By Robert Culpepper <email@example.com>
Submitted November 1998
Summary: When the Flash comes to Metropolis, it can't be good news for Superman and Spider-Man. As the heroes deal with Captain Cold and the Scorpion, Lois tries to discover why the Kingpin has put a contract out on Daily Bugle editor J. Jonah Jameson.
At long last, another team-up. This story takes place in my new universe where Superman and Spider-Man both work in Metropolis. This would have started a fifth year. This assumes that the last episode of season four never happened. The story is a little longer than normal (216 KB). Events chronicled here build upon my other stories: The Spider and the Fly(boy) and Epic (Confusion). Characters represented here are owned by their respective companies: DC Comics and Marvel. Comments go to firstname.lastname@example.org
Special thanks to Dana, Joseph & James for their input Stories in this series: The Spider and the Fly(boy) and Epic (Confusion)
"Smythe!!" A young man in a hover chair come to a stop before a huge metal desk. "Have the arrangements been made?"
Smythe looked up to his large employer and grinned. "Everything has been taken care of as you asked. It will take some money, but it will be done."
The large figure pounded his fist down on the desk, knocking several things off. "Money is not important here!!!" Wearing a king-size frown, the man settled back into his chair. "What 'is' important is eliminating our problem before it can multiply."
"Do you really think that this is such a large problem? You are taking extraordinary actions to deal with a single man. No matter what he does, he's only a man." Alistair Smythe sighed in resignation. He was getting nowhere. "You could have let me try my robots before you went out and hired the most expensive assassin in the world."
The large man had listened to Smythe intently, even though he was about to dismiss everything the young man had said. "First of all, my dear Alistair, the problem is not the man… it is what that man knows of my… 'our' operations. Also, this 'one man' has the power to bring our future plans right down around our necks!!" He clenched his fists and then relaxed again. "As for your robots… they have had less than exemplary success in the past." Smythe mumbled something as a reply. "The man we have hired is supremely qualified to take care of business. He has only failed to collect on one contract… and from what I hear, he still tries to correct that oversight on a regular basis." He took a deep breath and appeared to calm himself. "Have you managed to locate the source of our 'irritation'?"
Smythe floated over to a computer access station. "It wasn't easy. Since he disappeared from New York, we've been tracing his movements, and we have found him though." Smythe pressed a few keys on the keyboard and a map came up. "We believe we'll be able to find him in Metropolis."
The man arched an eyebrow. "Well… our 'problem solver' will earn his fee this time. If he can take care of this, it will be well worth the five million dollars. Pass the information along to our associate."
Smythe turned to face his employer with a smile of admiration. "It appears that you have everything well in hand."
"Of course I do!" Wilson Fisk said with a joyous chuckle. "That's why 'I' am the Kingpin!!"
Clark sat at his desk, talking on the telephone. From his tone of voice, it was obvious he was making little progress. "All we want is a few minutes with the mayor to ask her about the new park proposal." An exchange took place and Clark half-laughed. "Well… if the mayor 'really' doesn't have time for us, I guess Ms. Lane and I can write our article without her input." Clark's comment brought the response he was hoping for. "Okay. Thank you very much. Mmhhmm, have a good day." With a wide smile, Clark hung up the phone and circled a date on his desk calendar. "Lois taught me well."
From across the newsroom, Lois had watched Clark's subtle actions. She could tell when he was happy, sad, irritated or passionate… especially passionate. They had been married almost a year, and she still never tired of looking at him or being near him. Her life had been empty without him and now it was so full. As Clark hung up, she came up behind him. He was so involved in his task he didn't notice her presence. Once he had circled the date on the calendar, she wrapped her arms around him and kissed the back of his neck. She immediately felt his body temperature rise. She released her grip and he turned around to where she could see his cheeks were flushed a dull red. "It's nice to know I can still do that to you."
Clark reached for her hand and gently pulled her into his lap. "The day you can't do that to me is the day my heart stops… and not a moment before." He smiled his special smile for Lois. "We got a 'brief' appointment with the mayor for Thursday. She said she'd meet with us… provided 'we' keep our questions confined to the park issue."
Lois arched an eyebrow. "Really?"
"Really." Clark laughed and Lois followed. "So, what have you been up to while I've been playing phone tag with city hall?"
Lois wiggled in Clark's lap playfully and acted coy. "Wouldn't you like to know."
Clark smiled mischievously at his wife as he wrapped his arms around her. "Yes, I would."
She turned her head and gave him a quick kiss. "Okay, you forced it out of me. I was making… arrangements for our anniversary, but that's all I'm telling you!" She turned her head to the side and winked at him.
Clark shook his head as he chuckled softly. "You wanna bet?" He lowered his head and she met his lips half-way. They parted briefly. "I have ways of making you talk."
Forgetting where they were, or not really caring to begin with, Lois rose back to meet him. "Go ahead. Make me talk." The kiss resumed.
At one time, such a display of affection between Lois and Clark would have stopped the newsroom cold. In the years since this had started, the scene had become commonplace. This time, the world went on with it's own business and so did Lois and Clark.
Some things never changed. Any display of affection had to be cut short. In the past, it had been Jimmy Olsen's job exclusively. Now he had help in the form of his fellow photographer, Peter Parker. "Lois! CK!" Jimmy called as he bounded through the newsroom toward Clark's desk with Peter close behind him. Jimmy came upon the desk and started in without looking. "Hey guys! Have you seen…" Jimmy broke off as he realized he was interrupting them again. "Sorry."
Lois and Clark disengaged from the kiss, each giving a disgruntled sigh at the parting. Lois turned her head from Clark to see Jimmy and Peter, both of whom looked slightly embarrassed. "So, what brings the fire suppression system over?" Lois asked with a playful smirk.
"Fire suppression?" Jimmy looked confused for a moment. "Oh, I get it."
Peter rolled his eyes and shook his head. "We're looking for the chief. We've got the proof sheets he asked for. He wanted to choose the best shots for the Sunday magazine." Peter waved the proof sheets briefly.
Clark pointed skywards. "He's upstairs in a meeting with the 'bigwigs'." Clark drew his wife closer to him. "We don't know when he's coming back down. He told us he was going up around nine and it's ten right now." Clark shrugged. "Why don't you put the proof sheets on his desk. If either of us see him, we'll tell him they're there."
Peter and Jimmy nodded and started to turn away. "Hold it a second," Lois called as they turned. They turned back towards the couple and Lois rose from Clark's embrace. "We've got a little unfinished business with Mr. Olsen, don't we Clark?" Clark nodded slowly. Lois let a smirk fill her face. "You've got some explaining to do, Jimmy."
Jimmy's eyes widened. "Guys!! I swear, Luce and I didn't mean to break that vase at your place last weekend. We glued it back as best we could before you got back from Smallville. We were planning on telling you, honest… Actually, it was more of my idea to try and fix it than Lucy's, so you shouldn't really be mad at her… I'm really the one…"
Peter had taken a step back and was enjoying the spectacle with soft laughter. "So, that's what happened to the vase…" Clark said in a bemused voice.
"We're talking about your article, Jimmy," Lois clarified. Her smirk had turned to a scowl. "We'll talk about the vase later." Lois leaned closer to her husband. "Exactly why did we give him a key to our place?"
Clark shrugged. "Somebody had to feed the fish." He began to chuckle. "Why didn't you tell us you got a page 3 story? We're proud of you, Jimmy. That was some good work." Clark smiled and Lois sat back down on his lap. "What was this? Your 5th story in two weeks?"
"Yeah!" Jimmy answered enthusiastically. "This was the biggest one I've worked on though… Man I'm psyched!" Clark laughed softly.
"Perry must have thought you were ready for some heavy stuff if he gave you that ATM story. Ralph's been working it for a while." Lois let go and smiled. "I've gotta admit, you did do a pretty good job."
"You two really think it was good?" Lois and Clark nodded. "The chief wanted to move on the story, but you two were busy on your council story and Ralph's been on vacation for three weeks. He told me to take the notes Ralph left and to run with it." Jimmy stopped to smile again. "You two really thought it was good?"
"Yes, Jimmy. It was 'very' good. It showed a lot of promise." Lois smiled at her young friend. "Just don't let it go to your head."
Clark and Peter laughed while Jimmy blushed. "So, what did you think of 'dig for it' investigative journalism?" Clark asked, quite interested in the forthcoming response.
"I really liked it," Jimmy said with a wide smile. "I hope Ralph won't be mad at me for doing the story when he gets back."
Clark and Lois laughed together. "I'm sure he will, Jimmy, but Perry will straighten him out pretty quick." Lois over to Ralph's unoccupied desk. "Speaking of Ralph, I wonder where he is. He was due back today."
"He had three weeks off, he should be able to make it back on time… I mean we even made it back from out honeymoon when we were supposed to."
"And that wasn't easy," Lois said with a sultry smile aimed at Clark. "Ralph better get in here or Perry'll skin him alive."
"Yeah," Peter spoke up. "Monday's bad enough around here without a reporter going MIA."
Lois looked at Peter skeptically and Clark had to grin at his wife's response. "Oh, the voice of experience. He's been here all of three months and he already knows the place like the back of his hand. We all better look out. He's pretty quick on the uptake," added with a grin.
Peter hung his head as he blushed. "Don't let her get to you, Pete. She did the same kinda stuff to me when I got here."
"How long did it last?" Peter asked in a hopeful voice.
Jimmy grinned as he backtracked a little. "I'll let you know if it ever stops!!" Jimmy made a break for it laughing all the way, leaving Peter alone with Lois and Clark.
"Come back here and take it like man!!" Lois yelled at the retreating form. She squinted. "He'll pay for that one."
Peter and Clark laughed until Lois silenced them with one of her 'looks'. "Got ya," Clark said with a smile. "I hear, and I obey."
"You better." She couldn't help but grin. Peter had let his smile drop, something that was beginning to be a common occurrence. "Hey, Peter. Perk up. Mary Jane's due in this afternoon. You've got to be happy about that. What do you have planned for the evening?"
Peter smiled at the thought of being reunited with his wife. "I'm planning a cozy little evening at home with her. I know she'll be tired from the traveling. When I talked to her last night, she sounded kinda tired already… she's sounded that way for the last week."
"Is she okay?" Lois asked, quite concerned.
"Yeah. She thinks she picked up some kind of bug from the Big Apple. Tomorrow afternoon she has a doctor's appointment to make sure she's okay."
"You're still concerned though," Clark observed.
"Of course I am. She's been away for two weeks. She's only going to be home for two weeks and then she's going to be heading off to Paris for a month long shoot." Peter slumped and sighed. "I really miss her."
Clark got up from his chair and put a supportive hand on Peter's shoulder. "We know, Peter." They were all quiet for a moment before Clark tried to lighten the mood. "Hey, remember, we're all going camping with my folks this weekend up at Hawthorne Reserves. Tell MJ to bring that fishing pole Lois bought her."
Peter smiled. "I'll do that… and thanks… both of you. You two have helped me keep my sanity. If it wasn't for you two, I would have probably spent the last few weeks in my 'other' suit."
"No problem." Lois nodded and smiled. "It was our pleasure."
Peter continued to smile, feeling a little better. "Thanks, guys. I'm going to go put these proofs up on the chief's desk. I'll see you two later on." Peter moved off towards Perry's office.
After he had left, Lois and Clark both let out sighs of concern. "I'm worried about them," Clark said softly enough for Lois to hear.
"So am I. This traveling is taking it's toll on both of them. Mary Jane being sick is just the latest symptom. They're miserable when they're apart, and when they're together they drive themselves crazy trying to make up for lost time." Lois closed her eyes and shook her head. She reached for Clark's waiting hand and grabbed onto it. "Oh, Clark… promise me we'll never let this happen to us."
Clark looked into Lois' eyes with unusual intensity. "Never." They rested their foreheads together. "Maybe we were wrong… you know, to lure them to Metropolis. If they'd have stayed in New York, they'd have a lot more time together."
Lois was about to answer Clark when the sound of someone clearing their throat caught their attention. "It's nice to know I could disappear and 'some' things wouldn't change around here." Lois and Clark snapped to as Perry chuckled softly and held up his hands, both of which tightly gripped manila file folders. "I was just funnin' with ya, kids. I'm sorry, but I couldn't help but overhear… Are Peter and Mary Jane all right?"
"Yeah," Clark answered in a tired voice. "The traveling's taking its toll on them though."
Perry nodded. "Yeah. The kid hasn't acted himself since she flew off for this last shoot. She's coming home today if I remember right."
Lois nodded happily. "Her plane's due in this afternoon."
"Good. Maybe Peter will cheer up a little. I think I'll give him tomorrow off. He has the time coming anyway. I wish there was something more I could do for them," Perry said thoughtfully.
Clark suddenly remembered the proofs and figured it might cheer his editor up to know that some work was being accomplished. "Oh, Chief. Peter and Jimmy put their proof sheets up on your desk for you to go over."
Perry nodded, still deep in thought. "Thanks, Clark." He thought for a moment more. "Speaking of Jimmy, you two did see his article this morning, right?"
Lois nodded. "Yeah, Perry. It was pretty good stuff."
"It was," Perry agreed. "I gotta admit, I was impressed. I'm glad I gave him that story to work on. He did a great job on it and only Elvis knows when Ralph would have gotten around to finishing it." Perry grimaced as he looked around the newsroom. "Have either of you 'seen' Ralph this morning? His vacation time was up at eight this morning."
"Afraid not, Chief. In fact, when I checked the board an hour ago, he wasn't checked in."
Clark's words had an unexpected result. Lois and Clark had expected Perry to be irritated, but they weren't ready for what came. "Judas Priest!!! That's the last thing I need this morning!!" Perry waved the folders he was carrying in the air. "Where in Graceland could that fool be?!" Lois and Clark were dumbstruck and didn't dare say a word at this point. "Olsen!!!!!!!"
Within a heartbeat, Jimmy was at Perry's side. "Yeah, Chief?"
Perry turned to the young man wearing an expression that made even Lois flinch. "Jimmy, I want you to track down Ralph and ask him why he's not here. If he isn't having a personal one on one with Elvis, tell him to haul his tail in here NOW!! Don't be too subtle about it either. Let him know his hide's in the fire on this one!"
"Got ya, Chief!" Jimmy moved off in a hurry before Perry erupted again.
His anger spent for the moment, Perry looked tiredly to his favorite reporters. "Would you two come up to my office for a minute?" Before either of them could answer, Perry headed toward his office. They entered and Perry motioned for Clark to shut the door, which was done in short order. "Have a seat, kids."
Lois and Clark sat down, but were clearly concerned about Perry. "Are you all right, Perry?" Lois asked, not caring to mask her concern. "If there's anything we can do, just tell us."
With a smile he waved her off. "I'm okay. Just a little tired, that's all." He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "I asked you up here because I wanted to talk to you about Jimmy."
"Okay," Clark said with a nod. "What about Jimmy?"
Perry arranged the folders on his desk and took a glance at the proof sheet. "That piece he did for today's paper 'was' good. I think he's ready for some bigger things than library hours and that kind of fluff. This ATM fraud story showed he has the talent to be a good reporter."
"I agree, Perry, but where do we come in with all of this?"
Perry sat straight in his chair. "Lois, you learned this trade from being immersed right from the start. You were born in the fire." Lois nodded. "Clark, you learned all of this by traveling to all those places and writing for smaller papers. You were used to the heat by the time you got here." Clark nodded and Perry continued. "Well, Jimmy's had neither of those experiences. His experience is from here at the Planet and what he's seen here. He's got some raw talent there, and what I'd like the two of you to do is to kinda mentor him. Keep him from getting burned to a crisp by the business. Proof some of his stuff before I see it, guide him, listen to him. Teach him what it means to be an investigative reporter. With the right guidence, that kid could go places."
If Perry had expected Lois or Clark to protest, he was in for a surprise. Lois smiled broadly and reached for Clark's hand. "We'd love to do this, Perry. We'd love to!" Clark nodded, wearing a wide grin.
Perry smiled happily. "I'm glad you two feel that way. I'm gonna start throwin' Jimmy some meatier pieces here in the next couple of days. I'll tell the kid you two will be helping him when things settle down around here." Perry looked down at his desk and sighed deeply. "At least one thing's gone right around here this morning."
The trio was interrupted by a knock at the door. Perry motioned for Jimmy to come in. "Chief, I just got finished calling Ralph's place and anyone in Metropolis who knows him."
"Shouldn't have taken long," Lois mused. Clark chuckled and Perry admonished them both with a glance.
"So?" Perry prompted.
"I can't find him. There was no answer at his place… not even an answering machine. Not even his cronies know where he's gotten to." Jimmy sighed as he finished the report. "What do you want me to do next, Chief?"
Perry frowned and leaned back in his chair. "Do we know where he went?" Jimmy, Clark and Lois shook their heads and Perry sighed, deeply frustrated. He rubbed his forehead and then looked up at Jimmy. "See if you can find out where he got to. Check the travel agencies, look over his desk. Just find him so I can transfer him to the obituaries!" Jimmy turned to leave, but Perry called him back. "Jimmy! While you're at it go to Ralph's desk and pick up a file. I need a story for page three tomorrow. Pick one up and get to work on it. Don't pick anything too difficult, and if you need help, come to one of us, got it?"
Jimmy smiled broadly. "Got it!" He left and closed the door behind him.
"I think you just made his year, Chief."
Perry nodded with a smile. "Was there anything else you wanted to talk to us about, Perry?"
With a nod, Perry White indicated the meeting wasn't done yet. "As a matter of fact, Lois, there was. Have you two been following the situation in Gotham?"
Lois and Clark squirmed in their seats, pretty sure of where Perry was heading. "You mean the new hero, Chief?"
"Yeah. The guy calls himself Nightwing. You two talk to Superman and Spider-Man on a pretty regular basis. Have they told you much about this new guy?" Perry asked as he sifted through a folder absently.
Lois took a quick glance at Clark, who was feeling just as anxious as she was. "I'm afraid not, Perry. All we really know is what's been in the papers since he showed up a couple months ago."
"Two months, to be exact," Perry said leafing through a folder. He didn't raise his head. "You two think he's one of the 'good guys'?"
Clark looked puzzled and nervous, but answered the question anyway. "It looks that way. Gotham's police commissioner seems to think so at least."
"You know, it's strange that he chose to team up with Batgirl rather than Batman, especially since Robin disappeared." Perry looked up to both of them. If he noticed their nervousness, he didn't let on. "Kinda strange, don't you think?"
Lois fidgeted and tried to come up with a reasonable reply. "Maybe Batman didn't want another partner… He worked solo for a while before Robin joined him."
Perry nodded and briefly smiled. "Maybe, but I've got my own theory on all of this. Care to hear?" Before Lois or Clark could figure a way to extract themselves from the situation, Perry continued. "Take a look at this timeline I've put together." Perry shoved it toward Clark and Lois who looked it over. "Robin disappeared about two weeks before Nightwing showed up. Before that, Batgirl had stopped working with Batman. Once Nightwing showed up, the two of them started working together, just like she worked with Robin when the two of them were here in Metropolis." He took the paper back from Lois and Clark. "I think Nightwing is really Robin and that he and the Batman had a falling out over something and they split up. Now add in the fact that Batgirl left the Batfamily before Robin and I start to think that Batgirl's at the center of the breakup." Perry closed the folder and stuffed it back in his desk. Lois and Clark were now very unnerved at the accuracy of Perry's hypothesis. "Judging by the time span when all of this happened, I'm betting that whatever happened took place right here in Metropolis when they were here three months ago."
Clark tried to look impressed rather than scared to death. He cleared his throat. "It certainly sounds plausible, Chief."
"You two 'will' let me know if you find out anything, right?" With nods from both of them, Perry smiled and dismissed them. "Good enough. Now scoot and keep working on that park story. I think the people of Metropolis will find it 'very' interesting that the city council's selling half of the Ferguson park land to a development company that the mayor's part owner in, don't you?"
"I think so," Lois said with a determined look.
The two of them left the office and Perry went back to studying the folders he had brought down from his meeting. Clark took a quick look back as the hit the newsroom floor. "How'd he nail that down so well," Clark asked in a whisper. "Sometimes I wonder exactly how much he 'really' knows."
Lois nodded and sighed. "So do I, but then I realize I sleep a lot better not knowing, and so do you." They came to a stop by the stairs. "He did kinda hit it right on the head didn't he? About the only thing not in the story is that Bruce has stopped talking to you since all of this happened."
"That's not a big loss, honey. Trust me." Clark smiled widely and reached for Lois' hand, squeezingly it gently.
"I know," Lois said, brushing back a lock of hair. "I just don't think it's fair of him to blame his problems on you. If he hadn't come down so hard on them to begin with and then hadn't ordered Dick to stop seeing Barbara, then this wouldn't have happened. He did this to himself."
"You think Dick made the right choice, then?"
"Of course." Lois cocked her head to the side and smiled at Clark. "They love each other and now they're together, if they can keep things worked out between them. They might not have access to Wayne's fortune, but they have each other. If they realize that, then they have all they need."
Clark chuckled and put his arms around her. "Exactly when did you become a romantic?"
"The day I realized I was in love with you." Lois smiled and nestled her head against his shoulder. "Do you know how much I love you?"
Clark took a moment to just rest his head beside of hers. "I do. You tell me every morning, and every night… and I love you just as much." After their quiet moment, they started heading to Lois' desk to pick up some of their research. "I wish I knew what's going on with Perry. He doesn't seem right."
"He doesn't," Lois said in a concerned voice. "He's frustrated at something, but then who could blame him. He's had a pretty rough year." Clark nodded.
Jimmy walked up on them cautiously. "Yeah, after his son Jerry did with the red kryptonite…" Lois shook her head, not wanting to really remember the incident herself. "It took some real strength for Perry to carry on."
"It did," Clark agreed. "Jimmy, you wouldn't happen to have any idea what's eating at Perry, would you?"
Jimmy shook his head slightly. "I'm not sure, CK. I've heard everybody upstairs is talking about staff cuts to pad the black ink. They're probably putting pressure on the chief to cut back."
"No wonder he's upset." Lois looked up toward Perry's office. "I wish there was something we could do to help him."
"The best thing we can do is keep this place running smoothly and run interference for Perry," Clark said, looking around. "It's probably a good thing Ralph didn't show up today." Clark looked back to Jimmy. "Did you pick a file to work on, Jimmy?"
"Yeah. In fact that's what I came over here for. I wanted your opinions on it." Jimmy handed Clark the file and Lois joined him looking at it.
"This seems fairly innocent," Lois said with a nod. "Good stuff to start with. My first story was one on zoning variances."
Clark looked through the folder and frowned. "Jimmy, there aren't a lot of notes here."
"I know, CK, but Lois is right. It is a pretty innocent story. Ralph probably put it on the back burner because there's nothing beyond what it looks like: MetroChemical's asking for a zoning variance to put in a parking lot for their trucks. I'll call up a few snitches I found in Ralph's rolodex and ask 'em a few questions. It should be easy stuff."
Clark nodded in agreement and handed the folder back to Jimmy. "Make it a good one, Jimmy." Jimmy smiled and took the folder, but something caught Clark's eyes before the young man could leave. "Look at this."
Lois and Jimmy followed Clark's stare to a figure making her way to Perry's office. "Alice!?!" Lois could hardly believe her eyes. "I can't believe it's her. I know they've been seeing each other again, but I didn't expect to see her here."
Clark nodded as Jimmy remained mute. Alice made her way to Perry's office and went in without knocking. Clark braced himself for yelling, but none came. "Well, that's a good sign."
It only took a few moments for both Perry and Alice to leave the office and head for the elevator. "Where's he going?" Lois asked with a mix of amazement and concern. Perry and Alice entered the elevator and they soon disappeared. Clark would have followed them with his vision, but Jimmy's presence made that impossible.
"I don't know where they're going, but they certainly seemed happy." Clark reflected on what he had just witnessed. "That's gotta be good."
"I hope." Lois shook her head clear and turned to Jimmy. "Jimmy, you better get working on that while you got the chance. Clark and I will try to hold things down around here until Perry comes back." With a nod, the young man left. "I hope they get back together, sweetheart. Perry's been so sad since the divorce."
Clark put his arms around Lois from behind. "I hope they get back together, too."
"Clark! Did you get the message on your desk?" Peter asked from a few desks away. Clark shook his head and Peter made his way over to Clark and Lois, stopping briefly to retrieve a message slip from Clark's desk. Peter held up the paper and handed it to Clark when he got close enough. "This came in for you while you two were up with Perry."
Clark took a look at the paper and suddenly looked sick. "Peter, please tell me you're making this up."
Peter looked at Clark curiously. "Of course not, Clark. It came in about five minutes after the two of you went up. What's wrong?"
Clark took a breath and let it out quickly. "I need to sit down." He took the chair beside Lois' desk and Lois was quickly at his side.
"What's wrong, sweetheart?" Clark handed Lois the note and she felt her legs start to give on her. She looked ashen, and Peter was starting to get concerned. Lois sat down in her chair and took another look at the note. "Whose turn is it this time?"
"Yours," Clark answered, hoarsely.
"Okay." Lois took a deep breath and let it out. "Oh, boy."
Peter was totally confused. "Guys, what's wrong?" Lois handed him the note which Peter read avidly. "I took the message. All it says is that this Barry and Tina are going to be in town for a couple of days, they've got some news you need to hear and they'll be stopping by your place around seven tonight." Peter handed the note back to Lois. "What's the big deal?"
Clark looked to Peter and was puzzled by the man's reaction. "Peter, I figured you'd be as upset as we are about this!"
"Well…" Clark looked around. "The only Barry and Tina we know are Barry Allen and Tina McGee. I just thought that the two of them dropping in might… you know… ruffle your webs."
"Why? They're your friends, not mine."
"You know Barry though," Lois insisted. To their surprise, Peter shook his head. "You don't know Barry Allen?"
"Nope. Never met him or this Tina McGee."
Lois looked to Clark who looked to Peter. "I think you've met him before."
"If you insist, Clark," Peter replied with a half-laugh.
"He's a police officer, Peter… from Central City," Lois said trying to make Peter realize who they were talking about.
Peter held up his hands. "Okay, but I still don't know him."
"He's a fast runner too," Clark hinted. "He's 'very' fast."
"He wears a red running suit," Lois added.
Peter was beginning to laugh now. "Guys, I told you, I don't have a clue who this guy is."
Lois rolled her eyes, clearly exasperated. She grabbed her notepad and sketched something. She tore the sheet from the pad and handed it to Peter. "He wears this on his chest." Peter looked at the image, puzzled. Lois took the paper, turned it rightside up and pressed it against his chest. "Get it now?"
Peter took a look at the paper and felt very uneasy. "I guess there's no chance they're here for a vacation, is there?"
"What do you think?" Lois shook her head and Peter nodded.
"Well, they're not coming over until seven. That gives us a little time to come up with a plan."
Peter groaned and balled up the paper in his hand. "This would have to happen just when MJ's getting back, wouldn't it?"
"We'll… figure… something…out." Clark heard sirens coming from far away. Lois had already tuned in on Clark's need to go.
"Be careful." She kissed him quickly and then watched as he headed for the roof. Moments later they heard the familiar 'whoosh' and she knew Clark was gone. She sighed and sat back down.
"You always worry about him, don't you."
Lois nodded slightly. "I always will." Lois looked around, looking for something to occupy her while Clark was gone. She noticed some people gathering around Jimmy. Some wanted to know where Perry was and others 'demanded' to know where the Planet's editor had gotten to. "I think I'll go over and save Jimmy from the wolf pack." She got up and started to walk away when Peter stopped her.
"You want me to go and help Clark out? It would only take me a minute to change and swing out of here," he whispered.
Lois shook her head and caught sight of something. She focused on it and her eyes widened. "I don't think so, Peter. You're going to have your hands full as it is." She pointed toward the platform by the elevator door. "Good luck."
Peter looked and felt his stomach drop. "Just great." J. Jonah Jameson had come to the Daily Planet, and he was looking right at Peter Parker.
Superman flew to where the sirens were headed. When he got there, he was surprised by what he found. A block of the south side now looked like it would fit in perfectly in the Arctic. The streets were covered with ice. People fleeing the scene slipped and fell as they tried to put as much distance between them and the situation as they could. Ice covered several buildings and as Superman landed, he saw about a dozen people trapped inside a cage of ice. Superman took a few cautious steps forward and assured himself the people were all right except for being cold. "Don't worry. I'll get you all out of there."
"Don't promise things you can't deliver, Superman." The chilly voice caused Superman to literally freeze in his tracks. He knew the voice and things were starting to make sense. Superman turned around, arms crossed, to face Captain Cold, dressed in his trademark blue parka. He was wearing his freeze unit on his back. "This is none of your business Superman. If you keep out of my way while I'm here in Metropolis, I promise I won't cause too much damage. I only put these people in the cage to secure your cooperation."
"That's one thing you'll never have, Cold. I'm going to let these people go, and then I'm going to take care of you."
Captain Cold trained the freeze rifle on Superman. "Those are pretty big words, Superman. Just leave me alone, and I'll leave Metropolis alone."
"Really? What the word of a mercenary worth today?"
"More than you might expect to the right people." Superman took a few steps forward. Cold glanced over his shoulder and saw six police officers standing at the ready. "Trying to freeze you wouldn't do much good would it?" Before Superman could come up with a response, Cold turned and fired at the officers and froze them.
In a heartbeat, Superman had seized Captain Cold by the collar and had raised him off the ground. His eyes glowed red as he tightened his grip on the parka. "You'll pay for that!" Superman said, his voice cracking with raw emotion.
"Not today, Superman. You can either kick me around for a while or you can save them." Cold nodded towards the officers who were encased in ice. "I didn't freeze them all the way, so if you hurry, you should be able to save most of them." The hero and the villain stared at each other for another heartbeat. "What's it going to be?" Superman tossed Captain Cold aside and started to thaw the police officers. He was so intent in his task, he didn't notice Cold disappear or the paramedics arrive on the scene.
Like a man on his way to the gallows, Peter Parker approached J. Jonah Jameson. He wasn't looking forward to this but he figured he better take care of Jameson before his wife returned. Peter had a feeling he was going to have enough to deal with once Barry Allen came to town. As he approached, he remembered how Jameson had reacted when he had left the Daily Bugle. It was a memory Peter didn't want to dwell on. Peter came up to Jameson and extended a hand. "Mr. Jameson, welcome to the Daily Planet."
Jameson ignored Peter's gesture. "Spare me, Parker. I came here for a specific reason, not to chit-chat with ex-employees."
Peter retracted his hand. "Okay. How can I help you, Mr. Jameson. I'm afraid Mr. White is out on… Planet business right now."
Jameson grimaced. "I didn't come to see White," Jameson mumbled. "I came to see you."
Peter's eyes narrowed. "I thought you said…"
"I wouldn't be here if there was another way, Parker." Jameson looked around self-consciously. "I need you to get in touch with Spider-Man for me."
"Spider-Man?" Peter asked, more than a little shocked. "You want 'me' to contact Spider-Man for 'you'?"
"I want you to ask him to meet me," Jameson said with a scowl. He handed Peter a piece of paper. "This is where and when I need him to meet me."
Peter reluctantly took the paper. "Why do you want him? Planning on trying to unmask him again?"
Jameson frowned, and didn't look happy. "I need his help," he admitted in a low, gravely, whisper.
"You need his help?!" Peter asked, clearly amazed. "Let me mark this on my calendar. It'll only take a minute."
"Just give him the message!" Jameson pleaded. Without another word, he turned and left.
Peter stood, fixed in place. He stared at the sheet of paper which simply said 'Metropolis Tower roof tonight@8pm'. He didn't notice Lois come up beside him. "What did he want?"
Peter shook his head clear. He handed her the note. "He wants Spider- Man to meet him there tonight."
"You've got to be kidding!?" Lois looked over the note and handed it back to Peter. "I wonder what he wants?" Peter shook his head. "Is Spider-Man going to go?"
Peter pocketed the note. "I'm not sure. He said he needed help. Spider- Man can't very well refuse a request for help. Not even from Sourpuss."
"Talk to Clark about this. He might have some ideas how to handle this."
Peter looked around. "He's not back yet?" Lois shook her head.
"Hey guys!" Jimmy yelled from the TV monitor station. He had retreated there during the deluge of questions about where Perry was. "Take a look at this!" The monitors showed the story of what had unfolded downtown. The monitor showed the frozen streets and the ice cage where an unidentified suspect had held many people hostage. Lois and Peter cringed, having a good idea who the suspect was. Their hearts fell when they heard the last part of the report.
"Six police officers were frozen by the suspect. Superman thawed them
as quickly as possible. Five of the officers were resuscitated
successfully by paramedics. One officer was pronounced dead on the
scene. The name of the officer is being withheld until the family
can be contacted."
Lois turned her back on the monitors in time to see Clark slowly walk into the newsroom. She could see the weight he was carrying and how it was dragging him down. She quickly made her way to him and threw her arms around him, drawing him close. He rested his head on hers and held onto her tightly. Peter shook his head. "I guess we know why the Flash is coming," Peter mused quietly.
Suddenly a pair of arms wrapped themselves around him. "Who's coming, Tiger?"
Peter turned around and drew his wife close to him. "You have no idea how good it is to see you, hon." He sighed and just enjoyed the moment. "You're early, but you won't hear me complain."
She laughed, which she realized she hadn't been doing much recently. "I decided to take an early flight." She gave him a quick kiss and looked around the newsroom. She noticed Lois and Clark holding onto each other on the other side. "Is something wrong?"
"You could say that. You could definitely say that."
Clark worked at his computer, putting the final touch on a small article for the morning paper. Jimmy came up to his desk, a folder in his hand. "Hey, CK. Do you have a minute?"
Clark pushed himself away from the desk and turned to his young friend. "Sure, Jimmy." Jimmy sat down next to Clark. "What's up?"
Jimmy shook his head. "I'm not sure, CK. I've been calling some of Ralph's snitches about this story about the zoning variance, and some of the information I'm getting isn't quite making sense."
Clark raised an eyebrow. "What's not making sense?"
Jimmy frowned and pulled out some notes. "One guy says it's for a parking lot… like the request says, but then this one guy… Gary George told me that MetroChemicals has an order out for 'lots' of pipes and sewer equipment."
"They could be planning on a drainage system to keep the lot comparatively dry for their trucks," Clark suggested.
Jimmy shook his head. "I don't think so, CK. Something just feels wrong about this."
"So, what's the problem? You might be on to something."
"I know. That's what worries me. What if I do a bad job on a story that could be 'really big'."
Clark shook his head. "We all worry about that, Jimmy. Every good reporter worries about doing a story justice. Perry would tell you the same thing… if we could find him." Clark looked up to the empty office. "I think you should run with it and see where it goes."
"Thanks, CK." Jimmy closed his folder and looked at what Clark was working on. "That's tomorrow's article?"
"Yeah. It's a small one. When we came back from lunch, I had a thought on where I wanted to go with it. I had planned on finishing this up and heading home. With Lois and Mary Jane out shopping though, I might as well stay here and try to keep things together until Perry gets back."
Jimmy nodded. "I can't believe the chief's been gone so long. He left before eleven and now it's three. Whereever he and Alice went, I hope they had a good time." Clark agreed with the sentiment. "I guess Peter's over at STAR Labs by now."
"He left about a half-hour ago. With Dr. Klein at a seminar, he's got the lab all to himself. He's in heaven." The two men shared a short laugh.
Jimmy got up. "Thanks, CK." Clark turned back to the computer and Jimmy sat down again. "CK?" Clark turned back to Jimmy with a curious look on his face. "Could I talk to you for a minute more?"
"Shoot. What's up?"
Jimmy fidgeted for a moment, trying to find the best words. "CK, how did you know Lois was the one?"
"Yeah. The one you wanted to spend your life with, you know. I mean we all knew you liked her, but you just seemed to 'know' she was the one for you. How?"
Clark pondered the question for a minute. "It's kinda hard to explain, Jimmy. It was just a feeling… just being around her had an affect on me. The way I felt, the way I feel, when I'm around her is like no other feeling that I've ever had. The closer we got, the more sure I became that she was the one I wanted in my life. Her smile can melt me in a second, and just hearing her voice makes my day." Clark shook his head and laughed softly at himself. "I'm afraid that wasn't much help was it? It's just hard to explain. There's a connection between us that I had never felt with anyone else."
Jimmy had listened to Clark intently. "Thanks, CK. It was more help than you think." Jimmy was quiet, reflecting on something. "Clark… I think Lucy's the one for me." Clark's eyes widened at this, and he waited for Jimmy to continue. "There's this bond between us… we both feel it. At first I thought I was just because of almost dying a couple months ago, but this connection between us has only gotten stronger. Now that Lucy's opened herself up to me…" Jimmy took a deep breath. "So many things have changed. I love her CK, and she loves me… and I know she feels as strongly for me as I do for her."
"You're sure about this, Jimmy?" Clark was hopefully, but cautious.
"I've never been more sure of anything, CK." Clark looked at Jimmy and was surprised to see the intensity in the young man's eyes. "We want to be together. We want to spend our lives together."
Clark whistled low. "That's a pretty serious statement."
"It's true. We've talked about this, and we realize that we're lucky to have each other. We've been given a second chance to be together. Things are going great for us. I'm getting stories to write, and Lucy's deciding what she wants to do. The important thing though is that we're there for each other." Jimmy laughed softly. "I'm not making any sense, am I, CK?"
Clark shook his head. "No, but that happens when you're in love. Jimmy, if both of you feel this way, then all I can say is embrace it. You two have to follow your hearts."
Jimmy got up and put a hand on Clark's shoulder. "Thank, CK. I'm going to go out and see what I can dig up on this story." With a quick smile, Jimmy made his way out of the newsroom, leaving a bemused Clark.
Clark watched Jimmy go and shook his head. "I wonder what Lois is gonna think about this little development?"
Lois and Mary Jane walked into the Parkers' apartment at 344 Clinton with their hands full of packages. "This is a lot more than I planned to buy," Lois said as she sat down about a half-dozen purchases.
Mary Jane sat her stuff down and sat in a chair by the table. "Clark won't be mad, will he?"
"Of course not," Lois flashed a smile as she pulled out a box from a mall lingerie store, "especially not after he sees me in this."
MJ laughed a tired laugh. "I wouldn't think you'd bother with stuff like that for a man who can see through things… especially something as small as that tiny burgundy piece you bought."
Lois laughed a bit self-consciously. "No matter what planet he came from, Clark's still a man and he's 'mine'." She laughed again. "Besides, this isn't one-sided you know. I got him those silk boxers."
"He'll actually wear those?"
"If I ask him to," Lois said with a playful smirk. "Actually, all of this is a side of myself I never really knew I had until I met Clark."
As Lois reflected on a private memory, MJ regained some of her strength. "Really?" Mary Jane was still in the process of learning about her new friend. She had the definite impression that the only person who really knew Lois was Clark.
"Yeah," Lois said softly. "There's a side of me I only show Clark, and there's a side of Clark that he only shows to me."
"Sounds kinda intimate." Mary Jane went to get up, and then sat back down. "I had no idea shopping was so tiring."
Lois moved her chair closer to Mary Jane. "Are you okay? You look worn out. Peter had told us you weren't feeling well… but you look like could go to sleep sitting right there!"
Mary Jane shook her head. "I'll be okay. I guess I just picked up a bug in the Rotten Apple."
Lois nodded. "Let me get you an aspirin. It might help you feel better." Lois got up and headed to the kitchen.
"I think I can find my way around," Lois said with a laugh. She proceeded to go into one of the cabinets, get a glass and draw some water.
"I keep forgetting… this was your and Clark's first place."
"Actually, it was Clark's before it was 'ours', but yeah. It was the our first home." Lois went to the cabinet and pulled out a bottle of aspirin and retrieved two tablets.
"Do you ever miss it?"
"Sometimes." Lois put the water and aspirin in front of MJ. "We had a lot of great times here, but we're happy at the townhouse now. That's our home… and one day we'll have a family there."
Mary Jane smiled and took the aspirin. She took a deep breath and relaxed as Lois sat back down. "Lois, could I ask you a question?" Lois nodded. "How's Peter doing? He says he's fine, but I know better." Lois sighed and looked uncomfortable. "Lois, I know you don't want to add to the pressure Peter and I are under, but I really want to know. How is he?"
Lois nodded as she began to talk. "He's miserable. He tries to hide it, but Clark and I know better."
Lois shook her head slightly. "Not really. Sometimes he has this look in his eyes. I used to see it in Clark's eyes, and it took me a while to finally figure out what it meant. I promised myself I'd never forget it."
Mary Jane raised an eyebrow in curiosity. "So… what does it mean?"
"It means the most important thing in his life is missing."
Mary Jane was quiet for a moment. "I miss him too. In fact… that's why I came back early. Being sick had a small part of it, but I just couldn't concentrate. After we got the shoot done, I skipped out on the wrap party. I decided it was time for me to come home."
"I know Peter's happy to have you back home," Lois said as she took the opportunity to consolidate her purchases into fewer bags. "Once you're feeling better, and we get through whatever Mr. Allen's bringing us, I'd look for him to spend every waking minute with you. He's really dreading your shoot in Paris." Lois though for a moment and laughed at her idea. "I got it. Clark could fly Peter over to see you a couple times a week. I'm sure he'd love to do it. We'll talk it over tonight."
"That's not necessary, Lois." Mary Jane took a sip of her water.
"Of course it is! You two are our friends. If we can help, then we'll do it. Clark won't mind, trust me."
"It's not that, Lois." MJ took a deep breath, and voiced a decision she had made on the way home. "I'm not going to Paris."
"You're not going?" Lois could hardly believe her ears. "But isn't that the shoot that you jumped up and down about for a week when you found out they'd selected you?"
Mary Jane nodded her head slightly. "You've got to promise me you won't tell Peter just yet. He'd think that I'd given this up because of him, and that's the last thing I want." Lois nodded, well understanding the point MJ had made. "Lois, I'm home. I'm home and I'm comfortable for the first time in weeks. If I want to take a bath, I can. If I want to go shopping, I can. If I want to call up my friend, I can. If I want to touch or kiss my husband I can. Peter and I have waited so long to find a home for ourselves… someplace we belong. This last trip to New York… for the first time ever, I felt like I was completely out of place. It isn't my home anymore… Metropolis is."
Lois had listened intently to Mary Jane, and she understood her friend's feelings very well. "Well, it's only one shoot."
"Not exactly…" Mary Jane took another sip of the water Lois had brought her. "I'm thinking about dropping out of modeling altogether."
Lois' eyes widened at this. "Completely?" MJ nodded. "My, you're full of surprises today, aren't you?? I guess the next question is, why?"
"It's not just one thing, Lois. It's lots of things. The traveling's part of it… but there's more. I'm tired of it. I'm tired of posing in front of cameras for hours on end in positions the human body wasn't meant to be in. I'm tired of being paraded down runways wearing less than I do in the bedroom!" MJ grumbled briefly, and then continued. "Lois, I graduated magna cum laude from Empire State with my theatre degree and half the world thinks I have the IQ of a Brenda doll." Lois began to laugh, which caused Mary Jane to start laughing. "It isn't funny!"
Lois tried to stifle her laughing. "I know. I'm sorry. It's just that… for a second, you sounded a little like me?"
Mary Jane's laughter subsided. "I guess I did, didn't I?" She sat back and caught her breath. "Thank you. I haven't had a good laugh since I left for New York. It's so good to be home."
Lois smiled. "Well, if you drop modeling, what are you going to do? I really can't see you staying here at home. Not that anything's wrong with that… Do you want to go back to TV or the stage? Metropolis has some pretty good theatre companies."
"I think I'm burned out on all of this performance stuff. I want to do something new, something I'll be able to enjoy without wrecking my nerves."
Lois nodded. "If you insist. What kind of things do you enjoy doing?"
Mary Jane pondered the question for a minute. "I really enjoy writing."
"Really? What do you write?"
"Well, I've written some stage acts… but lately I've been writing…" Mary Jane leaned toward Lois and whispered, "romance novels."
Lois laughed happily and MJ responded with a grin. "I write them too! Actually, I've only written one… and I didn't finish that one."
"You should. I'd be interested to read it."
Lois cringed. "I don't think so. It's a long story."
"Lo-is… Talk to me." Clark watched his wife intently. He had just finished telling her about his conversation with Jimmy. Peter and Mary Jane, who also sat in the living room of the townhouse, watched Clark talk to his wife. "Honey?"
At first it was a snicker, then it turned into a giggle. "You imagine this day… and when it comes you're totally unprepared for it!!"
The expression on Clark's face was one of pure puzzlement. "Would you please explain that one?"
Lois laughed and pulled her husband into a quick embrace. "I'm happy! If they really feel that strongly about each other… it might mean that Lucy's actually going to put down some roots and settle herself." Lois hugged her husband again. "The messenger of this good news must be rewarded." Lois kissed Clark and the two only stopped when they heard Peter and Mary Jane giggle. "What's that about?"
Peter blushed as he tried to quiet his chuckles. "Nothing… just I was just telling MJ, 'why watch cable, we can always go to the Kents?'… that's all."
Clark's face had grown red, but Lois was quick with a comeback. "Sorry, Mr. Parker, the best part of our shows are private." Peter and Mary Jane began to laugh, which drew a nervous laugh from Clark.
"There is one downside to this," Clark pointed out. Lois' expression begged him to continue. "If they're really this in love… the next step is marriage… and we know what that means."
Lois' eyes widened. "A wedding!" She shook her head. "My mother!!!"
"Yeah." Clark looked to Peter and Mary Jane, who both looked lost. "It's a long story."
"Isn't everything around here?" Peter asked with a laugh. "We've never met your mom or dad, Lois. Maybe we will pretty soon?"
"Not if you're smart." Lois looked to Clark intently. "I think we should encourage them to elope."
"Not a bad idea. It should definitely be looked into."
Peter looked down at his watch. "Flashy should be here soon. We're going to give him the 'treatment', right?"
Clark smiled mischievously. "I like the way you think, Mr. Parker."
Lois giggled. "And to think, you were a mild mannered farmboy before you met me. I guess it's an even trade… a little of you rubs off on me and a little of me rubs off on you."
"So, that's what you two are doing all the time? Transferring 'character traits'?" Lois and Clark picked up throw pillows and tossed them at Peter. "Was it something I said??" Mary Jane was bent over laughing as her husband was assaulted by the fluffy pillows.
Just as Lois and Clark were about to launch an assault on Mary Jane, the doorbell rang. "You're safe, for now," Lois warned.
Clark and Peter got up and started walking towards the door. "Good hero, bad hero?" Peter asked with a grin.
"Paper, rock, scissors." Clark and Peter proceeded to play the game for the coveted position.
"Woohoo!" Peter laughed. "Rock breaks scissors!! I win!!"
Clark threw his hands to his side. "How come you get to be the bad hero?"
"I won," Peter pointed out. "Besides, you're a boy scout. Nobody would believe you acting anything but nice."
The doorbell rang again. "Oh, heroes?" MJ called. "Shouldn't one of you answer the door?"
Peter smirked at his wife. "She has a point."
Clark nodded and made his way to the door. He opened it and welcomed his guests warmly. "Barry!! Tina!! It's great to see you again! Come on in." Clark ushered them in as Barry started.
"Clark, you look great man. Marriage definitely agrees with you. You two found a great place." Barry came to an abrupt stop as he caught sight of Peter. "I'm sorry, Clark… I didn't think you'd have company over." He looked past Peter and saw Mary Jane. He then turned his head to convey his hesitation."
Clark sensed this, and tried to play a non-dramatic perspective. "Oh, Barry, Tina… I'd like you to meet Peter Parker and his wife Mary Jane. Peter's a photographer with the Planet and he's also a lab assistant at STAR Labs." Tina nodded, but Barry had seen Mary Jane.
"Jane Watson!!" Barry turned to Tina. "She's a model, Tina. I've seen you on TV. You're even more beautiful in person!"
Mary Jane looked to Lois with a smirk. "See what I mean," she said, picking up a thread from their earlier conversation.
Tina just 'looked' at Barry without saying a word. She didn't have to, and Barry quickly silenced himself on the issue. "If you're busy, we'll come back later. It's nothing earth-shattering."
Clark put himself between Barry and the door. "We'd really like it if you stayed and talked a while. We've got a lot to discuss."
"We do?" Barry looked to Tina who was as puzzled as he was.
As the scene played on, Lois leaned closer to Mary Jane and whispered, "Something's not right here." MJ agreed.
"Yeah, please stay, Barry… or do you prefer Flash?" Peter wore his best wicked grin, which even surprised Mary Jane.
Tina turned on Clark and was outraged. "Clark!! I can't believe this!! You told him about Barry??!!??!!!!"
Clark was having trouble not deriving some devious pleasure from the situation. "Relax, Tina… Peter's a club member too. Care to show 'em your card, Peter?" With a nod, Peter jumped up and caught the ceiling with his hands. He pulled his feet up with him, and soon he was standing on the ceiling itself. "Tina, Barry, meet Spider-Man."
Tina wasn't sure whether to be relieved or not, but Barry was ecstatic. "Spidey?! Wow!!!" Barry rushed over, reached up, and shook Peter's hand firmly. "Man, I've followed you for years… I've got news clippings of some of your fights!!!" Barry turned to Tina, his excitement barely contained. "He's Spider-Man!! Can you believe it? Wow!!"
"I know," Tina said dryly, rolling her eyes. "You've said that a few times know."
Barry had turned back to Peter, who had dropped to the floor. "We never really got to talk when we were on the SHIELD SkyBase. Man! I can't believe we're actually meeting like this!!" Barry turned to Clark. "Clark, this is one heck of a surprise! You need to work on your subtlety though… Lois must be rubbing off on you."
Lois frowned and crossed her arms. "Is there something wrong with that?"
Peter looked guilty and shrugged his shoulders. "Clark, I'm sorry. I can't go through with this."
Clark laughed for a second and nodded. "I understand Peter. We can both join the scouts tomorrow."
Lois and Mary Jane laughed from the living room. "What are you two talking about," Tina pleaded.
"We were playing good hero, bad hero, Tina," Clark explained with a grin. "We know why you two are here, and we had planned on giving you a hard time about it, but apparently Peter here isn't as good an actor as his wife." Clark shook his head, trying not to laugh.
"I never claimed to be." Peter looked to his wife. "She's definitely got that and a few other things over me." He winked.
"You know why we're here?" Barry didn't seem as much concerned as he did shocked. "How'd you find out?"
"First hand experience, Barry. Most of Metropolis knows by know. It was all over the five o'clock news," Clark said. Peter nodded.
"It was??" Barry and Tina asked in chorus.
Lois and Mary Jane had been observing the conversation and both had sensed something was amiss. Lois had noticed something and pointed it out to MJ. Barry and Tina were carrying themselves differently around each other. They stood closer, talked softer… But what Lois had noticed confirmed her suspicions. With wide-eyed nods, Lois and MJ decided they better rein in their husbands before it was too late.
Peter and Barry kept chatting away, talking in circles without mentioning any specifics. Clark turned his attention to Lois. "You might want to take another 'look' at the situation, sweetheart." Lois emphatically pointed at Tina's hand. Clark followed his wife's line of sight and noticed a diamond ring on Tina's finger.
Clark's eyes widened. "Peter, I think we'd better regroup."
Barry was confused and irritated. "Guys, I've got no idea what's going on around here. This is important to Tina and me, but I'd hardly consider it newsworthy."
"Peter…" Peter turned to see Clark trying to 'hush' him. Clark ticked his head toward Tina three times, which did not go unnoticed by the guests. Clark smiled nervously and hoped Peter would catch on.
Peter saw the ring and put together the pieces of the puzzle. He looked to Clark with the expression of a deer caught in the headlights. "They're not… are they?"
"They weren't the last time we talked." Clark sighed.
"But they're going to be, aren't they?"
"I think that's what the ring means." Clark closed his eyes and wished for a simple way out of the situation.
"What are you two talking about now?" Tina demanded.
"That you and Barry are going to get married," Clark offered meekly.
"Of course! That's the big news. Why else do you think we'd come all the way to Metropolis? We wanted to share the good news," Barry said enthusiastically. He then caught the expressions on Peter's and Clark's faces. "Why did you all think we came?"
Peter and Clark looked to each other and then to their wives who shrugged, leaving them to solve the problem. "Ah… Barry, there's someone else in town we thought you might be coming to see." Clark bit his lip. "Captain Cold showed up earlier today."
The color drained out of Barry's face. "I think I better sit down."
The six of them spent the next minutes talking, with Peter and Clark apologizing for their 'skit'. Barry wanted to know more about Cold, and Clark filled him in. Most of the conversation centered around the
announcement of Tina and Barry's two week old engagement. They talked until 7:50, when Peter and Clark had to leave.
"This shouldn't take long," Peter said lightly. "We'll see what J.J. wants, I'll make a snide comment, he'll tell me to get lost and I'll swing out of there. No problem."
Mary Jane gave her husband a quick hug and kiss. "Be careful, Tiger."
"Always, pretty lady." Peter turned to Clark. "You really don't have to come, Clark. I can do this alone."
Clark shook his head, then gave Lois a quick kiss. "You're not going alone. I never liked Jameson, and I definitely won't trust him. You've got no idea what he's up to." Peter relented.
"You two sure you don't need some back up?" Barry asked from his chair.
"We'll be okay, Barry. You four can talk, and we'll be back before the pizza arrives. How many are we ordering tonight?" Clark asked with a smirk.
Everyone looked to Barry, who blushed momentarily. "I'm not that hungry."
"I think we better go for four," Lois said with a laugh. "I'll fax the order in a few minutes."
Clark nodded and he and Peter left the townhouse. Mary Jane watched the door close. "So, what are we going to talk about while they're playing?"
Superman landed on the roof of the Metropolis Towers and Spider-Man swung in beside him. "Thanks for coming," Spidey said to Superman in a whisper. "I don't know what Jameson has up his sleeve, but I appreciate the backup."
"Hey, I wasn't about to let you go it alone." Superman scanned the roof area, which was littered with roof top entrances and coolant equipment. "The place looks deserted. I don't see anyone."
Spidey looked around cautiously. "That's strange. You'd think he'd be here… considering how he acted this morning."
Superman shook his head. "Let's be careful. This feels a lot like a trap." Superman looked around again.
Spider-Man stepped out in front. "Okay, Sourpuss. Parker told me you needed my help. Come on out let's get this over with." Silence hung in the air. Superman continued to scan unsuccessfully as he came to Spidey's side. All at once, Spidey felt panic as his spider-sense kicked in. "Look out!" he yelled, diving away.
Superman hadn't moved as quickly, thinking whatever was coming couldn't hurt him. An object came seemingly out of nowhere and flung him aside like a rag doll. Superman came to rest next to a rooftop air conditioner and surveyed the scene. He couldn't believe what he was saw.
"Scorpion!" Spidey shouted from his perch on a nearby flagpole. "So… this is Jameson's idea of a nice little get together. I wish he'd told me you were coming, I'd brought some coleslaw."
The Scorpion made a dash at the flagpole, but was restrained by Superman, who had gotten back on his feet and now held the Scorpion tightly. "I think you've got some explaining to do," Superman said as he struggled to hold the villain, who was thrashing about.
Spider-Man saw the Scorpion's tail flinch and new what was about to happen. "Watch his tail!"
Before Superman could do anything, the Scorpion's tail knocked him in the face. Superman let go and staggered backwards. "What's this guy made out of? Titanium?"
"Antimantinum," Spidey supplied. He shot a webline at the Scorpion's tale, but the villain easily broke the line. Superman regained his footing and approached the Scorpion again. Spidey jumped toward the Scorpion's back, but at the last moment the tail came around and swatted Spider-Man to the side like a beanbag. The Scorpion then brought his tail above his head and aimed it at Superman. Before the man of steel could do anything, the Scorpion activated his sonic disrupter. The high- pitched tone drove Superman back, then to his knees and finally he fell to the roof, unconscious.
Scorpion walked to where Spider-Man was laying. The hero stirred, but he wasn't coherent enough to know what was going on. The Scorpion wrapped him in his tail and took off across the rooftops of Metropolis.
Lois, Mary Jane, Tina and Barry sat in the living room making small talk. Lois and Mary Jane were happy for Tina. Even though Tina and Mary Jane had just met, they had instantly hit it off. Lois was happy Tina and Barry were getting together for her own reasons. "What convinced you two to quit playing around and get married?" Lois teased.
Barry rolled his eyes as Tina fielded the question. "Well… you know Barry and I've been friends for a while…" Tina hesitated before going further. "Well, I guess it's best just to say that in the past four years we've gotten really close."
Lois chuckled at Tina's inability to explain how she and Barry had gotten together. "Okay, I'll let you off the hook this time." Lois turned to Mary Jane and gestured toward Barry and Tina. "These two are worse than Clark and I ever could have been."
"Really?" Mary Jane asked playfully. "You've 'got' to fill me in."
"We're not all that bad," Barry said, trying to defend himself.
"Whatever." Lois smiled as she recalled her information on Barry and Tina. "Tina's the workaholic of these two. She's lead scientist as STAR Labs in Central City."
"She is?" Mary Jane nodded respectfully. "Peter's a lab assistant at STAR Labs part time."
Tina nodded, but didn't seemed to be impressed. Lois had been watching Barry, and was becoming a little irritated at his behavior. Ever since he had realized Mary Jane was also Jane Watson, the model, he had been 'looking' at her. He tried to be discreet, but Lois had noticed. Tina hadn't noticed, or if she had, she wasn't letting on. "I'm not a workaholic… I'm just dedicated."
Barry laughed. "You know the type, Lois."
"I used to." Her good humor fading, Lois was looking for anything to do that would take her out of the area. "I think I'll go fax our order to PizzaNet. Regular, Mary Jane?"
MJ nodded. "Yeah, sausage and pepperoni… extra cheese."
Lois made a mental note and looked to Barry and Tina. "Guys?"
"What do you think?" Tina asked with a smirk.
Lois shrugged and let a smile come back to her face. "Deluxe, right." She got up and started filling out the fax form.
Mary Jane, who had also noticed Barry's attention, tried to get the conversation rolling again. "So, Barry… Lois and Clark told us that you're a police officer."
"Yeah, I work in the crime lab. My family's been police officers for over five generations."
MJ raised an eyebrow. "So, you're a scientist too. Small world, huh?"
Lois fed the form through the fax. "Barry's also got some interesting character traits." Lois walked behind Mary Jane. "Mr. Allen has an eye for the ladies."
"I would never have guessed that," Mary Jane said in her best 'surprised' voice. "You have examples of course."
Tina laughed and jumped in with the other women. "He used to have a new lady friend every week. There were so many, I think I lost count."
"Hey!" Barry protested. "Whose side are you on?" Tina shrugged with a smile. "There wasn't one ever week either."
"I've got them written down back home. It was pretty close."
"You had my girlfriends written down? Be careful, that could be taken as jealousy by the right people."
Tina crossed her arms and rested back into the chair. "No comment."
Mary Jane sensed the need to rescue the conversation again. "So, Lois, how did you and Clark meet Barry and Tina?"
Lois rocked her head back and forth. "That's a little tricky to explain. Tina and I go back to before either of us met Barry or Clark. I did a story on chemical weapons, and my research brought me to STAR Labs in Central City."
"She accused my supervisor of working on a nerve gas project for the CIA."
"And…" Lois prompted.
"Okay, she was." Tina wasn't happy to admit the fact. "Lois and I didn't exactly get off on the right foot."
Lois nodded. "No, we didn't. In fact, when we met years later, we still weren't on the right foot. Clark had to do a lot of talking to get me to smile and be nice. It worked though."
MJ nodded, and Barry jumped in. "See… Clark brought Lois to Central City soon after she found out he was Superman. He had some kind of thought about telling her everything he knew."
"We don't keep secret's from each other," Lois said flatly.
"Yeah." Barry looked back to Mary Jane. "He came up with Lois and introduced me to her and I introduced them to Tina."
"You're leaving out one fact, Barry." Barry blushed and sunk back into his chair. "See… when Clark and I saw Barry at work, he didn't know that we were an 'item' so to speak… so, he made a pass at me."
"I wore her hand print on my face for two days." Barry's voice had no humor in it.
Mary Jane couldn't help but laugh. "Sorry, I really am," she said between breaths. "So, Barry… how did you first meet Clark?"
"He helped me catch Captain Cold once." Barry didn't elaborate.
"Well, I know how Barry and Peter met," Tina said reflectively. "They met when a group of heroes had gotten together to help Superman get rid of the Kryptonians in Kansas. Smallplace, right?"
Lois bit her lip. "Smallville," she corrected firmly. That had really gotten to her. Smallville was now her home too. She would have never thought she'd like life in the country, but she did. She realized she better find a way out of the situation before she said something she really wanted to. "The pizzas should be here in a little bit. Would anyone like something to drink?" Everyone nodded. "I hope everyone likes cream soda." Lois left for the kitchen, leaving Barry, Tina and MJ alone.
Barry watched her leave and made sure the kitchen door was closed before he said anything. "She's really changed a lot." Tina nodded in agreement. Barry got up and walked around the living room. He looked in on the fish and then got to the desk. He noticed the fax form and examined it closer. "Lois Kent? When did she start using Clark's name?"
Mary Jane cocked an eyebrow, not liking the tone of Barry's voice. "She's been going by Lois Kent since she married Clark as far as I know. The only thing she uses 'Lane' for anymore is her writing at the Daily Planet. What's the big deal?"
Barry held onto the fax and shook his head. "Well… I always kinda thought that… she married Clark because… he's Superman. I mean, it was pretty obvious to a lot of people that Lois 'really liked' Superman… I just found it hard to believe that she wanted him for the ordinary person." He shrugged as he put the fax down on the desk. "I'm kinda surprised that Clark accepted that she loved him for himself."
The room grew deathly quiet. Mary Jane was staring at the kitchen door and so was Tina. Barry's stare was drawn there too. Lois stood by the door… dead still. Very much in control, she walked to the living room table and put the sodas down, then she returned to the kitchen. Barry started to move toward the kitchen, but Mary Jane cut him off. "I think you've done enough." MJ left Barry and Tina and headed for the kitchen. Once there, MJ found Lois going through the cabinets. "You okay?"
Lois ignored the question. Instead, she went about her work. "I thought so. We're out of potato chips. We'll have to pick some more up at the store Thursday." Lois closed the cabinet and moved to the refrigerator. "We'll need some more cheese dip, too… and salsa… we definitely need salsa. For some strange reason Clark likes that stuff… Of course he can swallow bombs and inhale toxic gas, so that shouldn't be any surprise, right? We'll also need…"
"Lo-is!" Lois closed the door and faced Mary Jane. "Don't let that jerk get to you."
Lois shook her head. "I'm not upset… not a lot at least. Clark and I put those issues behind us. We realized if we were going to have a real future together, we had to leave some baggage behind. I just hate being reminded of all that stuff. I love Clark with all my heart and soul… and I know he knows that, and I know he loves me. I just wasn't expecting someone to walk into my own house and question why I married my husband and bring back these feelings… and I'm babbling again, right?" Mary Jane nodded with an understanding look on her face.
"I understand what you're saying, Lois." Mary Jane looked out toward the living room. "I can't believe he had the nerve to do that. I was going to ignore what he was doing to me, but not now. Uh-uh, nope."
Lois looked shocked at MJ. "You knew he was…"
"Staring at me? Looking me over? 'Ogling'?" Mary Jane laughed slightly. "Lois, I walk down runways wearing underwear. I can feel it when people look at me that way… and it really annoys me!"
Lois was a little shocked. "I didn't think you noticed."
"I'm good at ignoring it, that's all." MJ rested against the counter and sighed. "I didn't expect to have to deal with this tonight."
"Tell me about it." Lois stood beside of MJ. "You know what I think?"
"That Mr. Allen needs to be told not to cross the team of Kent and Parker?"
Lois nodded with a wicked smile on her face. "I like the way you think, Mrs. Parker." They both heard the front door opening and their faces brightened. "They're back! Let's go see what happened."
Lois and Mary Jane made their way quickly to the living room. Clark had come in, and he looked like he'd taken on a freight train and come out on the losing end. Lois hurried past Barry and Tina and took Clark by the arm. "What's wrong, sweetheart?"
Mary Jane was right next to him. "Clark, where's Peter?"
Clark, sat down on the couch and shook his head. "Mary Jane, I think you'd better sit down too."
Several minutes passed as the Scorpion made his way across the rooftops toward the warehouse district. Spidey was securely wrapped in the tail and only near the end of the trip had he come to enough to know what was happening. Before Spidey knew it, he had been dropped from the Scorpion's tail. Slowly, Spidey picked himself up off of the concrete floor. He surveyed his surroundings and realized he was in some kind of abandoned warehouse. What was worse, the Scorpion was right behind him and Superman was nowhere to be seen. Things got worse when a figure stepped out from the shadows. It was Jameson.
Before he knew what he was doing, Spidey pounced on Jameson. He grabbed Jameson by the collar and pulled him off the floor. "Okay, Jameson, where's Superman and what do you want with me!"
Jameson had obviously not been expecting this, but he hid whatever fear he may have had well. "As far as I know, Superman's all right where ever he is… he wasn't expected." Spidey tightened his grip. "I told Parker I needed your help, now are you going to help me?!"
"That depends on what I do in the next few minutes. I didn't exactly enjoy the delivery service. Have you ever heard of non-lethal invitations?" Spidey sensed the Scorpion moving closer and dropped Jameson to the floor. The Scorpion halted his advancement and withdrew again. "If these are the tactics you're using to sell the Yellow Bugle, then it's no wonder readership's down."
Jameson straightened his collar and tie. "I needed you to come to this place because I know it's secure. I couldn't be sure you'd come on your own. The two of us haven't exactly ever seen eye-to-eye."
Spidey crossed his arms. "We've never seen eye-to-eye on anything, Sourpuss. Why'd you bring Scorpy along, was Shocker busy?"
Jameson scowled angrily. "I brought him for protection, in case you decided not to help me."
Spidey shook his head briefly. "Protection? Exactly what do you need my help with? Don't tell me you managed to tick off the Fantastic Four?"
"It's a little bit worse than that." Jameson stepped back and sat down on a crate. "The Kingpin has put a contract out on me."
Under the mast, Peter arched an eyebrow. "Things must really be slow for the Kingpin to go after you."
"This is not humorous, Web Head. The Kingpin has hired Captain Cold to kill me, and I need you to stop him."
Spidey whistled lowly. "Man, J.J., you only attract the high price talent, don't you? What did you do to deserve this honor? Run over the Kingpin's dog with one of your paper trucks?"
"This is serious!! Would you stop making wise cracks for a minute? I'm asking you to save my life!"
"Why did he put the hit on you?" Spidey demanded again.
Jameson shook his head, but gave up and told Spider-Man what he wanted to know. "I ran an editorial a few weeks ago… identifying some of the Kingpin's business fronts. I guess the Kingpin wants to make sure I don't say anything else." Jameson sighed shakily. "I found out he hired Captain Cold when one of my informants was delivered to me in a block of ice. I guess he wanted me to know he was coming for me."
"How much more do you know about the Kingpin? Do you know who he is?"
"Nothing! No!" Jameson screamed defensively.
Although Spidey didn't believe this, he let the issue drop. "Okay, J.J., I'll save your miserable life and keep Captain Cold from making you a TV dinner… but it's gonna cost you." If Jameson could have only seen the smile Spidey had under the mask, he would've flipped.
"What are you talking about? You don't expect me to pay you money!"
"Of course not. I want something a lot more important than money. If I manage to save your sorry hide, I want you to print a retraction of every mean and slanderous thing you've ever printed about me. I want you to tell the people of New York that I'm not a hood. Then, you're never going to print another thing about me… ever again."
"That's the deal. It's either the retraction or the freezer."
"What if you don't stop Captain Cold?"
"Then you spend your life in the Kingpin's freezer, and I don't have to worry about running into you again." Spidey backed up and started to look for a way out.
Jameson grimaced and scowled. "Okay, Wallcrawler… you win. Just make sure you get that nutcase!"
"Thanks for the vote of confidence." Spidey rolled his eyes under the mask. He had to be crazy for doing this.
The Scorpion stepped forward to where Spider-Man and Jameson were standing. "Are you two done?" Spidey nodded and felt his spider-sense go off. He jumped out of the way, and the Scorpion grabbed Jameson with his tail. "Now I think I'll make 'my' demands!"
"Don't tell me you're working for the Kingpin too! You should have really gone with Silvermane… I hear he pays better." Spidey was clinging to one of the far walls.
"I'm in this for myself, Spider-Man." Scorpion jumped to the walls and started climbing for a skylight.
"So, what do you want? A million dollar ransom for the king of yellow journalism?" Jameson tried to say something, but the Scorpion shook him silent. "Hey!! He's not a rattle you know!"
"I don't want money! I want you to cure me!!"
"Reverse the neogenic mutation that made me this creature. I just want to be plain ol' Mac Gargan again." The Scorpion made his way closer to the skylight. "That's all I want."
Spidey jumped to the floor and walked closer. "Do you have any idea what you're asking for? The neogenic recombinator was destroyed. You were there when it happened. No one's been able to build another one."
"That's your problem, not mine. I'm going to give you 48 hours to come up with something to cure me. If you don't, then Jameson here won't have to worry about Captain Cold."
Spider-Man didn't doubt the Scorpion for a moment, but tried to bluff his way out of the situation. "What makes you think I care about what happens to Sourpuss?"
"You're a hero… you could never let anyone come to harm. Besides, if it wasn't for you, then I wouldn't be here. You've got to feel some kind of responsibility toward me."
Spidey stood still, unable to do anything. "I'll try my best, but I can't promise anything. Where can I get in touch with you?"
"I'll find you." The Scorpion climbed out the skylight, and then stuck his head back through. "Don't try to find me either, or there won't be enough of Jameson to put back together!" He disappeared with Jameson into the night.
Spidey swung up to the skylight and looked around once he was on the roof. He couldn't see any trace of them. He pulled his mask off and ran a hand through his hair. "This is definitely a Monday."
Mary Jane paced in the living room. She tried to look like she was in control of her emotions, but Clark and Lois knew better. Barry and Tina sat together quietly. Lois sat by Clark, who was holding an ice pack to his head. "I'm going to head out again in a minute. Now that my ears have stopped ringing, I hope I'll be able to pick up some kind of trail." Clark looked to Barry who was fidgeting in his chair. "Care to give me a hand, Barry?"
"I thought you'd never ask! All I'll have to do is grab my outfit from out hotel and I'll be ready to go."
"Just give me a couple minutes more to straighten out my head out. The Scorpion hit me with some kind of sonic blaster." Lois gave Clark a quick kiss on the head. "Thanks."
Lois left Clark to check up on Mary Jane. "Are you okay?" Lois asked in a soft voice. MJ nodded. "You're taking this a lot better than I would."
Mary Jane tried to smile. "Peter's been in tighter scrapes…" MJ looked to Lois, who she knew didn't believe her, and dropped her act. "Actually… I'm scared to death. I'm good at acting like I'm not scared. Sometimes he goes out… and I wonder if I'll ever see him again." Mary Jane fell silent and Lois took her into a hug. She didn't have to hear anymore. She knew what MJ was going through. "I shouldn't have let him go. I should have known Jameson would do something like this."
Clark had now joined them. He was upset with himself for letting all of this happen. "I should have been more careful. More observant."
"You did your best, Clark," Mary Jane said, trying to sound brave.
A knock came from the door and Clark went to open it. He didn't bother to scan the door before he opened it. Peter bounded into the townhouse, carrying four pizzas. Clark couldn't believe what he was seeing. "Peter!" Every head in the house turned to see Clark grab Peter and lift him off the floor.
Peter was shocked by the reception. "Hey! I knew you were hungry, but you don't have to hug the deliveryman!" Clark sat Peter down and took the pizzas from him. "I stopped the pizza guy on the way up here." Clark shook his head, still grinning, as Mary Jane wrapped her arms around her husband. "Hey! I'm okay… you'd think I was kidnapped by a scorpion or something." Mary Jane didn't respond, but just held him tighter. "I'm okay… really. Just a couple of bruises."
"I was scared to death." Mary Jane burrowed her head into her husband's shoulder. "I'm so glad you're all right."
"I'm okay… but I think our lives just got a lot more complicated."
They sat down and began to eat the pizzas as Peter explained how the Scorpion had taken him to Jameson. He also told them how the Kingpin had hired Captain Cold to kill Jameson and how the Scorpion had kidnapped the irritable newspaper man plus the demands he had made.
"Well, at least we know why Captain Cold came to town." Clark took a drink of his soda. "He must have tracked Jameson here from New York."
"I guess so, but something about this feels wrong." Lois grabbed a slice of pizza. "Why would the Kingpin hire the most expensive assassin we know of to take care of a newspaper editor for exposing some front companies? From what we know, most of New York's law enforcement already knew this. It doesn't make sense."
Clark nodded. "You don't think Jameson's telling the truth either, huh?" Lois shook her head. "That just complicates things. What if Jameson's just a target and someone else is the real target?"
Barry put up his hands at Clark's question. "Woah! I think you're trying to dig too deep in this. We know who to go after… the Scorpion and the Kingpin. Why look for a deeper meaning?"
"That's what good reporters do." Lois rubbed shoulders with Clark and grinned. "That's why we're the best." Barry went back to eating.
"What about the Scorpion, Tiger? Can you change him back?" Mary Jane grabbed a piece of pizza Peter had his eye on and started to devour it.
Peter watched the pizza disappear into his wife's mouth. "I don't know if I can do it," Peter said as he drank some cream soda. "Dr. Connors and I worked on building a neogenic recombinator for years before we gave up." MJ reached for another piece of pizza and Peter shook his head.
"Is Dr. Connors still working on a recombinator?" Lois reached to take her cola from Clark.
"He was when we left New York. I don't know about now. We had a working model of a decombinator… one that would only reverse mutation, but we could never get the energy beam focused just right."
"What focused the energy in the original recombinator?" Tina had switched back to science mode and was trying to figure out how to help.
Peter shook his head. "We're not really sure. The original recombinator was built by Dr. Stillwell. We know it used composite coils, but we never knew what they were made of."
"Why don't we just fake a recombinator… we could take the Scorpion out before he did anything." Barry devoured two more slices of pizza.
Peter frowned. "I told you what he said about me being the reason he's like he is. He's right, I do feel responsible for him."
"You never really expanded on that, Peter… How are you connected to this Scorpion? Clark rested back and put his arm around Lois.
Peter thought back to the incident as he told the story. "It all happened a couple months after I became Spider-Man. Jameson was convinced I was a crook, and he was doing everything he could to catch me." Peter sighed and rested against his wife's shoulder. "He had put up rewards for my mask or my costume. I guess he got frustrated though, because he took things a step farther."
Clark shook his head. "Has anyone ever noticed our lives sound like comic book plots sometimes?" Lois elbowed him into silence.
Peter smiled and nodded slowly. "Jameson began to pour money into Dr. Stillwell's research… and the result was the recombinator booth." Peter looked up to see if everyone was following him, which they were. "Jameson found this two-bit hood on the street named MacDonald Gargan. From what I'm told he was a bit on the light side… No big muscles… no real talent… He was the kind of guy who's always at the bottom of the ladder. Well, Jameson found him… and offered to make him strong and powerful."
"Stillwell turned him into the Scorpion, didn't he?" Lois asked, appalled at what she was hearing.
Peter nodded sadly. "Stillwell fused Gargan into a scorpion suit and gave him the proportional power of a scorpion, the natural enemy of the spider. Jameson gave Scorpion a simple mission: track down Spider-Man, and smash me into as many pieces as possible. Scorpion came after me, and I managed to defeat him. Once Gargan found out there was no way to turn him back… he lashed out at Jameson and Stillwell. He's spent the last few years stealing to get by… and trying to find someone who can change him back. I guess when Jameson hired him to come here, Gargan figured he had a shot at becoming normal again. I can't really blame him for what he's doing… The chance to be normal again…" Mary-Jane wrapped her arm through his and laid her head on his shoulder.
Clark nodded. "Okay, let's try to find a cure. If we get rid of one supervillain, the world's bound to be a better place." Everyone nodded in agreement. "Peter, would it help if you had that prototype to work on?"
"Yeah, it would… but I doubt Doc Connors could get it here in time to be of much use."
"Give him a call tonight. If he'll loan it to you, I'll fly up to New York and bring it back."
Peter nodded happily. "Okay, thanks. I've got the lab to myself for the next couple of days since Dr. Klein's out of town. That should help things a great deal."
"Would you care for a little help?" Tina asked. "One of my specialties is genetic manipulation." Peter nodded eagerly.
"How about me?" Barry asked in an irritated voice. "I'm a scientist too, you know?"
"I'd appreciate all the help I can get."
Lois had listened to the conversation and had even asked a couple of questions, but they had all missed one point. "You know, we've forgotten something here. The Scorpion may have given us 48 hours, but I doubt if Captain Cold's going to just sit back and wait for Jameson to show up. He's going to be out there looking for him."
Clark nodded. "He'll freeze the city until he finds him. Why can't things ever be simple?" Clark looked over to Barry. "Any ideas where he could be? You've dealt with him more than me."
Barry grimaced briefly until Tina elbowed him. "Lois is right. He's probably out there hunting for Jameson right now. He'll probably keep an eye on the last place Jameson was seen."
"We don't know what hotel he was staying at," MJ said thoughtfully.
"Maybe we don't have to." Everyone looked to Clark. Lois realized what he was thinking and nodded. "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
"Most of the time. The last place Jameson was 'seen' was the warehouse district. He had to get there somehow, and I doubt if he had the Scorpion carry him over. Cold's probably headed there already."
"Or he's already been there and left," Barry said solemnly.
Clark shook his head. "I don't think so. Somebody would've seen him, and they would've called the police. I would've heard something."
Peter nodded. "So, what do we do? Go there and wait for him to show up?" Peter looked at his wife. "I kinda had other plans tonight."
Mary Jane put an arm around him. "It's okay, Tiger. We've got plenty of time to spend together…" She caught herself before she said anything more. "Go and take care of this nut case, okay?" Peter nodded.
"Count me in." Barry shook his head. "It's worth a try."
Clark stood and Lois was immediately at his side. "Listen, the sooner we get going, hopefully the sooner we can get this over with. Wouldn't it be nice to have only one supervillain to deal with?" Everyone in the room had to agree.
Jimmy Olsen sat at a desk in the newsroom of the Daily Planet, looking over land grant maps, variance sketches and blueprints. He looked at one, put it down and reached for another. Disgusted, he dropped the map he was reading and laid his head on the desk. "This is going nowhere."
Jimmy felt a pair of hands on his shoulders and looked up to see Lucy Lane standing over him. "How much longer are you going to be working on this?" she said gesturing with her head to the stack of documents.
Jimmy shook his head. "I don't know. I thought there was a story here… more than just a variance request. I guess I was wrong."
Lucy let go of Jimmy and sat beside him on a chair she pulled up. "What made you think there was something more here to begin with?"
"A feeling." Lucy raised an eyebrow as Lois often did when she wanted a more detailed explanation. "Okay, it was a little more than a feeling. MetroChemical already has a huge lot for their trucks… Why do they need another one?"
"Maybe… There's just something here that doesn't quite fit. Look at this." Jimmy pulled out a map and started pointing to areas. "There's plenty of properties closer to the main plant than the area they want."
"That does seem strange, doesn't it?" Jimmy nodded. "It doesn't prove anything though, does it?"
Jimmy shook his head. "I just have the feeling that I'm missing something here." Lucy gave him a quick hug and he held onto one of her hands. "Thanks, I needed that."
Lucy smiled and held his hand. "I'm always there for you. You know that."
"I know." Jimmy managed a weak smile. "That is just one of the things I love about you."
"And I love you too, Mr. Olsen."
Jimmy rested back and smiled happily. "I guess I was just hoping for something that wasn't there." He shrugged. "Let's talk about something else… like when we're going to tell Lois and Clark about your decision."
"Our decision," Lucy corrected Jimmy with a smile.
Jimmy slightly blushed and squeezed her hand. "I really think it was your decision… I only asked the question. You came up with the answer."
She squeezed his hand securely. "Well, as I recall… you were pretty pleased with the choice I made, weren't you?"
Jimmy gazed into her eyes and smiled. "If this is really what you want, then I'm happy."
"You know it's what I want." She sighed contentedly. "I think Lois and Clark will be happy, don't you?"
Jimmy nodded. "I think so… I talked to CK a little this afternoon… so I don't think this'll come as a total surprise to him… and he's probably told Lois already."
"That's a good thing. My sister doesn't handle surprises very easily." Lucy smiled happily. "Why don't you write up something about MetroChemical's application for the variance and leave it at that. It's still early and we could have a better time somewhere else." Jimmy nodded. Lucy looked over to his drinking glass, which was empty. "I'll go get you some water, okay?"
Jimmy nodded and Lucy went to get the water. Jimmy moved the papers aside and pulled over the keyboard. As Lucy came back with the water, her foot caught the leg of a nearby desk and she lost her balance, sending the plastic cup out of her hand. The cup landed on the floor and the water flowed. Jimmy heard Lucy grumble and headed over to her. "You okay?"
"Yeah… I spilled your water all over the floor though."
Jimmy looked down at the puddle. "It's nothing, just some… water." He watched as the water flowed. "That's it… Lucy!! That's it!" Jimmy rushed back to the desk, dragging Lucy along with him. He pulled out some maps and sketches. "I knew I was missing something… look!"
Jimmy pointed to a marking on one of the maps. "What's that?" Lucy asked.
"That's an underground water well and this over here's been marked as a dry well." Jimmy circled the two marks. Lucy nodded. Jimmy took out a sketch of the lot and overlaid it on the map. "Look at this." Jimmy flipped between the two papers several times.
Lucy's eyes widened. "They're planning on piping the drainage into that empty well!"
Jimmy nodded, but his face was grim. "What if it's not just water drainage though? What if they're planning on using it to drain something else. They've got to clean those tankers out… and there's always chemical residue in the water. If they drain that residue into the well…"
"They could contaminate the whole city's water supply!!" Lucy looked at the plans again. "Jimmy, this 'is' big!!"
Jimmy nodded as he picked up the phone. "It might get bigger… take a look at who owns the land they want to put the lot on."
Lucy did and felt her stomach drop. "Thomas Walden!. He's the…"
"Controller of the planning board," Jimmy finished. He dialed a phone number and waited. "If what we think is true…" The party on the other end of the line answered. "Chief! I'm sorry to bother you so late, but I think I'm onto a big story… A 'really' big story."
The sound of metal freezing filled the air. A section of a wall turned to ice. A moment later, the wall fractured and fell apart, leaving the floor littered with frozen pieces of metal and concrete. Captain Cold walked into deserted warehouse with his freeze rifle resting on his shoulder. He looked around himself as he walked. "Come on Jameson. Come meet the cold hand of death." He laughed coldly. "It wasn't too hard to find the taxi driver who brought you here." He heard a sound and looked around again. "Let's get this over with."
"I'm afraid you made the trip for nothing, Cold." Superman floated out from behind a stack of abandoned crates.
"We figured you'd come here, so we decided to throw you a little going away party." Spider man hung upside down on a webline. "We spent a lot of time on this, but your reaction's left me a little chilly."
Cold looked up to Spider-Man. "Well, the amazing Spider-Man. I'm surprised you're trying to help Mr. Jameson. From everything I've been told, he's made your life quite miserable… so much so you decided to leave New York for Metropolis."
Spidey snickered. "Hey, I'd love to see jolly Jonah get some sense knocked into him, but I'm one of the good guys and we don't let the bad guys win."
"And you're definitely one of the bad guys." Captain Cold turned to see the Flash staring him down. "Hello, Cold. I'd like to say it's nice to see you again, but you're not going to be around that long."
Cold began to laugh heartily. "I am consistently amazed at the egos of you superheroes. Do you practice these lines, or what?"
Before anyone could respond, Freeze spun around and fired his rifle at Spidey's webline. The webline froze, crackled and broke, sending Spidey to the floor. Spider-Man recovered, landed on his feet and shot a web net at Cold. With another blast of the rifle, the web net froze and crashed to the floor in a million pieces. "Man!! I've gotta start using anti-freeze!!" He sprung out of the way to rethink his situation.
The Flash made a dash at Cold, but the villain froze a section of the floor and the Flash slipped. His momentum carried him sliding into some wooden crates. The scarlet speedster groaned in pain.
Superman floated to the floor. "It's just you and me now, Cold. We've got a score to settle."
"If you insist." Cold aimed the rifle and fired. Instead of a freezing blast, this time the air turned into a column of ice. The battering ram hit Superman square in the chest, sending him flying across the warehouse. He hit the far wall, leaving an impression of his body.
"Why don't you just give me Jameson?" Cold demanded, impatiently. "The sooner I have him, the sooner I leave."
"It won't be that easy for you!" Spider-Man jumped from behind some boxes at Captain Cold. Instantly, the parka-clad villain created an ice wall between them. Spidey smacked into the wall and slid down to the floor. "I've gotta start watching where I'm going."
Superman freed himself of the metal wall, and walked toward Captain Cold. "Want to give that another try?"
Cold accommodated Superman and fired the rifle. Superman met the ice ram with his heat vision and melted it. As he intensified his powers, Superman fought back the cold beam. Cold started worrying about the nuclear accelerator becoming overpowered, and dodged out of the way as he turned the rifle off. "So, the three of you insist on acting like comic book heroes?"
"There's nothing wrong with that." The Flash stood to Superman's left and Spider-Man pulled himself up to stand at Superman's right.
Cold smiled a chilly smile, and pulled something from his parka. Before anyone could stop him, he pressed a button on the object and threw it at the heroes. Superman stepped out in front of the other two men, shielding them with his own body. "Get back!" The metallic ball landed at his feet and exploded in a burst of iciness. The air became thick with cold fog and in the explosion, Spidey and Flash were knocked to the floor. As the air began to clear, they got to their feet.
The Flash looked around them and grimaced loudly. "Blast! Cold got away!"
Spidey nodded, but had other worries. "Where's Clark?" Spider-Man looked behind them and caught his breath. "Oh, no!!" Spidey leaped to the block of ice that contained his friend. "He's frozen solid!"
"How'd he get back here? He was in front of us." Flash examined the ice block and shook his head. "This isn't good." He rolled his mask back.
Peter pulled his mask off and examined the ice more closely. "He must have gotten thrown back when that cold bomb exploded." Peter ran his hand across the ice. "He's encased in the ice… Come on Clark!! Snap out of it!!" He pounded on the ice. "Come on!!! Break out!!"
Peter's words seemed to have struck a chord. The ice began to vibrate and fracture in places. The cracking intensified, and Peter and Barry turned away to protect their faces. The ice exploded, and Superman emerged from the ice block. He collapsed to the floor, gasping for air. Peter was by his side in a moment while Barry held back. "Peter… remind me to 'never' do that again, okay?"
"I'll tell Lois to remind you," Peter said with a grin. Clark sighed, and rested. "So much for plan 'A'."
Lois watched Clark laying in their bed. He looked much better than when he had come home. Peter and Barry had told her what had happened, even as Clark was telling her he was fine. She had put her foot down and ordered him go to bed. She had changed into her nightgown, and now she climbed in beside him. "Feeling better?"
Clark nodded. She snuggled up to him and he kissed the top of her head. "Much better actually."
"That's good to hear."
"I was just a little fatigued… that's all." He wrapped one of his arms around her and enjoyed the feel of her against him. "It's been a long day, even for us." He thought back quickly and tried to pull together some things from the day. "Hey, what was it you were going to tell me before Peter and Mary Jane came over? I remember you saying it was about MJ and the shoot in Paris, but then they got here and that's as far as it went."
Lois pulled herself up a little. "Now, we've gotta keep this a secret… MJ doesn't want Peter to know. Okay?" Clark nodded, intrigued. "She's not going to Paris… and she's not going to do any more shoots. She's going to quit modeling."
Clark raised an eyebrow in surprise. "I didn't see that one coming."
"Neither did I," mused Lois. "She just wants to do something she enjoys for a change. After this stuff with Cold is all over, I'm going to help her find something new to do."
"Sounds like a plan, partner. I guess making that choice made her feel a lot better. She looks like she's over that cold Peter said she had. Did you see how much pizza she ate tonight?" He laughed, recalling an image. "It's gonna take a while to forget Peter's expression when she reached in and got that last piece. He'd been eyeing it himself."
Lois giggled and smiled. "She was acting like she felt better. She was tired this afternoon after shopping, but I guess being home speeds the recovery, huh?"
"I know it does for me." He settled back and relaxed some more. "You know, I noticed something tonight."
Lois squirmed for a moment, having a pretty good idea what was coming. "Oh? What did you notice?"
Clark sighed, and realized he'd have to go the long way on this. "Over the pizza, you and Mary Jane kept looking at Barry… and I know the look you were giving him." Lois cocked an eyebrow and gave Clark her 'oh, yeah… prove it' look. "It's the same look you give to things you wish would burst into flame… or have 'accidents'." Lois shrugged. "What did Barry do while Peter and I were gone that put him on the hit list of not one formidable woman, but two?"
Lois shook her head slightly. "Nothing much…" Clark squeezed her and her resistance melted. "Okay… the whole time we were talking in the living room while you were gone, he kept staring at Mary Jane like… well, you know…"
Clark nodded, not really surprised at Barry's actions. "What do you expect… Sometimes I wonder if Barry outgrew puberty. So she got mad because he was looking at her like that, right?" Lois nodded. "And you got mad at him for the same reason?"
"Well… that did irritate me. That kind of behavior's always bugged me. I mean you were never 'that' obvious, and I did kinda appreciate it… even back when were 'just' friends…"
"Lo-is." Clark turned over and looked at her eyes. "What did he do to make 'you' mad at him. I know the look you had too well. I lost count of how many times 'I've' been on the receiving end."
"Don't remind me." She lowered her eyes away from his. "He… I had gone into the kitchen to get some drinks… and I came back as he was telling Tina and Mary Jane how he thought… that I only married you because you were Superman." Clark sighed heavily and hugged her securely. "Then he said that he didn't know how you could ever accept that I loved you for yourself." She sighed and turned away. She could feel her eyes watering. She sniffed and Clark gently pulled her back to to face him.
With her facing him once again, he wiped away the unshed tears. "Lois, I know you love me, the real me, and in case I haven't told you enough today, I love you. Barry doesn't know us, either of us, well enough to say something like that." He realized he wasn't doing a good job of comforting her. "Look at me." He coaxed her eyes up and smiled. "When you look at me… when you touch me, I know who it is you're seeing and touching. I know it's me, Clark." He took he hand and put it over his heart. "I can feel it here."
Her eyes were watering again, but now she was smiling. "You are without a doubt the best thing that ever happened to me."
Clark smiled, radiantly. "And you're the best thing that happened to me." He kissed her forehead. "Are you feeling better now?"
She smiled back to him. "Yeah. I have no idea what I'd do without you." She reached to hold him. "You have made me so happy, you know that?" She kissed the tip of his nose.
"I know, and I feel the same way." He laid his head on hers. "So, Barry's gonna get it, huh?"
Lois giggled loudly. "You know it! Don't say a word either. He's gonna get 'everything' that's coming to him."
Clark chuckled. "Well, I'm sure you and MJ will come up with something very fitting." Clark settled back and took a deep breath. "You know, I've said it before, but it feels like our life's a TV show sometimes. The writers feel they just gotta throw in a villain or some turmoil to make things interesting."
Lois smiled, teasingly. "Well, I wish those writers would lay off the villains and write us a steamy love scene here pretty soon. You know, a night of unbridled passion, lots of kissing, holding and other things." She turned slightly and kissed his throat right where she knew it would turn him on the most. "I wish we had a writer around here someplace."
"I think I can write a scene or two like that." He turned over and kissed her neck and then her cheek. "You like my writing so far?"
Lois moaned happily. "Impressive writing, Mr. Kent… but why are you stopping? This is normally the part where the man runs his hands up and down the woman's body."
"Oh, it is?" Clark followed her prompting and was pleased with the results. "Do I need to be more descriptive?"
Lois moaned softly as she kissed him. "You're doing okay, but you're supposed to put your hand under my gown right now."
"Oh, really?" Clark leaned over and nibbled her ear. "I think I'm gonna need help writing."
Lois wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him for as long as she could. "Clark… enough talking… let's write."
Peter walked over to the vanity where his wife was brushing her hair. "You look like you're feeling better." He gave her a quick kiss on the nape of the neck and crawled into bed.
"I am. It helps just to be home." She saw Peter watching her from the mirror. "I'll go to the doctor tomorrow, just to make sure. Satisfied?"
Peter nodded. "I guess that pizza helped you feel better tonight too. I haven't seen you put away that much in a while." He chuckled and laid back.
Mary Jane had finished with her hair and now slid into the bed, propping herself up against the headboard. "I was just incredibly hungry tonight. I didn't really get to eat that much in New York."
Peter reached for her hand and squeezed it. "I am so glad you're home." MJ smiled back warmly and squeezed back. "I'm gonna hate it when you're in Paris, but I'll manage… somehow."
MJ bit her lip. "Peter…"
Peter smiled and shook his head. "Let's not talk about it right now. Let's just enjoy ourselves tonight. We've earned it. I hope you know that this wasn't exactly what I had planned for your first night back."
MJ smirked playfully. "So, you didn't plan two supervillains and a lunatic to welcome me home?"
Peter shook his head. "Not really. I was planning a nice romantic night alone… candlelight dinner… you know, that kinda stuff."
"Ooh." She leaned over and rested her head on his shoulder. "Sounds nice… we'll have to do it sometime soon." She rested for another moment, just content to be beside her husband for the first time in weeks. "How long do you think it's gonna take us to get rid of the out of town company?"
Peter shrugged as he held her tightly. "I don't know, but hopefully it won't take long to get this all settled. The moment I saw Jameson come out of that elevator, I knew something bad was gonna happen… just like I knew something happened over at the Kents' tonight."
Mary Jane looked at Peter and silently grimaced. He knew her as well as he knew himself, and sometimes better, so it really didn't surprise her he'd figured out 'something' had happened. "What makes you think something happened?"
He took one of her hands and held it gently. "You're talking to me, remember? I saw the way you were 'eyeing' Barry tonight over the pizza. It was the 'drop dead and immediately decay' look, wasn't it?"
Mary Jane giggled and nuzzled her husband. "Okay. Something did happen. Barry made an offhand comment that Lois heard… He said he thought she only married him because he was Superman and that he didn't know how Clark could accept that she really loved him."
"Woah." Peter shook his head. "That's not all of it though, is it? You're pretty 'irritated' at him too… He was giving you the onceover, wasn't he?"
MJ was momentarily shocked. "How did you know?"
"Hon, it wasn't hard to notice. From the moment he saw you in the townhouse he kept staring at you." He sighed and squeezed her gently. "And yes, it did bother me… but I figured you'd want to handle it in your own way. Am I right?"
"Right as usual, Mr. Parker. Lois and I are going to get him good before he leaves town. It will be something fitting… I assure you."
Peter laughed and relaxed. "Life is good."
MJ propped herself up from his embrace and looked at him lovingly. "Okay, I've told you something, now you tell me… what have you decided about the decombinator?"
"I… uh…" MJ raised an eyebrow, waiting for the explanation. "Okay… I was going to tell you as soon as I knew whated I want to do."
"Then you 'are' thinking about using it on yourself, aren't you?"
He nodded slowly. "How could I not? If this works… it might be my chance to be normal again."
"But… Come on, open up, Tiger."
"Do I want to be 'normal' again. I gotta admit… if this had happened in New York, I don't think there would've been much doubt about what to do. Now that we're in Metropolis… I've been able to do so much good in just the short time we've been here. Then there's Clark. I'd feel like I was letting him down if I give up Spider-Man and I guess I'd also feel like was abdicating this responsibility I have." He took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
MJ put her arms around him and just held him. "Just promise me we'll talk about this together before you make a choice, okay?"
"Of course." MJ smiled as he gave her a quick kiss. "We better get some sleep. I gotta get to the lab in the morning, and you've got a doctor's appointment tomorrow afternoon."
"Actually… I had other plans for my first night home."
Peter smirked. "You did now? Exactly what did you have in mind?" Mary Jane took her hand and rubbed it across his chest. "Ohh… that." Amid giggles and laughs, Mary Jane Parker was properly welcomed home by her husband.
"I have never been so humiliated in my whole life, Barry!" Tina stomped around the hotel room as Barry sat in a chair, trying to get a word in edgewise, and failing miserably. "You go into someone's house as a guest, and you insult them." Barry raised his hand, trying to get a chance to talk, but it didn't work. "'That' wasn't good enough for you though… Oh, no. You've got to go and 'ogle' their friend."
Tina turned on Barry sharply. "Mrs. Parker. I don't care if she is some model… You were shameless, Barry… worse than a teenager." She sighed deeply and then flopped down in a chair across from Barry. "You do all of this, and you've got to pick the wives of two superheroes to do it to!" She stopped her tirade and just watched Barry for a moment. "Well, do you have anything to say for yourself??"
Barry tried to say something, but he was totally flabbergasted. "I'm sorry?" was the best he could manage.
"You're going to be. You questioned Lois' love for her husband in her own home. You're lucky that Clark isn't over here right now playing spin the top with you. The fact he isn't means you're in for worse though."
"Lois… You think she'll try to do something to me?"
"In a heartbeat! Before we get back home, I'm sure you're going to get what's coming to you."
Barry watched Tina who was staring at him. He felt very uncomfortable. "So… exactly how mad are you at me?"
"Mad." She squinted menacingly.
Barry shifted uncomfortably in the chair. "So… exactly how long are you going to be mad at me?"
"Not long," Tina said relaxing a little. "I'll probably forgive you by the time we go home."
"I really am sorry."
"Then show me you're sorry. Apologize to both of them before we leave and try to control yourself a little. I'm going to be your wife, and I'd like it if you acted like that means something, okay?"
Barry moved forward in his chair. "Tina, you know I love you… and I know I need to do a better job of showing you that." He got out of the chair and walked to her. He took her hand and got down on his knees. "I love you." He kissed her hand.
Tina relaxed and finally smiled. "I love you too." She sighed. "Why can't I ever stay angry at you for as long as I want?"
"I don't know, but I'm happy you can't." Barry smiled widely, and against her will, Tina smiled even wider. He ran his hand through her hair and she rested her head against his hand. "How about I show you how much I love you right here?"
"By all rights I should be making you sleep on the couch tonight." Tina felt her resolve slip and gave into her feelings as Barry gave her a quick kiss. "I guess it would be awfully cold in there without you though."
"Is that an invitation?"
"Would you stop playing around and kiss me already?"
Lois and Clark walked into the newsroom of the Daily Planet, more than a little bit shocked. Clark held the source of the amazement in his hands. It was the morning paper, with the headline "METROCHEMICAL PLANS ENDANGER CITY" by James Olsen. "I still can't believe this," Clark said as they made their way to Lois' desk. "He said he thought there was something more to the story than what was in the notes, but I never expected this."
Lois took the paper and admired the headline again. "It's some article." She smiled, proud of what their young friend had accomplished. "Ralph would have never done as good a job." She sighed and sat down. "I can remember when Jimmy first came here… he was so… young. Now he's writing front page stories." She half-laughed and shook her head. "Let's change the topic. When did you sneak out of bed this morning to deliver the 'package' to Peter?"
Clark grinned. "I got up around four. It only took me a little while to run up to New York, grab the package and tuck it in at STAR Labs. I put it in Peter's work locker. I was back in bed before your feet got cold." He smiled and put his hands on her shoulders. "Peter, Tina and Barry should be working on it by now." Clark looked up and he caught sight of Jimmy rounding a corner. "Well… look at here."
Lois looked up and saw Jimmy. "James Olsen!! Get your butt over here." Jimmy's head popped up and he saw Lois motioning him over.
Like a man on the way to the gallows, Jimmy walked toward Lois and Clark, who was covering his mouth to keep from laughing. He couldn't figure out what he'd done wrong. He thought they'd be happy for him. Instead, it looked like Lois was about to cut him down. He got to her desk and took a deep breath. "What's up, guys?"
Clark stepped back as Lois got up. "I've only got one thing to say to you, Mr. Olsen." Jimmy stood dumbfounded as Lois grabbed him by the arms and pulled him into a hug. "Congratulations!!"
Clark laughed and joined his wife. He put a firm hand on Jimmy's shoulder. "Congratulations, Jimmy. That was a good article. Your article's been out only a couple of hours and already the DA's announcing a probe into the planning commission. They're so used to watching out for Lois that they didn't know what hit 'em."
Lois laughed lightly. "You did a wonderful job, Jimmy. I don't think Ralph could have done a better job. Actually, I doubt he could have done 'as' good a job."
"You two really think so?"
"Really," Clark said with a smile. "You have good instincts, Jimmy. You felt there was more there from the beginning. I'm impressed."
"So was I." Lois, Clark and Jimmy looked around to see Perry standing near them. "Son, that was one helluva story. Great job, and I gotta agree with Lois. I doubt Ralph could have done as good a job. Speaking of whom, I still need you to track his hide down so I can check him into heartbreak hotel. Now skedaddle and let me know what you find out." Jimmy nodded and headed off once again to find Ralph. Perry turned to Lois and Clark. "I'm gonna hate loosing him."
"Lose him?" Clark asked wearily. Lois stepped closer to Clark.
Perry nodded. "He just broke into the big leagues. I imagine there's a number of offers heading his way. The Star's probably already put together a package deal by now."
"Do you think he's ready to go on his own? I mean he did a great article… but don't you think he needs a little more time. If he goes in green, he could get crushed." Lois shook her head and sighed.
"He's got real talent, Chief. I'd hate to see him get knocked off the ladder just when he started climbing."
Perry held up his hands. "I agree with both of you, but it really isn't my choice, or yours. When opportunity knocks, it's wise not to give it the cold shoulder." The three of them stood silently for a few moments until Perry decided to break the silence. "Mary Jane called in and told me Peter's going to be working at STAR Labs today. I would've thought he'd want to spend the day with her."
"He does, Chief… but a certain 'situation' came up that he had to take care of."
Perry nodded. "Is she feeling all right? She sounded a bit under the weather when I talked to her a bit ago."
"She did?" Lois looked to Clark, a bit concerned. "She acted like she was feeling better last night, I wonder what happened?"
Clark shrugged. "Maybe she 'overexerted' herself last night," Clark suggested with a mischievous grin.
Lois rolled her eyes, and Clark could have sworn Perry blushed just a little. "Maybe. It was her first night home." Clark grinned and Lois elbowed him playfully. "Go get us some coffee." He nodded and made his way to the coffee maker. Lois was still smiling.
Perry cleared his throat. "Well… as soon as this 'situation' gets taken care of, I'm gonna give Peter a day or so off. I'm sure he'll want to spend as much time with his wife before she heads off on that Paris shoot." Lois nodded, not quite knowing what to say, but Perry didn't wait for her to speak. "It's a shame we couldn't find her something to do here in Metropolis. I hate to see them apart from each other." Perry seemed to ponder a point for a moment. "She wouldn't consider doing something besides modeling would she? Naah."
Clark had returned with the coffee and handed a cup to Lois. "I wouldn't be too sure about that, Perry." Lois decided to choose her words very carefully. "It it's one thing I've learned, it's that anything is possible around here."
Perry smiled happily. "Now 'that' is true." The trio didn't have a chance to say anything else, as Jimmy ran up to them out of breath. "Hold it son, what's the rush? You look like you just saw the Colonel looking for Elvis."
Jimmy shook his head. "Not quite Chief. I found Ralph." Jimmy handed Perry a rolled up newspaper. As Perry opened the newspaper, Lois and Clark flanked him to get a view of the front page. The paper was The Washington DC Gazette, and one of the front page stories was written by Ralph. "I called them up and confirmed it. He's working for them as a staff writer, and he's been there for a couple weeks."
Lois, Clark and Jimmy waited for Perry to explode, but surprisingly he didn't. Instead, he smiled and nodded. "Good work, Jimmy. Here's what you do next: go to his desk, clear out his personal stuff. Anything related to the Planet or continuing stories keep. Put his stuff in a box, and ship it to the Gazette… postage due." Jimmy nodded and Perry handed the paper back to the young man. Perry then nodded to them and left for his office, whistling "I'm Yours" by Elvis.
Lois, Clark and Jimmy watched Perry walk back to his office, wearing a smile that unnerved them. "Do you guys have any idea what just happened here?" Jimmy asked, split between concern and amazement.
"Not a clue." Clark himself couldn't figure out what was going on.
Lois shook her head. "No boom?"
"No boom." Clark said, still in shock.
"I thought for sure that he'd explode," Lois said in a dazed voice.
Jimmy shook his head. "I better go over and get Ralph's stuff packed before the chief decides to start singing Jailhouse Rock." Jimmy waved and headed over to what had been Ralph's desk.
Lois sat back down at her desk and quickly looked at some notes. "Can our life get any stranger?"
Clark pulled up a chair. "Do you really want an answer to that?" She looked to him and shook her head. "Didn't think so. So, where do we start today?"
"I want to check out Jameson's story," Lois said as she wrote something on a notepad. "I don't think he told Peter everything."
Clark nodded. "I agree. There's just something here that doesn't fit." Lois nodded absently.
"I'll dig up the stuff on Jameson. Why don't you try to dig up some more information on the park story. Now that Jimmy's shaken things up over at the planning board, maybe some people will want to come forward and tell us what we want to know."
"Or they could go tell us to jump off the roof." Clark leaned forward and sighed. "Okay, I get to play phone tag and you get to investigate Jameson. I wonder which of us will pass out from the boredom first?"
Lois shook her head and cupped Clark's face with her free hand. "We'll make up for any boredom 'here' when we get 'home'."
Clark smiled and got to his feet. "You know how to motivate me."
Before either of them could continue the banter, Jimmy was yelling for them in front of the monitors. "Guys!! Hurry over here!" Lois and Clark joined Jimmy and a few other staffers. They watched live footage from one of the local television helicopters. The scene was of a deserted building, which now looked like an ice sculpture. Only now that they saw the television footage did Clark begin to hear sirens. "They said they found a couple of homeless people out in front, frozen solid…" Jimmy looked at the monitor, disgusted. "The chopper was just heading over that area when they saw this flash of light… and then that building turned to ice." Jimmy turned to Clark and Lois. "This is that Captain Cold guy you were telling me about yesterday, isn't it?"
Clark hesitantly shook his head. "Why didn't I… we hear any sirens before now?" he wondered out loud.
"It just happened, CK. Those people out in front never had a chance. I don't think even Superman could've done anything for them."
Clark nodded and wandered back to his desk. Lois stayed and watched just a moment more, and joined Clark at his desk. "You okay?"
He shook his head slowly and took a deep breath. "We were lucky." He looked back to the monitor and shook his head again. "This time, we were lucky." He finally turned to look at Lois. She could see the weight he was carrying and how it was threatening to pull him down. "If Cold has that kind of power, and it appears that he does, then he can freeze entire buildings or sections of this city before I even know what's going on… Before Superman can do anything to save anyone." Clark put his head in his hands. "There's not a thing I can do about it. This was just a warning. Next time who knows what he'll freeze… City Hall, The Hall of Justice, STAR Labs, The Daily Planet?"
Lois shook her head as she put a comforting hand on Clark's back. "I don't think so, sweetheart. Let's look at this objectively. Cold's 'the' most expensive assassin in the world. He doesn't mind breaking a few eggs either to get who he's going after. A warning like this just doesn't seem his style." She pulled up a chair and took both of Clark's large hands and held them. "He even went to the south side for his first appearance in Metropolis. Think about it… why is he avoiding the most developed areas of the city where he could really do some major damage?"
"He's avoiding the high price properties." Clark looked at Lois, a bit puzzled by what they had just put together. "That really doesn't make sense though, does it? What would Captain Cold care about property value? This just keeps getting weirder."
"I think we'll find our answers when we find out what Jameson really knows," Lois pointed out. She got up and patted him on the back. "I know you're not going to take this easily, but we've got to get some work done. You start harassing city hall about our park story and I'll dig up what I can on Jameson. Okay, partner?"
Clark nodded. "I don't know what I'd do without you."
Hours passed. Clark tried to drag some more information out of city hall, with moderate results, while Lois dug for information on Jameson and the Kingpin. Perry had disappeared again, leaving Jimmy besieged by the staff. The young man had grabbed his camera and headed for the streets.
Roughly two hours after they began their tasks, Lois pushed herself away from her desk and walked over to Clark. He was on the phone, and she paid little attention to what was being said. What she had found out preoccupied her. Clark thanked whoever he was talking to, hung up the phone and made some notes. "Well, it looks like you were right. The people at city hall are being much more cooperative today." Clark had relaxed, and she was happy to see a glimmer of his normal self. "What did you find out?"
Before Lois could answer, they were joined by Mary Jane. "Hey guys!" She looked a little fatigued, which drew interested looks from both Lois and Clark. "I'm sorry I couldn't get here earlier. I really had a hard time getting started this morning. I felt so good last night, and then this morning I felt like my stomach wanted to leave me. I guess I ate too much pizza last night."
Lois and Clark both nodded while looking at each other in communing thoughts. "Why don't I get you something to drink? Coffee? Water?" Clark offered.
Mary Jane shook her head. "Nah. I'll get it myself. I want to hear what you two found out though, so get ready for 20 questions."
Lois nodded as MJ made her way away from them. Lois dived back toward Clark anxiously. "Clark, are you thinking what I am?"
Clark watched after Mary Jane and nodded to his wife. "I don't think she even suspects though."
"She's probably been going so hard that she thinks she's just worn out." She leaned closer to Clark. "You know, you could find out right now."
Clark rolled his eyes and touched his forehead to his wife's. "Don't ask me to look inside her… you know how I hate looking inside people."
"Of course not… I was just teasing you. She'll find out from her doctor soon enough… That is if we're right."
"Which we are most of the time."
"Except when we're wrong."
"Then we're 'really' wrong." Lois kissed Clark's forehead and stood back up. "This could make our lives more interesting."
Clark took Lois' hand and squeezed it. "To say the least."
"I can't leave you two alone for a minute, can I?" Mary Jane shook her head and joined her friends.
"It normally takes a lot longer than that," Lois said offhandily. When it registered what she had said, she blushed deeply.
Mary Jane joined Clark in laughing as Lois herself laughed nervously. "So what did you two find out? You said you were going to check out Jameson's story, right?"
"Lois did the checking on this one. I've been playing phone tag with city hall most of the morning." Clark smiled wearily. "Actually, you're just in time, MJ. Lois was just about to tell me what she found out."
Mary Jane looked to Lois who smirked at Clark. "The most important thing I found is what I didn't find. There was no article, editorial or even ad that mentioned any of the Kingpin's holdings. Whatever the Kingpin's after Jameson for, it's not something that was printed in the Daily Bugle."
Clark didn't look pleased. He folded his arms across his chest. "We should have figured Jameson lied to us. This is probably a lot bigger than he wanted Spider-Man to know. Why else would the Kingpin hire the most expensive assassin in the world?"
"I think this situation just got a lot more dangerous." Lois put a hand to her head. "We need to find out exactly what's going on here…"
"And only Jameson knows that for certain." Mary Jane nodded and sat down in the chair next to Clark's desk.
Clark rested back in his chair just a moment before his phone rang. He picked it up. "Clark Kent… Yeah, okay… We're all here. Sure, we'll be right over." Clark hung up the phone. "Talk about your convenient plot device. That was Peter. He's got something he wants us all to see at STAR Labs."
Lois, Clark and Mary Jane waited inside the lab in STAR Labs that Peter shared with Dr. Klein. Peter, Barry and Tina were still putting things together and the activity level was at a frantic pace. Peter picked up a beaker and looked around absently. He placed the beaker back down, and went on to something else. "He's been around Dr. Klein too long," Lois whispered to Clark, who chuckled lightly.
Clark's chuckle caught Peter's attention and he shook his head apologetically. "I'm sorry. I'll be with you guys in just a second." Peter went to get something, and he, Barry and Tina went to a nearby workbench. Lois, Clark and MJ joined them.
Peter had placed an oblong box on the table. "Is this it? The decombinator?" Clark asked pointing to the box, which was roughly the size of a shoe box. Peter nodded and watched as Clark lowered his glasses to take a peek. Clark couldn't see through the box and looked up with a puzzled expression.
"It's lead lined, Clark… and there is a reason for it. I think you better stand as far away from this as you can." Peter looked wearily at the box. Lois was getting ready to launch into Peter, but Clark took her hand and nodded. They both backed up to the far end of the lab. "I'll explain everything in a minute… but I thought everyone would like to see the finished product. I gave it a lead coating…" Peter looked to Barry and Tina who nodded. Peter carefully opened the case, glancing back to Clark and Lois. Clark nodded encouragingly, and Peter opened the case all the way. He pulled out something that looked like a ray gun from a 50s B movie. "This is the neogenic decombinator."
Lois watched Clark carefully. At first, he didn't seem to be affected, but as Peter showed it off and Tina and Barry made small talk about how they had helped, Clark appeared to weaken. He shook his head, and Lois noticed him break out in a sweat. "Peter. Put it away. Now!"
Peter quickly complied, and Clark sat down in a nearby chair. He began feeling better almost immediately. Lois held his hand, and as he felt better, he squeezed her hand gently. "I'm okay."
Lois nodded, and then turned her attention to Peter. "Why did you use kryptonite in that thing?!"
Peter held up his hands in surrender. "I'll explain. I'm sorry Lois, but it was the only way to get this thing to work."
"That's how you got the energy beam focused, isn't it?" Mary Jane asked. "A kryptonite crystal?"
Peter nodded to his wife and then looked to Lois and Clark. "It was the only way."
"We started testing the decombinator early this morning, trying to find something that could focus the decombinator's energy beam. We ran our findings through the STAR Labs databanks and we came up with only one match." Tina looked to Barry, waiting for him to continue.
"The only match was kryptonite." Barry took a deep breath and then quickly called up a chart on the computer. "The kryptonite focuses the decombinator's energy beam in much the same way the composite coils worked on the original recombinator… at least according to the notes Dr. Connors included with this prototype."
Lois nodded as she studied the chart. "So… Dr. Connors wouldn't have known about kryptonite when he was working on this, would he?"
Peter shook his head. "No. Kryptonite's a fairly new substance… and most of the information on it is restricted to STAR Labs staff members." Lois nodded and Clark stood up, his strength totally returned. "We used a small crystal rod… it's the same on the Goblin used on you a couple months ago, Clark." Clark nodded as Barry and Tina looked lost.
Mary Jane stepped closer to her husband and took one of his hands. "I suppose you've tested it already… otherwise you wouldn't have called us here, right?"
Peter nodded, but Tina once again jumped in to answer the question. "We tested the decombinator on a sample of Peter's blood. It totally reversed the mutation in the cells. It works."
Mary Jane tightened her grip on Peter's hand and he nodded to her. Lois and Clark both watched the exchange closely. Barry had stepped back to an experiment that was running and looked pleased with the results. "Peter, it's ready."
Peter lead MJ over to the beakers and vials with Lois, Clark and Tina behind him. Peter took a test tube and examined it. The gray fluid looked thick and ropy. "I'm teaching Barry to make web fluid," Peter explained. The others nodded as Peter smiled at the results of their work. "This new batch is specially designed to work in cold climates. It's flexible and pliable, but it doesn't break when it freezes. Next time we come up against the good Captain, I'll be ready."
"We're going to need every advantage we can get." Clark spoke in a soft but controlled voice. "Lois did a little investigating this morning, Peter."
Peter looked to Lois who had crossed her arms and stood closely by Clark. Barry and Tina looked on as well as Lois told them what she had found out. "I went back in the news archives… called a couple people I know… and the Daily Bugle hasn't printed anything on the Kingpin or any of his holdings in the last four months… Jameson lied to you Peter, not that I'm guessing you're surprised."
Peter shook his head. "Not really… but I wonder why the Kingpin sent Cold after Jameson. Nothing here's making sense."
"You don't know how right you are. Cold flash froze a building this morning… It was deserted." Clark watched Barry's reaction closely.
Barry was surprised. "That is strange… Cold doesn't go out of his way to NOT hurt people… something strange IS going on here."
"The only way we're going to find out what is 'really' going on is to get Jameson back and make him tell us the truth." MJ had joined Lois in crossing her arms defiantly. "I never liked him to begin with."
"So… what's our next step?" Barry asked cautiously. Tina rested back on Barry and watched the discussion with mild interest.
"Our next step is to get Jameson back." Peter sighed and looked to the box with the decombinator.
"Once we have Jameson away from the Scorpion, we can be pretty sure that Captain Cold will come after him… then we take care of him." Clark sounded more confident than he really was, and Lois picked up on the fact. She squeezed his hand gently, offering her support. "For right now we wait, though. The Scorpion said he'd find Spider-Man… to not come after him. I don't think we should risk a showdown when we can avoid one."
Everyone nodded in agreement. "If Scorpion's going to be looking for Spider-Man though… Spider-Man better be out there to find." Peter took off his lab coat and hung it up. "I guess I know what I'm going to be doing this afternoon."
"I'll keep an ear tuned in on you, Peter," Clark said with a smile. "If you need help, I'm just a 'help, Superman' away."
Lois elbowed Clark gently. "Hey! That used to be my line."
Barry and Tina chuckled together and then decided quickly to leave. "If you two need me, we'll be around the city this afternoon. I assume Clark will be able to find me, right?" Clark arched an eyebrow. "That's what I thought." He took Tina's hand and they waved as they left the lab, headed for parts unknown.
"Nice couple… strange, but nice." Peter chuckled to himself. "I'll call if I need anything, Clark. Lois, thanks…"
Lois shook her head. "Hey, we're all a team now. We help each other."
Clark smiled and put an arm around his wife as he gave her a quick kiss. "You my dear, are amazing. You know that?"
"Yes, but it never hurts to be told a few hundred times a day."
"I better hurry then… I'm still about ten shy of a hundred."
Peter nodded as did MJ. Clark and Lois sensed that Peter and Mary Jane wanted to talk, so they excused themselves, leaving the couple alone.
Mary Jane took another look at the box on the workbench. "So, what do you think? You gotta be pretty excited to have made this work. Once you get the Scorpion cured… you can take it back to New York and cure Dr. Connors once and for all."
Peter nodded solemnly. "Yeah… I can do that. I can also cure someone else with it… like we talked about last night."
Peter shook his head. "I'm not sure. I'm just not sure. What do you think? I really need to know?"
MJ took a deep breath and walked to her husband. She took his hands in hers and held them to her chest. "I fell in love with Peter Parker, the slightly clumsy… charmingly shy science major. That's who you've always been… will ever be to me. I know when I found out you were Spider-Man that I reacted badly. I've found out that Lois and I have a lot more things in common than we thought." Peter took a deep breath and rested his forehead against hers. "Do you remember what I said to you when you told me?"
Peter gently nodded. "You told me you didn't know if you could be with me… because of Spider-Man. You were too scared of losing me."
"My father abandoned me when I was young… and I don't really remember my mother that much either. Aunt Anna raised me…" MJ stopped and paused for a moment. "I just couldn't stand the thought of losing someone I was close to again. With you I had a choice of whether to be close to you or not. It was the one thing I could control. I did come around though. I realized I was stronger with you than without you. You had been the only person who had supported what 'I' wanted to do because 'I' wanted to do it." She hesitated a minute before continuing. "Because I loved you so much… I could love you even though you were Spider-Man. I guess what I'm saying is… that if I could love you 'with' Spider-Man, I would love you 'without' him." She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "As long as I have Peter Parker, that's all I need."
Peter chuckled. "In other words, you're not going to help me make this choice, huh?"
She giggled and shook her head. "I can't. This is about 'your' choice. When you got your powers, you didn't have a choice… now you have a choice to take those powers away. All I 'can' tell you is that whatever you decide, I will support you, and I will love you. Those two facts are constants… nothing changes them."
"I am so lucky to have you." He took his hands back and held her close to him. "I wish I could go with you to the doctor's this afternoon."
"You'll be there with me." She looked up to him and smiled. "You wanna drop me off, or do you want me to take the jeep?"
"Do you have your keys?" She nodded. "The jeep's out in the lot… It's the only red one out there. Where I'm going, I'm not going to be needing it."
She gave him a kiss, said her good-byes. "Be careful, Tiger."
Peter was left in the lab… alone. Peter walked back to the web fluid and began filing cartridges. "With great power, there must also come great responsibility… Uncle Ben, I could really use your help right now."
Spider-Man swung across the Metropolis skyline, trying to attract as much attention as he could. In addition to trying to attract the Scorpion, he was also trying to clear his own mind. Sometimes webslinging helped.
Sometimes it didn't. He perched himself on the side of a building and watched the people below. He was still struck by the differences between Metropolis and New York. Here, people cheered him. He was a true hero. Back in New York many people weren't sure what to think about him. He liked the fact that in Metropolis, he didn't have to evade the police as well as the criminals. There was no comparing the two cities. It had taken him nearly thirty years, but Peter Parker had found his home.
The question was, had Spider-Man found a home? He could do so much good as Spider-Man, but sometimes he just wanted to 'normal' again, not that he ever fit that description very well. He'd always been a little bit different from the rest of the kids…
"Parker!! Heads up Bookworm!" Flash Thompson slid by and knocked the chemistry books Peter was carrying right out of his hands. Thompson laughed loudly. "You've really gotta be more careful!"
Peter hung his head as Flash's friends arrived to taunt him. He started to pick up his books when he heard someone come to his defense. "Leave him alone Flash. Go find a rock to crawl under."
Peter looked up… "G..Gwen… I…"
Gwen Stacy helped Peter pick up the books as Flash and his cronies left. "Don't let them get to you. They don't have two brain cells to rub together…" Peter nervously smiled. "Hey, how would you like to go down the street and get something to eat. We could do a little studying for Mr. Renard's test tomorrow.
Gwen Stacy… that was the last person he needed to remember right now. She had died in a terrible accident… an accident Spider-Man had been a part of. He hadn't been able to save her. He had carried that weight with him for years, until he had met Mary Jane.
He shook his head clear and swung away from the building. He caught sight of the warehouse district, and once again, he remembered something from a long time ago…
Spider-Man walked up on the two-bit thug mercilessly. "There is no place on Earth you can hide from me!!" The man made a break for it and stumbled over his own feet. Spider-Man picked him up, and in one swift move he threw him through a wooden crate. "You and your kind are going to pay for your crimes."
The man stumbled out of the crate, and once again tried to get away. Spider-Man was on him in an instant, and before the man knew what was happening, he was being pummeled. With all of his superstrength, Spider-Man hit the thug who had taken his uncle's life. As he prepared to administer the final blow, which would probably kill this low life, he got a good look at the face of his opponent. It was familiar… because it was the same man that he could have stopped earlier in the day after a robbery. He had chosen not to get involved, and now his actions had found him out. He was as responsible for his uncle's death as the man who had pulled the trigger. He dropped the man to the floor and left, knowing that he would spend the rest of his life making up for his costly mistake. He had been afforded great power, but he had ignored the responsibility of its use. Uncle Ben was dead, but the Spider-Man had just been born.
He swung to a tower and once again watched the city. His uncle's death was so long ago. He had learned a costly lesson that day. Not acting, not using what he had, had led to his uncle's death. He sighed deeply. This was getting him nowhere. Would giving up his powers be abdicating his responsibility? He admitted it would be. He was shaken out of his flashbacks and self-pondering by a commotion below. One car had run a red light and ran into another one. He dove toward the scene and landed close to the accident.
One car was on fire… its driver had managed to get out. The other car was crunched up badly, and Spider-Man could see that a woman and a young child were trapped in the twisted metal. People were trying to budge the door, but they were being forced away by the growing flames.
Spidey jumped into the fray, and everyone stepped back. He ripped the door off and quickly extracted the victims, who he left in the care of the crowd. He then turned his attention back to the vehicles, which he webbed lavishly, smothering the flames. The crown applauded his actions. After checking on the woman and her child, Spider-Man swung away.
He landed on the top of the Metropolis Towers building and smiled under his mask. He had made a difference back there, and he realized that was what Spider-Man was all about… making a difference when it counted. The choice wasn't a hard one to make in his heart. "Spider-Man's here to stay." He felt his spider-sense go off and turned in time to see the Scorpion jump onto the roof.
"I wasn't aware you were going anywhere." The Scorpion stood about two yards away from Spidey, swinging his tail back and forth slowly. "I told you I'd find you."
Spidey fought his instincts that were telling him to fight the Scorpion here and now. "Actually… I was hoping you'd find me. I've got some news for you." The Scorpion advanced slowly, suspecting he wasn't going to like what he was about to hear. "It took some doing… but I found a way to reverse the neogenic mutation that made you the Scorpion."
Scorpion stopped dead in his tracks. "You're kidding me, right?" Spidey shook his head. "You're serious. You actually found a way to do it?"
"Yeah, and I'll gladly give it to you… I need you to hand over Jameson first though."
"Why?! He did this to me! He should pay!"
Spider-Man backtracked in the face of Scorpion's outburst. "He should pay… for a lot of things, but Captain Cold followed him here to Metropolis. We need Jameson to lure Cold out so we can fix this situation… if that's possible."
Scorpion grimaced loudly. "Okay… but we do this 'my' way on 'my' terms. Got it?"
There wasn't much use in arguing. "Okay. Your terms. When and where?"
"Here… and now." Scorpion turned to leave. "I'll go get Jameson… and I suggest you get whatever you're going to use to turn me back to plain old Mac Gargan. I'll be back very soon. I suggest you be ready by the time I get back." The Scorpion jumped away and was gone.
This was certainly unexpected. There was only one thing to really do. He felt silly… but he couldn't think of any other way. "Help, Superman!!"
Within seconds, Superman zoomed in and landed on the roof. "You called? What's up?"
"Well, the Scorpion found me… he wants to exchange Jameson for the cure right away… In fact, he just went after Sourpuss, and he expects me to have the cure when he gets back."
Superman nodded. "Be back in a second." Superman sped away and quickly returned with the lead lined box. "Here you go." Spidey took the box from Superman. "Considering what's in here, I think I'll keep my distance while you're using it."
Peter nodded. "That will probably work out better. We don't want to spook Scorpy. Maybe you and the Flash can stand by… in case I need some help?"
Superman nodded. "We'll be here, and I'll be watching."
"Thanks. I appreciate it. You better get going…" Superman hesitated momentarily. "I'll be okay." Superman floated off the roof and waved before he took off. Neither of them suspected they had been watched closely by a parka-clad man several roofs away.
Spidey tucked the box under one arm and paced the roof, waiting for the Scorpion and Jameson to show up. Within moments, Spidey could hear the shouting protests of J. Jonah Jameson ringing loudly through the air. He turned to see the Scorpion bounding across roofs, holding Jameson securely in his tail. Finally, Jameson and the Scorpion reached Spider-Man and Jameson lashed out. "I should have known you had something to do with this, Wallcrawler!! I bet you two have been in on this whole thing with Captain Cold from the beginning!!"
Behind the mask, Peter frowned. "Nice to see you too, Sourpuss. If you hadn't noticed, I'm trying to save your hide here." Spidey shook his head, wondering why he was doing this to begin with. "Okay, Gargan… set him down and I'll use this on you." Spidey patted the box.
"No way! I want to see it."
With a sigh, Spider-Man placed the box on the roof, leaned down and opened it. He brought out the pistol shaped device. "This is the neogenic decombinator. It fully reverses neogenic mutation."
"How do you know?" Scorpion asked as he moved closer to examine the device. "How can I trust you?"
Spider-Man shook his head. "You have to believe that I want to help you. It has been tested… I used it on a sample of my own blood… See, it was neogenics that made 'me' Spider-Man."
The Scorpion was curious, and Jameson decided to pay attention to the conversation. "You deliberately used neogenics to make you Spider-Man?"
"No! It was an accident… It happened when the recombinator was just being tested. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time… and… well… here I am."
"Are you going to use it on yourself?"
Spidey shook his head. "No. I have this power, and I have a responsibility to use it to make the world a better place. I 'can' understand your desire to be normal again, though. Put Sourpuss down, and I'll end your neogenic nightmare."
Hesitantly, reluctantly… Scorpion put Jameson down. It wasn't a gentle release, but Jameson picked himself up and distanced himself. The Scorpion appeared to relax, letting the weight of the past years fall off of his shoulders and then he stood straight. "I'm ready."
"One second." Spidey extended his right arm and aimed at Jameson. He wrapped him up securely in webbing. "Just to make sure you don't go anywhere or do anything, J.J." Jameson loudly related his anger at the situation, but Spider-Man ignored him. He turned once again to the Scorpion. "You've got to be sure about this… It might even be risky… We… I haven't tested it on a living subject."
"Just do it."
Spider-Man nodded, took the decombinator, aimed and pulled the trigger. The energy beam streaked away from the pistol, hit the Scorpion square in the chest and immersed him in a greenish glow. Spider-Man dropped the pistol to his side as the Scorpion cried out in mortal pain. He fell to the roof where he thrashed uncontrollably. Jameson and Spidey watched closely as the Scorpion shrank. He became shorter and less muscular until the scorpion suit looked like an ill-fitted Halloween costume. Gargan finally stopped moving and laid dead still.
Spidey put the decombinator away and closed the box. He knew Superman would be joining them shortly and he wanted the device out of the way. He made his way to Gargan's side. He checked for a pulse and found a faint one. He sighed, relieved. "It looks like it worked. He's just plain MacDonald Gargan again…" Spider-Man looked to Jameson. "Well, here's another one of your messes I had to clean up."
From where he lay on the roof, Jameson launched into Spider-Man. "My messes? If it hadn't been for you then New York wouldn't be filled with half the crazies it is!!! No Hobgoblin, no Green Goblin, no Sandman, no Dr. Octopus… no Scorpion."
"They would have been there anyway…" Before Spidey could say anything more, Superman landed on the roof and the Flash ran onto the scene, coming through the roof access door. "Hey guys, what took so long?"
"Well, it looked like you had everything in hand." Superman nodded toward Jameson. "Welcome to Metropolis, Mr. Jameson."
Jameson growled something as the Flash approached. "Well, one down and one to go. Now all we have to do is find Captain Cold." Flash turned to Jameson and smiled smugly. "It's great that Mr. Jameson here's volunteered to help us lure him out."
Jameson's mouth dropped, but he soon recovered. "I did no such thing!!"
Now that the situation with Gargan was over, Spidey allowed himself to relax. That was when he felt his spider-sense barely trembling. He looked around nervously. As he looked around, his spider-sense went into full alarm. Spider-Man felt the section of the roof he was standing on grow cold, and he knew what was coming. "We've got company!!"
Spidey jumped and rolled away as the section of roof froze and broke into brittle pieces. A shaft of ice elevated Captain Cold to roof level. "Thank you for bringing Mr. Jameson to me. If you three will just stand out of the way, then we can get this over with quickly."
Superman stood in front of a cowering Jameson. "It's not going to be that easy, Cold."
Flash stood by and menacingly folded his arms. "We're going to defrost you… once and for all."
Cold looked to Spider-Man who shrugged. "Hey! Don't look at me. We can't all have something catchy to say."
The three heroes looked to each other and nodded. Flash sped forward, and Superman looked to Spider-Man and nodded his head toward Jameson. "Get him out of here."
Spidey grabbed Jameson by the back of his jacket and pulled him quickly behind the roof access. He prepared to swing off with the man, but noticed that Cold was giving Superman and the Flash a hard time. "Listen here, Sourpuss… I don't have time to get you out of here, so you're gonna have to stick around." Spidey propped Jameson on his feet against the roof access and webbed him to it. "Now keep quiet, and Cold might think you're gone." Jameson started to say something and Spidey sighed. He put a patch of webbing over the newsman's mouth. "Don't go anywhere." Spider-Man jumped back to action.
The Flash ran at Cold, who wasn't expecting him. He quickly got in several punches. The last punch sent Cold sprawling across the roof. Cold raised the rifle to aim at the scarlet speedster and fired. Flash quickly ran out of the way and Spider-Man jumped in. "Want to give me a try?" Cold took aim, and Spidey shot a webline to a flag pole and swung out. Cold shot at the line and hit it, but the new formula worked and the line held. "I made a few modifications to my web formula since last time. Wanna try again?"
Cold reached to his belt and pulled off what looked like a grenade. "Try my new freeze grenade!!" He lobbed the grenade at Spider-Man who somersaulted backwards. The grenade landed and spun around on its side, but never exploded. "Blast!!"
"Something wrong with your toy?" Spidey asked smugly.
"I'm not through with you!" Cold promised angrily.
"How about me?" Superman stood defiantly on the roof, arms crossed.
Cold couldn't resist the target, and quickly aimed at the man of steel. He fired and the freeze beam shot toward Superman. Superman's eyes briefly glowed red, and then he used his heat vision to fend off the freeze beam. Superman began by holding the beam off, but soon he was forcing it back. Cold began to sweat as the freeze beam was pushed back toward him. The nuclear accelerator began to overheat and cried out a warning which was barely noted by Captain Cold.
Spider-Man had kept out of the way, content to let Superman take care of their villain. Now he knew he had to act. He shot two weblines at the backpack and whistled for the Flash to join him. Spidey handed the lines to Flash, who took them and ran to the middle of the roof, dragging Cold behind. Flash started twirling Cold and the backpack, allowing the air to dissipate the heat the nuclear accelerator had built up. He spun faster and faster until the event was a blur. Soon, Flash slowed down and Cold fell to the roof with a thud. Flash inspected the motion-sick body and nudged him with his foot. "I think he's been defrosted enough, don't you?"
Spidey knelt over Cold and unstrapped the pack. "Yeah… now we put him on ice." Spidey quickly spun webbing around the freeze unit and then tied up Cold's arms and legs with webbing.
Flash picked up the backpack and smiled. "I'll take this over to STAR Labs and make sure it's locked up tight." In a flash of red, he was gone. Superman looked over to Spidey and shrugged.
Spider-Man kneeled down and examined Gargan again. "He seems to be breathing easier now… I guess the trauma of having his body returned to normal was a little much for him." He got back to his feet. "Before you get these two out of here… could you give me a hand with something. Superman nodded and gave a menacing look to Cold. Spidey lead Superman to the place where he had left Jameson. "I didn't have a chance to get him away from here… so I made sure he'd keep out of trouble."
As Superman saw Jameson plastered to the wall… he couldn't help but laugh. "Are you sure you want to let him down?"
"Yeah, I guess so."
"You want me to rip the webbing off of him?"
Spidey shook his head and lifted his tunic up. He pulled a small spray can from the utility belt he wore. "This is a synthetic solvent. It's heat activated. I'll spray 'ol sourpuss here with the stuff, and with a little of your heat vision he'll be able to pester the world again." Superman nodded, and Spider-Man proceeded to use the spray lavishly on Jameson. When he finished, Spidey stepped out of the way and Superman used his heat vision on Jameson until the webbing began to dissolve. As the last of the webbing left him, Jameson found himself free… which included his mouth.
"This is an outrage!!! Being tied up, abducted!!!" Jameson continued to rant as Superman and Spider-Man watched.
"You're welcome," Spidey said sarcastically. He turned and followed Superman who had already started walking back toward where they had left Cold and Gargan. "You'll take care of these two?"
Superman nodded and picked up Cold by the collar. "I'm going to go put our friend here in cold storage." He kneeled down and put Gargan over his shoulder. "I'll drop Mr. Gargan here off at the hospital."
Spidey nodded. "I'll catch up with you and Flash later." He looked around to Jameson who had followed them. "Me and Mr. Jameson have a few things we have to discuss." Superman nodded, and lifted off into the air with Cold under one arm and Gargan under the other. Spidey looked to the sky, a little bit awestruck by recent events. He watched the clouds pass for a moment and took a deep breath. "What a day…"
Jameson stood with his arms crossed. "So, what do 'we' have to talk about, Webhead?"
Spider-Man turned back to Jameson. "Well… there is the little fact that we just saved your life here." Spidey walked toward Jameson as menacingly as he could. "I think we're entitled to the truth, don't you? The real truth."
Jameson backed up. "What are you talking about?"
"You lied to me… I asked Lois Lane and Clark Kent to check out your story… There was no editorial. There was never any mention of anything that belonged to the Kingpin." Spider-Man stopped briefly to catch his breath. "What did you find out that is important enough for the Kingpin to hire the world's most expensive assassin?"
"How do you feel about hanging upside down while getting the nickel tour of Metropolis?" Jameson seemed to squirm for a moment. "Listen, the Kingpin just sent Captain Cold after you… If you're that important enough to kill, the he's obviously not going to stop until he gets the job done right. Now if you want us to help save your miserable hide, then you're gonna have to tell us what's really going on. We gotta know. Knowing is half the battle."
"If I tell you he'll kill me for sure!"
"What do you think he was just trying to do?!"
Jameson realized the corner he was backed into. From where he stood, he could see no other way out. "He's got plans for Metropolis…" Spidey cocked his head to the side, listening intently. "He's going to try to take over something called Intergang."
Spider-Man stepped back like he'd just been shocked. "Intergang?" He remembered that name… Lois and Clark had told him enough about it to fill an encyclopedia set. Intergang was bad, but the Kingpin running it would be even worse. As soon as he got things settled, he had to let Clark and Lois know what was going on. "You knew about this and didn't let anyone know? Do you realize how many lives may be at risk?"
"I had a responsibility to my paper to keep what I was told confidential."
"Who told you!?!" Spider-Man stepped back up to Jameson, trying very hard to contain his anger.
"I'm not telling the likes of you."
Spidey turned and walked away, disgusted at Jameson. "I always knew you had a hard head, but this takes the cake, J.J.! There might be a whole city of people getting ready to suffer, and you're not going to help them? You're a piece of work, you know that?" He took a deep breath. "Let's get both of us out of here. I've got better things to do."
Jameson realized what he was about to do wasn't exactly ethical. The costumed man had just saved his life after all, but now he had a chance to make years of wishes come true. As Spider-Man talked he went about his plan. As Spider-Man finished, he felt his spider-sense go off. He quickly turned to see Jameson smiling at him. Before Spidey could size up the situation, Jameson raised and fired the decombinator at Spider-Man, which he had taken out of its container moments earlier.
Barry Allen walked into STAR Labs and made his way to Klein's lab, taking his time. Everything was taken care of. He made a note to himself to not take anymore vacation time in Metropolis. As he entered the lab he was surprised, but pleased to see his fiancee there working on something. "Hey, I thought you were on vacation?"
"There's only so much boredom a person on vacation can take." She sighed briefly. "Lois is at work… Mary Jane is at the doctor's office… and my fiance' is out chasing men who like to turn things into ice cubes." Tina turned away from her experiment to face Barry who was hiding something behind his back. "A surprise, for me?"
Barry looked around a bit awkwardly. "Well… it's a surprise all right." He placed the web package on the counter. "It's Captain Cold's freeze pack. We just took care of him a couple of minutes ago."
Tina hugged Barry enthusiastically. "That's wonderful! That means we can actually have some time together." She looked worried, remembering something. "What about the Scorpion?"
"He's taken care of too. Peter used the decombinator on him. It looks like it worked like it was supposed to."
"Where is he right now?"
Barry was a little concerned now. He knew that tone of voice, and it never had anything good to say. "He was with Spider-Man and Superman when I left." Tina's eyes begged him to say more. "We were all on top of Metropolis Towers."
Tina backed away, worry on her face. "We've got to find Peter, Clark and the Scorpion quickly. I was working on the test samples we did this morning, and Barry… I think there's something wrong with the decombinator. Something's terribly, terribly wrong."
Spider-Man dropped to the roof in agonizing pain. He felt like his blood was on fire… like he was being ripped apart from the inside out. He could feel his powers leaving him. His keen awareness… gone. His spider-strength… gone. It was getting harder to breathe. He guessed that he was feeling what Gargan had felt. He tried to look up at Jameson, who was obviously gloating at his supreme victory. His thoughts were cut short however as he felt himself beginning to convulse… to shake and tremble in a way Gargan hadn't. He felt his very life leaving him, and with one last gust of energy, he let out a pained scream that reverberated across the city. His energy spent, he collapsed.
Jameson dropped the decombinator to the roof and inspected his prize. "I've dreamed about this for years, Wallcrawler." He got down on his knees and turned Spider-Man over on his back. "Now we get to see exactly who's underneath that mask!" He reached for the seam of the mask and ran his fingers underneath of it. He had waited ten long years for this moment. He was going to savor every minute. He pulled the mask up a little bit to reveal the bottom of a young looking face. He was a bit surprised, he had always pictured his adversary as a more mature person. He grabbed the top of the mask, unable to resist temptation. He took a deep breath, and tugged at the mask.
The mask came off in a fluid motion.
Jameson caught his breath as he stared at a familiar face.
"Parker!!!!!????!!!!!" He jumped to his feet, almost unable to contain his anger. "All these years! All this time! Those 'exclusive' photographs… Exclusive my foot!" Jameson could barely contain his anger and stepped over to Peter. He breathed heavily and raspy. "Your life as Spider-Man is over… and so are the lives of your friends and family. I'm going to make sure of it." He turned away, disgusted. "I should have believed Osborne all those months ago… He wasn't as crazy as everyone thought."
Jameson stepped back and gloated over the unmasked Spider-Man who laid limply on the rooftop. He looked at the mask and clenched it with savage self-satisfication. "I'm going to frame this and mount it in the reception room of the Bugle as a tribute to the lives you've ruined." Jameson once again looked at the mask. "Your days as a 'superhero' are over!"
Jameson was so caught up in his reverie, he didn't hear the door to the roof open and close. "What are you doing?!" Jameson turned to see a man and woman standing together.
"My, God!! Barry!!" Tina pointed at Jameson's hand, which held the familiar mask. Barry felt his stomach knotting up as he looked past Jameson and saw Peter's fallen form. Tina charged pass Jameson, carrying a bag she had brought, and made her way to Peter. She quickly examined him. "He's alive, but just barely."
Before Jameson could realize what was going on, Barry had grabbed him by the collar forcefully. "What did you do to him?!" He ripped the mask from the man's hand and glared at him.
Tina looked around and grabbed the decombinator. "He used the decombinator on him!" She quickly put the device back in its box and then returned to monitoring Peter. She pulled some instruments from the bag and proceeded to examine the fallen hero more closely.
Jameson was monitoring the situation closely. Whoever these people were, they knew Parker was Spider-Man. Before he could give the matter much more thought, Barry was shaking him. "When the police get ahold of you…"
"You're going to turn me over to the police?" Jameson asked with a smirk. "Do you have any idea who I am?"
"I know exactly who you are, Mr. Jameson… It's 'you' who doesn't know who he's dealing with." Barry retrieved his badge from his jacket. "Barry Allen, Central City Police… I'm putting you under arrest for the attempted murder of Spider-Man."
"Don't you mean Peter Parker?" Jameson smiled smugly. "You do realize if the police arrest me, 'all' of this is going to come out… including your awareness of Spider-Man's secret identity, Mr. Allen."
Barry grumbled and narrowed his eyes as he looked at Jameson. The wheels were rapidly coming off of this situation. Maybe they would have been better off to turn this creep over to Cold. The situation was rapidly deteriorating.
"Barry!" Barry looked over to his fiancee who was calling him over. There was nothing he could really do with Jameson, so he roughly let go of the newspaper man… sending him tumbling backwards. He fell to the roof on his back. He sat there, watching the scene play itself out.
Barry hurried over. Peter was shaking and had broken out in a sweat. "This didn't happen to the Scorpion," Barry said worriedly.
"He's in shock… Give me your jacket." Barry complied and Tina wrapped it around Peter. "His metabolism's short circuited. I'm not sure there's anything we can do for him except make him comfortable."
"We'll have to call for Cl… Superman." Tina nodded. Jameson had heard 'Superman' and decided it was a good time to leave. He jumped to his feet, and started to move off. Barry turned back to see Jameson and saw him trying to escape. "Come back here!!" Barry began to slowly walk toward Jameson. It wouldn't help any of them if he revealed his alter-ego. Jameson was startled by Barry's approach and made a dash. Barry could see an object in the man's path. The undetonated freeze grenade. "Look out!!" Jameson didn't bother to stop or look where he was going. His foot hit the grenade dead on… and this time it detonated.
A blast of cold air shot forth from the device. Barry ran as fast as he could, grabbed Peter and Tina and moved then out of the way as a precaution. Once things had settled, Barry and Tina peered over the large air conditioner they had hid behind. "My God!!" Tina gasped as she saw the sight.
"We don't have to worry about him talking." J. Jonah Jameson was frozen, encased in block of ice, with a look of terror etched into his face.
He had no idea where he was. He almost felt like he was floating because he couldn't feel anything. The only thing that permeated this place was someone's soft and gentle humming. It was so serene. Gradually though, he could feel himself again and wished he couldn't. If what his body was telling him could be believed, he had been run over by a large truck… at least twice. Nothing else could have cause the amount of pain he was experiencing.
As he came to, he began to process his surroundings. He was in a bed… and the voice he was hearing belonged to his wife… at least he thought it did. He tried to move a little, and quickly found out he was being either held or being held down. He groaned slightly.
"Peter?" Mary Jane quickly sat up and inspected her husband. "Come on, Tiger. You can do it." She grabbed hold of his hand, willing some of her strength into him. "Come back to me, Peter. Please."
He groaned again, and fluttered his eyes open. "I gotta be in heaven… I see an angel."
Mary Jane wrapped her arms around him. "That's not even funny. I've been worried to death!"
Peter tried to shake his head, then realized how much that action hurt and stopped it. "What happened to me? Why do I feel like I got run down by a locomotive?"
Mary Jane frowned and looked concerned. "What's the last thing you remember?" She watched him carefully.
He closed his eyes momentarily and took a deep breath. "We were on top of Metropolis Towers… I'd changed the Scorpion back… We'd taken care of Captain Cold… Barry took the freeze pack back to STAR Labs… Clark took Cold to jail and Scorpion to the hospital…" That was as far back as he could remember easily. He focused his thoughts, and he remembered some other things. "I was talking with Jameson… asking him about why the Kingpin was after him…" He tried to put his thoughts in order. "It was something about the Kingpin wanting to take over Intergang." Mary Jane frowned immediately. "I turned away… felt danger and turned back…" The last images he had seen flooded him. "Jameson shot me with the decombinator!!!! The dirty, low down… I'm going to make him wish Cold got him!!" He tried to get up but was restrained by his wife and the pain he felt.
"Cool, it Tiger. There's more to the story."
"More than the fact I've lost my powers? I didn't want to!!" Peter sunk back against the bed and felt Mary Jane cradle him.
"There's a lot more, and not all of it's good." Peter looked weary. "After Jameson… attacked you, he… unmasked you."
"He knows Spider-Man is me?"
Mary Jane nodded. "Yeah." She took a deep breath. "Lucky for you, Tina and Barry showed up… Barry tried to confront Jameson, but there wasn't a whole lot he could do. Jameson tried to escape, but Barry says Jameson's foot hit a freeze grenade. It froze him in a block of ice."
Peter laid quietly, in shock. "He's dead?"
"No… but he's not in too good of a shape." MJ took another deep breath. "Clark arrived, and after he'd gotten you home, he defrosted Jameson… the paramedics had already arrived. The last time I heard from Lois, she told me the doctors say he's in a coma… His brain was without oxygen so long that he probably has brain damage. If he comes out of that coma… he's not likely to be able to tell the difference between you, Spider-Man and a spider." She sighed in relief. "We're safe."
Peter couldn't believe all of this, but he still had questions. "Why were Tina and Barry there? Not that I don't appreciate their help… but how did they know to come?"
MJ shushed him. "Well, that's the other part I need to tell you. This might be good news… we'll have to wait and see. Tina had been going over the decombinator results and she found something was wrong. The sample of your blood you all used as a test case… it re-mutated." Peter looked amazed, hopeful and distraught in a wave of emotion. If it didn't work, he still had his powers, but Gargan and Doc Connors would never know a normal life. "She was concerned about what she had found out, and wanted to examine the Scorpion immediately. Barry ran her to where he thought the Scorpion was… and that was when they found you. We were really lucky."
Peter nodded, realizing how right his wife was. "So? What has Tina found out? Have you talked to her?"
MJ nodded and soothed Peter again. "I just talked to her about ten minutes ago. She's been to the hospital and checked on Gargan. He's still normal. His blood shows no sign of re-mutating."
Before Mary Jane could stop him, Peter had gotten out of bed. He wore only his boxers, and he was chilly, but he had to do this. "I've gotta know, hun." She nodded. Peter looked up to the ceiling and jumped up. He grabbed for it with his hands, and he clung to it. He hung there for a moment, almost unsure of what to do next. He swung his feet up and crouched on the ceiling. "I'm back!!" With a somersault, he landed in front of his wife who had left the bed. He gave her a big hug, but stopped when he felt dizzy. He grinned ear to ear. "I bet I know why it didn't work on me."
Mary Jane motioned him to sit down on the bed where she joined him. "Well, are you going to keep me in suspense?!!?"
He chuckled lightly. "It makes sense if you think about it… I got my powers from a spider that had been exposed to neogenic radiation. It passed its genetic code into my blood through the venom. I was never actually exposed to the neogenic radiation myself. The mutation of my cells must have been similar enough to direct neogenic mutation that when they were hit with energy from the decombinator, they briefly turned back to normal. My metabolism must have kicked into overdrive and the mutated gene sequences re-asserted themselves."
Mary Jane sighed, totally lost by her husband's scientific double-talk. "In other words, you were lucky."
"Very." He rested his head on her shoulder. He tried to remember everything that had happened to them, and then remembered something concerning his wife. "The doctor! How did it go?"
Mary Jane giggled. Peter was so fun to watch when he was rattled. "It went okay. He took some blood and all that doctor stuff. He said I'm all right… I should just eat better, get more rest… take some vitamins. No big deal. In fact, I've already made plans to get that rest." Peter looked quizzically at her. "I'm dropping out of the Paris show, Tiger."
"You're what?" Peter shook his head, and wondered if he was hearing right. "You wanted that so much. Why?"
"Because I'm tired, Peter. I'm tired of not being with you. I'm tired of not having any fun out of life. I'm tired of being tired. You see… it's not just the Paris show I'm dropping out of. I've decided to quit modeling." Peter felt like his head had decided to leave his body for a while. MJ shook him gently. "I know this is a big decision, and I would have loved to involved you in it… but I knew this was something I had to do on my own. I made this choice coming back from New York, and I would have told you except I didn't want you to think I was giving modeling up because I… because I knew you missed me." Peter was quiet again. "Hey. It'll be okay. I'm gonna find something else to do." Mary Jane watched Peter intently. "Don't you have anything to say?"
He tried twice to say something. On the third attempt he succeeded. "Is this what you really want?" She nodded happily. "Then it's what I want too." He broke into a wide smile. "I know what to do… we've got a lot to celebrate… We'll go out tonight. Just you and me…"
MJ shook her head. "Afraid not. We're going over to the townhouse for dinner. We've got a lot to talk about… besides, Barry and Tina have said they're leaving tomorrow morning. We should try to at least have dinner with them."
Peter mumbled an acceptance. "Man, a guy gets knocked out cold for a couple hours, and everyone starts changing dinner plans." He couldn't help but grin.
Mary Jane held started putting dishes around the table. "So, Barry, Tina, what do you think of life in Metropolis?"
"I'm not sure what to think… Is it always so 'active' around here?" Tina asked uneasily from her chair in the living room.
"Not all the time," Peter said as he set the silverware out. "Actually, things had been pretty quiet until all this happened." He sighed. "The second I saw Jameson walk into the Planet newsroom, I should have known things were going to get out of hand."
"Yeah." Mary Jane sat the last plate and then sat down in one of the chairs. "Speaking of Sourpuss… has anyone checked on him recently?"
"I did… when I was at the hospital checking on Mr. Gargan." Tina shook her head. "He's not in good shape. He's still in a coma, and the tests they've run indicates he has severe brain damage. I don't think he'll be waking up anytime soon."
Peter shook his head sadly. "It's still hard to believe… everything."
Peter finished laying out the silverware, and stood by his wife who took his hand in hers. "It's gonna be okay, Tiger." She smiled warmly at her husband, and Peter returned the gesture.
Peter shook himself out of the daze he was in. "I forgot to ask… How was Gargan?"
"He was stable. There's still no sign of re-mutation… not that I'm expecting it after what you told me about how you got your powers."
"I think Spider-Man should drop by and see him one last time."
"That might not be a bad idea." Mary Jane heard the kitchen door open and saw Lois and Clark enter the dining room.
"We're really sorry about the take out, guys." Clark sighed weakly. "We had something really nice planned for your last night with us, but we just got in from work a little while ago."
Lois put the containers on the table. "We had to work late. We're working on this story about the city selling part of Ferguson park to a development company the Mayor's part owner in. We got some more information just before we left. We should be able to wrap the story up before we do the interview with the Mayor Thursday."
They ate, making small talk, until half-way through Mary Jane decided to make a little announcement. "Well… I've got something to share with everyone. Peter and Lois already know… which I guess means Clark knows." Clark and Lois laughed lightly. "I've decided to drop out of modeling." Tina and Barry looked surprised. "I don't know what I'm gonna do yet, but Lois has volunteered to help me look for something I'll enjoy."
Lois and Clark tried to suppress grins. "I don't think it'll take you long to find out what you'll be doing next, Mary Jane. Clark and I already have a least one idea."
Peter raised an eyebrow, but decided to share what had happened to him before they had come over. "While we're doing announcements… I got a phone call from New York before we left the apartment. Lois, Clark… you remember Robby Robertson, right?" The couple nodded. "Well… now that Jameson's… you know… the shareholders have appointed him the new editor of the Daily Bugle. He wants me to come back to New York and work for the Bugle as a full time staff photographer."
Everyone exchanged glances, waiting for the other shoe to drop. It had partially been Jameson who had forced Peter away from New York. Now that the man was gone… Clark cleared his throat. "Well… life's full of surprises, isn't it?"
Lois was a bit uneasy herself. She'd come to like having Peter and Mary Jane around. "I guess the next question is… what are you going to do?" Clark coughed, trying to ward his wife off her direct assault. "What? So I'm direct… you knew that before you married me." Clark couldn't help but smile and laugh nervously.
Peter smiled and reached for his wife's hand. "We're home. Metropolis is our home now. This is where our friends are. This is where we are."
Clark and Lois sighed in relief. "It's good to have you here, too." Clark sat and smiled momentarily. "So… Peter and I are going to New York with the decombinator tonight… What's everyone else going to do?"
Lois and Mary Jane looked to one another. "Well, MJ and me are going to stay home and get caught up on things. But we think we know what Barry and Tina are going to be doing."
Barry and Tina looked a little nervous. Mary Jane pulled out an envelope from under her place mat and handed it to Tina. "These are tickets to the Metro Ballet. They're doing Swan Lake tonight, and they're 'really' good. If you want them, the tickets are yours. We thought you should get to see something nice while you were here."
Peter and Clark looked to each other, both curious, since they had not been part of whatever Mary Jane and Lois were cooking up. Tina took the tickets and smiled graciously. "Thank you. We'd love to do something fun our last night here, right Barry?"
Barry hadn't been to talkative. "Oh… yeah. Sure. Lot's of fun."
Clark and Peter stifled their laughter. "You should pack before you go to the performance," Lois suggested.
Barry nodded. "We're already packed except for what we'll be using tonight. I even got the suit packed in its special case."
"How many of those suits do you have?" MJ asked curiously. "I know Peter has a lot of his and so does Clark. Yours looks a little more complex."
Barry shook his head. "Not really. I've got about a dozen now." He completely missed the look exchanged.
It was late when Superman and Spider-Man landed in front of Curt Connors' home in New York. "Man, sky gliding's the only way to fly," Spidey said in a cheery voice. "Thanks for the lift. You're sure you don't want to come in and meet him?"
Superman shook his head. "You're not getting me and that box in the same room." Spidey looked at the box he was holding and nodded. "I'll be flying around. When you're ready to leave, give me a call." As Spider-Man nodded, Superman flew off.
Spidey walked up the familiar stairs to the door and knocked. Momentarily, Dr. Connors opened the door. "Spider-Man! It's good to see you again." He extended his one hand and Spidey shook it gratefully. "This is certainly a surprise. Come in, please." Spidey crossed over into the house and Connors shut the door. "Spider-Man, I'm sorry if I sound rude, but I'm very anxious to find out what happened with the decombinator prototype. When you called and said what you needed it for I had hoped…"
Without a word, Spider-Man put the case on the table and opened it. "The Scorpion was changed back this afternoon, Doc. It works."
Connors stared at the device. "It works? How?" Dr. Connors sat down, his hopes realized, his emotions overwhelming him.
"The credit goes to Peter Parker and a friend, Doc."
"I'd suspected as much. Peter's the only person who knew as much about the original recombinator as I did." Connors was quiet for a moment. "Spider-Man… How is Peter doing? I know you've gotta be happy in Metropolis… but how is Peter doing?"
The personal slant to the question made Spidey a little uneasy while it also touched him. It was nice to know that at least a few people remembered Peter Parker favorably. "He's doing fine, Doc. He's working for The Daily Planet as a photographer. He works a lot with Lois Lane and Clark Kent. He's also working at STAR Labs part time… that's where he got the equipment to fix the decombinator."
"Thank you, Spider-Man… I'm very happy for Peter. I'm sure you know, he deserves a little happiness in his life. Things weren't that easy here in New York for him… Well, for either of you as a matter of fact. I'm happy you've both found somewhere you can be happy." He sighed briefly. "Getting back to the decombinator thought… you're not going to tell me how it was fixed, are you?"
Spidey shook his head. "I can't, Doc… and after it's done here, it's gonna get a one way ticket to deep space." Connors nodded, understanding that the decombinator's technology couldn't be allowed to continue to exist. "By the way, where's your wife? She should really be here to help you. It really takes the strength out of you. The Scorpion is still recovering."
"She's upstairs with our son." Connors approached Spidey slowly. "I guess after this is over, I won't be seeing you much, will I?" Spidey shook his head slowly. "That's all right. You've done good for yourself in Metropolis. I just want you to know, I appreciate everything you've done for my family. You protected them from the Lizard and you brought me back to them several times. Not only that, but you helped me keep it a secret that I was the Lizard." He took a deep breath. "Thank you, and the next time you see Peter… tell him the same."
As Connors spoke, Spidey was fighting a battle inside himself. This was the last time he was going to see Connors… at least for a long time. Peter Parker might not ever see his mentor again. "You know, Doc… you've helped me a lot… Me and Peter both, actually. You helped me capture Venom and you… Well… What I'm trying to say is that I trust you. I trust you enough to tell you the truth." Spidey ran a thumb under the back of the mask seem and began to raise it.
Connors stopped him. "Don't Spider-Man." Spidey stopped. "I appreciate your trust. Yours and Peter's… but I don't need to know and you certainly don't need me to know. Our lives are complex enough. The moment you remove that mask, any suspicions I have might be confirmed." Spidey rested his hand at his side. "Just tell Peter the next time you see him that I appreciate the gesture, all right?" Spidey nodded. "You might also want to tell him that he's a good photographer, but he's an even better scientist. He's wasting his potential in a darkroom."
Peter heard a door open upstairs. "Curt… Who was at the door?" Peter could hear Margret Connors coming down the stairs. "Spider-Man, this is a surprise. Is everything all right?"
Dr. Connors went to his wife and gave her a hug. "Things couldn't be better. They just couldn't be better." Under his mask, Peter Parker smiled.
Dressed in dark clothing, Lois Kent and Mary Jane Parker stood outside a hotel room door. "Are you sure this is the right room?" MJ asked, looking around.
"Yeah. I double-checked the guest registry… thanks for the distraction." Lois pulled out her lock picking tools and set to work.
"That's the last 'distraction' of that kind I'm doing. Got it?"
"It was for a good cause, right?"
Mary Jane snickered. "In this case, yes."
The door lock clicked, and Lois opened the door. They entered the room and closed the door. Mary Jane brought out her flashlight and shone it around the room. "You got the stuff?"
"Yeah. I took it out of his utility belt before we left home. I love having a chemist for a husband." She giggled lightly.
Lois started appraising the suit cases. "Let's get to work."
High above the Earth, Superman gave the box containing the decombinator and kryptonite a mighty hurl toward the sun. It would burn up, and then the neogenic nightmare would finally be over, once and for all.
It was early morning in front of the Metro Inn. The cab waited while Barry Allen and Tina McGee said goodbye to Lois, Clark, Peter and Mary Jane. "Give us a call when you set the date, okay?" Clark asked with a smile. Barry nodded.
"It's really a shame you two couldn't hang around a bit more," Peter said, as straight-faced as he could. He could immediately feel his wife's eyes reprimanding him for the statement.
Barry looked uncomfortable. "Well, we'd like to… but this was all the time we could really spare."
"Well… I'm just sorry you had to spend your time here chasing down villains… I'm sure you do enough of that at home." Clark nodded toward Peter and the two of them stepped forward.
Peter and Clark helped to load the bags, while Barry stepped forward to talk to Mary Jane and Lois. "I'd like to apologize for some of the stuff I said and did. I know I was way out of line and that I really messed thigs up. I'm sorry."
"Don't think anything more about it, Barry." Lois took a deep breath and let it out. "Apology accepted." She smiled. "We all make mistakes."
"Sure we do," MJ said happily. "The important thing is to learn from them. I'm sure you won't do anything like this again, will you?"
Barry shook his head and soon he and Tina were in the cab on their way to the airport. The group watched the cab leave. As the cab disappeared from sight, Mary Jane and Lois began convulsing in laughter. Their husbands were a little unnerved. "What was that all about?" Clark asked. He put his arm around his wife. "We all make mistakes?"
Peter held his wife close. "It's important to learn from them?"
Clark and Peter looked to one another and then back to their wives. "What did you do?" they asked together.
MJ and Lois composed themselves. "Nothing… much," Lois answered meekly.
"It's not anything 'really' bad." Mary Jane couldn't help but smile. "I hope he wears underwear under that suit."
Lois giggled loudly. "I hope so, for his sake."
Again, Peter and Clark asked their question. "What did you two do?"
"Well… last night we kinda…" Lois was trying to delicately explain the situation when Mary Jane jumped in.
"We broke in their hotel room and did something to his suit."
"To get back at him for what he did to us. We both know you two know what happened." Lois looked to Peter and Clark who both nodded.
"What did you do to his suit?" Clark asked worriedly.
"Actually… I did it," Mary Jane volunteered.
"But I helped," Lois volunteered.
"Peter, you know that spray you use to dissolve your webbing when you subject it to heat?" Mary Jane smiled and giggled.
Peter nodded, wide eyed. "It dissolves synthetic fibers…" He looked in the direction of the cab and found it hard to not smile. "Just like his suit! You used that on his costume?"
"Only below the mask and above the boots, Tiger."
Lois laughed very happily. "The next time the Flash streaks around Central City, he'll be living up to his name."
Clark shook his head and then gave Lois a quick kiss. "I hope he wears boxers."
Lois, Clark and Peter walked into the Daily Planet newsroom. Mary Jane had gone home to do some much needed cleaning. Peter had protested, but Mary Jane had insisted. She wanted to do the ordinary things she had missed out on the past few months.
Clark started looking around for someone. "Let's see if we can find Jimmy so we can get out to Ferguson and get some pictures of the area." Lois nodded as Peter moved off toward the darkroom. They made their way a little farther in and saw Perry waiting for them. "Chief! Where's Jimmy? We need to get out to Ferguson Park and get some pictures for this piece we're working on."
Perry wore a very stern face. "Kids, Jimmy is no longer a photographer for the Daily Planet."
Lois and Clark were stunned and shocked. Peter, who had been heading to develop some film, now made his way back. "What do you mean, Perry? Did someone offer him a job because of that story he wrote?"
Perry nodded. "Well, there's that and a couple other things. I know you two've heard we've got to do some cutting to reduce the bottom line." Wearily, Lois and Clark nodded in agreement. "Well, we had to do some staff cutting." He could see them getting ready to protest and cut them off. "It's easier to let a photographer go than a reporter. We need all the reporters we can get… the syndication fees we pay are killing us as it is." He sighed. "As for Jimmy… The Star offered him a package that the Planet couldn't compete with." He let a grin slip. "It's a good thing we didn't have to. Lucy!"
Lucy Lane stepped out of Perry's office. "Hey guys, meet the newest reporter for the Daily Planet." She reached back and pulled Jimmy, dressed in a blue suit, out. "I'd like to introduce you to James B. Olsen, staff writer for the Daily Planet."
Jimmy smiled ear to ear as he bounded down the stairs to applause of his friends. As soon as he was on the ground, Lois gave him a big hug. "Not bad, Jimmy. Not bad at all." Clark clapped Jimmy on the back and Peter grabbed for Jimmy's hand. Lucy stood back and smiled happily for him.
Perry cleared his throat, but was unable to suppress a smile. "Now, Lois, Clark… From here on out, you two are going to have to teach this kid the ropes… understand? He's greener than Clark here was when he came to us." Clark momentarily blushed, but then nodded in agreement. "It's gonna be you two's responsibility to help him find his way. Think you two can handle that?"
"I think we can break him in," Lois said happily.
"This also means you two need a new photographer. Parker, that's gonna be you." Perry continued to smile. "Now, all of you have work to do so get going! We can discuss the details of all this later. For heaven's sake, this is the Daily Planet! Not the Ankocking Weekly."
Hours later, Lois, Clark and Peter returned. "What a morning," Peter said as he examined his camera. "I wish someone would have told those protesters we're on their side. Sheesh!"
"Hey Tiger, your day's about to get a lot more interesting." Mary Jane stood with Perry at the base of the stairs to the offices.
"Mary Jane, what are you doing here? Is everything okay?"
"Everything's great," she said with a wide smile. Clark and Lois looked to one another and nodded. "I came in to tell you something, but then I got to talking to Mr. White…" Perry cleared his throat, prompting her to correct herself. "Talking to Perry I mean, and well… we've got some news for all of you."
"Mary Jane came in, looking for you, Peter. You weren't here of course, so we started talking," Perry said with a grin. Peter, Clark and Lois nodded, following along. "Well, one thing led to another and I asked her about her next shoot. I was shocked when she said she was giving up modeling, but then she said she was going to look for something she enjoyed doing. I asked what that was… and… well… I'd been looking for a way to help you two kids get some more time together as it was."
Perry took a deep breath. "We haven't had a society columnist since Cat left, and buying 'her' syndicated column's buying 'us' into the poor house. We need a columnist of our own who 'we' can syndicate. Someone who knows the entertainment scene inside and out and who had contacts to spare. This choice seemed natural." He stepped back from Mary Jane and looked to the assembled group that included Jimmy, Lucy, Lois, Clark and Peter. "It's a special event when someone joins our family here at the Planet. We've already had Jimmy move up the ranks today, and now we have another new member of our family. I'd like you all to meet Jane Watson, former model, now the society writer for the Daily Planet!"
For the second time that day, the newsroom erupted in applause and congratulatory statements. As it all died down though, MJ quieted the group down even more. "I came here to tell Peter something, not get a job… although I'm going to love doing this," she said with a wide smile. "I had to tell Perry what I was going to tell you first, Tiger. It was only fair. I hope you don't mind?"
"Of course I don't, although I'd like to know what it is myself." He looked puzzled.
She pulled him aside, away from the others. "Well… I got a call from the doctor this morning after I got back home."
"You're okay, right?" Peter asked, his concern evident.
She took his hand and squeezed it. "I'm fine, Tiger… although I'm gonna be sick here for a while." Peter looked pale. "I'll be sick for a few months, and I'm gonna gain a 'lot' of weight." Peter's eyes widened as she took his hand and placed it on her stomach. "Say good-bye to this figure for a while… Daddy."
Peter stood and blinked for a moment until he mumbled "Wow," and dropped to the floor.
A while later, Peter was sitting in a chair with Mary Jane holding his hand and laughing. Lucy and Jimmy enjoyed the spectacle. Lois and Clark, with arms entwined, made their way over to Perry who hadn't stopped smiling. "Pretty good day, right, Chief?"
"A very good day, kids. A very good day."
Lois broke free from her husband and stepped up to the man who was closer to her than her own father. "Perry… I know it's none of our business… but are you okay? The last couple of days you've been acting… not quite right. You've been leaving the Planet early and you're just…"
"Happy?" Perry asked with a smile. "There's a good reason for that, Lois. Alice and I are getting back together." He held up his hands before he could be engulfed in the display of emotion he knew was coming. "We're not sure where we're going on this, but we're going to see if we can work out some things. We've both changed a lot since we got married. At some point in time… our lives took separate paths. I had the Planet and she had her community work. Now we've got to see if we can find a place for each other in our lives again."
Lois grabbed Perry in a big hug, which he found comforting. He was happy for himself and these kids around him. Lois had always been so reserved with her feelings. Since she had met Clark however, she had let the world find out she was a compassionate, as well as tough as nails. He owed the young man in front of him a great deal. "You two will make it work. I know it!" Lois said as she let go and then gave her own husband a kiss. "We know it."
Perry, still wearing a smile, headed up to his office while Lois and Clark headed over to check on Peter. Lucy and Jimmy met them halfway. "He should be speaking in whole sentences pretty soon," Jimmy joked.
Lois and Clark laughed. "Hey guys, can we ask you a favor?" Lucy asked as she took Jimmy's hand. "Could we come over for dinner tonight? We've got some news we'd like to share with you too."
Lois and Clark glanced at each other and then over to Peter and Mary Jane. Those two would probably do their own celebrating tonight. "Sure," Lois said as she tried to get a clear look at her sister's hand. "I'll even cook," she added with a smile.
Jimmy and Lucy walked away, but Lois could faintly hear Jimmy ask "we're actually going to have to eat the food, aren't we?" Lois squinted and followed the pair with her eyes until Clark pleastantly shifted her attention to him.
Lois chopped at the tomatoes on the cutting board. "I couldn't see a ring, could you?"
"Nope," Clark answered as he put the spaghetti in the boiling pot. "Maybe she's not going to wear it until after they tell us?"
"That's a little strange." She looked to Clark who was suppressing a grin. "Not a word about family traits either, got it buster?"
"I didn't say a word." Clark moved to his wife and wrapped his arms around her, helping her to cut the tomatoes. "Should we act surprised?"
"I think we should. This is special to them." She giggled and laid down the knife, then turned to face Clark. "It's all a little much to take in, isn't it? Jimmy's now a staff writer, Peter and Mary Jane are going to have a baby, Perry and Alice are getting back together… Life's never boring, is it?"
Clark lowered his head to kiss her neck. "Life would never be boring with you around." Lois gasped and then giggled. He withdrew with a sigh. "I'd love to do some 'cooking' of our own, but I guess that will have to wait 'till later."
Lois smiled seductively. "Not too much later, I hope." Clark went about getting the ingredients for the sauce ready. "Have you given any thought to what Barry said Jameson told him?"
Clark stopped and nodded. "Yeah, and as much as I'd like to discount it, it sounds plausible. It would certainly explain why Cold didn't damage any valuable property."
"What are we going to do then? Intergang under Mindy Church is bad enough, but under the Kingpin…" She faked a shudder. "This city could be in real trouble."
"Not as long as Spider-Man and Superman are here to protect it."
"Or as long as it has Lane and Kent, right?"
Dinner came and went without much meaningful conversation. They talked about Jimmy's promotion and the events of the past two days. Finally, Lois couldn't stand the suspense anymore and decided to ask. "So, when are you two going to share this new you have to tell us?" Clark tried to motion Lois to take it slow but she pressed her foot into his leg as a warning to say nothing more. He complied.
"Well, we hope you're going to be happy with this." Lucy reached for and found Jimmy's hand. She took it and held it tenderly. "Jimmy keeps saying that this was my decision… that he just asked the question. I think it's our decision. This will move our lives a step forward."
Clark and Lois held hands and smiled. "We know," Lois said happily. "We're very happy for you both… and we only hope that you and Jimmy will be as happy together as we are."
Jimmy smiled. "One day, we will."
Lois and Clark frowned. That didn't sound too good. "You two are happy together, aren't you?"
Lucy and Jimmy laughed. "Of course we are!"
"Well I'd hope so. People who're getting married should be." Lois finished her sentence before she realized what she had done. "Oops."
Jimmy and Lucy looked flabbergasted. Clark chuckled and squeezed his wife's hand. "We had planned on letting you two tell us, but we kinda already knew what you were going to tell us tonight."
Jimmy looked to his friends and shook his head. "I don't think so, CK."
"We're not getting married… at least not anytime soon," Lucy clarified. "I was going to tell you that I've decided to go back to school. Jimmy asked me what I wanted to do with my life. He wanted to be a reporter, but I wasn't really sure. I know now though." She took a deep breath and got an encouraging look from Jimmy. "I'm going to be a teacher!"
Lois and Clark looked to each other and sighed. "Oh, boy."
The Kingpin looked over a report intently. "Have you confirmed this, Smythe?"
Smythe brought his hover chair closer. "I have. Mr. Jameson is in a deep coma. He's not expected to recover completely… if at all." The Kingpin put the report down on his desk. He wore a contemplative expression. "Do you think he told anyone of your plans?"
"I seriously doubt it. I do not believe that Mr. Jameson would have told anyone what he knew willingly. Even though we don't know where he got his information, we can rest assured that at least one person less has it."
"Then I guess this wasn't a total loss."
"Indeed not." The Kingpin stood and smiled. "Because Captain Cold did not directly fulfill his contract, indeed he was captured, we did not have to pay him. We did obtain the desired results however."
"A feat only the Kingpin could manage."
"Quite." The Kingpin stood and stared at a map. "Tell our operatives to continue as planned." The map was labeled "Metropolis".
A few days later in Central City, Tina McGee sat on her couch, reading a book… what some would call a trashy novel. She would never admit it, but she did enjoy them. Tina turned a page eagerly, anxious to find out if the young heroine managed to find the man she loved before he left since he thought she didn't love him. The story was incredibly bittersweet, and she shed tears as she read.
Tina continued to turn pages, and just as the woman had found her love, she was brought out of her trance by a loud pounding on her door. She bolted upright, startled. Tina stashed the book under a pillow quickly and steadied herself. "Who is it?!" she practically demanded.
"It's me!!" Tina instantly recognized Barry's voice. He sounded upset and troubled. It was very unlike him. She made her way to the door quickly, taking a quick chance to brush her hair out. "Tina, where are you!! Open the door!"
Tina reached for the door, unlocked it and opened it. "What's the matter, Barry? It's 10 p.m."
Barry walked into the apartment, and Tina closed the door behind him. She raised an eyebrow in curiosity as she examined his attire. He was wearing a beat-up trench coat and she could see he had on his Flash boots. "Tina, I wouldn't happen to have a spare change of clothes around here, would I?"
She shook her head, curiously. "No." She looked Barry over again. "What's going on with that outfit?"
"Something happened to the suit."
Tina looked at him curiously as he didn't elaborate. "Why didn't you just go home and change?"
"I can't go like this!"
"Like what?" Barry rolled his eyes and pulled open the trench coat. Tina stared for a moment and then giggled. "Hehehehe… what happened… to your… suit?" She tried to catch her breath, but that only allowed her to laugh more. "I bet you'll at least wear briefs with the suit next time!!!!"
Barry shut the coat disgustedly. "This isn't funny!! Something happened to the suit! There was an emergency downtown and the moment I started to go really get fast… I felt the wind on my body… 'all' of my body. I started to get 'uncomfortable'… and I stopped quickly." Barry's face turned a deep red, remembering the incident. "Can you imagine tomorrow morning's headline? "Flash Flashes City"." He grumbled again. "The only thing that didn't disintegrate was the cowl and the boots. I was lucky I found this trench coat in a back alley. Tina, what happened to my suit?"
Tina was laughing very hard and found it hard to talk. "Was that the suit that you took to Metropolis?" He nodded. "And you haven't figured it out already?" Barry shook his head. "Ballet tickets, Barry? Our room, unoccupied? I think Lois and Mary Jane got their revenge on you."
Berry grouched again. "They'll probably get tomorrow morning's front page and frame it."
Tina laughed again. "Okay… I'll go over to your apartment and get you a change of clothes. Toss me your keys." On instinct, Barry reached for his pockets… He looked back up to her with a scowl. She waved her own key ring at him, dangling them like a toy. She snickered as she made way to the door. "I'll be back soon. In the meantime… feel free to just 'hang out'." She couldn't contain herself any longer and began to laugh. "I'm sorry! Really!! I better get going!" Before Barry could do or say anything, she had left… giggling and laughing all the way to her car.
The weekend came, and so did the outing with the elder Kents at the campgrounds. Lois and Clark sat on a bench, watching Martha and Jonathan interact with Peter and Mary Jane. Lois briefly watched Peter use his webshooter to create a net to store some items between a couple trees. Jonathan took a second to examine the webshooter himself. "They're certainly happy, aren't they?" Lois asked. Clark nodded. "Your," Lois stopped and looked to Clark and smiled warmly, "our parents are really great. They seem to have really taken to the new superhero in town."
Clark nodded and smiled. He was happy that Lois considered his parents as hers. "Yeah… Dad's been a fan of Spidey for years… I can still remember his face when we introduced them."
Lois giggled. "I don't know who was more nervous… your dad or Peter." Clark chuckled. "We really needed this time away from everything."
"That we did." Clark scooted closer and put an arm around his wife. "Penny for your thoughts, Honey."
"I was just thinking about… how I'm kinda jealous of Mary Jane and Peter." She sighed and Clark pulled her close. "I mean, I know they've waited for this more than us… but still."
"I know." Clark gave her a quick kiss on the forehead. "One day it'll be our turn, though. I mean, Dr. Klein's tests showed that it's certainly possible for us to have a child. I guess we just have…"
"Bad timing?" Lois smirked. "That's the story of our lives."
Lois looked into his eyes and grinned. "True… but you know, if we wait for the right time we might miss it."
Clark grinned back. "Oh? I assume you have a plan then?"
"Of course I do. We take every opportunity we get to make the 'right time'." Lois looked at the others talking away and getting camp gear ready. "Right now, I see a perfect opportunity, don't you?"
Clark quickly appraised the situation. "I believe I do." He got up and extended his hand to Lois who grabbed a blanket. Clark picked up a flashlight. "You never know when we'll be done looking for that 'right time', you know?" Amid giggles, the two of them disappeared into the woods.
"Where are they going?" Peter asked as he watched his friends head away from the camp area.
"Where do you think, Tiger?" Mary Jane giggled as she wrapped her arms around Peter's neck and gave him a kiss.
"Oh…" Peter blushed, a little embarrassed. "I hope they'll be back in time for supper."
Jonathan came to stand by Peter. "Peter, I wouldn't count on it."
Martha took her husband's hand and squeezed it. "They might come back for breakfast…" She looked to her husband and smiled again as she laughed lightly. "Okay, maybe lunch."
Never the end…
The adventure will continue in Family(time)
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