By Tank Wilson <TankW1@aol.com>
Submitted September 1999
Summary: Clark returns from New Krypton different in more ways than one. Will Lois and his parents be able to convince him that not everything has to change?
The Kryptonian arc of stories at the end of season three and the beginning of season four have provided a lot of material for fanfic stories. Most dealt with either the separation of Lois and Clark, the loss of Clark, or a return after an extended period of time to vastly changed circumstances. I saw it as a Clark goes off to war type situation. A lot of things can happen to a man that goes off to war. This is just one possibility. As always, all characters are trademarked and copyrighted to their owners. All feedback is most welcome.
The screen in front of Lois Lane blurred out of focus for about the tenth time in the last ten minutes. She was tired, but then she was always tired these days. She hadn't slept well ever since Clark had left to help those overbearing, ungrateful, cold fish New Kryptonians. It had been three months, the longest three months of her life and getting longer, since he'd gone with them. Nearly every night she had bad dreams and nightmares and would wake up crying convinced she would never see him again.
After the first month she gave up the pretense that she was staying in touch with Clark. Everyone thought Clark was undercover reporting on the increase in organized crime now that Superman was gone. The running around late into the night, checking sources and chasing leads so she could ghost articles that could be credited to Clark, just got to be too much. Her own daily work was suffering to the extent that Perry had to step in. He was all fatherly and understood how she was concerned over Clark and how they all missed Superman, but bottom line, she had to toughen up and get Mad Dog Lane crackin' again. She had tried, but it was too hard, so she had to tell Perry that Clark was going under deep cover and he was not sure when he would be able to contact her again. Every week or so after that Perry would ask if she'd heard from him and she would give him a brave smile and say, no, but she was sure he was all right.
Perry would purse his lips but would nod and agree with her, that he was sure he was all right. Clark could take care of himself. Then Perry would stroll off with a sad look on his face. She knew what Perry was thinking, that Lois would have to soon face the harsh reality that Clark may not come back from this. Of course, he wasn't yet ready to be the one who would have to make her face it.
She turned back to her screen frowning. This story was just not coming together for her, and she was just about to nuke the whole thing and start over when the phone rang. Saving her from committing the drastic act, she answered it gratefully.
"Lois, it's Martha; can you talk?" Martha's voice was barely above a whisper. Lois was confused.
"Oh, hi, Martha. Sure, I can talk. This stupid story's not going anywhere anyway. I'm really glad to hear from you. What's up?"
"Lois," Martha's voice pitched even lower, "he's back."
Not for one second did Lois think, 'Who's back?' There could only be one person Martha would be talking about. Clark, Clark was back! Excitement and relief that he was back warred with hurt in that he hadn't come to see her first. She knew he loved his parents dearly; so did she, but she'd always assumed when he returned he would come to her first, and then they could go see the Kents, together.
Suddenly it struck Lois very strange that Martha was calling her. Why would she be the one to call her, unless … Lois forced down the hundreds of dire scenarios that fought their way into her mind. Best not get ahead of herself, she thought. Martha would tell her. Lois swallowed hard and forced herself to remain calm.
"That's great, Martha, but something is wrong, isn't it?" Her voice started to rise despite her efforts. "What's wrong, Martha? What's wrong with Clark?!"
"I don't have time to get into it over the phone. He's out in the barn with Jonathan right now. If he knew I was calling you he'd be very angry with me. Just tell me you can come out as soon as possible."
"I'll be on the next flight to Wichita." She hung up.
Lois was stunned. Clark would be angry if he knew Martha had called her. He didn't want her to know he was back? He didn't want her to know he was back! Tears came unbidden to Lois' eyes as that thought reran itself over and over again in her mind.
"Lois, have you got that story ready for me yet?" Perry had come up, unnoticed, behind Lois. Noting her tears he shifted out of editor mode and into concerned friend mode. "What's wrong, honey? Is it Clark?"
Lois froze momentarily at the mention of Clark's name. She took a deep breath to compose herself.
"Ah, it's nothing, Chief; just my allergies kicking up." Lois sniffed for effect. "You know, this story doesn't seem to be going anywhere for me. I think you'd better reassign it. Give it to Ralph; yeah, that would work. I've been kind of out of it lately, you know, kind of stressed and tired. Not sleeping well either. I think I need to take a break. Perhaps a vacation, yes definitely, a vacation sounds like just the ticket. Go somewhere nice and peaceful. Somewhere I can relax and just take things easy for awhile. It's a great idea, Perry. I'll see you in a week, or two."
All the while, Lois was gathering up her things, stuffing them alternately in her bag and her briefcase. Perry just stared helplessly as Lois marched up the ramp and into the elevator.
The flight was seemingly endless. Lois kept twisting tissues in her hands until they were shredded, then she would grab another and continue. She had quickly gotten tired of explaining her 'allergies' to the various flight attendants, but once she had gotten through all of them, and a couple of concerned passengers, they left her alone. She knew she wasn't exactly a fun seat mate on this flight, but she didn't care. She spent the interminable hours staring out the window, dabbing at her misted eyes, and twisting to ruin another tissue.
All that kept running through Lois' mind was, why, why, why. Why hadn't Clark come to see her first? Why would he be angry if he knew Martha had called? Why had Martha been the one to call? Well that last one was easy. Martha obviously felt that, despite what her thick-headed son wanted, Lois should know that Clark was back. Lois smiled a bit as her thoughts centered on Martha. Martha was amazing, she always seemed to understand Lois' feelings in matters and often took her side. Clark had often accused them of being too much alike whenever they would gang up on him to point out some faulty thinking on his part. Lois had always considered that a compliment.
It was mid-morning by the time the plane finally made its touchdown. Lois had talked to Martha again last night after she had secured her flight information. She could tell by the way the call went that Martha was not alone, so Lois had given her the information knowing she couldn't reply directly, but she also knew that Clark would never eavesdrop on his mother's conversation. It had actually been a somewhat comical conversation, what with Lois feeding Martha flight numbers and arrival times, and Martha in turn calling her Maizie and telling her how she'd be happy to help her with inventory at the restaurant. Even though Lois had told her it wasn't necessary to meet her, Martha had managed to convey that she would be there, if only to prepare her. Prepare her! That had scared Lois quite a bit, and now that the plane was approaching the gate those fears were resurfacing.
The flight had only been partially booked so Lois was able to spot Martha right away, and she, her. They exchanged waves, then, after they met, exchanged hugs.
"Martha, what's wrong? What is going on with Clark?" Lois' voice was barely under control and few nearby fellow passengers turned to look at her.
"Not here, honey. Let's get in the car where we'll have some privacy, and I'll try to fill you in as best I can."
Lois hung back, giving Martha her most pathetic 'tell me' look.
Martha grabbed Lois' hand, pulled her close, and in a fierce whisper said, "Lois! Clark has been hurt, hurt bad, but we can't discuss it here in the open. Come on!"
With that Lois allowed herself to be led like a distracted child to the baggage claim and then to the parking lot. Martha's words were burned into her mind. Clark had been hurt! He had been hurt badly, according to Martha. Lois was conflicted; part of her needed to know 'how bad' right now, while the other was afraid and didn't really want to know at all. If she didn't know then she could pretend it hadn't happened.
After throwing her bag into the back seat Lois got into the front passenger side of Martha's car while Martha got behind the wheel. Once seated, as if of one mind they each turned to the other. Martha spoke first.
"Okay, Lois, Clark got home about two weeks ago."
Martha continued talking while she started the car and pulled out of her parking spot. As they drove she proceeded to fill Lois in on most of what had happened the last two weeks starting, of course, with the startling reappearance of her long lost son.
Tears flowed from Lois' eyes as Martha recounted the horror she and Jonathan had felt upon first seeing Clark's injuries and their feeling of helplessness because there was nothing they could do for their boy except offer love and support, neither of which he seemed willing to accept. Martha told of the arguments they'd had about Lois, Martha saying that he needed to contact Lois and let her know he was back and tell her what had happened, while Clark steadfastly refused. The last week had settled into an uneasy truce with all the parties staying clear of 'forbidden' subjects. That is, until Martha finally decided to take matters into her own hands and had called Lois herself. After Martha had finished with her story, Lois sat quietly for several minutes just wiping at her eyes with the backs of her hands. Finally she spoke.
"What do we do now?"
"I'm not sure, honey." Martha reached over and squeezed Lois' hand. "He's been able to compensate fairly well for his physical injuries," Lois winced at the word compensate, "but his thinking is all messed up. He's made stupid decisions based on faulty logic before, but now it's much worse. He's become more cold and analytical." Martha let out an exasperated sigh. "He keeps making decisions based on some twisted logic that only he understands, and I can't seem to get through to him. It's like he's shut off his emotions and encased himself in a real steel shell. That's why I need you, Lois. You're my only hope of cracking that shell and getting the Clark we both love back."
Neither woman spoke for the remainder of the trip. Lois spent the time mentally cursing the New Kryptonians for apparently destroying the most wonderful man she had ever known, or would ever know — the man she loved with all her being, who at one time had loved her as well. She could only imagine the horrors he'd had to go through while trying to save the Kryptonians' worthless society from itself. He hadn't told Jon and Martha much, but it had been enough to know he'd been scarred much more than just physically.
It was early evening when they pulled up the drive of the Kent farm. Jonathan and Clark were on the front porch talking. Both turned when they heard the car approach and come to a stop. Jonathan pursed his lips in a tight line when he saw who got out of the passenger side of the car.
Lois had told herself she could be strong, she needed to be strong. Martha had prepared her for this but as soon as she saw Clark her heart shattered and tears flooded her eyes again.
Clark, upon seeing the pair get out of the vehicle, turned an angry stare at his mother, which caused her to actually look away. Then he shifted his gaze of disapproval onto Lois and in a cold voice spoke.
"What are you doing here?"
Martha had forewarned her of this. Lois intellectually knew what to expect but the reality still shocked her speechless. Oh gawd, what had those Kryptonian bastards done to Clark! He stood before her clad in only a t-shirt and cut-off jeans, baring his injuries for all the world to see. "Standing" wasn't exactly correct, either. Clark was floating about an inch above the porch floor. His left leg didn't appear to be able to actually support his weight. It was cruelly twisted and had several angry welts and gouges ripped out of it. Though covered by a sock, she could tell the left foot was also partially torn away. His left arm had some welts and a couple of jagged scars running along it down to about three inches below the elbow. The rest was … gone! Apparently the damage had been so severe that the Kryptonian doctors couldn't save it and had amputated his lower left arm. Lois bit her lip to keep from crying out. She knew under his shirt there were several more wounds, and she could just see from where she was standing a couple of reddish scars across the left side of Clark's face. Thankfully Martha had told her that those had been much worse when Clark had first appeared and actually appeared to be healing. Lois blessed the yellow sun's ability to heal those surface wounds that Clark had suffered, but she also knew that many of his injuries were beyond the help of even his super healing powers. He had been caught in some sort of explosion, a trap that Nor had set in order to kill Clark, but it had gone off prematurely, and Nor had been killed in the blast, while Clark had survived, since he'd not gotten close enough yet to the site. With Nor gone, the resistance to Zara's rule evaporated, and Clark abdicated in favor of Ching and left to come home. Lois knew that, as terrible as his physical injuries were, it was the psychological ones that she was here to try to deal with. She took a deep breath and did her best to clear the anguish she felt for him from her face.
"Hello, Clark, I'm glad you're back."
"I suppose Martha told you I had returned." His voice was flat and cold. He gave Martha another disapproving stare.
"Yes, she did. She felt it was only right that your fiancee be aware of your return."
"She shouldn't have done that. I didn't wish for you to know that I was back."
"Were you ever planning to tell me?" Lois clenched her fists.
"May I ask why?"
"I felt that it would be for the best if we didn't see each other again."
"*You* felt it best."
Lois knew this was the critical moment. She could succumb to the fear and the despair and go running off to drown herself in tears of self-pity, but that was not Lois Lane's style. She gradually let her anger begin to come to the surface easing out the despair and fear. Her voice regained some steel of its own.
"I thought we had already had this conversation. I thought you had gotten over the tendency to make decisions that affect the both of us by yourself."
"Lois, these last few months I've had to lead a people out of darkness, and to do so I've had to make decisions which affected the life and death of hundreds, no, thousands of those people. Those were decisions that I had to make, me alone."
"Clark, that was war. You were leading your people into battle. If the shells were flying overhead and we had to storm the next hill I wouldn't question your decisions either. Well, not all of them. But this is different! You are not on New Krypton anymore. You are not the King, or Emperor, or whatever; you are back on earth and this is *us*. Even though we made it seem like one at times, it's not a war. This was and is a partnership, and anything that affects one partner affects both."
"No Lois, it's different now. You deserve … "
"Stop right there!" The famous Lane temper was now in evidence. "If you are going where I think you are, *I* don't want to hear it! I don't want to hear that you think me so shallow that what's happened to you could make any difference in the way I feel about you. Do I feel terrible about what has happened to you? Of course I do! I love you and I can't help but feel your pain and anguish, and I want to share it with you and help you, no, us, get through it. But you can't honestly think that I would love you any less because, what, you're a cripple, only half a man?" Lois had become quite animated by now. Her hands and arms were waving about, emphasizing her tirade. "You must've been changed up there on New Krypton because the Clark Kent I knew was never a bigot." Clark seemed to physically recoil from her accusation. "He never thought any less of the physically challenged. He judged all people by who they were inside. And this self-pity thing just doesn't cut it, buster. How about Tim, the newsboy on the corner by your apartment? Even though you can get all the copies of the Daily Planet that you want for free, you always would stop and buy one of his because he knew more about sports than you did. I don't know how many times I had to drag you away from another insufferably long conversation about the merits of this quarterback or that. The fact that the fellow had to use crutches the rest of his life to get around never seemed to bother you then, and, you know, Tim didn't have the advantage of being able to glide an inch off the ground like someone I know." Lois was on a roll. She began to pace back and forth as she loaded her next argument. "How about Lenny; surely you remember him. He died a couple weeks ago, you know; oh, that's right, you wouldn't know. Such mundane matters wouldn't interest you now, but I remember you and he would play chess in the park about once a month. He was old, homeless, and had a freakin' hook for his right hand, but the guy knew his chess. His one good hand was so crippled with arthritis that he could barely move the chess pieces let alone crush a boulder with it. So don't give me any of that 'woe is me, I'm not the man I once was' crap. And don't you dare presume to make those kind of decisions for me!" Lois stopped pacing and turned again to face Clark. "I know you have been through a terrible ordeal. You've had to face horror no one should have to face and suffered grievous injuries as a result. Clark, *we* can get through this too. Don't shut me, or your folks, out now. You need us, but, more importantly, we need you!"
Lois saw many emotions and thoughts flash across his face. Then his eyes became cold again and he set his face in the mask it was in earlier.
"I'm sorry, Lois."
She walked right up to him and stuck her finger in Clark's chest.
"Okay, you want me out of your life? Fine. All you have to do is tell me you don't love me. If you can look me in the eye and say, 'Lois, I don't love you anymore,' then I'll turn around and have Martha drive me back to the airport and you'll never have to see me again. How about it?"
Lois' eyes were on fire but her demeanor was clam. Clark looked away briefly, took a deep breath, and turned back to her. He looked her in the eyes.
"Lois, I don't love you anymore."
"I don't believe you."
"Superman doesn't lie."
"Maybe Superman doesn't, but Kal-El apparently does."
Clark raised his eyebrow in puzzlement, but kept his voice emotionless. "Really."
Lois reached into Clark's shirt and pulled out a slender gold chain. She held it up so that the light from the porch fixtures glinted off the beautiful diamond ring that was attached to it.
Lois let the chain drop and as it bounced against Clark's chest she turned on her heel and headed back toward the car. She reached in the back and pulled out her bag, then she turned and headed back toward the house. She stopped once she reached Clark again. He hadn't said anything. She doubted if he could; he just stared at her. Her voice was still tinged with anger.
"I'm going upstairs to unpack my things, then I'm going to have a good cry over all the crap that I've had to go through not only these past couple days but for the last few months. Give me about an hour, then come up. I'm very interested in what sort of apology you are going to come up with."
Lois then marched past him toward the door. Martha was crying but had a big smile on her face and Jonathan was just shaking his head in wonderment. Lois Lane had once again proven she was Superman's greatest weakness, after all; kryptonite could only kill him. Lois stopped as she opened the door and glanced back over her shoulder.
"Oh, and, Clark, it had better be a good one."
Clark stood there staring at the closed door where just moments ago the most incredible woman he'd ever known had passed through. Jonathan wrapped his arm around his wife and steered her toward the door also.
"Come on, Martha; let's give our boy some space. I figure he's got a lot of thinking to do." They quickly passed through the door also.
Clark soon found himself out back behind the barn. He was sitting with his back against a very special tree, the tree that held the tree house that had been his 'fortress of solitude' for so many years as a youth. It was a place he had come to when he had to make tough decisions. He stared up at the stars which were now out in abundance. He'd always loved how the country sky was so lit up with so many stars on a clear night. It was one of the things he had missed when he moved to Metropolis, where the only stars you saw were either on television or billboards. It didn't take long for his thoughts to turn back to today and the ruination of all his carefully thought out, if ill-conceived, plans.
Busted! Lois had been able to see through his act and had called him on it. She knew that his tough, emotionless, Kryptonian persona had been just an act. Or maybe she didn't know it was an act and instead she had just refused to let him become any such person. It had been hard for him to pretend to have become a true 'Kryptonian' and make his parents believe that he'd changed into a cold, almost mechanically rational being. It had been even harder to try and keep it going with Lois. Clark just shook his head, Lois, Lois, Lois, what was he going to do with her? He was virtually helpless when it came to that woman. He leaned his head back against the trunk of the tree and sighed.
It had been a while since the others had gone in and it was nearly time for him to go and talk to Lois. Not for the first time tonight he silently cursed the fact that his mother had brought Lois here. It had taken him the two weeks he had been back to make his decision and no matter how much it hurt he knew it was the right one. He knew stalling wasn't going to make things any easier. He had to go up and face the music. Face the only woman he could ever love, and break her heart, again.
He stood outside the door to his old room and hesitated. He could hear Lois inside. He couldn't hear any movement but he could hear her steady breathing and the familiar beat of her heart. His own heart ached at the thought of what he had to do yet this night.
Lois must've sensed he was outside because even before he could knock she spoke. "Come in, Clark."
She was sitting on the edge of the bed dressed in only her bra and panties and a light weight shirt robe which she hadn't bothered to close. Their eyes met and an incredible longing was communicated from each to the other. Clark shook his head and looked away before he lost all his resolve.
"Lois, I … "
"Shhh, not yet. Come over here and sit by me." She patted the bed beside her.
Clark, somewhat fearfully, came over and sat beside her. He was becoming overwhelmed by the smell of her, her freshly shampooed hair, her own personal fragrance that he knew so well. It threatened to drown him. He could feel the electricity passing between them as their desires and long repressed needs began to assert themselves. He tried to scoot a little farther away along the edge of the bed. Lois placed her hand on his arm to stop him.
"No, not now. We have a lot to talk about and a lot of misguided notions to correct before we are through tonight, but first I need you to kiss me."
Without waiting for any answer Lois tilted Clark's face to hers and crushed her lips against his. Taken by surprise, Clark at first thought to resist but before that thought could manifest itself into physical action he had succumbed to the passion behind Lois' kiss and couldn't help but return those feelings that had been repressed for so long. If it wasn't for the fact that they both had to eventually breathe there was no telling how long that kiss would've lasted. When they did finally break, they were looking into each other's eyes, and Lois stroked Clark's chin with her hand.
"Now I need you to hold me." She turned and snuggled back against his chest as he wrapped his one good arm around her waist. "Clark, I've missed you so bad, and I know you missed me because you still wear my ring around your neck."
Clark winced at that comment. He'd known it was a bad choice to keep wearing the ring but he just couldn't bring himself to take it off. It had become too much a part of him in his exile from those things he had always held dear. It was his lifeline back to earth, and Lois. Sadly he felt that it now only had a future as a sad reminder of something so special that might have been, that was now lost. Suddenly Lois turned in his arm and pushed him back onto the bed.
"Clark, make love to me. I don't care what we've said in the past or what we still have to work out later. Make love to me now. I want, no, I *need* you to make love to me." Lois pressed her lips firmly against Clark's as she simultaneously began pulling at his belt.
Clark's mind screamed at him. No! No, he can't let this happen! It will be so much worse. So much harder on Lois if they do this. But as much as his conscious mind berated him for his actions, his body had its own ideas and he soon found himself surrendering to the passions of the moment.
(insert your favorite nfic here)
Clark stared unseeing at the ceiling of his boyhood bedroom. Lois lay snuggled tightly in his arm with her cheek against his bare chest. It had been the most incredible experience of his life. Never had he thought that he could ever know such joy and such a sense of belonging. It was like he had understood the meaning of life for the first time. He knew from her murmurings and reactions that Lois had experienced something wonderful also. Finally Clark truly understood what the soul mates thing was all about.
The euphoria was quickly dashed by waves of guilt and despair. It had been selfish of him to have given in to his passion and animal desires. He knew that separation and heartbreak were ahead even if Lois didn't, and he should have been strong enough to spare both of them the added pain that this interlude would cause. But he hadn't been, and what was done was done. He would hold this memory very dear till the end of his days. He only hoped that Lois could, some day, find it in her heart to forgive him.
Lois began to stir next to him. She stretched catlike as she rolled over and found herself lying full on his body. She glanced around, noticing it was still quite dark. She could see his eyes glowing from the reflected moonlight coming through the open window.
"Is it morning yet?" She asked of the sturdy dark shape beneath and in front of her.
"No, there are still a couple hours till dawn."
Lois traced little circles with her fingernail on his chest. "Do you want to do it again?" She felt his body tense under her.
"Lois, I think we need to talk."
Lois sighed and rolled off Clark's body to the edge of the bed. Hoisting herself up she wandered into the tiny bathroom that adjoined the bedroom. Within minutes she had returned wearing a more substantial robe than the one she had on earlier. She turned on the lamp that was on the night stand. It didn't offer a lot of light, but it did let her see that Clark was truly troubled. Her heart went out to him, though she was a bit confused by his melancholy. Surely he didn't fear another angry tirade from her, did he? They definitely had some issues to get settled but the magic they just shared surely told him that they would get through this too. No, she thought, he must just be feeling guilty over his wrong-headed thinking. That would be just like Clark. She placed her hand on his thigh.
"Clark, we have a lot to discuss, and you have some pretty misguided reasoning to explain to me, but I want you to know that I love you and I will forgive you." A sly smile played across Lois' lips. "Though I may require a lot more of the apologizing we just went through." Seeing Clark turn away, Lois could tell he was really bothered by something. She reached over and gave his hand a squeeze. "Okay, tell me everything, starting with your homecoming, the reasons behind your playacting and why you didn't want to see me."
Clark seemed to take a moment to gather himself, then turned and met Lois' gaze. Both sets of brown eyes sparkled in the low light from the mist of tears which they shared.
"Okay, Lois, you know I got back about two weeks ago. I was badly hurt and sick to heart. I needed to be someplace where I could have some peace because I knew I had a hard decision to make, regarding you, and regarding where my life could go now. I adopted the stoic, cold, Kryptonian guise in an effort to deflect my parents' ministrations and allow me to make these decisions more analytically. I had already pretty much figured out that it was likely that I would have to push those that I love away, and if I became someone they didn't like much it would be easier for them to accept my decision."
"You purposely tried to make us dislike you?" Clark nodded. "Clark, that's just crazy! They are your parents. Injuries, and possible disabilities, would have no impact on how much they loved you and needed you in their lives. You surely can't believe it would make any difference. And I hope I made myself quite clear earlier that it makes no difference to me either. I know you can be a lunkhead at times, but I refuse to believe that you really think that little of us."
"No, Lois, I'm not that stupid. I knew exactly how my parents would react and I knew exactly how you would react. I knew that their and your love for me wouldn't be affected by what happened." Clark let escape a low throaty chuckle. "Though, in the past, you have gone on about my body as much as I have about yours."
Lois had the decency to blush. She reached up and traced the scar along his cheek.
"I can't say I'm not glad that your exposure to our yellow sun again hasn't had a healing effect of some of your wounds."
"Yes, they have gotten a lot better. In fact I wouldn't be at all surprised if all the basic wounds and scars eventually just fade or heal away. Unfortunately, I'm not a lizard. I am not going to grow back missing body parts. My left hand and part of the arm is gone, and it will stay gone. I lost large chunks of muscle from my left leg. While the ragged, scarred flesh may heal into healthy-looking pink skin again, the mass that is gone will stay gone. I have to face the fact that I have been permanently, physically altered by my injuries, and that's what I've been wrestling with these two weeks. That's what has changed everything."
"I don't understand." Lois was confused but she could tell she didn't like where this line of thinking was going. She was actually crying now.
"Lois, ever since I became aware of my powers I knew that I had been put here for some purpose. I should have perished on Krypton with my birth parents or, even worse, been sent to New Krypton, but I wasn't. I was sent to earth and raised by two very special people for a reason. I believe that I was sent here to help people, that I was sent here to be Superman." Clark took another breath. He half expected Lois to chime in here, but she waited; she knew he hadn't reached the payoff of his speech yet. "Lois, I love you more than you can know. I'd die for you, but I can't stop helping people if I can. I can't stop being Superman, even for you."
Tears were beginning to slip from the corners of Clark's eyes also. Lois placed her fingertip against his lips.
"Clark, I would never stand in the way of you being Superman. The fact that you have this need to help people is one of the reasons I love you so much. I realize that your injuries might make things a little difficult at first but I know you'll adjust and you'll be able to 'save the day' just like you always have. I would never ask you to give up being Superman. When I agreed to marry you I knew there would be many times when your being Superman would inconvenience our lives, but I fell in love with the total package. Clark Kent and Superman."
"But that's just it, Lois! It's no longer possible for me to be two people. I can't disguise myself with a pair of glasses and some loud ties anymore. If Superman is to live to help the people of this world Clark Kent must die!"
Lois stared at Clark open mouthed, in shock. Oh gawd, she hadn't thought of that! Tears began to flow from her eyes in earnest.
"But what about us!?" Her voice cracked. Clark just shook his head and turned away.
No! This can't be happening, she thought. She can't have just gotten him back only to lose him again. No, there had to be some other way. She would find some other way! Prosthesis, maybe that was the answer? He could be fitted with … no, that would never work because Clark and Superman would still exhibit the same injuries. Prostheses were aids, not disguises. She knew too many people who had to use them, and while they helped them in their everyday lives there never was any doubt that they did have them. There had to be a way, there just had to be!
"Clark?" Lois had to turn and look over her shoulder as Clark had gotten up and was looking out the window. "Clark." He just hung his head but didn't answer her. A flare of anger burst to the surface. "Don't turn your back on me, buster, this has *not* been settled yet." She wiped at her tears with the back of her hand.
She could see Clark flinch at her words but he did slowly turn to face her. She could see tears tracking down his face as they glinted in the gray half-light coming through the window. Seeing the pain and despair etched onto his face Lois almost lost it right there but she knew she had to be strong. Clark had weighed the facts as he saw them and had come to his own terrible conclusion. It was up to her to convince him there was another way. A way in which he could be both Superman and Clark. All she needed was time, and a solution. Simple, yeah, right. She got off the bed and came over to stand next to Clark.
"Have you been out, as Superman, I mean, since you've been back?"
"No, my mind was still confused and I was still in a great deal of pain. I came back here to heal, and think."
"Okay, promise me you'll not go running off to some mountain top to live as a Superman hermit until *we* have come to a solution." Lois grabbed his hand and kissed it. "Promise me."
"Lois, I don't … "
"Clark! We've been through so much and beaten the odds so many times, this should be a piece of cake for us. You've been irradiated by a nuclear bomb, but we figured a way out of that one. We were locked in cages with no apparent way out that didn't spell death for me, but you didn't accept that and you found a way out for both of us. I won't accept this! We will find a way around this, trust me. Please!"
Clark could only again shake his head in amazement at the nearly unstoppable force of nature that he had been helpless but to fall in love with. Despite what Lois thought of her previous attachments and flirtations, Clark suspected that a lot of men had fallen for her but just couldn't keep up with the whirlwind that was Lois Lane. Even with the powers of Superman at his disposal, Clark had been hard pressed to keep up. If there was only a chance?
"Okay, Lois, I can wait a while longer. I suppose I should have included you and my folks in this decision since it would affect you also. I thought a clean break would be easier for everyone."
"Sometimes you think too much. Now come back to the bed and hold me while I think." Clark complied.
The sun had been up for about an hour when tantalizing smells of a good old fashioned country breakfast caused Lois and Clark to come down to the kitchen. Martha smiled as she noticed Lois holding Clark's hand as they came into the room. Martha had heard a lot of emotional voices and crying going on earlier this morning but hadn't been able to understand what was said. She prayed they had worked out whatever fool notions Clark had had. They both smiled at Martha as they sat down and she piled their plates high with pancakes, eggs, and sausage and pointed to the plate of toast in the center of the table. Jonathan was already into his stack of cakes, so he acknowledged them with a wave of his fork which caused Lois to giggle. Martha couldn't take it anymore so she sat down in the chair next to Lois and turned to her.
"So?" Her voice was as full of hope as her question was obvious. She saw Lois look at Clark. He had a sheepish look on his face.
"Folks, I haven't been totally honest with you. There are some things that have been pointed out to me that we need to discuss." Clark saw Martha smile at Lois, a smile which turned to a frown when she saw the serious look on Lois' face. "But you know what?" he said in a false light tone. "All that can wait until after breakfast, because I'm starved." That said, Clark began to pour the syrup over his pancakes. Everyone else just shrugged and turned their attention to their own plates.
"That is definitely a stickler, son. I have to admit I hadn't thought of that problem either."
Clark had told his folks everything that he and Lois had discussed last night. Well, not everything. But he had explained his behavior, his reasoning behind his actions, and the promise he had made to Lois to wait until they had time to try to come up with a solution, together. Jonathan had spoken first while Martha had squeezed Lois' hand in gratitude. They stared at each other for a few uncomfortable seconds until Martha decided to take the reins.
"Okay, well, I suggest that since we are going to be doing some heavy brainstorming later that we all get the mundane out of the way. Clark, I'm sure you won't mind helping your father get his chores done, and, Lois, since I assume you'll be staying a while," Martha caught both Clark and Lois' nods, "you can accompany me into town to stock up on supplies."
They hadn't been in the car any more than a half mile past the driveway when Martha turned to Lois with a big smile on her face.
"So did you two make love last night?"
Lois' jaw dropped nearly to her chest. "Martha!"
"Come on, Lois, I may not have been able to have children, but it wasn't from a lack of trying."
Lois grinned in spite of herself. "I didn't think we were that loud?"
"Oh, honey, you weren't. That's what gave you away. I heard you two talking this morning but not last night, so I figured you were making Clark apologize before you talked out your differences."
Lois laughed. "That's exactly the way it went." Lois held up her finger. "And before you ask: it was wonderful." She leaned back and a dreamy, faraway look crossed her face. "I've never been with someone with whom I could so totally surrender myself. Someone who was so giving and conscious of my feelings, yet I could tell he too was deriving pleasure out of the experience." Lois giggled again. "I tell you, Martha, it's a pretty heady experience, knowing I was able to satisfy Superman." They both laughed, but then Lois' smile faded. "Of course, right after that he hit me between the eyes with the 'Clark Kent must go' thing." Lois turned to look directly at Martha. "Martha, I can't lose him now."
"I know, dear." Martha patted Lois' hand. "At least we're now at the stage that Clark really wanted and can get this problem worked out."
"Martha?" Lois looked a her in bewilderment. "Clark was going to run away if we hadn't made him come to his senses and stay."
"Oh course he wasn't, honey. Why else do you think he came back to the farm instead of just brooding in some desolate place, isolated from everyone and everything, until he'd made his decision. He knew I'd call you. He knew the more he told me not to, the more determined I'd be to get you here. Oh, he may not have thought so consciously, but deep down he wanted us there. He needed us to talk him out of the decision he thought he'd have to make, and he needed us here to help him come up with an alternate plan." Martha turned to Lois with a determined look on her face. "And we will, honey, we will."
"Martha, you are amazing," Lois said while shaking her head. "Between the two of us, Clark never had a chance, did he?"
"No, dear, he didn't."
The two most important women in Superman's life were content to let the rest of the trip into town pass in a comfortable silence. Even though Lois had been cheered by Martha's analysis of her son's behavior it still didn't get them any closer to solving the problem. If they couldn't come up with a logical, workable plan, Clark just might be forced to become Superman only, and his and her future together as man and wife would be history before it ever began.
Lois and Martha each had a carry basket on one arm which was filled with the groceries they had picked out. Martha's was full of milk, eggs, flour, and other essentials. Lois' was packed with packages of cupcakes, ding dongs, ho-ho's and twinkies. As they walked down the last aisle toward the single checkout Lois brushed up against an old spinner rack full of comic books.
"Just look at this. It's disgusting!" Martha turned her attention to Lois as Lois pulled one of the offending mags out of its slot. Lois' voice dropped to a fierce whisper. "Here we are, trying to save this world's only true hero, and look what passes for superheroes in these rags nowadays?" Lois waved the comic about until Martha grabbed her hand so she could see what had Lois so upset. "Look at this! This is what someone thinks a superhero should look like? Some psycho covered in armor with unrealistically huge guns sprouting from every … "
Lois stopped her tirade and looked at Martha. Martha was a bit confused by her actions and glanced over at the comic in Lois' hand again. As if of one mind, smiles broke out on the faces of both women simultaneously.
"We've got to get back!" Lois threw the comic book aside and charged toward the checkout. Martha, still grinning, followed in her wake.
They were all gathered in the living room. Martha sat in her favorite overstuffed chair in the corner smiling as she watched Lois pace about the room gathering her thoughts. Jonathan and Clark shared the sofa, both with puzzled looks on their faces, as they watched the crazy lady wear a path into the carpeting. She seemed to be mumbling to herself as she ticked off some unsaid points on her fingers. Finally she took a deep breath and faced her captive audience.
"Okay, Clark, even though you wear glasses you don't really need as Clark Kent, you've always told me that Superman is actually the disguise and Clark Kent is who you are, right?" She didn't wait for his response. "So let's just let that continue to be the case. Superman is the one who will wear the disguise." Lois began to pace again. "Clark can be 'found' after having suffered these terrible injuries while away on his undercover assignment. We'll say that you were caught in an explosion, try to keep it as close to the truth as possible. Most of your scars and wounds are already healed so we won't have to worry about them. Whatever healing left to do will seem natural. After you've been back long enough to have erased all superficial marks, Superman can make his reappearance and tell the world he is back."
"Ah, Lois?" Clark tried to get her attention, but she ignored him; she was on a roll.
"This will be a new, slightly different Superman. He will be even more stoic and distant. He will swoop in and save the day," Lois looked comical making her flying motions with her hands and arms, "then he will fly right back out again, being too modest and too busy to hang around and chat." Lois favored Clark with an intense stare. "I mean, it's not like he has to try and impress anyone anymore, does he?"
"No, Lois he doesn't. But even if all my other wounds have healed up," he held up his three quarter left arm, "I'm still a little obvious, don't you think?"
"I'm getting to that." Lois became more animated. "You see, when we were at the market I ran across some comic books and saw what passes for superheroes in fiction now days."
"Lois, really, comic books?" It was Jonathan who chimed in.
"Jonathan, let her finish."
"Thank you, Martha." Lois stopped and faced Clark. "As I was saying, I saw these so-called heroes in these books. It was disgusting, using big guns and other terrible weapons and all covered in armor. That got me to thinking."
Anticipating her Clark interrupted. "But, Lois, I don't need any armor. It would just get in the way."
"You're right. But what if you just had, say, these long armored gauntlets which came up to your elbow, and new armored boots which covered nearly your whole leg. The armoring would cover up any lack in actual muscle and bone that might be underneath it. They could be golden in color to match your belt. I think they might look pretty sharp." Lois looked rather pleased with herself.
"Lois, that may work cosmetically, but no armor, no matter how strong it is, is going to be as invulnerable as I am." Lois frowned as Clark pointed out what he thought was a flaw in her plan. "How would I … "
"Protect it? Keep it from getting destroyed in the first big blast?" She began pacing again. "Just like you are able to project your aura out a little way to protect me while we are flying, you should be able to do the same to those parts of your armor which don't actually touch your skin. It may be a little tricky at first but I'm sure you can make it work."
They all sat quietly for a few moments weighing what Lois had just outlined. She had stopped her pacing and was impatiently waiting for them to point out the other apparent flaw in her plan. It was Jonathan who finally did so.
"It just might work, Lois, but, while Martha's handy enough with a sewing machine, none of us has the expertise to pull off these gauntlet and legging things you mention."
Clark stuck his chin down onto his fist in the classic thinker pose. "Yes, just how are we going to pull that off, Lo-is?"
"Okay, I admit, this might be the sticky part, because it would mean that we'd have to let one or two other people in on the secret."
Clark nodded. "You mean Dr. Klein."
"Yeah, and my father."
"Think about it, Clark. What were we investigating the first time you met him? Cyborgs! Who would know better about disguised prostheses, spare parts and such than a man who built cyborgs and later built an entire android?" Lois dropped her head a bit and stuck her finger beside her cheek. "Though if I remember right, Baby Gundersen suffered a complete melt down not long after that eventful Christmas. Anyway, between him and Dr. Klein I don't see how we can not make this work!"
"I don't know, Lois. It could be dangerous to trust more people with the secret. What if they let it slip?"
"Clark! Think what you are saying. A couple more people know the secret which increases the risk that someone might find out that Clark Kent is Superman, or no Clark Kent at all. Given those choices I'd call it a no-brainer."
Martha got up from her chair, came over and sat down next to Clark. She began to rub his shoulders.
"You might as well give in gracefully, honey. You know she's right."
"Yeah, I guess so. It's one of her many endearing qualities."
The four of them spent the rest of the evening discussing design details for what had become known as the Lois suit. They also discussed different reappearance scenarios for Clark and Superman. They hadn't come up with any final decisions for things yet, but the progress they made had everyone in an upbeat mood and convinced that they could make it work. Lois said she'd get hold of her father and Dr. Klein within the next couple of days and arrange for a private meeting to work out the technical problems.
It was a very happy, satisfied, and tired Lois Lane that Clark led up the stairs after his parents had already gone off to bed. He let her in the room and she sat with a thump on the end of the bed.
"You know, Clark, I really believe this will work and that we will be able to reclaim our lives again. The world can have its Superman, and, more importantly, I get my Clark Kent."
"I know I tell you this all the time." Clark sat next to her and began to nuzzle her neck. "But you are one amazing woman, Ms. Lane. Whatever would I do without you?"
She reached over and grabbed his chin, pulling his face even with hers. "You would never have to find that out if you didn't keep pushing me away. This is the second time you've had the fool notion that I would be better off without you. That's two strikes, buddy boy, and you know what they say about three."
"It's one, two, three strikes you're … Oh yeah, I think I will definitely want to avoid that." Clark saw Lois grin, then she was overcome by a huge yawn. Now it was Clark's turn to grin. "You must be pretty tired, Lois."
"Yeah, I guess I am, and we do still have a lot of details to work out and people to contact and stuff to figure out. It's been a long day and it will really feel good to get some sleep."
"That's too bad. I was kind of in the mood to do some more apologizing for my fool-headed thinking of the other day."
Lois let her gaze focus on his eyes and the depth of the longing she saw there. "Really?"
(Fade to Black)