Together Again

By Chiara Prato <chiara810@libero.it>

Rated: PG

Submitted: January 2002

Summary: What would have happened to Clark and Lois' life if no one had stopped Lois from marrying Luthor?

OK guys…

First some disclaimers: Lois is married with Luthor, so emmm how I can say that… if it upsets you to read about an extramarital affair, I guess it is better if you don't read this, I mean…Lois CAN'T be married with that monster Luthor all her life!!!!

Second, Kaethel's fanfic Near Wild Heaven gave me the idea. She spoke about the idea of having Lois and Luthor married, and we started to write, so in fact, she is guilty for this fanfic… if you are not going to like this… it is all her fault. auahauhauhuahauhahha (evil laugh)

Third, I don't think it's really bad, but there are some emotionally painful scenes. (or at least I hope it is the effect. :P )

Oh I almost forgot, I thank all the people who nagged me to write and helped me somehow… they are Elena, Kaethel and Twinny, and then Ray the FDK's king, LabRat and her useful tips, Missy and Kylie, Adam… KathR a very patient GE and all the people who kept telling me they wanted to read something new by me.

Just last one the part between /*/ is a flashback,

That's it… emmm Guys… Don't kill me. I know there will be something most people are going to hate… hihihihahauahuahuahauhuha

***

Clark warmly greeted his friends as he walked out of the hospital room. It was a strange feeling being in Metropolis again, as himself — he'd been avoiding the city for years now. Strange, because it had been his home so long ago. Now he felt almost like a stranger, probably more than he'd had the first time he arrived there, ten years earlier. A new family lived in his old apartment, a mother, a father and a little dark-haired child. Clark had dreamt about this family many times from the moment he saw them. It could have been his family. They were so happy — and they weren't alone.

It was hard to believe it was still so painful to be in Metropolis after all this time. Sometimes he made infrequent stops as Superman, but it wasn't the same. Usually, he performed his super tasks then flew away before he realized that he was even in Metropolis. Being in the city was easier to bear if he didn't have to think about where he was. He had decided to work freelance after leaving Metropolis when the Planet was destroyed. This allowed him to work anywhere and it allowed Superman to enjoy a wider range as well. No longer was Superman based in Metropolis, if Clark happened to be in Europe then Superman found reason to be in Europe as well. At first Clark thought that people might start to connect his travels and Superman's appearances, but that didn't really happen as no one really kept track of Clark's movements and it was known that Superman wasn't going to be exclusively bound to Metropolis anymore.

However, this trip was different: one of his new friends had just had a baby. How could he avoid visiting them? They had been quite close when Michael and Megan, had worked in Los Angeles. Michael was a reporter for a weekly newspaper, and had just recently moved to Metropolis. They met when the young reporter had to interview Clark Kent, the writer of the year. In fact, Clark's book had become a bestseller in just few weeks. Clark had decided to write a novel as a sort of catharsis, to help him deal with the many emotions he was experiencing after the destruction of the Planet and other events in his life at the time. He'd never dreamed that his inner thoughts and feelings would resonate with the reading public and catapult him onto the best seller list. After the interview they had become friends, and Clark even introduced him to the girl who was to become his wife. He was tempted to just send them a telegram or make a simple phone call, but it seemed so inadequate.

Now he was glad he'd come and he was sure that he had made the right choice. It was such a nice child, so small, so beautiful; seeing the child reminded him of the dreams he had years before of becoming a father. He started to drift, the thought stream pulling him back through time.

'Don't start thinking like that, Kent. One more minute and you'll be lost again.'

He quickened his steps toward the stairs. There it would be safe to fly away. In the corridor there were too many people and he couldn't risk that they'd see him vanish. Clark stretched his hand toward the stair door's handle when suddenly his entire body seemed to not respond to his will. Motionless, he stood frozen in place by a voice — a voice he could never forget. His attention was focused on the voice, it hammered in his head and left him unable to do anything else…

"It's not right! Maybe I deserve to be punished … but not my child! Why! Why him?! Why not me?!"

Clark looked around; he wanted to run away, but *The Voice* sounded so sad, so hopeless, he simply couldn't do it.

The voice was coming from the little hospital chapel. Clark walked slowly towards it, as if he had to think about how to make every step. Even more slowly, he opened the door and he saw a lone woman hitting her fists on the kneeler.

"I've never asked you anything, I never prayed to you before, I've never believed in your existence, I know, but please, save my child! Take my life please, but save my child! You are our last hope…" She was sobbing; Clark saw her wipe her tears with the sleeve of her sweatshirt. "He doesn't deserve that … It's not fair, it's not right! I'm the one … He doesn't deserve … "

Clark walked silently toward her. After all those years, seeing her was stirring such strong emotion within him, seeing her again was almost like a dream come true, or a nightmare… he couldn't say which. Clark inhaled deeply — her scent was unchanged, still the same perfume she'd used years ago…

It hurt so much, just seeing her again. And again he was unable resist her pain. It was as it had been all those years ago…as if they were still connected.

"Lois…" he whispered, his voice trembling.

The woman turned, staring at him for a long, infinite moment with a shocked and almost grateful gaze.

It was as if the world stopped, there, in that little hospital chapel — as if time ceased to exist and there was no past, present nor future.

She kept staring at him, motionless, not even trying to dry the tears from her cheeks. Just as Clark smiled sadly at her, time began to move again and Lois ran toward him and into his arms, crying as if she would never stop.

Eight years.

It had been eight long years. How could this woman still evoke such strong feelings in him? Why did it hurt so much and why did simply holding her in his arms bring meaning into his life again? Eight years and now *SHE* was once again in his arms. Clark felt so selfish: Lois was crying so desperately, and all he was able to think about was how their bodies seemed to be created in order to be embraced forever — and that he never wanted to let her go.

Now he vaguely remembered how he'd tried to hate her when she'd chosen Luthor over him, he'd tried with all being, but now she was here… helpless. How could you hate such a desperate person, how could you hate someone you love more than life itself?

Clark simply held her, and let her cry against his shoulder for what he believed was an endless, wonderful, painful moment.

She let her arms slip around her friend, holding onto his jacket with all her strength, as if Clark would vanish if she released her grasp.

"Please tell me you're real! Tell me you are … oh…Clark… my Clark… Oh, God… don't let me wake up…" She was whispering so low that Clark needed all of his powers to be able to hear her.

"I'm here… I'm here now…" he murmured, caressing her hair, and tightening his grip, trying in vain to make her feel better, then when the sobs calmed down, he wiped her tears and kissed her forehead.

Lois pulled a couple of inches away, in order to look at him. They stared at each other for a long while. It was probably the longest silence of their life, and probably the most meaningful.

"Lois, honey… What happened?"

Lois smiled sadly as she heard him call her 'honey' again. It had been so long since someone had used that endearment with her. It had been years, now, and no one after him had ever called her such a sweet name. She knew that no one had ever shown the same feelings for her as Clark was displaying with such a simple word.

"My child's dying… and I…I can't… I'm not… able to bear it… Why him? Why not me? I know… it's all my fault!" Again tears rolled uncontrollably down her cheeks. Every word was an effort. Clark wanted to hold her in his arms again. Again and forever in order to erase her pain. He couldn't stand to see the helplessness in her eyes. That hurt so much in Clark's chest and his brain was screaming.

"Lois, I can't believe that… I don't know why you think that, but I'm quite sure it's not your fault…"

"It is!! I made so many people suffer… and you are the first on my list, and now God is making me suffer… And it's right! I know I deserve it! But it's not *his* fault… God can make me die… But my son is so little, so wonderful… so…" Lois wasn't able to finish her statement for her sobs. She barely felt the tracks of fresh tears streaming down her cheeks as Clark held her…in a way she never could have hoped he would again.

Clark grabbed her shoulders and gave her a light shake in order to force her to look at him. "I don't want you to think this way! I don't know what happened during these past eight years… but you don't deserve to die! Do you hear me? You don't deserve to die!"

Lois stared at him for a long while, tears threatening again. Both of them closed their eyes when Lois' hand, trembling, caressed Clark's face. Then Lois whispered, "I assumed you hated me… for what I did to you…" She opened her eyes, staring at him with a deep gaze, making Clark almost lose himself in the depths of those anguished eyes. "…What I did to us…" She paused. "Why you don't hate me?"

Clark smiled, lowering his head until it brushed against Lois'. "I hated you… for a while…" he whispered into her hair. "But I always was your friend… even while I hated you… and I still care for you… and I miss my best friend…"

"I miss you too… so much… so badly… every day… every moment…" Her voice trembled under the suppressed sobs and all the wonderful and painful emotions she was feeling.

It was all so strange: she'd never felt so sad and desperate in her life, she was losing her son, but for the past minutes, she suddenly didn't feel so alone any more. She had never felt so much hope: Clark didn't hate her. Maybe there was still hope for her soul. Clark didn't hate her, and now he was there holding her, as if time hadn't passed, since that one night, eight years ago.

It had been years since Lois had been able to relax like this. The heat of his chest on her cheek, the warmth and the care his arms were holding her with brought the situation into focus. Lois was barely able to believe that they were real, that *he* was real.

Clark felt her smile against his chest. How many times she had dreamt about this, he could barely imagine.

For a moment, a long moment, Lois was able once again to find peace. Her Clark, again…maybe forever…maybe for just a moment, but here in her arms, holding her. For the first time in ages, Lois felt really complete. She had no idea whether he was going to stay in her life or simply run away as soon as possible, but at that moment, she didn't care.

It was enough that Clark didn't hate her. He had even said that he was still her friend. After all the pain she had inflicted on him, he had forgiven her. Would she be able to forgive herself too?

Then suddenly she froze, seemingly without a reason. She stepped back and her face took on a scared expression.

Clark looked at her cautiously, almost afraid of her reaction. He whispered her name carefully.

Something was tugging at the back of her mind, like a sense of connection; a strong and deep impression, but it wasn't hers, it was something someone else was feeling. Lois stared into Clark's eyes, almost asking his help, her voice trembling as she whispered "Jerome".

At that same moment, the noise of the call-button resonated through the entire corridor. "Jerome," she said again, more loudly, before running away, her eyes full of anguish, looking at her friend with an apologetic and scared expression.

Clark hadn't had enough time to understand, but the fear in Lois' eyes was the most important thing for him. He couldn't say why, but he was sure that Lois' fear was misplaced. He ran right behind her, without even thinking about what he was doing.

For a fraction of second, she stared at the light flashing on the door, then she threw herself into room number 512.

"Jerome… What happened?…" Lois sat on the bed, holding her child.

"It hurts so much… I'm sorry, Mom… I'm so sorry… I tried to wait, but… it hurts so much!" The child was crying in his mother's arms.

"Sssssshhh … No, honey… don't… Why did you want to wait? And, why you are sorry… it's not your fault! " Lois caressed him sweetly, kissing his hand.

"I thought you were already back home… I didn't see you, so… I thought… I'm sorry." Jerome was in such an unbearable pain, and yet he sounded so apologetic.

A nurse entered at that moment. "Hey, Jerome… I'm here… so… You have to wait just a couple of minutes, then the pain will go away," she said with a big smile on her face, plugging a bottle containing a purple-colored medicine to the IV the child had in his arm.

"Thanks, Becky…" Jerome smiled slightly at her through his tears.

"You know it's a special evening tonight… It's Marc's birthday today… And we have a cake for him with butter cream and chocolate frosting… Who is the child in this hospital who'll have the biggest slice?"

The child smiled a bit at that. "I have a present for Marc," he said in a weak voice, sniffling again, but trying to smile wider this time.

"How can such a small boy know about everything that is happening in this hospital is a real mystery! When are you going to tell me your secret?"

The child looked at his mother while the nurse tested is pulse then smiled. He whispered, bending close to Becky. "I'm the best investigative reporter in the world's son!" The nurse smiled back at him, then she turned toward the man in the room.

Clark looked almost amazed at the way the youngster was behaving with the nurse. He was a nice child, and the nurse seemed to really take care of him. The way she was smiling at him wasn't the normal, formal smile nurses usually have for their patients but it was sincere and honest, and maybe a little worried too. Clark noticed also that she had the medicine already in the child's room, and that wasn't the usual way things were done to the best of his knowledge.

Jerome… my second name… he could almost be my son… we could have been a family… if it could just be the truth!!! If Lois had just never married that monster … He knew however, that Jerome wasn't his son. He remembered the day he was watching the TV and heard the news that she'd had a baby. That same day he understood. Jerome *couldn't* be his son. Even so, with the boy being named Jerome, it did make him wonder. He debated with himself as to whether he should ask as it looked like Lois had named her son after him but why would she do that? He decided that now was not the time for that conversation, he'd wait for a more appropriate time.

The boy had the same coloring as Lois, dark eyes and hair. But his skin was a lot more pale. He had a tired gaze, but from the way he joked with the nurse, he seemed very smart. He also had Lois' smile and his eyes were so familiar, but Clark wasn't able to fully focus on who they reminded him of.

"OK then, I'll tell Marc to bring you some cake, so you can give him the present. So, my little boy, I'll be back to check on you later." Becky was almost out the door when she turned again. "Oh, I almost forgot. Sammy is coming with her father tomorrow. Do you think you'll be able to play with her?"

Clark saw Lois try to hide a smile.

"Sure!! I'll be better tomorrow!" The child was once again sitting up in bed. His eyes were sparkling.

"Fine!" Becky answered, walking out of the room.

Lois' smile slowly vanished, she brushed the last traces of tears from her son's cheek "Jerome, why did you say you were sorry? What happened?"

The boy lowered his head. "Because it was true… I'm sorry, Mom… I didn't mean to call Becky while you were still here…" Clark noticed how tightly the child was holding the blanket in his fists, while Lois kept staring at his face.

"You mean you waited until you thought I'd left?" The child nodded. "Why, Honey?"

Clark noticed that she'd used the same word for the child as he'd used with her just minutes ago…and the same thing he'd called her the last time they'd met…so long ago.

'Don't start to think about that now, Clark… it's not the time… She doesn't need more stress than she already has… not now, not here.'

Lois saw tears again in her son's eyes. She held his hand and kissed it. "Jerome, why?" she almost whispered.

"I know you are tired… too tired… I didn't let you sleep last night… even if I knew you were tired… and today you were here all day… And I heard the doctor say you need to rest too… that you are going to get sick if you don't… so… I tried…" The tears again rolled down on his cheeks uncontrolled. "But it hurt so much… I tried… I tried…" Lois held her son tightly, caressing his hair and kissing his forehead.]

"Ssssshhh, no Honey, don't cry… I'm your mom, you don't have to worry about me… I'm big and strong, I'm not that tired. And I'm not going to let myself get sick. The doctor just wanted to scare me a bit so I'd rest a little more… he wasn't serious. I'm fine, trust me, a shower and some food will fix me right up!"

The child moved a couple of inches from his mother's chest, in order to be able to stare her right into her eyes. "Really?"

"Really! So don't worry. And Jerome… when something scares you… like this, it wouldn't hurt if you talked with somebody about it. Don't keep it all inside yourself, I'm your mom… I'm here to help…"

"You're better then Superman, Mom!" Lois laughed at this. How her son was still able to make her smile was a real mystery. With all the fear, with all the pain they both were living through, Jerome was still able to change her mood, almost the same way Clark used to when they worked for the Planet.

Sometimes the world was so strange. Her son, the person she loved most in the whole universe, was so similar to Clark Kent, the only man who'd ever really loved her, than his own father. This was the only thing Lois thanked God for every day.

Clark couldn't take his eyes off them. It was so painful: this little boy seemed be so sensitive, so caring. He wondered how the devil's son could be so sweet. Clark watched him cry, apologizing for not being able to wait until his mother had left before giving in to the pain and calling for the nurse, he never thought so young a child could be so caring towards an adult.

In his other job as Superman, Clark had seen a lot of people in pain. Most of them were very self-absorbed. They usually didn't think about the people around them. However, this little boy was teaching him a lot about unselfishness, a lesson he seemed to have forgotten himself lately.

He had to do something, no matter how painful it was for him, that didn't matter…he had to help them. He *had* to. He turned to look away from the child and for the first time noticed the room around them. There were two beds in the room, but only one of them was occupied. Scattered on a little table, there were lots of books for children and some newspapers. It seemed strange, usually in a child's bedroom there were full of toys…kids play a lot…but not here. Clark guessed the child was probably too weak to play. He didn't know why but he felt Lois usually read the books to him and that formed the boy's entertainment here.

He focused next on the newspapers: most of them were old copies of the Daily Planet. Clark also noticed that most of them were dated from the time he worked at the newspaper. There were a lot of Superman interviews, a few of those were with his and Lois' byline and some of hers alone but also some he'd written without his partner. There were also copies of the Post, the ones containing the articles which had garnered him his two awards. Then, with real amazement, he saw a copy of his book. That was really the biggest surprise. He'd never thought that Lois would read that. It had never occurred to him that Lois would have thought of him once in the past eight and a half years.

"Hey, Honey… stop crying now! It's all over, come on… hey…" Lois said kindly. The child nodded, wiping his tears. "I have someone to introduce to you. You've asked me about him so many times, I want… I'm really happy to introduce Clark *Jerome* Kent…"

"The One? The friend of yours?" Lois smiled at him, looking toward Clark. She nodded.

"Yep…"

The child yawned, the medicine had started to take effect. "I wanted to meet you for a long time." he smiled weakly. "I like your book, Mr. Kent. Will you write another one soon?" Clark smiled.

"I hope so."

"Cool… I hope Mom will read it to me." He yawned again but he smiled toward Clark. "I like your characters… and I like the way you write them. It's the best one I've read in my whole life…well I haven't read many books…but I'm happy Mom read me yours…"

"Thanks." Clark smiled, a little embarrassed. "I'm glad you liked it."

The boy turned on his side. "But next time, please, write a happy ending." Clark smiled again.

"Sweet dreams, Honey" Lois whispered kissing his head.

"You too, mom… Goodnight, Mr. Kent."

"'night, Jerome."

Lois started to sing him a lullaby. It was probably one of the saddest things he'd ever seen in all his life. It reminded him of some mothers he'd met during his time as Superman, the ones he'd met after accidents or earthquakes. Mothers that faced the deaths of their children. He never would be ready to face that. Never.

Clark was silent as he stared at them. It hurt so much looking at his life's love in pain for her child, it was a lot more painful than the other times when the mothers were strangers to him, and in that instant all the pain he'd felt during these past eight years seemed to vanish in a moment…She didn't deserve this… Nobody deserved this.

***

Lois and Clark walked silently out the room and Lois closed the door behind her, leaving just a couple of inches open in order to be able to check on her son. She gave him a last long glance before turning toward Clark again. There was such sadness in her eyes. Clark wondered how she was able to smile at him, when she looked toward her ex-best friend. Okay it was a very sad smile, but it was a smile nonetheless and Clark was glad of it.

She let herself sit on one of the chairs in the corridor.

She closed her eyes for a moment, taking a deep breath. Clark, a little hesitant, took her hand into his. "How are you feeling, Lois?"

She seemed unable to look at him. She was staring at his hand, and the sweet way he was caressing her own. "I'm so glad you are here… That you don't hate me… I know I'm feeling so selfish but I need a friend so much…" She looked deep into deep eyes with an honesty and a need Clark had never seen in her before. "Please, Clark… be my best friend again." Her tone was calm and she almost whispered, Clark felt all the loneliness, the fear and the pain that she was forced to hide from the world.

"I always wanted to be your best your best friend… even when you didn't want me…" This time he whispered without looking at her.

Lois stared at him intensely. It was a long, silent moment. He seemed not to be able to look at her. She seemed not to be able to move her gaze from him. Only when Clark slowly raised his head and met her gaze did she smile and, holding his hand tightly, said, "How could I survive all this time without you?"

Clark smiled and Lois remembered so clearly why she found his grin irresistible. "That's the cutest thing you never said to me… you know that?"

"I know I've already said this, but… I've missed you so much!" Lois moved forward a bit as if to embrace him, but then she stopped. Her mind was screaming: if you hold him again… you never will be able to let him go. Don't do that, Lois. He doesn't deserve to go through this once again, and your heart will never be able to bear it again. You've made him suffer so much… he never deserved that.

"You have no clue how happy I am about this… I mean that you miss me, that we met again, even if it is in this awful place. But it's late now… I mean … Your husband will probably be here in a few minutes and I really don't want to meet him." All of this seemed so painfully like dj vu. It hurt them both so much. Lois' expression changed in a way he wasn't able to decipher. Even her tone changed when she spoke.

"That won't happen… it probably wouldn't happen even if you stayed here for a month." There was something in her eyes, something so close to hate. She took a deep breath, trying to regain her self-control. "He usually just says he hates hospitals, that he can't stand to see Jerome in pain but I think he hates all this… he hates that I spend all my time with Jerome, instead of accompanying him to his stupid parties… can someone be jealous of his own son? It's… awful!"

"Are you going through all this, alone?!" She slowly nodded, then she stopped, raised her head, and smiling sadly added, "I'm not alone… I've got Jerome with me… he is my strength… he's the only reason I get up in the morning."

Clark was silent for a moment. He could barely believe that she was *so* alone. "I like him, even if I've just met him."

"I think he likes you too… He seemed be happy… He told me that I should call you… but… but… I…"

"I know…" he whispered. "I know…"

"Clark, I wanted so badly for him to be your son… When I found myself pregnant… I cried… but the doctor said the baby was too far along to be yours…he was only born six months after… he was only born six months after… after that night…" Clark saw the tears sparking again in her eyes. With a great effort Lois closed them and pushed the tears back. "Jerome is so nice, luckily he doesn't seem to take after his father … not physically nor in his character… I guess your name helped him… He's good, and strong and brave, braver than me… He cares about people almost as much as you do…"

There was a long moment of silence again.

"Then he was why you didn't leave Lex?" She nodded slowly.

"Don't blame Jerome, I'm the one who made the mistake… I hurt you so badly… I'm so sorry." Clark saw seeing her tremble as much he heard it in her voice.

Lois didn't see him smile sadly at her words. He'd never thought to blame the baby, and now he couldn't even blame her either. He realized that the situation had been as painful for her as it was for him. So, instead of continuing with the topic, he suddenly asked again, "Lois, how are you, really?"

She thought about her answer very carefully. "I really don't know, I guess I haven't had the time to think about me. I still miss the Planet, and all my old friends… and you above all. I left my job at LNN two year ago, when Jerome fell sick. And now I practically live here. I go home only to get a change of clothes… I guess it's been three months since the last time I saw my… Lex… but I really don't care about him… He has some new girlfriends with him…"

Clark's hand moved on her arm in order to give her a sort of comfort and Lois smiled at this taking his hand in hers. "Lois…"

"No, it's okay. I *really* don't care. It means he stays away from us. He scares me and Jerome too. He's dangerous… I guess… well I guess you were completely right about him. I'm sorry I didn't listen to you."

"I stopped my battle against Luthor a lot of time ago, Lois," he said calmly.

"Why? You were right…"

"But you were… are his wife! If he falls, you'll fall with him. And I can't do that to you!" There was such an undertone in this words. An undertone of pain and friendship and respect and love.

"How blind was I?" She covered her face with her hands, trying to push away the tears again.

"Lois, please, I don't want to speak about that… not now!"

"I'm so sorry, Clark."

Clark moved toward her and then he took Lois into his arms, holding her tightly. He felt her tears rolling down her cheeks and they were so hot against his neck. Again the memories filled his head, her soft scent was still so familiar to him. To feel her curves pressed against his chest was the most exquisite torture he'd felt in his life, and again he felt her hold him with all her strength.

They stayed holding each other for long minutes, even after Lois stopped crying. Her breath still trembled. It was quite late, outside it was already dark. "Lois, I know you are tired… why don't you try to sleep a while?"

"I can't… I'd have to go home. I need to get some clean pjs for Jerome… and I need a shower… but… how can I? Jerome is in pain and…I don't want to leave him alone. I don't want…"

"Don't worry about that… I have the evening free, I'll stay here with him. He's sleeping now, so, like I said, don't worry. Take all the time you need…" Clark saw her lip tremble, tears were again glowing into her eyes. "Stop crying, Lois. This isn't the Lois Lane I lo… I knew. You are strong…you told Jerome so, didn't you?"

She slowly moved against his body, this time without embracing him, simply leaning against his chest. "It's so good have you here, again."

"It's good be back. Now you go… Jerome will be fine," he said. He kissed her on the cheek and went into her son's room.

***

Clark walked into Jerome's room slowly. He left the door open so the light could enter. It was already night. He leaned against the little table that was near the window. He was able to see Lois enter her Jeep. He wondered why Lois still had that car. The last time he'd seen her in Metropolis she was driving a cabriolet Lex had bought for her. Clark noticed also that she had some problem before the engine started. He smiled. The richest man in world's wife was driving a car that needed a junk yard more than a mechanic. There were so many strange things around here.

As he was still looking out the window he caught the sound of Jerome's name being spoken out in the hall. Even though he didn't usually listen in he thought this time it might be all right. Although Clark knew that Lois couldn't have heard the words of the nurse back in that corridor he could hear them well enough. And they hurt him.

He heard Becky, the nurse who'd assisted Jerome minutes earlier, talking, almost threatening, a man who Clark assumed to be a security guard, given the tone and content of his responses. He wanted Clark to leave. It was too late. No visitors were allowed.

Becky stopped him. "Don't you dare to do that!! I'm never going to bring you another piece of my apple pie if you do! It's the first time in almost two years there is someone with Lois!"

"But the regulations…"

"I don't care about that! I'll take responsibility. Don't you understand? She is losing her son and no one seems to care about that."

"Jerome is that bad?" Clark then heard the guard curse. "He's the only one able to make Doctor McDaw laugh. McDaw seemed almost human with Jerome!" he added sadly.

"I wonder where in hell his father is! That bast… Poor Lois. I'm glad this guy is with her. Finally someone who cares about her!" She probably smiled because her tone softened a little more "They look so cute together… don't they?"

"You've got them married already?"

"Silly! Of course not, but at least he is here… where is her family?"

Good question, Clark thought. Where was her family? Where was her husband? Where were her parents… her father was a doctor… maybe he could help her!

The rage was growing in Clark. How could all of the people important to Lois leave her to deal with her son's death all alone?

He couldn't allow that! *He* would be with her. From this moment she would never be alone again. Especially now that he understood why Lois had acted as she had. He decided it didn't matter about his own pain. He would be there for her.

***

Jerome moaned in his sleep. Clark was beside him in a flash. Clark started to speak him very softly, caressing his head, while the child moaned again. He was probably having a nightmare. Clark took his hand in order to comfort him, continuing to speak to him in a reassuring way.

Clark felt conflicted, he should hate this child. This child was why Lois and he were not together. He was why Lois decided to stay with her husband. Clark should have hated him a lot more than he hated Lois, but he simply couldn't. Jerome was Lois' child, he was part of her. He was the person Lois loved most in the world. From the way Becky and the security guard spoke about him it was clear he was quite beloved by the hospital staff and not just Lois.

But then why they were alone?

The child squeezed his hand before awaking. Jerome felt the big hand that was holding his own. That wasn't his mother's hand. He suddenly opened his eyes, staring at Clark with an almost terrified gaze.

"Hi…"

"Hi… bad dream?"

The child nodded.

"Did Mom go home?"

This time Clark nodded.

"She'll be back soon…"

The child smiled.

"I know, she always comes back soon." They were silent for some moments. Both of them noticed that they were still holding hands, but neither of them released their grip.

"About you book… I really liked it… But… can I ask you something?" The child seemed quite unsure.

"Shoot!"

"Well… did you write about my Mom?" This was definitely Lois' child. Only a boy with Mad Dog Lane's genes would ask a question like that.

"No… I mean … no… It wasn't about Lois."

Jerome laughed. "You not a very good liar!" He kept laughing and an embarrassed Clark smiled at the child.

"Why did you think that? I mean about Lois." Clark wondered how this child would have been able to guess that. It was very improbable that Lois had told him. So how?

"Well, Mom seems a lot like this Lara Laterpoff, the way you described her and the way she acts. Mom is used to doing things before she thinks about them too, sometimes. And she pretends to be tougher and stronger than she is… like she was tonight. But it wasn't just that. We've read it three times, but the first time she read me your book I was a lot sicker than I am now and I couldn't do much more than lie in bed all day. So she used to read me a lot of stuff. One day she came in with this book. She said a friend of hers had written it. She asked me if she could read it to me. And that was strange. She never has to ask, because she knows what I like in books. I noticed that her hands were shaking as she opened the book. Then she read almost all of it with a sad smile on her face. And her voice broke badly sometimes. And sometimes she stopped reading, making some excuse. So I figured she was remembering something."

Clark was completely amazed. For a moment he thought that there might be another Mad Dog Reporter in the Lane family someday. This boy seemed have to inherited all the talent of his mother. It was almost incredible that so young a child had such ability to understand others.

The child stopped a moment, staring at Clark before adding, "Mom said you traveled a lot."

"That's true."

Jerome bit his lip. "Did you ever see a tiger? I saw one once, at the zoo, but it was sleeping…" Clark smiled.

"Yep, I've seen a tiger and lions too…"

"Wow!" The child paused. "I'd like to be a tiger…" He almost whispered.

"Why?"

"To help Mom!" he proclaimed with decision.

"Why? Your Mom needs help?"

Jerome simply nodded. The little child was so serious. Clark saw him yawn one moment later.

"Will you try to help my mom?" Clark smiled.

"Yes, I'll try to help her." Jerome squeezed his hand more tightly.

"Promise?"

"Yeah, I promise." The boy smiled at him before yawning again. "Now try to sleep… It's late."

The child nodded again and he turned on his side, still holding Clark's hand.

"Clark?"

"What?!"

Jerome raised his head in order to look at him better. "Will you come visit me again?" Clark smiled again. This kid was irresistible!

"Sure… If you want…"

"I'd like that," he said yawning, then mumbling added, "Mom was so happy you were here…" Then he slipped into a peaceful sleep, feeling the warmth of Clark's presence near him.

***

Lois almost tiptoed into the room. Clark was sitting near the child and he was caressing his face.

"You didn't leave!" she said with wonder.

"I promised you."

"I… I'm a little late… I took a bath and I fell asleep in the bathtub … I'm sorry." Lois was clearly embarrassed but Clark simply smiled.

"Jerome had a nightmare, but he's fine now."

"Again?!" Lois sighed, and Clark looked toward her again. "He has nightmares over and over. I don't know why… and he refuses to tell me what scares him so much. I guess he's afraid about… you know… this…" She pointed at her son. Clark nodded.

"He asked me to come again… May I?" Clark was quite insecure.

"Of course you may!" she answered without thinking. "I mean, you can come back whenever you want."

Clark moved toward her. "It's pretty late, Lois, go to sleep, Jerome will be fine." She nodded sadly.

"See you tomorrow?" Clark saw her eyes sparkle.

"Tomorrow," she repeated. "Clark… Thanks so much…"

"Goodnight, Lois."

"Goodnight Clark." she whispered. She stared for a long time at the door after it had closed.

Clark walked slowly towards the door of the stairwell, then when he closed it behind him he flew up to the roof even faster than usual. He didn't know why, but instead of going home, he flew towards the window of Jerome's room. He avoided the usual sonic boom he made when he moved as Superman so as not to alarm anyone. For some unknown reason he felt like he had to see Lois again before leaving.

Lois was still there, staring the door. He saw her tremble. She wasn't crying, just trembling so much, so badly. Her arms were holding herself defensively.

Clark was tempted to run back and hold her tightly, warm her with all the love he could give her. She needed so much from him. Probably she had never needed anyone as much as she did now.

Then Lois moved slowly, she walked toward Jerome's bed and kissed his head lightly. Clark smiled. His mother had done the same thing when he was a child.

"I love you, Jerome," she whispered to her baby. Then she took the blanket that was on the chair near the bed and wrapped herself in it. She picked up a notebook and after a few moments she started to write. Clark saw a trace of a smile on her face.

Then, silently, he flew away.

Clark closed the door carelessly behind him. He hadn't felt this way in a long time. His head was messed up. He wanted to fly to Lois, be near her, and yet get as far away from her as he could, all in the same moment. He felt so happy to have seen her again and so deep a pain for her, and for her son. He felt such a wide range of emotions, because Lois was alone and no one was close to her. Right then she needed her family, her parents, her sister, the monster she had married… yet all the people she needed had abandoned her. Becky's words were impressed in his mind as though they were branded there in fire.

At the sound of the door, Martha came out of the kitchen.

"Clark… You are late… What's …" She paused.

The expression her son had printed on his face was different from usual. There was a lot of pain but also a peace she barely remembered in his gaze. It was as though her son had started to live his life completely again. But still this deep sadness made her worry.

"Clark," she called him again with a worried tone. "Sweetie, what's happened?"

Her son looked at her without the strength to answer. After some seconds he moved his gaze away from hers.

"I saw her," he simply said.

Martha smiled lightly. Of course, there was only one person able to make Clark lose his equilibrium like this.

"Lois?" It was enough to breathe this name. Her son stared at her again. He nodded after a couple of moments.

Lois. Lois Lane. A name almost taboo in this house. It had been so long since Clark had pronounced it. Even now he didn't. But it had never stopped hurting her son.

"Oh, Clark…" For a moment Martha wondered how to respond, looking at her son collapsed on the couch. She had always wondered about Lois' reasoning. She had liked that girl since the first time Clark had spoken about her. But Lois had hurt her family so much. Martha didn't know if she was ready to forgive her all that pain.

Clark's voice trembled as he added, "Her son is ill… he's dying." He looked into the horrified gaze of his mother. He knew what she'd been thinking a moment ago, he had seen it in the way that her jaw had contracted.

"Oh my god!"

"And she is still so beautiful, but so pale and thin and tired… And Jerome is so cute.

A doubt sparked in Martha's head. Was it possible?

"Jerome?"

"She named him after me." The smile on her son was so sad. She wondered what she could do. But there was nothing she could.

"Sweetie, do you wanna talk about that?" Martha was now just a few inches from her son. She put her hand on his shoulder. Clark looked at her for a moment, then he lowered his head.

"No." But as he usually did he paused for a moment and then he started. "We simply talked a lot, a couple of hours I guess."

"And?" Martha knew it was so hard for her son. But she also knew he needed to talk about it. He'd tried to forget Lois and all the things she had meant to him so long ago. The last time she could remember he'd mentioned Lois was when he'd written his book. He'd never admitted it, but she was sure it had been dedicated to Lois.

"And she talked about *him*." The disgust in his voice made it easy to understand who the 'him' was. "He doesn't care about her or the child… He's still betraying her, just like he always did." He paused, looking his mother's eyes. "Mom, she is so alone… I don't know how she can bear this! She's lost contact with Perry and Jimmy years ago… Lucy is now a doctor like their father and she is working with him in Europe… her mother is with them too." He paused again.

"And you? What about you?"

"Well… when I heard her voice in the hospital, I wanted to run away… but you know… I… Well you know what I feel for her…"

"In spite of all you went through?" Clark closed his eyes breathing deeply. All the memories ran in his head like a river rushing to meet the ocean.

/*/

It was early afternoon. Clark was leaning up against the elevator wall reading his newspaper. Even without using superpowers he read it in a flash. Again no interesting news.

The elevator stopped at the seventh floor. The elderly couple sharing his journey went out and Clark heard someone enter, almost running, just before the door closed. He gave a quick glance at the brunette woman in front of him. She had her back to him, but she looked like his former partner. This woman had her hair a little shorter but she was so much… "Lois?" he whispered with wonder.

The woman turned suddenly. "Clark?"

She seemed to have forgotten their last encounter, almost a year before, a few days before her wedding. She hugged him before thinking about what she was doing. When she realized, she stepped back.

"Sorry…" she apologized. But the look on Clark's face made her stop being embarrassed. He was happy! He was happy to see her again.

"Lois…" he said again, this time with a big smile and sparking eyes.

"What are you doing here?" she almost yelled.

"The awards…" Clark was at a loss for words. He was barely able to breathe again.

"Are you a nominee?"

He nodded. "You too?"

"No, this year I'm awarding one of the prizes … I'm not in the running any more. TV reporters have a separate category," she said, with a disappointed tone in her voice.

"That means I'll have some chance of winning if you're not in the running!" he joked.

She pointed at his chest with her right index finger. "YOU won my Kerth last year! I'm not going to forgive you!" Clark laughed, then the sudden shift of the elevator almost made them lose their equilibrium. Only Clark's hand stopped her from falling.

"What…" The lights in the elevator had gone out. Lois froze.

"I guess there's a blackout." Clark rested his hand on Lois' arm. "It's nothing, Lois." In the same moment the emergency light switched on. It was a dim light, but it wasn't dark any more, at least.

Lois started to hit the elevator door, calling for help. They were alone there. She kept yelling until someone answered that 911 had been called and that they were coming soon.

"What are we going to do?" Lois stared at Clark, almost as though he had the solution to get them out of there.

"Wait?" His voice was doubtful, he knew Lois wasn't going to appreciate his idea.

"Clark!" Lois' tone was almost scandalized.

"Well, the only other choice is to try and climb out. But even if I decided to do it…"

"It's dangerous! No… I'm not going to let you do it!" Lois said, grabbing his sleeve as though she wanted to stop him.

"So? What do you want to do?" Clark had a satisfied smile on his face.

"Okay, we wait, together!" Clark wasn't able to decipher her tone.

Lois saw him sit on the floor and she did the same.

An uneasy silence fell.

Clark could hear her heart beating furiously. "So… how are you?" he said after a long pause.

"I still miss the Planet so much!" she said softly.

His voice became a whisper. "Me too…"

"But I'm fine." Clark didn't know why but he was sure she was lying.

"Well, I'm glad about that."

Silence again.

Then Lois remembered something.

"Where are you working? I've been keeping an eye out for your articles, but…"

"I'm not working for a newspaper… I'm working freelance. I don't want work for any paper but The Daily Planet." His tone was so sure, so firm. Lois felt a deep pain for him, for her. For what they'd missed. The Planet had been her home and her family since she'd left school. Clark had been there for less than a year and yet he loved the place as if it had closed just the day before.

"Clark… I know how much you loved it… I loved it too! But…"

"Don't say it… please… Don't say…" Lois smiled sadly, caressing his face without saying anything.

"Lois, sooner or later the Daily Planet will be back! I don't know how, but… I'm sure of it!" She didn't remember Clark being quite so optimistic.

Silence fell again in the elevator.

"How are your parents?"

"They are fine… sure… they are fine…" Silence again.

After a long while Lois looked at him. "Clark why is this so difficult? I know that I missed you so much… I missed your stupid teasing! I miss my partner!"

Clark smiled at her. "My teasing wasn't stupid!" he said teasingly.

"It was. But I miss it anyway." She moved toward him in order to hug him again, unsure if she were allowed to do it. Clark realized it and took her into his arms.

"I miss you too… Lois… "

They held each other for a long while, until a voice from outside brought them back to reality.

"Hey! We're opening the doors!"

"It's about time!" Lois cried in answer. Then she looked at Clark and realized that this wasn't being kind to him. "I didn't mean… I mean… I'm so happy we talked… but…"

"I know… I understood what you meant…" he said calmly.

"Yes… but … I didn't …" Lois seemed panicked.

"Lois… Calm down!" He smiled her and she smiled back.

"Clark… do you have plans for dinner? We can have lunch together… if you want…" Lois was a little embarrassed and excited at the same time. She only knew she'd love to spend an evening with her former partner.

"Sure…" Then he stopped. Luthor. He couldn't bear the thought of being near him. "No, sorry, I can't."

"Oh…" Lois lowered her head. "I understand… you have other plans…" He simply nodded.

Clark helped her out of the elevator. It had stopped shy of the floor and she needed a little push in order to exit from it.

Lois waited until he was out too. Then she looked at him sadly and added, "Now, are we going back to not talking to each other?

Clark breathed deeply. "Lois, it's not like that. But… I'm sorry, I don't want to see Luthor. Please… try to understand…"

"You don't have to meet Lex. I have no idea where he is right now. I haven't seen him in two weeks!"

"What?"

"Yes…" She lowered her head again. "We've been having some problems… but I don't want to talk about Lex now… I want to talk about you… about us… we were friends, Clark… Please, I don't want to lose that again."

"I'm not going to lose your friendship again and I never wanted it to happen … Is that invitation for dinner still available?"

"Let me check… "Lois was smiling and her eyes was sparkling. "Well the President, Superman and Brad Pitt can't make it tonight… I guess so… "

"Fine. Right now, I should get to work…"

"And I've got a run-through to do before the show."

"So we are going to meet after the show?"

"Sure… I'll try looking for you… or else we can meet at the bar. It's late… I must go…"

"Go… and have fun…"

"You too…" She turned to run away but she stopped and turned toward him again. "It's good have you here again."

"It's good be here again."

She smiled at him, and ran away.

***

"Mrs. Luthor, would you read the winner please?"

She smiled, extracting the blue card from it. "Certainly… and the winner is…" Lois looked at the card and made a big smile. She seemed a little nervous but very happy. "Clark Kent!"

Clark needed few seconds in order to go up the stage. A light pointed towards him.

Lois was staring at him with such a happy expression on her face. For a moment she forgot about the audience and everything else around her. She was as happy as she would have been had she been the winner. She knew he deserved this award. She'd always loved the way he wrote, his style and his way of constructing an article. He was so objective and at the same time so passionate. She'd always wondered how he was able to be so balanced in his writing.

Clark was now just a few steps away. She smiled even more. Lois handed him the award, kissing him quickly on the cheek but her eyes were smiling. They were shining, and Clark thought they would light the room.

As she kissed him on his cheek, she whispered into his ear, "Congrats, partner, you deserved it." Then she stepped back, leaving him alone on stage to face the microphone and the enthusiastic audience.

Clark looked at the award for a moment, then his gaze drifted towards the people down in the reception hall.

"Thanks… I really don't know what to say… I just want to thank my editors and all the people I work and have worked with. But I want to say a special thanks to the best Editor-in-Chief, Perry White, and to the greatest reporter I've ever known, Lois Lane… for what they taught me… and… Yes, of course, I want thank my parents too… the best parents I could have wished for. Thanks very much."

The crowd applauded warmly, especially at the mention of Perry White and Lois Lane. The applause was partly for Clark and partly in memory of the Daily Planet, the greatest loss the journalistic world had suffered this century.

Lois was trying all she could to hold back her tears. She breathed deeply, smiling at him as they left the stage together, until the crowd forced them apart.

They were unable to meet up again for almost two hours. Clark was interviewed by most of the journalists there which gave him the chance to speak about the Daily Planet again.

One of the people who interviewed him was his new friend, Megan Wesley. She worked for the "Post", the newspaper where Clark had published the article which had won him the award tonight. They were quite close. He almost saw her as his little sister. Clark had taught her some tricks of the trade when she was first starting out. She was a very nice person and Megan seemed believe in journalism in almost a religious way. She truly believed that a journalist could change the world.

"One journalist can make a difference. You don't have to be Superman to make a difference."

This simple statement almost made him faint. It was a concept so close to Lois' when Luthor had tested him. This made Clark lower the walls he was used to building around himself after he left the Planet, hiding away from his colleagues. It was the start of a friendship.

Megan asked him if he was aware that Superman had paid for a lawyer for Jack, the person accused of bombing the Daily Planet.

"I know, and I completely agree with that. I know Jack. He was innocent. I'm glad the judge and jury made the right decision."

"But the guy escaped from prison!"

"I know that too. But he wasn't safe in jail, and the judge made him pay for that"

"You know the judge is dead, now?" Clark stared her in disbelief.

"No, I didn't know that! I'm really sorry! When?"

"He died just a few weeks ago. I know this because my cousin worked for his wife, as a secretary. He was killed… The police are at a dead end with the investigation. Clark, if you from hear Jack… tell him to be careful."

Clark smiled at her. She was such a nice person. She cared about Jack even though she had never met him.

"I'll tell him. And Megan? Thanks for letting me know."

"It's okay, Clark. Ah, and Clark… I'm single again, and you were right that… rat wasn't the right man for me."

"Hey, I'm sure you'll find someone right for you! You're still so young! Megan, you have to at least wait 'til the end of your teenage years before considering yourself hopeless!" he joked. She smiled at him.

"Okay but, big bro, don't you have anyone to introduce me to?"

Clark burst into fits of laughter.

"You know, as soon as I meet someone right for you, I'll let you know!"

He was still laughing when almost without realizing it he turned his head towards the bar.

Lois was sitting there, and suddenly his expression changed. He didn't realize it but he stared her for a few seconds. He found himself back in reality the moment Megan put her hand on his arm, calling his name with a shy smile on her face. "Clark… go! I can survive a night without my big brother! Besides I already saw a cute guy…" She stopped again for a moment, then she added, "Go on, run! You've already taken care of your duties as a winner. And she is waiting," she added, almost whispering.

"I chose a really wise little sister!"

"I know, I'm almost perfect!" she said grinning at him, while still walking away.

Clark had the feeling he was walking towards paradise. His mind kept repeating that he and Lois were just friends. Heck, she was married! But his heart was screaming the happiness he knew Lois would bring him. He wanted to spend an evening with the woman he loved.

"Hey," he greeted her.

"Hey…" she replied, unsure of what to say.

"How about we leave this place and go get something to eat? I'm starving!"

Clark saw Lois' eyes widen at this offer. He knew she wouldn't be able to resist.

"I'd love it! I'm starting to hate this place!"

***

They were able to leave the award party pretty quickly.

Clark knew Los Angeles quite well. He often went there, as part of his job and because of his Superman duties. Lately, he had especially been trying to avoid Metropolis as much as he possibly could. Metropolis was starting to be much quieter lately, and it wasn't a good sign. Clark was very sure it was because Luthor was starting to gain more and more power in the town. But he decided that he had to avoid his hatred of the man who had married Lois, the woman Clark loved. She was too close to him. Everything that was going to happen to Luthor would affect Lois.

Lois!

Lois was now walking near him, as if the time wasn't passing, as if it stood still just for them.

All his thoughts were interrupted when he felt Lois's arm slip into his. He turned to look at her and she was smiling, a sweet smile that melted his heart.

Clark couldn't remember the last time he'd felt his heart pump so furiously. He guessed his body had forgotten the emotions her body was able to make him feel. That warm feeling he had been sure he had lost forever, the way her body pressed itself up against his. How he'd been able to survive all this time without seeing her was a mystery.

"It's a little cold, and…" She seemed to be justifying her gesture; she had probably made it without thinking clearly.

"Yeah, sorry. I didn't think about that. We can go back…"

Lois shook her head, indicating that she was fine.

"Then put this on please. I don't want you to get cold."

Clark slipped out of his jacket and put it over her shoulders. While he did it, he was rather amazing to hear her heart thudding furiously inside her chest.

"Thanks…" she whispered, almost inaudible.

"We are almost there now. The place is just around this next corner."

The restaurant Clark had chosen was a small one, not far away from the hotel. He knew it was a nice quiet place. There were never too many people there this time of night, and the food was good. Just the right place to talk with Lois.

And in fact they talked for most of the evening, sharing memories but mostly talking about themselves in a way they never had before. It was as though they had become closer to each other, even when they were miles apart. It was the strangest sensation.

"How is your life now? Are you happy, Lois? Really happy?"

Lois stared at Clark for a long time, considering the brutality of his question. She needed time to answer.

"It's difficult," was her only reply.

She moved her gaze away in the same way she used to do when she wanted to avoid answering Clark's questions.

"I guess you know if you are happy. Are you happier now than when you were at the Planet? Or do you miss it terribly? Come on Lois. Are you really happy?" He spoke calmly, so not to pressure her into telling him too many things at once. The last thing he wanted was to scare her away.

"I never will be happier than I was at the Planet," she admitted, to Clark and to herself. Clark took her hand, and asked again.

"Lois, I need to know. How are you really? No fronts, no fake toughness, because you should know by now that I can see right through it. How are you, really?"

He saw a tear shine in her eye before Lois closed them, obviously not wanting him to see her cry.

Then she breathed deeply.

"I guess I'm not… "

"I understood that when I met you in the elevator earlier. You were lying when you said you were fine."

She wondered how Clark had always been able to understand every emotion she was feeling.

"You still know me so well…" she said, her voice trembling.

"Of course I do!" Clark was the first to be surprised about the abruptness in his tone.

She smiled her soft little smile, and he smiled back at her, reminding her just how sweet Clark Kent could be.

"Do you want to talk about it?" he asked softly.

"Are you sure you want me to?" Lois was doubtful.

"Lois, I still want to take care of you. Don't worry, I want to know what is going on in my friend's life!"

"Well, I haven't a clue where to start…" She was embarrassed for a moment, and left gaps of silence. But soon, she started to speak…

"Lex wanted me to leave work. That's why we fought two weeks ago. Journalism is my life."

"I know, and you are the best at it!"

"LNN stopped me from taking any risks. I can go out for stories, but I haven't been in danger. I thrive on danger! I can't do any investigative stories. I had to stay in the newsroom most of the time. Possibly read the news from the studio. News that other people found. I don't want that…"

She was almost whispering by the time she finished. It hurt her so much, to have her life changed like this.

"Change where you work. You can do it! You're still the best around!"

"Clark, who would hire the wife of the third richest man in the world? If Lex doesn't agree, what chances have I got? He is too big an enemy for almost anyone."

Her voice rose suddenly, even though she was not trying to yell. It just hurt so very much…

"Lois…" Clark tried to be the most sympathetic he was able.

"I know, Clark, you told me…" she whispered again.

"Lois! I could never say something like that! You know that!" Clark was horrified. Was she really thinking that he would hurt her like that? It never occurred to him to bring up that argument they had a long time ago, especially now, when she seemed so vulnerable.

"I know, but you were right and I was wrong!"

He was unable to determine if what she was feeling was rage or sadness. Probably both knowing Lois as he did.

"Lois, your life isn't over! You can change it!"

"So I'll have a broken marriage, just like my Mother's…"

"Lois! You aren't your Mother!"

"Really? My husband is married to his work. He betrays me with every slut he can but I have to be his pretty, smiling wife at parties. He wants me because I can talk intelligently with his guests. Because I know how interview people. Because I'm pretty in my long dresses that he bought for me … I want my life back again, Clark. I want to be respected because I'm Lois Lane, not the boss's wife."

Her voice trembled badly, but she made an effort to end her statement. All of her feelings were so mixed up, a whole year without 'Lois Lane'. All she had fought for in her life seemed to have been forgotten by the world. To the world, she was no longer Lois Lane. She was Lois Luthor. And it hurt, especially inside of her.

Clark was holding her hand tightly, and only when she felt the warm wetness on her cheeks did she realize she was crying.

She wiped them away, and smiled sadly at her friend.

"I need to go to the restroom. I'll be back in a moment…"

Ten minutes later, Clark was waiting for her in front of the restroom door. He was able to hear water flowing in the sink, and Lois' breathing. She was only one in the room. He waited another couple of minutes, then he knocked.

"Lois, can I come in?" He slowly opened the door.

She kept staring at the water flowing from the tap, motionless. But, when Clark caressed her hand she turned and threw herself into his arms and she started to sob in the same moment that Clark tightened his arms around her.

"I wish I could help…" he said, wishing he could do something to stop the pain.

She cried wildly, while Clark caressed her hair, whispering nonsense to her. When Lois' sobs calmed down Clark loosened his embrace, keeping her hand in his own.

It meant so much to her that someone wanted to hold her so tightly, so sweetly, so wonderfully. It was as if she was important to someone again, as if her life meant something to someone. It was as though his embrace was warming her heart, and Lois wondered why it was so painful.

"Do you want to back into the hotel?" he asked. She nodded to him.

He accompanied Lois out of the restroom, holding her tightly against his body. She seemed to need help even to stand up.

Lois was silent for all of the brief journey to the hotel. Clark accompanied her to her door. She was pale. He didn't really want to leave her alone.

"Do you want to come in?"

It was a question, but almost a prayer that he would join her, and comfort her.

"Sure… If you aren't too tired." He answered, relieved that she had asked.

"Please," she whispered.

They stayed together for a couple of hours, and Clark was even able to make her laugh a little.

It was almost two o' clock when she yawned. She apologized to Clark, and he smiled at her with his megawatt grin.

"It's late. I'll get going now. See you tomorrow?" he said, approaching the door.

"My flight's at two tomorrow," she said with a sad voice.

"Oh."

For a moment Clark was scared. It couldn't end this way again.

"Clark, we can't lose touch again! Please…" She was almost begging him.

"I don't want to lose you, Lois…" he said, and she smiled with a sweet smile.

"Swear that you'll call me," she whispered.

"Lois, I usually don't swear."

He smiled at her, and kissed her on her forehead. "But I'll promise I'll call you to find out how your journey was, okay?"

She smiled a little, nodding.

"Thanks, Clark. For everything."

"Goodnight, Lois…" he said it as though it was the biggest declaration of love in the world, and in a way it was.

"Night, Clark…" she whispered as Clark walked out the room.

Clark turned towards the door even though it was closed. He was really worried about Lois, so he looked through the wood of the door to check on her one more time.

She leaned against the door, listening to his steps move away. What Clark couldn't know her feelings, her happiness. She had her best friend back again. Probably the only man that really loved her. Probably the only man she had ever really loved.

Her mind and her heart were screaming. She knew she was in love with Clark. Why? Why then had she married Lex? She could remember clearly that Clark was the only one she thought of when she married Lex. She remembered clearly her walking toward her husband-to-be when she realized she was in love with Clark. But it had been too late for her. She hadn't had the courage to stop it. And no one had stopped it for her.

***

Clark was floating a couple of feet above his bed when someone knocked at the door. He almost ran towards it, tripping as he hurried.

There was only one person who used to run to him in the middle of night. But that was such a distant memory.

"Hi… " he said, smiling.

Lois was leaning against the door. She stared at the floor in front of her, not yet being brave enough to speak to him.

Clark brushed her dainty hand and slowly took it into his big one. He raised his other hand to her face, until their gaze met. Lois moved her eyes away from his face, looking yet again at the floor. With a little embarrassment, she realized that he was wearing only his shorts.

"I already miss you," he told her, smiling.

"I miss you too…" Lois whispered. She paused for a moment. "Please… can I stay?" She added this last request in an almost inaudible voice.

As his answer, Clark opened the door wider, but to his amazement, Lois didn't move.

Then he pulled her towards him. A moment later, she was lost in his embrace. Her arms held him with all her might. Clark did the same, kissing her temple.

"I'm here, Lois. I'm here, just for you."

He could hear her breathe deeply. She was trying not to burst into sobs and Clark realized this from the way she was holding him. She never held him in that way. She was holding him… as if he was going to disappear.

He whispered to her, and kissed her temple, trying hard to make her feel better.

"I'm not going to go anywhere, Lois, I'll be here for you… always, and forever."

Lois slowly moved a couple of inches in order to look into his eyes.

They stared at each other for a seemingly endless moment, then slowly their mouths moved closer and closer. Their lips brushed together, lightly. It was explosive but at the same time comforting, they were like fire and gunpowder each combining to create the sense of combustion that they were feeling.

They stared at each other for a seemingly endless moment, then slowly their mouths moved closer and closer. Their lips brushed together, lightly.

They both closed their eyes.

It seemed so right, so perfect.

Their lips caressed again. And their kisses became more passionate.

There was a sense of nothingness around them. Just the two of them, together, as if the world no longer existed. As if they were floating in space. The heat was generated by them, invading them. This kiss was a declaration. Both knew that, more than a thousand words, more than all the promises they could make to each other. It was LOVE. It was the sign, it was the cause, and it was the effect. It was the purpose and the way.

Lois and Clark opened their eyes, staring at each other for a long time. Neither of them spoke.

Lois held him tightly again, and he did the same. Then she started to kiss his chest. Slowly, and with light kisses, while she stretched out, kissing her way up his chest, then his neck, then up to his jawbone.

Clark had never felt so alive in all his life, even in his dreams Lois never affected him in this way.

How they found their way to the bed was really a mystery for both of them. They didn't care about it. They simply cared about the one they were holding and kissing, making sweet love to.

It was only a few hours later, when Lois woke up, that she realized what had really happened. It all seemed like a dream, the most perfect dream she'd ever had in all her life. She never felt so alive, so happy. So… loved.

"Please," she whispered. "Tell me that you are real…" She didn't wait for an answer. Clark was still sleeping… but something in his subconscious seemed to tell him she was speaking to him, so he held her a little more tightly, while Lois hid her face between his shoulder and his neck.

She felt him stretch and smile into her soft hair.

"Hi…" She kissed the man she loved as answer to his nuzzling.

"I never thought it was possible. Not anymore," she added huskily.

"What?"

"To be happy again. For anything to make me feel alive again." She smiled, a little embarrassed.

Clark caressed her cheek, staring at her with a gaze she knew no one had ever looked at her with in her entire life. It was so full of respect and love.

"Lois, have you any idea how long I waited for you?"

"And I seem to be waiting for you forever. I don't want to lose you again… please."

"Lois, I have loved you from the beginning…"

"And I'll love you 'til the end…"

They started to laugh and joke, this had been the best time that each of then had had for a long time. That was a night that they were going to remember for the rest of their lives.

It was late in the morning when both of them were forced to get up. Clark had an interview with all of the other prizewinners scheduled for the first hour in the afternoon.

"I want a divorce from Lex, " she whispered in the same moment that he emerged from the bathroom.

He was already dressed and ready to go. He stared at her for a time before he felt able to speak. Neither of them had used *that* name since they'd come back from the restaurant. Clark needed a couple of seconds to realize that. Lex. He had slept with Lois Lane *Luthor*. He had slept with a married woman. No, he had slept with the only woman he had ever loved, ever wanted to love. But now, reality was crashing back in again.

"Lois… "

She took his hand, holding and kissing it softly.

"I've ruined your marriage! I'm so sorry! I didn't mean to… I just wanted to have my best friend back again!"

"NEVER! It's not your fault. Clark, you are giving me the courage to do it. *I* ruined my marriage, in the same moment I agree to marry someone I was not in love with! I realized I wasn't in love with Lex the morning of my wedding. But I wasn't strong enough to stop it. *I* am the one who's sorry! I made you suffer so much! But if you still want me… I…" she wasn't able to finish her statement. She just sat on the bed, her hand holding the blanket in her fist. She was trembling.

Clark took her into his arms and held her tight. His eyes were squeezed tightly shut.

"Clark, you have no idea what all of this means to me. You are the only one in all my life that has loved me without asking anything in return. But you are different, and I wonder how I even could… Oh, Clark, I'm so sorry!"

Clark smiled against her hair.

"You have to stop saying that! It's not a good way to start," he joked.

"Yeah, I guess you're right." She tried to smile. "If I am quick, I think I'll be able to catch the flight at 2 p.m. I've got all the papers I need. He's going to be back at the end of this week, so I guess I can be free by the middle of next week!"

She was so engrossed in Clark's embrace that she almost didn't realize what the time was. She was shocked when she read the time on the alarm clock display. "Oh my! It's late! You are late! This interview is important for your career! You have to go!"

"I'm not late. I know a lot of short-cuts…"

"You are late! But I'm glad that I was the cause of this."

She grinned, kissing him. "So, I'll go out with you. But I'll push you in the elevator with my own hand," she smiled. "I'm Lois Lane. Don't forget it!"

"How could I forget?"

Clark gave her a light kiss on the lips. Lois went out the door, while Clark closed it behind them. "Are you going to call me when you arrive?" Lois was holding Clark's hand, as if she wasn't going to let him go away.

"Of course!"

The elevator was at their floor in no time. They entered, and when the elevator door re-opened a couple of floors downstairs, Clark was ready to go out.

"Where you are going to go?"

"I always accompany you door to door!"

"Not this time, you are too late!" She gave him a kiss "How can I survive another week without you?"

"You can stay here, and…"

"No. I want to end my… Well you know. I want it to end as soon as possible."

"I understand… But you take care, ok? And if you need me just call me, ok? I'll find a way to be there in a flash!"

"I'll be fine! Don't worry! You take care of yourself. Ok?"

He simply nodded.

"Now you go!" He smiled at her, pushing the elevator button.

"Oh… Clark!"

He turned toward her.

"I love you!" she said as the door slid closed.

/*/

That was the last time he saw her, until that afternoon in the hospital. How much pain, how much hurt…

He wondered how he could survive all of this. All the happiness was suddenly broken only a week later. Lois wasn't going to leave her husband.

"Clark? Hey… are you all right?" Martha understood perfectly what Clark was thinking about.

He smiled silently. "Yeah… Just thinking… I never guessed I could have her back in my life… "

"Are you really sure about this choice?"

"Yeah." he said firmly.

"I'm sure you'll make the right decision. But be careful."

"I always am, Mom."

"Yeah, but when we speaking about her…"

Clark smiled. "True… but this time it will be different."

"I hope, son." Martha kissed him on his forehead. "Do you wanna eat?"

"Mmmm yeah… I'm hungry!"

***

The weeks ran quickly but Jerome seemed to get weaker and weaker. No one seemed to be able to make him feel better. There were days where Jerome could barely open his eyes.

Lois was pale as a ghost. She never left her son. She'd just run home for a change of clothes sometimes. Just to have clean pjs for her son.

She slept very little in the night. The only positive thing was that Clark was with her. She wasn't alone anymore, she didn't have to go through all of this alone. Clark spent every free moment with them and she was really glad about that. Lois couldn't tell him how grateful she was that he was there. It was the hardest moment in all her life. She had to seem stronger than she was. She couldn't let Jerome know how worried she was. She tried to be fun and nice with her son. But it was difficult.

Luckily, all of the nursing staff in the hospital were really helpful. They seemed to have adopted both Lois and Jerome. And not because they were the wife and son of the richest man in the world. But just because they were special, and because they were lonely. And now they seemed really glad to help them. And Lois was sure they hated her husband as much as she did.

***

One evening, Clark came a little later than usual. There had been an accident with a train. No one had died, but Clark had helped to save people trapped in the twisted metal.

It had been so hard. There had been a lot of children crying in the wreckage. An elementary school class near Metropolis that had been on a school trip — a fun outing that had ended in such a scary way. Luckily, they had hadn't been badly hurt, just frightened and shaken up a little.

Clark moved as quickly as he could. He listened to their little hearts running hard with fright. He tried to speak to them, reassuring them, to make them know that they were safe. Superman was helping them. But it hurt to see the fear in their eyes.

After that horror, he flew to Jerome. There was another horror in his life now. To see the son of the woman he loved slowly dying and to be unable to help or do anything to prevent it.

Silently, he went into Jerome's room. The child was sleeping. He seemed to be in so much pain. A dripfeed had been inserted into his arm. Lois had fallen asleep near him. She sat on a chair, her head lying against the mattress. She was holding her child's hand.

Clark smiled sadly. He lifted her into his arms and moved her onto the bed next to Jerome's. Almost incredibly this simple action took more effort than he had expected. He couldn't believe that he wasn't able to carry Lois so short a distance. How could this happen? It couldn't be the effect of the last rescue. He'd only done what he'd been doing for years now…and he had never felt as tired as this before. Never… except for that time in Smallville, a long time ago. There was only one thing in the world able to produce this effect on him: Kryptonite.

He tried looking for the source of the strange effect. It was painful, though not very much, and it made him feel nauseous. He was used to it, so it was a very strange feeling. There had to be a small piece of the crystal nearby. But where? He looked all around the room without finding it. It was so strange. Then he saw Jerome move in his dream. Clark approached him. Lois was sleeping, for the first time in days. He didn't want to wake her up. He caressed Jerome's hands, but his sense of sickness was stronger here. Clark looked around again. There was only one thing in the room that was light green in color — the contents of the dripfeed.

Jerome was being given kryptonite. It had to be but how could this be possible? And why? Lois had never told him that…and how could he ask her? He realized that the amount of kryptonite in the dripfeed solution was small. Maybe this was a new treatment. Maybe kryptonite was able to minimize pain in humans. He'd never heard of such a thing, but Lex was the richest man in the world. He would surely have tried everything he could to care for his son.

Jerome's sleep was very agitated. Clark didn't care about his own sickness. He realized it wasn't affecting him as much as he'd imagined at the beginning. It was just a light feeling of nausea. He kept holding Jerome's hand, whispering nonsense worlds. Just a couple of minutes before the drip-feed bag ended a nurse entered in the room with a syringe. She injected the contents into the dripfeed. The liquid turned purple and Clark felt the effects of kryptonite vanish quickly.

Soon after the liquid had been injected into the bag Jerome seemed to be more calm and the painful expression on child's face changed into a tired but serene one. When all the liquid had drained from the bag the same nurse slipped the needle from the child's arm.

Clark noticed that not only did his symptoms vanish with the injection of the purple substance but Jerome's restlessness ended not long after as well. This situation made him pause to think, could the kryptonite actually be causing Jerome to be in pain? Might not the treatment be causing him more harm than good? He decided to file this information away for now but he planned to explore this theory further as more evidence presented itself.

She smiled at Clark. "He has a really good doctor… We'll save him! I promise," she said firmly.

"I'm sure of that," he answered, smiling back. "Oh Nurse, do you know what medicine was in that IV? I noticed the unusual color of the liquid and I was wondering if it might be a new experimental treatment?"

"I don't know the contents of that particular IV sir, it's prepared especially by his doctor for use with Jerome. I'm afraid you'll have to ask him about that."

"Thank you Nurse, I'll do that." Clark said.

Clark sat there, silent after the nurse left. He stared at Jerome for a long time, then he turned towards Lois. She was curled up in the bed. She seemed like a child too.

It was almost nine o'clock when Lois started to move. Clark wondered why none of the nurses had asked him to leave.

He approached Lois.

"Hi."

"Hi…" she smiled. " What time is it?"

"Nine."

"What? Oh my… Jerome is OK?" Clark nodded. "You… what are you doing here so late? I mean… Sorry I don't want to seem unkind… I mean… It's late… don't you have to go home for dinner?" Clark shook his head. "Are you sure? I don't want you to think you… I mean … you shouldn't feel obliged to be here, I mean you have a job, you probably have a girlfriend, lot of friends, you always were the busy one… and…"

Clark put light fingers to Lois' mouth. "Lois, I'm not that busy. If I have something to do I usually do it. But *now* I want to be here…if that's what you want. I know you need some help and you could do with having someone around to give you a break now and then. How long has it been since you had a decent night's sleep? Not recently, I'd guess…"

She simply nodded. Then, after a moment, she added, "Clark, you don't know how much this means to me. I'd hoped Lex would do this for his son, but… you love him more than he does… and you've known him barely a few weeks."

"Lois, I'd love Jerome anyway, just because he's part of you… But you're right, he's wonderful. I love him just because he's himself… " He paused. "Lois, why don't go get something to eat? I'd bet you didn't eat anything today…"

"You'd win. And you're right — I'm starving. I'll be back in a minute."

"I won't move!" She smiled at him.

"Thanks," she whispered.

Just a couple of moments later, Clark noticed Jerome was starting to become agitated.

"Dad… please… I don't wanna… please… no… It hurts, no… Mom! Help me, Mom… Dad… nooo please…" Clark ran near him holding his hand.

"Jerome… It's a nightmare… Jerome…"

The child widened his eyes and tears rolled down his cheeks. Clark caressed his arms, trying to calm him. For a moment the boy seemed afraid of the man near him, then he tried to sit. But he was too weak to do it alone. Clark helped him, and Jerome suddenly relaxed against his chest. Clark couldn't help but hug him back; Jerome was sobbing so much. Clark had never felt so strong in his life. Not because he had superpowers, but for the way that this trembling and sobbing child was looking for shelter in his arms.

When Clark tried to loosen his embrace, in order to look at him better, the child held him more firmly.

When Lois returned, she found Clark holding her son. The child was crying so desperately. She wanted to run to him but something stopped her. The way that Clark was speaking to him was just what her son needed. Soothing Jerome with one hand, Clark slipped off his jacket with the other and then covered the boy with it. Then he picked up the child from the bed and started to walk back and forth across the room, whispering to him. The sobs calmed and the child's breathing became more regular again.

Lois heard her son whisper, "I love you, Clark"

"I love you too, Jerome," was the answer, accompanied by a big smile.

She went toward Clark and leaned her head against his shoulder. They stayed in this position for a long, endless moment.

"I think he's sleeping," Clark whispered.

Lois nodded, smiling. "Do you need help to put him back into his bed?"

"No, but… can I keep him for a little while?" Clark's voice was so unsure, as if he expected a negative answer.

Clark saw Lois smile. "For as long as you want," she whispered huskily.

***

Autumn had already colored the leaves of the trees in the park in front of the hospital. The air was cooler now and September almost over.

The last weeks had been awful. Jerome's condition worsened and every day he seemed to become weaker and weaker. He often had high fevers and his will to resist his sickness was decreasing. He stopped playing, even with his best friend, making him eat was becoming difficult as well. He was barely able to watch his favorite cartoon on TV. This had become a fun habit for Jerome and Clark. Jerome had become used to cuddling up in his big friend's arms while watching his favorite cartoons. But more and more often the child fell asleep before the end of the episode.

The doctors and nurses tried to make him laugh more often lately but it was too big an effort for him. Jerome's room was often very crowded, but since his visitors were mostly medical staff, no one cared about that.

Even Clark was allowed to visit whenever he wanted. He seemed to be the only one able to make the child feel better. And Jerome's mother too.

Lois had just left the room to go home to shower and change into some clean clothes and bring some back for Jerome. Clark, as usual, stayed to keep Jerome company. For the time being they were alone since the nurse had monitored Jerome's vitals not long before.

The child seemed nervous, more than he had been in the last few days.

"Clark, can I ask you something?" He bit at his lip.

"Sure, Jerome, whatever you want…" Clark sat on the bed near the little boy.

"I guess… it's not a very good thing…" Jerome seemed quite insecure.

"Okay… well I'll try to answer your question… " Clark tried to be more reassuring.

"Well, what does… alien bastard mean? Exactly?" The child didn't seem to have the courage to look at him.

Clark froze "Jerome! Where did you hear that?"

"It's bad?" Clark caressed him. The child seemed even more little and so sad.

"Yes, that isn't a very nice thing to say…" The child lowered his head further.

"No, I mean it's not a good thing to be, right?"

"No… Honey it's not a good thing…" The child was silent for a while.

"Clark, when I… die… promise me you'll take Mom away. Right away."

"Jerome… you won't die… "

"I will, soon… the doctor will make me die soon. But he promised me that I'll be here for Mom's birthday. And that will be in a couple of weeks."

"But that means nothing… you'll be fine soon…" Clark tried to reassure him.

"NO! Promise me that you'll take mom away… that you'll protect her from dad!" Jerome cried out, clenching the blanket in his fists. Clark froze, then took a deep breath and tried to calm the thoughts that were filling his mind.

"Jerome… why does Lois need to be protected? And why are you so sure you'll die?" he asked more calmly than he thought was able.

"Dad is going to kill her after me…" Jerome's voice trembled. He was so serious. It wasn't a joke.

"How can you believe this?! It's impossible!"

"Dad said it to the doctor. The doctor didn't want to, but dad said that Sammy would die too if the doctor didn't do as he said or if he tried to warn mom or the… cops… or Superman… he said… that I'm just an alien bastard… that I deserve to die and mom too. I don't want my mom to die!"

This was too much. Clark tried to understand every word. "First, who is Sammy?"

"The doctors daughter. She's so pretty!"

"When did you hear this? I mean…maybe you misunderstood…" Clark was trying to sift all possible hypothesis.

Jerome simply shook his head, staring the blanket.

"Sometimes … sometimes I can hear things … I don't know why … I just heard them outside the door… They were almost whispering but it was so clear… My dad… called me alien bastard… and said I'll die… and mom after me."

"That would explain why you have Kryptonite in your drip- feed… But… you can't be …" Clark seemed speak more to himself than to Jerome.

"Superman's son?" Clark smiled at the child. It was all so strange. And could it really be possible? No… it couldn't… six months…

"But Dad said … Am I so bad?" Jerome's voice was so uncertain that Clark couldn't help but hold him tightly.

"No, Honey, you aren't bad. You are the sweetest child I've ever met in my whole life."

"You'll save my mom, then?" Jerome seemed to be so hopeful.

Clark didn't know what to do. He kissed Jerome's head. "Jerome… I'll do more that that… I'll save you both!"

"Really?"

"Sure Honey… I love you… but we need to talk with your mom … before…"

Clark felt Jerome's tears against his neck. He was so similar to his mother — the expression of grief and fear on his face was the same one that Clark saw so many times in Lois' gaze. The way that the little boy was holding him was the same way that Lois had clung to him when they'd met in the chapel a month ago. Jerome was trying to take from him the same relief that Lois had, that she'd been looking for on the night they conceived their child.

THEIR CHILD?

Jerome was really THEIR child?

The doctor Lewis knocked on the door in the same moment that the thought hit him, and came into the room with a smile.

"How's my favourite patient today?" Clark turned toward him and the look on his face really scared the doctor.

"Close the door!" ordered Clark. The doctor did as he was told. "What are you giving this child?"

"What?"

"I know what you've been doing. Why are you giving Kryptonite to Jerome?"

The Doctor was silent for a couple of seconds, then he answered in a whisper, "I'm sorry…but I had no choice!"

"Why Kryptonite?!" Clark's anger was growing quickly.

***

Lois returned quickly to the hospital. She was happy that she could spend some additional time with Clark and Jerome.

Lois' smile vanished as she approached her son's room. She could clearly hear Clark's yells from the corridor. She slowly opened the door.

Lois froze. Never — never — in all her life had she seen Clark so angry with someone.

"Luthor'll kill my child if I don't… don't…! I'm sorry I only wanted Samantha to be safe… Luthor gave me the Kryptonite and told me that Kryptonite would killed Jerome in a very slow and painful way… I'm so sorry…"

"WHAT?!" Lois cried.

Jerome held Clark's arms as though he was sure his friend was going to hit the doctor and wanted to stop him. "It's not Doc's fault! He didn't want to! He gives me something else too…it stops the hurt! It makes me feel better…and…"

"What's happening here?!" Lois was overwhelmed.

"Lois… Lex… is trying to kill Jerome!!"

"No!!! No!!!! It can't be… it… NO!" Tears were streaming down her cheeks. Clark jumped up from the bed and ran across the room to her.

"Lois, believe me…"

"NO! Clark, stop it! How can you say that in front of Jerome! Lex is his father!" Lois stepped back, away from him, shaking her head violently.

"Mrs. Luthor… Luthor isn't Jerome's father…" The doctor said quietly.

"That can't be true!!!!" she cried.

"Lois, please… let me explain!"

"NO!" Lois stared at Clark. If Jerome was really Clark's son…then all that she'd done was wrong. She'd been suffering all these years hoping to forget Clark's love for nothing… "No…it's impossible…"

Jerome tried to sit up on the bed and reached to Lois. "Mom…please…trust Clark. He's the only one who can save us…"

Lois ran to her son and held him as though she feared he would vanish at any moment.

The doctor picked up a piece of paper and something on it. He handed it to Clark. "This is a friend of mine, his name's Klein. Doctor Klein. He works at Star Labs. His name, phone number and the directions to his office are on it. We've been working on a vaccine for Jerome's illness, to counteract the Kryptonite. We're close to a solution but we need more time. I'm sorry…Sammy…"

"Doc, you helped me… sometimes I pretended to be asleep and I heard you… I know you care about me…" The doctor caressed him and Lois held her child again, in order to protect him against the man that had made them both suffer so much.

"Doc, run away from here, catch your child at school, just now, and go at Metropolis police department… ask of inspector Henderson. Explain him all… He'll protect you and your family…" then Clark approached him. "Please don't speak about Jerome's real father…" Clark's anger toward that man vanished, that man seemed really care of Jerome, and Jerome really loved him, he simply tried to save his daughter from that devil of Luthor.

"I don't know…it's dangerous. For both —"

"Go get your daughter … now!"

"But what about Luthor? When he finds out that I've betrayed him … "

"Inspector Henderson will help you get to a safe house with your daughter and hopefully by that time we'll have taken care of Luthor so he'll never be able to hurt anyone again." Clark said. "This is your best chance to be safe but you have to leave immediately!" He paused for a moment. "Go to Sammy… now!" The doctor left the room quickly and Clark breathed a sigh of relief, now he only had to concern himself with Lois and Jerome.

Lois was silent once more as she held her son tightly.

"It's not possible… It's not possible," she kept saying, over and over.

"Lois… I have to tell you something…"

"How could Lex do it to us… How…"

"Lex is a madman."

"But Jerome *has to be* his son… Clark… I… you were the only one…I … I…"

"I know, Honey. But listen to me."

"Mom… Is Clark my dad?"

Lois burst into sobs. "I don't know…I don't know…" Clark gathered them both into his arms.

"Lois… please… let me explain…" He started to caress her hair.

"I wanted to run away from Lex. I wanted to be with the man I loved. But I found myself pregnant with his child! How could I leave him then? I didn't want my child to go through what I did, I wanted him to grow up with his father there…" Tears streamed down her cheeks.

"Lois, we have to get away from here — now. I need your help, we have to get Jerome out of here. It's dangerous to stay here."

She nodded, but she seemed to be living a nightmare. She didn't understand…why Kryptonite? Why was Lex doing this?

"Lois, you hear me? Lois?"

Jerome pushed her away in order to look into her eyes. "Mom… it's all right… Clark'll save us… " Lois got up. She wiped her tears with a hand and nodded again. She took a deep breath. She started to gather Jerome's stuff, the most important of it anyway, into a suitcase and helped him to dress. Jerome was so pale. He was barely able to stand.

Suddenly, a thought occurred to Lois. "Lex is going to be here soon!"

"What?"

"I told him Jerome was really weak. So he said he'd come check on him."

"So, we need to leave quickly." She nodded again.

Jerome was at the window. "Mom, he's here. That's his car. Right?"

Lois ran to her child. "Oh no… "

"It's all right, Lois. Come on, we're going!" Clark picked up Jerome with one arm and the suitcase with his free hand. They ran toward the elevators but both of them were busy. "The stairs…" They ran toward them. Lois started to go down, but Clark stopped her.

"Not down. Up. To the roof."

"Why?!"

"We need to escape from him! His men will be waiting for us downstairs."

Clark moved the suitcase in the same hand he was carrying Jerome, then with the other one caught Lois and he started to run upstairs.

Four floors later they had reached the roof and could stop.

The roof was empty, there was no sign of anyone.

"They'll be looking for us! They'll find us…"

"No. We're going to fly out of here."

"You want to call Superman?" Clark took a deep breath. This time she needed to know.

"Lois, there is no Superman. I am *him*, I am Superman."

"What?… You are… ? No… I can believe it…" Images and emotions flow in Lois' head. Everything that had happened between her and Clark … and Superman. Between her fatigue and the shock it all became too much to bear. "I can't … I was wrong all… I…"

Lois wasn't able to finish. All around her became dark and she felt her legs grow weak. Clark caught her before she hit the floor.

"MOM!!" Jerome cried, but Clark kissed him on his forehead.

"Don't worry… she's fine… She'll be fine… we must go… now…" Jerome nodded without moving his gaze from his mother. Clark spun into the Superman suit and they flew away.

***

In less that a minute a senseless Lois, Superman and Jerome arrived at Star Labs. Clark was very careful to not let anyone know they were there. In the last few years Star Labs had experienced a lot of financial troubles: years ago they had been the only rival in the town against Luthor's Labs, but now the competition was at an end. Star Labs was close to bankruptcy and woul<< d soon be closing its doors so the security at the entrances was really very weak.

Clark followed the instructions he had been given by Jerome's doctor earlier and started toward Dr Klein's laboratory. He knocked, even though the door was already open.

Doctor Klein was so busy that he barely noticed his visitors, nor did he particularly care who they were. He turned however, and saw the most incredible thing in his life — there was Superman, in front of him…well, there was Superman with an unconscious woman in his arms, a suitcase in his hand, and a pale child clutching onto his leg.

"Superman! Please — come in! My name is Klein, Bernard Klein, I suspected that you'd arrive, sooner or later. Here…" Klein looked around helplessly for a moment and then brightened, "If you want you can lay your…friend…down on the couch here. The boy can rest here too if he wants. Do you want me to look at your friend first?"

"No, thank you Dr. Klein, she's just had a bit of a shock from the flight over here, she'll be all right in a few minutes."

Doctor Klein smiled. "So you must be Jerome, right?"

"How do you know?" Clark said, with a concerned expression on his face.

Superman was worried and embarrassed. That was something that Bernard never thought to see. Not in his office, at least.

"It's not very often that Superman visits Metropolis then you come here with a child… and a woman who I know to be Lois Luthor so I just assumed that this is her son Jerome. I've been working on something with a friend of mine to try to help him. Are you sure she's all right?"

"Yeah, she's just had a lot to deal with today…"

Jerome was sticking close to his mom. Clark laid her on the couch. He caressed her hair softly. "Lois? Lois, wake up…"

Slowly she opened her eyes and turned toward him.

She stared him for a long while. For a moment she thought that what had happened earlier was a nightmare. Then suddenly she sat up. It was real. It was true!

Clark stretched one hand toward her but she avoided it. There was so much sadness and anger in her gaze. She got up.

"Where are we?" she asked in an expressionless tone.

"Star Labs. This is Doctor Klein." She didn't seem to be listening.

"I… I need to use the rest room," she said in the same tone.

"Out this door… last door on the right…"

"Thanks," she said stiffly.

She tried to avoid Clark's gaze, and Jerome's too. She needed to be alone for a while.

She needed to think.

She needed to reflect.

She needed to understand.

***

Clark spoke with Doctor Klein about Jerome's condition, even though it made him uncomfortable talking about it with the boy right there in front of them. But since Jerome had superhearing he would be able to listen anyway. They kept talking, although Clark's attention was distracted as he glanced towards the door at least twenty times a minute. It was now quite some time since Lois had gone to the rest room. He was becoming worried.

Jerome stood up with an effort and approached the man he knew as his father. "Superman…Mom is crying. I can hear her."

Clark smiled, noticing that Jerome remembered to call him Superman and not Clark. He knelt in order to look the boy in the eyes. "I know," he whispered. "I can hear her too. But she needed to be alone for a while. She always needs to be alone when she is worried. But I'm going to check on her. Okay?"

Jerome nodded.

"Doctor Klein, can you excuse me for a moment?"

"Sure Superman… go… I'll check this little boy. He's quite pale… "

"Thanks," Clark answered. Then he turned toward Jerome again. "I'll be back in few minutes. Don't worry about your mom, and if you need me, just call, okay?" The boy nodded again and in a second Superman was out the door.

***

A moment later, Clark was knocking at the door of the rest room.

"Lois? Can I come in?"

No answer.

"Lois?"

No answer again.

"Lois? I'm coming in…"

***

Lois was staring at herself in the mirror, without really looking or caring about what she saw. She heard Clark talking to her through the door, but she didn't understand his words. All she could think about was how she had hurt him all those years ago.

And all that happened was so fearfully clear in her memory.

/*/

Stuffing everything she had into her suitcase wasn't too big an effort. She simply did it carelessly, without much care for the result. She was happy again. And was going to be happy for the rest of her life.

A new life.

A life with Clark.

She arrived at the airport ahead of time. She decided to go have some breakfast while she was waiting for her call to board. She was very hungry. She ate a big salad and some fruit. She hadn't realized how hungry she was.

It was a short time later that she started to regret this. Her stomach was not so good. She had to visit the rest room twice before the plane left Los Angeles. Even during the flight she felt sick and tired. Luckily her tiredness was stronger than her feeling of sickness, so she slept through most of her journey.

Upon her arrival in Metropolis she collected her bag and took the first available cab home. She was barely able to stay awake during the ride and she dropped her suitcase on the floor as soon as she unlocked the door.

She fell asleep on the couch before she had time to call Clark. It was almost a couple of hours later before she awoke. Her first thought was for the one she was in love with.

"Oh, my god, I'm starting to think like a teenager. But…" She smiled to herself as she dialed Clark's number.

"Hi! I'm sorry, I fell asleep when I got in… I didn't mean to make you worry. I was a little sick on the plane so maybe…I don't know, maybe I have a touch of flu or something. I hurt everywhere." Well, that was a little lie. She didn't hurt exactly everywhere, just her breasts were hurting, but she was too embarrassed to tell Clark that. "Yes, don't worry, it's not so bad. Sure, I'll be fine soon. And I never felt so happy in my whole life, that's bound to make me better soon. I love you too. What? Of course you can! You can call me whenever you want! You can't disturb me. Have you any idea how wonderful it is to hear you say these things?" She laughed. "Yes, for me too…me too…so much…goodnight…"

Lois felt wonderful. She had never felt this way in her entire life. But suddenly she slapped a hand over her mouth and ran for the bathroom.

"Damn flu! Just when I was getting happy!"

The next morning she was still a little sick. It was so hard to get up, to dress, and to go into LNN. She felt so sleepy. She had to fight with herself in order not to fall asleep while she was driving. And the feeling of nausea never left her the entire week. Her boss finally advised her to visit her doctor.

She was unprepared for what the doctor said to her. "Lois, you have all the signs of a classic pregnancy… You seem to be straight out of the manual."

Pregnant? Could she be pregnant with Clark's child? Oh god it was so strange but…it would be wonderful to have a little Clark within her. Oh, please…

"Pregnant? Are you serious?"

"You think it's impossible?" the doctor looked at her with a funny grin.

"No… I mean it could be very possible… But… I don't… I mean I don't…"

"I wonder why it is that every time… women think that's almost impossible! It's been happening since the world started…"

Clark's baby. This was her only thought.

"Well, Lois, I'm going to schedule you for a few tests tomorrow. I'll wait until the results are in before offering my congratulations. But I'd guess that in seven, eight months we'll have a little Lex Luthor."

She smiled before she truly understood the real meaning of his words. Then suddenly she became pale and the room seemed to revolve around her.

"What?" She even didn't try to hide the panic in her voice.

"Well, it's not so frightening, Lois. Seven or eight months aren't so different from nine."

"They are! When…when did I conceive?"

"Lois, we still don't know if you are even really pregnant. Don't worry, it's not so bad!"

"Could I have conceived as early as a week ago?" She prayed for a yes.

"Lois, pregnancy isn't that quick to show. Your body needs time to adjust to the idea of being pregnant. I never heard of morning sickness being so immediate. Perhaps at least three weeks, but not before…" The doctor looked at her. He had been her doctor since she was a child. He knew her well. Obviously it hadn't been the answer she wanted.

"Lois, do you need someone to take you home?" She nodded. She wasn't even able to stand up. "I'll ask my son to drive you. You lie down till I get back. Okay?" She nodded again, doing as he said.

An hour after she returned to her apartment, her phone rang. She hardly had the will to answer it.

"What?" she asked without caring about the answer.

"Lois! Is everything all right?"

"Clark…it's so good to hear your voice!" She had never felt so relieved to hear him.

"Are you all right?"

"No…" She took a deep breath before finishing. "…it's just this damn flu," she lied.

"If you need me I can be there faster…"

No…really, I'll be fine soon. Don't worry about me."

"Are you sure?!"

"Yes, really. Please don't worry. You have a new series of articles to write. You need to concentrate. I know how that works. I miss it so much!"

"When we're together you can go back to writing. We'll find a way."

She smiled slightly. "I love you, Clark," she said sadly. Why couldn't it have been Clark's baby?

She cried so much after putting down the phone. What was she going to do? What was the right thing to do?

Clark loved her with all he had, every part of himself. Lex didn't care about her.

Clark was the one she loved. Lex was her husband.

Yes, that was true.

Clark would be the best father for her son.

But *Lex* was her son's father.

***

The next morning, when she went into the doctor's laboratory she felt entirely without hope. She felt sure that the doctor was right about her pregnancy.

The result of the test was almost immediate: positive. The doctor accompanied her into his colleague's lab for an Ultrasound scan He understood that finding out when the baby had been conceived was almost vital for her.

Again, he understood that the answer they got wasn't the one she wanted. She burst into sobs and cried for a long time.

What if Clark didn't want her, now that she was carrying the child of his biggest enemy? Was she going to be alone again?

No…no, it was Clark she was talking about here. But why couldn't this child have been Clark's son?

***

Lex arrived late that evening. He wasn't surprised that Lois wasn't sleeping in the same bedroom. It was almost a month since they last slept together. Lois heard him arrive home and after a while, she gathered her courage to go to speak with him.

"Oh… my sweet wife come to welcome me home… How lucky am I…" Lex said with more than a hint of sarcasm.

"It's not funny Lex!"

"Oh… poor lady… it's not funny? And the way you behave to me? That's funny?"

"I have to speak with you."

"Oh… Why? You never seem to want to speak with me lately, remember? I wondered if you still remembered me… I'm your husband, the one with whom you had sex for the last year… well very few times… last year!"

"Stop it Lex! You are so vulgar!"

"I can speak however I want!!" This is *my* house!"

Lois took a deep breath and then continued, "I want a divorce Lex… and I'm pregnant."

"You are pregnant?" he simply asked "Really?"

"And I want a divorce!"

Lex changed the way he looked at her.

"You are pregnant… You are pregnant with my baby… with our baby…"

Tears started to roll on Lois cheek. How much did it hurt?

"Our baby… It's wonderful…" Lex seemed not have heard the other half of Lois's statement."

"Lex… I want… I want a divorce…" Her voice trembled.

"You should sit down… right? You shouldn't tire yourself…" He slipped his arms around her and accompany Lois to the couch.

"I'm so sorry for the way I spoke to you… but I was so stressed… it wasn't a good day… and I wanted to fight with someone… Sorry"

"Lex… you are not listening to me…!" she cried out in a mix of anger, pain… and fear… fear for what was happening to her life. "I want a divorce…"

"Please Lois… don't do this to me… I was a child when I lost my parents… And you were a little girl when your parents divorced… We both know what not having parents with us means… Please! We have to try… for us… for the baby… Please…Lois…" Lois burst into sobs. She cried for herself. She covered her face with her hand, missing, in this way, the satisfied grin on Lex's face.

He knew it… she was going to do just what *HE* wanted! He wasn't going to lose his little prize…

"Please Lois… I'll try to change… But I love you so much… You are my wife… this is our child… please don't leave me… not without trying again! Please… I think we deserve it… and our baby deserves to have two parents… not two people that barely speak each other… " Lois was sobbing so much. For a normal person it would hurt to watch her in so much pain… but not for Lex Luthor… He just was trying to save his propriety.

He took her into his arms. Even sobbing desperately, Lois couldn't avoid associating his embrace with the way that Clark held her. Clark's embrace was so warm, kind and protective. He took care of her. His hugs could really wipe her pain away. Lex's tight hold on her was so cold…frightening…but he had the right to hold her. A baby needed parents. And not divorced parents…like she had had.

But Clark…

Please give me the strength to tell him I love someone else. Please. Let me tell my baby's father that I love someone else. That I love someone who will really take care of me…who will really love me…please don't make me do this to Clark…please…

The phone rang and Lex answered. After a short conversation he hung up and apologized to Lois. "Sorry, darling, I have to go. But please…" he didn't finish.

Lois missed the relived gaze he had in the same moment he turned toward the door.

Lois was going to stay with him. He had won again. As usual.

She was going to lose everything again. She knew it. Clark, she realized, was her world. But Lex was her baby's father. And she knew what it meant to grow up without a father. Clark would be the best parent for her baby…but Lex was the father…she loved Clark, she knew that, but…

Why was it all so difficult? She just wanted to wake up, to discover that this was all just a nightmare, the worst nightmare she had had in her life. To discover that Clark was her baby's father. That it was Clark who was holding her tightly and who would never let her go…

Later she was crouched in her bed still crying. The phone rang.

"Hi… I was a little worried for you… I have this strange, stupid feeling… "

"Clark…" she whispered.

"Do you feel better? How's your flu?"

"Better… yes," she smiled sadly.

"When are you leaving? I want to come pick you up at the airport. I'm in Smallville now, so just say when and I'll be there." He sounded so happy, how could she…

"Clark…" she paused for a long moment. "What we shared was simply wonderful… but… I…" She didn't have the strength to finish.

"Lois, you are worrying me…"

"I… I have to stay with my husband… He's the one I married… I… maybe I made a mistake… but he, now he's the one…"

//Please forgive me…//

"NO! Lois! What are you talking about! You don't love him! And he doesn't love you! You love me! *I* love you…"

"He's the one I married…" //I'm sorry//

"It was a mistake and you know it! Why? Why? Is he forcing you? Are you in trouble? I can help you…" She smiled through the tears. Why was he always so sweet?! How could she do it, how could she do this to the man she loved.

// I love you, Clark // "He isn't forcing me to do anything. I have to be with him, that's all. I'm sorry, Clark. I didn't mean to hurt you like this… but…"

She realized she was speaking to a dead line.

She had broken Clark's heart. She couldn't tell him that while they made love she was already pregnant with the devil's child. It was too painful. And Clark…

Oh God! This time she had lost him forever.

She wept. For hours, day, months…years. For years after she had thought she had cried herself out and there were no more tears left. It wasn't what Lois Lane was used to doing, but never in all of her life had she hurt so badly.

/*/

Slowly Clark opened the door.

She was standing in front of the sink, one hand submerged in the water, but she hardly seemed to notice.

"Lois…" He crossed to stand beside her. "Hey. How are you feeling?"

She was silent for a long, endless moment. "Jerome is your son…our son…" She stood motionless, her face expressionless and devoid of tears or emotion.

"Lois, believe me, I didn't know…"

"I've been with Lex all these years and all the time he was your son…" she whispered, her voice expressionless.

"Lois… "

"I wanted my child to stay with his father. I didn't want him to grow up without a father. And Lex hates him! He's trying to kill my child…and it's all my fault."

"It's not your fault. It's not our fault. We decided to be together, we loved each other, and don't say it isn't true because I don't believe you! Lois, that night…was the most important moment in my life. I never felt so alive. For the first time I knew why I was sent here…to Earth…it was to be with you. Just you…" Lois burst into sobs and Clark held her tightly. "Don't cry, Lois…"

"But I hurt you… and Jerome… I made the two people I really love suffer!"

"And I'm quite sure you were suffering too… "

She nodded. "But I ran away!"

Clark took her face firmly in his hands in order to stare into her eyes.

"Lois, you were scared! You were married!" With his tone he tried to convey all the love that he had for her.

"The next day I planned to talked to Lex. I wanted a divorce, but I started feeling sick. I wasn't able to do anything other than feel sorry for myself…for all of it. I needed so much to be loved like you loved me, Clark. The way you looked at me when the elevator doors closed…"

"Lois, I'm in love with you… I've always been in love with you… "

"How can you be? After everything I did, after I betrayed you! I ran…I didn't tell you you were going to be a father…"

"Lois… you didn't know that I was Jerome's father…"

I know, but I wasn't brave enough to tell you I was pregnant…and…"

"Please, Lois, don't cry…you've cried enough. We made mistakes, we're human…well, I'm almost human," he tried to joke. Lois smiled at him. Clark took a deep breath. "Lois, I want you know that you were my first time." He blurted, without stopping to think why he was telling her this.

"What? That's impossible…"

"It was possible, Lois. You were the first woman I loved. That I do love…"

Lois felt new tears roll down her cheeks, but she couldn't suppress them.

"I'm so sorry… Clark… I'm sorry…"

He wiped her tears clear with his thumbs.

"Hey, I'm not asking you to apologize, Lois. I just want you to know how much I love you…and how making love with you was the best memory of my life. The best moment… Lois, every time I take you into my arms I feel more alive than I ever have!"

"You're the most romantic man I've ever known. Earth guys don't stand a chance with you." She smiled a little more. "Oh, Clark how can you be so wonderful with me?"

"I'm not wonderful, Lois, I'm in love with you…"

"Clark, you are the only one who ever made *love* to me…" Lois's gaze was fixed on the floor, but out of the corner of her eye she was able to make out Clark's amazed look. "All the men I've been with in my life…and there weren't that many… they never made love to me… it was just sex. They never… I never… I thought it would ever be anything else… until that night… with you… and now… I don't know what to do. I can't make up for how I acted… for all the pain I've caused…"

"Lois, don't do this to yourself…"

"But, Clark… It's my fault…"

"This isn't what I want to hear from you… There is just one thing I want to know… Only one…"

Lois raised her gaze until she met his. "What?" This time Clark was the one who moved away. Three words… He'd waited all this time just to hear her say those three magic words. But not like this. He didn't want to force her to say something like that. He hoped that she was ready and that she meant it.

Slowly he turned away.

Lois' voice was husky as she whispered, "What kind of person am I? I keep hurting you! You, the only man I loved in all my life…the man I love…and —"

"Lois!" It was almost a roar, a painful prayer.

"I know I never did anything to show it and I can understand if you won't believe me…"

"Lois…"

"I love you, Clark, so much that it hurts. And I love you more than my life, but if you want to leave me, I'll understand. I just hope you'll be happy and loved in the way you deserve. I never deserved you or your love."

"I love you too," or "I'm not going to leave you," or…whatever other words Clark wanted to say weren't enough. Not now, not after all this time.

Lois felt his hands on her face again, she felt his breath on her, then his lips caressed hers. Her eyes widened for a second as he paused, then they closed again as they shared a second, more passionate kiss.

They kissed. And for one wonderful moment that stretched to infinity, it was as if the world vanished around them.

They stared each other for a moment while they moved away in order to breathe, then Lois held him tightly, hiding her face into his shoulder. "I love you, Clark. I love you, I love you, I love you…" she declared again and again, as if she were unable to stop.

Clark smiled. "I love you too. Come on, wash your face. Jerome is worried about his mom." She nodded. She splashed cold water on her face then suddenly turned toward him.

"You are Superman…"

"Well, yeah…"

"Why didn't I realize you were him?" Clark shrugged his shoulders.

"No idea Lois… I was going to tell you everything… but I was afraid you would be angry with me for keeping it from you all this time… I mean…"

"So that was why!" Her tone was that of someone who had gotten the answer she had been looking for.

"Sorry?!"

"That was why you always ran away! It wasn't my fault…"

Oh no! Of course it wasn't your fault. How could you think that?" Clark was confused. How could she think that?

"I thought about it a lot. That seemed to be the most logical solution…"

"If we hadn't been so afraid of talking to each other…maybe all of this would never have happened."

"I'm sorry, Clark…"

"Stop it. It's not your fault. He's the crazy one. You just tried to make it right. Stop blaming yourself." Clark hugged her again. "Jerome is waiting."

He turned towards the closed door. "Jerome's coming. He's worried about you." He wiped the last tracks of tears from her face. "If you want to speak with him alone, I can wait outside."

"No…I want you to stay. I mean, I'd like you to stay. If you want to."

He nodded.

***

Jerome asked Doctor Klein if he could go check on his mom and Klein offered to escort the child there. He seemed too weak to go alone. Klein knew that Superman and Mrs. Luthor needed some privacy, so he waited until the boy entered the rest room and then returned quickly to his laboratory.

This was been really a quite shock for Doctor Klein, meeting Superman like this. He knew it could be happen, but not so soon, and certainly not so suddenly.

He hoped that the vaccine would be ready before he met "him". Stewart and himself used every precaution they could in order not to be discovered. They had fought two months ago in front of a crowd so that everyone would believe they were no longer friends. In this way no one could think they were working together in this unbelievable experiment to save the superhero's child.

He'd seen the way that Superman had acted towards the woman and child. He cared. Superman had said that he had just encountered the child, but there was too deep an affection between them for that. They couldn't have just met moments or hours previously. The doctor felt a little silly conjecturing on their relationship, but it was obvious from the way that Superman looked at Lois and Jerome that he loved them. And that had been another surprise.

The whole world knew that Lois Lane was close to Superman from the first year that he appeared in Metropolis. She and her partner were used to getting exclusive interviews with the superhero. But both of them seemed to have lost contact with him in recent years. Superman didn't give a lot of interviews lately. Just a few per year? And never exclusives.

His withdrawal had made people forget he had a human side. Bernie realized that most people thought he was too cold. He remembered an interview he'd read some time back with some people Superman had saved. They had been trapped in a train, many of the victims of the crash had been children. He had been able to save everyone, but what the people there that night had remembered most was how kind and careful he had been with the children who had been afraid in the wreckage. He had seemed so emotionless to the watching world, to everyone but the people he had saved. And they, as others before them, had seen that he cared. Especially for the children.

But this didn't explain why the child looked at the superhero in the way that he had. It wasn't enough to discover that this was his real father to make a child look at someone that way. There was too much love in his eyes. They had been gone a while now and he decided to peek into the hall to check on them. He could see even now, when Superman opened the door of the rest room to let the child enter, the obvious look of love that Superman had when he saw the boy.

All this was too much to think about. He decided to focus on his experiment instead. It looked as if they'd been quite right so far since Superman and the child seemed not have been affected by the Kryptonite he had in the room. Ok, it was covered by that purple liquid, but he was quite sure this vaccine was starting to work. That's when remembered that he needed to ask Superman a lot of questions, especially about his invulnerability, so he wrote all the questions he was able to think about down so as to ask them at the earliest opportunity.

Klein was disappointed however when the trio returned to the laboratory and Superman apologized, disappearing before he could ask him anything.

Lois looked embarrassed and seemed to be distrusting of him. He couldn't really say he blamed her.

***

Doctor Klein made an attempt to make them feel comfortable, closing the blinds to prevent anyone glancing in as they passed and perhaps recognizing one of his visitors as Mrs. Luthor. He worked on a couple of test tubes for almost four hour.

He also gave Jerome a whole glass of that purple liquid he was working on.

Then he turned towards his guests.

One of the first things he asked Jerome — although he suspected he already knew the answer — was whether the child felt weaker here at the lab than he had in the hospital.

"I'm not weaker. I'm…I don't know…I feel strange…"

The doctor smiled. "You're still weak but less tired, right?" The boy nodded. "That's good. It's means we're on the right track."

Lois looked into the doctor's eyes. For the first time in months she felt a flicker of hope. "Did you find a cure?"

"Stew and I…"

Lois turned abruptly. That sound. Never before had there been a sound that she'd wished for, hoped for, so much. Jerome was sitting in front of the TV, laughing loudly.

Clark returned, dressed in his street clothes, just at that moment. He had heard the laughter long before he reached the room, and it pleased him. He knocked on the lab door before entering.

Jerome ran quickly towards Clark, embracing his father, still laughing.

Clark was overwhelmed by the boy's enthusiasm. Lois wiped her tears with one hand, trying to compose herself, as she approached the man she loved.

"Is everything all right?" Clark asked.

She kissed him on his lips. "He's laughing" was the whispered answer.

Doctor Klein sat watching the little scene in front of him. The way this child was looking at this stranger caught his attention. Also the way the man looked a little worried and a little funny at the woman and the way he lifted the kid from the ground seemed to convey to him a certain amount care and love for the boy and his mother. They were acting a lot like they were a family but he knew that Lois was married to Lex Luthor and also he now knew that Jerome was Superman's son. And in that moment, for some mysterious reason Doctor Klein had the clear idea that the man in jacket and tie was Superman.

"My name is Clark Kent," Clark introduced himself. "Superman said Lois and Jerome were here."

Klein almost began to laugh. Well, if Superman wanted to hide his true identity, that was okay with him.

"I'm Doctor Bernard Klein." The doctor turned toward his table and started to check something on it.

"You still don't feel too bad, right, Jerome?" Jerome shook his head in a big smile. "I need to ask your mom some questions; maybe you and…your friend…could wait outside for a moment or two?" Jerome looked at Clark and nodded.

"Can we, Mom?"

"Sure…" Something made Lois uncomfortable. It's seemed that this strange doctor was trying to make also Clark go out the room.

He waited carefully until Clark and Jerome closed the door behind them before he moved towards a beaker filled with a purple liquid.

You know, Ms. Luthor —"

"Lane, please. But Lois is fine too." She smiled lightly in apology for the interruption.

"As you prefer, Ms. Lane…Lois. I had to move this piece of Kryptonite and I didn't want to risk causing your son more pain."

"You have Kryptonite here?" Renewed terror entered her voice.

"Don't worry. You saw Jerome, he can't feel this. We did find a way to lessen the meteorite's effects. This is the basis of our vaccine. Now we need to move that to the safe, out of harm's way because we need to use this liquid." Doctor Klein poured the liquid into a smaller test tube. There was a piece of kryptonite as big as a walnut left within the larger tube. "This now has less effect, but I didn't want to take any risks. Ms. Lane, Jerome isn't going to be put at risk any more. I know it's difficult to trust Stewart or me, but believe me, we want to save this child. We have since the moment he was booked into the hospital."

Lois' gaze followed the doctor as he put the green crystal into the safe and closed the steel door. She found herself sighing a relieved breath when it was out of her sight.

"Now we can let Jerome and Mister…what was his name?"

"Kent, Clark Kent. "Lois found herself smiling as she said his name.

"It sounds familiar."

"He was a reporter, a great reporter, and now is a writer."

"Oh yeah! My sister is a big fan of his! She spent all of Thanksgiving talking about his latest book."

Lois smiled again as she opened the door. "Clark…" The corridor was empty. She felt a pang of panic. "Clark?" she repeated, but this time her voice trembled. What if…?

He was Clark. He would never take her son away from her.

But Jerome was his now too.

It's Clark. He wouldn't do that. He couldn't. Maybe he sensed the kryptonite and ran away to protect Jerome…

Her head felt as though it was exploding. She leaned against the door, trying to think calmly. In the same moment the rest room door opened and Jerome and Clark walked out.

Lois almost ran into Clark's arms.

Instantly he held her, realizing she was trembling. "Hey… what's up?"

"I'm so silly… I'm sorry… I thought… I'm sorry," she apologized, trying to smile, but her body was still trembling.

"You thought I left you here alone?"

She nodded but then stopped. "No… I don't… I'm sorry." Clark kissed her lips sweetly.

"It's ok. I'm never going to leave you again. Jerome just needed to go…well you know."

Lois turned toward the child and took his small hand into hers, while Clark slipped his arm around her shoulders.

***

Doctor Klein spent the next hour carefully examining Jerome. Finally, he concluded that, just as he and Stew had guessed, Jerome was improving rapidly.

Lois and Clark were ecstatic to hear that news. Lois especially had never thought to hear that Jerome was improving considering how his condition had done nothing but deteriorate for the past few months. Doctor Klein, having finished his examinations, suggested that they all call it a night. He told Lois that he would like to continue to monitor Jerome's progress daily but that they were free to go.

"I guess we have a slight problem now." Lois bit her lip before adding, "Where can we go? I mean…we have no place to stay tonight. And we can't go to a hotel…"

"Luthor would know where you are in a second." Clark agreed.

"But haven't the police arrested him yet? What did Henderson say?"

"Inspector Henderson said that he needed more proof. Ok, he had Doctor Lewis's statement and he's going to protect him and his family. But he can't do anything else quite yet. There are no witnesses that can testify that Luthor threatened him. It's the doctor's word against Luthor's. And guess who he wanted to believe more? Of course we do have a witness, Jerome, but I don't think it would be a very good idea to bring him into this. First we'd have to come up with a story of how Jerome overheard the two of them talking without revealing his powers or why he wasn't noticed by either of the two men. But I don't think having Jerome make a statement is a good thing anyway. I think that would only force Luthor to expose Jerome's genetic heritage to the world which would be the worst thing that could happen to Jerome and to you as well Lois."

"I hate him!" Lois' voice trembled with rage. She was silent for a while. "They won't be safe," she whispered.

"What?"

"Doctor Lewis and Sammy. The police won't be able to protect them from Lex. He'll kill them. He'll try everything he can to kill us, but we have Superman on our side. They're…unprotected!" Her voice revealed her fear, especially for her son's little friend.

"You're right. I'll…" Clark suddenly remembered that Klein was there too. "I'll ask Superman to help them too."

Lois smiled. "Thanks," she whispered again.

"I'm sorry to interrupt you both, but maybe I can help. You can stay at my place. It's not the Lexor Hotel but it's comfortable enough. We can't stay here. My colleagues will be back in the morning and Friday is a busy day. It'd be too risky."

"Are you really offering us your place?"

"Well, it's only a loft. But it'll be large enough for all of you, Sam and Stew too."

"Clark, you'll come with us? Please, please, please?" Jerome almost didn't let Klein finish his statement.

Lois turned towards Clark too, unaware of the hopeful plea that was expressed in her face.

"Well, I don't know…if I can…" He seemed very embarrassed.

Lois' gaze saddened. "I'm sure Clark already has somewhere he can stay," she said, looking at her son. In that moment she realized that he had never told her where he was living now. He had just been there for them. But now, thinking about it, she couldn't remember Clark saying he was living in Metropolis.

"That's not what I meant," he whispered. "I just want to be sure you can be comfortable with it, Lois."

Lois' eyes flashed. "I'd be happy for you to stay with us."

"So Clark will come with us? Yahoo!" Jerome jumped off the table he was lying on, escaping from Klein's hands to run towards his real father.

Clark hugged him as tightly as he could. And for the first time he realized he was embracing his son. Their son. The child he'd had with the woman he loved. And this made him feel alive.

Clark, as Superman, flied Doctor Klein, Lois and Jerome in Klein's loft that same evening and some moment later he flied to take also Doctor Lewis and his daughter. Inspector Henderson was quite relieved for that. There was already some voice in the police department and he wanted to keep all this silent in order to take Luthor with surprise, and avoid he could hide all the trace.

Jerome was so happy when he saw Sammy. Even thought it was already quite late, the two children were allowed to stay up late. Sammy didn't have to go to school the next day and Jerome felt pretty good.

While the two doctors continued to work on the vaccine the others played games and had a really good time just being together.

The first one to fall asleep was Lois. One moment she was sitting on the couch, smiling and playing, the next she was sleeping with a relieved smile on her face. Clark took her into his arms and the kids giggled.

"They're in love," Clark heard the little girl whisper to her friend.

"They've always been in love," was Jerome's answer.

Clark couldn't help but smile.

Clark settled Lois carefully onto the bed that Bernard had set up for her and Jerome. He covered her up as the room was a little cold. Clark stared at her for a long moment, then he bent to kiss her on the lips. It was a quick, butterfly kiss, but it was enough to send a wave of emotions flooding through him. "I love you, Lois," he whispered.

Even in her dreams she reacted to his declaration. "I love you too, Clark," she mumbled. For a moment time seemed to stand still.

Clark simply closed his eyes, breathing deeply.

But Lois' reaction surprised him. She sat up abruptly on the bed, her gaze terrified.

"Lois… what's wrong?" he spoke with sweetness, caressing her hand.

"It wasn't a dream? You really are here?" she asked, afraid that her fears could be the truth. That he could vanish, if she just stretched out a hand towards him.

Clark didn't know what to say to her. He just gathered her into his strong arms, holding her with all of the love he was feeling. "Lois, I'm here and, if you want me, I'm going to be with you for the rest of my life."

This time Lois was the one who held him tight. "I missed you so much!"

"I missed you too, Lois, but now you have to sleep. Today was a really full day, wasn't it?"

She smiled and nodded. "Clark, could you…could you stay with me tonight? At least until Jerome goes to sleep? Just until I fall asleep? Just for a few minutes…please…" Lois was still hiding her face against his shoulder. She spoke uncertainly, as though afraid to say the wrong thing, then, after a small pause, her voice came as a whisper. "I need to have you here…holding me like you are now."

"Lois, I'll never stop holding you. It makes me feel…"

"Alive again," she finished for him.

Clark's hand slowly lifted her chin until their gaze met. He simply kissed her, while Lois slipped her arms around his neck. "Stay with me…please!"

"I will. Let me go ask Jerome if it's okay with him. I don't want to embarrass him."

"I love you so much," was her answer.

Lois was reluctant to let him go, but she was also happy to see how Clark treated their son.

THEIR SON.

He really cared about Jerome, he'd always cared about him since the moment he'd met him. Lois wasn't able to hear what he was saying now but she recognised the love in his tone and it was wonderful. She had never heard anyone speak to Jerome in the way that Clark did. She didn't fully understand it, but she recognised that the two people she loved more than anything else in the world had shared, since that first moment they'd met, something special, something deep and eternal — the same feeling that she and Clark had shared since the day they'd met in Perry White's office, at the Planet.

***

"Jerome, I have to talk to you."

"Ehmmm… Clark… I didn't mean to, but… I promise I wasn't listening, I was playing, but I just couldn't help hear — "

"It's okay, Jerome, I know how this works at your age. You'll learn how to control that in time."

"You'll teach me?"

"Of course I will." They smiled at each other as Sammy stared at them, not really understanding what they were talking about. After a couple of seconds of silence, Clark asked, "So, since I don't have to ask the question, what's the answer?"

"Okay. If I can stay up a little longer," Jerome teased.

Clark kissed the top of his head. "Thanks," he whispered.

Jerome hugged him for a second, then whispered into his ear, "I love you, Dad." Then, before Clark could react, he ran away, jumping on the couch. His little friend laughed, going back to the game that Clark had interrupted.

Clark needed a moment to recover, then he approached the couch and gave the little girl a kiss too. "Goodnight to you too, Sammy."

As soon as Clark joined her in the bed, Lois held him tightly. And the knowledge that Jerome was able to listen to every breath they took…well he needed time to adjust to this.

"You know, Clark, I never felt so relaxed as I am with you."

"Really?"

She nodded, smiling against his chest.

"I have to be really boring then," he said, amused.

She raised her head, in order to look at him better. "Yeah, you are very boring," she joked. Then she stretched up to kiss him. She laid her head on his chest, listening to his heartbeat, and in this position, she fell asleep.

Clark couldn't believe his luck. He was here, with the woman he loved in his arms, and their child playing in the next room. And now he was sure that Jerome was going to survive.

The two doctors were doing everything in their power to perfect the vaccine that would protect Jerome from Kryptonite, they had also determined that there was nothing physically wrong with Jerome nor did there seem to be any permanent damage from his prolonged exposure. These facts and the knowledge that he too would be here for Jerome and would protect him with his life if necessary made Clark as sure as he could be that Jerome would survive and with Lois at his side they would someday be a real family.

Clark stayed awake until Jerome came into the room. "Hey…"

"Mom's sleeping?"

"Yeah," Clark whispered. "Come here," The boy smiled.

"Are you going to sleep with us?"

"Well, I don't know… I guess I should go make up the couch."

"Clark? You can stay, if you want…"

"I'd be happy to stay."

"I'll be happy if you stay." Clark grabbed the boy and held him, kissing his head.

Clark made him lie down between him and Lois. Jerome fell asleep almost immediately. Clark lay in the darkness listening to their soft breathing. And, listening, he slipped into the most beautiful dream of his life.

Some hours later, a low moan brought Clark awake so suddenly that he almost fell to the floor. He realized that he'd been floating in his sleep. He opened his eyes to look at his son. Jerome was dreaming, crying in his sleep.

He opened his eyes looking toward his son. He was dreaming, and again in his dream he was crying.

"I want my dad…go away…no…Mom…Dad! You are bad! Mom! Dad!" Jerome began to struggle in his sleep. He wasn't yelling yet, but his moans were becoming louder. Clark noticed that Lois' heartbeat was changing. She was waking up too.

"Jerome…" He caressed the child's face. "Honey, it's just a nightmare…" He lightly shook the little boy. Jerome sat up sharply in the bed. His heart was pumping furiously. Lois opened her eyes, but Jerome was already in Clark's arms, crying hopelessly.

"Dad… He killed you… He killed you both…"

"Shhhh. I'm here…I'm here…and mom too. We're fine. You're okay. Stop crying now, Jerome. Nothing will happen to us, any of us. Shhhhh…stop crying…" He was rubbing Jerome's back and kissing his head, holding him firmly against his chest. He raised his gaze to Lois.

She was holding the blanket tightly in her fists. She was trembling.

Clark stretched his arms toward her, taking her into his firm hug.

"As soon as Bernard and Stew finish the vaccine, everything will be okay. They're very close. You have to trust me on this one…" Clark wasn't sure who he was trying to reassure more, them or him. He realized Lois was sobbing too. "I promise. Everything will be fine."

***

By Saturday, Bernard and Stewart were so close to completing the vaccine that they were sure their work was almost done. There was just one undesirable effect — it wasn't a permanent cure. It looked as though Jerome would have to be given periodic doses to maintain the desired effect. Jerome was now almost completely healthy. Lois was amazed by how quickly he was recovering, but the doctors explained how the effects of purple kryptonite dissipated more quickly than those of the green variety.

There wasn't enough kryptonite at Klein's loft to complete the final test, however, that would have to be done at Star Labs, where the specialized equipment necessary to check Jerome's health could be found. It was a risk taking Jerome there, but unavoidable. Superman and Lois agreed to go with them. The risk would be minimal, Bernard said. As they'd heard, Star Labs was closing soon. There were very few people still working there to see them come and go.

As Bernard said they Labs were going to close very soon, there were no more people that were working there.

But that didn't mean they were safe. A few minutes after they arrived in Klein's office, one of the doctor's colleagues picked up the phone.

"I'm calling from Star Labs. Those results you were waiting on are ready. They're here. Just as you guessed, there's a problem, he's with them now." He listened to the answer on the other end of the line. "Sure. All I want is my reward."

After three hours at the lab, Superman had to fly to Europe. It seemed that there had been an explosion at a crowded shopping center in Switzerland. There were many people trapped under the rubble. And in some of the wrecked automobiles that had been using the rooftop parking facility…

Lois stared at the LNN reports. It was so awful. She could hear the people crying for help. She was worried for Clark. She knew this was going to be hard on him. She knew that he couldn't save everyone. And since she'd discovered that Superman was Clark she realized how painful this could be for him. She wondered how the sweetest man in the universe could suffer all this pain around him.

Even from the TV she was able to hear people cry for help. She was worried for Clark. She knew he was going to have a very hard time. She knew he couldn't save everyone. And since she discovered Superman was Clark she realized how painful this could be for him. She wondered how the sweetest man in the universe could stand all this pain around him.

Lois didn't move her gaze from the TV reports for most of the afternoon. She turned off the TV when the last boy was pulled from the ruins. When she saw Clark's expression, she couldn't just watch passively any longer. All she wanted was to be able to hold him tightly, let him know that he couldn't solve all the horrors of the world.

Time flowed slowly. Clark was away for most of the day. But by the middle of the afternoon the doctors at least seemed happy with the results of their tests.

"Lois, we have the cure!"

She felt hope flow through her veins. She forgot the rest of the world. Her son was going to be safe. She knew it now. She almost ran to the big table where all the vials and test tubes lay. "Really? When can we give it to Jerome?"

"In a couple of minutes. Relax, Lois, we're nearly through."

Jerome raised his head from where he and Sammy were painting.

"I'm safe?" A very big smile appeared on Lois' face. Jerome jumped around the room. But a sudden noise jolted them.

The door was opened suddenly by five armed men.

Instinctively, Lois caught Jerome and held him tightly as the largest of the men approached her.

"Give me the child!" he ordered.

"No way!"

"Give me the child!" he said again.

Lois was ready to fight for her child, but the man yanked Jerome from her arms. She heard herself cry out. Everything was happening as in a dream — a nightmare — time seemed to have slowed, although it was all happening so fast! She tried to pull Jerome away from his abductor, but the man pushed her hard against the wall. She heard her son scream in terror, then everything went black. She barely had time to realize that she was losing her senses before darkness overwhelmed her and she slipped to the floor, unconscious as the kidnapper fled with the terrified child in his arms.

Jerome started to cry as he tried to reach his mother, kicking and punching his attacker. Although he managed to get in some blows, he still hadn't developed his powers and his blows weren't strong enough to seriously affect the man carrying him from the room, as he called on the rest of the gang to help him.

As soon as the men had burst into the room, Lewis, with quick thinking, hid the vials of vaccine in his pockets. A fact which eluded their attackers. Sammy ran towards her father, crying desperately, but none of the men seemed to care about her. They ignored her.

The man who took Jerome gave his men a signal. They obeyed, and they began to smash everything in an attempt to destroy the doctors' work, as two of the men held them at gunpoint. They broke every vial, every table, everything they could use. In less than a minute all the doctor's work was vanished.

***

Around twenty minutes later, Clark was back from the Europe.

He was exhausted, all he wanted to do was hold Jerome and Lois tightly. He had seen too many families torn apart by the explosion. He had seen parents crying for children, children looking for parents, people who had lost everyone they loved. It was the worst thing he'd seen in his life. As devastating as an earthquake, yet more horrifying for the fact that this disaster had been man-made. Terrorist attacks were the worst kind of war. Only the innocent died. It wasn't fair!

He flew to Smallville to take a shower and change his Suit. But he still felt dirty. Worse, he was struck by a strange feeling of foreboding that he couldn't understand. He changed quickly, anxious to make sure that Jerome and Lois were all right.

He flew as quickly as he could into Star Labs, entering through the window in Bernard's lab. Then he froze in mid air. The lab was completely destroyed. Lois was lying at the foot of one wall. Bernard was kneeling beside her, testing her pulse as Stew tried to calm Sammy. Lois was regaining her senses. She tried to get up, but the doctor made her lie down again.

"I have to go!! I have to save Jerome!"

"Lois…" Clark was beside her in a flash. "What's happened?"

Lois didn't need to add anything else. Clark was out of the window before the scientists could speak to him.

"The vaccine!" cried Bernard, but Superman was already too far away to hear. "We know Luthor has Kryptonite! Superman hasn't any hope without this!" he told Lois.

"I'll take it!" she said firmly.

"You can't."

I can! This is my son's life we're talking about here and the life of the man I love too!" Lois was resolute. Bernard had never seen her show this expression. Nothing and no one was going to stop her.

"Wait! You can't go with out this!"

"What…"

"You'll have to shoot Superman with this. Don't try this on Lex, the only bullets this gun contains are the ones that contain the vaccine. Do you think you can remember that? After all, you could have a concussion!"

"I'm fine Dr. Klein! Are you sure this will work?"

"I guess so, but are you sure you want to try?"

"It's Clark's only hope. Jerome's too. You can have them drink it too if you're able, I'll give you a vial with some in it, but I don't think Luthor will let you get that close to Superman."

For a moment she stopped. Bernard knew that Superman was Clark, she wondered how he had figured it out so quickly but now wasn't the time to analyze the implications of this.

"Can I go now?"

He nodded. "Are you sure you're okay?"

"I have to go!"

"Lois!?" She turned.

"Be careful."

She ran away, without caring about her headache.

***

One moment later Clark was flying around Luthor's high- rise. He was quite sure that rat would bring Jerome here to kill the child. He was able to recognize his son's voice even from that distance.

He was crying…

***

"Dad… Please you are hurting me…"

"Stop calling me that!"

"Please… Dad!"

"Stop it! I don't want to hear you."

"I want mom!" Tears were rolling down Jerome's cheeks.

"Your mother won't be able to help you now, not anymore!"

"You said you were going to kill me first!"

Lex looked at him, his gaze amused. "So, you little bastard alien, you did know!" Jerome nodded. "Well, your mother is already dead! And soon you'll be joining her!"

The child was sniffling, wiping his tears with his hands. "You've never cared about me."

Lex bent down in order to put his eyes at the same level as Jerome's. "Why should I have to care about a monster like you?"

"I'm not a monster, but you're bad! You always made mom cry!"

"Well, she's not going to cry anymore!"

"I know that my mother is OK! I can feel it!"

"You'd like to think so?" Lex took a metal box from his desk drawer. He opened it and put it in front of Jerome. It gave out a greenish light that was reflected in the child's face. Then he extracted a gun from his jacket.

Clark was inside the room before he could do anything. He took his son into his arms. But the child was almost senseless. Clark couldn't miss the amused expression on Luthor's face.

"You're crazy! You'll end your days in prison, as you deserve! You'll pay for everything you've done all these years!"

"You're one to talk, I'll just bet the public would love to know that their great hero, Superman, goes around having affairs with married women and impregnating them!"

"You don't deserve her! You never did!"

"She was mine!"

"She is not … " The Kryptonite made him feel weaker and weaker.

Lex pointed the gun at the child again.

Ten minutes later, Lois ran into her house. She knew Lex was there. Their house. This was very much Lex' style. He would win…in his palace.

She had the gun held tightly in her hand. When she opened the door to the office she saw Clark in pain lying on the ground with a pale, unconscious Jerome in his arms. Clark was trying to protect his son's body from Lex.

Lex turned toward her.

"Oh, my beautiful wife. I was waiting for you to join us before I went on with the show. 'The Death of Superman and Son.' How do you like the title?"

"Let them go!"

"Oh no, they'll die. As you will too. But before you die you can watch your darling child be killed."

"You won't do anything to hurt either of them. I'll stop you."

"Oh, my brave little wife. I'll kill you like the bitch you are. It's the least you deserve!"

"Kill me then! Now! Come on!"

"Oh this is perfect, my wife went insane due to the stress she's been under what with our son's illness, she attacked me and I tried to stop her. She couldn't bear to see her child in so much pain so she killed him. And then she killed herself before I could prevent it. That's what I'll say to the police. Yes, that will do nicely!"

"Oh, you've thought it all through, haven't you?" She still kept her gun in front of her, pointed at Lex. "You didn't count on one little thing." She moved her gun towards the unconscious Superman and pulled the trigger.

"Lex's eyes turned in the direction of Superman just in time to see the bullet hole in his chest. However, unlike a normal bullet would, this one didn't bounce off but seemed to be absorbed by Clark's weak skin which then closed up around the wound. Clark moaned.

"Why thank you, Lois. While I appreciate the effort you made I don't need your help to kill these aliens."

"Believe me, Lex, you need a lot of help. Psychiatric help!"

"Since it seems as if you've done my work for me that only leaves one loose end my Dear, It looks like its your turn to die now!"

Lois watched as Lex's eyes gleamed and he pulled the trigger, at the same moment as a hand tightly grabbed his ankle causing him to crash to the floor. The bullet, forced off its intended trajectory by Lex's fall grazed Lois' head. She lay motionless. It all happened so quickly that Lois wasn't able to react enough to get out of the path of the bullet completely.

"Now I'll kill both of you. I know you can't fly anymore. This kryptonite is too strong for you, you're becoming weaker. I'll be so happy to watch you die — and you've no idea how glad I'll be to tell Lois you're both dead!"

Clark held Jerome more tightly when he realized that the boy had fainted.

"This is between you and me. Let the boy go!"

"No. It's more amusing to watch you plead to save your bastard. I'm sorry you won't be here to see him die. I want to save that pleasure for Lois…"

Clark tried to grab the corner of the table near him in order to pull himself up, but he failed miserably. He fell, hitting his shoulder badly on the ground as he twisted to avoid falling with all his weight on the child.

Lex had never had so satisfied an expression. All his plans were coming together, he would kill the alien's bastard child in front of its mother and then kill her and the icing on the cake would be the destruction of Superman into the bargain. Yes, today would be a very happy day for Lex Luthor.

Lex had never had so satisfied an expression.

Meanwhile, Clark was writhing in pain and Jerome was growing paler and paler. Clark could see the insane gleam in Luthor's eyes as he moved closer to him with the Kryptonite and the gun.

At the same moment the bullet went through Clark's skin he began to feel better. As quickly as the kryptonite had affected him, so did the antidote help him recover. He regained consciousness and saw that Lex was ready to shoot Lois. With all the power he had right then he grabbed Lex's ankle and pulled him to the floor. Lois was safe, for now, and with every second that passed he felt stronger. He was able to kneel in a few second more, although it took some effort. Lex seemed to be really scared, as though he realized he was losing everything.

Lex pointed his pistol at Superman and fired repeatedly until he ran out of bullets. One bullet brushed Clark's arm, but he was quick enough to avoid the others. Clark grabbed the gun and crushed it in his hand as though it were made of butter.

Clark heard Lois moan. Almost in the same moment her purse and gun violently hit the floor with a sinister sound of broken glass. He raised his head and saw a blood spot on her shirt: one of the bullets he had just avoided had hit right on her shoulder.

He was beside her in the blink of an eye.

She seemed to be oblivious to her pain as she ran towards her son.

"Jerome… honey, please tell me you're okay… Jerome! Mom is here… Jerome!"

The child was senseless. Clark was near her but she barely seemed aware of it.

"Lois, give me Jerome, I'll take him to Bernard…" She shook her head firmly, trying to hold the child more firmly. She had begun to be aware of the growing pains in her shoulder. "Lois, Jerome needs help!"

"My purse, where's my purse!" Lois cried, franticly looking around the room.

"Lois, Give me Jerome…"

"I have a vial of the vaccine there, I need to give it to Jerome immediately!"

Seeing the need to find her purse as paramount Clark scanned the room with his X-ray vision. It seemed that not only did this vaccine provide protection against Kryptonite but it also sped up the recovery process as well. While he was still woozy from the effects of the mineral he was much better than he'd be under normal circumstances. Seconds later, Clark found the purse under the sofa where it had fallen when Lois was shot. He grabbed it and brought it to Lois who opened it to find no more vials, just smashed pieces of glass drenched in purple liquid.

Lois was panicking. She had no clue as to how much vaccine was left at Star Labs. She held Jerome tighter, not caring about her own pain, but she needed some moments to think. There had to be a solution. There had to be a way to save her son — another last hope.

"Give me the gun! Give me the gun!" she cried, without listening to what he was telling her.

"Lois…"

"Clark! Give it to me!"

"Lois, I'll need less than a minute to get him to a doctor…and you're bleeding!" Clark's voice sounded more scared than she ever remembered, but this wasn't the time to think about his fear.

It took some effort for Lois to take the child into her arms. She wasn't able to stand and walk towards the gun she'd lost some seconds earlier. Clark didn't understand what Lois wanted to do. He didn't realize that he was able to withstand the kryptonite because he'd been shot by the gun she was trying to reach.

Lois wiped her tears on her unwounded shoulder. She was so scared and Clark seemed to be panicking. This was so strange…she was usually the one who panicked. Instead, everything seemed clear to her in that moment. She knew exactly what to do.

Her hand trembled furiously as she opened the gun and, with her terrific relief there was another purple bullet; it was soft, it wasn't hard to extract and break it open with her fingernail. She poured the entire contents into Jerome's mouth.

She raised her face to the man she loved. "Clark, you can take him to Bernard now." Then she realized that she'd said Clark's name in front of Lex. She turned towards him expecting to see him gloating over this bit of information, but he wasn't there!

"Where is he?" Clark scanned the entire building with his x-ray vision but there was no trace of Luthor. He kneeled down beside Lois, as his legs gave out and he lost the strength suddenly to stand. He shook his head.

"Lois, I'm so sorry, I didn't — " He seemed almost ready to burst into tears. His lips were trembling.

She smiled at him, caressing his mouth. "It's okay, we'll find him. Clark, are you able to fly?" He nodded. "Take Jerome to Star Labs, I can't…" She couldn't finish. She had to lean against him.

Clark's head seemed to clear a bit more and he was able to think again. Lois needed him and Jerome did too. He took both of them into his arms and flew as fast as he could towards Star Labs.

***

Once again, Lois found herself alone, sitting near her son's bed. And again all she could do was hold his hand.

She had refused to go to the hospital, she wouldn't leave her son alone. Stew had to take care of the wound on her head, but her shoulder needed to be immobilized. It still hurt a lot, but it was the last thing on Lois' mind.

The doctors prepared the medical research lab for Jerome. It wasn't very modern or up to date but they were able to find everything they needed in order to take care of the child. The direct exposure to full strength Kryptonite had caused a serious relapse in Jerome's condition. Since his body had been weakened by the repeated exposure to the diluted Kryptonite he had been given all those months the exposure in Lex's office had damaged him to such an extent that the vaccine he had been given was the only thing that had prevented his death. Despite the deficiencies of the current treatment options there were many reasons not to take the boy to the hospital. Lois was resolutely against it when the police suggested moving him there. Lex was still at large and they hadn't a clue where he was. Nor any of his men. And moreover Inspector Henderson agreed that they would be safer if Superman would guard the little boy.

Henderson asked her a lot of questions as the doctors helped her into a clean shirt, an old one of Stew's. Lois felt uncomfortable wearing it, it felt strange. She remembered Clark had given her one of his shirts years before. It hadn't felt the same as this. She remembered that it fit on her body like a strong hug, giving her the feeling of being embraced. This time it just felt too big for her and only made her feel ridiculous.

The police asked her several times if she wanted to press charges against Stew and the hospital, but she refused categorically. She said she would never testify against the doctor. She wouldn't let Jerome either.

And the doctor couldn't tell Lois how grateful he was when he found out Lois refused to testify against Lex if both doctors didn't get the immunity. Dr. Klein and he had saved her son's life, probably Jerome would have died a long time ago if he had had different doctors.

Lois explained to Henderson that even if she was enraged by all that had happened, that she could still understand all too well Stewart's fears for his daughter's life. She knew she couldn't blame him. She was more angry at herself for being blind to Lex's true nature all these years.

But now her rage was gone. Now she was only afraid. Her life had changed dramatically in the past few days and she felt more afraid now than she had in all of the past days when she'd been ready to accept her son's death. It had broken her heart but she had known that illness and death had existed since the beginning of the world. But now it was different. She knew that her son could be dying because of her choices. She now knew that Lex had actually wanted Jerome dead. But still she saw hope. Hope of a life with Clark, all of them together, as a family. A real family, as the Kents had always been. Something completely different from what she'd been used to. Her own family barely knew her. Her entire family for the past eight years had been Jerome.

"Please, Jerome, please come back to me," she whispered. She'd been maintaining her vigil for over five hours now, the doctors had left her alone, perhaps guessing that she needed this time alone with her son. They came every half hour to check on Jerome's condition and always the answer was 'no improvement'.

Her eyes caught a movement behind her. A hand rested on her shoulder.

She tilted her head to caress the hand with her cheek.

"Hi," Clark whispered.

"Any news?" was all she was able to say.

"I'm sorry, no, I wasn't able to find him. I'm so sorry," he whispered again, but this time his voice trembled.

"Clark, it's not your fault…" she turned toward him in order that he could see her gaze.

"I know, but… I should have been able to stop him escaping. He's insane! I —"

Lois kissed his hand. "Stop that, Clark. It's not your fault. We'll think about him later, but," she whispered. "I need you. *We* need you."

"Lois… I need you too…"

Lois was silent for some seconds then she took a deep breath before beginning again. She lowered her gaze towards the floor. "In the last few months I've realized how wonderful you are. No, that's not entirely true. I always knew you were a wonderful person but you cared about me and about Jerome, even when you didn't know he was your son and…even though I behaved like a bitch to you —"

Clark made her stand up.

"Hey, lady, that's the woman I love you're talking about."

Lois released her son's hand in order to embrace Clark with the only arm she had available.

"Oh Clark…" He kissed her lightly on her lips, then his kisses wiped her tears.

"Lois, I don't want you to cry anymore… Believe me, I'll do all I can to avoid making you cry again…"

"To have you here again is the only thing I need."

"To have you here again is the only thing I've ever wanted."

"How did I survive all this time without you?"

"How could *I*?" She buried her face against his shoulder, holding him tightly. They stayed that way, silent and motionless, for a long time.

"Clark…" She whispered against his neck, "I want the Planet again…" She felt him smile, against her lips when he kissed her.

"I want that too… We'll have to fight to bring it back again, but I know that together we can do it."

***

With the speculation about Luthor running rampant it didn't take the press long to find out that Lois and Jerome were at Star Labs. Due to the lax security at the facility word had gotten out soon after they had arrived which set off a media frenzy, every reporter wanting to be the first to question Lois on the details of the situation. Lois was becoming restless just sitting around Star Labs but due to his weakened condition Dr. Klein recommended against moving him for a couple of days at least. While it might not have all the comforts of home Star Labs did afford them some privacy as well as allowing the doctors to continue to monitor Jerome.

Three days after he regained consciousness Dr. Klein and Dr. Lewis pronounced Jerome fit enough for travel. He was still quite weak but he was no longer in imminent danger. It was a good thing too as Dr. Klein had been requested by Star Labs management to see that they left the facility as soon as possible. Upon hearing this Lois was ecstatic, but also she was apprehensive about having to run the gauntlet of reporters who were still crowded outside the doors.

It was more than a whole day later before Jerome recovered enough to wake up. He was still weak, but both of his doctors agreed that in time he would be just fine. The newspapers and television news channels seemed abuzz with rumours. Everyone was talking about Lex, Lois and Jerome. Everybody wondered how and why the most powerful man in the world would try to kill his own son. Everyone had their own theory it seemed. Star Labs was besieged by reporters. Never in all her life had Lois seen so many reporters in the same place. The police had even had to send a couple of men to calm down the situation.

"Lois, it looks like it's time for you and Jerome to leave. But I'll be close by, I won't let anyone bother you."

Lois looked up at him and leaned her head on his chest. Then she raised her gaze. Her hand traced the S on his suit.

"I don't want Superman with me," she said firmly. Clark tensed, but she added, almost immediately, "I want Clark. Clark is the one I want to spend my life with. Clark is the one I want to work with. Clark is the one I'm in love with. I want Clark. Can you understand that? I know, it's crazy, but —"

Clark held her tightly. "Lois, this is what I've always dreamed about. You and me, as Clark, not Superman. Not the superpowers…no suit…"

Lois looked up at Clark with a mischievous sparkle in her eyes. "No suit? I think I like that idea…"

"I didn't mean… no… well … "

"You don't want to?"

"No… I mean… Yes… I mean…"

"I love you when you are embarrassed," she said, giving him a quick kiss on his lips.

"I like being embarrassed by you."

"So?"

"So what?"

"What do you think? About having Clark with me."

"I'll get you and Jerome out of here."

"You think we can hide who Jerome's true father is?"

"I don't want to hide. If you agree, I want to be his father. As Clark."

"I couldn't have hoped for better." Clark held her hand. She smiled but it was slightly sad.

"Hey… what else is wrong with you?"

"Sorry. Just thinking."

"About what?"

"I don't want Jerome to go home… I mean not to that house! It would be too painful."

"I can understand that… "

"Lex owns most of the city. I don't want to stay somewhere that's his. It's stupid, but —"

"It's not stupid. I don't have a place here anymore. I could ask some friends —"

"It's not a problem, Clark. I was with him for so long, it's not —"

"Smallville!"

"What?"

"Well, not forever, just for a while — just until Lex is safely in prison. You can come with me. My parents will be so happy to find out they're grandparents!"

"If I was them, I'd hate me…"

Clark kissed her head, holding her again. "Lois, stop it. Stop blaming yourself!" She simply nodded. "Lois, you know my parents. They'll love Jerome!" She smiled sadly. "They'll love having you home again."

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah, I know they will. Mom was worried about you when I told her about Jerome."

"She didn't think I deserved all I got?" she said, unable to find the courage to look into his eyes.

"Are you joking? Lois, no one deserves what you've been through." She smiled at him sadly, so he added, "But in Smallville, we don't have that big a house remember." She nodded without understanding why he'd brought it up, then she noticed the sparkle in his eyes and she understood. "So we'll have to share…a room…"

"You mean the bed. Don't you?"

"I guess that too…" he said with the most naive voice he was able.

"Well, I've discovered you don't snore, so that's okay."

"And if I did snore?"

"Mmmm I guess I'd have to give you a reason to stay awake…"

He looked at her with an amused gaze. "You know, I snore a lot. Really a lot."

She kissed him, laughing loudly before leaving the room. "Jerome is waiting for us. We have to go."

***

Lois helped Jerome to dress, although he wasn't happy to need the help. He wanted to do it alone, as he used to do, since he was very young, but he was still too weak. But Jerome insisted on walking alone, without help.

"Stubborn as his mother," was Clark's comment, but he agreed.

Jerome was able to walk alone, although not without visible effort. He left Star Labs, walking slowly and holding onto Clark's hand, almost hiding his face against his father's side. He wasn't ready for the reporters clustered around the exit.

There were reporters from all parts of the world. Luthor was still wanted and the scared gaze of one little boy was the big news story of the day for most of them.

Clark held tighter to the small hand clutched in his, winking at Jerome.

The little boy wondered how this man was able to erase all his fears with only a look, or a smile. He thought that this was what made his mom fall in love with Superman. He could feel the love Clark had for him and he was sure Clark loved his mom the same way as well.

Clark's other arm was around Lois' waist. She hated the reporters being there. There were also some of her former colleagues from LNN. Didn't they have any respect? Where was the real journalism here? They had never acted this way when they worked together. They had loved their work so much. She remembered how Clark had reacted on their very first assignment, when poor Dr. Platt had been killed. How angry he had been at the policeman who'd made a callous joke. Strange, she didn't remember the joke or even Clark's words, but in her memory she could still clearly see his face, hear the pain in his voice. Wonderful Clark, always so sensitive. Lois cuddled up against Clark's side.

He kissed her forehead, hardly caring about the reporter's questions and comments. It was all so ridiculous. Then he heard a voice in the crowd. One he would never have been able to hear without his superpowers. 'Didn't take her long to find another father for his bastard, did it?" Clark wondered if information of Jerome's differences might not have gotten out. Now was not the time to worry about that however, but he would have to be ready to deflect suspicion from Jerome just in case. Not for the first time in his life, Clark struggled to control his rage against someone. He wanted to yell at them all, 'He's my son! He's the son I always hoped to have! He's mine and Lois'!"

Lois felt his tension and looked at him, but Clark shook his head. In the same moment, he felt Jerome stagger, his grip loosening. He glanced at him quickly.

Jerome had his eyes closed. He was very pale, he was trembling, and he was trying not to cry.

Clark realized that he had overheard that horrible comment too. With a quick movement he released his hold on Lois and took Jerome in his arms, holding him tightly.

The flash of cameras lit the area around them. The sound of clicking cameras blended into one continuous click, as the assembled photographers each tried to capture the moment.

Lois' worried gaze hadn't moved from the two people she loved most in the world. She was able to listen to Clark's words to their son as she stared at the boy's body, shaking with sobs.

"I'm here, we're here, don't worry about them, just listen to my voice. Don't worry about them…Lois and I will have you clear in a few seconds, I promise. Don't cry, Jerome."

Just when they had almost reached Lois' car, they realized that it was completely encircled by reporters. Again they reflected on their time at the Daily Planet, where journalism was so different. Then a new sound drowned out all the rest. It came from another car some feet further away. Clark raised his eyes, then he was somehow able to take Lois' hand.

"Run!" he said and just as she nodded, started to move toward the car. The doors were already open. As soon as they got into the car it sped off, without giving the reporters time enough to react.

"Hey, Big Brother, it's good to see you again." The woman driving the car smiled at him in the rearview mirror.

"I was never so happy to see you, Meg…and thanks."

Lois was staring at the way Clark was smiling at this stranger.

"I'm sorry, I'm Megan O'Donnell, pleased to meet you." She stretched her hand towards Lois without taking her eyes from the road. Lois found herself smiling too.

"How's the kid, Meg?" Clark's voice broke the embarrassed silence in the car.

"She's fine. No, she's wonderful. But she's Michael's daughter, she couldn't be anything different." She laughed loudly. "Don't tell Clark…"

"Well, I don't want you to get too full of yourself you know. If you start playing matchmaker all the time when will you find time to keep up your writing! By the way, now that we're on the road where would you like me to take you."

***

Lois opened her eyes, dazzled by the light that was filtrating from the blinder. She wondered where she was. The sheets smelled so good. This fragrance reminded her of something. She was still asleep but she loved this smell. Clark sometimes smelled like this. Slowly she woke up. Now she new where she was, her eyes became used at the light. She remembered this room, she remembered another night there, and a morning.

She smiled.

Clark had held her the whole night, here in this room, so long ago. It had been the night after Trask had tried to kill him. For the first time she had realized Clark really could have died that day. Trask had had kryptonite.

They had held each other through that long night. They spoke a little, they slept for several hours. Now, almost ten years later she remembered. That night she had dreamed she knew how to fly.

Again a smile appeared on her face. It hadn't been a dream. No doubt she really had floated that night, held tight in Clark's arms. She'd only made the connection now. Memory was strange sometimes.

Lois heard Jerome shout with joy. She slowly stood up and looked out of the window. It was a warm day. The sky was cloudless and there was a warm breeze. It seemed more like a morning in late spring than late autumn.

She went down the stairs of the silent house. There was no one in. She realized she'd slept late. That was probably why she felt so relaxed, so alive.

Lois shuddered when her bare foot touched the porch floor, but she didn't want to retreat back into the house. Not yet.

Just in front of her eyes was the best sight she had ever seen. Clark and Jerome were running along the yard, trying to make a kite fly. Jonathan was clapping and Martha was holding onto her husband, laughing.

Lois leaned against the wood of the porch, then she smiled at Clark when their eyes met. Just a second later a warm blanket wrapped around her shoulder.

"Good Morning."

"Mmmmmmm. 'morning to you too," she whispered, still feeling the warmth of his lips on hers.

"Did you sleep well?"

"Wonderfully…"

"I'm glad about that."

Lois kissed him again. She wasn't able to resist his smile, she knew that, and he seemed to know that too.

"I can't believe it, Clark…" She nuzzled up against the man she loved, kissing his neck.

He looked at her reluctantly, wondering why she had stopped kissing him.

"That we are together… Together again…"

"Not again, honey… just forever."

THE END!!!!!!!!!!!!