By Irene Dutch <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted April 1999
Summary: What if … one of Lois and Clark's descendants came from the future to help with a minor scientific problem even Dr Klein couldn't solve? This excellent and engrossing story, from a new writer, introduces a new Super-hero.
Many thanks go to my four proofreaders: Elisabeth, Erin Klingler, James Tull, and Karen Ward. I would also like to thank Karen, both for naming my new superheroine, and for strongly encouraging me to write down my ideas. And thanks go to Wendy Richards for the … interesting food combination that appealed to a pregnant Lois. Finally, thanks go to Donna Burton for the correct spelling of Veda Doodsen's name.
I recommend that you watch the episode "Brutal Youth" before reading this story.
Please be advised that this story contains a serious WHAM.
Please send feedback to Irene Dutch at email@example.com.
With the exception of Lee, all characters belong to Warner Brothers. All standard disclaimers apply.
"This makes NO sense!"
Lee pushed her chair back from her desk and sprang to her feet. She paced back and forth within the confines of the small room. Instantly recognizable as a dorm room, it held a neatly-made single bed, an uncluttered dresser with mirror, and a desk on which sat a phone, a computer and a tidy pile of books and papers.
Lee stomped back to her desk, sat down and glared at the glowing computer screen once again. Sighing, she picked up the phone and dialed.
"Gramps, it's me. Can I come over? I've got something to discuss with you. I'm really confused … Sure. Right now is fine … Okay. See you soon."
Lee hung up the phone and hit her "print" button. While her printer was working, Lee got up, grabbed a brush and went to the mirror. Grimacing at her untidy appearance, she quickly and ruthlessly yanked her brush through her long untidy hair. Working quickly, Lee braided her hair and coiled the braid into a bun. Looking in the mirror, she nodded approval of her neat appearance. She was petite, only a few inches over five feet tall. Slim and long-legged for her height, she was dressed in plain black leggings and a white turtleneck. Her gleaming, fiery auburn hair and her clear green eyes provided the only color in her appearance. Lee threw on her gray jacket, grabbed her small black purse and her papers and rushed out the door.
"I'm here!" Lee called.
"Come on in, sweetie. I'm in here," he answered.
Lee hung up her jacket in the hall closet and walked into the cluttered den. As always, the room was very warm.
"Gramps, I wish you would let me clean up in here for you. This room drives me crazy!"
"Honey, relax and sit down. You know I like it like this. And I do know where everything is."
As always, Lee enjoyed teasing her grandfather, but his room did drive her crazy. Papers and books were piled on every available surface. But it was a good setting for him. He always looked most comfortable in this room. As ever, he was sitting in his big brown recliner. He had on his green and orange plaid wool vest and his warmest teal blue cardigan over top. Covering his knees was his bright red down-filled quilt.
Bending down to kiss his shrunken cheek, Lee laughed, "Gramps, you look like you're starring in an ad promoting color blindness!"
"And you, my darling girl, look more like a librarian than any librarian I've ever seen," he retorted. "You always look like you're trying to fade into the background. I mean, really! Black pants and a white top or black skirt with a white top. And always with your hair in that bun. You need more color in your life. You need to loosen up and live a little. With that hair, you'd look grand in fire engine red or bright yellow!"
"Red? With this hair colour? I'd look like a raging inferno!"
"That's the idea, sweetie!" Gramps grinned at her.
"Gramps, are you planning on starting a new career as a fashion consultant at this stage of your life?"
"What! You think 90 is too old to start a new career?" he joked.
"Gramps, you'll never be too old for anything!"
""Ah darling, if only that were true." He sighed heavily.
He sat quietly for a moment, gazing into the distance. Then he turned his eyes back to her. "Okay, sweetie. Out with it. You said you were confused."
"Gramps, I've looked at this data thoroughly, over and over again. It just doesn't make sense." Lee placed her papers on the small end table beside him.
"Explain what you mean."
"Well, Gramps, I've reviewed your notes and I don't see how you were able to help Grandpa Clark and Grandma Lois conceive. Your notes make no sense at all." She quickly flipped through the pile of papers. "It just would not have been possible to reconcile the two different DNA strands without a hybrid Kryptonian/Human blood donor."
Lee's grandfather laughed and clapped his hands in delight. "Bravo, my darling girl! You're the first person to call me on that in 45 years! I've been waiting for you to figure this out!"
"Gramps, what do you mean?"
"Honey, go over to my desk and open the middle drawer. There should be a small metal box in there. Bring it here. It'll help explain."
Lee walked over to the large metal desk in the corner of the den. She had always thought that a wooden desk would have looked better in this room, but Gramps was used to this one. He had made special arrangements to purchase it when he retired from Star Labs. She opened the middle drawer and looked at the mess of papers, photographs, and other paraphernalia. It took her a moment of rooting around, but she finally found a small metal box shoved right to the back of the drawer.
"Is this it, Gramps?"
"Yes, give it here, please, sweetie."
Lee gave the box to her grandfather and watched as he fumbled with it.
"Is your arthritis bothering you again today, Gramps?"
"A little bit."
"Well, you know the drill. Spread 'em and reach for the sky!" Lee grinned.
He put the box down and raised his hands into the air, spreading his fingers as wide as he was able. Lee focused on his hands and concentrated on sending an extremely gentle and extremely short burst of heat to his fingers.
"Ah, I knew there was a reason that you're my favorite grandchild!" He sighed in contentment.
"Gramps, I'm your only grandchild!" Lee laughed. "Now come on, show me what's in the box before you drive me crazy!"
He opened the box and took out a device. It looked remarkably like a garage door opener with one single black button on it. He firmly pressed the button.
"Now we wait," he stated.
"Wait for what, Gramps?" Lee questioned.
Suddenly, there was a banging and clattering from the living room. Billowing fog streamed through the door.
"Actually, my darling, we were waiting for him."
A voice with a distinctive English accent called out, "Bernard, you wished to speak with me?"
"Uncle Herb, is that you?"
"Lee, my dear. What are you doing here?" A distinguished elderly man in a vintage black suit came into the room. He wasn't actually her uncle, but he was a close family friend.
"Uncle Herb, right now, I'm so confused, I have no idea what I'm doing here!" Lee said as she jumped up and gave the newcomer a big hug and kiss.
Lee's grandfather spoke up. "Herb, a wonderful thing has happened! Lee's figured out that my data's a crock!"
Lee interrupted. "Gramps, I'm totally confused. Your data's false, and this is a good thing?!"
"No, my darling girl. The good thing is that you've figured this out on your own!" he explained. "You see, sweetie, you're right. It wasn't possible for me to reconcile the two different DNA strands on my own. I did need a blood donor … and I had one."
"How could you have a blood donor? No hybrids existed yet." Lee stated calmly. "Someone would have had to go back in time to… Gramps!" Lee shrieked. "Are you telling me that I, that I went, and that I … "
The two old men gleefully beamed at her.
"That's right, my darling granddaughter! Herb took you — or to be accurate, he will take you back in time. You were a really big help!" He smiled smugly at her. Lee slowly sank down into her chair. She struggled to regain control over her emotions.
"You guys are serious, aren't you?" Lee rubbed her temples in agitation.
"We most certainly are, my dear and we've been waiting for this day since before you were born." Uncle Herb gently stroked her hair.
"Since before I was born! Uncle Herb, please explain more clearly. I think I'm getting a headache!"
Lee's grandfather leaned forward and gently took her hand in his. "Herb, you go and get the stuff. I'll explain the situation to Lee."
The English gentleman left the room only to return a moment later carrying an old-fashioned carpetbag.
Lee's grandfather gave her hand a gentle squeeze. "Lee, you know that I was Grandpa Clark's doctor. I was so upset when I told him he and Lois couldn't have children. I was, and still am so fond of both of them. I felt like I was crushing all their dreams. I worked at coming up with theories to test. I experimented. I raised their hopes, only to end up crushing them again. It was a terrible time. Honestly, I had no idea how to proceed. I had told Clark and Lois that I thought we should give up, when the most miraculous thing happened. You showed up. This very attractive twenty-year-old with superpowers came into my life, and swore that she was not only Superman's granddaughter, but my granddaughter, too. She told me she had come 45 years into her past to help me!"
"Me?! I mean, it must have been me - I'm your only grandchild, but … did you believe me right away?" Lee looked at her grandfather in wide-eyed amazement.
"Well … it took me a while to believe you. I mean, I wasn't even married yet … hadn't even met your grandma Caroline. It helped that you could fly. And you had other proof with you."
He gestured at Herb who promptly opened the carpetbag and withdrew a large manila envelope from it. Herb handed Lee's grandfather the envelope. He opened it, took out a photo and handed it to Lee. Lee gazed at the picture. It had been taken at Christmas, just a few months before. It was Lee's favorite photo of her with her grandfather. They were not posed formally but were very casual with their arms wrapped around each other. There was not a strong family resemblance between the two of them, but they did have the same lively, intelligent expressions on their faces. The loving bond between them was very obvious.
Lee's grandfather then reached down and pulled another photo out from under his chair. It was identical to the first except that it looked well worn and yellowed.
"You gave me this forty-five years ago, and I've kept it close to me ever since. Lee, I've loved you since before you were born. Whenever life seemed too hard for me - like when your grandma Caroline died - I would pull this picture out and look at it. It gave me hope. I could remember what you had been like in my past, and look forward to the future and getting to know you all over again."
"Oh, Gramps! I love you, too!" Lee sniffed as she brushed tears from her eyes.
Herb briskly blew his nose into his handkerchief, breaking the emotion of the moment. Then he reached into the carpetbag again and produced another smaller envelope handing it to Lee. "This isn't for you, my dear. Please don't open it."
Lee looked at the envelope. It was marked "Dr. Klein - personal and confidential."
"Gramps! This is your handwriting. You wrote yourself a letter?"
"I told you there was other proof. I have to admit, I was the hardest person I ever tried to persuade of anything!"
"What does the letter say, Gramps?" Lee asked.
"Basically, it says that I should trust you and believe you no matter how much I don't want to. Also, I included a lot of personal details that no one knows about other than me. Now, darling, promise me. No peeking - I include a lot of embarrassing past history known only to me to prove my point!"
"Okay. I promise not to peek." Lee grinned, holding up her fingers in the Boy Scout salute.
"Gramps, obviously from what you've said, I told you the truth right away. Do I have to tell Grandpa Clark and Grandma Lois immediately?" she asked hesitantly.
"No, sweetie. I'm not going to tell you whether they knew or not. That will be your decision to make, not mine."
Lee nodded gravely. "I don't want to tell them."
"I didn't think you would." He sighed.
She changed the subject. "Did you already know that Grandpa Clark was Superman?"
"Of course, my darling girl. Clark had been my patient for a long time. I knew almost from the first time we met that he was Superman."
Herb glanced quizzically at her grandfather. He opened his mouth as if to speak but then closed it again.
"Now my darling, go and pack enough of those librarian outfits of yours for a week or two. You don't need to pack anything else. Herb and I have some other supplies for you. We'll do a general inspection of your stuff to make sure you don't include anything that would be too radically different. Can't be too careful, can we?"
"You mean, I'm going to go now? I won't have more time to prepare?"
Herb spoke up. "No time like the present, my dear. You scoot home, pack and hurry back and we'll be off."
"Whoa! This was a lot easier to handle when we were talking in the abstract. Now that you've told me I'm going now … it changes everything!" Lee paused in thought for a moment. "All right, Uncle Herb, Gramps. I just want to say - this is totally against my better judgement!"
Lee stood up and was gone with a whoosh.
"My goodness, Herb. I think we really made an impression on her. I don't think I've ever seen her move so fast! And I haven't seen her so emotional since she was a young child. You know, she's really remarkable. Anyone else would be bundle of nerves knowing they were going to travel through time. Not our Lee! She's got incredible self-control! It's hard to remember that she's so young and inexperienced."
Herb rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "Bernard, you told her that you already knew Clark was Superman."
"What can I say, Herb? I lied. What was I going to tell her? 'By the way, my dear, you spilled the beans about your other grandpa's secret identity!' That would have gone over well!"
"You know, Bernard, you really are a very devious old man!"
"Why, thank you very much, Herb!" Gramps laughed.
With a whoosh, Lee returned carrying a small suitcase. "Okay, guys, let me show you what I packed." She opened the bag and started removing items, laying them on the bed. "First, I have clothes and yes, Gramps, I have some white tops, some black slacks and some black skirts. I also have my gray jacket, black pumps and my black sneakers. Of course, I have some lingerie too, which I don't feel you really need to inspect. As to what else to pack, I had no idea. Suggestions, gentlemen?"
Herb retrieved the carpetbag from the floor and opened it once again.
"Here you go, my dear. I have some identification papers - quite false, but they will pass inspection. Your name will be Lee Carlyle, Dr. Lee Carlyle. I felt Lee Kent would just be too hard to explain."
"But Uncle Herb," Lee interrupted. "I'm not a doctor. I haven't graduated yet."
"Lee, you and I both know that you've completed all the work, and are just marking time until you graduate in a few years. You'll need to be taken seriously," Herb responded. He continued, "I also have a supply of money with proper dates on it. It wouldn't do to present anyone with a piece of currency printed in 2010 or some such date! Finally, I have a key for a flat, which I rented in your name. It's fully furnished. It's not in a good part of town but with your - how shall we say this - extra resources, I don't believe you will have any problems you can't handle. I've written the address down for you. I've also included a map of Metropolis. You may know your way around the city now, but it was somewhat different then. Any questions?"
"Uncle Herb, I do have a lot of questions for Gramps as to what exactly happened when I was there before."
"I'm sorry, my dear, but I won't allow your grandfather to answer any of your questions. Can't change the time-line, can we, my dear?"
"You mean, that's it! You're just going to throw me into the deep end?" she exclaimed.
"That's right, sweetie. It's sink or swim time!" Gramps laughed.
"All right. Enough! I guess I'm ready. Uncle Herb, let's go." Lee bent down and gave her grandfather a big hug and kiss. "I love you, Gramps. I hope you were okay with everything. I mean, I know you are now, but I hope you were okay with everything back then!"
"Once I got over the first shock, darling, I was tickled pink! I love you, too. And I want to tell you something. It sure didn't take me long to learn to love you! Take care, sweetie. I'll be right here waiting for you when you get back."
Lee straightened. She wiped a tear from her eye, braced her shoulders and took her uncle's arm. "Lead on, MacDuff! Tallyho and all that!"
"That's the spirit, my dear. Keep your chin up!"
And then they were gone leaving an old man alone with his memories. He sighed. "Oh Lee, I wish it had been easier for you! No wonder I wouldn't answer your questions."
In a great cloud of steam, the time machine came to rest in an empty alley in downtown Metropolis.
"All right, my dear. We're here."
"Wow, Uncle Herb. What a ride! I fly, but I've never flown like that!"
"It is pretty spectacular isn't it? Now, my dear, here is your suitcase and I also want you to take this bag. It has the letter and the photo in it as well as some other odds and sods. Today's the twentieth of May. Your father needs to be conceived sometime in the next two weeks." He handed her the suitcase and the carpetbag. He continued, "I'm afraid that I can not stay. I know you're a little nervous, but you'll do fine. You don't actually meet your grandfather until tomorrow. I thought you could use a day to orient yourself, and get yourself organized. Here's the map. As you can see, we're not far from your flat." He traced a route on the map with his finger.
Lee took a deep breath. "Okay, Uncle Herb. I won't let you or Gramps down."
"I know you won't, Lee." He pulled her towards him and bestowed a gentle kiss on her forehead. "I don't tell you as often as your grandfather does, my dear, but I do love you. I couldn't love you more if you were my own flesh and blood."
"I love you, too, Uncle Herb. I'll do my best."
Lee stepped out of the time machine. Herb flipped some levers, pressed some buttons, and with a jaunty wave and a wink, he was gone.
Lee took a big breath, adjusted her grip on the bags, and set off in the direction of her new apartment.
Gramps waited patiently. He didn't need to wait long. Only a moment after Herb and Lee left, he once again heard the same ruckus from the living room. Herb briskly strode through the door, making the foggy cloud swirl around his knees.
"Well, Bernard. She's safely situated."
"Did you tell her how long she'll be staying?"
"No. I also didn't tell her that she has more than one task to perform. I left all that for you to do."
"Herb, is everything going to work out all right for Lee. I need to be reassured that she'll be okay."
"Bernard, you will just have to trust me on this. All should work out just fine in the end. Everything she goes through, all the pain, it's all most necessary. You'll see soon enough."
"All right, Herb. You've been a good friend for decades. I've trusted you for a long time; it would be a shame to stop now."
The next day dawned bright and sunny. It hadn't taken her long to locate her one-room apartment the night before. She had been pleased. It was very plain, but also very clean. When she looked in the kitchenette cupboards, she had discovered that her Uncle Herb had stocked them with many of her favourite foods. She hadn't needed to do more than unpack her suitcase, and put the carpetbag neatly in the closet to feel at home.
But then Lee had tossed and turned all night in her new bed. There was nothing wrong with the bed, but she had been preoccupied as to what the best approach would be in making the acquaintance of her grandfather. She finally decided that the honest approach was the best. She would wait for him at his work and when they were alone, she would calmly tell him who she was, and why she was there.
Lee got out of bed and padded over to the closet. She removed the carpetbag and rooted through it for the letter and the picture. There was a large, soft, brown manila package inside the carpetbag. Inside was a fire-red, one-piece outfit - a sleeveless, high necked, form-fitting bodice that flowed into tight leggings. It had an insignia with a stylized flame on the chest. Also included in the package was a bright yellow cape obviously meant to be worn with it. Tucked into the neckline was a pair of very studious looking glasses.
"You've got to be kidding! I'd look like a bonfire in this!"
Lee looked in the carpetbag to see what other surprises Gramps and Uncle Herb had waiting for her. Exasperated, she pulled out a pair of black high-heeled leather boots.
"It's a good thing I can fly. I'd never be able to walk in these," she thought in disgust.
She found another envelope, this one addressed to her. She opened it. Inside were a letter and a folded newspaper clipping. She sat down to read the letter.
By this time, you will have found your new outfit.
What can I say? I was bound and determined to get
you out of your librarian's outfits and into
something more colourful. I know you will look
absolutely ravishing! Believe me, I really do
know. Or to be more accurate, I remember! You
can thank me when you get back. As for the glasses,
you could say they're a family tradition!
Lee shook her head in exasperation. She slowly opened the newspaper clipping. She had a horrible feeling she knew what she would find.
"Metropolis' Fiery New Super-Hero! - Exclusive by James Olsen." And there she was - in all her glory. It was a picture of Lee in a dramatic pose, leaping into the sky, her hair streaming out behind her. There was no story with the picture - just the headline. Even the date had been cropped off. "Yep, I was right! I do look like a bonfire!" she thought. "At least, no one will be looking at my face!" She studied the picture once again. "Well, I guess I can pack up my skirts. I'll never be able to put this outfit on under them!"
Lee sat patiently on the bench in the lobby at Star Labs. She resisted the urge to get up and adjust her clothing. However, she was fiddling with the unfamiliar glasses.
'How in the world did Grandpa Clark get used to all this spandex?' she wondered.
Lee had hoped to meet with Dr. Klein early in the day, but she was only able to get a late appointment. Upon reflection, she decided that this might not be a bad thing. Employees would be gradually leaving, and perhaps they would have more privacy.
Lee had spent the day strolling around Metropolis getting her bearings. She discovered that the hundred dollars in her wallet would not go very far. If she were here longer than a day or two, she would have a problem.
The major landmarks were familiar to Lee, but there were still some big differences between this Metropolis and the one she was used to. She made a point of avoiding Grandpa Clark and Grandma Lois' neighbourhood, and also the Daily Planet's environs. She wasn't ready to deal with meeting either one of them, yet. One relative at a time was all she could handle, she rationalized.
Her thoughts were interrupted by a familiar voice. "Dr. Carlyle, what can I do for you?"
Lee looked up. There he stood. He was so young looking. He still had some hair left - not a lot, but more than she had ever seen him with. But his eyes were still the same, lively and intelligent, and at the moment also very puzzled.
Lee had tried to prepare herself for the shock. Even so it was an effort to stand up and shake his hand. "Dr. Klein, it's a pleasure to meet you. I've heard many good things about you. Thank you for agreeing to see me. I would like to speak with you in private, if possible."
"Certainly. We can step into my office. Right this way." Clutching her purse and the large manila envelope, Lee followed Dr. Klein down a short hallway and into a very cluttered office. She looked around in delight. There was the very familiar metal desk from his bedroom. Papers and books covered every surface imaginable. Lee laughed to herself, 'Some things never change,' she thought.
She waited while he moved some papers off a chair, and then sat down. He sat down across his desk from her.
"All right, young lady. You told the receptionist that you needed to speak to me about Superman. Please go ahead."
Lee took a deep breath. "Dr. Klein, you're going to think I'm crazy, but … I'm from the future. "
He started to laugh. "How'd you get here - by bicycle?"
"No, by time machine of course," Lee retorted. "Please Dr. Klein. Hear me out before you have security throw me out."
"All right. I'll listen, if you promise to leave quietly when you're done."
"Dr. Klein, that's a promise I won't have to keep. You're not going to want me to leave in a couple of minutes."
"We'll see. Please go ahead with your … explanation."
"Okay, Dr. Klein. First of all, I know this is hard to believe but … I'm Superman's granddaughter."
"Yeah right," he muttered under his breath.
"Actually, Dr. Klein, I can prove this very easily!" Lee floated into the air, inverted herself and sat down on the ceiling. Then she floated gently back down, righted herself, and sat again in her chair.
He looked like a frog trying to catch a fly. He didn't seem to know what to say. He kept opening and closing his mouth, yet he didn't make a sound.
"But Superman can't have children - at least not with an Earth woman. I just told him that!" he finally stuttered.
"That's what I'm here for. With my help, Grandpa Clark and Grandma Lois can conceive. They just need a hybrid Kryptonian/Human to act as a blood donor to create a treatment for Grandma Lois," Lee explained.
"Grandpa Clark? Grandma Lois? Are you telling me that Clark Kent is Superman?" Dr. Klein jumped to his feet.
"You didn't know already?! I thought you knew! You *told* me you knew!" Lee cried out in consternation.
"What do you mean, I told you? How could I tell you? I've never met you before!" Dr. Klein sputtered.
"Dr. Klein, please sit down and let me explain. I know this is all hard to believe, but - I'm your granddaughter, too. You may not have met me before, but I have spent my whole life getting to know you."
Dr. Klein started pacing around the room.
"I think I must be losing my mind. First you tell me that you're from the future. Next that you're Superman's granddaughter. Oh yes, I mustn't forget. Superman is really Clark Kent. Oh right, the topper. You're my granddaughter too. Look young lady, I'm not married. And I certainly don't have any children. I don't know what kind of game you're playing but I want it to stop right now!"
Lee handed Dr. Klein the photograph. He took it from her, looked at it, and slumped back down into his chair. "This could be anybody. This old man … he doesn't really look like me," he muttered.
Then Lee handed him the letter. He looked at it carefully. "This is my handwriting. Where did you get this?"
"You wrote it — in the future. You told me that it contained information no one else knew. You gave it to me just before I came."
Dr. Klein opened the letter and unfolded it. He read it slowly and thoroughly. Finally, he set it down, leaned back in his chair and gazed into the distance.
"Dr. Klein, do you believe me now?"
"I don't want to believe you, but it looks like I have no choice. By the way, he - I mean, I - oh, this is confusing. There's a message for you in the letter."
"For me? What?"
"Here. This page is addressed to you; you better read it." He handed her the enclosure.
You just caught me in a big lie. I should say I'm sorry but I'm not. I'm a terrible old man. You already knew that, didn't you, sweetheart? I don't actually need to know about Grandpa Clark, but boy, it's a lot more fun this way! I also tricked you in another way. You have more than one job to perform, and you're going to be there for a while. I'm not going to tell you how long. I'm sorry, sweetie. I don't like doing this to you, but Herb assures me, it really is necessary. Remember, I love you, and I'll be waiting for you.
Lee slowly read the letter over again. "I guess I'm going to need to find a job!" she sighed.
Dr. Klein shook his head in disbelief. "Did I really write that? It's hard to believe!"
Lee laughed ruefully. "Yes, you did write that - in the future and I know it's hard to believe. I'm having trouble believing everything and I'm the one from the future!"
"You're taking this very calmly."
"I'm a pretty pragmatic person. Besides, I'm stuck. I might as well make the best of it because it's sure not going to do me any good to complain. Who would I complain to? And I trust you - I mean, the future you."
"And Superman is really Clark Kent. I always knew they looked a little alike, but … Oh my God! Does Lois know? I mean, she is married to him and everything! She must know, right? What if she doesn't know? Should we tell her?" He waved his hands in the air.
"Gramps, I mean, Dr. Klein. Stop! You're babbling! Of course, Grandma Lois knows. And yes, Superman really is Clark Kent. Now, please calm down. We have to talk this over and decide on a course of action, how we can help them conceive a child. I do have a vested interest in this. This is my father we're talking about!"
"Your father! So - I'm going to have a daughter, am I?" he asked.
"Yes you are, but I'm not telling you when, or with whom. I think I've given you enough information about your future," Lee stated firmly.
"All right, I guess I'll have to live with that, but can you tell me a little about yourself?" he pleaded.
"I'll tell you the bare minimum. I'm twenty years old. And my name is Lee Kent, not Lee Carlyle. I'm not really a doctor … yet. I'm a student at Metropolis University - I'm doing an accelerated course of study in genetic engineering," Lee recited. "The university isn't sure what to do with me. I've completed all the course requirements on my own, but I haven't done the clinical work."
"You're a scientist! Like me!" Dr. Klein beamed with delight.
"Yes, I guess you could say that science is a mutual source of interest. You've encouraged me since I was very young, doing experiments with me, and telling me stories of your work. That's why I'm here. I read your notes as to how you helped Superman conceive a child and discovered that the data made no sense. When I went to you with my conclusions, you told me that I had to go into the past to help you," Lee explained.
"What's it like, having superpowers?" he asked curiously.
Lee grimaced. "To be quite honest, I've never liked it. I mean, some of the powers are fun, but actually being the one to have them, that isn't. I always felt different from everyone when I was growing up. It's scary. It's a big responsibility, helping people. I haven't had to do too much of that yet. Grandpa Clark made a rule that until we're twenty-one - I mean, his kids and grandkids - we are not to use our abilities unless absolutely necessary. Some of my cousins don't like this rule, but I can see the necessity behind it. We need to learn how to handle our powers wisely."
"Are we close, I mean, in the future?" he asked.
"Very close. Obviously, I have a lot in common with Grandpa Clark and I love him." Lee shrugged. "But you and I share a lot of common interests. I guess you could say, you're my favourite relative. I have always felt apart from the others in my family - except for you. They're all extremely creative people, many of them writers, but I'm different from them, somehow. I'm much more methodical and practical. I like to be in control of my emotions. They're more spontaneous than I am."
"Wow! I'm your favourite! I find it hard to believe you prefer me to Superman!"
Dr. Klein beamed at her. Lee grinned back. She could feel the nervous knot in her stomach start to relax. For the first time since this whole thing began, she felt that everything just might work out for the best.
That evening, Lee lay on her bed and reflected on her day. Gramps was just as nice now as he would be in the future, she decided. And she still felt comfortable with him. That was important to her. There weren't many people that she felt comfortable with.
He had agreed to pretend that he didn't know Grandpa Clark was Superman. And he was going to approach Star Labs' administrator about hiring her on a temporary contract. Other than that, the only decision they had made was that Lee would pose as his niece, and that she would address him as Uncle Bernie. Somehow Lee didn't find that too difficult. He looked too young for her to call him Gramps. They were going to meet again in the morning and plan their next course of action.
Lee yawned. She was really tired. Resolutely, she put her concerns out of her mind and concentrated on breathing evenly. It wasn't long until Lee was asleep.
The next morning, Lee got up bright and early. Always an early riser, she felt she functioned better when she kept to a strict routine. She dressed quickly, first in her new spandex outfit, then with her slacks and blouse over top. Her hair was twisted into her customary bun. Lee grabbed her purse and her jacket and was about to step out the door when she paused. Grimacing, she snatched up the unfamiliar glasses and put them on. "I sure hope I get used to these!" she thought as she left.
Dr. Klein unlocked his office door. Normally one of the first to arrive at the office, today he was even earlier than normal. He could hardly wait to see Lee again. Poor child! Feeling different when she was growing up due to her powers, and then being so different from her family. No wonder he would make a point of being close to her in the future; she obviously would need him a great deal.
He laughed to himself. It was getting easier every minute to think of her as a granddaughter. Meeting her was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to him. He felt a connection to her that he had never felt with anyone before. She was an amazing young lady. He had already realized that she was absolutely brilliant. Of course, after all she was descended from him. She was very controlled and disciplined with her emotions. But he sensed she had hidden passion in her depths. And she preferred him to Superman! Dr. Klein shook his head in wonder.
He heard brisk footsteps coming down the hall. It was Lee.
"Lee, I'm so glad to see you this morning."
"I'm glad to see you too, … Uncle Bernie"
They grinned at each other and then with a laugh, stepped into a warm embrace.
"Excuse me. Am I interrupting something?" A man stuck his head into the room. He was wearing a business suit, a colourful tie, and glasses, with a thick file of papers in his hand.
Lee and Dr. Klein jumped apart. Their jaws dropped simultaneously. Dr. Klein was the first to recover.
"Clark. I ah, I don't think you've met my … niece. This is Lee, Dr. Lee Carlyle. Lee, this is Mr. Kent, Mr. Clark Kent. Um … he's a reporter for the Daily Planet." Dr. Klein glanced at Lee. Her face was completely expressionless. He could sense however, that she was in the grip of a strong emotion.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Dr. Carlyle." Clark extended his hand.
Lee struggled to regain her composure. She gave his hand a firm shake. "Please call me Lee," she stated coolly.
"Only if you agree to call me Clark."
"It's a pleasure to meet you also, Clark. I've read many of your articles and enjoyed them very much." Lee reflected that this was actually true. She had read most of her grandparents' work.
"Thank you. It's always nice to hear," Clark said. "But will you excuse us please, Lee. If you don't mind, I need to speak with Dr. Klein privately."
"Of course. I'll just step out into the hall for a minute," Lee answered as she closed the door behind her. It didn't really matter. She would still be able to hear everything. Normally, she would have focused on not listening to a private conversation but she didn't make the effort this time. She admitted to herself that she was a little concerned as to how well Uncle Bernie would hide his new knowledge. Lee leaned against the hallway wall and was immediately able to hear Clark's voice.
"Dr. Klein, I just stopped by to ask for your help. Superman just captured Dr. Jones. He's the ex-military scientist who's been working on gene splicing and DNA alteration. He experimented on homeless people!" Clark said in disgust. "Superman gave me Dr. Jones' notes and asked me to deliver them to you for analysis. I think he was hoping that you could find a way to help those poor people - at least the ones who survived. At the same time, I was hoping that you could explain the technicalities to me. I really should understand this a little better before I try and write a story about it." Clark wondered why Dr. Klein was looking at him so strangely.
Dr. Klein gave himself a shake. "Of course, Clark. Anything to be of help to … Superman … and to you." He suddenly had a thought. "Actually, if you don't mind, my niece is an excellent scientist. And her field of expertise is genetic engineering! That's not really my strong point. She could be a great deal of help to us. Do you mind if I invite her in to help?"
"Dr. Klein, are you sure? This data is very disturbing. The effects of this experimentation were … gruesome to say the least. Superman … was very upset when I saw him last." Clark shuddered.
"Let me ask her, Clark. I think you will be … pleasantly surprised by Lee." Dr. Klein chuckled to himself.
"All right, Dr. Klein," Clark acquiesced gracefully.
Dr. Klein stuck his head out into the hallway. "Lee, please come in here. Clark and I could use your help."
Lee frowned and grimaced at him. "What are you doing?" she mouthed at him.
He grinned and waved her in. "Trust me," he mouthed back at her.
Dr. Klein, Lee and Clark spread the notes out on Dr. Klein's desk and pulled up some extra chairs. Lee took a moment to review the papers and make a few notes, before starting to talk. Dispassionately, she explained what was done to each of the subjects. She was able to relate each procedure to specific results. Some of the results were gruesome in the extreme, but Lee managed to keep her composure. Clark took copious notes.
Lee had just started outlining what treatments might offer hope when she was interrupted by a knock on the door. A man walked in. Lee didn't like the look of him. He seemed very officious.
"Dr. Walken," Dr. Klein jumped to his feet. "I forgot I had an appointment with you; I'm so sorry," he stammered. "Please allow me to introduce Clark Kent. Mr. Kent is a reporter for the Daily Planet. And this is my niece, Dr. Lee Carlyle. Mr. Kent, Lee, Dr. Walken is the senior administrator for Star Labs. Dr. Walken, I was hoping to speak to you about the possibility of hiring Lee for a temporary position. Lee is spending the summer with me before she starts looking for a research position in the fall."
Lee was surprised at how insecure Dr. Klein seemed all of a sudden. But on the plus side, he was definitely a better actor than she had ever imagined he could be. Also, he had made up an excellent cover story.
"Dr. Klein, are these people working on something with you?" Dr. Walken demanded.
"Well, we are reviewing some notes Mr. Kent brought me. They're about…"
"Dr. Klein," Dr. Walken interrupted angrily. "you will not review Star Lab business with outsiders. Especially not with journalists. And I am not happy about you wanting to hire a family member. This smacks of nepotism. You know how this could reflect on Star Labs' reputation. You will cease this discussion immediately."
Lee saw red. She didn't lose her temper too often, but the stress of her unexpected encounter with Clark, combined with her emotional response to Dr. Jones' notes, was enough to set her off.
"Excuse me, Dr. Walken! First of all, these files have nothing to do with Star Labs. They were brought here on Superman's behalf. You have heard of Superman, I imagine! You know, the guy that saves the planet on a regular basis? He asked Dr. Klein for a favour. However, this data does not fall within the area of my uncle's expertise. It does fall within my field! That is why I'm involved. Now, if you have a problem with your employee helping Superman, we can go elsewhere to work, and we can do it on our own time!" Lee stated forcefully.
Clark grinned to himself. Lee defended herself and Dr. Klein articulately and logically, but there was passion there too. She reminded him of Lois.
"Dr. Klein, I had a thought," Clark said. "Could I borrow Lee for a while? She could come with me to the Daily Planet. I could provide her with space to work in. I know Superman would appreciate having some answers as soon as possible." Now why would the two of them look so nervous about his offer? Clark wondered.
"Lee, that's not a bad idea," Dr. Klein said. "It will give you time to work on this problem. I think we want to get answers for Superman as soon as we can, don't we?" he asked. He glanced at her furtively. Dr. Klein was all for the idea. He figured Lee would want access to Clark and Lois. This was a great way to get it.
Lee was undecided. She had really been hoping to avoid spending time with Clark. She felt very uncomfortable around him.
Dr. Walken interjected, "Actually, Dr. Carlyle is welcome to help you with this problem. I apologize, I totally misunderstood the situation," he said, insincerely.
Lee made up her mind. She didn't want any more contact than necessary with this arrogant man. Although she also didn't want to be in close contact with either Clark or Lois, she did want to help. Coming up with a course of treatment for these poor victims would be an interesting intellectual challenge.
Glaring at Dr. Walken, Lee gave in. "All right, Clark. Seeing as I am pretty sure I won't be working here anytime soon, I think I'll have the time to help you out with this. I'd love to come with you to the Daily Planet. By the way, as I will be helping Superman and those poor unfortunates, there will be no charge!" Changing the subject, she continued, "Do you think I'll have the opportunity to meet Ms. Lane? I've been an admirer of hers for a long time." She turned to Dr. Klein. "Uncle Bernie, could you meet me at the Planet when you're done with work? I was hoping we could have dinner together - that is, if you're free."
"Sure, Lee. I'll meet you there shortly after five."
Dr. Lee Carlyle's a bit of a cold fish, Clark thought. But she seems very competent. That's the main thing. Hopefully with her help, Dr. Jones' victims would be helped.
"So this is the famous Daily Planet newsroom." Lee surveyed the bustling workplace. "I've always wanted to see it but I've never been here before." Lee reflected that her statement was only technically true. She had visited the newsroom many times, but chronologically the visits hadn't happened yet. 'Time travel sure confuses a person,' she thought to herself.
"Clark, there you are." An older man with a hint of a southern accent emerged from his office and approached them. "I wondered if you were going to grace us with your presence this morning."
"Sorry, Perry. I got hung up at Star Labs talking to Dr. Klein about Dr. Jones' data."
"Was Klein any help, Clark?" Perry asked.
"Actually, Perry, Dr. Klein wasn't of assistance, but this young lady was!" Clark responded. "Perry, I want you to meet Dr. Lee Carlyle. She's Dr. Klein's niece and an expert in genetic engineering. Lee, this is Perry White, the paper's senior editor."
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Dr. Carlyle."
"Thank you, Mr. White." Lee shook Perry's hand firmly, "And please call me Lee."
"Perry, Lee has agreed to help me go over this data. Her time is her own at the moment. She's here in Metropolis visiting her uncle. Would it be okay if Lee were to set up shop in the conference room? She's going to try to determine some courses of treatment for Dr. Jones' victims," Clark asked.
"Of course, son. Just give me a moment to clear some of my mess away. I took some of my Elvis memorabilia in there, trying to sort it into some kind of order." Perry laughed.
"Elvis? Elvis Presley, right?" Lee asked, excitedly. Her face lit up. Clark couldn't believe the difference in her.
"Right! Are you a fan of the King?" Perry asked.
"You better believe I am!" Lee grinned. "My dad is a huge fan. I've heard Elvis' music my whole life. The man was a musical genius! And he had a voice to die for!" Lee enthused. "One of my dad's uncles really loved Elvis. He and dad were really close. They spent a lot of time together. And of course, they listened to Elvis all the time. Dad was really broken up when Uncle Pe…Peter died." Lee's smile faltered for a moment. "Can I help you organize your stuff, Mr. White? I've also had some training in library science. I should be able to help you make some sense of your collection," Lee offered eagerly.
Perry grinned. "Who am I to turn down an offer like that?" He offered her his arm and led her into the glass-walled conference room.
Clark laughed. It was funny how quickly she had been transformed from a humorless scientist. She really has Perry charmed, he thought. Elvis was definitely the route to take to reach his boss' heart! He started to walk to his desk only to make a detour when he saw his wife already working at hers.
"Mmm, you smell great!" Clark said as he nuzzled Lois on the neck.
"And that feels great!" Lois replied with a warm smile. "So, honey, did you get any info from Dr. Klein? And who is that woman that you just introduced to Perry?"
"Lois, I may be the half of this couple who has superhearing, but you don't miss a thing that goes on around here," Clark said in a low voice. "To answer your questions - Dr. Klein felt he wasn't the right person to analyze Dr. Jones' data. However, he introduced me to the young lady in there, Dr. Lee Carlyle. She's his niece and she has her doctorate in genetic engineering."
"A doctor? Wow! She looks so young!"
"I know. She doesn't look nearly old enough, does she? Anyway," Clark continued, "Dr. Klein's boss at Star Labs was not impressed with the presence of a journalist and was equally unimpressed by the presence of a staff member's relative. I offered the Daily Planet conference room for her to work in. She's agreed to help find a solution to this problem."
"Well, she sure seems to have Perry charmed," Lois said.
"It helps that she's a big Elvis fan!" Clark laughed in reply. "She's a bit of a strange character but I like her somehow."
"What do you mean?" Lois asked.
"I'm not sure. There's something a little — odd about her and I don't know what it is. Perry likes her though."
Clark and Lois looked in the direction of the conference room. They could see Lee and Perry both gesturing a mile a minute. Perry was talking up a storm while Lee was laughing at what he was saying.
"Maybe what strikes me as odd is how changeable she is. One minute, she's the cool professional, the next, a rabid Elvis fan." Clark laughed. "But it was really sweet the way Dr. Klein looked at her. You know, I never thought of him as having a family, but I definitely sensed a strong connection between the two of them."
"Dr. Klein with a family — it boggles the mind, doesn't it?" Lois grinned. "I want to meet her. Let's go."
Clark tapped on the conference room door and stuck his head inside. "Perry, how are you and Lee doing with all your stuff? Lois and I were hoping we could start working with Lee soon." Lois and Clark casually sauntered into the room.
"Well, son, I think I've got the bulk of this stuff ready to go back to my office. How about you give me a hand with it?" Without waiting for an answer, Perry started piling photos, record albums and other memorabilia into Clark's arms.
"You know, Chief. I would have said yes!" Clark laughed. "Lee, before I disappear into Perry's office, let me introduce you to Lois. I've told her all about you - at least as much as I know about you!" He followed Perry out of the room, their arms heavy-laden.
"It's a real pleasure to meet you, Ms. Lane. I'm a big fan of your work. I especially enjoy your Superman coverage." Lee extended her hand to Lois, who shook it with a smile.
"Thanks, Dr. Carlyle. Clark's told me that you have some very good ideas. I'm looking forward to working with you on the Jones story. What he did was just plain wrong. I'm glad someone has some ideas on how to help," Lois responded.
"It really is a terrible crime that Dr. Jones has committed. No one deserves to be experimented on. Everyone should have control over their own destiny. As a scientist, I am always striving to be dispassionate about my work, controlled. But sometimes, it's a lot easier than others." She added, "Oh, and please call me Lee."
"Only if you call me Lois. Lee, would you please bring me up to speed on this data? Clark said you have a real knack for making this scientific mumbo-jumbo understandable."
"Sure, Lois," Lee replied.
Suddenly Lee heard a siren with her enhanced hearing. She jumped. If she hadn't been watching for it, she would have missed seeing Clark dash for the stairs.
"There goes Clark. We can get started without him. We'll see how far we get before he returns," she said looking down at her notes.
By the time Clark returned, Lee and Lois had covered most of the points she had previously gone over with Clark.
"Good timing, Clark. I was just picking up where we left off when that officious, toady boss of my uncle's interrupted," Lee said with a smile. The three of them shared a laugh.
Lee was able to come up with some possible treatments for the homeless victims. "Perhaps I could discuss the most promising of them with my uncle - privately - on our own time," Lee suggested with a wry grin. Lois and Clark laughed.
"Dr. Walken does sound like an officious idiot!" Lois smiled. "But Clark tells me you put him in his place in no uncertain terms!"
Perry approached the conference room and tapped on the door. "How's it going in here? Have these two been working you too hard, Lee?"
"Actually, sir, I thrive on hard work."
"I knew I liked this young lady!" Perry enthused. 'Not only is she a huge Elvis fan and likes to work hard, but she calls me 'sir', too!" Perry looked thoughtful. "Lee, I just had a thought. Now that Jimmy's been promoted to journalist, I have an opening for a research assistant. Do you think you'd be interested? Or do you have other plans at the moment?"
Lee thought fast. On the one hand, she'd be in close proximity to Clark; that was worrisome. But on the other hand, she really liked Perry and Lois. And after all, she did need a job.
"Perry, a job would be a godsend at the moment. I'm at loose ends for a couple of months. I'd go crazy sitting around all day waiting for Uncle Bernie. I was thinking of looking for something that would keep me busy. If you're willing to take me on as a temporary employee, I'd be delighted to work for you."
"Well, Lee," Perry drawled. "I had it in mind that Jimmy could use a good assistant. He's been following in these guys' footsteps so well, he's a little swamped." Perry gestured at Lois and Clark. "Ideally, I would have hired another journalist, but the budget can't handle that. At the moment, all I can justify is a research assistant."
"So, in other words, you want someone who will do an incredible amount of work for a modest amount of money and won't complain about it," Lee grinned.
"You've nailed it on the head!" Perry laughed. "So, what do you say? Do we have a deal?"
"Absolutely!" Lee extended her hand to seal their bargain with a handshake.
"That's great, Lee! It'll be good to work with you!" Clark smiled.
"Wonderful, Lee. It'll be nice to have another intelligent woman in the office! You can help me raise the standards around here!" Lois grinned at Perry and Clark. They laughed.
Unnoticed by the four of them, another person had approached the conference room. "Hey guys, am I interrupting something?" the young man asked with an infectious grin.
"Jimmy! We were just talking about you. Come on in here and meet Lee." Perry exclaimed.
Lois was amused to see a faint pink stain appear on Lee's face as Jimmy entered the room. 'Looks like Jimmy's boyish charm has made another conquest!' she thought.
Lee's jaw dropped. She felt like she had been hit with a bolt of lightning. For a moment, the only thing she wanted to do was to run as far away from the conference room as she could.
"Jimmy, I'd like you to meet Lee Carlyle, the Planet's newest employee. She's our new research assistant. You've been so busy recently that I'm assigning her to you, at least for the short term," Perry informed Jimmy.
"Pleased to meet you, Lee. I hope you enjoy working here." Jimmy extended his hand to Lee. Jimmy, too, looked slightly stunned as he looked at Lee.
Lee shook his hand and muttered something inconsequential while she tried to control her whirling emotions.
That evening over dinner, Lee told Dr. Klein about her day. He was very impressed with her suggestions as to how to treat Dr. Jones' victims.
Due to all the private things they needed to discuss, they had decided it would be prudent to buy groceries and prepare supper at Dr. Klein's apartment. She got a kick out of the ride home on Dr. Klein's motorcycle. He got a kick out of Lee's superfast food preparation.
"You know, Lee. I have a rule that guests don't help clean up, but I just might make an exception in your case!" he teased.
"But Uncle Bernie, I'm not a guest; I'm family!" Lee retorted.
"True enough, you are. You hereby are approved to do the dishes - at superspeed!" They laughed together.
"So tell me, Lee," Dr. Klein changed the subject. "Did you tell Lois and Clark who you are and why you're here?"
"No, and I'm not going to either," Lee replied.
"I… don't have a concrete reason but … I just don't want to. He doesn't … I mean, they don't need to know - not the way you do," Lee responded. "I don't want to tell too many people. It could be dangerous for the time-line."
Dr. Klein sensed that there were other reasons why Lee didn't want to tell them but he didn't want to pressure her for answers. She would tell him over time - or she wouldn't. It was her business, not his.
"How do you feel about working at the Planet?"
"I'm not sure. I like the people I'll be working with: Perry, Lois and … Jimmy." Lee blushed. "But I'm a little uncomfortable being in such close proximity to Clark. He might sense that I'm like him!"
Dr. Klein didn't see what the problem would be with that. At the same time, he had noted Lee's blush and guessed its significance. 'Lee's fallen for Jimmy, and it's taken her by complete surprise!' he thought sympathetically.
Taking pity on her, he changed the subject again. "Do you think you could show me this superhero outfit you say I designed for you?" He grinned.
Lee laughed. "Of course. But watch out. It'll knock your socks off!" She stripped off her outer clothes at superspeed. "Grandpa Clark does this really fancy spin when he changes outfits, but I need to practice before I have it down pat!"
Dr. Klein blinked in amazement as Lee blurred in front of him. "Wow!" He exclaimed. "You look … Wow!" he repeated. "You seem so different! It's a good thing you dress so conservatively the rest of the time." He continued, "No one would ever relate Dr. Lee Carlyle to … what is your superhero name anyway? Superwoman?"
"Not Superwoman!" Lee stated emphatically. " I haven't thought of one yet. I was thinking of something like Fire or Flame. I mean, that's what this outfit looks like after all. Any suggestions?"
"Actually, I do have one, my dear. While you were telling off Dr. Walken, I thought, this granddaughter of mine seems like an elemental force of nature, in other words a storm! What do you think of Firestorm as a name?"
Lee laughed. "I like it! It has great crime-fighting connotations. I can storm the bad guys! And it ties in with this fire symbol on my chest. Okay, Uncle Bernie, Firestorm it is!"
"What's it like to fly?" Dr. Klein asked wistfully.
"Do you want to find out?"
"Are you serious? I would love to, but is it wise? Aren't you trying to keep a low profile?"
"I'm not too worried. It is dark out. But it would probably be a good idea to take a ride on that motorcycle of yours. It would be a lot safer if we were outside the city limits."
"Wait! Shouldn't we be working on the treatment for Lois? I mean, you were sent here for a reason," Dr. Klein pointed out reluctantly.
"True! But it looks like I was sent here for more than one reason, and I'll be here for a while. We can work on it tomorrow. After all, it's not everyday your granddaughter wants to take you flying!" Lee grinned.
"All right! You're on! Let me just change into some dark clothes. You should probably put your street clothes back on, too - at least until we're out of the city." Dr. Klein answered eagerly.
Lee walked home. Dr. Klein had wanted to drop her off first but she had insisted on walking. She needed time to think. She reassured him, unless there was Kryptonite around, she would be perfectly safe. He had to agree with that. She smiled thinking of his reaction to the flight. 'He's just one big kid!' she thought. He had encouraged her to pull out all the stops - loop the loops and dives. She hadn't ever done so many aerobatics at one time before. She had enjoyed herself too, she admitted in surprise. She hadn't expected to. The only reason she had made the offer was because he seemed so interested, and she wanted to please him. If only using her superpowers could be this much fun all the time!
Dr. Klein and Lee only lived about a half-mile apart, but Lee noted that the neighbourhoods were quite different. His neighbourhood consisted of well-kept apartment buildings mixed with small strip malls that held dry-cleaners and small specialty stores. She noticed a preponderance of higher end gourmet food stores. It was very much a place to live if you were single and upwardly mobile.
As she got closer to her apartment, she noted that the gourmet food stores gradually disappeared to be replaced by small corner stores prominently advertising liquor sales. And there wasn't a dry-cleaner in sight. However, there were an abundance of strip clubs and adult bookstores.
Lee heard stealthy footsteps approaching her from behind. She braced herself. Suddenly, an arm snaked around her, and a knife was pressed against her throat. "Give me all your money, sweet thing!" rasped the would-be mugger into her ear.
Lee laughed to herself. "I don't think so," she said calmly as she threw the man over her shoulder. He landed with a thud and a shriek.
"What's going on here?" asked an authoritative voice from behind. Lee whirled to face the newcomer.
"Um … Superman! This … man just tried to mug me!" Lee noted Superman's start of surprise when he saw who she was.
"Are you all right?" he asked in concern.
Lee felt off balance by his close proximity to her.
"Sure. No problem. It's a good thing my grandma taught me Tae Kwon Do!" Lee responded impishly. This whole situation started to seem amusing.
The corners of his mouth twitched. "I think your Grandma is someone I would like to meet sometime."
Lee choked back laughter. "Grandma is really something special! I bet you'd like her!" she admitted.
"If you don't mind waiting, I'll take this guy to the police and be right back to make sure that you're home safely."
Her amusement fled. He sounded awfully patronizing, she thought. "Thanks, Superman. But I'm just a block away from home. I should be fine," Lee answered coolly.
He looked surprised by the sudden mood change. He nodded, and bent down, scooping up the mugger. Then with a whoosh, he was gone.
Lee continued on her way, bemused by the whole experience. As she walked up the steps of her apartment building, she noticed a figure hovering high in the air above her. If she hadn't had enhanced vision, she never would have known he was there. In spite of her feelings towards him, she was touched. His concern gave her a warm feeling of security. It's too bad she couldn't feel that way about him the rest of the time, she thought as her smile faded.
After tossing and turning until three in the morning, Lee conceded defeat. It didn't look like she would be able to sleep tonight. Sighing, she got out of bed and padded on bare feet over to the kitchenette in the corner of the room. She focused her heat vision on the water in her mug until it started to boil and then added a tea bag. After it had steeped enough, she discarded the tea bag and added a generous dollop of honey to her mug. Sitting in the one casual chair in the room, she cupped the mug in her hands, inhaled the fragrant aroma and thought about what had happened to her earlier in the day.
It was no use denying her feelings, she decided logically. She had fallen for Jimmy, and fallen hard, too. The moment she saw him, she had sensed that this was the man for her. There could never be anyone else. She wasn't sure, but she thought he had felt something too.
As their conversation had progressed, she discovered that she liked everything about him. He was witty. He was intelligent, although he hid it well. He was very cute, too. There was an openness about him, an honesty that she admired. No repressing emotions for him. He had such enthusiasm and such a child-like enjoyment of the world around him. At that moment, Lee realized that Jimmy reminded her of Dr. Klein, the man who had helped to shape her and who had always been there for her.
'Oh God, I'm doomed,' she thought. 'I'm in love with Jimmy Olsen. And even if I could change my feelings for him … God help me … I don't want to. What am I going to do?'
As the night progressed, Lee struggled to bring her emotions under control. She had no experience when it came to this kind of thing. She had never even had a crush on anybody before. But one thing she knew, it was completely impossible to pursue any kind of relationship with Jimmy. It wasn't fair to Lee, and more importantly, it wasn't fair to Jimmy. When Lee returned to her own time, Jimmy would be 67 years old and Lee would remain 20. Not only that, they would have been apart for 45 years. He would have moved on, probably even gotten married.
Lee realized that she had never met Jimmy in her own time. She had never paid much attention to Grandpa Clark's and Grandma Lois' recollections and stories of their friend. She did remember them saying that Jimmy had left Metropolis around the time of her birth. He had headed out for parts unknown. Lee didn't even know if her grandparents had maintained contact with Jimmy or not.
Even if she couldn't pursue a relationship with Jimmy, there was no reason she couldn't be his friend - that is, if he allowed her to be. Lee relaxed. Her decision was made. No matter what Jimmy might feel for her, she would not allow things to move forward. They would be friends, nothing more. And for the moment, working with him, just being with him, would have to be enough. And maybe, she thought, it had been her imagination. Maybe he didn't feel anything for her. After all, why should he?
It was a lot harder to be logical in the light of day. After just half a morning working with Lee, poor Jimmy didn't know which way was up.
"Honestly, CK. I don't know how I'm going to be able to work with her," Jimmy complained. "She's driving me nuts. I ask her if she wants a coffee and she snarls at me. Then she gets me one, with a donut on the side. She brings me a pile of research that I didn't ask for and probably won't need but she said she got it special for me to make my job easier! Then when I don't use it, she's back to snarling at me! She's been doing this Jekyll and Hyde act since she got in this morning and I don't know how I'll be able to take it! I have no idea how she really feels about me."
Clark laughed. "Forget how she feels about you. How do you feel about her?"
"She's fascinating. She's got an incredible mind - and you know, that's not normally the first thing that catches my attention about a woman!" Jimmy grinned. "And she's kind of cute in a buttoned-down librarian kind of way! She makes me angry - but I like it!" Suddenly serious, he continued, "I really feel this strong connection between the two of us; it hit me like a ton of bricks the moment I saw her for the first time. I've never felt anything like it."
"Ooh, you've got it bad!" Clark teased. "How do you think I felt about Lois the first time I met her?" he asked.
"Oh no, I'm doomed!" Jimmy joked.
Working in the conference room, Lee couldn't stop herself from listening to their conversation. She was embarrassed by her behaviour. She prided herself on her tight control over her emotions but that control was really letting her down today. It was also upsetting to hear that Jimmy had indeed felt something between the two of them. She didn't know what she was going to do.
Lee paced up and down in Dr. Klein's office while he watched her.
"What am I going to do, Uncle Bernie? How could I let myself have these … these feelings? It's not like I can do anything about them!" Lee ranted.
"That's tr…" he started to say.
"You're right!" Lee interrupted. "It just wouldn't be fair to Jimmy to pursue a relationship. You know it, I know it! He would know it, too, if I could explain it to him! Have you ever been in love with someone when it wasn't wise to pursue it?"
"You're right again! This is a really unique situation. In the whole history of the universe, no woman has ever fallen in love with a man from 45 years in her past at a time when she's not even born yet!" Lee shouted. "Why did this have to happen to me?"
"Lee, don't you think you're overreacting a bit?" Dr. Klein said in a rush.
"Right again, Uncle Bernie! I do need to calm down. And thank you for pointing out that I have to tone down my reactions to Jimmy. I need to stop sending him so many different signals. Friend - he needs to think of me as a friend. I can do that! I can be a good friend. And any other feelings I have, I just have to ignore. They can have no meaning for me." Lee sighed. "Thanks for your advice, Uncle Bernie. It really helped to talk things over with you. You helped me get things clear in my own mind. I really do appreciate it."
Bewildered, Dr. Klein shrugged. "Don't mention it. Now then," he briskly changed the subject, "we were going to get started on this blood serum."
'Poor child,' he thought as they got down to work. 'I think she has a lot of heartache ahead of her.'
"So, Lee, how does this treatment work, anyway?" Dr. Klein asked.
Dr. Klein had been stunned to discover that Lee didn't know anything about the treatment required. As she pointed out, she had been too busy investigating the false information that had been provided to her. It had been of more interest to her in her field of genetic engineering. The treatment practically fell under the category of family medicine, which wasn't Lee's area of interest. As she had put it, studying it would have been like reinventing the wheel; why bother, when it's already been done once. He was a little puzzled that she wasn't pushing harder to get this figured out. He couldn't understand why she seemed hesitant.
At least they had outlined several possibilities to investigate. The next item on their agenda was drawing blood samples from Lee. She wanted to wait until the next evening, Friday evening. She didn't have to work on Saturday and would be able to recuperate on her own time from the effects of the Kryptonite. Dr. Klein was really not looking forward to using Kryptonite on Lee, but it was the only way he would be able to take the required samples. He planned on taking as many samples as he could without jeopardizing her. He didn't want to have to repeat that part of the experiment. Neither did she.
The next night was just as disturbing as Dr. Klein had feared. He had been forced to strap Lee down as the Kryptonite had caused her to writhe in pain. But he had worked quickly and efficiently enough to limit her exposure to under two minutes. It was with a sigh of relief that he was able to lock the Kryptonite back up in the vault.
"Come on, sweetie. You're coming home with me. You can take the bed. I'll take the couch." He helped her to sit up.
"You know, Uncle Bernie. I'm not even going to attempt to argue with you. I feel pretty rocky," Lee admitted. "Would you help me get off this examining table, please? My legs feel like they're made of jelly."
As he placed his arm around her waist in support, he was reminded anew of how much this strange, improbable child had already come to mean to him. His mind still had trouble with the whole concept of a grandchild from the future, but his heart had come to believe it.
Lee marched into work bright and early Monday morning. She felt great. By Saturday morning, she had completely recovered from her exposure to Kryptonite. And she and Dr. Klein had enjoyed a wonderful weekend together. They had taken his motorcycle out early Saturday morning. Riding it was almost as much fun as flying. They spent the afternoon doing wonderful cozy, domestic things like shopping. He had been shocked to see the bare walls of her apartment and had insisted on buying her some inexpensive knick-knacks to brighten it up. Lee had to admit that it did look better with pictures on the walls and a couple of houseplants.
After their shopping expedition, Lee had insisted on cooking for Dr. Klein. She was proud of her cooking skills and grateful for the opportunity to show them off. They had lingered for a long time over dinner, talking and laughing. He had insisted that they spend most of Sunday in the lab but she had talked him into taking time off to go to a movie with her in the afternoon. Dr. Klein had insisted on a comedy and it had been funny, Lee admitted to herself. Sunday night had been a repeat of dinner at Lee's but the evening had ended earlier so that they could each prepare for the coming workweek.
Jimmy approached her warily. "Lee, you look like you had a great weekend."
"I sure did, Jimmy. Uncle Bernie and I spent the whole weekend together. We had a great time!"
Jimmy relaxed. "You know, Lee. Until you came along, I don't think any one of us here even conceived of Dr. Klein having a personal life! He's always seemed so dedicated to his work!"
"He is dedicated to his work, Jimmy. But he can unbend and have fun, too!" Lee replied. She changed the subject. "So, what do you want me to work on today?"
"Perry's just assigned me - I mean, us - to cover the labour unrest at the docks. There are rumors of corruption about the top union leader - allegations of bribe taking, physical coercion, stuff like that."
"Sounds interesting. Where would you like me to get started?"
Jimmy handed Lee a piece of paper. "Here's a list of names, both from the local gangs and from the union. Please do a background check on them. Make sure you track their finances. Look for connections."
"Okay, Jimmy! I should have this info for you shortly."
"Don't rush through this, Lee. I want complete info on these guys." Jimmy warned.
Forty-five minutes later, Jimmy was again talking to Clark.
"Honestly, CK. I have no idea how in the world she could have got all this work done so quickly. I mean, I gave her ten names to research and look at all the info she's dug up on them. I couldn't have done it this fast! And she's even cross-referenced them. I even know that this guy and this other guy are on the same bowling team!" His finger stabbed at the paper.
Clark wasn't sympathetic. "Jimmy, what are you complaining about? I wish the whole research department was as efficient as Lee. Lois and I can't even borrow her from you. Perry's assigned her to you only."
"CK, I'm not complaining. But she is full of surprises."
"Don't knock it, Jimmy! Even after a year of marriage, Lois still manages to surprise me!" Clark grinned.
"All right all ready! I guess I'll keep my comments to myself!" Jimmy laughed.
Lee was diligently working in the conference room, a pile of papers spread out over the table in front of her. Jimmy stuck his head in the door and interrupted her, "Lee, I'm going out to follow up a lead. Supposedly the head of the union is going to be meeting with a gang leader. It sounds like he's going to be paying the gang to vandalize some work sites. I'm hoping to get pictures."
"Would you like me to come with you?"
Jimmy shook his head. "No. It could be dangerous. Besides, it's easier to hide one person than two."
She hesitantly touched his arm. "Be careful, okay?"
He gently placed his other hand over hers. "I will," he said softly.
Lee nodded. Jimmy turned and walked to the elevator. She watched until he got on and then headed for the stairs, fidgeting nervously with her glasses. He needed her to watch out for him and he didn't even know it.
Even from above the cloud cover, Firestorm hadn't had any trouble tracking Jimmy's movements. When his motorcycle came to a stop, she gently floated down and landed on a nearby rooftop, her cape billowing out around her. It was an excellent vantage point to watch things unfold.
The meeting took place as had been rumored. There was a long list of dockside properties that the union boss was targeting for vandalism. She could see Jimmy frantically scribbling notes. Suddenly Jimmy's cell phone rang.
"Oh no!" she muttered. It was clearly audible to the union boss and the gang leader. Firestorm smacked her forehead in exasperation. How could someone as smart as Jimmy do something so stupid as to leave his cell phone turned on! She watched helplessly as they pounced on Jimmy and dragged him out of hiding. She hoped that Jimmy would be able to talk himself out of this.
Her hopes were dashed when the union boss pulled out a gun and aimed it at Jimmy. Even as he pulled the trigger, Firestorm was there to catch the bullet.
"Did you lose something?" she asked with a smile. She snatched the gun out of the union boss' hand "Let me look after that for you!" Still smiling, she smacked their heads together and watched them drop to the ground unconscious.
"You might as well use your cell-phone for something useful. Why don't you call the police?" she suggested to Jimmy.
"Ah … um … oh right! Call the police! What a good idea - who are you?" he blurted out.
She grinned. "Just call me Firestorm!" 'Good exit line,' she thought as she soared into the sky. She could hear the click, click, click of Jimmy's camera as she flew off.
"You should have seen her, guys! She was magnificent! Gorgeous! She looked like she was on fire when she flew. A living flame! And her name - Firestorm! Just perfect for her!" Jimmy enthused to Lois, Clark, Perry and Lee.
"Jimmy, this is definitely front page material. Good work. It's a good thing you brought back pictures. Nobody would believe you otherwise. Of course, I think I had the same reaction when Superman came to town." Perry continued, "Did she say anything else? Like where she's from?"
"Or why she's here?" Lois added looking over at Clark in concern.
"Or whether she plans on contacting Superman?" Clark said with a glance at Lois.
Lee squirmed in embarrassment listening to the discussion. There was no way that she would have allowed Jimmy to be hurt, but she wished she could have helped in a different way.
Later in the afternoon, Lee and Jimmy continued to work in the conference room. Although Jimmy had calmed down, he still enthused about Firestorm.
"It would be great if I could interview her. It would make a huge difference to my career - really get my work noticed!"
"Jimmy, you sound like you have a crush on her!" Lee was half embarrassed but very amused at the same time.
Jimmy thought it over. "Actually, Lee, no. I don't have a crush on her. Don't get me wrong. She was stunning, and I would like to see her again, but only for an interview. In a way, she didn't seem like a real person. Do you know what I mean?"
Lee nodded in response. "Sometimes you surprise me, Jimmy Olsen."
Jimmy gazed into her eyes. "Besides Lee, I'm interested in someone else at the moment."
Lee quickly glanced away.
That night over dinner, Lee filled Dr. Klein in on her eventful day. "Uncle Bernie, I didn't have any other choice. I couldn't let them kill Jimmy."
He nodded. "Of course you couldn't. But you have let the cat out of the bag - with a vengeance."
"What do you think I should do now? Everyone is going to be looking for Firestorm - including Superman," Lee asked glumly.
"Lee, what would be so terrible about that? I mean, the man is your grandfather, but you seem so … cool towards him." Dr. Klein responded.
Lee looked away from Dr. Klein. She sniffed a couple of times.
"Sweetie, what's wrong? Are you crying?" he asked.
"No … I'm not crying. I just don't want to have to meet with … him. I don't want to talk to … him!"
"Why not, Lee? Clark is a wonderful man. I always thought so … even when I didn't know that he was Superman. Surely you can tell him anything."
Tears rolled down Lee's cheeks. She was openly sobbing now.
"Honey, why are you so angry at him? What has he done to you?" Dr. Klein asked putting his arms around her shoulders.
"It's all his fault," she blurted out. "It's because of him that I'm the way I am."
"I'm a freak!" she sobbed.
He gathered her more tightly into his arms. "Honey, you're not a freak. It's true you are special, and different. But sweetie, it's because of those differences Jimmy is alive today. It's because of those differences that you're here in the past, helping your own father come into existence." They rocked back and forth.
As Lee calmed down, Dr. Klein continued to talk softly. "And if you feel so alone and so different, have you ever put yourself into his shoes? He is the only Kryptonian on this planet. As far as he's aware, he can never have children. He has no one to share his legacy, his heritage with. You can be there for him - both now and in the future. If you're there for him now, imagine his joy! Imagine the hope you'll give to him and to Lois. And you can also be there in the future - to give him your love and your support. That's special. You're special! I agree, you are different but you're not a freak!"
Lee thought about Clark. It was true. He was an alien. But he didn't act like one. He had a loving marriage. He had great friends and a good career. He made an effort to fit it. Lee realized that it was something she had never tried to do.
"You're right. I never thought about it that way. It's just that I've felt so alone for such a long time. I don't have friends. You're the only person that I've been close to - I mean both now and in the future. But it's not my superpowers that have made me alone, is it? I've done it to myself. I mean, look at Clark. He should be more isolated than I am, but he has friends, good friends and a loving wife. I guess it's up to me to connect with people, isn't it?" Lee laid her head on his shoulder.
"Darling, do you know what your basic problem is? It's a very human one," Dr. Klein asked.
"You're shy, just like millions of other people! In that regard, you're no different from many others!"
Lee started to laugh. "Gramps, Uncle Bernie, whatever your name is! I love you!"
"I love you, too, sweetie. I'm glad you've come into my life." He reached for a box of Kleenex. "Now, let's get those tears dried."
Lee had agreed to consider talking to Clark and to Lois. Voicing her feelings had been very cathartic. She still felt a little fragile but, on the whole, a lot better. She had agreed to try connecting with people more, to be more open to new experiences.
It felt good to be walking home from Dr. Klein's in the gathering dark. The emotional release left her feeling a little exposed and vulnerable but the darkness made her feel a little more secure and protected.
"Lee!" A motorcycle screeched to a halt beside her. "I thought that was you!"
"Jimmy! What are you doing here?" Lee asked in surprise.
"I was on my way to a coffeehouse to listen to some guys jam. Do you want to come?" he asked tentatively.
Lee opened her mouth to refuse, but noted the hopeful expression in his eyes. She just couldn't turn him down. And, she admitted to herself, she didn't want to turn him down. "Sure! Why not?" She said. 'I did say I would be more open to new experiences, didn't I?' she thought to herself.
"Great! Hop on!"
Jimmy handed her a helmet to put on. She mounted the bike behind Jimmy and wrapped her arms around his waist. Lee sighed blissfully. 'I might as well enjoy this!' she thought.
Much later that evening, Jimmy's motorcycle pulled to a stop in front of Lee's apartment building. "Jimmy, I had a really great time. That place was really hopping. And the music! It was all so wonderful!" Lee enthused as she jumped off the bike.
"I had a good time too, Lee. You were great company!" Jimmy also got off the bike and stood close to Lee, gazing into her eyes.
He leaned towards her, taking her hands in his. She unconsciously swayed towards him. She caught herself, panicked and took a quick step back, disengaging his grip. "Lee, I…" he started to say.
"Anyway, Jimmy," Lee interrupted. " I should go in. It's really late. Thank you so much for taking me. I'll see you tomorrow at work." Lee spun around quickly and ran up the steps of her building. Jimmy stared after her, frustrated.
Clark was beginning to feel like Jimmy's personal therapist.
"We had a really great time, CK. I mean, really great! I've never had such a good date. It wasn't the most fun or the wildest but… it felt right. You know what I mean? But then, just when I thought we were going to kiss goodnight… boom… she was gone. It was like she slammed a door in my face!"
Clark laughed to himself. 'Now where have I heard that before?' he thought in amusement. He said aloud, "Jimmy, it sounds like Lee panicked. Be persistent, but make sure you don't scare her. You have to ask yourself: is she worth making that extra effort for?"
"Totally! She's really special. I don't know exactly what it is about her, but … I just don't know. I can't explain it, CK, but I feel like we're meant to be together. I guess I just have to be patient until she figures that out, too."
Lee was hiding in a cubicle in the women's washroom. She had used her super-hearing to listen to their entire conversation. She sobbed quietly into her hands. She didn't know how to handle this.
The door opened. Lee tried to restrain herself, but a moan escaped her throat.
"Lee, is that you?" It was Lois.
Shamefaced, Lee emerged from the cubicle.
"Honey, what's wrong?" Lois put her arms around Lee.
"I can't tell you," Lee sobbed.
"Is it Jimmy?"
Lee cried harder.
"Lee, do you care for Jimmy?" Lois asked.
"More than you know!" Lee blurted out.
"Then what's the problem? I know he cares for you too," Lois said.
"We can't be together. There are … reasons," Lee answered mournfully.
"Why not?" Lois asked.
"I can't tell you … at least I can't right now. I wish I could." Lee sighed. "Please, don't ask me about this again." And Lee fled the room.
"Tell me, Lois. Who do those two remind you of?" Clark asked his wife with a grin. "Here's this poor guy trying to get close to a fascinating, intelligent woman only to be pushed away by her. Jimmy said he felt like she slammed a door in his face." His eyes twinkled mischievously as he looked at Lois.
"Okay, I get it! But I had my reasons for the way I acted; maybe Lee does too." Lois patted Clark on the arm. "Possibly they just need a little help getting together. Maybe this is a job for … Superman's wife!"
"Lois!" he rolled his eyes. "Leave those two alone. We finally managed to get together. They can, too! After all, would you have been grateful for the help if someone had tried with us?"
"Valid point! But I think I might talk to Dr. Klein. He might have some suggestions," Lois responded.
"Lois! You're meddling again."
"Yes, dear." She fluttered her eyelashes innocently at her husband.
He tried to keep a straight face, but found it impossible, and pulled her into his arms.
"It's a good thing I love you, Ms. Lane!" he grinned at her.
"And I love you, too, Mr. Kent!" she said as she leaned in for a kiss.
"Lois, Lee does have very good reasons for not pursuing a relationship with Jimmy." Dr. Klein stated firmly.
"What could be more important than being with someone you care about?" Lois asked in frustration.
"Let me think … Okay. Here's a hypothetical situation. Let's say a woman is dying. Should she indulge her emotions, be selfish, let herself fall in love and start something that she can't finish?" Dr. Klein asked.
"Is Lee dying?" Lois asked in shock.
"No. But her reasons for her behavior are just as valid." Dr. Klein continued, "So, answer my question. Do you think a dying woman should allow herself to fall in love?"
"It seems to me that the dying woman would either be in love or not be in love. There's no 'falling' involved. But I guess the real question is, should she allow herself to get involved with a man when he will only end up getting hurt?" Lois responded thoughtfully. She continued, "I think it should be up to the man. It's his decision. He should be in control of his own life." Lois grimaced. "There was a time when I thought I would never be with Clark again, through circumstances beyond our control." Her thoughts flashed to his short sojourn with the New Kryptonians. "But I wouldn't have traded a moment of our time together for anything even though the pain of our separation was more than I thought I could bear."
"I don't know, Lois. That is a valid point, but … this isn't between you and me. This has to do with Lee and Jimmy. I can't speak for her and you certainly can't speak for Jimmy," Dr. Klein pointed out.
"True enough," Lois sighed. "But would you talk to her? I think this should be pointed out to her."
"All right, Lois. I'll mention it," he responded. "I'm concerned about them, too, you know.
"I think I know how to treat Lois, Lee," Dr. Klein looked at her in concern. She was pale with dark circles under her eyes. She sat beside him in the lab, slumped over his notes.
"Oh. That's good, Uncle Bernie," Lee said dully. "What have you figured out?" She avoided his eyes.
"Ironically, it wasn't me that figured this out. I actually got the idea of what to do while I was reviewing Dr. Jones' data. The man was a genius, just completely misguided. It's a shame that those poor people had to suffer. But I honestly don't know whether I could have conceived of this treatment on my own. Like I said, it's ironic." He continued, "Why don't you review my notes and see what you think?"
Lee stared blankly at the notes. As Dr. Klein watched her, tears started rolling slowly down her cheeks.
"Lee, my darling girl. We have to talk. I can't stand seeing you in such pain." He cupped her cheek in his hand.
"Uncle Bernie, I'm so unhappy. I was okay when I thought that I was the only one who would get hurt. I figured that I would just be a friend to Jimmy, and he would be okay with it. But he wants more, and by not providing it, I'm hurting him, too. But if I did get involved with him, how would he feel? You know that one day I'm just going to disappear without a trace. You'll be okay with it; you know the truth. But it would hurt Jimmy. So it looks like, no matter what I do, Jimmy is going to get hurt. I have incredible powers, but … at this moment in time, I feel completely helpless."
"I know, Lee. I know." He patted her on the shoulder. "But Lee, I just had something pointed out to me today."
"Jimmy is a grown man. He should be given the opportunity to make his own decisions. And then I realized something else. You're a grown woman, too. You're perfectly free to tell him your secrets if you so desire. I'm not suggesting that you should tell him, but I'm also not saying that this would be a huge mistake. The only secret that you should protect is Superman's. That's not your secret to share - although you did with me!" He grinned and continued speaking. "But if you wanted, all your other secrets are fair game - including exactly why you're here."
Lee was aghast. "Uncle Bernie, I can't jeopardize the time-line like that!"
"Why would it jeopardize the time-line? What would Jimmy find out that would cause a problem?"
"I don't know, but … Well, what about the fact that time machines exist! That could cause a problem."
"Lee, Jimmy's not a scientist. He couldn't create a time machine. And why would he? It could cause you a problem and I think we can count on him not wanting to hurt you. After all, that's the reason I don't plan on experimenting with the concept."
"People would find out about Superman having a family."
"So what? They're only going to find out in a few years when your dad starts flying around. Besides, Jimmy is discreet. Who would he tell?"
"Uncle Bernie, I guess I need to do some thinking about this. I don't know what to say." Lee looked stunned.
"You don't have to say anything, Lee. You don't even have to do anything. But you needed to know that you had another option."
"Thanks, Uncle Bernie. I still don't know what I'm going to do, but … that helps." Lee sat up straight. "Now, let's have a look at your notes, shall we?" Together, they bent their heads over the papers.
Several minutes later, Lee spoke. "This is just great, Uncle Bernie! I really think you've nailed it. I don't see any reason why this wouldn't work. They'll be over the moon when they find out. When are you going to tell them?"
"I think as soon as possible, don't you? Tomorrow morning, why don't you tell Clark that I'm looking for Superman, and wondered if he could contact him for me?"
"I have a better idea, Uncle Bernie. Why doesn't Firestorm tell him? I could probably find him within the next hour, and bring him here."
"Are you sure, Lee?" Dr. Klein asked in concern. "Do you think you're ready to let Clark and Lois know who you really are?"
"I've really been thinking hard about what you said the other night. I think I should make the effort to connect with them. I'm terrified … but I'm going to tell them everything, anyway."
Lee spun into her suit. She winked at Dr. Klein. "I've been practicing my moves!" And whoosh … she was gone.
Firestorm hovered over Lois and Clark's Hyperion Avenue home. She focused her hearing, and was able to hear a murmured conversation between the two of them. 'Good. They're both home,' she thought. She landed, and spun back into her street clothes. Lee quickly ran up the steps, and rang the doorbell. As she waited, she concentrated on breathing evenly, trying to calm her ragged nerves.
"Lee!" Lois exclaimed. "What are you doing here? I mean, come in. What can I do for you?"
"Actually, Lois, I'm here to do something for you. Could I please talk to you and Clark? I have some information for you." Lee looked very nervous.
"Sure, come and sit down." Lois gestured to the sofa. "I think Clark's in the kitchen. I'll just go find him." She disappeared through a swinging door, only to reappear in a moment with Clark in tow.
"Hey, Lee, how's it going? Can I get you a coffee?" Clark offered.
"No thanks, Clark. If you and Lois could just sit down, I'd like to tell you guys something."
They sat down across from Lee. She waited until she had their complete attention. "The first thing would be easier if I just showed you," she said as she jumped up and spun into her suit.
They looked stunned, their mouths gaped open.
"You're Firestorm?" Lois sputtered.
"Yes, and … I'm Superman's granddaughter."
"Wha…!" Lois was stunned.
Clark jumped to his feet, and advanced on her. "Why are you telling us this? Is this some kind of … of … cruel joke?"
She stood her ground. "You know why, Clark … or should I say, Superman. And you know why too, Grandma Lois."
"Did you just call me Grandma Lois? And Clark, Superman?" Lois blurted out. Stunned, Clark stopped advancing.
"Yes, I did. I really am your granddaughter, and I'm here from the future to help you."
"How did you get here?" Clark asked.
"Uncle Herb brought me in his time machine," Lee responded reasonably.
"Oy!" Lois exclaimed. "Uncle Herb?"
"Herbert George Wells. I think you've met him." Lee grinned slyly.
Clark slowly sank back into his chair. "But Dr. Klein said…"
"I know what Dr. Klein said, Clark, but he was wrong," Lee responded.
"But he said you were his niece!" Lois pointed out.
"He lied." Lee smiled wryly. "But … I am his granddaughter, too!"
"His granddaughter! Our granddaughter! You mean… But he's not married. He doesn't have any children," Clark stuttered.
"Not yet, anyway. There's still time."
"And there's time for us, too! Is that what you're saying?" Clark's eyes were shining. He was starting to believe.
"Sort of. Your chances of conceiving a child naturally without outside assistance are virtually nil. However, with my help and with Dr. Klein's help, it can happen," Lee responded. "My specialty really is genetic engineering."
"What do we have to do?" Clark asked.
"Actually, Clark, all you have to do is what comes naturally!" Lee winked. "However, Lois, you will need to be treated with a serum. This serum is derived from my blood. Clark cannot be the donor as he is a full-blooded Kryptonian. However, as I'm a hybrid, my blood has different properties from Clark's. My dad was able to do the same for my mom, for the same reasons."
"Your father! You mean…" Lois cupped her hands over her abdomen.
"Yep!" Lee grinned. "You're going to have a boy."
"Are we going to have any more children after him?" Clark asked.
"I'm not going to tell you how many, but … Dr. Klein did take a lot of blood from me!" Lee winked again.
"So if Lois needs to be treated," Clark said thoughtfully, "then we need to tell Dr. Klein my secret."
"Actually," Lee blushed, "I kind of let the cat out of the bag already. I didn't mean to. Gramps, I mean Dr. Klein, you know, the future one, he lied to me and told me that he had known since he met you, that you were really Superman. I believed him."
Lois threw her hands in the air. "How long has our Dr. Klein known?"
"I met him the night before I met you. I told him everything right away because after all, he was the one who sent me back to the past."
"Why didn't you tell us right away?" Clark asked.
"I … don't know. I guess … I was hesitant about telling too many people. I didn't get a lot of direction from Uncle Herb; I didn't know … if I could tell you or not." Lee didn't want to share her past hostilities with them. She didn't want to hurt them. " Gramps, I mean, Uncle Bernie pointed out to me that it wasn't dangerous to share this with you. As the two people most affected by my visit here, you have the right to know what's going on. By the way, he's waiting for us."
"Who?" Lois asked.
"Uncle Bernie. He's waiting at Star Labs. He has the serum all ready for you, Lois. And we've made sure that there's no one else around. I came to take the two of you back there with me. If you're ready …"
"If we're ready! I'm ready!" Lois exclaimed. "And I think Clark's been ready his whole life!" She jumped to her feet. Clark grinned and kissed her. Stepping back from her, he quickly spun into his suit.
"Now I'm ready!" he exclaimed as he scooped Lois up into his arms.
Dr. Klein paced back and forth. He heard a loud whoosh and jumped as Superman and Firestorm landed in front of him. Superman set Lois gently on her feet.
"Lois! Superman! Has Lee, I mean Firestorm explained everything to you?" Dr. Klein asked awkwardly. He felt a bit uncomfortable although he had known the two of them for years.
Lois marched over to him and kissed him emphatically on each cheek. She hugged him close. "She's explained enough. We know we'll never be able to thank you enough for what you're doing."
Dr. Klein cleared his throat. "Lois, you don't have to thank me. I didn't figure this out just for you, you know. After all, without this treatment, this young lady over here — " he gestured at Firestorm, "wouldn't be in existence to visit me in my declining years. Do you know I had just turned 90 when she left to come here?" Dr. Klein grinned at Lois who laughed in delight.
"Lois is right, Dr. Klein. We … I don't have the words to tell you what I'm feeling right now." Superman spoke quietly.
"Superman … Clark. It's okay, really. You don't have to say anything." Dr. Klein clasped Superman's shoulder. "I'm just glad that I was wrong, and that I can do something to help you and Lois have a family!"
Regaining his composure, Dr. Klein continued, " Now then, I think I should explain to you what this treatment is designed to do. Without getting too technical, you two are about 60 percent compatible, genetically speaking, of course!" He grinned at them. "This serum is designed to help bridge that 40 percent gap. By exposing Lois' immune system to hybrid Krptonian/Human blood, we are basically tricking her system into accepting a hybrid baby. We know this will happen as…"
"Dr. Klein," Lois interrupted.
"Will it work?"
"Then, that's all we need to know, isn't it, Superman? We both trust you, Dr. Klein."
Superman nodded his agreement. "There's only one other thing I need to know, Dr. Klein. Will there be any side-effects?"
Dr. Klein looked thoughtful. "I'm not sure, Superman. What do you think, Lee…I mean, Firestorm?"
She grinned. "When my mom was treated with the same serum, she experienced a huge increase in her energy levels. It was sort of like having the nesting instinct run amuck!"
Superman threw his hands in the air. "I have enough trouble keeping up with her now; she's already a tornado!" he exclaimed.
Dr. Klein laughed, "So, Lois, if you're ready…" He opened a drawer and produced a needle.
Lois sighed and started to roll up her sleeve.
"Uh, sorry Lois. Not in the arm." Dr. Klein blushed.
Lois glared at Superman, who was unsuccessfully trying to hide his grin. "You better not say a word, buster!"
He held his hands in the air. "I surrender. I wouldn't dream of saying anything." Becoming serious, he put his arms around Lois. "I'm just so grateful to you, Lois, for even wanting to have a child with me. I can't tell you how much."
She stroked his cheek. "You know this is something I desperately want to do too. I want to have a family with you. I love you."
"I love you, too." He kissed her tenderly.
Lee and Dr. Klein looked away, giving the couple a little privacy. Dr. Klein blew his nose.
"Well then. Lee, why don't you and Clark change into your regular clothes, and go to the coffee shop down the street. Lois and I will join you when we're done here. You two might as well take the opportunity to get better acquainted."
"Good idea, Uncle Bernie. We'll see you in a couple of minutes." Firestorm kissed Dr. Klein on the cheek and gave Lois a quick hug. She and Superman simultaneously spun into their street clothes.
Taking Clark by the arm, Lee left with him in tow.
"Does the thrill of watching that ever wear off?" Dr. Klein asked Lois.
"I don't know. But I can tell you, it hasn't yet," she responded. Fumbling with her belt, she pointed a finger at him. "You better not say a word either, buster!"
Clutching their mugs of coffee and their plates of donuts, Lee and Clark sat down opposite each other in the corner of the coffee shop. It was late, and there were no other customers in the small restaurant.
They sat in an uneasy silence. "So Lee…" "Well, Clark…" they spoke simultaneously.
"Okay, Clark. You first. I'm sure you have a ton of questions for me." Lee grinned at him.
"That has to be the understatement of the year," Clark responded.
"Before you start, I'm not going to tell you too much more than I already have. I don't think it's wise to give you too much information. Let's try to stick to generalities rather than to specifics, okay?"
"Okay, Lee. I think I can live with those rules. I guess I don't really have a choice, do I?" he responded. "How did you come up with your name?"
"Uncle Bernie named me. He said he liked the way I 'stormed' at Dr. Walken the other day."
"You're still calling him Uncle Bernie."
"He's so much younger now. I'd feel too uncomfortable calling him 'Gramps'. And I don't think he would like it much either!" Lee laughed. "I mean, how would you feel if I suddenly started calling you, 'Grandpa Clark'?"
"I see what you mean. It just doesn't sound right." Clark grinned at her. "And I strongly advise you to never call Lois 'Grandma' again!"
Lee snickered. "I was only trying to make a point!"
"Trust me, you made your point and then some! So… who designed your outfit?"
"Gramps. He's been trying to get me into more flamboyant clothing for a long time. I don't know who sewed it for him. He probably got Mom to do it." Lee smiled. "In a funny way, I feel invisible when I wear it, like no one's looking at my face!"
Clark laughed knowingly.
"Is our son really going to marry his daughter?" Clark asked.
Lee nodded. "Yes, he really will."
They lapsed into silence again.
He took a sip of his coffee. "I just realized something," Clark said somberly.
"What's that, Clark?" she asked.
"I just realized why you've been avoiding Jimmy."
Lee sighed. "It's not a fun situation, that's for sure. I've talked this to death with Uncle Bernie. You know, Clark, the minute I saw Jimmy I felt like … I don't know … like a thunderbolt had slammed into me out of a clear blue sky. You told me - at least you will tell me, that you felt like that with Lois. And my dad never even looked at a woman other than mom. I don't know if this certainty about someone is part of the Kryptonian heritage, but at this moment in time, all I can say is - it really stinks!"
Clark took her hand and squeezed it gently.
"I feel like I have two choices, but they're both pretty scary," Lee continued. Tears started to slowly roll down her cheeks.
"What do you mean, Lee?" he asked.
"First, I could make a point of avoiding Jimmy. This would hurt. I can handle it, but … I heard Jimmy tell you how he feels about me, and … I know this would hurt him too. Even so, this is probably the wisest choice. My other choice is a lot riskier."
"What is it?"
"Uncle Bernie thinks that I could choose to tell Jimmy the truth - oh, not about your secret identity, but practically everything else. He thinks I can trust Jimmy. You see, Clark, I don't know how long I'll be here. Gramps said I had a couple of tasks to perform, but the only one I'm aware of is being a blood donor. So I could be here for a long time, or I could disappear tomorrow. I guess it boils down to whether I want to plan for the moments, or plan for the years. We'd be trying to have a relationship, all the while waiting for an ax to fall."
"You know, Lee," Clark said thoughtfully. "I told Lois once that it wasn't the years that mattered but the moments, and that no one knows how long they've got. I never envisioned a situation like this though."
"What do you think I should do, Clark? I don't guarantee I'll take your advice, but I would like your input."
"Lee, I'm thinking about what my life would have been like if I didn't have Lois in it. That's a life I don't ever want to have to face. Until I met her, I didn't know where I belonged. I wasn't part of the world, but I wasn't apart from it either. I didn't even know how lost I felt, until I found myself in her. Logically, I should tell you to run away from Jimmy as fast as you can, but love's not logical. I really do believe the old saying, 'It's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.' It is your decision, and it's Jimmy's decision too, but …even if you only have a short time with Jimmy, I still think you should be with him, and tell him everything … and I do mean everything. It's time he knew the truth about me too; I've wanted to tell him for a long time. If you want, Lois and I can help you tell him … at least the part about me."
"I'd like that, Clark. But not right away. I need to think about this for a while."" She started to laugh shakily. "Do you know I've cried more in the last few days than I think I ever have in my whole life!"
Clark just smiled and dabbed at her tears with a paper serviette.
Suddenly, the door banged open. Lois marched in followed by Dr. Klein. She strode over to their table. Dr. Klein went to the counter to order coffee.
"I feel like a pincushion!" She grimaced as she sat down beside Clark. "Why can't this place have padding on their chairs?" Lois looked at the plates of donuts. "Don't tell me Lee. You like to snack on high fat, empty calorie junk food too! And I bet you don't have to work out to stay so slim, do you?"
"Right on both counts. I don't work out," Lee caught Clark's eye and grinned, "but… I do practice my Tae Kwon Do!"
Clark laughed helplessly. "I know, I know. Your grandma taught you!"
Lee giggled. "I told you that she was special!"
"And that I'd like her!" Clark spluttered.
Dr. Klein rejoined the group. Handing a mug of coffee to Lois, he asked, "What's the joke?"
"I have no idea." Lois rolled her eyes.
Changing the subject, Dr. Klein asked, "So Clark, Lois told you about the required period of abstinence, didn't she?"
Clark stopped laughing. He bolted upright in his seat. "Abstinence?"
Lee laughed louder.
"Lois, I can't believe the difference in Lee, can you?" Clark said, as they snuggled together in bed.
"What do you mean?" she asked.
"She was so reserved with us before, but now, it's as if, once she shared her secrets with us, she opened up completely. She's lost all her reserve around us."
"Yes, she reminds me of her grandfather in that regard!" Lois smiled.
"No, her other grandfather! A more trusting person, I've never met!"
"Oh, you mean me." Clark grinned at her
They fell silent for a time.
"Honey, when you do tell Jimmy, what are you going to say?" Lois asked Clark.
"I don't know exactly. But it shouldn't be a problem. You know how good I am at letting people in on my secret," Clark teased.
"You rat! You're just lucky I finally forgave you." Lois swatted his arm.
Clark cuddled her closer. "I am lucky, Lois. I'm married to the most wonderful woman in the world who loves me almost as much as I love her."
"Hey! I love you more!" Lois interjected.
"Okay … who loves me just exactly the same amount as I love her!" He grinned. "And soon, we'll have a baby to love, too."
"I know. It's so hard to believe." Lois gazed into his eyes. She sighed in contentment and snuggled in closer.
"Uh honey," Clark said, "do you think you could put a nightgown or some pajamas on? You're pretty distracting!" He grinned. "I'm just glad we only have to wait 24 hours for your immune system to adjust."
Lois rolled over on top of Clark. "Actually, sweetheart," she nuzzled his neck, "Dr. Klein said we had to abstain. He didn't say anything about total celibacy." She giggled as she kissed him.
"You are so bad," Clark laughed.
"I know, and you love it," she purred.
At work the next day, Lee felt a bit more relaxed. Now that Clark and Lois knew about her, she didn't feel defensive at all around them. However her feelings about Jimmy were a whole different matter. She was both relieved and disappointed that he had left the office shortly after she arrived. He had gone out to do some follow-up interviews with some of the rank-and-file union members.
Around noon, Jimmy returned and set to work typing up his notes. He worked quickly, and efficiently. Jimmy had really settled down nicely into his new position. It only took him a few minutes to have his story ready to deliver to Perry.
"Lee, why don't we go to the park and grab some hotdogs and sodas? It's a really nice day out there. We should enjoy it." Jimmy looked at her hopefully.
"Um. Sure, Jimmy." She didn't know how to say no to him. Lee stood up and grabbed her purse. She really shouldn't encourage him until she had made a decision, but … he looked so cute and eager to please. In truth, she really didn't want to say no to him.
It had been fun to sit and talk while they ate their hotdogs and drank their sodas, Lee admitted to herself. Jimmy was such good company. She had been content to just sit back and listen as he talked. She hadn't felt much like talking herself. Jimmy had seemed to sense that. He didn't pressure her at all to respond.
"Lee, let's go for a walk around the park. It's a perfect day for soaking up some rays. I'm not in a hurry to get back to a stuffy office," Jimmy said.
"That sounds nice. Okay," Lee responded shyly as she got up from the bench.
They strolled companionably down the well-kept path. Lee pointed out spring flowers to Jimmy.
"I didn't know you were into gardening," Jimmy said.
"I'm not really. I just love the first flowers of springtime. They really lift my spirits," Lee answered.
Jimmy stopped in his tracks. Pointing at a dense thicket of trees, he said, "I think if we take a shortcut through this brush, we'll be able to get to the lilacs. There's a big stand of them on the other side. They should be in bloom."
Lee delicately sniffed the air. "They are in bloom. I can smell them."
"Wow! You have a good nose. I can't smell a thing!" Jimmy said as he started to push through the brush.
Lee followed behind. She quickly discovered it wasn't as easy to navigate through the thicket as she had expected. Jimmy helped by holding branches high enough so she could duck under. Right in the densest part of the brush, Lee wasn't watching as carefully as she should have been. She didn't duck low enough, and she caught her coiled braid on a branch.
"Oops, Lee, you're caught here. Let me give you a hand." Jimmy tried to work the branch back out of her hair. "It's pretty tangled. I'm going to have to loosen your hair."
Lee was extremely conscious of Jimmy as he moved closer. She could feel his breath on her neck as he struggled with the branch. His fingers were extremely gentle in her hair as he quickly unwound her braid and loosened it.
"Your hair is so soft," he said gently. "And it's so beautiful." He held the weight of her loose hair in his hands as he carefully worked the branch free. "It looks like I have my hands full of fire…Okay…That's got it." He reluctantly allowed her hair to slip slowly out of his fingers.
Jimmy made no move to step away from her. Lee could feel the heat of his body. She felt frozen in place.
"Lee," he said huskily.
"Yes." She glanced shyly up at him.
His arms slipped around her back as his mouth came down firmly on hers. She shivered in delight as he molded her body to his. Lee lost herself in the delicious sensation of his mouth warm against her own. As if of their own volition, her hands reached up to frame his face, fingers entwined in his hair.
Suddenly, with a gasp, Lee stepped away from Jimmy, breaking his embrace. "I'm sorry." She looked down avoiding his gaze, her face hot.
"What's wrong, Lee?" Jimmy asked in concern, moving towards her once again.
Lee made her decision. "I have something I need to tell you, but … not here," Lee said, looking helplessly at the trees and brush.
"We can go to my apartment. It's not far from here," Jimmy replied, taking charge of the situation.
"All right," Lee agreed.
Jimmy started to push forward through the brush only to stop again. "Just a minute, Lee." He pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and dialed. "Hi CK. Would you let Perry know that Lee and I won't be back in the office today? Yeah. It's important. Thanks. I appreciate you covering for us." He put his phone back in his pocket.
While Jimmy was on the phone, Lee quickly tied her hair back in a simple ponytail.
"Okay, Lee. Now we can go." They resumed pushing through the dense undergrowth.
"Here we are. Come on in." Jimmy led Lee into his one room apartment. It was an extremely cluttered room, but not an untidy one. The walls were covered with framed photographs.
"Are these all your work, Jimmy?" Lee asked gesturing at the walls, moving in for a closer examination
"Yeah. These are the ones I'm proudest of," he responded.
"They're stunning!" Lee exclaimed. "Some of them take my breath away."
Jimmy stepped closer to her. "You take my breath away."
Lee opened her mouth, "Jimmy…"
He interrupted, "Whatever you have to tell me is just going to have to wait. I'm not going another minute without doing this again."
He took her face in his hands and tenderly kissed her. His fingers slid through her hair, loosening her hair band and letting her hair fall free. He pulled away for a moment.
"These are in the way too," he said, as he gently removed her glasses.
He kissed her again, more intensely this time. Lee's hands were flattened against his chest. She could feel his heart beating quickly. Lee slid her hands around to his back, holding him close. She gently pulled her mouth away from his and leaned her head against his chest. He wrapped his arms around her.
"Jimmy, we really do have to talk," she said with a sigh.
"Okay, Lee. Let's sit down."
Jimmy led her to the couch, and they sat down side by side. Lee looked down at the floor, her loose hair hiding her face from him.
"I have so much that I want to tell you, that I need to tell you, and I don't know where to start," Lee said.
"Start at the beginning," Jimmy suggested.
"No," Lee said thoughtfully. "Even the beginning is complicated." She took a deep breath. "Okay. First thing. I'm Firestorm."
She lifted her head and looked Jimmy squarely in the eyes. She could watch his changing emotions as they flashed over his face. First, shock and disbelief, then recognition and wonder.
"You look so different with your hair loose, and without your glasses," he said calmly. "I never would have guessed."
"You're not angry?" Lee asked.
"Why would I be? You saved my life." Jimmy continued, "I am in shock, but … no, I'm not angry." He gently took her hands in his. "It doesn't change anything. You must know how I feel about you."
"Jimmy, I'm sorry, but … it does change things. Oh, I don't mean having superpowers, but there's more. It's hard to believe, I know, but … I'm from the future. I have to go back. I just don't know when."
Jimmy took a deep breath. "Yeah. That just might change things."
Lee told Jimmy everything that had happened. She told him about her grandfather, Dr. Klein, and her other grandfather, Superman. She told him about the family friend, Uncle Herb, who was really H.G. Wells. Next she covered her meeting with Dr. Klein in the present day. Lee told him everything. Everything that is, except for Superman's true identity. Even though Clark had said Jimmy could be told, it wasn't her secret to share with him. Finally, she fell silent.
Jimmy sat quietly. "Wow!" he finally said.
"Do you believe me?" Lee asked.
"By rights, I shouldn't, but I do. I don't want to believe, but…" He thought for a moment and then asked, "So you don't know how long you'll be here?"
"No. And other than donating blood, which I've done, I don't even know what else I'm supposed to do while I'm here," Lee admitted.
Jimmy thought for a long moment. He squeezed her hands gently. "Lee, I love you. I want to be with you. Even if you were leaving in an hour, I'd want to spend every minute of that hour with you."
"Oh Jimmy, are you sure?" Tears brimmed in her eyes. "I love you, too, but … it's going to be so hard when I have to go."
"I've never been more sure of anything in my life!" Jimmy exclaimed.
"Oh, Jimmy!" Lee kissed him passionately. He responded enthusiastically, his hands entwined in her hair.
Lee pulled back slightly and smiled shakily at him. "Let's make a pact. We'll live for the moment; the future will take care of itself."
"It's a deal," Jimmy replied, hugging her close once again.
"Do you mind if I call Superman? He'll want to know. He's been worried about us." Lee requested.
"Superman has a phone?" Jimmy asked in surprise.
"He has a lot more than just a phone!" Lee replied in amusement. "I think you'll see what I mean shortly!"
"Sure, call him. Just my luck, he'll swoop in here, and tell me to keep my mitts off his granddaughter." Jimmy joked, as he handed her the phone.
Lee laughed and dialed the phone. "Hi… yeah. Everything's okay. I'm at Jimmy's… Yes, I told him … No, I didn't tell him that. That's your job… No. I wouldn't feel comfortable… No, I'm not telling him… Now's fine… Okay… See you in a minute." Lee hung up. "He's coming over. He has something he wants to talk to you about."
"Oh. What does he…?" Jimmy was interrupted by a knock on the door.
Jimmy went to the door and opened it. "CK, what are you doing here?" he asked.
"Jimmy, can I come in? I have something I need to tell you."
Jimmy threw his hands in the air. "What is this? 'True Confessions'? Everybody wants to talk to me today! Okay, come on in, but … I'm expecting someone else. You'll have to leave when he gets here."
"Actually, no, you're not," Clark said as he entered the apartment.
"No, I'm not what?" Jimmy asked as he closed the door. He turned to face Clark.
Clark took a deep breath. "No, you're not expecting anyone else. He's already here."
"Huh, I'm confused. Who's already here?" Jimmy asked.
"Superman," Clark replied.
Jimmy looked blankly at Clark for a moment. Suddenly, he sat down heavily on the couch.
Clark waited for him to continue, but Jimmy remained silent.
"Aren't you going to say anything?" Clark asked anxiously.
"Oh, probably. Just give me a minute. This has kind of been a strange day for shocks. I just need to get things straight in my head." Jimmy rested his head in his hands.
"He's taking it pretty well, I gather," Clark said to Lee.
"Yeah. He's actually pretty calm," Lee replied.
Jimmy spoke up. "Hey guys, I'm in the room here. Please don't talk about me like I'm not!"
"Sorry, Jimmy. I won't do it again," Clark apologized. "Lee, are you okay?" he asked.
"Yeah, Clark. I'm a little shaky, but I'm all right," she answered.
Jimmy suddenly laughed. "I kind of wondered why you didn't ask Superman to be your best man!"
Clark grinned. "That would have been a bit awkward."
"Why did you need to tell me now?" Jimmy asked.
"I didn't really need to tell you, but I wanted to tell you. Except for Lois, you're my closest friend. This is a decision that's been brewing for a while, but this situation with Lee has kind of forced my hand a bit," Clark explained. "When Lee told me that you know about her and her … unique situation, well, I figured you both need Lois and my full support. I needed to tell you that you've got it."
"Thanks, CK. I think we all have to admit though, this is one weird situation."
Clark laughed. "Tell me about it. Lois and I are grandparents. Our granddaughter is dating my best friend, and Lois isn't even pregnant with our first child yet!"
"That should be happening soon, Clark," Lee interjected.
"Boy, Lee, you're sure taking a lot of the mystery out of things!" Clark grinned.
"Don't worry, Clark. You two are still due for your fair share of surprises!" Lee smiled mysteriously.
"I'll warn you, Jimmy. I've already figured out something. When Lee has that look on her face, you just can't get any more information out of her!" Clark and Jimmy both laughed. Lee concentrated on looking innocent.
"Seriously, Jimmy, you must have a ton of questions for me," Clark said.
"I do, but… Clark, please don't take this the wrong way, but … I need to talk to Lee. I want to talk to you too, but I really need to be with Lee right now. Could we come over to your place later? Maybe after dinner?"
"Why don't you both come for dinner instead? Lee, you could ask Dr. Klein if he could join us too," Clark said.
"Uh, Clark, who's cooking?" Jimmy asked hesitantly.
"Relax Jimmy. I'll cook."
Jimmy feigned a big sigh of relief.
"Sure, Clark. We'll come. It would be a good idea for all of us to talk things out," Lee responded.
Jimmy got up from the couch and extended his hand to Clark. "I appreciate your support, Clark," he said.
"Jimmy, I appreciate your friendship. It's not just anyone that gets to know all my secrets you know!" Clark grinned as he shook Jimmy's hand.
He then stepped over to Lee and kissed her on the cheek. "See you later, okay?"
Lee smiled and squeezed his shoulder.
Moving towards the door, Clark suddenly paused. He lifted his head alertly. Jimmy had seen him make the same movement hundreds of times, but as he watched Clark, he suddenly realized the full significance of the motion.
Clark asked urgently, " Jimmy, do you mind if I use your window? I hear a siren."
"Uh, no problem, CK."
Jimmy watched in shock as his best friend spun in a blur and transformed himself. Superman grinned, and winked at Jimmy, and then whoosh … he was gone.
"Wow!" Jimmy looked at Lee. "Are you that quick?" he asked her.
"Why don't you time me?" Lee suggested with a grin.
She quickly spun in place, and there she stood in all her glory.
"Wow!" Jimmy repeated. "You know, Lee. I didn't get a chance to tell you before, but you look really … terrific in that outfit. I love the boots! They make you look so … tall … and imposing."
She blushed. "Thanks, Jimmy. Um, I just want to ask you if you could please call me Firestorm when I'm dressed like this. It's a lot easier if we get into the habit right away. I know Superman would appreciate the same."
"Sure…Firestorm." He smiled at her.
"Uh, do you have to go too?" he asked.
She listened intently. "No, it doesn't sound that serious."
Their eyes locked.
"Kiss me again," she asked.
He shot to her side and kissed her hungrily. She responded passionately. They pulled apart, both breathing hard.
Firestorm took a deep breath. "Jimmy, would you like to go flying with me?"
"Oh, is that what they're calling it these days?"
"Jimmy!" She blushed bright red.
"I'm sorry, I couldn't resist. I wanted to make you blush again. It makes you look so cute!" he teased.
She couldn't help laughing.
"I would love to go flying," he said.
"Great!" she said, as she led him towards the window.
"Hey, you're not going to carry me in your arms like a little kid, are you?" Jimmy asked.
She giggled. "No, I'm sure we can figure out something that… respects your male dignity. Why don't you stand at my side? Put your arm around my shoulder, and I'll put mine around your waist. That'll work. That's how I took Uncle Bernie the other day."
Firestorm launched them up into the sky.
Firestorm and Jimmy landed in a deserted alleyway near Lois and Clark's Hyperion Avenue home. She quickly spun back into her street clothes. Hand in hand, they climbed the front steps and rang the bell.
Lois opened the door and welcomed them in. When they entered the living room, they found that Dr. Klein had already arrived. Clark was in the kitchen cooking.
"Lee, sweetie. Are you okay?" Dr. Klein asked in concern.
"Yeah, Uncle Bernie, I'm fine. Jimmy and I are both okay." She kissed him on the cheek.
"Jimmy, you better be good to Lee or else," Dr. Klein said.
"You can count on it," Jimmy answered.
An awkward silence fell over the room. No one seemed to know what to say.
Finally, Lee stood up. "Guys, I want to point something out. This is not a wake. No one has died. I'm not saying we have to have a party, but come on. Let's all lighten up a bit."
"Okay Lee. Let's all try and get over how uncomfortable we all feel, and talk about other things for awhile. That should help," Lois said.
"Jimmy, why don't you tell Lois and Uncle Bernie what we did this afternoon, while I go and help Clark with the cooking." Lee headed for the kitchen.
"Guys, it was incredible. Lee…I mean, Firestorm took me flying. We headed down the coast of California. It was a gorgeous day. We stayed out to sea so no one would see us…"
Lee could hear Jimmy continuing to enthuse about his afternoon as she entered the kitchen.
"So what are we cooking, tonight, Clark?" she asked.
"Hey, Lee." He gave her a quick hug. "I thought, Thai. I hope you like it."
"I love it. So what would you like me to do?"
"Everything's already done, but you could keep me company." Clark smiled at her.
"Great! So Clark, how are you handling the side-effects?" Lee asked with a grin.
"You know, the side-effects of the serum."
Clark looked blank.
"The energy surge on Lois' part?" Lee continued.
"You mean, that should have started by now?" Clark asked.
"Yes, it should be at its worst," Lee responded.
He laughed. "I can't tell the difference!"
Lee giggled. "Lois really is a dynamo, isn't she?"
"She sure is, but she's my dynamo." Clark grinned. "So how are you doing?"
"I'm trying to keep things light or at least positive, but it's hard," Lee admitted. "Basically, Jimmy and I have just decided that we're going to try and make the best of it, to enjoy what time we do have together."
"That's going to be hard to do," Clark said.
"Tell me about it! I keep brooding about it. I'm dreading the day when I have to leave," Lee replied.
"Make sure you share your feelings with him, Lee, even the negative ones. It's important."
"I'll try, Clark. Thanks."
"It's okay, Lee." He patted her arm.
Over the next few days, Lee and Jimmy developed a bit of a routine. They made a point of behaving extremely professionally while at work. But they took their lunches together every day. After work, they had dinner and spent time together until late at night. Then they would part reluctantly, and head back to their respective apartments.
One morning, later that week, Lee was in the ladies room. Suddenly the door slammed open. Lois came running in, straight into a cubicle. Lee could hear her retching.
She giggled. "Uh Lois. You might not appreciate this right now, but … congratulations Mom!"
"Go to hell!" Lois exclaimed as she continued to retch. Finally, she emerged from the cubicle and moved to the sink. She splashed water on her face.
"My, you're an interesting shade of green," Lee smugly observed.
Lois turned and glared at Lee. Lee quirked an eyebrow at her, and Lois started to laugh. She threw her arms around Lee. "I'm going to be a mom!" she exclaimed.
"You sure are!" Lee patted Lois' abdomen. "Hi Dad!"
Lois laughed. "You are so weird. Sometimes you remind me so much of Clark!"
"Well, Lois, there's a reason for that!" Lee pointed out.
At eight weeks along, Lois' pregnancy seemed to be progressing normally. Her nausea was still quite bad, and took her by surprise at least once a day. But her energy levels were starting to get back to normal. She was a little concerned though. Some of her clothes were already getting too tight. She was going to mention it to Dr. Klein that night.
"There's no reason we can't do an ultrasound, Lois. I have all the equipment at Star Labs. We could do it right now. It's after hours. No one else is around," Dr. Klein said into the phone.
"I would appreciate it, Dr. Klein. Lee keeps telling me not to worry, but…" Lois paced up and down her kitchen as she talked into the phone.
"I know. And I keep asking when I'm going to meet her grandmother, and she just smiles mysteriously. It's frustrating."
"Tell me about it!" Lois said emphatically.
"Would you and Clark like to do the ultrasound now?"
"We sure would! Could you be ready in a few minutes?" Lois asked.
"I'll go wait by the front door," Dr. Klein responded.
"Great! But don't rush. We're going to drive over. Clark and I are so excited!"
"Oh, and Lois, don't forget to drink all your water!" he said as he hung up.
Lee and Jimmy were waiting on the front steps when Clark and Lois returned. Jimmy got concerned when he saw them. Neither one was saying a word. They both looked very dazed. "Are you guys okay?" he asked moving towards them. Lee stood behind him trying not to smirk.
"You knew, didn't you?" Lois pointed her finger at Lee.
Lee gave up trying to keep a straight face and beamed at them. "Surprise!" she exclaimed.
Jimmy looked back and forth between Lee and Lois. "What's going on?" he asked suspiciously.
Clark spoke up. "Do you want to tell him, Lee, or shall I?"
"You go ahead, Clark. I think I've ruined enough surprises!" Lee replied.
Jimmy turned to Clark with a questioning look on his face.
"Twins!" Clark threw his hands in the air.
"Twins! That's great!" Jimmy clapped Clark on the back.
Clark said, "It is great. We're excited. It's just we're…" He paused obviously searching for the right word.
"Stunned!" Lois finished.
"We should celebrate. Let's go out for ice cream," Lee suggested.
"Erk." Lois turned green.
"Sorry, Lois, I forgot. This is the only time in your life you don't want to eat ice cream or chocolate. Let me think. What did you tell me you liked when you were pregnant?" Lee was lost in thought. "Oh right, I remember. Jimmy and I'll run to the store. I'll pick up some stuff for you, and some ice cream for the rest of us."
Jimmy and Clark were sitting at the kitchen table eating their ice cream. They were watching Lee's food preparations in disgust. Lois however, was looking intrigued.
Lee finished chopping celery. She threw it into the salad, and tossed all the vegetables together. She quickly fried some bacon to a crisp with her heat vision, chopped it, and added it to the salad too. Then she reached for a jar of peanut butter and threw a huge dollop of it into a bowl. She drizzled the peanut butter with strawberry syrup and whisked it together. When it was at the proper consistency, she poured it over the salad. "Here Lois. Try this and see how it appeals to you." She set the concoction down in front of Lois.
Lois took a tentative forkful.
"Hey, this is really good," she said in surprise. "This has to be the first thing I've eaten in weeks that doesn't turn my stomach. Thanks, Lee." Lee smiled.
Clark groaned. All eyes turned to him.
"What's wrong?" Lois asked.
"I'm glad you've finally found something you want to eat, but it turns my stomach. And I know who's going to be making it for you in the middle of the night!" he moaned dramatically.
"Hey, don't complain or I'll make you eat this stuff too," Lois joked.
"I'd watch out if I were you, CK!" Jimmy interjected.
"Okay, I surrender. Lois, I promise that without complaint, I will make you so much salad, we'll be able to bury you alive! All you have to do is say the word!" Clark teased.
"Uh, Clark," Lois said shamefacedly. "Consider it said. You know, the word."
Clark looked from her empty plate to the guilty expression on her face. "I'm really hungry!" she said plaintively.
Lee laughed and handed Clark a head of lettuce. "I'd get started if I were you. She is eating for three, you know!"
One week shy of her ninth month, Lois was progressing very well in her pregnancy. She was enormous, and hadn't seen her feet for a couple of months. Other than a definite tendency to waddle, she felt fine. She and Clark had seen a number of obstetricians before picking one. Dr. Marlowe was a very well recommended obstetrician with an excellent bedside manner. She answered all of Lois and Clark's questions, and never once made them feel like they were being patronized. She made it clear that as far as the delivery went, they would be in charge, in so far as everything was progressing normally. However, if problems arose, Dr. Marlowe would explain options if there was time, but if there wasn't, she would be in absolute and total control of the situation. Clark especially felt comforted by this attitude. Lois wasn't thrilled by the concept that she might not be in control of her own body, but at the same time, she appreciated the pragmatic attitude of the petite doctor. For some reason, Lois felt completely comfortable with the doctor. There was something about her, something familiar that Lois trusted.
In the meantime, Jimmy and Lee were pretending hard that everything was normal. They were enjoying being in love and discovering new things about each other. They made a point of spending a lot of time with Dr. Klein. Lee had finally stopped jumping out of her skin every time she heard an English accent.
Dr. Klein too, was keeping an eye on Lois' pregnancy. He didn't see anything out of line. As far as he could tell, there was no reason anyone might suspect that Lois was carrying Superman's babies.
Lee was making a point of helping Clark more and more with his "extra-curricular" activities. She was starting to get quite used to people looking up to her. She was finally coming to believe that Dr. Klein had been right, that she wasn't a freak. But she was still surprised at the amount of respect she received from the people of Metropolis. Not one person had ever implied that she wasn't worthy of that respect, or that she was too different to be trusted.
Even though Lee had originally said she would only work for the Planet on a temporary basis, she stayed on. Perry was so thrilled to have her stay, he didn't say a word to her about it. And he had finally stopped muttering about Norcross and Judd.
Clark and Jimmy's friendship had deepened. Jimmy was proving to be completely trustworthy. He was extremely circumspect in public, never even making the slightest reference to Clark's secret identity. He had made himself useful too by covering for both Lee and Clark if they had to leave suddenly.
Clark made a point of talking to his babies every night. Lois joked that she was starting to get jealous of her own belly. But it was true that he did lavish an inordinate amount of attention on her abdomen. The babies seemed to kick in response whenever they heard his voice. Feeling quite bruised from the inside out, Lois was seriously considering asking Clark to take a vow of silence!
Uncharacteristically, Lois was looking forward to her last day of work. She was finding it harder and harder just to get out of bed in the morning, let alone put in a full day. And the babies tended to kick a lot in the middle of the night. It was getting progressively more difficult to get a decent amount of sleep.
"If one more person tells me that this is nature's way of preparing me for being tired after they're born, I'm going to scream." Lois said as she hauled herself into her maternity dress.
"If what's nature's way?" Clark asked as he buttoned his shirt.
"These guys keeping me up half the night." She answered rubbing her belly. She continued griping. "And the next stranger who pats my stomach is going to get decked."
"I can just see it. Our babies, born in jail because my wife's been arrested for assault!" Clark teased.
Suddenly he tensed. Lois could see the familiar alert expression in his eyes.
"What is it?" she asked.
"It sounds like a car accident on the bridge. I'll be right back." Clark zipped out the window.
When Clark got to the accident, he was surprised to find Lee already there. She had already moved the cars out of the traffic flow. Spotting Clark, she hovered near him.
"What are you doing here?" she asked him aggressively.
"I … heard the accident," he replied defensively.
"I've got everything under control here. No one's hurt. You should head home," Lee whispered vehemently.
"As long as I'm here, maybe I should fly a quick patrol," he said.
"No!" she retorted quickly. "I mean, it is her last day. You should be with her," she said making shooing gestures. "I can fly a patrol before I head in."
"Okay," he acquiesced.
He headed home shaking his head. 'Wow, she was in a strange mood today,' he thought. 'I wonder if she and Jimmy had a fight or something.'
When Lois and Clark got to work, they found Lee and Jimmy already there. Clark was relieved to see that Lee and Jimmy seemed to be getting along okay. Obviously, they hadn't fought.
Lee spotted Lois making her slow entrance.
"Lois, how are you feeling? This is it, huh? Your last day! Can I get you anything, some herbal tea, a donut, anything?" Lee spoke quickly.
"Lee, would you please calm down. What the heck has got into you today? You're acting really weird."
"I don't know, Lois. I guess I'm just really … jittery. Maybe because it's your last day."
All morning, just about every time Lois turned around, she tripped over Lee who was watching her like a hawk.
Jimmy watched them in amusement. He knew Lee pretty well by now. He had figured out what was going on, but he was amused that Lois and Clark hadn't clued in. He wasn't surprised when Lois suddenly clutched her stomach with a loud gasp.
"Clark!" Lois called shakily.
Jumping up from his desk, Clark instantly responded to the panic in his wife's voice.
"What is it, honey?"
"I'm having a contraction!" Lois said through clenched teeth. She gradually relaxed again. "Wow, that was a big one!" A strange expression came over her face. "Uh, Clark?"
"I think my water just broke!" she exclaimed, as she clutched at him.
"Okay, hon! Let's get you to the hospital," Clark said, trying to keep his cool. He could tell Lois was scared. It wouldn't do her any good if he panicked, too.
Perry emerged from his office. "I should have known, Lois. You never did like surprise parties. It beats the band how you've arranged to miss this one!"
"What? Perry, I didn't know anything was planned."
"I know you didn't. And I'm teasing you. Now skedaddle. You two better get going. Oh, and Clark, let us know, okay?" He gave Lois a quick kiss on the forehead.
"I will, Perry." Clark led Lois to the elevator.
Lois looked back at the newsroom. She spotted Lee standing beside Jimmy. Lee grinned and gave Lois a thumbs up.
"Surprise!" Lee mouthed.
"Know it all!" Lois muttered under her breath.
"Excuse me!" Clark exclaimed.
"You know who I mean."
"Oh right." Clark suddenly realized the meaning of Lee's strange behaviour. "Of course, she would know her own father's birthday!"
Later that afternoon, Lee and Jimmy were admiring the twins. Lois cradled one in her arms. Clark gently rocked the other.
"They're beautiful, guys," Lee said.
"So, which one's Daddy?" Jimmy asked Lee.
"I don't know," she answered. "I haven't heard what their names are yet."
"Oh right!" Jimmy said. "That makes sense, I guess."
Lois smiled serenely. She gently jiggled the baby she held.
"This young gentleman is Jonathan Perry Bernard. And the little man that Clark is holding is Samuel James Lee."
Jimmy blinked. "I don't know what to say. I'm touched. I'm just glad …" His voice cracked with emotion. "…that at least our names, Lee's and mine, will be together even when we can't be."
"Jimmy!" Lee rushed to his side. "You're acting like I'm leaving this minute. We still don't know when I'm going, and we still haven't figured out what else I have to do here." She gently cupped his cheek. "And I can't leave yet. I have to change at least one diaper! I'll be able to hold that over dad's head the rest of his life!" She laughed, breaking the tension.
The door opened. Dr. Marlowe stuck her head in. "Hi! How's Mom and Dad doing?" she asked as she entered the room.
"Great!" Clark answered. "Come on in, and meet some of our friends. Dr. Marlowe, this is Jimmy Olsen, a reporter at the Planet with us. And this is Dr. Lee Carlyle. She's helping out at the Planet temporarily."
Lois looked back and forth between Lee and Dr. Marlowe. "Dr. Marlowe, I just figured out something. You've seemed so familiar to me but … you and Lee have the same eyes. You look a lot alike other than hair colour."
"My hair used to be that colour when I was a lot younger. Once I turned thirty, it lightened up considerably. Now that I'm heading into my forties, I've got all these white hairs sprouting!"
Changing the subject, Lois said, "I know you've already met these guys, but I don't think you caught their names. This guy here is Jonathan Perry Bernard, and the little guy Clark's cuddling is Samuel James Lee."
"I like the names. Actually, Lee is my maiden name," Dr. Marlowe informed them.
"I've been thinking about going back to it," Dr. Marlowe continued. "I've been widowed for ten years now. I miss Bob still, but … I think I want my old identity back."
"I can understand that," Lois replied. "Maintaining my identity is precisely why I never took Clark's name."
"Did that ever bother you, Clark?" Dr. Marlowe asked curiously.
"No, after all," he smiled fondly at Lois, "I fell in love with Lois Lane. Why would I want to change her?"
Dr. Marlowe laughed. "That must be why I stopped dating again. You snatched up the only enlightened man in Metropolis, Lois."
"Hey!" Jimmy protested. "I'm enlightened! Right, Lee?"
She laughed. "Most of the time, sweetie. You do get this … testosterone surge when I … let my hair down, however." She winked at him.
He grinned at her. "That's your fault! You know it makes me feel… like flying!"
Lois and Clark laughed, leaving Dr. Marlowe looking a little puzzled.
Perry barged in the door, interrupting the conversation. He had two immense blue bears tucked under his arms.
"Why the Sam Hill don't they have proper directions in this place? I walked in on some poor guy being prepped for heart surgery. I thought he was going to have a coronary when he caught sight of my friends here." He held up the bears.
Lois laughed in delight. "Perry, those are huge. One of them alone is bigger than both of these guys put together."
Perry bent over the baby in Lois' arms. "Hey there, Tiger." A little fist wrapped around his finger. "And what's your name, big fella?"
Lois smiled. "I'm glad you asked. Let me introduce you to Jonathan … Jonathan Perry Bernard Kent!"
Perry sat down heavily on the side of the bed. "Jonathan Perry!" he exclaimed.
"Our guys are named after the five finest men we know… and one great lady," Clark said with a wink at Lee. "This little guy is Samuel James Lee Kent." He beamed at Perry.
"Uh, Clark, Lois. I don't quite know, uh, what to say here. I'm touched," he said gruffly.
Jimmy spoke up. "I feel the same way, Chief. It's quite an honour."
Dr. Marlowe interjected, "Lois, Clark. I'm going to continue on with my rounds. I'll be back later to check up on you and the kids." She started to move towards the door.
With an eye on the doctor, Lee spoke up quickly. "Uncle Bernie will be over the moon! Clark, did you call him at Star Labs to let him know?"
"Uncle Bernie? Star Labs? Do you mean Dr. Bernard Klein?" Dr. Marlowe spun on her heel and moved back into the room.
"Yes. You've heard of him, I gather," Lois answered.
"Heard of him? Of course I have. The man's a living legend. His journal articles are incredible!" she said, excitedly. "And Dr. Carlyle, you're his niece."
"They're very close," Clark interjected.
"Really! Wow! Dr. Carlyle, it's a lot to ask but … do you think you could arrange for me to meet him? I'm just such an admirer of his. I would dearly love to discuss some of his theories with him. I've kept all the journals that they've appeared in!" Dr. Marlowe asked.
"I think that could be arranged," Lee said slowly.
Jimmy looked at her in concern. She suddenly looked very pale. He said briskly, "Anyway, guys, that will have to wait. Lee and I are going now. CK, Lois, you have two beautiful babies. Congratulations! Chief, we'll see you at work. Dr. Marlowe, nice to meet you."
Everyone murmured their good-byes, and Jimmy led Lee out of the room.
She was silent in the elevator and in the hallway leading out.
Once they had left the hospital, Jimmy stopped Lee with a hand on her arm.
"Okay, Lee. What's wrong?"
"Oh Jimmy!" She dissolved in tears.
"Honey, what? You can tell me. Is something wrong with one of the babies?" he asked in concern.
"No, the babies are fine. Dr. Marlowe, she's my grandmother. That must be what I have to do still. I have to introduce her to Uncle Bernie. Once I do that, my work, my time here is done!" She buried her face in her hands.
"Come on, sweetie. Stop crying. Let's talk this through. How come you didn't realize right away that she's your grandmother? Lois has been talking about her for months now," he asked.
"You heard what she said. She's just started thinking about changing back to her maiden name. I did know that she had been married before, but I didn't know what her married name was. Jimmy, that's not even the worst of it. It was a lot easier when she wasn't a real person to me, but she's nice. I like her."
"I'm not following you," Jimmy replied.
"Jimmy, in about three years, my mom will be born. My grandma, that nice doctor that we just met, she died, I mean she will die in childbirth."
"Oh Lee." He put his arms tightly around her.
"And the rotten thing is, I can't change anything. I can't warn her. And I certainly can't tell Uncle Bernie. I feel so helpless." She rested her head on his chest.
Suddenly she broke his embrace. "Jimmy! Maybe I should make sure they don't meet! Then I wouldn't have to go back. We could stay together! And she won't die!" she exclaimed desperately.
He gripped her shoulders firmly. "Lee, you know better. From everything you've told me, if you did that, you would cease to exist. I couldn't bear that! At least this way, I'll know that you will have a life someday — not with me — but I'll have some wonderful memories." He gazed tenderly into her eyes.
"You're right, Jimmy! I just wish we could figure out some way we could be together too!" she sighed.
"Me too, Lee. Me too."
Dr. Klein was sitting in the lab, hunched over a microscope. Suddenly he heard a familiar whoosh and felt a strong draft. Looking up, he smiled in greeting.
"Firestorm! What can I do for you?" He glanced furtively at the technicians who were also in the lab.
"Dr. Klein, I'd like to borrow you for a little while. Would that be okay?" she asked seriously.
"That should be fine," he answered.
"Great! Let's go." She grasped him firmly around the waist and they swooped out.
"So Lee, where are we going in such a hurry?" he asked as they flew over the city.
She grinned at him. "I just wanted to give you an excuse to play hooky. Lois and Clark had their babies today. I've been there once to visit already but I thought you should see them too." Lee was glad that she was a good actress. That sounded pretty normal, she thought to herself.
"Great! I can hardly wait!" he enthused.
"Clark, Lois, I've thoroughly examined both these little guys, and they check out completely normal. Their Apgar scores were excellent; they have great muscle tone and good reflexes. They're just perfect. And very human!" Dr. Klein stated firmly.
"That's the impression we got, but it's nice to hear it from you. Did you see any evidence of superpowers in either of them?" Clark asked anxiously.
"No. But you told me you didn't develop them until you hit puberty. I'll double-check with Lee what her experience was, but I would imagine the same thing will happen with these guys. So it looks like you'll have twelve or thirteen years to get prepared." Changing the subject, he asked, "How long will you have to stay here, Lois?"
"Thirty-six more hours. Dr. Marlowe wants to make sure that I'm able to nurse them all right. There are two of them to feed after all." Lois yawned.
"I can see that you're tired, Lois. As soon as Lee gets back from the ladies room, we'll go. You need your rest. In fact, why don't I wait out here?" Dr. Klein smiled at Lois and Clark and stepped into the hallway.
A moment later, Lee walked towards the room. She was surprised to see Dr. Marlowe approach from the other direction.
"Uncle Bernie, have you met Lois's obstetrician? This is Dr. Marlowe. Dr. Marlowe, I'd like you to meet my uncle, Dr. Klein."
Dr. Klein extended his hand to Dr. Marlowe. She shook it and reluctantly let go.
"Dr. Marlowe, you look awfully familiar to me. Have we met before?" he asked as he gazed into her clear green eyes.
"No, I would have remembered meeting you. I've been a fan since I read your first published article. Was it back in 1978 or 1979? I can't remember."
"It was '79. I'm impressed. I've never had a fan before." He laughed. "Have you written anything that I might have read?"
"Actually, I did submit some articles under my maiden name, Dr. Lee."
"You're married?" Dr. Klein sounded disappointed.
"Oh, I'm sorry," he said.
"It's all right. It was a long time ago. Please excuse me, Dr. Klein. I just need to have a quick look at Lois and the babies." She moved to enter the room.
"Uh, Dr. Marlowe, would you like to join Lee and me for a coffee in the cafeteria?" Dr. Klein asked diffidently.
"Oh, Uncle Bernie," Lee interrupted, "I forgot to tell you, I've made plans with Jimmy tonight."
"Why am I not surprised? Those two are inseparable." he said, in an aside to Dr. Marlowe. "So how about it, Dr. Marlowe? Can I buy you a coffee?"
"Thank you, Dr. Klein. I would enjoy that."
"Please call me Bernie."
"And I'm Caroline."
"Lee, you are one heck of a good actress!" Jimmy exclaimed. "And you don't think Dr. Klein realized that you planned the whole meeting?"
"But I didn't plan the meeting, Jimmy! I tried to call her in her office, and she was out doing rounds. But things should progress okay without any more help on my part. He was really, really impressed by her. And definitely vice versa."
"That's great!" he exclaimed.
They walked hand in hand up the steps to Lee's apartment.
"Do you want to come in for a coffee?" she asked.
"Don't I always?" he grinned.
She opened the door and they stepped inside, still talking.
"So we still don't know what else you have to do here."
Lee opened her mouth to speak.
She jumped at the interruption. "Uncle Herb!" All the blood drained out of Lee's face.
"Oh no," Jimmy groaned.
"But I haven't done everything. I have another task to perform."
"No, you don't, my dear. You've performed all your tasks admirably." He sighed. "It's time."
"Uncle Herb, you know I love you, but I'm really not happy to see you," Lee said.
"I know, my dear. I know. I'm sorry to be the cause of so much distress to you, and to James. But it's necessary. I know that's scant consolation."
Lee took a deep breath. "Uncle Herb, I'm not going back!" she said emphatically.
"My dear, you have no choice," he said, equally emphatic.
Jimmy backed off to watch, his heart in his mouth.
"No, Uncle Herb. I do have a choice. I choose to stay with my friends. I've gotten very close to Clark and Lois, Perry, and Uncle Bernie. And I love Jimmy. Most importantly, I don't want to leave him."
"I understand all that, Lee, I really do, but… you have to come back. It's important."
"Then Jimmy can come with me … if he wants to, that is."
Before Jimmy could speak, Uncle Herb interjected, "No, he can't, my dear. He has many, many important things that he has to do in this time. It would totally jeopardize our dimension if he were yanked suddenly out of the time-line!"
"That's it, then. I'm staying," Lee stated firmly.
"Lee, he's dying!" Uncle Herb exclaimed.
"Your grandfather, Dr. Klein. He's dying," he repeated softly.
Lee sat down heavily.
"What happened?" she asked.
"He had a stroke, about an hour after you left. He can still talk, but he's paralyzed on one side. Lee, he won't recover. It was a massive stroke. I don't think he'll survive even one more day." His eyes brimmed with tears. "He's asking for you, my dear. I think he's waiting for you to come before he…" He cleared his throat.
Jimmy spoke up for the first time. "Lee, you have to go. You know it. I know it. He needs you."
She gazed into his eyes. "Jimmy, I need you too."
"No, Lee. There's a difference. You want to be with me, but he needs you there with him. You know I love you, that I'll always love you, but he was there in your life first, a long time before I came along."
"All right, Jimmy. But I do need you to promise me something. Don't sacrifice your life for me. Please, I want you to fall in love again, get married, have children. You deserve to have someone in your life."
"All right, Lee. Don't worry about me. I'll be okay." Jimmy knew in his heart that there would never be anyone else for him, but he said the words that she wanted to hear.
"Would you say goodbye to everyone for me? Don't tell them why I went back. I don't want Uncle Bernie to know."
"Don't worry, Lee. I will. And Dr. Klein won't know."
Jimmy pulled her close for one last embrace, one last tender kiss of farewell.
Uncle Herb solemnly shook Jimmy's hand and led Lee out of the apartment. She could hardly see where she was going, she was crying so hard.
Jimmy sat down, buried his face in his hands, and sobbed.
"Uncle Herb, I hope we're not too late." They hurried down the hospital hallway.
Lee hastened to the bedside. She was shocked that he was alone in the room.
"Where's mom and dad?" she asked, without looking away from her grandfather. Her full attention was on the frail figure lying before her.
"He wouldn't let me call anyone. He only wants you with him," Mr. Wells responded.
"Lee! Lee!" His voice was weak. His words were a bit slurred but were still quite intelligible.
"I'm here, Gramps. I'm here." She bent over him.
One half of his face was completely slack.
"I've been waiting… just like I said I would."
"I know, Gramps."
He raised his voice slightly. "Herb, remember what I said… I only want Lee with me."
"I remember Bernard. I won't call anyone else… yet." Mr. Wells patted Dr. Klein on the shoulder. "You've been a good friend to me. I won't forget you."
"You better not … or I'll haunt you!" Dr. Klein grinned lopsidedly.
Lee nodded. She didn't look up, but she was aware of her Uncle Herb leaving the room. She was grateful for the privacy.
"We don't… need any others around us… do we, sweetie?"
"No, Gramps." Lee could barely talk. Tears rolled down her cheeks.
"I love your mom… you know that. But she has… your father. They've had a …bond between them since …they were kids. But you and I… we've bonded together… haven't we?"
She nodded sadly as she brushed the salt of her tears from her cheeks. A tear splashed his face.
"Lee… my darling girl… Don't cry… There are worse things in life than dying… did you know that?" He flailed his arm in the air, trying to touch her. She grasped his hand and held it firmly in both of hers.
"Like what, Gramps?"
"Living without loving… No one can say that about us… can they, sweetie? You had Jimmy… I had Caroline… Then I had your mom… And then last… and most important in my heart… I had you… Always and forever… right, sweetie?"
"Always and forever, Gramps." She kissed his wrinkled hand.
"Lee… love doesn't die… You need to remember that… It doesn't die even when we do." He gasped for air. His eyes rolled back into his head.
"Gramps!" She pushed the call button.
A nurse hurried into the room. She checked his vital signs.
"He's gone into a coma. I'm sorry," the nurse said gently.
"Will it… Will it be long?" Lee asked tentatively.
"His heart's still strong. It could take hours still." She patted Lee on the shoulder and left the room.
Holding his hand, Lee talked to him. She told him about her trip to the past. She talked about Jimmy. She thanked him for being so wonderful to her both in the past and the present. She talked until she didn't know what she was saying any more.
"Thank you for always being there for me, Gramps. You've always come through in the crunch. I've never been a perfect granddaughter to you, Gramps, but oh, how I love you. I'm going to miss you so much. But I know Grandma Caroline misses you, too. She's been alone a long time. She's waiting for you…"
He gasped once, blinked hard, and exhaled for the last time.
"Oh Gramps," she sobbed. "Give my grandma a hug for me."
She sat beside him for a long time, saying her good-byes. Finally, she got up and stumbled to the door. She took one long, last look at him and left the room.
"Hi. Mr. Wells called me," Clark said softly. "I thought you'd need some company." He was leaning against the wall in the hallway.
"Oh, Grandpa Clark," Lee sobbed, as she fell into his waiting arms.
Lee sat at her desk in her dorm room, looking off into space. She was numb. Measured by the calendar, only a week had gone by since she had last sat here. But she had lived a lifetime in that week. She had forged new friendships. She had enabled her grandparents, no, her friends to conceive. She had watched their pregnancy unfold for almost nine months. She had held their babies in her arms. And she had loved and lost the two most important men in her life. She had lost one to death, and the other to time. Lee felt as if her heart had died within her chest.
Her mom and dad, her Uncle Jon, her aunts, and all her many cousins tried to console her. And her Grandma Lois and Grandpa Clark were very attentive. But she felt out of step with them. For months, she had been living her life at a different rhythm. Her relationship was very much warmer with her grandparents, but the days of easy friendship were gone. She was separated from them by time. She couldn't even begin to envision that life might get better.
There was a knock at the door. Lee sighed, and walked slowly to answer it. She really didn't want to see anyone.
"Uncle Herb." Lee winced at the sight of him. He reminded her of her two losses, both of them still too raw.
"Lee, my dear, may I come in? I wish to talk to you about something very important." He stood in her doorway, holding his hat in his hands.
"Sure, Uncle Herb. Please have a seat." Lee gestured listlessly at her chair.
He sat down. She slumped on the edge of the bed facing him.
"Lee, my dear. I want to talk to you about James. Have you been wondering what happened to him?"
A little animation came into her face. "Yes, I have, Uncle Herb. I asked Grandpa Clark about him. He said that the last time he and Grandma Lois saw Jimmy, was about two days after I was born. He visited mom and dad at the hospital, left, and was never seen again. Grandpa Clark searched for him for a very long time, but he was never able to find a trace of him." Lee leaned forward. "Do you have news?"
"Yes, but before I tell you, I wanted to ask. Did your grandparents ever tell you about Dr. Doodsen? Dr. Veda Doodsen."
Lee thought for a moment. "No, I've never heard of her."
"She experimented on many young people, James included. She hooked herself up with an elderly criminal. She attempted to transfer their life energy to this man in an attempt to rejuvenate him. Using blackmail, she also attempted to transfer some of Superman's life force to him. Except for James, the young people all died." Mr. Wells shook his head in disgust. "James survived because Superman, Clark insisted that Dr. Doodsen rejuvenate James using more of Clark's life essence."
"I've never heard this story." Lee listened wide-eyed.
"This is the main reason that your Grandfather and your Grandmother are aging at the same rate. Without these two energy drains, he would definitely outlive your Grandmother by decades and decades. It's been estimated that his normal life span would have been approximately double the average human male's. His life span is still longer than most, and fortunately your Grandmother has also reaped some benefits from his aura. It's been discovered that prolonged physical contact with this aura has beneficial effects for humans. This is the reason your Grandmother is also in such good shape for her age. And, this is also a secondary reason why they are aging at the same rate."
"This is fascinating, Uncle Herb. What effect will this have on me, or on my dad?" Lee was interested in spite of herself.
"Your father and your Uncle Jonathan are an interesting case. In the case of twins, there is a decrease in the lifespan, almost as if one is split between the two of them. So your father and mother should also age at the same rate. And your father's aura is still strong enough to keep your mother healthy for a very long time."
"That's a relief!"
"But then we come to you, Lee. You're not a twin. You will have a very long life, probably about a third longer than the norm."
"I still don't understand why you're telling me this, and what it has to do with Jimmy!" she asked plaintively.
"Getting back to James, the transfer of some of Superman's life force had an interesting effect on him. He also started aging at a slower rate. Barring unforeseen accidents, he would have a very long and healthy life." Uncle Herb looked a little uncomfortable. Changing the subject, he asked. "Have you ever wondered what my life is like, my dear?"
Lee looked thoughtful. "I'm sorry, Uncle Herb. I've never really thought about it."
"It's wonderful and exciting. I'm 'Uncle Herb' to generations and generations of Kent descendants. But it's a big responsibility looking after the time line. It fell to me only because I inadvertently invented my machine. I felt that I should be more careful in the selection of my replacement."
"Your replacement!" Lee exclaimed in shock.
"Yes, my dear. My replacement. I'm tired. I'm old, and I'm afraid of making mistakes. I've made them in the past. So far, they've been fixable, but …I'm losing faith in my ability to problem solve. I decided to look for someone to take over from me. But I didn't want just one person; I wanted a team who would work together, and bolster each other's spirits. I've recruited one half of the team, but I need now to find out if the other half is willing to take the job on. What do you say, Lee? Will you do it?"
"Me!" Lee was speechless.
"Yes, you, my dear. You are wonderfully suited to it. You have a maturity and sense of responsibility that is unwarranted in one so young. You are absolutely brilliant, but you temper that brilliance with a loving heart. You are extremely pragmatic and methodical, but have flashes of wonderful creativity. And, you've been requested by the other half of the team."
"I've been requested? Who asked for me?" Lee asked in dawning hope.
The door opened. "I asked for you, Lee."
"Jimmy!" Lee ran to his waiting arms. He swept her into a fervent embrace.
Mr. Wells raised his voice. "Not meaning to interrupt you two, I should warn you. Although he only looks slightly older than when you last saw him, Jimmy is actually twenty-five years older than he was when you were last with him. And, as far as he's concerned, it was only yesterday that you were born, Lee. That's why Clark couldn't find him. I brought him here.
"And, I would be remiss if I didn't point out that you two will have a lot to work out. You have an age difference between you that you didn't have before. And, Jimmy's had a lot of experiences that he had on his own. Also…"
Lee broke the kiss. "Uncle Herb."
"Has anyone ever told you that you talk too much?" Lee returned to kissing Jimmy as if she would never stop.
Mr. Wells chuckled to himself. 'Bernard would be pleased,' he thought. 'Things have worked out for Lee.' He stood up and quietly made his way to the door.
"Mr. Wells, wait!" Jimmy exclaimed. Mr. Wells turned to face him.
"I have to ask. It drove me crazy for twenty-five years. What else was Lee supposed to do in the past? What was her other task?"
"Why, my dear boy! It's quite simple, really. Lee had to fall head over heels, completely and irrevocably, in love with you." He smiled at them gently, checked his pocket watch, and then, softly closed the door as he exited the room.