By Rachel Smith Cobleigh <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Summary: Speculation runs wild when Superman is found unconscious and wounded — and disguised in a business suit — in an alley behind the Daily Planet building.
This is an idea that has been bumping around my head for a while. While it's just another story about the return of our favorite villain, it's also the beginning of a gradual change that's inevitably going to take place in the lives of Lois and Clark and their family: the world coming to know of Clark's identity and the meaning it will have for society. I know that many of us want to keep the secret, but it can't (and won't), be kept forever. In their lifetimes, both Lois and Clark will come to be extremely important in the shaping of the planet's history…I believe that this has already started. Now, if only we could let others, not just the horrible villains, know of the secret. It might not have such bad consequences…
I'd like to extend a thanks to Meinuk@aol.com for the 'walking microwave' comment from the story Assignment— Gotham City. To Rhen, for her patience with me and for even starting and maintaining this fanfic list and archive. And, last of all, to my parents for their proofreading and encouragement, and to the Lord, who has given me the desire to write in the first place.
"Jimmy, are you heading over to the coffeemaker?"
"Ah, no…but I'm going in that general direction—let me guess: 'Jimmy, could you pleeeease get me a cup of coffee?'"
"You're welcome—hey, where's CK? Didn't he come in with you?" Jimmy wandered by and stopped to look over Lois's shoulder.
Lois looked up from her screen. "Ah…I think he went out to check on a source." She looked back down and clicked OK. Jimmy watched while she screwed up her face at the spell checker.
"Ew! I can't believe this thing! The gall it has to find so many spelling mistakes!" She furiously clicked away at the OK button.
"I think 'it' is spelled without an 'e', Lois," Jimmy snorted, as the spell checker brought up her most recent mistake. Lois spun around in her chair to face him.
"Don't you have a *coffee* to fetch?"
"Ah, begging a thousand pardons, my queen! I go now!" Jimmy sauntered off towards the coffee table, grinning.
Lois sighed and finished spell-checking her article. She glanced down at her watch. Where was Clark, anyway? He'd gone out more than four hours ago, after he heard a cry for help. She leaned back in her chair and smiled. They were going to Paris tonight to celebrate their six-month anniversary…she sighed and tapped the keyboard. There. Done, finally.
"Perry! I just sent you my story!" she hollered towards her boss's office door. She heard some bumping and banging around, and then an "Okay, I'll proof it!" come back out. She smiled, laced her fingers behind her head, and leaned back still farther in her chair. Perry was going to love this one—she and Clark had been researching it for weeks, and she was sure she could smell a full-blown scandal in the middle of the story. She just loved writing exposes…
Jimmy came back over and made a big show of putting the coffee mug on her desk.
"Thanks, Jimmy," Lois smiled and took a sip, then just barely restrained herself from spewing it all over the front of her dress. "Ugh, this stuff is cold!"
"Oh, sorry Lois! I thought it was new—Diane just made a new pot," he replied, looking appropriately contrite. A small smile came to her lips as she thought of what Clark would have done had he been here…having a walking microwave around did have it's advantages sometimes.
Jimmy was a little confused at the smile on her face. After all, she'd just nearly gagged right in front of him, and now she was smiling? He shook his head. He firmly believed that he'd never figure her out.
"Thanks, Jimmy," Lois smiled at him.
"Whatever, Lois…whatever you want," he said, still shaking his head. He sat down in the chair next to her desk and started to play with her Rolodex.
"Which source did Clark go to see, Lois?" he asked. Lois poured the cold coffee in the plant on her desk and set the mug down.
"I think he went to go see Bobby Bigmouth," she said. She closed her article and idly fiddled with some settings on her computer. Jimmy kept flipping through the Rolodex.
"I thought that you guys always went to see him together." He found a card labeled 'Bigmouth—eats constantly!' and tapped it.
"Ah-ha! Yeah, see…you have listed in his requirements…ah, food, food, food…um, 'talks to both of us'…food, food…"
"Give me that!" Lois grabbed the Rolodex from him and put it back in its proper place on her desk. Jimmy grinned.
"He doesn't always talk to both of us," she replied, and fiddled some more. She looked down at her watch again. Jimmy noticed the gesture.
"Got a hot date tonight, Lois?" he asked, propping his elbows up on her desk and resting his chin in his hands.
"Yeah…" Lois sighed and leaned back. Jimmy raised an eyebrow.
"I met this really cute guy that shoveled out our driveway yesterday…" she grinned and rolled her eyes. "You know, today is our sixth-month anniversary, Jimmy."
"Wow…has it really been that long?" he leaned back in his chair and whistled. "I don't know…it just seems like everything flies by. Even your wedding, it all seems like a dream, now…I don't know…" he trailed off, looking wistful.
"Lois! Can I see you for a minute?" Perry came out to the doorway of his office and beckoned to her with his finger. Lois pushed her chair back and got up.
"Did you like it, Perry? I think that Councilman Herringford has really gotten himself planted next to the wrong stream this time, and that—"
"Actually, I'd like to talk to you about that…"
"What? What's wrong with it?" Lois stalked into his office, and he met her behind his desk.
"Right here," he pointed at the screen, "is a statement that I am NOT going to run in my newspaper—"
"What?! That's the most—"
"—UNTIL you two find more evidence to support it," he finished, straightening back up and crossing his arms.
"Perry, that sentence is the CRUX of the whole article!"
He just stood with his arms crossed in front of him and looked at her. Lois flailed her arms a bit for dramatic effect.
"But Clark and I have been researching this whole thing for weeks!" she wailed. Jimmy walked in and leaned against the door frame.
"Trying to get us all sued again, eh, Lois?" he grinned.
"Or killed." Perry shook his head.
"Or both," Jimmy added, his eyes twinkling. Lois rolled her eyes.
"Grrrr. You two, someday I'm going to…"
"Yep, someday. But right now, I want you to go back and edit all these flaming accusations out for the time being," Perry said, uncrossing his arms. He reached over and flipped on the police scanner. "Right now, I've got tomorrow morning's edition to finish up, and you—" he pointed at Jimmy, "—have a Chinese takeout order to go get." Jimmy groaned.
"Right. I'll go get it…Ralph's Pagoda, right?"
"Y'know, Chief, I wouldn't eat there if I were you…" Lois said quickly. Jimmy grinned.
"Neither would I."
"Hey, somebody's got to live dangerously, why not let it be me?" Perry smiled and sat down behind his desk. Suddenly, static clicked on the scanner for a second, then went off. Someone spoke from an outside radio.
"Headquarters? This is Officer Mike Handler, Fifth Precinct."
"Go ahead, Mike."
"Yeah, thanks. My partner, Jacob Parker, spotted a body in the alleyway—we're next to the Daily Planet building— " All of their ears perked up suddenly.
"—and we're going to check it out, now. It doesn't look like a drunk."
"Okay. Is the person dead?"
"Just a sec…no…(static)…Jake? What?"
"Just a sec…wait…no, the guy's still alive, but barely. His clothing is all torn…ripped. He's been roughed up. There's a lot of bleeding—huh?…what?!"
"What is it? Mike?"
"Officer Handler, what is it?"
"Officer Handler. Please stay calm. What's wrong?"
"I—no, it can't be…!"
"Officer Handler, explain the situation!"
"Wait, Jake, are you sure…yes, look! Oh my God…he is."
"This man, he's…he's—he was dressed in a well-made business suit…it's torn up, almost ripped to shreds…"
"Go on, Officer."
"…and underneath is, well—yeah, I know, look at his face…it's *him*!"
"Who is it, Handler?"
"The shield…yeah…my God…"
"Look, Officer Handler, I'm going to personally take you back to basic training *myself* the next time I see you unless you calm yourself this minute and tell me who it is!"
"The man…is Superman. It's Superman."
Lois bolted out of the office and ran towards the elevator, and Jimmy grabbed his camera and took off after her. Perry sat, frozen, and watched them run out, almost in slow motion.
The elevator had gotten jammed in between floors. It was a semi-regular occurrence, but why did it have to choose this moment to do it!? Lois pounded at the control panel in frustration. Jimmy pulled her back from the panel and gently guided her to sit down. Then he went over to the panel and pushed the emergency alarm. The hooting alarm sounded around them for a minute, and then shut off. The elevator shook, but didn't move. Lois got up and started to pace around in the small room. Jimmy bent down and looked at the panel.
"The Chief has got to get this thing fixed!" he mumbled, looking around in his pockets.
"No…please…no…" she paced back and forth, Jimmy tried to unscrew the panel cover with his jackknife. Suddenly, ambulance sirens started howling in the distance, coming closer. Lois whimpered. Jimmy's fingers were shaking, and he accidentally nicked himself.
"Jimmy, put it away…please…" Lois pressed her hands up against the doors to steady herself. She was shaking, too. The ambulances got closer.
"Clark…please…" she whispered, her fingertips whitening as she unconsciously pressed against the doors. They rumbled slightly and shook, all of a sudden. They opened just a crack, just enough for her to slide her fingers in. She grabbed the edge and pulled. Jimmy jumped up and grabbed the other edge.
"Pull…apart!" she gasped, straining. After several long seconds, the doors slid a foot and a half open. She grabbed the edge of the floor that was right in front of them, and hoisted herself up on to it, then she slithered up and out of the elevator. She got up and pried the floor's doors open, and then ran across the hallway to the stairwell, Jimmy close behind her as they raced down six flights into the lobby. They ran through the huge room and pushed through the revolving doors, into the cold February night air.
There was a police car with its lights flashing, parked on the curb. Lois ran down the sidewalk and into the alley, just as the ambulances pulled in. The two medics leapt out, a stretcher between them. She ran towards the far end, towards the garbage dumpsters, towards the dead-end wall…and the body crumpled up against it. She stopped short, and Jimmy crashed into her from behind. She stumbled forward again, and kept going dropping to her knees, her hands reached out to touch his bruised, scraped face—and one of the police officers pulled it back.
"No, please…let me just see…" she tried to pull out of the officer's grasp and to cradle her husband's head, touch his shoulder, wipe away the blood from his cheek…the officer took her arms and pulled her back as the medics raced in and laid out the stretcher. Then she was gently pulled to her feet and guided back towards the entrance of the alley, while the EMTs looked for his pulse, checked to make sure his neck wasn't broken…then gently rolled him onto his back…checked his ribs, his arms…then, "On three. One…two…three!" and they lifted him onto the stretcher. They both took an end, and quickly moved off, back to the ambulance. Lois broke out of the officer's grasp and ran towards them— had almost reached them when Jimmy got in her way and grabbed her by the shoulders.
"Lois, no! Let them do their job…"
"Jimmy, please! NO!" She struggled weakly to pull away from him, watched as the driver ushered the two medics into the back, then ran around and got into the front seat. The officer came back up behind her and put his hands on her arms. She watched as the ambulance sped off, sirens wailing…she shivered, standing in the cold air, with only a thin blouse on. She leaned into Jimmy, for warmth, for a shoulder to cry on… They stood, frozen, for several moments, bathed in the red-and-blue flashing lights of the police car while the officer went to get her a warm blanket.
Every newspaper and television station in the city heard the situation over their scanners, and every one sent their reporters and cameramen and investigators. All of the tabloids, The Metropolis Star, WMET-5, LNN, and still more from outside the city were flying in. They mobbed the hospital.
Lois and Jimmy sat in the back of the police cruiser, Lois huddled against the door. She was straining to hear the ambulance reports coming over the radio. Everything seemed to have slowed down, everything was moving in agonizingly slow motion…she tightened the blanket around her shoulders and shivered. She felt cold inside and outside, and the image of him lying there, flung against the wall like a broken toy…she tried to shake the picture out, of his torn clothing— even the suit had been ripped, across the S-shield, a jagged tear across his chest…she squeezed her eyes shut, but the tears still slid out at the edges. She felt so cold. Jimmy put his arms around her shoulders.
"It'll be okay…he's Superman…he'll be okay…" he tried to comfort her, to calm her shaking. The police car dropped them off at the back entrance of the Emergency Room, and Lois and Jimmy got out. The car pulled away. They walked up the ramp and through the open doors.
"NO press allowed!" A nurse who looked like she regularly benchpressed x-ray machines moved into their path and stood there, with her arms crossed.
"But we're not press, we're friends," Jimmy said, trying to edge around her. She grabbed him by the front of his shirt and used her other hand to grab his camera straps.
"Yeah, and all friends and family just HAPPEN to bring cameras with them when they illegally wander into the back ambulance entrance to the ER!" Jimmy's eyes widened as Lois tried to use the distraction to get around them both. Somehow, the weightlifter managed to grab Lois's shoulder and spin her completely around before throwing them both out.
"NO PRESS!" She growled, as they stumbled back out through the doors into the cold. They stood there for a few seconds, and Lois looked around.
"Oh well, I guess we can look at the upside: Superman's not going to have any trouble with reporters tonight, is he?" Jimmy managed a weak grin. Lois groaned, muttered a few choice words about "nurses with excess testosterone", and started trudging all the way around to the front entrance. Jimmy ran to catch up with her.
"Hey? Where're you going?"
"Around to the front, where do you think?" Lois was irritated. Imagine throwing them out! And her already shivering and shaking! Some people!
"Lois, I don't think they're going to let us in there, either," Jimmy said, as he caught up with her.
"I don't care. My hus—Superman's in there, beaten to a pulp—" her voice caught, then she went on, "—and I'm not leaving this hospital until I find out what's going on, what happened, when, why, and WHO did this to him!" She managed to stomp her foot without breaking her furious pace across the snow-covered side lawn. Jimmy wondered how she'd done that.
Henderson turned around at the commotion behind him. He shook his head as he watched Lois Lane—*Kent*, now, he reminded himself, having a near-hysterical match with the head ER nurse. When the argument reached a fever pitch, he interjected himself between them and waved his hands for silence. They both stopped, and Lois hunched the blanket around her shoulders and glared through him. The nurse, already completely stressed out at having repelled the mob of reporters bustling around in the yard, was nearing the edge of her people skills and looked about ready to throttle anyone else who even dared glance at her. Combined with that, she was responsible for Superman…that in itself was putting white streaks in her hair. She crossed her arms, her stethoscope dangling from one hand, and an IV bag from the other. Henderson turned to her first.
"I'm sorry, Nurse Politza, I'll take care of this," he said, nodding to Lois. Lois's eyebrows met in the middle and she just about glared a hole into his chest. He gently, but firmly, took her by the shoulders and pushed her over to the waiting area. Jimmy started to follow them over.
"Look, Jimmy, you can't do anything more tonight, and they won't let you go any farther with that camera. Why don't you just head back to the Planet and tell White what's going on, okay?" Henderson motioned to one of his men.
"But I don't even know what's going on!" Jimmy sighed, as the officer led him away. Henderson sat Lois down in one of the vinyl chairs in the corner.
"You want a glass of water?" Henderson asked, motioning to the water tank next to them. Lois shook her head and pulled the blanket around her tighter.
"Got any coffee?" she asked, wiping her nose on her hand.
"No, sorry…we already drained the pots." Henderson looked at her sitting there, huddled in the rough, brown, police blanket. Her short hair was damp and stringy from the wet air outside, and her eyes were red- rimmed. Award-winning reporter, beautiful, hard-working, honest, caring, one of the two best reporters that he knew…speaking of the other half…
"Lois, where's Clark?" he asked, sitting down next to her. She groaned and squeezed her eyes shut for a few seconds. She sniffed.
"Got a tissue?" she asked, wiping her nose again.
"Um…" Henderson fumbled around for a few seconds, found some napkins from lunch in his pocket, "…here, will these do?" Lois nodded, sniffed, took them from him, and wiped her nose. She felt utterly miserable. Clark…where is Clark…
"Um…he left work earlier than I did—he wasn't feeling well, really pale, you know…so I told him to go home early and get some rest." She took a deep breath and looked up at him. Henderson eyed her for a moment.
"Kent just 'went home early because you told him to'?" He watched her face. He couldn't quite picture Kent giving in quite so easily. He'd stick around work until they had to carry him out…just like Lois.
"Uh-huh," she replied, looking miserably at the floor. Henderson knew she wasn't feeling well, but he needed to talk to her. He shifted around a little bit in the seat. Where to start? Lois noticed the movements.
"Out with it, Henderson. What do you want?" she asked, tucking the blanket more securely around herself. He smiled. Definitely Lois.
"Lois, you are the closest person to Superman that I know of, besides your husband, who, ah—" he made a funny face, "—isn't here right now. I wanted to ask you if you know why Superman was wearing street clothes over his suit—" Lois's head shot up at that, "—and anything else that you might know about this situation…" he reached into his pocket and pulled out a simple gold ring, "…or about this." He watched her reactions going over her face. She really is tired, isn't she, he thought. She wouldn't normally let so many things show. She looked up at him suddenly.
"I will, on one condition," she replied, looking straight at him.
"If I can see him first—" Henderson started to interrupt, "—and also, I'd prefer to talk in a closed room, not out here," she finished.
"That's two conditions."
"Please, Henderson?" Lois asked. He looked at her again. This wasn't 'Lois-chasing-a-story', this was an exhausted Lois who wasn't in the mood for a verbal battle with him.
"Okay. But you're the ONLY one who's getting in."
"Fine by me," she said, standing up. Henderson took her down the hall, into the small ICU room that Superman was lying in. Two police guards stood on either side of the doorway. Inside, Doctor Klein was bustling around, checking measurements, and generally trying to look like he knew what to do.
"What's his condition?" Lois asked, as soon as she got through the doorway. Klein looked up, relieved at having someone to spill his fears to. He fiddled with the IV packet.
"We don't know exactly, since we don't know what his normal vital signs are. He's definitely lost a lot of blood, and since there's no one else like him that we know of, we can't exactly have a blood drive for a transfusion," he replied, going over to make a notation on the clipboard at the foot of the bed. Lois sank down into one of the chairs.
"He's lost so much that you think he needs a transfusion?" She looked at Klein, her eyes red and puffy. Henderson put his hand on her shoulder.
"Yes. But he is Superman. In the past, in every instance that we know of, he's always recovered very quickly."
"But he's never been injured this badly before…" Lois slumped in her chair. She finally looked up to the bed, to Clark, lying there, completely unconscious. She got up stiffly and moved to the side of the bed. She looked down at his closed eyes, at the bruises on his forehead and the scrapes on his cheeks. Bandages covered the left side of his head, and his hair stuck out in a funny direction over the bandages. She so desperately wanted to smooth it down, to cup his face in her hands, but she couldn't. Not with Henderson and Klein right there, and the door open, exposing the scene to dozens of strangers. As she looked down and remembered the times that he'd smiled at her, the times his eyes had twinkled when she'd said something, his expressions when they were with each other…a cold, tight hand gripped her insides. She wanted to cry right there, to release all the tension and just lay next to him and hold him. She bent her head down and squeezed her eyes shut. She tried to stop them, but the tears streamed out, anyway.
Henderson got up and offered her a huge kimwipe from the counter, and Dr. Klein went over and shut the door to the room.
"He didn't seem to be showing any recovery at all—I had a feeling something was wrong, so the nurses and I looked him over and found a wicked-looking sliver of kryptonite lodged in his back, underneath his right shoulder blade. We managed to get it out. After that his breathing was definitely less ragged. He seems to be just sleeping, now," Klein said, as he went back and sat down.
Lois turned away from the bed and took the kimwipe with her, balled up in her hand. She sat down, and with a monumental effort, managed to stop crying, after running through another four kimwipes. After a few minutes, Henderson cleared his throat.
"Lois…I know this is really hard for you…you and Superman are close friends…" he cleared his throat again. "But do you know why he was found wearing normal street clothes over his uniform? Was he investigating a story for you, undercover? We know he dressed in street clothes, once, when we were dealing with Intergang over in the South Section. Is this another one of those instances?" He looked at her.
Lois debated whether or not to take the proffered explanation. But no…Perry knew all of the stories that she and Clark were investigating right now, and there was nothing big enough to warrant Superman going undercover. If she got too deep into that explanation, she'd have to build a story to fit it, and then it would get too complicated to manage. But what else was there to say? The truth was definitely out of the question. If anybody ever chose to willingly reveal Clark's identity, it would only be Clark himself who would make that choice. The last option was to just feign ignorance.
"I…ah, I don't know, Henderson," she replied, finally, not looking at him. In her present state of exhaustion, he'd probably be able to read the words "Clark is Superman!" in her eyes if she dared to look up.
Henderson had known her long enough to not believe her when she'd said that. He took off his glasses, and slowly polished them with another kimwipe. Dr. Klein rubbed the bridge of his nose.
"You're sure that you have no idea," Henderson said, polishing the other lens. Lois sniffed.
"Ye-yes. I'm sure I really don't." She continued to look at the floor and knead the kimwipe in her hand. Henderson got up slowly and deliberately, and went to stand at the bedside.
"Dr. Klein, would you look at this and tell me what you see?" he asked, motioning to the scientist. Klein got up and went to stand next to him.
"What is it—" he stopped, drew in a sharp breath. "I was right!" he whispered.
"Right about what?" Lois asked, wiping her eyes again. "What were you right about? Henderson, what's the matter?" She rubbed her forehead. A headache was the last thing she needed right now—what time was it? She looked at her watch. 4:48a.m. She sighed. Henderson turned around and put his glasses back on. She looked up at him. He was staring at her so intensely that she stood up.
"What? What's wrong? What's the matter?" Her voice started to sound panicky. She looked at Dr. Klein. He stood there, shaking his head slightly.
"The whole time…I knew…I knew," he mumbled, looking at her. Lois suddenly felt very strange with them both staring at her like that. Everything felt strange, for that matter. Her eyelids were so incredibly heavy…they were both still staring at her.
"What? Please, will one of you tell me what you are raving about?" She turned her gaze to Henderson. He moved closer to her, and reached into his coat pocket. He took out the gold ring again and held it up.
"Lois, is it or is it not true that the man laying behind me right now is your husband?"
Lois felt all the blood drain out of her face…*they know* was the last thought that ran through her mind before she passed out. Henderson caught her before she hit the floor.
For both Klein and Henderson, the whole scene had only been confirmation. They'd suspected the truth for a while. Klein had begun to wonder, when Lois had stopped treating Superman like he was some kind of god, and had started talking and acting around him like she had around everyone else. Add to that the fact that he'd witnessed several scenes between them that suggested that they had more of a relationship than 'just friends'. However, they were both good and honest kids, and he had never felt any problems with the suspected truth. With how much they'd been through together…well, they deserved to stay together!
Henderson had been involved in investigating many of the cases that they had broken during their years of work together. He, also, had watched both (or all three), of them change during the last three years… but when he first saw Superman in street clothes, the whole picture finally fit together, and he knew.
He got Nurse Politza to set up a cot for Lois, and then he and Dr. Klein spent the night, or what remained of it, watching over them both.
Clark heard an incessant beeping near his head and opened his eyes. Everything was white—no, that wasn't right…why would everything be white? He blinked a couple of times and craned his head to look out the door of the small room. Lancing pain shot through the back of his neck. He groaned and dropped his head back to the pillow.
"Ah! You're awake, Superman!" A young nurse came bustling in and wrote something on the clipboard next to his bed. "Hey, he's awake!" she repeated, apparently to thin air. Clark heard a muffled "hrmmph!" and then saw someone stand up behind the nurse. The person seemed to be stretching, but he couldn't tell for sure. The nurse held a watch up and took his wrist with her other hand. After a few seconds of frowning and trying to find his pulse, she stopped and looked bewildered. The person moved up next to her. It was Dr. Klein from STAR Labs.
"Nancy, his wrist doesn't seem to have a pulse right there…I've just been doing this—" he reached over and gently put his fingers against Clark's neck.
"Doctor Klein?" Clark managed to wheeze out. His mouth felt dry.
"Where am I?" he asked. Klein took his hand away and motioned to Nancy to continue. Nancy looked uncertain.
"You're in the ICU of Metropolis General. Inspector Henderson's got his men littered all about the halls, and there are two guards at the door." He looked up as Henderson came in.
"One of the men told me that he was awake," Henderson said, and looked at Clark. "How're you doing?" He stopped at the foot of the bed and put his hands in his overcoat pockets.
"Okay…I feel sore…all over," Clark replied slowly, eyeing him. Henderson looked different, somehow. Or maybe Henderson was looking at him differently, somehow. Nancy started to reach forward, but then hesitated. Henderson looked at her.
"What's the matter?" he asked her. She looked uncertain for a second.
"Oh, ah…nothing." She reached down and Clark felt her fingers on his neck, barely touching him. He smiled as much as his muscles would allow and looked up at her.
"I won't bite…you know," he said. She seemed uncertain, but she tried her best to smile back.
"Ah, thanks, Superman," she replied, relaxing slightly. As she went about checking Clark, Henderson wandered over to a chair and sat down. He sighed and laid his head back against the wall. Dr. Klein fiddled with something next to the bed and yawned.
"Tired, eh?" Clark tried to shift around in bed a little. His right shoulder was stiff. For that matter, his whole body was stiff. Henderson groaned.
"'Tired' doesn't even begin to describe it…"
"He's been up, straight, all last night and all today, so far. At least I had the sense to try and catch a short nap," Klein muttered, and moved over to check on the IV.
"It's not like I have had much of a choice," Henderson muttered back. Nancy puttered about at the end of the bed with the clipboard. After a few seconds of watching her try to look busy, Klein thanked her, ushered her out, and shut the door behind her. He looked down at the clipboard as he walked back over.
"You're doing a lot better than you were last night…I will never cease to be amazed at your rate of recovery. However, your blood pressure's still kind of low, even for human norms. You lost a lot of blood last night. Do you still feel tired?" He asked, and looked up at Clark.
"Yes…but I don't want to go back to sleep. My mouth is a desert… can I get a drink or something?"
"Oh, yes. Sorry. Henderson?" Klein nodded towards the bed.
Henderson got up and helped Clark prop himself up while Klein poured a little cup of water. After a few sips, the world seemed a much gentler place.
"You up to talking, now?"
"Oh, you—your investigation can wait another ten minutes! Superman, you want something to eat, too?" Klein started towards the door.
"Ah, no. For some reason, I don't feel like eating right now…I'd like to give the inspector the information that he needs, and I also need to get a warning message to Lois— Henderson, can I ask you to put a guy with her at all times until I'm recovered? I need you to find her, now, and get her someplace safe. She—"
"Whoa, whoa," Henderson interrupted him, "She's safe already. Look," he pointed across the room. Clark turned to look where Henderson was pointing. When he saw Lois lying on the cot, on the other side of the bed, he sighed with relief. She was sleeping peacefully on her side, facing him.
"Thank God," he breathed. "She's all right."
Henderson went back and sat down in his chair. He watched Clark for a few seconds, then took a deep breath.
"Clark, the story that those vultures out in the yard are going to get is already figured out," he started. Clark looked up at him, eyes wide. He seemed to being having trouble swallowing his mouthful of water.
"Pardon?" he choked out.
"Lois and I worked out the story during the wee hours of the morning, before she went to sleep over there," Henderson replied, reaching into his overcoat pocket for the ring. He took it out and held it up briefly. "I saw this on your finger and took it off the first moment that I could, before anyone started asking too many questions." He slid it back into his pocket. "You can have this back whenever you'd like it."
Clark just sat back against the pillows and closed his eyes. After a few seconds of silence, Klein spoke up.
"She didn't tell us—we had figured it out. As far as we know, the four of us in this room are the only ones who know."
"How could that be?" Clark asked, his eyes still closed. "Henderson's men, the doctors and nurses, the medics, they all must have seen me." Klein looked at Henderson, and Henderson cleared his throat.
"They all did," he began. Clark groaned. "BUT, the story that we've worked out explains all of it."
"And what, exactly, is this story?" Clark asked, opening his eyes. He looked over at the sleeping Lois, and then back to Henderson and Klein.
"That you, Superman, were working undercover to investigate a story for Lois and Clark Kent."
"That's it," Henderson replied. "We've worked out the basic details of the story that you two are supposed to be working on. Anyway, the investigation was supposed to have fallen through, and you didn't find what they were looking for. That's what everybody's been told, so far. Our only problem now—well, one of our only problems now, is to figure out how you went from investigating in the general area of the Daily Planet to… being beaten up and left in the alleyway."
"And that's where you need me to tell you what happened, so that you can fill in the holes," Clark finished, and sighed.
"And also, who did this to you, if you saw your attackers. From the evidence in the alleyway, we know that it was more than three people, and that sliver of kryptonite we took out of you was fired by an air-powered weapon or an extremely powerful crossbow of some sort. If we can piece together the information that you remember, then maybe we can figure out who attacked you."
"Where are my glasses?" Clark asked, suddenly. Henderson frowned.
"We didn't find them…that is, my men haven't found them because they're not looking for them. They haven't found the frames, but there are tiny bits of broken glass ground into the pavement in a spot. The officer who reported the scene to me didn't seem to find anything interesting in that, after all, there's a lot of broken glass in any alley. I drove over to look, and the pieces that I saw were lens glass. But, there was only one problem. The amount of glass there was only enough for one lens. I couldn't find the other, or the frames."
"You won't, either, because he flung them behind the dumpster and the piles of trash bags in the back of the alley. Your men have no reason to search behind the piles of garbage."
"Who flung them?" Henderson asked. Clark closed his eyes again and sighed quietly.
Clark came out of the door of the little flower shop down the street from the Planet. He stopped to smell the single rose in his hand, and then continued on down the sidewalk, back towards the Planet. As he walked down the block, he smiled, thinking of the night that he and Lois were planning in Paris late that evening. It was already dark here in Metropolis, but with the time difference, it would only be early evening when they arrived, via Superman Express…he smelled the rose again and smiled to himself. He'd had to go out unexpectedly after he'd heard a cry for help a few minutes ago, but he didn't want anything else to get in the way of them finishing the story and leaving…for the night…
As he reached the entrance to the alleyway next to the Daily Planet, he heard sounds of a struggle, and then a shrill female shriek. He placed the rose on the sidewalk and darted into the alley, intending to just scare the woman's attackers away. If he spun into the suit now, they'd see the change, and he didn't want to risk it. He ran to the end of the alley, where two men were holding a young woman who was feebly kicking at them. He reached out and grabbed the shoulder of the man on the left, intending to pull him back, when suddenly, hot, sharp pain lanced into the back of his shoulder. He gasped, and let go of the man, and stumbled backwards, trying to grab at the pain underneath his shoulder blade.
Pain lanced through his whole body whenever he moved. He dropped to his knees…his head was pounding and his vision was fogging up…No! Kryptonite! He gasped. The piece was inside his shoulder!
Hands grabbed his arms roughly and pulled him up to his feet. It made the kryptonite dig deeper into his shoulder, and he cried out. Then, the movement stopped, and he forced his eyes open. The pain kept clouding them over… A hand grabbed a fistful of his shirt and pushed him back against the wall of the alley. Pain shot through his back and neck, and he groaned. He strained to keep his eyes open. A face pushed itself up to his and laughed quietly, and then the hand let go of his shirt.
"So, Clark—or should I say 'Superman'—" the blurry face sneered, "—did you miss me?" The voice sounded horribly familiar. Clark gasped.
"Ah, I see you know me even in your tortured state. It's fitting— it's how you should know me. And you thought I was dead," Luthor stood back, took off Clark's glasses, and Clark could see his face, now. It was twisted with hatred.
Luthor dropped the glasses to the pavement, and then ground his heel into them. Clark heard the glass shatter. Then Luthor bent down, slowly, picked up the twisted glasses, and threw the bent remains against the back wall of the alley. The sound of them clicking and clinking down the wall to the ground behind the dumpster hung in the air for several seconds. Luthor reached up and grabbed Clark's tie. He loosened it slightly, then wrenched him forward. The hands holding his arms let go of him, and he fell to the pavement at Luthor's feet. The pain lancing through his head and body was incredible. He blacked out for half a minute, and then woke up again, on his back, his coat and suit jacket gone. Hands held his arms down. Luthor knelt next to him, a short knife in his hand. Clark's eyes widened…Lois, I'm sorry… Luthor didn't put the knife to his throat, didn't suddenly stab him. He just smiled. Clark shivered.
Luthor reached down and tore Clark's shirt open, revealing the S- shield. Then he put the knife to the edge of the material, and slashed across the shield, tearing open the tight fabric, and leaving a gash across Clark's chest. Clark cried out and gritted his teeth against the pain. Luthor slowly leaned down, until his face was only inches from Clark's.
"You and Lois can…never…have children together. You're like a dog trying to impregnate a cat. You're nothing, a freak of Nature, and you don't…belong…here. But I'm going to let you live…because if Lois gets pregnant, it will be by me…and you'll be able to live through all the years knowing that the child is mine," Luthor laughed softly as Clark tried to fight against the hands holding him down, but cried out in pain instead.
"Sweet dreams, Superman…" Luthor whispered in his ear, and then jammed his fist down into Clark's shoulder. He blacked out again in the midst of the most excruciating pain that he had ever experienced in his life, and woke up more than eighteen hours later in the Intensive Care Unit of Metropolis General Hospital, because Luthor hadn't been finished.
Henderson wiped his forehead with a kimwipe and then wrung it in his hands.
"When I get my hands on that, that—grrrrr—I'm going to personally strangle him and then throw him into the deepest concrete cell that I can find in the Metro Penitentiary. It's too bad that this state doesn't have the death penalty…" he growled, and got up to pace back and forth across the small room. Klein stayed in his chair, his fists clenched.
"Lois isn't going anywhere," Henderson roared, pacing furiously back and forth. "I'm going to put two of my men with her, and—"
"Where am I not going, Henderson?" A voice called out, interrupting his rampage around the foot of the bed. He stopped his stomping to watch her get up and sit on the edge of the cot. She rubbed her eyes with her knuckles and yawned.
"Good morning—er," she glanced at her watch,"— afternoon, honey," she said quietly, looking up at her husband, who was gazing at her calmly. Henderson didn't seem to want to match their quiet mood.
"You—you are NOT going to leave this room! I'm going to post four more guards!" he said, and stormed out of the room, shutting the door behind him. Klein got up slowly, as if he'd aged years in the few minutes that had just passed. He poured himself a cup of water.
Lois got up and went over to the bed. She stood still, for a second, and then leaned forward and gently kissed her husband on the forehead, over his fading bruises. Then she straightened back up. He had closed his eyes when she'd kissed him, and he opened them again.
"How are you feeling?" She smiled, so relieved that he was awake. He smiled a little and slowly took her hands in his.
"Better, now that you're awake, too," he replied, and pressed his ring into her hands. "Henderson gave this back to me before you woke up. I can't put it back on until we get home, so would you keep it for me, please?" Tears came to her eyes as she nodded and put the ring into one of her pockets. She reached up and tried to smooth down the hair that was poking out over the bandage on the side of his head. She smiled.
"It's a good thing that you didn't shave his hair right here, Dr. Klein. Then he'd have had to wear baseball caps and turbans to work everyday until it grew back out," Lois giggled, picturing him behind his desk in a suit and a turban. Clark rolled his eyes. Dr. Klein turned around and smiled.
"Actually, we couldn't have shaved his hair, even if we wanted to. One of the nurses tried it, without realizing that it would probably be a bad idea, and the razor is now completely destroyed," he chuckled.
"Hope your insurance covered that, Superman," Lois smiled again and turned to the door when Henderson stomped back in. He was looking exhausted and irritated and steamed and about ready to break everyone's necks in one swipe.
"I think you need to go catch some sleep, Inspector," Clark said, eyeing the disheveled policeman.
"Those vultures! Those vermin! Those—GRRRR!" Henderson took the proffered cup of water that Klein was holding out to him, and swallowed it down. "Thanks—look, I like you two, but the rest of the media— excluding, Perry White and that Olsen kid, of course—can drown in the Atlantic, for all I care! Absolutely NO respect, NO compassion, NOTHING! They should all be hanged!"
"Good thing this state doesn't have the death penalty, Henderson," Clark smiled, then managed to push himself into a sitting position. He groaned, and then twisted around a little bit. He started to stretch out the kinks in his arms and legs, fighting the pain that his muscles were reminding him was there.
"Clark? Wait? What are you doing?" Lois put her hands on his arm.
"I've got to get out of here, hon. We can give them all the story, and then I'll fly off, and Henderson can bring you home—you're going to keep the men with her, right, Henderson?"
"Most definitely. Will do."
"Do you think you're up to flying now, Clark?" Klein came over and looked at him sternly. Clark floated a couple inches off the bed, then floated back down and sat quietly for a second. Lois looked at him.
"I do…just nothing too strenuous. One short flight away from the hospital premises shouldn't take too much energy," he replied, tilting his head back and forth slightly, trying to work out the knots.
"Being that I don't know your limits as well as you do—"
"And they're not always acknowledged by him, either," Lois interjected.
"—then I can't exactly order you to stay in bed. I couldn't keep you here, even if I wanted to. I'd just advise the obvious: don't go out trying to save the world any time soon, and get some rest, okay?" Klein said. Clark nodded. Klein was right.
"Okay, then," Henderson said, turning towards the door, "let's get this show on the road!"
After the press conference, on the hospital's front lawn, Henderson took Lois back to hers and Clark's townhouse on the edge of Metropolis, and Clark flew off in the opposite direction, albeit more slowly than usual. They wanted to break up any suspicions of heading to the same place, and he was going to circle back around outside of the city and meet her and Henderson at the house. It was an odd sight, watching him fly away without the Suit on and with bruises on his face. The world watched him as he flew up into the clouds and disappeared, clad only in a hospital gown.
Never had the thought of where he went, and who he went to, when he was in pain, been so prominent in the minds of all watching. People were stunned and angered that a man who had given so much for the planet— he'd kept his own people from taking over, had suffered a great deal for the planet, had been terribly beaten by someone of their own—still chose to remain with them…hadn't he left Earth to rule over his own people? Why had he forfeited all that power and come back to them? The sight of him, in a hospital gown, disappearing up into the clouds…
It had begun.
Lois sat in the back of the police cruiser, her head leaned against the window pane, looking out at the streets of Metropolis as they slid by her view. A junior officer drove, and Henderson sat in the passenger seat, silent. It was late afternoon, and people were packing up their construction tools, catching taxis back to their apartments, eating dinner in the little restaurants that lined the streets. Eating dinner… she and Clark had missed dinner…she closed her eyes for a second, trying to imagine what the dinner would have been like. And afterwards, walking along the river, kissing in the soft light of a Paris street lamp, just relaxing for one night…she had so looked forward to it. She took in a deep breath and let it out slowly, once again watching the city move around her. Everyone just going about their everyday life.
Henderson looked back at her in the mirror next to him. She looked so tired, as if she just wanted to go home and rest. He shook his head. They both deserved a night of peace, alone. Sometimes he was just amazed at the amount they took without whimpering. He removed his watch, and twisted around in the seat.
"Lois," he said, sliding the little partition door open and holding the watch out to her, "I want you to take this," he said. She looked up, shaken from her reverie.
"What is it?" Lois took it. "A watch?"
"That and more," Henderson replied, smiling slightly. "It's also got an alarm built into it, there, on the side, where the set knob is. You push that little, tiny button right there, and it silently sets off the alarms in every police station between here and Gotham. Klein was fiddling with it, and he asked me to give it to you, right before we went out. I didn't want to be conspicuous, so I just put it on."
"Nice." Lois looked at it and raised her eyebrows appreciatively. "What's involved? Do I have to press it in some kind of code or something?" She asked. Henderson shook his head.
"No…you just have to keep it depressed for at least three seconds. You can still use it to set the watch—normally, you'd only depress it for about half a second when you did that. That way, it won't trip so easily and bring the whole Metro PD down on your head."
"Does it work?" Lois asked, eyeing it critically.
"I don't know for sure…Klein just slipped it to me kind of fast, before I could ask him any good questions about it," Henderson replied, settling back into his seat. "Look, Lois…we suspect that Luthor's watching you—he threatened your husband concerning you, and that means he's probably going to try to get to you, also. I promised Clark that I'd keep a couple of my guys with you, and I will, but I also want to catch this animal before he does anything else—"
"—so you're not going to keep anybody right next to me, because you don't want to 'scare Luthor off', am I right?" Lois asked, tilting her wrist to look more closely at the watch.
"Ah…well, sort of. I'm still going to keep a couple of them, plain-clothes, in the area, keeping an eye on your house. After I drop you off, though, and see you to the door, me and Johnson here are going to drive away. We'll be watching you, though," Henderson said, shifting a little.
"So I'm the bait."
"Er…take that left, right there, Johnson. That's her street," he said, pointing. Lois checked to make sure the watch was on securely.
"You want me to just go in and act like nothing is happening, and wait, indefinitely, for Luthor to spring out of his hiding place and attack me."
"If it's going to capture him and put him away in the deepest, darkest, most rat-infested dungeon you can find, I'll do it," she said, her jaw set. Henderson watched her in the mirror as the car pulled up to the curb. That was Lois. He smiled grimly.
"Remember, if anything happens, don't hesitate to use that watch. I don't care if it wakes up every bat from here to Gotham, I don't want you hurt. No heroics. Got that?" he asked, his hand on the door handle. Lois nodded, silent.
He got out, helped her out of the car, and escorted her to the door, made sure she could get in.
"I don't want to come in, with Kent being sick and all," he said, a little more loudly than needed, "…so just take care of yourself, okay? And tell that husband of yours to get his rest." He smiled and started to turn away.
"Wait. Henderson…thanks," Lois said, genuinely. He smiled again.
"Hey, you're worth it," he replied, and walked back down and got in the car. He watched as Lois turned away and shut her door.
"Just remember the watch, Lois," he said, and pray it works…
Just as she finished locking the door, she heard a 'whoosh', and jumped. She spun, expecting to see Luthor, crazed, standing behind her. Instead, it was Clark, in his sleeveless sweatshirt and a pair of sweatpants, wearing his spare pair of glasses, and looking significantly more comfortable than he had in the hospital gown. She threw her arms around him and buried her face in his chest.
"You're shaking…sorry for scaring you, Lois," Clark said quietly, putting his arms around her.
"Oh…" she sniffed, pressing her face into the soft fabric of his sweatshirt. He inhaled sharply.
"Careful there, hon…my chest still stings a little bit," he said, easing back a little. She immediately pulled her head back and looked up at him.
"Oh! I'm sorry!" Tears brimmed in her eyes.
"Hey, it's okay…" he reached up to cradle her face with his left hand. He smoothed her cheek with his thumb. "I'm all right." He didn't know what else to say, so he just pulled her back into his embrace, and rubbed her back a little. She relaxed slightly.
"When did you get here?" she asked, rubbing his back, too. He closed his eyes.
"Only a couple of minutes before you did. I couldn't wait to get out of that hospital thing, so I grabbed the first comfortable clothes I found. I put the gown in the laundry hamper, is that okay?"
"Yes," Lois replied, smiling a little. He was always so caring about the small things. Clark opened his eyes, suddenly, and looked around. Lois felt him tense.
"What—?" she asked, looking up at him.
"Henderson said he was going to put two of his men with you. Where are they?" He looked down at her questioningly.
"Clark, he thought it would be better if…if…" She trailed off. If Luthor was listening, he'd hear everything she said. She took a deep breath.
"…if Superman protected me, instead. He didn't want to scare Luthor off by putting guys all around me," she answered, watching Clark's eyes narrow as she finished speaking. He knew she was trying to tell him something, but what it was, he couldn't figure out.
"Superman?" he repeated, looking at her. She nodded, her eyes pleading with him to understand.
"As if Henderson's bumbling fools would scare me off," a voice said quietly.
They both turned and froze, watching as Luthor slowly and deliberately walked in through the back porch doors that Clark had left open. He continued walking towards them, through the living room. They watched, as three men came in behind him.
"I truly believe that the man is an imbecile. He couldn't put a finger on me the first time, and he will never have another chance," Luthor said smoothly, seating himself on the arm of the sofa, a few feet from them. The others moved around Lois and Clark and stood, silently. Lois looked around at them.
"Ah, I see you have noticed my…associates, my dearest," Luthor motioned grandly towards them and smiled. "Each one hand-picked for the job, each with a good reason of their own to gain revenge on you two…ah, you looked shocked. Surely you realize that you weren't always fair in your articles, don't you?" Luthor's smile was ice-cold. He got up slowly and walked over to them.
"What a touching pose," he commented, his eyes moving over them slowly, deliberately. Lois shivered involuntarily under his gaze. She felt Clark's arms tighten around her. Luthor raised an eyebrow.
"Well, well…Clark. I see that you have noticed that Lois is such…a treasure," he said, smiling. "I suppose you remember what I said in the alley?" Lois felt Clark stiffen. What had Luthor said? Wait. She didn't really want to know…the watch. Suddenly, her thoughts became preoccupied with how to subtly push the button without attracting anyone's attention…push your wrist against Clark's back—suddenly Luthor touched her face, she cringed. Clark's arm shot up, and he knocked Luthor back. His eyes were burning. Luthor smiled and made a small motion. Swifty, the man directly behind Clark whipped a knife up and against Clark's throat. The edge was lined with a thin, sickly-green glow. Clark's eyes widened and he gasped, tried to back up against the man to pull away from the blade.
He was off-balance, and the other two men took advantage of the moment to grab his arms and break his hold on Lois. They pulled him back, and the first one pressed the knife against his throat slightly. A thin, red line appeared around the green edge, and Clark inhaled sharply.
Lois grabbed her arms and hugged herself. She pushed the watch against her forearm and counted for a long three seconds, her eyes fixed on Luthor. He smiled, an icy, frightening smile that sent a shiver up her spine. She set her mouth in a straight line as he reached out and ran his fingers through her hair, slowly. Her stomach tightened and she shut her eyes. Had the signal gone out? How long would it take Henderson to respond? Luthor ran his finger along the line of her jaw, she jerked her head back. She heard Clark groan softly.
"You know, Lois…I regret agreeing so easily to your request before our wedding," Lex said softy, his fingers reaching her chin. He tilted her face up. She opened her eyes slightly and looked over at him.
"What request?" She asked, trying to keep him distracted, his focus away from Clark. Luthor raised an eyebrow at her question.
"What request? Why, surely you remember the arrangement we had before our wedding night, my dearest," Lex replied, his fingers curling underneath her chin. Those fingers felt so icy cold against her skin. She shivered, and squeezed her arms around herself tighter. She didn't respond. Her mind was in too much turmoil to realize what Lex was referring to. His fingers brushed against her cheek. His gaze was fixed on her.
"You see, Clark, Lois refused to consummate anything until we had officially gone through with the marriage—a curious desire for such a beautiful, independent woman of this decade," he said, his eyes boring into hers. Lois felt as if something was coming.
"Did she do the same to you, Superman? Deny you, turn a cold shoulder to your desires simply because she felt like it?" Luthor's lips curled slightly, and she couldn't help but shiver again, at the sight of such hatred in his eyes. Her face was a mask, and she could only smile inwardly at her memories of her engagement to Clark…
"If anything, Lex, it was Clark that did the denying…and the beautiful thing is, neither of us regrets the decision," she replied, letting some of her own anger seep out. Lex narrowed his eyes.
"I suppose that this…this 'Man of Steel' couldn't have consummated anything, anyway…even if he had wanted to, " Luthor said, turning to face Clark, his hand dropping from Lois's face. He smiled. Clark's eyes burned, his body straining to remain conscious. His legs felt weak. He closed his eyes for a moment.
"You see, Lois…it wasn't out of a sense of chivalry or his impeccable morality that decreed that denial. It was fear. Fear that he wouldn't be able to…" Lex said, smiling cruelly.
"Not…true!" Clark hissed, his eyes still squeezed shut. He could feel the blade edging imperceptibly further in, his breathing was coming in ragged gasps. The pain pounding through his head was incredible…he could barely hear what Lex was saying.
Lois raised her head higher and looked up at Lex. She didn't care what Lex would do. He would pay for what he'd just said, and she would make sure he knew that.
"Lex, nothing you say will make him seem any lower in my eyes. Since you seem so concerned with his abilities," she paused as Lex turned back to look at her, then continued, "…I just want you to know that our wedding night—our real wedding night—was the most wonderful night of my life— every part of it." She smiled up at Lex, then, knowing that she had had the desired effect on him. His eyes narrowed and his arm shot out, his hand grabbed the front of her shirt. Lois suddenly realized that he was mad, and how dangerously she had skated on the edge, and finally pushed him over the limit. He smiled a cold, dead smile and pulled her closer.
"Lois, Lois…I now know why you refused to sleep in my bed before the night of our marriage. It was not, as I had thought, a way for you to hold on to a tradition. It was the excuse you used to keep me at bay, while behind my back, you were sleeping with this…this half-breed alien," he said, his voice low. She could feel his breath on her cheek. A tight fist of fear grew in her chest.
"You used your wiles to weaken me! Bring me down! You destroyed me, not that wretch behind us! He was only another tool for you to play with and use! You—"
"Let go of her shirt, Luthor." A voice cut through the air. Luthor twisted, suddenly, in surprise. He shoved Lois back from him, letting go of her, and put his hands up.
"Ah, Henderson…we finally meet again!" Luthor sounded almost joyful as he stood there, arms raised. Henderson stood a few feet in from the doorway of the porch, his gun pointed at directly at Luthor's chest. Luthor started to move towards him.
"Don't move! Put your hands over your head and stop where you are!" Henderson said, his aim unwavering. Luthor slowly moved his arms over his head, stood silently for a second. No one said anything. The clock on the stove beeped once, on the hour. Lois could hear Clark's strained, ragged breathing. She couldn't move, her eyes were fixed on Luthor. Time seemed to slow down.
"I'll always be in your worst nightmares, Lois," she heard him quietly say.
Then he screamed the most hopeless-sounding scream that she had ever heard in her life, and dove across the room towards Henderson. Lois watched, as in slow motion, Henderson's arms come up, heard the gun cock, felt the squeeze of the trigger…watched Luthor's body shake with the impact, his scream cut short. Henderson fired again. She saw movement out of the corner of her eyes, men coming in from the porch, saw the men holding Clark start to move away, reach down.
Suddenly, several shots rang out, in quick succession. Instinctively, she dropped to the floor, squeezing her eyes shut. She felt a body fall next to her, heavily. Then, two, followed by a heaving and a choking. Suddenly, there was shouting around her, another shot. Someone stumbled next to her, dropped to floor near her head. She squeezed her eyes shut more tightly and cringed. There was several seconds of silence, then she felt a hand rest on her arm. She opened her eyes, raised her head, and looked directly into her husband's exhausted, but relieved, eyes.
The sky was dark outside, and Henderson sat in a chair against the wall, his head leaned back into the corner formed by the wall and Clark's bureau. He watched as Dr. Klein folded up the last of his things and put them in a small duffel bag on the floor near the bed. Klein picked up the bag and stood next to the bed, for a moment.
"They look so peaceful," he said quietly. Henderson didn't know if Klein was speaking to himself or not, but it didn't matter. He looked at the two people, asleep on the bed. Lois, with her face tucked into Clark's neck, her arm poking out under the blanket, draped across his chest. They both did look peaceful, just the two of them, in the midst of all the chaos of Metropolis, quietly sleeping. It all seemed to have an unreal quality to it, the way that they had caught Luthor so quickly…Henderson smiled to himself, exhausted. He'd been up for more than two days, straight, without a chance to unwind, and now, he sat in a room watching two people, who had been through so much pain together, sleep, for the treasured few hours that they would be able to. He thought of both of them, how they'd changed over the years that he'd known them: Lois had lost a lot of hardness and the walls that she had hidden behind, Clark had become more sure of himself, and learned how to break down some of those walls.
After Henderson's men had removed the bodies, and Lois and Clark had done all they could to make sure Luthor was, in fact, quite dead—and that yes, Henderson was going to post a 24-hour guard-duty to prevent the body from being stolen and then he was going bury it in a hidden, unmarked spot—both of them had essentially collapsed on their sofa and waited for all of the people to get their business finished and leave. Klein showed up right after the officers left, late that night. He ushered Clark over to the bed, and briefly checked him over, made sure the cuts and bruises were healing, if at least slower than usual. Lois had climbed onto the bed next to him, and fallen asleep almost immediately. After a few minutes, the effects of everything in the last two days finally took their toll on Superman, and he, too, fell asleep quickly. Klein and Henderson rummaged through the closet and found of an extra blanket to drape over the couple.
Watching Lois and Clark sleep, Henderson started to nod off himself
"C'mon, Inspector. You've had a long couple of days…" he said, steering the groggy Henderson towards the door. They'd be back to see Lois and Clark the next day, to talk about what they knew, but for now, all was right with the city.
They went out, and he softly closed the door behind him.