A Matter of Destiny Part Three

By ML Thompson <thomplaw@tbaytel.net>

Rating: PG-13

Submitted: July 2001

Summary: This is the third and final part of the author's "A Matter of Destiny." You need to read the first two parts before reading this one or this won't make any sense.

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.


Clark stood in shocked silence as Lois disappeared into her room, the slammed door echoing in his head. This was all his fault. He would give anything to turn back the clock to the moment he'd awoken in his bed to find Lois kissing him. He mentally kicked himself. He should have immediately understood the significance of her first muttered comment. 'I'm vulnerable.' Instead, he had insisted on promises — promises she hadn't been ready to give. And given how her life had gone, promises he should have known she couldn't give.

It had driven her out of his bed and into a bar in the middle of the night. By the time he'd made up for his stupidity and gone to get her, it had been too late. He suspected that in her mind her inability to make love — something other women took for granted — emphasized the difference between her and the rest of humanity.

Trask hadn't seen her as a member of the human race — even going so far as to question her ability to feel. Clark didn't doubt that she had feelings. In fact, she was the most human woman Clark had ever known. She was also, in spite of her strength and speed, one of the most vulnerable.

Then, tonight, when he'd finally had a chance to show her just how beautiful, how desirable and how very human he thought she was, he'd hesitated. As a result…

He looked again at the door Lois had disappeared through. He understood her need to get away from him. It was his fault. It hadn't even occurred to him that they might not have much time. He figured they had at least the night. When he'd realized they were floating, he'd been more amused than anything — until she'd asked about her face, of course.

He drew in a deep breath. He couldn't leave things like this. He made his way to the door that had been closed to him. As he stood outside listening to her jagged breathing and quiet sobs, his heart felt as if it would break in two. This was all his fault. He had to find a way to make it right.


Lois threw herself on her bed, muffled sobs wracking her body. She had delayed too long. If only she hadn't backed away from Clark when they'd entered the apartment… Or if she'd just stuck around when Clark told her that he couldn't make love to her and made him understand… Instead, she'd wasted what little time she'd had. Now. Now it was too late. The kryptonite had been destroyed. She was once again invulnerable. And it was all because of her stupid fears.

She had had one chance at having a normal life. Maybe it couldn't have included Clark on a long term basis, but she could have at least known what it was like to have a man make love to her. If the way he was able to make her feel just by holding her and kissing her was any indication, it would have been wonderful. A small sob escaped from the back of her throat. Too late. It was just one more disappointment in a life full of disappointments.

She almost should have expected something like this to happen. It was the way her life normally went, after all. She should have learned by now. Don't want anything, don't love anything, because only then will you not be hurt. Life had taught her that again and again. Yet, she still insisted on reaching for more. And every time, her heart was smashed to pieces. Well, never again. Her powers were back. The military knew where she was. It was time to leave.

"Jess?" said a man's voice through her door.

Lois stiffened. The one person who could undermine her resolve was standing outside that door. He was as dangerous to her — even if in a very different way — as Trask had been. She had to guard her heart — especially against him.

"Go away," she responded.

"Jess, come on. We need to talk," said Clark again.

"There's nothing to talk about," Lois answered. Then, after a moment, she added, "I'm leaving tonight, Clark. I promised I wouldn't just disappear again, so take this as your goodbye."


Perry growled again as they rounded another corner. There was no sign of the truck. How had they possibly managed to lose it? He really needed to work on his surveillance skills. He had been stuck behind a desk too long. He wanted to stay far enough back to avoid being spotted. He'd obviously stayed too far back.

"Do you see anything?" Perry asked.

Jimmy shook his head.

"It's got to be around here somewhere," growled Perry.

"It could be anywhere, Chief," Jimmy responded. "I mean, look at all these warehouses. It could have disappeared into any one of them."

Perry drove for a little bit longer before giving up. Jimmy was right. There really wasn't any point in continuing to drive around. They could be anywhere.

"Okay, let's call it a night. At least we know they came to the warehouse district. Maybe that will be of some help."


Clark's heart froze when he heard Lois' words. She was saying goodbye. No! He wasn't going to let it happen. There was no lock on the door so, in spite of how she might take the intrusion, he let himself in. If she was saying goodbye, he was going to insist that she look in his eyes while she did so.

As soon as the door opened, Lois scrambled from where she was lying prostate on the bed so that she was now seated on the side of it, her back to Clark. He stood motionless in the doorway for a moment. This was probably the defining moment of his life. He was determined not to blow it.

He slowly walked up beside her. She moved slightly, so that she was still facing away from him.

"Jess," he said softly.

"Go away," she responded.

Clark shook his head. "Not until we talk." When she didn't respond, he stepped closer and gently touched her hair. A small noise escaped from the back of her throat. Afterwards, he wouldn't be able to say what it was about that noise, but it gave him the courage to do what he did next.

He climbed onto the bed and settled himself into a seated position behind her, with a leg on either side of her body. She shifted to the very edge of the bed in response — but didn't get up. He moved closer until his legs were hanging over the edge of the bed and wrapped an arm around her waist. He pulled her against him before wrapping his second arm around her.

She struggled briefly, but he just tightened his grip. He knew she could break free of his grasp if she really wanted to. But he suspected her struggle was as much to find out if he would let go as any sort of real protest. When she quit struggling, he put his mouth next to her ear.

"I'm not letting go," he whispered.

Lois almost burst into tears at the words. She struggled again to get free of his hold, but it was a half-hearted struggle. After a moment, she surrendered.

"I'm sorry," Clark whispered. "It's my fault and I understand if you hate me. I should never have stopped us when we were in bed earlier."

"No, Clark," she responded immediately. "It's my fault. When we got back here, I wimped out — not you."

He let out a breath. She wasn't blaming him. That was the good news. The bad news was that she was blaming herself. He had to put an end to that. It would only complicate her feelings of insecurity. "Jessica, tell me something."

"What?" she asked, when he hesitated.

"I'm just wondering…" He let out a frustrated breath, not quite knowing how to ask this. "Well, most of us… I told you before that Cat was the first woman I'd ever been with, right?" When he felt her nod, he continued, "Well, that didn't mean I hadn't gotten close before."

"What are you getting at?" she asked, by now thoroughly confused.

"Well, I guess what I'm asking is how far you've actually gone. I mean, with a man."

He felt her grow tense in his arms.

"You've never let yourself get close, have you," he said, more than asked.

She swallowed hard. "It didn't seem right," she said slowly. "I mean, when I knew I couldn't… you know."

"So how far have you gone?"

"You're the only man I've ever really kissed," she whispered after a moment.

His arms tightened around her. "And you wonder why you got spooked? Don't be so hard on yourself."

"But, Clark…"

"Do you have any idea how much I love holding you?" he asked softly.

Lois closed her eyes. She had to admit she loved being held. She absentmindedly began running her fingers over his arms. "I still have to leave, Clark. They know where I am," she said.

Now it was Clark's turn to swallow hard. "Well, before you go, there are one or two things I want to say."

"Maybe it would be best if you didn't," Lois cut in.

"If I don't, I'll always regret it. Besides, if you have your powers back, you can get out of here quickly if you have to. Right?"

"I guess. Unless, they have more kryptonite."

"How did he get the kryptonite close to you last time?"

"He had it in a lead lined box."

"You mean, as long as it's in a lead lined box you don't feel it?"

She nodded.

"You have x-ray vision, right?"

Again she nodded.

"Then couldn't you have x-rayed him to see if he had any?"

"I guess so. I can't see through lead, but I could have seen the box. Of course, I wasn't expecting him to have any so…"

"But you are expecting it now. So, can't you stay a bit longer? Just until we find out if the military try again. I mean, now that Trask is dead…"

"I really shouldn't…"

"Probably not. But I sure would like it if you did."

She didn't respond. How could she possibly stay? How could she possibly leave?

"Look," continued Clark when it became obvious that she wasn't going to respond, "just tell me one thing."


"Do you love me?"

"Clark, we shouldn't be…"

"I know, but please answer the question. Do you love me?"

She took one of his hands and raised it to her lips. She briefly kissed it before whispering, "With all my heart."

"Thank God," Clark whispered in response. "I think it would kill me if you didn't. You see, Jess, whether we can ever be lovers, there's one thing that I know for certain."


"You're my basherteh. Now I know that you don't know what that means, but…"

"Soulmate," she said.



She could feel his chest move as he softly chuckled behind her. "Is there anything you two haven't discussed about me?" he asked.

"No," she responded.

"Plato also believed in soulmates," Clark continued softly.

"He did?"

Clark nodded. "Plato theorized that since the earth was full of duality, it followed…"

"Duality?" Lois interrupted.

"You know light and dark, black and white, good and evil. Anyway, he believed that each soul is split into two parts before birth — a male part and a female part. You're my other half, Jess."

"But, Clark, even if you're right, even if we are soulmates, that doesn't necessarily mean that we can be together. You must know that…"

"The only thing I know is that you complete me."


"Shhhhh," he whispered into her ear. When she fell silent, he pulled her even closer. "There's one more thing I want to ask," he said.


"Well, if I couldn't… I mean, if I had an accident and I couldn't…" His voice trailed off. He couldn't even get the words out.

Lois fought against the grin that was pulling at the corners of her mouth as the meaning of his words began to sink in. "Have sex?" she completed when he obviously couldn't. She felt him nod.

"Anyway, if our situations were reversed, would you still want to be with me?"

"Of course I would," she responded automatically.

"Then how can you think our not being able to make love is going to keep me from wanting to be with you?" Clark gave her a moment to let that sink in before continuing, "Besides, Jess, with your healing abilities, even if we had made love tonight, how do you know your hymen wouldn't have healed? Or did you think of that? Is that why you said you couldn't promise me anything beyond tonight?"

Lois gasped. That possibility hadn't even occurred to her. But Clark was right. There was a very real possibility that making love tonight might not have solved the problem. "I didn't even think of that," Lois said softly, almost to herself.

"Spend the night with me," Clark whispered.


"I just want to hold you tonight. I want to fall asleep with you lying next to me. I want you to be the last thing I see when I close my eyes. I want you to be the first thing I see when I wake up in the morning. Don't think about it, Jess. Just tell me if you want to hold me as much as I want to hold you. For once in your life, don't worry about tomorrow. Spend tonight in my arms."

She knew she should say no — that she was only encouraging his feelings for her. But he had made a point. She could hardly believe how effective his argument was about how she'd feel if their situations were reversed — especially since no man ever wanted to even think about not being able to make love, much less voice those ideas. Finally, she nodded.

"Good," said Clark, releasing her to move off the bed. "Then why don't you get ready for bed and come and join me?"

She smiled and lightly shook her head at the look of sheer delight on his face. "I'll be there in a few minutes," she promised. She still wasn't sure it was a good idea. On the other hand, he was right about one thing. She wanted to spend the night curled up in his arms. She wanted it more than she would have believed possible.

Clark began to move towards the door when something caught his attention. He made his way over to her night stand and picked up a picture. He glanced back at her. It seemed crazy to spend money on a frame for a Polaroid picture.

"Where did you get this?" he asked.

"The night of our first date," she said, diverting her eyes.

Clark looked at the picture for a moment. It was obviously the night of Luthor's ball. "And you kept it all this time?" he asked. When she blushed, he smiled. "I'll see you in a few minutes," he said, before taking one final look at the picture, setting it down and heading out of the room.


"How did it go, Mrs. Cox?" Luthor asked.

"We got it all moved — just in case the police decide to follow up." She paused. "Of course, I'm not keen about doing Nigel's tasks as well as my own."

"Still no word?"

Mrs. Cox shook her head.


Lois stood in the doorway to Clark's bedroom for the second time tonight. This time, he was awake and watching her in return. The soft glow in his eyes immediately wiped out all her doubts. Basherteh. He was her basherteh. Unlike her feelings earlier tonight, this time she knew she was exactly where she belonged, doing exactly what she was supposed to be doing.

She flicked off the light before walking over and crawling into bed next to him. He removed his glasses and laid them on the night stand before moving his arm so that she could curl up next to him. She laid her hand on his t-shirt clad chest and her head on his shoulder. He felt so warm and solid under her touch. For the first time in as long as she could remember, she felt incredibly safe and completely loved.

She glanced up at his face. Their eyes met in the soft light coming in through the window before he bent his head, touching her lips with his. He drew back almost immediately.

"Lois," he whispered.

"You should call me Jessica," she reminded him.

Clark shook his head. "Not here. Not in my bed. Here you're Lois."

She regarded him curiously, trying to understand what he was saying. When it finally sunk in that he didn't want any walls between them here, a tear slipped slowly down her cheek. It had been so long since she had been allowed to be herself with anyone. Yet he was telling her that in his bed, he had no intention of seeing her for anyone other than who she really was. His comments somehow had the power to touch her soul as surely as his lips had touched hers only moments before. Suddenly, all she wanted was to experience that kiss again.

She shifted positions slightly, bringing herself further up so that she could resume the kiss. He didn't object. His hands found their way around her, pulling her closer as the kiss deepened.


Lois felt the warm rays of the sun begin to touch her skin. Without opening her eyes, she ran her hand over the naked chest of the man still asleep beside her. She smiled slightly as the memories of last night swept over her. Things had gone further last night than just kissing. She could still almost feel his touch on her skin.

Still, things hadn't gotten completely out of control. At least now she knew what it was like to get to second base — or was it third base. She never really had understood the baseball metaphor. She'd have to ask Clark — if she worked up the nerve, of course.

She slowly opened her eyes and found that Clark was still asleep. She looked at her beloved's face for a moment before running her eyes and then her hand down his chest. She noticed that one of his hands was draped carelessly across his stomach. She smiled. She loved his hands. She loved the things he could do with his hands. Impulsively, she leaned over and planted a soft kiss on the top of his hand.

"A penny for your thoughts," came Clark's voice.

Lois jumped and then turned red. Clark chuckled slightly — her reaction telling him exactly what she was thinking about.

"I didn't know you were awake," said Lois somewhat shyly.

"I wasn't. But I tell you that of all the ways to wake up, this has to be on my top ten list," Clark replied with a grin.

His grin provoked a smile from Lois. But after a moment, the smile faded and she broke eye contact. "Clark, about what happened last night…" she began.

He placed a finger over her lips and shook his head. "Don't do it, Lois."

"Do what?" she asked.

"Take back what happened last night."

She looked into his eyes again before nodding. How could she take back touching him and having him touch her? How could she, when it meant so much to her?

"Lois, you've got to quit focusing on what we can't have," said Clark.

"What do you mean?"

"Last night was incredible. Holding you, kissing you… Do you have any idea what you do for me?" He paused for a moment. "How am I going to get you to understand? God, Lois, last night… There is more than one way to make love." He placed a hand under her chin and tilted her head up to look in her eyes. "Do you understand me? Instead of focusing on what we can't have, think about what we can have. How can you turn your back on that? How can you turn your back on me?"

Tears began to make their way slowly over Lois' cheeks. "I don't want to, but…"

"Just promise me you'll think about it," Clark interrupted.

She studied him for a moment before nodding. "I do love you, Clark Kent," she assured him softly. "And I promise I will think about it." She laid her head back on his shoulder. "How is it that you always know the right thing to say?" she whispered.

He smiled. "I'm just saying what I feel."

After a moment, she propped herself up on an elbow and looked down at Clark.

"What?" he asked.

"Well, last night…" her voice trailed off. When she continued, she wasn't looking at him. "Did we get to second base or third base?" she asked.

A grin slowly made its way across Clark's face. Trust Lois to wonder about something like that. "Well," he said after a moment of reflection, "I'd say second base with a pretty big lead to third."

She thought about that for a moment before nodding and lowering herself back against Clark.

"So where do we go from here?" she asked. "I mean, the military knows I'm here."

Clark considered the question before responding. "Well, I would think that by the end of today, we'll have a better idea whether Trask was working on his own or if what he did is official military policy."

"Clark, of course it was official military policy!"

"I'm not so sure. After all, there were only two of them. And since when does the military break into people's houses and torture them in their own homes? Even if the military sanctioned torture in this case, wouldn't it have been safer to kidnap you and take you to some secure base before torturing you?"

"So you think that Trask didn't have the support of the military?"

"I think that's a definite possibility. If that's the case, we might not have anything to worry about now that Trask is dead."

"There was the other man. The man who showed up pretending to work for the Daily Planet."

Clark nodded. "Okay, so there was one other person involved. But I'm still not convinced it was an authorized military operation."

"And if it was?"

Clark was thoughtful for a moment. "Then I think we consider going public."

"What?" Lois exclaimed. "Clark, I don't want anyone knowing…"

"It's just an idea. Just consider it, okay? I think if the public were to find out what happened here yesterday, they'd be horrified."

Lois looked at him seriously. "I'll think about it," she said after a moment.

"Good," Clark replied. "Then we should probably get up. I need to go into work today. I want to find out what happened on Perry and Jimmy's stakeout last night."

"What stakeout?" Lois asked.

Clark proceeded to tell her what he had done the day before. When he informed her that he'd stood Mayson up and needed to reschedule his appointment, Lois filled him in on what she'd discovered about Mayson.

Once they had finished filling each other in on the information they had found, they discussed the upcoming day. Now that the military knew where she was, Luthor was probably not much of a threat to her. But since they didn't know exactly how the military would respond, they decided that Lois should stay here for the time being. After all, she could escape easily enough if they decided to come after her — as long as she didn't have to worry about other people finding out about her. And if she was at the Daily Planet when they came for her, there would be too many people around to be sure she could escape without notice.

"Oh," said Clark, remembering something he'd forgotten to mention. "When I went to get first aid supplies last night, I also picked up some makeup."

"Makeup?" asked Lois.

"Well, given what I knew about you, I wasn't sure how quickly your bruises would heal. So I found some makeup that I thought might help you fake that you still had a black eye. It's in the washroom."

Lois smiled at him. One thing she could say about Clark Kent was that he was a pretty thorough guy when it came to details. She looked down, pushing a strand of hair behind her ear as her thoughts again drifted back to last night. Yep, he sure did pay attention to details.

"What?" he asked.

When her face seemed to get a red tinge to it, Clark let the question go. Whatever it was that he'd said had somehow taken her mind back to last night. And with it, his mind had gone there as well. Well, he might need to get to work, but there was one thing he needed to do first. He pulled Lois back into his arms and gently kissed her.


Henderson stood watching his officers as they finished their search of Lex Labs pursuant to the search warrant he'd obtained on the basis of Clark's article this morning. However, if there had been anything here, it wasn't here anymore. He took one final look around before exiting the building. Next time it would likely be more difficult getting a judge to issue a warrant.

He wished Clark had given him some advance warning about the story. He would have to talk to Clark about that later today. Kent and Miller were obviously keeping things from him. He hadn't even known Miller was still around before yesterday. That reminded him. He glanced at his watch. He had to meet with Brigadier General Burton Newcombe in about half an hour.


Clark was whistling as he entered the Daily Planet. Last night had been incredible, fantastic, phenomenal and about a hundred other words that kept drifting through his mind. For the first time, he really thought they might end up together. The knowledge left him feeling slightly drunk. As did the knowledge that she loved him. She really loved him.

"Kent!" Perry's voice echoed through the newsroom.

Clark immediately headed for the boss' office. "Yeah, Chief?" he asked from the doorway.

Perry got up from behind his desk and led Clark into the conference room. He closed the door before turning to Clark.

"So what was so all fired important that you couldn't go on the stakeout?"

"Jess was attacked yesterday," Clark said.

"Is she okay?" asked Perry, his attitude changing from annoyed to concerned.

Clark nodded. "But it was touch and go there for a while."

"What happened?"

"It's a long story and I'd really prefer that you hear it from Jess," said Clark. After all, they hadn't discussed exactly what she was planning to tell Henderson. "So, anyway, how did the stakeout go?"

Perry snorted. "I think I've been behind a desk too long. You were right. There was a late night removal of a lot of barrels from Lex Labs. Jimmy and I followed them into the warehouse district, but then we lost them."

Clark was silent as he considered the problem. "Well, if we assume Luthor is behind this, then why don't we check out any warehouses that he owns in the area?"

Perry smiled. He knew there was a reason Clark was his star reporter — or should he say, one of his two star reporters.

"Good idea, son," he responded.


"Mrs. Cox," Luthor said.

"Yes, Lex," Cox's voice came through over the speaker phone.

"Come in here for a moment."

It was only a moment later before Mrs. Cox had entered Luthor's office.

"That story by Clark Kent is a real embarrassment. He's getting far too close for comfort. He even failed to attend his appointment with Mayson yesterday. If it hadn't been for that call from Ralph Cooke, the police would have found the advanced formula mustard gas."

"So what do you want me to do?" asked Cox.

"I've decided to take care of Kent the old fashioned way."

Cox smiled. "I've always liked the traditional solutions best," she commented.

"I thought you'd enjoy this assignment. Try to make it look like an accident or a mugging."

"Yes, Lex."


Lois wandered into the washroom and found the makeup Clark had gotten for her. She wasn't sure that this would work, but there was no time like the present to see. She pulled out the supplies and began experimenting. It wasn't long before she had managed to get her eye and the area around it a fascinating shade of purple. She sorted through the medical supplies and found butterfly bandages, like the ones the paramedics had used on her last night. She took a drawing pencil and, after several frustrating attempts, managed to get a cut drawn, approximately where the other had been. She pretended to close it with the butterfly bandages.

Once she was finished, she stood back and looked at her work. Not bad for an amateur, even if she did say so herself. Of course, she'd have to remember to walk, turn and hold herself in such a way that people would think she was in pain. She put a grimace on her face and tried to look as if she was in pain. She burst out laughing. She wasn't sure if her laughter was because she looked so ridiculous or if it was just the result of the tension of the past twenty-four hours.

Twenty-four hours. How could so much have changed between her and Clark in such a short period of time? It almost didn't seem possible. She did briefly wonder if she was being foolish continuing to stay here. Was she allowing her emotions to corrupt her better judgment? Of course she was, she finally admitted with a sigh. And for a moment, she was tempted to leave. Then she flashed back on the feelings of emptiness that had consumed her the last time she had left Clark. After last night, she knew it would be even worse this time. Maybe Clark was right. Maybe this was where she should make her stand — with Clark at her side.

Lois was just about to remove the makeup — she could put it on again if she had to go out — when she heard a noise outside. She tensed when she realized that a car had pulled into a parking space just outside the apartment. She looked through the wall and grew even more nervous when she saw who disembarked. It was Henderson and a man in an Air Force uniform. She didn't know much about military insignia, but didn't a star on the shoulder mean the man was a general?

She was about to flee, but then hesitated. She trusted Henderson, but then he didn't know the full story. She thought about Clark's idea of x-raying the men. She hesitated briefly — not really wanting to see too much. And given the lack of practice she had using her x-ray vision, would she really be able to just x- ray them enough to see if either were carrying kryptonite? But the choices were to x-ray them and hear what they had to say or to leave now. And if Clark was right, if the attack on her was not an official military operation…

She took a deep breath before x-raying the men now approaching the door of the apartment. She turned bright red, but was able to determine that neither had any kryptonite. So when they knocked, she made her way to the door and opened it. She looked suspiciously at the man in the uniform before turning to Henderson.

"What's this about, Inspector?" she asked.

"I told Clark that I'd need to come by today to ask you some questions," Henderson said. "Didn't he tell you?"

"He did. He didn't say anything about him though," Lois said, gesturing to the general. "Why is he here? After yesterday, I'm really not keen about inviting a military man into my home." It didn't even occur to her to wonder when this place had gone from being Clark's apartment to her home.

"I think you should hear what he has to say," said Henderson. "You can tell me if what he says makes sense. I'm still having problems believing it."

"What did he tell you?" asked Lois suspiciously.

"May we come in?" asked Henderson.

Lois glanced between the two men before making her way back into Clark's apartment, by implication inviting them in. She was careful to move slowly, to appear that she was still in pain as a result of being beaten. They accepted her unspoken invitation and followed her in. Once inside, Henderson spoke again.

"This is Brigadier General Burton Newcombe," he informed Lois. "He was Jason Trask's commanding officer."

Lois tensed and her eyes narrowed. She cautiously lowered herself onto the couch as the two men also took seats. She grimaced slightly, as if the movement hurt and was gratified when the two men flinched slightly in response. Maybe this was going to work.

"He tells me that your name isn't really Jessica Miller," Henderson continued.

"Oh, does he?" Lois replied, the contempt in her voice unmistakable.

"He says your name is Lois Lane," Henderson continued.

"Really," Lois said, not taking her eyes off the general.

"I understand why you'd be upset at the military, Ms. Lane," Newcombe cut in.

"Do you really?" Lois replied, each word thick with sarcasm.

Newcombe pulled in a breath. "I just want you to know that Jason Trask was doing this on his own."

"Are you seriously trying to claim that the military wasn't behind any of this?" Lois asked in disbelief.

"Not exactly," conceded Newcombe. "When your father first published that article — you know the one where he claimed…"

"I know the one," Lois said cutting him off.

"Well, Trask decided it needed to be followed up on. He was the senior officer in Bureau 39 at the time. You see, Bureau 39 was set up under Project Blue Book to determine if there was an alien threat to national security. The bureau was officially closed in 1969, but as you are undoubtedly aware, it continued operating well into the eighties.

"However, even after the bureau really did close, Trask continued the work on his own. After your father published his second article, we did everything we could to discourage his activities, but…"

"Wait a minute," Lois said. "What second article?"

"You didn't know? Well, about a year after publishing the first article, he published a second article, admitting that his first article was a hoax. Of course, that ruined his career. As a doctor, he held some credibility — which was why Bureau 39 followed up on his first article. When he admitted that he'd made the whole thing up, it ruined him. The bureau saw to that. He's been working since in some free clinic here in the city I think.

"Anyway, that's when Bureau 39 was told to quit trying to find you. When it was brought to my attention that they were still pursuing you, I ordered Trask to quit. When he didn't, we finally decided to shut down Bureau 39 and reassigned the men to other units. After all, it had already been decided that this whole UFO nonsense was an embarrassment to the Air Force. There never was any 'threat to national security.'"

"But he's been following me since then," Lois objected.

Newcombe nodded. "No matter what we did, he wouldn't let go of his obsession with you. I had him assigned to my unit so that I could keep an eye on him. But even I couldn't keep an eye on him all the time."

"If he was still after me, even after he'd been ordered to stop, why wasn't he charged? Don't you guys have to follow orders or risk a court martial?"

The general shifted uncomfortably. Lois narrowed her eyes as she watched him. When he spoke this time, she was less sure of the truthfulness of his statements. "Well, it wasn't quite that easy. If we had put Trask on trial, it would have come out that the UFO project had continued into the eighties. We would have been a laughing stock."

"So instead, you chose to let him terrorize me," she gasped. Suddenly, her thoughts took her in another direction. "You said Trask was working on his own, right?"

"Yes," the general replied.

"Well, he wasn't the only man who broke in here yesterday. Who was the man with him?" Lois asked.

"I really don't know who that could have been, Ms. Lane."

Lois studied Newcombe for a long moment, trying to gage the truthfulness of what he was saying.

"All I can say, Ms. Lane," Newcombe finally continued, "is that I am sorry for the effect Colonel Trask's obsession has had on your life. Inspector Henderson told me about Trask's attempt to kill you and Mr. Kent yesterday. If there is anything either the Air Force or I can do to try to make up for this misunderstanding…"

"Misunderstanding," Lois gasped. "I have lost the last ten years of my life because I had to keep running, praying every night that Trask wouldn't catch up with me. I couldn't risk friendships. And until the last few months, I never dared take a job that I actually wanted. I've had no contact with any member of my family. And you have the audacity to call what Trask did to me a 'misunderstanding.' And now what? I suppose you just want me to bury all of this under the rug. To say, fine. Hey, no problem. I don't hold any grudges against the military for letting this sicko ruin my life all because they didn't want to be 'embarrassed'."

"Now, look," said Newcombe. "The military admits that it is partially at fault here. And we are more than prepared to do whatever is necessary to make things right for you."

"And how do you propose to do that?"

"Well, we were sort of thinking of some form of compensation."

"Money?" Lois asked.

"Well, yes."

Lois got up and headed towards the door of the apartment — remembering at the last moment to hold herself stiff. She opened the door and looked back at the general.

"Get out!" she snarled.

Newcombe rose to his feet as did Henderson. They both made their way to the door. The general turned as if he would say something more, but seemed to change his mind and instead, headed for the car. Henderson stayed.

"So what he was saying… I take it that he was telling the truth — I mean about why Trask tried to kill you."

Lois forced her temper to subside. She took a moment to focus on Henderson's question before nodding. Henderson gave her arm a gentle squeeze.

"The good news is… Now that Trask's dead, you won't have to keep running."

Lois gave him a sad smile. "I hope you're right, Henderson. But there were two of them. Still no word on who the second man was?"

Henderson shook his head. "If you do have any more problems, please call me directly." He took out a business card and wrote a number on it before offering it to her. "My home number is on the back," he explained. "Listen, Jessica… or Lois, I've seen it all. Trask was obviously a nut. Chances are now that he's gone, whoever was working with him will be scurrying for cover. I don't expect you'll ever see him again. But if you do, call me. Whenever."

"Thanks, Inspector," she said softly, taking the card. Henderson really was a good man.

"Oh, by the way," Henderson continued. "I take it you've been working with Kent on this Lex Labs thing." When Lois nodded, Henderson continued, "Well, I'll be by this evening. I think we need to have a long talk."

"Sure, Henderson," said Lois. "I'll let Clark know."

Henderson nodded before turning around and making his way to the car, where the general was already waiting.

Lois watched them leave before it sank in what their visit meant. Even if there was another man out there who believed Trask's theory, without the military supporting him, no one would take him seriously. After all, Henderson hadn't batted an eyelash at Newcombe's story — as if he heard things like that all the time. So that meant… She was free. Lex had nothing on her now. She didn't have to leave. And of course, she knew what that meant. She might actually have a chance at a life.

Clark. She had to tell him. She had to tell him now. She grabbed her jacket and headed for the door.


Clark had found three warehouses owned by Lex Corp in the area where Perry had lost the truck. There was only one thing to do now. He had to go and check them out in person. He grabbed his jacket and was putting it on as he headed for the Daily Planet parking lot. He had decided that for this, he wanted his own vehicle. After all, he couldn't very well ask a cabby to wait to give him a ride to a second warehouse while he broke into the first.

He was slightly concerned that his jeep could be spotted and identified, but if he did this right, no one would even know he'd been there. Then, if he could find out where Luthor had sent the barrels, he could contact Henderson who could raid the warehouse. It still might take some doing to connect Luthor back to the mustard gas, but once they had proven Lex Corp's involvement and got some of the minions in custody, someone was bound to break. That and what Lois had found out about R.T.W. Inc. — Clark wondered briefly what the initials stood for — should surely be enough to bring Luthor down. At least, in Clark's experience, once you managed to dislodge the first bricks, the entire house tended to crumble.

Once Luthor was behind bars, they'd turn their attention to the military.

He watched the numbers on the elevator as it descended. When the ding announced that the elevator was stopping on the first floor, Clark sighed — frustrated by the delay. After all, the sooner they nailed this story, the sooner he and Lois could turn their attention to dealing with the military and then… He smiled.

The elevator doors slid open and a dark, attractive woman stepped in. Clark gave her a smile of acknowledgment, but didn't speak. When no one else entered, Clark again pushed the button for the parking garage and the doors slid shut.


Luthor didn't take the phone call. He didn't want to talk to Mayson Drake right now. For the amount he was paying her, she had been quite a disappointment. She couldn't seem to keep Kent's interest — he had once again stood her up. And she hadn't managed to find out about the story Kent was planning to write. He really had no use for failures. He would have to carefully consider how to deal with that particular problem.


"What do you mean he won't talk to me?" demanded Mayson.

"I'm sorry, Ms. Drake, but Mr. Luthor is tied up at the moment," the receptionist responded.

"This is urgent," Mayson insisted. "Was he told that I was on the line?"

"Yes, Ms. Drake, but I'm afraid he really can't speak to you at the moment."

"Fine!" said Mayson, slamming down the phone. It had just been brought to her attention that Nigel St. John was in custody — awaiting a deportation hearing. If Luthor didn't think she was important enough to talk to, why should she try to get this information to him?

But after a moment, as her temper subsided, Mayson thought of another possibility. If Luthor was refusing to take her calls, it must be because he no longer needed her services. And if that was the case… She shivered. She knew Luthor had to be behind Gables' death. So what was she to do?

She picked up the phone again to place a call to the Daily Planet. She wasn't sure exactly what she was going to say. All she did know was that Clark Kent was the one person she knew for certain was not on Lex Luthor's payroll. After a moment, she set the phone back down.

She couldn't call the Daily Planet. After all, although she didn't know who Luthor's source was inside the Planet, he must have someone — not to mention the surveillance devices she knew were there. Besides, could she really risk betraying Luthor? Telling what she knew could earn her a few years in prison. And since she was certain that Luthor had gotten to Gables in jail…

After a moment's hesitation, she got up and went to her filing cabinet. She opened the bottom drawer and removed her gun. She'd had it for years, but hadn't fired it since shortly after she'd first purchased it. She checked to make sure she knew how and, once satisfied, checked to be sure it was loaded. If Luthor had decided that she was no longer a useful ally, he might decide she was expendable. She didn't intend to go down easily.

She stuck the gun in the lower drawer of her desk, leaving it open far enough that she could get the gun out in a hurry if necessary.


Mrs. Cox was pleasantly surprised to find Clark Kent in the elevator that would take her to the parking garage. She had intended to cut the gas line on his jeep and was going down to do so, but now that he was actually here… She smiled. Lex did say that she could make it look like a mugging.

Mrs. Cox had decided to handle this assignment personally for two reasons. First, when it came to murder, the less people involved, the better. Second, this was the fun part. Of all the assignments she'd done for Lex over the years, murder was the one she liked best. Knowing that her actions had extinguished another person's life always left her with such an incredible adrenaline rush. In a way, she was almost pleased that her original plan, the one to cut Kent's gas line, had failed. After all, the high was so much greater when you got to look into a person's eyes the moment that light died.

She allowed Clark to get out of the elevator first before stepping out behind him. She removed the gun from inside her jacket and pointed it at her intended target. But she didn't fire. She wanted to see his eyes the moment the life went out of them.

"Mr. Kent," she purred to the back of the man now walking away from her.


Lois waited impatiently for the doors to the elevator to open. When they finally did, she stepped into the newsroom, looking around for Clark. She reminded herself to act as if she had been beaten up last night. Although it was unlikely that Henderson, or anyone who knew what had happened, would be here, it was better to be safe than sorry.

"Great shades of Elvis," said Perry's voice when he saw Lois' black eye. "Clark said you were attacked. What exactly happened?"

"I'll explain later, Perry," said Lois. "Is Clark here? I have to talk to him."

"Jessica," said Jimmy coming over, "that's some shiner. Hey, I thought you'd left Metropolis. What brings you here?"

"Clark," Lois repeated. "Where is he?"

"You just missed him, honey," Perry replied. "But what are you doing out and about, I thought you said…"

"I'll explain later, Perry," Lois responded impatiently. "Do you know where he was going?"

"He was going to check out some warehouses," Jimmy cut in.

"Cab or jeep?" Lois asked.

"Jeep, I think," responded Jimmy.

Lois immediately turned to the stairs. She had to tell Clark now or she was sure she'd burst. With a quick 'thank-you' flung over her shoulder, she headed for the stairs.

"What was that all about?" asked Jimmy.

"Darned if I know," Perry replied, shaking his head and returning to his office. He just hoped Lois' excitement meant that she'd broken this story.


Clark was lost in thought as he stepped out of the elevator. Maybe he had been wrong insisting that Lois stay. Was he being selfish? After all, if he was wrong and the military came up with some way to expose her to kryptonite without her knowing, her life could be in danger. But if she left… He had seen what leaving last time had done to her. It was time to start fighting back. Of course, if something happened to her, he'd never forgive himself.

Someone saying his name pulled him out of his thoughts. However, it wasn't until he heard it a second time that it really registered. He turned towards the sound of the voice.

"Mr. Kent," the woman who had rode down in the elevator with him said.

"Yes?" he asked, before he noticed the gun in her hands. He froze, his eyes stuck on the small black barrel pointing at his chest. He swallowed hard. He had thought Lois was the one whose life was in danger. But why? "Luthor?" he asked.

An evil smile lit up her face. "Not bad, Mr. Kent. Yes. It seems you've written one story too many," the woman said as she pulled back the hammer. Since the gun was a semiautomatic, she really didn't need to cock the gun, but she always liked to drag out the moment. After all, it allowed her victim to realize he was about to die. The look of terror in his eyes was always so rewarding. She focused her attention exclusively on his face as she began to depress the trigger.

Suddenly, her hand was hit, pushing it up into the air as the gun sounded and resounded in the quiet of the parking garage. It was only a moment later when the woman felt a foot in her stomach. She let out a pained breath as she crashed to the floor behind her — the gun flying out of her hands. She lay on the floor, struggling to regain her breath.

Lois looked over at Clark. "And you wonder why I take Tai Kwan Do," she said, a grin lighting up her face.

Clark let out a breath. He hadn't even heard her enter. He was sure that she had moved at superspeed to get there in time. However, she had kicked the gun out of the woman's hands and sent her flying into the floor using her Tai Kwan Do techniques — thus, keeping the woman from knowing that she was slightly different. She was brilliant.

Lois looked at the woman still lying incapacitated on the floor before glancing back at Clark.

"Take off your belt," she instructed.

"I'm not sure this is the right time, Jess," Clark responded. Lois just rolled her eyes. However, in spite of the words, Clark understood immediately what she was suggesting. He removed his belt and used it to tie the woman up. "Why don't you call Henderson?" he suggested.

She looked at the woman, making sure she really was no longer a threat to Clark, before going to place that call.


"You two are almost a full time job," Henderson said when he arrived. He looked at the fuming woman sitting on the floor, her hands strapped behind her. "So how did you disarm her?" Henderson asked.

"Jessica used her Tai Kwan Do," Clark said, in obvious awe.

Henderson raised an eyebrow. "Pretty impressive, considering how badly you were beaten yesterday."

Lois and Clark exchanged quick looks before Lois responded.

"I think it was the adrenaline. I'm sure I'll be hurting tonight. It's just when I saw that woman about to shoot Clark…"

Henderson looked at her for a moment before nodding.

"So what was this one about?" Henderson asked.

"Apparently Lex Luthor decided he didn't like my latest story," Clark responded.

"Do you have any proof of that?"

"That's what she told me when she was holding the gun on me," Clark said pointing at the woman on the floor.

Henderson walked over to the woman. "What's your name?" he asked.

"I believe I have the right to remain silent," the woman replied.

Henderson chuckled. "Not about your name. Of course, we could go down to the station and take your fingerprints — something tells me you've been printed before. Of course, if we have to do that, I will be laying a new charge of obstruction of justice."

"Angelica Cox," Mrs. Cox replied.

Lois and Clark exchanged glances mouthing the word, 'Angelica', both astounded by the irony that a woman who was so unangelic could have been named 'Angelica'.

With that, Henderson read her her rights and got her into a proper pair of handcuffs. When he informed her that she was under arrest for attempted murder, she finally spoke.

"Can't we make a deal here?"

"On an attempted murder charge?"

"I can give you the person who ordered this."

"You mean Luthor?" Henderson asked. He shook his head. "I need more than the word of an accomplice," Henderson said, before proceeding to direct her towards the police car. "Besides, you already told that to Clark. It might be hearsay, but I think we can find an exception to get it admitted."

"Wait," said Clark. "You might not be able to deal with the attempt on my life, but you might be able to help us nail Luthor for the mustard gas."

Cox finally smiled. "I might be able to do that. But if I do, I walk away from this and for complicity in any crime I might admit to along the way."

"I can't…" Henderson began.

"Deal," said Clark.

"You don't have the authority to make that type of deal. This woman is going to be charged with attempted murder; I can't very well let her walk away from that," said Henderson.

"It was my life she attempted to take," Clark said. "And the sooner Luthor is behind bars, the less likely anyone will be to try to take my life again."

Henderson studied Clark for a moment before turning to Mrs. Cox. "If what you give us helps us nail Luthor, I'll see what I can do to get you your deal."

Cox smiled. "I have one other condition."

"What's that?"

"I assume I'm going to be in custody for a while. I want protection."

"In prison?" Henderson asked.

"Where was Gables when he was killed?"

Henderson looked at her for a moment before nodding. He could certainly do that. He was looking forward to this interrogation. He had no doubt it would be very informative. Henderson put Cox in the police car before coming back to Lois and Clark. He told them that he would come by their apartment later that evening. In the meantime, Clark told Henderson that there were a couple of leads he wanted to check out as well.


Clark turned to Lois as soon as Henderson's car began pulling out of the Daily Planet parking garage.

"What are you doing here, Jess?" he asked. "I mean, I'm glad you are, but do you really think it's a good idea."

"That's what I came to tell you, Clark," she said, before proceeding to tell him about her meeting with Henderson and Newcombe.

"So…" he prompted.

"I don't have to leave. You were right. It seems that Trask was working on his own. At least, I think I believed most of what General Newcombe had to say."

"And what was that?"

"He said that… Oh, Clark, I almost forgot. Apparently my father published a second article claiming that the first one was a hoax."

"That's great."

"Anyway, Newcombe said that the bureau responsible for following up on UFO reports was shut down some time ago. They had decided there was nothing to investigate — especially after my dad recanted his previous article. Trask was working on his own. So now that he's dead…"

She was immediately lost in an enthusiastic hug. She laughed as he began nibbling his way up her neck.

"Clark, we still have a couple of things that need to be taken care of," Lois said, pushing him away.

"Well, yeah, but… Well, all we have to do is catch the bad guys and then…" His face broke out in a smile and he hugged her again. "Let's get going," he said when he released her. "The sooner we catch the bad guys, the sooner I can prove to you that I'm your basherteh."

"I'll look forward to it," Lois responded with a smile. "Although, I must warn you that it will probably take a lot of convincing. Do you really think you're up to it?"

"Please," groaned Clark. "It will be like taking candy from a baby."

Lois smiled. "You mentioned to Henderson that you wanted to check out a couple of other things," she said.

"Right," said Clark. "Late last night Perry and Jimmy tracked a number of barrels from Lex Labs to the warehouse district. I found three warehouses there that are owned by Luthor. I thought I'd check them out."

"You were going to take the jeep?"

"Yeah. Why?"

"Well, I'm going with you. And since I think your jeep is probably bugged, why don't we catch a cab?"

"I'm not sure we can ask a cab to wait while we break into a warehouse."

"So we get out near the first one and then walk to the rest. The warehouse district can't be that big. Besides," she continued, patting his stomach, "you could probably use the exercise."

"Hey, watch it! I didn't hear you complaining last night."

She laughed before turning and walking towards the elevators.

Clark looked down at his stomach. "There's nothing wrong with my stomach," he grumbled. "I get plenty of exercise."

Lois reached the elevator and looked back. Clark still hadn't moved. He was running a hand over his stomach. She rolled her eyes. "Would you relax," she yelled back at him. "I was just kidding. I think you look great."

Clark looked at her for a moment. "Yeah," he mumbled. "Of course you do," he continued, before making his way towards her.

She heard his comments and rolled her eyes again before hitting the up button for the elevator. And men thought women were vain!


"This is the last one," said Clark as they made their way to the final warehouse.

"Then this must be it," Lois replied.

When they got past the warehouse, Clark placed a hand on Lois' arm and directed her around the corner. They quickly made their way behind the warehouse and began trying doors. When they finally found one that was open, they slipped inside.


Henderson was heading back to the interrogation room when he was diverted by a page that informed him that an F.B.I. agent had entered the police station and was asking for him.

When Henderson returned to the station with Cox, she told him that she would only accept protection from the F.B.I. Although she refused to confirm that Luthor had sources inside either the M.P.D. or the D.A.'s office until she had a deal in place, Henderson suspected that that was the reason she wanted F.B.I. protection. As a result, he contacted the F.B.I. who agreed to send over an agent who could make a deal and provide protection.

"Inspector Henderson?" the man asked, when Henderson approached the front desk.

Henderson nodded. "And I take it you're Scardino?" Henderson asked in return.

"Please," said Scardino, "call me Daniel."

"All right, Daniel," Henderson said. "And I'm Bill," Henderson began before filling Scardino in on the situation.

Afterwards, the two of them made their way into the interrogation room where Cox was waiting.

"This is Daniel Scardino," Henderson informed Cox. "He's with the F.B.I.

Cox slowly ran her eyes over Scardino, sizing him up. "Is Agent Scardino the best the F.B.I. has to offer?" she asked skeptically.

Dan smiled. "Well, it's the best you're going to get," he responded. "So why don't you drop the attitude and we can get down to business? The states attorney's office is prepared to ensure you get full immunity — provided you can give us what Henderson here seems to think you can."

"And protection?" Cox asked.

"You'll be put up in a room at the Mariano — until the trial. After that you'll be placed in the F.B.I. witness protection program."

Cox regarded him critically. "Lex will just buy one of your men," she said.

Scardino smiled. "Not these men."

"Anyone can be bought — if the price is right. How do I know that you aren't bought already?" Cox responded.

Scardino lowered himself into a chair across from her. "Well, if you don't like my deal, we can just forget the whole thing. Of course, if Luthor really is the man you say he is, how will he respond when he finds out you're in prison for attempted murder — a murder you claim he ordered?" When her face fell, he continued, "So do we have a deal?"

Cox let out a short breath and nodded.

"So where do you want to begin?" Henderson asked.

"How about where the advanced mustard gas is being stored?"

Scardino snorted. "We could find that out easily enough," he said.

Cox raised her eyebrows. "Not unless you know that it isn't in a warehouse owned by Lex Corp," she said. "Perhaps I should begin by telling you about a company called R.T.W. Inc."


"I can't believe it wasn't in any of the warehouses," said Lois in frustration after she and Clark left the final warehouse owned by Lex Corp. "Clark, are you sure these are all the warehouses Lex owns?"

"Yes," said Clark.

"I don't understand. If Lex is behind the mustard gas, and we know he is, and if Lex had the mustard gas removed from Lex Labs last night, and we know he did, then where is it? Clark, this is just so frustrating. I mean, every time we think we have him, he seems to slip through our grasp. I wish that just once…"

Clark shook his head and chuckled slightly. One thing he could count on was Lois going ballistic.

"What's so funny?" Lois demanded.

Clark laid a hand on her arm, turning her towards him. "I just happen to think you're absolutely adorable," Clark said, before leaning over and running his lips across hers. When she didn't resist, he pulled her fully into his arms and deepened the kiss.

All thoughts of Lex Luthor, or mustard gas, or the story, were suddenly banished from Lois' mind. She moaned softly. After a moment, he pulled back.

"What was that for?" she finally managed to gasp.

"I just thought you needed to clear your mind," he said with a smile. "So, what do you say we go see if my next lead pays off any better?"

Lois nodded, still feeling slightly stunned. This kissing stuff was new to her. Would she ever get over the way her knees seemed to get weak and every nerve in her body seemed to come alive whenever he kissed her?

"So, what's…" Her voice trailed off for a moment as she lost her train of thought. "Umm… what's your next lead?"

Clark smiled. "Come on," he said, taking her hand and leading her towards a busier street so that they could hail a cab.


Henderson and Scardino listened to Cox's story mostly in silence. It was so hard to believe that this man, who had done so much good for the city of Metropolis over the past few months, could be such a monster. Mrs. Cox had only been with Luthor for the past year. As a result, she was unable to tell them when or how Luthor had made his first billion. However, she did confirm that Luthor had Gables working on an advanced form of mustard gas. Apparently, Luthor even had a buyer. Mrs. Cox wasn't able to say who.

Cox explained that Luthor insulated himself by working through a company called R.T.W. Inc. — she didn't know where the name had come from. She and Nigel St. John always handled whatever dirty work was involved in order to keep Luthor's hands clean.

By the end of her story, Henderson and Scardino realized they had a problem. They believed her — and even knew where the mustard gas was being stored. However, they had no way of linking the mustard gas directly to Luthor except for the word of an accomplice.

"Don't you have anything solid? Or at least someone who can back up your story?" asked Scardino.

Cox shook her head. "The only one who can support most of what I've said is Nigel St. John — and he seems to have disappeared. There are other people who know little bits and pieces — for example, Assistant D.A. Mayson Drake can tell you that Luthor wanted Gables' death declared a suicide — but only Nigel St. John can corroborate the whole story."

"If you want your deal, you're going to have to do better than that," said Scardino.

"What do you want from me? I've told you everything I know."

Scardino tossed her a cell phone. There was only one way to nail Luthor. "Call Luthor," he said. "Tell him to meet you tomorrow morning at the warehouse."

"Are you crazy?" she asked Scardino.

"Do you want your deal or not?" he asked in response.

Cox let out a short breath. Then she looked at the phone and swallowed hard before beginning to punch in a number.


Mayson tensed when she heard a noise outside her office. The court house had closed about twenty minutes ago. She had thought she was alone. Slowly, almost silently, she reached down into the bottom drawer of her desk — never taking her eyes off the door. When her hand came up again, she was holding the gun.

The noise was getting closer now. She raised a trembling hand to point the gun at the door. She watched in increasing terror as the door handle began to move. She held her breath and closed her eyes as the door suddenly swung open. The sound of the door opening caused Mayson to jump. The gun accidently went off in her hands.

"Woe!" exclaimed a male voice.

"Clark!" Mayson exclaimed, when she opened her eyes and recognized him.

Clark glanced at the bullet hole in the door frame not more than half a foot from his head. He was almost instantly pushed from behind. He fell into the room, Lois almost on top of him.

"Sorry," gasped Mayson, immediately lowering the gun.

Lois and Clark both looked up cautiously. Once Lois was satisfied that Mayson wasn't about to fire again, she crawled off Clark.

It briefly crossed Lois' mind that it might look crazy for her to be protecting Clark. But had someone really been trying to kill Clark… She shuddered. It seemed everyone was trying to kill Clark.

Now that the danger was over, Lois was furious. She approached Mayson, fighting to keep her temper under control. She grabbed the gun from Mayson's hand and had to keep herself from crushing it into a little metal ball.

"What the hell are you doing?" Lois demanded.

"I didn't mean… I mean, I didn't know… Oh, God, I'm sorry. I could have killed you!" Mayson suddenly gasped.

"No kidding!" Lois exclaimed.

"Look," said Clark softly, "let's all just calm down a little bit."

No one said anything for a moment as they took seats around Mayson's desk. The silence was finally broken by Mayson.

"What are you doing here?" she asked, addressing Lois. "I heard that you left Metropolis."

"Who told you that?" Lois responded. "Luthor?"

When Mayson tensed, Clark laid a hand on Lois' arm. He had an idea about how to get Mayson to talk and didn't want Lois' obvious anger to cause Mayson to clam up.

"We know you're working for Luthor," Clark said. "He's been paying you eight thousand dollars a month."

"I'm not…" Mayson began.

Clark held up a hand, cutting her off. "Mayson, I suspect that if you really weren't trying to kill me with that gun, you had it because of Luthor." Something in Mayson's reaction told him he was right. "The way I figure it is that you think Luthor is going to do to you what he did to Gables."

Suddenly Lois caught on to where Clark was going with this.

"So, he isn't satisfied with your performance?" asked Lois, trying unsuccessfully to keep the sarcasm out of her voice. "Well, that really is a shame." She glanced over at Clark. "I suppose if Mayson doesn't want to cooperate with us, we really shouldn't try to force her. I'm sure she can take care of herself against Lex."

Clark nodded and together, Lois and Clark got up and headed for the door.

"Wait!" exclaimed Mayson, causing Lois and Clark to stop and turn around.

Mayson watched them in silence for a minute more, still debating in her mind exactly what her next step should be. She knew she could trust them — at least to try to help her against Luthor. On the other hand, they would undoubtedly print whatever information she gave them. And, she was likely looking at a police investigation into her activities — which could well result in some jail time.

"Okay," she finally said, gesturing them back to their chairs. "But before I say anything, I need to know that you will help me with Luthor."

"You really think he's going to kill you, don't you?" said Lois.

Mayson nodded. "I think he's decided that I'm not useful anymore. That makes me a liability."

"What do you know that could make you a liability?" Clark asked.

"Luthor wanted me to have Gables' death declared a suicide. It wasn't that hard. The doctors were vacillating about the cause of death, so I just applied a little judicious pressure and pushed them in the appropriate direction." She shrugged. "Then, when you started asking questions, Luthor wanted me to find a way to distract you. I tampered with the file and tried…" Her voice trailed off. However, her meaning didn't go unnoticed. After all, all three parties to the conversation knew she had been trying to get close to Clark.

"I think we should call Henderson," said Lois. When it looked as if Mayson about to object, Lois continued. "We can trust Henderson," she said. "Look, Mayson, the only way you'll be safe, long term, is if we put Lex behind bars."

Mayson took a deep breath before nodding.


Brad opened the side panel on the gun and placed the kryptonite inside. The scientist was certain this would work. But the scientist wasn't the one who would undoubtedly die if it didn't. He closed the panel and checked the sights. He then placed the gun back in its case and stuck it under his bed. This would be finished tomorrow.


"Is it done?" asked Luthor when he picked up the phone and heard Cox's voice.

"Yes, Lex. Clark Kent will no longer be a problem. But there is something else," Cox said into the cell phone.


"Well, I've been approached by a representative from the buyer. He wants a one on one."

"Why did he contact you?" Luthor asked suspiciously.

"He said he couldn't find Nigel," she responded.

Luthor snorted. Nigel's disappearance was really becoming worrisome. "Did he say what he wants?"

"He was concerned about the safety of transporting the substance. He wants to meet tomorrow morning at the warehouse. He says if you're willing to meet with him where you're storing the gas, he can be confident that it won't kill his men before they can use it."

Luthor was silent for a moment. "Tomorrow morning's fine with me — as long as it's early enough. Why don't we say seven?"

"I'll let them know, Lex," Cox replied. "By the way, it's getting late. I think I'll just go straight home. I'll see you at the warehouse tomorrow," she concluded, before hanging up the phone. She looked at the two men watching her. "Well, we're set," she said.

As Scardino was preparing to take Cox to the hotel where the F.B.I. would be holding her, Henderson approached him with a different problem.

"Listen, Daniel," he began, "I'm concerned that Cox might not have given us the names of all Luthor's sources inside the M.P.D. so I need help with something else."

"Name it," Scardino responded.

"Well, this case was originally brought to my attention by a couple of reporters. Luthor tried to have one of them killed today. I was just thinking…"

"That they needed some protection," Scardino completed.

"Well, yeah."

Scardino considered the problem for a moment. "It's going to be very difficult to assemble a second team that I know we can trust for tonight. I could set something up for tomorrow, but…"

"There's got to be something you can do."

"I'll tell you what. I can't get another team in place until tomorrow, but once I'm finished getting Cox settled, I'll come over and keep an eye on your reporters tonight."


Lois and Clark waited for Inspector Henderson to arrive at Mayson's office. Mayson had told them everything she knew — which was that Luthor had wanted Gables' death to be reported as a suicide and that she was to get close to Clark and report back to Luthor on Clark's activities. She also told Lois and Clark something they already knew — that Luthor had bugged Clark's work place and that he had a source — she didn't know who — inside the Daily Planet.

The information didn't prove that Luthor was involved with the mustard gas, but it did show some sort of involvement with Gables' death. It was one more piece in a very complex puzzle.

About half an hour later, Henderson finally arrived. Once they had exchanged greetings and Lois and Clark had brought Henderson up to date, Henderson told everyone that he needed a moment to speak to Lois and Clark.

They moved to the other side of Mayson's office where Henderson spoke in hushed tones. "We have a plan in place to nab Luthor. It's going down tomorrow. You two can have front row seats — as long as you don't print anything until I say it's okay to do so. In the meantime, Clark, Luthor thinks you're dead. Keep it that way. Go straight home and don't talk to anyone. I have an F.B.I. agent coming over to keep you two safe tonight."

"What?" exclaimed Lois.

"Look, in the past two days, there has been one attempt on your life and one on Clark's. I want to be sure no one succeeds."

Lois and Clark exchanged a look. As long as no one had kryptonite, they would be safe enough on their own. But how could they tell Henderson that?

"Okay," Clark finally conceded for both of them.

"What about Mayson?" Lois asked. "Can you get someone to protect her too?"

Henderson glanced over at Mayson before looking back at Lois. "We don't have any more men for tonight. Tomorrow we could…"

"She could be dead by tomorrow," objected Clark.

"Can she stay with you tonight?" Henderson asked. Then to their obvious look of displeasure, he continued. "I have one agent coming to your place. The only way he can possibly protect Mayson as well is if she's staying there too."

Lois and Clark looked at each other for a moment more before they agreed.

"Thank you," said Henderson. "Now, I don't want either of you talking to anyone tonight."

"We need to talk to Perry about the story," said Clark.

"No story, Clark," said Henderson. "If Luthor gets suspicious…"

"We don't have to print anything tonight, but we do need to bring Perry up to date."

Henderson looked between Lois and Clark for a moment before nodding. "Then have him meet you at your place. He might as well know what's going on too. But stay out of sight. If Luthor finds out you're still alive, he'll know he's being set up."

"You mean this whole mess might be over by tomorrow night?" asked Lois, with a quick, hopeful glance at Clark.

"If we get really lucky," Henderson responded.

"Oh, by the way," said Clark. "We checked out warehouses that Luthor owns in the warehouse district. There's no sign of the mustard gas."

"Have you ever heard of a company called R.T.W.?" Henderson asked.

Lois and Clark looked at each other in disbelief. How could they have failed to think of that possibility? "We should go back…" began Lois.

"No!" Henderson interrupted. "We know where the warehouse is. I want you two to stay out of sight. And that's non-negotiable if you want to be in on the bust."

When they both nodded, he walked back to Mayson. "You do know, Ms. Drake, that you don't have to say anything," he said. "After all, although there is nothing illegal about trying to work Clark here over, covering up a crime is obstruction of justice at the very least. Of course, I should tell you that even if Clark hadn't called me, I'd have been by today. I have a witness who claims you were involved in a conspiracy to cover up a homicide. That's accessory after the fact. So before you say anything, you might want to talk to a lawyer."

"I know my rights, Henderson," Mayson said. "I'm hoping that cooperating with the police will get me immunity, but even if it doesn't, prison won't kill me. Luthor might."

"Well, then after you give your statement, I'll take you over to their place," Henderson said, gesturing to Lois and Clark.

"What?" exclaimed Mayson.

"You'll be staying with them tonight. I've arranged to have a F.B.I. agent there as well. Tomorrow we'll have something more permanent set up for you."

"You two live together?" Mayson asked.

"We share an apartment," Clark said, not really wanting to say anything more than that.

"I'm not sure I'd be comfortable spending the night," Mayson objected.

"Would you rather hide out in some seedy motel holding a gun all night?" Lois asked.

"Well, no, but…"

"Then I suggest you take us up on our offer."

"Thank you," Mayson finally said.

"Now that that's settled, I need Mayson to come with me to give her statement. I'll bring her by your place later. We'll talk then," Henderson said.


"So what do you think we should make for supper?" Clark asked.

"I was thinking of chili. After all, we don't know when Perry or Mayson or Henderson or this F.B.I. agent will show up. If we make a big pot, then people can help themselves when they get here."

"You know, that brings up an interesting problem," said Clark.

"What's that?"

"Sleeping arrangements. I suppose we could put the agent on the couch and you and Mayson could share a room."

"Bite your tongue!" exclaimed Lois.

"Well, I just thought…"

"Unless you have a problem with it, I'll give Mayson my room and I'll sleep with you."

Clark smiled. "I don't have a problem with it, but do you really want people to think that we're lovers?"

"Clark, according to the Daily Planet grape vine, you and I have been lovers since the first time we went to Casey's," Lois informed him.

"What?" gasped Clark. "How do you know?"

Lois tapped her ear. "Apparently, someone saw us on the park bench when you hugged me."

"Oh, Jess," exclaimed Clark, "I am so sorry. I never meant…"

"Don't worry about it, Clark," Lois interrupted and then, knowing how much something like this could bother him, she added, "Besides, I don't want people to think I'm the only woman who couldn't get you into bed." The grin in her voice was unmistakable.

"Jess," Clark groaned, remembering back to his comments to her about why he thought his reputation had continued even after he'd given up his wild ways.

Lois and Clark had just finished up their supper when there was a knock at the door. Clark glanced at Lois who, understanding the hint, took a quick look through the door. Although Newcombe had been quite convincing that the military hadn't sanctioned the attack on her, there was still Trask's accomplice to worry about — not to mention Luthor.

"It's Perry," she informed Clark.

It was only a moment later when Clark opened the door to admit their boss. By the time he was inside, Lois had a bowl of chili to set in front of him. He ate while Lois and Clark talked. Once they had brought Perry up to date, he let out a low whistle.

"Anyway," said Clark, "Henderson has agreed to let us in on the bust — but only provided that we don't print anything until it goes down."

"And when is that?"

"Tomorrow morning. Henderson's coming over tonight to compare notes. Between Mayson, Cox and the information we've found, I think we have a pretty good case. However, we really do need to have Luthor connected directly to the gas."

Perry nodded. "Are any other reporters on to this?"

"I don't think so," said Clark.

"Then I don't see any problem waiting 'til tomorrow."

"Oh, by the way," said Lois nervously, glancing over at Clark. "There is something else I should tell you. It has to do with what Lex used to blackmail me."

Perry leaned forward in his chair.

Lois looked down intently at her hands, trying to figure out how she was going to explain this to Perry. Would he forgive her for lying to him? Suddenly, Clark's hand was reassuringly grasping hers. She looked up at him and saw the look in his eyes — telling her everything would be okay. She relaxed when she saw his confidence.

Perry noticed the silent communication taking place between the greatest news team he'd ever seen and smiled to himself. He had known those two would be good for each other.

"Well, I don't know exactly what happened," started Lois. "But Lex must have figured out somehow that I was still around, because it seems he carried out his threat."

"What?" asked Perry.

Lois shrugged slightly. "Well, I've sort of been lying to you, sir," she said softly.

Perry noticed the use of the term of respect. She was obviously scared about his reaction to whatever it was she was about to tell him. "What exactly is it that you lied about?" he asked.

Lois swallowed hard. "My name's not really Jessica Miller."

"It's not?"

Lois shook her head. "It's Lois Lane. I've been living under various names since I ran away from home when I was fifteen. I've been trying to stay ahead of…" She glanced at Clark. "…well, his name was Jason Trask. He was a colonel in the Air Force. He developed a weird sort of obsession for me. I've been running from him for the past ten years. Given the resources he had available to him through the military, he's been able to track me all over the world."

Perry glanced over at Clark in disbelief. Clark nodded, backing up Lois' story.

"So, I assume that Luthor somehow found out about this and threatened to tell this nut where you were?" Perry asked.

Lois nodded. "Trask and the guy you sent over here to get the letter from me yesterday beat me and threatened to kill Clark."

"What?" exclaimed Perry.

"Yeah," said Clark. "It was definitely the guy you hired a couple of days ago. Did he come in today?"

"No," said Perry. "I was about to tell his father that he…"

"You know his father?" gasped Lois.

"Who's his father?" interrupted Clark.

"Joe Guthrie," Perry informed them.

Clark shook his head. "I know Mr. Guthrie's son. It wasn't him."

"So you're telling me that I hired the wrong guy and then sent him over here where he and this Trask character attacked you and Clark?" asked Perry.

"I guess that about sums it up, Chief," said Clark. "Fortunately, Henderson showed up. He had no choice but to kill Trask. The other guy got away in the resulting confusion."

"Jessica, or… umm… Lois, I am so sorry," said Perry.

Lois shook her head. "Just tell me that you forgive me for lying to you."

"Well, given the circumstances, I guess I can understand," Perry assured her. He looked at her for a moment more. He was convinced there was more to this story than he had been told, but he wasn't about to pry. Her demeanor told him that she really was uncomfortable with this whole conversation. "So are you going back to your own name now that this Trask guy is dead?" he asked.

Lois looked between Perry and Clark as she considered the question. Now that Trask was dead and the military knew where she was, there really was no need for her to continue to live under an alias. She nodded.

Just then there was a knock at the door. Lois glanced through the door and nodded cautiously at Clark, being sure Perry wasn't paying attention. Clark made his way to the door to admit Henderson and Mayson.

"So do you want to tell us what this great plan of yours is, Henderson?" asked Lois, while Clark handed the two new arrivals bowls of chili.

Henderson glanced at Mayson. He really didn't want to say anything in front of her. After all, she could decide that it was still safer to side with Luthor and sneak out of here tonight to warn Luthor. Mayson picked up the hint.

"Maybe I should get out of here for a while," she suggested, setting down her chili and rising to her feet.

"I don't think that is such a good idea," said Lois. "Why don't you get yourself settled? You can stay in my room tonight. Take your supper with you."

"I really don't want to put you out," Mayson replied.

"Don't worry about it," said Lois. "I'll be fine."

Clark almost smiled at the words.

"I'll just get some of my things," Lois replied, rising and heading for her room. She appeared a couple of minutes later with some things in her arms. "It's all yours," she informed Mayson who immediately made her way to the room. "Thank you," she said awkwardly to Lois as they passed.

Once she was gone, Henderson filled Lois, Clark and Perry in on his plan. In response, Perry agreed that nothing would be printed until Luthor was in custody.


Mayson looked around the room. It didn't appear that Jessica had been living here long. At least the room seemed to reflect a man's taste in pictures on the wall. However, there was one thing that obviously belonged to Jessica.

Mayson walked over and picked up the picture sitting on the night stand. It was of Jessica and Clark — both in formal attire. Jessica had her arm through Clark's and the photographer had caught them looking at each other. There was an expression of wonderment on Clark's face and an almost shy look on Jessica's The picture spoke of two people falling in love. She had never had a chance with Clark.

And, in spite of what Jessica and Clark might think, her interest in Clark predated Luthor's instructions to get close to Clark. She sighed.


Once Henderson finished filling everyone in on the plan, there was another knock at the door.

"That must be the agent who is going to be watching over you tonight," said Henderson rising to his feet and heading for the door.

Lois took a quick peak through the door and gave a small gasp.

"What?" Clark whispered in response. Lois just shook her head, causing Clark to look back at the door. "Be careful, Henderson," he said. However, Henderson was ahead of him. He had his gun drawn and was standing to the side of the door.

"Who's there?" he yelled through the door.

"Scardino," the man replied.

Henderson immediately holstered his gun and opened the door to admit a man who Clark immediately recognized.

"What is he doing here?" Clark immediately demanded.

"This is Agent Scardino," Henderson replied. "Why? Do you two know each other?"

"We've never been properly introduced," Scardino said, extending a hand to Clark.

Clark glanced at the hand for a moment before taking it — telling himself that he was being unreasonable. Lois had only been at the bar because of his stupidity, and he couldn't really hate Scardino for liking Lois. After all, he couldn't believe anyone wouldn't like Lois. Besides, Lois liked him, not Scardino. In fact, Lois loved him.

"Clark Kent," said Clark.

"Kent?" Scardino asked, with a quick look at Lois.

Lois suddenly blushed as she remembered that she'd told Dan that her last name was Kent. He was probably going to think that she had been at that bar to cheat on her husband.

"And it's good to see you again, Jessica," Scardino said to Lois.

"Actually, it's Lois Lane," she said.

Scardino raised his eyebrows. Whether she knew it or not, she'd just told him that she wasn't married — or at least she probably wasn't. He glanced at her left hand as he had that night at Casey's. Still no rings. He smiled.

Clark noticed where Scardino was looking and immediately tensed. It was painfully obvious what Scardino was doing.

Lois glanced over at Clark and could tell that he was struggling to retain control of his temper. She reached out, taking hold of Clark's hand, and immediately felt him relax.

"Agent Scardino," Lois said, "there's some chili on the stove. Would you like some?"

"That would be great," Scardino replied, plopping himself down on the sofa. "But please, call me Daniel."

As Lois went to the kitchen to get Scardino some chili, Perry and Henderson took their leave. When she returned, only Clark and Scardino were in the living room. The tension in the room was unmistakable. This was her fault. If she hadn't gone to that bar… Before things could erupt, Lois decided to take action.

"Well, it's going to be a long day tomorrow," she said handing Scardino his chili and then going to a cupboard to pull out some sheets and blankets and a pillow. "I hope you don't mind sleeping on the couch," she said to Scardino, laying the items on the couch beside him. "Anyway, it's getting late. I think I'll turn in."

"No problem," Scardino responded.

"Are you coming, Clark?" she asked, offering Clark her hand.

Clark smiled for the first time since Scardino had entered his apartment. He took her hand and then, looking extremely pleased, followed her into his bedroom.

Once the door was closed, Lois turned to him.

"Are you still upset about Scardino?" she asked. "He doesn't mean anything to me."

"I know that. It's just… Well, in case you haven't noticed, he's obviously very attracted to you."

"I don't care, Clark," she said softly, wrapping her arms around his waist. "I'm in love with you."

He looked into her eyes for a moment before relaxing. "I know that, Lois," he said, before lightly kissing her lips.


The knock at the door came much too early.

"Tell them to go away, Clark," grumbled Lois, pulling the sheet up over her head. It felt as if she had just gotten to sleep. She moved the sheet down only far enough to get a look at the clock on the night stand. "Five-thirty," she groaned before pulling the sheet once again over her head.

Clark smiled and pulled his equally exhausted body out of bed. He was going to have to learn that spending half the night kissing Lois was not a good idea if he wanted to be able to get up in the morning. He headed for the door to his room.

He opened the door to reveal Scardino.

"What do you want?" Clark asked.

"If you and Lois are planning on being part of this sting, you're going to have to get ready. One of my men has already arrived to babysit Mayson. I leave in…" He glanced at his watch. "…fifteen minutes.

Clark closed his eyes for a moment — he'd forgotten how early they had to leave if they wanted to be there when Luthor was arrested — before nodding and heading back into his room.


Cox adjusted her blouse for the tenth time in as many minutes. She really hadn't wanted to wear a wire when she met with Lex. However, Henderson and Scardino had insisted. Lex never searched her these days. Still… She glanced down again, hoping the bug wasn't as obvious as it felt.


When the surveillance van containing Lois, Clark, Scardino and Henderson pulled into an alley near the warehouse, Scardino picked up a radio and, holding it to his mouth, pressed the button.

"Teams report," he said into it. Those words were followed by a six different men — one from each team — checking in.

"Does everyone have protective suits?" asked Lois.

"They all have gas masks," Scardino responded.

"You don't understand," said Clark. "This is a new form of mustard gas. We don't know how dangerous it is. But even with protective suits, people get sick. You can't send those men in with just gas masks."

"Luthor isn't going to expose himself to an environment that's dangerous," Scardino objected. "Gas masks are more than sufficient given the level of threat."

"You don't know…"

"Gentlemen," interrupted Henderson. "We're running out of time here. Don't you think we should make sure the bug Cox is wearing is working?"

"Right," said Scardino before doing so. It seemed to be working.

The van fell silent as a large black limo pulled up to the front of the warehouse.

"All teams, stand by. It seems the target has arrived," Scardino informed his men.

Everyone seemed to hold his or her breath as Luthor emerged from the limo and made his way into the warehouse.

"Is… yet?" came Luthor's voice over the speakers.

"No. He… minute," Cox's voice replied.

"What's going on?" demanded Lois.

"I don't know," said Scardino, fumbling with various nobs and switches.

"…what he…" came Luthor's voice again.

"This is crazy," said Lois, as Scardino continued working with his equipment, trying to correct the problem. She focused her extraordinary hearing on the warehouse and found that she could finally hear. However, there was no way she could claim to hear them from here — not without letting the world in on her secret. She caught Clark's eye and jerked her head towards the door of the van.

Clark understood what she was saying and, while Henderson and Scardino were focused on the equipment, the two of them slipped quietly out of the van.

"If I concentrate, I can hear them, Clark," Lois whispered once they got outside. "However, I can't say anything. Otherwise…"

Clark nodded in recognition of the problem. "Come on," he said after a moment of contemplation. He took her hand and headed towards the warehouse.

It only took her a moment to figure out what he had in mind. She quickly followed. There was an unlocked door at the back. The two of them were through it before Scardino or his men could stop them.


"What are they doing?" gasped Henderson.

Scardino smiled slightly. "What I only wish I could do? They're getting the evidence." At the look Henderson gave him in response, he continued, "Look, Henderson, I'm not any happier about this than you are. However, from what you told me, they're the ones who got us this far. If they can hear this conversation better than our equipment, they'll make excellent witnesses." When Henderson continued to look at him, Scardino continued, "Let's just concentrate on getting this equipment working. If we do, we'll at least be able to get in there before they get into serious trouble."

Henderson nodded and they both concentrated on the equipment. It was only a moment more before they had it working.

"If only they'd given us another minute," Henderson groaned.


Brad drove slowly up the street on which Kent's apartment was located. He didn't stop. Instead, he checked out the buildings on either side of the street until he found what he was looking for. Almost directly across the street from the entrance to Kent's place was an apartment building that seemed to fit all of the requirements. He drove the car around the corner and got out before pulling a small suitcase out of the trunk and quickly making his way back to the apartment building he'd spotted. It was only a few minutes more before he was on the roof.

He made his way to the edge and took a seat before taking the gun out of its case. He checked it one more time — making certain that it was in operating condition. Then he settled in to wait for his target. He didn't know if the creature was inside or not. However, he suspected it would be on the street below him sooner or later. Although he hoped it would be sooner, he planned to sit here until he had his chance.

He checked the kryptonite in the gun one last time. That was one of the wild cards in this plan. After all, the green kryptonite had been left behind during their last attempt to kill the creature. All he had left was this piece of red kryptonite. He hoped Trask was right. He hoped it would have the same effect on the creature as the green.

The other major wild card was the delivery system. He hoped the scientist was right and this method of killing the creature would work. He looked again over the edge of the building.


"Maybe you should wait outside," said Lois as she and Clark settled behind some barrels that were clearly marked as dangerous.

"Why?" asked Clark.

"Well, I'm not likely to be affected by this stuff. You remember what you said to Scardino," she reminded him.

He rolled his eyes. "Lois, Luthor doesn't even know we're here."

She let out a breath and turned her attention back to Luthor and Cox. He was probably right. After all, as Scardino had pointed out, Lex was not likely to do anything that would endanger himself. Besides, she could get Clark out of the warehouse very quickly if necessary. And if Clark left alone, it would certainly seem strange to the men watching outside — perhaps even resulting in the men coming in before Lex had put the final nail in his coffin. They were so close, she couldn't stand the idea of letting that happen.

"What's taking them so long?" Luthor said looking at his watch.

"I don't know, Lex," Cox responded. "Who exactly is this Mr. X you're planning to sell this mustard gas to?"

"First of all," said Lex. "This isn't just mustard gas. This stuff I had Gables invent before his… Well, shall we say fortunate death…is much more lethal. It will get through all types of protective clothing and gas masks. Full exposure will result in instant or almost instantaneous death. As a result it is much more expensive and has a much more discerning customer."

"Who?" asked Cox again.

"Our own military," Luthor said, savoring the moment.

"What?" gasped Cox.

"It's highly illegal, of course — violates a number of treaties. However, there are some… let's call them highly pragmatic men in the military who want to ensure our military has the most advanced chemical weapons in existence."

"Does the government know what they're doing?" Cox asked.

"Of course not, my dear! Politicians can't be trusted to make this type of decision. They tend to think in terms of what the people will tolerate — and the people would not tolerate their military using gas in warfare."

"But from what I know, this stuff is incredibly deadly. What if there were an accident or something at the storage facilities? I thought this stuff was being shipped out of the country."

"Give me a little credit," said Luthor. "Don't you think I would have thought of that. There is an antidote. That's what makes this stuff so effective. You don't think I would be getting such a generous income from it if I didn't also have an antidote."

"How did you ever get involved with mustard gas in the first place?" asked Cox. "I mean, it seems a little… well, strange, I guess."

Luthor looked at her for a long moment before responding. "A few years ago I found out that a little company called Disposals Inc. had received a military contract to dispose of a large amount of the mustard gas the U.S. military had manufactured and then stockpiled between the two world wars. I approached the company's chief chemist, Stanley Gables, and made him a proposal he couldn't resist. Instead of disposing of the mustard gas, he turned it over to me. I had a contact in the U.S. military who introduced me to Sadam Hussein. Hussein was in the market for weapons. I had one. After some negotiations, I sold the majority of the gas to him.

"I used the money to pay off my military contact and Gables. I then used the rest to incorporate Lex Corp which then purchased Star Labs," Luthor continued.

"Why didn't you sell all of it?" Cox asked.

"I kept a small amount for further research. I hired Gables and had him work with the gas to invent an advanced version. Given how much I was able to make from the sale of ordinary mustard gas, I just knew that having a version that was even more deadly would be even more profitable."

Luthor chuckled. "You have no idea how right I was. I find it almost poetic that I'm selling it back to the military."

There was only one more thing Cox needed to find out. "So who exactly is your current military contact?" she asked.

Luthor shook his head. "The one condition of this sale is that he is to be known only as Mr. X."

"Do you know who it is?" she asked.

"Of course, I know. The only other person who might be able to put it together is Nigel. Any word yet on where he is, by the way?"


"I think that's all we're likely to get," Scardino said to Henderson. When Henderson agreed, Scardino picked up his radio and said, "Now." Suddenly men were streaming towards the warehouse in full combat gear, guns drawn.


"What is this?" demanded Luthor as men stormed into the warehouse. All of them with a single mission. Every gun pointed at him. They were followed by two men. One in a suit and the other, a younger man, in a pair of jeans and a brightly colored shirt.

"Luthor, you're under arrest," said Henderson.

Luthor looked at Henderson in disbelief before spinning towards Cox, who was slowly backing away. "You!" Luthor exclaimed. "You did this. You set me up. You little bitch."

"You have the right to remain silent," Henderson said, continuing to approach Luthor. "If you give up the right to remain silent anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney and the right to have an attorney present during questioning. If you can not afford one…"

"I can afford a thousand attorneys," Luthor said, while backing away from the cop.

"Not anymore," said Scardino.

"What are you talking about?" demanded Luthor.

"Well, your money comes from proceeds to a crime. Your assets will be frozen by the end of the day," Scardino said with a grin.

Luthor continued backing up slowly. It was then that he spotted Lois and Clark, who had emerged from their hiding place now that the situation appeared to be under control.

"You did this, didn't you?" Luthor demanded.

Lois and Clark looked at each other briefly before Lois spoke. "Yeah, I guess we did," she replied.

Luthor snorted. "It might interest you to know, Henderson, that Ms. Miller here is really Lois Lane. The military is looking for her."

"Not anymore," Henderson responded.

Lois almost grinned. Luthor obviously hadn't known that his threat was no longer a threat.

Luthor narrowed his eyes, still continuing to slowly back up. "Well, she's wanted by the police in New York. Did you know that?"

Henderson looked back at Lois who simply shrugged.

"It's a long story," she informed Henderson.

"Listen," Luthor continued, "surely we can work something out here."

Henderson simply smiled and then gestured to two of Scardino's men. They began to move forward to take Luthor into custody. Luthor waited until the men were close before striking back. A well placed foot and a fist gave him the moment he needed. He rushed to one of the nearby crates — one that was open — and reached inside. He withdrew what appeared to be a small grenade.

"No one move," he said. "If I release this… or for some reason drop it, it will only be seconds before everyone in this room is dead."

Scardino gestured his men to stop, guns still focused on Luthor. Luthor looked around at his now captive audience. His eyes focused on Lois for a moment.

"Lex Luthor will not live in a cage," he said.

The entire team watched in appalled fascination as the container in Luthor's hand fell, as if in slow motion, to the floor, shattering into a hundred pieces.

'Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! An ecstasy of fumbling,

Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,

But someone still was yelling out and stumbling

And floundering like a man in fire or lime.

Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,

As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,

He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

Lois watched for only a second — as if frozen to the spot. Yet in that time, she saw a lot. Officers fumbling frantically to get gas masks in place. Cox was running at full speed towards the entrance to the warehouse. Luthor standing in the center with an almost translucent look on his face.

Then the gas hit him and he began to gag. He threw his hands over his eyes and let out a blood curdling scream before dropping to his knees.

Lois was pushed out of her reverie by a sudden realization that Clark was still standing beside her. It was only a second more before he was outside the warehouse. Lois then flew back in and, in the confusion of the moment, was able to inhale all the deadly gas. Then with a swallow and a burp, it was gone. Only one person was lying dead on the floor — Luthor — although everyone else was frantically scratching at his or her skin while fleeing from the warehouse.

Once she had finished, Lois returned to where Clark was now standing, a slightly stunned look on his face.

"Are you okay?" she asked breathlessly.

"I'm fine," he replied. "What about you?"

"I told you. That stuff can't hurt me."

"And the rest?" Clark asked.

"It seems that the rest of the men got their gas masks on in time, but they were otherwise exposed. I didn't see Cox. Luthor's dead. I got the gas out of the warehouse, so there's no more threat."

"How did you do that?"

Lois grinned at him. "I breathed it in and swallowed it," she said.

"Are you sure you're okay?" Clark gasped.

Lois smiled. "Fine. Although…" She took a moment to drag her tongue over her teeth. "…what I wouldn't give for a toothbrush right now. That stuff tasted awful."

Clark chuckled and shook his head. "Come on," he said, taking her hand and leading her towards where the F.B.I. agents were gathering.

"Is everyone okay?" Clark asked as they approached.

"We have a number of people with burns on their skin," Henderson said. "Other than that, everyone appears to be fine. Except Luthor, of course. He's dead."

Clark moved Scardino and Henderson away from the men before responding. "Look, this stuff… this gas… We have to find the antidote Luthor was talking about. No one breathed the gas in directly, except Luthor, but everyone was exposed. If we don't find that antidote, they will continue to get sicker."

"Are you sure?" asked Scardino.

"The men who brought the bodies out of Lex Labs after the accident with this stuff are getting sick. And they were fully protected. Yeah, I'm sure," Clark told them.


"Are you sure you're okay?" Lois asked for about the hundredth time since they'd got in the jeep.

"I'm sure, Lois," Clark responded.

Lois pulled the jeep up in front of Clark's apartment. She turned off the motor and turned in the seat to look directly at him. He suddenly sniffed.

"It's just a little cold," he objected, pulling at his seat belt.

She laid a hand on his arm when he reached to open the door. "Look at me, Clark," she demanded.

He hesitated for a moment before turning to look at her. He looked away again when Lois' face fell as a result.

Lois' breath caught in her throat. Clark's eyes were definitely watering.

"If you're okay, why are your eyes watering?" she demanded.

"I got something in them."

"Please, don't lie to me, Clark."

"Okay, I smelled something like mustard," Clark finally admitted.

"Clark, why do you think it's called mustard gas?" Lois exclaimed.

"But that was only for a second," he continued immediately. He reached out and took her hand. "We'll find the antidote, Lois. Everything will be okay."

She looked at him for a moment. A tear slipping down her cheek matched one that had escaped from Clark's watery eyes. Glancing down at their joined hands, she nodded. It was the only hope they had — to find the antidote before the gas did irreparable damage to Clark's system.

"Good," said Clark. "Then let's go in. We'll tell Mayson that she's safe now. I imagine Henderson will be contacting her, but at least she doesn't have to worry about Luthor anymore. Then we'll do up the story for the evening edition. Once that's done, we'll get to work on finding the antidote."

She nodded soberly and they both proceeded to get out of the jeep.


Brad noticed the jeep pull up in front of Kent's apartment. He raised the gun, waiting for the right shot. He saw the creature step out of the driver's door and lowered his face to line up the shot. He pulled back on the trigger.

Nothing. He tried again. Still, nothing. He lowered the gun, letting out a frustrated grunt when he realized that the safety was on. He corrected the problem and raised the gun, once again looking for his target. It had disappeared into the safety of the apartment. He lowered the gun in frustration.


When Lois and Clark brought Mayson and the F.B.I. agent up to date on the events of the morning, Mayson didn't think she'd ever been more relieved. She asked a couple of times if Clark was okay — he seemed to have a bad cold and his eyes were very watery, but he assured her that he was fine. The F.B.I. agent got a call from Scardino saying that Henderson wanted Mayson brought down to the station. Mayson presumed that it was to lay charges, but the relief she felt as a result of Luthor's death could not be diminished.

It wasn't long before Lois and Clark were alone and free to write up the story. Lois kept looking over at Clark, her concern growing by the minute. He was obviously starting to have some real difficulties. Soon, she couldn't sit by any more.

"Come on, Clark," she said. "We're going to the hospital."

"What are they going to do?" Clark asked.

"I don't know. But maybe they can do something."

"But, Lois…"

"I'm serious. I'm not waiting any longer just to satisfy some he-man thing you've got going on."


"Either you come with me, or I take you. Now what do you think that would do to your ego?" Lois asked.

Clark ran a hand across his eyes. They really were beginning to hurt. His lungs were also beginning to burn. Every breath was more difficult than the one before it. If there was something they could do… After a moment of silent contemplation, he nodded, and together Lois and Clark made their way back out of the apartment.


Clark's eyes were watering terribly as he stepped out of the apartment — his body's natural defense system fighting to expel the remnants of gas from his eyes. Everything was becoming fuzzy, but Clark was unable to discern if he was losing his eyesight or if the tears were blurring his vision. He reached up and, removing his glasses, wiped his eyes with the palms of his hands, trying to clear them. As he did so, he missed the first step outside his apartment and stumbled slightly.

Lois noticed and immediately reached out to steady him. He seemed to collapse into her arms.

"Clark!" she gasped, lowering him onto the steps. She looked at him in horror. He appeared to have passed out.


This time Brad was ready when the creature came into view. He raised the gun and focused it on the creature before beginning to depress the trigger. The creature moved towards Kent. But Brad was committed to his course of action. The trigger depressed and the steady beam of the red laser landed squarely in the middle of the creature's back. It appeared to be working. The creature had gone completely still. But then the creature turned and looked at him. Brad immediately fled, carrying the gun with him. Fortunately, for some reason, the creature chose not to follow.


While lowering Clark onto the steps outside his apartment, Lois felt an intense heat in the middle of her back and turned slightly to look. She saw a red beam of light. She followed the beam back to its source — the roof of the apartment building across from Clark's place. She glanced at the roof and briefly saw a man, but almost immediately, he disappeared from view.

"Clark, are you okay?" she gasped looking back at Clark.

"Yeah," he grunted. "Yeah, actually, I think I feel a little better." He brushed the tears off his cheeks and glanced around. "Boy, that was intense. For a moment there, I thought I was losing my vision."

"But you can see fine now?" Lois asked.

Clark glanced around and nodded.

Lois relaxed slightly. "There's something you should know. There was a man with a gun on the roof across from your place."

"What?" Clark asked, shifting positions to make himself more comfortable.

"I think he shot at us," Lois continued.

"What? Then why didn't I hear a shot?"

"It was some sort of red laser beam," Lois explained. "You're sure you're all right?"

"Yeah. Are you?" he asked bringing a hand up to her cheek. She looked… He wasn't sure exactly what it was, but she looked pale somehow.

Suddenly, Clark grabbed his ears. The noise was unbearable. He closed his eyes. In the distance, he was vaguely aware of Lois trying to get his attention, but the noise blocked out the sound of her voice. It felt as if he could hear every noise in the city — all screaming at him at once. He had to make it stop.

"No! No! No! No!" Lois heard Clark yell.

"Clark, what's wrong?" she asked in alarm. When he failed to answer, still chanting that single word, she grabbed his hands. She used all her might, but was unable to remove his hands. What was happening here? How could he possibly be able to… Suddenly she gasped. She tried using her enhanced hearing. It wasn't working. X-ray vision? The same. What if… It wasn't possible. Still…

"Clark, look at me. Come on, Clark, please." When he still didn't open his eyes, she shifted strategy. His hands were over his ears. So it had to be… Of course! When her hearing had started to develop she could definitely remember times where she'd felt as if all the sounds in the world were crowding in at once. "Clark, listen to me," she begged.

His voice had weakened to a whimper now, but his hands were still firmly over his ears and his eyes were squeezed shut. She had to do something. Something to take his mind off his ears long enough so that he could hear her. Unable to think of anything else, she grabbed his head between her hands and kissed him hard.

The sensation of Lois kissing him had the same effect on him it always had — the entire world faded to nothing. His hands left his ears — no longer hearing the world around him. He buried his hands in the hair of the back of her head in order to deepen the kiss.

Now that she had his full attention, Lois pulled back. "Listen to me, Clark. Concentrate on my voice," she said softly, keeping his head between her hands, her lips only inches from his and her eyes holding eye contact with him. "As long as you just listen to my voice, everything will be fine. Do you understand me?"

"Do you know what happened to me?" he asked. "All of a sudden, it seemed as if I could hear everything going on in the city — all at once."

"Yes, I think I know. Whatever that beam of light was, I think it transferred my powers to you."

"What? How is that possible?"

"I have no idea. But I don't have any of my powers and you… Well, we know your hearing has been sensitized. What about my other powers? Do you have them too?"

"Umm…" Clark said. "How would I know?"

"Well, can you see through things?"

Clark looked at the exterior wall of the apartment building across from him. "How do I do this?" he asked.

"Well, it's sort of hard to explain. I guess, what you need to do is…"

"Wow!" Clark gasped. He quickly closed his eyes and shook his head. Having the exterior wall of the apartment building suddenly disappear from view left him disoriented, dizzy and even slightly nauseous.

"I take it you did it," Lois said.

Without opening his eyes, Clark nodded. Lois glanced around. They were still sitting on the steps. It was probably best if they continued this inside.

"Do you have any of the mustard gas symptoms? Or did my powers take care of that?" Lois asked.

Clark thought about that for a moment. His eyes no longer felt as if he had something in them, his throat was no longer sore and breathing was no longer a problem. "I think I'm okay," said Clark cautiously.

Lois closed her eyes briefly. At least there was one advantage to Clark having gotten her powers.

"Then why don't we go back inside? That is, if you feel up to it," she said. When Clark nodded, she helped him to his feet and the two of them made their way back inside.


Brad had failed. Once again, he had failed. That damn gun. That left only one other option. It was more likely that he would be killed or taken captive by that creature if he failed, but… He would not be taken captive. No matter what he was not going to be the subject of some bizarre alien experiments. That meant… There was one thing he had to do before trying again. This time the creature would be dead or he would.


"The story is almost finished, Perry," Lois assured Perry over the phone an hour later. "Okay, we'll be e-mailing it to you shortly… We have a few ideas for follow up stories. There's still the matter of finding an antidote for those people who have been affected… Yeah, I guess that would include Clark and me. But we got out of there quickly. Neither of us seem to have any symptoms. At least not yet."

Once she'd hung up the phone, she turned back to Clark. "How you doing?" she asked.

"Great," said Clark. "I mean, now that I've figured out how to control my eyesight and my hearing. I am wondering about the flying thing, though. I mean, do you think I can do it."

"I don't know. Why don't you give it a try?"

Clark got up off the couch and took a little jump into the air. He immediately landed on the floor again. "So how do I do this?" he asked. "Do I need to find my happy thought or something?"

Lois slapped him in the chest. "That's Peter Pan," she informed him. "Although, extreme emotions can make you float."

Clark smiled. "You mean like the other night when we were kissing."

Lois pushed a stray strand of hair behind her ear. "Yeah," she said shyly. "Like that. Nightmares are another good example."

"So how do I do this?" he asked.

She thought about that for a moment before an idea came to her. "Have you ever had a dream where you were flying?" she asked.

"Actually, yeah," said Clark suddenly reflective.


"Well, I use to dream of flying a lot when I was a kid. But then… It was just before we met. The night before, in fact. I dreamt I was flying over the city. It was night time. There was a cape or something billowing out behind me." He shook his head. "I don't know why I thought about that right now."

Lois looked at him for a long moment. "Clark, do you remember what you said about soulmates?"

"Of course," he responded.

"Well, I was just wondering. I mean, it seems strange to me that I could go all my life with these powers and then just suddenly lose them. Maybe the reason it's possible is because there really is some sort of connection between our souls. Maybe the reason my powers can be transfered to you has something to do with that connection. After all, you dreamt of flying just before we met… Nah, that's crazy."

"Maybe not so crazy," Clark responded. "Anyway, why were you asking if I'd ever dreamt of flying?"

"Can you remember how you flew?"

Clark thought about that for a moment before nodding. "I just sort of held my breath and thought of myself as light. Soon I'd find myself floating."

Lois nodded. Her flying these days was more instinctive than that, but what he was saying did remind her of those first steps where she would stay airborne a little longer than normal. "Give it a try," she suggested.

Clark closed his eyes and thought back to those dreams. When he finally opened his eyes, his first sight was of the wall. The picture in front of him was way too low. He glanced down. His feet were definitely a good foot off the floor. He looked for Lois. The grin on her face confirmed what his senses were telling him.

"This is incredible," he said. He slowly floated back to the floor and did it again. This time he didn't need to close his eyes.

"That's great, Clark!" exclaimed Lois, immediately closing the distance between them. Suddenly, and much to her surprise, Clark backed away from her. "Clark?" she asked, thoroughly confused. Suddenly, she understood. He was obviously upset with her for having done this to him. She could certainly understand that. After all, having those powers had caused her nothing but problems. She looked down. "I'm sorry," she whispered.

"Sorry?" Clark asked.

"For doing this to you," Lois explained.

Clark took a step towards her but didn't touch her. "Lois, honey, this isn't your fault. I don't blame you."

Lois wasn't sure what to respond to first. Finally, she focused on the most important question. "But then why did you back away from me?"

"Because I don't want to hurt you. Lois, I've got a lot of powers here that I don't know how to control. Until I do… I'm afraid I'll hurt you."

Lois nodded slightly. She guessed it did make sense. A slow smile crept across her face.

"What?" Clark asked.

"Did you call me honey?" she asked.

Clark cleared his throat and Lois could swear that there was increased color in his cheeks.

"Do you mind?" he asked.

She cocked her head to the side and regarded him curiously for a moment. "No, I don't mind. Actually…" She pushed a strand of hair behind her ear. "I sort of like it coming from you."

Clark smiled. "Good," he said softly. "'Cause something tells me you're going to be hearing it again."

Lois chuckled slightly. "So what do we do about all of this?" she asked.

"What are you talking about? Me having your powers or the antidote?"

"I guess both," she said softly.

"Well, I think our priority has to be the antidote cause even if I'm no longer affected there are a lot of other people who need that antidote."

Lois nodded.

"Did you get a look at the person who shot the laser?"

"Only in passing. But I think it was the same guy who was working with Trask."

"That figures. Okay, so we know he's still around." Clark paused. "He's likely to be back, so I guess we'll just have to deal with that when it happens. In the meantime, let's finish getting the story written up and then find that antidote."

"At least we now know there is an antidote," said Lois.

Clark nodded. "That's the good news. Also, Luthor mentioned someone else. Someone named Nigel. Any ideas about that?"

Lois shook her head. "Maybe tomorrow we should go have a talk with Angelica Cox. She might know who he is."

With that, Lois made her way back to the laptop. They finished typing up the story and were about to send it to Perry when Clark noticed something.

"By Clark Kent and Lois Lane?" he asked.

"I figure it's the easiest way to tell everyone what my real name is," she responded with a shrug. "I still don't know how I'm going to explain why I was using the name Jessica Miller. I mean, I really don't want to be telling everyone about Trask's obsession — or the reasons for it. It's just a little too close to the truth for comfort. But I guess I'll figure out something when the time comes."


Nigel picked up the morning copy of the Daily Planet. Splashed across the front page was a forty-two point headline. It read, 'LEX LUTHOR DEAD.' Then in smaller lettering were the words, 'LEX LUTHOR LINKED TO MANUFACTURE OF CHEMICAL WEAPONS.' He looked at the byline. His eyebrows rose when he read, 'by Clark Kent and Lois Lane'. She was still around and going by her real name!

Obviously, things had changed a lot. His deportation hearing was scheduled for next week. He had to make a deal. With Luthor dead, this was both easier and more difficult. He didn't have to worry about Luthor killing him for his betrayal. On the other hand, now that they had the story on Luthor's production of an advanced formula mustard gas, did he have anything to sell?

He carefully read the story. When he finally looked up, he smiled. It seemed they didn't know everything. Maybe he did have something worth selling.

"I'd like to make my phone call now," he told the guard.


When the elevator doors slid closed to take Lois and Clark to the newsroom the next morning, Lois, taking note of the fact that they were the only two people on the elevator, slipped her hand into Clark's. He looked over at her in response, but to her satisfaction, his hand closed around hers.

"I missed you last night," she said softly.

"It wasn't because I didn't want you sleeping next to me," he said, holding eye contact. "I just wasn't sure it was a good idea. I mean, what if… I'm just so afraid of hurting you. I need some time to get control of these powers. Tell me that you understand," he begged.

"I understand," she said. "It's just… this is just so frustrating. I mean, now that I can…" her voice trailed off. She growled in frustration. "Won't we ever get a break?"

Clark understood her frustration. The two nights they'd spent together — instead of alleviating the tension had only managed to increase it. "You have no idea how much I want to kiss you," he whispered.

A small smile played around the corners of her mouth for a moment before she said, "Then just stay still and I won't get hurt." With the words, she stepped closer to him. He took one small step back and his back was against the elevator wall. She smiled slightly and continued to move closer. She placed her hands on his chest and slowly ran them up until they were around his neck. Her hands slipped into his hair.

He grabbed the railing on either side of him. He desperately wanted to touch her, but didn't dare. It was only a moment more before her lips lightly brushed against his. After a couple of light touches, she deepened the kiss. He groaned.

"Well," she said, slowly stepping back, "it is good to know I have something of an effect on you."

"What?" he asked.

She gestured to one of his hands. He glanced down and realized that his hands had made indentations in the railings. He quickly removed his hands and had just got the railing fixed when the elevator doors slid open.

"See what I mean about not being in complete control of my powers — especially around you," Clark whispered into her ear as they stepped out of the elevator.

The entire newsroom seemed to turn and look at them when Lois suddenly burst out laughing. There was a moment of silence before there was applause.

"Hey, C.K., Jessica… or I guess it's actually…" Jimmy said, before trailing off as he struggled to remember Lois' real name.

"Lois Lane," Lois said.

"Yeah, well congratulations. That was some story, guys," said Jimmy.

"Thanks, Jimmy," said Lois.

"Can I ask you something?" Jimmy asked.

"Why did I tell everyone my name is Jessica?" Lois replied.

"Well, yeah."

"Another time, Jimmy. It's sort of a long story."

"Great story," Eduardo said, joining the crowd.

"Thanks," Clark replied.

Several other people came over and congratulated them before Perry's voice sounded in the newsroom.

"All right everyone. Back to work. This is a paper not happy hour at Casey's." However, as he spoke, he crossed the newsroom floor to where Lois and Clark were standing. "Good work, kids," he said. "So any idea yet about that antidote?"

"We were just about to start looking into that," said Clark.

"So what are you waiting for?" Perry demanded. "Get me that story."

Lois and Clark shared a small grin as Perry turned around and headed back to his office.

"You're only as good as your next story," Clark said, walking over to his desk and picking up his phone messages. Lois followed and then watched as he briefly scanned them. Suddenly, he stopped, holding one longer than the rest as if lost in thought.

"What?" asked Lois. When he passed her the piece of pink paper, she read the name, the concentrated look that had been on Clark's face a moment before now also on hers. "Nigel St. John," she read out loud before looking again at Clark.

"Isn't Nigel the name of the man Luthor mentioned?" asked Clark.

"And St. John is the name the men who bugged your apartment mentioned," added Lois.

Their eyes met for a moment before Lois reached over and picked up the phone dialing the number St. John had left. It was only a moment more when Lois heard a voice say, "Metropolis Jail. How may I direct your call?"

"Do you have a Nigel St. John there?" Lois asked, as Clark moved closer to listen in. Although it was unnecessary, given Clark's new hearing abilities, Lois moved the phone away from her ear to place it between them.

"Prisoner or employee?" the voice asked.

"I'm afraid I really don't know," Lois replied.

"One moment please," the receptionist said, following which soft music began playing. It really was only a moment later when the receptionist came back on the line. "Mr. St. John is an inmate. I'm afraid he can't come to the phone."

Lois glanced at Clark. "Do you think we could set up an appointment to come down and see him?"

"Certainly," said the receptionist. "Visiting hours are between nine and eleven and between two and four. When would you like to come?"

It was only a matter of moments more before Lois and Clark were waiting for the arrival of the elevator, on their way out of the newsroom for their nine o'clock meeting with Nigel St. John. The doors slid open and Clark noticed two people inside. When they didn't move to get out, Clark took a step towards the elevator. He was stopped by a small gasp coming from Lois. He glanced over at her. She was as white as a sheet.

"Mom? Dad?" her whispered voice asked in disbelief.

"It really is you," the woman whispered in response.

"When we saw your name on the article this morning, we thought… we hoped…" the man added before his voice trailed off.

The elevator doors began to slide closed. Clark reached out a hand and stopped them since it was obvious that none of the others had even really noticed. When no one said anything more, Clark decided to prompt them.

"I take it you're Dr. and Mrs. Lane," Clark said, offering Lois' father his free hand.

"Umm… Yes," said Dr. Lane, dragging his mind and eyes away from his daughter long enough to take the hand being offered to him.

"I'm Clark Kent. Lois' partner," Clark continued. "Please," he said, gesturing the two people out of the elevator. This action seemed to bring Lois' parents around and they entered the newsroom.

There was another moment of awkward silence before Sam began to speak, only to be cut off by his ex-wife.

"We are both so sorry," Ellen Lane told her daughter.

Lois looked at her in disbelief. Her mother never apologized. It was one of the most vivid memories Lois had of her mother.

"We should have believed you right from the beginning about the Colonel," Ellen continued. "I spent the last ten years blaming your father for your disappearance. But I was as much to blame as he was. Can you ever forgive us?"

"Mom?" Lois whispered and a moment later, she was lost in an awkward embrace.


Nigel St. John wasn't the only one who had read the Daily Planet's article with interest. Brigadier General Burton Newcombe also carefully read every word. He was relieved to find that the article contained no mention of Jason Trask. He scanned through the rest of the paper quickly. There were no other articles by either Clark Kent or Lois Lane and no mention of the incident at Clark's apartment a couple of nights ago. He laid down the paper and closed his eyes briefly. That had been close.


"I hope you don't mind me inviting them to come for supper," said Lois as she and Clark made their way up the steps to the Metropolis Jail.

"Mind?" gasped Clark in disbelief. "They're your parents, Lois. I think it's great." His voice then got much more contemplative. "Although I am a little nervous about what they'll think when they learn we share an apartment."

Lois snorted in amusement. "Clark, I've been on my own now for ten years. Do you really think I care what they think?"

Before Clark could respond, they were interrupted by a familiar male voice.

"What are you doing here?" the voice asked.

Lois and Clark turned to see Henderson approaching.

"We have an appointment to see a man named Nigel St. John. He left a message for us this morning," Clark explained.

"He called me too," said Henderson.

"Well," said Lois, "let's go find out what this is all about."

"Oh," said Henderson. "Lois, before I forget. I contacted the N.Y.P.D. yesterday."

"Yes?" asked Lois nervously, remembering Luthor's comments about her being wanted by the New York Police.

"They've agreed to withdraw the outstanding charges against you — given everything you did to bring this Luthor thing to light."

Lois felt Clark gently squeeze her shoulder. "Thank you, Henderson," she responded. Even if the charges hadn't been overly serious, it was good to finally have yet another issue resolved.


Having Henderson there moved things along quickly. As a result it was only a few minutes before Nigel St. John was brought into a large sitting room. Everyone introduced himself before taking a seat around a circular table.

"Do you mind telling us exactly who you are and why we're all here?" Henderson asked.

"Well, I was Lex Luthor's right hand man. After reading Lane and Kent's article in the Daily Planet today, it occurred to me that there is still a lot that you don't know."

"So you want to tell us the rest?" asked Lois.

Nigel smiled. "I want to make a deal."

"I don't see why we need you," said Henderson. "After all, Luthor's dead, so there won't be a trial. Why would I want to make a deal with you?"

"Because you still don't seem to know where to find the antidote," Nigel said, causing the three other people at the table to sit up straighter and look at him with greater interest. "Because I'm sure there are still a lot of other questions you want answered."

"We're going through everything owned by Luthor now," Henderson said. "It's only a matter of time before we find the antidote."

"But how many people will be dead by the time you find it and realize what you've found?"

Henderson had to concede the point. After all, they could find the antidote today or… Well, given the extent of Luthor's holdings, it could take a lot longer than that. And since his arms were already pretty raw from exposure… "I can't give you immunity," said Henderson.

"I didn't think you could," responded Nigel. "I want your guarantee that I won't be sent back to England. If you can give me that, I'll tell you what I know."

Clark, Lois and Henderson exchanged glances. That wasn't exactly what any of them were expecting.

"I'm sure I can do that," said Henderson. "Why did you ask them to be here?" he asked, gesturing to Lois and Clark.

"I wanted witnesses to our deal," St. John said.

"So where is the antidote?" asked Clark.

St. John smiled and handed Henderson a piece of paper with an address written on it. Henderson immediately took out his cell phone and placed a call that would send police officers to the address. After all, there were some people who needed the antidote very very quickly.

"I also noticed that you didn't make any mention of Colonel Trask," said Nigel. "That sort of surprised me. After all, he obviously realized you were on to him."

He now had Lois and Clark's full attention.

"Trask?" asked Lois cautiously.

Nigel nodded. "Well, when Trask arrested me, he asked about you. I figured that meant you had found out about his role in all of this."

"What role?" asked Clark.

"Well, he was the one who arranged Lex's deal with Sadam Hussein."

"What?" gasped Lois.

"Apparently he needed money to continue his U.F.O. obsession when the Air Force cut off his funding. He introduced Hussein and Luthor. Trask was duped into believing that Hussein wanted the gas in case there was an alien invasion." Nigel snorted. "In fact, I think Sadam even signed a guarantee to that effect. Of course, we all know what agreements mean to Sadam."

"Why did Trask believe him?" asked Clark.

"Trask was obsessed with UFO's. All you had to do was sympathize with his cause and tell him that it was only a matter of time before aliens invaded and you had an instant best friend. Anyway, to make a long story short, Trask introduced Lex to Hussein. It was a partnership made in heaven — or is that the right expression. Anyway, Lex sold Hussein the gas he had stolen from Disposals Inc. The military knows about the deal between Lex and Hussein and the role Trask played in it."

"Then why didn't they do anything? Bring charges against Trask or Lex or both?" asked Lois.

"If they had brought either Lex or Trask up on charges, the whole world would have found out that the U.S. military personnel who were injured by mustard gas during Desert Storm had been exposed to chemicals from U.S. stock piles. How do you think that would have gone over with the public? They weren't about to risk that type of negative publicity or the possibility of senatorial censure."

"Is Trask also the one who was going to buy the chemicals from Luthor now?" asked Henderson.

"I don't know who Luthor's buyer is now. I know it was a military contact, but I doubt it was Trask. He wouldn't have enough influence or cash for a deal like that. However, he might have been involved at a lower level — although I really don't know that.

"Anyway," Nigel continued, "sale of stolen mustard gas to Hussein was where Lex got his start up money. He used that money to grease a lot of palms and to buy Star Labs.

"That's where R.T.W. Inc. comes in," said Clark.

Nigel nodded.

"What does R.T.W. mean anyway?" Clark asked. That little detail had been driving him nuts since he'd first heart it.

Nigel smiled. "That was Lex's sense of humor. R.T.W. stands for 'Rule the World.'"

"Are you serious?" gasped Lois.

"Lex's plans were never small, Ms. Lane," said Nigel.

As Lois and Clark were leaving the jail, Lois mentioned something that had been playing in her mind throughout the interview.

"I wonder why St. John was so determined not to go back to England that he would be willing to accept life imprisonment instead. That must be a great story," she said.

"That's another story," Clark said.

"Yeah, I guess so," Lois admitted with a sigh.


The reporters gathered around the conference room table — with two notable exceptions. Lois and Clark had left before the story meeting. No one had any idea where they'd gone.

"Well, it seems that the other papers and the networks are beginning to catch up on this story," said Perry. "I want the Daily Planet to stay on the front lines. So, what can anyone give me that might result in a great follow-up?"

"I have a source who claims that Luthor was involved with the south side fires," said Eduardo, no longer afraid now that Luthor was dead.

"Good," said Perry. "I want you to look into it. Anyone else?"

"I have some information that Luthor might have coerced a number of businessmen in Metropolis into selling their businesses to him," said Ralph.

"You had that information months ago," said a woman's voice from the doorway.

Everyone turned to see Lois standing in the doorway, Clark right behind her.

"I don't know what you're talking about," Ralph said, nervously glancing around the room.

"Sure you don't," replied Lois sarcastically. "Until a few months ago, you were heavily in debt. Luthor paid off your bills in exchange for having an inside source at the Daily Planet."

"I don't know what you're talking about," Ralph repeated.

"Then where did the money come from Ralph?" Clark asked.

"Well… umm… What money?" Ralph responded.

"Just produce your bank records. Show us that you didn't receive money from R.T.W. Inc — Luthor's front company — and I'll apologize," Lois said. She had a copy of Ralph's bank records, so she knew where the money had come from. She'd showed them to Perry last night. However, since Lois had the records illegally, they decided the best way to handle Ralph was to turn the tables on him. Put the onus on him to produce his bank records in light of Lois' accusations and see how he responded.

"I don't have to take this," said Ralph, rising to his feet and heading for the door of the conference room.

He was just about to push his way past Lois when Perry spoke. "I expect you to have your desk cleaned out by the end of the day," Perry told Ralph. He knew Ralph wouldn't challenge it. After all, if this went to court, the Planet could force Ralph to produce those records.

Ralph looked back at the chief for a moment as if he was about to say something. But then he turned and, pushing his way past Lois, headed out into the conference room.

"Everyone," said Perry, "I'd like you to meet Lois Lane. She's been working here under cover since I discovered that we had a leak in the newsroom. When she came to me yesterday to tell me that she had discovered that it was Ralph Cooke, I talked her into staying on. She will be joining our staff full time now."

Lois and Clark both gave Perry a curious look, before it suddenly sunk in that his story had just protected Lois' privacy. Now there was no need for her to constantly be telling people where she'd been and what had been happening for the last ten years of her life.

"So where have you two been?" demanded Perry. Lois and Clark took their seats before filling everyone in on their meeting with Nigel.

"Great shades of Elvis," Perry exclaimed when Lois and Clark had finished. "Why don't you talk to Trask's superior officer? See if he can give you anymore insight into the military's involvement."

"That's the plan, Chief," said Clark.


Brad waited nervously just outside the doors to the Daily Planet. He fumbled in his pocket for a moment, making sure he had his arsenic capsule. He knew this was his last chance. Since the kryptonite laser gun hadn't worked, there was only one way to dispose of his problem. He had to confront the creature directly. From this morning's Daily Planet, he knew the creature was working for the paper again. It was risky confronting it here, but he wasn't about to waste any more time. It was time to get this over with.

Of course, from his experience at Kent's apartment, Brad knew the kryptonite by itself would take a long time to kill the creature, giving it a chance to be rescued again. However, since the kryptonite made the creature vulnerable almost instantly, all he had to do was open the box containing the kryptonite and then, using his service revolver, shoot it. With any luck, he could disappear before anyone could stop him.

He checked his revolver one last time, ensuring that the safety was off, before settling in to wait.


Lois and Clark had just stepped out of the Daily Planet and were looking for a cab to take them to see Newcombe when a voice from behind stopped them.

"Lois Lane," said a man's voice.

Lois and Clark spun around to see a man both immediately recognized. Lois began backing away while Clark stepped in front of her when they found themselves only a few feet away from the man who'd been working with Trask. He opened a box, revealing a red glowing rock, before pulling out a gun and leveling his sights at his intended target.

Lois closed her eyes briefly, waiting for the searing pain that she was only too familiar with. But then opened them again in confusion. She didn't feel pain. She felt… More relaxed than she had in weeks.

Without thinking about how the man threatening Lois might interpret the speed of his movements, Clark acted out of instinct. The color of this rock was different than the other one. However, the eery glow told Clark it was somehow related. One hand darted out and, faster than the human eye could follow, Clark grabbed and closed the box containing the rock. His other confiscated the man's gun with the same lightning speed, sticking it in his pocket. Then, before the man even knew he was now without his weapons, Clark grabbed the front of the man's shirt to prevent his escape and looked back at Lois.

"Are you okay?" he asked.


Brad gasped at the speed everything had happened. There was only one explanation. Kent must be one of them as well — but for some reason, he wasn't affected by kryptonite. Brad struggled briefly against the hand holding him, but when he it became obvious that escape was impossible, he knew what he had to do.


"Are you okay?" Clark asked again when Lois didn't answer.

She gave him an odd look. "Of course, I'm all right," she responded. "Why wouldn't I be? By the way, have you noticed what a beautiful day it is?"

"Huh?" asked Clark, but before she had time to answer, Clark heard a gasping sound coming from behind. He spun back around just as the would-be assassin collapsed in Clark's grasp. Clark reached out and grabbed the man more securely before lowering him to the ground. As the light went out of the man's eyes, Clark caught a brief whiff of garlic.

"He's dead," Clark announced turning back to Lois.

"How?" Lois asked, more curious than concerned.

"It smelt like arsenic," Clark said, slightly surprised by her reaction. "I guess when his rock didn't work, he took his own life. Do you want to call Henderson?"

"Why?" asked Lois. "I mean, if he's dead, what good is Henderson going to do?"

Clark left the man's body to approach Lois. "Are you sure you're okay?" he asked.

"Don't get annoyed, Clark. That guy wanted me dead. Why should I care if he took his own life?"

Clark looked at her in confusion for a moment. Then he glanced down at the box. The rock. It must have had some effect that hadn't been anticipated. Well, as long as it was now in this lead lined box, the effect should wear off shortly — at least he certainly hoped so.

"Lois," he began softly, "I think this red rock is affecting you. I don't know exactly why, since I'm the one with the powers, but…"

"Will you chill out, Clark," Lois responded, patting his chest condescendingly. "I'm fine. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm in the mood for a cappuccino."

Clark watched in stunned silence as Lois headed towards a coffee shop across the street. "Chill out?" Clark finally asked in disbelief. It had to be that rock. He pulled out his cell phone and called Henderson. He'd have to worry about Lois later. In the meantime, she should be safe enough in the coffee shop.


Clark was relieved that the effects of the red kryptonite seemed to have worn off on their trip to see Newcombe. Of course, it had taken Clark about an hour to get Lois to leave the coffee shop. She had gotten involved in a chess game with one of the coffee shop regulars. However, in the cab there, Clark noticed Lois seemed to be her old self. He hoped that would hold up during the interview.

"Yes, Amber?" Brigadier General Burton Newcombe asked when his assistant appeared at the doorway to his office.

"There are two reporters from the Daily Planet here to see you, sir," she informed him.

Newcombe stiffened but otherwise had no visible reaction to the news. "Send them in," he said.

It was only a moment more before Lois and Clark were escorted into Newcombe's office. Once greetings were complete, Lois addressed the question of the hour.

"It has come to our attention that certain members of the military were planning to purchase Lex Luthor's advanced formula mustard gas," she said, watching Newcombe closely for any reaction.

"Really?" asked Newcombe.

"And we also have information that Trask might have been involved."

Newcombe stiffened a bit more but then asked the same question he had asked previously.

"You wouldn't happen to know anything about that, would you?" concluded Lois.

"How would I know about something like that?" Newcombe asked.

"Well, how about this?" asked Clark. "Did you know that Trask was the one who helped Luthor set up his sale of mustard gas to Sadam Hussein?"

"Why do you think that?" asked Newcombe.

Lois smiled. "Why is it that you answer all of our questions with a question? We already have enough to go to print with the information that Trask was involved in that sale. We just want to hear the Air Force's side of the story."

"Okay, look. I don't know anything about Luthor's plans to sell his advanced formula mustard gas to the military. But I can tell you that we did find out that Trask helped in the sale of mustard gas to Sadam Hussein. To our knowledge, no one else from the military was involved."

"Then why wasn't he put on trial?" asked Lois.

"Ms. Lane, a lot of U.S. service men were injured by exposure to mustard gas during the Gulf War. Those men don't need to become the focus of a scandal. And if you run a story about Trask's involvement in the sale of mustard gas to Sadam Hussein, that's exactly what will happen."

"Don't give me that," Lois responded. "You aren't trying to protect the men that were injured. You're trying to keep the Air Force from becoming the focus of a scandal. That's the real reason you didn't stop Trask from pursuing me, isn't it. You didn't want his involvement in the sale of mustard gas to Iraq to come out."

Newcombe shifted uncomfortably in his chair.

"Listen," said Clark, "the Air Force can no longer avoid a scandal. The best thing you can do now is to make sure the world has a chance to hear your side of the story. So what was Trask's involvement with the advanced formula mustard gas Luthor was trying to sell?"

"If Trask was involved with this advanced mustard gas, I don't know anything about it. So if you'll excuse me," he said, before rising. He escorted Lois and Clark out of his office before sinking back behind his desk.

He thought about Lois and Clark's visit. It was disturbing to find out that they knew about Trask's involvement in the original sale. They were obviously also suspicious that Trask was some how involved in the purchase of advanced formula mustard gas. What they didn't understand was that Trask was too unstable to be trusted with such a mission. Newcombe and his superiors had been the ones to decide to purchase the gas.

After all, just because Project Blue Book hadn't turned up one solid piece of evidence that U.F.O.s even existed that didn't mean there would never be a danger. Therefore, it was imperative that the military have every possible weapon available to it. In the event of an alien invasion, hopefully one of them would work. Still, the purchase had been highly illegal. Newcombe would have to move quickly to get rid of all traces of his involvement.


"He's involved, Clark," Lois said as they left Newcombe's office.

"I know," Clark responded. "But we'll never be able to prove it."

Lois let out a breath before nodding. "You're probably right," she said. "We'll get them eventually. But at least for right now, they'll never get their hands on that advanced formula mustard gas."

"By the way," said Clark, "are you feeling better now? I was really concerned about how you seemed to react to that red rock."

Lois blushed. "I don't know what came over me, but for a while there, I really didn't care much about anything. You think that rock is what made me so… apathetic?"

Clark nodded.

"Where is it?"

"In a lead lined box in the back of the jeep. Don't worry, the box is locked."


Clark was beginning to wash the dishes when Lois entered the kitchen. Their dinner with her parents had been… Interesting was probably the best word Clark could find to describe it. It was incredibly awkward at the beginning. But at least it ended on an optimistic note. Maybe there was some hope that the rifts of a lifetime could be mended.

In spite of Lois' earlier comments, Ellen Lane made it her business to grill Clark about his intentions towards her daughter. Before Clark was able to answer, Lois jumped in — informing her mother in no uncertain terms that she had lost the right to question her friends a long time ago. Only Clark's hand on her arm prevented her from taking her comments further.

After that, Dr. Lane asked her about the last ten years. That calmed things down considerably. Ellen cried when she learned about her daughter's life. Clark was certain he had seen tears in her father's eyes too. Lois held Clark's hand the whole time, as if his presence was giving her the strength needed to continue her story.

Sam and Ellen Lane briefly told her about their lives after Lois' disappearance, but considering what they'd learned about Lois' problems, theirs seemed mild. They also brought her up to date on what Lucy was up to. That was when the tension in the room seemed to dissipate. It was obviously a conversation that everyone enjoyed.

One thing Lois was pleased to discover was that, although Trask had originally been shown the globe and the ship Lois had arrived to earth in, when he'd returned to collect them after her second disappearance, he discovered that they'd mysteriously 'disappeared.' Her father assured her that both items were safe if she ever wanted them.

The Lanes had left shortly after that which was when Clark came in to begin the dishes.

"Can you believe the nerve of them?" Lois asked, storming into the room. "After all that they've done, thinking that they have the right to cross-examine you!"

Clark turned around and, in spite of her words, saw the trace of tears in her eyes. He immediately enfolded her in his embrace. "I love you, Lois Lane," he whispered into her hair. They stood there for a long time before Lois pulled back.

She brushed her hand across her face, trying to hide the traces of tears that lingered there. Taking his cue from her, Clark realized that the best thing he could do right now was to get her mind on other things. He pulled out a tea towel and tossed it to her.

"What? Don't I even get time off for not killing my parents during dinner?" she asked while grabbing the tea towel from the air.

Clark laughed. "Actually, it's probably a good thing you didn't kill them. I think Henderson is tired of hearing from us."

Lois laughed — although it was somewhat shaky. She walked over and, pulling a cup out of the rinse water, began to dry it.

"You know, I was thinking," said Clark. Then to Lois' look, he added, "Don't look so shocked. Anyway, you know that piece of red kryptonite."

"How could I forget?"

"Well, I imagine it was what was used to transfer your powers to me. I was thinking that maybe your dad would be able to figure out how to transfer them back."

Lois began drying dishes with greater intensity.

"Lois?" Clark asked, surprised by her reaction.

"Nothing," said Lois, reaching for another dish. The dish slipped from her hand and shattered to the floor. "Damn it," muttered Lois, bending down to pick up the pieces.

"Lois," Clark said again. It was obvious something he'd said had upset her, but he was at a loss about what exactly that was. Was she upset about the idea of involving her father? Maybe she still didn't completely trust him. After all, he was the one who had published the details of her existence to the world.

"Talk to me, Lois," he said, bending down to where she was still squatting on the floor picking up pieces and placing a hand on her arm. He was surprised when she flinched away from his touch.

"It's nothing," Lois said more forcefully, before rising from the floor and racing from the kitchen.

Clark took a deep breath. Women! Kryptonian women! He wasn't sure what to do. Was he supposed to follow? Was he supposed to wait until she was ready to talk about it? After a moment's reflection, he decided to follow. He walked out into the living room. She wasn't there. The door to her room was closed. He walked over and softly knocked.

"Lois," he said again. When she didn't respond, he stood outside debating what his next step should be. "Lois, are you okay?" he said.

It was only a moment more when a red eyed Lois Lane opened the door.

"What's wrong?" he asked.

She walked past him and took a seat on the couch before speaking. "I don't want my powers back, Clark," she finally said softly.


"Couldn't we just figure out how to transfer them to a dog or something?"

"You're serious," Clark gasped.

Lois nodded. "I've never been more serious about anything in my entire life."

"But why?" asked Clark.

Lois let out a slow breath. "All my life, all I've wanted was to be normal. The only thing those powers have ever brought me is heartbreak. Now I'm finally normal. And… Clark, it just feels so good. I can't help it. It's almost as if… As if I was never supposed to have those powers in the first place."

Clark shook his head. "But Lois, with these powers… Well, you're never sick. You can hear better. You can see farther. You can fly. How could you want to give this up? Think of all the good you could do with these powers."

Lois regarded him seriously for a long moment. "But that's just it, Clark. I can't. Not after that article my father published. Even if I used some sort of disguise, someone would come across that article eventually."

Clark thought about the problem. "What if a man showed up who had those same powers, plus a few extras that no one else knew about?"

"You mean the flying and the strength. The ones that didn't develop until after I left home."

"Exactly. Your father's test subject was a female. Biologically identical with Earth females except for some extra abilities," Clark said.

"You read the article."

Clark nodded. "Anyway, what if a man showed up… I think there are enough differences that even if someone came across that article, they wouldn't necessarily connect it with him or you — especially if he never mentions a planet called Krypton and is always a little secretive about exactly what his powers are — especially since your father recanted his article."

"What are you saying, Clark?"

He moved closer to her and took her hands. "Lois, I'm still trying to figure out how all these powers work. I'm still not in complete control of them. But I have to tell you there is something almost… well, strangely familiar about them. Almost as if having them was… Well, my destiny, I guess," he concluded. "I know that sounds corny but…"

"Are you saying you want to keep them?" she asked in disbelief.

"Only if you're sure you don't want them back."

She let out a breath before throwing her arms around his neck. "Thank you, Clark," she whispered into his hair before beginning to plant kisses down the side of his neck.

After a moment, he took her shoulders and gently moved her away. "I still don't have enough control to let this continue."

A slow smile spread across Lois' face. "But then…" she said.

Clark's smile matched Lois'. "What about then?" he asked.

She wriggled her eyebrows at him but didn't put her thoughts into words. There was no need. After all, both were well aware that now that she was no longer invulnerable, there were options available to them that they hadn't had before.


"That's the second day in a row that all the other news broadcasts in the world are quoting the Daily Planet," Perry said holding up the Planet's newest headline: 'MILITARY COMPLICITY IN MUSTARD GAS SALES TO IRAQ' and a smaller headline below the fold that read: 'ANTIDOTE FOR VICTIMS OF MUSTARD GAS.' Both articles bore the byline of Lois Lane and Clark Kent.

"Good work, guys. Now, unless you have more leads to follow up on, I suggest that maybe you two should take a long weekend. Get away and regroup. Then be prepared to be back here on Monday morning with an idea for another award winning story."

Usually, Perry got flack from Clark when he suggested Clark take some time off. So Perry was surprised by Lois and Clark's reaction.

"Actually, we need more than a long weekend," Clark said.

"How long do you need?" Perry asked in response.

"More like a week," Clark said.

Perry looked between Lois and Clark for a moment. Both had taken a lot of time off lately. Still, after the story they had just broken and the risks they'd taken to get it, he figured they deserved some time off to recover.

"Git. Just don't tell anyone what a sucker I am," Perry growled, before turning back to his work as Lois and Clark left his office.

"So where do you want to go?" asked Lois, slipping her hand into Clark's as they walked out of the Daily Planet. They needed to go somewhere so that Clark could get comfortable with his new powers. They had discussed a number of places last night, including returning to the cabin. So Lois was surprised when Clark suddenly suggested a new place.

"Well, I was thinking that maybe we should go visit my folks."

"Your folks?" asked Lois, a slight tremor in her voice.


Martha handed Jonathan a cup of herbal tea and took a seat on the couch beside him. Jonathan looked at the green liquid in his cup and sighed. He really hated it when Martha got on these health kicks. Right now, caffeine was the enemy. It was easier just to go along than to fight her. He took a sip of the substance. Well, it was better than nothing. Still, he missed his coffee.

The news had just come on when a car pulled up outside the old farm house.

"Who could that be at this time of night?" Martha asked, following Jonathan to his feet, but beating him to the door.

"It might be Russell Gillam. He was having problems with his generator earlier today. I told him to bring it by and I'd give him a hand if he didn't get it fixed by this evening," Jonathan replied.

"It's not Russell's truck," said Martha. "I don't recognize the…" Her voice trailed off and she flew out the door when she recognized the man emerging from the car.

"Martha?" Jonathan asked and then, a moment later, he was running down the stairs towards their son as well.

Lois watched sheepishly as an older woman threw herself into Clark's waiting arms. Lois then watched as his father joined the obvious celebration. Lois felt a twinge of jealousy. Why couldn't her family be like that? Still, this was only the first moment. She would probably get the same grilling as Clark had — with the same undertone of disapproval — from his mother.

She was glad she had convinced Clark to only fly them as far as Wichita so that they could rent a car and drive from there. This was an awkward enough moment without having flown directly here. Of course, since they had agreed to tell his parents everything — Clark would need their support if he really intended to use his powers for the greater good — it was only a matter of time before they would come to see Lois as some alien creature anyway.

"And who is this?" asked Martha, pulling back from Clark and looking at Lois.

"This is Lois Lane," Clark said proudly. "You probably know her better as Jessica Miller."

"But her real name is Lois Lane?" asked Jonathan.

Lois swallowed hard.

"It's a long story, Dad," he said. "Don't worry. You'll hear all about it."

"Well, no matter what your name is, welcome," said Martha coming over to Lois. "Well, let's not stand out here. We'll get a chill. Clark, fetch the bags. I'll give Lois your room. You can sleep on the couch, Clark. Umm… Well, unless…" she began, but before she could get the words out, Clark spoke.

"I'll take the couch," he said, with a brief look at Lois. They had discussed this before coming. Until Clark was comfortable with his new powers, he didn't want them sharing a bed. Lois was happy enough with this arrangement. There were Clark's parents after all.

"Well, you certainly picked a good time to come. It's the week of our annual Smallville Corn Festival," Martha said as she led Lois into the house.


"Well, that's quite a story," said Martha when Lois and Clark finished their tale some time later. Neither Martha or Jonathan had said much when Lois had told them her life story, followed by her and Clark telling them what had happened since they had met. Martha and Jonathan had, of course, asked questions of clarification every so often, but other than that, had listened in silence.

Lois looked down at the clasped hands in her lap, struggling to calm her pounding heart. She had no doubt that knowing all this would make Clark's parents less than thrilled about her in a relationship with their son — although they had not been told much about that. Nor had they been told much about her escape to the cabin, except to say that she had left Metropolis to escape Luthor.

At first, Lois had suspected that they wouldn't believe the story. Yet they hadn't questioned it. Clark's ability to fly, however, might have made it easier for them to accept what they were being told.

"So what's the plan now?" asked Jonathan.

"Well, Lois doesn't want the powers back," said Clark.

"Although if Clark didn't want them I would take them," Lois jumped in.

"Why wouldn't you want them, honey?" asked Martha. "I mean, it seems to me that these powers are part of you."

"But that's just it, Martha," Lois responded. "There powers have never really felt like they were a part of me. It's always felt as if… I don't know, they were alien or something."

"Interesting choice of words," Clark muttered only to be swatted by Lois.

"I know it sounds crazy," Lois continued. "You'd think since I've lived with them much of my life, I'd have gotten used to them, but it always felt more like… they were never really mine or something. As a result, losing them, being normal, just feels so right somehow."

Martha nodded slowly. There was something about Lois' comments that made sense to her — although she was at a complete loss to know why that was.

"Anyway," continued Clark after a moment, "we were thinking… Well, actually I was thinking that if I had an effective disguise, I might be able to use these powers to do some good in the world."

"Why would you need a disguise?" asked Martha.

"Well, it would be difficult to have any sort of a life if everyone knew. Also, there would be questions about where these powers came from. And I don't think Lois wants that type of scrutiny. Besides, there is something about doing all of this that seems… I don't know vaguely familiar to me."

Martha nodded. "I know. Weird, isn't it?"

"So you support this?" asked Lois.

Martha and Jonathan looked at each other for a moment before Jonathan said, "Yes, we do. I think you really could do a lot of good, Clark."


Lois and Martha sat at the kitchen table for a long time the next day as Martha sketched outfit after outfit in her sketch pad. Finally, they came up with one that Martha and Lois loved. It was brightly colored.

Martha pointed out that the more obvious and recognizable the outfit was, the less likely it would be that someone would think to look behind the outfit. Jonathan remained silent. Clark was the only one who thought the outfit would make him look like a comic book character. But Lois and Martha dismissed his concerns and by mid-afternoon of the next day the new would-be superhero was trying on a pair of blue tights, with red briefs, boots and cape and a yellow belt. "I don't know," said Martha to Lois as Clark turned in front of them. "It's missing something."

Lois nodded slightly. It was missing something. But what? Suddenly her expression cleared. "Martha, pass me your drawing book," she said. Martha did, and Lois began drawing. "I don't know why I didn't think of this before. I mean… even the colors of the suit…"

Martha and Clark shared a look — wondering what Lois was up to. It took her a moment before she showed them a sketch.

"What is it?" asked Martha.

"It's the symbol of my house. I mean, maybe it's crazy, but…"

Martha and Clark cut her off at the same time but with different words.

"It's perfect," said Martha.

"I'd be honored," said Clark. "After all, these powers do come from your family.".

Once Martha had designed the symbol and sewed it on Clark's suit, another issue presented itself.

"Do you think this is enough of a disguise?" asked Clark. "I mean, with everyone seeing my face."

Lois stepped up closer to him, regarding him closely. He was right. He still looked like Clark — wearing a splashy — she swallowed hard — skin tight outfit. She reached up and removed his glasses.

"Martha, could you get me some water?" she asked.

Martha brought her a glass of water.

As Lois wetted her hands and ran them through Clark's hair, she spoke. "I realized the first time we…" She was going to say slept together, but when she realized how that would sound to Clark's parents her voice trailed off. "Anyway, how long have you been wearing your glasses?"

Clark glanced at his parents. "Since I was seven or eight, I guess."

"So as Clark, wear glasses and as Superman, don't. With that and changing your hair style…" She led him over to a mirror. "I think you look different enough that, with the powers, no one will make the connection."

Martha, Jonathan and Clark all looked at his reflection for a moment before nodding.

"Well, other than getting you comfortable with your powers, the only thing left is a name," said Lois.

"A name?" asked Clark.

"Well, people are going to insist on calling you something," said Martha.

"What about Stan?" asked Clark.

Martha and Lois shared a look, rolling their eyes at his suggestion.

"What's wrong with the name 'Stan'," Clark mumbled dejectedly.

"It has to be something as supernatural as he appears to be," said Martha, ignoring her son.

"I like the name 'Stan'?" Clark muttered again.

"I agree. It has to be bigger than life," said Lois, addressing Martha's comment.

They both looked at the symbol on Clark's suit as he stood before them and then turned to each other and said simultaneously, "Superman."

"Superman?" gasped Clark. "Isn't that a little arrogant?"

Martha noticed the way Lois laid her hand gently on her son's arm and smiled. It was so obvious how much this young woman loved her son.

"So how do I tell people this name of yours? Do I show up and introduce myself to the world as Superman?"

"No. Lois and Clark, reporters for the Daily Planet, will name him. When you originally show up you just say…" she looked over at Martha for help.

"That you're a friend," Martha completed.

"Exactly!" said Lois. "Then Lois and Clark will give him the name Superman. It's just the type of thing that I think will catch on."

"I agree. And the name goes so well with the 's' type symbol on your chest," said Martha.

Clark looked between his love and his mother and knew that he was defeated. He was amazed by how quickly they seemed to have bonded. Still, he couldn't resist one final muttered comment. "Stan goes well with the crest too."


The next several days were spent with Clark practicing his powers. Both he and Lois spent long hours out together working on various things, trying to get him ready. Since Lois had grown up with these powers, she was extremely helpful to Clark.

Most of their practice took place down near the pond on the back of the Kent property. After all, the pond could soften any blows when Clark was practicing flying or floating and although he couldn't be hurt, the same couldn't be said of the things he landed on. It was also a good place to practice using his heat vision, since there was plenty of water nearby to put out any fires. He had mastered most of his powers. Now he just had to learn how to conquer doing more than one thing at a time.

"Okay, let's see how you do with both speed and gentleness at the same time," said Lois, handing him an egg.

Clark glanced down at the egg and back at Lois. "What do you want me to do with this?" he asked.

"When you take off fast, it creates a lot of pressure. G-force. I think that's what they call it. The first time I took off fast, I was holding some books. They were torn to pieces."

"So you want me to start with an egg?" Clark asked in disbelief.

"Well, you seem to have some understanding of how to do this already. After all, when you carried me to Wichita, I wasn't hurt. It's a matter of extending your aura to protect whatever you're carrying. Now you didn't go full speed, but you somehow managed to keep me safe," she informed him.

"You knew this could be a problem when you agreed to fly with me and yet you still did it?" Clark asked.

Lois touched his cheek momentarily. "I know that you'd never hurt me," she said softly. "Besides, you took off slowly and then took your time speeding up, so I knew I could always stop you if it became a problem. Anyway, give it a try. Take off fast and see if you can avoid breaking the egg."

Clark nodded and took a deep breath before heading straight up. He stopped when he felt the egg shatter in his hand. He sighed and landed again. He looked at Lois and immediately burst out laughing. When the egg had shattered, the contents had been pulled back to the earth by gravity. Unfortunately, Lois had been standing underneath. Now she was splattered in a mixture of egg white, yoke and shell. At the look she gave him, he immediately choked back his laughter.

"Okay," said Lois, wiping the sleeve of her shirt over her face, "obviously, that didn't work." She reached down into the carton of eggs and took out two more. She handed one to him and said, "Try again."

He did with much the same result. This time, Lois was ready for him. Still, she managed to get hit with some of it. When he landed again with a sheepish , "Sorry," she assured him that it was fine. She stepped up to him and before he knew what had happened, his face was covered with egg — the one Lois managed to smash in her hand before spreading it, quite artistically, all over his face.

"What did you do that for?" demanded Clark.

"You started it, not me," said Lois, quite reasonably.

"I didn't mean to get you," objected Clark.

"Would you quit your belly-aching," said Lois, reaching into the carton and withdrawing another egg. She laughed when Clark flinched slightly. "Relax," she said, handing him the egg. "Try again. But this time, you know the punishment for failure."

"Oh, so if I fail, you get to hit me with an egg?"

"Of course. It will give you a little incentive."

Clark looked at her for a long moment, a grin playing on the corners of his mouth, before taking off. This time the egg held. He landed again, triumphantly holding up the egg.

"So tell me," he asked, "what do I get if I succeed?" With that he pulled back his arm as if he would throw the egg at her.

Lois immediately ducked down, grabbing two more eggs from the carton. She hurled them at him before he could get his shot off. She blinked when he managed to catch both — not breaking either of them.

She jumped up and ran to where he was standing staring in disbelief at the three unbroken eggs in his hands.

"Great!" exclaimed Lois. "You grabbed those eggs out of the air using your powers and didn't break any of them."

"I did, didn't I," Clark said in disbelief.

"You did," Lois said, throwing her arms around Clark's neck.

"I guess we don't need these anymore," Clark replied, breaking all three eggs in Lois' hair.

"Clark!" Lois exclaimed. "What's your mother going to say when she sees us?"

"You're right," replied Clark, picking Lois up in his arms, zipping down to the pond and throwing them both into the water. They came to the surface, still in each other's arms, laughing between sputters. The laughter ended as their lips were suddenly occupied with more interesting activities. It was quite some time before Lois pulled back.

"You seem to have control of your powers now," Lois commented.

"I agree," said Clark, his lips descending to her throat.

"Well, I've been thinking."

"Sounds dangerous," said Clark, still making a concentrated effort to find every responsive location on her neck.

"Make love to me, Clark," Lois whispered.

"What?" gasped Clark, his lips surprised off her neck. "When? Now?"

"Now. Here," Lois responding, pulling his mouth to hers. Almost instantly, Lois found herself in Clark's arms, being carried to the sandy shore. He lay her down, lowering himself to the ground beside her before going back to exploring the contours of her neck. She pushed her head back and groaned softly.

After a moment, he pulled back.

"What?" Lois asked, struggling for her next breath.

He propped himself up on one arm and looked down at her. She had a wet strand of hair clinging stickily to her forehead. He smiled softly before reaching up with his free hand and gently brushing it off.

"Do you have any idea how much I love you?" he whispered with an intensity that took Lois' breath away and sent a heat fluttering through her stomach. That feeling only intensified when his hand came down to lie across her stomach. He met and held her gaze for a long moment before looking away.

"Clark?" asked Lois.

"I…" Clark said, before falling silent and shaking his head.

Her hand came up to his cheek and gently stroked it. When her fingers brushed over his lips, his hand came up from her stomach to capture her hand and press a soft kiss against the pads of her fingertips.

"Talk to me, Clark," Lois said softly.

Without looking at her, Clark spoke. "I want to do this, Lois. I just… Maybe we should wait, you know… until we're married."

Lois blinked a couple of times. "Marriage. Who said anything about marriage?" she asked.

"I just thought…" His voice suddenly trailed off as her words sunk in. She didn't want to marry him. But then why would she? She was beautiful, smart, sexy. And now that she was normal, of course she'd want to see what else was out there. After all, why would she want to marry someone with as much of a past as he had?

"I'm sorry," said Clark, pushing himself to his knees and then to his feet.

"Clark," Lois said, when he turned and began walking away from her. "Clark!" she said more forcefully when he ignored her. Still, he didn't stop.

She gave her head a shake. What had just happened here? Their kisses had been getting pretty hot and heavy when he pulled back. He told her he loved her with breathtaking intensity. He even brought up the idea of marriage. She had been stunned. He'd never mentioned marriage before. When she'd asked him about it, he'd apologized and then had gotten up and left.


All Clark knew at this moment was that he needed to be alone. As soon as he was away from Lois, he began to run — trying to outrun the pain of her rejection.

He loved that woman with all his heart. Whenever he looked at the future these days, she was always there — by his side. Yet she didn't want to marry him. He should have known better. He'd given his heart away. He had really believed she felt the same way. Obviously, he was wrong. He should have protected his heart.

When he finally realized he was not going to be able to outrun the pain now that he didn't get exhausted as easily as he used to, he headed back to the farm. When he arrived and heard his father in the barn, feeding the animals, he made his way there.

Jonathan stabbed his fork into another pile of hay and threw it into the horse's stall. He looked up when he heard someone enter. He smiled at the sight of his son. Then he furrowed his eyebrows.

"What's wrong, son?" he asked.

Clark kicked absently at a stain on the floor that he had made spilling some paint when he was a kid.

"Nothing," he said, shoving his hands deep in his pockets.


Lois had worked herself into quite a state by the time she arrived back at the farmhouse. How could Clark take off, leaving her there, without so much as saying goodbye — just because she hadn't responded to his reference to marriage the way he wanted her to? How did he expect her to react? She had been… stunned.

For the past ten years, Lois hadn't allowed herself to think beyond the next day or maybe, if she was really lucky, the next week. It was only since Clark had come to the cabin that she had started to think about the future — and then always tentatively. She still hadn't allowed herself to think of anything in terms of permanence.

So then he'd mentioned marriage — and not to ask her, but just to assume that she'd marry him. It wasn't that she was opposed to the idea, but that she'd never let herself consider it before. Even when they'd shared a bed, she hadn't let herself consider anything beyond how good it felt to be held by him for the night.

Yet because she hadn't reacted to his declaration the way he wanted her to, he'd left — without even bothering to find out how she really felt about the subject.

She made her way up the steps of the old farm house. She walked in and slammed the door. Then, because it felt so good to do so, she opened the door and slammed it again.

"Give my poor door a break," said Martha coming into the room. "What did it ever do to you?"

"Sorry," stuttered Lois.

Martha chuckled. "Listen, I just finished a batch of chocolate chip cookies. Why don't I make us a pot of tea and then we can sit down and you can tell me how my door managed to offend you."


"Women," Clark muttered.

"What?" asked Jonathan.

"Nothing," Clark replied.

Jonathan grabbed a bucket and made his way over to the feed for the chickens. He held the bucket while Clark poured some feed into it.

"She doesn't want to marry me," Clark said.

"You asked Lois to marry you?"

"Well, no," said Clark.

Jonathan looked curiously at Clark. "So she just volunteered that she didn't want to marry you?"

"Well, that's not quite it either."

When Clark didn't continue, Jonathan picked up the bucket and headed towards the chicken coop.

They fed the chickens in silence for a few minutes before Jonathan spoke again. "So do you want to marry this woman?"

"So much it hurts," Clark replied.

"Then don't you think you should ask her?"

"But if I already know the answer…"

"Do you?" asked Jonathan. "I had to ask your mother three times before she said yes. And from what you told me, Lois didn't exactly turn down your proposal. After all, it sounds as if you didn't exactly propose."

Clark thought about what his father had said for a few minutes. He was right. She hadn't said she wouldn't marry him. What exactly was her comment now? Something about asking who had said anything about marriage. Suddenly, he turned to his father.

"Would you excuse me?" he asked his father.

"Sure. Where's the fire?"

"I want to make a trip into town before the stores close."

Jonathan smiled and nodded.


Martha handed Lois her tea and set a plate of chocolate chip cookies on the table. Once she had done so, both women took a seat.

"So do you want to tell me what made you so furious with my door?" Martha asked.

"I'm really sorry about that," Lois responded. "I didn't mean to do any damage. It's just that when I slammed the door the first time, it felt so good that…"

"I'm not worried about the door, honey. I'm worried about you." She paused for a moment. "Did you and Clark have a fight?"

Lois looked down and studied the contents of her mug.

Martha reached over and placed a hand on Lois'. "Lois, I know he's my son. And I love him very much. But I also know he's not exactly perfect. So what did he do?"

Lois glanced up at Martha. She really wasn't sure that she should confide in Martha about Clark, but she needed to vent so badly.

"We were having a great time, Martha," Lois began, looking back at the tea as she swirled it around in her mug. "Then he said that he wanted to wait until we were married before we…" Her voice trailed off when she realized what she had been about to say. "…did something," she finished lamely.

A grin played around the corners of Martha's mouth for a moment — understanding what Lois hadn't said. "So that's why you're mad?" she asked after a moment. "Because Clark wants to wait until you're married before… doing this thing?"

Lois shook her head. "No. Of course not. But… Well, Martha he had never said anything about marriage before. Then when I asked about it, he took off."

"Maybe you should tell me exactly what you said?"

"I could have found a better… I think I asked something like, 'who said anything about getting married?'"

"And then he took off?"

"He apologized and took off, leaving me to walk back by myself," Lois said. "What did he expect, Martha? I mean, until the past week or so, I never even allowed myself to think about the future. Suddenly, he's talking about marriage. How did he expect me to react?"

"So you don't want to marry him?" Martha asked.

"It's not that. I… I guess I really don't know. I mean, I've never really thought about it. It didn't seem like a good idea to let myself think about it when I didn't think it was even a possibility." She took a sip of her tea before continuing. "I do love him, Martha," she said softly, not looking at Clark's mother.

"I know you do," Martha responded. "But marriage is a big step."

"Then you understand?"

Martha nodded. "Jonathan had to ask me five times before I finally agreed. And I didn't have the difficulties you've had."

"But he didn't even ask me," said Lois. "He just sort of assumed that we'd get married. I think that's what really bothers me. And then he didn't even stick around long enough to talk to me about it. I didn't respond the way he wanted so he just took off. I know he's your son, but sometimes…"

"He's an idiot," Martha concluded. "I know that, honey."

Lois smiled slightly.

"There's something I think you should consider here," said Martha.


"Well, until you came into his life, Clark had cut himself off emotionally from the people around him. He hadn't even really opened up to us in years. Oh, he still came home and called regularly, but he'd erected walls even we couldn't get behind. Then you come along and those walls suddenly come tumbling down. I think he's as scared as you are."

"I'm not scared," Lois objected. "Okay, so maybe a little," Lois corrected in response to a look from Martha.

"He's been hurt badly in the past," Martha continued. "It's got to make him a little bit skittish. So today, he thinks your rejecting him and he reacts. It's not reasonable, but it is understandable. He's terrified of being hurt."

"I'd never hurt him, Martha. Not for the world," said Lois.

"I know that, honey," Martha assured her. "But as I'm sure you know, when you love, you're vulnerable."

"It's hard to think of Clark as vulnerable," said Lois. "He always seems so… I don't know, solid, unshakable, in control, I guess."

"It's hard to think of his father as vulnerable too. But one thing I do know is that I am able to hurt Jonathan. In fact, I think I'm the only one who really has that power."

Lois nodded slowly. "So what should I do?" she asked.

"I can't tell you that, except to suggest you let him know how you feel about him. And talk to him about your fears about getting married."

"That's a little difficult when he hasn't exactly asked me."

Martha smiled. "Start by telling him that you love him. The rest will work itself out."


Clark arrived back at the house some time later. He pulled the rental car up in front of the house and took a deep breath before getting out of the car.

Lois was sitting in the swing on the veranda. Clark didn't exactly look at her as he made his way up the steps. He knew he owed her an apology — for running out on her. He just didn't exactly know how to word it. He stopped near the swing, looking down at his shoes. He glanced up when Lois moved over on the swing and patted the seat beside her. After a moment, he sat down. He let out a sigh when she moved his arm and crawled into his embrace.

"I'm sorry, Lois," he began. "I shouldn't have…"

She turned towards him and put a finger on his lips, cutting him off. "I love you, Clark," she whispered softly.

Clark's expression softened. He had thought she was going to be angry. "Listen," he began, "when I was in town, I ran into a friend who told me that a bunch of the old crowd is getting together for a bonfire tonight to celebrate the end of the festival. Would you like to go?"

"I'd like that," Lois responded.


Lana smiled as she and Steve approached the bonfire. It was almost as if they were having an unofficial high school reunion. She had come to Smallville this weekend to make her final wedding preparations. She was glad that Steve had been able to fly down to join her, especially given how unseasonably warm it was.

She took Steve's hand and lead him over to the crowd. They were sitting around the large fire. As in the old days, Tim McMullen had his guitar and was leading everyone in song — well, nearly everyone. As usual, Alex Wells and Jodi Vic, now Jodi Wells, were sitting a little ways from the main crowd, necking.

When Lana arrived at the fire, she saw someone, actually two people, she really hadn't expected to see. She smiled. Lois was sitting at the edge of the fire. Clark was behind her with his arms wrapped firmly around her. They looked up as Lana and Steve approached.

"It looks as if you finally managed to simplify things," Lana said softly to Lois as she and Steve sat down.

"Or complicate the hell out of them," Lois responded with a smile. "By the way, Steve," Lois continued, "…how are the emergency services workers and the police officers who were affected by the mustard gas doing?"

"They're doing well — thanks to you and Clark finding that antidote," Steve replied.

"Have you heard anything about Mayson Drake — the assistant D.A. who was working for Luthor?" asked Clark.

"I heard she pled guilty to obstruction of justice and they dropped the charge of accessory after the fact. She'll do a couple of months in jail and lose her license to practice law," Steve responded.

"You mean there's something a lawyer can actually do that will result in disbarment?" Lois asked in disbelief.

Everyone laughed.

"Oh, and you might be interested to know that the Senate is calling for a senatorial investigation into the military's involvement in all of this," continued Steve.

Lois' eyebrows rose. "Well, that should be interesting," she commented. Everyone agreed.

They dropped talk of work and joined in the song Tim was playing — and a few other songs after that — before Clark finally whispered to Lois, "Come on."

He got up and offered Lois his hand. She took it and together the two of them headed off — away from the crowd.

"Where are we going?" asked Lois when they headed towards the woods.

"You'll see," said Clark, leading her to a trail that Lois didn't see until they were almost on it. She was concerned for a moment that they were going to get lost, but it was obvious that Clark knew the trail well. He led her through the dark trees as one who had taken this path many times and was not at all intimidated by it just because it was dark. It wasn't long before Lois began to hear a familiar sound — the sound of running water. The sound got louder until suddenly, the woods parted and they were standing on the edge of a creek.

The light from the full moon was dancing over the surface of the fast flowing water giving the whole place a romantic glow.

"Where are we?" Lois whispered. She wasn't exactly sure why she was whispering, except for the feeling that talking out loud would break the mood.

"This is where couples often came when we were in high school," Clark whispered back.

"Sort of a make-out point?"

Clark smiled. "I guess you could call it that," said Clark, taking her hand again and leading her to a large tree on the edge of the creek.

Lois looked at all the initials with hearts around them carved into the big tree. "Are yours here anywhere?" she asked.

Clark shook his head. "I was waiting for the right woman," he replied before releasing her hand and, with his thumbnail, sketching the initials of C.K. and L.L. Then around them he drew a heart.

Lois reached out a hand and softly touched the initials for a moment before turning towards Clark.

He led her over to a fallen tree and directed her to take a seat on it before dropping to one knee in front of her. Lois' breath caught in her throat. He removed a small velvet box from inside his jacket as he began to speak.

"This afternoon I sort of backed into a topic that I have been thinking about a lot ever since I first met you," Clark began. "After I had time to think, it occurred to me why you were so taken back. After all, we never really discussed the idea of getting married. And so I thought," he opened the box to reveal a diamond ring, "that maybe it was about time that we discussed it."

"Clark…" Lois began.

"Please, just let me finish," Clark said. When she nodded, he continued, "I am completely in love with you. I have been from the moment I first laid eyes on you in Perry's office. It wasn't until that moment that I realized I had never really been in love before. Since then, I've gotten to know you — your heart, your dreams, the cute way you cry at old movies. And I love it. I love everything about you. And so, I want to ask… Will you marry me?"

Lois reached out a hand and gently ran it over his cheek. "I love you too, Clark. Until you came into my life, I really believed that I'd never be able to say that to anyone. And I'm not opposed to the idea of being your wife, but I need time."

"So you're saying no," Clark responded flatly.

"No, I'm saying maybe," she corrected. "I just need a little time. Can you understand that?"

Clark looked down at the box in his hands and closed it. Then he began to get up. He was stopped by Lois, who grabbed his arms.

"Don't pull away from me, Clark. Please. I don't think I could bear it." She wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him to her. "I love you so much," she whispered into his ear. "I just need time to get used to this. Except for the past few days, I never believed I could have a life with anyone. You're my basherteh. I know that. I just need time. Can't you give me that?"

He let out a breath and wrapped his arms around her. "I can give you that," he conceded.

She pulled back only far enough to find his mouth. It was a few minutes before either of them spoke again. When they did, their voices had a gruff edge to them.

"Why do you want to wait?" Lois asked.

Clark immediately knew what she was asking. "I just… Given my past… I never want you to think that you're just one more woman to me."

She smiled softly, her hand coming up to stroke his cheek. "Clark, you wanted us to be together when you didn't think we could ever make love. Do you really think I could wonder if sex was all you were after?"

"So what are you saying?"

"I think you know what I'm saying. If you want to wait, I'm certainly willing to do that, but…"

"Then I think I'd like to wait," said Clark, cutting her off.

Lois looked into his eyes for a moment before smiling and nodding. She didn't need to wait until they were married to know that he loved her, but if this was important to him, then it was important to her too.

In the light of the moon, Clark leaned in and softly kissed her. A jolt of electricity seemed to jump from one to the other and suddenly, in spite of their intentions to the contrary, the dam that had been holding their mounting passions in check seemed to burst as hands and mouths began to roam — frantically searching and exploring.

Lois finally pulled back. "You wanted to wait, Clark," she reminded him breathlessly.

"I thought I did," Clark responded as he continued to struggle to get her blouse undone.

That was all the encouragement Lois needed. It was only a moment before she was also pulling at the buttons on his shirt.

In the heat of the moment, style and finesse were sacrificed on the alter of all consuming need and desire as Clark, having finally succeeded in undoing her blouse, rolled her over onto the soft moss by the creek and began running his lips down her throat and along her collarbone.

"Oh, God," whispered Lois, closing her eyes and pushing her head back — inviting further exploration.

Lois could hardly believe after all this time this was actually happening. It was as if she was in a dream. Her entire body seemed to come alive when she felt Clark's hands slip beneath the fabric of her open shirt. A heat that she was coming to know quite well was suddenly flooding through her system. Then, just as suddenly, Clark's hands and lips vanished.

Lois fought back a cry, closing her eyes tighter. If Clark wanted to wait, she wasn't about to pressure him. Still…

She opened her eyes and breathed a sigh of relief. Clark hadn't pulled away because he'd changed his mind. He was finishing what she had started — removing his shirt. Once that was done, he began undoing the buckle on his belt.

For a moment, Lois was tempted to help him. But then she realized what had apparently already occurred to him — that it would be quicker if each tended to his or her own clothing. After all this time of fighting her hormones, the last thing Lois needed was an extended period of foreplay. It appeared that Clark felt the same way.

"Are we really doing this?" Lois asked breathlessly, as she rose to her knees and began struggling with her clothes.

"It looks like it," Clark replied, before closing the distance between them. He stopped, their mouths only inches apart and, looking deep into her eyes, whispered, "I love you, Lois Jessica Lane."

Lois moaned, her hands tangling themselves in his hair as she pulled them both back to the ground — Clark's words, in Lois' mind, merging her past with her present and his need to be joined with both.

That was the last intelligible phrase heard for quite some time as Lois and Clark reverted to a much more primal form of communication. Through touches and kisses, they struggled to express their love and as they did, the forest suddenly seemed to come alive with a series of noises and even the odd word, which by themselves made no sense, but which together created a symphony, instinctively understood by all the other creatures of the forest.

The waters of the creek continued to rush past the all too common sight of two young lovers — finding each other under the stars.


A week later, Lois and Clark sat together on a pew as a man in a tuxedo escorted Lana's mother down the aisle of the small community church in Smallville. A door at the front of the church opened and Steve emerged with his best man at his side. The wedding music started up and the congregation rose as Lana, in a white wedding dress, walked down the aisle on her father's arm.

At the front of the church, Lana's father handed her over to Steve. When the minister asked, "Who gives this woman to be married to this man?" Lana's father replied, "Her mother and I do." He then left his daughter to take a seat beside his wife.

Lois glanced over at Clark and studied him as the wedding ceremony progressed. She loved him so much. He had never given her any reason to believe that he would try to dominate her or control her. He had protected her secret, which had since become his own with the recent arrival of a newly coronated superhero. In fact, she loved everything about this man. And since their night under the stars when they'd finally become lovers, she'd come to realize that there'd never be another man for her but Clark. So why exactly was she hesitating?

She leaned over and whispered into his ear. "Yes," she said.

Clark turned towards her in confusion. She nodded her head towards Lana and Steve and then said the word again.

"Yes?" Clark asked, his voice suddenly having a very hopeful note to it.

"Yes," she responded. "I will marry you."

Clark's face broke into a huge smile and they shared a short but loving kiss before they turned their attention back to the couple at the front of the church. This was Lana and Steve's day. Lois and Clark knew that their day would come. And soon, if Clark had anything to say about it.

For although the world around them might change, certain things were obviously preordained. Clark Kent might have been destined to become Superman but, even more importantly, Lois and Clark knew that falling in love had never been a choice. It had been, quite simply, a matter of destiny.