By Jeff Brogden (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Summary: Lois discovers she's pregnant, but there are complications. Clark despairs of them ever having children, and he starts to feel the weight of a world resting on his shoulders.
It is with great apprehension that I submit this story to the general public. I wrote it a *long* time ago, and I guess I'm still a little close to this one. It's a sort of therapy piece for me. I had Ruth Ellison look it over, and she helped me with my mistakes and plugged a few plot holes. Some of her thoughts on it helped push me to send it in. Still, that was a while back, so Ruth - I didn't forget about this, here it is. Thanks a bunch, Ruth!
A person's thought are shown in a '< >' pair, emphasis with a pair of *'s. This is post-revelation, marriage piece. In fact, in my world, the argh, er arc, never happened. This story is dedicated to my wife, Michelle.
The sound cut through her head like a sledgehammer through a watermelon, jarring her from sleep. <It can't be time to get up! I just got to sleep!> The sound continued to drill its way into her consciousness, forcing her to acknowledge its existence. She reached over and tried to pound the snooze button, <Just nine more minutes… then I can make it.> She had been lying on her arm and it had gone to sleep. The tell- tale pins and needles shooting up and down her arm hindered her control of it, and she was blindly whacking away at the clock, hoping eventually she would hit the right button.
"Let me get that for you, Lois," a calm, quiet voice said to her from the dark. The noise stopped. She felt a large arm drape across her torso, and felt herself get pulled into a warm embrace. His nose snuggled into her hair next to her ear and she heard him moan softly as he cuddled close to her. He was slowly rubbing her stomach. "Mmmmmm, Clark. That feels good."
"Mmm-hmmmmm. *You* feel good." He nibbled her earlobe.
"Thanks. Wish I *felt* good."
Clark raised his head a little to look at her. "Feeling sick?"
"No, just tired. Seems like no matter how much I sleep, it's never enough."
"Is that a symptom?"
"I don't know. I always thought you were supposed to throw up a bunch."
"Well, it's only been six weeks, maybe you haven't progressed to that stage yet."
"Gee, thanks, honey…" she said, laying on the sarcasm thick.
"Sorry, didn't mean it that way," Clark gave her a kiss to ease the tension he felt in her. The alarm went off again.
Lois blew out a long, loud sigh. "Guess I'd better get up." She threw the covers back and slowly raised herself up into a sitting position, her feet dangling over the side of the bed.
"I think you're pregnant, Lois," Clark said softly as he rubbed her back. "Are you going to take the test?"
"I want to, but I don't want to. I want to know that I am pregnant, but I don't want to be disappointed."
"How long has it been since you quit taking the pill?"
"It will be six weeks today."
"Well, eventually you *are* going to find out. You bought the test, you might as well use it."
"I will. I think I'll just wait another week, just to be sure."
Clark smiled, "Okay. While you're taking your shower, I'll fix breakfast."
Clark was putting the finishing touches on the table setting when he heard Lois walk into the kitchen. He turned around to find her grinning ear to ear. "I'm a daddy?"
"It looks that way," she said, still smiling.
Clark felt like he was going to explode with happiness. He ran to her, and scooped her up, kissed her and laughed. She hugged him hard as she cried and laughed at the same time.
"I thought you were going to wait?"
"I just had to know." She leaned back a bit so she could look him in the eye. "I love you, Clark Kent."
"I love you too, Lois Lane-Kent." He kissed her, a long, slow, passionate kiss. "So, who are you going to tell first?"
"Well, first, I need to have this confirmed by the doctor…"
"Lois, those things are supposed to be something like 98% reliable…"
"I know, I just want to be 100% sure. Plus, it's important to get proper care, as early as possible in the pregnancy."
"So, when do we go see the doctor?"
"You want to go? I was hoping you would…"
"Wouldn't miss it."
"…and here is an excellent book that will explain everything about what is going on with your body…" the nurse droned on and on, handing stacks of leaflets, books, coupon books and other literature to Lois. She was only half listening, as she kept looking hopefully at the door to the office, willing Clark to walk in any second. <Where *is* he?> She sighed as she realized that Clark must have been needed as Superman for him to miss out on their first doctor's visit. The nurse, hearing Lois sigh, looked up to catch the look of disappointment on her face.
"Expecting someone?" she said softly, laying a hand on Lois's knee in a kind, friendly gesture.
"Oh… well, yes. My husband. He must have gotten tied up with… work… or something…" she smiled a little.
"I'm sure he wanted to be here…" the nurse tried to console her.
"I know he did. I still can't believe we are going to have a baby! There's so much to do, so much to learn…" She looked at the pile of pamphlets and other items the nurse had been stacking in her lap.
"Here, I'll put all this in something easier to carry. Take your time to look it over. A pregnancy takes nine months after all, no sense in rushing things." She moved the pile over to a desk and then picked up a medical folder she had made out as soon as Lois's pregnancy test had shown positive. "Now that we know you're pregnant, we need to have you meet with the doctor. He will explain all the tests we do along the way, and explain to you what to expect as your pregnancy progresses. If you'll follow me, we can go meet him right now."
Clark came into the news room and stopped short as he saw Lois staring at him as he exited the elevator. He felt a twinge of guilt in his stomach as he knew he had missed their first doctor's appointment. He gave her a little wave and a smile as he approached her.
"Hello. Everything turn out all right in Suicide Slum?"
She knew where he had been. <Should have known she would track me down when I didn't show up at the doctor's…> "Lois, I'm sorry I had to miss our first appointment. I just couldn't…"
"It's okay, Clark. Really. They *needed* you, and you could help. I wouldn't have you any other way."
The media liked to hype it up as "Racial Tension" between the people who lived in Suicide Slum and those who lived in the "better" areas of Metropolis. Clark knew it was more than that. It was more the "haves" versus the "have- nots". The people living in Suicide Slum were becoming fed up with their life, and wanted out. No one likes to live in despair.
In order to combat the growing feeling of despair, a campaign was started to promote cultural identity. Several individuals had worked hard to organize community groups, and solicit support for a new community culture center. The idea had slowly gained support, and eventually a site was selected. A group of commissioners were elected and things were set into motion.
The "haves", however, wanted to build a large shopping mall on the empty lot that was slated as the future site of the new community culture center. The commissioners suddenly found that their building permits had been revoked, and the land was seized due to tax evasion of a previous owner. Clark was sure that it was all a smoke screen to hide some pet project someone had. Someone who cared more about their money than they did about other people.
Tensions had been high lately, and they finally came to a head as several people picketing the construction site had gotten into a fight with construction workers trying to cross the picket line. Superman had shown up before it could turn into a full- blown riot. He had had to spend several hours acting as mediator to their argument, and to make sure tempers didn't flare all over again. He looked at Lois and noticed she was smiling at him.
Her smile did little to make him feel better. "I still feel bad about not being there for you, Lois. I wanted us to do this together."
"Well, you will get your chance to do a lot of visiting to the doctor's office over the next nine months."
"You mean you're…"
Her smile, and the twinkle in her eye, was answer enough.
Lois and Clark were sitting on the couch, holding each other close, just enjoying each other's company. They had celebrated the good news of a baby by going to dinner at a quiet restaurant, and then taking a long walk in the park. When it had gotten dark, they had retreated to the comfort of their home.
"Lois, are you sure you don't want to tell anyone yet?"
"I'm sure, Clark. I want to hear the heartbeat before we tell anyone. I don't think I could handle it if everyone knew and then there was a problem. People would be tiptoeing around me, trying to apologize and failing, not knowing what to say to me and treating me with kid gloves…"
"Okay, okay. I'm just surprised, that's all. I figured you would want everyone to know."
"…and when Perry finds out, he's liable to keep me tied to the desk and I won't have that. I'm not going to stop doing my job just because I'm pregnant…"
"I didn't think you would…"
"…and all the girls at the Planet would be bugging me about baby showers and what do I need and…"
"Whoa! Whoa! Slow down, Lois."
"Sorry. It's just…" She looked up at him.
Clark could see the hint of worry in her eyes. "You're worried about my being from Krypton and how it will affect the baby."
She smiled slightly. "Yeah, a little, I guess."
Clark wrapped his arms around her tighter. "Me too. We'll get through this. Everything will be fine. In the mean time, you still need to eat another fruit or vegetable today."
"Oh, Clark! I'm stuffed! All I've done it seems is eat, eat, eat."
"You're building a baby, you need to eat. And the doctor said you should have five fruits and vegetables a day."
"I know, I know. It's hard to eat that many times though."
Clark held his chin between his thumb and forefinger. "Maybe I'll get you a tee-shirt for when you start to show. I'll have the words 'BABY UNDER CONSTRUCTION' put on the front…"
"Don't you dare!" Lois laughed as she smacked him on the chest.
"Then I could get one that said 'ARCHITECT'…or 'GENERAL CONTRACTOR'…"
Lois sat up an whacked him again. "You do and you'll regret it! This isn't fair, you're not even feeling any of this…"
Lois and Clark sat in the doctor's office, waiting to go in and take their first chance at hearing the baby's heartbeat. They held each other's hand as they waited. Strung about the waiting room were parenting magazines, baby magazines, toys for siblings, and piles of baby product advertisements.
"Boy, they sure know how to prey on the first-time parents, don't they?" Lois said, motioning to a stack of diaper coupons, formula pamphlets and child safety seat ads. "Everywhere you look is something that says 'Buy Me! You NEED Me! What-Kind-Of- Parent-Would-You-Be-If-You- Didn't-Get-Me!'"
Clark smiled, and gave her hand a small squeeze. "Relax, Lois."
"I'm relaxed. I am."
A nurse opened a door and called out "Lois Lane- Kent!" Lois jumped to her feet and dragged Clark after her.
"Hello, Nadine. I want you to meet my husband, Clark."
"Hello, Clark. It's so nice to finally meet you." She held out her hand to shake his.
"Nice to meet you, too." Clark had missed the first two visits due to the trouble in Suicide Slum, but thankfully had managed to make this one.
"Now, Lois, you know the routine. First we weigh you, then we take your blood pressure." She led them into a small examination room. Clark stood in the doorway, next to the scales. Lois stood up on the scales and the nurse adjusted the counter weights until the end bobbed in mid-air. Clark looked up at Lois's frowning face.
"And the answer is?" he queried.
"She's gained 4 pounds!" the nurse exclaimed.
"Already? Should I have gained that much so soon? I'm only 10 weeks along." Lois looked a little worried.
"You only have to worry when the doctor says to start worrying," Nadine said smiling.
"Maybe you should check your patient's blood pressure first, *before* you weigh them…" Lois huffed as she sat down next to the blood pressure machine.
Lois's blood pressure checked out all right and the nurse turned to Lois and handed her a small cup.
"Okay, honey, there's the door, leave the cup in the same spot as last time. I'll put your husband in the third room down the hall."
Clark gave Lois a questioning look as she walked passed him with the cup.
"Don't say a thing, mister…" Lois said under her breath as she opened the door to the bathroom.
"Just a little."
"Tell me what the doctor is like. What's his name?"
"Dr. Sammual. He's great. He likes to kid around a little to help ease the tension. He explains *everything*, and he's good at making you feel comfortable."
Just then the door opened and Dr. Sammual entered the room, carrying a small box with what looked like a microphone attached to it.
"Hello, Lois," he said as he set the box down next to her on the examination table. He looked at Clark with a questioning look on his face. "Strange, this isn't the same guy you brought with you last time, is it?"
Lois and Dr. Sammual laughed as Clark's face went through several emotional changes. Dr. Sammual extended his hand. "Hi, I'm Dr. Sammual, you must be Clark."
"Good to meet you…"
"Hope you don't mind me funning with you a little. Okay…" He flipped open Lois's chart. "Hmmm… lab work looks good, all the levels are looking fine. How have you been feeling?"
"Pretty good. I haven't gotten sick yet, but I'm more tired than normal."
"Okay, the only cure for that is rest. And eating healthy. Ready to see if we can hear that heartbeat?" Lois laid back on the examination table and blushed a little as she unbuttoned her slacks and slid them down just a little. Clark shifted nervously in his seat, as he tried to avert his eyes. <This is so strange! Here I am in a room with Lois; she's just pulled her pants down and a strange man is standing here getting ready to look her over!> He didn't know how to react. He knew that the doctor was a professional, but this was *his* Lois and her bare skin that only *he* was supposed to be seeing.
The doctor felt, and pushed on her pelvic area, saying "I'm trying to find the top of her uterus. This way I can gauge how much the baby is growing, and where to start looking for the heartbeat." Next he grabbed a bottle labeled "Ultra-Sound Gel" and squirted a glob onto the microphone looking device hooked to the box.
"I keep this stuff a little above freezing just for my patients' comfort," he said, smiling to Lois as he again felt for the top of her uterus. Finding the right spot he put the device on her abdomen and turn on a switch. The speaker gave forth a sputter of static and then settled down to a rhythmic thump- thump-thump.
"Is that it?" Clark said breathlessly.
"No, that's mamma's heartbeat. Anytime you hear a slow, steady rhythm, that's mamma. The baby's heartbeat will be much faster and more erratic."
Dr. Sammual slowly moved the instrument back and forth over Lois's abdomen, turning and pushing. Her heartbeat would fade in and out and he moved back and forth. Suddenly a large bump and squeal erupted. "Gas…" the doctor laughed.
One minute went by. Then two. After three minutes went by, Clark looked at Lois's face. She was staring at the ceiling and a light sheen of tears could be seen in her eyes. He reached out and touched her shoulder. The doctor had his eyes closed as he concentrated on the sounds coming from the speaker in the box. Lois looked over at Clark and smiled a small smile. He squeezed her shoulder and smiled back. Clark tried to tune in with his own special hearing device, but couldn't hear anything. The ultra-sound machine the doctor was using was just making too much noise for him to filter out. After about five minutes, Dr. Sammual stood up and turned the machine off. "Nope, not going to find it today. Mother's heartbeat is too strong…"
He picked up Lois's chart and made some notes, then took a small, metal disk out of his lab coat. The disk had several other, smaller disks mounted on its face, which the doctor turned into some position, after re-checking the chart. He looked at the disk and shook his head, mumbling to himself. Clark tuned in his super-hearing to hear him say "…she should be about 10 weeks…yes…10 weeks is right…"
Lois was pulling her slacks up after wiping the gel off, and was looking a little scared. Clark stood up and put his arm around her and kissed the top of her head.
"Well, we will try again in one week. We should hear the heartbeat by that time. If we don't, we do an ultra-sound and take a look and see what's going on inside." He looked at Lois, then at Clark. "Don't start worrying yet. Wait till next week. Our dates could be off. Or there may be more than one baby, and the heartbeat of each is canceling out the other's…"
"More than one?" Lois and Clark said together, a slight look of shock on their faces.
Dr. Sammual laughed, "Just kidding. Had to see how you would react to that. Seriously, don't start worrying yet. We'll try again next week. Okay?"
"Hey! Bozo! The speed limit is 45 miles per hour not 45 feet per hour!"
Clark smiled as he shook his head. Typical Lois, start venting on some poor unsuspecting motorist instead of talking about something that was troubling her. "Lois, I've been thinking. I could take a look or a listen to see if I can see anything. Maybe I'll…"
"No. That won't be necessary Clark. Look at that moron! Did you just see what they did!?! Geesh!"
"That guy must have gotten his license in a box of Cracker Jack's."
"I could use my 'vision gizmo' to take a peek…"
"One thing I can't stand is someone who won't drive at least the speed limit…"
"Or my 'hearing gizmo' to see if I can find a heart beat…"
"You know, people like this bozo in front of me are not in accidents, they cause them. And people like you and me pay the price…"
"*LOIS!* Have you heard a word I've said?"
Lois looked at Clark. She could see the concern in his eyes. "I've heard every one, Clark. But to be honest, I don't think you could use your hearing to find the heart beat. You have no idea what to listen for. And as for the 'vision gizmo', well…" She fidgeted in her seat.
"Well, normal X-ray's are not good for a fetus. What if your vision would harm the baby somehow?"
Clark hadn't thought of that. He had no idea how his X-ray vision worked. Was it like regular X-rays? Would it harm a developing fetus? "I see what you mean…"
"Let's just wait until next week. That's what we have a doctor for, after all."
"Lois! Lois, over here!" Mary waved across the Daily Planet's cafeteria, motioning for Lois to come sit by her and Sheri. Clark was out taking care of some more trouble in Suicide Slum, so Lois was doing lunch alone. She took her tray and walked over to the table Mary was at and sat down next to Sheri. "Hi, girls. How are you both doing?"
"We're doing fine," Sheri said. "The question is, how are *you* doing?"
Lois looked at Sheri's questioning eyes, and then over at Mary, who was looking at her with an equally questioning look. "I'm - doing fine - why?" she said in a slightly defensive tone.
Mary leaned in closer and spoke in a hushed voice, "Lois, you can't fool me. Something's up, I can see it in you. You're pregnant, aren't you?"
Lois' eyebrows went up, as she looked at Mary, then Sheri. "I'm… No… I mean… no, I'm not pregnant…" Lois said, then quickly grabbed a carrot stick and started munching on it.
Sheri looked casually at the carrot stick in Lois's hand. "Right. Sure, Lois. Come on - you can tell us." She leaned over. "We won't tell anyone, honest."
Lois started to get flustered. <Damn! I'm usually so good at lying, must be these darn hormones and emotions…> "Really, there's nothing wrong…" she said as she picked up a piece of broccoli.
"Lois, we can tell you're lying," Mary said softly. "Personally, I think it's wonderful news. You and Clark, having a baby. Man, are you ever lucky to have landed him…"
Sheri chimed in, "Is she ever. All the girls were just dying to go out with him. But Clark only had eyes for you…"
"And now you're going to have a baby, right?" Mary prodded again.
Lois hung her head in defeat, <I'm giving up too easy - must be related to the pregnancy again - easy to read, easy to push over…> "Yes… Clark and I are expecting…"
"YES!" Mary and Sheri yelled together.
"Sssshhhh!!! You said you would keep it a secret." Lois quickly looked around to see if anyone was staring, and found only half the people eating and half of them looking at the three of them. "Oh, great - I suppose everyone knows now…" She threw a celery stick down and crossed her arms over her chest.
"Not everyone, just *us*! This is *so* great, Lois." Sheri reached over and patted Lois on the arm. "Why are you trying to keep it a secret?"
"Because if Perry finds out, he'll probably make me do desk duty, or send me out on all the boring interviews. I'm not going to let this keep me from doing my job." She picked up the celery stick again and took a large bite. "Plus," she mumbled through a mouthful of celery, "everyone would start treating me differently. 'Oh, look, there's Lois. Careful, she's in the motherly-way…'" Lois made a disgusted look. "I couldn't handle that." She leaned her elbows on the table and fixed both of them with a deadly look. "What I want to know is, how did *you* two know…"
Mary spoke up first. "I knew something was up when you started eating all the vegetables. My daughter is pregnant and she is doing the same thing."
"And I knew you were going to the doctor's office. I overheard you tell Clark you were going to meet him there." Sheri looked a little embarrassed at having to confess to eavesdropping. "Plus, I've had one myself, and you just had this look about you."
"Well, okay, I'll buy those excuses. I don't want anyone else to know, though. Clark and I want to be the ones to break the news."
"You can count on us to keep our mouths shut." Mary looked at Sheri who nodded.
Lois smiled, "Good."
Mary sat back and sighed, "It's a relief actually…"
"How so?" Lois asked.
"Well, I mean, you and Clark have been married for what, three years?" Mary looked at Sheri.
"Yes, three years; that's a *long* time," Sheri smiled back at Mary then looked at Lois. "We were beginning to think that we needed to buy you two a book or something."
Mary and Sheri burst out laughing at the look of horror on Lois's face.
"We don't need a book!!"
"We just happen to be doing lots of practicing…"
He heard her coming up the steps. Heard her fumble for her keys and unlock the door. He could already smell her; at least he liked to think he could. Maybe it was memory. He could hear her mumbling about little things as she put her purse down on the table and took off her shoes.
"Clark? Clark, you home?"
Her voice sounded wonderful. It almost made things okay. He heard her walking toward the bedroom, and sighed.
Lois walked into the bedroom, and flipped on the light. She gasped when she saw Clark curled up in the fetal position, floating about three feet above the bed. <Oh, no. Something horrible has happened.> "Hi, honey," she said in a small whisper. Clark sat up and floated down onto the bed. Lois came over and sat next to him, draping her arm around his shoulder. "What happened?"
"I was too late to stop a little five-year-old girl from getting shot."
"It was a drive-by shooting in Suicide Slum. At the new shopping center construction site. She and her mother were just walking by." He laid his head in her lap, while she ran her fingers through his hair. "I caught them. And took the girl to the hospital. She's in critical condition."
Lois leaned down and kissed him softly on the temple. There wasn't much she could say. She'd done this before, and it was best to just be here for him, hold him, let him know he was not alone. He needed to talk things out. He would talk, letting the pressure ease off his shoulders, the disappointment flow from his teary eyes, the pain ebb from his aching heart. And she would listen, touching him, kissing him, comforting him. Helping him to build himself back up to be the super hero everyone else saw. The strong, never-bending icon of strength. The one person who never buckled, no matter what the strain, no matter what the pressure. Superman. The name said it all.
Dr. Sammual slid the device around on Lois's pelvis, searching for the tell-tale signs of life, a heartbeat. Clark closed his eyes and concentrated on the various noises fluttering from the speaker. Lois's heartbeat drifted in and out of range, yet always ever present in the background. He felt her squeeze his hand, and he looked over at her, and caught the look of desperation in her eyes. Dr. Sammual sighed and stood up.
"Okay. We're not going to find it again this week." He handed Lois a towel. "Please clean up and then come to my office when you're ready. We need to have an ultra-sound done, we should be hearing a heartbeat." He gave them both a solemn look, then exited the examination room.
Lois quickly toweled off and pulled up her pants. She gave Clark a shaky look then a small smile. "Sorry."
"Why?" Clark gasped. "What have you to be sorry for?"
"There's no heartbeat…"
"Ssshhhhhh…" He grabbed her and pulled her tight. "We still have the ultra-sound."
They walked into Dr. Sammual's office and found him on the phone. "Yes, today. We need to check it today, she's at, let me see…" He flipped a few pages in Lois's chart. "…she's at 11 weeks and there are no fetal heart tones present. Right. 1:30 p.m. That's good. Bye." He hung up the phone and looked at Lois and Clark. "I'm not going to lie to you two. We should have heard something. The ultra-sound will give us the answers we need." He looked at his watch. "It's 12:00 now, your ultra- sound is at 1:30."
He looked at Lois and said, "You must drink at least 32 ounces of fluid between now and then. No going to the restroom, your bladder needs to be full. It's uncomfortable, but necessary." He turned and looked at Clark. "Will you be there?"
"Yes," he gave Lois a squeeze of her hand. <The world would have to come to an end to drag me away…>
"Okay, I'll meet you there in an hour and a half. Go to the out patient check-in area, and they will guide you from there."
The ultra-sound machine room was quiet, the hum of the machine the only noise. She was lying on the table facing a monitor, with Clark to her left, holding her hand. She looked at the monitor and couldn't make heads nor tails of what she was seeing. The images were a collage of grey, static looking areas, surrounded by numbers. Vague shapes appeared and disappeared regularly. <I wish I could see something, *anything* I could understand…> She searched for just a glimmer of a shape that looked even remotely baby-like. Instead, a large black, empty spot kept coming into view then receding again into the grey fog.
Several times, the ultra-sound machine technician would start and stop a tape recorder. She would freeze-frame the image on the screen and measure various sections of it with graphical cursors, and circles. She moved the instrument around on Lois's stomach and pelvis, pushing way too hard on her full bladder. <At least the ultra-sound gel she put on me was pre-heated> thought Lois as she grimaced again at the pressure her bladder was undergoing.
The technician stood up, and handed Lois a towel. "You can use this to clean up. The bathroom is right in there," she said pointing to a door in the corner. "I'll be right back."
After she left the room, Lois swung her feet over the edge of the table and started cleaning up. "Did you see anything recognizable, Clark?"
Clark looked at her, a mask of seriousness over his face. "No, hon. All I saw was a big black spot." His eyes started to tear, and Lois patted his leg. "I could, you know…" he fingered his glasses, using the little hand symbols they had developed when referring to his super powers.
"No. That's all right. I've *got* to get to the bathroom, hang on…"
Lois disappeared and was gone only a few seconds when the door to the ultra-sound room opened and Dr. Sammual came in followed by the technician. "Is Lois in the bathroom?"
Dr. Sammual pulled up a stool in front of Clark and waited for Lois to emerge. Lois came out and seeing the doctor, immediately put on a determined face. She came over and sat on the exam table next to Clark.
Dr. Sammual sighed. "What we have here is what we call an 'empty sack' pregnancy. What that means is just what it sounds like it means. There is nothing in the sack - no baby. There never was a baby, just some fetal debris. Usually, the body takes care of these things naturally around the sixth week. The woman experiences what she interprets as an extra-heavy period. In reality, it is a miscarriage. Roughly 56% of all miscarriages are thought to be of the 'empty sack' type. Many think the number is higher since a lot of people do not realize they had a miscarriage in the first place.
"What's important right now is for us to take over where Mother Nature stopped. We have to get rid of this debris, get your uterus healthy so you can try again. Even though there was never a baby, you need to grieve. Let your emotions out. You *thought* you were pregnant. You *did* lose something - the idea of being a parent. You carried this for 11 weeks, it was becoming a part of you, and now it's going away." Dr. Sammual leaned forward and grabbed Lois's hand. "Let it out, cry, whatever, just don't bottle it up." He turned to Clark. "Your job is to be strong for her. She needs your support and your help. She's going to be sick for a while, so you have to cover for her. You can grieve later, after she's all right."
Lois opened her mouth to speak, but only a crackle came out. She cleared her throat and tried again. "Why… why did this happen? Did I do something wrong or…"
"No!" Dr. Sammual said with a look of shock on his face. "Neither of you did *anything* wrong. It's just one of those things. The egg and the sperm came together, but the chromosomes…" He held up his hands, fingers extended, and interlocked them in an offset fashion. "…the chromosomes just didn't - mesh I guess is a good word. They didn't come together just right, that's all. Now, we need to get you admitted and prepped for surgery. We'll walk down there togeth…"
The rest of the conversation drowned out for Clark. <Didn't mesh! Our chromosomes didn't mesh! It's got to be my fault. My background is so much an unknown. It's all my fault! It's because I'm an - alien. The chromosomes where incompatible because of me. It's all my fault…>
Dr. Sammual looked through the small window in the door that led to the waiting room. He could see Clark Kent, sitting in the corner, staring blankly at nothing in particular. His shoulders were slumped, like a great weight was pushing on him from some unseen source. Overall, he looked totally without emotion. Dr. Sammual pushed the door open and walked up to Clark with a smile on his face. "Everything went great. We were able to remove all the material without damaging the uterus itself."
Clark sighed heavily. "That's great. Can I see her?"
"Well, normally they don't want people in the recovery area, but since she's the only one in there, I think we can work something out." Dr. Sammual extended his hand in a gesture of offering to help Clark get up. "I know some people and I carry a bit of weight around here," the doctor smiled.
Clark accepted the hand, he felt so tired and mentally drained. Dr. Sammual led him to the recovery room where Lois was surrounded by nurses. They were propping her head up, taking her blood pressure, her temperature, and other numerous bits of activity. Clark couldn't concentrate on any of it, he only saw her eyes. They were open, and the second she saw him, they twinkled a bit more. She wave sluggishly for him to step into the room, and he entered slowly.
Dr. Sammual cleared his throat. "Ladies, this is Mr. Kent. I wanted him to be here with Lois." He turned and left, and the nurses each said their hellos. Lois was patting the bed next to her, telling him to come sit down, which he did.
"Hi, Clark. You look wonderful."
"You don't look so bad yourself."
"HA! My husband, he's so noble," she smiled to the nurses. She looked back at Clark, "We're going to be just fine. Just fine, you'll see." She patted his thigh and smiled some more, as she closed her eyes and drifted a bit.
Clark fought back the tears, and the lump in his throat as he leaned over and softly kissed her. "I'm sorry…"
"We're home!" Clark shouted as he carried Lois into their home. He continued carrying her until he had reached the bedroom. He sat her down on the bed. "Stay here while I go get our things out of the car." Two seconds and a blur later he was back. "How do you feel?"
"It's been a long day…" Lois sighed wearily.
Clark sat down next to her. It was hard for him to believe that this morning, Lois and he were still talking about having a baby. Now, all that was gone. Gone, because his chromosomes wouldn't, *couldn't*, mesh with Lois's chromosomes. A deep, penetrating sadness filled him, and he tried to smile before Lois noticed. "Can I get you anything to eat?"
"Yeah. I'd like something."
"What would you like?"
"Surprise me," she smiled. "I'm just going to lie here for a while, okay?"
"Did you call Perry?"
"What did he say?"
"He said he's sorry," Clark frowned just a little. "He also said he could pinch our heads off for not telling him sooner." That brought a smile to her face. "I… I told him why we didn't say anything sooner. He understood." Clark got up to leave, and Lois grabbed him by the arm.
"Where is that information the hospital gave us right before I left? My discharge instructions are in there, I want to look them over again."
"I'll get them for you, now rest."
Clark brought her the papers, and then went to the kitchen to see what he could cook up for her. "How does a chicken-fried steak with milk gravy sound?" he shouted towards the bedroom.
"Too heavy and greasy. How about a simple salad?"
"All right." He started pulling out the vegetables, cleaning and cutting them up. As he worked, he couldn't help thinking everything was his fault. He tried to tell himself that other people had this problem as well. What had the doctor said? Something like 56% of all miscarriages were of this same type? Still, none of those 56% were Kryptonian. Maybe there was no hope for them, maybe they would never have children of their own. The possibility had always existed, he had just never dwelled on it for very long. Now, however, was different. How could he ask Lois to undergo this sort of thing again? How could he ask her to get pregnant again, when the possibility was so high that the results would be the same? He couldn't put her through this trauma again. It wasn't healthy for her anyhow. His mother had told him how they had tried to have children, how hard the miscarriages had been on her. He didn't want Lois to have to go through that.
"Four months!?!?!" Lois shouted from the bedroom. Clark made a quick check of supper, and went in to see what she was upset about.
"Four months till what, dear?" Clark sat down on the bed next to her.
"We can't try again for four months! That's so long…" she looked at him in frustration.
Clark's eyebrows shot up. "We can't… make *love*… for FOUR months?"
Lois started laughing. "No, silly. We can't try having children again for four months. We only have to wait two weeks on the making love part of it…"
"Oh. Whew," he said half jokingly and half seriously. "Had me worried there for a second."
"I have to go in for a check-up in two weeks…"
"I'll be there for you," Clark answered quickly and with certainty.
Lois took a good, long look at him. "What's wrong, Clark?"
"I… I can't help but think that it's all my fault. My chromosomes couldn't mesh with yours…"
"Clark Kent!" Lois looked at him sternly. "No one said anything about it being your fault. Dr. Sammual said that this type of miscarriage was the most common, it's not your fault."
Clark looked at the ceiling. "I want to believe that, but we have no idea if we can have kids. I'm an alien…"
"Stop it right now, buster."
Clark looked into her eyes and saw the flicker of flame behind them.
"I'm not going to be trapped here in this house with a husband who does nothing but mope around, blaming himself for something he has no control over."
"I just don't want you to have to go through this again. We may never be able to have children."
"Clark, I'm willing to try as many times as *we* decide to." She grasped his hands in hers. "I love you. I want to have our baby. We *will* be all right, we will."
"I'll go finish the salads. Turn on the television or something, and I'll bring in the T.V. trays and we can eat while we watch."
Clark went out into the living room and opened the closet where they kept the T.V. trays stored. He heard Lois turn on the television.
"…and as you can see the mob is moving down
Wilcrest towards Ninth Street, the location of the
Thuston Village shopping center construction site…"
Clark was standing by the television in a flash. On the screen he could see a mob of people moving slowly down the street, trashing windows, throwing bricks and creating general havoc everywhere they turned. He turned to look at Lois, and her face said it all: 'Go. They need you.' "Lois…"
<This was the last straw. Those rich, fat, suckers are going to get it now. First they took away our community culture center, then they think they can move into our neighborhood and run things. We'll show them…> Oliver Thompson gripped the handle of the baseball bat he was carrying a little tighter as he swung it at the windshield of the BMW sitting at the curb. A smile of satisfaction broke on his face as the windshield shattered into the characteristic spider- web of cracks.
Oliver was one of the people who was on the initial committee organized to bring the community culture center to Suicide Slum. He had watched his dream, and the dream of others, get flushed down the toilet by the "Upper Echelon" of Metropolis society. He had had to watch as the community culture center slipped from their fingers and became buried in the waste from the shopping center now being constructed on their site. <Well, what goes up, must come down!>
The mob rounded the corner and started the last three block run toward the construction site. Ahead, they could see the construction workers gathering, weapons of their own in hand.
"Looks like they want to fight, brothers! Let's teach them a lesson about siding with the wrong kind!" A roar went up as he thrust his bat over his head and started running towards the site.
Before Oliver could get halfway there, he saw him, floating down out of the sky to land directly in Oliver's path. The man straightened himself, crossed his arms over his chest and fixed Oliver with a hard look of determination. Behind Oliver, everyone slowed to a stop. Oliver could hear the word "Superman" being repeated again and again. Over Superman's shoulder, he could see the surprised (and relieved?) faces of the construction site workers.
Oliver had seen Superman before, about a year ago. He had seen him lift a semi-tractor trailer out of the river, after it had skidded into it to avoid plowing into a school bus. It had amazed him that someone so powerful could, at the same time, be so tender and caring. The semi not only contained the driver, but the driver's dog as well. The driver had been thrown free during the accident, but the dog was trapped in the cab of the vehicle. The animal would have surely died, had not the Man of Steel lifted the vehicle out of the river, ripped the door open and given the dog mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
Now, however, hate, anger and adrenaline clouded Oliver's judgment and vision. He saw not the Man of Steel, but just another barrier in the way of his community's fight for what they believed to be rightly theirs.
"I should have known those money-hungry bastards would get you to help them, Superman!"
"No one got me to help them. I'm here on my own."
"And just what do you plan on doing?" Oliver asked.
"I'm going to keep you and your friends from destroying any more property, or from hurting anyone else."
"We have a *right* to that land, just the same as anyone else…"
"I know, but this isn't the way to solve the problem."
"Oh? And how do you suggest we solve it? Sit around, and talk about it? In the mean time, they continue to build their money machine."
"I don't know ho…"
"Of course you don't know; how can you know? You've got it all! You're set for life! You're strong, you're male, you're white. You don't have anything to worry about, you don't have a family and a culture dying right before your eyes, while…"
Before he heard the words, Oliver could see something inside the Man of Steel snap. He saw the sudden flash of fire in the eyes, the burning rage in his face.
"YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT MY LIFE IS LIKE!" The sentence was spoken with such volume, such authority and emotion, several people fell backwards from the force.
"You have no clue what it is like to live like I do. To be an alien in a world of humanity. To live every second of my life, wishing I could be like everyone else for just a day. To *live* a normal life. To *be* a normal person. To be able to make mistakes like everyone else. Can you imagine the pressure of having to be right all the time? To always have to be there, when someone needs you, to always have to save the day?"
His voice grew softer, but the feeling behind it kept his words strong, penetrating. "Can you imagine the strain of not showing emotion, not breaking down in the face of adversity? Having the whole world on your shoulders, dependent on you to live the perfect life, be the perfect being. I cannot love anyone for fear someone will use them against me. I cannot share openly with others for fear of what some maniac with a hunk of green rock will do next. I'm the last of my race. There is no culture for me to watch die. It *is* dead already. Lost, forever. A whole planet's worth of music, literature, dance, science, plants, animals… people - gone. Turned to dust, drifting among the unknown, never to be seen, heard, touched again. There is no hope for my kind to ever live again. I'm alone, destined to remain alone because of the unique abilities I have been gifted with."
Oliver watched as the man before him looked down slightly, the fury flickering out in his eyes, his posture becoming relaxed, his shoulder slumping ever so slightly.
"And after I'm gone, there will be nothing left of my homeworld. No one to carry on in my place, no one to keep their memory alive. You… you have so much… so much to cherish… so much to live for. I… I can have… nothing."
In total amazement, Oliver watched as the Man of Steel, no, the *man* began to cry. In embarrassment, Superman put his hands up to cover his eyes, bowing his head, straining to fight back the tears. Oliver thought of his wife and son back home. He thought of his job; even though he hated it, it was a job. He thought of his home and friends.
Clark struggled desperately to regain control. He heard a bat click and clatter as it hit the ground. He felt a pair of arms wrap themselves around him and hug him tight. He heard a whisper, "I'm sorry, Superman… I'm sorry…"
Clark pulled himself upright, looking the man in the eye. He had buckled, and the world had seen it. He looked for contempt in the eyes of the man in front of him, but only found understanding, concern, and sadness.
"Let's go home…" Oliver said to Superman, then released him. He turned to the others behind him, "…let's go home."
Lois sat in bed, her mouth wide open in shock. She had just witnessed the most amazing thing she could ever remember. Clark had landed right in front of a LNN camera crew covering the riot (they always seemed to be everywhere there was trouble, didn't they?). She and the rest of the world had seen his actions, heard his emotional words. She had been married to Clark for three years, and had known him for many more before that. But never, in all that time, had he opened up like he had just done. She knew he was troubled about being the last Kryptonian. She knew he worried about someone making the connection between Clark and Superman and then using his loved ones against him. She knew all of this. It still didn't prepare her for the depth of pain, frustration and desperation she had just seen.
She watched as the mob started dispersing, everyone moving off as if the plug had been pulled on them. The announcers were tongue-tied, and were trying to recover from the shock of Superman's words. They started babbling and she saw them rush out to interview Clark. Before they got there, he was gone.
"Oh, Clark. Come home, soon. We need to talk." A whoosh and a slight breeze signaled his return at that moment. "Clark?"
He walked in, dressed in his civvies, his glasses in his hand, his other rubbing his eyes, as if to remove all traces of the pain that was surely behind them. "Hi. I'm back. I'll go get your supper…" He started to walk back out of the room.
"Forget the supper, Clark. Come here, I need a hug, and I think you do too."
Clark stood there, his eyes still covered by his hand. "It's… just… all the pressure lately. The little girl, our baby…"
Lois stood up and walked over to him, "I know, I'm sorry." She hugged him tightly, and was pleased when he return the hug with enthusiasm. He clung to her like she was the life preserver in his stormy sea of a life. "Clark, let's go eat and we can talk about our fears, together."
[ONE YEAR LATER]
"…and I dedicate this community culture center to you, the citizens who made it all possible. And thank you for allowing me to cut the ribbon, and for providing a small place for my lost homeworld of Krypton." Superman took the large scissors and cut the red, blue and yellow ribbon strung across the doorway. A cheer went up from the crowd, as he swung the door open and ushered in the committee members who had worked hard to bring this dream of theirs to reality.
Oliver Thompson stopped and grabbed Superman's hand before he went in. He had turned himself in to the police after the riot last year and they had released him on parole. He had rededicated himself to the center project, and with Superman's help, had found a new location to build. "Thanks, Superman. Thanks for making me see the light and giving me a second chance."
"You're welcome, Oliver. I think it turned out wonderfully."
Lois came pushing and shoving her way up to them through a crowd of people. "Out of the way, pregnant lady coming through!"
Clark had to laugh - just like Lois to use her condition to her advantage. "Ms. Lane-Kent, how are you?" he asked.
Lois stopped in front of him. "I'd be a lot… better if you… could find my husband. I… I think the baby has just… decided to make an… entrance all of its own."
"What?!?! I'll take you to the hospital." Clark started to pick her up.
"NO! No, I need Clark, I can't go without him." She looked at him, giving him that stern, knowing look.
Clark relaxed and smiled. "Right. I'll go get him right away. I'm sure he wants to be with you right now as well." And then he was gone, rising up and over the crowd.
A minute later, Clark was pushing himself through the crowed to Lois. "Lois, Superman told me the baby is coming." He grabbed her tight, and whispered in her ear, "Let's go bring that kid into the world - together."