Wendy Richards <firstname.lastname@example.org> and Tank Wilson <TankW1@aol.com>
Submitted: May 2002
Summary: What if, one night, Superman really was too late to help Lois? NB: This is a T&W Challenge Fic, so things *may* not be as bad as they sound!
Wendy: Well, Tank had been feeling a bit low, so I wanted to cheer him up, basically! So I produced this little bit of a story which contained many of his favourite (read WHAMmy and anti-Jimmy) elements, and then offered it to him to complete the path of death and destruction which I'd started. I was absolutely positive that he'd jump at the chance to achieve what he's always pleading with other writers to do. Much to my amazement, as you'll see, he proved once more that he's just an old softie at heart.
Tank: Once again, Wendy has proved that she is truly the evil one in this occasional partnership. She claims that I'm the one who loves the whams and hates Jimmy… well, that's true, but if you read this little exercise of nastiness by the 'oh so innocent' Ms. Richards, you'll see that there wasn't much left to work with. She basically whammed the heck out of everything and didn't leave me much, but clean-up duty. It will be up to the gentle readers to decide whether or not things worked out the way they should have. As for Jimmy — Who really cares?
~~~WARNING~~~WARNING~~~WARNING~~~WARNING~~~ Rated PG-13 for violence.
All characters are copyrighted to their original creators and to those who hold the rights in them. We've just borrowed them temporarily, and we haven't really harmed them — honest! <g>
"Lois, are you *sure* it was here?" Leaning forward from his position on the Jeep's back seat, Jimmy repeated his question in the same long-suffering tone he'd used on six occasions over the past two hours.
"Of *course* I'm sure!" Lois snapped. "I told you — I was using that spy-pen you gave me. The one that's supposed to have won all those awards? And I *heard* the guy say Baker and Fifth. Tonight, at midnight. And that's where we are — Baker and Fifth! Okay?"
"Sure, Lois, but it's now almost one," Jimmy pointed out sardonically.
Clark bit his lip once again, feeling guilty because he'd overheard the conversation too. Except that he'd heard the man say Waken and Fifth. He'd tried at the time to suggest to Lois that she might have heard it wrongly, asking her if she was absolutely sure of the location and if the reception had been clear. She'd insisted that she was right. He'd then, carefully so as not to make her suspicious, mentioned Waken, but she'd dismissed it. She'd heard what she'd heard, and that was that.
Well, it wasn't as if it was a major disaster, Clark consoled himself. Their tip-off had been that a consignment of stolen artworks was being handed over to a fence tonight, and they'd hoped to watch the handover, get the thieves and their fence on camera, call the police and then print the story. It should have been easy… but then Lois had got the place-name wrong.
And not just wrong, but quite spectacularly wrong, at that. He'd wanted to ask her whether she really thought that the kind of people who'd steal expensive art treasures would actually agree to meet their fence in one of the city's most dangerous areas; but in the end discretion had won over valour and he'd said nothing. After all, it wasn't as if she'd be on her own. He'd be there, and he'd make sure they were in no danger.
As midnight had approached, Clark had got more and more antsy, wondering if he shouldn't just insist on driving over to Waken, or even if he should make his escape and get over there as Superman to catch the thieves. But Lois had been getting more suspicious of his numerous disappearances lately, and he hadn't wanted to give her something else to add to her list.
Ever since he'd miraculously 'come back to life' he'd had the feeling that she was watching him more closely and even doubting the excuses he gave her when he had to run off to be Superman. Okay, he had given her some pretty lame explanations, that was true, but she'd always just shrugged and rolled her eyes and left it at that. More recently, though, he'd caught her staring at him and sometimes seeming to be on the point of challenging him. It was best not to give her another opportunity to wonder what he was really up to.
"I think it's time we went home," Clark said as Lois seemed about — metaphorically — to bite Jimmy's head off. "It's obvious that nothing's going to happen here tonight."
Lois sighed. "He said Baker and Fifth. I'm positive of it!"
"Yeah, I know you are," Clark agreed. "But, like Jimmy said, it's almost one. Whatever the reason, it looks like we missed it."
"We'll give it another ten minutes," Lois said firmly. Jimmy's sigh was audible.
Clark was about to try reasoning with Lois again, but suddenly his Super-hearing cut in. There was an emergency on the other side of the city: a gas explosion had caused an apartment block to collapse, and dozens of residents were trapped. Ambulances and the fire service were on their way, but he knew that he would be of far more use in getting people out alive.
He had no choice; much as he hated the idea of leaving Lois and Jimmy here, he had to go.
He turned to Lois, choosing his words carefully. "I… um, have to go, Lois."
"Go?" She stared at him. "What do you mean? Go where?" Then she flushed as one possible explanation obviously dawned on her. "Can't you just tie a knot in it?" she muttered bad- temperedly.
"Lois!" Clark said sharply. "I'm going, okay? I won't be long." He hoped.
With that, he opened the door and exited the Jeep, running into a nearby alley. In under a second, he'd spun into the Suit and taken off into the black night sky.
"Of all the times to choose…" Lois muttered once Clark had gone.
"Aren't you being a little hard on CK?" Jimmy objected. "I mean, when you gotta go, you gotta go…"
She shrugged. "I guess. But right now?" Slumping into her seat again, she grumbled, "That's the last time I let him bring coffee on a stakeout."
It wasn't really Clark's disappearance which was making her mad, she knew that. Despite her insistence to Jimmy and Clark that she was positive of the location she'd overheard, Lois knew she hadn't heard the man speaking clearly. There had been crackling in her earpiece just as the location had been mentioned. And although she thought she'd made out 'Baker', she'd had to admit — to herself, anyway — that Clark's suggestion of 'Waken' was equally plausible. But she'd dug herself into a hole by insisting that it was Baker. And now it was too late; the handover would have taken place. They'd missed the story, and the art thieves had got away with it.
She made an abrupt decision. Without turning to look at Jimmy, she said, "We'll leave as soon as Clark gets back, okay?"
"Okay," Jimmy agreed, sounding relieved. "Hey, can we have the radio on until then?"
Shrugging, Lois switched on the Jeep's radio, which was tuned to a local news and music station. After a few minutes, the song currently playing stopped and the DJ read a newsflash about a gas explosion several miles away. According to the police, Superman was on the scene helping to rescue trapped occupants of the building.
"We should be over there," Lois said, irritated. "And if we weren't sitting here waiting for Clark to decide to come back, we'd be on our way!"
"Lois, we'd never get over there in time. It'd take at least forty-five minutes from here, and all the action would be over by then," Jimmy objected.
"I could get us there in twenty," Lois argued, though she knew she was exaggerating.
"Doesn't matter," Jimmy pointed out. "We can't abandon Clark."
"You want to bet?" Lois snapped belligerently.
Jimmy trailed off suddenly, and Lois turned to look at him. "You what?" she demanded.
But he wasn't listening to her. "Oh sh…" he murmured, sounding worried as he trailed off again.
Clark could smell the disaster scene long before he reached it. The gas was pungent and heady, and he could only hope that someone had managed to disconnect the supply, otherwise even more people would die from poisoning. He debated with himself whether his first priority was to get people out of the building or to inhale as much of the toxic fumes as possible and deposit them somewhere in space.
Once he arrived, the decision was made for him: there was far too much gas in the atmosphere for him to be able to ignore it. A couple of minutes later, with the air clearer than it had been, he was able to start bringing people out of the collapsed building and making the ruins safe for emergency workers to go in.
Amid the heat and the dust and the screams of terrified people, Clark completely lost track of time, or of the fact that Lois and Jimmy were waiting for him back at the Jeep, expecting him to be gone a couple of minutes at most. None of that mattered, in any case: there were lives to be saved, and he couldn't leave.
The shattering of the front windscreen sent cold fear coursing through Lois. Up till then, she'd believed that as long as she and Jimmy stayed in the Jeep, with the doors locked, they'd be okay. She'd become increasingly worried about Clark, though: he'd been gone a lot longer than she'd expected, and if he came back while that gang was outside…
They'd sneaked up on the Jeep; the first Lois and Jimmy had been aware of their presence was when Jimmy had glanced out of the side window to see a skinhead with nose and eyebrow tattoos staring in at them. Immediately, Lois had engaged the central locking, then reached into her purse for her cellphone.
The battery was dead.
"Okay, it's okay," she'd muttered. "They can't get us. I'll just start the car and drive away."
"But what about CK?" Jimmy had demanded.
"He's not here!" she'd pointed out harshly, terrified for her best friend but knowing that sticking around was only likely to get her and Jimmy killed. "If Clark has any sense, he'll be hiding somewhere waiting for them to go away. Or he's gone to call the cops."
"Or he's lying somewhere, hurt…" Jimmy had murmured.
"There's nothing we can do for him," Lois had gritted out, hating saying the words. She'd started the engine and hit the accelerator… but although the engine had roared, nothing had happened. They hadn't moved.
"They've got blocks in front of the wheels," Jimmy had worked out.
Then a crash which shook the entire car had told Lois that the gang members had removed the Jeep's wheels. They weren't going anywhere.
Fiddling with her cellphone's charger, she'd tried to plug it into the cigarette lighter. And that was when one of them had hit the windscreen hard. Glass shattered all over the interior of the car, some of it striking her in the face and cutting her.
"Help! Superman, help!" Lois yelled loudly as hands reached in to grab at her.
Clark was climbing out of what had been the upper floor of the apartment block when he heard Lois's cry for help. He stiffened, recognising her voice. She sounded scared, and his first instinct was to leave the badly-injured resident he was carrying with the paramedics and fly off to help Lois.
But he couldn't do that. Back inside the ruined building, there were three children trapped under what had been an interior wall; they were terrified and in pain, and he'd promised them that he'd be right back for them once he'd taken their mother to get medical attention. There was no way any of the emergency workers could get in there safely yet. He had to stay.
Lois would understand, he was sure. And she was always telling him that she was perfectly capable of getting herself out of trouble, that she'd been doing it long before Superman came along.
Telling himself that over and over, he forced himself to ignore Lois's scream and go back inside the collapsed building. Just five more minutes. Five minutes, and then he could go to her.
They were pulling her by the hair. Lois managed to grab hold of her scissors, and she hacked roughly through her shoulder-length locks, leaving the gangster with a handful of hair and nothing else. Then she started to use the scissors as a weapon, stabbing at her assailant's hands.
Then the Jeep's side-windows were smashed, and before she could do anything else, she was dragged out onto the rough ground. She struggled the whole time, but couldn't get her arms or legs free for long enough to launch a Tae Kwon Do move. She had to make do with ineffectual kicks — someone grabbed her high-heel shoes and threw them away.
"Leave her alone!" Jimmy had scrambled out himself and was doing his best to fight off the gang members single-handed. As a couple of them started tearing at Lois's clothes, she saw her friend kicking and pulling at them.
Until one of them raised the iron bar they'd used to smash the windows — and hit Jimmy over the head with it.
The cry was weaker now, and Clark froze inside. She was really in trouble, and he hadn't gone to help.
In an instant, he made his decision. The rescue services would have to handle the rest on their own. Telling them that he had another emergency to go to, he shot upwards and back towards the Jeep at close to light-speed.
Superman wasn't coming.
She'd yelled until her voice had worn raw, despite her captors covering her mouth with their hands; she'd bitten them until they'd let go.
But even though she was yelling for Superman, that hadn't stopped them doing what they wanted to her. The attack was savage and brutal, and they didn't care how much they hurt her. She refused to look at them, instead staring at Jimmy's lifeless body on the ground beside her.
He'd tried to save her. Clark hadn't. And nor had Superman.
Tears rolled down her face as one of the gangsters jolted her entire body. Her head hit the ground with force, and everything went black.
The horrific scene in front of him as he approached was almost more than he could bear. One loud, agonised shout sent the gangsters running, and although he knew he should round them up and imprison them somehow, all Clark's thoughts were for Lois.
He dropped to his knees beside her, taking in the ragged, shorn hair, the cuts and abrasions on her face, the torn rags which remained of her clothes, and the blood and bruising all over her body. The blood on her thighs told its own story.
She wasn't moving. And he couldn't detect any sign of breathing.
He was glad that her eyes were closed; those lifeless brown eyes staring accusingly up at him would have been too much to bear.
He'd let her down. Because he hadn't been there, because he hadn't come in response to her cry for help, Lois — the only woman he'd ever loved — was dead, brutally killed by a drug-crazed gang. And Jimmy… Clark's gaze shifted to the young photographer lying in a crumpled heap beside Lois. It was evident that Jimmy had been trying to protect her.
She'd called for help. She'd called for *him* — and he'd ignored her.
Because he'd ignored her, the woman he loved had been murdered.
Still kneeling beside Lois, he lifted her and cradled her in his arms. With tears streaming down his face, Superman wept uncontrollably.
Superman's body continued to convulse as sobs wracked his body. His worst nightmare had come true. Lois, his beautiful, vibrant, Lois was dead; dead because he hadn't been there to save her. And the thing that tore at his very soul was the fact that he'd heard her cries for help and chose to ignore them. It didn't matter that three small children were now safe and sound because he stayed to help them. He only knew that he could have saved the most important woman in his life and he'd chosen not to.
He wanted to scream, to cry out at a world that would force him to make such a choice. At an uncaring world that forced him to choose between innocents in peril or the woman he loved. Not only had the woman he loved paid such a terrible price for his failure, but his friend had also. Jimmy was just a kid, but he had proved time and time again that he had the courage and determination of any seasoned reporter. He had begged to come along on this stake out. Lois hadn't wanted Jimmy along. She'd thought it might be too dangerous for him. Clark had argued with Lois to let the boy come along. After all, he had thought, what could happen? Even though it was a bad part of town, Superman would be there to protect them. If his throat wasn't so raw from sobbing he'd laugh at the bitter, cruel irony of that.
His mind was a jumble. Aside from the devastating grief and guilt that consumed him, other thoughts began to push their way into his consciousness. What was he going to do? What was he going to tell Perry? How could he justify Clark Kent being all right when the other two reporters on the stakeout had been brutally murdered by street scum? How could he continue to function without Lois? Did he even want to?
Almost imperceptibly he felt the tiny form in his arms shudder ever so slightly. If not for his enhanced senses he'd never had noticed it. Shocked, yet cautiously hopeful, he turned his full attention to the slender woman cradled in his lap.
He was sure it hadn't been there before, but now he could sense the barely perceptible rise and fall of her chest. Leaning close to her face, he could tell that Lois was struggling to breathe, but it was hard, and her breaths were shallow and labored. Her eyes fluttered briefly, then opened part way.
"You came?" Her voice was a tortured whisper.
"Shhhh, don't talk. Hold on, Lois, I'll get you to a hospital."
If he hadn't been watching her so intently he'd have missed the minute shake of her head. "To late for that now. I guess you can't always arrive in the nick of time." With a tremendous effort she raised her arm to touch his. "Clark?" Her voice held such a note of fear and urgency that it tore at his heart.
"He'll be fi… He's alive." He had to turn away from her for a moment.
Tears began to roll down her cheeks. "Good." She turned her head fractionally toward the side. "Poor Jimmy… he tried to help." She cried in earnest for her friend.
"Lois, don't talk, conserve your strength. I'll get you to medical attention, you'll be okay." Tears flowed once again from Clark's eyes.
He wasn't sure, but the sound that came from her mouth sounded vaguely like a chuckle. "I don't think Met General is going to be able to help me now. Too bad Hamilton destroyed all his notes and equipment."
Clark felt like an electric shock had suddenly gone through him. Could it work? True, he'd only used Emil Hamilton's work as an excuse for his own seemingly miraculous rebirth from the dead, but the man had resurrected all those long- dead gangsters. Could he do it again? Suddenly he felt her hand on his face.
"Don't grieve too long," she said, her voice getting weaker. "The world needs you." She swallowed. "Tell Clark I'm sorry, and that… I love him."
The tiny form in his arms suddenly went still. Her head rolled back and her arms fell limply to her sides.
"Nooooo!" His agonized cry shook and shattered windows for blocks around.
He laid her gently on the pavement. Looking around him, he spied Lois' Jeep. He moved quickly over to it, barely noting the smashed-in windows and the blocked wheels. Superman reached in and tore out the back bench seat. Taking it back over to where Lois and Jimmy lay, he set both of them onto the seat and strapped in their flaccid bodies using the seat belts to tie them to the makeshift conveyance. Stepping back, he used his super breath to blow super cold, freezing air across their bodies.
It was a mad plan and he knew it, but he would try to move heaven and earth if it offered even the smallest hope of saving Lois. Carefully lifting the car seat with its precious cargo, Superman took to the sky in search of Professor Emil Hamilton.
Lois and Clark had done a follow up story on Emil Hamilton shortly after the fiasco with Capone, Dillinger, Bonnie and Clyde and their gang had played itself out a few months back. Prof. Hamilton had gotten a job with a small subsidiary of Star Labs called Polaris Research. It was located out in Westfield, a small community about fifty miles west of Metropolis.
It took several minutes, being careful with his valuable payload, to locate the modest facility on the edge of town. Superman scanned the now empty building and, locating the best equipped lab in the place, entered and deposited Lois and Jimmy there. Luckily, there were no sophisticated electronic security measures in force. Simple door locks and dead bolts were all that were used to keep the place secured. The research being done there was obviously not of a sensitive nature, nor was the sleepy bedroom community prone to crime more typical of the big city.
Superman undid the restraints holding the bodies of Lois and Jimmy to the borrowed car seat and laid them out on nearby lab tables. After making sure his two recently deceased friends were in no danger of slipping off their perches, he left to find Hamilton.
Not having any idea where Hamilton lived, Superman flew high over the small town and, using his x-ray vision, did a house-by-house search. Even with all his 'super' advantages, it took him ten frustrating minutes to locate the stereotypical absent-minded professor. Within five minutes after that, Superman and Prof. Hamilton, still groggy from his disturbed sleep, were standing in the lab.
"Superman, what are we…" He finally noticed the two bodies lying on the tables. "Good heavens! Isn't that Ms. Lane?" He hurried over and stared, aghast, at the two 'visitors' to his workplace.
Superman tried to recapture his formal demeanor, but was unsuccessful. "Yes, it is. She and her colleague, Jimmy Olsen, were brutally murdered this evening while on an assignment."
Hamilton looked over at Superman. He'd heard the obvious pain in the superhero's voice, but was puzzled by the whole thing. "I'm terribly sorry. I liked Ms. Lane, and I'm sure Mr. Olsen was a fine lad." He glanced back at the two bodies. "But why bring the bodies here?"
Superman took a deep breath. "I need you to… save them." Prof. Hamilton's shocked look galvanized Clark. "Come on, Professor… Emil, you have to bring them back. You can do it. You were able to bring back those gangsters. Surely you can save Lois and Jimmy."
Hamilton could tell that there was something deeper going on than just the deaths of two reporters. Superman had a highly personal stake in this, that much was clear, but exactly what that was, Emil wasn't willing to even guess.
"I feel for the loss of your friends, I really do, but you must know that I decided that my former research was too dangerous to be allowed to continue. It became all too apparent what could happen if it fell into the wrong hands. I destroyed all my equipment and notes. I couldn't help you even if I wanted to."
Superman grabbed Hamilton by the arms, unknowingly lifting him off the floor as he did so. "Professor, you created that process. You must remember how to recreate it. Just tell me what you need. I'll do whatever I have to to get it for you."
Hamilton frowned as he studied the Man of Steel warily. He was about to question Superman as to why he was so intense about saving these two reporters. Clearly these two individuals were important to him, but Hamilton knew that Superman had to deal with life and death every day. It was obvious that there were deeper emotions involved. Could it be that Superman was in love with Ms. Lane? Hamilton had seen the tabloid reports that often paired the two but had dismissed them as the trash they surely were. Besides, he'd seen how Ms. Lane had been devastated by the 'death' of her partner, Mr. Kent. It was clear that she was in love with him.
Hamilton decided not to question Superman. He suddenly realized that he didn't want to know the superhero's reasons. "Superman, I have to tell you that it took me years to perfect my process. I can't guarantee that I can accurately reproduce it." Hamilton pointed to his head with a guilty gesture. "My memory isn't the best; that's why I write everything down."
Superman frowned, but then seemed to remember something. "Professor, I read your notes, and I have a good memory. I'll help you remember." Superman seemed buoyed by the concept. "Together we can do this." Then he added in a whisper. "We have to."
Hamilton nodded. "That's right, you used my notes to resurrect Mr. Kent, didn't you?"
Clark didn't answer. He'd read through the notes, sure; it was what had given him the idea for his miracle rebirth, but he hadn't actually done anything. "So what do you need?"
Superman spent the next couple of hours begging, borrowing, and in one case, even stealing the equipment that Hamilton said he needed from laboratories, and research facilities from around the world. Then came the laborious process of trying to recreate the Professor's actual process. Hamilton would talk through his theories and Superman would remember something written in the notes he'd read and mention it to Emil, who would then remember that particular aspect of the research and he'd frantically write it down.
As dawn was breaking over the sleepy town, Hamilton and Superman stared at the two large vats of a chemical soup that Emil had never thought to see again. Electrodes were placed strategically both inside and outside the liquid. Superman wasn't sure as to their purpose, but the Professor was satisfied.
Emil Hamilton nodded in obvious appreciation of their work. "It just might work," he said. Turning to Superman, he added. "Now help me thaw out these two so we can place them in the solution." He walked over to the table and began to pick at the stiff clothing on the two bodies.
Within another hour Lois and Jimmy, still lifeless, were floating in the two vats. Hamilton fussed over their positioning, then checked on the readings of several dials and gauges on the monitoring equipment. When he finally seemed satisfied, he turned back to the hovering Superman.
"You might as well go and get some rest, or do a patrol, or do whatever it is you do all day long. We'll know in about twelve hours if this is going to work. Come back tonight; there is nothing you can do now." Emil patted the superhero on the shoulder.
Clark hesitated. He felt like he should stay with them, watch over them. But in the end he gave in. Since it was now Sunday morning, and the facility was normally closed, he knew that Emil wouldn't be bothered by any co-workers. With a final effusive thank you, Superman took to the air.
Clark leaned back on his couch and idly played with the television remote control. There was nothing on worth watching, but he didn't mind. Television was the farthest thing from his mind at that moment.
"So tell me again why my hair was still hacked up even though my body had been regenerated. I would have thought that it would have grown out normally too." Lois, sporting a short, face-framing haircut, came into Clark's living room from the bathroom where she had just been fussing with her new do.
Clark laughed. "Well, Professor Hamilton wanted you to be restored just as you were, and he didn't know that you had cut it yourself to keep >from being dragged by the hair through the windshield of your Jeep. He thought that was some new, radical style that you had chosen."
Lois rolled her eyes. "I think Emil Hamilton needs to keep a little closer tabs on what's happening in the real world."
"I don't know, do you think that the world is ready for that?"
Lois laughed this time. "Maybe not." She glided over to the couch and snuggled in next to Clark. "I was so worried when you didn't come back after so long. When the gang attacked us, I could only think that they had already gotten to you. That's why you didn't come back. Because you were already hurt… or dead."
Clark sighed guiltily. "Lois, I…"
She put her finger over his lips. "No, let me finish. I realized something while I lay there, dying, in Superman's arms. It was something I realized a few months ago, but managed to suppress because I was afraid. But this is the second time we were almost separated forever." Lois sighed. "I don't know if we'll get a third chance so I have to say this."
Lois tilted her head up so she could look Clark in the eyes. "I asked Superman to tell you. I don't know if he did, but here goes." She placed her hand along his cheek. "Clark Kent, I love you."
He placed his hand over hers. "And I love you, Lois."
She smiled, then reached down for her glass of champagne sitting on the coffee table. "So, let's toast. To resurrection and second chances."
Clark picked up his glass and saluted Lois with it. "To resurrection and second chances." They each took a sip.
"You know, now we really have something in common besides our passion for our work." Lois grinned at Clark. "We've both cheated death thanks to Emil Hamilton, our favorite mad scientist."
Clark set his glass down. He took Lois' hands in his, not being able to hide the guilty look on his face. Her brow raised in puzzlement at his sudden change.
"As to that, Lois," he stammered. "I think we need to talk."
(and so the cycle continues…)
(c) 2002 Wendy Richards <email@example.com> and Tank Wilson <TankW1@aol.com>