Kal-El's Return

By Dawn <rfield@infi.net>

Rated PG-13

Submitted October 1999

Summary: The third and final part in the author's series, sequel to "What If I Never Left Krypton" and "Something To Talk About." Kal must return to New Krypton to prevent wars among his people, but what will that mean to his relationship with Lois?

Author's Foreword

First, I would like to thank my editors Carolyn, Irene, LabRat, and Rich for their input and guidance. Their feedback has helped to make this a better story.

I would also like to thank everyone who sent me feedback on my first two stories, "What If I Never Left Krypton" and "Something To Talk About." Your positive comments have helped to encourage me to continue writing.

This is the conclusion of my three part series. In part 1, Kal met Lois Lane and came to Earth to be with her, knowing that in 2 years he would be required to return to Krypton. In part 2, Lois and Clark become engaged. Clark decided that he wanted to stay on Earth to be with Lois, despite the obstacles. Part 3 is the conclusion; a different take on the New Krypton arc. The show touched on Kal needing to return to New Krypton to prevent wars among his people. I felt it would take a very compelling reason for Clark to be able to leave Lois, and the threat of war and the death of innocent people seemed to be a reason that would fit with Clark's character and his desire to help people and prevent the lose of life.

Usual disclaimers apply. This is rated pg-13. The original story is nfic, and if you would like this version, please email me at rfield@infi.net with the usual disclaimers. Also, please do not redistribute in either version without my permission. Constructive comments welcome. I hope you enjoy this story.


Daily Planet Cityroom

Lois Lane smiled as she read the headline and its accompanying byline. She and Clark had turned in another great story in their series on the reduction in the crime rate since Superman's arrival nearly two years ago. She remembered those events of two years ago as if they had happened yesterday. A voice in a dream had turned her world upside down in a matter of days.

Her dream had come true, and Kal, future ruler of the planet Krypton, had come to Earth to meet her. Even though she had just met him, she knew there was more between them than just the friendship they had begun to establish telepathically. They had fallen in love almost instantly. And after one fabulous night together, Kal had returned to his home, with the promise of staying in contact telepathically. But that hadn't been enough, for either of them, and he had returned to Earth, to be with her, and to become Clark Kent.

After discovering that Clark had developed special abilities from being under the yellow sun of Earth, they decided together that he should use these special gifts to help others, but that he would need a separate identity so that they would be able to have a normal, private life together. That is, as normal as they could considering one of them was a strange visitor from another planet. It hadn't been long before Clark had heard a cry for help, and so it had begun. With a costume and a slight change to his appearance, no one had recognized him as Lois's friend from Kansas, and to further distinguish the two men who had arrived in Metropolis at about the same time, Superman had held a press conference following that first rescue to announce his intent. Before a throng of reporters from various news agencies, Lois included, he explained that he was from Krypton, a distant planet in another solar system. He went on to reassure the press that he was here on Earth alone and not as part of some invading force, and that he was here to help out where he could.

It was the publication of this piece, and subsequent articles, both together and apart, that had finally convinced Perry to hire Clark and team him up with Lois. After all, he had said, Superman was big news and these two seemed to have the inside track. Perry had also hinted that he suspected that there was more between Lois, Clark, and Superman than reporters and a story. At Lois's surprised look he had reminded her that he hadn't become editor-in-chief of the greatest newspaper on Earth because he could yodel. When the rumors about Lois and Superman had hit the tabloids, Perry had supported his two reporters and had told Lois he had known it wasn't true. She was engaged to Clark and Perry had told her that he knew she wouldn't do that sort of thing. Not even with a superhero that could be her ticket to a Pulitzer. When the news came out that the three were good friends, Perry hadn't been surprised, and he had admitted that it certainly didn't hurt circulation that his star reporter and her up-and-coming partner were friends with Superman.

Lois sat back and took a sip of coffee. It was hard to believe sometimes that it had only been two years since Clark had entered her life. Sometimes it seemed like so much longer, then at other times like they hadn't had enough time together. She fingered the rings on her left hand, smiling at the memory of Clark's proposal and the simple and quiet wedding they had had 18 months ago. Her father had been unavailable, as usual, so Perry had escorted her down the aisle. Jimmy had stood beside CK, whom he considered a close friend, and had been proud to be a part of this important event for Lois, who he thought of as a sister.

At the sound of the elevator Lois looked up, expecting to see Clark returning from his latest act of heroism. The person she did see nearly made her drop her coffee. This could not be good. She watched as Kai walked toward her. She hadn't seen him in nearly two years, but she knew it was him. This was it. They had come to take Clark away from her. Well, she wasn't about to give up without a fight. Clark had told her when he proposed that he had made his decision, and that he never would have asked her to marry him if he hadn't planned on staying with her.

Kai approached her desk. "Is there somewhere we can talk privately, Miss Lane?"

"Where are the others?"

"Please, Miss Lane. I am here alone. For now."

Lois stood up and led Kai to the conference room. So much had happened since she had last been in this room with him. She closed the door and turned to face him across the table, ready for the battle to begin so these people could just go home and leave her and Clark in peace.

Kai spoke first. "Where is Lord Kal-El? I must speak with him. I assumed he would be here with you."

"His name is Clark now and he is out there." She made a gesture with her hand, their signal for flying. The motion caused the light to catch her ring, drawing Kai's attention to it.

Kai pointed at the ring. "I am somewhat familiar with Earth customs and I believe I understand the significance of your adornment. May I?"

Lois held out her left hand to him.

Lois wasn't about to let him distract her. She had to find out why he was here. "What do you want from us, Kai?"

"I would rather speak to Lord … Clark, alone."

"I know all about your people and what you expect of Clark. He's told me everything. He's also told me he has no intention of going back, ruler or not, and that there is a way to get around it."

"I am surprised Kal … Clark has chosen to share so much with an outsider."

"We are married, Kai. We share everything. Isn't marriage like that on Krypton?"

"No, it is not, as a general rule, especially for nobles."

"I feel sorry for your people then, Kai. What kind of life is that? Living with someone you can't share everything with? I know about Zara, and that Clark didn't love her. What kind of marriage can that be?"

"Kal's parents had the kind of love and marriage that you speak of. He used to tell me of it and wish it for himself. But because of his birthright he was bound to Zara, and he simply never developed those feelings for her. I had never seen him so filled with emotion before he met you, and never so alone as when he had to leave you that first time. He must leave you again."

"Kai, he told me of a ceremony where he could abdicate rule to someone else."

"I am not sure … "

"Kai!" Clark burst into the conference room and embraced his old friend. When he had gotten off the elevator he had scanned the room for Lois and had seen her talking with Kai. He hoped Kai was just here for a friendly visit. "It's great to see you. What brings you here?"

"I have come to take you back to Krypton."

"Kai, I am no longer Kal-El, son of Jor-El of the House of El. I am Clark Kent," he glanced at Lois, "husband of Lois Lane, reporter for the Daily Planet, and sometimes, Superman. I've been able to make a difference on this world, more than I ever felt I could on Krypton. I belong here now, Kai. I'm not going back. I can't."

"I do not believe the Council of Elders will see it that way."

"Well, frankly, I don't care anymore what the Council wants. It's my life and I choose to spend it with Lois." He put his arm around her and pulled her close to his side.

"My lord." Kai could tell his friend was determined. Maybe a reminder of his obligation would convince him. "I hear what you are saying, but I also know you. We have been friends for a long time, since boyhood, and I know your principles. You could not turn your back so easily on your people."

"I'm not, Kai. I've had two years to think about this, two years to be with Lois and be here on Earth. I have never felt more fulfilled, more glad to be who I am. I can't go back with you. I won't. I won't leave what I have here."

Kai knew it would not be easy to convince his friend. The Council had given him three days, here on Earth to find Kal and then return to Krypton with him. Finding him had not been difficult. He had known exactly where to look. Wherever Lois Lane was. Kai had known, from the first moment Kal had told him of Lois, that he had found the one he could make a life. Just like Kal's parents had. It would be difficult to get him to leave her now.

He had three days. He would do what he could to successfully complete his mission in that time. If not, then he would have to return to Krypton alone and try to explain to the Council why Kal had not returned. Three days.

"I will respect your wishes, my lord. I was given three days to locate you. Perhaps in that time we can get reacquainted before I must return. I would also enjoy the opportunity to get to know your wife better."

Clark was skeptical.

He knew his friend and how seriously he took his assignments, especially when they came directly from the Council. But he decided not to read Kai's thoughts to confirm his suspicions. Though he was a bit out of practice using his telepathy, using it mostly to communicate with Lois occasionally and to get a step up on criminals when the situation required, he felt that his friend deserved the privacy. He wanted to enjoy the time they had together, even though he knew Kai would try to convince him to return with him. He didn't want a confirmation of his suspicions to interfere with enjoying his friend's visit. Besides, maybe he could show Kai why he had chosen to remain here.

"Kai, why don't you stay with us? I'm not working on anything pressing right now, so I'll ask Perry if I can have a few days off. I can show you some of the reasons why I love this planet and its people so much."

Lois looked at her husband in surprise. She didn't like this idea. Not one bit. What if, while they were spending all this time alone together, Kai was able to convince him to return? 'No. Trust him, Lois,' she admonished herself. 'He made his commitment to you.'

'Yes, Lois. Trust me. I love you, and I'm not going anywhere.'

Lois smiled her answer to her husband. "Yes, Kai. Please stay with us. I'd love to hear some childhood stories about Clark here. After all, it's not like I will be able to talk to his family."

"That should prove most interesting, Ms. Lane."

Lois extended her hand to him. "Please, call me Lois. And please understand my earlier reaction. Us wacky Earth women get mighty cranky when we think we may lose our husbands," she smiled.

"I do understand, Ms. L … Lois."

Clark looked at his watch. "Hey, it's about dinnertime, and I for one am hungry. What do you say we get something to eat? We can start catching up over dinner."

"As you wish, my lo … Clark." Kai was having a difficult time not thinking of him as Kal-El.

The trio left the conference room together. Lois walked to her desk to close down her computer and put her files in order for the following day while Clark headed straight to Perry's office to ask for a few days off. Kai followed Lois to her desk, remembering the last time he had been in this office. Kal had shared with Lois information about their people, taken her aboard their ship, then returned home, only to convince the Council to allow him to return to Earth. Now it was up to Kai to convince him to return home again.

Clark emerged from Perry's office and approached Lois's desk. "It's all set. Lois, I told Perry that we didn't have anything big that we were working on right now, but if something came up where you'd need me I'd come in. But," he leaned in to kiss her on the cheek, "I know you can handle it." He smiled that smile at her that always made her weak in the knees.

"I'm sure I can, but I like having my partner." She smiled back at him, for a moment forgetting Kai's presence.

It was obvious to Kai, just watching them together, how much in love they were, which would make his task that much more difficult. But he had known it would not be easy.

Remembering his Kai's presence, Clark looked from his wife to his friend and back to Lois. "I don't know about you, but I'm starved. How about Italian? That was the first food I had here, and it's still my favorite."

"I'm ready." Lois reached for her husband's hand and they walked to the elevators.

Kai was taken aback a moment at the public display of affection. Something such as he had just witnessed would never occur on Krypton. And Kal seemed to take to it so naturally. It was obvious to Kai that his friend had been on this planet too long. He followed the couple to the elevator.

They went straight to the restaurant, the same one where Lois and Clark had had their first date two years earlier, and were able to get the same quiet table in the corner so that they could talk freely.

Clark ordered dinner for himself and Kai, selecting what he thought his friend might enjoy, giving him a wink and a "trust me" when he placed the order. Lois ordered her own. The waiter left to fill their order.

They sat in silence for a few minutes. Clark wanted to ask Kai about his parents and what was happening on his home planet, but he didn't want Lois to feel left out or become upset at a reminder of why Kai was here. Lois solved that dilemma for him.

"So, Kai, how are Clark's parents? He's told me about Krypton, so tell us what has been happening there since he came here?"

Clark smiled at Lois and reached over to take her left hand in his, resting them on the table between them, his thumb playing over her rings. That was so like Lois, to jump right in. He was pleased that she was interested in his former life, and that she had been the one to broach the subject.

"Jor-El and Lara are well, Lois." Kai turned to Kal, still unable to address him easily as 'Clark'. "They do miss your presence. They asked that I convey to you their best wishes."

"I do miss them. I should try to contact them. I haven't tried because I wanted to make a clean break from my old life. Maybe I should try now. What do you think, Lois?"

"I think that's a great idea." She knew he missed them. She could tell when he talked of them, but he assured her that he was happy here with her and that he didn't regret for a moment his choice to leave them. He belonged with her.

"Maybe they could talk with you. I'd love for you to meet them, and for them to meet you. I know they'd just love you."

"And I know I'd love them. And I want to thank them for sharing their wonderful son with me."

Clark raised her hand to his lips and kissed it, his eyes sparkling with love.

Kai shifted nervously. He would be here for three days and this kind of behavior was obviously very natural for them. He would try to get use to it. It was only for three days. It also surprised him how much like a Terran his future leader had become. Would he be able to go back to being Kryptonian? Kai was glad to hear Kal had kept up with some of his skills, which reminded him …

"How are your Dre skills?"

"I'd like to see this!" Lois broke her gaze from her husband to acknowledge their guest.

Clark laughed. "I'm a bit rusty but I think I can still take you on and give you a run for your money."

"I do not understand. Run for … ?"

"It's an Earth saying."

Another reminder of how Kal had changed. Kai had been reluctant to mention Zara, but maybe he needed to. He felt the need to remind his future leader of his obligations to their people, and that he would need to fulfill those, soon.

"Zara sends her greetings. She has been making the final preparations for the ceremony that will take place upon your return, should you choose to." He felt he needed to acknowledge what his friend had said about not returning, but he also knew that eventually, no matter what Kal wanted, he had to return to Krypton.

Clark knew better than to argue with Kai. His friend just didn't understand yet what this meant to him. An idea occurred to him.

"Kai, why don't I take you around with me and show you some of the things I've been doing?" Maybe if he could convince his friend that this was were he belonged, where he wanted to be, Kai could tell the others that this was what he truly wanted.

"I think that's a great idea!" Lois jumped in. She too had been thinking that if Kai could see how happy Clark was here then he would return to Krypton and leave them to their lives together.

"As you wish." He almost added 'my lord', but knew the reminder would be futile. Kal seemed determined. Maybe once they were away from Lois he could make his friend see logic.

Lois and Clark chatted mostly about work the rest of dinner, trying occasionally to draw Kai in. They both wanted to avoid any further reference to Krypton, instead trying to relate to Kai how much Clark liked his life here and how much of a difference he had made, both as Clark and as Superman. Kai acknowledged their comments, remaining polite and attentive, but continued to be unconvinced that his leader belonged on Earth.

After dinner they all returned to the house on Hyperion.

"My l … Clark, shall we test our Dre skills now?" Kai was ready to try anything to get his leader to connect to his former life.

Clark smiled at Lois before turning to Kai. "Actually, after that big dinner, I think I'd like to turn in." He glanced again at Lois, a twinkle in his eye, 'Honey, *you* know what pasta does to me.'

She smiled back before turning to their guest. "Kai, why don't I show you to the guest room." Lois led the way up the stairs with Kai following and Clark behind him.

"Kai, you and I can work out in the morning before we head out."

Lois turned toward them at the top of the stairs. "Then I won't get to see it."

Clark laughed. "That's okay, honey. I'm pretty rusty. I need to practice before you see it."

"I doubt you could be bad at anything, sweetheart."

Kai did not quite know what to make of this friendly banter passing over his head. Kryptonians just did not communicate this way. This exchange - he believed Terrans referred to it as flirting - was educational, to say the least.

Lois lead Kai to the guest bedroom and Clark headed for the master bedroom. Lois joined him there shortly, to find her husband waiting for her in the bed. He pulled the covers back, inviting her to join him. She quickly removed her clothes and snuggled up beside him.

"You know," she whispered, "we'll have to be quiet now that we have a guest."

"We could try communicating telepathically."

"Somehow that doesn't sound quite as much fun. Besides, it reminds me of when you weren't here, and I don't want to be reminded of that."

"Well, I'm here now and I'm not going anywhere." Placing his fingers below her chin he tilted her head up for a quick kiss. The kiss grew deeper as their passion for each other increased.

Clark broke the kiss first, looking down into his wife's love filled eyes. "God, Lois, I love you so much."

"I love you, honey, more than I could ever tell you."

"Then show me."

She gently pulled on his shoulder, moving him on top of her, and wrapped her arms around him. He felt so good. He always did. He placed his hands on either side of her small face and kissed her deeply. They both enjoyed exploring the familiar contours and textures of the other's lips, tongues, and mouths. As they kissed she ran her hands up and down his muscular back, working her way higher and lower with each pass. When she reached his neck she ran her fingers through his hair, pulling his head closer to hers. It didn't seem possible but their kiss deepened even more.

"Oh, God," she moaned against his lips.

He moved slightly to the side so he could trail kisses down her jaw and neck while she trailed her hands up and down his back.

"Oh, baby, that feels so good," he mumbled against her neck. She smiled at the endearment. He only called her that when they made love.

As they made love, he marveled at how wonderful a feeling this was, to be one with her. As they neared the end, they buried their faces in the other's shoulder to muffle their cries of ecstasy.

"Wow," she whispered.

"I know." He smiled his reply.

"You just keep getting better and better."

"And you weren't even on top."

She laughed. "But you still let me have some control." She grew serious. "Hold me, Clark. I want to stay like this all night."

"Are you sure I'm not hurting you?"

"No. I just want to feel you like this." For some reason she had a sense of foreboding that there wouldn't be many more times like this.

He looked down at her, concern in his eyes. "Honey, is everything okay?" He had sensed that something was wrong. This wasn't an unusual request, but the way she had said it had been.

"Everything's fine. I just want you to hold me."

"Okay, sweetheart." He gently kissed her on the lips. "Goodnight."

"Goodnight, love."


The next morning, as Clark was heading down the stairs whistling a cheery tune, he noticed Kai was waiting for him in the living room, sitting on the sofa.

Kai couldn't help but notice the good mood his friend was in. He had been in a good mood last night, but he was definitely in a better mood this morning. And Kai had noticed the looks that had passed between Kal and Lois before they had turned in the previous night.

"You appear in good spirits this morning."

Clark stopped on the last step. "Oh, um." He wasn't one to 'kiss and tell', but he also wondered how he could discretely tell his friend that their people had ceased participating in a very enjoyable activity. His privacy won out. "Um, well, I'll have to tell you about it sometime. How about some breakfast?"

Clark led the way into the kitchen and began getting out ingredients.

"Lois will be down in a sec. Why don't you sit at the table and I'll get started?" He poured himself and Kai a cup of coffee. One of the first things he and Lois had bought together was a coffee maker with a timer. Lois liked having a cup first thing in the morning and he was getting hooked on the stuff, though only with lots of cream and sugar. She still teased him about having coffee with his cream.

He set a cup in front of Kai. "You have to try this stuff. It's an Earth staple. I still can't drink it without cream and sugar, but it's growing on me. Oh, before I forget, have you noticed anything unusual?"

Kai looked down at the brown liquid in front of him and back at his friend. "Besides this?"

"Kai! Are you developing a sense of humor? You've been on Earth too long." Clark laughed. "No. Actually there's another by-product of being on Earth that I found out about quite by accident, and it was a bit of a surprise to me so I thought I'd prepare you. Have you noticed yourself floating or having the ability to see through objects?"

"My lord?"

"I think it has to do with the Earth's sun interacting with Kryptonian biology. You've been here about a day, so you should start noticing them soon. I was here about a day when I began to develop unusual abilities."

"That explains why you wish to stay."

"That actually has little to do with it, though I have been able to use these abilities to help people here, and that's something I want to show you. Maybe you'll understand a bit better. No, actually, the main reason I want to stay here is Lois. I really enjoy the life we've made together."

"But what of our people?"

"Our people will just have to understand. Look, neither of us is going to convince the other, and I want you to enjoy your time here. So let's just agree to disagree on this."

Lois entered the kitchen, noting the tension in the air. Clark handed a cup of coffee to her as she walked toward him for a good morning kiss. She'd already gotten a nice one this morning before Clark had come downstairs, but she wanted this one to be in front of Kai, to reiterate to him that Clark belonged to her now.

"Morning, sweetheart. Morning, Kai." She turned toward their guest. "Did Clark warn you of the effects of our yellow sun?" They had talked about this before Clark had come downstairs, hoping the experience would help Kai understand better.

"Yes. It should prove interesting."

"To say the least. I wish I could experience it, just for a day. Then I'd get a better idea of what it's like for you." She turned toward her husband, moving into his arms.

"I couldn't do any of it without you, honey. It's you and me together that make Superman."

Lois turned to smile at Kai. "I have him so well trained," she teased. Looking back at her husband she said, "Thanks for breakfast, sweetheart. I'd better get going. I've got some loose ends I need to tie up today. You boys have fun together, but save the contest for later so I can watch."

Clark bent to kiss his wife. "We will, honey. Be careful. I'll miss you today."

"I'll miss you, too. See you later, Kai." Lois turned toward their guest, then back to her husband for a goodbye kiss. "See you tonight, unless I see you out making news."

"I'll try to behave."

Lois laughed as she left the kitchen to gather her things and head for the office.

Clark turned to Kai. "I thought we'd clean up here, then if nothing comes up, I'd take you around and show you some of the things I've been able to help with over the past few years."

"As you wish."

Clark began cleaning up from breakfast, turning on the radio so he wouldn't have to keep his hearing tuned in to the world.

He explained, "One thing I've developed is extensive hearing. Usually I can hear calls for help or distress, but the radio helps so I don't have to stay focused on that."

"And you say I will develop these enhanced abilities?"

"Eventually. I started noticing them about a day after I'd been here, but it took several weeks for them to fully develop. You'll probably be experiencing some anytime now."

"That should give you an advantage for our demonstration."

"And I'll need it after all this time."

"Possibly. But you were always better than I."

Clark finished cleaning up then moved to sit at the table with Kai. "I've missed practicing with you, Kai, and talking."

"Then return with me."

"I can't. I admit I miss aspects of my old life, but that's behind me now. My life is here, with Lois. So, for now, I want to enjoy your company before you go back, and maybe you can visit again sometime."

"I would welcome that."

"Great. Hey, let's get going. Until you get some powers I can help you fly. 'Course, I'm not gonna carry you like I do Lois." Clark couldn't help but grin.

Kai gave him a puzzled look, then as the events of the previous evening and this morning flashed through his mind, particularly the displays of affection between Kal and Lois, understanding came and he could only imagine what his friend was referring to. He certainly did not want that. He was not that close to his leader.

They left the townhouse, Clark in 'the suit' and Kai in Earth clothes. They had decided that would be best in case he was seen. That way, he would look like a normal Earthling that Superman had possibly rescued. It was also agreed that Kai would stay in the background to avoid drawing too much attention to himself. They lifted off, Clark holding onto Kai's arm. They flew over the city, low enough for Kai to see the things Clark pointed out to him, but high enough that they would not be seen clearly by those on the ground. It wasn't long before Kai was able to float under his own powers, but he still needed Clark to help him keep altitude.

Leaving the city, they headed to various places around the world where Clark had been able to use his special gifts. Kai appeared impressed, but in the back of his mind he knew his friend would have a similar impact on their world. True, he would not have these special abilities, but he was strong in character and would be able to lead their people. No matter which world he was on, Kal would make a difference.

Clark was able to make a few rescues and stop several crimes throughout the day. He had wanted his friend to see the "superhero" aspect of his life. For the next day he planned to show Kai how he and Lois worked together, and how through their work they, together, were also able to make a difference.

They arrived back at the townhouse before Lois, so Clark started dinner. She usually liked to watch him cook, but he figured tonight she'd rather watch him and Kai practice. Dinner simmered while he and Kai chatted about the day, waiting for Lois. Kai had already contacted his ship, which was cloaked in orbit, having two Dre fighting sticks transported to the apartment in preparation of the demonstration.

Lois arrived home shortly thereafter, and after changing into comfortable clothes, settled on the couch to watch Clark and Kai.

"Let me check on dinner before we get started." Clark slipped into the kitchen, returning almost immediately. "Dinner'll be ready in about an hour. That should give us enough time. Kai, help me move some of this stuff out of the way."

The two easily cleared a space in the center of the room, moving Lois, still on the couch, out of the way, but still with a good view.

"Should I get some popcorn?" she asked.

"Very funny. I don't think this is going to be much of a show."

Lois stopped to take in her husband's appearance. He was wearing jeans and a white t-shirt that was stretched taunt against his muscles.

"I don't know. I like what I see so far."

"We haven't … " then her meaning registered and he blushed slightly.

"I never get over how well-defined you are, honey."

"Thank you," he said, still embarrassed. "Let's get started before she makes things too hard for me to continue."

Lois burst out laughing and Clark blushed deeper when he realized what he had said.

"Okay," she managed between giggles. "I'll stop teasing you."

He turned to her. "Thank you." He turned back to Kai, closed his eyes and took a deep breath, trying to focus and recall his training. He positioned himself in the traditional starting stance and Kai did the same. They began sparring, the clicking of the sticks echoing in the quiet room.

As Lois watched her husband participate in an ancient art of his people, she couldn't help but think of some of the things he had given up for her. His parents, his future there as ruler, even the little things like enjoying time with his best friend. He had sacrificed a lot to be with her, but she also knew that he didn't regret it. He had told her many times that with her was where he wanted to be.

Lois's attention then shifted to what Krypton had given her. He was beautiful. As he participated in the strenuous exercise, she could see his muscles rippling beneath his shirt, his body covered in a thin sheen of sweat. But he was more than just incredible to look at. He was beautiful on the inside, too. Thoughtful, kind, always putting others' needs, especially hers, before his own. How had she gotten so lucky that he had chosen to contact her? Wow.

She looked up to realize they had stopped. "Are you done already?"

"Yes, sweetheart. Where've you been? You looked like you were a million miles away."

"Pretty close."

Clark turned to his friend. "Kai, why don't you go take a quick shower while I check on dinner, then I'll take one. We should be able to eat soon."

Kai nodded his approval. "Thank you for the practice. I have missed sparring with you. I shall prepare myself for the evening meal." He nodded again to acknowledge Lois, then headed upstairs.

Lois got up from the sofa, went to her husband and gave him a hug.

"Careful, honey, I'm all sweaty."

"I don't care. Have I told you lately how much I love you?"

"Where'd that come from?"

"Just watching you, I realized how lucky I am and how much you gave up for me."

"And I'd do it again in a minute. I've gained so much more than I've lost."

"I'm glad you think so."

"I do." He bent to kiss her, pulling her more closely to him.

She gave a half-hearted attempt to push him away, but enjoyed kissing him too much to try too hard.

"Now I'm gonna need a shower," she said, finally breaking the kiss.

"Wanna join me?" he asked, nibbling on her ear.

"I would if we didn't have company."

"Darn. I forgot about Kai. Later?"

"Count on it."

Kai descended the stairs, noting the scene below him. Would he ever get used to seeing these displays of affection? Even though he had not heard what was being said, he could tell by their actions that they were absorbed in each other, oblivious to the world.

Clark heard him coming, and, giving his wife another quick kiss, said, "I'll be right back. Honey, do you think you could check on dinner? You don't have to do anything. Just make sure it's okay."

"Very funny." She swatted him on the behind as he moved out of her reach and bounded up the stairs.

Passing Kai on the steps Clark couldn't resist a final shot. "Keep an eye on her in the kitchen for me."

"You wait, buddy. You'll get it for that later."

Clark just laughed, knowing it was better to let her have the last word, especially when he was teasing her.

Lois turned to Kai as he met her in the living room. "He's not really serious. I'm not *that* bad."

"Yes, I was, and yes, she is!" came the response from upstairs.

"He's enjoying this too much. I'll get him back later. Kai, would you help me finish getting dinner together?"

Lois and Kai finished preparing dinner with no difficulties. Clark joined them in time to sit down to eat. Dinner went smoothly, talk focusing on Clark and Kai's childhood together. Superman was called out during dessert. Clark had still not returned when they had finished, and so, after cleaning up, Lois excused herself to go to bed early, deciding to read and wait for her husband's return.

Clark returned shortly before midnight, having helped with a major auto accident upstate. He and Lois briefly talked of the accident and the plans for the next day, deciding what they would show Kai about their work at the Planet. After kissing goodnight they settled to sleep in each other's arms.


Daily Planet Next Day

After arriving at the Planet that morning, Lois went to her desk to check her messages and work on her current story as Clark and Kai headed to Clark's desk. Clark showed Kai some of the articles he had written alone and with Lois. He had wanted to introduce Kai to Perry, but his boss had been in a meeting when the trio had arrived. He thought Perry might like to meet Kai since he had probably seen him in the newsroom several times. About half an hour later Clark noticed that his boss was free, and took Kai into the Chief's office to introduce his childhood friend to his new friend.

Shortly before lunch, Lois went over to Clark's desk to see if he and Kai were ready for a break. As she reached her husband's side, Perry emerged from his office looking for his star team.

"Good. You're both here. The mayor is holding a press conference to announce the new city budget. I want you two on it." He turned on his heel to return to his office, then paused, turned back and added, "Oh, Clark. Take your friend there. Show him how a world class newspaper is run."

"Sure, Chief. Thanks." Clark turned back to his wife. "There goes lunch."

"Not necessarily. We can grab something after the press conference and write the story up here over lunch. It'll be more realistic that way. You wanted to show Kai a typical day, and us on assignment working through lunch is about as typical as it gets."

Clark stood up to take his wife in a loose embrace. "You know, you are beautiful when you are brilliant." He pulled her closer to him and bent his head to capture her lips with his.

Kai braced himself for what he knew was to come, but he was saved by Clark's boss re-appearing from his office.

"Hey you two! I mean now! Great shades of Elvis!" he grumbled to himself as he headed back into his office. "He and Pricilla weren't this amorous after over a year of marriage." The last part of his musings were cut off by the slamming of his door.

"Elvis?" Kai looked at Clark questioningly. He felt relieved to know that he was not the only person who was uncomfortable with his friend's public displays.

Lois was already at her desk grabbing her briefcase. Clark reached for his jacket hanging on the back of his chair. "I'll explain on the way." He paused by Lois's desk long enough for her to fall into step with him and they walked up the ramp to the elevators.

They returned about two hours later, taking a few minutes to pick up some Chinese take out from their favorite restaurant near the Planet. Clark went to his desk to move his chair and the one he had gotten for Kai over to Lois's desk so they could work on writing up the story. When they worked jointly, Lois liked to write the copy while Clark gave his input. After pulling together their notes and adding their thoughts, Lois LAN'd the story to Perry.

Clark turned to his friend, keeping his voice low so only he and Lois could hear him. "Kai, this wasn't the most exciting example of what Lois and I do, but when I was on Krypton, all I could do was read the stories that Lois lives and writes. I knew, somehow, even before then, that this was the life I wanted. We are able to make a difference on this world. More than I ever felt I could on Krypton. It's more than being … " he mouthed the word "Superman." He resumed his whispered explanation, "Clark is who I want to be, and I want to be with Lois. I hope you can understand that."

"I am trying to, my friend."


Later that evening over dinner

"Kai, you haven't told me how you and Clark met." 'Maybe this topic will be safe,' she thought. Lois was torn between wanting to learn more about her husband and where he came from, but not wanting the constant reminder of his obligation to his people. Here was the only source she would probably ever get a chance to talk to besides Clark, but he couldn't seem to get past that duty either.

"We have been friends since youth. Being of similar size and build we were paired together early on as Dre partners. Nobles are required to learn this ancient art of our people, and those who would serve them are obligated to learn that they may defend them." He turned to Clark, silently thanking Lois for presenting the opportunity to once again remind his friend of his responsibility to their people. "My lord, do you recall the occasion when Lady Zara attended one of our sessions. She proved to be quite distracting."

"Kai." His tone was one of warning.

Lois put her hand on her husband's. "No, Clark. It's okay. I want to hear about this."

Wanting to talk to his wife in private, but also wanting Kai to witness their bond, Clark switched to telepathic communication. 'I know hearing about Zara is upsetting to you.'

'Not nearly as upsetting if I had a doubt about your love or commitment to me. I want to hear about your old girlfriends, even if she is, I mean *was*, engaged to you. You are married to me, and that's all that matters to me.'

'If you are sure, honey.'

'I am sure of your love for me.'

Kai watched the exchange. It was obvious they were communicating telepathically. His friend must have a special bond with this Terran woman in order to share this link. Only nobles on Krypton were able to exchange thoughts extensively and freely. Perhaps this *was* where Kal belonged.


Following morning Townhouse on Hyperion

At breakfast, Kai announced that it was time for him to leave.

"What should I tell the Council?"

"Tell them I have decided to remain here. Zara has my permission to perform the ceremony abdicating rule to her. And tell my parents that I miss them and that I love them. I know they will understand that I must be with the woman I love."

"As you wish. Take care, my friend, and if I can, I will try to arrange to return for a visit."

"We'd like that, Kai." He looked at Lois for her confirmation.

"Yes, we would. I know Clark misses you. Have a safe trip home, Kai."

Kai nodded, then closing his eyes he contacted his ship for transport. Within seconds he was gone.

Lois breathed a sigh of relief, without meaning to.


"I'm sorry. I guess I wondered right up 'til the end if you would go back with him, and if his being here stirred some feelings of kinship for your home world and your duty to them."

He moved to take her in his arms. "Honey, I've made my choice. I never would have asked you to marry me if I wasn't sure. I've never been more sure of anything. Do you believe me?"

"Yes. It's just … if I ever lost you … I never thought I'd be able to completely give myself to someone. I mean I didn't exactly have ideal role models. I wanted to run as far from this type of thing as I could. I thought I wanted to be alone. Until I met you. I don't want to be alone again. I don't want to be without you."

"I'm here and I'm not going anywhere." He bent to kiss her gently to seal his promise. "Come on, partner. Let's get to work. I promised you a long time ago that we'd get Luthor, and we've got a bit of work to do on that front."

She smiled up at him. "Deal. Let's get him, partner."


Krypton A few days later

The Council of Elders was not pleased to find upon Kai's return that he had not brought their ruler back with him. They had been against Kal-El's initial request to be the ambassador to Earth for two years, not wanting their future leader to leave their home world, but had reluctantly agreed. Kal had presented a compelling argument that this opportunity would provide him training that he could not receive on Krypton, which would only enhance his diplomatic skills. And so they had reluctantly agreed. And now their leader had not returned.

Kai paced outside of the Council chambers, awaiting his summons to report on his mission. What would he say to them? Kal was his life-long friend, and as much as he wanted him to return home, he also understood, after spending several days with Kal, that Earth was where he wanted to be, even if he, Kai, did not agree with him. That was what Kal wanted, and Kai respected that. And it was not as if there were not other options. Kryptonian law did provide a means for an alternative in certain situations. Surely the Council was aware of this. But his mission had been to bring their leader home, not remind the Council of ancient Kryptonian law that allow him to remain on Earth.

Before he could resolve his conflicting thoughts, Kai was summoned. A Council guard appeared at the doorway to escort Kai inside to the inner Council chambers. He walked solemnly into the ornately decorated room and stopped at the indicated location in the center of the room, facing the Council members, who were seated on a podium before him.

The leader of the Council addressed him. "Kai, protector of the noble family and scientist for the advancement of the Krypton way, what do you report?"

Kai cleared his throat, gathering his thoughts. "Council members, I have located our Lord Kal-El on the planet Earth. He wishes to convey to the Council his regret, but he advises at this time that his mission and training on Earth are not yet complete and he requires more time."

"How much more time, Kai?"

"Lord Kal-El did not specify a time period."

"This is unacceptable!" Tre, one of the younger members of the Council, rose to his feet. "It is of no concern to us that Lord Kal-El does not believe his training on Earth is complete. The time has come for him to complete the ceremony of union with Lady Zara and take his proper place of rule."

Even though Kai did not agree with his friend's decision, nonetheless he respected it and knew that being on Earth was what he wanted. "If I may, honorable members of the Council. Lord Kal-El indicated an alternative in the interim. He indicated to me that there is an ancient Kryptonian law that he learned of in his training that will allow him to abdicate rule to Lady Zara."

"This may be a viable alternative," the leader of the Council acknowledged. "It is in the law."

"But this is not tradition," Tre argued. "The people will see this as an instability of the ruling families. Lord Kal-El must return."

"Tre, it appears that Lord Kal-El has made his decision to continue his mission on Earth, or he would have returned with Kai knowing the time for the ceremony was at hand."

"By abdicating rule to Lady Zara, Lord Kal-El is not only continuing his mission on Earth, he is making it his permanent position!" Tre insisted.

"Silence, Tre! The law states that Lord Kal-El has the option of abdicating rule. Whether it has been done before or not, he has that option. He has made his decision. I see no alternative then but to accept Kal-El's decision."

An announcement was made to the people. That their ruler had chosen to remain with another race was not what the Kryptonian people wanted to hear.

Rumors spread that the ruling houses were falling apart, that the people would be without their appointed leader. Some felt their traditions and way of life were being threatened. Talk of an uncertain future caused negative emotions, long kept in check, to surface. Soon angry words turned into demonstrations against the ruling class. Unrest and upheaval led to rioting. There were threats of a war.

The Council met to determine their next course of action. They had to regain control over the people. The situation had nothing to do with Zara as ruler. The people expected Kal-El, and saw only him as their leader, and with Kal-El rejecting his rightful place and world, chaos had erupted. After proposing and eliminating several options, the Council determined the only means to restore peace was to bring Kal-El home.

It was decided that Zara, Ching, and several others would make the journey to Earth to explain the urgency of the situation to Kal-El and request his return. As Kal-El's birth wife and his appointed successor, Zara was deemed to have the means necessary to facilitate Kal's return. And it was hoped that, upon seeing his birth wife, that Kal would accept his duties and return, once the situation was explained to him. And, as his most trusted and closest companion was unable to convince Kal, Zara was the only logical choice.

Zara was summoned before the Council of Elders. She knew the reason for their request to see her. They planned to send her to Earth to bring Kal-El home. She did not understand Kal's reasoning for giving up the position he had trained his entire life for, but she had accepted it as his choice, until the people of Krypton had expressed their displeasure. The unrest among her people concerned her, and if bringing Kal back resolved that, whatever his reasons for remaining on Earth, then she would make sure he returned. She entered the Council chambers to stand before the council members.

"Lady Zara," the leader of the Council began, "what is your assessment of the situation?"

"Members of the Council, I agree that Lord Kal-El must return."

"Under the circumstances, the Council requests that you leave immediately for Earth."

"I understand."


Several days later the ship cloaked as it approached Earth's orbit. Information obtained from Kai indicated where Kal could be found. During the journey it was discussed how Kal would be approached. It was decided that Zara and Ching would make the first contact, and if needed, the others would be called upon.

Materializing in the alleyway behind the Planet, Zara and Ching walked around the building, entering by the front door. Kai had told them that Kal had taken an Earth name, Clark Kent. They inquired at the security desk where they might find Mr. Kent, and then proceeded to the elevator that would take them to the city room on the 5th floor.

They had dressed in Earth attire, preparing themselves during the journey by studying having studied Earth habits and customs. Upon entering the city room, they searched for Kal, but did not see him present. They did, however, see Lois Lane. Kai had described the Earth woman with whom Kal had chosen to make contact and who was helping him with his Earth training. Kai had been reluctant to tell Zara or the Council that Kal had taken this woman as his wife, and that she was the reason why he had chosen not to return home.

They approached her desk. "Ms. Lane, we wish to speak with you."

Lois looked up from her computer terminal and the story she was working on. There was something disturbingly familiar about these people.

"Sure. Let's go in the conference room." She led the way, closing the door behind them. The blinds were already closed, she noted. Good. She did not want to attract the attention of curious coworkers. Her visitors refused the chairs she indicted, preferring to stand. She leaned against the table, trying to determine why they seemed familiar. For some reason their mannerisms reminded her of Kai. 'Oh no', she thought. 'They've come.'

Clark was in flight back to the Planet after answering a call for help. A car had swerved on a bridge, plunging into the Metropolis River. He'd had no trouble bringing the car to the surface, then he'd flown the victim to the hospital. The driver had sustained several cuts and bruises and was unconscious, but the hospital personnel assured Superman that the man would be fine. He had gotten there in time.

As he made his way back to work, he focused on Lois's heartbeat. He heard it accelerate, then heard her thought. He sped up, landed in a back stairwell, and entered the conference room behind the visitors, in time to hear them ask about him.

"We wish to speak with Kal-El." It was Zara.

"I'm here. Zara, Ching, what are you doing here?"

Both bowed in acknowledgement of his rank. "My lord, we must speak with you. Alone." Zara looked at Lois, trying to determine how much this Earthling knew. Ching remained quietly by her side.

Clark walked to stand beside Lois. "Whatever you came to say to me, you can say in front of Lois. We have no secrets."

"I am surprised you have shared everything with an outsider."

"Lois is not an outsider to me. I repeat, why are you here? Didn't Kai explain everything?"

"He indicated you wished to remain here to further your training, and that in the interim you were abdicating rule to me. However, when the people were informed, they did not accept that explanation. You are their appointed ruler, and your decision to remain on Earth resulted in unrest among our people."

"What do you mean 'unrest'?"

"To answer your initial question, we are here to determine how long you plan to remain here."

"Zara, what are you not telling me?"

Lois watched this exchange, noting the absense of emotions on both Zara and Ching's faces, except for a brief look of … was it affection? … when Ching looked at Zara. Watching her husband, it was obvious he was more like an Earthling than a Kryptonian now. The emotions played across his features, emphasizing the irritation, confusion, and even anger of his words. She rarely saw him angry and knew he was not pleased by this visit.

So, this was Zara, Lois thought. She watched the way she and Clark looked at each other. It was obvious Zara admired him, but there was nothing more in her eyes. How could she have considered marrying a man she didn't love, even if it was arranged? And it was obvious from watching Ching that he had feelings for Zara. Clark had told her that during their first dinner together, and it was plain to see, even though Ching tried to conceal his emotions. In a way she was glad she couldn't visit Krypton. What kind of world would it be when it was so devoid of emotions?

"Kal-El, I have come to inform you that you must return to Krypton."

"I thought I made that clear to Kai. I'm staying here."



"My lord, it was my intention not to distress you with the news I bring, but you must return to Krypton."

"Zara, tell me what is going on."

"The people of Krypton do not accept your abdication."

"You are perfectly capable of ruling. And willing, which is something I'm not."

"They do not accept that you have chosen to remain with another race. They view this as dissension among the ruling families. There have been riots, leading to a threat of war. Millions of our people will die unless you return to lead them." Despite the disturbing news, Zara remained calm throughout her speech.

Clark sat down heavily in a chair. Lois's hand flew to her mouth. "Oh my God! Clark, what are we going to do?"

Clark's focus remained on Zara. "Lois and I need some time to discuss this."

"Time may be one thing we do not have, Kal-El."

"I can't just leave!"

"We will give you one of your days and await your arrival on our ship." With that Zara closed her eyes and signaled the ship to transport her and Ching aboard.

Lois moved into Clark's arms as he stood to go to her. "Clark, what are we going to do? We can't let all those people die. But I don't know if I can let you go. From what Zara said you would never be able to return."

"Let's ask Perry if we can have some time off and go home and talk about this."

He led her out of the conference room and into their boss's office.

"Chief? Do you have a minute?" Clark tried to remain calm. He didn't want to worry his boss, who he thought of as a friend.

The editor looked up from the copy he had been reviewing. "Sure, Clark, Lois. Come on in. What's on your mind?"

"Perry, something has … come up at home and we need a few days to take care of it."

"Sure, son. You two have some time coming to you, and if there is anything I can do, you let me know, okay?"

"Thanks. We will, Chief."

Perry watched them leave. The two strangers who had approached Lois earlier must be relatives of Clark's. He hoped everything was okay. The young man had looked ashen and a bit shaken, even though he had tried to hide it. Perry figured there wasn't much he could do, but he could give them the time off to take care of whatever it was that had happened.

Lois and Clark headed home, each lost in their own thoughts. Even with Zara's emotionless speech they could tell that the situation was critical. They had barely entered their town home and closed the door before they were in each other's arms, each comforting the other.

"Lois, I don't want to leave you. I can't."

"You have to, Clark. All those people. You just can't stand by and not help them."

"But I don't know if I'll ever be able to return."

"We knew that going in. We knew this day would come, and that I would not be able to go with you, that I could not survive under your red sun. I accepted that. Clark, these two years with you have been the best time of my life. I wouldn't trade them for anything, not even to avoid the pain of losing you."

"Lois, you are so amazing. What about Superman?"

"Well, you can tell people the truth. That you had to return to help your home planet."

"And what about me … Clark?"

"We'll come up with something. I can tell Perry you had to go home to take care of a family situation."

"And what about you?"

"I'll survive. I did before you, somehow, and I can muddle through now."

"It's not like I won't be able to contact you."

"That's true."

"Lois, how can you be so calm? This is killing me."

Tears filled her eyes. "I have to be, because when I let myself imagine tomorrow without you, I start to shake."

"Lois, I don't know if I can do this."

"Yes, you can. Your people need you, and, like you said, it's not like we can't communicate. You can contact me telepathically."

"I will. As often as I can. Lois, I want you to know that no matter what happens, I am your husband."

"I know. And I am your wife. And I will wait for you, Clark, no matter how long it takes. And I know if you can find a way you will come back to me."

"Lois … " It was barely a whisper, his voice full of emotion.

"Make love with me, Clark."

He reached out his hand to gently cup her face, touching her as he had that first time they had made love, and as if this would be the last. He bent and gently scooped her up, carrying her up to their bedroom.

"Lois," he whispered. "I want you to know, I'm not making love to you like this is our last time. It's not. It just may be awhile … and it's more fun with you." He smiled, trying to tease her to lighten the situation. God, how he would miss teasing her.

"I'll agree to that." She smiled back, knowing this was as hard for him as it was for her.

He raised an eyebrow at her. "We'll have to explore that when I get back."

"You're on."

Becoming suddenly serious, he said, "Lois, I also don't want to get you pregnant this time. I don't want you to think I'm leaving you something to remember me by, and I also don't want to miss a minute of you and our children."

"Okay. We'll do that, too, when you get back."

He didn't want to tell her that he saw no way he could return to her. He didn't want to think about it. He had to hold onto the hope that somehow, someway, he would find a way back to her. But right now, he just wanted to be with his wife.

He looked down at her lying on the bed beside him. He loved her so much. More than he could ever tell her. This night would be for her, and for them. He reached his hand out to gently cup her face, lightly running his fingers through her hair. He wanted this night to last forever, because when he thought of what he had to do tomorrow … He didn't want to think about that now. Right now he wanted to memorize every last detail of his beautiful wife's features. And she was so beautiful. He admired her soft brown hair as it slipped through his fingers. She smelled faintly of the cucumber lotion she knew he liked. He moved his hand to cup the side of her face, gently lifting it as he leaned toward her to capture her mouth with his. He then placed butterfly kisses on the tip of her nose, each closed eyelid, her forehead, each cheek, and her chin, before moving back to her lips. With his tongue he traced the curve of her lips as she slowly parted them, inviting him to enter. He sealed his lips over hers and gently pushed his tongue inside, moving it slowly around, memorizing texture and taste.

She moved her hands to either side of his head, running her fingers through his hair and encouraging his exploration. She began her own exploration as her tongue traced his, then slipped past it to explore his lips and mouth. As much as she wanted him now, she sensed he needed to prolong this love making as long as possible. She followed his lead and focused on enjoying his kiss and memorizing the feel of his lips, tongue, and mouth mating with hers.

Clark loved kissing his wife. He could stay here all night like this just kissing her. But the thought of what tomorrow would bring and the need to be one with her encouraged him to move forward. His hand slid from her cheek to encircle her slender neck, his thumb tracing a path from the base of her neck to her chin. His other hand rested on the top of her head, gently smoothing her hair as he continued to kiss her.

A few minutes later his hand slid lower from her neck to the top button of her blouse. He slowly released each button in turn, gently tugging her shirttail from her skirt to reach the last of them. She moaned softly against his lips at his touch, which sent a jolt of excitement through him.

Lois continued to run her fingers in his hair, enjoying the sensations he was creating with his kisses as they made love. As their breathing returned to normal, he gently rolled them over.

Lois laid her head on her husband's chest, listening to his heartbeat. She wanted to stay awake, wanted to make love with him all night, but the events of the day and the intensity of the passion they had just shared caught up with her. She tried to fight her exhaustion, but it soon overtook her.

Clark lay awake, his wife on top of him, his arms wrapped around her, lightly rubbing her back. He knew she was tired. It had been a long day, for both of them. But sleep eluded him. His thoughts were filled with images of his home planet and the fate his people seemed determined to push themselves toward, and his present home with Lois, the one he had to leave behind. He listened to her steady breathing, the feel of her body molded to his. Careful not to disturb her, he bent to kiss the top of her head and whispered into her hair, "Always remember that I love you."


The next morning Clark contacted Zara telepathically. She, Ching, and the others were still on board their ship. He asked her to meet him at his and Lois's home.

Zara and Ching materialized to find Lois and Clark waiting for them in their living room. Lois was holding onto Clark's arm as if she didn't intend to let go.

"Zara," Clark began, "Lois and I have … come to a decision." He looked at Lois. Tears were forming in her eyes. Seeing her like this nearly caused his own tears to come. He couldn't continue.

Lois spoke in a whisper. "We have decided that he should return with you."

"You understand that we must leave immediately. When we left, the situation at home was growing worse. We must restore peace as soon as possible."

Clark managed to speak. "I understand, but there's something I must do first."


Clark called the mayor as Superman and explained the situation to her. She agreed to allow a press conference for him to explain to Metropolis, and to the world, that Superman would be leaving for an undetermined amount of time and why.

A crowd formed in front of the steps of city hall where a podium had been set up for the special announcement. The gathering journalists and news crews had not been told the nature of the meeting, but knew it would be big news. The mayor appeared at the appointed time.

"Ladies and gentlemen of the press. I have called this special press conference at the request of Superman. He has a prepared speech he would like to make to you."

Superman appeared from inside city hall. He had met with the mayor a short time before the conference to let her know what he planned to say, and they had discussed how this would affect the city's crime rate and ways to overcome that. He had wanted to make sure that the citizens of Metropolis would not be adversely affected by his leaving.

Stepping up to the podium Superman looked out over the crowd. He spotted Lois, standing toward the back, tears in her eyes. He swallowed the lump in his throat. He couldn't look at her. He knew if he did he wouldn't be able to go on, and Superman had one last job to do before he left Earth forever. It was bad enough that Lois would have to explain his absence as Clark, but they had worked so hard to keep Superman out of their personal lives, and he didn't want to leave her with people questioning again if there was anything between her and Superman. She didn't need that hassle, especially not alone.

Alone. It hit him again. He would be leaving her, alone, and he would be going back to his home planet, without her. Could he do this? He thought again of his home world, and what Zara had told him. He had no choice. They had no choice. He knew that. They both did. He took another deep breath and scanned the crowd, careful to avoid looking at Lois.

Lois watched her husband up on the podium as he scanned the crowd, seeing the emotions play across his handsome features. It would be obvious to any onlookers watching the expressions on his face that what Superman was about to say would not be welcome news. She could tell this was very difficult for him. She wished that he would fly right off that stage, scoop her into his arms, and fly away with her, far away from everything. But she knew he couldn't fly away from what he was meant to do all his life, and he couldn't let all those people die. She felt so helpless. She couldn't even help him through this. In a few short words Superman would make his announcement and their lives together would be over. It would all be over.

Reaching up, Lois brushed a tear from her eye. She had to be strong, for him. And she had to be strong in front of their friends and colleagues. She and Clark, and Superman, had finally put any rumors to rest about herself and Superman and she didn't want to take any chances of getting that started again. It would be difficult enough to deal with Clark's absence alone.

Lois stiffened her back and looked again at her husband. She could tell he was having a hard time with this speech, the public declaration that would change their lives. She wouldn't make things more difficult for him by letting him see her cry here. She tried to send him positive thoughts. Did this telepathy thing work both ways? It would be nice if it did, then, after he was gone and she needed to talk to him, she could just contact him instead of waiting for him to contact her. He startled her by briefly looking her way, and she saw a faint smile. It worked! She had that to hang onto now.

Superman cleared his throat. He was ready to begin. Lois's positive thoughts and the elation she felt at successfully transmitting them gave him the boost he needed to go on. She would be there for him, always. He may not be by her side, but neither of them would ever be alone again. They had their memories of their time together, and they could talk to each other telepathically. It wasn't anywhere near what he wanted, but it was all they had. It would have to do.

He began, "When I first arrived, I explained that I was from a planet called Krypton. My home planet needs me now to help prevent a war." He paused to let this sink in to the crowd. He and Lois had discussed the best way to approach this, and they decided that for Superman and what he stood for, the truth would be best. "But," he continued, "I will return as quickly as I can to continue the job I have here. I consider Earth my home now." That was true. He wanted to return, and did consider Earth home now, but he also knew that he would not be able to return. The situation on Krypton would not change to the point where he could leave. They would expect him to be their leader and remain there. But he didn't want the criminal element to know that. He wanted to keep them on their toes, and hopefully keep Lois out of harm's way.

The crowd's reaction was, at first, a stunned silence. Then murmurs of "he can't leave us" and "what will we do without Superman?" could be heard. Several in the crowd began to share with anyone who would listen how Superman had helped them or a time when they had seen him in action.

Superman raised his hand to quiet down the crowd. "I realize this comes as a surprise to many of you. This is something I must do, and I trust that you understand that my home planet needs me now."

Several people wondered out loud if all of Superman's people were like him, with special powers, and if they were, what difference could one man make? Why take their hero?

"One man *can* make a difference. And, in this case, that one man is me." He didn't want to tell them his people didn't have powers, and that he wouldn't once he returned. It would raise too many questions that he just didn't want to answer.

"Inside each of you is a hero. I leave, knowing that a world full of heroes has nothing to fear. Thank you." Superman turned from the podium and walked back into the courthouse. He and the mayor had decided that he should slip out through the back of the building to avoid any chaos that might erupt should he stay too long, and he decided against flying off the podium. He felt it would only be a reminder to them as they watched him fly off that that may be the last time they saw him, and he wanted them to remember all he had done for them and carry that with them after he was gone.

Superman walked through the empty courthouse - everyone had been outside to hear the announcement - and out the back door. He rose quickly into the air before the crowd in front could discover where he was, and flew home. He and Lois had decided they would meet there as soon as they both could get away from the press conference. They would have a few minutes alone together to say good-bye, and then he would have to leave with Zara.

Lois watched him leave. There wasn't much more she could follow-up on here. She noticed other Planet reporters in the crowd and hoped they would get the crowd's reaction to Superman's speech. Human interest had never been her area of expertise; it had always been Clark's, which helped to balance her writing. She already had enough to write a front page story about Superman's announcement. Besides, she wanted to be home with her husband.


Clark was there waiting for her when she walked in the door. He had changed from his suit to a pair of jeans and a black button down shirt, one of Lois's favorites. Zara had wanted him to wear his Kryptonian suit, but he wanted to be Clark for as long as he could. Hearing her approach, he rose from the couch and moved toward the door, taking her in his arms as soon as she appeared in the open doorway. He pulled her inside, closing the door behind her. He kissed her hungrily, wanting to memorize the taste of her. His tongue pushed its way past her lips to explore the now wonderfully familiar textures of her mouth. He broke the kiss as he tasted the salt of her tears on his lips.

"Clark," she whispered. "I can't do this."

He touched his forehead to hers. "I know, honey. This is so hard. But I don't regret any of it, except for hurting you, us, now. You know that no matter what happens, I will always love you. There will never be anyone else."

"I know. For me either."

"Lois, I can't ask you to do that."

"You didn't, not that first time when I met you and not now. This is what I want. Before I met you I thought I wanted to be alone. Now I know that's what I want, if I can't be with you."

"Lois," he began, then lifted his head, a far away look on his face.

"What is it? What do you hear?"

"Zara," he sighed.

"I guess it's time," she said tersely.

"Yeah." He paused, still holding her in his arms. There were so many things he wanted to say to her. "I'll contact you as soon as I can. And you promise me you'll stay out of trouble! Don't go traipsing off after Luthor alone."

"Hey! I did just fine on my own before you came along. And I didn't get all those awards by playing it safe."

"Lo-is," he said, in that tone she always thought was condescending.

She acquiesced, for now. She didn't want to fight with him before he left. This was hard enough for both of them. Trying to lighten the moment she said, "Okay, pinky swear."

"Uh uh. You already got me with that once."

"Okay. I'll be more careful."

"And?" he prompted.

"I'll … take Jimmy with me."

"Jimmy?! And who's going to watch out for *him*?" Clark sighed. "Well, at least you won't be alone. I don't want to be worrying about you when there's nothing I can do about it."

"There's always something like what you did that first time, that telepathy thing."

"I just hope I can sense if you're in trouble. But you're not going to be because you promised, right?"



"Okay, okay." She sighed. "Didn't what's-her-name call for you?"

"Anxious for me to leave?" He tried to tease, but couldn't quite get the seriousness out of his voice. This was it.

She started to tear up again. "No, but if you don't go now, I don't think I will be able to let you go. I survived the first time, I don't know if I can now."

"You will. We both will."

"I love you, Clark."

"I love you, Lois."

As he said those final words she could feel him dematerializing in her arms. In seconds he was gone.

"Clark!" she cried out, anguish in her voice.


One minute he was holding Lois in his arms, and the next he was on the bridge of Zara's ship. He angrily turned to her "You could have given me a bit more warning. Lois and I were still talking."

"We needed to proceed, Kal-El. Time is of the essence."

"Still, you should have warned me."

"As I recall, I did."

Clark sighed. "Look, Zara, I'm sorry." He ran his hand through his hair. "I just expected to have more time with Lois."

"She means a great deal to you." It was a statement.

He sighed again. "Yeah." It was then that he noticed the other crewmembers and their intent gazes upon him and Zara. And he remembered that he was their leader. "Is there somewhere we can go talk?" He realized there were several things he needed to tell Zara and he didn't want to do that in front of an audience.

"Yes, Kal-El." She motioned toward the door and for him to proceed her.

He nodded once and headed toward the door. He hadn't been away from Krypton so long that he had forgotten protocol. Until he and Zara had completed the ceremony, he had to proceed her.

He waited for her outside the door to the bridge. "Where to?"

"We can resume our discussion in your quarters. Down this corridor. Third door on the left." She motioned again for him to proceed.

They walked down the corridor in silence. Clark reached the door Zara had indicated and it opened as he approached it. They both entered, and the door closed behind Zara. The room was similar to the one he had had on the ship that he had first journeyed to Earth in, the one he had shown Lois.

He turned to face Zara. "Zara, there are some things we need to talk about."

"Yes, Kal-El?"

"I'm not sure what you expect of me. I mean, I know what I have to do, but … "

"Kal, you have lived too long on that sloppy, emotional planet. You were not so indecisive before."

Clark couldn't help but smile at that. "I wish I could make you understand that as sloppy and emotional as that world is, it is also filled with feelings and passion … "

"Like you have for Lois."

"Yes. Zara, I never meant to hurt you. I just never felt that way about you. And when I met Lois, I knew she was the one I had been waiting for."

"Kal, I appreciate your honesty. And I want you to know that I hold you in high esteem. I may not understand the depth of your emotions for Lois, but I do understand what it is to have to lose someone you care for. You have known for years of my feelings for Lieutenant Ching. The arrangement made for us is for the good of our people."

"Zara, I can't complete the ceremony with you. It would mean marrying you."

"Kal. I do not understand. We have known all our lives of the ceremony of union that is to take place at the completion of our training. I … "

"Zara … "

" … do understand your feelings for Lois and will not hold you to the ceremonial consummation in the bridal chamber. Though I do believe it best we keep this between us. And … "

"Zara … "

" … as for the expected heir, perhaps Ching can be of assistance in that aspect. It is fortunate that you and he are of similar coloring and build. As for your needs, I do not object to you utilizing professional caregivers, though I am sure you will decline this service, given your feelings for Lois."

Clark was momentarily distracted by Zara's mention of an heir, Ching, and professional caregivers. He remembered having this conversation with Lois on their first date. Lois.

"Wait, Zara, that's not it. I can't marry you because I'm already married. To Lois." He held up his left hand to show her his ring.

Zara gave him a quizzical look.

"This is a symbol on Earth," Clark explained.

"That is there. It does not mean anything here."

"It does to me." He rubbed his thumb over his ring.

She paused to study him. She may not have understood the depths of his emotions for this Earth woman, but she did understand being trapped by a society's rules that prevented them both from being with the one they loved.

"Then it would wise to keep a great deal more of our arrangement to ourselves. Kal, we will find a way to fulfill our obligations to our people and still maintain your commitment to Lois."

"Thank you, Zara."


Daily Planet Following day

Lois sat at her desk, trying to concentrate on her story. Clark had been gone less then 24 hours, but it already felt like a lifetime. It had been a long night and she hadn't gotten much sleep. She decided to come into the office early. It was easier to keep herself occupied here than at home, though both places reminded her of Clark. What was he doing now? He had told her about the ceremony that would indicate the end of his training and the beginning of his rule over Krypton. Her Clark. A lord. And now a lord married to someone else.

She had spent the night thinking about how she would explain Clark's absence. It had to be something plausible and believable. She glanced up at the elevator at the sound of its arrival on the floor, and saw her editor and friend emerge. Good. She had wanted Perry to be the first to know. She had thought he deserved that much. He approached her desk.

"Lois, I thought I was the only one who came in with the roosters." He stopped to take in her appearance. She looked like she hadn't gotten much sleep. "Lois, honey, what's the matter."

"It's Clark, Perry. We heard from one his relatives the day before yesterday. He had to go home on a family emergency." That was about as close to the truth as she could think of.

"Is everything all right?"

"I don't know."

"Well, you keep me posted and let me know if there is anything I can do. And you tell Clark he can take as much time as he needs."

"Thanks, Perry. I will." She knew he meant days or maybe even a couple of weeks, but not … forever?

He gave her sympathetic look then turned toward his office.

She sighed, sitting back in her chair and watching him go. 'Well, that was one hurdle crossed,' she thought. Would it get any easier? She doubted it.


Lois looked up at the clock on the city room wall. It was nearly six. Clark had thought it would take them about a day, Earth time, to reach Krypton. He was probably home by now. She looked around the nearly deserted pit and decided home was where she would go as well. She wasn't accomplishing much now, thinking of Clark. Was he thinking of her? He had been with Zara since he had left. Was he now reminded of his duties, of what he had returned with her to do? Did he now regret coming to Earth and being with her and what that had resulted in with his people?

'Stop it, Lois!' she admonished herself. 'You know he loves you.'

'Yes, I do.'


'Hi, sweetheart. God, I miss you! I can not begin to describe how frustrating this is for me. I am torn between doing what I was born to and being where I want. Tell me about your day? I miss just being in the newsroom with you, pursuing stories.'

'Well, I'm still here. It's easier to be here than to go home to our townhouse, knowing you won't be coming with me. I told Perry some relatives contacted you about a family emergency.'

'That sounds pretty much like what happened. And I am sorry, honey, sorry that you have to face this alone.'

'We knew that's how it would be.'

'Still … '


'Yes, Lois?'

'Just how married are you?"


'Well, I know what a thorough guy you are … '

'Lois … '

' … and I know you don't do anything halfway … '

'Lois … '

' … so, how married are you, to Zara, I mean.'

'Lois, I told Zara my commitment to you means more to me than anything. What Zara and I have is a political solution. Nothing more. The people get what they wanted. They get their leader back.'

'And you?'

'I lost everything I ever wanted.'

'I'm still here, Clark. I always will be.'

'But this is not how I want you. What I mean is I want back my life on Earth with you.'

'This is all we have. There is no choice.'

'I know. And I am sorry.'

'Clark, I'm not.'

'But someday you may be and … '

'Listen to me, Clark. I love you. Period. And if this is all we have, then this is all we have.'

She heard him sigh. 'I know. I love you, too. I have to go now, but I will contact you later.'

'Okay. Bye,' she whispered softly.


Lois sighed. Reflecting back over their conversation she couldn't help but notice the subtle changes in Clark's wording. He was sounding more like a Kryptonian, and he was slipping further away from her. She was losing him even more.

"I wonder if I can just spend the night at my desk," she mumbled. Pouring herself into her work had usually kept her mind of her troubles before.

Perry picked that moment to stick his head out of his office. "Lois, you heard from Clark?"

"Actually … "

"Well, he is more likely to call you at home this time of night. Whatever it is you're working on can wait 'til tomorrow. Come on. I'll walk you out."

"So much for that idea," she mumbled again as she watched her boss retreat back into his office to close up for the night.


Lois stepped into her empty townhouse, switching on lights and the radio for company. She didn't feel much like eating, so she decided to work on her novel. It was turning out to be quite a piece. Her heroine had gone from being alone and thinking she would never find her one true love, to finding him, except that he was an alien and he found her, had fallen hopelessly in love with him, and now he had gone back to where he had come from. Maybe one of these days she could read it and be able to distance herself from it, but she doubted it. Clark was the man she never thought she would meet, and there would never be another.

She placed her laptop on the coffee table, and settling down on the couch she reached to turn it on. Finding where she had left off with her novel, she began writing. Forty-five minutes later she stood up to stretch and take a break. She walked over to the window, looking up at the stars, and at Krypton. A song on the radio caught her attention. Images began to fill her mind.

~I said hello, I think I'm broken ~And though I was only jokin' ~It took me by surprise when you agreed ~I was tryin' to be clever ~For the life of me I never ~Would have guessed how far the simple truth would lead

As the song played, Lois looked out of the window toward Krypton, feeling broken and alone, consumed by the simple truth that she needed Clark to be whole.

~You knew all my lines ~You knew all my tricks ~You knew how to heal that pain ~No medicine can fix

Lois smiled faintly as the memories washed over her. Clark had always been able to see right through her defenses. He encouraged her to break down her walls and let him in, helped her to heal from the pain of the past, and taught her how to really be happy.

~And I bless the day I met you

She remembered the first day she met him. She had been meeting with a source when a shot rang out and she was thrown to the ground by the most beautiful man she had ever seen. And she had reacted in typical Lois Lane fashion; she had yelled at him for interfering. But he had seen through that, had known they were destined to be together.

~And I thank God that He let you ~Lay beside me for a moment that lives on

Many nights she lay awake watching him sleep peacefully beside her, wondering how she could have been so lucky that he had chosen her, found her.

~And the good news is I'm better ~For the time we spent together ~And the bad news is you're gone

She knew she was a better person, and even a better reporter because of him. How would she be able to look at his empty desk at the office everyday knowing that she'd lost her partner, her best friend, her husband, and the only man she could ever love?

~Lookin' back it's still surprisin' ~I was sinking, you were rising ~With a look you caught me in mid air

She remembered their first night together after he had returned to her, and finding him floating above the bed the next morning. What a shock that had been! But he had been able to do so much good with the powers he had been given. She would desperately miss flying with him. How wonderful that had been.

~Now I know God has His reasons ~But sometimes it's hard to see them ~When I awake and find that you're not there

Tonight would be the first night she would spend alone in bed since he had come into her life. Sure there had been nights when he had been called away to be Superman, but she had always known that he would be coming back to her. Not tonight. And maybe not ever.

~You found hope in hopeless ~You made crazy sane ~You became the missing link ~That helped me break my chains

Where would she have been if he had not come into her life? More alone than she was now. At least she had the memories of being loved, of seeing the world through his eyes of hope. He had shown her a whole new world and helped her to be a better person in it.

~And I bless the day I met you

Lois recalled the first night he had contacted her telepathically. She had thought he was a dream. Little did she know that he would completely turn her life upside down, and that she would welcome it.

~And I thank God that He let you ~Lay beside for a moment that lives on

She remembered the many times they had spent together on the ceiling after making love, enjoying the after glow of their love and sharing their hopes and dreams.

~And the good news is I'm better ~For the time we spent together ~And the bad news is you're gone

A tear slipped down her check as she thought of Clark disappearing from her arms.

~The bad news is you're gone ~You're gone ~You're gone

Lois looked back out the window toward Krypton, the tears flowing uncontrollably.


Same time Krypton

Clark looked out the window of his room toward Earth, and Lois. Playing softly in the background was one of the data disks of music that Kai had picked up for him on one of his earlier visits to Earth, before Clark had met Lois. That seemed like a lifetime ago now.

~Just when I believed I couldn't ever want for more ~This ever changing world pushes me through another door

Clark remembered his earlier life, and how he thought he could be content with what he had been given. But that was before he had met Lois Lane.

~I saw you smile and my mind could not erase the beauty of you face ~Just for awhile won't you let me shelter you

That first picture of her he had seen in the Daily Planet entered his mind. She was so beautiful. He had wanted more than anything to meet her, to be with her, and to love her. He knew eventually his duties would force them to part, but he just wanted that little bit of time with her. He knew his life would be complete with that.

~Hold on to the nights ~Hold on to the memories ~I wish that I could give you something more ~That I could be yours

All he had to sustain him now were the memories of the two years they had shared together. The best two years of his life. He had met, fallen in love with, and married the woman he never thought he'd meet. He wished that he could have stayed with her forever, that he could have given himself completely to her. But that was not his fate.

~How do we explain something that took us by surprise ~Promises in vain, love that is real but in disguise

He hadn't really planned to fall in love with her. After reading her articles he just wanted to meet her, to have a kindred spirit to exchange ideas with. But he knew that he loved her from the moment he first met her, and though he knew in the back of his mind that they might not be together forever, he'd had to take that chance.

~What happens now? ~Do we break another rule ~Let our lovers play the fool ~I don't know how to stop feeling this way

As he looked out the window toward Earth he wondered what she was doing now, what they would do now that they could no longer be together. He couldn't leave his people, and he couldn't marry Zara. She cared for Ching, and he loved Lois. He didn't want to ever stop loving Lois, even though they couldn't be together.

~Hold on to the nights ~Hold on to the memories ~If only I could you more

Had it been fair to her for them to fall in love? She had assured him it was what she wanted as well, even if it was for only a short time. That thought would sustain him though the years to come, but he wished there could be more.

~Well, I think that I've been true to everybody else but me ~And the way I feel about you makes my heart long to be free ~Every time I look into your eyes I'm helplessly aware ~That the someone I've been searching for is right there

He had done what was expected of him and returned to bring order to the chaos his people had found themselves in, and in the process he'd had to leave behind the only woman he could ever love. As he thought of her, he realized he had found the woman he had been looking for his whole life, and he'd had to let her go.

~Hold on to the nights ~Hold on to the memories ~I wish that I could give you more ~Hold on to the nights

'Hold on, Lois.'

'Oh, Clark! I'm trying. I really am.'

'At least we haven't lost everything.'

'We might as well have! I can't hold you or touch you. I thought I could do this, but I can't. I can't settle for this. I want more than just your words. If I can't have all of you, I don't want anything!'

'Lois, do you mean that?' he whispered, the hurt evident in his voice.

Lois sighed. 'No. I'm sorry, Clark. I just really miss you. And this is so hard. Harder than I ever thought it would be.'

'I know. For me too. But Lois, I don't see any way out of this.'

'I know,' she whispered through her tears. 'We knew this from the beginning.'

'But this isn't fair to you, and it isn't fair to me. What about what I want? When does that matter?'

'I don't know. But what matters now is the lives you are saving.'

'While we lose ours. Lois, I need you. I am incomplete without you, and I can't do this, any of this, without you.'

'I'm here.'

'It's not fair to ask you to be.'

'Clark, listen to me, and hear me. When I agreed to marry you I knew what that meant and I accepted that. I will be here for you. However I can.'

'I should never have come to Earth. I'm sorry, Lois.'



Clark sat back in his chair. What was he saying? He wouldn't trade any of his time with Lois, except to ease her pain. But he wasn't giving her enough credit. She had agreed to this, said she understood what loving him meant, and she was willing to be there for him, even if telepathically was the only way she could be.

'Lois? Lois, honey, I'm so sorry. I can be a real lunkhead at times. You're right. And I wouldn't trade knowing you, loving you, for the world, except to take away this pain.'

'I'll be okay, Clark. Sure I'd rather you were here, but I knew this was how it was going to be, and I've never loved anyone more than I love you. Or respected. Not just the difference you made here, but the sacrifice you are making to save your world.'

'You were part of that sacrifice.'

'I know, but that's the way it has to be.'

'I've learned something from this, Lois. Something I never thought was possible.'

'What's that?'

"I love you more. More than I ever have and more than I ever thought I could love anyone.'

'I love you, too, Clark. More than I can ever say.'


One month later

Lois glanced up at the clocks on the newsroom wall. Nearly eight. She sighed, looking around the room. Almost everyone else had left for the day. The few that were there were working on the morning edition. Some had begun to wonder if she had switched to that shift. She had been staying later and later each night, dreading going home to the empty townhouse.

She switched off her computer and grabbed her coat and briefcase. 'I may as well head home,' she thought. 'I'm not going to get any more done here. Maybe I can work on my novel.' That was all she had left of Clark now. Her memories. He hadn't contacted her in over four weeks. She didn't know what was happening. And she missed him terribly. Maybe writing about him would make him feel closer. She headed for the garage and her car to make the drive home.

She arrived at her dark townhouse, unlocking the multitude of locks she had installed after Clark left. She entered and closed the door behind her, not bothering to turn on the light. She headed upstairs to drop her briefcase in the guestroom near the computer desk, then on to the room she use to share with Clark, to change out of her work clothes.

Reluctantly going back downstairs, she headed for the kitchen, knowing she needed to get something to eat. She had lost a good bit of weight since Clark had left. She just hadn't felt like eating. He would fuss at her. She could just hear his voice saying 'Lo-is' in that drawn out way he did when she'd done something he didn't agree with. God, she'd give anything to hear that now.

Walking through the dark room a movement caught her eye.


"Clark!" She ran to him, and he met her halfway. He pulled her into his arms, noting how fragile she seemed. He placed his hands on either side of her face, kissing her repeatedly.

"Clark! You came back!" she managed between kisses.

"I couldn't stay away."

"Don't ever leave me again!"

"I won't."

She pulled back a little so she could look at him. "Do you mean you are here to stay? What about your people?"

He resumed kissing her. "I'll tell you later. Right now I just want to feel that you are real."

Kissing her more deeply and careful not to break contact, he bent to pick her up and carry her upstairs. In their bedroom he placed her gently on her feet on the floor and quickly removed their clothing. Continuing to kiss her, he picked her up again. He laid her on their bed, lying on top of her.

She welcomed his weight. It felt so good and it had been so long.

He had wanted this first time to be slow, to enjoy being with her again, but he couldn't wait. It had been too long. Thirty-two days, four hours, twenty-five minutes, and at this point he didn't care how many seconds.

As their breathing returned to normal, he rolled them over. She shifted on top of him. She had been too long without her husband. Soon they were making love again, and as their movements stilled she collapsed against him, laying her head on his chest.

"Wow," she whispered.

"Hello, wife," he said gently.

She raised her head to look into his eyes.

"I told you before that that wouldn't be our last time together."

"Yes, you did. Oh, Clark, I've missed you so much." Her joy of seeing him turned to anger. "Where have you been for the past month!? Why didn't you contact me? I've been so worried!" She pounded her fist into his shoulder, punctuating each statement.

"Ow, honey. Easy. I haven't gotten my powers back yet." He took her hands in his, forcing her to look at him. "I understand that you are angry. I'm sorry. It couldn't be avoided. I couldn't take the chance."

"What are you saying, Clark?"

"I'm saying, that for the past three weeks, I've been … dead."


"I had a long talk with my parents. They could tell right away something had changed for me, but it wasn't until about three weeks ago that we came up with a plan. Abdicating didn't work. The people nearly went to war. But if I was dead, then they'd have to accept Zara, and I'd be able to come back to you."

"So what you're telling me … "

"Is that Kal-El is dead."

"You did that for me? You can't go back to see your friends and family, your home … "

"Lois, without you I wasn't living. My parents are the only ones who knew and helped me set it all up. They know what it means to be in love, and they knew I needed to be with you, that Clark was who I wanted to be."

"How'd you do it?"

"Well, I contracted a virus a few weeks ago, but wasn't feeling too bad. That's what gave me the idea. We just kept me in isolation and made a formal announcement that, due to my extended exposure to Earth, my system had weakened so I couldn't fight off a simple virus. That's why I couldn't contact you. I couldn't take the chance that someone would 'overhear' and know what we were planning. I've been 'dead' about a week. Once all the burial ceremonies were completed, my parents helped me to leave unnoticed."

"Clark, I can't believe you did that for me. You'll never be able to go home again."

"Lois, I am home."


Music credits

You're Gone

Diamond Rio

Unbelievable July 1998

Hold On To The Nights

Richard Marx

Self Titled 1987

(c) Dawn August '99