By Shelly <Jerrica76@aol.com>
Submitted October 20, 1997
Summary: What if Clark spent 15 long years fighting on New Krypton? Clark returns to Metropolis to find much more than he thought he left behind.
First, the standard disclaimer. ABC, December 3rd, Warner Bros. and all the rest own the rights and I own none (too bad). I'm making no money off this (big surprise) and do this only for fun. Any and all comments would be GREATLY appreciated. Please send them to Jerrica76@aol.com. Thanks and enjoy:) -shelly
Home. He thought he'd never see the familiar sight of his home again. Fifteen years seemed to melt away in seconds as Clark Kent soared high over Metropolis for the first time in as many years.
It had been fifteen years since he had left his world behind. Fifteen years since Lady Zara and Ching had come, telling him not only that he was NOT the only existing Kryptonian, but that there was a civil war in the land of his birth; a war that only he could end.
Too bad that wasn't the only surprise they had for me, Clark thought as he took in the sight of the birds that glided beside him. Zara had also proclaimed that Clark was her husband, a proclamation that had not been welcome to either Clark … or Lois.
*Lois, oh Lois,* Clark let his mind cry out the name that had been in his mind, heart and soul every minute, every second of those loathsome fifteen years. His mind replayed the last time he saw her, standing bravely in the Planet office as he gave his farewell speech to Metropolis. Standing there unable to show how much her heart was breaking … even as he was unable to show his own pain.
That was not the memory that haunted him most during the long lonely nights. It was the memory of the night before that both tortured him and saved him during his long absence.
"Clark promise me you'll come back to me!" she had whispered as he held her, both of them looking out the window of Lois's apartment at the star that would all-too-soon become an unwanted home to Clark.
*Lois I swear to you, I WILL come back. Somehow, someway, I will come back!* he had vowed as he kissed her tenderly, sealing his promise.
It was that kiss that had started it, that soul-aching sweetness. He couldn't let her go, nor could she let him go. Slowly, not breaking the kiss, they both found themselves on the floor, kissing and caressing each other.
"Lois, I … I … ," Clark had started to say but he didn't know how to say the words, to express the feelings that he wanted so to show her.
"Clark, it's alright. If you … if you can't come back, let's just have this memory … please!* Lois had whispered softly between kisses. With Lois's words, all hope of resistance was gone and perhaps the most beautiful yet painful night of Clark's life played out in dream-like scenes. The memories were so sweet, yet so painful because they both knew Clark would still have to leave in the morning, no matter how much they both wished things could stay that way forever.
"Lois, I haven't forgot you my love," Clark called out to her in his mind as he neared Metropolis.
As he entered the airspace over the city he was surprised at how much it had changed, and how much was still the same. There was the LexCorp Skyscraper. Though no longer the tallest of the buildings, it was still standing like a tall, gleaming giant in the morning sun. Clark's eyes nearly filled with tears as he saw all the old comfortingly familiar sights of the city. He soared high over Hobbs Bay and dipped down only slightly to look at the welcoming sight of the Daily Planet's metal globe, still standing sure as time, proud as the ages. He had to fight an urge to go and see who was still there, to return to his former second home. But he knew there was one place he had to go before all others.
He flew straight and true, as though he had taken this course just yesterday instead of more than a decade and-a-half ago. He felt his heart lighten as he saw the apartment and the open window. Lois had always left the window open for him, even in the days when they barely knew each other. Gliding carefully up to the window, careful to stay in the shadows, he peered into the window.
Clark knew that fifteen years was a long time to wait for anyone, and he knew that Lois was one of the most desirable women he had ever seen …boy did he know it. He had to know, to find out if she had found someone else in his absence, or if she still waited for him. No matter how much it might hurt, he would not disturb Lois's life if she had made a new one without him.
Clark felt his heart tighten as he looked in. Everything looked so different yet the same. The sofa that he had held Lois on so many times was still there, only now a large blue blanket covered it. The fish tank was still there. In that moment Clark saw something that almost killed him.
She was a slender girl, with long brown hair tied back in a French braid, her long fawn-like legs peaking out from under an oversized green and white T-shirt. He watched as the girl sat down on the sofa, pulled a pillow into her lap and flipped on the TV.
"This is Lois's child," Clark thought in stunned surprise as he stared at the child who looked just as he imagined Lois in her early teens. His mind racing, Clark tried to figure out what was going on, what had happened. Had Lois found someone else and begun a family? Or could it be …
"No, it couldn't be … could it? Clark wondered as he searched the girl's face. Could she be his? Just at that moment, the phone rang. Digging around the sofa, the girl produced a cordless phone and put it to her ear.
"Hello Perry," the girl said sassily into the phone as she flipped the channels on the TV.
"Great shades of Elvis, what are you doing up at this time of night girl! I happen to know for a fact that your momma told you to be in bed at ten p.m.," Perry said in a stern but kindly way. Clark felt a pang of nostalgia at the sound of the older man's voice. He hadn't meant to listen in on the conversation, but once he heard Perry's oh-so-familiar voice, he was unable to break away.
"PERRY, momma said I could stay up and watch TV till she got home since there's no school tomorrow," the girl said in a voice so like Lois's, it made Clark's heart ache.
"Nice try Ace. Who do you think told me to call and make sure a certain Ms. Mara Kent was in bed?" Perry said with a laugh in his voice.
"Perry, Mom's really late. I'm kinda worried. She said she'd be back early from her meeting and she's STILL not home," Mara said as she twirled a stray lock of hair from her face. Clark could hardly breath as he took it all in. This child was his daughter; his daughter with Lois. Clark felt his heart pound feverishly against his chest as he watched and listened.
"Listen Ace, your momma, she's a pro. She won't do anything dangerous. She loves you too much for that. Now, you get your little tail in that bed before I have to come over there and tuck you in myself," Perry said in mock anger that Mara seemed to understand was all in fun for she gave a light giggle.
"Ok, ok I'll go to bed. If mom comes to the Planet first, have her call me ok?" the girl asked as she flipped the TV off and put the pillow back on the corner of the sofa.
"I'll do that Ace, now you get some sleep."
"Night Perry. Xs and Os," the girl said as she turned out the lights one by one until there was only one light still on.
"X's and O's to you too Ace. Night," Perry replied. Then the phone clicked and all was quiet. Clark watched as she turned out the final light and lay down on the sofa, pulling the blue blanket over her. For a long time he floated there, listening to the even, deep sound of her breathing.
It was all to much for Clark to take in. He had a daughter with Lois. His sweet Lois had had his baby and raised her to this point all alone … maybe.
"God Lois, where are you?" Clark thought as he ran his hand through his hair. He couldn't figure out why Mara was there all alone. Where could Lois be at this hour of night? He was so wrapped in thought that he didn't notice when Mara got up off the sofa and looked around nervously.
"Ok, listen whoever you are. I heard you and I just want you to know that I know judo and am about a finger away from a VERY loud panic button. So you better just go find somewhere else to hang out," Mara said into the empty room. Clark dipped down below the window in surprise.
"I've got to get out of here! She can't find me … not yet," Clark thought as he cleared his mind and willed himself up, up above the clouds. He paused just long enough to see Mara going to the window and looking out.
Kansas. How many days had he dreamed of returning to the home of his youth? How many days had he spent yearning for the warmth and comfort that always lay there?
Clark felt his eyes fill as he touched down on the land that had known his baby steps, and so many important steps that had come after them. Quickly he tiptoed up to the door. He slowly turned the knob and stepped inside, greeted by the familiar crack of the screen door as it shut behind him.
"Jonathan, I'm SURE I heard someone down there," Martha Kent said in a hushed whisper as she followed close behind her husband who descended the stairs holding an old wooden baseball bat tightly in his hands.
"Martha you were sure last night, and the night before that," Jonathan said as he slowly found the last step.
"Never mind that, just go see what it is … please," Martha pleaded softly as she squeezed her husband's shoulders lightly. Taking a brave step, Jonathan looked around, then dropped the bat in utter surprise.
"Oh my," was the only sound that Martha heard, besides that of the bat hitting the floor.
"Jonathan, Jonathan what is it!" Martha cried out as she flew into the living room, then stopped dead. "Clark!"
"Oh, Mom," was all that Clark got out before he was engulfed in a treasured hug by both of his parents. Clark just hung on to them, trying to convince himself that this day had not been a dream and he was really folded in the arms of love that had held him all his life.
"Oh my boy, oh son, we thought … it's been so long," Jonathan started to say happily as tears started to form in his gentle eyes. Clark couldn't find the words to answer him, his own throat too full of emotion to allow the words to escape. So they simply held each other, their tears of joy flowing over each other like a soothing balm.
"When did you get back sweetheart? How?" Martha asked when they had finally calmed enough to speak again.
"It's a really long story Mom. Um, do you think that any of my clothes are still around, this … outfit is a little uncomfortable?" Clark asked gesturing to the black unitard with the large silver S symbol across the chest that he had worn nearly every day since he had left.
"Do I think your clothes are still here! Honestly you've been gone too long sweetheart," Martha said with a laugh as she rose and left the room, leaving the two Kent men together.
"Dad, I … um … I stopped at Lois's apartment. I saw.. .a child," Clark said as he and Jonathan went to the sofa.
"Mara … you saw Mara. Well, now that's a long story too," Jonathan said softly as he patted Clark on the shoulder. At that moment Martha returned, carrying a pair of soft cotton blue jeans, a pale blue shirt, and a pair of worn tennis shoes.
"Here you go Honey," Martha said happily as she handed the clothes to Clark, who spun possibly faster then he ever had into the clothes. They all sat down on the sofa again and took in the dear sight of each other.
"Mom, Dad tell me. Tell me everything I've missed," Clark asked as he took both of their hands in his, squeezing them gently.
"Well … that's quite a bit," Martha said, as she began the long tale about the events of their lives in these fifteen years. Martha had started doing art shows in Metropolis and was actually getting quite popular. They'd paid off the farm, Jonathan had had a heart attack but was now as strong as an ox. All in all she told him everything; everything but what he needed to know: what had happened with Lois.
"Mom, tell me about Lois," Clark pleaded as she came to a pause in her diatribe.
"Lois … oh well … um," Martha started, and would have gone on that way for a good long time if Jonathan hadn't laid a hand on her shoulder.
"Martha, he saw Mara," was all he said, but that was most certainly enough. Martha rose and left the room, quickly returning with a white, leather-bound book with the name "Mara Elaine Kent" engraved in graceful gold letters in the center of the front cover. Martha sat down next to Clark and opened the book to the first page.
The very first picture was of Lois, nearly the same as when he had left. The same that is, except for the eyes. Clark thought his heart would break looking at the sadness that was nestled inside those lovely brown eyes.
"I put that sadness there," Clark thought as he gazed at the image on the page.
"Clark, Lois … didn't take your leaving well. She became kind of depressed for a long time after you left. It was a rough time for us all, but Lois threw herself into her work," Martha said as she looked down at the picture too. She had taken the picture oh- so-long ago but it still stunned her to see the depth of pain that was captured there.
"That sounds like my Lois," Clark said with a half smile. She had never been one to sit on her laurels when she was in pain. Somehow working had always given her comfort, but this time, not even work had provided the solace she needed.
"Well, you had been gone for four months gone Lois passed out at work one day. It turned out she had been pregnant all that time, but hadn't let herself realize it," Martha said softly as she turned the page to a picture of Lois, Martha and Jonathan standing together on the front porch of the house.
"She came here?" he asked softly.
"Yes, she called here right after she found out and we all decided it was best for her to be here … less chance of being discovered if anything … became odd," Martha said gently trying to be delicate with the issue of his alien biology. Clark felt slightly sick to his stomach thinking of his Lois, his beautiful, beautiful Lois, sad, pregnant and alone.
Martha flipped through a few more pages of the book, revealing page after page of pictures of Lois, her stomach growing gradually with the growing child that she held under her heart. Then, around the sixth month or so, the pictures suddenly stopped.
"Mom, how come there aren't any more pictures?"
"Son, Lois had a bad time of it in those last few months. She was on constant bed rest for about the last three months of the pregnancy. Needless to say, she didn't really want pictures to remind her of that," Jonathan said as he looked down at the album.
The next page was a large picture of a tiny baby; a dark cap of hair covering her small head in a pixie-like bob. Clark held his breath for a long time as he studied that picture; the little turned-up nose, the delicate fingers curled protectively in on themselves, the large wide brown eyes with their feather-like lashes.
"She was a beautiful baby, wasn't she?" Clark said in a thin whisper as he felt his parents give him a gentle squeeze.
"Most definitely. She was born on December twenty-fifth," Jonathan said as he pointed out the thin slip of pink paper that held Mara's birth announcement.
"December twenty-fifth?" Clark asked in surprise.
"She was early. The doctors had to take her by C-section, but Lois and Mara pulled through like troopers," Martha said happily as she flipped through the pages. Clark was awestruck as he watched the years unfolding through the growth of his own baby daughter, the daughter that he hadn't known about until today.
"They stayed here for a few months, then Lois packed Mara up and they moved back to the city. Lois still works at the Planet, and Mara goes to her school. She's such a bright little thing, like you where when you were little," Martha said, fighting to prevent the tears from leaping to her eyes.
"Do they ever come to see you?" Clark asked, fighting the lump that was forming in his throat.
"Oh yes, Lois and Mara come almost every weekend," Jonathan said as he patted his son's shoulder, seeing the pain he was in.
"I need you guys to tell me. Did Lois … did she … ?" But Clark was unable to finish.
"Clark, sweetie, it's alright. I don't think Lois has been seeing anyone," Martha said as she gave her son a squeeze.
"RING!!" They all jumped at the sound of the phone ringing. Leaping up, Martha grabbed the phone and held it to her ear.
"Grandma … " Clark could hear a young voice coming through the phone. Motioning to Jonathan to pick up the extension, she sat back down.
"Mara, what's wrong sweetheart?" Jonathan said as he lifted his extension to his ear. Clark wished to god that he could talk to her too, but she didn't even know he was here. Maybe she didn't even know who HE was.
"Grandma … Mom's gone." Clark felt his heart drop to the soles of his feet as he heard the soft young voice, full of tears.
"What do you mean?"
"Mom's missing. When she didn't come home this morning Perry, checked her files. Mom went to meet some informant last night and never came back," Mara said into the phone. Jonathan and Martha simply looked at each other in shock for a moment.
"We're on our way. Do you have someone there with you?" Jonathan asked as he walked toward the door, his jacket in one hand, the car keys in the other.
"Yea, Aunt Lu is here," Mara replied.
"Ok, we'll be right there. We love you Button," Martha said as she, too, rose to get her jacket.
"Love you too Grandma. See you when you get in." And with that, the phone went "click" and all that was left was three stunned and worried adults.
"Forget the car keys Dad, I'll fly you," Clark said as he walked over to the door.
"Clark you can't. You can't possibly be strong enough to fly us all the way to Metropolis," Martha started to say.
"Mom, I CAN do it," was all that needed to be said as the three of them walked outside, linked arms, and soared up above the clouds.
It only took what seemed like minutes for them to reach the city. Lightly touching down, Clark set them down in an alley behind Lois's apartment. As they walked around to the front of it, Clark couldn't help but notice how much different it looked than it had before.
Every light was on, though the windows, for once, were locked tight. He could see the shadows of people walking around inside the apartment.
"Lois how I wish it were you," was all Clark could think as they took the steps to the apartment two at a time. Somewhere in his heart Clark wanted to believe that it was just a young girl's worry that had dragged them here at this time of night. After all, he knew Lois and her penchant for taking off. But he also knew that nothing and no one could make Lois go off without her child. He just knew it.
"Mara, Honey, are you here?" Martha asked as she walked in the door of the apartment. A second later Clark saw her again. He held his breath as he watched her give her grandparents each a hug in welcome, though she seemed not to notice Clark at all.
"Hi Grandma," Mara said as she broke loose of the hug, giving them a very Clark-like smile as they walked into the living room area of the apartment.
"Where's your Aunt Lu? Any word on your Mom?" Jonathan asked as he put his cowboy hat down on the end table.
"She had to go to the store. No, they can't find a damn.. .darn thing," Mara said with a slight blush as she looked down at the floor to hide a sassy smile.
"Well, do they know what story she was working on?" Jonathan asked as he sat down on the sofa, watching the two Kent women wander around the room.
"Same as always, you know, the great and wonderful …," Mara started to say when she finally caught sight of Clark. In that moment their eyes clashed. "Superman."
"Mara, I …," Clark started but was thrown off balance when he was hit full force in the chest by Mara with a strength he hadn't known since his battles in New Krypton. Clark looked down at the young girl who was now weeping and pounding him soundly on his massive chest.
"YOU! It's YOUR fault! YOU'RE why my Mom is GONE!!!"
"MARA ELAINE KENT! What's gotten in to you!" Jonathan asked in shock as he pulled the flaying mass of arms and legs from a stunned Clark. Jonathan held her firmly to his chest for a moment as she continued to struggle. Suddenly she fell very still.
"I … I'm going to my room," Mara said as she slipped out from under Jonathan's strong arms and walked down a small hall to the room that had been hers all her life. Clark felt his heart crushed under the weight of what just happened.
"She hates me, she really hates me," Clark thought sadly as he heard his daughter, the child he had wanted so very much, slam the door condemning them to silence.
"What have I done … "
Mara stood completely still in her room, leaning against the back of her poster-clad wall, feeling the comforting texture of her Dean Cain poster against her back.
"He's back. He's really, really back," was all that she could say as she stared at the familiar sights of her room. Slowly, like a person in a trance, she walked over to her dresser, picked up her small black and white teddy bear, and squeezed it to her as she lay down in a small ball on the top of her covers. Dreamily, she pressed the soft body of the bear to her, taking in the scent of her mother's perfume that still clung to the soft fur like a faint memory.
*Momma! Momma I had a nightmare!* Mara had run into her mother's room in that darkest part of night that seemed the nightmare's domain. She remembered the since of comfort that had come when she saw the faint pale light from her mother's tv streaming under the door of her room.
*Come on Ace,* Mara remembered with a faint smile. Ace. Only Perry and her mother had called her Ace, yet she could not remember a time when she had not been Ace. It was a name of love, at least to her.
*So, what was your nightmare about?* Mom had asked as she pulled Mara to her. She snuggled deep into the comforting warmth of her mother's arms as her chest rested against the soft pink nightgown.
*The voices again Momma, they were screaming and there was blood and … and … ,* Mara had said but the confused tears filled her eyes and started to run down her small cheeks. She remembered seeing the slightly sad and pained look that had filled her mothers eyes even as she held Mara tightly to her. Once, long ago, Momma had told Mara how her father's people could talk in their head without saying anything at all. It all seemed very weird to Mara, but then everything about her Father had seemed weird to a child who had never known him.
*It was just a dream Ace, just a dream,* Momma had said as she pressed a light kiss to the warm flushed skin of Mara's forehead.
*I know, but it's still scary,* Mara sniffled as she pressed her face against her mother's skin.
*I know. You know what? I bet that I have something to help you feel better,* she said as she gently moved Mara, got up and walked to Mara's dresser, removing the small bear that had been in just that spot for as long as Mara could remember.
*Your daddy gave this to me a long, long time ago,* Lois had said as she sat back on the bed, putting the bear in Mara's dimpled little hands.
*Will it help me not have nightmares any more?* Mara had asked as she looked up into her mother's deep brown eyes that seemed clouded by some sort of far-away memory.
*It did for me,* her mother had said as she had picked Mara up and carried her sleepy little body back to her bed. Then she tucked her in tight under the large blue quilt.
"Why did he have to come back!" Mara thought, shaking away the memories as she sat up and looked down at the bear. HIS bear! Suddenly all the anger of the years filled her. All the years of her life that she had spent confused, feeling abandoned by her own father, for every heart breakingly sad look that had lived in her mother's eyes for so long. It just all flowed through her, burning her blood like fire.
"WHY DID YOU COME BACK!" she yelled to the empty walls of her room, as she heaved the bear against the far wall, watching it land with a satisfying thump against the wooden floor. She felt her heart sink as the bear hit the floor. Her mom had given her that bear; her mom that she loved so much and might not ever get to see again. With lighting quickness Mara leaped off the bed and took the bear in her arms as she sank to the floor.
"Oh, Mom I need you," Mara cried as she pulled her knees in and tears began to fall.
"Mara, Honey can I come in?" Mara raised her head when she heard her Grandma's voice from the hall. Taking a shaky breath, Mara gazed at the door and beyond, seeing her Grandma standing just on the other side, in her hands a mug of her famous hot chocolate.
"Yeah," Mara said weakly as she watched the knob of her door turn slowly and her Grandma come in. Without a word of reprimand, Martha simply sat on the floor next to her granddaughter and handed the mug to her.
"I'm sorry Grandma. I guess I acted sorta like a baby," Mara started as she sniffled and watched the steam from the mug form long, curling tentacles around her hands.
"Well … we all act like babies sometimes," Martha said as she gently nudged her granddaughter in the side, "And you're a lot closer to that age than me," Martha said with a wink as she watched the gentle smile that crept onto Mara's lips.
"Did Aunt Lu come back?"
"Yes, and so did Perry and Jimmy. Everyone's out there if you want to talk to them," Martha said as she pulled her knees up to her chest.
"Is HE out there too?" Mara asked, taking a small sip of the steaming liquid in her mug.
"Yes," Martha said simply. Mara just sighed. She did not want to see him, to be reminded of all the anger she kept so deep inside herself, of the confusion of who she was and her feelings about that.
"Do I have to?"
"Not if you don't want to," Martha said understandingly as she rested her back against the pale green wall behind her.
"Will you stay with me?" Mara asked. Waiting for her answer, Mara sat her cup down on the floor and lay her head on her Grandmother's shoulder. This wasn't the first time one of the Kent women had asked Martha that question. Hearing it from the young girl sent her back to another place and time.
*Will you stay with me?* Lois had whispered long ago as she sat on Clark's old bed in Smallville. Lois had just been sitting there, staring at the wall, her eyes wide and dry.
*Of course Lois, I'd be glad to,* Martha had replied as she sat down beside Lois on the bed. Martha remembered that as she sat there, she couldn't help but be surprised at how terribly thin Lois had become since Clark had left for New Krypton. It had nearly broken Martha's heart to see Lois's tiny body dwarfed in Clark's old high school sweatshirt. More than that was the odd, hunted look that clung to her eyes. Ever since she had arrived from Metropolis two days earlier, Lois's ghostlike appearance had worried both Martha and Jonathan, and tore at their hearts.
*Martha, I'm pregnant,* she'd said in an oddly hollow voice. Martha felt her heart leap with an unexpected jolt of both joy and fear. Lois was going to have Clark's baby, she was going to be a grandmother. The thought had filled her with joy. Then fear for Lois had filled Martha. Could Lois carry a baby, let alone a SUPER baby, in her current condition?
*Are you happy about this?* Martha had asked, trying to gauge Lois's mood. For a long moment Lois didn't move She just kept staring at the wall as if she was trying to decide how she felt. Lois had turned to Martha then and Martha saw something in Lois's face she hadn't seen in the whole time Clark had been gone … joy.
*Martha, I'm carrying Clark's baby! How could I not be happy? I have a part of Clark with me, a part that no New Krypton can take away,* Lois had said as she gave Martha a beautiful smile. Martha just looked at Lois for a long moment then wrapped her arms around her.
*Well, it looks like I'm going to be a grandmother!* Martha had said as she smiled and hugged the mother of her future grandchild to her.
"Grandma? You didn't answer me," Mara asked looking up at her grandmother
"What did you ask?" Martha asked as she was jolted back to the present. She was holding that same grandchild in her arms, just as she had held the child's mother all those years ago.
"Will you stay with me?"
"Yes sweetheart, I'll stay as long as you need," Martha said as she held her grandchild tightly.
"What's going on in there?" Clark thought as he stared down at the thin light at the end of the hall. He had watched from the sofa as his mother had gone down that hall, murmuring something soft and low, then walked into the last room on the right.
"CK, you want to look at her file now?" Jimmy asked softly as he placed a large manila folder down on the table before them.
"Yeah, sure Jimmy, thanks," Clark said as he started to search through the slips of paper filled with that oh-so-familiar handwriting. Mostly there were notes on a story she was trying to write about a "Superman" imposter and people who claimed to have seen Superman after his official leave from Metropolis and Earth. Of course, Lois disputed the sighting. It was the only thing she could do because she knew better then anyone that the "Supermen" and the sightings could not be anything but cruel hoaxes or wishful thinking.
"Hello, what is this?" Perry asked as he pulled out a scrap of yellow legal note paper. On it, written in Lois's hand, were the words "Meet BB at 8, ALONE"
"Jimmy do you know who this BB is?"
"Not for sure CK. All I know is that it was one of Lois's informants on this new story she was working on."
"Did she tell you where she was meeting him?" Clark asked hopefully as he looked at the two men, only to find that they could not give him the answer he wanted.
"Yes, she did." They all turned to see Mara standing in the doorway, Martha's arm wrapped lightly around her shoulder as she walked into the room.
"She did?" Jimmy and Perry asked in unison. If anything, it was unusual for Lois to tell ANYONE where her meeting places were.
"Of course she did. She IS my Mom after all," Mara said as she walked over to a small wooden desk and removed a black notebook from the table. Sliding her hand inside the notebook, she removed a slip of blue stationary and stood before Clark with the paper clutched in her fist.
"You find her and bring her home," she said as she stared straight into a twin set of dark brown eyes. Clark couldn't believe how like Lois she was in that moment. The Lois he had first known, strong, proud, brave, but hiding such a hurt that if you could reach it, would bring you to your knees.
"I promise you I will," Clark vowed with all of his soul as he took the scrap of paper from her hands. Mara simply looked at him with those unreadable brown eyes, and gave up the paper.
"You better," was all she said as she walked back to the relative safety of her grandmother's arms.
Clark wanted to leave right then, but he couldn't, not with Jimmy and Perry still there. So he had to wait like a worried lover, like the person he was. He didn't know how long he just sat there looking at the walls of the apartment. There were lovely pictures there, mostly of Mara in various stages of growth. He smiled when he looked at a picture in a wooden frame of Mara at about five, clad in jeans and, of all things a Superman t-shirt showing off a gapped- tooth smile. How he wished that just once he could see that smile, however impossible it might be.
"Where is Mara anyway?" Clark thought as he gazed around the room, seeing only his parents, Jimmy and Perry.
"Mom, where's Mara?" Clark asked.
"Oh, I think she's on the roof," Martha said as she brought cups of coffee for the assembled people. Rising, Clark walked to the hall outside of the apartment and to the staircase leading to the roof.
The breeze was cool when he opened the door leading outside. Smiling and remembering happier times, Clark walked to the edge, where he somehow knew he'd find Mara.
She looked like some sort of painting sitting there, her hair blowing back from her delicately featured face, her eyes lost in distant thoughts.
"What?" she asked softly as she continued to stare out, not even taking a moment to look at the man who was standing beside her.
"Mara, we have to talk about this," Clark said tenderly as he sat down beside Mara, propping his chin on his knee as he, too, looked out at the city below.
"There's nothing to talk about," Mara said flatly as she brushed away what Clark could only assume was a tear.
"I think there is," he said simply as he watched her face for some sign of reaction, even if it was to scream at him. Anything would be better than this endless twenty questions.
"You said it all when you left us," she said, finally turning to look at him for the first time since he had come out. It was in that moment he saw the true despair in those brown eyes, and that nearly destroyed him.
"Do you think I WANTED to leave you?" Clark asked, realizing the utter absurdity of that question. He could read in every move she made and every word she spoke to him, few as they were, that she DID blame him.
"Didn't you?" she asked calmly, once more looking out at the stars; particularly at the one star that had robbed her of her father, and her mother of the man she loved.
"How could you think I would leave you on purpose? I had no choice!" Clark said in desperation. God how he wanted to simply take her in his arms and convince her that he had never, ever wanted to leave Lois and, had he known, her.
"Didn't you? I don't recall them saying anyone came and dragged you away in chains? All I know is that a bunch of people no one had ever met said you HAD to come back to fight their stupid war and YOU left. Cared a lot for us didn't ya?" Mara said as she finally rose and started to walk across the roof.
"It wasn't like that Mara. I had to go. Millions would have DIED if I hadn't gone. Your Mom means everything to me, absolutely everything. How can I explain to you how it was?" Clark asked as he grabbed her arm and tried to turn her towards him.
"YOU can't! You can't explain all the nights that my Mother cried herself to sleep over you! You can't explain why I had to hear all the voices screaming in my mind. That was MY legacy from you! You can't explain why I'm the only freshman that can bench press three eighty! You can't explain why I'm a freak! I don't LIKE the person I am because of you!" she screamed as she turned and shoved firmly at Clark's chest. He landed on the roof in a stunned heap as the venomous words Mara had said spilled over him. Did she really hate him that much?
"You can't explain anything to me! Not even why my Mother still loves you so much," Mara said coldly as she burst into tears, running into the hall, leaving a stunned and saddened Clark in her wake.
He didn't know how long he sat there just staring at the place where she had stood. He wanted to scream out in the frustration that Mara brought to him. She and Lois were the one thing he had wanted more than anything all this life … his own family.
"Why can't she SEE that!" Clark thought as he finally got up and walked to the steps. Clark couldn't understand it, for all he knew was that he loved her, had loved her before he had even known her. Now the trick was making her believe it.
"But I will … I have to.
Mara sat on the window seat in her room, looking out into the dark night. She knew that she shouldn't have done what she did, shouldn't have said what she did.
"OK, well maybe I should have, but not that way," she thought as she remembered how she had thundered her ugly words down on her father, and the hurt that had filled his eyes. "Why couldn't he have just left me alone?" she asked the moon. She drew her knees up and watched the cars passing on the street below while the memories came.
*Mara, you coming to dinner?* Lois had asked as she peeked her head in through the door.
*No thanks Mom, I'm not really hungry,* was all that Mara had replied as she turned to give a little smile to her mother. But she wasn't buying that.
*Come on, I know I'm not Wolfgang Puck but it's not THAT bad,* Lois had said jokingly as she sat down on the roseprint- covered window seat with her twelve year old daughter.
*It's not that Mom, I'm just not hungry,* Mara replied as she slid over toward her mother, leaving them in a close cuddle against the back of the wall.
*Ok Ace, lets have it. What's the matter?" Lois had asked as she wrapped an arm around her daughter's thin shoulder.
*It's time for the stupid father/daughter day at school again,* Mara had replied sorely as she poked a pillow by her foot with her big toe.
*Ohhh.* Mara remembered her mother had sighed then. Lois hated that Mara was growing up without a father, like she had. Mara hated to mention it, because she knew that it made her mother sad for the man who had left them so long ago.
*It's no big thing, I'll just call Jimmy or Perry. It's just … * Mara paused for a moment, as though she was deciding if it was really a good idea to say what came next. *Mom, did he REALLY have to go?*
*Of course he did. If he didn't, so many people would have died,* Lois had whispered as she pressed a kiss on top of Mara's brown head.
*But he didn't know any of them!* Mara protested, trying to find the reason in what happened before her birth.
*I don't understand. If you love someone, aren't you always supposed to stay together?* Mara had asked softly as she started to feel a slight dreamy numbness travel through her. She remembered the slow, sad shadow that had fallen across her mother's face.
*It doesn't always work that way Ace. Sometimes … things just work to keep you away from those you love, even those you love most of all,* Lois had said softly into the darkness. Mara could remember that she had tried to understand the meaning of what her mother said, but to her young mind, it still seemed that love and absence worked against each other.
*Momma, did my father love us?* There. She finally asked the question that had dwelled in her heart and mind for so long. The question she had lived with from the times she had watched her Uncle Jimmy playing with her cousins, to all those Planet company picnics where she was relegated to teaming up with Perry in the Father/Daughter foot race, to those nights when questions about her strange powers came to her and there was no one to answer them for her.
*Oh, yes Ace, your Father loved us more then you could imagine,* Lois had replied as a tear fell onto the top of Mara's head. She could still remember the feel of that teardrop sliding along her scalp as her mother gently rocked her.
*Mom … what's that smell?* Mara asked in surprise as her mother looked up.
*OH NO!!!* Lois cried as she jumped up and ran to the kitchen, Mara following right behind. By the time Mara entered the room, Lois was already removing a green and very burnt casserole dish from the oven in disgust.
*Oh well, what will it be Ace, Pizza or Chinese?* Lois had finally asked as they had both dissolved into a fit of laughter.
The memory of that night brought a smile to Mara's face as she remembered eating cheese pizza after they unceremoniously fed the casserole to the garbage disposal. But it also brought back the memory of how she felt when she had asked her mother about her father's love. Even with her mother's answer, she was still uncertain of her father's love.
And she still was.
No one else knew of her turmoil though, as they all sat in the living room watching Jimmy, Lucy and Perry pull away.
"FINALLY!" Clark thought as he started toward the closet for his coat. He was surprised to find his "Super" suit still hanging where he had left it so many years ago.
"Mom, Dad I'm going to check out that address," Clark said simply as he started for the door. As he flew, he began to feel his head clear somewhat. He still felt the confusion that had settled in around him about Mara, unanswerable mystery that she was.
She was like an angel, yet she held so much resentment and pain inside. Clark couldn't help but feel the sting of the knowledge that he, at least in some way, was responsible for that pain. But how one young girl could hold so much inside her amazed and.. .frightened Clark.
"God only knows how it is for Mara," he thought as he slowed and began to touch down in front of the address she had given them. It surprised him when he saw it. Years ago, it had been a thriving company but now it seemed to be nothing more than a REALLY big flop house for the homeless and lost.
Settling atop a roof high above, Clark did the only thing he could do at that point … he watched.
"This seat taken?" Clark spun around when he heard a young voice coming from behind him. Mara was hovering there, her sneaker clad feet dangling just inches above the asphalt of the roof.
"Mara what are you DOING here!" Clark asked in a surprised hiss as he watched her glide to a rest and sit next to him on the roof.
"Playing marbles. What do you THINK I'm doing here?" Mara said sarcastically.
"You fly yourself back to the apartment right now, young lady." Clark said quietly as he watched her turn to him.
"Hey you've not been my dad for fourteen years. Let's not go getting a power trip in one day," she said stubbornly, refusing to budge.
"Fine … but if we find ANYTHING you're to fly yourself out of here. Deal?" Clark asked as he extended a hand to her. For a moment she just looked at it, then to Clark's surprise, she took it and gave it a soft firm shake.
"Good," Clark said softly. For a long, long time they just sat there watching the building, but seeing nothing that would give them a clue as to where Lois might be.
"How long have you been flying?" Clark asked after a moment. It surprised him that she could, since he didn't fly until he was older.
"Oh that … not long. I'm not so good at it yet," she said as she scanned the parking area in front of the building.
"You've got pretty good control," Clark replied as he looked over at her for a moment.
"Thanks. Most of the stuff I don't control as well," Mara said as she shot him a soft, small smile. Clark thought his heart would stop beating when he saw that smile, so like Lois's.
"Oh, what other powers do you have now?" Clark asked curiously as he scanned the ground for clues.
"I can see pretty far, I'm kinda fast and all that," Mara said sourly as she propped her head on her knee for a moment, lost in thought.
"I take it you're not very happy about your powers?" Clark asked, reading the resentment in her comment. But she didn't move, she just stared down at the street below.
"I don't want to talk about it. Lets go see if there's any evidence the police missed," Mara said, dangling her feet over the ledge of the building.
"OK, suit yourself," Clark said sadly as he glided up and then floated down to street level.
"Why won't she talk to me," he thought in despair as he watched her slide off the ledge and freefall for a few feet before slowing herself to a gentle glide, a long red cape flowing behind her in billowing waves.
"A little melodramatic don't you think?" Clark asked as she touched down beside him.
"I saw it in a movie once," she said as she tucked the cape into a small pouch in the back of her jacket. Slowly, gliding just inches over the surface of the ground, the two of them searched, hoping against hope for something that might tell them where the woman they both loved might be.
"HEY! Come here!" Clark turned when he heard Mara cry out in surprise.
"WHAT? What is it?!" he asked as he rushed to her side. He saw her bend down looking at a small black beeper on the ground.
"It's Mom's beeper," Mara said in a hushed whisper as she looked down at it, unsure whether to pick it up. Clark walked over to the beeper and carefully picked it up, his fingers wrapped in his cape.
"How do you know?" he asked as he turned it over in his hands carefully.
"See this," she said, pointing to a tiny scratch in the bottom of the beeper case forming the letters "MEK." "I carved that when I was nine."
Finding the beeper filled Clark with both fear and joy. Lois HAD been here, but had also been taken away so fast that she either lost or dropped her beeper. And if he knew Lois, she wouldn't give up her prized beeper without cause.
That was when he saw the tracks, although they were faint. Had it not been for the slight heat traces, he might have missed it. With his vision, he followed the tracks down the road, turning off to the right. As he turned to Mara, he could tell that she saw it too.
"Mara, why don't you go call the police and let them know what we found," Clark said as she looked into her curious, yet worried brown eyes.
"You're kidding, right?" she said with a smirk as she flew off, following the tracks out of sight.
"Mara!" he called after her in a hushed yell, hoping to keep from drawing attention to them. He kept on her tail until they came to a stop in front of a small, ranch style house.
"Mara, what do you think you're doing!?" Clark said quietly as he crouched down beside her.
"What do you think? Finding my Mom!" Mara said as it if was the most stupid question in the world.
"Let me handle this," he said strongly.
"I don't think so."
"Mara!" Clark started but was cut off when he saw a dark brown van speeding up to the house. Clark watched in relief as he saw the oh-so-familiar face of …
"Bobby Bermuda," Clark said in a satisfied whisper as he watched him enter the house and lock the door.
"Wasn't he the one who tried to kill you once with the Kryptonian virus?" Mara asked as she x-rayed the house, watching Bobby walk into the kitchen.
"No, that was his brother … How did you know about that anyway?" Clark asked as he too watched Bobby walk through the kitchen making a sandwich.
"Are you kidding? Mom told me ALL the stories about you guys," Mara whispered with a sweet smile as she watched Bobby slam the refrigerator door shut with his hip and leave the kitchen with a soda and sandwich in his hands.
"She did?" he asked.
"Sure, Mom thinks you're the bravest person ever," Mara whispered as they watched Bobby take slow steps to the top of the staircase leading down.
"And you? What do you think?" Clark asked hopefully gazing at his daughter for a moment. Mara seemed to look far away for a second, then turned toward him and put a tentative hand on his shoulder.
"You always tried," she said softly. They didn't speak anymore after that. Instead they just sat there watching Bobby walk down the steps and into the basement of the house. For a long moment he looked around, then pressed a button on the side of the wall, causing a wall to swing open and reveal …
They both watched in shock as Bobby walked over and sat down on a small sofa just in front of the chair that he had Lois tied to.
"So, how are we doing today Ms. Lane?" Bobby said sarcastically as he took a big bite from the sandwich, making a big show of just how wonderful it tasted.
"Just peachy," she said in typical Lois fashion as she slipped her foot out of her shoe.
"Now, is that any way to act when you're a guest in someone's home?" Bobby replied as though he was hurt.
"Throw me out then," Lois said angrily as she rubbed her foot against the rope that tied her ankles, trying to loosen it.
"All you have to do is tell me where Superman is hiding and you'll be free to go to that little girl of yours. Or perhaps you'd like me to have her bought here?" Bobby asked as he took a long, long drink of the soda. Lois's temper flared.
"You touch one hair on my daughter's head and I'll kill you," Lois growled with all the power of a cornered lioness.
"All right, all right, all you have to do is tell me where Superman is and you will have nothing to worry about," he said kindly as he finished off the soda, crumpled the can and shot it basketball-style into the trash can.
"I already told you, Superman is on New Krypton we're he's been for the last fifteen years," she said, exasperation and exhaustion written all over her beautiful face.
"Well then, I guess you'll be staying for dinner." Bobby rose and walked over to Lois, leaning, close to her ear.
"My boss isn't as patient as I am. I suggest you tell us what we want to know before he loses his patience," Bobby said as he slowly walked out and locked the door. For a long moment Lois just sat there in silence, then hung her head in desperation.
Mara was filled with anger as she watched the scene unfold before her. How dare he treat her mother like that! When she looked over, she saw that Clark felt the same way.
"You go get your mother, I'll take care of Bobby," he said through clenched teeth. They both took off for their separate missions, sure of one thing … they were going to get her back.
"Mara, what are you doing here?" Lois asked, her voice a mix of joy, fear and amazement.
"The Hula," Mara said as she untied her mother's ankles with one deft movement.
"Cute, but it's dangerous here sweetheart. You should have called the police." Lois felt the blood rush back into her ankles and feet.
"Well, I didn't have anything better to do," Mara replied with a smile as she untied her mother's wrists and helped her to her feet.
"Mara, I'm serious. Just because you are who you are does not mean you can do stuff like this," Lois said as she hugged her daughter to her.
"Mom, can you chew me out after we get out of Mr. Wackadoo's house?" With a slight smile, Lois nodded and the two of them beat it out of the house at full speed.
"You are not to do this anymore, Ace. I understand why you did it and believe me I'm so grateful baby but … Oh MY GOD!!!!!!!!!" Lois had started to chew Mara out for her actions when she saw the one person she had wished for every day for the last fifteen years.
"CLARK!!!!" she cried as she ran up to him and threw herself into his arms. And in that moment, two worlds collided and there was only Lois and Clark.
"Oh Lois." Clark whispered as he held her tightly, kissing her cheeks, her nose, her lips. He closed his eyes and thanked whatever god was responsible for these things for bringing them back together.
"Clark! When? How?" she asked between kisses, but to tell the truth, she didn't even care. All she cared about was that she was back in his arms.
"It's a long, long story," Clark said as he smiled, lightly brushing his lips against hers.
"Ms. Lane, we have some questions we have to ask." The uniformed police officer gently touched Lois's shoulder, leading her away.
"You know, she's right," Clark said now that he and Mara were alone again. Watching the flashing colored lights of the police cruisers, they saw the police talking to Lois in one car, and Bobby in another.
"You shouldn't have come here, it wasn't safe for you," Clark said as he put his hand on her shoulder. For some reason, that touch disturbed Mara. It was too intimate for a virtual stranger and it gave her a serious case of the creeps.
"Oh, not you too," Mara replied as she rolled her eyes and shook his hand off her shoulder.
"Don't go getting all parental on me. If you haven't noticed, I can take care of myself just fine," Mara said as she walked over to the wall of the building next door and leaned against it.
"I know you can, I just care about you and don't want you … to get hurt," he said in a low voice trying not to cause a scene.
"Thanks for your concern but if you haven't noticed, I don't get hurt," she said stubbornly as she watched the lights spin around.
"God, you're so stubborn!" Clark said in exasperation as he watched her in the changing light.
"I wish people would realize that I am not a baby anymore," she said as she snapped her head around to look at him.
"I'm your father … "
"OH, oh, don't EVEN go there!" Mara said loudly as she started to walk out of the alley, spinning around so that she faced Clark as she backed down the alley.
"You have no right, none at all, to go getting fatherly on me now. If you wanted to do that, you should have been here fourteen years ago." She turned and ran down the alley and out of sight.
Mara didn't know how long she had been wandering around the city streets. The lights were glowing a faint misty yellow as she walked, her hands shoved deep inside her pockets.
I should really call Mom, Mara thought as she walked by perhaps the fifth phone booth that she had passed in the last hour. Slowly she walked in and picked up the receiver and punched in her phone card number.
"Hello," she heard her mom's voice say into the phone, and Mara nearly started to cry. But she was still so mad that she just could not see them now. There was no way.
"Hey Mom. I'm sorry I ran out. I'm going to go to the library real quick then I'll be home," she said in one hurried breath, hoping against hope that her mother wouldn't press the matter … But she knew her mother too well for that.
"Mara Elaine Kent, you get home right now!" Lois said into the receiver, but it was too late. The receiver had already hit the phone, ending the conversation.
It was so cold out that night. Mara could feel the wind blowing hard against her arms as she bounded up the steps to the library and forced open the door.
Taking a deep, calming breath, Mara walked slowly over to the poetry section of the library and reached for her favorite book of poems.
"And she was a child and I was a child in our kingdom by the sea, but we loved with a love that was more than a love, I and my Annabel Lee." Mara read silently as she walked backward down the aisle, lost in the beauty of the words. At least she was until she walked straight into a pair of strong, solid arms.
"OH!" Mara cried, dropping the books and looking up into the most handsome eyes she had ever seen. The boy, man really, before her smiled a radiant smile and held out his hand to her.
"I'm so sorry. I am usually so much more aware of where the pretty young ladies are," he said as his eyes twinkled. He kissed the back of her hand tenderly.
Mara could feel the butterflies well up in her stomach. This was absolutely the most handsome guy she had seen in her whole entire life and he was hitting on HER!!!
"No, it was my fault. I'm such a klutz," Mara replied nervously as she reached down and started to pick up her books, just as the young man did the same.
"Well," the young man started, flipping open the book and reading the name neatly printed on the library card inside. "Ms. Mara Kent. I am most pleased to meet you." He made a grand bow and presented Mara with her book as she started to giggle lightly.
"Well you know who I am, I think you have me at a disadvantage," Mara replied trying to sound sophisticated, but feeling like an awful nerd.
"So I do. Please let me introduce myself. My name is Luthor."
"Luthor, that's a … an important name," Mara said as she took a deep breath. Together they walked over to a small clump of sofas and sat together.
"Yes, well, my mother had a thing for Lex Luthor." His eyes danced merrily under the lights above them.
"My mom had a thing for Lex once … before she fell for my dad," she answered lightly. They spent a long time talking, about her dad, about his abandonment of her. But not the why. (She might be mad but she was not stupid.) They talked about her mother's kidnapping. Everything. They talked and talked until Mara was all talked out. Then they just sat there enjoying each other's company in the pale glow of the library lights.
"Mara, I hope you won't think I'm pushing, but I would love to get together with you again. Say tomorrow, say 9 o'clock in front of the library?" Luthor said as he gave her one of those heart- stopping smiles that melted her insides into gooey little puddles.
"Sure, I'd like that."
"Perhaps you should not tell you mother. Understanding her past with Lex, I don't see her being so happy with her beautiful daughter getting involved with another Luthor," he added. He smiled and touched her neck, massaging it lightly.
"You want to be involved with me?" Mara asked in surprise as she was lulled into a dreamy half-sleep by his fingers working lightly at the muscles of her neck.
"More than you will ever know," he whispered. He kissed her cheek lightly and grinned a wicked grin … much like the cat that had eaten the canary.
Mara bounced into the house, floating on a cloud at the thought of seeing Luthor again. He had listened to her, made her feel so good, better than she had in a long, long time. She just hoped her mother wouldn't notice her changed mood when she walked in the apartment.
"Mara!" Lois cried as the key turned in the door. In about a second she was engulfed in a tight hug. Mara even thought she felt a tear fall.
"You are SO grounded," Lois said sweetly as she kissed her daughter's forehead gently. Mara felt her heart fall to her feet. She couldn't be grounded … she had to see Luthor tomorrow.
"Mom, you can't!" Mara cried as she broke loose from the hug.
"'Fraid I can there, Ace. Running off from your Dad earlier was definitely not cool," Lois said as she walked into the kitchen.
"Oh RIGHT, like HE didn't run off from us?" Mara said as she flopped herself down in an overstuffed armchair. Lois was at her side within seconds.
"Mara, that was uncalled for. You know that your Dad had to leave. Leaving to save a world is a lot different than running off because you're mad," Lois said as she sat on the arm of the chair.
"MOM! You're not real objective in this case. He left you heartbroken and pregnant to go save a dumb old rock full of complete strangers!" Mara yelled as she got up and stood squarely in front of her mom, even as she saw Clark enter the room.
"That was NOT how it was," Lois replied as she tried to take her daughter in her arms again, only to be brushed off as she stormed down the hall.
Clark and Lois looked at each other in silence as they heard their daughter slam her bedroom door. Then there was complete silence.
"Well, THAT went well," Lois said as she stomped into the kitchen and grabbed a coffee mug. She slammed it so hard onto the counter that the mug would have surely shattered had it not landed on a soft potholder.
"Here, let me," Clark said. He took the mug from her and filled it with warm coffee as Lois paced across the room.
"Where does she get off talking like that? I honestly don't know what's gotten in to her," Lois replied as she took the cup and paced some more until Clark gently lead her to the sofa.
"It's pretty evident that she hates me right now," Clark said sadly as he looked out the window. Lois looked at him tenderly and wrapped her arms around him.
"She doesn't hate you. I think … I think she loves you very much," Lois whispered softly as she sipped some of the coffee.
"Lois? How long exactly did Bobby have you tied up?" Clark asked, as he smiled down at her teasingly.
"I'm serious … Let me tell you something about Ms. Mara Kent … she's a SERIOUS Daddy's girl," Lois said as a faint smile crossed her face.
*Ms. Kent,* the principal of Mara's elementary school had said when she called Lois on the first day of May, the year that Mara was eight.
*Yes, Mrs. Judd. How can I help you?* Lois had asked as she dug through the piles of research notes that littered her desk at the Daily Planet.
*You need to come down here right away. Mara has been in a fight,* Mrs. Judd had said to Lois, and she remembered being so surprised that she nearly dropped the phone.
*I'm on my way right now,* Lois answered. Then she leaped up and drove to the Parker Scott Elementary school. When she arrived, she found Mara looking woeful as she sat on the green plastic- covered bench in front of Mrs. Judd's office.
*Ace, what happened?* Lois had asked as she crouched down to talk to her daughter. Mara looked up through her masses of long brown hair and wet eyes.
*It wasn't my fault!* Mara cried as she clung to her mother's waist, pressing her wet little face to the soft wool of her mother's blue suit.
*What wasn't your fault?* Lois had asked reporter style, trying to comfort her child, as well as find out what was going on.
*Bill Coneroy said my Daddy wasn't so great. Because he went away, and didn't even write me a letter or anything. I told him he was wrong, that my Daddy was the bestest guy in the whole world. He had to go save lots and lots of people. Then Bill said my dad was just a dumb old reporter and so … I pushed him and told him to shut his stupid face,* Mara had spilled out as she sat with her mother on the hard plastic bench. Lois ached for her daughter, wanting to tell her that her Daddy would be back someday … But she wouldn't tell her lies and wouldn't make promises that she couldn't keep.
*Well, Bill was wrong, but I don't think we should tell anyone else about Daddy saving people. I know why you shoved Bill, but you have to promise me you won't do it again or you will be in BIG trouble, ok?* Lois had said as she squeezed her daughter lightly and she giggled her response.
Walking into the principal's office, Lois had told Mrs. Judd about what Bill had said to her daughter, and promised that Mara would NOT be fighting any more of her classmates.
"And she didn't, but there have been quiet a few close calls," Lois said with a smile as she remembered how Mara had looked up at her with such love and relief when she had told her that everything would be alright.
"She did that for me?" Clark asked in amazement. This child who seemed to resent his very existence so much, had defended him, had thought he was the best person in the world. What had changed that?
"Yes, she thinks you're the greatest. But I think as she got older it became harder for her to understand why you had to leave us," Lois said as she turned his face to hers and kissed it lightly.
"I love her so much, it hurt so badly to see how much she resents me. I just wish there was some way to let her know how much I love her," Clark whispered as he leaned his forehead against Lois's smooth forehead.
"She will know," Lois answered as she kissed Clark tenderly, driving away all the demons that were in his heart and mind, leaving only her.
Mara stood in the shadows as she watched her parents kiss passionately. She had heard it all, and it sent her mind into a whirl. He loved her, he left her, he came back. He tried to act like a dad after so long.
"He loves me." The thought seemed foreign to Mara that this man, her father, loved her. She remembered her mother telling her how much her father had loved them both … but it had never been a reality; at least it hadn't until now.
Quietly she tiptoed back to her room and lay back on the bed. She could remember the fight her mother was talking about, and how she had thought her father was the world back then.
"Why does this have to be so hard?" Mara thought as she punched her pillow. Maybe she had been too tough on him. He DID come back after all.
"I'll give him a chance," Mara said to herself as she let her face rest against the pillow. Everything would be alright. It had to be. Tomorrow …
Morning dawned with an uneasy truce throughout the house. Mara was dismayed and somewhat relieved that Clark had already left before she had gotten up. At least she wouldn't have to apologize on an empty stomach.
When she walked into the kitchen, she saw her mother silently sipping a glass of orange juice and making a disgusting face that made Mara smile.
"I thought you told ME not to drink orange juice on clean teeth," Mara said as she grabbed glass and poured a tall glass of milk for herself .
"Yes … well … I was in the mood for it this morning," Lois said as she kissed the top of her daughter's head and walked into the living room, curling up on the sofa to watch the morning news.
"Ok self, here comes apology number one," Mara told herself as she sipped her milk. It tasted a bit bitter in her mouth, but she was sure that it was just her.
"Mom … I'm … I'm sorry," Mara blurted out as she sat down on the sofa.
"Oh, Honey," Lois answered as she wrapped her arms around her daughter, seeing the struggle that was going on in the girl's eyes.
"I shouldn't have said those things I said. I was pretty awful," Mara admitted as she looked down into the white liquid in her glass.
"Mara, you know I love you, and I will keep loving you no matter what you say or do." Lois stroked Mara's long brown hair. They sat that way for a long time, talking about how they felt.. .now that Clark was back in their life.
"Listen sweetheart, I'm supposed to go to work this morning, but if you still want to talk … " Mara smiled. She knew that her mother would make the time to discuss anything with Mara. But she also knew how much her mother loved her work.
"Go on Mom, I'll be ok," Mara said as she gave her mother a hug. She watched as her mother left and realized she was there alone, for the first time since Clark had come into her life.
"RING!!!!" The phone blared as Mara was slipping into her blue skirt. Rushing to zip it up, Mara walked to the phone as her hands busily worked at the zipper.
"Hello, sweet Mara," the male voice on the phone cooed as she finally finished fastening her skirt and sat down on the sofa.
"Hi, Luthor!" Mara replied happily as she felt her heart give a joyful little thump as she realized who it was.
"Would you be able to slip over to the library right now? I found something simply … super that I just HAVE to show you. I'll make it worth your while Princess … say a picnic in the park?" Luthor said, his voice oozing over the phone line like thick molasses seeping into her brain and making her forget everything else.
"Umm, sure, give me about ten minutes," Mara said with a smile as she began to slip her feet into her sneakers.
"All right, but maybe it would be better if you don't tell your parents you're coming to see me," Luthor said slyly.
"Like I said, your parents probably aren't wild about reminders of Lex. I heard he did some pretty horrid things to them," Luthor said. Mara thought for a moment. They probably wouldn't be so keen on the idea so …
"Ok, I'll be there in ten," Mara said as she hung up the phone and wrote a note telling her mother she was going to visit with her cousin Mina.
Luthor was leaning against the steps when she arrived, looking incredibly handsome in a white t-shirt and black jeans. Smiling, he took her hands and kissed her cheek lightly.
"Come. You have GOT to see this," Luthor said as he lead her toward the area behind the library.
"It's in the alley?" Mara asked, starting to get an awfully bad feeling about this. She didn't want to say anything about it for fear of upsetting Luthor, but she felt her stomach drop to her feet.
"Yes, trust me it's great," Luthor said as he once again tugged at her hands. This time she held her ground.
"Luthor, why don't you just tell me what's back there?" Mara asked. She dragged her feet slightly and tried to free her hands as fear started to build.
"It's a surprise. You trust me, don't you?" Luthor looked so hurt that it made Mara feel worse than a heel.
"I do, it's just that … HEY!!!!!" Mara started to say when someone came up behind her, clamping a wet cloth tightly over her mouth and nose. She tried to push it away, to get away from this man as the knowledge hit her. She struggled and struggled until a bone-deep weariness filled her and she collapsed into a heap in the man's arms.
"Must I do everything myself?" was the last thing she heard before she slipped into unconsciousness.
"Mara, we're back," Lois called as she and Clark walked through the front door of the apartment. To their surprise, they were met only with silence.
"Mara? You here?" Lois called again as she dropped her purse onto the end table and saw the note.
"Well, I thought she was going to stay home today. I think she wants to apologize to you," Lois said as Clark leaned his head over her shoulder.
"I don't want her to apologize, she has a right to be angry at me. But I just wish she would give me a chance," he said as he walked into the kitchen and poured a cup of coffee for himself.
"I have an idea. I'll call Mara at Lucy's and we can all go out for dinner," Lois said as she clapped her hands at her own brilliant idea.
"Sounds great. I'll make you a cup and you call," Clark said as he went into the kitchen and poured more of the hot brown liquid into a mug. His mind had begun to wander when he heard a piercing cry from the living room that caused him to drop the mug and "Fly" into the room.
"What do you mean she hasn't been there all day!?! I have her note right here in front of me!" Lois was shaking with a sudden fear at the knowledge that her daughter had been gone all day and no one knew where she was.
"Ok, ok. You call me if you see her, and if she shows up there, tell her to get her fanny home PRONTO!" Lois said as she slammed the phone down into the cradle.
"Ok, calm down. Mara is a responsible girl. I'm sure she's alright," Clark said as he stroked her back soothingly with the palm of his hand.
"But what if she's not Clark, she's been out wherever she is all day! That's a BIG head start," Lois said as she paced the around the room. She nearly jumped out of her skin when she heard the gentle tapping at the door.
"I'll get it!' Clark said as he carefully opened the door, finding a young man standing there.
"You Clark Kent?" the boy said nervously.
"Here," the boy said as he shoved a piece of paper into Clark's hand and ran down the hall and stair case. Clark stood there reading it for a moment, not believing the words he saw there.
One Little Kent has gone away, Shall you get her back this day? If one "Superman" I do not see, then One less Kent there'll surely be.
See you at the ball game,
You know who:)
As he read, Clark felt a rage he had never known. Running as fast as he could, he charged down the hall to find the boy, but he, too, had disappeared into thin air.
"Clark, what is it!" Lois said as she took the paper from his hand. The color drained from her face as she read the note.
"Oh my god! How are we going to find them?" Lois asked as the realization hit her that someone had her child; someone who knew the Superman secret and was going to use it.
"Well let's think. There is a clue … we just have to find it," Clark replied as he sat down with Lois and scoured the paper for clues to help them find their lost child.
"What is this about a baseball game? Lois, where do they play baseball now?" Clark asked as a thrill of hope rushed through him.
"I don't know. But I know who would," Lois cried as she jumped up to the phone and punched in the number for the Olsen/Lane house once again.
"Hey Jimmy, it's me again. Listen, do you know where the Metros are playing now? No, I don't want tickets … JIMMY … Ok, ok, thanks, bye," she said as she tapped her foot.
Lois turned to Clark with a triumphant grin. "The Lex Dome." Clark whirled and started to the door, only to feel the grasp of Lois's hand around his wrist.
"Don't even think of leaving without me," she said, stubbornness written all over her face.
"Is there any way I could talk you out of it?" Clark asked as he looked down at her. He wanted to go now, but he didn't know how he could keep from worrying about Lois if got caught in this possible trap.
"No," she said sternly, and that was that. He grabbed her around her waist and lifted off. In what seemed like seconds they were standing inside the fence at the eerily dark Lex Dome and half hoping Mara was not there.
"Keep low and quiet. Be ready to run," Clark said as they stepped inside the hall. If they thought it was dark outside the Dome, it was absolutely pitch dark inside. They walked quietly, running their hands along the wall until they saw a sliver of light.
They saw a young boy; the same one who had given Clark the note. The boy looked nervous as he paced back and forth beside a tall dark-haired man who had his back toward Lois and Clark.
"Man, I didn't think you were going to hurt her!" the boy said, running his hand through his hair as he paced back and forth.
"Well, if you and Bobby had done your job, I wouldn't have had to," the man said. He turned a knob on some kind of big black machine that glowed a bright red, casting the room in an odd fire- like glow.
"But she's just a kid, it's not like she could have hurt anything," the boy said as the man turned. He looked at the boy for a moment before he lay a comforting arm over his shoulder and began to walk with him to a door.
"Well, Luthor, I'm sorry you feel that way. I had hoped we could continue to work together," the man said as he opened a door and shoved the boy through it. But there was no room or hall behind the door, only an empty elevator shaft.
"Well, them are the breaks," the tall man said with a laugh as he turned back to his machine. Clark flew into the room and grabbed him, turning him until he faced him to reveal the face of …
"TEMPUS!" Clark growled as he held Tempus by the arm tightly.
"Duh! Who where you expecting? Lex Luthor?"
"Where's my daughter?" Clark asked as he pinned Tempus tightly against the wall, holding him just an inch off the floor, his feet dangling helplessly.
"Your daughter? Why I didn't know you had any little nippers! You must tell me when the little tike's birthday is, I'll bring a present," Tempus said calmly as he wrapped his hands around Clark's hand, trying to gain a sliver more breathing space.
"Don't play with me Tempus, I'm not in the mood," Clark hissed as he tightened his grip. He lifted Tempus up a few more feet as Lois came up behind him and put her hand on his shoulder.
"Clark! Don't!" she cried.
"Yes Clark, don't. If you kill me you'll never find the kidlet, now will you?" Tempus said as he forced his fingers inside of Clark's, now desperate for air.
Clark looked at him for a moment. It would be so easy to just squeeze the life out of him, and rid them of his ever-menacing presence. But oh, the cost.
"Alright Tempus, talk," Clark growled as he threw Tempus to the ground in a heap. For a moment Tempus simply rubbed at his neck and looked at the two invaders.
"Well, since you asked so nicely. You see, the plan was so brilliant, even for me. I kill the daughter of you two goodie goodies and there would be no utopia to worry about. So I grew myself a little Luthor. We all know how much the Lane women love Luthors, don't we Lois? Let's see, Mara would be about to take her last breath right around now," Tempus said sassily as he looked down at his watch.
"If you hurry, I'll bet you'll be there when she dies. Hey, can't say I never did anything for you," Tempus said with a sly smile. He watched Lois turn pale as he pressed a button on the machine that opened a section of wall to reveal Mara, lying prone on a table, a tube of bright green fluid pouring into her arm through an IV tube.
"Mara! What have you done to her!" Lois cried as she ran up to Tempus and began to pound him in the head with her fists until they hurt.
"Ingenious, isn't it. A kryptonite needle, and my own special blend of fourteen vitamins and minerals. Sadly, Mara doesn't seem to be taking well to my concoction but, oh well," Tempus said. Clark grabbed him up in one arm and squeezed him tightly.
"If she dies, I will not be responsible for what happens," Clark hissed as he squeezed Tempus's neck then threw him into a chair, tying him to it tightly.
"Mara, Ace, come on look at me," Lois was saying as she tried to pull the needle out of her daughter's arm. Mara only moaned in pain as her eyes fluttered but stayed closed.
"Clark!" Lois cried through her tears as she fought with the needle, trying to release its stubborn hold on her child. She kept looking down at Mara, so pale and still, just as she had been when she was born years ago, yet another time when she had been standing at the doorway out of this world.
*Martha! Please … don't let my baby die!* Lois had cried as they brought her into the delivery room that cold December night. There was so much pain. Lois couldn't have imagined that she could feel such pain. But the fear of losing her baby, Clark's baby, was more than she could have taken.
*We're not going to let that happen sweetheart, we're not!* Martha had sworn as they started to operate. They gave Lois a shot of something that made her pain go away and made her so sleepy, at least until she heard the first mewling cries of the baby as they lifted her from Lois and held the child in the air for her to see.
*Oh, Oh!* was all she had been able to say, tears filling her eyes at the sight of the little person made of love that Clark had left her.
They had rushed the baby away then, as Lois finally succumbed to a sleep of peaceful dreams. She had been so scared, so terribly frightened that the baby would not make it, and that if it didn't that she wouldn't be able to bear losing both the child and Clark.
That night they brought the tiny baby girl to Lois and lay her in her arms. The nurse said she was amazingly health for a "preemie" and she would be just fine.
*Oh baby, you have no idea how much I love you,* Lois had whispered as she looked down at the newborn sleeping in her arms. She thought the same thing now as she looked down at Mara, hoping that she might know even a part of how much she loved her.
"CLARK, HELP ME!" Lois cried. In a moment he was there looking at the contraption that the madman had put inside his daughter. He had no doubt that the fluid running through the tube was some sort of kryptonite, but he also knew that he could not let his daughter die. Not now, not ever.
"Stand back!" he told Lois as he grasped the needle firmly in his hands. He felt the kryptonite's effect sapping him, but he could not stop. In a moment the needle was out and the green fluid was dripping into a small puddle on the floor.
"We have to get her out of here. I already called the police to get Tempus," Clark said as he took Mara in his arms. She felt so small against his arms that it made him want to cry. For what? His heritage had caused this to happen to his daughter.
"Come on Clark! Daddy can help!" Lois cried as she went outside. In a moment they were in a cab, for Mara would never have survived the flight and Clark was cradling her head softly against his chest.
"Mom," Mara said weakly as her eyes opened carefully. Lois reached over, took her daughter's hand and pressed it gently to her cheek.
"Yes Baby, I'm here. Everything's going to be alright," Lois whispered as she stroked gentle circles into the palm of Mara's hand.
"I was so stupid Mom, it's all my fault. I'm so sorry," Mara cried as she rolled her head to the side. She saw that it was Clark who was holding her and who was crying over her. Reaching up, she touched his face with her free hand.
"I … don't … hate … you," she whispered. In a moment she was unconscious and too far away to feel the tears that fell against the skin of her hand.
Clark, Lois, Martha, Jonathan and Ellen sat nervously in the waiting room of Sam Lane's lab. Lois got up and started to pace around the room, anything to take her mind away from the thought that her baby might be dying behind the doors of the lab.
"Why hasn't he said anything yet? Why hasn't he come out here?" Lois asked as she paced in front of the sofas where everyone was sitting. Clark rose, wrapped his arms around her shoulders and guided her to a empty sofa where they sat down.
"She'll be ok Lois, I know it. I trust your dad," he said as he held her tightly to him. The tears that had been building in Lois finally broke loose and she buried her face into the front of Clark's shirt, soaking it with her tears.
That was when the door opened and Sam Lane walked into the room. His face grim, he looked down at his chart, avoiding the eyes of his ex-wife and daughter.
"How is she, Sam?" Jonathan asked as he walked to Sam, his arms around Martha trying to calm the fears they both felt.
"Jonathan, I don't know how to tell you this but … "
"Sam, just tell us for heaven's sake!" Ellen said as she walked over to him.
"Oh right, she's going to be fine. There should be no permanent damage," Sam said as the whole room joined in a relieved whoop.
Three days later, Clark stood at the door to the roof, watching as Mara sat at the edge of it. The wind was blowing her long brown hair back from her face in waves. Carefully, she pulled herself deeper into her denim jacket as she heard Clark walk over and sit beside her.
"How are you feeling?" he asked as she looked out at the street, not quite sure how to address her now.
"Fine," she whispered as she looked at him for a moment. She couldn't help but wonder as she looked at his kind face, whether perhaps he was not as bad as she had thought. Maybe, just maybe, he did love her and her mother, even just a little.
"I know it's not easy, being like we are," Clark said softly as he carefully touched her shoulder. She started to say something then, but wasn't quite sure what to say.
"What I said before, when I was sick, I meant it. I never hated you," she said as she let out a deep breath she didn't known she'd been holding so long.
"I'm very glad, because believe it or not, I do care about you a lot." He just hoped that she would understand what he meant.
"Yeah … I think I do," Mara said, and for the first time since he'd known her, she smiled, and smiled at him. And he couldn't believe how it warmed his heart.
"Well, we'd better get inside. Your mom just about had dinner ready," Clark said as he rose and held a hand out to Mara.
"Do we have to rush back for that?" Mara said as she watched Clark laugh merrily, the laugh spreading up to his eyes.
"Come on," he said as he started to the door. He turned when he heard Mara clear her voice carefully.
"Thanks … Dad," she said quietly as she walked past Clark who was shaking his head in wonder at all that had happened in such a sort time. He had returned to the place he had been forced to leave fifteen years ago to find a daughter he had never known, and the woman he loved was missing. But he found her again, nearly lost his daughter, and now had won her again.
As he walked down the stairs and to the door of the apartment, only one thought rang in his mind: it was good to be home.