By Wendy Richards <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted November 1998
Summary: Referred to by the author as a possible sequel to her fanfic "A Ring on his Finger," this story deals with the inevitability of aging as we are taken twenty years into the future of the lives of Lois and Clark and their children, and to their daughter's engagement to … (you'll never guess who!)
This story is quite a bit darker than others I have written, in that it deals with the inevitability of ageing , and some people may not care to read it. It is set about twenty years after the period dealt with at the end of the TV series, and — given that Perry White turned 50 in the Season 1 episode Vat Man — assumes that he is now in his mid-70s. Lois and Clark are in their early fifties — *very* early fifties, as Lois has a tendency to remind people who comment! This story might be seen as a sequel to my earlier story 'A Ring on his Finger', in that this story refers at one point to Superman's wife as revealed in that story.
The characters in this story, apart from Lois and Clark's two children, are copyright DC Comics and Warner Bros. I have only borrowed them for the purposes of this work of fiction, and will gain no profit whatsoever out of their use. The title of this story comes from a song by Chris de Burgh, 'More than This': "It would take much more than this to break a love so long in the making."
"Lois? You home, honey?"
Hearing her husband calling, Lois exited the bedroom where she had been brushing her hair, and went to the top of the stairs. "Up here, sweetheart." Not that she had needed to tell him: Clark had found her before he had finished calling; a mixture of his X-ray vision and detecting her heartbeat had shown him exactly where his wife was. He floated up the stairs and swept her to him in a fierce kiss.
"Was it bad?" Lois asked sympathetically, knowing that Clark had escaped from the newsroom during the day to help at a fire in a school. His face was answer enough, and she held him tightly. No matter that he had been Superman for twenty-five years, regardless of how many disasters he had attended, no matter how many times he had been just too late to save someone, it never ceased to affect him. At least these days he didn't see it as a sign that he had failed; he finally realised, in his heart, that he couldn't be everywhere at once. However, Lois Lane Kent was one of the very few people in the world who knew that the Man of Steel actually had a painfully soft heart. Not as many people knew that these days, she reflected heavily; Jonathan Kent, Clark's father and her much-loved father-in-law, had died four years earlier. Clark *said* he was over his loss, but Lois knew that there were times when his face clouded over, and he would leave the house saying that he was going to do a patrol, but — she suspected — he was actually going somewhere to be alone and to think about his father. He had once admitted to her, after such an occasion, that he had flown to Smallville to take a look at the farm. It had been sold some years before Jonathan's death; the Kents senior had been too old and frail to run it any more, and it was obvious that, much as Clark and Lois loved the place, they were never going to be farmers.
Martha Kent lived in a ground-floor apartment in Smallville town now. Clark had wanted her to move to Metropolis after Jonathan died, but she had gently refused, saying that she was too old for city ways and that she wanted to stay where all her friends and her memories were. "And after all, Clark, it's not as if you and Lois and the kids can't come to visit whenever you like, and I know that if ever I need you, you can get here in minutes. So you don't have to worry about me."
<Tell Clark not to worry. Huh! That's a big joke!> Lois had thought to herself at the time, but had said nothing. Her eye had been caught, however, by her daughter, the younger of their two children. Katherine, known as Katy, had been thirteen at the time, but a very *knowing* thirteen … she had pulled a face at her mother and it was clear that her thoughts on the subject of her father not worrying were identical to Lois's.
It was quite surprising, really, the way it had turned out. Katy, now seventeen, was amazingly like Lois; while she had some of Clark's features, and Lois was sure that Katy's eyes were far more like Clark's than her own, her daughter had Lois's own spirit and determination, and … Lois had to admit, stubbornness too. Katy would never admit to being tired, or hurt, or to being unable to do something. This, combined with the Super-powers which she had inherited from Clark, had led to a number of arguments in the household, and times when Clark had had to rescue Katy from some dangerous or foolish escapade.
Jon, their son, now nineteen, was on the other hand, so like Clark that Lois had once confused a picture of Clark as a teenager for one of her own son. He had Clark's jaw, and bone and muscle structure — and height, much to Katy's dismay — and Clark's heart-stopping smile. He was also quiet, a little shy, and self-effacing. Except when he picked up a pen or sat at a computer keyboard: then, it was obvious that he had inherited Lois's passion for writing. Although Clark was every bit as good a journalist as Lois, she undoubtedly had the greater talent as a writer, and he had often thought that she should have been writing great works of literature, or important treatises on world affairs or politics.
Now, Lois smoothed back her husband's hair, looking at him for a long moment. Still devastatingly handsome at fifty-three, he now had some lines about his face and neck, which, she thought, only served to make him even more distinguished. His once coal-black hair now had some silver strands in it. Age, she reflected resignedly, had not treated her quite so kindly; her hair had developed grey strands fifteen years before, and she had begun to use hair colourant regularly. She had now joined the rest of the family in wearing glasses, which she needed for reading, and despite careful application of various creams and face-masks, wrinkles had set in from her mid-forties. However, she no longer worried about Clark feeling trapped in a marriage to an ageing woman; he was clearly ageing with her, although - and it was *so* not fair! — he looked every bit as handsome as he had been when they had first met. Clark told her on a regular basis that she was as beautiful now, at fifty-two, as the day he had met her, but Lois refused to believe him.
She smiled at Clark now and took his hand. "Come on downstairs, honey; dinner's nearly ready." She began to descend as she spoke. "We're on our own this evening — Katy's not back from Martha's until tomorrow, and Jon offered to do your patrol tonight, then he said he was going to a ball game with his college friends."
Clark protested a little; although Jon had accompanied him on nightly patrol a number of times in the past couple of years, his son had never done the task alone. "What if he runs into trouble?"
"He'll be able to handle it — he *is* invulnerable, after all," Lois assured her husband patiently. "And since Dr. Klein came up with that inoculation against Kryptonite poisoning, I've never had to worry about anything being able to hurt any of you."
Clark let his protest drop; he had to admit that he preferred the prospect of a quiet evening in. That episode at the school had upset him more than any other incident had done for some time. And Lois was right: Jon could handle it. Both of their children had inherited his Super-powers, and although he had been concerned for many years as to whether they would be less strong than he himself was, or whether there would be any powers they did not have, so far he could detect no difference. Katy was still only developing her flying powers, which she resented since it meant that she was unable to share in her father and brother's flights over the city in the evenings. Jon had floated at twelve, and by sixteen had been able to fly short distances. For his seventeenth birthday, Martha Kent had made him his very own Super costume; similar to his father's but with a different design around the waist and the cape. The symbol of the House of El was the same, however.
They had puzzled over what name Jon should use; he had rejected the suggestion of 'Superboy' as childish. He had eventually decided that, should it be necessary, he would simply identify himself as 'Son of Superman' — it had been agreed that Superman would, if asked, confirm that the younger man in costume was his son. On the first occasion when they had both assisted at an emergency … it had been a freeway pile-up, Clark remembered … there had been amazement among the emergency services and bystanders as not one but two Super-heroes had flown to the scene. Clark had carefully selected which reporters he would talk to. For some years, he and Lois had been very careful to avoid being too closely associated with exclusive Superman scoops; it had been far more important that their young family's privacy was protected. More recently, Clark, as Superman, had begun to talk to journalists from other newspapers, to avoid questions as to why Superman still appeared to be so friendly to the Daily Planet. So he had spoken to a reporter on the Star, a young woman whom Lois and Clark both had a lot of respect for. She was not a dirt-digger by any means; unlike many of the Star's staff, she was a serious, enquiring journalist whose work suggested that she had the potential to go far. Lois had already decided, when the time was right, to head-hunt her for the Planet.
So the exclusive interview with Superman and Son-of-Superman had appeared in the Star, together with the reminder that many years before Superman had admitted to being married to Ultra-Woman, who must therefore be this boy's mother. Lois, the relatively newly-appointed editor of the Planet, had had some explaining to do to the paper's owner, but thanks to a major scoop by Clark later that same week, exposing corruption and illegal dealings on a grand scale within one of the city's largest property management companies, the loss of the earlier story had done little harm.
"Earth to Clark … "
Clark blinked and realised that Lois was attempting to attract his attention, a half-irritated, half-amused expression on her face. "I'm sorry, honey — I was just thinking about … things … our kids … "
"I know, Clark — but sometimes you think *too much*!" Lois protested, not unkindly. "We have two great kids — almost adults now, and we both know they are capable of looking after themselves. Jon can out-run you now, and he is more than capable of taking over if Superman ever feels like hanging up his cape."
Clark smiled. "You know I won't do that, Lois. I couldn't. And anyway, while you know I don't have any fears for Jon's safety, he is still young. And inexperienced — there are things I can help with which he wouldn't be able to do, because I learned long ago how to make best use of the powers I have."
"Yes, and Jon will learn too," Lois said. "Kids need to find their own way … they don't always want to do things the way their parents did."
<I did … > Clark mused, but remained silent. He knew Lois was right; this was one aspect in which both of their children took after her. Each had a strong streak of independence, which Clark had found difficult to accept in Jon since in other ways his son was so like himself. He knew that he had to allow his children to be free to discover things for themselves; and he also knew that Jon would call on him if he needed help. Many years earlier, when Jon was a baby, Clark had asked Dr. Klein to construct a device which would enable him to track his children — and Lois — at all times. Lois's device was hidden in her wedding ring, which she never removed; at first she had protested at the idea of being traceable wherever she was, but Clark had convinced her that it was for her own safety, and that he would never spy on her. The children, when they were younger, had worn bracelets; now that they were older, the tracking device had been replaced with a sonic signal watch which allowed them to summon Clark if they ever needed help.
Obtaining these devices had meant that Clark had needed to reveal his secret identity to Dr. Klein; he had found that he needn't have worried about doing this. Klein took it in his stride, as he took so many other things about his Super patient. Clark had been amazed at the scientist's calmness; Klein, however, had glanced at Superman and observed, "It was always obvious that you had some other … identity, or existence, it was impossible to conceive of anything else. However, since you hadn't chosen to confide in me about this — and after all, why should you? — I never saw it as my business to question you about it." Klein had carried on making notes for the devices Clark wanted. "And as for who you actually are, that doesn't appear too surprising either; Ms. Lane did seem to be very friendly with Superman for someone married to another man. I daresay I could have guessed it had I put my mind to it, but I never saw any need to."
Lois had accepted Dr. Klein knowing their secret with equanimity; they had both been aware that the scientist could be trusted, and in fact he had subsequently played a secret role as second physician to both of their children as they grew up, monitoring them for signs of Super abilities and vulnerability to Kryptonite. It was during this period that the inoculation had been discovered. Unlike Clark, the children weren't invulnerable, and so Dr. Klein was able to draw blood and tissue samples and run a number of tests on the cells, and also to set up experiments with exposure to various elements — including Kryptonite. Eventually, he had isolated the particular element which caused the poisonous reaction, and was able to create an antidote. Further research led to the preventative inoculation, which, like the antidote, was tested on Clark. Lois had been very unhappy about this research; it had involved Clark being exposed to Kryptonite, then injected with the drug, then exposed again over several months. Finally, Klein arrived at a formula which he was certain was permanent; his notes were copied, with one copy given to Clark and another to a trusted assistant. Future Super descendants would need the protection; and Lois also suggested that it would be sensible to inoculate Jon's future wife, assuming he married, in case of Kryptonite exposure while pregnant. The children, not being invulnerable, were easy to inoculate; Clark had had to expose himself to Kryptonite yet again, even though he had some of the formula still in his bloodstream, until he was able to insert a hypodermic into a vein.
Clark shook himself out of his reverie. Lois was right: he did worry too much. They had a good life, great kids, a *safe* future for their children and grandchildren thanks to Dr. Klein, and lots of love to go around. He missed Jonathan Kent, the only father he had ever known, but he had to agree with Martha, and with Lois, that Jonathan had had a long and very happy life. At the end, he had been frail and often in pain as a result of angina; Clark had hated to see the father he had loved suffering in that way, and while the final heart attack, which had killed Jonathan, had been devastating, at least he knew that his father was no longer in pain. And he had no need to worry about his mother: while Martha of course missed her husband, she rejoiced in their long and happy marriage, and was content to live among her lifelong friends in Smallville.
Clark smiled at Lois and asked flippantly, "So what have you charred for dinner tonight?"
Lois flicked a towel at him. His observations about her cooking were a long-running joke between the two of them, even though she had taken a cookery course many years before, once Jon was born, so that she and Clark could share the task of meal-making. It had been many years since Clark had had to pretend to enjoy a Lane special burnt offering, and he knew it. Still, the joke was a private one between them, serving to remind them of their closeness.
Lois successfully managed to divert Clark's attention away from his afternoon's activities over dinner, but later, when he had brought their coffee into the sitting-room, she was aware that she couldn't delay any longer the issue she needed to discuss with him.
Facing Clark, she asked, apparently casually, "Clark, when did you last see Perry?"
Taken by surprise, Clark thought for a moment, then replied, "I'm not sure - a couple of weeks ago, I think. It's difficult … it just seems to be so busy these days … "
"Yeah, me too," Lois concurred a little guiltily. They both, without needing to discuss it, felt the same way about Perry White, former editor of the Daily Planet. In their early days as reporters, and as a team, he had been like a second father, or a beloved uncle, to both of them. Lois in particular, having started her journalism career at the Planet, was aware that so much of her success was due to Perry's faith in her, and his encouragement — which had frequently taken the form of bullying — had aided her determination to succeed.
Perry had taken semi-retirement about fifteen years earlier, as part of an effort to convince his wife, Alice, that he really was serious about giving her priority over the Planet. She had left him several years before, and although they had been on the brink of divorce, she had then agreed to see him from time to time — she had given him a chance to court her again, Perry had recognised. They had eventually got back together, and shortly after that Perry had asked for, and been offered, the position of Executive Editorial Consultant. The work was not quite as grand as the title, and Perry was careful not to interfere in the responsibilities of his replacement as Editor in Chief. In fact, Perry was able to write for the paper about whatever interested him: an op-ed piece here, an investigation there; and at the same time he made himself available to help aspiring young journalists in learning the skills which were necessary at a great Metropolitan newspaper like the Daily Planet. As well as this, what only his closest friends knew was that he was writing the history of the Planet.
This phase had lasted until about eight years before, when Perry had been persuaded to retire properly, and he and Alice had moved to Nashville, Tennessee. Alice had confided to Lois, Clark and Jimmy at Perry's farewell party that she was by no means such a fan of Elvis and country music as Perry, but that it was worth it for them to spend so much more time together. Perry's book had been finished a couple of years later, and had been published and well reviewed. Shortly afterwards, he had been persuaded by his publisher to write his own memoirs of his time as a journalist, and the major stories he had covered during that time. Alice had been proud of Perry's new writing 'career', and had happily helped him edit and proof-read his work.
Back at the Planet, Perry's replacement as editor was a man who had been recruited from a major newspaper on the West Coast; he was highly able, and Lois and Clark liked and respected him very much, though they knew that he would never be able to take the place of Perry White in their hearts. They had moved on as journalists too; while Lane and Kent still worked on important stories together, they more frequently worked separately. While the children were young, this had partly been out of necessity, so that one of them could be home if the other was working on an important investigation out of hours. It was during this time that Lois had won her solo Pulitzer prize; a few years after that, she had jointly won a second prize with Clark, for a (now rare) Lane and Kent investigation. Later, the new editor had teamed them with a number of the Planet's newer reporters, to help the younger staff gain experience. Clark had been surprised at how good Lois had proven to be at this; the Lois he had first met had been furious at being partnered with 'Mr Greenjeans.' She had certainly mellowed … Then, three years ago, the editor had resigned to take up a senior position on the Washington Post, and the board of management had offered Lois the job. She had been very surprised at the offer, even though for a number of years she had deputised for the editor and had been taking on some administrative tasks. Clark had laughed and told her that he had suspected for some time that she was being 'groomed' for the top position. After some discussion at home, Lois had accepted the job. It meant that her working hours were longer than before, and she didn't always have evenings free; however, the children were older and the family adjusted. It had also meant that Lois was able, discreetly, to shape Clark's workload in such a way that he could fulfil his responsibilities as Superman without attracting too much attention, which he had sometimes attracted under Perry's successor.
Then, out of the blue, nearly two years before, Perry and Alice had moved back to Metropolis. Perry was now suffering from a degenerative disease of muscle and bone, and now needed a considerable amount of help in his daily life. Alice, while she loved her husband very much, was finding it very difficult to take care of him on her own, and so she had wanted to move back to where they had family and friends. Unfortunately, Perry's condition had deteriorated so much six months after their move that she had had to admit him to a nursing home, thankfully paid for from an insurance policy.
Lois and Clark, together with Perry's many other friends and former colleagues, were frequent visitors at the nursing home, keeping him entertained with tales of the stories they were working on and the activities of people he knew in the newspaper business. Despite the illness which had confined him to a wheelchair and left him with very little mobility in his hands, Perry's brain was as sharp as ever, and he looked forward to the visits of his friends enormously. He was even continuing to write his memoirs, dictating into a tape recorder for Alice to type up. Although they hated to see their former editor in such a frail, helpless state, Lois and Clark always tried to hide their feelings when they visited, for the sake of the man they both loved dearly. It wasn't easy to deceive the intelligence which still burned in Perry White's eyes, however.
Clark now saw the expression on his wife's face and realised that this had been no idle enquiry. "Lois, what is it? Is something wrong?"
For an instant, pain crossed Lois's face, and Clark reached out to take her hand in his. "Tell me, honey!"
Lois sighed, a long, shuddering effort. "Clark, you know the last couple of times we saw Perry we thought he seemed … tired, not concentrating as much as usual?"
"Alice called me today. She says Perry's been diagnosed as exhibiting the early symptoms of Alzheimer's."
"Alzheimer's! Oh my God … " Clark was horrified. "First his body gives up on him, and then his brain!"
"Well, you know it's not as simple as that, Clark. His brain *will* still work a lot of the time, but he won't be able to use it the way he wants, or to tell people what is on his mind. And if he thinks that some people treat him as an imbecile now, because he can't hold things properly, just wait until he slurs his speech, or imagines he's twenty again."
"Yeah … " Clark muttered, still in shock. Then, struck by another thought, he stared at his wife and said, "How will Jimmy cope with this?"
Lois met her husband's eyes and nodded in shared understanding. Jimmy Olsen, now an award-winning photo-journalist and still employed at the Planet, was far closer to Perry than either of them. Neglected by his own father, a secret NIA agent, as he had grown up, Perry White had taken the place of a father in Jimmy's life; since Perry's own son was not close to his father, the editor had taken the young photographer to his heart. When the bone disease had been diagnosed, Jimmy had been devastated, and Lois and Clark were aware that he had at first frequently left the nursing home with tears streaming down his face, tears he had taken great care not to let the older man see.
Jimmy's life had not been a good one. He had married a few years after the birth of Lois and Clark's son, but the marriage had broken up six years later, not having survived the death of their only child. The child, a little girl, had died in her cot, a victim of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome; Jimmy and his wife, Penny, had found it almost impossible to come to terms with their loss and for weeks afterwards, Jimmy had not been able to face going home to the apartment where they had lived with their baby. Lois and Clark had finally convinced him that, for the sake of his wife who was also suffering, he had to return home; but by then it was too late. Penny had walked out, unable to stay with the man who, as she saw it, had deserted her when she needed him most.
His life shattered, Jimmy had resigned from the Planet and got on a plane to the other side of the world. Hardly caring for his safety, he had entered war zones and as a result, as a freelance photographer, got a series of exclusive and harrowing photographs, picturing human suffering at its most intense, and as a result, managing to focus the attention of the world on doing something about it. The United Nations, urged on by public option, media pressure — and Superman — finally intervened to stop the carnage and to do something about the diseases and famine which ravaged the countries involved. Jimmy had subsequently won a number of awards for his work, and received offers of work from dozens of media organisations. However, by this time he had realised that however far he ran, he could never run away from the pain in his heart. In order to find some measure of peace, he had to return to Metropolis. He had telephoned the Planet and asked for his old job back, but instead was offered a much more senior position, and Superman had arrived unexpectedly to fly him home. Jimmy was still at the Planet, but had not married again; he and Penny spoke on the telephone occasionally these days, but were not close. The person dearest to Jimmy's heart was Perry White.
Clark now felt his heart sink as he considered the prospect of breaking this latest news to Jimmy. Lois, reading his thoughts as usual, broke the silence. "Alice said she was going to call Jimmy, invite him over this evening and then tell him. She knows he'll take it hard, but she hoped that if she suggested that she needs his help to deal with it, and to comfort Perry, he'll find it easier to bear."
Clark nodded; it helped to be needed, all right, and Jimmy had not had too many times in his life when he had really been needed by someone else. He focused his attention on his wife's face again. "There's something else, isn't there, Lois?"
"Yeah," Lois conceded. "Alice says Perry's been asking for us. She says there seems to be something important he wants to talk about. She doesn't know what it's about, but it seems to be worrying him. He's getting more and more confused, and over the last couple of days he's just repeated our names — particularly yours — and said he needs to explain … something."
Clark's face took on a determined look. "Then we'll go tomorrow morning - can you get away?"
"Sure — as soon as the morning conference is over."
The visit the following morning was not a success, however. Perry was confined to bed, and his nurse told them that he was very confused, barely able to communicate. She confirmed that there was something which appeared to be bothering him, but assured them that they would not find out what it was that morning.
After asking the nurse to contact them as soon as Perry was lucid again, the couple returned to the Planet. There they encountered Jimmy, who had been told by Lois's secretary that they had gone to the nursing home.
"So how's Perry doing?" Jimmy demanded as soon as he saw them.
Lois side-stepped the question. "Have you seen Alice?"
Jimmy hesitated, then answered in a less steady voice, "Yeah — she told me about the Alzheimer's. It's just so … unfair, you know? He's a *brilliant* man — he doesn't deserve this!"
Lois squeezed Jimmy's arm. "We know. We were devastated, too."
"We didn't get to see him this morning," Clark added, in answer to Jimmy's initial question. "He … wasn't too good," he explained, avoiding telling Jimmy the whole truth.
"Why don't you come to our place for dinner tonight?" Lois suggested. "Katy will be back from Smallville and Jon ought to be around." Both Lois and Clark were aware that Jimmy was extremely fond of their children; he was Jon's godfather and an honorary uncle to both Kent children. Lois had at first been worried that the loss of Jimmy's own daughter would make him resent their children, or at least make him want to avoid them, but that hadn't been the case.
Jimmy shrugged. "Yeah … that sounds nice. I'm not working tonight — I thought I might call in and see Perry, but I could come over to your place afterwards."
Lois and Clark exchanged glances, hoping that Perry would be better than he had been that morning; it would upset Jimmy enormously to see his beloved former editor not merely physically handicapped, but also losing the power of thought.
Dinner at the Kents was a success; Jimmy arrived in a subdued state, but Katy soon teased him into a more cheerful mood. She had arrived home a couple of hours earlier, having been met at the airport by her father who, much to her disappointment, had arrived in the family Jeep rather than under his own Super steam. Clark had smiled at her downcast face and promised to take her flying later that evening, under cover of darkness, and muttered something which, as far as Katy could make out (the bustle of the airport affecting her super-hearing), sounded like "like mother, like daughter!"
Jimmy reported that Perry had been in bed when he had visited, and was half-asleep for most of his visit. When the older man had been awake, he had at one stage attempted to clutch at Jimmy's hand, and had grunted, "Tell Clark I … I need … to … talk … "
After dinner, Jimmy and Katy disappeared into the study; Katy wanted to show Jimmy what she had been working on recently. While Jon was the more talented writer of the pair, Katy was also a keen scribbler and — unlike her brother, who seemed destined to be a novelist or academic — wrote about factual subjects of humanitarian interest. Ever since she had seen Jimmy's war photographs and pictures of starving children, she had been driven by a determination to ensure that something was done about world famine and the devastation wrought by senseless wars. While she was, as yet, unable to travel the world to see the situation for herself, she was an avid viewer of news and documentary programmes, and a skilled user of the Internet. She wrote gripping, hard-hitting articles about the need for better management of the world's natural resources, and had studied with interest the writings of an economics professor at Cambridge University, in England, who argued that the principal cause of famine was not shortage of food, but unequal distribution of wealth between the First and Third Worlds. Lois had published a couple of Katy's articles in the Planet, not from any sense of nepotism, but because they merited the distinction. Katherine Lane Kent, her parents felt, would be a very influential lady; they couldn't decide whether she would end up working for the United Nations, a leading charity, or whether she would be a journalist specialising in humanitarian stories.
Jimmy had been enormously encouraging to Katy, even at times when her parents were torn between their desire to support her in whatever she wanted to do and their concern that she was really too young to take such a deep interest in such issues. They had wanted to shield her from some of the disturbing sights which were common in war zones, but it was Jimmy who had persuaded them otherwise. He had pointed out that too many people tried to avoid looking at disturbing images of dying children, of broken and battered bodies, simply so that they didn't have to upset the comfort of their daily lives. But such images were everywhere; Lois and Clark had themselves seen plenty of horrible sights in the course of their careers. It simply wasn't possible to shelter people — even children — indefinitely, and Jimmy argued that if Katy felt so strongly, her interest should be encouraged.
Clark had later acknowledged to Lois that, if Katy inherited his superpowers to the extent to which Dr. Klein thought likely, she would be seeing plenty of things in later years which she could find disturbing. "I can't see Katy leaving the super-hero stuff to Jon and I, you know, honey." Lois had agreed, and from then on they had both taken an interest in Katy's activities, even bringing home articles which would be of interest to her. Clark, when he was overseas, also brought back foreign newspapers and other publications.
Lois secretly thought that she wouldn't be surprised if, in a few years' time, Jimmy and Katy took off to the other side of the world, to Africa or Latin America, and wrote a book together including photographs by the world-famous photographer James Olsen. It seemed a logical step, given Katy's continuing determination to draw attention to the problems of developing countries and the close friendship which seemed to have grown up between herself and Jimmy. The twenty-six years' age difference really didn't seem to matter to either of them, although Lois was aware that her daughter was very mature for her age. The only aspect about such a possibility which worried Lois was her daughter's super abilities; if such an eventuality did happen, Lois thought that she and Clark would have to tell Jimmy about Superman, so that he would be aware of Katy's powers.
"Clark, where are you?" Lois murmured the following afternoon, careful to ensure that her secretary did not overhear. She was in her office at the Planet, with the connecting door between the editor's office and that of Karen, her secretary, ajar, and Clark was nowhere in sight. He hadn't told her he'd needed to go anywhere, but that was no guarantee; frequently he had neither time nor opportunity to let her know where he was going.
"You were looking for me?" Lois looked up to see her husband standing in the doorway which led to the newsroom.
"Clark! Where were you?" Lois hissed in a low voice.
He strolled into the office, closing the door behind him and directing a puff of super-breath at the other door leading to Karen's domain; it clicked shut as Clark perched on Lois's desk facing her. He stroked his index finger down her face and along her jaw, before bending to kiss her. "You were missing me?"
"What?" Lois replied dizzily, caught up in the sensations Clark was causing as his other hand found the hem of her skirt and slid underneath.
"I heard you call me — I was up in the research area," Clark explained between kisses.
Remembering why she had been looking for Clark, Lois pushed him away. "Yes - look, Clark, this is important."
He straightened, his expression serious. "Shoot, Lois."
"I just had a call from the nursing home — Perry's lucid and very anxious to see us. You, particularly, if we can't both make it."
"Can you get away, Lois?" Clark asked.
"For Perry, of course," Lois retorted. "Just give me one minute." She went through to Karen's office to explain her absence, then collected her bag and jacket. "I'm ready."
They drove to the nursing home, wondering on the way what could be on Perry's mind which was making him so anxious to see them. On arriving, Lois parked the car and they made their way to Reception. This time, they were told that Perry was in the grounds to the rear of the main building, in his wheelchair. The couple crossed the lawn and found him seated alone, under a tree.
Perry's face lit up as the couple approached; he was unable to wave, although they saw his arm jerk as he attempted to raise it. Lois bent to kiss his cheek and received a salute in return, while Clark clapped his old boss on the shoulder and then squeezed his hand, feeling the faint pressure in return.
After some small talk, Perry interrupted Lois's account of Katy's holiday in Smallville. "I need to talk … to you two. Uh … Clark, can you wheel me … along that path … a bit? Need to be … away from … anyone who might listen."
Lois was shocked at Perry's hesitant, slurring speech, but tried to hide her feelings as she smiled at him. "Down there?"
Clark seized the handles of the wheelchair and pushed. He caught Lois's eye as they walked; Lois could see that he, too, was taken aback at the changes in their old friend since their last visit. They walked together for some distance, almost to the boundary of the property, until Perry indicated that he was satisfied. The two reporters then sat cross-legged on the grass, so that Perry didn't have to look up at them continually.
Perry White, former editor of the Daily Planet, began to speak, slowly, hesitantly and slurring his words in a way which Lois and Clark found painful to hear. "I wanna … thank you two for … comin' today. I know I … got Alzheimer's … I know that means I don't … have much time left when … I'm going to be … in my right … mind. That's … why I needed … to talk to you … urgently." He paused, breathing deeply.
Clark reached out and patted Perry's hand. "That's not true, Chief. You're going to be fine for a long time to come."
"Now you … know that's not … true, son," Perry contradicted him, becoming agitated.
Lois reached out this time to comfort her old friend. "Take your time, Chief. There's no hurry, Clark and I have all afternoon if we need it."
Perry's head dipped, and his eyes closed slowly; for a while Clark and Lois thought he had fallen asleep and Clark wondered aloud whether he ought to take the man back to the building. Lois disagreed, pointing out that Perry desperately wanted to tell them something, and that it wouldn't be fair to take him back before he had achieved his aim.
Some minutes later, Perry opened his eyes again. "Now … where was I? Oh yeah," he continued, in a stronger voice than previously. "Clark, I know that I'm going senile. I'm going to be saying and doing a lot of crazy things soon, and probably talking about all kinds of things I would know better than to talk about if I was in my right mind. So that's the problem."
"Chief, you're ill. You have a known disease. People will understand that," Clark protested.
"Yeah, but it's what I might talk about … Son, I have something I need to tell ya. Then … you need to decide what … to do about it." Perry lapsed into silence again. After a few moments, he stared directly at Clark. "We alone?"
"Except for Lois, yes," Clark replied, surprised.
"Lois, sure … well, she'd know," Perry replied mysteriously. He took a deep breath, then continued. "I thought for sure I'd take this secret to my grave. But I can't trust myself any more … Clark, I know you're Superman."
Lois gasped. Clark sat as if frozen to the spot. Lois spoke first. "How long have you known?"
"Since before you two got married."
Lois gasped again. "You've known for more than twenty years and said nothing? Why?"
Perry made an attempt at a shrug. "Why not? Wasn't none of my business … Kent obviously wanted it kept a secret."
Clark spoke at last. "How did you find out, Chief? Was I careless?"
"You and Lois both — a little. There were things I always … wondered about, like where you went all those times. But that day when Superman left for New Krypton … all these years I've remembered it like it was yesterday. The way you two behaved towards each other — and Clark wasn't around … it was when I saw Superman turn around and look at Lois as he flew out the window that I knew." Exhausted with the effort of making this long speech, Perry fell silent, his head slumped.
Stunned, Lois and Clark could only stare at each other. This man, their good friend, had known their greatest secret for more than two decades, but had never said anything. At length, Clark spoke again. "Perry, there was no need for you to hide it from us. We would have been proud to have you know. And there were several times over the years when we thought about telling you — the only thing that stopped us was that we felt it was better for Jon and Katy if fewer people knew."
"Sure — I understand that, son," Perry replied.
"But — why now? Why were you so anxious to tell us?" Lois asked.
"Yeah — and what did you mean when you said I had to decide what to — *do* about it?" Clark demanded.
Perry sighed, then continued after a pause, "Like I said, I'm not going to be in control of what I do or say soon. And I might just — say the wrong thing, let out your secret. And that puts you two and your kids in danger."
Clark, well aware that the only person in real danger was Lois, leaned closer to his wife and wrapped his arm around her shoulders. Lois reached for his hand as it rested on her, and held it.
Lois spoke first. "Chief, *even if* you do say anything, who'll pay any attention? You have Alzheimer's, and we can say you're confused, you don't know what you're saying."
Perry grunted in acknowledgement. "Sure, but you know as well as I do that the dirt-rags will buy it. Someone here will hear me and sell the story, and you'll have no peace — then you'll have criminals like the Luthors of today kidnapping Lois just to test the theory." Again, the effort of the lengthy speech appeared to exhaust him, and he slumped back in the chair.
"We can simply dig out the tape of Clark and the alternate Clark at the press conference when John Doe was arrested," Lois pointed out. "That should be enough proof for anyone."
Clark hesitated, then pointed out reluctantly that a lot of people around today, in the media and the criminal fraternity, would simply not remember the occasion. "They might not believe it — they might suggest the tape is forged or something. And of course we know how easy that is," he added, remembering another event from many years ago, when he was almost exposed by a forged videotape.
"That's why you have to … do something," Perry pointed out.
"What?" Clark demanded, puzzled. "What can we do?"
"You — Superman," Perry insisted.
"I'm sorry, Chief, I'm not following. What are you suggesting I do?"
"You have to … make sure I can never say anything," Perry said, in a voice little more than a whisper; Lois had to strain to hear him. "Look at me now - you could kill me easily — "
"NO!" Clark shouted, jumping to his feet, uncaring of who might hear him. "I do *not* kill. Never deliberately … if people have ever died as a consequence of my actions it has only been because I could do nothing to save them. And I will *never* kill a friend … " He stared at Perry in horror and disbelief.
Perry met Clark's eyes. "Look at me, son — I'm helpless. I can't even take myself to the bathroom any more. Soon I'll be a … gibbering fool. Do you want me to go through that — and put Alice through the hell of watching me?"
"It's not Clark's responsibility to end anyone's life, Chief — and I'm surprised you asked him," Lois stated bluntly. "You must have known he'd never agree." She caught Perry's eye, and was silenced by the expression of pain which was evident. "Oh Perry!" she exclaimed, near to tears. "Of course we don't want to see that happen to you — we wish it wasn't happening! If there was any cure, anywhere in the world, or anything Clark could do to slow down the progress of the illness, you know he would do it." Remembering how her husband had given up some of his own life-force to save Jimmy's life all those years ago, Lois knew that he would do the same for this man now if it were possible.
But it wasn't, and since Clark could never accede to Perry's request, they - and Perry's family and other friends — would simply have to watch him deteriorate over God knows how many years.
Perry spoke again. "I guess you're right, Lois — I … should have known. I - had to ask … " He paused, then said, "But you could make sure I don't speak … do something to my vocal cords with your heat vision or something … "
Clark shook his head, crossing the grass to stand beside Perry. "I couldn't do that. I couldn't face the thought that we'd never again come and sit in this place and hear you tell us Elvis stories, Chief."
Perry turned tortured eyes on Clark. "But I won't be able to do that for much longer anyway … "
"You just don't know, Chief. And we'll come and listen to you no matter what you talk about — of course we will. And so will Alice, and Jimmy."
"But what if I do let it slip … "
"Then we'll deal with it, Chief," Lois said calmly as she also approached his chair. "We've dealt with it before and managed somehow. And our kids are grown up, with powers of their own — and I'm well able to look after myself, so in the very slight possibility that anyone believes it, we'll be fine." She squeezed Perry's hand, trying not to let him or Clark see that she actually was concerned at the possibility.
They stayed with Perry for a further half-hour, reassuring him and trying to distract him with tales of Jon and Katy's exploits as they learned to use their super-powers, before the dimming light forced them to return to the main building.
In the car, Lois inserted her key in the ignition, but didn't start the engine. Instead, she emitted a tiny sob as she let her head fall over the steering-wheel. Clark instantly drew her into his arms, holding her tight. After a few minutes, she raised her head to look at her husband through tear-filled eyes; although her vision was blurry, she suspected that his eyes were also bright with tears.
"Clark, I — I just can't believe that Perry felt so desperate that he wanted you to kill him!" Lois sobbed.
"Yeah, I know." Clark's voice sounded very far away; still holding Lois, he was staring out the windscreen but seeing nothing in front of him. He hadn't objected to Perry knowing his secret, but the thought that the man would rather die than be in a situation where he thought he might reveal it inadvertently made Clark recoil. It wasn't just that Perry had asked him to end the editor's life, Clark reflected — it was that Perry appeared to value Clark's secret above his own life.
"Clark?" Lois was touching his arm, a concerned expression on her face.
"Sorry." Clark faced his wife, and haltingly told her what was going through his mind.
But Lois shook her head. "I don't think it's as simple as that, Clark. You've seen what he's like today — and compare that to the Perry White we knew twenty years ago. You saw how he felt at the prospect of ending up like some of the people we've seen at the nursing home, people in the advanced stages of Alzheimer's. He hates the thought of it, and he hates Alice seeing him like that. I think he was clutching at straws, looking for an easy way out before he becomes a vegetable."
"He's *not* a vegetable, Lois!" Clark choked out.
"I know that. But that's how he sees it," Lois replied.
Clark sighed. It was true; that was how Perry saw the situation. But however desperately sorry he felt for the man, he simply could not do as Perry had asked. Another thought occurred to him, however, and he turned to Lois, asking her to start the engine.
"Let's get back to the Planet — I need to talk to Jimmy," he said tautly.
Lois glanced at her husband, taking in the fixed set of his jawline and the anxious expression in his dark eyes. "You don't think that … Perry would ask Jimmy … "
"To do what I wouldn't do? I think he might." Clark finished.
Back at the Planet, Lois and Clark brought Jimmy into Lois's office and told him about their visit to Perry, omitting what Perry had said about Superman. Jimmy was silent for some minutes afterwards, prompting Clark to ask the younger man for assurance that he would not accede to any such request from Perry.
Jimmy swung around angrily to face his friends. "What the hell do you take me for, CK? You think I would do that to Perry?"
"He could be very persuasive, Jimmy," Clark pointed out.
"Sure he could!" Jimmy retorted. "And I love that man — I couldn't love him any more if he was my own father! But I would … never … help him to end his own life."
"Not even to prevent him from becoming completely senile, Jimmy?" Lois asked softly.
"No," Jimmy said quietly, without emphasis; the very calmness of the syllable seemed to reinforce his seriousness. "You two know how precious I hold life. I saw too many people die needlessly in Africa. My own daughter … " Jimmy's voice broke, and it was a few moments before he could continue. He shrugged off Lois's hand on his arm as she attempted to comfort him. "My own daughter died *needlessly* because doctors didn't know then how to prevent cot death. You think I would be party to the senseless death of my oldest friend?"
Lois and Clark exchanged glances. Since his return from Africa, Jimmy had never discussed with them what he had seen out there; all they knew of his experiences they had gleaned from his photographs and reports, and from what Katy told them; somehow he seemed able to talk to Katy about it. As for his baby daughter — apart from the few weeks when he had stayed with them immediately after her death, they couldn't remember Jimmy ever referring to her. According to Penny, with whom Lois maintained an infrequent email correspondence, their daughter was the one subject which she and Jimmy were still unable to discuss. He was clearly very upset about Perry to have mentioned her now.
Clark broke the silence. "OK, Jimmy, I'm sorry — but I had to ask, to be sure."
Jimmy seemed to consider for a few moments, then gave a wry smile. "Sure. I understand, CK — I guess I'd have wanted to know too in your position."
"He's really depressed, Jimmy," Lois pointed out.
"Sure he is — who wouldn't be in his position?" Jimmy retorted. "But instead of talking about how we're going to respond if he asks anyone else to help him commit suicide, why don't we discuss how we're going to help him adjust to what's happening?"
Clark and Lois exchanged glances again. "Sounds like a good idea in theory, Jimmy, but what can we do?" Lois asked.
Jimmy shrugged, then explained bluntly, "We show him that what's happening to him makes no difference to us, by carrying on visiting him, and talking to him, and listening to him no matter what he's rambling on about. We prove to him that we're really his friends by being there for him, and for Alice."
He was right; Lois and Clark both knew that, and they acknowledged it aloud to their friend and colleague. Keeping their worries about Clark's secret identity to themselves, they discussed with Jimmy a plan of action for mobilising Perry's friends and former colleagues to help them.
"What if someone does believe Perry, Clark?" Lois asked later that evening at home.
Jon looked up; the children had been told what had happened. "Then maybe the world finds out who we really are, Mom. Would that really be so bad?"
"Of course it would!" Lois protested. "Anyone could get at us … well, I know you're all invulnerable to Kryptonite now, but wait until you start dating, Jon — anyone you care about who isn't invulnerable could be hurt."
"Your mother's right, Jon," Clark said heavily. "And talking about dating, there is something else. It may not sound important to either you or Katy now, but once you are dating, getting serious about someone, I'm sure you'll want to know that it's *you* they care about, not the person in the costume or the super-powers."
Lois glanced at her husband; was he still obsessing about the fact that she had hero-worshipped Superman for over a year before paying him, Clark, any attention?
"Oh, Dad, don't bring all that up again!" Katy protested. "I could never understand why you were so against Mom loving you as Superman — you *are* Superman! You didn't want her to love Superman instead of Clark Kent, but surely you didn't want her to love Clark Kent without loving Superman? How could you insist that she had to love only the 'right' part of you?"
Clark stared at his daughter: seventeen years old, and yet she had taken the dilemma he had believed himself to be in over twenty years before and stripped it to expose it as the fallacy it was. Of *course* he had wanted Lois to love Superman as well! And of course he should have been honest with her much earlier.
He filed that little revelation away to deal with later, and turned to his children. "All the same, your mother and I would prefer it all to remain a secret for the time being."
"Of course!" Katy responded vigorously. "Jon, you *know* Mom isn't invulnerable!"
Jon caught his mother's eyes; the brown pools meeting hers apologetically reminded Lois so much of Clark on the rare occasions when he had been inadvertently thoughtless. "I can look after myself," Lois pointed out.
Three pairs of brown eyes fixed her with accusing stares. "Sure, Mom!" Jon laughed. "What about when I had to rescue you from that goon with the gun last year?"
"Or when I stopped the car from crushing your foot because *some idiot* had forgotten to put the handbrake on?" Katy supplied, glaring at her brother.
"Or … so many occasions … when I saved you from falling off a building, hanging from a flagpole, being blown up by a bomb, being shot, after being pushed out of an airplane … I could go on?" Clark's laughing eyes met Lois's, and she subsided into giggles.
"Well, most of the time I can," she conceded.
"So what do we do if it *does* get out?" Jon asked.
Clark shrugged. He was less panicky about people guessing his identity than he had been years before; these days he was more resigned, and saw the prospect simply as another problem to be faced and beaten. "We'll deal with it, somehow 'prove' it to be not true, and get on with our lives."
- Six years later -
Hearing the familiar 'whoosh' of her husband's arrival through their bedroom window, Lois hurried upstairs in time to see Clark putting his Superman suit away.
"Did you find them?" Lois demanded agitatedly.
Clark shook his head. "Not even with X-ray vision. No-one I asked had any idea where they are at the moment, though I was able to find out where they'd been every day for the last month up until yesterday." He sighed heavily. "All I was able to do was to leave messages all over the place asking Jimmy to call us. I didn't want to ask Katy to phone home in case she thought something had happened to one of us."
Lois's prediction had come true: six months earlier Katy and Jimmy had announced their intention of travelling to Africa to revisit some of the countries Jimmy had been in nearly twenty years earlier, to photograph and write about the changes which had taken place since and the work which still needed to be done. Although Lois and Clark were not overjoyed at the thought of their daughter travelling to the other side of the world, they were aware that she was an adult, with a degree in economics and world politics and two years' experience with a major news organisation under her belt, as well as a passionate interest in inequality in the world's poorest countries. There was no point in talking her out of it, and of course they were aware that she would be safe.
So Katy had hung up her SuperWoman costume, to her relief in some respects since, although she very much wanted to be able to help people, she did not enjoy the adulation and media interest in her Super _alter ego_. Jimmy had been invited around to the Kents for supper, and had anticipated a long lecture from Lois, aided by Clark, on the need to take care of their daughter; instead, he had been utterly dumbfounded to be told that Clark, one of his closest friends, was in fact Superman. And that Katy, whom Jimmy felt he knew as well as he could know anyone, was SuperWoman. Understanding the need for secrecy, he had agreed never to reveal the information to anyone. A month later, the two had flown off to West Africa, by conventional means: although Katy had wanted to fly the two of them out by Super means, Clark had suggested that it would not be a good idea for photographer James Olsen to be seen with SuperWoman and later to be known to be working with Katherine Kent (Katherine *Lane* Kent, as Katy had pointed out).
Now, Clark had flown out to the Sudan, where they were working, to try to find them. Perry White had died in his sleep two days before, and the funeral was the following day. Clark knew that Jimmy would never forgive himself if he wasn't back in time to attend, and Perry had been like a favourite great-uncle to Katy and Jon. Jimmy had been hesitant about leaving Metropolis since it meant that he would no longer be able to sustain the routine of visiting Perry at the nursing home twice weekly; but Alice had reassured him that Perry probably wouldn't notice. For nearly a year before his death, Perry had regressed to a state where he recognised no-one, and although he spoke to people, it was mainly unco-ordinated rambling which he had forgotten five minutes later. Up until this stage, although the disease had been taking its course on his ravaged body and brain, he still had odd moments of lucidity, times when he recognised his wife, and his old friends, and when he talked to them of times past; and occasionally wept as he realised what he was no longer capable of.
He had finally died, of old age, the doctor had commented; there were no specific symptoms such as a stroke or a heart attack. Perry White had just passed away peacefully. Alice wept when she came to tell Lois and Clark, but they could tell that the tears were of sadness for the loss of a dear friend and lover, and for the pain which Perry had suffered over the previous several years. "He's at peace now — he's not suffering, or desperately trying to remember what it is he's lost … that's what I'm glad about," Alice had said through her tears.
And the funeral was tomorrow. Lois had done a special edition of the Planet for the following day, with an obituary on the front page written jointly by the former writing team of Lane and Kent ("never underestimate the value of a good obituary," Perry had said many years ago to Jimmy). Some of Perry White's best work was included in a special section on the inside pages, to remind readers of the impact of the Planet's best editor and one of the most valued journalists in its history. As many of the Planet's staff as could be spared were attending the funeral.
The following morning, Clark and Lois, accompanied by Jon, walked into the church in the centre of Metropolis which has been adopted over past decades as the 'journalists' church'. It was already almost full, with friends and acquaintances of the Whites, as well as most of the top names in print and television journalism. Alice White sat at the front with her son Jerry. Lois, Clark and Jon slipped into the pew immediately behind her.
Just as the service was about to start, Clark's super-hearing caught a 'whoosh' from outside the church; he glanced at Lois with a raised eyebrow. Jon had also heard the noise, and gestured to his father in enquiry as to whether he should check it out. Just then, the door at the rear of the church opened, and Katy and Jimmy entered, dressed in sober suits. Clark slipped out of the pew and hurried silently to them, escorting them up to the rest of the Kents. Lois reached out to hug her daughter and squeeze Jimmy's hand; their old friend, she noticed, looked pale and sad.
It was the funeral Perry White deserved, a genuine tribute to a widely respected, admired and loved man. Lois, as current editor of the Planet, gave the address, a tribute to a dear friend and much-revered former boss. In a short speech which was alternately humorous and poignant, she paid tribute to the skills, experience and genius of the man who, she said, "my husband Clark Kent and I are proud to call our mentor in the world of journalism. He made us what we are today; many journalists who passed through the Daily Planet over the years when Perry White worked there can attest to that in their own cases, including James Olsen who began as a junior in the newsroom thirty years ago and is now a world-famous, award-winning photo-journalist. Many of us who owe our careers to Perry White were proud to visit him in the nursing home over the last few years, even though it hurt us greatly to see the state which those awful, incurable diseases had brought him. It is very sad that, with all the expenditure on research into crippling and life-threatening illnesses, there is still no cure or effective treatment for either Motor Neurone Disease or Alzheimer's.
"But those of us who knew and loved Perry White will not remember him as he was in the nursing home. We will remember him in the newsroom of the Daily Planet, where he belonged, getting out that great paper day after day. We will remember his Elvis anecdotes, the sound of his voice bellowing throughout the office demanding the presence of some hapless reporter; we will remember his reminders that 'This here's the Daily Planet, not the Weehawkin Gazette'; and we will remember his great sense of humour and humanity. He never forgot what a newspaper was for: to inform, to educate, to expose hypocrisy, and to fight for the truth. All of us who work at the Planet today hope that we are continuing his legacy."
Tears in her eyes, Lois slipped back into her pew and into her husband's arms. His face buried in her silvery-brown hair, Clark whispered, "Well done, Lois. That was beautiful."
Alice White turned in her seat and clasped Lois's hand. "Thank you — Perry would have been proud of you."
Outside, while Jimmy was giving his condolences to Alice, Clark asked Katy how they had managed to get back in time. "I tried to find you — I flew everywhere within a hundred-mile radius of where you'd been seen last, but there was no sign."
"I know, Daddy, and I'm sorry," Katy whispered. "We'd gone for a weekend off — I flew us to a remote beach in South Africa. We got back this morning, Sudan time — we found your message, and at the same time Jimmy saw a day-old European newspaper. Perry's death was on an inside page. I flew us back immediately — we went home first but there was no-one there, so I called the Planet and they said the funeral was this morning. We changed and I flew us straight here. I'm just glad we got here in time — Jimmy would have been devastated otherwise."
Listening to Katy's explanation, Lois couldn't help notice how her daughter's eyes kept straying to where Jimmy was standing with Alice. She thought it was strange, but recognised that now was neither the time nor the place to pursue the matter.
Jimmy and Katy announced their intention to remain in Metropolis for a few weeks before returning to the Sudan to continue their research. Jimmy spent most of his time helping Alice to sort out Perry's belongings, reply to the numerous letters of condolence and deal with some of the legal matters, Perry's son Jerry having left Metropolis a couple of days after the funeral. The typescript and notes of Perry's incomplete memoirs were in his study at home. Alice had typed up as much as she could, and hadn't been sure what to make of the remaining tape, which had been dictated when Perry was becoming increasingly confused. There were also several files from Perry's time at the Planet, which Alice was aware were relevant, but which she felt unqualified to do anything about.
After some discussions on the subject, Clark volunteered to take the draft and the notes and finish the book; it wouldn't be particularly difficult as Perry had almost reached the stage where he had taken semi-retirement. Lois, knowing what she called Clark's 'soft touch' with words, believed that he would do a far better job than she would; her talent was with gritty, harder-hitting issues. Clark assured Alice that he would use contemporary documentation from the Planet, Perry's own tape and anything relevant he could find in Perry's files, rather than writing it from his own perspective. Given that it would be a posthumous publication, however, he insisted that he and Lois would like to write an introduction as a tribute to their former editor and good friend.
And Perry had indeed been a good friend, Clark reflected as he began to go through the typescript. Despite the older man's fears during that very painful conversation at the nursing home six years before, he had never, during the final years of his life, made any reference to Superman, or to Clark's secret identity. Not that there hadn't been opportunities; Clark's mouth tightened as he remembered the occasion when a 'reporter' (if the sleazy individual could be dignified with that title) from the Dirt Digger had visited Perry at the home, knowing the man was suffering from dementia, and had tried to persuade him into revealing any 'interesting' stories he might remember. Something in Perry's subconscious had obviously assisted him in remaining loyal right until the end of his life. And Clark would ensure that Perry's memoirs were completed in a manner worthy of the man, and that they were published to acclaim. The completed book would also include a number of photographs; Clark resolved that one of those photographs would be of Perry White with Superman outside the Daily Planet. Such a photograph existed, and Clark thought his old friend deserved it.
Katy was spending her weeks at home typing up some of the notes she and Jimmy had made while in the Sudan, and making plans for their return visit. The SuperWoman costume remained in its closet, Katy seemingly having little inclination to join her father and Jon in their Super work; not that Jon was sorry about this, since he had complained that he was fed up with being asked, as Son-of-Superman, whether SuperWoman was his girlfriend, *even though* Superman had explained that SuperWoman was another family member.
Lois and Clark were surprised to see how much time Jimmy spent at their house — with Katy — even considering the time he was giving to help Alice. He seemed to return to his own apartment only to sleep — and barely to do that, considering the lateness of the hour he tended to leave the Kents' house. Lois had joked during the first week about offering Jimmy their guest bedroom; by the fourth week she and Clark were less amused and more puzzled.
In the kitchen, clearing up after dinner one evening six weeks after the funeral, Lois flicked her eyes towards the upper floor where Jimmy and Katy were again ensconced in Katy's study-bedroom, and began, "Clark, are you … "
"Thinking what I'm thinking?" Clark finished for her. They exchanged concerned glances. Clark's mouth tightened. "He'd damn well better not be!"
Lois caught her husband's eye again and he could see clearly the worry in her expression. She mimed Clark using his X-ray vision. "Have you … ?"
He shook his head. "Oh, don't imagine I haven't been tempted, honey. But … the thought of spying on my own daughter with super-hearing or vision — I just couldn't do it."
"Yeah, I guess," Lois replied resignedly. "I know your Boy Scout streak, Clark. But — this is our daughter! And a man more than twice her age."
"I know," he replied glumly. He sighed heavily. "Look, Lois," he continued after a few moments' thought, "why don't I take Jimmy out for a couple of beers later and *ask* him what's going on?"
Lois approached Clark and slipped into his arms; he hugged her warmly, comfortingly. "Yeah, you're right, Clark," she told him. "Much better to talk to him openly like that … after all, he's been a good friend of ours for more than thirty years."
Clark grinned, revealing a flash of his still-brilliant white teeth. "Yours, honey. Remember I came to the Planet a few years after you two did."
Lois giggled. "Yeah, I remember, you … interloper, hick from Nowheresville, you!"
The kiss which followed was interrupted suddenly as Clark heard two sets of feet on the stairs. He could tell it wasn't Jon, who, as a doctoral student at Metropolis U, was still living at home; it was Katy and Jimmy. Holding Lois's hand, he led her into the living-room to face their daughter and her friend.
Lois noticed instantly that Jimmy was looking somewhat awkward. Katy's expression was one which Clark recognised very well: belligerent, determined, every inch her mother when she *knew* that she had done something she shouldn't, but was never going to admit it.
Shooting a glance at his wife and taking in the fury building inside her, Clark decided to take control of the conversation, whatever it would turn out to be about. "You two got something you want to tell us about?"
Katy shot Jimmy a glance; tellingly, he took her hand and squeezed it. Clark's mouth tightened and he spoke again. "What is going on between you two?"
Jimmy looked as if he was about to speak, but Katy forestalled him. "Mom, Dad, Jimmy and I are going to get married."
"You damn well are *not*!"
"Mom, we are, and you have no right to stop us!" Katy shouted.
Jimmy spoke for the first time. "Katy, hold on. This … has to be a shock for your parents, and I don't blame them for being angry and upset. I know I would be."
Clark held up his hand as it appeared that several people were threatening to speak at once. As silence fell, he spoke quietly, attempting to keep his voice calm. "Look, Lois and I can't pretend to be happy about this situation. But we obviously need to discuss it, and the best way to do that is if we all sit down and try to keep calm. Yelling isn't going to help at all, Katy." At that final remark, Clark also shot Lois a glance, hoping that she would take the hint.
After a pause, Lois sat on one sofa, and Jimmy and Katy occupied the other, still holding hands. Lois clearly wasn't happy about that, Clark recognised, noting the thunderous look on his wife's face as he sat down.
Jimmy spoke first. "Clark, Lois, I'm sorry about this — you must feel that I've deceived you, been coming to your house on false pretences. I wanted to tell you sooner that Katy and I were … seeing each other romantically, but … well, straight after Perry's funeral wasn't the best time to do it, and afterwards … " He trailed off, looking a little helpless.
"It's my fault — I wouldn't let him tell you," Katy admitted. "I was afraid you'd try to split us up."
<Of course we would!> Lois thought. She looked at Clark, wondering what he was thinking. Despite his apparent calmness of a few minutes ago, he now looked dumbstruck. It occurred to Lois that it might be easier to get to the bottom of what was going on if she could talk to one or other of the protagonists alone; leaning towards Clark, she murmured, "You take her; I'll take him."
Katy leapt to her feet; Lois had temporarily forgotten her daughter's super-powers. "Forget it, Mom — I'm staying with Jimmy." At Jimmy's puzzled look, she explained, "Mom wants to split us up so she and Dad can talk to us separately."
Jimmy stood; facing Katy, he commented, "That sounds like a good idea." He gave her a slight push. "Go on — I'll see you later."
She resisted, looking pleadingly at him. "You know what Mom's like, Jimmy - you were the one who told me years ago why she was called Mad Dog Lane at the Planet. I can't leave you alone with her!"
Jimmy took Katy's shoulders and met her eyes unblinkingly. "Do you really think I can't hold my own with your mother?" She didn't reply. Jimmy again gave her a slight push in the direction of Clark. "Go on, talk to your father. You owe him that much."
Reluctantly, Katy went to Clark; as she approached, he spun into his Superman suit. "Come flying with me?" he asked his daughter, with a faint, sad twist to his mouth.
Katy hesitated. "Do you need me in my SuperWoman costume?"
Clark shook his head. "It's dark, and we're going high up and out of the city. You'll be fine as you are."
With a 'whoosh', father and daughter took off from the darkest part of the Kents' back garden, leaving mother and would-be son-in-law standing in the house.
"So, Jimmy, would you care to tell me just what you've been getting up to with my daughter?" Lois demanded furiously as soon as the other two were gone.
Jimmy met her eyes. "I can understand your anger, Lois — I know that if my Laura had come home at the same age as Katy and announced she was going to marry a man old enough to be her father, I'd have thrown him out. I … have to admit I admire Clark's restraint."
Lois was taken aback at Jimmy's reference to his dead daughter; not only that he had mentioned her at all, which was rare, but that he had used her name. But she refused to be distracted. "So why did you do it then?!"
Jimmy sighed, turned away, and was silent for some time. He finally turned back to face Lois, and said quietly, "Because I love Katy. More than I have ever loved *anyone* … and I just can't believe how good she has been for me. After Laura died — I never thought I could let myself love anyone ever again, Lois. I thought I just wasn't capable of it any more. But Katy is very special, and I just couldn't help it."
Unwillingly, Lois found herself experiencing some sneaking sympathy. However, she continued her attack. "All right, I can understand that. But Katy is *far* too young for you! Why get her involved with you? Why not just keep away from her?"
Hanging his head, Jimmy shoved his hands into his trouser pockets. "I … tried, Lois. Once I realised how I felt, several years ago, I tried to see less of her. I turned down a lot of invitations to come over, because I knew she'd be here. But I missed her so much … and then when she was at college, she used to call me and ask to see me, to have lunch … she *said* she wanted to talk about her work, and that I could help her … and I couldn't help it. I … tried … I even told her that she was wasting her time with me, that I didn't care about her … none of it worked." He fell silent again, realising that he had given away too much.
Lois jumped on his final few words. "Are you saying that Katy pursued you?" Her mind wanted to reject the possibility, but she knew her daughter, and was well aware that Katy could have been the one to make the first move.
Jimmy paced, finally coming to rest leaning against the window-sill. "Look, Lois, I'm aware that it's all my fault. I'm the one who's old enough to know better — I should never have let it happen. You can't blame Katy."
Lois's voice was quieter this time. "I'm not looking to assign blame, Jimmy - I just want to know how it happened."
Jimmy took a deep breath, and this time when he spoke, his voice appeared to be coming from some distance away. "I know I started having … feelings … for Katy when she was about seventeen. Until then, she was … well, you know she was always pretty special to me. For some reason I could talk to her about things I couldn't discuss with anyone else — like Laura. And my marriage. I just thought that she was a really nice, wise, kid — a lot like you, but with Clark's compassion as well. Then I realised that I really missed her when I didn't see her … and I started wanting to kiss her. Properly." He paused, as if thinking. "You know I always used to hug her, kiss her forehead, that sort of thing. Harmless, just avuncular stuff … until I realised that I didn't feel like an uncle any more. That scared me stiff, Lois. I didn't know what was happening to me — I felt like a damn pervert! So … I tried to avoid her, like I said.
"Then she went to college, and she started calling me, and coming to see me. She said she couldn't understand why I didn't come over to see her, to talk to her any more — why I didn't even come to her eighteenth birthday party. She was hurt. So I had to … spend some time with her, try to pretend things were like they always where."
"You were able to?" Lois asked, her reactions now under control.
"Just about. Until the day … she was almost twenty, and she asked if I'd take her out to dinner for her birthday. It wasn't a big deal, I'd taken her out before on special occasions, so I figured she just thought it was a normal thing to ask. I didn't want to, but I agreed. She turned up in this dress … Lois, it wasn't a dress someone wears to dinner with a favourite uncle. It was … a *date* dress. The whole evening … she was flirting with me, and I was trying to ignore it. I figured if I didn't respond she'd give up. But when we left, and I was taking her home, she kissed me." He shuddered with the memory. "Lois, I tried to resist, not to let her see how it affected me … but you know what it's like when you love someone, you're so overwhelmingly attracted to them … "
"You kissed her back?" Lois whispered in horror.
Jimmy shook his head. "For … a second. Maybe two. Then I pushed her away and asked her what the hell she thought she was doing. She … told me she loved me, had done for years, and that she wanted us to be together. I told her she was crazy, that I was far too old for her, that she didn't know what she was talking about, she was far too young to understand what love means … " Again, he paused. "She insisted that she knew I loved her, too. So … I tried to convince her I didn't — I told her I loved her like a niece, that you and Clark were my contemporaries, not her. And I told her that I wasn't capable of loving anyone any more."
Lois grimaced. "Of course that would have worked!" she drawled sarcastically. "She'd just be more determined to prove that she could 'help' you get over that."
Jimmy pulled a face. "I know — I soon discovered that. After a few weeks, I had to be cruel to her. I told her that … I found her crush on me embarrassing and that it was making me dislike her … that I didn't want her hanging around me any more."
Lois winced; she could appreciate the effect this would have had on her daughter. "And that worked?"
"For a while. Then she came to my apartment and told me she knew I wasn't indifferent to her, that the way I had kissed her back at first told her that. I … well, I just told her that I might not be interested in love, but I'm still a red-blooded male and — I enjoy sex. It just … turned me on, the way any woman in a skimpy dress would have done, that it was hormones, no more." He swallowed. "*That* hurt. She ran out of the place in tears. I didn't see her for a few months after that."
Lois thought she could remember the time. Katy had been very subdued for some weeks, and she and Clark had suspected she had been crying herself to sleep at nights. Katy had been very mysterious about her social life while at university, and her parents had suspected that there was a man in the picture somewhere, though Katy had not admitted anything to her parents, nor had she confided in her brother, which was unusual. Still, Lois and Clark had put her unhappiness down to a relationship having ended.
She glanced enquiringly at Jimmy, looking for the rest of the story. "Well, you and Clark invited me around here for a meal, to celebrate Jon getting his Masters. I thought it was probably all right, that Katy would have got over it, maybe even be seeing someone else. I was sure I could handle it. Anyway … as soon as I saw her I realised she still felt the same way, and I … I was even more in love with her than before." He ran his hands through his hair. "I couldn't bring myself to hurt her again. We — went to her room, ostensibly to look at an essay she was going to hand in shortly. I told her I was sorry I had hurt her and that I wanted us to be friends. Just friends. She accepted that … she insisted she still loved me, but she didn't want to embarrass me or lose my friendship.
"So that was that … while she got her degree, got her first job — you know we saw each other regularly, talked about her career plans and so on. I always expected she'd meet someone else … and of course she dated that accountant for six months until last year. I … I was jealous. But I knew I was out of order even to think of her as anything other than a friend, so I tried to wish her well — I stayed well out of it, and told her I was happy she was dating.
Then they split up, and a while after that she came to me with the Sudan idea. I wasn't sure. You and Clark know I always wanted to go back, and that for a while I'd been looking around for someone to go with me, a better writer than I am. Katy insisted that if she was anyone else, I'd jump at the offer since she's such a good writer on that subject. You *know* how good she is, Lois. So … after a few months of persuading, I gave in."
"Yeah — and we told you Katy is SuperWoman," Lois reminded him, a little acerbically.
"You did — and that reminded me yet again that a relationship with her was out of the question. It really didn't make any difference, Lois — for years I'd been determined to do nothing about my feelings."
"So what changed your mind?"
Jimmy sighed, and looked up to meet Lois's eyes. "This Sudan trip, what else? Oh, it was all very proper — separate rooms when we were in hotels, separate tents otherwise, guides and other assorted chaperones. We were rarely alone together. But the few times we were … she got me talking about my marriage, and about Laura again … Katy has helped me to understand so many things, Lois — so much of what other people — you, Clark, Penny — all tried to make me understand at the time, and I just couldn't. You know what? The week we came back, I even called Penny to apologise for not being there for her when Laura died."
"You did?" Lois was incredulous.
"Yeah. And that was Katy's doing. She said I had to do it, and she was right. I know it's more than twenty years too late, but … I was finally able to do it, and it really gave me peace about Laura at last … and Penny. She … was glad I did it, too. I think it helped us both find some closure to our marriage and Laura dying. I owe that to Katy."
"But how did … ?"
"I'm coming to that. Look, Lois, we got real close out there. No-one who hasn't been there could know what it was like. For the first time, regardless of how I'd felt about Katy for years, I was relating to her like an adult, not a child, not the daughter of my friends. She … kissed me again one night, after we'd sat out under the stars talking. That night we'd talked about her, how it felt to be half-Kryptonian and… different. And I guess maybe I was some help to her … she seemed worried about fitting in. Anyway, she kissed me. It wasn't passionate or anything, and it just seemed natural to kiss her back. She told me she still loved me, and I… just didn't know what to say. I couldn't lie to her then, Lois. Not there — not after we'd both been so honest with each other about everything else. So I just didn't answer.
"Over the next few weeks, from time to time she told me again, and tried to convince me that she meant it, she'd grown up and knew what … who … she wanted. She challenged me to deny I loved her in the same way. I … couldn't. That's when we decided to go away for that weekend — we went to somewhere where we could be alone and just talk."
Jimmy paced the length of the room before continuing; he glanced at Lois and saw that she was now seated on one of the sofas just listening quietly. He spoke again, firmly, convincingly. "I love Katy, Lois. I've fought it for years. I've lied to her, I've tried to be cruel to put her off, but none of it works. I really believe she loves me. And believe me, I've already told myself everything you're thinking: I'm far too old for her, I'll be a geriatric while she's still young, I'm a bad risk at relationships … but it doesn't change anything. I just love her. And I want to marry her. I don't just want an affair."
He ceased pacing, stilled, and met Lois's eye. "So there you are. If you still want to throw me out, go ahead."
<And if you do, Katy will follow> Lois finished silently to herself. "Jimmy, I think we should wait until Clark and Katy get back."
Clark and Katy sat silently on a hill above the city, looking up at the stars. Katy was tense, waiting for the expected onslaught from her father; aware of that, Clark's voice was gentle when he finally spoke.
"Do you remember when I first brought you here, just after I told you and Jon that I'm Superman?"
Katy nodded, turning to her father in surprise at his topic of conversation.
Clark continued. "Katy, you know your Mom and I love you very dearly. It's sad that you felt there was something you couldn't talk to us about."
Stung, Katy replied, "I *knew* how you'd be!"
"Maybe we wouldn't have been as shocked if you'd told us you and Jimmy were … seeing each other, before suddenly announcing you wanted to get married. That might have given us some time to get used to the idea."
Katy shook her head. "You'd have tried to split us up, told me he was too old … "
"Well, sweetheart, he is a lot older than you — only a few years younger than Lois and I."
Katy continued to stare aggressively at Clark. "You know that's not the real issue."
"Well, all right, if you want to know … you're only twenty-three, so we think that's too young to know whether he is right for you, and you have to admit that he isn't exactly an easy man … a broken marriage, and still devastated about his daughter dying."
"I knew you'd get around to that!"
"So tell me, sweetheart, why him? I mean, how did it happen?" Clark's voice was gentle again, persuasive. "I want to understand … I promise I'll try not to judge."
Katy threw herself into her father's arms. "Oh, Daddy!" she whimpered.
Several moments later, she began slowly. "I can't remember a time when I didn't love Jimmy … I guess at some point it turned from love like I love you and Mom, and into romantic, happy-ever-after kind of love. For a while I tried to persuade myself it was just a crush, and that he wouldn't be interested anyway, then I wondered … Oh, Dad, I made *such* a fool of myself when I was twenty!"
"You did?" murmured Clark, wondering just how bad this was going to be.
"I made him take me out for my birthday, and I … I turned up in this dress and … and I *threw* myself at him on the way home!"
Clark stifled a gasp of horror, and kept his voice as calm as he could manage. "What did Jimmy do?"
"He pushed me away — told me I didn't know what I was talking about and that I was far too young," Katy replied in a voice which betrayed the remembered humiliation. Clark's opinion of Jimmy began to rise again.
"Then a few weeks later, he told me that I was embarrassing him with my silly crush and to stop calling him." Katy's voice was quiet, and Clark was filled with sympathy for his beloved daughter.
"That must have hurt, sweetheart," he said gently.
"At the time, I thought nothing could ever hurt me so much again," Katy replied. "But he told me the weekend before we came home here that he'd only said it because he thought a relationship between us would be wrong, that he'd really loved me for years too."
<At least Jimmy had the sense to realise it was wrong!> Clark thought. "What made him change his mind?"
Katy grinned. "It took a *lot* of time and persuasion. We became friends again after a while, and I tried to forget my feelings for him. I even dated someone else, but that didn't work out … Pete just wasn't Jimmy. The Sudan trip was my real chance. Oh, I wanted to do it anyway, but I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to convince Jimmy that we should be together."
Clark stared at his daughter as the realisation sank in that it had been Katy who had pursued Jimmy, and not the other way around. He suddenly smiled as he realised that if his beautiful, stubborn, brilliant and devious daughter had set out to trap Jimmy, the man would have had no means of escaping.
"And you convinced him?" he asked, though he already knew the answer.
Katy's lips curved into a slow, ecstatic smile. "Eventually. It took a while … but I managed to get through to him."
"You really love him, don't you, honey?" Clark's tone made it a statement rather than a question.
"Yes." The reply was simple — and convincing.
Clark paused before speaking again; he didn't want to incite his daughter's wrath after having arrived at this degree of understanding. "Katy," he began carefully, "Jimmy's life hasn't been easy … "
"He's had a lot of hard knocks, I know," Katy replied, her voice calm this time. "You know, I think I've always understood him better than you and Mom. He told me, when I was about fifteen, that I was the only person he was able to talk to about Laura."
"He did?" Clark was stunned. "He used her name?"
Katy nodded. "With me, always. I told him that the baby had a name, it wasn't fair to keep calling her 'her' or 'the baby'. He agreed. He used to tell me all the things he'd wanted to do with her: teaching her to walk and talk, taking her to school, watching her play sports, teach her to drive, watch her graduate … He'd describe how he thought she might have looked as she grew up — kind of a combination of him and Penny, but mostly Penny."
Clark looked warily at his daughter as she spoke. "And Penny…how do you feel about her?"
Katy shrugged. "I feel really sorry for her — who wouldn't? She suffered just about the worst thing that can happen to a woman: she lost her baby, and her husband was too wrapped up in his own grief to be there for her."
Clark was about to protest that this was not what he had meant, when he was struck by the maturity and understanding of his daughter's remarks. He continued to listen as Katy spoke again. "I used to want to tell Jimmy that he needed to forgive himself for not being there for her, but it always seemed too personal; I thought he'd resent it. But I told him while we were away. The time seemed right. And he's finally done it. He called her and said he was sorry, and I think he's finally ready to stop blaming himself."
<And my Katy achieved that; something Lois and I have tried for years to get Jimmy to see> Clark mused in disbelief. He found himself becoming convinced that, despite all indications to the contrary, this relationship had a chance of working.
He felt he needed to ask her one more question, however. "But the age difference … he'll be retired when you're still young!"
Katy again faced her father. "Look, Dad, you know as well as I do that, at least if we were normal people, we could get run over in the street at any time. Remember you told us about that time when Mom found out that you could have a life-span several times longer than hers? Remember what you said to her? 'It's not the years that count, it's the moments'."
Clark's eyes filled with tears. <It's not the years that count, Lois, it's the moments> he had said all those years ago. And he had been right. Oh, they had had *many* years, and he hoped they would have many to come. But the moments had been … incredible. So many of them over the years … moving into their first house, Lois discovering she was pregnant the first time, the births of their children, anniversaries, the Pulitzers … Lois always being there for him, and he for her. His grief after Jonathan Kent had died … and Lois, understanding, caring, *loving*.
His jaw firm, he got to his feet and held out his hand to his daughter. "Come on, let's go home."
Katy stared at her father. "But … are you still going to try to stop us getting married?"
Clark gave her an amused, resigned smile. "Could I really do that?"
Katy looked unsure. "Jimmy might listen to you; he loves me, but he's still hung up on the age gap."
Clark shook his head. "I'm not opposed to you and Jimmy being together. You've convinced me that he's right for you."
Amazed, Katy hugged her father, but then stepped back with a crestfallen expression on her face. "What about Mom? She'll never agree … ?"
"Come on," Clark repeated, floating upwards. "Leave Lois to me."
In the living-room, there was silence. Jimmy felt that there was nothing more he could say to justify his feelings for Katy, and Lois was trying to make sense of her feelings on the subject. It really did seem as if Jimmy had done all that he could to stop Katy pursuing him, and had tried to overcome his feelings for her. Lois was also dumbfounded at what Katy had seemed to achieve in relation to helping Jimmy make sense of his past.
The sound of two flying descendants of Krypton arriving came as a relief to both of them. Lois hurried into the kitchen in time to see Clark open the door; their eyes met, and it was clear to both that each had reached the same conclusion. As Clark embraced Lois, Katy brushed past the two of them and ran to Jimmy.
A few minutes later, Clark handed coffee around and then faced the two lovers. "Lois and I have both been impressed with what you've had to say. We know that Katy's an adult and can do whatever she wants, but we hope that you both care enough about us to respect our feelings." Jimmy met Clark's eye; the reassurance in the younger man's expression satisfied Clark.
"Now, Katy told me that ideally you'd like to get married before you go back to the Sudan next month. Lois and I aren't concerned about the thought of missing out on a grand wedding or anything like that. We're willing … and happy … to accept the two of you as lovers. But we would really prefer you to wait a year before getting married. If you both still feel the same way then, we'll be delighted to give you whatever type of wedding you want."
Jimmy seemed about to agree, but Katy jumped to her feet, crying, " You can't make us wait! I'm pregnant! I don't want my baby to be born before we're married."
"You're *what*!" Three voices shouted at once, and Jimmy added, "Katy, love, why didn't you tell me?"
Lois glanced at Clark; his fists were clenched and she genuinely believed that he was about to rush to Jimmy and hit him. More out of fear for what Clark might do to the younger man than from any belief that such an attack wasn't deserved, she placed her hand on his arm and whispered, "No, Clark."
Slowly, his fists unclenched, and he emitted a long, slow breath. "I had *no idea* he had … slept with her," he hissed.
Lois sighed. "They are adults, honey, and from the way Katy was behaving, I suspected they had."
"I thought better of Jimmy!" Clark muttered.
Katy had heard the whispered conversation; she twisted out of Jimmy's arms and marched to stand in front of her parents. "*I* seduced *him* as it happens!" she stated belligerently. "It only happened once, that weekend before we came home. Jimmy insisted that he wasn't going to sleep with me again until we got married — otherwise I'd have moved into his apartment with him as soon as we got back."
"Why didn't you tell me you were pregnant?" Jimmy asked again, more quietly this time.
"I was going to — I've only just found out. I'm only about six weeks," Katy defended.
"Well, this changes things a bit," Lois acknowledged. "It's not that I'm judgmental about children of unmarried parents, but I just think that if you two are having a baby, it'd be better if you were married first."
"I agree," Clark added, having calmed down and admitted to himself that he had over-reacted — and misjudged — Jimmy yet again. "And I suppose, Jimmy, we have you to thank for the fact that our daughter didn't just drag you off to a justice of the peace as soon as you two got back?"
Jimmy grinned. "I wanted to talk to you guys first — I knew you wouldn't be happy, but I wanted to give you a chance to object, and maybe persuade Katy that she was doing the wrong thing."
"But you'd have married her anyway, knowing that we were against the idea?" Clark asked.
Jimmy shrugged. "What can I do? I love her … and I have a feeling that she would have had me anyway, regardless of what I tried to do. Let's face it, there isn't anywhere in the world I can go to escape Superman's daughter."
Clark acknowledged that remark with a wry smile. Putting his doubts aside, he crossed the room to Jimmy and held out his hand. "Welcome to the Kent family, son-in-law."
"Sure, CK," Jimmy laughed, accepting Clark's hand and squeezing it as tight as he was able. "Just as long as you don't expect me to call you and Lois Mom and Dad!"
Lois made gagging noises. "Jimmy, that would be even more embarrassing than what you told me when we were trapped on top of that flagpole years ago!"
"What was that, Jimmy?" Katy asked with interest.
"Take it from me — you don't want to know!" Jimmy replied, blushing. "Lois, how *could* you refer to that? You know I didn't mean a word of it … "
Clark laughed, not knowing what it was Jimmy had said (Lois had never told him), but guessing that it was something to do with the crush he had known Jimmy used to have on Lois in the days when Clark had first started at the Planet. "Katy, sweetheart, you know a man has to have some secrets," he pointed out. "You don't ask him about that, and your mom and I promise we won't get out your baby pictures."
"Jimmy's *seen* all my baby pictures — he took most of them!" Katy pointed out with no trace of embarrassment at this further reminder of the age gap.
"Well, at least you know I'm going to take decent photos of our kids!" Jimmy laughed, glad that Katy had been distracted from enquiring further about Lois's comment.
All four joined in the laughter, then Clark suggested that Jimmy might like to take his fiancee out to celebrate their engagement. "We can start planning the wedding tomorrow — that is, Katy, if you want us to help?"
Much later, Lois and Clark reflected on their impending acquisition of a very unexpected son-in-law. "Well, he wouldn't have been my first choice," Lois admitted, stretching her body to its full length and stroking a foot along Clark's leg.
"Mine either. But I had to admit, he seems right for her. Why, I have no idea, but I think they'll be happy."
"Mmm, me to," Lois agreed. "Though I took a lot of persuading."
Clark slid his fingers lightly along Lois's thigh. "I still can't believe Jon's reaction!"
"Me neither. That son of ours is a lot more observant than anyone gives him credit for. Why he insists on behaving as if he keeps his head in the clouds I have no idea!"
They looked at each other and smiled, remembering. Jon had arrived home an hour or so after Jimmy and Katy had left, and they had told him that Katy and Jimmy were going to get married. He had simply smiled and said, "I'm not surprised — I just can't figure what took them so long."
"You knew?!" Lois had demanded, amazed.
"I guessed something was going on before they went to Africa," Jon had replied with a careless shrug. "But I figured if Katy wanted me to know she'd tell me herself."
Clark and Lois had exchanged glances. "But weren't you concerned? I mean, the age gap alone … " Clark had prompted.
Jon shook his head. "Jimmy's a good guy. Hey, you two should know that better than anyone. And it was always obvious Katy was never going to be happy with anyone her own age. I tried introducing her to some of my friends when she started at Metro U, but they were all too immature for her."
Remembering that conversation, Clark mused, "Mom always said she had a very adult head on her shoulders. I suppose we shouldn't have been too surprised."
"But Jimmy as a son-in-law?" Lois replied, giggling. "I mean, even Cat Grant has to find that one hard to believe."
"I suppose it's no weirder than some of the family relationships which exist. I mean, that guy in the Rolling Stones — Bill Wyman? — who ended up marrying his former mother-in-law, then his former wife became his daughter-in-law when she married his son?" Clark suggested.
"Oh, God forbid!" Lois laughed. "Well, at least I know there's no danger of you marrying *my* mother!"
Clark's expression of horror answered that statement, and they dissolved into laughter. The humour quickly turned to passion as Clark pulled Lois on top of him and caught her lips with his. She wrapped her arms around him and slid one thigh between his muscular two, and proceeded to show her husband of more than twenty-five years how incredibly attractive she still found him.
As they cuddled up together for sleep later, Clark murmured in Lois's ear, "Just what *did* Jimmy say to you on that flagpole before I came to rescue you?"
Lois's answer was lost in another fit of giggles.