The Prodigal Son or The Two Jacks (Season 5, Episode 7)

By Cindy <> (with Kathy Brown)

Rated PG

Original Air Date: November 16, 1997

Summary: Clark receives a mysterious package from "Jack". But which Jack sent it? When two Jacks from Lois and Clark's past show up, who's to tell? Episode 7 of S5.


*348 Hyperion Avenue*

Lois Lane exited the bathroom, hanging her bathrobe on the doorhook and turning triumphantly to her husband. Clark Kent was already in bed for the night, albeit with his laptop computer perched on his crossed legs. He looked up from his typing as she emerged.

"This is it!" she announced, holding up a colorful box in her hand

"This is what?"

"According to the test I took this morning, I am about to ovulate."

Clark shut off the laptop and put it aside. "Uh, congratulations, honey, but we still don't know if *I* … "

Lois climbed on the bed next to him, putting her finger over his mouth. "Shh, we agreed not to think — just to *do*, remember?" she whispered seductively.

Clark smiled as he slipped the thin strap of her lacy negligee down her shoulder and feathered a butterfly kiss against her exposed skin. "I remember … I definitely remember."

*Dark Alley*

Two figures chased a lone one through the darkness. By silent, practiced signal, they split up, attempting to surround their prey, but he was too quick and slipped by.

Running faster than he ever had before, the desperate quarry looked right then left frantically, even as he strained to listen for the footsteps behind him.

His pursuers were easily confused by the dark alleyways, but for years these streets had been his home. He knew its winding turns, its deadends, its hiding places. Every time they'd thought they'd had him boxed in, he'd managed to escape. His exhausted muscles and gaunt frame documented the hunted existence he'd been living for the last few days.

Finally, he spied his destination and darted across the street. Panting, panicking, he pulled out a small package crudely wrapped with brown paper, addressed to "Clark Kent, c/o The Daily Planet." Scanning the area, hearing the footsteps growing closer, he dropped the package into a nearby mailbox and disappeared into the night.

Mere seconds later, his chasers came into view. Frustrated, they paused by the mailbox to catch their breath and then took off again in separate directions.

*Daily Planet Newsroom*

Clark was hard at work at his desk while Lois alternated between looking at her watch and staring at him. Slowly becoming aware he was being watched, Clark looked up at her, raised his eyebrows and waited a beat. "Yes?"

"Are you almost done?" she whispered conspiratorially.

"Lois! Clark! How's that story coming on the body that turned up in the harbor?"

Clark frowned at Lois and then turned to answer Perry. "It's kind of strange, Chief — the police have suddenly stopped giving out information. In fact, it almost seems as though they've stopped investigating. They're not talking at all."

"Well, keep at it! There's obviously something there."

"Right, Chief." Clark waited until Perry was out of earshot and then leaned over to scold his wife. "Lois, what's the matter with you? I thought you were going to call Henderson and 'demand' … "

"Clark! We have to get home! We have less than two days left to work on our … " she looked around and hissed, "project."

Clark's eyebrows went up. After checking for himself that the coast was clear, he stage whispered back across the aisle to her. "Uh … isn't that what we did last night?"

Lois got up and walked over to his desk so this part of their conversation wouldn't be overheard. "I've been doing some reading. The latest studies show that a woman is most likely to get pregnant in the days leading up to ovulation. Once I ovulate, it might be too late. The studies also said that, assuming a normal sperm count in the man, which we now know you have, we increase the odds of getting pregnant by making love as often as possible during those fertile days."

She cast her eyes around the room once more before finishing. "And according the little kits that I've been planning my mornings around, I'm set to ovulate in the next 48 hours." Lois ran a hand over his shoulder and down his lapel. "Which means we have some work to do," she purred.

Clark couldn't resist the smile that was slowly creeping onto his face as she talked. "Sounds like a job for … Clark Kent," he winked. "What do you say we go home for lunch?"

"What do you say we go now?" she coaxed.

Clark blinked. "Lo-is. It's 10:00 in the morning."

Lois looked at her watch again and Clark could see the wheels turning in her head as she slowly grinned at him.

"OK … so we don't actually have to go home … "

Clark's mouth dropped open and he was about to sputter a response when Steve, the mail guy, came by Clark's desk and dropped some mail on top of Clark's notes. Wearing a stereo headset, Steve was in his own world and didn't notice how Lois was still grinning encouragingly at her husband, who desperately dived into his mail as a way of avoiding temptation.

Recognizing that Clark wasn't going to be persuaded for the moment, Lois sighed and returned to her computer where her notes were half-heartedly being fashioned into a story. "Oh, well, lunch is good, too … "

Grinning at his wife's exaggerated sigh, Clark began to sort his mail. Soon, however, his attention focused on a small package that looked as though it had been through the wars. It was clearly addressed to him.

Clark shook it gently. Hearing nothing, he carefully opened it.

Lois had started to work again when she heard Clark's puzzled exclamation.

"What's up?" she asked, assuming he was having computer problems. When he didn't answer, she glanced over to see him reading a note, a small opened box on his desk.

Getting up and walking over once more, Lois stood behind him, reading the note over his shoulder as he reread it:

Clark -

*Please* hold onto this for me. I know I can trust you to keep it safe. My life depends on it.

- Jack

"Jack?" Lois read, puzzled. "Jack who?"

"I have no idea," Clark answered, still staring at the note. "I mean, I know a lot of Jacks … "

"Well, what's in the box?"

Clark held up a small key, which Lois took from him.

"A safe deposit box key?" she asked, confused.

Clark nodded and she handed it back to him.

"JIMMY!" they shouted in unison.

Jimmy ambled over holding a cold coffee cup in his hand. "Hey — I know it's early, but either of you want to order lunch?"

Lois and Clark paused and exchanged a slightly sheepish look.

Clark was first to recover. He held up the key. "We need to find out what this key opens. We think its a safe deposit box. Do you think you can find out which bank the box is in?"

Jimmy took the key. "Oh, sure — how many banks could there be in this city? Three, four hundred?" he answered with slightly frazzled humor. "No problem." With a roll of his eyes and a shrug, he headed off.

Lois picked up the discarded brown wrapping off Clark's desk and studied the postmark. "It was postmarked yesterday from here in Metropolis," she mused. "I wonder if there's any way to trace which mailbox was used?"

She went back to her desk and picked up the phone.

Clark meanwhile looked through his rolodex and computer files, and racked his brain, trying to figure out who would have sent him the package.

*348 Hyperion Avenue*

Clark unlocked the front door and held it open for his wife who was still trying to figure out the puzzle.

"Well, the post office was no help at all," she fumed, flinging her coat in the direction of the coat rack. Clark caught it in midair and hung it up. "And the guy I was talking to sounded kind of … *disgruntled*."

Clark ignored her own disgruntledness and offered to make her a cup of tea.

Lois frowned — she missed her usual evening glass of wine, but their current goal prevented that. Not that they'd been successful in sneaking away at lunch time anyway. They'd gotten so busy that she'd been lucky to wolf down that half sandwich at her desk in between phone calls.

With a sigh, Lois agreed to the hot drink and kicked back on the sofa. Within moments, Clark was back from the kitchen with two cups of tea, and a plate of fruit, cheese and crackers. Her stomach rumbling, Lois accepted the snacks gratefully, and snuggled next to Clark, the black cloud beginning to lift.

"Thank you," she said.

"Well, we did miss lunch," Clark explained.

The twinkle returned to Lois's eye as she fed her husband a grape, then popped a second one into her own mouth. "Give me a minute to eat some of this, then I'll show you a real appetizer."

"Mmm, you are so appetizing … " he murmured as he fed her a cheese cube, then lowered his head to nibble on her ear. "I can't wait to see the main course."

Lois dropped her neck to one side as his kisses wandered down her skin. "Keep that up and we may have to have dessert first … "

They were beginning to plan the full menu when the doorbell rang, startling them both.

Lois groaned in frustration as Clark stood up. "It's Jimmy," he told her, heading towards the door.

"That figures," Lois muttered.

Clark opened the door. "Hi, Jimmy."

"Hey, CK," Jimmy entered. "Hey, Lois."

Lois nodded to him from the couch, opening her mouth to respond as he added, "Oh, great! Food!"

"Help yourself," Clark offered as Jimmy already did so.

"Hey, listen," Jimmy began, his mouth full. "I found out what bank the key came from."

"You did?!" Lois's earlier annoyance was quickly forgotten. "Jimmy, you're a miracle worker. Which one?"

Jimmy swallowed his cracker and dug the key out of his pocket, handing it to Clark. "Metropolis Savings and Loan. The 5th and Main branch."

"Well, let's go!" Lois jumped up from the couch and made to move for her coat, but Clark's hand on her arm stopped her. He dropped the key into his pocket.

"Honey, wait a minute," he urged. "The bank's closed now. Besides, we can't get into a safe deposit box just by having a key. We don't even know whose box it is."

"They'd let *Superman* in," Lois said softly.

Clark glanced at Jimmy, who had busied himself once again with the hors d'oeuvres and wasn't listening. Turning back to his wife, Clark said, just as softly, "I think we can try some other avenues before we — "

He was interrupted as the front door abruptly opened and the three of them were suddenly surrounded by several armed men.

"What the — ?" he began, taking a protective step towards Lois. Acutely aware of Jimmy's presence, Clark was unable to make any super moves — at least until he knew what was going on. But keeping his secret didn't mean he couldn't interpose himself between his wife and their uninvited guests.

As soon as he moved, however, he was grabbed from behind. Annoyed and wanting to divert any attention away from Lois and Jimmy, Clark started to struggle.

Lois froze as a gun was trained on her head. Watching Clark put up a "fight", she held her breath nervously as it looked as though it might get violent.

Just then a voice from the doorway cut in, barking an order.

"Let him go!"

Jack Olsen stepped through the door. He was followed by a shorter, stocky man with reddish hair who brandished a gun.

"Dad?!?" Jimmy blurted out, stunned.

Lois' mouth dropped open in shock and she turned to Clark who looked just as stunned.

"Jack," Clark said, staring at him.

"Let him go," Jack repeated to the man holding Clark. The man reluctantly complied, rubbing a hand angrily over his ribs where Clark had elbowed him.

As things calmed down, Jimmy found his voice once more. "Dad, what are you doing here?" he exclaimed. "Why … " his voice trailed off as he seemed to notice for the first time the man standing next to his father. "Uncle Pat?" Jimmy said, confused, looking back and forth. "What's going on?"

"No, that's what *I'd* like to know," snapped a very annoyed Clark, indicating the agents in his living room.

Jack held up a hand and all the agents dispersed, save Pat and two agents who stationed themselves near the door. "Lois … Clark … let me introduce you to my partner, Patrick McDunn."

"Yeah, nice to meet you," Lois muttered sarcastically. Clark afforded him a curt nod.

Jimmy seemed in shock. "Your partner," he repeated, growing more upset by the moment.

"Jimmy," Jack began, looking at Pat.

"I know you weren't able to tell me about working for the NIA, Dad. I mean, I understand about that — but Uncle Pat? Uncle Pat works with you?"

Pat looked uncomfortable and dropped his eyes.

"You knew Uncle Pat worked with me," Jack reminded his son.

"But that was before I knew you worked for the NIA." He shifted his gaze to the other man. "Uncle Pat?"

"Jimmy, I'm sorry," Patrick said, speaking for the first time. "It's just the nature of this business … "

"But I'm your godson," Jimmy protested.

"Jimmy, you have to understand … "

"Speaking of understanding," Lois broke in, "maybe *someone* would like to explain to *us*", she indicated Clark, "what is going on here?!"

Clark looked as though he knew, however. "It was *you*," he said, pointing to Jack. "Jack. It was you."

Lois immediately figured out what he meant and nodded. "But why? And why Clark?"

"Why Clark what?" Jimmy asked nervously.

Jack and Patrick exchanged glances. "So you have it," Jack said to Clark.

"Have *what*?" Jimmy demanded.

"The key," Clark answered without taking his eyes off Jack.

"The key — that key?" Jimmy exclaimed, dumbfounded.

Clark just raised his eyebrows at Jack who stared right back at him.

"Are you telling me you know where it is?" Jack demanded.

"Of course he knows where it is — you sent it to him," Lois said, exasperated. Everyone exchanged glances with their respective partners. "Didn't you?"

"Why don't we all have a seat," Jack said, indicating the couch.

Lois looked over at Clark as they led the way over. Clark cleared away the remnants of their earlier attempt at relaxation and they all sat down. "Start at the beginning," Jack urged. "Tell me everything you know."

Lois and Clark looked at him in amazement and then defiance.

"Look," Jack said, intensely. "This is an urgent matter of national security, not to mention life and death."

"Isn't it always," Lois commented coolly.

"We can do this here, or I can take you all in," Jack threatened, his tone indicating he was not only not kidding, but that he wouldn't hesitate to include Jimmy in "you all." "I don't want to, but I'm running out of time here. I need your cooperation — I need your help."

Clark and Lois, in reporter mode now, exchanged glances yet again. Lois shrugged and Clark nodded. "OK," he said. "I received the key this morning in the mail at work."

"The mail!" Jack exclaimed.

Patrick laughed, a big booming laugh.

"Good ol' US Postal Service." Patrick grinned. "They deliver."

"Anyway," Clark continued slowly, "It was postmarked having been mailed yesterday from here in Metropolis, and there was a note with it."

"Let's have it — all of it." Jack held out his hand.

Clark reluctantly pulled the note and key out of his pocket, and handed them over.

Jack's whole body seemed to sag with relief as he read the crumpled paper. "So he's alive," he breathed, to Patrick ostensibly, although it seemed more to himself. "Or at least he was yesterday."

"So wait — you didn't send this?" Lois asked, disconcerted.

"Thanks," Jack said, getting up. "We'll be in touch."

Patrick rose also and the two headed for the door.

"Oh, no, you don't," Clark demanded, moving quickly to block the door. "I think it's time we got an explanation!"

"Mr. Kent, we already explained that this is a matter of national security," Patrick reminded him. The two agents near the door seemed ready to draw their weapons and this time Jack made no move to stop them.

"We appreciate your help," Jack restated smoothly. "Come on Jim, I'll have someone give you a ride home."

"You'll have — never mind, I can manage," Jimmy muttered, attempting to brush past his father, who placed a hand on his shoulder to stop him.

"I'd rather you were escorted," he said firmly.


The five of them left the building together. Jack sent Jimmy off with the two agents, then turned to his partner. "If he's still alive, he's going to come here looking for it."

Patrick nodded. "We'll keep an eye on the place."


Inside, Lois and Clark stared at each other, suddenly finding themselves alone again in their own home.

"What just happened here?" Clark wondered. "What or who were they looking for?"

Lois shook her head. "I have no idea," she answered. "I told you we should have gone to check out that safe deposit box."

Clark looked at her askance and she grinned at him, softening the criticism. He put his arms around her. "Can we try to make it a new practice that you not get so close to men with guns?"

"Me?! I was just sitting in my living room minding my own business! You're the one that made them mad — " She was cut off by her husband's kiss and decided to drop the subject all together.

Lois was just thinking that perhaps the evening was not going to be a total loss after all when Clark's head suddenly shot up. Lois murmured in protest, and he gently placed a hand over her mouth and a finger over his own lips.

She looked puzzled as he headed for the stairs, pointing at her, indicating that she should stay there. She nodded and Clark was upstairs before she could blink.


The hooded intruder had cleanly picked the lock on the window in the darkened spare bedroom and had barely taken a step toward the bedroom door when Clark was on him, gripping him in a headlock.

Over the trespasser's protests, Clark pulled the hood back — and gasped.

It was Jack.

Not the NIA agent that had just been in his living room, but the young man who, four years ago, Clark had pulled off the streets and gotten into a halfway house, not to mention procuring a job for him at the Daily Planet. Yet after only a few months at that job, Jack had taken off in search of adventure, of bigger and better things. He had sent Clark one Christmas card and a postcard or two, but the two had lost touch before Lois and Clark were even dating.

But now here Clark stood, in his own guest room, his arm wrapped securely around the young man's neck.

"Jack," he said, stunned, things finally clicking together in his head, things he wished weren't so.

He let the boy go and when Jack turned to look at him, Clark could see the exhaustion and desperation in his young eyes.

"You could use a good security system," was the only thing Jack said.

Clark barely acknowledged the barb, noting only Jack's bedraggled appearance.

"I think maybe you need to tell me what's going on," Clark began.

Just then Lois came up the stairs, calling for him.

"Clark? Clark, what — " she broke off at the sight of her husband and the young man beside him. She flipped on the light switch causing Jack to wince at the brightness.

Blinking, she herself struggled to focus as the room came into view.

"Lois," Clark was saying wearily, "you remember Jack … "

Lois, surprised at hearing the name, stared at the boy for a moment.

"You used to work at the Planet — you're the one who robbed Clark's apartment."

"Geez — try and get past that; it was four years ago."

"Oh, right, sorry; you've come so far since then," Lois answered cynically, indicating the open window.

"It's *not* like that!" Jack said, starting towards her, obviously frustrated.

"Hey!" Clark pulled Jack back towards him, his grip tightening. "It's time to explain what it *is* like. Let's go downstairs."

Lois walked over and relocked the window and followed Jack and Clark down the stairs. Clark paused at the bottom and took Lois aside.

"Let's give him a break," he suggested. "I want him to tell us what's going on."

"Fine with me," Lois replied, annoyed. "That would be nice for once. I'm getting a little tired of strange people breaking into my house tonight."

Clark turned to look at Jack, who met his gaze.

"I sent you something," Jack said urgently.

Clark nodded. "It *was* you. I got it."

"You did? You have it here?"

Clark looked at Lois. "Not exactly. Jack — "

He was cut short by the front door flying open and Jack Olsen and Patrick McDunn entering. "We'll take it from here," Olsen said, crossing the room and cuffing Jack.

Over Clark's objections, they led a loudly protesting Jack from the house, once more leaving Lois and Clark alone in their living room.

"WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?!" Clark threw up his hands in frustration.

"Come on," said his wife, her coat already over her arm as she grabbed his elbow and pulled him out the door.

*NIA, Metropolis Branch*

By 9:00 the next morning, an exhausted Clark had just about had it. He had been at the local NIA branch office all night and was quickly reaching the end of his rope. He and Lois had been stuck in a waiting room when they got there and despite repeated attempts, had not been allowed to see or talk to Jack or to any of the agents. After attempting a couple of uncomfortable catnaps on the couch, Lois had finally left a few hours ago to go home and change for work.

Clark was practically climbing the walls (and was considering doing so literally) by the time Jack Olsen came to find him. He, too, looked exhausted as he handed Clark a cup of coffee and sat down with him. "I can't believe you're still here."

"Where's Jack — is he all right?"

Olsen looked around. "Where's your lovely wife?"

"She had to go to *work*" Clark replied, annoyed. "She's thinking of writing a story about mistreatment inside the walls of the NIA."

Olsen glared at him. "Do I need to explain the phrase 'national security' to you, Kent?"

"You need to explain *something* to me, Jack."

Jack Olsen sighed. He got up and crossed the room. "That would be a huge violation of procedure."

"He doesn't have anyone," Clark said softly. "He's always been alone. I'm the only one who ever gave a damn about him."

Olsen hesitated, then punched some numbers into a keypad by the door. After a pause, he sat down across from Clark. "Now we can't be 'overheard'." He looked Clark in the eye. "This is completely off the record."

"Oh, please!" said Clark, exasperated. "I didn't wear a hole in your floor for a story, Jack!"

"All right, all right." Olsen sighed. "We've got a double agent in our midst." On Clark's shock, he continued, "We had one of our agents on the case. He turned up in the harbor a few nights ago."

"He was NIA … no wonder the cops weren't talking," Clark breathed.

Olsen nodded. "Situation like that, we tell them to clean it up and go on. It never happened. But this guy had evidence — which was in the safe deposit box. At least it was supposed to be."

"What do you mean 'supposed to be?'" Clark asked uneasily.

"We got access to the box a couple hours ago. It's empty."

Clark sighed. "So now what? And how did Jack get involved in this?"

Olsen studied him, then got up and motioned for Clark to follow. "Come on. You can ask him yourself."

He led Clark to a holding room where Jack had been held since arriving at the NIA. It wasn't much different from the room Clark had been in, except this one had a table and a two-way mirror.

Jack looked up miserably when the door opened, but his mouth dropped open when Clark entered. "You're still here? I can't believe you're still here!"

"Yeah, that seems to be the consensus." Clark took a seat next to him, waiting until Olsen left and shut the door to speak any further. "Now, you want to tell me what's going on?"

"That's all I've been doing all night," Jack groaned, getting up and crossing the room. "Telling the story, over and over — "

Past the end of his rope, Clark leapt up and angrily grabbed Jack by the arms, turning the young man sharply to face him. They stood frozen for a moment, each flashing back to a different day, a different crime, another questioning.

"OK," Jack said finally, softly. "I'll tell you everything."


Jack Olsen walked back into the office he was using, slamming the door behind him. It banged against the door frame, springing open again. Olsen didn't even notice. He was furious — with himself, with this case. And now he was second-guessing himself … which in this business, was a dangerous thing.

Maybe he shouldn't have given Clark Kent any information, maybe he shouldn't have let the reporter get involved at all. Some secrets were made to be kept … but others were made to be shared.

The difficulty was knowing when to keep quiet and when to speak.

But there was one secret he was planning to keep — his involving Clark Kent. It was something he wouldn't even tell Patrick, and he usually told Patrick everything. Jack Olsen had a lot of leeway in his job. His bosses trusted him — expected him — to do whatever was necessary. But involving civilians was a dicey area … and if this didn't work …

In any case, it was better if no one knew.

He trusted Kent. He wouldn't have let him in the door if he didn't. Clark had always been very good to Jimmy, and the reporter also seemed to have a genuine fondness for the kid, Jack. Olsen wished someone had been there to look after him at that age. He wished he himself had been there to look after his own son that way.

He opened his wallet and pulled out a relatively recent picture of Jimmy. "Ah, Jim," he sighed, "who knows? It might have saved you a few years in reform school."

"Reform school wasn't so bad," came a voice from behind him. Jack Olsen looked up to see his son in the doorway. "You wouldn't believe some of the things I learned there."

"Oh, I think I probably would," Olsen contradicted. "What are you doing here? And how did you get in?"

"Uncle Pat signed me in." Without waiting to be asked, Jimmy walked into the office and stood opposite his father. "I could have waited for you to come to me, but then we'd both be old and gray, wouldn't we?"

Olsen glared at him. "Jimmy, I hardly think that's necessary." When Jimmy met his gaze and didn't answer him, Olsen tried again. "If this is about Patrick — "

"It's not about Pat. No, actually it is about Pat. It's about that and all the other things you never told me," Jimmy scowled.

"I though we were past this, Jim," Jack Olsen said wearily. "I thought you understood … "

"Understood?! You burst into my friends' home, arrest another friend of mine and I'm supposed to understand?!"

Olsen looked up, surprised. "I didn't know Jack was a friend of yours. I didn't even know you knew him."

"Yeah, I met him a few years back. He worked at the Planet for a while. What does that have to do with anything?"

"How well do you know him?" Olsen persisted.

Jimmy looked at him, puzzled. "I haven't talked to him in years, if that's what you mean." He stopped at looked carefully at his father. "Wait a minute. He's in a lot of trouble, isn't he?"

"You have no idea," his father muttered.


"Since I left Metropolis, I've kind of been bouncing around," Jack began. "The social workers finally found an aunt in California that was willing to take in my little brother, but she didn't want me, and I didn't want to live out there anyway. I hitched around the country, working a job here, a job there … never found anything I really liked. Eventually, I decided to make my way back here. I didn't have a job or anything — that's why I didn't get in touch with you. I wanted to be settled first … "

"You should have contacted me … I could have gotten you something. It's dangerous out there, Jack!"

Jack rolled his eyes. "This is exactly why I didn't call you! I'm not a kid anymore — you don't need to baby-sit me!"

"I never — "

"Look, do you want to hear this or not?"

Clark sat back, contrite. "I'm sorry … I shouldn't have said anything … go on."

Jack took a deep breath and continued. "I got back in town a few weeks ago. I went to look up some old friends and I ran into Terry."

"Who's Terry?"

"He's this guy that hung out at Joe's, you know that dive downtown? I knew him from before — sometimes, when he'd had too much to drink, he used to tell us stories about being in the NIA. Just — like old war stories kind of stuff, never too much detail. He made it sound so cool — traveling the world, working undercover … "

"Always lying about who you are, never letting anyone get to close, learn too much about you … "

"Is that really so bad?"

"Jack," Clark said wearily. "That's not any kind of life. Without letting people in — knowing you, loving you — you'll always be missing something. You'll always be … alone."

Jack threw up his hands. "The lone hero. Me and Superman." He laughed bitterly

Clark looked up and shook his head as Jack began to pace. "Even Superman has loved ones, Jack. People he cares about, people who care about him."

Jack stopped pacing, his back to Clark, and stood silently for a long moment.

Finally, Clark leaned forward in his chair. "So, tell me more about Terry."

Jack shrugged and turned. "We'd been talking at the bar and he told me he was onto something big. He seemed real jumpy — kept looking over his shoulder. Then, a few nights ago, he handed me this key and told me to keep it safe. Said someone was looking for him and it was important they didn't find it. I put the key in my pocket and we left out the back way. That's when they came after us — big guys with guns. They killed him, Clark — " his voice broke, finally letting some emotion crack his tough exterior.

"These guys sound like professionals, Jack. How in the world did you get away?"

Jack smiled, a sad, rueful smile. "The alley was dark … I think they didn't realize we were together at first. We were heading off in opposite directions. I was almost around the corner when they jumped Terry. I started to run back to help him but then I heard one of them say that they had searched Terry's pockets and he didn't have it. That's when they saw me and recognized that I was with Terry in the bar … they put two and two together … and I ran like hell."

"What did you do?"

"I managed to lose them and I hid for a couple days. But I knew they were closing in on me, so I sent the box to you."

"Well, you did the right thing there," Clark sighed.

"I never knew what was in the safe deposit box, I swear — "

"I believe you," Clark assured him.

"What is in the box? Do you know?"

Clark hesitated. "Nothing. It was empty."

Jack was horrified. "Empty? Are you sure?"

Clark nodded. "They opened it early this morning."

Jack was devastated. "Then this was all for nothing?" He sat down, burying his head in his hands. Clark put his hand on Jack's shoulder.

"Not for nothing."


"How well do *you* know Jack, Dad?"

Jack Olsen turned to look at his suddenly curious son and sighed. "I *don't* know him — not really. And yet I know him all too well."

"Okay … what does that mean?"

"He stumbled onto something he shouldn't have — well, two somethings. The first was … some information. The second was a fascination with 'the life'."

Jimmy was still puzzled. "'The life?'"

Olsen grinned ruefully. "That's what we call it, being in this business. 'The life.' When you're not in it, it seems glamorous, exciting, dangerous — fun. Just like the movies. When you're in it, you spend all your time lying or making excuses to people who aren't in it. It isn't all it's cracked up to be, Jim."

Jimmy looked up at his father thoughtfully. "I guess the reason I didn't realize about Uncle Pat is that I never really thought about it. I guess there are a lot of things I never really thought about."

Olsen smiled. "Don't get me wrong. I love my work. It's important; it helps a lot of people. And this business has treated me pretty well for quite a few years. It's just — sometimes I wish I did something ordinary, like … oh, I don't know … "

Jimmy laughed. "Ordinary. You can't even *think* of anything ordinary!"

Olsen mock-frowned at him. "Don't make fun of your old man, Jim. It isn't good form." Jimmy just rolled his eyes, and Olsen relented. "Come on, I'll walk you out."

He put his arm around Jimmy's shoulders as they walked to the elevators. "I know we didn't really settle this … "

"Hey, you're busy," Jimmy replied quickly. "And I've got to get back to work anyway. Dad?"

"Yeah, Jim?"

"Jack didn't really do anything wrong, did he? I mean, how long are you going to keep him locked up?"

"Not long." Olsen smiled as his son stepped into the elevator. As the doors closed, his smile faded and he muttered to himself, "Just until he realizes that the NIA is no life for him. It's no life for anyone."


Clark stepped out of the holding room, nearly colliding with Lois. "Hey, you're back," he said, kissing her. "What are you doing here?"

"I wanted to make sure you were OK," she said, concern in her eyes. "How's Jack?"

Clark sighed and filled her in on everything, including what Jack Olsen had confided to him. "The poor kid's confused. He was trying to help; he thought 'hey, maybe this life isn't so bad'. Now he's in trouble. We have to help him, Lois."

"Clark," Lois protested. "this is a government matter. National security, remember? I think our hands are kind of tied! This may be one where we can't help."

Clark just looked at her, his lips pursed.

"Would it help if I mentioned that time is running out on our own little 'project'?"

Clark sighed heavily and raked a hand through his hair. "Honey … "

She cut him off. "Never mind … I know that tone. All right; I'm in. What exactly are you thinking we can do?"

"Good question," said an approaching Jack Olsen. "I think you have done quite enough already."

"Oh, come on," Clark protested, "you *know* Jack isn't guilty of anything. He's totally innocent in all of this."

Olsen looked annoyed, but Clark suddenly thought of something. "Not everyone knows that, though … "

"Oh, good." Lois smiled. "You do have a plan."

"Oh, I can't wait to hear this," Olsen grumbled.

Clark grinned. "Is there somewhere we can talk?"


Jimmy watched as his father escorted Lois and Clark down the hallway. He had taken the elevator down one floor and then simply ridden it back up again. He hadn't expected his father to still be in the hallway, so he kept his head turned away and waited around the corner until they left.

Now Jimmy headed for the door that Clark had just exited. Looking both ways, he slipped inside, much to Jack's surprise. "Jimmy," he said, stunned.

"Hey, what's up?" Jimmy said, as though he ran into Jack all the time in secret holding rooms at NIA offices.

"Oh, I've had better days. I've had better weeks."

"I bet." Jimmy pulled up a chair opposite Jack.

Jack stared at him. "What are you *doing* here?"

"My dad says you're in pretty big trouble," Jimmy replied.

"Your dad — Jack Olsen's your *dad*?"

Jimmy nodded. "I told him you were a friend of mine." He paused. "I know it's been a long time since you've been in town, Jack, but we all really want to help you. Everyone says you're in pretty deep."

Jack didn't answer, and after an awkward silence, Jimmy got up. "OK, well, I've got to get out of here before they come back," he said, heading for the door. He reached for the knob and turned back. "I just wanted to make sure you were all right."

Jack looked at him, his eyes narrowing in confusion. "Typical," he said quietly.


Jack shook his head in disgust. "I left Metropolis to go out and find something I thought I was missing. I wandered around like forever. But I didn't find it until I got back here."

Jimmy cocked his head and grinned. "No place like home?"

"Home," Jack mused. "I guess I wouldn't know."

"Oh, I think you do."


"No. No way."

"Jack — "

"I said *no.*"

They were back in the waiting room, which was the only room in which Jack Olsen felt they could talk safely. "Do you realize how shamelessly I have already violated the rules? I've given you highly classified information — which you then shared with your wife — "

Lois looked at Clark who was meeting Jack Olsen's gaze without a trace of guilt. "Yes, and you're holding a young man who has committed no crime."

"He's a material witness."


The older man remained impassive. Clark tried again. "He's your *only* witness. And he doesn't know anything. What are you going to do now? You don't have any leads."

"That's not your problem."

"You're the only one who questioned him," Lois picked up the thread. "The three of us are the only ones who know that Jack doesn't know what information Terry had."

"If you let him go," Clark said slowly, "your double agent will have to go after him. And then you've got him."

"I can't put him in that kind of situation. It's too dangerous," Olsen stated.

"Shouldn't that be up to him?"

"Why, because he's got such great sense when it comes to these things? He's a *kid*!"

"And he's all you've got."

"Jack," Lois said, "he's in danger as it is. The only way to protect him is to catch the mole. If you've got any better ideas … "

He didn't and they all knew it. Olsen pushed back his chair and sighed. "Let's go talk to the kid. Maybe he'll have better sense than the rest of us and want to stay out of it."


They reached the door of the holding room and Olsen suddenly turned to Clark and Lois. "Why don't you two go take a walk?" he said, the implication clear.

"Wait a minute," Clark protested, putting his hand on Olsen's chest.

"Geez, Kent, you've been here since last night. Wouldn't you like to take your wife and maybe get something to eat?"

"I'm not leaving him," Clark said firmly.

Olsen looked down pointedly at Clark's arm, and Clark dropped it, backing off slightly.

Olsen took a deep breath and continued, placatingly. "Look, we're all on the same side here. We all want what's best for this kid. I need to talk to him — alone — to figure out what that is."

Clark looked as though he were about to say something he would later regret, so Lois gently pulled on his arm. "Come on," she urged. "I'll buy you a cup of coffee."

Clark glared at Olsen. "Fine," he muttered, "but we're not going far."

Olsen frowned back as Lois led Clark down the hall.

"*You* need to stick to decaf," she said, in an attempt at humor.

"Caffeine doesn't affect me," Clark snapped irritably as they made their way down the long corridor.

Lois stopped in her tracks and watched, eyes flashing, as it took her husband another few seconds to realize she was no longer beside him. She raised her eyebrows at him defiantly when he turned back in surprise.

Clark sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "I'm sorry, honey. It's just … "

"What? Tell me, because I'm not getting it," Lois asked, her patience long gone by now. "What does this kid mean to you that's so important? So important that you can't even make time to conceive our own child?"

Clark's eyes first flashed in anger at her accusation, but soon showed his contrition. "I'm sorry if I've made you feel that way," he responded quietly.

Lois backed down, too, regretting lashing out at him. "Clark, I recognize that you want to help him and he used to be your friend, but it seems like this is going beyond your usual involvement."

"You don't understand."

"You're right," Lois said, almost pleadingly. "I don't. So explain it to me."

Clark dropped his eyes to the ground. "Not now. Not here. Later, I promise." He lifted his head and attempted a smile. "Ok?"

She nodded and reluctantly agreed. "Ok."

He took her hand and gave it a tender squeeze.

Lois just sighed and went with him to the cafeteria.


Olsen watched them go for a minute and then entered the holding room. Jack was now lying on the table in the center of the room, his eyes closed. He opened one eye to see who had come in, then closed it again. "I'm no longer receiving visitors," he announced.

Olsen ignored him. "Look, kid, it's time for us to talk." He walked over and pushed Jack's legs off the table so he was forced to sit up.

"Hey!" Jack protested, grabbing the edge of the table to keep from falling off. "You know, that's a two-way mirror over there. People are witnessing this treatment.

"No one's witnessing anything," Olsen sighed. "No one's watching you; no one's looking out for you. Except Kent, and I just sent him downstairs. It's just you and me, buddy, and we're going to talk.

"I thought we went through all this last night," Jack muttered, quieter now.

"Well, we're going to go back and go through it again," Olsen snapped. "Because it isn't going to be over until we catch this guy."

"The guy that killed Terry."

"Yes, the guy that killed Terry." Olsen went over and opened the door, holding it open for Jack. "Come on."

Jack was puzzled. "Where?"

"You don't want a change of scenery?"

Jack didn't need to be asked twice. He hopped off the table and followed Olsen out of the room.

The two made their way to Olsen's office where Olsen sat Jack down on the sofa and handed him a sandwich and some juice. Jack practically inhaled it.

"Better?" Olsen asked as the exhausted boy leaned back on the cushions.


"Good," Olsen said, sitting down across from him, "then listen up. We don't have too many choices here and we're running out of time. Kent came up with an idea which personally I think is nuts, but like I said, our options are limited. He thinks I should release you into his custody, keep an eye on you and wait for this guy to come after you. I mean, it's crazy … "

"How would this guy know where I am?" Jack interrupted, puzzled.

Olsen stopped and met his gaze. "He's one of us, Jack. It kills me, but Terry was murdered by an agency man."

Jack's eyes widened. "A double agent? So it could be anybody … *here*." He stood up in sudden paranoia. "I've been here for *hours* and anyone here could have thought that I know who they are … "

Olsen went over and put his hands on Jack's shoulders. "Relax. You're in good hands here."

"Why," Jack asked slowly," would someone betray their country, the people they work with, the people that have saved their lives?"

Olsen was quiet for a moment and then said, "People do things for all kinds of reasons, Jack. In a case like this, it's probably about money. But sometimes … it's just an agent gone bad. It happens, unfortunately. This life is not for everyone."

Jack nodded. He was beginning to see that. It all seemed so glamorous, the tales Terry used to tell him. And he couldn't deny the rush of excitement that coursed through his body when he slipped that small box into his pocket in the bar several days ago — it was just like in the movies, and he was going to save the day. Only it wasn't like in the movies at all. His friend had been brutally murdered practically right in front of him … and now the killers were after him as well.

"But now," Olsen continued with a cheeriness he didn't feel, "the most important thing is to find whoever it is … and stop them. So, how do you feel about being bait?"

Jack's nervous look betrayed him, his regret at getting involved in the first place clearly written on his face. But he answered with what they both knew was false bravado. "Whatever you need. We'll get this guy."

Olsen nodded and put his arm around the young man's shoulders. "Let's go."

*348 Hyperion Avenue*

Jack, Clark, Lois and Olsen entered the townhouse with a great deal of trepidation.

"Shouldn't we have waited for it to get dark?" Jack wondered, glancing around the living room.

"No, we *want* them to know you're here," Lois reminded him. "We *want* them to come after you."

"Oh, yeah, right."

Olsen gave the entire house a once over, while Clark surreptitiously X-rayed it, both coming to the same conclusion that no one was lurking on the premises.

"You two really need to get yourselves a security system," Olsen commented.

"See?" Jack said pointedly.

"Uh — yeah," Clark said with a sidelong glance at his wife, "we're looking into that."

Olsen still looked uneasy. "This whole thing is unofficial, and may I remind you, not exactly legitimate. I can't provide you with NIA protection."

"We'll be fine," Lois assured him. "Superman is always close by."

"We'll get this guy," Clark said confidently.

Olsen was unimpressed. "I've got to get back to my office. I will be back, though, as soon as I can. And you know how to reach me."

Clark showed him out, locking the door behind him.

He then turned to Jack, who was studying the family pictures on the wall.

"Why don't you go upstairs and crash for a while, Jack? You must be wiped out."

"Nah, I'm fine," Jack insisted. "So, did you have a big wedding?"

Lois recognized the attempt at idle small talk. "You need to rest, Jack," she said.

Jack would have protested again, but he was interrupted by a huge yawn.

Clark walked over and put a hand on Jack's shoulder. "You're safe here. Between us, Jack Olsen and Superman, nothing's going to happen." Jack nodded. "Now," Clark continued, "Lois is right — you should rest. It could be a while before anything happens. Are you hungry?"

"I could make you something to eat," Lois offered helpfully and Clark quickly shook his head at Jack, his eyes wide.

"Uh, no thanks, that's OK," Jack answered hastily. "I think I'll go upstairs." With a smile and a wave, he quickly made his way up to the spare bedroom.

"Hey," Lois said, making a face at Clark. "I saw that."

Clark grinned at her. "Well, as much as I enjoy wearing the same clothes for two days … I think I'm going to take a shower and try to get some sleep myself." He headed toward the stairs.

"Need any help?" Lois offered quietly.

Clark turned around and watched his wife watching him. She looked anxious and, with an apologetic look, he went back and put his arms around her.

Lois clung to him for the briefest of moments and then pulled him onto the couch with her. "Are you all right?" she asked, brushing a lock of hair from his eyes.

Clark smiled and nodded. "Yeah. I'm — I'm sorry about earlier. It's just — I feel responsible for him, you know? Ever since I met him, I've felt protective of him. I don't know … I feel like if I don't look out for him, then no one will … "

His voice trailed off and Lois wrapped her arms more securely around him. "Clark, I understand that. I really do, and I think it's great that you feel that way about him. It just reinforces my belief that you are going to be a great father."

Clark pulled back and looked at her, uncertainty in his eyes.

Lois was puzzled. "You don't doubt that, do you? I mean, I thought you had gotten past the fear that our child 'wouldn't be able to pick you out of a lineup'."

He laughed for a second. "No, it's not that. It's just … things happen. Jack doesn't even know where his father is. And Jimmy's barely speaking to his."

"Well, Clark, look at the situations! You're not planning to abandon your family, are you?"

"No, of course not."

"Good, so you don't have to worry about our child ending up in Jack's situation. And are you planning to lie to our children about what you do?"

Clark looked at her helplessly. Lois held up a hand. "Let me rephrase that. Are you planning to have our children grow up believing you do one thing when you really do something else?" Clark buried his head in his hands and Lois winced. "I'm not helping here, am I?"

"No, but the effort is appreciated."

"Look, Clark," Lois knelt in front of him, "Jack Olsen lied to his wife, his son, his whole family — no one knew what he really did, where he really was. And that kind of honesty wrecked his marriage and destroyed his family. *We* are stronger than that. And our children are going to understand, as soon as they are old enough, exactly what kind of man their father is. And they'll be as proud of him as I am."

Clark leaned forward slowly, his eyes closing as he touched his lips to hers gently. "I love you, Lois," he murmured, wrapping his arms around her and drawing her to him. "I'm sorry you thought that I wasn't making time for our own baby."

"Shh, it's OK … I shouldn't have said that. I shouldn't pressure you if you're not feeling up to it today … if you have too much on your mind … "

Clark pulled back so he could look into her eyes. He smiled warmly as he cupped her cheek. "You're on my mind."

Lois traced his lips with her fingertips, giving a tiny sigh of satisfaction as he kissed them. "Did someone say something about a shower?"

"Did someone say something about helping?"

Lois smiled. "I bet if we go upstairs at super-speed we won't wake Jack."


Jack, however, was far from asleep. He had tried, but only succeeded in dropping off for a few minutes. Instead, he was now pacing in the confined space of Lois and Clark's spare bedroom. And the caged feeling was making him go out of his mind.

"I need air," he muttered going over to the window. He moved to unlock it, but thought better and pulled his hand away. "I just — " he sighed in frustration. "I need to walk around the block to clear my head."

He paused, knowing that he shouldn't go out alone. But he was quick with a rationalization.

"I'll be back in ten minutes … before anyone even knows I'm gone."

Years of experience at this kind of thing bolstering his confidence, Jack shut off the light in his room, quietly opened the bedroom door and stepped into the hall.

The house was dark, the only light coming from underneath Lois and Clark's closed door. He smiled as he heard the low murmur of voices, followed by a feminine giggle and a masculine groan. Then the shower began running and he couldn't hear anything else.

'Nope, they'll never know I'm gone,' he grinned to himself. Jack tiptoed down the stairs, grabbed his jacket and was out the front door in less than a minute.

The sense of freedom he felt coming down the front steps was exhilarating. He made it almost to the end of the block before he was grabbed around the neck.

"Let's go," the man hissed, and Jack, aware of the knife at his throat, nevertheless gave a desperate cry as he was thrown into the back of a waiting van.


Clark was kissing his way down Lois's neck, the hot water pouring down on them when he suddenly stopped.

"What?" Lois whispered as he turned to x-ray though the wall.

"No, no, no … oh, Jack," Clark muttered, flinging the shower curtain aside and leaving the room in a blur.

By the time Lois grabbed a robe and ran downstairs, calling her husband's name, there was no one to be found.


Clark flew over the city three times, but there was no sign of Jack. He realized wherever they had taken him, whatever kind of vehicle he was in, it must have been lined with lead.

Frustrated and angry with himself, he turned around to head home. By prior arrangement, Lois had called Jack Olsen, and given him a code to alert him to what had happened. Olsen was already at the house reaming out Lois.

Clark listened from the street, hesitating, then made the decision and entered the house as himself. He and Lois were both at fault and Clark knew he had to take his share of the blame.

He entered running and Olsen interrupted his tirade to turn on him. "Well?" he demanded.

"There was no sign of him — Superman's still out looking." He felt sick at the lie and Lois's expression didn't help. She was dressed, but her hair was still damp and she stared at him in horror.

"What the hell happened?!" Olsen was furious. "I left him with you for less than two hours! Why didn't you keep an eye on him? What were you *thinking*?"

Clark opened his mouth to respond, to apologize, but Olsen held up his hand. "Forget it. I'll find him myself."

"But — " Lois started, then stopped as Olsen pulled out a small hand-held computer.

Clark realized what it was. "You marked him," he said, not knowing whether to be relieved or annoyed.

Lois looked shocked and Olsen glared at both of them. "I slipped a marker into his jacket. And it's a good thing I did, don't you think?"

Lois opened her mouth to answer sharply, but Clark's look stopped her. The image on the screen came up with an address. "4th and Grant. That's down by the pier."

"You go," Clark urged. "I'll get in touch with Superman and meet you there."

"Get in touch with him? I thought you said he was out looking. Does he carry a cellphone now?"

Clark, caught off guard at the unexpected challenge, was fumbling for an answer when Lois stepped in quickly, indicating the door with her hand.

"We're wasting time," she reminded Olsen pointedly. He acquiesced, leaving hurriedly.

Clark shot his wife a grateful look. "Stay here," he warned and was gone in a blur.

*Pier 12, Metropolis Harbor*

Superman arrived at the warehouse moments later, noting the van parked outside. He confirmed the lead paint that covered it and cursed his one fallibility. He X-rayed the warehouse and was dismayed to find it empty. "Great," he muttered.

Scanning the area, he suddenly noticed the sign indicating that the building was a fallout shelter. He tried to look through the floor into the basement, and sure enough, his vision was blocked.

He grinned to himself and entered the warehouse.

The men below jumped in shock when the ceiling came crashing in on them. They looked up just in time to see the man with the red cape landing in their midst.

There were five men in addition to a bound and gagged Jack, and they tried to scatter when they realized what was happening.

Unfortunately for them, Superman had them trapped behind several heavy crates before they could take more than three steps.

"Are you all right?" Superman asked, freeing Jack.

"Yes, I'm — Superman!! Over there!" Jack pointed to where someone else seemed to be fleeing the room.

Superman was on the man in a second, grabbing him and whirling him around. "All right, let's — ". He broke off in shock when he saw the man's face. "McDunn!" he exclaimed.

Patrick blinked, surprised that Superman knew his name.

Superman shook his head. "But why?"

"That's what I'd like to know," came a voice from behind them. Jack Olsen emerged from the dusty shadows, followed by backup agents who began the process of rounding up McDunn's team.

Out of the corner of his eye, Superman saw Lois enter, tape recorder and notepad in hand. He shot her an annoyed look but she just smiled sweetly and made her way over to young Jack, inquiring if he was OK.

As Jack assured her he was fine, Superman approached his wife.

"Lois," he began sternly, "didn't Clark — "

"Where is Clark?" Jack asked suddenly.

"Yes, Superman," Lois wondered coolly, "Where is Clark?"

Superman muttered something about having seen Clark outside and confirming with the NIA operatives that the situation was under control, made a quick exit.

He appeared seconds later as Clark, making a big fuss asking if Jack was all right and taking the opportunity to scold his wife. Lois, of course, paid no attention to him as she set to work.

Jack Olsen heard none of this, his attention completely focused on his partner and best friend's betrayal.

"Pat," he said, trying to maintain some dignity as he fought his overwhelming fury, "just tell me why. And then tell me how. After all these years, how could you?? For God's sake — I trusted you! You're my son's godfather!"

"Oh, please!" Patrick practically spit at him. "We trust no one, Jackie … that's the way it works for us. Every man for himself … we lie to our wives, to our children, to our friends … and get rewarded for doing so."

"That's not what the NIA is about — "

"Bull! It's what every part of the NIA is about … oh, but you're not like that … you're the agent who always puts his family first. How long has it been since you've seen that godson of mine, Jackie boy?"

Jack Olsen's eyes narrowed in fury at the bitter sarcasm that spewed from his partner's mouth. "I'm no angel, Patrick, and I've never claimed to be. And I'm the first to admit that the NIA isn't perfect. But we stand for something, something good, something important. And you betrayed us all. Your job, your country, me! Doesn't that mean anything to you? You took an oath! What you did cost people their lives!"

Patrick laughed sardonically. "What am I, Superman?" he snapped. "You expect me to just keep playing hero with no regard for myself at all? Get real, Jack! It doesn't work like that! I deserve more than that! I got tired of giving my life to a job that wasn't giving me enough in return. I just found a way to get more in return."

"And kill a fellow agent and go after an innocent kid who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Clark looked over at Jack who was glued to the men's confrontation.

"No one ever plans to get caught, Jack … I just did what I had to do. Just like you did what you had to do to catch me."

Jack Olsen had had enough. "Get him out of here," he seethed, shoving Patrick towards two waiting agents. "And you," he barked at another agent, "have a doctor look this young man over and make sure he's OK. Now!"

The agent took Jack by the arm and led him out of the shelter, the young man too shell-shocked to protest.

After taking a moment to compose himself, Jack Olsen turned to Lois and Clark. "Well, I guess we can get out of here, too. My men will sweep the place, take care of things here."

He was stopped by a hand on his arm.

"Wait a minute," came Lois's voice, sympathetic but firm. "I'm a little confused on something. What was supposed to be in the safe deposit box? What evidence did your agent Terry have?"

Jack Olsen just looked at her coolly. "That's classified."

Lois raised an eyebrow, stunned. "Oh, *now* you're going to pull that? After we just found you your mole?? I don't think so … "

"Sorry, Lois … you know all you need to know. But we *do* appreciate your help."

Lois was getting angry, but Clark just stood off to one side, shaking his head in amazement, almost smiling.

"Our help … yeah, everything went exactly according to plan, didn't it, Jack?"

Jack met Clark's gaze evenly.

Lois looked back and forth between them. "I'm missing something … Clark, what do you mean, 'according to plan'?"

Clark was still looking at Jack, however. "I can't believe you guys … you set it up. Jack, us … all of it." Clark laughed a humorless laugh. "Don't you see, Lois? There never was any evidence in that box … there wasn't supposed to be. Patrick just had to think there was so he would come after Terry."

Lois's eyes widened, and Olsen's impassive expression gave Clark all the confirmation he needed, and he continued, spelling it out.

"It was all a ploy … a ruse … you knew the double agent would come after Terry since he thought Terry had evidence to expose him. Only Terry got killed. That wasn't in the plan, was it, Jack?"

Jack stared back at Clark unwaveringly. "Terry was a trained agent … he knew the risks … but yes, it wasn't supposed to work that way … they moved sooner than we expected; our back-up wasn't there in time. It's … regrettable … to say the least. But it didn't change our goal."

"So, all that time we were 'convincing' you to use Jack as bait … all that stuff about violating policy and it being too dangerous — you were going to do that all along. You just used us to help convince Jack."

Jack looked back and forth between Lois and Clark. "You two have a reputation in the NIA, Clark … telling you to go away pretty much guarantees you're in for the count, wouldn't you agree?"

The female half of Lane and Kent found her voice. "Why you manipulative son of a — "

"No one ever said this was a pretty life, Lois — no one ever said that we are nice people doing nice things. I would think you of all people should know that. We knew the safe deposit box was empty, yes, but we didn't know that Terry was going to pass that key along to Jack … and if I had known Terry was going to do it, I would have told him not to. But when it did happen, we had to respond in the only way we could. Getting a double agent off the streets is vital to our country's security."

"Even if it risks an innocent bystander's life?" Clark fixed Olsen with a piercing stare.

Olsen returned it in kind. "The minute Jack accepted that key, he ceased to be an innocent bystander. If I'd had any choice in the matter, he would have never gotten involved. But once he did … we had nochoice. His life was in danger, too! Get off it, Kent. You came up with the same solution, remember? It was the only way."

Clark didn't respond. It was true — it had been the only solution. It was not Jack Olsen's fault that young Jack had gotten involved in the first place. But it still infuriated Clark that he'd been used so easily.

Jack Olsen sighed heavily. "Look, Lois, Clark … It's my business to keep secrets. But this isn't a secret — everything I did was to protect my country and to protect that young man out there. If nothing else, I think this experience showed Jack that this isn't the life for him … " Olsen trailed off, looking sadly out the shelter door where he had last seen Patrick.

"Hell," he added in a mournful voice, "sometimes I wonder if it's the life for anyone."

*Daily Planet Newsroom*

Lois held up the newspaper, bearing the headline, 'NIA Double Agent Caught'."

"Good job," Perry commented, coming up behind her.

"Thanks, Perry."

"Nice touch including an interview with the kid."

"I thought it was important for Jack to tell his story in his own words," Lois said, watching Clark with Jack across the room.

"He did well. I think he'll do fine around here."

"Thanks for giving him his old job back, Perry. I know it means a lot to him — and to Clark."

Perry grinned. "The kid's come a long way. Who knows? Maybe I'll pair him up with Olsen — see how it works out." He headed back to his office.

The sound of Clark's laughter made Lois turn back to watch him. She loved hearing him laugh. It always made her feel like something was right in the world.

Jimmy joined Jack and Clark at about the same that Lois felt a hand on her shoulder. She turned to see Jack Olsen standing behind her.

"You two really came through for that boy," he said quietly. He looked tired, the strain of the last few days showing on his face.

"So, are you all right?" Lois asked, offering him a chair. After discussing it in the car, she and Clark had come to terms with their latest dealings with the NIA and its 'partial truths' and decided that it was best not to hold a grudge against Jack Olsen … for Jimmy's sake, as well as young Jack's, if nothing else.

Olsen sat down and smiled bitterly.

"Yeah," he said, a shadow crossing his face. "It's just — you think you know someone — you trust them with your life … and then … "

"Hey Dad." Jimmy had crossed the room and now was standing beside his father. "How are you doing?"

"Oh, I'm hanging in there, Jim," Olsen said brightly, obviously trying to make an effort for Jimmy's sake.

"So, I guess you're going to be taking off pretty soon?" Jimmy perched on the edge of Lois' desk as Clark and Jack approached.

"Actually, Jim, I wanted to talk to you about that," Olsen sighed wearily. "I'm thinking of taking some time off — I'm due some R&R. Long overdue, actually. What would you say if I hung out in Metropolis for a while?"

Jimmy's face lit up. "Really? That would be great!"

Olsen got up. "So … how about treating your old man to breakfast?"

"You got it!"

As father and son headed toward the elevator, Lois and Clark exchanged glances. Seeing the two Olsens together confirmed that they'd made the right choice.

Lois turned her attention to Jack. "So, do you have a place to stay?"

"Oh, yeah — actually, I'm crashing with Jimmy until I find a place. I'm looking at one this afternoon, it — "

He was interrupted by Perry exiting his office and bellowing, "Hey kid! Get in here!"

Jack rolled his eyes, muttered "Yeah, yeah," and headed to Perry's office.

"Honey, it was awfully nice of you to ask him that … "


"But what if he wanted to stay with us?"

Lois looked at him in surprise. "I thought you were feeling all paternalistic towards him? I figured you'd want him to stay with us."

Clark smiled warmly. "Actually … I was hoping we could work on that little 'project' of our own."

Lois looked at her watch regretfully. "I think our window of opportunity will be closed by the time we get out of here tonight."

Clark considered this, then grinned. "So … what if we try to take that opportunity sooner, rather than later?"

"Clark, we can't leave now. We've got all kinds of follow-ups to do on our story!"

Clark shook his head. "I didn't say anything about leaving."

Lois' eyes lit up as he took her hand. "Oh, you wouldn't," she challenged him.

"Wouldn't I though?" Still grinning, he scanned the room for prying eyes … and suddenly they disappeared in a blur of wind and papers.

It was fortunate that none of the Daily Planet staffers found it necessary to go into the supply closet for the next half hour, although some did wonder about the muffled laughter that was coming from inside.


Characters in this episode are copyrighted by DC Comics, December 3rd Production and Warner Brothers. No infringement is intended in any part by the author or the Season 5 group, however, the ideas expressed within this episode are copyrighted (c) 1997 to the author.