By Kat Picson (Kat5107@aol.com)
Summary: A surprise family member comes to Metropolis to seek Lois and Clark's help, but is she who she says she is? And can she keep up the charade to fool even Superman? (Episode # 13 of The Unaired Fifth Season)
The eastern sun was peeking over Hobbs Bay on a chilly January morning. Taxi cabs drifted slowly down dark, deserted streets, the shadows of the solitary homeless person becoming more prominent as the sun came out from its resting place on the eastern horizon. Most of the homes in downtown Metropolis were quiet and still.
In one particular townhouse on Hyperion Avenue, the bedroom was dark; the bed was still. A soft, soothing male voice was the only sound, the only evidence of life in the room.
"… And then I came to Metropolis, where I met your mommy," the male voice said, trying to keep his words in a whisper. "And we fell in love and got married, and now we've created you."
"Oh, baby," the voice continued. "I love you. I'm so glad you came into our lives. I wish I could just hold you in my arms right now … I don't know what —"
"Clark?" mumbled a sleepy female voice. Lois Lane turned on her bedside lamp and looked at the clock on her bedside table. "Honey, it's five-thirty in the morning."
She looked down at her husband, Clark Kent, who had scooted down in their bed and had his head next to her abdomen.
"What are you doing?"
"Talking to my kid," Clark said matter-of-factly. He pulled up Lois's nightshirt enough to be able to rub the tiny bulge on her stomach.
Lois smiled. "Before you know it, the kid will know your voice better than mine."
Clark smiled. He bent down and kissed Lois's stomach. "Our baby hears your voice all the time. I want my child to know me," Clark said. "Is that so wrong?"
"Our kid will know you, Clark," Lois said, rising and pulling on a soft, cream-colored robe over her flannel pajamas, slipping her feet into fuzzy slippers and heading for the bathroom. "Since we're awake we might as well get going, huh?"
"That's my wife, never skipping a beat," Clark said as he climbed out of bed. Lois stared at him with an eyebrow raised as he followed her into the bathroom. He was barefoot and wearing boxer shorts and no robe.
Lois reached around to the outer wall and turned the central heating up, then turned toward the shower and twisted the faucets on. Clark began to brush his teeth. "I hate the fact that you're always warm," she commented.
"Eee-woo-foh-wo-you-shoo," he said, his mouth full of foam.
"What?!" Lois turned around as the water began to steam in the shower stall.
Clark spit. "I said, it works out for you, too. You get to stay warm all night with the heater on low. Saves on our electric bills, at least."
Lois shed her robe and nightshirt. Lois normally showered first since Clark could finish his morning routine in about ten seconds if he really wanted to. She let the water glide through her fingers, gradually getting warmer, before she set foot inside the stall.
Clark glanced at his wife's silhouette through the fogged shower curtain.
"Hey," Clark called over the sound of spraying water. "Room in there for me?"
Lois giggled girlishly in response. Clark took that as a yes.
Lois and Clark weren't the only ones up at the crack of dawn. The offices of Temple & Co. Moving were already bustling with activity. In a well-hidden office, a buxom blonde wearing a pink tank dress puffed on a fragrant Havana as she pushed some keys on her computer. A picture of Dr. Samuel Lane appeared on the screen.
"I'm getting a little anxious here, Buster," Mindy Church said in her syrupy-sweet, girly voice to a man dressed in Armani suit and Ferragamo shoes. He was Martin "Buster" Temple, the owner of Temple & Co. moving company, and Mindy Church's new accomplice. "Those Daily Planet reporters are takin' out every guy I hire. I'm glad I thought of a little somethin'-somethin' to get them off my tail."
She pressed a key on her computer, and a woman's face and personal profile showed up. "Amanda Fisher …" she said, as if amused. Mindy pressed a couple more buttons. A picture of Amanda and a girl of about 4 years old. "You got this information where?"
"We went digging in Dr. Lane's employee files, Boss," Buster said. "Looks like he got too close for comfort with his nurses. And I'm not just talking about Ellen Lane, R.N., either."
"Good work, Buster," she said, placing the cigar delicately in an ashtray. "This is the one with a kid?"
"Where's the woman now?"
"Died in a car crash a couple of years ago."
"Perfect. Did you find me some good ones?" Mindy asked.
In response to her question, Buster pulled on the mini-blinds that concealed another room accessible through a two-way mirror. The room was fully lighted and looked like a regular office. There were couches in the back, chairs facing the mirror, and a desk and armchair in front of the mirror. There was a door leading to a hallway to the building and another door leading to the secret room that Mindy and Buster were in. Five young women lounged around the office. They were all brunettes in their late teens or early twenties. They were unaware that the ornate gold mirror behind the desk was actually a window to Mindy's private office.
"Couple of them work for Temple & Co.; the others we can … 'convince,'" Buster said.
Mindy stood up and walked to the mirror and watched the girls carefully. Her hazel eyes narrowed on a girl sitting in an armchair. She was a petite, slender girl wearing jeans and an old sheepskin leather jacket. Her scuffed, black combat boots looked out of place resting on top of the shiny, cherry-wood desk. She was no older than eighteen.
"Her," Mindy said, pointing. "Who's that?"
"That's Zalinski's little sister," Buster spoke up. He consulted his notes. "Rose Zalinski was arrested with Brandon Trask."
"Where's Rose now?"
"Still in jail, boss. She resisted arrest, and she doesn't have a lawyer." Buster smirked as he remembered Rose Zalinski's desperate plea to help her find a lawyer.
"Perfect." Mindy turned around to pick up her cigar. She puffed on it delicately, her eyes closing briefly to savor the warm taste in her mouth. She finally spoke again as she pointed to the unsuspecting young girl with her cigar. "Clean her up, brief her and send her to the Daily Planet. Lois Lane will be in for the distraction of her cute, little, nosy life. Not to mention her Clarkie-poo. That girl will be in perfect position to find out everything Lois and Clark know about Superman."
Buster nodded and exited quietly. Mindy watched him as he entered the room, dismissed all the other girls, and asked Zalinski's sister to stay. She looked tough before Buster walked in, but when Buster spoke, the girl began to look frightened. Buster stopped talking.
The girl hesitated, her eyes displaying her heart's battle with her conscience. She looked at Buster in the eye and nodded. Her lips formed the word "OK."
Mindy closed the blinds. She placed her cigar between her pouty, pink lips and continued to puff away. And smiled.
Lois and Clark walked out of the elevator into the Daily Planet hubbub at precisely eight-thirty.
"All I'm saying," Clark was saying, "is that to a little kid, Mickey Mouse is kind of scary."
Lois looked incredulous. "Clark! Mickey Mouse is *cute*! I *loved* Mickey Mouse when I was a kid."
"Not me," Clark said as they walked down the ramp. "When I was little, I stayed away from that scary little mouse."
"OK, so no Mickey Mouse in the *nursery*," Lois said, whispering the word "nursery."
"Speaking of which," Clark said, gesturing to Perry's office, "we should probably tell him. I mean, today. Sooner or later, he's going to notice."
Clark was thinking back to that morning, when Lois had been dismissing pantsuit after pantsuit because the top pants button had refused to stay put. She had been wearing dresses up until that day, when she decided that it was just too cold. That, along with the extra time they had spent in the bathroom, was the reason why they were so late that morning. She finally dug in the back of the closet and found a pair of baggy pants with a drawstring waist. Clark was concerned because she might start worrying about her weight, what with the mood swings lately. Lois grumbled a bit and joked about going on a diet, but she seemed fine, if not pleased, about the baby forcing her to compromise her fashion sense. Lois glanced toward Perry's office, where for once there weren't any staffers. She walked by her desk without stopping and headed for Perry's office.
"There's no time like the present," she said nervously to Clark, who put his hand supportively on her back.
Perry waved to the two of them without looking up. He had been looking at some photos that Jimmy had taken for a feature in the Society section. "Hey, folks," he said. His expression changed when he saw Lois and Clark's identical concerned expressions. "What the Sam Hill's going on?"
"There's something we have to tell you, Chief," Lois said, a smile creeping up into her straight-lipped face.
"Oh, yeah?" Perry looked expectantly at the two of them. "Spit it out. I don't have all day."
Clark smiled blatantly. "Well, actually —"
They were interrupted by a knock on the glass door. Jimmy Olsen's head poked in.
"Oh, sorry. I'm interrupting, aren't I?" Jimmy said. He was holding a flat for the afternoon edition. "Lois, Clark, I put your messages on top of your desks. See ya later."
"Wait, no, Jimmy, I think you'd like to hear this news, too," Lois said. She couldn't hide her excitement anymore. Her secretive smile turned into a full-blown grin.
Jimmy walked into the room, surveying Lois and Clark's faces and then glancing at the Chief. "Lois, are you pregnant?"
Perry's eyes darted away quickly from Lois and Clark to Jimmy. "Jimmy, don't be presumptuous —"
Lois and Clark burst into laughter. "No, Chief, it's OK," Lois said amid her giggles. "How did you ever guess?"
"Lois, Clark …" Perry took off his reading glasses. When he looked up, he had a grin that rivaled Lois's. "Jimmy and I have been speculating since I don't know when!" Perry got up from his chair to give Lois a hug. "Congratulations!"
"I can't believe you guys figured it out," Lois said as she hugged Perry.
"Jimmy here was the one with the suspicions," Perry admitted.
"We're in the investigative reporting business too, remember?" Jimmy added as he hugged Lois.
The two men exchanged handshakes with Clark, who was beaming from ear to ear.
"Well, you three better get on to work," Perry said. "It seems pretty slow today, but I'm sure something'll come up."
Lois and Clark walked back to their desks and started the morning ritual of going through messages and mail. Clark tossed a stack of junk mail into his wastebasket without even opening any of the letters, an advantage of X-ray vision.
"What the …?!" Lois exclaimed, picking up a pink slip of paper from the stack and examining it more closely as if she didn't believe what was written on it.
Clark looked up. Lois's expression was one of confusion and concern. He stood behind Lois's desk to read the handwritten message aloud: "'Lois, your sister called and said she is coming in from California today.' It's not signed."
"Jimmy, do you know who took this message?" Lois called across the room.
Jimmy strode up, carrying rolls of film, headed for the darkroom. He glanced at the message. "Nope. I don't even recognize the handwriting."
"Hmmm." Lois picked up the phone. "I hope Lucy isn't in trouble. It's the middle of the school term. In fact, California University's semester just started." Lois held the phone to her ear and turned to look at Clark. "I'm calling her apartment to see if anyone knows — Hello? Oh, I'm sorry to wake you. May I speak to Lucy, please? … She's at her boyfriend's place? OK. Can you please leave her a message that Lois called? … Thanks. And tell her to call me back when she can." A confused expression lingered on her face. "That was her roommate. Doesn't look like she's going to be in Metropolis anytime soon."
"Strange," Clark said, his brow creasing slightly. "Maybe Perry hired another person named Lois around here. Or maybe the person who took this message heard wrong."
As Lois and Clark pondered the origins of the mysterious note, a girl walked down the ramp from the elevator, heading straight for Lois and Clark. She stopped when she was right in front of them, looking unsure. The girl was wearing blue jeans, a plaid flannel shirt, a brown sheepskin jacket and scuffed combat boots. A green backpack was slung over one shoulder. Her long, chestnut curls were pulled back neatly in a ponytail at her nape, and she held a dark green wool cap in her gloved hands.
"Hi, can we help you?" Clark asked, curious.
The girl gestured to Lois. "She might be able to," she said nervously.
"I'm sorry," Lois said said, examining the girl carefully for a sign of recognition. "Do we know each other?"
The girl pulled nervously at her jacket buttons. "Uh, well … you're Lois Lane, right?"
"Yes," Lois said.
"My name is Elizabeth Fisher … Lane. I'm your —"
"Lane?" Lois interrupted. "We're related?"
"Yes," Elizabeth said. "I'm Dr. Samuel Lane's daughter. We're sisters."
"*What?!*" Lois exclaimed a little too loudly. Lois's cheeks turned the bright red of extreme surprise.
Clark put his arm around his wife, afraid that she might faint. "Come on, Lois, Elizabeth. I'm Clark Kent, Lois's husband. Let's go into the conference room."
Elizabeth nodded, following Lois and Clark into the conference room. "So," Lois said. She sat down in a chair across from Elizabeth. "My dad has another daughter. Your name is — Elizabeth?"
"Yes. Liz." Liz crossed her legs uncomfortably, then uncrossed them.
"Liz. And your mother is …?" Lois pressed.
Clark interrupted. "You'll have to excuse Lois, Liz. She's a bit suspicious. She's a journalist."
"Yes, I know," Liz said. "And I can understand your concern. I've read your work, Lois. And I can understand why Sam never told you about me because he never knew." Liz opened her backpack and handed Lois a piece of paper. "Here's a copy of my birth certificate."
Clark looked at the photocopy. Her name was listed as Elizabeth Fisher, and her mother was Amanda Fisher. Her father was listed as Samuel Lane. She was born in Sunnyvale General Hospital in January 1980, making her barely eighteen.
Lois looked from the certificate to Liz's face. She certainly could pass for Lois's sister, although Lois never did look anything like her father.
"And here's my California driver's license." Liz handed Lois and Clark her wallet. Clark discreetly X-rayed it and saw about thirty dollars in small bills, a receipt for a hot chocolate from the cafe downstairs, an ATM card for Elizabeth Fisher and a recent photo of Liz with another dark-haired girl of around the same age. She seemed genuine, Clark thought, but a little too nervous. Clark dismissed it as the jitters from being in a new city. He knew what that was like.
"I'm going to call my father," Lois said, reaching for the phone. "I think he should know about you."
Clark's hand followed Lois's to the phone to stop her. "He's in Manila," Clark reminded her. "Remember? He called us last week to tell us that he and your mom were going on that medical mission."
"Right, I forgot." Lois took her hand off the phone and turned to Liz. "How did your mother know my fa — Sam?"
"My mom was a nurse," Liz said. "They met here in Metropolis when she started to work for him, but she moved to California before I was born. We had family there," Liz explained.
"What are you doing in Metropolis?" Clark asked.
"My mom died a few years ago," Liz said tragically. "I wanted to come out here and maybe meet my dad. She told me a long time ago I might have a couple of sisters. I realized that one of them might be the same Lois Lane who writes for The Daily Planet. I was right."
"Where are you staying, Liz?" Lois asked, concerned. "I mean, you just hopped on a plane —"
"Train. A couple of them, actually. And I didn't stow away, I promise."
"- a train out here and expected …" Lois trailed off, waiting for Liz to fill the silence.
"Well, I wanted to come out here anyway," Liz explained. "I wanted to find a job and live here. I was going to look for a hotel until I found an apartment, but I thought I'd come here first and talk to you. I don't have any more family in Sunnyvale, so …" Liz drifted off, looking down at her hands.
Lois and Clark exchanged a silent conversation. Her eyes said, "She's only eighteen years old." His eyes said, "I feel like she's our responsibility." Lois teetered on the edge.
She took the plunge. "Listen, since we *are* family, why don't you stay with us? We have a guest room. And if you want, we could find you a job here. There's always lots of open spots in research."
"Oh, no," Liz said, holding out a hand, embarrassed. "I mean, I'd like the job, but I don't want to impose on you two in your house." She started to get up.
"It's no imposition, really," Clark said, motioning for her to sit back down. "You're family. And right now, you're moving into our place until you find a stable job and your own apartment."
Liz smiled graciously. Everything was going exactly how Buster told her it would. And all the better, too, because she felt uncomfortable lying and wanted this stupid job over with quickly. Maybe Rose was a liar, but she wasn't. She didn't want to end up in jail too. Besides, Lois and Clark seemed like nice people.
"Thank you," she said gratefully.
The trio proceeded to Perry's office, where they had caught him at a serendipitous moment. He had just fired another one of the fleeting research staff and needed a new person quickly. He met Liz, hired her on the spot, and sent her on an assignment to help Celine in Travel sort photos for a spread.
"Jimmy!" Perry called. "Make those copies of Liz's driver's license and social security card, pronto!"
"On it, Chief!" Jimmy said, holding up the documents and heading for the copy room.
"Jimmy! Where's that full-page ad I needed to see?!" Perry bellowed. "And my front page?"
Jimmy poked his head out of the copy room. "Coming up, Chief!"
Amused, Lois watched him eagerly present the flats to Perry. He had another front-page photo for today's paper, and if Perry would let him, he could write really well too. Lois had read his work. It was a little raw, but everyone was at first. Even Lois had to admit that she hadn't really refined her writing style until she started working with Clark. Her strength was digging out the story; Clark's was writing it.
"Hey, C.K., check this out," Jimmy said, pointing to his photo on page 1 after Perry had approved it.
"Good job, Jimmy," Clark said. Jimmy waved to them as he got into the elevator. Clark guessed that he was probably taking the page straight to the press.
"He works so hard," Clark observed. "In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the Chief —" Clark stopped in mid-sentence and cocked his head.
Lois looked up. She knew what that meant.
"I'll meet you there," she said, picking up her purse and coat. "Where, exactly, is *there*?"
Clark honed in on the police signal. "It's a break-in at STAR Labs," he said. "Be careful." He paused to kiss her and to place his hand protectively on her stomach before running off as he loosened his tie in that familiar way. "Both of you," he added in a whisper.
Lois smiled. "You, too," she whispered back as she watched him go.
Liz came out of the darkroom, where she had been assigned to sort prints, in time to watch Lois and Clark leave abruptly. She wished she could follow them so she could tell Buster that nothing was going on, but of course she couldn't leave.
"Is there something wrong?" Jimmy said as he noticed Liz's daydreamy expression.
Liz snapped out of her reverie. "Oh, uh, where are Lois and Clark headed?" she asked as she followed Jimmy to his desk.
Jimmy shrugged. "They probably got a tip and are following up. The Chief hardly ever assigns them stories. They just kind of stumble onto the good ones themselves."
"Oh. What story do you think they're working on? Do you think it's about Superman?"
Jimmy looked at her as he sat down at his computer. He was supposed to work on the Daily Planet Web site. Liz perched herself on the edge of his desk. "I don't know," Jimmy said. "Why?"
Liz shrugged nonchalantly. "Just wondering."
"Jimmy! What are you doing?" Perry yelled from his office door.
"Web site, Chief!"
"OK, son, good job. Way to stay on top of things. Liz!"
Liz slid off the desk and walked over to Perry. "Yes, sir?"
"Gold and Formoso over in Sports need stats looked up," he told her. "Then go ahead and photocopy them."
"OK, sir," Liz said already on her way to the sports desk.
Jimmy watched Liz's exchange with the Chief. He wasn't sure if he was jealous or what, but something just wasn't right about Liz Fisher Lane. He logged off the Daily Planet Web site and tapped into another system.
"OK, Liz, let's see what Sunnyvale General Hospital says about you," he said to himself. Clark had mentioned that she was born in Sunnyvale. Jimmy accessed the hospital's files easily. He looked up Amanda Fisher first. She had checked into the hospital on the day listed as Liz's birthday on her driver's license and checked out four days later. Nothing uncommon there. Jimmy typed in the name ELIZABETH FISHER.
"No matches found," the computer taunted him.
"Hm," Jimmy mused, glancing around to make sure the Chief wasn't in the vicinity. He was across the room, getting coffee.
Jimmy reasoned that he hadn't seen the name on Liz's birth certificate, so it could have been different. He typed in the name ELIZABETH LANE. Same response: "No matches found." Jimmy decided to use another route and commanded the computer to list all the babies' names that were born in the hospital on the same day as Liz. He waited anxiously for the results.
"Jimmy, what in Sam Hill are you doing?!" Jimmy nearly jumped out of his skin. Perry was standing behind him, peering at his computer screen. "That doesn't look like the Web page to me!"
"Sorry, Chief," Jimmy said, gulping. "I was just working on something -"
"Judas Priest! Employees who get promoted don't dilly-dally around on company time," Perry warned. "At least not at the Daily Planet." Perry pointed a finger menacingly at Jimmy. "Remember that."
Perry grunted in response and returned to his office. Jimmy's eyes followed him until his door closed. His eyes darted back to his screen. In the list of eleven girls that were born that week, Jimmy found only one Elizabeth. Her name was Elizabeth Fisher Baron. Her mother was listed as Amanda Fisher, but her father was listed Stan Baron.
As soon as the machines started whirring, Liz closed the door to the copy room and pulled a cellular phone out of her backpack. She dialed a number from memory.
"Yes?" Buster answered.
"It's me," Liz said.
"I knew that. What's that racket? Where are you?" Buster demanded, pacing.
"The photocopier," Liz said nervously, stapling pages together and trying to balance the phone on her shoulder. "I'm in the copy room. You're right — someone did get fired today. I got the job."
"Do you have news for me, or did you think I didn't already know that?"
Liz sighed. "Lois and Clark don't know anything. They just sit around and wait for things to drop in their laps."
"Look, Zalinski," Buster warned. "We have it on good authority that even though they don't seem like they know anything, they have ways of finding out. Remember, they've got Superman on their side. It's your job to make sure we know exactly what they're thinking. It's also your job to find out everything they know about Superman. Or do I have to remind you of the stakes?"
Liz sighed again, her eyes welling up. "Buster, I don't feel comfortable doing this. Lois and Clark —"
"If you do *anything* suspicious, your sister is gonna get it," Buster interrupted. "We got people on the inside who wouldn't think twice about taking her out. Besides, you're going to need the money for bail, remember?"
"All right, all right," Liz pleaded, holding back tears. "I'll try to throw them off track." She hung up the phone and threw it into her backpack carelessly.
Back in the office, Mindy Church leaned back in a plush leather chair. "Good work," she cooed to Buster.
Superman caught the hacker, who had somehow bypassed STAR Labs' front- door security, a few blocks away.
"I don't care what you guys do to me," the young man said angrily as police handcuffed him and shoved him into a police car. "I'm not talking!"
Lois raised an eyebrow. She looked at Inspector Henderson. "Who is he?"
Henderson shrugged. "He wasn't carrying identification — big surprise there. But we'll get run his prints and find out who he is."
Lois asked a few more questions and made plans for Henderson to deliver her the public files as soon as possible. Then she headed back for the Planet.
Lois dropped her purse in her bottom drawer and kicked it shut. She was feeling a bit tired lately. She wasn't sure if it had to do with the fact that she was pregnant, or that she just had a busy day. Lois filled her coffee mug with water from the cooler and walked back to her desk slowly.
Liz fell into step beside her. "How's it going?" she asked.
Lois sipped from her mug and smiled at her new sister. "Fine, I guess. Just a little tired."
"Where were you guys?"
"There was a break-in at STAR Labs," Lois answered, sitting at her desk and booting up her news-writing program. "Some hacker was trying to break into the computer system, so he set off some alarms. Fortunately, he didn't get through. Nice, neat, six-inch story buried between two car ads on A-6. Why?" Liz shrugged.
The phone on Lois's desk rang. "Lois Lane," she answered. "Oh, hello. Oh. No, I didn't forget. Thank you." She hung up and sighed. "I have a doctor's appointment in the morning," she said, talking mostly to herself as she penciled it into her planner. "I completely forgot."
"Doctor's appointment?" Liz prompted.
Lois smiled. "Yes. I'm three months pregnant." The words, every time she said them, became easier and more fun to say.
Liz already knew that, but she faked surprise as Buster instructed her to do. "Hey! That's great! Will it be your first child?" she asked, already knowing the answer.
"Yes," Lois said, the excitement apparent on her face. "We've only been married about a year and a half."
"Wow," Liz said appreciatively.
Lois smiled again. It was nice to have a conversation with a female. Most of her friends in Metropolis were men, and while her mother and Martha were great people, it wasn't the same as talking to a friend. She made up her mind to call Lucy in the morning during breakfast.
Meanwhile, Clark was in the Chief's office. "You wife looks mighty tired out there," Perry mentioned as Clark sat down.
Clark shrugged and looked at Lois. "Chief, I know what you're going to say. Lois won't slow down for anyone. Even if she is pregnant."
"What story is she working on right now?"
"She just finished a write-up on the break-in at STAR Labs," Clark told him.
"Well, just in case …" Perry stood up, trying to look stern, but Clark could see that he had Lois's — and their child's — well-being in mind. "Your wife is a tenacious one. I remember when she was still in college, she was feeling under the weather, and she still refused to go to the doctor. Turned out she had mono, and she still did her schoolwork and sent in stories every week during the month she was bedridden. Now listen, Clark. When you go out, take Jimmy with you. That boy needs more experience anyway. He can't be a research boy all his life. And when Lois goes on her maternity leave — Clark, you better talk that woman into one if she even shows a smidge of resistance — I'm going to need someone to pick up the slack."
Clark hid a grin as he walked back to his desk. He was glad Jimmy was being considered for the job. A promotion was long overdue.
"Jimmy!" Perry stood at the door and yelled.
Jimmy was sitting at his computer, probably working on the Web site again. He ran up to Perry, who handed him a manila folder.
"I want you and Clark to take a look at this file for a feature I want to run on Tuesday …"
Jimmy walked back toward Clark's desk, excited to be working on a story with Clark, his idol. But then Jimmy glanced at Lois's desk, where Lois and Liz were sharing an animated conversation. His mood grew somber. Clark started going through the contents of the folder, but Jimmy was distracted.
"C.K., if I tell you something that might be helpful to you but might upset you if it wasn't true or if I'm just being paranoid, would you get mad at me?" Jimmy said in a low voice.
Clark looked up at Jimmy, confused. "The only part of that sentence I understood was 'I'm just being paranoid.' What's going on?"
Jimmy looked into Clark's now-concerned eyes. Jimmy sighed. "Never mind." Clark searched Jimmy's eyes, but it was clear that he wasn't going to say anything. Clark shrugged and went back to briefing the file that Perry had given them.
Jimmy looked over at Liz, who was hanging onto Lois's every word. There was definitely something fishy going on. The question was, what?
The next morning was bright but chilly. The sun reflected off the white snow, and the winds carried the harsh, bitter scent of winter.
"Yeah, she's staying here until she finds an apartment. No, I haven't talked to Daddy. He and Mom are in the Philippines. Oh, how did you know? Oh. I didn't know they called you; they didn't say anything about it." Lois walked about the kitchen with the phone propped on her shoulder as she poured juice, buttoned her blazer and then started to butter her toast. Clark stood at the stove, poking at the sizzling bacon with a pair of tongs. Liz walked into the room and sat down at the breakfast table. "Oh? This spring? That's great, Lucy! After six years, I was wondering when you would graduate … Well, I hope Clark and I can make it to the ceremony, too, but it's awfully close to the due date. July is what the doctor said. I'm going to see him today. OK, Luce. I'm sorry to have awakened you. I'll talk to you later." She hung up the phone. "She wanted to get back to sleep," she told them.
"Eat," Clark said, handing Lois a plate with eggs and bacon on it and placing one in front of Liz. "Woman and child cannot live on toast alone," he said, putting his own twist on the quote. Lois groaned at his poor attempt at humor. She took the plate with one hand and picked up the bacon in the other and pretended to scarf it down. Clark laughed.
"You guys are so normal," Liz commented, watching them. "I wish my family had been like you guys."
Lois and Clark exchanged a quick glance at the mention of the word "normal," but then Clark asked, "How was your family life?"
Liz felt her heart jump into her throat. Liz searched for the words. "Oh, you know. I was, uh … an only child, and I didn't have a father around."
Lois didn't know what to say to that. She had pretty much lived like an only child as well. Lucy used to hole up in her room and shut everyone else out in the process. Her father wasn't around, and her mother, usually in a drunken stupor, might as well not have been around either.
The threesome ate the rest of their breakfast in uncomfortable silence. When they finished, Lois got up and said to lighten up the mood, "All aboard the Lois Lane Express!" She waved her keys over her head, walked out the kitchen to the living room, pulled on a heavy overcoat and wrapped a thick scarf around her neck.
Liz pulled on her sheepskin coat over a different flannel from the one she had on yesterday. She picked up her backpack from the floor next to the coat rack.
"You can leave your backpack here, Liz," Lois suggested as she pulled gloves on.
Liz uneasily clenched her backpack tighter to her body with a gloved hand. "Uh, no. I like to keep it with me. It's like a security blanket."
Lois shrugged as she rambled on about the latest ineptitudes of her doctor. Clark nodded and smiled appropriately.
Liz wondered why she and her sister hadn't grown up with parents like Lois and Clark. She figured if they had loving parents, her sister wouldn't be in prison awaiting trial, and Liz wouldn't be spying on two perfectly nice, honest people just to get her bail.
The kid growing inside Lois Lane was one lucky child.
The newsroom was still dim when Jimmy hunched over his desk, staring at his computer screen while other early birds walked around him, unnoticed.
He had found out a lot since he walked into the newsroom at 4 a.m. Amanda Fisher had worked for Sam Lane, but only for a few weeks. If they had had an affair, Jimmy guessed it was short and sweet because Amanda had moved to California, and Sam had moved to Chicago. There were the records for Amanda checking in and out of a hospital around a year after, but there was just something that just didn't add up …
Perry sat in his office, watching Jimmy work. He knew Jimmy wasn't working on anything specifically for work, but he had come in at the same time as any other work day. Jimmy frequently arrived before sunrise, and he rarely left before sundown. Perry wondered why he never appreciated Jimmy before, especially since he had the same determination and talent for news and writing that only great journalists possessed. Perry prided himself on detecting the instinct that he had honed over the years; he had found it in Lois early, and he had stumbled upon it in Clark. Finding it in Jimmy, for some reason, had taken an extraordinarily long time.
Jimmy looked over Stan Baron's personal record from the DMV and cross- referenced it with Amanda's. He and Amanda Fisher lived in the same house, though they never married. They were Liz's legal guardians, and when Amanda died, Liz stayed in his house until she graduated from high school.
He was getting a headache. He decided to wait for Lois and Clark arrived at the office to tell them what he had found.
"Morning, Jimmy," Clark said, poking a napping Jimmy in the shoulder as he passed by. Jimmy popped up and glanced at his watch. He had fallen asleep for fifteen minutes, but it was refreshing. He looked around. Liz and Clark were walking toward Perry's office.
"Where's Lois?" Jimmy asked.
"Doctor's appointment," Liz and Clark said in unison.
"Oh." Jimmy exited the computer system and went over to join them, careful to avoid Liz's gaze.
A research staffer approached, handing Clark a slip of paper. "Your dad called, Clark," she said. Clark read the message quickly, and Jimmy took it as a perfect opportunity to get Liz talking about herself.
"You're so lucky, Clark," Jimmy commented. "You have a dad that always calls you. My dad is always so busy."
Clark grinned as he read the note. "He just wanted to tell us he got pictures developed from our Christmas in Smallville, and that he's sending us some through FedEx. But you're right; I do have a great dad."
Jimmy looked at Liz. "Did you have a father in the house growing up?" he asked pointedly.
Liz shrugged, looking nervous again. "Um, no, it was just my mom and me." But she looked unsure as she eyed Jimmy suspiciously.
"Your mom didn't get remarried or have boyfriends?" Jimmy blatantly prompted, giving Liz a chance to redeem herself.
Liz cocked her head sideways at Jimmy and shook her head. "No, I just told you -"
"Jimmy, how's that project I assigned to you?" Perry interrupted.
"Web site's updated," Jimmy said. "I finished it when I first got in this morning."
"Did you add the links that I e-mailed you this morning?"
"Uh, you e-mailed me a list of new links?" Jimmy's face was blank.
"Get to it!" Perry said, looking to jump down someone's throat. Jimmy looked like he was about to complain, thought better of it, then walked back to his desk and began typing. "I was going to send him on a doughnut run, but now I guess I'll have to send you, Liz," Perry said.
Liz's eyes lit up. It was the perfect opportunity to run over to Buster's and update him on everything. She was afraid she would have had to slip out without telling anyone, which might have gotten her fired.
Perry handed her a slip of paper. "This is what we usually get, and we have a running bill over at Lucille's."
"OK, Chief," Liz answered before running to the coat rack and donning her jacket.
Buster opened the door to the mirrored room to find Liz sitting on the couch. She was in tears.
"He knows," she sobbed. "He knows about me!"
"Who? Superman? Clark Kent? Who found you out?" Buster demanded.
"Jimmy Olsen!" she said, wiping her tear-stained cheek with her jacket sleeve. "He keeps asking me these questions with this look on his face … I'm telling you, he's really close to Lois and Clark. He's going to tell them I'm a fake. Buster, I'm no good at this."
Buster looked at her intently, then glanced at the mirror. "I guess we're going to have to take him out then," he said.
Liz stopped crying long enough to look at Buster in disbelief. "What?"
"When we … when *I* said that your job was to make sure that Lane and Kent didn't know what we're up to, that means making sure *no one else* who might tell them would find out either. Because of your carelessness, we're going to have to take care of him."
"You're going to kill him?" Liz said, horrified. "I didn't want to be a part of any murder —"
"Considering the way you've been bungling around for the past two days, you won't have to worry about this one," Buster said sarcastically. "I've got professionals for this job."
"I still don't want to be a part of it," Liz said, standing up for herself. "Lois and Clark and Jimmy are nice people. You can't just — "
"I can't just *what*? I can do whatever I want," Buster sneered. "And you can't do a *thing* because if you do, I'll make sure your sister *doesn't* get out of jail *alive*. Got that?"
Liz stared at the man in front of her. She learned a very important lesson at that moment, one that she should have known all along: She shouldn't have gotten involved with Buster Temple. What had she been thinking? Her sister's example should have taught her a lesson.
"OK." Liz turned quickly and exited the way she came. She wanted to get out of there. The office was starting to give her the creeps, as if someone was watching them. She glanced quickly at the mirror and saw her red cheeks and bloodshot eyes.
Mindy had seen and heard everything. As soon as the door shut behind Liz, Mindy's voice was heard over a hidden speaker. She spoke in a straightforward, serious voice instead of her usual girlish whine. This time Mindy meant business: "My spies at the Daily Planet say Jimmy Olsen's pretty gullible. Do you think he's faking it? Or is my act an original?"
"I say we snatch him, boss," Buster said, turning to look in the mirror.
"Better to be safe than sorry," Mindy agreed.
Clark rushed away from the office in a huff right before Jimmy finished with the Web site, so he didn't get a chance to talk to him. And when Clark came back, he had Lois with him, and they began working on a story about another Superman rescue. This time someone had been trying to break into lockers at the NIA building. Superman had arrived but only found a Temple & Co. van outside, delivering Cost-Mart furniture to a newly renovated office.
Jimmy sighed and looked up toward Perry's office, where the editor in chief was looking through manila folders. He wanted to tell Clark what he had found, but they had rushed out again. He decided to get up and talk to Perry about it.
"Chief? You busy right now?" Jimmy asked, poking his head in the door.
"Well, I'm always busy, son, but what's going on?" Perry put the file down.
"I think I've stumbled onto something that I shouldn't have," he said carefully.
Perry frowned. "What are you talking about, Jimmy?"
Jimmy proceeded to tell Perry everything he had researched about Liz, leaving out the part about doing it all on company time. When he got to the part about Stan Baron, Perry held up his hand to motion him to stop. Perry blinked slowly.
"Have you told either Lois or Clark about this?"
"No, Chief," Jimmy said. "I wanted to get more proof."
"Good thinking, son," Perry said. "I don't want them flipping out over this right now. They've already got a lot on their minds."
"I don't think that's the real problem, Chief," Jimmy said.
"What do you mean?"
"There's a reason why that impostor is trying to get close to Lois and Clark," Jimmy reminded Perry. "And I'm going to figure out why."
Lois sat down on the living room couch and yawned, looking at her watch. She folded her stockinged feet underneath her and turned on the TV. She and Liz was watching the evening news, where there was a piece on Superman staving off a potential riot to see Janet Jackson's new music video shoot in Paris.
"Superman's a great guy," Liz commented as she filled her coffee cup. She looked at Lois's expression carefully as she said his name.
Lois sighed. "Yes, he is." She looked at Liz's coffee cup. Lois remembered her filling it at least three times. "You'll never get to sleep with all that coffee you've been drinking."
Liz shrugged. "I'm used to it," she said hastily. "Aren't you and Clark really good friends with Superman?"
Lois shrugged. "I've interviewed him a few times. He's saved my life more than a few times. We have a friendship, I guess." Lois had learned to be as detached as she could when talking about Superman. It was still extremely difficult.
"Still, it must be exciting for you and Clark to be so close to him," Liz pressed. "What's he like?"
"He's, you know, super. Why do you want to know?"
Buster had prepared her for that kind of question. "I've had this big crush on him since I was like, fourteen," Liz tried to make her eyes sparkle with infatuation. "You know, when he saved that space station?"
"Oh." Lois looked at her sister skeptically. "Shouldn't you be getting to bed soon?" she said with a chuckle.
"I'm not the one who's having a baby!"
Lois stood up. "Very true. But I want to wait for my husband to come home."
"Where is Clark anyway?"
"He likes to take walks at night," Lois lied, watching the television screen as Superman zipped away. "He'll be home any moment now."
As if on cue, Lois heard the key turn in the lock. Clark entered and saw the two women watching television.
"Shouldn't you guys be in bed by now?" he asked, closing the door with his foot.
"I'm a late sleeper," Liz said, sipping more coffee.
"I was waiting for you to come home," Lois said, getting up to put her arms around him.
Clark kissed her sweetly and then held up a brown paper bag. "I got some croissants for breakfast tomorrow! From Par —" He stopped as his eye caught Liz looking at them. "From that French bakery you like." He winked so only Lois could see.
Lois took the bag and headed toward the kitchen. "Thanks," she called behind her.
"There's a bakery open this late at night?" Liz asked incredulously.
Clark's smile evaporated as he searched for a plausible explanation.
"Clark and I know the owners," Lois said easily, coming back into the living room and starting up the stairs. "I'm heading on up to bed. I'm really tired. Clark?"
"I'll be right there, honey," Clark said. He turned to Liz. "You're going to stay up?"
Liz nodded, stifling a yawn. "I'm waiting for Leno," she said. "They're replaying the interview with that Bond girl. She's my favorite actress."
Clark smiled. "OK. Just make sure to turn off the TV before you go to bed."
Clark spun quickly into plaid boxer shorts after closing the door to their room. Lois was sitting up reading a book. Clark peered at the title: "What to Expect When You're Expecting."
"Look at you," Clark said, climbing into bed with his wife. He wriggled his warm feet next to her cold ones, and she smiled.
Lois lifted her eyes. "What?"
"My pregnant wife; the little missus," Clark said with an amused smile.
"I just thought it would be good if I read up on what this baby thing is all about," Lois said, putting the book on her nightstand and snuggling closer to Clark. "Especially since our baby is going to be … special. You know, in that *super* kind of way?"
Clark smiled as he put his arms around her and pulled the blanket closer. She spooned against him, her back against his chest fitting perfectly like two pieces of a puzzle. It still amazed him how wonderful he felt holding her like that, especially now since he kept his hand on her belly as they fell asleep, knowing that there was a precious new life growing there. He breathed in the wonderful smell of the soap that lingered around his wife and fell asleep.
A sound awoke Clark. He glanced at the digital clock next to the bed; it read 2:33. He put on a robe and looked out the window. A petite figure wearing a sheepskin jacket and carrying a backpack walked quickly and quietly down the street.
Liz knew she was doing the right thing. She had to get the heck out of Metropolis and find someone to help her get her sister out of jail. She was about to turn the street corner when she heard a whoosh and came face to face with … Superman.
"It's pretty late for young ladies to be walking alone," he said, floating gently to the ground.
"Oh." Liz was taken aback. "You're Superman, aren't you? I've heard about you. Well, see, I was just going to my friend's house for a sleepover. My mom said I could walk there. It's only around this corner."
"What's the address? I'll walk you there," Superman challenged.
"Oh, uh, 438 Hyperion."
"This *is* Hyperion, and if I'm not mistaken, 438 is the home of the Kents."
"How do you know?" Liz asked, knowing perfectly well that Superman, Lois Lane and Clark Kent were friends.
"Mr. Kent and Ms. Lane are friends of mine."
"Wow, really? OK, you caught me. I'm staying with them."
"So why are you out walking in the middle of the night?"
"I changed my mind. I have to get out of Metropolis."
"It's cold, and it's winter. You shouldn't be out here alone. Why don't you wait until morning?"
Liz felt ridiculous standing out in the street talking to this man wearing blue Spandex, but she felt comfortable and safe with Superman around. He had a friendly, appealing character that seemed familiar.
Superman said, "Let's make a deal. Go back and stay the rest of the night with Lois and Clark, and you can leave in the morning if you really want to. Come on, let me walk you back."
Superman's red cape billowed in the night air. He knocked on the door, hoping Lois wouldn't wake up screaming and yelling and slip up when she saw him in the Suit.
"Who's there?" Lois called from behind the door sleepily.
Superman cleared his voice. "Ahem, Ms. Lane? Lois? It's Superman."
"Superman …?" Liz and Superman heard the various clicks and pops of the locks turning.
"Liz! What are you doing with Superman?" Lois took Liz's hand and led her inside.
"It seems your guest decided to take a walk, and I thought I should escort her back here. Just to be safe."
"Well, thank you, Superman," Lois said, closing the door hastily.
Clark came bounding down the stairs, putting his glasses on. "Who was at the door?" He seemed to be struggling to wake up.
"I'm sorry, Lois," Liz said desperately. "I changed my mind. I have to get out of Metropolis. I have to get away from here right away."
"What's going on, Liz?" Clark asked.
"I can't tell you," she said hopelessly.
Lois closed the door and locked it. She put her hand on Liz's arm and looked into Liz's eyes, which were filled with fear. "Liz, I can't force you to tell me what's going on. But you have to understand that you will be safe here. Superman is a very good friend of ours. He has always been there for me." Lois walked her to the door of the guest room. "When you're ready to talk, I'm here and I'll listen. I promise. We're family."
Liz nodded. She wanted to cry out, "But see! We're *not* family!" but she couldn't. They couldn't understand what she was going through because she couldn't tell them everything. She went to the guest room and tried desperately to fall asleep. But her heart beat loudly in her ears, and her eyes remained open for the remainder of the night.
It was another chilly morning in Metropolis when Jimmy finished his early errands for Perry. He had gone to get doughnuts, informed maintenance of a broken heater, and fixed Perry's Elvis clock. As he brought doughnuts to the staff writers on the city room floor, an idea hit him. It was what had been eluding him all this time while he was investigating Liz.
As soon as the doughnuts had been distributed, Jimmy sat down at his desk. He removed his jacket hastily and began to work. He accessed California's Department of Motor Vehicles and found a piece of the puzzle. Then he went to Metropolis's missing persons list, the juvenile delinquent list, and Metropolis First Union Bank's personal files. All the hacker work he had done for Lois and Clark was paying off. He knew how to get into almost any system. He saved everything and started printing things out. This was bigger than he had first thought.
"Gotcha," Jimmy whispered as he saved the last piece of information onto his hard drive.
"I don't think so, Jimmy," a gruff voice said behind him, poking something cold and hard into his back. Jimmy began to turn his head, but a gloved finger veered his head forward. "Uh-uh. No peeking. Get up and start walking toward the stairwell. If you try anything funny, you'll find out exactly what's digging into your back. And it won't be a pretty sight."
"OK," Jimmy whispered, his eyes shifting toward Perry's office. Drat. He was on the phone and had his head turned. Jimmy stood up slowly and began walking.
As Lois parked the car, Liz made an excuse about having a craving for a breakfast burrito and headed over to Alberto's Taqueria a block away. As soon as Lois and Clark had their backs turned, she went down an alley, changed directions, and headed for the Temple & Co. offices.
"This report says that the hacker tried to break into Dr. Klein's hard drive," Lois said as she entered the empty elevator. She was reading the files that they had picked up from Inspector Henderson.
Clark peered over her shoulder at the file she was holding. "What kind of information is in Dr. Klein's files?" he asked, mostly to himself.
"Well, he's got a lot of information about weapons and lasers," Lois surmised. "It wouldn't be the first time some hacker to want to blow up the world." She flipped the folder closed and opened the file on the NIA break-in. "The break-ins at the NIA building involved agents Mack and Byrne. Only their lockers were broken into. And so were their offices," she added.
"Mack and Byrne?" Clark said, his forehead showing creases. "I know them. Well, Superman knows them. I've helped both of them on separate occasions, and they've both used me as a witness on several occasions too."
Lois looked at Clark. "You know, Klein's files contain a lot of information about Superman," she pointed out quietly. "Do you think the two cases are related?"
Before Clark could answer, the elevator door opened to Perry's incessant screaming. "Jimmy! Jimmy! Dang-blastit, where is that boy? He was just here a second ago …"
"Good morning to you too, Chief," Lois said under her breath sarcastically as she headed for her desk.
"Lois, Clark," Perry said, coming out of his office. "Did you see Jimmy downstairs? I need him to run down to Derick Avenue and Twenty- First and take some pictures of some street band that're causing a ruckus out there."
"Didn't see him, Chief," Lois said as she began to remove her coat.
"I saw him go down the stairwell," Ralph said, picking up the conversation as he was walking by. "He was with some guy that I've never seen before."
Clark walked over to Jimmy's cubicle, where his jacket was slung over his chair and papers cluttered the desk. Clark picked up some of the printouts. "Lois, look!" There were printouts of Elizabeth Fisher Baron's birth certificate, completely different from the one Liz had shown Lois and Clark two days before; a driver's license for a Stan Baron; a DMV photo of the real Elizabeth Baron, a blond-haired, pudgy- cheeked girl who looked nothing like Liz; a photo of a juvenile delinquent named Rose Zalinski that looked like the girl in the picture in Liz's wallet; and copies of bank statements that showed large deposit amounts to Ariana Carlin, Brandon Trask, Secretary Dey, two men who Clark recognized as the men arrested in Smallville for stealing Superman's globe, and someone named Roxanne Zalinski. The bank account belonged to Temple & Co.
"Oh my —" Lois flipped through the files that Jimmy was in the midst of. He had stumbled upon a gold mine.
Clark noticed Jimmy's jacket and picked it up. "If Jimmy left, he wouldn't have gone without his jacket," he said, looking at Lois. He perked his ears up, straining to hear a trace of Jimmy's voice. He looked at Lois. "I think I know where he is."
Lois nodded. Clark dashed up the stairwell to the roof, changing into his Superman suit on the way. From high above the traffic he noticed a maroon Temple & Co. van.
He ripped the back door off its hinges to find Jimmy and Liz bound and gagged. Buster Temple, the owner of the moving company, was with them, pointing a revolver at each.
"Looks like your getaway wasn't so smooth this time, Temple," Superman said, grabbing him by the lapels and hoisting him up. The sound of sirens could be heard in the not-too-far distance. Lois had called the police.
While still holding on to Buster, Superman ran around the side to capture the driver who had tried to make a fast break.
"Good job, Superman," Inspector Henderson said, running through the gathering crowd.
Lois came running up to the van. As Buster and his accomplice were handcuffed, Superman pulled the gags off Jimmy and Liz and broke the nylon ropes that bound their hands and feet.
"Thanks, Superman," Jimmy said. "He said he was going to drop us into Hobbs Bay. I thought we were goners."
"Yes, thank you, Superman," Liz echoed.
"We'll take it from here, Superman," Henderson broke in, wanting to talk to Jimmy and Liz. "You guys'll have to come down to the station for your statements."
Jimmy held up the dummy with the headline "TEMPLE & CO. DOOMED FOR KIDNAPPING AND BRIBERY SCHEMES." The article carried the byline "James Olsen."
"This is an excellent article, Jimmy," Lois said after reading the copy. "I'm proud of you."
"You should be proud of yourself," Clark added, giving him a slap on the back. He was talking on the phone.
"Thanks, guys, "Jimmy said, a huge grin on his face. "I'm taking this down to the press, then I'm going home to call my mom and e-mail my dad. You guys going home, too?"
Clark hung up. "Yes, we are. We've had a long day." He turned to Lois. "That was Inspector Henderson. He said the real Elizabeth Fisher Baron is definitely not Sam's child. Amanda never had an affair with your father. And the girl that posed as Liz was named Roxanne Zalinski. Her sister Rose was one of Brandon Trask's cronies, and Temple was going to pay her bail if Roxanne spied on us."
"What?" Lois exclaimed. The wheels in her head began to turn, but her thoughts were interrupted.
"Jimmy!" Perry yelled from his office doorway, holding up another dummy. "I've made some changes to your article, so take this new one down to page design."
Jimmy, who had been showing off his front-page piece to Causer and Ralph, rolled his eyes and walked back to Perry. But this time he had determination in his eyes.
"Chief, I have something to say," Jimmy said boldly. "I think this article is proof that I deserve a promotion. I've worked my butt off for five years in the research department, the copy room, and filling in for photographers. I'm even your personal assistant. And Chief, when Lois was promoted from research eight years ago —"
"Jimmy, " Perry broke in quietly and holding up the dummy. "I think you better take a close look at the change I've made to your story. More specifically, to your byline." Perry's forefinger tapped a red mark he had made near the headline.
"James Olsen, Staff Writer," Jimmy read aloud. His eyes grew wide, and his grin was wider. "I'm promoted? Oh thanks, Chief! You won't regret this!"
He pulled Perry into an impromptu hug, and for once Perry didn't object. The boy deserved a promotion, dang-blastit.
The evening was quiet in contrast to the hectic morning and afternoon. Snow fell lightly over Metropolis, and Superman was not needed anywhere. The only noise on the street was the sound of the snow plows that hummed along the roads at a leisurely pace. But in her penthouse, Mindy Church was uncharacteristically throwing a tantrum.
"I can't believe it!" she yelled, kicking a box full of things with a stiletto-heeled foot. She had hauled out of Buster's office in a hurry when her hidden cameras had picked up the police cars raiding the outer office. She turned to her new accomplice, who was watching her.
"Buster was caught. It's all due to those two nosy reporters. Everyone I know is so incongruent," she pouted.
"Don't you mean 'incompetent'?" her accomplice said dryly.
"Huh?" Mindy said dumbly. She dismissed it. "I just want to have some fun around here. I don't care about Superman anymore. We can deal with him later. Whaddya got for me, pumpkin?"
"Well …" The accomplice slid a piece of paper across the desk. It was an advertisement. A slow smile crept onto Mindy Church's heart- shaped face.
Meanwhile, Superman flew into the townhouse window from the police station. Lois was on the phone with Henderson. He spun into a sweater and jeans and sat down next to Lois on the couch. Clark picked up the stereo remote and started flipping through radio stations. He found a good country station and placed the remote back on the coffee table. When he saw that Lois was going to take a while, he dropped his head onto her lap. She stroked Clark's hair with her left hand gently as she took notes with her right. Clark closed his eyes.
Lois finally hung up the phone. "Henderson said Roxanne and Rose ran away from home about a year ago. Roxanne was only sixteen and Rose was eighteen. They started working for Temple & Co. this summer."
"I was just with Roxanne and Rose," Clark informed her. "Their parents were abusive to them, so they're staying with a cousin in Gotham City. Roxanne's getting off because she was coerced, and she's still a juvenile. They're trying to find out if they can get Rose off for testifying against both Trask and Temple."
"I just talked to Henderson. Rose was arrested in conjunction with Trask," she told Clark. "She was with him when he raided the Kerth Awards. And Temple paid off Trask, Secretary Dey, Ariana Carlin …" Lois's eyes grew wide as she continued down the list. "Clark," she said, "do you see a pattern here?"
Clark frowned. He picked his head up from Lois's lap to look at the bank statement again. "Lois …" He looked at his wife. "Do you think all these crimes in Metropolis have all been ministered by Temple? I mean …" Clark thought back to all the crimes that had occurred in the past few months. "I don't understand why Temple would be after Superman. Or the two of us, for that matter."
Lois thought quietly before speaking again. "Let's just be glad he and his accomplices are in jail," she said finally, throwing the papers on the coffee table and leaning back on the sofa. "Anyway, I don't want to talk about work. I just want to relax and spend some time alone with my husband." She bent over and kissed Clark on the nose playfully.
"And our kid," Clark added, scooting back down to tickle Lois's stomach. She giggled. He chuckled and crooned, "How're you doing in there, kiddo? Remember Daddy? I'm your Daddy!"
Lois faked a frown. "How come you want to spend so much time with the kid and not with me?" she pouted. "Pretty soon we won't even have time for each other, between the Planet, Superman, the baby …"
Clark sat up. He picked up the remote again and switched the radio station from country to WAFF-FM, the easy-listening station. A romantic oldie drifted out of the speakers.
"OK, Mrs. Kent," he said. "How about a dance? We haven't danced in a while. And, this song seems to express exactly the way I feel about you."
Clark stood up and held his hand out. Lois smiled as she stood up and took his hand. They were in an embrace as Clark spun Lois around.
"Oh!" Lois cried in surprise as she giggled and Clark took her closer into his embrace.
"Nothing can ever replace the love I have for you," Clark whispered in her ear. "Remember that."
"I love you, Clark," Lois whispered back. She leaned in and rubbed noses with her husband, looking deep into his coffee-colored eyes and seeing eternity. Clark closed his eyes and listened to the words of the song …
"Take me in your arms,
Thrill me with all of your charms …
And I'll take to the sky on a natural high,
Loving you more till the day I die
Take to the sky on a natural high,
Loving you more …"
Clark held his arms tightly around Lois's waist as he lifted her into the air so her feet were no longer touching the floor. Clark leaned over and took his wife into a soul-shattering kiss that reminded both of them just how much in love they were.
"When I see you on the street,
My heart skips a beat …
And I take to the sky on a natural high,
Loving you more till the day I die,
Take to the sky on a natural high
Loving, loving you …"
"Natural High" is performed by Bloodstone, a really cool group from the 1970s. The song appears on the soundtrack for the Quentin Tarantino film "Jackie Brown" and a bunch of classic soul or R&B compilations also.
Acknowledgements: "Relativity" is a demon spawn ;) of an old fanfic called "Relatively Complicated." I thought I could cheat on this episode by reusing a lot of material, but I only used one that needed to be heavily revised <g>. As a matter of fact, this particular episode ended up being a "revelation episode" of sorts: L&C telling Perry and Jimmy about the baby, Perry surprising Jimmy with his promotion, and informing you, the readers, how busy Mindy Church has been these past few months. <g> The burden of having all this in this one episode made it a challenging but fun episode to write. The last scene is due to my overwhelming desire to see L&C dance again after "Church of Metropolis" and the WAFFy feeling I get every time I hear "Natural High."
I hope you all enjoyed reading "Relativity" as much as I did writing it.
Thanks to the following (in no particular order): The Teri Hatcher fans in high school who told me I looked like Lois Lane (we look nothing alike!), piqued my curiosity enough to tune in Sunday nights at 8, and subsequently hooked me (this is all your fault, guys!). "Twenty 1ne," for being my best friend and my biggest fan even if I'm a HMF ;). TUFS crew for all the pregnancy 411 and critiquing me with a gentle hand <g>. Genevieve Clemens for suggesting the B-plot, educating me on winters and central heating systems, and correcting my spacing problem. Craig Byrne for the title, inside jokes, friendship, and IM sessions. Julie Mack (my Pinay connection!) for editing, encouragement, and letting me vent <g>. Mom and Papa, two wonderful people who encouraged me to communicate, to share my gift of writing with whomever would read, and to listen to music always. Special thanks to my father, who could have been a Sam Lane but was rescued through the advent of e-mail <g>. And here's a shout-out to all the San Diego FoLCs! =)
This fanfic is dedicated to my younger sister Elisa ("Lucy") and my two (real <g>) half-sisters, Karen ("Lisa") and Karissa ("Bam-Bam"), the inspirations for "Relatively Complicated."