A Dickensian 4th

By Barb Pillsbury <Megats1776@yahoo.com>

Rated: PG

Submitted: April 2002

Summary: With the help of some ghostly visits, Lois realizes the strength of Clark's and her love for each other.

I would like to acknowledge the following: Bethy for her incredible Beta work, Tricia, my archive GE, for all her help and Yael, Irene D., Phil, Wendy and Merry for their words of encouragement and support.


One — two, one — two. Lois Lane was arduously doing jumping jacks. She was exhausted but more importantly, she was terrified. The bomb in front of her was ticking and the metronome attached to it was beating onward ever faster and faster. One — two, one — two. The ominous voice from the box beside the bomb kept taunting her. It sneered at her to go on. One — two, one — two. Lois couldn't just simply react, she had to think.

She threw away the towel she was holding and looked down at the wires that led from the small exercise mat to the bomb. One — two, one — two. Lois, normally able to figure out a different way of looking at things, could see no way to get off the mat without setting off the explosion. She had to keep the jumping jacks going in time with that infernal metronome. One — two, one — two. Faster, faster, continually faster it went while the annoying radio voice laughed at her.

Where was he? Where was he?! "Superman," she yelled as loud as she could but she hardly had any breath left. One — two, one — two. "Superman," she yelled out again in desperation. "Help!" Lois knew he was angry with her and that he was deeply hurt at her turning down his marriage proposal, but she needed time. One — two, one — two. She needed time to deal with her own anger and hurt and to internalize the idea that Clark was Superman. Lois needed time to just. Time, she thought. She had little time left unless he would be there to save her. One — two, one — two.

But would he do this — ignore her cries for help? She didn't think so. Despite their current tension, Lois knew him, knew he still loved her. Clark wouldn't let her die. "Superman, help, help! I can't-" she gasped.

Lois couldn't go on. The metronome had reached a ridiculous pace. One — two, one — two. She was no longer doing jumping jacks; she was running at full tilt. But Lois had no energy left. The voice was almost enthusiastic now, chiding her. "Tick-tock," it said. "No pain, no gain." One — two, one… It didn't matter that she would die. She just couldn't go on. She collapsed.

At that exact moment a familiar streak of red and blue burst through the window, snatched the bomb and flew through another window into the afternoon sky.

Lois pulled herself up slowly as she heard the bomb explode high above the city of Metropolis. She signed audibly with relief. She should be grateful to Superman…er, that is Clark. He had come. She knew he wouldn't let her down. But what on earth had taken him so long? Suddenly anger kicked in.

"Are you all right?" Superman asked, concerned, as he returned to her apartment.

"Fine!" Lois spat back, an edge to her voice as she walked from the kitchen into the living room. "Thanks."

"What is it?" Superman looked at her carefully.

"What is what?" Lois said off-handedly, picking up a broom from the corner and carrying it toward the glass splattered on the floor.

"Come on Lois, I know that look," he said folding his arms across his chest.

"I'm not giving you any look," Lois argued, avoiding his eyes while she began to sweep the broken glass on the floor.

"Exactly." Superman crossed toward her. "It's that 'not giving you any look' look."

"Well, since you asked." Lois paused, leaning her arms on the broom. "What took you an hour?"

"A nuclear reactor was melting down in Philadelphia. What's your point?" he threw back at her.

She resumed her sweeping, once again not looking at him, and said, "I just think maybe you're taking my jeopardy a little for granted these days."

"What?" Superman turned toward her.

"I can understand. It's not the same new sizzling romance." Lois was beginning to babble. "I don't look at you like some moony-eyed cheerleader. And maybe you look at me differently, too. I'm just good old Lois, get to me whenever…"

"That's ridiculous," Superman said, not noticing that Lois was on the verge of tears.

Covering up her quavering voice as best she could, she said, "Well, just food for thought." She tried to prevent the tears by keeping an angry pitch to her voice. "Anyway, if you're not too busy," Lois demanded, more in control of her tears now, "maybe we could find the guy who did this?" She thrust the broom into his hands to punctuate her words.

Taking the broom she practically threw at him, he looked down. "All things considered, I'd rather be in Philadelphia," he mumbled as he swept the floor. "Lois?" he asked in a softer voice as he paused sweeping.

"What?" Lois replied, the anger obviously still present as she went after the dustpan.

"Speaking of Philadelphia. I'm supposed to be back there tomorrow for a rededication of the Liberty Bell, it being the Fourth of July." He hesitated. "Since the Church group seems to be taking care of all the crime in Metropolis, and the kids don't want me to umpire their baseball games, there is no need for me here. Maybe coming with me and getting out of Metropolis would be a chance for us to talk about all of this." "Right." Lois' tone turned sarcastic. "There you are in Philadelphia for Independence Day symbolizing 'truth, justice and the American way', when I know that truth is not really in your vocabulary. You lied to me, Clark, and I just need to deal with it alone," she said, handing him the dustpan and turning away from him. "Anyway the 4th of July isn't my thing."

"Just what is your thing, Lois?" Clark asked sharply, getting rid of the broom and dustpan and following her. "You don't like Christmas. You probably hate the Easter Bunny. What's left?"

"Well, you know, I always did kind of like the tooth fairy." She threw back at him, walking toward the couch. "Clark," Lois said seriously this time as she sat down. "I'm sure you spent the 4th of July at a picnic with your family. You watched the movie '1776' and then you went to a park in Smallville and with other families listened to the Mayor or some other dignitary give the required Independence Day speech and then oohed and aahed over the local Jaycee's fireworks."

"Well," Clark acknowledged crossing behind her, "You got me there. That's a Smallville 4th." He put his hands on the back of the couch on either side of Lois, really wanting to touch her shoulders to soothe her. "And you?" He was almost afraid to ask.

"Lucy ran off with her friends. My mother saw this as another reason to get drunk. My father was off sailing with one of his bikini clad bimbos and I, I don't know, I would treat it as just another day." She looked down. "I know that the 4th doesn't have the sentimentality of Christmas, but it was always another time for my family's dysfunction to become more apparent. I guess all holidays are bitter times for me and I want nothing to do with them," she said as she stood and walked away from him, not wanting his closeness to disconcert her.

"And nothing to do with me?" Clark said, folding his arms across his chest.

"You?" Lois responded, turning on her heels to face him. "I'm still not sure who you are."

"You know who I am, Lois. Now you know what I can do." He turned and flew out the window.

Lois put her hands up to her temples. She was getting another migraine. She was hot, she was sweaty and she was exhausted. Lois toyed between taking a shower or simply collapsing on her bed. The bed won out. But as soon as her head hit the pillow, there was a knock on her door.

Lois dragged herself off the bed and walked toward the continuous persistent knocking. She opened the door and found herself face to face with Mayson Drake.

But Mayson Drake was dead! She was dead as a doornail!


"Who? What?" Lois asked in amazement.

"Well," Mayson retorted, "there's two of the 'Ws' reporters are supposed to ask."

As Mason entered the apartment, Lois noticed for the first time that she was wearing several long chains around her neck with locks and keys on them as well as bracelets with similar charms on both her wrists. "What is this?" Lois asked as she closed the door. "Who are you really?"

"In life you knew me as Mayson Drake. I'm here in death to warn you."

"In death?" Lois whispered. "You're, you're a…"

"Yes," Mayson turned to her. "You don't believe in me," observed the Ghost.

"I don't," said Lois.

"What evidence would you have of my reality beyond that of your senses?" Mayson asked her. And without waiting for Lois to respond she waved her arms in a flourish and became transparent.

"I don't know," said Lois, transfixed to the spot where she was standing.

"Geez, Lois, how much more proof do you need?" the former D. A. shot at her, and then proceeded to float around the room before sitting down on the couch.

Lois could only watch in amazement.

"Do you believe in me or not?" Mayson asked impatiently.

"I do," said Lois. "I must. But why did you come to me?" Lois glanced at her suspiciously and moved in closer.

"It is required of every one," the Ghost said in a bland voice, as if reciting an instruction manual, "that the spirit within him or her should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel far and wide; and if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death." She continued stiltedly, "it is doomed to wander through the world and witness what it cannot share, but might have shared on earth and turned to happiness."

"Hold on!" Lois exclaimed. "Wait a minute. This is beginning to sound very familiar." She walked to the bookcase and removed a copy of 'A Christmas Carol'. Opening it, she said, "Uh huh. I thought so. You're Marley — Marley's Ghost."

"Well, yeah!" Mayson answered, turning toward Lois. "Charles Dickens thought this whole plot up. But who are we ghosts to deny perfection? Although it's not Christmas, the story will work well for us." She sighed perceptively. "I did emphasize my job in life and when a man like Clark came along, I waited too long to tell him how I felt. I died without letting him know that I loved him," she said very dejectedly, tears coming to her eyes. "I know he loves you Lois and you shouldn't let anything stand in the way of that love. That's Dickens' warning and mine, too."

Lois moved around the couch and stared at her diaphanous guest. "The relationship between Clark and me…" she waited, hoping the words would come… "is going to be too hard because, because…" she trailed off.

"Because he is Superman," Mayson finished. Then, seeing Lois' response, she added, "Don't be shocked, Lois. I discovered his secret when he tried to save me. I hated Superman. You know that, Lois," Mayson paused, then murmured wistfully, "But I would have found a way, could have found a way to understand in order to be with Clark. He is such an incredible man, Lois. Don't lose him as I did."

"Is that why you're here?" Lois shifted to sit down beside Mayson. "We were never really friends. But can it be that you are, you are here to help me?"

"I am here today to warn you that you have yet a chance and hope of escaping my fate, Lois," Mayson replied.

"Fate?" Lois asked.

"If you put your head above your heart, if you fall victim to your fears, if you decide to push Clark out of your life, these chains I forged in life will be yours as well."

"I just don't know," Lois responded. "Sometimes I keep hoping that a message will come out of no where to tell me what I'm supposed to do, how I'm supposed to feel. Instead, I just feel numb and exposed. What I knew, what I believed, what I trusted to be true isn't there anymore. Tell me what to think. Tell me how to get through this."

"You will be haunted," the Ghost said sympathetically, "by three spirits."

Lois' face reflected her apprehension. "Is that the chance and hope you mentioned, Mayson?" she demanded in a faltering voice.

"It is."

"I-I think I'd rather not," she protested rising and crossing away.

"Without their visits," said the Ghost, "you cannot hope to shun the path I tread. Expect the first when the bell tolls one."

"Couldn't I take them all at once, and have it over, Mayson?" hinted Lois, thinking as she turned toward the ghost that this all was reminiscent of a December morning in an eleventh grade classroom.

"Well," said Mayson, "in the Dickensian novel, it says that the second one is to be expected on the next night at the same hour and the third upon the next night when the last stroke of twelve has ceased to vibrate. But this is the 1990s and we have no time to waste. You need that answer you were looking for. So the second will come one-half hour after the first and the third after another half hour has passed."

"Thank-you, I think," Lois responded keeping an eye on Mayson as the Ghost rose and began to float toward the window.

Although Lois was used to Superman's comings and goings through that window, she watched in fascination as Mayson left her apartment and then hanging in mid air turned to Lois. "Remember me, remember this," Mayson said and disappeared.


Lois opened her eyes. She was back in her bed. How long had she been asleep? She sat up quickly, remembering. Had Mayson really been here? Lois looked at the clock. It was one o'clock and nothing was happening. It must have been a dream. There weren't going to be any ghosts, no visiting specters, no poltergeists of any kind. She breathed a deep sigh of relief.

All of a sudden there was another knock on the door. She must be rational. It was probably Clark coming back so they could pursue whoever had put the bomb in her room. She hurried over to the door.

And, although she was angry with him, her heart skipped a beat as she opened the door, expecting the tall, handsome presence of her partner, Clark. Instead, at the door with his head looking down examining an old-fashioned pocket watch, stood a diminutive, curious looking elderly man.

Lois sighed in resignation, "Are you the spirit, who I was told about?"

"I am." The voice was soft and gentle.

"Oh, really! And, exactly who, and what are you?" Lois demanded, barring his way into the apartment.

"Now Lois, you will not remember me but we have met before and will meet again and again. I'm H. G. Wells. But today I'm here in the form of a spirit. I am the Ghost of Independence Days Past."

"H. G. Wells, the writer?" Lois asked incredulously, still keeping him at bay in the hallway. "What is this, an English Lit class? First Charles Dickens, now H. G. Wells."

"We'll deal with that at a later time. First we have to deal with Independence Days Past."

"Long Past?" inquired Lois watching this small man quizzically.

"No. Your past," he answered.

"Well, I can tell you that my past 4th of Julys are not something to revisit." She turned and ushered the ghost into her apartment.

"You might be surprised." He reached out his hand to hers. "I know that you have had and will continue to have difficulty believing in the things I tell you. But you simply must trust me."

"Okay," Lois sighed, wanting to get this over with. She took his hand, by now totally accepting how this day was going, and immediately found herself in a crowd of people sitting on bleachers. "Where are we?" Lois asked, looking around and not recognizing anything.

"It is 1976 and we are at the bicentennial celebration at the Metropolis Harbor. Look, there you are with your sister sitting in the stands watching the tall ships arrive." He explained as he pointed in the direction of two little girls in dark ponytails eagerly anticipating the event.

"I'd forgotten about this," Lois remarked. "My mother was home 'sick' and dad was away but the family next door to us, the… Oh, yes, the Spencers, were coming to the bicentennial celebration and they invited us along. That's Mary Spencer, their daughter, sitting next to us." She paused sadly as she remembered. "Mary had Cerebral Palsy and her parents loved her so much and did everything to make her life as normal as possible."

Lois mused at how difficult it must have been for that family to face each day and work things out, but as she thought back she knew that they had. Lois stared at them long and hard. She hadn't understood the hardships the Spencers would have to attack and how simply overcoming the barriers could create such a wonderful family. Lois' own concerns appeared a little less monumental now.

"Watch," the Ghost said as he turned his attention away from Lois to the three little girls sitting on the top row of the stands.

A man carrying three hot dogs, three cokes, three cotton candies and three red balloons with blue '76s' emblazoned on them was making his way up the aisle toward Mary, Lucy and Lois with a large grin on his face. Mr. Spencer's balancing act, however, was not successful and he was beginning to lose his grip on the items he was so desperately trying to convey to the awaiting youngsters. As he lunged forward to grab a cotton candy before it fell, he inadvertently stepped on the fingers of his daughter who in recoiling from the pain, sent her cane careening against Lois.

Lois squealed and would have toppled off the highest most bench of the stands if it weren't for a little dark-headed boy who appeared out of nowhere to steady her. The boy quickly jumped down and darted behind the bleachers to retrieve Mary's cane, which had gone crashing to the pavement below. Climbing back to where they were sitting, he smiled first at Lois and then at Mary, producing the cane. Just as quickly as he arrived, he was gone, walking away with his parents — two very familiar and extremely kind looking people whose eyes shone when they looked at their son.

"My God!" exclaimed Lois. "Martha and Jonathan." She stared at the little boy with the dark hair and chocolate colored eyes who had turned his head as he retreated to take one last look at the little girl who was by now babbling away with the two girls who sat beside her. "It was Clark. Clark saved me."

"Yes, and he will always be there for you if you just let him. Destiny is a funny thing and there are circumstances that are meant to be," the first ghost postulated. "People's lives continually weave a pattern reaching out and touching each other over time."

"I never thanked him," Lois said, tears welling up in her eyes.

"He didn't need it." The Ghost smiled thoughtfully, waving its hand as it said, "Let us see another 4th!"


"Where are we now?" Lois looked around. "This isn't Metropolis."

"No," replied Wells. "It's 1983 and we're in Washington D. C."

"I wasn't in…Wash…oh, wait a minute," she considered. "Of course, the High School Journalistic Conference — I hadn't thought about that in a long time. High School Juniors and Seniors from all over the country were selected to attend a conference on journalism and be in Washington D. C. over the 4th of July. I was representing Metropolis High. Why in the world is this important for me to see again?"

"You'll find out," he said mysteriously.

Lois watched as hundreds of teenagers moved slowly into an auditorium to hear a Congressman speak. She could see that many of them were dreading this part of the conference but were appropriately entering through the auditorium doors. Lois then laughed as she saw one teenaged brunette sneak away from the group, pull off the tag that identified her as a high school reporter and, after furtively looking around, run to corner a distinguished looking man standing with a group of aides and supporters.

"That's me," she said with some pride as she watched the novice reporter trying to throw questions at the Senator. "I was hoping to get some quotes on the sale of arms to Iran. I knew that something was up and I tried to get Senator West to respond. The national papers were just beginning to see what was coming but wouldn't have the information until later that year and the hearings on it didn't start for some time. I would have scooped everyone," Lois boasted.

"That was very important to you, isn't it?" Mr. Wells queried.

"Of course, it was and it still is," Lois replied. "But I still don't see…" Then she did. She watched horrified as teenaged Lois was backing into the street while Senator West was trying to ignore her. Young Lois simply wouldn't allow it; no matter what, she was going to get that story.

Barreling down the street right toward her was a runaway taxi. The driver was yelling — incoherently shouting something about the brakes. A blur streaked by and stopped the taxi from behind. The run away vehicle pulled up just an inch before it would have plowed into Lois. The people gasped and then began congratulating the driver on his ability to stop so quickly. No one witnessed a young man with a High School Journalist tag on his shirt walk from behind the taxi. But watching the scene from a short distance away, the contemporary Lois noticed now. The tag read: Clark Kent, Smallville High School.

"Clark was there!" she said to her guide. "Clark looked out for me even then." She watched hypnotically as the seventeen-year old Clark strolled slowly back into the auditorium lobby where the other students were still gathered. She saw him glance over his shoulder and stare at the teenaged Lois several times, much as the ten-year old Clark had done previously. But this time the glance held a far deeper meaning than the curiosity expressed by a young child.

Clark stopped when he got closer to the others, but he could not for even a moment take his eyes from Lois. It looked like he wanted desperately for this brash girl to come back into the group of young journalists so he could meet her and find out who she was and…

But oblivious to what had just happened, Lois Lane, reporter from Metropolis High's Monitor, continued after the Senator. As usual, the story was upper most in her mind.

"How could I not have noticed?" the Daily Planet's Lois Lane asked herself out loud. "I call myself an investigative reporter. I can investigate others but I can't see beyond my nose when it comes to me. I have been so blind to Clark's kindness, his strength and his love for me. I don't know why I keep hurting him and why I keep fighting against this."

"Mr. Wells," said Lois in a broken voice, "take me back."

"I told you these were shadows of the things that have been," said the Ghost. "That they are what they are, do not blame me!"

"Take me back!" Lois exclaimed.

She was conscious of being exhausted and overcome by an irresistible drowsiness; and, further, of being in her own bedroom. She had barely time to fall into bed before she sank into a heavy sleep.


Lois awoke to find the clock reading one-thirty. Realizing this was the time of the next arrival, she steeled herself and walked gingerly out of her bedroom. Hearing some noise in her kitchen, she carefully peered around the corner where she saw the back of a man preparing lunch.

"You must be hungry, Lois," the familiar drawl stated.

"Perry!" Lois said, amazed, as Perry turned toward her.

"Who did you expect for the second ghost? Elvis?" Perry chuckled, bringing the Fried Chicken, Potato Salad and Watermelon to the table. "You're surprised I can cook? Well Perry actually doesn't really do much of it but the Ghost of Independence Day Present does. In every version of this story, this jolly Ghost has loads of food around him."

"Aren't we supposed to go somewhere?" Lois asked, not really hungry but ready to get the next journey over with.

"Yes," the second ghost said. "If you are ready, touch my coat."

Just as Lois touched the arm of Perry's jacket, the food disappeared and the two travelers were instantaneously transported away from Lois' place to find themselves on a fire escape outside a very small apartment. Before Lois could ask where they had traveled to this time, a familiar face appeared at the window.

Jimmy Olsen looked out at the sky and then returned to pacing the floor of his apartment. He was obviously waiting for something to happen. As if on cue, the phone rang. Jimmy hurried to answer it and jumped at it, picking up the receiver before it rang a second time.

"Jimmy Olsen," he said nervously. "Yes, yes I can be there," Jimmy responded with a worried look on his face. "I know I owe the money but I don't have it all. I can bring what I have," he said hopefully.

Lois looked questioningly at Perry, her hands clasped almost in prayer as she listened to the conversation.

"I just hope," Jimmy paused and then went on, "that you will accept what I've got and give me some more time to get the rest." Jimmy cringed as he heard the response. "Okay," he gulped. "I'll try to get all of it now and I'll meet you there at 4:00."

Jimmy hung up the phone and sank into a chair. He covered his eyes and his shoulders began to shake.

"Oh my God." Lois' voice caught in her throat. "What has Jimmy got himself into? Why didn't he come to Clark or to me?" she asked the ghost.

"You know how much Jimmy cares for the both of you and is constantly rooting for your relationship to succeed." The Ghost of Independence Day Present looked at her. "We all are. Jimmy loves you, Lois, and he especially wants nothing more than the two of you to make it." The ghost put his arm around her shoulder. "Jimmy knows that the two of you are having problems right now and didn't want to burden you with something else," the second spirit explained. "And, he, like everyone else, is depending upon the Church Group to protect him."

"Clark and I are investigating the Church Group. We're not sure that they are really what they say they are. We simply can't depend on them," she told the ghost.

"I know," he responded.

"Perry?" Lois asked. "Will Jimmy be hurt?"

"I see a vacant seat in the newsroom," replied the ghost, "and a computer without an operator. If these shadows remain unaltered by the future, Jimmy will die."

"No, Perry, no. That can't be. Tell me that he will be spared. Tell me that Superman will save him."

"Superman has concerns of his own right now," the spirit explained. "Touch my coat again."

As fast as Superman could have flown them to Clark's apartment, there they were. Clark was sitting dejectedly on the couch, talking on the phone to his parents.

"You know about Superman?" Lois asked 'Perry'.

"I'm not Perry White, but a specter housed in his body for you to understand my words. Listen to *his* words, Lois." The ghost pointed to Clark.

"Dinner sounds great mom but I can't fly home for the 4th this time," he explained. "Yes, I know I'll miss the fireworks but I have to be in Philadelphia in a few minutes, and there are things I have to work out here. Lois…" Clark paused obviously uncertain how to go on. "It's like both of us all of sudden, uh… aren't sure if we even like each other."

He waited, listening. "I know she has much to think about, mom. Yes I know we both do. And I guess," he signed forlornly, "we have taken some steps that are pretty scary." Clark looked down. "I guess… yeah I guess I do sound sad, Mom," he responded as he took off his glasses and began to tighten the frames.

"Yeah, Dad." Clark sounded as if he were glad the subject had changed. "Things are slow here because of the Church Group," he explained dully. "I spent two hours polishing my boots, an hour ironing my 'S'. I saved a hamster from a cat. Tightened my glasses," he said absently as he put them down. "But I'll be flying to Philadelphia for that ceremony which will be something at least, something that can take my mind off of…and I should be back in less than an hour." Clark paused, listening to his parents. "Sure Mom, sure Dad, we can talk again. Bye."

Clark put the phone down in its cradle and picked up a picture of Lois and himself. He ran his fingers across the figure of Lois and gently put the picture back in its special place. He stood up and walked over to the table where a small velvet box rested. Clark opened the box and looked at the ring nestled inside. He'd thrown it away in a fit of frustration once, but immediately went after it. He couldn't lose the ring, he couldn't lose her.

"Lois," Clark whispered, "I'm nothing without you."

He reached for the phone again and dialed a number he had obviously committed to memory and had dialed many times before. After a few rings, Clark waited while he heard the familiar recorded message. "Lois," Clark said after waiting for the beep. "I hate telling this to an answering machine but I can't bear this any longer. You are right to be hurt and to be angry with me. I should have been the one to tell you about… you know. I shouldn't have tried to test your love for me. I ought to have trusted you. Lois, Lois, I love you so much. Please tell me that I haven't lost you. I…I… I'm nothing… God," he said, the machine obviously beeping at him. "That was stupid," he said hanging up the phone.

"No," breathed Lois. "No, it wasn't stupid."

"Come on," the ghost told her. "Our visit is finished."

"But I want to see more!" Lois exclaimed. "I have to know how to help Jimmy and let Clark know that he hasn't lost me, he just needs to give me time."

"Time is short, Lois," the ghost reminded her. "We are all here but a short while on this earth. Moments are precious. We can't lose even one. And while we are on earth, we have a job to do."

"Not everyone is aware of why they are here and of what job they have to do." Lois looked at him, hoping for some insight.

"Look at my jacket lining," the second ghost urged her. "You will see two inscriptions — want and ignorance. All of us are here to eradicate them both. You and Clark have a particular mission to inform, to educate and to enlighten the populace to the injustices of the world. Without the two of you, our world will be vastly different. The world needs the two of you and in order to accomplish this task, this job, the two of you need each other."

Lois watched as Clark looked at the clock and then quickly spun around and as Superman flew off toward Philadelphia.

"Don't go!" Lois shouted, watching him lift toward the sky and head west. "You are needed here. Right now Jimmy needs you. I… I need you."

The digital clock next to her bed clicked over to 2:00. Lois stared at its face. "I'm back," she sighed, tears in her eyes. She ran to her phone. No one answered at Jimmy's apartment. She pressed the blinking light on her answering machine. Although there was evidently something taped, all she heard was garbled words, nothing intelligible.

Lois felt a cold icy wind and there standing in front of her was an ominous man in a blue and silver metallic suit, obviously from the future. She observed an evil glint in his eyes and a sadistic smile on his face. "You must be the ghost of Independence Days yet to come," she said.


"Come now, Lois," the man said sarcastically. "You can do better than quote Charles Dickens. Don't you have a brain in your little pointed head? Aren't you capable of a more intelligent come back? I know you are galactically stupid, but duh, give it your best shot."

"Do I know you?" Lois asked, not being able to think of anything else to say.

"Oh, that's right," the ghost smirked. "You aren't supposed to remember me at this point in your story. I'm Tempus. I come from the future and in this miniscule scenario I'm the Ghost of Independence Days that have not happened thus far."

He took a step toward her and then circled her menacingly. "I appreciate that in the Dickens novel, the future spirit is supposed to be silent, is clothed in a black cloak and simply gestures with a bony finger. But that is an impossibility for me." He stopped in front of her. "I have too much brilliance to share and just too much panache," Tempus boasted. "Showing you the dark side of your future is going to be such an immense pleasure for me. What absolute fun! What sheer irony! What scurrilous delight!" he laughed. "Now follow me," he ordered, sharply grabbing her wrist.

"No, wait!" Lois begged. "I have already learned what I was supposed to learn," she said struggling. "I realize now that I should feel more about things. I know that I shouldn't be scared of what Clark and I have to face." She gave a sudden jerk of her arm and pulled free of his grip. "I know how much Clark loves me and that I love him. I really believe that our love will be able to get us through. Don't force me go with you," she pleaded again.

"Oh, Lois," the Ghost said vindictively. "You can't spoil this for me. I need you to suffer just a little more."

"No…" Lois called out. "Don't."

But the room around her faded from view and just as quickly before her was the newsroom. The lights blinking out the stock market quotes and last minute news items above her head gave the date as July 4, 2002. The market, it said, was down again showing the Dow Jones at just under 3200. Terrorists were threatening to bomb the Statue of Liberty during the fireworks display. A plane had crashed in Kansas City on July 1st and 117 people whose bodies had thus far been identified were having funerals take place today.

An older Lois Lane, dark circles under her eyes, a little more haggard and somewhat thinner, walked out of the editor's office. The sign on the door read Lois Lane, Editor-in-Chief. At her old desk sat a worried Ralph, obviously unable to handle what the editor was about to throw at him. The sign on Clark's desk read Martin Nelson. At the corner desk that was once Jimmy's sat a young woman.

"What's going on?" Lois asked Tempus knowing that he was about to revel in the answer.

"Do you want all the sordid details?" he smiled at her.

"Yes," she said cautiously. "I'm ready."

"Jimmy was shot and killed by a loan shark July 4th 1995, Perry died of a heart attack in the summer of 1999. You became editor at his death." He turned to her with a look of triumph on his face. "You, darlin' have become a bitter, cruel, joyless woman."

"Clark, what about Clark?" she cried.

"This is the best part," Tempus chortled gleefully. "Clark couldn't continue working here once you, Lois, decided that the two of you would never make it together. He stopped being Superman and left the country. He deserted the people of Metropolis. Hallelujah, the hero is no more!" he sang out. "Where are the tambourines when you need them?" he chuckled. "No one knows where the man in red and blue is."

"That couldn't be true. Clark would go on, no matter what. He knows who he is and why he is here," she implored.

"Yes. He knows who is and why he is here," Tempus repeated. "But according to him, it wasn't worth anything without you. God, I may vomit."

"I've got to see him," Lois insisted. "Jonathan and Martha," she almost shouted. "His parents would always know where he is."

"I guess this means a little trip to Kansas," the ghost eyed her.

Another icy wind blew through her and even though it was July, Lois shivered as if someone had walked over her grave. All at once they were in front of a deserted farmhouse. The shutters on the windows blew opened and closed as the summer wind intensified. The house needed paint, boards were loose on the porch, and the screen door had come off one of its hinges. It looked like the Kent home hadn't really been taken care of for several years. "Well, maybe this isn't Kansas, Toto," Tempus chuckled.

"What's going on?" Lois asked softly, terrified to hear the answer.

"Look." Tempus pointed as she was whisked to a nearby cemetery where a burial was in process.

Lois felt faint. "Oh. No!" she moaned as she read the tombstone in front of her. Martha and Jonathan Kent, special parents, special people. "This can't be happening," she said as the unabashed tears poured down her face.

"They died in that plane crash three days ago." Tempus explained bemusedly as the caskets were lowered into place. "They were returning from Europe after unsuccessfully trying to find Clark. You see," he grinned, "their death was really a blessing in disguise because they hadn't been living much of a life since Clark left anyway."

Lois stared at him with hatred in her eyes, the anger drying her tears momentarily. Movement at the gravesite caused Lois to return her gaze to the sad event playing out in front of her — her tears falling again without restraint.

The funeral attendees were starting to leave. They moved to their cars silently all except one very lonely man who, like Lois, was noticeably crying, not caring who witnessed his display. He couldn't move but stood there and then finally, sinking to his knees, placed two roses into the graves of his parents.

"Oh, Clark," Lois wept. "Am I the cause of this? Are these the shadows of the things that will be, or are they shadows of things that may be, only?" she asked the sadistic ghost.

"Wait, wait," he said gleefully. "There's oh, so much more." Tempus went on, obviously taking extreme gratification in what was to occur.

Lois watched with trepidation as Clark flew quickly to his parents' home, the two of them following close behind him. Holding her breath, her hands trembling, she stared horrified as she saw Clark walk directly into the barn and, kneeling down inside one of the stalls, begin to dig. He unearthed a lead box and, without even a moment's hesitation, Clark carried it quickly into the living room of what had been his boyhood home. With the tears still running down his face, he opened the box flooding the room with a green light.

"NO! NO! NO!" shouted Lois, as she strained to move nearer to him. She reached out to close the box but her hand had no affect. "Stop this, stop this! Please, please." She covered her eyes crying uncontrollably and, totally devastated, she collapsed to the floor as she heard the diabolical laughter of Tempus in the background.


Then there was silence. No, not entirely. She heard the bubbles of her fish tank, the whirr of the refrigerator and the click of her digital clock as the figures changed to 2:30. It was over. It was all over. But was it?

Lois rushed to the phone and called Clark. No answer. She called Perry.

"How are you feeling, chief?" she asked. "No, no problem, just glad you're on the job. Happy 4th to you."

"Are you all right, Lois? You sound funny," Perry remarked.

"Yeah, I'm fine," she responded to his query. "Where's Clark?" she asked, closing her eyes in a silent prayer.

"He's covering Superman's rededication of the Liberty Bell. You should know that," Perry hesitated. "Uh, Lois, I know that your relationship has been strained and I'm not the one to give you advice. But even Elvis and Priscilla had their ups and downs. Don't let this get to you."

"Thanks Perry," Lois replied biting her lip to keep from crying.

Lois hung up the phone, and noticing that the clock read almost 3:00 p.m., she immediately lifted it from the cradle again and dialed another number.

In response to his hello, she said, "Jimmy, thank God you're there. Don't go out. I know about the money problems. Please, please let me help you. Clark will help you, too, but he is out of town." She waited and over his protestations responded. "Don't worry, you can pay us back later."

"Thank CK for me," Jimmy said haltingly. "…And…and bless you Lois."

"God bless all of us, Jimmy," Lois responded softly.

She was about to try Clark again, hoping he was back from Philadelphia when there was a knock on her door. She ran to her door, looked through her peephole, breathed a sigh of relief and opened it to Martha Kent. "Martha," Lois said.

"I know it's rude to stop by without calling first," Martha said, "And even ruder to stick my nose in where it doesn't belong, but I…"

"Clark told you," Lois said knowing full well from her 'visit with Perry' to Clark's apartment but wanting to check on the reality of it all. She looked at Martha questioningly and said, "Everything?"

Martha nodded and drew the sign of the 'S' on her chest.

"Come on in," Lois said and ushered her to the couch.

Lois looked at this special woman sitting in front of her and knew how deeply she loved her son. Incredibly Martha was now looking at Lois with love in her eyes as well.

Listening to Martha explain through tears how Clark had been alone with the knowledge of his powers for so long and how much he needed to be loved, Lois could understand how easy it was and would continue to be to love Clark — the man they both cared for. She saw Martha wanting and needing so desperately for Lois to return Clark's love.

She remembered Mayson and remembered the ghostly visits. They had taught her something: that love was too precious to waste, that she had to celebrate life, family and love in the past, present and future. Lois realized the courage it took for Clark to endure what was needed in order to keep his secret and fully grasped why Clark couldn't reveal that secret to her before but was ready to share it and his love with her now. Lois, too, understood that the faith and trust she had in him could never be diminished and that Clark's kindness and generosity of spirit made her love him all the more. Lois opened her heart and, unafraid, she knew exactly what she was going to tell Martha.