By ML Thompson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: August 2006
Summary: Alt-Lois has been having the same bad dream all her life. While trying to understand it, she makes a startling discovery. Will she figure out the truth? Or will her destiny forever be denied to her?
This is a fanfic based on the television show, Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. No copyright infringement is intended. I'm borrowing these characters for a little fun and not for any profit. For a complete disclaimer, go to: http://www.thompsonlawoffice.ca/Disclaimer.htm. My special thanks to the writers of Tempus Anyone since I use a number scenes from that show in particular in this story. Before reading this story, if you haven't seen the episode Tempus Anyone, you might want to read through the script since it is in the background of this story. The script can be found here: www.lcficmbs.com/scripts/txt/314.txt
My thanks to the people on the Fanfic message boards for answering all my silly questions. In particular, thanks to everyone, and in particular Paul who came up with hundreds of them <g>, for all the great Superman pick-up lines you provided to me. I wish I could have used all of them in this story.
And my special thanks to my Beta readers, Gerry Anklewicz and Carol Malo — without whom I would be lost. Thanks so much to both of you for continuing to stick with me through so many stories. You've been subjected to thousands of pages, tens of thousands of grammatical errors, plot holes, bad characterizations and probably about a million spelling mistakes and typos (Fortunately, not all of them in this story <g>). Your patience when finding the same mistakes made over and over and over again has been astounding. Because of you, all of my stories are much better then when they started out. So thanks to both of you. I also wish to thank Erin Klingler for editing this story for the archives and for giving me the courage to actually post it.
This is an Alt-Universe story with our beloved Alt-Clark from the show. I have, however, made one little change to the story. Alt-Lois never came to work for the Daily Planet.
Clark stood on the platform beside Perry White as the older man addressed the press following his near unanimous election victory as Mayor of Metropolis. As Perry began his introduction of Clark, or… more accurately… Superman, Clark's mind drifted. She and Herb were standing at the back of the crowd. The woman he loved preparing to return to the one she loved. The roar of the crowd dimmed around him as he watched her slip into the alley across the street from him. A bright flash of light informed him that she was irretrievably lost to him. Losing Lana hadn't hurt nearly as much as losing Lois.
"Lois, I don't just need your help. I need… you."
"So does he," she had whispered in response.
"What I'm trying to say is… I know this sounds crazy, but… I think I…"
"So does he," she had interrupted, not even willing to hear his declaration.
The world suddenly seemed a much darker, more dismal place without her in it. Alternate universes. Who would have believed he'd lose his soulmate to another version of himself? But… Something clicked in his mind. If there was a Clark Kent in her universe, might there not be a Lois Lane in his — one who really and truly was meant for him?
The kernel of hope began to grow. No one at the Daily Planet had known who she was when Lois Lane had shown up out of the blue, but that didn't necessarily mean Lois Lane didn't exist in his universe. She could be anywhere. Doing anything. And he suddenly just knew that whatever that 'anything' was it would be… great. Excitement began to bubble up inside him. He began to shift from foot to foot, anxious to get off the platform so that his fingers could fly over the keyboard of his computer in search of his Lois Lane.
Lois jolted upright in bed, covered in sweat and breathing heavily. It took her a moment to realize that she'd been dreaming again. After giving her heart a moment to calm, she wiped a hand over her forehead, brushing the damp strands of hair back out of her eyes.
Reaching over, she grabbed her palm computer off the night table. She closed her eyes for a moment as she allowed the images in the dream to stay with her until she could recite each one into the computer. The man was back. Dark eyes. A haunting smile, almost a smirk. But this time there was something new. The plastic bracelet. It had been pink. She'd seen that clearly when he'd cut it off her wrist. But what had it said? She growled. Why could she never remember what was written on the bracelet? She chewed thoughtfully on her lower lip for a long moment, but no matter how hard she concentrated, the words wouldn't come to her.
Giving up that line of inquiry, she focused on another aspect of the dream. Why had the man cut the bracelet off her wrist? It couldn't have been worth anything. Unless, of course, it would have given her too much information. But what information? Was she at some sort of amusement park, a resort, a hospital? Maybe it was some sort of police identification bracelet? She'd never heard of such a thing. After all, everywhere she had checked used laser markings. Maybe she was reading too much into that aspect of the dream. Maybe it was… a keepsake or something. But then why had it been cut from her wrist?
She concentrated for a moment on the man. He always seemed so big, almost a giant in her dreams. But who was he? Her father? No. No, that didn't feel right somehow.
Growling, she got out of bed, making her way over to the window of her one-room apartment. She undid the latch and struggled with the old-fashioned window until she finally got it up. The cold breeze made her shiver. She wrapped her arms around herself subconsciously as she stared out into the night. She could hear the steady hum of the transports as they rushed down their tracks. A nearby howl of a cat in heat. Even the distant sound of sirens. The familiar noises of Metropolis were… comforting somehow. If only she could figure out what the dream was trying to tell her.
It had something to do with her past — of that she was certain. All she knew about her roots was that she had been found on the front steps of the Sisters of Metropolis Convent in a baby blanket with a note attached to her blanket saying: 'My name is Lois 'L'. Please don't send me back or bad, bad things will happen.' But what bad things? Did this have anything to do with the man in her dreams?
She puzzled again over the name — as she had so many times in the past. Lois 'L'. The nuns insisted that it didn't mean anything, but she couldn't stop wondering why the 'L' had been in quotation marks. It was almost as if the man… whoever had brought her to the convent was trying to tell her something with the 'L'. But what?
The note and a blue blanket with a Superman crest on it was all she had to figure out the mystery of her childhood. Well, that and her dreams.
Not having anything else to go on, she'd chosen to be known as Lois Lewis. After all, it had become repetitious having to explain to everyone why she only had a single letter for a last name. But legally… She hadn't changed her name legally. She was still hoping that someday she'd be able to replace the letter 'L' with her real last name.
She sighed. Maybe she should let it go. The nuns had told her to — repeatedly as she recalled. And now, David was telling her the same thing. But she couldn't. Something inside of her wouldn't let it go. It felt as if she was just putting in time. As if she was never meant to have a life here.
She growled. David was right. She was thirty-one years of age. What was she supposed to do? Spend the rest of her life in a holding pattern while she tried to figure it all out? It was time to let it go. She just wished she could.
Her thoughts turned to David. David Shultz was a junior editor for the Daily Planet. He was a few years older than her — although not enough to make the age difference worrisome. And David had made it clear, more than once, that he wanted to be more than friends and colleagues.
Lois thought about that for a moment. David certainly had enough to recommend him. Talk around the office was that he was the favored one to take over when their old grouch of an editor, Tom Balsam, retired in a few years. Besides that, David was cute. His brown hair was usually unruly, but something about his personality made that seem… appropriate somehow. He had the truest blue eyes she had ever seen. In stature, he was no muscle man, but he was well proportioned. And she had to admit that she loved the way he laughed — it was contagious. But more than all that, he was a good listener, a good friend and a good man.
Still… Lois sighed. She had no idea what was stopping her from getting involved with him. She'd spent many a night pondering the question and was no closer to an answer now than the first time she'd asked it.
Lois was exhausted as she stepped through the doors of the Daily Planet the next morning. Making her way to the lifts, she placed her hand on the scanner. A moment later, the door opened and she stepped inside.
"Good morning, Ms. Lewis," said the overly cheerful computer voice. "Which floor would you like to go to this morning?"
"Nusruum," Lois said over a yawn.
"I'm afraid I didn't understand that destination."
"Newsroom. Newsroom," Lois repeated in frustration.
A moment later, Lois appeared on the lift platform on the second floor. Stepping off the platform, she headed directly for the coffee. After grabbing a cup, she sat down at her desk.
"Computer on," she said, blowing slightly on the over-heated coffee.
Lois looked up at the sound of another all-too-cheerful voice. Why did everyone have to sound so chipper in the mornings? Didn't they know it made grouches like her even grouchier? Like former smokers, they seemed obsessed with converting everyone around them. Well, it wasn't going to work with her. Still, she looked at the man seated on the corner of her desk and gave him her best attempt at a smile. Maybe if he thought his evangelical strategy had worked, he'd quit trying to convince her to be happy.
"Rough night?" David asked.
"Great! What a way to greet a girl!"
"You might as well have told me to put a bag over my head."
David laughed. "On your worst day, you're still beautiful. And this February 27, I'd say this is one of your most beautiful worst days."
"Did you have the nightmare again?"
She met his concerned expression.
"You've got to let this go, Lois."
Lois looked back at her coffee.
David sighed. "Well… did you remember anything else — something you can use to figure all this out?"
"The bracelet on my wrist was pink."
"Oh, great! Add pink to your list of search words. I'm sure that will solve the mystery." He let out a breath, letting go of his sarcasm along with it. "Lois, one day you're just going to have to accept that sometimes there are no answers. Maybe your parents couldn't take care of you and…"
"No, David. Don't you see? There's more to this than just parents who couldn't raise their child. That's why I can't let this go."
David began rising from the corner of her desk. Lois' hand on his arm stopped him.
"Don't be upset," Lois said softly. "I just… I can't let it go."
David settled on the corner of her desk. "I can understand that. What I can't understand is why you feel that you can't start a relationship with me until this is resolved."
"I didn't say I would start a relationship with you even if this was resolved," Lois responded. "But… until it is… It's not you, David. I mean you're a good friend and a great guy, but… I just feel…"
"As if you're not supposed to have a life here," David completed for her. "It doesn't make any sense, Lois. Maybe one day you'll finally see that."
With that, David rose from her desk and walked away. Lois watched him, torn. Yes, he was a great guy. And, yes, it made no sense to her either. But… She sighed.
Lois looked away from where she was still watching David walk across the newsroom.
"Yes, boss?" she asked.
Nothing was distinctive about Tom Balsam's appearance. Neither short nor tall. Neither fat nor slim. Hair of average length, average thickness and an average color for a man his age. A common looking man with an extraordinary job — editor-in-chief of the Daily Planet. The only thing that seemed truly remarkable about him was the permanent scowl affixed to his face. Lois often wondered if the man even knew how to smile. A grin quirked momentarily at one corner of her mouth as she imagined that scowl on the face of a newborn Tom Balsam. Before she could get completely lost in that image, Balsam arrived at her desk.
"I need you to get over to Klein Labs," he said.
"What's up?" Lois jumped to her feet and grabbed her palm computer. "Something juicy? High-tech computer thieves steal some sexy new program?"
"Quite the comedian, aren't you, Lewis?" Balsam replied dryly. "You're meeting with Dr. Philip Klein. He apparently…"
Lois' face fell. "Come on, boss. Klein? Do you have any idea how boring he is? Surely Stan in science would be better…"
"He asked for you specifically, Lewis. Said something about a follow-up on the story you did last month."
"Yeah, and that was such a…" She faked a yawn. "…exhilarating story. I can't believe he would ask for me again. He had to have known I only understood every second word."
"Maybe he has a crush on you," Balsam said, his tone remaining completely without humor.
"Bite your tongue," Lois responded.
"Either way, it's your story, Lewis," Balsam said. "Besides, finding a way to prove Einstein's more radical theories correct isn't exactly boring."
"Well, it wouldn't be if he could do so without showing me an incomprehensible number of mathematical equations."
"Either way, git. He's expecting you in half an hour."
"That hardly gives me enough time to get a transport."
"Then I suggest you get moving," Balsam growled, sending Lois scurrying from the room.
Dr. Philip Klein rushed around. Whether he had an actual purpose in mind or not was impossible to tell. He picked up and set down items, flipped open files before flipping them closed, and punched in various numbers into his computer. He was so absorbed in his work, he didn't even seem aware that he was no longer alone.
"Dr. Klein?" Lois asked, almost reluctant to end this highly entertaining show. Klein was in his mid-thirties, stood no more than five feet and a couple of inches and had hair that pointed in almost every direction. In fact, in some ways, he reminded her of a young Albert Einstein.
Klein looked up. "What? Oh, right. Nice to see you again, Ms. Lewis."
"Lois," Lois corrected.
He turned from her then, continuing on his incomprehensible mission. Lois stood there for a long minute before speaking again.
"You asked to see me, Dr. Klein?"
"Oh." Klein fumbled around for a moment before finding his glasses on his head. Sheepishly, he lowered them. "Right. Right. I did. I asked to see you."
"Because…?" Lois prompted, somewhat frustrated, when he still didn't continue.
"Well, I explained my work to you last time."
"Right. So…? Dr. Klein, why did you want to speak to me?"
"Oh, right. Well…" He finally stopped his movement, looking directly at her. "…I finally did it! Well, sort of. There are still one or two kinks to work out, but… Well, I hesitate to even call them kinks. They are more… improvements really. But necessary to make the machine fully functional. After all, unless it's possible to move geographically at the same time, the usefulness of the machine will be seriously compromised."
"What are you talking about?" Lois asked.
"Oh, didn't I say? Time travel. I've done it."
Lois fought valiantly to keep a straight face. "Really?" she asked, trying not to let her scepticism come through in her tone of voice. It was one thing to be told it was theoretically possible. But this…
"Yes, Ms. Lewis, I've invented a machine to transport man back in time. I suppose it could go forward, too. But I haven't actually gone forward yet. Not entirely sure why."
"So you're saying you've actually… gone back in time?"
She shook her head. What was so significant about 1996?
"The debut of Superman. I was there. Here, I'll show you." After fumbling around for a bit longer, he slipped a disk into his computer. "Computer, play," he instructed.
An image came on the screen that Lois was familiar with — as was anyone who had gone to school. It was grainy, a little unfocused and had several points were the words were incomprehensible, but she would have known it anywhere. Superman's debut. "What's so…"
"Computer, pause!" Klein said excitedly. "Look!" he said, pointing at the man on the screen.
Lois stepped closer.
"That's me!" Klein exclaimed.
She squinted. Okay, so maybe the guy looked a little like Philip Klein, but… she knew how easy it was to alter these old news reels. They didn't contain built-in chips to protect against tampering. Any kid over kindergarten age could put himself in the action. Her eyebrows rose as she looked over at Dr. Klein.
He seemed not to notice her skepticism. "That's me. But even more importantly… and the reason I asked for you is… Computer, continue. There! Computer pause."
Lois looked at the screen again. The woman on the screen was small, had dark hair and a decent figure. But her face was somewhat fuzzy. "What am I looking at?" she asked.
"Not what — who."
"Okay, who am I looking at then?"
Lois was in a daze as she re-entered the Daily Planet. Dr. Klein had completely lost his mind. Time travel might be theoretically possible, but… No. She knew she hadn't been at Superman's debut. She was firmly in the crowd who believed Superman was a myth. The idea that an ordinary man — a reporter no less — named Clark Kent had flown around the world for three years, doing good deeds — her favorite was his rescuing cats from trees — and then, for no explicable reason, had simply disappeared, was too unbelievable to be true.
She sat down at her desk and picked up a computer marker. Twirling it in her fingers, she tried to figure out what she should do with this information. Dr. Klein was well respected. The great, great grandson of the man after whom the Klein Labs had been named. The two time Nobel Prize winner — Dr. Bernard Klein.
She might have been able to believe Philip Klein had conquered time travel. But when he'd claimed Lois had been at Superman's debut… she'd had no choice but to know that he had completely lost his mind. So what did she do with this information?
"Hey, got time for lunch?"
Lois looked up to see David standing by her desk. She studied him for a long moment.
"What? Have I got food stuck between my teeth or something?" David asked.
"What? Oh, no. I was just thinking." She gestured for him to pull up a chair. "I just had a… really odd meeting with Dr. Klein. And I'm not quite sure what to do with it."
"I think he's lost his mind." When David waited for further explanation, she continued. "He claims he's gone beyond theorizing that time travel is possible. He claims he actually did it."
"Really? That's incredible! Have you written the story yet?"
"No. No, it's just… well… he claims that he went back to witness Superman's debut."
David's eyebrows rose into his hairline. "Cool! That's where I'd go, too."
Lois groaned. "Don't tell me you're a Superman fan."
"And I used to think you had good taste."
"What? And you think the fellow was a complete loser, I suppose."
"I don't know, David. He sounds… boring to me. Too good. Too decent. Not my type at all."
"Well, I can't say that thought bothers me," David responded with a grin.
"Besides, I doubt he even existed."
"Come on, Lois. That's like saying the world is flat. Or that Christopher Columbus didn't discover America."
"Well, actually Christopher Columbus didn't discover…"
"You know what I mean. There's more than enough evidence that Superman existed."
"A man who flies around in tights and a cape, wears his underwear on the outside, does all these good deeds for no reason other than the good of humanity and has the audacity to call himself Superman?"
"I don't think he actually gave himself that name."
"And yet we are expected to believe he worked as a mild-mannered reporter until his late twenties — under the name of Clark Kent. Oh, and to top it all off, after three years of good deeds, he simply disappears as if he'd never existed," Lois said, ignoring the interruption. "Come on. If I really had been at his debut, I'd have exposed him for the fraud he was. Hey, maybe that's why he disappeared. Someone was about to expose him as a fraud so he disappeared before that could happen."
"Wait," David said, something in Lois' comments catching his attention. "If you'd really been there? What's that all about?"
"Oh, did I forget to mention? Dr. Klein claims I was there, too."
"At Superman's debut. Hence, my conclusion that he's lost his mind."
"Wait a minute, Lois. Are you certain you heard him right? After all, Dr. Philip Klein is one of the most respected…"
"I know his reputation, David. That's the only reason I haven't stormed into Tom's office and told him there's no story here. Or worse, written up the story that Klein has lost his mind."
"So what's the plan from here? After all, he might just have seen someone who looks like you."
Lois nodded slowly. "An ancient ancestor perhaps…"
"Maybe… what if this woman is an ancestor?" she asked, her voice getting faster in excitement. "Maybe she's the key to my finding out who I really am." She turned back to her computer, hitting the privacy button and typing in her request.
"Lois…" David said hesitantly. "…I don't like where this is going. The chances that she's related to you are almost non-existent. I don't like to see you getting your hopes up."
"I'm just researching this story," Lois said innocently.
"Oh, yeah? Then why did you hit the privacy button?"
"I don't want to disturb everyone. I'm trying to be considerate here. Don't knock it. It might never happen again. Besides, what if I do find out that Dr. Klein is having problems… you know… upstairs? I think we need to approach this entire story with the utmost care."
"Yeah, right," David responded, anything but convinced. "So what are you looking for?"
"Dr. Klein showed me the news reel from Superman's debut. I'm trying to find a copy of it in the Daily Planet archives. He said that… Uhh… here it is. Okay, now…" She waited as the picture captured some of the people in the audience before suddenly pausing it. "He claims that's him."
David squinted at the screen. "It sort of looks like him."
"I figured he had altered the record. But he'd have a hard time getting past our security to alter this one, too."
"Then maybe it really is true. Maybe he really did make it back there. Where's the woman he says looks like you?"
"She's coming up. Right… there!" She stopped the picture, pointing to a woman on the stage behind Superman.
"Can you clean it up at all?"
"Let's see…" She took a moment to punch a few commands into the computer. It looked clearer, but still not clear enough to get a good look at the woman's face.
"I suppose it could be you."
Lois elbowed him in the ribs. "It's not me."
"If you say so," David replied, a grin in his voice.
Lois spent the rest of the afternoon closely examining every article and every picture associated with the debut of Superman, looking for both information about the woman and to see if there were any other shots of Dr. Klein, when one picture in particular caught her attention. Why hadn't she noticed this before? Unlike the news reel from Superman's debut, the picture she'd found was clear. An old eight by ten of the man who had been running against Perry White for the position of Mayor of Metropolis. He was known simply as Tempus.
She knew that man. The eyes. The slight smirk. It sent shivers down her spine. She'd swear he was the man from her dreams.
Not entirely sure what her next step should be, she glanced up at the clock. It was nearly seven. Most of her colleagues had already called it a day. Turning off her computer, she stood up, grabbed her coat and headed for one of the offices.
She was relieved to see that David was still bent over his computer, obviously working on something.
"Taking a supper break?" Lois asked, leaning against the doorframe.
David looked up and blinked. "Is this… Are you asking me out for supper?"
"Consider it your lucky day."
Smiling, David quickly closed down his computer and rose to his feet.
"Besides, I need to pick your brain. I want to know everything you can tell me about Superman."
David froze for a moment before shaking his head in resignation. "I should have known," he mumbled.
"So… are you still coming?" Lois asked.
"What do you think?" David asked, grabbing his coat and following her out of his office. "But I've got a better idea. Let's just grab a sandwich from the deli computer downstairs. There's a place I think you should see."
Lois looked skeptically at David as they stepped through the doors of the old-fashioned building. "Are you sure about this?" she asked.
"I take it you've never been to the Superman Museum before."
"Can't imagine why," Lois mumbled under her breath.
"Well, you're the one who said you wanted to learn more about Superman."
"Yeah, and I'm so glad I did," Lois returned sarcastically.
"Okay, okay. I get the point. Not a fan here. Still… you're going to love this place." Taking her hand, he led her further into the building, obviously excited about the chance to share his obsession. Come to think of it, this was probably his idea of the perfect date.
Lois gave her head a shake in light of the typical male behavior. Talking about Superman was right up there with talking sports. If she had a nickle for every guy who had ever removed his glasses and folded his arms across his chest before coming up with some of the most unbelievable pick up lines, she'd be rich. 'Hey, baby, let me show you what it's really like to fly.' 'Wanna know the real reason they call 'me' the Man of Steel?' 'Wanna join the mile high club?' 'You must be made of kryptonite because being around you makes my knees weak.' 'They sure don't have babes like you on Krypton.' And her all time favorite… 'You'd look great in my cape — just my cape.' Please. What did they think? That women melted at the mere mention of the superhero?
She stopped in front of a life-sized image of Superman in his blue suit, his red cape flying out majestically behind him. Okay, so he was sort of cute — if one overlooked the comic book outfit. And she couldn't say she was particularly wild about the hair style. He looked so… unreal. On the other hand… Her eyes drifted slowly down his body. …he did have other things to recommend him.
"Huh?" Lois asked, quickly tearing her eyes away from where they had focused on a particular part of Superman's anatomy. 'Is that really all him?' was the question that flashed unbidden through her mind as she made herself look at David, hoping he didn't notice the increased color in her cheeks.
The smug grin on David's face made it clear that he had noticed, causing her cheeks to flame even more. Good thing he wasn't the jealous type.
"So… you going to stand there all day, ogling his statue, or do you want the nickle tour?" David asked, obviously amused.
"I wasn't ogling," Lois responded indignantly. "Okay, so maybe he's impressive… at least the statue of him is. But he's still not my type."
"I'm just as glad about that." He flexed his own biceps, comparing them to the superhero. "Yep, I'm certainly glad about that."
Lois gave him a playful slap on his arm, causing him to laugh. "Okay, so where do we start?" she asked.
"Uhh… Well, I think we start here. With Clark Kent." He led Lois over to a photo of the man in question.
Lois had to fight back the slight hitch in her breath when she saw the photo of the man behind the costume. His slightly ruffled hair. His easy demeanor as he lounged in an over-stuffed chair, his face lit up in a dazzling smile. His casual clothing — a t-shirt that showed off his muscles to perfection and a tight pair of jeans. This man was easily the most gorgeous man Lois had ever laid eyes on. Oh, she'd seen Superman's picture many times in her life. He was still used in many forms of advertising — as well as the pictures she'd seen of him in school. But she was fairly certain she'd never seen the man — Clark Kent — because there was no way she would have forgotten him. It was his eyes more than anything. They were so guileless, so true. They seemed to look right inside her — and all this even without the x-ray vision. Of course, that was probably what made him such a great con-artist — able to convince the world he was doing all these superfeats.
"I'm sure you are aware that he came from a planet called Krypton," David continued, unaware of the effect seeing this picture was having on Lois. "He was sent here by his parents, Jor-El and Lara, because his planet was about to explode."
"Why didn't they build a ship big enough for the whole family?" Lois asked.
"No one knows. Oh, there are certainly lots of theories."
"Like?" Lois asked, looking over at David.
"Well, some think that maybe they didn't have the time to build a bigger ship. Or maybe they didn't have enough money or resources. But no one really knows. Anyway… Hey, here's something you probably don't know. His real name — or should I say his Kryptonian name — was Kal-El."
"No, it's two words. Kal from the House of El. Kal-El. He was actually a Kryptonian lord."
Lois' eyebrows rose.
"What can I say? Everything you ever wanted to know about Superman but were afraid to ask… I'm your guy."
He led her to a display cabinet with pictures of a young child, many of which had two adults in them, beaming proudly at the young boy. "Anyway, he arrived in Kansas and was taken in by a couple named Martha and Jonathan Kent. Farmers. They named him Clark Kent and raised him as their own son."
"Now, see… that's part of the story that makes the whole thing so unbelievable to me," Lois said. "I mean, if I found a baby in a spacecraft, I wouldn't likely just take him in and raise him as my own son without ever telling anyone about it. Besides, how would they explain his sudden appearance? There would be no record of him."
"Apparently, they told neighbors he was the illegitimate son of a cousin of Martha Kent's."
"Okay, okay. They never would have gotten away with it today. But… I don't know. Maybe no one looked too closely. Anyway, he lived with the Kents from then until they were killed in an automobile accident when he was ten years old."
"I heard those automobiles were dangerous. That just proves it. Give me a transport any day. So what happened to him then?"
"He bounced around from foster home to foster home."
Lois shivered. She knew what that was like. Her eyes focused on the devastated face of a young boy standing by the coffins of his parents. He looked so scared. So alone. She suddenly felt a great deal of empathy with him. Maybe that was why he'd come up with this crazy Superman idea. After all, she knew only too well the lengths to which one would go to get noticed when one was a product of the foster care system. In fact, she had four Kerth Awards and one Meriweather Award to prove it.
"Hey, are you okay?" David asked.
Lois gave him a sad smile. "Yeah, I guess I was just sympathizing a bit."
"Oh, yeah. I forget sometimes," he said, giving her arm a sympathetic squeeze. "Rough, was it?"
"It was fine," she lied. "Anyway, so what happened then?"
"He went to journalism school…" He moved over to a display cabinet filled with pictures of Kent during his years in college. His college yearbook photos. The transcripts of his marks. The letter informing him that he was being offered a full academic and football scholarship. Photos of him in a football jersey. Even a small football trophy. Lois leaned over and read the inscription. 'Most valuable player.'
"See… That's exactly what I mean," Lois said, looking back at David.
"Okay, so he can outrun bullets, kick nuclear bombs into space and fly fast enough to be practically invisible and yet he lets them give him a trophy for 'most valuable player' and even a football scholarship without revealing that he has these secret powers? I'd call that cheating. How was that a level playing field? And how can he claim to be this benevolent superhero when he paid his way through college by cheating at football?"
David sighed, taking her arm and leading her over to the next display.
"I'm only saying," Lois mumbled under her breath.
"After college, he spent the next several years traveling the world."
"I don't think he ever said. But think about it, if you could fly anywhere you wanted in a matter of minutes, wouldn't you be out exploring the world?"
"But I'd still come home to sleep in my own bed at nights."
"You mean float over."
"Float over… as in floating above the bed."
"He floated in his sleep?"
"I'm not entirely sure. I read it somewhere, but I'm not sure if it was just someone's speculation." The next display case was filled with an odd collection of items. "These are some of the souvenirs he brought home."
Lois stared for a long time at a weird-looking, wooden statue with a big head. The man certainly had strange taste. The sign under the statue indicated that it was some sort of fertility goddess.
"Fertility goddess?" she asked, turning to look at David.
He merely shrugged.
Lois felt a giggle rise in her throat. 'Hey, babe, come back to my apartment and see my fertility goddess.' She cleared her throat, quickly redirecting her attention to the rest of the items. Nothing looked overly expensive. But with his powers… "I don't understand. I mean, those are some odd trinkets. But that's just what they are. Trinkets."
"What are you saying?"
"Well, with those abilities, he would certainly have had enough money to be buying… Oh, I don't know. Persian rugs or elephant tusk carvings or… something. So what's with this… stuff?" She waved her arm towards the case.
"He wasn't a rich man, Lois. In fact…" He headed towards another display. "Here's the apartment building he moved into when he first went to work for the Daily Planet."
"That's this building!" she said, looking from the photograph to the building around her.
David nodded. "The city wanted to tear the place torn down about fifty years ago. Anyway, the building was declared a historic landmark by the Department of Culture and History and… hence, the museum."
She studied the picture of the worn down building. It looked almost identical, at least from the exterior, to what it was today. She supposed if it had been declared a historic landmark, that was deliberate.
"And here are some pictures of his apartment. But we will go upstairs afterwards, and you can see it for yourself. I'm not sure if all the furniture is authentic, but at least it is authentic to the period."
The apartment itself was… sparse, but homey. But certainly nothing that said money.
"He lived here until he disappeared."
Lois narrowed her eyes. This didn't quite add up to the image Lois had of him as a con-artist. Most con-artists did it for the money. But if this guy wasn't getting rich from his con, what was the point? On the other hand… "Maybe he was saving his money so that by the time his con was discovered, he'd have enough to buy a small island somewhere."
David rolled his eyes. "One thing I'll say for you, once you get an idea in your mind, you don't let it go."
"They don't call me Mad Dog Lewis for nothing," she said with a grin.
He placed his hand on the small of her back. "This is something you might want to see," he said, directing her to a pedestal with a glass enclosure at the top. Inside sat what looked like a small globe, although from the continental configuration, it was obviously not Earth. "Apparently, there were messages inside that told him about his origin. But since his disappearance, no one has been able to make it work. They have done extensive analysis on it and it's made of some alloy we don't have on Earth."
Lois studied the globe from all angles.
"And here's something else that might interest you," he said, leading her over to another pedestal.
"Kryptonite," she said. She'd never seen the substance before, but she knew immediately what she must be looking at. The word itself had long ago made it into popular language as an expression for something that could hurt or kill. She felt an uneasiness in her stomach as she looked at the sickly glow. She'd seen the tape of Superman's unveiling and watched the effect the substance appeared to have on him. "Is this the only piece in existence?"
He shook his head. "There are a number of pieces kept as souvenirs by collectors, other museums… that sort of thing. There was a lot of construction in Smallville shortly after his disappearance. And they found quite a few pieces of it. Most of it, if I recall correctly, was in a place called… Oh, what was it again? Samuel's… No! Schuster's… Schuster's field! That's right. There were other colored rocks there, too, that looked a lot like kyrptonite. We don't know, however, if those other rocks would have affected Superman because he was never exposed to them."
Lois studied the rock for a moment more before looking around to see what else they had. She spotted a display on the far wall and made her way over to it. "So this was Superman's coming out party," she said when she saw stills obviously taken from the now famous news reel.
"Yeah. And they have this…" David hit a button and a holographic display emerged on a nearby platform, allowing them to watch a life size 3-D display of the entire event. As it played, Lois circled the platform, watching the supporting cast in this drama more than she watched the hero. Tempus. He certainly had the same eyes as the man in her dreams. He had the same smirk. But more importantly, he left the same feeling in the pit of her stomach. But how was that possible? Unless, of course, her subconscious had noted the man when she'd seen the film of the event in school and then her dreams had used this same man to give a face to the man in her nightmare. She nodded slowly. It made sense.
However, one of the other players was definitely harder to explain. The woman's hair was different, but other than that… The woman was the spitting image of her. Same height. Same weight. Same mannerisms. Right down to a birthmark of the same shape and size on the same spot at the edge of the woman's hairline.
"Wow. I never noticed that before," David said as he too studied the woman. "I can see why Philip Klein was convinced he saw you at Superman's debut. Hey, maybe he saw you there because you go back in time at some point."
Lois slowly shook her head as she continued to examine the woman. "I'd never cut my hair that short." She continued circling the woman. "You said we don't know her name. Do we know anything about her?"
"Well, some think that she was the person who persuaded Clark to become Superman."
"Then she's definitely not me," Lois muttered. "I'd never have put Kent in that ridiculous outfit. I think I heard somewhere that he was engaged to be married. Is she the woman he was supposed to marry?"
"No. That woman was Lana Lang, a childhood sweetheart." He gestured to a picture of a blonde. "She left him when he went public about his origins."
"Or maybe she wasn't happy that he was perpetrating this fraud on the public," Lois muttered.
"There's actually a biography about her that she authorized," David continued, ignoring Lois' mumbled comment. "Apparently, she told the biographer that she had warned Superman for years about what would happen if he went public. And then, when he disappeared, she claimed she had been right."
"What did she think happened to him?"
"That he couldn't take the spotlight. She portrayed him as sort shy — friendly, but reserved. She maintained until her death that he'd disappeared because he didn't like all the attention — which was what she had predicted would happen."
Lois' eyebrows rose. "Bet she felt good to be right." She was surprised by how much she suddenly disliked this woman.
"So what's in this case?" she asked, making her way over to a case they hadn't looked in yet.
"This case… as well as those…" He pointed to some other photos further along the hall. "…document his life as Superman from the time of his debut until the moment he disappeared."
Lois slowly made her way through the remainder of the displays, seeing Superman at disaster sites, Kent at the Daily Planet or in front of his house or sitting alone on a park bench in Centennial Park. Dozens. Hundreds of pictures.
She was about half way through them when something suddenly occurred to her. To make sure she hadn't missed something, she went back to look at the pictures again. No. She wasn't wrong.
"What?" asked David.
"Well, look at these pictures. There isn't a single picture with him smiling from the time of his debut until he disappeared."
"Are you sure?" asked David.
Making her way back to earlier pictures of Kent, she found herself realizing how obvious it was once she figured it out. In the pre-Superman pictures, he was smiling and his eyes almost danced, as if he had a secret he was just dying to tell someone. In the post-Superman pictures, he remained serious and his eyes… It was his eyes that bothered Lois the most. They just looked so incredibly sad, as if he alone carried the weight of the world on his shoulders.
"You know," David said as they were about to leave, "I think it's not so much that you don't believe in Superman. I think you don't want to believe in Superman."
Lois didn't respond. It took her a long time, thinking seriously about his comment, before finding an answer for herself. It wasn't that she didn't want to believe. She did — more than anything she wanted to believe. But she didn't. No one was that good. Everyone had an angle. Still, she didn't share that with David. It was just too… depressing.
Lois was deep in thought as she stepped onto the floor of her apartment building later that evening. For some reason, she'd been unable to get Clark Kent's haunted eyes out of her mind. Stepping up to her door, she keyed in her four digest lock code before placing her thumb on the fingerprint identification pad.
"Voice recognition?" the computer generated voice asked.
"All right. All right. It's me. Just open the door already," Lois responded impatiently. Kal-El. There was something about that name that rang some bells in her mind. She just couldn't seem to figure out exactly what seemed familiar about it.
Lois quickly pushed the door open and stepped inside.
"Good evening, Ms. L," the computer said as Lois closed her door behind her.
Lois stopped dead in her tracks. "What?" she asked.
"I said, 'good evening, Ms. L," the computer repeated in a friendly tone of voice.
Lois was silent for a moment before dashing over to the old trunk she kept beneath her bed. Pulling it out, she fumbled through it until she found what she was looking for — an old, timeworn note. 'My name is Lois 'L'.'
Lois rocked back on her heels. What was the author of note trying to tell her? Was the 'L' some sick attempt at humor? Was the author claiming she was somehow connected to Kal-El? Maybe she had been spirited away in the middle of the night because… what? Maybe she was a descendant of Kal-El, and some crazed alien-hunting group was tracking down and killing all of his descendants.
She'd never heard of Kal-El having any children. But after tonight, she realized there was a lot the world didn't know about Mr. Clark Kent. Could he be an ancestor? Could he have had a child with the unnamed woman who had appeared with him on that stage? After all, there was no denying that the woman and Lois were practically indistinguishable. Or was she simply reading too much into the use of quotation marks?
She closed her eyes and tried floating. Nope. Whatever this connection was, it didn't give her superpowers. Damn! She could really use some of those powers. And she'd put them to better use than 'grandpa' had. No way was she rescuing cats from trees. She felt a giggle erupt in the back of her throat.
Once the laughter at the direction her thoughts had taken passed, Lois sank down to sit beside the trunk on the floor. She studied the note in her hands for a long time as she tried to reconcile it with everything she had learned tonight. The man who had exposed Kal-El was in her dreams. The woman present was the spitting image of her — except for her hair. And the note had put the letter 'L' in single quotation marks. What did it all mean? And how did she follow up on it?
Clark Kent sat back in his chair and stared at the two documents before him. All his searching and this was the sum total of what he'd been able to find.
The good news was that Lois Lane had been born at Mercy Hospital in Metropolis to a Dr. Samuel and Ellen Lane on October 7th, 1967. The bad news was… He picked up the newspaper article he'd found in addition to the Statement of Live Birth. …she'd been kidnapped by person or persons unknown from the hospital two days later. The only thing that had been left behind was the pink identification bracelet that had been cut off her small wrist. She had never been heard of again.
Still, he couldn't… wouldn't give up. After all, no body had ever been found. She might have another name. But there was no way he could ever forget that face.
Lois ran her hands slowly down the hard muscles of his chest, allowing her fingers to trace each one through the tight-fitting material. Reaching over, she picked the wet cloth out of the basin and raised it to her chest. Keeping her eyes firmly on the brown eyes of the man beneath her, she twisted the cloth in her hands, wringing out the excess water. She closed her eyes and tilted her head back as the water ran down her chest, wetting both her shirt and the thin satin material of her panties. She could hear the strangled growl of the man, starting a slow burn deep within her.
Opening her eyes, she took the cloth and began, slowly, methodically, running it over the blue spandex in front of her, watching with increasing fascination as the material melted away as the cloth stroked across it, leaving her staring, unhindered, at the hard muscles of his chest. She dipped the cloth back in the basin and increased her tempo, finding that by augmenting the water she could make the suit disintegrate even faster. She quickly finished her task until the chest and arms of the man beneath her were fully exposed to her viewing pleasure. She groaned in pleasure at the mere sight of his perfectly formed upper body. Never before had just looking at a man been able to raise her body temperature to such a degree.
Unable to resist, she leaned over, using her tongue now to trace those same muscles, starting at his neck. Tracing the tendons down his strong neck with her tongue, she heard a dark, masculine growl arise in the back of his throat. The sound called to her, drawing her in, making her quickly his.
She pulled back again, needing to see his eyes. They were dark, almost black. Passion seemed to jump between them, fanning the smoldering embers in her belly. Her heart rate increased when she looked down and realized that the water she'd spilled on herself had also disintegrated the front of her top. Her eyes snapped up to meet his, realizing immediately that he, too, had noticed her current attire — or lack thereof.
Lois jerked awake, covered with sweat. It took her a moment to realize where she was. In her small apartment. In her own bed. Alone. What the hell had that been about? All she had done was seen his statue and a few pictures and yet… God, she hadn't had a dream like that in years. So why was her subconscious… insisting on taking her places she would never have a chance to go? Had no desire to go, in fact.
Getting out of bed, she made her way over to the window, once again forcing it open, allowing the cold evening air to slow her ragging hormones. Until this moment, she'd never really understood the meaning of frustration. She'd read about it, of course. Heard about it. But until tonight, she'd never really experienced it — the almost overpowering desire to crawl back into bed and finish what the dream had awakened inside her. No! No, that was crazy. She had no intention of feeding these unrealistic, completely insane fantasies.
She forced her mind onto other topics. The cold night air. The argument she could see taking place in an apartment across from hers. His smiling eyes as he'd sat sprawled out in an over-stuffed chair before his exposure as Superman. His solemn eyes as looked back at her in all those pictures after he became Superman — as if he was calling out to her across the years, telling her of his loneliness — a loneliness which she herself shared — as if he, too, was somehow also cut off from those around him, not ever quite belonging. She felt an unexpected twang in her heart.
She gave her head a shake, growling slightly. What was she doing? He was a con-artist. And not even one she'd ever meet. Besides, it was more than a little troubling that she might be having erotic dreams about her great, great, great grandfather. She shivered slightly, confused by how much that possibility suddenly bothered her. On the other hand, even if the woman was an ancestor, it was highly unlikely Kent was in anyway related to her. Besides, it wasn't as if she could help what her subconscious did while she was sleeping. Sleeping. She glanced back briefly at the bed, but didn't return. She knew there was little chance she'd get any more sleep tonight.
The next morning, Lois spent her time reviewing all the information she could find on the life of Clark Kent. She searched but found almost nothing about Tempus or the strange woman who could have been her twin. It was odd but both of them seemed to appear out of nowhere and then disappear again after Superman's debut. Tom Balsam came over several times, asking what was happening with her story from Dr. Philip Klein. She'd been vague, but promised him that the story was huge — provided she could confirm it.
It was true, of course. But that wasn't the main reason she was doing this. There were simply too many coincidences… too many for her to let this go. But none of it had to do with Clark Kent himself. None of it!
She'd noticed David watching her several times during the course of the morning, but she ignored him. She wasn't willing to talk to him yet. Not until she figured out exactly what she was going to do.
By early afternoon, she'd finished finding out everything she could about Kent. Sticking her palm computer into her purse, she headed out for her next destination.
"I wasn't sure you'd be back," Philip Klein said as he continued fussing in his lab. "You took off awfully fast yesterday."
"I had some research to do," Lois replied vaguely. "But I've got some more questions."
"Well, one of the things that makes a lot of scientists dismiss the idea of time travel is the idea of paradoxes."
"Uhh… you mean if I go back in time and kill my grandfather, how could I then be born so that I could go back in time and kill my grandfather. Well… I discovered something rather interesting when I was experimenting with the machine."
"It seems that 'time' is a lot more resilient than you might think. If you go into the past and try to change something, time itself will bounce you forward to your own time. For example, when I went into the past, I tried to warn Clark Kent that he was about to step into a trap Tempus had set for him."
"You mean where Tempus exposes Clark Kent to be Superman?"
"Yes. Quite. Anyway, before I could do it, the machine sent me back to my own time. Now, I imagine scientists will eventually find a way around this safety mechanism, but for now… There's no danger to the time line by doing a little time traveling."
"So time somehow recognizes when you belong and sends you back?"
"Yes. I instantly found myself back in this room wondering what had happened. So I went back again, tried again and the same thing happened."
"But what if time hadn't protected itself. What would have happened if you had changed the time line?"
"Uhh… well… in case something happens…" He led Lois into a small room. "Before I go back, my assistant and I come in here and close the door." He closed the door to demonstrate. "This room is protected by… well, I call it a time bubble. By looking at this screen…" He pointed to a computer screen."…you can see the time line. Any anomalies to the time line would show up there as a red flashing light. Now, I know it works because when I go back in time, I show up as such a light. Then, if you need more details about the anomaly, you just touch the light and the computer will give you a more detailed analysis. The time bubble around the room ensures that you are… I guess the easiest way to explain it would be to say that you are outside time. It gives the people in this room time to make any corrections to the time line — if necessary."
"But if time protects itself…"
"Why do I still need this room? Ms. Lewis, I built this before my first trip, before I knew about this remarkable ability of time to protect itself. Since then… I figure better safe than sorry. That's my motto, Ms. Lewis. That's why I'm the only person who has used this machine. And that's why I will be the only person to use it until such time as I'm satisfied that time travel is completely safe."
"So there's no chance that I…"
"I'm afraid not, Ms. Lewis," Philip said, realizing what she was going to ask.
Lois studied the man for a long moment, assessing her chances of changing his mind. Deciding he was not about to be budged, she proceeded to her next question. "So how exactly does this machine work?"
"Well, first you step in here." He pointed to a large, upright glass cylinder. "This machine takes your vital statistics. Your height, weight, DNA, chemical compounds in your blood, everything. It's scanned into the computer so that it can find you to bring you home."
"So… how exactly do you operate the machine?"
"Oh, well, you just…" He demonstrated, pushing the appropriate buttons while explaining in great detail what every button and knob did. "And when you've done all that, you press this button — and presto. The machine knows everything there is to know about you. Well, not whether you've cheated on your income tax," he added with a chuckle, clearly amused by his own joke. "But everything else. I won't actually push it now since there's no one in the machine. Don't particularly want it to scan a fly that might be in the machine."
"What if there's a fly in the machine with you when you're scanned?"
"That's why…" He picked up an aerosol can filled with bug spray. "It's my own special blend. It's not dangerous to humans. But when I step inside the machine, I give it a blast and then make sure any bugs on the floor are picked up and disposed of in that small box so that they don't get mixed in with my DNA. Hey, I saw 'The Fly' when I was a kid, too."
"So what would happen if you went back to a time in your own lifetime. Would the machine get confused then?"
"No. After all, this is the only second of your life when you will be exactly the age you are now, with the same level of chemicals in your blood, the same scars, the same… well, everything. And why would you go back to a time when you were that exact age? You could just look in the mirror. I've done some experiments of going back only a couple of hours and the machine doesn't have any problems distinguishing the time traveling me from the me of that time."
Lois nodded slowly, trying to take it all in.
"Anyway, once you're scanned into the computer, you enter this machine." He gestured to another upright glass cylinder. "You set the time you want to go to…" He demonstrated how on a computer pad on the consol outside. "You enter the length of your trip. And the time you want to return — for that I've already got one hour entered. I suppose I could come back a minute after I leave, but I did that once and it confused my assistant too much — hearing me talk about a day's worth of adventures after only being gone for a minute. So I leave it set at one hour." Again, he demonstrated how to use the controls. "Then you step into the machine and your assistant hits this button. And… poof."
"So you don't take any sort of machine with you in case you have problems getting back?"
"Unnecessary. And until I find a way to make a handheld model, impractical. At the end of the length of time you entered for your trip, the computer will send you back here — unless, of course, you're bumped back early because you try to change something in the past."
"And if something goes wrong."
Klein shook his head. "I've built back-up systems into this machine until they're redundant. Nothing can go wrong."
"Back up generators — three of them. All regularly maintained."
"Short in the controls for the length of the trip."
"Any problem is immediately caught by the computer and the information is instantly sent over to the back up controls. Listen, Ms. Lewis, it's nice that you're so concerned about my safety, but I'm fine. Really. My only real concern at the moment is whether there will be any long term effects from extensive time travel."
"What type of long term effects?"
"Well… will I continue to age normally. That sort of thing. I suspect it might slow down my normal aging process. Oh, hey. That reminds me. I learned something interesting in the past. I met my great, great grandfather — the Dr. Bernard Klein himself. He was studying Superman's physiology and he told me something I don't think I've seen in any texts about Superman."
"Well, he believes that Superman will age slower than humans. Of course, I couldn't tell him that there was no need to do those experiments."
"Well, Superman will go missing in three years. And… well, I have to tell you, Ms. Lewis, I suspect he died a few years later. He would never have just sat around while we blew so much of our world to pieces."
"So you think he was dead before the advent of World War III in 2014?"
"I'd bet my reputation on it. But for some reason, even though I've now gone back dozens of times, I still have no idea what happened to Superman. He really did just seem to disappear. I suppose it's not as if it matters," Klein continued. "After all, even if I did find out what happened, I wouldn't be able to change anything."
"So what can you take with you into the past?" Lois asked, sensing the need to get them back on track. "I saw the remake of The Terminator. I hope you don't end up back there stark naked."
Klein laughed. "Oh, no. I assure you I was quite decent. You can actually take anything that's in the chamber with you. But you do have to be careful because when you come back, unless you leave something that will affect the time line, it won't come back with you unless you're holding it. I lost a perfectly good pair of sunglasses that way."
"And where do you appear when you get to this new place in time?"
"The same place you start out. I know. I know. That's something I need to work on. After all, if you're going back to observe… let's say the explorations of Marco Polo and you appear in Metropolis… or where Metropolis will be in the future, you won't be able to get to the part of the world you want to be."
"So where did you end up when you went back to Superman's debut?"
"In Klein Labs… Well, it was called Star Labs back then," Klein said. "But I've managed to minimize initial contact by setting the controls so that I arrive in the early hours of the morning. So far I've managed to sneak out without anyone seeing me — well, except for the odd occasion when I got caught by Dr. Klein. But then, I told you I'd spoken to their Dr. Klein. Remarkable man. Remarkable. Did you know that he won two Nobel Prizes? The first one, as you might expect, was in quantum physics. But the second one was for his work with AIDs patients in Africa before the war. He did remarkable things in getting the disease under control over there so that it didn't wipe out their entire population. It's a pity that the war came and…"
"Oh, right. Sorry," Philip Klein said somewhat sheepishly. "Anyway, I've been lucky. This lab has remained relatively untouched for the past 300 years — since the initial construction of Star Labs. Which, by the way, is why I chose this particular lab to set up the time machine. And before the construction of the building, this area was nothing more than an open field on the edge of the river. So… taking off and leaving from here isn't as much of a problem as you might expect. Still, allowing me to choose the destination as well as the time is right on the top of my 'to do' list."
"So there's no way I could persuade you to let me go back in time. It would make a great angle for this story," Lois said. "Hey, I'm just asking," she continued when she saw the resulting look on Dr. Klein's face.
Lois took a detour after she left Klein Labs, riding the transport past the ruins of the old city. Bigger bombs. Better bombs — the people at the time had claimed. All the destructive power of a nuclear bomb but without the radiation. Tell all the people who had died in the war how great the new bombs were. She shook her head as she saw the miles of destruction that still lay on the outskirts of the city. A hundred and forty three years was not enough to completely purge the stain. And Metropolis had been lucky. New York and Washington had not faired nearly as well, not to mention all those great cities in other countries that had never been rebuilt.
She couldn't say that she was a Superman fan — or even that she really believed that he'd existed. But… if there was a Superman, surely he would have come out of retirement when mankind started killing each other off in such vast numbers. To do otherwise would make him a monster. No, Klein was right. Assuming that the entire thing hadn't been some sort of hoax, she had to believe he'd died before 2014. For some reason, that thought depressed her.
Later that evening, Lois stood in her apartment, looking around at the familiar walls. It occurred to her as she observed the small apartment that although she'd lived here for the past ten years — since she was twenty-one, in fact — she'd never really made it feel like a home. As if she was just putting in time.
She shook her head at the crazy thought. She'd be back here to sleep before first light. And then… maybe she'd buy that edgy little painting she'd seen the other day by one of the local artists. And she'd ask David out on an actual date. It was time… Actually, it was long past time for her to get a life. It wasn't as if she could stay in the past anyway. She'd be sent back after a set period of time — if she didn't try to change something in the time line first. And really, what chance was there that she wouldn't try to change something?
No. No. No. No. She was just going back to find out what she could about Tempus and her twin. Now she only needed to get David on board and she'd be all set.
"I can't believe I let you talk me into this."
"Shhh… Do you want to get caught?" A few moments and a couple of muttered curses later… "Okay, we're in."
Lois snuck slowly into the lab, stopping in the middle of the room. "Hey," she grumbled when David bumped into her.
"Sorry, it's dark in here. Do you think we could turn on a light?"
Lois turned back to the door, closing it firmly before hitting the light switch. Since the button for the time bubble was right next to the light switch, she hit that, too.
"I'm not sure about this, Lois," David said, looking around at all the equipment. "What if something goes wrong?"
"Dr. Klein said nothing can go wrong," she said while turning on all the various pieces of equipment.
She stepped into the cylinder to be screened, being careful not to have any bugs in there with her. Once that was finished, she headed towards the time travel cylinder.
"Wait!" David said, causing her to turn towards him.
"What?" she asked. She couldn't believe the level of excitement that was rising in her at the prospect of this trip and felt somewhat annoyed at having to take time to address David.
He stepped closer to her. "Are you absolutely sure you want to do this?" he asked, placing his hands on her upper arms.
"I'm doing this, David," she responded, leaving no room for doubt in her voice. "You can watch me the whole time on that screen." Lois pointed to one of the computers. "I'll be the cute, little red dot with the great legs," she added, hoping to use a little humor to combat the tense vibes she was getting from her co-conspirator. She was about to turn away when something stopped her. On impulse, she stepped up on her toes gave him a kiss on the cheek. "Take care," she said. "You've been a great friend to me."
"Okay, now that I didn't like," David informed her.
"What? You don't like me kissing you? I'll have to remember that for future reference," she responded cheekily.
"That's not what I'm talking about and you know it. That… seemed like a goodbye. A permanent goodbye."
"Don't be crazy," Lois said, refusing to meet his eyes.
He gave her a small shake, forcing her again to look at him. "If the leggy red dot as much as blinks funny, I'm calling Philip Klein."
Lois rolled her eyes. "Relax. Nothing's going to go wrong." She quickly inputted the necessary information into the machine. "I'll be back before you know it." Stepping into the machine, she closed the door. "All I need you to do is push the button."
David stared at her for a long time before looking down at the button. After one final look at her to ensure that she really wanted him to do this, he pushed the button, gasping when she disappeared from the room.
Lois snuck into the newsroom of the Daily Planet, being cautious to keep to the shadows. Seeing her double, she quickly grabbed a paper out of the holder by the elevators and opened it up so that she could hide behind it.
'Wow,' Lois thought. 'They still have newspapers made out of actual paper.' Caught up in the thrill of actually holding a real newspaper, she almost forgot to watch and listen to her twin who was currently rushing in her direction. At first, Lois tensed. Had the woman seen her?
Lois' eyebrows rose when she realized the woman's destination — and was even more surprised when the woman threw herself into Clark Kent's arms. Maybe her theory about being the descendant of an illicit love affair between these two wasn't so crazy after all. But… she had to fight the urge to laugh when 'gramps' looked even more surprised than Lois had been by her twin's actions.
"Oh, Clark, I am so glad to see you," the woman said. "You and Superman." The woman's voice had dropped so low on the last word that if Lois hadn't known that Kent would become Superman, she wouldn't have known what the woman had said.
Her eyebrows rose when her twin kissed Kent fully on the lips.
"Excuse me, Miss… Who are you? And what's Superman?"
Before Lois could fully ponder the significance of Kent's question, another woman approached — one who Lois recognized immediately. Lana Lang. Lois slunk even further into the background. Now this should be interesting.
"Clark? Who's this?" The edge in Lana's voice made it clear that she was more than a little miffed by what she had just witnessed.
"I have no idea," Kent responded.
Behind her newspaper, Lois couldn't keep the amused grin off her face. She wasn't entirely sure what this was all about, but… oh, yeah. This was about to get good.
"Well, I guess she knows you," Lana continued. "So she ought to know me. I'm Lana Lang. Mr. Kent's fiancee." Lana put extra emphasis on the final phrase as she reached out her right hand to Lois' twin. "And you are…?"
Lois' twin now looked as shocked as Kent when she had kissed him. "Uhh.. I…"
A short man with a moustache suddenly appeared at the woman's side.
"Lois Lane," the man said, not bothering to introduce himself. "And still a bit feverish, I'm afraid. Aren't you, my dear?"
Lois fought back a gasp. The woman even had the same first name she did. And since Lois didn't know what her last name was supposed to be… No. That was crazy. That woman wasn't her. After all, Lois certainly didn't walk up to complete strangers and kiss them.
"I… I guess," Lane said, as if not even certain of her own name.
'See?' Lois thought. 'I'm much more articulate than that.'
Lois' attention turned from Lane to the couple now walking towards the elevators. Clark Kent and Lana Lang.
"What?" Kent asked, seeing the stormy expression on his fiancee's face. "Come on, honey. I don't even know who that was."
Lana didn't respond as she turned towards the elevators.
"We're meeting my parents at seven to go over the final guest list," Lana said, obviously not wanting to pursue the other topic.
Lois found that odd. It was the only question she'd want to pursue if she saw some strange woman kissing her fiance.
"Okay," Kent said.
Lana might not have noticed that Kent was glancing back over his shoulder towards Lane — but Lois did.
"Last thing," Lana continued. "I saw that little stunt you pulled a few minutes ago."
"Stunt?" Kent asked.
"Don't give me those puppy eyes. The gunfight out front? You ducked away and…" She made a wavy motion with her hand.
"Sweetheart, nobody saw me. I just you know… did a little…" He made a gesture which Lois realized must symbolize heat vision. "…zzzt, burned out his tires and the cops got him."
"Clark, you promised."
Lois cringed at the whiny sound in Lana's voice.
"This is the slowest elevator, huh?" Kent said, hitting the button again.
Lois had to admit, she was enjoying watching Kent trying to get rid of Lana. Something about that fact pleased Lois.
"They'd lock you up in some lab and study you. And even if you broke out, you'd never have a life. We'd never have a life. No one will ever love you more than I do…"
"I know," Kent said, sounding resigned. He'd obviously heard this same argument before.
"…and no one understands you better. So promise this is the last time."
The elevator door pinged when it opened.
"Here we are," Clark said, using a hand on the small of her back to escort her inside.
"Promise me," Lana said as she stepped on the elevator.
"See you at seven."
Kent's refusal to make the promise caused Lois to bite the grin off her face. Tomorrow. If the history books were correct, tomorrow everyone would know what Lana Lang obviously knew already.
The elevator door closing ended the discussion. Still, Lois watched in fascination as, the moment the door closed, his eyes moved back to Lane. As if she could feel his eyes, Lane immediately looked up, causing their eyes to meet before Lane was escorted into the boss' office and the door was closed.
"Excuse me, Miss. Can I help you?"
The voice of a strange man far too close caused Lois practically to jump out of her skin.
"Uhh… no. I'm fine," Lois said before turning and heading for the stairs. She couldn't afford to get caught. It would raise far too many unwanted questions. And it appeared she'd learned as much here as she was going to at the moment. Although, she had to admit, she really wasn't entirely sure what she'd learned — well, other than the fact that she really didn't like Lana Lang. No, she had learned something else. She had learned that Lana really believed he had powers. So either he had conned her, too, or… Or what? Was it possible he really did have the powers she'd read about in the history books?
It was time to leave. There was another place she wanted to check out.
Lois teetered precariously on the ledge, fighting to retain her balance before slowly taking another step, followed by another and another. It seemed to take forever, but then she was on the balcony of Clark Kent's apartment. She snuck over to the door leading into the darkened apartment and tried to open it. Damn. It was locked.
She pulled her palm computer out of her purse and pressed it against the door.
"Computer, open the door," she instructed, just as she'd done on the front door of Clark's apartment. The program for opening locks was quite expensive, hard to find and illegal in her time — just as she suspected lock-picking tools were in this time. Still, that hadn't stopped Lois. Sometimes there was just no other way to get the story.
"Unable to comply," her computer responded after a moment.
"Why?" she asked.
"No electronic components in lock for me to manipulate."
Lois let out a breath and stuck the palm computer back in her purse. It was the same thing the computer had informed her at the front door of Clark's apartment. In fact, it was why she'd snuck onto his balcony. She struggled for a minute before a new idea came to her.
She rummaged in her pocket for a moment before finding what she needed. She took her press pass and carefully slipped it between the door and the frame, jiggling it just so.
With a smile of satisfaction, she returned the press pass to her pocket. She'd forced one of her snitches to give her a few lessons on breaking old fashioned locks since occasionally she still ran across one of them. She'd never been more happy she'd done so. Still, apartments in this time period were frighteningly easy to break into. Now a lock with a computer code that also required a thumb print and voice recognition… there was a challenge.
Speaking of a challenge, Lois hadn't realized how far it was from the Daily Planet to Kent's apartment. They didn't have transports in this time period. Besides, she didn't have any money. So she'd had to walk the entire distance. At least she'd known where it was. After all, she'd been to his museum only the day before. But the sun had set and her feet hurt by the time she traversed the distance. The only thing to be thankful for was that the apartment was still dark. She hoped that meant Kent wasn't home — and that he was not in bed, particularly with Lana Lang. Seeing him with Lane wasn't exactly Lois' idea of a good time. In fact, the very idea made her feel slightly ill. But not quite as ill as the idea of him with Lana.
She listened carefully at the door. Finally satisfied that Kent wasn't in bed, either alone or with someone else, Lois let out a breath of relief.
She had just stepped inside and was about to look around when she heard noises outside the front door. The doorknob began to turn. She quickly dashed back to the balcony and hid behind a fern placed there. Still, through the open door she could hear the sound of voices from inside. Lights came on and she stuck her head out from behind the fern to look through the large, glass windows so that she could figure out who had entered the apartment. Clark Kent and the woman who looked like her — Lane.
"Look, I don't want to be a hero," Kent said as he walked into the apartment.
"Really. Then why did you go after that gunman this morning? Why did you save me?"
"I help when I can… but I want to live my life. Just a second…"
There was a moment of silence during which Lois was as quiet as possible. Had he noticed the open door to the balcony? Did he realize someone was there?
"What?" Lane asked again.
"I'm sorry… I just… well, for a minute there I could have sworn I heard two heartbeats — besides mine, of course. But… I guess…" He sounded confused. "I guess I'm just hearing an echo of yours."
"Never mind. You were saying?"
"Oh right. You want to lead a normal life. That's why you need to have a secret identity."
"Secret identity? Is that why you bought that ski suit?"
"Just go with me on this. It's not a ski suit. I mean, it is. But it's so much more than that. It's a symbol. You're making yourself into a beacon."
"Are you always like this?"
"I'm sorry. I'm a little high-strung."
"Lady, you're a Stradivarius."
"Well, maybe this will help."
Lois snuck a look around the plant when the speaking came to a halt to see Kent looking at some pictures that seemed to be in Lane's wallet.
"That's what I'm talking about," Lane said, pointing to a picture.
"That's what I'm afraid of," Kent responded in horror.
Lois saw him flip to another picture.
"Is this… us?" Kent asked.
"Well, it's me and him."
Lois crinkled her eyebrows. What were they talking about now?
Lois watched as Lane lifted her left hand. A ring. She must be showing him a ring.
"This is just too weird."
'You have no idea,' Lois thought.
"Oh, my god. They're alive?"
"Does he… spend much time with them?"
"That's great. That's…"
"They're very proud of him. I'm sure your parents were, too."
'Huh?' Lois thought, trying to make sense of the strange conversation. So far, she'd reached the conclusion that these two hadn't known each other before today — which made Lane's behavior in the newsroom that much more baffling. On the other hand, this part of the conversation… she really didn't have a single clue what their current discussion was about.
"I guess so," Kent said. "It was a long time ago."
"Car wreck. I saw it happen."
Lois fought back a gasp. She'd known his parents had been killed in an automobile accident. But she hadn't realized he'd seen it. Her mind flashed back to the devastated face of the young boy looking at his adopted parent's coffins.
"I was pretty fast, even then, but… not fast enough. Lana said I shouldn't blame myself. One man can't really make a difference… no matter what kind of powers he has."
Lois' instinctive reaction was to disagree. Everyone could make a difference. Even if only in their own tiny corner of the world.
"I know things are different here. I know you're different. But trust me… powers or no powers… one man can change any world."
'You tell him, sister,' Lois thought immediately, surprising herself. After all, wasn't she silently encouraging Lane to create Superman?
He seemed to concentrate on the photo again. "His mom made this for him, huh?"
"Can you sew as well as she does?"
Lois' legs were well past cramped and were quickly heading towards numb as she continued to hide behind the fern on the balcony. For the past hour, she'd been hiding here, hoping the current occupants of the apartment would decide to leave. She wasn't entirely sure what she would do if they stayed here all night — probably try to sneak out on the same ledge she'd come in on when Kent fell asleep. She would have left already, but when she'd got up, Kent's voice, asking Lane if she'd heard a noise, caused her to freeze where she was before slowly squatting back down behind the fern.
What if this Kent guy really did have superhearing? His comment about hearing a second heartbeat certainly made it seem that way. And if he had superhearing, then what else could he do? Could he see through the plant and find her squatting behind it? Could he move so fast that he could prevent her escape?
Still, there were advantages to staying put. As Lane proceeded to create various pieces of that now-so-famous suit, she and Kent had talked. Although… Lois had to admit, the entire conversation had been more than a little strange. They were discussing alternate universes as if… well, as if the existence of other planes of existence were proven fact. And not only that, Lane was maintaining that she was from an alternate universe and that Kent was an exact double of her fiance. Never had Lois heard such an outrageous pick-up line. 'Hey, you look just like the man I'm supposed to marry in an alternate universe. So since I'm stuck here, would you like to make out?' The thing was that Kent seemed to be buying it!
Poor guy. Maybe he wasn't a con-artist. Maybe he was just… a little slow. A taco short of a combo platter. Maybe his elevator didn't go all the way to the top. Maybe his light was on but no one was home. And maybe, just maybe, she should quit coming up with all these stupid expressions to describe Kent. On the other hand, what else did she have to do?
Still, their conversation about Tempus had been interesting — at least some of it. Lane seemed to believe that Tempus, too, was from another dimension. Also, Lane claimed to have overheard Tempus talking about killing the current editor of the Daily Planet — Perry White. If this were true, it certainly supported Lois' theory that there was something very disturbing about Tempus.
"How's it fit?" Lane yelled.
"Tight," Kent responded.
"Well, let me see."
Lois, too, snuck a peek out from behind the fern, to see Kent step out from behind a privacy screen in a pair of blue tights.
"Needs a few more pieces here and there," Lane said, looking him over.
Lois had been thinking the same thing. Where was that famous Superman crest?
"I just remembered something — from that picture you showed me. It's in that trunk over there in a manilla envelope."
Lois watched as Lane moved over to the trunk before kneeling down and opening it.
"My Mom gave it to me when I was little. She said it was on the blanket they found me in."
Lois watched curiously as Lane removed the exact crest Lois had been thinking about. Of course, this discovery led Kent to remove the suit and Lane to take it in order to sew on the crest.
Lois snuck a peek around the fern, instantly realizing that if she scooted over just a little bit, she could get a very good view of the hard muscles of his back. In spite of her protests that she wasn't attracted to him, she found herself following the muscles down to where his white briefs covered the solid muscles of his posterior. It never even occurred to her to remember that she shouldn't be looking.
He turned slightly, and she licked her lips, her eyes focused on that part of his anatomy she'd noticed when first entering the Superman museum. In spite of her view being blocked by his briefs, there was one thing she knew for certain. It really was all him. Suddenly, the temperature of the night air seemed to rise a few degrees. She found herself instantly hoping she wasn't his descendant. 'Cause her apparent inability to stop ogling him was disturbing on so many different levels if he was. In fact it was worse than her dream the previous night. That she couldn't help. This she could. Still, she did nothing to stop herself from exploring every part of his body she could see.
Oblivious to her eyes on him, his hand slid inside the front of his briefs, innocently adjusting himself. Her breath caught in her throat and she felt an instant reaction in her own body. Her muscles tightened as, without conscious thought, she strained forward for a better view.
Suddenly, he stilled, tilting his head to the side, and appeared to be sniffing the air. She froze. His supersmell couldn't be that good — could it?
"How you doing out there?" Kent asked.
Lois jumped slightly, until she realized he wasn't addressing her.
"Fine. I'm just… I guess I'm just missing my Clark."
"Sorry," he responded. "I just heard your increased heart rate and thought something might be wrong."
Lois shook her head at her previous fanciful thoughts. Still, she quickly calmed herself. After all, no point in having him realize that he wasn't hearing Lane's heartbeat; he was hearing hers.
Lane got up, giving the suit to Kent before making her way out onto the balcony.
Lois crept slowly back, trying to make herself as small as possible while the woman stood, looking out over the city.
A noise made Lane turn and caused Lois to chance a quick peak. Lois felt her breath catch in her throat and was relieved when she realized that Lane had made the exact same sound as both women stared at the man. Lane's noise had effectively covered Lois' blunder.
"I knew it. I look stupid," Superman said, turning to head back into his apartment.
"No! No," Lane said, stopping his escape with the mere sound of her voice. "No, you look great."
Lois' eyes narrowed at the soft tone in Lane's voice, feeling unexpectedly disturbed by Lane's obvious affection for Kent. Lois instantly told herself that she was just bothered that Lane was appreciating Kent's looks when she had her own fiance — at least if what Lane had been telling Kent about having her own Clark in another universe was true. Lane had no right to be looking at another man.
Still, Lois found herself subconsciously agreeing with Lane. She might have thought the Superman pictures looked stupid, but in person… Lois couldn't believe how breathless it made her to see him in that outfit — especially since she had been observing him in a lot less only minutes before.
Lois ducked back down behind the fern when Lane took Kent's hand and led him further out onto the balcony.
"Are you sure about this?" Superman asked, looking down at himself.
"I'm sure," Lane responded. "But you're not. So let's get you comfortable."
A slow smile lit up Lane's face. "Let's go flying," she said.
"Us? As in… we?"
Lane laughed, putting an arm around Superman's neck and jumping up, making him catch her as if she had absolutely no doubt that he would.
"Okay," Superman finally said before lifting both of them off the balcony.
Lois had to stifle a gasp when a moment later the two disappeared in a gust of wind. Slowly, Lois straightened up, bending over and steadying herself against the wall as the pain of being reawakened shot through her legs.
Tempus sat in a comfortable chair, HG Wells tied up to a hard chair next to him. He was watching a small televison screen showing Lois Lane and Superman taking off into the night sky from the balcony of Clark Kent's apartment.
"The heroine creates her hero," Tempus said. "A mythically moving moment. Herb, am I still a man in your eyes if I weep?"
"This is what you want," HG said in disbelief. "You want her to create Superman."
"Very good, Herb. Mind like that you missed a big career on game shows. Hey, what's this?" Tempus suddenly asked, moving to the edge of his seat to get a closer look at the television screen. "Well, hello there," he said as he watched a second Lois Lane straighten up from where she was hiding behind a fern. "Have to do something about that? Won't we, Herb?"
He had flown. Kent had really flown. Lois was still in a slight state of shock as she made her way to the door to Kent's apartment. He was real. She never would have believed it if she hadn't seen it with her own eyes — well, and checked afterwards to be sure there were no wires. And if he could really fly… maybe everything else was true as well.
"Well, well, well. What do we have here?"
The sound of the slightly mocking voice caused Lois to spin around. She knew that voice. Without even bothering to look first, she kicked out, landing a solid blow against the chest of the man she'd seen in her dreams. She was about to bolt when a large man, holding a gun, stepped out of the shadows. She froze.
"Now is that any way to greet an old friend," Tempus asked as he rose to his feet. "But then, I suppose you wouldn't be a Lois Lane if you didn't kick first, ask questions later. Has anyone ever told you that is not a very attractive quality in a woman?"
"You have me mistaken for someone else. I'm not Lois Lane," Lois said, her eyes remaining on the man with the gun, still hoping for a chance to escape.
A small grin quirked up one corner of Tempus' mouth, as if her comment had given him all the information he needed. "But you are a Lois," Tempus said, pulling out a gun of his own. "So let me guess… Humm. Is it possible you don't know your last name Lois L?"
"So how did you find your way here?" Tempus asked, without waiting for an answer to his last question.
The man with Tempus stepped forward, grabbing her arms and holding them behind her.
"I don't know what you're talking about," Lois responded, trying to sound calmer than she felt. This man knew her — knew who she was — probably even knew how she had ended up on the steps of the Sisters of Metropolis Convent.
Tempus laughed. "I bet you have a lot of questions. Sadly though, it's too late, Lois L. Because I'm about to kill Kal-El. Of course, I'll have to do something about you, too. But before you get any ideas…" He took a piece of duct tape and put across her mouth before she could stop him. "Wouldn't want you yelling those pesky words, 'Help Superman,' now would we?"
Damn. Now why hadn't she thought of that?
Tempus gave a dramatic sigh. "It's really too bad you came here, Lois L. I thought leaving you where I did was ironic — alive, but unable to fulfill your destiny. Still, you could have had a happy life. Clark, on the other hand… well, we all know that Clark can't survive without Lois. But that wasn't your problem. Now though… well, I can't very well have two Lois Lane's running around here getting in my way. The other Lois will undoubtedly want to get back to her own Superman as soon as possible. You, on the other hand… well, you're a bit of a complication to my plans. So what to do with you?"
Tempus seemed to consider that for a moment. "Well, I'll have to kill you, of course. Too bad. After all, you were such a cute baby. But you might enjoy watching me destroy the Man of Steel first. Besides, trying to kill a Lois Lane when Superman is still alive is a risky proposition at best. He always seems to show up just as you're about to fall into a vat of hot oil."
Lois' eyes went wide. He was planning to drop her into a vat of hot oil? But for what reason? Surely if he knew who she was — and it certainly sounded as if he did — he also knew that she was from the future. So it wasn't as if she could change anything. Or… well, she had to admit, she was having some problems following this conversation — except for the part about the vat of hot oil, of course. But fulfilling her destiny, Clark not being able to survive without Lois, not being able to kill her while Superman was alive… What was that all about?
Just because the other Lois had her Superman, was apparently engaged to him… God, was she even considering the possibility of alternate universes? …didn't mean that she… that she… Lois pushed the thought away, preferring instead to think about that vat of oil. Quicker. Less painful.
"So I guess that means you're going to be my guest for a while," Tempus continued. "Hey, you can keep Herb company. I'm sure he'll be appropriately inspired by meeting another Lois Lane. I know I was moved — almost to the point of tears."
Stepping up to Lois, he used the butt of his gun to hit her in the back of her head. She slumped forward, unconscious.
Tempus took a moment to look at her. "They really are beautiful when they're sleeping. Too bad they can't sleep all the time."
Lois slowly regained conscious to find herself tied to a chair, the tape still covering her mouth. She groaned. Not again. When would the bad guys learn a different trick? There were only so many times one could wake up tied to a chair by some bad guy before it got repetitive.
"Ms. Lane, oh thank god," said the man with the mustache Lois had seen at the Daily Planet.
She raised her head and fought off her headache to look around. The strange little man with the moustache was also tied to a chair. What was he waiting for? Why wasn't he yelling for Superman? She groaned. Right. Superman hadn't been invented yet. And for all she knew, he had no idea what Clark Kent could do.
"I was so worried about… What happened to your hair?"
Lois rolled her eyes. Her mouth was covered with tape. How did he expect her to answer that question? Still, his comment told her, as much as for the fact that he was calling her Ms. Lane, that he was confusing her with her twin — the other Lois, as Tempus had called her.
She began working on the ropes holding her, ignoring the annoying man's questions. It didn't even occur to him to yell for help — so it probably didn't make sense to expect help of any sort from him.
At least there was one good thing in all this. If the other Lois was from an alternate universe, and she supposed her disappearing without a trace would support that idea, then at least she didn't have to worry that she was Superman's descendant which in turn meant that Lois hadn't been ogling 'grandpa' which left her feeling more relieved than she could imagine. She growled, forcing her mind back on track. She was currently tied to a chair, being held captive by a man who had suggested dropping her into a vat of hot oil. Under the circumstances, it was hardly appropriate for her to be thinking about those hard pecs, those perfect abs, the way she was certain his hands could make her feel if he ran them…
She jumped when the sound of someone smashing in the door was heard on the far side of the room. The door opened to reveal Superman. It suddenly occurred to her what was happening. Superman's debut. And she was right in the middle of it.
The man who had been helping Tempus unexpectedly stepped forward, releasing her fellow captive's bonds.
Lois grunted, trying to get the man to do the same for her when Superman strode into the room. He stopped, staring at her in disbelief. She grunted, trying to tell him that she would appreciate it if he untied her rather than standing there with his mouth hanging open as if he wished to perfect his fly-catching technique. The fog seemed to clear from Kent's mind and he stepped forward.
"Sorry," he said before grasping the end of the tape, ripping it off her mouth in one quick motion.
"Yahhhh!" Lois gasped.
"It's a bomb, Superman," the man with the moustache said, handing Superman a small device.
"A bomb? Did he say he had a bomb?" Tempus' voice said from the adjoining room.
"Don't go back out there, Superman," Lois said, unable to resist her unexpected urge to protect this big, dumb, beautiful oaf. "It's a tr…" A bright light suddenly engulfed her. "…ap," she concluded, looking around at the lab in which she unexpectedly found herself. Her eyes landed on an older man, balding. A man she'd never seen before.
What had happened? Where was she?
Clark stood in stunned silence for a moment when the woman who looked so like Lois disappeared.
"The bomb, Superman."
Herb's voice snapped Clark out of his shock. He turned, walking to the door to the stage and stepping out to demand that Tempus explain himself when he was hit by a sudden wave of pain. Unable to resist the powerful force, he collapsed to the floor as agony encompassed his entire being.
Lois knew where… or perhaps it would be more accurate to say 'when' she should be. She had tried to change history, tried to warn Clark Kent not to go back onto that platform. She wasn't even entirely sure why she had done it. She knew what would happen. Besides, what did she care if his secret identity thing was blown anyway? But when she'd seen him and realized what was coming, she'd been unable to resist. It was as simple as that.
Still, that didn't explain where she was now. She didn't know the man standing in front of her. None of Dr. Philip Klein's equipment was in this room. Something had definitely gone wrong with the machine that couldn't possibly fail.
Clark stood on the platform beside Perry White at his press conference, watching Lois leave with Herb. The roar of the crowd dimmed as he watched her slipped into the alley across the street from him. A bright flash of light informed him that she was gone. He had to admit, he'd been tempted to beg her to stay. But something had stopped him.
He knew what it was. It was the woman he'd seen for only a second, so short a time that he was almost tempted to believe she'd never existed. But in that second, something had happened inside Clark. Although he was still enamored with the Lois who had convinced him to become Superman, what he'd felt for the other woman… it had nearly knocked him off his feet. She'd been wearing a blue sweater, a light tan jacket, a pair of tight jeans and running shoes — and he hadn't known that a woman could be quite so beautiful.
He had to find her. An idea suddenly occurred to him. It was crazy, but… something inside him wouldn't let it go. The woman, the one who had disappeared in front of his very eyes, was his Lois. He knew it. All he had to do was find her again.
No one at the Daily Planet had known who she was when Lois Lane showed up out of the blue, but that meant she could be anywhere. Doing anything. And he suddenly just knew that whatever that 'anything' was it would be… great. Excitement began to bubble up inside him. He began to shift from foot to foot, anxious to get off the platform so that his fingers could fly over the keyboard of his computer in search of his Lois Lane.
David dashed for the desk, his mind in a near state of panic as he began rustling through the various items until he found what he was looking for. An address book. He flipped through it quickly, praying that this wasn't Dr. Klein's. After all, who kept his own number in his address book? He let out a sigh of relief when he found Dr. Klein's phone number.
Grabbing the phone, he quickly punched in the number. "Dr. Klein," he gasped. "You've got to help me. I've lost her."
"What?" asked the groggy voice on the other end of the line.
"Lois Lewis. She tried going back in your time machine. And… I don't know what happened. Her red light suddenly disappeared, but she didn't come back here. How soon can you get to the lab?"
"Hi," Lois said sheepishly.
"Hi," the older, balding man answered.
"Uhh… how are you?"
The man smiled. "Fine."
"I seem to be a little lost."
The man's smile grew wider. "Might I inquire as to whether you're from the future?"
Lois' eyes went wide. "How did you… Uhh… who are… Uhh… I guess that would depend. What year is it?"
"1999. May. May 7th to be exact… or… well, in a few minutes it will be May 8th actually."
Lois' eyebrows shot into her hairline. "How did I get here?"
"Where… or more accurately, when did you expect to be?"
"I was just in 1996. I expected to be back in 2157."
"Oh, then you must know my great, great grandson," the man said. "I'm Dr. Klein. I mean…" He chuckled. "I'm Dr. Bernard Klein. You must know Dr. Philip Klein."
"You're… Uhh… yes. I know Philip Klein."
"I haven't seen him for years. He came several times in 1996. He sort of has an obsession with Superman's debut."
"Superman's debut," Lois repeated, something suddenly clicking in her mind. "Did I stop it? Does everyone know that he's…" Her voice trailed off. If she had succeeded in somehow changing history… If Clark Kent hadn't been revealed as Superman, then she had to be careful not to blow his cover. And that might explain why she hadn't jumped back to her own time.
"Does everyone know he's Clark Kent?" Klein asked. "Yes."
Her heart fell as all those pictures of Clark Kent after Superman's debut flashed through her mind. The man who never smiled. She had hoped to save him that. "But… he's still out there." She made a wavy motion with her hand. "…saving the world?"
Klein smiled. "Yes, my dear, he is. Now might I ask you a question?"
"Who are you?"
Lois thought about that for a long moment. "Actually, I'm not entirely sure."
"Did the jump do something to your memory? Philip didn't say anything about that."
"No. Oh, no. It's nothing like that. It's just… the last couple days have been a little intense. And… I just have a lot of information to digest." Her double, Tempus' comments and the overheard conversation between Lane and Kent about alternate dimensions all had Lois wondering if her real name was Lois Lane. It was crazy, but might it also be true? "You can call me Lois Lewis," she concluded. Until she worked it all out, it was probably best if she kept her own counsel. Besides, there were more urgent matters to consider at the moment — namely, how to get back home.
Klein nodded slowly, although his expression clearly said that he had no idea what she was talking about. So instead, he focused on something else. "I take it you didn't expect to turn up here in 1999."
"No. So do you have any idea how I get back?"
"To where? 1996? Or 2157?"
"2157," Lois replied. "That's where I was supposed to jump to if I tried to change the time line." David. Thoughts of David instantly invaded her mind. If he realized she'd jumped to the wrong time, he was likely going out of his mind.
"Oh, dear. Well, I can't say I exactly know. My grandson made it very clear that I didn't do any time travel research in your time line. So I've been very careful not to change that. But with a little time, maybe we can figure something out."
Lois looked slightly relieved.
"In the meantime, do you have a place to stay? After all, it's after midnight."
"No, I don't have a place to stay," Lois said, suddenly yawning. "But you must have a flop house… Uhh… a YWCB. I think that's what you call it."
"A YWCA," he corrected. "But you don't need a YWCA. We have a room with a cot here. I often use it when I have to work late. Saves me from having to go back to my place. But with your arrival here… I'm going to be spending the rest of the night trying to figure out how we get you back." He led her to another room. "In the meantime, why don't you get some sleep?"
Lois looked in gratitude at the small cot. "Thank you, Dr. Klein."
"Don't mention it. It's fascinating to meet a traveler from another time — even if she didn't exactly intend to come here."
Lois gave him a small smile as her eyes began to droop. She hadn't realized exactly how tired she was until now.
"Are you in there, Mr. Shultz?"
David looked up from the display board, hoping for Lois to show up again when he heard the other man's voice. "Dr. Klein?" he asked.
"I'm speaking to you over the intercom system, Mr. Shultz," Klein explained.
"But… why didn't you just come in? Do I have to open the door from in here? I need you to find Lois." As he spoke, he rushed for the door.
"Don't touch that door or Lois may be lost to us forever!"
David instantly froze.
"I need you to look at the time travel board," Klein continued, knowing he now had David's full attention.
David looked back at the board. "I'm looking."
"Are there any lights on?"
"No. Not even the light that is supposed to tell us where Lois is."
"Who is the president?"
"Just… who is the president?"
"Why is that important?"
David could hear Klein's sigh even over the intercom. "I need to ask you a number of questions to be sure that our time lines are the same before you let down the time bubble. Otherwise, if something has been changed, we will never be able to fix it."
David let out a frustrated growl, but since it seemed Klein wasn't going to help him until he cooperated, he proceeded to answer a number of irrelevant questions. Lois was out there — lost in time. And here he was answering questions like who won the Superbowl. It felt like an eternity before Klein was satisfied and agreed to come into the room.
Klein immediately approached the computer screen. He stared at if for a moment before giving the computer a bunch of commands. He stared at the screen between each command even going so far as to run a diagnosis.
David was in a state of near panic when Klein finally looked up at him.
"So…?" asked David. "How do we get Lois back?"
"She is back," Klein said.
"What?" David gasped.
"Mr. Shultz, every piece of equipment I have says that she's back."
A panicked laugh rose in the back of David's throat as he dashed over to the time travel cylinder, as if she would somehow magically appear. She didn't. A feeling of hopeless desperation washed over him as he turned back to Klein. "Then where is she?" he asked, his voice little more than a strangled whisper.
Dr. Klein stared at him for a long moment. "You're certain you didn't fall asleep and let her slip past you?"
David growled. "No. I didn't fall asleep. I was watching the dot when it disappeared."
Klein got up and made his way back over to the door, closing it and switching the time bubble back on. "Then whenever she is… we have to do some research. Somehow she's fooled the machine into thinking she's in the right time. That means that, although she hasn't made changes yet, she could — at least theoretically. Once we can locate the source of those changes, no matter how small or insignificant, we should be able to find her. I suggest we start in 1996.
"Now, keep one thing in mind here," Klein continued. "I don't know if there will be a time lag between any changes made to history and our present reality. I've never actually been in this situation before. So it could take us a while before we notice anything. Still, if she's back there… well, knowing Ms. Lewis…"
"…she won't be able to help herself but get involved," David completed.
"Exactly! So keep your chin up. We'll find her."
Lois smiled, closing her eyes and allowing the air to flow around her, caressing her body. She allowed the air currents to direct her movement. 'Now this is what I call going with the flow,' Lois thought contentedly as she glided through the air. She wasn't entirely sure she would ever get enough of this. This was truly living.
The sun on her face, the wind in her hair. No pressure points as she drifted through the clouds. A mere turn of her feet or shoulders changed her path, allowing her to fly easily through the sky, over the various miraculous sights the world had to offer.
Straightening her arms, she cut through the air to dip under the golden gate bridge, trailing her fingers through the water before shooting back up into the air. Heading out over the ocean, she dipped down to swirl around the sails of the Sydney Opera House, enjoying how the unusual shape of the building affected the surrounding air currents.
She saw the Great Wall of China and did a jack-knife dive in mid-air to dive towards it, pulling up at the last moment to touch down gently on top before beginning to run as fast as possible, barely touching the wall as she followed it for miles. Jumping back into the sky, she headed west. Seeing the Eiffel Tower, she flew down, using mere flicks of her wrists to navigate her way between the tower's beams. Making a sharp turn, she headed out over the ocean.
She spotted some dolphins playing in the ocean and dipped down momentarily to join in their game before taking off for the States.
Lois screeched to a halt over downtown Metropolis, searching for the source of the cry. Focusing, she looked down through the stratosphere until she saw the problem. A burning building. Flames leaping into the sky. A young mother, her arms holding a young boy while his older sister clung to her leg, was standing in a window of the high-rise, out of reach of the ladders on the fire truck.
Lois reacted immediately, diving for the tower. When she seemed not to be getting any closer, she pointed her toes, making herself as straight as possible. She could feel the air whipping past her face, practically cutting into her skin. Still, she was not getting closer. She watched in horror as the flames surrounded the young family. 'No!' Still, try as she might, she couldn't seem to reach them. Her sensitive ears picked up their frantic screams as the flames encompassed them.
All these powers and there was nothing she could do. She couldn't save them. Tears left paths on her cheeks as she fought to reach them. But nothing she did seemed to make the slightest difference. The screams below turned from terror to pain as the smell of burning flesh drifted up to Lois from her position all too far above the Earth.
"Noooo!" Lois screamed, sitting up straight on the small cot. Lois blinked, looking around as it sunk in that she had merely been dreaming.
But what a nightmare!
"Are you okay?"
Lois blinked when Dr. Klein appeared in the doorway.
"I heard screaming and I thought…"
"Just a nightmare," Lois said, still struggling to get her heart rate back to normal. She rubbed a hand over her eyes, fighting against the feelings of helplessness her dream had left in its wake. "What time is it?"
"Ten? Ten in the morning?"
Dr. Klein nodded.
Lois was just about to throw the sheet off when she realized she wasn't exactly decent. Not having anything to sleep in, she'd not been sleeping in much at all.
It seemed Dr. Klein realized her predicament at the same moment because he instantly went bright red and began backing out the door. "I'll just give you a minute to… Uhh… Anyway, I think I solved your problem, so when you get a moment…" With that, he disappeared from the room, closing the door behind him.
It only took a moment for Dr. Klein's last comment to chase the embarrassment from Lois' mind. Jumping up, she threw on her clothes and rushed into the other room. "You've figured out how to get me home?" she asked.
Dr. Klein looked shocked at how quickly she had appeared. Still, he recovered soon enough. "Yes. It was quite simple really — once I put my mind to it."
"You mean you've invented a time machine in one night?"
Klein laughed. "Well, no not exactly. But I do have this." He held up a single piece of paper.
"What's this?" Lois said, taking the paper and reading it, still not understanding even when she was finished.
"It's quite simple really. We just send that…" He pointed to the paper. "…to a law firm with instructions to deliver it to Dr. Phillip Klein in 2157. Now, what is the exact date you left? We should have it delivered the next day. Now, there is only one problem. I need the name of a law firm that will still be around in a hundred and fifty years. So I need you to look at a number of names for me and tell me one that's still around."
Lois gave him the information he needed even as she read through the letter one more time. "But… well, why did you tell him to come at midnight tonight? Why not have him come to get me right now?"
"Because there are too many people around during the day," Klein explained. "And if some of them knew that time travel was possible… Well, they might decide to invent a time machine themselves and that would definitely change history."
Lois nodded slowly. Even if Klein had avoided researching time travel because he was being concerned about changing the time line, he was right. Not everyone was as trustworthy. In fact, she would do well not to tell anyone when she was from for the exact same reason.
"So how did you come up with the idea?" Lois asked. "I mean, it's so simple, it's brilliant."
Klein smiled. "I spent last night watching old shows about time travel. Both Quantum Leap and Back to the Future number… well, one of the Back to the Future movies… use this method. Anyway, since you have some time, would you like to get some breakfast or something?"
He looked around. Lois followed his gaze. He was obviously considering all the work he had to do, but at the same time, didn't want to neglect his guest.
"That's all right," Lois said. "I'd sort of like to see what 1999 is like."
Dr. Klein looked relieved. "Then I'll meet you back here around eleven-thirty. Oh," he added, stopping from where he was just about to leave the room. "I guess you'll need some of this." He walked over to his jacket which was draped casually over the back of a chair. Reaching it, he withdrew a clip of bills. He handed it to her.
"You don't need to do this," Lois said, not taking the money.
He reached out, took her hand and put the money in it.
"You'll pay me back later," he said, giving her a wink to tell her he was only joking.
Lois felt much better. Having a shower at Klein… Uhh… Star Labs had been nice. But buying fresh underwear… that was heaven. And for some reason, today she'd felt the need to buy something… a little sexier than normal. She refused to analyze the reason too deeply. Sometimes a woman just wanted to feel sexy. Besides, the prices here… she couldn't get over how cheap everything was.
She'd also purchased a baseball cap and a pair of sunglasses — just in case she ran into someone the other Lois had known. Putting on her two new purchases, she walked out into the beautiful morning air. Looking up into the sky, she stepped into the street.
Lois jumped back onto the sidewalk.
"Watch where you're going, lady!" an irate motorist yelled as his car swerved to miss her.
Lois caught her breath.
Lois looked around to see a concerned-looking young woman standing nearby.
"Yeah," Lois said. "Just not used to this traffic."
The woman's expression cleared, almost as if she had wondered if Lois was trying to commit suicide. "Not from around here, huh?"
"No. Definitely not from around here," Lois agreed. She looked at the cars rushing past. "Definitely."
"Just be sure to use the crosswalks," the woman said before turning and walking away.
Lois glanced to where the woman had pointed. The corner. Curious now, she made her way to the end of the street, seeing a sign that said, 'Don't Walk.' Looking the other direction, she saw another sign that said, 'Walk.' Not having a clear destination in mind, she took the path where she was allowed to walk.
As she made her way across the street, she looked at all the cars. It was fascinating. Cars had been banned on Metropolis streets before she had been born, leaving the streets clear for pedestrians. The tracks for the transports ran twenty feet above the streets. Well, starting at twenty feet. Tracks on top of tracks. But the streets themselves stayed cleared. On the other hand… she looked up. …the sun was not nearly as difficult to see here. And today, she wanted to feel the sun on her face.
Her walk soon took her down near the waterfront where the buildings around her began to change. Soon she found herself passing a number of run-down apartment buildings. Suddenly, the distinct 'rat tat tat' of gunfire sounded up ahead. Lois supposed some things never changed. Increasing her pace, she automatically headed towards the sound, rounding a corner only to come to a complete halt.
A barricade had been set up using police cars and tape. People were crowded around the outside as inside, police hid behind cars, guns drawn looking up at the second floor window of one of the apartment buildings. Lois quickly joined the crowd of onlookers, pushing her way through to get a better view.
"Sorry, Miss," an officer said when she reached the barricade and tried to slip past. "No one's allowed beyond this point."
"I'm not anyone. I'm the press," Lois objected. Okay, so maybe she wasn't the press in this time, and maybe, in order to ensure she didn't change anything, she couldn't even write the story, but that didn't mean she wasn't still the press.
The officer gave a tight grin. "Last I heard, the press was an 'anyone.'"
Lois rolled her eyes, her attention diverted from the officer when there was another round of gunfire.
"Anyone makes a move on this building, I kill the boy!" a man shouted from the apartment window.
"What's going on?" Lois asked one of the individuals standing nearby.
"We're not entirely sure," said a woman, obviously one of the locals. "But we think he's got his wife and son in there."
"And he's threatening to kill his own son," another added.
Lois looked back at the building. "Anyone heard from the mother?" When no one answered, she looked back at the crowd.
"No one's heard from Sara," a man said. "We don't know for sure if she's in there. Or if she is, whether she's alive or dead."
"We don't know if Sean is alive or dead either."
"Is Sean his son?" Lois asked.
The person who'd given the last comment nodded.
"Any idea why he's doing this?" Lois asked.
"He lost his job recently."
"Lots of people lose their jobs. That's no reason to be shooting up police cars and threatening your own family," the first woman responded.
Suddenly, a rush of wind turned everyone's attention back to the scene. Lois looked around just in time to see a bright, red and blue superhero drift down onto the road next to one of the police cars. He was awe-inspiring, as the small gasps coming from the women around her confirmed. Her mind involuntarily flashed back to what — to her — was only a day before. Glancing around, she wondered what the other women would think if she told them just how little she had seen him in then.
She saw Superman look around and tried to appear invisible as she allowed herself to blend in with the crowd. The hat and glasses should help, but… if he saw her, he would likely mistake her for her twin. And that was the last thing Lois needed.
She need not have worried. Superman seemed completely focused on the problem. He spoke briefly to the officer in charge. He was just moving away when the man shouted again from the second floor.
"If Superman comes in here, the boy dies!"
Superman stopped for a moment before disappearing in a gust of wind. When he reappeared, he was holding the man by the scruff of his collar and had a very much alive boy in his other arm. As people cheered, the police rushed forward to grab the man, quickly affixing handcuffs on him.
Lois' eyes, however, remained on Superman. As he spoke briefly to the officer, Lois found herself thinking he looked tired. She wasn't entirely sure why that thought bothered her. But then Superman again disappeared in a gust of wind. The next time she saw him, he was walking slowly out the front door of the apartment building. Lois found it odd that he was walking, but then she saw the bundle carried gently in his arms. The very still body of a young woman.
Her eyes flashed up to Clark's face. It was completely devoid of emotion — any emotion. She felt her heart constrict, leaving her with palpitations. Lois heard the startled gasps of the woman's friends and neighbors as Superman carried the young woman to the ambulance, gently laying her on the gurney. He covered the woman with a blanket, taking a moment to look down at her face before pulling the blanket up over it, clearly announcing her death.
He was just about to take off again — in fact, he was a few feet off the ground — when people began calling him. She recognized the voices almost immediately. Oh, she might not know the names or the faces, but there was no doubting who they were. Members of the fourth estate.
"Kent! You going to give us a statement this time or are you saving it all for the Daily Planet?" one of the more obnoxious voices shouted.
Lois stared across the crowd at the man. Her eyes flicked back to Superman. He looked… resigned. Her heart ached for him as he floated over to where the crowd of reporters were gathered and began answering questions.
Lois slunk even further back into the crowd as she continued to watch and listen. The reporters alternated between rude and polite, some demanding to know why he'd failed to arrive sooner, before the woman had been killed. Others just wanting answers about why the man had done it in the first place. Superman's answers varied, too, from: 'I wish I could have gotten here sooner. I wish I could save them all. But this time, it just wasn't possible' to 'I really don't know why a man would kill his wife and threaten his child.' Yet, although the questions and the answers varied, Superman's expression didn't. It remained a stoic mask.
Lois continued to watch as the press conference ended and Superman floated up further into the air. He suddenly looked… somewhat confused as he searched the crowd. She quickly looked down, keeping her face lowered until a sonic boom announced his departure.
Lois continued standing, as did the majority of the crowd, outside the barrier as the police began making their way into the building, ensuring it was secure and collecting evidence. She watched as the press got their statements from the police and onlookers — all the time her feelings vacillating between concern and annoyance. Concern for the obviously troubled superhero and annoyance at the way he'd been treated by the press. He had probably saved that young boy's life. Maybe even the lives of the gunmen and the police officers who were assigned the job of bringing the situation to an end. Yet, it was obvious that at least some members of the press could only see what he hadn't done. He hadn't got there earlier. He hadn't saved the life of the woman. How must such attitudes affect Superman?
Her mind flashed back to her dream and the horror she'd felt when she'd been unable to get to the woman in the fire. She'd been relieved when she'd woken up to find that it was only a dream. Did Superman live with that feeling everyday, every time he couldn't save everyone? If so, how did he go on? Did he at least have friends, loved ones, to help him bear the pressure? If not, it was little wonder that after three years he'd disappeared.
It occurred to her how much had changed over recent days. She'd gone from the complete skeptic to… she balked against the word 'fan.' It was more… she understood better. This man was no fraud. His powers were real. But so was his heart. He was a sensitive, gentle soul who had taken on enormous responsibility. But how did he do that and still have that soul remain intact?
Suddenly, it became important to her own peace of mind to know he had a support system he could rely on. Turning, she looked at one of the people in the crowd. "Does Metropolis have some sort of transportation system? Something that can get me from here to the Daily Planet?"
The woman's eyebrows rose. "Well, there are busses and a subway, or you could take a cab if that's what you mean."
Cab. The word struck a chord in Lois' mind. The old movies, the one where the bad guy would jump into a car and take off with the hero hot on his heels. They always jumped into a cab and yelled those famous words, 'Follow that car.'
"How do I get a cab?" she asked, suddenly dying to know what that experience was like.
Once she got the information she needed, she turned back to the scene of the latest crisis. Spotting the officer in charge, she made her way over to him. "Excuse me," she asked.
He turned towards her. "What can I do for you, Miss?"
"My name's Lois Lewis. And you are?"
"Henderson. Inspector Bill Henderson."
"Well, Inspector, I was just wondering…" She glanced over at the scene before meeting the Inspector's eyes once again. "I suspect that emergency workers get assistance from professionals when they have problems dealing with… well, everything. Is that true?"
"What about Superman? Does the city offer him the same support?"
The Inspector narrowed his eyes. "Do you know something about Superman? Is he having problems?"
"No. No. Nothing like that. I was just wondering."
Henderson smiled. "Don't worry, Miss," he said, touching Lois' arm. "I'm sure Superman's fine." Without waiting for her response, he walked away, leaving Lois sputtering behind him.
Lois stared at the officer for a long moment before looking up into the sky, to the spot where Clark Kent had been only moments before and her heart went out to him. 'I'm sure Superman's fine.' She suspected that was how the entire world saw him — as fine, above the hurts and pains of normal humans. But that was not what she saw. She saw a man who was in serious pain. Dealing with things like the death of that woman would be hard enough without having people blaming him for it. But it wasn't his fault. Did he know that?
It suddenly occurred to her that all that crap she'd spouted to David had been utter nonsense. She wasn't entirely sure what had changed her mind. The expression on Kent's face when he'd been carrying that woman? No. It had happened before then. In fact, were she to narrow down the moment her thinking had changed, it had been the moment she'd realized that he'd actually flown. With all those powers, he could easily rule the word. Yet the history books showed nothing of the sort. He was a good man — trying to help the best way he knew how.
She glanced over at the press who were calling in their stories or heading back to their respective papers — and found herself despising them. Was not one of them his champion? Did they not see what they were doing to that good man?
She glanced back into the air, wondering once again if there was anyone out there who gave him the support he desperately needed. And if not, was it any wonder he'd simply disappeared after only three years?
Lois stood, still trembling, on the street when the cabby finally dropped her off at the Daily Planet. That had been… an experience. More scary than taking the Tornado Drop at the carnival when she was a kid. The way that man had swerved between cars, his hand almost constantly on the horn, had resulted in Lois grasping the seat in front of her to maintain her balance. It had been… fun, she suddenly realized. And now that she had survived the experience, she wanted to do it again.
Pushing that thought aside for now — she would have another chance when she returned to Klein… uhh… Star Labs — she focused on the building before her. Nervous, she pulled her cap further down on her forehead, wondering if there was some way she could find out if Kent was inside before she entered. She really didn't want to run into him. She chewed on her bottom lip for a moment before an idea hit her.
She stepped into the lobby and looked around, spotting an old-fashioned telephone on the wall. She studied it for a moment. There was no thumb pad. She removed the receiver, but it was dead. Either the phone was broken or she needed something to make it work. Suddenly, she realized the problem. She walked over to the confectionary. "Could you tell me where I get tokens for the phone?" she asked.
"The phone? Tokens?"
"They just take a quarter for a local call."
Lois' eyebrows rose. Only a quarter? She reached into her pocket and sorted through the change as she made her way to the nearest phone. Using the phone book, she found the number for the Daily Planet. After a moment of trying to tell the phone the number she wanted to call, and having the phone ignore her, she figured out that she had to punch the number into the keypad. "Can I speak to Clark Kent?" she asked when a voice answered.
"Could you hold please?"
When she didn't respond, the person asked the question again. It suddenly occurred to her that she was talking to a real person not a computer. "Oh, sure."
As she was waiting, she spotted a television playing behind the confectionary counter. "Is that live?" she asked, attracting the attention of the woman she'd spoken to earlier.
It took the woman a moment to realize what was being asked. "Yeah," she confirmed.
Lois hung up the phone and made her way over to the counter, her eyes riveted to the sight of Superman battling a large fire at a chemical factory. "Would you mind turning that up?" Lois asked.
The woman immediately did and together the two of them watched Superman fight the fire.
"He's impressive, isn't he?" the woman said.
"I thank god every day that he came into our lives. You know that he works here, don't you?"
"I think I heard that somewhere."
"Such a nice guy. Always takes the time to say hello. I'm the one who holds on to his mail during the day. Although, how he manages to go through it all every night is a mystery to me. But he must 'cause you know what they say: write a letter to Superman, get a reply."
"He gets mail here?"
The woman nodded, pointing at two large burlap sacks sitting behind the counter. "Hundreds of letters and packages. I just can't imagine how he does it all — work, Superman duties and going though all of these every day."
"Maybe he has friends who help him."
The woman considered that thoughtfully. "I've never seen him with anyone — other than for work-related things. But not just to head out to the bar with the guys or… things like that."
Lois looked back the screen where Superman was still working hard. Realizing this was her chance to check out the Daily Planet without running into Clark Kent, she said good-bye to the woman and headed for the elevators.
"Kent! Where the hell is that boy?"
Lois didn't recognize the man whose voice boomed through the newsroom. Although, it was fairly obvious who the man must be — the person who had taken over as editor when Perry White left to be mayor. And by the way he was currently yelling for his absent reporter, he seemed to have settled in fairly well in the past three years.
"Well!" the man demanded when the young woman seemed unable to continue. "Well!" the man demanded again. "Speak up, girl."
The woman pointed to a television camera. "He's there, Mr. Carpenter."
Carpenter turned and looked at the screen, snorting slightly when he saw the hero on the screen. "Well, maybe he'll at least save the story for the Daily Planet this time!" With that, Carpenter found another victim for whatever task he had for Kent and then headed towards the elevator.
Lois couldn't help it. In fact, she didn't even try. She took off the cap and sunglasses and fell into pace beside him, entering the elevator when he did. Someone else approached, as if he would join them. Whether it was the glare Lois gave him or the man beside her, Lois didn't know. But he suddenly seemed to have forgotten something and need to head back to his desk.
Lois waited until the doors closed. "You must be Mr. Carpenter," Lois said, trying to inject as much awe into her voice as she could.
The man looked over at her, running his eyes down the full length of her body before meeting her eyes.
"I'm Preston Carpenter," the man responded.
Lois marveled over the amount of silent communication that seemed to be happening between them. There was no doubting from Carpenter's tone that he found her attractive.
"Are you interested in the news business?"
Lois gave him her best wide-eyed expression. "Oh, yes. I've wanted to be a reporter ever since I was a little girl. But…" She shrugged. "Somehow there's always a man to get in the way."
"Well, that's our loss," Carpenter said right on cue.
The elevator dinged and the doors opened. People were waiting to get in, but Lois and Carpenter continued standing there, just looking at each other, Lois playing the star-struck fan.
"Listen," Carpenter said thoughtfully, "what do you say I buy you some lunch and we can talk about your problem."
"You'd really do that for me?" Lois asked.
"Certainly. I think it's such a shame that you were never able to realize your dream. Maybe I can help."
Lois gave him her largest, most innocent smile. "That would be wonderful, Mr. Carpenter."
"Please. Call me Preston."
Lois smiled again before turning and walking off the elevator. She didn't have to see him to know that he had let her walk off first so that he could observe her buttocks. She smiled to herself, this time a genuine smile. She still had it. Jeans and a sweater — and she still had it. He was like putty in her hands.
Lois licked her lips, thoroughly savoring what was undoubtedly the best food and the best champagne she'd ever eaten. It was certainly the most expensive. Hey, if Carpenter was paying, why not? It wasn't as if she would ever give him what he thought he was paying for. All she wanted was a little information. And after listening to him go on about his 'big plans' for the Daily Planet, she had a pretty good idea who she was dealing with and how to handle him — in essence, to feed his ego.
She had to wonder though if James Olsen, the Daily Planet's owner, had any idea about this man's ambitions. Carpenter saw the paper as a way to influence and shape public opinion — as opposed to using it to bring truth to the American public. If Lois had actually been looking for a job, she wouldn't accept one working for this man. Daily Planet or not.
"So…" said Carpenter, leaning across the table to place his hand over hers. "…what do you say we meet again for dinner to discuss this job possibility further?"
Lois smiled. "Preston," she said, looking at him through her eyelashes, "I'm afraid I can't tonight. I've got other plans."
"I hope you're not going out with another one of those guys who's been holding you back. You should be with a man who can make your dreams come true."
Lois had to fight the urge to roll her eyes. Please! Who did this guy think he was anyway? Randolph Hearst? "No. Nothing like that. It's my mother. She's expecting me for dinner. But another time would be nice." She didn't bother telling him that by tonight she'd be back in 2157 where he could never reach her.
"Uhh…" Preston said, obviously slightly appeased. "…well, we can't let mother down, can we?"
Lois shook her head. She took another fork full of chocolate cake and ate it before getting down to the reason she'd brought him here. "So tell me what it's like to have Superman working for you. It's got to be intimidating. I mean knowing that he can burn you to a crisp just by looking at you the wrong way."
"Oh, don't you worry about that, my dear. I can handle Superman."
"You can?" She gave him her wide eyed innocent look again.
"He might be Superman, but I make sure he tows the line."
"But with him being gone so often…"
"We have a deal. I give him space to attend rescues during working hours. Olsen insisted on that." The final phrase was said in such a way that Lois had no doubt that Carpenter wasn't thrilled with the idea. "But I make sure he knows that I expect him to make up every minute he's gone."
"So if he's gone all day, doing rescues, you expect him to… what?"
"Work all night if he has to. The Daily Planet is no one's free ride. Not even Superman's. Not even if Olsen says that he brings in a large number of readers. Don't worry, my dear. I'm in control of Superman." He narrowed his eyes slightly. "Now if only I could find a way to keep him from giving our best stories to other papers," he muttered under his breath as he stabbed a piece of cake with his fork.
Lois had to bite her tongue to keep from responding.
Lois had to admit, she was relieved when she finally managed to dump Carpenter. If ever there was a leech, it was that man. She wondered if he would dock his pay for taking a… She glanced at a clock on the wall. …two and a half hour lunch break. Still, she had to admit that the food had been good — and she had been starving. She wasn't entirely sure when the last time was that she had eaten. Her days and nights had gotten hopelessly mixed up with all the time jumping.
Still, after she got rid of Carpenter and shook off the slime left in his wake, she sat down on a park bench across from the Daily Planet and pulled out her palm computer. She wasn't entirely sure, but she suspected the advanced electronics would work here. At least… it couldn't hurt to try.
"Computer, access the Daily Planet archives," she said before leaning back to enjoy the beautiful sunny day. She was fairly certain the internet had existed in 1996. And if the Daily Planet was on line, this might work. Even though the Daily Planet archives which existed in 2157 were already downloaded into her computer, a lot of records from 2014 and earlier had been lost or damaged during the war. She needed access to the Daily Planet archives today.
"Daily Planet archives have a different configuration, Ms. L," the computer responded after a couple of minutes.
"Are you able to reset parameters to compensate?" Lois asked.
"I should be able to do so. It will, however, take a few minutes. Are you prepared to wait?"
"That's fine." Lois glared at one woman who looked at her curiously, causing the woman to scurry away without comment.
While she waited for her computer to tell her it had access, Lois thought about what she had learned so far. None of it was good. No support through official channels, according to Henderson. Minimal support at work. No known friends. Of course, that might not be true. After all, her source for that piece of information was not exactly… knowledgeable. On the other hand, with the hours he appeared to be working…
"Reconfiguration complete, Ms. L," the computer informed her. "Would you like to run a search?"
"Three searches, actually," Lois responded before pausing to think what she wanted searched. "First, give me any references to Superman or Clark Kent that you didn't obtain during previous searches." That search should tell her about any information on Kent that had been unavailable during her search in the future. "Second, run an analysis of the time used by Clark Kent to fulfill his Superman duties."
"That might not be exact since some of these articles don't say how long Superman took to do a particular task."
"Analyze those tasks where you can determine a time frame and from that estimate the remainder of the tasks," Lois instructed. She wanted to know how much time Superman had to use to 'catch up' on his work as a result of his Superman duties. Did Kent even have any private time? Time to recharge? Time to develop friendships? Or even time to go for a beer with the guys after work?
"I've begun both of those searches, Ms. L. What was your third search?"
"Oh, right," Lois responded. "Find out everything you can about Preston Carpenter, editor of the Daily Planet in 1999. And organize it into something… comprehensible."
"Certainly, Ms. L. Would you like me to confine my search to the Daily Planet archives? Or should I search for other sources of information as well?"
"Use any and all sources of information, including your own stored sources from the Daily Planet archives in 2157."
"Very well, Ms. L."
Lois leaned back, closing her eyes. She wondered what people had done for research before the invention of the palm computer.
Lois skidded down further onto the bench, pulling the peak of her baseball cap down to cover her face when she heard a familiar voice at the newsstand right behind her.
"Hey, Jack. How's it going?" Kent said.
"Good, Clark. Want the usual?"
"Of course," Kent responded.
Lois held up her palm computer, using the shiny surface like a mirror to see what was going on behind her. She had to admit to a high degree of curiosity about what the usual was. A news magazine? A sports magazine? Maybe a pornography magazine? She was shocked when she saw Kent pull out some money to buy a copy of the Daily Planet. He could get all the free ones he wanted just inside that door.
"I liked your article about global warming," the young man informed him.
"Thank you, Jack." As Jack went to hand his customer his change, he missed Kent's hand and the money went spilling all over the sidewalk. "Oh, I'm sorry," Jack said, rushing to get out from behind the newsstand to collect the money.
"That's okay, Jack. I've got it," Kent said, leaning over to get the change.
Lois, Kent and Jack seemed to hear it at the exact same moment. The distinctive sound of material ripping. Kent froze for a moment. Almost before Lois could determine that Kent had ripped his trousers when he'd bent over, the sounds of people running in their direction could be heard. A moment later, Lois was stunned when Kent was surrounded by a couple dozen people, all attempting to take pictures of his posterior.
Lois gasped. She hadn't even realized they were around until the moment they figured they had a chance to get the shot of the day. Superman with a rip in the seat of his trousers. She caught sight of Kent's face just for an instant before he turned towards the members of the press, attempting to keep his dignity in tact as he headed across the street towards the Daily Planet. It was a look of utter pain.
"Have you put on weight, Superman?" one member of the yellow press called after him.
"Do you buy your clothes from sweatshops, Superman?" another yelled. "Is that why they aren't good quality?"
Lois cringed. After Superman disappeared through the doors, Lois could no longer contain herself. Enough was enough. Rising to her feet, she approached the man who had asked about Superman's weight. The man was at least two times as big as she. Still, grabbing him by the sleeve, she managed to spin him towards her.
"Have you no shame?" she hissed at him. "That man is trying to help all of you. And this is how you repay him?"
"Hey, I'm just trying to do my job, lady," the reporter said, quickly breaking away.
Still, Lois stood there, glaring at all of them until they found other things to do.
"Hey, good going."
Lois glanced at the young man. "Jack, isn't it?"
"Does he buy his paper here often?"
"And is it always like this?" She gestured to the paparazzi who could still be seen lurking around the front door of the Daily Planet.
"Usually it's worse," Jack responded.
Lois glanced up at the roof of the Daily Planet. "Why doesn't he just land up there? He could avoid all of this."
"He said something about insurance problems with him landing on the roof," Jack said before heading on to help another customer.
Lois stared at the roof for a long time before heading back to her park bench. "Computer, run one more check for me," she said.
"Certainly, Ms. L."
"Find the insurance policy or policies on the Daily Planet. I want to know if there is anything in them that would prevent Superman from landing on the roof." She didn't know anything for certain. Still, given Carpenter's attitude towards Superman, if she were a betting woman… No. She was getting ahead of herself. First, she needed to figure out the facts. Then she could begin making the accusations.
Still, there was one more thing she needed to do. She headed across the street and entered the Daily Planet lobby.
Lois sat on the chair, staring at the article she'd just finished typing up on Dr. Klein's old fashioned computer. She wasn't entirely sure what she should do with it — or, more importantly, what she was going to do with it. Philip Klein had made it very clear that nothing should or could be done that would change the past. And really, was there any point in sending this in if it didn't change things? Still, she didn't know how to do nothing when something offended her sense of justice. And this certainly did.
She reached over and picked up one of the handful of letters she'd stolen from Superman's mail bags. Oh, of course, she'd read the fan mail and the requests from charities for a Superman appearance. She rolled her eyes when she'd found a pair of lace panties and smiled at the kid inviting Superman to her birthday party. But the letter she was staring at right now was the one that got her blood boiling. Hate mail. It was the final straw which had led Lois to seek out a keyboard. No one — no one should ever have to read something like this. At the very least, someone other than Superman should be going through his mail.
'How dare you call yourself Superman! You're not a man of any sort — super or common. Quit pretending that you are. Men have souls. You're nothing more than a thing. I'm glad that your parents and the rest of your kind were killed when Krypton exploded. I only wish you had died with them. It's also your fault that those human traitors, Martha and Jonathan Kent, died. God was punishing them for trying to hide you among us — making us think that you are one of us. You say you stand for truth. But you're nothing but a liar and a fraud. Go back to wherever you came from. And if you can't go there, then go to hell!'
Lois' temper had flared as she'd read the letter. How many of these did he receive? The thought of his having to look at ignorant comments like this one made her feel sick inside. How dare they do this to that gentle man?
And so… she'd written the story. Not that she'd limited her remarks to having someone going through his mail. Her computer had informed her that there was nothing in the Daily Planet insurance that would prevent Superman from landing on the roof so he could avoid the paparazzi. She'd also torn a strip off the paparazzi — and anyone who bought those magazines. She'd made it clear that the Earth had been given a great gift and that gift should be cherished. In fact, if she could ever be accused of writing a P.R. piece, this would be it. But to see that good man, a man who was sacrificing so much for the welfare of others, being treated the way he was… God, from the computer analysis, he didn't even have time these days for a life. No time to make friends. No time to recharge. Between his Superman duties and his responsibilities at the Daily Planet, the man was going almost all the time. It was no wonder Superman had decided it wasn't worth it and disappeared after only three years.
Three years. Suddenly, she was struck by another thought. It was May 8th, 1999. So… when exactly had Superman disappeared?
"Computer," she said suddenly, "when was the last day anyone saw or heard from Clark Kent or Superman made any sort of appearance?"
"May 11th, 1999"
Three days from now. Lois thought about that before looking back at her story. Did she dare? She had listed herself as a freelance reporter so there was no guarantee that anyone would even run it. Of course, she had no intention of sending it to the Daily Planet. Carpenter would never run it. Still, would it make a difference if she sent it to the Star?
On the other hand, if it did make a difference, would her world even survive? Did she have any right to do this? And given time's inclination to protect itself, how would it punish her this time for trying to change the past? Would it send her to yet another time? And if so, how would Philip Klein find her?
"It's almost midnight," Dr. Bernard Klein reminded her.
Clicking the save button on the computer, she shut it down. She needed to think about this.
Lois paced around the lab, looking at the clock on the wall every few seconds. It was already twenty minutes after twelve. So where the hell was he?
"I'm sure he'll be here any minute," Bernard Klein said, trying to reassure her. "Maybe he's running a little behind schedule."
Lois just stared at the older man. Even if Philip was running behind schedule, that didn't explain him being late. After all, no matter how late he was, he'd just set the time machine for midnight, May 8th — or was that the 9th? — 1999 and he'd be here at midnight.
Adrianne Cooper looked up when a man walked through the front entrance of Klein Labs. His double-breasted suit said 'money.' He was probably here about the hostile takeover. She watched as he stepped up to the reception desk.
"Can I help you?" she asked coldly.
"Yes. I have a delivery for Dr. Klein."
She eyed him for a moment before picking up the phone. "Klein's office," she said into it, not taking her eyes off the well-dressed stranger. She listened for a moment before handing up the phone. "I'm afraid Dr. Klein is not to be disturbed."
"This is really important. I work for the law offices of Stein, Hoffman and Butz. I was told to bring this and deliver it to Dr. Philip Klein in person." He held up a well-worn envelope.
Adrianne eyed it suspiciously. "I can make sure he gets it."
"Are you sure there's no way for me to get it to him personally?"
"Not at this time. Of course, you could try back tomorrow."
The man looked at the letter for a moment, undecided, before shrugging his shoulders. "You look trustworthy to me," he said before handing her the letter and giving her his best smile.
She watched as he turned and headed for the door. She waited until he was gone before tossing the letter into her inbox.
"Who was that?"
Adrianne turned when she heard Stan Johnson enter the room behind her. She was glad he was early for his shift today. She had plans. "No one. Just some lawyer."
Stan took a seat on the corner of the desk, accidently knocking over the inbox in the process. "Oops," he said before both he and Adrianne bent down on the floor to pick everything up.
"Is that all of it?" Adrianne asked when they finished.
"Yep," Stan responded. "So you've got your daughter's play today?"
Adrianne nodded. "She's got a big role, too. She's going to be a tomato."
Stan smiled. "Sounds like you're in for a treat."
Adrianne laughed as she grabbed her purse and headed out. "I'll see you tomorrow."
Stan waved her away before sitting down at the desk completely unaware that between the desk and the counter was a solitary letter in a well-worn envelope.
Lois stormed out of Star Labs, a number of papers grasped firmly in her hand. The sun had risen and there was still no sign of Philip Klein coming to rescue her. She was tired of playing the damsel in distress. It was time she took charge of her own life — her own future.
She looked up and down the street, spotting a cab. Sticking two fingers in her mouth, she let out a high-pitched whistle and the cab pulled over to the curb.
"Ms. Lewis!" A breathless Dr. Bernard Klein emerged onto the sidewalk just as she opened the cab door.
"I'm doing this, Dr. Klein," she said as she climbed inside the car.
He rushed over, squatting beside the open door to talk to her. She stared straight ahead. It didn't matter what he said. If this was the only way to get home, then this was what she was going to do. And even if it didn't get her home because it did nothing to change history, then she'd still have the satisfaction of speaking out.
"Ms. Lewis," Klein said in a voice that was meant to be reassuring, "there's no need to do something rash. I'm sure if I send another letter… maybe more than one to different law firms, one of them will get through."
"This is quicker," Lois responded.
"But we don't know what the consequences of your actions might be. If you jumped to this time instead of going home, there has to be a reason. Maybe time isn't protecting itself the way it should. Or maybe there's a flaw in the machine that sent you here. Either way, I don't think you should jump in without…"
"…checking the water level first?" Lois completed for him. She smiled. "If you knew me at all, Dr. Klein, you'd know that's what I do best." She reached over and grabbed the door handle, pulling it closed as Dr. Klein scooted to get out of the way.
"Metropolis Star," she said to the cabby, giving Dr. Klein no more than a passing glance as the cab pulled away from the curb. If trying to change time was the only way for her to get back home, then that was exactly what she was going to do. And if this article didn't work, well then, she'd just have to think of something else. Because even if she had to jump forward three years at a time, she was going home! There was no way she was going to stay in a time when she couldn't make changes, couldn't expose corruption, couldn't make things better. No. That was no life. She might not exactly feel at home in 2157, but the longer she was in 1999, the more she realized that she could at least make a difference in the future. She had to go back.
Lois sat across from the editor of the Metropolis Star, trying to keep from wringing her hands. She wasn't entirely sure she had ever been quite this nervous before. He would read a few sentences of her article before looking up and examining her. Then he'd return to the article. Finally, he set it down.
"Do you have proof of this conversation with Preston Carpenter?" he asked.
Lois removed her palm computer and hit the silence button. From what she'd learned so far, computer-generated voices, particularly ones that had the ability to communicate rather than just give a statement, were not exactly common during this time period — if they even existed. Satisfied that the computer wouldn't do anything other than what she asked, she pressed the appropriate buttons to give the recording of the final part of her discussion with Carpenter. Setting it on the desk, and hoping he wouldn't look at it too closely, she let it play.
"So tell me what it's like to have Superman working for you." Lois' voice sounded loud and clear in the small room. "It's got to be intimidating. I mean knowing that he can burn you to a crisp just by looking at you the wrong way."
"Oh, don't you worry about that. I can handle Superman." The voice was clearly that of Preston Carpenter.
"He might be Superman, but I make sure he tows the line."
"But with him being gone so often…"
"We have a deal. I give him space to attend rescues during working hours. Olsen insisted on that. But I make sure he knows that I expect him to make up every minute he's gone."
"So if he's gone all day, doing rescues, you expect him to… what?"
"Work all night if he has to. The Daily Planet is no one's free ride. Not even Superman's. Not even if Olsen says that he brings in a large number of readers. Don't worry, my dear. I'm in control of Superman." There was a small pause before his final muttered comment. "Now if only I could find a way to keep him from giving our best stories to other papers."
Lois reached over and took back her palm computer. "Satisfied?" she asked.
The editor was nodding. "But there are other things I'm having a little more trouble with," he said. "For example, you are a little light on evidence when you say he doesn't have any close friends. You only spoke to one woman — and she doesn't even know him that well. Also, although you have proof that nothing in the Daily Planet's insurance policy would prevent him from landing on the roof of the building, you have no clear evidence that Carpenter ever told him he couldn't land there."
Lois was used to Tom Balsam's demands for better evidence. Still, she felt her temper rise. She was right. She knew she was right. And… the wind instantly left her sails — so was the man in front of her.
"Tell you what," the editor said. "You go and fill in the gaps. Bring it back here and I'll buy this story from you. It's good. Hard hitting. And maybe just what we need — a good, swift kick in the rear. I'll even give you space on the front page." He grabbed one of his business cards and wrote something on the back before handing it to her. "That's the email address where you can send the story when it's finished. Where should we send your cheque?"
Lois smiled. "Uhh… Star Labs. Make it payable to Dr. Klein," she said, rising to her feet and grabbing her papers as she prepared to leave, suddenly feeling a new rush of enthusiasm. He was promising her the front page. "I'll have the corrected story to you before you go to print tonight."
Lois walked into a large, plush outer office and looked around. Spotting the receptionist, she made her way directly to the other woman.
"Can I help you?" the woman asked.
"My name is Lois Lewis. I'm with the press. I would like to get a brief statement from Perry White regarding an article I'm working on."
The secretary looked unimpressed. Still, she picked up the phone and placed a call. "Mr. White, I have a Lois Lewis here. Says she's with the press and would like a couple minutes of your time." She listened to the response and then looked back at Lois. "He wants to know what paper you're with."
"I'm a freelance," she said. "Please. I only need a minute. Tell him it's about Superman."
The receptionist passed the message along.
Perry White's response was immediate. Even without the phone at her ear, Lois could hear a bellowed, "What!" She wasn't sure what was said next, but by the way the receptionist was still holding the phone away from her ear, Lois was certain White was still yelling.
Knowing this wasn't going well, Lois grabbed the phone from the startled receptionist's hand. "Mr. White, please," Lois said into the phone, speaking loud enough that she hoped he could hear her over his continued yelling about the ethics of the yellow press these days. "I'm Lois Lewis. I don't want to hurt Superman. I want to help him. If you'll just give me a minute of your time, I'll explain everything."
The silence that met her final comments had Lois chomping at the bit, wanting desperately to say more. But she knew instinctively to let Perry White, himself, work out the possible consequences of meeting with her. At least he was no longer yelling — and that was hopeful.
Suddenly, the phone line went dead. She looked at it for a moment before handing it back to the receptionist. She had her answer. She turned towards the door, wondering who to talk to next.
Lois turned back around to see an older man standing there. She instantly recognized Perry White. She'd been a fan of his for years. One of the greatest reporters to ever work for the Daily Planet. His career had taken him from the battlefields of Vietnam, through the editor's office and into the Mayor's office. And he'd been known as the best reporter, the best editor and the best mayor the city had ever seen. Was there nothing this guy couldn't do? She only wished Clark was still working for him. Still, knowing about the great things this mayor did for the people of Metropolis and how he'd guided them through the third World War, she couldn't begrudge him his current position.
"Mr. White. I'm glad you decided to believe me."
"The jury's still out on that one, Ms. Lewis. Still…" He regarded her for a long moment.
Lois shifted uncomfortably under his considered scrutiny.
"You've got five minutes," he finally said before turning and heading back to his office, obviously expecting her to follow.
Lois smiled. He suddenly reminded of her of an old grizzly bear — although she suspected that those close to him probably saw him as more of a teddy bear.
"Are you coming?" he growled.
"Yes, sir," Lois said, immediately heading after him.
"Have we met before, Ms. Lewis?" Perry asked as Lois settled into a chair.
She looked at him. "No, sir."
"Why don't you quit calling me 'sir.' The name's Perry," he said, continuing to size her up.
Lois smiled. "Only if you call me Lois."
"I know where we met," Perry suddenly said. "The Daily Planet. Three years ago. Just before Superman's debut."
Lois flinched. She hadn't remembered that the other Lois had met Perry White. "Actually, that wasn't me, Perry. I know. I've seen the pictures, too. She looks a lot like me. But she wasn't me."
Perry's eyes softened. "She was a lot like you in other ways, too. She came storming into the Daily Planet, demanding that we give her a job. Normally, I'd have thrown her out on her butt, but there was something about her." He seemed lost in thought for a moment. "I imagine she would have ripped the phone out of my receptionist's hand, too," he added on a growl.
Lois found herself actually blushing. She pushed a strand of hair behind her ear.
"So, Lois, what is it that you have to say to me that will help Superman?"
Lois studied him for a moment, trying to decide exactly how much to tell him. As it sunk in that he was someone who would recognize a deception miles away, she realized she had no choice but to tell him the truth. "I was in Centennial Park yesterday and saw Clark Kent going to buy a paper. Anyway, while there, he ripped his trousers and…"
"I know," Perry growled. "Those pictures were all over the yellow press this morning."
"Anyway, it got me thinking… wondering actually, about what it must really be like to be Superman."
"I'm not giving you any inside information, Ms. Lewis," Perry said, starting to rise to his feet.
"I did some digging," she continued quickly, realizing her time was running out. "Perry, has it occurred to you that Clark Kent has absolutely no support structure? Emergency workers who deal with accidents and the like on a regular basis have support provided by the city. Not Superman. As far as I can tell, he has no one.
"How can we expect him to keep dealing with these horrific situations when he had absolutely no emotional support? I couldn't do it. Could you? Dealing with death and disaster, seeing the horrors nature can release, horrors man can inflict on his fellow man. How can anyone, even a Superman, deal with that on an almost-daily basis without emotional support and stay whole?
"If we value what Superman does for this world… if we really want him to keep doing it, don't you think we have an obligation to ensure he has that support? Unless…" She looked directly at Perry who had again sunk into his chair. "…you provide that support? I understand he worked for you before he became Superman. You're even the one who helped him through his first press conference. At least tell me if he has any friends he can take his problems to."
Perry opened his mouth and closed it again. Then he repeated the gesture — as if coming up with and then discarding responses. "What are you suggesting, Lois?"
She let out a breath. "Right now, I'm just trying to figure out where the holes are — what we aren't doing to help Superman, where he might need help — that sort of thing. After that… I guess it's up to you and the good citizens of Metropolis to decide how to fill those holes. I'm just a reporter. So, Perry, are you and Superman friends? Is he able to come to you when… I don't know… maybe a rescue goes wrong or something like that paparazzi thing happens?"
Perry let out a slow breath, flexing his hands on the desk in front of him. "When I first met Clark, he was peddling some story about the mating rituals of the knob-tailed gecko," Perry said, his expression softening as he got lost in the past. "You see, he'd been traveling around, trying to keep people from realizing he was a little… different. When someone would get a little too close to his secret, he'd just move on. So he didn't have a lot of experience. But he had drive. And boy, could he write. So I gave him a job.
"And I have to say, he never let me regret that decision. By the time he debuted as Superman, he was well on his way to becoming one of the best investigative journalists at the Daily Planet. And that's saying something. He had one Kerth and had been nominated for a second." Perry's eyes suddenly darkened. "I guess I haven't been there for him the way I should. But between my schedule and his schedule… No. That's no excuse. I guess the answer to that question would be no. We see each other. He comes over for supper with Alice and me on occasion, but I guess we haven't really been as close since he became Superman."
Lois waited until he finished, although the second he did, she jumped in with the question she was suddenly itching to ask. "You talked about how he was becoming such a great journalist before Superman. I'm just wondering…"
"Why I didn't say anything about his journalistic abilities now?"
"Since his first appearance as Superman, he's been writing mostly Superman stories — or puff pieces. Dog shows. Craft sales. Things like that. How Carpenter can do that to the greatest talent I've seen in years… it's criminal, really. I imagine it's because Clark can't go anywhere anymore without being mobbed. And how can he do undercover investigative work…"
"…when his picture is on the front of every tabloid and paparazzi are following him everywhere?" Lois completed.
Lois leaned forward, placing her hands on the desk. "Can I ask you one more question?"
"Something tells me you're going to ask it whether I agree or not," he growled, but this time there was a touch of affection in that growl.
"Well, it's actually a suggestion. I'm just wondering if you've ever considered something."
"Well, don't keep me in suspense, darlin'. What is it?"
Lois hadn't jumped. She'd really thought when she'd started to give her suggestion to Perry White that she would jump. After all, when he'd been talking she got the distinct impression he really cared about Clark Kent. If anyone could change the way Superman had to live, it was White. And if that happened, surely Superman wouldn't have felt the need to disappear. What bigger change to history could there be than that? And yet, for some reason, she hadn't jumped. The only conclusion she could reach was that Perry White hadn't done anything to help even when directly confronted by the problem. She felt severely, almost painfully, disappointed. Not only for Superman — but in Perry White.
Did that mean that there was no point in publishing this article? No. After all, Perry White wasn't the only person with the power to change things. On the other hand, maybe Perry had tried to change things. Maybe Kent had been too stubborn to accept White's help. She supposed that was possible.
Not entirely sure how to correct that possibility, she concentrated on the rest of her research. Friends. She needed to talk to Kent's colleagues at the Daily Planet. Even if they weren't friends of Kent, they might know who was. Still, after yesterday, she really didn't want to go to the newsroom unless both Kent and Carpenter were gone.
Stopping outside City Hall, she spotted a park bench. Since no one was nearby, she took a seat. Pulling out her palm computer, she spoke. "I need a list of reporters who worked at the Daily Planet on May 9th, 1999."
"Yes, Ms. L." A moment later, the computer spoke again. "Do you want me to recite the list?"
"No, but… Computer, are you able to link into the phone system here?" she asked. She wasn't sure why that idea hadn't occurred to her yesterday. It was probably because the phones here were so primitive.
A few minutes later, the computer responded in the affirmative. "Would you like to place a call?" the computer added.
"Yes. Put me through to the first name on your list of reporters."
"Work or home?"
A moment later the phone began to ring.
"Eduardo Friaz," a voice on the other end answered.
Lois smiled. She suspected without her trusty palm computer, she'd be getting the Daily Planet switchboard. Getting connected directly to the individual reporters would save a lot of time.
Still, even with the additional help, it had taken her quite a while to go through her list of names. Not that they had been very helpful. They all seemed to say the same thing. Kent was a nice guy. And, no, they didn't know him very well. Did they know who he hung around with? Not really.
There was one exception. Cat Grant who, the computer informed Lois, was the gossip columnist. Still, after probing a bit, Lois was fairly certain that Cat's 'closeness' to Kent was more in Cat's mind than in reality. On the other hand, Cat had overheard a conversation in which Carpenter had told Kent that he could no longer land on the roof 'for the purposes of insurance.'
To that end, Lois contacted the insurance company. At first, the agent responsible for the Daily Planet's insurance had confirmed Carpenter's side of the story. But when Lois had pressed, insisting to be told which provision of the policy would be breached by Superman landing on the roof, the agent had backtracked, telling her that Carpenter had threatened to withdraw their policy if he didn't take that position should someone ask.
She placed one final phone call and waited for it to ring.
"Hello?" asked a woman.
"Who's calling?" The voice had gone from friendly to guarded.
"My name is Lois Lewis. I'm with the press. Hello? Is anyone there?" Lois glared at the silent phone for a long moment before stating the obvious. "She hung up on me."
Lois instructed the cabby to drive past 344 Clinton when she saw the people gathered around front. She had him pull to a stop about half a block away. As she paid the driver, she kept her eyes on the people. Paparazzi. She had no doubt about that. She cringed inside. These people had set up what almost appeared to be permanent quarters out on the street.
"It's something, isn't it?"
Lois turned towards the sound of a woman's voice as the cab drove off. A woman was standing there, a three-year old hoisted up on her hip.
"And this isn't even a bad day."
Deciding to play dumb, she asked her next question. "Who lives there?"
"You must be the only person in Metropolis who doesn't know Superman's address."
"Superman? Wow. Guess you've got a safe street."
Lois turned fully towards the woman. "What do you mean?"
"Well, we don't got no muggers. But then that weren't much of a problem before Superman, anyway. Now we got people drivin' through at all hours of the day and night. They ain't never heard of a speed limit. And we got them…" She spat the last word, jerking her head towards the paparazzi. "They go through his garbage — leaving half of it spread all over the place. They're loud and noisy. Our kids can't play in the streets no more. We don't know them. They don't know us. They just sit out there, listenin' to their radios, drinkin', yellin' at each other, leavin' their garbage and beer bottles everywhere…" She shook her head. "This used to be a great place to live. But now with Superman livin' here… Hell, we can't give our houses away."
"But surely that's not Superman's fault."
The woman's eyebrows rose. "Really. Then whose fault is it?"
Lois ignored the comment. After all, she still had some information she wanted. "I bet he has lots of company. Beautiful women. The rich. The powerful. Lots of friends. At least that must be interesting."
The woman snorted. "I ain't never seen him get no visitors. Of course, before he becomes Superman, Lana was there all the time."
"You know her."
The woman nodded. "Seemed a little snotty. But certainly a beautiful woman. Don't blame her for leavin' him, though. After all, who could live with all that?"
Lois glanced at the circus in front of Kent's home. She had to admit, this woman had a point. It would be hard to live with that type of scrutiny. "Does Superman at least have friends on the street?"
"Not that I know of. Oh, before he became Superman he was friendly enough. Everyone seemed to like him. Helpful. That sort of thing. But since… well, he just makes a dash into his apartment every night."
"Why would he use the door? Wouldn't he… oh, I don't know. Fly in the window or something?" she asked, her mind flashing back to him taking the other Lois flying.
"To do that, he'd need to leave it unlocked. And with those people prowling around outside… ain't no way I'd leave my windows unlocked."
Lois turned to look back at all the people lurking around the front steps of 344 Clinton. She studied each one, wondering if any of them would listen to reason. She suspected not. She was just about to head away when she spotted the van sitting across the street. At first, she thought it belonged to the paparazzi. But when she saw movement through the darkened windows, her reporters instincts caused the hairs on the back of her neck to bristle. Who was in the van? Was it someone who didn't want to be seen? And if so, what interest did they have in Kent's apartment?
Unable to resist, she walked across the street and knocked on the window. She was shocked when the van started up and tires squealed as it drove off.
"Computer, run license number AXPT 787," she whispered.
"Processing it now," her computer responded, matching the softness in Lois' voice. "That license number belongs to a red Toyota. Do you want the owner's name?"
"No," she said. Obviously, the plates were stolen, not the van. The owner wouldn't know anything — except that his plates had been stolen. But that still wouldn't give her a lead on the van. Not paparazzi surely. She knew their ethics were questionable, but still… No. There was something else going on, but what?
Realizing she wasn't going to get more information around here, she began looking around for a cab.
Lois was frustrated. She had one more interview she needed. She couldn't call this story finished without it. But try as she might, she couldn't find a way to get it. Lana Lang had moved into a security building that took pride in being discrete for their usually rich and famous tenants. Still, if anyone knew Kent's friends, it would be his former fiancee. She had to get this interview. It wasn't optional.
On the other hand, Lana had three years of practice dodging reporters. Lois had read some of the articles from when Superman was first revealed. And they had been ruthless on both Superman and Lana. It was no wonder Lana had an aversion to the press. This was going to take some ingenuity.
She spotted a couple of men making their way to the apartment building. She quickly made her way over to them.
"Hi," she said, using her best flirty voice.
"Hi." The tone in the man's voice told her he was interested.
"Listen, I really could use your help."
"What do you need, babe?"
"I need to get inside that building," she said.
"I'm afraid I can't tell you that." She tilted her head to the side, trying to look as cute and innocent as possible.
"Sorry, babe," the guy responded, chuckling as he turned back to his partner.
"Okay, wait!" Lois said, dropping her flirty act.
The two men turned back towards her.
"I need to speak to Lana Lang. But she won't see me because I'm with the press."
"You want to speak to her about Superman?" one of the men said. "Sorry. No can do."
Lois growled as she watched them enter the building without her. Suddenly, a new idea began to take hold. Lana had met Lois Lane. Maybe… She pulled out her palm computer. "Call Lana Lang."
"Certainly, Ms. L."
Butterflies were flying in Lois' stomach as she waited for the woman to answer.
"Ms. Lang, my name is Lois Lane. We met three years ago at the Daily Planet. Please don't hang up. I really need to talk to you."
There was a moment of silence.
"Ms. Lang?" Lois finally asked.
"How did you get this number?" Lana asked suspiciously. "It's unlisted."
"I have a great research assistant. Please. It's important."
A definite sigh could be heard coming from the other end of the line. "Where are you?"
"I'll tell security you're coming. You've got five minutes."
Lois hung up and let out a breath of relief. Five minutes. A lot could be accomplished in five minutes. She knew. Perry had also given her five minutes, after all.
A couple minutes later, Lois was approaching the door to Lana's apartment. This was one interview she really wasn't sure how to handle. With Carpenter, it had been easy. He'd announced his feelings about Superman in the newsroom. So she knew if she handled it just right, made him think he was impressing a potential bed-mate, he would open up. With Perry, she had already been fairly certain he was a Superman supporter — so her approach was much more direct. Lana, on the other hand, was a completely different story. An ex-fiancee. She could still be fond of Kent or she could hate his guts. It really could go either way. She'd just have to play this by ear.
Lois had just raised her hand to knock when the door opened. Lana had obviously been looking through the peephole, waiting for Lois to arrive.
"So what do you want?" Lana demanded.
Lois' eyebrows rose. She still wasn't sure what this woman thought of Kent, but she was fairly certain Lana hated her twin. "I want to talk to you about Clark."
Lana narrowed her eyes but didn't respond as she turned and walked into the room, leaving Lois to enter on her own. "Okay," Lana said when Lois closed the door. "Say what you have to say and get out."
Lois stepped slightly closer. "Why all the hostility, Lana?"
Lana looked surprised by the question. "You're kidding right? You steal him from me and then you walk out on him."
"I didn't steal him from…"
"No? You only convinced him to go public. Superman! Please. He's just Clark. But you never understood that, did you?"
"That didn't mean you had to break up with him," Lois said, hoping what she'd learned from David about Lana ending the relationship was right.
"No. I could have become Mrs. Superman," Lana responded sarcastically. "What about you though? He loved you, you know."
"I don't think…"
"I grew up with him, Lois. I know him inside and out. And I knew the second I saw you at his apartment that I'd lost him. And then… he's revealed and you leave."
Lois closed her eyes for a moment. This was getting her nowhere. But how to get them on track? She was fairly certain there was no point in trying to convince Lana about alternate universes. "Okay, look. You don't like me. I can understand that. I'm not here to change your mind. I'm just… I'm concerned about Clark. I'm wondering if you are, too. Or should I go elsewhere?" It was a gamble. After all, Lois still had no clear idea of where Lana stood on Kent.
"What do you want?" Lana asked.
Lois let out a breath. Her gamble had paid off. In spite of her hostility, Lana still cared about Kent. "I want to know if he has anyone…"
"Please! You want to know if he has a new girlfriend! And you have the nerve to ask me?"
"No! Lana, I'm not trying to find out if he's involved with anyone. I want to know if he has anyone — you know, to talk to. Someone he can turn to when things get too much for him."
Lana suddenly looked thoughtful, although Lois wasn't sure if she was trying to decide whether to answer Lois or if she was thinking about the question.
"I know he and Perry White were close for a while. But I don't really know if he would turn to Perry. I can't even be seen talking to Clark without it being all over the news."
"Are you? I broke up with him when he decided to become Superman and still… Do you know what it's like to have people following you everywhere you go? To have them going through your garbage? My god, Lois, they would find out it was that time of the month and suddenly they were speculating on the front page about whether Superman was flying in my window at night to get me pregnant with his alien baby."
"So, no. I don't keep in touch with Clark. I never wanted anything to do with that life. He knew that and still he let you talk him into becoming Superman," Lana continued. She let out a breath, calming herself slightly. "You asked if he had anyone to talk to. Before he was revealed as Superman, he was friendly with everyone. But he wasn't particularly close to anyone but me. I have no idea who his friends might be now. Now, if that's all you needed…" She gestured to the door.
Lois didn't hesitate to take Lana up on her offer.
Lois couldn't quite find it in herself to hate Lana. The picture she'd painted of life after Superman's debut would be too much for anyone. It was even too much for Superman. It was little wonder that Lana had run as fast and as far away as possible. And it was little wonder that she hated Lois' twin with a passion. Lois might feel the same way in her position. It would take a whole lot of love, or a desire for the spotlight, to be with a man who lived a life as public as Superman's.
Still, she had finished her research. Sitting down at Dr. Klein's computer, she began making changes to her story. When she finished, she looked at the story in satisfaction. It was much better now — and impossible to ignore. She pulled out the email address the Star's editor had given her and looked at it for a long moment. If this really would change history, then sending it should be enough to send her back to 2157. In fact, she should jump just before sending it. She took a deep breath, looking around as her finger hovered over the button. Finally, she clicked the button and…
She growled in frustration. She was still here.
Clark looked up when Cat Grant sat down on the corner of his desk. She was one of the few people who didn't treat him any differently now than she had before his Superman debut. Of course, that meant she was still trying to get into his pants — and he was still resisting. But it was nice to know she was doing it out of lust for his body and not the desire to get her name in the press. That he found comfort in that thought he found somewhat ironic.
Still, she was the gossip columnist for the Planet. And he was one big target of gossip. So far she'd avoided the cheap shots others had engaged in. On the other hand, he had no doubt that if she got hold of something really juicy about him, she'd feel obligated to run with it. So he found that he was always on edge around her.
"Things slow tonight, Cat?" he asked. "You're usually out on the town by now."
"Oh, don't worry. I'm going out later. But I thought you might want to see this first."
Clark glanced at the folded paper in her hand. "I already saw it, Cat. Yes, I split my pants yesterday. And yes, you could see the red briefs through the hole. I really don't need to see it again."
"Oh, this is better." She smiled. "I have an inside source over at the Metropolis Star who gets me an advanced copy of the paper — just so that I can see what their gossip is before it hits the streets."
Clark was suddenly interested — sort of. After all, the Star wasn't exactly yellow journalism. Oh, it might not be the Daily Planet, but at least it usually reported real news. On the other hand, like the Daily Planet, it had a gossip column. And that was what Cat probably wanted him to see. "Okay," he said. "What starlet am I sleeping with now?"
Cat smiled triumphantly before handing him the paper. His picture was prominently displayed on the front page — along with a headline that took his breath away. 'Do We Deserve Superman?'
"What is this?" Clark asked.
"I think you better read it," Cat said before getting up and walking away.
Clark looked down at the paper, focusing in on the byline. He didn't know any Lois Lewis. She was obviously not a regular for the Star. He was trembling slightly as he began reading the article. A long time passed before he looked up again, only one thought on his mind. Who was Lois Lewis?
"I sent a number of other letters," Dr. Klein said as he wandered around the lab. "I told them to come the day after tomorrow at 3 a.m."
"The day after tomorrow?" Lois asked in disbelief. "Why not early tomorrow morning?"
Klein sighed. "There's an experiment going on in the lab today. I tried to get the lab assignments changed, claimed that I was working on something that simply could not be moved. But the scientist conducting this experiment is the nephew of one of the board members, and I guess I'm just not very good at politics."
"But surely they won't be working through the night, will they?"
"I don't know what hours they'll be working. I haven't been able to find out the exact nature of the experiment. All I've been told is that it will take until late tomorrow afternoon. And we can't risk having Philip arrive in the lab with a bunch of people there." He turned towards her. "But I made a reservation for you at the Lexor," he said. "Thought you could use a place to relax tonight. That cot is great in a crunch. But long term, it just doesn't work. I know that you sent in that article with your name on it. But I really think that it would be best if, until we can get you home, you tried to keep a low profile."
She could see the plea in his eyes, but didn't respond — not entirely sure it was a promise she could keep.
"Well, anyway," he said, "to that end, I told them to put the room in my name and the bill will go on my card."
"Thanks," Lois said, giving him her most grateful smile. He really had been great these past few days. In fact, she didn't know what she would have done if not for his help. "You really don't have to pay for a hotel room for me. The cot…"
"Nonsense," he interrupted. "When you go back to the future — and you will get back, Lois — I don't want you saying that the people of this time didn't know how to be good hosts." He took out some money. "And I figure you'll need more money. Food. Maybe a couple changes of clothes. Whatever."
She took the money, looking at him gratefully. "I don't know how to thank you. Well, actually I do. The Metropolis Star will be paying me for my article. I told them to send the cheque here, payable to you. So that should cover your expenses."
"You didn't have to do that. That's your money."
Lois laughed. "Yeah, I should have told them to invest in a bond in my name. It would be worth a fortune in 2157. But with my luck, they'd invest in Enron."
"What happens to Enron?"
"Excuse me," said a man from the doorway.
Lois glanced in the direction the voice had come from, but the man himself was hidden behind the open door. He was obviously addressing Dr. Klein.
"I'm looking for Lois Lewis," the man continued. "I called the Star and they told me I could find her here."
"Well, you've found her," Lois said, rising to her feet and moving so that she could see who was on the other side of the door. She froze.
Clark Kent was standing in the doorway.
"I think I found something!" David exclaimed.
"What?" asked Philip Klein, jumping up from where he was doing his own research.
"An article…" David scrolled down a bit. "Published in the Metropolis Star on May 10th, 1999. The byline reads…" He glanced over his shoulder at Dr. Klein. "…Lois Lewis."
"Huh, huh!" Klein exclaimed triumphantly. "See! I knew we'd find her."
"But why 1999? Has she been living in the past for three years?"
"Possibly. But it's hard to believe that Lois Lewis could live that long in the past without our finding something before now. Other people, maybe. But not Lois."
David nodded slowly. "But then, what happened?"
"She must have jumped ahead for some reason. Anyway, we should keep looking, see what else turns up."
"Why?" David asked, turning his chair around to look at the doctor. "Why don't we just set the time machine for May 10th, 1999 and go back to get her?"
"I need to figure out why she jumped forward for three years. It makes no sense. She must have tried to change the past. But then, she should have come back here. So why didn't she?"
"We can figure that out once we get her back," David said.
Klein shook his head. "Dealing with history is a sensitive thing. We have to proceed with the utmost caution. In the meantime, I need you to find out if that article changed history. If it did, then we will have to pick her up before she wrote it. So keep searching. See if anything else turns up."
David sighed, turning back to the computer. "I have to say I wonder why she's writing for the Star and not the…" His voice trailed off. While he'd been speaking, he'd been perusing the article. "On the other hand, she gives the Daily Planet quite an earful for its treatment of Clark Kent." He tilted his head to the side as he continued to read. "And, it seems our Lois has become quite a Superman fan," he said in soft amazement as he finished the article.
Klein squeezed his shoulder. "We're almost there, David. Don't worry. We'll get her back." He turned from David. "I just need to figure out why she would have jumped to 1999." With those final words, he turned back to his computer, giving up his search of Daily Planet articles to run some numbers.
Kent! Lois stood rooted to the spot, her eyes locked on his. The man she'd tried so hard to avoid for the past couple of days was standing right in front of her, staring right at her. Neither said a word. They just stared.
"Uhh… yeah… right," Dr. Klein said, shattering the spell and allowing Lois to break eye contact. "I'll just give you two a moment alone. Mr. Kent," he acknowledged, nodding his head slightly as he headed past him into the hallway.
Lois turned away, heading absently in the direction of Klein's computer. What was Kent doing here? How had he tracked her down? Well, duh! The story, obviously. He'd said he'd found out she was here from the Metropolis Star. She never should have written that story! It was not as if it was going to change anything, anyway. If it was, she would have jumped. Had she been trying to attract Kent's attention?
No. That was crazy. Why would she be trying to attract Kent's attention? But then, why had she been trying so hard to avoid contact with Kent? Two sides; single coin. And damn it, why was her heart racing so fast that she could hardly hear herself think over the rush of blood through her body?
She gripped the back of the chair she'd been sitting in shortly before, digging her fingers into the soft fabric until her knuckles were white.
"Ms. Lewis? It is Lois Lewis, isn't it?"
Lois knew instantly what he was asking. Was she really Lois Lane? Well, that question would just have to go unanswered. She didn't know if she was Lois Lane. Oh, evidence might suggest she was. But still… Besides, she wasn't the Lois Lane he had known, the one he had fallen in love with. She turned towards him, trying to feign a calm she didn't feel.
"It's Lois Lewis," she said, meeting his eyes and daring him to contradict her.
"Is that the name you were born with?" he asked, his eyes flicking down to her ring finger. She found herself fighting off a threatening grin at the gesture. He was obviously trying to figure out if she was married, given that her last name was not Lane.
"As far as I know," she responded, not exactly answering his question.
Still, his resulting smile indicated that he had all the answer he needed. Suddenly, all the blood seemed rush out of her head, leaving her struggling to retain her footing. That smile ought to be registered as a lethal weapon. And so, by the way, should the look in his eyes. Other Lois. Other Lois. Other Lois. He was looking at her, but he was seeing the other Lois. She just had to keep repeating that to herself.
"Well, Ms. Lewis, I just stopped by to thank you for your article in the Star."
"Oh. Well, that was… I just… I mean…" Damn! What was wrong with her? She was more articulate than this. She was starting to sound like the other Lois! She forced herself to meet his eyes and pull herself together. "I just did it because no one else seemed to notice," she said. "It was a good story. And I needed the money." She left out the part about wanting to bump herself forward in time. Still, her decision to write the story had absolutely nothing to do with him. And there was no way she was going to let him think otherwise.
And then he smiled again. Her heart seemed to do a back flip, but she forced herself to remain calm, unaffected in appearance.
"Well, I wanted to thank you anyway," Clark said. "I'm not sure it will make any difference, but it's nice to know that someone noticed."
She shrugged as if it was no big deal.
"Anyway, I came here for another reason as well. I believe you have something… or well, actually some things that belong to me."
She furrowed her forehead. What was he talking about?
"My letters?" he asked.
Oh. Right. His letters. "Uhh… yeah." She turned, making her way to a pile of letters still sitting beside the computer. She picked them up and a red pair of panties fell on the floor. She cringed, but still she bent over and picked them up, holding them with two fingers. Walking over to him, she handed him all the letters except one and then held out the panties, an amused grin pulling at one corner of her mouth. "I'm afraid I'm not sure which envelope these came in."
She watched in satisfaction when he turned an interesting shade of pink. She'd felt completely off balance since the moment he'd entered the room. She was glad the shoe was on the other foot now.
"Yeah," he said sheepishly. "I get a few of these." He took the panties, sticking them in the pocket of his trousers. "But…" Forgetting about the panties, he focused on the letter she was still holding. "…what about that one?"
She looked at the letter. "Oh, I'm not giving you this one," she said.
"But…" He cocked his head to the side. "Either it's really good or really bad. My guess is really bad. Is that the letter you referred to in your article?"
She caught her lip between her teeth. "Yes. And I'm not giving it back."
"It's my letter," he informed her, an amused twinkle in his eyes.
She met his eyes, unexpectedly responding to the emotion she could see there. Suddenly, she felt almost playful. "I don't care. I'm not giving it back. You really don't need to read it."
"I could always just take it from you," he said.
"I suppose that's true. It's not as if I could stop you. But I'm still not giving it back. And I really don't think you have the nerve to just take it from me." What was she doing? Was she challenging him to try to wrestle it from her? It was his, after all. She'd warned him. If he wanted to torture himself, who was she to stop him? So what did she think she was doing?
Before she could consider that further, he stepped forward, his eyes dancing as he wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her hard against him. In her hand, holding it as far away from him as she could, was the letter. His hand hovered above it — proving that he would have no problems taking it from her. Still, he didn't grab the letter. Instead, he looked into her eyes.
"Oh, I have the nerve," he said, the electricity jumping between them. "Never doubt that."
Her heart stopped beating, thumped a couple of times and then settled into a pattern that left her close to breathless.
They stood there like that for a long minute, the almost playful atmosphere of the moment before now completely absent.
"Have dinner with me?" Clark asked, his voice breathy as if he too was having some problems catching his breath.
Other Lois. Other Lois. Other Lois. Besides, she would be leaving here in early morning, day after tomorrow, never to come back again. This was not a good idea. "Okay," she said, glancing up at him through her eyelashes.
He smiled again, this time a total smile, one that lit up his face and caused his eyes to dance, and whatever breath she still had completely left her.
"So," he asked, "how do you feel about French food?"
When she'd agreed to have supper with Kent, she hadn't quite expected to end up at a quiet restaurant in Paris. Nor had she been expecting him to sweep her up in his arms and fly her there. She'd tried desperately to act cool during the flight. She'd tried not to gasp when she'd seen Metropolis from the air or when she'd observed the millions of stars during their flight over the ocean. But when she almost caused him to drop her as she'd struggled in his arms trying to get a better view of the Eiffel Tower, she was fairly certain he realized how thrilling she was finding the flight.
He'd laughed, flying closer so that she didn't have to strain her neck, dipping her between the tower's beams just as she had done in her dream. She'd stretched out a hand, letting her fingers lightly touch the hard metal.
Of course, another thing she hadn't expected was just how good it would feel to be in his arms. The temptation to snuggle close had been almost overwhelming — especially over the dark ocean, the stars above them and the stars glistening off the surface of the water. It had been as if they were surrounded by stars. Fortunately, she'd managed to resist. This evening was an aberration. Soon she'd be back in 2157… and Clark Kent would retire as Superman. She had to remember that as the evening progressed.
Clark said a few words to the owner — obviously someone he knew — before the man showed them to a cozy little table in the back, out of sight of the main part of the restaurant.
"Worried about paparazzi?" she asked as she took a seat in the chair he held out for her.
"It's always a possibility," he responded. "But I've been here a number of times and so far… but then maybe I've just been lucky." He suddenly grew serious. "Maybe it would be better if we…"
"What, Clark? Go somewhere where they can't find us? Your place maybe? A quiet little dinner at home? It's not as if they aren't going to find us there."
"But still… Lois, if they find out you came out for supper with me, they'll ruin your life. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea. If you'd rather I just took you back to Metropolis…" He was already pulling his jacket back on.
"Would you stop?" Lois said, gesturing for him to sit down. "I'll take my chances." If she had really lived in this time, she might have had second thoughts about this, too. But since she didn't, what did it really matter? Besides, he was worried enough for both of them. Her unexpected need to protect him overrode what might have been her normal reaction to this situation.
He hesitated. "Are you sure? I won't be offended…"
She held up her hand in the international stop sign. "Just sit," she said. "One more word and I might think you were ashamed to be seen with me."
His worried expression softened and the look in his eyes changed. The tenderness she saw there caused her to look away.
"So what's good here?" she asked, opening her menu.
"So you don't even know your actual birthdate," Clark said before taking the final sip of his wine.
Lois shifted uncomfortably. How she had come to open up as much as she had, she wasn't entirely sure. But it was just so easy to talk to Clark. And now, as a result, they were getting into dangerous territory. After all, she was certain he wouldn't react well to finding out she was born in 2125. "Well, the sisters found me on August 17th." She decided to skip the year. "They figure I was a couple days old at the time. So I celebrate on August 15th. What?" she asked when Clark suddenly looked confused.
"Nothing," he said, quickly covering his thoughts.
"Come on, Clark. What is it?"
"I just… It's not important."
She studied him for a moment before letting it go. What if he'd discovered an inconsistency in her story? After all, she didn't even know if the Sisters of Metropolis Convent had existed in 1999. She really was going to have to be more careful. The problem was, she didn't feel careful with Clark. "So tell me something about you," Lois said, hoping to redirect the conversation.
"My life is an open book, Lois."
She narrowed her eyes. "I doubt that. Come on, flyboy. Tell me something nobody else knows about you."
"I can't think of…"
"Did you ever go skinny dipping when you were a kid? I heard all you country kids go skinny dipping. And I'm fairly certain I don't remember reading anything like that about you."
Clark laughed and Lois found herself loving the sound. It was so deep, so much the sound of someone who, at the moment, didn't have a care in the world.
"Come on. Fess up now. Did you ever go skinny dipping?" When she saw the expression on his face, she knew she was onto something. "You did, didn't you!" she exclaimed, almost jumping out of her seat in excitement at having found something so… almost naughty about his past. "Come on. You've got to tell me!"
"Okay, okay. Uncle already," Clark said, now laughing at her excitement.
She leaned forward, as if getting ready to hear some incredible secret.
"It's not quite what you think," Clark said. "It was before my folks died. My best friend, Pete, and I were down at the pond that edges on Schuster's field."
"No girls?" Lois asked, pretending to look disappointed. "How am I going to sell this story to the tabloids if there are no girls in it?" As soon as she said the final words, she wondered if it was the wrong thing to say. Would he think she was serious? She was relieved by his reaction.
He rolled his eyes. "Just… well, let me tell the story, would you?" he said in mock annoyance. "Anyway, as I was about to say before I was so rudely interrupted, Pete and I used to go down there all the time with our fishing rods."
"Did you ever catch any fish?"
"No. Found out years later that there aren't any fish in that pond."
"Anyway, after about an hour, Pete got this tug on his line."
"But I thought you said there weren't… Okay, I'll be good," Lois said in response to the look he gave her.
"We were convinced it was the biggest fish ever. We struggled with our catch for a long time, both of us working the rod. Pete even claimed at one point that he'd seen it jump and that it was huge. So, anyway, we finally landed our 'fish' — only to find out that it was made of black rubber."
"It was a tire. You know, like from a car," Clark clarified when Lois looked a little confused. When she finally laughed, he continued. "Anyway, by the time we got it in, we were spattered with mud and sweat and water. We were hot and tired and severely disappointed at our 'catch.' Suddenly, going for a swim seemed like a really good idea. So we stripped down and dove in. That's when we heard it."
"Giggling. Decidedly feminine giggling, in fact."
Lois found that she was doing some decidedly feminine giggling herself at this point.
"Now you've got to understand. We were nine. We still thought girls were gross. And as much as we tried to wish it away, we look up to see Sharon and Rachel sneaking up to steal our clothes. They were both in our class at school and… I sort of think this was their way to try to get our attention."
"Oh no. So what did you do?"
"What could we do? We couldn't exactly stop them. We yelled. We threatened. We did everything we could think of without actually coming out of the water. But they would not be dissuaded. You should have seen my mom's face when I showed up at home wrapped in an old newspaper we found."
"So that's why you decided to become a reporter, huh?" Lois asked. "Realized the need for old newsprint?"
"That's about it," Clark agreed. "Just don't tell my editor. I don't think he'd be amused to discover that one of his reporters chose that profession just to make sure that boys all over the world would have old newsprint to wrap themselves in when their clothes were stolen."
Lois laughed. "So did you ever get your clothes back?"
"Yes. When I told mom what happened, after she finished laughing, of course — although she didn't know I could hear that part — she went to talk to Sharon's mother. We got our clothes back. Although, I suspect Sharon and Rachel got punished because they didn't talk to us for weeks. Of course, since they were girls, I don't think either Pete or I minded."
Lois leaned back in her chair, taking a final sip of wine.
Clark glanced over her shoulder. "Well, I guess we should go."
Lois looked around to see that one of the waiters had stuck his head into their cubbyhole. It was obvious that they were hoping to close up. She looked at her watch. It was only shortly after nine. "How big a time difference is there between here and Metropolis."
She flinched. "So it's after three a.m. here."
"Maybe that explains why he's so anxious to get out of here," Lois concluded. "But… well, it's still early. Do we have to go right back?"
Clark smiled. "Where would you like to go?" he asked. "I'm fairly sure that wherever it is, we can get a flight."
"Well… after that meal, I could really do with going for a walk. Know anywhere we can go without getting swarmed by paparazzi?"
A slow smile lit up Clark's face. "I've got a better idea. How would you like to go dancing?"
"You know a place where we can go dancing without being swarmed by paparazzi?"
"Where are we?" Lois whispered as Clark floated them to the ground just outside a small town. She wasn't entirely sure why she was whispering. It just felt right somehow.
"A small island off the coast of Chili. No televisions. One telephone to shore on the whole island."
"And not a single paparazzi," Lois completed.
"Exactly." Clark set her down. "So… want to go see the dance floor?"
Lois laughed. "Sure."
As she walked beside him, listening to the waves roll in from the ocean, her hand brushed against his, sending shivers through her. It seemed only natural when he finally took her hand, wrapping it in his larger one. She looked at the ground in front of her, concentrating on where her feet were landing, her mind lost in thought. This felt good. Too good, in fact. After all, this was a one-time thing. One night that she already knew she would tuck into a safe corner of her mind to take out and relive many, many times during the course of her life. And all at once, for no apparent reason, she felt depressed.
Maybe this wasn't a good idea. Maybe she should get out of this now, before things went too far. Before she did something that she was beginning to believe she wouldn't regret — until she had to go back to the future, leaving him behind. End this, before she hurt both of them beyond either of their ability to recover.
"Are you sure you want to do this?" Clark asked.
Lois looked up. What? His concerned expression told her that he'd noticed something on her face. She wanted to tell him she wanted to dance with him. She wanted to tell him he was worrying for nothing. But the moment she opened her mouth to speak, her eyes began to fill with moisture.
Her hand came up to his face and stopped further comment by the placement of her fingers across his lips. "Take me dancing, Clark," she finally said as a single tear escaped.
He studied her eyes for a moment more before nodding. Turning, he led her down the street. Lois could hear the Spanish music long before she knew where it was coming from. Her face broke into a smile, her previous depressing thoughts disappearing when she saw where they were going. A wooden dance floor. A live band. And a lot of people. Some had no shoes. None looked as if they had much money. Still, the smiles on their faces as they celebrated life with their friends and neighbors made it very clear that money wasn't everything.
Many seemed to recognize Clark, rushing over to greet him. He responded to each, appearing to know names and talking in fluent Spanish. Since Lois' Spanish was only rudimentary, she didn't understand what people were saying. But that didn't stop her from understanding the hugs she was getting — a reflection of their affection for Clark. Clark took a moment to explain that he'd spent six months here during his travels and had been back many times since.
It was a long time before Clark was able to get her out onto the dance floor, but then the neighborhood band began again and they were lost in the crowd. The music was fast and, although Lois was not familiar with the dance, she joined in, laughing at both her and Clark's clumsiness as they attempted to imitate the experts around them.
The trip back to Metropolis was the best one yet. Not that the scenery was that much better. In the darkness, Lois would only have seen the lights of the passing towns and cities — had she chosen to look. But they were not what made this particular flight so fantastic.
What made this flight so incredible was that this time, no little voice inside Lois' head told her not to snuggle up against him. No. Instead, she burrowed herself more deeply in his arms, safe and warm. Her eyes closed, she soon found herself nuzzling, almost subconsciously, at his neck, drinking in the very male scent of him.
She heard him groan and then his lips were seeking out hers.
The moment their lips met, the world seemed to fragment around her. Nothing existed but the soft moisture of his lips. The kiss was gentle — much like the man giving it. Wanting more, she leaned into the kiss, deepening it. His hand shifted on her back, pulling her closer as he began exploring her mouth, tasting her. She followed his lead, chasing his tongue back into his mouth as the warmth inside her began to spread.
Her hand, which was resting around his neck, made its way into his hair, allowing the soft tresses to flow between her fingers. She shifted in his arms, trying to find a better position from which to attack his mouth. Her free hand landed flat against his chest as she found the new angle and let herself be swallowed again by the sensations of his kiss. Without conscious decision, her hand began caressing his chest, tracing the hard lines and curves, until her fingers found themselves tangled up in the buttons of his shirt. About to pull her hand away, she suddenly realized what she was feeling under those errant fingers. Bare skin. No Superman suit.
While they continued to kiss, she blindly began undoing his buttons until her hand could slip, uninhibited, inside his shirt to feel the soft skin covering muscles of solid steel. He groaned.
With a gasp, Lois suddenly pulled back, her arms grasping Clark tightly around the neck when she realized they were in a free fall.
"Clark!" she gasped.
Her gasped word brought them to an abrupt halt, hovering only feet above the treetops. They both stared down before meeting each other's gaze in stunned disbelief.
"Uhh… oops," Clark finally said.
Lois' eyebrows rose and then she was laughing, giggling helplessly into his neck.
"Great," Clark mumbled. "Just the effect I always go for when I kiss a woman."
"No…" Lois choked out between laughs. "No, it's not…" However, the laughter won, leaving her with tears streaking her face as she giggled helplessly into his neck. "Why do I suddenly get the feeling you don't do that much?" she said before dissolving again in helpless laughter.
In spite of himself, Clark found himself laughing, too. "Well, I suppose we should head back to Metropolis," he finally said.
She didn't respond. Still laughing, she nodded into his neck. Almost immediately, she felt them beginning to move, but this time, he was holding her even closer and she could feel him dropping the occasional kiss into her hair.
In some ways, the remainder of the trip back to Metropolis seemed to take a lot longer than the trip to the island. In others, it went by much too quickly. Lois suspected that, like her, he was suddenly in no hurry to get home. Flying with him, being cuddled up in his arms, feeling his heart beating under her hand was the closest thing to heaven Lois had ever known.
So it was with some regret when the lights of the city appeared before them.
"Where do you live?" Clark asked.
Lois instantly tensed.
Clark had obviously noticed her reaction to the innocent question. Of course, he would have to know where she lived if he was going to take her home. Still, what could she tell him? Telling him that she was from the future wasn't an option. Dr. Bernard Klein was the exception to the rule that no one could know. Besides, she didn't want him to know. For this one night, she didn't want to know either. But what, then, did that leave her to tell Clark? She wouldn't lie to him, but she couldn't tell him the truth either.
"I'm staying at the Lexor," she said.
He tilted his head to the side in an effort to see her face. She didn't respond in kind, keeping her face partially hidden from his scrutiny.
"So… you're not from Metropolis then?"
"Clark, I…" Suddenly, it hit her. The non-truth truth. "I am from Metropolis, but… I can't go home right now."
It was a natural question. But one she was not prepared to answer. "I don't want to talk about it, Clark." She turned towards him then, meeting his eyes. "Please. Not tonight."
He regarded her seriously for a moment, but then… "So…" he said. "…the Lexor it is."
She let out a breath of relief, closing her eyes in simple gratitude.
The Lexor was crowded as Lois moved through the lobby alone. She had to look down several times, just to assure herself that her feet were still on the ground. She kept having this strange sensation that she was floating. The people around seemed somewhat out of focus, as if they didn't really exist except as extras on a movie set. Tonight was all about her. Well, her and Clark.
A small smile made its way onto her face at the mere thought of his name. Clark. What a nice name. Clark. She thought it again — just because. A small giggle erupted from the back of her throat at the silliness of her thoughts. Lois Lewis silly. Who would have thought it was even possible?
Actually, it wasn't her. It was Clark. She giggled again. He was the one doing this to her. He was just so… so. She sighed. He was easy to talk to. Great company. A good listener. Kind. Gentle. Of course, his dancing left something to be desired and when he had started singing with the band… Ouch. She had practically had to beg him to stop.
On the other hand, his kisses had fire trailing into her belly and curling her toes. She had always thought curled toes was just a metaphor or something. But it wasn't. Kissing him had literally caused her toes to curl. Her dreamy smile widened when she remembered what kissing her had done to him.
"Yes? Can I help you?"
The question brought Lois out of her daydream and to the unexpected reality that she was standing at a counter. She looked around in confusion, trying to get her bearings. Lexor. Dr. Klein had reserved a room for her here. Right.
"I have a reservation," she finally said.
The slightly raised eyebrow of the woman behind the counter caused Lois to blush and look down to study her hands. She wasn't entirely sure why. Did that woman know that Lois had just been kissed senseless by the most gorgeous hunk on the entire planet?
"I need a name," the woman said when Lois didn't continue.
Damn! "Uhh… right. Uhh…" She couldn't even seem to remember her own name at the moment. "Lois. Right. Lois Lewis."
A small grin seemed to quirk at the corner of the woman's mouth as she typed the name into her computer. "I'm afraid I don't have a listing under that name."
"Oh, right. Dr. Klein set up the reservation. Try Dr. Bernard Klein."
The woman typed in the name, nodding when the reservation came up. "Room 1415," she said, giving Lois a registration card and placing the key on the counter beside it.
Lois licked her lips as she intently worked on getting her mind to concentrate on filling in the card.
"Oh," she said, finally looking up. "I'm afraid I don't have any luggage." When the woman's eyebrows rose, she rushed to continue. "Airline lost it." She hoped airlines in this time frame did that. Airlines in her time sure did.
The woman nodded. "We provide a number of complementary items in those situations, including a robe, toothbrush, things like that. Would you like me to have a maid bring up those thing for you?"
"Please," Lois responded gratefully.
"Very well. Someone should be up in the next few minutes. Is that acceptable?"
"Wonderful," Lois said, giving the woman a warm smile. For some reason, she felt happy with the world tonight. Picking up her key, she headed towards the elevators, once again lost in memories.
Clark had wanted to walk her home — which in this case was the Lexor. But they had both known that was impossible. He'd never get half way across the lobby before being recognized. And checking into a hotel with a woman who had no luggage… No, that would definitely have been a mistake. Still, it had been hard saying goodbye to him in the alley across from the hotel.
She sighed, causing the couple standing next to her in the elevator to look in her direction. Ignoring the rising color in her cheeks, she intensely watched the lights of the elevator as the floors passed. These things were so much slower than lifts.
She watched as the couple stepped out. As the doors slid closed, Lois leaned against the back of the elevator and closed her eyes. Who would have thought he could kiss like that? She could kiss him forever — and probably would have if she hadn't found herself plummeting through the air. The smile on her face widened.
She opened her eyes as the elevator doors opened on her floor. After looking down at her key to make sure she knew the room number, she glanced at the sign on the wall indicating the direction. Turning, she headed in the appropriate direction, raising her eyes and… coming to a halt.
Leaning up against the doorframe to her room was Clark. Her mouth curved into a smile as she approached.
"When I take a date home, I walk her to the door," Clark explained, his smile meeting hers.
"Really. And how did you know this was my room?"
"I heard the receptionist give you the room number."
"You did, did you? And I suppose you just…" She made a wavy motion with her hand. "…onto the roof and then zipped down the stairs. All for the purposes of making sure I got home okay?"
Clark blushed slightly, which Lois found absolutely adorable. "Well, I did sort of hope I might get a goodnight kiss. Isn't that standard at the end of a first date?"
"Depends," Lois said, her smile threatening to take over her entire face, "on how good the date was."
"Oh, I see. So how did I rate? Was it good enough to warrant a goodnight kiss?"
Lois pretended to ponder that question. "Well, I don't know," she teased. "There was that whole losing altitude thing."
"I was hoping you'd find that… refreshing."
Lois laughed. "Actually, I found it sort of…" She searched around for the right word.
"Uhh… well, I was hoping more for masterful or awesome but cute… I'll take cute." Reaching towards her, his hand had just touched her waist when…
"Inside!" Lois hissed, fumbling with her key before the elevator doors could open and Superman would be caught standing outside a woman's hotel room — a woman who hadn't brought any luggage.
Suddenly, a gust of wind brushed across her face, the key disappeared from her hand and she found herself standing just inside the closed door of her dimly lit hotel room.
"What…?" Her comment died when it sunk in what had just happened. "Wow! When you want to get a girl alone, you don't waste any time, do you?"
Clark laughed and then his smile faded, as if suddenly wondering if she was serious. "Lois, I didn't mean to invite myself in. But when that elevator…"
She placed her fingers over his lips. "I know that, flyboy." She stepped closer. "You just came by for a goodnight kiss…" Her hand left his face to bury itself in his hair, tugging him down so that she could touch her lips to his.
The kiss was short and sweet, and doing all sorts of strange things to Lois' stomach. She groaned in protest when he pulled away. But he didn't go far. No more than a heartbeat later, he leaned back in for another kiss.
This time when their lips met, something inside Lois changed. What had started out as a sweet… even innocent kiss turned quickly into something that seemed to bring every nerve ending in Lois' body to life. He must have felt it too, because he stumbled towards her, having to place his hands at her waist to keep from falling.
He gently pulled her closer. She assisted the effort by wrapping her arms around his neck, bringing her body flush with his. Body pressed against body.
When the kiss finally ended, Lois was gasping for breath. She tilted her head back and closed her eyes. "Oh, god," she breathed softly. "Oh, god, yes," she whispered again when he wrapped his arm around the small of her back to keep her from falling and began planting light kisses up and down her throat. She felt his tongue then, softly running up the middle of her neck to her chin, sending chills down her spine. She hadn't realized exactly how sensitive she was there.
Lowering her head, she met his lips again, kissing him with increased passion, tongues tangling. Still holding her against him, his free hand slipped under the edge of her sweater, running up her side until he was tracing her ribs with his fingers, lightly brushing her skin and continuing upwards. She groaned, wiggling slightly against him, desperately wanting him to go higher.
"Sorry," he said, breaking the kiss as his hand moved away.
"No!" she gasped, her frustration from having him misunderstand her provoking the response. "I… I…" She hesitated, years of repression warring with need. Need won. She moved back out of his arms, needing some space for what she planned to do. Taking a deep breath to steady her nerves, she kept her eyes on his as she grabbed onto the bottom of her sweater and, in one smooth motion, pulled it over her head, glad for the purchase of the sexy underwear.
All the air in Clark's lungs seemed to leak out of him in a shaky stream as his eyes left hers to focus on the lacy red garment barely preventing him from having full view of her breasts. He stepped forward, running the back of his hand across her shoulder before continuing lower. She closed her eyes, concentrating on his touch.
Reaching forward, he pulled her back into his arms, bending slightly so that he could trace the edge of her bra with his tongue. She moaned, hooking one of her legs around his.
"Lois…" The word hissed out of his mouth, vibrating against her.
She wound her hands into his hair, holding him against her as he began his quest once again. Suddenly, reality intruded like a bucket of cold water. This wasn't real — couldn't be real. Tomorrow she'd be going back to her own time and if they did this… No. She wanted this memory. She wanted to know, even if only once, what it was like to give herself over completely to this man. She closed her eyes and pushed her conscience away even as her grip on his hair tightened.
Once again, her conscience tried to kick in. There was no doubt in Lois' mind where this was heading. And, in part, that was the problem. Oh, not that they were likely to both be naked in the very near future. No, it was that she was encouraging him to think they could possibly have a future. Okay, so maybe he wasn't interested in a future, but he didn't exactly strike her as the one-night-stand kind of guy. On the other hand, what did she know? He was a man, after all. And not just any man. Superman could have any woman on the entire planet. Surely a few of those stories in the tabloids, linking him to one starlet or another must be true. Or he'd responded to one or more of those 'panty letters.' So what was she doing that was so wrong?
Besides, he wasn't holding her. He wasn't kissing her. He wasn't touching her. Not really. Oh, part of him probably was. But another part was touching the other Lois. So what would it possibly matter if tomorrow she simply disappeared from his life? She was letting him play out his fantasies — giving them both what they so desperately wanted. This night would mean nothing to him, hardly even a blip on his radar. And she would have a night to remember forever.
She pulled his head back up, silently begging him for a kiss. He obliged her. Reaching behind her, his hands fumbled with the clasp on her bra.
"No!" She surprised herself as much as him when she suddenly sprung back out of his reach even before the sound of her unintended exclamation faded.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean for things to go that far. I just…"
"No, Clark. Please. Just… just hear me out." Feeling suddenly exposed and vulnerable, she located her sweater, picked it up and pulled it back on. Closing her eyes, she tried to work up the nerve for what she needed to say. It was just that suddenly, from somewhere deep inside, some part of her she pretty much despised at the moment, she had been unable to continue — not with so much being unsaid between them. "When I've finished what I have to say," she began, her voice trembling slightly on the words, "I'm going to ask you to spend the night." She opened her eyes then, meeting his. "I want this." She gave a humorless laugh. "You have no idea how much I want this."
"But…?" he prompted.
"But… Clark, would you still want to be here if it was only going to be for tonight?"
"What are you saying, Lois? Is that all this is to you? A one-night stand?"
"No." She ran her hand through her hair in frustration. "But… the truth is that tonight is all I have to offer." She met his eyes, silently begging him to understand.
"I… I can't tell you."
"Can't…" He stared at her for a moment, disbelief written all over his face. "Okay, you want to talk, let's talk. Tell me what's going on."
"There's nothing going on."
A sudden knocking on the door caused Lois to jump.
Lois watched as Clark ran his hand through his hair in frustration. She gestured him back, behind the door. Walking over, she placed her hand on the door handle, trying to regain her equilibrium. A second knock finally snapped Lois into action.
Taking a deep breath, and making sure Clark couldn't be seen, she finally opened the door, standing in the doorway so that the maid couldn't enter the room.
"You wanted our complementary kit?" the woman on the other side of the door asked.
"Yes. Thank you."
After handing her the items, the woman glanced behind Lois, as if suspecting she'd interrupted something.
"Thank you," Lois said again as she began closing the door.
"You're welcome," the woman responded, only moving back when the door was closed in her face.
Lois leaned her forehead against the door for a moment before walking over to place the various items on the night stand.
"So what's going on, Lois?" Clark asked before she was ready to deal with him again.
"Nothing. Nothing's going on."
"No? You won't even tell me where you live. Now I let it go. My first thought was that, in spite of what you told me earlier, you were afraid of an abusive husband. On the other hand, there's no ring on your finger. In fact, you don't even have a tan line. And if you're with a guy who's abusive, he's not likely to let you get away without wearing a ring. So I thought — abusive boyfriend. At least that would explain why the room was registered in Dr. Klein's name. You don't want your boyfriend to be able to find you. Maybe you even changed your last name to avoid being found. But you don't want to talk about it, and in spite of everything, I end up here with you — willing to wait until you're ready.
"But that's not even half of it," Clark continued, Lois staring at him in awe of his logical, albeit wrong, deductive reasoning abilities. "We're in Chili and I think we're having a great time. I look over at you and you're practically in tears. I ask you about it and you don't want to talk — you want me to take you dancing. So I do it. What had upset you so badly?"
Lois looked down at the floor between them.
"That's what I thought," Clark continued. "But…" He let out a breath. "What did I expect? Lois, you can't even tell me your birthday. Your birthday? Why can't you tell me your birthday?"
Lois tensed. Had he realized she'd left out her year of birth?
"Lois, you weren't born on August 15th. You were born on October 7th."
"What?" Lois gasped, really not expecting that comment. Suddenly, it sank in why he thought she'd lied about her birthday. "Oh, I get it," Lois said, her heart breaking when the realization sunk in. "You think I'm her, don't you? All this time… God, I knew there had to be a part of you that was playing out your Lois Lane fantasy, but you've actually been trying to make me be her. Or maybe you want her so much that you don't even notice the differences. Because there are differences, flyboy. Lana told me you were in love with her, but I didn't let myself really think too deeply about it. October 7th might have been her birthday, but it's not mine! I'm not her! She went back to her dimension, to her Clark. She left you three years ago! Get over it, already!" Her voice had risen in volume and intensity throughout her lecture.
"How do you know about alternate dimensions?"
Lois shifted uncomfortably, suddenly realizing her mistake. It was hard enough knowing that this whole time, Clark had been with the other Lois. Admitting that she'd seen them together, watched the tender interactions between them, seen how he'd let her make him into Superman was simply too humiliating. She couldn't tell him. She just couldn't. She would not be pitied!
"What does it matter?" she asked. "The point is, I'm not her. I never will be." She wasn't angry now, she was hurt. She was more than hurt. She was devastated. "Maybe it would be best if you just left." She turned away from him.
His gentle hands on her shoulders caused her to tremble. "Lois, I know you're not her."
"Yeah, right," she mumbled.
"I do know who you are, Lois. You're the woman in the backroom during what has become known as Superman's debut. The one who tried to warn me not to go out there. The one who disappeared in front of my eyes."
"How did you…" She spun out of his arms and towards him.
"Same hair. Same sweater. Same jeans. Same jacket. Same runners. It's your face I've been seeing for the past three years. It's your voice, telling me not to go back out onto that stage, that I've dreamt about."
Lois was suddenly searching blindly behind her, seeking the edge of the bed so she could sit down.
"That's why I'm not after a one-night stand," Clark continued. "I want so much more than that. I'm in love with you, Lois. Not some woman from another dimension who looks like you. I've known that from that moment in that backroom. That's why I never tried to stop her from going back to her dimension. I knew you were here. I knew I just had to find you. And now you want me to settle for a one-night stand?"
Lois buried her face in her hands.
He sat down next to her, raising his hand to gently brush her hair over her shoulder. "Talk to me, Lois," he whispered. "What's going on?"
"I can't tell you." It was even more important now that she not tell him. If he knew she was from the future, and if she went back, which she had to do so as not to destroy the time line, he would move heaven and earth to follow her, even if he had to invent his own time machine. His passionate declaration made that very clear.
He let out a breath, rising to his feet. "Maybe I should just…"
"No!" she gasped, reaching out and grabbing his arm. "Please. I want to tell you, but I can't. I…" She ran out of words. "Spend the night with me," she said again.
He gave a sad chuckle. "I'm sorry, Lois. I…" His voice trailed off when she met his eyes.
She saw him take in her tear-streaked cheeks and his expression softened.
"If I could offer you more than tonight…" Her voice broke. "But I can't. I can't. Please. At least tell me you understand."
His expression made it very clear he didn't understand at all. Not that she could blame him. He looked as if he, too, was on the verge of tears.
She nodded, looking back down at her hands.
"Goodbye, Clark," she said softly. "I wish…" She never completed her wish. She'd told him what she wanted. He couldn't give it. She understood that. There really was nothing more to say.
He stood there for a moment before heading for the door. She didn't watch him go. She couldn't. She knew they couldn't have a future, but oh what she wouldn't give for tonight.
She gasped when he was suddenly back, kneeling in front of her, her face held between his two large hands. He looked into her eyes for a long moment before leaning in to kiss her.
When the kiss broke, she searched his eyes, desperate to understand. What was he saying? "Clark…?" she asked.
"I want to spend the night," he said, a slight crack in his voice.
A sob escaped from the back of her throat. She threw her arms around his neck, holding on tightly as the tears came in earnest. He held her and she could feel his labored breath. His hands gently caressed her back as he whispered comforting noises into her ear.
As her tears calmed, she felt his lips in her hair, on her cheeks and eyelids. She pulled away slightly to look at him. "You don't have to do this."
He gave her a wry grin. "I want to spend the night with you, Lois," he said, his hand coming up to cup her cheek. "I want it as much as you do."
"It's only one night."
He seemed to hesitate for a moment. "Then I'll make this one night last a lifetime."
Her chin quivered at hearing him echo her thoughts back to her. "I love you, Clark Kent," she whispered. "Whatever else you do or don't believe about tonight, please believe that."
He looked into her eyes for a long moment before leaning in again. She met him halfway. Her hand came up to his cheek as her lips met his. And the second they made contact, the electricity was back, more powerful than ever. She might not have been able to tell him everything, but she had told him the truth. And somehow the idea that he was still here, in spite of everything, increased her desire for him.
She felt his hands slip under the edge of her sweater. Moving back, she quickly pulled her sweater over her head. As his hands began fumbling with the clasp of her bra, she began working the buttons on his shirt. She growled when the task appeared to take too long.
Clark laughed, helping her out by pulling the shirt off his body and then groaned when before the shirt hit the floor, Lois was leaning in to run her mouth, teeth and tongue over his chest. His arm slipped under her legs as he gathered her into his arms. Pulling back the comforter and the blanket, he moved her further onto the bed. He took a moment to kick off his shoes before reaching over and removing hers, tossing them to the floor as he joined her on the soft surface. Leaning over her, he found her mouth, probing it.
When he pulled back, his dark eyes flashed with desire. He leaned back in, giving no one part of her body more attention than another, as if he wanted to know, to touch, to taste every inch of her.
"Make love to me, Clark," she breathed.
"Are you sure, Lois?"
Was she sure? God, she'd never been so completely sure of anything in her entire life. She gave him his answer by pulling him to her for a kiss that left them both completely breathless. He understood her message. His eyes flashed before he suddenly sobered.
"Protection," he managed to say. "I don't have any…"
"I've got it covered," she said, pulling him to her. She felt a brief moment of guilt. After all, he would assume that she meant she was getting her yearly birth control shot… or whatever women used for birth control in 1999. But until now, there really had been no need. Still, what she had told him hadn't exactly been a lie. She'd be leaving for the future tomorrow and so he never had to worry that she was going to come back in a couple months asking him to take responsibility for an unwanted child. But she didn't want to stop. She didn't want him running out on her just to purchase… oh, heck, whatever they used here for birth control — and risk him changing his mind about making love to her while he was gone. She'd worry about the consequences — assuming there were any — later.
Her mind's attempts to justify her deception ended when he began working on taking her up on her request. Hands moved, clothing vanished and eyes explored as they each sought out the secrets of the other's body until each was completely lost in the other.
As Clark's breathing finally began to slow, he pulled Lois into his arms to lie against him. He felt her smile against his chest before leaning over to kiss it. She raised herself on her arms and looked down into his eyes, and he was instantly lost. It had been her first time. He could still hardly believe what she'd given so freely, so enthusiastically to him. He reached up, gently cupping her face in his hands. His realization had informed him in a way no words could ever match that even if she could only give him one night, this was, for her, no one-night stand.
"I love you, Lois Lewis," he said softly, his voice cracking on the words. "I can't believe…"
"Just shut up and kiss me, flyboy," she said with a smile.
He smiled in response. "As my lady commands." Clark leaned in and kissed her. The kiss deepened. Soon that restless feeling returned, sending them both again scurrying to find heaven in each other's arms.
The sun coming in the window and spilling across the bed woke Lois. It took her a moment to remember where she was — and why exactly she felt as if she'd spent the night playing tackle football. All the muscles in her body felt as if they'd had the workout of their lives. But then… she stretched luxuriously. …they had.
Her mind flooded with flashes of memories. Purring, she closed her eyes and allowed herself to get lost in them. The look of glee on his face when he'd discovered the Jacuzzi in the washroom. Giving him a new 'skinny-dipping' story for his memoirs. His use of the balcony to bring back a bottle of wine and some chunk-chocolate for them to feed each other in the Jacuzzi.
A smile appeared on her face. She had known those powers must be good for something.
Making love in the Jacuzzi had been completely different from their first times. It had been… She searched her mind for a moment before finding the right word. …playful. She could still see him sitting there, covered in water and bubbles pretending her big toe was a piece of chocolate. A giggle rose in her chest. The pictures she'd seen of the man who never smiled had shattered into a million pieces in that single moment.
She'd thought her passion was abated. So how was it that they'd ended up making love again on the thick bathmat lying next to the tub? It was just seeing those hard buns as he'd climbed out of the tub… God, she'd been insatiable. She'd practically jumped him. Hell, she had jumped him.
Even the memory caused her to salivate and she could feel her aching body crying out for more. Opening her eyes, she turned towards the man sleeping next to her, intent on feeling that incredible desire, on seeing the passion in his eyes, on feeling her body respond to him once again.
She blinked. The crumpled sheets proved that he had been there — that her memories were not the result of some overly vivid dream. But where was the man in question? She glanced towards the washroom, suddenly having visions of him in the shower. Her breath caught in her throat. God, how could she still be so… so? Still, she didn't allow herself to dwell on that question. Pulling the sheet out from where it was caught between the seriously twisted blankets, she wrapped it around herself before rising to her feet.
She hadn't taken a second step before she noticed the single red rose lying on top of a piece of paper on the night table. She smiled, picking up the rose and smelling it. Then she frowned. The paper had something written on it. She picked it up. It was a note from Clark.
'You looked so cute sleeping entangled in the sheet that I didn't have the heart to wake you. I hate to leave, but there was an earthquake in Turkey. I'll be back as soon as possible. Please don't leave before I get back. We need to talk. Love, Clark.'
She made her way over to the television, flicking it on. Images of the earthquake filled the screen. Keeping her eyes on the screen, hoping for the glimpse of the animal who had spent the night mauling her — she couldn't help but grin at that thought — she headed for the phone. A little breakfast was just what the doctor ordered. Clark would surely appreciate it, too, when he got back. Breakfast for two became breakfast for one when it became obvious from the news that he wouldn't be back in time for breakfast — which also meant her little morning shower-for-two idea was probably out as well.
Still, she couldn't quite keep the contented smile off her face as she headed for the washroom. Her smile faded when it occurred to her that she was still there. Obviously, last night, no matter how incredible, did nothing to change history. Not that she had really expected it would. Although, in a small corner of her mind, she sort of wished it had. After all, it had already changed hers.
Her smile faded completely as the reality of her current situation began to sink in. She didn't belong here. Last night had been an aberration. Sheer madness, in fact. But that didn't stop the desire. If she ever had a chance to be with him, to love him, nothing else would seem all that important. On the other hand, he would disappear on May 11th. One day from now. Maybe when she went back to the future, it broke his spirit. No. That made no sense. He had disappeared even before she came into the past.
But she was going back to the future. Nothing could change that. This wasn't her place, her time. Besides, it wasn't as if she had much choice in the matter. Sooner or later, she knew she wouldn't be able to resist. She would do something that would change the past and she'd be propelled forward — without Clark. Was this what the romance writers meant by star-crossed lovers? Tears congregated in the corners of her eyes as she headed alone into the shower. She supposed she should get used to this showering alone idea. Besides, sex in the shower was probably one of those things that looked better on paper than it was in reality. Not that she would likely ever have the chance to find out.
She fought off the tears. She wouldn't cry. She was going home. That was a good thing. She didn't belong here — no matter what connection she felt to Clark. Last night had been great. A night to be cherished forever. But it was last night. It was time to get on with her life.
Her thoughts drifted to David. She'd intended, once she got back to her own time, to ask him out on a date — as her first step in getting on with her life instead of living in the past. She gave a humorless laugh. Not much chance that she would be doing that now — either to stop living in the past or asking David out. David was still a great guy, but being with Clark had taught her that when she had to work so hard to convince herself that they could be great together, her heart wasn't really into him. After all, being with Clark had been completely the decision of her heart. And the thought of doing with David the things she and Clark had done last night, things that with Clark had seemed so natural, left her feeling cold. No. She wasn't entirely sure what the future would bring. Would she ever get past Clark? She didn't know. But if she did, she knew it wouldn't be with David.
Dropping the sheet, she was about to step into the shower when something on the news caught her attention. Grabbing the robe lying on the floor beside the Jacuzzi and throwing it on, she rushed back into the other room just to in time to see Mayor Perry White step in front of a sea of microphones. She turned up the volume. It seemed as if the entire press corps was yelling questions.
"All right, folks," Perry growled into the microphone. "Let's hold the questions to the end. This is a press conference not a free-for-all."
Lois smiled slightly. His straight-talking, down-to-Earth approach to the job of Mayor was one of the things that had made him so memorable.
"By now you've all seen Lois Lewis' article in the Star this morning," Perry continued.
Lois sank down onto the edge of the bed. She'd forgotten that was coming out this morning. A front-page article and she had forgotten. That was a first, but then she'd experienced more than one 'first' since meeting Clark Kent. She refused to allow her mind to follow that thought through to its logical conclusion. Instead, she focused on the press conference. She wanted to know what Perry White had to say.
"Personally, I think we all deserve a good, swift kick in the as… uhh… butt," Perry said. "In that spirit, I intend to do what I can to see that Superman gets the support he needs to continue being Superman. I am putting Superman on the city payroll. He will receive all the benefits and support offered to our emergency service workers — although I doubt he'll be making much use of the health and dental benefits."
The crowd responded with laughter.
"We will also make available to him one of the luxury apartments the city keeps for visiting dignitaries — free of charge. The high security building will give him a place to live where he can have a little privacy from the press."
"Won't this make Superman an employee of the city of Metropolis — making him nothing more than a political puppet for your administration?" a reporter yelled.
"No. The last thing we want to do is politicize Superman. After all, in case it has escaped your attention, we politicians don't have the best reputation for truth and justice."
Again, there was laughter.
"Superman has to be above all that. Our assistance will be offered without any strings. All we will be asking is that he keep doing what he's already doing."
Lois found herself actually smiling as the press began shouting out questions. Perry had taken her up on her idea.
"Folks, please!" White continued. "I'm not finished yet." The crowd quieted down. "Now that brings us to the second problem — the paparazzi."
The crowd now went completely quiet. Lois was on pins and needles. She hadn't said anything about the paparazzi, so what did Perry White have in mind? After all, he couldn't do anything about the press — could he?
"Obviously," Perry continued, "I can't control press coverage of Superman. After all, we have a little thing called freedom of the press. And as the former editor of the Daily Planet, I wouldn't want to do anything to inhibit that."
Lois leaned forward on the bed, waiting for the 'but' — because there had to be a 'but.'
"But…" Perry glanced at the men standing with him on the podium. Lois didn't know who most of them were. But there were two uniforms that she suspected she knew. The Chief of Police and the Fire Chief. "…we have all agreed that we will no longer give interviews or statements to any reporters who engage in harassment of Superman. Same applies to papers or news or entertainment programs who publish gossip or paparazzi type pictures of Superman."
Lois gasped — a sound which was echoed by the crowd standing in front of the Mayor.
"Now, most of the papers who publish these pictures… like the one we saw of Clark Kent with his trousers ripped the other day …don't really care about statements from Metropolis City Hall or the police or the fire department. There are really only two things they care about — Hollywood stars and selling papers. So I'm asking every star in Hollywood to stand with me. Any paper, news or entertainment program that goes after Superman no longer gets interviews or support or anything else from the stars. And I'm asking that people no longer buy those papers or tune into those programs."
There was a general grumble of discontent from the press.
"Folks, this is the only way I know to ensure that we keep a man who can only be described as a national treasure from being completely overwhelmed by his responsibilities. And to assist in this goal, we will publish a weekly list of papers, reporters and television programs who will no longer be entitled to interviews. You can check out these lists for yourself on our city web site."
Before the press had time to recover enough to ask an intelligent question, Perry stepped away from the microphones, beating a hasty retreat into City Hall.
"Can he do that?" a commentator asked. "After all, the constitution guarantees the freedom of the press. Isn't he subverting that by refusing to give interviews or statements to anyone who reports on something that he considers off limits?"
"I don't know," a second commentator said. "But one thing's for sure. Perry White has just thrown down the gauntlet."
Lois got up off the bed, feeling slightly stunned as she made her way towards the washroom. She hadn't expected that development. It was hard to believe this hadn't changed history. On the other hand, the full confrontation which was undoubtedly on its way between Perry White and the press probably hadn't gotten very far since Superman must still disappear the next day. After all, his staying around past May 11th would have to cause the biggest change to history one could possibly imagine. All the people who had been injured or died that could have been saved. One could hardly imagine the impact all those people would have on the future. No, Superman would leave, disappear into some secluded part of the world to live out his life. That was obviously unchanged. Sighing, she stepped into the shower.
After her shower, she returned to the room in time to hear the commentators still discussing Perry White's shocking announcement. Apparently, George Clooney had given a press statement in full support of Perry White. And in the short amount of time that it had taken for Lois to shower, hundreds of other actors, singers, producers and celebrities of all types had joined Clooney. At the moment, their names were being scrolled across the bottom of the screen in a never ending procession.
Lois sank down onto the side of the bed, tears in her eyes. With all this obvious support, why was it nothing had changed? Why did Superman still leave? She gave her head a shake. It wasn't her problem. Tonight… or rather at three a.m. the next morning… she would be going back to her own time. To where she belonged. And to that end…
While she'd been in the shower, she'd had time to think. To put things in perspective. And she'd come to a realization. As much as she might be loath to admit it, she really needed to book out of the hotel before Clark returned from his rescue work in Turkey. No more 'one last time.' No more feeling the blood boiling in her veins. No more drowning in the passion in his eyes.
His note had said they needed to talk. And she was under no illusions about the essence of that conversation. It would undoubtedly end with him yelling and her in tears. She knew she couldn't handle that. Besides, it wouldn't change anything. She would still have to leave. Better now than before things went any further. And when it came right down to it, saying goodbye would be too hard on both of them — and just might cast a shadow over a beautiful memory. A tear ran unheaded down her cheek.
She walked over to the desk in the room, expecting to find a computer keyboard built into the desk. When she didn't find one, she began opening drawers, her eyebrows rising when she found paper inside and… She gasped when she saw the pen. Reaching in, she carefully removed it. In a paperless society, a society where computers were everywhere, only the rich owned pens. The idea that there was one in a drawer in a hotel room was almost inconceivable to her. She'd used a pen on a few occasions in her life, but never had she owned one. She played with it for a minute before sitting down at the desk. She could at the very least leave Clark a note. He deserved no less.
'Clark,' she began before pausing. What could she possibly say after last night? How did she say goodbye to this man? She found it ironic that in spite of her profession she couldn't find the words she needed. Saying goodbye seemed… too permanent, somehow, and try as she might, she couldn't force herself to write it — to see that word in cold black and white. Maybe if she didn't write it, it wouldn't be true. With regret, she placed the pen back in the desk. She wanted so badly to take it, but it wasn't hers. Sighing, she rose to her feet. Nothing she could say would possibly change the pain they would both feel when she was gone, anyway. She crumpled up the paper and tossed it into the trash can before getting dressed and quietly leaving the room.
Stan Johnson was completely swamped. Lawyer after lawyer had been coming in all afternoon — all with the same request. They wanted to deliver a letter to Dr. Philip Klein. But Dr. Klein had left specific instructions that he was not to be disturbed.
Stan carefully turned the latest aging yellow envelope over in his hands. How could an envelope this old be marked 'urgent'? It looked as if it was a hundred years old. But then, so did all the letters that had arrived in the past few hours. Something very strange was happening.
He looked at the phone on his desk for a long moment. Should he or shouldn't he?
Superman floated to the ground near the front of his apartment. Without bothering to change into his Clark clothes, he headed towards the steps, images of the previous night flooding his mind. Keeping his mind on the task at hand had been more than a little difficult today. But too many lives had been on the line for him to indulge in his erotic daydreams. There were no such concerns now.
Lois' body beneath his. The taste of her mouth. The way her hands had explored his body. He could still feel the places she had touched him, as if heat was oozing out of him from those spots. God, he could still hardly believe that she had been a virgin.
Still, that was what made everything so confusing. Last night had obviously not been a casual decision for her. And anytime their eyes had met, it felt as if she was reaching inside him, touching his soul with a love greater than anything he'd ever even dreamed existed. So why had she been so insistent that they couldn't have a relationship? He set his shoulders in determination. Whatever the reasons were, he would convince her that she was wrong.
His mouth quirked into a grin when he recalled being jumped from behind as he'd been climbing out of the Jacuzzi. He had been so caught off guard that he'd tumbled onto the fluffy white mat on the floor, her on top of him. He'd laughed, trying to turn over, but was prevented by her lithe body as she'd begun exploring the muscles his back. When he'd finally been able to turn over, she'd grabbed his arms, forcing them down beside his head as she'd leaned over him to kiss him.
His smile widened as he recalled her words when she ended the kiss. "Don't move your hands."
Clark blinked when a flash went off in his face, bringing him back to the present. He noticed that there seemed to be less paparazzi in front of his apartment than normal. Some big star must be in town. Not giving the matter a second thought, he entered his apartment. Not even the paparazzi could ruin this day. Just a quick shower and change and then he was heading for the Lexor to convince Lois that they were meant to be together.
"I think I found something," David said excitedly.
"What?" Klein asked, getting up from where he'd been working on his computer.
"It's Superman," Klein said unnecessarily.
"Yes, but it's a smiling Superman," David said triumphantly.
"I don't understand."
"Lois… before she left, she noticed that there were no pictures of Superman smiling. Well… here's one of Superman smiling."
"Look, David, I doubt it means anything."
"It does," David insisted. "Because I also found out that there was a lot of response to Lois' story about Superman. For example, take a look at this." He pointed to an article on his computer entitled 'Mayor Defends Superman.'
Klein leaned over, quickly scanning the article before turning to look at the computer that monitored the time line. "But then I don't understand."
"Well, she's having an effect in the past. But still there is no indication of any anomalies in the time line. Of course, Superman still disappears on May 11th, 1999, so that might be a reason the time line hasn't been affected. Still, it's almost as if she was in her own…" His voice trailed off when an idea sank in. "Of course! I can't believe I didn't see it before!"
"David, when is Lois' birthday?"
"August 15th… well, give or take a few days."
"She doesn't know her actual birthday?"
"She was dropped off on the steps of Sisters of Metropolis Convent on August 17th. They estimated she was a couple days old."
"Of course. That would have to be the case, wouldn't it?"
Ignoring him, Klein sat down at his computer. "What year was this?"
"I don't know. She's thirty one, but…"
"2125," Klein said immediately. He typed a few numbers into his computer. "What day is it now?"
"February 28th, but Dr. Klein…"
"Sht, sht, sht," Klein said, shushing him. "So when she went into the past she was 31 years 212 days old."
"Now the article in her name was published on May 10th, 1999. She would have to have been there for at least a couple days by then so that means… David, look for anything unusual, a missing child, a child who died, any still births, anything unusual concerning a newborn during…" He typed some more numbers into his computer. "…the first couple weeks of October, 1967. We'll widen the search if we have to, but for now start with then."
Lois wandered the streets of Metropolis, in some ways so familiar, in some ways so foreign to her. It was a history buff's dream. But Lois hardly noticed her environment. Checking out of the Lexor before Clark returned had to be the hardest thing she'd ever had to do. And even now, the desire to go running back was overwhelming. She wanted to see him. Maybe even to make love to him one last time. Because, as much as she might be loath to admit it, sometime in the past twelve hours she had fallen hopelessly in love with Mr. Clark Kent.
Hopelessly. She gave a wry grin. That was a good word for it. In a few hours, they would be separated by over a hundred and fifty years. She had to go back to her time. He had to stay in his. There was no other choice.
And that was why she couldn't give into her desire to spend one more afternoon with him. He would undoubtedly do everything in his power to convince her to stay. And after last night, she wasn't sure he wouldn't be able to do so. No. Leaving the Lexor, making the break clean, was the only choice. That still didn't stop the deep ache in her chest.
After feeling so completely whole when she was with Clark the previous night, she now felt as if something was missing. Ironic. Lois Lewis, fulfilled, independent career woman was suddenly incomplete without a man. But then… he wasn't just any man. She felt as if someone had severed her arm or leg. The pain of reaching out, still expecting it to be there, but no longer able to touch it or scratch it. An essential part of her well-being had been violently severed. And she doubted she would ever fully recover.
Maybe making love to him had been a mistake. Maybe if she hadn't she wouldn't hurt so much now. No. She wouldn't give up one moment of last night for anything. It was worth every moment of pain she had to suffer for it — both now and in the future. Because, maybe if she was really lucky, some day the pain would fade. And she wouldn't give up the memory of one night of knowing his love for anything.
She spotted a quaint little restaurant up ahead. She wasn't particularly hungry, but having nothing else to do, she made her way inside. Most of the lunch crowd had already left so she was able to find a table quickly. Sitting down, she ordered some lunch. As she picked distractedly at her food, one of the many televisions set up around the dining area caught her attention.
"Turn that up," she said, rushing over to the bar. Although she'd never met him, she knew the man on the screen from a picture that still hung in the Daily Planet conference room. James Olsen, the owner of the Daily Planet, was giving a press conference.
The bartender did as instructed, turning up the volume.
"…and that is why I called Preston Carpenter this morning and told him that he no longer worked for the Daily Planet," Olsen said.
Lois sank down onto a stool at the bar, a smile almost — but not quite — making its way onto her lips. She couldn't say she minded that turn of events. Carpenter was a scumbag. Seeing him get his own was a small satisfaction. She might not have a future with Clark, but maybe, just maybe, she'd managed to make his life a little easier. On the other hand — a frown tugged at the corners of her mouth as moisture clouded her vision — how much difference could she have made since he must still disappear tomorrow?
Superman was about to dart onto the balcony of one particular room at the Lexor and sneak up on the dark-haired woman he saw bending over the bed when the woman looked up. He froze. He'd almost attacked a maid.
A maid. Clark looked quickly throughout the room, his heart sinking. There were still signs of last night's activities. The crumpled bath mat on the floor of the bathroom. The ring around the edge of the Jacuzzi. But there was no sign of Lois.
She wouldn't have left before he returned. She wouldn't have. Not after last night. But it wasn't as if he could go into her room and ask. So what…
A moment later, he was standing in a phone booth near the Lexor dressed as Clark. He looked up the number and made his call, holding his breath as he waited for an answer.
"Good afternoon, Lexor. How can I help you?"
"Yes, I need to speak to Lois La… Lewis. Lois Lewis. Could you put me through to her room?" Clark asked, doing his best to disguise his voice.
"One moment please."
It was the longest moment of Clark's life. He spent it trying to reassure himself that what they had shared was too special for her to simply disappear without at least saying goodbye. But even as he tried to assure himself that she had simply gone out for lunch or to do some shopping, the pit in his stomach, the fear that she was really gone, continued to grow.
"I'm afraid Ms. Lewis is no longer staying with us."
"She has to…" Clark began before stopping when his voice trembled. He closed his eyes, forcing himself to calm down and think. His eyes shot open. "Dr. Klein. The room was being paid for by Dr. Bernard Klein. Maybe…"
"I'm afraid Ms. Lewis checked out a couple of hours ago, sir."
"But… Please, can't you check again?" He felt the walls closing in around him as blind panic began bubbling up in his chest. He couldn't lose her. He just couldn't. She was the first person who had made him feel like he belonged here in three years. He couldn't go back to that lonely place he'd been in before last night. He couldn't do it. Not again. Not now that he knew what loving her and being loved by her was like.
"Sir, I was the one who checked her out. Beautiful woman. Hard to forget."
Hard to forget. Distracted, Clark hung up the phone without even saying goodbye. She wouldn't have just left. She couldn't have. Not after last night.
But she had. He felt a crushing sensation in his chest and clutched at his shirt. Was he having a heart attack? No. No. He was Superman. He couldn't possibly be having a heart attack. But the pain, the palpitations in his chest, the shortness of breath, the weakness in his legs… if it wasn't a heart attack then what was happening to him?
It suddenly struck him what was happening. He was having a panic attack. He forced himself to calm down, sinking to sit on the ground inside the phone booth, his knees folded up to his chest and his back against the glass wall. He ignored the curious looks from strangers passing by on the street outside.
He couldn't panic. Panicking wouldn't help him find Lois. But what would? Where did he even start? She'd told him she lived in Metropolis, but had no idea where. He also had no idea why she was staying at the Lexor. He considered looking for a Metropolis address for Lois Lewis. But he quickly gave up that idea. Lois wouldn't make it that easy for him. If she could leave the Lexor after what they had shared last night, she was undoubtedly determined to make it impossible for him to find her. So where did he even start looking? Who might know where she would be found?
A moment later, he was again air-bound.
"Superman!" Dr. Bernard Klein exclaimed when he looked up from where he'd been staring into a microscope to see the Man of Steel standing in his lab. "Oh, sorry. You prefer to be called Clark Kent when you're not in the suit, don't you? I was just sort of taken by surprise. So what can I do for you, Mr. Kent?"
"Where is she, Dr. Klein?"
"She?" He looked confused for a moment. "Do you mean Lois Lewis?"
"Yes. Please, I have to find her. I know you paid for her room at the Lexor last night. Where did she go when she checked out?"
"I have no idea." Dr. Klein studied the troubled young man in front of him.
"Please, you must at least be able to tell me where to start looking."
Klein let out a breath, suspecting he knew what must have happened. He'd felt the electricity in the air the moment Kent had first seen Lois. And now… if he didn't know this was Superman, he'd have been seriously concerned about this young man's health. His pale demeanor. His trembling hands. His haunted eyes. This man was seriously upset. In fact, he was looking very much like a man whose heart had been trampled into the dirt. Given that Lois would be returning to the future very early tomorrow morning, he suspected that something had happened between them and now Lois was avoiding him, knowing she had to go back to the future.
"I'm afraid I really don't know Ms. Lewis' whereabouts. I'm sorry."
Clark ran a hand through his hair in frustration, looking as if Dr. Klein was his last hope. "If you paid for her room, can you at least tell me what she's running from? What is she afraid of?"
"That's Lois' place to tell you," Dr. Klein insisted. "If I do see her, however, I will let her know you're looking for her."
Klein held up his hand, meeting Kent's eyes dead-on. "It's the best I can do, Mr. Kent."
Kent acted as if he was about to object. But then, after regarding the ceiling for a moment as if the answers might lie there, he again looked at Dr. Klein. Dr. Klein noticed the gathering moisture in the young man's eyes.
"Thank you, Dr. Klein," Kent said before disappearing in a gust of wind.
Klein was shocked. Word was that Kent didn't like using his powers when he wasn't in the suit. Some had even speculated for a time that the powers and the suit were somehow connected. Kent's sudden disappearance, in spite of his clothing choice, told Klein that Kent had been trying to get out of there before breaking down completely. His heart went out to the young man. People might not believe it, but he'd had one or two brushes with love in his life. He knew what Kent was going through. And if things had gone as far as he suspected they had, it would be a long time before they saw Superman smile again.
Lois wasn't entirely sure what she was doing here — wandering past Clark Kent's apartment. She had told herself — once she'd finally admitted her destination — that she was just wanting to see for herself if Perry White's announcement had affected the number of paparazzi holding vigil outside the building.
As she walked past, she realized there were less than half the number of the paparazzi than had been there the previous day. Then her eyes focused on the front door of his apartment. Was he inside?
Surely by now he knew she wasn't at the Lexor and had been to visit Dr. Klein… the only two places he could possibly look for her. And that would mean, unless he was supposed to work today, he was likely behind those doors. Could he hear her heart beat? Could he distinguish it from the rest of the crowd? Would he realize she was there? Her heart began pounding even harder and her steps slowed.
It was only when she got past without incident that she'd realized how much she had wanted him to find her, to know that she was there and come for her. Stop her from leaving. Tell her he loved her. Sweep her up in his arms and never let her go. But he hadn't. There were tears in her eyes as she caught a cab and finally left the area.
"I said I was not to be disturbed," Philip Klein growled into the phone.
"I know, sir. But something very strange is happening out here," Stan said from the other end of the line. He'd been struggling with this decision for over an hour now. But the number of letters that were arriving were now impossible to ignore.
"What? Chairman of the Board here again?"
"No, sir. Nothing like that. It's the mail."
"I'm fairly certain we get mail every day, Stan. Nothing unusual about that."
"But these letters are being delivered by lawyers. Addressed to you and…"
"Stan, I don't care about any letters a lawyer might…"
"They all look to be at least a hundred years old. So I asked the last lawyer who showed up how long they had been holding onto the letter. They said over a hundred and fifty years. Apparently they received the letter in 1999, but had been instructed not to deliver it until today."
"Why wasn't I told about this immediately?" Klein demanded.
"Do you have any idea how important this is?"
"Well, don't just sit there. Open the letters. Tell me what they say."
"Wouldn't you rather that I just deliver them to you?"
"And disrupt the time bubble? Are you an idiot? Just open the letters."
Stan fumed slightly. Still, Dr. Klein was the boss so he did as instructed.
The sisters at Sisters of Metropolis Convent were stunned to get a visit from the Man of Steel. At his request, he was quickly escorted into the office of the Mother Superior — an older woman whose face showed that during her younger years she had undoubtedly been a beauty. Clark suspected that many a young man had despaired when she'd decided to become a nun. He stepped up to the desk and shook the woman's hand.
"Thank you for seeing me, Mother Superior," Clark said. "I know you're a busy woman."
"Never too busy for you, Mr. Kent. Please…" She gestured him to a seat on the sofa in her large office. Once he was settled, she took a seat in an old fashioned chair kiddy-corner to the sofa. "So what can I do for you?"
"I'm looking for a woman who was left on your steps… about thirty years ago."
When the woman raised her eyebrows, Clark rushed to continue. "When she was a baby," he clarified.
"Do you know the woman's name?"
"Lois Lewis. At least, that's the name she gave me."
"And she said she was left on our steps as a baby?"
"Yes. Can you help me?"
The woman reached over, patting his hand comfortingly, telling him in a way no words could that he looked as tortured as he felt. "We'll do whatever we can."
"Wait a second," David said. "What are you going to do?"
"I'm going to tell her the truth," Klein said as he worked on dials on the machine.
"Then I'm going with you."
Klein stopped, looking up at the other man. He stared at him for a long moment before nodding.
Lois' steps were slow as she made her way up the steps to Star Labs sometime after two a.m. Philip Klein should, provided he got the letter this time, arrive at three. She'd not really had anywhere to go, anywhere to be until that time of night. On the other hand, she'd not dared return to Star Labs too early for fear that Clark would find her there.
Since her trip past Clark's apartment, which she had rebuked herself for, she'd been very careful to make sure that her head ruled rather than her heart. No more putting herself in a position to be found by him. No more flirting with disaster. She had to go home — end of story. So she had forced herself to wait to the last minute to return to Star Labs on the off chance that Clark would have been keeping an eye on the building in case she returned there. Still, she couldn't help hoping that… No! No, no, no, no. She wasn't thinking that. She wasn't!
She stepped into the lab and looked around, spotting Dr. Klein.
"Oh, there you are," Klein said, looking up from his latest experiment.
"Here I am," Lois said glumly. "I'm sorry if I worried you, but I was just… you know… doing a little sightseeing before I had to go back."
Klein cocked his head to the side. "Had to? What happened to the woman who was chewing me out for not being able to get my great, great grandson back here yesterday?"
She looked down, scuffing her foot on the floor.
"Well, you're here now."
"I'm here. Good old, Lois Lewis. Doing what she has to do to keep the time line from being disrupted." She cringed at the bitter sound in her voice. She hoped Dr. Klein wouldn't notice.
"I had a visitor today," Klein said, not responding to her final comment. "Clark Kent was here looking for you." When she said nothing, he continued. "He looked just as miserable as you do."
"I'm fine, Dr. Klein. I'm not sure why you would think…"
"At least give him a call," Klein said, interrupting her. "Say goodbye. He needs some closure, Lois."
She cleared her throat. "So where exactly will Phillip Klein appear?" Lois asked, ignoring his comment. She couldn't think about this right now. She had to stay strong. She couldn't think about how pained Clark's eyes must have been. She couldn't think about the way his emotions were undoubtedly pulling down at the corners of his mouth. She couldn't think about how much she wanted to… "Do we have to leave the room so that he doesn't suddenly appear inside us, or something? Maybe I'll just go out in the hall — just to be sure. Maybe I'll go for a walk and, you know, get a breath of fresh air." Without waiting for his response, she turned and walked out of the room.
"But you won't get any fresh air in the hall," Dr. Klein called after her, but she was already gone.
Dr. Bernard Klein was shocked when a man he didn't recognize appeared in the lab. The man looked around as if disoriented. Bernard groaned. Not another person who was lost in time. When was this man from?
He was just walking into the room when Philip Klein appeared as well.
"Philip!" Bernard exclaimed. "Is he… I hope he's with you."
"Yes," Philip replied on a chuckle. "This is David Shultz. He's a friend of Lois Lewis. We're sorry we took so long, but we just got your letter — or, well, letters. The receptionist at Klein Labs is an idiot."
Bernard chuckled. "Well, you might have been delayed. But we didn't notice. After all…" He glanced at his watch. "…you're right on time here. Glad you made it. Lois is…" He glanced over his shoulder, through the window into the adjoining room. "Well, she's around here somewhere. She just took a little walk. I'm sure she'll be back any minute. She's been anxious to get back to her own time."
"Speaking of that," Philip said. "I discovered something quite unusual. I think it explains why she jumped to 1999 instead of coming back to 2157."
Bernard's eyes lit up. "I've been wondering about that. I wondered if you might have, perhaps, found a way to overcome your 'time protection' issue. Although, to tell the truth, I don't think that is something you should do. After all, time protection is very important if…"
"Dr. Klein!" David interrupted. His failure to identify which one caused both Dr. Kleins to turn and look at him. "Can you just tell us where Lois went?"
The street was deserted — a normal state of affairs one would assume for a residential city street at three o'clock in the morning. But this wasn't any normal city street. It was his street. And this was the first night in a long time when no one was camped outside on his doorstep.
A cab stopped in front of the well-known address and Lois stepped out. She stared at the darkened windows of his apartment for a long moment before walking towards the steps that would take her to his door. The butterflies in her stomach were making her feel almost ill. It suddenly occurred to her that she hadn't heard the cab leave, as if the driver was waiting to see what she would do — probably intending to sell the story of a woman showing up at Superman's apartment in the middle of the night to the tabloids. Assuming, of course, the tabloids were sill buying. She turned and glared at the cabby until he pulled away from the curb and disappeared into the night.
She turned back around, swallowing hard when her eyes landed on the door to his place. Dealing with a noisy cab driver had been easy. Far easier than dealing with what lay on the other side of that door. Still, that was why she was here, wasn't it? Or had she lost her nerve?
Lois Lewis never lost her nerve! Stiffening her spine, she continued climbing the stairs, although her steps seemed to get slower and slower as she approached the small landing outside his apartment. Why did she suddenly feel as if she was a prisoner taking her last few steps on her way to the guillotine? She sighed. She knew why. It wasn't so much that she thought he'd be unable to forgive her for leaving him the way she had — although, in truth, that was a small concern — it was more that she was terrified that he would think she had lost her mind.
Time travel. She almost snorted as she imagined the look on his face when she told him she was from the future. 'I'm supposed to go back to the future. That's why I left. But I want to run away with you instead.'
'That's fine, Lois. Why don't you just have a seat while I call those nice young men in the white coats?'
'Run away with me? That's why I'm leaving — to get away from lunatics like you!'
Or even worse…
'Run away with me? Lois, we've only known each other for twenty-four hours. I mean, don't get me wrong, last night was nice, but I think you took it a little more seriously than I intended.'
'But you said you loved me?'
'Lois, men always say that to get laid. Did you really think it meant something? I mean, come on, you've got a hot body, but… please! What did you think would happen? That we would fly off into the sunset? I think you've read one too many cheep romance novels.'
No. No! He was Superman. Man of truth and justice. He would never… Never what? Behave like a normal man? She growled. This wasn't helping.
The building, she noted in an attempt to distract herself, was of an unusual design. Although it was an apartment building, the steps were outdoors, winding between the various apartments. It was probably, in the days before Superman, a quaint and quiet place to live. A large window adorned the front door. She noted that, although when she'd been here back in 1996 the window had been clear with only a sheer curtain blocking curious neighbors, now the window was made of beveled glass — making it impossible to see inside. Without a doubt she knew what had caused that change.
She stopped mentally casing the place when she finally set foot on the landing in front of his door. The moment of truth. Would he accept her proposition? Or would he write her off as a complete nut? Or had she misunderstood the importance of what had happened between them the previous night? Only one way to find out. Gathering all the courage she had, she raised her hand and knocked.
Then the unthinkable happened. He didn't answer. Almost relieved that she didn't have to face him, she briefly considered running back down the stairs and back to Star Labs where she had no doubt Dr. Philip Klein was waiting to take her back to the future. After all, Philip had to be here now — now that she desperately wanted to stay.
No! No, she was at Clark's place. She had to know. Even if he laughed in her face, at least she'd have her answer. And it wasn't as if she was going to get a second chance. She knocked again, louder this time. Still, there was no answer. Was he sitting inside, watching her with his x-ray vision, just wishing she'd go away? Well, she wasn't going away! He was going to hear her out! Then if he wanted to tell her to go to hell, he was free to do so. Not before.
"Come on, Clark. I know you're in there. It's three o'clock in the morning. Let me in before I wake the neighbors," she yelled through the door.
"Too late, lady," a man yelled from a nearby window.
She ignored him. He was obviously not a romantic — wanting to see two lovers get together in the last chapter and live happily ever after. She pounded again on the door.
But… what if he wasn't inside? Either way, she had to know. She looked at the locks. They were more sophisticated than his earlier lock and there were more of them than had been on his door in 1996. Still, none of them looked to be the type her palm computer would open. She fiddled with the door for a moment, testing it, ensuring she was familiar with each of the various locks. She considered and quickly rejected the idea of trying to crawl out on the balcony this time. Too many people to see her. Still, that meant she'd have to be careful so that no one could tell what she was doing to the locks. She reached into her pocket to remove a couple of paperclips she'd taken from Dr. Klein's office. Coming from an almost paperless society, she'd never seen anything like them. She was surprised to discover how much fun they were to play with. So she'd taken a couple. She figured they'd be perfect for what she had in mind.
She smiled when a few moments later the door swung open. Easy as pie. Stepping inside, she closed the door behind her. "Clark?" she called out into the darkened apartment. When there was no response, she carefully made her way down the stairs and looked into his bedroom. Still no sign of the man in question. Not knowing what to do now, she sunk down onto the side of his bed.
What if she was too late? She knew what day this was. May 11th, 1999. Could he have already disappeared? What if she had risked going back to her own time to have lost him anyway? Or worse, what if Philip found her here before Clark returned — assuming he was even coming back? In the back of her mind all day had been the possibility that she could change her mind. It was the only thing that had kept her sane. Well, she had changed her mind. But… what if she was too late? How could she live with that?
She dropped her head into her hands as the tension, the fear that he'd laugh in her face, the fear that he'd reject her plan, and even the fear that she was too late to even present her plan was released in tears. She'd risked it all. Her home. Her friends. Her future. All on a crazy scheme to be with a man she'd spent only one night with. And yet he was not here. Might never be here again. There was nothing left to do except wait for them to come to get her. And they would. She had no doubt that it was just a matter of time before Dr. Bernard Klein would figure out where she'd gone.
Had minutes passed? Or hours? Or even days? Lois didn't know. Had she cried herself to sleep or had she even been sleeping at all? All she did know was that she was lying on Clark's bed — his former bed, she corrected — when she was aware that she was no longer alone. She heard a single set of footsteps slowly making their way into the apartment. Dr. Klein. But which Dr. Klein? It could be either one of them. Either way, he'd found her.
She stayed perfectly still, hardly breathing when the footsteps stopped, as if the owner was straining to hear if someone else was in the apartment. Lois closed her eyes, knowing it was crazy, but somehow hoping somewhere in the grogginess that was her brain that if she didn't see the intruder, didn't acknowledge the intruder, then he wouldn't see her either.
The footsteps began again. This time more deliberate — as if the intruder had realized his target was only a few feet away from capture. She closed her eyes more tightly. Time. She just needed a little more time. They couldn't find her yet.
Her eyes flew open at the sound of the familiar voice.
"Clark," she whimpered, scrambling up on the bed to practically throw herself into his startled arms. "Oh, god, Clark. I thought it was them." She began planting kisses over his face. "I couldn't do it. When it came right down to it, I couldn't do it. I couldn't leave. And then I got here and you were gone and I thought they were going to take me away and I'd never have a chance to persuade you to take me with you. I don't care where we're going. Just take me away before they come for me."
"Lois…" Clark carefully untangled her arms from around his neck to step back slightly. "Slow down a bit. What are you talking about?"
"We don't have time for this, Clark. They're looking for me. If we don't leave now, they're going to find me. They're going to take me away from you." As she spoke, she tried to pull Clark towards the balcony.
"I won't let anyone take you anywhere you don't want to go," Clark insisted, resisting her attempts.
"You don't understand," Lois said in exasperation. "If they get here, they'll make sure I go with them."
"I've got really good hearing, Lois. I'll tell you what. I'll listen and if anyone gets anywhere near this apartment, I'll have you out in seconds. But you have to tell me what's going on."
She stared into his eyes for a long moment. She realized that he was humoring her, but it wasn't as if she could make him fly her to whatever deserted island he'd decided to live out the rest of his life on unless he agreed. And explaining what was going on seemed to be his condition. "Do you promise?" she asked. "If anyone gets close to this apartment before we talk, you'll take me with you wherever you're going?"
"I promise. But I don't understand. Why do you think I'm going anywhere?"
She stepped forward, laying a hand on his arm. He stepped back, dislodging her hand. She cocked her head to the side. She hadn't noticed it until now, but something had changed. Had she hurt him too much with her disappearing act? Maybe he'd figured everything out on his own and realized that it was too dangerous to let her stay here with him. After all, her presence could change the future. But surely if she disappeared with him the future would be safe. Maybe it was her behavior he was reacting to. Did he think she'd lost her mind? She quickly evaluated everything that had happened since he had entered his apartment. She'd thrown herself into his arms, kissing him. He'd caught her but hadn't kissed her back, removing her from his embrace almost immediately.
"What's wrong, Clark?"
He sighed, turning and heading back into the living room. She followed, watching as he finally turned on a light. "Why don't I make us some coffee?" he asked. "Then we can talk."
"No!" she was in front of him in an instant, blocking his way to the kitchen. "Is it that you don't want me anymore? Because if that's the case, if my little disappearing act today has changed your mind, or maybe you didn't really mean it last night when you told me you loved me, then just tell me. I'll leave right now before…"
Her voice was cut off when he pulled her to him, his lips landing hard on hers. She responded immediately, returning his kiss with the same intensity he was showing. It was a minute before he released her, causing her to stumble back, fighting the lightness in her head to retain her footing.
"Okay, so maybe that isn't the problem," she said, licking her lips. "But something's wrong. I can feel it, Clark? Just tell me what it is?"
He let out a breath. "Fine. What's your real name? Has anything you told me about yourself even been true?"
"I visited the Sisters of Metropolis Convent today, Lois! They've never even heard of you! No baby was ever left on their doorstep! The entire heart-wrenching orphan story was a lie, wasn't it? Why? Were you trying to trick me into believing that we had something in common? Was it to make me feel sorry for you? Maybe let you into my heart easier? Who the hell are you?"
"Oh, is that all that's wrong," Lois said suddenly immensely relieved.
"Is that all?" Clark gasped in disbelief. "Everything I know about you is a lie and you ask if that's all that's wrong?"
"No, it's just… Oh, god. You've got it all wrong. What I told you was the truth. All of it. What I didn't tell you was… Okay, Clark, this might be a little hard to believe but… well, what I didn't tell you was exactly when I was left on the steps of the Sisters of Metropolis Convent."
"You said August 17th," Clark corrected.
"Yes. But what I didn't tell you was the year."
"What difference could that possibly make? They still have no record…"
"That's because I was left on their steps on August 17th, 2125."
Clark stared at her blankly for a long moment.
"Okay, flyboy," said Lois, taking his arm. "Why don't you have a seat on the couch? Let me make the coffee. And then, I promise, I'll tell you everything."
It made sense. As hard as it was to believe, it still all made sense. Although Clark had more experience with alternate dimensions than time travel, he knew from his conversations with the other Lois that Tempus had also been capable of traveling in time.
So for Lois to come to 1996 in order to investigate Tempus and a woman who looked exactly like her… it made sense that she had traveled through time to get there. But still…
"I still don't understand how you could have been born in the future," he said. "I would have thought… well, how could things be so different between our dimension and the other one?"
"Are you saying you believe me?" Lois asked, sounding as if she couldn't quite trust that he was accepting her story as easily as he seemed to be.
He let out a long, slow breath, looking for other possibilities. Still, the look in her eyes was so sincere. So either he wrote her off as a complete nut or… "I believe you," he said softly.
She let out a breath of absolute relief. "Thank you, Clark."
Still, if she was from the future… "So I guess I understand now why you told me we could only have last night. When do you leave?"
She looked down, studying her hands. "I imagine they're looking for me now."
His breath caught in his throat.
She looked up then, meeting his eyes. "I don't want to go, Clark. I don't. That's why I'm here."
He moved a little closer to her on the couch. "You're not leaving?" he asked hopefully.
"I'm not sure I'll have any choice. But… well, there is a solution — a way we can be together."
"I'm not sure I understand."
"Clark, I don't understand how this all works. But apparently time has the ability to protect itself."
"What do you mean?"
"If someone from the future tries to change the past, he will be sent back to his own time."
"But that doesn't make any sense. Tempus has tried… and almost succeeded… in changing the past in the other dimension. Surely…"
"He must have found a way around the time protection thingy. But haven't you ever wondered why I disappeared from 1996?"
"Of course, but…"
"I tried to change the past. I tried to prevent you from going out onto the stage."
"So you disappeared — went back to 2157?"
"Not exactly. Something went wrong and I came to 1999. But… yeah. That's the idea. But… Clark, there is a way we can be together without the fear that I'll do something that will take me away from you again."
She took a deep breath, shifting positions on the couch so that one leg was under her, allowing her to look directly at him. Her hand came up to his face, gently stroking it. "I know you're planning to leave, to just pick up and… well, I assume you must have decided to live out your life somewhere a little less… crazy."
"What are you talking about?"
"You disappear in 1999. May 11th to be exact."
She nodded. "Take me with you, Clark. If you have no further impact on history after today, then surely I won't either. Not if I go with you. I don't care where we go, or what we do. I love you and I just want us to be together. Please… take me with you."
His breath caught in his throat. "Lois," he whispered. 'Where you go, I will go. Where you die, I will die. Your God will be my God. Your people, my people.' The passage from the book of Ruth he had heard when he was a child unexpectedly came back to him. He'd never understood the cost that those words must have held until he'd heard Lois' request. She was willing to give up everything. Not only her own time. Her friends. Her life in the future. But she was also willing to give up a normal life in 1999. And given the skill he'd seen in her writing when he'd read her story, he realized exactly how good she was. And she was willing to give it all up to be with him.
He buried his hand in her hair, pulling her in to kiss her. Tasting her. Pouring his entire heart into the kiss. She seemed to take a moment to respond, as if she really wasn't entirely sure this was actually happening. Then it seemed to sink in that he was kissing her. She moved, climbing into his lap so that she was straddling him. His arms went around her waist, pulling her closer. She finally broke the kiss, continuing to play with his hair as she looked into his eyes.
"So you'll take me with you?" she asked, still looking slightly insecure.
"Lois, I'd take you anywhere you want to go…"
He'd take her anywhere. That was all she needed to hear. She instantly attacked his mouth, his face, his neck, kissing every open spot she could find as her fingers slipped between the buttons on his shirt.
She groaned in frustration when she felt the hard fabric of his Superman crest. She was slightly stunned when, a rush of wind later, she realized that the chest under her hands was bare. She pulled back to study his face. She noticed his smug look and then instantly wiped it off his face by running her hands down his chest as she leaned in to kiss him once again.
Clark growled. She squealed when he flipped her over onto the couch and they continued to kiss.
His hands slipped beneath her sweater — a sweater that she figured she'd either frame or burn as soon as she had something new to wear. Wiggling slightly, she got enough distance between them to pull the well-worn sweater from her body, dropping it on the floor. Her bra was the next item to go, almost as quickly. He followed it up with the flannel shirt he'd been wearing.
When their shirts were gone, Clark leaned in, kissing her throat.
Lois felt conflicted. They had to leave now and yet… Oh, god, she wanted him to continue. She'd thought she'd never feel this again. She moaned, closing her eyes as she allowed him to continue for a moment. Then she forced herself to pull his head back so that she could look into his eyes. Her insides turned to jelly when she saw the dazed passion in his eyes.
"Clark, we have to talk," she said, each word a labored breath.
A smile tugged at one corner of his mouth. "You talk. I'll listen," he said, breaking her grip so that he could return to nuzzling her neck.
"Where are we going?" she forced herself to ask.
"Going?" Clark asked, hardly raising his head from her neck long enough to get the single word out.
"Where were you planning to go today?" When he raised his head, looking slightly confused, she continued. "You know, when you disappear. Where do you go?"
"Lois, I don't have any plans to disappear to some tropical island or something," he said, finally giving her at least part of his attention, even as his hand slipped down to trace circles over her stomach.
"No. No, you have to disappear. It's what happened. Unless…" She paused slightly. When she started again, her voice was somewhat panicked. "Oh, god, Clark. I must have changed history. If you aren't planning to leave today… Meeting me must have messed everything up."
"What are you talking about, Lois?" he asked, lowering his head again so that he could run his tongue down the vein in her throat.
"The time line! I must have changed the time line. If you don't leave… can you imagine the amount of damage that will do to the time line? How can…" Her voice trailed off into a moan when his tongue found her pulse point. And suddenly, there was nothing but passion, driving every other thought from her mind as his hands began to explore her body. Her head dropped back onto the couch as each touch became bolder as he explored her.
A sudden knock on the door startled them both. Lois sat up, the panic increasing when it sank in who it must be. "Clark, you were supposed to keep your ears open! They've come. We've got to get out of here now before they can take me away from you! We've got…"
Clark quickly pulled her into his arms to kiss her, calming her slightly. "I won't let them take you," he promised. "We'll find a way to work this out." He grabbed her shoulders, looking intently into her eyes. "I won't lose you. I swear, Lois. They won't take you away from me. But… don't you think we should at least tell them where you are? Or do you want them searching, wondering what happened to you?"
"I…" God. She hadn't thought of that. David would go crazy if she just disappeared off the face of the Earth. He would think she was lying dead in an alley somewhere. But it was such a risk.
"We'll work it out. I swear," Clark added.
She looked into his eyes for a moment, breaking contact only when the knock was repeated. Finally, she let out a breath and nodded. Either way, David had a right to know what had happened to her. And if Clark was wrong and they were separated… No. No, he'd promised he wouldn't let them take her away. She had to trust him. She still couldn't quite look at him as he broke away from her.
He gave her one final light kiss before rising to his feet. She couldn't help but smile when he gave himself a blast of freezing breath, leaving small traces of ice pellets on the front of his trousers.
"Oh great. I don't suppose you have a way to calm me down as well," she muttered.
He smiled, bending down to pick up their shirts. He went to hand hers to her when she suddenly reached out, taking his. He smiled, tossing her sweater back on the couch before disappearing in a flash. She had just finished doing up his shirt on herself as Clark approached the door.
"You ready?" he asked, turning to look back to her, wearing a fresh shirt.
Running her hand through her hair to provide some semblance of order, she nodded. She sucked her bottom lip into her mouth, her heart in her throat when he finally opened the door and she saw the last person she was expecting to see standing outside Clark's apartment.
Beside him, she vaguely noticed the two Dr. Kleins. The air around her seemed to solidify as David's eyes took in her current disheveled state.
She shouldn't feel guilty. She had nothing to feel guilty for. After all, she and David weren't a couple. However, as she watched the happiness she'd seen in his eyes when he'd first observed her dim, she did feel guilty. She knew David had a huge crush on her. And even though she'd never done anything to encourage him, seeing her in what could only be interpreted as a compromising situation had to be hard for him.
Or… maybe it wasn't so compromising. After all, they were both… Her thought trailed off as she noticed Clark quickly doing up the buttons on his shirt as Dr. Bernard Klein introduced his companions. He looked over at her, giving her a nervous smile and she fought the urge to groan. Even from here, she could see some lipstick on his neck. And without looking in a mirror, she knew her makeup had to be at least somewhat messy.
She quickly looked away when David was introduced to Clark. Although quite polite, David seemed more than a little subdued for someone who was meeting his idol. She heard Clark invite them in and looked up again as David made his way into the living room while the two Dr. Kleins detained Clark by continuing to talk to him.
"So…" David said, reaching out to feel the soft material of the sleeve of the flannel shirt. "Nice."
She shrugged nervously. "My sweater was about to get up and walk away on its own. Clark was nice enough to let me wear one of his."
His eyebrow rose and he bent over to pick her sweater off the couch. It had obviously just been tossed aside. He handed it back to her.
"Thank you," Lois said, taking the sweater as her face began to flush.
"Oh, and…" He stepped around her, picking up something else. "…you wouldn't want to forget this," he said, handing her the red bra.
She cringed. How could she have been so careless? Flaunting what had happened between her and Clark in David's face. Although, to be fair, she hadn't known David would come. She wished she could just crawl under the couch and pretend none of this had ever happened. Still… She forced herself to meet David's eyes. "David…" She began, intending to apologize — although she wasn't entirely sure what for.
However, her comment was cut off by Clark and the two Dr. Kleins entering the living room.
Her eyes flitted to Clark who was looking at her somewhat quizzically. He gestured his guests to take seats before sitting on the sofa, placing his arm across the back as if inviting her to sit beside him. Taking a quick peek at David, she settled into a single chair while everyone else sat down as well. Realizing she was still holding her sweater and bra, she quickly stuffed both behind her back.
"So Clark here was saying that you've told him where you're from?" Philip Klein said, as if trying to gage for certain that the comments Clark must have made to him were true and he wasn't about to let any cats out of the bag.
"Well, if you can't trust Superman…" Lois said, hoping to inject a little humor into a very tense room.
"Yes, well. You shouldn't have told him," Philip continued. "The more people who know…"
"You told Bernard here," Lois interrupted, glad to have anger to overcome her embarrassment after her conversation with David.
"Yes, well. I guess you're right," Philip amended. "If you can't trust Superman…" He gave a nervous laugh. "Still…"
"Philip, just tell them your theory," Bernard said, obviously impatient to get on with… something. Something that had his eyes dancing, as if he were completely enthralled with this new knowledge… whatever it was.
"Oh, right," Philip said. He suddenly looked much more animated, too. "Well, I have a theory. I think I know why you jumped to 1999 instead of 2157."
"Why?" Lois asked, for the first time seriously interested in the discussion. If she knew that, she might be able to figure out how to make sure she wouldn't end up disappearing on Clark.
"Lois, David said you were left on the Sisters of Metropolis Convent when you were a baby? Do you remember anything before that?"
"I was only a couple of days old," Lois said. "How am I supposed to remember before then?"
"Okay. But you've never been able to find out where you were born or who your parents are? How hard did you look?"
"Very. I looked everywhere, but what does this have to do with me jumping to 1999?"
"Oh, right. Well…" He reached into his pocket, withdrawing a single piece of paper. "I want you to take a look at this."
Curious, she reached over and took it from him. Clark was leaning over, trying to see it as well as she opened it. She looked at the birth certificate, confused. Then her eyes focused on the name. Lois Lane.
"What is this?" she asked, her heart beginning to race.
"I think that's you," Philip said.
Clark reached out, taking the paper. "I've seen this before," he said.
"When?" Lois asked.
"When I was looking for you," Clark said. "And I found something else." He got up, making his way into his bedroom for a moment. When he returned, he had a newspaper article. He handed it to Lois.
She stared at it for a moment.
"Is that the article about Lois Lane being stolen from the hospital?" Philip asked.
Lois' eyes snapped up to look at Philip. "How did you know?" she asked as Clark nodded.
"Lois, look at the date of birth on the birth certificate," Philip said.
"October 7th, 1967?" Lois looked over at Clark before scanning the faces of everyone else, trying to figure out what they were trying to tell her.
"So you think she was kidnapped from 1967, taken to the future and… what? Left on the steps of the convent?" Clark asked.
"Are you nuts?" Lois said, not entirely sure who she was addressing.
"And why is this relevant to why she jumped to 1999?" Clark asked, directing the subject to the question at hand.
"Lois, did you do something in 1996 to try to change the past?"
Lois nodded. "I tried to warn Clark not to go out on that stage with Tempus. Tempus!" she said, when something clicked inside her head. "That's what he was talking about!"
"What?" Clark asked.
"In 1996. Before he tied me to that chair where you first saw me," she said, addressing Clark, "Tempus made a comment about it being too bad I'd come back. Even commented that I was a cute baby. I kept wondering what he was talking about. But… if he could jump dimensions…"
"He could travel in time too," Clark completed for her. "Of course. He had to be the one who kidnapped you in the first place."
"I suppose it would explain why you kept dreaming about him," David said, sounding anything but excited.
"Jump dimensions?" Bernard asked, unlike David, sounding incredibly excited about this new possibility. "There are other dimensions? Other universes? Like ours in so many ways and yet different?"
Lois cringed. She probably shouldn't have mentioned alternate dimensions.
"Dr. Klein," Clark said, interrupting him. "Could we get back to the why Lois jumped to 1999 instead of going back to 2157 when she tried to change the past?"
"Oh, right. Well, David said you were a couple of days old when you were left on the steps of the convent. So I started my calculations from August 15th, 2125. When you left the future, you were 31 years, 212 days old. Now, there are 31 years, 212 days between the date Lois Lane was born on October 7th, 1967 and May 7th, 1999. So I guess the question is, did you jump ahead to May 7th?"
"I did, but…"
"You jumped forward to your own time — which is exactly what it is supposed to happen if you try to change the past. But the reason that you didn't jump to 2157 is because that isn't where you're supposed to be."
Lois and Clark stared at each other in disbelief.
"So you're saying that… what? I could change things in 1999 because this is my time?"
"Exactly," Philip responded. "In fact, it seems you have been changing things. The article about Superman. Perry White's announcement. Oh, and David said he found a picture of Superman smiling — which he seemed to think was significant."
Lois glanced over at Clark, who was looking somewhat confused.
"But if I've been changing the past… Oh, god. I had no idea."
"No," Philip said immediately. "What you're doing here has been completely proper. Even my instrumentation which picks up any anomalies in time hasn't been finding the changes you've been making. What Tempus did was change the past. You're only setting things right."
"But your past?" Lois said, looking between David and Philip.
"It will possibly change with you back here. But I trust time," Philip said. "Everything will work out the way it's supposed to."
"So then… well, that explains why you had no intention of disappearing, even though it's May 11th, 1999," Lois said, looking at Clark. "Meeting me must have changed things. That's why you don't disappear!"
She noticed David and Philip share a look.
"I'm right, aren't I?" Lois said triumphantly. "Superman doesn't disappear, does he?"
"Well…" David started.
"It's not healthy for you to know about the future," Philip interrupted. "We can neither confirm or deny…"
"But I'm from the future?" Lois objected.
"I already know a lot about the future," Lois said, interrupting what Philip had obviously been about to say.
"And that's a bit of a problem. But there's nothing we can do about that. Unless… well, I suppose we could go back to 2125, get you off the steps of the convent before they found you and take you to 1967. That would be the most logical solution. But it would change everything in your past as well."
Lois felt as if the walls were closing in around her. They wanted to erase everything in her life, everything she knew, everything she was. Would the new her even like Clark Kent? Would he like her? Surely they would meet since she had no doubt she would still get a job working for the Daily Planet, but… She was suddenly struck by another thought. Her night with Clark would never have happened. It felt as if all the air was being sucked out of the room.
But if Klein was determined to go through with this, how could she even stop him? He certainly had right on his side. After all, he was simply correcting the mess Tempus had already made out of the past. But she couldn't lose what she had with Clark. She couldn't lose it — not even to another version of herself. And that's what she'd be if she was returned to 1967 as a baby.
"And taking Lois back in time when she was a baby… Lois would change, wouldn't she?" Clark said, voicing her fears. "She wouldn't be the person she is now. She'd have a completely different set of life experiences." Clark moved over to the edge of the couch, looking ready to fight someone if they tried to change her.
She felt an incredible amount of tenderness for him at that moment. If he had to, Superman would fight for her. She knew he would. And he'd find a way to stop Klein. In some ways, it amazed her how total her trust was in his ability to protect her — even from something like this. She felt love well up inside her. It must have shown on her face because in her peripheral vision she could see the troubled look David was giving her. She couldn't quite stop herself from turning her head and meeting his eyes before looking down at her fiddling hands.
"Okay," Philip said, backing down immediately as his gaze shifted between Lois and Clark. "It was just a suggestion. But if you aren't comfortable with it, we will work something else out. I guess that means you plan on coming back to 2157. So I need…"
Lois shot a quick, panicked look at Clark. This was no better, maybe even worse, than the other option.
"She's not going back," Clark said, using every ounce of authority Superman possessed to get his point across.
"Oh, well. I… uh…" He looked between all the other occupants in the room before looking at Lois. He seemed unsure of what his next step should be — given the hostility that had greeted his last two suggestions. "So what is it you do want to do?" he asked, seeing this as the safest option in the circumstances.
"I want to stay here," she said quickly, not daring to meet David's eyes.
"Oh, well. I guess that simplifies things quite a bit. As you know, the way my time machine works is a little bit like a sling shot. It shoots a person back in time before flinging him into his own time, either when he tries to change something or when the pre-entered time is complete. In your case, it wound up flinging you back to 1999 since you belong in 1999. So I was going to suggest that if you wanted to come back, I could build a copy of my time machine here and then fling you into the future. But if you're not coming back…"
"Wait a minute," Lois said as something new sunk in. "So there's no chance that I could…" She glanced over at Clark briefly. "…be here for, say, five years and then suddenly find myself thrown forward again?"
Philip shook his head. "No. You're in your time right now. The time machine saw to that. This Tempus guy must have found a way to overcome the time protection issue, otherwise we wouldn't be in this mess in the first place. I don't know how. Maybe some of the technology he has access to is more advanced than my little time machine. Maybe his time machine was made in the past — so he wouldn't be seen as changing past events, only future ones. I really don't know." He shrugged. "Not that it matters now. Obviously, you are exactly where you belong."
Lois closed her eyes as relief washed over her. She was so in love with Clark now that the thought of leaving him was untenable to her. What would happen in five years? Ten years? If things continued going as they were, she could easily imagine that by then her life would be totally intertwined with his. And if she was ripped away from him then… She didn't even want to think about that.
"Of course, we don't yet know if time travel will have long term effects," Philip continued.
"What sort of effects?"
"Well, I told you that I was concerned that extensive time travel might lengthen a person's life span. But I suppose after spending thirty-one years in the future, you're likely already affected. Although, I suppose that might not be a bad thing."
Lois glanced at Clark. If she recalled correctly, Philip had told her that the same might be true for Clark's life. So, no. That wasn't necessarily a bad thing at all.
"But… Well, if you're sure you want to stay here…"
"Then I need to see your purse."
Huh? "Uhh… okay," Lois said, having no idea where Philip was going with this. "I think I left it…" She thought for a moment and then hesitated. Taking a deep breath, she completed her thought. "…in the bedroom."
"I'll get it," Clark said, rising to his feet and going into the other room. He returned a moment later, purse in hand. With a nod from Lois, he handed it to Philip who immediately began looking through it.
"What's this?" Philip asked pulling out a while plastic bag.
"Dirty underwear!" Lois exclaimed, grabbing it from him and putting it behind her back with her sweater and her bra.
"Oh, well, that's okay then," he said, going back to rummaging through her purse. After a moment, he pulled out her palm computer.
"Hey, what do you think you're doing?" Lois asked when he stuck the device in his coat pocket.
"You can't keep this, Lois. Technology over a hundred years ahead of its time. It's bad enough that you have knowledge that is so much more advanced than those around you, that you know more about what might be coming in the future. But I can't leave this."
Lois looked longingly at her old companion. With a sigh, she finally nodded.
"There is one thing I still don't understand," Lois said.
"Well, why would Tempus have left me all those little hints? The note with the name Lois 'L' — with the 'L' in quotation marks. The blue blanket with the Superman crest on it. Why basically tell me that I belonged back here, in this time?"
"Well," Philip said, "there's nothing overly unusual about a baby blanket with a Superman crest on it in 2125."
"Still, why leave the hints at all?"
"I might be able to answer that one," Clark said, turning all attention to him. "From what I've heard, Tempus loves irony. I think giving you those hints, not believing you'd ever be able to figure them out, might have been… I don't know, amusing to him."
Not having a better explanation, everyone nodded.
"Okay, then," Philip said. "I guess that's everything." He stood up. "You know, I'm kinda looking forward to seeing how things will change."
Everyone followed his lead, rising to their feet as well.
"Umm… could I have a moment with David?" Lois asked, directing the question primarily to Clark.
He looked a little perturbed, but still he nodded.
Deciding she could deal with Clark when the others left, she grabbed David's arm and pulled him into the bedroom so that she could talk to him privately.
"So… you and Superman, huh?" David asked once they were alone. "And I thought he wasn't your type." His voice was light, not accusing. It was obvious he was trying to put her at ease, even though there was something sad underlying his voice that told her he wasn't as calm about this as he would have her believe.
"I'm sorry, David," she said softly. "I didn't mean for any of this to happen."
"Hey, no big deal. It's not as if you ever led me to believe there was something between us."
"There is something between us," Lois objected. "At least I hope there is. You're one of the best friends I've ever had. I'll miss you."
His hand came up and gently touched her cheek before dropping away.
"You know," he said, "I had this big 'why you need to come back' speech prepared after Philip told me what was going on. I guess there's no point in giving it now."
Lois bit her lower lip, looking down.
"I thought not," David said with a heavy sigh.
"Hey, look at the bright side," Lois said, trying to break through the suddenly tense air. "You probably won't even remember me when you get back."
"I'll remember, Lois. You still will have spent thirty-one years in the future."
When she looked at him questioningly, he continued. "I asked Dr. Klein about it when he explained about this… whole thing." He made a gesture with his hands. "After all, no matter what happens in the past, I can't imagine ever wanting to work anywhere but the Daily Planet. How about you?"
She shook her head. She couldn't imagine that either. So, yes, he was right. Their paths would indeed cross.
"But, hey, how many people in 2157 can say 'I was friends with Superman's wife?'" he said, obviously trying to help her lighten the mood. "That's got to be the best pick-up line yet."
"I think you're jumping the gun here. We haven't even talked about the future… well, beyond my staying here."
"Do you love him?" he asked, the mood shifting once again.
She looked down at her hands, not wanting to hurt him anymore than she already was.
He nodded, obviously taking her silence as agreement. "Make sure he treats you right," David said. "After all, if I get back to the future and find out that he hasn't, I just might have to come back here and kick his butt."
That provoked a smile out of her. "Goodbye, David," she said softly, stepping forward and giving him a tender kiss on the cheek. "You're going to make some woman very happy someday."
He gave her a sad smile that clearly indicated that he didn't think that was possible now that she was leaving him. "Take care, Lois," he replied. "Be happy."
Right on cue, they heard Philip Klein's voice coming from the other room, announcing that it was time to go. Lois slipped her hand into David's, walking back with him into the other room. She ignored Clark's questioning look as she walked David to the door. Everyone exchanged goodbyes before Lois again kissed David's cheek and then watched as all three men made their way out the door. As soon as it closed, she turned back towards Clark.
"Are you sure you want to stay?" he asked.
A small smile quirked at the corners of her mouth for a moment before it spread across her entire face. She launched herself into his arms, knowing that he would catch her. All of his questions seemed to be answered when their lips finally met in urgent hunger.
Lois woke in an unfamiliar room, in an unfamiliar bed. Suddenly, the memories of the previous night came back to her and she smiled. She was still there. In spite of all odds, she had not had to go back to the future. Once she and Clark had managed to reassure themselves that each was still within touching distance, Clark had taken her hand, leading her over to the sofa where they had curled up next to each other, content for the time being just to be in each other's presence.
Finally, they had begun to talk. About everything. About nothing. But all of it had felt earth-shatteringly important.
Lois had been stunned to realize that with the earthquake and then his efforts to find her, he'd not been aware of the other news of the day — Perry White's announcement and Olsen's firing Carpenter. He hadn't even really noticed that the paparazzi had vanished from outside his apartment. He'd been asking her to consider moving into his apartment when he'd hesitated, telling her that it wouldn't be easy considering all the paparazzi camped out front. She had immediately filled him on the other events of the day — following which he'd repeated his invitation to move in with him. She'd immediately accepted — at least until she could find a place of her own.
Once that had been decided, talk had turned to what she had planned. She'd panicked a bit at first. She had no high-school diploma. No university degree. No experience. He'd told her there was no reason she needed to work if these problems proved to be too much of an obstacle. But she couldn't not work. On the other hand, the Star certainly hadn't had any problem buying the Superman article from her. They hadn't asked for credentials. They had simply read the article. So that had settled it. She would freelance, at least until she had earned enough of a reputation to get hired.
Of course, before doing anything, there were some immediate concerns to be considered. The most pressing was that she had no clothes. She'd lamented the fact that she hadn't talked Dr. Klein into taking her back long enough to get her clothes. She smiled at the memory of Clark's adamant rejection of that idea. She figured he was afraid she was about to be asked to be flown to Star Labs so that she could see if Philip was still there. It was as if he was afraid of letting her go for even a moment. Not that she could say she felt much differently. She still had some of the money from Bernard. And she figured he would probably give her the rest of her money from the sale of the article to the Star.
They had even talked about Perry's offer of an apartment. Given that they both liked Clark's place, and the fact that the paparazzi seemed to have left, they had decided to postpone that decision. There was, at the moment, no reason to move. On the other hand, if the paparazzi returned, maybe they would have to consider it. She smiled, thinking about how Clark had been concerned that she might want him to take Perry up on his offer so that they could have a place with two bedrooms — worried that she might not feel comfortable actually living with him. That was one worry she put to rest fairly quickly, leaning over to kiss him while running a hand provocatively up his inseam.
On the other hand… she almost groaned, pulling the sheet up to cover her head as she remembered what had happened after that. He had pulled her into his lap, intensifying the kiss when… that was all she remembered.
How could she have fallen asleep? It had been their first night together with no secrets between them. The first in what had the potential of being a long term relationship. Marriage? David had called her 'Superman's wife.' It had been a joke. Or had he seen something between them that had made him think that? No. He hadn't been around long enough to see something that would make that comment more than just wild supposition on his part. But… what did she think about that? She'd never seen marriage as something she would even consider. And marriage to Superman… What had she been thinking after her conversation with Lana? That marriage to Superman… in fact, just being linked to him romantically… would be a nightmare. But with Perry White's announcement, maybe things wouldn't be so bad.
Still, it was something she really should consider before involving herself with Clark. 'Too late,' snarked a little voice in the back of her mind. She closed her eyes, groaning slightly. The little voice was right. She knew it was. She'd jumped from the plane without a parachute — hoping, trusting, that Clark would catch her. She smiled. He would catch her. She really had no doubt about that. Whatever was ahead, they would face it together. She could only hope that with Perry's article, things would be better than they had been for Lana. But even if they weren't, there was no way Lois could even consider walking away now.
But then, Superman was leaving today… or was he? Dr. Klein hadn't exactly answered her question. He obviously thought things should be allowed to unfold as they should. But Clark had made it clear before Philip's arrival that he wasn't even considering leaving. Was that because of Perry White's announcement? Was it because of her?
She growled. All this thinking was giving her a headache. So maybe she should just feel and smell. Smell? What was that smell? Coffee. She moaned. Fresh coffee. And… omigod, bacon. She probably should tell him that she usually just ate a stale donut with her coffee at the Daily Planet. On the other hand… Her stomach rumbled.
"Hey, sleepy head," Clark said from the doorway.
She rolled over and looked at him, a smile immediately lighting up her face at just the sight of him. Oh, yeah. No matter what sacrifices loving Superman entailed, seeing him standing there she knew there was no way she'd ever be able to walk away.
Then she frowned when she noticed he was wearing a suit and tie. "Where are you going?" Lois asked, propping herself up on her elbows.
"Now?" she pouted.
He came over, taking a seat on the edge of the bed. He leaned over, giving her a light kiss. "I'm afraid so. Breakfast is ready and waiting for you, though."
"So I can smell," she said with a smile. "But I'd still like…" She grabbed his tie, pulling him back in for another kiss. By the time he broke the kiss, his eyes had darkened in a way she was coming to know very well. So she wasn't surprised when he leaned over again, his lips finding hers as she slipped her hand inside her flannel shirt, popping open a couple more buttons. She gave a soft moan, running her hands through his hair. Now this was what they should have been doing last night.
When he finally pulled back with a regretful reminder that he had to go to work, she spoke. "Sorry for falling asleep last night, Clark. I really didn't mean to. I just was so tired. I think from the stress and the… well, we didn't get a whole lot of sleep the night before. And then it was really late or… well, early. I really don't even know what time it was. So it wasn't that I didn't want to…"
He cut off her babble with a kiss.
"Mmm," she moaned when he pulled back. "You can interrupt me like that any time."
"I might just take you up on that," he replied. "Seriously, though. I understood. Besides, it was fun."
"Fun?" she asked, not quite sure how to take that.
"I got to carry you into my room, slip off your jeans and tuck you into my bed before curling up next to you."
She pulled up the sheets and looked at her bare legs. "You sure you didn't peek at anything you shouldn't have?" she asked, looking back at him seriously.
"Oh. Uhh… No… I mean… I'm sorry… I just didn't think you'd be comfortable sleeping in your…"
She grabbed his tie, pulling him to her to kiss him, using his method to stop his babble. When she pulled back, he was silent. "Hey, it works," she said laughing. "Seriously, though, Clark. After everything that happened between us the other night, you think I'm upset about you taking my jeans off? Seems to me you've seen a lot more than me without my jeans."
He blushed and, as usual, she found it absolutely adorable. Still having hold of his tie, she pulled him back in for another kiss.
"So what's the plan for today?" he asked.
"Clothes," she said with conviction. "I can't very well continue to wear your clothes. And there is no way I'm putting on that blue sweater again. Even my blue jeans are getting ready to walk away on their own."
"But I need clothes before I can really think about trying to snag a job. After all, who's going to hire a naked woman?" Clark's eyebrows rose, causing her to rush to add… "Maybe I should rephrase that."
"Well," he said, rising to his feet and making his way over to his wallet. He returned with a small card.
"What's that?" she asked.
"The card to my ATM," he said. "My code is 9834. You type that in and you can withdraw up to five hundred dollars a day."
"Wow," she said, turning the card over in her hands.
"What? They don't have ATMs in the twenty second century?"
"Oh, they have ATMs. But haven't you ever heard of retinal scans?"
"But I can't take this," Lois said.
"Sure you can. You need clothes."
She looked at the small card for a moment before nodding. "Thank you, Clark."
"Well, I should…" Clark said, rising to his feet.
"Yeah," she said regretfully, tilting her face up for a kiss. He complied.
"So where do you want to go for supper tonight?" he asked. "We can go anywhere in the world."
"Why don't we stay in?" she suggested. "I'd really like the chance to cook for you tonight."
"Absolutely. I love cooking. And you know what they say. The way to a man's heart is through his stomach."
"You already have my heart, Lois."
She smiled. "That doesn't mean I don't want to impress you with my cooking, flyboy. After all, I can't impress you with my flying."
"Uhh… so that's why you fell in love with me," Clark teased.
"Well, you did sort of sweep me off my feet on the trip to France. But that's not what made me fall in love with you."
"It's not, huh? So what was?"
A slow smile lit up Lois' face as she ran her hand up his inseam causing Clark to grab her hand before it got too high. "So you fell in love with me for my prowess in bed?" he asked, his voice suddenly much deeper.
Her grin grew wider on his 'prowess in bed' comment. "Absolutely, flyboy. If you hadn't lived up to my expectations in bed, I'd have been half way back to the future by…" She yelped when he flipped her over onto the bed and kissed her.
"I've got to go to work," he said, pulling back reluctantly.
She nodded. "But let's stay in tonight," she said. "I promise you a great home-cooked meal."
"Oh, yeah," Clark responded, running his eyes down her body hungrily. "Hot and spicy. Just the way I like it."
She laughed, understanding his double entendre, before pulling him back down for another kiss. When the kiss broke, she uttered a single word. "Go." When he still hesitated, she spoke again. "I'll still be here when you get home," she said, sensing the reason for his hesitation. "I promise.
He smiled, gave her one last kiss and disappeared in a gust of wind. Lois leaned on the bed, contemplating how much her life had changed in the past few days — and how much she was loving the new her.
And then, since the new her desperately needed some new clothes, unless, of course, she planned to spend the rest of her life as Superman's love-slave — she giggled slightly at the thought — she regretfully got up and headed for the shower.
Lois was playing the little housewife — and loving it. Oh, she was sure she wouldn't for long. But today, after getting some new clothes, she'd come back and looked through Clark's fridge and cupboards. After making a list of what she needed, she'd headed out for the grocery store. She hoped she got back before Clark. And then… they'd have a nice supper and spend the rest of the evening… The smile on her face widened as she thought about what she planned on doing with him later.
She turned the corner to the apartment, feeling her heart beating just a little bit faster. She silently chuckled. How could just the thought that he might already be back at the apartment be causing a physical reaction? Maybe if he was there, she would just put the groceries down and jump him. She was certain he wouldn't object. She giggled.
She suddenly stopped, not entirely sure why, as the hair on the back of her neck stood up. Something had caught her attention. And after years of working as a reporter, she knew to pay attention to those feelings. There were no paparazzi. In fact, the street was deserted. Except… She suddenly knew what had caught her attention. A black van was parked across from Clark's apartment. In fact, it was the same black van that had taken off so quickly when she'd tried approaching it the other day.
She squinted, attempting to figure out if someone was inside. But she was unable to see any movement. Unlike the last time she'd been here, there were no additional people on the streets to cover any approach she might make. So she continued walking, heading past Clark's apartment and around the next corner. Setting the groceries on the ground beside the building, she snuck another peek around the corner before glancing up at Clark's apartment. She could see the silhouettes of people moving inside. Clark? Had he brought some friends back with him? She glanced again at the van.
Was she over-reacting? It was just a van with stolen license plates. Why even connect it to Clark? But… Clark was supposed to disappear today. What if the history books were wrong? What if there never was some deserted island? What if foul play was involved? As soon as the idea occurred to her, she was certain she was right. Her heart was suddenly in her throat. Clark was in real danger. She felt panic rise in her chest.
Damn! How could she have been so stupid? Clark would never run away from his responsibilities — no matter how miserable he was. That was why he hadn't appeared even when the world had blown itself to pieces. There was no tropical island and sandy beaches. Clark Kent had died on May 11th, 1999. If only she hadn't been so stupid.
No. There was no time for self-recrimination now. Right now the only thing that mattered was saving Clark. Everything else could wait. And this was no time to panic. She could not. Clark's life was at risk. She closed her eyes, forcing herself to calm down. So what did she do now? Approach the van? Go to the apartment? If only there was a way to see into the apartment without being seen.
Her mind flashed back to her first time at Clark's place. The balcony. Of course. The fire escape at the back had allowed her to get onto a ledge that took her to the balcony. She quickly headed down a back alley to the ladder. A few minutes later, she was making her way quietly on the ledge, slipping down onto the balcony. She smiled. The fern was still here. Hiding behind it, she peeked around it to get a look inside.
She had to fight back a gasp when she saw Preston Carpenter and two thugs standing in the middle of Clark's living room. She crept up to the door. The glass was broken. Ten to one odds, that was how Carpenter and the thugs had gotten into the apartment. But… where was Clark? Was he even there? And if so, why wasn't he kicking that creep's butt half way around the block?
No. He must not be here yet. So what was Carpenter up to? He obviously had it in for Clark. He'd made that painfully obvious even before he'd been fired. Now that he had been fired… She could only imagine how much he must hate Clark.
So what to do? The answer was obvious. Get out of here and find Clark. She was just about to step away from the window when Carpenter moved. This time she couldn't quite stifle the gasp when she saw Clark lying on the floor at Carpenter's feet, barely conscious. She bit into her bottom lip when Carpenter kicked Clark in the ribs. Clark's face contorted in pain. It was obvious from the bruises already beginning to form on Clark's face that this wasn't the first injury he'd sustained.
Her muscles tensed, her immediate instinct to rush the room. But she quickly quelled that impulse. She had to think. Kyrptonite. That was the only thing that made sense. Carpenter had kryptonite somewhere in the room. And although she couldn't see a gun on Carpenter, she clearly saw the gun holsters strapped across the goons' chests. What she wouldn't give to have her palm computer right now so that she could call the police.
She snuck closer to the broken window, hoping to be able to hear what was going on inside.
"Why?" Clark's voice was soft, strained. "Why are you doing this?"
"Because you got me fired!" Carpenter bellowed.
"But… kryptonite… you must have been planning this even before then."
Carpenter crouched down so that he could look directly into Clark's face. "That's right. Oh, of course, I hadn't intended to do this here — in your apartment. But Lois Lewis' article and the firestorm it touched off gave me a break I hadn't expected. I had intended to send you to a warehouse in search of a phony story and have the kryptonite waiting for you there. But with the paparazzi leaving, that wasn't necessary. I can come in here, anyone can, any time they want. Of course, after tonight it won't be necessary."
"But why?" Clark answered, breathing heavily. "Is it because I'm not human?"
"I couldn't care less if your human or not," Carpenter sneered.
"You're the one person who could stop me. I couldn't make my move until you were gone. With your hearing, I couldn't have you working feet away from my office. I tried to get you to quit, to make things too difficult for you. But you took every insulting thing I did and kept coming back for more. So now… I guess it's about revenge now." He leaned closer to Clark. "Bet you wish you'd quit now, huh?"
"What is this plan of yours?"
"Whoever controls the news, controls the people," Carpenter began. "I will get another job, at another paper. Then I will out scoop other papers. And if I can't out scoop them, I'll create the news and then make sure my reporters are right there to report it. Soon, everyone will be following my lead. And I will be the one shaping public opinion. Yes, I'll get another job. But you won't get another life."
As Carpenter continued his 'control what people think' drivel, Lois directed her mind to the problem at hand. Two goons. Two guns — at least that she could see. One Carpenter. And, unless she missed her guess, one piece of kryptonite verses one her and one very injured Clark.
Of course, an injured Clark could still be pretty remarkable. He'd eaten a bomb shortly after being exposed to kryptonite the last time. On the other hand, he hadn't been able to crush the bomb. So that meant… What exactly did that mean?
That meant that if she could get rid of the kryptonite, maybe just maybe, it would be her and one slightly damaged Superman against the rest. She had to admit, she liked those odds better. So where would the kryptonite be? Close to Superman, obviously. But where? And could she get to it?
She was just about to enter the apartment when she realized that she was being watched from an apartment across the back alley. She recognized the woman who had given her the information on what it was like having Superman living in her neighborhood.
She looked at the woman before looking back inside the apartment, flinching when Carpenter punctuated his latest comment with another kick. She looked back at the woman, holding up one of her hands, her thumb at her ear and her little finger next to her mouth in the international — or so she hoped — symbol for phone. Then she held up nine fingers followed by two single digits flashed one after the other. Lois held her breath, hoping they had had 9-1-1 in 1999. The woman went into her apartment, leaving Lois to hope that her message had been understood.
So what to do now? Wait for the police?
"So how long do you take to die?" Carpenter asked impatiently.
Lois' decision was made in an instant. She didn't have time to wait for the police. Getting down on her hands and knees, she crawled through the broken glass door, refusing to cry out in pain when a piece of glass embedded itself in her hand. She stopped long enough to remove the glass before proceeding forward.
Reaching the washroom, she snuck inside. She'd seen what she needed while in there this morning. Spotting the hand-held mirror, she picked it up. She wondered if there was anything she could use for a weapon. No curling iron that she could stick in one of the goon's back and pretend was a gun. Razor! She looked in the vanity. No razor. She glanced towards the door. How did he shave anyway? Weapon. Weapon. Now was not the time to wonder how her boyfriend shaved. She was looking for a weapon. Hair brush. Please! But… plunger. She picked it up gingerly. After tonight there would be a baseball bat in this room. In every room, in point of fact. For now, this seemed to be the best she was going to do.
She leaned her back against the wall inside the door to the washroom and used the mirror to look around the corner. She swept the mirror around the room until she spotted the kryptonite sitting on the kitchen table.
She took a deep breath. Good. Not a long way to go. Now she just had to wait for the right moment. She might be able to get in and out before they even saw her. She held the mirror, watching Carpenter as he continued to torment Clark. At least there was one advantage to Carpenter's need to berate the Man of Steel — it would make it harder for them to hear her. She adjusted the mirror. She could see Carpenter and one of the thugs. But where was the other one? On the other hand, did it really matter? He wasn't out there. Hopefully he'd gone out to get something from the van. She slipped off her shoes to create less noise and crouched down as she waited to make her move. Run low. Run fast. Her heart was pounding and her hands sweating. And then it came. The moment when both backs were turned. Taking a deep breath, she dashed to the table, praying the men wouldn't turn around.
She picked up the rock. Both of the men were still turned away from her. Just a moment more and she'd be home free. She kept her eyes on the two men as she dashed back to her hiding place…
…running straight into the chest of goon number two.
"Well, well. What have we got here?" the man asked.
Lois spun against him, swinging with the plunger, trying to dislodge his arm and… breaking free for a moment, she flung the rock as hard as she could at the closest window. Success. The rock shattered the glass and was hurled outside as strong arms were wrapped around her from behind. But it didn't matter. That damn rock was gone. Clark would recover.
Unless, of course, they went out into the street and found it. But the cops should be on their way there. Surely she'd bought Clark enough time to survive until their arrival. At least, if there was a merciful god above. Unfortunately, not even years of being raised by the nuns had persuaded Lois with any degree of certainty in a merciful god, so she bit and kicked and fought the man holding her as he dragged her into the living room.
Carpenter's eyes lit up when he realized who had been caught. Lois could almost see the wheels turning in his mind. She'd flirted with him shamelessly to get him to open up about Clark. She hadn't given him her real name of course. She'd called herself 'Lo Lo' — a nick name she'd picked up for a short time in high school. He'd never asked her last name. In point of fact, she suspected, he didn't even know her first name since all through lunch he'd called her 'my dear.'
"Well, my dear. Why am I not surprised to find you here? I knew you must have been the one who betrayed me."
Lois fought back a laugh. She doubted the idea had even occurred to him until he saw her.
"Might I venture a guess that your real name is Lois Lewis?" he continued.
"Now that is probably the only intelligent thing I've ever heard you say," Lois said, unable to hold her tongue any longer.
Lois heard Clark's faint moan from the floor, but it seemed Carpenter was turning too many shades of red to hear it because he ignored Clark and stepped closer to her.
"Mr. Carpenter," the goon holding her said, "before I could stop her…"
Carpenter held up his hand, demanding silence. Okay. This was going well. The longer she could keep Carpenter obsessed with her, the longer she could keep him from hearing about the kryptonite and sending one of his men to get it. And the more time she gave the police to get there and to let Clark regain his strength, the better their chances. She just needed to annoy Carpenter a little more — especially if goon number two decided to try to get the information about the kryptonite to him.
"In fact, this whole 'control the country by controlling the press' thing you've got going on is just about the dumbest thing I've ever heard," Lois began. "Oh, wait. I get it. You saw 'Citizen Kane' as a child and grew up thinking you were Randolph Hearst. Please. Even Randolph Hearst wasn't Randolph Hearst. On sure, he managed to bury that producer… What was his name?" She shook her head as if it didn't matter. "…when he made 'Citizen Kane.'"
She watched his eyes leap with fury even as his face turned a deeper shade of purple.
"Sir, I really think you need…"
"Enough!" Carpenter snapped at both Lois and the goon. "Randolph Hearst was a genius and I intend to follow in his…"
"Randolph Hearst was a wannabe," Lois interrupted.
In spite of all the provocation, she was still slightly shocked when his hand landed painfully across her cheek. She fought back the tears that sprang to her eyes in response to the pain. Anytime now. She should hear police sirens anytime now.
"Sir, I really think…"
"That's the best you've got?" Lois interrupted when the goon began to speak. "I bet you use 'Rosebud' as the password for your computer, too," she sneered, really hoping that the movie version of the 'Rise and Fall of Randolph Hearst' that she'd seen during her senior year of journalism school accurately portrayed the movie Citizen Kane. "Amateur," she finished on a mumble.
"No, Lois," Clark begged.
She ignored him, keeping her eyes on Carpenter.
"You'd have been better off minding your knitting, my dear. But before I teach you what it means to undermine me, I think we have a little unfinished business."
Lois tilted her head to the side. Unfinished business?
"You promised me a night I'd never forget." The raw tone of his voice made it very clear what he was saying. Although she suspected right now his desires were motivated more by anger than passion. She wasn't sure if that was a good thing or not. Maybe anger would make him sloppy. Maybe it would bring him close enough that she could do some serious damage.
Carpenter did hear the groan Clark made this time. Lois glanced at Clark. He didn't seem to be one iota better now than when she'd first thrown the kryptonite out of the apartment. Was it not far enough away? Had the other injuries he'd suffered been that bad?
"Sounds like your boyfriend here isn't too keen on it. But it's a good thing he's here. It will give him a chance to see how you respond to a real man. Too bad he won't live long enough to benefit from the lesson."
"I promised you a night?" she said, total incredulity in her voice. "Yeah, right." She was pleased that she managed to inject just the right tone to make the entire idea sound totally absurd — almost as if he'd suggested that she have sex with a snake. Although, in a way, he sort of had.
The tone seemed to work better than she'd intended. His eyes flashed and then a moment later he was crossing the small space between them, his lips descending on hers. He grabbed her breasts so hard that she suspected he was leaving bruises. She twisted her head, attempting to break the kiss and her knee came up. He stumbled back just in time to avoid her knee — although he definitely saw it and realized its intended destination.
"Bitch!" he yelled, storming towards her.
Lois prepared for a strike that never came. It took her a moment to realize that Clark had managed to rise from the floor, attacking Carpenter. Lois hesitated less than a heartbeat before taking the moment to spin against the man holding her, surprising him with her unexpected movement and breaking free. Lois stumbled, falling to the floor and then rolling quickly to avoid recapture.
She got a peek at Clark who was in serious hand to hand combat with Carpenter. It briefly crossed her mind that he must be a little bit better and that his failure to move earlier had to be because he'd been waiting for the right moment to make his move.
Still, she didn't have time to think about that. She scrambled to her feet and then kicked out at the goon coming towards her, landing a solid kick to his jaw. He collapsed like a rag-doll, unconscious. She looked at him, slightly surprised before spinning around, looking for the other goon.
The sharp sound of the second goon firing a gun into the ceiling caused Lois, Clark and Carpenter to all freeze, looking towards the sound. A second shot was directed at Clark.
"No!" Lois yelled, rushing towards him as the shot spun him around and to the floor. Panic kept her moving even as she felt more than heard a bullet whizz past her ear. Dropping to the ground beside Clark, she gently touched him.
"Enough!" Carpenter said behind her. "You're going to wake up the dead with all that gunfire."
Lois ignored them, taking comfort from Clark's labored breathing. He was still alive. Although, for how long, she didn't know. "Clark," she said softly. When he groaned in response, she gently helped him roll over, gasping when she saw the blood beginning to soak his shirt at his shoulder. Still, relief washed over her. The bullet had embedded itself in his shoulder which she didn't think was quite as dangerous as his chest or his stomach.
She placed her hand over the wound, attempting to control the bleeding, flinching when he groaned in pain.
"Uhh… Well, now that's more like it," Carpenter said, realizing that the balance of power had shifted back in his favor.
Lois cringed. He sounded so cocky. And he had every right to be cocky. How would she ever be able to get Clark out of here now?
"Metropolis P.D.," came an artificially enhanced voice from outside the apartment. "Everyone come out of the apartment with their hands up."
There was a tense moment of silence.
"Okay," Lois said slowly, turning so that she could address the goon with the gun. "Here's the way I see it. Right now you are looking at assault charges. Do you really want to face murder charges? Because I have a feeling those cops outside aren't about to let you go. And if you do the right thing now, they are more likely to go easy on you."
"Never!" Carpenter said, taking a step towards the goon. He stopped when the gun in the goon's hand shifted until it was pointing directly at Carpenter. "What are you doing?" Carpenter demanded.
"You said we was taking out Superman. That's why I signed up. I ain't goin' down for killin' no unarmed woman."
"Incompetents," Carpenter muttered even as Lois smiled.
Realizing the power had shifted once again, she placed Clark's hand over the gunshot wound and rose to her feet. She took in the situation, realizing she needed to do two things. First, she needed to neutralize Carpenter. Then she needed to disarm the goon. She stepped up to Carpenter. "This is for groping me," she said before landing her fist solidly against his chin, sending him stumbling to the floor. Then she reached towards the goon who immediately handed her the gun.
Letting out a breath of relief, she headed for the door, carefully opened it to admit the officers. "Everything is under control," she yelled. "You can come in now. Just… be careful," she said before dashing over to where Clark was still lying on the floor. She grabbed a throw cushion off the couch and, removing his hand, placed the cushion over his wound, holding it tight against him. Their eyes met, silently communicating their gratitude that the other was still alive. Sighing, she leaned over him, touching her forehead against his and closing her eyes. That was how the police found them.
Lois handed Clark a cup of tea she'd smuggled into his hospital room before sitting down on the side of the bed facing him. Once the police had secured Carpenter and the goons, they'd called for an ambulance. Clark had maintained that he'd be fine, but Lois had silenced that impulse with a single look. There was no way she was taking any chances. Besides, with an entry wound and no exit wound, she'd logically pointed out that the bullet was still inside him. Regaining his powers wasn't likely to change that. And he'd be wise to take care of it while he was still vulnerable.
She'd sat next to him in the ambulance, unable to let go of his hand as they raced through the streets. The fear she'd first felt when she'd looked into his apartment to find him lying helpless on the floor was still flowing through her. It wasn't until he was rolled into surgery that she'd finally left — realizing that she had to find the kryptonite before the story got out. She refused to allow herself to think about the possibility that Clark could die in surgery. She wouldn't allow it. That was all there was to that.
She'd climbed through garbage bins outside his window, silently cursing Carpenter for ruining her new clothes — blood and garbage that was never going to come out — before finding it mixed in with some old, rotting vegetables and something brown she couldn't identify. She wasn't entirely sure what to do with it, so she'd given Dr. Klein a call at Star Labs. He'd come and taken it from her, telling her that he'd be sure it was stored safely until he received instructions from Clark about its final disposition. As she'd been digging, she'd remembered David telling her that several pieces had been found in Shuster's field in Smallville, Kansas during some housing project there. As soon as Clark regained his powers, a clean-up job was going to be their first order of business.
In the meantime, she'd showered and changed. Then she rescued the groceries she'd purchased before cleaning up the apartment the best she could. When she arrived back at the hospital, she'd been informed that the surgery had gone well and that Clark was in recovery. He was, however, still unconscious and it would be a while before she'd be allowed in. So she'd opened up his old-fashioned laptop computer and written up the story as she'd waited — putting it under a joint 'Lane and Kent' byline. She hoped Clark wouldn't mind, but this was going to be her 'coming out' party as the new force to be reckoned with in Metropolis.
She'd stared at that name for a long time afterwards. Lois Lane. Part of her, even now when she knew who she was, was tempted to stick with the last name of Lewis. But it didn't make sense. After all, there was a birth certificate in her own name, with her own birthdate. October 7th. That was another adjustment she would have to make. And with a birth certificate, she could get a social insurance number and from there she could open a bank account, and do all the things that established her as a person.
It occurred to her that she had to have parents, parents who didn't know what had happened to her. The thought of meeting them was exciting and daunting at the same time. Were they still alive? What if she had siblings? Maybe even nieces and nephews. Strangers. In many ways, Clark was her family and she was his. Still, she would add finding her parents to her list of things to do once Clark had recovered. The whole idea was a little scary. What if she didn't like them? What if they didn't like her? She suspected by the time she looked them up, she'd be a nervous wreck. Still, there was plenty of time to worry about that later. For now… She looked up when a nurse called her name, informing her that she could go in to sit with him.
Lois' heart had been in her throat when she saw him lying in the bed, hooked up to a number of different machines. He looked so vulnerable — not a word she'd normally associate with Superman. She quietly walked over to the chair at the head of his bed. Taking a seat, she reached up, laying a hand on his cheek, assuring herself that he was still alive.
She sat there for what seemed like an eternity, hardly breathing as she waited for him to wake. By the time he finally opened his eyes and looked at her, she felt as if she'd died a thousand deaths. After a few sweet words of reassurance, she accepted his invitation and crawled into the bed next to him, more concerned about feeling his heart beating next to hers than with what any hospital staff might think if they saw them together. The only thing that mattered was that Clark wanted her there. And that she needed to be there.
It wasn't until the doctor came in, announcing that he needed to examine his patient, that Lois got out of the bed to head downstairs to the cafeteria to get Clark a cup of tea. The doctor was gone when she returned. She knocked, feeling almost shy as she slowly pushed the door open. His welcoming smile calmed her nerves.
"How you doing, flyboy?" she asked, stepping forward to give him the tea before taking a seat next to him.
"Not bad — considering. The doctor says he wants me to stay the night. My anatomy isn't exactly the same as a normal human…"
"Could have fooled me," Lois muttered, fixing him with a teasing stare.
Clark rolled his eyes although the fingers of one of his hands curled around hers. "They want to make sure there aren't any complications."
She nodded. "Any idea when your powers will return?"
He shook his head.
"You know you scared me so much when…" She shook her head, unable to continue.
"Hey, I'm fine… thanks to you." His hand came up to cup her cheek.
She smiled, her hand covering his. "I guess our quiet supper at home is out," she said regretfully.
He smiled. "I like the sound of that."
She looked at him for a moment, not understanding the comment. What did he like? Did he like not having to spend the evening alone with her?
"You referring to my apartment as 'home.' I like the sound of that."
She smiled, her concerns vanishing. Her thoughts suddenly became more reflective. Clark had never disappeared. He'd been killed. Now that they had changed that, how would that affect the future she had known, the people she had known?
"So are you glad you stayed?" he asked, her reflective mood obviously coming across to him as regret.
Still, she had no regrets. None whatsoever. But he seemed too serious. "Oh, no. You've made me feel right at home. Being attacked by goons on my first night. Nope. Couldn't feel more at home if I tried," she said, smiling.
"Still, we just seriously changed history today. I can't help wondering what happened to Da… everyone as a result."
He pulled her hand over, gently raising it to his lips to kiss it.
It was the next morning. Lois, almost oblivious to Clark sitting beside her playing with her hand, watched intently, her eyes darting between the side window and the front window of the cab as the cabby swerved in and out of traffic. Clark had been released from the hospital, his left arm in a sling and without his powers. But he was fine. And they were coming home.
'Beeeeep!' the horn of the cab screamed, directing her mind back to the trip. She really had to learn how to drive one of these things. They were absolutely incredible. She watched the cabby's hands, matching his movements with those of the cab itself. Every so often, he would pound on his horn, usually before swerving to avoid hitting another car. She was certain this form of transportation was just about the most exciting thing she could imagine. Roller coasters weren't this fun.
She barely noticed when Clark released her hand. She placed both hands on the seat in front of her, imagining herself in the driver's seat, directing this incredible ride for herself.
Her eyes shot open and then up to the rearview mirror to ensure that the cabby was not looking at them when she suddenly realized that Clark, obviously not content with her attention being directed on the ride, was suddenly sliding his good hand under the edge of her skirt to trace its way up the inside of her thigh.
She gave a small yelp, jumping slightly out of his grasp. The cabby looked at them in his rearview mirror — leaving Lois trying to look as innocent as possible. As soon as the cabby redirected his attention to the road, she moved back, leaning against Clark at an angle where he couldn't continue his activities.
When she heard a sigh coming from her left, she found herself smiling. Foiled. As if he was admitting defeat, he moved his arm, placing it around her shoulders. She accepted the new position, snuggling back against him, suddenly thinking about all the things she was going to do to him the instant they stepped into his apartment.
Her elbow brushed against the front of his trousers and she heard him fighting back a groan. Her smile widened. What was good for the goose… She brushed her elbow across him again.
Now it was his turn to shift positions, dislodging her arm. She noticed that the cabby again seemed to be looking at them in the rearview mirror. Quickly, she moved, removing the temptation to touch him again.
"So…" she said, trying to think of something intelligent to say that would get her mind off the way her heart was currently pounding.
"So…" Clark responded, as if he too was looking for a distraction from his previous thoughts. "Oh, right. I was meaning to ask you. How did it go when you contacted the Daily Planet about our story?"
"Right," she said, relieved for a topic she could actually converse intelligently about. "I talked to Mr. Olsen. He sure seems young."
"He is. Made a fortune in computers. Then he decided to invest in the paper. Not sure why. Newspapers aren't exactly the most lucrative investment. So what did he say about the article?"
"Well, I told him that since you worked for the Daily Planet, I'd only charge him half of the regular amount I normally get paid for such articles. Either that or he could give me a job."
Clark laughed. "So what happened?"
"He told me that if I promised not to just disappear again, he'd be pleased to give me a job."
"I think he assumed I was the other Lois Lane. I didn't correct him."
"So what are you going to do about the job?"
She turned towards him. "I told him I'd get back to him. What would you think about me working at the Daily Planet? I mean, now that we're… involved, I was sort of worried that you would think…"
"Lois, I'd love it. I think we'd make a good team."
She smiled. "Maybe. But I think it's going to be a while before that happens. I imagine that I'll be reporting my fair share of dog shows before he gives me more important stories."
"But you're not going to let that stop you?"
"Hell, no! He might not be willing to give me the important stories. That just means I'll have to go out and find them for myself."
Clark grinned. "Watch out criminals of Metropolis."
"Damn straight," she said, leaning into him once again.
His sharp breath told her exactly where her elbow had again landed. Fortunately, at that moment the cab pulled to a stop in front of Clark's apartment.
He might not have superpowers, but after he paid the cabby, he seemed to rush her up the stairs to his apartment with the speed of a superman. His good hand fumbled with the key until, impatient to get inside, she took it from him, getting the door unlocked and opened at best speed.
He barely had a chance to close the door behind him when she attacked him, intending to pay him back for his activities in the cab. When he collapsed back into the door with a yelp of pain, she immediately backed off.
"Oh, I'm so sorry, Clark! I didn't mean…"
He reached for her, pulling her to him.
"…to hurt you. I mean…"
His lips descended to her neck, silencing her momentarily as she threw her head back, giving him better access even as the fire in her belly that he'd started in the cab again flared to life. Still, after a moment, she forced herself to pull back.
He looked at her questioningly.
"Clark, you just had surgery yesterday. Do you really think we should be…"
"Lois, I don't need my arm to…" He wiggled his eyebrows suggestively.
She smiled shyly, pushing a strand of hair behind her ear. "Well, I know you don't. But I just think maybe we should wait until…"
Her voice trailed off when he reached forward with his good arm and pulled her close to him.
"I'm fine, Lois." His mouth was about to descend to her throat again when she caught his head between her hands, directing his face back to hers so that she could look in his eyes.
Clark looked into her eyes. He could see the wheels turning, but had no idea what she was thinking. Was she really considering that they not make love because of his shoulder? He could barely stand the thought. It was all he'd been able to think about during the trip home. Before then even. It had been two whole days since he'd felt the ecstasy of being one with her. He was certain he wouldn't last if she insisted that they wait until his arm healed.
He was about to open his mouth to tell her that when she took his hand and turned away from him, leading him down the stairs into his apartment. He followed obediently as she headed towards his bedroom, a slow smile making its way across his face. He still wasn't sure what she had in mind, but this was certainly looking promising.
She stopped at the side of the bed, turning to face him. He reached for her, but she evaded his grasp.
"I need to get something," she suddenly said, turning and rushing from the room.
He took a seat on the side of the bed, wondering what exactly was going on. She'd seemed almost spooked when she'd practically run out of the room. "Lois?" he called after a moment. "Lois?" he asked again when she still didn't answer. He was about to rise from bed when she suddenly appeared in the doorway.
She seemed unable to look at him as she made her way over, one hand behind her back, to take a seat next to him on the edge of the bed.
She held up a box, looking slightly sheepish. He focused on it. He crinkled his eyebrows as he tried to figure out what it was about this picture that wasn't right. She waited silently, as if giving him time to find the right question. And suddenly he understood why.
"I bought them when I was at the grocery store yesterday," she said.
"Lois, last time when I asked about protection, you told me…"
"I know," she said without seeming able to look at him.
He reached out, gently placing a hand under her chin to force her to look at him. "Lois?"
She let out a breath. "I've had my vaccinations for any sexually transmitted diseases you might have in 1999. Yeah, there are new ones in 2157," she added when his eyebrows rose in silent question.
"And pregnancy?" he asked, realizing that she'd left out one big protection issue.
She shifted uncomfortably. Guiltily?
"Lois?" he prompted again.
"Okay, okay, no. I'm not protected against getting pregnant. Most women have a yearly shot to protect against unwanted pregnancy but for me, it hasn't really been an issue. So I've never bothered."
"Then why did you tell me…"
"I didn't actually say I was taking some sort of protection. All I said was that I had it handled. And I did," she continued defensively, curling her legs up to her chest as if suddenly feeling very vulnerable. "I figured that it wasn't as if I was going to be showing up on your doorstep in a couple of months forcing you to take responsibility for an unwanted child. I was going back to the future."
"But you still could have been pregnant," Clark objected. "And I'd have never known I even had a child."
A look of guilt crossed her face.
She let out a breath, finally looking at him, remorse clearly written on every line of her face. "I was afraid that if you left long enough to get protection, you'd change your mind. And I wanted that night with you." Tears were beginning to congregate in the corners of her eyes. "I'm sorry, Clark. I guess I wasn't exactly thinking straight. But I thought… I guess I wasn't really thinking."
Clark let out a slow breath. She'd lied to him. A big lie. In fact, for all they knew she could already be pregnant. Of course, that was assuming such a thing was even possible. Yep, in nine months there could be a little boy or girl in this world with Lois' big brown eyes. A sloppy grin settled on his face. Her child. His child. Their child. Someone calling him 'daddy.' Small arms wrapped around his neck as he…
"Clark?" Lois asked, seeing his change of expression.
"Huh?" Clark asked, snapped out of his daydream.
"Clark, I'm sorry. I didn't… What?"
She narrowed her eyes, studying him for a long minute. Suddenly, she seemed to read something in his expression. "Oh, no," she said seriously, shaking her head. "Someday, maybe, but I'm no where near ready for…"
"I'm not the one who lied about taking precautions," Clark said, turning the tables on her, even as the idea of Lois being pregnant with his child began to transfer from his head to his heart.
He inched closer to her, a mischievous look on his face.
"No, Clark," she said, backing away. "I'm serious. I'm no where ready to even think about kids."
"Fine," Clark said, leaning in to trail his lips over her neck.
"You understand that if I'm pregnant, okay, well, we'll talk about it."
"It may be a little too late for talk then," Clark said with a grin as he swirled his tongue around her earlobe.
"But from now on, we use protection until we both decide we're ready for…" Her voice trailed off into a moan when his tongue darted into her ear.
"Fine, Lois," Clark said, a chuckle in his voice when it occurred to him that he really wasn't angry at her. No form of birth control was a hundred percent effective anyway. And he really couldn't say he minded the idea of Lois being pregnant with his child.
"Oh, hell," Lois moaned, her hands in his hair as he continued his assault on her ear.
From there things began to blur for Clark. She took control, still worried about his shoulder, insisting that he do nothing that would reinjure it. He didn't mind, surrendering easily to her directions. Soon the world began to shift and nothing existed but the two of them and their love for one another.
Lois regained consciousness slowly. Cracking open her eyes, she realized it was still night. She stretched and purred when the activities that had kept them awake well into the night intruded on her consciousness.
She smiled slightly. She had to admit that she'd been more than a little scared to tell him about her lie. On the other hand, after he'd gotten over the shock… Children. Lois had never even seriously considered marriage. How exactly did she feel about children? She wasn't entirely sure. Still, if she could ever want to have a child with anyone, it would be Clark. There was something very sexy about the idea of carrying Clark's child. So who knew?
She spotted Clark's fertility goddess — the one she'd seen in the Superman museum — sitting on a shelf on the far side of the bedroom and shot the goddess a silent warning. Not now. Not yet. Not until she was ready. Otherwise, that little statue would never see the inside of a museum. 'Kindling' was the word that came to mind. Satisfied that her warning had been understood, she turned her thoughts back to the previous night — about their talk while falling asleep.
Clark wanted to know what she thought about taking a look at the apartments Perry was offering him. Given the ease with which Carpenter had broken into Clark's apartment, she had to admit, it might be a good idea to be in a security building. Besides, as he had pointed out, it might be nice having a place that wasn't his apartment, but their apartment. She pushed the thought out of her mind. That was a topic for another day. Right now, there were other things to think about. A grin pulled at the corners of her mouth.
Clark. He was entirely too far away. She reached behind her, searching for him. She felt a warm indentation in the mattress, but no body. Puzzled, she rolled over, practically gasping when she realized he was floating a couple of feet above the bed. Fascinated now, she crawled onto her knees, unable to help herself from reaching above him to ensure that there were no wires. She shook her head. David had been right. He did float in his sleep.
As if he suddenly realized she was awake, he opened his eyes, a slow smile lighting up his face as he seemed to remember the previous night. Then, with a jolt, he came fully awake, crashing back into the bed, the movement causing her to lose her balance and collapse on top of him.
"Hi," he said sheepishly.
She giggled into his chest, the giggle quickly becoming helpless laughter.
He wrapped his arms around her, pulling her up to lie against him, chuckling himself.
When her laughter finally died, she looked up at him. "Your powers are back, I take it," she said.
"It seems so."
"What?" he asked.
"Something tells me that life with you is never going to be boring," she said, her smile growing wider.
"Life with me. I like the sound of that."
Her smile faded as her eyes grew moist. "I like the sound of that, too," she said softly. "More than you can possibly know." And she did. She'd spent her whole life feeling as if she was adrift, not supposed to have a life of her own. And she'd been right. She'd been lost in time. Lost — but now she was found.
As if he read her mind, Clark spoke. "Welcome home, Lois," he whispered, pulling her tighter. "Welcome home."
David pushed open the door to the hospital room. Ironic. Two years to the day had passed since Lois had gone to the past. He would never have believed at the time how it all would have turned out.
For days afterwards, he'd spent every free moment wandering through the Superman museum, looking at all the pictures of Lois and Clark together. Their wedding picture. The two of them looking into each other's eyes as if no one else existed. A picture of them with their fist child. Lois was looking adoringly at the child in her arms. Clark sat slightly behind her, arms holding her against his chest, looking every inch the proud papa. Their children's wedding pictures. Their fiftieth wedding anniversary. Their children, grandchildren, even a few great-grandchildren gathered around them. The Lane-Kent dynasty.
Something briefly occurred to him. He had some foggy memory of a world war that had taken place during those early years of the twenty-first century. He quickly shook the thought off. What was he thinking? The world had never blown itself to pieces. He just had an overactive imagination. No, in fact, during his lifetime, war had been a thing of the past — thanks to the Lane-Kent dynasty.
He'd noticed that the kyrptonite exhibit was now missing — although that was understandable in the circumstances. What he did find a little strange, however, was that the fertility goddess Lois had noticed was also inexplicably absent. He'd wondered briefly what might have happened to it.
Those first days had been hard. He'd felt so lost. He'd been staring at a picture of Lois as he remembered her when he'd first heard a soft voice behind him.
"She was beautiful, wasn't she?"
He turned around and looked into eyes that sent his heart skipping into overtime. In some ways, these eyes were reminiscent of the eyes he'd been looking at in the picture behind him. On the other hand, the flowing red hair was very different.
"Firefly," he gasped in surprise, knowing instantly that with that mane of red hair she could be no other.
She laughed, an absolutely enchanting sound. "Actually, I prefer Lara when I'm not… you know," she completed, making a wavy motion with her hand. She stepped up beside him, looking at the picture. "They say I look a little like her," she continued softly.
David nodded. "Particularly around the eyes."
She smiled, before looking back at him. "And you are…?"
"David. David Shultz."
"David Shultz," she said thoughtfully. "Have we met before?"
"Your name seems so familiar to me."
"I work as an assistant editor at the Daily Planet. Before then, I was a reporter. Maybe you read some of my stories."
"Maybe," she responded, not sounding at all convinced. "I know," she suddenly exclaimed. "David Shultz. Right." When he looked confused, she continued. "I'm sort of the history buff in the family," she said, gesturing around her. "Anyway, I know all the history of my family. I especially enjoy the stuff that's not fit to print."
He crinkled his eyebrows, not entirely sure he liked where she was going with this.
"As I'm sure you know, Lois Lane was kidnapped as a baby."
He shifted uncomfortably. He really didn't want to be talking about Lois Lewis or Lois Lane or any other woman when he was in the presence of this goddess. Still, she continued on, oblivious to his plight.
"She turned up again when she was thirty one. None of the history books record what happened to her during that time and the family has never said." She tilted her head to the side. "But I suspect you know, David Shultz. I suspect you know very well where Lois was during that time."
He sighed. "I know," he confirmed, seeing no point in denying it.
"Then our family owes you a great debt of gratitude," Lara said. "After all, if you hadn't helped Lois Lane meet Clark Kent, I wouldn't be here."
He smiled. "And that would definitely be a shame," he said, giving her an appreciative glance.
She blushed slightly, suddenly looking very vulnerable, and he felt his heart do a back flip.
"Well, nice to meet you, David," she said, turning and heading towards the door.
She turned back towards him.
His throat was suddenly so dry that speaking was difficult, but he finally managed to choke out a few words. "Would you have dinner with me?"
A slow smile lit up her face. "I was beginning to think you were never going to ask," she responded.
"You aren't just agreeing because you think you owe me something?"
She shook her head. "You aren't just asking because you had a crush on my great, great grandmother?"
He smiled. "No," he said, realizing the moment the word left his mouth that it was true. This had nothing to do with Lois Lewis. In fact, looking into this woman's eyes, he could hardly remember what he'd felt for Lois.
"Good," she said, her face lighting up into one of the most spectacular smiles he thought he'd ever seen. It could only be described as seeing the sun emerge from behind the clouds, lighting everything in its wake.
That moment had led to this one. Opening the door, he stuck his head inside the hospital room and smiled when he saw his wife, Lara, sitting in bed, nursing their newborn son. He simply stood there for a long moment, watching, cherishing the moment.
"Congratulations, daddy," a man's voice said behind him as a hand clasped him on the shoulder. Turning around, his eyes lit up when he saw Dr. Philip Klein standing there wearing a tuxedo with the largest pink elephant David had ever seen tucked under his arm.
"I thought you were supposed to be going to that ceremony to receive the Nobel Prize for your invention of the time machine tonight," David said.
"Oh, I am," Philip responded, gesturing to his suit. "But I was driving past a children's store in the limo on the way to the ceremony and I saw this in the window." He shrugged, looking slightly embarrassed. "I just couldn't resist."
David smiled, his thoughts returning briefly to the woman who had made it all possible. She'd given him so much. A beautiful wife, a best friend, and now, a beloved son. None of it would have been possible if she had stayed in 2157. Yep, he owed Lois Lane a lot.
"So have you decided on his name?" Philip asked.
David nodded. "We've decided to call him 'Lane,'" he said softly.