. After that he got a glass of water and some aspirin to take in to Lois.
"Here's some aspirin and a glass of water in case you wake up in the night and your ribs hurt," he said as he put everything on the table by the bed, then sat down on the edge of the bed.
"Thanks. It has been hurting a bit."
As he leaned over to kiss her goodnight, she slid her right arm around his neck and lifted her face up to meet him. A gentle, light kiss was all he intended, but Lois pulled him closer and he responded to her passion. Then, as he feared, their embrace somehow accidentally hurt her ribs and he felt her react to the pain.
He pulled back to see if she was all right.
"I always thought, whenever I slept in your bed, that you would be in here with me," she said wistfully.
"You think I haven't dreamed about that, too? *But*, I want the future Mrs. Kent in perfect, tip-top, 100% condition for our honeymoon in three weeks."
"So, have you made the reservations?"
"Yes. And it's a very private, secluded little beach just for us," he said smiling down at her. "And__ there might be a little surprise."
"Then it wouldn't be a surprise, would it?" Clark teased.
Lois returned his smile and pulled him down to her for another kiss. This time, to protect her cracked ribs, Clark floated above her, touching her only with his lips, but that was enough to stir the fire inside of him and he had to concentrate to stay that fraction of an inch safely above her. At last he reached out and turned off the light, and made sure the cover was safely tucked around Lois.
"You could stay," she suggested.
"No, not and keep my distance. Those ribs have to heal. Good night, Lois," he said, as he started to drift away.
"Good night, Clark," came her answer.
"Professor Daich? Isn't he the astronomer who asked you to destroy the Nightfall asteroid?" Lois asked as she poured some coffee the next morning and brought a mug over to the dining table.
"Yes, he and General Zeitly."
Lois sat pensively for a few moments, then turned to Clark. "You loved me even then!" It came out as a statement of wonder. "Before you flew out to the asteroid, when I kissed you, the way you reacted …"
"Yes, I was in love with you then, and had been since our first assignment together."
"Why didn't you hate me?"
"Hate you? Why?"
"All those times I compared you to Superman, usually unfavorably, or put you down. You should have hated me."
"Lois, you didn't know he was me, I was him. And it was my fault_ for not telling you. Why should I hate you for that? Besides, I knew you were worried about both of us. You helped give me the strength, as Superman, to face my fear before I left. If you could handle your fear, so could I. And you gave me a reason to survive and come back. Then you took care of me as Clark when I couldn't remember anything, and helped me find myself again. Why shouldn't I love you for that?"
Lois just smiled, simply and lovingly, at Clark, and shook her head in bafflement. Then she became serious again.
"So what does the good professor want this time? Has he said? I hope it won't interfere with our honeymoon."
"Lois, *nothing* is going to interfere with that, if I can arrange it." *** "Professor Daich, it's nice to see you again," Superman said later that morning as he shook hands with the astronomer. "That little project we discussed, when will the comet come close?"
"If you want a minimum distance to fly to reach it, two weeks from now would be the optimum time to go," the professor informed him.
"But a week either way would be reasonable? I think I have some other commitments that week."
"Why, yes, Superman. Whatever would suit you. I know you're very busy, and it was really thoughtful of you to offer to retrieve a sample of a comet, if one came near earth."
"What about the chances of any organic life, or any contamination? What precautions should I take?"
"Since your last visit, I've been discussing things with my colleagues, and with General Zeitly. We have a suit you can put on, once you're out of the atmosphere, to retrieve the sample. If you leave the sample and the suit in a special box we'll have at Space Station Prometheus, you should be fine. You could, as an extra precaution, make a fast enough re-entry to sterilize your skin. Would that be possible?"
"Do you think that will be enough?" Superman asked.
"We really see that as an extra precaution. To be truthful, the contamination suit should be more than sufficient protection. We use them here on earth all the time at the Center for Disease Control, and have never had any problems."
"I know these samples are important to you, and may help to determine if life on earth did receive some help getting started from molecules formed by cold synthesis in space. All the same, Professor, I might take a few extra precautions to guard against contamination. How about I see you on the 15th. Could you have the suit and collection container ready?"
"Absolutely!" Daich assured him enthusiastically.
Superman's next stop that day was at Star Labs, to see Dr. Klein.
"Superman, is there some problem? Is there something I can do for you?"
"Yes, Dr. Klein, as a matter of fact, there is. You know that my friends, Lois Lane and Clark Kent, are getting married on the 16th?"
"I was planning to go to the wedding," Dr. Klein answered him.
"You had a prototype watch about 2 years ago, that used ultra-sonics. The military was hoping to use them as locator beacons for lost pilots. I believe you gave one or two out to try?"
"Yes, Jimmy had one, thinking he might be able to contact you that way, but he said you couldn't hear it when he tried to use it."
"Could you make up two more? And can you increase the volume and the range of frequencies that they operate on? I think that might help. I would like to give Lois and Clark one each as a wedding present, so I could hear if they need help. They tend, especially Lois, to get into some rather tricky situations in the course of their investigations."
"That's a wonderful idea! Can you come back at the end of the week? I think we can have something for you by then."
"Thank you, Dr. Klein. I know Clark would feel happier if he knew I could find Lois in an emergency. He *does* have his problems keeping her out of trouble."
Superman shook hands with the scientist, then made his way out the door. As the doctor heard Superman fly off outside, he muttered to himself, "Miss Lane doesn't seem to listen to either you *or* Mr. Kent, when it comes to keeping out of trouble! Putting an ultra-sonic bell on the cat looks like your only option!"
That afternoon, Lois and Clark were discussing the relative merits of the new furniture she was suddenly forced to consider. Clark was driving since her cracked ribs still made that exercise too painful.
"That cabinet you had for the Kerth Awards was really nice. You should get another one like that," he suggested.
"But bigger," she answered, smiling.
"Expecting to win this year, are you?" Clark glanced at her briefly with a grin on his face.
"Of course!" she assured him. Then she smiled and added, "We'll get a joint award for the drug investigation, and bagging Austin Brooker in the process. Besides," she looked at him fondly, "we have your award to go in the cabinet, too." Her expression changed again, this time letting her tiredness show. "This just was really bad timing to have to get new furniture. You'd think they could have waited a few weeks. To have to look for furniture at the same time we're sorting out the last of the wedding arrangements is just a bit much."
Clark had noticed how tired she looked, and had suggested she take a few days off, but she wouldn't hear of it. Her ribs had kept her from getting a solid night's sleep last night, or the night before in the hospital.
"Look," he offered, "if this place we're looking at today has as secluded an entrance as my apartment, why don't we take it on the spot, and get you moved in early. If it doesn't, you could just move in with me a bit early. That would take off a little of the pressure."
"I *did* consider that," Lois admitted, "it seems silly to get the furniture delivered, then shift it in a few weeks, but we discussed the 'moving thing' before. I know you think your parents wouldn't mind, but I'd rather be sure they're happy. And we both agreed we'd need my apartment for a base for my family when they arrive. You *don't* want my parents as well as yours descending on you. And if I moved in now, we'd *never* get the wedding arrangements finished!" She reached across the car and brushed her hand along his cheek. "Do you really suppose I could think straight with you there? Somehow I don't think either of us would get much done … "
Clark took her hand briefly and kissed it, then turned his attention back to his driving. They arrived at the apartment they were hoping would prove suitable, but the back entrance was still too exposed, compared to his present apartment. The rest of the day was spent shopping for furniture. The cabinet was no problem, since Lois ordered a new one from the same company which had made her last one. Quite a few items could be put off since Clark already had them. Essentials like a dining table could be borrowed or rented for the short time they would be needed. *** "*The Bed*," Clark finally brought up the last item on their list as they walked from where the car was parked toward another furniture store.
"Yes, *The Bed*," Lois said. "A *big* bed."
Clark grinned, and agreed, "A *big* bed!"
"Actually, I was really worried about this, but, you know," she said, stopping on the pavement and laying a hand on his chest, "your mattress is pretty comfortable, soft but not too soft." She leaned against him and smiled teasingly, "Of course, it *would* have been even better with you there … why don't we just go for that? The medium soft mattress, I mean."
In complete relief at this easy solution, Clark hastily agreed. At the furniture store, he noticed a brass frame catch Lois' eye, and suggested they settle on that one. So the whole purchase went much faster and easier than he had anticipated, and the store even promised delivery that afternoon.
In the car, on the way back to the Planet, Lois informed Clark that, since she had a mattress to sleep on, she intended to spend the night alone in her own apartment. Clark was not at all happy with that idea and tried to talk her out of it, but she was adamant.
"I can't let those men frighten me, control my life," she insisted. "If you fall off a horse, the best thing to do is get right back up on it."
"Oh, really?" he asked. "When have you ever ridden a horse?"
"Well, the principle is the same!"
"No! It's not! Suppose those men come back to make sure you can't identify them? You can't defend yourself with those cracked ribs. At least let me stay there on the floor. You can be alone in your room. That should be enough."
"No, Clark, I have to do this. And you are *not* to go hanging around outside. Hear?" she said, looking at him sternly to enforce her words.
He agreed, but figured he could hedge on just how far away "hanging around outside" meant.
As it turned out, Lois had her own way of testing. When he thought she was settled that night, and he was hovering over the building, thinking he was out of sight, he suddenly heard her call, "Superman?" He was in the window in a flash.
"What's wrong; where are they?" he asked as he searched the apartment at super speed. He could find nothing, and turned to Lois, only to find her, arms crossed and eyebrow raised, giving him her "I'm not that stupid" look.
"What?" he asked.
"You know," she answered.
"You *called* me!" he tried to defend his actions.
"I *whispered*." she said, and he knew he was in trouble.
"Clark, I told you I have to do this. Now go home."
He walked over and put his hands on her shoulders, and kissed her gently at first, slowly increasing the intensity until he was afraid he'd hurt her ribs, but Lois wasn't about to be distracted that easily when she was in her current frame of mind.
"I know you're worried, but I *promise* I will call if there is the least problem. I'll yell the place down. Now go! And don't you dare hang around outside this time," and Lois pushed him gently away and toward the window. He left reluctantly, and stayed in the general area on patrol, but was very careful not to fly anywhere in view of her windows.
A week later, Clark made a hasty departure from the news room "for an interview". A high, piercing shriek, enough to almost be painful, had gotten his attention. Luckily, Lois was out at an interview, and Clark quickly changed and paid a return visit to Dr. Klein at Star Labs.
"That seems to work nicely, Superman!" Dr. Klein commented as the Man of Steel walked in the door of the lab.
Superman winced and rubbed his ear, "Yes, but I think you could turn it off, now."
"Oh! Certainly! Sorry. We have two, but we can make up as many more watches like this as you want."
"Two will be fine. It will make the perfect wedding present for Lois and Clark. Thank you, doctor."
But Clark wasn't about to wait for the wedding, and that night, when he walked Lois home, he had the watch in his pocket.
After Lois had made some coffee, they sat on the couch. Clark took her hand and turned to face her, looking very serious.
"What is it?" Lois asked.
"I have a present for you," Clark said, taking out the watch.
"It's really nice, Clark, but a bit bigger than I normally wear." Lois didn't want to hurt his feelings, but the watch seemed enormous compared to the small one she usually wore.
"Star Labs put it together for me. They made two of them, as 'wedding presents' from Superman to Lois Lane and Clark Kent. It has an ultra-sonic alarm that you can activate. It's a lot louder than you can shout, and *really* piercing. I know. Dr. Klein tried it out today."
"Clark … "
"Lois, I want you to wear it. It will make me feel a lot better about your safety. It's easy to use, and no one else, except maybe a dog or two or a few bats, can hear it. I'll take the other one to my parents, so they'll have a fast way to contact me, too."
Seeing the concern in his face, and the seriousness of his expression, Lois gave in and let him put the watch on her wrist.
Several weeks later, very early in the morning on the day before the wedding, Clark, dressed in the red and blue suit, headed for the observatory, where he collected a tight-fitting silvered suit and helmet, mounted with a throat microphone so he could give a running commentary to the scientists, and an earphone that would fit snugly in his ear and carry sound vibrations to him in the absence of air. He also had a small air supply in case he needed to stay in space for any length of time. When he took off, he carried 3 small metal containers.
His course took him up and out, to fly parallel to the course of Comet Leland so he could avoid most of the vapor and particles streaming from the comet's head and propelled by the solar wind. The tail of a comet had been studied once before by a probe, Giotto, when Halley's comet had last visited. His job was to sample the ice-ball itself and the core, if possible.
This was a small comet, by most standards, and would not survive its pass around the sun, but instead turn to vapor and be dissipated in the vast expanse of space.
Moving in front of it, Superman slowed just enough to let the comet catch up to him, and then he used the first metal container to sample the dense gas near the surface of the comet. Slowing further, he felt the comet begin to push on him, and used his hands to dig through the frozen mountain of ice coming at him. Thick vapor boiled off and streamed away from his hands, the heat of his hands acting like a red hot poker on a cake of ice. He saw a chunk break loose, propelled by the gas, and quickly caught it in the second container. He had not expected to hear any sound in space - he never had before. But the dense gas coming from the comet, methane or ammonia or helium, created enough of an atmosphere so that the boiling and sizzling sound as he touched the comet came clearly to him. He asked if the scientists on the ground could hear this as well.
X-ray vision had let him locate the small, rocky core of the comet, the seed that had collected so much ice during its eons long journey through the cold depths of space. He slowed and let the forward momentum of the comet supply the force for him to drill through to the core and place a piece in his last container. Then he backed out of the hole he had created, and headed for Space Station Prometheus to deliver his samples. *** Later that same morning on the day before their wedding, Perry White called his top two reporters into his office.
"Lois, Clark, come in here a minute, will ya?" Perry White said. They had come in to the Planet to clear up the last stories, and to have a little party with the people at work before they left for a week's honeymoon after the wedding.
"Is something wrong, Chief?" Clark asked.
"Yes_no. Depends on your point of view," he said, looking at Clark a bit oddly.
"I just got this message from Professor Daich at the observatory. He was asked by Superman to get it to the two of you. Seems Superman went to retrieve part of a comet last night, for the astronomers and the biochemists at the university. He was supposed to wear a special suit to keep from getting any contamination when he collected the sample and delivered it to Prometheus."
"He did mention something about that the last time we saw him," Lois confirmed, looking at Clark in puzzlement.
"Well," continued Perry, "seems he's still worried about the chance of contamination, some mention of a hole in the suit. He wanted the professor to relay his apologies. Seems he won't be able to make it to your wedding. He's got some oxygen tanks from the space station, and figures he'll just keep an eye on things from space for a week, stay in isolation/quarantine sorta, to be on the safe side." Perry looked at Lois.
Lois had looked up at Clark, when Perry said Superman couldn't be there for the wedding, vastly relieved at having one problem solved. Her eyes positively glowed, and it was all she could do to hide her smile when Perry explained about the quarantine. Clark just grinned and shrugged his shoulders, delighted with her reaction to his surprise.
"He doesn't want a lot of publicity about this, but he felt he had to make some kind of statement in case people wondered why he didn't show up for awhile. The criminals would love this, of course, so I think the media will keep it fairly quiet. He said if there was a really big emergency, he'd come down and help, but, well," Perry looked at Lois, then at Clark and added, "I suspect he's doing the best thing."
"We understand, Chief," Lois hastened to assure him. "Could you maybe get Professor Daich to send him a message to say we understand?"
"Sure, Lois, now the two of you get out of here and make sure that wedding goes smoothly tomorrow!" Perry finished.
"We will!" they both said in unison, looked at each other and laughed, then let themselves be ushered, still smiling, to the elevator by their boss, who was determined that they should leave early on this one day.
As soon as the elevator doors closed, Lois threw her arms about Clark's neck and nearly overwhelmed him with the heat in her kiss, and the feel of her body pressed so tightly against his. He ran his hands down her back, pressing her even closer to him. The warning chime as they reached the ground floor was all that saved them from major embarrassment.
"I take it you liked the little surprise?" Clark asked as they walked out the door, Lois' arm through his. He was wearing a very smug smile when he looked at her.
"I knew there was some reason for marrying you, other than those cute little red pants, " she teased.
"Brains and beauty! That's me," he joked, still wearing the smug smile.
"You've had this set up for weeks, haven't you?" Lois said accusingly. Clark's smile just got bigger.
"You rat! Why didn't you tell me earlier?" she demanded, still unable to suppress her smile of delight at his ingenuity.
"Because then you would have found something else to worry about. Now you don't have to worry, and you'll be too busy with your family and my family here to have time to worry."
"My family," Lois said thoughtfully, "maybe we could still elope tonight? No, not after all the work we've put in planning this thing."
"Everything will be fine, Lois. Your parents have been very good the last two days. They'll manage just one more day."
"After what you just engineered, partner, I'm almost ready to believe in miracles!"
In his penthouse apartment, Lex Luthor, was pacing back and forth, deep in thought. One of his informants had picked up the message sent to the major papers and the police about Superman's self-imposed quarantine, and Lex was debating how true it could be, and how he could use this chance to operate without interference from the Man of Steel.
Lex had gotten Mindy and Bill Church Jr. out of the way in one nice little 'frame for two'. Bill Jr. had gotten him out of jail purposely to charm and remove Mindy, mistakenly thinking he could manipulate and control Lex Luthor. Lex smiled to himself at how easy it had been to manipulate both Churches.
Manufactured evidence that Lex had been framed by Nigel, his butler and aid, had got Lex out on bail, and now with the two Churches out of the way, he could pursue the appeal on his own, and had the resources of Intergang to help do it. He had also tried to dispose of Superman and Clark Kent. Unfortunately, that hadn't been quite as successful.
"Asabi!" Lex called, "I shall need to make some phone calls, and there may be a visitor or two. Please make sure I'm not disturbed by anything while I'm working."
"As you wish, Sir," Asabi said, bowing.
Lex perched on the edge of his large desk, and his first call was to a garage on the edge of town.
"Phillips, that van I ordered. I want NO more excuses. It must be ready and delivered by mid-day, tomorrow … I don't care how much you have to spend to get those shaped soundproofing cones here and installed by then. Tomorrow! Mid-day."
His next call was to what looked like a run down old farm twenty miles out of town. "I want all the lead shielding in place within two days. You can? How nice to have reliable employees. You can expect a bonus to be delivered on completion of the underground facility, then." What Lex didn't mention was what his usual bonus payment often was, but that was their problem, he thought to himself.
"Now, Lois Lane," he was talking to his image in the mirror across the room, "tomorrow may be your wedding day to Clark Kent, but it will be your last day with him. No sweet wedded bliss … no passionate embrace. Oh, no. Tomorrow I'll have you hidden, even from Superman. And *he* won't be able to come to your rescue! Quarantined! I'll bet he couldn't face the prospect of seeing you marry Kent. But he won't dare come out of quarantine, once I have it splashed across the TV, for anything less than a major disaster. And your kidnapping would hardly be called that, except by Mr. Kent.
"We'll play it safe, in case this is some trick. I don't want my new 'facility' invaded by Superman. So, my dear, you'll have to spend a day or two in my van, on the move, but then I'll have a nice, warm bed waiting for you - and me."
Lex spent the rest of the day finalizing his plans for the following day, Lois' wedding day.
Lois slept late, for her, on the morning of her wedding. She had expected to be worried about whether Clark would run into problems, worried that their honeymoon would be interrupted, and aggravated by all the fuss and commotion created by her mother and Lucy. Instead, she found herself wafting through the morning as if she were wrapped in a soft, protective cloud. Absolutely nothing bothered her, and Lucy even remarked on this odd behavior from her big sister, as she helped Lois into her dress.
Lucy had been a wonderful help just getting the dress that Lois was preparing to put on now, especially since Lois hated shopping. After going through three shops with Lois, who was by then in a bad mood, Lucy had made a suggestion.
"Why don't you talk to Janine, my friend the seamstress. You just have to tell her what you want, or show her a photo, and she can do it. Then you wouldn't have to try on all those dresses again. You can just get measured once."
"And pay forever afterward," returned Lois caustically.
"Lois, she's a seamstress, not a 'designer', and I'd think you'd consider it worth a bit to avoid the hassle."
Lucy had been right, and now she was helping her sister into the dress that was just what Lois had wanted. She wanted her wedding with Clark to be as unlike anything that would remind either of them of Lex as she could make it. So instead of a white extravaganza of a dress, with a deep frill on the fitted skirt and a low-cut neckline, she had chose the palest cream crepe, completely simple yet elegant. It was almost Victorian in its style, with the high, round collar and the fitted cuffs on full sleeves. A diamond shaped cutaway in the bodice kept the dress from seeming too severe. The fitted body flared slightly in an A-line from the hips downward. Hidden under the cuff was the watch Clark had given her. She had considered leaving it off, but when she thought of the love that had made him insist she wear it, she kept it on, just to have something he had touched with her that morning.
"The dress is beautiful," said Lucy. "I still think if you get it dyed afterward and split the skirt up the side seam, you'll have a lovely evening dress after the wedding."
Lois looked down at the dress and thought of dancing with her husband in it at some charity ball. She smiled serenely, as she remembered another time when she had danced with him at a ball, and afterward as well, but she hadn't known it was him, then.
"How can you be so calm?" Lucy asked. "Aren't you at all nervous? Your whole life is about to change."
"You said you wanted me to meet a super guy, and I did. I've *never* been more sure of anything in my life, Lucy, than I am about marrying Clark. And my life has already changed, more than you'll ever know." Lois knew she had never felt calmer, more certain of her purpose, and *nothing* would stop her from marrying the man she loved today.
She was neither late, nor early to the small chapel she and Clark had chosen. Close friends and family awaited, rather than the crowds Lex had wanted. Her father and Perry were ready at the doors. She had to have her father there, but Perry had been more than a father to her, had watched over her and Clark and made sure they got here today. And this time, as she walked down the aisle with her father on one side and Perry on the other, her heart felt at peace and there was no uncertainty in her step, no hesitation in her mind as she walked to meet Clark and take his hand.
Martha Kent could see how happy her son was. Most bridegrooms felt like they were walking on air. She just hoped Clark would manage to keep his feet on the ground.
There was absolutely no hesitation when it came time for Lois to say "I do", then the ring was on her finger and she was in Clark's arms.
The minister clearing his throat at last reminded them that the honeymoon hadn't started quite yet, and they made their way back down the aisle, glowing like only newlyweds can glow, already completely wrapped up in each other. At least Clark managed to stay earth-bound, more or less.
Lois' Uncle Mike had offered to, insisted on, having the reception at his new restaurant, and doing all the catering himself as his wedding present to them. Lois' only worry about this was that she might never fit in her wedding dress afterward.
The reception with all their friends around them turned out not to be the ordeal that Lois had anticipated, partly because her parents were obviously on their best behavior for once.
Lois and Clark had planned to leave the reception and go to Clark's apartment briefly, just long enough to collect their things and leave for their own private little beach. Clark had gone to see his parents for a few minutes. Lois had said her thank yous and farewells to a few people, and was searching for her uncle to thank him for making her day so wonderful. She wandered into the kitchen to look for him.
One of the waiters directed her to the back of the kitchen and followed, she thought, to help her find her uncle. She suddenly felt a cloth over her mouth and nose, preventing her from screaming, and rough hands restraining her, then she felt nothing.
Two of the waiters pushed her uncle's unconscious form further out of the way of discovery, and carried Lois to a black van parked at the back of the restaurant. They handcuffed her hands behind her back, and laid her on a thick foam pad on the floor of the van, then got in and drove off. In the confusion of the reception, no one noticed for 20 minutes that Lois was gone, until Clark, searching for her so they could leave, found her uncle tied and gagged in the back of the kitchen.
Lois came to in the van, only knowing, from the motion, that she was in a moving vehicle. Her eyes, adjusted to the dark, let her make out the vague shapes around her - long, thin, closely spaced cones lined the wall of her mobile prison. She rolled over and managed to twist her wrists around enough to undo the cuff of her dress and press the button on her watch that activated the alarm. Then she waited, confident of Clark's momentary arrival.
Nothing happened, for the five long minutes that she had started to count out. She began to think the watch wasn't working, and she tried screaming for help as loud as she could. But still he didn't arrive. At that point she panicked, thinking someone had somehow killed him. She knew that was the only thing that would stop him from coming for her. Then, taking hold of herself, she knew, felt deep down, that he was still alive.
"Think, woman," she told herself, "he knows, I'm sure he knows, that you are alive. If he hasn't come, it has to be because he can't find you. That means he can't see you, or hear you."
Clark was frantic. Lucy had seen Lois go into the kitchen, but she was clearly not there with her uncle. He knew, somehow, that she was still alive. But how to find her? He could hardly fly off as Superman, who was supposed to be in quarantine up in space. And first he had to tell his parents and her parents, tell Perry and get the police to help find her.
Once he found his parents, and explained what must have happened, his mother quickly sized up the situation just the way he had.
"I suppose you'll want to leave and search. Just wear dark clothes, sweetie, then you can search from lower down."
"I know, Mom, but I have to go now, before they can get too far, or hide her somewhere."
"She had her watch, Clark. I do know that. She showed it to me and said she wanted something you had touched with her this morning. Now go, we'll take care of telling the others."
Lois always thought black suited Clark. Now he wore it instead of the suit, flying high over the city so no one could see him. He quartered the city, checking each building, each vehicle as he came across it. He knew he might miss some as they moved. He still couldn't hear Lois calling, or the watch. Maybe they had her gagged, and tied. But he figured she would find a way to get loose, or get to the watch. Something on a wrist was easy to reach, even for someone tied up or handcuffed. She must be unconscious, he told himself over and over, desperately waiting for the sound of the alarm to start and tell him where to find her.
The two men in the front of the van had been watching nervously for half an hour. Superman hadn't arrived, and they were beginning to relax a little.
"They probably found out by now that the little lady is missing," Duncan told the driver, Petersen.
"If Superman is in quarantine, we shouldn't have to be driving around, keeping on the move to evade him," Petersen remarked.
"The Boss said to be absolutely safe. He's had some bad experiences with Superman and Lane before. He's not taking any chances of being found by an angry Superman."
"What about us?!" yelped Petersen.
"Any sign of him, and we're out of the van and gone. That's partly why I told you to have a change of clothes underneath. Strip a layer and you're someone different. Besides, he'll be so busy getting her out and back to her new husband that I doubt if he'll worry about us. Now just keep driving."
Lois looked again at the odd cones on the walls and ceiling around her.
"There must be lead behind those cones."
She edged over to where she could just get a hand on one of the cones. It was hard inside, but the outside seemed to be sponge of some sort. She thought that would absorb some of the sound. She could hear herself when she yelled, but that might not mean anything. She knew people in soundproof rooms could hear themselves. The sound just couldn't get outside.
"So," she thought, "either I have to break some of these cones off and get to the wall, metal, what ever is underneath this, or get under the pads on this floor." She managed to turn the alarm on her watch off, so she would have battery power left when she managed to penetrate the soundproofing.
Somehow, the calm that had been with her all day stayed. She was angry, furious, but her thinking was cold and clear and calm.
Lois set to work trying to get her hands in front of her, which meant some gymnastic efforts to get her feet high enough and her hands low enough to accomplish this. She thought gratefully of the simple dress she wore. Most of the elaborate creations she had tried on would have made the feat impossible.
At last, hands now more useful, she set about investigating the floor and the walls. The sponge on the floor was tough but impenetrable. The walls seemed no better. Getting leverage was the problem. Lois thought she could use her feet to get enough force to break off a few cones, but she had to try and hold on to the spikes at the end of the 'room' for leverage. She was already sporting a few good bruises from the first effort. At last a spike broke off, but only two thirds of the way to its base.
She rested a moment before trying again.
Clark had been over the city four times, and still nothing that he could nail down as suspicious, although he had seen several vehicles a number of times. They all looked like innocent delivery vans. And still no alarm had gone off. He had never been so worried. He had been so sure he could find her, and now his stomach was in knots, and his mind felt as black as the sky he flew through. Lois had looked so beautiful, so radiant today, thinking they would be alone together now. He hated every moment of the time they were losing, time when they should be together at last by themselves. He worried that she had been hurt, and he thought of her expecting him, wondering why he didn't come. Those thoughts proved too painful to deal with, and cold anger and determination replaced them as he searched for Lois.
He widened the search pattern in case she was being moved out of the city, and made a point of x-raying every car and truck he came across this time.
Lois had decided the cones would be too hard to remove. The floor proved easier to tackle, once she had a cone to use to dig into the rubber mat. Six inches of rubber made a formidable barrier to dig and tear through. The metal tipped spikes on the high heels of her shoes proved to be useful for tearing at the rubber, once the long cone had penetrated. It still took her nearly two hours to at last reach the floor of the van.
As soon as she felt metal, Lois carefully undid the watch strap and used both hands to push it down to touch the metal, then she set off the alarm again.
Clark's head came up and his heart felt ten times lighter when the alarm shrieked in his ears. He quickly zeroed in on a black van. He had noticed it before, but it had still been on his list of vehicles to be x-rayed.
Flying down and stopping the van was his first thought in his rush to find Lois. He had already started down when he thought better of the idea. He could hardly stop it in the clothes he was wearing without giving away his identity as Clark Kent, and putting Lois in even more danger in the future. So he had to find another way.
He headed back to Mike's restaurant, and collected Lois' car. He called Henderson, who had units all over the city looking for Lois, and said Superman had been searching from high up at the edge of the atmosphere, and had spotted a suspicious van, impenetrable to his x-ray vision. He had called Clark and given him the location and direction of its motion. Driving as fast as he could, he hoped to intercept the van at the intersection of Shepperton and Vine.
Timing was crucial to his plan. Just as the van crossed Shepperton, he accelerated and turned to hit the van from the side, shunting it across and into a pole. He had to hit it hard enough to try and stop it, but not enough to hurt the passenger inside. Lois had her hands still stuffed down in the foam of the floor and made a grab for the torn edge but was still thrown against the cones lining the walls. The foam cover on the cones saved her from anything more than some bruising.
Clark slammed to a stop with Lois' car blocking the van's path, and ran to the back door, ripping it open so that it looked like the collision had caused the doors to spring open. Then he had Lois out and safe in his arms. He just held her tightly, relief flooding through him. Lois managed to slip her hands, still handcuffed, up and over Clark's head to hold him around the neck. Tears were streaming down her face, but she still managed a smile for him. "I knew you'd be searching, that you'd come! I had trouble getting through all that soundproofing!"
Clark lifted her up until her lips met his and stopped her explanations and her tears, then he just held her, safe and warm, as he explained how he had searched, had slowly been eliminating the vehicles and closing in on the black van, until he heard the watch.
"No one is going to keep us apart tonight!" he told her, but instead of a smile, this brought a fresh flood of tears.
"Oh, Clark, I wanted this to be such a special night for us! B-b-by the time we f-f-finish at the police station, there won't be any night left!"
"Shh … " he kissed her gently on each eyelid to stop the tears, "I promise this will still be a special night."
Meanwhile, Henderson had pulled up with two other police cars and collected the two men who had been in the front. They had been shaken up, but had gotten out and were in the process of trying to run and remove their clothes at the same time, which slowed them up just enough.
"I'm really sorry, Kent, but I need you to come down to the station for awhile. I'll make it as short as I can. Do you want me to get those handcuffs off for you, Miss La … *Mrs.* Kent?"
"No, not yet," she answered, keeping her arms around Clark She and Clark managed to get into the police car, Clark lifting her onto his lap as they got in, her arms still around his neck.
The next hour was spent at the police station, and then they were at last free to go back to Clark's apartment.
Clark didn't give Lois any time to think about the fact that it was approaching dawn in Metropolis. He woke his parents to assure them she was safe, and left them to call her parents. Clark changed into shorts and a shirt, and was waiting patiently when Lois emerged from the bathroom. She was wearing a light, summer sundress with two thin straps. The straps tied above her shoulders to hold the dress up. She was busy trying to wrap herself in a blanket for the trip. Martha helped her and she declared herself ready to leave. He scooped her up and made sure the blanket was tucked tight to keep her warm, and even wrapped a corner over her face for protection since they would reach the cold, upper atmosphere at least briefly.
Lois could feel their ascent and then the descent, and at last, through the blanket, she felt her feet touch the ground. She was determined to smile for Clark, even though their first night together had been spent mostly apart and not at all as she had planned.
As Clark folded the blanket back from over her face, she could see a full, silver moon just rising in a field of stars. The silver light that reflected from the moon struck the waves of a small embayment, and were broken into silver shards. Silver foam flowed up and back where the sea touched the sand, which still retained some of the heat from the tropical sun that had warmed it that day.
Lois mouth started to open in wonder and amazement, but Clark's mouth covered hers with the first real kiss of their honeymoon. His hands were around her waist, holding her against his body, then they moved to her shoulders and she could feel the warmth of his gentle yet strong hands on her bare skin above the edge of the blanket. He carefully removed the blanket and laid it on the sand of their private little beach.
"How did you do this?" Lois asked, looking up at the moon and stars, surprise and delight in her voice, the soft, loving look in her eyes that could melt a man of steel.
"The time difference," Clark answered, smiling and pulling her down onto the blanket beside him. He kissed her again, very slowly and tenderly and completely. "We have the whole night before us … " he said as he started to slowly untie the bows in the shoestring straps at each shoulder of her dress.