Echoes of the Past

By ML Thompson <>

Rated: PG13

Submitted: March 2002

Summary: Two hundred years in the future, a young man is taunted by recurring dreams about a woman. At the same time, a young woman is tormented by recurring nightmares about dangling over the jaws of death. What does it all mean? Assuming it means anything at all.

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.

I know that as fanfic writers, we've all been pretty brutal in our treatment of Ellen and Sam Lane. But things could have been worse — so, so much worse. By the end of this story (or actually, probably much sooner than that), you will be nostalgic for the good-old days of Sam and Ellen Lane. So you're in for a bumpy ride — consider yourself warned.

To the first person who told me I couldn't do something because I was a woman; to the first employer who paid me less than my male colleague for doing the same job; to the first man who ever abused me; to the first interviewer who asked me if I was planning to have children (and before you ask what's wrong with that, tell me if you have ever heard of a man being asked that question during a job interview); to all those preventing friends of mine from breaking the glass ceiling; and to al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and any other groups or individuals out there who regard women as second class citizens, I have just this to say: Ptttttttttttttttthhhhhhhhhh.

I would like to thank the writers of various episodes, since I borrow a number of scenes from them in this story. I would also like to thank Ms. Hatcher and Mr. Cain for the way they brought the scenes to life, since I'm fairly confident that a lot of what we saw on the screen had as much to do with their interpretation of the scene as any script they were given. And, as always, this story was made much better by the unflagging efforts of Carol Malo and Gerry Anklewicz. And I would like to thank Erin Klingler for editing this monstrosity for the archives. I continue to be unspeakably grateful to both of them for their efforts to make me a better writer and to fill the holes in my story.

I'd like to dedicate this story to my old laptop. It died in the middle of helping me write this story. It was a faithful, trustworthy and true… Oh! Oh! Oh! Does this new laptop really have a pinball game? I've got to check it out. In the meantime, enjoy the story <g>.

WARNING: This story deals with adult themes and situations which might be unsuitable for younger readers. WARNING: This story also contains violence and subject matter which might be unsuitable for younger readers.


The clear night sky had a slight chill to it as they floated above Metropolis. However, Clark didn't notice. He also didn't notice the lights of the city below or the way they created a soft ambiance around them. In fact, he didn't notice anything except the woman in his arms.

"You really remember everything?" he asked, hardly daring to hope.

"I remember my life before you. When being alone was what I thought I wanted. And I remember my life after you. When I learned loving you was what I really wanted. Oh, Clark, I can't believe I almost lost you," she responded, letting all her pain find its way into her words as she realized, probably for the first time, how close she'd come to losing what was most precious to her. Their foreheads touched lightly as they closed their eyes.

"And, do you remember this?" he asked, interrupting the silence.

They both turned their heads slightly to look at a small item held between the fingers of Clark's right hand. Her engagement ring. Instead of immediately responding, a tearful smile found its way onto her face as she raised her left hand to where he was holding the ring. His heart swelled as he slipped the small symbol of love and commitment back onto her finger.

"I do," she whispered.

He let out a breath of absolute relief, letting go of all the tension and uncertainty as the double meaning of her words sank in. Turning his gaze back to her, he saw the love on her face. It felt as if it had been an eternity since he'd seen that expression. He found his mouth with her own. Feeling her lips pressed to his after such a long absence was incredibly sweet. One of her hands found its way to the back of his neck while the other slipped beneath his cape to encircle his waist, encouraging him to deepen the kiss. He pulled her closer. It had been so long; so long since she'd been in his arms; so long since he'd been allowed to kiss her. He felt as if his heart would burst.

Clark suddenly woke, breathing hard as he glanced around the darkened room.

"Lights on," he said. He gasped when every light in the room came on. "Softly," he corrected and then breathed a sigh of relief when the lights lowered until they were only providing a small amount of light.

He pulled his feet out of bed and, spotting his robe on a nearby chair, wrapped it around himself as he made his way to the window. This was his first time traveling in space, at least inside a spacecraft, and he was thoroughly enjoying the view.

"Lights off," he said, and he was instantly staring out at the stars from within his darkened room. As he observed the stars, he thought about the events that had sent him on this journey.

Clark Kent was a descendant of Lois Lane and Clark Kent, who had worked at the Daily Planet almost two hundred years before. And, as he was only too well aware, he was also a descendant of the original Superman. After all, it would be hard not to know given that he had all of Superman's powers. If there was one thing that had been proven over the years, it was that super genes were not recessive. There were now approximately fifty superheroes living in every corner of Earth — still doing what they could to promote truth and justice. And even so the world had not figured out the connection between these men and women of steel and the Kent dynasty.

Of course, not all the descendants of Superman had his powers. Clark knew that better than most. After all, his father hadn't had these powers. He smiled sadly as he thought about Joel and Laura. If only Joel had had Superman's powers, maybe they wouldn't have died in that car accident when Clark was ten. Not that Clark hadn't been taken care of following their death. His Uncle Jonathan had immediately stepped in and taken on the role of a father.

As soon as he'd finished college, Clark had taken a job at the Daily Planet, as many of his relatives had. It was something of a joke to regard the Daily Planet as the Kent family paper considering the number of Kents who had worked there during the past two hundred years. To many, the name Kent was synonymous with the Daily Planet.

Still, even if he did work for the 'family business' in the eyes of the world, where it really mattered, in using his powers to help others, he'd never felt as if he had what it took. That was the primary reason that when this opening had come up for a reporter on Mars, he'd jumped at the chance. None of his family had, as yet, come to live on Mars. He knew criminals considered the planet a 'Kryptonian free' zone. He was not on his way there to rectify the situation. He was on his way to Mars to escape. He hoped that living in a 'Kryptonian free' zone, he'd finally be able to find himself — that he'd learn who he was apart from his famous family.

It wasn't until he'd accepted this assignment that the dreams had started — like the dream he'd had tonight. The dreams were different every time. But they all had one thing in common — the woman. As he stared unseeing at the stars, he wondered what it all meant. If, of course, it meant anything at all.


Clark made his way through customs. Once outside, he stopped and looked around. Someone from the Daily Planet was supposed to be meeting him here.

"Clark Kent?" asked a man's voice beside him.

"Yes," he replied, turning towards the man who'd spoken.

The man stuck out his hand. "I'm Paul Wilson," the man said.

Clark quickly stuck his documents in his pocket and took Mr. Wilson's hand. "I didn't expect you to meet me personally, Mr. Wilson," he said.

"I needed to get out of the office. And please, call me Paul," he replied.

Clark smiled. He already liked the older man. He knew Paul Wilson's reputation back from when he was working as a reporter during the Martian War of Independence. Now that he was the editor of the Martian edition of the Planet and responsible for submitting articles about Mars for Earth's edition of the Planet, he had proven himself to be a great editor, bringing out the best in the reporters under him. Clark turned his attention back to what the older man was saying.

"Besides, I wanted to fill you in on… well, shall we call it protocol here on Mars. There are a few things you should be aware of. But first… I assume you brought more luggage."

It was some time later before they had Clark's things and were making their way out of the building. Paul pulled a remote from his pocket and hit a button. It was only a minute or so before a black car appeared. The men loaded Clark's things into the trunk before getting into the car themselves. Paul gave the car an address and then turned the driver's seat slightly so that he could talk to Clark as the car proceeded to their destination.

"Are all vehicles fully automated here?" Clark asked.

Paul shook his head. "Even this car can be driven manually. But I want to give you a quick run down on what things are like here. As I'm sure you know, Mars gained its independence from Earth during a bloody war fifteen years ago. It's now a democracy. However, there's still some civil unrest and a very active underground. As a result, Mars is still under a kind of martial law. There's a curfew. Security personal might stop you at any time to check your documentation. You need a special pass to travel outside the city. Things like that."

"Why? From what I've read, the Mar… Martians… umm… the people of Mars are happy with independence."

"You can call us Martians," Paul informed the younger man. "That's how we've chosen to identify ourselves. We call you an Earthling, after all. Anyway, you're right. The Martians wanted independence and they fought ferociously for it. What they aren't happy with is their new government."

"I haven't heard anything about that."

"Well, let's just say that all reports to Earth about activities on Mars are censored. We walk a tight rope here between reporting the news and being allowed to continue to operate. As a result, although I've never allowed a story to run that isn't true, there are other stories that I haven't been able to publish. Authorities insist it's just a temporary measure, until unrest settles down, but it's now been fifteen years and there's still no sign of things changing."

"So is that why people aren't happy?"

"Not entirely. You see, things aren't quite as 'democratic' as the people on Earth might think. On the surface it is, but there are forces at work behind the scene. As a result, those who want to change things, don't seem to last long in the power structure. There are also some laws which… Let's just say that you will likely understand what people are rebelling against once you've been here for a while. Ah, we're here," said Paul as the car pulled to a stop in front of a large hotel.

Clark glanced up at a sign. The Lexor. "They have one here, too?" he asked.

Paul laughed. "They have them everywhere," he confirmed. "Still, it is the best hotel on Mars. And since the Planet's picking up the tab, enjoy. Just…" he paused, looking Clark straight in the eye, "…no room service and none of those inordinately priced peanuts."

Clark smiled. "No problem, sir."

"Okay, well, here is where I leave you. If you decide to do some sightseeing, bear in mind that there's an eleven o'clock curfew. Tomorrow morning, just catch a cab to the Planet. They'll accept Earth currency. And… Do you have a tux?"

"I suppose I can get one. Why?"

"Well, Damian Luthor is having a reception tomorrow evening for the first American Ambassador on Mars since independence and everyone who's anyone will be there. I'd like to introduce you to some of the movers and shakers."

Clark's eyes narrowed at the mention of the name of Damian Luthor. He asked a few discrete questions, confirming his suspicions that one of the descendants of the infamous businessman, Lex Luthor, was on Mars.

"I see you're aware of our Mr. Luthor."

"I know the family," Clark responded.


"Are we all set up, Nathan?" Damian Luthor asked, looking at the older man who'd just entered his office.

"Yes, monsieur," Nathan Saint-Jean replied with a slight French accent. "Channel LH-427 on," he said and a television screen in the wall sprang to life.

Luthor settled on the corner of his desk and a small smile found its way onto his face as he observed what was obviously a hidden camera in what appeared to be a hotel room. His smile widened as he watched a young woman enter the room followed by an older man in a business suit. The woman glanced at the camera before quickly redirecting her attention to the older gentleman.

"That's right, love. I'm right here," Damian said as if the woman on the screen could actually hear him. "Just follow your orders."


Clark got checked in and was heading for his room, number 429, when his hearing picked up some sort of argument coming from the room next to his.

"Robert, please," a woman said, her tone half-chuckle, half-plea.

"Come on, baby. Don't get coy on me now," replied a seductive male voice.

Clark ignored it as he continued on his way to his room — just as he usually did when his superpowers picked up something. In fact, he was somewhat surprised he'd even heard it. He'd worked very hard not to have his hearing pick up cries for help that he knew he couldn't answer. He brushed off the small curiosity and was just about to place the palm of his hand on the electronic keypad on the door to his room when the words again broke through his barriers.

"I said no!" the woman exclaimed.

There were sounds of an ensuing struggle. Clark's hand hovered above the keypad.

"You little slut!" the man responded, the words being accompanied by what sounded like material being torn. "Do you really think you can tease me all afternoon and then expect me to…"

That was all Clark could stand. He dropped his suitcase and in a moment had forced open the door to the room the argument was coming from. He took in the situation immediately. An older man had his pants pulled down, and beneath him a woman was pinned to the bed. The man had ripped open her blouse and was using one hand to hold her arms above her head while the other roughly massaged her breast. In an instant, Clark had the man pulled off.

"The woman said no!" Clark exclaimed, fighting to retain control of his anger.

The man didn't respond. Using one arm to prevent Clark from seeing his face, the man quickly pulled up his pants and fled the room.

For a moment, Clark was tempted to stop him. But then he remembered the woman. He had to be sure she was okay. He turned towards the woman to see a stunning brunette. He quickly looked away again when he realized she was in the process of trying to cover herself. He waited until his ears told him she had finished and risen from the bed.

"Are you okay?" he asked, turning towards her and looking at her fully for the first time. He blinked. Suddenly, all he could hear was the pounding of his heart in his ears.

"What did you do that for?" the woman demanded.

He took an instinctive step back in surprise at the look of anger in her eyes.

"I thought…" he began in confusion. He'd very obviously just stopped this woman from being raped. Why was she angry at him?

"You didn't think!" she interrupted. "Did it ever occur to you that what goes on behind closed doors just might not be any of your business?"

"But…" his voice trailed off. Between the effect this woman's very presence seemed to have on him and her unexpected anger, Clark felt completely off balance. Before he could find his thoughts, the woman grabbed her coat and stormed from the room, leaving Clark standing there in stunned silence.


Lindsey Landon leaned up against the wall outside the Lexor as she waited for her cab. Why had that man come in when he had? Just a few minutes later and it would have all been over. But because of him, she'd failed. She'd failed to follow through on Damian's orders. And she knew only too well what the punishment was for failure.

Well, there was nothing she could do to correct things now. It wasn't as if she could find Senator Drake and say, 'Sorry we got interrupted. Now, where were we?' The only thing to do was to make her way back to Damian and try to convince him that it wasn't her fault.

As she waited for her cab, her thoughts drifted back to the man who'd interrupted them. She knew she'd been hard on him. After all, he really had been trying to help. She gave a sad smile. She didn't think anyone had ever done anything like that for her before, at least without wanting something in return. After all, wasn't that what was life was about — a series of trade-offs?

She let out a breath and her hand came up to her cheek. She felt an unfamiliar wetness on it. She lowered her hand and looked at the moisture in stunned silence. She wouldn't have believed that she still knew how to cry.

She quickly brushed the back of her hand over her cheeks, removing the tears. She must be going crazy. How could she possibly cry just because a man seemed to be helping her without expecting anything in return? She just hadn't given him a chance to tell her what he wanted in exchange for his assistance. He must have expected something. And considering the fact that he was a man, she suspected she knew what that something was.

The cab arrived. As Lindsey climbed inside, she dismissed her rescuer from her mind and turned her attention to handling Damian. She placed her hand on the computer pad and recited an address. Then she sat back and allowed the taxi to take her to her destination.


Damian sat back in his chair and narrowed his eyes as he considered the situation. Who was the imbecile who'd interrupted? The positioning of the camera hadn't given him a clear look at the man's face. If it had, Damian would be telling Nathan to run a computer check and the man would be dead by morning.

Damian considered the situation. Senator Robert Drake had been difficult recently, trying to bring about changes to Martian law that Damian didn't want and, more importantly, not backing down at the first signs of Damian's displeasure. A few discrete inquiries informed Damian that Drake had something of a reputation for liking his sex rough. In particular, there were rumors that he'd been known not to take 'no' for an answer. Of course, that was all they were — rumors. Still, there had to be a way for Damian to make use of that information.

It didn't take Damian long to find a solution. Lindsey. But then that man had interrupted. So what now? Suddenly, an unexpected thought occurred to him. It wasn't important that Drake hadn't actually gone through with the rape. He'd gotten far enough. It was obvious that if that man hadn't interrupted, Drake would have raped Lindsey. And he had the whole thing on computer card. Damian nodded slowly. That should be enough to get control of the Senator.

That left only one problem. Having the rape interrupted had left Damian feeling… frustrated. He'd been looking forward to the show. He looked at his watch. When would Lindsey get back? He glanced up when the door to his office opened. He narrowed his eyes as he regarded the woman standing there. She looked incredibly nervous.

"I'm sorry, Damian," Lindsey began immediately. "I don't know where that guy came from. You've got to believe that I had nothing to do with it."

Damian's man-servant, Assabi, slid the door closed behind her, leaving her alone with Damian. She swallowed hard. He almost smiled at this indication of fear.

"Who was he?" Damian demanded. "The man who interrupted."

"I have no idea, Damian. I swear," Lindsey responded immediately.

Damian rose from behind his desk. Now that he realized that the man who'd interrupted hadn't thwarted his plans, Damian wasn't particularly angry. But there was no reason to tell Lindsey that. After all, there was nothing quite like a little rough sex to get the blood flowing. At least on that point, he and the Senator agreed, he thought with amusement. Besides, right now Lindsey needed to be reminded what happened when she failed him.

He walked over to the wall and took down a black, leather whip before making his way to Lindsey. He grabbed her arm, forcing her towards his desk.


She had a blindfold over her eyes and her hands tied behind her back. She could feel the cold wind on her face. Behind her was a wall. She was about to take a step forward when she realized she was standing on a ledge. She took a deep breath. Okay, she could handle this. She inched her way slowly along the ledge.

She hadn't gone far when she placed a foot on the ledge only to feel it give out from under her. She gasped, struggling to regain her balance. Once she had, she steadied her heart before beginning to inch back the other way.

"Stay calm. Stay calm," she told her frazzled nerves. "Okay. I'm high up. I'm blind. My hands are tied. The ledge is falling apart," she said in an effort to evaluate her situation. "Okay, panic," she concluded.

She gasped when another portion of the ledge crumbled beneath her feet. Once again she managed to retain her balance. Taking another breath, she continued.

"Keep moving," she told herself. After all, what was the alternative? "You'll find a window." No sooner were the words out of her mouth than another section of the ledge gave out, trapping her between two crumbled portions. Before she had a chance to figure out what to do next, the section she was standing on collapsed. She screamed as she tumbled towards the ground.

Lindsey bolted upright in bed, breathing hard. She let her pounding heart calm. A dream. It was just another dream. Yet, she couldn't help feeling that they were getting worse. Every night it seemed she was having another dream where she was dangling over the jaws of death. In one such dream, she'd been thrown out of an airplane. In another, she'd been suspended by her arms above a cauldron as she slowly descended towards the liquid inside. There was only one thing to be grateful for. So far she always woke before hitting the ground or being submerged in an unknown liquid. She'd heard somewhere that if you died in your dream, you would die for real.

She glanced over at the man in bed beside her. She wished she could just go back to her place, but he'd made it very clear that she was to stay. She gave a sad smile. Maybe it would be better if she did hit the ground. No. She couldn't do that. No matter how much she might hate it, she had to find a way to go on. There was too much at stake if she didn't.

Still, that didn't stop her from hating Damian for issuing orders like the one he'd issued today. Nor did it stop her from hating herself for allowing Damian to use her that way. Suddenly, the guilt was unbearable.

She carefully slipped back the sheets and climbed out of bed, wincing slightly as a result of last night's punishment. She glanced back at Damian. He hadn't moved. She quietly picked up her purse and made her way to the washroom. She caught her reflection in the mirror before quickly looking away. Directing her attention to her purse, it only took her a moment to find what she was looking for.

She pulled out a container and undid the cap. She spilled some of the fine, brown powder onto the counter and, using a mirror, fashioned it into a straight line. She removed a small tube from her purse and, bending over the counter, inhaled the substance. She closed her eyes and allowed the drug to take affect before returning the items to her purse. She briefly wondered if she could get away with leaving the bathroom light on before deciding against it. Damian would be mad if the light woke him up. It didn't matter to him that she was still scared of the dark. Dutifully, she turned out the light and made her way back into the room where Damian was now snoring.

She crawled into bed, staying as close to her side as she could without falling off, and stared unseeingly at the ceiling. As she did, she thought again about the man who'd prevented her from being raped by Senator Drake. Where was he when she really needed him?

Damian rolled over, stretching his arm so that it rested across her waist. She swallowed hard, suddenly feeling as if she was going to die of suffocation. She forced her mind back to the stranger in order to forget the nightmare that was her life. But this time, in her fantasies, it was not someone as insignificant as Senator Drake he was saving her from, but the man lying beside her. She knew it was a fantasy, but at least it allowed her to keep some small amount of hope. She clung to that hope the way a drowning man clings to his rescuer, even knowing as she did so that the situation was hopeless. There was no way out.


Clark had just finished a tour of the newsroom, courtesy of a young man who had introduced himself as Jeremy O'Brian.

"Don't let Paul intimidate you," Jeremy said as they reached Paul's office. "His bark is worse than his bite."

"I won't," Clark replied.

Jeremy knocked on the door and then, when a voice inside told them to come in, pressed the button to slide the door open.

"Come in. Come in," said Paul with enthusiasm when he saw who was at the door. When the two men entered, Paul instructed them to close the door and then gestured them to seats.

"What do you know about the circumstances that led to you being offered the position here?" Paul asked.

Clark hesitated, not entirely sure what Paul was wanting to know. "Well," he began slowly, "I know that the person I'm replacing died. Is that what you mean?"

Paul nodded. "Is that all you know?"

"Yes. Why? Is there more?"

"Much. But before I fill you in, I need to make sure for myself that you're the right man, as it were, for this assignment. I must warn you, it is dangerous. If, as a result, you aren't interested, I'll understand, but…"

"Mr. Wilson, I've been an investigative reporter for seven years now. I know that anytime you try to uncover a story people don't want told, there's a danger. It doesn't scare me."

Paul smiled. It was the answer he'd expected from the young man in front of him. He was a Kent, after all. Still… "This is no ordinary story, son. I think it's what got Dale Scardello, your predecessor, killed. Are you still so sure you want in on this story?"

"I want in," Clark responded without hesitation, his curiosity getting the best of him.

Paul regarded him for a moment more before nodding. "Okay. Well, let's start at the beginning. I told you before that there are some… problems with our democratic system here on Mars. There are rumors that some of our more powerful businessmen are really in control. Well…" Paul glanced over at Jeremy. "One in particular. Damian Luthor." He paused as he considered how to continue.

"Scardello was conducting an investigation into Luthor when he was killed," Paul said after a moment. "I think there's a connection."

"What do the police say?"

"They're writing it up as a mugging. And since the man they claim murdered him is dead, the case is closed."

"So… why do you think differently?"

"Scardello said he had a source who was willing to talk. He wouldn't even give me the man's name. It seems that his source was really scared and he was afraid of spooking him. All I know is that it was someone close to Luthor. Anyway, he was on his way to meet with this source when he was killed."

"Did you tell this to the police?"

"No. They decided it was a mugging without asking me about it. I decided to keep my mouth shut."

"You think the police are on Luthor's payroll," Clark said more than asked.

"Not all of them. But, yes, I'd bet a year's salary that Luthor's money made this a mugging. After all, if this was a mugging, one thing's for certain, this was no ordinary mugging. Scardello was gutted. It was meant to be a lesson. And he wasn't killed in the place where his body was found. There was insufficient blood."

"Then what reason are the police giving to conclude that this was a mugging?" Clark asked.

"His watch and wallet were missing. And he always wore a diamond stud earring. It had been ripped out of his ear."

Clark was nodding slowly. If Mr. Wilson's facts were correct, it was odd that the police wouldn't have investigated further.

"Now, when Scardello died, I had a lot of applications for his position. I chose yours for a couple of reasons," Paul continued. "First, you aren't from here. That means it's unlikely that you're on Luthor's payroll."

"Unlikely?" Clark asked. "Thanks for the vote of confidence," he muttered although his grin undercut the words.

"That's one thing you've got to learn right now. Don't trust anyone. I trust Jeremy. If you need research, go to him. He's a wiz with computers. If you need anything else, come to me. Otherwise, don't trust anyone. I don't know who on the Planet staff might have been compromised. I imagine someone has been. It's the most logical explanation as to how Luthor knew that Scardello had convinced someone to talk.

"Also, we can always talk in here or the conference room. I have both places swept for bugs twice a day. But be careful about your hotel room. I'd like you to find your own place as quickly as possible. Once you do, I'll have it swept regularly, too."

"I'll see what I can do to get a place first thing tomorrow — that is if you don't mind me coming in a little late."


"So what's the other reason you hired me?"

"Because of your family."

Clark shifted uncomfortably in his chair.

"What is it, son?" Paul asked, noticing Clark's discomfort.

"Nothing," Clark replied. Paul just raised his eyebrows in response. Clark looked the man dead in the eye for a moment before realizing that Paul wasn't going to back down. He shrugged. "It's just that I came to Mars, in part, to be my own man. On Earth, especially when working for the Daily Planet, I was constantly fighting against people thinking that my family connections are the only reason I was working for the Planet. I just got sick of it."

"Son, that's an asset."

"An asset?" Clark asked skeptically.

"It makes people underestimate you. Besides, that's not exactly what I meant when I said I hired you, in part, because of your family. After I received your application, I had Jeremy do some research." He nodded at Jeremy, silently telling him to fill Clark in on what he'd discovered.

"I found out about the bad blood between the Kents and the Luthors," Jeremy said. "I believe it all started with an ancestor of yours. Actually, one who has the same name as you. And his wife, Lois Lane. And a man named Lex Luthor. It seems that in generation after generation, your family and his have clashed."

"Anyway, when I found out about that," Paul added, "I knew that you were my man. With a history like that, you are the one man I don't believe Luthor will be able to bribe."

Clark nodded slowly. He was only too well aware of that aspect of his family history. "So where do I start?" he asked.

"I'll show you who the major players are at Luthor's reception tonight. Now, since we don't want anyone at the Planet knowing what you're really working on, I'll be assigning you smaller stories to fill up your days. I'm assuming you don't mind long hours."

"No, sir," Clark responded. After all, this story was a reporter's dream.

Paul stood and offered Clark his hand. "I knew you were the man for the job," he said.

Clark rose and took Paul's hand. "I won't let you down, sir," he assured his new boss. "If there's anything there, I'll find it."


Paul was making good on his promise — introducing Clark to one high-powered politician and businessman after another. Still, he hadn't met Damian Luthor.

"Ambassador Stern," Paul said, directing the attention of an African American man to him. "I'm Paul Wilson," Paul continued, offering the American Ambassador his hand.

"Mr. Wilson," Stern replied, shaking Paul's hand firmly. "Yes, I'm pleased to meet you. I was a big fan when you covered the War of Independence. I heard you're the editor of the Daily Planet's Martian edition now."

"Yes, sir," Paul replied. "And this," he continued, placing a hand on Clark's shoulder, "is the newest addition to my reporting team, Clark Kent."

Stern shook Clark's hand before saying, "Kent? You wouldn't be any relation to the Daily Planet Kents, would you?"

Inside, Clark cringed. Still, he gave Stern a warm smile. "That's my family, sir," he responded graciously.

It wasn't long before Paul and the U.S. Ambassador discovered they had the same alma mater, sending the conversation in a direction that basically excluded participation by Clark. As a result, Clark's attention drifted off and he began to glance around the room casually. It might be sort of fun to see if he could spot Damian Luthor before Paul pointed him out. However, his search for Luthor was short lived.

Clark spotted the woman the moment she entered the room. She held her body with incredible confidence as she looked around casually, as if unimpressed by her surroundings. A man who appeared to be in his mid-forties materialized at her side and whispered something in her ear. She nodded, took his arm and accompanied him into the room.

Clark followed her with his eyes. Her long, low-cut, black evening gown clung to every inch of her body, causing the blood flowing through Clark's veins to heat. She moved with such incredible grace. He wasn't sure he'd ever seen anything more beautiful in his life.

The man leaned over and whispered something else before leaving her alone. Clark moved towards her as if drawn by some unseen force, but stopped when someone else approached her and obviously asked her to dance because she nodded and then accompanied him onto the dance floor.

"She's beautiful, isn't she?" said a voice into his ear.

Clark looked beside him to find that Paul had left the ambassador to join him.

"That doesn't even begin to describe her," Clark responded, redirecting his attention to the woman. "Who is she?"

"Her name is Lindsey Landon. I'm not exactly sure who she is or where she came from, except to say that a few years ago she began turning up at these types of functions on Luthor's arm. Be careful, Clark. She's someone you'd do well to stay away from."

"Even if I want to find out what I can about Luthor?" Clark asked, his eyes following Lindsey's every movement on the dance floor.

Paul held his tongue even though it was obvious that Clark's interest in this woman was anything but professional. The time might come to say something, but that time was not now.


As the Argentine Ambassador droned on about some problems companies in Argentina were having getting shipping contracts to Mars, Damian glanced around the room at his subjects. His eyes landed on a man he didn't recognize standing next to Paul Wilson at the edge of the dance floor. The man seemed completely transfixed by something. Damian's eyes followed the man's gaze until he found the source of the man's fascination.

"Excuse me," Damian said to the Ambassador, before making his way to Nathan. "Find out who that is," he instructed his right hand man.

It was only a few minutes before he had his answer.

"His name is Clark Kent, monsieur," Nathan informed Damian.

"From the Daily Planet Kents?"

"So I'm given to understand. Apparently, he just took a job at the Martian office of the Daily Planet. Aren't the Kents the family that has given your family so much trouble over the years?"

"They are, Nathan. As soon as Lindsey's dance is over, tell her I need to speak to her."


Nathan watched as Lindsey was escorted off the dance floor by the chairman of the joint chiefs of Mars' armed forces. He waited as the two parted. It was obvious that the chairman was thanking her for the dance and Lindsey was responding appropriately.

The chairman of the joint chiefs bowed slightly and moved away. Nathan was about to approach when the recent addition to the Daily Planet stepped forward. Nathan hesitated for a moment before glancing over at Luthor. He caught Damian's eye before nodding towards Lindsey. Damian's eyebrows rose. He hesitated for a moment before gesturing Nathan away. Nathan nodded his understanding. Obviously, Damian had decided to allow the conversation to continue.


"Ms. Landon," said a voice that wasn't familiar to Lindsey.

She turned to face the man who'd spoken and for the first time in her life, she couldn't think of anything to say. The man she'd spent last night thinking about was now standing directly in front of her, and her heart involuntarily began racing. Of course, her mind knew her thoughts from last night were a fantasy, but apparently her heart didn't.

"Would you like to dance?" the man asked, when she didn't say anything.

"How do you know my name?" she finally asked, regaining the power of speech.

"I came here with Paul Wilson. He told me your name."

She narrowed her eyes as she considered that information. She knew who Paul Wilson was. That meant, in all likelihood, the man before her was a reporter. After all, she'd seen Dale Scardello at functions like this in the past. Paul Wilson seemed to regard this type of function as an opportunity for his reporters to make a few contacts and do a little digging. And she now understood why this man had come to her rescue yesterday. She had known he wanted something. It was almost a relief to know what it was. It kept her belief in human nature intact.

"Excuse me," she said, turning away from him and, without further conversation, walking away, trying to keep from drowning in her sudden and quite unexpected feelings of anguish. She was alone. She'd always known that. Still… There had been that moment when she'd allowed herself to fantasize about the unknown man rushing to her rescue. And it was hard to have the fantasy so abruptly crushed.


"So what did Mr. Kent want?" asked Damian as Lindsey slipped her arm through his.

"Mr. Kent?" she asked.

"The man you were just talking to," Damian clarified.

She shrugged her shoulders slightly. "He wanted to dance. I said no."

She kept her expression carefully neutral as Damian studied her. She knew what he was looking for — any indication of deception. She had been talking to a reporter, after all.

"I want you to reconsider," he said casually.

"What?" she asked.

"You heard me. Kent just took over Scardello's job. That means he could be dangerous. Find out why he decided to come to Mars to work for the Daily Planet."

"Why me?" she asked, trying to control her feelings of discomfort.

"He's obviously more interested in talking to you than he would be in talking to me," Damian replied.

Lindsey swallowed hard. The last thing she wanted was to have anything to do with Kent. She wasn't exactly sure why.

"Of course, if you don't want to… I guess I could find someone else to do it. Someone younger, perhaps," he said, conveying his meaning with his eyes.

Lindsey didn't miss the threat. "I'll do it, Damian," she responded immediately, releasing his arm and turning to survey the room — looking for the target of Damian's latest order. Once she spotted him, she began making her way towards him before hesitating. Paul Wilson was approaching Kent. It wouldn't do any good to let Wilson know what she was up to.


"Clark Kent, this is Senator Robert Drake," Paul said, introducing Clark to yet another important person.

Clark watched the Senator carefully as he took the man's hand. He searched for any sign of recognition. However, the Senator showed no such signs. He had obviously not looked to see who had pulled him off Lindsey Landon the day before. He supposed he shouldn't be surprised that the man didn't know who he was. After all, the Senator had fled the room very quickly upon being interrupted. And if Clark hadn't used his x-ray vision to look through the arm that the Senator had used to obstruct his face, he certainly wouldn't have recognized him now.

He suddenly realized that the Senator was introducing his wife. Clark gave a warm smile to the poor woman, who was likely completely oblivious to the indiscretions of her husband.

"And this is my daughter," Drake was saying, directing Clark's attention to the young woman beside them, "Mandy."

"Pleased to meet you, Mr. Kent," Mandy said, giving him a big smile along with her hand.

"Would you care to dance, Ms. Drake?" Clark asked immediately. He wanted to put some distance between himself and the woman's father as quickly as possible, being half afraid of what he might say or do to the man if he didn't. From Lindsey's reaction to his 'rescue,' he obviously didn't know the whole story. Still, what he'd seen didn't incline him to want to spend time with the man.

"I'd love to," he realized Mandy had responded. "And call me Mandy."

"Fine, Mandy then," he said, keeping his own smile firmly in place. "And please, call me Clark."

Mandy nodded her consent and the two took to the dance floor as Paul and Robert continued their discussion.


Clark tried to keep his mind focused on the conversation Mandy was engaging him in as they danced. He was managing to answer her questions and even ask a few of his own, but that was about all the effort he was able to muster for casual conversation. His mind was in a whirl.

The center of this particular whirlwind was none other than the mysterious Lindsey Landon. In his peripheral vision he could see her on the edge of the dance floor. Was she watching them? He didn't dare look.

Since he'd 'rescued' her from her would-be assailant, who as it turned out was none other than the father of the woman now in his arms, he'd found himself consumed with thoughts of her. He'd seen such anger in her eyes and yet there had been… His mind had spent most of last night trying to find a way to describe it. It wasn't until he'd approached her this evening that he'd been able to identify that elusive emotion. When he'd asked her to dance he'd seen shock, suspicion, fear… His thought stopped on that last word for a moment. Fear of what? Not him, surely. Still, fear had definitely been there. But the overwhelming emotion he'd felt was sadness. It was as if it consumed her entire being, leaking out of her to touch the people around her.

He was equally certain that to most men, the sadness was regarded as part of the appeal. It gave her a mysterious quality, thereby increasing her desirability. To Clark, the sadness that radiated from her seemed to reach inside and touch his soul, making him want, more than anything else, to find a way to make her smile.

His eyes caught sight of the man Paul had told him was Damian Luthor. It seemed that Paul must have finished up his conversation with the Senator because Luthor was making his way over to the man.

Clark tuned out the woman in his arms to listen in on the conversation. Senator Drake had tried to rape Lindsey yesterday. From what Paul had told him, he knew there was some sort of connection between Lindsey and Luthor. Clark was suddenly extremely curious about what Luthor and Drake might have to say to each other.

"Senator," said Luthor, offering the man his hand.

Senator Drake took it, briefly shaking it. "I know what you want to speak to me about, Damian. And I'm sorry. I know you don't agree with my proposed legislation, but…"

"Actually, Robert, that isn't exactly what I wanted," interrupted Damian. Damian reached into his inner jacket pocket and removed an envelope. He handed it to the Senator who took it cautiously.

"What's this?" Drake asked.

Clark quickly x-rayed the envelope, finding a small computer card inside.

"Take a look at that," Luthor said. "Then give me a call. I'm sure there's some way we can come to an acceptable arrangement."

Without waiting for a reply, Damian turned and made his way over to someone else, quickly beginning another conversation.


A woman's voice, sounding very close indeed, brought him back to the present.

"I'm sorry," said Clark, looking again at the woman in his arms. "I really am sorry for zoning out for a moment there. I guess, after my trip here yesterday, I still haven't got my space legs."

Mandy smiled. "It's all right," she assured him.

Just then the music stopped. Clark stepped back, releasing a reluctant Mandy.

"Well, thank you for the dance," Clark said, wanting to make his exit.

"Do you think we could…" Mandy began.

"Mr. Kent," a woman's voice interrupted.

Clark and Mandy both looked at the woman who'd spoken.

"I think I owe you a dance," Lindsey said.

"Umm… Yes," said Clark immediately. He turned back to a now disappointed looking Mandy. "Would you excuse me?" he said and then, in a slight daze, turned to Lindsey. She slipped easily into his arms as a new song began. It felt so right to be holding her like this.

"Sorry if I interrupted something," said Lindsey.

"Umm… actually, I'm glad you did. I was wanting to talk to you," said Clark.

"Can I ask you a question first?" she asked.


"What's your first name?"

"Clark," he replied, suddenly wondering how it was that she'd learned his last name. But she obviously had. After all, she'd called him Mr. Kent when she'd approached.

"I haven't seen you around before," she remarked casually.

"I just arrived from Earth yesterday," he responded. Maybe she was just trying to make casual conversation, but there was something… Maybe he was just reacting to the fact that she'd decided to talk to him. "Do you want to tell me what yesterday was about?" he asked.

"It's not important," she said dismissively. "Although I must admit I'm surprised that I didn't read about it in the Daily Planet this morning."

Clark stopped dancing, pulling back slightly to look in Lindsey's eyes.

"Or didn't you realize who you'd stopped?" she continued. "Now that you know it was Senator Drake, I suppose it will be splashed all over the front page tomorrow."

"Do I take it that you'd prefer that no one know?" he asked, refusing to be intimidated by her tone.

"Give the man a prize," Lindsey responded.

Clark looked at her for a moment more before responding.

"Okay. I won't say anything," he said, carefully considering what he was saying. She was right: a Senator attempting rape was definitely newsworthy. However, she was the intended victim. If she didn't want anyone to know what had happened, wasn't it her decision?

He noticed, with a small sense of satisfaction, the surprise in her eyes. He considered it a small victory that he was able to get that reaction out of the woman in his arms. Still, there was obviously more going on here than just an attempted rape.

Since they were still standing on the dance floor in each other's arms, Clark once again began to move to the music, taking Lindsey with him.

"Do you want to tell me what happened? In particular, why didn't you want me to stop him?" he asked. He felt Lindsey tense.

"I don't want to talk about it," she responded immediately. Then she pulled back slightly before meeting his eyes. He felt an unexpected spark of… something, jumping between them. "Please let it go," she whispered after a moment and he suddenly was very aware of both sadness and fear in her gaze.

His heart clenched. He responded by nodding, not certain that he'd be able to deny this woman anything. Maybe Paul was right. Maybe he should keep his distance from Lindsey Landon. She seemed able to twist his heart around her little finger without even trying.

She cleared her throat and Clark could almost feel her emotionally withdraw from him. Still, he was certain she had felt that unexpected connection between them, too.

"So what brings you to Mars?" she asked.

Clark immediately understood. This wasn't a dance; it was an interrogation. For what reason, he had no idea. Still, it was probably best to answer her questions. After all, what reason could he give to refuse that wouldn't make her suspicious? He smiled sadly and then surrendered to the inevitable. After all, with the exception of his discussions with Paul today, there really wasn't anything she couldn't know. Well, except… But she wasn't likely to ask if he had superpowers.

"Is the interrogation over?" Clark asked softly when the music ended along with Lindsey's questions.

Lindsey stepped away quickly, diverting her eyes, thereby confirming Clark's suspicions about the motivation for her questions. His hand came up to her cheek, gently but firmly obliging her to look at him.

"I don't know what's going on, Lindsey, but…" He paused, trying to find the right words to express his thought. "If you ever need a friend, you know where to find me."

She quickly moved away from his hand, once again diverting her eyes. "Thank you for the dance," she said a little stiffly, before walking away.


As soon as she left the dance floor, Lindsey looked around for Damian. He was occupied, talking to a couple. Realizing that he'd be busy for the next few minutes, she decided to risk a much needed washroom break. She took off in the appropriate direction, clutching the purse tightly in her hand — knowing the small container holding the relief she needed was inside.

Still, as much as she didn't want to think about it, her mind was still on what had transpired on that dance floor. Being in Clark's arms had felt so… She searched her mind for a moment before finding the word she wanted — familiar. How was that possible? It was terrifying not to have an answer to that question.

She wasn't entirely sure why she'd interrupted so quickly after he'd finished his dance with Mandy Drake. It was just that watching them together… Nah. That was crazy. She couldn't possibly have felt jealous. No. In fact, she'd just been doing everything possible to get him to say no. If he said no, then she wouldn't be forced to spy on him. She was surprised by how quickly he had agreed. After all, interrupting him with Mandy wasn't the first time she'd been rude to him. It wasn't even the second time. Then, when that didn't scare him off, she'd baited him about the Senator. Still, he didn't take the bait. So she'd asked her questions. She was surprised when he seemed to understand what she was doing. She had thought her questions were casual — the type of questions one might ask on first meeting someone. Obviously, she hadn't been as subtle as she'd thought she had. Either that or he was smarter than her usual victims.

Still, he hadn't responded with outrage. When he'd told her that if she ever needed a friend, she knew how to find him, she'd seen such compassion in his eyes — as if he could see right through her. She had suddenly felt incredibly vulnerable. She really hoped that would be her last encounter with Mr. Kent.


She had a blindfold over her eyes and her hands tied behind her back. She could feel the cold wind on her face. Behind her was a wall. She was about to take a step forward when she realized she was standing on a ledge. She took a deep breath. Okay, she could handle this. She inched her way slowly along the ledge.

She hadn't gone far when she placed a foot on the ledge only to feel it give out from under her. She gasped, struggling to regain her balance. Once she had, she steadied her heart before beginning to inch back the other way.

"Stay calm. Stay calm," she told her frazzled nerves. "Okay. I'm high up. I'm blind. My hands are tied. The ledge is falling apart," she said in an effort to evaluate her situation. "Okay, panic," she concluded.

She gasped when another portion of the ledge crumbled beneath her feet. Once again she managed to retain her balance. Taking another breath, she continued.

"Keep moving," she told herself. After all, what was the alternative? "You'll find a window." No sooner were the words out of her mouth than another section of the ledge gave out, trapping her between two crumbled portions. Before she had a chance to figure out what to do next, the section she was standing on collapsed.

"Claaaaarrrrrk!" she screamed, as she tumbled towards the ground.

Almost instantly, two arms were wrapped around her, gently slowing and then stopping her fall. She closed her eyes in relief as he gradually lowered them to the ground.

Lindsey sat upright in bed, breathing hard. Had she really called out Clark's name? What on earth was wrong with her?

She slowly got out of bed, wrapped her robe around her, and padded softly into the living room. She considered turning on more lights before deciding that the night lights she always kept on provided enough illumination. She made her way over to the bar and poured herself a drink before settling down on the sofa. She looked around the luxurious room in disgust. It was a beautiful place, and in a way, it was hers, but still she hated it more with each passing day. Every stick of furniture, every painting, even the carpets on the floor had been chosen by one of Damian's people.

It felt more like an ornate prison than a home. Still, at least Damian hadn't insisted that she stay at his penthouse tonight. She let her mind drift back to their conversation following the party. She had expected him to want to know any and everything she'd found out about Clark immediately. She'd been dismayed when he'd told her they would discuss it later, alone — especially after last night. Still, it wasn't her choice.

"So, what did you find out?" asked Damian the instant they were alone.

"I don't see why you care," she said. "I mean, he's no one."

"He's a Kent," Damian responded. When she still didn't look impressed, he continued, "Let's just say that my family has a long history with the Kents. So what did you find out? Why is he here?"

Lindsey let out a breath. "He said he came to Mars to get out from under the control of his family," Lindsey said. Actually, Clark had used the word 'shadow.' Lindsey wasn't sure why she was deceiving Damian. She did know that it wasn't a wise thing to do. Still, she continued. "Like I said, Damian, I don't think you have anything to worry about. He didn't seem particularly bright to me. Unlike you," she continued. She'd always found that if she fed his ego, he tended to be more receptive to what she had to say.

Damian smiled slightly. "You're probably right," he concluded.

Lindsey carefully hid her relief.

"Still," Damian continued, "since it's obvious that he likes you, I want you to start seeing him. Get him to open up. I want to know everything Clark Kent does, thinks, or even feels."


"Are you challenging me?" he asked.

"Of course not, Damian. I just think it's a waste of time." She didn't know why, but she really didn't want to see Clark Kent again. Part of it, she knew, was that anyone Damian took an interest in was in danger. And, for reasons she didn't quite understand, she didn't want to see Clark in danger.

Luthor came over to her. "It's just your time," he responded, running a hand down her throat to trace the material of her low-cut dress. "So, I want you to give him a call tomorrow. Is that understood?"

Lindsey cringed inside at the feel of his hand on her. Still, she knew not to react. "Yes, Damian," she responded.

His hand dropped. "That will be all," he said dismissively, making his way back to his desk. She quickly exited before he could change his mind. As she closed the door, she heard him speak into the phone.

"Nathan, get me Cindy."

His words as she left had caused her to remember how angry she'd been the first time she caught him with another woman. Now… now it was almost a relief when he wanted someone else. She gave her head a quick shake. 'Almost?' The only time she felt at all safe these days was when she knew he was with another woman. She felt a slight twinge of guilt, but quickly brushed it aside. After all, Cindy, whoever she was, might actually be happy to get a summons from Damian.

She dragged her mind away from the stray thought to once again think about her conversation with Damian following the party. She could hardly believe that she'd had the nerve not to tell Damian that Clark was the man who'd stopped the rape. If he ever found out that she'd withheld information from him… She refused to follow that thought any further, choosing instead to take another sip of her drink, closing her eyes and allowing the liquid to burn its way down her throat.

So why had she protected Clark? She had no idea. Except that she couldn't seem to completely shake her initial impression of the man. After all the fathers she'd had, after Damian, was there something in her that still wanted to believe that there were good men in the world? Was she so desperate to believe that she was trying to fit Clark into that mold?

Her mind drifted back to the dream. It was the first time in her dream that she'd not woken up the instant she began falling. Yet, instead of hitting the ground, she'd been caught by Clark. What was that supposed to mean? She quickly emptied the remainder of the drink into her mouth and swallowed. She had to be going crazy. Or were there really decent men left in the world? Yeah, right. And the Kryptonians were really just ordinary people, living ordinary lives. And there really was a Santa Claus.

She got up and made her way back to the bedroom. She really would have preferred not to have to see him again. But what could she give Damian as her reason? No. There was only one choice. She'd see him. And she'd look until she found out something about him that would allow her to quit thinking about him as if he were the one decent man left in the universe. That shouldn't take too long. So then, why was it that she could hear her own heart pounding in her ears at just the thought of being allowed to see him again? She quickly pushed the disturbing question out of her mind.

As she crawled into bed, she thought about the cameras and microphones she knew were all over her apartment. She hoped she hadn't called out Clark's name when she'd woken from her dream. She wasn't quite sure how she'd explain such a slip to Damian.


Clark's first task the next morning was to find an apartment. He went to the classified section of the paper on his palm computer. Although he was currently using the computer copy of the paper, he still normally preferred the paper version of the Planet. He looked at the virtual images and made note of a number of possibilities before making some calls. Once he had set up a series of appointments, he headed out to look at apartments.

Although he made a good salary, the cost of rent on apartments seemed high — even for someone who had recently come from Metropolis.

He finally found a one bedroom that was a little small but quaint. He wasn't concerned about the shape the apartment was in. After all, it would only take a few minutes to conduct any repairs necessary. Nor was the neighborhood a particular concern. He liked the feeling of the place. However, it was obvious that the image of the place he'd seen in the paper had been a file image. The place he'd observed was neat and well cared for. This place was just shy of a disaster zone.

He had wanted to find a furnished apartment, but the fact that this apartment didn't have furniture wasn't a particular problem, especially given the fact that he didn't even need a bed. Still, for the first time in his life, Clark found himself wanting to make a place feel like a home. And that meant… furniture.

He found a hidden closet and smiled. Almost every member of his family had a hidden closet in his or her home. Of course, he had no use for it, but there was something almost fun about the idea of having one. The woman didn't seem to notice what he'd found so he quickly closed it up and continued exploring the apartment.

He walked over to a small door and slid it open. He smiled slightly. The place had a balcony. It looked out into a back alley, but the idea was nice. He might even get himself an old-fashioned electric barbeque and have some friends over when he got settled in.

"I'll take it," said Clark, turning to the older woman showing the apartment.

The woman looked at him for a long moment, sizing him up. "I don't allow no loud parties," she said.

"That's not a problem," Clark assured her.

She looked at him for a minute more before nodding. It took another half hour before the lease was signed, first and last month's rent as well as a security deposit was transferred from his account, and his handprint was keyed into the security pad on his door. He took one final look around the apartment before heading into the Daily Planet. He'd bring his things over from the hotel after work.

He'd just walked into the newsroom when Paul barked at him to get down to the Senate. Apparently there was some kind of protest going on that Paul wanted covered. A small smile appeared on his lips as Clark headed back the way he'd come. The place might be different, but one thing was for certain — no matter where you went, the job was the same, only the names and scenery changed. It was a reassuring feeling.


Clark arrived at the Senate building to see a small, very vocal group of mostly women holding picket signs and chanting, "Women are people, too," as Senate personnel began arriving back from lunch. He glanced at the group, trying to decide who to approach for an interview. There was an older, petite, blonde woman who seemed to be leading the protest. He watched her for a moment, completely enchanted.

Then he thought about something Paul had told him. Wasn't Mars under a form of Martial law? Wouldn't that make it very dangerous to be protesting like this? He glanced around. If it wasn't something that happened every day, shouldn't the place be flooded with television crews and reporters? Yet, he realized that he was the only reporter of any description who appeared to be taking an interest. He relaxed. Paul had said it was only a form of Martial law. Maybe protests were allowed.

Deciding to wait until the lunch crowd thinned before interrupting, he took a seat on a nearby park bench to watch. He didn't want to interrupt what appeared to be their best opportunity to get their message across. He wondered briefly what exactly they were protesting. After all, there was no corner of the Earth where what they were saying was even challenged anymore. Were things on Mars so different? He had to admit that he hadn't really paid much attention to Mars over the years. Even his decision to come here had been hasty. Seizing the opportunity, he hadn't taken time to do research into the situation on Mars. Maybe that had been a mistake. Still, he figured he'd learn as he went along.

He waited until he noticed that the chanting was calming down. He glanced up to see that the majority of the lunch crowd had disappeared, leaving the street with only a small number of people on it to hear the protestors chant.

Getting up from the bench, Clark made his way over to the small crowd and located the woman he'd picked out earlier.

"Clark Kent, Daily Planet," Clark began as he had so many times in the past.

The woman looked at him for a moment before saying, "You can call me Nellie."

"Do I take that to mean 'Nellie' isn't your real name?"

The woman smiled. "You can take it to mean whatever you want."

Clark looked at her curiously. "I don't get it. I mean, first the protest and now refusing to give me your name."

"What don't you get?" she asked.

"Well, I thought it was universally recognized that women are people."

"How long have you been on Mars?"

"How do you know I'm not from here?" he asked in response.

She smiled. "If you were, you wouldn't be asking that question. Mr. Kent…"

"Clark," he corrected.

"Clark," she echoed, "on Earth, women have been recognized as people for a long time. It was a hundred and twenty- three years ago that the last country finally gave up its archaic practice of treating women as if they were chattels. And that was the case on Mars, too, before the War of Independence, but now…"

"But now?" Clark prompted.

"New laws were enacted near the end of the war that took away women's rights. Oh, they claimed it was necessary because of the war.

"It has always amazed me how willing people are to give up their basic human rights just because the enemy is at the city gates. I would have thought that knowing you're vulnerable to attack would make you cling to your rights that much more fiercely. After all, if you give up your rights, the enemy wins. It no longer matters if he breaks down the gates of the city, he's already destroyed your way of life, the very things you held sacred.

"Anyway, as I said, near the end of the war, the rights of women, even the most fundamental right of being regarded as something more than chattels, was taken away. Those rights have never been restored."

"I don't get it. How would taking away women's rights help the war effort?"

"During the final months of the war, when it became obvious that Mars was about to win its independence, there were a number of terrorist attacks. All of them conducted by women. And, as has been the case in the past with terrorism, people over-reacted and women lost their freedom."

"You've got to be kidding," responded Clark. "How could the powers in place have retaliated against all women for the actions of a small minority?"

"Believe me, I've been asking myself that same question for years, but…" Her voice trailed off as she looked up. Clark followed her gaze. Men in army uniforms were descending in mass. "Run," the woman known only as Nellie cried, alerting the protestors to the oncoming threat. Then she herself took off at a run.

Clark stood and watched. The soldiers were busting up the small crowd as if they were an angry mob instead of a small group of orderly protestors. He held his breath, hoping the protestors would get away. He spotted one young woman trip. She was immediately pounced on by a soldier wielding a stick.

Clark was there in an instant, pulling the soldier off the woman. The woman scrambled to her feet and dashed away as the soldier turned his attention to Clark. Clark managed to grab the stick, snatching it out of the man's hands, when he heard, "Don't move!"

Without moving a muscle, he glanced up cautiously to find that he was now surrounded by soldiers, each with a gun pointed in his direction. Slowly, he dropped the stick and raised his hands.


"You were there to report the story, not become part of it!" Paul roared loud enough for the entire newsroom to hear after Jeremy managed to bail Clark out and bring him back to the Daily Planet.

"I'm sorry, sir. I just… When that soldier started hitting that woman…"

"What she was doing was illegal," Paul interrupted. "Now, you're new here. I'm prepared to make allowances for that. But if you ever…" As he bellowed, Paul made his way to the door of his office. Once he closed it, the volume on his voice dropped. "I'm proud of you, son," he said softly.

Clark blinked.

"Sorry about the yelling. I just wanted the entire newsroom to think I disapproved of your actions. And I've managed to convince the police to drop the charges. After all, no one got hurt and you're new here. But, you've got to be more careful." He paused. When he continued, there was a grin in his voice. "Besides, what would the bean-counters say if, after paying for your trip here, we didn't get a single story from you?"

"I'm sorry," said Clark, this time sounding much more contrite. "I just couldn't let that man beat that woman."

"I know. I might well have done the same thing in your place. Well, why don't you head back to your desk and get to work typing up the story?"

"Before I do, I have a couple of questions," said Clark.


"Well, I admit that I'm new here and that I never really paid attention to the situation on Mars before taking this job, but…"

"Go on," encouraged Paul.

"I just can't believe I didn't know anything about the situation of women here."

"Well, part of the reason might be that the censors haven't let us publish much about that topic — especially in the stories we send to Earth. They claim that it would damage relations between Earth and Mars which are still shaky at best."

"My source mentioned something about the whole thing coming about because of terrorist attacks by women near the end of the war. You were a reporter back then. What can you tell me?"

Paul shrugged. "Not much. No one knows why they were all conducted by women or what exactly they were trying to accomplish. And since they conducted suicide attacks, there was no one to interrogate."

Clark slowly rose and headed for the door.

"And make sure it doesn't happen again!" Paul bellowed the instant the door was open.

Clark fought the urge to smile. "Yes, sir," he said contritely before making his way to his desk.

"In trouble with the boss already?" asked a smug-sounding male voice over Clark's shoulder.

Clark turned around to see a balding man in a dark blue silk shirt and matching tie standing there.

"I'm Roland," the man said. "I'm sort of the Planet's number one reporter. So if you need any help with the boss, just let me know."

"Thanks," said Clark, not quite certain how he was supposed to respond. "By the way, I'm Clark."

"Nice to meet you, Clark," Roland continued. "And I mean my offer to help you with Paul. After all, we're like this." On the final word, he held up his hand, his index and middle fingers intertwined. "Oh, and if you need any help with the ladies," he nudged Clark with his elbow to emphasize the point, "you just come to Roland. I know all the best places in town to pick them up, if you know what I mean."

The problem was that Clark was fairly certain he did know what Roland meant. And after seeing what had happened on the street today, Roland's comments just seemed that much more degrading. "I'm sure I'll be fine. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to work. Being bawled out by the boss once a day is my limit."

"Sure thing, buddy," Roland responded before retreating to his desk, looking as if he was certain he had a new best friend.

Clark shook off the grimey feeling talking to Roland had caused and continued towards his desk. As he sat down, he noticed a small icon on the bottom of his computer screen flashing. He quickly typed in his password and touched the icon. His phone messages list immediately appeared on his screen. He set the list to 'read only,' so that others wouldn't be able to listen in on his messages, before touching the first one. Clark smiled when he read the message that appeared in response.

"Thanks," was all it said and it was signed, "Nellie."

He touched the second message. It was from Mandy Drake, asking him to call. He ignored the third and forth message since they were obviously junk. Then he spotted the name on the fifth message and his heart rate increased. He quickly touched the message.

"I was wondering if you'd like to have dinner tonight. Please call," and it was signed, "Lindsey Landon."

He quickly pressed on the appropriate spot on the screen and then impatiently watched his monitor as the number dialed. He held his breath as he listed to it ring. Once, twice, three…

"Hello," said Lindsey, her face immediately coming up on the screen.

"I just got your message. I'd love to. When? Where?"

Once Lindsey had given him her address and a time, she suggested that since he didn't know the city, he allow her to make the reservations. He quickly agreed. Then her face disappeared and he leaned back in his chair and tried to catch his breath. Had what he thought just happened, really just happened? He pressed the replay button and watched the conversation again. It had.

Noticing Paul Wilson enter the newsroom, he quickly hit another spot on the computer screen and Lindsey's face disappeared from view. He wasn't quite sure why he'd done that, but for reasons he refused to explain, even to himself, he didn't want Paul knowing about his dinner tonight.

He went back to the message from Nellie. He tried calling back, but there was no return number. He took a moment to try to trace the number but whoever had sent the message had certainly hidden its origin well. He stared at the computer screen, trying to figure out what to do without a complete interview.

He dug up what little seemed to exist about women's rights on Mars. Paul was right. There wasn't much. He found a few stories, however, that had come out around the times of the attacks and during the aftermath. He also spoke to a number of his older colleagues. Finally, realizing he wasn't likely to dig up much more in the time he had to get this particular story submitted, he called up his word processor. Even though he could simply dictate the story into the computer, he still preferred the old fashioned way. He began typing. He only debated a moment before deciding to leave out even the name the woman had given him. He would call her 'a protestor' only. He hoped she'd appreciate that.


Clark fiddled nervously with his tie as he stood outside the door of apartment 1240, 729 22nd Street waiting for Lindsey to answer. He was still having problems believing he was here. What if she opened the door, stared at him blankly, and demanded to know what he was doing here? What if he'd just imagined the phone call asking him to have supper with her? After all, last night she hadn't seemed overly impressed with him. He pushed away the disturbing ideas that thought provoked. It wasn't as if he was overly knowledgeable about the workings of the female mind. They always seemed driven by a logic he couldn't quite follow.

He straightened his back a little more when he heard locks being opened and, a moment later, had to remind himself to breathe when the door slid aside to reveal Lindsey Landon.

"Mr. Kent," Lindsey said, gesturing him into her apartment.

After spending the morning looking at apartments, he couldn't help but be impressed. He let out a low whistle. "Nice digs," he commented.

"Thanks," she muttered. "Let's get out of here," she continued, grabbing her coat.

Clark immediately reached for the coat, taking it from her surprised hands and holding it out for her to slip into. She hesitated for a moment before turning around so that he could assist her in putting on her coat.

"So what do you do that you can afford all this?" he asked. "Or were you born rich?" he continued.

"Something like that," Lindsey muttered, heading quickly to the door.

Suddenly, Clark understood. At least he thought he did. Still, even though he knew he probably shouldn't, he couldn't help himself from playing his hunch.

"What would Luthor say about us having dinner together?" he asked.

She turned and glared at him for a moment before saying, very pointedly, "I'm a free agent." With those words, she stormed out of the apartment.

Clark bit his lower lip. Why had he done that? He had already been fairly confident that her apartment bore witness to the fact that she was a 'kept woman.' Why had he felt it necessary to rub her face in it? He let out a slow breath before following her out the door and towards the elevator.


The trip in the cab had been awkward. As the hostess showed them to their table at the elegant restaurant, Clark silently vowed to find a way to make up for his indiscretion. Whatever this woman's relationship was to Damian Luthor, whatever it was she wanted from him, he was not going to find out by alienating her. He suddenly wondered if she was taking him up on the offer he'd made at the end of their dance last night. Maybe she wanted out, but couldn't figure out how to do it. It would certainly explain her all-consuming sadness. It would also explain what he sensed was her dislike of her apartment. Well, if he didn't watch his tongue, she wasn't going to trust him enough to let him help her.

Without thinking, he automatically pulled out Lindsey's chair as they arrived at the table. She looked at him curiously, but then took a seat. He made his way around the table and found his own seat. Fortunately, any awkwardness was forestalled by the arrival of a man to take their drink orders and give them menus.

"So what's good here?" asked Clark as they studied the menus.

Lindsey was silent for a moment and he could feel her studying him. He had asked the simple question in an effort to alleviate the tension between them. He wondered momentarily if she was going to let him do that. Then he breathed a sigh of relief when, seemingly understanding what he was trying to do, she began telling him about various items.

Once both had decided on what to order and had set down their menus as a signal to the waiter, Clark spoke.

"I was a little surprised when you called. I mean, after our first meeting…" His voice trailed off in confusion at the look on Lindsey's face. She had given a slight shake of the head, as if trying to warn him about something and the fear in her eyes was unmistakable. He thought about his comment. Then it hit him. Their first meeting had been when he stopped the rape. She'd asked him to let it go. Of course, that didn't explain the fear in her eyes. It was only a moment more before he thought he had his answer. He pulled the palm computer out of his suit jacket pocket as he continued to talk.

"After our first meeting, when I asked you to dance…" He said the last phrase deliberately, keeping his eyes on her. The fear seemed to leave almost instantly, confirming his suspicion about what was going on here. He quickly wrote something on the computer and set it down on the table. "…I got the distinct impression that you didn't like me."

Lindsey glanced at the palm computer before looking back at him. "I'm not sure why you'd think that," she responded. "I am the one, after all, who asked you to dance later on. I just had other things on my mind when you first approached me." She glanced back at the computer before reaching for it and saying casually, "I see that you have one of these old fashioned computers. Why not get a more modern one?"

He gave her a moment to read the message on it. As she did, he silently recited the words he knew were written there. 'Is someone listening?' She looked back at him, neither confirming or denying his suspicions. Instead, she glanced deliberately at her purse. He took a judicious look over his glasses, confirming the presence of a listening device stitched into the lining. He glanced back at her for confirmation, but her expression was curiously neutral. In fact, if he hadn't seen her look at the computer and then glance at her purse in response, he might be tempted to believe she hadn't even seen the question. Suddenly, he realized she was waiting for some sort of response. But a response to what?

"I'm sorry, what did you ask?"

"I asked why you don't get a more modern palm computer," she repeated.

As she spoke, Clark watched her subtly delete the message — confirming that she had indeed read it. Her lack of denial and her careful movements told Clark all he needed to know. Not only was someone listening in, they were also watching. And she had just, in a very subtle way, confirmed that. She wanted him to know. It was a startling realization.

"Well?" she asked.

"Umm…" Clark hesitated for a moment more. He couldn't very well ask her to repeat the question again. More modern computer! Right! "That one was a present from my uncle when I first got a job at the Daily Planet. He quit working for the Planet years ago, but it was his so he passed it on to me. It does what I need it to do. I guess I keep it for sentimental reasons."

Just then their conversation was interrupted as the waiter came to take their orders.


'He knows and you told him,' Lindsey silently told herself as she waited for Clark to give his order. She knew that she was playing a very dangerous game by not telling Damian everything she knew about Clark already. Now she'd just made it worse. What could possibly have possessed her to do such a thing? She had placed her life in the hands of a man she didn't even know. After all, if he chose to, he could reveal her betrayal to Damian.

When Clark had first made the comment he had about Damian, she'd almost been relieved. He was making it easy for her to dislike him. But when she'd glanced over at him in the taxi and seen the hang-dog look on his face, she'd felt her heart involuntarily soften. Then he'd pulled out her chair, the same way he'd helped her with her coat, in an old- fashioned, but very sweet way and she'd felt a flutter in her stomach. At first, she'd thought he was just acting a part. But the actions were unself-conscious and that made them believable.

That still didn't mean she had to tell him that Damian was following their 'date' with interest. Or did it? After all, if he had completed his original statement and said something about how they had first met, Damian would have been furious with her. She should have simply told Damian that Clark was the one who stopped the rape as soon as she'd realized it. So why hadn't she? She still had no answer to that question.

There was only one thing to be grateful for — Clark Kent was definitely a quick study. If he hadn't been… She shuddered slightly. There was absolutely no way she would have been able to explain her oversight to Damian. The information would confirm Damian's impression of Clark as a threat. After all, what he knew about Drake's attempt to rape her meant that he already knew too much about Damian's business.

But what would Clark do now? Could she trust him? She really didn't know. Well, there was nothing to do now but to play it by ear.

The waiter finished taking Clark's order and walked away.

"So," she said, knowing that even though Clark knew, she had to continue as planned for Damian, "are you enjoying your new job?"

She watched a hurt expression flicker through his eyes. But it was gone so quickly that she almost wondered afterwards if it had ever been there.

He seemed to consider her question for a moment before responding.

"Actually, I got arrested today," he said as if it was something that happened every day.

She stared at him in disbelief. Didn't he realize that their conversation was being monitored? She'd have sworn that he did. And this was just the kind of thing Damian would love to… Her thought stopped dead in its tracks. It was just the kind of thing Damian would know — probably already had the police report on his desk if she knew Damian. She had to stop the grin that fought with her muscles at the corners of her mouth. This man was good.

What he'd told her was just the type of thing Damian would expect her to get from him. But in telling her about it, he'd not told Damian anything.

"Arrested?" she finally asked. "What on earth for?"


When Lindsey asked about his job, an innocent enough question for a first date, although under the circumstances… He felt hurt for just a moment. Then he wondered how to respond. That only took a second. The answer was simple — don't tell her anything he wouldn't want the world knowing. And what he'd done today was certainly no secret.

"I got arrested," he responded.

She looked a bit taken back for a minute, as if wondering why he was giving her this information. Then he saw the expression change.

"Arrested?" she asked. "What on earth for?"

He opened his mouth to answer before changing his mind. This conversation was far too intense and they were both spending far too much time analyzing every word. Well, there was only one thing to do about that.

"For mugging an old lady," he responded casually before taking another sip of his wine.

She stared at him in stunned silence. Then her eyes went wide. His face broke out in a grin when all of a sudden, she burst out laughing.

"Yeah, yeah, not my finest hour," he continued.

Lindsey fought the laughter, trying desperately to respond. Finally, she managed to get the words out. "I'm surprised you were able to take her."

"Oh, but I didn't," Clark responded without missing a beat. "How do you think I got arrested?"

Lindsey immediately burst out laughing again. Clark grinned. Her genuine laughter was an incredible sound. It was almost intoxicating. He was certain he could listen to that sound forever. He couldn't help himself. He had to continue to hear it. And so, fighting his own desire to join her laughter, he continued in a deadpan voice.

"I guess I really shouldn't feel too bad," he said. "After all, she did have that umbrella."

And with that line, the tone was set for the rest of their dinner. Clark's objective changed from wanting to figure out what was going on to trying to make her laugh as hard and as often as possible. Even when he did finally tell her why he'd gotten arrested, the tone continued. They ended up in verbal sword-play where both took a position that they didn't believe and argued it for all it was worth — Clark, playing the dedicated vigilante who thought that all government was evil and must be fought to the last breath, and Lindsey, playing the true believer who thought the government could do no wrong.

After one particularly insane argument, where Lindsey laughed so hard tears were running down her cheeks, Clark was unable to resist commenting.

"You have a beautiful laugh, lady," he said softly.

The laughter died almost immediately as their eyes met and their gazes locked. Clark was suddenly lost. This connection, or whatever it was, between them was like nothing he'd ever experienced before. He was almost certain she could feel it too. Then she broke eye contact, looking down to play nervously with her food for a moment before taking another bite, even though she'd really finished eating quite some time ago.

"So where are you staying?" she asked. "I would assume the paper would have the good sense to at least make sure the hotel is decent."

Clark gave a small sigh. Obviously, she felt it was time to get back to the interrogation. After all, since they'd first encountered each other at the Lexor, she probably realized he'd been staying there. No. The question was for Luthor's benefit — assuming that Luthor was the one listening in. However, he was certain it would take no effort at all to find out where he was living. And given the fact that he couldn't be hurt and had nothing worth stealing, he supposed there was no harm in Luthor being given that information.

"Actually, I got my own place today," he responded. "It's nothing like yours, of course, but I sort of like it. I checked out of my hotel and took my things over there just before picking you up. The only problem is that it's unfurnished."

She got a wistful look. "Sounds like fun. Furnishing your own place."

"Didn't you furnish yours?" he asked.

She looked back at her food and played with it before responding. "It was professionally decorated," she informed him.

He looked at her for a moment. She once again seemed so sad. He debated in his mind how to alleviate the sadness. They had finished eating. There was still the matter of dessert, but…

"Come on," he said, standing up.

"Where are we going?" she asked, completely baffled.

"To furnish my apartment," he responded as if it should be perfectly obvious.

"Doesn't that seem a little odd for a first date?" she asked as he came around to pull out her chair.

"Not at all. After all, you do want some input into how we decorate the kids' rooms, don't you?" he asked immediately.

She laughed before saying, "Okay. Let's do it."


"So where exactly are we going?" Lindsey asked as they got into a cab.

"My apartment," Clark replied. Then he must have noticed the expression on her face because he continued immediately. "Hey, if you're going to help me decorate, you really have to see my place. Of course, if you feel uncomfortable…"

"It's okay," Lindsey interrupted. After all, what could he do to her that would be any worse than what she'd be going home to tonight?

She was quiet as she followed him up the steps to his apartment in the rundown building. As she avoided touching the banister, she found herself wondering where he was taking her. He couldn't really live here, could he? She watched as he was about to place his hand on the keypad to open the door. Then he stopped and silently looked at her for a long moment, as if debating something. However, before she could question him, he seemed to come to a decision. He stepped to the side slightly, giving her a clear view and, slowly and deliberately, punched in a series of numbers.

Lindsey' mouth dropped open as it sank in what he had just done. It was the ultimate leap of faith. He had silently told her that if she ever needed to, here was the way to access his apartment. For all he knew, she would turn around and give that information to Damian. She was somewhat in awe of what had just happened and, although she knew she'd never use it, took a moment to commit the combination to his apartment to memory.

"Lights on," he said as he stepped inside his apartment. Following him inside, she gasped.

"This is your place?" she asked in disbelief as she glanced around at the run-down and utterly filthy apartment.

"Now, that's your problem," said Clark.

"What is?" she demanded. "That you live in a rathole?"

"No. That you can't see past the reality."

"What is that supposed to mean?"

"Look at the potential," Clark said. He placed a hand gently on the small of her back and led her to the kitchen. Then, using his hands and words, he began to paint a verbal picture of what the apartment could look like. It only took her a moment to find what he had found in the place. Soon she was suggesting and even disagreeing with his choice for paint colors and wallpaper.


The proprietor of the used furniture store didn't know quite what to make of the young couple who had invaded his establishment. Both were obviously not dressed for shopping. In fact, by their clothes, he'd suspect they were on their way home from a night on the town.

"Why are we at a used furniture store?" the woman asked. "I was sort of thinking of getting some of that new, retro stuff."

"What do you think I'm made of, woman? Money?" the man responded. "First, the constant need for jewelry, now you want new furniture," he muttered.

The proprietor was baffled when the woman's response was to laugh.

"Besides, new furniture is so… soulless," the man added.

"Uhh… I hate to tell you this, but used furniture is also souless. This is inanimate objects we're talking about."

The man looked affronted for a moment before responding. "You only think that because you haven't taken the time to really get to know any furniture. Oh, sure. You pretend you're liberal, open-minded. You even bring your furniture in through the front door. But deep inside, you're a bigot — not recognizing the true value and worth of furniture. Furniture is people, too, you know. Just because you're furnaphobic, don't try to inflict the rest of us with your prejudices."

The woman swatted his arm and gave him what looked something like a glare, although her eyes were dancing.

"Take this chair, for example," the man continued, gesturing to a large, well-worn lazy-boy.

"What about the chair?"

"Well, the owner of this chair used to sit in it after a hard day at work and his dog would sit beside him, allowing him to scratch his ears."

"And how, might I ask, do you know all that?" she responded.

"Simple. Look at the wear patterns on the chair. It's more worn where the man sat."

The woman looked at the chair. "Okay, it was obviously well used. But where do you get the owner having a dog?"

The man gestured to the almost see-through material on one side of the chair. "The dog obviously brushed up against the chair as he sat beside it, patiently waiting to be acknowledged by his master. Obviously, this is a chair that has known a lot of love." He sat down in the chair and groaned. "Oh, yeah. He's got it worn in just the right spots," he said before glancing at the owner. "We'll take this one."

The woman chuckled as she headed past him to examine tables. The discussion about tables and chairs and lamps and other such items continued in much the same fashion.

"We need a bed," said the woman, heading into an area that had a number of bedframes and mattresses. After they'd picked out a bedframe, the woman proceeded to try out one mattress after another. The man, on the other hand, just stood by, watching her with a completely besotted look on his face.

"I like this one," she finally said, stretching out fully on the mattress with her hands above her head. She gave the man a sultry look through half-closed eyes. Even the happily married proprietor felt his temperature rise at the sight she created.

"Then that one it is," the man replied, his voice cracking slightly as if his mouth was suddenly very dry.

"Aren't you even going to try it out?" asked the woman, wriggling her eyebrows at him suggestively.

The man swallowed hard before seeming to regain some of his composure. "Why would I need to? You're the one who tosses and turns all night. I figure if we find one that allows you to get a full night's sleep, I'll finally be able to get some rest, too."

The woman laughed and got up off the mattress. "What's left?" she asked.

The man glanced around. "I think that's… A couch!" he exclaimed. "We haven't found a couch yet."

They made their way to an area that had a number of couches. They looked at a few before one seemed to catch the man's attention.

"Oh, that's so sad," the man said.

The woman came over to see what he was referring to. The couch was much more worn on one side than it was on the other.

"It's obvious that this guy never found his soul mate," the man continued.

"I disagree," responded the woman.

"How can you say that? Only one side of this couch has been worn."

"That's because, after forty years of marriage, the couple who owned this couch would still cuddle up together on one end to watch T.V."

"And what makes you so sure it was a couple?" asked the man.

"Simple," the woman responded, taking the man's hand and leading him over to the couch. "Sit," she instructed and the man immediately sat down on the place indicated. "Now, you can see that the worn spot on the couch is much too big to have been made by only one person." She sat down next to him, leaning slightly against his chest to illustrate. "This couch was obviously owned by a couple who were very much in love."

A small smile played around the proprietor's mouth as he observed, discretely of course, the young couple sitting on the couch watching the imaginary television. He saw the man move his arm slightly and then noticed the woman curl up within his embrace, her hand tracing a light circle on his thigh. The man brought his face forward until it was almost touching the woman's cheek and he saw him breath something, he couldn't hear what, into her ear. The woman closed her eyes in response.

The scene abruptly changed. Maybe she realized they were in public. But whatever the reason, the woman suddenly got up, leaving a slightly confused man still sitting on the couch. Then she began to speak and, as she did, the proprietor marveled at how many words she seemed to be able to get out without taking a breath.

"Oh," she began, looking at her watch, "I didn't realize the time. I've really got to be going. It's almost curfew." She headed immediately for the door to the shop, her words trailing along behind her. "I'm sure they want to close up the shop, too. I don't know how it could have gotten so close to curfew without my realizing it. I mean, you're new so I guess it's understandable that you…"

As she continued to rebuke herself for not realizing the time, the proprietor watched the man get up and follow the woman, as if trying to figure out how his world had changed so quickly. When she reached the door of the shop, she stopped to do up her coat.

"At least let me see you home," the man said.

"That's probably not a good idea. If you do, you'll never make it home in time for curfew yourself and I'd feel just terrible if something happened while you were out after curfew — especially on my behalf. And I don't think you want to run afoul of the law twice in the same day. They wouldn't take too kindly to that. I think it might be best if we just said good-night here. I'll catch a cab out front."

"Can I call you?" the man asked as if suddenly afraid that he'd never see the woman if she disappeared out of the door of the shop.

"Fine," the woman responded, struggling with the snaps on her coat. Her hands came to a halt when she seemed to realize that the man had moved closer. The man's hand came up to her cheek, directing the woman's gaze to his. The moment their eyes met, even the proprietor could feel the electricity that seemed to jump between them.

'Kiss her,' the proprietor thought to himself and, as if he read his mind, the man began to lean in. The proprietor watched the woman's eyes look down at the man's mouth as if mesmerized, before touching her bottom lip with the tip of her tongue. The proprietor swallowed hard, suddenly feeling as if he were a voyeur. He glanced away but his peripheral vision told him that the man had, indeed, kissed the woman.

The kiss was over almost instantly. Still, the man and woman stood there for a minute more in complete silence, as if both were too overwhelmed by the experience to know quite what to do next. The woman recovered first.

"Good-bye," she whispered and the proprietor heard the door to his establishment open as she suddenly fled the store.

"Good-bye," he heard the man respond as the door slid closed behind her.

The proprietor made himself look busy as the man struggled to regain his composure. When he had, he looked over at the proprietor and said, "I'll take that couch, too. How much do I owe you?"

"Just give me a minute to get the bill ready," the proprietor responded.

The man nodded and turned back to look at the door where he'd last seen the woman. "And you thought furniture was soulless," he heard the man whisper.

It was only a minute or so more before the man joined him. Once they worked out a delivery arrangement, which wouldn't be for a few days since the man wanted some work done on some of the furniture, the proprietor completed the list of items to be purchased. As he was marking the price beside each one, he hesitated.

"I'm going to throw in the couch for free," the proprietor informed the man.

"That's not necessary," the man responded.

The proprietor looked up and met the man's eyes. "You're right. I've worked in this business most of my life and I can tell you, without any hesitation, that each piece of furniture does indeed have a soul. I think you and your friend just proved that. And that couch, my friend, definitely belongs to two people who are falling in love."

"Oh, but we're not…"

"Son, I've been married almost thirty years. I know the real thing when I see it. Take the couch."

The man looked as if he was about to object again when he stopped and looked back at the door.

"Thank you," he responded instead.


The real thing! Clark was mulling the salesman's comments over in his mind as he entered his apartment building. Of course, he knew the man was wrong, but for some reason that one phrase still played over and over in his head on the way home. The man had to be wrong. There was no other possibility. After all, their only date had been some sort of sham, a farce. Lindsey was a kept woman — probably by Damian Luthor. In fact, the most likely possibility was that Luthor had instructed Lindsey to call him and then had placed a hidden microphone in her purse specifically for the purpose of monitoring the conversation.

If he was right, then Luthor was already suspicious of him for some reason. But then his last name might have something to do with it. That was the one thing Paul hadn't taken into account. If a Luthor showed up in Smallville, there wasn't a Kent alive who wouldn't think he was up to no good. How was that any different from a Kent showing up in Damian's backyard?

The real thing. As he pushed the button to close the door, he thought about the evening. It had certainly started out roughly. A small smile crept onto his lips as he recalled the look on Lindsey's face when he'd said that he'd mugged a little, old lady. That had certainly been a moment to be remembered.

He never should have kissed her. He had known the date wasn't real — that someone had insisted that Lindsey go out with him. Knowing that, he never should have kissed her. Still… He closed his eyes and groaned. That kiss had been… He struggled for a moment before realizing that it was pointless trying to find a word to describe it. He knew she'd felt it, too. But that didn't mean she was falling in love with him. Come to think of it, where did that guy get off thinking that he was falling in love with her?

Falling in love with Lindsey would be… irresponsible, foolhardy, and dangerous. And if there was one thing he knew about himself it was that he was never any of those things. The man had obviously misinterpreted what he'd seen.

Clark made his way over to an old wooden box, moved some garbage out of the way, and took a seat. He pulled out his palm computer and turned the telephone back on. He'd turned it off during his date. He considered taking calls when on a date to be the very definition of rudeness.

He jumped slightly when almost instantly, the palm computer began vibrating — indicating that he had an incoming call.

"Hello?" asked Clark, answering the call.

"Kent," said Paul's voice over the line. "Where have you been? I've been trying to get in touch with you all evening. I thought, since you're new in town, you might want someone to show you the sights. Then, when it got later and you still didn't answer, I started worrying that you'd gotten yourself in trouble again. You're all right, aren't you?"

"I'm fine, Paul," Clark responded. "I was just… umm… shopping for furniture," Clark informed his boss. Okay, so maybe it wasn't exactly the truth, but it wasn't exactly a lie either. Clark briefly wondered exactly why he felt the need to deceive his boss. After all, he could have simply said he had a date. But he was worried Paul would guess who it was with. And Clark found himself feeling inexplicably guilty about going out with Lindsey tonight. The last thing he wanted was to have to explain to his boss what he was doing.

"Oh, good. I guess that makes sense," said a now embarrassed sounding Paul. "Well then, if you're all right, I guess I'll see you tomorrow."

The two men said their good-byes and hung up. Clark looked at his palm computer in silence for a long moment. He really couldn't see Lindsey Landon again — not when he was feeling this guilty about it. No. He'd just let that particular woman go. It was best that way — for both of them. So, inspite of her comment that he could call, he simply wouldn't and that, as they said, would be that.

He thought about his decision to give her the pass code to his apartment. Maybe that hadn't been the wisest thing he'd ever done if he wasn't going to see her again. No. He'd given it to her so that she would always have a place to escape to if she ever decided she wanted out of whatever arrangement she had with Luthor. And if she did, he wanted her to know he'd be there for her.

Besides, if he was wrong about her and she did decide to give the pass code to Luthor, it wasn't as if it would do much damage. After all, Clark suspected that Luthor would have no problem getting equipment that would quickly bypass the cheap lock on his apartment door. No. Lindsey was the only one who could possibly benefit from that information.

Suddenly, another thought occurred to him. If Luthor… or whomever… felt the need to set him up on a date with Lindsey to get information, they would likely bug his apartment, too. Lowering his glasses, he did a quick sweep of the room. Nothing. Still, since it would no doubt be soon that they decided to break in to plant listening devices, it might be best to ensure that while they were here, they didn't find anything else.

Clark made his way over to the secret closet. He doubted that without x-ray vision anyone would know it was here. He slid back the panel and, using a quick burst of superspeed, cleaned the entire closet. He tried the light and was surprised that it still worked. Then he went to his suitcase and took out a small, leather-bound book and placed it in the closet before sliding the panels back in place.

Clark looked around his apartment. Well, there was no time like the present. Using another quick burst of superspeed, he had the rest of the apartment cleaned in under two minutes. He'd even managed to do a number of small repairs. He glanced at his watch in satisfaction before taking some clothes out of his suitcase to use for a pillow and making his way into the bedroom. He placed them on the floor, spun out of his clothes, and lay down on his back to stare at the ceiling. Turning his mind to what he needed to do tomorrow, he was asleep almost immediately.


Lindsey headed straight for the bar the instant she entered her apartment, her mind completely occupied with the memory of kissing Clark. She wasn't entirely sure what had happened when her lips had met Clark's and even less idea how to classify the various emotions it had stirred up in her. It had been… sweet. That word seemed so inadequate, but she was unable to come up with a better one. She had certainly been kissed many times before, but there wasn't one that compared.

But to Lindsey, that wasn't entirely a good thing. The kiss had awakened something in her — something that could never be fulfilled. Never had she experienced anything that seemed quite as pure, either. And that was the other half of the problem. The touch of her soul to Clark's that had seemed to happen during the kiss was so unblemished that it only served to point out the blackness in Lindsey's soul. And with that realization, the guilt returned.

Well, there was only one thing to do. Once she arrived at the bar, she opened her purse and pulled out the small container. Her hands shook as she opened it and poured the brown powder onto the bar. She had her fix before making her way around the bar and splashing some Jack Daniel's into a glass. Flex wasn't going to be sufficient to deal with these emotions. After all, it wasn't just guilt she was dealing with this time. She raised the glass to her lips.

"Mixing flex with alcohol?" asked a man's voice behind her.

She almost dropped the glass. She wasn't aware that anyone was in her apartment. Taking a deep breath and wiping any real emotions from her face, she turned slowly towards Damian.

"You surprised me," she said, trying to act as if that was her only reason for reacting as she had to his presence.

"That's what I always try to do, love," he responded. He took the glass from her hand and set it on the bar before pulling her into his arms and kissing her.

Lindsey had to remind herself not to fight as Damian kissed her. Unlike the sweet, gentle, tentative kiss she'd received from Clark earlier, this kiss could only be described as a kiss of ownership, a reminder of who she belonged to. As she forced herself to open her mouth in response to his demanding tongue, she let her mind go blank — distancing herself, as she always did, from the encounter.

It wasn't long before he seemed satisfied that nothing had changed and pulled back. He released her, walking behind the bar to pour himself a drink while she picked up hers. She quickly took a sip of the burning liquid, allowing it to purge Damian's taste from her mouth.

"So, how was your date?" Luthor asked.

Lindsey shrugged slightly as she headed into the living room and took a seat on the couch. "Okay, I guess. But can't you get your report from Nathan? I want to go to bed. And since I'm fairly certain I spotted one of Nathan's men at the restaurant, I'm sure he can fill you in on, not only what we said, but how we looked saying it."

"Don't get smart," Damian warned. "You're right. Nathan had a man there — for your protection, of course. And I already have Nathan's report along with…" His voice trailed off as he reached into his inside jacket pocket and pulled out a small computer card. "…this. But I want to hear your take on what happened."

Lindsey sighed. She really didn't want to discuss her date, especially not with Damian. It was bad enough that he would undoubtedly listen to every word. She wondered briefly if the bug would have picked up what Clark had whispered into her ear as they'd sat on the couch.

She sighed. There wasn't anything to do but answer Damian's questions. Besides, it might allow her to put her own spin on things.

"There's not much to tell. Well, except that apparently Clark Kent got arrested today for interfering in a military action at city hall. Oh, and I got his home address."

"What did you think of Kent?"

"That going out with him was a waste of time. Look, Damian, as far as I can tell, Clark isn't a threat to you. He's… Well, I got the impression that he's a little slow on the uptake." When she continued her voice was slightly flirtatious. "He's no match for you, Damian."

Damian studied her for a moment. She kept her expression neutral, as if it didn't particularly matter to her one way or another if he agreed. Apparently satisfied with what her body language was saying, Damian responded.

"Well, that just shows how bad you are at judging people," he said. "No one graduates in the top ten percent of his class by being… How did you put it? 'A little slow on the uptake.'"

'Damn,' thought Lindsey. She should have known Damian would do his homework. And she should have known that someone as bright as Clark would have left a mark behind that Damian would find.

Damian turned to the computer consol in her living room wall and inserted the computer card.

"Nathan highlighted some of the more interesting portions of your date. Let's listen to it together, shall we?" he said as he made his way over to a chair facing her, as if to watch her while the computer card played.


He watched each movement as if she was engaged in the most sensual dance he had ever seen. Through the tinted glass, he saw her slip off her blazer and blouse and hang them up. He looked back at the champagne bottle in his hands, knowing that he shouldn't be watching. He removed the wire from the top of the bottle, but he couldn't get her image out of his mind. He couldn't seem to stop himself from glancing back at the door.

He was immediately captivated by the silhouette of her removing her skirt. The only object separating him from her beautiful, almost naked body was the tinted glass in the door. The desire to remove that barrier between them was overwhelming. Knowing that was not an option, he stood transfixed by his desire.


The cork popping from the champagne bottle broke the spell. He immediately loosened his grip on the bottle, suddenly aware that if he didn't it would crumble in his hands. He watched the cork wing its way around the room. He reached out and grabbed it just as she opened the door and reentered, wearing sweats and a tank top.

Suddenly, the room was dark and he could feel her close — hands, bodies touching as they tripped and tumbled over each other. When they finally stopped, he was lying on the couch and the press of a warm body on top of him left him with no doubt about where she was. She began to squirm against him causing him to fight back a groan.

Then, just as suddenly, there was unwanted light. He glanced up to see her above him, stretching out to turn on the lamp. Once the lamp was on, she settled back against him. He wasn't sure exactly what he said, something about the champagne that had been spilled on him during their mishap — anything, anything to keep from thinking about how his body was reacting to having her on top of him. After all this time trying to get close to her, after all the rejection, after all the heartbreak, he didn't trust himself at this moment.

Was it just him or was she still not getting up? What should he do? She was so close. All it would take was one small movement to kiss her. How would she react? This wasn't even their first date. It was their 'almost' first date — a dry run, so to speak. It had taken so long to get her to trust him. What if he was misreading the signs? A year and a half of patient work could all go down the drain if he was wrong. Still, if she didn't move off him soon…

Clark woke up, breathing heavy. He glanced around, getting his bearings. It was just another dream. Suddenly, it hit him like a blast of cold air might hit an ordinary man. It was so obvious that he could hardly believe he hadn't realized it before now. The dreams. There was something different about her in the dreams, but there was one thing he knew with startling conviction: Lindsey was somehow that woman. She always had been.

No. That was insane. No matter what crazy things his subconscious mind might be thinking, he couldn't give in on this point. Lindsey was with Luthor and as long as that continued, he had to keep his distance. He stuffed his clothes further under his head and tried to go back to sleep. He smiled wistfully. Maybe he could find a way to go back to the dream. He really wanted to know what happened next.


As Lindsey climbed into bed, she felt an incredible sense of relief. Damian had decided not to spend the night. It had been hard enough talking to him when all she had really wanted was some time to reflect on the evening. But the idea of having him kissing her, touching her… especially after spending the evening with Clark. She shuddered. She wouldn't think about it. Damian was gone for now. That was all that mattered.

Still, he had stayed into the early hours of the morning, forcing her to listen to and then discuss the portions of the computer card that Nathan had marked as being of interest.

As she lay here now, she thought again about their discussion, trying to remember and memorize any lies she might have told so that Damian wouldn't be able to trip her up tomorrow.

He'd started by complimenting her on how she dodged Clark's question about how she could afford the apartment. According to him, she had shown just the right amount of indignation when Clark had intimated that Damian was the one paying the rent.

He had wondered momentarily how Clark had figured out that they had a relationship. Lindsey managed to reassure him that Clark was probably just guessing. After all, she had been Damian's date at the reception for the American Ambassador. She went back over what he'd said then, trying to determine in her own mind if he'd believed her.

"What do you think he knows about our relationship?" he asked.

Lindsey shrugged. "I think he thinks I'm your mistress."

"Aren't you?" he asked, sounding somewhat amused.

She just looked away. He walked over and took her chin in his hands, not attempting to be gentle as he forced her to meet his eyes.

"You better be sure that's what he thinks," he warned.

"Do you really think I'd risk telling him? I'm not that stupid, Damian."

"For your sake, I hope not," he replied.

As she thought back, she realized Damian had skipped over the original conversation between her and Clark at the restaurant. She let out a breath of relief. That meant Nathan's goon hadn't noticed anything unusual when Clark had passed her the message about someone listening in. She closed her eyes and let the feelings of relief wash over her.

She redirected her mind to the next part of the date Damian had insisted on talking about. He seemed to think she'd laughed too much. He told her that a man likes it when a woman laughs at his jokes, but that she'd overdone it. "He seemed to like it," she immediately shot back.

She was amazed to realize the reason Damian's comment had bothered her so much. When she'd been talking and laughing with Clark, she'd almost forgotten she was just playing a role. Instead, she'd let down her walls and actually been herself. Obviously, Damian didn't like the real woman. But then again, why would he? After all, he'd never met the real woman. Clark had. In fact, he was probably the only man who ever had.

Of course, her comment about Clark liking her laugh had not been the wisest thing she'd ever said. It had given Damian a little too much information. His following comments had made that clear.

"You aren't developing feelings for this man, are you?" Damian asked.

"Don't be ridiculous," she shot back.

"Well, if you weren't trying to seduce him with your laughter, that means your laughter was real."

"So? Kent's amusing. I laugh at Monty Python reruns, too. But I wouldn't go home with any of the actors," she responded.

"I would hope not, since they've all been dead for a couple hundred years," he replied.

"You know what I mean," Lindsey answered.

He studied her for a moment before speaking again. "Well, no matter. After all, from what I've been able to find out about your Clark Kent, he's a thoroughly decent sort. If he knew what you really are, do you think he'd still want anything to do with you?"

Inwardly, Lindsey cringed. However, she managed to keep her cool. "Well, since I'm the one who thinks my seeing him is a waste of time, don't expect me to get all weepy because you tell me that he wouldn't want me if he knew the truth."

That final comment seemed to satisfy Damian. "It's just as well. Don't get attached," Damian said dismissively. "After all, when I have what I want from Kent, you won't have a chance to find out if he'd still want you."

As she thought about Damian's comments now, she felt an incredible wave of sadness. He was right. Whatever connection had seemed to exist between her and Clark tonight, it was an illusion. After all, Clark would never want anything to do with her if he knew the truth. And even if he did… She gave a sad smile. What was the point of thinking about things that would never be?

Shaking off the stray thought, Lindsey turned her mind to what they'd discussed next. Damian had made her tell him everything she could about Clark's apartment. She'd said nothing when he decided to have listening devices planted there as soon as possible. After all, what could she say? She briefly wondered if there was a way to warn Clark. She immediately rebuked herself for the thought. Clark Kent wasn't her responsibility. He'd have to take care of himself. She silently hoped he'd realize that if Damian was willing to set her up on a date with him that he was likely to bug his apartment, too.

From there, they'd skipped through most of the rest of the date. The next thing she heard was Clark's comment, "Oh, that is so sad." She smiled in memory of what he'd been referring to. She'd been relieved that even the sensitive bug in her purse hadn't picked up the words Clark had whispered into her ear. As they listened, Damian commented that at least it seemed Clark wanted to see her again.

Then he asked the question she knew was coming.

"Did he kiss you?"

She had already decided how to answer that question. The truth. It was the only possible answer. After all, Damian would certainly be able to find that out easily enough, and although she wished more than anything that she could keep the memory of that kiss to herself, that just wasn't possible.

"Yes," she responded.

"Did you like it?" Damian asked.

"Damian, please," Lindsey pleaded, knowing from hard experience exactly where he was going with this line of questioning.

"Did he kiss you like this?" Damian demanded, before coming over and once again kissing her possessively.

It was always the same. Damian would tell her to seduce some man and then, when she did, he'd respond like the injured partner. That always led to him reestablishing his ownership of her. She closed her eyes and tried to think about something else as he probed her mouth, his hand coming up to roughly massage her breast.

She had been so far away that she hardly realized when Damian pulled away from her. It took her another moment to realize why. The phone was ringing.

"Don't you think you'd better get that?" asked Damian.

She was in a daze as she made her way to the phone, attempting to straighten her clothes as she went. Realizing that Damian had torn the strap on her dress, she made a quick detour into her bedroom and slipped into her robe. When she arrived back at the phone, she noticed that Damian had moved out of the camera's view. She was amazed that the phone was still ringing, given the length of time it had taken her to answer.

"Clark?" she asked, when Clark's face unexpectedly appeared on the screen. She wasn't sure who she'd expected, given the time of night, but it definitely wasn't Clark.

"I woke you, didn't I," he responded. "I'm sorry. I knew it was too late. But you did say I could call," said Clark in a rush.

Suddenly, Lindsey was profoundly aware of the man standing beside her.

"What do you want, Clark?" she said abruptly, hoping that he'd get to the point so that Damian wouldn't realize that talking to Clark had sent butterflies into her stomach.

Clark suddenly looked a little lost. "Umm… Maybe I should just call back at a more reasonable hour," he said.

"It's okay, Clark," Lindsey said, forcing herself to sound much more friendly. "I wasn't sleeping. What do you want?"

"Well, if you're sure… I mean, I don't want…"

"Clark!" Lindsey interrupted.

"Right," said Clark taking a breath in an absolutely adorable attempt to calm his obvious nerves. "Umm… the reason I'm calling is… Well, they're delivering my furniture on Saturday evening and so I thought I'd paint the apartment on Saturday afternoon. I was wondering, of course I wouldn't expect you to help or anything, but I thought it might be kind of fun… Anyway, would you like to join me? I'll even throw in a home cooked meal."

Lindsey glanced to her left and, after a nod from Damian telling her to accept, she did just that. She could see by the look on Clark's face that he was fairly certain why she'd glanced to her left. However, she was grateful that he had the good sense to keep his opinion to himself.

There was one benefit to Clark's call. It had distracted Damian and he had left soon thereafter. And so, she'd been free to crawl into bed alone to consider the things Damian hadn't been able to destroy about her date. There were still a number of those. The moment Clark had given her his apartment code, for example. She once again repeated the code in her mind, as if he'd given her the finest diamond tiara instead of a series of numbers. Or how she felt when he'd helped her with her coat or chair or reached in front of her to press the button to open the door for her. Even the way he'd put his hand on the small of her back when he'd led her into his kitchen. She had never known a man's touch could be so gentle.

She thought back to what had happened just as they'd left the restaurant. He insisted on paying. She caught his eye and said deliberately, "Why not let someone else pay?" She could see that he caught her meaning. His response surprised her. "That's not my style." He obviously didn't want anything from Damian, even though she was certain that the bill was more than he could really afford and even though he knew that this date was a set-up.

She thought about that moment in the furniture store when she'd stretched out on the mattress and shamelessly flirted with him. She wasn't exactly sure why she'd done that. Maybe she just needed to make sure that underneath the boy scout exterior still beat the heart of a man. She smiled as she remembered how he seemed to trip over his words in response.

The smile faded as she remembered what happened next. Curling up next to him on that couch, feeling his arm go around her… She felt heat rise to her cheeks even now as she remembered. She was glad that Damian didn't know about that. And then had come that moment when he leaned over and whispered, "Omigod, Lindsey," into her ear. It told her that he was feeling the exact same thing she was — something that was beyond an ability to put into words. And for a moment, it had been so easy to get lost there. Then there was the kiss. So soft. So gentle.

She rebuked herself. What did she think she was doing, letting herself go all soft just from the memory of a kiss? Besides, Damian was right. Clark Kent was a decent man — a breed she had thought extinct. If he knew the things she'd been party to… She wondered briefly if she should have another snort of flex to once again kill the feelings of guilt. She turned over in bed. Two shots of flex in one night was a little much, even for her. Surely, if she could just get some sleep…

She sighed. So if she liked Clark, why was she trying so hard to convince Damian to give up the idea of having her go out with him again? She shook her head. The answer to that was simple enough. The guilt that had consumed her for years had gotten worse since meeting Clark. Was that what happened by being in contact with a basically decent man? And if anything had the power to destroy her it was the guilt. The only way she was able to keep going these days was to kill the guilt — that was what the flex was for. But knowing that her guilt would only get worse by seeing Clark didn't stop her excitement at the knowledge that she would be spending Saturday helping him paint his apartment. He was right. It did sound like fun.

She smiled slightly when she thought about how nervous he'd sounded on the phone. The smile turned to a frown as she thought about Damian's warning not to get attached. Did that warning apply to Clark, too? She already knew that her heart might get broken during this assignment, but what about Clark's? She could really use some more flex.

No. She was already using too much flex these days as it was. Well, if she wasn't going to have any more flex tonight, she could at least have some more whisky. She got up and made her way to the bar to pour herself a double. After the drink, she headed into the washroom to have a shower. She suddenly felt incredibly dirty.


Clark rolled over on the floor, looking for a more comfortable position. For the past hour he'd been reliving that short phone call in his mind. He had decided that he wasn't going to call her and yet, after only a few hours, he'd been on the phone, begging for a date.

It was that dream. Was he going crazy? He'd just asked Damian Luthor's mistress out because of some stupid dream. Did he have a death wish or something?

He growled at himself in disgust while staring absently at the ceiling. As he did, a small smile crept onto his lips. She said yes. He ignored the little voice in the back of his mind that reminded him that someone, probably Luthor, had been at her apartment when he called and that, before accepting his invitation, she'd consulted him. That wasn't important at the moment. The only thing that mattered was that she said yes. He was going to see her again.

He could simply paint the whole apartment in a couple of minutes. It would take much longer having her help. Still… He could hardly believe how much he was looking forward to Saturday.


She ran her hand slowly over his champagne soaked shirt, tracing the lines of his muscular chest and desperately wishing no material separated his chest from her hand. She really hadn't meant to land on top of him, but now that she had… She couldn't really say that she had any desire to relocate. She wished he'd make a move to kiss her or wrap his arms around her, but he stayed curiously passive. Still, it would only take a small movement on her part to kiss him. The problem was that she wasn't quite sure how he'd react. After all, only a few minutes ago, he'd almost sounded as if he was willing to give up the idea of going on a date with her. If only he'd give her some sign that he wanted this as much as she did.

"I guess I should get up," she said after a moment, hoping desperately that he'd object.

"I guess so," he responded instead.

It took her a moment to accept the inevitable and shift positions. Still, she kept her leg where it was, trapping him on the couch, giving him every opportunity to change his mind. She made some comment, but couldn't quite remember what it was the instant the words were out of her mouth. Still, he gave no indication that he wanted to stay on the couch with her — letting whatever would happen simply happen. Reluctantly, she moved her leg, removing the last hindrance to his getting up. He did so immediately. She was pouring champagne into a glass, trying to convince herself that it was probably for the best that he hadn't kissed her, when something in her peripheral vision caught her attention.

She could see his image behind the tinted glass as he began removing his shirt. She turned more fully, champagne bottle and glass still in hand, to watch. Her mouth suddenly felt incredibly dry. All she need do was to walk over to that door and open it and she'd see the muscles she'd felt under her hand only moments before. But her legs wouldn't move. Still, she felt completely powerless to look away — not that she would even if she could. She wished that the window in the door was a little more see-through. She'd only seen him without his shirt on once before and that was over a year ago.

Suddenly, she felt cold liquid running over her hand and realized that she'd filled the glass too full. Embarrassed, she quickly bent down to clean up the champagne that she'd spilt. She was so rattled by the muscles she knew were on the other side of that door that she couldn't quite think how to clean up the mess. She swiped ineffectively at the wet spots with her hand and foot. Just then, he reentered the room.

Lindsey woke and looked around briefly. She was in her own bed. Damian wasn't here. But then neither was Clark. She sighed and turned over. It was just a dream. Just another dream. At least in this one she wasn't about to die a painful death. In fact, it was the first one she'd had in a long time — she wasn't sure how long — that hadn't been a nightmare. In fact, if she were really honest with herself, it was the first erotic… all right, semi-erotic dream she'd ever had. Clark. What exactly had he done to her?

She gave a sad smile. It didn't really matter what she was feeling. Dreams weren't real. And this dream could never be a reality. She closed her eyes, desperate to find a way back to the dream — even if only for a few more hours.


There was a spring to Clark's step as he headed into the Daily Planet the next morning. It was irrational; it was crazy; it was irresponsible. But he had another date set up with Lindsey for this weekend and he felt… good, really, really good.

"Morning, Jeremy," he said, heading past Jeremy while on his way to the coffee machine.

"Morning," said Jeremy, an obvious question in his tone.

"Beautiful day, isn't it," Clark responded. He poured himself a cup of coffee and grabbed a free paper.

"We live in a dome, Clark. The temperature might change, but… It isn't as if there's ever any great changes in the weather," Jeremy responded.

Clark laughed and left Jeremy to head to his desk. He settled into his chair and opened up the paper. There had only been a few years where the Daily Planet had quit producing an actual 'paper.' There was such an outcry from the public which claimed that the Planet was destroying their 'way of life' that it hadn't been long before a paper version of the Daily Planet was again made available.

Personally, Clark was glad that the Planet had returned to using paper. Of course, these days, the papers were recycled almost immediately. Still, it allowed a person to sit back, unfold the paper and… look for the first story he'd ever had printed in the Martian version of the Daily Planet. He might even keep this one out of the recycle bin.

He expected to see his story on the front page. After all, surely a story about soldiers physically breaking up a group of orderly protestors was big news. He even had quotes from both the soldiers and Nellie. Clark was actually proud of this particular story. He'd had very little to work with and yet he'd managed to write a great story. He also thought it was an important issue. Yet, the top story was something about proposed changes to expenditures by city hall. He shook his head. It must be below the fold. He scowled when it wasn't there.

He opened the paper. It was on page three, near the bottom. His frown increased as he began reading. His story had been gutted. Although it was still technically true, none of the emotion had found its way into the story. He finished reading and was on his way to Paul's office almost immediately. His good mood of only minutes ago now completely gone. Since Paul's office door was closed, he knocked. However, as soon as he heard Paul invite him in, he stormed into the office.

"What's this about?" Clark demanded.

"Come in and close the door," Paul growled, glancing at the paper clutched in Clark's hand.

"My story, Paul. What happened to my story?"

"Sit down, son," Paul said.

Clark hesitated for a moment before taking a seat. "It was an important story, Paul," he said in his own defense, feeling slightly sheepish about his behavior in the light of the calm in Paul's voice.

"I know it was, son. And I swear I tried to keep as much as I could in. But as I told you, all stories have to go through the censors."

"But, Paul…"

"You probably won't believe this, but this story…" He reached over and took the paper from Clark's hand. "…is a victory."

"A victory?" Clark asked in disbelief.

"A victory," Paul confirmed. "First, we are the only news organization to have anything about the protest. Second, we were able to tell people, not only what was being protested, but that the protest, although orderly, was busted up by the military. Third, I was able to persuade the censors to keep your quote from Nellie in the story."

Clark cocked his head to the side as he regarded his boss. He hadn't told Paul the woman's name. Clark nodded slowly as it began to sink in that Paul wasn't the enemy.

"I'm sure the protestors will appreciate your effort," continued Paul. "They know what we're up against. You just keep writing the stories and I'll keep pushing to get as much of them published as possible," Paul added before turning his attention back to his computer screen, making it clear that the discussion was over.

Clark got up and headed for the door. He glanced back at Paul as he reached the door, considering what he'd learned and what it could mean, before heading back into the newsroom.

Once he arrived at his desk, he checked his phone messages. He skipped over the first one — it was from Mandy Drake — and touched the second one.

"Great story," it read and it was once again signed 'Nellie.'

Clark leaned back in his chair and thought again about Paul's comments. How had Paul known the name of Clark's source?


"There are some important business people coming in from Earth today," said Luthor, the moment Lindsey entered his office. "Tonight, we'll be taking them to dinner."

"We?" asked Lindsey.

"Yes. It seems the C.E.O. of Howes Industries has something of a weakness for stunning brunettes. I want you along to entertain him."

"And just how 'entertaining' do you want me to be?" she asked, trying not to let her anxiety come through in her voice. After all, 'entertaining' could mean almost anything to Damian.

"Nothing too serious," he responded as he glanced through the morning edition of the Daily Planet. "A little flirting. Rub against him on occasion. Maybe even give him a glimpse down your dress. Things like that. Anyway, be ready by seven. Oh, and wear the red dress I like. You know which one."

Lindsey let out a breath and nodded. All he wanted her to do was flirt. It was a relief. Still, how could Damian always make simple flirting seem so dirty?


After the morning story meeting, Clark got to work on the day's assignment. It was nothing of any real importance, but then Paul had said that he'd be keeping Clark busy during the days with stories that were unrelated to Luthor. Still, it was hard not thinking about what he wanted to investigate. He had made arrangements with Jeremy to get some supper and then the two of them were coming back here to map out a plan for investigating Luthor.

Clark was anxious to get on with this investigation. When he'd first obtained this assignment, he'd been willing to consider the possibility that Damian Luthor might not be doing anything illegal. That was no longer the case. After all, why would an innocent man feel the need to spy on the newest reporter at the Martian office of the Daily Planet? No. The more he thought about it, the more convinced he was that Luthor was the man behind his date with Lindsey. He hadn't been here long enough to make any other enemies.

Now, he might have been able to write off Luthor's behavior as simple paranoia, given his family's history with the Luthors, except for one thing. Unless he was seriously misreading the situation, Lindsey was terrified of Damian Luthor. It was the only explanation he could think of for her trusting a complete stranger enough to tell him that they were being listened in on in order to prevent him from mentioning how they had first met.

But that was something that still confused him. Why was she so afraid of him saying something about that? He shook his head. There were a lot of pieces to this puzzle that didn't seem to fit.


The tunnels were unmarked and seemed to run in every direction. Still, for those who had learned how to live beneath the surface of the planet and who called this place home, it was a refuge. The man pulled his collar up and kept his head down as if to obstruct his face from any onlookers. His quick steps spoke of someone who had a specific destination in mind. It wasn't long before he stopped in front of a door. There were no markings on the door — nothing to distinguish it from any other door along the corridor. Still, he knocked. He waited until a woman inside told him to enter before going into the dwelling that had been dug into the hard earth. Considering where they were, this particular dwelling was both clean and homey.

"Hey, I wasn't expecting to see you," said the woman, coming over and giving the man a kiss on the cheek. "So what brings you down into the catacombs? The world up there too bright for you?"

The man laughed. "It's been a while, Nellie," the man answered.

"You can call me by my real name when we're alone," the woman said. "That is, if you even remember it."

"Of course I remember it, Martha," the man replied. "It would be hard to forget my first love."

"By the way, that brings up a good point. How's the little misses?"

"Good. She told me to give you her best and to tell you that she wants you to get ahold of her for an old-fashioned gossip session when you have a chance."

Martha laughed. "I'd like that." She gestured the man to a chair and got two cups of coffee. She brought them over and handed one to the man before taking a seat.

"I'm guessing this isn't a social call," said Martha.

"You're right. I'm wanting your opinion on our new boy," he said. "Do you think we should bring him in?"

"You mean tell him everything?"

The man nodded.

The woman took a sip of her coffee as she considered the question. "I think he's got potential, but I also think it's a little early to be making this call. Keep an eye on him. After all, once the decision has been made to bring him in, it isn't as if we can take it back. But tell me, why are you so sure about this one? After all, you've never made this suggestion about any of the others — except the young man who usually comes here on your behalf."

The man considered the question for a moment. "There's something different about this one. I'm not sure I can put my finger on why, but it feels as if I've known him a lot longer than two days."

"You know, it's sort of strange that you should say that. There was something familiar about him to me, too. Why don't you keep an eye on him and we'll reevaluate the situation again soon?"

The man nodded slowly. "Well, it's your call. I'll keep you informed."

He handed her a brown envelope. She immediately looked inside to find a single sheet of paper. She glanced back at the man.

"I thought you might be able to make use of that," the man said with a shrug.


"So where do we start?" asked Jeremy.

Clark leaned back in his chair at the conference room table and regarded the young man for a moment before responding.

"Paul said something about you being pretty good with computers," Clark said.

Jeremy beamed. "I guess I know my way around them."

"From what I know of Paul Wilson, he doesn't throw away compliments. So I'm guessing you're a virtual genius with them. Knowing that, I have a number of assignments for you. First, can you get me inside the files at police headquarters without them being able to trace it back?"

Jeremy smiled. "Like taking candy from a baby," he said. Sitting down at the table in which the computer was situated, he began to type.

"Before you do that, I want to give you a couple of other assignments as well. See what you can do with them while I examine the police file on Dale Scardello."

"Sure," said Jeremy, stopping his typing.

"Okay, first I need you to find out everything you can about Apartment 1240, 729 22nd Street. I want everything you can find out about both the apartment and the building itself."

"Any particular reason?" asked Jeremy.

"Let's just call it a hunch for now and leave it at that. Oh, and Jeremy, you can't tell anyone…" He paused and then repeated the last word. "Anyone about this."

"Sure," said Jeremy. "Anything else you need?"

"Yeah. Since Scardello was investigating Luthor when he died, see what you can find on his computer. Is it still in the newsroom?"

"It's the one you're currently using," Jeremy informed him.

"Okay, well, I didn't see anything on the computer earlier."

"I would imagine his files were deleted before it was given to you," said Jeremy.

"Can you still retrieve them?"


"Okay, get me onto the police computers and then see what you can do about the rest," Clark said, and Jeremy immediately resumed typing.


Clark silently studied the autopsy photos on the police computer. Although he'd investigated lots of homicides in the course of his career, he'd never seen anything like what he was looking at now. Every time he switched to the next picture, he had to fight the urge to vomit. Paul was definitely right. This was no typical mugging.

As Clark studied the photos, he was reminded of a quote from McBeth. "…he unseam'd him from the nave to the chops." The doctor didn't think Scardello'd died instantly, instead he'd bled to death. Now that in itself didn't mean it wasn't a mugging. After all, a mugger could have swung the knife, inflicting the injuries, and then abandoned him, leaving Scardello to bleed to death. But the lack of blood at the scene indicated that the place Scardello was attacked and the place where his body was found were different. Not only that, but there was no blood trail to the spot where his body was found — indicating that he hadn't managed to drag himself there.

There were other inconsistencies that troubled Clark. The first thing was the number of additional injuries to Scardello. His body was covered with bruises — he had everything from a black eye to a couple of broken ribs. He also had a number of lacerations on his back which the coroner suspected were made with a leather whip. The nature of the bruises and lacerations had caused the coroner to conclude that they were inflicted before Scardello was killed. The only rational explanation for that, in Clark's mind, was that Scardello had been tortured prior to death.

Clark also found something else that struck him as a little odd. The police detective who had originally been assigned this case, a young man named Detective Hendrickson, had been taken off the case after a couple of days to be replaced with a more seasoned investigator named Inspector Church. Given the nature of the case, Clark supposed that it could make sense to assign a more seasoned officer to investigate, except for a couple of things.

First of all, it appeared from the notes that Detective Hendrickson was doing an excellent job. He had interviews with a number of witnesses. He also had a list of potential leads that he intended to follow up on.

Then, when Inspector Church took over the investigation, he basically ignored all of Hendrickson's leads. Instead, he relied on the testimony of a single witness who came forward. The man claimed that he'd been walking by the alley where Scardello was found when he'd seen a man being stabbed. There was no indication in the file about why the man hadn't called the police at the time or even come forward until after Church had taken over the case.

Church had given the witness a police mug book. Within half an hour, he had his murderer — a man with an extensive record for drug offences. However, when he had gone to the address the parole office had for the alleged murderer, he found that the man had overdosed. Church immediately closed the investigation. It was all just a little too neat for Clark.

Clark found the criminal record for the alleged murderer. There was indeed an extensive record for drug offences, but nothing in his record indicated that the man had a propensity for violence. Clark thought about that for a long time. He had worked the courts for about a year when he first started working at the Planet. In his experience, just because a person had a problem with drugs didn't mean he or she was violent. Yet, Clark was certain Scardello's life had been taken by someone who, not only had a propensity for violence, but actually liked it.

Clark immediately wrote down the name and address of the witness who had claimed to see Scardello's death and then downloaded the police file onto a computer card before disconnecting from the police computers. He was just finishing up when Jeremy entered.

"Find anything?" he asked Jeremy.

"Yeah," said Jeremy, coming around and inserting a computer card. He called up the file he wanted and then proceeded to explain. "First, the building itself is owned by Damian Luthor. He is the original owner. He's the one who built it. However, a number of the condos themselves are owned by individuals — most of whom are senior staff at Damian Corp."

"What about 1240?"

"That one is held in trust for a woman named Lindsey Landon. The trust was set up for her on her nineteenth birthday. The cost of the condo is listed at two hundred and forty thousand credits."

"Wow! So she doesn't actually own it?"

Jeremy gave Clark a curious look before responding, "Women can't own property."

Clark shook his head slightly. He should have seen that one coming. He really needed to do more research into the position of women on Mars when he got a chance. "So who's the trustee? Luthor?"

Jeremy shook his head. "It's a man named Nathan Saint- Jean."

"Who's he?"

Jeremy smiled. "I figured you were going to ask that question so…" He pulled up another file. "Apparently he works for Damian Luthor — although I was unable to find out exactly what his position is. He doesn't seem to have an official title. But I did find this," he said, pointing to the computer.

Clark glanced through the document quickly, although not so quickly as to look suspicious. "Wow!" he finally exclaimed when he found what Jeremy had obviously already seen.

"Yeah, that was my first thought, too."

"He has a salary in the high seven figures," Clark continued.

"That's just his salary," said Jeremy. "Look at this. He's also receiving periodic bonuses that put his total well over nine figures."

Clark gave a low whistle.

"So what is the importance of this apartment?" asked Jeremy.

"I'm not sure, Jeremy," Clark said, hating the fact that he was once again fudging on the truth. In fact, Clark was certain about what it meant. It meant that Lindsey was living on Damian Luthor's nickle — Nathan Saint-Jean was just a cover. That meant that Damian Luthor was the one behind his 'date' with Lindsey. Hence, Damian Luthor was the one spying on him. "So were you able to find Scardello's files?"

Jeremy shook his head. "And I should have been able to. The steps the Daily Planet takes to wipe a computer shouldn't have completely destroyed the files — at least until you had managed to save information over top of the old files. But your computer is as clean as a baby's newborn."

"So what exactly are you saying?"

"I'm saying that any files Dale might have had on his computer are history. I called the company that services the Planet's computers to see if they had any information about what happened."


"Apparently, when they got the computer, it had some sort of virus. They tried to repair it, but…" Jeremy shrugged. "I guess they had to replace the entire chip."

"How could that have happened? Could it have been some sort of virus that came in over the internet?"

"Not likely. After all, if it had happened when Dale's computer was still hooked up to the Planet's network, the virus would likely have taken down all the computers."

"So then, if the computer company is telling the truth, Paul's right. Someone at the Planet is working for Luthor."

"That's certainly the way it looks. So what now?"

Clark glanced up at the clock. "It's getting late. I say we wrap it up for the evening. When you get a chance, though, I'd like you to see what you can find out about Luthor's finances. I'm going to try checking out a supposed witness to Dale Scardello's murder as well as the man thought to have murdered him. But then I'd like to see if we can follow the money trail."

Just then the door to the conference room opened. Jeremy immediately punched a button on the computer, causing the file they had been studying to disappear when he saw who had entered.

Clark looked curiously at the woman standing in the doorway. She was obviously dressed to go out to a party or something. Her dress, though certainly appropriate for a dinner party, also, in some indefinable way was somewhat… slutty.

"Can we help you?" asked Clark.

"I see you two haven't met," said Jeremy. "Clark, this is Katie Gregor. Kat, this is Clark Kent."

Kat immediately slunk into the room, coming over and offering Clark her hand in a way that was more indicative of someone that wanted her hand kissed than someone who was looking to have her hand shook. Clark, however, ignored the hint and did his best to simply shake her hand.

"Hel-lo," purred Kat and Clark was amazed how she seemed to be able to sound so incredibly suggestive by saying such an innocent word. "You must be the new tight end Paul hired," she continued, running her eyes over his body.

"It's nice to meet you, Ms. Gregor," Clark responded.

"Kat," Kat corrected, once again sounding very sensual.

"Kat," Clark repeated. "So what is it that you do for the paper?"

"She's the society columnist," Jeremy explained. "So what are you doing here? Don't you have a party or something to attend?"

"Just leaving," Kat said, her eyes never leaving Clark. "Well, Clark, we're going to have to get to know each other better another time. Perhaps over drinks."

"Maybe when I get settled in," Clark responded, every instinct in his body telling him to keep a wide berth when it came to this woman.

"It's a date," responded Kat, turning and making her way out of the conference room.

"Wow," whispered Jeremy, as if in complete awe.

Clark studied the young man for a moment before saying, "Do you think she could be Luthor's mole?"

"Why would you wonder that?" Jeremy asked, not quite ready to concede the possibility that the sensual woman who'd just been here was anything more than what she appeared to be.

"I don't know. But I don't trust her," Clark responded.

"You're beginning to sound like Paul," Jeremy said with a grin. "Don't trust anyone," Jeremy continued in his best Paul imitation.

Clark chuckled. "Okay, well let's get things cleared up here. We'll continue tomorrow."


Lindsey emerged from her apartment in sweats and a t-shirt and headed for the stairway.

"Climbing the stairs again, Lindsey?" asked a neighbor who was just entering his apartment.

"Got to stay in shape somehow," Lindsey responded with a smile before disappearing through the door. Once the door closed, she waited until she heard the neighbor head into his apartment before jogging up the stairs.

She'd been using this stairwell for years — ever since she first discovered that Damian didn't have cameras in here. At first, she'd just used it when she needed someplace private to have a good cry. She'd come in here and run up and down the stairs until thoroughly exhausted before collapsing in a heap, sobbing. That hadn't been necessary in recent years, however. Primarily because she no longer cried. In fact, until that day at the Lexor when Clark had 'rescued' her, she hadn't thought she still had any tears left in her.

However, that didn't make her need for the stairwell any less important now. In the past couple years, she'd found that the stairway had other advantages. She reached the door to the roof and slid it open. She shivered slightly as she made her way to a familiar vent, pulled it open and removed a plastic bag.

She took a seat and reached into the bag, pulling out a notebook and pen. She had considered using a palm computer, but didn't want to trust this information to a computer chip. It wasn't so much a fear of losing the information, but of not being able to destroy it if necessary. So instead, she kept her notations in this well-worn notebook. She opened the book to the next free page before writing the date and a brief note inside. Given how dark it was, she had to squint to get the information written. She hoped it would be legible in the light. Once she was finished, she closed the book, stuck it in the bag and put it back inside the vent.

She jogged up and down the stairs long enough to work up a good sweat before heading back to her apartment.


Clark's hands were full as he ascended the steps to his apartment. It would undoubtedly take him a few trips to bring up all the purchases he'd made this morning. There were a number of cans of paint, a color pallet so that they could mix their colors, paintbrushes, tarps, and a few other miscellaneous items needed for painting. As well, he'd purchased a few pots and pans, food, and some items he'd need for supper tonight as well as items he needed for the apartment. In particular, he was looking forward to having towels. 'Spin dry' had taken on a whole new meaning in recent days.

There had been one attempt to plant listening devices in his apartment, but since he'd gotten into the habit of sweeping his place the instant he entered, that hadn't been a problem. He wondered exactly what Luthor's men thought when their surveillance devices quit working so soon after being installed and all at once. He smiled slightly when he thought about their frustration at being unable to fulfill their assignment.

His research into Luthor was going nowhere fast. On the surface, all of Luthor's business transactions looked legitimate. Even Clark's attempt to find the alleged witness to Scardello's murder had ended in failure. It seemed the man had died in an automobile accident about a month ago. Clark tried to find friends and relatives of the accused man to interview. But even when he promised them anonymity, they'd refused to talk. Maybe it was just because he was a reporter that they distrusted him, but he got the distinct impression that it was something more. Still, if none of them would talk, it didn't really matter what the reasons were.

In spite of the problems with the investigation, it was Saturday and that meant he was going to see Lindsey this afternoon — in about an hour, in fact. And so, if he were asked to describe his mood, he would have said he was happy.

While whistling, he bounded up the stairs with his first load. He rounded the corner and stopped dead in his tracks, his whistle dying on his lips, when he saw who was on the stairway in front of him.

"Lindsey?" he asked. "I didn't think you were coming 'til this afternoon."

Lindsey glanced at her watch. "I know I'm a little early, but…" She held up a bag from a bakery. "…I brought lunch."

Clark smiled. "Anyone bearing food is always welcome. But why didn't you go in and make yourself at home?" he asked.

He glanced at the expression on her face before seeming to realize what he'd said wrong. "Or did I lock the door again?" he asked, immediately trying to cover for his mistake. However, the small slip was probably a good thing. It reminded him that they weren't alone — something it seemed Lindsey wasn't about to forget.

"You locked the door," Lindsey confirmed, rising to her feet from where she was sitting on the top step.

"It's a nasty habit," said Clark with a grin. "That's funny though. Given the amount of stuff I knew I'd be bringing back, I really thought I'd left it unlocked today."

"I assume you mean more than that," said Lindsey, gesturing to the bags he was carrying and following him into his apartment.

"I have more stuff down… What?" he asked, seeing the amazed expression on Lindsey's face.

"Nothing," she responded. "It's just… It sure looks different without two inches of dirt covering everything."

Clark laughed. "Didn't I tell you?"


"To look at the potential."

She grinned.

"I'll just be a minute," said Clark, setting down the bags he was carrying and heading back down the stairs at a jog. It took him several trips before he had everything in his apartment. When he finally closed the door he noted that Lindsey had taken off her coat and was already looking through cupboards.

"What are you looking for?" he asked.

"Something to put the sandwiches on," she replied, opening another empty cupboard.

"Just a sec," said Clark, fishing through one of the bags he'd brought in. He pulled out a set of eight cheap, plastic plates.

"You went all out, I see," said Lindsey with a grin, taking the plates from him and ripping open the cellophane.

Clark laughed. "So, I see you've just come over to watch me paint," he said, taking off his jacket and placing it on the counter. He took great care to ensure that it was lying across Lindsey's purse. He picked up her coat, placing it on top of the pile. He met her eyes then, silently asking for some sign of approval for what he wanted to do.


Lindsey nibbled on her lower lip as she looked at the pile of coats under which her purse was buried. She knew what he was asking. He obviously wanted to get rid of prying ears. With the coats on top of her purse, although they still wouldn't be able to talk freely, if they kept their voices low, Damian's men weren't likely to be able to listen in. There was part of her that wanted desperately to leave the purse where it was. However…

Without looking at Clark, she went over to the pile and took her purse out, carefully laying it on top. She could see in her peripheral vision that Clark's shoulders slumped slightly before he picked up their sandwiches and headed into the living room. She stood in silence for a moment before following.

Last night she'd worked everything out. She knew that Damian's men hadn't been able to get any listening devices in the apartment — or at least none that worked. If Clark wasn't investigating Damian, or even if he was but didn't say anything that incriminated him, then maybe Damian would eventually decide that Clark wasn't a threat and leave him alone. Of course, that meant that she'd never see him again either, but anything was better than having to watch him die.

However, in order to ensure that nothing was said or done to provoke Damian, she would have to be very careful. That meant from now on, she wasn't going to say or do or let Clark say or do anything that she'd have to keep secret from Damian. No more coded messages. No more silent gestures. And, above all else, no communication about the fact they were being listened to — unless it looked as if Clark had forgotten, of course. The less they did that she couldn't tell Damian, the less chance that she'd screw-up and the greater the chance that Clark would survive Damian's scrutiny.

The problem was that as she watched Clark dig out a blanket he'd purchased and spread it on the floor, and then watched as he pulled out a couple of wine glasses and a bottle of wine, all the careful planning and calculations of last night seemed so far away. She didn't see a corkscrew, but he must have had one, because soon he was pouring some wine into the glasses and setting them down on the blanket beside the sandwiches.

"Lunch is served, my lady," he said, his voice carefully neutral.

She'd hurt him. She had been trying to protect him, but… Suddenly, all the reasons she should simply do as he was doing, trying to pretend that nothing had happened in the past couple of minutes, faded to nothing. A small noise came from the back of her throat as she suddenly reached out and grabbed his arm, directing his gaze to her for the first time since she'd moved her purse.

"I'm sorry," she breathed so softly that she figured he would basically have to read her lips. "I have no choice."

He must have understood because his expression immediately softened and his hand came up to her face. He ran one finger lightly down her cheek before saying, "Well, are we going to eat or are we going to let it get cold?"

She chuckled slightly — she'd only brought sandwiches after all — and took a seat to enjoy their makeshift picnic.

"So what makes you think I'm just here to watch?" she asked, taking a bite of her sandwich. "Don't you think I'm good enough to help you paint your apartment?"

"It's just…" he began, running his eyes over her attire while using a paper napkin to wipe the mayonnaise off his lips.

She glanced down at herself. "What's wrong with my clothes?" she demanded.

"Nothing," he said, looking at her new jeans and designer t-shirt. "That's just the problem. Fortunately, I did consider the possibility that you wouldn't know how to dress for painting," he said smugly.

She reached out and swatted his arm before taking another bite of her sandwich. Then she watched as he stuffed the remainder of his sandwich in his mouth and leaned back to grab one of the bags he'd brought in earlier. He rustled around in it for a moment before pulling out a couple items of clothing and tossing them to her.

"I think those might fit," he said.

She glanced down at the old sweatshirt and ratty jeans before saying, "I can't wear these. Look at these jeans. They even have holes in them." She put her hand inside the jeans and stuck her finger out a hole in the thigh to emphasize her point.

"I know," he said.

"But I'll look ugly."

"I don't think that's possible," he murmured.

She glanced up at him then and their eyes met for a moment before she looked away. How was it that the smallest compliment from him could cause her heart to skip a beat? Maybe it was just that he sounded so sincere.

"Where did you get them?" she asked, looking back at the clothes.

"When I was out shopping for…" He gestured to the bags on the floor. "Anyway, I was down near St. Jude's Church. A couple of the priests were struggling to get a soccer net up and…"

"You went over and volunteered to help?" she asked.

"Umm… yeah," he said cautiously. "How did you know?"

She rolled her eyes. In the week she'd known him, he'd rescued two women he didn't even know — her and the woman protestor. It didn't take a genius to figure out what he'd do if he saw a couple of priests having problems with a soccer net. "I think I'm finally figuring you out," she responded. "So anyway, you went over to help and…?"

"Well, we got talking. When I told them I'd just arrived from Earth and that I was painting my apartment today, they realized I probably hadn't brought any old clothes. So they let me grab a few things they had around there. I got some that are just as bad for me," he added, trying to be helpful.

"It's not the same thing," she muttered, picking up her wine glass and taking a sip before rising to her feet.

"Well, I guess if I'm going to try these on…" She glanced around. "Where's the washroom?"

Lindsey stepped out of the washroom a couple of minutes later, really not sure about the clothes. She was surprised to see that Clark had already managed to change and was in the process of laying tarps on the floor. He was bent over, trying to fix a corner of the tarp, with his back to her. She couldn't help herself. Her eyes drifted over his derriere to the small tear on the back of his old jeans just at the top of his leg. She drew in a sharp breath. He must have heard her because he turned around. However, she was already looking away by the time his gaze landed on her — at least, she hoped he hadn't seen where she'd been looking.

Her peripheral vision told her that he was looking her over so she looked back at him. "What?" she demanded.

"Nothing," he said immediately. "It's just…" He glanced at her attire again. The oversized sweatshirt hung over her hands. She began rolling up the sleeves self-consciously. The well worn jeans fit her just right. Clark even found the rips in them seemed somewhat sexy.

"I look ridiculous, don't I," she said.

"You look beautiful," he whispered. Then it was his turn to feel self-conscious. He cleared his throat. "Well, come on," he said, rising to his feet. "Time to fight about paint colors."

"You mean you're going to give me some input into what colors we paint your apartment?" she asked. No one ever asked her opinion about anything — especially something that seemed so personal.

"Of course," Clark responded. "After all, I don't want you complaining afterwards that you never really liked that color, or that it doesn't go with the couch, or… Ouch," he concluded when she came over and swatted him, before heading past him into the kitchen to locate the color pallet she'd seen there earlier.


Clark stepped out of the shower and smiled as he looked at the fresh, soft-blue coating of paint that now covered his bathroom wall. He'd kept his shower very short and slightly cool to minimize the amount of moisture, but after they'd finished painting, he'd desperately needed to wash — especially since Lindsey had decided to discover whether or not he looked good in green. His smile widened as he thought about the way Lindsey had laughed when he'd croaked out the first few lines of the archaic children's song, 'It's Not Easy Being Green.'

The furniture had arrived. It was, of course, sitting carefully away from the walls to ensure that it didn't get paint on it. And supper had been eaten and enjoyed by both participants.

It had been, in Clark's mind, the perfect day. It hadn't taken long for him and Lindsey to fall into a comfortable banter. Any periods of silence between them were not awkward because they had something with which to occupy themselves. The only suggestion Lindsey had made that had been vetoed was when she suggested painting the bedroom bright pink. That suggestion had received an immediate and animated 'No!' She had laughed and then tried to give him all the reasons why he should agree — most of which seemed to center around the idea that he needed to get in touch with his feminine side.

At one point during the afternoon, Lindsey had gone to her purse and taken something out. Raising a finger to her lips, she got Clark's attention. She allowed him to see what she was holding before sticking the listening device under the edge of his kitchen counter. He'd smiled, given her cheek a playful touch with the back of his hand and then walked away. He'd deal with that small inconvenience later — after it was clear to Luthor that she'd done what she was expected to do.

Clark thought about Luthor as he finished drying off and began dressing. Lindsey had told him that she was Damian Luthor's social secretary. However, the way she'd been unable to meet his eyes when she'd said it told Clark that it was a lie — but a lie he would have a hard time proving if he ever had to. It was probably the cover she used when she didn't want people to know that she was Luthor's mistress. During the course of the day, Clark had become more and more convinced that that was the relationship, but he didn't ask.

He suspected that at least part of the reason he wasn't asking was that he really didn't want to know any more than he had to about Lindsey's relationship with Luthor. As long as it was unspoken, he could maintain the illusion that she was here now because she really wanted to be.

She had, on occasion, made it difficult for Clark to ignore the real reason she was here by asking questions about his job. However, Clark simply refused to think too deeply about her motivation, giving her details on everything he'd done that week. At least she'd learned what he was doing with his days — the official version, although he certainly added extra human touches to the stories. She'd commented that she'd always thought being a reporter would be fun. Clark was fairly certain that she really meant that particular comment.

He slid open the washroom door, but didn't come out. Instead, his eyes caught sight of something that took his breath away and riveted his feet to the ground, making him unwilling to move lest the image should fade.

Lindsey was sitting on their couch. Her long hair was slightly tousled. She'd taken off the large sweatshirt and was now wearing a very revealing, low-cut, white tank top which she must have had on under the custom t-shirt she'd been in when she arrived. From the angle at which she was sitting, although he couldn't be sure, he suspected that it was also backless.

She'd obviously changed her top, but she was still wearing her painting jeans. Clark was amazed at how she'd kept the jeans basically paint free considering the amount of paint she'd managed to get on her sweatshirt. Her arm was resting across the back of the couch and she was sitting just beside the worn spot where they'd sat together earlier this week. It seemed that she had sat down and looked at the worn spot on the couch, but then her mind had drifted.

And it was that that captivated Clark. Lindsey was obviously lost in thought. And whatever she was thinking about… Clark didn't think he'd ever seen such sadness on another person's face. He was amazed at how someone could look so sexy and so sad at the same time. Suddenly, he felt as if he was invading her privacy. He cleared his throat.

Lindsey jumped and looked up, immediately hiding the expression that had been on her face only moments before. Clark wasn't sure whether seeing her pain or seeing her trying to hide her pain hurt more. He made his way over to where she was sitting and, placing his hand beside her arm on the couch, leaned over until his lips were beside her ear. She tensed, but didn't move away.

"You don't have to hide from me, Lindsey," he whispered. When she didn't respond, he continued, "Let me help."

"You can't," she whispered back. "And please don't try."

He pulled back before sitting down on the couch in front of her, turning so that he could look into her eyes. She quickly broke eye contact. But it was only a moment before her eyes came back to his face. Although still not willing to look him in the eye, she ran her eyes slowly over his face and then followed them with her hand. Clark sat perfectly still and, if it hadn't been for his increasingly labored breathing, the casual observer might have thought he was indifferent to Lindsey's touch.

Her hand ran slowly down his cheek before tracing his jaw line. It was almost as if she were blind and trying to see his face through her fingers. His breathing suddenly went from irregular to almost non-existent as the pad of her thumb gently brushed across his lips and her unoccupied hand came to rest on his upper thigh. He felt the pressure on his thigh increase as she began to lean towards him.

It took every ounce of self-control Clark possessed, but his hands came up to her shoulders, gently but firmly stopping her from doing what he was certain she was about to do. Her eyes left his lips, coming up to search his eyes for the answer to the unspoken question. He leaned over to once again whisper in her ear.

"Don't do this unless you mean it," he begged before pulling back.


Lindsey immediately began leaning in again before suddenly stopping. Did she mean it? She knew she wanted to kiss him, to be kissed by him, to know if the electricity that had happened the last time he'd kissed her was real or if it was just a product of years of yearning for… something. She wasn't entirely sure what. But she was also fairly certain that wasn't what Clark meant by his comment.

Did she mean it? How could she? She wasn't free to mean it. Besides, even if she were free, she doubted she'd ever be able to really mean it. Her soul was simply too damaged. Besides, she was becoming convinced that Clark was a good man. He deserved the best, and that definitely left her out of the picture.

She pulled back before quickly getting up off the couch.

"It's getting late," she said softly, unable to meet his eyes.

"Yeah," he responded, just a touch of sadness in his voice.

She got her coat and walked to the door. He followed silently, hands shoved in his pockets. When she arrived at the door, she slipped into her coat and turned back to him.

"Thank you, Clark. I can't remember when I've enjoyed myself more," she said, being sure to maintain eye contact as she spoke, desperate for him to know that she really meant it.

He smiled. "Can you get home all right?" he asked. "Please say no," he mouthed.

She smiled, too. "I'll be fine, Clark," she said, her hand coming up to lightly stroke his cheek.

"Can we get together again?" he asked.

"Call me," she said softly. She couldn't give him an answer to that question without getting the appropriate instructions. The sad smile he gave her in response confirmed that he understood the implications of her answer.

"Good-night, Lindsey," he said. Then he surprised her by leaning over and gently kissing her on the cheek.

"Good-night," Lindsey responded before forcing herself to turn around and head down the stairs.


Martha sat down on the couch with the brown envelope in her hands. She'd read the contents when she'd first received it, but wanted to take one more look. She withdrew the single sheet of paper and began reading.

Clark Kent was certainly eloquent when he put pen to paper. And the real story was remarkable at getting the message across. It really was no wonder so much of this story hadn't made it past the censors. He would certainly be an asset to the underground.

Still, before they brought Clark in, they had to be absolutely certain. And right now, she couldn't say that she was. She had to admit that there was something in her gut that told her he was one of the good-guys. But it wasn't just her life she'd be risking. No. It was too soon.

Still… She glanced through the article again. At least this could do some good. She would make sure it got published in the underground paper as soon as possible.




Lindsey's hand trembled as she poured herself a cup of coffee. The day had finally come. It was the day she'd known was coming since her first date with Clark. It was the day when she was finally, irreversibly going to have her heart broken. She took a seat at the table and raised the cup to her lips. She jerked when the hot liquid burned her tongue. She felt tears come to her eyes, but was unsure if it was the pain in her tongue or the pain in her heart that was causing them.

As she cautiously took another sip, she thought back over the past number of weeks — weeks during which she'd been seeing Clark on a regular basis. Lately, he'd even started calling her after curfew most evenings, just to say goodnight.

At first, Lindsey had been surprised by how adamant Damian was that she continue to see Clark. After all, Clark might be a good reporter, he might even have taken over Dale Scardello's job, but there was still no reason to believe he had any incriminating information on Damian. As a result, Lindsey was baffled that Damian would bother with Clark. Normally, Damian reserved her time to compromise leaders in the government or influence powerful corporation heads. There had even been a few occasions where she had been thrown in as a bonus when a multimillion credit contract was signed. So why was Damian having her waste her time on someone as insignificant as Clark?

Damian had even gone so far as to insist that she spend most nights back at her own apartment — just in case Clark called. She couldn't even begin to express how grateful she was to Clark for that. Having sex with Damian was bad enough. Having to spend the night with him afterwards was devastating. One of the worst parts was how dark he insisted on keeping his room. She suspected that he often made her stay simply because he knew how much she hated the dark. She never should have told him — after all, it had only given him one more thing to use against her. Thus, the fact that Damian was sending her back to her apartment at night was a wonderful side effect to Clark's nightly calls. Still, why Damian was doing all this because of Clark Kent had been somewhat confusing.

It wasn't until one evening about three weeks after she'd begun seeing Clark that Lindsey had finally understood — at least partially. She couldn't remember now what had provoked it, but for the first time since she'd known Damian, she had seen him completely lose his cool. His rant continued for a long time and had been terrifying, but when it ended, Lindsey understood two things. First, whether or not it was true, Damian was convinced that the only one who could destroy a Luthor was a Kent — something about the Kents being the Luthor family curse. Second, she realized that Damian was honestly afraid of Clark Kent. Until that moment, Lindsey would have sworn Damian didn't know fear.

So, as a result of his paranoia, Damian had insisted that Lindsey stay close to Clark. Not that Clark had always made that particularly easy. It was during their third date that Clark had first tried to end their relationship — not in so many words, of course, since they had unwanted ears listening in. But she'd realized what he was doing. He knew, as she did, that they were playing with fire. So, he'd let her know that he wasn't planning to call again, but that if she ever needed him, he'd always be there for her. It had hurt. After all, she was enjoying the time she was spending with Clark more than she'd enjoyed anything in years. But Lindsey had known he was right and since she couldn't end it, had even been somewhat grateful. That didn't mean that she hadn't buried her head under the covers that night and silently cried herself to sleep. She shook her head slightly. That had been the moment when she had realized she still knew how to honestly cry.

But then the next day came. When the phone rang, she really hadn't expected it to be Clark. She picked up and instantly recognized the haunted look in his eyes — it matched the haunted feeling in her heart. He looked as if he hadn't slept at all and he definitely hadn't shaved. His hair was disheveled in a way that made him look absolutely adorable. When he asked her out this time, it sounded more like an apology than a request. She'd wished so badly that she could reach out, wrap her arms around him and tell him it was okay, that she understood, but all she'd been able to do was say 'Yes.'

Still, it wasn't as if they had a real relationship. Or was it? Clark had made it clear following their second date that he didn't want them to pursue a physical relationship, but there was definitely something real happening between them. Even so, the only time they had any real physical contact was when they would curl up on the couch together to watch television or a movie.

Her mind took her back to the first time they'd watched a movie at his place. She'd made her way over to the couch, sitting down on the well-worn side, as he punched the number of the movie they had decided on into the entertainment center in the wall. She hardly heard him explaining that the voice activation device on the television no longer worked, her mind being consumed with what the seating arrangements might be as they watched the movie.

She couldn't believe how disappointed she'd been when he'd sat down, not next to her, but on the other end of the couch. But then he'd placed his arm across the back of the couch, allowing his fingers to lightly brush against her shoulder. When she turned and looked at him, he'd glanced down at the spot on the couch beside him, silently asking if she wanted to join him. She hadn't thought twice. As if some power beyond her own free will were in control, she scampered across the couch almost immediately. She closed her eyes when he brought his arm down to wrap it around her waist, pulling her gently closer until she was resting against his chest. Then she'd felt him breathe something in her ear.

"We need to wear out our own side," he'd said, causing her to smile. Since that night, they'd watched many movies from exactly the same position. In fact, Lindsey sometimes suspected that he was less interested in the movies than he was in wearing out their side of the couch.

Still, other than those occasions, he hadn't pursued a physical relationship. And since their first date, he'd never again kissed her on the lips. The first time Clark had walked her to the door of her apartment, she'd been concerned. After all, Damian knew about their first kiss. It would seem somewhat suspicious if Clark didn't kiss her this time. And since Damian had cameras in the hall… But Clark seemed to have a sixth sense when it came to cameras. When they'd arrived at the door, he'd placed his back to the hidden camera and then leaned in and breathed into her ear, "I suppose we're expected to kiss goodnight." But then, instead of actually kissing her, he'd wrapped his arms around her and, using his back to obstruct the camera's view, had simply leaned in, closed his eyes, and touched his forehead to hers. When he'd sighed, a shiver had rippled through every atom of Lindsey's body.

After a couple of weeks, Clark had told her that he was having his place swept regularly for surveillance devices. At first, considering that she still had the bug in her purse, she'd thought he'd lost his mind. But then he'd continued. He'd told her that he found such a device shortly after he first moved in. He shrugged, conceding that it had probably been there long before he rented the place since, when he found it, it hadn't worked. However, rather than taking a risk, he'd made arrangements to have his place swept for bugs on a regular basis. She hadn't realized the significance of what he'd done until Damian told her that in light of the new information, he was giving up the idea of bugging Clark's apartment. Since then, they'd only had the single device in her purse — which meant that, unlike her place, his place didn't have any cameras.

Lindsey often made use of this information, especially after Damian had noticed that, other than kissing her goodnight, their physical relationship didn't seem to be going anywhere. She smiled slightly when she remembered the look on Clark's face the first time she'd decided to make it seem that they were taking things further. They'd been curled up, like always, on their spot on the couch when Lindsey had suddenly moaned.

"Oh, Clark," she whispered.

He'd glanced over at her curiously.

She'd winked at him and then continued.

"We really shouldn't be doing this," she said on a second moan.

He glanced around as if trying to figure out exactly what they shouldn't be doing. Suddenly, a new look settled on his face as he pieced together what she was doing.

"Come on, Lindsey," he said, sounding somewhat breathless as he fought back a laugh. "How long do you expect a poor guy to wait?"

She'd turned more fully in his arms, burying her face in his shoulder to stifle a giggle. She took a moment to get control of herself before responding.

"I'm just not ready," she finally said, before once again burying her face in his shoulder.

She could feel his body shaking as he, too, fought a laugh. Then his head came down until his mouth was beside her ear. "You're a brat," he breathed.

"And you love it," she breathed back.

"If you only knew," he responded. Only this time, since he'd moved his mouth away from her ear, Lindsey suspected that he hadn't meant for her to hear his words. She swallowed hard, before wrapping her arms around his waist and burying her head back in his shoulder. She felt him run his hand through her hair before leaning over to lightly kiss the top of her head. The moment had been as painful as it had been sweet.

Her intake of flex had increased dramatically since then — as she'd realized that today would come; the day when she would break not only her heart, but his. At first, she'd been able to tell herself that, since he knew she was going out with him at Damian's instructions, he was probably using her to get to Damian. The problem was that he seldom mentioned Damian's name, made only perfunctory inquiries about her 'job' and never dug for information about Damian's affairs. That had led to the realization that he was seeing her because he liked her. She closed her eyes. If only…

She swallowed past the painful lump in her throat as her thoughts drifted back to her discussion with Damian earlier in the day.

"Nothing!" Damian had fumed. "It's been nine weeks and still we don't have anything we can use to confirm that Kent is investigating me. We don't even have anything that we can use to control him. He must have some skeletons in his closet. So why haven't you found out about them yet?"

"Look, Damian, I'm sure the only reason that I'm not getting anything is because there's nothing to get. Why don't you just give up this idea that Clark Kent is on Mars to destroy you."

"Because he is. That's what Kents do. He just doesn't trust you enough to tell you what he's planning. Have you done anything that would make him doubt you?"

"Of course not!" Lindsey had replied emphatically. "I just haven't found out anything because there's nothing to find."

"Then what do you have to say about this?" he'd asked, before walking over to his desk and opening a drawer. Pulling something out, he'd thrown it down on the desk in front of her.

She'd immediately recognized it as a copy of the underground paper. The headline on the top story was, 'Military Terrified of Women Protestors.' There was an article underneath, but no indication of who the author was. She'd glanced quickly through the article, impressed by the author's insight and writing style — not to mention the content. For an underground paper, it was a good article — something worthy of publication in the Daily Planet. If such a thing were allowed, of course.

"So?" she'd asked, looking back at Damian.

"So your boyfriend wrote that," Damian replied.

Lindsey had glanced back at the paper, thinking that she must have missed something. Still, there was no indication who the author was.

"Don't be ridiculous, Damian," she'd said after a moment, trying to fight the sinking feeling in her stomach. It sounded a bit like other stories Clark had written for the Planet. And the content sounded just like something Clark would write. But surely he knew better than to write something like that.

"Ridiculous, huh," Damian had replied disdainfully. "Nathan found out that this article was submitted by Kent to the Daily Planet for publication. Obviously, the Daily Planet wouldn't consider publishing such rubbish."

'More likely, the censors wouldn't allow it,' Lindsey had thought, but unlike Clark, years of hard experience had taught her how to keep her opinions to herself.

"So tell me, why didn't you know about this? It's obvious your boyfriend still doesn't completely trust you," Damian had concluded.

That was when he'd issued the order she was dreading. Damian's solution was for her to have sex with Clark. She'd tried to object, but what was there to say? It wasn't as if she could now claim that he'd only kissed her once or that the noisy fumblings on the couch weren't what they sounded like — that Clark wasn't really pushing her to take things further.

"Damian, I don't think this is a good idea," she'd said slowly, desperately trying to think of an excuse.

"Oh, you don't, do you?" he'd replied, sounding somewhat amused that she'd think he'd be interested in her opinion.

"It's just… Clark is sort of old-fashioned. He might not take kindly to a woman taking the lead." It wasn't much, but it was the best she could do on the spur of the moment. In fact, when she thought about it now, she still couldn't come up with anything better.

"I think you can change his mind, my dear," he said, slowly sweeping his eyes over her body. She'd swallowed hard; sometimes it really felt as if Damian had x-ray vision.

The problem was that she wasn't sure in this case her physical appearance would be enough. She was fairly confident that Clark was attracted to her, but he was also the one who had set the boundaries on their physical relationship. Not that she would have slept with him without Damian's specific instructions. But Clark had never even made that an issue. Well, she'd told Damian her concerns about this plan of action — giving her an excuse if Clark responded the way she suspected he would.

She had initially thought that maybe there was another solution. If there was some way for her to let Clark know the situation, perhaps they could fake it. Maybe they could even have fun with it — making all the appropriate noises while doing something else — maybe playing scrabble or something.

But that idea was short lived. Given the perverse pleasure Damian derived from watching her with other men, he insisted that she bring Clark to her apartment. After all, he'd explained, there were no cameras at Clark's.

Still, there had been no choice. She'd called Clark, inviting him to her place for supper. He had looked a little confused when he accepted. After all, since her apartment had cameras, they had basically done what they could to avoid her apartment whenever possible. And she'd never before offered to do the cooking. At his place, he'd always taken the lead, assigning her easier tasks. Although he'd never mentioned it, she suspected that he'd guessed the truth that she couldn't cook. Not that it would particularly matter tonight. Damian had told her to have it catered. He had told her who to call and what to order. He'd even insisted that she wear the red, backless dress that he liked — even though she personally hated it. He had mapped out her every move, giving her very little room to maneuver and no chance to tell Clark what was going on. And if it had been anyone but Clark, she'd have simply followed the plan, not allowing her heart to participate in the encounter. But this was Clark, and no matter which way this went tonight, she was about to lose the best friend she'd ever had.

And he was her best friend. So much between them was unspoken, but no less real because of it. She thought about the day he'd made one discovery in particular about her past. They'd been curled up on the couch as usual when she'd felt him raise her hand before lightly kissing the inside of her wrist. She'd glanced over at him before it sank in what he'd discovered. Although they had faded, the scars on her wrist were still fairly obvious. She'd immediately tried to get her hand back, but he'd held on to it, once again raising it to his lips. He never asked the question, but she realized he already knew the answer. She watched his face, expecting some sign that he thought less of her for being weak, instead she'd seen such tenderness.

Now… after tonight, she was going to lose him forever and there was nothing she could do to stop it.


Clark's thoughts drifted as he sat in the meeting, listening to stories being assigned and discussed. He really had to end his relationship or… well, whatever it was, with Lindsey. There were just too many good reasons to do so. In fact, he couldn't think of one good reason for continuing it — unless you counted the fact that he felt as if he couldn't breathe when she was out of his sight, or the fact that his entire body seemed to come alive when she as much as smiled at him, or the fact that… No! He had to quit finding ways to justify the relationship.

He still wasn't certain what Lindsey's relationship was to Luthor. He reminded himself again that he needed to do a little more research into women's rights on Mars. Lindsey had told him that she was Luthor's social secretary. He supposed that was possible. After all… His eyes drifted to Kat who immediately blew him a kiss. Kat worked for the Daily Planet as did a lot of other women. Still, the relationship between Luthor and Lindsey seemed much more personal.

He knew her place was bugged. He also knew about the cameras that seemed to cover every inch of her apartment. The amount of equipment made it impossible for Clark's sensitive hearing not to pick up and be constantly aware of the soft hum that was always present. Once he'd realized what the sound was, he'd used his x-ray vison to search for surveillance devices. He had even found a camera in her washroom, giving whomever was on the other side of that camera a clear view of Lindsey while she showered. It had made Clark feel slightly ill.

Clark was almost certain Lindsey hated the cameras as much as he did. She seemed as anxious as he was to avoid her apartment. And given the number of excuses she'd come up with to shower at his place over the past few weeks, he was equally certain that Lindsey was even aware of the camera in her shower.

He'd tried to convince Lindsey to leave Luthor. He'd even offered to help her do it. Even so, every time he even hinted at the idea, she would immediately change the subject. For whatever reason, she didn't want to get away from Luthor. And if that was the case… He really had to end his relationship or… well, whatever it was, with Lindsey.

He shook his head slightly. He didn't think there had been a day since their first 'date' that he hadn't been telling himself the exact same thing. In the light of day, it was easy to tell himself that he had to end it. Then night would come and it seemed as if it just got harder to stay away. She touched him. It wasn't something that he could put his finger on and since they were very limited in what they could discuss, he couldn't say for sure that she felt it, too, but it seemed to hold him to her like no one and nothing else could.

He glanced at Paul who was in another animated argument with Roland over one of Roland's hair-brained ideas for a story. Clark knew that Paul suspected that something was going on. If Luthor's objective was to distract him from his investigation, he was succeeding beyond his wildest expectations. Clark's evenings were being taken up with his phoney relationship with Lindsey. Even when he didn't see her, he spent most of his time thinking about her, making it almost impossible to concentrate on either the investigation of Luthor or doing some more research into the socio-political situation on Mars, particularly in respect to women.

There were times when he had tried to tell himself that he was just seeing Lindsey because he wanted to know where Luthor was taking this — spying on Luthor through Luthor's spy. But he'd never been able to follow through. There were two reasons for that. First, he sensed that Lindsey had been used enough in her life. He didn't want to be just another man who used her. Besides, there was a second, very good reason not to use Lindsey to get to Luthor. Quite simply, Clark was terrified for her. If Luthor really was the one behind Scardello's death, there was no telling what he might do to Lindsey if he thought she had betrayed him.

Although his time with Lindsey had certainly cut into his job that didn't mean he hadn't done anything in his investigation of Luthor. He was still carefully reviewing all of Luthor's financial records. But so far there wasn't anything even the tax man would be interested in. He'd also followed up on everything Hendrickson had listed as potential leads, but again hadn't found anything to incriminate Luthor. He had considered contacting Hendrickson, but the less people who knew what he was doing, the better.

That included Lindsey. He'd been very careful on that score. At least, he hoped he had. However, it was getting increasingly difficult not to let something slip. This was especially difficult given the interest she showed whenever he talked about his job — although he couldn't honestly say if it was because she was really interested or if she was fishing for Luthor. It was only a matter of time before he unwittingly said something he couldn't take back.

This was crazy. He had to end it. He didn't even know how Lindsey felt about him. For all he knew, she and Luthor would lie in bed together at night, laughing about the poor sap who was so completely smitten with her that he couldn't see straight. After all, she was still with Luthor. If she really wanted a relationship with him… He snorted. He'd come full circle.

"You got something to say, Kent?" growled Paul.

Clark blinked a couple of times.

"No," Clark responded. "I was just thinking."

"Anything you'd like to share with the rest of the class?"

"No, sir."

As Paul turned back to Eduardo, Clark's mind once again drifted. At least he hadn't pursued a physical relationship with Lindsey. Part of the reason was that he hoped that by not pursuing that type of relationship, he could become her friend — getting her to trust him enough to let him help. The scars on her wrist had convinced him that she needed help. He might long to pull her into his arms, to discover the secrets of her lips and body. But he wanted something even more than he wanted her body. He wanted, desperately wanted, her heart.

Besides, there was a part of Clark that really didn't want to know how far Lindsey would go to please Luthor. And if she was willing to sleep with him because Luthor wanted her to, how many other men… He cut that thought off immediately.

Even though he hadn't pursued a physical relationship with Lindsey, he still couldn't quite bring himself to abstain from all physical contact. Curling up on the couch to watch a movie… It wasn't even as if his television was very good. It came with the apartment, built, as most were these days, right into the wall. But it was small and the picture was slightly distorted. The three-dimensional and voice activation features no longer worked. Yet, Lindsey seemed to enjoy it as much as he did. Besides, the television provided an additional distraction for the people who were always listening in. The position also made it easy for him to whisper in her ear and she seemed to have learned that she could simply whisper back and he'd hear her. Not that they'd dared long conversations that way, but it was one of the few times he suspected he could believe what she told him.

His mind drifted back to the first movie they'd watched together. He'd been unable to resist. That was the first time since their first date that he'd broached the topic of her relationship with Luthor. He'd leaned over and whispered two words into her ear. "Leave him." When she said nothing, he continued. "I'll help you." It had felt as if she'd slapped him across the face when she immediately changed the subject — making some irrelevant comment about the movie, loud enough for anyone listening in to overhear. He'd tried several more times over the subsequent weeks. Every time she'd responded in much the same fashion.

He knew he should quit seeing her. He'd tried to break it off several times. The problem was that when he was in her presence, he wanted it to go on forever and when he wasn't, he could hardly wait to see her again. He didn't know how long he could…


Clark blinked.

"Kent!" the voice repeated much more loudly, finally penetrating Clark's brain. He looked at the speaker and flinched.

"Yes, sir?" he asked his boss.

"Nice to have you back. So, did you hear anything I said or do I have to repeat it?"

Color rose in Clark's cheeks. "Could you repeat it?" he asked sheepishly.

"I said that Senator Drake is holding a press conference today, something to do with Bill E-123, and I want you there to cover it."

"Yes, sir," Clark replied.


Paul was deep in thought as he walked back into his office. He'd been so sure that Clark was the right man for this job. Now… well, now he just wasn't sure. Clark was certainly competent enough. He'd covered every story Paul had given him with professionalism. But something was definitely distracting him. He'd asked Clark a few times about the investigation into Luthor and each time he received a very evasive answer.

But that wasn't exactly surprising. After all, he'd certainly noticed how many times Clark had been gone as soon as work was over. He didn't seem to be putting the time into the investigation of Luthor that Paul had expected. Even when he was here, he wasn't totally here. The incident during the story meeting only served to illustrate the point. Then there were the rapid changes in Clark's mood. At times he seemed to have one foot in heaven; at other times, he seemed to have taken up residence in hell. Today he had definitely been in hell.

As Paul sank back into his chair, he wondered if he should talk to Clark. He couldn't believe that he could possibly be so wrong in his assessment of the man. That could only mean that something was seriously wrong.


As Clark stood with the other reporters waiting for Senator Drake to begin the press conference, he thought about Mandy. She had left several messages for him during the first couple of weeks after they'd met. He flinched as he remembered that he hadn't even read most of them. He'd been so preoccupied with Lindsey. Still, he really should have called her back and told her that he wasn't interested rather than just ignoring her. He rebuked himself for being such a wimp when it came to women. One he couldn't seem to bring himself to let go of and the other he couldn't seem to bring himself to talk to.

He pushed the thought aside as the Senator stepped up to the microphone. Clark had not seen the Senator since the night of Luthor's reception for the American Ambassador. The man looked as if he'd aged ten years during those few short weeks. Clark couldn't muster a lot of sympathy for the Senator — given how they'd first met, or not met as the case may be. However, he was curious. He glanced to the Senator's side and saw Mandy standing there. She looked almost as ashen as her father.

Clark briefly wondered why Mandy was here, but then he remembered something she'd said to him while they'd danced. She was working as the Senator's aid. Clark brushed all of these stray thoughts aside as the Senator began to speak.

"Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press," the Senator began. "After months of trying to gain support for Bill E-123, I finally have to concede that the support isn't there. As a result, I am withdrawing the bill from the Senate's consideration. Thank you," the Senator concluded, immediately moving away from the podium.

"Senator, why was…" one of Clark's colleagues at MLNN began.

"The Senator won't be taking any questions," said a man who had been standing near the Senator during the announcement.

The reporters from the various news networks and publications looked around at each other in confusion for a moment. There was an uneasy silence before, almost of one accord, they began talking among themselves.

Clark wasn't sure what Bill E-123 was, but from the reaction of his colleagues he got the distinct impression that this project was very important to the Senator. As his colleagues speculated about the meaning of the Senator's announcement, Clark noticed Mandy making her way to the exit. He made his way over.

"Mandy?" he asked.

She turned and regarded him for a moment, no emotion showing on her face. "Mr. Kent," she said as if the name left a slightly bad taste in her mouth.

"I'm sorry I haven't returned your calls, Mandy," he said apologetically. "I guess I've just never been very good at…" He shrugged.

She seemed to soften.

"Boy, that was a shock," Clark said conversationally, glancing back at the podium where the Senator had been only moments before. In truth, if he hadn't overheard his colleagues, he wouldn't have seen anything particularly significant about the Senator's announcement. Proposed pieces of legislation were scrapped every day. In fact, Clark had no idea what Bill E-123 was even about. Perhaps if he weren't so distracted by Lindsey these days, he'd have thought to read the bill before coming to the press conference.

"You're telling me," Mandy responded.

"Didn't he even discuss it with you?" Clark asked, turning back to the young woman.

She shook her head. "He told me last night. I knew something was bothering him, but… It's hard to believe he'd do that. After all, we've been working on it for years. In fact, he often joked that if it took us the rest of our lives, we'd get the support we needed to push it through."

Clark was really kicking himself now for his failure to read the bill.

Mandy almost chuckled, although it was more a sad chuckle of disbelief. "He used to say it was how he intended to be remembered." Mandy walked slowly towards the exit, but looked back at Clark as she did so, making it clear that she was expecting him to accompany her. He did so.

"So you have no idea why he changed his mind?"

She shook her head. "All I know is that he's been troubled about something for a couple of months now. He's even mentioned retiring on a couple of occasions, but… I never expected this," she concluded softly. She considered the situation before continuing. "He told me once that he'd decided that he needed to push this legislation through for me. He couldn't stand the idea of anyone seeing his daughter as property."

Clark suddenly found himself incredibly interested. Did the legislation have something to do with the protest he'd covered when he first arrived on Mars? And if his sudden suspicions that Bill E-123 was somehow related to the liberation of women were correct, how did that jive with what Senator Drake had been doing when he'd first met him?

Still, regardless of his personal opinion of the Senator, he had to admit that from what he'd just learned, he was perturbed to realize that a project he hadn't even known was in the works — a project that he personally thought was very important — was being scrapped. It was with renewed interest that he asked his next question.

"If he changed his mind once, isn't it possible that you can convince him to change it again?"

"But I don't even know what changed his mind in the first place. So how do I go about changing it back?" asked Mandy.

"Well, when did his attitude… You said something about him being bothered about something for the last couple of months. Do you think there's a connection?" Clark asked, a knot suddenly beginning to form in his gut as an idea began to take shape.

"Maybe, but I haven't been able to figure out what's bothering him, so I really don't know. Why?"

Clark shook his head dismissively. "No reason. I just think any legislation that improves the position of women on Mars is important and shouldn't be scrapped so quickly." He gave Mandy a smile. "Keep trying. If anyone can bring him around again to the importance of this legislation, it's his daughter."

She finally really smiled. "Thanks, Clark," she responded, giving his arm a squeeze before leaving, looking slightly more hopeful as she walked away.


Clark sat back in his chair in the newsroom, having finally finished reading the proposed legislation known as Bill E- 123. The 'E,' Clark had discovered, came from the title of the legislation — 'An Act to Emancipate Women.'

There was much here that he still didn't understand, simply because the legislation spent most of its time repealing sections of other legislation with no explanation. However, when he'd read the purpose of the act as it was clearly enunciated, it was obvious that Senator Drake intended this act to give women their freedom.

Tomorrow he would read the various pieces of legislation referred to in the bill. He supposed it was understandable that he hadn't found the legislation about women during the investigation of his first story. After all, it wasn't all in one place. Bill E-123 made it obvious that there wasn't any one piece of legislation. Instead, it was spread out in dozens of pieces of legislation: The Property Act; The Marriage Act; The Criminal Code, and others. There even appeared to be something about women in the Bankruptcy Act, for crying out loud. Well, tomorrow he was going to finally figure out exactly what the law was for women on Mars. It was time. In fact, it was long past time that he did so. If he hadn't been so involved with Lindsey…

Clark shook his head. How was it that the same man who had come so close to raping Lindsey could be the one leading the charge to emancipate the women of Mars? He had known politicians before who espoused family values while having affairs on their wives. But this almost seemed to be the extreme of that position. On the other hand, a man might do things in the name of his own daughter and still be unable to regard other women as 'someone else's daughter.' Clark supposed that might account for the discrepancy. Besides, Clark wasn't about to discount what could be some very important legislation just because the man proposing it revolted him.

But that led to the question of what had caused the Senator to withdraw the legislation from the consideration of the Senate. Mandy had said that her father had been troubled about something for the past couple of months — almost the same amount of time since Clark had first met the Senator. Clark's mind drifted back to the reception for the American Ambassador — and the computer card that Luthor had slipped to Senator Drake. He closed his eyes tight. No. Lindsey wouldn't take part in something like that. There had to be another explanation. Still, he couldn't quite shake the idea that there was a connection.


Clark was still obsessing about a possible connection between the Senator's attempted rape of Lindsey and the Senator's announcement today when he arrived at Lindsey's apartment. He had promised her that he wouldn't say anything, but that was when he thought she was the victim. Did that promise still hold true? He hoped he'd be able to get the answers to some of his questions tonight. If only they were spending the evening at his place, there might be an opportunity to do so. Still, there had to be a way to…

His thought trailed off when Lindsey opened the door to her apartment. She was wearing a very sexy red dress and there was something, he wasn't quite sure what, different about her aura. She seemed to radiate sensuality in a way he'd never seen before. He swallowed.

"Hi," she said softly, looking at him from under her eyelashes.

"Hi," he managed to stammer, before stepping closer, the same way he always did when he was about to fake a kiss with Lindsey at the door of her apartment. He drew her close and went to place his forehead against hers.

But this time, at the last moment, she raised her face, reaching up to find his lips with hers. Clark froze. Her hand crept to the back of his neck, her lips gently coaxing his to participate. It only took a moment for Clark's desire for the woman in his arms to override the cautions his brain was yelling at him. With a small groan of surrender, he wrapped her more securely in his embrace and began probing her mouth with barely constrained desire. He felt her tense briefly before desire seemed to take control of her as well — and the world narrowed to two heart beats and the feel of each other's bodies and lips, silently seeking, asking and being given answers.

Lindsey seemed to recover first, breaking the kiss and stepping back. She stared at him breathlessly for a moment before speaking.

"I guess we should take this inside," she breathed.

Clark noted that her voice held a slight tremble to it, as if she was as confused about what had just happened as he was.

"I guess," Clark responded, not willing to think too deeply about what Lindsey might mean by 'this.'

Lindsey looked at him and Clark got the distinct impression she was fighting the desire to tell him something, but she must have decided the answer was 'no' because the expression disappeared as she took his hand and turned away from him, leading him into her apartment.

"I hope you're hungry," she said.

"Ummm…" Clark said, as he noticed for the first time the delicious smells coming from Lindsey's apartment. It was as if every sense in his body had been focused on only one thing a moment before. Now, as his senses returned and some of his blood found its way back to his brain, he began to realize that it did smell delicious. "It smells great," he said, a small rumble from his stomach backing up his assessment. "But I didn't know you could cook."

She laughed. "So, are you accusing me of having this catered?" she asked, giving him a playful swat.

Clark blinked. Her words were light and there was a smile on her face, but there was something in her eyes… The smile didn't seem to touch them. "Of course not," he said immediately. However, he suddenly wondered. After two months of communicating with this woman primarily through body language and facial expressions, suddenly every fiber of Clark's being was on high alert — he just couldn't figure out why. "It's just that if it tastes as good as it smells, I think you'll be taking over the cooking from now on."

Again she laughed. And again Clark noticed that the laugh didn't reach her eyes.

"Oh no, mister," she responded. "You're far too good a cook for that. I don't usually bother cooking. I just thought… well, given the occasion…" She bit her lip slightly and glanced at him from under her eyelashes.

Clark immediately felt his temperature rise. "What occasion? Are we celebrating something?" he asked. Was it his imagination or was she flirting with him?

"I hope so," she whispered, once again glancing at him suggestively.

Oh, yeah. She was flirting with him. He swallowed hard. But before he had a chance to respond, she spoke again.

"Why don't you light the candles and pour the wine? I'll be right back with supper," she said, before leaving him to head into the kitchen.

For the first time, Clark noticed that the dining room table had been set. As he looked around the darkened room, he realized that this was no ordinary dinner. He slowly walked over and lit the candles as she had instructed. The room lit up in a soft glow. The cork was already out of the bottle so he proceeded to pour the wine. As he did so, he wondered once again what exactly was going on here.

"Umm… Lindsey," he began when he heard her softly enter the room behind him. She came up beside him and leaned over to place a plate of food on the table. As she did, her free hand lightly touched his back. When she straightened up, her hand casually ran down his back and over his posterior. Before he could get past the feelings generated by her touch to voice his question in a way that Luthor wouldn't understand, she had once again disappeared.

'Okay, stay calm,' he directed himself silently. Maybe this was all just show for Luthor. Having found an acceptable explanation, Clark relaxed. They had led Luthor to believe that there was a lot more going on between them than actually was, so maybe Lindsey had decided that they had to play it up a little bit since they were eating here. He suddenly wondered why exactly they had let Luthor think that. Before he could think too deeply about that, she re- entered the room.

He smiled brightly at her, once again feeling in control. Okay, so they would flirt. He liked it when she flirted with him. So why not have a little fun with it?

It was sometime later and dinner was almost finished. Clark had thoroughly enjoyed the good food and the company. He'd matched her flirting with his own. Still, there was something that seemed to be bothering her. Surely she should have relaxed when she realized he was willing to play this little game of making Luthor think there was more going on between them than actually was.

When she picked up the wine bottle and filled his not quite empty glass, it occurred to Clark that she had done that a lot during the course of the meal. He watched as she set down the bottle without putting any wine in hers. If he didn't know better, he would almost think she was trying to get him drunk. Since that wasn't a possibility, he wasn't worried. However, it did occur to him to wonder exactly what she was doing.

The thought died when he felt Lindsey's foot brush across his ankle. He looked at her, but there was no change of expression on her face. He dismissed the thought. Okay, so her foot had touched his. It could simply have been an accident. Besides, why would she play footsies with him under the table? Luthor didn't have cameras under there. Or did he? Clark glanced judiciously over his glasses. No. No cameras. It must have been an accident. Suddenly, there it was again. This time, it lingered before disappearing.

"Anything interesting happen in the world today?" asked Lindsey casually.

"Huh?" asked Clark as her foot found his for a third time, this time slipping under the edge of his trousers so that she could find the bare skin at the top of his socks.

"At work," she clarified as her foot crept further up his leg.

"Umm… right!" Clark said, pulling his mind away from the activities of her foot. Suddenly, that wasn't nearly as hard to do when he remembered exactly what he had been working on. "Do you know who Senator Drake is?" he asked, knowing perfectly well that she did.

"Yes," she responded somewhat cautiously, her foot suddenly stilling on his leg. "Why?"

Clark shrugged slightly, although his eyes never left her. "He gave a press conference today."

Lindsey looked back at her food, playing with it before saying, "Oh. What about?"

"Apparently, there was a piece of legislation he was working on that would have given more rights to women on Mars. He announced today that he would be withdrawing it." He paused and waited until she glanced up at him before saying, "The man looked like he was being pressured by someone."

He saw her flinch and felt her foot move away from his leg as she looked back at the uneaten food on her plate. He immediately knew that his suspicions were justified. What he'd interrupted when he'd first met Lindsey was definitely connected to the Senator's sudden change of heart.

"Lindsey," he whispered sadly, so low that if she heard it at all, he would be surprised. However, he suddenly suspected that she had heard him. At least he watched her forehead furrow slightly. He had so many questions. But he couldn't very well ask her with Luthor listening in.

"So do you know who might be pressuring him?" she asked.

He almost snorted. "No. In fact, I'm not even sure he's being pressured. It was just… a feeling."

She nodded slightly. "Speaking of feelings," she said, her voice suddenly brightening in a way that made Clark think she was faking her good mood, "how do you feel about some dessert?"


Lindsey handed him a glass of wine, took his hand, and led the way to the living room. She instructed the stereo to turn up the soft music that had been playing in the background before turning to him.

"Dance with me," she whispered.

Clark lifted his glass of wine to his lips, wondering in the back of his mind when she'd filled it again, and emptied the contents into his mouth to alleviate the sudden dryness. She took the empty glass from his hand and set it on a nearby table before coming back over to where he was still standing.

He really wasn't sure this was a good idea. Flirting with her to maintain the illusion of their relationship for Luthor was one thing, but she was asking him to dance, alone, in her dimly lit apartment. He wasn't certain his self control would survive having her body pressed up against his. He ought to suggest doing something else. His mind was desperately seeking for an alternative when he realized that she was silently waiting for him to take her in his arms. One arm instinctively slipped around her waist, gently pulling her towards him. His other hand wrapped itself around hers, placing it against his heart.

At first, he thought to hold her at a respectable distance. He put a couple of inches between them, but she had other ideas, moving her body so that it was brushing softly against his. Her hand found its way to his shoulder before slowly making its way further up to slip into and then play with the hair on the back of his head. He dropped his head until his mouth was beside her ear.

"Lindsey, I'm begging you," he whimpered softly, knowing that he was going to need her help to be able to resist the things her close proximity was doing to his body.

Whether she didn't hear, misunderstood, or chose to ignore him, he didn't know. All he knew was that her response was to pull him closer and bury her face in his neck as they continued to move to the music. He fought back a groan when he felt her warm breath on his throat. Still, she must have heard him because she began nibbling lightly at his neck. His breathing grew heavier as he felt his self control began to slip. Never had anything felt this good. His arm tightened around her, silently begging her to continue while knowing that he had to stop this.

"Clark," she moaned softly against his neck, sending another rush of blood away from his head.

"Oh, god, Lindsey," he breathed as she continued her sweet assault.

The moment seemed to last forever and yet was over far too quickly. Even though he knew this had to end, he heard a small moan of protest come from the back of his throat when her lips finally left his neck.

She pulled back slightly to look in his eyes. What he saw robbed him momentarily of his breath. All the passion, longing, and desire he was experiencing were reflected in those soft, brown pools. Kissing her was his instinctive response.

The kiss was gentle at first. But then she opened her mouth slightly, allowing him to taste her. It vaguely occurred to him that he didn't taste any wine on her lips, but that thought was quickly banished as he felt the gentle pull of her tongue. Suddenly, the remainder of Clark's self control seemed to forsake him as his body yelled at him to take what she was offering. Their mouths broke contact and rejoined again and again as their feet moved less and less often.

Her hand slipped from his to run up his chest and over his shoulder until it joined the other one in his hair. As it did, the movement of their feet stopped completely as if realizing they might as well give up the pretext of dancing.

Clark heard the voice again telling him to stop. However, he argued with it. All he was doing was kissing Lindsey. Surely there was nothing so wrong about that. The voice continued to protest. Clark finally silenced the voice by concentrating on the warm body in his arms, the willing mouth responding to his. His hands began to move over the soft skin of her back where the backless dress allowed contact. He felt, more than heard, her moan her approval into his mouth.

Afterwards, Clark couldn't remember exactly how he ended up half reclined on the couch. On the other hand, he'd never forget the feeling of Lindsey's hands on his legs as she crawled onto the couch to join him. As he watched her snaking her way up his body, he was entranced by the amount of cleavage he could see. In fact, he could hardly see anything else. He felt Lindsey's hand under his chin, raising his face. At first he was concerned that she'd seen where he was looking, but that ended when he looked into her passion clouded eyes. He placed his hand behind her head, pulling her mouth back to his.

The voice once again began yelling, trying to make itself heard over the roar of the blood rushing through his veins. There was something wrong about this. He had to… Her hands began working on his tie, quickly dispensing with it. He felt her undo the top button of his shirt and, knowing he had to stop this, tried to pull away. When he did, her hands grabbed onto the front of his shirt and her lips begin working their way down his throat until she was nuzzling at the base of his neck, where the activities of her hands had revealed additional skin.

"Lindsey," he begged, even as his hands slipped into her hair. As if realizing that he was no longer trying to escape, her hands released their grip on his shirt to continue their work on his buttons. This time, her lips followed her hands. He whimpered, wishing she'd stop and praying she wouldn't. Besides, what was so wrong about this? She wanted him. He wanted her. They were both consenting adults. Maybe he should just take this wherever she wanted it to go.

He realized that she'd finished unbuttoning his shirt when he felt her hands slip beneath the fabric and began pulling his shirt from where it was tucked in his pants. As her hands succeeded in her task, she kissed her way back up his chest and throat until her mouth was next to his ear.

She gently tugged at his earlobe with her teeth before whispering, "Make love to me, Clark."

As if he'd suddenly been doused by a bucket of icy cold water, reality came crashing down on Clark. He knew what was wrong with this scenario. The cameras. There were cameras following their every move, every touch, every groan. Luthor was watching and she wanted to make love? This wasn't about them at all.

Abruptly, he flipped Lindsey over onto the couch and jumped up as if he'd been burned. He stared at her in a kind of shocked horror before grabbing his jacket and shoes and fleeing her apartment. He vaguely heard her call his name, but ignored it. Even if he had to walk all the way home in his stocking feet, he had to put as much distance between them as he could. If she managed to stop him, he didn't think he'd have the strength to resist again.


"I told you this wouldn't work!" Lindsey yelled into the empty apartment, knowing the bugs would transmit her message to Damian.

She fought against the tears that stung at the corners of her eyes as she headed into her bedroom. She quickly rustled through her drawers and pulled out her sweats and a sweatshirt. She needed to get out of here. She was determined to make it to the only place where she could be truly alone before breaking down. Otherwise, Damian would realize just how much Clark had come to mean to her over the proceeding weeks, giving him one more piece of information to use against her.

When she got into the stairwell, she realized that she still couldn't let herself cry. After all, she had no doubt that Damian would either be over or would send for her. Either way, she couldn't very well have red eyes. She might get away with smeared makeup, considering that she'd been working out, but red eyes would be a dead give-away. Fortunately, she had years of practice at burying her emotions, so she began to run down the stairs as fast as she could before turning around and beginning the return trip.

Still, she was unable to keep her mind off the evening. Just before Clark arrived, she'd taken flex. She knew it would keep her from feeling too guilty for what she was about to do — but she'd do almost anything to keep from being on the receiving end of Damian's whip. That didn't mean she was unaware of Clark's plea not to kiss him unless she meant it, and she knew that making love to him in front of Damian's cameras violated that request, in spirit if not in letter.

She'd been tempted to have something to drink, too — for courage. However, she knew she'd need all her wits about her to pull this off, especially without allowing herself to become too emotionally involved.

She'd kissed him at the door in order to set the tone for the evening. Once she finally coaxed him into participating, she'd been taken back by the desire she'd felt in his kiss. After all, he was the one keeping their physical relationship from progressing. She knew he was attracted to her, but until that kiss she hadn't understood just how badly he wanted her.

At first, she'd fought against responding to that desire, but that had lasted no more than a heartbeat. His desire was infectious, taking her completely by surprise. When the kiss had finally broken, she'd realized that there was no way she was going to be able to keep her heart from participating in this encounter. It had terrified her. She'd almost told him everything right then and there — regardless of the fact that Damian was undoubtedly listening to every word. Still, she'd managed to bite her tongue and continue as ordered.

The conversation during dinner was designed to keep his mind on the kiss at the door. She'd flirted shamelessly with him and he'd responded. She had thought initially that it was just the wine that she kept pouring into him. However, no matter how many times she refilled his glass, his eyes stayed clear and his words remained concise. She, on the other hand, hadn't dared touch a drop, knowing that she had to keep her head clear.

There had been that one tense moment when he'd asked about Senator Drake. She'd known that Damian planned to use what had happened at the Lexor to blackmail the Senator, but it wasn't until Clark had made the comments he had that she realized exactly how much damage she'd helped Damian inflict. Clark had obviously made the connection, too. She was relieved that he'd let her change the subject.

She increased her speed on the stairs as she thought about events in the living room. She could hardly believe that Clark had been able to stop when he had. He was a man, after all. And if there was one thing Lindsey knew about men, it was that they were all ruled by lust. Besides, even Lindsey, much to her surprise, had felt the electricity in that room tonight. It was the most powerful force she had ever known. Even now she could feel its remnants flowing through her body.

Her steps faltered as she remembered Clark's eyes when he'd finally pulled away from her. She wasn't sure that even Damian's whip hurt as badly as having Clark look at her that way — okay, so maybe it did, but in an entirely different way. He'd looked mortified, as if she'd personally set fire to everything he'd ever held sacred. And maybe she had — at least she'd set fire to one of the few things she held sacred: their friendship. But there had been no choice. She'd have to forget him and…

Her thoughts stopped dead in thier tracks, her feet soon following. What if he forgave her? Certainly that was what Damian would be counting on. She wasn't certain she'd survive something like this again. It had been bad enough this time, but if anyone could forgive her for trying to seduce him for Damian's entertainment, in front of Damian's cameras, it would be Clark. She couldn't let that happen. If he did, there would always be a next time. And next time… who knew what Damian would expect her to do to Clark next time?

But how could she ensure that didn't happen? There was only one choice. She knew she'd have to face Damian's wrath later, but for now… She began jogging down the stairway when she stopped again. Then she reversed directions, heading up to the roof. She needed to get something out of the bag hidden in the vent before doing what she intended to do.

She wasn't entirely sure why she was willing to risk Damian's whip, or worse, now when she hadn't been earlier. She suspected that what had happened in her apartment tonight had changed something inside of her, or perhaps, it had only brought it into focus, because she now knew that the thing she had feared most since meeting Clark had finally happened — she had fallen in love.


By the time Clark got back to his apartment, the shock had worn off and in its place, Clark found the fury building. How could she have done that to him? He'd thought they were friends. He'd actually been foolish enough to believe that he meant something to her. So how could she…

He pulled off his jacket, managing to rip one of the sleeves off in the process. He growled, throwing the remainder of the jacket across the room.

What was she hoping to accomplish tonight anyway? In all the time he'd known her, he'd asked only one thing — that she not kiss him if she didn't mean it. Yet, there was no escaping the fact that from the moment he'd arrived, she'd been setting him up. The dress. The soft lighting and music. The kiss at the front door. The fact that she hadn't even had a hint of wine on her lips whereas he'd seen her open a second bottle. Playing footsies under the table. The suggestive looks. The proposal that they dance. None of it was real.

For all he knew, Luthor had planned all this because he got some perverse kick out of watching Lindsey with her 'johns' — because that was exactly how he was beginning to feel. He'd been an idiot. To her he was nothing more than a 'mark,' something to be trifled with for her and Luthor's amusement.

He stifled a scream of frustration and anger. But all that pent-up anger had to go somewhere and so, for the first time in his life, Clark struck out. His fist broke through the plaster in the wall easily enough. Slowly withdrawing his hand, he looked down at the mess on the floor, suddenly wondering why men did that sort of thing when they were mad. He didn't feel any better and now he had the added work of having to repair the hole in the wall separating his bedroom from his living room.

He heard a tentative knock on the door and turned hesitantly towards it. Was it possible a neighbor had heard the noise and was wondering what was going on? Or worse yet, his landlady. He took a deep breath and, making his way to the door, opened it.

He simply stared at the woman on the other side, his mind almost unable to believe what his eyes were telling him. Surely she must have understood that he wanted nothing to do with her plan to seduce him when he left her apartment. Was she here to try again?

"Lindsey," he said, keeping a very tight rein on his emotions.

"I know I've got to be the very last person you want to see right now," Lindsey began in a rush. Clark noticed that she wasn't meeting his eyes. "But I've only got a short time. Damian will undoubtedly be looking for me soon and… Can I come in? This might be the only chance we have to really talk."

Clark stared at her in disbelief for a moment before the implications of what she was telling him began to sink in. "Are you saying… What exactly are you saying?" he asked, still not moving out of the doorway to let her enter.

She glanced nervously around the hallway. "Can I come in?" she asked again. When he still hesitated, she continued. "I promise not to touch you," she said softly. "But… please." With the last word she finally met his eyes.

They stood staring into each other's eyes for a long moment before Clark broke eye contact and, without inviting her in, walked back into his apartment, leaving the door open behind him. He made his way to the other side of the room before turning back towards her. He leaned against the wall with his arms folded across his chest.

She let out a slow breath and followed him into the room, pushing the button to close the door behind her. When she didn't speak, he did.

"Well?" he asked.

"You really aren't going to make this easy for me, are you?" she said. When he just raised his eyebrows, she continued. "Okay, I suppose I should start by telling you that Damian isn't listening in. I didn't bring my purse."

"And I'm to believe this because…?" he asked.

"Clark, please," she begged. When he still didn't give, she nodded slightly, finally accepting that this was the best she was going to get from him. He'd let her in and he was listening, but… She suddenly noticed a hole in the wall about the size of a man's fist and the plaster on the floor around it. If his words and his body language hadn't told her how mad he was, the obvious demonstration of his anger was on the floor near the hole. "I know you probably don't care, but I am sorry," she said softly, glancing down at her hands.

"Sorry? That's all you have to say for yourself? I've only ever asked one thing from you — not to kiss me unless you mean it."

"I know."

"There's only one thing I want to know. Why? I mean, what exactly did you hope to accomplish? Was this just meant to be 'entertainment'? Does Luthor get turned on from watching you with other men? Or was this your idea? Did you catch him cheating on you or something and decide to make him pay for his indiscretion?"

"Is that what you think I…" she began but then bit her tongue. "I had no choice," she said instead.

"Don't give me that. You could have said 'no.'"

"You don't understand."

"You're right. I don't understand. I mean, I can understand Luthor wanting to keep an eye on me. I am a Kent, after all. And what better way to do that than to put a woman in my bed. What I don't understand is why you'd go along with it."

"He owns me," she said softly.

"What? What exactly is that supposed to mean?"

Lindsey turned away from him.

"Lindsey?" Clark asked, uncrossing his arms and making his way towards her, his curiosity getting the best of him.

"He owns me, Clark," she repeated.

"You mean like, he has something on you or… I don't understand. What? Did you sell your soul to the devil or something?" A note of humor actually crept into the last question, as Clark felt his anger begin to fade in the light of his newfound curiosity.

She turned towards him and looked into his eyes. He drew in a sharp breath when he saw the anguish in her expression.

"Talk to me, Lindsey," he said, softly this time, coming close enough to take her hands in his. Whatever had happened between them tonight, whatever anger he felt towards her died with the realization that she was in pain. He was still hurt, but he immediately recognized that no matter how much he was hurting, she was hurting worse.

She chewed on her lower lip, as if trying to work up the courage to respond. He took her hands more firmly in his before leading her over to the couch. He waited until she sat down before sitting down beside her and turning towards her again.

Finally, she spoke. "No, Clark, I didn't sell my soul to the devil. My mother did."

"Excuse me?"

"When I was fourteen, my mother sold me to Damian for fifty credits."

"But…" Clark's voice trailed off. "Wait a minute. That can't be legal."

"You're the one who wrote that article in the underground paper, aren't you?" she asked. "You must know about things like this."

"What article?"

"The one about a group of women protestors being broken up by the military," she said, slightly confused.

"Well, I wrote an article about that, but… The underground paper?"

She nodded.

He spent a moment on that small question before pushing it aside to return to their original discussion. "I know that women aren't 'persons' under Martian law, but… Are you telling me that women can be bought and sold like any other chattel?"

She nodded.

"And your mother sold you to Luthor for fifty credits when you were…"

"Fourteen." She gave a humorless chuckle. "She didn't even get enough money for a really good bender."

"Where was your father when this was happening?"

"Which one?" she asked, a note of sarcasm in her voice. Then after a moment, she continued. "If you mean the man who impregnated my mother, he left when she told him she was pregnant. I don't even know his name. Mom never forgave me for that. According to her, I'm the reason he left.

"If you mean my mother's boyfriend at the time…" she continued. "Clyde. He's part of the reason Mom decided to sell me. She caught him with his hand up my shirt — so to speak. So she dumped the daughter and kept the boyfriend. Even called me a 'little slut' for… How did she put it now? '…trying to steal her boyfriend.' As if I actually wanted that dirty son of a…" Her voice trailed off.

"I suppose I should be grateful," she continued after a moment. "After all, Mom could have caught me with the first of her boyfriends who found his way into my bedroom at night. If that had happened, I would have been sold to Damian when I was ten."

Clark's hand came up to her face, brushing away the single tear that had made a path down her cheek as she'd been speaking.

"Anyway," Lindsey continued, her voice dropping its sarcastic edge, "the reason I wanted to talk to you is that I don't want you calling anymore. What I had to do to you tonight…" Her voice cracked. "You've been a friend to me, Clark. Please. I don't want Damian to use me to destroy you. Please don't call me. I just don't think I could take it if… And if Damian makes me call you, you've got to tell me… Well, tell me anything you want. I won't take it personally. Just make it clear that you can't see me anymore." She rose to her feet and headed for the door.

"Wait a minute," said Clark, managing to beat her to the door. "You can't just drop this bombshell and then walk out of here."

"I have to go, Clark. It's going to be hard enough convincing Damian that my little trip over here was legitimate without taking too long."

"So what are you going to tell him?"

"That…" She thought for a moment. "That I thought if I came over here and apologized for being so brazen, you might be willing to see me again. As for why I didn't bring my purse… I forgot. But if I take too long, he'll never believe that you threw me out."

"That's because I'm not throwing you out. Stay. Look, I don't care if there is some piece of paper that says you belong to Luthor. No person can 'own' another person."

She gave him a sad smile. "So what are you going to do?" she asked, a hand coming up and almost touching his cheek before once again falling away. "Stand at the door and fight off all of Damian's people when they come to collect me?"

"If I have to," Clark responded.

She gave him a smile that said she thought he was sweet but naive. "And the police? After all, you'd be breaking the law. Are you prepared for that? You'd be arrested, charged, and convicted of theft. And stealing one person from another is an offence punishable by as much as twenty years in prison."

"I don't care. It isn't right," he said, his mind trying desperately to come up with a solution. He could certainly keep both Luthor's people and the police out of here if he chose to. On the other hand, he couldn't do so without giving away the family secret. And it wasn't just his secret. There were at least two hundred non-superpowered lives at stake.

"Right doesn't have a lot to do with it," said Lindsey. "It's the law."

Of course, he could just pick her up and fly her to Earth where she… No. He was inside a dome. And although his aura would protect her when she was in space, she'd need oxygen. She'd never be able to hold her breath long enough. Besides, how was Clark Kent, mild mannered reporter, supposed to walk Lindsey through customs and then take to the sky without giving away his secret?

"Lindsey, have you ever heard of the underground railway?"

"No. But what…"

"The underground railway was a term used to describe people who helped slaves escape their masters in the United States in the nineteenth century. Now, there must be something like that here. I'll make some enquiries…"

"Are you insane?" she gasped. "Clark, even if there is something like that, do you really think there is one of them who would help 'Luthor's whore?'"

"But I could…"

"Do you know what your problem is?" she asked. When he shook his head, she continued. "Superman."

Clark froze. Did she know? And if she knew, did Luthor know? He began wracking his brain, trying to figure out where he'd slipped up. What could he have done or said that…

"You have a Superman complex, Clark," she continued. "You see a 'damsel in distress' and every instinct you have tells you to come flying to the rescue. And although that's something I really adore about you, not even a superman can solve every problem. You have to let me go," she concluded.

"Lindsey, I…"

Her hand came up so that her fingers fell across his lips, silencing him. "He'll kill you, Clark," she whispered intently.

Clark almost smiled. "I'm not that easy to kill."

"Everyone's that easy to kill," she responded, reaching into her pocket and pulling out the item that she'd retrieved from the roof of her apartment earlier. She placed the small item in his hand before closing his hand around it. "Everyone's that easy to kill," she whispered again.


"Don't, Clark," she interrupted. "I refuse to watch you die."


"There's an ancient saying that when the gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers."

"What does that mean?"

She gave him a sad smile. "That's what they did when they brought you into my life," she informed him. Then her expression changed to steely determination. "I'm going back," she announced, her voice leaving no room for argument. "If you really believe that women should have the same rights as men, you'll let this be my decision," she said, taking away his right to try to argue her out of it.

Seeing that he couldn't seem to find an argument against that, she began to turn towards the door. Then she stopped and looked back at him. Her eyes seemed to study the contours of his face, as if trying to memorize it, before drifting to his lips. "There's something I want before I leave, but I promised you when I came in that…"

Her voice trailed off when Clark stepped closer, his free hand coming up to cup her cheek. "Is this what you want?" he asked, before slowly leaning in and lightly brushing his lips across hers. When their kiss broke, a small sob escaped from the back of her throat. He leaned in again and once again their lips met, only this time they began a gentle exploration. Clark felt her hands come up to ball themselves in the front of his shirt, as if she was trying to keep her balance. When she finally ended the kiss, his hand slowly left her cheek. She released his shirt and stepped back.

"Goodbye," said Lindsey. "Please respect my decision and, please don't call," she whispered, her voice cracking on the words, her eyes unable to meet his.

"But…" Clark began, and then his voice trailed off in confusion when she bolted from his apartment.

He opened his hand, looking at the small, diamond-stud earring she'd placed there. What was this supposed to be? It took him a moment to realize what he was holding. A diamond-stud earring had been ripped from Dale Scardello's ear before his death. No wonder she was so convinced Luthor would kill him. She'd probably seen him kill Scardello. And given how badly Scardello's body had been mangled…

"Lindsey," he whispered, all of the anguish he felt for her finding its way into that single word.


"Are you almost ready?" asked Alice, coming into her husband's office and closing the door. She made her way over to the couch and had a seat.

"Yeah," Paul replied. "I've just got to decide which one of these pictures to run with tomorrow's lead." He glanced up at his wife. "Why don't you give me your opinion?" he asked.

She got up off the couch, stood next to him and looked at the four pictures spread out on his desk. "What's the story about?" she asked.


"I'm so glad you're home safe," said the young doorman while pushing the button to open the front door of her apartment building for Lindsey to enter. "Mr. Luthor's been so worried about you."

Lindsey covered the sudden jump in her heart rate with a smile. "Is he here, Carl?" she asked.

Carl nodded. "He's upstairs right now."

"Would you give him a buzz and let him know I'm coming?" asked Lindsey, knowing that that was exactly what Carl would do anyway. "We don't want him to worry any longer than necessary."

"Certainly, Miss Landon," Carl replied, tipping his hat before making his way to the phone, his eyes still following the figure of the woman who'd just walked in. He shook his head slowly. Why did guys like Luthor have all the luck?

As Lindsey waited for the elevator, she rehearsed her excuse one more time, hoping it sounded believable. She knew Damian was going to be furious with her. Still, there had really been no choice. She'd had to be certain it was really over with Clark this time. She briefly wondered if she should have told Clark everything. She shook her head. She'd made the right decision. After all, there was nothing he could do to change things even if he did know all the reasons behind her inability to leave Damian. It was just as well not to cause him additional worry.

The elevator arrived and she stepped inside. As it began to ascend, she looked at her reflection in the mirrors that covered the elevator walls. She took a moment to straighten her hair and pinched her cheeks to add a little color. It was probably a good idea if she looked her best when she met Damian — not that it would make much difference. Still…

She gave a small jolt when the elevator doors opened. She gathered every ounce of courage she could find and, raising her head high, walked towards the door. Nathan opened it as she arrived.

"Where is he, Nathan?" she asked, trying to sound anxious to see Damian.

"In the living room," Nathan replied, sounding slightly surprised at her composure.

She immediately walked past Nathan. His reaction was not a good sign. She was obviously in trouble — not that she didn't already know that. She paused briefly before making her way into the living room.

"Damian," she began, "Carl told me you were worried. I'm so sorry. I guess I just wasn't thinking too clearly when I left. But I had an idea and…" She shrugged slightly as if embarrassed that not only had she had an idea but that she'd implemented it without running it past Damian first.

As she waited for his reaction, she kept her eyes from focusing on what Damian was lightly tapping against his leg. It looked almost like a thin, black snake, curled up on itself. And, as she was well aware, it was a snake with a dangerous bite. Damian took pride in his ability to control the whip, using it to cause serious bodily harm or to inflict excruciating pain without actually breaking the skin of his victim. Lindsey had seen the one and felt the other.

Not that Damian always succeeded in controlling the whip. She had some scars on her legs and one on her stomach that bore witness to that fact. Fortunately, Damian always made sure she received beta ray treatments after such incidents, otherwise it could be much worse. She suspected this was done, not so much because Damian was concerned about her as that he wanted to protect his property. But would this time be different? Had she gone too far by leaving without his permission when she knew he would be looking for her?


Clark barked an order at Jeremy the moment he entered the newsroom. Then, without stopping to explain, he made his way towards his boss' office. Without stopping to knock, he hit the button on the side of the office door, sliding the door open, and stormed in.

"Why didn't you tell me, Paul?" he demanded, not even noticing the woman in Paul's office with him.

"Clark, this is my wife," said Paul, ignoring both the question and Clark's rude entrance to his office. "And, Alice, this is Clark Kent. And this is the most fired up I've seen him since the day the censors butchered his first story."

Clark glanced at the woman standing next to his boss, as if seeing her for the first time. "Oh, uhh… Pleased to meet you, Mrs. Wilson," he said.

Alice smiled. "I've heard a lot about you, Clark. And please, call me Alice. So what is it that Paul neglected to tell you? He has a habit of doing that. Although I always thought it was just with me," she concluded, shooting her husband a meaningful glance.

"Uhh…" said Clark, not certain if he should continue in the presence of Paul's wife.

"It's okay, son. Anything you have to say to me, you can say in front of Alice. We don't have any secrets."

"I just can't believe you didn't tell me," Clark finally said, remembering what had brought him here.

"Tell you what?"

"That women can be bought and sold!" exclaimed Clark, as if that should be perfectly obvious.

Paul and Alice exchanged glances.

"I would have thought that was obvious when you learned that women were considered chattels on Mars," responded Paul.

Clark blinked. Paul was right. He had known that. He'd just never put it together in his own mind. Or maybe, due to his upbringing in a world where men and women were equals, his mind had been unable to grasp the concept until Lindsey had told him her story.

"It can't be legal," Clark whispered in one final effort to reject the truth.

"I'm afraid it is," said Alice. "In fact, since we got married after the new laws came into effect, Paul had to purchase me from my father. Although, to this day, neither one of them has ever told me how much he bought me for."

"And you had no say in this?" asked Clark.

"Legally, no. But Paul asked my permission to approach my father and I gave it — although, he certainly wouldn't have needed my consent."

"What's this all about, son?" Paul asked, realizing that there had to be more going on here than Clark simply finding out about the law.

"He owns her, Paul. When she told me, I wasn't sure I believed it, but… Omigod, it's true."

As Clark spoke, Alice made her way to the door to close it, her woman's intuition telling her that whatever Clark was trying to say, he wouldn't want people overhearing. And although most of the staff had already left for the night, there were some stragglers still around.

"Who owns whom?" asked Paul.

Just as Alice was about to close the door, Jeremy arrived. He slipped into the room and handed Clark a palm computer before Alice closed the door behind him.

"Here's the document you wanted," Jeremy informed Clark.

Clark snatched the palm computer from Jeremy's hand and quickly read it before thrusting it towards Paul. Paul glanced quickly at the document on the computer before passing it to his wife.

"Lindsey Landon?" asked Alice looking at the ownership registration. She glanced at her husband for some explanation.

"Now," said Paul, pulling out his chair and taking a seat, "do you mind telling me why you would care who owns Lindsey Landon?"

Clark suddenly realized what he'd revealed. He'd been so upset that he hadn't even considered that Paul didn't know he'd been dating Lindsey. He let out a breath. Deciding that he'd already said too much not to continue, he spoke again.

"All right, I've been seeing her," said Clark defensively, as if daring them to challenge his decision. "She called and asked me out the day after the reception for the American Ambassador and we've been seeing each other ever since."

Although he'd already put the pieces together for himself, Paul was unable to keep from reacting to this information. "Great shades of Elvis, Clark," he began.

"Who's Elvis?" Clark whispered to Jeremy.

"You don't want to know," Jeremy whispered back.

"Did it ever occur to you that Luthor might be using her to spy on your activities?" Paul continued, ignoring the exchange between Clark and Jeremy. "I told you at the reception that there was a connection between her and Luthor. Do you think it's a coincidence that she calls you up the day after I assign you the task of investigating Luthor?"

"I'm not stupid, Paul," Clark argued back, although a little voice in the back of his head silently added, 'all evidence to the contrary.' As he spoke, he moved over to a chair and sank down into it.

"Well, you could have fooled me," responded Paul.

"Look, I know that she was sent to spy on me. I've been very careful. I haven't told her anything about the investigation."

"So how did you find out that Damian Luthor owned her?" asked Alice. "You said something about her telling you."

Paul glanced at his wife, wondering exactly what she was thinking. Because from her tone, she was definitely thinking something.

"Umm…" Clark began, suddenly wondering exactly how much of what Lindsey had told him should be revealed. He might trust these people, but if word ever leaked back to Luthor about his conversation with Lindsey tonight… He shut down that thought immediately. He couldn't think like that or he was going to be completely paralyzed by fear for her safety. "She wants out," Clark finally said. "Come on, Paul," he said, gesturing to the ownership registration. "There's got to be a way around that."

Paul picked up the palm computer and studied the document on it for a moment. "It looks legal to me, Clark."


"The only way she can get out is if someone buys her from Luthor," Paul continued.

Clark was on his feet almost instantly. "That's crazy. I'm not buying her…"

"I didn't suggest you should, but unless someone does…"

"Look, Paul, I know you have contacts in the underground. There's got to be someone…"

"Have you lost your mind, Clark?" Paul interrupted. "For all I know, she's playing you. After all, if she can convince you to get her into the underground, she could help Luthor bring the entire network down."

"Come on, Paul. Give me something. A contact. Someone I can talk to."

"Sorry, son. I'd like to help but I don't know anyone in the underground," Paul said with finality.

Clark glanced around at the other occupants of the room. They just shrugged. Clark looked back at Paul for a moment more before storming out of the room.

"He's in love with her," said Alice quietly.

Paul nodded. "That's the problem. Jeremy, get in touch with Nellie. Tell her what just happened."

"She'll ask for your opinion," said Alice. "What do you want Jeremy to tell her?"

Paul considered the question before saying, "I just don't know what to think. But I think she should be aware of this development. I'll leave what to do about it up to her."


Damian rose slowly and walked towards Lindsey, still tapping the curled up whip lightly against his leg. "So just what was this idea of yours that took you out of here after your failure to get Kent into bed?" he asked.

She shrugged slightly. "It was stupid and it didn't work." She looked up at him, as if asking him not to make her tell him the foolish thing she'd done. When he continued to look at her expectantly, as she knew he would, she continued, "I just thought that maybe if I went after Clark I could repair the damage I'd done." She didn't say, 'the damage you did with your stupid order.' She was in enough trouble as it was.

"And?" he asked, moving closer.

"He wouldn't listen. I tried to tell him that I'd just got a little carried away, but he seems to think… well, that I'm a slut or something and… I guess he's a little old- fashioned that way. Anyway, he threw me out. I really think I blew it this time." She looked down at the floor.

Damian was now standing directly in front of her. He raised the hand with the whip, placing the hard leather under her chin and, using it to raise her head, looked in her eyes. He studied them for several seconds before speaking.

"And what about the listening device? Why didn't you take that with you?" he asked.

"I had gone to the stairway to… work off my frustration when the idea came to me that maybe I could make up for coming on too heavy. I just… I just wasn't thinking, Damian." When he still didn't respond, she switched approaches. "Anyway," she said, dropping her voice to sound slightly seductive, "after getting all worked up with Clark, I really could use a way to alleviate my frustration. What do you say that you and I…" She reached out and began fumbling with the buckle on his belt.

"God, Lindsey, you're all sweaty. Go have a shower first," said Damian, pushing her away from him.

She let out a breath, trying to sound disappointed as she headed for the shower.


She was nervous as she walked into the room where Clark was waiting for her. Then she saw him smile and suddenly she knew everything would be okay. Her eyes drifted over his black silk pajamas. She could see a sliver of flesh from where his shirt hung open — reminding her that tonight she'd be able to explore every one of those muscles to her heart's content.

In his hands were two glasses of champagne. As they slowly approached each other, she looked into his eyes and saw there a reflection of herself. How was it that she'd managed to ignore him for so long — this man who was convinced that she personally hung the sun in the sky every morning? Never had she known such unconditional love. It was as if he even found her faults endearing.

He handed her a glass of champagne. In spite of her earlier jitters, she suddenly didn't want champagne.

"I don't want anything to cloud this moment," she said softly, taking the glasses from him and setting them on the nearby stairway. Her heart pounding in her ears, she turned back towards him. Suddenly she couldn't seem to stop smiling. It seemed he was having the same problem.

Her hands took his as she slowly led them towards the bed. Once she arrived, she slipped the shirt off his shoulders and sat down on the bed, moving backwards until she was lying on it.

"The moment we were destined for," he responded, following her over, never allowing more than inches to come between them.

"That's what makes it so special," she responded as he settled his weight against her. She gave a small moan as he moved in to kiss her. Her hands explored the bare skin of his back, marveling at how incredibly right it felt to be with him this way.

He broke the kiss, pulling back slightly to look at her again.

"I love you, Clark Kent," she whispered, and then watched as his eyes filled with wonder. Her hand came up to gently stroke the beloved face.

"And I love you," he responded. She was amazed at how those words could communicate such emotion. He wasn't the first man to say it to her, but no one had been able to cause her heart to flutter by simply saying them the way he could. She smiled up at him and then watch as he once again lowered his face to kiss her.

It wasn't any time at all before she was lost in that kiss. Her hands drew him closer and she felt his hands slip around her back and into her hair. Suddenly, she felt as if she were floating. Then that thought got lost at the feel of his hands, his lips, his body.

Lindsey woke and quickly looked around. She let out a sigh of relief when she remembered that Damian had decided not to spend the night. She thought about what had happened once she'd emerged from the shower. The encounter had made her feel unspeakably dirty. But at least by instigating it, she'd managed to keep him from using the whip. Not that she could have avoided sex with Damian by accepting the whip. After all, he seemed to enjoy sex even more after using it. She pushed away the memories. She wouldn't think about Damian now — not when the remnants of the dream were still present.

She sank back into the bed and allowed herself to soak up those remnants. That was the one thing she was determined not to let Damian take from her. She might never again hear Clark's voice on the phone as she drifted off to sleep. She might never again know the safety of being curled up in his arms on the couch. She might never again feel the spark of electricity that came from his kisses. But no one could take away the memories — memories which she hoped would live on in her dreams — like the dream she'd had tonight.

She sighed. Unlike her, Clark would go on. He'd meet someone, fall in love, and get married. She'd only ever have her memories of… What was it now? Nine weeks. Nine perfect weeks. But she was determined that no one, not even Damian, would take that away from her. And if the memories faded… No. She wouldn't allow that to happen. If all she had was these memories, then she was going to keep them real by reliving every moment with Clark again and again in her mind, until the fantasy became more substantial to her than the reality of her existence.


"Thank you for seeing me, Mr. Ambassador," said Clark, offering the man his hand.

He'd spent most of the night pacing his apartment, trying to find a solution. When it had finally occurred to him to talk to the American Ambassador, it had taken every ounce of will power he possessed not to pound on the man's door in the middle of the night. Still, he'd been at the embassy first thing in the morning, even using his status as a reporter to get in to see the Ambassador.

"Well, I always try to accommodate the press," Stern replied. "Although, as my secretary told you, I'm afraid I can only spare a couple of minutes this morning."

Clark shifted uncomfortably. "Well, I might have played up my press credentials a little to get in to see you," he said. "I have a personal problem that you might be able to help me with."

The Ambassador made his way back to his desk and took a seat. He studied Clark for a minute, trying to figure out how to respond to this situation. He didn't want to encourage others to do what this young man had done. On the other hand, now that he took time to look, he realized that Clark was seriously troubled. Well, just this once… He gestured Clark to a chair.

"What can I do for you, Mr. Kent?" he asked.

Clark let out a breath. "I assume you're aware of a law on Mars that allows men to own women," Clark said.

The Ambassador nodded. "I don't approve, obviously. My own ancestors didn't exactly come to America on the Mayflower so I'm very opposed to any kind of slavery."

Clark suddenly felt very hopeful. "If I knew someone who wanted to escape… Is there anything the embassy could do to help?"


"I don't know, exactly. Maybe issue her an American passport so that I can smuggle her back to Earth."

The Ambassador sat back and pursed his lips as he considered the request. "I'm sorry, Mr. Kent. I wish you all the luck in the world, but the embassy can't be involved."

"But you said…"

"If it were up to me, there is nothing I'd like better than to help you. But I'm the first American Ambassador that has been allowed on Mars since before Mars broke away from Earth. What you're asking me to do is illegal. If the embassy participates in something like this and it becomes known…"

"It wouldn't become known," Clark interrupted.

"Tell me something, Mr. Kent. Is this woman low profile enough that no one is going to report her missing? Because that's the only way she'd be able to get through immigration unnoticed."

Clark swallowed. The Ambassador was right. If Lindsey went missing, Luthor would make sure every immigration officer was on the lookout for her.

"What about hiding her out at the Embassy?"


"Not necessarily. Just until I can find another way to…"

"I'm sorry, Mr. Kent. That's just not feasible. And if we let her stay, how many others would want the same consideration?"

"But…" Clark began before realizing that the Ambassador had a point. He rose slowly to his feet. "Well, thank you for your time, Mr. Ambassador," said Clark, offering the Ambassador his hand.

Stern rose slightly and leaned across his desk, taking Clark's hand. "I wish you the best with this project," he said. "And if, by some chance, you do get her to Earth, I'll do whatever I can to see that she's granted asylum. Sorry I can't do more."

"Thank you, sir," Clark responded, before turning and leaving the room. There was only one other option — even if every fiber of Clark's being rebelled against this solution.


Nellie, also known as Martha, sat back and had a sip of her coffee as she thought about what she'd just learned. She had listened carefully to everything the young man had told her. There were both pros and cons to helping. Paul was right. There was a great risk that the woman could turn out to be a spy for Luthor. On the other hand, what if she wasn't? She could very well have enough information to bring Luthor down — and Martha was convinced that Luthor's downfall would be the beginning of the end to the oppression of women on Mars.

Martha was well aware of who Lindsey Landon was. She had paid close attention to her over the years. She wasn't quite sure why. Like it was with Clark Kent, Martha had a feeling the first time she'd seen Lindsey that there was some sort of undefinable connection between them. She'd felt it, even though they'd never spoken.

Martha suddenly chuckled. If she believed in past lives, she'd be inclined to believe that they had known, and even liked each other, in a previous life.

Still, was that enough reason to risk the entire movement on the mere possibility that Lindsey Landon really wanted to get away from Damian Luthor?


Damian was sitting behind his desk studying the contract before him when his computer screen buzzed.

"Intercom on," he said, and immediately his secretary's face appeared in a corner of the screen. "What is it?" Damian asked.

"I have a man here who wants to know if you might have a couple of minutes free today. I told him that you were busy, but he says it's important," his secretary said.

"Who is it?" asked Damian.

"His name's Clark Kent, sir," she replied.

Damian looked long and hard at his secretary before saying, "Give me two minutes and then bring him in." He turned off the intercom and placed a quick phone call before commanding his computer to turn off and rising from behind his desk.

He had no idea why Clark Kent was here, but he had to admit he was curious. He was standing in front of his desk when his secretary led Clark into his office. "Mr. Kent," Damian said, stepping forward and shaking Clark's hand, "to what do I owe this honor?" As he spoke, he gestured Clark to a chair and made his way back to sit down behind his desk.

"I have a business proposition for you," began Clark.


Lindsey stepped off the elevator on the top floor and began making her way past the familiar faces. She hated these summonses from Damian. But there was no choice but to answer them as quickly as possible — especially after the stunt she'd pulled last night. So she'd dragged herself out of bed, dressed quickly and made her way here.

She wasn't certain she'd never before felt so completely miserable. There had been one bright spot in her life. And for a few weeks, it had been wonderful. But now it was gone… He was gone.

It would almost have been better if she'd never met him. At least before he'd come along, she'd not known what might have been — in another life, of course. She could hardly believe how much she missed the thrill of knowing he might call tonight, or that they'd be getting together for supper. It wasn't that she was regretting her decision to tell Clark to quit calling. She knew it had been the right thing to do. But why did doing the right thing always have to hurt so much?

As she approached Damian's office, she noticed that the door was slightly open. She glanced around to see if Damian's secretary was nearby. She wasn't. Lindsey hesitated for a moment. After all, Damian had told her to come to his office immediately. However, she could hear voices coming from inside. And it didn't sound like his secretary. It sounded like two men.

She stepped cautiously closer. It sounded like… It couldn't be. Without opening the door, she glanced through the crack. It was. What was Clark doing here? She once again glanced around. Since she appeared to be alone, she decided to risk listening in.


"And what makes you think I might be interested in this?" Damian asked.

"You're a business man, Luthor. And this is a straight forward business proposition," Clark responded.

"I don't know, Mr. Kent. It's like…" He paused as he sought for a way to say this that might offend Clark. "…owning a thoroughbred race horse. Feeling all that passion and energy under you, knowing that it belongs to you… I'm not sure I'm interested in selling."

A muscle in Clark's jaw twitched slightly, but was gone a moment later. "Even a winning race horse has to retire eventually. The trick is to sell while the horse can still bring in a good price," he replied evenly.


Lindsey furrowed her brow. What on earth were they talking about? And why was Clark here in the first place? She stepped slightly closer to the crack as she stained to listen.


"Well, assuming that I did decide to sell, what makes you think that you could afford her?" asked Luthor.

"Name your price," said Clark.

Luthor looked at him with disdain. "Mr. Kent, please. Don't embarrass yourself. I know how much money reporters make." He got up off the corner of his desk and began making his way behind it to sit in his chair. "There's no way you'd be able to meet my price," he concluded dismissively.

"A million credits," said Clark.


Lindsey grasped the doorframe, digging her fingernails into it when it sank in what was going on. Clark was trying to buy her from Damian. Clark. He was a stupid, pigheaded… sweet… idiot. A million credits? Where was Clark going to get a million credits?

It seemed that Damian had the same question because a moment later, she heard…

"And how are you going to come up with a million credits?" asked Damian, almost sounding amused.

"I'll get it," replied Clark. "So do we have a deal?"

There was silence, as if Damian were considering it. Lindsey was fairly confident that Damian wouldn't sell her — she knew too much. But he was obviously letting Clark think he was at least interested.

"And," said Clark, when Damian didn't respond, "as an added bonus, I promise that Lindsey and I will leave Mars for good as soon as the transaction is complete."

Suddenly, Lindsey was scared. Considering how paranoid Damian was of Clark, that just might be an offer he couldn't refuse — although it was certainly questionable how long she'd live after the agreement had been concluded. She immediately pushed the button to open the door fully and walked into the room.

"Uhh…" said Damian, looking towards the door. "Morning, love." He rose from his chair and Lindsey noted that Clark did the same. Damian made his way to her and gave her a kiss on the cheek before guiding her to where he and Clark were talking. "I didn't expect you so early. After all, you were sleeping so peacefully when I left this morning."

Lindsey kept her expression neutral, avoiding looking at Clark. Damian had actually left last night and he had summoned her here this morning. However, the comments were obviously meant to make sure Clark knew who had taken his place in her bed after the incident between them last night.

"Mr. Kent and I were just talking about you," Damian continued. "It seems that you've made quite an impression on him. He just offered me a million credits for you. So what do you think, darling? Would you like me to sell you to Mr. Kent?"


Clark felt that familiar tug at his heart when Lindsey entered the room. Rising to his feet was an automatic response. He had to restrain himself from reacting when Damian made his way over to Lindsey and kissed her on the cheek. He had to further restrain himself when he heard Damian's following comments. It was said intimately to Lindsey, but it was obviously meant for him.

He had no idea where he was going to come up with a million credits. However, if he had to dig himself a gold mind, he'd do it — regardless of the family's view of using one's powers that way. The important thing right now was to get Lindsey away from that animal and since every other avenue he'd been able to think of last night had been closed off to him…

All he needed to do was to provoke Luthor into making a counter offer. Then, regardless of how ridiculous it was, he'd accept before Luthor knew what hit him. He'd worry about where the money would come from after the deal had been made.

When he heard Damian's question to Lindsey, Clark was puzzled. Why would he be asking for Lindsey's opinion? After all, in Luthor's eyes, Lindsey's opinion was irrelevant — unless he actually expected her to say… Clark almost chuckled.

"I don't want to leave you, Damian," Lindsey responded, turning towards Damian and running her hands suggestively down his chest. "Please don't sell me. I'll do whatever you want. Just let me stay with you."

Clark felt as if all the air had been punched out of him. He'd expected to have to convince Luthor — not Lindsey.

"Lindsey?" he asked.

Without releasing Damian, she turned towards him. Clark tried to read her eyes, but they were absolutely expressionless.

"I'm a little surprised, Mr. Kent, that you'd make this offer after the way you treated me last night," she said, the distinct sound of contempt in her voice.

"I…" Clark began, his gaze shifting between Luthor's smug look and Lindsey's cold gaze. He'd had an explanation ready in case Luthor didn't take his offer. The idea that he was having to use it because Lindsey was rejecting his offer was almost unbearable. It took him a moment to pull himself together enough to give his preplanned explanation. By the time he was finally in enough control to respond, Luthor had walked away from Lindsey, taking a seat again behind his desk — looking very much like the proverbial cat that had just eaten the canary.

Clark began walking slowly towards Lindsey. As he did, he continued to search her face for some indication of what was going on here. But she was completely shut off to him. After their conversation last night, he couldn't believe she wanted to stay with Luthor. Unless… Was it possible she thought staying with Luthor was a better option that coming with him? He could hardly believe it. Still, he was unable to find another explanation.

He pushed the thought out of his mind. Right now he had to find a way to explain how he could have rejected her advances last night and yet be making this offer today.

"There are certain things that I take very seriously, Ms. Landon," Clark said, using the same formal form of address that she'd used earlier. "For example, what almost happened between us last night. I take that very seriously. Obviously," he continued, glancing over at Luthor, "you don't feel the same way. I really thought that what happened meant that you wanted to take our relationship to the next level. I guess I was wrong." He stopped in front of her and raised a hand to run a finger down her cheek. "It's too bad. I almost think I could have fallen in love with you." Then he leaned over under the pretext of kissing her cheek and whispered. "In fact, I think I already have."

He pulled away and looked in her eyes one final time. Still, there was no reaction. He let out a short breath. How could he have been so wrong? He glanced back at Luthor.

"I withdraw my offer, Mr. Luthor. Obviously, Ms. Landon wants to stay with you." He turned back to Lindsey. "Goodbye, Ms. Landon. I think it's best that we don't see each other anymore." And with those final words, he turned and walked out of the room, his heart trailing along behind him.


"Was that absolutely necessary?" asked Lindsey, turning towards Damian the instant the door was closed.

Luthor furrowed his eyebrows. "I don't understand. I'd have sold you to Kent. You're the one who didn't want me to."

Lindsey snorted and looked back at the last place she'd seen Clark.

"Of course, it would mean I'd have to find another consort," continued Luthor thoughtfully. "Someone younger maybe, but…"

"I know exactly what it would mean," Lindsey snapped. "I told him, no, didn't I? So was there something else you wanted, or am I free to leave now?" She knew it was dangerous being quite this cantankerous towards Damian, but right now she was hurting too much to guard her tongue.

Luthor got up and made his way over to her. He took her chin in his hand and looked into her eyes for a long time before speaking.

"I'm getting the impression you like Clark Kent," said Luthor reflectively.

"Don't be ridiculous," Lindsey responded. "I just don't see what the purpose was in making him feel like a fool."

"Well, if that's all that's bothering you, don't worry. I don't expect you to understand. I just expect you to do as you're told. Besides, humiliating Kent wasn't the reason I did it. That was just a pleasant side effect. But as to my reasons… Mr. Kent seems to have developed something of a fixation, my dear. He almost seems to be having illusions of riding off into the sunset with you. And I will not…" He emphasized the word. "…let that happen." His hand tightened on her chin. "I'll kill both of you before I let that happen. You'd best understand that."

"I'm no fool, Damian."

"For your sake, I hope not," Luthor responded. "As for your Mr. Kent, if I had simply refused to sell, he'd have not given up his fantasy. But you…" He smiled. "…I don't think I've ever seen a more convincing performance. You should have been an actress."

As Damian released her and backed away, Lindsey thought about what he'd said. She had hated hurting Clark that way, but in some perverted, twisted way, Damian had probably done her a favor. At least Clark was out of her life for good — and she had always known that was the only way it could be.

"Of course, we're now left with the problem of trying to find some other way to keep Kent under control," Damian said thoughtfully.

Lindsey swallowed hard. Coming from Damian, that could mean just about anything.


Clark exited the elevator and looked around at the activity in the newsroom. It looked the same as it always did. Somehow, that seemed wrong. It felt to Clark as if something should have changed. Maybe dark sheets draped over everything or everyone talking softly — as if at a funeral. Instead, the hustle and bustle continued. He stood there, just watching, his mind not quite able to figure out exactly what he was supposed to do now.

He had come straight to the Planet after leaving Lindsey. However, it had not been a conscious choice. He'd just ended up here. Had his mind been functioning, he might have realized that it was a work day and that he was supposed to have been here over an hour ago, but it wasn't. So he simply stood outside the elevator, allowing people to rush around him.


A smile crept onto Paul's face as he looked out into the newsroom. He always found the frantic activity of his reporters in the morning invigorating. And everyone was rushing around, looking as if they had something to do or somewhere to be. He loved the way…

His thoughts trailed off when he noticed one exception. In the midst of all this excitement, one man stood completely motionless. His face blank. His shoulders slumped.

"Kent, my office," he bellowed into the newsroom.

He saw his reporter blink a couple of times before he seemed to realize that he was being summoned. He glanced over at Paul, looking slightly confused.

"Now!" Paul roared.

The final word had the desired effect. Clark headed towards Paul's office. Paul made sure he was well on his way before walking back into his office himself, taking a seat on the edge of his desk and waiting for Clark to arrive.

When Clark had come into the office and closed the door, Paul spoke.

"Listen, about last night…" When he noticed the blank look on Clark's face, he clarified. "When you wanted my help with getting Lindsey Landon away from Luthor. Well, I'm sorry that I wasn't able to help you, but…"

"Forget about it, Paul," Clark interrupted.

"What do you mean, 'forget about it?'" asked Paul. "Last night you said…"

"She doesn't want to leave him," Clark said, his eyebrows furrowing on the words as if he were in pain.

"When did this happen?" asked Paul.

"I took your advice and this morning…"

"What advice?"

"About trying to buy her from Luthor. I figured that…"

"What!" Paul exclaimed.

Clark shrugged. "I didn't have any other option. Anyway, she told me in no uncertain terms that she didn't want to leave him."

Paul was thoughtful as he made his way around to sit down behind his desk.

"Did she say why she'd changed her mind?" he asked.

"I think that's fairly obvious," pouted Clark, looking down at his hands. "She wants to be with him. Anyway, it's probably just as well. At least my time is now free to work on the Luthor investigation." Clark looked at Paul then. "Well, if that's all, I suppose I should get back to work."

Paul nodded and then watched as Clark left the office. There was something about this that didn't make sense — he just wished he could put a finger on what that was. If Clark were able to think beyond his own pain, maybe he would be able to see it, too. However, Paul didn't know how to make that happen — at least, not now. Maybe in a few weeks…


Lindsey sat in the quiet of her apartment thinking about the events of the day. She was worried. Damian hadn't said what his new plan was for neutralizing Clark — but she knew that if he didn't have one yet, it was just a matter of time before he found one. And Lindsey was terrified about what that might mean for Clark.

She was also concerned about what that might mean for her. If she did discover that Damian planned to do something to Clark, would she be able to just stand by and watch — like she'd done with Scardello? She doubted it. And if she openly defied Damian, the results would be devastating. How could she be expected to make a decision like that? How could she be expected to sacrifice one to save the other?

There was really only one choice. She had to find a way to make sure Damian couldn't do what he was constantly threatening to do if she disobeyed him. That way, if the time came to risk her life to save Clark's, she could do so without hesitation.

The only question was how to neutralize the threat. It would certainly have disastrous consequences if she got caught, but it was a risk she was going to have to take. So, where to begin? Information. Damian always said that the difference between victory and defeat was information.

Having decided that she was going to take the risk, she felt a tremendous sense of relief. It was good to have a plan — no matter how tentative. And it had the added benefit that it would keep her from missing Clark quite as much.

A small smile crept onto her lips as she thought about Clark's attempt to purchase her from Damian. It had been crazy and ill advised, but it had made her fall in love with him all over again. She only wished she'd been able to avoid hurting him, but there had been no choice. Her thoughts drifted to the words Clark had whispered in her ear before leaving. It had taken every acting skill she possessed not to react to them. In fact, she'd had to look over at Damian and think about being with him last night to keep from responding to Clark's confession of love. But Damian wasn't here now so she let herself relive the moment. Clark's breath against her ear. His soft words, unheard by Damian so that she'd know he meant them. Her heart broke for him. Why had he fallen in love with her, too?

A million credits. Where was Clark planning to come up with a million credits? She shook her head. And if he was planning to take her back to Earth, he had to know that the moment they landed that piece of paper he'd paid a million credits for would be worthless — she'd be free. No one had ever loved her like that before.



Paul glanced into the newsroom and studied Clark. He had to admit, he'd gotten more work out of his newest reporter during the past three weeks than he had in the seven preceding weeks. Still, he was worried. Clark would talk and even laugh, but when you looked into his eyes, it was like looking into the eyes of a corpse.

He watched as Roland made his way over to Clark's desk, taking a seat on the corner. Paul smiled when he saw Clark look up. He couldn't hear the conversation but he could almost imagine what was transpiring: Roland suggesting getting together tonight and Clark, very politely, of course, finding some reason he couldn't. If he didn't know better, he'd think Roland was gay. After all, he seemed to spend half his time 'hitting on' Clark. He was about to call out into the newsroom to remind Roland that he had work to do, but it wasn't necessary. Clark had managed to send Roland on his way.

Of course, Roland wasn't the only one 'hitting on' Clark these days. There was Kat. She seemed to be giving Clark her full court press. Paul was impressed by the way Clark was handling himself with that situation. Still, how long could a man be expected not to take what comfort was being offered? Especially someone who was as devastated as Clark obviously was.

He knew Clark had stepped up his investigation of Luthor. But apparently, from the look of it, Luthor's finances were legitimate. It made no sense. If Luthor was bribing and threatening officials and businessmen, the way Paul was convinced he was, he had to be spending money — big money. But there was no indication of where the money was coming from.

Clark had finally shifted his investigation and was now, one by one, checking out all of Luthor's properties. He seemed to be breaking into a different one every night, going through files and making detailed inventories. Paul was concerned about this new turn of events — mainly because he wasn't entirely certain Clark wasn't trying to get himself killed. After all, Paul had no doubt that was exactly what would happen if Clark was ever caught. And Luthor would undoubtedly walk away from the murder completely unscathed. He could simply claim that one of his security men had mistaken Clark for a burglar.

Still, there had been no way to dissuade Clark. He seemed absolutely resolute that if Luthor was dirty, he was going to find out. Paul was fairly certain he knew why Clark was doing this. It had become obvious during one particular argument they'd had about Clark's newest approach to this investigation. "I have to make sure that she's…" Clark had spit out during the course of the argument. The sentence had trailed off, but Paul was fairly certain he knew who 'she' was and he could insert a number of words and phrases in to complete Clark's thought.

His attention was diverted from Clark when he heard the 'ding' of the elevator. His eyebrows rose when he watched Mandy Drake enter the newsroom. She seemed to be looking for someone in particular because she stopped at the entrance and looked around. A moment later, she made a beeline for Clark. Clark glanced up and smiled as she approached. He got up, grabbed his jacket and accompanied Mandy from the newsroom. Paul glanced at his watch and realized it was about lunch time. He smiled. Maybe there was some hope for Clark after all.


"I was surprised to get your call," said Mandy as Clark pulled out the chair for her and waited until she was seated before making his way to his own place at the table.

"Well, I thought it might be a good idea if we talked," Clark replied.

Mandy studied him for several seconds. "So am I to assume that this isn't exactly a social occasion?" she asked.

Clark picked up a napkin and fiddled with it nervously before speaking. "Look, Mandy, I…" His voice trailed off helplessly.

"You're not ready to get involved with anyone," she concluded. "So, who was she?"

Clark finally met her eyes, a confused expression etching his features. "Who?" he asked.

"The woman who broke your heart," she said with absolute conviction. The crease that crinkled Clark's forehead, confirmed her suspicions. "It's okay, Clark," she continued. "I understand if you don't want to talk about it."

Clark relaxed. "Thanks, Mandy," he said softly, wondering why one's heart couldn't follow one's brain. After all, the woman sitting in front of him was beautiful, intelligent, and came with a lot less baggage than Lindsey did. And she was interested. So why was it that the only woman his heart was able to think about was Lindsey? 'I'm pathetic,' thought Clark. Just the mention of her and he was almost convinced he could smell Lindsey's perfume and hear her heart… He looked up in shock.

"Clark?" said Mandy's voice in the background.

This was more than his imagination, Clark suddenly realized. He glanced across the room just in time to see Lindsey enter the restaurant with Luthor. Almost as if she could sense him too, she looked in his direction. Their eyes met and locked for a moment before Lindsey glanced at Mandy and looked away. Clark spent a moment trying to catch his breath.

"Clark?" asked the voice again.

"Umm… Oh, I'm sorry, Mandy," said Clark, redirecting his attention to his lunch companion. "What were you saying?"

"I was just asking, since this isn't a social lunch, what did you want to talk to me about?"

"Right," said Clark, glad to have a topic of conversation to keep his mind occupied. "I was just wondering if you've had any luck getting your dad to change his mind about Bill E-123."

Mandy shook her head. "He won't even talk to me about it," she said.

"I have an idea about what might be bothering him and…"

"What is it?" interrupted Mandy.

Clark shook his head. "I'm afraid I can't tell you. But I was hoping to talk to the Senator about it. I don't know if it will make a difference but…"

"Great!" exclaimed Mandy, ready at this point to take any help she could get. "So, what's the problem? Were you wanting to run it past me first or…"

"Well, actually, I was hoping you could get me in to see the Senator. I've been trying, but the Senator has cut off all access to the press since his announcement."

Clark supposed he understood when Mandy hesitated. She was probably trying to decide if she could trust him. After all, he was the press and if he wasn't on the level about this… He did wonder briefly if talking to the Senator violated his agreement with Lindsey. However, he decided that since the Senator already knew about the incident, it wasn't as if he was telling the Senator anything he didn't already know. Still…

"Okay," she said hesitantly. "I'll see what I can do."

"Can I ask you something?" asked Clark hesitantly.

"Sure," Mandy responded.

"Well, it's only been recently that I've come to realize exactly how oppressed women on Mars are. Yet, we have women working at the Daily Planet. You also have a job. How is that possible?"

"In my case, it's because my father is not only the one who owns me, but he's also my biggest fan. He suggested that I come work for him years ago and…" She shrugged. "It really depends on who a woman's owner is. Some women, like me, have as much freedom as women on Earth. Other women are beaten or even killed without any sort of retribution just because her abuser is the man in her life. Of course, if a woman has a job, her pay goes to her owner. Again, what happens to that money depends on the man.

"Sometimes a man might even pimp out his woman or women to others. Or he might insist that she stay at home and raise his children. The woman has no say in the matter. That's why this legislation is so important."

"What about women who don't have male relatives?" asked Clark.

"Well, that depends," responded Mandy. "When the first laws were passed regarding women, any woman who didn't have relatives was exempt. There were even cases where women found themselves owning other females — daughters or sisters. That sort of thing. The matriarch of the family would become the owner. But that turned out to be more of a transitional phase."

"So what happens to women without male relatives now?"

"They become government property and are often sold in groups to wealthy businessmen for whatever purposes. Often they provide a cheap labor force. That's what makes it so difficult to get support to change things. Having a slave labor force makes wealthy men wealthier."

"Would Damian Luthor be one such businessmen?"

"I would imagine. On the other hand, some businessmen have refused to use slave labor — for ethical reasons. Mr. Luthor might be one of those. Why?"

"No reason," responded Clark, although it would certainly explain why Luthor was so intent on opposing the legislation to change the laws regarding women.


"Might I speak freely, monsieur?" asked Nathan.

Damian looked over at the man before gesturing with his hand, indicating that Nathan should go ahead.

"I'm getting a little concerned about mademoiselle Landon," confessed Nathan.

Damian turned, giving the man his full attention. "How's that, Nathan?" he asked.

"It's just that she seems a little…" He seemed to struggle to find the right word. "…restless at the moment."

Damian turned back around to look at the sight from his balcony. "She developed something of a crush on Kent," Damian replied. "It was bound to make her somewhat restless. But she'll be fine. After all, she's a woman and they are, by nature, fickle."

"But with the amount she knows…" Nathan continued.

Damian looked back at Nathan, causing Nathan to stop speaking. There really was no need, after all. He had communicated his concerns.

Damian chuckled slightly. "I thought you had a stronger stomach, Nathan. You can't really believe she's a threat to me. She's a woman. And trust me on this, Nathan, Damian Luthor will never be brought down by a mere woman."

"Yes, monsieur," said Nathan obediently.


Clark tried to figure out exactly what he was going to say to the Senator as he sat in the outer office, waiting for Mandy to persuade her father to see him. After all, he wanted to convince the Senator to reintroduce Bill E-123, not scare the man with the knowledge that someone else knew what he'd done, or almost done. The mere idea of being pleasant to the Senator was almost enough to turn Clark's stomach, but the goal here was to try to get the bill back before the Senate.

"Clark," said Mandy from the doorway to the Senator's office, "my father will see you now."

Clark nodded before slowly rising to his feet and making his way into the Senator's office. Once the usual formalities were completed and the two men were comfortably seated, Clark glanced at Mandy and asked, "Do you think I could have a moment alone with the Senator?"

She looked at her father briefly. When he nodded, she made her way out of the office, closing the door behind her. Clark waited until he was certain she was gone before turning back to the Senator.

"Senator, why did you really withdraw Bill E-123?" he asked.

"My daughter said this wasn't an interview," the Senator immediately responded, rising from his chair in indignation. "So if you think…"

"Is Damian Luthor blackmailing you?"

The Senator dropped back into his chair — a look that was a mixture of shock and fear crossing his face.

"He is, isn't he?" Clark said, simply confirming what he already knew.

"Listen, Mr. Kent," the Senator began cautiously, "I don't know what you think you know, but…"

"There's something I don't understand," Clark continued, ignoring the Senator's comments. "I did a little research and on Mars, raping a woman isn't even a felony. It falls under…" He thought for a moment as if trying to remember what he'd read. "…mischief to property. Of course, Luthor could sue you since Lindsey Landon belongs to him, but…"

"How did you know?" asked the Senator, his voice little more than a whisper.

"…either way," Clark continued, "chances are that your career would survive. So why would you withdraw such an important piece of legislation because of that?"

The Senator just stared at him for a moment before asking, "Have you told Mandy?"

Clark shook his head. "I haven't told anyone. And I don't intend to. I just want to know why."

The Senator let out a breath of relief before rising from his chair. He began to pace as he spoke. "It was that woman," he said, almost spitting the words. "She's the one who did this to me. If it hadn't been for her…"

Clark's insides immediately revolted. He was on his feet almost instantly, fighting his urge to wrap his hands around the Senator's throat. "She might have led you to water," Clark conceded, struggling to control his temper and acknowledging to himself that Lindsey had undoubtedly done everything she could to orchestrate what had happened in that room, "but you didn't have to drink! Tell me something, Senator. If I, for example, decided to ask your daughter out… I have a feeling she'd accept. So after a nice dinner, we go back to her place. She's been flirting with me all evening and has even let me kiss her a couple of times… How would you react if, after she said no, I decided not to listen?"

The Senator stopped dead in his tracks, his face going pale. "If you as much as touch my daughter…" He began.

"Has it ever occurred to you that Lindsey Landon is someone's daughter, too?" asked Clark. Okay, so Lindsey's mother probably wouldn't care and Lindsey didn't even know who her father was, but the principle was the same. "Lindsey would even be about the same age as Mandy," he continued. "How could you have done that to her?"

The Senator slumped back into his chair and buried his head in his hands. "I know," he whispered.

"Is your wife the reason you're allowing Luthor to blackmail you?" Clark asked, for the first time feeling a small amount of sympathy for the man in front of him.

Without raising his head, the Senator nodded.

"Then maybe it's time that you told her," Clark said.

"She'd never be able to forgive me," the Senator whispered. "And contrary to what you might think, I do love my wife."

"Maybe she won't forgive you. But think of the alternative. You give in to Luthor's blackmail and then the whole story comes out. How do you think she'd feel if she ever found out that not only did you try to rape Lindsey, but then you sacrificed your daughter's future in an effort to cover it up? The only chance you have to save your marriage is to be honest now because the truth usually has a way of coming out.

"Besides, if you care about your daughter, you owe it to her to see that this bill becomes law. After all, if you don't, someone could rape her and walk away as easily as you're walking away from your attempted rape of Lindsey." Clark rose from his chair. "Goodbye, Senator," he said and, without waiting for a reply, headed for the door to the office. "Don't compound your mistake by adding another one to it."

"Mr Kent," came the Senator's voice, causing Clark to turn around. "Thank you," he said.

"Just get some help, Senator. Because if I ever hear of you touching another woman like that again, telling your wife will be the least of your problems. You'll answer to me." With that Clark exited the office and, with a brief nod in Mandy's direction, continued on outside. He had to get out of there right now.


As Lindsey walked along the street in the dark, she silently recited the number she'd memorized. She'd spent the past three weeks looking for the information she needed. She'd even, on one occasion, snuck out of Damian's bed while he was sleeping to look through the drawers in his bedroom.

Still, even after three weeks, having almost got caught on a couple of occasions, she had been unable to find what she was looking for. Oh, she had certainly found plenty of information, and had even stolen a piece of paper or two that were now stuck in the bag in the vent on the roof of her apartment building. But that one critical piece of information she needed still eluded her.

Then yesterday, she'd found an address and a series of numbers written on a small piece of paper stuck to the bottom of one of the drawers of Damian's desk. When Damian had caught her on her hands and knees behind his desk, she was certain she was dead. However, he'd accepted her explanation that she'd lost an earring.

As she continued to walk, she again thanked whatever gods might be watching for giving her this chance to check out the address she'd found. She only hoped her luck would hold out long enough to see if the information she needed was there. She had hardly been able to believe it when Damian agreed to let her walk home by herself tonight. Normally, he insisted that she take one of the cars — which of course, meant a driver and no opportunity to check out this latest lead.

She shook her head slightly. Drivers weren't necessary when you could simply tell the car your destination and have it take you there. But Damian thought it was important to his image to have a driver. Even when he let her take a car without a driver, the car recorded the entire trip. But tonight he had been distracted by a call he'd received. She wasn't entirely sure what it had been about — something about some contract falling apart. But she was grateful that when she'd said that she'd like to walk home, he'd simply waved her out of his office.

Lindsey's mind drifted to her activities during the last three weeks. She never would have believed that she actually had it in her to spy on Damian. But now that she was, in spite of the danger and the fear, there was something vaguely familiar about it. It felt… right, somehow. It was crazy for her to be thinking this way. After all, there was so much at stake if she got caught, but she couldn't help almost enjoying herself in a way she never had before.

Clark. That was a different subject entirely. The muscles in her face pulled down on the corners of her mouth as she thought about seeing him at the restaurant earlier today. It hurt so much seeing him with Mandy Drake. Not that she didn't like the woman. She didn't really know her — except to exchange polite greetings at public functions. But seeing her with Clark… She could hardly believe how much she hated the woman.

She gave a small chuckle. Didn't Clark know that he was supposed to spend the rest of his life pining away for her the way she knew she would for him? After all, even if her plan worked, there still would not be a future for her and Clark. In fact, if her plan worked, there would probably not even be a future for her.

She pushed the idea out of her head. Before she could worry about that, she needed to find that information.


Clark tilted his glasses down his nose and took a thorough look around the alley. There was no one around. He pulled a black cap over his head to hide his hair and slipped on a pair of gloves — no need to leave fingerprints. He raised himself into the air, floating as close as possible to the building, hoping his black clothing and close proximity to the building would make him almost invisible. Once he'd arrived at a window on the upper floor, he took a look for an alarm system. He spotted the wires easily enough and then, using a small blast of heat vision, managed to disable the alarm. There were also bars across the windows which he carefully bent, using a little heat vision as he did to ensure that he wouldn't break any of them.

He glanced into the room and noticed a single security camera. Fortunately, it wasn't directed at the window. He silently rebuked himself for the oversight. After all, if the camera had been pointing at the window, he'd have been caught on computer card. He took a deep breath and sent a quick blast of heat vision at the camera. Then he slowly opened the window and floated inside. Realizing that it was only a matter of time before security decided to check out the failure of the camera, he moved quickly.

He closed the window behind him before taking a look around. The night lights made it possible for Clark to conduct a search without turning on any lights.

The room he was in was an ordinary office, just like so many ordinary offices he'd checked out recently. He got to work, going through drawers and files at a speed that would make the best filer jealous. Once he was finished, he checked out a number of other offices in a similar fashion — always beginning by taking out whatever surveillance devices existed. He knew with every additional surveillance device he incapacitated, the more likely he was to attract the attention of security. However, it was better having to avoid human surveillance than having his actions caught on camera. Once he'd finished checking out the various offices, he almost screamed. Once again, he'd found nothing he could use to incriminate Luthor.

He was just about to leave when he noticed a door to a closet. He probably wouldn't have thought anything about it except there was a keypad on the door that was far too sophisticated for a normal closet. Maybe this was what he'd been looking for. With renewed hope, he made his way to the door and began keying in combinations at superspeed. It was less than a minute before he heard a familiar click and knew he was in.

Before entering, Clark decided that he could probably give himself a little additional time if he gave security a distraction. He smiled slightly as he imagined what security would think when all their cameras and other surveillance devices quit working. If anyone had been watching, they'd have noticed that Clark's image flickered before he slid open the door to the closet and stepped inside.

The room that lay beyond was completely shrouded in darkness. Clark pulled out a small flashlight and, closing the door behind him, flicked the light on. The windowless room was absolutely black except for the small beam of light. Realizing that if he couldn't see any light, then no one on the outside could, he instructed a single light to turn on. Although still dim, there was enough light to see stairs in front of him.

Upon descending the stairs, Clark was in a room with row after row of filing cabinets almost reaching to the ceiling. The filing cabinets were set up in a circle so that a person standing in the center of the room could see between every row simply by turning.

It was obvious that Luthor didn't trust whatever was in these cabinets to computers if he was willing to waste so much paper. After all, paper was scarce, and thus expensive. Not that Luthor would particularly notice the dent in his bank account, but… Clark shook his head. If the environmentalists knew about this, they'd be furious.

He took a deep breath and began moving through the files at superspeed until he came across a file of particular interest. The name on the file was Senator Robert Drake. He quickly read the contents. Then he returned the file and continued his search. It was only seconds later when he came to a sudden stop. He stared at the file in his hands for a minute before beginning to read at normal human speed to be sure he didn't miss anything.

"Oh, Lindsey," he whispered when he got about halfway through the file. No wonder Lindsey was so adamant that she had to stay with Luthor. No wonder, when he'd tried to buy her, Luthor had asked for her opinion. He knew she'd only have one option — to beg him not to sell her. Clark felt an unfamiliar surge of hate roll through his body as he thought about how that animal had manipulated Lindsey all these years.

He heard a small noise and glanced up from the file. He'd been so engrossed in his reading that he'd obviously not been listening. If he had been, he'd have realized he was no longer alone.

"Lindsey," he whispered, staring into her shocked eyes.


When Lindsey first arrived at the office building, she almost gave up. The security at the front gate was impressive. How was she supposed to get by the security guards? She was a… well, whatever …not a spy. She wasn't equipped for this kind of thing. She was just about to leave when something caught her attention.

There was a flash of… well, she didn't know what. In less time than it took to blink it was gone. Almost immediately, the security guards began talking among themselves. She didn't know what was going on, but decided to stay around and see if an opportunity presented itself for her to slip into the building. She took a moment put on her gloves, in case she got her chance.

She was amazed when, one by one, the security guards who were outside began disappearing into the building. It wasn't long before all but one were gone. Taking a deep breath she waited for the remaining guard to be distracted and then, making her move, she managed to slip into the building.

She wasn't exactly sure where the room was but the note on the bottom of Damian's desk referred to the second floor so she snuck up the stairs. She was concerned about the cameras she'd seen in the lobby, but hopefully if no one was aware that someone had been here, no one would check the camera's records. However, to add to her safety, she used the collar of her jacket to obstruct her face.

She found the room quickly enough and punched in a series of numbers. She let out a breath when it clicked open. It was only a moment before she was inside. She glanced down the stairway. There was a light on. She stayed perfectly still, trying to determine if the light indicated that someone was inside. Not hearing anything, she cautiously made her way down the stairs and into the middle of the room.

She tensed when she saw a man standing by one of the file cabinets, intently studying a file. Quietly, she started to reverse directions before she was spotted. But then she realized the identity of the man, dressed in solid black, standing there. She froze, unable to do anything but stare. It never even occurred to her that maybe she shouldn't let him see her. In fact, the only thought running through her mind at this moment was that she'd never been so glad to see anyone in her entire life.

It seemed for a moment he was unaware of her presence and then he looked up. She could see the shock she was feeling reflected on his face. She heard him whisper her name and felt an involuntary sob come from the back of her throat. Still, she could do nothing but stare.

He seemed to recover first. He broke eye contact and glanced down at the file in his hands before looking back at her and saying, "Is this what you're looking for?" he asked, for some reason just seeming to know that this was why she was here.

She glanced down at the file in his hands and suddenly had to know what he was holding. She dashed over to him and grabbed the file. She looked at the title. 'Lindsey and Lucy Landon.' Suddenly, she had a case of nerves. This could be it — but what if it didn't have the information she needed? She wasn't sure she could handle one more disappointment. Her hands trembled as she opened the file.

Her desire to review the file was interrupted by a sound which was not immediately identifiable. She glanced up at Clark and realized that he had heard it, too. His glasses were tilted down on his nose and he seemed to be looking over the top of them.

"There have been two unauthorized entrances, sir," said a man's voice.

Lindsey felt her heart leap into her throat as she grasped the meaning of the original noise. Obviously, at least two people had opened the door at the top of the stairs and were making their way into the room.

"Did you leave the light on?" asked a second man.

"No, sir," the first man responded.

Lindsey looked around quickly. There was no place to hide. They were going to be caught. And when Damian found out what she'd been doing…

"Do you trust me?" whispered Clark.

She didn't have to even think about her response. "Yes," she said immediately. She was confused when he wrapped his arms around her. How was faking a moment of passion going to explain how they'd gotten in here? But then… Her mind rejected what was happening when she suddenly found herself lying on Clark on the top of the file cabinets. She didn't realize that she'd gasped until she felt Clark's hand covering her mouth.


When Clark had heard the men entering, his first thought was that if Lindsey were caught here, she'd never be able to explain herself to Luthor. He'd gone through a number of possibilities in his mind before realizing there was only one solution. He hadn't even thought about protecting his secret. All he knew for sure was that he needed to protect Lindsey.

He heard her gasp and immediately covered her mouth. He was certain there would be hell to pay for that eventually, but right now the important thing was to keep the men in the room from knowing they were there. He felt her begin to squirm in an effort to escape his grasp and tightened his arm around her. Still, she continued to struggle. His feet wrapped around hers to keep her from striking out and hitting the file cabinets beneath them. Yet it seemed that with every step he took to calm her, the harder she fought to get away from him.

"You have to stop fighting," he breathed into her ear. "There's no way you can get away from me if I don't want you to. And right now, I can't let you go until you're not panicking. Those men down there… Luthor."

On the final word, she went still. He closed his eyes and took a breath of relief. Obviously, he'd managed to get through to her. He cautiously removed his hand from over her mouth and loosened his grip. She stayed still.

"Well, whoever was here obviously isn't now," said one of the men.

"I suppose we should report this to Mr. Luthor."

"As well as the total breakdown in security tonight," the other responded.

"He's not going to be happy," the first man said.

"That's putting it mildly," responded the second man as the two of them made their way up the stairs. They both gave humorless chuckles. One instructed the light to turn off as they made their way out of the room.

Neither Lindsey or Clark moved for several seconds. Clark needed a moment to let his heart calm. Once he felt a little more in control, he stretched out with his senses to the woman still lying on top of him. Her heart rate hadn't calmed at all. In fact if anything, her heart rate had increased.

"Lindsey," he said softly. "It's okay. They're gone. You can get off me now."

Her response was to ball her free hand into the front of his shirt and bury her face in his chest.

"Lindsey?" he asked.

"It's so dark, Clark," she whispered after a moment.

Clark was startled to realize that there was real fear in her voice. He quickly withdrew his flashlight and turned it on. The beam bounced between the ceiling and the file cabinets, lighting the area around them. A second later she was scrambling to get off him, following which she began gathering up the file that was in some disarray following their adventure. As he watched her frantic activity, Clark realized that she was avoiding eye contact. He was unsure if that was because of what she'd just learned about him or what he had just learned about her. Still, other things were more important at the moment.

"We need to get you out of here," said Clark, looking at Lindsey who was now peering over the edge of the file cabinets, as if trying to figure out how to get down. He quickly flew down so that his face was level with Lindsey's. He stretched out his arms, silently offering her a lift. She stared at him for a moment before placing her hands on his shoulders and, still holding onto the file Clark had given her earlier, allowed him to help her down.

Clark tried to search her eyes for some indication of how she was reacting to all this, but she was once again shut off to him. As soon as they were back on the floor, she took the flashlight from him. "Come on," she whispered, heading towards the stairs, grasping the file they'd found earlier tightly in her free hand.


When Clark's hand had suddenly been over her mouth, Lindsey had immediately understood that it was to stop her from crying out. But then, when she tried to move away and couldn't, she panicked. Knowing Clark was the one holding her didn't stop the instinctive need to get away. Too many men in her past had held her against her will. That, together with the shock of finding herself lying on the filing cabinet, had pushed her over the edge. It was only Clark's whispered, "Luthor," that had finally penetrated her brain, causing her to still. When Clark had loosened his grasp in response, she'd been relieved.

Lindsey forced her mind away from all these thoughts as she headed up the stairs, concentrating instead on getting out of there. She had what she'd come here to find and she had no doubt that Damian would arrive as soon as he found out that someone had broken in. She had no idea what she was going to do since he would undoubtedly look at the surveillance cards. And although she'd been careful when she came in, there was a good chance Damian would recognize her.

Still, the first thing they had to do was find a way out — and considering the situation, security was bound to be on high alert. She stopped at the top of the stairs and listened carefully, trying to determine if anyone was on the other side.

"There's no one there," Clark whispered.

"How do you…" Lindsey began before her voice drifted off. Of course, he knew. There was only one explanation for what she'd seen tonight. She took a deep breath, refusing again to think about that, and slid open the door, turning off the flashlight as she did. She stepped out and headed towards the stairway. She was stopped by a hand on her arm.

"This way," said Clark, before taking them in the other direction.

It only took her a second to decide to follow. She was confused when he entered an office and headed directly for a window. As he opened it, she spoke, keeping her voice low.

"What are you doing?"

"Getting you out of here," he responded and then, before she could discern his intentions, he had her in his arms and was floating them out the window. He closed the window and bent the bars back in place with one hand while holding her against his chest with the other. Then, shifting her in his arms as if she were weightless, he flew away, being careful to stay very close to the buildings.

"Where are we going?" she whispered.

"My place," he answered. "I really think we need to talk. Don't you?"

She thought about that for a moment before nodding.


Lindsey's eyes followed Clark's every move as he made his way around his kitchen. It was only a few minutes before a fresh pot of coffee was brewed. As she watched him prepare her coffee the way she liked it, she marveled over the fact that he remembered. She supposed it wasn't as if that was such a big thing, but she doubted that after all these years Damian knew how she drank her coffee.

Seeing him in an environment like this, doing something as ordinary as making coffee, it was so hard not to think that she'd misunderstood what she'd seen earlier. His absolute composure was making it even more difficult. How could he be so calm about what he'd revealed to her tonight? Didn't he know that she could tell Damian?

Then there were the glasses. Why would he need glasses? Didn't Kryptonians have remarkable eyesight? She was certain she'd heard that they did. And come to think of it, what was a superhero doing living in a dump? She glanced around. Okay, so it was now a cute dump, but… And what about the job? None of the Kryptonians had jobs as far as she knew — at least they didn't have jobs that paid. But she knew Clark. He worked for the Daily Planet. She knew that. She'd read his work. None of this made any sense.

"Which one are you?" she finally asked, realizing that if she didn't say something about it soon, she was going to convince herself that she'd just imagined that Clark was… She didn't complete the thought, deciding instead to wait for an answer.

He handed her her coffee as a frown creased his features. "Excuse me?" he asked.

"Well, I've never seen any of you in person. I didn't even think any of you were on Mars, but… Well, I think it's fairly obvious that you're not 'The Defender' or 'Ultraman' — they both look older than you. And I guess I can rule out the women, too, but… Which one are you?"

For the first time Clark seemed uncomfortable. "I'm not any one of them," he said softly, moving to add some cream to his own coffee.

"Clark, I know what I saw. You can't tell me that…"

"I'm not saying that I'm not part Kryptonian, Lindsey. I am. I'm just not… I've never taken on a persona and become a… What would you call us? Superheroes, I guess. I'm just Clark Kent."

"Why, Clark? I mean, it's obvious you can fly. And I assume from what I saw earlier that you can see through things. And it's obvious that you're strong. So why aren't you…" She made a wavy motion with her hand. "You know."

He shrugged slightly before picking up his cup of coffee and making his way into the living room. She followed.

"I'm just not the hero type, I guess," he finally said.

She looked at him in disbelief for a moment before whispering the only response she had, "I think you are."

He smiled slightly and his hand came up to lightly run down her cheek.

"I don't understand," Lindsey continued after a moment. "You said you're part Kryptonian. I thought the Kryptonians all come from New Krypton. Weren't both your parents Kryptonian?"

"No. A couple hundred years ago, when additional superheros began to appear on Earth, the press came up with the New Krypton explanation and since it helped keep people from knowing that we had normal lives, we just didn't correct the assumption. In truth, we're all descendants of the original Superman."

"He had a wife?" asked Lindsey, clearly skeptical.

Clark nodded.

"A human wife?" Lindsey clarified.

Again, Clark nodded. "Kal-El was sent from Krypton just before the planet exploded. He was a baby at the time. Jonathan and Martha Kent found and adopted him. That's how he became Clark Kent." In response to her look, he added. "Yes, he had the same name as I do. We share the same birthdate, so my parents thought it was appropriate. Anyway, he grew up, met and fell in love with a human…" Clark emphasized the word. "…woman named Lois Lane. And they had children who, in turn, married humans and had children and… Well, I think you get the picture. Anyway, I'm sure you still have lots of questions. And I don't mind answering them. I even have a question or two myself, but…"


"Excuse me?"

"What's your question?" she asked.

"I'm wondering why you're afraid of the dark," he said, causing her to flinch. "And as much as I'd like an answer to that question, I'm wondering if now is the right time for this discussion. After all, there are one or two other issues that are a little more pressing at the moment."

She nodded before suddenly being struck by a thought. "Aren't you even going to tell me that I can't tell anyone?" she asked.

"I didn't think it was necessary."

"Oh," she said, her voice suddenly very small. How could he think so highly of her that he didn't even think it was necessary to ask her to keep this secret? Didn't he know what she was, the things she'd done? Didn't he know that he shouldn't be trusting her with a secret like this? Where did this blind faith in her come from?

"Anyway," Clark continued, "I think we need to start by talking about that." He gestured to the file that was now lying on the coffee table.

She blinked. She had been so taken back by her newfound discovery about Clark that she'd momentarily forgotten that she now had the file that could free her from Damian's control. She quickly grabbed the file and began looking through it frantically. As she turned to the last page her heart dropped. The information she so desperately needed wasn't in the file. A sob escaped from the back of her throat. Clark had her in his arms almost instantly.

"It's not here," she whispered over and over against his chest. "It was all for nothing. Tonight Damian will look at the camera records and know I snuck in and… It's not here."

"What's not here, Lindsey?" he asked. "I thought there was a lot there. Why didn't you tell me what Luthor was using to control you?"

She took a moment to respond, desperately trying to maintain what little control she still had. He didn't rush her. "I thought… I guess I thought there was no point in worrying you," she said, pulling herself out of his arms.

"No point in…" His voice trailed off. "Lindsey, why don't you start at the beginning? This time don't leave anything out, and then, maybe, with the two of us working together, we'll be able to find a solution."

She looked at him for several seconds before shrugging. If he'd read the file, he knew most of it anyway. And perhaps he was right. At least, at this point it couldn't hurt. After all, if Damian did realize what she'd been doing tonight, things couldn't get much worse.

"I guess starting at the beginning makes sense," she said softly, not looking at him. "As you know, my childhood wasn't exactly happy. Neither was my sister's. Lucy is about eight years younger than I am. I guess I sort of felt responsible for her. When she was just a baby, my mom would often disappear for days at a time. So I…"

"Became like a mother to her," Clark concluded when Lindsey didn't.

"I guess. I mean, for the most part, I was the one who took care of her. That wasn't always easy considering that there often wasn't even any food or diapers in the house. As a result, I became something of a thief." She chuckled, although there was no humor in it. "I guess I wasn't bad at it. At least I never got caught. And trust me, shoplifting diapers is not exactly easy.

"Even on those occasions when my mother was around, things weren't much better. Oh, sometimes she'd take a sudden interest in Lucy and me. But mostly…" She shrugged, then was silent as she struggled with the next part.

"I told you about my mother's boyfriends," she said. When he nodded his understanding about what she was referring to, she continued. "It didn't occur to me that Lucy might be in danger, too, until… Maybe my mom was right. At first, Clyde wasn't overly interested in me. But… I noticed him looking at Lucy. Mom didn't. But I knew the look. She was only six at the time, Clark." She met his eyes, feeling relieved when she realized that he was understanding what she wasn't quite saying. Then she looked back down at the cup of coffee in her hands. "Do you have anything stronger?" she asked, unsure if she needed some liquid courage or some distance from Clark before saying this next part.

"I think so," he said, rising to get her something.

"Maybe I did sort of make it clear that I might be receptive to… you know. Just as long as he left Lucy alone," she whispered, when he was on the other side of the room.

He was back immediately, no drink in his hand. He dropped to his knees in front of her. When she looked away, he put his hand on her cheek to bring her gaze back to his. "You were fourteen, Lindsey. You're not the one to blame in this," he said, dropping his hand when she looked at him.

"But, if I…"

"Clyde was the adult. Your mom was the adult. You were the child, or would have been if you'd been allowed to be. You did what you thought you had to do to protect your sister."

His hand again came up to her cheek in a gesture of comfort, but she pulled away. "Anyway, it didn't work. I mean, I was trying to protect Lucy and instead…"

"Your mom sold both of you to Luthor," Clark concluded.

She nodded. "At first, I thought being sold to Damian was the best thing that ever happened to us. I no longer had to worry about whether there would be food in the morning or if Mom would be passed out on the couch. And there were no 'boyfriends' to worry about."

"But then Luthor decided to find his way into your room at night?"

She shook her head. "I'm not sure if you can understand this. I'm not sure I do. But… well, Damian never forced himself on me. I went to his bed willingly." She got up and made her way to the bottle that Clark had pulled out earlier. She poured herself a drink and downed the contents before continuing. "Damian was so different. He showed me respect. He never acted as if he expected something from me." She gave a humorless chuckle. "What Damian enjoys most is seducing his women."

"You were hardly that," Clark responded.

"To Damian, a fourteen-year-old girl is a woman. And in many ways, I had more life experience than many thirty- year-old women. I was suspicious of him for a long time. He seemed to know exactly how to get to me — how to wear down my defenses. He'd take me to fancy restaurants and introduce me to his friends as Ms. Landon. It was the most respect I'd ever been shown. He undoubtedly knew that.

"When I finally did go to bed with… He let me believe that I was the one instigating it. I was in control. We'd been living there for almost a year at the time. Do you know that I actually believed he loved me?"

"So when did you discover that he didn't?"

"A couple of years later. I was seventeen when I caught him in bed with someone else."

"What did you do?" Clark asked.

"I sort of freaked. I went on a rampage. It's amazing. I'd never have the nerve to do that now."

"So what happened then?"

"I woke up the next day and Lucy was gone. When I asked where she was, he told me that she was safe for now, but that if I didn't do exactly as I was told she wouldn't be. I haven't seen her since. He gets me pictures occasionally and sometimes even a letter. But…" Her voice trembled slightly and then broke. She looked down at her hands as she fought for control.

"The scars on your wrists," said Clark. "Tell me about them."

She glanced down at the scars for a moment before nodding. It was probably the logical next thing to tell him in her story, anyway. "It was about six months later. What had been the best break in my life had turned into a never ending nightmare." She small furrow crossed her brow as she thought about that time in her life.

"Damian decided that it was time for me to start paying for my keep. He was in some serious contract negotiations when he noticed the way the man he was negotiating with kept looking at me. So… That was the first time he gave me to someone else for the night. I was devastated." She gave a humorless chuckle. "I cried the whole time — not that the man seemed to notice. But then I got back to the penthouse and… I couldn't take it anymore, Clark. I just couldn't see any other way out so I…" Her voice broke. She poured herself another drink and took a sip.

"Anyway, when I came to in the hospital, Damian was pacing in my room." She let out a slow, steadying breath. "My first thought was that he cared."

"I take it that wasn't it."

She shook her head, her eyes gaining a haunted expression. "He told me that if I ever tried to leave him again, he'd…" Her voice trailed off.

Clark got up from where he was seated on the couch and came over to where she was standing by the counter. "He'd…?"

"He'd go after Lucy," she said softly. "And he promised me that what he'd do to her would be worse than anything I could imagine. I can imagine a lot, Clark." She met his eyes. "I couldn't let that happen. I couldn't," she repeated, desperately searching his eyes for some sign of understanding.

His hand came up to her shoulder this time, but when she flinched away from it, he again withdrew his hand. "So you did what he told you to do," he said, encouraging her to continue as if realizing that she still had more to tell him and that until she did, she couldn't accept comfort.

She nodded briefly.

"Like what happened with Senator Drake," he continued.

A look of pain crossed her features. "I didn't know what Damian was planning to do with… I mean, I knew that he was going to blackmail the Senator, but I didn't realize that he was using me to set back women's rights on Mars. Not that I wouldn't have done it if I had known, but…"

"I don't know if this helps, but I had a little talk with the Senator today. I think he might be willing to reintroduce the legislation."

"Does he know how you knew?" she asked.

He shook his head. "Why?"

"Damian didn't get a good look at your face on the camera. And I didn't tell him that it was you," she whispered.

He smiled. "So you see, you have been fighting him," he said. "And you told me that we were under surveillance. And it's my guess that you've been doing what you could to fight him all along."

"I haven't done enough," she responded. "Mostly, I just did as I was told and tried not to think about what I was doing."

He took a deep breath before taking her hand and leading her back to the couch. They sat down again before he continued. "Lindsey, you've got to quit being so hard on yourself. You were put in an impossible position. You did the only thing you could do. It isn't your fault. It's Luthor's."

She didn't respond, obviously not convinced.

"Tell me something," Clark said on a hunch. "Were you Scardello's source?"

She nibbled on her lower lip before finally nodding.

"What happened?"

She shook her head. "I don't know. All I know is that I was supposed to meet with Dale when Nathan showed up at my door and said that Damian wanted to see me. He took me to a warehouse. When I arrived, Dale had already been badly beaten. At first, I was terrified Damian knew that I was Dale's source and that's why he'd brought me there. But he didn't. And no matter how many times he asked Dale who his source was, Dale didn't tell." She gave a small sob. "I just watched, Clark. I didn't do anything to stop him from killing Dale."

"There was nothing you could have done."

"I could have told Damian the truth. Maybe then…"

"Lindsey, the only thing that would have accomplished was that Luthor would have killed both of you. Probably your sister, too."

"But…" Her voice trailed off.

Clark found himself suddenly wondering if there was more to this than she was telling him. "Did you love him?" he asked, playing his hunch.

She looked confused. "Who?"


She suddenly looked very uncomfortable. She turned away from him.

"It's okay if you did," Clark said.

"What? No, that's not it," she said, turning back towards him.


"Well, I guess that's part of the reason I feel so bad about… No, Clark, I didn't love him. But…" She stopped.

"You were lovers," Clark completed.

She chuckled, almost sounding amused.

"What?" asked Clark.

"It's just… well, you make it sound… I don't know. I wouldn't exactly say that we were 'lovers.' It was more… a business arrangement," she concluded, somewhat pleased with her choice of words. "He said he wanted me to prove that I was really willing to betray Damian. And I'd have given anything to have an ally — someone who might be able to bring Damian down. I thought, maybe, if Dale could… Maybe Damian wouldn't connect it to me and…" Her voice trailed off when she saw the pained look on Clark's face. "I just wanted to be free, Clark," she whispered, figuring that Clark was disgusted with her for sleeping with Dale.

"What?" Clark asked, understanding from her tone that she was apologizing for something, but having no idea what. Suddenly, it hit him. "You think I'm upset because you slept with Dale?" he asked.

She gave a small shrug with one shoulder.

"No, Lindsey. That's not what I'm upset about. I'm upset with Scardello for lying to you. Lindsey, he was a reporter. A reporter does not 'sleep' with his sources to verify information. He would have had to verify it independently anyway. After all, he couldn't very well tell Paul that he knew the information was accurate because you slept with him."

She looked down at her hands. "Don't be too hard on him, Clark. After all, he died without ever telling Damian that I was his source."

"Luthor would have killed him anyway."

"But he could have saved himself a lot of pain if he'd just… but he didn't."

"So how did you get away from Luthor long enough to form this alliance with Scardello?" asked Clark.

"He doesn't keep tabs on my every move. He likes to watch me in my apartment and he wants me to think he can see everything I do, but he can't. I think he figures that since he has Lucy, I'm not going to try anything. But, Clark, I've done a lot more wrong than I have right."

"I'm sure you just did…"

"No, Clark," Lindsey interrupted, "please don't say anything. Not yet. Not until I've said this." She then took a deep breath, and not meeting his eyes, continued with her story, telling him many of the things she'd done over the years.

Clark listened in silence, as if understanding her need to use him as her confessor. Once she finally ran out of steam, she looked down at her hands and nervously fiddled with them as she waited for him to pronounce judgment.

Clark looked at her for a long moment — so long in fact that she was beginning to think he was too appalled to even get angry at her. He shocked her with his next comment.

"I love you, Lindsey Landon," he whispered.

She gave him a look of pure skepticism. "Why?" she finally asked.

He chuckled. "Trust me, I've been asking myself that same question for the past three weeks."

"But after what I just told you…"

"How could I still love you?" he asked. He considered the question carefully before responding. "Do you remember when I first brought you to see my apartment?" he asked.

She nodded, glancing around at the apartment now. "It sure didn't look anything like this, but you said…" She hesitated when the meaning of his words sunk in. "You said to look at the potential."

Clark nodded.

"Why would you think that I have potential, Clark?"

"I don't think it. I know it," Clark said. "I've seen it. Glimpses into your soul. It's beautiful," he concluded on a whisper.

She bit her lip as the tears she'd been fighting since beginning her story finally began slipping down her cheeks. He gathered her into his arms and this time she didn't resist his comfort.


"What do you mean all the security cameras quit working?" demanded Luthor. "Was there a power outage or something?"

"No, sir. That's just it. It seems that there was some sort of electrical malfunction in each camera, but they don't seem to have been connected."

"Find out what happened," Luthor demanded. "There is a lot of very sensitive material stored here. Is anything missing?" he asked.

"Not as far as we can tell. The door shows two unauthorized entries, but if it was behaving as oddly as the rest of the security system tonight, it's entirely possible that there's an error in it, too."


Clark brought a blanket into the living room and wrapped it around Lindsey's shoulders. She gave him a grateful smile as she pulled it around herself. She felt emotionally exhausted. Yet, she knew that there was more to discuss. She suspected that Damian would be waiting for her at her apartment — having discovered that she'd broken into his files. Still, she knew she would have to go back. Because if she didn't, he would undoubtedly take it out on Lucy. And, as a result, she was determined to say everything to Clark that needed to be said tonight — before it was too late. So, in spite of how exhausted she was, she fought sleep, taking another sip of her coffee.

"Clark, I need you to promise me something," she said quietly, glancing at the file now lying on the coffee table.

"Anything," he responded while taking a seat on the couch next to her.

"If for some reason I can't… I need you to promise to keep looking until you find my sister."

"You're going to find your sister," Clark insisted.

She let out a slow breath. "Clark, when I broke into Damian's files tonight, I tried to keep my face from being caught on camera, but I'm sure when Damian looks at the surveillance cards he'll figure out where I spent my evening. Now, I have to go back. Otherwise, he'll move against Lucy, but… I just need you to promise me that you'll find her and get her away from Damian."

"Lindsey, he won't know it was you."

"I hope you're right, but…"

"Lindsey, I disabled all the cameras. He won't have anything to look at."

Lindsey thought about the streak she had seen when she'd been trying to find a way into the building, but Clark was still talking so she redirected her attention to him.

"But you do bring up a good point. If you go back right now, could you come up with a believable explanation for where you've been this evening?"

"If Damian doesn't suspect something, yes. But, Clark, I think there are a couple more things we need to talk about."

"I agree. But the first thing to do is to give you a cover. You interested?"

"What did you have in mind, sir?" Lindsey responded with a small smile, feeling much more optimistic now that Clark had told her that she hadn't been captured on camera.


Lindsey waited for Carl to open the door. Normally, if he wasn't right there, she just opened it herself, but for this plan to work, she had to make sure that Carl remembered seeing her enter.

"Good-evening, Miss Landon," Carl said.

"It is a good evening, isn't it," said Lindsey giving him her most charming smile. "Tell me something, Carl. I mean, we've never really talked before and it occurred to me that I really don't know anything about you."

"What would you like to know?" stammered Carl, flabbergasted that the beautiful woman before him might actually be interested in knowing about him.

She smiled. "I was just wondering," she began, glancing at him through her eyelashes, "do you have a girlfriend?"

Carl swallowed hard before responding. "N… no. I mean, no. Not at the moment."

Lindsey gave him a quick pat on the chest. "That's a shame. If I weren't involved with Damian…" She let the sentence trail off and, with a small sigh, headed for the elevator, absolutely certain that Carl would remember her arrival.

Once she arrived at the penthouse, she went straight to her bedroom and changed into a pair of sweats and a sweatshirt before crawling into bed. She saw the emergency lights that she'd had put in so that it wouldn't be dark in the event of a power outage come on.

"Are you decent?" asked a voice from the balcony.

"Yes," she said, and a moment later, Clark was in her bedroom. "I take it you turned off the power."

"A circuit blew," he said casually. "Nothing that they won't have fixed in a few minutes, however, so…"

She got up quickly, stuffed her pillows under the covers, grabbed the pictures and letters she had from Lucy from her dresser and was about to accompany him onto the balcony when he gestured her to wait. He took out a small device and fixed it just inside the door to her apartment.

"What are you doing?" she asked.

"I'm putting my own bug in your apartment — just in case Luthor decides to pay you a visit. If that happens, we need to make sure we can get you back before he realizes you're gone.

A moment later, they were airborne and on their way back to his apartment.


As she snuggled into his arms, enjoying the view, Lindsey's mind flashed back to the dream she'd had shortly after meeting Clark, where she'd fallen off a building, screamed his name, and had suddenly been caught in his arms. Had her subconscious somehow realized that Clark was really Kryptonian? She shook her head slightly. Until tonight she hadn't believed the rumors that surfaced from time to time that the Kryptonians were really just ordinary people living ordinary lives so there was no way her mind could have made such a connection.

Still, there was no other way to explain the dream. Or was there? No. But then, why did flying in his arms this way also feel so incredibly familiar to her? It was almost as if she'd flown with him all her life. She closed her eyes, burying her face in his shoulder.

"Are you all right?" Clark asked.

"Yes. No. I don't know," she finally admitted.

Clark landed them on the balcony of his apartment and set her down. She turned and walked into the apartment with him following.

"So, do you want to tell me what's wrong?" he asked.

She turned back towards him as she seriously struggled with how to express her thought. "I suppose it's nothing really. I just… well, Clark, I think I should be seriously freaked out about…" She gestured towards him. "But I'm not."

"So you're upset because… you're not more upset?" he asked.

"Well, when you put it that way, I guess it does sound a little crazy."

"A little?" he asked, earning himself a swat on the arm. "So what's the problem?" he asked, following her to the couch.

She took a seat as she tried to figure out how to explain herself. "It's just that flying with you just now… it felt so familiar. I even had a dream where we were flying together."


She studied him for a moment before asking, "What is this connection between us, Clark? Or am I the only one who feels it?"

"You're not the only one."

"Does it have something to do with you being Kryptonian? Is this one of your powers that I've never heard about?"

He chuckled. "If it is, it's one I've never heard about either."

She looked at him for a few seconds more before shaking her head and turning her attention to the file sitting on the coffee table.

"I was so sure it would be here, Clark," she said.

"What would?"

"Where he's holding Lucy. I thought if I could find her…"

He took a deep breath, grabbed the file, and headed for the kitchen table. He set it down and opened it before looking back at her. "Well, maybe it doesn't tell us exactly where to find her, but there might still be some clues in here that will tell us where to start looking."

She smiled, getting up and coming over to join him. "Thanks, Clark," she said, taking a seat at the table and turning her attention to the file.


It had been about an hour since they'd begun looking through the file. There was no indication of where Lucy was being held. But it was obvious that Luthor had assigned that task to Nathan. Lindsey and Clark had batted ideas back and forth, both fascinated by how easily they seemed to work together. It was almost as if they could read each other's minds. Soon they were completing the other's sentences with an ease that left them both in awe.

They had also examined the letters and pictures Lindsey had received over the years, looking for any clue they could use. But Luthor had been very careful. It seemed that she was in school. At least, in one letter she referred to doing well on her report card, but there were a lot of schools in a lot of communities on Mars. And, for all they knew, she could be taking her courses through correspondence or with a private tutor. Besides, the letter which referred to school was several years old. In later letters, Lucy seemed primarily concerned with why Lindsey never bothered to contact her and asking if Lindsey hated her. It was obvious that Luthor's cruel streak had led him to pass these particular letters on to Lindsey.

She stared for a long time at the latest picture she'd received. When Clark leaned over to see what she was looking at, Lindsey spoke.

"She looks good though, doesn't she," she said softly.

Clark immediately understood what she was doing — looking for some reassurance that Lucy wasn't being abused. "She looks great," Clark responded immediately. "Lindsey, he's not going to hurt her. And he's not going to tolerate anyone else hurting her. He knows she's the only hold he has on you."

Lindsey nodded slowly. She knew that Clark couldn't know that, but she accepted his reassurances.

Clark leaned back in his chair, glancing over at the clock. It was well after midnight. And there really wasn't anything more they could do tonight. They had decided that Clark would begin his investigation of Nathan first thing in the morning — to see if he could figure out exactly where Nathan would be keeping Lucy.

He removed his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose. Running his hands through his hair, he looked over at Lindsey.

"I suppose we should quit for the night," he said. "I'll see what I can dig up on Nathan first thing tomorrow."

Lindsey didn't respond. Instead, she began rustling through the file again. Clark's hand on her arm stopped her.

"There's nothing else here, Lindsey," he said softly.

"Well, maybe we should…"

"Lindsey, it's late. I should take you home. I'll get on this first thing tomorrow. I promise. We will find her."

He watched as she bit her lower lip.

"What is it, Lindsey?" he asked softly.

"Nothing," she said, removing her arm out from under his hand. "You were going to take me home now." She rose from her chair and started towards the balcony.

Clark caught up to her and placed a hand on her shoulder. She shook off his hand.

"What did I do?" he asked.

The words stopped Lindsey's forward motion.

"Nothing, Clark," she said softly. It was a few more seconds before she spoke again, this time her voice so low that Clark had to use his enhanced hearing to figure out her words. "Can't I stay here tonight?" she asked.

"I'm not sure that's a good idea, Lindsey," Clark said slowly, fighting the images that immediately came to mind with her suggestion.

"Of course," said Lindsey, trying to sound almost dismissive. "Why would you want…"

"It's not that," Clark interrupted, seeing immediately where she was going with her comment. He placed his hands on her shoulders, turning her towards him. "I just don't want Luthor coming to your place and finding out that you aren't there."

She suddenly looked much more hopeful. "We have the surveillance device in my apartment, Clark. If he comes over, you can get me back before he ever knows I'm gone."

He placed a finger under her chin and studied her eyes. "Why?" he finally asked.

She tore her gaze away. "I just feel safe here, Clark."

Clark nodded slowly. It would play hell with his self- control to have her stay here, but… how was he supposed to say no to that?

"I can't fly you back in the daylight," he said, another problem occurring to him about her suggestion.

"It doesn't get light until almost seven-thirty these days. You could take me back at seven."

"I'd love to have you stay," said Clark after a moment more.

Lindsey immediately threw herself into his arms. He held her for just a moment before realizing that holding her right now was not a good idea. Her initial suggestion that she stay had taken his mind in a certain direction, having her in his arms was reinforcing those images. He let her go and began walking away, wondering exactly how obvious his desire was and desperately hoping that she didn't notice. After all, if she knew exactly how she affected him, she wasn't likely to feel safe here — and he wanted her to feel safe. "Why don't you use the washroom first?" he suggested, while cleaning up the file still lying on the kitchen table. He breathed a sigh of relief when she took him up on his suggestion.

He stole one of the pillows from his bed and headed out to the couch. He was just getting the blanket spread out that Lindsey had been using earlier when she reentered the room.

"You can take my room," he said, glancing over at her.

"Oh, I thought…"

He stopped and looked up at her. "You're my guest, Lindsey. I'm not going to let you sleep on the couch." She looked slightly confused, as if she wasn't quite sure what he was talking about. "What?" he asked.

"Nothing," said Lindsey, breaking eye contact.

He let out a breath. "You've got to quit doing that," he said.

"Doing what?"

"Lying to me. What is it, Lindsey?"

She fiddled nervously with her hands. "I just sort of thought…" She gestured towards the bedroom.

"That we'd share the bed?" he asked.

"Well, yeah."

He left the couch and came over to her. "Lindsey, I really don't think that's a good idea. I'm just not certain my self control would last the entire night."

She shrugged. "That would be okay, I guess," she said.

He felt an immediate rush of heat. She wanted to make love to him. Then her words sank in. She hadn't said she wanted to make love with him. She'd said, 'that would be okay, I guess,' as if she'd be prepared to accept his advances if that were the price for spending the night at his place. At that realization, his body temperature began to cool.

He took her hand and led her to the couch. Once they'd sat down, he spoke again. "Do you remember what I said to you in Luthor's office?"

"That you had fallen in love with me," she responded.

"Well, yeah. But before that. I told you that making love is something I take very seriously."

"I thought you just said that for Damian's benefit."

Clark shook his head. "Lindsey, I don't want you to make love to me because… well, because you think I expect it. If we ever do make love, I want it to be because we both want it, because we both want to be as close to each other as it's possible for two people to be."

"So you don't want that now," she said.

"If that's what you think…" His voice trailed off. How could he make her understand what he wasn't certain he understood himself? All he knew was that he never wanted her to think she owed him anything in exchange for his assistance. At the same time, he didn't want her to worry that anything she'd told him tonight had made him want or love her less. The problem was how to get her to believe both. Finally, he had an idea. He took her hand in his and placed it on the left side of his chest.

"Do you feel that?" he asked.

She looked up at him, as if trying to figure out what he was referring to.

"That's my heart," he said. "And it belongs to you. It always has. And it always will. You don't have to make love to me to get my heart, Lindsey. You already have it. The reason I want to help is because I have to follow my heart, and since you're the one holding it… you don't owe me anything. I just want to help."

She sucked in a jagged breath and he saw her chin quiver slightly.

"If we ever do make love, it's going to be because it's the right thing for both of us," he continued. "But right now, you aren't ready to even consider what you want out of our relationship. And I have no intention of rushing you. The important thing right now is to find Lucy so that both of you can get away from Luthor. We can worry about our relationship, and whether we even want to be more than friends then. Do you understand?"

She nodded slowly, her free hand coming up to his cheek and running gently over his face. Then she leaned over and lightly kissed him.

"You are an incredible friend, Clark Kent," she said softly. "The best I'll ever have." She studied his face for a moment more before saying, "I guess I should…" She gestured to the bedroom.

He nodded. She sat there for a moment more before getting up and heading for the bedroom.


Lindsey was wide wake. As she lay there, she thought again about Clark's words. It amazed her that he would help her so unconditionally. He hadn't even assumed that they would make love in the future even though he'd made it quite clear that he was in love with her.

Or was that the difference? She'd read books about love, but she'd never believed that unconditional love existed. In her experience, love always came with strings. Until now. Maybe it was time to reevaluate her view of love. That led to a more disturbing question. Could she ever give him that in return? She just didn't know.

She had thought she was in love with him. And certainly the emotions she felt for him were some of the most powerful she'd ever experienced. But Clark's love was so selfless, so pure. She didn't know if she was capable of that kind of devotion. Maybe it would be easier just to give him her body.

And when it came to that, why would he think she wasn't ready? After all, it wasn't as if she was some blushing virgin. Even her dreams these days bore that out, having become increasingly erotic since meeting Clark. And part of her was dying to be with Clark. Suddenly, she understood what Clark was saying. There was only part of her that wanted to be with Clark. How was it that Clark had recognized that when she hadn't?

Then a more unsettling thought occurred to her. Why was there part of her that didn't want to be with Clark? He was gorgeous, sweet, gentle. He treated her as if she was a lady. At times, he'd look at her in such a way that it would send shivers down her spine. So what was holding her back?

She didn't have to think very hard to find the answer. She might be slow to recognize it, but she knew that her heart had been badly bruised — most of it through sex. Right now, what she had with Clark was so different from anything she'd ever experienced before. There was a fear that if they took things further it would be ruined.

She thought about the sweats she'd put on during the trip to her apartment. She'd known that she had to change into something Damian would believe she might sleep in, in case he checked the cameras' records. Still, why had she decided on this old pair of sweats? She had nicer sweats. Was it because subconsciously she was trying to tell Clark that she didn't want anything to happen? After all, she was well aware of what had happened the last time they'd spent any real time together. Of course then, Luthor had ordered her to seduce Clark. Still, she certainly remembered the heat that had been generated between them while they were kissing on her couch.

She thought again about not being ready for them to make love. She wondered if that had ever happened before. She let out a short breath. It had never happened before because never before had it been her choice — at least, it hadn't happened since she had been an adult. And even with Damian, before she'd caught him with someone else, making love was more an expression of gratitude than an act of love. She'd have been prepared to give Clark that tonight. She smiled. That was difference between Damian and Clark. As long as she was in his bed, Damian was satisfied. Clark wanted more than that. She felt a rush of tenderness for him. She doubted Damian even knew there could be more than that.

Clark was right. She definitely wasn't ready to make love to him. So why did she wish Clark was in here with her instead of out on his couch? She needed to be close to him — to feel the safety of his embrace — to find strength in his arms. Tomorrow, he would take her back. And… well, only the gods knew what would happen then. For all she knew, Damian had figured out that she was the one who had broken in. After all, who else would steal her and Lucy's file?

She got out of bed and made her way to the doorway. Leaning against the doorframe, she watched Clark. She wanted so badly just to go over and curl up with him. But was that fair to him? She thought about his earlier comments about sleeping out here because he didn't trust his self-control. She really should just go back to bed. Still, even standing in the doorway, watching him sleep, she felt so much safer than she had alone in his bed. She gave a small start when he opened his eyes and looked over at her. "You couldn't sleep either?" he asked.

She shook her head. He studied her for a moment before raising the blanket in front of him. She looked at the spot on the couch in front of him that his actions revealed. She couldn't believe how much she wanted to take him up on his offer, but…

"I don't want to make love," she said, looking into his eyes in hopes that he would understand.

"I know," he said softly. Then he gestured with his head to the spot in front of him.

"Are you sure?" she asked.

"Would you just get over here," he said with a grin.

She met his smile and then scampered over to curl up in front of him. When his arm moved to pull the blanket over her, she took his hand and brought it up to her lips, lightly kissing it before sighing and closing her eyes. As she drifted off to sleep, it briefly occurred to her that for the first time in as long as she could remember, she hadn't taken flex before bed. She would undoubtedly need it tomorrow, but as for tonight… She snuggled back into Clark's reassuring embrace and was asleep almost immediately.


Clark watched as the clock in the entertainment center clicked over from four fifty-six to four fifty-seven. As he did, he listened to the soft noises coming from the woman in front of him. She'd been asleep almost the instant she'd lain down. He hadn't slept a wink. Having her sleeping in his arms was sheer hell, as well as the closest thing to heaven he'd ever known.

He was tempted on several occasions to pull her just a little closer or kiss her neck. But every time that thought occurred to him, he'd remember what she'd said about her mother's boyfriends. He was determined that he was never going to do anything that would remind her of them. If all she ever wanted from him was to curl up in his arms, he was going to make sure she felt safe doing it.

He was amazed that she was here — that she could feel safe enough to sleep in his arms. He would do nothing to betray that trust. As a result, he'd tried to keep his mind occupied with other things during the course of the night. He almost chuckled. He'd never realized how much one could get accomplished when sexually frustrated. After all, had she still been in his bedroom, he'd probably have gotten some sleep. As it was, he'd had all night to think.

He saw the clock change from four fifty-seven to four fifty-eight. He figured he could get up at five. He'd try not to wake her, but if he did, he could claim that he always got up early. And while that was true enough, five o'clock was a little early even for him.

During the night, he'd thought a lot about her going back to her apartment. He'd decided that he was going to convince her not to do it. He'd hide her out here until they could come up with something better. They'd work around the clock to find Lucy. He had a couple of ideas about how to do that. In fact, he'd make her see that by leaving Luthor, she might even help in that endeavor. After all, Luthor might well send for Lucy. And with Clark's special powers, when they made their move, he could find out where Lucy was and get to her first.

He knew Lindsey would probably object at first, but he'd make her see the rationality of his plan. What he couldn't stand was the idea of letting her go back. Every instinct he had yelled at him to protect her, and he couldn't do that if she went back there.

He glanced again at the clock. It was now four fifty-nine. One more minute. She mumbled something incomprehensible in her sleep. It almost sounded like 'We are not…this broom.' Then she turned in his arms so that she was curled up against his chest. He closed his eyes tight and concentrated on silently counting backwards from sixty — each number in a different language. Still, his arm unconsciously tightened around her. He lost count for a moment when her heard her soft moan in reply.


There was no sense of wonder that they were floating on the ceiling. In fact, at this moment, she hardly noticed. Instead, her mind was consumed with one question. How was it possible that he could make every nerve in her body feel as if it were on fire? Never had she experienced anything remotely similar. In fact, had she not experienced it for herself, she'd not have believed it was possible for a man to make her feel the way he just had.

As she tried to find her breath, she wondered briefly if he was experiencing anything remotely similar to the wonderment she was feeling. She glanced over at him and realized that he was looking as amazed as she felt.

She tried to express herself, to tell him what he'd done for her, but was unable to find words. His words didn't make much more sense than hers. Still, in spite of a lack of words and a complete absence of sentences, they managed to communicate some of what they were feeling.

She heard him mutter something about going to Hawaii as they'd planned and even though they could undoubtedly be there in a matter of minutes, she didn't want to share him with anyone else long enough for them to get checked in. Besides, it wasn't the Hawaiian beaches she wanted at the moment. Going to Hawaii would just mean swapping one room for another. After all…

"We are not leaving this room," she said, rolling over against him and finding his mouth with hers. When he pulled her closer, she moaned softly into his mouth — all thoughts of Hawaii suddenly forgotten.


It was almost five-thirty before Clark cautiously floated off the couch. He had meant to get up at five, but she had seemed so content curled up against his chest that he hadn't had the heart to leave her. She almost seemed to be dreaming and by the soft sounds she was making, he figured it was a pleasant dream. He didn't want to disturb her. He figured she had too few moments in her life when she'd been happy, so if she could at least find a little happiness in her dreams, he was all for it. When he was finally up, he took a moment to tuck the blanket back around her.

"Clark?" came her sleep filled voice, in spite of his best efforts not to wake her.

"It's okay, Lindsey," he said softly. "It's still early. Go back to sleep."

She gave a small groan of disapproval but then rolled over, pulled the blanket further around her and was asleep again almost immediately.

He watched her for a moment before he had an idea. He went to his room and got out a sketchbook he kept there. Then, taking a seat in his lazyboy, he sketched her picture. She looked so innocent, so beautiful. He just had to capture it on paper — to let her see what he saw.

Once he was finished, he sat back and continued to watch her, absolutely amazed at the amount of love he could feel for another person. He debated for a moment how to communicate that to her. When he was younger, he'd studied the poets. Surely, one of them had found a way to describe what he was feeling. How, during the past three weeks when he thought he'd lost her, his life had seemed so meaningless. He recited various love poems to himself — poems written by the greats.

Then he scrapped that idea. If he came on too heavy, he would undoubtedly scare her. No. He needed to find a way to say this without panicking her. He thought about that for a minute. He almost chuckled when he recalled a poem he'd read years ago written by an obscure, but critically acclaimed poet from the early twenty-first century named Loralyn Lind. He carefully wrote the poem beside the picture. Once he had finished, he looked back over the words and nodded slowly. It was absolutely perfect. It communicated what he wanted her to know, but had enough humor in it that it wouldn't scare her.

Then he checked the clock. How had he managed to use up half an hour? He placed the sketchbook on the coffee table in front of her, before quickly dressing and leaving her a message. He grabbed the speaker they had for the bug in her apartment, figuring he should have it in case Luthor came to her apartment. If that happened, he'd need to know immediately. Then he made his way to the door of his apartment. He hoped he'd be back before she woke up, but if he could have some information for her when she woke, it would be a lot easier to convince her not to go back to Luthor.

He slid the door open and, with a quick look and smile back into the room, left his apartment.


Lindsey woke and looked around the semi-darkened apartment. She was amazed at how agreeable Clark had been when she'd asked to leave a light on in the apartment during the night. She stretched a long, slow, sensual stretch. That had been some dream. Even now, it felt more like a memory than a dream. Clark's arms had seemed so real.

She reminded herself that it was just a dream. After all, she might not have much formal education, but she was something of an expert on the subject of sex. And, contrary to all the movies and literature written on the subject, she knew that sex was an activity designed for the pleasure of men alone. She figured it made sense. After all, the same was true of most of the animal kingdom. The stronger of the species' instincts drove him to procreate. The female's desire was irrelevant.

She pushed the thought out of her mind and glanced around the apartment for Clark.

"Clark?" she called out softly into the quiet of the apartment. When he didn't reply, she sat up and ran her hand through her tousled hair. She spotted the sketchbook lying on the coffee table and picked it up. At first, she almost didn't recognize her own portrait. It wasn't that Clark hadn't done a great job. In fact, she was astounded by his artistic ability. The reason she didn't recognize herself was that she looked so soft, so innocent. It was amazing how he saw her. Then she noticed the words he'd written beside the picture. She settled back into the couch before beginning to read.

*Like spaghetti needs sauce,

Like milk needs the fridge,

Like an outhouse needs a hole,

So I need you,

With me,

Without you, I'm bland,



I need you,

With me.*

The corner of Lindsey's mouth quirked up for a moment. How could Clark make comparing her to an outhouse — or more accurately, the hole in an outhouse — seem so romantic?

*Each moment lasts forever,

Empty, flavourless,

Nothing of interest can happen,

There is no spice, no colour,

Like spaghetti needs sauce.*

*I'm wasting away in my loneliness,

Sitting on the shelf,

Just sitting,

Getting old, lumpy, useless,

Like milk needs a fridge.*

A sound that was somewhere between a snort and a chuckle came involuntarily. Now he was comparing what he felt like without her to sour milk. Given where this poem seemed to be going, she could hardly wait to read the last stanza.

*I was made with you in mind,

It doesn't matter if I'm full of interesting books,

And have a nice comfy place to sit,

I'm sure to start to smell,

Like an outhouse needs a hole,

I need you.*

She couldn't stop herself. She burst out laughing. Once she finally got control, she read the poem again. She smiled as she ran her fingers lightly over the words. What a great way to wake up. The only thing that would make it better would be… She got up and looked around the apartment. Where was Clark? She saw an icon on the entertainment center flashing that indicated there was a message.

"Message play," she said. When it didn't, she remembered that the voice activation feature no longer worked. She walked over to the console and pushed a button. She smiled again when Clark's face came on the screen.

"Morning, beautiful," the message recorded by Clark began. "I hope you found my sketchbook. If not, it's on the coffee table. Anyway, I'll be back shortly. I just stepped out to pick up some breakfast and do something else. When I do get back, I want to talk to you about not going back to Luthor. Love you."

Clark's face disappeared from the screen. The smile that had been on her face when she'd first seen him had vanished. She knew that he was supposed to fly her back to her apartment but after his words… She bit her lower lip as she considered the situation.

She glanced at the time. It was about quarter to seven. He'd likely be back any second. There was only one thing to do.

She hit the record button and began to speak.

"I've gone back, Clark," she began. "I know I should have waited for you, but… I can't let you talk me out of going back. I can't do that to Lucy. Please understand. Don't worry, I'll find a way back into the apartment. Forgive me. And please, please find Lucy."

She turned off the recording device and then returned to look at the sketchbook. She wanted so badly to take the page he'd devoted to her, but if Damian ever found it… With a small sigh of resignation, she put on her shoes and left the apartment.


Clark slipped up closer to the building. He really should have come back here as soon as he took Lindsey to his place last night. However, it hadn't even occurred to him to do so until into the early hours of the morning. After all, other than finding Drake's file and Lindsey's, and both had been found near the beginning of his search, he'd not reviewed all the files in that room. And Clark suspected that they contained a treasure trove of incriminating information on Luthor. All he had to do was slip back inside.

As he approached, he realized that this place now looked like Fort Knox. It seemed that every inch was crawling with security guards. Obviously, when Luthor had heard that the place had been broken into, he'd reacted. To Clark's way of thinking, that only proved that the information in that room was very incriminating to Luthor. The problem was that with all the additional human surveillance, he was unlikely to be able to get to it. If only there were another way.

He took a seat on a park bench facing the building and watched for a while, looking for any weaknesses in their security system. When he couldn't find any, he tried a different approach. Pulling his glasses slightly down his nose, he looked over top of them. After a moment, he growled in frustration, pushing his glasses back up. Lead. Why was it that so many buildings built in the past couple hundred years seemed to have lead linings on the walls?

He glanced at his watch. It was almost seven. Deciding that he'd have to leave this for now, he rose to his feet and began walking away. Still, in spite of his failure, he felt his heart began to sing as he made his way to a small, French bakery. He was going home — home to Lindsey.


Luthor leaned back in his chair and thought about the events of the night. His security personnel had been unable to figure out who might have broken into his file room. He'd had the place swept for fingerprints, but there were no prints that weren't suppose to be there. The chief of security had suggested that it was all connected to whatever bizarre fate had befallen the rest of the security system tonight.

Luthor wasn't so sure. He had the report that showed that the two unauthorized entrances were accomplished differently. The first one was after a whole series of false attempts. Obviously, the only way so many false attempts could have been registered in so short an amount of time was if it was done using some sort of sophisticated lock picking equipment.

The second unauthorized entry was the result of someone simply inserting the right numbers. Now, it could have been the same person who had opened the door the first time — and had gotten the number as a result. Or it could have been someone who was authorized to be there who had just forgotten to sign in. However, everyone who had authorized access had been questioned, all of whom denied that they had been in the room during that time period.

The question in Luthor's mind was who might have found out about that particular office building. Luthor certainly had enough enemies, and since that was where he kept all his files on various people who might be a threat or of use to him… Was it someone who was trying to take back his own file so that Luthor could no longer keep him in line? Or was it broader than that? Were they after the other files — the ones that gave details of his shady and downright illegal deals?

Of course, one name had come to Luthor's mind several times over the course of the night. Kent. Not that he had any proof that Kent was the one who'd broken in. But it troubled him that he still didn't have an effective plan in place for keeping an eye on Clark Kent. He'd been working on putting someone else close to him, but so far, in spite of the person's claims to the contrary, Clark seemed uninterested in pursuing any sort of relationship.

He supposed he could just kill Kent. But almost the instant the idea came, Luthor dismissed it. If there was one thing that had been proven over the years, it was that Kents didn't seem to die easily. In fact, trying to kill them usually only seemed to provoke them. That was why he hadn't simply killed Kent when he first arrived on Mars. And that was why he was reluctant to do so now.

Besides, having two reporters from the Daily Planet die within six months of each other would be a little difficult to explain. He'd had enough problems when that clean-cut Detective Hendrickson had been assigned Scardello's case. It had taken Luthor two whole days to get the case reassigned to Church. And what Hendrickson had found in two days… Luthor hated to think what he could have done with a week. Of course, no one looking into it now would find anything. After all, Luthor took care of his loose ends.

But none of this helped him know what to do about Kent. Having him date Lindsey had been perfect — until they'd gotten too attached to each other, of course. Still, there had to be a way…

And if it had been Kent that had broken into the file room tonight, what was he looking for? Was he just looking for information in general or was he looking for something in particular? Luthor just didn't know. A superficial examination of the room hadn't revealed any missing files. Still, he'd assign Nathan to do a full inventory first thing in the morning. That might give him a better idea of who had broken in — if anyone, of course.

In the meantime, he needed to find a way to control Kent. And there was only one person who could possibly do that. There were two problems with that idea. First, Kent had indicated that he wanted nothing more to do with Lindsey now that he thought she wasn't interested in a more permanent relationship. Luthor almost chuckled when a thought occurred to him. Obviously, Kent didn't understand that no matter how much he paid for Lindsey, he wouldn't own her when they arrived on Earth. He put that amusing thought out of his mind and directed himself to the second problem which was that Lindsey's loyalties were becoming somewhat suspect. He knew she had developed feelings for Kent. Could she be trusted or had those feelings compromised her? He wasn't entirely certain what the answer was to that question.

"Good, you're here," said Luthor when he saw who had entered his office. "I've got a spiritual problem I need some advice on."

"Whose spirit is the problem with?" asked Assabi.

"Lindsey's," Luthor said.

"What seems to be the problem? I thought your demonstration to show Miss Landon what happens to those who cross you by killing Scardello in front of her had the desired effect."

"It did, Assabi," Luthor replied. "But this time, I think her heart is involved."

"Sometimes the heart doesn't listen to the brain," Assabi replied.

"So what do I do?"

"If her heart is leading her in the wrong direction, you need to find a way to appeal to her heart. It seems to me that Miss Landon's heart can always been controlled by her love for her sister."

"But I've still got her sister. She knows that."

"Then you must provide her with a demonstration of what will happen to her sister if she allows her heart to take her in the wrong direction."

Luthor thought about that for a moment before smiling. He had the perfect idea for how to accomplish that — and have a little fun in the process.

"If I might inquire," continued Assabi, "is Miss Landon's heart being affected by another man?"

Luthor nodded.

"And what does this man want from Miss Landon?" Assabi asked.

Luthor considered that. He figured he knew the answer. Everything he'd learned about Clark Kent during the past months told him that he had a lot of the archaic values of his family. "I think he's thinking in terms of the white picket fence and the two point four kids. Why?"

"And would Miss Landon be aware of that?"

"I would think so."

"Then make sure that she can't give him what he wants. If she does truly love this man and knows that she can never give him what he wants, her heart will tell her not to follow her heart."

"And how am I supposed to…" Luthor's voice trailed off and he smiled. Kent would want kids. And since that wasn't something he would ever want with Lindsey…

There was still the problem of how to deal with Kent's comments that he didn't want to see Lindsey anymore. But Luthor didn't trouble Assabi with that question. He figured he knew how to deal with that small issue.


Lindsey stood in an alley across from her apartment building. As she glanced at the front doors from around a building, she thought about how she was going to get in. There was nothing she could do to keep the cameras from recording her entrance. But she could get to the stairway more quickly by going in the front than using either the back or the parking entrance. And once she was in the stairway, there wouldn't be any cameras until she arrived on her floor. Of course, the cameras would also capture her entering her apartment and making her way to the bedroom.

Still, since Luthor hadn't been here last night, she doubted that he suspected her of being involved in the break-in at the offices. As a result, he wasn't likely to question her whereabouts or be checking out the camera records. At least, she hoped that was the case.

If he did check, she would have a heck of a time explaining where she was last night. On the other hand, she didn't think her disappearance would endanger Clark's secret. She would just say that she left and had no idea why the cameras hadn't picked that up. Then, when Damian realized that the power had gone down for a short period of time, he'd assume she'd walked out during that time — although he might wonder how she'd made it down the stairs in the dark, given her fear of the dark. Still, he wasn't likely to suspect that she'd gone over the balcony. After all, it wasn't as if she lived on the first floor.

At least if she could avoid Carl… After all, if he saw her, he would wonder when she'd left. And she knew he reported anything out of the ordinary to Damian. She wished she could wait until his shift ended. But it was probably better to do this before people started to come and go.

From her position, she could see into the lobby. She'd wait until Carl was occupied and then…

She gave a yelp when suddenly she was swept off her feet and a moment later was on her balcony. She knew immediately what had just happened. Still, she was unable to look at him as Clark lowered her to her feet.

"I would have brought you back, Lindsey," he said softly. "You didn't have to sneak out."

She swallowed hard. "I just thought…"

"The cameras are off. This time a fuse blew," he continued as if she hadn't spoken. "I'll try to come back tonight with whatever I'm able to find out about Lucy," he concluded. He floated into the air before speaking again. "Oh, and I got you this." He handed her a small bag from a bakery.

"Clark," Lindsey said, grabbing his arm when she realized he was about to disappear.

"What is it, Lindsey?" he asked, his voice sounding very tired.

She tugged down on his arm slightly, indicating that she wanted him to land, which he did. She met his eyes then. "I'm sorry, Clark. I knew you'd bring me back. I just… I wasn't sure I'd be able to say no if you asked me to stay. And if I did that and anything happened to Lucy… I've done a lot of things I'm not proud of in order to protect her. If I didn't come back and it backfired, it would all be for nothing."

Clark's expression softened. "I don't like it. I don't want you anywhere near that animal, but… I do understand." He bit his lip for a moment before continuing. "I'd like you to leave the bug I planted here last night."

"Why?" asked Lindsey, thinking about some of the things he might hear.

"So that if you get in trouble, I can help."

"I'm not sure that's…" Her voice trailed off for a moment. "What if we do this? If I need you I'll use a word that I wouldn't normally use. Otherwise, no matter what you hear, you can't come in. It means I don't need your help."

"What am I going to hear, Lindsey?" he asked.

She just looked at him, communicating with him through her expression. She didn't know exactly what he'd hear. On the other hand, she didn't want him barreling in like a five hundred pound gorilla just because she was getting beaten or… well, or something. It wasn't worth risking either his secret or Lucy's life so that he could save her from something that she had survived many, many times in the past.

"Just tell me if you think you will be able to stand by no matter what you hear if I don't call for you," she said.

He swallowed hard, debating it in his mind. It would probably kill him to hear her in trouble and not be able to react. But it was either that or giving her no back-up at all. He nodded. "So what's the word you'll use if you need me?" he asked.

She thought for a moment before smiling. "Outhouse," she said.

This time his smile met hers. "I guess that's a word you wouldn't normally use," he said.

"I loved it, Clark. I really was tempted to bring it back with me, but if Damian ever found it…"

"I understand. I'll hold onto it for you. Anyway, they'll likely have the fuse replaced soon, so…"

"I'll see you later," she said, before pulling him in for a quick kiss. She headed towards the door to her apartment, but stopped just as she was about to step inside. Rushing back to Clark, she grabbed his lapel and tugged him to her for one more kiss. This time when the kiss broke she pulled in a breath through her teeth and then, before Clark could react, disappeared into her apartment.


As he entered the newsroom, Clark adjusted the earpiece he'd tuned to pick up the small speaker in his jacket pocket. That way he could listen to any noises coming from Lindsey's apartment without anyone else hearing.

As soon as he arrived, he made his way to Paul's office. Today, he wanted Paul to make an exception to the rule that he'd cover stories that weren't related to the Luthor investigation during the day. He didn't want to put off this investigation any longer than necessary. He entered Paul's office through the open door and slid it closed behind him.

"What is it, son?" asked Paul, looking up.

"I think I might have found something during my investigation last night," Clark began.


"Well, it's a little hard to explain, but I think I might know where Luthor's money is coming from to conduct his dirty operations."

"What?" exclaimed Paul, a new excitement in his voice.

Clark nodded. "Lindsey and I came up with a theory that…"

"Lindsey?" Paul interrupted.

"It's a long story, Paul. But when I broke into the office building over on Front Street, Lindsey was doing the same thing. I didn't get a chance to do a thorough investigation, but I did find a file that explains why Lindsey won't leave Luthor," Clark said, before beginning to explain what he'd found out. As he continued to talk, Paul looked more and more appalled.

"Great shades of Elvis," he whispered when Clark concluded his story.

"Anyway, I promised her that I'd find her sister," Clark said, expecting to have to fight Paul on this point. After all, that wasn't the story. Bringing Luthor down was the story. As a result, he was surprised by Paul's response.

"I agree," said Paul.

"You do?" Clark responded.

Paul nodded. "I know it's not the story, but there are two lives at stake here. Maybe we can get a bit more information in the process, but I think finding this Lucy Landon is where we need to start. Any ideas on that?"

Clark nodded. "In fact, I think finding Lucy is the key to bringing Luthor down. Or at least, Lindsey and I think that the method Luthor is using to hide Lucy is the same method he's using to filter money to his illegal projects."

"And how's that?"

"When I first started investigating Luthor, Jeremy and I found out that one man who works for Luthor, a Nathan Saint-Jean, is getting bonuses that are well into nine figures. Neither of us thought much about it. But then last night, we found a note to Nathan providing him with instructions to hide Lucy somewhere. I think Luthor is paying Nathan bonuses and then Nathan is going out and using that money for whatever illegal projects Luthor wants done."

By the time he finished, Paul was nodding slowly.

"And, I don't want to wait until tonight to start working on this. I know it's more of a risk to work on it during the day but…"

"You want to get her out of there as soon as possible," Paul concluded.

"Yes, sir."

Paul studied Clark for a moment before nodding. "Use the conference room. Get Jeremy to help you. I take it you're planning to examine Saint-Jean's finances to see if you can find out where he's holding Lucy."

"Yes, sir."

"Keep me informed," Paul concluded.

Clark smiled. "Yes, sir."


Nathan listened carefully to his master's latest instructions. Not understanding Luthor's obsession with Clark Kent, he really wasn't sure this was a good idea. However, he knew better than to challenge Luthor on this topic. So instead he asked a different question.

"If I might ask, monsieur, what are your intentions when Lucy Landon gets here?"

Luthor smiled. "You've made sure that she's had no… experience with men?" Luthor asked in response.

"An all girl school. All the teachers are women. Just like you instructed."

Luthor nodded slowly. "Then Lindsey's going to watch as I give Lucy her first 'experience' with a man."

"Are you certain that won't just provoke her sister, monsieur?" Nathan asked carefully.

"It will remind her exactly how much worse things could get for Lucy," Luthor replied. "There is no way she'll challenge me ever again." Luthor was absolutely confident about his plan. After all, not only did it solve Lindsey's 'morale' problem, but Lucy was sixteen now — almost too old for Luthor to be seriously interested in her. Luthor was looking forward to this little demonstration.

"I'll send a man to pick her up," Nathan told Luthor.


Clark was amazed by how much he and Jeremy were finding. It would undoubtedly take a long time to connect each one of the transfers of money to Nathan to illegal activities by Luthor, but it was quickly becoming obvious that this was where the money was coming from.

But right now, he and Jeremy were concentrating on one question: Where was Lucy? They'd worry about the rest later.

Suddenly, a small icon lit up in the corner of Clark's computer screen and a small beeping began. Clark hit the icon and then tensed when Luthor's face appeared on the screen.

"Mr. Kent," said Luthor.

"Luthor," Clark responded.

"I've been talking to Lindsey about your proposal a few weeks ago," began Luthor. "And I'm just wondering if you're still interested."

Clark raised his eyebrows. He was fairly certain Lindsey would have said something if they had been discussing something like this. "Lindsey seemed pretty resolute when she turned me down," Clark responded, wondering exactly where Luthor was going with this.

Luthor shrugged. "You know women. She told me what happened the evening before you made the proposal. She was quite upset with you, but… well, are you still interested?"

Clark thought for a moment. He wasn't interested — not now that he knew what Luthor was using to hold Lindsey. He would free Lindsey his own way. Still, it couldn't hurt to see where Luthor might be going with this.

"Of course I'm interested," Clark responded.

Luthor smiled. "Then why don't you plan to get together with Lindsey tomorrow evening and see if the two of you can work things out? If she decides she wants to be sold to you, I'll agree to your proposed price."

Clark stared at the computer screen long after Luthor disappeared from view, trying to figure out what Luthor was planning.


"Are you really considering selling Ms. Landon?" asked Nathan as soon as Luthor got off the phone.

"Of course not, Nathan. But making Kent think I am will give me a chance to get Lindsey close to him again. And once I give Lindsey a refresher course on the importance of loyalty, she'll do whatever I need her to do."


"Hey, take a look at this," said Jeremy excitedly.

Clark got up from where he was seated and came around to see what was on Jeremy's computer screen.

"What'd you find, Jeremy?" he asked.

"Look at these," Jeremy said, pointing at the screen.

"Donations to Rushmore Girls' Academy," Clark said, his interest piquing. "And?" he asked, hoping Jeremy would continue.

"They started at about the same time that you said Lucy Landon disappeared and have been made twice a year since."

"So what do we know about Rushmore Girls' Academy?" Clark asked, his heart beginning to pound.

Jeremy punched a few buttons on the computer and was soon staring at a short synopsis of the school. He began reading it out, but Clark only caught every other word. Words like, 'exclusive,' 'private,' and 'expensive' jumped out at him. Apparently, it was located right here in the city. He and Jeremy studied some pictures of the place. Of course, Clark couldn't be sure, but the pictures Lindsey had of Lucy could well have been taken there.

"Okay, let's not get too excited," Clark said, not certain if he was trying to keep Jeremy from getting excited or if he was trying to keep himself in check.

"So what's next?"

"Can you find any layouts of the place?" Clark asked.

"Sure," said Jeremy and a moment later they were examining a detailed map.

"This place has more fortification than most prisons," commented Clark.

"Is that to keep intruders out or the girls in?" asked Jeremy, imagining just what it might be like to be the only male to penetrate those walls.

"Maybe both."

"So, what are you going to do?"

"Is there anyway we can check out enrollment records? After all, although this is certainly the best lead we've had, it still doesn't prove that Lucy is there."

"I think I can manage that," said Jeremy before his fingers began flying over the keyboard.


Clark got some fresh coffee while waiting for Jeremy to break into the well-guarded files. It appeared that the walls of the institution weren't the only thing fortified. After asking Jeremy for the tenth time how he was making out, Jeremy made it very clear that he'd be doing better if he didn't have to answer that question every five seconds. So Clark had decided the best way to help Jeremy was for him to get them both some coffee.

He'd just arrived at the coffee machine when the device in his ear picked up what sounded like a door opening.

"Lindsey," he heard Luthor's voice call into the apartment.

"Hi, Damian," Lindsey responded. "I wasn't expecting you."

Clark thought Lindsey sounded a little nervous. He wasn't sure if it was because she was always nervous when Luthor came over or if it was something else. After all, it was possible that she was still concerned that Luthor would have figured out she'd broken into the office last night. Or she might be worried that he'd somehow figured out that she hadn't spent the night in her apartment. She could also be nervous simply because she knew he was listening to every word. But he'd given his promise not to come in unless she said the agreed upon word.

"Get your jacket," said Luthor.

"Why? Where are we going?" asked Lindsey.

"I think it's time we took care of a little problem," said Luthor.

"What problem?" asked Lindsey. From the sounds of things, she was moving around to get ready as they spoke. Clark only hoped they would reveal where they were going before they left her apartment.

There was no response for a moment and Clark began to suspect that Luthor wasn't going to say what was going on.

"I think it's time we made sure you can't have children," said Luthor. "In fact, I think it's long past time."

"What?" gasped Lindsey. Clark noticed that someone was looking at him oddly and realized that he had also gasped. He forgot about the coffee and headed towards his desk, hoping he'd be less obvious listening to what was going on if he wasn't standing in the middle of the coffee room. As he made his way to his desk, he heard, "Why would you want me to do this, Damian? I mean, I assume that some day you'll want an heir and…"

"I don't intend for you to be the mother," Luthor said dismissively.

"So where exactly are we going?" asked Lindsey, her voice sounding as if she was struggling for time — probably trying to get her thoughts in order.

"I made arrangements with your doctor this morning. He's expecting you in… half an hour."

"Today?" gasped Lindsey. "You want this done today?"

"No time like the present."

"Shouldn't we at least talk about this? I mean, I'm sure that I could give you children that…"

"What makes you think I'd want you to have my children?" asked Luthor in disgust.

Clark cringed. No wonder Lindsey had such an insecurity complex if this was the way she'd been treated for years.

"But I thought…"

"You thought wrong. Oh, you might be an acceptable consort, but since you're not going to be having my children, what's the problem?"

"I…" Lindsey's voice seemed to trail off, as if not sure what she could say.

"Say the word," muttered Clark, his entire body as tense as a steel spring just waiting to be unleashed. "I can have you out of there in seconds. Just say the word," he said again, wishing desperately that he hadn't made Lindsey the promise he had. They had a solid lead on Lucy and he could have Lindsey out of there before Luthor knew what was going on. And although Lindsey's life wasn't in danger, the idea of Lindsey not being able to have children… He didn't know if she would want a future with him when all this was over. He didn't even know how she felt about children. But the idea that Luthor would take that option away from them… "Say the word, damn it," said Clark.

"What word?" asked a man's voice behind Clark.

"Nothing," Clark responded when he saw Roland standing there. "Excuse me," he added, rising to his feet and making his way as fast as possible to the storage room. He wanted somewhere private to listen and he could always fly out of the storage room if necessary.


Lindsey stared at Damian in disbelief. She'd wondered for years why Damian kept her around. After all, he seemed to lose interest in most women. She suspected she was being groomed to give him an heir when the time came. And although that thought sickened her, the thought of not being able to have children… especially given what seemed to be happening between her and Clark. She had no doubt that he would want children and although she wasn't sure how she felt about the idea…

Of course, she knew that it was Damian's decision. As her owner, he held full rights over her reproductive processes. Her signature wouldn't even be required on the consent form. That meant she had to find a way to talk him out of this. But how?

'This whole thing stinks as bad as an outhouse.' The entire sentence came to her completely unbidden, but she bit it back before it escaped her lips. Saying those words was all it would take to prevent this. But she couldn't say them. If she did, what would happen to Lucy?

"Well, come on, woman," said Luthor.

"I'm sorry, Damian," said Lindsey, searching her mind for some way to delay this long enough to come up with a way to prevent it altogether. "This is just so sudden. Why does it have to be today? I mean, I took my monthly birth control shot last week and I have to go in for the STD prevention shot every month anyway, so… Can't I just have some time to think about it?"

"I don't see why. After all, there's nothing for you to think about and the appointment has already been set."

"With Dr. Spruce?" asked Lindsey.

"That's your doctor, isn't it?"

"But… I really don't want to have an operation today. Don't I have to fast or something first? I had a big breakfast this morning and…"

"Don't get all worked up. It's only an office procedure. You'll be your old self by tomorrow at the latest. Now quit delaying and get your coat," said Luthor in a way that definitely marked the end of the discussion.


Clark rushed back into the newsroom, making his way to the conference room.

"Do you have it?" he asked Jeremy.

"She's there," confirmed Jeremy.

Clark let out a breath of relief. "I need an office address for Dr. Spruce," he said.

Jeremy got back on his computer. "There are two in the city. Which one do you want?"

"Give me both," Clark said. As soon as he had the information — and without an explanation — he headed out of the newsroom.


By the time Clark was able to find the right Dr. Spruce, Lindsey was already in his office, with Luthor waiting in the lobby. He growled in frustration. He had been hoping to be walking past when they arrived. He was certain he could find a way to communicate to Lindsey that he'd found Lucy. Then… well, he wasn't exactly sure what then, but he did know that he'd find a way to prevent this operation from taking place.

But what was he supposed to do now? He supposed that he could do exactly what Lindsey was afraid he'd do — go barreling in there like a five hundred pound gorilla. But could he stop this without giving away his secret? If it was just his secret, he wouldn't think twice. But it wasn't. For the first time, he wished he had a secret identity. He took a moment to calm his breathing and directed his mind to the problem. There had to be a way he could stop this without giving away his secret.

He struggled with it for a moment before having an idea. He headed for the roof of the clinic. He looked through the roof in time to see Lindsey get up on a table. He tried not to think about the suggestive position she was in. He saw the doctor sit down on a stool at the foot of the table and take a long, thin laser scalpel which was attached to a large canister. He watched as the doctor raised the laser to test it.


"Humph," said the doctor.

"What's wrong?" asked Lindsey.

"It's this laser. I don't know what's wrong with it. It was working a minute ago." He struggled with it for a moment before leaving the room to get another one.

Lindsey closed her eyes. "Clark, if you can hear me and if you had something to do with that equipment failure, thank you." Her voice was slightly slurred as a result of the drugs she'd been given and was very soft, but the words were still distinct enough.


"You're welcome," said a soft voice on the roof, although no one could hear it.


"I don't know what to tell you, Mr. Luthor," Dr. Spruce said a short time later. "I've never seen anything like it. None of my equipment is working. I'm afraid we're going to have to reschedule."

Luthor narrowed his eyes, not at all sure that the doctor hadn't succumbed to Lindsey's pleas not to do this. He knew he shouldn't have stayed in the waiting room. Still, he could reschedule this at another clinic first thing tomorrow morning. If it was done early enough, she should still make it for her date with Kent tomorrow evening. And after the demonstration he planned to give her tonight, there was no way she'd try to talk the next doctor out of performing this operation.


Clark felt as if the day was taking forever. He knew that the wisest course of action was to wait until nightfall before risking the flight up to Lindsey's apartment. Still, it was so hard keeping himself from ignoring wisdom and just getting her out of there now.

After using his heat vision to destroy the doctor's equipment, he'd taken a few moments to repair the holes he'd made in the roof. They were small but a leak in the roof would undoubtedly attract attention and although no one would likely connect them with superpowers, it was probably better to be safe than sorry.

Afterwards, he took a trip over to the school where he knew Lucy was being held. He managed to get a glimpse of a young woman who might have been her. But it was so hard to tell. He was tempted to get her out immediately. But there were two reasons he needed Lindsey to help him do this. First, he needed to know that he was rescuing the right girl. Second, it would be much more difficult to do this if he couldn't convince Lucy to come with him. He figured Lindsey would have much more luck with that than he would.

So, after checking out the school, he'd made his way back to Lindsey's apartment building and now was sitting in a small coffee shop across the street waiting for the sun to set.

He wasn't exactly sure where he was going to hide Lindsey and Lucy to prevent Luthor from finding them, but he was going to find a way. And if necessary, he'd find a way to convince Lindsey that she had to leave Luthor tonight — even before all the details of the plan were worked out. The events of today had made the dangers of letting her stay painfully clear to him.


"So what are you going to do?" asked Paul, taking a sip of his coffee.

"I'm not exactly sure," Martha responded. "What do you think Clark will do now?"

"Well, unless I very much miss my guess, he's going to try to rescue both of them as quickly as possible."

"Even without having anything set up for them afterwards?" asked Martha.

Paul nodded. "I think he'll make a move tonight."

"Can you do something to slow him down? I mean, if we had some time, maybe we could get something in place that would allow us to help without risking the organization."

"No one is going to stop that boy," Paul said. "He's not thinking too clearly at the moment."

"He loves her," Martha said.

Paul smiled. "And we both know how that can make people do some crazy things."

Martha laughed.


Clark glanced around the alley carefully, taking more time than he thought strictly necessary to compensate for any carelessness he might be guilty of in his haste to get back to Lindsey. He had wished so many times today that they had figured out a way for him to communicate with her. Still, in only seconds, he would be able to tell her that he'd located Lucy. And he had to admit that he was looking forward to seeing her reaction in person.

Satisfied that he was alone, he shot a quick blast of heat vision into the control panel for the apartment building, once again frying a fuse. The lights in the building immediately went out. He quickly floated up to Lindsey's balcony. He smiled when he arrived to find her already waiting. She was in his arms almost the moment he landed.

"Thank you, Clark," she whispered into his ear. "I mean, it wouldn't have been worth risking Lucy's life over, but… thank you," she whispered again.

"It's okay," Clark whispered back, tightening his arms around her.

"No, it isn't, Clark," she responded, pulling back far enough to look into his eyes. "He's rescheduled for tomorrow morning." She didn't say rescheduled for what, assuming Clark would know what she was talking about and desperately searching his eyes as if trying to figure out if he would still feel the same about her if Damian managed to take this away from her.

"It will be too late," Clark responded. "I'm taking you out of here tonight."

"I can't, Clark. I can't just…"

"I found her," Clark said, stopping her words immediately.

"You found her?" she asked, her voice sounding as if she was hardly daring to hope.

"I found her. I found Lucy," Clark confirmed immediately. "I'm taking you out of here tonight. We'll go get her and then neither of you are going to have to worry about Luthor ever again. I promise."

She was once again tight in his arms, her hands running through his hair, her lips desperately searching for skin, covering every inch of his cheek and throat with kisses.

"What is this? The hero's reward?" he asked.

She pulled back and looked into his eyes. When she recognized that he was joking, she responded. "No. This is," she said, before pulling his mouth down to hers.

He groaned softly but then quickly broke the kiss. "As much as I hate to interrupt this, we only have a few minutes before the cameras are working again. So is there anything here that you need?"

She glanced back into her apartment. "I don't want any of it, Clark," she whispered, looking back at him.

He smiled, swept her up in his arms and was about to take off, when she stopped him. "Wait," she said. When he loosened his grip, she scrambled out of his arms.

"Where are you going?" he asked.

"I know it's early to go to bed. But with the day I've had, maybe Damian will believe I have gone to bed. And it might be helpful if Damian doesn't know I'm gone until morning," she said as she disappeared back into her apartment. He followed her to her room and watched as she quickly stuck some pillows under the covers of the bed. Then she grabbed a small travel bag and threw a few clothes inside.

"I thought you didn't want anything," he said, slightly amused by her reversal.

"I figure a change of clothes might be nice."


Lindsey pulled the rented vehicle to a stop beside the wall of the institution. They could see the front gates from where they were parked. They'd decided that they needed the car since Clark couldn't fly Lucy out of there without giving away his secret. They had discussed strategy during the drive here. Once Lindsey realized that Clark really wanted her honest input, Clark was amazed at how effectively she could argue her position.

Lindsey favored the direct approach. If she, as Lucy's sister, simply walked up to security and asked to see her sister, what excuse could they give for refusing her request? Clark's concern over this approach was that the institute might decide to contact Luthor. Lindsey claimed that by the time that happened, she'd have Lucy out of there.

Clark was in favor of a more discreet approach. He wanted to sneak in and get Lucy out. Ideally, he'd go in alone. He tried to convince Lindsey that if he had problems convincing Lucy, he could get her inside to talk to her sister before she even had time to call security. The problem, Lindsey had pointed out, was that even if he managed to avoid security getting in and even if he managed to convince Lucy to come with him, he would still be unable to use his superpowers to get Lucy out of there. If he did, Lucy would find out his secret. And given the fortifications on the school, he'd be unable to get Lucy out without using his powers. He was prepared to risk it. Lindsey wasn't.

What finally decided the issue was when Lindsey said, "Clark, this is my sister. This is my fight. I have to be the one to do this."

He'd almost bitten through his invulnerable lower lip, but had finally nodded. She was just about to get out of the car when they noticed a long, black limousine pull up in front of the school. Lindsey gasped when she saw the man who emerged.

"Who is he?" asked Clark.

"He's one of Nathan's men. Can you listen in, Clark?" she asked.

Clark nodded and then concentrated. "He's asking for Lucy," he said, confirming Lindsey's fears. "He's saying something about Luthor wanting to see her. Don't worry, Lindsey. We'll…" His voice trailed off when Lindsey suddenly got out of the car and began to run towards the front entrance.

Not realizing what was happening for a moment, Clark didn't react fast enough. When it finally occurred to him that he should try to stop her, she was crouching beside the limousine. He noticed that she slid open the back door on the side of the car facing away from the entrance to the school and slipped inside.

"What are you doing, Lindsey?" he asked even though he knew there was no way she could hear him. He wondered briefly why he'd ever encouraged her to give her honest opinion. But then he shook his head and chuckled. There was something about her impetuous move that made him love her more — if that were possible. And there was something vaguely familiar about watching the woman he loved dash into danger.

He lowered his glasses and, glancing over the top, looked through the dark windows of the car. He wondered what Lindsey thought she was going to accomplish from inside the car and, probably more importantly, how he could help.

"Just follow my lead, Clark," Lindsey said. "Get ready to follow us when we leave. I'm going to hijack my first car."

"Lindsey," Clark groaned. Still, he supposed if anything went seriously wrong with this plan, he could find a way to intervene. At least, he hoped so.

It was only a couple of minutes later when the man reemerged with a young woman in tow. It was the girl Clark had seen earlier and, Clark assumed, was Lucy Landon. He watched as the man walked around to the passenger side, opening the front door. Clark let out a breath of relief. This outrageous plan of Lindsey's could really go awry if Lucy spotted Lindsey too soon. He doubted that Luthor would approve of the driver's decision to put Lucy in the front seat with him. After all, why send the big car if he hadn't intended it to be used? However, the young man obviously liked the idea of having this beautiful young woman in the front. That would be a mistake he wouldn't soon forget if Lindsey had her way.

Clark watched as the driver made his way around to the other side and got into the car. He looked through the dark glass and realized that Lindsey hadn't revealed her presence to Lucy yet. After all these years, he had to admire Lindsey's self-control.

He started the car as the limo began to head away and pulled out onto the road to follow. They were about four blocks down the road when Lindsey finally spoke.

"Don't try anything and no one will get hurt?" he heard her say in a voice that sounded almost scary. He wasn't sure he'd try anything if she ever talked to him in that voice. He focused in on what was going on in the car and noticed that Lindsey was directly behind the driver and was holding something to the driver's neck. He focused in on what she was holding and almost burst out laughing. It was a laser pointer. Still, it seemed to have the desired effect on the driver.

But then he heard Lucy scream and cringed. Lucy could be the wild card in all this. If she hadn't seen Lindsey since she was about nine, how would she react? Would she even recognize her own sister?

Then the scream stopped in mid-flow.


Lindsey gave her sister a brief nod without taking the laser pointer or her eyes off the driver.

"Drive into the alley ahead," she instructed.

"What are you doing?" asked Lucy, sounding absolutely baffled.

Lindsey ignored her sister. When the driver hesitated, she jabbed the laser pointer further into the man's neck and said, "Do it! I know how to use this."

The man immediately did as he was told.

"Okay, stop here," Lindsey continued. When the man did, she instructed him to turn off the car and then, with Lucy's hesitant help, tied the man's hands to the steering wheel using his own belt and blindfolded him with a scarf she had in her purse. Once done, she told him that if he tried anything, he was a dead man. Then she told Lucy to get out of the car.

Clark immediately pulled up behind the car and shifted into reverse so that he could make a quick escape as soon as Lindsey and Lucy were in the car. Clark pulled the car back onto the street as soon as Lindsey and Lucy were inside and was out of there in a flash.

"Woooow!" yelled Lindsey as they drove away, punctuating her word by punching her fists into the air.

Clark looked over at Lindsey, a big grin on his face. "You enjoyed that, didn't you?" he said.

"Damn straight!" Lindsey replied meeting his grin with one of her own. "I think I was born for this sort of thing."

"Lindsey?" asked a small voice behind them, directing the attention of the cars occupants to the very confused young woman in the backseat.


"Okay, so let me see if I have this straight," said Lucy as she paced restlessly around Clark's living room. "First, I don't see or even hear from you in seven years. Then you show up, pretending to have a gun, and kidnap me."

"Lucy…" began Lindsey.

"And now you tell me that I can't go back to my school, to my friends because Damian Luthor, who's never been anything but good to me, is using me to make you do horrible things. And I'm suppose to believe this because…?"

"Because I'm telling you," Lindsey said in exasperation.

Clark fiddled around the kitchen area, making coffee, more to stay out of the way of this argument than because the occupants of his apartment needed the additional stimulation coffee would provide.

He took off his jacket as he waited for the coffee to perk. As he did, he noticed the small speaker that was still connected to the bug in Lindsey's apartment. He'd turned it off when he'd gone to get Lindsey, but… It might be interesting knowing when Luthor finally figured out that Lindsey wasn't at her apartment. After all, once the driver reported what had happened, Luthor would undoubtedly be looking for Lindsey. He turned it on and immediately heard Luthor's voice.

"I think you two should come here," he said immediately.

The heated argument in the other room ceased and the two occupants, both slightly breathless and looking very annoyed with each other, entered the room.

"What's going on?" asked Lindsey.

"This is still connected to the bug in your apartment. I'm not sure exactly what's going on, but it seems that Luthor is there right now."

Clark fell silent and all three waited to hear if anything else would be said.

"Well, find them!" Luthor's voice came over the speaker. There was silence. It seemed he must be talking on a satellite phone because they were only hearing one side of the conversation. "Make sure you bring both of them back alive. I intend to teach that little bitch exactly what happens when she defies me." There was a moment more of silence before Luthor continued, "Then I suggest you get creative." It seemed that marked the end of the conversation because a moment later they heard what sounded like a door closing.

Clark could tell that what they'd heard had frightened both sisters. He had heard their heart rates increase during the course of the conversation. He tried to think of something to say that would alleviate some of their obvious fear.

"It doesn't seem that Luthor has figured out where you are," Clark said.

"For how long, Clark?" Lindsey responded. "How long can it take him to make the connection? And then what? I mean, maybe this wasn't the smartest idea. At least when I did what he said…"

"And how long would that last, Lindsey?" Clark interrupted. "Let's assume that you do everything he wants. The time will come before he doesn't need of you anymore. What happens to Lucy then? What happens to you? And why did he send for Lucy tonight anyway? You made the right decision. We'll figure something out."

Lindsey closed her eyes, forcing herself not to panic, and nodded slowly. She opened her eyes and glanced over at Lucy. Lucy looked as if everything she'd ever believed in her life had just been torn apart.

"I think we need to talk," said Lindsey quietly.

Lucy's eyes began to tear up. She nodded and it was two much quieter sisters who made their way back into the living room.

It took some time, but Lindsey and Lucy managed to talk through everything — Lucy finally accepting the almost unbelievable things she was being told. Only Clark knew that Lindsey's version of events was seriously edited. Lucy, in turn, explained how Luthor had told her over the years that the reason she had been sent away was because Lindsey was jealous of her. None of the letters that Lindsey had written to Lucy and given to Luthor for delivery had ever been delivered. Lindsey had managed to satisfy herself that Lucy hadn't been abused by Luthor. They talked seriously for a long time. However, as time went on, there had even been a few laughs. There had even been a number of touches and hugs taking place between the sisters.

Lindsey had also answered Lucy's questions about their mother. Apparently, Luthor hadn't bothered to tell her that their mother had died a few years ago of alcohol poisoning. Lucy hadn't been overly upset. She hadn't seen her mother since she was six and didn't have a lot of really good memories of her.

Clark had been in and out of the living room, keeping the coffee mugs full and bringing in sandwiches and cookies later in the evening. Finally, he noticed that both sisters were beginning to yawn more and more often.

"Look," said Clark, "it's been a long day. And tomorrow we're going to have to figure out what to do next, so why don't we call it a night? You two can share my room. I'll sleep out here."

Lucy immediately agreed with Clark's suggestion. She clasped the hand of her big sister and began dragging a laughing Lindsey towards the bedroom.

As they crawled into bed, Lucy asked a question that would likely have infuriated Lindsey if it had come from anyone but her sister.

"Has he ever made you kill anyone?" Lucy asked quietly as they lay in the semi-darkness.

There was a long moment of silence before Lindsey answered. "Not yet," she said softly.

In the living room, Clark closed his eyes and let out a breath of relief. That question had crossed his mind a few times during the past twenty-four hours. However, the way the answer had been given told Clark again exactly how desperate Lindsey felt. She might well have killed someone to protect her sister. In all likelihood, the reason Luthor had never tried to make her was that he didn't want her to realize exactly how easy it was to do — lest she turn on him. But Clark was grateful to realize that at least Lindsey's soul hadn't been tainted by the taking of an innocent life. It wasn't much, but for a life that had known so much darkness, it was just one small thing to be grateful for.


"Martian Police! Open the door," were the words that woke Clark out of his sleep. Not having slept at all the previous night, he'd fallen into a deep sleep. Otherwise, he might have heard the police before they were pounding on his door.

He stumbled to his feet. "Coming," he said, trying to buy some time while he got his bearings. He glanced at the door to his room and noticed Lindsey and Lucy standing there. He quickly lowered his glasses and glanced through the wall to see if he could smuggle them out of the apartment by way of the balcony, but there were officers out there.

"Clark?" asked Lindsey, a slight tremor in her voice.

Clark immediately acted, rushing over and throwing open the secret closet in his apartment. "In here," he whispered. Lucy immediately dove inside. When Lindsey hesitated, Clark almost instantly realized the problem.

"Light," he said, and the light in the closet came on.

"Should we really have that on?" Lucy whispered as Lindsey joined her in the confined space.

"It'll be fine," said Clark, throwing their shoes, jackets and Lindsey's overnight bag in with them.

Once he'd shut the closet, he did a trip at superspeed into the kitchen to clean and put the coffee mugs and plates away. Then he made his way to the door before the police, who were pounding incessantly, could knock it down. He hit the button beside it, sliding it open. "What's going on?" he asked.

"We have a warrant to search your apartment," said the officer, thrusting a piece of paper into Clark's hands and pushing past him.

Clark looked at the document. "What are you looking for?" asked Clark, trying to act as if, being woken up during the middle of the night, he wasn't quite sure what was going on.

"Mr. Luthor has reason to believe you stole something that belongs to him," the officer said as the men with him began searching Clark's apartment.

"Do you mind telling me what he thinks I stole?"

"Where are Lindsey and Lucy?" asked a new voice from the doorway.

Clark looked over to see Luthor standing there. "Who's Lucy?" he asked.

"Very good, Mr. Kent," said Luthor, making his way closer. "Always answer a question with a question."

Clark ignored the comment. "Are you saying that Lindsey's missing? What makes you think I have her?" he asked.

"They're not here," announced the officer.

"They have to be!" exclaimed Luthor making his way further into the room. He walked over to the couch and picked up the blanket and pillow. "Do you mind telling me why someone's sleeping on the couch?" he asked.

Clark forced himself not to react to Luthor's discovery. "Sometimes I can't sleep so…" He shrugged. "So where do you think she is? You don't think anything has happened to her, do you?" Clark asked, trying to sound worried.

Luthor narrowed his eyes as he studied Clark. Maybe he was wrong. He had been so sure that even if Kent had nothing to do with Lindsey's abduction of Lucy, she'd come here afterwards seeking protection. But even more likely in Luthor's mind was that Kent was involved. After all, someone had been driving the second car. Still…

"I'm sure she's fine. Rest assured, Mr. Kent, I will find her. If you see her, advise her to come home now. She's only making things worse by delaying."

"I'll be sure to pass the message on," Clark responded. "If I see her, of course."

"Of course," responded Luthor sarcastically as he and the police officers began making their way to the door.


Lindsey had her ear against the door, trying to hear what was going on in the room beyond. She could hear Damian's voice, but otherwise couldn't tell what was being said. She tried to get a better position. As she did, she felt something under her foot. She glanced down to see a leather bound book lying on the floor. She bent down and picked it up.

Realizing that she wasn't getting any information from listening at the door, she took a seat beside her sister, wrapping an arm around her shoulder.

"It will be all right," Lindsey whispered in and attempt to assure her sister. "We can trust Clark."

Lucy nodded, although her expression said that she wasn't sure she could share Lindsey's belief in Clark. Not being able to think of anything more that she could say to reassure her sister, Lindsey glanced down at the book in her hand, wondering what it was. She flipped it open and began to read.

'Last night was incredible. It might not have even been our first date, but seeing you on the other side of that tinted glass, taking off your shirt, I realized how easily I respond to you. I have tried not to think about you in those terms during the year and a half that we have been partners, but… Clark, I've been fooling myself. And that realization scares me. I'm not entirely sure why. All I do know is that you are the best friend that I've ever had. So what happens if we take our relationship further and you decide…'

"What's that?" asked Lucy.

"Nothing," said Lindsey, quickly closing the book. As they continued to sit there in silence, Lindsey's mind took her back to a dream she'd had quite some time ago. She brushed off the stray thought. Still, she glanced down at the book. She'd have to ask Clark about this when she got a chance.

"All clear," came Clark's voice as he slid back the panels on the closet.


Jeremy watched from the darkness of his car as the officers climbed back in their cars and began to drive away. He saw Luthor talk to one of the officers, but couldn't tell what was being said. However, when the officer got back in his car with his partner and continued to sit there, Jeremy realized that Luthor must have insisted that an officer stay to keep an eye on Clark's apartment. That meant Jeremy needed an idea. He smiled when a moment later that idea came.


"Are you crazy?" Clark exclaimed.

Lindsey glanced back towards the bedroom, reminding Clark to keep his voice down in an effort to keep this discussion from waking Lucy. Lindsey had made sure Lucy was sound asleep before getting out of bed to talk to Clark alone. But if Clark didn't keep his voice down… She grabbed his arm and dragged him into the kitchen.

Damian's trip over here had reminded Lindsey just how precarious their position was. She'd forgotten, in the adrenaline rush of the evening's events, just how much danger they were actually in. And as that reality returned, so did the instinct to protect Lucy — regardless of what that might mean for her. She hadn't wanted to fight with Clark when she'd told him her plan although she realized it was probably inevitable. Still, she needed his promise to protect Lucy.

"Think about it, Clark. If I go back, he might decide that finding Lucy isn't worth the effort. But if I don't, he'll search for us forever. The only way she'll be safe is if…"

"He'll kill you, Lindsey," Clark interrupted.

"No he won't," Lindsey softly replied while avoiding Clark's eyes.

"How can you say… What are you thinking?" he finally asked.

Lindsey swallowed hard, still not meeting his eyes. "I won't let him kill me," she said. "I won't give him the satisfaction."

"Won't let… How on earth do you think you're going to stop…" His voice trailed off. "No, Lindsey," he said softly when it sunk in what she was telling him.

"It's the only way to protect Lucy," Lindsey insisted. "I know too much for him to let me go, but she doesn't know anything. There'll be no reason for him to waste his time or resources trying to find her especially if I…" She fell silent.

"Kill yourself?" Clark concluded, suddenly understanding Lindsey's earlier answer to Lucy's question about whether Luthor had ever made her kill anyone. She wasn't contemplating killing someone else, the way Clark had originally thought. She'd been thinking about killing herself.

She shrugged. "Only if he plans on killing me. At least that way I'll deny him the pleasure of doing it himself."

Clark stared at her in disbelief. "When you started looking for Lucy, was that your plan?" he asked softly.

She nodded. "I figured if I dropped her off on your doorstep, you'd make sure she was safe and I could…"

"I'm not letting you go back!" interrupted Clark. "I'm not letting you do this."

"Think about it, Clark. It's the only way. We don't have any plan here. There's no way for us to get off Mars and I'm never going to be able to hide from Damian on a long term basis — he has too many resources. And unless I go back, he'll keep looking."

"We'll figure something out."

"But you already said we couldn't count on support from the underground and the American Ambassador…"

"Then I'll talk to the Canadian Ambassador or the British Ambassador or…"

His voice trailed off and both occupants of the room tensed when they heard a knock on the door. They quickly headed back to the living room.

"What's going on?" asked Lucy's scared voice from the doorway to the bedroom.

Clark quickly looked over his glasses before letting out a breath of relief.

"It's okay," he said. "Just go into the bedroom. I'll take care of this."

"Are you sure we shouldn't go back into the closet?" asked Lucy.

Clark shook his head. "Just stay in the bedroom. If it were the police, they wouldn't be knocking so politely.

He waited until the two women were out of sight before opening the door.

"You ordered pizza," the young man on the other side said, handing Clark the large pizza.

"Umm… yeah. If you want to come inside for a minute, I'll get you your money."

The man stepped inside and closed the door.

"Okay, Jeremy," Clark said immediately, "what's going on?"

"There's a police car stationed out front. Do you have any other way out of here?"

"I suppose," Clark responded, thinking about the fire escape that descended from his balcony. "Why?"

"Because I need all of you to come with me now."

"All of who?" asked Clark.

"Nellie sent me," Jeremy responded.

Clark let out a breath. "I don't think I've ever been happier to hear any words more in my entire life," he said. "Lindsey, Lucy, it's all right. You can come out."

The two women entered the living room cautiously. Lindsey looked suspiciously at the new arrival before glancing at Clark for an explanation.

"Lindsey, this is Jeremy O'Brian. He worked with me to find Lucy and…"

"I'm Lucy Landon," said Lucy to the young man who'd arrived, cutting off Clark's explanation.

"Jeremy O'Brian," Jeremy replied immediately to the young woman who was probably no more than two or three years younger than himself.

"So you work with Clark?" asked Lucy shyly.

"Yeah," replied Jeremy. "I've been working at the Daily Planet for a couple of years now. And I've been working with Clark to find you."

"Really?" asked Lucy.

"Umm… I hate to interrupt here," said Clark. "But you said something about Nellie?"

"Umm, right," Jeremy responded, having obvious problems taking his eyes off Lucy long enough to answer Clark's question. "I'm afraid you're on your own getting out of here, but if you can, go to the corner of Park and Bell Streets. I'll meet you there. In the mean time…" His gaze drifted back to Lucy. "…I'd better get out of here before they wonder why a pizza delivery boy is taking so long."

"So, we'll see you there?" asked Lucy, again sounding somewhat shy.

"Absolutely. I'm the one who will be taking you where you'll be going."


The moment Jeremy left, Lindsey turned towards Clark, silently demanding some sort of explanation.

"I think you've just been adopted by the underground," Clark said quietly. When Lindsey pulled in a sharp breath, Clark took Lindsey in his arms. "So no more talk about going back to Luthor," he said into her ear. Mindful of Lucy's presence, Lindsey only allowed him to hold her for a moment before forcing herself from Clark's embrace.

"So how do we get out of here?" Lindsey asked.

"The fire escape," Clark said before going to collect their things.

"Lindsey," Lucy said quietly when Clark was gone.

"What?" asked Lindsey.

"I don't want you to kill yourself to save me."

Lindsey let out a breath. She really had hoped that Lucy was asleep during her discussion with Clark. "It doesn't look like it's going to come to that," Lindsey responded after a moment.

Lucy grabbed her arm. "Please. You have to promise me that you won't kill yourself. I just got my sister back. I don't want to lose you now."

Lindsey studied Lucy for a moment, realizing for the first time that the girl who had been taken away from her years ago was no longer a child. She gave her sister a smile. "I promise," she replied.

"We've got to go," said Clark, coming back into the room.

As they all headed to the balcony, Lindsey noticed the leather bound book that she'd taken out of the closet.

"Clark," she said. When he turned back she held up the book. "Can I borrow this?"

Clark looked at the book in her hand before glancing at Lucy who was heading out onto the balcony. He came back to Lindsey and took the book from her hands. "Just be sure you're the only one who sees it," he said, stuffing the book into her overnight bag. He zipped up the bag and looked back at Lindsey. "No one else can see that, Lindsey."

"What exactly is it?" asked Lindsey, wondering how he'd gotten a book that seemed to be talking about one of her dreams.

"It's a copy of the journal of Lois Lane — the wife of the original Superman. My Uncle Jonathan gave it to me when I left Earth. I'm not exactly sure why. I've never taken time to read it, but I imagine there are things in there that could do my family a lot of damage."

"Maybe I shouldn't…"

"I trust you, Lindsey," he said softly. "Just be careful when you read it."

She grabbed his arm and took the overnight bag from his hand. Opening it, she removed the book. "Put it back in the closet," she said, handing the book back to him. "If we all survive this, I'll borrow it then. I don't want to risk having it on me if I'm caught by Damian."

He looked at her for a moment, before nodding.

"Are you guys coming?" asked Lucy, looking back into the room.


"Can we take these off?" asked Lindsey.

After meeting Jeremy at the agreed upon location, he'd insisted that they wear hoods over their heads for the remainder of their trip. However, the trip now seemed to be over. At least, the hands that had been guiding them to their current location seemed to have vanished.

"Yes," said a voice that Lindsey didn't recognize.

Lindsey, Clark, and Lucy all immediately removed the hoods.

"Hello, Clark," said Martha. Then she turned to the two people she'd not yet met. "I assume you're Lindsey Landon, and you must be Lucy. You can call me Nellie. Now, I'm sure you have lots of questions, but let me begin by saying that you are safe here. Mr. Luthor does not know about this place or I can assure you I'd have been dead a long time ago. So, welcome to my home."

"Thank you, Nellie," Lindsey said immediately, glancing around at the conservative but homey environment.

"Why don't you come in and have a seat?" suggested Martha, leading them towards the chairs in the small living room.

"Tell me something," said Clark. "When you introduced yourself to me, you told me I could call you Nellie. You said the same thing just now. Why not just say, 'My name is Nellie'?"

"Because it's not," said Martha. "However, Nellie is the name I go by. But, whenever possible, I try not to lie."

"Do you mind my asking — why Nellie?" asked Clark as they made themselves comfortable.

Martha smiled. "I don't get asked that very often anymore," she said. "I guess there's no harm in letting you know that I chose the name after a woman who lived in Canada at the beginning of the twentieth century — Nellie McClung. When she was born, women were not 'persons' under Canadian law. By the time she died and thanks, in part, to her, they were. That is my mission on Mars — or one of them. Of course, the underground is broader than that, but…" She shrugged. "But I guess the main reason I chose her name is that she's attributed with a quote that I love."

"What's that?"

Mischief danced in Martha's eyes when she said, "Never retreat; never explain; never apologize. Get the thing done and let them howl."

Clark laughed, Lindsey chuckled, and Lucy looked slightly confused.

"Anyway," continued Martha after a moment, "I think that there are a few things we need to discuss. I'm given to understand that you're trying to escape from Damian Luthor. Is that true?"

Lindsey let out a long slow breath. "Yes," she said softly.

"Do you mind if I ask why?"

Lindsey glanced over at her sister before proceeding to tell Martha her story — or at least enough to satisfy the woman in front of her. Martha listened in silence, seeming neither appalled nor surprised. It wasn't until Lindsey concluded that she spoke again.

"I have to tell you that you have provoked a storm of debate in the underground over the past few hours. There are those who think that you're here because you're helping Luthor bring us down."

"I'm not," said Lindsey, silently begging the woman to believe her.

Martha held up a hand. "I'm not saying I'm one of them. Besides, the numbers who think we should help you has grown considerably in the past couple of hours."

"Why?" asked Clark.

"Apparently, word is that Damian Luthor is furious. He's been issuing orders and threatening to have heads removed if you aren't found. And no one seems to think it's just an act to get us to trust you. You've got him in a real panic.

"Anyway, just to be on the safe side, it was decided that if I wanted to risk my neck by having you stay with me, I was welcome to do so. However, you won't be having contact with anyone else in the underground. You know about Jeremy. That was unavoidable. But you should know that what he knows about the underground is extremely limited."

"I understand," said Lindsey. "Look, I'm just grateful that we have somewhere to hide. Whatever rules you want to set are fine with me."

Martha nodded. "Then why don't I get the two of you settled. Clark, you will be taken back now. Jeremy is waiting outside to escort you."

"But…" began Clark.

"If you disappear right now, Luthor will know that you're involved in Lindsey's disappearance. And we don't want to give him anything to work with if we don't have to."

Clark took a deep breath and looked over at Lindsey. He really didn't want to leave her, but Martha was right. He saw Lindsey's reaction and realized that she also agreed.

"I should tell you," began Lindsey, "I don't have any money to pay for…"

"Hush," interrupted Martha. "Even if you did, it wouldn't be safe for you to access it right now. I'm not looking for money. My goal is to bring freedom to all the citizens of Mars. And right now, that means you and your sister."

"Thank you," said Lindsey softly.

"No need to thank me yet. Let's find a way to get you away from Luthor permanently. Then you can thank me. In the mean time, I notice you don't have a lot of stuff. I did consider that and I had a box of clothes brought over. They're nothing fancy, but they will keep you covered. Now, are there any medical concerns or medications I need to be aware of?"

Lindsey looked over at her sister who shook her head. Lindsey was just about to say no when a thought occurred to her. "Umm… I have…" Her voice trailed off when she looked at Clark. "Could I talk to you privately?" she asked Martha.

Martha nodded. "But first, maybe you should say your goodbyes to Clark. While you do that, why don't I show Lucy her room?" she said to the younger woman who had been noticeably quiet.

As Martha made her way with Lucy towards a room off to the side, Lindsey and Clark could hear her say, "So do you want to tell me why you're so quiet?"

"Are we going to see Jimmy again?" Lucy asked.

Martha chuckled. "If you mean Jeremy, I think there's a good possibility of that."

Lucy shrugged. "He just seems like a Jimmy to me."

Then the door closed behind them, very obviously leaving Lindsey and Clark alone.

"I don't want you to go," said Lindsey softly, not meeting Clark's eyes.

"I don't want to go," replied Clark.

They sat in silence for a minute or so more.

"Well," said Clark, rising to his feet.

"Yeah," replied Lindsey, also getting off the couch and quietly following him to the door. "Thanks, Clark," Lindsey said when they arrived.

"For what?" asked Clark.

"For everything."

"Hey, I'm just following my heart, remember?" said Clark, taking her hand and placing it on his chest.

Her hand grabbed onto the front of his shirt. "Then just make sure you follow it back here," she said.

He smiled, brought a hand up to her face and, cradling her cheek, leaned in and kissed her.

"Yes, ma'am," he said softly when the kiss broke.

"This is crazy," said Lindsey after a moment. "Why is it so hard to say good-night to you? I mean it isn't as if…"

"…we aren't going to see each other again. I'll be back as soon as I can."

"I know," she responded. Then after another moment of painful silence, she shook her head and released his shirt. "Scram," she said, giving him a slight push towards the door.

He smiled and a moment later was gone. She took and let out a long, slow breath before turning to head back into the room. She'd just gotten seated when Martha reentered the room.

"I got your sister settled," said Martha.

Lindsey gave her a sad smile.

"What is it?" asked Martha.

Lindsey shrugged. "It's not important," she said.

Martha went to the kitchen and got a couple of cups of coffee. When she re-entered the living room, she handed Lindsey a mug and took a seat with her own.

"Does it have something to do with Clark?" she asked.

Lindsey smiled. "You don't take 'no' for an answer, do you?" she said.

"Never retreat, remember?"

Lindsey diverted her eyes.

"I've heard it all, honey. Don't you think you should talk about it?"

Lindsey nodded. It would feel good to talk about it with someone. And for a reason she couldn't quite put into words, she trusted the woman sitting across from her.

"Is Lucy in bed?"

"She's out cold. So what is it?"

"I'm not sure what to do about Clark," Lindsey said while staring into her coffee mug.

"Do you love him?" Martha asked.

"How am I supposed to know?" Lindsey began before the entire story of her life came tumbling out. "He deserves someone so much better than me," Lindsey concluded softly.

"Have you told him everything that you just told me?" Martha asked.

"And more," Lindsey said.

"And what did he say?" Martha asked.

Lindsey gave a sad smile. "That he thought I had potential."

"Smart boy," said Martha.

"You don't understand. I mean, that's what I wanted to talk to you about earlier. I'm not usually this emotional, but…" Her voice trailed off.


"Years ago, I was struggling with all the feelings of guilt caused by… well, everything. And one day I broke down. I begged Damian to let me quit."

"What did he say?"

"He showed up the next day with a prescription."

Martha drew in a breath as she began to suspect where this was going. Over a hundred years ago, two scientists had invented what was then believed to be the 'wonder drug' for those people suffering from paralyzing guilt complexes. At first, it was hailed as a miracle. Those who suffered from severe guilt complexes would take the drug and, presto, no guilt. It was only years later that doctors discovered that the drug had one small flaw. Once a person started taking it, he or she couldn't stop. If they did, all the guilt they should have experienced previously hit them all at once. In most cases, the person couldn't take the overwhelming guilt and committed, or at least attempted, suicide.

The drug, flexal, was immediately taken off the shelf. However, that didn't stop it from being sold on the streets. It became popular for the feelings of tranquility it engendered. Flex didn't cloud the brain. In fact, if anything it seemed to make it clearer — the person no longer being troubled by the small stabs of conscience that plague humanity and let people know, through an internal measuring stick, right from wrong. The person could still tell right and wrong intellectually, but those feelings that stop people from taking certain actions they know to be wrong, disappeared. And the longer one took it, the higher the dosage required to achieve the same effect. Martha had seen its devastating effects more than once.

"Flex?" she asked.

Lindsey nodded. "When I left the apartment tonight, I forgot it. I know you probably think… Is there anyway you can help me get some? I know I have to quit but if I try now…" She stared silently at her coffee cup, waiting for the lecture she knew was coming. She never should have taken that first snort.

Martha carefully considered the situation. She was against drugs of any kind, but Lindsey did have a point. At the moment, she needed everyone of her wits if she was going to get away from Luthor. Getting her off the flex would have to wait.

"I think I know someone who'll get some for us."

Lindsey looked up from her coffee mug in shock. She'd expected a lecture. Yet this woman… "Why?" she asked.

Martha got up off the couch. "You're right. You've got a lot of things that are more important to worry about at the moment. When this is over, I'll help you get off the flex if you want. But right now, we've got Luthor to worry about. I believe in worrying about one problem at the time."

Martha made an immediate phone call before returning to Lindsey. "Someone will be by in about half an hour," Martha said.

Lindsey visibly relaxed.


Clark paced in his apartment. He had hated leaving Lindsey alone. He wasn't entirely sure why she had become so emotional about him leaving. But still… He thought she was safe there. Otherwise he'd never have left her. And she seemed convinced that it was better this way, too. Still…

He closed his eyes and stretched out with his enhanced hearing, listening for any sounds of her. But he was too far away. He suspected if she screamed, he'd be able to hear her. So not being able to hear anything was probably a good sign.

He really should just get some sleep. He grabbed the pillow and blanket off the couch and made his way to his bed. He took a look at the two pillows lying on the bed and then chose the one that smelled of Lindsey's shampoo to bury his own head in. He closed his eyes, trying to force his mind to relax.

A couple of minutes later, he was once again pacing in his living room. Having her stay with Nellie was only a temporary solution. Clark had no doubt that at this very moment, Luthor was marshaling every resource available to him to find Lindsey. And with his money, how long could it really be before someone broke and told Luthor where to find them?

Maybe he should just fly her and Lucy back to Earth. Maybe he would have to give away his secret to do it but… His thought stopped dead in its tracks. Uncle Jonathan. Of course. Why hadn't he thought of it before? If a superhero was suddenly on Mars, it would raise all sorts of unwanted questions about where he'd come from. On the other hand, if a well-known, much loved superhero like The Protector showed up from Earth… He smiled.

He immediately sat down on the edge of his bed and closed his eyes. Communicating telepathically over this distance might not be possible. So far he hadn't tried it. However, if he could do it, it would certainly be safer than using the phones. He put all of his concentration into the task.

"Uncle Jon?" he asked.

"Clark? Son, is that you?" he heard back a moment later.

Clark smiled before briefly filling his uncle in on the problem and outlining his plan. When he finally broke contact, he was exhausted. He got in bed and was asleep almost instantly.


Lindsey forced herself not to make a mad dash at Nellie when the older woman reentered the room carrying a small package. Still, she couldn't seem to take her eyes off the brown container in Nellie's hand. Lindsey nibbled lightly on her lower lip as she watched the package make its way closer. Nellie seemed to understand, not taking pleasure in her obvious agony. She handed her the package while pointing the way to the washroom.

Of course, Lindsey could have simply poured some of the powder out on the coffee table, but Nellie seemed to understand her embarrassment and was trying to protect Lindsey's dignity. Lindsey muttered a quick thank you before leaving the room. It seemed to take every ounce of will power she possessed to keep from bolting the final few feet to the washroom.

Lindsey trembled as she poured the fine powder onto the counter. When she saw some of the coveted powder fall onto the floor, she tried to control her shaking hands. As she finally bent over the counter to inhale the substance, she wondered how she could even be contemplating a future with Clark? In spite of Clark's comments that she had potential, she knew he was wrong. Her desperate need for this substance was just one more example of why it could never work out between them. And her shame of her addiction had prevented her from even telling Nellie what she needed when Clark was in the room.

She finished inhaling the substance and sat back on the edge of the bathtub, allowing the drug to fulfill its function. She closed her eyes as the waves of guilt for past wrongs faded into the background. They didn't go away. They never went away completely anymore, but she soon felt as if she wasn't going to drown in them.

She got up and carefully returned any unused powder to the small container. Then, straightening herself and gathering her courage, she opened the door to the washroom and made her way back to the living room.

"Sorry about that," Lindsey said sheepishly.

"Psha," Martha responded. "I've seen worse. Don't worry about it. So, what do you think? Are you ready to turn in?"

Lindsey nodded.

Martha rose from the couch and led her to a room off to the side. She slid the door open and said, "Lights," to reveal what appeared to be a den. It had a large table and a desk with a computer on it. Off to the side was a couch which Martha immediately began explaining could be made up into a bed.

"This is actually my work room," she began explaining. "Sorry for the mess," she said, gesturing to the table that was covered with papers. "But your arrival was a little sudden."

"No problem," said Lindsey, walking over to the table and glancing at the papers. "Do you mind my asking what type of work you do?"

Martha joined her beside the table. "My main job is to put together the underground paper."

"Aren't you concerned about leaving me in here?" Lindsey asked.

Martha shook her head. "None of the articles have names on them. I just go through them, do some editing, and put the best ones together in a paper. Of course, our writers aren't the caliber of those at the Daily Planet, but I'm proud of the work we do."

Lindsey picked up one article and glanced through it when a thought occurred to her. "Nellie. I think…" A grin spread across her face. "I've heard Damian talk about you. I'm afraid he's not your biggest fan."

Lindsey's grin was matched by Martha's. "Well, it's good to know my work is getting noticed," she said.

"Oh, yeah. I think you could say that," Lindsey responded. Then her smile faded. When she continued, she was much more serious. "And you're right. If he knew where to find you, he would kill you. Doesn't that worry you?"

Martha shrugged. "We all have to die sometime. And, no, that's not bravado talking. I came to terms a long time ago with the fact that if I was ever found I would be killed. So, I've taken steps to see that I'm not found. However, if it does happen, I'll know I died doing what I believe in."

Lindsey looked at the older woman with new admiration. Then she glanced back at the table.

"Can I help?"

"Are you sure you want to? I mean, if Luthor ever found out…"

"I want to do something." She looked over at Nellie. "I need to do something," she corrected.

"Okay," said Martha. "But I'm warning you, a lot of it is pretty tedious work. Not quite the excitement you might be expecting."

"That's fine. I just want to do something to help. Considering all the help I've given Damian in the past to destroy what you're trying to do here, I'd really like to try to atone for some of it."

"Well then. I'll put you to work first thing tomorrow morning," Martha promised.


Luthor looked at the man carefully, as if trying to determine if he could be trusted to fulfill this assignment.

"Lose him and you forfeit your life," he said, closely watching the man's eyes.

"I've done this sort of thing a hundred times. I'm not going to lose him."

"See that you don't," Luthor reiterated. "Clark Kent is the one behind this. Lindsey would never have thought about defying me on her own. But that means he knows where she is and, sooner or later, he'll lead you right to her. Bring her directly to me along with anyone found with her."

"Yes, sir," the man replied before leaving the room to do as instructed.


Getting through the following day at work was sheer torture for Clark. He knew he had to go in and even stay until five o'clock for the sake of keeping up appearances, but his heart wasn't in his job. He kept glancing at the clock, hoping five o'clock would come so that he could find Jeremy and demand to be taken back to Nellie's place. He had been watching through the hood on both trips yesterday, but there was no way he would know how to get there if it hadn't been for his unique abilities. So he would have to rely on Jeremy until they decided that he could be trusted to know where Nellie lived.

His uncle had promised to arrive sometime early this evening. So all Clark could think about was getting to Nellie's so that he could spend as much time as possible with Lindsey before she had to leave.

He glanced up at the clock again. Ten more minutes. He glanced around the newsroom, looking for Jeremy. He let out a sigh of relief when he spotted him heading out of Paul's office. He wanted to be sure Jeremy was in sight when those ten minutes were up.

"Kent, where's that story?" Paul's voice bellowed into the newroom.

"Coming, Paul," Clark said, before turning his attention back to today's story. When he finally finished putting the finishing touches on it and sent it to Paul, he looked up at the clock again. Five minutes after five. He jumped from his chair and grabbed his jacket, looking around for Jeremy.


"We've just received word from our source in the Daily Planet that Kent is leaving. Everyone stay sharp," said a man into a microphone. On the street below him, seven men and two women immediately looked a little more awake.


"You know, if you just told me where to go, I wouldn't need your help to…" Clark began.

"Yeah, right," laughed Jeremy. "And then I could just go and build my own coffin."

"It was just a thought," said Clark with a chuckle. He glanced around and noticed something unusual. "I think we're being followed," he said softly.

"What? Why do you think that?" asked Jeremy, suddenly much more alert.

"It's just a feeling," said Clark, not wanting to mention the light he'd seen reflecting off a small ear piece being worn by a woman who was at this moment following them. "But just to be safe, why don't you go ahead? I'll make sure I'm not being followed and then… Why don't we meet where we met last night?"

"You mean…"

"Don't say it," Clark said. "We can go out for supper from there."

Jeremy smiled and nodded. Clark obviously wanted to be especially careful in case they were overheard. He was just as bad as Paul.


"What do you mean, 'you lost him'?" the man demanded.

"He left the Daily Planet with a young man. They split up soon after. He went around a corner. When we got there, he was gone. We looked everywhere, but he had vanished."

"You obviously didn't look everywhere. No one vanishes into thin air," the man fumed.

"He did."

The boss looked off into the distance, his eyes focusing on nothing as he thought about Luthor's warning that losing Kent would cost him his life.

"Don't tell anyone that you lost him. Is that understood?"

"Yes, sir."

"Send the team to Kent's apartment. Let me know when you've picked him up again."


"I don't understand," said Lindsey as she and Martha worked on sorting out the articles they had agreed would be in the next edition of the underground paper.

"What don't you understand?" asked Martha. "Wait, I think that one should go on the front page."

Lindsey looked at the article on the computer screen. "I agree," she said, quickly copying and pasting the article in the appropriate spot before continuing. "I don't understand why you took me in. I don't understand why you're letting me help. I'm sorry, Nellie. I just don't understand any of it."

Martha smiled. "Have you ever just had a feeling about someone?" she asked. "You know, met someone and just known that you and that person were supposed to be friends."

Lindsey thought about the first time she'd met Clark. "I guess. Why?"

"I know a lot more about you than you might think," said Martha. "I mean, I've been watching and gathering information about Damian Luthor for years. But when you turned up, I don't know… it was the strangest thing. I was thinking about it the other day and I suddenly thought…" She chuckled. "…I wondered if you and I had known each other in a previous life or something. I know, I know, it sounds crazy, but… I guess I just think that we're supposed to be friends," she concluded.

There was the sound of a knock at the door.

"Saved by the bell," said Martha, heading out of Lindsey's room to answer the door.

Lindsey stared absently at the spot Nellie had previously stood. Was it possible? It seemed so crazy to believe in past lives. On the other hand… She thought momentarily about Clark — about how she'd felt the need to protect him from Damian right from the beginning, about how she'd dreamt about flying in his arms before she knew the truth, and even about how she'd told him that they were being bugged before she knew him well enough to trust him with something like that. She'd been acting towards Clark the way Nellie was acting towards her — as if there was something between them, some undefinable connection.

She sighed. Even if a connection had existed between her and Clark in a previous life — she almost snorted — there could never be anything between them now. After everything she'd done in her life, how could she offer him anything? The guilt was once again overwhelming. She made her way over to the drawer Martha had cleared out for her and removed the small container she knew contained the relief she needed.


"Jeremy!" exclaimed Lucy running into the room at the sound of a familiar voice.

"Hi, Lucy," Jeremy replied with a smile.

The excited Lucy became subdued. When her eyes spotted Jeremy, she felt suddenly shy.

"I was hoping you'd come back. Are you staying for a while?" Lucy asked.

"Well, I'd like to, if…" He glanced over at Nellie who nodded her consent. "I guess I am," he concluded with a grin.

"Then come with me, I've got to show you…" Lucy began, grabbing Jeremy's hand and tugging him towards her room, "…the way Nellie decorated this room."

As the two made their way towards Lucy's room, Clark and Martha exchanged looks. "Something tells me that there's nothing special about the way you decorated that room," said Clark.

"Nothing at all," confirmed Martha with a grin.

"So where is she, Nellie?" asked Clark.

Martha gestured to another room. "But I don't know if I should let you go in there," she said. "I've gotten more work out of that girl today and if you go in there and disturb her…"

"Work?" Clark's question interrupted Martha.

"Yes, work. She asked what she could do to help so I've had her working on the underground paper." When she saw Clark's raised eyebrows, she continued. "She has a real knack for this type of work, Clark."

"Really," said Clark, feeling as if he shouldn't be surprised, even though he was.

He walked towards the door of the room. He stopped in the entranceway and smiled as he looked at Lindsey. She had her back to him and he suspected she didn't know he was there. He began to approach, determined to sneak up behind her and grab her around the waist. Then she bent over the desk and…

"What do you think you're doing?" he exclaimed, pushing her away from the fine brown powder he could now see on the desk in front of her. He swiped his hand across the powder, causing it to scatter, before picking up the container sitting there. He looked at the label. "Flex?" he asked, demanding that Lindsey give him an answer.

When she just looked away, he took the bottle and stormed from the room. When he arrived at the washroom, he removed the lid from the bottle to pour it into the toilet.

"Hold it right there, mister!" demanded Martha.

He didn't dump the contents of the container, but instead turned towards the woman standing behind him, fire in his eyes.

"Did you know about this?" he demanded.

"Yes, I did. And I won't have you throwing something that cost me good money down the toilet," Martha responded.

"You bought this for her?" Clark asked in disbelief.

"Lower your voice," Martha responded, glancing over her shoulder. She stepped into the washroom and hit the button, sliding the door closed. "What exactly do you think you're doing?"

"Lindsey… I… How can you even ask me that?"

"Think about this for a minute, Clark. Luthor got her hooked on that stuff years ago."

"All the more reason she should quit," Clark said.

"I agree. But right now… Do you have any idea what happens when a long term user quits taking that stuff? Have you ever seen the effects?"

"Well, no. But, Nellie…"

"Until she's safe, she can't afford to get off the flex. She needs that stuff right now, Clark. Because if she doesn't get it, she's going to become suicidal and if that happens right now…"

"She'll go back to Luthor," Clark breathed. "That must have been what last night was about."

"Last night?" asked Martha.

"She wanted to go back to Luthor. She thought it was the only way Luthor would quit looking for Lucy. And then… Omigod," he said softly.

"She figured if she provoked Luthor into killing her, he'd have no further need of Lucy?"

Clark shook his head. "She was going to kill herself rather than letting Luthor do it."

Martha took the bottle from Clark's hand and put the lid back on. "Take this back to her, Clark," she said, handing the bottle back to him. "Make sure she takes it. And tell her that you don't hate her for being an addict. She's ashamed enough. She doesn't need you acting like a jerk about it. Flex was the only way she could cope with the things Luthor made her do. Once she's safe, then, if she wants to, we can help her quit. For now…"

"She needs this," Clark concluded, looking down at the bottle in his hands.


Clark stepped into Lindsey's room, closing the door behind him. She was sitting at the desk, with her back to him, trying to look busy. However, Clark could see that her hands were trembling. He walked over and set the flex on the desk beside her.

"I'm sorry," said Clark. "It wasn't my place to… I'm sorry."

"Don't worry about it, Clark," she said, flipping through to look at another proposed article, ignoring the container sitting beside her. "It's no big deal."

Clark immediately realized that it was a big deal. Otherwise, she wouldn't be working so hard to pretend it wasn't. He pushed the container a little closer to her. She immediately pushed it away. Clark let out a breath.

"You should take some, Lindsey," he said softly.

Her entire body went rigid.

He took a seat on the desk beside her and ran his hand gently through her hair. Leaning over he touched his forehead against her head, placing his lips close to her ear.

"I was wrong. I had a talk with Martha. For right now, you need this," he breathed.

"I don't need…"

"I don't want you doing something to yourself. I don't want you dying. It would kill me," Clark interrupted, keeping his voice as soft as he had the last time.

Lindsey pulled in a jagged breath, but remained perfectly rigid.

Clark closed his eyes. "How about I give you some privacy?" he said, realizing that Martha's comments about Lindsey being ashamed of her addiction were true. "Come on out whenever you're ready." He lightly kissed her hair. "I love you, Lindsey," he whispered before getting up from the where he was seated and making his way to the door.

He stopped briefly at the door and looked back at her. She still hadn't moved. He let out a slow breath before opening the door and leaving the room.


Lindsey squeezed her eyes shut when she heard the door close. She opened her eyes and glanced over at the container sitting on the desk. Cautiously reaching over, she picked it up. Her chin quivered as she looked at the bottle. She was tempted not to take it — to prove that she didn't need it. But she knew he was right. She might hate it, but she did need it. And until the people she cared about were safe, she couldn't afford to be distracted. She closed her eyes for a moment before opening the bottle.


"So how do you know the Protector?" Martha was asking when Lindsey entered the living room.

"Umm… well, I don't really. I mean, I've met him, but… he's a friend of my Uncle Jonathan. I gave him a call last night and…" His voice trailed off when he looked up and saw Lindsey. "Hi," he said, his voice suddenly soft.

She avoided looking at him. "So what's going on?" she asked, directing her question to Martha as if Clark wasn't in the room.

Martha glanced over at Clark. He looked as if he'd just been shot.

"I think I'll let Clark tell you himself," she said, before making her way towards the kitchen.

When Lindsey still didn't look at him, Clark could hardly stand it. "Look, Lindsey, I'm sorry about my reaction earlier. I just…"

"It's okay, Clark. I understand. I guess it just reminded me why it could never work between us. So why don't you just tell me what this plan of yours is?"

Clark let out a slow breath. "Don't do this, Lindsey," he said softly.

Her facial expression seemed to soften. She looked at him finally. "I'm sorry, Clark. I guess… I'm really sorry I didn't tell you about the flex. I should have. I just…"

"You were embarrassed," he completed.

She nodded.

Clark walked over to her. "I told you a long time ago that you don't have to hide things from me. I might overreact on occasion, but…" He paused until she met his gaze. "I love you, Lindsey."

She gave him a sad smile, her hand coming up to lightly caress his cheek. "I know," she replied. It was only a moment before she removed her hand. "So what's this plan of yours?"

Clark took her hand and led her over to the couch. Once they were seated, he spoke. "I contacted my Uncle Jon. He said he'd contact the Protector."

"The Protector?"

Clark nodded. "He will be here this evening. He's going to take you and Lucy back to Earth. You'll be staying on the Kent family farm in Smallville until you can get on your feet. Luthor will never find you there."

"What about you?"

"I need to stay. At least for now. Once I've found a way to bring Luthor down, I'll join you."

"I want to stay," said Lindsey.

"Right now, you need to take care of Lucy. And you need to take care of you."

Lindsey looked down, biting her lower lip. Years of hard experience had taught her to hold her tongue.

When she didn't respond, Clark assumed the conversation was over. "Anyway, the Protector will publicly take you through customs."

"But then Damian will catch us," said Lindsey.

Clark shook his head. "If Luthor doesn't know what's going on until the last moment, he won't have a chance. And who's going to challenge the Protector?"

Lindsey nodded slowly. "But once we're through customs, what then?"

"He'll fly you both to Earth."

"But we can't survive in space."

"His aura will protect you and he's bringing oxygen so you can breathe. Don't worry, we've done this type of thing before."

"Tell me something, Clark. You've mentioned your uncle a number of times, but you never mention your parents. Why?"

"My parents died when I was ten," he replied. "They were in a car accident. My uncle Jon raised me."

"Didn't your father…" Her voice trailed off and she glanced towards the kitchen.

"My dad didn't have superpowers," Clark said softly.

"I'm so sorry, Clark," Lindsey said.

"It's okay. I had a good childhood. My uncle was great. I miss my folks, but… Uncle Jon left the Daily Planet and moved out to the family farm so that he could raise me. Sometimes I feel a little guilty that he gave up his job for me. But he insists that he really is only a farmer at heart."

"I didn't think there were any privately owned farms anymore."

Clark chuckled. "I think we're one of the last. In truth, the farm loses money every year. But… considering everything, the family needs a place where we can have privacy — kids coming to grip with their powers, a place to receive unconventional medical treatment. That type of thing. So everyone contributes to keeping the farm going. Uncle Jon has been running the farm since my folks died, but everyone makes use of it."

Martha chose that moment to reenter the room with coffee.

"So when is the Protector supposed to arrive?" she asked.

"In about half an hour," said Clark with a glance at his watch.

"Then I should probably get Jeremy to show you the way in and out of here. It might be best if no one knows that the Protector is here. Besides, I doubt a hood would keep the Protector from knowing the way here."


The silence was so loud it was almost deafening as the Protector entered customs. He had flown in the spaceship port and simply knocked to get in. After a moment, the airtight doors opened allowing him entrance. They closed behind him and the room filled with air before he was admitted.

The crowds parted. No one questioned him as he walked past the admission desk without providing documentation or identification. He walked out onto the street and then, before anyone could react, a sonic boom was heard.

Jonathan Kent spun into his civies and approached the park where Clark had said he'd meet him. He smiled when he spotted the young man he thought of as a son. After the initial greetings were exchanged, the two men made their way over to a park bench.

"So where are the young women?" Jonathan asked as they got seated.

"I'll take you there in a moment," said Clark. "But first, there are a couple of things you should know."

"Go on," Jonathan replied.

"Well, first, Lindsey has an addiction. She's probably going to need some help if she wants to get off the drug."

"What's the drug?"

"Flex. I think she wants to quit. I just don't want her to try alone."

"Don't worry. I'm sure your cousin won't mind giving us a hand."

Clark smiled. It was handy having a doctor in the family.

"What's the second thing?"

"Lindsey knows."

"Knows?" asked Jonathan.

"Knows," confirmed Clark.

"Oh, knows," said Jonathan. He regarded Clark for a long moment before asking, "She must be a pretty special woman."

Clark cleared his throat and shifted in his seat.

Jonathan laughed. "I'll take good care of her, Clark," he said.

"Thanks, Uncle Jon," Clark replied.

Jonathan slapped Clark's back and rose to his feet. "Why don't you take me to meet this woman who's captured my nephew's heart?"

"Before we do, how about an interview for the Planet?" Clark asked. "After all, someone's going to report your arrival. It might as well be me."

Jonathan chuckled. "Certainly, Mr. Kent. What do you want to know?"


"Incompetents," fumed Luthor. "Are you trying to tell me that no one even asked why he was here?"

"I'm afraid everyone was just so surprised," Nathan informed him.

"Find him," Luthor demanded. "I'll figure out if he's a threat to my control of Mars. When you find him, tell him I'd like to officially welcome him to the planet."

"Yes, monsieur," Nathan responded, although he had no idea how to find the elusive superhero.


Jonathan stopped in a small alcove when they neared their destination and spun back into his Protector suit. Clark handed him a long trench coat, a baseball cap and a pair of sunglasses for the remainder of the trip. They hoped that would keep people from knowing who was going to Nellie's.

Stopping outside the door of the dwelling, Clark knocked. They heard rustling inside and a moment later, Jeremy opened the door. When they stepped into the room they saw Lucy, who had obviously been crying. Jeremy himself didn't look much better.

"Where's Nellie?" asked Clark. As if she was waiting for the question, Nellie entered the room, followed by Lindsey.

Jonathan quickly removed the glasses, hat and trench coat and squared his shoulders slightly, allowing his bigger than life persona to permeate the room.


Lindsey and Martha had been talking quietly in the kitchen as they prepared supper when they heard the knock on the door. Martha washed her hands and then, accompanied by Lindsey, entered the other room.

"Oh my," breathed Martha as her gaze fell on the Protector for the first time.

Lindsey glanced over at her and had to stifle a grin when she saw the completely besotted look on Nellie's face. She watched in fascination as Nellie's eyes took in every inch of the man just inside the doorway. When she once again seemed to reach his eyes, her face became a deep shade of pink. Lindsey glanced over at the Protector and realized the reason for the change of color. It seemed that the Protector wasn't the only one being 'checked out.'

"And you are?" asked the Protector, stepping closer to the older woman.

"This is Nellie," Clark said when Martha hesitated.

"Nellie," the man repeated softly, taking Martha's hand in his own but never really shaking it.

"And this is Lindsey Landon," continued Clark proudly, apparently oblivious to the small drama taking place in front of him.

The Protector forced his gaze away from Martha to look at the young woman standing beside her.

"I am pleased to meet you, Lindsey," he said, slowly releasing Martha's hand to shake Lindsey's. "I'm interested in getting to know the woman spoken of so highly by my… by Clark," he said.

"I think Clark exaggerates," said Lindsey, shaking Jonathan's hand.

"And this must be…" Jonathan continued, glancing over at the young couple whose hands were intertwined.

Lindsey glanced at them, suddenly wondering exactly what had been going on in Lucy's room. It was obvious that something had happened between her sister and Jeremy. At first, she wondered about such a relationship. After all, Jeremy was obviously a few years older than her sister. But then she dismissed the idea. Lucy would be leaving for Earth and who knew when she'd be back. She might as well let them enjoy their time together.

"This is my sister, Lucy," said Lindsey.

"And I'm Jeremy," said Jeremy.

"It's nice meeting both of you. So who exactly am I taking back to Earth with me?"

"That would be Lindsey and Lucy," said Clark, missing the frowns that immediately appeared on the faces of both named individuals. "And if you'd just give us a minute to say our goodbyes…"

"You can't leave before I've put a good meal in you," said Martha, speaking for the first time.

"I think it's probably best if…" began Clark.

"I agree," interrupted his uncle, his eyes once again finding those of the older woman.

"But…" began Clark, his voice trailing off in confusion.

Jonathan looked at his nephew. "Are the young women in any danger here?" he asked.

"Well, no, but…" began Clark.

"And maybe you should plan to spend the night," continued Martha. "I've always found it best to start a long journey first thing in the morning."

"But in space it doesn't matter…" Clark tried again.

"I couldn't agree more," his uncle once again interrupted. "As long as you women don't mind waiting until tomorrow to make our trip to Earth."

"Not at all," said Lindsey.

When Clark looked between his uncle and Nellie in confusion, Lindsey stepped closer to him. She took his hand, directing his gaze to her. He crinkled his eyebrows when he noticed the small smile playing around her lips.

"Then it's agreed," said Martha. "I'm afraid I don't have any bedrooms left, but you could stay on the couch."

"That would be fine," responded Jonathan.

"Anyway, supper was cooking before you arrived. I guess I should go check on it," Martha said, before turning towards the kitchen.

"Is there anything I can do to help?" asked Jonathan, following her. "I'm pretty handy around the kitchen, you know."

"What just happened there?" Clark asked Lindsey quietly.

"Isn't it obvious?" responded Lindsey, glancing towards the door the two older people had exited through.

"You mean… Nah… You think?" asked Clark.

"Oh, I definitely think," replied Lindsey with a chuckle.

"But he's never…" Clark's voice trailed off.

"There's a first time for everything," responded Lindsey.

Clark looked at Lindsey for a long moment, observing the broad, knowing smile on her lips before shrugging.

"So that means we have the entire night before we have to leave?" asked Lucy hopefully.

"It appears that way," responded Clark.

Lindsey watched as Lucy practically pulled Jeremy back towards her room.

"Should I be worried about that?" she asked Clark, watching as the door to Lucy's bedroom closed.

"I think they just want to be alone. They were in there earlier, right?"

"Right," Lindsey confirmed.

Clark pulled his glasses down his nose and peered over top of them. "Well, the bed is still made and they appear to only be sitting on it talking."

Lindsey let out a breath of relief. "I know she's sixteen now, but…"

"You still worry," confirmed Clark.

"Maybe more than ever," she responded, before dismissing the thought from her mind. She entangled her fingers with Clark's and led him over to the couch. "Well, since we're not going to Earth tonight, why don't we find a way to make the most of the evening?"


"I have some news, monsieur," said Nathan the moment he entered Luthor's office.

"You found the Protector?"

"No, monsieur. Although I'm expecting to make his acquaintance tonight. Actually, this news is about the break in."

"What did you find?"

"Apparently mademoiselle Landon's file is missing."

Luthor rose to his feet. "I knew it. I knew it was Clark Kent."

"I don't understand. Why would you think it was Clark Kent?"

"Who else could it be, Nathan?"

"What about mademoiselle Landon herself?"

Luthor chuckled. "Lindsey wouldn't even think of such an idea. No. It has to be Kent. And that means he must be the one who found Lucy and then took both of them. Any word from the surveillance?"

"Nothing of any significance. Last time I spoke to Arthur, he said that Kent went straight to his apartment after work and has been there ever since."

Luthor narrowed his eyes. "That doesn't make any sense. Have my secretary get Arthur on the line for me."

"Very good, monsieur."


Arthur let out a sigh of relief when, shortly before midnight, Kent showed up. It was only a few minutes later that his phone rang and he was able to tell Luthor the truth — that Kent was in his apartment.


Nathan disappeared into the shadows and watched as the flames began to leap into the night sky. It was amazing how quickly a small fire could get so out of control. He heard frantic shouting from the occupants of the building and then the distant roar of fire trucks. For a moment he wondered if the famed superhero would show up, but then he watched in fascination as a streak of color disappeared into the burning building only to reemerge shortly with a child tucked carefully in the curl of each arm. He set the children down and disappeared again into the building.

Fire trucks appeared on the scene as the Protector lived up to his name, rescuing all those who had called the old firetrap 'home.' Then Nathan's eyebrows rose when he spotted someone else observing the fire. What was Clark Kent doing here? Had he been sent here by the Daily Planet? He watched as the Protector made a quick trip over to speak to Kent. The conversation appeared to be intense. Then, after a moment the Protector returned to the fire while Kent leaned up against a nearby building, arms folded across his chest, a distinct frown on his face.

It took the efforts of both the firemen and the Protector, but soon the fire was out, no one having been seriously injured. Nathan emerged from the shadows and approached the firemen as the Protector spoke them.

"Mr. Protector," Nathan said respectfully.

The Protector turned and regarded him. "Yes?" he asked.

"My employer, Damian Luthor, asked me to come down when he heard about the fire and your efforts in putting it out. He would like very much to give you a proper welcome to our city."

The Protector kept his expression neutral. "Well, thank Mr. Luthor for me, but I won't be staying long on Mars. I have a little business to take care of and then I'll be returning to Earth."

"Are you sure I can't persuade you otherwise?" asked Nathan.

"I'm afraid not. Now, if you'll excuse me," said the Protector before disappearing in a gust of wind.

Nathan glanced around. That disappearing act was certainly impressive. This was the first time he'd ever seen one of the Kryptonians at work. They certainly lived up to their billing.

Nathan spotted Kent again. This time he appeared in an animated discussion with a man who looked old enough to be his father. Nathan decided that rather than risk being overheard by a pair of super ears that appeared to be long gone, he'd report to his boss in person.


Lindsey hadn't slept at all during the course of the night. Instead, she'd been obsessing about the trip to Earth in the morning. And the longer she thought about it the more convinced she became about what she had to do. So, as dawn began to break, she dressed and left the room.

She froze when she heard the sound of female laughter soon to be followed by a deep male chuckle. She snuck closer to the kitchen and cautiously looked inside. She spotted Nellie and the Protector sitting at the kitchen table, enjoying champagne and orange juice.

Realizing they were too involved in each other to hear her, she carefully snuck out of the dwelling.


Nathan made his way out of Luthor's office after having told his boss what he'd learned about the Kryptonian's visit. He also let Luthor know about Kent's attendance at the fire.

Luthor lost his temper. It was not the first time in recent days and Nathan was getting increasingly concerned about his boss' obsession with Clark Kent. Maybe it was time to consider how to protect himself if Luthor's control of Mars should begin to fall apart.


"I can't believe I kept you up all night, Jonathan," said Martha as she and Jonathan walked, hand in hand, out into the living room. "I hope you don't fall asleep on your trip as a result."

Jonathan laughed. "I don't need much sleep. And…" He turned towards Martha, lightly wrapping his arms around her waist. "…I wouldn't have missed tonight for anything." He leaned over and lightly brushed his lips against hers.

"I guess we should wake the girls," said Martha, stepping reluctantly out of his embrace.

Jonathan sighed and nodded. "I'll take them one at a time. Given the dangers of space travel, it's probably safer that way. But then… I'd really like to see you again."

Martha smiled. "Well, considering the fact that you're the only one in years that I've told my real name to, I sure hope you're coming back."

Jonathan laughed. "And since you're the only one I've ever told my real name to, I sure am hoping you'll let me."

Just then there was a knock at the door.

"That must be Clark," said Martha, changing directions to answer the door.

"Good morning, son," said Jonathan the moment Clark stepped into the room.

Clark glanced quickly at Nellie before looking back at his uncle. 'Son' was an awfully familiar term for someone he was supposed to barely know.

"It's all right," said Jonathan, realizing what was going through Clark's mind. "She knows."

"Knows?" Clark asked.

"That I'm your uncle."

"What?" gasped Clark.

"So, I guess the only one who doesn't know is Lucy," said Martha. "And since I'm going to wake her now, that means we should change the topic of conversation. Clark, would you like to wake Lindsey, or do you want me to do it?"

"Umm… I'd like to, if you don't mind," said Clark, still trying to come to terms with what his uncle had done. He looked over at his uncle for an explanation, but Jonathan only shrugged and smiled.

"I guess I should wake Lindsey," Clark finally said walking, with confused glances back at his uncle, towards Lindsey's room.


"What do you mean she's not there?" asked Jonathan a very short time later.

"What's going on?" asked Martha, bringing a sleepy looking Lucy into the room.

"Lindsey's gone," said Jonathan.

"Gone?" asked Martha.

Clark shrugged helplessly.

"Okay," said Jonathan thoughtfully. "I think I should take Lucy while you two figure out where Lindsey is. I'll be back later for her."

It was a good ten minutes later before they persuaded Lucy to go without her sister. She giggled when Jonathan picked her up in his arms and then shrieked momentarily as the Protector took off towards customs.

Once they arrived at customs, the Protector set Lucy down and walked with her towards the airlock doors.

"I'm sorry," said one of the customs officers. "I'm afraid I can't let you take that woman with you until she goes through the proper exit procedures."

The Protector turned and looked at the people who were beginning to gather. "This young woman is Lucy Landon. She is the property of Damian Luthor. She doesn't particularly like the arrangement so I'm taking her to Earth where she'll be free."

"I'm afraid I can't allow…" the man began. His voice trailed off and he swallowed hard at the look on the Protector's face.

"Over the years, as Kryptonians, we've tried to honor every country's laws, regardless of whether we agree with them or not. However, this is one law that none of us will ever agree to honor. No person can own another person. And no person should ever be regarded as property — not for reasons of race, religion, nationality, or gender." He glanced around at his audience for a moment more before picking Lucy back up in his arms and heading towards the airlock doors. This time no one challenged him.


Luthor fumed as he watched the tapes from customs again. He looked over at Nathan and said, "Contact my cousin. I know he has some kryptonite. Tell him I want to buy it from him."

"How much are you prepared to spend, monsieur?" asked Nathan.

"I don't care how much it costs!" Luthor responded.

"Yes, monsieur," Nathan said before leaving to follow these latest instructions.


Clark pushed past the security in the lobby as if they weren't even there. He took to the stairway and ran up the stairs before the men had time to react. He had only one thing on his mind. He knew what had happened to Lindsey. Martha had tried to tell him otherwise, but he knew the truth. Luthor had her. He didn't know exactly how, but he knew that somehow Luthor had discovered where she was and had come in the middle of the night to steal Lindsey away.

He arrived on the top floor and slid open the door.

"Can I help you?" asked a woman, rising from behind her desk.

"No," Clark replied, pushing past her. He arrived at the door to Luthor's office and, pounding on the button beside the door, opened it and stormed inside. "Where is she, Luthor?" he demanded.

"What? Who?" asked Luthor, sounding genuinely confused.

"You know very well who!" Clark replied, continuing his trip across the room. Before Luthor knew exactly what was going on, he found himself hoisted up against the wall of his office.

"Lindsey?" he asked, his mind finally catching up with this conversation.

"Of course, Lindsey," Clark said in exasperation and barely controlled anger. "Where is she? I know you have her. And if you hurt her…"

"I thought she was with you," interrupted Luthor.

Clark blinked. There was something in Luthor's tone that sounded almost believable. Was it possible he was wrong? Martha's words as he'd stormed from her dwelling, 'If he knew where she was, why wouldn't he have taken Lucy, too?' suddenly came back to him. A flicker of confusion passed through his eyes. He released Luthor, causing him to fall in an unceremonious heap on the floor, and backed up.

"I thought…" Clark began, his voice trailing off as security men suddenly stormed the office. He had been so sure. He concentrated on listening for her heartbeat. It only took him a moment to realize she wasn't in the building. Of course, Luthor could be holding her somewhere else. But that didn't make any sense. After all, if Luthor had Lindsey, he'd undoubtedly want to begin questioning her as soon as possible. That meant having her nearby.

Luthor waved the security personnel back and took advantage of Clark's distraction to get the whip that hung on the wall. He slowly took it down, never taking his eyes off Clark. And then…

The tail of the whip snapped out towards Kent, slicing through the air on its way to its destination. Luthor was caught off guard when the man who had been so distracted only a moment before reached out and grabbed the end of the whip, his eyes once again focusing on Luthor. Luthor watched the end of the whip wrap around the man's hand, but although it had to sting, Clark didn't flinch. Luthor met Clark's eyes. They stood like that for a moment, each man holding his end of the whip, before Clark gave a sharp tug, causing the whip to fly out of Damian's hands.

Clark rolled up the whip as he approached Luthor. "If you hurt her, you'll answer to me," Clark hissed, before turning around and walking past the security guards as if they weren't even there.

Luthor took a moment to catch his breath before looking at the nearby men. Clark's trip here had told him two things. First, although Clark Kent had obviously been helping Lindsey, she had taken off. That meant Clark Kent no longer knew where Lindsey was. "Tell Arthur that surveillance on Clark Kent is no longer necessary. I suggest instead that they spend their time 'interviewing' all the drug dealers in Mars City. Lindsey needs flex. She left her supply in her apartment. She'll have to get more soon if she hasn't done so already. That means someone knows or will know her whereabouts," he said to Nathan.

"Are you sure you don't want to leave a tail on Kent — just in case she comes back?" asked Nathan.

Damian considered that for a minute. "Leave one man out front. But I doubt Lindsey will contact Kent again. There's only one possible explanation for her disappearance. She decided she didn't need Kent any more than she needs me. I didn't think she had it in her. You know, Nathan, I'm almost proud. I'm not sure I could be prouder if she were…" He looked over at Nathan and smiled. "…my own daughter."


Clark only took a passing glance at the car parked down the street from his place as he made his way back to his apartment. He had been so sure. So sure that Lindsey had either been taken by Luthor or had gone back to him. But Luthor's confusion was so believable. It was obvious that the man had no idea where Lindsey was.

He felt completely drained as he placed his hand on the keypad and waited for the door to slide open. What was he supposed to do now? And why had she disappeared without even leaving a note? He wracked his brain, trying desperately to figure out where she could have gone. She had never mentioned any friends. She was Damian Luthor's and her only associates were those he wanted her to associate with. He doubted she would go to any of them. So where was she?

He walked into the apartment and closed the door. Making his way into the center of the living room, he simply stood there, unable to figure out what to do next.


Lindsey listened quietly, trying to interpret the noises coming from the room beyond. There was obviously someone there. The problem was in deciding whether it was a friend or a foe. After about ten minutes, she cautiously slid the door open, just far enough to take a peak into the other room. Surely if it were a foe, she'd have heard more noise. She let out a sigh of relief when she saw the silhouette standing as if it were a statue, gazing at some distant unfocused point beyond.

She slid the door the remainder of the way open and walked into the other room — slowly, as if to refrain from waking the statue. As she did, she looked at the pain etched across his features. Her heart twisted at the sight.

"Clark," she said softly.

The statue moved. It seemed to take him a moment to realize what he was seeing, but when he did, his breath began coming in heavy rasps.

"Lindsey," he breathed.

She took a step towards him and then froze as she caught sight of the item clutched in his hand. Her eyes darted between the black snake and his eyes, unable to reconcile the two images in front of her — one of love and the other of terror. He took several quick steps towards her, but then unexpectedly stopped.


Clark almost collapsed when he looked up at the sound of his name and saw Lindsey standing on the other side of the room. He hadn't known the meaning of the word 'relief' until that moment. He saw her take a single step towards him before stopping. He had no such hesitation. He moved forward, wanting to wrap her in his arms, wanting to assure himself that she was real, not some grief induced illusion. He stopped when he saw the fear in her eyes. His eyes followed her gaze, looking for an explanation, until he realized what he was still absentmindedly holding in his hand — Luthor's whip.

He tossed it onto the couch, as if it suddenly burned his hand. She followed its flight through the air with her eyes. He brought her eyes back to him when he cautiously took another step towards her.

"Where did you get that?" she asked, a slight tremor in her voice.

"I made a trip over to see Luthor when you disappeared," he said softly. "He tried to use it on me. I confiscated it." He took another step towards her. She made no similar movements. However, this time she didn't back away. Her eyes drifted back to the whip.

"He used that on you, didn't he?" he asked, not really needing an answer.

She gave a small nod.

"Come here," he breathed, opening his arms for her.

She brought her gaze back to him and a moment later was lost in his embrace. They stood that way for a long time: he held her trembling body, lightly caressing her back and shoulders and kissing her hair. Finally, she pulled out of his arms and turned her attention to the coil of black leather on the couch. Clark watched as she slowly made her way to where the whip lay.

"Let me put that away somewhere where…" Clark began, starting to move towards the couch.

"No!" she exclaimed, her hand coming up to stop his forward motion, her eyes never leaving the whip — the symbol of her oppression. The symbol of his power.

She swallowed hard before approaching. Her hand hovered for a moment above the whip before slowly reaching out and touching it. She pulled in a sharp breath but didn't withdraw her hand and, a moment later, she was holding it. Now that it was in her hand, it didn't seem as scary as it had only moments before. She turned it over, staring at it, before turning to Clark.

"Put this away, would you?" she asked softly.

He nodded and reached out. She laid it gently in his hand. As soon as she released it, he was gone. A moment later, he reappeared.

"That's why I left this morning, Clark," she said softly.

"What is?" Clark asked.

"This battle against Damian is my battle. I can't run away. If I do, I'll always be running. I have to stay. I have to be part of bringing him down. Otherwise, there is a part of me that will always belong to him, that will be controlled by him. Do you understand?"

Clark nodded slowly. "But why not just tell me that instead of disappearing in the middle of the night?"

She turned away from him. "I was afraid you wouldn't understand. I was afraid that you would make me…" Her voice trailed off.

"Leave?" he concluded. He let out a long, slow breath before coming up behind her and laying his hands on her shoulders. "You should know me better than that by now. Lindsey, when have I ever made you do something you didn't want to do? I let you go back to Luthor, even though every fiber in my body hated the idea. I let you be the one to rescue your sister. When have I ever…"

"I know, Clark," she said softly. "I just… I know it isn't fair for me to expect you to act like Damian. I wish… I guess I have a bit of a problem with trust. Please. It's just going to take me some time." She turned around then to face him. As she met his eyes, she gave him a sad smile. "I guess you could say that I'm sort of high maintenance."

He chuckled, immediately dissipating her fear that he'd be upset.

"I'd say that's probably true," he responded instead. "But I think you're worth it. So how did you get in here? I saw the car parked out front with one of Luthor's men in it."

"There were a lot more than one when I first arrived. At first, I thought I wasn't going to be able to do it. But then they left. Getting by one wasn't hard," she said dismissively. "And once I got to the door… well, you gave me the code."

Clark smiled. "I'm just so glad you're okay," he said, stepping forward, once again opening his arms in invitation. She was back in his arms almost instantly.

"So, what do we do now?" she asked.

"I think we start by taking you back to Nellie's." When she started to object, he continued, "We can continue our investigation of Luthor from there. Now that Lucy is back on Earth with my relatives, at least that concern is out of the way."

She looked at him for a moment before nodding. "Oh, one thing," said Lindsey. "When it gets dark… On the roof of my apartment building is a vent. Inside it is a bag. Can you get it for me?"

He cocked his head to the side and studied her for a moment, but didn't ask any questions. Instead, he nodded.



Martha sat back on the couch and took a sip of coffee. Hearing voices coming from the room beyond followed by a feminine giggle, she smiled. This was life at its finest — waiting for the arrival of the man she loved, listening to the sound of her kids in the next room. She chuckled softly. Her kids. During the past few weeks, that was how it had come to feel.

Lindsey had been living at Martha's since the day Jonathan had taken Lucy to Earth. When Lindsey had come back that day, she'd apologized for worrying everyone, but explained why she'd done it. Jonathan had tried to convince her that it was too dangerous for her to stay on Mars. Martha suspected that Clark secretly hoped that Jonathan would succeed in persuading Lindsey to leave. Only Martha really understood Lindsey's position — that Lindsey needed to reclaim her power from Damian Luthor. Martha had felt a mother's pride when Lindsey refused to back down. Deciding to no longer allow her fear of Damian to control her actions was half the battle.

When he finally realized Lindsey would not be dissuaded, Jonathan returned to Earth alone, but he'd been back many times since. He'd found a way to slip by the people at customs without their being any of the wiser and so had begun showing up at her door as Jonathan. At first, he found excuses for being there. Until the day she finally told him that if he was going to keep dropping by at supper time, he'd better drop the excuses. He'd gone a deep shade of red, but had never again given an excuse for being there.

It hadn't been long after that that Martha had told Lindsey and Clark her real name. It had actually been easier than she'd expected it to be — both parties having enough secrets themselves. And she trusted both Lindsey and Clark implicitly. Besides, it was so good not to have to hide who she really was from people she genuinely cared about.

They had, of course, been curious about her past and she had enjoyed telling the story. Seldom had she been able to tell people about her past. It had all started near the end of the war — just after the laws were passed that made women chattels. She had been engaged to be married at the time to a young reporter named Paul Wilson. However, since she was not yet married and since her father had been killed during the war, the law said that she was now the property of her uncle.

She had been furious. She had insisted that she wouldn't be anyone's property and tried to convince Paul to write a phony news story that claimed she'd been killed. He'd tried to tell her that once they married, she wouldn't have to worry about it. She'd maintained that 'anyone' included him. She had fought with Paul about it for most of a week before saying that if he didn't find a way to kill her in the eyes of the law, she'd find a way to do it herself. She'd never exactly said she'd kill herself, but she knew that was how Paul took it. He'd immediately done as she requested. However, with her fake death, their dreams of marriage died, too. After all, he couldn't get a license to marry a dead woman. Nor could he get the necessary papers signed by her uncle to allow the marriage. That had been his primary reason for initially refusing her request. Well, that and something which he called journalistic integrity.

When it became obvious that getting married on Mars was no longer an option, Paul had wanted them to go to Earth — to start a life together there. She had insisted that Mars needed her. She had tried suggesting that they simply live together. But for Paul, it had been too little, too late. It wasn't long afterwards that their relationship ended.

At first, Martha was surprised that Paul didn't leave Mars once they broke up. It wasn't long before she discovered the reason — he was engaged to Martha's best friend, Alice. And Martha knew Alice's father would never agree to the marriage if Paul was going to take her off planet. When Martha first found out about Paul's engagement, she'd gone ballistic. But over time, old wounds had healed and she and Alice had restored their friendship. Martha realized that Paul and Alice had been meant for each other all along. And although she'd been lonely at times, she'd never begrudged them their happiness. And now there was Jonathan. She smiled. She'd realized the instant she met Jonathan why it had never worked out with Paul. The man who had stormed into her livingroom a few short weeks ago had stolen her heart in a way that Paul never had.

Still, she had come to respect Paul a great deal over the years. She knew he'd struggled with the restrictions placed on the Daily Planet after the war — especially after he was given the job of editor-in-chief. Still, he'd stuck with it — realizing that at least if he were in control, he could make sure that the Daily Planet didn't simply become a propaganda organ for the state. And both he and Alice had become great assets to the underground — especially in keeping the underground well informed.

"Lindsey," Martha heard Clark groan, followed again by a giggle from Lindsey.

She smiled. During the past few weeks, something of a routine had developed. During the day, Lindsey and Martha would work, primarily on the paper. As soon as five o'clock came around, Clark would join them and Lindsey and Clark, and sometimes Martha, would get to work on the Luthor investigation.

It was so good to hear laughter this evening. Some evenings were not nearly as much fun. Her mind drifted back to the day Lindsey had found the file.

"Martha?" Lindsey had asked, directing the older woman's attention to the computer screen. "What's this?"

Martha had realized instantly what Lindsey had stumbled across. "That's your file," she said casually.

Lindsey had turned towards her, studying her for a moment, before redirecting her attention to the file on the screen.

"May I?" she asked.

"Feel free," said Martha, before turning back to her own work.

It was a short time later when she heard Lindsey gasp. She looked over at the young woman. She was as pale as a ghost. Martha was immediately on her feet. She came and, standing behind Lindsey, took a look at what was on the computer screen in front of her.

"It can't be," she heard Lindsey mumble, her voice trembling.

"What can't…" Martha began. Her voice trailed off when Lindsey's hand came up and pointed at a section of the document in front of her. "You didn't know?" asked Martha, although the question was redundant. It was obvious Lindsey didn't know.

Martha reached out to place her hands on Lindsey's shoulders to offer comfort. However, before her hands could reach their destination, Lindsey jumped from her chair and bolted from the room. Before Martha could wonder where Lindsey had gone, she could hear Lindsey throwing up in the washroom.

She had spent most of the next hour holding Lindsey's hair back and getting cold clothes for her as Lindsey completely emptied her stomach until all that was left was dry heaves. Then Martha had gathered the young woman in her arms and let her cry — silently cursing Damian Luthor. Martha had been relieved when Clark finally arrived that evening, realizing that her arms were a poor substitute for what Lindsey really needed — Clark's comfort.

"What's wrong?" Clark asked the moment he entered the dwelling. Martha wasn't surprised that he realized there was a problem. The tension in the air was palpable.

"I think I'd better let Lindsey tell you," said Martha, directing him towards the den. She hadn't gone back in but she'd heard their voices.

"He's my father, Clark," Lindsey whimpered the instant Clark entered the room.

"Who is, Lindsey?" Clark asked as he rushed to her side.

"Damian. He's my father."

Martha shook herself. That had been a couple of weeks ago and, although it had taken some time, Lindsey had finally come to terms with the information. Martha suspected that she'd built up some ideal picture of her father over the years — to deal with the horrible realities of her life. And to learn that the man most directly responsible for her abuse was actually her father had shattered that illusion. How could a man do that to his own flesh and blood? Martha fumed just thinking about it.

At first, Clark had suggested that, given this new information, Lindsey shouldn't be involved in the investigation. Lindsey had vetoed that idea, insisting that this development just made her more determined to see that the animal spent his remaining days behind bars. And so, day after day, Lindsey and Clark had continued their investigation.

From the bag she kept in the vent on the roof of her apartment building, Lindsey had retrieved the few documents that she'd stolen from Luthor. There were two that had been of particular interest to Martha. One of the documents revealed that Luthor was behind the women's terrorist attacks on Mars near the end of the war. Another confirmed that Luthor had also been the one to push for the removal of women's rights on the basis of those attacks. That had led Lindsey to write her first article for the underground paper. Clark had given the article a final editing, but had left it mostly intact. In spite of the fact that articles in the underground paper were generally submitted without names, Lindsey wanted her name on the article. Both Martha and Clark tried to talk her out of it, but she insisted that she wanted Damian to know who was responsible for leaking this information. Since then, Lindsey had written a few more stories — each one better than the one before.

Martha rose when she heard a knock at the door. A smile automatically lit up her face when she found Jonathan standing on the other side.


"Did you get it?" asked Luthor the moment Nathan entered the room.

Nathan nodded and handed Luthor a heavy, ornate box. Luthor took a deep breath before opening the box to reveal the green, glowing rock inside.

"Do you really think it's necessary?" asked Nathan. "The Protector is gone. He didn't even take mademoiselle Landon back to Earth with him."

"That's only because he couldn't find her. Kent's visit to me later that morning confirms that. But he will come back, Nathan. And when he does…" His voice trailed off, there being no need for him to continue.

"I also thought you might want to see this," said Nathan before withdrawing a paper tucked under his arm and handing it to Luthor.

Luthor read the headline: Luthor Behind Terroist Attacks by Lindsey Landers. The byline taunted him.

"Find her!" Luthor commanded his second in command.


"So that's where we are," concluded Clark as he piled more potatoes onto his plate. He and Lindsey had finally connected most of the bonuses paid to Nathan to illegal activities on the part of Luthor. Lindsey's notes from the past few years had certainly helped. In fact, without Lindsey's notes, they would undoubtedly not know what the various transactions were for. However, she'd taken time to record every meeting, every shady deal and everything he'd made her do. Clark had been in awe when he examined the book. They were a reporter's notes at their finest.

"Then there's no way to link Luthor to any of the activities directly," said Jonathan.

"No," said Lindsey, reaching over and taking the bowl of potatoes from Clark before he completely emptied it and passing them to Jonathan. "Everything comes back to Nathan."

"You have to find a way to turn Nathan," said Martha.

"That was our conclusion, too," said Clark, now making use of the gravy. Once he finished, he passed it to his uncle. "We're hoping that by presenting him with what we have, we'll be able to convince him that the only way to save himself is to turn on Luthor."

"I hope you're not planning to see Saint-Jean," said Jonathan, looking at Lindsey.

"No," Clark replied immediately. "We discussed it and we agree that it would be too dangerous. After all, Luthor is still looking for her and if he finds her… well, there goes our case, not to mention her life. So, I'm going to go see Saint-Jean first thing tomorrow."

Martha glanced over at Lindsey who seemed a lot less comfortable with Clark's comments than Clark did. She suspected they'd had at least one major argument about the issue. Obviously, she had lost this one. And, to tell the truth, this time, Martha did agree with Clark. It would be very dangerous for Lindsey to go to talk to Saint-Jean.


Clark walked into the building where Nathan had his office. He hadn't called ahead in order to prevent news of his impending visit from getting back to Luthor. He suspected that Luthor would hear about this visit soon enough. However, if he managed to persuade Nathan to turn on Luthor, he could get him out of here and under protection before Luthor had time to react.

If Nathan was prepared to give up his boss, he and Lindsey had decided to approach Detective Hendrickson with what they had. And once Luthor was behind bars, they would submit the story to the Daily Planet. He figured that even the censors wouldn't be able to keep a lid on this.

It took Clark a good ten minutes to get past security without an appointment. There was a moment when he thought he was going to be strip-searched. Finally, he was seated in the reception area, waiting to speak to Nathan Saint- Jean.

"Mr. Kent," said Nathan, entering the reception area and offering Clark his hand. Clark looked at the hand for a moment before deciding to shake it. "So what can I do for you?"

"Is there somewhere private we can talk?" asked Clark.

"Certainly," said Nathan, directing Clark towards his office. "Now, what's this all about?" asked Nathan once they were safely inside.

"Are you sure it's safe to talk here?" asked Clark, hoping Nathan would read between the lines.

"If you're asking if my boss has surveillance in my office, he doesn't," responded Nathan. "Although, why that should matter…"

"Why don't I just get to the point of my visit?" Clark interrupted. "I know that you're the man Luthor uses to do his dirty work."

"Mr. Kent…" Nathan interrupted.

Clark held up his hand. "I'm sure you're not as naive as your boss. Over the past few months, I've been doing a bit of digging. And…" He paused to make sure he had Nathan's full attention. "I've had some inside help," he said. He didn't want to say that Lindsey had helped, since that could be used to prove to the police that he knew where Lindsey was hiding. However, from the look on Nathan's face, it was obvious that he understood Clark's meaning. "As a result, I now have all the evidence I need to put you away for life — many times over. But it's not you I'm after."

"I'm listening," said Nathan.

"I think I can make a deal with the police that might give you a chance, perhaps not to walk away from all this, but at least to see the sun again in this lifetime. Are you interested?"

Nathan leaned back in his chair and regarded Clark for a moment. This might be the way out if Luthor was going to go down. Still, he was not quite ready to concede the point — especially since Clark wasn't promising him a walk. "I'll be in touch," he finally said, wanting to keep the option open as long as possible. At the very least, he might be able to delay Kent from moving with this information before he could come up with a better plan.

"By tomorrow," said Clark, rising to his feet. "Then I go to the police. And I would suggest that you not try killing me. I'm not the only one who can take this information to the police."

With those words, he turned and walked out of the room.


If he had thought getting out would be easier than getting in, Clark was wrong. As he was waiting for the security gates to be opened to let him out, he spotted Lindsey at the other side of the building. What was she doing here? He went to call to her, but then realized the danger of doing that. After all, Luthor was looking for her. He couldn't do anything to draw attention to her presence.

"Hey, are you going to open these gates or what?" Clark called to the security guard.

He turned towards the edge of the building where he'd last seen Lindsey and lowered his glasses. He watched as she opened a back entrance. Then he watched her disappear inside. There was too much lead in the walls to follow her progress further.

"What are you doing?" he muttered to her disappearing form.


Lindsey hadn't been happy with Clark's idea that he meet with Nathan alone. But it wasn't until he left that she remembered that there was a back entrance. And she had the code. She decided immediately that even if she couldn't approach Nathan directly, she could provide Clark with back up and even be a witness if necessary. She snuck in the back entrance and began making her way towards the office she knew belonged to Nathan Saint-Jean, being careful not to be spotted. She didn't care about the cameras. After all, by the time security realized that she wasn't supposed to be here and then realized who she was, she and Clark would be long gone. At least, that was the plan.


Luthor stared at the man on the computer screen for a moment, debating his options.

"Take care of it," he said. "He can't be allowed to talk."

"Yes, sir," the man replied, not needing further instructions.

Luthor leaned back in his chair. Losing Nathan would make life difficult for a time. But it was better than the alternative.


Clark was frustrated as he looked at the gates. He glanced at the security guard who was talking on the phone. Clark listened for a moment, wondering if he was deliberately being held up. He felt even more frustrated when he realized the guard was talking to his girlfriend.

"Can I get out of here?" asked Clark again.

The security guard ignored him. He looked back at the gate, wondering if he should just force it open. No. If he could avoid that, it would be best. He closed his eyes and concentrated on hearing Lindsey. If he couldn't see her, at least he could listen.

He gasped when he heard a popping sound. He knew that sound. It was the sound of a gun with a silencer on it. Lindsey. He put his hand on the gate to force it open, but stopped when his hearing picked up another sound. He let out a breath of relief. He could hear Lindsey's heart beat. It was fast, but she was obviously not hurt. It was only a moment or two later before he saw Lindsey slip from behind the building again.

The gate clicked open and Clark was about to step through when someone yelled.

"Stop that man!" the man exclaimed. "He killed Nathan Saint-Jean!"

Clark looked around in an effort to figure out what was going on. He was confused when he found himself surrounded by men with guns.

"Hands on your head!" one of the guards demanded. "And get on your knees!"

Clark glanced around again before deciding there was only one option. He placed his hands on his head and got down on his knees. In his peripheral vision he saw Lindsey. She seemed to stop and look at him before taking off in the opposite direction.

"No," Clark breathed as his mind put together what had happened. He doubted that she intended to set him up. She probably thought he'd be long gone before Nathan was killed. But still… He knew how much Luthor and Saint-Jean had hurt Lindsey, but he hadn't expected this. Maybe he should have.


Lindsey was trembling as she closed the door behind her at Martha's.

"What happened?" asked Martha, seeing Lindsey's pale expression.

"I don't know," said Lindsey. "I followed Clark but…" Her voice broke. "Nathan must have refused and…" Her voice broke.

Martha came over and led her into the living room. She got Lindsey seated before once again asking what had happened.

"He killed him," Lindsey finally said.

"Someone killed Clark?" Martha asked in horror. "How is that possible? I thought…"

"No. Clark killed Nathan."

"What?" exclaimed Martha.

"I followed him. I snuck into the building. If I had known he was going to kill Nathan, I would have stopped him, but… I heard the sound of a gun shot and then… Clark was gone by the time I got there. When I looked into Nathan's office… There was so much blood, Martha. I got out as quickly as possible. But Clark didn't get away. Security caught him. I left. I didn't want them to question me about what happened. I didn't want to have to testify against Clark, but… Oh, Martha. It's my fault. If I hadn't got him involved in this…"

"Slow down," said Martha, still trying to process what Lindsey was telling her. "So, you didn't actually see Clark kill Nathan?" she asked.

"Well, no, but…"

"Isn't it possible that someone else might have done it?" she asked.

Lindsey stared at Martha for a moment, desperately hoping Martha was right. But with the security in that building the only way someone else could have done it would be if… Damian. "Maybe," she said, new hope beginning to take hold.

"I'm going to call Paul. He should be able to get Clark released on bail. Then we'll figure out what's going on, okay?"

Unable to find her voice, Lindsey simply nodded as Martha made her way to the wall computer to place the necessary call.


"Kent's been arrested?" Luthor asked.

"Yes, sir," said Assabi.

"Oh, this is better than anticipated. Get me all the computer cards from the cameras at Nathan's offices. I want to have them altered to help convict Kent. If Lindsey is dependent on Kent, this should drive her into the open. Get some men down to the jail. If she tries to see him, I want her picked up and brought to me immediately."


"How many times do I have to say this?" Clark asked Paul and the lawyer Paul had brought with him, an attractive woman named Constance Fisher. "I killed him. I killed Nathan Saint-Jean."

"Who are you protecting?" Paul asked.

"Why do you think I'm protecting anyone? I went to see Saint-Jean. He refused to help convict Luthor. I lost my temper and I shot him."

"I've known you for several months now and I've never seen you do more than raise your voice. And even that doesn't happen often. You can't expect me to believe you actually took a gun when you went to see Saint-Jean and then that you lost your temper and used it on him."

"I took the gun for my own protection. And if you want to see me lose my temper, just keep asking these questions," Clark responded, rising to his feet and, placing his hands on the table, leaned until he was in Paul's face.

"Don't threaten me," responded Paul, rising to his feet and, placing his hands on the table, assuming a position similar to Clark's.

"Gentlemen," said Constance, her voice telling both men that she was not impressed by this male posturing, "can we talk rationally about this?"

Both Paul and Clark slowly sat down, their eyes not leaving each other.

"Okay," said Constance, "now there are a couple of things I still don't understand, Mr. Kent."

"Like?" asked Clark.

"Well, why did you choose to shoot him in the heart? Given Saint-Jean's reputation, wouldn't you have been worried about him wearing a bullet proof vest?"

Clark broke eye contact with Paul to look at Constance. "I guess I just wasn't thinking. I told you that I was furious. I just pulled out the gun and shot him in the chest."

"That's interesting," said Constance.

"Why?" asked Paul.

"Because Saint-Jean was shot in the head," Constance replied.

"I… but…" Clark fumbled.

Constance didn't wait for an answer. "And tell me, what did you do with the gun? They didn't find it on you when you were arrested."

"Umm… I don't know, exactly. I stashed it when I was on my way out of the building."

"They found it beside Saint-Jean's body," Constance informed him. "Face it, Mr. Kent, you're never going to be able to convince people that you shot Saint-Jean. I've just pointed out two of the facts you don't know, but there are bound to be others. Where, exactly, was Saint-Jean when you shot him? Did he live for any length of time afterwards or did he die instantly? Was there only one shot or were there more? What type of gun was used? Do you want me to go on?"

Clark looked helplessly between Constance and Paul for a moment before turning to his boss.

"I don't want her brought into this, Paul."

"Who?" asked Constance.

"She's had enough pain in her life. And I want her to have a life. Please, just let me do this," he begged.

"You can't protect her this way, Clark," Paul said. "I won't let you."

Clark stiffened. "I did it. I'm the one who shot Nathan. Things happened so fast that I didn't have time to take in all the details. I guess I was in shock. But I did it."

Paul snorted.

"Okay," said Constance, "we're not going to get this solved right now. I'm going to work on getting you released on bail, Clark. The Daily Planet has agreed to put up the money. I expect it will take a couple hours."

Paul stood and, without another word, left the room.


It didn't take Paul long to get to his destination. He could hardly believe that Clark would throw away his life on the likes of Lindsey Landon. Had the man lost his mind? Certainly, there were some women worth that much — his Alice, for example. But Lindsey Landon was nothing more than Luthor's trollop — not someone you sacrificed everything for. And whatever spell she had managed to cast over his reporter was going to end now!

He stormed down the underground tunnels, hardly caring if anyone recognized him. He stopped in front of the door he wanted and pounded — demanding entrance.

"Hold your horses," a voice inside responded and an instant later, Martha slid the door open.

"Where is she?" Paul demanded, looking around until his eyes fell on Lindsey who had risen and was walking towards the door.

"Who?" asked Martha.

Paul ignored her. He had found who he was looking for.

"How dare you?" he said, storming over to Lindsey. "That boy has been nothing but good to you. How dare you do this to him?"

"What?" asked Lindsey.

"He's prepared to accept responsibility for a murder you committed," Paul exclaimed.

"What!" both Lindsey and Martha exclaimed in unison.

"Don't tell me you didn't know?" said Paul sarcastically.

"I didn't. Are you saying Clark didn't kill Nathan?" asked Lindsey, ignoring Paul's accusations in order to concentrate on the underlying meaning. She'd been yelled at and accused of a lot of things in her life — one more person who agreed that she was the scum of the earth didn't particularly bother her. "How do you know?"

"He didn't know enough about what happened to Nathan to have possibly killed him — even though he's proclaiming he's the murderer at the top of his lungs," responded Paul.

"He didn't do it," Lindsey said, looking at Martha for confirmation.

"That's what I've been telling you," said Paul. "But don't pretend like you didn't know."

"He didn't do it," Lindsey said again, more to herself this time than anyone. "That means… Damian."

"Damian Luthor?" asked Paul, becoming more and more confused. "What about him?"

"Damian must have figured out that Clark and I were trying to get Nathan to betray him. I don't know why I didn't realize it before. We've got to get the evidence before Damian destroys it. Damian has cameras in all his office buildings. There must be a record of who went into Nathan's office after Clark. If we can get those records…"

"Where would we get them?" asked Martha, realizing where Lindsey must be going with this train of thought. "Saint- Jean's offices?"

Lindsey shook his head. "Damian would move quickly on something like this. He wouldn't leave them there for the police to find. After all, they would exonerate Clark." She was silent for a moment. "The penthouse. He's going to want to watch the murder. He's going to have the records brought to the penthouse."

"There's no way we can break in there," said Martha sadly. "The amount of security…"

"I can," said Lindsey. "I have authorized entry."

"Surely he would have changed…" Martha began.

"I don't think so," Lindsey interrupted. "Damian doesn't consider me a threat — at least, not this kind of threat. He might be concerned that I'll talk, but he'd never think I'd have the nerve to sneak into the penthouse looking for clues." She looked between Paul and Martha for a moment. "I have to try," she said. The next instant she was grabbing her jacket and heading for the door.

"Well, are you coming?" Martha asked Paul. When he just looked at her in confusion, she grabbed her jacket. "Arg!" she said, storming out of the dwelling in an effort to catch up to Lindsey.

Paul looked around the now empty dwelling, wondering what exactly had just happened there. By the time he realized that he should have accompanied the women, they were gone. Besides, for all he knew, Lindsey was leading them into a trap.

And if Lindsey was leading them into a trap… Martha! He left a quick message for Clark, letting him know what was going on, before heading out the way he'd come. After all, there were some women worth risking everything for.


Martha pulled her car to a stop at the back entrance to Luthor's office building and turned off the ignition.

"I need to go alone," said Lindsey.

"Hey, I didn't come this far to…"

"The security back here can't be broken. It only admits one person at a time and it requires voice match, handprint, and retinal scan. As long as Damian hasn't changed it, I can get in. You can't."

"So what do you want me to do?"

"Wait here. I'll be as quick as I can." With those words, Lindsey slid the door of the car open.

"Just a sec," said Martha. When Lindsey stopped, Martha leaned over and opened the glove compartment. She pulled out a small device and handed it to Lindsey. "Put this on. It's a microphone. That way I can hear if you get in trouble. I might be able to do something — create a distraction, or something."

Lindsey nodded and did as instructed. It was better than having no back up at all. A moment later she was out of the car. She took a deep breath, steadying her trembling nerves before heading, once again, into the lion's den.


Clark knocked on the door of Martha's dwelling. He stood in silence for a minute before trying again. Still, he heard no noise coming from inside. He glanced over his glasses only to discover that the place was empty. He entered the code to Martha's dwelling and a moment later the door slid open.

"Hello," he said into the quiet dwelling, even though he knew no one was there.

"Message," said a computer-generated voice.

Clark immediately instructed the message to play. A moment later, the dwelling was once again empty.


As she stepped into Damian's office, Lindsey was amazed at how easy it had been to get in here. 'Too easy,' a voice in the back of her mind taunted. Either Damian really didn't think there was any possibility of her doing something like this, or she was being set up. She pushed the thought aside.

She almost turned on a light, but then changed her mind. The sun was beginning to set, but there was still enough light making its ways through the window for her to conduct her search. She stood in the center of the room for a moment, trying to determine where the computer card she needed might be. Then she walked over to the computer built into the wall. Luthor had other computers, but the one in his wall had the largest screen, and considering how much he liked watching death and mutilation, he'd likely want to watch the action on as big a screen as possible.

There was an unmarked computer card beside the computer. "I think I may have found something," she whispered to Martha. She picked up the card and turned it over. She had to be sure. After all, Damian would undoubtedly find out she'd been here. And if that happened, she'd not have another chance. "Computer on. Volume off," she said. When the screen lit up, she inserted the computer card.


Clark glanced around the alley. He knew it wasn't dark enough to fly up there, but he wasn't going to have Lindsey rummaging around in Luthor's office alone. He'd spoken briefly to Martha, so he knew that she was still okay. But there was less chance of him giving away his secret if he was there with her than if he had to rush in at the last moment. His mind flashed back to the argument he'd had with his uncle about this very subject just the other day — when he'd gone to the scene of the fire. His uncle insisted that unless he was going to adopt a persona, he had to refrain from using his powers. Clark knew Jonathan was right, but…

Just this one more time. Then maybe it was time that he started thinking seriously about getting a disguise. After all, if the past few months were any indication, the woman he was in love with had a penchant for getting herself into situations that required a little super help from time to time. It probably did make sense for him to take on a persona.

Satisfied that he was alone, he made a mad dash from the alley to the balcony. Obviously, Luthor didn't think there was any threat from this direction because there were no locks on the balcony doors. They slid open easily enough.

"Lindsey," he whispered.


Lindsey jumped at the sound of her name being whispered. She spun around and let out a gasp when she saw Clark standing on the other side of the room.

"You're going to give me a heart attack," she said.

"I'm going to give you…" Clark began.

"I think I found it," she said, cutting him off and pointing to the computer screen. It was showing Clark walking out of an office. They watched in silence for a minute before another man showed up at the door. He withdrew a revolver before opening the door and… "That's it," Lindsey said.

"Great," said Clark. He walked over to the computer, quickly removing the card and sticking it in his inside jacket pocket. "Can we get out of here now?" he asked.

Lindsey started to nod, but stopped when she noticed a box sitting on the corner of Damian's desk. Making her way over to it, she realized she hadn't seen it before. Curiosity getting the best of her, she picked up the box. It was heavier than she expected.

"What's that?" asked Clark, coming up behind her.

"I don't know," Lindsey responded, immediately opening the box. She stared at the glowing, green stone inside, trying to figure out what it was. She turned around when she heard a gasp behind her. "Clark!" she exclaimed, setting the box down and rushing to him when she saw him doubled over.

"Kryptonite, Lindsey," he breathed.

"What? Where?" she asked, but before he had a chance to answer she understood. She rushed over to the box and closed it. "Are you okay?" she asked, turning back towards Clark.

"I think so," he said, the pain instantly dissipating now that the box was closed. He took a moment to take stock of his condition. No x-ray vision. He couldn't float and every muscle in his body seemed a little stiff. "I don't think I have my powers."

"Will they come back?" she asked.

He nodded. "I just don't know how long it will take."

"Then let's get out of here," she said, grabbing the closed box and coming over to where Clark was once again beginning to stand. He leaned against her for a moment, trying to catch his breath. He'd never been exposed to kryptonite before, although he'd certainly heard all the stories.

"Is it okay if I bring this with us?" Lindsey asked, concerned about having the kryptonite this close to Clark, even if he didn't seem to be reacting to the closed box. "I just think we should get this away from Damian if we can."

"It's fine. Just keep the box closed."

"Are you going to be able to walk?"

He took a deep breath before nodding and together they headed for the door. Lindsey pushed the button to the door and then gasped when it slid open.

"Well, well, well," said the man standing on the other side. "Security informed me that you were here. But somehow they neglected to mention Mr. Kent's attendance."

"It's over, Luthor," said Clark. "We know you're the one who killed Saint-Jean. And we can prove it. Along with over a hundred other crimes."

Luthor raised his hand and Lindsey immediately tensed when she saw what was in it. Obviously, Damian had bought a new whip.

"Very good, Mr. Kent. You're right. I did kill Saint-Jean," said Luthor, tapping the curled up whip against his hand, "but unfortunately, you're not going to have a chance to tell anyone." He immediately cracked the whip, catching Clark across the chest. Clark gasped in pain.

"No!" exclaimed Lindsey, throwing herself in front of Clark. "It's me you want. Not him."

Luthor cracked the whip again. In spite of Lindsey's presence in front of Clark, the whip cracked around behind Clark, snapping against his back and tearing at the skin.

"Don't worry," said Luthor. "Your turn's coming. But first…" He cracked the whip again, once again tearing at Clark's back. "…I need to teach Mr. Kent a lesson about what happens when he steals from me."


Martha had pushed the record button on the surveillance device she'd given Lindsey the instant she heard Luthor's voice. But it was sheer agony sitting here, listening to Clark's cries and Lindsey's pleas. She debated calling the police. Who could she trust not to be on Luthor's payroll?

"What's happening?" Paul asked, scooting into the car beside her.

She gave a start of surprise. "Luthor has Lindsey and Clark," she said, pointing to the small speaker sitting on the dashboard.

"I knew it was a set up. I knew…"

"Would you shut up and listen?" interrupted Martha.


Luthor stepped closer, grabbing Lindsey's arm and throwing her to the side. She hit her head, dazing her slightly. When she finally realized what was going on, Damian was using his whip on Clark — and this time, he was definitely using it to break the skin. In fact, given the amount of blood already soaking through Clark's shirt, she realized that she must have lost consciousness for a moment.

"I'm the one, Damian," she said. "Please, Clark wouldn't be involved if I hadn't dragged him into this," she begged.

"He's the one who persuaded you to turn against me," replied Damian, turning so that he could keep an eye on Lindsey while cracking the whip once more on Clark.

"That's not true," said Lindsey, crawling closer. The whip was turned in her direction and she closed her eyes as the whip cracked inches in front of her face.

"I'd advise you to stay where you are," warned Luthor.

"Please, don't," gasped Clark, looking towards Lindsey.

Lindsey refused to look at Clark, keeping her eyes on Damian. "Clark didn't turn me against you. I've been keeping notes on you for years — all of your illegal dealings, all of the things you've made me do. Who do you think was feeding Dale Scardello all that information about you? I was Dale's source," she said.

"You?" Luthor gasped in shock.

"Yes, me. I used him just like I used Clark. Your fight is with me. Please, there's no reason to torture him for my betrayal."

"Lindsey, no," gasped Clark, his eyes pleading with her not to do this, but she refused to even look in his direction.

Luthor raised his whip again, but this time he had a new target. "I'll teach you what it means…" he began.

"No!" gasped Clark, calling on every ounce of strength he still possessed to launch himself at Luthor's feet. Luthor lost his balance, tumbling backwards onto the floor.


"I'm calling the cops," said Paul, pulling out his palm computer.

"Wait a minute," Martha responded. "Who are you going to ask for?"

Paul thought for a moment. "Hendrickson. Detective Hendrickson. From Clark's research it seems that Hendrickson might be on the level."

Martha nodded. "Right! It seems to me that I remember them saying something about thinking he was honest." Besides, at this point, Lindsey and Clark couldn't be in much more trouble than they already were.


Seeing Damian fall, Lindsey scrambled to her feet and rushed for Clark. She grabbed him around the waist and began pulling him to his feet. She realized how badly he was hurt when he cried out at her hands on his wounds. Still, she had to get him out of here before Damian managed to get up.

"You've got to walk, Clark," she begged.

Somehow, with Lindsey's help, Clark managed to get to his feet. They were both stumbling for the door when Luthor seemed to get his bearings back.

"Hold it!" Luthor commanded.

Both Lindsey and Clark looked back to see that Luthor had pulled a gun from inside his jacket. Without thinking it through, Lindsey did the only thing that came to mind. Quicker than she would have believed possible, she rushed for him, her foot coming up and, with every ounce of strength she possessed, she kicked the hand Luthor was using to hold the gun. The gun went flying.

Lindsey immediately dove for the gun, but Luthor was closer. It was a desperate scramble, but Lindsey managed to get her hands on the gun first. She rolled over, the gun pointed up at Luthor who was scrambling to get over her. He froze.

"Get off me," she hissed.

Slowly, Luthor did as instructed, raising his hands as he settled back on the floor behind him. Lindsey rose to her feet, careful not to take her eyes or the gun off Luthor. For a moment, the temptation to shoot was overwhelming.

Clark must have realized what she was thinking, because she suddenly heard his voice. "He's not worth it, Lindsey. Come on. We have what we need. Let's get out of here before security arrives."

Lindsey hesitated for a moment more before nodding. She hadn't taken a life yet. If she could avoid doing so now… She bent down and grabbed the box with the kryptonite and, keeping the gun pointed at Damian, began backing towards the door to his office. For a moment she wondered if they should take Damian as a hostage. But almost immediately, she rejected the idea. With Clark hurt, she was going to have to help him. Damian would be more of a risk if they took him.

She could feel Clark behind her, sliding open the door. As soon as she was outside, she hit the close button and, once the door slid closed, shot a bullet into the control panel.

"That should slow him down," she said in satisfaction, turning to look at Clark. He was bent over, his shirt drenched in blood. She wasn't sure exactly how long she'd been on the floor while Damian had been beating Clark. She'd seen a few hits with the lash, but from the look of Clark, he'd been hit quite a few times while she was out of it. "We've got to get you out of here," she said.

"You lead, I'll follow," Clark said.

She headed towards the stairs, before glancing back at Clark. He was desperately trying to catch up. She stuck the gun in the waistband of her slacks and rushed back to Clark.

"Go!" he commanded. "I'll follow as fast as I can."

"We go together," she insisted.

He tried to push her away, but didn't have the strength. She pulled his arm over her shoulder and began helping him towards the stairs.


Luthor got to his feet and rushed to the door the instant it closed. He heard the shot and then cursed when the door wouldn't open. He spun around and hurried to the computer on his desk. Calling security, he then fumed about the length of time it was taking them to answer.

"Lock all the exits. No one gets out of this building. Is that understood?" he asked as soon as a man came on the line.

"Yes, sir," the man said.

"And, turn off the lights," he added as an afterthought.

"The lights? All of them?"

"Yes!" demanded Luthor. "And send someone up to get me out of here now!"


Lindsey's mind was racing ahead. She had no idea how they were going to get out when they got to the back door. Unless he was very much off his game, Damian would likely order all the doors locked. Still, there was nothing to do but keep moving and hope he didn't get the back doors locked in time. She kicked herself for not thinking to tie Damian up before leaving his office.

Suddenly, everything went dark. Lindsey's feet came to a stop. She hadn't expected this. The old images invaded her mind.

"You can do it, Lindsey," came Clark's labored voice beside her.

She closed her eyes. Clark was bleeding badly. She had to find a way to get him out. Or, if that wasn't possible, to find somewhere where they could hide until his powers came back. She briefly wondered how long that would be — if, of course, he didn't bleed to death first. No. No matter what, he wouldn't bleed to death. She wouldn't let him!

She opened her eyes and tried to get them to adjust to the darkness. Clark stumbled slightly, his hand reaching out to grasp at her blouse in an effort to keep his balance. As he did, his hand accidently brushed against her breast. Suddenly, she was ten, the room was dark, her mother's boyfriend was fumbling to get his hands up under her nightgown. She whimpered slightly.

"Sorry," Clark mumbled.

It wasn't the word, it was the slurred sound of Clark's voice that snapped her out of her memory. She took a deep breath. She had to do this. She had to, or Clark would die. She tightened her arm around his waist, feeling the wetness of his blood soaked shirt. She called on a courage she didn't know she possessed and slowly, but surely, continued her trip down the stairs. Each step was a torture for both of them as they felt their way through the darkness.


Hendrickson pulled up behind the car parked at the back of Luthor's office building. Martha and Paul were out of the car the moment they spotted him.

"Where's the SWAT team?" asked Paul, seeing only two cars, Hendrickson and four officers.

"You told me to only bring people I could trust," responded Hendrickson.

"And this is all you could find?" asked Martha.

"Listen, I came here because I know your reputation, Mr. Wilson. But I don't have authorization to be here and without more information than you gave me over the phone…"

"Okay, okay," interrupted Paul.

"So what's going on?" asked Hendrickson.


Luthor made his way to the front lobby.

"Where are they?" he demanded of the men there. He knew that turning out the lights would seriously slow Lindsey down, but he'd have expected them to be here before him.

"Who?" asked one of the men.

"Lindsey Landon and Clark Kent!" Luthor fumed.

"They haven't been here," responded the man.

Luthor growled. He looked around for a moment, trying to think of where they could be. Suddenly, it hit him. The back entrance. He grabbed a gun from the security guard and headed towards the back. He didn't insist on accompaniment from his men. This was something he would take care of himself. Kent was in no shape to oppose him and he really didn't think he had much to fear from Lindsey. She might threaten to kill him, but she wouldn't actually do it.

Besides, he was looking forward to killing her lover with his own hand. And she'd only have herself to blame for getting him involved with this. He still wasn't sure if he'd kill her. He'd have to make that decision after Kent was dead. But one thing was for certain, before he killed her, he'd make her suffer as she'd never suffered before. No one defied him. No one!


"Open this door," demanded Hendrickson, holding up his police badge.

The man looked at him for a moment before looking back at his boss.

"Mr. Luthor said not to let anyone out. He didn't say anything about letting people in," his boss said.

The man nodded and looked back at Hendrickson. He pushed a button and the front door to the building slid open, admitting five police officers.


Lindsey pounded her fists in frustration against the back door. She could see outside, but it might as well be another planet given the likelihood that she'd ever be able to get them there. She knew that every window on this floor was made of unbreakable glass. Damian had bragged about the security in this building often enough. She pounded her fists once again against the door.

"It's okay, Lindsey," came a weak voice behind her, as Clark slowly lowered himself to the floor from where he had been leaning against the wall. "We'll find a way out of…"

"I'm afraid not, Mr. Kent," said a new voice.

Lindsey spun towards the sound of the familiar voice.

"So good to see you again, my dear," said Luthor. "Now…" He turned so that he could keep an eye on both Lindsey and Clark. "…time to take care of your lover." He turned the gun towards Clark.

Lindsey grabbed the gun tucked in her pants and pointed at Damian. They stood there for a moment, Damian pointing his gun at Clark; Lindsey pointing her gun at Damian.

"You won't do it," said Luthor. Still, he didn't pull the trigger on Clark.

"Watch me," Lindsey responded, her voice amazingly calm.

"You won't kill your own father," said Damian, playing his trump card. All he needed was to throw her off her game for a moment. Then he could kill Clark and have his gun turned towards her. Once that happened, he had no doubt he could stare her down.

"I wouldn't count on that, Daddy," she replied acerbically.

"You knew?" he gasped.

"You bastard," she responded.

And as their eyes met, the truth suddenly hit Luthor with a force that almost knocked him off his feet. The man on the floor in front of him wasn't his real enemy. The real enemy was the woman who right now had a gun pointed at his heart. The woman he'd abused for all these years had thrown off the shackles of oppression in the timeless tradition of slaves rebelling against their masters. He immediately turned the gun towards Lindsey. The sound of a single gunshot echoed throughout the enclosed area.


Hendrickson heard the sound of a gunshot and headed at full speed towards the sound, drawing his gun as he went, followed closely by his fellow officers. They opened a door and flooded the now quiet room to see Lindsey standing, gun still pointing, as Damian Luthor slumped to the floor.

"Freeze! Martian Police," said Hendrickson redundantly. Then, when it was obvious that no one was moving, he made his way to Lindsey, removing the gun from her hands. It was only then that her eyes left Damian to settle on Hendrickson. Hendrickson saw the pain in her expression before her mind seemed to shift.

"Clark," she said, suddenly rushing to the other person in the room.

When another officer raised his gun in response to her quick movement, Hendrickson raised his hand to force the gun down.

"You've got to help him," said Lindsey, glancing up from the now unconscious Clark, to beg for Hendrickson's help.

As Hendrickson made his way to Clark, another officer checked on Luthor.

"He's dead," the officer examining Luthor announced.

Lindsey hardly seemed to notice. Her mind was focused on Hendrickson who now had his fingers on Clark's neck.

"Jeff, call an ambulance," Hendrickson said to one of the officers.

"Is he going to be okay?" asked Lindsey.

"I think so, but we've got to get him some medical attention fast."


The newsroom went quiet as Lindsey and Clark made their way towards Paul's office. It was less than a day since Clark had been rushed to the hospital. The doctor wanted Clark to stay, but had to admit that Clark was healing more quickly than expected. In fact, he'd been conscious again by the time he'd arrived at the hospital. The doctors had wanted to give him blood, but Clark refused. Given how well he was doing, the doctors soon abandoned the argument and instead concentrated on treating his wounds, putting stitches in at least a dozen of the more serious ones.

Hendrickson had taken statements from both Lindsey and Clark as well as hearing the record that Martha had made while sitting outside the building. Given the evidence, it was obvious that Lindsey had no choice but to kill Luthor. It was a clear case of self-defense. Charges had also been dropped against Clark for the death of Saint-Jean, given Luthor's admission and the computer card they had from Saint-Jean's office.

And now that Luthor was dead, no one particularly cared about avenging him. In fact, everyone seemed to be trying very hard to distance themselves from Luthor.

Lindsey and Clark ignored the people watching as they completed their trip. As they stepped into the office, one of the men watching caught Lindsey's eye. She waited until the door to the office door was closed before speaking.

"Who's that?" she asked, looking through the windows in Paul's office.

"Who?" Clark asked.

She gestured.

"That's Roland. Why?"

"I know him."

"What?" gasped Clark and Paul in unison.

"Well, I don't exactly know him," said Lindsey. "But I have seen him meeting with Damian."

"Do you know why?" asked Paul.

Lindsey shook her head. "I'd suspect that it was because he had something Damian wanted. Maybe information about this place. But I really don't know anything for sure."

Paul let out a breath. It wasn't enough to move against Roland at the moment. Still… was it possible that Roland was Luthor's source in the newsroom? He'd have to look into that.

"Listen, I just want to begin by saying that I owe you an apology," began Paul.

"That's not…" Lindsey began.

"Yes. Yes, it is," Paul interrupted. "I was wrong about you. And now that I've seen this…" He held up the morning copy of the Daily Planet which read: Fall Of Luthor by Clark Kent and Lindsey Landon. "I want to say that not only was I wrong, but I'm impressed."

Lindsey smiled. "Thanks, but I had a great partner," she said, glancing over at Clark.

"I'd never have got the story without her, Paul," said Clark. "In fact, she's been working for the underground paper and you should see some of the stories she's written."

"I have," said Paul, gesturing Lindsey and Clark to chairs.

"So, what are your plans now?" he asked Lindsey.

"Well, my sister and I spoke. Clark's uncle has suggested letting her stay in Kansas with him for the school year and… I have a few problems that I need to take care of," she said embarrassedly. Clark reached over and gave her hand a squeeze. "Then, I'm thinking of going back to school. Martha said that sometimes Mars University will admit people that haven't finished high school as mature students. I'm thinking of doing that."

"What would you take?" asked Paul.

"Well… I was sort of thinking of studying journalism," said Lindsey, somewhat embarrassed.

"That's what I was hoping you'd say," responded Paul. "And when you're finished, I hope you give us the first shot at hiring you."

"I'd be honored," gasped Lindsey.

"Good," said Paul. "Well, I wanted you to stop by today to see what your plans are. But I think," Paul began, looking over at Clark, "that you should take a few days off. You've had a rough day. I doubt the doctors would be happy to know that you've been writing stories when you're supposed to be recovering."

"I'm fine."

"Maybe so. But I still want you to get out of here. You deserve it."

"Thanks, Paul."

"Do you think this will change anything for women on Mars?" asked Lindsey.

"Well, last week I heard rumors that Senator Drake was planning on reintroducing Bill E-123, and without Luthor around to thwart his intentions, I'd say there's a good chance we'll see some changes around here soon."

"It's about time," said Clark.

Paul nodded. "I can hardly wait to see Nellie's reaction."

"Martha," corrected Lindsey.


"She told us quite a while ago. Along with a story about some reporter who filed a phony news story," added Clark.

"I really wish she hadn't told you that part," muttered Paul.

Lindsey and Clark laughed.

"Don't worry, Paul. Your secret's safe with us. Well, as long as… I want a little quid pro quo," said Clark.

"What do you want?" asked Paul suspiciously.


"What type of information?"

"There's something I've been really curious about. Some time ago, when I first met Alice, she said something about how neither you nor her father would tell her how much you bought her for."

Paul studied the two people in his office for a moment before smiling. "You can't tell Alice," he said.

Both solemnly promised.

"Well, when I went to see Alice's father, I had my pitch ready. I had no idea how much he'd want, but I was determined that no matter how much I had to pay, I'd find a way to come up with the money. After all, her family was quite well off."

Lindsey reached over and squeezed Clark's hand. He glanced over at her, realizing that she was thinking, as he was, about his attempt to buy her from Luthor.

"Anyway, after I'd made my best pitch, he informed me that it wasn't enough. I was about to object when he continued. 'I can't set a price on my daughter,' is what he said. I was preparing to convince him that I'd pay anything, when he continued, talking about how his daughter was invaluable to him.

"Well, by this point, I was convinced he was never going to sell her to me. After all, I was only a poorly paid reporter. But then he made a proposal that left me completely speechless. He said that since his daughter was invaluable and since he wanted her to be properly taken care of, instead of selling her, he'd agree to the marriage if I agreed to take some money from him to buy us a house…"

"What?" gasped Lindsey and Clark in unison.

"However, there was one condition. I could never tell Alice. After all, it would seem as if he was paying me to take her — where in fact, just the opposite was true. He could give her away, could even help make her life better, what he couldn't do was fix a price for her."



His arm came up and rested tentatively on her shoulder. Giving him a smile, she pulled it further around her and began playing with his hand as they walked through the park. It felt so right being here with him. When he began to speak, he sounded incredibly nervous. Maybe he was finally going to tell her the truth. She turned towards him to listen to his words.

Then came the words she'd been wanting to hear from him for so long now. "I love you." They filled her heart the way no other words ever had. Her hand came up to gently stroke his cheek.

He directed her to take a seat on the corner of the fountain. She did so, never taking her eyes off him. He was still nervous. It would be impossible for her not to know that whatever he was trying to say to her was important to him — more important than telling her that he loved her. He was just about to speak when a bolt of lightning ripped through the sky.

She laughed. "Do you want to go back?" she asked, as rain started to fall. It seemed as if every time they were about to have a serious discussion, something would interrupt.

"If the earth opened up at my feet, I wouldn't move until I'd said this," he replied before dropping to one knee in front of her. He reached into his suit jacket pocket and withdrew a velvet-covered box. She was utterly silent as her heart began pounding in her ears. It almost felt as if time stood still. He couldn't really be about to do what he seemed to be doing. He opened the box, revealing a diamond ring.

"Will you marry me?" he asked.

Lindsey woke and quickly looked around. She got out of her bed and fished in a drawer until she found the brown leather book she was looking for. She slipped into her robe and sat down on the edge of the bed, flipping through it until she found what she was looking for. She let out a breath. It was becoming more and more obvious where her dreams were coming from. She was dreaming the memories of Lois Lane! How was that possible? Was Martha right about past lives?

She struggled with the question before realizing that no matter how many times she asked herself that question, she'd never have the answer. She thought again about the dream. Why was she dreaming about Clark Kent asking Lois Lane to marry him? Suddenly, she understood. Yesterday Clark had asked her to go out for dinner with him. She'd found it slightly odd since they'd been eating dinner together almost every day since she'd left Damian. But there was something about the way he asked that told her that this was different. He confirmed that when he told her that he wanted to take her to the restaurant where they'd had their first date. And then he'd added that he had something important he wanted to ask her.

He was going to ask her to marry him. That's what the dream was trying to tell her. She felt a moment of panic. She took and let out a deep breath, realizing that she had to stay calm to try to think about this objectively.

Her mind drifted back over the past six weeks. She'd managed to get off the flex. It had probably been the hardest single thing she'd ever done. And she never would have succeeded if it hadn't been for Clark and Martha. Clark had actually taken a leave of absence from the paper to help her through it. In fact, there were days where she doubted he'd even slept, being too concerned about her. He'd held her as she'd begged him to let her die. He'd listened to story after story that had to have torn his heart apart. He and Martha had ensured that she was never alone. They'd put up with her tantrums with amazing patience and had got her into counseling. She was incredibly grateful to both of them.

But was that enough of a reason to marry him? No. In fact, he'd be horrified if he knew she was even thinking along those lines.

She smiled slightly as she thought about the past week. It had been a good week. She was still seeing the therapist, but she was starting to come to terms with her past. Clark was still a little protective, but he was starting to accept that she was going to be okay. In fact, he'd opened up to her about something that had been troubling him — the fact that he could do so much more if he took on a persona. They had talked about it for a long time last night. She was fairly certain he was going to do it. He had not had any idea what type of costume to use or what name to take. She had suggested that he take the costume and name of his namesake — Clark Kent. He seemed to like the idea. However, he wanted to talk to the rest of his family about it first.

She had also received some good news this past week. Mars University was prepared to take her into their journalism program as a mature student. They had even offered her a full scholarship. She was glad. She hated the idea of taking anything from Damian. She was still the property of the Luthor estate, and although the trustee of the estate had no particular interest in her, he had told her that under the will, she would receive a small monthly income. If she went to university on a full scholarship, she could simply give Damian's money to charity. Damian had made provisions for his 'daughter' in his will. Given the damage he'd done to her when he'd been alive, she found that slightly ironic. Her turning around and giving that money to charity was even more so.

Her mind drifted back to the idea of marriage. She swallowed hard. She couldn't let him ask. She wasn't ready. In fact, what she really needed was some time to figure out what she really wanted out of life and, as much as she might hate it, she couldn't do that with Clark.

She set down the book and made her way into the kitchen. She put on some coffee and it wasn't long before its rich smell permeated the room.

"Mmm," came a sleepy voice as Martha entered the room. "I thought I smelled coffee."

Lindsey smiled. "Would you like a mug?"

"I thought you'd never ask."

Once they had their coffee and were sitting down at the table, Martha looked at Lindsey over her coffee mug.

"So, do you want to tell me why we're up so early in the morning?"

Lindsey gave a small chuckle. She should have known that it wasn't the coffee that had brought Martha into the kitchen.

"What's wrong, honey?" Martha asked.

Lindsey took a deep breath. "I think Clark is going to ask me to marry him," Lindsey said, staring intently at the contents of her coffee mug.

"And I take it that isn't good news," said Martha.

Lindsey shook her head, still not looking at Martha.

"Do you love him?" Martha asked softly.

"I like him. I admire him. I trust him and I'm unspeakably grateful to him."

"But you don't love him?"

"I know I feel something for him. It's just… my head and heart haven't been on speaking terms for… I don't know how long. I just don't know if I'm confusing love for gratitude. I made that mistake once before."


Lindsey nodded. "I want to go to university, too."

"Clark supports you in that. You know that, don't you?"

Lindsey nodded. "But… I'm not sure how to express this."

"Just tell me what's in your heart."

"Okay. I mean there's part of me that wants nothing more than to marry Clark. I do know that I love seeing him. I love it that he cares so much and I love the way he looks at me and treats me. He's a good man. I know that. And I know he'd never treat me the way Damian did."


"But," Lindsey repeated. "I don't know me. I mean, I'm twenty-four years old and, until a few weeks ago, every decision in my life was made by someone else." She paused as she tried to find a way to express what she wanted to say. "One day, I was looking through your books and I found one that talked a bit about what dating is like for women on Earth. It said that men ask women out and then it's up to the woman to decide whether or not to go. I think I'd like that — to decide for myself whether or not I want to go out to a movie or dancing or out for supper with some guy — just to get to know him. And maybe, if things went well, I'd let him kiss me good night. Or if he'd been a jerk, I might throw him off my front step."

Martha chuckled.

"How can I know if what I'm feeling for Clark is real or if it's just that I've never really known anything better? I need time to find out what I want, what I need." She glanced over at Martha. "Do you understand?"

Martha nodded. "You need to find out what you want and you don't think you can do that if you're with Clark."

"I need to find out if I can stand on my own two feet without Clark," Lindsey clarified.

"So you're going to turn down Clark's proposal."

"Actually, I'm sort of planning a preemptive strike," said Lindsey.

"You're planning to tell him this before he proposes?"

"Martha, I don't want to hurt him. And if I wait until he proposes, assuming that that is what he's planning to ask me tonight… I don't want him to feel like a fool. But I think this is something I need to do for me. I'm not saying I'll never marry Clark. I'm just saying that I need time alone to figure out what it is that I do want."

"And if, in the mean time, Clark finds someone else?"

Lindsey bit her lower lip and stared intently into her coffee cup. "I guess that's the risk I'm going to have to take. But… I think it will probably break my heart if he does."

"You could always ask him to wait for you."

Lindsey shook her head. "I don't want that. It wouldn't be fair. After all, what happens if I find out that what I'm feeling towards Clark is just gratitude? I don't want that responsibility."

"So you're willing to lose him?"

Lindsey drew in a jagged breath. "I guess I have to be."

As Lindsey and Martha continued to talk, Lindsey realized that unless she knew who she was, what she thought and even how she felt, she'd never be able to hold her own in a permanent relationship with someone as strong as Clark. She needed the time alone. And since she had a full scholarship and could live in dorm, this was probably the only chance she'd have to do that. She also came to the conclusion that while she was doing this, she couldn't see Clark. After all, if she did, it would be too easy just to let herself stay with him because the alternative was too hard or too lonely.

The only problem was Clark. She'd give anything not to hurt him. He was easily the best friend she'd ever had. And she cared about him. Hurting him would be like hurting herself. But hurting him was unavoidable if she did this.

She heard a knock at the door and looked at the clock. It was early, but if Clark were true to form, he was stopping by to check up on her on the way to work.

"Good luck," said Martha as Lindsey made her way to the door to do what had to be done.



Clark sat back in his chair and smiled at the television playing on the wall of the Daily Planet. It had finally happened. Finally, the women of Mars were free of the archaic laws that had plagued them since independence.

Clark felt a sense of pride at the role he'd had in bringing about these changes. Not only had he managed to convince the Senator to reintroduce the legislation, he'd had a number of meetings with Mandy to discuss improvements to it during the past few months. He was glad that she seemed to have realized that his heart wasn't available and had fallen comfortably into the role of a friend.

His heart. His mind drifted back to the last time he'd seen Lindsey. When she'd told him that she was going to university, he'd been really pleased for her. But then she'd told him she didn't want to see him anymore — at least for a time. He guessed he understood her need to find out who she was and even why she needed to do this alone, but that didn't help with the pain of separation. The only thing that had prevented him from drowning in his own grief was the anguish in her expression as she told him. But that was eight months ago.

He glanced at his computer. He had expected to receive a message from her today. Since he'd last seen her, the only contact he'd had with her was through messages — a concession she'd made when he told her that he had to know that she was all right. She had to know how much a message from her would mean to him today. But maybe she was wrapped up in final exams. If he recalled correctly, those were ending sometime this week.

He had obeyed her request to give her this time alone. On one or two occasions, he'd been tempted to make a trip to Mars University — just to see her from a distance. However, he knew that would violate the spirit of his agreement, so he'd abstained from doing so. He had even followed her instructions not to talk about their relationship in the messages they'd exchanged. There was only one thing he hadn't been able to do. When she'd left, she'd told him that she didn't want him waiting for her since she wasn't sure whether or not she'd be back. The problem was that even if she never came back, even if she found someone else, he knew he'd wait. She held his heart — even after all these lonely months.

Not that he didn't understand that she needed this time. Her explanation had been concise. It was some of the things she hadn't said that troubled Clark. She hadn't said that she wouldn't date other men and had insisted that he give no such promise regarding other women. She hadn't told him that she loved him. In fact, she'd never said those words to him. He would give anything to have heard them just once.

A lot had changed since she'd left. His Superman duties were becoming almost second nature to him. He guessed he had just needed the right push to become Superman — and no one could possibly have pushed better than Lindsey had. He'd loved the message she left for him after Superman's appearance. She hadn't dared say anything directly, but she had addressed her message to him: 'To my own personal hero.' Then she'd gone on to say that she'd been hearing good things about him and that she couldn't possibly be prouder. He'd kept that message. He snorted. Who was he trying to kid? He'd kept every one of her messages.

At least, not everyone's love lives were as rough as his. His Uncle Jonathan and Martha had been married last week. And, much to his boss' surprise, she'd moved with her new husband to his small farm in Kansas. Clark had smiled when he'd heard Paul's muttered comment, 'I guess she just needed the right man to pry her away from Mars.' Even Jeremy was happy these days — ever since Lucy had told him that she'd be coming home once school was out.

Clark's mind drifted back to a conversation he and Lindsey had had with Paul before she'd left. Paul had said that he wanted her to submit her application to the Daily Planet first, but Clark suspected that would just be a formality. He suspected that Paul intended to snag the hottest new talent the paper had seen in years. And since there was currently an opening in the newsroom…

When Luthor's files had finally been opened, Lindsey's suspicions that Roland was Luthor's source had been confirmed. Now Roland was facing charges for his role in Scardello's death. Clark doubted that Roland knew what Luthor was planning for Scardello, but he was part of a criminal conspiracy that resulted in Scardello's death. So he'd been charged. From what Clark had heard, Roland had been singing like a canary about everything he knew and everything he suspected about everyone he knew. Whether it would save him or not, Clark wasn't sure.

Clark's attention was drawn to the elevator doors opening. How was it that after eight months he still found himself expecting Lindsey to walk into the newsroom every single time the elevator doors opened? His heart dropped, as it always did, when it wasn't her. However, he was still glad to see Mandy as she walked into the newsroom. She looked immediately towards his desk and smiled when their eyes met. She stood just inside the newsroom and held up a bottle of champagne.

He smiled as he made his way over to her.

"What's this?" he asked, gesturing to the bottle.

"When the vote passed unanimously, I thought about you. And who better to celebrate this victory with than Clark Kent?"

"I can hardly believe it passed unanimously and will be signed by the President and come into effect at midnight tonight."

Mandy laughed. "When the Senate wants to move, it can really do so. Of course, Damian Luthor's spectacular fall from grace helped. Every time a new criminal conspiracy of his was brought to light, we got new supporters. Everyone wants to distance him or herself from the man. And since this was one of his pet projects…"

Clark laughed. "Trust Luthor to be the force to finally unite the people of Mars into emancipating women."

"I think he'd find it somewhat ironic."

"I'd say so."

"Anyway, can you get away? Or do you want to drink this here?" Mandy asked.

Clark glanced up at the clock. It was almost five.

"Just let me tell Paul I'm leaving. Then, why don't we take this back to my place? I've got a hankering for some Fettucini Alfredo. I think it might go well with the champagne. You hungry?"

"Starving," Mandy replied.

"Good. Then just give me a few minutes to get things out of the way here." He made his way back to his computer and checked for messages one final time before sighing and turning off his computer. She must have more important things on her mind today. After a quick word with Paul, he made his way out of the newsroom. At least, he wouldn't spend another night obsessing about Lindsey.

"So how are your folks doing?" Clark asked as they made their way out of the newsroom.

"Dad's in therapy. He finally admitted he's got a problem," Mandy replied. "Mom's still staying at her sisters. But they're talking. I'm glad Dad didn't make Mom stay. I doubt they'd be talking now if he had. And as long as they're talking, I guess there's hope."


Lindsey was relieved when Clark wasn't in the newsroom when she arrived for her interview with Paul. Bumping into him at the Planet was not the way she wanted to see him again. She'd reached some decisions and she wanted to talk to him some place that wasn't so public.

The interview had gone better than expected. Since she'd finished her last exam today, she'd hoped to get a summer job as a gofer, figuring it would give her an 'in' when she finally finished university. Instead, Paul had suggested she come on full time — as a junior reporter! It seemed there was an opening in the newsroom at the moment. She'd tried to explain that she'd only finished her first year, but he'd brushed that aside — telling her she had more natural talent than some of his reporters on his staff who had their masters degrees. He'd gone on to suggest that if she really wanted to get her degree, she take evening courses.

It was a dream come true. There was only one problem. Clark. She couldn't do this without talking to Clark first — make sure he was comfortable with her working here. When she told him her concern, Paul's laughter had been reassuring. However, he had understood. He'd told her that he would look forward to her call. When she'd asked when she would be starting, he'd told her that as far as he was concerned, she could start tomorrow, but that he'd leave that decision to her.

As she made her way up the steps to Clark's apartment, she thought again about the undeniable connection she'd felt to Clark almost from the first moment they'd met. She wondered what she'd feel when she saw him this time. Her mind drifted to a conversation she'd had with Martha a long time ago — a conversation about past lives. That issue had come up over and over again during the past number of months. Was it possible that she and Clark were the reincarnations of Lois Lane and Clark Kent? It seemed so outrageous. Still…

She took a breath and let it out as she stood in front of the door. Even if she were the reincarnation of Lois Lane and even if the man who lived in this apartment were the reincarnation of the original Superman, that was no guarantee that things would work out for them this time. There were two problems. First, she'd left him. She had no right to expect that he would want her back. But that wasn't the only problem. Even if he did want her, she didn't know if, after years of sexual abuse, she'd be able to ever have a normal relationship with a man — even if that man was Clark. Still, it was time to find out. Maybe if they talked about her fears, they'd be able to work through them together.

She wasn't sure she'd ever been this nervous in her entire life. Once she felt ready, she raised her hand and knocked. And then she waited. What if he wasn't home? Maybe he had a date or…

The door opened and suddenly Clark was standing in front of her. She opened her mouth to speak when she heard a woman's laughing voice behind Clark say, "Who's there, Clark? Should I bring out another glass for…"

Lindsey watched Mandy Drake enter the room. When their eyes met, Mandy's voice trailed off. Lindsey stared at Mandy for a moment before what was going on here became horribly obvious. He had gotten on with his life.

"Oh, I'm sorry," said Lindsey. "I guess I didn't… I should have called first. I…" As she spoke she began slowly backing away.

"No," said Clark, stepping slightly forward.

Lindsey's backward motion stopped, but she also didn't come forward or ask to come into his apartment. In fact, looking into his beautiful eyes she suddenly found that she couldn't breathe, let alone speak. If she'd waited too long, if he was in love with someone else, she was certain it would kill her.


Mandy hadn't known her name — the name of the woman who obviously had Clark's heart. But the moment she entered the living room and saw Lindsey Landon at the door, she knew. There was no mistaking the electricity that suddenly seemed to be in the air. Her first thought when Lindsey tried to back out was to let her. But it only took a heartbeat to reject that idea.

"We'll do this another time, Clark," she said, quickly grabbing her coat and making her way to the door. Neither Lindsey nor Clark said anything as they just continued to stand there, staring at each other.

Mandy stopped at the door and was about to say something to Clark when she suddenly realized that neither of the people at the door were completely aware that she was even there.

"Be good to him," she said to Lindsey before exiting the building as quickly as her heart would allow. It was one thing to know that his heart lay elsewhere; it was another to see it demonstrated quite so clearly.


Clark felt as if he were in a dream. She wasn't really here. It had finally happened. He'd finally lost his mind. Then she started to say something about leaving. 'No!' his mind screamed. He wasn't sure if he'd actually voiced his objection or not, but she stopped. He didn't speak. He didn't dare for fear that the illusion would fade.

In the back of his mind, Clark realized that Mandy was leaving, but he was as incapable of responding to that as he was of taking his eyes off Lindsey.

"Can I come in?" Lindsey suddenly asked.

"Umm… yeah," Clark gasped, stepping backwards slightly into his apartment.

Lindsey had to squeeze by him to enter. He closed his eyes as her body brushed against his and he was overwhelmed by the smell of her shampoo.

"Omigod," he breathed.

Her response took his breath away. She stopped, her body only inches from his and suddenly didn't seem at all interested in getting by him.


Lindsey heard the breathed word and suddenly she had her answer as her body instinctively responded to the guttural sound in his voice. And with that answer, there was no need for further questions. She stopped, turning towards Clark and raising her hands until they were resting on his chest. She could hardly believe the electricity that seemed to jump between them with just a touch.

She looked into his eyes and saw that he was completely lost. A small smile found its way onto her face. She hadn't been sure exactly what to expect when she arrived at his apartment. But suddenly everything seemed so simple. There was only one way to know for sure if they had a future.

"Aren't you going to kiss me?" she asked.

Her words seemed to take a moment to penetrate. His expression went from lost to disbelieving to hopeful. But still he did nothing.

"Oh, for crying out loud," she finally said, grabbing his tie and tugging his mouth down to hers. Finally, he seemed to realize what was going on. He wrapped his arms around her, pulling her into his arms as his mouth met hers kiss for kiss. She released his tie so that both hands could slip around his neck and get lost in his hair.

"Wow," he breathed when they finally pulled apart.

Lindsey reached behind her and closed the door before turning back to Clark. Her hands once again came up to his tie. She began gently pulling the knot apart as she spoke.

"So is there anything I should know about Mandy being here?" she asked.

"Lindsey," he said simply.

She smiled, the knot in his tie mostly undone now. She stepped closer, forcing him to step back. She took another step, once again directing him backwards further into the room. His tie finally came undone in her hands. She dropped one end and slowly slid the tie from around his neck.

"What are you doing, Lindsey?" he asked.

"I would have thought that was obvious," she said, tossing the tie casually to the floor. She stepped forward, forcing him back again.

"I just meant… Don't you think we should talk?" he asked.

Her hand came up and began fiddling with the top button on his shirt. She waited until she had it open before leaning in to kiss his neck.

"I think talking is overrated," she replied. "Don't you?"

"Yes," he groaned as her lips trailed over his neck. "I mean, no," he corrected. She stepped closer again. This time when he tried to step back, he fell back onto the couch.

She crinkled her forehead. "Now why does this seem so familiar?" she asked, before crawling over to make her way up his body, once again finding his mouth. His hands came up to cup her face as he met her hungry kiss with one of his own.

"I just think…" he began, when he finally managed to force himself to break the kiss. His voice trailed off when her hands slipped to the second button on his shirt. "I mean," he tried again, "what… why are you here?"

She pulled back so that she was sitting on his legs and looked at him seriously for the first time. "I want to come home, Clark," she said softly.

"Home?" he asked.

She nodded. "This is the closest thing that I've ever had to a home. I needed the time away. It was the right thing to do. If I hadn't had the time, I'm not sure I'd be able to say 'I love you' now. But I want to come home."

"You… what?"

She didn't need any explanation to know which part of her speech had caught his attention. "I love you," she whispered, before leaning in to kiss him.

"Say it again," Clark requested, pulling back.

"I love you," she repeated, once again leaning forward to kiss him. She began with a light kiss to his lips before trailing her lips over his face. Each kiss was punctuated by a word. "Hopelessly… completely… eternally… unconditionally. I love you, Clark Kent."

Clark whimpered. His hands coming up to her hair so that he could direct her mouth back to his, drowning out any further conversation. Suddenly, he felt her hands resume their task of struggling with the buttons on his shirt.

"Lindsey, are you sure you want…"

"I'm sure, Clark."

When she began working on the next button on his shirt, his hands came up to stop her. She looked at him in confusion.

"You don't want…"

"No," Clark cut her off immediately. "I mean, I do want… I just…" He gave a uneasy chuckle. "I'm just a little nervous here. I mean, I want this to be special for you and I'm not sure…" His voice trailed off and his eyes left hers.

Her hands came up, gently playing with his chin and bringing his gaze back to her. "What aren't you sure about?" she asked.

"It's just that… I haven't exactly done this before and…"

She stared at him in disbelief for a moment.

"…I guess I'm just worried that… well, I want this to be special for you. I don't want you to be disappointed that…"

She almost laughed when it hit her what he was concerned about.

"Clark, you told me once that you wanted to wait until we both wanted to be as close to the other as it's possible to be. I want that. Do you?"

"I've never wanted anything more."

She smiled and gently stroked his cheek before continuing. "That's all I want. I don't think… I just don't think you should worry about… you know. I don't think I have it in me to…" She shrugged. "But that doesn't mean that I don't want to be with you. I do. I want you to make love to me. I want you to make us one." On the final word, his mouth once again found hers and his arms drew her close. A moment later, she found herself sprawled across his bed with his lips trailing over her throat.

Suddenly, he pulled back. "Just one more question," he said.

"What?" she asked on a chuckle.

"Will you marry me?"

She burst out laughing. When she finally gained some semblance of control, she realized that he was looking slightly disconcerted.

"Oh, Clark," she began softly, "it's just that you don't waste any time, do you?"

"Hey," he replied. "I could have asked you that on our third date. I think I showed remarkable restraint."

Her hand ran gently over his face as she stared into his eyes. She needed to make sure that she could make love to Clark before answering that question. Being with him right now felt so right, so natural. But would that continue? However, given how nervous he was, she didn't want to put that kind of pressure on him.

"Well?" he asked.

"Can I think about it?" she asked.

His face fell. But still, he nodded.

"It's just…" She couldn't tell him the reason. "I just want to be sure," she said. Okay, so that was true. "That's all right, isn't it?" she asked.

His expression softened. This time when he nodded, she could see that he meant it.

She ran her hand gently over his cheek before slipping her hand behind his head, bringing his lips back to hers. It only took a moment to once again get him involved in their previous activity. And so it was for quite some time to come.


There was no sense of wonder that they were floating on the ceiling. In fact, at this moment, she hardly noticed. Instead, her mind was consumed with one question. How was it possible that he could make every nerve in her body feel as if it were on fire? Never had she experienced anything remotely similar. In fact, she'd not have believed it was possible for a man to make her feel the way he just had.

As she tried to find her breath, she wondered briefly if he was experiencing anything remotely similar to the wonderment she was feeling. She glanced over at him and realized that he was looking as amazed as she felt.

She tried to express herself, to tell him what he'd done for her, but was unable to find words. His words didn't make much more sense than hers. Still, in spite of a lack of words and a complete absence of sentences, they managed to communicate some of what they were feeling.

She could hardly believe that she'd been so nervous about making love with Clark. His touch, his kiss, his look were so different from the men of her past. For the first time in her life, sex hadn't been isolating. If anything, she felt more at one with him now, loved him more and felt more loved by him than before.

She wondered if part of the reason it had been so different this time was because he was a virgin — had been a virgin, she corrected to herself with a grin. The fact that he had been hesitant and tentative on occasion had allowed her to relax and simply love him. Had he been more experienced, she wasn't sure that would have been the case.

She shifted positions, curling up against his chest as she glanced down at the bed a good five feet below them. Suddenly, she flashed back to a dream she'd had about being in this very position and then to something she'd read in Lois Lane's journal.

"Clark, do you believe in reincarnation?" she asked.

Clark silently considered the question, wondering briefly what had provoked this. "Well, there are some stories about it in my family's past," he said. "Why?"

"It's just that I read Lois Lane's journal and… I know this sounds crazy but…" She continued sharing her thoughts with Clark, at times concerned that he would laugh in her face. But he didn't. Instead, he appeared to thoughtfully consider every word.

"So what are you saying?" asked Clark. "That we're soul mates?"

"I guess."

Clark smiled. "I could have told you that eight months ago," he said, earning himself a slight swat on the chest. He captured her hand and brought it up to his lips. "I guess we'll never really know, but… I sort of like the idea that our souls are destined to meet and fall in love in lifetime after lifetime. After all, I doubt one lifetime with you will be enough."

She leaned in and softly kissed him. She was about to deepen the kiss when he suddenly pulled back.

"You know, I was in the process of making supper when you arrived," he said in explanation. "Do you want…"

She grinned, pulling his lips back to hers. Just before their lips finally met, she spoke. "We are not leaving this room," she informed him. He didn't object. Instead, he pulled her closer. She moaned softly into his mouth and all thoughts of supper were instantly forgotten.


"So what did Paul say when you told him you'd take the job?" asked Clark as he and Lindsey made their way out of his apartment building early the next morning, finally in search of sustenance.

"What do you think he said? He asked how you were," she said with a laugh.

Clark rolled his eyes.

"I did tell him that I couldn't start until tomorrow, however," she said.


"Because you have today off," she replied with a grin.

"So you're saying that we both have the whole day off," Clark clarified. "Well, lady, what do you want to do?"

"Oh, I don't know. Maybe we could take a trip down to city hall," she replied, slipping her arm through his.

"City hall?"

"To take care of a little paperwork." When he continued to look at her blankly, she rolled her eyes. "You know. Get married. It seems to me I recall a suggestion of that sort being made last night. Or were you just trying to get me into bed?" she asked, before standing up on her tiptoes to kiss his cheek.

"You'll marry me?" asked Clark, almost in disbelief.

She grinned. "Of course I'll marry you," she responded.

He swung her into his arms and kissed her until her legs went weak beneath her. When he finally broke the kiss, his arms were the only thing holding her up.

"Wow!" she gasped. "Does that mean you want to go down to city hall with me today? After all, it seems to me that, thanks to you, the law no longer requires you to get permission from the trustee of Luthor's estate to marry me."

"Don't you want to wait? You know, have a big wedding?"

"Who would I invite, Clark?"

"Oh," said Clark softly. "Well, I guess you could invite your sister."

"I talked to her yesterday. She said that if you'd have me, I should get you in front of a justice of the peace before you could change your mind."

"You told your sister that we were getting married before I even asked you?" he asked.

She just grinned.

"I hate being predictable," muttered Clark.

She chuckled. But then a thought occurred to her. "But what about you? Maybe you want to invite your family and…"

"I just want you," said Clark. Then he smirked. "At least, it wouldn't be much of a wedding without you."

She swatted his arm. "So, what do you say? Do you want to make an honest woman of me?"

He laughed. "There's nothing I'd like more."


Across the street a man in a bowler hat watched in silence. When Lindsey and Clark disappeared from view, he took out his timepiece and flipped it open. As he looked at it, he marveled at how even this incarnation of Lois and Clark were able to overcome the barriers that always seemed so determined to keep them apart. He pulled a small time transport from his pocket and punched in some information. He'd seen what he'd come here to see. Time to find out what happened during their next incarnation.


My gratitude to my friend, Loralyn Lind, (don't you love the initials <g>) for letting me use her poem. The poem is hers, not mine. By the way, if you're interested, you can read more of her poems at:

In this story, the following persons appeared in the following roles (had you been watching the movie, you'd have realized this immediately <g>). After all, this was one of Lois and Clark's future incarnations — which, according to HG Wells, included their circle of friends and enemies. See how many of them you recognized.

Clark Kent as (you guessed it) Clark Kent

Lois Lane as Lindsey Landon

Perry White as Paul Wilson

Jimmy Olsen as Jeremy O'Brian

Martha Kent as Martha 'Nellie' soon to be Kent

Jonathan Kent as (again, this was a hard one <g>) Jonathan

'The Protector' Kent

Lucy Lane as Lucy Landon

Lex Luthor as Damian Luthor (although with a darker side than we saw in his previous incarnation — assuming that's possible)

Nigel St. John as Nathan Saint-Jean

Claude as Clyde

Ralph as Roland

Catherine 'Cat' Grant as Katie 'Kat' Gregor

Dan Scardino as Dale Scardello

Inspector Henderson as Detective Hendrickson

Mayson Drake as Mandy Drake

Jor-El as Joel (although this one was just mentioned in passing)

Lora-El as Laura (again just mentioned in passing)