By Tank Wilson <TankW1@aol.com>
Submitted June 2000
Summary: In this sequel to the author's "A Future Not Now," the newly widowed Clark Kent must adjust to life without Lois Lane, while the alternate Lois tries to build a life in a world in which she is a stranger. As well, the reappearance of an old enemy out to seek revenge further threatens the Lane family.
Author's notes: This is a direct sequel to my earlier story "A Future Not Now". It really is necessary to know that story before you read this one as events from that story are assumed knowledge for this one and many references are made back to things that happened there.
As with all my fics, this one started life as an episodic posting to Zoomway's boards. I thank all those who read it there and gave me encouragement and helpful critiques as I went along.
All characters are trademarked and copyrighted to their respective owners. All feedback, of any kind is invited and welcome at TankW1@aol.com
Lois Lane stared at the unfamiliar image which stared back at her as she stood in front of the mirror in the guest bathroom of the brownstone on Hyperion Ave. She had been in this dimension a week now and she still had to fight down the feelings of panic which threatened to rise up and swallow her whole every time she allowed herself to think about her situation. It was frightening to think that the world that she'd known was now gone. Gone, because a vile band of super human brigands had decided her world would make a nice place to settle down. She now had to try and make a life for herself in this distorted mirror version of her world, pretending to be this dimension's version of herself while coexisting with a gentle and compassionate man who felt immeasurable pain every time he looked at you.
From what she had gleaned so far, this world seemed a little kinder and gentler than her own world, but for every familiar thing she recognized, there were two or three she didn't. No wonder she was on the edge, and afraid of falling over into the abyss at any moment.
She picked at the short red curls which covered her scalp like a clown's cap. The haircut had been more traumatic than she had imagined. She had chided herself for acting like a child at her first haircut, but the fact of the matter was, it had affected her. In order to impersonate the Lois Lane of this world she had to make some changes to her physical appearance. Her hair had been the first thing. She had spent years in an African prison, shut away from the world. In that time her hair, which she had kept stylishly bobbed just above her shoulders, had grown down nearly to her waist. The Lois of this world had worn her's in a short, feathered, face framing style. So a few days ago, armed with a recent picture which she told the stylist was of her twin sister, she had the long dark locks shorn. At first the stylist had scissored the long hair to about shoulder length. When she saw that, and how right it just seemed to look to her, Lois almost stopped the haircut then, but she didn't. She knew that she had a ways to go yet. When it was finally finished she had to admit the style looked good on her, but she'd never worn her hair that short before and it took some getting used to. She had felt a little foolish bending over and picking up some of the discarded hair and feeling an unwanted tear roll down her cheek. She had quickly brushed it away in anger, paid her bill, and left the shop.
While she had strolled down the street looking for a cab, she was hailed by a passing motorist. She hadn't quite caught what he'd said, but she'd definitely heard the words, Daily Planet, and Lois Lane. Well, she guessed that answered one question. She had achieved the basic look of Lois Lane. From the clothes that she had transferred over to the guest room closet from the master closet, she knew that this world's Lois Lane tended to dress more conservatively than she did.
When she stopped in front of a shop window she'd had to swallow a gasp as she saw her reflection in the glass. Recalling her own meeting and subsequent interactions with this world's Lois, she had been amazed at the person she saw mirrored in the window. She was a perfect double for this dimension's Lois. She doubted even her mother could tell them apart from their looks. Lois had bitten her lip at that thought. She knew that sometime she would have to face just that. As she marveled at how much she looked like the other Lois a thought had hit her and made her nearly weep in horror.
Clark Kent, the Superman of this world, and the loving husband of the departed Lois Lane, was still grieving the loss of his beloved wife. She knew it hurt him to see her, the woman who should have been his wife but wasn't. The woman who survived, when his own precious lifeline had perished at the filthy hands of an arrogant thug. As much as it hurt him, he had taken her in, knowing how much she had lost herself, and had opened his home to her. After some argument, he had even relented and agreed that she had the right to try and resume her life as Lois Lane in this world, even if it meant slipping into the life of a woman she wasn't. This past week while Lane and Kent were supposed to be on vacation, he had even made some time to help her become more familiar with what she'd need to know in this world, and who her friends and family were. But to see her as she looked now, with literally no physical difference between her and his dead wife, it would kill him. Lois had shaken her head. No she couldn't do that to him. He had sacrificed enough, she didn't need to flaunt any more of her similarities to his Lois than was absolutely necessary.
She turned around and marched back into the little salon and had them butcher the hair she had left. Her thinking was, while a short haired Lois couldn't suddenly become a long haired Lois, she definitely could go from short to something shorter and very different. Lois had deliberately picked a look that was as far from what she thought the other Lois would wear as possible. When it was all over the second time she knew she looked ghastly, no matter what the stylist had tried to tell her. It was short, and curly, and very, very red. And it didn't look like Lois Lane at all, which was just what she wanted. If she could help Clark not see the image of his missing wife every time he looked at her, then a bad haircut was a small price to pay.
While finishing up brushing her teeth, Lois' mind drifted back to when Clark first saw her new look. Lois couldn't help but allow a small smile to cross her lips as she remembered the shocked look on his face when she'd come in the door. He had stammered a bit before he'd gotten out his actual question of why she'd done what she had done. He'd known that her original intent had been to get a cut like his Lois' but instead she'd come back with this very different style. She had explained why she'd done it and, of course, he'd protested that that hadn't been necessary. Not wanting him to take on any more imagined guilt over things, she'd told him it was something she'd always wanted to do. She couldn't resist just a little jab at his chivalry, so she had asked him what did he think? Did he like it? Her smile got bigger as she recalled his weasel worded compliments about how it was certainly striking, and what a bold statement it made. For all his trying, he had never been able to say he liked it, which made Lois glad. At least the awful style had a chance to serve it's purpose.
Having finished up in the bathroom, Lois went back into the guest room, which had become her bedroom since she'd landed in this dimension. She picked out a fairly bland tan pants suit to wear into her first day at this Daily Planet. She figured the hair would be shock enough for this day. She'd worry about changing her fashion image a bit later. As she finished brushing off the imaginary lint from her slacks and straightened in preparation for leaving the room and going downstairs, something she was fairly unfamiliar with struck. She was nervous. This wasn't her Planet and these weren't her friends and colleagues. How would she ever pull this off. She was thankful that Clark would be there for her though she knew it would be tough on him also. She took a deep breath and headed toward the stairs.
Clark Kent could hear Lois moving around upstairs as he went about his tasks in the kitchen. Today was going to be her first real trial by fire. She was going to have to go into work at the Daily Planet today and try to slip into the life of this world's Lois Lane. During the last few days, when he'd been able to, he had coached her on their current circle of friends and relatives as best he could. He tried to give her a who's who crash course in the short time they had. Clark had also brought Lois up to date on their most recent stories, and she had spent a lot of time on their computer hooked into the Planet's archives becoming familiar with Lane and Kent's past exploits. He had tried to fill in some of the finer details, and unprinted relevant facts for her, but no matter how much coaching he gave her, it was going to be tough for a while. Clark knew she was also brilliant, so he hoped she would catch on fairly quickly.
He turned the heat down on the stove as his thoughts drifted toward matters of concern. He admitted to himself that he hadn't spent an inordinate amount of time around Lois, maybe not as much as he should have, but he just couldn't. It was too hard.
He had been around her enough to be worried about her toughness though. While he was able to recognize the sharp mind behind those soft brown eyes, he didn't see the fire that he generally associated with a Lois Lane. He supposed that some of it could be as a result of the recent upheaval in her life. Losing one's entire world would definitely have an effect on a person. Still, Clark felt that it probably had more to do with the years of imprisonment that she had endured. Days, months, even years, of unending boredom and the loss of hope that you'll ever escape or be rescued has got to beat a person down. She had admitted herself that her spirit was nearly crushed, and she had been on the verge of giving up. What ever form that might have taken Clark didn't want to know.
Something deep within Clark made him just want to gather her in his arms and tell her everything would be all right, but of course he couldn't. He knew that these feelings he kept having for her were just ghost feelings, the reflected longings for his own lost Lois. He knew how vulnerable she was right now and it wouldn't be fair to her to pretend something might happen when they both knew that nothing could ever come of it. The deep hole in the pit of his being could never again be filled, not even by another Lois Lane.
The corner of his mouth turned up slightly in an almost smile as he thought about how the crew at the Planet were going to react to Lois' new hairstyle. She was going to take a lot of ribbing over that. He still remembered his own shock when she first walked through the door. Expecting her to come back with Lois' current short style but instead being confronted with the bright red, cropped curls, it took him a moment to gather his wits. She had explained her reasoning but when he told her that that hadn't been necessary she went on to say that it had been something she'd always wanted to try but never had the courage. This had been the perfect opportunity. Clark hadn't believed her for a second. When she then asked him what he thought of it, he'd made all the polite noises but he thought she could tell that he didn't think much of it. Strangely enough, he got the impression that was just fine with her. Was she, maybe, trying to exert some of her own independence along with trying make some physical distinctions between herself and his Lois for his benefit? He appreciated the gesture but it didn't really matter, it still hurt whenever he saw her. It still was the constant reminder of what he had lost. He was jolted out of his reverie by her sudden appearance in the kitchen doorway.
"It smells good, what are you fixing?"
"A breakfast hash my mother used to make. Kind of a combination of hash brown potatoes and ham, with bits of peppers and onions. I've also got some eggs ready to go if you want any."
Lois took the far seat at the table. "Sounds good, over easy would be great." She seemed ill at ease at the table, watching Clark crack a couple eggs into the skillet. "Is there any coffee?"
Clark indicated the coffee maker over on the far counter. Lois quickly got up and filled a cup that was already sitting there for her. Noticing Clark already had a cup by him, she didn't ask if he wanted any, but just quietly went back to her seat at the table. He seemed to be concentrating very intently on his cooking but she knew what actually was going on. He barely looked at her since she'd come in. She bit her lip as she thought at how awkward this had all been for the both of them. She couldn't help but be attracted to Clark, he was a great looking guy, and the nicest man she'd ever met. She knew from her conversations with Lois that it was thought that these feelings were some sort of 'soul mates' thingie she was supposed to have for the Clark of her world. She had a hard time buying into that since she never really got to know the Clark of her world before he was killed. No, she was sure that the stirrings she was feeling were for the gentle, hurting man in front of her. And she also knew that nothing could ever come of those feelings, so it would be best if she just forgot about them and concentrated with learning who *she* was supposed to be.
"You know, Clark, you don't have to cook for me all the time." She managed a slight smile. "I do know how to cook."
He didn't look at her. "That's all right, I'm used to it, and I like to cook." He snuck a quick peek at her over his shoulder and then quickly turned back to his hash and eggs. "Besides, I find it relaxing."
Lois frowned into her coffee cup. "I didn't hear you come in last night, it must have been pretty late." She saw the muscles on his back tense.
"Yeah, a fire over on the east side, a couple muggings, and then I heard about a mud slide over in Indonesia." He quickly placed a plate full of food in front of her. "I got back just a couple hours ago."
They ate together in silence. It was a familiar pattern. He was often away doing his Superman stuff. Lois wasn't sure if this was normal, or if he was especially sensitive about what happened in her world and was redoubling his efforts on his own world, or he just didn't want to be with her anymore than he had to. She suspected it was probably all of the above. Lois suddenly dropped her fork as a couple tears rolled down her cheek.
"Clark, I'm sorry."
He jerked his head up, a confused look on his face. "What?"
"I'm sorry, she's dead and I'm alive. I'm sorry that you have to go through this. I know it must be hell for you to have to be with me, but I do need your help to get my life restarted." A couple more tears escaped as moisture pooled in her mahogany eyes. "My world is the one that was destroyed, I should have been the one who died, not your wife. If I could change places with her, I would, but I can't, and I'm sorry about that."
Clark didn't say anything while Lois spoke he just stared at his plate and pushed his food around with his fork. After she finished he looked up at her. She saw his expression soften for a moment, almost as if he was going to reach out to her. Then the familiar mask came back and he pushed away from the table.
"I know." He began to leave the kitchen. "I'll bring the car around front, we'd better not be late for our first day back after a vacation."
Lois grabbed her napkin from the table and wiped at her eyes as she slowly got up and followed.
Lois stepped off the elevator into the newsroom of the Daily Planet. She knew Clark was right beside her but she felt very alone. At least the physical layout was the same as what she was used to. Letting Clark lead the way down the ramp, she followed and quickly spotted her desk. She suddenly became very aware of the quiet. Doing a slow turn, she saw that everyone has stopped talking and were staring at her, like she was from another world.
Her eyes met Clark's. "Clark?" she stammered in a whisper.
He could see the uneasiness in her eyes. He took pity on her and smiled. He pointed to her head. Her hand quickly flew to her scalp and once her fingers came into contact with her short curls recognition dawned. They were staring at her new do. It was a look that they'd never seen on Lois Lane before.
"Great shades of Elvis, honey," Perry approached them. "You fixing on becoming a show girl or something?" His grin blunted any offense that she might take.
"No," she self-consciously played with the short crimson tendrils. "I, er, just decided I needed a change. I'm reinventing myself." She gave Perry a little mock spin. "You see before you a whole new Lois Lane." What Lois didn't see was the pained look on Clark's face when she said that.
"That's just fine, honey," his southern drawl got a bit more pronounced. "Makes no difference to me, just so long as the new Lois Lane delivers stories as good as the old Lois Lane."
Meanwhile Jimmy had come up behind Lois and clapped his hand on Lois' shoulder. "I don't know, Chief, I really like it. It's a radical look, Lois."
Lois had tensed up when Jimmy had touched her and found herself pulling away from his grasp before she could stop herself. Lois could tell that Jimmy had been confused by her actions from the puzzled look on his face. It had been an instinctive reaction on her part. The Jimmy Olsen of her world was James Olsen, boy billionaire, computer software mogul, owner of the Daily Planet, and traitor. She'd only known him a very few days back in her own dimension but that had been more than enough. Seeing which way the tide was rolling, James Olsen had switched over to the side of Lord Nor and his Kryptonian brigands, and had betrayed them all. Intellectually she knew that this Jimmy Olsen, photographer and aspiring reporter, was actually a good friend of Lois and Clark's, but emotionally it was hard to separate the face from the man who was largely responsible for the death of Clark's beloved Lois.
"Ah — thanks, Jimmy, glad someone likes it," Lois laughed weakly. She could see from the look on Clark's face that the by play between her and Jimmy had not gone unnoticed, but he chose not to say anything and just turned his attention to his in basket.
Perry cleared his throat to regain their attention. "Okay, now that the beauty contest judging is over," he pointed his fingers at Clark and Lois. "As soon as you're settled I want to see you two in my office for your next assignment."
A few minutes later Clark and Lois were standing in Perry's office facing his desk. Perry was still red penciling an article in front of him. He still liked to work with something tactile, like paper, so often, if time allowed, he would print off the story his reporter would Lan him and go over it the old fashioned way. He would then have Jimmy, or one of the other office flunkies, drop his 'edits' in that reporter's in basket. Once the reporter had made the necessary corrections and had resent the story to Perry, he would then just give it a cursory screen glance before sending it on.
Perry waved his hand in the general direction of the couch. "You kids go ahead and sit for a moment. I'll be through with this in a jiffy." With another couple quick strokes of his red pencil he was finished and Perry dropped the article in his out basket.
Looking up at his top reporting duo Perry was greeted by an unusual sight. Though Perry publicly discouraged it, he knew how 'touchy-feely' Lois and Clark liked to be. While he was thrilled at how much his two surrogate children were in love with each other, and how great they obviously were together, he had to remind them from time to time that the Daily Planet was a place of business and not lookout point. So it was with an arched brow that he observed that Clark and Lois had chosen to sit at opposite ends of the couch, as far away from each other as possible. Not something he would normally expect to see from these two. Also, Lois seemed a bit ill at ease, almost apprehensive, while Clark seemed to find his fingernails fascinating. Perry gave no outward sign but he allowed himself a mental shake of the head. It was clear that all was not right in their world at the moment. But unless it affected their assignments, Perry would stay out of it and let them work it out themselves.
"Now I would like nothing better than to hand you two a juicy bit of scandal or corruption to tackle, but I can't. I'm going to have to leave it up to you two to find us a front page story." Perry leaned back in his chair. "In the meantime, I would like for you kids to write some background pieces on the candidates in the upcoming mayoral contest."
Lois gave Clark a trapped look. Seeing her distress he jumped in. "You mean some kind of puff bios of Abrams and Tompkins for page two?"
"Now don't get your hackles up over this Clark. I know it's not the best use of your talents, but I'm a little short handed at the moment, and I figure your two can crank something out in your sleep and still find something that I can put on my front page before I have to let advertising sell space there too."
Lois had not been listening to Perry. Her brow had been furrowed in thought. She looked up at Perry. "Do you mean Margaret Tompkins?"
Perry, at first, looked startled by the question, then seemed to pull something from his own memory. "Now, Lois, I know you thought you had something on Maggie Tompkins back when she was just a council woman, but you could never prove anything so it was dropped." Perry gave them his best stern look. "I just want you two to give me a couple nice dry background pieces on the two folks running for mayor. Is that clear?"
Clark shot Lois a quick glance but she was gnawing on her lip, deep in thought. "Yeah, Chief, we got it." Clark stood up. "Come on, Lois, let's get this over with." She followed him out, still deep in thought.
Once outside Perry's office Lois took the lead. Grabbing Clark's hand she dragged him into the conference room. Once the door was closed Lois began to pace about the room. "Clark, I don't know what your wife did or didn't know, but in my world I broke an influence peddling scheme that won me my second Kerth." She looked up at Clark and he could see actual excitement there for the first time. "The person behind the whole thing was our mayor at the time, Maggie Tompkins." Lois began to get more animated as she paced ever faster. "Now just because someone in my world was a crook doesn't necessarily mean that they'll be a crook here too, but…" she smiled at Clark. "It doesn't mean that they aren't either." She began to pace again. "Now if I think hard enough on it, I'm pretty sure I can begin to retrace the steps I took to expose her in my world. If things hold even reasonably the same I think we can get Perry that front page story and all the while look like we are doing the simple background articles he assigned us."
Lois was grinning and Clark couldn't help but be affected by her enthusiasm. He gave her a smile and shook his head in surrender. When Lois Lane got like this, there was no stopping her. He was actually happy to see her this way. He hadn't seen her this upbeat since he brought her to this world. Of course, if he would just admit it to himself, he hadn't been very upbeat either. But then he wasn't ready to let go of his pain yet, and he didn't know if he ever would be.
Lois was just getting ready to dash out into the newsroom and get logged onto her computer when Jimmy poked his head into the room.
"Phone for you guys, line 2."
"Thanks Jimmy." Clark was closest so he picked up the handset.
Lois watched Clark as he spoke only a few words into the phone but was obviously listening intently. His expression went from shock, to disbelief, then to something akin to remorse. Lois found herself sitting down and waiting for him to finish. She didn't have to wait long. He hung up the receiver within another minute. He face was hard to read, but it was clear that he had been upset by the call. He leaned against the table as he placed his hand on hers.
"What is it? What's wrong?" Lois was getting frightened.
"Lois, that was the police. I'm afraid Sam was killed in an auto accident just about an hour ago."
"That's terrible, Clark, I'm so sorry." She gave his hand a squeeze. "Who's Sam?"
"Sam Lane, Lois, your father."
Why was it always gray and drizzling during a funeral Lois thought, her annoyance at the weather overriding the common sense that told her that such weather would hide her lack of tears better. Sam Lane had died when his car went off the road and struck an overhead light standard. Witnesses said that he swerved to avoid a child that had run out onto the street in front of him. No one at the scene saw the child after the accident.
She was sorry that this Sam Lane had died, but she didn't know him. He wasn't her father. In fact everything Clark had told her about him told her he wasn't anything at all like her father. Her father had never been a big time surgeon, pioneer in sports medicine, experimenter in cyborg science, nor a womanizer. Her father had barely been out of medical school, when a mugger took his watch, his wallet which contained twenty seven dollars, and his life. He left behind a young wife, and a six month old daughter. Lois never knew her father. Lois sneaked a peak at Ellen Lane, who stood weeping next to her. It was clear to Lois from the tears that rolled down the woman's face that she had cared for the man. If not so much now, then at some point during their life together. Clark had said that they had been trying a reconciliation but it had been slow going.
Lois was amazed at the difference between her mother and the woman sobbing next to her. Her own mother had merely been a nurses aide, not a full RN like this woman had been. Her mother had struggled to take care of an infant and bring in enough money to live on. It had been tough, and Lois knew it had worn on her mother. She had been a real beauty when she was younger, as Lois had seen from some of her earlier pictures. She had been a dark haired beauty with hazel eyes that literally glowed with an inner fire. Even in her later years she retained a lot of that beauty though the long hours and hard work had aged her before her time. The Ellen Lane of this world didn't look anything like her mother had, but still had a familiar look to her. It wasn't until Ellen raised her veil to put a kiss on the casket before it was lowered that Lois was able to make the connection. Ellen looked a lot like her aunt Mary.
Lois' mother, who was also Ellen Lane, and Lois, had spent several months living with her aunt Mary when Lois was about four or five. It was just before Ellen got her job at Metropolis General as a nurse's aide and later worked in the office. It had turned into a pretty good job, and once Lois had been old enough to start school it had settled their life down to an almost normal routine. The parade of different ladies in the apartment complex babysitting Lois during her early childhood had now ended.
Lois had always felt sorry for her mother. The poor woman had spent her youth providing for her daughter and just when it seemed that she could sit back and begin to enjoy her life, it was taken from her. Having won a scholarship, Lois was preparing to leave for college, when they got the news. Ellen Lane was diagnosed with cancer. It was a particularly nasty kind and it took her quickly. Her mother's small life insurance had been enough to bury her but little else. Lois went off to school and had been on her own ever since.
It was a peculiar feeling to know that she, Lois Lane, had a mother to deal with again, and according to Clark, it wasn't necessarily going to be a pleasant thing. A little of which she had already run into. Even being severely affected by her ex- husband's death, she still managed to disapprove of Lois' new haircut, and her choice of clothes, and her lack of proper respect for her father. It didn't matter to Ellen, that she, as much as Clark's Lois had hated what her father had done to them, Lois wasn't properly despondent over his death. Lois hadn't answered, but had walked away and took Clark's arm.
Clark actually seemed more affected by the death than any of the family. Lois wasn't sure how well Clark had known Sam Lane, but she suspected that his sorrow was being reinforced by memories of a funeral that should have been but wasn't, that he never got to attend. He'd never gotten to say a proper goodbye to his beloved. That fact as he stood here stoically, in the light drizzle, at his father-in-law's funeral probably just hit home a little too hard right now.
For Lois the most amazing thing was the fact that she now had a sister. Lucy Lane had flown in from California to attend the funeral. She was a senior at Cal Berkeley and would soon graduate. Lucy, at first, hadn't wanted to spend the time or the money to come home for the funeral. She had said that her father had no time for them when they needed him, why should she waste her time on him now. Lois hadn't known how to answer her, but Clark had persuaded Lucy to come home. It had given Lois a thrill to think that she had a younger sister and she had spent the day before she came in asking Clark about her. He hadn't been a lot of help since Lucy had not been around much during the time Lois and Clark had gotten together. Lois had had a cousin named Lucy Lane, but she'd only met her a couple times and didn't have any clear recollection of her. So it was with some trepidation and a lot anxious anticipation that Lois prepared to meet her baby sister. Unfortunately, Lucy's plane had been so late that she barely had time to get there before the service had begun. Lois hadn't any chance to talk with her yet.
Once the service was over and they all headed back to their respective cars, Lucy glided up next to Lois and stuck her arm through Lois'. She steered her a little to one side.
"Lois, I need your help." Lucy half whispered in 'her sister's' ear. "I can't stay with Mom, she'll drive me crazy." The two women stared at each other. "You know what's she's like when she gets all emotional over something."
Lois didn't know but she nodded appropriately. "Lucy, the impression I got was that she just wanted to go home and rest." Lois saw Lucy frown. "She'll probably take some drug store sleeping aids and go right to bed. I don't think she even plans to come over to the house afterwards with the rest."
Lucy stopped and stared at her feet. Lois stopped too. "Does this mean you don't want me to stay over with you? Is there some reason why you'd feel awkward about me spending a couple nights?" Lucy looked up at the obviously ill at ease Lois. "Is there something wrong, Lois? You've been acting sort of strange all day."
"No, no, nothing's wrong." Lois answered a little too quickly. "I just thought that, — well, never mind. You know you are welcome to stay over at our place anytime if you need to."
Lucy smiled. "Thanks, I was beginning to wonder if it was something I had done, or if it was just that awful red hair dye leaking into your brain." Lucy emitted a short bark like laugh. "What ever possessed you to do that to your hair?"
Lois just shook her head. "It's too hard to explain. Let's just leave it at, it seemed like a good idea at the time." The sister's shared a laugh as they approached the jeep arm in arm.
The after funeral gathering of friends and family didn't last very long. The brownstone on Hyperion hosted the assemblage which began to break up almost as soon as it started. There weren't too many family members left on Sam's side of the family. And none of Ellen's family who still lived close enough to easily attend, wished to have anything to do with Sam. So it was mostly friends of Lois and Clark. Perry and Jimmy had been real troopers, helping with the preparations and such. Jimmy had even volunteered to stay behind with a often married cousin, Cindy, to make ready the town home. Lois hadn't known why that was such a sacrifice, but Clark assured her it was.
During the gathering Lois found the time to sneak upstairs and take her stuff out of the guest room and stick it quickly into the master again. Her mouth quirked into an odd parody of a smile. She was already thinking of these clothes and such as her stuff. It seemed that she was making a better adjustment than Clark was. Of course, she had only lost her world, he has lost part of himself.
She had taken Clark aside and told him what had happened with Lucy, and how she had agreed to let her stay. Lois had been afraid that Clark would have been angry, but instead he had just sighed and said it was all right. He told her that he had planned to probably be out most of the night anyway. He'd been too long away from his Superman responsibilities anyway and should really put in a long patrol tonight. Lois knew that was bull, but she didn't dispute his words. She just sighed herself and went back to her guests.
Ellen had surprised her by coming over, but soon left, complaining of a headache. All the others followed soon after with Perry , Jimmy, and Cindy being the last to go. Lois did feel some bit of compassion for Jimmy as she saw how cousin Cindy had appointed herself Jimmy's unofficial date and had hung around him the entire time. Gallant to the end, Jimmy had even offered Cindy a ride home which she eagerly accepted. It had been a tough evening for Jimmy but it had gone a long way toward separating this Jimmy Olsen from the James Olsen of her world in Lois' mind. She hoped that she'd get the chance to repay the favor some day.
With everybody now gone, except for Lucy, Lois turned to Clark for the lead in what to do next. He provided an answer, though not one that Lois was particularly happy about.
Clark reached for his coat. "Lucy, I put your bag up in the guest room." He turned his attention to Lois. "Since Lucy is here, and I know you want to catch up, I'll meet with our source tonight myself."
Lois' eyes got wide in near panic. "But, Clark, I, ah, couldn't let you do that. Lucy understands." She turned to the sister she never had. "Don't you Luce."
"Well I was hoping to discuss a few things with you." Lucy answered somewhat guiltily.
Clark nodded. "See, there you are. Don't worry, Lois, I won't mess this up without you. I have done my share of this type of thing too." He saw the line of Lois' mouth get tighter while Lucy giggled. "Don't wait up, I don't know how long I'll be." He came over a gave Lois a quick sterile peck on the cheek. "Have a pleasant night ladies," and he was out the door.
Lois continued to stare at the closed door until Lucy broke the spell by clearing her throat. Lois jerked her head in the direction of her little sister.
"I guess I should help you clean up this mess?" Lucy indicated the considerable number of plates and cups lying about throughout the living room, dining room, and kitchen with an encompassing wave of her hand.
Lois gave the room a quick look and a tired smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. "That would be much appreciated."
Clark, as Superman had just flown his third circle around Metropolis and upon finding nothing that needed his attention, broke his pattern and headed west. He had decided to head home to Smallville, to see his folks, and sleep in his old room for the night. In fact, he decided that for as long as Lucy was staying, which would only be a couple of days, he could sneak out after Lucy had gone to bed and fly to Kansas for the night. He could be back in the morning and be ready for work before she even got up.
Clark had called his parents the day after they'd returned from the other dimension and had filled them in on everything that had happened. They had been devastated, for they too had loved Lois dearly. He told them he would see them as soon as possible, but he felt he couldn't leave this Lois alone right away so he'd put off the Smallville trip for a few days. It seemed the perfect time now. He'd need to be away for the evening so Lois could sleep in the master bedroom, so Smallville was the obvious choice.
A slight pang of guilt stabbed ineffectively at his conscious over leaving Lois alone with Lucy. He'd seen the panic in her eyes when he told her he was leaving. She had been nervous about meeting this sister. A sister she had never had. Clark suppressed the feeling that he'd abandoned Lois. After all, it wasn't like he'd be of much help with Lucy anyway. He'd only met her a few times. Lucy hadn't even made it to the wedding, something about being arrested at the airport for causing some problems if Clark remembered correctly. Lois would do just fine he thought. She'd be able to shift the conversation to Lucy and what she was doing now, and be able to steer the topics away from herself. Yeah, Lois would be fine.
It had only taken a few minutes until the farmhouse came into view. It was fairly late, and he knew that on the farm folks went to bed early, so he was relieved to see a light still on in the living room. He came to a landing outside the front porch and spun into his Clark clothes before he entered. He tried not to make too much noise, in case they were asleep, but enough to tell someone who might be up that a visitor had arrived.
Martha came out to greet him before he'd made it half way through the kitchen. "Hi, honey, I had a feeling you'd be here tonight." She said while she gave him a hug.
Together they went into the living room and sat. Clark noticed his father was sound asleep in his favorite chair and that a weak fire still burned in the fireplace. Martha sat on the sofa as Clark stirred the embers to see if he could get a little more life in the fire. He knew that his mother was waiting for him to talk, and that he was just stalling while he gathered his thoughts. Of course, he knew that she knew it too, and that's why she was just sitting there waiting for him to begin. Almost reluctantly he gave up playing with the fire and came over and sat down next to his mother.
He ran his fingers through his hair. "Does it ever get better? Does it ever stop hurting?"
Martha put her arm around her son. "You may not believe this now, but yes, it will be better, and the hurt will gradually diminish to a gentle ache that will surface when you remember the good things."
"But I feel so bad, and I feel so guilty."
Martha shook her head but before she could say anything, Jonathan, who had recently woke up, spoke up instead. "I thought you told us there was nothing you could have done. You aren't beating yourself up over the fact that you were out helping hundreds of others when the incident took place are you?"
"No, I'm not. I realize that there was no way for me to even know she was in trouble."
"Clark?" Martha's tone was only too familiar to Clark.
"Well maybe just a little, but really that's not the issue anymore." Clark stood up and crossed over to stand next to the fireplace where he could face both his parents at once. "Sam Lane's funeral was today." He watched as his parents reached out and clasped each other's hands. They didn't speak, allowing him the time to say what he flew out to say. "It was a pretty pitiful affair. Very few family members came and the only friends were those of Lois' and mine. It was sad really, but it also hit home that all those people that were there would never have the chance to say goodbye to Lois. Hell, if we are successful in our deception they'll never even know that they should be missing her."
"Clark," Martha came over and put her hand on his arm. "Does it bother you that this Lois from the other dimension is trying to step into the life of our Lois?"
Clark grimaced. "It did at first, but we talked it out and I agree that she has a right to try and build a life as who she is. And as much as it may hurt, she is Lois Lane. She just didn't happen to be born in this world."
Martha couldn't help but smile as she patted her son's arm. "Neither were you Clark."
He returned her sad smile. "That's true, and I do have some empathy for what she is confronted with. There are a lot of things that are similar or virtually the same as on her world, but there are plenty of things which aren't. She is depending on me to help her through those uncertainties. I know I haven't been around, helping her adjust as much as I should. I give her a quick run down on some people and places then I beg off and go hide behind Superman and his responsibilities. She has suffered a lot. She spent years in a prison cell with basically no hope of escape and her only contact with other people were her guards. Yet she survived that only to have her world torn out from under her." Clark was clearly upset now. "I'm the one who brought her here."
"To save her life," Jonathan pointed out.
"Yeah, maybe, at least I thought she would be a target at the time so I asked to take her with me. But don't you see? I brought her here, and that makes me partially responsible for the situation she is in. And I haven't really been there for her." Clark dragged his hands through his hair again. "Just tonight I abandoned her at home with Lucy. Lois never had a sister in her dimension, but I left her with her anyway. I was able to rationalize that since I didn't know Lucy well that I'd be no help to her anyway."
"It sounds to me like you're saying that this young woman really needs a friend right now, but you don't feel like you are being that friend for her." Jonathan always seemed able to state the obvious that everyone else always danced around.
"Yeah, I guess that's what I'm saying. It's just that it's so hard to be around her. To see her with Lois' face, in Lois' clothes, sounding like Lois. It's so hard." Clark quickly wiped away a tear that had dared to leak from his eye. "I know it's not her fault, but it's like I'm blaming her for surviving, when my wife didn't. It's like every time I see her I think I have Lois back when I know that I don't. I'm afraid, because I keep thinking that I'm being unfaithful to Lois' memory."
"That's ridiculous." Martha dragged Clark back to the sofa. "Are you saying that you are getting this woman confused with our Lois?" Martha shook her head in bewilderment. "Clark, that doesn't make sense. If Lois and Lucy had been twins, you wouldn't be feeling like this about Lucy would you. Just because someone looks like someone else doesn't confuse the issue. You know they are still different individuals. And you should treat them as such. Trying to be a friend to this Lois has no bearing on your feelings for our Lois. They are, were, two different people."
"I sometimes wonder if that's true." Clark stood up again. "You see it's not that I'm reminded of Lois by seeing someone who looks like her. It's deeper than that." He saw the quizzical looks on his parent's faces. "There is some sort of pull there. A feeling that seems to be drawing me to her. Making me want to touch her, and comfort her when she is sad."
"I'm not sure I understand what you're saying, son. Are you saying you can't be her friend because you think you might have some undefined feelings for her?"
"Not exactly dad, you see I know exactly what the feeling is. It's just like the feeling I got the first time I saw Lois in Perry's office. I knew then that there was something about that woman, that she would be the only woman that I could ever really hope to love." Clark came back to the sofa and grabbed his mother's hand. "How can I be having those kind of feelings for another woman, just because she is similar to my beloved? It scares me to think that I could betray our love in that manner. Why is this happening? What's wrong with me?" Tears flowed freely down Clark's cheeks now.
Martha grabbed Clark's face in her hands. "Oh, honey, I can't begin to guess what you're feeling, but I have to believe it's just part of your grieving process. That you are still going through some sort of denial stage, so some of your feelings for your Lois are being transferred over to this other Lois."
Clark was still able to muster a small smile through his tears. "Still taking those mail order psych courses, Mom."
Martha own tears were falling but she had to laugh. "Not anymore, your father got tired of me analyzing everyone in town." She wiped at her own eyes. "No, you just have to realize that it's going to take time, honey, you have to let yourself heal." Martha let go of Clark's face and pushed back until she was at a full arms length away. Her tone was gentle, but firm. "But you know that you do have a responsibility to help this poor woman also don't you? Clark, she needs you to be her friend, and I think you owe it to her to try."
Clark nodded sadly. "I know, it's just that I don't know if I'm strong enough to do it. It still hurts so much."
Jonathan rose from his chair and clapped his hand on Clark's shoulder. "You'll do what you have to, because it's the right thing to do. We've always been proud of the fact, that no matter what the cost to you, you always did what's right." Jonathan gave Clark's shoulder a little squeeze. "Now, I think we should all head upstairs and get some sleep. Tomorrow will be here soon enough, and I for one need some sleep."
"Oh, Jonathan," Martha swatted him. "You've been sleeping in that chair most of the evening already."
Shaking his head, and with a resigned grin on his tear streaked face, Clark followed his parents up the stairs.
Lois put away the last of the dishes, took her cup of coffee and followed Lucy into the living room. She was proud that she had managed to steer any conversation away from herself and kept it light and focused on Lucy and what she had been doing lately. Lois noted that Lucy didn't sound too much like the flighty girl, with the low self esteem who went through one loser boyfriend after another, that Clark had described. This young woman had apparently done some growing up in the last few years. Lucy hadn't been doing much dating. She'd been too busy with her studies. She was only a single semester away from her degree in political science. She had been so earnest in her statement that she was going to be Mayor of Metropolis someday that Lois had had to smile. As Lois entered the living room looking for a coaster to set her cup on she noticed Lucy looking over the pictures on the mantle just as Lois had the first time she came into this house.
"Wow, look at this picture of you and Jimmy," Lucy laughed as she pointed to the shot of Jimmy with his arm around Lois. "I hardly recognize him. He was so much thinner then, and his hair looked so different."
It took Lois a moment to realize that indeed the picture Lucy referred to was one of Lois and Jimmy together. She remembered seeing it and not recognizing the young man as Jimmy Olsen, even after having met her own world's counter part. She grinned and nodded at Lucy. He certainly had changed quite a bit since then. She watched as Lucy picked up the picture of the couple she now knew was of Sam and Ellen Lane.
"This is a nice picture of Mom and Dad, don't you think?" Lucy held it out for Lois to see. "It almost looks like they can stand to be around each other." Lucy set the picture back on the mantle. "So, Lois, how are things with you and Clark?"
Lois was momentarily startled by the abrupt change of topic. "Fine, great, everything's great."
"So everything's all right?" Lucy came over and sat next to Lois on the couch. "No problems is paradise?"
Lois shook her head a little too vehemently. "No, no everything's just great, couldn't be better. Why do you ask?"
Lucy flashed Lois a sly smile. "I don't know. I haven't been around too much since you've become an old married lady, but I have seen the way you two used act around each other, and I have to say I didn't see much of that today at all."
Lois' hands fluttered about. "Well, er, what do you expect. Sa — er, Daddy just died. Clark knew him too you know."
Lucy waved off Lois' protest. "I don't mean that. I would have thought that Clark would have been more supportive of you. He hardly touched you throughout the whole service. And then tonight, he couldn't wait to get out of here."
"Well, he was just giving you and I a little time to…" The ringing of the phone interrupted Lois' lame attempts at excuses. "Hello, who? Oh hi — mom. How are you doing? What? Yes, she's here." Lois held the phone out to Lucy. "She wants to talk to you."
Lucy grimaced as she took the phone from Lois. "Yeah, mom. No, of course I'm not mad at you." Lucy rolled her eyes toward the ceiling. "Don't be silly, I don't hate you. I just wanted to spend a little time with Lois. I'll come by tomorrow, and we can do lunch or whatever. My flight back isn't till the day after tomorrow." Lucy bit her lip. "Yes, I love you too, mom, and I'll see you tomorrow. Yes, tomorrow. Good night."
Lucy slowly walked back to the couch. She kept chewing on her lip, she seemed anxious. Lois put her hand on Lucy's arm to capture her attention.
"I'm worried, Lois. I think Mom had started drinking again." Lucy stared straight into Lois' eyes. "Didn't you think she sounded sort of strange when you talked to her?"
Lois shrugged. She couldn't exactly tell Lucy that the first time she'd ever talked to Ellen Lane was earlier today. How was she supposed to know what sounded right and what didn't. "I don't know, she just sounded upset that you were here instead of there."
Lucy began to pull at her lip with her fingers. She frowned. "Maybe she misses daddy more than we would have thought?"
Lois remembered Clark saying that Sam and Ellen had been trying a reconciliation, but it had been a bumpy one so far. Too much past history to forget too quickly. "I guess that could be it. I know they've been trying to patch things up."
Lucy stood. "I wonder if I shouldn't go over there. If she's started drinking again."
Lois had been told that Ellen was a recovering alcoholic, but she'd been sober for years now. If she had begun to back slide, Lois knew that there was nothing Lucy, or she could do about it tonight. Lois stood and grabbed Lucy's hand.
"It's late. Even if she has been drinking, she's likely to just fall asleep soon. You might as well, turn in and check up on her tomorrow."
Lucy sighed. "You're right. I'll check on her tomorrow and give you a call at the Planet to let you know what's up."
"That would be great, thanks. Good night, Lucy."
Lucy started up the stairs, stopped halfway , and turned toward Lois. "Oh, and don't think you and I are done either, Sis." Lucy wagged her finger at Lois. "For all your brilliant investigative skills and abilities to play roles to get what you want, you were never able to lie to me. Something is not right, and you *will* tell me what it is." A tired smile turned the corners of Lucy's mouth. "Good night, Lois."
Lois just stared at her 'sister' as she turned back and continued up the stairs to the guest room. Lois flopped back down onto the couch. It was a somewhat unsteady hand that reached for her coffee cup.
Clark, as Superman, stopped in his cross country flight just long enough to give a little assistance to a river barge that had gotten too close to a sand bar. He'd spotted it as he was crossing the Mississippi on his way east. He usually kept his eyes peeled for any troubles he could help with when flying to and from Smallville.
Clark had gotten up early with his folks, had a nice country breakfast, and also had helped his father with some chores before he left. Even given the one hour time differential, he knew he had plenty of time to get back to Metropolis before he had to be ready for work at his day job.
Superman gave the barge captain a friendly wave as the river vessel began to resume it's voyage down the river, then is a flash he was gone from sight. It always gave his mood a little boost to be able to help someone. Helping someone, that brought back the memory of last night's conversation with his folks. He had agreed with Jonathan's conviction that Clark owed it to this Lois to be a friend, and help her out while she worked to rebuild a life for herself. Of course that begged the question; once she was confidently back on her feet and living her new life, what then?
Clark was hovering high in the sky over the house on Hyperion. The sun was well up by now so he had to take extra care before zooming into the upstairs bedroom window. He took a few moments to scan the area around the house and saw the paperboy approaching the front steps. Clark waited another couple minutes while the boy turned the corner of the block before he felt it was safe to make his entrance.
He slipped into the window of his bedroom quickly and quietly. Lois was still asleep. She looked so vulnerable lying there, her face a smooth mask of innocence. A slow, slight smile touched his lips before he was able to stop it. He shook his head, for some reason, aside from the red curls against the pillow, something didn't seem quite right. A moment later it hit him. She was sleeping on his side of the bed. Clark just shook his head again as he stripped down and tossed the suit into the hamper. He smelled like fish from his dip in the river so a quick shower was called for.
As he stepped out of the shower, a towel around his waist, and headed for the closet. Clark stopped and turned as something told him he was being watched. Lois was awake and sitting up in the bed. She was staring at him with a peculiar look on her face. It was almost like the first time Lois had come over and caught him in a towel when they had partnered on that first big story.
"Good morning," Clark said formally. "The shower's free. I'm done in there."
"Good morning," Lois seemed to have a little trouble getting that out. "Thanks."
Lois slid carefully out of bed and unconsciously smoothed the plain flannel nightgown with her hands as she hurried to the bathroom. As she closed the door she heard the sound of rushing wind, then Clark's voice.
"How was your time with Lucy?"
"Fine, I guess. Did you know she plans to become mayor someday?" Lois wondered if he felt at all guilty for leaving last night.
"Really, that's great," his voice betrayed his feigned interest. "I'll start something for breakfast for you two, I already ate at home."
"No, that's all right. I can fix something for myself." Lois was puzzled by his choice of words. What did he mean by, he ate at *home*?
"That's okay, I hear Lucy up and about in her room." Clark paused a couple beats before adding, "besides, we have to keep up the pretense of your lack of culinary skills."
Lois bit her lip as she hung the nightgown on the back of the door. "Okay, I should be down in about fifteen minutes." She heard the bedroom door open and close.
Lucy rummaged through her suitcase for something to wear. She wasn't looking forward to this visit with her mother, but she knew her mother needed some love and support now and Lois had already been away from work too much lately to take more time now. It was up to Lucy to fake concern for her mother during this time. Lucy chided herself for her attitude, but she just couldn't help it. It wasn't that she didn't love her mother, because she did, she just didn't like her.
As Lucy slipped the soft green turtle neck over her head and pulled the edges over the belt on her light tan jeans she heard the sounds of activity in Lois and Clark's bedroom. It was quickly followed by the sound of the door closing and footfalls on the stairs. It seemed that one of them was already up and ready to go. Her bet would be Clark, even though she didn't hear him come in last night, she knew as a farm kid he was probably used to getting up early.
Lucy sat back on the bed as a frown creased her face. Lois had acted strange last night. She had been asking questions about stuff that they'd already covered in their last phone call and acting like it was all new to her. Lois seemed to vacillate between hyper attentiveness and distracted. She had constantly steered the conversation away from her and Clark and kept shifting the topic back to what Lucy was doing. It didn't take a genius to see something was wrong. Lucy could tell that the fairy tale prince and princess were experiencing some troubles in their little magic kingdom.
The thought of Clark being unfaithful to her sister was a concept that Lucy just couldn't accept. She'd believe it of Lois before she'd believe it of Clark, and with what her sister had been telling her over these last several months, she couldn't believe it of Lois either. Yet there was something that seemed to be putting a distance between them. Lucy almost had to laugh. She had only seen Lois and Clark really together a few times since she left for school in California, and suddenly she was an expert on their relationship? No, Lucy knew she was no expert on Lois and Clark, but their years growing up together made her an expert on Lois. Even given the circumstances of her father's funeral, the marriage that Lois had been describing to Lucy all these months was not the marriage that Lucy saw over this last day. Something was definitely wrong, and Lucy vowed to find out what it was before she had to go back. With that thought settled in her mind Lucy got up and headed down stairs to the now pleasant smells of breakfast.
She entered the kitchen to see Clark with his back to her just placing some pancakes on a plate next to a couple slices of toast. He turned and greeted her with a grin and set the plate down in front of a chair that he indicated she should take.
Before she sat she stepped over and gave Clark a quick peck on the cheek. "Mornin', Bro," she said as she pulled away and sat down. "It smells good, how did Lois ever trap a guy who could cook?" Lucy wondered if that could have been an expression of pain that she saw flash quickly through Clark's features before he again had his smile in place for her.
"Just lucky I guess." His answer was a bit too flip. "Would you like some juice?"
"That would be nice, thanks" Lucy eyed her brother-in-law warily as he reached into the refrigerator for a pitcher of orange juice.
"So, Lucy, Lois tells me you plan to be mayor of our fair city someday soon."
"Yes, I think I would be the perfect candidate." She took a hit off her glass of juice and began to pour some syrup over her cakes. "I figure everyone would know I'm honest because if I weren't, my crusading reporter sister and brother-in -law would expose me in their latest award winning, front page headline."
"Funny you should mention that." Lois saw both Clark and Lucy turn her way as she entered the kitchen. "It just so happens that our current investigation is just such a possible expose of one of our mayoral candidates."
"Really," Lucy noticed that Clark got quiet once Lois walked into the room and he didn't come over and greet her as Lucy would have expected. Lois didn't say anything to Clark either she just sat down where Clark had placed another plate and began to eat.
It was as if the room temperature had dropped a few degrees. Nothing like the hostility, and animosity that had existed between her parents, no more of a professional coolness. Lucy shook her head and looked over at Clark who was busy putting things away and setting the cooking utensils into the sink.
"Hey, Clark, leave them," Lucy told him. "I can do up these few dishes before I leave for mother's."
Clark turned to Lucy, his expression unreadable for a moment, then he smiled. "Thanks, that would be nice." He wiped off his hands and headed toward the other room, speaking along the way. "I'll go check our e-mails, then we can be ready to go as soon as you are done eating."
Lois didn't respond, she seemed to someplace else as she mechanically ate her food. Lucy put her hand on her arm, which seemed to startle her.
"What — oh, okay Clark, I should be done soon." Lois went back to shoving food into her mouth but gave no indication that she was enjoying it. Lucy just stared at her sister, her frown deepening.
Clark sat back in his chair, his screen saver had come back on since he hadn't worked at his screen for several minutes. He found it somewhat surprising, yet not too, to watch the change that came over Lois once she was at the Planet. She immediately became more animated and confident. Oh sure, she was still skittish around people, especially every time she met someone she was unfamiliar with, but she was definitely more in her element here. The fact that she had a story to sink her teeth into Clark was sure helped a lot. No sooner had they entered the newsroom then she was booting up her computer and trying to retrace some of the leads she had used in her world to expose a corrupt Mayor Tompkins.
"Lois," Lois turned her head as Perry came down the ramp toward her. "I just want to say again how sorry I am about your father." He put his hand on her shoulder. "How are you holding up?"
Lois shot Clark a quick glance before she looked Perry in the face. "I'm fine, Perry, really." She gave him what she thought would be the proper sad smile.
"That's good, honey. I know you and your father weren't always on the best of terms, but — well he was your father and I'm sure this is tough." Perry patted her shoulder a couple times in obvious embarrassment.
"Yeah, I guess it is, but I'm dealing with it." Lois reached up and gave Perry's hand a squeeze. "Thanks for caring, Chief."
Perry harrumphed and pulled away from Lois. "All right everybody, don't you all have work to do." His comments were directed at the newsroom in general as he made his way back up to his office.
Lois went back to her computer and in a couple minutes let out a little shout of triumph. "Yes! I knew it!" She motioned for Clark to come over. "I guess some things are the same." Once Clark reached her side she began pointing out several items displayed on her screen. "Okay, this the voting record for councilwoman Maggie Tompkins. As you can see, she had the swing vote six times in the last three years. Four of those votes were on very hotly debated, controversial contract awards." Lois clicked her mouse to change windows. "Now, here we see that bank records of one, M. Jane Anderson. Notice the dates of these four large equal sized deposits."
Clark nodded. "Okay, so they match up with the dates of the big votes." Clark looked from the screen to Lois. "Who's M. Jane Anderson?"
Lois leaned back in her chair smiling smugly. "About six years ago Margaret Jane Preston married a fellow named Harold Anderson. The marriage only lasted a couple months. Not long enough to really be noticed but …"
"Long enough to establish a complete set of identification?"
"Exactly, and since she married her present husband David Tompkins shortly after her quickie divorce from Anderson, she never really established any publicly acknowledged identity as Margaret Anderson, or in this case, M. Jane Anderson."
A smile began to steal onto Clark's face. "But she had legitimate, if dated, identification which would allow her to open a bank account under the name M. Jane Anderson. Very clever." Clark grew thoughtful. "I wonder why Lois never caught that?"
Lois put her hand over Clark's. "It took me a long time to track that now you see it, now you don't marriage. I'd guess she just didn't have enough time to dig up the facts before Perry killed her story." Lois grinned a bit sheepishly. "I have to admit that I got an anonymous tip also."
Clark shook his head. "Well congratulations, I think you have a story here." He frowned down at the excited reporter. "I thought bank records were protected by pretty stringent security. How'd you gain access to them? I'd think it would take someone of Jimmy's skills to hack into and gain that information?"
Lois' face was the perfect mask of innocent. "Oh, is he good at that too?" Suddenly Lois noticed Clark's attention seemed to be elsewhere. In the short time she'd known him she'd learned to recognize that look. His focus was elsewhere. "What is it, what are you hearing?"
"Fire trucks, heading toward the docks. I've got to go." He straightened and reached for his tie. "Show your stuff to Perry." Clark threw the words over his shoulder as he made for the stairwell as quickly as possible.
Clark hadn't been gone two minutes when Lois' phone rang. "Lois Lane," she answered. "Lucy, hi, what's up. Are you at mother's?" Lois leaned back, a confused look coming over her face. "What? Slow down, she's what? Never mind, I'll be there as soon as I can."
Lois jumped up from her desk, grabbed her bag and headed up the ramp toward the elevators. She stopped at the top of the ramp and retraced her steps to her desk. It had suddenly dawned on her that she didn't know where Ellen Lane lived. A quick but thorough search of her desk drawers provided her with a little black phone book. Luck was with Lois because under her mother's name and number was a notation, 'new address' with it added in Lois' neat script. Lois recognized that place as one her aunt Mary had lived in when Lois was still a teenager. Armed with the necessary knowledge Lois jumped back up and headed out.
Lucy Lane pulled her airport rental car in front of the apartment complex her mother lived in. Ellen had moved into this building about two years ago. Lucy had only been here one time before but it she had to admit that it was nice, and in a quiet neighborhood. Lucy pushed the call button to her mother's apartment. There was no answer. Lucy pushed the button several more times but there still was no answer. She began to get worried when a resident on her way out provided Lucy with the opportunity to get in.
She hurried up the stairs to her mother's third floor apartment. She knocked several times quite hard. Just before she was about to hunt down the manager to let her in the door opened.
"Lucy, sweetie, what brings you here?" Ellen Lane stumbled back from the door. "Come on in."
Lucy grit her teeth as she entered the apartment and closed the door behind her. Her mother had started drinking again. In fact her mother was presently quite drunk, and it was still morning. Lucy looked around the main living room area and saw several bottles in various stages of misuse. Her clothes from the funeral yesterday were laying draped over a chair and the television was on, tuned to one of those insipid talk shows. The place already smelled of booze.
"Come, come, sit," Ellen pointed to a chair with the hand that didn't carry the glass. Her words were slurred. "Sam! Your daughter's come to visit." Ellen unsteadily made her way into the other room. "Sam, where'd you go?"
Lucy couldn't believe her ears. Her heart was breaking to see this happening. Apparently her father's death had affected her mother much worse than she would have thought. Lucy quickly went over and guided her unprotesting mother to a chair back in the living room. She took the glass out of Ellen's hand and set it on the coffee table. Lucy then grabbed both Ellen's hands in her's so she couldn't reach for the glass again.
"Mom, please listen to me." Lucy swallowed the lump before it could form in her throat. "Daddy's gone. He won't be coming back. We just have to accept that and move on."
Ellen pulled out of Lucy's grasp and patted her on the cheek. "That's what I thought too, sweetheart, but it's not true. He was here last night, and again this morning." Ellen frowned. "Though I can't, for the life of me figure out where he got to just now?"
Lucy dropped her head, then with great effort lifted it up to meet her mother's unfocused gaze. "Mother, daddy has died. He can't be here with you. He can't talk to you."
"You know," Ellen interrupted. "He doesn't talk much. He mostly walks around from room to room and when he does talk to me he's not very nice. He says that I'm the reason why our marriage failed, and that I'm the reason why our daughter's turned out the way they did." Ellen looked at her youngest daughter with a look so serious that it was almost comical. "I don't know what he's talking about? I think you and Lois turned out pretty good, even if Lois has lost her fashion sense. And that hair! Do you think Lois lost a bet or something?" Ellen's mind quickly drifted back to her drink which she found on the coffee table where Lucy had put it.
Lucy spent the next hour trying to talk some sense into her inebriated mother but to no avail. Ellen had managed to down a few more drinks as Lucy gave up trying to stop her. Lucy spent most of the next half hour wiping tears from her eyes while Ellen wandered about the place calling out for Sam to come and say hello to his daughter. Lucy knew she was out of her depth, so she went over to the phone during one of Ellen's frequent visits to the bathroom and called Lois at the Planet.
Lois arrived about twenty minutes later and Lucy did her best to fill her in on what happened. Lucy noticed that Lois seemed hesitant around Ellen, almost as if she felt uncomfortable dealing with her. Lucy knew Lois had many more dealings with her mother during her drinking years than she had, simply because Lois had been older and everything fell to her to take care of. Lucy used to just shut herself up in her room and pretend that it wasn't happening. After some very awkward moments the Lane daughters were able to trick their mother into taking some Nyquil, which they had snuck into one of her drinks. This had the desired effect of causing her to fall asleep.
"So what do we do now, Lois?" Lucy asked as they headed out the front door toward their cars.
Lois bit her lip. "I'm not sure. Let me talk to Clark about it, see what he has to say." Lois paused for a moment. "I've got to get back to work. I'll see you at home later." Lois looked back toward the apartment. "I'm sure she'll sleep for several hours. We can check again tonight."
Lucy just nodded her acquiescence. The two women got into their respective vehicles and headed off in different directions. Neither had seen the well dressed man leaning against the building opposite Ellen's apartment building. Even if they had been looking they probably wouldn't have seen him since he was careful to stay in the shadows next to the building he had chosen. He pulled a personal recorder out of his coat pocket and thumbed the on switch.
"Memo to self," he spoke in clear measured tones. "Hire a shooter to take care of the Lane daughter."
By the time Lois got back to the Planet, she saw that Clark had returned. He gave her a quizzical look as she came down the ramp. She threw her bag in her drawer and hesitantly approached Clark's desk.
"Um, can I talk to you… in private?"
"Sure, we can go in the conference room." He stood up and let her lead the way into the oft used conference room.
Clark had barely closed the door behind them when Lois launched into her narration. "I was just at moth, -er, Ellen's. Lucy called me. Apparently she was drunk." Lois saw the sad frown on his face as Clark slowly shook his head. "That's not the worst of it. She says she sees Sam wandering around the apartment with her." Lois sat down in frustration. "Clark, I have no idea what I'm supposed to do?"
Clark came over and sat next to her. "Well, I suppose we could try and contact the center where she dried out last time. Talk to whoever was her doctor there. See what he says. I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't recommend a return visit for her." Clark let go with a sigh. "I guess Sam's death affected her more than we thought."
Lois bit her lip, then turned to Clark. "Why didn't I think of that? It's simply normal logic in a situation like that and I couldn't think of it. I just panicked. I was more afraid Lucy would find out about me than I was doing what's right for this poor disturbed woman. What's wrong with me?" The last came out more as cry for help than a statement.
Clark grabbed one of Lois' hands. "There's nothing wrong with you. She is not your mother. You've only met her once, and are only vaguely aware of her past troubles. How should you be expected to react."
Lois snorted. "Well a little common sense wouldn't have hurt." Lois shook her head in denial. "Contrary to the way I've been acting these last several days, I'm really not this stupid." She stared at Clark as if begging him to believe her. "I was an award winning investigative reporter in my own world. I was considered one of the best. I was a confident, independent, career woman competing and winning in a field dominated by men." Lois waved her hand about. "Now look at me. The slightest little difficulty and I fall apart."
Clark gave the hand he was holding a little squeeze. "Don't be so hard on yourself. You've gone through so much, and not just in the last couple weeks, but for the last few years. I'm amazed at how together you actually are." He patted the hand in a fatherly type gesture. "You have to give yourself some time. You have so much to adjust to, and I admit I haven't always been there to help, but I have every confidence that you'll come through this just like you've come through everything else."
Lois let a small smile sneak onto her face. "Thank you, and you've been nothing but kind and generous to me. I don't know how you can stand to have me even around at all."
She reached up and cupped his cheek with her free hand. She felt his jaw muscles tighten as he started to pull away. She snatched her hand back as if it had been stung. Both her hands quickly went to her mouth as she realized what she had just done to him.
"Clark, I'm sorry, I didn't…"
He quickly stood. "Don't worry about it, it was nothing. I'm sorry I overreacted." He gave her a smile that never went past his lips. "Why don't I call Lucy. I imagine she'll be back at the house by now. She and I can find the center and make the proper calls."
"You have a story to pitch to Perry, and you'd better do it soon. The elections are less than a week away." Clark opened the door and stepped through it before Lois had a chance to stand.
Clark and Lois arranged to pick up Lucy after work and all head over to Ellen's together. When they got there, Ellen was still asleep. Actually unconscious would be closer to the truth. Clark easily carried Ellen down to the car while the daughters put together a suitcase for her.
Clark, not wanting to be caught in a situation where he might not be able to break away if needed, suggested that Lois and Lucy take Ellen over and check her into the center. He volunteered to stay behind and clean up the apartment. Over Lucy's protests he assured her that it would be fine. He would catch a cab and most likely be back before they would. The promise of a late dinner waiting for them when they got back silenced any further protests.
It took the Lane daughters longer than they anticipated to get Ellen checked into the Dunsmoor Chemical Dependency Center, or DC squared as it's more commonly referred to. Aside from the normal administrative paper work about insurance and past medical history, which luckily Clark had been able to locate at the apartment, the doctor wanted a complete rundown on Ellen's physical and mental state over the last few days. Lucy hadn't been in town until the funeral, and Lois didn't even meet Ellen until the funeral so they could give the doctor little in the way of information. The best they could do was to relate the incident from that morning and assume that the supposed reconciliation had been going better than anyone thought and so Sam's tragic death hit her harder than one would imagine.
It was late when Lois and Lucy finally made it back to the brownstone, but true to his word Clark had a late supper waiting. Not knowing when they might be back he had settled on a cold pasta salad and some wine. Both women were very grateful for the food and devoured it quickly. There was little conversation at the table beyond a retelling of the agony that was the check in procedure at the center. As the three of them were clearing the table Lois noticed Clark getting 'that look'. He was looking around the room as if searching for some sort of escape route. Before he could speak, Lois broke in.
"Oh, darn!" She had their attention. "I left some important files on the mayoral expose' on my desk. I really needed to look some things over tonight before Perry and I, ah, settled on the focus of the piece."
The corner of Clark's mouth twitched upward gratefully as he grabbed hold of the lifeline Lois had thrown him. "Hey, I need to get some air anyway. I'll run down to the Planet and get them for you Lois."
"Are you sure?" Lois tried to sound like he was doing her a big favor.
"No problem, I'll be back before you know it."
Lucy stared after Clark with an uncomfortable frown on her face as he quickly made his way out the front door. Lucy then turned her questioning visage over toward Lois. Lois shrank back a bit under the unwavering stare, then she shrugged.
"Hey, what can I say. He's just a really nice guy."
Lucy just shook her head, her dark shoulder length locks gently brushing the collar of her top. "Whatever you say, Lois." Lucy forced herself to smile. "Well it's late and I've still got some reading I want to do, so if you don't mind, I will excuse myself and head on up to bed."
"Good night, Luce, I'll see you in the morning."
Lois stared thoughtfully at the space her 'sister' had occupied long after Lucy was gone from the room. She bit her lip as a myriad of conflicting thoughts warred in her mind. It was a good thing Lucy would be gone soon. Lois wasn't sure she could hold out much longer against what was obviously a growing intuition on Lucy's part that something wasn't right with her big sister Lois. With another sigh, she seemed to be doing that a lot lately, Lois turned her attention back to finishing up in the kitchen.
It was about midnight and a tired but not sleepy Lois Lane sat propped up against the head board of the large king sized bed. She felt like she could drown in this bed, which was clearly designed for two. She had an assortment of files scattered about her on the bedspread.
Clark had returned and had actually brought back her files on the story. Just in case, he had told her. He had made a show of making enough noise so that Lucy would hear he was back, since he could tell by the light under her door that she was still up. Once that had been established, he slipped out the bedroom window into the night, not planning to return until morning.
Lois' mind was such a jumble of thoughts and fears that she couldn't fall asleep so she thought that going over her files would help her fall asleep. It didn't. She was just about to give up and turn the light off when she heard a gentle knock on the door. Lois froze.
"Lois, are you guys still up? I saw your light."
Before Lois could shout out not to come in, Lucy pushed the door open and stepped inside quietly, so as not to wake anyone if they were sleeping. Lucy was confronted with Lois sitting up in that big bed with her files strewn all about her… and no Clark.
Lucy blinked a couple times as she frowned. She looked at Lois the question obvious on her face. "Lois, where's Clark?"
If there ever was a real life analogy to the classic 'deer in the headlights' stare Lois had it down just then. Her lips moved up and down a few times but no sound came out. She looked from Lucy, to the bathroom, noticed there was no light on in there, and back to Lucy.
"Ah… he had to go out."
Lucy came over and sat on the edge of the bed. "At midnight? What, does he moonlight as Batman?"
Lois started at Lucy's joke. "No, of course not. He just, ah, had to meet a source." Lois looked away from Lucy's disbelieving frown. "You know, in this business we have to be prepared to follow a potential lead at any moment."
"Uh huh, and why didn't you go with him? I know it's not because you felt you couldn't leave me alone."
"Umm, well it's one of his sources. It's on a story of his. I'm not involved with it."
"I thought you two were partners?"
"Well yeah, we are, but not always on everything. Take this story I'm working on now, I'm the one who…"
Lucy reached over and grabbed Lois' hand as it started to flutter about. She had managed to stop Lois before the babble took over. "Lois, what's wrong? Why isn't Clark here?" Lucy softened her tone a bit. "I know that's there's something wrong, but I can't figure out what."
"Lucy, I tell you there is nothing wrong."
"Lois, I know better. I know you. You've been acting weird these last couple days. And you and Clark together? Well that's one big mystery to me. I don't think he's hardly touched you since I've been here. And I've only seen him give you one sterile peck on the cheek."
"Well, you know, we aren't that demonstrative in public."
"Baloney! Even I know better than that. I haven't been in Antarctica you know. I know that you and Clark have a reputation for acting like a couple love struck teenagers at the drop of hat, and giving no second thought to where you are at the time." Lucy shook her head in disagreement with Lois. "This is not only from what you have told me, but from what I've heard from others also. You've positively embarrassed mother on several occasions, and I have gotten some of the office gossip from Jimmy, in his infrequent letters." Lucy gave Lois a wry grin. "Modesty ain't going to work with me, Sis."
"Honestly, Lucy, I don't know where you…"
"Lois!" Lucy grabbed Lois' other hand as she slid closer. "I find this hard to believe but," Lucy lowered her voice as if to soften her question, "is it another woman?"
Lois was shocked that Lucy could think that of such an unquestionably kind and compassionate man. The sad thing was, Lucy was absolutely right. It was another woman, or more accurately her memory, which kept Clark from acting like a happily married man around Lois. But Lucy couldn't know that, so Lois had to try and deny Lucy's probing question.
"No, of course not, how could you even think such a thing of Clark!"
"Lois, I don't know what to think here. My beautiful big sister and her perfect husband are acting like they barely know each other. The picture perfect marriage seems to be going the way that our parent's marriage did. Clark does his best to avoid you, and you do, do — stuff like wreak your hair." Lucy was becoming more animated. "What, did Clark compliment your hair recently so you decided to cut it off to get back at him? And that color…"
"Lucy!" Lucy's hands were now flailing about so Lois grabbed them. "Listen to yourself, you are getting ridiculous. You are not making sense." Lois sighed. "Can't you just accept that Clark and I are going through some minor problems and let it go at that?"
"If I thought that what I've been seeing is the result of minor problems I'd say sure, and butt out. But I don't see minor problems, I see marriage threatening problems. I see mom and dad starting all over again. Lois, I don't want to have that happen to you. Please can't you tell me what's wrong?"
Lois bit her lip, tears began to leak from her eyes and roll slowly down her cheeks. She knew she had no right to tell Lucy the truth, at least not without talking it over with Clark first. But she ached to tell her. It would be so great to have someone to talk to about all her fears and problems in dealing with this. There was so much she couldn't discuss with Clark, especially since he was part of the problem.
She'd never had a sister she could confide in as she grew up but she'd always fantasized about it. Someone to share her hopes and fears with. Someone she could have talked to about boys when they were in their teen years. Lois had always had to keep all those things to herself. She had never had a real close friend, and her mother was too busy working herself to death to support them to be a friend to her also.
"Lois?" Lucy reached out and touched Lois' arm. "Please let me help."
Lois wiped at her eyes with the back of her hands. She stared at Lucy for several long moments. She could see the genuine concern on the younger woman's face. Again Lois was taken by how little Lucy resembled the image that Clark had drawn for her from his limited contacts. Obviously being on her own these last couple years must have matured Lucy a lot, because the woman who sat next to her was a confident, and caring individual whose real desire to help was evident.
Lois had to take into consideration that telling Lucy the truth, even an edited truth would cause Lucy a great deal of pain. It was obvious that Lucy loved her big sister, and knowing the truth would devastate her. Then again, didn't Lucy deserve to know the truth? Lois was torn.
After several more minutes of soul searching and being on the receiving end of Lucy's sympathetic stares, Lois allowed her own selfish needs to override what she intellectually knew was prudent. "Lucy?" Lucy looked up expectantly as Lois had to swallow before she could continue. "I'm not sure how to say this, but — I'm not your sister Lois."
Lois had to give Lucy credit. She didn't back away, nor did she launch into some mocking tirade. She merely stared at Lois for a long time, not saying anything. She absentmindedly tucked several strands of silky hair behind her ear but still didn't speak. Lois could see the different emotions play across her face. Disbelief, fear, confusion, all the different responses that she might have took their turn, but she waited until she had thought about what Lois had said before she answered.
"So where is Lois? Who are you? Are you one of those clones?" Lucy words were slow and deliberate, like talking to someone you didn't want to upset.
Lois allowed herself a tiny smile. "No, I'm not a clone." Lois took a deep breath. "Actually I am Lois Lane, but I never had a sister. The Lucy Lane I knew was my cousin. I'm from a parallel dimension. A place where many of the people and places have duplicates in this dimension." Lois could see that Lucy wasn't buying into this.
"You're talking the sci fi stuff right. We all have doubles in an infinite number of parallel dimensions, each just slightly different from each other." The sarcasm began to creep into Lucy's voice. "Here we elect an actor, Ronald Reagan, president a few years ago and you elect…"
Lucy rolled her eyes toward the ceiling. "Elvis, yeah right." Lucy shook her head. "Lois I'm a little too old for bedtime stories."
Lois began to get a little annoyed at Lucy's natural skepticism. "You are apparently aware that your sister was replaced by a clone at her wedding and that there is an alien who flies around in tights continually doing good deeds. So what is so hard about believing in another dimension?"
Lucy fixed Lois with a calculating stare. "For the sake of argument, let's say what you are telling me is true. Why are you here? Is my sister over in your dimension pretending to be you?"
"What do you mean, not exactly?"
Lois bit her lip some more. It was one nervous habit that had been getting quite a work out lately. "It's a long complicated story."
Lucy pulled her feet up on the bed and sat cross legged in front of Lois. "I've got all night."
Lois tried to think of how she could tell this story. Lucy evidently didn't know Clark was Superman. That meant that she wouldn't have knowledge of H.G. Wells and his meddling in the lives of Lois and Clark. She had to be careful how she told this story so as not to jeopardize Clark's secret. Lois took a couple deep breaths and began.
"You are familiar with the invasion from the New Kryptonians a while back aren't you?" At Lucy's nod she continued. "Well a few weeks ago they appeared on my world. They weren't at all like what I understand they were here. The band that invaded my world were already under the command of Lord Nor and were nothing more than super powered thugs." Lois could see that Lucy was being drawn in despite herself.
"My world was in desperate straights so, er — a friend came and asked Superman to come and help. He'd dealt with the New Kryptonians on this world so his extra knowledge would come in handy, as well as his powers. This friend had a means of traveling between the dimensions so Superman and Lois came over to my world to help."
"Wait a minute!" Lucy stopped Lois' story. "Why was Lois there?"
"Apparently she insisted on coming along." Lois let out before she realized what she'd said.
"I know Lois is crazy about getting a story, but I don't see this as anything that she could print and be believed?" Lucy frowned. "And where was Clark? I have a hard time imagining him allowing this to happen."
"Well, uh, Clark went along too."
Lucy interrupted again. "Wasn't there a Superman in your world?"
"Yes, but he didn't have the experience, and anyway he was soon killed, and… wait I'm getting ahead of myself." Lois was getting flustered.
"Before you go any further," Lucy's hand was now on Lois'. "Tell me, if you are here, where is my sister?"
Tears began to roll down Lois' cheeks again. She stared at the ceiling for a few moments gathering her courage. Then she looked Lucy in the eye. "I'm so sorry, but your sister was killed."
Still not totally buying into this story, Lucy bit down hard on her lip so she wouldn't cry out. With great effort she made her face an emotionless mask as she studied the tears that poured from the eyes of the red-headed impostor sitting in her sister's bed. "I think you'd better tell me the whole story."
So Lois proceeded to tell Lucy about the whole ugly affair. It took most of the rest of the night to get through. She had to leave some parts out. Parts that would give away Clark's secret. And the only answer she kept giving when Lucy asked her were Clark was, was that she either didn't know or he was with Superman. It was slow going, but Lucy didn't interrupt much. When she finally reached the place where Lois had been killed by the Kryptonian thug Lucy broke down. Lois cradled the sobbing younger woman's head against her chest as she continued on, telling her the rest of the story.
Lois was still holding Lucy, who now was reduced to sniffles and wiping at the dried tear tracks that itched, with the back of her hand, when Clark flew into the bedroom window. He was trying so hard not so see Lois lying in his bed when he flew in he didn't notice the fact that Lucy was also there. He had spun into his Clark Kent shorts and T shirt before he realized that Lois wasn't alone in the bed.
Lucy's eyes were wide in shock as she pulled away from Lois, one hand over her mouth, the other pointing toward Clark. Clark was still not aware of the unfolding tableau, instead he was concentrating on his closet and what he was going to wear to the office.
"You, you're him!" Lucy's voice cracked as she tried to put into words the astounding revelation she'd just witnessed.
At the sound of her voice Clark whirled to finally confront the scene being played out in his bedroom. His jaw dropped in surprise as he saw Lucy sitting up on the edge of the bed, her shock clearly written on her face for all to see. Clark shot a quick glance at Lois, who was wringing her hands in front of her, then back to focus on Lucy.
He had always thought that the day might come when he would have to share the secret with Lois' sister, but this was definitely not the way he had envisioned it. Given the circumstances of the recent past, he hadn't thought that it would now ever become necessary for anyone in Lois' family to ever find out. Yet here he was, confronted with that exact situation, due to his own carelessness and unwillingness to accept this other world Lois sharing his bedroom.
"Oh course, it makes sense now!" Hot tears flowed freely down Lucy's face again. "Clark would never have let Lois go into danger with Superman, even if he went along, unless… unless he *was* Superman." Lucy shook her head violently. "And now she's dead!" Her tears seemed to flame with a blistering anger as she jumped up and began to beat on Clark's chest. "You let her die! Where were you? Why did you let her die!" Her accusations became a moaning mantra as she continued to beat on Clark's chest with her fists.
Clark grabbed her wrists and held them away from him. "Lucy! Stop it, you'll only hurt yourself."
Lucy froze in place for a few seconds. Her eyes cleared momentarily and she stared into Clark's eyes as if seeing him for the first time. She looked toward Lois and then to Clark, and back again. "This is just sick!" She screamed. "How could you!"
Then the water works began again as she pulled her hands away from his and ran out of the room. Both Clark and Lois could hear the door to the guest room slam shut and the too audible sobbing of the grieving sister.
Lois got up and placed her hand on Clark's arm. "Oh, Clark, I'm so sorry."
Clark started when he felt her hand touch his arm. He looked at her but it seemed to take a second for his eyes to focus on her. "What happened?"
Lois turned away and chewed on her lip while she tried to order her thoughts. "Lucy knows that I'm not her sister." Lois waited for Clark to say something but when he didn't she plunged ahead. "She could tell that *things* weren't normal between us. I guess her and Lois were close, and used to share, so she knew that the marriage she was seeing was not the one she had been told about." Lois sat back down on the edge of the bed and sighed. "She came in late last night and found that you were gone. It seemed to just reinforce everything she had been thinking. I tried to give her some excuse about meeting a source but in the face of everything else, she just didn't buy it." Tears began to roll down Lois' cheeks. "Oh, Clark, I tried but she just knew Lois too well, and she could tell that I was lying to her. She was thinking that you were being unfaithful. I just couldn't let her think that. She kept pleading for me to let her help. I didn't know what to do."
Clark so wanted to sit down next to her and hold her, tell that everything would be okay, but he didn't trust himself. He knew that it would be so easy to allow himself to forget that this was a different woman and let the now buried feelings come forth. That would be bad for both of them. It would be cruel to pretend that there could ever be more than a careful friendship between them. He had to fight the ghost echoes of feelings that died with his wife. Sighing himself, Clark sat on the corner of the bed and held one of her hands. He reached back and pulled a tissue from the box on the night stand and handed it to her.
"Here, I'm sure it was tough. I don't blame you for telling her."
Lois sniffled, and then blew her nose on the offered tissue. "Yeah, but I was weak. Clark, sometimes I feel so alone here. It will take time for me to think of many of these 'friends' I have as real friends. And still I have to always be on guard, so that I don't say the wrong thing. I can't really be myself with any of them. The thought of having a sister, one who I could really confide in, someone who I could be me with, I guess the temptation was just too much. I knew this would be tough on her at first, but I truly hoped that she would be able to let me in, as a friend, and that given time, I could fill a small part of what she lost when she lost her own sister." Lois' eyes pleaded with Clark. "Was that so wrong?"
Clark stared at his hands for a few moments. He shook his head a couple times then stood up. "No, I don't think it was so wrong, though I'm not the one who has to answer that question." Clark pulled his glasses down and used his x-ray vision to check on Lucy. "I think I'd better have a talk with Lucy. She needs to know the whole truth." Clark quietly left the master suite, closing the door behind him.
Lucy slammed the door behind her as she threw herself onto the bed and quickly cried herself into hiccups. Her mind was a whirl with conflicting thoughts and emotions, all fighting for supremacy in her brain. Clark was Superman! That thought alone should've been enough to knock her over, but the added implications of that, and the role he played in the death of her sister were even more staggering.
He had to have known the kind of danger they were heading into, how could he have let this thing happen? And then there was this other Lois, who just happened to come back and had decided to slip into her sister's life. At first Lucy had been too horrified by her story to really think about it, but the more she thought about it the more it seemed sort of sick and perverted. Superman loses his number one groupie so he replaces her with a handy look alike? Lucy tried to push that thought away. She would never have thought such a thing from Clark, at least not from the way Lois had continually described him to her. But what else was she to think?
Suddenly a knock at the door interrupted her mental ramblings. She didn't really feel up to talking with anyone, but she was pragmatic enough too know that this confrontation was inevitable. She might as well get in over with sooner than later, it's not like she was going to feel any better soon.
"Come in." Lucy swallowed back a couple of sobs before they could escape and wiped at her tears with the corner of the bedspread.
Clark entered. "Lucy, I think we need to talk."
Lucy stared at her brother-in-law. "You think so?" He looked like the Clark she had just talked to yesterday morning at breakfast, but the knowledge that he was also Superman kept pushing it's way to the forefront of her consciousness. "Just answer me one question — *Superman*, why did you let my sister die?" Lucy could see the pain etched on his face at the mention of Lois' death. She was glad that she had been able to cause him pain.
"Lucy, you have to believe me. I thought she was safe." He dragged his hand through his hair and had trouble meeting Lucy's eyes. "Only a very few people knew where she and the other Lois were." He waved a weak gesture back toward the master bedroom. "We were betrayed — by someone we trusted. That betrayal cost Lois, and that world's Perry White their lives."
Lucy knew from the story that the other Lois had told her that Perry White, who was the mayor of that Metropolis had been executed by the vile Lord Nor. Lucy had been shocked that Jimmy's counter part, a young mogul who had made his money in computer systems and software, and the owner of the Daily Planet, James Olsen, had been the one to betray the little band of rebels.
"I know all that," she said with a chilly edge to her voice. "What I don't know is why was she there? You had to know how dangerous this little escapade of yours would be. Why did you let her go along?"
Clark sighed as he stared at the floor. There it was. The one question he'd been asking himself over and over again. And just because he knew the answer didn't make the question any easier.
"Lucy, you have to understand that Lois had a history with that world's Superman. She was responsible for him becoming Superman, and she was his friend." Clark saw the look of confusion of Lucy's face. "It would take too long to explain it now. Just suffice it to say, that no matter how much I wanted her to stay behind, she would have no part of it. She was coming and that was that."
"But you're Superman! Surely you can stand up to one petite woman."
Clark cocked an eyebrow at Lucy and she squirmed under the gaze. She studied the pattern on the carpet so as not to have to look into his eyes. The thing was she knew he was right. If Lois had gotten it into her mind that she was going to do something, nothing or no one was going to keep her from doing it. Whether it be extreme danger or even a Superman, Lois Lane followed her own agenda.
Lucy shook her head back and forth as tears began to fall again. "I don't understand? My sister is killed, so you bring a replacement back with you?" She raised her tear stained face up so that she was looking at Clark eye to eye. "I thought you loved my sister?"
Clark was stunned by Lucy's implication. That she could even think something like that tore at Clark's very being. Clark came over and sat next to Lucy on the bed. He reached over and grabbed one of her hands and gave it a little squeeze. When he spoke his voice was soft but with a hint of steel in it.
"Lucy, I know you loved your sister. Lois had told me how close you two were while you were growing up. I know that this has been a terrible shock to you and you're hurting very badly." Clark set her hand back on her lap. "I'm not here to compare levels of grief and loss with you, but I need you to hear me, and understand what I'm saying. Lois was not just my lover and my wife. She was a part of me. When I first saw her I knew then what it was I had been missing in my life up until then. She completed me in a way that I can't begin to explain." Tears began to run down Clark's cheeks now also. "I lost that part of me that day. *The* most important part, and now I have to go on day after miserable day with this huge empty hole where my soul used to be."
Lucy's pain made her want to scream back at Clark. Was he trying to say that his loss was greater than hers? No, she knew he didn't mean that, but he couldn't know how she felt. He didn't know what it was like to lose someone as close as a sister? Yet, just one look at his face and Lucy knew, he did know. And right then she finally realized what it was Lois had been trying to tell her all those times they talked these past months. The love that Lois and Clark had for each other was something that was beyond her understanding, something that, until it happened to her, she could only try to imagine. And she suddenly found herself shedding more tears, but this time they were for Clark.
Clark saw Lucy begin to cry again so he put his arm around her and pulled her in close. He just held her for several minutes while she cried herself out.
After a time Lucy was able to pull herself together. She wiped her eyes with the palms of her hands. She felt bad that she had ever doubted Clark, but she still had to know what that other woman was doing here, pretending to be her sister.
"Clark, I'm sorry if I doubted you… " Lucy hesitated.
"But?" Clark gave her a slight sardonic smile.
"Well, she seems really nice and all that, but," Lucy waved her arm back in the direction of the other room, "what is she doing here?"
Clark bit his lip, then reached over and took both of Lucy's hands in his. "I don't think you realize what that woman has gone through lately." Clark shook his head trying to collect his thoughts. "Lucy, do you remember a few years back, when Lois went to the Congo following up on that gun running story?" Clark waited until she nodded. "Well your sister never found that lead she needed and came back without a story. But that woman in the other room found the gun runners, or I should say they found her."
Clark proceeded to tell Lucy the story of the Lois Lane from the other dimension. How she had spent years in a dirty African prison cell, how she was finally rescued by her world's Superman only to be immediately thrust into the horror that was the invasion by the New Kryptonians. Clark painted the picture of a woman who had nearly lost hope, then to cruelly have it restored only to lose everything she had ever known and everything she might have ever had.
Lucy pursed her lips in thought. "I can see she's had to endure a lot, but why bring her back here?"
"To save her life." Clark saw Lucy's questioning gaze. "Lucy, think about it. We were Lord Nor's prisoners, I had to agree to exile or Nor was going to kill thousands of innocents, including Lois. Perry had been killed, she was alone. The Daily Planet was in the hands of a traitor. What was left for her?"
Lucy shrugged. "To fight for her world?"
Clark shook his head. "That's a nice sentiment, but remember we were Nor's prisoners. How long do you think Lois would have lived once I had left?"
Lucy frowned. "I guess," Lucy freed her hands from Clark's, "but why did she have to come here and pretend to be Lois?"
Clark sighed. "Luce, she may not be your sister, but she is Lois Lane." A small smile turned the corner of Clark's mouth. "And she could really use a friend?"
Lucy reached up and stroked Clark's cheek in an all too familiar gesture. "Clark, I'm leaving today to head back to school." She saw Clark's disappointment. She shook her head. What was it about this guy? There was just no way you could look into those eyes and say no. "Tell you what I'll do. I have to go back and take care of a few things, our semester break is in another week. I'll come back for a visit then." She gave him a crooked smile. "That is if you can figure a way that I could save some money on some air fare?"
For the first time in weeks, Clark's smile was genuine. "Deal," was all he said.
Breakfast was a little more animated than the day before. The early morning's revelations and subsequent discussions were still raw wounds with everyone, but all were making concerted efforts to shield those feelings from each other. Lois and Lucy were conversing about simple things. Lucy had found that Lois' taste in clothes was much closer to her's than her sister's had been. So the rest of the meal was spent with Lucy telling Lois all the best places to shop.
Clark rinsed his plate off and set it in the sink. "Well I'm off to work. Lois, I'll tell Perry, you have to take Lucy to the airport and that you'll be in later."
Lois put her coffee cup down. "Don't forget that I have an interview with candidate Tompkins at eleven thirty so it won't be till after lunch."
"Okay, bye, see ya Lucy," Clark gave Lucy a wink. "Don't forget to give us a call once you have your schedule worked out."
"I will, bye Clark."
The two women busied themselves with clearing off the table and doing up the morning dishes. After which, Lucy went up and swiftly repacked her bag and brought it down to the living room. Lois had her briefcase in one hand and the jeep keys in the other.
Lucy stopped before they headed for the door and took a look around again. She laughed. "You know it's going to be sort of hard to get used to the idea, that my brother-in-law is Superman, but then my sister never did settle for anything less than the best."
Lois joined her in her laugh. "Tell me about it. Until three weeks ago, I didn't even know a Superman existed."
The two 'sisters' marched out the front door together and made there way down the front steps. Unfortunately no one had remembered to bring in the paper that morning, and with her suitcase in her hand blocking her vision, Lucy stepped on the paper. The plastic wrapped Planet slipped out from under Lucy's foot which caused her to stumble sideways right into Lois. Lucy struck Lois with enough force to cause Lois to also lose her balance and begin to tumble to the side and down.
Just at that moment the crack of a rifle shot ripped through the mid-morning stillness.
Both ladies tumbled headlong down the last couple stairs to land hard on the sidewalk. Lois groaned as she got to her knees. She ached but she apparently wasn't hurt. She'd heard the gunshot and so she immediately looked about for any sign of a shooter. Everything seemed so serene and normal that she began to believe she hadn't really heard anything.
She noticed Lucy was still sprawled on the sidewalk. "Lucy, you all right?" Lois shook her gently. She felt a stickiness on her fingers when she touched Lucy. She pulled her hand away and looked at it. "Oh, my god." Lois began to look about her in near panic. "Help! Help somebody." She calmed herself for a second. "Help, Cla- Superman! Help Superman!"
In less than thirty seconds Superman came swooping onto the scene. He dropped down beside the two women.
"Lois, what is it? What's wrong?"
"Oh, Clark, it's Lucy, she's been shot!"
Lois paced around the low table, that held the out of date magazines, in the hospital waiting room. Superman had rushed Lucy to Metropolis General and had handed her over to the emergency room doctors. He had then gone back for Lois. Dropping her off, he'd spoken to her as Superman in a voice that others nearby would be sure to overhear. He'd told her that he would go over to the Daily Planet, find her husband and tell him what had happened, and bring him here. Lois had nodded dumbly and watched as he took off. True to his word, Clark had arrived a few minutes later.
Lois continued to annoy the other people in the waiting room with her pacing while Clark was over at administration taking care of Lucy's admittance details. Lois hadn't heard anything yet from any doctor or hospital employee and her concern for Lucy's condition warred with her shock that someone had taken a shot at her. If Lucy hadn't stumbled when she did, knock into Lois, and subsequently get in the way of the bullet, Lois might very well be dead right now. Not knowing how Lucy was continued to be nerve wracking.
Not that being shot at was all that unfamiliar to Lois. On more than one occasion she'd had to duck bullets meant to discourage her from pursuing a hot lead on a big story, but Lois was at a loss for the reason behind this attempt. The Tompkins thing wasn't potentially big enough to kill her over was it? Besides, she'd hadn't even had a chance to interview Maggie Tompkins yet, so how could she even suspect that Lois was on to her? None of this added up. Something in the back of her head was nagging at her, telling her that she was not only missing some critical piece, but that she probably had the wrong puzzle.
Lois' ruminations were interrupted by someone behind her clearing their throat. She turned and was confronted with a tall, slender man. He was sharply dressed in a gray blazer, with matching gray slacks. His white shirt was neatly pressed and his simple blue and white tie spoke of conservative tastes, or someone official. His dark hair was slicked back which probably just revealed more of the strands of gray which were becoming quite numerous. His lips were pursed in a tight line, and he had a sympathetic look on his face.
"I'm sorry to hear about your sister, Lois." The man spoke in even tones but his words were sincere. "I came as soon as the report came across my desk."
Lois was lost. "Can I help you with something?"
"Inspector Henderson — Bill, what brings you out here?" Clark had come hurrying into the waiting room once he saw the police inspector standing there talking to Lois.
"Hi, Clark. I was just telling Lois that I came over once I saw the shooting report. Thought I'd look into this myself and was just about to ask Lois what happened," he favored Lois with a cocked eyebrow, "but she was being her normal helpful self."
Clark let go a nervous laugh. "Oh, well, you know Lois. She's just upset and distracted by this. Her younger sister just got shot, probably hit accidentally."
"So you think the bullet was meant for Lois?"
Clark shrugged. "I'd say that's more likely than it being for Lucy."
"Yeah, that's what I think too." Henderson turned to Lois, who had been following the conversation quite closely. "So, Lois, you want to tell me what happened?"
It hit Lois in a rush. This Bill Henderson was a local policeman, who having seen the shooting report came to see them at the hospital. Lois shot Clark a look that imparted her displeasure over not having been filled in about this particular police inspector, who apparently knew Lois and Clark quite well.
"Inspector," Lois noticed his frown, "Bill, how did you hear about the shooting. Neither Clark nor I have had the chance to report it yet?"
"Your neighbor phoned it in, said she heard the shot, saw you and Lucy fall, and Superman arrived shortly after your shouts for him." Henderson gave her a rueful smile. "Nice to have big blue at your beck and call."
Lois gave Henderson a scowl. "You know Superman would come to help anyone who called out." Lois actually allowed her self a slight smile. "Though it doesn't hurt to have a husband who is his best friend."
Henderson shook his head. "From what I heard, you and the big guy at one time were not exactly strangers either."
Henderson laughed at Lois indignant blush. Lois was quite aware of the past history of Lois and Superman, not only from Lois herself, but the public's perception from some of the stories she read by other reporters regarding Superman. There had even been a scandal that Lois and Superman had shared a romantic tryst not long after Lois and Clark had been married.
"Okay Lois, why don't you tell me what happened and any ideas you might have as to why."
Lois proceeded to tell Inspector Henderson all about her morning with Lucy, and how she had slipped causing them to fall at the same time as the shot was fired. Henderson frowned as she explained about the candidate Tompkins influence peddling story she was working on.
"How come you haven't brought this to the attention of the police, Lois?"
Clark jumped in to defend his 'wife'. "Come on, Bill. You know how it works. We don't have enough to print yet. We still need to corroborate some facts, and Lois was scheduled to talk to Tompkins today, then this happened." Clark put his hand on Henderson's shoulder. "You know once we know we've got something solid that we can print, that you'll be informed. Have we ever held back on you before?"
Henderson looked from Clark to Lois and back to Clark. "Well, I don't think you have, but I can't vouch for your wife." At Clark's stern look Henderson gave in. "Okay, okay, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt here." He turned his attention back to Lois. "So, Lois, is this story big enough to kill you for."
Lois shook her head. "I wouldn't think so. At most Tompkins would get, what, five to seven with early parole for good behavior. The money was substantial but not ridiculous." Lois shrugged. "Unless there is more to this than I'm aware of."
Clark, Lois, and Henderson spent the next hour going over what they did and what they didn't know about her story, and any relevance it might have to the shooting. The conversation eventually wound down to more mundane pleasantries and Lois realized that this police inspector did indeed have a relationship with Lois and Clark. It seemed that they had a reputation for playing it fairly straight with the inspector and he respected their work and it's consistent accuracy. Henderson even took a playful shot at Lois' colorful hairstyle. Her only answer was to scowl at him, to which he laughed. He quickly regained his serious demeanor as he got up from one of the chairs the trio had taken. Clark and Lois stood also.
"Okay," Henderson put away his note pad which he'd used to jot down notes while Lois had been talking. "I want you to be careful, who ever took that shot at you is still out there and once he finds out he missed, he might be back."
Before Lois could come back with a rejoinder the trio was interrupted by the arrival of a white coated young man. He looked tired but not despondent. Lois reached for Clark's hand. She missed but was grateful for him reaching over and grasping hers.
"Mr. and Mrs. Kent?" The young doctor asked.
Lois just nodded as Clark answered for them. "Yes, how is she doctor?"
He took a moment to gather himself then launched into his spiel. "Okay, the surgery went fine. The bullet passed through her lower left shoulder area. It did quite a bit of damage to the muscle tissue there, but we are confident, with enough rest and then proper rehab, she should be good as new there."
"But?" Lois interjected.
"We want to keep her for a few days, there is a possibility that her lung was nicked. We need to run a few tests, and watch her just to make sure."
Clark asked the question Lois couldn't. "And if it is?"
The doctor gave a slight twitch of the shoulders, not exactly a shrug. "We'll have to go back in and repair it." He reached over and placed his hand on Lois' shoulder. "Your sister has been hurt pretty bad, but she is a lucky woman. With time she will recover and be fine. A few inches to the right and it could have hit her heart and we wouldn't be talking about running a few more tests." He shook hands with Clark and Lois. "Lucy is being taken to recovery now but she is still under sedation. I suggest you two go home and get some rest. We'll have her in a room by tomorrow morning, and you can come visit her then."
"Can't we just see her for a minute now?" Lois pleaded.
The doctor shook his head. "No, she won't even be awake till morning. Go home, get some rest. Come back tomorrow. She'll still be here, I promise." The doctor smiled. "I have to go. Give your number to the front desk, they will contact you if there is any change at all." He gave them another smile and turned to go.
Henderson recaptured Clark's attention. "Well if what the doctor says it right, there has to be a slug out in front of your place. I've got men over there now checking out things. I need to get to a phone." Henderson turned to leave. He stopped and turned back to Lois. "Do you want me to send over some police protection?"
Lois shook her head. "No, that won't be necessary. Clark won't let anything happen to me." She glanced at him, her own face showing just a hint of a question. "Will you?"
Clark smiled at her. "No, Lois, I won't."
Back at the townhouse of Hyperion, Clark was pacing like a caged tiger while Lois fretted over in the side chair. Clark was upset over Lucy getting shot. He hated it when innocents got caught in the line of fire. It's one thing for a person to put there selves on the line purposely in pursuit of something. Whether it be to save lives, or in the line of duty, or even in the pursuit of a story, that's a conscious decision a person has to make. But let a complete innocent get hurt because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, it was one of the few things that threatened Clark's careful control over his emotions. Clark never had a temper like many other people did. He had learned early on, given his power, that he had to guard against any emotional outburst that would threaten his control over himself. But there were a few things that pushed his buttons, and threatened his vaunted 'ethics'. Lois had always been one, and the callous disregard for the innocent was another.
He turned and looked to Lois, she seemed deep in thought. "You're sure it's not related to this Tompkins thing." His words came out harsher than he intended.
Lois jerked her head up. "I don't know. It wouldn't make sense. Maggie Tompkins shouldn't even have a reason to suspect anyone is on to her yet." Lois' words were also more pointed than she intended. Her eyes were still red from allowing herself to breakdown on the way home. "This just isn't that big a deal to kill over."
Lois was starting to get annoyed. "No, I'm not sure. I already told you that. It's just my belief that the story doesn't warrant this action, especially not yet." Lois waved her hand about as if wiping out the last few thoughts. "Could it be something you and she were working on before? Do you have any enemies that would be willing to kill Lois?"
Clark gave her an expression of disbelief. "You are kidding, right. Do you know how many people have a grudge against Lane and Kent?" He threw up his hands. "Of course you do, you've done the research. The number of people who'd love to take potshots at Lois, or me, or both, would form a line that would wrap around this block!"
Lois stood, her hands clenched at her sides. "Well don't yell at me, I was just asking!" She stormed over and threw herself onto the couch.
Clark took a deep breath and tried to calm down. He snuck a quick glance at Lois. She was fighting back tears. Whether they were tears of frustration, or tears of hurt, he couldn't be sure. He knew his anger was misdirected. He couldn't help it, he just felt so powerless, just like he did back when Nor had secured his surrender. People were being threatened and people were being hurt, and he wasn't able to do a thing about it. What was wrong with him! He was the most powerful being on the planet and he was unable to protect those that he… He left that thought unfinished. He wanted to slam his fist into the wall, but there was still enough of a rational mind left to tell him that it wouldn't be a good idea.
"You know," Lois' voice dragged Clark out of his internal recriminations, "something about this whole thing doesn't add up." Lois saw Clark give her a questioning look. "Well, I've just never been a big believer in coincidences. At least not when they line up all in a neat little row."
"I don't know what you mean?"
Lois shrugged. "Why all this tragedy coming down on the Lane family all of a sudden? Sam is killed in a bizarre auto accident, Ellen starts drinking herself into oblivion again after several years sober, and now Lucy is shot. Can I even be sure that I was the target? And if I was, I'm still in the Lane family. Could this be a vendetta against them?"
"Lois, I think you are reaching here. Sometimes things just happen."
"Yeah, maybe, but I've got this itch at the back of my brain that says there is more here than meets the eye."
"Come on, Lois, sometimes a coincidence is just a coincidence. Why do you always have to see conspiracies and intrigue in everything."
Lois' eyes flashed. "How would you know what I always see?" Tears began to slid down Lois' cheeks again. "You haven't been around enough to have any idea who or what the hell I am!"
Clark's own eyes darkened. "Look, Lois, all I meant was…" He was interrupted by a sharp rap at the front door.
Clark yanked the door open and was greeted by the sight of a dapper gentleman dressed in turn of the century garments.
"Mr. Wells!" Clark was surprised to see the elderly writer at his front door.
"Yes, good day to you Mr. Kent. I thought I'd pop over and share some information with you and Miss Lane." H.G. Wells stepped inside the door as Clark stepped aside and took in the scene before him. Clark's lips were compressed in a tight straight line and he seemed hesitant to look Wells in the eye. Lois was sitting on the couch her face still puffy and red as she wiped at her eyes and cheeks with her hands. "Oh dear, have I perhaps come at a bad time."
Clark remained silent but Lois jumped up from her seat. "No, no, Mr. Wells, please come in." She grabbed his hand and led him over to the couch and had him sit next to her. "Please tell us why you came."
"Well," he looked at Lois, then over to the frowning Clark Kent, then back to Lois. "Ah, right, okay then — I just got back from visiting the future of your former world, Miss Lane, and I thought you two would like to know how things have gone there."
"You what!" Clark's face darkened menacingly, but he was forestalled from further comment by Wells' upraised hands.
"Now Mr. Kent, I want you to know that I did nothing to violate our vow of non-interference." Wells took off his bowler hat and set it on the coffee table. "I merely went many years into the future of that world and viewed the history tapes from the period we recently were forced to leave." He watched Clark move over to a chair and sit down. Wells then turned to Lois, "and a wonderful future it was too, a virtual Utopia."
Lois looked confused, Clark stared at Wells. "How can that be? My failure — our failures, caused us to abandon that world to a gang of super powered criminals. That world was nearly on it's knees when they forced me to surrender and leave the people there defenseless."
"Quite right my boy." Wells stood and faced his audience like a lecturer at an auditorium. "But it seems that you didn't leave them quite as defenseless as you thought." Clark was frowning again. "Of course, there was a war of sorts. People will always rebel against tyrants. It started with a dedicated underground resistance. A band of world patriots as it were. They carried on a desperate guerrilla war for several months and despite the extraordinary powers wielded by the enemy they couldn't be crushed because they had two essential things." Wells' love of the dramatic began to creep into his monologue. "They had a strong charismatic leader, Jason Trask, and a weapon, kryptonite!"
Lois' head snapped over to face Clark. "Did you?" She could barely see his head move as he nodded. Lois hadn't known about kryptonite before she'd come to this world but upon researching some of Lane and Kent's past stories and Clark filling her in on some of the details that the stories left out she'd become aware of it's existence. And it's effect on Kryptonians.
"Yes, well, as I was saying," Wells quickly tried to reestablish control over his audience. "They had a weapon and in time they were able to overcome their would be conquerors." Wells began to pace as he continued to spin his tale. "The battles early on understandably went in favor of the super powered villains, but little by little the resistance force was able to gain small victories and gain the time they needed to formulate their ultimate victory." Wells took a breath not the least of which was to create a dramatic pause. "The details were somewhat propagandized in the tapes, but from what I gathered, the conflict turned based on two significant events. The first was the defection of two Kryptonian teenagers. A young woman named Zara, and a young man called Den-El." A smile twitched the corner of Wells' mouth as he noted Clark's reaction. "Yes, apparently a distant cousin or something of that world's Clark, and the death of his cousin must have caused him to rethink his loyalties. The addition of two super powered allies helped the resistance survive long enough for the final solution to be found."
Lois was shaking her head in confusion. "Mr. Wells, if two experienced Supermen couldn't counter the actions of the New Kryptonians how could two young, inexperienced kids do much good."
Wells smiled and nodded like he was pleased with the answer from a particularly bright student. "That was the genius of Trask, he learned from the past. Being still out manned in the super power department he used his young kryptonians as scouts, and look outs. He used them to facilitate rapid mobility and concealment." Wells began to pace again. "So while the use of the super powered youth was essential for the extended survival of the hearty band of fighters, it was the work of one brilliant man that is truly credited with the victory over the New Kryptonians." Wells saw that he had his audience's rapt attention. "It was the work of a Dr. Bernard Klein that turned the tide. His initial discovery of a way to Kryptonite gave the resistance an ample supply of a substance that could defeat their enemy. It was his later creations, a kryptonite gas, and some type of biological agent that affected only the kryptonians that are credited with finally bringing about a resolution to the problem of the New Kryptonians and their tyrannical rule." Wells stood up straight, almost like an actor waiting for his applause.
Lois shook her head and took a couple deep breaths of her own. "So, my world will be all right? It will eventually be a Utopia, I think you called it?"
"Yes, Miss Lane." Wells came over and patted Lois' hand. "But unfortunately your world has some tough times to go through yet before they get to that point, but you can take comfort in knowing that it eventually will."
Lois smiled sadly. "I'm glad."
"Something else I found out in my research might interest you two." Wells regained his lecturer mode. "It seems like that particular Utopia was founded on the examples set by two families and their super powered descendants. Zara fell in love with and eventually married Jason Trask. I guess she had quite a career as Superwoman." Wells turned to look toward Clark before he refocused his attention on Lois. "And Den-El took up his cousin's mantle as Superman. He later married a fellow resistance fighter that he'd fallen for during the conflict." Wells smiled at Lois. "I think her name was Lucy Lane."
Clark looked over at Lois in confusion. "I thought you said…"
"She was *my* cousin." Lois slowly shook her head trying to comprehend all that Wells had told them.
Clark nodded to himself. It seemed that even after his failures in that other dimension, some cosmic forces still conspired to put a Lane and an El together. It seems that Utopia was less fragile than he'd originally thought, but that did bring to mind another question. Clark got up and put his hand on Wells' shoulder. Wells turned his attention to Clark.
"I'm glad that her world got to have their future, their Utopia." Clark's face was a cold mask. "But what about this world? Where's the future for this world stand now?"
Wells quickly slipped out from under Clark's grasp. "Yes, well, that is a question now isn't it?" He scurried toward the door. "Oh dear me, look at the time. I'm sure you and Miss Lane have a busy day tomorrow and must get your rest, so I'll bid you both adieu." Before either Clark or Lois could say or do anything else, the dapper little English gentleman had slipped out the door and was gone.
Lois reached over and touched Clark on the arm. He jerked around to face her. "Clark, what did you mean by asking about the future of this world?"
Clark pulled away and stared at the far wall. Lois walked around him until she faced him again. "Clark?"
He frowned. "It's just something Wells told Lois and I once. I don't know if I ever really believed it." Clark stopped, sighed, and took a deep breath before he could continue. "According to Wells, the future is some sort of Utopian society founded by the descendants of Superman and Lois Lane." Clark lowered his head so that he was looking into her eyes. "But, my Lois Lane has died, so there is no chance for any descendants now."
Lois was dumbstruck. She just stared at Clark, not being able to think of anything to say. Clark began to head up the stairs.
"We still don't know about that assassin, so I'll stay here until we catch him, or find out what's going on." He was nearly at the top of the stairs. "I'll stay in the guest room tonight."
He was gone from her sight as his last words drifted down the stairs. Lois was left standing in the middle of the living room staring at the empty stairs. Shaking her head slowly, she made her own way up to the second story bedrooms.
Clark lay back in the bed that occupied one corner of the guest room. He hadn't bothered to take off his clothes, nor had he bothered to initially turn on the light to do so. He just stared blankly into the darkness. He wasn't sure how long he had lain there but it had to have been a couple hours at least.
He had heard Lois go on up to bed shortly after he had. It tore at his heart when he heard her weeping. He wasn't sure if she was crying because of what happened to Lucy, or the frustration of the whole situation, or something else entirely. His body treacherously wanted to go to her and comfort her, but he couldn't let it. He steeled himself against the effect of her gentle sobbing. Finally he heard her softly curse herself for her weakness, and after a couple more snuffles the crying stopped. A short time later she had fallen asleep.
Clark couldn't sleep. His mind was racing, turning over bits of information, conflicting feelings and emotions, and somewhere lost in the typhoon of thought was a rational mind telling him that he had to stay strong, that things would eventually get better. And if not better, than at least tolerable. He remembered his own lovely Lois telling him how it was when she was in that other universe and she had felt a stirring of emotion, and feelings for that world's Clark. She had felt it again when he'd come here to help her when Tempus became President Doe. She was convinced that it was merely her feelings for him somehow transferred to that Clark because he was there when her own Clark wasn't. Because of that, Clark was convinced that the pangs he would feel whenever he saw the woman who now occupied the master bedroom, were just that. Transferred feelings for someone who wasn't there.
Still it bothered Clark that he was having so much trouble separating his feelings for the two Loises. Intellectually he knew they weren't the same person. Aside from the recent physical departures, this Lois didn't seem to have quite as sharp an edge as his Lois had back before they'd gotten together. The terrible ordeal in Africa notwithstanding, he wondered if she ever had. He knew that her upbringing was totally different from that of his Lois. Whereas his wife had grown up trying to please a father who resented her being a female and had little time for a family anyway, and a mother who was too busy drowning her own problems with alcohol to properly raise a child, it had been different for the other Lois. She had grown up a lonely child as it was just her and her mother, and her mother had to work long hours to support them. But she at least had been loved growing up. She was bright, independent, and driven, but not quite so bitter at the world. Clark didn't know what the past had held as far as relationships for this Lois, but his guess would be that she just hadn't had time for many.
So his head knew that the woman in the other room was a different person but his heart kept confusing things. Why did he want to hold her in his arms and kiss away her fears and troubles? Why did he long to gather her in his arms and take her flying, feel her slim form tight against his chest and her head resting on his shoulder? Had Lucy hit upon something? Was he having these feelings because his body wanted a substitute for something that was now denied him? He found that thought too disturbing to even contemplate.
He knew his love for Lois had gone much deeper than just the physical, no matter how great the physical had been. Clark wasn't sure he ever really believed in H.G. Wells' metaphysical soulmates throughout time mumbo jumbo, but if there ever was a practical, here and now definition of soulmates, he and Lois had truly fit the bill. He knew it from the moment he'd laid eyes on Lois in Perry's office that fateful first day. He knew then that he'd never felt that way about a woman before, nor would he ever again.
Except that he was feeling that way now, and it was wrong. How could he tarnish the memory of what he and Lois shared by falling for her other world double. His only solution so far had been to avoid as much contact with her as possible, and he knew that was wrong too.
Clark clenched his fists and sighed. He knew she needed his help, that she needed his friendship, not only to acclimate herself to this new world, but just to be able to cope. And he wanted to be her friend, he did, he really did. If it just didn't hurt so much.
Clark and Lois didn't speak to each other in the jeep on their way to the hospital, nor had they during their quick breakfast before leaving. Both found themselves wrapped in their own thoughts as the events of the past few days, and the revelations by Wells, danced around in their brains looking for logical courses of actions and ways to solve the myriad of problems these events had caused. They each had caught the other sneaking quick glances at each other but were both too embarrassed to say anything. Luckily the ride to Met General was short and they were soon on their way up to the room the front desk told them Lucy had been placed in.
Just as they exited the elevator for the proper floor Clark's attention was caught by sounds that no one in the hospital could hear. Lois noticed his distraction immediately.
"What, what is it?" She touched his arm to bring him back. "What are you hearing?"
Clark flashed her an apologetic look. "I'm sorry, I'm hearing reports of a major train derailment upstate. They're worried because it was carrying potentially toxic chemicals."
Lois sighed. "Go, I'll explain to Lucy why you're not here." A slight smile crossed her face. "It's not like she won't understand, now."
Clark allowed himself a small smile but his face still held a worried look. "I don't like the idea of you alone with that gunman still on the loose. This could take a while."
Lois patted his arm. "Where you always this overprotective?" She smiled at his blush. "I'll be fine. I'll go right from here to the Planet, where I'm sure I'll be safe. I'll see you there later, then maybe we can come back together this evening and visit Lucy again."
He gave her a half smile and nodded. "Okay, I'll see you back at the Planet later. Be careful." Slipping into the nearby stairwell, in two heartbeats he was gone.
After checking the room number on the door Lois entered the room. It was a semi-private room but fortunately there was no other patient besides Lucy in the room at present. Lucy had the bed over near the window and Lois watched her for a few moments as the shaft of sunlight coming through the open blinds highlighted her face with a glow, making her seem almost angelic. Lucy seemed asleep so Lois approached quietly.
"Hey," Lucy's eyes fluttered open as Lois came up and leaned on the edge of her bed.
"Hey yourself. How are you feeling?" Lois reached over and grabbed Lucy's hand.
"Like crap, where's your better looking partner, Sis?
The appellation wasn't lost on Lois. She had to fight back tears as she saw Lucy give her a tired but honest smile. "Oh you know, he got called away to his *other job*. Something about a train derailment."
Lucy shook her head and giggled softly. "That is so weird. I don't know if I'm ever going to get use to that." She sniffed and looked back up at Lois. "Did they get who did it?"
"No, Inspector Henderson has personally taken over the case, but they have no leads."
"So you're still in danger!" Lucy's voice held a note of real fear.
Lois gave her a sideways glance. "What makes you think they were after me? You're the one lying in a hospital bed with a bullet hole in your shoulder."
Lucy snorted. "Yeah, let's see, a clueless senior from a school in California or a world famous investigative reporter with a reputation for digging up the truth no matter what. I can definitely see where I'd be the most likely target." Lois blushed as Lucy continued. "I'm worried about you. If I hadn't been so clumsy and knocked into you when I did, you could be dead."
Lois didn't answer, she just grabbed Lucy's hand and gave it a squeeze as she smiled at the younger woman lying in the hospital bed because of her. She had to bite her lip to keep from sighing.
Lucy squeezed back on Lois' hand. "Look, I know you are not my real sister. But I can't help but feel like you could be, and I surely would care a great deal if anything happened to you." Lucy's face took on a grave look, and her tone became conspiratorial. "What exactly are you working on that would have someone wanting to kill you?"
Lois let go a short bark like laugh of her own. "Truth to tell, I have no idea. Clark doesn't seem to think that it was anything they were working on, and I can't believe it's the simple expose' I've been working on." Lois approached the head of Lucy's bed and gently stroked her hair. "Don't worry about me little sister, you just concentrate on getting better."
Suddenly the breaking of the glass in the window and the loud ping of a ricochet off the metal bed frame startled the two women. Lois knew instantly that it had been another attempt. Lois reached up and grabbed Lucy pulling her down to the floor with her as another shot crashed through the glass and lodged itself in the floor a few paces from the bed. Lucy whimpered in Lois' arms as Lois pulled her tighter to her and the security of the wall to the left of the window. Lois couldn't be sure if Lucy's cries were from fear or the pain Lois had caused her when she pulled her from her bed.
A duty nurse came hurrying through the doorway. "What is going on…" Another shot rang out and the nurse felt the breeze of it's passing by her leg.
"Get back!" Lois shouted. "Call 911. Get the police here!"
The nurse didn't have to be told twice. She threw herself out the door and down the hall yelling for help.
The room the was dark, the only light was that which leaked around the drawn shade on the single window. The young man who had knocked and had entered when he was bade to, was unkempt with a 3 day's growth of beard on his face. He carried a long narrow leather case under his left arm.
"Hey, you in here?" The twenty something fellow asked while trying to peer into the darkness.
"Yes." The voice was deep and cultured.
The visitor swayed from side to side as he shifted the case under his arm. "Look, I know that you… "
"The Lane woman is still alive, isn't she." It wasn't a question.
The young man stared at the floor. "Yeah." He looked up and defiantly stared into the corner from where the voice had come. "Look, I don't get it. If you want to hurt Lois Lane, why have me shoot her sister? Why not just have me pop her one."
The voiced sighed once. "It's really rather simple, unless you are."
The young shooter wasn't sure but he thought he had just been dissed. He frowned at the dark shadowed corner but he couldn't even make out a form of the man, let alone what he might look like.
The voice continued. "Look, I want Lois Lane to suffer for what she did to me. She needs to feel real pain, and she can't very well feel pain if she's dead now can she?"
"I guess not." He scuffed his one foot against the other. "But why did I have to make sure they were together? I would have had a better chance this morning before that Lois Lane got there. She wouldn't have been able to pull the sister out of bed on me."
The voice sounded resigned and tired. "I'll go slow so even you can understand. Lois has no reason to think that her sister is a target, but she on the other hand is often the object of someone's displeasure. If she thinks that her poor innocent sister was killed accidentally by someone coming after herself. Well, even you can see how that would make her feel even worse now can't you."
"I guess. So I suppose you want me to try again?"
"No," the voice held a hint of anger. "You've screwed up enough. You've brought to much attention on this already. I've worked too hard; causing her father's accident and arranging for her mother to need to be institutionalized again, for me to allow you to completely ruin my plan with your incompetence."
The unsuccessful assassin frowned. "What about my money?"
The sound was like a cough, no louder than a popcorn box being stepped on. The young man stared uncomprehendingly down at the hole that had newly formed in his chest. He then stared once into the dark corner from which the voice had emanated before slumping to the floor in a boneless heap.
A tall, good looking, dark haired man stepped out of the deep shadows of the corner of the room. In his right hand he held a still smoking, silenced hand gun.
"Consider yourself paid in full." He pulled his left hand out of his coat pocket to reveal a small micro cassette recorder. He thumbed the switch. "Memo to self. Never again hire a hit man from the want ads." He placed the recorder back into his pocket and sighed. "I guess if you want the job done right…"
Lois again found herself pacing in the hospital waiting room. Her attention was captured by the sound of Clark entering the room. He quickly came up to her and guided her down to one of the double chairs. He sat down next to her.
"I just passed Bill Henderson in the front hallway." Clark had an anxious look on his face. "He said the assassin tried again?"
"Yeah, while I was in Lucy's room." There was anger in her voice. "Just a few minutes after you left."
Clark's face darkened menacingly, then with an effort he brought his own anger under control. "Are you all right? Is Lucy okay?"
Lois pursed her lips. "I'm fine. When I pulled Lucy off the bed her wound reopened. The doctors have her now and are fixing her up. They told me that it didn't look like she sustained any further damage."
Clark suddenly got very business like. "Well the first thing is to get you home, and safe. We'll call Perry from the car and let him know what happened. — What?"
Lois was shaking her head. "Clark, I don't think those shots were meant for me?" She saw his look of disbelief. "Oh, I know I can't explain it, but it just feels wrong. Either this guy is a horrible shot, or I'm not the target. That first shot which ricocheted off Lucy's bed frame wasn't within two feet of where I was standing."
"Be thankful for small favors. Maybe he didn't allow for enough deflection going through the window?" Lois gave Clark a raised brow, he stammered a bit. "I, I don't know. Why do you think the hit was for Lucy?"
Lois waved her hand aimlessly in the air in front of her. "I'm not sure, it's just all these things that have happened. Something isn't fitting together right." She reached over and grabbed his hand. He didn't pull back for which she was grateful. "Please, I'd feel a lot better if we make sure Lucy is safe."
Clark could read the desperation in Lois' face. Whether her intuition was right or not, it wouldn't hurt to indulge it. And if this Lois was anything like his own Lois was when it came to hunches and intuition, it would be best not to ignore it.
He nodded. "Okay, we'll talk to the hospital staff about a secure room before we leave, and I'll give Inspector Henderson a call and see if he will arrange for a police guard."
"Thanks," she said in a voice that was at once soft and grateful.
While Clark called Henderson and then talked to the hospital administration, Lois called Perry. Perry was understandably upset by the fact that someone was shooting at his top reporter. Lois didn't bother to tell him of her 'feeling' that she wasn't the target for the hit. They argued for a time about the story that this latest attempt created. Lois didn't really want to put it in print but Perry argued that it was news and it might create problems for the shooter if it was well known he was out there. Then they argued over who should write up the story. Lois felt that no one had a right to it but her, while Perry tried to argue that she was too close to it and he wanted to send over someone to interview her, and Lucy once she was out of danger. Perry didn't fair so well with that debate. The best he was able to squeeze from Lois was her allowing Clark to work with her on the story and let Jimmy talk to Lucy for a human interest sidebar about innocent bystanders caught in the line of fire, so to speak. Lois wasn't too happy about putting her through that, but she knew Lucy knew Jimmy well, and maybe a chance to talk to someone else besides her and Clark might be good for her. She shut off her phone and went looking for Clark, they needed to get to the Planet. She had a story to write.
Clark seeing the determined look on her face, didn't give Lois any quarrel about going back to the Planet. He figured she'd be as safe there as she would be at home, as long as he stayed around. They left the hospital and sneaking into the first alley they could find, Clark spun into the suit and they were off toward the Planet.
Clark was somewhat rigid in his holding of Lois on their flight. He knew she could tell he was uncomfortable holding her so close. He schooled his features into a stoic 'Superman' mask of calm competence and forced himself to react as if this were anyone else he might be forced to fly in the normal course of a rescue. Anyone except Lois that was.
They landed on the roof of the Planet building. Clark quickly deposited Lois and moved off to spin back into his Clark Kent garb. Lois bit her lip. She could tell how much it bothered Clark to have to hold her close while they flew here. Lois was at a loss at what to think. There were times when it seemed like they could talk and work together just fine, and then the next minute, he would freeze up on her and the walls would be back up as high as ever and any doors that might be just slightly open would resoundingly slam shut. Without another word they entered the building and down the stairs toward the newsroom.
It was a long and hectic afternoon. Clark and Lois had wrangled over what should and what shouldn't be in the story. Lois wanted to downplay Lucy's involvement, but Clark pointed out that since they didn't know the motivation behind the attacks, all they had was the fact that a possible innocent had been hurt in a unknown attack on a famous investigative reporter. It would also give a little boost to Jimmy's possible sidebar.
Lois had called the hospital shortly after they had gotten to the office and found that Lucy was fine and resting comfortably. She had talked to Lucy briefly and warned her about Jimmy coming by later for an interview. Lucy had giggled at the thought of being interviewed for a news story. Lois had then contacted Henderson and had been comforted by his assurances that he had sent an officer over to the hospital to watch over Lucy's room. Lois informed him of Jimmy's impending visit and he said he'd let the duty officer know to expect Jimmy.
Lois leaned back in her chair trying to stretch her tight neck muscles. Clark noticed her discomfort. Ordinarily he would go over and begin to massage the tight muscles in his wife's neck. She loved the way he could loosen the tightest knots in her neck and back. His ability to add little bursts of heat at strategic times and on certain spots gave Clark quite an advantage over a normal masseur. His wife had adored his neck and back rubs, but then this wasn't his wife. While one corner of his brain told him to go ahead and ease her discomfort. That an innocent back rub was no big deal. Another corner of his brain warned him that he couldn't trust him self to touch her with such familiarity. It just wouldn't be right.
Perry finally stuck his head out the door of his office and told Clark and Lois that they could go. The story would hit the late edition, and anything Jimmy came up with could go in the morning edition as a follow-up rather than a sidebar. Clark and Lois gratefully entered the elevator to head for the lobby. Lois suddenly looked at Clark.
"You know we left the jeep over at the hospital."
Clark smacked himself in the head. "Oh, jeez, I completely forgot about the jeep. I just wanted to get you someplace safe as quick as possible."
Lois pointed to the right. "There's an alley over there?"
Seeing the look on Clark's face Lois had to bite down on her tongue. She felt bad about how this made him feel but she couldn't help see the macabre humor in the situation, and besides, she really liked to fly with Clark… even if he didn't.
The trip to the hospital was even faster than the trip from there had been. Since they'd had to come back to the hospital they decided to check up on Lucy. The two of them entered through the front door and after having found out where Lucy was now roomed, and proving their bona fides to the officer on duty, entered her room. Lucy used the remote to turn off the TV once she saw that she had company.
"Hi, guys. Jimmy just left a little while ago." Lucy frowned at Clark. "Hey, bro, why so tense looking?"
Clark forced his lips to simulate a smile. "It's nothing. How are you doing? Are you all right?"
Lucy gave Lois a wink. "Well, I'm okay considering how rough Lois was with me this morning."
Lois blushed but her voice held a note of indignation. "I suppose I could have left you there and hoped that the shooter would have continued to miss."
Lucy laughed. "No, that's all right. I think I prefer no new holes in me. The one I have is more than enough." Lucy noticed Clark's 'distracted look'. "Am I boring you, Clark?"
"What?" Clark snapped back to the real world. "Ah, no," he glanced around, "alarms, there's a big fire down on the docks. I've got to go."
Lois saw the hesitation in Clark's manner. "Go, don't worry about us." She used her hand to sweep the room. "No windows to shoot through, and there is a police officer outside. We'll be perfectly safe here. Go, do what you have to do. I'll wait here for you to get back."
Clark's concern's warred with himself. Her logic was sound, and he did feel comfortable with the situation. He still had to force down the illogical fear he had for Lois' safety. His rational mind told him that even if someone was still out to get her she'd be safe here until he got back. For some reason, if he wasn't protecting her it just didn't seem enough. He didn't want to think that way, it didn't make sense, but he didn't have time to work through the conflicting emotions so he excused himself and headed for the nearest stairwell.
Lucy chuckled. "Well at least he doesn't have to make up any stupid excuses anymore." Lois stared at Lucy, a puzzled look on her face. "I don't…"
"Oh, back when Lois and Clark were dating, or more accurately, trying to date, Lois used to tell me how frustrated she'd get when Clark would always run out on her. It seemed like anytime things were getting serious Clark would give her some stupid excuse why he would have to leave, and he would be gone before she could even react. I'm amazed they ever got together at all, but at least I also now know why he used to do it."
Lois smiled. "I wonder what kind of excuses he would come up with?"
Lucy laughed. "Well I don't know them all, because from my sister's level of frustration, Superman must have been needed a lot at inopportune times. But let me tell you some of the better ones she told me about."
The two 'sisters' settled in as Lucy filled Lois in on some of the Clark stories she had been privy to. They had talked and laughed that way for over a half an hour when in a break in the story telling Lucy suddenly got a serious look on her face. She reached over and grabbed Lois' hand.
"So what are you two planning to do?"
Lois was momentarily thrown by the abrupt change of subject. "What do you mean?"
"I mean, Lois and Clark, Clark and Lois. What are you going to do about that?" Lucy could see that Lois was still not quite in sync with her. "Okay, let me explain myself. Jimmy was here before you guys came back."
"Yeah, he was here to interview you for his piece," Lois added. "You're right, and he did do that, but we also talked about other things. We talked about you, and Clark, and you and Clark." Lucy gave Lois' hand a squeeze. "Lois I know that you are trying to rebuild a life for yourself as Lois Lane by slipping into my sister's situation and eventually making it your own. Am I close?"
"Yeah, something like that."
"Okay, what about Clark? Are you two going to continue to pretend to be a happily married couple?" Lucy shook her head sadly. "If you are I can only tell you that you two are doing a lousy job of it."
Lois frowned. "What do you mean?"
"Well from what Jimmy tells me, I'm not the only one who thought there was trouble with the perfect marriage. I guess the gossip is all over the office. People are speculating what is wrong with Metropolis' happiest couple. It's been obvious to most of the people who know you that something's not right between the two of you."
Lois was annoyed. "What, because we don't make out in public, or fondle each other every chance we get? People automatically assume the worse has happened?"
Lucy reached up and with her finger tilted Lois' face toward her's so that they were eye to eye. "Lois, the worse has happened. My sister is dead." A few tears slipped from the corner of Lucy's eye. Lois squirmed under her gaze but Lucy wouldn't let her go. "But nobody knows that. All they see is a marked change in behavior. They see a couple that a few weeks before couldn't get enough of each other suddenly acting like mere acquaintances. They see them act uncomfortable around each other and hardly speak. It looks, to most of the people at the Planet, as if Clark is avoiding you."
"Because he is," Lois spoke so softly Lucy didn't hear her.
"Lois, Jimmy tells me that most of your so called friends and colleagues are wondering if you are seeing someone else on the side, if you are cheating on Clark. There are even some betting pools trying to guess who it is."
"What do the rest of them think?" Lois didn't sound indignant, just sad.
"Well your real friends are just confused and can't imagine what the problem is, and the few others just don't care one way or the other."
Lois frowned again. "Doesn't anyone think that maybe Clark is cheating on me?"
Lucy had to turn away momentarily from Lois. "No."
"What!" Lois' anger quickly jumped to the fore. "These people are Lois' friends and none of them think that she may be the injured party?" Lois began to pace around the room. "I realize what a wonderful, compassionate man Clark is, and I guess a lot of that is projected to his friends, but it sounds like they all think he's a saint or something."
A slight chuckle escaped from Lucy. "Well, he is Superman."
"But no one knows he's Superman," Lois complained.
"No they don't, but Lois, we've had Superman around enough to have looked past the incredible powers and the flashy suit. Superman has come to represent more important virtues. It's his compassion and concern for others that define him now. The fact that he cares and is willing to help those in need with no expectation of anything in return says more about who he is than what he can do. We actually had a fellow in Metropolis for a while that had similar powers, I think he called himself Resplendent Man or some such nonsense."
"You're kidding. Was he from Krypton too?"
"I don't think so. The papers never did say how he came by his powers, but the kicker was, this guy charged people for his rescues!"
"What?" Lois was flabbergasted.
"That's right, he even had commercials on television. He went away shortly after, but it just proves that anyone else with powers and a flashy suit is just that, somebody with powers and a flashy suit, they are not Superman. Only Clark can be Superman, and not because of what he can do but because of who he is." Lucy sighed. "I never had a lot of contact with Clark because I was gone by the time Lois and he were getting closer, but even with the limited contact I had, I could see what a terrific guy he was and that all those great qualities we idolize in Superman where right there in Clark, for everyone to see."
"Okay, I understand what you're saying," Lois broke in. "But I would think that some of Lois' friends would have stuck up for her?"
Lucy laughed. "Oh, Lois had a couple friends, like Perry and Jimmy who I know are just clueless as to the problem, but most folks just remember back to when Lois wasn't exactly Miss Congeniality. Actually most people think that the kinder and gentler Lois of the last couple of years is solely due to Clark, and the effect his love has had on her."
Lucy stared at the ceiling for a second to gather her thoughts before answering. "Did Clark change her? No. What Clark did was allow the real Lois to come through. I always knew what a warm and giving person Lois could be, but she had built up such walls around her for protection against getting hurt, that she came off cold and stand offish."
"Yeah we discussed some of that when I met her. It was scary how similar I was to how she was in many ways. Luckily I didn't have as many scabbed over emotional wounds to deal with and protect. It was hard enough just having to work smarter and better than the next guy in order to compete and succeed within the good old boy network which was investigative reporting." Lois sighed as she remembered her early struggles. "I probably came off just as cold because I just didn't have time for anyone or anything that didn't help me achieve the goals that I had set for myself. If Perry hadn't believed in me, and encouraged me, I don't know how I would have wound up."
Lucy grinned at her. "Oh, somehow I think you would have landed on your feet, after all, you are Lois Lane."
Lois came back over and sat on the edge of Lucy's bed. "You amaze me more every time I talk to you. You definitely aren't like the young woman that Clark described to me."
Lucy laughed out loud. "You have to remember, Lois, Clark hasn't seem me in quite a while and a couple things have happened in the time. First, I've been on my own and have done some growing up." Lucy favored Lois with what could only be called a sneaky little smile. "And, remember, I *have* been studying to become a politician."
Lois let a smile crease her own face for a moment before she reached over and squeezed Lucy's hand. "So, what do I do?"
Lucy shook her head, and favored Lois with a somber look. "I don't know, but what ever you two decide to do, you need to do it soon because the way you're going now is definitely not working." Lucy patted Lois' hand. "Hey, Sis, I think you and Clark just need to sit down and discuss this in a rational, business like manner and come up with a course of action that will satisfy both of you."
It was Lois' turn to shake her head. "If it were only that simple."
Lucy gave Lois a sideways grin. "You like him don't you?"
Before Lois could frame an answer the two women were interrupted by a knock on the door, followed by the young officer on guard duty's head being stuck around the edge of the door.
"Er, Miss Lane?"
"Yes," the two women answered in unison.
The officer blushed. "I mean Lois Lane?" Lois nodded. "Your husband is outside and he asked me to tell you he was here and that you need to go with him."
Lois' forehead wrinkled in confusion. "Why didn't he just come in?"
"I don't know ma'am, he just said to tell you something's come up and you need to 'get going as soon as possible'. Those were his words."
"Thank you." As the young officer ducked back out of the room Lois turned to Lucy and shrugged. She bent over and gave her a kiss on the forehead. "I'll see you tomorrow. Sleep tight." Lois left while a very puzzled younger 'sister' watched her leave.
Lois got outside the room and saw Clark down near the end of the hall. "Clark, what's going on?"
He didn't answer, he just waved for her to follow him and he started off down the hallway. Lois let out an exasperated sigh and began to hurry after him. Lucy's room was located in the middle of the hospital on the first floor so there were no stairs or elevators to deal with. Even so, Lois had a hard time keeping Clark in view. As she came around the last turn she saw him head out the front door. Silently cursing under her breath she hurried past a startled orderly and pushed her way out the front entrance. She looked left, and then right, and just caught a glimpse of him near the corner of the building.
She began to run and got to the same corner she'd just seen him at in a manner of a few seconds, but there was no Clark. She was just about to turn back toward the front of the hospital when she felt a strong pair of hands grab her from behind. She was so startled by the attack that before she had time to do anything but gasp a damp rag was clamped tightly against her mouth. The smell of the chloroform was only too well known to Lois. Before she could try to fight it's effects she found herself weakening and soon everything went black.
Lucy found herself staring at the ceiling wondering what just happened. It seemed so disjointed, out of sync somehow. She couldn't figure Clark's behavior. Clark would never send someone to 'fetch' his wife. The more she thought about it the more she began to worry. Lucy never claimed any particular gift at hunches or intuition like her sister seemed possessed with, but something in the back of her mind said that she had reason to be worried.
Lucy lay in her bed fretting for about fifteen minutes. She had tried dialing Lois' number a couple times but there had been no answer. She was just about to try for a third time when her attention was diverted by a noise at her door. Her eyes grew wide as she recognized the identity of her visitor.
He smiled at his sister-in-law. "Hi, Lucy." Clark noticed she was alone. "Where's Lois?" He came over next to her bed.
"She left about twenty minutes ago." Lucy's voice was shaky.
Clark seemed puzzled. "She was going to wait for me." His tone became worried. "Why did she leave, where did she go?"
Lucy grabbed Clark's hand, her voice panicky. "Clark, she left here with you!"
"The guard came in and told her you were waiting for her outside, and that she should come." Lucy fought back some tears of fear. "It seemed a little weird, but we had no reason to doubt him."
"I just got here. I haven't been back since I left over an hour ago."
Lucy's voice raised a decibel level. "Clark, you have to find her. I know something bad has happened!"
Clark fought down his own feeling of anxiousness so as not to alarm Lucy too much. "Don't worry, I will go out and find her. I'm sure it was just some misunderstanding."
Lucy frowned at him. "You don't believe that any more than I do."
Clark shook his head. "No, I don't. But there is no reason to suspect the worst, yet. I'll go out and do a quick search of the city. If she's out there, I'll find her."
Clark reached up and began to loosen his tie as he headed out the door. Lucy stared helplessly at the door as she lost sight of Clark while the door slowly closed. She had to bite her lip to keep from crying out as tears began to flow freely from her eyes.
It hit Lucy like a brick in the face. Her fear for this new Lois came crashing in, but along with it, finally sinking in, was the awful realization that she had already lost her real sister. She didn't think she could bear to lose this one too. It didn't matter if her tears were for what she had already lost, or for the fear of what more she might lose. She needed to shed those tears and she just rolled over and let them come in great body racking sobs.
As Superman, Clark hovered high over the hospital. He didn't know where to start looking for Lois. If she had been lured or taken somewhere, and it seemed most likely that she had, she could be anywhere by now. Clark began to drift toward the Daily Planet. He had no clues, but a thorough check of the usual spots was at least a place to start.
Clark was confused by his feelings about this. He knew that he would be very worried if any of his friends were in trouble and missing, be it Perry, Jimmy, or anyone he was close to. But he knew this was different. He wasn't as panic stricken as he would be if it had been his own Lois, he still had a hold on some rational thought, but there was definitely something more than if he was looking for one of his other friends. There was a cold fear pressing hard in the pit of his stomach. The thought that he could lose this Lois, before he really even got to properly know her disturbed him a lot more than his rational mind said it should. Any loss of life was anathema to Superman, but in this case he knew his dread went deeper, and his trepidation over his ability to 'save the day' was nearly paralyzing. He clamped down on his fear and other distracting emotions, replacing them with a grim sense of determination. He would find her.
A quick flyby of the Planet building showed no Lois Lane there, so he headed toward the brownstone on Hyperion Ave. It was a matter of seconds before he found himself high over his home. Not expecting to find anything he was shocked by what he saw. There sitting on the front steps was Lois. She didn't appear any worse for wear, no indication that she was in, or ever had been in, any danger. She appeared for all the world to merely be waiting for someone or something.
Clark landed on the sidewalk in front of the brownstone. "Lois?"
She looked up, as if just seeing him. "Oh, hi Superman, how are you tonight?"
Clark was puzzled. "Lois, are you all right? I was worried about you. Where have you been?"
Lois flashed a girlish smile. "Oh, I was just out walking, and silly me, I forgot my keys, so I have to wait for Clark to get home."
"What?" Clark was bewildered.
"You know, I forgot my house keys. I'm just waiting for my husband, Clark, to get home. It's a nice night so I don't mind waiting."
Clark frowned as he stared at the smiling face of Lois Lane sitting on his front stoop. Without any warning he quickly moved next to her and made to put his hand on her shoulder. His hand passed right through. The still smiling image of Lois wavered for a second, solidified and continued to smile back at Superman. A couple seconds later Lois winked out of existence. Still frowning, Clark took to the air and sped off to the north.
A couple of minutes later, Clark, having doubled back, was high overhead using his enhanced visual powers to spy on the front of his home. Within seconds Lois reappeared. One moment the steps were empty, the next, a smiling Lois Lane was sitting back on the steps in front of the townhouse.
Clark rushed off toward downtown. Five minutes later he was landing behind some shrubbery on the next block over. He made sure no one was around as he spun back into his Clark Kent garb. If Lois was waiting for Clark, then Clark was who she was going to get. He set off toward the corner and upon reaching it turned left onto Hyperion. It was time to walk into the trap.
Lois wanted to cuss but she soon became aware that her mouth was taped shut. Her head pounded like the bass drum at a Who concert. She really hated chloroform. Slowly, so as not to have her head fall off her shoulders, Lois began to move a little to try an assess her situation. She couldn't see because she was blindfolded, and she couldn't speak because her mouth was taped. Besides that, she was sitting on a hard, heavy wooden chair with her hands tied behind her back and her ankles tied to legs of the chair. This couldn't be better if she planned it, she thought allowing her sarcasm to shine through.
She heard a nearby door open and judging by the sound of the footsteps she guessed it was a man. She felt hands working on her blindfold. Suddenly the stabbing pain of bright light assaulted her eyes. Her eyes teared up as she fought to become acclimated to the light after having been blindfolded. Slowly her vision cleared and she focused on the figure that stood a few feet away in front of her. He was a middle-aged, dark haired fellow. Not bad looking, but there was something about him. A look that said that this guy was not playing with the same deck that the rest of the world did.
He smiled at her, like a barracuda would smile at lunch. "Welcome back to the land of the conscious, Miss Lane. I hope you aren't too uncomfortable. I made sure that I had just the right length of rope again to bind you with the minimum of slop and a maximum of security." He reached over and pulled the tape from her mouth in one quick motion.
"Ow!" Lois glared at him. "Who are you? What do you want with me?"
The man looked genuinely insulted by Lois' remarks. "Come now Miss Lane. I know the last time we met you weren't exactly predisposed to remember me fondly, but remember me you surely do."
The problem was, Lois didn't know him. There was something about him that seemed somehow familiar. She knew she had never met him personally, but she was positive she had seen his picture somewhere. Come on, Lois, think she admonished herself. You have seen his picture somewhere. Obviously in one of the past Lane and Kent stories she had studied, but which one, she had read so many.
He began to pace around the room. "I know last time I made an error in my calculations as to the best course for my revenge against you. I wanted to make you suffer for the years you cost me, and the pain and suffering I had to endure because of you. No, no, let me explain." Lois hadn't been about to interrupt but the man was on a roll and he didn't even stop to look at her. "I'm big enough to admit that there might have been a small flaw in my original plan. I tired to make you suffer by putting you through the kind of hell I had to endure." He shook his head in disgust. "And you know if that pathetic excuse of a district attorney had been at all competent, you'd be on death row now, and we wouldn't have to do this again."
The light bulb went on over Lois' head. "You're Jefferson Cole!" The pieces fell into place. Jefferson Cole was the brilliant but twisted researcher whose careless disregard had caused some deaths in a lab accident. Lois had exposed him and he had been sent to prison. Cole, in a bid for revenge, had used his technical expertise to frame Lois for murder. She had actually been convicted and sentenced to death, but after Superman helped her escape jail, the two of them had uncovered the truth and had gotten Lois cleared, and the proper parties back to jail.
He seemed annoyed at Lois' outburst. "This time I decided to be a bit more, shall we say circumspect. I felt that it would be more effective to have you suffer by experiencing the loss of your loved ones. Strip away your support system little by little until you find yourself bereft and all alone." He smiled at her. "It was relatively simple to cause your father's accident. The phantom child that he swerved to avoid. I must say, my scheme for your mother was quite brilliant. I didn't have to actually kill her to put her out of your life. It works much better to just make her a pathetic drunk, and a burden on you."
Lois' eyes burned with anger. "So, you *were* trying to shoot Lucy." If this whole thing wasn't so horrific it would almost be funny. Cole was trying to strike at her through the Lane family, but what he didn't know was, that it wasn't her family. And even more pitiful was the fact that the object of his revenge was already dead.
"Of course, if you thought that your *innocent* sister was killed by mistake by someone trying to kill you. Well, how would that make you feel?"
"You missed — Lucy will be fine." Lois tried to sound defiant.
"All plans suffer setbacks." Cole made a dismissive gesture with his hand. "But that minor problem has been dealt with. And the situation can be made right again easily enough later, if I so choose."
Cole was obviously one of those ego driven types who loved to show off how brilliant he was. Lois hoped that if she kept him talking long enough, perhaps Clark would have time to find her. If she were loose, she'd take her chances, one on one against this guy. She thought she could take him, but tied up the way she was, she felt helpless.
"How did you ever get out of prison?"
A smile graced Jefferson Cole's face. Lois could tell he would enjoy revealing another tale of his brilliance. "Actually, once one of my former assistants was able to smuggle in enough parts to construct another Hallucinator."
"Come on, Lois, surely you remember that handy little device I used to secure your murder conviction?"
"Oh, yeah." Lois recalled those articles she read about 'her' infamous murder conviction. Cole had used a device to create near perfect holographic hallucinations. The most damning was the one he created of Perry testifying at the trial. It was that bogus testimony which had guaranteed the guilty verdict.
"Yes, and after that it was relatively simple." His grin was fox like. "I merely volunteered for an outside work detail. It was a bit dangerous, so that's why volunteer prisoners were used. Some sort of work along the high bluffs overlooking the ocean, just north of the prison, I never paid much attention to what it was."
"Why bother with the inconsequential." Lois' voice dripped of sarcasm.
"Exactly, anyway it was easy to program my hallucinogenic double to wander too close to the cliff edge and have it tumble off to an unfortunate death on the rocks below." Cole was like some ego filled actor explaining his greatest role to his fans. "Of course, they didn't find a body, but I'm sure it was just assumed that my corpse had been washed out to sea."
"They didn't even instigate a search in case you had survived the fall, and slipped away?"
Cole gave Lois a look like a patient parent would give a child who'd asked a silly question. "Lois, if you had seen the sight you wouldn't have asked that question. There was no way I could've survived that fall. Oh, I imagine there was a perfunctory search conducted around the base of the bluff and the surrounding area, but the state wasn't going to waste a lot of time and resources on it. Especially when they had so many eye witnesses to the tragic event."
"So that's why we never heard anything about your escape. The authorities think you're dead." A large satisfied smile was her answer. "So what happens now?"
"Just because I have you, helpless, and in my control, doesn't mean your suffering is going to end. I'm not going to kill you, Lois." He paced in a small circle. "Not yet anyway."
The room was square and small, with no windows and no particularly noteworthy features. Lois was tied to a single chair which was located toward one side of the room. The opposite side had a plain white room divider screen set up a few feet from the wall. Cole approached the screen.
"It's time to move into the next phase of your torment, Lois." With a theatrically grand gesture, Jefferson Cole, pulled the screen away from it's spot the reveal what it had been hiding.
Seated on an identical wooden chair, trussed up in the same manner as Lois, was Clark Kent. The eyes behind the glasses glared at Jefferson Cole. Cole laughed at Clark.
Once he'd had his little encounter with Lois on the front steps Clark had known that it was a trap. Discovering that Lois was a holographic hallucination, he'd been able to make the connection to Jefferson Cole. It had been a particularly bad period in their marriage. They'd barely been newlyweds when Clark had had to watch helplessly while the deceived judicial system had convicted his wife of murder and had sentenced her to death. They hadn't let Cole win that time, and Clark was determined not to let him win this time either. His only chance to locate Lois had been to walk blithely into the trap and see where it took him.
"From the reports and articles I've read about you two, I'm given to understand that you both are very much in love." With a feral grin, Cole pulled a handgun from inside his jacket. "I have to think the loss of a loving husband would cause you some pain, wouldn't it, Lois?"
Lois was confused. Why was Clark here as Clark and not Superman? Why was he tied up? Given the threats he was making, it was obvious that Cole didn't know Clark was Superman. If he fired that weapon at Clark, he'd find out that he was Superman. She had to stop him, somehow.
"Go ahead," Lois spoke up, "shoot him. I could care less." Lois forced herself to laugh. "You are such an idiot, Cole. You don't even know what you're dealing with do you?"
Angered, Cole stormed over to Lois' chair and stood menacingly over her. "Explain your remarks!"
"You spend all this time and effort to try and get back at Lois Lane, all for naught." She smiled her evilest smile at his bewildered look.
"I hear you talking, but you've yet to say anything."
"It's simple, I'm not Lois Lane. The woman you are so obsessed with making pay for your own troubles is already dead." Lois laughed again. "I'm a clone, Kent doesn't even know that I took his wife's place."
Cole studied Lois for several moments. "Nice try, but the old reverse psychology ploy won't work with me. You are trying to save Kent, by feigning indifference to his plight."
Lois shrugged. "Am I, go ahead, shoot him then." She smiled mockingly.
Cole smiled back. "Okay, I think I will."
He quickly raised the weapon, leveled it at the center of Clark's chest, and fired. The silencer was no longer on the handgun so the gun's retort was momentarily deafening as Clark pitched back an over in the chair from the bullets impact. He lay unmoving, still tied into the chair.
"Clark!" A quick cold spark of fear flashed through her body. She saw the smug look on Cole's face.
"I was right again, one slug directly to the heart, sufficient for the job. Any more would have been excessive, and wasteful." Cole turned his full attention toward Lois. He stood directly over her, his face only inches from hers. "Well, how does it feel now, *Lois*, I've just killed your loving husband, and soon I will kill you!"
Jefferson Cole suddenly found himself savagely jerked back away from Lois. He was turned and confronted with a free, and very angry looking Clark Kent. A quick painful chop to his wrist caused the gun to go flying across the room, and a short sharp jab to his middle drove the wind out of him as he felt himself bounce off the side wall and slump to the floor. Cole had trouble focusing as he watched Kent bind him with the rope that had obviously just recently been used to secure him. His mind was reeling. How had this happened? He had planned it all so perfectly.
"How?" Was all Cole could force past his lips, his breath still not fully regained.
Clark ignored Cole while he busied himself with freeing Lois from her bindings. Only after he freed her did he deign to return his attention to the twisted psychopath on the floor.
Clark pulled open his shirt, revealing a standard issue Metropolis Police Department bullet proof vest. "Superman warned me about your Lois hallucination. So I stopped over and talked to my friend Inspector Henderson and borrowed a vest. I knew the only way to find Lois was to allow you to lead me to her." Clark looked at Lois. "Henderson, by the way, is waiting for our call. Just leave the line open so they can form a trace."
Lois located her bag sitting in a far corner, and went over to it, pulling her cell phone out of it. She saw Cole looking strangely at Clark. Before dialing she addressed Clark, who was keeping an eye on Cole. "So, ah, Clark, how did you free yourself from the ropes?"
Clark gave her a quick look, and at her slight nod toward Cole, turned his attention back to him. "Well — ah- it seems that you might have misjudged the amount of rope to use in tying my hands. My wrists must be thicker than you thought. The knot wasn't tight and I almost had it loose when you fired your shot. The shock caused by my fall to the floor from the bullet impact was enough to allow me to slip free." Clark hovered over Cole, who seemed to shrink back into the wall. "You seem to have a habit of making mistakes when it comes to Lois, don't you?"
Lois came over to Clark holding the phone in her hand. "He wants to talk to you."
Clark took the phone and rewarded Lois with a smile that actually reached his eyes this time.
The following week was a hectic one. Jefferson Cole had been returned to jail and charged with two counts of murder, one count of conspiracy to commit murder, two counts of kidnapping and another count of attempted murder. And of course, his unlawful escape from prison. The District Attorney was confident that he could make enough of the charges stick to put Cole behind bars for the rest of his life.
Lane and Kent had another splashy front page headline story which made Perry White quite happy. Perry had had to assign Lois' story on candidate Margaret Tompkins to another reporter but Lois had gotten a shared byline due to all the work she had done setting the story up in the first place. It had hit the streets the morning of the election. Needless to say, Tompkins opponent won in a landslide.
Lucy had been released from the hospital a couple days after Cole's capture and Superman had graciously agreed to take her back to school. After several phone calls to the dean by the well known, and well respected reporters, Lois Lane, and Clark Kent, explaining the situation, coupled with the appearance of Superman on her behalf, Lucy was allowed to take her semester final exams late. Lucy amazed herself by acing them. Things were beginning to look up for all concerned, or so they thought.
Clark was returning to the brownstone after a particularly easy Superman patrol. He had only had to stop one convenience store robbery and help at one small warehouse fire. He was in pretty decent spirits when he landed in the back yard and entered the house through the kitchen. It was a sunny Saturday afternoon and he was glad that he probably wouldn't be needed as Superman for the rest of the day. He thought that maybe it would be a good day for he and Lois to sit down and have a talk.
When he came from the kitchen into the living room he wasn't prepared for what greeted him. Lois was bending over the desk, scribbling something on a piece of note paper. There were three large suitcases resting near her feet, and she had her jacket draped across her other arm.
Lois looked up, startled. "I didn't hear you come in. I wasn't sure when you'd be back so I was leaving you a note." Lois appeared very nervous. "I've gone out and gotten myself an apartment. I'm moving in today." She indicated the bags with a wave of her hand. "I hope you don't mind, but I packed myself some of Lois' things. I don't have much that is my own."
Clark was stunned. He waved off her concern over the clothes. "You don't have to do this."
"I know, but I think it might be best for both of us."
Clark slowly glided over to the couch and sat down. A host of different emotions scuffled in his mind. Part of him wanted to beg her to stay, not to leave him alone, while another part felt something akin to relief. He could handle being with her in public situations, like at work. It was being alone with her, in the house that was the home for him and the woman he loved more than life itself, that was always so hard. But most of all he was feeling guilt. Guilt that he had pushed her away when she needed him to be her friend. Guilt that he never was that friend; instead he allowed his pain to show and she probably felt like he blamed her for what happened.
He ran his hands through his hair. "Lois, I'm sorry that I've not been the friend you have needed. I've been trying, but I know that I've let my own problems blind me to your needs and from doing what I know is right." He looked up to see a tear roll down her cheek. "Lois, I promise I'll try harder. You don't have to leave… if you don't want to."
Lois came over and sat next to him. "Clark, this isn't about you and this isn't about me this is about you *and* me. We are running around here pretending to be something we are not… a couple." Lois rubbed her hand up and down Clark's arm. She could feel him flinch at her initial touch but he didn't pull away. "Clark, I can't tell you how much I appreciate your allowing me to be who I am. Allowing me to be Lois Lane." She pulled away a bit, tears beginning to slide down her cheeks. "But we aren't fooling anyone. We aren't Lois and Clark, we are just Clark, and Lois, a pair of reporters who both work at the Daily Planet."
Clark stood up and walked over to the mantel and picked up a picture of his own sweet Lois. "I'm sorry if I'm pushing you away. It's just that when ever I see you in a quiet and intimate setting, it really hits home that she's not here, and I miss her so much." Clark put the picture back on the shelf. "I keep forgetting how much you've lost yourself. You've lost your entire world, but here you are courageously fighting to get back a life you can call your own. I can't tell you how proud I am of the remarkable progress you've made acclimating yourself to a whole new world — no thanks to me." Clark frowned into his hands then looked up at Lois. "I promise I'll try harder, you don't have to leave."
Lois shook her head, her tears flowing even freer. "Yes, Clark, I do. We need some distance from each other. Both of us need some space, and time. When we're working it's not so bad because we have to focus on the job at hand, but all the wounds are still raw and when we are together like this we just keep ripping them open all over again. We both need time to heal. Time to come to grips with the situation as it now stands." Lois stared at her own hands for a couple of seconds before she met Clark's eyes again. "Clark you haven't even had a chance to just get away and grieve properly for your loss. You need that time, and I need some time to figure out exactly what it is I want out of this life. Many things are similar to the life I had before, but so many things are different, very different, and I need to be able to decide how this Lois Lane fits into this new world."
Clark drew in a deep breath and let it out again in a long slow sigh. "Where is this apartment?" She told him. Clark couldn't help but crack a slight smile. "That's my old building."
Lois wiped at her eyes with the back of her hand. "I know, it was available and it was affordable. Lucy is going to move in with me after she finishes up her last semester and comes back to Metropolis. She's just been so great."
Clark nodded. "I know, she's been able to rise above her pain and be the friend to you that I should have."
Lois just shook her head sadly. Clark was just never going to let go of his guilt. "I need to use the jeep, but you can take it back on Monday at the Planet."
"It's Lois' jeep, you keep it. It's not like I really need it anyway."
Lois nodded, she knew he would say that. "Thanks," she seemed apprehensive to ask, "er, could you help me take these bags out to the jeep?"
Clark didn't answer, but merely reached down and effortlessly picked up two of the suitcases. Lois picked up the other and followed him out.
After placing the luggage into the back seat Clark straightened to see Lois standing by the driver's door of the vehicle. The keys were held loosely in her hand. She seemed very uncomfortable, like there was still something to say but she couldn't bring herself to voice it. Clark reached over and with his right hand gently traced her jaw line, his thumb caressing her cheek.
Lois felt a spreading warmth suffuse her being at Clark's touch. She turned her head. She bit her lip, because she knew that there was still something that needed to be settled between them before they could begin to piece their lives back together. She knew Clark would never bring it up. It was just something that wouldn't cross his mind. She opened the jeep door, stopped and looked up at Clark, his sad confusion clear on his face.
"Clark, one more thing we need to settle." Lois had to stop and take a deep breath. "I think we need to discuss getting a divorce."
End of part Two of the Future series. To be continued in part Three: A Future Restored