By Audrey Rempel (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Summary: The Clark Kent of the alternate Earth is feeling pretty low. Not only has the secret of his alien origins become public, but he's lost his fiancee, Lana Lang. Even worse, he's lost Lois Lane to her rightful dimension. In this extrapolation of the episode "Tempus, Anyone?" the alternate Clark makes it his mission to find out what happened to the Lois Lane of his world.
WARNING! DC Comics owns all the rights to the Superman characters. The selling of any stories involving these characters would be in direct violation of their copyright. Consequently, this story is only available for free distribution to fans for their enjoyment and are NOT for resale. All rights to the characters, the background situations and some general ideas are the property of those companies. All specific situational ideas are my own. Used without permission etc. etc.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Okay, go easy on me, this is my first try. I thought it incredibly sad that the alternate Clark in "Tempus, Anyone?" had to go it alone, without parents or Lois, once he found out what he was missing. So this is my version of what he's going through and whether or not he'll find his Lois.
With the press conference over, Clark could finally escape the public eye and take some time to try to figure out the events of the last day. It was unbelievable! 24 hours ago, he was engaged to his high school sweetheart, a valued reporter at the Daily Planet, and while he may have had a few extra abilities, not all that different from his fellow man. Now it felt as if he was no longer on the same planet as his fellow man, or even his previous self! It was almost too much to take in. Lana left him, he could use his powers to help others openly, and most important of all, he had discovered a part of himself he never knew existed. And that part was named Lois Lane. He had always felt apart from others, that no one really understood him. He'd thought it was his abilities that he had always had to hide, but he realized now that even once Lana knew, he still was not whole. He'd assumed part of it was the loss of his parents at 10, after all, he hadn't been quite fast enough… but now he knew it was more than even that. There was a hole in his heart, in his very being, but she belonged in another dimension, in the life of another … him. Clark choked back a bitter laugh. At least in another dimension he was whole!
Clark looked around his apartment. Suddenly it seemed stuffy, cramped and lonely. Even his mementos from his travels didn't bring the comfort they usually did. He needed out.
Hours later, he landed wearily in front of the Daily Planet. He'd spent the last few hours testing his abilities, trying to block out other memories. He'd flown out into space for a few laps around the earth, then visited every continent. He'd helped earthquake victims in India, and cleaned up a landslide in Brazil. Word of the news conference had spread quickly in these days of global communication. Almost everywhere he'd landed, when he stuck around long enough for people to see him, he'd been greeted by name. Not the name 'She' had given him, but the name his parents had given him, Clark. He supposed it was good that on the whole, people were accepting him, not asking too much about his origin, or why he was there. And it was encouraging that they seemed to appreciate what he could do, that it gave them hope. That's what 'she' had said they would feel. He looked up at the Planet. 'Well,' he thought, 'Strangers seem to accept me, let's see if my friends do.'.
At least the Planet still seemed normal. It was a hive of activity, probably churning out extra editions on this 'Superman/Clark' story. And the mysterious re-appearance of the Planet's former star reporter. Clark spotted Perry just outside his office, overseeing operations. Before Clark could signal him, Perry noticed his current star reporter.
"Kent!" he yelled "Get over here and in my office on the double! You still have a lot of explaining to do! And why are you still in those silly tights?"
"Coming, Chief!" It was comforting to know some things didn't change. Clark looked down at his still strange blue, yellow and red tights as he hurried over the Perry's office. They were rather loud, but they felt more comfortable than they had a few hours ago.
As he entered Perry's office, he was motioned towards a chair as Perry asked, "I mean it, son, why the get-up? It's not like you need a disguise, although it wasn't much of one to begin with. If you want new ways to jazz up your wardrobe, I can ask the King to stop by and give you some pointers…"
"No thanks, Chief, I don't think that's necessary. I don't know, I've kind of gotten used to them, I think the suit helps me focus on helping people. I also hope it will help separate whatever private life I might still have from my suddenly very public life. Besides," he sighed, "Lois made it for me."
"Lois, yes well, that's what I want to talk to you about, Clark. Where is she? I mean, one minute she's here, after being missing for three years, the next, I can't find her anywhere. Or that Wells character she was with. It's stranger than those persistent rumours of Elvis' death!"
"Chief, she is gone. And, when you think about it, she was never really here. She wasn't … ours."
"What in tarnation are you talking about, son? Those tights addled your brains?"
"Calm down, Chief, let me explain." Clark quickly recounted the events of the previous day. As he did, the depression that had lifted briefly when using his abilities to help others around the world, slowly returned. She was gone. Whereas before he'd known something was missing, he'd been able to ignore the feeling. But now he knew what he was missing. A close relationship with loving parents, and the other half of his soul.
"So you see, Chief," he finished, "she didn't belong here. She wasn't our Lois. So she returned to her dimension, her Daily Planet … her Clark." Clark looked to see Perry slowly lower his head into his hands. The despair of his face almost equaled Clark's own. "I can't believe I lost her again! That girl was a light in my life, and a damn fine reporter, too! I believed it would be like old times again, except now I'd have two ace reporters, who would've made a hell of a team, too, by the way."
"I know Chief, I know."
Just then, Mr. Olsen walked in. "Sorry to disturb you, Perry. But the cub photographer's here, and I'd like him to get some shots of you and that Ms. Lane. Great publicity!"
"I… I'm sorry, Mr. Olsen, but Lois isn't here. She .. aw, well, she couldn't stay. She.. aw, had to go back to the Congo. Some secret undercover work, yeah. Well, so, I'd appreciate this … well, her appearance,… not being mentioned in further stories. Is that all right, Mr. Olsen?"
"Well, if you say she had to leave, well then, there's not much point in rearranging the furniture, now is there? It's too bad though, I would have liked to have her on staff. Even though she did try to call me 'Jimmy'" James Olsen shook his head. "Well, Perry I didn't mean to interrupt. But, Clark, I do trust we'll get all the exclusives in regards to your 'other' job? I mean you're still on our team, aren't you?"
"Well, I haven't made any plans otherwise, Mr. Olsen. I think it might take a while to get all the kinks out, but I'd certainly like to stay with the Planet"
"Oh you can certainly stay with the Planet. Wouldn't have it any other way. Well, I've got to get back to things out here, and I guess I'll send this photographer out to try and get pictures of Mr. Tempus' booking. You two stay and talk as long as you like, I'll make sure things stay under control" James Olsen left the room, a look of pity on his face. 'It's really too bad about that Ms. Lane' he thought 'I think she really could have meant something to this paper.'
Back in Perry's office, Clark took a deep breath. "Perry, I was wondering,… could you, I mean if you'd rather not, it's okay, but, well… "
"Spit it out, son, you're babbling!"
"Well, what I was wondering is, could you tell me about Lois, our Lois? I know so little about her, and what I do know is about a different her. But I feel like I'd like to know her."
Perry looked up and over to Clark. He was sitting on Perry's couch, staring at the floor. Perry felt a new wave of despair wash over him. Somehow he knew that Clark was right, he should know Lois. Lois had disappeared before Clark had come to Metropolis, but Perry had a feeling they would have made a great team. Oh, he could tell there would have been fireworks, Lois was independent and feisty, and Clark was far from mild mannered. He'd mellowed some since coming to the Planet, Perry supposed it helped to have a sort of family again, after the one he'd lost when he was 10. And Lois, well, she'd had the family support Clark lacked, and therefore had some more confidence in her abilities, talent, and place in life. But somehow, he just knew, that had Lois not disappeared, she and Clark would have been quite a team.
"Well, son, " Perry started, "Lois was an amazing woman. She was our youngest reporter, but always strove to be the best. She could be tough, but she had compassion as well. Her parents are well known in this city, as you know, for their charity work, and fund-raising, and Lucy is following in her father's footsteps, on her way to becoming a fine surgeon. But Lois wanted to be a reporter from the day she first asked why the sky was blue. She'd had some rough times too, almost got burned by another reporter named Claude, but she saw through him pretty quick. That experience toughened her up a bit though. She was sought after by many men, that rich recluse Lex Luthor included, but always kept herself distant. I'd asked occasionally, why she didn't go out more, meet some nice guy and raise some more gung-ho reporters for the Planet's next generation, but she'd always say, "Perry, there's too much to do yet. I don't have time for a relationship. Besides, I wouldn't just settle for any guy. He's got to be super!"" Perry cringed. That didn't come out quite right, what with Clark's 'other' persona and all. A strange turn of events that. "Well, anyway, there's not really much else to tell. She was a great reporter. When the rumours of a major gun- running operation in the Congo came down the wire, there was nothing for it but she had to be there. She went undercover, tried to get inside the operation. When I didn't her from her at the arranged time, I sent someone else down to snoop about. He couldn't find any trace of Lois, the gun-running, nothing. Just empty jungle. I pulled all the connections I could think of, sent everyone and everything. But no Lois. It was almost as if she'd disappeared from the face of the earth. Let me see, that was about two months before you showed up."
Clark sat up. "So, Perry, no … body was ever found? Doesn't that seem odd? I mean, for all we know, she could still be alive!" "Now son, don't get you're hopes up! I've had people in the Congo periodically over the years ever since. There has been no sign of her in three years! I know this is tough for you, Clark, meeting her and then losing her so soon. But she's gone. We've just got to carry on."
Clark settled back on the couch. Perry was probably right. But still, if there was a chance… He shook his head. 'Get real, Kent.' he thought 'Entire armies of people have been looking for her, and the trail is three years old. What gives you the idea that even if she were alive, you could find her? It would be an impossible task.' Suddenly Clark sat straight up. "Chief! I know you've sent many people to the Congo to look for her. No one can find her. But, maybe, just maybe, a 'Super' man could!"
Clark sighed as he floated just above the clouds, over a small town in Kansas. 'This is ridiculous, Kent. Whatever it is you think you're looking for, I bet it's not here.' he thought, as he hovered, undecided. Clark gave himself a shake. Either he went down and checked to see if the farmhouse was still there, or he headed back to Metropolis and the Planet. He couldn't hang around in the cloud cover above Smallville for the rest of his life. 'Although, it is tempting…' he sighed again, and slowly descended through the grey.
'See, told you, nothing here' Clark jeered to himself as he gazed at the old, abandoned farmhouse located a few miles out of Smallville. Still, he continued towards the house. As he mounted the few steps to the porch, the door creaked in a gust of wind. It looked as if the place had been abandoned since the Kents' death. Clark supposed he technically owned it, although there had been a trustee named to oversee it as Clark had only been ten at the time. Clark realized he'd lost track of the legalities of it since then, as he had tried to shut out any memories of this place, and the love he had known there for the first ten years of his life. 'Only ten years though,' he thought, 'which as it turned out, just weren't enough.' He gave the structure a quick once through with his x-ray vision. Nothing unusual, but he decided to go inside just the same.
The kitchen was covered in dust, but everything was neatly put away. It was just so … empty. If he let himself, he could remember when the kitchen was spotless, and how there always seemed to be some mouth-watering aroma wafting through the big house. He could remember his mother, laughingly shooing him away from the cookie batter, while his father snuck two cookies from the cooling rack on the counter. At the time he had thought it the perfect crime. He and his father would then run out to the barn and devour the still warm cookies. Now that he thought about, he guessed that Martha had seen right through the set-up, for there had always been two glasses of fresh, cold milk waiting for them when they innocently strolled into the kitchen. At the time, he had thought he was quite clever. Now he knew he had been deceived again.
"Why?" Clark asked the empty house. "Why did you leave when I still had so many questions? Why did I have to be alone? Why does that … other … Clark get to have you and Lois? Why do I have neither? And why …" he paused, his head hanging down in shame, "why, if I had the choice, does my heart say I would choose her, instead of you, who loved me and cared for me for the first ten years of my life?" The questions hung in the air of the abandoned kitchen. No answers came. This was the problem. He knew the Kents had done their best raising him for the short time they had, but they were taken away from him just when he was beginning to need them the most. Had he had their support and understanding throughout his adolescence, he may have become 'Superman' sooner. And had he become 'Superman', there may have been a chance, just a chance, that he could have found Lois, that maybe the gun-running story would have taken second place to a man who could fly, that maybe… 'Stop it, Kent! This is futile. You can't change the past …' Well maybe he could, but with all the havoc Tempus had created, he didn't think he really wanted to try. So, he couldn't change the past, and he probably didn't really want to. The Kents had given him a good start in life, and since their death, he had learned excellent coping skills that let him deal with his life so far in Metropolis. He thought maybe he had turned out a little tougher than his counterpart, his survival skills better equipped. And he needed to be tough. To deal with everyone knowing his secret, and to start his search for Lois. And to deal with the possibility that he wouldn't find her, that she never would be a part of his life. Well, he'd never know for sure if he kept hanging around this old farmhouse. With a final glance around, he headed for the door. But not before he vowed he would come back, to fix the place up and make it a home again. Hopefully, a home for him and Lois.
Back at the Planet, chaos reigned. With Perry's landslide win in the election, arrangements were being made to turn over the running of the great newspaper to another. It pained Perry to see his life, his Daily Planet being prepared for a new master. Still, he was mayor now, he had the entire city to run.
"Chief! Can I have a word with you?" Perry turned. Ah! His prize reporter, well the Daily Planet's prize reporter, and the city's superhero. Perry still had a hard time believing that Kent was a superpowered alien from who knows where, but he was glad he was still basically the old Clark Kent. And that old Clark Kent was on a mission.
"What is it, son?"
"Well, chief, you know I want to try and find Lois. Can I get the files on the story she was working on?"
"Sure Clark, anything you want. Jack!" Perry bellowed. "Get the files on the Congo gun-running story from three years ago, everything you can find!"
The young, dark-haired copy boy jumped up. "Sure thing, Chief."
Hours later, Clark sat at his desk, surrounded by stacks and stacks of files. He gone through the files quickly at first, the benefits of not having to hide his abilities continuing to make themselves known, but had since slowed down so he could study everything thoroughly. Besides, even if he could move at super speed, the equipment couldn't necessarily keep up with him.
"Well, son, find anything?" Perry appeared at Clark's shoulder.
"Well, I think so Chief. Everything is just a little too.. perfect. It's an impossible story to resist. And look here." Clark pointed to the file folder in the center of his desk. "Her source gave her just enough information to figure out the location of the gun-runners hide-out. But here in her last report to the office, she says she's done some reconnaissance and the place looks deserted. She says she's going to check it out the next day, and that's the last you heard from her."
"I know all that, Clark," Perry sighed in exasperation "When I sent people over, they found the remains of a large explosion at the hide-out and no sign of Lois. What makes you think she didn't die in the explosion?"
"Because she can't be dead!" Clark exclaimed. Perry looked at him with an expression of deep pity. Clark tried to calm down and sound reasonable. "But look, Chief, really, it's too perfect an ending. It's the perfect lead, the perfect clues leading to the perfect hideaway. And then, an explosion that destroys everything, and all leads and sources here in Metropolis turn up dead over the next few months. No one with even the slighted connection to the story is found alive ever. It's too neatly wrapped up. And the only body that was never found was Lois'. I think it was a set-up."
"A set-up?!?!?" Perry couldn't believe it. Deep down, he wanted to believe it was possible, but the ideas was just a little far-fetched. "That's a rather elaborate set-up for one lone reporter. Who would go to such lengths, and why? And why Lois? She was set-up for what? There are more efficient and less costly ways of getting rid of someone."
"I know Chief." Clark was determined to expound on his theory. "And if it was just to get rid of a good, nosy reporter, I wouldn't believe it either. But what if someone didn't just want to get rid of her, but wanted to get her?"
"Are you talking kidnapping, Clark? That's even more farfetched. There's been no ransom, no demands…"
"I know Chief," Clark interrupted "but whoever did this didn't do it for money. The outlay of cash to set all this up would out-weigh any benefits gained by holding Lois for ransom. No, I think whoever was responsible for this wanted Lois herself. And if I'm right, he got her. Everyone thinks she's dead, and anyone who could tell us otherwise, is dead."
Perry thought about it for a moment. "Well, it's an interesting theory, Clark. But who would do something like that. It has to be someone with an awful lot of disposable cash. And I still don't understand why????"
Clark sat back in his chair. "I do." he said quietly.
"Did someone say something about a lot of cash?" Mr. Olsen popped into view beside Clark's desk.
"Uh, yes Mr. Olsen." Perry thought for a second. "Mr. Olsen, can you think of anyone who would have enough money to orchestrate a major kidnapping and erase any trace of suspicion, and would want something badly enough to kill maybe hundreds of people to ensure it was never found out?"
"Well, what sort of kidnapping are we talking about here?" James asked.
Clark filled him in on his theory.
"I can only think of one person with the resources and the desire to carry out a scheme like that. And that's Lex Luthor."
"Luthor?" Perry exclaimed. "Are you sure? Why I haven't even heard of him in at least a year. What would he gain from this?"
"Lois. Lex had quite a thing for Ms. Lane before she disappeared, I hear. The story still goes around in the clubs from time to time. He practically dropped out of the financial world altogether after her disappearance. From grief, it was believed. It's rumored that he still has operatives in the government, all the major financial giants and even the underworld, but that's just rumors. Nothing has even been traced to him. He certainly would have had the resources back then. He practically ran Metropolis at the time."
"That's right." said Perry, remembering the financial genius' last known appearance . "Now that I think about it, the last time I saw Mr. Luthor, was at a speech he was giving in Metropolis, right before Lois' disappearance. It was at his presentation of his privately funded space station to replace the failed launch of the government station. He was being practically treated as the saviour of the United States space program. And then, he was gone."
"Mr. Olsen," Clark interjected "Would you be able to get any information on where Lex is holed up?"
"Sure thing, Kent. Oh, and you can call me James."
Lois woke up quietly. She opened her eyes and stared blankly at the ceiling. She supposed it was morning, there was more light in the room than when she had gone to sleep. It didn't really make much of a difference. Unbidden memories of when she had first arrived here crept into her consciousness. She had tried everything. Refused to sleep for as long as possible. Always scheming to find a weakness in the guards. Trying anything and everything she could to keep 'him' off-guard, to make him tire of her. Nothing had worked though. She had kept it up for a long while, but after the days stretched into weeks, the weeks to months, she had gradually succumbed to the mind-numbing tedium of the days. She slipped into the routine she was given. She gave up. She remembered the day when she decided the fight wasn't worth it anymore. It was the day 'he' had shown her the tape of her funeral. Somehow, he had managed to have a video camera at the ceremony. She watched, tears streaming quietly down her face, as Perry gave the eulogy. She saw her mother, sobs racking her body, clinging to her father for support. Her father, his face ashen, trying to maintain some dignity, then collapsing against her mother in sobs. And Lucy, no longer her beloved, carefree younger sister, looking much older than her years. All her friends, all her family, convinced she was dead. And Lois supposed in a way she was. She was dead to her family, to her old life. And she moved through her days in her gilded cage as one dead. She awoke with the sun every morning. Ate the breakfast delivered through the door at the same time every day, by the same mute, deaf guard. Did some stretches to keep some semblance of health, glanced through the large bookcase along the entire wall of the room. Lunch came and went. Then, about mid-afternoon, 'he' would come. In the first days of her capture, Lois had worried about his coming. It had been evident very quickly who had the power here, she knew he could just about do anything he wanted and there was nothing she could do about it. But he just talked. Sometimes they played chess. It became apparent that he merely saw her as a possession, something to be admired, not touched, and kept locked away in his personal collection. The only way she was sure she could punish him for what he had done to her, was to take her own life. There wasn't much in her cell that could help her in that endeavour, but it was a moot point. She couldn't do it. No matter how much she despised her life, the dreary existence of her days, she found she had no desire to end it. She supposed she should feel some shame for her cowardice, but it didn't matter. Nothing really mattered anymore.
Lois rose from the bed, shaking the unwanted thoughts of her previous life from her head. She went to the enclosed bathroom to have her morning shower. She knew it was monitored, but any modesty she had felt had long since disappeared. Clothed, undressed, she was merely a possession, and possessions did not have feeling of modesty.
'But today might turn out differently after all!' Lois thought as she re-entered the main room, surprised as her guard brought a TV and VCR along with her breakfast. She tried to contain a shiver of apprehension. The last time she had seen a television, was for the tape of her funeral.
The guard set up the equipment and motioned for Lois to sit in the chair facing the TV. As she sat, 'his' voice came over the speakers in the room. "Lois, my dear, hope you had an excellent sleep. A treat for you this morning, there have been interesting happenings at the Planet in the last few days. I thought it might interest you to know you have been replaced. There is also a very unique side to the reporter who replaced you. I thought you should see him. If I have my way, he will be in the room across the courtyard from you as soon as possible. And as you know, I always have my way."
The voice fell silent, as the images flickered onto the screen. Lois felt genuine excitement, for the first time in months, no, years. On screen she saw herself, at the Planet! It almost seemed too much like the dreams she had in her first year of captivity. She was back at the Planet. Perry was there, as was a nice looking young man, in a suit with slicked back hair. She wondered if they would have been friends. And then she saw 'him'! Lois squeaked in surprise as she saw herself fall off a very high building, plunging toward certain death only to be caught in mid-air by a man who could fly! He was dressed in an ordinary suit, with a rather interesting tie, glasses, nothing unusual. Except that he flew! As she watched, more incredible feats were shown. She saw him again, dressed in a strange pair of blue tights, with a billowing red cape. He swallowed a bomb?!?! Then there was a news conference, as he was introduced to the city. Lois knelt in front of the screen, her fingers reaching out to touch the face of the stranger. He looked so sad, as if he were the loneliest person on the planet, even though he was surrounded by a cheering crowd. Lois cried out involuntarily as the screen went blank.
"Well my dear, what did you think of the man who could fly? And another version of you, only with shorter hair! They are calling him 'Superman', although they say he has been living normally in Metropolis as a Clark Kent. My sources also say that you, Lois Lane, mysteriously brought back from the dead, created him! It is a mystery, my dear, when I know you have been accepting my hospitality the entire time. And a Superman! A worthy edition to my collection, don't you think?"
"Why are you showing this to me, Luthor?" Lois screamed at the hidden microphones. "Why tell me? Why show me my old life? Why torture me this way?"
"Torture you? Why, my dear, I thought I was doing you a favour! I only wanted to show you your friends and this fascinating new toy I will be adding to my collection! I thought, after all this time, you would be happy for me! Surely you understand? But don't worry, sweetheart," the voiced turned silky smooth "I am not tiring of you. You are still the prize of my collection. Although I'm afraid our chess game will have to wait a few days. I shall be very busy over the next while, while I figure out the weaknesses of my next acquisition." With a soft laugh, the voice faded away.
Lois slumped back into the chair she had vacated. It had hurt so much to see Perry, and the Planet again. She had thought she was beyond hurt, that she could remain numb for the rest of her days. But this brief tape had jolted her out of the omnipresent boredom of her captivity. Her mind whirled in frantic thought. A Superman! Who looked like a regular guy. And working at the Planet. If she hadn't been capture by Lex all those years ago, why it must be at least three, she may have known him. And who was this other Lois? Lex said she created this superman. Lois felt an odd pang of jealousy. Not only did she not have her old life, it appeared someone else did! She laughed bitterly. 'Not that it matters,' she thought 'If no one looked for me when they thought I was dead, they certainly won't look for me now that they think I'm alive!'
Clark looked around the conference room. It was empty, except for himself, Perry and James. They were just going over the final details of his first reconnaissance flight.
"Now, Clark," James said "You know Lex is a very secretive man. As well as wealthy and he has friends everywhere. I couldn't find much of anything out, but I believe his hidden fortress is here, in the South Pacific." He pointed to a spot on the map spread out on the conference room table. "The island is uncharted, but you have the latitude and longitude I gave you. That should put you in the general area. It will be heavily guarded and well hidden. If half the rumours I've heard are true, he has a collection of the most rare and valuable items known to man. It's not going to be easy to find. There have also been rumours that Lex is not a sane man. His obsession with collecting rare objects may have turned pathological. But he was a brilliant business man. His obsession combined with his brilliance make him a very dangerous man."
"Yes, son," Perry interrupted, "I mean, we know you're special, that you have some very unique powers, but they haven't been stretched to the limit before. And if Lex is half as dangerous as I think he is, well, just be careful, son."
Clark looked at his friends. He still couldn't believe the changes in his life over the last few days. But he was glad to have his secret out in the open, to not have to hide his abilities behind his glasses anymore. And it was great to know these two men accepted and respected him, that he could call them friends. "Thanks for your concern. I'll be careful, and thanks for all the info you managed to get for me, James. I'll time it so I arrive after dark. Hopefully I'll be able to get in and out without anyone seeing me."
"Just watch out, C.K. If I know Lex, his sources will have told him about you, and he'll already be trying to find a way to exploit your weakness. Our only advantage is surprise."
A few hours later, somewhere in the South Pacific, Clark hovered above a small island, covered in dense jungle. It was the sixth such island he had examined. A sense of futility was beginning to creep its way into his thoughts, but he held onto the image of Lois, in his apartment, telling him with such passion that one man could indeed make a difference. He just hoped she was right. He had foregone the suit she had made for him for this mission, it was just too eye-catching for this plan. He had wanted to keep as low a profile as possible, besides which there wasn't much chance of many people seeing him flying 100 metres above the ocean. He wore black jeans, and a black, long-sleeve t-shirt, which would allow him to blend into the shadows.
Clark scanned the vegetation beneath him. At first look, it seemed like a normal, deserted island, floating peacefully on the wide blue ocean. But if he wasn't mistaken… yes! there in the middle of island, covered with jungle growth, was a building. A large, solidly built fortress, actually. Excitedly, he started x-raying the rooms. It was large, built in a hollow square shape, with an open courtyard in the middle. There were a few guards, but the area's isolation was its main defense. Clark shook his head as his vision uncovered the lost treasures hidden in those walls. A full length Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo's arms, the rooms seemed endless. And then, in a spacious room overlooking the courtyard, he found… her. She looked a little different than the Lois he had met. Her hair was longer, and there was a curiously dead look on her face. She was sitting in a chair in the middle of the room, staring at a blank television screen. Clark's heart almost stopped as he saw the sorrow and hopelessness there. He flew quickly to the window outside her room. With hope in his furiously racing heart, he knocked on the window.
Lois jumped. What was that sound? She looked around the room. It was dark now. She must have been sitting there for hours. She shook her head in disgust, a little of her former strength from years ago resurfacing to jeer at the pathetic figure she had become. She got up and stretched. Suddenly there was another knock. And a voice. Coming from the window!
"Lois! Lois! Can you hear me?"
She turned and looked towards the window and nearly screamed in fright. Fortunately, the sound was too frightened to leave her body.
At the window was a vague outline of a man, all in black. Her mind tried to formulate some response to this apparition, but was hampered by the knowledge that her room was on the third floor, and it was impossible for anyone to be knocking on her window.
"Lois!" the voice whispered her name again. "Don't be afraid. It's … my name is Clark Kent. I work at the Daily Planet and I've come to get you out of here. Stand back of the window!"
Lois slowly backed away from the window. Her mind was still refusing to deal with what she was seeing, but her body seemed to react automatically. 'Maybe I'm finally losing my mind,' she thought. These years of imprisonment have taken their toll, and I'm seeing things.'
The figure in front of the window pressed his hands against the frame and pushed. The window fell forward onto the carpet, but somehow the … person there caught it before it could shatter.
The cool evening breeze stirred her hair, and Lois began to believe maybe it wasn't a dream. She spoke. "Who… who, what are you? Are you really … him? Are you really here?"
Clark came into the light, gazing into the eyes of the woman he would love forever. "I'm Clark Kent. I work at the Daily Planet. Perry helped me find you and will be very glad to know you're alive. I also have some … abilities that make me different, and able to help you out of here. Are you all right?"
Lois backed away from him, his seeming normality frightening her even more. "I saw you on television. You flew! And I saw me, but I wasn't there, I was here. How do I know you're not just a figment of my imagination, or worse yet, some ploy of Lex's to drive me insane? And if you are real, if you are who you say you are, how is it possible? How did you know where to look for me, and why did you bother? I've been dead to that life for three years."
Clark laughed softly. "It's a long story, Lois. And I want to tell you all about it. But we should get out of here before anyone comes. You just have to trust me. Perry is waiting for you, and I'm sure your family will be overjoyed to see you. I haven't met them yet, but I'd like to, Perry's told me a bit about them. I promise I'll answer all your questions when we get back to Metropolis, but there's one I'll answer now. The other Lois you saw is gone now. She wasn't from here. But she showed me what I was missing in my life, only I didn't realize it before. Once I knew it, I knew whatever it took, no matter what, I needed to find it. And that was you."
Lois looked at him uncertainly. She wasn't sure why, but she was strangely touched by his words. She had only known him a short time, and she was no where near prepared for the things he was saying. But still… she thought maybe, just maybe, there was a life for her after all.
Suddenly the door burst open, and Lex stormed in, followed by two henchmen. "So! My next prize has come to me! How very thoughtful of you, Kent! Not very nice of you to frighten my lovely Lois, but allowances can be made for your ignorance. Now, kindly back away from her and come along quietly." His henchman lifted their weapons menacingly. Clark stepped boldly in front of Lois.
"Lex, I'm afraid that won't be possible. Lois is coming with me and I'm certainly not staying."
Lex signaled with his left hand and the guards started firing. Faster than the speeding bullets, Clark caught them all, and crushed them into a ball of metal. "That won't work Lex. Nothing you can do can stop me from taking Lois." Clark turned and picked up Lois in his arms.
She still couldn't believe this was happening, and was amazed at how natural it felt to be cradled against his broad chest. But she stopped him from leaving right away.
"Wait, there's something I want to say. Lex, you captured me three years ago, and kept me caged, to be your precious pet. I want you to know I will do everything in my power to make sure you never do that to any other living thing again. It will be my mission to make sure all your possessions are taken away and set free. And I will rebuild my life, if only to make a mockery of your power." Lois felt exhilarated. For the first time in a long time, she felt the strength and self- confidence that had always been her nature. She finally knew for certain that Lex had been unable to break her. Looking at the stranger who had made this possible, she smiled, and Clark felt his heart nearly burst with happiness.
Finally, the missing piece of his soul had come home. With a smile to equal Lois', he rose gently into the air, and flew slowly out the window.
Lex stood in the middle of room, a mixture of pain and outrage on his face. He raced to the window and watched helplessly as his prize possession flew away. "You haven't heard the last of me, Kent!" He screamed to the sky. "I will return! And when I do, you will be mine! Mine and mine alone! I'll clip those wings, and I'll have Lois again, too! I always get my way, always!!" He pounded his fists against the wall.
A shadowy figure stepped into the room. "Mr. Luthor, sir, they are gone. Please, come away from the window and we'll go and have a cup of tea. All is not lost. We have valuable information which we did not possess before, this has only made us stronger."
Lex turned around, his face strangely still. "Yes, my friend, you are right. Tea would be lovely. And then, I'll visit my friend downstairs. Yes, that's what I'll do. That would be all right, wouldn't it?"
"Certainly Mr. Luthor. You'll see, everything will work out fine."
Clark entered the news room, his eyes instantly drawn to the desk beside his own. Lois was there already, busily typing at her computer. It was almost a month since he had brought her back, and it was impossible to keep her from her job. The doctor's had recommended a slow re-entry into her life, but she would have none of it, saying she had been resting for three years and needed the stimulus. Clark couldn't bear to try and make her take it easy. She seemed to be thriving on the pressure. Two weeks after they had returned, she wrote a first-hand report of Lex's fortress and his highly illegal collection. But when the police had shown up, SWAT teams and Superman in tow, there was nothing to be found. Not a trace of Lex or his island empire could be found. It was as if it had never existed. But he knew it had been real, and so did Lois. He heard her in the night, awaking from nightmares of being trapped there again. He had flown over after the first one, only to be soundly yelled at for interfering, and spying on her. He supposed it was natural for her to fear being monitored, as Lex had known her every move for three years. But he hoped, in time, she would come to trust him, to let him into her life. For now though, it was enough that she was here, that they were working together and he was whole.
Lois looked up. "Clark, there you are! Hurry up, I need your help with this story. Were you able to find anything out that Senator? Sometimes I don't know if it's a blessing or a curse, those abilities of yours. You know, you really should have tried harder at that secret identity thing. Those super powers of yours would work better for us if the entire city didn't know about them."
Clark hurried to Lois' desk. Yes, everything was fine in his dimension, and he silently thanked the other Lois for opening his eyes.