By Margaret Brignell <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Uploaded to the Archive in January 2000 (Originally written in 1997)
Summary: Lois and Clark find themselves in an alternate universe where they are characters on a television show, played by Teri Hatcher and Dean Cain. Meanwhile, Cain and Hatcher are sent to Metropolis in Lane and Kent's place. Can the foursome solve the mystery of their switch and get back home where they belong? Winner of the 1998 Fanfic Kerth for "Best Crossover," this amazing story is now available on the Fanfic Archive! This story should be read along with its mirror story, "SwapMeet: Burbank."
This is the mirror half of a story called "SwapMeet: Burbank," subtitled "We're Not in Kansas Anymore…" by Debby Stark. Both sides of the story make up the full SwapMeet saga :) You need to *read both* to get the full picture:) The Burbank half of the story is available from <ftp://ftp.swcp.com/pub/users/dstark/Stories>, from Debby at <email@example.com> by email, or on the L&C Fanfic Archive.
Special thanks to Dory Weiss for the initial idea and to Lynda L and Lori H for helping us proof for major gaffs:) [Not to mention allowing themselves to be a springboard for more ideas:)]
Margaret's disclaimer: All usual ownership statements apply. You should know that, unlike Debby, I've never met any of these people. To me they might as well *all* be fictional characters<g>. (Guess why I got to write the Metropolis half of this story;) Please note: In the *real* Metropolis they spell according to the original British spelling. (This little known fact came to my attention during my recent sojourn there:) Finally, I apologize for any misinformation I may have inadvertently generated. Tabloids take note: This is a work of FICTION!
SwapMeet: Metropolis *or* We're Not in Kansas Anymore…
*Metropolis, New Troy
Early Morning, Thursday
Lois and Clark's Home*
Lois was bent over the keyboard of her laptop, fighting with the dinky little mouse button in the centre of the keyboard. Those things never seemed to let you place the little pointer where you wanted it the first time. She finally got the file transferred from Jimmy's floppy to the new folder she'd created on her hard drive, and was about to double-click on its icon, when she felt Clark's breath in her right ear.
"What you doing, honey?"
"Trying to install some kind of communications software Jimmy gave me. Are you finished with the bathroom? I need to wash my hair."
"Uh huh, I'm done. What's the program supposed to do?"
"Other than talk to the outside world, I don't know yet," Lois double-clicked the file icon. "Jimmy told me it's a self-extracting .zip file and just to double-click to install it. He says it's kind of neat. I guess we'll find out in a minute."
The install window popped open on the screen and Lois clicked 'Next' on each screen until she hit 'Finish', accepting all the defaults presented to her. The application window zoomed out to fill the full display, while the laptop played some jazzy music instead of the usual modem connect sounds.
"Hey, neat sound effects," Clark said as he read over Lois' shoulder as the following scrolled up the screen:
*Locally Originating InterStellar Communications Link Access*
<Wildcat> that I missed this ep forst time around
<Superpam> i didnt see it last week either
<uni> I need to get the geek standing beside the cardboard cut out of Teri now
<^Juliet> How do you guys catch the promo's? how do you know when the're gonna be on?
<zoomway> glad you walked in with me, Skip ;)
<UltraWoma> Tee: Yes that's about right
<KathyB> I'm setting the VCR for Dean on Oprah tomorrow, though I understand it's a rerun.
<Tee> Yep, then we sound pretty much the same I think.
<Teragram> Was there a promo tonight?
*** Fishstic (~firstname.lastname@example.org) has joined #loiscla
"I wonder what that stands for?" Lois pointed at the #loiscla acronym that had just appeared at the bottom of the screen.
"Looks like the initials for the name at the top— must be a chat group of some kind." The text kept scrolling up the screen and made less and less sense as the abbreviations the members were tossing about proliferated.
"I wonder who Teri and Dean are and what's a FoLC?" Lois frowned at the screen. "And TPTB, it sounds like yoghourt…"
"And what the heck is a eyewatefta… IWWATFTDCIDDGWIHOA? I know a *lot* of languages, but that doesn't make any sense at all."
"Jimmy didn't actually know what this program does, he thought it was cute that it had my name on it." Lois tapped the diskette labeled LOIS.EXE. "It checked out okay for viruses. Speaking of which, I should get into the shower."
Lois pushed her chair away from the desk, stood, turned, and pointed her finger at Clark. "You get dressed and fix us breakfast and no trying to sneak into the shower with me."
Clark made a futile attempt to look innocent. "Who? Me?"
"Yes, you, and don't give me that innocent look. I know better." She pretend frowned at him. At least she hoped he'd take it as a mock frown. She was starting to feel edgy: 7:30 was approaching rapidly.
Clark pouted. "Spoilsport."
Lois sighed. His pout always made her weak in the knees. Did he know that? Probably. He didn't seem to have any problem anticipating what she was feeling most of the time. So she knew she had to keep her feelings about the headaches under control.
"I have to get to work on time today. Now don't sulk, it's not a pretty sight." After giving him a peck on the cheek, she went upstairs to the bathroom to take her shower.
As Lois got out of the shower, Clark snuck up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist. He snuggled her neck and said, "I could dry your hair for you so you won't be late."
Resisting the impulse to let him, she said, "Oh, right! The last time you did that we didn't make it into the office until after coffee break! I had to come up with some really creative stories to explain to Perry why we were *both* late."
A grin radiated across Clark's face as he remembered *that* morning, a little over a week ago. "It's just that your hair is so…so… I don't know, it just turns me on."
"Since we got married, just about everything turns you on." Lois smiled dreamily, then batted his hands away and started pulling clothes out of the closet. "So what are you doing this morning— for Perry I mean?"
"Covering the mayor's speech at the new City Hall. What about you? What's so important that you have to be in to work right on time?"
"I'm covering Dr. Klein's demonstration." Lois' voice was muffled as she pulled her navy blue dress over her head. "He's got some new whiz-bang gizmos he wants the world to know about. I'll be bored out of my skull, but Perry insists that I have to cover it. It's at 8:30 so I have to hurry if I want to finish my summary of the prison riots from yesterday before I go."
It was just after 7:30 a.m. now and the headache she'd been getting around this time, almost every morning for the past week, struck. Lois moaned and clasped her head. Tears squeezed out from under her lashes despite the fact that, after almost a week of this, she swore she should have gotten used to it by now.
Clark was at Lois' side in an instant and held her until she signaled, by slowly pulling away from his supportive arms, that the pain had subsided.
He asked softly, "Was the doctor able to give you *any* idea what's causing these headaches?"
Lois took a deep breath. "No. She did a full battery of tests but nothing seems to be wrong with me. Since I didn't have the headache when she saw me, I don't think she even believed that I was having them. She did a pregnancy test just to see if it was some kind of weird symptom, but that was negative too."
Clark gently pulled her close again and hugged her. They'd been trying to get pregnant for months now. But every time Lois thought it might be a possibility, their hopes were dashed; her period came around like clockwork each month.
Lois pulled away from his chest, keeping her head down so he couldn't see the pain in her face, and said, "Clark, it's just so weird. Why would I get intense headaches at almost the same time, almost every day, for just a few minutes? I've recovered from the damage caused by that whack on the head I got, months ago. I'm sure of that! I was perfectly healthy until last Thursday. Now this. It doesn't make any sense."
"No, it doesn't." Clark stroked her hair. "I wish I knew what to do… Are you okay now?"
Lois nodded silently, pulled away from his arms, and finished dressing. She felt drained but it was over—for now. She hated feeling so helpless. "Come on. We're going to be late and we've both got appointments this morning."
"But, Lois, what about breakfast…?"
"I can't eat, my stomach's all… I don't think I can… Clark. I'll pick up something later, I promise. If we don't go now, I won't get my story in."
"Okay, but you have to promise you'll eat the second after you submit your story."
Lois nodded. She didn't think she'd be able to eat for at least an hour, but she didn't want Clark to worry.
Clark won the toss to drive the car again. He'd won the toss every day for the past week. Lois suspected he did this on purpose so she wouldn't be driving right after one of her devastating headaches. He must have been rigging the toss, but she couldn't figure out how. Yet. She also wasn't sure if she thought this was sweet of him, or whether she just wanted to whack him behind the ear for trying to "protect" her yet again.
Deciding that in whacking him she would only hurt herself and it wouldn't make much of an impression anyway, she sat back and tried to relax for the few minutes it took to get to the office. As they entered the Planet's parking garage, she remembered something. "Clark, we left the PC on, still logging that weird chat group. I hope we don't run out of disk space."
Clark parked the car and turned off the ignition before turning to her and saying, "It's okay, with more than a gig of free space we don't have anything to worry about. We can drop by our place at lunch and shut it down. Why were you were logging the session, though?"
"It was one of the default settings when I did the install. I just went with the defaults, it seemed easier. There were others for colour-coding the different types of responses and for making sure you didn't get kicked off because you were multi-tasking. I figure I can change the settings to what I really want, later."
"Well, it's probably a good thing the session is being logged. I can quickly look it over and we'll have more clues about what those people are saying."
"Good thinking." Lois smiled. "I'm glad one of us is on his toes."
"And, while we're there, we could maybe do some other things, hmmm?" Clark tucked his finger under her chin to raise her lips to within easy kissing range.
Lois tilted her chin to the angle he was suggesting. "Ummm…No. Remember, you have to pick up Mom at the airport this afternoon. You don't want to get too preoccupied, do you?"
"Oh, I don't know about that." Clark grinned mischievously. "It might be fun to find out how preoccupied I can get." He leaned over, kissed her throat and purred, "Wouldn't it?"
She pushed him back in mock horror, her hands on his chest. "Clark, I'm a married woman! We're not supposed to have *fun*. It spoils the image." Lois let him see that her eyes twinkled. She knew she hadn't been as much fun lately as she would have liked because the headaches were far worse than she'd let him know. She decided, since he'd been so sweet, to try harder to get with the program. "But maybe for *you* I'll take that risk."
"Good, then it's settled. I get preoccupied, you get a tarnished image." Smiling, Clark lifted her hands from his shirt and caressed her fingertips with his lips. With this gesture, she knew he was going to have a very hard time waiting until lunch to get preoccupied.
*Metropolis, New Troy
9:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, Thursday
S.T.A.R. Labs - Experimental Technology Wing*
The crowd of reporters in the lecture theatre were rustling papers, snapping gum and scribbling notes on what the scientists were saying. The press conference was about as dry and boring as a press conference could get. Dr. Klein was droning on about all the new projects S.T.A.R. Labs was currently involved with and thought the world should know about. Government funding was being slashed and management wanted the scientists to show that the Lab was spending the people's tax dollars wisely.
Lois was doodling to keep the boredom at bay. Lois was more interested in the so-called "black projects," the secret ones, not the PR the Labs wanted everyone to hear, but she knew she wouldn't be able to get any information about *them* in this setting.
The crowd of reporters was then escorted on a tour of the projects outlined in the briefing in the theatre. Lois was impatient. This felt like every class trip she'd ever taken in high school where you saw a lot but learned virtually nothing new. In between doodles, Lois had dutifully taken notes of everything that Dr. Klein had said in the theatre, but she was still surprised to see the VibroWhammy machine when they entered the Meteorological Assessments and Developments section of the Lab. She'd been among those groaning at Dr. Klein's attempt at humour when he'd said, "We're not called M.A.D. scientists for nothing." Now she began to wonder if it had been a joke at all.
She was sure she hadn't heard any mention of the VibroWhammy during the press briefing. She scrabbled through her notes to see what she'd noted down, if anything, about the machine that had tortured her on the one hand but had helped her regain her memory on the other. She was beginning to regret her habit of putting her note-taking on auto-pilot whenever she was bored.
She found it in the middle of the second page of her notes. The description in her notes matched the VibroWhammy, except that the machine had been referred to as the Storm Tamer. No wonder she hadn't twigged to its significance at the time.
Lois waved her hand to get the scientist's attention. "Dr. Klein, this machine, where did you get this machine?"
Dr. Klein seemed a little startled at the abruptness of the question but responded that his team had recovered it from Roweena Johnson's basement. Using Herkimer Johnson's notes, they had taken it apart, put it back together again, made some minor adjustments and were now testing its usefulness in the area of weather control. Hence its new name.
Weather control? This sounded a little nuts to her. Who the heck would even consider trying to control the weather? She shrugged off her concerns over the long-term effects of such a machine on the environment, since it seemed highly unlikely that it would ever work.
Her skepticism seemed justified by the fact that, so far, although the tests had established that the VibroWhammy (or Storm Tamer) was no longer affecting people's actions, the weather control tests had not been as successful as hoped. Nevertheless, Dr. Klein emphasized that daily attempts were being made by Clive Tisdell, one of his junior assistants, to get the weather control online.
As Dr. Klein continued with his monologue on the purpose of each piece of equipment, Lois sidled over to the VibroWhammy. It didn't look any different than before, except for the two little levers on the left-hand side. She reached out and touched the nearer lever.
She unexpectedly saw the news pit at the Planet—she was *in* the news pit but it wasn't the news pit. There were bright lights and people she didn't recognize and she was keying on a PC, but the monitor had a picture of a cartoon smiley face taped on it. Someone just behind her said "psst" and she saw a hand point towards the left where Clark was just coming out of the elevator. She heard several voices yell something that sounded like "gumdeen" and as Clark staggered backwards—the vision disappeared abruptly.
She jerked her hand away from the lever. Wow, she thought, what caused that? Maybe I'd better have my head *re*examined.
"Ms. Lane!" Dr. Klein shouted, distracting her. "I said no-one was to touch *any* of the equipment. It can be very dangerous to the uninitiated, so this means *you,* too."
Shaken and confused by what she'd seen, she said, "Yes, sir, I didn't really touch anything—not hard—and I didn't move it. I just…I won't do it again."
Klein nodded and smiled; she knew he didn't like trouble and it looked like he actually believed her explanation.
Trying to appear calm, cooperative and normal again, Lois listened carefully to the rest of what Dr. Klein had to say, got a few personal quotes, and packed her notes in her purse. Nothing she'd heard though came anywhere near close to explaining what she'd seen, and she'd been uncertain how to pose a question about it, especially in front of her journalistic colleagues.
This had been one weird morning: first that strange chat group, and now the VibroWhammy. Even though it was supposed to have been "fixed", it seemed to still have some special connection with her mind. Just thinking about what it had done to her, when she was in the throes of trying to regain her memory, was enough to give her another headache. Why was she being haunted by headaches? At the same time every day, like clockwork, but not on weekends… Come to think of it, when was this thing being tested each day? Hey! Maybe, just maybe, it was the VibroWhammy tests that were causing her early morning headaches!
On her way out of the building she stopped to see the M.A.D. secretary, whose desk was in a open office area at the intersection of two corridors. She asked about seeing Clive Tisdell to learn more about the machine, only to discover he was out in the field at the moment. The secretary said he was a morning person and tried to get his field work done early. He'd be back early this afternoon.
Disappointed at having to wait, but elated at the possible lead that could have the whole thing resolved well before 7:30 the next morning, Lois made a tentative appointment for 3:30 p.m. and told the secretary she'd confirm later in the day. She'd fill Clark in when they met up at Perry's status meeting, at 10:30. After signing out of the building, she headed back to the Planet
*Metropolis, New Troy
10:15 a.m. Eastern Standard Time
Daily Planet Newsroom*
Lois wondered if Clark would make the 10:30 meeting. Perry had recently been watching his reporters more closely. There'd be some kind of directive from management about "waste" which would directly impact on any pay increases for supervisors. As a result, since Friday Perry had only accepted excuses about delays in interviews he himself had assigned as valid reasons for missing the meeting. She figured he'd accept and forgive her for stories that involved the President, or headless corpses, but not much else. Since Clark often had to miss Perry's meetings because of his extracurricular activities, these new restrictions had proved particularly hard to live with. So far this week Lois had been able to satisfy the Chief that Clark was working on something essential. Lois hoped that she wouldn't have to come up with any "brilliant" excuses for this meeting.
Just as she was about to give up hope, Clark bounded out of the elevator and headed towards her. He was still looking buoyant. Lois recognized his frame of mind, and at any other time she would have loved to indulge it… but now she'd have to be strong, if they were going to make Perry's meeting on time for a change. Besides, she needed to talk to him about what she might have discovered at S.T.A.R. Labs.
He walked jauntily over to her, his hands clasped behind his back. Bending deferentially across her desk, he humbly requested "Ms. Lane, may I see you in the junior boardroom?"
A casual passerby would get the impression they were arranging a business meeting—but Lois knew better, and felt aroused at just the idea. Giving him her "watch it, buster, or we'll attract the wrath of Perry" look, she slowly rose out of her chair, carefully keeping her distance from him. Whenever he was in this kind of mood, just touching him would spark fireworks—for both of them. She wanted them to be behind closed doors before *that* happened. Despite herself, a smile spread across her face.
She led the way to the boardroom, Clark was about to follow her but Jimmy rushed up and grabbed him by the arm. Lois stopped for a second to see if she should stick around then decided to get to the boardroom and wait for Clark. She noticed Jimmy was wearing his cameras, primed for action, and was glad to see he was taking Clark's advice about being more professional in his work.
"Clark! I thought you should know, Perry's in one of his *moods*. You'd better not be late for the meeting this time, or you'll be sorry."
"Right, Jimmy, I know. Lois and I will be there."
"You'd better be. I don't think Perry's going to forgive you if you're late *again*."
"Right! Got it. We'll be there. Now, I have to talk to Lois before the meeting. A new source…you know."
"Oh, right." Jimmy dashed off to warn someone else.
Clark continued with his original plan to follow Lois to the junior boardroom. He closed the door securely behind him as he entered the room, and then quickly closed the blinds to give them some privacy. She noted that he avoided looking at her while he was busy with securing these gaps. When he was satisfied that they were truly alone, he turned, gazing at her with undisguised love in his liquid brown eyes.
As usual, Lois felt weak in the knees from the intense passion she saw there. Her body responded to the intensity of his desire and as her breathing became heavier she implored, "Clark, I'd love to but…, Perry's meeting is in just a couple of minutes, we don't have time for…"
Clark approached her, a matter of a few steps, embraced her and as his face drew close to hers he whispered, "I know…but I thought you'd like a little diversion after this morning." Then he pressed his mouth to hers, effectively preventing her from speaking.
Responding to his initiative, she could feel the electricity between them. He always knew exactly what she needed. Clark's hands explored her as the kiss deepened. She felt lightheaded and a little disoriented. As their kiss broke off, she couldn't remember why she'd been reluctant to let this happen in the first place. She was about to ardently suggest that Clark get them home *now* so they could finish what they'd started, when she could have sworn she heard someone yell "Cut!"
*Metropolis, New Troy
10:30 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, Thursday
Daily Planet Newsroom*
Dean broke off the kiss slowly and straightened to a standing position as he opened his eyes. He felt a little disoriented and things seemed…different for some reason. Teri must have changed perfume from her normal cucumber oil while he was in the elevator because now she smelled of some exotic flower. Come to think of it, Teri was now wearing a blue dress when he could have sworn she had been wearing red, just a second ago! And for some reason *his* clothes seemed to have shrink-wrapped to his body. What the heck was going on here?
He turned to speak to the AD only to find that for no apparent reason there were now walls surrounding Teri and himself and they were effectively cut off from the camera and crew.
"Dean, the director hasn't said 'cut' yet," murmured Teri who was still in character, eyes closed, apparently enjoying the kiss. Although now, instead of sitting in a chair at the Lois Lane desk set she was in his arms, arched back over the table behind her.
"The director's not here," Dean whispered back, then wondered why he was doing so. They were all alone here. He was getting more puzzled by the minute. "In fact, no-one's here except us. No camera, no lights, and this *looks* like the conference room set, but…"
Teri opened her eyes, pulled away from him and looked around with an annoyed expression on her face. "Okay, what gives?"
"I don't know. Things are kinda strange." It felt like someone had fitted him from neck to toe with a second skin that was oppressively warm. He put his hand to his tie to loosen it and looked down as he did so, only to see that it wasn't the eggplant tie he'd been wearing just a minute ago. Teri straightened her clothes and brushed past him, then stopped and looked down at herself.
"Wait a minute—you're right! I'm not wearing the dress I was. This one's way too big for me! On the other hand, this does look like the conference room set. But, how'd we get in here?"
"I have no idea…" Dean walked over to the window and parted the Venetian blinds to peer through them. "It's the Daily Planet set out there. Hey, I bet it's a practical joke! Yeah, that's it, you know how weird they can get!" He grinned. He'd played his share on the others so he figured they were trying to get even. "The guys from set design must have created this room and dropped it around us during the kiss to get even with me for that last one I pulled on them."
"But, Dean, we're not wearing the same clothes. How could they change *them* in the last two minutes?"
"Well, er…" Dean shrugged and sighed. "I give up. How would *you* do it?"
Teri walked over next to him, peered between the slats in the blinds, and letting them snap shut, she frowned as if puzzled by what she saw. She stood, stroking her hand over the door frame, and then rapped on it with her knuckles, looking even further perplexed as she did so. "This seems too much like real wood for it to be just a slapped together set." Teri pulled the slats apart again. "Not to mention I don't see anyone out there laughing their heads off at us either."
Dean peered over her shoulder through the opening in the blinds she'd created. "Actually, there isn't anyone out there I can recognize, except Justin and Lane." Dean tried to see more of the set, but the range of view available through the slats of the blinds was limited. He didn't want the jokers out there to see how curious he was anyhow, so he couldn't shift the blinds around or he'd give himself away. He'd rather face them openly. "Let's go out and get the laughing over with. I want to change out of these clothes and into something more comfortable anyway."
Just then the door burst open and through it rushed Justin. He was wearing two cameras around his neck. One had a telephoto lens and the other wide-angle, giving Dean the impression the cameras were ready for action at any moment. Justin was definitely playing his role to the hilt.
"CK! I *told* you not to be late! You two had better get into the meeting right now! Perry's madder than you know what because this is the third meeting in a row you've been late for! Come on, or I'll be in trouble, too!"
Dean opened his mouth to ask what was *really* going on but Teri, standing beside the now open door, spoke first.
"Justin? What's going on here? Where are the TV cameras and the rest of the cast? If this is supposed to be a joke, it's not funny."
The young man stared at her as if she'd grown two heads. "Gosh…" He sidled over to Dean leaning against the table, where he'd moved in order to get out of the way of the door when it burst open, and whispered, "CK, is Lois having memory problems again?"
"When Perry hears this he's going to be *really* upset!" Then, just as the young man was about to dash out through the door again, he stopped and turned to face Teri. Laying his hand on her arm, he gently said, "Lois, I'm Jimmy. I know you may not remember but that's okay, if you forget again, I'll just keep telling you until you remember on your own, okay?"
Teri gaped at him and nodded, speechless as she watched him rush out the door. She peered around the door frame after he'd left and then turned to look at Dean who shrugged.
Within seconds, Lane, doing what Dean thought was his best ever imitation of "Perry", barged into the room yelling at the top of his lungs. "What in the ever loving name of Elvis is going on here? Jimmy here says that you," he pointed at Teri, "claim to be having memory problems again. Is this some new kind of excuse for cuddling in the boardroom? Well, galdarnit, I want these shenanigans to stop!" He frowned at both of them. "You hear me? Right now!"
Once again Teri beat Dean to the question. "Lane? What's with the practical joke? I'm really not in the mood for these antics. You *know* Jon's away and can't come back for the holidays! Why are you doing this?"
Dean put his hand on Teri's shoulder to give her his support. Lane must be exhausted to the point of thinking he *was* Perry. His role in the pasta pirate episode *had* been much more demanding than usual. "Er…I think we're *all* tired. It's been a long week."
Teri picked up on his line, "Yes, I'm exhausted. Why are you doing this?"
The blustering man stopped mid-tirade and his whole tone changed. "Oh, honey. I'm so sorry. I had no idea you were so stressed by the prison riots yesterday. I was going to tell you in the meeting how much Mr. Stern admired how you negotiated the hostage release. I'm proud of you too!" He continued after seeing the blank look on Teri's face. "But, I guess, the stress must have been too much for you." Dean saw tears in the corners of Lane's eyes as the big man pulled Teri to him in a big bear hug. "I'm Perry, honey. Remember me? We go back a long way."
Dean felt strangely moved. This man must love Lois very much to react this way—wait a minute, what was he thinking? They were all playing parts in a TV show, Lois Lane wasn't a real person and neither was Perry White. Why was everyone acting as if something real were happening here? And there hadn't been any prison riots recently on the news. He'd have known if there had been since he tried, whenever possible, to keep up on news items as a source of potential ideas for his stories.
Dean saw the young man who said he was "Jimmy" looking in on the scene of the three of them, through the door into the conference room. "Jimmy" had an anxious look on his face. Behind him there were phones ringing and fax machines burping, and Dean could feel a rumbling under his feet. He'd visited a newsroom when the show first aired to gain some perspective on a real newsroom and the rumble he felt now he could have sworn was being made by distant printing presses, if he didn't know any better. He wasn't sure how the guys in FX had done it but these had to be *really* special special effects.
He shook his head to rid himself of the suspicion that was now trying to get to the front of his brain and returned his attention to the action between the two other people in the conference room. Teri was nodding in response to "Perry's" comment.
Dean felt compelled to get himself and Teri somewhere else where they could figure out what was going on, without all this mounting confusion. Also, he was having the most disquieting feeling that maybe this was all for real and he needed level-headed Teri to talk him out of it. Perhaps if he pretended all this was real, the jokers, if they were jokers, would let this joke go…and if it wasn't a joke—well, he'd deal with that later. "It's been a long week, L…er…Chief, we're both tired. I think I had better take 'Lois' home. We hate to miss your meeting, but I'm sure you understand."
"Sure, Kent. You two leave now. I gave you tomorrow off to visit with your parents anyway, so what's a few more hours? Remember, Lois? I gave you tomorrow off to visit with Clark's parents." He spoke slowly and clearly as if he were talking to a very simple child. "Martha and Jonathan, real nice people. I'm sure you'll remember them when you see them."
Dean held back a grin as he saw Teri strain to keep from losing her temper at this blatant attempt to spin the joke out. She did it though. She was always in control as an actress.
Concentrating on his role as "Clark", he took Teri by the elbow and led her out of the conference room. Looking around at what actually appeared to be an honest-to-goodness newsroom, he spotted the elevators, and, exuding distressed and solicitous concern for "Lois", guided her in that direction. As they passed a desk which had a Lois Lane name plate, Teri stopped, holding him back, obviously surprised at the change in its appearance from just a few minutes ago. The desk was covered in notes, phone pads, and scraps of paper with either shorthand or doodles on them. Some candy bar wrappers peeked out from under all the clutter. The crew *never* dressed a set, especially a desk, to this detail.
"Dean," she whispered, "if this is a joke, then why is *everything* different? *No-one* could make the set this different in just minutes."
Keeping his voice low, Dean replied, "I don't know. That's why I want to get us out of here before anyone notices we're different, too. Come on!"
"Just a second. If this isn't a joke, then Lois is real, and she must have notes or something that could help us get things back to the way they were."
Dean felt his stomach clench at Teri's theory that maybe this wasn't a joke after all. He looked around and saw people staring in their direction. So for their benefit, he tried to maintain his concerned demeanor as "Lois" rooted around the drawers of the desk, finally finding what she wanted in the bottom left-hand drawer. She pulled out what had to be Lois' purse, and picked up a briefcase with the initials LL on the retractable handle.
Teri then turned to him, "Clark could have notes or something too! Let's find his desk." Teri grabbed him by the arm and pulled him in the direction of the nearest desk with an unoccupied chair.
The desk had Clark Kent's name plate on the front right corner, the sight of which caused Dean to come to a sudden stop. Teri dropped her grasp on him and waited for him to search the desk. He rummaged through the files on the desk, but didn't find anything that seemed remotely relevant, just notes on a mayor's speech. If Teri and his stomach were right he'd better act like Clark leaving work. He couldn't find a briefcase to take with him, so he leaned over the desk to simulate turning off the computer before leaving for the day. He noticed the keyboard, unlike the one he usually used on the set, wasn't missing any keys. Not only that but the monitor was working. It was a *real* computer! More evidence that this whole weird thing might not be a practical joke? Unlike the kitchen appliances that really worked in the house set, props *never* gave them real computer equipment.
He couldn't be thinking what he was thinking! This place couldn't possibly be *real*.
Teri touched Dean's arm gently as if to ask what was holding him up. "It's a real computer, *all* the stuff is real!" After staring at the computer for a few seconds, Teri turned around to take in the surrounding decor. He followed her scrutiny of the room.
What they were both seeing was an honest to goodness newsroom with lots of people running to unspecified destinations or yelling for "Copy" or chatting around the water-cooler. The desks were overflowing with work. There were no cameras, lights, booms, or any of the other usual paraphernalia associated with the production set anywhere. The ceiling had office style fluorescent light fixtures, not spot lights used for filming, and most convincing of all, acoustical tile! This wasn't a joke! Even the behind-the-scenes talent they had on the show couldn't produce *this* kind of detail! He swallowed, realizing that he was sweating from more than just wearing these tight clothes.
"Dean!" Teri whispered urgently. "We're in the Daily Planet, the *real* Daily Planet. What are we going to do?"
Dean muttered, "Shit! I don't know." Then he added, as he saw one of the people nearby turn and gape at them, "Let's get out of here and find some place to talk without people staring at us as if we were completely crazy."
"Sounds like a good plan, any idea where?"
Dean shrugged. "We'll think of something." In his experience things usually worked out for the best, after all look at his knee injury. That had seemed devastating at the time, but if he'd made it into football his knee would probably be permanently damaged by now and he wouldn't have had all the opportunities he'd had in the last three and a half years. This weird experience could work out too. Of course, it would. So he smiled and reiterated, "Don't worry, everything will work out just fine."
"Yeah, right. It'll work out *just fine*, despite the fact that it looks suspiciously like we're in a real, live newspaper pit, maybe in a real, live newspaper building that could be in the middle of a real, live *city* bigger than New York! We know nothing about this city, where *they* live, or what kind of relationship they really have, so don't say 'Don't Worry'!"
Teri's voice had risen to the point that more people's heads were turning in their direction. Dean knew that on the show this wouldn't amount to anything, but here, if this was really real, they could be doing serious damage to Lois' reputation.
He put his arm around her shoulder and smiled apologetically at the staring crowd, "Come on, Lois, let me take you home now," he said in a clearly audible voice. Then, in a quieter tone he said, "Look, let's just assume it's all like the scripts for now. We've been doing this for three and a half years. We can wing it when things don't quite match. There's no point in losing our cool."
Disregarding the crowd's reaction, Teri snatched up Lois' bags and glared at him. "That's your whole attitude to life isn't it, just take the lemons that come along and make lemonade!" She marched towards the elevators.
Dean shrugged at the three or four people still staring at them and followed her. They'd had this conversation umpteen times before. What other attitude could you take? On the other hand, maybe she and Jon had had a fight and she was feeling a little edgy. Yeah, that must be it.
As they stood waiting for the elevator, he tried to lighten her mood with a joke. "Well, a little sugar to sweeten the lemons now and then comes in handy…" Teri looked stone-faced. "Or maybe not. Is it really okay with you and Jon? I thought you guys were doing okay. Or…"
She kicked at the potted palm adjacent to the elevators and glared at him.
He paused, fearful of being next in line after the plant. "Sorry."
Then her whole body seemed to slump dejectedly, "I just miss him, okay?…except for the time he was in the show last Spring, we've only seen each other for a maximum of three days in a row, maybe five times since January. We were *sure* he'd be home for Thanksgiving but… I guess it's getting to be too much. I'm sorry, I shouldn't be taking it out on you…" She smiled, but had tears in her eyes…"or the plant either."
He put his arm around her shoulder to comfort her. It must be really rough trying to maintain a relationship long distance. He wondered, for a moment, if it was actually worse than having no relationship at all.
As they took the elevator to the parking level, Dean became fascinated again by the idea of where he and Teri actually seemed to be. Despite the fact that the elevator looked *exactly* like the one on the set, this wasn't a prop with gaffers operating the doors. "Hey, cool! This elevator really works!" It was amazing how much things were like the show. He'd have to remember this for when they got back to Burbank.
His mood was buoyant for a couple of floors. Then whatever he was wearing under this over-sized, just barely fashionable suit began to make him *really* feel uneasy. He unbuttoned the top few buttons of his shirt and loosened his tie. Underneath he saw the Superman suit!
"Dean! You weren't wearing the S shirt before!"
"It's not just the shirt. I'm wearing a complete Superman outfit underneath these clothes!"
"*And* the cape?"
"It's hard to say, but it's *really* uncomfortable! I have to get out of it."
The realization that he was wearing a *real* Superman suit unsettled him. He'd sometimes wondered if he could keep his real self separate from the superhero, but seeing the Suit and knowing that it was the whole suit was— crazy. His hand trembled as he wiped the sweat from his forehead. He wasn't wearing any makeup! Come to think of it neither was Teri, or at least she wasn't wearing set makeup. Not that she needed make-up, but it was another odd thing that only confirmed their suspicions.
"Well, you can't just strip here."
The elevator doors opened at the garage level, just as he finished buttoning up his shirt again. Three people were waiting to get on the elevator, so they had to stop talking. After he and Teri had exited the elevator, and the elevator doors had closed, Teri continued, "Besides, you don't want to give away Clark's secret to the people here. You'll have to wait until we're somewhere private before you can change."
Unfortunately, that made a lot of sense. Dean felt hot and tired. If he had to wear this much longer, he'd go nuts.
They found Lois' silver Jeep Cherokee in the same space it held in the garage set for the Planet building, only this wasn't a garage set but a real garage and a real Jeep which had a real licence plate fastened to the bumper, not locked inside on the back seat as it often was between uses on the set, that read New Troy across the bottom edge.
He insisted he drive because it would help him ignore his discomfort and help him feel like he was more in control; besides he liked to drive and Teri had better navigational sense and could give directions.
When he expressed these thoughts, Teri retorted, "What directions? We don't know where we're going!" Then after looking at him for a few seconds, she softened her tone, "Dean, are you okay? You're looking kind of flushed."
"I…" Dean was having difficulty breathing. He wasn't sure but it felt like an asthma attack coming on. They'd have to get to a drug store because he didn't have his inhaler with him. It might not be asthma though, it could be the tight clothing, or this heat and humidity. Anyway, he'd better have some medication handy, just in case. "… We're going to have to find a drug store. I think my asthma is acting up."
"Oh, no! I thought you only got that when you're in the north-east!" Teri looked startled as she realized the import of what she'd just said. "Isn't Metropolis supposed to be in the north-east? Dammit all, we should have looked in the Yellow Pages for a drug store while we were in the newsroom."
"But, I wasn't feeling this way then," and he knew he couldn't afford to feel this way now. He sighed and tried to get on with the immediate dilemma. He fished in all his pockets checking for car keys.
"Well, the ads often have maps which would have come in handy. How are we going to find a drug store now? And even if we do, what are we going to use for money?"
Dean pulled out a wallet from the suit he was wearing. There was about forty dollars in it. He noticed a drivers licence. He spread the wallet open at the licence to show Teri, pointing at the address on it. Under the name Clark Kent it said 348 Hyperion Ave., West Metropolis. Teri pulled Lois' wallet out of her purse, knocking the car keys from their niche in the purse onto the garage floor. She picked up the keys and handed them to Dean who unlocked the passenger door. Flipping open the wallet she saw the driver's licence. Under the name Lois Lane Kent it also said 348 Hyperion Ave., West Metropolis. "I guess that answers the relationship question."
Teri got into the car and leaned over to unlock the driver's door. Then, while Dean was getting behind the wheel, rifled through the car's storage spaces on the passenger side. "There's a map of Metropolis in the glove compartment." She pulled it out and quickly scanned the list of street names under H. Noting the grid number, she found Hyperion on the map. The next problem was finding where they were right now.
From another part of Clark's wallet Dean pulled out a business card with the Daily Planet's address on it. Finding it on the map Teri drew a finger line along the streets on the map from the Planet to "home," as he started the engine. Dean noted that Clark must have driven into work that morning since he didn't have to adjust the mirrors or driver's seat. He tried not to dwell on the idea that *he*, Dean Cain, was driving the same car that *Superman* had driven!
Metropolis, New Troy 11:15 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, Thursday 348 Hyperion Ave., West Metropolis
They hadn't found a drug store en route because they'd taken the expressway out of the downtown core and then exited that busy byway and driven through purely residential streets. They figured they could check the Yellow Pages of the phone book at the Kent's place. It didn't seem as urgent now. Maybe it was the sunshine, or the fresh air, or the distracting scenery as they drove with the windows down, but Dean didn't feel ill at the moment. He still wanted to get out of the skin-tight outfit as soon as possible, but that could wait a few minutes.
The skyline of Metropolis had been breathtaking. Buildings of all shapes, sizes and colours. There was even one that was all shiny black marble, with gold trim around the windows and pinnacle. The logo on the side had been an L enclosed by a gold triangle.
Teri pointed the building out to Dean, "Do you think the L is for Luthor?"
"It's possible. If this *is* a realistic copy of our comic book world, the chances are that the villains are just as 'real' as the 'good guys'."
"If he's even half as bad as the character in the show, *I* don't want to meet up with him." Teri shuddered.
"Me neither." Dean returned his attention to the road in front of him. The traffic wasn't as bad as the freeways in L.A., but then again the highways seemed to be better designed. They hadn't come across one single entrance ramp that didn't give the merging traffic enough time to get up to speed without putting their fellow drivers in danger of life and limb. They'd had plenty of warning to change lanes for their exit and the other drivers seemed comparatively polite. It was a refreshing change from the madness he experienced daily in L.A. He'd moved closer to the studio just to avoid it.
When they found 348 Hyperion they'd parked on the street and gaped at the house. It looked *exactly* like the Georgian facade used in Burbank! How'd the set designers know what it looked like?
Dean and Teri had gotten into the house by the simple expedient of trying all the keys on Lois's key ring. Although he'd wished at the time that he had super speed, because Lois Lane must have had enough keys to fit every door for five square blocks.
After entering, they first explored the entire house to see if there was anyone at home. Downstairs, the only signs of anyone living here were some fish in a tank between the kitchen and the dining room. The rest of the ground floor was spotlessly clean.
"You think the neatness is a byproduct of having Superman living in the house?" Teri queried. "This is cleaner than houses I've seen with full-time servants."
Dean grinned. "Why? Did you want to hire him to clean your place?"
Teri just rolled her eyes and headed for the stairs. Upstairs there were two bedrooms, a bathroom and a room that seemed to have been left in the middle of renovation some time ago, judging from the accumulation of dust. The dust seemed distinctly out of place after seeing the pristine condition of the rest of the house. Dean couldn't decide what function this room had been intended for until he almost stepped on, then picked up and unfurled a roll of border-width wall covering of happy teddy bears holding hands. Teri's eyes widened when she saw it.
"Oh, dear, they must be so disheartened. To have your hopes crushed like that."
"Uh-huh," Teri nodded. "I mean why else leave the renovation in the middle and just let the room gather dust? You've seen the rest of the house. They wouldn't have left the room like this if they hadn't been disappointed." She looked around at the half finished room. "I wonder if they lost it, or it was just a false alarm?"
Dean shrugged and tried to see the possible hope hidden behind the forlorn facade of the room. "They didn't change it back to whatever the room was before. Maybe it was just a temporary setback and they don't want to continue with the nursery renovation until they're sure next time."
"I hope so." Teri turned and walked out of the room. Dean dropped the border roll where he'd found it and followed Teri back into the hall.
Further exploration found slightly damp towels obviously left to dry in the bathroom that morning. People really did live here. Except for the one room, the rest of the house had seemed so immaculate, he'd begun to wonder.
Finding no clues to help them with their current problem, they went back downstairs. Besides the living room and kitchen, there was a TV room/den and a home office. In the office they found a laptop open and active.
"I wonder why this is on?" Teri sat down in front of the screen and deactivated the screen saver.
Dean shrugged. He was having trouble breathing again. "Look, I'll go up and change while you take a look at it. Let me know if you find anything interesting."
Leaving Teri to take a look at what the laptop was doing, Dean went through the living room heading for the stairs again and the master bedroom to find a change of clothes. While he was passing the bookshelves in the living room he thought he'd try pulling at the second book on the middle left shelf, just for laughs since that's what they supposedly did on the show to open the secret closet, only to find it really did activate the door to a hidden closet. "Hey, Teri, come and look at this!"
"No! Dean! Come *here*! Come and look at *this*!" Teri sounded excited.
He hurried back into the office.
"The computer! I discovered it's logging an IRC session and they're discussing *us*!" Teri was leaning forward to catch line after line of messages scrolling across the screen. "There's your name and mine and FoLC and those silly acronyms the fans use for whole sentences."
Pointing to the title in the border at the top of the screen as he spoke, Dean said, "It's the 'Locally Originating InterStellar Communications Link Access'. I've never heard of that. It does spell LOISCLA, but it can't be the #loiscla channel we know and love." Then in a puzzled tone of voice, "But why would they be discussing Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman? This *is* the real Lois and Clark's world, not just a TV show. It can't be about the show."
"But, Dean, they *are* discussing the show! See, there's Zoomway and some of the other regulars. It *has* to be the same channel. Maybe we have an interstellar link to our world. Maybe that's what the InterStellar part in the heading means. Maybe we should talk to them," and she placed her fingers on the keyboard.
"Hey, wait!" He grasped her wrists, "If you're right, we can't just dive in saying who we are. They'll never believe us. I mean, *I* have trouble believing what's happened to us and I'm actually here experiencing it. *They're* just going to think we're cranks and ban us from the channel! And then where will we be? We'll have lost what looks like our only link to our world. We can't risk it!"
"Oh—yeah…" She slumped back in the chair and then sat up again. "Let me look at the log file. Maybe I can find a pattern for when people are on who we can trust, and try to talk with them."
"K lurks on this channel now and then. If we could talk to her, she'd believe us. Especially if Lois and Clark have confided in her. And even if they haven't, we know her well enough to convince her that we're not crazy. But first we have to talk to her. Maybe she'll be on it again soon."
"How are we going to know when she plans to be on? She usually does AOL on Wednesday nights. If it's before noon here on the East coast, it's still morning in California, she won't be on for hours." Teri frowned and then brightened, "Wait! I'll who-is someone and find out what time it is where they are. Cheequi lives in New Mexico, that's Mountain time…" She typed furiously, "it's 16:35 there—but it's only…" she checked Lois' watch "about 11am here, that's weird…"
"This *whole thing* is weird, so that's not surprising." Dean read over the whois statement again. "Hey, look at that! It's still Wednesday, November 27 there! But the status bar," he pointed to the lower edge of the screen, "shows it's August 15 here, so the times are totally whacked out!" He ran his fingers through his hair. "But trying to talk to K is a great idea. Why not ask if anyone's heard if she'll be on? I see people asking that kind of thing all the time when I lurk on the channel. If anyone asks why we're asking so far ahead of time, we can pretend we're in Australia but going through, oh, Chicago or something. A lot of fans from Australia chat on this channel."
"You sound like you lurk a lot here."
"Sure I do, when I have time, don't you?"
"Uh-huh, but I didn't know you did."
"Of course, I learn a lot that way." He grinned at her. "Here, let me at the keyboard." Dean keyed his question and hit Enter.
<Siol> I heard K would be on soon, anyone know when?
"Argh! What kind of nick is that? Why'd they pick *that*? I thought that was the name of the channel before we figured out it was LOISCLA. Change it, Dean!"
"The channel?" Dean feigned innocence.
Teri tapped her fingertips on his shoulder. "The nick! Change the nick."
Dean figured he'd overdone the innocent act so he just asked, "To what?"
"Well, something that will give a clue as to who we are and where."
"Okay, we're in Metropolis, so what about Metro?"
"Good! And there's two of us, so add Duo. That should give Lois and Clark a clue who we are…if they're in our world and we ever get them on this channel."
"Nice to see you thinking positive." He ducked as she tried to swat him one. Grinning, Dean did a /nick change resulting in:
*** Siol is now known as MetroDuo
Meanwhile, there was a flurry of activity on the screen as people first wondered about, denied, then tentatively confirmed that K would be coming onto the channel sometime in the next couple of hours. Zoomway reported that she was currently on AOL with ABCAmy. After she finished her public chat, the actress would visit one of the AOL chat rooms then probably IRC.
Dean and Teri gave a sigh of relief. Then tensed as they both realized that this meant it was *night* in Burbank. It should have been morning! "Dean, how can K be on AOL? It's not even noon yet!"
"The times must be different, remember the weird whois time, but that doesn't matter because it looks like we're going to be able to contact her. What luck!" Dean felt tremendous relief, maybe this would be over real soon. "We'll be able to talk to K and I'm *sure* Lois and Clark will have connected up with her. She's probably making Thanksgiving Dinner for them right now." And at the quizzical look from Teri, "See! The old lemons-to-lemonade trick works every time!"
"Cute, Cain, really cute." But Teri couldn't resist grinning back at him.
His grin faded though as he realized they still had a problem, "But how are we going to know when she's actually on?"
Teri frowned as she motioned him out of the chair and sat down. "I wonder if we could have it signal us when she comes on? Some programs do that, and we already heard this one beep. But we'd have to know which nick she was going to use, otherwise…"
"She usually uses KCallan on IRC, or Danny. Why not set it up to signal on those, or KBCallan?"
"Good idea. You are surprising sometimes."
"Well, I'm not just another pretty face, you know." Dean grinned.
Teri gave him an exasperated look. "I apologized for that."
"No need to—you were right!" and he made a horrible grimace that made her laugh.
"Give it up, Dean, you are *way* out of your league." Teri gave him one of her best silly faces in return, the kind that always gave him the giggles.
However, his giggles ceased almost immediately when he felt his breathing become erratic. He hid the sudden change with a cough. He didn't want to scare Teri. He'd hoped that his improvement on the drive here meant his asthma wasn't acting up. Still, he'd be fine if he didn't try to do too much. He was pretty sure, anyway. He should probably try changing clothes real soon. He was definitely wearing the complete Suit underneath these business clothes. However, it didn't feel like the Spandex suit he wore for the show. It felt like a stronger but much thinner elastic material and that was probably the reason why it felt so tight.
"Dean, do you think we've really become them?" Teri's expression had changed from silly to serious. "I mean, I know we work long hours, but I never thought it would drive both of us over the edge at the same time."
He sat on a nearby chair and pushed his fingers through his hair. "Well, I'm not him, that's for sure. I can't see through walls, or fly, or any of that stuff." He felt both disappointed and relieved. Disappointed that he didn't have some of the super powers but relieved that he didn't have to fly. "So it's not that we've become them, it's, oh I don't know, like we've switched places. We're still us, but we're in their world."
"So does that mean they're in ours?"
"Could be." He shrugged. "No matter what's happened, we have to figure out how to reverse it." His desire to see the positive in all of this came to the fore. "You know…" he looked at her and said very carefully, well aware he could be stepping on thin ice, "it *could* be… kind of… fun…"
"Fun? Fun!! Are you completely insane? We could be trapped here for the rest of our lives! What about Jon, what about my animals, what about…"
Dean touched her gently on the arm. "It's okay, really, we have a link to our world and maybe K will be on real soon. We have to think positive."
"Right…positive…got it." Teri grabbed a tissue and blew her nose. "Now what?"
"So now we wait. I can go change, I need to get out of this costume, but then what do you think we should do until K comes on?"
"We could try hunting up the Yellow Pages to find a drug store for you," she said astutely. "You don't feel good, you can't hide that from me."
"Okay, okay! There's probably a phone book around here somewhere." Dean started to rummage through the piles of papers on the desk.
"And another thing, I'm hungry!"
"Hungry? You just finished eating a whole-wheat honey donut!"
"That was hours ago! Maybe they have *real* food around here! Not that pseudo stuff we get in the house set at the studio."
"They…" he paused in his hunt for the Yellow Pages and raising his eyebrows to indicate a great idea, "the fans should see you eat… I know," he looked at the computer, "I'll tell them you're eating right now!"
Teri pulled the laptop away from him. "Don't you dare touch this!" and lowered it onto the desk. Suddenly, the phone in front of her started to ring. "Dean! How can it be ringing? We're online."
"They must have two phone lines, they *are* reporters."
"You answer it," both said together.
Hesitating a little, Dean picked up the phone and said, "Hello?"
"Hi, honey, I'm on my way from the airport. I got an earlier flight so I called the Planet to let you know and Perry said you'd had to take Lois home 'cause she wasn't feeling well. Is she okay?"
"Er, yeah, s.. she just has a…a headache." He saw Teri raise her eyebrows at this lame excuse. He coughed politely and followed up with, "She'll be fine."
"Oh, Clark, is she still getting the headaches? Did the doctor give you any idea what was causing them? Is she… What am I saying, I can talk to her myself as soon as I get there."
"Get here?" His sense of panic revved into high gear. He wasn't sure who was on the other end of the line, but she sounded an awful lot like K *and* Perry had said Clark's parents were going to visit. Could this be Clark Kent's mother? He was trying to persuade himself that he had an overactive imagination when the woman at the other end of the line responded.
"Yes, honey. Now don't you worry, you don't have to pick me up, I'm already in a cab. You take good care of Lois until I get there. See you in a few minutes."
Omigod, it *had* to be *her*. He stayed focused long enough to say, "Yes, see you…" and then slowly lowered the phone, realized he'd missed the cradle and then corrected for that.
Feeling a little stunned at this turn of events, he faced Teri and said, "I think that was his Mom. Perry did say something about his parents visiting. She's in a cab on the way from the airport, and she'll be here in a few minutes!"
"Oh, great, now what do we do? We can't possibly fool his parents."
"Why not? We're actors. We act."
Teri rolled her eyes. "And what's this about me having a headache? What kind of lame excuse is that? The amnesia thing you came up with is better."
"But it was a good guess. She said Lois has been having headaches, and no one knows why. We could use that as a cover for any bloopers we make. You because you're 'sick' and me because I'm so concerned about Lois' health." At Teri's skeptical look he repeated, "It could work. We *have* to try."
"Well, if I'm going to pretend to be Lois I guess I'd better make myself presentable." Teri rooted around in Lois' purse for a comb and mirror and came across a notebook. She opened it and frowned. "Do you read shorthand? Mine's not very good."
"Nope, never had a reason to learn. What's it say?"
"I can't read much. There's some mention of Dr. Klein and something about a ViWa something-or-other and a Clive—, I can't make out the last name. Not terribly helpful." Teri tossed the notebook back into the purse. Not finding what she wanted in the purse she headed for the bathroom. Dean followed her up the stairs and leaned on the door frame as they continued their discussion while she combed her hair.
"Okay, so what do we do when his mother gets here? We should coordinate our story. You should lie down in the bedroom." When he saw that Teri was about to protest he continued, "Remember, you're supposed to have a headache. I'll get into some casual clothes. I need to change now, anyway. I don't know what this suit is made of, but I feel like I've been shrink-wrapped." Dean turned to go up to the bedroom to change.
They both jumped at the sound of the knock on the front door.
"That can't be her!—We're not ready! What are we going to do?"
"You go lie down on the bed and I'll try to cover." Dean indicated the bedroom over his shoulder with his thumb, and slowly walked downstairs prolonging his progress to the front door, and waiting to open it until he could no longer see her from the bottom of the steps.
"Oh, honey. I'm so glad to see you." A woman who looked like K, except for the plastic frames on her glasses, flung her arms around him and pecked him on the cheek. "Your Dad is so disappointed that he couldn't come. You have no…" She stopped, frowned and stepped back, looking him up and down as if he were some kind of bug. "You're not my son! Who *are* you?"
"I…" Dean mentally whacked himself. Come on Dean, you're an actor. Act!
"And where's Lois? What have you done with her?"
"She's in the bedroom. She's…fine."
Martha obviously wasn't buying it and strode through the house and up to the master bedroom. "Lois, honey, it's me, Martha."
On seeing Teri, Martha gasped. "Oh my god! What has this monster *done* to you? You're so *thin*!" Like an avenging angel, Martha whirled around and jabbed Dean in the chest. "Just who are you and why are you here? What have you done to Clark? When was the last time you fed my daughter-in-law? And if you don't tell me the whole truth I'll…I'll call for Superman!"
Teri jumped up to grab K—Martha—by the arm and try to reassure her. "It's okay. He's not starving me. I eat lots. I just metabolize food faster than other people."
Martha pulled out of Teri's grip and paled. "*You're* not Lois! Who are you?"
Teri shook her head. "I'm…a friend, believe me."
Dean helped Martha to sit in the nearby chair, insisting when she claimed she didn't want to sit down. "We should try to explain. It's not something we really understand. But it *is* the truth."
Martha searched Dean's face. "You look almost exactly like him, except for the mole on your upper lip and the scar on your forehead. You're not quite as large as Clark, I don't think, but that's not immediately obvious. You sound a lot like him, you had *me* fooled on the phone." She searched his face for more signs of how he was different from her Clark. "Are you a clone?"
Teri and Dean said firmly and together "No!"
"Then who, or what, are you?"
"I'm Dean Cain and this is Teri Hatcher. We're actors."
"So someone hired you to pretend to be Lois and Clark? Who? Lex Luthor? If you're helping *him* I'll call for Superman…now!"
"No, no. Not Lex Luthor. It's not like that at all. We work for December 3rd Productions and Warner Brothers. We're the stars in the TV show 'Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman'. Teri plays—well, I guess it's obvious…"
"Obvious? You look like Clark, true, I mean without his glasses and he and Superman are friends but I've never heard of a TV show about their friendship…" Martha barely stopped for breath.
"But Clark is Superman. Clark is who he is, Superman is what he does. That's what the show is all about. I play…"
At the sudden change in colour of Martha's face, Dean figured that hadn't come out quite right and putting his arm around her shoulders asked "Can I get you a glass of water?" Teri got up and went into the bathroom to get it.
"I'll be fine…so you know the truth…" Martha took a deep breath. "Are you trying to tell me that you play both Clark and Superman, and everyone knows Clark *is* Superman—and this show is on *television*! I've never seen it! Where is it shown?"
"All over the world. It airs on Sunday nights here in the US and in Canada, and gets delayed airings in other countries like Australia and Great Britain."
Martha took another deep breath. She appeared to be trying to grasp what they were telling her and then Dean could see by her absorbed expression that her thoughts had arrived at a possible explanation. "I talked about alternate realities to Clark when he had to deal with the clone of himself. He told me not to get too sci-fi on him. Is that it? Are you from an alternate reality?"
Teri brought a glass of water from the bathroom for Martha to drink. "We don't know but that would make sense."
Martha frowned. "How did you get here, and where's my Clark and Lois?"
Dean shrugged. "We don't know that, either."
"Okay, let's start at the beginning, you tell me what you know. Maybe we can reverse this thing."
"I was thinking of getting something to eat." Teri interjected. "Let's raid the fridge and we'll fill you in on what we know."
*Metropolis, New Troy
12:10 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Thursday
348 Hyperion Ave., West Metropolis*
Dean felt awful. He'd *really* have to get out of this outfit soon, it was so tight he could barely breathe. He wished he hadn't let himself get distracted time and again, most recently by the arrival of the real Martha Kent.
As Martha, striving to maintain the appearance of normality, made them lunch, they had filled her in as best they could about what had happened. It was amazing how much she and K, as Martha, looked alike. They even had some of the same mannerisms. They both had an air of real affection when they were talking to you. After listening to their story, she was just as puzzled as they were and agreed they'd have to try communicating with K, her alternate actor self, when she came on IRC, *if* she came on IRC.
Dean wiped his forehead. "I—need—to…" He tried to stand and found that the room swirled and swooped around him. "…get—out—of…"
"Dean! What's wrong?" Teri asked. "Is it your asthma?"
Martha, who'd just placed a plate of sandwiches on the table, grasped him by the upper arms and forced him to sit back down at the table. "Here, let me loosen your collar." She discovered though that his collar didn't need loosening because he'd done that earlier. "Uh oh! You have the Suit on! Dean, can you hear me? We need to get you out of the costume. Can you help me?"
Well, of course he could! He knew how to undress himself, he'd been doing it since he couldn't remember when. "Sure—I—" He started to take off his shirt. But his hands didn't seem to want to cooperate and he only got the shirt part way off before the kitchen's tile floor swirled up towards him again.
"Teri, hold him upright the best you can. We *have* to get the costume off him. How long has he been in it?"
"About two hours. Why? " Teri helped Martha pull the shirt off and then they pulled the upper part of the costume over his head. " Omigod! What's happened to his skin?"
"It's only a rash, I hope. The costume is air-tight. I used a kind of industrial plastic elasticized material to withstand what Clark can put a suit through, but I didn't design any ventilation because Clark doesn't need it. I think it's suffocating Dean, so we *have* to get the costume off him. Now!"
"Yes—have—to—get—out…" Dean found it *very* difficult to breathe. This was much worse than that first asthma attack in Boston. With a small amount of help from himself, the two women were able to get the upper part of the costume off of him but he still felt ghastly.
"Don't try to talk." Martha stroked him on the back. "Teri, help me support him so he can walk up to the bathroom. He needs to let his pores breathe, and taking a shower should help."
Dean knew that he was shaking like a leaf, but he was upright. He staggered slightly at the first step as they reached the staircase, but grabbed Martha and Teri's shoulders to maintain his balance. He took each step, one by one, clutching the handrail for support and being assisted by the two women, one on each side, whenever he faltered. With Martha and Teri's help he got into the shower. Martha sent Teri to the linen closet for dry towels and then started to strip the pants and tights from his legs. "No…" He didn't want some total stranger stripping him naked. "I can…" Then he had to grab the towel rack to stay upright.
"Dean, I'm Clark's *mother*. You don't have anything that he doesn't have and, believe me, he looks perfectly human. I've seen him buck naked hundreds of times." Martha's tone softened. "If it will make you feel more comfortable, I'll just pretend you're Clark and you just pretend I'm your Mom, okay?"
"Okay," he croaked, surrendering. He leaned against the wall at the back of the shower, his forehead on his folded arms, while his "Mom" stripped the rest of the clothes from him.
He felt much better as soon as the water hit him. It was amazing, like his skin had found fresh mountain air. His "Mom" soaped his back and the back of his legs, then handed him the soap so he could finish the job on his front side. He felt stronger already and quite able to do this.
"How do you feel?"
"Better. I feel better. Thanks."
"No problem. You sit down in that water and let it run over you. I'll get you a change of clothes." Teri knocked and, with the door itself shielding a view of the bathroom, handed Martha some towels. Martha's parting words were, "There's towels on the counter, and I'll hang the clothes on the door for you. Just take your time."
"Okay. Thanks." Dean relaxed in the tub and let the warm spray of water run over him.
Some twenty minutes later, once he was dressed, he returned downstairs. He took a long deep breath. He was so relieved to have *that* over. He'd never complain about having to wear Spandex again!
Teri stopped flipping through the TV channels as he entered the den. "How you feeling, Dean?" she asked, genuinely concerned.
"Fine, I feel fine." Dean walked over to the sofa and sat down beside her. "But I wouldn't want to go through *that* again."
Teri patted him on the arm and made reassuring noises. "Okay, since you're back in shape, let's—"
Teri's surfing had stopped on a cartoon they didn't get in Burbank, a news flash broke in to the channel announcing that a plane was in trouble over Metropolis. If the pilot couldn't land this next time around, he'd be crash landing in a suburban neighbourhood.
Dean was really concerned. Here was a job for Superman, only Superman wasn't here. "I wish I could help. If Clark were here he'd help. I wish there was something we could do."
Teri turned to Martha, "What do you…"
Martha just shook her head. "Even Clark can't be everywhere at once. He understands that. There's nothing we *can* do…"
Suddenly they heard the signal from the laptop. K must be on IRC. They all raced into the office.
K was "Danny" this session, and the list was so active that the words were scrolling up the screen almost too fast to read.
Teri tried to DCC her, but couldn't get acceptance. "Okay, what do we say to her to let her know it's really us? So she'll accept our private chat?"
They all studied the screen. Most people seemed to be asking questions, saying hi or gushing about Dean or Teri. A typical IRC session if ever he'd seen one… Seeing someone make a comment about thwapping another nick on the list, Dean had an idea. "What about a /me saying 'wonders if Lois and Clark like Burbank.' It'll mean nothing to the rest of the list, but what if our luck is holding? We have K online, maybe Lois and Clark are with her? If they are, and she's not talking to someone privately with this screen minimized, *they'll* know it's us."
"That's a lot of ifs—but I like it. You really *are* more than just a pretty face," Teri grinned as she typed the message and almost instantly the coded words appeared on the screen "MetroDuo wonder if Lois and Clark like Burbank?" "What are we going to do if she doesn't see the message?" Teri tried another DCC connection.
"Try repeating it, if you don't get a response soon."
However, this time the DCC request got:
Session Start: Thurs Aug 15 12:39:59 1996
Chat with Danny
Waiting for acknowledgment…
DCC Chat connection established - <Danny> Hi! Interesting question, who wants to know?
<MetroDuo> Hi K:) Teri and Dean.
<Danny> Teri and Dean who?
"This is going to be harder than I thought. She was in the lab this morning with Vincent." Dean recalled. "She was complaining about him yesterday. Maybe referring to that would convince her." He watched as Teri typed.
<MetroDuo> The refugees from the Pasta Pirate. Did you escape Vincent's clutches again, in the lab this morning?
<Danny> Yes, but anyone could know that.
"Sheesh, she types fast. We have such a great connection we must be on the same server." Reading the last message, Teri frowned. "I was afraid she'd say that. What else can we tell her?"
Dean smiled grimly. "I've run out of ideas. I mean if she doesn't believe what we say about the show, what else can we say to prove who we are?"
Teri patted his arm comfortingly. "Dean, you're losing the sugar. Think positive…remember!"
He rolled his eyes at having his own philosophy thrown back at him at a time like this.
Martha coughed quietly. "If Clark is there he'll know what I mean when I ask if Lois is getting her a.m. headaches still."
<Danny> Give me something else.
<MetroDuo> Martha wants to know if Lois is still getting her early morning headaches.
<Danny> Not now she isn't:)
<Danny> Is it really you?
"All right! Now we're cooking." Dean was ecstatic as Teri responded.
<MetroDuo> Yes:) I guess we're not in Kansas any more:p
<Danny> Neither are we
<MetroDuo> Are Lois and Clark there? Martha's anxious.
<Danny> We're right here, and we're fine:) This si Clark.
"Hey, Clark Kent can't spell." Dean grinned and it was Teri's turn to roll her eyes.
"Okay, now what? We're here and they're there. How do we get back?" Teri typed the question to Burbank. The response came, apparently from Lois, asking if they had her notes. After some back and forth they established that the probable cause was the "upgraded" VibroWhammy. Dean and Teri agreed to visit S.T.A.R. Labs that afternoon and try to reverse the process. Lois gave Teri some hints on what to do to activate the machine. They agreed on a time period to try to meet online again if the trek to S.T.A.R. Labs failed.
Teri found Clive Tisdell's phone number in Lois' notebook and called to confirm Lois' 3:30 p.m. appointment. The secretary put her through to the scientist himself, who said he usually went home at 4:00 p.m. so if they could keep the meeting short, 3:30 was fine with him.
Dean picked some business clothes out of Clark's closet and changed again. The slacks were a little tight in the hips and the jacket a little broad in the shoulders, but he looked fine in the mirror. Something didn't seem quite right until he remembered to put on the pair of glasses he'd left lying on the hall table. It seemed like he'd had more costume changes this afternoon than he did in a typical day on the set.
As they left, Martha gave them both hugs and wished them well. She would stay by the laptop and try to maintain contact with Burbank.
They found S.T.A.R. Labs on the map and this time Teri drove. She insisted that Dean must still be feeling the aftereffects of his encounter with the Suit. He'd tried to deny it but she wasn't buying it.
Once he'd directed them on to the right street to get to S.T.A.R. Labs, Dean asked, "So what do we tell Clive is the reason for our visit? I mean we *can't* tell him the truth."
"Well, Lois said she's been having those headaches and she thinks they're caused by the VibroWhammy. We could use that. I'll just have to pretend they happen to me that's all." Teri smiled disarmingly. "Clever, huh? I think I'm going to like being a real investigative reporter for awhile. Maybe I'll even get to see the schematics for that thing. That'd be neat, maybe I could figure out what's causing the problem from them. I try to keep up on my math, and this would be good practice."
Dean was glad to see she was getting with the program and said, "Okay. I'll just try to follow your lead."
They continued on to S.T.A.R. Labs through very life-like streets. There was no comic-book or movie set look to them at all. In fact, if they hadn't known that they were in Metropolis, they could have sworn they were driving through some of the suburban neighbourhoods of Chicago. The actual S.T.A.R. Labs building looked nothing like the one used in the show. It was part of a research park, with sprawling lawns and manicured flower beds. Although obviously built in the last ten years, the building itself had a vaguely Art Deco look to it. They pulled into the parking lot just before 3:30 p.m.
Lois and Clark's press credentials got them into the building. Clive Tisdell, a tall, thin, quiet man, met them at the security desk and led them, through a maze of corridors, to the closet he called his office. Here he felt free to discuss his project with them.
Metropolis, New Troy 3:55 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Thursday S.T.A.R. Labs - Experimental Technology Wing
Clive Tisdell had been horrified to realize that his "new" weather machine was causing Lois Lane to have migraine headaches whenever he turned it on. The times of the headaches and his tests seemed to coincide. He normally did the tests first thing after he got into the lab, to try to provide good weather for the rush hour traffic. He only wished he could set it to a timer so he'd get the benefit while he was driving in to work himself, but someone had to be here to supervise the touchy machine and its complicated software. He went on to say he believed Ms. Lane, but wanted some objective confirmation of the phenomenon. As a result they were now in the presence of the VibroWhammy in all its glory.
The machine looked very basic, a simple square box with a couple of levers on one side. In fact, Dean thought the turbine-like mock up that FX had created was better looking than the "real" thing, but couldn't knock it since this one, apparently, had actually been a working model.
Clive Tisdell was fussing around his monitors as he turned on the peripherals to the VibroWhammy. He explained that the VibroWhammy itself had been left on this morning for the demonstration that Ms. Lane had attended. Teri nodded and tried to look as if she knew what he was talking about and that she'd been there before. As Dr. Tisdell switched on the last of the boxes near the console, Dean could feel a hum through the floor.
Abruptly Teri cried out as she clutched her head. "Turn it off! Now!"
Dean, realizing this was his cue, glared at Clive and pulled Teri away from the VibroWhammy, holding her gently and making comforting sounds. Teri made it seem so *real*, she was a *great* actress.
"I'm sorry, Ms. Lane, I just wanted to be sure." Clive rapidly powered off the peripherals around the machine.
"That *hurt*, don't do it again."
Dean could feel that Teri was trembling. Now he was worried that she really had felt the pain. "Honey, come over here and sit down. You're shaking like a leaf."
Teri whimpered and allowed herself to be guided away.
Tisdell looked devastated. "I'm sorry, Mr. Kent, I had no idea that it was causing anyone harm."
"That's okay. Lois has always had a 'special' affinity for the VibroWhammy. I think she'll be okay if she rests for a few minutes." Dean tightened his hold on Teri, projecting his concern for "Lois'" pain.
"Although I'm sorry the test worked, I am glad to know that the phenomenon was confirmed. Now that I know the VibroWhammy is still causing mental anguish, we'll take a deeper look at the system. I'm sure we'll have the problem licked by early next week." Clive Tisdell was powering off his test boxes, but left the VibroWhammy and its immediate peripherals on, although he explained he usually turned these machines off to conserve power. However, since it was apparently the actual process of powering up the peripherals that was causing Lois' headaches he said he'd leave them on until further tests had been done. "I have to leave now to pick up my kids at day care because my wife's out of town, and I'm already late. I'm supposed to escort you out before I leave."
Teri moaned quietly.
"We can't leave, not just yet. She's still in pain." Dean supported Teri as she sat on a lab stool. "Dr. Tisdell, I know you have to leave, but could you let us stay for a little while?" Dean used his best imploring look. "I'm sure Dr. Klein would allow us to leave by ourselves under the circumstances. We just need…a few minutes, I'm sure my…wife will feel better by then."
Obviously in a quandary, but needing to get to his children pronto, Clive reluctantly agreed to allow them to stay and leave the building on their own. He'd let security know they'd be leaving sometime in the next fifteen minutes.
As the door closed on Clive, Teri quickly got up and walked over to the VibroWhammy.
Dean, surprised at her quick recovery, followed quickly. "Whew! I thought you were really in pain! You looked awful…"
"Thanks for being concerned. It did hurt some, but not as much as I made out. I wonder if Lois Lane and I have more in common than we realized? Come on, we have to do this now before any guards show up to escort us out." Teri found and didn't hesitate to touch the lever that Lois had said was most likely to be the right one for the transfer.
Over the VibroWhammy a swirling mass of colour appeared, like a developing FX effect not totally ready yet. There was the sound of stringed musical instruments…banjos? Dean shook his head to clear away the mental picture he had of the banjo-playing kid in Deliverance. As he watched the cloud of colour, Dean saw it float down and coalesce into a fuzzy picture in front of the machine, a picture of what looked incredibly familiar!
"Hey, isn't that K's kitchen?" Teri pointed at the fuzzy picture forming a few feet in front of her.
"It sure looks like it!" He'd been there a few times for dinner and was pretty sure it was.
The four people in the kitchen seemed to have just become aware that the opening was forming. The nearest fuzzy figure looked a lot like himself, at least from the back. He was saying something to the other three that Dean couldn't quite hear, but then the sound cleared and he could hear them gasp at what they were seeing from their side. He could hear someone who sounded a lot like himself, and who must be Clark, say something that sounded like, "I wonder if the edges are solid," and at some comment from one of the others, "You bet. Just stay back until I give you the word."
"Dean! It's *Superman*, the *real* Superman!" Teri's eyes were wide with wonder.
Dean was having trouble grasping this obvious fact. "…and it looks like he's going to try to open this…this portal thing wider."
There was a humming sound as Dean saw Clark Kent—the honest to goodness Clark Kent a.k.a. Superman— put his hands together back-to-back and slowly draw them apart. By the look on the man's face, it wasn't easy. The part of the picture between Clark's hands became crystal clear and Dean could see K, Justin and someone who had to be Lois standing behind Clark. The sound was a lot clearer now too. "It's definitely your friends, they've done it somehow. All I need to do is get this thing open a little wider. Lois, get ready to jump."
"Okay, Teri, it looks like we're going home!" Dean grinned at Teri and turned back to see the action in the portal.
There was a lot of confusion in the background and finally Clark Kent said over his shoulder to, presumably, Lois, "Now! Move, now!" followed almost immediately by a command to Teri, "You, ma'am, come through now, *please*…"
Dean glanced back at Teri and saw that she now seemed to be rooted to the spot. Her eyes were wide and her mouth formed a silent "o".
"Teri, you have to go through!" Dean indicated with a sweeping gesture with his left hand that he wanted her to go first. "Ladies first! This is our only chance."
She turned to face him and he saw the terror in her eyes. She was trembling and exhaled the words, "It's not going to work!" with a sob as punctuation.
The man holding the portal against the forces of the universe turned to him and said, "*Make* her move, now! Before I…"
Dean reassured her. "It's okay, I'll be right behind you." She blinked. "Think of Jon, you'll get to see him again." Dean took her by the arms and helped Teri enter the clear part of the portal. Then Lois tumbled out of the gap in space and fell to the floor in front of him. He bent over her to make sure she was okay and, after giving her Clark's glasses and wallet, turned to enter the gap himself. Just as he was about to enter he heard the sound of feet in the hallway. Someone was coming, he'd have to hurry.
Dean was having trouble squeezing through between the "walls" of the gap and Clark. He tried to push the "wall" further away from him and felt his hand brush against Clark's just as a blinding light hit him, throwing him onto the floor. The bright colours of the portal faded and his world turned to black.
*Metropolis, New Troy
4:05 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Thursday
S.T.A.R. Labs - Experimental Technology Wing*
His head was throbbing. It seemed like every little noise—and there were a *lot* of them here, wherever here was—went right through it like a knife. He was glad he was lying down. What had happened? The last he remembered was Dr. Tisdell's departure. He groaned.
Someone shook his shoulder and asked, "Are you okay?"
He opened his eyes to see a living skeleton. He cried out in fright. He could see the blood pumping through the body, the bones, the… He shut his eyes tight…then tried them again a few seconds later. This time when he opened them he saw a woman in a pink sleeveless top and navy slacks.
"Teri?" It looked like her still. Damn, the switch back hadn't worked and something had knocked his vision into next week…
The woman exclaimed, "You're not Clark! But you're wearing Clark's suit!" She glanced down, "My clothes, they're the ones I was wearing in Burbank! I didn't get *my* clothes back!" She turned and stared at the place where the portal had been. "Omigod, he's still back there." He saw the colour fade from her face and felt her trembling. She let go of him and stood up.
He heard keys jingling and looked to his right, where, off in the distance, he saw a guard walking along the hall. He knew he shouldn't have been able to see this, but the wall that had been there just a few minutes ago seemed to have disappeared. Then suddenly the wall was back where it had been before. He shook his head. Big mistake. Now he felt nauseous.
This couldn't be happening. He must be unconscious. Dreaming! However, in case there was a guard in the hallway, he'd better warn T—Lois. "There's someone coming, and—ah—I don't feel all that good." Dean tried to get up, he was able to push up his torso, but when he tried to stand his legs wouldn't support him. Whatever had hit him must have hit him hard.
"Here, put the glasses back on. We'll say you're ill, and that we'll leave as soon as you can walk without fainting."
"Teri and I used that excuse already, except it was Teri—you— that was supposed to be ill."
A guard, in a navy uniform and with a ring of keys in his right hand, opened the door. "Dr. Tisdell said one of you was ill and you'd be leaving soon. We're seeing strange power surges in this wing of the building so I need you out of here now. I need to lock up. Are you ready to go?"
Dean groaned. He wasn't sure he could stand, let alone walk yet. His thoughts were in a turmoil. First the Suit nearly kills me, now this machine. Nobody'd believe it if I put this in a script.
"Could you help him? He tried to stand a few minutes ago and almost fainted right here on the floor. I'd like to get him home as soon as possible."
She placed her hand on Dean's shoulder and said, for the guard's benefit, "Clark, you really should have taken your medication like I told you."
Dean closed his eyes and swallowed, trying to gather the strength to stand up.
Lois and the guard helped Dean up and supported him to the entrance of the building. As Dean grasped the guard's shoulder for support the guard grunted, "Gee, buddy, for a guy who's sick you sure have a strong grip!" By the time they reached the security desk, Dean was able to walk under his own steam.
Once they were in the car, Lois searched through her purse for the car keys. Once she'd found them and put the key in the ignition she stopped, both hands on the steering wheel, and stared morosely at the building in front of her. He thought he heard her whisper something, but didn't quite catch it. It sounded almost like "I'll be back, I promise."
Dean took off the glasses, which had become blurry from fingerprints on the lenses, to get a better look at her. Incredible as it seemed, this was *her*—Lois Lane—comic book heroine. Dean found himself drinking in the sight of her. She was—stunning. Even more so than Teri, although they looked very much alike. They both had dark hair, although this Lois had slightly longer hair than Teri. She seemed to be larger than Teri too, but he couldn't say why she gave him this impression. She had a distinct air of confidence and vitality. But there the similarities ended. This woman had a quality about her that he couldn't quite put his finger on. He couldn't describe it, but he thought the difference was in how this woman made him feel. She was overwhelming.
She turned away from staring and the building and looked him up and down, and said, "I should tell you right now I *hate* actors, particularly ones who try to imitate Clark and mess it up."
Dean wasn't precisely sure what he'd expected from Lois Lane but the last thing he'd expected as the first thing out of her mouth was a critique of his work on the show.
"Mess it up? What are you talking about?" Dean felt defensive. "Everyone says my 'Clark Kent' is the best portrayal yet!" Why was this woman attacking him? He already felt awful because his eyesight was acting up, not to mention that he was starting to feel nauseous again.
"My husband would never have even *thought* of sleeping with a clone and *never*, *ever* have let me go with Lex Luthor!"
"That was just the script. I act, I follow the script." Dean was annoyed. He didn't need this right now, wasn't it bad enough the fans had creamed those episodes, did he have to go through it all again now?
"You could have fought it. It was stupid!" Lois was seething mad, he could tell.
"We were under a lot of pressure from the network, February is sweeps month. When we filmed most of it we didn't even know what the final cut was going to be. I played a character who thought he was married to the love of his life. He wanted to consummate that relationship. What's wrong with that?" Dean closed his eyes to stop the world around him from making the constant changes.
"You mean to tell me that you were willing to play a man who couldn't tell the *love of his life* from a FROG-EATING CLONE!" Lois' strident voice felt like a knife through his head.
"How was he supposed to know that's what she was? He's not clairvoyant, she was identical in every way until her programming started to fail. It was his *wedding* night, for crying out loud! What was he supposed to do? Take blood samples?"
"No! Clark's got special senses that would never allow him to be fooled like that."
"So, you can't keep *any* secrets from him at all? Is that what you're saying?" Suddenly Lois looked like a ghost of herself, he could almost see right through her. Dean wiped his hand across his eyes hoping they'd get back to normal *soon*. "Doesn't sound very pleasant."
Lois looked startled. "Well, some. Clark's a little naive in some ways, and he was brought up to be polite and not pry into private places."
"So you're criticizing me because I played him as polite, naive, inexperienced, and romantic? I thought I did it quite well." Dean was getting really peeved. Why were they sitting here discussing the show, weren't there larger issues to worry about?
"But he would have *known*!"
"I can't help that. Real life isn't TV life. TV takes reality and magnifies it to create drama. If there weren't dumb mistakes being made by the characters, half the programs on television wouldn't have anything to show. Now can we discuss the *real* problem here?"
Lois narrowed her eyes, and through gritted teeth said, "Fine, let's get back home so I can talk to Clark on IRC." She turned the key in the ignition and started the car.
Dean forced himself to relax. She was probably upset that her husband hadn't made it here with her. He should be patient. He wondered if her tangent about the show was an example of her usual inter-personal style, or a product of stress.
The strange things that had started happening to him inside the lab, continued. Every once in a while the Victorian and Georgian facades of the houses and the brick walls of the buildings they passed would disappear and he'd be able to see what was inside. The constant changes were making him feel more than a bit nauseous. He lowered his face onto his arms to cover his eyes, hoping to prevent the phenomena from happening again. Eventually, he felt the car stop and heard Lois exit. A few seconds later her hand was on his shoulder.
"Are you okay?" She sounded genuinely concerned. "You fell back out of the portal pretty hard. Did you hit your head?"
He carefully removed his hands from over his eyes. Everything looked normal. Lois was scrutinizing him.
"I…I don't think I hit my head. Nothing hurts."
Lois held the car door open and, taking his right arm, was ready to assist him out of the car if he needed it.
Everything seemed to be working fine at the moment so he said, "I'm fine, really. I…It's just that… odd things keep happening. They make me feel…sick."
"Odd things? What kind of odd things?" Just as Dean stood upright the nearby surfaces did another one of their strange shifts and he stumbled on the pavement that wasn't where he expected it to be. Lois grabbed his upper arm, "No, don't answer now, wait until we get inside. You can lie down then until you feel better."
"Thanks, I'm fine now—I think I can get inside by myself."
While Lois fumbled for her house keys and muttered about "that woman" disturbing the normal disorganization in her purse, Dean stared at her, trying to figure out what it was about her that was so mesmerizing. She was beautiful, but he was used to being with beautiful women so it wasn't just that. There was something almost hypnotic about her, like a flame attracting a moth. How the heck did Clark Kent get anything done with this woman working next to him all day?
She noticed his stare and frowned. "Will you please stop looking at me like that?"
Dean tried to look at something else, anything else, without much success. He gave up and looked back at her, "Like what?"
"Like I'm naked or something. It's unnerving." In response to his questioning look, "Look, are you sure you didn't hurt yourself falling out of the portal? You seem more than a little disoriented."
"I'm sure. It's just that there's something about you that's… different—I mean, from what I expected Lois Lane to be. I was just trying to figure out exactly what it is."
"Well, I'm not a 'ditzy reporter', if that's who you were expecting." Lois impatiently opened the door and signaled Dean to enter first as her guest and potential invalid. Since his upbringing dictated that ladies should go first, he gestured for her to enter. She said "After you". He said "No. No. After you." They went through this routine for a couple of rounds until Lois finally threw up her hands and entered first.
"Lois! Clark! You're back." Martha rushed up to Lois and gave her a big hug. Turning to Dean, she suddenly stopped. "Where's Clark?"
Lois tugged at Martha's arm. "He didn't make the transfer. Teri and I got through but he—Dean—was thrown back out of the VibroWhammy portal just as Clark was coming through. I…I don't know if Clark's okay. There was some kind of electrical surge. I think it must have short-circuited the equipment. We lost the portal to Burbank." Lois headed towards the office. "I have to talk to Clark!"
"Oh my, I don't think you can." Lois stopped in mid-stride at Martha's exclamation. "I haven't heard from K in about 20 minutes. I thought it was just slow lines but that would be about the time the electrical surge happened, wouldn't it?"
Lois whirled and ran into the office. Dean could hear her cursing as she discovered that, yes, indeed, the connection to Burbank was dead. Martha followed Lois into the office and Dean joined them.
Lois was sitting staring at the screen, pale and distraught. "I can't reach him! What am I going to do?"
Martha hurried over to her and wrapped her in a supportive hug. "Maybe it's only temporary. If the short-circuit is fixed, you'll be able to get through again."
Dean was starting to realize the implications of what this might mean. Up to now, he'd been too busy worrying about his wacky eyesight to bother about it. Now he didn't want to even *think* about the possibility that he might not be able to go home again.
"It *has* to get fixed!" Lois exclaimed, "The VibroWhammy isn't burnt out, it was still humming normally when we left the lab. It's just that the portal slammed shut just as Clark and Dean were passing through. Dean will get back and so will Clark. They just *have* to!"
"But if Clark and Dean were thrown from the portal, maybe Clark is hurt." Martha sounded more than a little upset.
"Clark has to be okay, he's much stronger than Dean and Dean is okay…well, mostly okay."
Martha looked at Dean with a concerned look on her face. "What do you mean, *mostly* okay?"
Before Dean could respond, Lois jumped in with her answer. "Dean seems to be having vertigo problems." Lois sounded impatient with such weakness.
Dean felt thoroughly discouraged. Lois didn't seem to have much of an opinion of him. He wasn't sure how long he could take her attitude and although his vision problems seemed to be going away, they were still acting up occasionally. What if the VibroWhammy was broken, how was he going to get back? What if it couldn't be fixed? He didn't want to stay here, everyone he wanted to be with was on the other side, in Burbank. Wearily he leaned up against the bookcase to his right, only to find it falling under this slight pressure. He quickly grabbed it and reset it back to its upright position. Then he realized the bookcase was solid teak and full of books, it couldn't possibly…
Hearing two gasps behind, him he turned to find both Martha and Lois gaping at him.
"You…you used superpowers!" exclaimed Martha.
"I did? But I'm not Superman. I just play him on TV. You must be imagining it, it's not possible!" Yet the act hadn't seemed any different, or more difficult, than stopping a pen from falling off a desk.
Lois got up and walked over to Dean, standing on tiptoes she stared directly into his eyes. "Dean…you said 'odd things' were happening to you. What kind of 'odd things'?" Once she had his attention she lowered her heels, and stood squarely in front of him. She wasn't going to budge until he gave her an answer.
He swallowed and walked around her and over to the sofa, both to get away from her stare and to sit down. "Things keep changing. One minute a wall is there and then it just isn't. Sometimes noises are so loud it's painful and then they're not. The changes happen so fast it makes me feel dizzy. It looks like I'm stuck here. And I…I'm sc…scared."
He hated to confess this. He always hated showing weakness, even though in almost every interview he'd ever given he always ended up confessing about his height phobia, though to be honest he saw this as a way of distancing himself from the part he played.
This was different, he wasn't trying to distance himself from the part, he was terrified because it looked like he was *becoming* the part.
Lois came over and sat beside him. "Dean, look at me!" and when he turned to face her she continued, "I got Clark's powers once too. I know what you're going through. It's not so bad once you get a handle on them. It's sort of like…acting, I guess. First, we have to figure out exactly which powers you have and to what extent. Then, I can show you how to control them."
"But how could he get Clark's powers? Clark isn't even here." Martha was perplexed.
"I think I touched Clark inside the VibroWhammy opening, just before the blinding light hit me."
"That must be it. During the electrical surge you and Clark were in contact and some of his powers must have transferred to you." Lois sounded almost happy as if, because this had happened, things were getting back to normal. Things must be even wackier here than he thought if she considered this "normal".
"But that's not…" Dean had been about to say "logical" and then reality hit—he was saying this to two comic-book based characters in a fictitious city. Logic had nothing to do with it. Everything looked so normal he kept forgetting that this was "fiction". Perhaps this kind of thing happened so often here, they would think it *was* normal.
"Possible? Of course it's possible! Look at *me*, Waldeker, Lucille Newtrich, that little boy whose mother claimed he was the son of Superman, and on and on. It happens so often I'm surprised we *all* aren't imbued with his powers." Lois sounded serious but also had an amused gleam in her eye. "Welcome to Metropolis, home of Superman. Only city on the planet with a man who flies."
With this remark, it seemed as if Lois was accepting him as part of her team. Maybe she wasn't so bad after all. Dean took a deep breath. "So it seems I have some of his powers! Now what do I do?" His conflicting emotions left him feeling totally confused and not a little apprehensive.
"We've got to get you comfortable with them. Let's drive you up to the old quarry park. It's in the middle of nowhere and isn't used much now. We can test the extent of your powers in privacy there."
"Good idea." Martha said, "I'll stay here and watch the PC. We won't know when Clark will be able to try getting through to us from Burbank again, although you said it was only a few hours the first time."
"It's Thursday still, right?"
"Yes. You've only been gone since 10:30 this morning."
Lois strode to the front door, picking up the car keys as she passed the front hall table. "Come on Dean, we might as well get going. The sooner we start getting your new powers under control, the sooner we'll be finished."
"Slow down, Lois. I need to catch up with all of this. I'm not so sure this is such a good idea." Dean felt like he was being dragged down a path he didn't want to take. Was she expecting him to fly? Be Superman? What? He wasn't sure if he was ready for this, not at all!
"Of course, it's a good idea. We might need your Super powers to get you back to Burbank. Now stop being a stick-in-the-mud and let's get moving!" Lois was tapping the keys against the inside of her palm.
He opened his mouth to argue again, but recognizing that this was futile, used the only other delaying tactic he could think of, "Let me change. I don't want to wreck Clark's suit while I'm experimenting."
Dean went into the bedroom and changed out of the suit he'd put on to visit Dr. Tisdell and into jeans and a tank top. Remembering to put on Clark's glasses, he reluctantly followed Lois out the front door.
*Metropolis, New Troy
5:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Thursday
Luthor Memorial Breach Park, North Metropolis*
As they entered the park, Dean noticed the faded sign that said "Luthor Memorial Breach Park".
"They dedicated a park to Lex Luthor's memory?"
Lois looked a little uncomfortable, but sounded calm as she said, "No, his first wife, Arianna Carlin, set it up so she'd have more control over his estate. She expected it to be a great investment. It's a lovely hiking and back-to-nature type park but rarely gets used now."
They were now driving up a rough dirt track. "Why is that?"
"Well, partly because it's named after Lex, but mostly because there's a rumour that it was built over a toxic landfill site."
"Probably not. Jimmy insists *I* started the rumour. I have no idea where he got that notion." She winked at him as she drove the car into a clearing and parked.
Over the next hour or so, Lois put him through a battery of tests. As a result, they established that Dean had: x-ray vision that he was slowly getting control of, heat vision if he *really* concentrated, super speed if he didn't try too hard to think about moving fast first, and the strength to bench press the Jeep. He still couldn't float or fly, but Lois told him that it was the same as the super speed, just do it and try not to think about the process beforehand.
During these attempts he'd managed to decimate a small grove of trees with his heat vision and felled three large maples by the simple expedient of karate chopping them near the base. After all this evidence demonstrating his other super abilities, Lois was adamant that, if he just put his mind to it, he'd be able to fly.
"I don't know Lois, I don't seem to have the knack. Maybe I just didn't get that power." Dean hoped he sounded distraught, even though he was relieved. He wasn't keen on the idea of flying anyway.
"Of course you got it, you got everything else." She picked up a large branch and whacked him across the abdominals as hard as she could.
Dean was astounded. Not just that she had the nerve to haul off and hit him, but that it hadn't hurt at all!
"See, you're even the 'Man of Steel'. Now let's go someplace where we can practice flying." Lois headed towards the Jeep.
Dean was getting really annoyed. Just who did she think she was ordering around? First she treated him like an outcast 'cause he wasn't Clark, now she wanted him to be like Clark and fly. Why should he want to fly anyway? He followed her to the car muttering, "What's with this *we*, kimosabi?"
She ignored his snide comment and drove them further into the park, to Breach Quarry. They got out of the car to inspect the site.
"Come on Dean. This is perfect. If you don't fly right the first time it's okay because the bottom of the quarry has water in it. You won't even hit the ground hard."
"Thanks. How thoughtful." Dean was hanged if he was going to jump of the edge of a high cliff into shallow dirty water.
Lois tugged on his arm and insisted he stand uncomfortably close to the edge of the quarry. "Now just think about flying and you will."
Dean rolled his eyes. Who did she think he was? Peter Pan? "Don't I need pixie dust or something?"
"Don't be silly. Now just stand and think about floating *up*."
Dean stood, and thought really hard about flying. Mostly what he saw in his mind's eye was the harness and the green screen. Nothing happened.
"Close your eyes, it'll make it easier to concentrate."
Dean followed the instruction and then the next thing he knew the fiendish woman known as Lois Lane had pushed him in the middle of his back and he was rapidly plummeting into the water below. The splash was resounding.
Now he was mad! Just who the heck did she think she was pushing him like that? He'd teach *her*. Dean pulled himself out of the water and was suddenly face-to-face with Lois. She was standing on the edge of the cliff, he was standing in mid-air. He almost fell back down into the water when he realized where he was, but other than a slight wobble he managed to stay in front of her. He frowned at her, careful not to activate the heat vision gizmo, although he was tempted. "What the heck was *that* for? I could have been killed! Or got some vicious virus from the water down there. Don't *do* that ever again!"
Lois was grinning. "I told you, you could fly. You should have seen yourself zooming straight out of the water."
Dean glared at her, "walked" onto the cliff edge and spun himself dry.
"Hey, watch it! You're spraying me with that dirty water!"
"Tough! Serves you right!" Dean stalked over to the Jeep. "Come on, let's get out of here. You made your point."
Lois still had a smirk on her face when she got into the car and drove them home.
On the way back Dean thought again about how real everything seemed. Somehow he'd thought a comic book world would seem two dimensional, but it didn't. All the buildings looked very real, the people too. In fact some were all too familiar, like those types hanging around on the street corners of the less than upscale areas of Los Angeles.
They were stopped at a red light when he saw the mugger. The man was holding a gun on a young couple at the entrance to an alley. He smiled as he found a practical use for one of his new powers he'd been practicing and grinned as the mugger yelped and dropped the gun when a burst of heat vision heat burned his hand. The young man of the couple saw his chance and started beating up on the mugger. The light changed and they continued on their way. He didn't think Lois had even noticed the incident until she gave him a sly smile and said, "Good work!"
*Metropolis, New Troy
8:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Thursday
348 Hyperion Ave., West Metropolis*
Dean was watching a Buffalo Bills football game, floating in mid-air. Lois had insisted he practice his floating/flying capabilities and this seemed like the most enjoyable, and least threatening way to do it.
After they got back, and discovered to Lois' dismay that the IRC program was still nonresponsive, they'd ordered in Chinese and discussed what the next step should be. They realized that unless they planned to break into S.T.A.R. Labs they couldn't revisit the VibroWhammy tonight. Lois had been gung ho to try, but since Dean didn't feel all that confident with his powers just yet, he and Martha had convinced her that a legal visit to the labs first thing in the morning would work just as well.
Martha had clinched the argument with the rationale that the VibroWhammy was likely to be broken, and if it was they wouldn't be able to use it that night anyway. If they visited during working hours, and it *was* broken, they'd have access to experts to fix it. Experts that probably worked 9 to 5. Lois had muttered something about clock watchers, but seemed resigned to having to wait until the next morning.
In the meantime, except for waiting on a possible contact with K and Clark, none of them had been able to come up with a clear objective to aim towards for the rest of the evening. Martha had suggested Dean rest after his ordeals with the Suit and the VibroWhammy that day. Lois had urged him to practice, so he'd be ready the next time she wanted him to do something super.
He'd left the discussion to watch TV in the den, relax a little, get his mind off his problems, and "practice" his floating. He wasn't particularly focused on the game in front of him. The Bills' players weren't anyone he recognized and he'd never heard of the other team. The game rules were pretty much the same, although they seemed to have a different number of downs and the field was longer and wider for some reason. On the other hand, the players were dressed in the familiar style of uniform and therefore reassuring. He could hear Lois and Martha still talking about Lois' experiences in Burbank, in quiet voices. He wasn't listening to what they were saying, although he found he could if he tried to, but it was comforting to hear the chatter in the background.
The den had a nice peaceful, almost familiar atmosphere. The walls were paneled and the room contained big comfy chairs and dark red Persian rugs. He figured this was mostly Clark's domain. The book shelves held statues and masks from all over the world. Many of the books were in languages he couldn't even recognize, let alone read. Overall, it had a masculine quality to it.
It was half time and he started channel surfing until he happened across the LNN news channel. He was relieved to find out that the pilot who'd been in trouble earlier had made the landing the next time around.
This started him thinking: What would he do if he had to *be* Superman? Now that he had the powers he knew he wouldn't be able to resist helping once he felt confident in using them. Earlier he hadn't even been able to wear the Suit for more than a few hours. With all these changes, he wondered if he'd have that problem now. Probably not. He'd better try getting in and out of the Suit fast just to be sure he knew how, in case they all decided that Superman was really needed for something.
He floated over to the living room. He stood in front of the open hidden closet, staring at the outfits for a couple of minutes, until he got up the nerve to take one down from its hanger. These weren't just costumes, *these* were the real thing! Once in one of these he would *be* Superman. He laid out the different parts of the suit on the sofa. He always had assistance getting into the costume on the set. Now he had to figure out how to get into this thing, by himself, and *fast*.
It took a couple of tries before he finally got it right. The cape gave him the most trouble. Once he had the technique down, he started working on speeding up the process. The Suit wasn't as hard to wear as it had been before he'd gotten super powers. Now it felt comfortable and natural. He didn't have any problems breathing at all. When he finally had the change routine down to what he figured was "instant" change speed, he went into the kitchen to demonstrate to Lois and Martha.
"So what have you been up to?" Lois had that investigative look in her eye and a mothering tone in her voice. "I thought you agreed to practice your skills. You sounded like you were doing jumping jacks, or something."
Dean hesitated now that he was in front of Lois and Martha. He suddenly felt a little embarrassed at the idea of stripping and changing in front of these two women, even though he knew they wouldn't really see the details. Thinking, what the heck, he said, "I've been practicing the Suit change, want to see?"
Martha must have seen his hesitancy because she said, "Sure, if you feel that's what you want to do."
Dean took a deep breath and spun to rapidly change into the Suit. When he stopped spinning he had to laugh at the awed looks on their faces. He felt completely exhilarated. That was really a lot of fun! And no FX were needed to join the beginning and end of the spin. "So did I get it right?"
"Oh, *yes*!" they said simultaneously.
"But why did you spin? Clark never does that." Lois raised her eyebrows quizzically.
"Sorry, force of habit. That's how we do it in the show to allow for the FX guys to morph the Clark costume to the Superman costume. I guess that's not really necessary now, is it?" He grinned at them. Looking at the littered clothes, he continued, "Also, in the show I don't have to worry about storage. What the heck does Clark do with his regular clothes?"
"He compresses them and hides them, here I think." Martha walked over to Dean and lifting the cape out of the way, indicated a tiny pocket behind the belt in the middle of his back.
"Doesn't that cause wrinkles in his office clothes? And, what about the shoes?"
"I don't know, all I can suggest is that you try it and see if it works." Martha gathered up the clothes that had barely missed her and Lois in Dean's rush to change, and handed them to him, shoes on top.
Dean folded the clothes around the shoes and compressed everything to a small package about the size of the pocket. He found that when he added the glasses, the whole thing exactly fitted the hollow of his back.
"Okay, now how do I get them back?"
Martha shrugged. "Lois, did he tell you?"
"Not exactly. He showed me how he does the change—at my speed—once." Lois blushed at the memory of Clark's provocative striptease. Dean raised his eyebrows. Martha coughed politely and smiled. "He just kind of pulled the clothes apart and they were fine."
Just as Dean was reaching back to retrieve the glasses and package of clothes, a piercing scream forced him to put his hands over his ears.
"Dean, what's wrong?" Martha exclaimed.
"I heard screaming. Someone's in trouble! " Dean felt butterflies in his stomach. Now he was going to have to *be* Superman.
Lois walked over to him. "I'd better come along and help. Let's go. This is a job for…"
"Yes, I know…Superman."
Dean picked Lois up and flew out of the back door towards the sound of the screams. He landed in the alley nearest to where the sound was coming from. He set Lois on her feet, confirming their earlier agreement to meet back at "home" if he lost track of her.
Taking a deep breath, and reaching inside himself for the persona he used when playing Superman, he jumped out of the alleyway, up and out to the street where two thugs were standing over the prostrate form of a young woman. He landed, dropping between the victim and her attackers.
Grabbing both attackers by the scruffs of their necks, he lifted them about a foot off the ground, amazed that he was able to hold them aloft without the aid of any step boxes, or harnesses, or other devices used in the show. Just then a police car drew up and two officers jumped out, took in the situation, cuffed the two assailants and bundled them into the squad car.
Turning to the victim, Dean found Lois bent over her, wiping the blood from the girl's face with a tissue. Lois looked up. "Good work, D…Superman, she needs to get to a hospital. Now!" Lois stood up. Observing the police car pulling away from the curb she continued, "I'll meet you there, it's only two blocks that way."
Dean picked up the limp form of the girl and flew off in the direction Lois indicated. He saw lights and the blue-lit hospital sign almost immediately. Landing in front of the Emergency entrance, he handed the girl over to the medics who had rushed out at his appearance.
He wasn't sure what he should do now, usually the scene cut at this point. Fortunately, Lois jogged into view and pushed her way through the small crowd that had gathered to see Superman.
"Superman, the police arrested Snide and his sidekick, Bubba. This is the third snatch they've tried to pull this week and the police are very grateful to you for helping them catch the perps."
"I'm glad to hear that, L…Ms. Lane."
"How's the victim?"
"I am just now going in to find out how she is." Dean wasn't too happy with his ad libbed lines. He sounded so *stiff*. However, the people around them didn't seem to think anything of it. In fact they seemed to be staring at him as if he were some kind of action-hero movie star.
Lois and he walked into the Emergency room and asked at the desk about the girl he'd just brought in. She was still being examined. The desk staff wouldn't know for some time.
Dean wasn't sure what the next move was, but Lois was right in there getting the story. It was obvious she had no intention of leaving right away so Dean took off in the direction of the house, intending to wait for her, as they'd agreed.
*Metropolis, New Troy
10:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Thursday
Dean felt completely giddy. He was flying at least 20,000 feet above the Metropolis skyline and he was happy. Completely, giddily happy. It felt like Christmas morning, and his seventh birthday and surfing all rolled into one.
He laughed as he dived toward the ground, braked in time to prevent damage to the parking lot below, then headed skyward again. This was *fantastic*! It was like nothing he'd ever experienced before. Why couldn't they capture this joy in flying on the show?
The show. Memory of the show sobered his enthusiasm. He *hated* the flying scenes in the show. They were *nothing* like what he was experiencing now. But, of course, that was because he wore that blasted harness to fly for the show and *here* he was completely free.
He punched his fist through the clouds, as he flew even higher than before. Free! That was what this felt like, like he was completely and totally free. Free from deadlines, and harnesses, and fear of heights, and…
Fear of heights. That was the other reason he hated the flying scenes at the studio. He, Dean George Cain, was afraid of heights. But now, he wasn't, now he reveled in the idea of going higher and higher. He should accept this new lack of fear, but somehow it didn't feel quite right. It *wasn't* right.
He landed just outside the back door, entered the house and changed into the regular clothes he removed from the pocket in the hollow of his back and pulled apart. They weren't even wrinkled! He walked from the kitchen to the living room to be greeted with, "Just where the heck have you been!" Lois was absolutely furious. "You left, didn't let me know where you were going, and it's been at least an hour since I saw you at the hospital!" She was almost spitting she was so mad.
"I was…flying." He knew this wasn't the greatest excuse, but it *was* the truth.
Lois glared at him. "Flying! Couldn't you have told me what you were going to be doing. I was worried sick!"
"I'm sorry, I didn't *know* that's what I'd be doing. I didn't think. Please forgive me." He walked over to her and stroked her cheek. He didn't want her to be so upset. He hadn't meant to hurt her.
Lois looked at him skeptically but didn't draw away from his touch. "You were just flying?"
Dean nodded, "It was phenomenal! Absolutely amazing! I've *never* felt like that before!" Dean glowed with the memory of how it had been.
"I thought you didn't like flying." She sounded perplexed.
"That's just it. I don't. But tonight, it was really special. I felt so *free*! It was like…I don't know…like all the absolutely *best* things that have ever happened to me. I couldn't stop. It was too special."
In an effort to calm her, he sat down on the sofa in the living room and continued with his explanation to her of how it had been for him, how special it had felt to be flying—free. What it was like to *be* Superman. He could see her visibly losing her exasperation as he talked.
Lois moved closer and sat down next to him on the sofa. "I think I know how you felt. It's like nothing else on Earth." She stared down at her nails. "Clark loves to fly, and I love flying with him. It *is* special." She looked up from her hands and smiled at him. His heart melted.
"I called the Planet and let them know the story. I called the hospital after I got back. The girl is fine. She only had superficial wounds. Her external injuries have been cleaned and bandaged. Her internal injuries aren't serious."
"But they looked so bad."
Lois nodded, "I know, but apparently none of it is life threatening. After I called in the story, and let me tell you I had to really pressure the story editor about the wording of the headline, I walked out of the hospital and grabbed a cab back to the house—expecting to find *you* here."
"I'm glad she's okay and I'm sorry I made you worry. I guess I got carried away." Lois acknowledged his apology with a radiant smile as Martha came down the stairs and into the living room. She'd been upstairs washing her hair when Dean got back.
The three of them tried to plan strategy in the uncertain time frame available to them. Finally, they decided that if they didn't get contact with Burbank before 9:00 a.m. tomorrow, Lois and Dean would pay a visit to S.T.A.R. Labs and try to get to within touching distance of the VibroWhammy.
Lois revealed, while she was waiting for Dean to return, she had also spoken to Perry on the phone and explained that the VibroWhammy was impacting her again—hence the bizarre behaviour at the Planet earlier in the day. After his previous experience with that "gall-blasted" machine, Perry had absolutely no difficulty believing Lois' explanation. Lois told him she didn't plan on taking any extra time off and that she'd be sure to be in the newsroom Monday morning.
Dean and the Kents agreed on sleeping arrangements. Lois would get the master bedroom, and Martha the guest bedroom, while Dean slept on the couch in the den—ready to act as if he'd just come down from the bedroom if someone came to the door. With his new powers he'd have no problem instantaneously putting away the bedding, if required.
Martha fixed hot cocoa for a nightcap while Dean, and then Lois, prepared for bed. Dean was sitting in the living room when he saw Lois come down from the bathroom, he forgot his anger at her forcing him off the cliff, his irritation at her pushiness, his feelings of inadequacy as Superman. Instead, his earlier feelings of admiration overwhelmed him. Here she was in what on the show she called her schlumpy robe and she was mesmerizing. He felt a sudden urge to pick her up and carry her off to bed.
"Dean, I think you've practiced floating enough for one day." Martha handed him a mug of hot cocoa.
Dean bumped back down onto the sofa. He felt himself blushing. Lois was married to another man—to Superman—he had to get a grip! He had trouble keeping his eyes off her all during the time they sipped their cocoa. When she said goodnight and left to go to bed he had to will himself to keep his hands away from her and to tell himself that he did *not* want to kiss her.
As he turned to go to the kitchen sink to rinse out his dirty mug he caught Martha's knowing look.
"Clark used to float above the clouds at moments like this. He said it helped him…relax." She took the mug out of his hand and waved in the direction of the door.
Dean changed into the Suit and flew out of the kitchen door. Heading almost straight up, he didn't stop until all the wispy clouds were far below him. The view was fantastic and that, in conjunction with the change in temperature at this altitude, actually did produce the effect that Martha had predicted.
Once again, he realized he wasn't afraid of the height. Was it the feeling of being in control? Or was it part of the powers passed to him by Clark? He wasn't sure, but he *was* grateful.
Now that he was calmer, he began to wonder about his reaction to Lois. Yes, she was beautiful and charismatic, but why did he have this overwhelming attraction to her?
He heard a cry for help. By slowly spinning around, and looking down he was able to pinpoint the location of the cry and saw a tiny old lady looking up into a tree in the park far below. He dove down towards her and braked a few hundred feet up so that he could float down to the ground noiselessly.
"Can I help you, Ma'am?"
The woman didn't act surprised at seeing a man in red and blue floating towards her. She only said, "Yes, please. Muffin was in a fight and he's up there and he's too scared to come down. Can you get him for me?"
"Sure." Dean smiled and cautiously approached the cat. After coaxing it into his arms he floated down with it and gave it to the woman.
"Thanks, Superman! I don't know what I would have done. It seemed awful late to call the fire department."
"No trouble. I was glad to help." Dean waved good-bye as he floated away from her.
He went back to the stratosphere to think. Helping had felt really good, it wasn't much as super feats went, he knew, but it still felt good.
He thought some more about what he would do if he couldn't get back to Burbank. Maybe, if he could help people like this, it wouldn't be so bad here after all. He slowly floated down and finally returned to the house to find that both Martha and Lois were asleep. He changed clothes, made up the couch and went to sleep.
*Metropolis, New Troy
6:30 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, Friday
348 Hyperion Ave., West Metropolis*
Dean woke at the sound of Lois' cry. They were in different rooms, on different floors, but with his new sensitive hearing he had no difficulty catching the sob in Lois' voice. It was getting light out and birds were chirping outside the window. He tried to ignore the urge to go and comfort her because, after last night, he was pretty sure he'd do something stupid that it might lead to something else…and almost guaranteed humiliation.
He could hear the longing in Lois' voice and he heard Martha patter across to Lois' bedroom and make soothing noises in an attempt to help Lois get back to sleep.
He tried to go back to sleep himself. He turned over, punched the pillow…carefully…and buried his nose in it. He pulled the blankets over his head, pulled his knees up close to his chest and tried to not hear the sounds of distress from upstairs.
He had just about convinced himself to fall asleep again when he felt a hand on the top of his head. His heart leaped, but quieted almost immediately as he realized it wasn't Lois.
"Dean, are you okay?" Martha sounded troubled.
He turned over and looked at her. "Sure, I'm fine…"
Martha stroked the side of his face. "Are you? You were all tied up in those blankets. It made me think that you might be feeling badly about something…" As Dean raised his eyebrows she explained. "When Clark was a little boy, and felt really badly about something, he tied himself up in the blankets just like you just did. It made me wonder if you were feeling okay."
"I…" He sat up. "I…I'm a little confused. Ever since I got zapped, and got Clark's powers, I've felt…different."
Martha made soothing sounds and sat on the sofa beside him, pushing the crumpled blankets out of her way, and putting a sympathetic arm around his shoulders. "Well with all the new powers, I'm not surprised." Martha looked at him a little more closely, "…Or is it something else? What exactly do you mean by 'different'?"
"It's kind of hard to explain. Like the way I feel about flying. I'm not afraid. Me…" Dean stabbed himself in the chest with his thumb, "I'm *petrified* of heights. I loathe filming the scenes when I'm hauled up in the harness." At Martha's raised eyebrows he explained further. "They film me hanging in the harness against a green screen then, with computers, they merge my image with whatever background they want, like city scapes or space, or whatever. But now, when I'm flying way higher than I've ever been in a harness, or even in a plane, I'm not scared at all. In fact, I love it."
"And this is a problem?"
"Well…not really, but it's not normal…for me. And the other thing is the way I feel about Lois." Dean stopped and contemplated the carpet.
"What about the way you feel about Lois?"
"It's like I'm…mesmerized by her. I mean, Teri and I work together and we're friends, kind of, but I've *never* felt anything remotely like what I'm feeling for Lois. She and Teri look almost exactly alike, but…I don't know…and I'm afraid about how I'm feeling."
"Of your feelings for Lois?"
"Sort of, but mostly I'm afraid that I'm slowly becoming…not *me* any more."
"That's not what you were going to say. What are you really afraid of?"
Dean felt a lump rise in his throat. This was Clark's *Mom*, how could he explain his fear to her without hurting her? "I…I think I'm…becoming…" he had to swallow twice before he could get out the final word "…Clark!"
There, he'd said it. He jumped to his feet and hurried into the kitchen and started meticulously fixing coffee just to keep busy so he wouldn't have to look at Martha's face.
Martha followed him and putting her arms around him, said, "Dean, I'm sure you're not *becoming* Clark. Although, I'd say that a little more than his super powers got transferred by that machine."
"How can you be so sure I'm not? I feel things that I've never felt before!"
She forced him to stop fussing with the coffee and turn around to face her. "Look, Dean, Lois and Clark have had this bond between them ever since they met. Clark, with his extra senses, was aware of it immediately. It took Lois a little longer." Turning away and sounding more confidential, Martha got mugs out of the cupboard and put them on the counter. "Although personally I think she too felt it from the first moment they met, but tried to hide from it. Anyway, to get to the point, if you were *becoming* Clark, Lois would know it. She most definitely does not. She knows that Clark is *not* in this house and *isn't* just gone on some brief rescue mission. Why do you think she woke up crying?"
"I hadn't thought of that. But then why do *I* feel…fearless about flying and the…the bond?"
"I think copies of the essential parts of Clark got transferred by that machine. His powers *and* how he feels about the things he loves most—Lois and flying."
Dean felt like someone had lifted a great weight from his shoulders. "So I'm not really becoming Clark, I'm just using a couple of his other talents, in addition to his powers?" Martha nodded. He laughed with relief.
Martha patted his back and then started pouring the coffee into the mugs. "Now doesn't that feel better now that you've talked it through?"
"Uh-huh." Dean nodded and turned to take the coffee mug out of her hand. He sipped at the coffee, "Thanks…'Mom'," he grinned lopsidedly.
After he finished drinking the coffee, he returned to the den to tidy up, ready to face the day.
*Metropolis, New Troy
8:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, Friday
348 Hyperion Ave., West Metropolis*
Lois and Dean were finishing breakfast at the kitchen table. They'd talked about more general topics and were now discussing their proposed trip to S.T.A.R. Labs.
"But, I don't understand why we can't just tell Dr. Klein about the transfer. From what you've said, it would be just the kind of thing he'd be thrilled to work on." Dean took another sip from his coffee mug.
"Look, Dr. Klein is great. He's been helping Superman for years, but he doesn't know that Clark and Superman are the same person, and we don't want him to. He could get killed if the criminal element found out he knew who Superman really was."
"But this has nothing to do with Clark being Superman, just with me being in the wrong dimension."
"And just how do you plan on explaining your superpowers to him without dragging Clark's alter ego into the equation?"
"Oh, right! Gotcha." Dean cradled his mug. "We couldn't just not tell him about the super power thing, huh?"
Lois rolled her eyes, "Look, if it turns out there's no other option, we'll confide in Dr. Klein, but for now I think we should just keep this among the few of us who already know. Agreed?"
"Agreed." Dean took another sip. "You were really great last night, understanding what it felt like to fly. I really appreciate that."
"You're welcome." Lois' smile was dazzling.
"Later, after you went to bed, I saved a cat from a tree." At Lois' expression, he added, "I know that's not exactly a Super feat, but it *did* feel good. If that's what it feels like to be a super hero, maybe it wouldn't be so bad if I did get stuck here, after all."
Lois sighed. "Dean, being a super hero isn't like that. It's mostly hard work and heartache and regret. Saving cats, or little kids, or damsels in distress is the *fun* side of the job. You're too soft-hearted, you wouldn't survive more than a day at the job."
Dean started to protest, then realizing she was probably right, said "So Clark isn't soft-hearted?"
"Clark? He's the biggest softie of all time!" Lois grinned. "However, he was born with those capabilities and over the years he's learned how to use them wisely. He's learned to accept that he can't be everywhere at once, and he's learned that not everyone can be saved. But he tries to do his best, and that's all anyone can ask of him."
Dean nodded. "Do you ever regret linking up with a super hero?"
Lois stared at a faded burn mark on the wall pensively for a few seconds and then said, "No, I don't think I do. Oh, I complain and whine and generally sound like a real pain, but deep down I think it's what *I* was really born to do."
Dean smiled at her. "Yes, I think you're right."
"Okay, enough chit-chat, I guess Clark hasn't figured out how to get K's IRC working again yet. Let's get dressed and out of here, I want to see Dr. Klein the second he walks into his office."
Dean followed her to the bedroom to get some work clothes and then took a shower and changed.
*Metropolis, New Troy
9:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, Friday
S.T.A.R. Labs - Experimental Technology Wing*
"Dr. Klein, I'd like to ask for permission to see the Vibro—er— Storm Tamer machine." Lois was nothing if not direct and to the point. "It's been affecting me and I really want to see the problem resolved."
"Clive Tisdell has taken every precaution, but his report on your headaches is very disturbing. I can't let you near that machine! I don't want to put you in any further danger."
Dean was surprised that Dr. Klein was nothing like the actor in the show. Everyone else he'd met so far had been exactly like their acting counterpart. This Dr. Klein was short and chubby and probably played Santa at the lab's Christmas party. Nevertheless, he obviously took his job seriously.
"Is it affecting anyone else?" Dean decided he shouldn't let Lois take the total burden of this conversation. He continued when Dr. Klein shook his head. "So without Lois, you can't really pin down where the problem with the equipment is, can you?"
Lois gave Dean an admiring glance, which boosted his spirits tremendously.
Dr. Klein on the other hand looked less than pleased. "Well, I guess you're right. Unfortunately, Dr. Tisdell took today off because they're fixing the plumbing in the lab. He won't be back until Monday. I wouldn't like to step into his project without talking it over with him first."
"Dr. Klein, I *really* want this resolved!" Lois said testily, "It's affecting my work, and I can't wait until you get your professional protocol ducks in order." This last part was said in an increasingly rising note, that could have been mistaken for hysteria if it had been anyone else but Lois Lane.
"You just want to *see it*?" Klein sounded skeptical.
"Yes, I just want to see if it has any effect on me if I'm just in its presence."
This seemed to lock into Dr. Klein's basic interest in science and convinced him to do some observations. "Okay, I'll record any reactions, and leave them for Dr. Tisdell to analyze when he gets in on Monday." Dr. Klein pulled a key ring from his file cabinet and led them out of his office.
Dean remembered the corridors from his previous visit. They looked just as real as they'd looked the first time. He had to force himself to remember that for him this was a comic book world.
Inside the lab, Dr. Klein checked the VibroWhammy, confirmed that it was indeed active and asked Lois to tell him what she was feeling. Lois shrugged, "I feel normal."
Dean coughed politely. "I think Dr. Tisdell turned on some of those smaller machines over there when Lois got the headache the last time."
"Very well, Mr. Kent. I'll try that next, but first, could you touch the lever that Ms. Lane says affected her on her last visit here? I want to do some comparison tests."
Dean hesitated. The last time, when Teri had touched the lever, the portal to Burbank had opened. Oh well, if Dr. Klein saw it, it would definitely give him something to report. Dean smiled and touched the lever.
Nothing happened! No swirling mass of colour. No vision of another world. Nothing!
Dr. Klein didn't seem to notice anything was wrong, he just noted the non-result in his notebook.
"Ms. Lane, now you." Again nothing happened. Dr. Klein wrote a line in his notebook.
Dean was dismayed. Did this confirm that he was trapped here?
Dr. Klein then powered up the same peripherals that Tisdell had the day before. Lois sat on a lab stool waiting for the machine to be fully operational. She looked a little nervous, probably anticipating the impending headache.
While he was waiting for the peripherals to activate, Dr. Klein turned to Dean and said "Mr. Kent, do you think you could contact Superman? I have something for him."
Dean watched as Dr. Klein pulled a grey metal box from the safe in the wall. When the box was open there was the most beautiful gem quality stone in the box. Green and shining.
Dean heard an "Oh," and turned to look at Lois. She looked uncomfortable and pale. The equipment must be giving her another headache.
The machines were all powered up, "Mr. Kent, please go over and touch the lever." Dean followed the instructions, but again there was no reaction. Dean was starting to feel a little panicky. It was beginning to look like the machine *was* broken!
Dr. Klein noted the non-reaction and then said, "Ms. Lane, could you go over and touch the lever now please." As Lois got up slowly to walk to the machine, Dean felt drawn to the gemstone and picked it up. There was a pleasant tingle under his touch.
Dean whirled around at the sound of Lois' cry. She was holding the lever on the VibroWhammy. Her face was sheet white and her eyes wide. She looked like she might be going to faint.
"Honey, what is it?" Dean dropped the gem back into its box and hurried to her side holding her gently with one hand as he pulled a lab stool behind her with the other. "I think you'd better sit down. You look really pale."
Lois whispered, "I'm fine, just make some excuse. We need to *talk*"
"Ms. Lane, what happened?"
Lois murmured, "I…I saw people…I…" She put trembling fingers to her forehead, and closing her eyes swayed against Dean who supported her to prevent her from falling off the lab stool.
"Dr. Klein, could you get a glass of water please." Dean turned back to Lois. The doctor picked up a clean beaker and went to the nearest sink, then muttered something about plumbing and Friday mornings and rushed from the room.
As soon as the doctor closed the door behind him Dean turned to Lois. "Are you sure you're okay? You don't look well."
"I'm fine, it just feel a little weak, that's all. I guess it was the shock of seeing…"
"What did you see?"
"I saw a lot of people in a restaurant. It was one of those dark, romantic Mexican restaurants." Lois swallowed a couple of times. "I think I was looking through Teri's eyes again, and…and I s-saw Clark gazing longingly into them." She sounded distraught.
"So you saw through Teri's eyes, just like you did before?" Lois nodded as he continued. "But why did you call Clark's name? What made you go so pale? You had me really worried."
"I wanted Clark to know I was there, and…you…you picked up the Kryptonite."
Dean stared at the box holding the green gemstone. "That's Kryptonite? It's beautiful."
"Didn't it hurt?"
"No. It just kind of tickled."
"Tickled? It doesn't hurt you? Even *I* felt it a little bit!" Lois sounded perplexed.
He shook his head. "This could be good. I guess." Dean looked at the box for a few more moments and then turned back to Lois. "Anyway, back to the problem at hand. Why, when I touched the VibroWhammy did nothing happen, but when you did, you saw Burbank?"
Lois shrugged. "Are you sure you touched the right lever?"
"Yes, I touched this one." Dean reached over and touched the lever again, this time a coloured swirl started to form over the VibroWhammy, but before they could see what it was about to show, it collapsed.
Lois whimpered. "Clark's never coming back! That woman is going to use her wiles on him and…" She covered her face with her hands.
It tore at Dean's heart to see her so upset. "It's going to work, we just have to figure out how!"
"But what if Clark doesn't *want* to come back? I've seen those photos, that woman will mesmerize him and how can I compete with that?" Lois was getting pretty close to real hysteria now.
Dean moved to her side and with a protective arm around her said, "Now, aren't you the one that told *me* that Clark wouldn't fall for just a look-a-like? I think you're just afraid that this isn't going to work and you're feeling insecure because of it."
"You're only trying to make me feel better." Lois sounded skeptical.
He stood away from her and grasped her by both shoulders, "Look, Lois, I've worked with Teri 12 and 15 hours a day for five days a week, ten months of the year for the last three and a half years. I *know* Teri. We're like brother and sister. She's *completely* in love with Jon and would *never* do anything to hurt him, least of all fool around with another woman's husband. Now, stop acting like someone out of a soap opera, and let's get working on getting me out of here and Clark back!" He lifted her chin so she was looking into his eyes. "Okay?"
"Okay." She gave him a watery smile "Thanks, Dean. I really appreciate what you're doing for me." He drew her closer and put a comforting arm around her as she rested her head on his shoulder.
Dean raised his hand to gently stroke Lois' hair just as Dr. Klein hurried in with a glass of water. "I'm sorry I took so long, but the plumbing in this part of the building is off while the lab sinks get serviced. I hurried as fast as I could."
"That's okay." Dean took the glass and keeping his arm around Lois' shoulder held it to her lips. "Take tiny sips. It's better if you take tiny sips."
"Ms. Lane, I think we're going to have to dismantle this machine. It's obviously doing serious damage to you! I'll get on it tomorrow."
"I thought Dr. Tisdell wasn't back until Monday?"
"He's not, but he proposed dismantling the machine if it proved to be still causing problems, and I agree with him."
"Why not wait until Monday? It only seems to be a problem if it's being turned on, or I touch it."
"Who knows how many other people are being affected. We have to destroy this menace! Unfortunately, the technicians I need to do the job are busy until tomorrow. Otherwise I'd do it today."
Dean was unnerved. Once this thing was dismantled he would never be able to get through the portal again. "No, no, Dr. Klein, tomorrow is fine!"
"Ms. Lane, I'm truly sorry about all the problems this has caused. We had no idea that it was doing this type of thing. We ran all the tests we could."
Lois smiled wanly. Dean assisted her to her feet.
"Mr. Kent, don't forget about contacting Superman. I need for him to know about this newly found source of Kryptonite." Dr. Klein closed the lid over the Kryptonite and put the box back in the safe.
Dean nodded and said, "I won't forget."
Dean conspicuously supported Lois while they walked to the security entrance. On the way he noted a couple of windows and doors that might prove useful later.
Once they were in the privacy of the Jeep, Lois summarized what he'd already concluded. "Dean, we have to break into S.T.A.R. Labs tonight!"
"I know!" Dean started thinking aloud, "I wonder why we didn't see the portal opening the first time when I touched the lever but did the second? And why do you see only images, but Teri and I start a portal opening? And why did the portal collapse? We have to figure this out before tonight or we still might not be able to do the transfer."
"I hope we can get in touch with Clark and Teri before then. Maybe they can help figure this out. And, I need to know that Clark's okay." Lois started the car and drove them home.
*Metropolis, New Troy
11:30 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, Friday
348 Hyperion Ave., West Metropolis*
They were met at the door by a very excited Martha. "They're online!"
All three rushed into the den to the computer, Lois ahead of the pack. K was chatting with the crowd on the channel as if she didn't have a care in the world.
Lois quickly started a DCC connection and got almost instantaneous acceptance. She looked ecstatic when she heard that Clark was fine, and the group in Burbank were relieved to know that Dean hadn't been hurt by the power surge. This made him feel good. He'd been feeling a little like the uninvited guest at a party so he was happy to know that he was missed in Burbank. However, when Dean asked Lois to send a message to Teri, Lois stopped keying, her expression becoming neutral. She seemed to be in a trance. Dean was worried, she'd been really ill at the lab.
"You okay, Lois?" He gently touched her upper arm.
She came out her daze and responded, "Yes, I'm fine. I'm just trying to figure out how to ask Clark what he thought he was doing in the Mexican restaurant."
"Okay, you keep thinking and I'll talk."
<MetroDuo> Hi, Dean here:)
<Danny> So you weren't hurt by the power surge?
<MetroDuo> No, I wasn't hurt, but I did have a few problems adjusting to the super powers.
<Danny> *Super* powers?
<MetroDuo> <G> Yes, flying is *wonderful*.
Burbank did a nick change to DannyCK
<DannyCK> Hi, Dean, Clark here. You say you got some of my powers? During the power surge?
<MetroDuo> Yes. We figure it was when I touched you, just before the portal slammed shut. Lois seemed to think this was almost a regular occurance around here<g>
<DannyCK> She would:) What happened at S.T.A.R. Labs?
<MetroDuo> We saw the VibroWhammy, Lois didn't react. Dr. Klein had us both touch it independently, still nothing. He turned on the peripherals, then Lois saw through Teri's eyes at the Mexican restaurant.
"Ask him what he thinks he was doing gazing longingly into Teri's eyes." Lois had come out of her reverie and now sounded impatient.
<DannyCK> That explains it. I noticed that Teri's eyes glazed over for a few seconds while we were in the restaurant.
"Trust Clark to have an explanation without even being asked for it." Lois crossed her arms and glared at the screen.
"Why are you upset?"
Lois raised her eyebrows, sighed and said, "Because he's right, Mr. Always Right."
"And you want him to be Mr. Wrong?" Dean gave her his best innocent look.
Lois gave him a crooked smile and said "No!"
"Then you should be glad that Clark was thinking about you after all." Dean grinned at her and ducked to avoid the playful hit she aimed at his head.
<DannyCK> I was trying to determine if the VW was involved, looks like it was.
<MetroDuo> :) Then we got side-tracked by the fact that I don't seem to be affected by Kryptonite
<DannyCK> So you have my powers, but not my "allergy" to Kryptonite. Lucky you!
<MetroDuo> Then I touched the lever and a portal started to form. It collapsed before it hardly started though:(
<DannyCK> Just before the IRC came back I felt a faint echo of the same kind of electrical charge I felt when the portal formed in K's kitchen.
Lois sighed impatiently, "But that doesn't tell us how to get the portal to stick around long enough for you and Clark to change places!"
"We'll figure it out. Just be patient." Dean scrolled back the screen to read the last message.
<DannyCK> And, do you have any idea why we're back online again?
<MetroDuo> I was wondering if the almost portal had something to do with it.
<DannyCK> Of course:) Why didn't I think of that?
<MetroDuo> Well you've never seen the Storm Tamer in action<g>
<DannyCK> True:) But do I want to?
<MetroDuo> Well I wouldn't make it *my* first choice on a tour of Metropolis<g>
<MetroDuo> I was wondering if that's where the electrical surge comes in.
<MetroDuo> The portal. I was wondering if the VW needs high doses of electricity in both Metropolis and Burbank to open the portal.
<DannyCK> Sounds reasonable.
<DannyCK> If Lois touches the VW, and then you, and at the same time we have high levels of electricity both here and there it might just work.
<DannyCK> This could get tricky.
<MetroDuo> I'll say. How are we going to get the times right?
<DannyCK> I had a thought about that. We didn't have to get the times right the first time. It just happened.
<MetroDuo> So if Lois and I get to S.T.A.R. Labs tonight, power up the peripherals, have Lois touch the lever and then me. And maybe kiss like the first time? We should make contact?
<DannyCK> I hope so. There are no guarantees.
Dean felt Lois tense at this last statement. "Easy for *him* to say." Lois had her arms crossed. "He doesn't have to get the headache."
<DannyCK> The headaches really hurt Lois. Try it first without the kissing.
Dean pointed to the latest message. "See Clark is concerned about *you*. Probably doesn't trust 'the actor'" He crooked his fingers for visual quotes and grinned up at her. When she visibly relaxed he returned his attention to the screen.
<DannyCK> You might have to turn off the VibroWhammy altogether and start it from scratch, to get the power surge we need on your end.
<MetroDuo> Got it!
<DannyCK> Plus I'll have to stay alert for any indication that the portal is starting so it doesn't appear in the middle of a crowd.
<MetroDuo> Sounds like a plan:) Unfortunately, if it doesn't work this time, I'm not sure what we can do. The machine is scheduled for destruction.
<DannyCK> If necessary, fill Dr. Klein in on the whole story. He's a friend of Superman's, I think he can be trusted.
<DannyCK> But only as a last resort. You can't let him destroy the machine before we succeed.
<MetroDuo> We'll do our best:) TTYL
Lois had been reading over his shoulder through this last exchange. "I think it will work. Don't you?" She was smiling again.
"It's going to have to." Dean pushed himself and the chair away from the desk. Lois stepped out of his way, ready to take the chair as soon as he stood up.
"Get up, I need to talk to Clark."
Dean got out of the chair, and let Lois have access to the laptop so she could get her anxiety out of her system talking to Clark. He went into the kitchen to talk to Martha.
Martha made sandwiches and soup for lunch and had it laid out on the table by the time Lois stopped typing and was ready to eat.
"We got cut off again, but Clark's fine. Really fine!" Lois was smiling and relaxed.
"I'm so glad, honey." Martha gestured to Lois to sit down at the kitchen table. "Now eat. You need to keep up your strength if you're going to have to deal with that machine tonight."
When they were finished eating, Lois remarked, "Dr. Klein wanted to see Superman. I think he should now, don't you? You can check out likely places to break in while you're finding out about the Kryptonite."
"What if he opens the box? Won't he get suspicious when Superman doesn't feel the Kryptonite?"
"You'll have to pretend it does. You *are* an actor." Lois grinned at him. She seemed really buoyant now that she'd talked to Clark and knew he might be back tonight. Dean was fascinated at the change in her mood. Did true love do that? Could it cross time and space to bring comfort? It would be interesting to find out for himself. Anyway, enough contemplation of obscure conundrums, back to the problem at hand.
"So how exactly does Clark react when he's in contact with Kryptonite? This is how I do it on the show." Dean clutched his temples and doubled over as if in pain.
"You ham!" Lois giggled. "That is *so* over the top."
"So what *does* he do?"
"Sort of like this." Lois pressed her right hand to her right temple and let the other arm reach as if for support. She shook her head and then put her free hand on the back of a chair before slowly sitting in it. "It's kind of like someone slugged him and he's a little dizzy. You have the right idea, it's just not so dramatic. If there's nothing around for him to use as support he lowers himself to the ground. If he's kind of expecting it, he fights the weakness and flies away the best he can."
"Since Superman has been forewarned this time, he'll be fighting it." Dean grinned. "I won't have to act hardly at all."
He did a quick change into the Suit and flew off in the direction of S.T.A.R. Labs. Now that he'd been there twice he had no real difficulty finding Dr. Klein's office and flying through the open sliding glass door of his office landed in front of the scientist's desk.
"Clark Kent said you wanted to see me. Something about Kryptonite?"
"Oh, yes, Superman. We got a new quantity of Kryptonite today. It's different somehow than all the other samples I've seen. I think it might be manufactured artificially. I knew you'd want to know about it. It was found at the Luthor Memorial Breach Park."
Oh good, a place he'd actually heard of. "Whereabouts in the park?"
"In the quarry. The Department of the Environment has been exploring the park to determine if those rumours of toxic landfill are true. When they dredged the water in the quarry they came up with about a cubic foot of Kryptonite, all in small pieces."
"That much?" Good thing it hadn't been the real Clark Kent falling into the quarry's dirty water. This would have killed him!
"Yes, I don't think I realized there was that much Kryptonite in existence. That's part of the reason I suspect it's manufactured."
"Do you have any idea how it got there?"
"I'm afraid not. But now that the area has been cleaned of it, we were wondering if you could check it for clues?"
"You're sure that there's none left?"
"We had them use that Kryptonite Geiger counter I developed last month. We're pretty sure. Unfortunately, you'll be the final control test."
"I need to have you look at the Kryptonite sample I have in the vault in the M.A.D. lab, so you can feel the difference and be able to tell if there's any more in the quarry. I know this is going to be painful for you, but are you willing to help?"
Dean hesitated. How was he going to be able to tell if there was any Kryptonite in the quarry? He couldn't feel it the same way that Clark Kent could. "I think so."
"Good, then we'll go down to the lab and you can see the sample."
Dean followed Dr. Klein to the lab he'd been in earlier when they came to see the VibroWhammy. He saw Dr. Klein retrieve the sample of Kryptonite from the safe and waited until the box was opened before reacting.
He put a hand to one temple. He couldn't feel the stone at all. However, using his special vision he was able to see the basic structure of the Kryptonite. He sat down on a lab stool to give the impression that he needed support. "That's fine Dr. Klein, I think I'll recognize it if I come in contact with it."
Dr. Klein snapped the lid of the box closed and hastily replaced it in the safe. "I'm sorry, Superman, but I had to let you know what it was like."
"Sure, it's no problem." Dean was using his "weakness" to assess the room. He saw that the VibroWhammy was still active and that there were sliding glass doors opening onto a patio at the far end of the room.
Dean wanted to know what kind of security they had in this part of the building. "I see you have glass doors over there. How safe is the…Kryptonite from being stolen?"
"It's not a problem. There are fifteen foot walls all around this part of the building. There's barbed wire on top of the walls and there are electronic beams covering the inner courtyard after dark to ensure that no-one gets near the building. Only someone who could fly could break into this building." Dr. Klein grinned shrewdly.
"Sounds good." Dean got up off the stool.
Dean bade Dr. Klein farewell, promised to investigate the quarry and flew out of the sliding glass doors in the lab, ensuring that the door wasn't locked as he left.
He flew over the quarry and used his newly found special vision to survey the bottom of the quarry, underneath the water. He didn't find any more Kryptonite. However, he did see signs that the Kryptonite had been planted only recently. In fact he could see the heat impressions of three people in caves just to the left of the quarry.
He decided to investigate. It would be best if he could get rid of this trouble before the real Clark Kent returned. After all, without vulnerability to Kryptonite, he was in a *much* better position to deal with the problem.
As he floated into the entrance of one of the caves he could hear the culprits talking.
"Hey, boss, what you want we should do with Superman when we have him where we want him?"
Dean glided just above the surface of the cave floor to avoid making any noise. He could see three people crouched over a fire in the first cavern. He decided to force the action, "Why don't you ask me?"
"Superman!" One of the men pulled a large piece of green rock from a box near the fire. "You shouldn't have come here."
Dean walked to the man, took the rock from his hand and inspected it. He knew from his memory of his analysis of Dr. Klein's sample that this was from the same batch of Kryptonite.
The three men cringed in terror. "Luthor, you said this was the genuine article." The shortest man jumped at and knocked down a tall bald-headed man on the far side of the fire. Luthor looked a bit more like Gene Hackman than John Shea, but not really like any of the actors that had portrayed him.
Dean thought quickly to help Clark Kent. "It *is* the genuine article! I'm immune to it now." He dropped the stone onto the fire so none of the three men could retrieve it. "It's amazing what can be done with antihistamines these days." He rounded up the three men and tied them together with pieces of rope he found at the rear of the cave.
After he'd delivered Luthor and his cohorts to the nearest police station, he returned to the cave and rounded up all the outstanding samples of Kryptonite, enclosing them in a lead lined box left by the criminals. He flew the box to Dr. Klein at S.T.A.R. Labs, telling him that fortunately, the box was already full and closed when he found it. Then he returned to the Kent house.
Lois was really pleased to see him. He basked in her praise of his handling of the quarry situation.
He then filled Lois and Martha in on the security situation at S.T.A.R. Labs The three of them decided that Lois and Dean would dress completely in black to help avoid detection, leaving Lois and Clark's wallets and identification at home, and that Dean would carry Lois and float in through the sliding glass doors of the lab containing the VibroWhammy.
As they were going out of the door Martha grabbed Dean by the arm. "I just want you to know that it's felt good to have you as an 'almost' son." Martha smiled and hugged him. "Goodbye, and good luck."
Feeling choked up Dean returned her hug. Then planting a quick kiss on Martha's cheek, followed Lois out of the door.
*Metropolis, New Troy
9:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Friday
S.T.A.R. Labs - Experimental Technology Wing*
They followed through with their plan. Unfortunately, someone had locked the sliding glass doors. Since the lock on these doors was below the security beams, Dean floated up and over the building to Dr. Klein's office on the public access side of the building. Here, without being hindered by security beams, he unlocked the doors to Dr. Klein's office and was able to get the two of them in without alerting any security personnel.
There were two white lab coats hanging behind Dr. Klein's office door. They put them on over their black outfits, hoping to disguise themselves as bona fide employees while they walked to the VibroWhammy lab. Dean grabbed Dr. Klein's key ring from its holding place in the filing cabinet before they exited into the hallway.
There were very few people in the halls. As Dean sighted someone coming along, they ducked into doorways and offices along the way. They didn't have proper security badges, and didn't want to get questioned before they got to the right lab.
Just as they were turning into the hallway containing the lab with the VibroWhammy, someone else came along, whistling slightly out of tune.
Dean picked the lock of the nearest door and they found themselves in a file room. There were file cabinets covering all the free wall space and a table and chairs in the centre for ease of reviewing the files. They stood behind the door waiting for the whistler to pass.
Unfortunately, this particular room seemed to be the whistler's destination. Dean heard the man slip a key into the lock. He glanced hurriedly around the room. There weren't any hiding places at all. His heart skipped a beat. He had to do something, now! They didn't have much time.
"Lois," he whispered, "I'm going to pretend we're here for personal reasons. Trust me." He saw Lois mouth an "o" as her eyes widened and her heart rate increased.
He had only seconds to set up the scene! And, he didn't have the advantage of the false eye of the camera lens. He was going to have to use this person's preconceptions to convince him of what was going on.
With a quick intake of breath, he pulled Lois around so his own back was to the door and she had her back to the table. He bent over her as she leaned against the table and, using his best on-camera kissing technique, set the scene for the audience walking through the now unlocked door. Sound effects would go a long way to convincing this guy that he'd walked in on two co-workers having a passionate moment in the file room. His heart beating against his ribs, Dean gave it all the acting skill he had. Lois followed his lead, tracing her hands across his back. They both pretended to be fully occupied until the person behind him muttered "Sorry! and quickly closed the door.
Dean could hear Lois breathing rapidly. Suddenly he wanted for this to be *real*. Up until now his concern with the optics had obliterated the knowledge that this was *Lois* he was kissing. He wanted to kiss her as a woman, not a participant in a role. But before he could readjust his lips to match hers she was pushing him away.
"Is he gone?" Lois straightened her clothes. "I was sure he'd demand to know what we were doing here."
"I think he figured out *what* we were doing here and was too embarrassed to ask for details." Dean smiled at her. She was amazingly beautiful.
Lois seemed to realize that he wasn't ready to cease the scene just yet. "Dean, the scene is *over*. I'm a married woman! Do you understand?"
He swallowed the hurt he felt. He knew what he felt for Lois wasn't real, but this second-hand bond thing was really messing him up. "Yes, I understand."
"Is the coast clear now?"
Dean raised his glasses, looked into the corridor and couldn't see anyone coming in either direction. "Yes." They made it into the VibroWhammy's lab without further incident.
"Do you think we have to turn this off?" Lois was looking at all the buttons and switches on the front of the machine.
"I'm sorry. I know it's going to hurt, but, yes, I think we should restart it to give it all the juice we can. The last time, when the machine was already on, it only made a partial portal. Hopefully, turning it off and on will initiate the electrical surge we need!"
Dean walked behind the machine and pulled the plug. Seeing the look of surprise on Lois' face he said, "Well, I decided to use the simple approach." The VibroWhammy wound down with a whine. "This is how we did it on the show."
"You'd better sit down somewhere comfortable. When I plug this back in you are going to get one doozy of a headache." Dean looked around for a chair with back support and pulled it over for Lois to sit in. Then he plugged the VibroWhammy back in and powered up the peripherals.
Lois whimpered. He came and held her head to his shoulder while he saw the VibroWhammy activate itself. She was trembling and clutched at the lapels of the lab coat he was wearing as if her life depended on it. Once the lights on the front of the machine steadied he could hear Lois breathe more deeply and she relaxed her grip on him.
"Are you okay?" He so desperately wanted to kiss all the pain away.
"Yes, fine." Lois pulled herself upright. "If we're going to do this, I'd better touch the machine."
She was pale as she walked slowly to the machine and put out her hand to touch the right lever. Dean followed her and as soon as she let go of the lever, pulled her back to sit on the chair.
"Are you sure you're okay?" Dean could feel her trembling.
"Yes, and strangely enough I don't feel weak this time."
"What did you see?"
"I saw a lot of people walking. There were people at the side of the street yelling 'Hello, Dean! Hi, Teri!' I think I was seeing it through Teri's eyes again. I couldn't see Clark."
"Sounds like the AIDS walk Teri was going to go on." Dean took off Clark's glasses and the lab coat, walked over to the VibroWhammy and touched the same lever. This time there was a coloured swirl over the machine, slowly coalescing in front of the VibroWhammy."
"I'm going to miss you, Lois." He walked over to her side, "I'd like to kiss you goodbye before I go through the portal, is that okay?"
Lois nodded her assent and Dean pulled her up out of the chair and clasped her by the waist, bending to press his lips to hers. Lois, mesmerizing, fascinating Lois. Finally, he was kissing her the way he wanted to. Her kiss was intoxicating, dizzying. He felt light-headed and completely, totally happy.
Then she was pushing him away. "Enough already! You're a nice guy, Dean," she gave him an apologetic smile, "but you're not Clark."
Dean heard a voice say, "Pardon me!"
He was still holding Lois by the waist when they both turned to face the portal. Dean was face to face with his almost mirror image. Except that the face in front of him was frowning at him. "Now if you wouldn't mind unhanding my wife, I think you need to get going! I can only hold this open for so long."
Dean knew he was gaping at the man. This was *him*, the *real* Superman! There couldn't possibly be any mistake about it. He'd thought Lois had a strong personal quality, but this guy was *phenomenal*. He now knew how Clark Kent was able to work next to Lois and get things done. His forceful personality was more than a match for hers!
He must have been standing there with his mouth open for too long, because Clark sounded impatient when he said "I think you should move fast before this thing stops cooperating!" Clark was leaning with his back against one side of the portal, his left arm straight out to the side as if he were holding an elevator door open for someone.
Dean dropped his hands to his sides, away from Lois. "I'm sorry…I… No, I'm not! I liked kissing Lois. You're a lucky man." Dean smiled at the memory of her kiss.
Clark grinned. "I know. Now if you don't mind…" He used his other hand to indicate the way out.
"Oh, right!" Dean grinned in return, his euphoria from kissing Lois and meeting the *real* Superman clearing. Lois gave him a quick goodbye hug. Clark stood away from the open part of the portal, so there would be no chance of them touching this time. Dean grinned and yelling "Goodbye!" over his shoulder dove into the portal.
*Metropolis, New Troy
9:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Friday
S.T.A.R. Labs - Experimental Technology Wing*
Lois saw Clark pull his arm away from the sides of the portal quickly to avoid the snap of the closing edges. However, speed obviously didn't matter because nothing happened.
Lois ran towards him to hug him, but when he didn't return her hug asked, "What's wrong, Clark?" Was he upset about her kissing Dean?
Clark stared at the portal, "It's not closing!" He walked back to the portal and with all his strength pushed the sides together. Still the portal stubbornly stayed open. The centre of the opening had misted over, but the portal was still there. Clark called out, "Dean, if you can hear me, I need help." There was no sound. "Please, Dean, help me push the portal closed." Then she could see the portal moving closer together under his hands. Putting all his strength into it he pressed the two edges together. Once the sides touched the portal faded and disappeared.
Lois ran to him and this time kissed him passionately. She had missed him *so* much! Then to give herself time to get her emotions in check, she walked over to the counter and picked up the glasses and lab coat that Dean had discarded. She turned and handed them to Clark who put them on.
"You okay?" Lois was still worried that he might think that she and Dean…
"I'm fine. How about you? Do you still have a headache?"
She shook her head and stepped towards him giving him another hug. This one he returned ardently.
Under her direction, Clark put the equipment back to the way she and Dean had found it, to the best of her recollection. Then they walked to Dr. Klein's office to return his keys and the lab coats and Clark flew them home.
Martha was ecstatic to see them both, but especially Clark. She'd been terrified that something had gone seriously wrong despite the fact that the IRC connection hadn't failed again until after she'd heard from K that Dean had returned safely, about 10 minutes ago. Then the system had gone into a General Protection Fault.
Lois tried rebooting the laptop to get rid of the Fault, but to no avail. The Locally Originating InterStellar Communications Link was no more.
*Metropolis, New Troy
11:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Friday
Lois and Clark's Home*
Lois snuggled up to Clark. She and Clark were in bed, reviewing the time they'd spent apart. Clark's rendition of his time in Burbank was so notably Superman-like she wondered why she'd ever doubted him. Of course he loved her, he'd told her so, but she had to be *sure*.
"Clark…" She knew she sounded tentative, but that's the way she felt.
"Yes, honey." Clark leaned down and kissed her forehead.
"You do like being back, don't you?" She saw his puzzled expression. "I mean, you did *want* to come back."
"Lo-is!" He sat up and turned to face her, his expression solemn. "What's the matter? Are you still having that 'Teri's a vamp' thing?"
"Well…when I saw you in the Mexican Restaurant…I know it's silly…but I thought—felt that you liked Teri…maybe better than…than me…" There she'd said it, now he'd laugh and she'd know how silly she'd been. She avoided looking at him, just in case she was wrong.
He didn't laugh. Clark put his finger under her chin and gently raised it so that she was looking into his eyes. His expression serious he confided, "I love *you*! There is not *now*…and never has been *anyone* else…ever! Understand?"
"Oh, Clark!" She hugged him close. She was so relieved. She recognized she'd been wrong in doubting him, but it felt so good to *know*.
Pushing her gently away so he could see the expression on her face he asked, "Now, what made you think I would like Teri better than you…Ummm?"
Lois twirled the ends of her hair with her fingers. "Well,,,she's got great clothes, and she's thinner, and…well I saw those pictures—she's *way* sexier than me!"
Clark pulled her to him and caressed her. "But she isn't *you*, honey. It's *you* that I find sexy!" He kissed her on the temple then made a series of light kisses along the side of her face and chin until he reached her lips. With his lips brushing hers he whispered her name.
Breathing "Oh, Clark!" so only he would hear, Lois submitted herself to the enthusiasm of his kiss. What had ever possessed her to doubt him?
*Metropolis, New Troy
Early Morning, Thursday, three weeks later.
Lois and Clark's Home*
Clark had finished his morning phone conversation with Martha and was now upstairs taking his sweet time in the bathroom. For a man who could do things at the speed of light, sometimes he could take *forever*.
In the meantime, she was putting the final touches on her personal notes on the Burbank experience. She'd intended to get to them a lot sooner, but so much had happened in the last three weeks that now was the first time she'd had the opportunity to work on something personal.
Martha had stayed on for her visit, and then gone home on the Sunday night via Superman Express. Clark's Dad had called her after Martha got home to see how she was. He'd been appalled at hearing of the strange events during Martha's visit and had berated himself for not being there.
She and Clark had spent the intervening weeks, since the middle of August, cleaning up the mess created by the bizarre exchange between worlds. Perry hadn't been a problem, he'd assumed that the VibroWhammy had affected Lois and, consequently, her behaviour in the Planet newsroom that morning so he accepted her "memory lapse" as an anomaly of her contact with the machine. The other staff hadn't been quite so forgiving at first. However, now everyone seemed to have come to the conclusion that it was just another Lois and Clark feature adventure.
Dr. Klein had been true to his word and destroyed the VibroWhammy the day after Clark's return. He hadn't found any discrepancy in the equipment, but had called Lois and Clark to let them know that the VibroWhammy was being dismantled anyway. Clive Tisdell was now working on another renovated piece of equipment. It was some kind of vehicle, discovered in a recently uncovered old west ghost town just outside Smallville, Kansas. S.T.A.R. Labs thought it might be useful as a new form of land-based hydrofoil transportation. Tisdell thought it had originated as an attempt to create a time machine, but Lois had avoided publishing *that* information as being too farfetched.
Word had spread fast among the underground that Superman had an antidote to Kryptonite and so Clark hadn't been bothered much with *that* particular problem since his return. Especially since the one guy who'd tried to test Superman's new immunity had run into some bad luck, because Clark had been able to hide his reaction to it and so perpetuated the myth that he now was invulnerable to that particular menace.
Lois had been working on her usual front page stories. Those, and trying to arrange for estimates for installing a second bathroom, had kept her pretty well fully occupied during the past three weeks.
She'd anticipated, after the VibroWhammy was destroyed, that she'd be able to settle back into a routine, and now things *were* pretty much back to normal. It was almost as if the adventure in Burbank had never happened. They didn't even have a proper souvenir of their trip, unless you counted second-hand clothes as souvenirs.
It was almost 7:30 and almost like an echo of the headaches she'd been getting three weeks ago, her body reacted. This had been happening regularly every morning recently. She *really* wished the renovations to install the second bathroom had been done last spring like they'd planned. She wasn't sure if she was going to be able to hold on until Clark was finished in the only one they had right now.
She didn't want Clark to know about her current little problem until after the visit to the doctor later this morning. *Then* she'd know if what she suspected was true. Come to think of it, if she *was* right, then maybe her weakness in Dr. Klein's lab had been because she was in the presence of Kryptonite. It made sense, she wasn't normally so insecure and hysterical, at least not since she and Clark had formed a long-term relationship.
She heard Clark exit the bathroom and quickly went up the stairs to get in and out before he was finished dressing. She just barely made it past him into the bathroom and just got the door closed before she threw up.
Her desire to avoid letting Clark in on this recent addition to her morning routine, until after she'd visited the doctor, was dashed. Unlike the last three mornings, this time she knew he'd heard her because moments later he flung the bathroom door open and stood in the doorway looking alarmed. "Lois! Are you okay?"
In an instant, she found herself cradled in his arms on their bed. "Lois, why didn't you tell me you weren't well?"
"I'm fine, I'm not sick."
"I'm not! I have an appointment to see the doctor today. I…I missed my period." Smiling at the dawning realization on Clark's face she stroked his cheek and whispered, "I think we *do* have a souvenir from Burbank after all."
Clark pulled her closer and gently demonstrated to her exactly how he felt about being presented with such a memento.
Just a reminder:) The Burbank half of the story is available from ftp://ftp.swcp.com/pub/users/dstark Stories, from Debby at email@example.com by email, and on the L&C Fanfic Archive under the title "SwapMeet: Burbank".
In closing I'd like to thank Debby S. for her patience and counseling during the creation of this mirrorfic:)