By ML Thompson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted January 2001
Summary: When Clark and Lois meet up four years prior to their initial meeting at the Daily Planet, sparks fly. Will Lois' distrust in Clark ruin a great relationship, or will terrorists destroy them before they even get started?
This story provides an alternate beginning for Lois and Clark.
No copyright infringement is intended. I recognize that the characters are not mine. I am just borrowing them for a little fun and not for any profit. Special thanks to the writers of the Pilot and Strange Visitor episodes. I use some of their ideas and dialogue in my story. However, I take liberties. So if you think you know what's going to happen, don't be so sure.
Sir Isaac Newton's third law of motion is: 'For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.'
Clark licked his lips as he stepped up to the doors of the post office. He hadn't had his mom's cooking for more then three weeks and was looking forward to the prospect tonight. While traveling, Clark always tried to call before going home. He maintained he was calling to ensure that he wouldn't show up when his folks had company and part of him really believed that, but when he was brutally honest with himself, Clark knew his mom went all out with her cooking when she had advance notice that he was coming home for supper. So here he was at the post office in Eilat, Israel, planning to make a phone call that was guaranteed to give him a good home-cooked meal.
He pulled open the door and stepped inside. There were about a dozen phones, but only one was currently being used. He ignored the dark haired woman with her back to him and stepped up to one of the free phones.
He had just picked up a phone when he heard the woman mutter, "What's wrong with this stupid phone?"
Clark glanced over and saw the woman fumbling with various coins, attempting to use one after another in an effort to place a call. He fished in his pocket for a moment before stepping up beside her.
"I think you need these," Clark said. He held an open hand towards the woman, revealing a half dozen or so circular tokens with holes in the middle.
The woman pushed her hair over one shoulder, turning slightly towards him. She studied the contents of his hand as he continued to explain.
"These are telephone tokens. Money doesn't work in these phones."
"So where do I get one of those?" the woman asked, finally looking him in the eyes.
Clark swallowed hard. He was suddenly, inexplicably, at a loss for words. In front of him was the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen. There was something about her eyes. He couldn't seem to pull himself away. She cocked her head to the side when he failed to answer, studying him. He suddenly realized he was staring and felt a blush begin creeping up his neck. Fortunately, most of it was hidden behind the soft beard that covered his face. He quickly diverted his eyes, and cleared his throat. Now that he was no longer looking at her, he found that speech came back to him — albeit, only marginally.
"Take… umm… mine," he stuttered.
She watched him for a moment before shrugging, taking one of the tokens from his hand and, muttering a quick thank you, turned back to the phone. Realizing that she would probably need more than one, he dropped the remaining tokens on the counter beside her. She looked as if she was about to object, but when he walked away, she didn't.
Clark quickly made his way to another phone and picked it up. He didn't dial. He needed a moment to compose himself. What had just happened there? He never had a problem expressing himself before. Although only in his early twenties, Clark had mastered the art of effective communication. Yet one small woman had turned his mind to mush by simply looking in his direction.
Clark felt strange, as if his stomach was turning over. What were the strange sensations just looking into this woman's eyes seemed to evoke in him? He had never felt anything like… Wait a minute. He had too. When? He thought about that for a moment. Suddenly, he had the answer. It was the same feeling he'd had the first time he'd flown.
It was a mixture of excitement and fear. He had been completely overwhelmed by the experience, just as he was by this one. But why? He couldn't figure out what had made his heart skip a beat and had sent butterflies into his stomach when their eyes met. He drew in a deep breath and tried to calm his pounding heart.
He heard the woman who had thrown him so badly say, "American Embassy." He was tempted to listen in. He rebuked himself for that urge. He never used his special abilities to invade another person's privacy. He had made that decision when he first realized he had x-ray vision and, for years, had followed that rule without exception. So why was he finding it so difficult today?
The sound of a phone that had been left off the hook too long brought Clark abruptly back to his surroundings. He hung up and picked it up again. He had come in here to call his folks. Okay, so that's what he would do. When he was done, hopefully the woman would be gone. He caught his breath. The last thing he wanted was for the woman to be gone, but it was the prudent course of action. He raised his hand to punch in the number. Suddenly, he hesitated, unable to remember his parent's phone number.
"So what do you suggest I do?"
Clark looked over again at the woman as she raised her voice with the last question.
"But that's the problem. I can't get the money without my passport. And since my passport was stolen…" There was a pause. "And how soon will that be?" Again a pause. "So just how do you suggest I get to Tel Aviv?" she demanded. She was obviously not happy with the answer because a moment later, she slammed down the phone.
"I could take you," Clark said, before he could stop himself.
The woman turned towards him. "Excuse me?" she asked.
Clark felt a blush begin creeping up his neck again. "I couldn't help overhearing. If you need to get to Tel Aviv, I could take you. I have to go back there tonight anyway." He wondered why he had just done that. He had decided to let the woman leave. It was just too dangerous to let anyone get close. For some unknown reason, he suspected this woman had that ability. And if his secret ever got out…
"I really don't mind," Clark continued, when she hesitated. He assured himself that it was the right thing to do. After all, her conversation with the American Embassy had made it clear that she didn't have any money or a passport. Not to help would run contrary to everything he'd been brought up to believe. He pushed away any thoughts that he was doing this because he wanted to spend time with this woman — in order to explore these new feelings. He was just doing the right thing by volunteering to give her a ride.
Lois Lane slowly sized up the man offering assistance. He was not dressed like a tourist. However, his American English was flawless. His beard was slightly scruffy and his hair needed a trim, but he had the clearest eyes she'd ever seen. Of course, there was his initial reaction to her. She had originally written him off, due to his apparent inability to communicate simple ideas, but he had sounded intelligent enough when he made the offer of help.
Of course, this was Israel and Lois was well aware of the warnings given to Americans about taking rides with strangers. Still, she made her living sizing people up. Okay, so she'd only been working at the Daily Planet a little while. Still… He had such honest eyes. Besides, what choice did she have? All her identification and money had been stolen. She had contacted her mother who had wired her money. However, without identification, she had been unable to collect it. And the American Embassy was in Tel Aviv. She could hardly walk through the Negev desert that separated Eilat from Tel Aviv. She needed someone to help her, but could she trust him? Yes. For Lois, that was a bizarre realization. She didn't naturally trust people, but there was something about this man that seemed to cultivate trust.
"Are you sure you have room for me?" she asked.
Clark shrugged. "All I have is a bike, so…"
Clark laughed. "No. A motorbike. But if you don't mind riding on the back…"
"No. I mean, I don't mind."
"Should we get your things and head out?"
Lois gestured around her. There was nothing. "All my things were stolen yesterday, so…"
"Then where did you spend the night?" Clark asked.
"I had already paid for my hostel for the night, so that wasn't a problem."
"But then you haven't had any breakfast?" Clark asked.
Lois didn't have to answer. The sudden grumbling in her stomach answered for her. She didn't mention that she hadn't had money for lunch or supper yesterday either. All she had to her name at the moment was some loose change in her pocket. If he hadn't had telephone tokens for her to use, she probably wouldn't even have that.
"Come on," said Clark, leading her out of the post office. "I know the perfect place to get some breakfast. My treat."
Suddenly, she stopped and looked at him. Was he expecting something in return for his kindness?
Clark turned and looked when she didn't follow. He seemed to read her mind because the next words out of his mouth were, "No strings. I promise. I'm Clark Kent, by the way." He offered her his hand.
Lois took his hand. "Lois… umm… Lind," she responded. Now, why had she given him a phoney name? She didn't exactly know, but for some reason, she liked the anonymity that not giving him her real name brought. She wasn't sure why.
"It's nice to meet you, Lois Lind," Clark responded, holding her hand in his a little longer than strictly necessary to effect the introduction. Then, realizing he was going to make her even more nervous about going to Tel Aviv with a strange man if she thought he had an ulterior motive, he released her hand.
The bus driver, Oren, yawned. He wished he could turn on some music, but the tour guide was talking again.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, we will be stopping up ahead to go swimming in the Dead Sea. Please be careful and wear shoes to protect yourselves from the sharp stones on the beach and shore," said Shoshana Stein, the petite tour guide. Her English was perfect even if it was colored by a heavy Israeli accent.
"You mean you want us to wear our shoes into the water," objected a large man who'd had problems with every suggestion today. The entire company on the bus groaned in unison.
"Yes, Mr. Jamison. If you have a pair of thongs or something like that, you can wear those."
"I don't wear thongs," scoffed William Jamison.
"Just wear your running shoes, honey," said his wife, Beth, in her most reassuring voice.
"Also, folks," continued Shoshana. "Please don't let the water get in your eyes or touch your sunburns because the salt will sting. Also, be cautious if you have any scrapes, insect bites or recently shaved areas. Expect them to tingle in the salty water."
"That would include all of us," said William. "Does anyone here not have areas like that?" he then asked, looking around at the other passengers. No one responded.
"All of you might have places that will tingle," Shoshana conceded. "But just remember that the water is healing rather than harmful. For thousands of years, people have come to the Dead Sea for its healing properties. Even today, mud from the Dead Sea is sold all over the world for that reason."
Oren rolled his eyes as he pulled the bus into the parking lot. He opened the door to let his passengers off and breathed a sigh of relief when everyone was gone. He really hated his job.
Roger Hoffman pulled up the zipper on his jacket, hiding his gun from casual sight. He was a big muscular man. Years of working as a professional mercenary in Central America had taught him the importance of keeping himself in shape. He had led these men on specialized assignments all over the world. He didn't care which side he was on, as long as the pay was right.
In this case, he didn't care who won the war. He just wanted to fulfill his assignment and collect his fee. If this one went well, there were guaranteed to be others. Just a little demonstration, his employers had requested, to show that he and his men were well worth the price. He took a final look around the cave. Everything was ready as long as one nosey wannabe reporter didn't become a problem.
"Let's go over the plan one last time," he said, addressing his men. They all nodded before gathering around the small table to be given their final instructions before the big event.
Clark watched, a small smile playing at the corners of his mouth, as Lois finish off the eggs on her plate. When they had entered the restaurant, she had just ordered some toast and Turkish coffee. Clark had suddenly wondered when she'd had her last meal. So, even though he'd already eaten, he ordered a big breakfast. When he changed his mind after the food arrived and offered her his breakfast, she took it. Of course, she had made it sound as if she was just doing him a favor, but the way she had devoured his breakfast informed Clark just how hungry she had been.
Lois finished up Clark's breakfast. Her things had been stolen yesterday morning. So she had definitely been hungry. She suspected Clark realized it and had ordered accordingly. Still, it had given her the chance to retain her pride and made it impossible for him to claim he had spent enough money on her to entitle him to something. She was grateful for that.
She glanced up at the man sitting across from her — sizing him up. He was certainly good looking enough — actually, more than enough. Lois couldn't help but appreciate the way his muscles moved under his shirt or the easy grace with which he moved. In that respect he reminded her of a panther. His black jeans and shirt accentuated that impression. She felt a thrill of excitement shudder through her stomach. For some reason, she suddenly felt almost giddy. Lois Lane had a feeling that Lois Lind was the type who lived her life on the edge. She had no I.D. and no money, and she was about to head out on an adventure with a great looking guy. She stuffed a final fork full of food into her mouth, trying to ignore her unexpected lascivious thoughts.
Lois didn't practice casual sex. So, why was she suddenly having these unfamiliar desires to have a one night stand with this handsome stranger? After all, that's all it could be. She was leaving to go back to Metropolis as soon as she got this passport and money problem sorted out. She concluded the reason she was having all these crazy notions was because of Lois Lind. Lois Lane would never consider such a reckless course of action. Lois Lind, on the other hand, didn't seem to have the same compunctions.
"So," began Clark, as she set down her fork and picked up her coffee. "Where are you from?"
"Born and raised there."
"You know, I've never been to Metropolis myself. I've heard that it's a little… umm… rough though."
Lois rolled her eyes. It was a common belief among those who were not from the city. "No more so than any other big city."
Clark nodded. "I suppose. So, what do you do there?"
"I…" Suddenly Lois hesitated. Lois Lane might be a workaholic, whose main goal in life was to win the Pulitzer Prize in journalism, but who was Lois Lind? "I'm a student at Metropolis U."
"What are you studying?" Clark asked.
"I'm studying journalism," Lois said, remembering that when telling a lie, one should stick as close as possible to the truth in order to remember it.
"Really? I studied journalism myself at the University of Kansas for a year."
Lois studied him for a minute. "For a year?"
Clark nodded. "I never finished," he explained.
"Why not? Didn't you enjoy it?" asked Lois, unable to believe that anyone would want out of journalism.
"No, it wasn't that. I…" Suddenly, Clark hesitated. He had left because people were beginning to ask questions about the number of 'miracles' that seemed to be taking place in the area. It was then that he realized he couldn't have a normal life. Unless he wanted to settle down on the farm, he would have to accept that the day would always come when he would have to move on. But what should he tell Lois? He cleared his throat and continued, "I guess I'm just not the type to keep doing any one thing for very long." He knew how irresponsible that made him sound, but what else could he say?
"So what have you done since then?" Lois asked.
Clark shrugged. "Lived all over the world, working long enough to make some money before moving on to the next place."
"So where are you from?"
"It's a little town you've probably never heard of. It's called, Smallville. It's in Kansas."
"Smallville?" Lois asked in disbelief.
Clark laughed. "I know, but if you think about it, it's sort of equivalent to naming a city Metropolis."
Lois grinned. "I suppose so. So what are you doing here, Clark Kent from Smallville, Kansas? Or do you just show up wherever a damsel in distress needs your help?"
"For some reason, I don't quite see you as the 'damsel in distress' type. If I hadn't come along, I suspect you would have found another way to get to Tel Aviv. I guess it's just my good luck that I happened to be in the post office this morning."
It was obviously the right thing to say. Lois positively beamed. Clark immediately looked down. What was he doing? He was flirting with this woman. He had no right to do that. He was only giving her a lift to the American Embassy in Tel Aviv. Given his need to constantly move on, he couldn't afford to form emotional attachments. If he wasn't careful, he would definitely fall for this woman. Even worse, what if he got her to fall for him?
"Well, I suppose we should get going," Clark said, pulling a twenty shekel note from his pocket and handing it to the waitress.
Once they were outside, Clark removed the motorcycle helmet on the back of his bike and handed it to her.
"Umm… What about you?" Lois asked.
Clark shrugged. "I don't usually wear it," he fibbed. He didn't need it, that was true, but he usually wore it to give the appearance of vulnerability.
Lois studied the helmet for a moment before saying, "I don't need it." After all, she was looking forward to the feeling of the wind blowing through her hair as they sped down the highway. Either way, her hair would be a mess. So she might as well enjoy herself. Besides, it seemed like something Lois Lind would do.
"Lois, you really should…"
"If you aren't, why should I?" she challenge.
He studied her for a moment. His reflexes were quick enough that he could keep her safe. Besides, if she was determined not to wear it, he could hardly force her. He re-fastened the helmet to the bike and got on. She watched as he kicked up the stand. He looked over at her.
"Coming?" he asked.
She swallowed hard, climbing onto the back. Suddenly, her mouth was inexplicably dry. She tried to tell herself that she was only being careful not to fall off as she slipped her hands around his waist and leaned into his back. Her breathing became shallow at the feel and smell of the man in front of her.
What was happening to her? She knew she had a reckless streak — that's what had brought her to Israel in the first place. She was still being assigned obituaries and the occasional story about dog shows or library hours. So when Bobby Bigmouth told her about weapons being smuggled into Israel from Metropolis, she had kept it to herself. She knew she should tell Perry and let him assign someone to look into it, but it was her tip, ergo her story. So instead, she had taken her holidays and come to Israel to check it out, but here it was at the end of her holidays and she still hadn't found anything worth reporting. Then to top it off, her things had been stolen.
But Lois' recklessness had never extended into the area of relationships. Still, she couldn't seem to control these unique feelings, and she wasn't even sure she wanted to. She closed her eyes and gave into the fantasies — they were only fantasies after all. What could they hurt? It wasn't as if she was actually going to do anything.
Clark noticed an increase in Lois' heart rate. She was obviously nervous about being this close to a strange man. He would have to make a point of being as unthreatening as possible. Still… it was hard not noticing the feel of her touching him. He felt as if his entire body was on fire. He took a deep breath and started the bike.
The tourists all reboarded the tour bus. Oren sighed, laying down his latest novel and climbing back into the driver's seat. His time in the army had been easier than having to put up with these foreigners, coming over here and talking about how to solve all of his country's problems.
"Our next stop will be Masada," Shoshana informed the passengers.
"Hey, didn't I see a movie about that?" asked William.
"There was a Hollywood production about it, yes. Masada was built by King Herod to be an impregnable fortress, but Masada is most famous for the last stand of its Jewish defenders in 73 CE during the Jewish Revolt against Roman rule. They died by their own hands rather than submit to the Romans."
"So we're going to another dead city?" complained William.
A studious looking man sitting nearby mumbled something.
"What was that, Eric?" demanded William.
"I just wondered why you came on this trip if you don't want to do anything on the itinerary," Eric said. There was a murmur of agreement in the bus. William sank down into his seat looking angry, but said nothing more.
The men were just about to head out when they had an unexpected visitor. The young man had unruly blond hair that fell into his eyes. He got out of his car and stood, nervously pulling at the untucked edge of his shirt while intently studying his shoes.
"What are you doing here, Simon?" demanded Roger Hoffman. "I thought you were keeping an eye on that reporter."
Simon swallowed hard. "I'm afraid I lost her, Dad," Simon replied nervously. This was the first time his father had ever allowed him to come on a mission — and he had already blown it. He felt miserable. After all, since his parents had separated and he'd lived with his mother, his father hadn't shown much interest in him — that is until he asked to come on this assignment.
"I managed to steal her stuff yesterday, but this morning she left the hostel earlier than usual. I don't know what happened, but somehow she got past me." He didn't mention that he had fallen asleep. He figured he was in enough trouble as it was.
Roger let out a short breath. That's what he got for sending a boy to do a man's job. "So what did you find out?"
Simon pulled a pack out of his car and opened it. He handed a passport, a press pass and a small notebook to his dad. "Her name is Lois Lane. She works for the Daily Planet."
Roger was silent for a moment. "Never heard of her."
"Well, she's young so I doubt she's been working there long. I sort of figure if they would send someone as inexperienced as her, they aren't taking this very seriously."
Roger nodded. It did make sense. Maybe his kid was more of an idea man. He would have to consider that once this assignment was completed. "Does she know anything?" he asked.
"Well, she's been asking questions. But I don't think she knows much. She seems to think she's looking for guns or something. She doesn't know that mercenaries…"
"Freedom fighters," Roger corrected.
"Right. Freedom fighters are being smuggled into the country. I got her notebook. It's hard to read her shorthand, but I don't think she has anything solid. Besides, stealing her things should keep her busy long enough for us to get the rest of our men into the country undetected."
Roger studied the notebook for a moment before nodding. "Were you able to tell who gave her the tip?" he asked.
Simon shook his head. "It was someone with the initial 'B'. Other than that, there's no indication of who it could be."
Roger paced silently as he thought about this development. He wished Ms. Lane were still under surveillance, but losing her shouldn't affect today's operation. Afterwards, he would find and deal with Lois Lane.
Finally, he turned back to his son. "Get back to Eilat and find Ms. Lane. We don't want her stumbling across something." Roger didn't think his inexperienced son had much chance of finding the woman, but at least this would keep him out of the way during the operation.
"Yes, sir," Simon said, before throwing the pack back into the car and climbing in himself to do as instructed.
"Why are we stopping here?" Lois asked, as Clark pulled the bike to the shoulder at a fork in the road. Clark turned on the bike so that he was partly facing her.
"We have to make a decision," Clark informed her.
"What's that?" Lois asked.
"Well, if we take this road," he said, gesturing to the road veering to the left. "It will take us through Beer Sheva and on to Tel Aviv. However, if we take this road," he continued, gesturing to his right. "We'll go north along the Dead Sea, through Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. It's a little bit farther, but I was just thinking… Well, it's still early and… Have you been to the Dead Sea yet?"
"No," Lois informed him. After all, she had been working, trying to get the big scoop that would launch her career.
"Well," Clark cleared his throat. "It really is quite an experience swimming in the Dead Sea. We might even have a little time for you to see En Gedi."
"It's an oasis. It's quite remarkable. I mean, if you're interested. Of course, I'll understand if you don't want…"
"I'd love to," Lois informed him. She really wasn't sure how interesting either of those things would be, but if it gave her a little more time with Clark…
Clark smiled and nodded, before turning back around. He was thrilled about showing Lois a couple of the places he loved in this remarkable country. Actually, he suspected he would be pleased cleaning toilets if he was doing it with Lois. Wait a minute. What did he think he was doing? He shouldn't even be thinking about starting something with this woman.
But then, it was only an afternoon. Lois would probably be on a plane back to the States tomorrow anyway. He sighed. He might as well enjoy the day. He closed his eyes momentarily as Lois' arms tightened around him again. Then he pulled the bike back out onto the road and headed north.
"Ben Zona," cursed Oren, as he looked at the road ahead. They had left Masada and were part way to En Gedi when he first spotted the cars. There appeared to be an accident ahead. He hoped this wouldn't delay them. He slowed down, looking for some room to pass. He sighed when he realized there wasn't any. He reluctantly brought the bus to a stop. It looked as if he was going to have to spend some extra time with these people.
"What's going on?" asked William, getting out of his seat to approach the driver.
"There is some sort of accident up ahead,' Oren said.
Oren and William watched in silence as men approached the bus. Oren opened the door, hoping they could provide him with some news about how long it would be. One of the men stepped inside the door. The passengers gasped when he withdrew a submachine gun.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, as long as everyone does as they're told, no one has to get hurt."
"What do you think this is?" William demanded. "We're Americans. You can't do this to…"
His speech was cut off as the man used the butt of his gun on William's mouth. William collapsed to the floor.
"Get him back to his seat," the man with the gun, also known as Roger Hoffman, demanded.
William's wife and Eric immediately moved to drag William back to his seat.
"Now, does anyone else wish to register an objection or are we all now in agreement?" Hoffman looked around at the passengers, but no one else seemed to have any complaints. "Good," he continued at the silence. With that other men boarded the bus. He ordered Oren to get into a back seat and one of his men slid behind the steering wheel. The cars blocking the road suddenly vanished and the bus started up again, heading for a different destination.
Clark pulled the bike onto the shoulder. When he had seen the congestion on the road ahead, he had listened in. So he knew a bus load of American tourists had just been hijacked.
"What?" asked Lois into his ear.
Clark jumped slightly. He had momentarily forgotten about his passenger. If he were by himself, he could probably intervene before anyone knew what was happening and then get out of there, but he did have a passenger. Maybe he could keep her from realizing that there was a problem and then help without her ever knowing.
"They've got guns," Lois whispered into his ear. "Clark, there's something fishy going on up there."
Clark let out a short breath. He was too late.
"I think we should go back to Masada and alert the authorities," he said.
"Are you crazy, Clark?" Lois asked. "If we do that, we'll never find them again. I think we should follow them and see where they're going."
"It could be dangerous, Lois," Clark said. If only he could get back to Masada, he could leave her for a moment to go to the washroom. Then he could slip away, help out and get back before she ever knew the difference.
"It'll be a lot more dangerous for those people if we don't follow," Lois pointed out.
Clark sighed. Lois was right. If they did take the time necessary to return to Masada, the bus could have disappeared into any one of a number of nearby canyons or caves before he had time to get back. The only thing to do was to follow the bus and hope an opportunity presented itself to intervene without Lois, or anyone else for that matter, knowing what he'd done.
The bus pulled into a dark cave. The small cavern was lit only by a couple of lanterns sitting on a table on the far side of the cave, leaving it mostly in shadows.
"All right," said Hoffman. "Everyone — get off the bus. And I'm warning you that if anyone…" He paused, looking at William's blood- caked face. "And I mean anyone, tries something, one of you will die. It may be the person causing the problem or it may be someone else. So I would advise you to keep an eye on your fellow passengers if you want to survive this experience."
Satisfied he'd made his point, he looked at the driver, who opened the bus door in response. It was a very subdued group that disembarked. They were led away from the bus and told to take a seat on the cold ground. No one complained.
Clark let the bike drift into a ditch just out of sight of the cave's entrance. He got off before turning to look at Lois.
"Do you know how to operate a motorcycle?" he asked.
"Then take the bike and head back to Masada. There's always an army presence there. If you find someone before…"
"And what will you be doing?"
"I'm going to sneak into the cave and see if there's some way I can help."
"I'm going with you," Lois insisted.
Clark let out a short breath. She really wasn't going to make this easy for him. "Lois, one of us needs to go for help. Otherwise…"
"Then you go," Lois maintained, raising an eyebrow at him.
Clark gave her the sternest look he could muster. She merely folded her arms across her chest and cocked her head to the side, all the while maintaining eye contact. Clark immediately recognized defeat. This woman was obviously high maintenance. Even so, he couldn't help but admire her spirit. He would just have to find another way to do this.
He took a moment to fish in his saddle bags before pulling out a small can of gasoline. It was the only thing he had he thought might be useful — although, how he wasn't sure. What he needed to do was create a diversion — not only to keep everyone else busy, but also to keep the woman beside him from noticing while he did his thing — whatever that was.
"What are you taking that for?" asked Lois.
Clark shrugged. "It might prove useful. Come on."
With that, the two of them began making their way towards the cave. Clark checked out the area carefully. There was no security outside. They must have decided that their main security precaution was not letting anyone know where they were. And they must have resolved that outside security would only attract attention to this spot. He quickly x-rayed the cave. There was security in there, but they seemed fairly relaxed so he hoped it wouldn't be hard getting past them. They were obviously fairly confident no one knew where they were or what they'd done.
Lois and Clark cautiously snuck up to the cave. They quickly scurried into a dark place near the entrance, while each silently thought of a way to get inside without being detected. There were two guards stationed just inside the front entrance. Clark aimed a couple of quick blasts of heat vision at their machine guns, melting the pins. That way they would be unable to fire their guns, should they try.
Then, as Clark was wondering what to do next, Lois suddenly picked up a rock and threw it to the far side of the cave.
"What's that?" asked one of the guards. The two men got up from their posts and cautiously approached the spot where the rock had landed.
"Come on," Lois whispered urgently, grabbing Clark's hand and dashing for the entrance.
"I guess it's just rocks falling again," said one of the security guards.
"Yeah. I guess we should be used to it by now. But every time I hear one…"
"Tell me about it. But I guess if we take all of them seriously, when it isn't a rock, we'll be ready."
Lois and Clark had already disappeared into the cave by the time the guards made it back to their posts.
Lois and Clark snuck around the side of the bus so they couldn't be seen by the people in the cave. Clark stuck his head through the open door of the bus and looked inside. He smiled.
"I have an idea," he whispered to Lois. When she turned to look at him, he continued, "I'm going to sneak around to the other side of the cave. I'll create a diversion. When I do, get the hostages back into the bus and have the driver back out of here as fast as he can. The keys are still in the ignition."
"But what about you?" asked Lois.
"I'll be fine."
"And the guards at the front entrance?"
Clark wasn't worried about the guards. After all, if they tried to fire, their guns wouldn't work, but what should he tell Lois. "If he backs up quickly enough, it shouldn't be a problem. It'll take the guards a little while to figure out what's going on."
Lois evaluated the plan for a moment. It was risky, but the only other option was to sneak back out of the cave and find help. Then, what would help do? They would probably surround the cave, creating a stand off. She nodded at Clark — approving his plan. He was about to sneak away when she grabbed him, pulled him into her arms and kissed him.
"For luck," she said when she released him.
It took Clark a moment to recover. When he finally had, he headed off into the darkness. Lois turned her attention back to the crowd. She wasn't sure what she would do if Clark got caught, but she'd think of something.
The hostages sat in silence for a few minutes, while the kidnappers talked quietly nearby.
"What exactly do you want from us?" demanded Eric, the studious looking man who had put William in his place earlier.
One of the kidnappers began making his way quickly toward the insolent hostage to teach him a lesson, but he backed off at a bark from Hoffman.
Hoffman approached the group slowly, never taking his eyes off Eric, who was looking at him defiantly.
"Well, since you ask, I guess you might as well know that we intend to trade your lives for the lives of ten Palestinian freedom fighters being held in Israeli prisons," Hoffman informed them.
"But we're Americans," objected Beth, William's wife. "The Israeli authorities aren't going to release prisoners in exchange for a bunch of Americans."
Hoffman smiled. "They will if they get enough pressure from the American President."
"Why would the President intervene?" asked Oren. "I mean, maybe these people are Americans, but…"
Hoffman turned his attention back to Eric. "What?" he asked. "Don't they know who their distinguished traveling companion is?" He closed the remaining distance between him and Eric before pulling the man to his feet by the front of his shirt. "This is Eric Markham — the old childhood friend of the President. I think for Mr. Markham here, the President will ensure that the Israeli authorities cooperate. In fact…" He turned to one of his men, gesturing to the table. "I think it might be nice to have a souvenir of the event.
The man Hoffman had turned towards, went to the table and picked up a Polaroid camera. He took a picture of their distinguished guest, being careful not to capture their leader in the picture. Next he took pictures of the other hostages. Once he was finished, Hoffman dropped Eric Markham back to the floor and stepped away from the hostages.
"Now," he continued. "All we need is someone to carry the message back to the authorities." He carefully looked over the crowd, as if debating who the best candidate would be. He smiled when he saw the female tour guide sitting amongst the other hostages. "You," he said, pointing at her. "Come here."
The woman known to the hostages as Shoshana slowly rose to her feet and approached Hoffman. The other hostages gasped when she walked right up to him and, grabbing his shirt, pulled him in for a passionate kiss.
"God, I missed you," she purred when she broke the kiss. There was now no trace of an Israeli accent in her voice.
He brought a hand up to her cheek for a moment as he responded, "Good job, baby." Then he stepped back from her, and the crowd gasped again as the back his hand suddenly landed across her cheek, sending her flying to the floor of the cave.
Lois glanced around, looking for Clark. Even though she knew he had to be there somewhere, she couldn't see him. She moved a little further around the bus, looking for any sign of him. She still had no luck. She supposed that was a good sign — even if it was frustrating for her. After all, if she, who knew he was there somewhere, couldn't see him, no one else was likely to either.
Clark watched the scene unfold below him with horror. He was floating in the darkness along the roof of the cave. He knew that people seldom look up. Between that and the darkness, he was confident he wouldn't be seen — as long as he continued to move slowly so that he wouldn't attract attention. It was obvious that the woman, now sprawled across the floor of the cave, was working with the kidnappers. Nonetheless it was hard for Clark not to react to a man hitting a woman. He took a moment to steady himself, concentrating on getting across the room without being seen.
Clark had considered moving to the other side of the cavern at superspeed, but decided against it because of the wind it would cause. In the static environment of the cave, it would be hard not to notice a sudden and unexplainable gust of air. Also, for him to move fast enough not to be seen, he would have to pass the speed of sound. If he did that in close confines like these, he would probably rupture the ear drums of everyone present. Thus, he had chosen to sneak slowly across the ceiling of the cave, being sure to always stay in the shadows.
"What did you do that for?" demanded the woman while putting a hand up to her mouth and looking at the blood on it.
"We can't have you going back without a few bruises, baby," Hoffman replied evenly.
Lois crept a bit further around the bus so that she could see the woman.
"Well, what have we here?" asked a voice behind her.
Lois tried to spin around, but two hands held her firmly in place.
"What is it?" asked Hoffman, recognizing from the man's voice that his second in command, Jack Spencer, had found something.
Clark glanced back and saw, to his horror, that Lois was now being held prisoner. His body tensed as he prepared to come to her rescue, but then he forced himself to relax. She was fine for now. Once he had diverted the captor's attention, he could come to her rescue. If he did it now, he would give himself away. And while he was prepared to do so if necessary, he would prefer to find a way that wouldn't expose him. So, since she wasn't in any immediate danger, he continued on his course across the room.
"We seem to have a stowaway," commented Jack, dragging a struggling Lois Lane out from behind the bus. He dumped her unceremoniously at Hoffman's feet.
Hoffman reached out and grabbed Lois' chin, forcing her to her feet. She immediately swung at him, causing Jack to capture her hands, pulling them firmly behind her back. While she continued to kick against the man behind her, Hoffman stepped up, grabbing her chin again.
"Now why do you look familiar?" Hoffman asked, studying the woman.
"Is that the best pick-up line you've got?" asked Lois. "Because if it is, you need some new material."
"I know," said Hoffman, ignoring the insult. He walked over to the table, picking up a small book. He opened it and made his way back to the woman. He compared the woman whose picture was in the passport with the woman in front of him.
Lois suddenly quit struggling as it sunk in what he held in his hand. "That's mine," she said. "What right did you have to steal my passport?"
"What right did you have snooping around in matters that don't concern you? Well, this is a stroke of luck. I was thinking I'd have to take care of you after this was all over anyway. You've just saved me the trouble of tracking you down."
"She wasn't with the tour group," the woman who had been leading the tour group informed Hoffman.
"So then," demanded Hoffman, "How did you get here?"
"You left bread crumbs. I followed them."
Clark saw Hoffman pull back his hand and prepared to fly in to stop it. He would not let Lois be hit, but then Hoffman seemed to change his mind. He let his hand drop back to his side. Clark breathed a sigh of relief and landed quietly on the other side of the cave near some crates. He quickly x-rayed one. Just as he suspected, they held weapons. There was no way they would let their weapons be destroyed. He carefully moved the box of guns away from the ammunition. He might want a diversion; he didn't want a catastrophe. He opened the gasoline and poured it over the box. He quietly slipped the box over by the table upon which were sitting two lanterns. He looked around. No one had noticed. He retreated again back into the shadows.
Hoffman studied the woman for a moment. "No, I have a feeling beating it out of you won't work. So, I have a better idea. Maybe you'll respond to a little pleasure." With that he stepped up to Lois, roughly took her chin in his hand and leaned in to claim her mouth. He jumped back again when she spat. He raised his hand to his cheek, wiping off the spittle.
Clark drew in a small, well-aimed super breath, causing the lantern sitting on the table to tumble onto the crate. When that was slow in starting a fire, he added a little heat vision. The wooden crate quickly caught on fire.
Hoffman spun around at the sound of the lantern falling.
"Quick," he said to his men, as he rushed for the crate.
The man holding Lois, dropped her to the floor. She scrambled towards the hostages. "Follow me," she whispered and the entire crowd quickly followed her back to the bus. "The keys are in it," Lois whispered to Oren who had situated himself in the driver's seat. He needed no instructions. He started the engine and without even closing the door, shifted into reverse.
Lois quickly jumped from the bus as it started to back up. She would not leave Clark here. She turned around to see what was happening. She shook her head in disbelief at the sight that greeted her. The fire seemed to be out and the men were all lying unconscious on the floor of the cave — including the guards who had been at the entrance to the cave. Only one lantern was lighting the cave now. In the light from it, she could see Clark kneeling over a man. She quickly closed the distance separating them.
"What happened?" she asked.
Clark looked up at her in shock. She was supposed to be on the bus. "What are you still doing here, Lois?"
"I wasn't going to leave you behind. What happened?"
Clark looked around at the men. "Umm… Well, it was the strangest thing. When they were rushing to put out the fire they all seemed to trip or fall and…" He gestured around helplessly, as if saying that her guess was as good as his. "At least they're still alive. Umm… well, at least the ones I've checked are. They're just unconscious." Then, to divert her attention, he said, "I saw some rope over there." He gestured towards the crates. "Help me get them tied up before they come to."
Clark opened the saddlebag on his motorcycle and pulled out a jacket. Lois was still talking to Lieutenant Ben Kenaani. Clark had let her give most of the explanations. He'd been uncomfortable accepting thanks from the rescued tourists. What he really wanted was to get out of here as quickly as possible. Although no one was putting much effort into finding out exactly what had happened to the kidnappers, Clark felt incredibly vulnerable. He knew all it would take was one person saying, 'I don't buy it,' and his entire story about the kidnappers tripping and falling in their rush for the fire would fall apart. He wanted to be long gone before that happened. So far, he'd managed to keep people from knowing his real last name, but he was very conscious that Lois knew who he was. As a result, he'd made sure she wasn't nearby when he'd had to give his name. Even so, with Lois knowing, it was entirely possible that others knew or could easily find out.
The good news was that the Israeli authorities seemed to want to keep this quiet too, at least while they finished their investigation. Clark was grateful for that. It would probably be best if he was moving on so that if they did get his real name, they couldn't track him down to ask additional questions. Crete. He'd always liked Crete. Now if he could only get Lois to quit asking everyone questions about what they had seen and heard. She was even demanding to know what the army was going to do about it and what would happen to the men who were now in custody. She was definitely the most curious person he'd ever met.
She had recovered her passport, a notepad and some other piece of identification, but all her clothes and money were still missing. It was for that reason that Clark had pulled his jacket out and was now walking towards Lois.
He just caught the final part of Lois' conversation with the lieutenant.
"I have your word then, nothing until we finish our investigation?" the lieutenant was saying.
"You have my word. As long as I have yours that I get everything when you finish — exclusively."
"You have it," Ben Kenaani replied, giving her his hand to seal the deal.
Lois took his hand, giving him her most charming smile in return. She turned when she felt a jacket being slipped onto her shoulders.
"Hi, Clark," she said. "What's this for?"
He gestured to her shirt, turning slightly red as he did so. Lois looked down, for the first time noticing that her shirt got ripped in the scuffle — she had been too intent on getting the story. "Thanks," she said, slipping the jacket on and doing it up. "I only wish we had found all my stuff."
"Well, if it turns up, I promise we'll contact you," said Kenaani.
"Thanks, Lieutenant," Lois replied before turning and accompanying Clark back to his bike.
"So what did the lieutenant have to say?" Clark asked, glancing back at the dark good looking man who was still watching Lois.
The tone in Clark's voice caught Lois' attention. She glanced at him and had to smother a smile at the look of jealousy on his face. "He was just…" She hesitated. For the past couple of hours, she had been Lois Lane, investigative reporter, but she was suddenly aware that the man beside her thought she was Lois Lind, university student. "Well, I really can't talk about it."
Clark gave her a curious look. "Why not?"
"Well, I sort of got a bit more information than I should have. I promised the lieutenant I wouldn't say anything until they'd had time to finish their investigation," she replied.
"Humph," Clark grunted. He didn't like the idea of this woman keeping secrets with the good looking lieutenant, but there wasn't much he could do about it. Besides, it wasn't as if she was his girlfriend or something. She was just a person he was helping out. He sighed, as he moved the bike back onto the road and got on.
Lois climbed on behind Clark, snuggling even closer than before. She laid her head on his back and tightened her arms around him. For the past few hours, she had been Lois Lane. And even she had to admit that Lois Lane was good. She had gotten the story — and it would be an exclusive for the Daily Planet. Others might give their stories to the press, but the Daily Planet's story was guaranteed to have all the gritty details. She was on a serious adrenaline rush..
But now she was looking forward to being Lois Lind, carefree university student, for a few hours. And who better to do that with than the man her arms were wrapped around. She had to admit that he had been great. She was certain she had ruined everything when she'd been caught, but he had still managed to make it all work out in the end. Maybe he was just a drifter, but he was a great drifter.
She glanced over his shoulder when the bike began to slow. He pulled into a parking lot and came to a stop.
"Where are we?" she asked, looking around at the empty parking lot.
"Well… After our excitement, I thought it might be nice to calm down a bit before beginning our trip back to Tel Aviv. Do you mind?"
She shook her head. She didn't mind, but that didn't answer her question. "Where are we?"
"En Gedi," Clark informed her, stepping off the bike and then giving her his hand as he helped her off. "This is the oasis I told you about this morning. Since it's starting to get late, I would imagine there won't be many people around."
Lois looked around at the desert. "This is an oasis," she said, feeling slightly disappointed.
Clark laughed. "No. We have to walk a little bit. Do you think you're up for it?"
Lois smiled. "I think I'm up for just about anything right now," she replied.
"That's the adrenaline," Clark informed her. "In a little while you'll be ready to crash." With that he released her hand and turned his attention to his saddlebags again. He pulled out a couple of brown paper bags.
"What's that?" Lois asked.
"While you were running around asking questions, I made good use of the time. The people at the kibbutz we were taken to made up some lunches." He held up the bags to emphasize his words.
Lois smiled. She was feeling hungry. "Good thinking," she said.
He gave her a quick smile before starting to walk toward a well marked trail. She took a couple of quick steps until she was at his side again.
"Well if I'm going to crash after this adrenaline high, we'll just have to make the most of the time we have before I do," she replied, boldly slipping her hand into his. She was definitely feeling invincible at the moment.
Clark felt his heart suddenly skip a beat. He could swear she'd just made a pass at him. He looked down at their joined hands, confirming that hers was really in his. He took a deep breath. He really should let go of her hand. After all, she was probably high on adrenaline at the moment and he already knew he couldn't let anything happen between them anyway. However, in spite of that knowledge, he was unable to make himself release her hand.
They hadn't walked very far when suddenly they emerged from around a sandstone ledge and were standing in a green oasis with a magnificent waterfall. Lois pulled in a sharp breath.
"It's beautiful, Clark," she whispered in awe.
Clark smiled. "I'm glad you like it."
Lois took a quick look around. There was no one else here. Suddenly feeling a little reckless, she sat down on a nearby bolder and pulled off her shoes and socks. When they were off, she paused for a moment, struggling to come to a decision. Then she turned to Clark.
"Let's go swimming," she said. "I feel grimy after the day we've had."
"If we go in in our clothes, well… with the sun going down, we won't be able to get dried off before we have to drive back. And the temperature really does drop at night in the desert. I just don't think it's a good idea."
Lois studied him for a moment, a slow smile lighting up her face. "I'm wearing underwear," she finally said. "Are you?"
"Umm… Well, yeah. What…" Suddenly he understood what she was suggesting. "We can't, Lois. This is a public place." But even as he objected, he couldn't help but react to the idea of seeing this woman in her underwear.
She gave a snort. "There's no one else around, Clark. Besides, my underwear covers me as well as my swimsuit does." Having made her point and assuming she'd won the argument, Lois began stripping off her jeans.
Clark watched in disbelief for a moment. Then he diverted his eyes to gaze at the waterfall, trying not to notice what Lois was doing. It was only a few moments more before he heard her jump into the water.
"Come on, Clark," she said. "It feels wonderful."
He took a look at her in the fading light before letting out a short breath. He already knew she was going to win this argument anyway. He finally nodded and removed his shirt, before undoing his belt to slip off his pants.
From the water, Lois watched as Clark's chest was revealed. She was right, the man was incredibly well proportioned. His chest looked like an ad for a muscle building infomercial. Washboard was definitely a word that had been invented specifically to describe him. She swallowed hard, but was unable to look away as he divested himself of his pants and jumped in beside her.
They wrestled and played in the water for a while, trying to work off the tension of the last several hours, when suddenly they heard voices. Clark moved quickly, grabbing their clothes from the shore and taking them into some shrubs a little ways away. Just then a family of orthodox Jews came into view. Lois had to stifle a laugh as she pulled her pants back on her wet body. Clark gave her a disapproving stare.
As soon as they were decent, they made their way back over to where they had left their lunches. They sat down and opened the bags as they watched the two kids enter the water fully dressed.
"Didn't you say we couldn't do that?" Lois whispered to Clark.
"They probably have dry clothes nearby," Clark responded.
"Are you sure you weren't just trying to get me out of my clothes, Mr. Kent?" Lois responded. When he turned red, Lois laughed. She turned back to her sandwich and took a bite. "These are great," she said.
"I imagine the fact that you haven't eaten since breakfast has something to do with it."
"As does the company," Lois added.
Clark felt his heart skip a beat. This was definitely becoming a familiar sensation. She was once again flirting with him. He quickly took another bite of his sandwich, reminding himself that nothing could happen between them — not that she was even suggesting that something would. Still… It was hard not imagining what it would feel like to, just once, allow himself to get lost in the moment.
In order to divert his train of thought, Clark called over, in flawless Hebrew, to the kids in the water. After making some light small talk with them, he turned his attention back to Lois, who was watching him.
"Are you Jewish, Clark?" she asked.
She shrugged. "I imagine that was Hebrew. Why would you learn Hebrew if you aren't Jewish?"
"I've just always found languages easy to learn."
"How many languages do you speak?"
"A few," Clark said obscurely, taking a final bite of his sandwich. He didn't want to tell Lois that he actually spoke over a hundred. How could he possibly explain that? "If you're ready, we probably should get going. It's still a couple of hours to Tel Aviv."
Lois quickly stuffed the last bite of sandwich into her mouth, before rising to follow.
"So this is the infamous Roger Hoffman," said Lieutenant Ben Kenaani, coming into the interrogation room.
Hoffman's eyes narrowed. He had made sure no one used his name during the operation. It was a precaution he always took. He also knew his fingerprints weren't on file anywhere. So how did this man know who he was? He had to be with the Israeli intelligence agency — the Mossad. He had heard they were good, but this was remarkable.
Kenaani settled himself on the other side of the table from his prisoner. "We have a lot of questions for you," Kenaani began.
Lois followed Clark into his small flat. She looked around. It wasn't much more than a large room. It was sparsely furnished, but comfortable enough. Around were a number of distinct items which Lois assumed he had picked up on his travels. There were a couple of comfortable chairs in an area he had obviously designated as a living room.
Along one wall were cupboards and an old fridge. Along another wall was a large bed. Lois swallowed hard. She diverted her gaze from the bed to take in a door, that she assumed led to a washroom, and some large doors that led… Where did they lead?
"This will just take a minute," Clark assured her, making his way over to a dresser. He rifled through it for a moment, withdrawing a t-shirt. Since her shirt had been ripped and she didn't have any other clothes, he had offered to get her a t-shirt before taking her to a hostel for the night. Since she didn't have any money, he'd assured her that he'd pay for it. Then, in the morning, he'd come by to take her to the embassy to sort everything out for her trip home. She had agreed to his plan.
Clark inspected the shirt for a moment. It was one of his University of Kansas shirts, but it was the smallest one he had. Although it would certainly still be big on her, it would be better than what she was currently wearing. He turned around to hand it to her. She wasn't there. He looked around in confusion for a moment before noticing that the doors that led onto the roof were open. The view from here was the reason he had rented the flat. He walked outside into the warm night air. His breath caught in his throat at the sight of Lois, looking out over the city. She looked positively beautiful in the soft light. He quietly walked up beside her.
"That's Tel Aviv," he said softly. "I just love the way the lights reflect on the water at night."
"I thought we were in Tel Aviv."
Clark shook his head. "This is Jaffa. The two cities are situated next to each other, but they are still regarded as two different cities."
They stood in silence for a moment before Lois said, "It's beautiful."
"Yes, it is," Clark responded softly, almost reverently.
Lois glanced over at him. He wasn't looking at the city — he was watching her.
Afterwards, Lois couldn't say who moved first, but suddenly she found herself in Clark's arms as each explored the other's mouth with an urgency that took Lois completely by surprise. Was it because of the excitement of the day or this undeniable sense of connection she had with Clark? She didn't know, but at this moment, she didn't care. All she knew was that in less than twenty-four hours she would be on a airplane that would take her away from this man for good.
After a few minutes of frantic activity on the part of both Lois and Clark, both suddenly pulled back. They stood staring into each others' eyes for a moment, both fighting to catch their breath. Neither knew quite knew what had happened and, as a result, neither knew quite how to break the silence. Finally, Clark seemed to find his voice.
"I found you a t-shirt," he said.
One side of Lois' mouth crept up. If he wanted to talk about the t-shirt right now, their kiss had obviously affected him as much as it had her — if not more. She slowly closed the distance separating them. When she was within a foot of him, she gently reached up and placed her hand on the soft fir covering his face. She slowly explored his face with her hand while staring into his eyes.
Clark knew the instant that she touched his face that he was in trouble. Years of carefully avoiding any and all emotional attachments went up in smoke. No matter what he did now, he belonged to the woman standing in front of him.
"God, Lois," he whispered. "You have no idea how much I want to make love to you."
"Yes," she whispered back, before leaning in and finding his mouth.
As frantic as their previous activity had been, their current exploration was slow and deliberate. Their lips softly caressed each other as hands began exploring each other's arms and backs.
Clark's mind was having problems stringing together a coherent thought. She had said 'yes'. But yes to what? Suddenly, he pulled back.
"I said that out loud, didn't I," he said in horror.
Lois looked at him in confusion for a moment. She thought back over the last thing he'd said. Suddenly, she smiled and nodded.
"I'm so sorry. I don't know what I was thinking. I know that you have to go back to Metropolis tomorrow. I didn't mean to imply that you would want to…" Suddenly his voice trailed off. He was silent for a moment.
Lois could tell the moment it sunk in. She could tell by the look of wonder in his eyes.
"You said yes," he finally breathed.
"I said yes," she confirmed.
Clark let out a breath before stepping up closer to her. He gently took her face between his hands before leaning in to kiss her. The kiss was deliberate — filled with the promise of things to come. After a moment he broke the kiss.
"Are you sure, Lois?" Clark asked. "Because we don't have to…"
"I'm sure, Clark," Lois interrupted.
Clark hesitated for only a moment, before sweeping her up in his arms and carrying her back into his flat.
Clark felt absolutely content as he slowly began to wake up. He didn't open his eyes, knowing that would bring another day and some painful good-byes. Instead, he let the memories of last night wash over him — what it felt like having Lois Lind in his arms, what it felt like having Lois Lind in his bed. It had been irresponsible and foolhardy — and absolutely incredible.
He smiled when he thought back to the way she had melted in his arms as he whispered that he loved her just before they drifted off to sleep. He wasn't the only one who had felt something remarkable happen when they made love — he was sure of that. Made love. His smile widened at the thought. After believing for so long that he was destined to spend his life alone, the idea that he had spent most of last night making love to the most remarkable woman he'd ever met caused him to reconsider. There was something about her that completed him.
Metropolis, huh? Well, he had always wanted to see Metropolis. Maybe… What was he thinking? He already knew that it was time to leave Israel because of the stunt he'd pulled yesterday. He wasn't prepared to answer any more questions about how the men had been incapacitated. What would happen if he went to Metropolis and started a relationship with this woman? What would happen when he had to leave? It wasn't fair to her. It wasn't fair to him.
If he knew why he had these powers, maybe things would be different, but he didn't even know that much. For all he knew, these powers were symptoms of some dangerous disease. He couldn't risk establishing a life here. There was always the fear of discovery, but having a family would also include the fear of passing some horrible illness on to offspring — that was assuming he could even have children. Without knowing why he was different, he could hardly take that chance. No. Settling down was not an option for Clark Kent. For that reason, Clark had avoided any and all emotional attachments. It just wouldn't be fair to even think about starting something he knew he could never finish.
Suddenly, he wanted her to know everything. It was a startling realization for Clark. For as long as he could remember, his dad had drilled into him the idea that no one could ever know. Even so, if he didn't tell her, he knew he would lose her. She would go back to Metropolis and that would be the end. He pulled in a sharp breath at the thought. Okay, so what if he told her? Maybe she would tell the world and ruin his life — but how was that any different from having her walk out of his life right now? He would still be devastated.
There was only one option. He had to tell her. In fact, he would tell her now. After all, if she knew everything, he wouldn't have to live in Metropolis for them to continue seeing each other. Given how quickly he could travel around the world, he could always fly in and take her out to dinner even if he was living in Tibet. After that… Well, maybe something more permanent wasn't completely out of the question.
Telling her might not change anything — she might still walk out of his life — but at least he would have done everything in his power to keep her. At least he wouldn't look back on this one moment for the rest of his life and wonder what might have been. And just maybe, if he told her everything, she'd be willing to continue seeing him.
Clark suddenly smiled. All his life he'd seen his abilities as a hindrance to forming attachments. Maybe it was time he considered the flip side of the coin. Maybe it was time to consider the benefits his abilities could have in a relationship. He could, after all, fly her from Metropolis to Paris for supper. He almost chuckled when he considered doing that. Of course, flying with him might be scary for her. He thought about that possibility for a moment. Nah. Not her. Nothing could possibly scare this woman if yesterday was any indication.
He opened his eyes and looked at the bed next to him. A frown creased his forehead when he discovered it was empty. Had it all been a dream? No. It had been real. He looked around his apartment, she wasn't here. He took a quick look into the washroom. Still no sign of her. She must be out on the roof.
Clark got out of bed and threw on his pants before making his way out to the roof. He opened the door and looked around. Suddenly, the air around him seemed almost stifling. No. She wouldn't have. He quickly looked around the apartment and noticed that his wallet was lying open on his dresser. Beside it was a piece of paper, probably torn from the notebook Lois had recovered during their adventure. He made his way over and picked up the wallet. His remaining money was gone. He picked up the paper lying beside it and read.
'I owe you 40 shekels. L.'
Clark dropped his wallet and the note back onto the table, before taking a couple of steps backwards until he felt the edge of the bed behind him. He slowly sank down on it. It was over. She was gone.
Lois felt a tear trickle down her cheek as she sat on the airplane that would take her back to Metropolis. She had left before he woke rather than have to endure the inevitable awkwardness of the morning after. Besides, it wasn't as if they had a future. He was a drifter. An incredibly sexy drifter, but a drifter nonetheless.
Before last night, Lois had only had two sexual relationships in her life. Well, relationships was probably an overstatement. Her first encounter was more of a… research assignment, than anything else.
At the age of seventeen, Lois had asked her mother about sex. She had certainly heard enough about the subject from her friends — all of whom were virgins. She had even participated in some heavy petting in the back seat of the odd car. Still, she wanted the real story. Her mother had dropped her drink when Lois brought up the subject. Then, as Ellen scrambled to clean up the mess, she cleared her throat and informed her daughter that it was a subject she'd learn about when she got married.
Since Lois had no plans to get married, at least until she had established herself in her career, the answer was far from satisfactory. In fact, given Lois' innate sense of curiosity, it was exactly the wrong answer. Lois had immediately set out to discover what all the fuss was about. She had found a man — or more accurately, a high school senior — that she liked enough. But mainly, he was chosen for his reputation. If he was experienced, surely he could give her the best introduction to a subject that was quickly becoming a matter of great interest. Getting him to take her to bed had not been difficult. Afterwards, she had concluded that sex was nothing to get excited about and had attempted to avoid any repeat performances.
The second man was a college boyfriend. They had been dating for about a year before she slept with him. The experience itself wasn't much more satisfying — still, Lois had to concede that sex was expected in a long term relationship. When he finished university a couple of months later, he informed her he had a job in Florida. He promised his move wouldn't effect their relationship, but in his second letter, he advised her he had met someone else and was getting married. Lois had almost been relieved — or would have been if she hadn't been so angry.
So what had happened last night? She had been completely swept away by the experience. The need to get as close as possible to this man had taken her totally by surprise. Lois had no frame of reference for what had happened, but did that mean she was prepared to give up her life and career to go vagabonding around the world with him. No. Of course not. Still… For the first time in her life, Lois understood what all the fuss was about. Sex. It had been… magical, was the only word she could find for it. Even so, life was not based on sex, no matter how incredible. It was based on having a common outlook and common goals.
She let out a jagged breath, forcing herself to think about what awaited her in Metropolis. She had a great story that was guaranteed to advance her career. And then there was her social life. Before going to Israel, Lois had accepted a date from a fellow reporter. He was a bit older than her and, even though the chemistry they shared wasn't anything compared to the undeniable pull she felt for her drifter, this reporter was much better suited for her. They at least shared a common interest — the news. When she got back to Metropolis, she would put Clark out of her mind and see what possibilities might exist with Claude.
FOUR YEARS LATER
Lois flicked on the little light in the display case and looked at the three Kerth awards housed there. She smiled slightly before frowning. She opened the glass door and removed the first one. She looked at her name and the date as she used the edge of her shirt to wipe some dust off. Then she made her way over to the couch and sat down, looking at the award and remembering the story that had won her her first Kerth — the hijacking of a bus in Israel and the follow up about a mercenary ring that had been busted.
The story had been a big hit with Perry — well, once he finished bawling her out for not telling him what she was up to. He had even insisted on having the Planet pay her back for her expenses. But that wasn't what she was thinking about at the moment. She was thinking about her drifter. As she had written the story, she had thought about that day a lot. In the end, she had not included Clark's name in the story. For some reason, she couldn't say exactly why, she didn't think he'd want it in there. Besides, there was something too personal about mentioning him by name. She hadn't even told her sister his name. Lucy knew the man simply as Lois' drifter.
But not mentioning his name didn't mean she hadn't thought about him during the past four years. In fact, she thought about him every day. Of course, there was a reason for that. But even if that reason had not existed, she suspected he would still one of her last thoughts as she drifted off to sleep at night and one of her first thoughts as she woke up in the morning.
Leaving him to come back to Metropolis had been the right thing to do. She knew he was a drifter. Everything about him, from the way he had lived before they met to the lack of permanence in his apartment, had told her that. Staying wouldn't have resulted in anything permanent with Clark. He would have eventually left anyway. He just wasn't the type to stay around for the long haul. She had chosen her career over him — and it was the right decision.
She tried dating Claude after returning to Metropolis, but after a few dates, she knew it wasn't going to work out, mainly because every time he kissed or touched her, she found herself thinking about her drifter.
So when Claude had finally ended their relationship, Lois was relieved. It was just easier being alone than it was to have a man touch her when she so desperately wanted it to be someone else. She was glad now that the relationship had ended before they'd been intimate, especially when she considered what happened next. After their relationship ended, Claude had immediately become involved with another female reporter at the Planet. There was a resulting scandal. From what Lois heard, Claude had actually stolen a story from his new girlfriend. Lois didn't know if that was true, but she had no doubt Claude was capable of that type of deception. As a result, Claude was eventually asked to leave the Daily Planet. Lois was so glad she hadn't been taken in that way.
Lois tried writing a number of letters to her drifter during the first few months after returning to Metropolis; however, she ended up destroying each and every letter. After all, what was there to say? There was no possibility for a permanent relationship and so she had decided it was best to leave things the way they were — as the perfect memory.
There was the little matter of returning the money she'd taken from his wallet the morning after. Finally, having no idea what exactly she should tell him, she simply took the money, put it in an envelope with a note that read, 'Here's the money I owe you. L.' and sent it to his address in Israel, but the letter had been returned. On the front was a stamp that read, 'Moved. No forwarding address.' She hadn't even bothered opening it again. She simply threw it in a drawer where it still sat to this day.
There certainly were times when she had considered trying to track him down. He was from a town in Kansas called Smallville — she couldn't forget that name if she tried. She figured he probably had family there. Even if he didn't, someone was likely to know where he was. On one occasion a couple of years ago, she had actually flown to Kansas, rented a car in Kansas City and driven through Smallville. However, she lost her nerve and headed back without as much as stopping for coffee. After all, what would she say? Even if she did track him down, would he want to see her after what she'd done? Worse yet, what if he didn't remember her?
Lois dated very little in the past four years. She tried telling her sister she was simply too busy, but she knew it had more to do with the feeling that she was cheating on Clark when she went out with someone else. It was crazy, but it was still the way she felt.
She knew turning down almost every man who asked her out had given her the reputation in the newsroom of being frigid. She even knew some people speculated that she was gay. Of course, most of them only did it behind her back — not daring a direct confrontation. Only Cat dared taunt her in person, but what could Lois do about it? Apart from admitting that her heart belonged to a man she'd known for less than twenty-four hours, nothing.
Lois set the Kerth award on the coffee table and looked at it from a distance. For some reason she always felt as if it should read, 'Lois Lane and Clark Kent,' instead of just, 'Lois Lane.' After all, without him, she wouldn't have lived to get the story.
She sighed. How was it possible that after all this time, she could still feel his hands on her body, could still hear the way he whispered he loved her as they fell asleep in each other's arms? If he had told her he loved her before they made love, she would have seen it as a technique to get her into bed. If he had said it while they were making love, it would have seemed like an excited utterance. It was because he said it afterwards that it meant so much to her. There was nothing more he could want from her. There was nothing to provoke the words, except some genuine feelings.
She had wanted to say the words back. So why hadn't she? She hadn't because she hadn't been sure of her feelings. Now, after four years, she knew without a doubt that she did love him. There was no way he could possibly still be this real to her if she didn't.
Even so, she still believed that leaving had been the right thing to do. If he was able to affect her so deeply after only one night together, what would have happened to her if they had begun a relationship just to have him move on again when the spirit moved him? He was a drifter and the last thing Lois Lane needed in her life was a drifter.
"Not again," moaned Lucy coming into the living room.
"What?" asked Lois guiltily.
"The Kerth award — your first one, right? The t-shirt. Lois, it doesn't take an award winning investigative reporter to know what's on your mind tonight."
Lois looked down at the University of Kansas t-shirt she was wearing. "It's comfortable, Luc," she informed her sister. "And I was just cleaning some dust off the Kerth," Lois concluded, not sounding very convincing even to her own ears.
"Yeah, right," snorted Lucy. "You know what you need?"
"No. You need to get laid."
"I'm serious. You've been pinning away over this guy for four years. Don't you think it's time to get on with your life?"
"What does that have to do with…"
"The best way to forget about one man is by being with another. It was a one night stand, Lois. No matter how good he was, it's over. Sleeping with someone else will help you get over him. I guarantee it — well, if he's good enough."
"Lucy, I don't think…"
"I'm not suggesting that you forget your drifter. I'm just suggesting that you relegate him to the place of a great memory. Now, let me think," Lucy paused, trying to come up with the perfect guy to sleep with her sister.
"No! Lucy, I'm not going to sleep with some guy just to…"
"Get over your drifter?"
"Lois, it was a one night stand. Nothing more," Lucy said for what felt like the millionth time.
"It was more than that, Luc."
Lucy snorted. "Yeah, it was so good that you left in the middle of the night."
"It was morning, Lucy," Lois objected.
"He was still asleep," Lucy pointed out.
"Okay, so technically… Look, I'm not saying it could have worked out. It couldn't have. I know that. That's why I left. It's just… something happened…" Lois' voice trailed off. She had tried putting this into words so many times during the past four years and was still completely unable to do so.
Lucy sighed. "Okay, so what brought on this episode?" she finally asked in resignation. "Did someone ask you out again?"
"No. It's just… Well, for some reason he feels so close this evening. I don't know. I probably am going crazy. And maybe I am romanticizing what happened between us. He probably wouldn't even remember me if I ran into him on the street." Lois gave her sister a sad smile before getting up and putting her Kerth award away. "Good-night, Luc," she said, heading for her bedroom.
"Night, sis," Lucy responded. Then as an afterthought added, "Pleasant dreams."
Lucy sighed at the somewhat mischievous, slightly dreamy look her sister gave her in response. She really had to find Lois a man.
Clark stood across the street from the Daily Planet looking up at the large globe that hung above its entrance. It had always been his dream to work for a world renowned paper like the Planet. Now, thanks to Professor Carlton, a teacher he'd had when he'd attended the University of Kansas, he might have that chance. He'd taken a trip back there about a month ago and had run into his old professor. The man still remembered him. When he found out Clark was 'between jobs' he stepped in, informing Clark that he knew the editor of the Daily Planet.
Clark wasn't sure which had him more excited: the idea of working at the Daily Planet or the idea of living in Metropolis — her city. It had been four years, and still he dreamt about her. After such dreams, he would wake up expecting see her lying beside him. When he'd realize she wasn't there, a dull ache would settle in his belly.
He knew that just because he was hoping to live in Metropolis didn't mean he would even run into her. After all, it was a big city, but just the idea that he could was exciting. Of course, he wondered if she would be less than thrilled to see him. She was the one, after all, who had disappeared while he was asleep, leaving nothing behind but an I.O.U. and his broken heart.
That broken heart prevented Clark from trying to find her when he'd woken up that fateful morning. He had tried to convince himself it was for the best. At least she'd saved him from making himself vulnerable by telling her all about his powers.
Still, when he arrived in Metropolis last night, Clark had found himself glued to a phone, calling every Lind in the phone book looking for Lois. He had been making calls long into the night, waking people up. It was completely out of character for him to be so inconsiderate, but he couldn't seem to stop. Even so, he'd had no luck. None of the people he'd spoken to knew a Lois Lind. Of course, there were a few numbers he'd tried where no one was home. So he already knew what he'd be doing this evening.
He figured she could have an unlisted phone number, but surely another Lind would know who she was. She had said she was born and raised in Metropolis. Of course, if that didn't work, he would probably go down to Metropolis University and see what he could dig up there. Surely someone in the journalism department would remember her. After all, Clark didn't think she was particularly forgettable. Years ago, he'd drawn her picture. He figured he could always use that to jog people's memory. Of course, his memory didn't need any aids. He didn't think he'd ever forget one detail of either her face or body.
It was possible that she was married and that's why he had been unable to find her under the name Lind. He felt almost sick at the prospect — especially since he considered it a very real likelihood. For all he knew, she even had a couple of kids.
Of course, even if he found her, even if she was available and interested, he still had a problem. He was still different. The last four years had only managed to emphasize that point. And he knew he couldn't stand by and watch people die if he could prevent it. So what chance did that give him for a permanent life here? He sighed. Maybe it would be enough just to have coffee with her. Maybe if he knew that she was happily married with a couple of kids — his insides revolted at the thought — he'd be able to get over her easier. Maybe… Who did he think he was kidding? He'd never get over Lois Lind. Even if it killed both of them, he had to see her. He had to feel the spark that ignited in his belly every time he looked into her eyes.
He took a deep breath, pushing those thoughts to the back of his mind. The first thing he had to do was get a job. He had to concentrate on convincing Perry White that the Daily Planet couldn't get along without him. He fortified his resolve before walking across the street to enter the Daily Planet.
The explosion was followed by confusion as men rushed away from the collapsing wall. Then one of the prisoners yelled, "Yallah, yallah," before running towards the resulting hole in the wall. It only took a moment before the inmates, suddenly seeing a possibility of escape, made a dash almost in mass for the wall. A number of shouts echoed through the area followed by gunshots. Men rushed in various directions in their effort to be free while guards rushed to stop them.
When the shooting stopped, men were lying around. The injured mixed in with the dead. Some were wearing uniforms, others were in prison clothes. Both sides had taken a hit. It would take some time to figure out who, if anyone, had escaped.
Clark sat in the editor-in-chief's office as Perry White looked for his resume. It took Perry a moment to find it among all the various papers on his desk. He began reviewing it as well as some articles Clark had written for other papers. It didn't take him long to get to the heart of the matter.
"Kent, I'm sure that these are fascinating stories," Perry White began, "but you see, son, this is the Daily Planet. We're the greatest newspaper in the whole world. Now, our people are dedicated servants of the fourth estate who routinely cover matters of international significance…"
Just then Perry was interrupted by Jimmy Olsen storming into his office to give him an update about the horn on Perry's golf cart. Perry instantly and roughly dismissed him, turning back to Clark when he had done so.
"Now, as I was saying," continued Perry, "you just can't walk in here with…"
Once again, the door swung open and a woman entered. She was in full steam the moment she entered, not looking at anyone or anything but Perry White as she spoke.
"Chief," began Lois, "I think there's a story here and we should have this guy checked out. You know, the crazy one from this morning."
Clark recognized her immediately. Without saying a word, he automatically rose to his feet.
"He was an engineer at EPRAD for ten years and…" Lois continued.
"Lois, can't you see I'm in the middle of something here," Perry interrupted.
Lois fell silent, glancing quickly at the man standing on the other side of Perry's desk. She immediately drew in a sharp breath. What was meant to be a quick glance changed. The beard might be gone, but she'd recognize his eyes anywhere. It was her drifter. Their eyes locked.
Perry let out a short breath before saying, "Lois Lane, Clark Kent," introducing the two people in his office.
"Lois Lane," said Clark, emphasizing the last name.
"Do you two know each other?" Perry asked, seeing that they were continuing to stare at each other.
"No," Lois responded immediately, glancing over at Perry for a moment before looking back at Clark — her eyes begging that he go along with her lie.
Clark's eyes hadn't left Lois since the moment she'd stormed into the office. Then, when Perry had introduced her as Lois Lane instead of Lois Lind, he'd repeated the name to be sure he'd heard right. When she denied knowing him, his first impulse was to believe she didn't remember, but the look in her eyes when she looked back informed him otherwise. She knew who he was, but for some reason she didn't want her boss to know. He felt an ache in his heart at the indirect rejection.
"It's nice to meet you, Lois Lane," he said, extending her a hand, in order to reassure her that he wouldn't say anything about them if she didn't want him to.
She took his hand and immediately was swept up in memories of their night together. She quickly withdrew her hand and looked down in an effort to keep from throwing herself into his arms and taking him right then and there.
"Lois Lane," he repeated. "I've admired your work for years," he said softly. "Although, I don't remember ever seeing a picture."
She glanced up at him then, immediately realizing what he was telling her. He had obviously never made the connection between the woman he'd known as Lois Lind and the reporter, Lois Lane, whose work he'd read.
"That's Lois' idea," Perry responded. "She doesn't want the bad guys being able to put a name with a face."
Clark's eyebrows rose at that. Is that why she hadn't given him her real name? Did she consider him one of the 'bad guys'?
"Really," he said.
"Yeah. She thinks it will prevent her from getting the best stories," Perry concluded.
Lois looked down, realizing what Clark thought from Perry's comments, but being unable to correct his impression without giving herself away. However, unaware that Perry was studying them curiously, she couldn't help but look at him so it was only a moment more before she looked back up. Their eyes locked again.
Finally, deciding the silence was going on too long, Perry cleared his throat. The noise caused both Lois and Clark to jump, break eye contact and look at Perry.
"Anyway," said Perry, turning to Lois, "What happened to that mood piece I gave you about the razing of that old theater on Forty-Second street?"
"I wasn't in the mood," Lois responded absently.
"You weren't in the mood?" Perry asked in disbelief. "Now, Lois, you can't come in here and tell me you're not in the mood to…"
A knocking at the window of Perry's office by Jimmy and a subsequent indication by the young man that Lois had a phone call sent Lois scampering from the room without as much as a final look at Clark.
After she'd left, Perry raised a hand to his throat to take his pulse rate. As he did, he spoke, "I tell you, if that woman wasn't the best damn investigative reporter I've ever seen, I'd…" He paused, getting his temper under control before turning his attention back to Clark. "Look, Kent, I'm sure that you're an intelligent guy, but you just can't walk in here with this kind of resume and expect to get a job."
"Mr. White," began Clark, trying to get his mind back on the reason he was here. "I know I lack experience. But I'm a good writer and a hard worker, and I…"
"Kent. Kent," Perry interrupted. "I just don't have anything for you, son."
Realizing he'd lost, Kent gave up in his efforts to convince Perry White to hire him. "Well, thank you, sir. I appreciate you taking the time to see me," Clark said. Then, with a final handshake, he turned and left.
Lois didn't take her phone call after leaving Perry's office. Instead, she went directly to the conference room in an effort to compose herself. He was here. The man she had been fantasizing about for the past four years was at this moment sitting in Perry's office. And that same confusing, irresistible attraction she had experienced four years ago was still as overwhelming now as it was then.
What was he doing here? She hadn't even ascertained that much — she'd been so distracted by his mere presence. Was he here looking for her? That was unlikely. After all, his comments made it clear that until their introduction he hadn't even known her real name. So how could he have tracked her here? But if it wasn't because of her, what was he doing talking to Perry?
She stuck her head out of the conference room. "Jimmy," she whispered loud enough to attract his attention when she saw him walking by.
Jimmy came over immediately. Lois grabbed his arm, dragging him into the conference room.
"Jimmy, the man in Perry's office…" she began.
"What about him?" Jimmy asked when Lois didn't continue.
"Umm…" Lois hesitated. Why would she care about some stranger sitting in Perry's office? Then curiosity won out over the need for privacy. "What's he doing here?"
Jimmy glanced out the door at the Chief's office.
"I think he's looking for a job."
"What?" exclaimed Lois, a mixture of fear and excitement tearing her stomach apart.
Jimmy shrugged. "When I busted in I got the impression that I had interrupted the old 'We're the greatest newspaper in the world' speech."
"You mean, Perry wasn't going to hire him?"
"I doubt it. Why?"
Lois turned slightly away from Jimmy so that he couldn't see the blush rising in her cheeks. "No reason. Just curious, that's all."
"Oh. Well, I better get going. Perry has me working on…"
"Jimmy!" bellowed Perry.
"Gotta go," said Jimmy rushing to obey the Chief's summons.
Lois glanced cautiously around the corner of the conference room door. If Perry was looking for Jimmy, it meant he had concluded his meeting with Clark. Unless, of course, Jimmy was wrong and Perry had hired Clark. In that case, Perry might want Jimmy to show Clark around. She glanced around the newsroom, but saw no sign of Clark. She felt her heart plunge into her stomach. Had he just left without saying hello? He would have every right to, of course. After all, she had left his bed while he was sleeping. She had given him a phony name. And in Perry's office right now, she had refused to acknowledge him. If she had told Perry who he was, would that have changed Perry's decision not to hire him? Maybe. Why would he want to talk to her after that?
She sighed and made her way back to her desk. He was gone. It was probably for the best. After all, he was a drifter — and a leopard doesn't change its spots. Besides, Lois didn't think she could survive starting something with Clark only to have him disappear in a few months when he tired of his new job or his new city or, worse yet, of her. She couldn't risk it — especially now.
Just as she was sitting down at her desk a messenger came by. She was still lost in thought when he handed her a note. She absently opened it.
'Sorry I missed you. Hoping we can talk. I see that your number's listed. I'll call tonight. CK.'
She drew in a sharp breath.
Clark steadied himself as he stepped through the doors of the Daily Planet onto the street outside. When he'd emerged from Mr. White's office, he'd almost breathed a sigh of relief that she wasn't there. That's what had prevented him from doing a more complete search. The meeting had been so unexpected and so overwhelming that he wanted to compose himself and evaluate the information he now had before they talked.
He snorted. Well, at least that explained how one Lois Lane had written such a detailed story about the kidnapping of some American tourists in Israel four years ago. He wondered why he'd never made the connection between Lois Lane and Lois Lind. Probably because his name hadn't appeared in the story. He'd been relieved about that. At the time, he'd thought it was because the only one who'd known his name was the woman he'd spent the night with. But why hadn't she used it in her story? He figured she hadn't included his name because she had been embarrassed about sleeping with a complete stranger — still was, if her behavior today was any indication.
He shook his head. He had just been turned down for his dream job and all he could think about was a woman.
The telephone was ringing when Lois undid the locks and stepped through the door to her apartment. She looked at it for a moment, holding her breath. After a second ring, the answering machine picked up.
"Damn," said Lucy coming into the room and heading for the phone.
"Wait," said Lois, grabbing Lucy's arm.
Lucy looked at her in confusion. "What's going on? Lois, you look as if you've seen a ghost."
Lois snorted. "I suppose I have," she responded.
Before Lucy had a chance to question her, a man's voice came through over the answering machine. Both women turned toward the phone to listen.
"Hi. It's Clark. I guess you aren't home yet. I just…"
"Who's Clark?" asked Lucy glancing over at Lois. Lois ignored her, as if completely mesmerized by the voice on the phone. Lucy gasped. It couldn't be. Either Lois had met a man or… No way! She scrambled for the phone before Lois could stop her.
"Hi," said Lucy, picking up the phone.
"Umm… Hi," said a confused voice on the other end of the line. "I thought… Umm… Lois?" he asked. It didn't sound like Lois, but then he'd never heard Lois' voice over the phone before.
"No, it's her sister, Lucy. Who's this?"
"My name's Clark Kent. Is Lois there?"
Lucy glanced over at Lois who was gesturing wildly that she wasn't there.
"I'm afraid she's not," Lucy said, after silently trying to convince Lois to take the phone. "Can I ask how you know my sister? Are you one of her sources?" Lucy could hear an audible sigh of disappointment at her admission that she didn't recognize the name.
"We met a few years ago in Israel. I just thought… Could you take a phone number and give her a message?"
"Sure," said Lucy, grabbing a pen. "Go ahead." She then wrote while he recited a number for her.
"Tell her I'll be here all night. She can call anytime."
"I'll let her know," Lucy promised before they exchanged good-byes. Then Lucy turned back to her sister. "It's him, isn't it?"
Lois let out a short breath before nodding.
"Lois! Why wouldn't you talk to him? I mean, you've been dreaming about this guy for the past four years. Now, here he is. What are you thinking?"
"I'm thinking that he's a drifter."
"Even drifters have to find a place to land eventually."
"But what if he's not ready to settle down? How can I take that risk?"
"How can you not take that risk?" Lucy countered.
Just then a little girl ran into the room. "Mommy," she exclaimed excitedly, rushing at Lois. Lois squatted down so that she would be at the girl's height as the child threw herself into Lois' arms. Lois wrapped her arms around her daughter before rising, settling her daughter on her hip and turning back to Lucy.
"And her? Can I really take the risk for her too?" Lois asked her sister.
Major Ben Kenaani made his way into the prison warden's office.
"Warden," said Kenaani, taking the man's hand. "Can you tell me why I'm here?"
The warden gestured Kenaani to a chair. "As you know, there was a breakout at the prison yesterday."
Kenaani nodded. He had heard about it.
"Well, we've been looking at the security tapes and trying to figure out who, if anyone, escaped."
"So what does any of that have to do with me?"
The warden gestured to his assistant who placed a tape into a video machine. He turned it on. The warden and Kenaani both got out of their chairs and approached the monitor.
"We started by trying to figure out how the explosion occurred. As you can see from this tape… See, here," he said, pointing to the screen. On the screen was a prisoner obviously doing something by the prison wall. It would have looked harmless enough if the explosion hadn't taken place, but with the events of yesterday, it was clear that he was planting explosives.
Suddenly, the man turned around, his face being captured by the camera. Kenaani gasped. He knew that man.
"Hoffman," he breathed.
The warden nodded in agreement. He gestured to his assistant again who turned off the video they were currently watching. He then slipped in a second video and turned it on.
"This is the video that was taken immediately following the explosion."
Kenaani watched as a number of men who were obviously prisoners rushed for the hole in the wall. He tried to glimpse faces in an effort to see if Hoffman was among them, but was unable to find him. He watched as a guard rushed out after the prisoners. The guard fired off a number of shots. The prisoners scattered in response, heading in different directions. The guard took off at full speed, chasing the men. Kenaani watched as other guards joined the chase. Finally, the warden gestured to his assistant who turned off and rewound the tape.
"Did you see him?" asked the warden.
"No," said Kenaani.
"That's what caught our attention. Why would a man set an explosive, apparently in an attempt to escape from prison, and then not bother trying to escape?"
Kenaani looked at the Warden with new appreciation. "Can I speak to Hoffman?"
The warden shook his head. Then to Kenaani's look of confusion, he said, "He's not here."
"What?" Kenaani asked. "But we watched…"
The warden gestured to the young man again who restarted the tape. "It might help if I tell you that we found one of the guards about an hour later. He was dead and his uniform was missing. He was about the same size as Hoffman." They turned their attention back to the tape again. This time Kenaani watched the guards. He gasped when he discovered that the trigger happy guard was actually Hoffman.
"There's one other thing you should know," said the warden. "One of the men he shot was his second in command, Jack Spenser."
"Is Spenser dead?"
"That's the only break we caught. Spenser is in critical condition, but he's still alive."
"I need to talk to Spenser," Kenaani said.
"I figured that. My assistant will take you to the prison hospital, but you'll have to get permission from the prison doctor to question him."
Clark hadn't slept well. He kept hoping Lois would call, but she hadn't. The later it got, the harder it was to stay positive. It was the early hours of the morning when he finally went to bed. However, he woke whenever a phone rang within a half mile radius. And since his hotel was in the heart of Metropolis, it had happened a lot.
He glanced over at the clock. It was almost nine a.m. He supposed she might have worked late or not understood that she could call whenever — no matter the time. He hoped that was the case. He feared it wasn't. He wondered what to do now.
He recalled Mr. White saying Lois had been assigned a story about an old theater on Forty-Second street that was being torn down. He knew from last night's paper that was happening today. Maybe if he took a trip down there, he would have a chance to speak to her — even if it was just to have her tell him she never wanted to see him again. He at least had to hear it from her own lips. With a new plan in place, he had a shower, threw on a pair jeans and a shirt, grabbed his jacket and headed out.
Clark arrived at the old theater a short time later. It was not hard recognizing it. There were picketers out front chanting a slogan about keeping the theater. It was obviously a losing battle since the construction workers were getting ready to bring down the building.
Clark looked around at the crowds. He sighed when he couldn't see Lois. Still, she had to be here soon. Otherwise the theater was going to come down without press coverage by the Daily Planet. He would just wait. He commenced wandering through the crowds, keeping his superhearing sensitive to Lois' arrival.
The construction worker started up the machine that would swing the wrecking ball at a command from the boss. Suddenly, Clark's hearing picked up what sounded like a soliloquy coming from the theater. With a quick glance at the wrecking ball, he focused on the theater, pulling his glasses down his nose enough to see over them. Inside the building was an older woman dressed in some sort of period costume. If he didn't do something, the building was going to come crashing down around her. Clark turned his attention to the wrecking ball. He looked over his glasses again and sent a shot of heat vision at the belt on the machine operating the wrecking ball. The belt snapped. Satisfied this would slow down the workers for a little while, he ducked under the barrier and slipped quietly into the theater.
Clark was entranced by the woman standing on the stage, reciting lines as if she were giving a performance before a packed theater. She stopped as he approached.
"I'm not ready to leave yet," she said to him.
"We've got a little time," Clark responded.
With this simple introduction, they began to talk about the theater and what it meant to the woman. Throughout the talk, Clark kept his ears open for Lois. When he and the woman finally left the theater just as the wrecking ball was getting ready to fulfill its task, Lois had still not arrived. As the theater came down, Clark asked around to see if someone else from the Daily Planet was covering the destruction of theater, but was unable to find anyone.
It was then that an idea first hit him. Perry White wanted the story, yet no one had shown up from the Daily Planet. Perhaps if he wrote the story, he could sell it to the Planet. He was desperately short of money at the moment. And although, not needing to eat meant he didn't need much money, he did need some. He headed back to his room at the Hotel Apollo.
The story almost seemed to write itself. When Clark was finished, he knew it was good. Surely Mr. White would want the story. After putting on a suit and tie, he walked the short distance from his hotel to the Daily Planet.
Lois was positively fuming when she left Perry's office. It wasn't so much that she was angry. She was scared — terrified actually. Clark had come here with the story she was supposed to write, but she had never made it down to the old theater. Even if she had been there, she knew she couldn't have done it the justice Clark had. He had offered to sell the story to the Daily Planet. She had been completely bowled over when Perry hired him on the spot.
Even so, that wasn't why she was fuming. Perry had just forced her to work with Clark. She was terrified at the prospect. What would happen the first time she was alone with him? Would she be able to maintain her decision to avoid any sort of relationship if they were working together?
This morning when she'd arrived at work, she'd taken a look at Clark's resume. She hadn't set out to find it — at least that's what she told herself. Was it her fault that Perry hadn't been in his office? Was it her fault that Clark's resume had been lying on Perry's desk? Okay, so she'd found it under a number of other papers, but… Anyway, Clark's resume confirmed what she already knew. He'd worked for a number of different papers, both before and after they'd met. Of course, there were large gaps in his resume — Lois assumed indicating periods when he hadn't worked for any paper. But it definitely confirmed her opinion that he was a drifter. Clark hadn't worked for any paper for more then a couple of months. It was no surprise to Lois that Perry hadn't hired him. On the other hand, it was as obvious to Lois as it had been to Perry that Clark was a great writer. The story he had written today had even touched her — and she wasn't into the touchy feely stuff.
She forced her mind back to the reason she had to keep her distance from Clark Kent. He was a drifter. He might be here at the moment, but he could just as easily be gone tomorrow. It would be hard enough on her to start a relationship with him only to have him leave, but what if she introduced Jenny to Clark and then he decided to move on? Lois had no intention of doing that to Jenny. No matter how she felt about Clark, she wouldn't let that happen to Jenny.
Lois walked past Clark. She hit him on the shoulder. She instantly recognized her mistake. She felt her heart skip a beat at the contact. In spite of her heart's reaction to their touch, she didn't miss a step.
"Let's hit it," she said as briskly as she could, heading for the elevators.
"Mind if I ask where we're going?" asked Clark, grabbing his jacket and quickly following her.
She abruptly filled him in on the story they were going to investigate. The construction of a permanent space station was almost complete. However, in the past few weeks there had been an increasing number of accidents at EPRAD — the agency responsible for this world wide effort. So when Samuel Platt stormed into the Daily Planet yesterday claiming that the space program was being sabotaged, Lois had been interested. Then today, when the Messenger, a shuttle being commanded by Commander Latimer, had blown up during launch, Lois had managed to convince Perry to put her on the story. The only problem was he had insisted she look into it with Clark.
After she'd explained the basic details of the story to Clark, she proceeded to make it abundantly clear just how unhappy she was about working with him. She hoped that if she could make him think she wasn't at all interested, he wouldn't do anything to make this more difficult for her — like asking her out or, for that matter, looking at her. They stood silently waiting for the elevator. When it opened, Lois pulled in a short breath. It was empty. She had a moment of panic. Maybe they should take the stairs.
Lois raised her head and boldly stepped into the elevator. She could do this. She had to do this. It would take less than a minute to get to the lobby. Then they would be back with people. And she knew she had to face being alone with him sometime. It was probably best the first time be short. She swallowed hard as the doors closed.
Lois gasped as Clark reached over and pulled out the stop button on the elevator.
"What are you doing?" she demanded, reaching for the button.
Clark moved between her and the button. Lois immediately backed off. The only way she could get to the button was to touch Clark. And that was something she knew she couldn't do. She had to avoid physical contact with him at all costs.
"We need to talk," Clark said softly.
"What we need to do is get the story," Lois argued.
"Lois…" started Clark.
Lois was in a panic. The last thing she wanted right now was to be alone with Clark and if the only way out of here was to convince Clark she wasn't interested, that's what she was going to do. "Look, Clark, I don't know what you expect from me. The night we spent together was…" Suddenly she hesitated as the memories of that night came flooding back to her.
"Incredible, amazing, unforgettable, astounding, fantastic, phenomenal…" Clark said in an effort to assist her in finding a word.
"I was going to say, a long time ago," said Lois abruptly, swallowing any feelings he'd raised by his description of that night.
"Not quite the answer I'd hoped for," muttered Clark.
"So let's just leave it at that," she concluded. "Now, if you don't mind, I'd like to get back to work."
Clark looked as if he was about to say something, but changed his mind. He stepped out of the way.
Lois forced herself not to leap for the button. She calmly stepped up to the panel, pushing the stop button back in. Once that was completed, she quickly withdrew her hand in an effort to keep Clark from noticing just how badly it was trembling. The elevator began moving again and a moment later the doors opened to the lobby.
Roger Hoffman breathed a sigh of relief as the freighter pulled out of Israeli waters. There was no sign of anyone following. It would take some time, but he was looking forward to getting back home. He settled into a chair and thought about what he was going to do when he returned to Metropolis. It might have taken him four years to escape, but now that it was done, he had some plans for the future.
Lois hung up the phone. She had called everyone she knew who was a friend of a friend of someone who worked at EPRAD and she was still no closer to knowing if anyone was trying to sabotage the space program. Dr. Samuel Platt had certainly been passionate in his arguments that there was a conspiracy to destroy the space program, but he had not provided any proof. She was still awaiting his report on coolant devices. Dr. Antoinette Baines' conduct during her interview with Lois and Clark this morning had made Lois suspicious, but to be honest she didn't know if it was because there was something to be suspicious about or if it was the way Dr. Baines flirted with Clark.
She growled in frustration. Now Clark was causing her to doubt her reporter's instincts. She needed a cup of coffee. She made her way to the coffee machine. At least there was a fresh pot. As she was pouring herself a cup, Cat approached.
"Who's the new tight end?" asked Cat.
Lois glanced where Cat was looking and saw Jimmy showing Clark around.
"Why don't you throw you're usual forward pass and find out?" Lois asked, expecting Cat to be insulted — after all, that was how Lois intended it. Lois was horrified when Cat took her advice. Lois walked back to her desk, trying to tell herself that it didn't matter what Cat did. Lois wasn't interested in Clark anyway. Let Cat get her heart broken when Clark disappeared in a couple of months — not that Cat would want him after a couple of months, if she even wanted him that long.
As Clark approached to get a cup of coffee, Cat removed her jacket and placed herself between Clark and the coffee machine.
Clark was surprised when a woman with auburn hair was suddenly all over him. He wasn't interested in Cat Grant. Still, after Lois' rejection earlier today, it was a nice little ego boost. He had no intention of accepting Cat's invitation to show him Metropolis, since it was quite obvious she wasn't interested in just being friendly. Even so, Clark always tried not to hurt anyone. He did what he normally did when a woman came on to him — he put her off, saying maybe when he'd settled in he'd take her up on her offer. He hoped by the time that happened, she would have lost interest.
"It's a date," said Cat, walking away.
Clark shook his head slightly as he watched her leave. How had she gotten a date out of what he'd said? His attention shifted when Lois slammed the drawer on her desk closed. Their eyes met for a moment. She was furious. Clark blinked. Why would she care whether or not he went out with Cat? She wasn't interested in pursuing a relationship with him — she'd made that perfectly clear in the elevator. So why was she angry?
Clark watched Lois turn away from him. Regardless of what she'd said, she obviously still had some feelings for him — whether they were love or hate, he didn't know. They really needed to talk. If nothing else, he'd like them to be friends. It was going to be extremely difficult to work together otherwise. He took a deep breath before approaching Lois.
"Lois," he began tentatively.
"What?" she snapped.
Realizing the direct approach wasn't going to work, he made an impulsive decision. "I've got an idea. About the story," he hastened to add.
"What is it?"
Clark glanced around. He couldn't do this here. There were too many people around. He spotted the conference room. He took Lois' arm and directed her towards the conference room.
Lois' breath caught at the feel of Clark's hand on her arm. She felt completely helpless to do anything but go with him. Besides, the last thing she wanted was a confrontation in the middle of the bullpen.
When they walked into the conference room, Clark closed the door.
"Do you want to tell me what I've done?" Clark asked.
The question caught Lois off guard. She had expected him to… Well, she wasn't exactly sure what she anticipated, but it wasn't that. She'd been prepared to cut him off if this wasn't about work — but it took her a moment to digest this unexpected question.
"Look, Lois," Clark continued at her silence. "I swear when I applied for a job, I didn't know you worked here. I'm not trying to cause you problems, but I do need this job. I'm broke. Now, if you want me to tell Perry White we can't work together…"
"No!" Lois exclaimed. The last thing she wanted was for Perry to think there was something going on between her and Clark.
Clark ran a hand through his hair in frustration. He turned with his back to her for a moment. He took a deep breath before turning back around, "Then what do you want from me?"
Lois swallowed hard. Clark's face clearly showed that he was confused and hurt. If she had ever thought he'd forget about her or their night together, that idea was completely gone now. And with that, all ideas of being mean to him in order to put him off, also fled.
"Clark, are you in Metropolis to stay?" she finally asked.
Clark immediately looked down. He had already used his powers on a couple of occasions since coming to Metropolis. If he kept this up, it was only a matter of time before he'd have to leave again.
"That's what I thought," Lois said sadly. "So then, maybe the better question is what do you want from me?"
Clark looked up at that. No wonder she had been so cold to him. She somehow knew he never stayed long in any one place — even if she didn't know the reasons. She was too smart for his own good. His shoulders drooped slightly.
"What do I want?" he asked. When she nodded, he continued, "I guess I was sort of thinking of having dinner together. Maybe going to a movie. Maybe seeing if there is something…"
"Why, Clark? If you're planning to leave in a couple of months. Why would I want to get involved with you?"
Clark couldn't answer that question.
"So why don't we just pretend there was never anything between us?" Lois suggested. "It was just a one night stand, after all. It was a mistake. It didn't mean anything," she concluded, reciting the words she had heard so often come out of Lucy's mouth.
"Didn't mean…" Clark gasped, unable to even repeat what she had said. It was one thing for her to refuse involvement with him, but to suggest that what had happened between them meant nothing was something else. "God, Lois, how could you even say that?" He stared at her in disbelief for a moment, expecting her to back down. When she didn't, he headed straight for the door to the conference room — his pain quickly being replaced by anger. He opened the door and stepped out. Cat happened to be passing by.
Without thinking about the consequences, Clark called to her.
"Yes," Cat purred, coming over to him and taking his tie in her hands.
"Would you like to have supper tonight?" he asked.
"Well… tonight is Lex Luthor's ball. I was planning on going stag so that I could find some interesting man to take me home afterwards. But if you'd like to take me…"
"I'd love to. What time should I pick you up?"
Inside the conference room, Lois heard every word. She walked to the window and stared out of the building at the street below so no one could see the tears slipping quietly down her cheeks.
Clark borrowed a car from an old friend who was now living in Metropolis to pick up Cat for the ball. As he made his way to her apartment, he thought over the events of the day.
He was supposed to fly home for supper tonight, but had called and canceled. He told his parents it was because he had a date, but the real reason was that he was feeling so guilty about asking Cat out and didn't want to face his parents as a result. He knew he had only asked Cat out in an effort to prove to Lois that even if she didn't want him, other women did, but he also knew he had been deliberately trying to hurt Lois the way she'd hurt him. He had never before intentionally hurt anyone. The fact that Lois was the one he had deliberately hurt made the guilt that much worse.
He snorted. Now, to top it all off, he had a date with Cat Grant. Talk about a case of biting off his nose to spite his face. He was tempted to call her and back out, but wasn't sure that was fair to Cat. After all, he was the one who'd asked her out. So, here he was on his way to escort Cat to a ball he really had no interest in going to. After all, he didn't know anyone in Metropolis and spending an evening hobnobbing with Metropolis' rich and powerful was not his idea of a good time. What he really wanted to be doing this evening was whatever Lois was planning to do.
Clark could certainly understand Lois not wanting to get involved with him. What he didn't understand was why they couldn't be friends. She had been hostile to him since he had shown up at the Daily Planet yesterday. If she wasn't interested, why didn't she simply say so and leave it at that. It would still hurt, but he would understand. But that wasn't all there was to it. She had almost acted as if he'd done something wrong. Then, to top it off, she'd told him that their night together — a memory which he held very close to his heart — meant nothing. It was a one night stand. It was a mistake.
Maybe she resented him for taking a job at the Daily Planet. He hadn't known she worked for the Daily Planet when he applied for a job there. If he had known, he would have asked her about it first. Then, when he returned today with his story, he had just wanted to make a little money to tide him over until he could make other arrangements. He hadn't expected to be offered a job. Maybe he should have asked Lois for her opinion before accepting — but it had all happened so fast. Perry hadn't even asked him if he still wanted the job. He'd simply assumed he did.
Clark pulled up in front of Cat's building. He took a deep breath before getting out. He put his questions to the back of his mind as he prepared himself to get through this date with Cat unscathed.
"You look beautiful, dear," said Olive as she opened the door to find Lois and Jenny standing on the other side.
Olive was an older woman who lived down the hall from Lois. Since Lucy had plans for the evening, Lois had made arrangements for Jenny to stay with Olive. Lois was grateful to Olive and Lucy for the amount of time they spent babysitting when Lois had to work in the evenings. During the day, Jenny went to daycare. It was the evenings Lois often needed help with.
Jenny started into the apartment, heading at full steam towards the room containing the toys. She was stopped by Lois' hand. "Say hi to Aunt Olly," Lois said.
"Hi, Aunt Olly," Jenny said, squirming out of her mother's grasp and heading into the apartment.
Lois gave Olive an apologetic look. "I'm sorry about that," said Lois.
Olive laughed. "I remember what it was like to be young too, dear. Don't worry about it. You just have a nice time tonight."
"This is work, Olive," Lois objected.
"That's your problem, Lois. So when are you going to get serious about finding a daddy for that little girl?"
Lois actually managed a smile. Olive often asked her that question. "Soon, Olive. Soon," Lois replied, as she always did.
However, tonight the words were accompanied by an incredible amount of pain. She was on her way to a ball where she would have to watch Clark with Cat — and it was her own fault. If she hadn't tried to claim that their night together meant nothing, he never would have asked Cat out. So now, due to her own stupidity, she was on her way to the same ball that Clark and Cat were attending. She briefly considered not going. However, she was determined to get the first one on one interview with Lex Luthor if it killed her. And given the fact that she would have to see Clark with Cat, she suspected there was a very good possibility it would.
Clark walked into the grand ballroom with Cat on his arm. As he looked around, he reminded himself that it was his own fault he was in this position, not Cat's. He steeled his resolve. He was determined to be a good escort for Cat tonight. Still, it was hard not resenting her for this. Every time she touched him, the resentment increased.
Suddenly, Clark came to an abrupt halt, causing Cat to crash into him. Lois was here. Clark hadn't expected that. And she looked absolutely breath-taking. He swallowed hard, trying to convince his heart to continue beating. Without realizing it, Clark began floating off the floor. Fortunately, before he'd risen more than an inch, he realized his feet were no longer touching the floor. He quickly lowered himself — before Cat, or anyone else, could notice. He forced his eyes away from Lois in order to regain his composure.
On the other side of the room, Lois didn't notice Clark's entrance. She was talking to Perry and Jimmy.
"Great shades of Elvis," said Perry.
Both Lois and Jimmy turned to see what had provoked Perry's comment.
"Cat's here with C.K.?" Jimmy asked in surprise. "Way to go, C.K."
"I don't know, Jimmy. He seems awfully uncomfortable about having her hanging onto him as tight as rusted lugnuts on a fifty-nine Chevy. Now I'm not suggesting Clark just fell off the turnip truck, but I'm not sure he's quite sophisticated enough to handle Cat."
"Come on, Chief," said Jimmy. "It's not like one needs a degree from Harvard to give Cat what she wants."
"Jimmy!" responded Perry, although he silently agreed with the kid's observation. "I'm a little concerned about my reporter's instincts though," said Perry quietly. "Clark seems to me like a straight arrow. I don't quite see Cat as his type. What do you think, Lois?"
Lois didn't respond. Instead she gave him a sad smile before excusing herself to leave the men to their analysis of Cat's intentions for Clark.
Perry watched her go.
"What's wrong with her?" asked Jimmy.
"I don't know, Jimmy," Perry responded, although he suspected he did. In all the years he'd known her, Lois had never been distracted by a man when she was occupied with a story. Yet she had certainly been distracted by Clark yesterday in his office. What Perry couldn't figure out was why Clark was here with Cat. He would have sworn the attraction was mutual.
Lois fought back tears as she walked away from Perry and Jimmy. She couldn't stomach the thought of Cat getting her claws into Clark. And Lois had no doubt about Cat's intentions. Lois also believed men never turned down a sure thing. She doubted Clark could resist Cat and the full court press she would undoubtedly give him tonight. And why should he? After all, she had made it painfully clear today just how uninterested she was — at least, that's what he was bound to conclude.
She forced her mind off of Clark. She was here to get to Lex Luthor. The sooner she did that, the sooner she could leave and… And what? Probably go home and cry herself to sleep. No. She wouldn't think about that now. She squared her shoulders, looking around the room for Lex Luthor. She spotted him on the stairs, which descended into the ballroom. He was talking to someone she didn't recognize. She placed herself at the bottom of the steps and, using her best jilted woman's voice, spoke above the general noise of the crowd.
"Lex Luthor, why haven't you returned my calls?"
Luthor turned towards her in confusion. He didn't return a lot of women's phone calls, but who was this woman? He didn't recognize her. Even so, he couldn't help but notice that she was beautiful. He excused himself from his conversation with the Kenyan Ambassador before turning his attention back to the woman.
"And you are?" Luthor asked, approaching Lois.
"Lois Lane, Daily Planet," Lois replied.
Luthor smiled. He certainly recognized the name. She was a reporter. This woman had tenacity as well as beauty. Without asking her permission, he led her onto the dance floor, sweeping her up in his arms.
Lois kept her smile firmly in place as his arms went around her. She really didn't want to be doing this, but this was probably her only chance to convince him to give her the interview. They began a verbal sparing, during which Lois shamelessly flirted with him. She was so intent on getting the interview that she was momentarily distracted when she spotted Clark watching her.
He was here with Cat, but the look on his face at the moment made it very clear who he wanted to be with. She forced herself to look back at Luthor. She smiled at him. However, she couldn't seem to get Clark's eyes out of her mind. She felt as if she was kicking a puppy. She glanced back at Clark.
Luthor watched as Lois suddenly became distracted. Recognizing that something over his shoulder had her attention, he spun them around. By doing so, he could see where Lois had been looking. There was man on the edge of the dance floor. He was watching them dance.
Lois was frustrated. She couldn't see Clark anymore — at least not without making it obvious what she was doing. She hated that she couldn't turn them around again. After all, tradition dictated that the man lead. She let out a breath, doing her best to concentrate on her goal here — getting the Luthor interview.
When the dance ended, Luthor promised to contact her. She gave him her most charming smile in response. He then excused himself, kissing her hand before he left. She watched him for a moment. When she was satisfied he was far enough away, she looked around for Clark. She frowned slightly when she couldn't see him. Then her heart jumped into her throat. He was dancing with Cat! She felt tears come to her eyes. She quickly turned and headed out of the room. She had done what she came here to do. Now all she wanted was to leave.
Lex Luthor made his way over to his assistant, Nigel St. John. He smiled and nodded at the mayor of Metropolis before speaking to Nigel. He didn't look directly at Nigel as he did so.
"Over my shoulder," he said softly. "The dark haired man dancing with Cat Grant."
Nigel looked over his boss's shoulder. He saw the man Luthor was referring to. When he nodded, Luthor continued to speak.
"Find out everything you can about him," Luthor instructed before walking away, heading for a nearby woman.
"Dr. Baines," he said pleasantly, taking Antoinette's hand in his own and kissing it. "I'm glad you could make it."
Clark made his way towards Luthor. Cat had told him who Luthor was — one of the richest men in the world and Metropolis' most eligible bachelor. For some reason, Clark didn't trust him — particularly when he saw him talking to Dr. Baines. Of course, he couldn't say if his suspicions were due to the way Lois had been looking at Luthor when they danced.
He made his way near the couple and stretched out with his enhanced hearing to listen in on Luthor's conversation with Baines. It didn't even occur to him that he was using his powers to invade someone's privacy. This was Lois and… He shook his head. This was the space program and he was determined to ensure it not be jeopardize. If that meant invading this man's privacy, that's what he would do.
"I don't like it, Lex," said Dr. Baines.
"Don't worry, Antoinette," responded Luthor. "We'll get there first and we'll seize the high ground."
"What are you doing over here, Clark?" asked Cat.
Clark automatically grabbed his ears. Having her speak to him when he was trying to superhear was like stabbing daggers into his ears. "Nothing," responded Clark, leading her away from Luthor and Baines.
Major Kenaani was finally allowed into Jack Spenser's room. It was now early in the morning. Spenser was not expected to live. Kenaani had only been allowed in because the doctors couldn't do anything more to save Spenser's life. Kenaani had been warned that Spenser was heavily drugged.
"Do you know who shot you?" Kenaani asked, in part to find out how lucid the man was and in part to undermine Spenser's loyalty to Hoffman — if he still had any left.
Spenser looked up through drug hazed eyes, trying to focus on the man speaking. "Hoffman," he finally responded.
Kenaani smiled. "You were his right hand man. After everything you've done for him, why did he shoot you?"
Spenser looked away, although to do so took almost all of his remaining strength.
Kenaani observed the man for a moment, realizing he didn't have much time. "Where did he go?"
Spenser regarded the man asking questions for a moment as if debating who to harm as his final act on this earth. Should he turn on Hoffman or should he leave his present interrogator without answers? He closed his eyes tight, pulling in a painful breath.
"Metropolis," he finally breathed.
"Why?" asked Kenaani, leaning in to catch Spenser's soft spoken words.
"Lois Lane," was the last thing Jack Spenser ever said.
Lois carried a sleeping child into her bedroom and tucked her into bed. Jenny stirred slightly, but not enough to truly wake up. Lois watched her for a moment before going to her own room and getting changed. Lucy wasn't home yet. Lois was almost relieved. She didn't think she could handle talking to her sister about the events of the day.
Lois changed into her University of Kansas t-shirt and a pair of sweats, before climbing into bed. Tears began making their way down her cheeks almost immediately. She was in love with Clark. She knew that with a certainty that was frightening. Seeing him dancing with Cat had torn her heart apart.
She wondered briefly if she was making a mistake. After all, the day's events had clearly shown her that Clark still wanted a relationship with her — even though she had crawled out of his bed while he slept four years ago, even though she had given him a phony name, and even after she denied knowing him to Perry. Maybe she should take the risk, as her little sister had suggested.
She pulled in a sharp breath when she remembered Clark's response to her question about how long he'd be in Metropolis. He wasn't here to stay. She smiled sadly. She just had to find a way to keep her distance until he decided to move on. She prayed it wouldn't be long. She prayed it wouldn't be soon. She was completely conflicted — she wanted him to stay but only if there was a reasonable chance he would stay permanently. But how could she ever be certain of that? Especially given his response to that question today. Her head told her she would be better off if he just left Metropolis, but her heart… Her heart was a different matter entirely.
If it had just been her own heart she would be risking, maybe she would consider it an acceptable gamble, but it wasn't just her. There was Jenny to consider. And Lois knew only too well what it was like to spend her life chasing after a man who had never wanted the responsibility of fatherhood. In some ways, Lois was still trying to get her father's attention. Not that the brilliant Dr. Sam Lane ever even noticed. He was always too busy chasing his latest dream or his latest woman.
No. She wouldn't put Jenny through that. It would be easier on Jenny never having a father than meeting her father only to have him disappear again.
And Clark was Jenny's father. She had discovered she was pregnant shortly after returning from Israel. When she told Claude she was pregnant by a man she met in Israel, he responded by immediately ending their relationship. She figured she was indebted to Jenny for saving her from the likes of Claude.
She considered having an abortion. She believed in a woman's right to choose — at least in theory. She even went down to an abortion clinic to have the procedure done. She sat there for hours — unable to go through with it. She still wasn't quite sure why. Was it Clark or was it some sort of undefinable bond to this child? Not that it mattered. She made the decision to have Jenny, and she could no longer imagine life without her.
Adoption was never a real option. Lois knew she would never be able to give up her child if she carried him or her to term. That didn't mean the last few years had been easy. If it hadn't been for her sister, Olive and even her mother, she would never have been able to accomplish everything she had while trying to raise Jenny. Even with their help, she sometimes wondered if the long hours she put in at her job were fair to Jenny. Of course, Perry was great. Knowing that she was the best reporter he had, Perry gave her the slack to work at home when possible. She had honored his trust by winning two more Kerth awards for the Daily Planet.
Jenny was the reason she had gone to Smallville a couple years ago. She had thought Clark had a right to know he was a father — not that she knew whether it would matter to him. However, in the end, she'd chickened out. Why would a man want to know that a one night stand had resulted in a child coming into the world? So she drove back to Kansas City and caught a flight back to Metropolis without ever stopping.
She found it slightly ironic that she now was determined not to tell Clark about Jenny considering how much she had wanted him to know before. On the other hand, with the change in circumstances she now regarded it too dangerous to tell him. After all, even if he wasn't interested in having a daughter, he might use Jenny to get to her. Clark didn't seem like the type to do that, but how could she be sure?
She was fairly confident she wasn't going to get any sleep tonight. Not when every time she closed her eyes, she saw Clark dancing with Cat. And her mind wouldn't seem to leave it there. She knew Cat would invite Clark in when he drove her home tonight. And, even though it was obvious he was attracted to her rather than Cat, she wasn't sure he'd be able to resist, especially after the way she'd treated him today. Besides, he'd had a one night stand with her, why not with Cat? She snorted. She knew that he didn't regard what had happened between them as a one night stand. His reaction to her characterizing it in that manner made that clear enough.
She regretted what she'd said to him about their night together. She knew she'd hurt him, but until he'd opened the door and stormed out, she hadn't realized how badly. She really didn't want to hurt him. She just wanted to protect herself and her daughter.
Jenny. It was the only thought capable of bringing a genuine smile to her lips at the moment. She climbed back out of bed and made her way to her daughter's room. She stood in the doorway. There was a small nightlight on, lighting the room in a soft glow. She could see a scruff of soft brown hair emerging from the covers. She took a deep breath. The little girl lying there was the most precious thing in Lois Lane's life. She'd give her life to protect her.
She made her way over to Jenny's bed. She sat for a moment on the edge before pulling back the covers and crawling in beside her.
Clark sat in a car outside Lois' apartment building for a long time — just thinking. When he had dropped Cat off, she had done everything in her power to get him to come inside. He had no illusions about why she wanted him there. After an entire evening of trying to keep her hands off his anatomy, he had no desire to spend anymore time with her. He'd fulfilled the role of 'charming escort.' Now, he just wanted to get away.
Clark set aside thoughts of Cat to think about Lois. It was obvious his presence in Metropolis was making her miserable. That became clear to him when he'd seen her leave the ball tonight. He had never intended to cause her pain. He had come to Metropolis not only because the prospect of working for the Daily Planet was like a dream come true, but also because of the hope that he could find Lois Lind. Well, he had done that. He gave a wry smile. It hadn't turned out quite the way he'd fantasized. He knew she might not be interested in a relationship with him, but he hadn't expected his mere presence would make her miserable.
There was only one option. He had to leave. Even having his dream job was not important enough to justify hurting Lois. The only way to make this right was for him to move on. He did at least want to tell her in person. Maybe that way they could part on somewhat pleasant terms. Then maybe this incident wouldn't color the memory of the night they had shared so long ago. After all, he now knew that memories of that night were all he'd ever have.
He took a deep breath and opened the car door. It was still early. If this was tearing her apart the way it was him, she wouldn't be asleep. He would do this now. Then he would go back to his hotel, pack up his stuff and write his letter of resignation to Mr. White. He would stop by the Planet first thing in the morning in order to hand it in. Then… he would be gone. Lois Lane would never have to worry about him again. He swallowed the lump in his throat and headed into her apartment building.
"So what did you find out?" asked Luthor.
"Not much, sir," Nigel replied. "His name is Clark Kent. He's a reporter for the Daily Planet."
"Is he involved with Ms. Lane?"
"It doesn't appear so, sir. Apparently he only started working for the paper this morning."
Luthor raised his eyebrows. He wasn't usually wrong about these things and he could have sworn there was some history between those two. He wanted to know if it was something he needed to worry about. "Are you sure?" he asked.
"Did they know each other previously?"
"I've got people looking into Kent's background now. I suspect that will reveal any past association between the two of them."
"Okay, Nigel. See what you can dig up. I don't want Kent to become a problem."
"A problem, sir?" Nigel asked.
"Lois Lane," Luthor informed him. "I have a feeling she could be a valuable asset. That is if she can be seduced."
Lois was too distracted to even look through the peep hole before opening the door to her apartment. She drew in a sharp breath when she saw Clark standing outside. She immediately began closing the door, but couldn't quite do it. She slowly opened the door.
"Thank you," said Clark. He took in her attire. How could she make his heart stand still dressed in sweats and a… He drew in a sharp breath. He knew that shirt. It was his. He tried not to think about the possible implications of her choice of nighttime attire, forcing his mind to focus on the reason he was here.
"What do you want, Clark?" she asked, her voice flat.
"I don't want to cause any trouble. I just came to say good-bye. May I come in?"
'Good-bye.' The word echoed in her head for a moment before she gestured him in. She knew he would leave eventually. She knew it was better it happen now than to continue living like this. Still, her heart felt as if it would break with the knowledge that he was departing. She gestured him to a chair, taking a seat across from him. She kept her eyes diverted from his.
"Lois, I don't exactly understand what's happening between us," Clark began. "What I do know is that my presence here is making you mis…" His voice broke. He swallowed hard and tried again. "Miserable. That was never my intention. Then tonight… When I asked Cat out, I realized it was nothing more than a childish attempt to hurt you the way I was hurt." He gave a humorless laugh. "I have never done anything like that before. I'm sorry. I just…" He shook his head. "No. There's no excuse for what I did. If it makes you feel better, I had to endure an evening with Cat as a result."
She actually gave him a small smile at his admission. Yes, it did make her feel better. "Good," she said in a low voice.
It was only one simple word, but something about it reminded Clark what he loved about this woman. In some ways it made what he had to do easier. In some ways it made it more difficult. He took a deep breath before proceeding.
"This is your home. I really didn't know you'd be working at the Daily Planet when I came here. But I do admit the possibility you might still be living in Metropolis certainly affected my decision to come." He lowered his head before adding, "I know it didn't mean anything to you, but the night we spent together…" He paused, trying to keep his voice steady. "I can't tell you how much it meant to me."
"To me too, Clark," Lois said before she could stop herself.
Clark looked up at that. There were tears slipping down Lois' cheeks. "Then, why… No. You don't want me here. That's all I need to know." He snorted. "I want you to be happy, Lois. So tomorrow morning I plan to give Mr. White my resignation."
Neither Lois nor Clark noticed they were no longer alone. The last part of their conversation had been observed by a little girl standing in the doorway to the living room rubbing her eyes sleepily.
"Mommy," said a little voice, causing both Lois and Clark to jump.
Lois, her heart instantly pounding in her chest, looked quickly at Clark before getting up and heading towards her daughter.
"What is it, sweetie?" she asked, approaching Jenny.
"I'm thirsty," Jenny said.
Lois picked up her daughter and, without looking at Clark, headed towards the kitchen. Her mind was racing. She had to keep Clark from knowing this was his daughter — although she had no idea how she was going to accomplish that. She set her daughter on the counter before pulling a glass from the cupboard and getting Jenny a glass of water.
"Use both hands," Lois reminded Jenny as she handed her the glass.
Before taking the glass, Jenny reached up a finger and ran it down the tear stains on Lois' face. A small furrow creased her brow. "Don't cry, Mommy," she said.
Lois leaned over and gave her daughter a quick kiss on the forehead. Her daughter's concern actually brought a smile to Lois' face.
"Okay," Lois answered softly, making sure Jenny had a secure grip on the glass before releasing it herself.
Clark sat for a moment in stunned silence when a little girl interrupted them. At first his mind rejected what his eyes and ears were telling him. A little girl, who appeared to be three or four years old, was calling Lois, 'Mommy'. He watched as Lois disappeared into the kitchen with the little girl. It could just be a coincidence, but Clark didn't believe in coincidences. But surely, if he had a daughter, Lois would have told him. He didn't even know if he could have children. Suddenly, he had to know if she was his daughter. He got up and made his way to the kitchen.
"What's your name?" he asked the little girl from the doorway of the kitchen. He noticed that Lois, who had her back to him, seemed to tense with the knowledge that he was there.
"Jenny," Jenny replied, studying the stranger carefully. He brow furrowed as her little mind worked. "Did you make Mommy cry?" she asked. The look in her eyes was much the same as the look he had seen in Lois' eyes earlier today when Cat had introduced herself. Maternity was certainly not in question.
Lois, who was still trying to figure out how to keep the truth from Clark, was brought back to the conversation by Jenny's question. She might want to keep Clark from hurting Jenny, but she didn't want Jenny to resent him.
"No, Jen. Mommy's just sad. That's all," Lois said immediately.
Jenny's expression softened.
"How old are you?" Clark continued.
"Two," said Lois immediately.
"I'm three, Mommy," Jenny responded indignantly.
Clark paused for a moment before looking at Lois and starting to ask, "Is she…"
"Just give me a minute, Clark," Lois interrupted immediately. "I need to put Jenny back to bed." With that she gave Clark a look that made it very clear he shouldn't be asking the question she thought he was going to ask in front of Jenny.
Clark, understanding the message immediately, nodded. Then, as Lois carried Jenny toward the bedroom, a little hand came up and waved good-bye. Clark smiled and waved back.
Clark sank down into the couch after Lois left. His mind was reeling. Was Jenny his daughter? Maybe not. After all, he and Lois had only been together once, but it was about the right time frame. He supposed it was possible Lois had been with other men around the same time. He thought about that for a moment before rejecting the idea. In spite of the fact that Lois had gone to bed with him when they had known each other for less than a day, he instinctively knew Lois wasn't promiscuous. What had happened between them had been unusual for both of them. No, he was Jenny's father. His heart knew that.
"She's beautiful," Clark said softly when Lois reentered the room.
Lois swallowed hard. "Thanks," she replied. She couldn't quite meet his eyes. She had no doubts about the questions now going through his mind. She also knew what she had to do.
"I assume she's mine," Clark finally said.
Lois hesitated. This wasn't what she'd expected. She'd expected him to ask if he was Jenny's father. She didn't expect him to simply assume he was. "Don't be ridiculous, Clark," she responded.
"What's so ridiculous, Lois? She's three years old. What am I supposed to think?"
"That she's none of your concern," responded Lois, finally meeting his eyes.
"None of my concern," Clark responded, absolutely stunned.
Lois immediately got up and headed for the door. She opened it, standing to the side. "I think you should go, Clark," she said.
He looked at her in disbelief for a moment, before rising and heading for the door. When he got there, he turned back to her. "Lois…" he began.
"Good-night, Clark," Lois interrupted.
When Clark still hesitated, Lois left him and headed for her room. Clark wasn't sure what to do, so after a moment he started to follow. When he was about half way across the room, Lois re-emerged holding an envelope. She thrust it into his hands before heading past him back to the door. Clark followed.
"What's this?" he asked, indicating the envelope.
"Now we're even," Lois replied. "Good-night, Clark."
Clark sighed. She was obviously not planning to discuss any of this with him. That didn't change his belief that he had a daughter, but Clark wasn't exactly sure what to do now. He needed time to think. Besides, maybe the envelope in his hands contained some answers. He glanced at it — it had his address in Israel on the front. It had obviously been returned. Maybe it was Lois' attempt to tell him she was pregnant. Maybe if he read it, he would understand her behavior. He swallowed hard before nodding and walking out the door.
Once Clark was gone and the door was closed, Lois leaned against it. She should have outright denied that Clark was Jenny's father. She didn't know why she hadn't done so. Actually, she did. She hadn't been able to deny it because part of her desperately wanted him to know. She sank down against the door trying to figure out what she should do next — and having absolutely no idea.
Clark ran his hand through his hair in frustration. He tried sitting down at the table, but after a moment was on his feet pacing again. Across from him were his parents, both wearing their bathrobes.
After leaving Lois', Clark opened the envelope she'd given him, hoping for answers. His heart broke when he saw what was inside. All it contained was some money and a brief note explaining that this was the money she owed him. He pulled in a sharp breath before taking to the skies and heading for Kansas.
When he arrived, he woke his parents up. He didn't even stop to wonder if he should. He had to talk to them. When they heard he might have a three year old daughter, they were suddenly wide awake.
He hadn't given them many details. He didn't think that was fair to Lois, but he did need their advice.
"I don't know how this could have happened," Clark informed them. "Assuming, of course, I am the father. I mean, we were only together once."
"Once is all it takes," Martha responded with a slight grin. "Or didn't your father include that when he explained the facts of life to you?"
Clark looked at his mom, not grasping the humor of the situation. "Of course he did, Mom."
"Look, Son," said Jonathan. "I think you've overlooking something here."
Martha and Clark turned towards Jonathan.
"If this is your daughter…" Jonathan started.
"Our granddaughter," Martha added. In spite of everything, her heart was grabbing on to the idea that she could have a granddaughter.
Jonathan gave his wife his sternest look before continuing, "If this is your daughter, she may have inherited some of your powers."
Clark stopped pacing and looked at his parents. "I hadn't thought about that."
"You have to find out if she's your daughter, Clark. If she is, you have to tell her mother about you," Jonathan said. Both Martha and Clark looked at him in disbelief for a moment. Jonathan was the one who always emphasized the importance of keeping Clark's differences a secret. "I don't think there's any way around it," Jonathan added in explanation. "There could be health consequences for this little girl. Not to mention what would happen if her mother were to find out on her own. We found you in a space ship, so we knew when you started developing your powers that we shouldn't tell anyone. She won't have that advantage."
"So what do I do if she won't tell me?" asked Clark.
"I think you need to see a lawyer and find out exactly what your rights are here," Jonathan said.
Clark took and let out a breath before nodding. He hated the idea of going to a lawyer, but his dad was right. This was more than just his need to know if this was his daughter. This was an issue about her health and safety.
"What about the mother?" Martha asked. "How do you feel about her?"
Clark didn't answer, but the look on his face answered the question for both his parents.
"Just be careful that you don't use this little girl to try to get her mother to love you," Martha cautioned. "You could seriously hurt both of them if you do."
Clark had called around until he found a lawyer who agreed to meet with him first thing in the morning. He shifted uncomfortably as he sat in the waiting room. He really didn't want to be here, but his dad was right. He needed to know if Jenny was his daughter. It was essential if he was going to protect her. He wasn't even sure if he was human. If he wasn't, Jenny could have health problems. That was something Lois needed to know.
Even if Jenny was healthy, there was the question of his powers. What would happen the first time Jenny showed signs of not exactly being normal? Clark snorted. He knew exactly what would happen. Lois would ask every question in the book — including some which hadn't even been written. And if she asked the wrong people… He didn't even want to think about that possibility. He shuddered when he thought of Jenny being put in a lab and dissected like a frog. He knew Lois would do everything she could to prevent it, but by then it might already be too late.
"Mr. Kent?" asked a woman in a business suit.
"Yes," replied Clark, rising to his feet and offering her his hand. After she shook it, Clark continued, "Thank you for meeting with me on such short notice, Ms. Hunter."
Constance Hunter smiled. "Well, I had a last minute cancellation so it was no problem." Having said that, Constance led Clark into her office and gestured him to a chair. "So, what can I do for you?"
Clark hesitated, looking out the window over Constance's shoulder. "I think I might have a daughter and I want to know what my rights are."
Constance regarded him for a moment. "You do know that if you pursue this and are found to be the father, you will be required to pay support."
Clark looked directly into her eyes at the last comment. "If this is my daughter, I want to support her," he said.
"That's a refreshing change," said Constance.
"So what are my rights?" Clark asked.
"Well, if you are the father, you would almost certainly get access. So, the first step is discovering whether you're the father. For that we would probably require the courts to issue a declaration of paternity."
"How would we get that?"
"I take it the mother is denying that you're the father?"
Clark shook his head. "No. She just won't admit that I am. Without that, is there any way for the court to find out if I'm the father? I mean, can they order her to tell me?"
Constance shook her head. "No, they won't order her to tell you. Besides, even if they did, she could simply lie about it. But we can get an order requiring her to submit to DNA testing."
Clark drew in a sharp breath. That was the one thing he couldn't do. If his DNA was different, that would certainly be discernable if he had tests done. Besides, weren't those done by taking blood? The needle would break in his arm. "Is that a blood test?" he asked.
Constance nodded. "Usually that's the way it's done. Why?"
"Umm… I'm afraid of needles," he said in an effort to cover his tracks.
"I guess you need to decide how badly you want to know," Constance replied. "But remember this. If there is any way to work this out with the mother, you might want to consider doing that first. After all, once you bring this to court… Well, let's just put it this way. Most people really take offence to being sued."
Lois settled into the conference room. She was having problems concentrating. She hoped the relative peace of the conference room would help her get her mind back on work. She had gone down to EPRAD this morning and seen the exploded Messenger shuttle. She had watched as the shuttle was moved to a hanger for examination. She would have stayed longer, but Dr. Baines had discovered her and had her removed from the property. So she came back here.
She had sent Jimmy to get Dr. Platt's report. She hoped it would give her some answers on this story. She looked through the official statements that had been issued by EPRAD since the incident. However, in spite of the relative quiet of the conference room, she still couldn't keep her mind on the documents.
Instead, her mind kept drifting back to Clark. She hadn't seen him this morning. When he came by last night, he said he was handing in his resignation this morning. Since she had been a little late getting in, she supposed it was entirely possible he had been here and left. She pulled in a jagged breath. The thought that he might be gone for good was tearing her apart — even though it was what she thought she wanted.
She wondered if knowing about Jenny would change his mind. She knew it was crazy. After all, she had told him he was being ridiculous when he claimed to be her father. She had told him Jenny was none of his concern before throwing him out of her apartment. She had then added insult to injury by throwing the money she owed him into his hands as if she believed he cared about the money when he might have a daughter. Of course he'd handed in his resignation. What other option had she given him?
Lois' thinking was interrupted by Cat slinking into the room. Without waiting for an invitation, Cat slid into a chair across from Lois looking like the proverbial cat that ate the canary. Lois ignored her until Cat, refusing to be ignored, put her feet up on the table, disturbing Lois' research.
"What?" Lois demanded, with more than a touch of irritation in her voice.
"I just stopped by to thank Clark for last night," purred Cat. "Where is he?"
"I haven't seen him, Cat," she responded abruptly, trying to remove the papers that were under Cat's feet.
"Well, I guess I should have expected that."
"What are you talking about?" Lois said with disinterest.
"Well, I don't kiss and tell…"
"Right," responded Lois sarcastically.
"…but last night." She sighed. "Clark may seem like a farmboy, but he's a wild man in bed. It's no wonder he's late this morning."
Cat now had Lois' full attention. "What?"
"You do know what that's like. Or do you?"
Lois studied Cat for a moment. Clark had been at her place last night — unless after their fight, he'd gone back to Cat's. She could hardly believe he would have, but… "Do you really expect me to believe that Clark allowed himself to be lured into your lair when he took you home after the ball?"
Cat smiled in a dreamy way. "He practically begged from the moment we left the ball 'til we arrived at my place."
Okay. So Cat was lying, but why? Suddenly, Lois smiled. Cat obviously saw her as competition. If only she knew exactly how much competition she was. That is, if she decided to act on it. She sighed. If only she could. But Clark was gone. There was now no chance that anything would ever be worked out between them.
"Do you mind, Cat?" Lois finally said.
"Oh. Of course. I forgot. It's not exactly fair of me to brag about my love life when you don't have one," Cat said, before chuckling and making her way out of the conference room.
Major Kenaani got through customs quickly. Of course, he hadn't come through as Major Ben Kenaani. Here in Metropolis, he was simply Mr. Ben Kenaani — businessman. The Institute had made it abundantly clear that this operation was a black op — that meant it had to be kept very quiet. His objective was to locate, apprehend and get Hoffman back to Israel.
Major Ben Kenaani was in the Israeli army most of the time, but he was often loaned to the Mossad for specialized assignments — like this one. Since he had been in on Hoffman's original apprehension and interrogation, the Institute had decided he was the logical choice to head this operation.
Kenaani agreed that finding and bringing Hoffman back to Israel was a high priority. After all, from what they knew, Hoffman was responsible for at least a dozen terrorist operations over the years. The Mossad had been keeping an eye on him even before the Israeli operation four years earlier. However, they hadn't tried to stop him until his operations had been directed at Israel, but now that he had proven he was willing to direct operations against Israel, they were determined to do whatever was necessary to ensure it didn't happen again.
There had been some talk about bringing local authorities into the operation. However, that idea had been rejected. If the FBI or the Metropolis police were involved, there would be more chance of Hoffman finding out they knew he was coming to Metropolis.
Kenaani had only one point of disagreement with his bosses. They had been adamant Lois Lane not be told that Hoffman was coming after her. They insisted they couldn't trust a reporter to keep this quiet. Kenaani had argued she had a right to know — but he had been overruled.
"Shalom, Major," said a young man as Kenaani stepped through the security doors into main part of the airport.
"It's just Ben," Kenaani responded. "And no more Hebrew. We're in America."
"Sorry, Maj… I mean, Ben."
Kenaani smiled. "I assume you're Joel."
"Yes… umm, Ben."
"So has everyone received their instructions?"
"They have. Also, we have an operational apartment set up. It has all the high-tech equipment you requested."
"Any sign of Hoffman yet?"
"No, sir. He hasn't been seen at his home."
"What about Lois Lane?"
Joel shook his head. "We also have her under surveillance and it doesn't appear that he's been anywhere near her."
"I sort of expected that we wouldn't have found him yet. I suspect Hoffman will try to sneak back into America. He won't want customs to have a record of his arrival. That will take him some time. Are our contacts inside immigration alerted, just in case?"
Kenaani smiled at the young man. "Well done," he responded, causing Joel to stand a little straighter in response.
Clark made his way to the Daily Planet. He hadn't worried about being late for work when he'd gone to see Constance Hunter — after all, he was quitting this morning. But after his talk with Ms. Hunter, he knew he didn't have any legal avenues open to him. He couldn't risk a DNA test. More than that, he couldn't let Jenny risk a DNA test. The only option was to find a way to convince Lois to tell him whether Jenny was his daughter. It was possible, he supposed, that Jenny wasn't his. He felt his breath catch in his throat as it suddenly occurred to him just how desperately he wanted to be Jenny's father — although he couldn't quite say why. He had to find a way to get Lois to tell him. For that reason, if none other, he couldn't leave Metropolis — accordingly, he needed a job.
On the other hand, he'd told Lois he was leaving. What was he supposed to say to her now? Before he could figure out a solution, the street beneath him moved and he heard an explosion. He rushed to the center of activity. He saw workers scampering out of a man hole as smoke billowed around them. He heard men yelling about someone being trapped underground. He looked around. There had to be someway to help. He spotted a nearby manhole. He disappeared down it, grabbing the semiconscious man and raising him out of the first manhole — being careful not to be seen.
Once the man was being assisted by his coworkers, Clark got back out the way he'd come. He made his way to where the crowd was assembled to be sure the man was all right. Clark breathed a sigh of relief when he saw he was. Suddenly, the man pointed to him and said that he'd saved him. Clark quickly slunk away into the crowd, hoping no one around knew who he was.
He was depressed as he covered the remaining distance to the Daily Planet building. His close call today reminded him of the problem. That was the third time he'd used his powers since coming to Metropolis. When he'd first arrived, he'd stopped a runaway bus. Then there was the incident at the theater. Now… Yet, how could he leave Metropolis? How could he leave now? Still, he knew he couldn't stop helping people — not when he could. There had to be a way to help people without risking his chance to have a normal life. There had to be — he just couldn't see it.
Clark made his way into the conference room, trying to figure out what to give Lois as a reason for not leaving the Daily Planet.
"You're late," Lois said without looking up.
"Sorry," muttered Clark. "I had something I needed to take care of."
"Well, Jimmy just arrived with Dr. Platt's report so I guess you didn't miss anything." She gestured around at the papers.
"This is it?" asked Clark. The papers were a jumble of confusion.
"I hope you don't have plans for tonight. This is going to take a while," Lois said.
Clark smiled. She obviously wasn't going to bring up his decision to quit. He settled into a chair and started trying to sort papers.
Lois glanced up at Clark. She was relieved when he walked into the conference room. Believing he had already left made her realize just how much she didn't want that to happen. No matter how agonizing it was having him this close without their being together, the prospect of having him leave was worse.
She didn't dare ask him to stay — she was afraid of how he might interpret it. She knew she couldn't trust him to stick around for the long haul. So when he showed up, she'd decided to just pretend he hadn't told her he planned to hand in his resignation.
Lois suddenly noticed how dirty Clark's suit was. "What happened to you?" she asked.
Clark glanced down at himself. For the first time, he realized his suit was covered with dirt from the explosion. "Umm…" started Clark, not quite sure what to say.
"From now on, bring a change of clothes to work with you. That's what I do," Lois said, focusing on the papers in front of her.
Clark stared at her for a moment. He wished it was that easy. He sighed and began looking through papers again. Suddenly, he stopped. A change of clothes? What if… It couldn't be that simple — or could it? He thought about it for a moment.
"That's it!" Clark suddenly exclaimed.
"What?" asked Lois. "Did you find something?"
"Umm… No. No. I'm sorry. I just think I may have figured something out." He quickly began shuffling through papers, hoping she would let it go.
She watched him for a moment, before shrugging and turning her attention back to the papers before her.
After about an hour of work, Jimmy suddenly interrupted.
"Hey, C.K.," said Jimmy. "It's all over the newsroom. You and the Cat woman." To emphasize his point, he clasped his hands together.
"What?" exclaimed Clark, jumping up.
"You know, I never considered asking for your advice about women before, but…"
"It's not true, Jimmy. Nothing happened," he glanced over at Lois. He was terrified of her reaction to these allegations.
Jimmy noticed where Clark was looking. Suddenly, he smiled. "Oh… Oh, right," he said. "Of course not." He winked at Clark before heading out of the room.
"No, Jimmy. I'm serious…" Clark started, but trailed off when Jimmy closed the door behind him. He stood in stunned silence for a moment, looking at the door Jimmy had left through. Suddenly, he remembered Lois. He spun towards her. "It isn't true, Lois. I swear."
Lois kept her eyes firmly on the paper in front of her — trying not to grin. She knew the rumors weren't true, but she was enjoying Clark's reaction. He'd gotten himself into this by asking out someone with Cat's reputation. There was something almost satisfying about seeing Clark squirm. After all, he had only gone out with Cat to hurt her — he had said as much last night.
"Please, you've got to believe me," Clark said.
She sat in silence for a moment more, letting him sweat. Finally, she decided to put him out of his misery. "I know, Clark," she said not looking up at him.
He let out a sigh of relief. "How do you know?" he asked.
"Because Cat was in here earlier. At the time she claimed you two were swinging from the chandeliers, you were at my place."
Clark sank back down into his chair. "Lois…"
"We need to get back to work, Clark," Lois said softly.
Clark sat watching her for a moment more before turning back to the papers in front of him. He wanted so badly to talk to her about Jenny, but he knew she was right. They needed to work. Besides, right now he was just grateful for three things. First, she hadn't said anything about him not handing in his resignation. Second, she believed him when he denied that anything had happened with Cat. But third, and maybe most importantly, they seemed to have established a tentative cease-fire. He didn't know what had brought it about, but it was too new and too welcome for him to do or say anything that would disturb it. At least for the time being.
Besides, he now had a plan that might make it possible for him to stay in Metropolis permanently. He didn't know if that would make a difference between him and Lois, but it might allow him a permanent relationship with his daughter — if Jenny was his daughter. He really wished he could ask without disturbing the oh so welcome peace between them. He sighed before turning his attention again to the document in front of him.
"Do we have surveillance on both Lois Lane and Hoffman's ex-wife?" Ben Kenaani asked.
"Good. Our next step is to get listening devices in both of their residences. Also, can we get a source inside the Daily Planet?"
"I think so, sir. What do you want us to tell them?"
"Just that there's a threat to Ms. Lane and that we need to know everything we can about her in order to protect her. But be very careful that they think they're working for the Metropolis P.D. We'll set up a dedicated phone line which will always be answered as if this is the Metropolis P.D. for him or her to call. Also, make sure they don't tell Ms. Lane. The Institute was very clear about that."
Lois glanced up at the clock for what was probably the tenth time in as many minutes. It was almost Jenny's bed time. She absolutely hated it when work prevented her from tucking Jenny in at night, but they had to find out if there was a plot to sabotage the space program before the colonist launch which was scheduled in less than five days.
Dr. Platt's report was a nightmare. They had spent all day trying to piece it together. It was nothing more than a jumble papers. There were no page numbers. Dr. Platt hadn't even written it all on the same size or color of paper. In fact, some of his notes were written on tissue paper. So they had to look at each page and try to figure out where it went in relation to all the others.
This was the type of work Lois would normally take home, but with Clark helping her, she couldn't. She didn't dare have him come to her apartment. And she had to admit that without Clark's help, she would never be able to piece together this puzzle. He seemed to have a rudimentary understanding of what the report was about. Isotope particles. Coolant devices. It was all Greek to Lois. If it wasn't for Clark, she would probably have given up hours ago. As it was, they were making slow but steady progress. They would surely have some questions for Dr. Platt at the end, but once they had pieced together the report, they could at least find out if his theory about the cause of the last explosion at EPRAD made sense.
She glanced up at the clock again.
"Maybe we should call it a night," came Clark's voice.
"Huh? Oh, umm… no, Clark, I think we need to get this sorted out tonight if we can," Lois responded.
"Well, why don't we take a break, clear our minds? You haven't sat still for the past ten minutes."
Lois looked over at him, debating his suggestion.
Clark looked down at the paper in his hand. "She'd probably like to say good-night to you too," he said softly. "Go. I'll hold down the fort until you get back."
Lois let out a short breath. She opened her mouth to object, but then changed her mind. She studied Clark for a moment. He didn't look up. Instead, he put the latest paper he was examining on a pile marked 'unknown'. Was he expecting something in return for his consideration — some invitation to come over himself? She didn't think so. He seemed sincere in his suggestion.
"Thanks, Clark," she finally said, rising from the desk, grabbing her coat and heading for the elevators. Clark had somehow figured out what was bothering her and was giving her the time she so desperately wanted — she wouldn't question it beyond that.
She was a little surprised he would offer her a break to tuck her daughter in, especially when they were fighting — okay, so not fighting exactly. She got on the elevator and watched him as the doors slid shut. She could really get use to having him for a partner. If she didn't know better, she'd almost think he was acting as if… Suddenly, she pulled in a sharp breath. Almost wasn't it. Why hadn't she seen it? Clark was acting as if he was Jenny's father — even without her confirmation.
A small boat made its way through the darkness using the lights of the city to illuminate its way to the appropriate dock. A man waiting on the dock grabbed the front of the boat as it approached and guided it safely in. A second man disembarked before the boat backed away from the dock. The two men on the dock watched in silence as it left.
Once it was gone, the men embraced. The man from the shore picked up the other man and spun him around before setting him back down, releasing him and stepping away.
"Let me look at you," said the man from the shore. He smiled. "I have to say that my kid brother looks pretty good after four years in an Israeli prison. Are their prisons as bad as I've heard?"
"Worse, Michael. Worse," Roger Hoffman responded, before looking around. "Where's my son? I thought he was going to be here."
"Well, you know your ex-wife," his brother said.
Roger let out a short breath before nodding.
"Well, let's not stand here all night," said Michael, taking his brother's arm and leading him towards a waiting car.
Lois had offered to pick Clark up at nine a.m. However, when she woke up, she changed her mind. The last time she was at his residence, they'd made love. And Lois was only too aware that the electricity that had led to that event was still as powerful between them now as it had been then. As a result, she didn't trust herself to be alone in his hotel room with him. So she'd given him a call and told him she'd meet him at the Planet.
The night before, they'd worked until about two in the morning, putting Platt's report together. Clark had gotten them some great Chinese food at about one. They'd chatted, about nothing in particular, while they ate. She had to admit it was nice. Of course, there had been a moment. The way he had looked at her… She sighed just thinking about it. When she'd finally realized what was happening, she'd got them back to work. This was just so hard — to be so in love with a man who was obviously very attracted to her and not be able to act on it, but she would not complicate things. For Jenny's sake, she couldn't.
When they had finished putting the report together, they'd gone to see Dr. Platt. It was the early hours of the morning, but considering how soon the colonist launch was taking place, they decided to wake him up. By the time they'd arrived, Platt was dead. The police claimed it was a suicide, but Lois didn't buy it. She thought again about Clark's reaction. He'd been guilt ridden that they hadn't protected Platt by anticipating that someone might kill him. She had to admit that she loved his compassion for people. She'd seen it again this morning when Mrs. Platt and her daughter stopped by. He really cared.
They'd sent the reassembled report to Star Labs for analysis. They were waiting for Jimmy to come back any minute. She hoped he had some news for them.
"Hey, guys," said Jimmy.
"What'd they say, Jimmy?" asked Lois, jumping up from her desk.
"Why don't we go into the conference room?" interrupted Clark.
It was only a few moments more before they were safely ensconced in the conference room.
"I gave Star Labs Dr. Platt's report. They recreated the launch in a hologram. It was really smooth," began Jimmy. "Anyway, they concluded that Platt's theory was right on. It was deliberate sabotage and the transport explosion was no accident. Congrats."
Lois was all smiles as she moved to pinch Jimmy's cheek. He moved back out of her reach, making his way to the door.
Lois turned to Clark. "He was right. Platt was right."
"Now we can write the story," said Clark.
"And if we can convince people it was sabotage and who was behind it…"
"We can stop them," Clark concluded.
She threw herself into Clark's arms without thinking. Suddenly the reality of her current position hit her. She knew she should pull back, but couldn't seem to make herself do it. She felt his arms go around her. It felt so right, so safe. She buried her hands in his hair and her face in his neck. Being in his arms was the closest thing to coming home she'd ever known.
"Lois…" he whispered into her ear.
"Shh," she murmured in response.
He fell silent, his arms tightening around her. He closed his eyes. There were so many things he wanted to say, but he was afraid to speak — afraid that if he did, she'd bolt. He felt as if he was holding a frightened animal in his arms. So instead he let his mind go blank and, running his hands over her back, simply reveled in how good it felt to have her back in his arms. He refused to analyze her reasons for being in them — he simply took what he was being given at this moment. His right hand found its way into her soft hair as his left hand pulled her even closer.
Lois finally relaxed her grip around Clark's neck and slid quietly out of his arms. She couldn't quite look at him as she did so. She cleared her throat and said, "I suppose we should get to work writing up the story."
"Lois, please," said Clark. "Can't we at least have dinner tonight so that we can talk?"
Lois looked down. "I can't tonight, Clark. I've already got plans."
Clark was silent for a moment as he considered that. Suddenly he remembered a call she'd received earlier today. "Luthor?" he asked.
Lois looked up at that. She held his eyes for a moment before saying, "It's business, Clark. That's all." She wasn't sure why she felt the need to justify herself. Maybe it was because of what it felt like being back in his arms. Maybe it was because she didn't want to hurt him any more than necessary to protect herself and Jenny. Or maybe it was just because she was simply tired of pretending she didn't have any feelings for Clark.
Clark didn't like Lois spending time with Luthor, but knew he didn't have any right to interfere. He nodded before going over to the window and looking outside.
Lois watched him walk away from her. She waited a moment before following and standing beside him. They silently watched the traffic on the street below. Lois was determined to get this Lex Luthor interview, although she suspected Lex's offer of dinner might be less than professional. Still, she would try to use it to get the first one on one Lex Luthor interview for the Daily Planet. That didn't make it any easier standing here beside Clark, feeling as if she was betraying him by going out with Lex.
"That reminds me," said Lois, merely thinking out loud. "I need to find a babysitter for Jenny. Lucy has plans."
Clark immediately turned towards her. "I don't have any plans for tonight," he said hesitantly.
"I don't think that's such…"
"Please, Lois," he said softly.
Lois looked at him for a moment. He looked so hopeful. It was obvious how much he wanted to be involved with Jenny. If only she could trust him to stay, he'd be the perfect father. She looked down. She already felt guilty about this 'interview' with Lex. How could she deny him some time with his daughter too?
"Just don't say anything to confuse her," she begged. She justified her decision to herself by saying that Jenny had lots of babysitters, one more wouldn't confuse her.
Clark let out a breath. "I won't. I promise." There was a pause. "Thank you, Lois," he said whispered.
She looked up at him. A lock of hair had fallen across his forehead. Without thinking, she reached up and brushed it off. Then she realized what she was doing and stepped away.
"We should get back to writing the story," she said, suddenly all business again.
Clark smiled. He could hardly believe she was allowing him to spend time with Jenny. Maybe all he had to do was be patient. He could do that. After all, Clark Kent did patient very well.
The 'plumbers' got the landlord to open the door to Lois' apartment. They thanked him and entered the apartment.
"What's going on?" asked Olive. She had come to investigate when she heard a noise outside her apartment.
"There's a problem with the plumbing," the landlord said. "They think it's a problem in Ms. Lane's apartment."
"There's a problem with the plumbing?" Olive asked, before going back into her apartment and trying the water. There was none. She made her way back to the door. "So how long will it be before the water is back on?"
"They tell me it should be about half an hour at most," the landlord informed Olive.
It was less then half an hour before the plumbers managed to fix the problem — a problem which they had orchestrated. In doing so, they were able to plant the necessary listening devices in accordance with Kenaani's instructions.
Hoffman stormed into an elegant home in one of the better sections of Metropolis.
"Simon," he yelled into the beautiful house. When there was no answer, he yelled again.
An attractive, middle-aged red haired woman rushed into the room. "What are you doing here?" she demanded.
"I'm looking for my son," Hoffman said, yelling Simon's name again.
"How dare you come in here demanding to see your son after what you did?"
"What did I do?" he demanded in response.
"Because of you and your activities, he was abandoned in Israel, having to find his own way back to America."
"Well, I was sort of occupied, being in prison and all," Hoffman responded. "Besides, you don't seem to mind accepting money from my 'activities'," he added, gesturing around at the luxurious living environment.
"Dad?" asked Simon, coming into the room. "Dad, how… Why wasn't I told you were out?"
"That wasn't my fault," Hoffman said, glaring at his ex-wife. "We have work to do," he informed his son.
When Simon grabbed his jacket and started to follow, he was stopped by his mother. "You're not going," she informed him.
He pulled his arm from his mother's grasp. "I am too," he said, following his father out the door.
Across the road, the Mossad agents recognized Hoffman as soon as he approached the house. They were still waiting for an opportunity to plant listening devices in the house of Hoffman's ex-wife. When he came out with a young man and got back into his car, they followed.
"We lost him," the men explained to Kenaani a short time later.
Kenaani nodded. "I told you, he's a pro. I doubt he'll have any further communication with his ex-wife. Still, install the listening devices and keep a team out in front of her house — just in case. Our best bet is to get him when he goes after Lane."
Lex Luthor walked Lois to the door of her apartment following their 'interview.' He leaned in to kiss her good-night, but Lois placed a hand on his chest, stopping him.
"Good-night, Lex," she said softly.
Luthor looked slightly shocked for a moment, as if no woman had ever denied him before. However, he quickly recovered. He placed a charming smile on his face — although the smile didn't quite reach his eyes.
"Good-night," he replied, stepping back.
Lois watched as Lex made his way to the stairs. She then turned the keys in her locks and opened the door to her apartment. At the sight that greeted her, she stepped inside, softly closed the door and very quietly removed her coat.
On the couch, Clark was sound asleep. On his lap was Jenny, sleeping against his chest. In front of them, the T.V. was playing an infomercial. She stood in the doorway and watched them. She couldn't help but smile. It was a sight she had always dreamed of seeing. After the frustrating evening she'd had, it was so nice to come home to this.
Her interview with Lex Luthor had not gone well. It became obvious very early he had no intention of giving her an interview. It was a date — nothing more. She had to admit he had a great pick-up line. He had told her she wasn't there merely because she was a beautiful woman. He had gone on to elaborate. 'My talent in life is not making money. It's not juggling companies. It's character assessment. And I sense things about you. Possibilities. Potentials. You have the intelligence, the spirit and the vision to transcend the mundane. And just so there are no misunderstandings, you are beautiful.' It was hard not to be swept up in his words — especially given the intensity with which he'd delivered them. But standing here, looking at the sight before her, she knew without any doubt that she had absolutely no interest in Lex Luthor.
She knew it was dangerous letting Clark establish a relationship with Jenny — even in the capacity of babysitter. But she had been incapable of turning him down. All he had to do was turn those puppy dog eyes on her, and she was putty in his hands. She sighed. If only she had some reason to believe he'd stick around… Lois shook her head. She found it remarkable that Clark was willing to risk his heart by acting like Jenny's father when he didn't know if he was.
She made her way over to the T.V. and flicked it off. She bent down and removed the video tape from the VCR and placed it in the case sitting nearby. She smiled as she looked at the cover. 'Bambi.' She didn't think that was probably part of Clark's top ten list. She glanced over at him. He was awake and silently watching her.
She held up the video, raising her eyebrows at him as she did so. He shrugged, shifting slightly, cautious not to disturb the child in his arms.
"I voted for Aladdin," he said softly.
"So I guess she won?"
"Not exactly. That was our compromise video."
"Let me guess," Lois said. "The Little Mermaid."
"How did you…"
"It's her favorite."
Clark chuckled softly.
"So, how did you like it?" she asked with a grin, indicating the video.
"Well, I saw it as a kid. I don't remember it being such a tear-jerker."
"You mean when Bambi's mother died?"
Clark grinned. "No, when Bambi, Thumper and Flower were twiterpated."
It took Lois a moment, but it finally sunk in. She had watched the video with Jenny a number of times during the past year, so she knew what he was referring to. "So you cried when they were twiterpated?" she asked.
Clark shook his head. "No, but it was sure close. I guess I sort of sympathized. Poor guys."
"So you've been twiterpated?"
Clark's smiled faded for a moment. "Only one woman has ever had that effect on me," he said softly, holding Lois' eyes. He then cleared his throat and his grin returned. "You know, if I had to speculate on man's greatest weakness, that would be it."
"What would?" asked Lois. "Women?"
Clark's eyes filled with mischief as he said, "Definitely. Without women, men would actually stand a chance at a rational life."
Lois grabbed a cushion off the couch and raised it as if to throw it at him. However, her eyes were positively sparkling.
Clark held up a hand, as if to protect himself from the impending threat. He then gestured to the sleeping child in his arms. Lois lowered the cushion.
"You are so lucky, Kent," she said with a grin. With that, Lois came over and went to remove Jenny from Clark's arms.
"Let me?" he asked softly. She caught her lower lip between her teeth.
For a moment Clark thought she was going to refuse, but then she nodded. He easily shifted Jenny in his arms in order to rise. Without waking her, he walked to her bedroom.
Lois watched as Clark tucked a still sleeping Jenny into bed. He then bent over, giving her a soft kiss on the forehead. She felt tears come to her eyes. She looked down as Clark turned towards her. She didn't want him to see exactly how much this was affecting her. When he walked back into the living room, she followed. She wondered momentarily if he would try to stay. She tensed in anticipation of having to turn him down, but he walked to the door, pulled on his shoes and grabbed his jacket.
"How'd your interview go?" he asked as he put his jacket on. That wasn't what he really wanted to know, but he didn't dare question her about Jenny's paternity. He had been given a very special gift tonight — he didn't want to spoil it by fighting with Lois. Lois already knew he wanted to know if he was Jenny's father. He hoped if he was patient, she would tell him.
Lois let out a frustrated breath. "It didn't."
"Trust me, you don't want to know."
Clark had to admit her cryptic response made him curious, but he didn't follow up. He made his way over to the door. "Thank you, Lois," he said when he got there. He was tempted to ask if he could stay for a while, but didn't. His mother's warning not to use Jenny to get to Lois was echoing in his mind. Besides, he didn't want Lois to think his reason for offering to babysit Jenny was to spend time with her and not Jenny. He needed Lois' trust if he was going to get her to tell him if Jenny was his. He would not give her any reason to doubt his intentions.
"Clark, don't go forming any attachments to Jenny," she warned.
He smiled slightly. "I think you're too late, Lois. She's a great kid. You've done a really great job with her."
She looked down. All of Luthor's compliments this evening paled in comparison with Clark's simple comments.
Clark was on his way out the door when he suddenly remembered something. "Oh, I almost forgot." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a number of small mechanical devices.
Lois looked at his hand. "What are those?" she asked.
"They're surveillance devices. I found them in your apartment."
Clark shrugged. They let off a high pitched frequency he was able to pick up with his enhanced hearing abilities. However, he couldn't tell her that. "I found one by accident. Once I realized what it was, I looked for others. This is what I found."
"Should I get someone to come in and check for more?" she asked.
"That might be a good idea," said Clark, although he knew the place was now clean. However, how could he tell Lois that? "Who would want to bug your place?" he asked.
Lois shook her head. "The only thing I'm really working on at the moment is the space program. I suppose it could be someone there." She was silent for a moment. "Thanks, Clark," she said.
"Are you okay?" he asked.
She gave him a wry smile. "Yeah. I mean I hate the fact that strangers have been in here. I guess on the plus side it means we're making someone nervous."
Clark looked at her for a moment. He was tempted to ask if she wanted him to stay, but didn't want her to think he was trying to take advantage of the situation. "If you need me, call," he finally said. "Anytime."
"You do have my number, don't you."
Again she nodded.
He let out a short breath. "Well, I guess I should go then," he said. "Good-night, Lois."
"Good-night, Clark," she replied. "And don't worry, we'll be fine."
Roger Hoffman met with his son and brother at the safe house.
"How many men do we have?" asked Roger.
Michael took a deep breath. "Well, as you know, most of our men are now being held prisoner in Israeli prisons."
"I know that, Michael. But there must be some…"
"I think I can make arrangements to get about a dozen other men. But you need to realize that I won't know more than about one or two. I don't like doing business this way, Roger. We should take time to rebuild before we attempt something like this."
Roger snorted. "I've waited for four years for my revenge. I'm not about to wait 'til we've rebuilt our organization before taking care of this."
"Why don't we just kill Lois Lane?" asked Simon. "That shouldn't be too difficult. After all, she's only a reporter."
"Because I don't just want Lois Lane," clarified Roger. "I want the man who helped her."
"But we don't know who he is," said Simon.
"No, we don't. His name never made it into any of the news reports. Not even Lane's. But she must know."
"So how do we get that information from her?" asked Simon.
"That's what we need to figure out. I want you to find out everything you can about Lois Lane."
Simon nodded before looking around. "Where's Uncle Jack?" asked Simon. "I thought he was with you in prison. Wasn't he able to escape too?"
Roger and Michael exchanged looks. Finally, deciding it was time for Simon to understand what it took to run this type of business, Roger spoke. "He's dead, Simon."
"Dead?" Simon gasped. "Those bast…"
"I killed him," Roger interrupted.
"This is something you'd better learn right now. Jack betrayed the organization. He told the Mossad when and where our men were arriving. Because of him, we lost the organization. I let him think I'd forgiven him — because I needed his help to smuggle the explosives into the jail — but no one betrays me. No one!"
Simon swallowed hard. He had been close to Jack Spenser. Over the years, Spenser had given Simon the attention his own father often denied him, but Simon bit back his tears and nodded. "I understand," he informed his father.
Lois picked up the video tape and was putting it away when she stopped. She looked at the tape for a moment. Twiterpated, huh? She smiled, walked back over to the T.V. and reinserted the tape. She turned on the T.V., grabbed the remote and settled back into the couch. Lois used the remote to fast forwarded until the young adult Bambi appeared on the screen.
She watched as Thumper and Flower joined Bambi taking to Friend Owl. The three young heroes watched in confusion as two birds chased each other through the air before one asked what was wrong with the birds. Owl informed him that the birds were twiterpated. All three wanted to know what that meant, so Friend Owl explained.
"Nearly everybody gets twiterpated in the spring time," Friend Owl said. "For example, you're walking along, minding your own business. You're looking neither to the left nor to the right. When all of a sudden you run smack into a pretty face. You begin to get weak in the knees. Your head's in a whirl and then, you feel light as a feather. And before you know it, you're walking on air. And then, you know what, you're knocked for a loop and you completely lose your head."
All three vowed it would never happen to them. Then, as Lois watched, one after another met a pretty face and was instantly 'twiterpated.' She had to admit that the look on Thumper's face when he was twiterpated did remind her a little bit of the look she'd seen on Clark's face when they'd met in Israel all those years ago. She also considered her own feelings when she'd seen Clark and Jenny sleeping on the couch together. The looks on the faces of Bambi, Flower and Thumper pretty much reflected those feelings too.
Just then the door opened and Lucy entered.
"Hey," said Lucy, coming in and removing her coat. She glanced at the T.V. and then back to Lois in confusion. "What are you doing?"
Lois grinned. "I think I'm twiterpated, Lucy," she informed her sister.
Lois pointed to the T.V. screen. "Twiterpated," she repeated.
"Oh, right. You had that date with Lex Luthor tonight. I take it it went well."
"Lex?" Lois asked in confusion.
"Your date," Lucy reminded her.
"Oh. It wasn't a date, Luc. I told you, it was an interview. Or would have been if Lex hadn't continually thwarted me."
"If this isn't about Lex…"
"Clark," Lois said dreamily.
Suddenly, Lucy was extremely interested. "I take it you've talked to him then."
"Sort of. I mean, he got a job at the Daily Planet."
Lois nodded. "Oh, Lucy, he's just so…"
"So you two are back together?"
"No. Of course not. I can't take that risk, Lucy. You know that."
Lucy growled in frustration.
"He babysat tonight, Luc. When I came home, he and Jenny were asleep on the couch. They just looked so incredible together."
"So you told him about Jenny," Lucy said.
"No. Of course, he suspects he's her father. But no, I can't take that risk."
"So he babysat, while you went out on a date and he doesn't even know that this is his daughter? You've got to be kidding. Are you sure it wasn't just a tactic to get to you?"
"It was an interview," Lois said in frustration. "And Clark didn't even suggest staying when I got home. Lucy, if he is here to stay…" She sighed. "I just wish I could know if he's going to stick around."
"So are you planning to tell him that he's Jenny's father?"
"No. At least not yet" She suddenly sat up straight and looked at her sister. "And since you're the only other one who knows, don't say anything — to anyone."
"Don't worry, sis."
"By the way, how was your date?"
Lucy rolled her eyes. "I didn't think it was possible for a guy to comb his hair so many times in one evening."
"I take it he was obsessed with his appearance."
"Obsessed? I only wish," Lucy said, before smiling at her sister and heading to the kitchen. "He even told me exactly how much fat was in everything I ate. I am famished."
Lois shook her head as she turned back toward the television. Twiterpated. That was definitely the word to describe how she was feeling tonight. She pushed all of the reasons she couldn't get involved with Clark to the back of her mind in order to enjoy these feelings. She would worry about the rest of it tomorrow.
"What do you mean, she found them?" Kenaani asked in disbelief.
"She came home tonight with the kid. She fed the kid. A man arrived to babysit while she went to interview some guy named Lex Luthor…" Joel explained.
"Lex Luthor," said Kenaani, obviously impressed. "He's one of the richest men in the world, but I thought he didn't give interviews."
Joel shrugged before continuing. "Well, almost as soon as she left, the man found the bugs."
Kenaani let out a short breath. "Okay. Well, she's likely to be looking for any further attempt to bug her apartment… Let's leave that for now. Just be very careful you don't lose her. If you do, we won't have any idea where she's going."
"Do we have a source in the Daily Planet?"
Joel nodded. "Her name's Rahalia. She's with janitorial. As a result, she is one of the invisible people — a person who tends not to get noticed. She can also be anywhere without raising suspicions."
"Very good. Does she think she's doing this for the Metropolis P.D.?"
Perry examined the article in front of him as Lois, Clark and Jimmy stood in his office. "All right, let me see if I've got this straight," he finally said. "Now, you want me to publish a story that says that the Prometheus project is being sabotaged. That the space transport, Messenger, exploded. And that the transport carrying the habitation module to space station Prometheus, scheduled to be launched in less than three days, is probably also going to blow up. And all of this information you got from interviewing Samuel Platt. A man who was banned from the scientific community, underwent psychiatric treatment and committed suicide. Although, he was probably murdered. Now, does that about sum it up?"
"Chief…" started Lois.
"Hard facts! Hard facts! That's the name of this game. Now go out there and get me some."
With that Lois, Clark and Jimmy scampered from the room to obey. Lois was furious. She had wasted last night not getting an interview with Lex Luthor because she believed they had finished the Prometheus article. She was absolutely determined to get this story — and to get it now! She heard Clark say something about trying to get permission to examine the wrecked shuttle. She basically ignored him, grabbing her jacket and heading for the door. She was going to examine the shuttle, whether she had permission or not. She was only vaguely aware that Jimmy had followed her.
Together, Lois and Jimmy snuck onto EPRAD property. They found the hanger where a shuttle was being examined easily enough. It was the center of frantic activity as scientists searched for answers. Lois immediately realized they were examining the wrong shuttle. She had seen the shuttle that exploded. The whole left side had been blown off. That was not the case with this shuttle.
They snuck quietly away to search for the real shuttle. It took them a long time, but finally they found it. She instructed Jimmy to begin taking pictures. She also informed him she intended to find a way into Dr. Baine's office to find out if she received Dr. Platt's report — as Platt had claimed. Just then, Dr. Baines showed up. She was accompanied by a big rough-looking man — obviously the muscle.
After a brief struggle, Lois was tied up and Jimmy was unconscious.
Clark was worried about the length of time Lois and Jimmy had been missing. He decided to go after her. There was one tense moment when Perry almost walked in on him as he was about to fly out the storage room window. Clark knew it was a risk going after being interrupted by Perry, but his gut told him Lois was in trouble. She seemed to have a real knack for that sort of thing.
When he arrived at the hanger, he looked through a window. He had been right. Lois was in trouble. She was tied up and standing over her were Dr. Baines and some man. Clark, without thinking about what he was doing, burst into the room. He immediately realized his mistake. There was no way for him to act now without letting everyone in the room know his secret. So he let himself be captured, hoping to find an opportunity to save Lois and Jimmy without giving himself away. He soon found himself tied to the same post as Lois, with his back to hers.
Lois was furious with him.
"I still can't believe you came barreling in here like some five hundred pound gorilla. If you really thought we were in trouble, why didn't you bring the police," fumed Lois, once they were alone.
"Don't tell me. I already know. It's because you're just like every other man in Metropolis. You've got this testosterone surplus that says I can do it myself. Baines has got to kill us now, I don't know why she hasn't done it already."
"Lois, I've somehow managed to…"
"Mess everything up? No kidding."
"Now hold on a second, I'm not the one who snuck in here and…"
"What are you saying, Clark? That this is my fault? At least I had the guts to come in here and… What am I saying, it probably is my fault." She paused. When she continued, her voice was a lot less certain. "I sometimes do things," she finally admitted. "You know, like jump into the pool without checking the water level first. But, Clark, it's the only way I know how to do it. How to get the job done. To get the respect that I want… that I deserve." Her voice trailed off.
"Lois," said Clark softly. "I just want you to know that everybody at the Planet… everyone thinks you are just about the best reporter they've ever met."
"They do," said Lois, her voice teary.
"Perry told me that the day I interviewed," he paused, "and I don't know if it means much coming from me, but I think you're pretty terrific too."
"Oh, Clark," said Lois. "I'm sorry. About everything. I know I've been pretty mean to you since you started working at the Planet. I'm really sorry about that. It's just… Well, I know you aren't going to be here very long. I'm just so scared of what will happen to me and Jenny if we let you become part of our lives. I can't let that happen to Jenny. Please understand," she begged. "I know it's too late now, but I do want you to know that I was never rejecting you. I just can't let you hurt Jenny."
Clark let out a short breath. "I was hoping it was something like that. Lois, I'm working on a plan that might allow me to stay in Metropolis. As soon as I…"
Just then, Dr. Baines reentered the room. "Well, I hope you'll forgive the accommodations. Then again I never was much of a hostess."
"Answer one question for me," asked Lois. "Why?"
"It's simple, Lois. Outer space is like any other new frontier. It will belong to those who get there first and seize the high ground."
Clark blinked. That was the same thing he'd heard Luthor and Baines talking about the night of the ball. Of course. Why hadn't he seen it before? Luthor had announced at the ball that if the Congress of Nations decided not to proceed with Space Station Prometheus, he was prepared to launch his own space station — Space Station Luthor. He had claimed he would do so in order to ensure that the benefits to mankind which a space station would provide would not be lost to the people of earth. He hadn't mentioned all the money that Lex Corp could make from the patents for any new vaccines developed in the zero gravity lab. Clark knew he was right to be suspicious of Luthor.
"Sorry, you won't be around to enjoy the rest of the evening," Baines continued, looking at Clark. "But accidents do happen."
"Accidents?" asked Lois.
"Yes," said Dr. Baines, trying to sound sorry. "You see while dismantling the orbiting maneuvering system, the monomethal hydrogen leaked and mixed with the nitrogen hydroxide." With this, she turned taps on two barrels, causing two liquids to leak towards each other. "Unfortunately, the blast killed three nosey reporters who didn't bother to read the signs," concluded Baines, coming over and giving Clark a kiss goodbye.
Lois saw the action and rolled her eyes.
Clark kept his eyes on the two liquids as they slowly made their way towards each other. He had to give Dr. Baines enough time to leave, but he knew he couldn't wait longer than that — not if he wanted to get Lois and Jimmy out alive.
As soon as he could, Clark snapped the chains that were binding him before breaking the bonds holding Lois. She started to question how he had done that, but there wasn't time. Clark grabbed Jimmy and ran with Lois towards the door. Just as they ran through, the warehouse exploded. There was no choice. Clark wrapped an arm around Lois and, with Jimmy over his shoulder, flew them to a nearby mud puddle. He hoped the mud would protect them from any fiery shrapnel that might accompany the explosion and provide an alternative to the hard ground for landing. After all, Clark couldn't be gentle on landing. A moment later, three mud soaked reporters looked up. Dirty, but safe and sound.
When Lois questioned what had happened, Clark explained that the blast from the explosion must have carried them. He was relieved when she didn't pursue it. Just then, Lois pointed to a helicopter that was just taking off. As they looked up, it suddenly exploded.
Ben Kenaani listened in silence as one of his men reported that someone had tried to kill Lois Lane.
"Is she all right?" he asked when the explanation was over.
"Yes, sir. When my relief arrived, she had just entered the Daily Planet, presumably to write up the story."
Kenaani let out a short breath. "Was Hoffman involved in this attempt?"
"I don't think so. It seems this had to do with sabotage of the space program. I did the right thing, didn't I, sir?" the man asked. "I mean, the only way I could have intervened was to let her know she was under surveillance."
"It's just… Sir, I know it's important to keep this quiet so that we can recapture Hoffman. But what if she hadn't lived and I'd just stood by and watched. How would that have helped us get Hoffman?"
Kenaani studied the man for a moment. He also felt frustrated about not involving Lois Lane in this. "Okay, if there is another attempt on Lois Lane's life, you have my authorization to get involved. Make sure everyone has those instructions. I'll take any heat we pick up from the Institute because of it. After all, if Ms. Lane is killed, we don't stand much of a chance getting Hoffman. He lived underground for years. He'll just go underground again. Lois Lane is our best chance of getting him." Besides, he liked Lois Lane. She had kept her word about waiting until they had finished their investigation before publishing the story in Israel — and, she was really cute.
"So what did you find out about Lois Lane?" asked Roger Hoffman.
"Well, it seems that she is something of a workaholic. She lives with her sister and her daughter," replied Simon.
"How old is she?"
"Just over three years, I think."
"Did you get a birth certificate?"
"No, sir," replied Simon. Then to his father's look of disapproval added, "But I did get a Statement of Live Birth." He rustled through his papers until he found the one he was looking for. He handed it to his father.
Roger studied it for a moment. "No father is listed?" he finally mused. "So…" He did some quick calculations in his head. The timing would be right. "I want to know who the father is. I think it's entirely possible that he's the man we're looking for. After we were captured, I saw them talking briefly. There was definitely something going on between them.
"I'm not sure I've ever seen two people generate more heat by just looking at each other," Roger continued. "And if he is the father…" Roger smiled. "…that would be quite a stroke of luck."
"How's that?" asked Simon.
"Let's find out if he is first," said Roger.
Simon fell silent for a moment before saying, somewhat hesitantly, "I've got an idea about how to get more information." His father regarded him carefully. Simon cleared his throat and continued, "I made a point of meeting Lucy Lane today. She's Lois Lane's sister. I have a tentative date with her. I wanted to run the idea by you first."
His father smiled. He was right. His son was an idea man. "Did you give her your name?" he asked.
"She knows me as Simon Howard."
"Very good. See what information you can get out of her. But be careful. We don't want her alerting her sister."
Lois stood under the stream of hot water, watching the muddy water swirl at her feet. It had been a good day. She and Clark had gone back to the Daily Planet after confirming that Dr. Baines was on the helicopter that had exploded. They had been told that, although an investigation would be conducted, they suspected the helicopter had picked up some shrapnel from the exploding warehouse.
The story was now written up and she was back in her apartment, enjoying the feeling of hot water cascading down her body. Her muscles were already starting to cramp from landing in that mud puddle. She only wished the explosion could have landed them on a nice soft mattress somewhere — she forced her mind off the images that immediately brought to mind.
She grinned when she thought about Perry's face when he'd finished reading the article. It would be in the morning paper. She wondered briefly if it would bring about her next Kerth award — actually, their next Kerth award. After all, Clark's name was right beside hers on the story. She got top billing, but she had to admit, for a rookie he wasn't bad. Besides, she sort of liked working with him.
She did wonder if she had told him too much when they'd been tied up in the warehouse, but she had been convinced they were about to be killed. Now that he knew how she felt about him, would he start pressuring her to get involved with him? Her brow furrowed as she remembered what he'd said to her. What did he mean he might have found a way to stay in Metropolis? Was there some reason she didn't know about for his habit of constantly moving?
She reached out and turned off the water as she considered the possibilities. Was he running from something? Her immediate thought was he must have committed some horrible crime, but that ran contrary to everything she knew about Clark. Admittedly, it wasn't as if she knew him well, but he was just too conservative and compassionate to have committed a crime that would have kept him running from country to country for so many years.
She dried off and slipped into her robe, stepping out of the bathroom. When she did, she saw Lucy pulling on her coat.
"Where are you going?" Lois asked, heading into the kitchen.
"I got a date," Lucy said, with a smile at her sister.
"You snooze, you lose," Lucy responded. "Besides, you should see this guy, Lois. He's gorgeous."
Lois shook her head. "So what's his name?"
"Where did you meet him?"
"What's this? You pulling the big sister act on me again."
"Lucy, you've got to be careful. One of these days…"
"I'm going to be taken in by the wrong guy and…"
"Find yourself in serious trouble."
Lucy laughed before coming over and giving her sister a kiss on the cheek. "Don't wait up," she informed Lois with a wink, before heading for the door.
"I never do," Lois said, turning towards the fridge to get some supper for her and Jenny. She supposed that was one of the advantages of having Jenny. Jenny had forced her to learn to cook and ensured that she ate somewhat more healthily than she expected she would without her.
Luthor was watching and re-watching the explosion of Dr. Baine's helicopter when Nigel entered the room. He had hated having to kill her before she completed the mission of destroying the space station, but the Daily Planet was getting too close and Luthor couldn't risk them finding out about his involvement. He switched off the T.V. and turned to Nigel.
"What did you find out about Mr. Kent?" Luthor asked.
"Well, it seems that Mr. Kent is something of a vagabond. He has been living in various countries for the past number of years. Before that, he lived in Kansas," replied Nigel.
"Any connection between him and Ms. Lane?"
Nigel blinked. Was Lois Lane the reason his boss was interested in Clark Kent? "I don't see how, sir. As I found out when I previously researched Ms. Lane, she's lived in Metropolis all her life. There's no indication that Mr. Kent has ever even been to Metropolis before.
Luthor smiled. "Good. Then all I need to do is find a way to bring Ms. Lane over to our side."
"And how do you plan to do that, sir?"
"Trust me, Nigel. I'll think of something."
Lois Lane had uncovered a number of Luthor's criminal operations over the years — although she'd never connected these activities to him. Luthor had been contemplating finding a way to stop her even before they'd met. Now, having met her and realizing how desirable she was, his strategy was changing. He was confident he could find a way to turn her around. She was a woman, after all — and Luthor had never known a woman he couldn't seduce if he put his mind to it.
Luthor was almost looking forward to the challenge. He had few real challenges anymore — and her rejection of him at the door of her apartment last night told him she could be the challenge he was currently looking for in his life.
Lois looked around the newsroom trying to spot Clark. Their story came out in this morning's paper. Perry had allowed a celebration, but had soon reminded everyone they still had a paper to get out tomorrow. She hadn't seen much of Clark since. Perry had them working on separate stories today. She shook her head. This was crazy. She was actually missing him!
Last night Lois realized that she and Clark needed to have a serious talk. He now knew exactly why she didn't want to get involved with him — thanks to her pre-death confession. Yet she still didn't know what he meant about finding a way to stay in Metropolis. And if his reasons for drifting from place to place were not just an inability to settle down, she needed to know. After all, one way or another, it could determine whether it was worth risking her heart and that of her daughter, on a man who'd never put down roots.
She considered uncovering his reasons for herself, but decided before doing so, she would give him a chance to explain. It wasn't the way Lois usually handled these types of situations, but she was a little worried if she dug too deep, she might alert authorities to Clark's presence here in Metropolis. Then he would be on the run again and she didn't know if she could bear to lose him — no matter what he might have done in the past. So she decided to give him a chance to tell her first. After all, there had to be some sort of logical explanation for whatever it was. And maybe together, they could find a way to solve it.
"Jimmy, have you seen Clark?" she asked, when Jimmy passed close to her desk.
"Umm… Yeah, I saw him leaving for the weekend just a few minutes ago," Jimmy informed her, before hurrying on.
Lois quickly finished up the story she was working on and gave it to Perry before heading out. Clark was probably at his hotel. And although the idea of being alone with him in a hotel room made her nervous, she really wanted to talk to him as soon as possible. So, in spite of her head's warning to say away from any room where she and Clark would be alone with a bed, she walked to the Hotel Apollo.
It was close to the Daily Planet, but that was about the only good thing Lois could say about it. He must have been telling the truth when he'd claimed he was broke. She opened the door and walked into the lobby. As she stepped up to the counter, she wiped her hands on her slacks, hoping to remove the germs she'd picked up from touching the doorknob.
"Which room is Clark Kent's?" she asked.
The unshaven, grimy man behind the counter, set down his beer and looked over at her. He slowly ran his eyes down her body before meeting her eyes. Lois cringed in response. She didn't think she'd have a problem disabling this lush if he tried anything, but he had mastered the art of making her feel raped without ever touching her. He walked slowly over to the register and flipped it open. As he was rifling through it, he spoke.
"I could show you a better time, baby. Why don't you spend the night with me instead?"
"I would, but I'm allergic to stupid," she replied.
He glared at her for a moment before snorting and turning his attention to the register. "Kent. Room 17. It's up the stairs."
Lois knocked on the door of room 17. She then shifted nervously. She clearly remembered the last time she'd come to Clark's residence — almost as if it was yesterday. She could still taste the way he kissed, still feel the way he touched her. She looked around at the grimy walls and floors, hoping that the environment would dampen her desire. She had to do what was right for Jenny — whatever that did or didn't mean for her and Clark. She swallowed hard and knocked again. There was no answer.
She glanced around. No one was in the hallway. She withdrew a bobby pin and tried something Jimmy had shown her while they were waiting for Perry to read their story. She had the door to Clark's hotel room open almost immediately. She obviously had a knack for breaking locks. She smiled before slipping into the room and closing the door. Clark wasn't here.
She looked around at the room, expecting it to be as grimy as the rest of the hotel, and was surprised to find it incredibly clean. Clark must have done that himself. She looked around. There was a pay phone on the wall and a small kitchen along one wall. She glanced in the fridge. It was full of junk food. She shook her head. The same was true for the cupboards. He didn't seem to have any real food in here.
She walked over to the bed. She slowly ran her hand over the covers, involuntarily thinking about what could happen in that bed. She looked in the closet. He still seemed to have his clothes here. She breathed a sigh of relief at this sign that he was still around.
She took a final look around the room before she saw it. The only personal touch in the room was a framed picture sitting on a night table by the bed. She walked over and picked it up. It was a hand drawn picture of her. She ran her fingers slowly over the picture. She felt her breath catch in her throat at the implications. She carefully set the picture back in its place. How had he obtained a hand drawn picture of her? She took another look around the room. She noticed a large drawing book. She picked it up and flipped through a number of drawings. It seemed that Clark was something of an artist.
As she turned to the last page, she found another picture that caught her breath. It was a picture of Jenny. She set the book back in its place and quickly made her way out of the room. She had to find Clark.
Lois left the hotel and wandered around, checking out nearby restaurants — hoping he'd gone to one of them for supper. However, she had no luck. She tried to figure out where he might be. After all, she didn't think he knew anyone in Metropolis. Finally, she realized she would just have to accept that she couldn't find him. She made her way to the daycare center to pick up Jenny before heading back to her apartment. She could, after all, try calling him later.
Clark was excited when he landed on the farm. His mother had told him they could spend this weekend trying to come up with a costume for him. If this worked, if he had an effective disguise, he wouldn't have to worry about people finding out about him — he hoped. His father had reservations and Clark had to admit it was a long shot, but he had to try something — especially after Lois' admission that his inability to settle down was what was keeping them apart.
He made his way into the house and was almost immediately lost in fabric and measuring tapes as his mother tried to come up with something that would work.
Simon picked up a small flat stone and, using a sideways throw, attempted to skip the rock across the surface of the water of Hobbs Bay. When that one failed, he bent down and picked up a handful more before rising and trying again.
Simon had grown up considerably in the past four years. Gone was the scrawny nineteen year old who had accompanied his father to Israel. In his place was a tall, muscular young man. A young man who had blamed himself every day for the past four years for his father's capture. If only he hadn't screwed up and fallen asleep, he would never have lost that reporter and his father would never have wound up in an Israeli prison.
Simon had worked very hard for the past four years and had established a small computer company. He was just starting to make enough money so that he'd started looking for his own place. He intended to return to his business, but first, he owed this final mission to his father and Uncle Jack.
Uncle Jack. He threw his next rock with a vengeance and watched it skip across the water three times before sinking below the surface. Uncle Jack had been like a father to him when his own parents hadn't seemed to care. Simon was eight years old when his parents' marriage had ended. The two adults were so caught up in fighting with each other that they had completely forgotten about their son. Uncle Jack had stepped in and filled the gap.
The eight year old boy had blamed himself completely for the breakdown of his parents' marriage. If only he had remembered to clean up his toys when his mother told him to… If only he could do better in math… If only… his father wouldn't have left.
Simon clearly remembered one day, right in the middle of that time, when Uncle Jack had brought him to this very dock. Uncle Jack explained to him that the divorce wasn't his fault. Simon had grabbed onto that hope. And although for years he doubted the truth of Uncle Jack's words, they had got him through some rough times.
A tear slipped inadvertently down Simon's cheek. He brushed it away angrily. His father would see tears as a sign of weakness. Besides, Uncle Jack's death had been his own fault. Everyone knew you didn't betray the great Roger Hoffman.
Well, he would do this one mission and then he and his father would be even. After that, he would be his own man and choose his own path. He threw his remaining stone across the water before turning to leave.
Lois took Jenny when she went into the Daily Planet on Sunday afternoon. She was still unable to contact Clark. She was terrified. What if whatever he was running from had already caught up with him? That's why she was at the Planet. She was determined to find out what he was running from in order to find a way to keep him. Since Lucy was on a second date with her newest boyfriend, Lois had brought Jenny with her.
"Hey, if it isn't the rug rat," said Jimmy as Lois and Jenny made their way into the bullpen.
"Don't talk like that about my goddaughter," objected Perry, coming into the room. "What are you doing here? I thought you had the weekend off."
"I had some research I wanted to do," Lois said.
"Well, while you do that, how about Jen and I find some ice-cream?" suggested Jimmy.
"Ice-cream," Jenny agreed.
Lois gave Jimmy a disapproving look but then backed down, as she usually did. She nodded and Jimmy and Jenny took off to discover what trouble they could get into together.
Lois marched into Perry's office as soon as they left. She began rummaging around on his desk.
Perry cleared his throat. "Shouldn't you wait 'til I'm not in the newsroom before doing that?" Perry asked from the doorway.
Lois jumped. She was obviously too upset about Clark's disappearance to act rationally. She hadn't even thought about the fact that Perry was here. "Umm…" Lois began, but her normal ability to come up with some sort of excuse in these type of situations was noticeably absent today.
Perry snorted. "Do you want to tell me what you're looking for?"
"I need you to give me Clark's resume, but I can't tell you why," she said in a rush of words.
"Now you know I can't do that," said Perry gently.
Lois just looked at him. Perry studied her for a moment before opening his desk drawer and withdrawing a file. "However, I do need to send this up to employee records. I haven't had a chance to do it. Can you to take it to them for me?"
Lois smiled. "I'd be glad to, Chief." She reached out and took an edge of the file. However, when he didn't let go, she met his eyes.
"Are you sure you know what you're doing, honey?" he asked softly.
"Of course I do," Lois responded indignantly. Perry raised his eyebrows.
"Okay, so maybe not, but I'm still doing it," Lois admitted before taking the file and heading out of Perry's office.
Perry watched her head back to her desk. Lois was definitely acting strange lately. She had been ever since Kent had begun working here. One minute she seemed ecstatic and the next she almost seemed on the verge of tears. However, they had still managed to come up with the goods on the plot to sabotage the space program. He headed back to his desk. He would keep an eye on that situation, but as long as it didn't interfere with the workplace, he'd keep his opinions to himself.
Lois was back in Perry's office not much more then a minute later. "Where would I find old copies of the Smallville Post?"
"Umm… We have old copies of most papers in the archives. I don't know if we have the Smallville Post though. But you're welcome to take a look," responded Perry.
"Thanks," Lois said before leaving to explore the archives.
"So what have you found out about the kid?" asked Roger.
"Not much. Lucy told me that her sister had a kid, but when I asked who the father was, she clammed up. The only thing she did tell me was that she'd never met him."
"If it was the guy in Israel, that would make sense."
Simon nodded. "It would," he agreed.
Roger smiled. "Good going, kid."
"So, should I keep going out with her or what?" Simon asked.
Roger was thoughtful for a moment. "Keep going out with her. She might come in useful. In the mean time, Michael and I are putting together a team. We've also rented a warehouse. Once things are ready, she may give us what we need to get the information out of Lane."
Clark was trying on another costume. Everything he'd tried on so far had made him feel completely ridiculous. He knew that for this idea to work, this outfit would have to be absolutely distracting. No one could connect this super strong, super fast, flying man with Clark Kent, and since Clark had always tried to keep a low profile, the costume would have to be attention grabbing.
He pulled on the blue outfit with the red cape, briefs and boots and a yellow belt. He looked down at himself. He still felt a little crazy, but he had to admit it was a lot better than anything he'd tried so far.
"What about that one?" asked his mother through the door.
"I don't know, Mom," Clark replied, pushing the door to the washroom open.
The smile on his mother's face when she saw it told him that she liked it. He walked up to the mirror and examined himself for a moment. It was certainly not his style, but then that's why he was doing this. "What do you think?" he finally asked.
"Well, one thing's for sure, nobody's going to be looking at your face," Martha replied with a grin.
Martha laughed. "Well, they don't call them tights for nothing." She studied the outfit for a moment more before adding, "There's something missing. Something…" Suddenly she had an inspiration. She made her way to the bed and pulled out an old trunk from underneath. She removed a blue blanket.
"What's that?" Clark asked.
"The baby blanket we found you in so long ago. And…" She pulled out a triangular shaped crest with what appeared to be an 's' in the middle. "This," she said, holding it up for Clark to see.
She immediately shooed Clark back into the washroom to remove the suit. When he brought it back out, she took it and began sewing the crest on the chest. Clark pulled up a chair beside her as she worked.
"So how's my granddaughter?" she asked innocently.
"We don't know that Jenny's my daughter," Clark responded. "But I got to spend some time with her. Lois let me babysit."
Clark let out a breath.
"Tell me about this Lois," Martha said.
"Lois is…" He got a far away look on his face. "Uncompromising, pigheaded, brilliant… Oh, Mom, you should see her with Jenny. She has found a way to be the most brilliant reporter I've ever known without neglecting her daughter."
Martha smiled. "You're crazy about her, aren't you?"
"How does she feel about you?"
"I think she feels the same way. But she knows my track record for moving around. She's not willing to take that risk — for Jenny's sake."
Martha smiled. "Well, it sounds as if she's taking care of my granddaughter."
"Mom," Clark groaned. Then he shook his head. There was no point in trying to correct her. She'd made up her mind. As far as Martha was concerned and unless she had evidence to the contrary, Jenny was her granddaughter.
Suddenly, Clark snorted. His mother wasn't the only one simply assuming that he was Jenny's father. After all, since he'd first met Jenny, Clark had to constantly remind himself that Jenny might not be his. Like his mother, his heart had already decided the issue — at least until he had some evidence to the contrary.
Lois was amazed that the Daily Planet archives actually had old copies of the Smallville Post. She enjoyed reading a number of articles Clark had written when he'd worked there. He'd done so the summer before going to the University of Kansas. They were obviously amateurish, but even then there was a passion in everything he wrote.
However, she didn't find anything that could have caused him to run. The Smallville Post was primarily concerned with hog prices and the latest queen of the Smallville Corn Festival.
She then remembered that years ago Clark told her he dropped out of the University of Kansas after a year, so she spent time trying to find out if anything had happened there. Again, she couldn't see anything to make him leave. In fact, one editorial claimed crime and accidents had actually decreased during the year. It also said there had been a dramatic rise in the appearance of good Samaritans.
Once she was finished, Lois took Jenny to her mother's. Lois was amazed by Ellen's relationship with Jenny. Whereas Ellen had always treated Lois and Lucy as if they were burdens, Jenny seemed to have Ellen wrapped around her little finger. Ellen spoiled her rotten. Although Lois didn't want Jenny spoiled, she recognized spoiling was the prerogative of grandparents. So she was just careful not to leave Jenny with her mother too much. However, since Lucy had a date and Lois was planning to sneak aboard the space shuttle, she had left Jenny with her mother.
Lois managed to get past EPRAD security and board the shuttle just as engineers and other personnel were leaving. She was relieved that no one seemed to take much interest in her. She was just settling into a seat in an isolated area when she felt a hand on her shoulder.
"I don't think you're supposed to be here," said Mrs. Platt.
"Look, don't say anything. No one needs to know," Lois pleaded.
"Ms. Lane, I am very grateful for what you did, both for me and for the memory of my husband, but there are only so many seats which are safe for take-off and they're all taken. I believe that's why Mr. White's request to let you accompany us was denied."
"That's right," said an older man who appeared behind her. "I think I speak for all of the colonists when I say how grateful we are to you for discovering the sabotage, but I'm afraid that you're going to have to watch with the rest of the media."
Lois let out a breath, before nodding and turning to disembark. She considered trying to sneak back on, but the two big security officers that were now accompanying her made that impossible.
Lois settled into a seat in the area designated for the press, still trying to figure out a way onto the shuttle. However, she was still being watched. She suddenly had the feeling that the security guards weren't the only ones watching her. She looked around but couldn't tell if she was just being paranoid — but the listening devices Clark found in her apartment had unnerved her. There were lots of people around. She studied faces for a moment — trying to remember them so she would recognize them if she spotted them elsewhere.
She turned back around and saw the shuttle doors being closed. Instructions were given over the loudspeaker to remove outside apparatus. She sighed. It looked as if the shuttle was going to go up without her.
"T minus three minutes," came an announcement over the loudspeaker. There was a general murmur of excitement among the crowds.
In Kansas, Clark watched the events on T.V. It was good to know the shuttle was now safe and that he had actually had a part in it. He felt a genuine sense of accomplishment.
"One minute and counting," came the voice over the loudspeaker again. "Forty-five seconds, and counting." The boosters fired up. "Thirty seconds and counting." Almost immediately the voice came again. "Due to mechanical difficulties we are suspending the countdown at this time."
"What?" exclaimed Lois, jumping up.
In Kansas, Jonathan Kent spoke. "I don't believe it. Something must have gone wrong." He turned to look at Clark, but Clark was no longer there.
Clark, who had still been in the suit his mother had finished tonight, headed straight for the shuttle. When the countdown was stopped, he suddenly remembered his suspicions about Luthor's involvement. What if Luthor had found another way to destroy the shuttle?
Clark x-rayed the shuttle as he approached. Quickly discerning where the problem was, he headed for it.
"What's that?" asked a man in the press box.
"Is it a bird?" asked one person.
"Is it a plane?" asked another.
"No. It's a guy in tights and a cape," said a guy with binoculars.
The crowd obviously didn't buy it. Lois wasn't so sure. She grabbed the man's binoculars and looked at the object flying in. It was a guy in tights and a cape! She thrust the binoculars back into the man's hands, and slipped under the rope, making her way towards the shuttle.
Clark entered the shuttle quickly. He made his way to an isolated area where he could see a woman frantically cutting wires. He was about to stop her, but when she turned he realized it was Mrs. Platt. Surely she wouldn't be trying to sabotage the shuttle?
"It's a bomb," she said, pointing to a small box on the wall. "I had to get someone's attention. I didn't know how else to do it."
Clark stepped up to the box. He spent a moment examining it before tearing it apart and swallowing the detonator. It exploded.
"Excuse me," he said apologetically when he burped as a result.
"Who are you?" asked Mrs. Platt in disbelief.
Clark smiled. He was just about to run away as he always did, when the room was flooded with people. Since there was no getting away, Clark squared his shoulders and turned towards the people as Mrs. Platt explained what he'd done. After years of fearing how people would react to him if they knew about his powers, their gratitude was reassuring.
But as things calmed down, a new problem was revealed. Since the thrusters had already been fired, the mission would have to be scrapped. Because of the time limits for completing the mission, the failure of this launch would result in a failure of the entire space station. This was the final segment of the station. If it didn't make it up there now, the entire station would lose its orbit and fall back into the earth's atmosphere. This had been their final chance.
Clark knew what he had to do. He'd give them a boost. After explaining his plan, he opened the hatch and floated through the door. He made sure the door was securely closed again before floating down to the ground in order to lift the shuttle into space.
"What are you doing?" asked a familiar voice nearby.
Clark swallowed hard. This wasn't how he wanted her to find out about him. He didn't quite look at Lois as he made his way into position to lift the shuttle.
"I'm giving them a boost," he explained.
"You're what?" gasped Lois.
"Giving them a boost," Clark repeated. He would have to deal with her later.
"Who are you?" demanded Lois, as he lifted the shuttle off the launching pad.
Clark glanced over briefly. He could hardly believe she didn't recognize him. "A friend," he responded, moving off the ground.
"When you're done, how about an exclusive?" Lois yelled after him.
Clark smiled. Maybe this costume was going to work after all.
A young man came rushing into the room. There were dozens of file cabinets lining the walls leaving only a small space in the middle for a large cluttered desk. At the desk was a middle-aged, dark haired man. His jacket was off and his shirt sleeves were rolled up as he studied the document in his hands.
In recent years, the government had made massive cutbacks to the bureau. As a result, Jason Trask only had a small staff. He knew many in the military considered him a kook for continuing with this mission. However, he still followed up on every UFO report that came into the office.
"Sir," said the young man. "I think you should see this."
"What is it, Robert?" asked Trask impatiently. "I want to get this paperwork done and then call it a night."
"I think you're going to want to see this," Robert reiterated.
Trask sighed before rising to his feet and following the young man into the adjoining room. Trask gasped when he saw the sight on the T.V. A man appeared to be lifting the space shuttle into orbit.
"Is this for real?" asked Trask, excitement warring in his mind with caution.
"Apparently it is," Robert informed him.
"Then call the team together. I think we'd better get on this right away."
The sun was coming up in Metropolis when Clark finally got the habitation module properly installed on space station Prometheus. Everyone had been grateful for his assistance, and Clark didn't think he'd ever felt better about being him. When he got back into earth's atmosphere, he headed for the launch sight. He wanted to make sure there were no other threats. He had found one other explosive devise on the module.
When he was a mile or so in the air, he spotted her. Most people had left, but not Lois. She was still there, waiting for her exclusive. He surveyed the area for explosives, but it was clean. He briefly considered just going home — but decided he needed a real test for the suit. And who better to tell him if it worked. Besides, he was probably going to tell her anyway. Even if Jenny wasn't his, if he wanted to be part of her life, he'd have to trust her.
Lois was pacing. The man who had identified himself simply as a friend hadn't promised to come back. Still, if there was a chance… After all, this was a bigger story than being on the colonist launch. She looked at her watch. She should have been getting up to head into work about now. Maybe Clark would even be there. She closed her eyes and hoped with all her heart that he would be, but she hadn't been able to contact him all weekend. What was she going to do if he'd had to leave? Even if she did solve the mystery and get him off the hook, how would she ever find him to tell him?
She glanced around. Most of the observers were gone, but she still felt as if she was being watched. Suddenly, she heard a gust of wind and looked up. She gasped. He was here. For some reason, she couldn't quite meet his eyes as he landed in front of her. It might have had something to do with how… how… how — wow! — his suit fit. There was no denying he had a great body. She swallowed hard.
"Thanks for coming back," she said nervously. "I was hoping you would give me an interview."
"That's why I'm here, Ms. Lane," said Clark in a voice that was slightly deeper than normal.
"You know my name?" asked Lois, flattered.
Clark swallowed hard. "Umm… I heard someone call to you as I was lifting the shuttle into space."
"Oh," said Lois, trying to remember. Someone had come after her, but he had been a long way away by then. "You must have very good hearing."
"So who exactly are you?"
Clark smiled slightly. "I'm not prepared to answer questions about me just yet. When I'm ready, I'll keep you in mind."
"Do you mind if I at least ask what you are doing here? If I don't tell the world something, they may consider you a threat."
Clark smiled. She was good. She was giving him a reason to give her the interview. "Do you consider me a threat?" he asked.
She thought about that for a moment. "No," she finally said. "So why are you here?"
"To help," Clark replied.
"I need a little more than that. Like if you said you were here to fight for truth or justice," Lois prompted.
"Well, truth and justice sound good. You can use that," responded Clark, not wanting to give her anything she didn't come up with on her own — at least not until she knew who he was. He wanted to be very careful about what appeared in the paper and right now she didn't understand how important it was to keep his identity a secret — especially for Jenny's sake.
Lois sighed. He was a hard nut to crack — and she'd cracked some of the best.
"That's all I intend to tell you about myself," Clark continued. "Now, if you want the story about what happened tonight, I'd be glad to fill you in. Otherwise, this interview is over." The words were said softly, but authoritatively.
Lois let out a short breath. He was a bigger story than a mechanical breakdown, but he was at least promising to keep her in mind for the big story. Maybe if she respected his limits now, he would keep his promise. She nodded.
Clark began to fill her in on the events of the last few hours. When she learned it was more than just a mechanical breakdown, she suddenly began to write furiously. Even so, Clark noticed that she kept looking around.
"Is something wrong?" he finally asked.
"Oh. Nothing… probably. I just keep getting the impression I'm being watched."
"Well, we are on a secure base. I'm sure lots of people are watching us," Clark said to assure her.
"Yeah. I'm sure that's all it is," she responded, glancing around again. "Well, thank you for the interview. When you're ready to give your own story to the world, I hope you'll keep me in mind."
"I will," said Clark. Then he paused. What if she wasn't just imagining being watched? "Would you like a ride?" he asked.
"Sure. I came in a cab. Where are you parked?" asked Lois.
"No," said Clark, floating a couple of feet off the ground. "I mean, would you like a ride?"
"Oh." Lois swallowed hard before saying, "Sure."
Clark made a brief effort to make eye contact, but she was still refusing. During the interview, it hadn't been obvious. She had simply been concentrating on her note taking, but now it was hard not to notice. He floated back onto the ground. He stepped up closer to her and she took an instinctive step back.
"Are you scared of me?" he asked.
"No. Of course not!" she responded immediately.
He took another step towards her and again she stepped back.
"Then why are you backing away from me?"
"It's just that I'm sort of involved with someone. And… Well, I'm not saying that you're interested in me. I mean, as anything more than a reporter, but… I'd just really appreciate it if you'd keep your distance. I…"
She was cut off by Clark laughing. He had been worried that she was repulsed by him, but the reason she was backing away was because of him.
"What do you find so funny?" demanded Lois.
"Nothing, really. It's just… Well, if I'm going to give you a lift, I do need to touch you."
"Oh," said Lois.
Clark stepped towards her again and this time she didn't back away. He picked her up and immediately floated up into the air.
Lois had her eyes closed during takeoff. When she felt the wind pick up slightly, she finally opened her eyes. She glanced around. This was remarkable. She had always loved flying, but this was something else again. There was no roar of the engines. There was nothing between her and the air. It was amazing. It was breath-taking.
Lois took in a deep breath and then shook her head slightly. Here she was in the arms in an incredible looking man, who lifted shuttles into space, who could fly and yet all she could think about was Clark. She was reminded of that night four years ago when he'd picked her up in his arms and carried her to bed. It even seemed as if she could smell the warmth of his body — as if the man who now held her in his arms was actually Clark. She was pathetic. She was definitely twiterpated.
She watched as the windows to the newsroom at the Daily Planet swung open. She glanced at the side of his face and realized that somehow he'd blown it open. She turned her attention to the crowd in the newsroom — automatically scanning it for Clark. He wasn't here. She felt her heart drop.
Everyone in the newsroom was watching them in stunned silence as he landed them near her desk. Once he set her down, she spoke.
"Now remember, when you're ready, I get the interview."
He smiled. "I'll remember," he said, floating back into the air. He began making his way back towards the window. So far, no one in the newsroom had recognized him — or hadn't said so if they did.
"Wait a minute," yelled Lois.
Clark glanced back over his shoulder.
"How will I contact you?" she asked.
"I'll be around," he responded before heading out the window.
"Did you find out what the 's' stands for?" Cat asked, coming up behind Lois.
"Super," muttered Lois, feeling a little shell shocked. Suddenly it hit her. "Superman," she exclaimed, having found a name for him for her article. She moved to her desk to start writing up the story.
"He flew her out of there?" Kenaani asked in disbelief.
Two of his men nodded sheepishly.
Kenaani had no response. What was he supposed to say to that excuse? My dog ate my homework was more believable, but why would they tell so obvious a lie? It made no sense whatsoever. He shook his head.
"Well," he finally said. "Don't just stand around here. Find her."
Clark made his way back to Kansas after dropping Lois off. He needed to pick up his clothes. He had taken off so quickly that he hadn't taken the time to take them with him when he went to save the shuttle.
He quickly filled his folks in on how it had gone, before heading back to Metropolis. He was convinced that Luthor had been working with Dr. Baines to sabotage the space program. He intended to prove it.
Rather than going into the Daily Planet, he decided to simply call Perry and tell him what he was doing. He was a little concerned about going into the Planet. After all, if someone had recognized him when he'd dropped Lois off, it would be all over the newsroom by now. He was relieved when Perry sounded normal. He was given the green light to talk to the people at EPRAD about the helicopter explosion and who was behind the latest attempt to destroy the shuttle launch.
He also wanted to be out of the newsroom for another reason. He wanted the freedom to fly in and help out if there were any calls for help today. If he were in the newsroom, his absences might be noticed and he really wanted to get used to this new persona. His first opportunity came just as he was arriving at EPRAD. It came in the form of a woman's scream. He quickly took off and managed to prevent a woman from being mugged. He turned the woman and would be mugger over to the police. They seemed shocked but grateful.
The remainder of the day was spent alternating between investigative work for the Daily Planet and helping out with various minor emergencies. By the end, Clark was starting to feel comfortable with his alter ego. He had worked out a slightly different personality for the flying man. He would square his shoulders, keep his expression compassionate but distant and speak in a slightly lower tone of voice.
However, he was unable to find the evidence necessary to link the explosions to Lex Luthor. So, after the sun set, he decided to pay a little visit to the man. He might not be able to prove Luthor was responsible, but he didn't want Luthor believing he'd gotten away with it.
Lois was sitting behind her desk writing her story. As she did she thought about what she had said to Superman. There was a real danger that people could consider a man with his abilities as a threat. She knew only too well how people reacted to anything different — especially when he seemed to have these superhuman powers.
So was he a threat? Lois thought about that for a moment. No. So far he had saved the space program — certainly nothing that could be considered threatening behavior. Until he did something threatening, Lois decided the world needed to give him the benefit of the doubt. She knew this was not her usual style — she was usually much more skeptical. But for some reason she couldn't quite put into words, she trusted him. The only other person she had immediately felt that way about was Clark. She looked around the newsroom again. He still wasn't here. She shook her head, reminding herself to keep her mind on the story.
Lois knew the world would likely follow the Daily Planet's lead on this story. After all, she was the only reporter he had spoken to — at least to the best of her knowledge. She needed to be careful how she wrote this story. She was determined that the initial introduction of Superman to the world be positive. However, if it seemed like a P.R. piece, it would never get by Perry — and the rest of the press would simply dismiss it.
She wished she had Clark's writing skills. She was great at digging up the truth. She knew that her writing was her weakness. She looked around again. Where was Clark?
Superman. She forced her mind back to the subject at hand. She had to admit he was gorgeous. She hadn't dared look in his eyes for fear of the involuntary emotions she'd felt when he'd first arrived. She felt guilty just thinking about it. Of course, when she had finally been in his arms, she kept thinking about Clark. But there had been that initial, undeniable attraction — she could swear it had been mutual. It wouldn't be hard to get caught up in a man with his looks, his powers and what she sensed to be his innate goodness.
By the time she left for the night, she was satisfied with the news articles she had written, both on the final attempt to blow up the shuttle and the resulting intervention by Superman — and on the man himself. It didn't have the details she would have liked, but other reports had come in during the course of the day about him helping out in a number of situations. She had used the reports to bolster her story and back up her contention that he was indeed here to help.
Clark stood on the railing of Lex Luthor's balcony for a moment. He watched until the man spotted him and opened the doors. Clark jumped down onto the balcony and stepped inside as Luthor spun his chair around to face him.
Luthor was still fuming over the success of the shuttle launch due to some unexplained occurrence the press was now calling 'Superman'. However, he planted a smile on his face and briefly clapped as the man in blue tights entered his penthouse.
"Astonishing debut, Superman," Luthor said. As long as this powerful being was here, he would try to get on his good side. After all, he could be a powerful friend. Luthor was glad to have the chance to evaluate the man's character in person.
Clark looked stunned at hearing what Luthor had called him.
"Haven't you heard?" Luthor asked. "That's what they're calling you. It's international news." He held up a paper to emphasize his point. "So to what do I owe this honor?"
Clark redirected his attention to the point of his visit. "I came to tell you that I know who you are. Who you really are," he repeated, providing emphasis to his words in order to communicate their meaning. "I suppose on its face, it was a good plan. Destroy Prometheus so that you could put your own space station in its place."
Luthor turned away from the newly dubbed Superman to give himself a moment to regain his composure. Somehow this freak of nature had figured things out. However, Luthor had been accused of a lot of things by a lot of people during his life. He knew the one principle of survival in these types of situations was to keep his composure.
"That way you could make billions from the patents of the vaccines developed, but you could also be the apparent savior of the space program," Clark continued.
"Well, it's an interesting theory, Superman," Luthor responded. "But that's all it is. A theory."
"You are also responsible for the deaths of at least three people. Commander Latimer, Samuel Platt, Dr. Baines," Clark continued. "Those probably aren't the only skeletons in your closet."
"So you become both my judge and executioner?"
"Like any other citizen of the planet, I must obey the law. I am not above it. You, it seems, believe you are."
"I hold a certain position in this city," Luthor warned.
"Yes," responded Clark, making it perfectly clear that he was neither impressed nor intimidated. "And there is nothing that would please me more than to see you dethroned and behind bars like any common criminal. That day will come."
Luthor cocked his head to the side at this man's boldness. It was something Luthor didn't encounter much anymore and he found himself both admiring the superhero for his courage and hating him for it. "Well, I trust not. But as they say, let the games begin."
Clark gave him one final look. Luthor saw this as a game — nothing more. This man was definitely the most evil man he'd ever met.
Bureau 39 had originally been set up as a covert branch of the military commissioned to investigate UFO sightings and prepare for any possible alien invasion. However, in recent years it had become more of an embarrassment than anything else. As a result, it had been drastically cut back. This meant that Trask had been forced to commission a military plane to get his men to Metropolis.
Although Bureau 39 was based in Washington, their main warehouse was situated in Metropolis. Once they arrived at the warehouse, Trask addressed his men.
"For years, the main branch of the military has suggested that we are an embarrassment. We are about to change that. The threat that we have been warning them against is now here. All of us will go down in history for saving mankind."
There was a cheer from the younger members of the team.
"Tomorrow…" Trask continued. Then, because of the noise, he repeated the word. "Tomorrow we will begin our task of finding this so called Superman. All of you are ordered to hit the sack by twenty-one hundred."
"Yes, sir," said all the men in response.
Clark walked nervously into the Daily Planet the next morning. He was nervous for a couple of reasons. First, he was concerned that if anyone had made the connection between him and Superman, everyone would now know and life, as he knew it, would be over. But second, he had decided it was time to talk to Lois.
After reading the papers this morning and seeing the news, it was obvious world attention was focused on Superman. That wasn't quite what he had intended. He had just wanted a costume that would protect his identity. He realized he had been a little naive, but that meant if Jenny was his, it was critical that Lois know about him — particularly if this costume thing didn't work. She had to be aware of the importance of keeping his connection to Jenny a secret. He didn't think many people knew — that is if he even was Jenny's father. But until he knew if his disguise was going to work, they had to keep the number of people who knew about Jenny to a minimum. So he had decided to talk to Lois this morning.
He was encouraged when no one seemed to pay him any attention as he waited for the elevator. He was relieved when the people he road the elevator with didn't seem to even notice him. When the doors to the elevator opened, Clark stepped out. He moved to the banister that overlooked the bullpen.
"Hey, C.K.," said Jimmy, walking past him.
"Hi, Jimmy," Clark responded. Well, Jimmy didn't act any differently. He slowly made his way down into the newsroom. Lois was sitting at her desk, intently studying the monitor in front of her. He took a deep breath before walking up to her desk.
"Lois," Clark said gently.
Lois looked up. She let out a sharp breath. He was here. She had almost come to believe that he was indeed gone. "Clark," she said, the relief obvious from her voice.
"What's wrong?" Clark asked.
Lois shook her head. How could she possibly tell him what his disappearance for the past few days had done to her?
Clark squatted down by her desk. He took a deep breath before talking very softly. "Lois, we need to talk."
"I know, Clark. What about after work?"
"No, Lois. We need to talk now."
"Clark, we can't. I was just assigned a story about…"
"It's about Jenny."
"Look, Clark, I know you've got questions, but…"
"It's about her health and safety."
He now had Lois' undivided attention.
"What about her health and safety? Did someone call?" Lois said, quickly approaching a state of panic.
"No, Lois. Jenny's fine at the moment. It's an issue of…" he paused thinking of a word that would keep her calm but get her to come with him now. Now that he'd decided on a course of action, he knew he had to do it immediately. By becoming Superman he knew he was taking the ultimate risk — exposure — in an effort to gain the ultimate prize — a family. But that meant that until he was certain this disguise would work, no one could know if he was her father. Clark was concerned if he left this too long, his relationship to Jenny — assuming he had one — could come out. He couldn't let that happen. "…genetics," he finally concluded.
Lois looked at him for a moment waiting for further explanation.
"It's something that you need to know now, Lois. I spent the weekend working on this. Jenny isn't in immediate danger, but that could easily change — and if it does, it will happen very quickly. The best chance we have is to prevent it in the first place. You've got to trust me, Lois. We need to talk now."
Lois nodded, grabbed her coat and headed with Clark towards the elevator.
"Lois, Clark," came Perry's voice behind them.
"Not now, Chief," said Lois as she stepped into the elevator with Clark.
"What do you mean, not…" His voice trailed off as the elevator doors closed. Perry raised fingers to his neck to check his pulse rate. Mumbling something to himself about temperamental reporters, he made his way back to his office.
"You aren't going to believe this," said Michael to his brother Roger.
"What?" asked Roger.
"Well, I managed to track down a boyfriend of Lane's from four years ago."
Roger raised his eyebrows as he listened.
"His name is Claude… Something or other. Anyway, he said that he broke up with Lane because she was pregnant by some guy she met in Israel."
Roger smiled. "That's it then. That's the way to get to Lane. It's my guess that she'll give up the father for the sake of the child. So, when will our men be ready?"
"Well, that's a bit of a problem. Some of the men I thought we could get are currently working for someone else."
"Luthor?" Roger asked, after evaluating this information for a moment.
Michael nodded. "Now I spoke to Luthor and he's prepared to let us hire them. I told him we had a beef to settle with the Daily Planet. He didn't probe. I suspect he doesn't particularly care what we do to the Daily Planet as long as he gets his money. We should have the men by tomorrow. But I have to tell you, Roger. This is an awfully expensive way to do business. Not only do we have to pay the men — we also have to pay Luthor"
Lois sat down on a bench in the park. Clark had wanted to go somewhere a little more private, but Lois insisted that they stay in public. He let out a breath and looked around. No one was nearby. He decided they had enough privacy to talk. However, he told himself to keep his hearing sensitive to anyone who might approach.
"So what is it, Clark?" Lois asked.
"First, I need to know if Jenny's mine. I mean, I'd normally be willing to wait 'til you're ready to tell me. But what I'm going to tell you… Well, it's sort of a family secret. It's just, if Jenny is mine…"
"Clark, do you think I'd be here discussing genetics with you if she wasn't?" Lois said softly.
Clark's chin quivered slightly. "Really?" he asked, his voice trembling as he did.
Lois smiled. "Really," she whispered, instinctively raising her hand to stroke his cheek.
Clark's hand came up and covered hers for a moment. He closed his eyes and moved her hand to his mouth so that he could kiss her palm.
"I have a daughter," he finally whispered, not opening his eyes or releasing her hand.
Lois swallowed the lump that suddenly formed in her throat as a tear slipped quietly down her cheek. She knew now that telling him was the right thing to do. There were still a lot of questions about when, or even if, they should tell Jenny — but she couldn't help but realize how much having a daughter meant to him. She had no doubt he would want to do the right thing where Jenny was concerned.
It took Clark a moment to regain control. When he did, he opened his eyes to look at Lois. "Thank you," he said softly.
Lois wasn't sure if he was thanking her for giving him a daughter or for telling him the truth, but she nodded anyway. She slowly removed her hand.
"So what did you want to tell me?" she asked.
"Lois, does anyone else know I'm Jenny's father?"
"Only Lucy. Why?"
Clark took a deep breath. "No one can know, Lois. At least not yet."
"What? Why?" asked Lois. She thought it was probably a good idea to keep it quiet for the time being too, but why was he so adamant about it — and what was the emergency?
"Do you remember when I told you I was looking for a way to stay in Metropolis?" he asked.
Lois leaned forward. This was what she had been thinking about all weekend. "I remember," she said.
Just then someone walked by. Clark suddenly realized he hadn't heard them approach. He had been so engrossed in his conversation with Lois. He glanced around nervously.
Lois saw the look of fear in Clark's eyes. He was right. They shouldn't be having this conversation in public. She knew there were dangers to being alone with this man — not from him but from her own feelings. On the other hand, she was now concerned that having someone overheard them could be worse. She got up.
"Let's get out of here," she said softly. "I think you're right I think we need to go somewhere private."
Clark nodded before rising.
"Umm… where do you suggest we go?" Clark asked.
Lois thought for a moment before saying, "Your place. It's closer. Besides, I think Lucy has the afternoon off."
The elevator doors in the Daily Planet opened and a number of men in suits stepped out. The leader, Jason Trask, stood at the top of the steps overlooking the bullpen as he spoke.
"I have a warrant issued by Federal Court," Trask said, holding up a piece of paper. "Everyone step back from your desk."
At that point, Trask and his men quickly made their way into the newsroom. Perry stepped up, blocking Trask's way.
"No one comes busting into my newsroom," Perry said.
"Take it up with Washington," Trask said, directing his men to cover the newsroom. He handed the warrant to Perry White.
Perry began to read, "Order to produce evidence… compel testimony… Lois Lane… Clark Kent."
"Where are they?" asked Trask, looking around.
Perry looked at Trask defiantly. He didn't know where they were, but he had no intention of telling that to the man in front of him.
Only one person noticed as a female member of the janitorial staff slipped quietly from the room.
"What exactly do you want?" Perry demanded.
"Superman," said Trask, while continuing to look around the newsroom. "And I think those two can give him to me."
"Metropolis P.D.," said the woman answering the phone.
"Yes. I'm looking for Inspector Morrison," said Rahalia.
"One moment, please," said the woman.
"Inspector Morrison here," said Joel.
"There are a bunch of people here with a federal warrant looking for Lois Lane and Clark Kent," she told Joel. "They…"
At that moment, the phone line went dead. "Hello?" asked Rahalia. "Hello," she repeated but there was no answer. She looked up to see Jason Trask with his hand on the button of the phone.
"I think you'd better join the others," Trask said, taking the phone from Rahalia.
Rahalia nodded before following Trask back into the newsroom.
"We don't have much time," Trask whispered to one of his men. "She called the police. Search the place for Lane and Kent and then let's get out of here."
"Where is Lane?" demanded Kenaani.
"She seems to have gone to some hotel with another reporter. It's the same hotel she went to the other day."
"Okay, well let me know if she decides to go back to the paper. We need to get a man down to the Planet immediately to see if it's Hoffman. Joel, since you're the one Rahalia spoke to, you should probably go as Inspector Morrison."
"Yes, sir," said Joel, grabbing his .22 caliber Beretta and slipping it under his jacket. He then grabbed his police identification — phony, but of the highest quality — and headed for the door.
Clark unlocked the door to his hotel room. He opened it, allowing Lois to enter. She stepped slowly inside. She felt her body immediately react to being alone in Clark's room with him. She forced her mind back to the reason they were there. There were two chairs sitting by a small table. She looked briefly at the bed. Sitting there would certainly be more comfortable, but… She quickly made her way over to the table and took a chair.
"Where were we?" asked Clark.
"You were going to tell me what you meant about having a plan that would allow you to stay in Metropolis," Lois informed him.
"Right," Clark said, taking the other chair at the table. He sat there for a moment before getting up again. "Would you like something to drink?" he asked.
"Cause I could make some coffee or something."
Clark stopped and looked at her. He swallowed hard, trying to figure out where to begin. "Well… Umm… I know I seem to be delaying. I'm sorry, it's just that I've never told anyone this before." He cleared his throat. "I guess the place to start is with my natural parents. I never knew them. I don't know where I came from or anything about them."
"So you were adopted?" Lois asked. She thought this was a long way back to start, but if it made him comfortable to start there, she'd go along with it. She just hoped he'd get to the point soon.
Clark nodded. "Mom and Dad found me when I was a baby… Umm… In a field," he paused.
Lois caught her breath. What type of parents would leave their baby in a field? "How did they know you were there?"
"Well, they were on their way to a dance down at… Well, anyway, as they were driving along, they saw what they thought was a meteorite. It apparently landed in Schuster's field." A small smile lit up Clark's face. "You have to know my folks. My mom is probably one of the most curious people I've ever met — present company excluded. So, of course, she had to check it out. Dad knew there was no point in fighting her when she got an idea in her head, so he pulled the truck over and the two of them headed out across Schuster's field. What they found surprised them."
"I'd say they'd be surprised to find a baby," Lois said.
"Well, they didn't know that's what they'd found at first. They actually thought they'd found an unexploded missile."
"It was some sort of craft or missile. Dad wanted to leave it and alert the authorities but when Mom touched it, it opened. That's when they saw me."
Clark shrugged. "I was inside it." He took a deep breath to let Lois absorb that before continuing. "Dad hid the craft and they took me home immediately. I don't think they ever even considered any option but to keep me. You see, my folks wanted kids, but couldn't have them. So when they found me… Well, that's how I became Clark Kent."
Lois looked at him in disbelief for a moment. "Are you sure about this, Clark? I mean, are you sure your parents aren't… well, delusional."
Clark laughed. "It's true, Lois. I know because, as I grew up, I discovered there are things about me that are different."
"Well, I never get sick."
"That may be unusual, but not impossible. Is there anything else?"
Clark took a deep breath. "I have… really good hearing."
"Do you remember when I found the listening devices in your apartment yesterday?" When she nodded, he continued. "I could hear them, Lois."
"They let off a high frequency sound. I heard it the moment I entered your apartment. I got rid of them as soon as you left. Sitting here, I can hear your heart beating. I can hear the television in the next room." He concentrated for a moment before saying, "I can even hear a conversation going on in the cockpit of a plane that's landing at Metropolis International Airport."
He shook his head. "I also have enhanced vision. I can see long distances, but I can also look through most things."
Lois studied him for a moment before pulling out her wallet. She set it on the table. "My driver's license is in there. What's my birth date?" When he told her, she asked for her driver's license number. He told her that too.
Then he continued. "Did you know your driver's license has expired?" he asked.
"What?" she demanded, grabbing her wallet and quickly removing her driver's license. He was right. She had forgotten to renew it.
"You're serious," she finally breathed.
He nodded solemnly.
"I'm very strong."
Clark got up and walked over to the fridge. He then bent down, and with one hand lifted the fridge off the floor. He did so with no effort at all. He held it for a moment before saying, "I guess I forgot to clean behind there."
Clark set the fridge back down and turned towards her. "If you want to see me pick up a car, we'd have to go outside and I'm not sure that's the type of demonstration I want to conduct in public. But Lois, that's not all. Nothing I've ever encountered can hurt me. Not guns, not knives, not bombs."
"Not bombs?" she asked, her mind starting to put pieces together.
Clark shook his head. "Lois, the reason I've never stayed in one place for any length of time is sooner or later — usually sooner — I'd find myself in a position where someone needed my unique skills. So when people started showing undue interest in me or wondering about miracles, I'd move on."
Lois nodded, her mind remembering the article she'd read about miracles and good Samaritans. It must have been Clark who was making a difference. He hadn't been running from something horrible he'd done, but from all the good things. She had been keeping him at arms length — blaming him for being irresponsible — when all the time… She swallowed the lump in her throat.
"So…" Clark continued. "When I came to Metropolis… I knew I wanted to stay, but I also knew that I wouldn't be able to if I kept using my powers. Eventually, I'd give myself away and then I'd have to leave again. But, Lois, I can't stand by and not help when I can. Every time, I tell myself I'm not going to do it again and then…" He gestured helplessly. "Then you suggested that I bring a change of clothes to work and… Well, I had sort of a wild idea."
"And that was?"
Clark got up again and floated slightly off the floor, reaching up and removing his glasses.
Lois gasped. She was already putting the pieces together, but it was still a shock to see it demonstrated so convincingly.
"Are you okay?" he asked, hearing an immediate increase in her heart rate.
"Umm… Well… You're Superman," she finally breathed.
He landed quietly on the ground, giving her time to digest what she had just learned.
"So what does this have to do with Jenny?" she finally asked.
"Lois, I don't know if this disguise thing is going to work. Until I do, we can't let anyone know that I'm Jenny's father."
"I don't understand."
"What do you think will happen if people discover that Clark Kent can fly, can bend steel bars with his bare hands, can…" He sighed. "Lois, I don't know why I am the way I am. But I'm sure some scientist would love to know. Now, they couldn't hold me, but…"
Lois pulled in a sharp breath. "Jenny wouldn't have that advantage. Oh, God, Clark, if anything…"
Clark was kneeling in front of her in an instant. "We won't let it, Lois. I swear."
Her hand came up and gently stroked his cheek.
"Doesn't that bother you, Lois?"
"I mean, I don't even know if I'm human. How can you…"
"Touch you?" she asked in disbelief.
Lois let out a short breath. "Clark, you're the finest man I've ever known. I don't care if you're human or not. I don't care about any of it — at least not the way you mean. With your powers you could have anything you wanted in life. Yet all you want to do is help — even when it has prevented you from having a life of your own. How could I be bothered by that?" She looked at him for a moment. How could he even think that? She leaned over and gently claimed his mouth for a brief kiss. Once the kiss ended, Clark got up and made his way to the window. He stood looking out.
Lois watched him for a moment. She suddenly realized how much this bothered him — even her kiss hadn't managed to distract him. She got up and walked to him. He turned towards her. She laid a hand on his chest. "Nothing you've told me has changed how I feel about you. Besides, how could you repulse me? After all, Jenny is part of you. If you repulse me, what would that say about my feelings for her?"
The mention of Jenny brought Clark back to the question at hand. "Lois, is Jenny… well, normal." The issue of how this might affect any relationship between them would have to wait. They were here for Jenny's sake.
Lois blinked. She hadn't even made that connection. Was it possible Jenny had inherited some of his powers? She walked over to the edge of the bed and sat down as she considered the question. "Well, I haven't noticed her lifting the refrigerator or flying around the room if that's what you mean." She was silent for a moment as she thought. "But she has never had a cold or an ear infection. Then, last year, chicken pox went around her daycare and she wasn't affected."
"So she may have inherited… Well, whatever I am…" His voice trailed off.
"You must have some ideas about that," Lois urged.
"Just theories. I mean, given how I was found, I guess I could be some sort of alien. Or it was during the height of the cold war, so I could have been exposed to some sort of radiation — or my mother could have when she was pregnant. I guess I could be a Russian experiment, or even an American experiment," he gestured helplessly.
"Whatever you are, you have to believe that I love you," Lois said softly. She wasn't sure she should be telling him that she loved him, but she so desperately wanted to reassure him that none of this made any difference to her. She got up and walked back over to him.
Clark turned towards her. As he searched her eyes, his hand came up to her cheek. His chin quivered slightly when he finally accepted that she really meant it. Unable to resist, he leaned over and kissed her.
Lois saw him leaning in and knew what was coming. For a moment, all her reasons for not letting herself get involved with him came flooding in. That ended the instant his lips touched hers. One kiss turned into two and soon her arms found their way around his neck. He wrapped his arms around her, pulling her closer.
"Lois," he breathed as his lips left hers in order to explore the side of her face and ear.
"Yes," Lois breathed. The feel of being in Clark's arms and having his lips explore her face and ear wiped every other thought from her mind. All she knew for sure was that she was exactly where she belonged. She began to slowly back up. Clark followed, completely transfixed by the small noises she was making at the touch of his lips and tongue in and around her ear.
It seemed to take forever, as distracted as she was, until she finally felt the edge of the bed behind her. Keeping her arms wrapped firmly around him, she let herself fall backwards onto the bed. Clark followed her over, his lips leaving her skin for no more than a second. Lois' hands began exploring the muscles of Clark's back, as he slowly began working his way down her throat. Her hand bunched the back of his shirt and pulled it up far enough that she could get her hands under it. Clark groaned at the feel of her hands on his bare back.
Beep-beep, beep-beep, beep-beep.
Lois and Clark both jumped at the sound.
"What's that?" asked Clark breathlessly.
"Umm… It's my beeper," Lois said, also struggling to regain her composure. Clark groaned. "We are supposed to be working, Clark. I really should get it."
Clark lifted himself up slightly so that she could squirm out from under him. He rolled over onto his back so that he could watch her as she headed over to the pay phone on the wall. When she looked around to find some change for the phone, Clark fished in his pocket, withdrawing some change. She came over, taking a quarter from his hand.
"Whoa, talk about your deja vu," said Clark.
Lois looked puzzled for a moment before remembering how they'd met. Then she chuckled.
"What?" Clark asked.
"I was just wondering if you were reliving our first meeting or what happened the last time I came to your place. Talk about deja vu." She reached over and mussed his hair as she continued. "I really do seem to have a problem staying out of your bed."
"Funny," Clark said. "For some reason, I don't consider that to be a problem." His eyes twinkled with mischief at the comment.
Lois wasn't surprised by Clark's remark. She had already come to recognize that look in his eyes and the wicked humor that often accompanied it. She shook her head and smiled before walking back to the phone.
Trask and his men were leaving when Joel… Umm… Inspector Morrison arrived. Joel did get a chance to see him, though, and was able to confirm to Kenaani that it wasn't Hoffman.
As soon as Trask and his men left, Perry went to his office and closed the door. He picked up the phone and called Lois' beeper. It was only a couple of minutes before his phone rang.
"Lois, that better be you," Perry growled into the phone.
Lois cringed. "It is, Perry," she said, knowing even as she did so that she was sounding guilty.
"Is Kent with you?" he asked.
Lois was glad that Perry couldn't see how red her face became at his seemingly innocent question.
"Yes," she responded, looking at Clark.
"Is something wrong, honey? You sound strange," Perry said.
Lois cleared her throat before saying, "I'm fine. Why did you call?" Of course, she suspected he was about to demand to know why she and Clark weren't at work.
"Oh, right. We had some government agents here a little while ago. They were looking for you and Kent."
"They had this crazy idea that you could give them Superman," Perry told her.
At the last question, Clark raised himself on his elbows and started listening to both sides of the conversation.
"Yeah. They claim that he's some kind of threat. Now, I've got our lawyers looking into this, but until they give us an opinion, I want you two to disappear. Don't go to either of your places."
"But who are these guys?" demanded Lois, looking over at Clark.
"The leader's name is Jason Trask. I don't know who he's with. All I do know is that he seems to think it's his job to track down Superman. Now, get lost. Let me see what I can find out about these guys. Call again in a couple of hours."
Lois hung up. "That was Perry," she said, looking at Clark. "He said…" she hesitated while she tried to figure out how to tell him that government agents were looking for Superman.
"I heard," said Clark.
"I have really good hearing, remember?"
"Right. Boy, that could be handy. Anyway, we need to get out of here," she said. She quickly straightened her clothes and grabbed her purse. "So, where do you want to go?" Lois asked.
Clark smiled. He had an idea.
"What?" demanded Luthor.
"Federal agents stormed into the Daily Planet just a little while ago. They were looking to question Ms. Lane and Mr. Kent. Apparently they think Superman may be some sort of threat."
Luthor smiled. "Do we know exactly who these men are?" he asked. "I'd like to give them a little donation for the good work they do in keeping our world safe."
"I'm sure I can find out, sir," Nigel said.
"Do it, Nigel," Luthor instructed.
Lois and Clark quickly left his hotel room.
"I've been wondering," began Clark a little hesitantly. "It's just… Well, since we seem to have some time off… My folks would love to meet both you and Jenny."
"I thought they lived in Kansas," Lois said.
"Well, they do."
Suddenly, Lois understood. "We can't tell Jenny, Clark. She wouldn't know that she needed to keep it quiet."
"I know, Lois. I'm not suggesting we tell her. On the other hand, how do you think she'd feel about taking a little ride with Superman? I'll make sure my parents know not to say anything."
Lois looked at him thoughtfully for a moment. "She doesn't have a problem with stranger, but you are kind of… well, overwhelming in that suit."
"You'll be there too," Clark said.
"You'd take both of us together?" When he nodded, she asked her next question. "Are you sure your folks will really want to see us?"
Clark chuckled. "Lois, my mom's been asking about her granddaughter since I first found out about Jenny."
"But you didn't know until today…"
"I know, but Mom decided that Jenny was her granddaughter almost immediately. Even if she hadn't been mine, I think you would have had problems convincing her not to become a grandparent even if she had to adopt you to do it."
Lois gently stroked his cheek. "Sort of like you decided Jenny was yours even when I wouldn't confirm it," she said tenderly. Suddenly, her expression changed as she was struck by a thought. "So they know I wouldn't tell you that Jenny was yours?" Lois asked nervously.
"They understand, Lois. Relax. They'll love you."
Lois bit her lip for a moment. She knew this probably wasn't the wisest course of action, but she was still unable to deny Clark. She nodded.
"Then why don't you go pick her up? I'll give my folks a call and meet you at the daycare center."
Clark was about to leave when Lois' hand on his arm stopped him. "Clark, about what happened in your room…"
"I know, Lois. Until we know if this disguise thing is going to work, I have to keep my distance from you too."
"She flew off somewhere with Superman," said Joel.
Kenaani growled. "Just how on earth are we supposed to keep a woman under surveillance who keeps flying off?" Kenaani demanded.
The door to the old farm house was thrown open the moment Clark landed carrying Lois and Jenny. If Lois had been worried they would resent her for not telling their son about Jenny, she was pleasantly surprised. They seemed to welcome both her and Jenny into their family almost immediately. After a large lunch, Jonathan and Clark took Jenny out to meet the farm animals. They invited Lois to go with them, but she declined, saying that she wanted to help Martha clean up. Once they were gone, Martha spoke.
"So what did you want to talk to me about?" she asked as she continued to gather up dishes and take them to the sink.
"What makes you think…"
"You'd rather be helping me than seeing the animals with your daughter," Martha said, raising an eyebrow at her.
Lois turned a little red. The idea of meeting the animals was not high on her list of things to do. However, it certainly beat domestic labor. "I guess there are some things I wanted to know."
Martha waited patiently for her to continue.
"I'm a little concerned about Jenny. I mean, did Clark have all of his powers immediately or did they develop over time?"
Martha smiled. "They developed over time. He never got sick, even as a baby, but we didn't notice problems with inoculations or things like that. He also got cuts and bruises like other kids, they just seemed to heal fast. It wasn't 'til he was about… Oh, four I guess, that we knew he was different.
"One day he was out riding on the tractor with Jonathan. He managed to squirm his way out of Jonathan's lap and fell off the tractor. Jonathan couldn't get the tractor stopped in time and ran over his leg. We took him to Doc Johnson. He set Clark's leg but told us he probably wouldn't walk right again due to the number of breaks. We were devastated."
"I can imagine," said Lois, involuntarily shuddering at the thought of anything happening to Jenny.
"Well, the next day, he was up and running around. He didn't move easily because of the cast, but he didn't seem to be having any other problems getting around. About a week later, Clark managed to get the cast completely soaked. So Jonathan took it off. He was planning to take Clark back in to get a new one put on, but Clark jumped up as if nothing was wrong and…" Martha shrugged.
"What about the other powers?"
"They all came along one at a time, so it wasn't as if we had to handle them all at once. I think he was in junior high before he started lifting kitchen appliances and he didn't fly 'til he was eighteen."
"This is all just a little overwhelming," Lois said softly.
Martha took her hand and looked into her eyes before saying, "We'll always be here to help, Lois. Even if things don't work out between you and Clark."
Lois smiled. "Thanks."
Just then there was a commotion coming from outside. The women went to the window and saw Jenny and Clark in the chicken coop, feeding the chicken. Both were completely filthy and having the time of their lives.
"He's so great with her," Lois said softly.
Martha smiled. "Well, children are something he's always wanted. We just never knew if he could have them — you know, given everything. You have made him a very happy man, Lois."
Lois suddenly noticed the time. It was well beyond a couple of hours since she'd spoken to Perry. "Do you mind if I use your phone to make a long distance phone call?" she asked Martha. When Martha indicated that wasn't a problem, Lois made her way to the phone to call Perry.
After Lois and Clark dropped Jenny back at daycare and were making their way to the Daily Planet, Lois brought up an important point.
"Clark, I know it was important for your parents to meet Jenny. But I don't think that we should let people connect Jenny with Superman. And if…"
"Superman is constantly giving Jenny rides, people are going to see her as a way to get to Superman," Clark concluded.
"You're right. I mean, it's going to be hard enough keeping any powers she might develop a secret and if we've allowed people to connect her with Superman, it will become even more obvious," continued Clark. "Okay, then from now on, Jenny gets no special attention when I'm in the suit."
"There's something else that has been worrying me, Clark," Lois said hesitantly.
"What is it, Lois?" Clark said, taking her arm and turning her to face him.
She didn't quite look at him as she said, "Well, you've been moving around a lot during your life, right?" She didn't wait for an answer before continuing. "I'm just sort of concerned that… Well, you didn't know about Jenny. I was just thinking that…"
"That I might have other children out there that I don't know about?" Clark concluded when she didn't continue.
Clark smiled. "There are no other children, Lois."
"But how can you be sure, Clark? I mean, although a woman will know if she's had a child, a man might not. I mean, look at Jenny. And with all your moving around…"
"There are no other children," Clark reiterated.
"But how do you know?"
"Lois, there are no other children because there haven't been any other women," Clark informed her.
Lois looked at him blankly for a moment before it settled in what he meant. "Oh," she said softly. "Wow," she added a few seconds later.
"Lois, what happened between us… It took me completely by surprise. I always assumed I couldn't have a life here, so I decided that meant I couldn't… Well, you know. But you…" he ran a finger over her cheek, trying to communicate through that simple gesture what he couldn't quite put into words.
Her hand came up to her cheek, holding his hand against it for a moment. This man was so unlike any other man she'd known. She had always assumed that all men were like her father who always seemed to have a mistress. How was it possible that she could have fallen in love with a man who was the complete opposite of her father?
She suddenly realized that they were standing in the middle of the street and released his hand. "We should get going, Clark, or Perry's going to have our heads."
Clark nodded and they continued their trip to the Daily Planet building.
"What's up, Perry," asked Lois as they entered Perry's office.
"The warrant was phony," Perry informed them.
"What?" exclaimed Clark.
Perry nodded. "As phony as a lock of Elvis' hair. And according to the Planet's lawyers, no one in Washington wants to claim responsibility for those boys."
"Then who are they?" asked Lois.
"We don't know. All we do know is that they think it's their job to track down Superman. So it's your job, boys and girls, to track them down first."
"Any ideas about where to start?" Lois asked.
Perry shuffled through some papers on his desk before handing a phone message to Lois. On it was the name of a Mr. Thompson. "Apparently, Washington has sent him down to investigate this. He's offering you two an interview. So, what are you standing around here for? Get!"
Lois was fuming when they left Thompson's office. It turned out that Thompson wasn't offering them an interview. He was wanting to question them about what they might know that Trask could want. He also warned them to leave finding Trask to the professionals.
"Well, that was a waste of time," said Lois.
Clark took her arm and led her around the corner of the building before saying, "I'm not so sure, Lois. From the way he was talking, I got the impression that he knew Trask."
"So you think he'll contact Trask?" Lois said, seeing where Clark was going with this.
Clark nodded. "After all, why would he need to know what information we might have about Superman if he wasn't in on this with Trask?"
Lois glanced back around the corner of the building. She saw Thompson coming out and making his way to a car. She grabbed Clark and quickly hailed a cab with the instructions to follow that car. The cabby, who had always wanted to have someone say that to him, immediately followed.
They followed Thompson into the warehouse district. When the car ahead of them pulled up in front of a building, the cabby drove on by and came to a stop just out of sight. Lois handed him some money and both Lois and Clark quickly made their way back to the warehouse. They snuck around to the side looking for a window. When they found one, they looked and saw Thompson and Trask involved in conversation. It was a short talk and in a minute or so, the two men exited the warehouse together.
"We've got to get in there, Clark," Lois said.
"Lois, have you seen the security on this place? Besides, it's breaking and entering," Clark replied.
Lois rolled her eyes before beginning to check windows. When she pushed one, it swung open. "It's not breaking," corrected Lois. "It's just entering. Besides, if they're going to keep their windows unlocked, they're practically inviting us in."
Now it was Clark's turn to role his eyes. Still he followed Lois as she proceeded to climb through the window.
Inside the warehouse were rows of file cabinets. They began by looking through some of them. It became quickly obvious that these men investigated UFO sightings.
"Look at this," said Clark. When Lois came over, she looked at a file Clark had found on Smallville.
"So they might be on to something," Lois conceded.
"Let's see what else they have," Clark said, directing them over to a number of items covered with tarps. They began looking at the various items under them. Lois was skeptical about the things they were finding. They looked to her like scrap metal.
Clark couldn't say afterwards what drew him to a particular spot. He lifted a tarp and was suddenly looking at a small craft with the 'S' crest on the front. He noticed a bag sitting beside it. He reached inside, withdrawing a circular object. As he was holding it in his hand, Lois noticed him.
"What's that?" she asked, making her way over.
"Krypton," Clark whispered.
Clark looked at her then. "I'm from a planet called Krypton."
"How do you know?"
Clark shook his head. "I'm not sure. It somehow told me," he said, indicating the object in his hand.
Then Lois noticed the ship. "Is this it?" she whispered.
"I think so," Clark whispered back.
"Does it open?" Lois asked, looking for some way to do so. Before she could, Clark's hearing picked up voices.
"Someone's coming," he told Lois. "Let's get out of here." He stuck the ball in his pocket and began leading her away.
"The ship," Lois whispered.
"I'll come back for it later. Right now, we don't want them to know that we've found them."
Lois nodded and she and Clark were just disappearing out the window as Trask and some of his men reentered the room.
Perry was there when Lois and Clark explained to Inspector Henderson what they'd discovered.
"So far as I know, there's nothing illegal about collecting UFOs," Henderson said when they were done.
"Well, how about impersonating a federal officer?" asked Perry.
Henderson looked at Perry for a moment before nodding. "Okay, give me the address," he said.
Trask took one final look around the now empty warehouse. Thompson had made it very clear that the government would not support any rash action on his part. They wanted to give this so called Superman some time to see if he really was a threat. Trask was not prepared to do that. He had disposed of Thompson, but there would undoubtedly be others. That meant he had to move everything immediately. Otherwise, they might try to come in and close him down forcibly. He had to get everything out of here before that happened.
Of course, now that he had made his break with the government, he would need alternate funding. He smiled as he thought about the meeting he had scheduled for later today with a man who could provide him with all the funding he needed.
Out of habit, he locked the door behind him as he left.
"Mr. Luthor," said Trask extending a hand to the man he hoped would become his new employer. "It's good of you to come."
"I think you are providing an invaluable service to the world. I'm hoping I can help," Luthor responded. Behind him, Nigel reminded himself not to smile. "I understand that you're concerned about Superman?" It was as much a question as a statement.
"Yes, sir. We think he is the advance man for an alien invasion."
Luthor nodded thoughtfully. "So you plan to stop him."
"What makes you so sure you can stop him? I mean, he swallowed a bomb in that space shuttle incident."
Trask smiled before leading Luthor over to a small craft. "We discovered this years ago," he informed Luthor, pulling back a tarp and revealing a small craft with the superman crest on the front. Trask opened the ship to reveal a small lead lined box. He removed the box before continuing. "Now, we have enough fire power to stop the alien using traditional means. However, if none of those work, we think this will."
Trask opened the box to reveal a glowing green rock.
"What's that?" asked Luthor.
"It was discovered near where the ship was found. It seems it was pulled in with the ship. It's some type of meteorite. Our scientists say that it emits a high frequency radiation which is benign for humans. But we believe that if the alien was exposed to it, it would kill it."
Luthor smiled. "Are you sure?"
"We've never been able to conduct a field test but yes. Our scientist were able to find a small tissue sample of the alien in the ship. It seems the creature must have cut itself. Now it wasn't a very big sample, but it died when it was exposed to this rock."
Luthor was impressed. "Then I think you've got a new beneficiary," said Luthor extending a hand.
As Luthor was leaving he turned and whispered to Nigel. "Get me that rock," he ordered.
"Yes, sir," replied Nigel. Luthor clearly had no intention of leaving this mission to the likes of Trask. His promise of support was obviously nothing more than a method of ensuring he could get any information Trask had about Superman. Now that he knew what Trask's secret weapon was — and would soon obtain it himself — there was nothing more he wanted from the man.
Outside the door to Lois' apartment, Olive saw a young man kissing a young woman goodnight. She shook her head and reentered her apartment. She still couldn't get over how different the two sisters were.
"Can I see you tomorrow?" asked Simon when he broke the kiss.
"When?" asked Lucy in response.
"How about tomorrow afternoon?"
"I can't. I have to pick Jenny up at daycare tomorrow."
Simon smiled softly. He already knew that. "Well, I like kids. Why don't I meet you there? We can take her to the zoo or something."
Lucy shook her head slightly. After dating so many losers, this guy was a breath of fresh air. He even wanted to spend time with her while she was babysitting her niece. "Okay," she said shyly as she pushed open the door and entered the apartment she shared with Lois.
Nigel was somewhat of an expert on this kind of covert operation. He waited until the middle of the night before entering the warehouse. While they had been here earlier, Luthor had got Trask to show him his security measures in an effort to apparently assure himself that Trask's operation was secure. Nigel had taken special note of the information.
He easily found a way into the warehouse. Since he'd been there earlier, he was able to find the ship quickly. He opened it, spotting the box in which was stored the deadly rock. He checked to be sure it was still inside before quietly slipping out again.
Lois looked up when Clark entered the newsroom the next morning. He looked as if he'd lost his best friend.
"What's wrong?" she asked.
"They're gone, Lois," he replied.
"Trask, the ship, everything."
"What? Where did they go?" Lois demanded.
Clark shrugged. "I don't know. But when I went back to the warehouse last night, it was empty."
Lois lightly rubbed Clark's arm. "I'm sorry, Clark. I know what that ship meant to you."
"I know so little about myself, Lois. It was just… I guess I still have the globe. And I guess I now at least know where I'm from, but…"
"It would be nice to know more."
Clark nodded. "I mean, why would parents send their child through space to another planet? Maybe there's something in that ship that would tell me."
"We'll find it, Clark," Lois promised.
"Lois! Clark!" bellowed Perry.
Lois and Clark immediately jumped up and headed to the Chief's office.
"What's up?" asked Lois when they arrived.
"Henderson just called. This morning, he took a team into the warehouse you told him about. There wasn't even a cigarette butt left behind."
"We can still write the story, Chief. It was all there. Clark and I can back up each other," Lois insisted.
"Not when you're talking UFOs, Lois," said Perry. "If I let you go ahead with this, you'll destroy your careers and take the paper along with you. I can't let that happen. Sorry, guys."
Lois let out a breath. "There's still Trask."
"Do you have anything new on that front?" Perry asked.
"Not yet," said Lois.
"Well, until something comes up, I'm going to have to take you off that story. I need both of you on other things today." Then to what he anticipated to be a further objection by Lois, he continued, "If you finish these assignments and there's still time left, you can work on finding Trask."
Lois let out a breath before nodding. With her concession, Perry proceeded to assign Lois and Clark separate stories.
Simon was all smiles when he saw Lucy approaching the daycare center. He removed his hands from his pockets and walked up to her giving her a brief kiss. Lucy could still hardly believe her luck at finding such a great guy as she made her way into the daycare center to collect her niece.
Jenny was excited when she came out, talking non-stop about her upcoming trip to the zoo. Simon smiled as he opened the door to his car to allow both Jenny and Lucy to get in. He then climbed into the driver's seat and headed out.
"Where are we going?" Lucy asked, realizing he wasn't headed towards the zoo.
"I just want to stop by my place to pick up a jacket," Simon said pleasantly.
It was only a few minutes later when the car pulled off to the side of the road. When Simon didn't immediately get out, Lucy turned towards him to ask what was going on. Suddenly, her car door was thrown open and two arms began dragging her out of the car. Lucy struggled to get herself free, calling for Simon's help. He just continued to sit there. All at once she understood. She didn't know what he was doing, but he was obviously in on this.
Jenny began hitting at the man's arms that were pulling at Lucy. Simon immediately wrapped his arms around Jenny and held her out of the way of the struggle. He wanted to assure Lucy that Jenny wouldn't be hurt — that they only needed her to get some information out of Lois. But he knew he couldn't. After all, the threat of harm to Jenny was what they were hoping to use to persuade Lois to cooperate.
It did briefly occur to Simon that killing Jenny's mother and father would hurt Jenny, but he assured himself that wasn't the same as hurting an innocent child. After all, her parents had brought this on themselves by betraying his father.
Once one man managed to remove Lucy from the car, another man jumped in. It was only a moment more before the car was again making its way down the street.
"Jenny," Lucy screamed before an arm was locked around her throat. It was only a moment more before the man dropped Lucy's limp body onto the sidewalk of the deserted street.
Clark felt a chill in his blood when he heard an unfamiliar voice scream a very familiar name. He quickly made his excuses to the man he was interviewing in order to slip away and get changed into the suit. He reminded himself not to panic. After all, there were probably hundreds of people named Jenny in the city. However, he couldn't shake the feeling of dread that was quickly settling in the pit of his stomach.
Once he had changed into the suit, he sprinted at full speed towards the place where he'd heard the voice. He arrived to find a young woman he'd never seen before lying on the sidewalk. No one else was nearby. He landed beside her and laid a hand on her neck. She was still alive. He x-rayed her to ensure she had no back injuries before rolling her over. There had obviously been quite a struggle. There were ugly bruises already starting to form on her upper arms and cheek. Her lip was split and there was blood from it on the side of her face, but none of the injuries seemed serious.
"Miss," said Superman softly.
Lucy groaned as she slowly regained consciousness. Suddenly, she sat up.
"You really should take it easy," said Superman.
Lucy took in the brightly clad man. The news had been covering his exploits for the past few days so she immediately knew who he was.
"Where's Jenny?" she asked in a panic, looking around.
"She's my niece. I picked her up from daycare this afternoon. He took her."
"Jenny who?" asked Clark, the pit in his stomach growing.
"Jenny Lane," Lucy answered. "Please, you have to find her."
Superman nodded, releasing her to get up. He quickly made his way into the sky, looking desperately for any sign of his daughter. It was only a few minutes more when he landed again beside Lucy.
"Did you find her?" Lucy asked.
Superman shook his head. "Can I take you to… Umm… somewhere. To the police or something."
"Can you take me to the Daily Planet? I have to tell my sister."
Superman nodded. That was what he was going to suggest, but how would he know whose sister she might be? He picked her up in his arms and quickly made his way to the Daily Planet.
Lois looked up from her desk when the windows overlooking the newsroom blew open and a figure in red and blue flew through with her bloodied sister. She rose slowly from her desk as Superman landed nearby.
"What's going on, Cl… Superman?" she asked with a trembling voice.
Superman looked down. He didn't trust his voice and was concerned that he would give something away with either his voice or his eyes.
"Jenny," Lucy responded, when Superman didn't speak.
"What about Jenny?" Lois demanded.
"She was kidnapped," Lucy informed her. "I met Simon in order to take Jenny…"
Lois heard nothing else as the room began to spin. A moment later everything went dark.
Superman caught Lois as her legs gave out from under her. He quickly picked her up in his arms.
"Bring her in here, Superman," said Perry, gesturing to his office.
Lois came to as Superman lay her on the couch in Perry's office.
She looked directly into his eyes as she said, "Find her." It was nothing short of a command.
"I will," answered Superman softly. With that he immediately rose and flew out of the room.
Jenny was still struggling as she was carried down into the cellar that had been set up for this operation. Roger Hoffman was pleased with the secrecy of this hiding place. It was an old fallout shelter and had the added benefit of having an entrance inside an abandoned warehouse. The shelter was divided into two distinct rooms with a secure door on the inner room. The outer room, where Roger and his men were set up, had a large table and a small kitchen.
Roger looked up as Simon got Jenny into the room and closed the door before setting Jenny down. She continued to hit at him for a moment before realizing she was free. She ran back to the door. She pounded against the heavy lead lined door until her little hands hurt. Seeing there was no way out, she ran back to Simon and began hitting his legs yelling, "I hate you," in a teary voice.
"She's certainly a spit fire," said Roger.
"Tell me about it," said Simon, somewhat less enthusiastically. He made his way over to a sink in order to run a hand under the water.
"What happened to you?" Roger asked.
"She bit me," Simon complained. "And I even took the time to get her a teddy bear."
Roger took Simon's hand and studied it for a moment. "She actually broke the skin," Roger said in disbelief, looking at their 'guest' with new appreciation. "She's got a lot of her mother in her," he remarked.
"I want my mommy," Jenny informed him through her tears.
"Put her in the room," said Roger, who then watched as one of his men carried the struggling child to the adjoining room. She could cry all she wanted to in there without disturbing them.
Once Jenny was safely locked away, Roger turned his attention to the next stage of the plan — getting the two people most directly responsible for putting him in prison without others knowing his identity. If he called Lane and said he wanted her and the man who had helped her in Israel, she would instantly know who he was. But now that he knew this little girl was fathered by the man he wanted, he had a way of getting both of them here without giving away his identity. At least, they wouldn't be certain who he was. Between that, and the failure of the press to find out he had escaped, he figured they would have serious difficulties tracking this to him. Then, when they were both dead, no one would know for sure he had killed Lane and the man.
He did, of course, plan to make sure they knew who had plotted their demise before they died, but he didn't want others to have proof that he was responsible.
"Metropolis P.D.," said the woman answering the phone. A woman's voice on the other end asked for Inspector Morrison and the phone was given to Joel. It was only a moment later when Joel filled Kenaani in on the kidnapping of Lois Lane's daughter.
"It's got to be Hoffman," Joel suggested.
"I agree," affirmed Kenaani.
"So what do we do now?"
Kenaani thought for a moment. "I think it's time for us to consider talking to Ms. Lane."
"Will the Institute agree?"
"I don't know," said Kenaani. "But I sure intend to push the issue."
Clark began his search back where he'd found Lucy. However, he was already fairly confident Jenny wasn't there. He soon expanded his search to follow a grid pattern, constantly moving out from his starting place. He tried not to panic. He knew he was more likely to miss something if he let himself get emotional.
However, after a couple of hours of futile searching, his nerves were definitely frayed. He had, by now, searched the entire city and still hadn't found any sign of his daughter. When his eyes failed, he tried using his ears. He would hover over an area of the city, closing his eyes and concentrating all his efforts on listening for his daughter's voice. When that failed, he used his mind. Who might have done this? He supposed it could be Trask. He had no idea where to find him. Luthor. Suddenly, Clark couldn't believe it could be anyone else. Without evaluating the wisdom of his decision, he made his way at full speed towards Lex Towers.
Luthor didn't know what had happened when he found himself being held against the wall by the front of his shirt. He blinked, seeing Superman standing in front of him.
"Superman," he said calmly, "to what do I owe this pleasure."
"Where is she, Luthor?" Superman demanded.
"Who?" asked Luthor.
"Jenny Lane. I know you took her. I swear, if you touch a hair on her head…"
"You mean Lois' daughter?" Luthor asked. "What happened to her?"
Suddenly Clark wasn't so sure about his evaluation. He dropped Luthor, who fell awkwardly on the floor.
"She was kidnapped. As if you didn't know that," said Superman.
"I know nothing about it," said Luthor, picking himself up off the floor.
Superman approached Luthor again. "If I find out you're lying, you'll only wish you were answering to the police," Superman hissed, before flying out the window.
Nigel had watched the whole incident. He walked up to his boss' side as they watched the superhero disappear from sight.
"Do you know where the child is, sir?" asked Nigel.
Luthor thought about that for a moment. "Maybe," said Luthor. "Maybe. Find out where Hoffman's base camp is set up. This might be the stroke of luck we need. In the mean time, tell my driver to meet me downstairs," said Luthor.
"Certainly, sir. May I inquire as to where you're going?"
"The Daily Planet, Nigel," Luthor said, grabbing his jacket, pulling it on and heading out.
Clark straightened his tie as the elevator made its way up to the newsroom. How was he going to tell Lois he had failed? He swallowed hard as the doors opened.
Lois spotted Clark the instant the elevator doors opened. She disentangled herself from the people in Perry's office, flying across the newsroom.
"Did you…" This was all she said, as she searched his eyes, desperately looking for a reason to hope.
Clark shook her head. When Lois burst into tears, Clark pulled her into his arms, ignoring the odd looks this action provoked in the newsroom.
"We'll find her, Lois," Clark promised.
Lois nodded against his chest. Clark gave her a moment to compose herself before leading her back to Perry's office.
"Have the police been contacted yet?" Clark asked. He kept his arm around Lois in an attempt to provide her with the support he knew she needed — that he needed too, for that matter.
"Yes. Henderson should be here any moment," Perry informed him.
Clark nodded. "Have we heard anything? Any ransom demands?"
Perry shook his head.
Just then Lois pushed herself out of Clark's arms, hearing the elevator doors open again. In walked four men, one of whom Lois recognized as Inspector Henderson. She was half way across the newsroom before anyone else made it out of Perry's office. Clark jogged and quickly was by Lois' side.
"What can you tell us, Henderson?" Lois demanded, not taking the time to introduce Clark to Bill Henderson.
"Can we go somewhere private?" Henderson asked and the crowd made their way back into Perry's office.
"Okay," said Henderson. "We checked out the address the kidnapper gave your sister, Lois. There was an elderly couple living there — no children or grandchildren. We're currently checking out the name, but it's my guess that if he was planning to do this all along — and giving your sister a phony address would indicate that he was — he probably would provide a phony name too."
"So what do we do?" asked Perry.
"Well, first of all," Henderson turned to the only woman in the room other than Lois. "I assume you're Lucy Lane." When Lucy nodded, Henderson continued, "I brought a police artist with me. Do you think you could give him a description?"
"You bet I can," said Lucy.
"Where can they go?" asked Henderson.
"They can use the conference room," said Perry. Jimmy led them to the appropriate room so that they could get going on the picture.
"Good. I'd also like to set up an operational headquarters with recording devices and machines to trace calls."
"You think they'll call?" asked Lois, sinking back down into a chair.
"Normally, kidnappers do. They will want ransom or…"
"But I don't have money," said Lois. "Where would I get…"
"We'll find it, Lois," said Clark immediately, kneeling down in front of her.
"Where, Clark?" Lois demanded. "It's not as if you have…"
"We'll get it, Lois. Even if I have to rob the Metropolis Gold Repository, we'll get it," he assured her.
"Well, hopefully it won't come to that," said a man's voice from the doorway to Perry's office.
Everyone turned to find Lex Luthor standing there. Clark was immediately on his feet.
"Superman just told me about what happened," said Luthor, coming over to Lois, his voice oozing with sympathy. "I came immediately."
He took a seat next to Lois. "Don't worry, Lois," he said in his most compassionate voice. "If they want money, I'll make sure they get it."
Lois briefly noticed Clark's reaction to Lex's appearance, but she chose to ignore it. "Thanks, Lex, but I'm sure we'll be fine."
"Are you sure, because I don't mind…" began Luthor.
"She's sure!" said Clark, with a tone of finality in his voice.
Luthor stood up and faced the man addressing him. "I think this is Lois' decision."
"She's made her decision," replied Clark.
"Who are you…" began Luthor.
Lois rose to her feet. Placing a hand lightly on Clark's chest and addressing both him and Luthor, she spoke, "Please. Both of you. I really can't handle this right now. Can't we just find Jenny? You two can measure your manhood then."
Clark and Luthor stared at each other for a moment before both backed slowly away.
"Okay," said Henderson. "Well, if my men and I can get set up in the conference room…"
"Yes. Certainly," said Perry, leading the men to the conference room. He glanced back over his shoulder wondering exactly what had just happened in his office.
"So what did they say?" Joel asked when Kenaani stormed out of his makeshift office.
"They are still…" He emphasized the word. "…maintaining that there is no reason to tell Ms. Lane," fumed Kenaani. He walked over to the door and grabbed his jacket.
"Where are you going?" asked Joel.
"Nowhere," said Kenaani.
"I'm coming too."
Kenaani stopped at that. He turned toward Joel and said, "No. You stay here. I don't want to take you down with me. Just get everyone ready. We need to be ready to move on a moment's notice."
Everyone jumped when the phone in Perry's office rang. Perry grabbed the phone and listened for a moment before hanging up. He turned to Lois.
"Lois, you've got a phone call on line two."
Lois was immediately on her feet, heading for the phone. Henderson stopped her.
"We're set up in the conference room," he said. "Now, just keep him talking as long as possible."
Lois nodded and headed immediately to the conference room. Clark caught up with and passed her, holding open the door for her to walk through.
Just as Lois was about to pick up the phone, Clark laid his hand briefly over hers. "Make them let you talk to Jenny," he said. He intended to listen to tapes of this call again and again if necessary to see if his enhanced hearing could pick up any background noise. As a result, he needed to know if Jenny was there.
Lois nodded and took a deep breath before picking up the phone.
"Hello," she said, her voice shaky.
"Is this Lois Lane?" asked a distorted voice over the phone.
"I've got something I think you want."
"Let me talk to her," Lois demanded, allowing her anger to overcome her fear.
Lois could hear a voice in the background say, "Talk to your mom." Then a little voice came over the line.
"Hi, sweetie. Are you okay?" responded Lois as tears slipped down her cheeks.
"Mommy, I want to go home," came a frantic little voice.
"Oh, Jenny, I'm doing everything I…"
"So you talked to her," came a distorted voice again.
"What do you want?" Lois demanded.
"I just want to have a talk with you and the brat's father."
"What?" She glanced over at Clark. She could tell he was using his enhanced hearing to listen in. His mouth had dropped slightly at the last statement. "But he has never even met her," Lois objected.
"Then I'll give you a day to find him," the voice said. "You've got exactly twenty-four hours. I'll call again. You better have a way to get a hold of him by then if you ever want to see your daughter alive again."
"But…" began Lois, but she was now talking into a dead phone line.
"Did you get him?" asked Clark, turning to the officer tracing the call.
The officer shook his head. "He was calling from a cell phone."
"So what do we do now?" Perry asked Henderson after Lois filled everyone in on what the kidnappers had said.
"I need to talk to Clark," Lois said immediately. "Can we use your office?" she asked Perry.
Perry looked puzzled by her request, but told her to go ahead.
Only Lucy knew why Lois needed to talk to Clark. The rest watched in confusion as the two left the conference room. Lucy ignored the resulting questioning among the men and went back to providing a description of the man she knew as Simon Howard to the police sketch artist.
Inside Perry's office, Lois sat with her back to the windows that looked into the newsroom, knowing that they were being watched.
"Do you think it's Trask?" Lois asked. "Could he have found out that you're Superman and that Jenny is your daughter?"
Clark let out a breath. "I doubt it. I mean, if he knew that Superman is really Clark Kent, why wouldn't he just come after me? Also, this guy said that he wanted to talk to you and Jenny's father. Why wouldn't he just ask to talk to you and Clark Kent? He also made the assumption that it would take you some time to locate Jenny's father. That's why he gave you twenty-four hours."
"So you don't think it's connected to Superman at all?"
"I doubt it. After all, from your article the other day, people would have been left with the impression that Superman just arrived on earth a few days ago."
"But Trask would have known the ship was found years ago," objected Lois.
"Still, why would Trask want Jenny's father?"
Lois nodded slowly. "So what do we do?" she asked.
"I don't think we have a choice, Lois. I think we give them what they want."
"But we decided that it was too dangerous for people to know that you're Jenny's father until we're sure your disguise is going to work?"
"I think that's a moot point. I don't think we can worry about a hypothetical situation. What we do know is that if we keep it quiet, Jenny is in danger now."
Lois nodded slowly.
"Are you sure about this, Clark?" she finally asked. "I mean, you've only known Jenny even existed for a few days. Why would…"
"She's my daughter, Lois. Even if she weren't, she's a part of you. I wouldn't let anyone hurt her if I could help it. Besides, it's not exactly as if they can do anything to me. If this guy wants to talk to you, I want to be there. He's just given me the justification to do that."
"Thanks, Clark," Lois said softly, her eyes becoming suspiciously moist. How could she have ever not wanted him to know about Jenny?
"You don't have to thank me, Lois. I love her too, you know. Now, let's get back in there and tell everyone that Jenny's my daughter. Do you want to tell them or should I?"
"I'll do it," said Lois, rising to her feet.
Everyone watched in silence as Lois and Clark reentered the conference room. Lois found a seat while Clark leaned against the wall. Lois needed a moment to try to figure out exactly what to say. When they didn't speak, Luthor did.
"You know, Lois, I might have an idea," Luthor said. When Lois met his eyes, he continued. "Now I don't know who your daughter's father is, but why not let me pretend to be her father." He was pleased with himself for this suggestion. It certainly would make him look like the hero here and, since he was confident he knew who was behind the kidnapping, he was sure he could make arrangements beforehand that would allow him to survive the experience. The PR value would be great, but the inevitable gratitude of Lois Lane would be the real prize.
Lois looked at him in shock for a moment before the implications of what he was suggesting sunk in. That was it. That was the way to keep Clark's paternity a secret. "Thanks, Lex," Lois said slowly. "But Clark has already volunteered."
"What?" asked Luthor.
"Yeah," said Clark, seeing immediately where she was going with this. "That's what we were talking about. Lois doesn't have any idea where to start looking for Jenny's father so I volunteered to pretend to be her father."
Lucy looked at both of them in confusion for a minute. Was it possible that Lois still hadn't told Clark he was the father? In the light of what was happening, she could hardly believe her sister would do that, but why not just tell everyone the truth? She would have to talk to her sister later. If Clark was willing to risk his life like this, he had a right to know the truth.
"Okay," said Perry. "So we've got a plan." He turned towards Henderson. "So what's next?"
"I want you people to do some brainstorming. If you can give us some idea of who would want to talk to Lois and her child's father, that will give us an idea of where to start."
At this point, a furious Lex Luthor made his way unobserved over to the elevators. When it opened a man stepped out. Luthor didn't even look at him as he stepped into the elevator. He needed to talk to Nigel. He would come out of this looking like the hero and he would find a way to rid himself of Superman and Kent in the process.
In the conference room, the discussion continued. "If we put together a list of all the people with grudges against Lois, that'll take forever," complained Jimmy.
"Thanks, Jimmy," said Lois.
"I think the key here is the father. It must be someone who has a grudge against both you and the father," said Perry. "Now, I know you've never wanted to talk about him, but…"
"I think I can help," said a voice from the doorway.
Everyone spun around.
"And you are?" demanded Perry.
"Lieutenant Ben Kenaani," Lois said rising to her feet and making her way over to the man.
"Actually, it's Major now," said Kenaani.
"You know this man?" asked Perry.
"Yeah. He was really helpful with… That's it!" exclaimed Lois.
"What's it?" asked Perry.
"This has to do with the hostage situation in Israel, doesn't it?" she asked addressing Ben Kenaani.
Kenaani nodded coming into the room. He looked around at the various people. He took a second look at Clark. "Don't I know you?" he asked.
Clark glanced around at the other people in the room nervously before saying, "I don't think so."
Perry watched the exchange curiously. Suddenly, he had a wild idea. An idea he'd keep to himself for the time being — but, boy, did it explain a lot.
Kenaani looked at him for a moment more as if he wasn't quite so certain, before shrugging it off and turning back to Lois. "Hoffman broke out of jail last week."
"Why wasn't I told?" Lois demanded.
"My superiors thought it best. We had reason to believe he was coming after you, so we've had you under surveillance. We didn't expect him to go after your daughter."
"Didn't expect…" said Lois in disbelief.
"We thought the less people who knew, the more chance we had of catching him."
"You, bast…" began Lois, throwing herself at Kenaani. Clark caught her.
"Slow down, Lois," said Clark. "He's here now. And he might be helpful in getting Jenny back."
Lois glared at Kenaani for a moment before nodding and settling back into her chair.
"Are you the ones who've been following me?" demanded Lois.
Kenaani was impressed. His men were good. The fact that she had realized she was being followed confirmed his impression of this woman. "Yes," he responded.
"And the bugs in my apartment? I assume you're responsible for them too."
Kenaani nodded before turning to Clark. "I assume you're the one who found them?" he asked.
Perry smiled. So Clark had been at Lois' apartment. Maybe his wild idea wasn't so wild after all.
"I think I can save you a lot of search time," Kenaani continued. "We have surveillance on everyone we know of that is associated with Hoffman. His brother and son have disappeared — we assume they're with Hoffman. We did see him once — when he picked up his son. Other than that…"
"How does that help us?" asked Clark.
"At least you now know where not to look," said Kenaani.
Lois rolled her eyes before asking, "So what do we do now?"
"We wait," said both Henderson and Kenaani in unison.
"Don't worry, Lois," said Henderson. "He won't hurt your daughter. You have something he wants. He's not going to do anything to her."
"What exactly is he asking for?" asked Kenaani.
"He's asking for a meeting with both me and Jenny's father," Lois said.
"That's my daughter."
"Her father? That wouldn't happen to be the non-existent Mr. King would it?" Kenaani asked, turning back towards Clark as he suddenly remembered where he'd met the man before. Admittedly the man looked quite different, but given the fact that he was here with Lois Lane, the pieces seemed to fall into place.
Kenaani walked over to the picture that Lucy was just finishing up. "Who's this?" he asked.
"It's the guy who kidnapped Jenny. Simon Howard," Lucy said. "At least it's awfully close."
"That cinches it then," said Kenaani. "Because that's Hoffman's son. And his name is Simon Hoffman."
"Have you found Hoffman's safe house?" Luthor demanded of Nigel.
"Good. Set up a meeting."
Roger Hoffman made his way to the meeting place. Most of his men were provided by Lex Luthor. As a result, Roger didn't dare refuse to attend this meeting.
"Mr. Hoffman, would you come with me?" asked Nigel.
Roger nodded and accompanied Nigel to a nearby limo. When Nigel opened the door, Roger climbed inside.
Luthor immediately handed Roger a glass of champagne. Roger took the glass, but set it down without drinking. He never drank when he was on the job.
"What do you want, Luthor?" Roger said. "I really don't have time for a celebration at the moment."
"You are using my men, Hoffman. If you want to continue doing so, I would suggest that we reach an understanding."
Roger understood the implications. "What type of understanding are you suggesting?"
"I want to know exactly what you are hoping to accomplish."
Roger studied Luthor for a moment. "It's personal," he finally said.
"Well then, let me take a guess. You went to jail more than four years ago as a result of interference by Lois Lane and the man you think is the father of Lois' child. In order to get your revenge, you have kidnapped Lois' daughter. You figure you'll get Lois and the man, and then what? Kill them?"
"Very good, Luthor," Roger said. He had to admit that the man's deduction was accurate.
"Well, I want to suggest a change."
"I'm not interested."
"Oh, but I think you will be. Especially when I tell you that Superman is looking for you."
"Superman?" asked Roger. "Why would he care?"
Luthor shrugged. "Now, I have a plan that will neutralize Superman and, if you go along with it, will also save you a great deal of money. I know you're spending most of your savings on this endeavor. If you go along with my plan, it won't cost you a thing."
"Go on," said Roger.
"Lois has made arrangements to get the child's father here. His name is Clark Kent. You kill him. You kill Superman. But you leave Lois Lane alive."
"I want my pound of flesh from her too."
"Then kill her daughter. I guarantee that will hurt her more than killing her."
"What about Superman? I heard he swallowed a bomb to keep the space shuttle from exploding. How do you suggest I kill him?"
Luthor withdrew a lead lined box. He opened it. "Exposure to this will kill him."
Roger took the box from Luthor's hands. "Are you certain of this?"
Luthor nodded. "This rock is from his home planet. It is guaranteed to kill him." Of course, Luthor didn't know if it would even hurt Superman, but Hoffman didn't need to know that.
Roger picked up the rock. "So what do I do? Throw it at him? Get him to swallow it?"
"Neither. You just get him in a room with it. He only needs to be exposed to it."
Roger studied the green rock for a moment more before asking, "Why do you want Superman dead?"
"Let's just say we seem to have a little difference of opinion. So, what do you say?"
"How do I get Superman here?"
"If he doesn't show up on his own, I'll yell for him once you have Lois and… Kent in custody."
Roger thought for a moment. He didn't mind adding Superman to his killings. He also liked Luthor's idea of making Lane watch as he killed her brat. Besides, the kid was really beginning to grate on Roger's nerves. And if it put him on Luthor's good side and benefitted him financially… "Okay, I'll do it," Roger said.
Once Roger was gone, Nigel climbed into the car.
"Did he agree?" Nigel asked.
Luthor smiled. "Of course."
"I suspect there's more to your plan than you told him?" Nigel asked.
"Of course there is Nigel." To Nigel's look of interest, he continued. "I need you to get a team ready. Once Kent and Superman are dead, I plan on storming the building and rescuing Lois. Considering most of his men are loyal to me, that shouldn't be a problem. I'm afraid our Mr. Hoffman won't make it out alive."
"May I ask why you're doing this, sir?"
"To win Lois Lane's gratitude," Luthor responded.
"And the child?"
Luthor shrugged. "She's not important. What is important is that I'll get rid of that pest, Superman. And no matter what you found, there's something going on between Lois and Kent. I will not tolerate competition, Nigel. If the child lives, I'll be the one who saved her. If she doesn't, I'll be able to comfort Lois in her time of grief."
The newsroom was basically deserted. Perry and Clark tried to get Lois to go home for a few hours of sleep, but she refused. She couldn't go home. The thought of being in her apartment without Jenny was simply too horrible to contemplate. As a result, Clark, Perry, Jimmy and Lucy had decided to stay as well. Kenaani had also stayed, in case things changed. Henderson had gone home for a few hours sleep, but there was an officer still manning the phones. He could get Henderson back here in a matter of minutes if it became necessary.
The police officer and Kenaani were stretched out in chairs in the conference room. Perry and Jimmy were drinking coffee in the lunch room. Clark had finally convinced Lois to stretch out on Perry's couch. She had refused to do so without him. So when Lucy entered Perry's office, the only people in there were Lois and Clark. Lois was asleep against Clark's chest. His arm was wrapped around her. Clark, however, was unable to sleep. He had already listened to the call from the kidnappers dozens of times and wasn't able to find anything that would tell him where they were holding Jenny. He didn't know what else to do.
Lucy pulled a chair over, being careful not to wake Lois.
"We haven't been properly introduced," said Lucy quietly. "I'm Lucy Lane — Lois' sister. And I assume you're Clark Kent."
Clark smiled. "Not quite the circumstances I would have chosen for a meeting, but I am pleased to meet you."
Lucy looked at her sleeping sister. "I really let her down this time," she said softly. "She trusted me with the most important thing in her life and I…" She shook her head.
"It isn't your fault, Lucy," Clark said. "These guys are pros. They know exactly how to get what they want. You almost got yourself killed as a result. At least, thanks to you, we know for sure who has Jenny."
Lucy gave him a sad smile. "I'm not sure my sister would agree."
"She would," came a sleepy voice as Lois turned in Clark's arms to get herself more comfortable.
"Look who's up," said Clark softly, brushing a strand of hair off Lois' forehead. "Jimmy ordered some pizza. How about I go get some and heat it up for you?"
"That would be nice," Lois said, pulling herself into a sitting position and stretching to remove the kinks from her neck and back. Clark looked relieved at having something he could do.
"He's great, Lois," said Lucy after Clark had left the room.
Lois smiled after Clark. "Yes, he is," she agreed.
"What you said out there about… well, about Clark pretending to be Jenny's father…"
"He knows, Lucy. We didn't want to tell everyone yet. So when Lex suggested that he would pretend to be the father… Well, it just seemed to be the natural thing to do," Lois explained.
Just then Cat walked in.
"What are you doing prowling around here this time of night?" asked Lois.
"I'm a night animal," Cat responded in her characteristic manner. Then she turned serious. "I just heard what happened. I want you to know that if there's anything I can do…"
Lois gave her a sad smile. "Thanks, Cat."
As Clark waited for the piece of pizza to heat, Perry sent Jimmy on an errand. Once the kid was gone, Perry spoke.
"Are you okay, son?" he asked.
"Of course, Chief," Clark responded, realizing that he shouldn't be overly affected by the kidnapping of a child he wasn't supposed to know. "I'm just worried about Lois."
Perry gestured him to a chair. When Clark was settled, Perry decided to take the bull by the horns.
"I've been around a long time, son. I don't fool easily."
"I didn't mean to imply…"
"You're Jenny's father, aren't you?" Perry asked, without waiting for an answer — as if the answer was self-evident. "Don't worry, I won't tell anyone if you and Lois don't want me to. I just wanted you to know that I know." He paused, looking over at his office. "That girl is like a daughter to me," he informed Clark. "You just take care of her and my goddaughter tomorrow."
"I will, sir," Clark replied.
"And, son, you be careful too."
Clark didn't reply and Perry knew instantly that Lois and Jenny were in good hands. The young man sitting across from him would do whatever it took to protect them.
The police officer eventually had to heed a call of nature. Kenaani took advantage of the opportunity to place a phone call. He filled Joel in on what was happening.
"So what do you want us to do?"
"When Lois Lane and Clark Kent leave the Daily Planet, they'll be carrying a tracking devise that I'll have planted on them without their knowledge. I want them followed. But be sure you don't get too close. I don't want to spook Hoffman. I'll stay here until the police clear out. Then I'll join you. I'll try to place a call before then to tell you exactly where they're going, but I'm not sure I'll get that chance. Is the penetration unit ready to go?"
"They're just waiting for a signal from you."
"Good. I imagine Hoffman will take Lane and Kent away from the meeting place. Knowing him, he'll want to make their deaths as painful as possible. He wouldn't consider it proper revenge otherwise. Hopefully, he'll take them to the same place where he's holding the little girl."
"What about the police? Won't they be following?"
"Hoffman's good. I doubt the Metropolis P.D. are any match for him. It's just as well if they lose the cops. After all, I doubt the good Inspector Henderson would take kindly to our interference otherwise.
"Also, the kidnapper used a cell phone. When he calls back tomorrow, I suspect he'll do the same. You know what to do?"
"I take it you're referring to triangulating the position of the cell phone?"
"Do you think you can do that?"
"What do you mean, it's gone?" demanded Trask.
"I mean it's gone, sir," said Robert.
"That was the only rock we had," said Trask. "Who could have…" Trask fell silent for a moment. "Luthor," he suddenly spat.
"Luthor?" asked Robert.
"It had to be Luthor. He's the only one who knows where we are."
"So what do we do now?"
"Nothing. Not until we find another one of those rocks."
It had been an agonizing morning for both Lois and Clark. They tried to find out as much as they could about Hoffman and his associates. However, every time they thought they might have a lead and asked Kenaani about it, they got the same answer — Kenaani's people had already checked out that possibility.
Lois had questioned Clark extensively regarding his suspicions about Lex Luthor. He didn't have anything solid. Although the connection with the space program was enough to make Lois think, Clark's idea that Lex was involved in Jenny's kidnapping didn't make any sense — especially given what they now knew from Kenaani. Even Clark had to admit he really didn't know if Luthor knew about the kidnapping. When Lois suggested that maybe he was just a little bit jealous of the man, Clark denied it adamantly — at first. But then he did concede that was what had made him listen into Luthor's conversation with Baines.
Perry didn't even suggest that they should be using their time to work. When Jimmy had wondered why he still had to work when Clark didn't, he received a look from Perry that rebuked Jimmy more than any words could.
Everyone in the office noticed Clark had suddenly moved into the inner circle and the speculation was wild. Of course, most of it revolved around the idea that Lois and Clark were involved with each other. Given the rumors about Cat and Clark only days ago, the way this was interpreted cut mostly along gender lines. The men were impressed that, after having Cat, Clark had been immediately able to get to Lois Lane — a woman no other man had been able to impress. The women tended to think Lois was to be pitied. For someone who had such good instincts, it was surprising she was so easily taken in by an experienced womanizer. Either way, no one mentioned their previous speculation that Lois was gay.
However, although everyone knew Lois' child had been kidnapped, only those who'd been present last night knew the details. There was the danger that if any additional people knew, the details of any counter-operation could get back to the kidnappers. They would, of course, suspect the police would have been contacted so Henderson wasn't too concerned about that. However, no one mentioned Major Kenaani's involvement.
There were a number of false alarms during the day. Lois always got a lot of phone calls, but she had never noticed how often it happened until today. Every time someone called for Lois, half a dozen people dashed to the conference room. So by the time early afternoon arrived and the phone rang, Lois' already raw nerves were almost at an end.
Lois took a deep breath before picking up the phone. "Yes?" she asked into it nervously.
"I understand you've found him," came a distorted voice.
"I want to talk to Jenny," Lois insisted.
"No. If you want to ever talk to Jenny again, you will listen very carefully to these instructions."
"I want to talk to Jenny first," Lois repeated, at a look of encouragement from Clark.
"Get the kid over here," said the voice to someone nearby.
"Do I have to?" complained another voice. Then there was a moment of silence. Lois almost smiled in relief when she heard a little voice say, "I hate you. I hate you," to someone in the background.
"Talk to your mom, kid," said the voice on the phone.
A moment later, a little voice asked, "Mommy, where are you?"
"I'm coming for you, Jen. I promise." Reaching for Clark as she spoke, she grabbed his arm, digging her fingernails into it. He moved out of his chair and came closer, covering her hand with his own.
"That's nice to hear," said the distorted voice again.
"If you hurt her…" Lois began.
"I don't think you're in any position to make threats, Lane. Now, listen closely. I want you and this Kent guy to make your way to a fountain on the far side of Central Park. I know you've got cops there. If I see even a patrol man in the area, the kid dies. And trust me, Lane, I know my business. I can spot an undercover police officer. Do you understand me?"
"Yes," said Lois softly.
"Good. Then you and Kent leave now."
Suddenly, the phone line went dead.
"We've got to go," said Lois. She had taken off her shoes and began to search around for them.
Kenaani realized what she was looking for and found them for her. He slipped the tracking devise inside the instep of one shoe as he was handing it to her. It was a small flat object and Lois didn't notice as she slipped the shoe onto her foot.
"I don't want anyone following," said Lois to Henderson.
"I can't endorse that, Lois. If you and Kent go alone…"
"We're going alone," Clark said.
Henderson let out a short breath. "Look, this sociopath doesn't want to just talk to you. He's got a serious beef. If you two walk into his trap, he'll kill both of you and your daughter. Letting us follow is the only way you have a chance…"
"We're going alone," Clark repeated. The important thing was to find out where Hoffman was holding their daughter and Clark knew he could get them all out of there alive. If that meant revealing who he was, he'd do that. Of course, that would mean he could never tell anyone he had a daughter. However, since the alternative was to actually not have a daughter, secrecy was not his main priority.
Henderson turned to Lois. "Look…" he began.
"You heard him," Lois said. "We're going alone. Don't worry, Henderson. We'll find a way out of there once we find our… my daughter."
Henderson studied them for a moment before nodding. "I guess it's your call. I'll call the police department and make sure there aren't any patrol men in that section of the park."
Lois and Clark immediately turned and left the newsroom.
Henderson picked up the phone and placed two calls. The first one was to ensure that there were no patrol men in the area. The second was to ensure the undercover police officers who were to follow Lane and Kent, even without their knowledge, kept their distance. He wanted them to stake out the edge of the park with their pictures of Hoffman, his brother and his son as well as Lane and Kent. Once Lane and Kent left the park, assuming that they did, he would have them followed.
Kenaani also found a phone and made his own phone call.
"Were you able to triangulate the call?" he asked.
"Yes. The call came from near Hobbs Bay. We don't have an exact location — the call wasn't long enough."
"What is the radius of the area it could have come from?" he asked.
"A couple of miles or so."
"Okay. That's do-able. I want cars staking out the routes into that area. When one picks up the tracking devise, have them notify the others and follow the car, but be sure they aren't spotted. We can always pick them up again. What we can't do is risk notifying Hoffman that we're following."
Lois and Clark stepped out on the sidewalk in front of the Daily Planet. Clark looked around to make sure they weren't being followed.
"Are we alone?" she asked.
"Yes," said Clark, before stepping slightly off the sidewalk to hail a cab. The first one went by. They began walking towards the park as quickly as possible while looking for another cab.
"You have some sort of tracking devise on you," Clark finally told her.
"In your shoe."
Lois bent over and started to remove her shoe.
"No," said Clark.
"But Clark, if they find it…"
"I don't think they will. I can hear it, but it doesn't seem to have any metal in it so it shouldn't be picked up if they scan us."
"Are you sure?"
"Lois, if they find it, the worst that's going to happen is that they'll remove it. They will still want us to come with them."
"But if they decide to kill us before taking us to Jenny…"
"They won't," Clark said.
"How do you know?"
"They won't, Lois," Clark said again. Both he and Lois knew he couldn't know that. However, they couldn't be guaranteed that even if they did everything the kidnappers told them.
"But Henderson should have told us," Lois insisted.
"I don't think it was Henderson," Clark replied.
"But he should have asked us first."
"I'm sort of glad he didn't," said Clark. When she gave him a look of confusion, he continued, "Think about it, Lois. How did the kidnapper know my name?"
"He has a source in the Planet or in the police?"
Clark shrugged. "I was thinking Luthor. But one thing's for sure, he got the information somehow."
As soon as everyone left the Planet, Jimmy quickly brought a police scanner into the conference room. Perry, Lucy and Cat joined him and all waited nervously for him to get it set up. Once it was going, all four settled into chairs and waited.
They knew they weren't likely to hear anything on the police scanner unless the operation went wrong. After all, the police wouldn't want this information going out over the airwaves. However, when the ordeal was over, they expected to hear a call.
They watched the clock, all four silently praying for time to pass. All four praying the only thing that would come over the scanner was a report that everything was under control — that Lois and Clark were alive and had rescued Jenny.
Lois and Clark were both on full alert as they approached the fountain. Clark heard the men approach and silently communicated that information to Lois. Both forced themselves not to react. Clark knew he could move quickly enough to protect Lois if that became necessary. However, he also knew it was unlikely they would bring Jenny here. Therefore, their mission was to be taken to her.
Clark didn't imagine the trip would be overly pleasant. He had to make sure he was the target of any abuse they received on the way. That meant he had to pretend to be vulnerable. He'd had to do that many times in his life. So, he knew just how much he had to give so that someone hitting him didn't hurt themselves and how much pretending he had to do to seem hurt himself.
"Don't turn around," came a voice from behind.
Lois and Clark froze. Clark listened for a moment to see if he could hear a child's heartbeat nearby. He couldn't. Suddenly, a hood was dropped over Clark's head. He looked through it and knew that one had also been dropped over Lois head. Neither he nor Lois struggled. However, Clark immediately noticed the increase in her heart rate.
Clark watched as a black windowless van suddenly appeared in the park. He watched as the doors were thrown open. Lois was escorted in first. Clark decided to establish himself as the problem, so he resisted their attempts to move him. They responded by directing a couple of serious punches into his gut. He doubled over. They used the opportunity to toss him in the back of the van beside Lois.
"What are you doing?" Lois whispered, having heard a commotion.
"I'm making sure that they decide I'm the one to watch."
"I don't think I'd be able to stand by and do nothing if they touched you," he informed her.
Lois was silent for a moment as she thought about that. She swallowed hard. His admission went straight to her heart, but she had to make sure he didn't do something that would prevent them from finding Jenny.
"Even if they do…"
"I don't think I can…"
"You have to, Clark. I've been in worse situations than this before. Please. The objective here is to save Jenny. No matter what they do to me… Promise me, Clark. If it comes to a choice between me and Jenny, promise me you'll choose Jenny."
"Just promise me."
Clark let out a short breath before whispering, "I promise." They were probably the hardest two words he had ever said.
"Thank you, Clark," she whispered. She reached blindly for him, finding his hand. She knew what it had cost him to promise her that, but if it was a choice between her life and Jenny's, she didn't want to have any doubts about who he would choose and, if things went wrong, she never wanted him to regret his decision to choose Jenny.
Henderson's men spotted the van as it left the park and, keeping a respectful distance, began to follow. The van seemed to be unaware of the tail. They kept their path straight, making the cop's job easy.
"It looks like they're heading inland," said one of the officers. The others nodded in agreement.
Suddenly, one of the officers noticed a second black van on the road. Soon there were half a dozen black windowless vans on the road in front of them.
"This is unit 159 calling dispatch," came a voice over the scanner.
Lucy, Jimmy, Perry and Cat sat up straight when they recognized the identification of the officers assigned to follow Lois and Clark.
"It's too soon," mumbled Perry nervously.
"Dispatch to unit 159, go ahead."
"We lost them."
The van carrying Lois and Clark turned and headed back towards Hobbs Bay as soon as they were certain they had lost the police tail. As they neared the warehouse, they were picked up by Kenaani's men.
Unlike the police, the Mossad had no need to keep the van in sight. In accordance with Kenaani's instructions, they stayed out of sight of the van they were following. They stopped whenever the tracking devise told them their prey had stopped. They moved when the tracking devise indicated that their prey had done the same.
The van stopped and the door swung open. A man pulled Lois out first before turning his attention to Clark.
"Where's my daughter?" Lois immediately demanded.
Clark saw the man pull back his hand and immediately moved forward, making the man turn his attention to him.
"Where do you think you're going?" the man demanded, grabbing Clark by the scruff of his neck.
Forgetting about Lois, the man commenced directing Clark into the warehouse by the back of his collar. A second man grabbed Lois' arm, dragging her into the warehouse as well. Once inside, they directed their respective prisoners towards the entrance to the fall out shelter.
They arrived at the top of a set of stairs. Clark was pulled to a stop. When he was directed down the stairs, Clark hesitated.
"Where's my daughter?" Clark demanded.
The man didn't answer. Instead he simply gave Clark a hard push. Since Clark couldn't stop himself without revealing his powers, he let himself fall down the stairs.
"What's happening?" demanded Lois.
"Shut up unless you want to go down the stairs the fast way too," the man responded.
Clark lay at the bottom of the stairs. He didn't want to move too quickly. He groaned softly, rolling over slowly. Suddenly, he heard a door open and the pain was instantly real. He was stunned by the feeling that his entire body was on fire. He groaned again, this time in serious pain. He tried looking through the hood that was still covering his head, but could no longer make his x-ray vision work.
Clark didn't even notice as a man made his way down the stairs after him. He was vaguely aware of the man saying something, but wasn't able to concentrate on the words.
"I said, move it," the man demanded again. This time the words were accompanied by a sharp kick to Clark's stomach. Clark doubled over on the cold floor, instinctively holding his stomach. "If you don't move…" started the man, pulling back his foot ramming it this time into Clark's chest. Clark heard a sickening crunching sound.
Clark made an effort to get up, but obviously didn't do it quickly enough. The man's foot plowed into his stomach again. Clark immediately lost the contents of his stomach into the hood.
The man standing over him snorted, grabbing Clark by the scruff of his neck and forcing him back to his feet. He threw Clark into the room.
The man at the top of the stairs directed Lois down the stairs and through the doors into the room Clark had just entered. Then the door was closed behind them.
"Something's wrong," said Joel, only verbalizing what everyone else was thinking. He quickly pulled out his cell phone and called Kenaani.
"Yes," said Kenaani.
"We've got a problem."
"Don't tell me that," Kenaani said. Then he paused, taking a deep breath before saying, "What's going on?"
"We've lost them."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, we were following them. Then they stopped and the signal disappeared."
"Is it possible someone found it?"
"I suppose," said Joel.
"Okay, let's go on that assumption for now. I want you to start searching from their last known position. Get the remainder of the cars back to their original positions. I want them watching in case Hoffman tries to leave the area. I'll be with you in a few minutes."
The hoods were pulled off both Lois and Clark.
"What happened to him?" Roger asked.
Lois looked over at Clark. His head was lagging on his chest and he was being held up by a man. She would have thought he was faking except that there was vomit staining his face. Was he faking? She had no way of asking.
"He gave us a bit of a problem," said Michael, who was the man who had knocked Clark down the stairs.
Roger smiled. He grabbed a nearby towel and walked over to Clark. He roughly wiped the vomit off his face before taking Clark's face in his hand.
"Yeah. This is him," Roger said. "You don't look like such a hero now, do you?"
"Where's my daughter?" Clark demanded with a raspy voice. He still didn't know what was happening to him, but that didn't matter as much as saving Jenny.
Roger ignored him to approach Lois.
"So, was it worth it?" he asked. "Was it worth losing your child in order to send me to jail. I even heard that stunt launched your career. How does it feel to know that your career has cost you your daughter?"
Lois' hand came up, but before she could hit him hands grabbed her from behind.
Roger smiled. "Well, I guess that confirms that the brat is your daughter," he said. "At least you both have the same tendency to hit. Put them in the room," he continued to his men. "We still have to wait for our final guest."
"And who would that be?" demanded Lois.
"Superman," replied Roger.
"What? Are you nuts? When he finds out what you've done…" Lois began.
"I wouldn't count on him if I were you. I have something that will kill him too."
"Nothing can hurt Superman," Lois objected. She knew that. Clark had told her that.
Roger smiled. "No? Well I've got a rock from his home planet that says otherwise." He walked over to the nearby table. Both Lois and Clark watched as he picked up a green rock.
When he started back towards them, Lois realized he was telling the truth. An involuntary groan from Clark as Roger brought the rock closer told her that.
Satisfied that he'd made his point, Roger walked back to the table and set the rock down. "Put them in the room," he instructed his men.
Simon walked over to the inner room and opened the door. Lois began to struggle against the arms holding her. She had to get Clark out of here now. Then she heard something that stopped her in her tracks. She heard her daughter begin to weep. It wasn't Jenny's normal cry — when she was sad or angry. No. This was the sound of a child in pain. Although she had never before heard Jenny cry in pain, she knew immediately that that was what she was hearing. She turned towards the room she was being dragged towards, allowing herself to be forced in the direction of that sound.
"You too," said Roger to Clark.
Clark heard the words, but could no longer decipher the meaning. He was getting weaker by the second. When Hoffman had approached with the rock, the pain had been almost unbearable. When he failed to move, Clark was pushed towards the room. He collapsed. He hardly even felt the hard toed boot that connected with his face, crushing the glass in his glasses and causing Clark's hand to come up instinctively to his face. When he still refused to move, a man grabbed him and propelled him into the room. The door was slammed shut and locked behind them.
Luthor and Nigel were situated on a roof across from the warehouse. They watched as Lois and Clark were taken inside — at least that's who they assumed were under the hoods. They were surprised that Superman had still not put in an appearance. After Superman's visit to him yesterday, Luthor was convinced that Superman would be all over this. They waited about fifteen minutes before Luthor yelled for Superman himself. When the superhero arrived, Luthor planned to tell him that he had received information that the men holding Lois' daughter were working out of a warehouse in this area. He had come here to check it out and had gotten lucky. That way even if that rock didn't kill Superman, Superman would have to admit that Luthor had been responsible for the rescue of Lois Lane.
When Superman didn't come, Luthor yelled again. After all, that seemed to be how others were contacting him these days.
"Is there something else going on in the world that would have his attention?" Luthor asked.
"No, sir," said Nigel.
"Then where is he?" Luthor demanded. Nigel didn't respond. It was a rhetorical question.
The room Lois entered was empty except for a large bed along the far wall. Lois let out a breath at the sight of her daughter, curled up on the bed crying in agony. She rushed to Jenny, gathering her into her arms.
"It hurts, Mommy," whimpered Jenny.
Lois felt tears on her cheeks. The rock that had effected Clark must also be causing Jenny pain. "I know, honey," Lois whispered. She picked Jenny up. She had to get Jenny and Clark out of here. She turned back towards the door just as Clark was being forced into the room. Lois ran at the door just as it was slammed shut.
Jenny immediately stopped crying. Lois turned towards her daughter. She had a sheen of perspiration on her forehead, but she no longer seemed to be in pain. Lois quickly raised a hand to her daughter's forehead.
"Are you okay?" Lois asked.
Jenny nodded and pointed at Clark. Lois turned her attention to the man on the floor.
"Uncle Clark's hurt," Jenny said.
Lois set her daughter down. "I know," she said softly. "How about we see if we can help him?" she asked. When Jenny nodded, Lois moved over to Clark. She managed to get him rolled over. She gasped at the sight that greeted her. Clark's glasses had been shattered. The glass was now embedded in his cheek, less than an inch below his eye. His nose appeared to be broken and there was blood coming from his nose. Some of the vomit from earlier was still clinging to his neck and staining his shirt. His hands were covered with blood, but Lois soon determined that the blood was from him touching his face.
She laid a hand on his chest but removed it quickly when he groaned in pain in response. He must have some bruised or cracked ribs.
She glanced around the room and saw that there was a portable toilet and a jug of water but no glass. There were sheets and blankets on the bed. There was a pillow as well as a small teddy bear. Lois wondered about that. It wasn't one of Jenny's.
"Could you bring me a pillow?" Lois asked her daughter who immediately went and did as she was told. Lois carefully removed what was left of his glasses from Clark's face. She removed the pillow case and used it to clean some of the blood off his face. Once that was done she could see the glass near his eye more clearly. It had embedded itself below his eye and was emerging again slightly higher. Lois realized she couldn't leave it there. If Clark was pushed or pulled around anymore, the glass could shift, causing him to lose his eye. She fished in her pocket and pulled out her Swiss army knife. She removed the tweezers from it.
"Clark?" she asked softly.
He struggled for a moment but managed to open one of his eyes.
"I've got to removed this piece of glass or I think you might lose your eye." When Clark nodded his approval, she continued. "I need you to stay very still," she said, concerned that if he moved, she could wind up driving the glass into his eye herself. When he nodded again, she took a deep breath, moving her hand up to his cheek to get a hold of the piece of glass with the tweezers.
She hesitated when her hand trembled. Clark sensed her hesitation. His hand came up to hers. "You can do it, Lois," he whispered.
She closed her eyes momentarily before reaching up again. She slowly moved the tweezers towards its goal. She cautiously got a good grip on it. She then took a breath and held it as she began to pull. A sudden sharp intake of breath from Clark told her that this was hurting, but she continued to slowly pull and soon the glass slipped from his skin. She dropped the glass on the floor and grabbed the pillow case to stanch the bleeding.
"Thank you, Lois," he said softly.
She gently ran a hand through his hair. "How are you doing?" she asked. "If you can move, you might be more comfortable on the bed."
He closed his eyes and for a moment Lois thought he'd passed out. Then he opened his eyes and nodded. "Can you help me?" he asked.
She immediately got to her feet. Jenny also came over to help. Although she wasn't much help, Clark certainly was glad to see her. The two Lanes got him to the bed. When they were done, Clark asked Jenny to come. She crawled up onto the bed beside him. He raised a hand to her face.
"Are you okay?" he asked softly.
She nodded, before crawling over to get the teddy bear. "Do you want to use my teddy bear?" she asked. "He'll make you feel better."
Clark started to smile, but quit when it hurt to do so. "I'd appreciate that," he replied, taking the teddy bear from her.
"It looks like there's some water here," Lois said. She walked around the bed, seeing if there was a glass. She noticed some broken glass on the floor. She glanced up at Jenny who was looking guilty.
"I forgot to use both hands, Mommy," Jenny confessed.
Lois let out a breath, immediately gathering her daughter into her arms, as tears made their way down her cheeks. "That's okay," she said. "How about I help you take a drink out of the jug?" she asked, wondering how long ago the glass had broken and thus, how long it had been since Jenny had had something to drink.
"Okay," said Jenny, seeing drinking from the jug as an adventure.
Once Lois had given water to Jenny, she asked Clark if he wanted some. He didn't. She took a small drink and set the jug back.
"We need to talk," Clark said.
Lois came over and sat down beside him.
"My umm… differences," he said quietly, making sure Jenny wasn't listening too closely. Lois nodded indicating that she knew what he was referring to. "They're gone."
"Gone? All of them?" Lois asked. When Clark nodded, she continued, "How is that possible?"
"I don't know. It has to be that rock."
"Has anything like this happened before?"
Clark shook his head.
"Is it permanent? I mean, will you get them back?"
"I don't know," said Clark. He paused before saying, "Do you remember what you made me promise in the van?" He didn't want to be more specific than that. He didn't want to alert Jenny about what he wanted to tell Lois.
Lois thought for a moment before nodding.
"You have to promise me the same thing now," he said.
"Clark, all of us have to…"
"Promise me, Lois." He glanced at Jenny. "I need you to promise me."
She followed his gaze before nodding. "I promise," she whispered. She understood what he was telling her. If the opportunity presented itself for her to get Jenny out of here, she was to take it — even if that meant leaving him behind.
"I love you, Lois," Clark whispered in response. He looked over at Jenny. "I love you too, munchkin."
Lois' chin quivered at the words. He really didn't think he was going to get out of here alive. He was saying good-bye. Every instinct she had rebelled against the idea. She glanced over at Jenny. She would give her life to protect that child. How could she deny him the same right? If it came to a choice, she would do as he asked, but she would not accept as a given that she couldn't save them both.
Kenaani's car made its way up behind Joel's now stationary van. He parked and got out, making his way to the van.
"Any sign of them?" he asked.
Joel shook his head. "No. No one watching the entrance to this area has seen anyone that could be them leaving."
"And still no sign of the tracking devise?"
Joel shook his head.
"You know, I've been thinking. Lead can interfere with the signal," said Kenaani.
Joel was thoughtful for a moment. "But where would there be enough lead to keep us from picking up the signal from any angle? After all, we've tried driving all around this area and haven't picked up anything."
Kenaani shook his head. "I guess that's what we have to figure out."
Roger waited impatiently. The plan was to kill Superman before taking care of his prisoners, but a half hour had passed and there was still no sign of Superman. He made his way to the door of the fallout shelter and opened it. He quickly ascended the stairs into the warehouse. There was still no sign of Superman. He snorted before making his way back into the fallout shelter. Luthor appeared to be wrong, but he'd leave the door to the shelter open just in case the big guy did show up. They didn't want to make it too difficult for Superman to get to them.
He had to admit that he did have some doubts about the rock. Still, even if it didn't work, he had enough fire power here to give this Superman something to think about. By throwing all of it at him at once, Roger was sure he could bring him down.
Well, he might as well get on with this. He'd worry about Superman when… if he showed up.
"Get the prisoners," Roger instructed Michael.
Lois didn't have to see it to know the green rock was still in the next room. The groan Clark gave and the instant whimpering by Jenny when the door opened told her it was. She had noticed some improvement in Clark, but he was still very weak. She wasn't sure how much more exposure he could handle. She was also worried about Jenny. Certainly she hadn't had as much exposure as Clark and she wasn't fighting his injuries, but she was a lot smaller than him.
"Get out here," Michael ordered.
Lois took her daughter in her arms and stood up. However, she didn't move towards the door. The exposure to the rock would be worse in the next room.
"It hurts, Mommy," came a little voice into her neck.
"I know, Jen," she said softly.
Clark moved slowly to get to his feet. Maybe he could do something that would allow Lois to get Jenny out of here. If this rock was affecting Jenny the way it was affecting him — and her comments indicated that it was — they had to get her away from it as quickly as possible. Clark stumbled out of the room, trying to keep his body between Lois and Jenny and their captors.
"Well, I was planning to wait for Superman. I had reason to believe he might actually care what happened to you. I guess I was wrong. So, I think that it might be time to finish our business now." Roger looked over at his brother. "Get the kid," he said.
"No," said Lois when Michael proceeded to try to pry Jenny from her arms.
"Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!" Jenny screamed.
Michael wound up and hit Lois across the cheek, causing her to lose her grip on Jenny. Clark took a dive at him, but was knocked to the ground by another one of Hoffman's men who was behind him. Everything went black for Clark.
Lois jumped for Michael, but was easily captured by the man who had just incapacitated Clark. She fought for everything she was worth to get free, but the man holding her was joined by another one, and soon the two men had brought her forward movement to a halt, although both were still finding themselves on the receiving end of Lois' feet as she kicked back at them.
"Good," said Roger when the struggle finally ended. "Make the kid stand over there," Roger said.
"Let me take the kid out of here," said Simon. "She shouldn't see this."
Roger turned to him. "You got to develop some balls, Son. Besides, the kid is the one who's going to die first."
"What?" demanded Simon. "You said you were just going to use her to get her parents here. She's just a kid."
Roger turned to his son. "Grow up," he told Simon. "That woman stole four years from me. I'm about to do the same to her." With that, he turned towards Jenny. He pointed his gun at the whimpering child. "Say good-bye to your kid," he said to Lois as he began to depress the trigger.
Lois began struggling with greater furry against the arms holding her, but to no avail.
Clark had been in and out of consciousness since being knocked to the floor. When he heard Roger's final comments, he dug deep inside himself — forcing himself to his feet through the pain. He knew he had only one chance at this. If he went for Jenny, he would only get both of them killed. He had to take down Hoffman. If he did, maybe that would startle the men enough that they would release Lois and she could get to Jenny. He called on all of his remaining strength to charge Hoffman. He took two steps towards the man when he heard the shot ring out. He was too late. He had failed to save his daughter. The world suddenly went dark and Clark collapsed back onto the floor.
"Fallout shelter!" Kenaani exclaimed.
"What?" asked Joel.
"Fallout shelter. They're lined with lead. Metropolis built a number of them during the cold war. They must be in a fallout shelter. Or at least, that might be it. Get on the phone and call the base. Have them give us the location of all known fallout shelters in this area."
"Yes, sir," said Joel, pulling out his phone.
Luthor was having problems believing that Superman wasn't coming. After the fury he'd seen in Superman's eyes the other day, he could hardly accept that fact.
"He's not coming, sir," said Nigel.
"But he has to," Luthor reiterated. He took one final look at the skies. There was still no hint of red and blue. He let out a breath. "Okay, I guess you're right. It's time for us to go in. Hopefully, at least Kent is dead by now and maybe we can use Superman's failure to show up to turn world opinion against him. Get the men ready."
The entire room stood in stunned silence for what seemed like an eternity. Roger raised a hand to his chest. He removed it to look at the sticky red substance. He slowly raised his head to see where the shot had come from. His eyes found a gun still pointed in his direction. He followed the gun up to meet a pair of eyes — his son. Roger collapsed to his knees.
"Why?" he asked.
"Uncle Jack. You killed him. How could you do that? Then you want to turn me into a baby killer. You went too far, Dad. You just went too far."
Roger opened his mouth as if to speak, but he never got the chance. His eyes suddenly went dead and he collapsed onto the floor.
Lois was the first to move. She struggled out of the arms of the men holding her and rushed to her daughter before anyone could stop her.
"So what do we do now?" asked one of the men. "He was paying our fee."
"You'll get your damn money," snapped Michael. Part of him was tempted to turn his gun on his nephew, but the more rational part said that Simon was the only family he had left. "Right now, we get rid of the prisoners." Then as a concession to Simon, he added, "Except the kid."
"Why don't we just let them go?" Simon asked.
"Because they're witnesses. Do you really think the authorities are just going to let us go now? We're in too deep, Simon. We've got to take care of this mess and then we'll disappear."
Satisfied that he'd convinced Simon, he turned his attention to Clark first, raising his gun to fire.
"No!" screamed Lois, pulling Jenny's face into her neck so that she wouldn't see her father die.
Luthor was just about to send his men in. He had heard the shot and assumed that meant that Kent was now dead. It was then that he first spotted a van approaching the warehouse. He immediately put his men on hold and watched as a number of men disembarked and stormed the warehouse. They didn't seem to be police and Luthor didn't recognize any of them.
"Who are they, sir?" asked Nigel.
"I have no idea," said Luthor.
"Do we go in?"
Luthor thought for a moment before shaking his head. "I think we have to sit this one out, Nigel, and hope for the best." Luthor hated saying the words, but since he didn't know who he was dealing with, he didn't want to risk it. It was more prudent to see what happened. He would stay in case the opportunity presented itself for him to come in to the warehouse as the hero later.
It all seemed to happen so fast. From the almost silent room in which the only sound was Lois' scream to a room where men were rushing around. Lois backed into a corner to keep Jenny out of the center of activity. Gunshots were fired. Men were struggling with each other. Lois knew that this was her chance to get Jenny out of here. She glanced at Clark who was lying unconscious on the floor. The men had stormed into the shelter before Michael had a chance to shoot Clark. Jenny was still whimpering from the pain, but she was doing better than Clark. In a moment, Lois decided she could save both of them. She unwrapped Jenny's arms from around her neck and dashed over to the table. She set Jenny in the far corner, under the table and told her to stay.
"Don't leave, Mommy," Jenny cried.
"I'll be right back," Lois promised, before scrambling out and grabbing the green rock. She quickly ran out of the shelter, shoving the rock behind some nearby crates. Then, just as quickly, she darted back into the shelter.
By the time she got back, Kenaani's men had gained the upper hand and were just getting things settled down.
"Ms. Lane," said Kenaani. "We're glad you're all right. Where's your daughter?"
Lois let out a breath. She squatted down to see her daughter still under the table. "Come here, sweetheart," she said softly. Jenny scampered to her arms. Lois looked over at Clark. He was being examined by one of Kenaani's men. She picked up Jenny, settling her daughter on her hip, and made her way over to Clark.
"Is he alive?" she asked in a trembling voice.
Joel turned around and looked at her. He nodded. Just then, to confirm his diagnosis, Clark rolled over and groaned.
He was still in a lot of pain, but the disappearance of that rock had brought him back to consciousness. Then he remembered Jenny had been shot. A look of unbearable agony clouded Clark's eyes. He tried to see Lois, but couldn't. Still, there was one thing he needed to say.
"I'm sorry, Lois," he whispered as tears slipped silently down his cheeks.
Lois handed Jenny to Kenaani and quickly made her way over to Clark. "Sorry for what?" she asked, falling to her knees beside him.
"Jenny. I'm so sorry I couldn't save her."
"Jenny's fine, Clark." When he looked at her in disbelief, she moved to the side glancing back at Jenny and saying again, "See. She's fine."
Clark painfully moved his head and saw his daughter in Kenaani's arms. He let out a jagged breath. "She's fine?" he asked again.
She pushed some hair off his forehead before once again confirming that Jenny was all right.
Perry was pacing a hole in the carpet. It had been over an hour since the message had come over the scanner that the police had lost Lois and Clark. Lucy had burst into tears at the news. Now everyone was silent, except for the occasional sniffle that would come from Lucy's direction.
"Well, I'm calling the police," Perry finally said, turning to pick up the phone.
"Dispatch to Inspector Henderson," came a voice over the scanner, causing Perry to hang up the phone and turn his attention to the scanner.
"Henderson here. What do you have for me dispatch?"
"I've got a Ben Kenaani on the phone who wants me to patch him through."
"Do it," said Henderson. There was a definite note of impatience in his voice. It was a feeling shared by those in the conference room. It was a long minute before they heard Kenaani's voice come over the air waves.
"I've found Lane and Kent. We need you to get some men and a couple of ambulances down here."
"Where are you?" asked Henderson.
Kenaani gave him the address. "I've got to get back there," Kenaani concluded.
"You'll have back up immediately," Henderson promised.
"Are they alive?" Perry demanded of the scanner which had gone silent. He growled when the scanner didn't answer. "I'm going down there," he announced. The three other people in the conference room immediately informed him that they were coming too.
The ambulance had shown up before the police arrived. They had managed to get Clark out of the fallout shelter and now had him lying on a gurney. Lois came over to his side.
"My glasses," Clark whispered.
She looked at him in confusion for a moment. Why would he care about his glasses? He didn't need them anyway. All at once it struck her. He was afraid that someone would recognize him as Superman. She had to fight not to laugh. She leaned over him and whispered into his ear. "No one is going to connect you to Superman," she said, trying to keep from sounding amused. When he looked at her in confusion, she continued in a normal tone of voice, "Someone might mistake you for a raccoon though."
Just at that moment, Kenaani approached. He smiled at hearing her description of Clark's appearance.
"What are you talking about?" asked Clark.
"I think she's referring to your two black eyes," Kenaani explained with a chuckle.
Lois immediately looked in the ambulance for a mirror. She wasn't able to find a mirror, but she did find something shinny. She handed it to Clark. She and Kenaani exchanged amused smiles as Clark checked out his appearance. His left eye, the one with the gashes under it, was swollen shut. The bruise continued down his cheek and across his nose. His other eye was black and blue, but it was still mostly open. There was a nasty cut across the bridge of his nose. There was dry blood caking his face. She was right. He bore a closer resemblance to a raccoon than he did to Superman. He couldn't help but chuckle.
"Excuse me," said a paramedic, coming over. "We've got to get him in the ambulance."
"I'm not going to the hospital," Clark said immediately.
"You really do need to, sir," said the paramedic patiently as he began to work on the stretcher to get it ready to load it in the ambulance.
Clark's hand stopped the paramedic. "You aren't listening," Clark said firmly. "I'm not going to any hospital."
"Sir, your nose is broken. You might have some broken ribs. That cut under your eye needs stitches. You need to go to the hospital."
Clark immediately sat up on the edge of the stretcher — although he had to brace himself at the wave of dizziness that accompanied the action. "I'm not going to the hospital," he repeated. No matter how hurt he was, he couldn't risk it. What if they took blood or something? No. He wasn't going to any hospital. Even if they didn't take blood, there was the issue of how fast he would heal. He couldn't have anyone noticing it if his powers did come back. However, at this point, he had no idea if they would.
Kenaani stepped up. "Well, if you aren't going to the hospital, I guess we'll have to see what we can do for you here." Then the paramedic watched in horror as Kenaani's hand came up to Clark's nose. Lois and Clark watched with interest as Kenaani studied it for a moment. "That needs to be set," he finally said.
"That's what I've been trying to tell him," said the paramedic.
"I'm still not going to the hospital," Clark reiterated.
"Then how about letting me set it?" Kenaani asked..
"You can't do that," the paramedic said.
"That would be great," said Clark.
Kenaani's hands came up to Clark's face. Kenaani slowly ran his fingers down Clark's nose, placing one hand on either side of it. He stilled for a moment before suddenly moving his hands.
"Ow," Clark gasped, reaching for his nose. Kenaani grabbed Clark's hands, holding them out of the way so that he could examine his work.
"Perfect," he finally said. "Now, about those cuts…"
"You aren't going to take a knife to them or something are you?" Clark asked sarcastically still recovering from Kenaani's work on his nose.
"Of course, not," said Kenaani, missing the sarcasm. "How would that help?" He turned to the paramedic. "You must have butterfly bandages," he said.
"Well, yeah, but he needs…"
"Good. Get them."
The paramedic looked stunned for a moment before going to do as he was told.
Clark's nose began to bleed again. "What did you do to me?" he asked.
"Look, I've done that before — when it wasn't possible to get to a hospital."
"Well, thanks. I guess," said Clark somewhat uncertainly, using a towel to stop the nose bleed.
Just then the paramedic returned and Kenaani stole the butterfly bandages to fix up Clark's cuts. "It's not pretty, but it's better than nothing," said Kenaani before taking a large bandage and covering the cut. "Now be sure to change the bandage regularly."
"I will," responded Clark. "Thanks."
Kenaani smiled. "I think I owed you that."
"Just like we owe you for putting that tracking device in Lois' shoe."
"So you knew?"
Lois and Clark both nodded. Lois immediately bent down and removed her shoe, handing the tracking devise from it back to Kenaani.
"I have only one question," said Lois.
"Only one?" asked both Clark and Ben in unison.
She gave them both a dirty look before continuing. "What took you so long?"
Kenaani smiled. "Well, it's sort of a long story," he responded, before proceeding to fill them in.
It was then that Henderson finally drove up, followed closely by a car bearing Perry, Jimmy, Lucy and Cat.
Luthor watched the activity around the warehouse using a pair of binoculars. He was not pleased, particularly by Clark's survival and the number of little touches Lois seemed to be giving him. He considered going back to Lex Towers, but wanted to wait until the cops were gone. After all, he'd given Hoffman the rock. Since Superman hadn't shown up, the rock had probably not been discovered. He wanted to retrieve it before someone decided it might be worth something.
Jenny spotted Lucy as soon as she got out of the car. She took off from where she was playing with her teddy bear near Lois' feet, yelling, "Aunt Lucy." That was what attracted Lois and Clark's attention to the arrival of the gang from the Planet.
"Well, I see you two survived," said Perry gruffly when he made his way over to Lois and Clark. However, his eyes betrayed his emotion. "But it looks like you had a rough go of it, son," he added.
Cat slithered up next to Clark. "I've got a surefire way of helping you feel better," she said, taking his tie in her hands.
"I… umm…" Clark began. He had no interest in what Cat was proposing, but how could he make that clear to her without hurting her feelings? He glanced over at Lois. There was fire in her eyes. He immediately turned his attention back to how to tell Cat he wasn't interested — he had to find a way, or he was concerned that Lois' fury would be directed at him.
When Cat made her usual forward pass at Clark, Lois immediately felt every fiber of her being come alive. Clark was hers and there was no way she intended to stand by and let Cat continue pursuing Clark. Without thinking about the consequences or their decision to keep things between them a secret, she stepped up and took Clark's tie out of Cat's hands.
"If you ever lay your hands on this man again, I'll get my glue gun. Trust me, your hands will never again leave your sides," Lois said.
Cat and Jimmy looked shocked. Clark and Lucy grinned. And Perry roared with laughter.
Cat was about to object, but when Clark reached over and took Lois' hand in his, she stopped. She wasn't sure exactly what had happened, but for the time being Clark was obviously taken. Although it was hard to believe Lois had been able to steal him out from under her — or at least he would have been under her if he'd just come into her apartment after the ball.
"So, Kenaani," said Henderson, joining the crowd. "Why didn't you call us? I'm not exactly sure who you work for — although I have my suspicions — but that doesn't give you the right to come into my city…"
"There wasn't time, Inspector," Kenaani said apologetically. Of course, he didn't add that he had never had any intention of calling the police. He wanted to get Hoffman back to Israel. However, Hoffman's death made that unnecessary. "When we finally located them, we had to move quickly or let Lane and Kent die — along with the child."
"If he hadn't come in when he did, Clark would have been killed," Lois injected.
Henderson looked at her for a moment, before turning to Clark.
"Don't look at me. I was lying unconscious on the floor at the time," Clark said. Of course, that little bit of information definitely supported Lois and Ben's story.
Henderson snorted. "Fine. I'll need a statement from you, Kenaani. But given what I've just heard, I doubt there will be any charges."
Kenaani smiled. If there were charges, he would probably find out he had diplomatic immunity. Although he had defied his superiors by telling Lois about Hoffman, he didn't think the Mossad would want him to stand trial for this. After all, it would be extremely embarrassing for the Israeli government to have the Americans find out that they were conducting a Mossad operation on American soil. Still, he really would prefer to avoid charges. He went with Henderson to give his statement.
"Listen," said Lois when Henderson and Kenaani were gone. "Would you guys mind taking Clark and Jenny home? There is something I need to finish up here."
"Home?" asked Perry. "Shouldn't Clark be going to the hospital?"
"I'm not going to any hospital," Clark said again.
"But, son, you shouldn't be alone…" Perry began.
"He won't be alone. I want you to take him to my place. I'll be along soon," Lois said.
Everyone stared at her in disbelief for a minute before Lucy said, "That's no problem. We can do that, can't we?" Everyone mumbled their agreement.
"Before you leave, Clark, I need your key to your hotel room," Lois said, as Perry was helping Clark up.
"Umm… Yeah… It's right…" He fell silent as he attempted to get his left hand into his pocket. When he couldn't quite seem to do it, Lois stepped up.
"Is it in here?" she asked, moving a hand to his pocket. When he nodded, she began fishing in the pocket of his pants until she found it. Everyone watched in fascination at the apparent ease with which she conducted so intimate an exploration. "What?" she demanded.
"Nothing," everyone responded, although not in unison and in somewhat different ways. Perry was slightly red. Jimmy was examining the architecture of a nearby building. Lucy was silently chuckling and Cat was hissing and spitting. Lois shrugged her shoulders as if she didn't understand what the fuss was about. Of course, she did understand. It amazed her that, although it had been four years since she and Clark had been intimate, she felt no awkwardness at all in touching him. In that sense, it was as if they had never been apart.
Lois waited until the car holding everyone left before going over to talk to Henderson.
"I'd like to speak to Simon Hoffman," she told Henderson.
He looked at her for a moment before nodding and taking her over to the young man. His father and uncle were both dead as were about half of Hoffman's hired men. The remainder of the men were now in custody.
"I'd like to thank you," Lois said. "If you hadn't interfered, your father would have killed Jenny."
Simon simply shrugged.
"Are you the one who bought the teddy bear for Jenny?"
"I thought it might calm her down. It didn't work."
"Anyway, I just wanted you to know that I am grateful for what you did at the end."
Having settled that, she told the officers she needed to go back in the warehouse. She claimed to have left something behind. That was true. It was just not something she had brought in. She was given permission to return. It only took her a moment to get the rock. She slipped it into a pocket of her jacket and made her way back outside.
Once she reemerged, Kenaani was waiting for her.
"I do have a favor to ask of you," he said, taking her arm and leading her a little ways away.
"And that would be?"
"Whoever you think I work for, I'd ask that you not speculate if you decide to write a story about this. Also, if you could play down the role of my men…"
Lois smiled. "So who exactly do you work for?" she asked.
"No one, Ms. Lane," he said. "Absolutely no one."
"So what you're saying is that the organization for which you work does not in fact exist?"
"Something like that," Kenaani said with a grin.
Lois gave him a hug. "I'm still mad at you for not telling me Hoffman escaped. But I do owe you a lot for what you did today. Don't worry, Major. I'll keep your employers out of it and I might even manage to forget your name." She paused. "Besides, I'm not sure I want to write a story saying my daughter was kidnapped. It might give others ideas."
Clark had tried suggesting that maybe he should just go back to his hotel. Cat had immediately offered to stay with him. Lucy, however, wouldn't hear of it. Lois would kill her if she did. Perry, knowing that he too would be subjected to Lois' wrath, headed the car to Lois'.
It took both Perry and Jimmy assisting Clark to get him into Lois'. He suggested he would be fine on the couch, but Lucy insisted he be taken into Lois' room. Once again, Clark lost. However, he found himself worrying about it. Lois hadn't said he could have her room and he still had a lot of blood and some dried vomit on him. He desperately wanted a bath, but wasn't sure that he could do it by himself and didn't want to be a burden to anyone. Finally, he just lay down on the bed as instructed. He would take his shoes off later. Within minutes, he was asleep.
When the police finally left, Luthor and Nigel entered the warehouse. They found the fallout shelter easily enough. However, there was no sign of the rock. They did, however, know it had been there because they found the box in which Luthor had given it to Hoffman.
An older man was waiting at the operational apartment when Kenaani arrived back. Kenaani recognized him immediately.
"Yosy," said Kenaani, both in recognition of the man and the reason he was here.
"I assume you know why I'm here," said Yosy.
Kenaani smiled. "Well, I've never seen you leave Israel to give good news."
"I was sent here to bring you back to face charges of insubordination."
Kenaani had expected that, so he simply nodded in acceptance.
"However," continued Yosy. "I've been following events of the day. Provided there is nothing about our involvement in the Daily Planet, I think charges can be avoided." He smiled at Kenaani. "Good work, Ben," he said. "I just hope you're right about this woman. We don't like any sort of exposure. After all, as far as the world is concerned, the Institute doesn't exist."
"I am right about Lois Lane," said Kenaani. "The Institute won't be exposed."
"For your sake, I hope you're right."
Lois arrived back at her apartment some time later. She had taken time to go to a bank and obtained a safety deposit box in which she had put the rock. She would find a more permanent way to dispose of it later. She had also gone by Clark's hotel room to get some of his things.
When she arrived in her apartment, Jenny was already in her pajamas and Lucy was getting dinner. Lois stole a bite of food of her daughter's plate before taking a seat beside her. They engaged in some small talk, just enough for Lois to assure herself that Jenny was all right.
"Where's Clark?" Lois finally asked, looking at her sister.
"He's in your room. He was asleep almost the instant he hit the mattress."
Lois grinned before getting up to check on him. When she entered the bedroom, she noticed that someone had thrown a blanket over him. He had obviously not even made it under the covers before he was out. She sat down on the edge of the bed for a moment, watching him sleep. His hair was a mess, she reached up and gently straightened it out. Clark woke.
"Hi," she said softly.
He gave her a partial smile before frowning. It hurt to smile.
"It still hurts," Lois said, stating the obvious. Clark nodded. "Is there something I can do?" she continued.
"Well, I'd love to have a bath, but I don't think you can help me with that. Do you mind if I use your washroom?"
She shook her head. "I got some of your clothes," she informed him.
He moved to get up. When he had problems doing so, she helped him. With her as his support he made it into the washroom. He braced himself against the sink for a moment. "Maybe this isn't such a good idea," he said.
She snorted. "Here," she said, directing him over to have a seat on a small chair sitting in the washroom. She then turned on the water, filling the tub. "I assume you'd have less problems with a bath than a shower."
"I don't think I can do either at the moment."
Lois smiled. "Well, either you let me help you here, or I'm afraid I'm going to have to insist on giving you a sponge bath." She wriggled her eyebrows at him. "Besides, it's not exactly as if I haven't seen it before."
"Not for four years," he objected.
"Okay. How about this? I'll just help you get in and out. I won't look — much." To his look of disapproval, she added. "Okay — at all. You can wash yourself."
Clark looked at the steam from the water pouring into the tub. The idea of getting washed off really did sound pretty good. It was only a moment more before he nodded.
Lois forced herself not to smile. She went to the cupboard and pulled out a couple of large towels. By the time she came back he had gotten his shoes, socks, jacket and tie off. However, the button's on his shirt were causing him problems. She came over and took over the job, quickly getting his shirt off. When she went to undo his belt, he gruffly informed her that he could do it. He then told her to turn around. When she did, he undid the belt and his pants. He then used her shoulder to lean against as he slipped off his pants and shorts and made his way to the tub.
It took all of the will-power Lois possessed to fulfill her promise not to look, but she didn't. She brought in some of Clark's clothes before leaving, telling him to call when he needed her again. He didn't. In fact if she hadn't heard him trying to get back into bed, she might have started worrying about him. She rushed to her room. He was wearing a pair of sweats and shirt, trying to pull back the blankets on the bed.
She shook her head. "I was right," she said from the doorway.
"About what?" he asked turning towards her.
"You're just like every other man in Metropolis — always thinking you have to do everything yourself." With that, she came over and pulled the covers back and helped him crawl in. Once he was comfortable, she informed him she wanted to tuck Jenny into bed and then she'd be back. As she left, she grabbed some clothes from her drawer.
"Hey, that's not fair," objected Clark, realizing that she was taking clothes to change into.
She looked at the clothes in her hand for a minute before realizing what he meant. "That's what you get for not letting me look," she said before turning and leaving the room. Behind her, she could hear Clark chuckle.
Clark was starting to doze when Lois returned. She had brought supper. When he finished eating, she set the plate on the dresser and half closed the door. Then she turned out the lights before coming over and crawling in next to him. The only light still on was on the table next to Lois' side of the bed — where she could easily reach over and turn it off. Clark looked at her in confusion.
"Do you mind?" she asked. "I mean, you are in my bed."
"You mean you're planning to sleep here… With me?"
Lois smiled and curled up into his good side, laying her head lightly on his shoulder. "I can't think of anywhere else I'd rather be," she said. "On the other hand, if this makes you uncomfortable…"
"No!" exclaimed Clark, a little more forcefully than he intended. "I mean…"
Lois laughed. "Is this really what you want to talk about?" she asked.
"No," Clark said. There was a moment of silence before he continued. "Is Jenny asleep?"
She nodded against him. "I left the door open so that we can hear her if she has a bad dream, but she seems fine. What about you? Do you have any of your powers?" They were speaking in whispers since Lucy was still in the living room.
Clark concentrated for a moment. "No."
"Will you be okay if they don't come back?"
Clark was silent for a moment. After so many years of wishing he was normal, it was hard to think of finally being that way. "I guess. It's just… Well, I just found a way that will allow me to use my powers without jeopardizing my life."
Lois nodded. "Well, we'll give it a few days and then see what happens. I take it that's the first time you've seen kryptonite?"
"Well, Hoffman said it was from your home planet and since it's a meteorite…" She shrugged.
Clark smiled. "Okay, kryptonite. Yeah, that's the first time I've seen it. Not an experience I'd particularly like for either Jenny or me to repeat. That brings up a point. Do you know what happened to it?"
"I put it in a safety deposit box for the time being. Just stay away from Metropolis City Bank until we can think of something more permanent."
"There's no need to thank me, Clark. I was just protecting my family."
"Jenny," Clark said in understanding.
Lois moved herself up on one arm so that she could look at him. "And you," she added.
Lois nodded. "I've been thinking, Clark. I think we should tell people that you're Jenny's father. Including Jenny."
"But what about the danger that someone will connect me to Superman?"
"Well, this time we put Jenny in more danger by not telling people who her father is. Besides, Clark, I'm in a profession that makes enemies. Does that mean that I shouldn't be Jenny's mother?"
"Of course not. I just…"
"Clark, just because you're in a high risk profession doesn't mean you don't have the right to be a father. I think you proved that today."
"Are you sure, Lois? Because there's no reason to rush this."
"I'm sure. I think Jenny has a right to know her daddy."
Clark smiled. "I'd love to be her dad."
"Well, that's good, because you are whether you want to be or not."
"You know what I mean."
Lois smiled. "Besides, Clark, do you really think people aren't just a little bit suspicious that there may be more between you and Jenny than just working on a story with her mother?"
Clark snorted. She was right. He had tried, but he had been much too emotional the past couple of days to just be a casual observer. "You're right. Perry already put it together."
"Yeah. He told me last night that he knew. He also said that he wouldn't tell anyone if we didn't want him to."
"So, see. We might as well come clean."
Just then Lucy walked into the room. "Hi," she said, coming in and sitting on the edge of the bed.
"What do you want, Luc?" asked Lois in exasperation.
"I just wanted make sure there was no hanky-panky going on."
Lucy laughed. "Actually, I just wanted to say good-night."
"Good-night, Lucy," Clark said. Lois reflected his sentiments before giving her sister a look that definitely told her that her presence was not exactly welcome.
Just as she was leaving, Lucy looked back over her shoulder and addressed Clark. "So when are you going to make an honest woman of my sister?" she asked, before dashing out of the room.
"Lucy!" Lois exclaimed after her sister.
"Actually," said Clark. "She brings up a good point. Maybe this is something we should discuss."
Lois raised herself up on an elbow to look at him again. She studied him for a moment before speaking, "I love you, Clark. I have for the past four years. I just think we need some time to get to know each other before discussing marriage."
Clark reached up and gently stroked her cheek. "Well, just as long as you don't object to my bringing up the subject again," he informed her.
She smiled. "I'm counting on it." She leaned over and lightly brushed her lips across his. When she was about to deepen the kiss, the bed suddenly moved. Lois moved away from Clark and glanced back to see that her daughter had crawled onto the bed. She sighed and looked at Clark again. She was relieved when he chuckled.
"I thought you were asleep," Lois said to Jenny.
"I want to sleep in here with you and Uncle Clark," she said, her voice trembling slightly.
"Did you have a bad dream?" Lois asked. Jenny nodded.
"Come on up here," said Clark, pulling down the covers between them enough for her to climb in.
Jenny made her way up the bed before stopping to look at Clark. She looked at his black eyes and the large bandage covering his cheek before reaching over and lightly touching it. Her touch was light enough that it didn't hurt so Clark allowed her exploration. Then she leaned over and kissed the bruise.
"All better," she announced, before climbing under the covers between her parents.
When she got settled, Lois spoke. "What would you think about calling Uncle Clark, Daddy?" she asked.
Jenny sat up and looked at her mom for a moment before looking over at Clark. She studied him. "Are you my daddy?" she finally asked.
"Yes, I am," Clark replied, a smile playing at the corners of his mouth.
Jenny thought about that for a minute. "Okay," she finally said, settling back down against him.
Lois leaned over to kiss her daughter, before leaning over to also kiss the man she loved. His eyes were still black and his cut cheek was seriously swollen, but at this moment she didn't think she'd ever seen anything as beautiful. She would have to seriously consider this marriage idea. This was her family. She knew that more certainly than she had ever known anything in her life. Clark reached up and wiped away the tear that had inadvertently slipped down her cheek.
"I love you, Lois Lane," he said softly, his voice betraying all the emotion she was feeling at this moment.
"I love you too, Clark. With all my heart," she whispered in response.
"Read me a story, Mommy," came a little voice, completely breaking the mood. Both Lois and Clark laughed. Lois climbed out of bed and got a book.
The last thing Clark heard as he drifted off to sleep was,
*I would not, could not, in a box.
I would not, could not, with a fox.
I will not eat them with a mouse.
I will not eat them in a house.
I will not eat them here or there.
I will not eat them anywhere.
I do not eat green eggs and ham.
I do not like them, Sam-I-am.*
In spite of the pain from his injuries, in spite of not knowing if or when his powers would return and in spite of his concern that his injuries might heal too quickly to be normal, Clark didn't think he had ever felt more content. He was finally where he belonged. He had finally found his home.
The book Lois reads to Jenny is 'Green Eggs and Ham' by Dr. Seuss.
The Hebrew and Arabic in this story may be spelt wrong. 'Yallah' means 'let's go' or 'get moving' in Arabic. I'm not going to explain 'Ben Zona'. Suffice it to say that it is a swear word/phrase and that the word 'Ben' means 'son' in Hebrew. (I'll let you fill in the rest). Of course, Shalom is Hebrew for peace. It is also used to say hello.
I would like to thank Gerry Anklewicz and Carol Malo for all their help with this story. As usual, they caught many of my mistakes and, as a result of their hard work, this story is much better than it was when I originally wrote it. I would also like to thank Julie Gibson for editing this story for me.