To the Stars

By Elaine M. Gustainis <>

Rated G

Submitted August 1999

Summary: A sequel to the author's story "By the Light of the Silvery Moon." Lois and Clark need time to get to know each other better, but someone else has other plans… (Part 2 of 3)

[Author's Note: This is a sequel to my story, "By the Light of the Moon," found in Compendium Vol 8. The original was written before the series' revelation and continues on in its own universe. It is a cross-over, incorporating "Salvage I" and "Starman" with "Lois & Clark." I recommend reading the original to get the story background.]


Lois Lane was impressed. The salvage yard buzzed with activity, but towering majestically over it all was the object of her scrutiny — The Vulture. She'd seen pictures and videotape of the homemade spaceship, but seeing it looming there, guarding over the workers, lent a slightly surreal, 50's type of sci fi movie atmosphere to the whole place.

"If I hadn't met Skip, I couldn't have imagined what kind of dreamer believed that would make it to the moon." Lois squeezed her companion's hand tighter. "Only Skip…" She trailed off, shaking her head.

Before Clark could reply, a voice interrupted from off to their left.

"Well, well, now! You must be Skip's friends! Come on in, come on in." Harry Broderick stormed up to the two reporters still standing by the entrance. He grabbed first one, then the other's hand, and heartily pumped them in turn.

Lois thought they'd entered some weird dimensional timewarp. The man was much older than Skip, and the actual features didn't really match, but she could have sworn she was witnessing the exact same mischievous grin and twinkling eyes that were an ever present part of Skip Carmichael — the same expression that always made Lois feel as if some scheme were just around the next bend. Then he winked at her and she nearly lost it.

"Skip called and said you might be by today." Harry guided his two visitors toward the trailer he'd come out of. "Said you needed some help and asked me to welcome you."

Clark just shrugged at Lois as they were ushered into the offices of Jettison Salvage. They'd wanted to hide the small pod-like device rescued from Peagrim before venturing on to Smallville. Having Fox and his band of loony men in custody should have been enough to keep it safe, but they didn't want to chance anything. And when it was decided Clark would be the one to leave it there and that he shouldn't be seen flitting about the area, nothing would keep Lois from going with him.

Lois and Clark had bid their good-byes to the Michaels clan and then to Clark's aunt and uncle, arriving shortly on the outskirts of San Diego with their precious cargo as planned… and then they were swept up by Hurricane Harry. Definitely more subdued than Skip, but still as forceful a personality.

"We appreciate your help, Mr. Broderick," Lois began, but was halted immediately.

"Harry, please. We don't believe in formalities here." He bent down to the half-size refrigerator set off to the side and peered inside. "Can I offer you refreshments… soda, water? We're pretty well stocked, even some of Mel's scrumptious kumquat juice." Harry straightened up and grimaced at this last recited item.

"Thanks." Clark accepted a Pepsi and handed the bottled water to Lois. "I don't know what Skip told you…"

"Not a thing, actually," Harry stated matter-of-factly. "Which is fine by me. The lunch whistle's gonna blow in just a little bit and you'd be surprised how fast the yard can empty. Most likely you two and me'll be the only ones left." Harry sipped at his drink. "And I've got far too much work to do inside here to really be watchin' the goings on outside. I'm just afraid you'll have to tour the place by yourselves."

"Thank you doesn't seem enough, Harry," Clark was able to add only when Harry took the time for a breath.

"Nonsense. Skip did tell me you two had something to do with bids being accepted on Peagrim again. That's all the thanks I could ever ask for." An almost serious expression appeared for a fleeting second. "Okay. Now for a little history lesson."

Lois was unsure if it was her own puzzled expression or Harry's almost non-stop monologue that amused Clark so much. She suspected probably a little of both. She attempted to glare at him, but couldn't sustain it when he smiled at her like that.

"This place used to be a World War II manufacturing plant. We've even got our own concrete bunker — we keep it locked, but I'm sure you'd be interested in what one of those things looked like. The supply buildings are over it now and it's hidden pretty well, but we left access to the old thing in case we ever found need of it. Let's see, where is that…" A long piercing wail drowned out Harry's voice momentarily. He finally pulled his head up from the drawer he'd been rummaging through, producing an old fashioned padlock key with a ta da gesture.

Lois covered her ears as the sound continued for what seemed forever.

"Well, guess it's 'bout time for me to get back to what I need to get back to," Harry announced. "Can't tell you what a pleasure it's been to meet you both. And maybe next time we'll get a chance to talk."

Lois almost laughed at that, doubting anyone but Skip could actually hold their own with Harry.

"Oh, and course you'll invite me to the wedding," Harry informed them.

Another blast of the lunchtime alarm drowned out anything further Lois might have to say on the subject of Skip Carmichael. All she could do was roll her eyes.


They walked up the stairs and into the house.

"Mom… Dad!" Clark called.

"Well, Clark… hey, good to have you home…" Jonathan came out of the bedroom. He stopped dead at the sight of Clark without his glasses, and Lois hanging on to him.

They heard his mother's voice from the kitchen. "Clark, oh, you're back. You're going to have to give us all the scoop on you and Loisss…" Martha turned the corner, caught off guard by her son and his partner, arm in arm. She broke into a brilliant smile, rushing forward and hugging them both, tears starting to form.

"It's about time," was all she could manage.


Light filtered through the slitted shutters and slowly worked its way into Lois' consciousness. She was in Clark's old room on the Kent farm — surrounded by Clark's childhood. What a wonderful way to wake up. She glanced at the clock on the night stand — it was barely 4:00 a.m. She knew she'd be hearing the Kents up and about soon, but for now she was content to just stretch and examine her surroundings. The last time she'd been here was against her wishes and then they'd been on the trail of a story. She would never have admitted to an interest in what tidbits his past could possibly reveal, but now, she wanted to know everything.

A knock at the door startled her out of her reverie.

"Yes," she barely whispered, her voice cracking a little from the lack of use during the night.

Clark's head peeked in, a sheepish grin splitting his face. "I'm sorry, Lois, I missed you and when you woke up, I wanted to see you…"

They'd spent the past week in the same tent, encased in their own sleeping bags, but cuddled in each other's arms and she'd discovered it was almost impossible to fall asleep without him next to her. Lois held out her hand to beckon him to her side.

"How'd you know?" She scooted up and over a little to allow him to sit on the edge of the bed.

The grin turned to embarrassment as Clark dropped his eyes for a second. "I've been listening to your heartbeat for over an hour… it was wonderful," he admitted as he glanced back up. "I've missed you," he repeated with a serious, longing expression.

She didn't know what to say, finally settling on a hug and the physical contact it would bring them. Lois' mind almost refused to accept she could really be this happy, but her heart believed and she would make it work. Clark pulled her even closer and their lips met. Finally he slowed the kiss and drew away reluctantly.

Lois was sure he wanted to resume what they'd started as much as she did, but seeing the struggle he seemed to be waging, she didn't push.

"I'd like to show you something." A different kind of excitement was overtaking him. "This week was so hectic and I didn't want to overwhelm you last night." He looked expectant, but she couldn't even imagine what this would involve.

"Let me get dressed." Lois slid out from under the covers as Clark stood. "Hey, don't I get a good-bye kiss?"

He hesitated a second and then leaned in to peck her cheek. "Not when you're looking *that* good in my old T-shirt and I don't want to leave to begin with." He gave her that heart-melting smile of his and walked out the door.

Lois sighed deeply, wondering how she'd managed to resist that for as long as she had.


Clark tried to relax. He sighed — it wasn't working. He'd gotten dressed, showered and now had a light breakfast and coffee ready for Lois. It didn't help that he could do all those things so much faster than she could. It also hadn't helped that she looked so terrific in the morning. Now, waiting, his mind started to wander in that direction.

He quickly shook himself. He was having enough trouble along that line as it was, no need to build on it. Clark's plan was to gentlemanly court the lady of his affections, but whenever she was around… He stood at the sound of footsteps from the hall.

"Oooh, I could get used to this kind of service, sir," Lois cooed as she saw the continental breakfast set on the table.

"Your wish, ma'am…" Clark stated formally, bowing, then holding out her chair for her.

"This is really terrific, Clark, but you didn't have to go to so much trouble."

"Trouble? Hmm, yes, I forgot she doesn't cook." His voice was very deliberately directed to the air. "Yes, toast and fruit — the preparation required is tremendous, but for you and you alone, my love, it is worth it!" he teased, a cup of strong, dark coffee appearing suddenly by her plate.

"You do know how to seduce a girl, though." She made a great show of saluting him with the steaming drink. "What about this surprise of yours?"

"After breakfast," he replied cryptically.


She watched appreciatively as Clark scooted up the rickety ladder and then disappeared into the small treehouse, only to have his adult frame fill the tiny doorway a second later. He motioned for her to follow.

"You sure you don't want help?"

"Clark, I said I could do this and I'm going to do this." Her slightly annoyed tone nicely covered the insecurity she felt as she reached up to grab the bottom board.

It was her own fault. There'd been nothing in the way Clark had initially offered assistance to suggest offense, but she was Lois Lane after all. They'd walked out through one of the Kent fields to the edge of a grove of trees until he indicated they'd reached their final destination. She didn't see anything at first, but then she'd looked up… then she'd made the comment… It was her own fault. Her pride had gotten in her way and now she wasn't sure she could make it without assistance. She took a deep breath and began the assent.

About to declare victory when she reached the top, her foot slipped. Clark grabbed her, dragging her awkwardly inside. He'd done a fancy flip of sorts, neatly avoiding the little bit of furniture there, floating slowly to the ground with himself on top.

"You okay?" His concern was apparent as he rolled over and helped her to her feet.

"Fine, thanks," she said sincerely, a trifle embarrassed that she'd refused him originally out of stubbornness.

She then noticed her surroundings. A sign on the door announced this was someone's "Fortress of Solitude," reminding her of how different the young master of this domain must have felt growing up. The walls and shelves were decorated with all the typical trappings of boyhood — posters and bird feathers and jars full of unknown treasures. What stood out, though, was a small chest she was sure she'd seen before, sitting in the middle of the table.

Lois moved toward it, but leaped back into Clark's arms as a glow suddenly seeped through the lid. She looked into his calm face.

"After the sunrise, Lois…" He guided her to the window and sat cross-legged on the wooden floor, beckoning her to join him. He encircled her shoulder with his arm as she nestled against him. "This was my place to be when I was really confused," he explained quietly.

The simplicity of the gesture touched her. He'd promised her on the plane to their New Mexico adventure that he'd share everything with her. She'd believed at first that he'd done that outside of Peagrim by the light of that beautiful moon. She'd slowly realized over the next week that there was more — and this was finally the start — the treehouse… his last statement… and she suspected, the box on the table.

At first she'd thought they were so much alike, and they were in many ways, but… her parents' constant bickering had left her feeling all alone in a house full of people, the difference being she was never in danger of losing everything. Clark was opening up his world to her, a world in which he was completely vulnerable. She resolved to protect Clark here like he protected her every day. It was the only gesture she could think of to repay him.

"I love to watch the sun through the trees." Clark smiled as the full rays hit her. "And through your hair, too." He paused just a second. "Come on," he said as they stood.

Clark opened the small box almost ceremoniously and the sphere leaped out, dancing in the air. Lois recognized it immediately.

"It's a message from my father," Clark began. "Just before Jack stole it from me was the first time it had told me about my people. I want you to hear." Clark reached for the object and it floated to him obediently. He touched it, and the glow brightened; a figured started to form out of the light. The same man in white Lois had seen in the Polaroid picture when they'd recovered Clark's possessions hovered before them.

"My name is Jor-El. And you are… Kal-El…" the image stated, reciting the history of a dying world.

Lois stood transfixed by the sights and sounds, her heart going out to the young orphan whose hand she grasped tightly within her own.


The glow faded and Clark replaced the globe into its secure resting place, reclaiming Lois' hand after finishing the task.

"Oh, Clark," was all she could manage as she wiped at her tears and looked into the eyes of the man she loved.

Clark was silent for a moment. "That's all I've ever learned about my family and… home." He looked off into nothingness. "I'm hoping that when it's safe, I can reunite the globe with the ship and there'll be more… I don't know, maybe it's a false hope, but…"

"Whatever it is, Clark, I'll be there with you when it happens. I'll be there always." She tightened her embrace.


One week later…

Harry Broderick hung up the phone.

"Good news, Harry?" Skip was lounging on the couch, trying unsuccessfully to tune his old guitar.

Harry beamed at him. "Peagrim's ours!" he announced triumphantly. "Those senators were really quick gettin' through the authorization suddenly. The only thing they're not includin' is any actual weapons collected."

"He was an A-Grade nut case. Good thing you and Mel didn't come along." Skip pinged a particular off key note.

Harry was glad to have Skip back home, annoying guitar playing and all. Mel and the boys were still off visiting relatives and the place had been far too quiet. He glanced out the window at his beloved salvage yard. "Isn't your friend coming by with that pretty little lady of his?"

Skip had managed to find somewhere else for their entire crew to be, to allow privacy for their expected visitors.

"Uh-huh," Skip mumbled.

"Let him know we'll be gettin' all of those files Fox and Trask had. Someone's decided all that collection's fake and not worth keepin'. He's welcome to go over them before I call Spooky in."

"You have a buyer for UFO stuff?"

Harry laughed. "Are you kidding? I know an FBI agent who'd kill to get his hands on it."

"Sometimes I wonder about your friends, Harry," Skip declared, amazed.

"My friends?" Harry gave him a knowing glance, slugging him on the shoulder as he headed back to his desk to begin the paperwork.

"I 'spect they'll be here around lunchtime. Don't think they want to…" Skip yawned loudly, "…be in the way, ya know."

"Uh-huh," Harry drawled a bit more than normal, even to his own ears. "Must be the warm weather…" he started to say, but noticed Skip seemed to be napping. Strange, all he wanted to do was put his head down on the desk and sleep too. He drifted off, dreaming he heard a high-pitched voice ranting on about how they were going to pay for what they'd done. Very odd.


"Nervous?" Lois asked Clark.

They had found a grassy hilltop near the salvage yard and settled down to wait for the few workers still remaining to leave for their midday break. They didn't have much of a view of their ultimate destination, but then neither did anyone looking in their direction. Clark had thought long about the seeming paranoia he was feeling regarding the ship. He and Lois were finally at a point in their relationship that was more wonderful than he'd ever imagined. A little paranoia couldn't hurt to keep that safe. He was quiet for a second, the clanging and banging noises clearly filtering up to their vantage point.

"A little," he admitted. Clark poked absently at the picnic his mother had fixed for them.

"Well, you just remember everything's going to be fine," Lois declared confidently, her own meal barely touched. "Look at all we've been through; it's going to be smooth sailing from here on out."

Clark smiled at her, knowing she was worried about his being disappointed. He'd tried to hide it from her all week, but as their appointed time to go and visit the little craft drew closer, he'd been more and more distracted. When they were together he was all hers, but when they were apart for even a few minutes, the anxieties reappeared. "Whatever does happen, you're with me… forever, if I remember the promise correctly."

"No, no. That wasn't it. It was 'always'." She grinned widely and nudged him with her shoulder. "But I suppose forever works, too."

Clark fingered the ring in his pocket — the very same one he'd almost given to Lois at least a dozen times in the last week. But he'd stopped short, not daring to hope she would actually accept it. Maybe now…

That horrible whistle sounded up shrilly, even at this distance. Lois stood, but couldn't see the yard any better. "Just a little longer."

Clark sighed and echoed that sentiment in his own thoughts.


"Skip! Harry!" Lois called as they strolled arm in arm up to the trailer steps. She knocked soundly, but there was no answer.

The unlocked door opened easily and an odd odor assailed Lois' senses with dizzying effect. Clark drew her back almost immediately.

"It's some kind of gas! Wait here." He moved past her and quickly cleared the misty substance from the air. "Come on in, Lois. It's gone."

Lois' first sight was her partner leaning down to Skip's slumped over form, checking his pulse.

"He's okay, just asleep." Clark almost chuckled as a low snore filled the air. "Can you get me some water, Lois?" He motioned toward the cooler.

She returned to his side with a full cup of ice water. "Think this'll work?" she asked as she handed it over to her partner.

"I hope so." He dipped his fingers in and tried flicking the liquid lightly on Skip's face. The sleeping astronaut only scrunched up his nose slightly. Clark shrugged.

"Hey!" Skip yelled, as Clark dumped the freezing water on his head. "What…?" Trying to sit, he suddenly grabbed his head and moaned loudly. Finally, he chanced a glance up at Lois then Clark. "What's going on? I was waitin' for you guys and then the waterfall!"

"There was some kind of gas in the room when we arrived," Lois tried to explain quietly, very much aware Skip was experiencing discomfort, "and we found you knocked out."

"Harry!" Skip cried. He leapt to his feet, instantly regret registering on his already pained features. "Harry was with me." He lowered himself back to the couch.

Clark appeared at his side with more water and an ice pack. "Maybe this will help," he suggested. "You relax. We'll see if we can figure out what went on here."

"Just gimme a minute," Skip murmured weakly.

Lois started her search at the windows, rewarded with a slightly open one, hose still hooked to it. When she peered out, the gas tank was in easy view just below.

"I found something, Clark," she announced proudly.

"So did I." Clark sounded more upset than cheered by the discovery.

Lois scooted around the desk and looked at the box. It was about the size of a cigar box and had a specialized "S" symbol on the cover.

"Get back, Lois. I've got to get this out of here right away."

"I most certainly will not, what if…"

"Lois, please! Just do it." He caught her eye briefly and made himself very clear. "This is meant for me and me alone," he whispered so only she could hear, but before she could move away or argue further, the box exploded in a huge puff of green powder.


"Will this desert never end?" George Fox eyed the red indicator light on the dashboard. "This stupid thing's overheating!"

"I told you not to steal a beat up old van," Jason Trask preached at his annoyed disciple. "If you'd taken that nice new jeep and gone up the 5 instead of the 15, we'd be in L.A. by now."

"That jeep had a security system… this thing didn't, and how was I supposed to know there'd be construction traffic?" George whined. "We've got to get off and find different transportation. What's the next exit?" He squinted up at the freeway sign that zipped past. "Calif Oaks Road. That's the one," he announced to the man in the passenger seat. He veered across two lanes of traffic, almost missing the off ramp at the speed he was driving.

"Brilliant move, Fox. Now where to?"

Jason was becoming a very annoying companion, and to think he'd actually missed the man after he'd died. Not sure of where they were, he made a decision and turned right at the first through street, but soon found himself in a completely residential area.

"Why not just grab that young man's tricycle," Jason suggested sarcastically. "I'm sure you could manage to overpower him."

"You're not helping, Trask," Fox growled. "I'm the one who escaped the authorities…"

"Not without assistance." Trask seemed to revel in reminding him of that.

George was positive he would have managed without that smoking man's help. Smoking man (and that was all Fox could figure out to call him — he'd been completely hidden in shadows, only the lit end of a cigarette visible — George was glad to be away from him, second hand smoke could kill you) had only sped up what was inevitable.

"Yeah, well I'm the one who managed to figure out who has my ship and I captured that guy all by myself…" George indicated the unconscious form of Harry Broderick in the rear, "…not an ounce of help from you, I might add."

"It was a stupid plan, George." The smugness returned to his voice.

"Well, at least… There!" he shouted. Spotting a pale yellow station wagon, he slammed on the brakes. "That's it!" No one was in sight on the street.

"Help me with Broderick." George opened the back doors quickly.

"Do it yourself. Hope this one has air and a tape deck at least." Jason walked haughtily towards their new transportation. When George looked up from dragging Harry's body from the van, he saw Trask planted happily in the front passenger side, tapping his fingers impatiently on the top of the open window frame.

George had barely stuffed Harry in the back and closed the door on their new vehicle, when he heard a yapping sound, followed by a high pitched squeal. A Sheltie sort of dog came running out from alongside the house; a very small boy — the obvious source of most of the noise as he emitted another long scream — toddled determinedly after and a young girl chased him.

The canine and girl stopped at the sight of George Fox; both seemed to size him up, but the dog was immediately distracted as the baby caught up and he bolted back for the yard behind the house.

"I am Princess Leia," she informed George coolly after she made sure her brother was safely confined behind the fence again. "What are you doing with the Millie-Um Falcon?"

Just what he needed. Some kid with an overactive imagination.

"Um, uh, Hans Walker said I could borrow it," he babbled, hoping that was right. "See, uh, Cheevie's co-piloting for me." This had to work, he couldn't chance the kid saying anything to adults.

The little princess' demeanor became that of a little girl suddenly. "Daddy said you could take it?" The child looked directly through where Trask sat and frowned for a second, but soon appeared satisfied. "If Daddy said so, I guess it's okay." She glanced around to see if anyone was near, then motioned George closer with her finger, whispering conspiratorially, "Don't worry. Daddy gets the names wrong, too."

It took George a second to realize he was actually going to pull this off.

"Where ya heading? Tatoonie? Daba?" the child chattered on.

George was delighted. "To the stars, Princess! To the stars!" He laughed at his own joke as she waved good-bye and disappeared around the corner. He bent over to hot-wire the car.


Unfortunately, before he could stop himself, Clark inhaled a huge breath of the green powder that filled the room. He knew only too well what it had to be, and steeled himself for the pain to follow — but nothing happened. He frowned.

"Clark…" Lois screamed as she dove to push him out of the way, knocking him unceremoniously on his backside.

"I'm… I'm fine," he stuttered in amazement.

"You guys okay?" Skip knelt at their side almost immediately.

"Yeah." Clark checked his body out for damage again and then gave Lois a quick once over. "Guess it was a dud."

Lois stood up and started to brush herself off, but quit as she realized it only spread the dust particles into the air. "Who could have done this?" she asked no one in particular, then noticed the paper plastered to the window by the explosion. She reached up and carefully pulled it off.

"Some of it's a little smudged and the penmanship's horrendous, but…" She smoothed the note on the edge of the desk, cleared her throat to get the dust out and began to read aloud:

"By now he's either dying agonizingly or dead already."

Clark sneezed loudly.

"You thought you'd gotten rid of all my pretty rocks, didn't you. Well I had the best scientists at my disposal. They synthesized something even more powerful than the original.

"With *him* out of the way you've no use for my ship anymore. When I get my ship back, you get the old geezer.

"*His* kind never had a chance against the power of the United States. *His* kind will never triumph. *His* kind…"

Lois paused in her reading. "Do I need to finish the rest? The guy even rants in his writing!" Lois exclaimed disgustedly.

"Fox! But how's that possible?" Clark appeared stunned. "Lois, did he say anything about how or where we were to exchange Harry for the ship?"

"No, not a word. This thing just goes on and on about conspiracies and dead aliens and stuff."

"Well, I'm gonna find out how it's possible for this to really be him." Skip reached for the phone and dialed a number by heart. "Jack? I need a favor."

Lois dragged Clark a little off to the side. "Nothing? No pain? No dizziness? Nothing?"

"Don't look so disappointed, Lois." Clark attempted to joke with her, but stopped at the expression on her face. "No, nothing! Except for the sneezing, I'm fine."

"Great!" Lois sighed in relief. "Maybe we'd better check to make sure the ship's still there." Lois pantomimed lowering glasses off her face, which Clark copied. "Well?" Lois was watching Skip to make sure he wasn't paying them any attention.

Clark squinted very hard, paused, then tried again. "Nothing!" This time the word had a panicked sound to it.

Lois turned immediately to him. "What?"

"Nothing! I can't, you know…" He looked at her desperately.

"Try…" she made a floaty signal with her hand.

He struggled again. "No!" He wiped at the sweat his effort produced.

Lois felt totally helpless, but then a look of resolve crossed her features. "At least you aren't hurt, that's the first good thing. But we've probably got to get you out of those clothes and, as much as I might normally enjoy helping undress you… slowly," she grinned at him a second, emphasizing that last word, "we've got to do it quickly since that stuff may have undesirable lasting effects."

"Then we find Harry without, you know…" he continued her thoughts, "…I don't see how we're going to do that."

"Clark, we're the best investigative team in Metropolis. We can do this even, you know…" Lois stopped as she heard Skip hang up.

"Fox escaped from custody two days ago. They think he had help." He slammed his fist against the wall.

"We'll find him, I promise." Lois placed a reassuring hand on Skip's shoulder and smiled.

The astronaut suddenly turned to Clark expectantly.

"Uh, Skip," Clark began slowly. "That bomb basically worked." It was the first time he'd admitted to their friend what they all knew he suspected. "I can't do anything."

Disappointment was apparent but only for a second. "Doesn't matter. We'll find him! I know some people I can call."

"Can we go somewhere that isn't filled with this dust?" Clark asked, a little embarrassed.

"Sure 'nuff. Our command station's on the other side of the yard. Let's go."


Clark sneezed, sighing deeply as the Kleenex box was tossed his way — again. They'd all been doing that since the little bomb had gone off, even Skip. Each time more of that offending green powder appeared on the tissue. Clark hadn't expressed his fears out loud, but Lois knew him and had already assured him — were they up to six or seven times in the last few hours? — that as soon as he got it all out of his system, he would be back to normal. He could only hope she was right and pass along the box to the next person needing it.

"What's Fox doing stealing a station wagon?" Lois shook her head. "It certainly doesn't seem to fall into that grand screwy scheme of his. Can we even be sure it was him?"

"Jack Klinger's a good friend, even if he is FBI. He checked all the reports and thought this sounded most likely," Skip assured the two.

"It's the only lead we have, Lois. We've got to try it," Clark added with a sniff. "Okay, turn right at the gas station and past the school. Over there." Clark pointed to the flashing lights visible in the early dusk.

It would have been hard to miss. If the police cars hadn't been present, the gathered neighbors and kids on bikes hoping for excitement would have clued them in.

"Pull just ahead of that squad car," Lois directed. She leaped out as Skip brought the Bronco to a halt. Wasting no time, she cornered a patrolman. "I'm looking for the officer in charge. I believe the FBI said we'd be coming."

"Yes, ma'am. Over there. Detective Newcombe's expecting you."

Lois thanked the man and was off as Skip and Clark were about to catch up to her. "Detective, I'm Lois Lane. Have you got any positive leads yet?"

The man turned from the person he'd been interviewing and sized her up critically. "Normally I wouldn't be cooperating with reporters, but I've been told there's no option here. You will, however, be good and stay out of the way until we're finished. Listen in if you like," he informed them and returned his attention to the slightly hysterical wagon owner.

Lois was about to protest until Clark, who'd finally gotten to her, stalled the tirade. "Lois, we don't want to alienate them. Patience."

Skip joined them. "Patience is not one of either of our strong suits,

Clark." Skip cocked his head to one side and grinned. "But we'll both be good."

Clark smiled back. They listened carefully and all the facts they heard seemed to fit — the van was stolen in the San Diego area and the time line for when the family had last seen their wagon was close. But where could Fox have gone from here? The APB on the car had turned up nothing yet.

Clark sighed. Running his hand through his hair, he glanced around. Then he saw her — a little girl looking dejected and miserable, sitting in the grass to one side. Clark walked up and sat beside her. Unsure of how to begin, he suddenly solved the problem with a sneeze.

"Bess you," she murmured at him.

Whatever it took to break the ice. "You seem a little sad."

She mumbled something he couldn't quite understand so he tried again.

"They'll find the car. Did it belong to your family?"

"Uh-huh… and it's my fault." Tears were threatening in her eyes.

"Oh, you took the car," Clark stated and then glanced at her.

"That's silly! I can't drive."

"So how's it your fault?" he asked solemnly.

"He told me Daddy said he could use it and I didn't tell!" she blurted out.

Clark lifted her fallen chin and looked at her. "You can tell them now. I think it would help."

"I'll get in trouble for talkin' to strangers." She frowned.

"Yes, but you'll feel better afterwards and then you won't have to worry about it," Clark assured her.

"Think so?" She was warming to this idea.

"Yes, I do." He paused. "Did the man say anything else to you? Did he say where he was going or what he was doing?"

The small child scrunched up her eyes tightly in thought. "Stars. He said he was going to the stars." She leaped up to search for her mother.

Clark stood and wiped the early evening dew off his borrowed jeans. It took him only a minute to find his two companions and join them.

"Anything else?" he asked as the three started towards the car.

"Not a whole lot. How 'bout you?" Skip was exasperated.

"I'm not sure," Clark told them. "Maybe nothing. But… Skip, you're a paranoid schizophrenic who's sure Mars has invaded your home world. You're heading north. He told that little girl he was going to the stars."

"Beverly Hills?" Lois tried.

"Or Hollywood?" Clark suggested.

"No. No, that's not right." Skip concentrated for a second, then a grin spread across his features. "Above Hollywood!"


Harry woke up. He could hear that voice again — the one from his dreams. It sure was annoying, and it was getting louder. He tried to move to block the sound but found his arms restrained.

He looked around. He was in some service or storage area. He could also hear a recorded voice accompanied by music, too faint to be understood, so he concentrated on the closer one. He managed to flip flop his position on the hard cement floor and finally located the source in a corner, pacing back and forth, his features away from Harry.

"Don't give me grief, Trask. They may be alien-lovers, but they're not about to risk the old man's life." The man paused for a moment and Harry was very confused.

"I know I haven't figured that out yet, but I will! It's just a matter of time. Oh yeah, well, you come up with a better plan and we'll discuss it…"

He appeared to be having a conversation with someone on the phone. But when he turned, Harry saw nothing in his hand. It didn't take Harry long to figure out who the "A-Grade nut case" was. George Fox. This didn't seem like a good situation.


"Sneakin' 'round Griffith after dark was a favorite childhood pastime, Clark. This is not gonna be a problem," Skip assured his skeptical companion.

Skip had explained that Griffith Park's vast grounds contained not only a train museum, carousel and picnic areas, but the LA Zoo and the Greek Theatre were also part of the property. Some production company or other was always filming here and it was a favorite, inexpensive, day trip for many families and young couples. But more importantly it held the Griffith Park


Clark furtively searched the nearby vicinity for unwanted visitors again as Skip examined more bushes. They'd debated the wisdom of just taking one of the roads to the observatory, but not knowing who or how many might be helping Fox, they couldn't risk it. So here they were, stymied by the thick vegetation that formed a natural barrier to outsiders.

"It's been a while…" Skip youched softly as a sharp branch stuck his palm, "…it's gotta be here." He rubbed the wounded hand on his jeans.

"Maybe we're in the wrong section?" Clark whispered. "You said it had been awhile."

"Yeah, for me…" Skip gave him a quick grin and wink, "…but I'm not the only Carmichael who knew about this way in. Others have bragged, in closed circles mind you, about recent exploits on these premises. Lois, anything over there?"

Lois' own examination of the local flora had become more cautious at Skip's outcry. "No, just trees and more trees… Wait! I think I've got it!" she exclaimed.

Skip reached her side only seconds before Clark. "That's it. Just a quick hop through that hole there, over some brush, through the ravine and zigzagging through the trees," Skip directed, waving his hand up, down and sideways to illustrate the way, "and we're in!"

Lois squeezed through the narrow access. "Give me a boost," they heard her grunt. "I need a few more inches."

Skip stepped forward to accommodate her, but found Clark blocking his way. "I don't think so," Clark stated firmly and turned to assist his partner, his form disappearing shortly after hers.

"Geez, some guys…" Skip mumbled to himself, then chuckled. "Ah, love."


"Ah, 'scuse me, mister." Harry was ignored. He cleared his throat and tried again. "Hey, fella!"

George Fox spun around immediately and stomped over to his prisoner's side. Harry regretted getting his attention almost immediately. The eyes that looked on him appeared to be spinning like pinwheels and the smile was a scary kind of lopsided thing.

"So, you've finally decided to wake up. Do you know how hard you are to haul around?" George accused. "Especially when my partner's too lazy to lift a finger!" He pointed back toward the empty corner he'd come out of.

"I do apologize for any trouble I mighta been to ya." Harry consoled his captor, unobtrusively straining to see if there really was anyone there. "But I promise to be much more cooperative from now on. How 'bout you untie me and then you won't have to worry about haulin' me no more." Harry plastered his best down-home-country-boy grin on his face.

An almost sane, sad expression crossed Fox's features. "If I was sure you weren't one of *them* I would…" The rational moment slipped away. "But they're everywhere! And we can't be sure he's not in league with *them*, can we?" he asked, Harry could only imagine, his co-conspirator.

"Oh, uh-huh." Harry bobbed his head in agreement. "I can see that could be a problem. Yup." He tried to right himself but couldn't manage. "Think you could at least help me sit up? I'm a mite uncomfortable like this." Harry made a concerted effort to appear sorry for the request.

Fox sighed heavily. "Okay, but this is the last time I do this," he grunted, pulling the older man to a seated position.

"Thank you kindly," the scrapman drawled at him. "So what's the plan? Ya know, why am I here?"

"I want my ship back," he stated emphatically.

"Your ship? You one of those, whatsits, uh, Barsoomian types?" Harry thought the ignorance angle might work.

"Barsoom? Is that where they're from?" The eyes glazed over.

Realizing his misjudgment, Harry tried something else. "You said your ship. From what you said, I thought you weren't from here."

"I'm a patriotic citizen of Earth, mister." His eyes narrowed. "But you…"

"True blue as they come, sir. Got my word on that, yessir!" Harry thought it might be working. "Uh, your ship…?"

"Jason found it, but it became mine when he died." He spoke toward the blank wall. "Isn't that right, Jason? No, mine! You gave up all rights when you let them shoot you… oh, all right." He turned back to Harry. "It's ours," he emphasized, gesturing an okay at "Jason." "Oh, stop pouting. He believes me. Don't you, Broderick?"

"Course I do," Harry assured him quickly.

Fox leaned down so only Harry could hear. "He's been so ornery since he came back." Straightening, he ended his explanation. "We're going to trade you for my ship."

"Why do you think I can help you there?"

"Don't toy with me. I know your partner was in Arizona when those alien-loving subversives took it and turned the local constabulary against me…" Harry was amazed how easy it was to wind this guy up, "…and how much of a coincidence could it possibly be that you've won the salvage bids for Peagrim…"

"Well, now… we just got that news this morning. If there's something there you want, I'm sure we can arrange…"

"We all know it's not there! We all know *they* took it! And we all know you know where it is! You're going to help me get it back," Fox threatened him.

Harry needed to calm him down. "Wull, okay. So, you've contacted Skip about the exchange?"

George gave him an amazed look. "Of course I haven't. They would find me and lock me up again!" He wandered a little away, mumbling to himself. "What kind of a fool do they take me for, Trask? I can't do that!"

"'Scuse me, sir… how am I to be traded then?"

George exploded. "How am I supposed to know? But it better happen! Yes, it had better happen, or everyone'll be sorry… Yes, they all will be! Jason, we've got to talk… What does he think…?"

Harry shook his head as George Fox took up an in-depth conversation with "Jason" again, praying Skip had some kind of lead as to his whereabouts.


Lois tried to squelch the sound of intaking breath as she was startled by more attacking killer foliage. She had to stop that. This was probably a beautiful park in the daytime. The varying types of trees and hilly, sometimes winding, landscape were very picturesque and comparable to DC or Oregon, Chicago or Mexico. But at night — and especially passing that New Yorkish oversized storm drain, the sort that made you wonder what kind of mythological creature might emerge from it to carry you away — it was giving her the creeps big time. She sneezed.

"Sorry," she snuffed as tissues appeared in her face from two directions. She nodded thanks.

"Uh, guys," Skip's voice sounded uncertain. "Why don't you wait here for just a sec while I check out the terrain?"

"We're lost?" Lois asked.

"Now how can we possibly be lost? We're inside a park," Skip stated confidently. "I just need to get my bearings."

"Well, at least we won't be sitting in the wet grass." Clark guided Lois to a picnic table off to one side and perched on top, pulling her next to him. "The stars are so bright. No wonder they built the observatory here."

She followed his gaze and then studied his expression. "Clark, this isn't your fault. No one could have known he'd escape." She took hold of his hands and squeezed them in support.

"They were doing me a favor, Lois. And now I'm helpless." He cast his eyes to the ground.

"You got us this far," she pointed out.

"And we're not even sure this is right," he argued.

"Of course it is. Where else would you go to watch for aliens while you're trying to keep the world safe? We should have figured it out without that little girl's help." She shivered.

"Cold?" he asked

"A little."

Clark removed his jacket and helped Lois into it, then he shifted slightly to wrap his arm protectively around her.

She settled against him. "Mostly my hands." Lois moved to stuff them into the jacket's pockets, stopping as she made contact with a tiny object. "What's this?"

"Lois, no…" Clark was too late to stop her before she had extracted the box.

She looked at him questioningly, then opened it. "Clark? Is this…? How long…? Were you going to…?" The words refused to come. "Mine?" she finally whispered in awe.

"I've been trying to find the right time," he confessed. "I was afraid you'd say no if I did it wrong… or you weren't ready or…" his voice trailed off.

"Oh." Lois could see the apprehension and knew he needed a positive signal from her. She reached up slowly and drew him closer, beginning a passionate kiss she felt he couldn't help but read correctly.

They parted, and he slowly opened his eyes, which were nearly glazed over from happiness. She pressed the small ring case into his hand.

He started to move, but stopped at her hand on his arm. "I have to get on my knee," he explained.

"Clark, just ask me and put the ring on so we can get along with the accepting part," she declared impatiently.

He smiled and took her hand. "Lois, will you be my wife?"

"Yes!" He slid the ring on her finger. "You may now kiss the bride-to- be." She beamed at him as he leaned toward her, sealing their newly made promise to each other.

"I can't leave you two alone for a minute without this kissin' thing happening, can I?" Skip barged in after what Lois knew to be only seconds.

"You really have horrendous timing, Skipper," Clark moaned as they parted.

"Sorry, but we're almost there. I know where we are now." The nearness of their destination sparked his anxiety at Harry's absence again, but a low whistle and appreciative glance at Lois' finger told them he must have realized what he'd interrupted. "Sorry," he repeated as they walked over the hill toward the park's observatory.


"Okay… the plan's two go in and one keeps watch," Skip announced. They had stopped along the roadside at the bottom of the steep incline to get a better grasp of what they were doing. "We're all capable adults, so before Clark tries to protect Lois and Lois accuses him of sexism, we're gonna do Paper, Rock, Scissors. We all abide by the results."

Skip was glared at, but no arguments arose.

"One, two, three," he commanded. There were two male fists on either side of Lois' scissors. "Lois…" Skip forestalled her protests at losing.

"All I was going to say was where do I wait?"

Skip was sure that wasn't all she was going to say, but she had perfected an "offended at any other suggestion" style so he dropped it, but not before a humph escaped from Clark's direction. Any retaliation was cut short as he watched Clark dart in for a quick kiss.

The astronaut rolled his eyes and sighed dramatically. The two had the good grace to at least look sheepish. "There's a small vending shack at the top, you can stay out of sight there," he explained. He guided them up the road, staying as deep in the shadows as the underbrush allowed them.

"There's a service entrance over that way." Skip pointed towards the back of the main building.

"Lois, don't do anything foolish," Clark cautioned his fiancee.

"Me? I'm not the one going in there, Clark. You be careful."

"We will," Skip assured her. He dragged Clark off before this could go on any further. He understood love, but he also understood the need to get Harry safe first.

This sure brought back memories, though. Everyone knew "Rebel Without a Cause" had been filmed here, which was probably the main attraction that had drawn Skip and his buddies to sneak into the park in the first place. Even after so many years, James Dean still had a profound effect on the not- quite-grown men of Southern California. Not that he was really all that rebellious in his youth, but that movie… and this setting…

But that was another place and another time.

Clark tapped him on the shoulder. "Let's try that one." He indicated a likely door off to their right.

"Odd, it's unlocked." Skip frowned at Clark. "I don't like this!"

Clark nodded, but opened the door anyway. Inside, Skip took the lead and motioned down the hallway. Within a few minutes they could hear a sound, growing louder as they continued.

Finally, it resolved into something understandable — almost. "…of course I had to take out the guard. He would have raised an alarm… Now who's being an idiot…"

Skip paused, leaning against the wall in relief and a little annoyance. "I'd know that caterwaulin' anywhere," he whispered. "Harry's gotta be near."

"Right," Clark agreed. "Slowly from here on."

Skip scooted up to the door frame, took a deep breath and a cautious peak into the room. He withdrew a moment later.

"Fox's facing the wall, Harry's tied up a little off to the left, but he looks fine — maybe a little at the breaking point after having to listen to our friend in there for so long, but fine. I think I saw the guard, I hope he's only knocked out."

"Suggestions?" Clark asked.

"It's some kind of storage place. There's a lot of stuff we can hide behind between here and Fox." Skip mentally judged the distance. "Okay, we each take a direction and work our way up. He's being distracted by something I couldn't see, maybe another guy. When we get closer, we can signal who's in the better position to take out who."

Clark nudged his companion at the worried expression he saw. "We'll get him out. We've got surprise on our side."

"You're right, but…" He shrugged, then grinned broadly. "Let's get 'im."

They progressed faster than Skip anticipated as the two serpentined their way through the assorted boxes and machinery. Fox was engaged in some heated argument with a companion, but the funny thing was, Skip couldn't get a fix on anyone else.

Clark reached his appointed position just an instant before Skip did, but he appeared puzzled. Skip could tell Clark was trying to tell him something, finally understanding when Clark mouthed "only" and held up one finger, then pointing toward their objective. That did seem odd, considering the lunatic's babblings, but he didn't waste time figuring it out.

Skip prepared himself to charge in after George, and Clark followed suit. Skip, within five feet of the goal, sneezed unexpectedly.

Fox whirled around, a gun appearing out of nowhere. "You can't get the drop on me! I was trained before they infiltrated the government. Your kind will never be able to dominate us…"

Skip dragged his sleeve across his offending nose and glanced up to the heavens in a prayer for silence.


It had been much too long. Lois could be patient. Well, truth was she really had a problem in that area, but… They had been in there too long. She took a quick reconnaissance to make sure she wasn't being watched, then followed her companions' trail.

Lois knew almost immediately upon entering the structure they'd found Fox. All she had to do now was follow those psychotic rantings. Upon looking inside the room, Lois confirmed her suspicions. Clark and Skip were now also prisoners, along with Harry and what had to be a security guard.

She took a deep breath and snaked her way around the boxes towards the madman.


"This wasn't the rescue I was hopin' for." Harry nudged his partner after Skip had been handcuffed and dropped to the ground beside him.

"Funny 'bout that, Harry," Skip weakly smiled at him, "wasn't quite what we had in mind either."

Fox had already bound Clark's hands behind his back. Harry noticed how the reporter kept struggling, like he thought he could break those ropes, but Harry knew George tied one mean knot.

"This'll teach you not to mess with the United States government… No green blooded half-breed will ever be the equal…" Fox turned his back as he continued, wandering towards his corner.

"Uh, Skip," Harry whispered, "don't get him started. I've been awake for hours now and he never stops."

"Who was he talking to when we got here?" Clark leaned in closer.

"Jason Trask," Harry replied.

"Trask! But he's dead," Clark exclaimed.

"Yup." Harry nodded his head and rolled his eyes. "Exactly." A quick motion near the door caught his attention. "Uh, guys… Did you bring a pretty petite brunette with you?"

Harry noted Clark's valiant effort to not glance in the direction of Harry's gaze.

"Yes, but she was supposed to be our look out."

"Appears she's lookin' out for your butts right now," Harry stated, concealing a smug smile. "Uh, George, could you come here a second?" Harry wanted to give Lois a really good shot at the ex-Fed's rear. "I think the ropes are eatin' into my wrists… Think you can maybe pad it a bit?"

"Of course, Harry," George assured him kindly. "Just…"

An expert martial arts jab caught George in the kidneys, sending him reeling. Before he could regain his balance, Lois whirled around, the hair flying in her face creating the illusion she might be someone else under that dark mass. She kicked him in the upper chest this time and knocked him senseless against the wall. Harry could tell even from this distance that Fox was down for the count.

She rushed to Clark's side, pulling him into a kiss Harry would later describe as toe-curlin'. He hated to interrupt, but Harry did believe he'd had enough of sitting on that cold, hard floor.

"'Scuse me, Lois. Would you mind untying us before you continue?" Harry drawled.

Lois giggled quietly, a little embarrassed, then began working to comply with Harry's request.


Dawn was nearly breaking as the foursome entered the Jettison Salvage property in high spirits. The authorities had taken Fox into custody quickly and gotten medical attention for the security guard. Clark suspected that Skip's FBI friend was the reason they weren't at least being questioned about their after-hours presence, choosing to finally just ignore the fact since everyone else was doing the same.

"Did you see Fox's face when he realized they weren't gonna arrest his partner, too?" Skipped laughed at the memory. "I'm sure I saw Trask thumbing his nose."

"You saw Trask, too, did you?" Clark, unable to maintain his worried frown, ended by grinning broadly at the ex-astronaut.

Lois appeared deep in thought. "Clark, do you think we can get another week out of Perry for the Pulitzer prize winning story we're going to hand him? I mean, two great stories is hardly what most people do on their vacations," she queried expectantly.

"You try that, Lois, and let me know how it goes." Clark shook his head in dismay. She was serious… and she might actually manage it. He'd keep his fingers crossed.

First inside the trailer, Skip stopped dead at the chaotic sight — drawers upturned, files strewn across the office, plants knocked over. And there, leaning jauntily on the desk, talking into a cell phone, was a tall, lanky, GQ-dressed gentleman. The stranger hung up as they walked in.

"Hey, what do you think you're doing?" Skip stormed toward the man, but Harry forestalled any confrontations as he drew ahead of Skip to take the man's hand.

"Mulder, you old…" Harry pumped the hand enthusiastically. "What are you doin' here?"

"I was in the area and Jack Klinger asked me to keep an eye out for any trouble. I arrived just as an old friend was rearranging your lovely place here." He delivered his explanation deadpan, but his eyes held an amused spark. "I don't think he was here long. He's probably half-way to Roswell by now so you shouldn't have to worry about him anymore."

Lois pulled quietly at Clark's arm. She wasn't the only one who was worried, but Clark couldn't do anything about it with so many other people around. Skip knew and even if Harry suspected, the last thing they needed was to alert a Federal agent of their tiny treasure hidden in the bunker. Before he could reassure her, a huge sneeze caught him off guard. Lois snagged his spectacles in midair and neatly replaced them before anyone else had the chance to even turn.

"Geshundeit," came from somewhere. Clark couldn't be sure from who, but he grabbed at the closest handkerchief while the others went on with their conversation. Something was… different.

"Need some air," he mumbled, stumbling out the door with Lois at his side. He lowered his glasses and concentrated in the direction of the bunker. All he could do was smile at Lois, and she understood, returning his grin with one of her own. "It's still there." He sighed with relief.

"Let's get it." She started off.

"No." He pulled her to him, encircling her shoulder. "We don't know if anyone's still watching. This will have to wait until it's safe for me to retrieve it."

Disappointment threatened to overwhelm him until he felt Lois squeeze his arm in encouragement. He recognized a promise in her eyes to stand by him no matter what and he knew everything would eventually be okay.

"Let's get back inside."

She nodded silently and crooked her arm in his.

When they returned Clark gave Skip a surreptitious thumbs up sign and saw him relax visibly.

"So there was a break in at Peagrim, too?" Skip reiterated to bring Lois and Clark up to speed.

Mulder noticed the two returning reporters. "Yes. But my partner foiled the attempt there as well. Scully's secured the base and reports nothing seems to have been taken."

"Is it possible Fox's escape was meant as a diversion to keep us away?" Clark speculated. "This all seems too pat otherwise."

"It's possible, Mr. Kent. But what exactly would they be expecting to find here?" Mulder directed his next question specifically to Harry, suspicion evident in his manner. "I know a lot about the whole mess in Arizona, but was there really anything of value left?"

Harry stepped towards Mulder, putting a hand on his shoulder. "Now that's a real kind of coincidence, Spooky. I was just gonna call you 'bout all those UFO files we seem to have won in our bidding war when I was nabbed." Harry winked in the direction of his companions. "Soon's we know what we've got, they're open to you. Course, we have to determine if they've got any marketable value first."

Mulder chuckled softly. "You'll never change, Harry."

"And you wouldn't want me to," Harry responded as he led his old friend off to a corner to discuss details.

Skip leaned closer to Clark. "Think someone we know might be able to secretly see if there's anything of interest to him in those old files, even with Feds surrounding it?" he whispered to Clark. "Harry told me to give you first crack at 'em."

"Thanks." Clark nodded his appreciation. "I think that can be managed."

"Well, I guess that leaves only one unsolved mystery." Skip turned to his co-adventurers.

"What?" Clark looked puzzled. "I thought we had everything wrapped up."

"Not quite everything." Skip bent over and picked up Lois' ring hand. "When's the wedding and where's my invite?"

Clark wasn't sure how to answer that. He'd pondered that question most of the way back to San Diego. He didn't want to push Lois. Maybe a long engagement for her to be sure…

"Is four days too long, Clark?" She cut off his train of thought.


"Four days. I think we can get everything done by then." She grinned at his stupefied expression. "Or would you rather wait?" she teased him.

"Do we really need that long?" Clark drew her into a tight hug.

"Three it is." She tightened the embrace and pulled him closer for a long, deep kiss.


Lois gazed at herself in the full-length mirror. The dress was so beautiful. It was old-fashioned and simple — so much nicer than the princess gown Lex had bought for her. It had also been Martha's. Lois had resisted when Martha first suggested it. She didn't feel it would be proper, but once she'd tried it on — just to see, nothing more — and saw the joy it brought them both, she'd agreed.

Clark's mother had almost single-handedly pulled this wedding together in the three days promised. Jonathan loved to announce — frequently throughout the whole process — that Martha had everything planned and arranged the day Clark had first mentioned Lois' name to them, and Lois could never quite tell if he were joking.

It didn't matter. The Kent farm had been decorated so beautifully, and most of their friends and family had actually made it, even on such short notice. Skip and Harry arrived the day before as promised and were adopted as part of the family immediately.

She wiped at the corner of her eye for the hundredth time, spinning slowly to get the full effect of the dress. Ellen Lane came up behind her and put her hands on her daughter's shoulders, beaming happily.

Lois knew nothing would ever be the same, but it surprisingly didn't frighten her anymore. She'd always been afraid to share herself completely, but now she would never be alone again.

Lois had one more thing to do to make this day perfect. She glanced at her mother's reflection and took a deep breath. "Lois Lane Kent!" she proclaimed proudly, then turned confidently to join her partner for life.