A Future Not Now

By Tank Wilson <TankW1@aol.com>

Rated PG-13

Submitted October 1999

Summary: After suffering a tragic personal loss, a grieving Clark finds himself having to accept an unusual friendship from someone who has lost even more in this touching story.

Author's notes: This story idea originally saw life as a short three part vignette posted on Zoomway's boards quite a while back. The general consensus from my friends on the board who commented on it was that this story needed more flesh. So in deference to their wiser consul I have significantly rewritten this story to include much of the backstory that was left out initially. Therefore I wish to thank all those people who had commented on the original and tell them that they now have to read it again because it is almost three times longer now. A special thank you goes out to Wendy Richards who volunteered to consult on and provide edit assistance on this new version. As always, all characters are trade marked and copyrighted to their respective owners. Any and all feedback is encouraged and welcome.


It was very dark, and musty, but then it was always dark and musty. It had been ever since the pathetic naked twenty watt bulb which was the only illumination went out all those weeks ago; or was it months? Actually there was some illumination. Light slipped in along the edges of the poorly fitting door, creating a couple of pools of murky gray edged in very deep shadows. Considering what the six by eight foot cell looked like under the light, the darkness was probably an advantage. She had just returned the empty plate which had held whatever it was that passed for food everyday. She learned early to eat it all because it was all she was going to get. It was some sort of tasteless mush with a nasty texture but it was filling and, surprisingly, she hadn't lost much weight, just her spirit.

Early on she had exercised every day in order to keep from getting indolent and she wanted to stay ready for when the chance for escape would come. As the time dragged on and on, she exercised less and allowed despair to replace her thoughts of escape and vengeance on the people who had done this to her. Eventually, she became resigned to an existence with no way to tell the passage of time except by her menstrual cycles and, as the years passed, she could no longer even trust them. She often wondered why she was being kept alive and many times thought how easy it would be to just end her miserable existence. But for some reason, as long as she was still alive, she clung to a hope for rescue. People she knew and loved would miss her and would come looking for her; but, as months and months passed, that chance got slimmer, and the hope got fainter. She had almost reached the end of her endurance when, amazingly, the door had been torn from its hinges and silhouetted against the suddenly bright light flooding her cell was a man in a cape who…


She felt her shoulder being tugged and had to shake her head to bring herself out of her reverie and back to the present moment. She looked over at the handsome, sad-faced man standing next to her. When he noticed she was back, he opened the door and indicated she should enter.

"We're here."

Lois Lane stepped from the entry to just inside the front door of the brownstone on Hyperion Ave. as Clark Kent closed the door silently behind them. He crossed the room and turned on a table lamp next to the couch.

"Nice place," Lois said as she found her eyes drawn to all the assembled pieces that told her this was somebody's home and not just a place to live.

"Thanks." Clark's voice was weak and he sounded very tired. "Please sit. Would you like something to eat or drink?"

Lois knew his politeness was a reflex and that he really would rather just be alone with his grief so she was about to refuse when she realized it had been nearly a full day since she'd last had anything to eat and she *was* hungry. Besides, she had made a promise.

"I guess I am kind of hungry, anything would be fine."

Lois sat in the wing back chair which was a safe four feet distance from the couch. Her gaze strayed up to the fireplace mantel where she saw several pictures of a smiling Clark and Lois. He had a nice smile. She wondered if he would ever really smile again. There were also a couple shots of the Daily Planet newsroom. Some of the people, like Perry, she recognized. Many others she didn't. One photo featured a good looking young guy about twenty or twenty-one who she didn't recognize, but by the way he had his arm around her, he obviously knew Lois. She stood up and went over to check out a couple of elegantly framed photos that sat on either end of the mantle. Both were of older couples. The photo on the right was an older couple sitting together on a porch swing; they were smiling and seemed very much in love with each other. The other couple was in a more stilted, formal pose, and their smiles looked more artificial. It was more like they didn't normally smile a lot in each other's presence but made the effort for the photo. As she sat back down she speculated that they were probably photos of Lois' and Clark's parents, though she couldn't guess which was which because neither couple looked anything like her folks.

She was still looking toward the mantel when suddenly she was startled when she heard him clear his throat. She looked up to see him standing in front of her holding a plate containing a tasty looking sandwich. He had already set a glass of white wine down on the table next to her. Lois allowed herself a wry grin as she saw that the sandwich was made up of sprouts and green leafy vegetables. He'd known the kind of meals she'd lived on for so long and had anticipated what her diet might have been missing, and what her system could yet handle. Lois would kill for a big greasy cheeseburger right then, but didn't think she'd have a lot of success keeping it down. She took the plate with a smile of thanks and watched as he walked over to the couch and an identical plate and glass waiting there for him. He looked like a condemned man walking his last mile.

"This is delicious!" she exclaimed after she had taken a large bite.

"Thanks." His response was immediate but without any feeling.

They ate in awkward silence until both had finished and Clark took the dirty plates and glasses into the kitchen. She briefly heard running water, then Clark came back out and sat on the couch again. Lois looked over at him. There were dark circles under somewhat puffy eyes and they had a haunted look to them. She hesitantly broke the silence.

"What now?"

Clark ran his hand through his hair and stared at his feet. "I don't know."

Lois was again forced to remember the fantastic events of the last few days. She had gone from being held prisoner, illegally, for nearly four years to a daring rescue by the twin of the man in front of her. But he had no sooner gotten her back to Metropolis, when the world came crashing down on them. Her world came under attack by some sort of band of outer space bandits with incredible powers. She thought they had called themselves New Kryptons, or some such thing.

Soon the dead author, H.G. Wells, brought help in the form of another caped do-gooder, and a doppelganger of herself. The mad swirl of the unbelievable events threatened to snap the fragile grasp Lois still had on her sanity. In the end she had been rescued from her imprisonment only to wind up here, in some slightly warped mirror version of her own world. Her understanding of what she had recently gone through was minimal at best. All she really knew was that this man's twin was dead, as was her own double, the beloved wife of the gentle caring man hurting before her, and her old life, *no*, her whole world was gone, destroyed, and she knew she could never get it back.

Clark found himself staring at the floor as he continued to wring his hands. He couldn't look this Lois in the face; it was too painful. He angrily brushed a tear away that had dared to intrude on his self pity. She was gone, gone forever. No matter how many times he told himself that, it never seemed real. He just *knew* that any minute now she would walk through the door and chastise him for forgetting to bring her back with them. He clenched his fists in frustration for he knew he was being unfair to the woman sitting only a few feet away from him at this moment. It wasn't her fault, but every time he looked at her it was like a punch in the gut. His Lois, his wonderful wife, the reason for his existence was not here, and in her place was this other woman.

Clark snuck another peek at Lois as she sat nervously in the chair against the side wall. She wasn't Lois but she was. Her physical appearance was a little different. She seemed a little taller, and of course, after what she had gone through she was thin and not terribly healthy looking. Her hair was a lot longer, down to the middle of her back but it was the same beautiful dark auburn color that he had come to love so. But it was her eyes that scared him the most. She had the same deep brown eyes that captured your soul when you looked at them. They would draw you in and you'd run the risk of drowning in them. Clark, in just the short time he'd been with her, could tell that this Lois possessed many of those same qualities that caused him to fall in love with his own Lois. He was in turmoil and it terrified him. Every time he looked at her he was reminded of what he had lost, yet he couldn't help but be attracted to her also. He knew none of this had been Lois' fault, and he found himself wanting to comfort her and hold her, but it made him feel dirty. He felt like he was betraying his missing wife, like he was being unfaithful to her memory by being attracted to this other world copy of her.

Clark knew he was giving in to not only his grief but also self-pity and a hefty dose of self-loathing. He had failed. He and the other Clark had failed, and because of that failure the most important person in his life was dead, and a whole world was enslaved by a filthy pack of rabid supermen. He had replayed the horrific events of the last few days over and over in his mind; but, as much as he beat himself up for not coming up with the miracle save as he had managed to do so many times before, he could come up with nothing he could have done, no variation of his actions which would have made a difference. Each time it ended the same way.

The New Kryptonians who had invaded that other dimension bore only a passing resemblance to the ones he'd had to deal with here. While the Kryptonians he had dealt with were renegades of a larger civilized group of people, the ones he'd encountered in the other dimension were nothing more than a large band of brigands led by an even more sick and egomaniacal Lord Nor. There had been no Ching, no Lord Trey, and Zara had been a weak, shallow girl barely sixteen and totally under the control of Nor. Still, there had been more than a hundred of them, supermen all, and it had been too much for him and the other Clark to overcome.

After H.G. Wells had come to him and Lois, and begged them to help the other world Clark and his newly found Lois, Clark knew he couldn't say no. The other Clark had come and bailed his world out of sure disaster when Tempus had exiled him in the time stream. Could he do any less? Of course, trouble had come when he'd *suggested* that Lois stay behind. If only this one time she would have listened to him. She knew it would be very dangerous and that's why she came. Under no circumstances would she let him go into such danger without her to watch his back. It was another reason he had to beat himself up over his failure. Because he couldn't say no to that wonderful woman when she wanted something, she was placed in the way of danger that she didn't survive. Clark shook his head. He still had enough clarity of thought to know that short of tying her up, Lois would have come no matter what he'd said.

The plan had been simple at first. In order to best test the forces aligned against them it had been decided that the two Supermen would not be seen together. Clark had operated behind the scenes, as low profile and inconspicuous as possible, trying not to draw attention to himself. The other Clark had taken on the role of public defender for his world, and had confronted the Kryptonians directly. Using the knowledge that he had gotten from his own run-ins with the Kryptonians of his world, he and the other Clark had used the fact that Kal-El was a hereditary noble of Krypton to force Nor into a duel for control of the New Kryptonian people. Unfortunately there was no Ching here to teach that Clark the ways of ritual battle and Clark could only give him the techniques that he still remembered from his own challenge. Just like back here, Nor cheated; but, there was no U.S. Army Colonel to shoot Kryptonite gas into the melee and end the reign of Nor and his henchmen. Nor defeated that Clark, and with his death the Superman of this dimension was left to fight on alone for another world.

"I, I guess the first thing I'll have to do is get this hair cut." Lois emitted a little self-conscious laugh. "I've never had my hair that short before. It should be an interesting experience."

"What?" Clark's introspection had been broken and he was, at first, confused. He didn't seem to understand what she had just said.

"I mean if I'm to fill in for this world's Lois, I'll have to look like her."

Clark leapt to his feet, his face suddenly flushed with anger. He saw Lois flinch under the heat of his gaze.

"What do you mean fill in!" He took one step toward her. "You can't be Lois Lane!"

Suddenly all the pent-up fears and frustrations of not only the last few days but from the last four years surged forth. Lois came up out of her chair in a flash and stuck her finger in his chest.

"You forgot something buster! I *AM* Lois Lane!"

As quickly as it had flared up originally, Clark's anger left him.

"I'm sorry." He turned away from her. "I didn't mean it like that."

"I know."

She laid her hand on the back of his shoulder. He turned and saw his own hurt and loss mirrored in her eyes.

"It's just that you can't be the Lois Lane of this world. The Lois Lane of this world has friends and family that you don't know. She has job experiences that are three to four years in advance of yours." Lois knew he hadn't meant it that way but the last remark had hurt. Clark's voice cracked, but rose in volume as he continued. "The Lois Lane of this world has a loving husband whose very reason for being has been ripped >from him! One who has to sleep in a large cold bed without the sensual warmth of another body that fit so perfectly next to his!" Tears flowed freely from Clark's face. "The Lois Lane of this world is someone whom I loved with all my heart and who returned that love in kind!" Clark stumbled over to the couch and half fell into it. Lois could only look on in horror as this incredible, larger than life, hero was reduced to a weeping, broken man right before her eyes. "I'm just not strong enough to be teased by her image in front of me every day and yet know that she is gone. Know that the wonder we shared can never be again." Clark shoved his fists into his eyes and viciously rubbed at the offending tears. "I'm sorry."

The last was said barely above a whisper but Lois still caught it. She came over and sat down next to him laying her hand on his knee.

"No, I'm sorry." She sighed. "I can't begin to know the depth of your loss or what you are going through right now. I've never even *seen*, let alone experienced, the kind of total, unselfish love you two seemed to have for each other." Clark turned and looked at her. She saw a genuine concern for her in his eyes. Did he pity her? She pushed on before they both dissolved back into tears. "It's true that you've suffered greatly, more than I may ever know. But you are not the only victim here. The man I supposedly was destined to have that sort of relationship with was killed before I ever got to know him. Add to that, my whole previous life has been destroyed. I'm rescued from imprisonment to a world I don't know. As you've pointed out, all the friends and family I'm supposed to have are strangers." It was Lois' turn to let the tears flow now. "But I don't want to have to become someone else, like some poor soul stuck in a witness protection program needing to start over as a stranger. All I have here is who *I* am! All I have is Lois Lane!" Lois wiped ineffectually at her tears as Clark came over and folded her into his arms.

"Forgive me for being selfish." He spoke softly into the top of her head and stroked the hair down her back. "I was so wrapped up in my own grief and self-pity that I didn't let myself see how much you had lost."

Lois found herself relaxing in his arms. His gentle touch on the back of her head and the feel of his amazingly defined chest against her cheek were like heaven. She found herself slipping under his unintentional spell. He had lost the love of his life but was still able to offer her much needed comfort. Lois began to see how easy it would be to fall for this very special man. She sighed inwardly, if only… but she quickly quashed that thought as she concentrated on Clark's soft and husky voice.

"I may have lost the most important person in my life," another tear slipped from his eye as he continued, "but I do still have my parents and my friends. No one here is who you really know. You almost have to start completely over."

She tilted her head back to look up at him. His eyes glistened through a film of undried tears; his smile was small and sad, but it also was somehow reassuring. She knew he didn't feel it, but he was making the effort for her.

"You understand now why it's so important for me to at least be me?" She saw him nod.

Lois wrapped her arms gratefully around his waist and squeezed. She felt his body begin to respond to her presence, then suddenly he stiffened and stepped back out of her embrace. He turned away from her and began to pace. Even knowing the circumstances involved, Lois felt oddly hurt by his rejection.

"Of course you should be yourself. You should be Lois Lane." He continued his pacing. "I'll find a way to get rid of Clark Kent. I'll become Superman full time, increase my responsibilities to cover the whole world. You, naturally, can have the house. I'll check up on you once in awhile… what?" He stopped when he noticed the look on Lois' face.

"Are you insane!"

"No, I can do this." Clark had blushed initially at Lois' outburst but was now regaining his equilibrium. "On this world, Clark Kent and Superman are two different people. So even if Clark Kent were to disappear, Superman could still, "

"Stop!" He stopped. "Sit!" He sat. "Now if you think I'm going to let you ruin the rest of your life for me, think again flyboy!"


She waved him to silence with a single sharp motion of her finger. "First off, I can't pull this off without you. I'll need your intimate knowledge of this Daily Planet, and all my friends and family to avoid the pitfalls. It's going to take awhile to discover the things that are similar and those that aren't."

He interrupted her. "But I don't think I'm strong enough to deal with this. Seeing you everyday and knowing you aren't her will constantly reinforce the fact that she's gone, and what I've lost." Tears began to find their way down Clark's cheeks again and Lois found herself following suit. "I can already tell you are a wonderful person in your own right, and please don't take this wrong, but you are *not* my Lois Lane."

Lois winced and suddenly images of this Clark's Lois Lane came flooding back into her mind. The depth of Clark's devotion to his Lois and the heart shattering pain of her loss was amazing to her. She had talked quite a lot with the Lois of this dimension during their short time together. Clark's Lois had tried to make her understand what his love had done for her but she'd never really understood. His Lois would talk about her pre-Clark days and how she was so independent and never felt that she *needed* any one man. Then she went on to tell her how she had never realized how alone and miserable she had been until she knew Clark, understood what real love was, and found what she had been missing. It had been scary for Lois to hear this because she very easily identified with that Lois' pre-Clark attitudes, and when word came back that her dimension's Superman had been killed, that Lois had broke down and cried. Lois had figured that since that Lois had met him before, they must've been pretty good friends, and that was why she was crying. She was informed that, while they were indeed good friends, she was actually crying for her. She was crying because now she would never have the chance to know the happiness that she and her Clark shared. Lois had heard the words and had seen the actions between the Lois and Clark of this dimension but never really understood, until now. Until she saw the devastation that his wife's loss had caused this world's Clark Kent.

Then had come that terrible time, when those evil bastards had found them. They broke into the apartment and had seized them easily. This world's Superman was off somewhere still trying to fight the good fight. One of the goons made a crude comment and Clark's Lois had launched her own verbal attack as to certain aspects of the fellow's genetic heritage. Well that had angered the thug, so, without thinking about his enhanced strength, he viciously backhanded her and caused her to literally fly twenty feet and slam violently into the brick wall. Lois could tell she had been hurt bad, so she struggled free from the creep who had been holding her and ran over to the injured woman.

Only hours before, the two of them had been talking and Clark's Lois had been fretting. Now that one Superman had been killed she worried very much for her husband's safety and constantly wished she knew where he was. But she also worried about her own mortality. Not so much for herself, but instead, for what it would do to Clark if she were not to survive this. Right then, she made her promise her several things if Lois survived and she didn't.

It was obvious that Clark's Lois was grievously injured. As Lois held her in her arms, a short coughing fit wracked her body causing trickles of blood to trail out the corner of her mouth and another from her nose. Pulling her close, for her voice was barely a hoarse whisper, she asked Lois to remember those promises. Holding the woman close to her breast, with tears streaming down her cheeks, Lois told her she would. A couple of minutes later she was gone.

Lois dragged herself back to the present as she nervously played with the ends of her long dark hair where it curled around her breast. It was now or never. It was time to get it all out, find out where things were going to go from here. It was not only the rest of her life that was going to be decided here tonight, but his as well. She cleared her throat in hopes of breaking into Clark's deep funk. She succeeded in getting him to look up at her. She almost faltered at the bleak look on his face.

"No, Clark, I'm not your Lois Lane. I wish I was because I can tell how much this hurts you and, believe it or not, I have no wish to ever hurt you." She tucked a long errant strand of hair behind her ear. Clark bit down on his lip. "No one said this wasn't going to be hard. It's going to be damn hard but your wife and I had some chances to talk over the last couple of days and spoke about a lot of things, but mostly we talked about you. She made me promise her something, and when I held her in my arms as she died, she reminded me of that promise." The floodgates were now open but Lois' voice remained strong. Clark's hands twisted his t-shirt into a wrinkled wreck but he didn't interrupt her. "She knew if she didn't make it that it would be terribly hard on you. So she asked me to be at least a friend to you. I was to be there for you and not let you do 'something stupid' like not caring anymore for your own life and happiness. I promised her I would try. I may not be up to the task but I *am* going to try." She marched over and sat on the coffee table in front of him. Disentangling his hands from his shirt she held them briefly to her lips. "I will be here for you, to talk to, to lean on, for whatever you need. And, Clark,.." He finally looked up into her eyes. "I'm going to need to lean on you too. I'll have no chance to make a life here without your help." She reached over and drew an S on his chest with her finger. "What do you say flyboy? Will you let me be your friend?" And softer, "Will you be my friend?"

Clark looked into those beautiful, pleading eyes and was catapulted back to those last horrible hours. He'd found out about the capture and his wife's death. It had taken all the spirit out of him so when Nor had called on him to surrender or more innocents would suffer he went almost gladly to what he assumed was his death. Clark knew then that they'd failed and it hurt him to know that a whole planet would suffer because of it. Before turning himself over to Nor he had one last task to perform.

He had located the only known specimen of Kryptonite in this dimension, which this world's Clark had safely tucked away in a lead box in his secret closet, and had searched out someone to entrust it to. Clark had quickly located an army colonel named Trask, had explained to him what exactly it was, and had left it in his care. This Col. Trask had promised to form an underground force to continue the fight and they wouldn't give up till they had their world back. Superman had given Trask a sad smile and a firm handshake before leaving to keep his appointment with his expected execution.

Even knowing what was awaiting him Clark's heart shattered when he was finally confronted with the reality of things. On the top step of the court house stood Nor and several of his men. A crowd had been gathered below to watch the proceedings. Four people were tied to the columns in front of the entrance to the court house: Mayor Perry White, Daily Planet publisher James Olsen, H. G. Wells, and Lois. But it wasn't his Lois. No matter what his intellect knew, his heart had hoped against hope that his information was wrong and that it was really his Lois who had survived. He had instantly felt guilty for wishing the other Lois ill, but his world had just ended and he knew he would welcome death. It was in Clark's mind to go ahead and try to take out as many of the Kryptonians as he could before they overwhelmed him, especially Nor, but they were prepared for that. Nor warned him, any hostile move on his part would result in the execution of innocents; and, to emphasize his point, Nor executed Perry White with his heat vision.

Clark had quickly assured Nor that he'd cause no trouble, that there was no reason for anyone else to die. Nor had laughed and walked up to James Olsen. Clark had been terrified that Mr. Olsen would be next but instead Nor had ripped the ropes easily from Olsen's hands. Clark remembered being nearly sick to his stomach when it became clear to him. No wonder they had had such troubles; why it seemed Nor knew their every move. There had been a traitor. James Olsen had seen what he thought the new order was going to be and decided to place himself on the winning side.

When he and Lois had first come to this world to help, they had joined forces with Mayor Perry White, a military liaison, and James Olsen, who with the resources at the Planet's command, could provide much needed information. With the revelation of Olsen's betrayal, Clark was too broken already to feel the anger that was his right. He merely felt sick. Clark had hung his head waiting for the end to come and release him from his pain. Clark remembered those next words as if they had been burned into his brain.

"You know, Kal-El," Nor began, "I really should just kill you and be done with it, but where's the sport in that." Nor had paced a little bit and gave Clark an evil smile. "Besides, it has become rather obvious to me that you would probably welcome death about now." Nor strode over to Clark and slapped him across the face. "Wouldn't you!" Clark stood mute. "Oh, right, noble and heroic to the end. You really are quite boring, you know." Nor made a grand gesture with his hands and arms. "I'm going to show you that I can be magnanimous in victory and allow you to live." Nor's smile turned into a sneer. "You see, I know that the kindest thing I could do for you is to kill you, but I'm just not made that way. Kindness is for the weak, and the noble. I also know that when it comes to these noble heroic types their word is their bond." Nor chuckled. "How very quaint. Still, in return for your pledge to leave this world, and never again interfere in its activities, in any time period," Nor gave H.G. Wells a hard look. "I will allow this little man to take you and he back to the place where you came from. I expect your promise of non interference to cover him also."

Clark stared at Nor for a moment. "And if I refuse?"

"Oh please do," Nor said, "because then I'll kill this woman." He indicated Lois. "That man." He pointed to Wells. "And a couple dozen of the rabble out there." He included the crowd with a sweep of his hand. "The choice is yours."

Clark looked at Wells and Lois, and saw the fear in their faces but they said nothing. He also noted the fearful milling about of the crowd. He turned back to Nor. "I accept your offer with one condition."

Nor seemed amused. "Really, and just what might that be."

"The woman, Lois Lane, also accompanies me back." With her Clark dead, Perry just executed, and the owner of the Daily Planet, a job which had been her life, having shown himself to be a collaborator, Clark knew Lois had nothing left for her here. As hard as it would be for Clark to have her back in his world, he just couldn't leave her here. If they didn't kill her outright, her life wouldn't be any better than it had been in that prison cell for the last four years. Lois Lane deserved a chance to live again.

Olsen whispered something in Nor's ear. Nor evidently found it amusing.

"Why you dog. I think I may have gained a little respect for you. Need a little souvenir of your adventure here do you? Someone to replace the dearly departed." Nor shook his head chuckling. "Who would have thought? Your request is granted." Nor favored Clark with a steely glare. "You have two minutes to make yourselves gone. I'd hustle if I were you."

They had left and come back here, arriving only two hours after they had left. This dimension hadn't even noticed their absence; but, for Clark, the world was suddenly a very different place.

Clark hadn't realized he'd closed his eyes while replaying that awful time in his mind. He opened them to again be looking into the beautifully hopeful eyes of a Lois Lane. Only a few moments had actually passed while he had been ruminating, and he remembered well her question. Could he indeed attempt a friendship with this woman before him? Could he put aside the pain and help this other victim of circumstances beyond her control get a life back and perhaps, in the bargain, let her help him find a reason to go on. He let out a long slow sigh and gave Lois a rueful smile.

"Do I have a choice?"

The upturned corners of Lois' mouth tasted salt from tears still dampening her cheeks as she returned his smile. She shook her head once. "No."

Clark just shook his head as he got up from the couch. "Well friend," he said. "I guess I should make up the guest room. It's late and we have a lot of practical details to work out in the morning."

A soft chuckle escaped from Lois. Her smile widened a bit. "Thanks."

As they headed for the stairs Lois stopped and tilted he head to one side as if remembering something.

"What?" Clark asked. She looked at him but didn't really see him.

"Clark, was Lois particularly religious or spiritual?"

"Not really, no. She had her beliefs but they were personal. She never seemed satisfied with the answers that organized religions offered. I would imagine her beliefs were a lot like yours would be. Why?"

"It's nothing." Lois waved her hand in the air as if to dismiss the thought.


"Well it's something your wife said at the end." She quickly checked Clark's reaction but he seemed calm and interested. She plunged on. "She told me I had her 'blessing'. I never figured out what she meant by that. I guess I just thought she was kind of praying for our safe return or something. Clark?"

Clark looked like he'd been hit between the eyes with a two by four, but once he noticed Lois' scrutiny, he quickly blanked his face.

"Clark? Do you know what she meant?" No answer. "Clark?"

"What!.. er no, no, I can't say as I do…" He grabbed her hand and headed again toward the stairs. "We'd better turn in, big day tomorrow."

Lois knew she wasn't going to get anything more out of Clark, but she filed his reaction away in the back of her mind. This wasn't over yet. She allowed herself to be led up the stairs. Tomorrow was definitely going to be interesting.


or perhaps a beginning?