By Wendy Richards <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted December 1998
Summary: In the episode "And the Answer Is …" Lois volunteers to be frozen in order to help Superman rescue Clark's parents. But is this an easy decision for her? What goes through her mind as she waits for the freezing breath that will render her unconscious?
- Author's introduction -
This story is in some ways a counterpart to my earlier story 'After the Thaw', although it isn't necessary to have read that story before reading this one. 'After the Thaw' dealt with the events towards the end of ATAI (in which Clark, as Superman, had to freeze Lois in order to save his parents' life) from Clark's point of view. I've always thought that those two brief scenes in ATAI (Lois with Clark in the conference room, then with Superman in her apartment) are among the most moving in the entire series. This short story takes those events from Lois's point of view, examining what might have gone through her mind as she put her life at risk to save Martha and Jonathan.
All characters in the story belong to D.C. Comics and Warner Bros; the core plot and most of the dialogue are (c) December 3rd Productions, and no breach of copyright is intended.
"He… wants… you dead."
Lois had known as soon as she had seen Clark's expression change, during his last telephone conversation with Jason Mazik, from anger to frozen despair, that it was bad news. She had feared the worst: that their visit to Mazik had prompted him to carry out his threat and kill Jonathan and Martha Kent. Clark had been incoherent when he had replaced the receiver, and when he had taken her by the shoulders and steered her firmly towards the conference room, his face a rigid mask of horror, she had been convinced that he had just been told that his parents were dead. His precise words took a moment or two to sink in.
"He… wants… you dead. In half an hour. Or my parents will die." Clark's tone was flat; he was clearly in a state of shock. Lois had become familiar with Clark's moods over the almost two years she had known him: she had seen him angry, joyful, concerned, excited, miserable… and over the past twelve hours she had supported him in his anguish over his parents' kidnapping. But she had never seen such an expression of desperation on his face, and in his voice, before now.
If Lois had ever doubted that Clark loved her, the strength of his feelings for her was now patently obvious. His tortured demeanour revealed all too clearly what he was suffering: he was having to make a choice between the lives of his parents, whom he loved dearly, and the life of the woman he was deeply in love with. Watching Clark's agony, Lois barely had an opportunity to consider the danger she herself was clearly in, although she recognised the source of that danger.
"It's Nigel — we got too close," she bit out instinctively, but was taken aback by Clark's next words, panicky, urging her to get on a plane and get away from Metropolis. She instantly realised that, whether or not he recognised it himself, Clark had made his choice between Lois and his parents, and had chosen Lois. He would sacrifice Jonathan and Martha for her. The realisation overwhelmed her.
Of course, she was aware, and probably he knew also, that it wasn't possible for her to escape Nigel St John's desire for revenge as easily as that. Even if she could get away from Metropolis quickly enough without the help of Superman (which, strangely, Clark hadn't suggested), she knew that St John would still pursue her. Mazik had already made it clear that he didn't stick to bargains, since he had refused to release Jonathan and Martha after Clark had robbed the jewelry store. Why should he and St John leave Lois alone even after the Kents were dead?
And the converse was also true: even if Lois were to be sacrificed for Jonathan and Martha, there was no guarantee that this would secure their lives and freedom. However, she realised, at least it might afford Superman an opportunity to find out where the Kents were being held, so that he could free them. Clark had already told her that his father had managed to let him know they were being held somewhere lead-lined, and that as a result Superman had been unable to locate them.
Her brain ticking over frantically, she insisted to Clark what he already knew in any case: she had no intention of leaving town, and she was not going to leave him alone to deal with this. <If only we had the Resurrection pill!> she thought wildly as he pleaded with her to heed him. <Then we could make it look like I was dead, though really I'd be in a state of suspended animation…>
Suspended animation! Struck with a sudden idea for a way in which Superman could help, Lois interrupted Clark's urgent pleas for her to go into hiding.
"I've had an idea. Get Superman to meet me at my place as soon as possible," she said urgently. Clark's expression altered a little; he seemed willing to clutch at any idea, however far-fetched, if it could get all three of the people he loved most in the world out of this situation alive. Before leaving the room, Lois moved closer to Clark, intending to give him a reassuring embrace; but, struck by the thought that if her plan went wrong, she might never see him again, she reached up and kissed him passionately. He responded urgently, holding her to him with the same sense of desperation which had characterised his manner since Mazik's latest phone call.
Conscious of the passing of time, Lois broke away, assuring Clark what she was only half-convinced of herself: "Everything will be all right." She ran for the elevator; collecting her Jeep, she drove swiftly to her apartment to wait for Superman. On the way, she thought over her plan. It should work, she reflected; it *has* to! She would appear to all observers to be dead, and so long as no-one attempted to do anything to her body, like bury her or throw her into the harbour in a sack, she should be fine. And Superman would have an opportunity to rescue Clark's parents, so… It was their only chance, Lois thought.
Lois marshalled her arguments, thankful for the journalistic training which helped her to remain calm under pressure. Superman shouldn't need too much convincing, she thought; Clark would have refused outright had she explained her plan to him, but she'd had no intention of doing that. But Superman, as much as she knew he cared for her, was not in love with her, and he also understood the functions of his powers far better than either she or Clark did. He would understand that this was the only way. She would ask him to freeze her, so that it would look like she was dead. As long as he could get to her to thaw her out within a reasonable time — how quickly that needed to be Lois had no idea — she should be fine. And Clark's parents should be safe, if Superman could find them; Lois had no faith whatsoever that Mazik and St John would keep their word this time.
Superman was hovering outside Lois's window as she unlocked her apartment door; she ran to throw the casement open so that he could enter. She could see at a glance that there was no need for her to tell him about the latest development; Clark had clearly explained everything to him. Thinking distractedly that she had never seen Superman look quite so… grim-faced before, Lois thanked him for coming.
"Clark said you'd had an idea which would help us rescue his parents and save you from this death-threat," the super-hero replied abruptly. "What do you want me to do?"
"I want you to freeze me," Lois replied.
Superman stared at her, aghast. His expression suggested that either he thought he hadn't heard her correctly, or that the suggestion was too dreadful to contemplate. "*Freeze* you?"
"Yes…" Lois explained what she meant, although Superman's expression was unconvinced as she insisted that she had seen him use his super-breath to freeze people many times before. Superman was proving more difficult to convince than Lois had expected, however; his countenance remained appalled rather than merely reluctant. She had expected some degree of caution, but not this refusal even to entertain her proposal. Growing more agitated, she finished, "…And then — I would look like I was dead… and you could take my body — "
Superman interrupted her, speaking in a tight voice. "Lois — do you have any idea how dangerous that is? You could have arterial ruptures, permanent brain damage… Lois, you could die!" he finished agitatedly, clearly deeply unhappy about her request.
Lois blinked and swallowed as she digested Superman's words. Was she willing to take the risk that freezing her could kill her? The answer came back immediately: yes, she was. If it was the only way Clark's parents could be saved, then she *would* accept the risk. "Yes, I could die," she replied, struggling to keep her voice steady. Feeling unsteady suddenly, she moved to sit on the couch. The atmosphere in the room was laden with emotion.
Lois met Superman's eyes again, taking in the pain in his expression, the unspoken plea for her not to put herself at risk, and wondered briefly just how much this man did care for her. Recalling herself to the situation at hand, however, and the fact that time was running out, she spoke again. "But Clark's parents *will* die unless we help them. Please, Superman…" she leaned closer to him as he moved to sit beside her on the couch, bringing his body so close to hers that she could feel the heat radiating from him. She almost thought she saw tears glimmering in his eyes…
"You haven't seen him," she continued emotionally. "You don't know what he's going through. He needs me. And I have never needed you more than I do right now. You just can't turn me down. You can't." Tears sprang to her eyes as she pleaded, thinking of Clark as he had been in the conference room, and of how she desperately wanted to help him. She loved Clark, and she knew he loved her, but she knew that she could never be happy with him in the knowledge that his parents had been sacrificed for her safety. Superman *had* to help her.
As her eyes continued the message of pleading, Lois saw Superman sigh heavily, and knew that she had won. He looked deeply into her eyes, and spoke quietly, resignedly. "All right." He stood, still watching her intently, his expression still revealing deep, unspoken, emotion.
Lois emitted a shuddering sigh — whether of relief or fear she was not sure- and got to her feet, standing facing Superman. She hesitated, remembering the brief scene in the conference room; Superman's words came back to her, resounding over and over in her head. <You could die, Lois… you could die… die… die…> In her mind, she was in the conference room again, reassuring Clark, kissing him desperately… <I never told him…!>
She inhaled shakily, and spoke in an unsteady voice, again close to breaking down, "If… anything… h-h-happens — tell Clark that I love him."
Again, she thought she saw pain briefly in Superman's face, before his expression gentled. Never taking his eyes off Lois, he spoke softly. "He knows. But I'll tell him."
In a different voice, Superman spoke again. "Close your eyes."
Lois obeyed, taking another shuddering breath. As her world went dark, she reflected again on the decision she had taken, the risk she was committed to. <What if this is it? What if… I do die? It's not too late to tell him I've changed my mind> But as quickly as the thought flashed into her mind, she dismissed it again. <I'm committed. For Clark. Because I love him.>
Through the darkness, she heard Superman inhale deeply, then was shocked to feel a warm palm curl itself along her jaw, across her cheek and into her hair. <Clark!> The touch was very familiar; Lois's brain instinctively told her that Clark had come to her. She gasped, bringing her hand up to cover the one on her face, and opened her eyes…
… to see Superman standing facing her, close to her, his hand in her hair. A tear escaping from one eyelid, Lois's eyes widened as she stared at him in disbelief. <It can't be… it felt so like Clark… I *felt* Clark was here…>
In a confused whisper, she emitted, "The way you just touched me…" Unable to understand what her senses were trying to tell her, she continued to stare at Superman in confusion as he dropped his hand, stepping backwards. He lowered his eyes briefly, swallowing; again, he seemed to be in the grip of some unfathomable emotion.
<Why did I confuse Superman with Clark… why is *something* telling me that Clark is here, even if I can't see him…?> Confused, rambling thoughts were whirring about in Lois's brain as she tried to focus.
Superman, now back in control of himself, interrupted Lois's frantic attempts to make sense of her thoughts. Quietly but firmly, he repeated his instruction. "Close your eyes."
Lois obeyed, her fists clenched as she waited for the first breath of cold air. <How will it feel… will it be like falling asleep… will I *feel* frozen?> she wondered, her confusion about Clark forgotten. She felt her hair stir as the freezing breeze hit her face… it was icier than the coldest Metropolis winter she could remember. Trying not to flinch, she gritted her teeth and waited for oblivion.
<Clark… I love you…> was her final coherent thought as her brain ceased to respond.