By Deja Vu <snot_vampire@hotmail.com>

Rated: PG — 13

Submitted: January 2006

Summary: Suffering with amnesia, Clark has been held captive for eleven years. His life is about to make a huge turn around. A rewrite of "The Pilot."

Disclaimer: This story is intertwined with the pilot episode of "Lois and Clark" and uses some dialogue and situations from the pilot (and perhaps a little from other episodes). All such dialogue and situations belong to the makers of Lois and Clark, not to me.

Author's Note: Small breaks (often POV changes) are denoted by ~~ (and a free line before and after). Large breaks are denoted by


(and two free lines before and after). What should be italicized scenes are denoted by // and \\ surrounding the scenes.

Feedback is welcome at snot_vampire@hotmail.com.



He could smell fear.

The strong scent of animal-like sweat invaded his nostrils, mingling with his own odd inward sense of the fear itself.

But he didn't merely *smell* fear…

He could feel it…and taste its bitterness.

It was like his own private sixth sense, something he didn't try to feel or think about…It just happened.

Very strong…

The sense…

The taste…

The scent…

The fear.

Oh, the fear…

It *always* came back to the fear.

It was like the foul stench of a hundred decomposing corpses had all at once assaulted his nose…Like the taste of vomit on his tongue and the rough scratching of it against his throat as it came hurtling upward…Like a pounding headache—caused by a stampede of elephants—that simply refused to go away.

Sometimes his strange "sixth sense" made him feel as though *he* were a wild beast…

Often, he felt akin to a wild dog that was somehow able to sense that the humans nearby were frightened of what it might do with its teeth…or to a horse that knew it had an inexperienced rider on its back…

*Animals* were supposed to be able to sense fear. Not him.

And when most animals sensed that a person was scared, they readily took advantage of it.

But *he* didn't want to take advantage of anything. He just wanted to run away and hide…

Away from the fear.

He straightened, trying to appear menacing as he blocked the fear at least temporarily from his senses and emotionally bombarded brain.

He glared pointedly across at the man conducting business with his master.

The man was hiding it rather well, he reflected. But his fright was as obvious to Clark as it would have been if the man had possessed a giant sign on his forehead that told of it.

He gave an inaudible sigh.


That was the only name he'd ever known…

Or, at least, the only name he could remember that was associated with himself.

His memories of his first eighteen years seemed to have been blocked from his mind. And yet, despite this seemingly unbreakable barrier, every few months he would have a quick flashback.

But not of scenes…nor of images.

Just emotions.

It was sometimes strange for him to think of his momentarily remembered past feelings as flashbacks, but they were all he had left of his former life…And he wanted to claim *something*.

He sighed softly again and tried to jog his memory. But it was pretty much pointless to even *attempt* it…

And yet…


Yes, he could remember *love*.

It was hard for him to describe exactly how he knew that what he had felt but a few times was love. Love was something that—other than with his rare flashbacks—he had never truly experienced.

His *master* had certainly never loved him.

Yes. His master.

Clark grimaced inwardly and then, because of it, experienced a brief pang of guilt, feeling that he had almost betrayed the man who had kindly taken him in after his amnesia had hit. It was his *master* that had helped him relearn how to speak and approach matters from an intelligent angle that belayed his mental youthfulness…And by doing so, his master had done so much more than he should have. Clark had no right to wish for more from him.

His master had graciously helped him in his time of need when *no one else would*. That which he had asked Clark to do in return was certainly an easy enough task for Clark to perform…

He wanted Clark to protect him with his life.

If Clark had been another man, perhaps it might have seemed to be too great of a request, even in exchange for the magnitude of help that his master had given him. But with his invulnerability, all it required was time, patience, acting…and total cooperation on Clark's part.

Clark gave a mental wince, remembering the last time that he had disobeyed his master's order to…dispose of someone…

It was a few years ago, on a dark, and strangely foggy, Metropolis night. He had been performing his typical "look big and mean" bodyguard duties when his master had pulled him aside, politely asking the man he was doing business with to excuse him. His master had softly made a request—although it was actually a command in disguise, as was typical with him—but Clark had been adamant in his refusal of the "request." He would *not* murder someone in cold blood. The man had done nothing to *him*—he had just displeased Clark's master by performing some minor task against his master's wishes…

His special abilities had been gone for a week.

The strange green rock that was kept around to keep him in line had been brought out, causing him to crumple to the ground in pain. After his skin had weakened enough, he had been injected with a mix that contained microscopic particles taken from the rock. The particles had been altered by his master's scientists so that the injection would keep him fully conscious…and suffering in agony.

The deadly particles (at least, they were deadly to *him*—they didn't seem to have any effect on other people) had also been changed to a form that would cause him a great deal of pain but wouldn't *quite* kill him, although at times he had wondered if Death were at his doorstep. Whenever he pleaded for his master to show mercy, he was ignored. When, during more lucid times, he ventured to ask his master about where he had found the meteorite, he had also been denied an answer. The rock simply remained an enigma to him.

His master had never again asked him to kill someone, but the cold look that had been in his eyes ever since had torn at Clark's heart. His master was the only family Clark had ever known…or, at least, that he could remember…That phrase was certainly becoming more popular in his mind every day.

Clark's master had kept his alien abilities a secret and had kindly hired him as a bodyguard, but he was only to be seen at certain times by certain people. That was the only role he played. His master had another servant as his second-in-command.

Clark had been serving his master for eleven long years. The earliest image he had was waking up in a bed with an excruciating headache. His master had taught him to communicate verbally, and when Clark had finally gotten a good grasp on the English language, his master had carefully explained Clark's situation and informed him that he had strange powers he would have to relearn, although the existence of his powers would have to be a secret between them. His savior had tried to teach him corrupt morals, but something deep inside Clark—perhaps what he'd been taught by his parents?—had resisted. His master wasn't happy with Clark's ethics, but he had Clark's services, so he grudgingly accepted them.

Clark had very briefly entertained thoughts of escape, but his remembrance of the painful meteorite that his master's scientists had dubbed "Element X" had quickly squashed the idea.

"Very well," his master closed.

Giving a slight bow, the man exited. Lex Luthor turned to Clark. "That went rather well."

When Clark only nodded in response, the other man raised a questioning eyebrow. Clark spoke up, glad that the scent of fear had mostly left the room with the man, although putrid remains of it stayed persistently behind. Hoarsely, he spoke, "Strong." He cleared his throat. "His fear was very strong."

Luthor nodded thoughtfully. "Good. I suspected as much." He smiled. "Fear helps keep them in line…Perhaps next time he will think twice before even *contemplating* the thought of double- crossing me."

Clark agreed, "He will." If the amount of fear he had felt from the man were *anything* to go by, the man would entertain no thoughts of stabbing his master in the back in a *hundred* lifetimes.

"As you know, tonight is my White Orchid Ball. I will have you fitted for a new tux, and you will need a haircut. Perhaps, if you are to appear in public…" Luthor surveyed him. "Yes. It wouldn't do to have my underlings recognize you, since they might get the wrong idea…Mmhmm." He nodded. "A slightly different haircut and…well, we might as well dye it. Brown…Yes, that will do nicely."

"As you wish," Clark said simply.

"Nigel," Lex called out.

A bookcase slid back, revealing Lex Luthor's thickly accented second-in-command, Nigel St. John. He was an ambitious and cultured man, but he was well-paid and knew better than to betray Luthor. "Yes, sir?"

"Clark's hair needs a trim, and it should be dyed brown." Lex briefly scanned his bodyguard again. "Light brown."

Clark grimaced inwardly. He *hated* having his hair dyed 'light brown.' It just didn't seem to fit him.

Bowing, Nigel answered, "Yes, sir."

Despite being Luthor's right-hand man, Nigel didn't know anything substantial about Clark's powers and alien origin. He merely knew that he was strong…

Very strong.

Clark reluctantly followed him out.


It was a lighter-haired Clark that scanned the huge ballroom in a manner that he considered inconspicuous. The dye was a special type that his master had had manufactured so that it would come out after only one washing with the application of a certain type of shampoo. While Clark watched the guests with eyes like a hawk, he chatted politely with a few people, not wishing to stick out like a sore thumb.

That was when he saw *her*.

She was dancing with his master and smiling charmingly. She had bright, beautiful brown eyes, as well as fine brunette hair that was fashionably held up with silver barrettes, delicate tendrils of it hanging down.

To put it simply, she was his dream come true.

He gave himself an inward shake, belatedly realizing that he was hovering a few inches above the floor. He grounded himself, throwing quick glances around to make sure no one had noticed him. Clark instantly berated himself for even *thinking* about her. It was obvious that Luthor had some kind of interest in her, and it wasn't Clark's place to fall instantly in love with someone.

It was sort of humorous, actually. Women had always been the last thing on Clark's mind…But then, he had never seen *her* before.

Clark noticed a man—who appeared to be the woman's sniffling date—butt in on Luthor, and he saw her give the man a stern talking to after his master stepped aside in a dignified manner. He suppressed the urge to listen in on her conversation, sensing that it wouldn't be pretty. He did catch a name, though. Mitchell.

After thoroughly chewing him out, the brunette began meandering up the stairs, alone…And in the direction of his master's office.

'Uh oh,' Clark thought. He slowly followed her, making sure that no one spied him in the process of doing so.


'Mitchell's an idiot,' Lois thought to herself as she tried to inconspicuously climb the stairs. She had been trying to get close to Luthor, but unfortunately her hypochondriac of a date had a jealous side to him. She *knew* she should have asked someone else to come. Heck, Bobby Bigmouth would have been a better choice than Mitchell!

She wiped the scowl off her face as she entered Lex Luthor's office, trying to exude an innocent air in case anyone was nearby. Fortunately for her, the office was empty. She began to quickly sift through the papers on Lex's desk. Surely there would be something noteworthy in the pile…


Clark found himself a little amused by Lois's attempt to appear innocent. Simply by watching her for a few moments, he could tell that she had a lot of experience in going through other people's personal files. She was also thoroughly engrossed in her work, which led him to believe that while she was experienced in snooping, she wasn't very good at it.

He stood in the doorway for a few more moments before he cleared his throat pointedly. "Excuse me, miss?"

Lois froze in mid-motion, a hand-caught-in-the-cookie-jar expression on her face.

He continued, "Have you lost something?"


"Excuse me, miss? …Have you lost something?"

Lois felt like throwing something in frustration. She had been caught!

She couldn't help but appear a little guilty as she looked up, her mind frantically buzzing with different cover stories. "I ah, was just…*admiring*…uh, Mr. Luthor's materials. He has quite a little…museum…*here*…" The excuse sounded lame, even to her own ears, but, to be fair, she hadn't been planning on being found so early on in her…investigation.

She had hoped that she would be able to find some newsworthy information that Lex hadn't told her about, but her chance was gone now. She had been caught by this…man.

She looked him over briefly, filing aspects of him away in her mind. He wasn't bad-looking, he didn't seem to be a hypochondriac, and he appeared to be kind. He would have made a much better date than Mitchell, that was for sure…

She then wiped all thoughts of the man from her mind. Since when did she check out guys like a giggling schoolgirl?


Clark smiled. The woman had made an amusing attempt at recovery. It wouldn't have worked with *most* guards, but then, he wasn't like most guards. "Perhaps Mr. Luthor will show it to you sometime. Right now, however, he is about to present something that I am sure you will find quite intriguing…"

Nodding, the woman—he wished he had thought of asking her name— followed him back to the ballroom. His master had just turned out the lights and revealed a blue hologram of what he was presently introducing as Space Station Luthor.

Clark checked around with his X-ray vision to ensure that no one else had tried sneaking around, gave a last brief glance at the woman, and then disappeared upstairs, not wishing to hear Luthor's suck-up speech. *He* didn't approve of his master's plan to sabotage Space Station Prometheus and put his own space station in orbit. It wasn't ethical. But then, since when had his master cared about ethics?


Lois Lane still felt a little embarrassed that she had been caught snooping through the third richest man in the world's personal materials (a man that she had been on a few dates with, incidentally), but she was oddly pleased that the man who had caught her red-handed wasn't angry at her.

The man.

Lois sighed dreamily, thinking back to the man even though she had reprimanded herself earlier for thinking like a schoolgirl. She just couldn't help but notice how well-put together he had been—after all, she was only human…

He had broad shoulders, a strong chest, a handsome face…His hair color didn't seem to fit him, but that wasn't the important thing…

And his *eyes*…

They were deep, brown eyes that held kindness and gentleness…But her reporter's instincts told her that there was something else hidden within their depths. Fear, perhaps? Loneliness?

She tried to shrug it off. Who was she to care? She would probably never even *see* him again.

And yet…

For some strange reason, Lois couldn't *stop* herself from caring…

Annoyed with herself at her concern for someone whose name she didn't even know, she shook herself inwardly and tuned back in to Lex's proposal.


The White Orchid Ball was finally over, and Luthor had decided that Clark's services were no longer needed for the night.

Clark gladly retreated to his small room, which happened to be placed right next to Luthor's luxurious bedroom.

He didn't mind the small size of his room, however. It was well suited for his few needs, and it provided him some slight comfort to have a place to "come home" to.

Clark took a *very* quick shower, changed at ultra speed, brushed his teeth out of a habit that he somehow still had from long ago (despite his not having to worry about cavities), and collapsed onto his bed, exhausted—an occurrence that didn't happen often.

He turned out his overhead light and tried to fall asleep. But, despite his fatigue, he found himself wide awake. He stared up at the ceiling, trying to clear his mind, but he soon found his thoughts drifting back to the woman he had seen dancing with Luthor.

Clark was so wrapped up in his inner musings that he accidentally picked up what his master was telling Nigel in the room next to him.

"Ms. Lane has been *persistently* pestering me for an extensive interview." A sigh. "She doesn't quite understand that my interest in her is not purely professional. During the past few months, I have spent more time with her than any other woman, though because of my busy schedule, that isn't saying quite that much. And yet, even in that small amount of time, she has unknowingly stolen my heart." He paused. "Yes, Nigel. It's true. I have fallen completely and utterly in love with her. But she simply refuses to be won." Lex Luthor sighed again. He normally wasn't one who sighed often, but the situation was making him flustered—or, at least, as flustered as Lex Luthor got. "I might actually have to resort to desperate measures. And you know Nigel, I *don't* like to bait the mouse with expensive and finely grated Swiss Cheese when regular Cheddar should do just fine."

"Certainly not, sir. I do not think that she was merely *pretending* to be enraptured with you when you danced with her," Nigel argued. "And very elegantly so, I might add."

Clark sat up abruptly, a realization kicking in. He didn't know *how* he knew, but his gut instinct told him that they were talking about *her*!

And Lex Luthor would do *anything* to get what he wanted.

She could get hurt…

He calmed down enough to listen to Luthor's reply.

"You don't know her like I do, Nigel. She's a *wonderful* woman, but I'm afraid she's rather stubborn."

"What are you proposing, sir?"

"You of all people should know that I have *other* methods of persuasion…" Luthor laughed.

"Indeed, sir."

Clark bit his lip, unsure of what he should do. If he tried to prevent his master from getting his way, then *he* would probably get hurt. But if Clark didn't do anything, then *she* would get hurt or coerced into doing something against her will.

He clenched his fists in helplessness, careful not to crush his sheets into a fine powder. He couldn't just sit there and do *nothing*. He had simply watched Luthor manipulate people far too often. It was time for Clark to do something. He didn't know why, but he felt some sort of emotional pull from the woman that he had seen dancing with his master.

But how could he help her when he didn't even know anything substantial about her?

Maybe it was time to put together everything that he knew.

Her surname was Lane, she was obsessed with her work, and her work probably had something to do with investigating or snooping since she had been going through Luthor's office. She had to be a prominent citizen for Lex Luthor to take *any* permanent interest in her.

Well, Luthor's eye wouldn't be easily caught by a detective…

She probably wasn't a criminal either, because Lex would know about that, and more than likely he would only go after her on pretense…as he had with many other women, Clark thought sourly.

Maybe she worked for a paper?

Clark didn't read papers often, but he sifted through his brain to see if her name sounded familiar.


Could it be *Lois* Lane, the *star* investigative reporter of this century?

Yes, that was probably her.

Everything fit into place.

She was an investigative journalist, highly respected, and her persistence after stories fit the "stubbornness" category.

Okay, so…what now? Did he just fly over to the newspaper and hope she was there, regardless of the fact that it was past working hours?

Clark sighed. This was too complicated for an amnesiac bodyguard to try to take care of.

But nevertheless, he was going to try.

Fine. First things first. He needed to go to a phonebook and find her address.

That should be simple enough. How many Lois Lanes could there be in Metropolis?


It turned out that there were *three* Lois Lanes in Metropolis, according to the out-dated phonebooks inside the different phone booths Clark had chosen to check. He had looked at a few different phonebooks because they were old (how old, he didn't know—they weren't dated), and inconsiderate people would often tear out the pages. Most likely, she had moved several times. Not too odd of an occurrence in a big city like this one.

Clark, clad in black clothing, decided to go check out each address. The apartment building the first phonebook directed him to was burnt down. He checked out the building she was listed under in the second phonebook, but he found out that *it* was torn down. So, he finally walked to the building the third phonebook claimed was hers. This one was intact.

He didn't want to intrude on her privacy, so it was with hesitancy that he scanned the building with his X-ray vision. Not that room…*Definitely* not *that* one…Ah, there she was.

Lois was sitting on her bed, leaning her back against a few pillows. She was watching a soap opera in her room while snacking on popcorn, a box of tissue waiting faithfully beside her.

Clark shifted slightly to catch the door's number, but he was stopped by the sudden stench of fear drifting towards him from a nearby alley.

His acute hearing caught the sounds of struggling and moaning. He tried to ignore it and figure out her apartment number again, but he finally sighed in resignation. He couldn't stand by when an innocent victim was in trouble.

Clark jogged over to the alley, calling out in a commanding voice, "Leave him alone!"

Knife in hand, the mugger let go of the man he was holding tightly by the collar, dropping him to the ground. "Stay outta this, bub…Unless you wanna fork over your dough, too?"

Clark put his fists up protectively. He didn't need to, due to his invulnerability, but it was necessary if he wanted to keep his secret…well, secret. "Get out of here."

"Lemme think about that…Ah…I'm thinking no," the snarling man stepped forward menacingly.

"Okay, but I warned you." Clark came a little closer to the blade-wielding individual, throwing a few quick punches at his chest while dodging the knife.

The man fell backwards, the air knocked out of him. Clark stepped over to him, quickly finding the pressure point in his neck and knocking him out.

The man's victim looked timidly at him. "T-t-thank you."

Clark smiled. "No problem. You might want to find a phone and call the police." With that suggestion, Clark disappeared, leaving the man speechless in his wake.

He swiftly hurried up the stairs to Lois's apartment, stopping outside her door and wrinkling his nose distastefully.

He could smell his *own* fear.

Clark was only rarely frightened of anything, and it surprised him that he was merely afraid of speaking with a woman that he didn't know. He took in a deep breath and knocked.

"Hold on!" came a muffled shout from inside.

After a few seconds in which Clark's good hearing picked up the sound of several locks being undone, Lois Lane answered the door in a robe. Well, she peeked out anyway, the chain-lock on the door still in. She had a cautious look on her face and didn't appear to be expecting company…

It *was* kind of late.

Surprisingly enough, Clark didn't sense the large amount of fear he would have expected from her at the thought of a late night visitor. He could mostly sense caution from her.

His nose brought to him the tickling scent of lightly applied perfume, and he forced his thoughts back to the crucial matter at hand, trying to cut off his olfactory sense.

"Yes?" she peeked out at him expectantly. She gave him a vague look, and then her eyes widened in recognition. Perhaps the dyed hair he'd had earlier wasn't a very good disguise. Not that he minded. It kind of helped that she remembered him. He was also relieved that it was the woman from Luthor's party and not a *different* Ms. Lane.

Clark dropped his voice. "Ms. Lane, I have some important information for you…" He checked the hall quickly. No one in sight. Still…

"Can I come in?" Clark asked. Luthor had spies everywhere. No point in letting him know that Clark knew more than he was supposed to.


Lois had just started one of her favorite soap operas when a knock on the door had broken her concentration. After shouting at whoever was outside the door to hold on, she had muttered to herself and tightened her robe around her. Upon discovering that outside her door was the handsome man that had found her in Lex's office, she had felt surprise and then delight before pushing both emotions to the back of her mind. The two emotions soon came back after the man told her that he had information and that he wanted to come inside.

She hesitated for only a moment before disabling the chain-lock. If the man had wanted to hurt her, then he could have done so in Lex's office. As for his knowing her name, well, a lot of people knew who Lois Lane was…


Clark felt both relieved and wary when Lois Lane allowed him inside. It was fortunate that he didn't have to talk to her more out in the open…But if he had been someone that harbored her ill will…

Clark glanced quickly behind him to make sure that no one was watching before entering. Seeing no one, he stepped through the doorframe, and Lois closed the door behind him.

He gazed around Lois Lane's apartment. It was a modest apartment that looked like it was occupied by someone who didn't spend too much time at home, although several colorful fish were swimming around in a large and well-kept tank.

"I believe you know my mas—erm, employer, Mr. Luthor…"

Lois Lane nodded.

"It appears that he…ah." Clark wasn't sure how to word what he wanted to say.


This man didn't seem very confident in himself, but he did seem honest at least. Lois could sense his hesitancy, as well as a possible front-page story, and so she offered, "Would you like to sit down?"

"Sure," the man replied, appearing relieved to have the opportunity to recollect his thoughts.

Once they were seated on her couch, he began anew. "Lex Luthor is planning something." He paused, appearing to be steeling himself. "He says that you haven't been responding the way he wants you to."

Lois didn't even bother to hide her confusion. "What do you mean?"

The man was rather blunt, though hardly less confusing. "He doesn't want to be interviewed by you. He has an interest in you romantically, and if he doesn't get what he wants soon, then he will resort to desperate measures…And desperate measures from Luthor are never pretty."

Lois Lane's skepticism flared up. How dare this man come in here and tell her a bunch of lies about Luthor? "Lex is a great man!" she asserted. "He has done so much for this city—what could *he* do to hurt me?"

The man got up and started pacing. Idly, she thought to herself, 'He's kind of cute when he's flustered.' Then she shoved the thought to the back of her mind, scowling.

"You don't know him like I do. He's a very dangerous man. Surely you don't think that he became one of the richest men in the world because of his honest motives, do you?"

He had a point, but Lois had a counterargument: "He might have done some questionable things on his way to the top, but he's past it all now."

"No, he isn't. Trust me."

"I don't even know you." Lois was starting to become wary as he became emotional. Emotional men only meant trouble for women.


Clark could smell the putrid stench of fear start to waft slowly towards him.

No, not that. Anything but *that*.

Not more fear.

Not more *fear*.

"You don't understand!" He was becoming upset as the fear began to overload his olfactory sense and his emotions, and he started twisting more randomly in his pacing back and forth, his breathing quickening. "He's evil. He—" Clark paused, trying to stop himself from hyperventilating and scaring Lois Lane. "He'll do anything to get what he wants! His intentions *aren't* honest! He kills people…threatens people…He'd do anything to get to you. *Anything*."

"Then why are you still working for him?" Lois's fear of him was receding, but it was too late. Clark was already starting to get delirious. Painful memories were flooding back…

"Don't you see? I have *no choice*! He won't let me die! Instead, the *pain* comes, and the fear…*Always* the fear…But he *won't let me die*! He subjects me constantly to the fear. He doesn't care…The pain is horrible…But not as bad as the fear…It *all* comes back to *the fear*! And if I *run* from the pain and the fear, then he'll tell about *me*! And then the fear comes to me! There's nothing…nothing I can do…" He was throwing his arms in the air frantically and breathing even more quickly than before.

"Calm down," Lois said quietly. She stood and tried to gently push his arms back to his side, but Clark was still in a frenzy and, without thinking, threw her backwards onto the couch, although not even *half* as hard as his superhuman strength permitted.

The rancid fear came back again, and Clark let out a pained cry and collapsed to the ground, his hands on his temples and his eyes tightly squeezed shut. He shifted from side to side minutely, trembling.


Lois looked at the man sadly for a moment before marking him in her mind as insane and possibly dangerous. Ever the brave one, she went over to him and lightly put a hand on his arm. "Let's get you to a doc—"

"No!" His eyes quickly opened, and he shouted forcefully at her. "*They* can't do anything! Only *he* can!"

"Why?" Lois pitied him. He wasn't making much sense and almost appeared to be emotionally abused. Perhaps he'd had a bad home life? She felt a pang of empathy. Her home life hadn't exactly been ideal either…


While he lay trembling on the floor, Clark's voice turned into that of a child's, which was something he *was*, inwardly at least, despite Luthor's attempts to harden him. "He won't *let* me tell! He told me not to. He hurts me when I don't do what he says…The pain comes, and even when I'm *good*, the fear always follows…" He whimpered.

The fear…


Lois had been creeping slowly towards the phone. This man needed some serious help—anyone could see that. But when he began sobbing uncontrollably, her conscience tugged at her, and she reluctantly went over to him. She knelt beside him and patted him in a manner that she hoped was reassuring. "It'll be okay. I won't let him hurt you anymore."

The man's pain- and panic-filled brown eyes turned towards her. "But I can't hide from him. *Nobody* can. Sooner or later, he'll find you and make you pay."

Lois shook her head and told him slowly, "We can have the police—"

"The police can't do anything. They can be bribed." Strangely, he seemed to be getting a much firmer grip on his emotions. "I have to go. I just wanted to warn you to watch out for him."

But Lois refused to let him get away that easily. "Don't you have anyone you can turn to?"

The childish voice was back. "No…He…he *helped* me. I should be happy he *helped me*." The young voice disappeared as suddenly as it had come, and he spoke with anger, the words he spoke sounding like ones he had heard before. "But I'm an ungrateful wretch. I *deserve* to be punished. *He* is my master." He sighed. "I can't betray him anymore than I have…"

'Master?' Lois thought, worried. That didn't sound too good. "What's your name?"


Clark looked at Lois Lane for a few moments, thinking. Should he give her one of the fake names that Luthor had made him use from time to time?

No, he decided, he should tell her the truth. She *deserved* honesty.

"Clark," he stated, feeling oddly shy.

"Clark what?"

He shrugged. "I don't know. I don't remember. He told me that was my name."

'What if it isn't really my name? What if that which I thought to be the only tangible part of my past is actually a lie?' Clark felt suddenly devastated.


'That poor man,' Lois thought. Out loud, she asked, "Why don't you know your own name?"


Lois Lane's question hit Clark like a blow. Why *didn't* he know his own name? If his master had known his first name, then he should have known his last name as well, shouldn't he have?

He quietly told her, "Amnesia."

His answer seemed unsatisfactory to himself, but his inner guard soon snapped back up. He shouldn't be telling her this. He couldn't trust *anyone*. That's what his master had always said…

He felt part of himself wanting to rebel against his master's advice. He felt like he *could* trust her.


Lois sensed she was missing something important, and she inquired, "Has he kept you in his service ever since you got amnesia?"

Clark nodded an affirmative and averted his eyes to the floor.

Good. He seemed to be in control of himself.

She continued her questioning. "How old were you?"

"Eighteen," the man said, closing his eyes and taking in deep breaths.

Eighteen? She frowned. How old *was* he? He seemed to be around her age…

She asked him how old he was, and he told her: "Twenty-nine."

She did the mental math, and her eyes widened in horror. "Eleven *years* of service?"

If she could find enough evidence supporting what he said, then this could prove to be one of the *biggest* stories of the year…And, of course, this man desperately needed her help, and there was no better way to help than to expose his slaver Lex Luthor…


Clark felt suddenly uncomfortable. He shouldn't have said anything. He muttered, "Yeah," and looked nervously around the room. Back. He needed to go *back*.

"And you've done nothing else since?" Lois Lane asked him.

Clark shook his head. His destiny was to serve his master. *That* was all life held for him.

"Why haven't you left him?"

"*Element X*," he said as if it were obvious. "His powers lie in *Element X*."

"What's that?"

Clark bit his lip. "I can't tell you."


Lois was aggravated. This man came in here with some incredible story about one of the most powerful men in the world, and then he *limited* the information that he gave her. How the heck was she supposed to help if she didn't have the *whole* story?

She crossed her arms, staring at him. "Either you can trust me or you can't. Which is it?"


Clark squeezed his eyes shut. He trusted her with his entire being, but he didn't want her to automatically think of him as a disgusting alien…Like his master did.

He whispered, "He has spies everywhere. If I tell you, then you're as likely to get hurt as I am."

"I can take care of myself," Lois stated, sounding annoyed.

"Not from him…Not from him." Clark took a breath. "He always finds a weakness. I have a weakness. *You* have a weakness…*Everyone* does. He'll find it, and he can do *anything* to get what he wants. And he always does in the end."

"If he's so bad, then why don't you want to expose him?" Lois asked.

When he looked up, Lois Lane's eyes caught his. Taking in another breath, he refrained from answering about the fear again, instead telling her, "I have nowhere to go."

"I can find you a place to stay," Lois offered.

"I have no money."

"He never paid you?" Lois sounded shocked.

"He helped me in my time of need, and I have been repaying that debt," Clark told her seriously.

"I think that eleven years has more than repaid any debt. We can find you a job—" Lois was cut off.

"What job? I have no legal experience for any type of career. *Who* would take me in? *How* would I hide from Luthor?" These were questions Clark had mulled over during many a restless night. But there was one question he didn't dare voice. How could he keep Luthor from telling the whole world that he was an *alien*?

"I'm sure my boss, Perry White, could help you find a job. Maybe you could work at the Daily Planet…And if we changed your hair a bit and maybe added some glasses…Surely Lex Luthor wouldn't expect you to be hiding under his nose with your natural hair color…"

"Do you think he would be fooled that easily?" Clark was incredulous.

"Isn't freedom worth taking a chance?" Lois's question hung in the air.

Clark finally spoke, "Why would you do this for me?"

"I like seeing justice done," Lois stated.

"But you think I'm insane." Clark could do more than sense fear. Every now and then, he had telepathic powers that kicked in. He prayed that she didn't notice his slip and put it off to guess- work.

She didn't seem to notice, though she did seem to choose her words carefully. "Not…insane. Just…emotionally abused."

Clark laughed bitterly and muttered, "Not just emotionally…"


"Nothing," Clark looked down. She wasn't supposed to hear that.

Lois appeared to be thinking for a few seconds before she spoke again. "And if you worked at the Planet, then you could help me in investigating Luthor…That would be the *biggest* story of this century!"

Clark swallowed. "Okay…But what if my identity's revealed to Lex?" Then Luthor would tell the world about *him*…

"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it." Lois took in a deep breath. "It's kind of late…Tonight you can sleep on the couch, and maybe tomorrow night you can bunk at Jimmy's or Perry's." At his blank look, she added, "Jimmy works at the Planet. He's mostly an errand boy right now, but someday he'll be a great photographer or reporter. Don't tell him I said that though," she smiled.

Clark nodded tentatively. "You can trust me."


As Lois went and got a pillow and blankets for him, she thought to herself, 'I hope so…'


The next morning, they accomplished a lot. Clark had insisted that he could cut his hair while Lois went out and bought him a pair of (good-looking, he hoped) non-prescription glasses. He didn't quite trust her in picking out the glasses on her own, but if *she* had tried to cut his hair, then she would have made a startling discovery when the scissors snapped in two. Using only a mirror and his heat vision, Clark had the job quickly done, giving himself a much shorter haircut than Lex Luthor had ever permitted him to have. He couldn't help but think that Luthor made him have a longer haircut to make him look a bit scraggly (although not *too* scraggly) and more intimidating.

When Lois had come back with the glasses, he'd tried them on and was actually quite satisfied with them.

Then they'd both sat down and tried to think of a suitable name. Lois had argued that his first name should be Mark since it sounded like Clark, but Clark had told her that that was just a little *too* close, but that she had the right idea in having it sound a little like his first name. After a few minutes of discussion, they had finally settled on the name Charles King, both finding it to be satisfactory.


To get to the Daily Planet, they rode in a taxi, which was driven by a man that seemed to like scaring his passengers with his driving. It was with several curses and reluctant and aggravated finality that Lois paid the driver before stepping out.

Clark was wearing an outfit that Lois had bought for him, even though he had protested against her doing so. She had argued that he could pay her back when he got back on his feet, and he'd finally accepted the clothing, not feeling like arguing anymore.

Walking towards the Planet, Lois sighed. "I went to EPRAD this morning, before I woke you up, and I followed the truck that had the Messenger's wreckage inside. They took it into a hangar, and I tried to get in, but Dr. *Baines* threw me out."

Clark recognized the name Dr. Baines, and he even knew why Lois had been thrown out by the woman. But before he could say anything, a loud commotion was made, and he saw that smoke had started to billow out around what appeared to be a construction area.

"Hey! There's a man down there! Call the fire department!" someone shouted.

Lois rushed over, and the man continued. "We need help!" To the spectators, he ordered, "All right, back off! Back off!"

Clark lowered his new glasses, and saw, via his x-ray vision, a man trapped beneath. The emergency services wouldn't be able to get there in time to save him.

He could sense a lot of fear, feeling an acrid tingling of his senses…And it wasn't just coming from the unfortunate man either.

Yes, the fear was back. Back to haunt him, taunt him…Torture him.

Clark tried to block the fear from his mind. The man would *die* if he didn't help him! He needed to *stop* worrying about *other* people's fear!

With a resigned sigh, he glanced around quickly, lifted up the sewer cover, and disappeared under it.

"People, back! Get back!" the man from earlier continued to shout.

The no-longer trapped man was lifted up by a pair of arms, and he certainly looked worse for the wear. He was coughing and covered in dust and grime.

An official quickly stuttered, as he helped the man out, "Okay, okay, okay, okay. You all right?"

Lois Lane got out her notepad and glanced behind her at Clark, who had noticed the dust covering him just in time and somehow managed to get it all off before silently appearing behind the female reporter just in time to receive her curious gaze.

The unlucky man coughed. "That man!" People looked around to see where he was pointing, a bit confused. "That man saved me!"

"What?" a police officer looked at Clark strangely.

"That man!" the survivor coughed again. "He pulled me out…Pulled me out."

Lois looked at Clark skeptically, as if doubting that he could do anything that required more strength than lifting a toothpick would take.

"He's delirious!" Clark stated incredulously, hoping that he had gotten *all* of the dust off of himself.

It seemed that he had, for Lois merely looked at the still- coughing man and then back at him. "I can tell."

Clark gave a mental sigh of relief before following her away from the scene.


Lois Lane steered Clark, alias Charles King, around the newsroom, pointing out various desks and giving him a brief summary on their occupants. She paused, scowling, in front of an empty desk. The nameplate on it read: CATHERINE GRANT.

"Cat's probably still out on the prowl with her latest *rat*," Lois snarled under her breath.

Clark didn't venture to ask about Cat, sensing that, from the look on Lois's face, any questions would be met with harsh replies. But before he could say anything, Lois spied her Chief Editor talking to a slightly balding, middle-aged man. Lois ushered Clark over to the pair.

Perry White was telling the other with patience born from years of practice, "I *need* evidence before I can print it…Show me the *proof*!"

"Perry, can I talk to you for a second?" the Daily Planet's top reporter questioned him, but it came out as more of a demand than a question.

"Not right now, Lois. Can't you see that I'm—"

"It's really important," Lois insisted. "In your office." She looked at Clark, who felt uneasy, and whispered, "You can trust him. Believe me." Clark nodded minutely, the last of his doubts trickling away. He had a gut-feeling that the man was probably the most trustworthy of men he would ever meet, and if Lois vouched for him, then he might as well let the editor know a little about him.

Grumbling, Perry led them into his office. Once inside, Clark lowered his glasses and scanned the room quickly. No electronic bugs, surprisingly enough. He wondered if the editor had his place swept every day, or if people just chose to leave him alone due to reasons Clark would probably be best off not knowing.

"What in the Sam Hill is it *this* time?" Perry was exasperated.

"Perry, this is Clark. Clark, this is Perry White." The two shook hands, Perry a little grudgingly, and Lois added, "But don't call him Clark. Call him Charles King."

The Chief Editor gave Lois Lane a forced calm look, a dozen questions in his eyes. Judging by the look on his face, he always had to be *very* patient with his top reporter.

Lois began to babble. "Well, Clark works for Lex Luthor, and I met him at the White Orchid Ball. But I didn't know that he was Clark then. See, I was kind of looking through Lex's office, and he sort of caught me red-handed, but that's besides the point since he let me go—I still don't understand why he did—but *anyway*. Somehow, Clark found out that Luthor's intentions towards me weren't exactly honest, and so he came to warn me. That's when *I* found out that Luthor had held him in a sort of semi-slavery ever since he got his amnesia. Yeah, can you believe it? He has amnesia. Luthor *told* him that he had it, but he only told him that his name was Clark and that he didn't know anything about his past history other than his first name. Clark's been working for him for eleven years without pay, but since Clark had no idea that he didn't actually have to *do* that, he continued to work for him. Clark says that a lot of what Luthor's done is not exactly above board, and that…" It seemed like she was finally winding down and forgetting where in her story she was. "Um…"

Perry stared at Lois, blinked a few times, then asked Clark to excuse them for a minute. Clark complied, going out and waiting in front of the door for a few moments, then he left his spot so that he wouldn't be tempted to use his acute hearing to eavesdrop on their conversation.


"Did you hear one word of what I was telling Ralph?"


"Evidence! Cold. Hard. *Facts*!" He took a deep breath to control himself. "How do you know that 'Clark' out there isn't a con artist?"

"There *is* a story here! I *know* it!" Lois insisted.

Perry gave her a dubious look, and she pleaded, "Give me some time."

"Fine. Three days."

"*Three*?" Lois squeaked. "What am I supposed to get done in three days? Lex Luthor is the third richest man in the world! He's sure to have covered up his trail pretty well!"

"If you can get me *one* piece of tangible evidence that points his way, *then* you can have more time. But *only* if you do." Perry really didn't expect her to get any evidence in three days; he was only giving her the time so she would get off of his back. He knew that his top reporter had detected a front page story, but at the moment he wasn't able to spare her for long. Besides, doing an exposé on Luthor would be dangerous.

"Fine," Lois muttered with grudging acceptance.


After Clark had left his temporary spot by the Chief Editor's door, he had decided to go sit down at Lois's desk. However, he soon found his path blocked by an auburn-haired woman wearing an outfit that would be described *very* kindly by the phrase "eye- catching." (There were also a thousand not-so-kind words that he could have used to describe it, though he shoved them all to the back of his mind.)

"Hello, handsome," she purred.

Nervously, Clark's brown eyes twitched from side to side, and he tried to go around her, but she continued to be a barrier on his journey.

"Cat Grant." She held her hand out, but obviously higher than one would for a handshake. "Cat's Corner."

With some misgivings, Clark took her hand, but then he lowered it and smiled tentatively at her. "Oh, yeah, I've read your column." In actuality, he couldn't remember doing so, but his instincts told him that *that* was what she was talking about.

Catherine Grant smiled wider, looking for all the world like the Cheshire Cat. "Ah, so my reputation precedes me."

Clark gave a fake laugh. "Uh, *yeah*. If you'll excuse me, Ms. Grant—"

"Cat," she told him, a bit seductive-sounding.

"Cat," he repeated, finding the way she clipped her name quite humorous. He hadn't had much contact with women during his time in Luthor's service, and he was finding them rather unpredictable.

"How about dinner tonight? I know a nice little place—"

"I have plans," he told her firmly. He just wanted to be left alone right now.

"Fine. Maybe another time," she purred. Then she disappeared as quickly as she'd come.

Clark sighed and sank down in Lois's chair. Then, unable to help himself, he grinned and bit out sarcastically, "*Cat*."


"Three days," Lois said, walking up to Clark, who was still seated at her desk and was studying his surroundings with interest.

"What?" he was baffled.

"We have three days to find some *inkling* of evidence that points towards Luthor. Can you get me any?"

Clark shifted uncomfortably. "What kind of evidence?"

"Solid evidence."

'Trust,' Clark reminded himself. 'You have to trust her.' "I can give you the names of some people that Lex has bribed to turn their heads aside."

"What kind of people?"

"Congressmen, policemen…people like that."

Lois had a strange gleam in her eyes. "Could you make me a list on the computer?"

"I guess so…But you won't tell anyone that I'm your source, will you?" Clark looked at her, his fear slowly starting to rise.

"I promise I won't print anything about your involvement," Lois reassured him.

"All right."

Lois booted up her computer, and Clark started to work on the list, carefully making sure that he was typing at human speed. While he did so, after a short inner debate with himself, he quietly stated, "Lex Luthor was the one that had the Messenger sabotaged."


"He wanted to get his own spacestation into orbit. It would boost his public image to be the "savior of the space program," and he would incidentally make a lot of money from the vaccines that were produced."


Lois stared at Clark. She was hesitant to automatically believe what he said about Lex, but there had always been a slight coldness to Lex's demeanor that she had noticed, although he was very quick to hide it.

If he *had* had the Messenger sabotaged…

"It *was* him," Clark informed her quietly.

"What?" Lois gave him a suspicious look. "What are you, a mind- reader?"

Clark's eyes widened, and he started shaking. It was easily apparent that he was switching back to the child-like mode that he had been in a few times before. Lois regretted her words the minute he began to speak. "Don't hurt me. I promise I won't do it again." Wide-eyed, Clark pleaded, "I promise! Don't bring Element X! It was an accident!" He started sobbing.

Taking a quick glance around to make sure no one was watching, Lois gently placed her hand on his. But he jerked it away quickly, whimpering something about being a good boy.

"It's okay," Lois insisted, trying to make eye contact with him. "No one's going to hurt you anymore."

"You don't know that," he whispered back, fear easily apparent in his eyes. "As long as he has Element X, he is invincible."

"What *is* Element X?" Lois asked quietly, leaning towards him in an encouraging, but somehow slightly comforting, manner.

"The source of his power. The whole world could easily be in his hands, but he prefers a challenge. That's why he doesn't use it as often as he could," Clark told her hoarsely.

"But what exactly *is* it?" Lois asked him, her voice having a slight edge to it. She was tired of not *knowing*.

Frightened eyes were lifted up to her face. "He told me never to tell."

"But Clark," she tried to soothe him, "—you don't have to do what he told you anymore. You're free now. You can say what you want, and do what you want. Well," she cracked a smile, "—not *everything* that you want."

"But he's still out there. And he's coming for me." There was no doubt at all in Clark's voice.

"*That's* why we have to bring him down…So that he can't hurt anyone else."

"Do you think we really can? He's covered his tracks well…"

Yes, evidence was likely to be hard to find…And Clark's mental health was too questionable for her to use him as a witness. She would just have to work with him as best as she could to get as much information as possible.

"We have to," she told him quietly.


It had taken a lot of time and patience, but Lois had finally got Clark to open up and tell her more about the atrocities that Lex had committed. A part of her had wanted to deny it all, but the haunted look in Clark's eyes that he tried so hard to hide convinced her of the truth of his statements.

And so she had only the most trustworthy of her sources on the look-out for more information, but not even Bobby Bigmouth had come up with anything yet.

She'd also discreetly had Jimmy Olsen dig around, but she kept reaching a dead end. If Luthor *had* done even *half* the things that Clark had claimed he had, then the "third richest man in the world" had hidden his tracks well enough that even the Daily Planet's top reporter was unable to find anything pertaining to his checkered past.


After hours of frustration, Lois sat back. "I've run into a dead end."

Clark had spoken as little as possible, but he had helped start this investigation, and he needed to help keep it moving. After thinking for a moment, he said simply, "Blackmail."

Lois turned to look at him skeptically, and he ventured to explain further. "A lot of Luthor's employees can be blackmailed easily if you have the patience and stealth skills. You could get a videotape of someone cheating on his wife or of an illegal business transaction…"

"Easier said than done. I'm sure they aren't going to be sitting out in a public restaurant for the whole world to see."

"True," Clark agreed. "But do you have any better ideas?"

"We could always sneak in…"

Clark shook his head. "No, he's probably waiting for me to do so." 'Waiting with Element X…'

"Okay, so it's back to the videotaping. Have anyone in mind?" Lois turned her curious eyes upon him.

"Well, I've heard that Senator Coleman isn't exactly faithful to his wife, and my mas—Lex—had him exercise persuasion to modify a bill last year to suit his needs. Perhaps you can get one of your sources to check him out?"

"Or we could give him round-the-clock surveillance."

"Or you could have someone check him out," Clark insisted.

"But that way's not positive."

"But your way's not practical. It could be a week until he goes out with another woman."

"It's better that we be there when it happens than *miss* it!"

"He probably has spies that will notice us."

"And if we ask around, then word could get back to him," Lois pointed out.

"But—" One look at Lois's face shut Clark's mouth. However, after a moment's thought, he came back with, "What if he's in the Bahamas?"

"Now *that* we can check with Bobby Bigmouth for."

"Bobby who?"


Lois Lane wished Bobby Bigmouth would hurry up. She and Clark had been sitting in one of the Daily Planet's company cars for twenty minutes, and the snoop still hadn't shown up. Sitting in such intimate quarters with Clark was making him seem a lot less childish and a lot more manly, which was just what she didn't need at the moment. Unable to help herself, she kept sneaking glances over at him. She'd seen what the man snacked on—how in the world was he so well-built? His arms looked muscular enough to lift a train.

Lois snorted at the thought, gaining a curious look from the car's other occupant. Clark Nobody, train-lifter.

Amused, she grinned, and Clark, though he couldn't know what she was thinking, sent her his thousand-watt smile.

She blinked. Where had *that* description come from?

But…she couldn't deny it. When he was as relaxed as he was now, he looked like the kind of man she would have warned her younger sister away from. Handsome. Tall. Strong.

Most single men with his looks would have broken two dozen hearts by the time they were thirty…But he hadn't had that opportunity; he'd been in a situation akin to slavery for eleven years.

Lois winced, but then she steeled herself, taking her mind off Clark and putting it on Lex Luthor. They were going to punish Luthor for all the atrocities he had committed. Now, if only Bobby would show up…


After an hour of waiting in the car, Clark was beginning to feel restless and annoyed. He muttered to Lois, "So, here we are, sitting in the car, waiting for some man who probably won't even *come*!"

"*Clark*, Clark! I'm disappointed in your lack of faith in me," a voice came from behind them.

Startled, Clark swiveled around to find an eager snoop staring him in the face. Why hadn't he *heard the man come in*? He started to stutter something, but Bobby Bigmouth gestured at him to be quiet and turned to Lois. "So whatcha got me this time?"

"The 'Alabama Boiled Chicken Deal, Eatings For Gargantuan He- mans.' Their half-an-alphabet special, or whatever. It's that new place near Ralph's Pagoda."

"Ah, yeah, I haven't tried them out yet. Meant to yesterday, but I got side-tracked by an All-You-Can-Eat special…This had better be worth it, Lois." He looked over the food, then his eyes slitted suspiciously. "I heard this came with *five* rolls."

"Oh, come on, Bobby. Surely one measly little roll won't—" Before Lois could finish, Clark grabbed the roll from its hiding spot under Lois's chair in a napkin and handed it to Bobby Bigmouth, who looked pleased. Lois, on the other hand, wasn't quite so delighted.

"Fine. You have your roll. Now we need our information," Lois glared at the two men.

Chewing on his roll, Bobby looked thoughtful. "All right, here's the deal. Senator Coleman's wife is going to be out of town for a week visiting her sick sister. Today, Senator Coleman has a meeting from three to five, and what he's planning on doin' next doesn't take much speculation. His meeting is at City Hall."

"Is that it?" Lois looked disappointed.

Bobby nodded. "Looking for stuff on Luthor is 'bout as easy as finding a drop of blood on a hamburger patty." He thought about that for a moment and added, "At least, a well-assembled patty, with all the necessary condiments." With that, he opened the car door and started to head down the street, but he turned around and poked his head in for the last word. "Glad you're finally out, Steel." And he left.

Clark started when he heard Bobby's last word. Steel had been one of his codenames under Lex Luthor…But how had Bobby known about *that*?

And Lois was now looking at him suspiciously, gauging his reaction. "Steel?"

Ignoring her question, Clark voiced one of his own. "How did he know that I was under Luthor's employ?" Then *he* became suspicious and turned to her. "Did *you* tell him?"

"No!" Lois was indignant. "I told you I wouldn't, and I didn't." She shrugged. "I have no idea how Bobby gets his information, but what's important is that he rarely lets me down and most of his information is reliable…Come to think of it, I can't think of any *un*reliable information he's given me…"

"Right," Clark mumbled under his breath. He didn't really think Lois had told Bobby Bigmouth anything about him, but the fact that the snoop knew about him unnerved him. Who *else* knew about him?

…And worse, *what* did they know?


Lois and Clark were sitting in one of the Daily Planet's less- conspicuous cars, waiting outside the City Hall building.

Clark was still nervous; he didn't like the idea of spying on and following someone. But he reminded himself that he was doing so to take down Lex Luthor, and he shouldn't have *any* misgivings about doing *that*.

And yet, he couldn't lie to himself. It still felt wrong to take down Luthor.

…But it wasn't because he was a rich and powerful man and it was dangerous to do so. It was because he felt like he owed the man something.

He knew that he didn't. After all, the man had been nothing but cruel to him, even if Lex *had* taken him in during a time he needed help.

It was just difficult. Clark had no idea why it *was*, since he wanted nothing more than for it to be easy, but it was. Clark sighed in frustration.


Upon hearing Clark sigh, Lois looked at him inquisitively. She touched his arm softly and looked into his dark brown eyes. "What's wrong?"

Clark glanced down at her arm briefly, seeming to tense at their closeness, then he brought his eyes back to her face. "Just having doubts, I guess."

"About our pulling this off? Let me tell you, mister, I'm the best d—"

"No," Clark interrupted. "Not that…I just feel like I shouldn't be trying to take Luthor down after—"

"—he imprisoned you for eleven years?" Lois raised an eyebrow.

"I guess you're right."

"Of course I am. I'm always right," Lois Lane grinned at him.

"As you continue to remind me," Clark grinned back.

"And what's wrong with that?" Lois jabbed him in the ribs, but her eyes widened when she saw the almost pained look on his face as he clutched his heart and sank into his seat with a groan.


First, bright and nearly blinding light…

Then, encompassing darkness that felt like it was trying to swallow him whole…

Finally, a blue haze, bringing on a sort of taunting memory that wasn't complete…

//A caring, amused voice, "And what's wrong with that? A growing boy needs his vegetables."

"But eating grass?" A male voice this time, partially exasperated.

"Well, everyone eats a few blades of grass in their lifetime some way or another. He might as well get his in now."\\

The man and woman's faces started to come into focus, and Clark was barely able to distinguish their cheerful, teasing smiles. But as he reached out to touch them and bring them closer, the image dissolved, leaving him with the feeling that he was missing something that Lex Luthor had cheated him out of.

A concerned head was over his, and he was being shaken. "Clark? Clark!"

Blinking, the fuzz finally dissolved, and he saw Lois above him, looking down worriedly.

"What happened?"

He tried to answer, but it felt like he had cotton in his mouth. He tried to work moisture back into his mouth so he could respond, but Lois shushed him. She hissed, "There's Coleman!"

And, indeed, the man walking out of City Hall with several aides that looked like lost puppy-dogs *was* Coleman. He shooed most of them away, except for one who opened the door of his limo for him. He stepped in, and the aide left. Lois started up the Planet's car and followed the black limo.

She glanced at him quickly. "You all right?"

He was still working moisture into his mouth, so he merely nodded. He would be okay…

He just wished he had been able to remember more and had known who the two were…

Were they his parents?

Did they have strange powers like him?

Were they alive?

…Would he ever find out?


They had traced Senator Coleman to his magnificent mansion, where he went inside and changed into more inconspicuous clothing. After doing that, he got into his car (rather than his limo) and drove to a small café.

Fortunately for Lois and Clark, he slid into a booth right by the front window next to a sleazy-looking girl wearing a skimpy red dress and a lot of makeup.

Lois took her camera out of her bag, zoomed in on Senator Coleman and the girl, and started snapping shots of both of them. The two had wasted no time and were presently kissing like love-struck teenagers.

Clark tried to push his emotions concerning his first real flashback to the back of his mind as he got out the small video camera Lois had borrowed from someone at the Daily Planet.

He zoomed in on the pair with a sigh after figuring out how to do so. He wasn't used to cameras.

It was amazing what lengths he and Lois would go to in order to put a criminal behind bars…But Luthor deserved it.

Clark frowned. There was a little more tongue in there than he cared to see…But at least it would be nice and graphic for Senator Coleman's wife.

That is, if Coleman decided he would rather keep quiet than keep the tape away from his wife's eyes…Which wasn't likely, seeing how quickly the two were getting into it.

After more disgusting videotaping and picture-taking, Lois was finally satisfied that they could approach the now-eating senator.

Clark checked quickly with his special vision to make sure that Coleman didn't have any bodyguards hidden away somewhere. Seeing none, he quickly caught up with Lois, and they were soon by Coleman's side. Lois pointed to her camera with a Cheshire Cat grin. "See this? It has some interesting pictures of you and Miss Red Dress doing the Tongue Tango. See that?" She tapped the video camera Clark was holding. "That has an interesting video that I'm sure your wife would be interested in."

Bulging gray eyes met Lois's brown ones.

Clark took pity on the man, deciding he shouldn't suffer any more. "Unless you give us some information."

Lois glared at him, feeling cheated out of her moment of glory. "We need information on Luthor. And if you would be willing to testify on his 'forcing' you to modify that bill, then all the better."

"I don't know what you're talking about," the Senator sputtered.

"Then I'm sure your wife will love to see this," Lois started to leave.


Lois turned, an innocently inquisitive expression on her face. Clark suppressed a grin. She was good.

"I can't testify against him if I want to keep my life, but…What do you want to know?"


"At last, we finally have an idea of what to look for," Lois sighed as she leaned back in her chair. She looked up at Clark, who was standing beside her desk.

A smooth and cultured voice carried easily across the room. "Why, thank you, Perry. I always wanted to take a tour of the Daily Planet, but I never had the opportunity to do so until now."

Clark froze, a deer-in-the-headlights look etched onto his face.

He knew that voice very well…

Too well, in fact.

So well that he didn't even notice that he had completely crushed the pencil that he had been fooling with mere minutes before.


He *had* to get away!



Not the fear…Not his *own* fear.

Grasping his head in pain, he slowly shrank to his knees, gaining the wide-eyed gaze of Lois Lane, who knelt down beside him.

"Charles," she said, referring to him by his agreed-upon false name, likely in an effort to remind him to remember his cover. "Get under the desk, and if he sees and asks about you, tell him you were looking for that pencil you…were holding," the Daily Planet's top reporter frowned at the sight of the splintered pencil remains.

But he could barely understand her words. He was sliding into a world of his own.

Images and feelings bombarded his senses, showing him no mercy.

//A glowing green meteorite, being brought slowly closer with agonizing purpose.

Sharp pain jolting throughout his whole body, wreaking havoc on his senses and making him wish for death.

He begged for his master to stop, moaning and groaning in pain.

But the extra-terrestrial rock was brought closer and closer, its wielder paying no attention to his pleas.

Unable to stand the hurt, the throbbing, the feeling of his skin being pulled in all directions, he howled in pain, letting loose an animal howl that would have chilled the blood of anyone with even a shred of decency in his body.

But Lex Luthor had no decency and cared nothing of what the harmful substance was doing to Clark, instead inching it closer to Clark with agonizing slowness and a malicious and knowledgeable grin. He sought to punish Clark for his disobedience.

Tormented, Clark writhed on the floor, wanting to escape the pain and the encompassing scent of fear that tore at him relentlessly.

Desperate to escape the clutches of pain and fear, he lashed out at his master weakly, but Luthor was quick and dodged the hampered attack.

"Tsk, tsk," the voice sounded warped and distanced, as if being uttered from far away. A face edged towards Clark's barely focused eyes.

It was Lex Luthor's face, but suddenly it became black, with glowing red eyes that pierced into his soul, hurting him even more than the painful Element X. "You didn't expect me to stand still and let a foul creature such as yourself mutilate my *human* form, now did you?"

Grimacing, Clark tried swiping at the elusive sable face, but he missed again. The demonic face moved close to him, this time growing glistening white fangs that nearly blinded him…\\

He felt himself floating away from the pain and the scene playing in his mind as unconsciousness started to seep into his system, accompanied closely by what felt like Death, dark and blood- thirsty.

But a force more powerful than his will pulled him back to face the fear, and the black head with the ruby eyes was again hovering in front of his blurring eyes.

A deep voice spoke. "Wake up, Charles. Wake up. He's gone now. You missed him." The voice gradually became more feminine. "He's gone. He can't hurt you."

Clark strained with all his might, and he was finally able to open his eyes.

Concerned chocolate eyes stared at him as Lois Lane shook him lightly. "It's okay, he's gone," she reiterated.

He breathed in what he had thought would be the sweet smell of air, but the scent of fear spoiled it, and his stomach threatened to rebel.


Lois felt terrible for Clark. What all had Lex done to him?

She patted his back, and he whimpered in a child-like voice, "He may not be here, but he's not gone. He's never gone. He haunts my dreams and calls me names."

"We'll get rid of him," Lois promised, hesitantly placing her arms around him and embracing him tightly, ignoring the few curious glances that were given to her by skeptical co-workers, whose thoughts could be summed up as: 'Since when does Lois Lane hug *anyone*?'

Biting her lip, Lois whispered, "Somehow, we'll get rid of him."


From his look-out perch near his office door, Perry White's solemn eyes remained upon Lois and Clark.

He had no clue what Lex Luthor had done to the poor kid, but it appeared to be something so terrible that it was almost unspeakable.

He had originally been leery of the idea of Lois's trying to tackle the large task of bringing Luthor down, thinking she had only been in it for the chance to get a Pulitzer.

But now, seeing her let down her barriers and give up her tough- girl image to comfort a tortured soul, helping the unfortunate victim of circumstance finally find peace, he had to admit that he had underestimated her.

Ever since the incident with Claude, her emotional walls had been sky-high, and she rarely let anyone inside her heart.

Perry had been lucky enough to be one of the few, but he had known her before Claude had figuratively ripped her apart, and the years had strengthened her confidence in his trustworthiness.

But it had not taken long for the female reporter to let in Clark, who had had no place to go yet had somehow found her.

The boy didn't even know how fortunate he was, the Chief Editor mused. Then his thoughts darkened.

Fortunate was not the proper word to be used when speaking of the boy…

He didn't like muddling in his reporters' stories, but for Clark he would make an exception.

It was time to pull out the big guns. Big guns were necessary when one was to bring down a conceited and powerful man like Lex Luthor.


"I'm fine," Clark insisted as Lois was unlocking her apartment door.

"No, you're not," Lois told him flatly, making a quiet and excited exclamation when the door swung open.

She pulled him in by his arm. "You are to watch television, take a nap, read a book…You can do *anything* but leave the apartment and hurt yourself."

"But—" Clark tried to argue, but he was shushed by a wave of Lois's hand.

"I have a few errands to run. I'll be back before you know it."

Lois was quickly out the door, leaving Clark staring at it with a dazed expression. Man. He was a pushover.


"A Miss Lois Lane wishes to see you," Nigel St. John informed Lex Luthor.

"Ah," Luthor smiled, something he hadn't done since Clark's disappearance. If there were one thing to get his mind off the unfortunate circumstances facing him, it was a beautiful woman who played hard to get. "I wonder what she's after? …Well, no matter. Send her in."

"Yes, sir," Nigel nodded. He left the room briefly before returning with the female reporter.

"Thank you, Nigel," Luthor nodded, and Nigel left after a small bow. "Miss Lane, to what do I owe this pleasure?"

Lois tried to return his charming smile, but Lex had been a businessman long enough to recognize a forced smile when he saw one. His eyes narrowed briefly, but his face was soon an unreadable blank.

"I wanted to apologize for not returning your calls…I'm afraid I've been busy."

Luthor stepped a little closer to her and scrutinized her face, sensing her steel herself in order to not step backwards in disgust. She knew something. He was sure of it.


When Lex had moved towards her, it had taken all her will power to force herself not to move away from him. Now that she knew what a monster he was, she didn't even want to be in the same room as him…

Luthor smiled pleasantly at her, but something in his eyes seemed to ring false. "Did you wish to reschedule our date?"

She hadn't been sure what exactly had compelled her to come over without an excuse, but Lex had provided one, and she would take it. "…Yes."

"Very well…Mrs. Cox?" he called out.

In strode the sleek woman. "Yes, Lex?"

"Do I have any appointments scheduled for tomorrow night?" he inquired.

Mrs. Cox opened and scanned the appointment book. "None that I see," she purred.

"Is that suitable for you?" Lex Luthor addressed his question to Lois, who was almost taken aback.

"Uh, yeah," she confirmed hesitantly, her eyes widening slightly.

"I'll look forward to it."


Lois was soon gone, and Lex Luthor stared after her. "I want her followed. See if she goes back to her apartment."

"Yes, sir," Nigel nodded.


"She returned to the Daily Planet, sir," a thickly accented voice informed Lex Luthor over the phone.

"Good. Make sure she stays there until I tell you otherwise. I have a little trip to make."


Clark looked up from his book, hearing the sound of locks being turned. Lois was back rather early. He sprang to his feet when the door opened, then nearly fell to the ground in shock when he saw who it was.

A million thoughts ran through his mind.

It hadn't worked. The disguise was useless.

Luthor knew. He *knew*.

No need for him to worry any more—it was past the point of doing so. Death would be a walk in the park compared to what was going to happen to him.

Clark's eyes traveled quickly over the room, searching for a weapon, but he was, for once in his life, too slow.

Luthor quietly opened the lead box with an evil grin, his beady eyes meeting Clark's fearful brown ones. Element X glowed tauntingly in its box. 'That'll teach you for trying to escape,' it seemed to hiss at Clark.

Clark was soon on his knees, clutching his head in agony. "Stop," his ragged voice ordered weakly as he tried to overcome the pain. Tried…and failed.


Hearing Clark try to command him to stop, Luthor chuckled. "No longer so submissive, are we?" He slitted his eyes in an angry yet satisfied manner as he brought Element X closer. Clark, he observed, finally collapsed on the floor.

"You thought you could outwit me by using a disguise and false name. Perhaps it fooled my sources for a while, but you knew I would find you. Resistance is always futile when Lex Luthor is involved." Luthor circled the meteorite around Clark's head for a second with an evil sort of glee, then he pulled it back. He wasn't ready for the alien to die yet.

Clark reverted to the childish mode he often took upon himself when threatened by Element X. "I promise not to do it again, Master. I promise. I didn't mean to. It was an accident. I didn't mean to! Don't hurt me! I'll be good!"

"Bad children *deserve* to be punished," Luthor hissed, touching the rock briefly to the skin of Clark's face. "And aliens even more so."

Clark shouted out in pain like a dying animal, begging the world to be merciful and take pity on him in his suffering, to finally release him from it. "Master…d-don't…hurt…me—"

"I shall do what I wish to do. You have disobeyed me for the last time, Clark," Luthor told him coldly, spitting the alien's name out as if it were something deadly. "You have long outlived your purpose. I thought I could twist you into something remotely resemblant of an intelligent human being, but your parents permanently carved those disgusting ethics into you. I assumed that a total memory wipe would cure you of them if assisted by the meteorite my men found near your childhood home, but technology has its limits, it seems. I tried to build you up from scratch, but the materials were poisoned from day one. I eventually found this out, as I am apt to do, but I continued since the prospect of having a mostly invulnerable alien at my disposal overrode my usual precautions…But there are some pathetic qualities that even the best of scientists can't delete from the mind."


His parents…Luthor had mentioned his parents…

Curious despite his pain and shock, Clark coughed, trying to get enough air in his struggling lungs to talk. "What happened…to my…parents?"

"Is that a hint of worry I sense?" Luthor chuckled maliciously. "Perhaps I should have killed them, but I thought the ultimate justice was that those two pathetic fools lived on with the knowledge, false though it was, that their son was dead. They were completely devastated when you 'died.'"

"Where are—?"

"In a small town in Kansas," Luthor shrugged. "Littletown or some such strange community. But that doesn't matter since you won't live to s—" he was interrupted by a knock at the door.

Through his haze of pain, Clark tried to use his X-ray vision to see who it was, but he failed. Fortunately, the person advertised their existence with a shout.

"Hey, Charles King! It's me, Jimmy Olsen! Lois sent me to check up on you!"

Sharply intaking his breath, Luthor looked around for some method of escape. He finally grabbed a lamp after dragging a protesting Clark into the bedroom, and he hid behind the front door, unlocking and opening it.

Jimmy stepped inside, and some instinct hidden deep within told him to duck, the result of which was that he remained conscious and the lamp busted on the ground, a curse from Luthor completing the fast scene.

Without further thought, Jimmy tackled the rich man to the ground. Like a flash, Luthor had a pistol out and was on top of the young copy boy, but Jimmy held his hand by the wrist in the air, trying to prevent the furious man from permanently sealing his fate.

Lex tried to punch him, but Jimmy Olsen blocked it, his hands clamped around Luthor's wrists like a vise.

A shot rang out in the air, and Jimmy squeezed his eyes shut, waiting for the end to come.

When he opened them, he didn't see the bright light he expected. Instead, he saw and felt the limp millionaire's body upon him, a smoking hole in the center of Luthor's back. After checking to make sure the man was truly dead, Jimmy rolled Lex Luthor off him, and jogged to the door, searching the hall, but he was too late. No one was in sight. Frowning, he leaned down and picked up a corsage from the floor, detecting an unusual fragrance that he had never smelt from a flower before…


Headlines screamed out about Lex Luthor's murder all over the globe, and the Daily Planet wasn't different in that respect.

The police had questioned Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane, but Clark was in poor shape. The authorities had tried to get him to a hospital, but he had weakly insisted on not going, and Lois had supported him. She had not known why, but she had felt that there was something she didn't know about, and she wanted to find out what it was.

Clark was lying in Lois's bed, pale and shaking. He was not only battered physically but also emotionally.

When he was in better condition, he was supposed to be questioned, but the police had decided to let him be for a little while.

Lois Lane had an alibi: several people had seen her at the Daily Planet.

Clark had not even been in the *room* at the time one of the world's richest men had been murdered, and when he *was* found, he was unconscious. Jimmy was not quite so lucky.

Public fingers had been quick to point to the simple copyboy for the death of one of their most beloved figures, but Perry White had a few cards up his sleeve.

The Chief Editor had worked in overdrive, pulling in favors from sources to get any kind of dirt on Luthor, and when the Daily Planet released its edition that announced Lex Luthor's death, it was accompanied by a list of some of the atrocities the rich man had committed, though even that list barely scratched the surface.

The police were not quite sure of exactly where they stood, but Jimmy Olsen was pledged under the care of Perry White until the court date.

The corsage was taken as evidence, but the only fingerprints found on the flower were Jimmy's.

Shaking and twisting, Clark fell into an unsettled sleep. Lois watched him worriedly from a chair by his side. Unknowingly, her hand had found his and was soothingly rubbing it.

She knew she should be trying to prove Jimmy Olsen's innocence, but she couldn't leave Clark's side. Trying to reassure herself that it was okay to simply stay with Clark, she reminded herself that Perry was helping Jimmy.

She gazed at Clark's face. There was so much pain written into it…He had been forced to live such a hard life…

He began mumbling in his sleep, and she frowned as she listened.


She leaned in closer, listening even more intently.

"Mom…dad…love you…sorry…left…"

She waited for a minute, but he didn't say any more.

His face crinkled in what appeared to be emotional pain. Feeling herself somehow drawn to him, Lois leaned down and kissed his forehead. His facial expression became more relaxed, and a small smile even graced his mouth.

Glad that his sleep was finally becoming more peaceful, Lois stood up and walked over to her laptop. She began a search for Kansas cities, and soon a list stretched in front of her. She quickly narrowed the search down to places with smaller populations.

She scanned it briefly then paused as a name near the bottom caught her eye. Smallville.

The reporter chewed on her lip pensively and checked the headlines from ten to twelve years before.

It seemed that not much happened in that small Kansas town. Most of the "news breaking stories" consisted of someone's cow being eaten by some vicious predator. But she finally found what she was looking for:

'Teenager Ripped from Home. Kidnapper Unknown.'

The first two words in the article caused her heart to jump in her throat. *Clark Kent*…Could it be him? Had Luthor chosen not to change his first name? Did Clark really remember something about his past?

Hissing through her teeth, Lois read the article thoroughly before returning to Clark's side. 'Get better soon…Please, get better soon…'

"It wasn't me, Chief!" Jimmy was in a frenzy. He had never been accused of anything as big as murder before.

"I know, son. Calm down!" Perry set a firm arm on Jimmy's shoulder, forcing him into a seat. "It wasn't you. We're gonna find out who did this. They are checking that flower out as we speak."

"But what if someone contaminates the evidence? What if—"

"Jimmy," Perry stated impatiently. "You can't contaminate a flower."

"What if someone's dog eats it, or—"


"…Sorry, Chief."

The phone called for the Daily Planet's editor's attention, and he picked it up. "Perry White." Silence. "Yes…Are you sure? …All right." He hung it up.

"What was it?" Jimmy asked eagerly.

"We have the flower's name. Are you up for a little investigative reporting?"

"If it means clearing my name, then I'm up for taking on Godzilla one-handed!"

Perry grinned. "'That's my boy!"

"Lois?" a groggy whisper from the bed caused the reporter to jump awake.

"Clark!" she exclaimed. "Are you all right?" Weak eyes on her face were her only answer. "Is there anything I can do?"

Clark seemed to think about it for a moment, but when he spoke it was with a strange reluctance. "I feel like…sunbathing."

"Sunbathing?" Lois raised an eyebrow.

The excuse came quickly. "I want more natural warmth than blankets."

With a shrug, Lois agreed, "Okay. If that's what you want." She let sunlight stream in through the window. "I'm afraid you only have a few hours of sun left."

"Any would be nice," he said, sinking deeper into the bed.

"Are you hungry?"

He shook his head.

Lois contemplated asking him about Kansas, but she refrained. That would come in good time.

Jimmy winced. "I hope this one has it. If I go to any more flower stores, I think my nose is going to go on strike."

Perry laughed, although the joyful noise didn't meet his eyes. He knew the seriousness of what they were trying to accomplish.

As they were reaching their next destination, Jimmy stopped and pointed. "That's it! That's the flower!"

The flowers were being tended by a tall man whom Perry went right up to. In a no-nonsense tone, the Chief Editor spoke, "D'you sell a lot of those flowers?"

Turning, the man turned, about to give them a lot of lip, but any unkind words died at the source at the sight of Perry's face. "These babies? They're rare and expensive. Aren't too many people who can afford these beauties."

"Care to give us a little more information?"

After a few phone calls and calling in of favors, Perry was triumphant. "Nigel St. John. Lex Luthor's right-hand man. I should have known. The big dogs often choose to stab each other in the back. That reminds me of the time that the King—"

"Chief," Jimmy interrupted. "Don't you think we should go to the police?"

"Impatient, huh?" Perry grinned. "All right, son. Calm down. Your name will be cleared before you can say 'Elvis Presley.'"

'Nicely done,' the white-haired man congratulated himself. He was on his way out of state, having dodged the authorities once again.

He leaned back in his chair. Matters were going well.

The authorities finally questioned Clark, who had answered their questions a little vaguely. However, they appeared to be satisfied with what he told them, and Perry White's evidence helped void Jimmy as being a suspect, as well as helped convince the police that the culprit was Nigel St. John.

Unfortunately, Lex Luthor's assistant could not be found, and although authorities around the country were alerted, it wasn't likely that he would be found.

Clark recovered suspiciously fast in Lois's eyes, but she was delighted to finally be able to have a real conversation with him.

She wished to choose what she said carefully, though, and so she first inquired offhandedly, "What's your connection to Kansas?"

The dark-haired man's head came quickly up. "What?"

Lois Lane berated herself for her failure at being subtle. "I just heard you mention it in your sleep…"

Clark's heart had begun thumping frantically when Lois mentioned Kansas, as the name was associated in his mind with Luthor, but she had a plausible explanation. He needed to *trust* her. He was not used to trusting people, but it was time to start getting into the habit. "Lex told me that was where my parents were from."

"Did he say something about Smallville?"

Frowning, Clark asked, "Is there *really* a place called 'Smallville'?"

Lois nodded, then, looking guilty, she admitted, "I heard you say something about a little town, and I took the liberty of looking it up."

"Did you find anything else?"

"Around eleven years ago, a family had their eighteen-year old son taken away from them. It was in the summer, and he hadn't gone off to college yet. Jonathan and Martha Kent were devastated by the kidnapping, but they released no information to the authorities other than the fact that he had been taken from his home." Lois appeared to be studying his face. "Do those names ring a bell?"

Clark gasped as he was hit with a scene from his past.

//Briiiing. Briiiing!

The doorchime kept ringing out like an angry bell announcing its presence to the world.

"Mommy, mommy!" a young Clark rushed to his mother. "Someone's at the door!" he sing-songed.

"All right, Clark, calm down," the faceless woman walked leisurely over to the door and opened it.

A man in a business suit stood there. "Hello. I'm from—"

"I know where you're from!" Clark's mother suddenly had a bite in her voice. "Don't pester me any more about that meteorite you found, or I'll send the sheriff after you!" With that, she slammed the door in his face, not allowing him to put in a last word.

Clark frowned contemplatively. "Why's that man keep comin'?"

"Don't mind him, Clark."

A strange feeling caused the boy to look over to the window, where the man's face was staring in with dark, angry eyes, but before Clark could say anything, the head disappeared.

Sniffling in sudden fear, Clark shot his arms out for comfort and spoke urgently. "Hold me."

His mother quickly gathered him in her arms and gently tried to soothe him.

The back door slammed, and a male voice drifted towards them, "Who was that—"\\

Clark was jolted out of the flashback before he could hear the woman's name. Looking up at the concerned Lois, he whispered, "I don't know."

Squatting beside him, Lois touched his arm gently. "It can't hurt to check it out."


Perry had been surprisingly understanding when his top reporter had asked for permission to take a break from work. Lois had the feeling that the Daily Planet's Chief Editor knew precisely what they were up to and would have pressed for them to go whether she had been the first to suggest a 'vacation' or not.

Rather than recklessly taking off with no knowledge of what they were getting themselves into, Lois had Jimmy Olsen pull up some information for her. As he was doing so, Perry White noticed that she and Clark were in the newsroom, and he stalked out of his office like a perturbed father. "What in the Sam Hill are you doing still in Metropolis?"

"Our plane doesn't leave for a while," Lois answered easily, her eyes glued to Jimmy's computer screen. "I figured this would be one thing I wouldn't charge into head-first."

Rolling his eyes and shaking his head, Perry started back to his office after a final look at the quiet Clark. The kid deserved a break. Life had thrown him nothing but hard curve balls as he stood in the rain. It was about time for him to have his sunny skies and hit one heck of a home run.

Lois pointed to the screen and gave Clark a sideways glance. "Recognize him?"

The troubled man shook his head sadly, and Lois frowned. "Of course, this is a newer picture. Years have elapsed since you last saw them, and I'm sure they've changed…"

The next picture was of Martha Kent, and no spark of recognition rose in his eyes when he saw it either.

After printing a few things and shoving them into her briefcase, Lois smiled. "Thanks for your help, Jimmy."

"No problem, Lois. Anytime."

The female reporter hooked her arm around Clark's and steered him off, trying to raise his hopes. All she succeeded in doing was confusing him with her babbling nonsense, but he didn't mind. No, he wouldn't mind listening to Lois babble any day of the week.


Clark had to force himself not to make obvious indentions in the armrests. He hated airplanes.

Airplanes meant no room to move, no room to breathe. They meant you had to live with the smells of several other bodies from several other places and you had to suffer through the airline meals. Being in an airplane was entrusting your life to a few pilots and an unreliable machine, soaring through the air on a machine's power rather than your own.

Clark would much rather fly to Kansas on his own steam, but then he would be alone in a place he knew little about. Lois was used to new places and new situations. She would be his guide, the one that would make sense of what was on those sheets of paper that were tucked safely away in her briefcase, which her arm was covering protectively.


Lois saw Clark looking at her, and she smiled, patting his clenched hand and observing his uneasiness. "Don't like flying?"

"Don't like airplanes," Clark returned shortly.

Lois almost caught a suggestion which she wasn't quite sure of, as if she had almost figured out a secret she didn't even know existed. The expression on her face caused Clark's eyes to widen, but she shrugged it off and returned her gaze to the window. Clark was one strange man. She wondered if he would always be a mystery to him…She felt a pang of sadness. What would happen if they found his family? Would she never see him again? That would be a pity…She had been getting used to having him around. At least, that's what she told herself.


Clark breathed an inward sigh of relief when Lois chose not to question his statement. If she found out he was an alien, she would be disgusted and never to talk to him again…*Utterly* disgusted. He had to prevent her from finding out at all costs.

Loosening his grip on the seat-holds somewhat, Clark brought his face to look out at the clouds, praying nothing bad would happen to the plane.


Contrary to Clark's gut instincts, the plane landed safely. No explosions, no crashes.

Matters were working out too perfectly. There had to be a catch somewhere. Something *always* came up…Always.

"Ordinarily," Lois told him in a teacher-like manner, "I would ask the locals a few questions and become acquainted with the place. However, I doubt that is entirely necessary in this case. We have the address, and that is really all we need. If they *aren't* your parents, then maybe they'll have some idea of who *is*."

Clark merely nodded glumly. He had a bad feeling about this.


"This is the house," Lois confirmed. They had stopped at a gas station for directions, which had been messily scribbled on a napkin by the man behind the counter. He had been friendly enough, but his handwriting skills were certainly lacking.

They had taken a few wrong turns in their rented vehicle, but at last the car came to a stop in front of what was obviously a farmhouse. The female reporter gave Clark a soft gaze. "Are you ready to go in? …Do you want to go alone? Of course, we could go rent a room some place and come back tomorrow, if you want that instead. I mean, after all, this trip was made for you, so we need to do what *you* want to do—it would be stupid otherwise. Who wants to—"

"Lois!" Clark quietly but sharply shook the reporter out of her babble.

"Sorry," she sheepishly looked down at her feet.

"Let's go inside. What's the worst that could happen?"

The two got out, slamming the car doors none-too-gently. They started walking up the house, but Lois froze when she felt cold metal against her back and heard a smooth voice that chilled her to the bone.

"One false move, and Ms. Lane will meet her maker."


"One false move, and Ms. Lane will meet her maker."

The statement was like one Clark had heard in a nightmare…But in that nightmare, Lois had died…

He halted in his steps, not daring to do so much as twitch. He had been found, Lois was in danger… and the fear was returning.

Still, he tried to fight it, tried to choke it down with all of his might, gritting, "Let her go, Nigel."

"You've gained no respect for your superiors, I see," Nigel St. John stated, bringing his gun up to the side of Lois's head. "You may be fast, but I can guarantee you are not fast enough to take this away from me before Ms. Lane finds herself laying flat on the ground with no hope of resurrection."

"What do you want?" Clark inquired weakly.

"I think you know," Nigel St. John said ambiguously.

"The authorities will find you some day."

"And we will all die someday," the gun-holder returned. "But no one wishes to hurry the process along."

"Clark, who is he?" Lois inquired, only to have the weapon next to her head jammed right into her temple.

"Don't speak unless you wish to have your tongue sliced out," Nigel warned.

"That's a lot of talk for someone who doesn't even have a knife," she grumbled, only to get another warning poke.

"You're wearing my patience thin."

"Fine! Let her go, and I'll help you," Clark trembled, the nasty stench of his own fear rising up, ready to suffocate him. It was all he could do to keep his knees from buckling.

"No, Clark! I don't know his motives, but they can't be—" the reporter cut off when she saw Nigel's finger purposefully pressing against the trigger.

'Good,' Clark finished for her mentally, feeling the exact opposite of that simple word. What was he going to do?


"Jonathan," Martha called to her husband as she stared out the window. "It seems we have company."

"Who is it?" he asked from his seat at the table.

"A young man and—" she paused. "Oh dear."

"What is it, Martha?" Jonathan Kent asked as he rose and came to his wife's side. Mrs. Kent was spared from answering by the sight of her husband's dropped jaw.

"We've got to help them," the woman stated calmly as she went for the bat she kept handy for such an occasion.

"Hold on, Martha. How do you know they aren't criminals?"

"Do those two *look* like criminals?" she returned.

"That man has a gun," Jonathan warned.

"Yes," his wife said patiently, "and if we don't try to help we might as well be the ones holding it."

After sighing in frustration, Mr. Kent followed his wife silently out the back door.


"You think I would let Ms. Lane go so easily?" Nigel gave a smile that made Clark's flesh crawl. "How could I trust you?"

"You *can* trust me," Clark whispered. He would never endanger Lois's life.

"I had to bring along a little insurance…" With his free hand, Nigel reached into his coat pocket, looking triumphant. He pulled out a lead box and pointedly thumbed the latch.

Clark's world started to spin as the fear bombarded him from all sides, and his insides screamed at him, 'Death!'

His death…

Lois's death…

Element X…

Going to die…

Not be able to…Not be able to tell Lois that…Not be able to—

With a pop that sounded excruciatingly loud in the heavy and fearful silence, the gun—which had been held loosely and distractedly away from the female reporter's head—fell to the ground, going off but hitting nothing, and Jonathan Kent shortly proceeded in knocking Nigel St. John out, the lead box flying unopened from Nigel's hand.

Even as he stared at the grounded Nigel, Clark wondered why he hadn't heard the couple approach, but he guessed that it was due to the rancid fear that was lingering inside his nostrils.

Lois seemed to be feeling more coherent than Clark was, probably because she was used to her life being put in danger, and she turned towards their saviors. "Thanks. I appreciate that."

"Who was he?" Jonathan asked gruffly, his eyes on the unconscious man.

"Nigel St. John," Clark answered, quavering as he tried to casually pick up the lead box. "He worked for Lex Luthor, and his hands are just as dirty as Luthor's were."


Upon hearing Lex Luthor's name mentioned, Martha shuddered. Changing subjects, she inquired, "Won't you two come inside? Jonathan will call the sheriff, and I'll get you both something to drink. I'm sure the two of you have had quite a scare." She had to force herself not to stare at the dark-headed young man. He looked so familiar…In fact, he reminded her of—

No. She shook her head slightly as her eyes started to well up with tears. Her adopted son was dead, never to be seen by her again.

And so, shoving all thoughts of her Clark from her mind, Martha Kent led her two guests inside, her husband taking care of Nigel St. John and calling the proper authorities.


"Are you all right, dear?" Martha asked Clark, sounding concerned.

He didn't answer, instead staring at the kitchen table. The two men in his life that could truly hurt him were taken care of. Nigel had been picked up, never to bother Clark again, and the meteorite which had once brought him so much fear was tucked away in his pocket. But he knew it wasn't going to be too long before Lois Lane thought to ask him about it.

"He's had a rough time lately," Lois replied for him as she sipped at her lemonade.

"It certainly seems like it," Jonathan said soon afterwards.

Martha hesitated. "I'm afraid we were never properly introduced." She held out her hand to Lois. "I'm Martha Kent, and this is my husband, Jonathan."

"Lois Lane," the reporter offered, shaking Mrs. Kent's hand. "This is Clark."

Martha had the expression of a woman who had just had an arrow ripped out of her stomach. "What did you say?"

Lois had been prepared for such a reaction, but she felt bad at possibly having raised their hopes too high. What if he wasn't *their* Clark? "I'm Lois Lane, reporter for the Daily Planet, and this is Clark."



The name reverberated in Martha's head. She hadn't heard that name in so long…

She trembled, grasping for her husband's hand underneath the table. He took her hand and gave it a firm squeeze. "Does he have a last name?" Martha inquired, her breath catching in her throat.

"He used to, until he was ripped from his family and given a memory wipe by Lex Luthor himself," Lois answered.


It took a moment for what Lois said to sink in, but when it had, Clark's eyes widened. How did she know? He hadn't told her all of what Luthor had said!

His brown eyes met hers and confirmed that what she had said was true. Somehow she had known…Had guessed what he hadn't wanted to even contemplate during his years of service to the deceased billionaire. She was right, wasn't she? He owed Luthor nothing…


Martha stared at Clark, etching every detail of his face into her memory. Could this be her boy?

No. Her boy was dead. This was just a cruel trick Fate had played on her. It wasn't reality…Couldn't be reality.

She looked away, towards the window.


Clark wanted to be accepted, to belong somewhere, to have a family…

Quietly, he spoke. "He said my family was in Kansas, in a place with a name that was similar to 'Littletown.' He said that my parents thought I was dead and that they were devastated by my supposed death…"

He saw the two Kents exchange ambivalent looks. Finally, Jonathan looked at Lois. "Ms. Lane, could we speak to Clark in private for a moment?"

"Sure," Lois said, standing up. "I need to go freshen up, anyway."

"The restroom's that way," Martha pointed. Lois disappeared.


Martha didn't want Lois to hear what she had to say, and it was only after making sure the reporter was out of earshot that she began speaking in a low voice, "My boy was special. He could do things that others couldn't." It was the best opening she could think of. If it was her Clark, he should be able to jump on in. If it wasn't, he would just think that it was motherly affection.

The man called Clark shifted uneasily, seeming unsure of the bait that was given to him. "I'm much stronger than Mr. Kent."

"You're wearing glasses," Jonathan jumped in. Their son wouldn't wear glasses.

"I don't need them. They're part of my disguise. I can actually see really well…"

"Your sense of smell?" Martha inquired.

"Better than average," Clark stated, looking from one to the other. He seemed to decide that he should offer something. "I love to fly."

That caused Martha and Jonathan to jump. They hadn't been expecting that.

Martha stood up, walking over to the kitchen sink while Jonathan held Clark's attention. "Do you fly often?"

"More often than most people," Clark replied, his eyes on the table nervously.

Martha walked closer to Clark, placing a hand on the back of his chair, her other hand hidden.

Jonathan went on, "Our son hated airplanes. Said they felt too confining."


Clark bit his lip, remaining awkwardly silent. He didn't know how exactly to respond to Jonathan Kent's statement.

He was saved from giving a response by Martha Kent, who lifted the fork in her hand high with a wince and jabbed it into his back. It didn't hurt him, but the same couldn't be said of the fork.

The eating utensil forgotten, Martha gasped, "Clark? Is it really you?"

Clark gazed at the bent piece of metal. It was a strange feeling, to know that he had finally found the people he had been searching for, only to realize that he had nothing more than a vague memory of them. How was he truly to belong with these people he had once called his parents if they were little more than strangers to him?

"Oh, Jonathan," Martha rushed over into the arms of her now- standing husband, sobbing. "Our baby's back."

Clark heard the bathroom door open and shut. He grabbed the fork quickly and stuck it in his pocket. It would have been hard to explain what had happened to it.

Lois stood still a few yards away from them. "I take it that he really is your son?"

"But I can remember nothing," Clark bitterly stated, burying his head in his arms. He would almost take the fear over the helplessness he felt…Almost.


"What we need is something that triggers a strong memory," Lois mused. She was pacing in front of the Kent couch, deep in thought. "A childhood toy, a…an activity…a place that holds some sort of sentimental memory…"

Martha just looked at Lois helplessly.

Clark dejectedly moved his gaze to the floor. He had finally found where he belonged after years of wondering, hoping, praying…And, of course, it hadn't been quite enough.

He had secretly expected that discovering his roots would be a sort of miracle cure, believing with all his heart that finding the people he had once called parents would cause all his memories to come gushing back. He had thought that he would just step easily into his old life without any problems whatsoever.

The possibility that he would never recover from his amnesia had been a fear he had just beaten back and hidden in the far corners of his mind. But warm fantasy and cold reality had recently been playing games with his mind, and the warmth of fantasy was quickly dispersing as the coldness of reality gained a foothold.

"It's no use," Clark said in a ragged voice. "Luthor's shadow will always hang over me."


Martha's heart almost broke when she heard Clark's utterance. Her poor boy…

She whispered, "Oh, honey," and rubbed his arm in an attempt at reassurance. Pleadingly, she looked to Jonathan.

Thinking quickly, the farmer suggested, "Why don't we—" he corrected himself at a sudden glint in his Martha's eyes, "—the two of you take a look around Smallville? The town's not too big, or Martha and I would show you around. Maybe that will refresh your memory. I have a little more work to do in the fields, but when you come back, your mother should have a nice country dinner ready for you. If the memory of her delicious cooking doesn't come back to you, I don't know what will," he chuckled, though he stopped abruptly at the wince from his wife. He cleared his throat as if to make up for his slight slip.

"That sounds great," Lois quickly inserted, standing up and tugging at Clark's arm. "Come on."

With the appearance of a man who wanted to do anything *but* move, Clark Kent followed.


Lois briefly took her gaze from the road and placed it on Clark, hoping to see a glimmer of recognition in his eyes. But there was nothing there. His face had a dullness to it she had never seen before. Clark had always radiated life, even at what she had thought had been his worst. But now…

Biting her lip, the reporter pulled the car over. She turned to her companion and spoke with a soft voice. "Clark."

Empty brown eyes were raised.

She wanted to cheer him up, to put life back in his eyes…To help him have a happier life.

Quietly, she told him, "Don't give up now. Your goal is in sight—you just have to hang on a little longer."

"Don't you understand, Lois?" Clark sighed.

At least Clark's voice had an edge to it, Lois mused. It wasn't what she had hoped for, but she would take what she could get.

Clark continued, "It's too late for me to slip back into my life. It would provide nothing but heartache for everyone. I might as well move to a different country, make a *new* life."

Lois stared at the man in front of her, pursing her lips. Then she did something that surprised herself more than it did Clark.

She slapped him.

This time, *he* stared.

"Don't you *ever* think about running away from your family and friends. *Ever*," she whispered fiercely. "Do you know what you have? You don't know how lucky you really are. You have two wonderful parents who love you and are more than willing to take you back. You have hope that things will work out…Clark, there's a chance that you will remember everything tomorrow. Don't waste your chances; you have no idea how precious they are…Do not throw this life away until you are *sure* that is what you want…"


Clark listened to what Lois had to say, hanging on her every word. His hand was resting on his cheek, more out of mental shock than physical shock. He didn't know what to say, and the passionate reporter was looking to him for a reply.

He wanted to run away, fly to some uninhabited island and live among the birds and away from the fear…

But he also knew that there was no way he could leave Lois.

Somehow, the headstrong woman had gotten under his skin. Perhaps it was because he knew that she had uncharacteristically slowed down and shown kindness to him in his great need…But somehow, he felt that the reason was deeper than that.

He swallowed. He would do anything to pay back Lois for all she had done for him. Even if it cost him great pain…Even if he was unable to escape the fear and it consumed him…



Upon hearing Clark agree to stay, Lois heaved an inward sigh of relief. Outwardly, she nodded and looked satisfied, saying, "Good."

But in actuality, her stomach was churning at the close call. She had almost lost Clark forever.

Clark, the strange man who had witnessed her going through another man's things. Clark, who had appeared with a desperate warning and broken down like a stressed out child. Clark, who had won her heart the minute she saw him smile.

She felt so many things when she was around him…She wanted to embrace him, wanted to slap him, wanted to hold his hand…She felt close to him in a way she had never felt before…

It was almost as if their situations were inverted…

She had grown up with a terrible family life, listening to her parents fight and watching her mother drink herself sick…But when she had gotten older, she had escaped all that. She had made a future for herself where she had thought there was none.

Clark seemed to have grown up with a wonderful family life, with two parents who loved him very much and what looked like a shining future ahead of him…But when he had been just about to start that shining future, he had been imprisoned by Lex Luthor's schemes. He had lost what could have been the perfect life.

In that moment, she knew she could never willingly let this man out of her life. They seemed to complement each other so well…

Could they have a future together, not that they were moving beyond their pasts?

Lois brushed the question into the back of her mind. For now, she would think about the present. More specifically, Clark's present. If she had survived life with the Lane family, she could help him survive what he had been through with Luthor.

She softened outwardly and asked Clark with a twinkle in her eye, "Wanna get some ice cream?"


Lois had the biggest ice cream cone Clark had ever seen. Granted, he had not had that much contact with ice cream—much less ice cream *cones*—after his amnesia, but he hadn't known that it was possible to fit that many scoops of ice cream onto such a little cone.

While she was ingesting it determinedly, he looked down at his own pathetic cone. Sulking, he sat beside the woman on a bench. He finished his rather quickly (especially since he never got "brain freeze" from anything cold) and stared at her towering creation.

"You are going to share that, right?"

"What?" she looked at Clark, then brought her cone away from him protectively. "Yeah, right. It's *mine*, buddy," Lois poked him in the arm with a finger.

Clark turned wide, sad brown eyes on her, and she returned his gaze with a mock-sneer, taking a slow lick of her ice cream. "Mmm," she stressed, waving the cone under his nose.

He started to make a retort, but the world around him suddenly changed.

//"Mmm," he heard himself saying, his chubby fingers grasping an ice cream cone tightly.

His mother smiled at him, a small gesture that was as warm as the sun to him. "Just be careful not to drop it in the dirt."

"I *am* care—oops." He looked sheepishly down at the remains of his treat. He felt his lip tremble; it had been really good, and he hadn't meant to drop it—

"Come on. We'll get you another one. Just be careful this time," Martha said, taking the boy by the hand.

"But I thought you said we couldn't afford to…to have ice cream a lot…"

"It'll be all right just this once…Just don't tell your father about it…"

He giggled. He loved his mom.

She squeezed his hand comfortingly.\\

Fuzz suddenly invaded his vision, and he blinked, finding Lois standing over him.

"Clark, are you all right?"

Rubbing his eyes, he nodded. "A flashback…I could actually see my mother's face this time."

"Great!" Lois smiled gently, touching his arm. "That means you're making some progress."

"Yeah…" Clark didn't sound so sure.


Lois leaned back against her chair, placing her napkin on the table and making a noise of contentment. "That was the best meal I have had since who knows when."

Martha just smiled, then glanced at Clark as if seeking his approval.

"I've had meals from some of the best chefs in the nation, but I have to say, this tops them all." Clark grinned, and his adoptive mother beamed.

"Martha hasn't made a home-cooked meal like this one since Wayne Irig came over a few months ago. I'm not someone she deems worthy of receiving the benefits of her culinary expertise," Jonathan chuckled. "In a minute, Clark, if you're up for it, I'd like to show you around the farm before it gets too dark out."

"And you can stay inside with me for a little girl talk, Lois."

The reporter met the older woman's meaningful glance.

Jonathan laughed. "It was gonna happen sooner or later, Clark. We'd better let them have their fun humiliating us now."

Clark smiled, but his blank eyes told a different tale, one of the dreaded fear.

…He feared it was all pointless.


The first place Jonathan took Clark was out in the middle of Shuster's field. The twilight was playing gently on the luscious vegetation, and Clark felt a sudden unfamiliar sense of peace.

After looking pensively around for a few moments, the older man spoke. "This is where we found you in your spacecraft all those years ago. I figured beginning here would be the best place to start."

Clark stared down at the ground, almost able to sense the exact spot that the pod had lain, himself hidden away inside, just a child, probably terrified of the world.

"We were driving in the truck when Martha spied a meteorite crash in this field. Curiosity can kill the cat, but in our case it brought a miracle into our lives. We weren't able to have children, and we were resigned to our fate…Martha was so devastated when she found out…" The man heaved a large sigh. "I had never thought a person could be so heartbroken. When we found you…Oh, you were the answer to all our prayers. Bundled up into a little blanket, you were. You had thick, dark hair, and you were the envy of many Smallville parents, I'll tell you that," Jonathan chuckled. "We packed the ship up in the truck and took you back home, wrapped in your blanket. We still have it, if you want it."

Clark Kent knelt down, taking up some of the dirt in his hands and sifting it through his fingers. His fingers tingled, almost as if a repressed memory was longing to be let free but was unable to break loose.

"Come on," Jonathan finally grunted.


The inside of the barn looked like something out of a dream to Clark. Farm equipment lay about, and an intense feeling of deja vu fell upon him.

He knew the place well.

He knew which floorboard creaked the loudest, which boards were slightly loose—he even knew the hole in which a family of mice always seemed to dwell.

But most of all he knew the smell.

The scent of hay mingled with the smell of farm equipment and various other scents of the country that he had never been able to name.

It smelt like home.

And yet, Metropolis was his home as well. There was something about the fast-paced city life that seemed to call to him. He felt torn between two utterly different places that contained two utterly different sets of people.

But even as he was torn between the rush of Metropolis and the comfort of Smallville, a part of him still wanted to run away from it all…To be a coward…To give in to the fear.

Suddenly, the barn seemed to darken, and it felt like the walls were closing in on him. Swallowing, Clark whispered, "Get me out of here…"

Frowning, Jonathan quickly complied. After Clark had been given a minute to recover, he inquired, "What's wrong, son?"

"Sorry, I felt closed in for a moment there…Is—is there anything else to see?" Clark said, forcing himself to breathe slowly.

"I was saving the best for last, but if you're not feeling up for—"

"No," Clark cut him off quickly, "I'm fine. Let's go."

The nervousness in his son's eyes spurred Jonathan on, and he led Clark to a large tree in which an obviously well-loved treehouse rested. "It's your Fortress of Solitude. I built it for you when you were—Clark?"

Clark had been hit by a barrage of flashbacks.

//Himself, helping his dad build the treehouse.

Himself, looking out from it with a telescope at the stars, wondering what they were like.

Himself, crying over something someone had said to him at school, not noticing that his father was climbing up until he spoke.

Himself, sitting in the Fortress of Solitude, more scared than he had ever been, for he had discovered he possessed some mysterious powers.

Himself, again in his beloved treehouse after having discovered yet another ability that left him feeling even more alien than he had before.

Himself, leaning heavily against one of the walls as a young man, wondering if his special powers would block his chances of finding his soulmate.\\

With that pouring of memories came more, as if the dam had broken and a flood had been released.

//His first day at school.

His first ride on a horse.

His first attempt to shave.

His first time driving his dad's truck.

His first time to ever ask a girl out on a date.\\

But even as happier memories came, another memory slowly entered his mind, overriding all the others.

//Lex Luthor's pawn, Nigel, though he had not known his name at the time, was moving towards him. In his hands, Nigel held some strange green substance that he had never seen before, though he thought he almost recognized some of its effects, for he had felt a similar though weaker feeling sometimes around the farm, as if something hidden within the ground were trying to affect him.

The green rock pained Clark, brought him to his knees and then to the ground as Nigel came ever closer.

An evil grin was on the older man's face, the last thing Clark saw before he was taken into darkness.

He had floated in and out of the darkness and pain, sometimes seeing doctors standing over him. But doctors were no comfort to him; all he wanted were his parents.

The strange sinister man watched over all their progress, and Clark began to hate him.

And then they restarted his brain.

He felt helpless, terrified, as a smiling but somehow unsettling man bent over him, trying to talk to him, though it was only gibberish to his ears. His head pounded as if a thousand drums were beating upon it.

He felt alone. Who was this man? Why was he here? What did he want?

The man spoke more gibberish.

He brought his knees up to his chin. He was scared.

The fear permeated his senses, it erased his questions, and it left a nothingness that screamed at him, biting at his nose, scratching at his eyes.

He gave an inhuman howl as the fear became too much, and he tried to jump off the bed, but he was held by some strange restraints that bit at his skin.

His head hurt. He just wanted to go back to the darkness. The darkness was nice. It didn't try to hurt him.

He struggled again, ignoring the man's impatient mutterings.

Why couldn't he move? He needed to move! He needed to escape the fear!

He whimpered. He wanted to make it go away.

The man tried to comfort him, but he wouldn't have it.

He snarled, still struggling.

With a sigh, the man picked up a needle, and the fearless darkness overtook him.

When he awoke, he was more submissive. What was this fear that was biting at his senses? He needed to get away from it. Staying here wouldn't make it leave, but he knew he himself would be unable to leave until he pleased the odd man that was still attempting to talk to him.

He sighed, looking at the man with questions in his eyes.

The man smiled, pointing at him and making a noise.

He furrowed his brow, finally copying the noise after it was repeated several times. "Clark." The word came easily to his tongue. He was a quick learner.

The man made more noises, pointing to himself.

He finally reiterated, "Lex Luthor."

Lex seemed satisfied, extending the lesson to other words…\\

Jonathan had moved towards Clark at the beginning of his flashbacks, but finally Clark broke himself free of them and engulfed his adoptive father in a hug, muttering, "Dad, dad, I remember, I remember. He was horrible. I was so scared. So scared. The fear. The *fear*, Dad!"

A tear trickling down his face, Jonathan whispered, "I'm so glad you remember, son. I'm so glad."


When the two men finally entered the house, both Martha and Lois immediately jumped up, sensing the change that had come over Clark.

He grabbed them both in a large embrace, whispering, "I'm all right now. Everything is going to be all right now."

"Oh, Clark!" Tears started streaming down Martha's face, and she had to run into the other room and grab a tissue after she hugged her son one more time.

Lois smiled, her own eyes slightly moist, though she would have never admitted it. "I'm happy for you, Clark."

He pulled her into his arms again, breathing into her ear, "Thank you so much, Lois. You've given me my life back."

"No," she pulled back, looking into his eyes. "Thank you. You've given me a different perspective on life. You've made me realize that there are some things that are more important than work."

Clark smiled. "Jimmy told me you were a workaholic."

"*Were* is the key word…Sorta."

Eyes shining, Clark embraced Lois tightly one more time. "Come with me. I want to show you my treehouse."

Lois laughed. "You have a *treehouse*?"


They sat in the treehouse quietly for a while until Lois spoke quietly, "It's so peaceful up here."

"I used to stay up here for hours just thinking. I think it was really necessary to help me accept—"

"What?" Lois inquired after he broke off.

Avoiding her eyes, he looked down at his hands, which had somehow become intertwined with Lois's. He frowned thoughtfully.

"There's something I haven't been telling you, because I haven't…because I didn't…because…"

"It's okay, Clark. You can tell me," Lois said soothingly, rubbing the top of his left hand with her thumb.

"I didn't want to tell you because I was afraid…I didn't want you to…Well, anyway, you deserve to know now. If you run back to the Planet and never talk to me again, I'll understand."

"Clark, what are you *talking* about—"

"Shh," he silenced her. "Don't speak until after I tell you. Even then, you probably won't want to."

She glared at him, but he started talking before she could say anything. "There's something that I've never told anyone, except for my parents. Lex knew, though how he first found out I have no idea, and I imagine Nigel had his suspicions."

He sighed. "My life wouldn't be the way it is if it weren't for who I am. I'm not Clark Kent, son of Jonathan and Martha Kent. Martha Kent was unable to have children…" He gave a weak chuckle. "You probably won't even believe me, but I was found in a spaceship." He studied Lois's face as he went on, but it was expressionless. "They found me out in a field and adopted me. I looked like a normal human baby. Little did I know that years later strange things would be happening to me…

"My dad thinks I might have been part of a Russian experiment, but I don't think so. I don't think they would able to make me do what I can do…I have these…well, powers, is what me and my parents call them." Clark hesitated, fear starting to creep into his nostrils. He shouldn't be telling anyone this. He shouldn't be—

A reassuring squeeze evaporated all the fear. He stared into Lois's supporting eyes and somehow found the strength to go on. "I…can see through walls, I can crystallize a bowl of water with my breath, I can…warm a cold mug of coffee with my heat vision, I can hear things from miles away…I have…superhuman strength, and my skin can't be punctured by any ordinary objects…The only thing that can hurt me is Element X. Nigel had some that day, in that lead box…In *this* lead box," Clark held it up. "I can't open it though. The lead prevents it from affecting me, but when the box is opened…" He shuddered.


Lois listened intently as Clark spoke. What he said was so weird it couldn't make sense—yet, the weirdness of his explanation *did* make sense. She knew why Luthor wanted him, why the box Nigel had held seemed so threatening to Clark…And she suspected that Clark didn't leave Luthor because he didn't want others to know about his powers…

Luthor had taken advantage of Clark's powers, had known what use they could be to a crime lord…

Clark had lived the life of the free and then the life of the oppressed…With Lois, it had been the opposite, but she knew how he felt.

She moved her gaze down to their intertwined hands, feeling more at peace than she ever had. Though her barriers threatened to go up, she knew she should force them down. She felt happier with Clark.

She could not extinguish Mad Dog Lane completely, however, and she looked up at Clark, who seemed to sense that she desired proof.

He smiled at her. "Whisper something that no ordinary human should be able to hear, get as far away from me as you can."

She could not help but look a little skeptical as she complied.

He immediately repeated what she had just said, though he appeared to know that one example would not be enough. "Let's do another test. See that box there?" Lois nodded. "It's filled with odds and ends. I will turn the other way, and you will grab two things from it and hide them somewhere in here. Not only will I be able to pinpoint where the objects are, I will be able to tell you *what* they are."

She went to the box, shuffling it around to make noise that would prevent him from knowing what she was choosing. Lois finally picked a small fossil and a baseball glove, concealing them from ordinary eyes.

"Ready?" he queried after she stopped making noise.


He turned back around, scanning the treehouse. "The baseball glove is behind the chest, and the fossil I got when I first went fishing with my dad is under the rug. One more test." He turned around and grabbed a piece of paper and pencil, both of which had sat there undisturbed for years and showed obvious signs of age. "Write something on this, then put it under the rug so that there is no way I can know what it says unless I am telling the truth."

Clark turned to face the opposite direction as Lois stared at him, hard in thought. What should she write?

A grin spread across her face.


After a few minutes, Clark was instructed to turn around. Immediately, he gazed at the rug, staring through it.

Three simple words were written upon it:

'I believe you.'

Clark smiled at Lois, feeling as if a weight had been lifted off his shoulders. "Thank you for your trust, Lois. You don't know how much it means to me."

"After the time you've had," Lois said quietly, "I think it's about time you had some trust."

Clark felt a warmth spread throughout him that he had not felt in a long time. He had trust, he had a name, he had a family. All was right in his world.

He looked at the brunette reporter, and he could see the questions dancing in her eyes, though she was trying to suppress them. "Let's go inside, then we can have a question and answer session with my parents."


As she gathered up all the empty glasses, Martha smiled at Lois. "I'm so glad our boy finally found someone he could trust. When he was little, it killed him not to be able to tell anyone about his powers. He understood why he couldn't, but there were times he needed someone other than a parent to talk to."

Jonathan spoke up, "I guess the only question we have left now is where we go from here."

"More specifically," Martha said quietly, "where you want to go, Clark."

Clark looked at his mother for a moment, his brow furrowed for a moment before he understood what they meant. Was he to stay in Kansas with his parents? Or was he to go to Metropolis with Lois?

"I love it here in Smallville," Clark stated. "It's so peaceful…It makes me feel at home." Clark hesitated. "But Metropolis is also my home. It may be fast-paced, but I've lived there for eleven years, and it's grown on me."

"You could always live in Metropolis and come home and visit us every weekend," Martha pointed out.

"That might get a little expensive," Lois said, though she appeared reluctant to burst their bubble.

Martha laughed. "Not by plane, honey."

Lois raised an eyebrow. "Then how?"

Martha turned to Clark. "Don't tell me you didn't tell her about flying?"

Lois looked confused, and Clark looked sheepish.

Jonathan Kent grinned. "Well, son, why don't you go take her for a spin and show her that there is absolutely no problem with airplane costs." He couldn't help but add, "But be careful that no one sees you."

Smiling at what had once been a very familiar phrase, Clark motioned for Lois to follow him. The pair disappeared out the door into the darkness, Clark hearing his parents' voices as he went.

"Oh, it's nighttime, Jonathan, who do you think is going to see them? A bat? …Let our boy have a little fun for once."

"Sorry," Jonathan grunted. "Old habits die hard."


"I'm going to pick you up, so be prepared," Clark warned.

Lois nodded, bracing herself. Suddenly, she was in his arms.

It was a strange sensation. He had picked her up like she was lighter than a leaf, and he was holding her as if she were mere air. There was none of the jolting that was usually felt when she was scooped up into someone's arms; instead, the process was smooth…

Oddly, she felt at peace, as if she were meant to be in his arms…

She placed her arms around his neck for support, lazily looking down at the ground, then doing a double-take. She was in the air. They were *flying*!

She stared down at the light which marked the farmhouse, her eyes widening in disbelief as the speck grew smaller and smaller.

Clark tilted his head and smiled over at her. "How do you like it?" he asked.

"L-like it?" she stuttered. "I *love* it!" She grinned. "You're going to regret telling me this secret."

"Why?" Clark faltered, suddenly looking alarmed.

"Because I'm going to demand that you take me flying every day!"

Clark relaxed, chuckling. "I think that can be taken care of."

Mmm. If he took her flying every day, Lois would certainly not mind! Looking at the stars…at the town below…Being held in his arms, listening to his gentle breathing…

Lois moved her gaze from his face to the stars. She was surrounded by such beauty…The irony was not lost on her.

"So, how fast can you move?" Lois asked at last.

"Faster than a speeding bullet. That's all I know. I've never really measured before."

"All right, so let's review your powers so far. You can fly, you can see through things, you can move quickly, you can hear really well…"

"Invulnerable except to Element X, heat vision, freezing breath…Umm, I'm really strong."

"And really lucky," Lois added. "I don't know how you've kept it a secret from everyone for so long. If it were me, I would have tried to fight crime and let the whole world know how I could help."

"You know what happened with Luthor," Clark said. "Imagine what would happen if every crime boss in Metropolis knew. They'd be fighting right and left for me."

"Yeah, but it was Lex Luthor that knew your weakness. He's dead."


Lois shifted in his arms to face him a little better. "Yes?"

"My parents would be placed in danger. Even if crime bosses couldn't find out a way to hurt me, if they just kidnapped my parents, then I would be at their service."

Lois pondered that for a moment. "Well, what if it wasn't you, Clark Kent? What if you…had some sort of costume? Another identity. You could have an entirely different look and personality when fighting crime."

Clark looked dubious. "Do you think that would work?"

"There's only one way to find out."


Clark scowled as Lois and Martha laughed. The leopard print costume had been the most hilarious and humiliating so far. "I'm not wearing this, Mom."

"But it has so much character," Martha said teasingly.

"Mom," Clark said, his face red. In spite of his embarrassment, he smiled. It felt so good to have someone to call "Mom" again. To have a family. To belong somewhere…

"All right, we'll move on."

The somewhat ninja turtle-esque costume was a definite no, along with the wanna-be Hermes outfit. A few more tries later, they got to a blue, red, and yellow spandex suit.

"It's better," Clark admitted, which was the closest thing to approval that Lois and Martha had gotten so far.

"I have an idea," Lois said, and she and Martha proceeded to go into the next room and whisper.

When at last the outfit was completed, Clark was sent off to go change. Martha and Lois had plopped down on Martha's bed, exhausted.

"What about that one?" Martha asked hopefully.

"I dunno," came Clark's reply. Soon, he entered, a flowing red cape following his every step.

Martha and Lois exchanged grins. This was the one, and they both knew it.

Clark posed in front of the mirror, peering at the image in front of him through the glasses that he hadn't wanted to take off. "Hm." After a moment, he asked, "What do you think?"

Martha answered honestly. "Well, one thing's for sure, no one's gonna be looking at your face."

Simultaneously and respectively, Clark and Lois exclaimed, "Mom!" and "Martha!"

Martha laughed, patting her son's stomach. "Well, they don't call 'em tights for nothin'!"

The trio chuckled, Clark beet-red.

"There seems to be something missing, though," Lois pointed out.

Martha looked at her for a moment. "I know!" She went straight to the bed, pulling out a trunk from underneath it.

"What's that?" Clark inquired.

Martha opened it. She pulled out a blue blanket, smiling like the proud mother she was. "The baby blanket we found you in so long ago." After a moment, she put the blanket down and brought up a red and yellow S-shield. "And this."

"Your folks'd be proud of you," Martha said, smiling. "We sure are."

"Thanks, Mom."

"I'm not so sure about the cape, though," Clark stated.

"Really?" Lois asked, looking at him. "I love it!"

"Yeah, it'll be great when you're flying," Martha added.

Clark Kent stared at the mirror, finally removing his glasses.

"That makes a world of difference, Clark," Lois pointed out. "You can wear the glasses as Clark Kent, and without them you're…Superman," she breathed.

"What?" Clark turned to look at her.

"It's perfect!" Martha exclaimed.

"Wait a minute, hold on!" Clark protested.

"That'll look perfect in the headlines!" Lois told Martha.

"Wait a second!" Clark protested. "Remember me, Clark Kent, the one *wearing* the costume?"

Martha turned to him sweetly. "What would you prefer to be called, honey?"


Martha patted Clark's belly. "Nice try, honey. Now, let's go show your father."

Grumbling, Clark followed the two women into the living room, where Jonathan was sitting and watching television.

"You don't get many shows like these nowadays," Jonathan commented as he heard the three walk in. "Why, when I was your age, Clark—" He turned to look at his son, then stopped short as he saw what he was wearing.

"What do you think?" Clark asked tentatively.

Smiling, Jonathan answered, "That's my boy."

A newscaster came on the television. "We interrupt this program to bring you an important news bulletin. The lives of many are in peril today as—"

"Clark," Jonathan turned to his son, but he was already gone.

Lois looked at Martha. It was finally time to see if Clark could live up to his name.


Lois wordlessly plopped an article and pictures onto Perry's desk.

Perry White looked down at the first page, reading the title: 'Superman Saves the Day.' He moaned. "Lois, don't tell me you've been fooled by this "hero in tights" hoax, too."

She motioned to him, and he reluctantly followed her out of his office and towards the newsroom window, where a large crowd was gathered.

"I'll see you another time, Ms. Lane," the caped wonder said, waving to her before flying out of the window.

"Ah, you were saying, Perry?"

Perry just stared at the departing figure in awe.


"Did I miss anything?" Clark grinned as he walked up to Lois's desk, where she was typing furiously.

Lois looked up. "Only one of the most important news items in the century." Her eyes twinkled.

"Drats!" Clark said, peering over her shoulder at her copy. "Occurrence is spelled with two r's, not one."

Lois threw a glare at him, then she reluctantly changed the spelling. "I knew that."

Perry White walked up. "Well, King, do you know what you're going to do with yourself now?"

"It's Clark Kent now, and I'm not entirely sure, sir."

"You were pretty handy in investigating Luthor…Have you ever considered a field in investigative journalism?"

"Uh, actually, sir, I *was* considering journalism as a career choice in high school," Clark said, fidgeting slightly under the Chief Editor's gaze.

"Well, if you can give me a writing sample, I might consider the possibility of your joining the team. Even Elvis had to start somewhere."

Clark threw a look at Lois, who mouthed, 'Don't ask.'

"Thank you, sir. I'll start working on that right away."

Perry White smiled, patting Clark on the shoulder and walking away. He was a good kid. He would be great for Lois.


After a few minutes had passed, Clark spoke to Lois hesitantly. "You, uh, know what I haven't done in eleven years that'd I'd, uh, well…"

"What?" Lois asked, looking curiously up at him.

Clark steeled himself. "Um…Lois Lane, would you like to go out on a date with me?"

She stared at him for a moment, considering his offer. "Yes, Clark Kent. I think I would."


Clark Kent stared into the mirror nervously. What if he were underdressed? Overdressed? Dressed inappropriately? What if Lois slammed the door in his face in disgust? What would he do then?

He took a deep breath, trying to calm his rapidly thumping heart. He fiddled with his hair for the twentieth time, hoping that Lois would like the look of the gel he had put in it. Clark pulled his gaze from the mirror, wincing at the sight of the hotel room he was temporarily staying in. The term "cheap" fit it perfectly on so many different levels…

Swallowing anxiously, Clark headed for the door.


Lois Lane looked into her mirror, scowled, and then changed for what felt like the hundredth time. She'd been on plenty of dates before, but for some reason she felt different about this one, and there was a strange, indescribable feeling in the pit of her stomach.

She glanced in the mirror at her newest outfit, deciding that she had to stay in it or else she wouldn't have enough time to make other preparations.

Lois fixed her hair, and, as she was putting on her earrings, the doorbell rang. "Just a second," she called.

She opened the door and just barely managed to stop a gasp from escaping her lips. Gone was the frightened child who had come to her apartment not too long ago, and in the child's place was someone who was looked decidedly masculine.

Smiling, Clark brought his hands forward from behind his back, revealing a dozen roses. They hadn't been cheap, but the cost was worth it to see the look of surprise and wonder on Lois's face.

"Oh, Clark, they're beautiful," Lois breathed, taking the roses. "Come in. I need to put these in water."

She retreated into her kitchen, and Clark followed. She got out a vase and put the roses in it tenderly, taking a moment to inhale their sweet fragrance.

"You ready to go?" Lois Lane inquired, looking at her date questioningly.

He nodded. "I'm ready if you are." He held out his arm, and Lois took it, linking their arms together.

They walked out the door together, both feeling as if they were stepping out of their old lives into a new life that would hold hope, promise, adventure, friendship, and perhaps even love.