By Ladee V (LADEEV@aol.com)
Summary: Superman can't resist a call for help — especially when it's the desperate call of a child … who claims to be the son of Clark and Lois Kent.
Author's Note: This story picks up a few months after my last fanfic, "At Last". If you haven't read it, all you need to know is that I re- wrote the ending of FMN and gave Lois and Clark a beautiful little wedding in Smallville. The current New Krypton story line doesn't…actually…exist in my world <bg>, but if it did, this would take place a few months after Clark returns and marries Lois. Not Clois. Not Zara. The "real" Lois Lane <vbg>. Villains are not my specialty so we don't get into much detail. However, there's lots of WAFFs as Lois and Clark get a quick glimpse into their future…Much thanks to Rhen Brink and son, Nick, for their humorous contribution! :D Comments welcome as always ~ V [Rhen — still laughin'!]
"Kent, Party of two."
The maitre d looked around for the handsome couple who had put their name on the waiting list almost 20 minutes ago. They seemed completely lost in each other when they walked through the door.
"Kent, party of two!"
He called again and was not surprised to find the couple in a romantic clinch near the corner of the room. He recognized the Daily Planet's star reporters the instant they walked in, and silently wondered if all he'd heard about them was true. Kidnappings, clones, amnesia, it all sounded so unbelievable. One rumor he knew was true just by looking at them, Lois Lane-Kent and Clark Kent were deeply in love.
Lois and Clark reluctantly broke from their kiss and followed the maitre d to their table. They had been happily married for six months now and life had settled down considerably for them. As they ate, they kissed and held hands under the table.
"Why did we ever leave home?" Lois asked as she gazed lovingly into Clark's huge brown eyes. Clark grinned, knowing exactly where that comment was leading.
"Lois, we have to leave the bedroom once in a while!"
"We do! We go to work five days a week! And, we work a long day! Can I help it if my handsome husband drives me crazy with desire?" Lois moved in closer to Clark and massaged that very sensitive spot, high on his inner thigh.
Clark was just about to engulf her mouth in a passionate kiss when their waiter approached the table. "Would you like to see the desert menu?"
Lois whispered in a breathy voice in Clark's ear, "I don't think they've got what I want on their menu."
Clark, sure the waiter had heard her, blushed a bit and stammered. "No…no thanks, just the check please…quickly."
Clark paid the check and ushered Lois out of the restaurant. During the entire drive home, she teased him. Relentlessly. Nibbling on his ear as he drove, running her delicate fingers over his muscular thighs.
"Lois, do you think it's wise to be distracting me while I'm driving?"
"Hhmmm?" Lois purred as she bit down on his ear. Clark thought they would never get home and quite seriously considered pulling over on a dark, quiet street and teaching his wife a lesson about teasing him. Thankfully they reached their apartment and hurried inside. Instinctively he grabbed her and pressed his mouth to hers. Searching every inch of it, like he'd never been there before. Gently he lifted her into his arms and carried her to their bed, his hands roaming over every curve as he kissed her.
Then he stopped.
"No…please go away." Clark whispered practically to himself. When it didn't go away he raised his head from Lois' neck, defeated. She knew too well what was coming next.
"Oh no. You've switched from **that** look, to *that* look."
Clark smiled at her apologetically. "Lois, I'm sorry…it…it sounds like a child crying."
Lois tried unsuccessfully to hide her disappointment. "Well, go! It could be life or death or something! Just hurry back!"
"I will…believe me, I will."
In a swirl of red and blue he was gone and Lois snuggled up with her teddy bear, and a large glass of ice water.
About three blocks away, near a quiet suburb of Metropolis, Clark was zeroing in on the crying child who was now calling for Superman specifically. He found the little boy, clad in "Superman" pajamas, wandering around the vacant lot that was to be the site of the Lenape Woods housing development.
Landing softly in front of the boy, he knelt down and held out his arms. The child ran to him and hugged him tightly around the neck while letting out a few more sobs.
"I knew you would come for me. You said you would come if I needed you."
Clark smiled and hugged the little boy. Apparently they had met before, but he couldn't quite remember. "It's OK now, little one. You're right, I'm here ." He pulled the little boy back from his hug and wiped his tears. The little face staring back at him was strangely familiar, and the Man of Steel was instantly smitten. Something about those big brown eyes…
"There now. Everything's OK now." As the little boy sniffled and regained his composure, Clark picked him up and gently patted his back. "Now…do you think you can tell me what happened? What's a little boy like you doing out here in the middle of nowhere, at this time of night?"
The little boy looked up into Clark's eyes and smiled. A small smile. A smile familiar to Clark somehow, but he was unable to place it.
"A bad man came in our house and hurt daddy and mommy with a green rock. Mommy hit the man on the head, and I put the rock back in the box…but…when I ran into the blue light…everybody was gone.
Clark looked at him, skeptically. The little boy was obviously upset and *something* had happened to his parents, but his explanation left Clark even more bewildered.
"Can you take me home now? Can you make sure mommy and daddy are OK?"
Another tear had formed on the little boy's eyelid and Clark thought he might cry as well. "Sure, I'll take you home. Can you tell me where you live?"
The little boy looked at Clark questioningly. "On Senecca Drive — don't you remember my birthday party?"
Clark, assuming a professional "Superman" had made an appearance at the child's birthday party, smiled softly. "I'm sorry, I guess I do a lot of birthday parties."
The little boy was starting to tear up again. "But you said my party was special, and you took me flying."
"I took you *flying*?"
"Yes. That's when you told me you would always be there if I needed you, because you're my daddy's best friend and I'm very special to you. Don't you remember…don't you remember me, Superman?"
Clark was searching for the words to gently tell the boy that although he honestly did not remember him, he would still do everything he could to help him and his parents. Only the words never came.
As more tears began streaming down his face, the little boy slowly began to speak. "My name is CJ Kent. My mommy is Lois…my daddy is Clark Kent. I live at 186 Senecca Drive, Metropolis, New Troy."
The little boy's words repeated themselves in Clark's head about one hundred times in the span of ten seconds. Suddenly he knew why those eyes were so familiar. They were Lois' eyes. That small smile he couldn't quite place, it was his. The same smile he smiled in his kindergarten school picture. But how could this be? Clark's mind raced to come up with possible answers and they all led to the same person. Tempus.
Suddenly worried the time-traveler was waiting in the wings to spring some sort of trap, Clark quickly scanned the area and found nothing unusual. Nothing but a small lead lined box about five feet from them. Clark picked up the box and turned to his "son".
"CJ…" It seemed strange to him. Calling his son's name. It seemed strange to him being so sure this was his son. The more he looked at him, the more certain he became.
"Is this the box you put the green rock in?"
CJ shook his head yes and wiped his eyes. Clark picked "CJ" up and held him close for a moment. "Don't cry. It's going to be all right. I promise."
Not really knowing what to do or where to go, he started walking, slowly. Back to his apartment. Back to Lois. CJ sniffled quietly on his shoulder, no doubt reeling from the incredibly confusing circumstances that had taken place. The last time he saw his parents, a bad man had broken into their house and hurt them, and now Superman didn't know who he was.
"It's going to be all right."
Lois was pacing nervously around their bedroom. Clark had been only been gone about 40 minutes but for some reason she was worried. Not worried about *him* exactly, but worried.
Lois called to him hesitantly. She was sure she heard the gentle sound of him landing on the balcony. *Didn't sound like a man in a big rush to get back to his wife to me.* she thought. Making her way to the balcony door she caught sight of his reason for treading softly. In his big strong arms, he gently cradled what appeared to her to be a miniature version of himself, fast asleep.
Clark saw her and slowly put his finger to his lips, hushing her. He placed the sleeping child on their bed and spun into his shorts. He put the box on the night stand next to the bed. Lois quietly walked over to them.
"Is this the child you heard?" She whispered as she smiled down at the little boy.
"Yes…his name…is CJ," Clark looked at Lois — waiting for her to take her eyes off the boy. Waiting to have her attention so he could tell her the rest. Lois just kept staring at him with a soft look of wonder in her eyes.
"Well, he certainly is adorable, but why did you bring him here?"
Clark took Lois by the hand and sat her down on the bed, kneeling in front of her. "Lois, I found him, all alone in the vacant lot that's going to be the site for that new housing development…uh…Lenape Woods."
Lois looked shocked. "All alone? That's horrible! What kind of parents would abandon this helpless little child like that?"
Clark smiled at her maternal instinct kicking in. Instincts she would have sworn she didn't even possess. Somehow, she felt what he had felt when he looked at this child. Even before he told him his name. It wasn't anything he could explain. It was just an instinct. An overwhelming need to protect him and love him. He saw it in Lois as he watched her delicately trace the little "S" on their son's pajamas.
"Lois, I know this is going to sound crazy, but I'm pretty sure his parents didn't abandoned him because…"
After realizing Clark was hesitating a bit, Lois pulled her gaze away from their mesmerizing little guest.
"I think…*we* are his parents, Lois."
Lois looked at Clark in amazement. "Wha…how could…"
Slowly, Clark relayed the pieces of the story that CJ had told him earlier. Lois was silent for a long time. Not really understanding, but not doubting either. She just kept gently stroking this one little wayward lock of wavy brown hair away from his face, as she had done so many times to Clark.
"I didn't know what else to do but bring him here…bring him…home."
Lois shifted her gaze from her son, to her husband. "You did the right thing, he…he's our son. Lois smiled as she said those words to Clark.
"Well, I guess we know what the "green rock" was…is that it, in that box?"
Clark nodded. "CJ was able to get it away from…well…*me*, before he ran into this…"blue light".
"Good. Hopefully that means the future you is recovering from the exposure. I have a feeling we are going to need *our* help if we're going to get our son back. If that makes any sense."
Clark sat down on the bed behind Lois and wrapped his arms around her. They sat there for a while, just staring at their sleeping son. Letting reality soak in.
"Clark, is it just me, or is he the most beautiful child you've ever seen in your life?"
Clark smiled. "No, it can't be just you because I was thinking the very same thing."
Clark hugged Lois tightly and nuzzled her neck. Just then a sleepy little voice called to them.
"Mommy? Daddy? Is that you? Is the bad man gone?"
The little boy scurried up onto Lois' lap and wrapped his arms around her neck. Lois was overwhelmed at the feel of him. Trembling, clinging to her, trusting her to make it OK. She amazed herself at how she felt so right in the role.
"Yes, sweetheart…" Lois started hesitantly *Mommy, he called me Mommy.* she thought to herself. "Mommy and daddy are here and the bad man is gone. You just close your eyes and go back to sleep, OK?"
CJ smiled up at her and before Lois could complete the tender kiss she placed on the tip of his nose, he was sleep.
Lois woke up the next morning in the bed she shared with Clark. Gone, however were the warm, strong, protective arms that normally surrounded her as she slept. For a moment she wondered where they were. Then her mind focused on the presence of another, smaller warm spot, stretching across her chest and stomach. Knowingly her hands reached out to hold him, and she placed a gently kiss in the massive waves on the top of his head.
When her eyes opened she saw Clark, sitting in a chair across from them. Staring at them. A smile crossed his face.
"My wife…and my son. What a beautiful picture."
Lois returned his smile and held out her hand to him. Clark rose from his chair and greeted her with a kiss. He floated softly down next to them on the bed. CJ sound asleep. Mom and Dad staring at each him.
The voice of reason interrupted Clark's Saturday morning dream come true.
"Lois," he whispered, "maybe we should talk before he wakes up. In case he starts asking a lot of questions. We should probably be together on our story. Whatever our story is."
Lois reluctantly agreed and the two separated themselves from their sleeping son and headed to the kitchen. Clark had been up, dressed, and to the store without disturbing either of them. Lois couldn't resist peeking in the grocery bag on the counter and was pleased to find the makings of blueberry pancakes.
"So what's our plan?"
Clark shrugged his shoulders and poured them a cup of coffee. "The truth?"
Lois cringed at the thought. "Do you think he'll understand? He was so upset last night — I don't want to risk traumatizing him at such a tender age. How old do you think he is anyway?"
Clark thought back to his son's image. "I'm not sure, he's so little. But he talks so clear…I mean you can certainly understand what he's trying to say…" Lois noticed the look of pride on her husband's face and couldn't help but echo it in her own. "Four…maybe five."
Lois nodded at his assessment and sat down on his lap. "How about we play it by ear. Let's just act as if nothing is wrong, handle the questions, as delicately as possible, as they come up. If they come up."
Clark raised his eyebrow at Lois. "Lois, this is *your* son! The questions will come up!" Clark lifted Lois up into a sweet kiss. "I thought I'd fix us my mom's famous blueberry pancakes for breakfast! I hope he likes 'em!" Lois licked her lips and smiled as Clark began assembling his ingredients.
Not long after the first few perfect pancakes came off the griddle. Lois was in mid-"kiss and compliment" when she noticed *that* look in Clark's eyes.
"Oh no…what do you hear?
A brilliant smile spread across Clark's face, "Lois, I actually hear the pitter patter of little feet!"
"Mommy? Daddy?" CJ had found his way to the kitchen door.
"Right here honey," Lois kneeled down and held out her arms and was rewarded with a huge hug and kiss. She smiled at Clark as she gave her son an extra squeeze, and turned him to face his dad.
"Look what daddy's making us for breakfast!"
Clark flipped a pancake onto the spatula and waved it in front CJ's face. "I hope you like blueberry pancakes."
CJ turned and looked at Lois. He stared at her for what seemed like an eternity, then turned back to Clark. His expression was somewhat hesitant. Lois and Clark exchanged worried glances. Suddenly it was clear this was not going to be as smooth as they had hoped.
"I like them." CJ, still clinging tightly to Lois, he rested his head on her shoulder.
"Great! Well, everything is ready, why don't we eat?" Clark tried to sound enthused as he dished out pancakes. Lois sat CJ in a chair and went to get him some pillows to sit on. There was an awkward silence in the room that all three were afraid to break.
Clark took his son's plate and cut up his pancakes. Lois watched intently as CJ seemed to study every thing in sight. He looked all around his strange surroundings and Lois swore she could see the confusion in his eyes. Then he looked at her. He just stared at her with the saddest little eyes she'd ever seen.
Clark had cut CJ's pancakes into bite size pieces and drizzled them with maple syrup. When he placed the plate in front of his son he tried to give him his most reassuring smile. "There you go. Eat up!"
CJ looked down at the plate. He couldn't hold back anymore. Tears streamed down his face and he burst into tears. Both Lois and Clark jumped from their seats to his side. "I don't like syrup on my pancakes!" CJ turned to Lois and she engulfed him in a hug and carried him to the couch.
She rocked him for a while, waiting for him to regain his composure. Clark was pacing nervously behind them. Silently cursing himself for — of all things — pouring syrup on pancakes.
When CJ calmed down, he very matter of factly asked the question his parents had hoped to avoid.
"Are you really my mom and dad?"
Clark sat down on the couch next to Lois and his son. "Yes, CJ, we…we really are your mom and dad."
"Then why is everything so different?"
"How is it different?" Clark hoped CJ's answer would give them some clues as to how to proceed with this conversation.
CJ looked at Lois and ran his hand over the back of her neck, through her hair. "Your hair is so short now…did the bad man make you cut it?"
Lois smiled and shook her head no. "What else?"
"This is not our house. It looks like Uncle JimmyO's apartment but the furniture is different. And daddy, you didn't make the pancakes CJ size, you always make them CJ size, just for me, and then you put syrup on them and you know I don't like syrup, I never eat syrup, just butter, and Jon-Kyle's not here and…and…the baby in your stomach is gone."
Lois and Clark sat stunned, trying to digest what their son had told them. Obviously he had inherited that Lane "babble" gene. Clark loved it as much in his son as he did in his mother.
Lois gave Clark her best "maybe you should handle this one" look and Clark took CJ from her lap to his.
"CJ, you are exactly right. Things are different. *We* are different. But we are your real mom and dad, and we do love you…so very much. You are safe here, OK?" CJ shook his head.
"But *why*, daddy?"
Clark thought back to his conversation with Lois before CJ woke up. The truth? Could he really tell his young son that some time-traveling bandit had sent him back to a time before he even existed?
"CJ, can you tell us, what you remember about last night.?" CJ looked sad at the memory of it, but slowly relayed the story.
"Mommy gave Jon-Kyle a bath and put him in the bed. You were helping me wrap Nicky's birthday present. Can I still go to his party today? Superman is going to be there and he promised to fly us around again."
Clark stroked his son's cheek. "The…bad man…that hurt us with the green rock, did you know him? Did daddy call him by name?"
CJ shook his head no. "Daddy, did he make everything different?"
Clark shook his head apprehensively. "Yeah, he did. See, we think…the blue light…put you in a different time…a time before you were actually…born."
There. He'd said it. Slowly he waited for his son to either break into a fit of hysterical laughter or even worse…tears. Clark was shocked to see his eyes actually brighten up.
"You mean the bad man was Tempus?!"
Lois looked at Clark, then to her son. "You know…about Tempus?"
CJ grinned, a huge grin that had "I am Clark Kent's son" written all over it. "Yes! It's my favorite bedtime story, you always tell us how you and daddy went back in time to save baby Superman from him!"
Lois and Clark laughed with relief, as it dawned on them that their son would indeed understand the truth. He might even enjoy it. Clark continued, feeling a huge burden lifted from his shoulders.
"That's right, CJ, we did. Somehow, you've traveled into the past too. Just like mommy and daddy did. You've managed to travel back to before you were even born! That's why everything is different."
An excited smile crossed his face. 'That's why you didn't make my pancakes CJ size?"
"Yup! And that's why mommy's hair is short and I didn't know you don't like syrup…and also…why Superman didn't know you."
CJ smiled. A sight that Lois and Clark greatly enjoyed. "Wow!" Then he turned to them a bit more seriously. "So…you are my *real* mom and dad…just…not yet, right?"
With that reassurance CJ seemed to turn into a bundle of energy. He loved the idea of being a "Jr. Time Traveler" and having the chance to tell mommy and daddy all the things they didn't know about their lives. He even showed Clark the proper way to make CJ size pancakes. (CJ rides piggy-back and says "Stop!" when Clark has poured just enough batter on the griddle to make a slightly bigger than a silver dollar sized pancake.)
Over breakfast, the Kents learned their son, Clark Jerome Kent II, (not "Jr." because daddy doesn't like "Jr.") was 5 years old. He was born on December 8th but he didn't know what year. That would have helped them figure out what year he had to be returned to, but since they didn't have a time machine as yet, it really didn't matter.
His little brother, whom he nicknamed Jon-Kyle because Jonathan Kal-El was too hard for him to say, just turned 3 on July 31st. "I can say it real good now that I'm five, but when I was only two, it was hard."
Superman made a guest appearance at his party too, and of course, flew them around a little. Lois was amazed to learn that she was going to have yet *another* baby in what sounded like any day now because, according to her son, her stomach "is really, really big out to here!"
Clark's eyes widened at how far CJ hands were from Lois' stomach when demonstrating this point. He couldn't help but laugh as Lois' face turned to a paranoid frown. "I hope he's exaggerating!"
Apparently "Uncle JimmyO" (pronounced all together like "cheerio") had moved into Clark's apartment when he and Lois bought the house on Senecca Drive. That would have been right after he and Aunt Lucy got married. Or right before. CJ wasn't sure which but it didn't matter. His parents were still wide-eyed over the idea of Jimmy and Lucy married.
As they cleaned the kitchen, they were proud to learn their smart, well mannered, rambunctious little boy was eagerly awaiting the start of kindergarten next month. Something about riding the same bus and being in the same class as best friend Nicky Brink.
Clark found himself completely in love with the sound of his son's voice. He couldn't wait to live the life his son described. Happily married to Lois, living in a big house she was apparently willing — and able — to fill with children. Beautiful children, by the looks of CJ. It was his dream. Almost. Still he wasn't willing to wake up just yet.
"I have an idea. Why don't I see if Superman can fly us all to Smallville for the weekend? I know my parents would love to see you!"
"Nana and Pop-Pop Kent's?! I love it there! Do you think Pop-Pop will take us fishing in the boat?"
Clark laughed and scooped his son up into a hug. "I think he would just love to!"
CJ was clearly thrilled by the idea. Lois clearly was not. Clark lovingly ignored her questioning look and advised her he would "run" to the store and buy CJ some clothes and shoes. Clark checked the sizes of his pajamas and slippers and before Lois could finagle a moment with him out of their son's ear shot, he was gone.
A few moments later, Superman arrived with a bag for CJ. He said Clark asked him to bring this back while he picked up a few more things. Lois was to get herself and CJ ready and Superman would fly them on ahead to Smallville and bring Clark when he finished "shopping".
Lois eyed Clark as CJ tore into the bag. A "Superman" toothbrush and underwear, of course, a pair of jeans, a T-shirt, socks, sneakers, and a red windbreaker. CJ smiled at Superman and gave him a hug. "My daddy told me why you didn't know me anymore. I'm in the past!" Superman smiled. "That's right CJ, and now that we've met, I can see why I think you're so special."
As CJ ran off to the bathroom, Lois shot a determined look at Clark. "What are you doing?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean don't you think we should be trying to figure out how he got here, so we can get him back instead of planning "Family Day in Smallville?"
"We can still do that?"
Lois was about to tell Clark how she thought he was trying to avoid the inevitable and how much agony their future selves must be in when CJ ran back into the room.
"Mommy! Mommy can you help me please! I need a washcloth and a towel, and I can't reach this sink in here and you don't let me put the tooth paste on by myself yet!"
Her son's melodious voice melted her resolve to reprimand her husband. "I'll be right there, CJ!" She watched as he skipped back to the bathroom. "This isn't over, buddy."
Clark knew he would have to face reality at some point. Just not right now. While Lois was busy with CJ, he packed an overnight bag for him and Lois and waited. Lois moved particularly slow while getting herself ready. It gave her a sneaky pleasure to know she was tormenting Clark with anticipation. Until she realized she was having the same effect on her son. There was something about flying with Superman that thrilled him to no end. *I wonder who he got that from?*
Finally all together in Smallville, Clark was living his dream. Apparently he *had* done some more shopping before "Superman" brought him to the farm. Almost $100 worth of toys. To Lois' raised eyebrow look, Clark responded diplomatically, "We don't know how long he'll be here, he has to have *something* to play with!"
A remote control dune buggy, a complete set of "Hot Wheels" sports cars, with the "Park and Play Car Wash and Garage", *several* Superman action figures and coloring books, crayons, ("the gigantic, every-color-on-the-planet, box" Lois observed) and an assortment of "Animaniacs" videos. Lois shook her head in disbelief as she watched CJ and Clark take the dune buggy for a spin around Martha's dining room table. Silently she wondered who was the bigger kid.
Martha and Jonathan were charmed by their grandson as well. CJ went from lap to lap, excitedly retelling all the details of his life, and adding the even more startling revelation that somehow, Lois' parents had reconciled and remarried.
The hours went by like minutes. Lois and Martha prepared CJ's favorite, spaghetti with meatballs, for dinner. Lois even volunteered to bake brownies. To which her bubbly son replied, "Mommy…you don't bake!" Things change, things stay the same.
Jonathan and Clark, with CJ riding on his shoulders, walked the farm after dinner. The elder Kents were surprised how well CJ knew the farm and the land. Clark was happy to see that apparently they were able to visit both sets of grandparents regularly.
"Daddy, is that your tree house?"
Clark looked up to where his son was pointing. "Yes, CJ, that's it." The sight of the tree house was somehow an unwelcome intrusion into the fantasy Clark was living.
"Can I see in there, the way it looks now?"
Clark hesitated but found it hard to resist his son's request. Jonathan knew as Clark had grown his "Fortress of Solitude" become an increasingly more painful reminder of his lonely childhood days. Yet he couldn't tear it down. Neither of them could.
Clark hoisted CJ to the tree house and the little boy scrambled inside. Clark joined him as Jonathan looked up from the ground. CJ looked around silently, and sat down on his father's lap. Seeing the carvings on the entrance he asked softly. "Daddy, what does that say?"
"Fortress of Solitude."
CJ looked confused. "What does Solitude mean?"
Clark shifted uncomfortably on the floor. "Alone."
Clark's response had taken on a sadder tone than he wanted to relay to his son. CJ turned to face him and Clark hung his head.
"You were a lonely little boy, Daddy?"
"Yes…sometimes I was."
"Well…in…where…in the place that I'm from…"
"You mean the future?"
"Yeah the future. In the future, you're not lonely. This tree house doesn't make you sad. Me and you and Jon- Kyle play here all the time and we have fun. You know what the door says?"
"The Kent Gang — Members Only! Pop-Pop even comes up sometimes. He always sneaks us some cookies or something."
Clark laughed at the thought of his father actually climbing up the ladder to his tree house, harboring goodies he was sure his mom only let him *think* he got away with sneaking. Clark hugged his son for a long moment. Apparently the future was a very bright place.
"Clark!" Jonathan called up from the ground.
"Looks like the ladies are waving us in. I think those brownies are getting impatient!"
Clark and CJ descended the tree house ladder and Jonathan was certain he saw a tear in his son's eye.
Later that evening as Martha bathed her grandson and got him ready for bed, Clark realized he could put Lois off no longer.
"Can I talk to you outside?" She whispered.
Clark followed Lois onto the porch and prepared himself for what he thought was going to be a severe verbal lashing. The money he spent at the toy store. His absolutely non-existent attempt to even *think* of how to get CJ home. Much to his amazement, she instead wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him into a soft, gentle kiss.
When it ended, somewhere around Clark's earlobe, Lois whispered softly in his ear. "I know the effect he's having on you. I know this is a taste of everything you've ever wanted. He is a charming little boy, and I'm not immune to his innocent wiles either. I feel it too. But Clark, he's only been in our lives one day and we're crazy about him. Think about how our future selves must feel. What they must be going through thinking their little boy is lost in time."
Clark broke from the hug and sighed. "I know, Lois, I just can't help it. I want to play with him and listen to him babble. But…of course, you're right. We should be trying to figure out how to get him…back to the future."
Lois laughed and was glad to see realization in Clark's eyes. "So I don't have to beat you over the head with a kryptonite bat or something?"
Clark feigned a painful look and pulled Lois into a bear hug. "No, mam, I don't think that will be necessary!"
"Well, OK…so you Kent hunter-gatherers go on off on your little fishing excursion tomorrow morning, but when you get back…"
Clark interrupted her with a kiss, then completed her sentence. "We get to work."
Before the sun rose the next morning Clark was up and dressed and having a cup of coffee with his dad. It had been a while since he and Jonathan had an outing together and both were looking forward to it. As Jonathan quietly prepared sandwiches and thermoses of coffee, Clark went to wake CJ and get him dressed.
Once out on the lake, CJ was trying his best to whisper so he wouldn't scare all the fish away. CJ sat on "Pop- Pop's" lap listening intently as Jonathan instructed him on the finer points of picking and hooking a lure. Clark couldn't help but recall when he had been the little boy on his dad's lap, in this very same boat, on this same lake, getting the very same lecture.
Clark's mind traveled forward about 22 years as he heard his son's strained whisper. "Yes…I'm sorry, what did you say?"
CJ smiled and repeated his question. "I said, do you wanna hear a fish joke?"
"Why do fish swim in salt water?"
"I don't know, why?"
"Because pepper makes them sneeze!"
Clark and Jonathan looked at each other for a split second, then burst into laughter. All thoughts of keeping quiet completely left their minds. Clark reached his arms out to CJ who, happily stepped into them.
"Where did you hear such a funny joke?" Jonathan asked.
"Nicky told it to me!"
As Clark, Jonathan and CJ continued laughing loudly, about a hundred fish quietly swam away.
Back at the farm, Martha and Lois prepared a hearty lunch for their mighty fishing men. Clark said, fish or no fish, they'd be back around 1:00pm. As Lois took one of Martha's pies from the oven she noticed Jonathan, Clark and CJ making their way across the yard.
"Here they come, Martha, and I don't see any fish! Good thing we had a plan B!"
"Lois…could you come here a minute, dear?"
Martha's voice had lost it's jovial tone and Lois noticed it as she headed for the living room. What she saw completely amazed her. By the look on Martha's face, she was at a loss for words herself.
Before her eyes…there she stood. She and Clark. Looking tired and worried and…older. The strain of suffering through missing a child evident in their faces. They had come for him. They had let nothing stop them from finding their son.
In the future, Clark was just as handsome as ever. His physical appearance didn't seem to change much at all except his hair was a bit longer, and his glasses were different.
She on the other hand looked quite different. Her hair had grown down to the middle of her back and she wore it in a loose French braid. "It grows like a weed when I'm pregnant" she would later explain. "Clark loves it long and since he helps me take care of it, I haven't cut it."
"He helps you take care of it?" Lois asked herself.
"Oh yeah. I wash it for her sometimes and I've become quite adept with a blow dryer." Clark smiled at his younger wife's amused reaction.
She was also seven months pregnant and in Lois' opinion CJ had *not* exaggerated about how big her stomach was. Still, she looked…right. As strange as it was seeing herself pregnant, she could tell she was happy. Generally speaking. Maybe not so much the past few days, or hours, or whatever it had been for them, but usually.
Clark looked around the room and hesitantly asked if CJ was indeed there.
"Ohmigod! Of course!" Lois was so amazed at the sight of them she temporarily forgot they were not there on a social call. "He's right outside with Clark and Jonathan."
Lois went to the door and looked out into the yard. CJ had managed to talk Jonathan into a tractor ride. There he was on Pop-Pop's lap, fighting to turn the giant steering wheel. Lois called to Clark who waved Jonathan and CJ into the barn to park the tractor.
When they came in, CJ excitedly ran to Lois and began telling her about the fish he caught but had to throw back. "He was only a little bigger than my hand so we throwed him back!"
"Threw him back, CJ" Clark corrected. Then he noticed their future counterparts immediately, and the smile that had been there almost constantly since yesterday's breakfast slowly began to fade.
Lois noticed the pained expression in Clark's face and her heart ached with him. Quietly she turned her attention back to their son. "CJ — look who's here."
When CJ saw his mom and dad waiting patiently across the room, he bolted over to them. This was the mommy and daddy he knew and loved. Lois and Clark, Martha and Jonathan watched quietly as CJ hugged and kissed and was hugged and kissed by the parents who obviously adored him.
Once the three had sufficient time to reunite, Martha and Jonathan took CJ to the kitchen to fix everyone sandwiches and coffee. Both Loises and both Clarks sat down and filled each other in on what had happened since that moment in time on Friday night. Clark confirmed that it was indeed Tempus, trying yet again to do away with him. This time both Lois and CJ had saved his life. Lois by knocking Tempus unconscious, (before collapsing from the pain the kryptonite was causing the baby) and CJ by putting it back in the lead-lined box.
"He didn't know what it was exactly, but he knew mommy was trying to get rid of it. We think he was headed to the kitchen garbage can with it when he walked through the time line."
Clark pulled the time travel device from his pocket and pointed it towards an empty corner of the room. It looked like a palm-sized remote control from a television set, but a blue beam shot out of it and formed a line about ten feet across and ten feet wide.
"When Tempus fell, it accidentally turned on. Once CJ ran through it, it shut off automatically and we had no idea where he went."
Both Loises winced at the thought of what could have been. Clark took the device from himself and looked it over carefully before handing it back. "I guess this is the 21st century's version of that cable car we traveled in." His Lois looked at him and smiled. "Modern technology."
"Once we recovered," Clark continued, "we had to figure out how to work the thing so we could put Tempus away for good — a maximum security prison built just for him — in Utopia — and then find CJ."
A tear filled Lois' eye as CJ entered the room with her sandwich. "We had no idea where to start looking. He could have been anywhere. We could have been off by years or weeks or days." CJ climbed up onto the couch next to her and rested his head on her stomach.
Martha sat down on the arm of the chair behind her Clark. "So, are you and the baby OK?"
Lois smiled. "Yes, we're fine. He did do Olympic- caliber gymnastics for a few moments though."
"He?" Lois asked. "Well, we don't know for sure yet. I guess I just say he out of habit. Actually I'm hoping for a little girl this time."
Clark looked at his future self sorrowfully. "I'm sorry we weren't doing more to help you on our end. We just…well, I just got so wrapped up in the idea of having a son. How did you find him so fast?"
Clark explained that whenever he and Lois checked a few time lines and didn't find him, they went back to their present to see if anything had changed, before trying somewhere else. Martha had been the one to notice the videos and toys appear in CJ's room.
"Mom found the registration card you filled out for the car, thankfully, it had the date of purchase on it.. So actually, you were more help than you realized."
After everyone had finished eating, Clark announced that maybe it was time they started getting things back in order. They had left a very worried Nana and Pop-Pop Kent with Jon-Kyle in their time. CJ and Martha packed up the toys and clothes Clark bought him, as well as a few brownies for the road.
When it came time for Clark to say good-bye to his son, he felt an overwhelming sadness. "I'm going to miss you so much."
"Actually…" Clark corrected himself, "you won't miss him at all. We need to return things to the way they were." Clark lowered his voice to avoid CJ overhearing. "There is no way the "Jr Time Traveler" is going to keep this a secret. He may not know why the green rock hurt us, but if he starts telling that story, someone is bound to figure it out. Since I'll have the device, I'll be the only one of us with any knowledge of what happened."
Both Loises shot him an upset look. Clark put his arm around his Lois. "Don't worry, I'll tell you all about it."
Clark and Lois shook their heads in solemn agreement. "I will put the four of you, CJ and my Lois back to whatever it was you were doing the Friday night before he went through the time line."
The future Lois and Clark smiled knowingly at their counterparts, waiting for them to remember just what that was. As realization hit them, Martha and Jonathan were tipped off by Clark's familiar "newlywed blush".
Before Clark activated the time line, Lois asked her future self if it was possible she could retain a little bit of the knowledge she had gained over this weekend. She and Clark had always been so uncertain about whether they could even have children, let alone what they'd look like or if they'd be good parents. She wanted to be left with the peace of mind that everything turned out OK.
Her future self reminded her that facing uncertainty together was what helped their relationship grow. She told her the trials and insecurities they went through held them together, and taught them to depend on each other.
Clark looked at his Lois, then at Clark. "The first time…when she tells you you're going to be a father…"
Both Clark's eyes were misting up and the younger Lois was not surprised to see that he still got all tongue-tied when it came to expressing his deepest emotions. His Lois came to his rescue.
"It happens quite unexpectedly. At a time in our lives when we had almost given up hope. It was the sweetest surprise you could ever imagine. All three times! You'll want to experience it that way. Trust me."
Lois and Clark hugged their future son good bye one last time. Their own counsel had convinced them to go back in time, once again without any knowledge of their future. Clark pressed the button and activated the time line and Lois, Clark, Jonathan and Martha prepared to follow them into the blue light.
CJ looked up over his dad's shoulder and saw a tear run down his future mother's face. As he reached out and touched the tear from her face he told her, "Don't cry mommy, I'll see you in the future."
Instinctively he grabbed her and pressed his mouth to hers. Searching every inch of it, like he'd never been there before. Gently he lifted her into his arms and carried her to the couch, his hands roaming over every curve as he kissed her.
Then he stopped.
"Nothing…I'm just…I'm just getting the strangest feeling…of deja vu."
Lois smiled and pulled his face back down into her neck. "Well we do end up in this situation about three times a night."
Clark laughed and bit gently on Lois' ear. "Well you are quite insatiable but…I mean, really."
Lois looked into Clark's eyes. "You know, now that you mention it. I felt it earlier tonight too. When you blushed at my assessment of the desert menu in the restaurant."
"I didn't blush!"
"You did too!"
A mischievous grin returned to Clark's face as he remembered his wife's unabashed flirting. "Well, anyway, it's gone now. That "deja vu" feeling, I mean…cause that other feeling…that hasn't left me…"
Lois purred knowingly in his ear. "Rrrrreally? What feeling would that be?"
Clark took Lois' hand and ran it slowly over his solid chest and rippling stomach, stopping for a particularly long time over the area reserved only for her…
"There! It's perfect!" CJ exclaimed as he placed a big red bow on the Superman action figure he had wrapped for Nicky's birthday party.
"All right now, it's time for you to get to bed young man." Clark scooped his son up into his arms and carried him upstairs.
"Daddy, are you sure Superman will come to the party tomorrow? Did he *promise* you he would or did he just say he'll try?" Clark lovingly rolled his eyes up in his head as he heard that question from his son for what had to be the tenth time that night.
Lois smiled as she followed her husband down the hall to their son's bedroom. "I was there, CJ, Superman *promised*. And you know, Superman never breaks a promise."
CJ smiled and hugged his mom and dad goodnight. After tucking him into his bed, Lois and Clark crossed the hall to their other son's room and found him sleeping soundly.
Arm in arm they walked back to their bedroom where Clark began his nightly ritual of brushing Lois' long brown hair. Noticing she seemed to be a million miles away Clark began playfully kissing her neck between brush strokes.
"Clark…I know I said I didn't want you to look but…"
Clark knew where this conversation was going. He had anticipated Lois having an argument with herself over whether she wanted him to x-ray her stomach and tell her the baby's sex. It usually went something like… "I want to know. No…wait…I want to be surprised…no, tell me…no…never mind, I'll wait!"
Clark learned early on not to attempt to get a word in edgewise. She would come to her decision not to know all by herself. She did it a million times with CJ, ten million times with Jon-Kyle and was up to at least that much now with two months to go.
"…I've changed my mind."
When Clark didn't respond Lois gently poked him in the stomach. "Claaark! I'm serious. I want to know. So just take a quick peek with your vision gizmo thing and tell me what you see…or…don't see."
Clark smiled and took Lois' hand. "Now…you're sure…"
"You know once I look there's no turning back…"
Clark chuckled to himself as his wife shook her tiny little fist at him. "OK, one moment please…"
It seemed like Clark was taking forever to peek inside her stomach and give her the news she'd hoped for. A precious little girl. In reality, their baby was being particularly shy, and Clark had to move practically behind Lois to see for sure.
Lois faked a horrified wail and flopped down on the bed. Clark laughed and flopped down beside her and rubbed her protruding belly.
"You're not too disappointed are you?"
Lois smiled up at him. "How could I be? Another little boy with the man I love…life *is* good."
Clark kissed her gently and invited her to assume her favorite and most comfortable snuggling position. A difficult thing to achieve at this late stage of pregnancy. As she leaned back into him, she felt an unfamiliar bulge in his pants pocket.
Clark pulled the offending object out of his pocket and smiled.
"Lois, have I got a story for you…"