Love Survives

By rkn <>

Rated: PG-13

Submitted: September 2007

Summary: In this sequel to the author's "Smallville Style," Lois and Clark explore what it means to be a couple, and they find more than just a few bumps on the road to happily ever after.

A sequel to Smallville Style

Wikipedia has been priceless as I researched this story. As I have quoted some from their website, I want to give credit where credit is due.


Clark had hardly slept at all. He kept thinking over the events of the prior evening. He had finally admitted the attraction he felt to Lois and asked her on a date. Not a real date date, but attending a work function as "more than friends". And she had accepted without hesitation. In the limo, on the drive to the awards ceremony, he knew that she had been as nervous as he had been, yet she had reached out to him at the banquet, and had reminded him that they were actually supposed to be there for him to accept his first Kerth Award. She had hung on his arm, fawned appropriately, and let him have the limelight, never letting on that she had turned out many stories that should have earned her the award. What was the selection board thinking when they passed up her great stories for his on the nursing home? Not that it wasn't a worthy story, but, come on, Lois was the first reporter with *THE* Superman story. And then they had gone to his house for "the talk".

He had been so nervous and had begun in the middle of his well practiced speech. But, very un-Lois-like, she had let him talk. He knew he needed to tell her about his other job as Superman, but he just didn't know how to tell her that he had been lying to her for years. He had wondered when she first saw him as Superman if she would recognize him and expose him. He was sure that he had seen a flicker of recognition in her eyes, but her behavior towards him as Superman was so different than her behavior towards him as Clark that he had decided that she didn't know after all. How did he tell her now? His pulse picked up as he remembered the sweet tentative kiss they had shared as she had left his apartment last night. He had said something like, "Maybe we should have done this a long time ago" and she had answered teasingly that she would not have minded. Had she really had feelings towards him for so long? So where did her blatant attraction to Superman fit into all this? When she found out that he was Superman would that help or hurt his case?

Well, now it was morning and he needed to head into work. He both dreaded and could not wait to see her this morning. In the light of day, would she have changed her mind, or would the magic of the previous night still be present? They had agreed to a real date on Saturday. He could hardly wait!


The magic was still there. Lois smiled widely at him when he greeted her with a cup of hot coffee. He watched her with unashamed pleasure as she sniffed deeply before taking her first sip. For some reason, he found it so alluring when she performed this little habit.

"Thanks, Clark."

"You're welcome."

They smiled at each other but parted to go to their own desks. Seated across from her, he could watch her all day long. But they had to be careful. Having a relationship with a fellow employee was not going to be easy, and if they let on that their relationship had changed, the newsroom gossips would have a field day.

Perry came by his and Lois' desks. "Complimentary tickets for the Urban Renewal Charity Ball. Bring people who know how to dress and don't mind dancing close."

"Is that this weekend?" asked Clark.

"I told you about this some time ago, Kent. Did you have other plans?" Perry asked, obviously not in the mood for excuses.

Clark looked over at Lois. "I guess not. I'll reschedule."

Perry nodded and walked off. Clark walked to Lois' desk. "I totally forgot the charity ball was this weekend when we made plans for Saturday."

"Clark, I work here too. It's not a problem. We'll catch a movie on Sunday instead, or even next weekend."

"I was just really looking forward to it."

Lois could hardly stop the grin spreading across her face. Clark looked like a child who had just had his candy stolen from him. "We'll still see each other at the ball. We can even go together."

Clark's face brightened. "You're right. Let's plan on it. Although, I will miss the opportunity to sneak you off and continue our, uh, *conversation* from last night. We need to keep the change in our relationship quiet at work and work functions, I think." It was like a tender bud that needed to be cherished and nurtured and he was afraid it might not survive the stormy weather of newsroom gossip.

Lois blushed. "I agree. This is so new, I just want to keep it between us for now, you know? Our secret. So why don't I buy the dessert this time, and we'll slip out early and go to my place?"

"Suddenly I'm looking forward to the charity ball a lot more." They grinned at each other like two fools.


"What about lunch?" It was Wednesday and they had been very busy working on stories, and they hadn't even had time to do much more than send each other glances across their desks.

"Lunch?" Clark questioned.

Lois dropped her voice. "We can go to my Uncle Mike's cafe in the Southside. I don't think we'll run into anyone from work there." She winked at him.

It didn't take him much time to catch on, "I *am* starving. Ready to go?" He didn't really wait for her to answer as he locked his computer and headed for the elevator. Lois hurried over to save and lock her own computer and grab her purse before joining him just as the car arrived. Once the doors on the elevator closed on them, she brushed her hand against his and he caught it. They held hands as the elevator descended until they reached the lobby and they reluctantly stepped away from each other before the doors opened.


At her uncle's little cafe they sat outside at a bistro set and held hands under the table. Fortunately, he was almost as adept at eating left handed as right handed. Clark figured her uncle's ex-Marine eyes didn't miss much, but he didn't make any comment when Lois introduced Clark to Mike as a co-worker.

"Um, Clark?"

"What, Lois?"

"It's silly, but, you never said and I just need to… need to know."

What was she wondering about? Did she have some suspicion about his abilities?

"Just ask, Lois."

"You never actually said… you have broken up with Lana, right?" she ended in a rush.

Clark laughed in relief. "You know Lana. She's kind of… insistent. Just steamrolls through things. She broke up with me pretty quickly when I didn't fall into step with her moving-in-together plan."

"I'm sorry."

"You are?"

"Well, not sorry you're not with her any more, but sorry if it caused you hurt."

Clark shook his head. "Actually, it didn't. I think that's when I knew that you were right. I wasn't in love with Lana. She was someone that I got along with very well and, being new in Metropolis, we just kind of gravitated toward each other."

Lois exhaled, as if she had been holding her breath, then flashed him a smile. "Glad we got that out of the way." She squeezed his hand.

Lois' uncle emerged from the front of the restaurant. "You ready for dessert?" he asked.

"Oh, no, Uncle Mike, I'm stuffed."

"It's my chocolate raspberry torte."

Lois groaned in defeat. "You know I can't resist chocolate, Uncle Mike. Just once piece, though. I'll share Clark's."

Mike sat the very large piece of cake in front of Lois. "Hope she let's you have some, Clark."

Clark grinned. "The food is great. You make all this yourself?"

Mike nodded. "Lately it's more of a hobby than a job."

Clark looked around at the abandoned storefronts, a few burned out cars and the trash that littered the neighborhood. "I don't understand what happened to this neighborhood."

"Clark's right. This is crazy. Six months ago this was the hottest street in town," Lois said.

"Well, the neighborhood's in transition. Getting more eclectic." Mike shrugged. "At least that's what they tell me." He wiped his hands on the towel at his waist and went back into the cafe.

"Did he bring you two forks with that?" Lois indicated the plate of cake she had pushed in his direction.

"Am I going to get to eat any of this?" Clark laughed as he cut a piece of cake for Lois and held the fork out to her. Lois closed her eyes and opened her mouth. Clark looked around quickly, but not seeing Mike anywhere, he placed the cake in her mouth. He watched fascinated as her lips slid along the fork. He licked his lips, which were suddenly very dry.

"Mmmm," Lois moaned.

"Ready for another?"

Lois squinted her eyes open. Ah hah. Clark was not totally immune to her charms. There was a look in his eyes that she had only caught a glimpse of the night of the Kerth ceremony. She nodded. He cut another piece and held it out to her. The cake brushed against her side of her mouth as she accepted it.

"Oh, this is so good, Clark. You have to try some."

Clark's gaze was riveted on her mouth. "What?" she asked.

"You have some… there's some raspberry-"

Lois grabbed her napkin. Some seductress she was, with cake on her face like a silly child. Clark caught her hand.

"Let me." Her eyes flew to his just before his lips descended on hers. His mouth covered hers and he sucked on her lower lip for a second before he released her. "Hmm. I think raspberry is my new favorite flavor."

She smiled happily at him. "Maybe you should try some. Chocolate is my favorite, you know."

Clark handed her the fork and pushed the plate her way. He opened his mouth expectantly. She quickly cut a piece and pushed the fork into his mouth.

"Mmm, raspberry,"

Lois didn't even try to stop herself from meeting his lips with hers. "Mmm, chocolate."

When they broke the kiss, Lois realized her sticky hand was lying on Clark's tie. "Oh, Clark! I've gotten raspberry juice all over your tie."

"It's okay, Lois, it's just a tie."

"You'd better go put some water on it, and dab, don't rub."

"Lois Lane-Kent giving me laundry advice?"

"Your mother taught me a lot of things, Clark. I may not always follow them, but I do remember what she said."

Clark pushed back his chair and entered the cafe. He had only been gone a few minutes when a loud explosion shook the cafe.

Lois jumped to her feet in surprise at the same time that she heard the sound of Superman's arrival. He was holding a young gang member by the shirt. He quickly stuck the kid's hand through a dumpster handle and clamped it around the boy's hand. He immediately zoomed around the side of the building to blow out the flames before they had a chance to spread.

Mike came out of the front of the building, "You little punk! You tried to burn me out."

The young man shrugged. "You can't prove it. No one saw anything."

Clark appeared behind Mike. "I did." The kid's shoulders slumped. "I saw him through the window when he set the bomb while I was trying to clean my tie."

"I'll call the police," Lois said, pulling her cell phone out of her purse. "Yes, I'm reporting an attempted arson, my name is Lois Lane-Kent, I — He put me on hold!" she complained.

"Better settle in, sweetie. The last time I called them it took two hours for them to show up," said Mike shaking his head.


It did indeed take hours for the police to show up and Clark, Lois, and Mike accompanied them to the police station to give their statements. Lois had called Perry and explained that she and Clark would be out the rest of the afternoon, promising that they would bring in a story once they had more details.

As the trio exited the station, a beautiful blonde approached them. "Is one of you gentlemen Clark Kent?"

Clark stepped forward. "Yes, I am. Can I help you?"

The blonde extended her hand, "Mayson Drake. I'm the deputy district attorney. I wanted to see if you would be willing to testify in court to what you saw today."

"Certainly," Clark agreed swiftly. "Whatever I saw, I'll tell it in court, Ms. Drake."

"I should warn you, it's not going to be easy. This whole thing happening on the Southside isn't just about gang turf. There's big money and big players in the shadows."

"Really?" asked Lois, sensing a big story.

"And you are?" asked Mayson.

"Lois Lane-Kent. It was my uncle's restaurant that was bombed."

"Kent? Any relation?"

"No," said Clark quickly.

"Long story," Lois said at the same time.

"I think Baby Rage knows a lot, and I might just find out how much if I can make a strong enough case to get him to accept a deal. Clark, please call my office in the morning so we can arrange a deposition." She handed him a business card. "And if you need to reach me during off hours, my home phone's on the back."

Clark nodded, sticking the card in his wallet as Mayson walked away.

"Subtle," commented Lois to Mike.

"What?" asked Clark.

"She likes you. She was really quick to make sure we aren't related. And you were awfully quick to deny it." There was just a bit of question in Lois' voice.

"Of course I was! Hadn't we just established that?" he asked with a quick glance at Mike. No fool, Mike began to wander away from them as they began to look for a cab to take them back to their homes.


"I'm sorry, Clark. I just keep thinking I'm going to wake up and this… us… will just be a dream. And Ms. Drake is very pretty, and she's a lawyer-"

"And I am quite happily a reporter *and* I'm dating an incredible woman who is also very pretty."

Mike was heading back their way, indicating that he had located a cab so the conversation ended there.


Lois and Clark met with Lois' source in the commissioner's office.

"So, Lois, you want to know about the Southside?" he asked.

"Yes. Why are police so slow to respond?"

"Precincts having their funding cut; men transferred; equipment sabotaged; cops paid to look the other way. Take your pick."

"We need names," said Clark.

"It would be easier to tell you the names of cops not involved," scoffed Lois' source.

"Why is the funding cut?" asked Lois.

"Think about it. What happens when a good neighborhood goes bad?"

"People want to move," said Clark.

"And prices go down. Whole blocks go on the market for pennies on the dollar. Just like the West River," Lois answered.

"Very good."

"Is Luthor behind this, too?" asked Lois.

"No," scoffed her source. "Bigger than Luthor."

"Luthor's the biggest thing in Metropolis," protested Lois.

"Used to be. Not any more. I think these guys want to take over. If Luthor doesn't start taking better care of his businesses, he's going to lose out to these new guys. Look, I gotta go. If I'm seen talking to you …" The very fact that her source was willing to mention Luthor's criminal activities was proof that Luthor wasn't the threat he used to be when people knew that they were better off pleading ignorance than getting on Luthor's bad side. "Here, take a look at this." The contact handed Lois a disk and disappeared into the night.


They hurried to the Planet where Lois placed the disk in her computer and opened the file. Clark leaned over her shoulder reading the screen of her computer. Mmnn- was that a different scent than she usually wore?

Lois spoke, bringing him back to the project he was supposed to be concentrating on. "He wasn't kidding when he said this was big. If these reports of his are true, half the major cities in the world might've been infiltrated by this… organization."

Clark "accidentally" hit the mouse sending the data streaming down the screen. Superspeed reading, Clark caught up to where she was reading. "Uh, sorry, Lois. He hit the mouse again and returned the screen to where it had been. "Wow. The Australian press even nicknamed it — Intergang. We need to contact the Daily Planet office in Australia and see if we can get any more information about this organization."

At that moment his superhearing kicked in, "I'm contacting you on a hypersonic frequency that only you and a few bats can hear. If I were you, I'd be at the Arboretum, east gate, inside of three minutes because if you aren't, someone is going to die."

Well, that seemed more pressing than looking up more information on Intergang. "Lois, I just remembered a, uh… an errand. I'll be right back."

"Yeah, sure, Clark, go. I'll just look through this." Lois waved him off distractedly.

He flew as fast as he could to the park that the voice had directed him to. As he landed, a man who had been sitting on a park bench stood up and extended his hand. "Martin Snell, good to meet you. Superman, let's talk."

Clark was upset about being called from his work. Obviously, there was no emergency. Superman did not exist to be at the beck and call of anyone with a sudden desire to carry on a conversation with him. He reached out and grabbed the greasy man by his collar. "Yes, let's talk. I don't know who you are, but if this is your idea of a joke, you're going to need a lawyer."

"Actually, I won't. Because A, I am a lawyer. And B, this is no joke. I'll even give you the name of the person who's going to die. I think you know her… Lois Lane?"

Clark's heart stopped for a second and then pounded as it raced to catch up. Lois!

"I'd say she's got about, oh, maybe ten seconds? Think you can get there in time?"

Clark threw Snell away from him, not even caring if his abrupt action injured the man and leapt into the sky, gaining speed as he flew. Lois!

He burst into the newsroom through the open windows and grabbed the bullet that was seconds away from Lois who still sat in front of her computer going through the file her contact had given them. Clark was so relieved that he did not hear the second bullet until it impacted with a splat against Jimmy's chest as he passed by Lois' desk. But the stain spreading across Jimmy's chest was yellow and sticky.


"Hey!" Lois and Jimmy both exclaimed in unison.

Clark felt weak with relief. He had made it. Lois was fine. The desire to pull her into his arms and bury his face in her hair was almost overwhelming. But he was dressed as Superman, not Clark, and they were the center of the attention of everyone present in the newsroom. Holding his hand over Lois' wastebasket, he crushed the bullet in his fist and watched as the sticky yellow paint oozed through his fingers into the trash can. Lois had never been in danger. What kind of trick was Martin Snell trying to pull? Well, he certainly had Superman's attention now! He mumbled something to Lois as he took off from the newsroom and headed back to the park. The rage welling up in him scared Clark. This… weasel had threatened Lois' life! And for what reason? He reached for Snell who did not even attempt to get away.

"Easy, Superman. Down, boy. I just wanted to get your attention so we could have a talk."

"Believe me, Mr. Snell, you have my attention. You may find that you don't like it." Clark pulled himself into his "Superman" pose, arms crossed.

"You get that look on your face; you remind me of a few judges I know."

Clark growled and moved toward Snell threateningly.

Snell held up his hands in surrender and stepped back. "Okay, I get it. Time to get to the point. It's like this, Superman. I'm a big fan. I love Superman. You do a lot of great things, saving Metropolis from things like tsunamis and asteroids. I think that's just great. The problem is, my… partners and I need you stay out of our business."

"And I should do this because?"

"Because we have the ability to locate Ms. Lane, any time any place. I have a feeling you might not like it too well if something happened to her." Again he held up his hands. " It's a suggestion. A very strong suggestion."

"I wonder what the police will think of your suggestion and your threats to Ms. Lane." Superman reached for the man again.

"Ah, ah, ah. . You don't want to do that. See, if something happens to me, two things happen: A, someone you care about dies- I speak of Ms. Lane, of course- and B, a replacement for me steps right in. Now you don't want 'A' and I don't want 'B', so I think what you need is a little attitude adjustment."

"Mr. Snell, believe it or not I am a busy man. Quit wasting my time and tell me exactly what it is you and your partners *do* want."

"Why, Superman, we just want you to be the best Superman you can be. Street crime? Wipe it out. Terrorists? Kick their butts. Carjackers? Hey, I drive a Ferrari. I'd be very happy for you to put a stop to such a heinous crime. But stay out of the Southside. No matter what happens, we see you there and the next bullet won't be filled with paint." Snell straightened his suit and walked away whistling.


Clark hurried to change back into his business suit and sprinted up the stairs to the newsroom. He was straightening his tie as he approached Lois' desk. Lois was still busy discovering information on the disk and cross-referencing it with what little they knew about Intergang's operations. "Lois! I ran into Superman and he told me what happened. Are you okay?"

Lois patted his arm. "I'm fine, Clark. Superman saved the day as usual." She gestured to her screen. "You gotta take a look at this Clark. They're even moving in on L… I mean, moving in on some of the organized crime here in Metropolis."

"Remember your contact says they are even bigger than Luthor."

Lois frowned. "Meanwhile, that blonde is in the conference room waiting to talk to you."

"What blonde?"

"The DA. I'm telling you, Clark, she wants you."

"I'm sure she is here to talk about Baby Rage."


"Lois, I meant it when I said I wasn't interested. I don't care if she is the most beautiful woman in the world. I am in a relationship with you, and that's what I want."

Lois looked deeply into his eyes. Her eyes looked a little watery. "I'm sorry, Clark. I know you told me that, but I just keep thinking, Why me? Ms. Drake is professional, successful, smart and she looks just like the women you've always been attracted to."

"What women? Yeah, Lana is blonde, but who else are you talking about?"

"Antoinette Baines, Toni Taylor…"

"Dr. Baines was only interested in Lex Luthor. And Toni-"


"Toni was attractive, but she was also a criminal."

"Yes, but you… you said you were going to score. Didn't you?"

"What? I never said… what gave you… Lois, you seem to have a very different picture of my personal life than what actual reality is."

"So, you didn't… score?"

"Lois, you once told me that you had never slept with anyone to get a story and were rather offended that I would think so. I have never slept with anyone to get a story either, and you owe me the same courtesy."

Lois sniffed. "You're right. I'm sorry, Clark."

Clark knelt down next to her. "Honey, why does Ms. Drake bother you so much? What is this really about?"

"I just keep thinking you're going to see that she is everything I'm not and you'll change your mind about us. After wanting this for so long, I guess I just can't… *trust* that it is real."

Clark sometimes forgot the damage Sam Lane's irresponsible behavior had wreaked on Lois. "Lois, *you* are professional, successful, and smart, and you are the only woman I'm interested in. Okay?"

She nodded. Suddenly the look on her face changed. "Did you just call me honey?"

Clark felt a smirk twist his lips, "Did I?"

"Yes, I think you did."

"Should I be running in fear from Mad Dog Lois?"

"Promise you won't tell anyone?"


"I kind of liked it."

Clark's breath caught. How had he not noticed this delightful woman for so long? How would things have been different if he had realized that Lois was the woman for him long ago? If they weren't in the middle of the newsroom, he would kiss her senseless right now. Instead, he squeezed her hand.

Lois squared her shoulders. "Well, better get in there and see what Ms. DA wants."


Clark entered the conference room and extended his hand. "Ms. Drake."

"Please, call me Mayson."

"I assume you're here to talk about Baby Rage?"

"Yes, I need to get your signature on your statement and discuss your testimony."

Clark quickly related his version of events to the DA, confirming his statement. Mayson asked him a few questions and noted the answers.

"Wow, look at the time," she said, glancing at her watch. "It's almost lunch. Want to grab something to eat with me?"

So, Lois was right. Well, of course she was. "Sure, Mayson. Let me just get Lois and we can go."

"Um, Clark, I meant you and me."

"Mayson, Lois and I are dating."


"You seem like a great person-"

"Don't worry about it, Clark."

"So, are we still going to lunch?"

"Why not? Hey, you don't have a brother, do you?"

Clark laughed as he ushered Mayson out of the conference room. "Sorry, no."

"Rats. Some girls have all the luck."

They approached Lois' desk. "We're going to get some lunch, Lois. Can you come?" Clark asked.

Lois looked up from her computer, "Is it lunchtime already? Sure, I could eat. Where are we going?"

"Do you like Thai food, Mayson?" Clark asked.

"I love it. Are you thinking of the restaurant on 10th?"

"That's our favorite," answered Lois. "I like it spicy!"

With the question of Clark's availability out of the way, the three of them were able to talk comfortably about the case.

"Baby Rage's lawyer, Martin Snell, is going to make this as difficult as possible. If there's a technicality to be found, Snell will get him released. I have to make sure there is no room for mistakes."

"Did you say Martin Snell?" Clark queried.

"You know of him?" Lois asked in surprise.

Clark glanced at her before answering. "A certain… source of mine told me he's a lawyer for Intergang."

"And now he's the lawyer for Baby Rage. Very interesting," said Lois.

"Tell me what you know about Intergang," Mayson said.

Lois answered, "It's worldwide. It's been in existence for almost twenty years. They acquire companies, other criminal operations, even governments. Intergang runs them from a distance, hidden."

"You think they're funding the Skins, don't you?" Clark asked Mayson.

"I do."

"A source we have thinks they've infiltrated the police but he won't give us names," said Lois.

"We were hoping you would," Clark said to Mayson.

"I wish I could."

"Mayson, this isn't just a story. My uncle lives in the Southside."

"And Lois was almost killed today!" Clark exclaimed.

Mayson nodded thoughtfully. "Baby Rage was muttering something about a price on your head, Lois. You might want to be a little extra careful."


After their lunch, Mayson headed back to work and Lois and Clark returned to their desks at the Planet.

"Lois, I don't think that you should be alone tonight."

"Clark, I'm a professional reporter. This isn't the first threat I've ever received."

"Still, I'd feel a lot better if you stayed with me, or if I stayed over at your place until this blows over."

Lois blushed, "Well, I think you're overreacting, but if you insist… I would feel safer knowing you were right there." She seemed to get even redder.

Clark glanced around the newsroom to see if anyone was listening in. "Lois, I mean just stay over, just like we have done before. I am attracted to you, *very* attracted to you-" could she get any redder? "but it's too soon."

"Right, you and Lana-"

"No, this has nothing to do with Lana. I just think we should take things slow."

Lois looked down. "Yeah, I guess."

"You don't agree?"


Clark reached out and lifted her chin with his finger trying to see her eyes. "You think we should…should…"

"No, I just…"

"Lois, if we're going to have a relationship, we have to talk about this. Tell me what you're thinking, please."

"Just, other guys I have dated, they would automatically assume. And I'm glad you didn't assume, but…"


"But at least I knew they wanted me, desired me," she finished in a rush, blushing red again.

Clark blushed too. This was completely the wrong place to have this conversation.

"Lois, you are beautiful and desirable, and if we weren't in the middle of the newsroom, I would give you a demonstration."

Lois grabbed some paper off her desk and fanned herself. "Oh, my."

"But as far as the near future, while we're staying together, maybe we should be cautious."

"How cautious? No handholding, no kissing?"

"I… I …" Clark ran his hand through his hair. He wanted to just tell Lois… what did he want to tell her? It *was* too soon for them to … wasn't it? Yes, his conscience assured him.


"Lois, I don't want to go back. And I really don't want to just stay where we are either. Why don't we just say that we keep it at the pace we're going?"

"So, I can hold your hand while we watch movies?" she asked, looking at him sweetly.


"And I can lay my head on your shoulder?" She laid her hand over his.


"And we can kiss at the good parts?"

She was looking up at him with her puppy dog eyes and drawing circles on the back of his hand. Did she have any idea what she was doing to him? He slid his hand out from under hers and ran his finger under his collar that was suddenly too tight. "Yes."

She stood up suddenly and pulled the strap of her satchel off the back of her chair onto her shoulder. "Do I get to pick the movie?"

"What?" Clark was confused at the abrupt change in her behavior.

"*Do* I *get* to pick the movie?" she persisted.

Clark shrugged. What was she up to? "That's fine with me."

"Good." She gave that playful little giggle that drove him crazy, and not in the insane kind of way.

"Why is that a good thing?"

"I'm going to the video store right now to figure out which movie has the most kiss worthy scenes in it!" She swung around and walked away from him with an exaggerated sway to her hips.

More than his collar was feeling tight. "Lois…" he groaned.


Clark knocked on the door of Lois' apartment. "Come in, Clark," Lois called.

Clark unlocked the door and let himself in. "Lois, what if that hadn't been me? You should look to see who is at your door."

"Clark, if it wasn't you, they wouldn't have a key," she said practically.

"I don't know, Lois. What if Intergang has managed to make a copy of your key?"

Lois shot him a scornful glance of disbelief.

"All I'm saying is you need to be careful. So what video did you get for us to watch?"

"Well, I looked over the list of Top Ten Movies for 2005, but I decided against Brokeback Mountain and went with Pride and Prejudice."

Clark sputtered.

Lois laughed at his response. "Really, there aren't too many romantic bits between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, but maybe we could make those up ourselves?"

"I like the way you think, Ms. Lane-Kent."


They settled in front of the television with a bowl of popcorn as the movie started.

"Mmmnn. Doesn't it seem like forever since that night you, Lucy, and I sat here and watched TV when I first came to Metropolis?"

Lois blushed. "You have no idea."

Clark looked at her curiously. "What?"

"That was the night… do you remember anything about that night?"

"Did something special happen that I totally missed?"

"Oh, yeah. I woke up in the middle of the night and came out here. I heard the TV on and came over to turn it off… and there you were."

"That's right. I fell asleep. So?"

"So, do you remember what you were wearing, or rather not wearing?"

"Flannel PJs?"

"Not hardly, Clark Kent. Boxers. Just boxers. Black silk boxers."

"Ah. And what were *you* wearing?" Clark asked raising his eyebrows suggestively.

Lois laughed. "I *was* wearing flannel pjs!"

"You wanted hot milk to help you sleep."

"That wasn't all I wanted, Clark. And after seeing you like that, hot milk did not do the trick."

"Really?" Had Lois really l… liked him even then?

"That night my love for you as a friend and my old crush on you suddenly merged into something else. This."

She set her lips against his and kissed him softly. Clark's hand caressed her cheek as he returned her kiss. Lois taking the initiative made Clark want to gather her to him and never stop kissing her.

"Mmm," she breathed as they stopped for breath.

"We should probably watch the movie," Clark suggested softly.

"Yeah, I guess."


"So who was your Mr. Wickham, Lois?"

"Hmmn, what?" Lois asked distractedly lifting her head from where it rested against his shoulder as they watched Jane Austen's story unfold on the TV screen.

"Well, mine was obviously Lana. Is there someone that you thought might be the one, but was really all wrong for you?"

"Yes, there was someone. My first year of college. Paul, Alisha's brother-in-law. I thought for the longest time that, if he just hadn't tried to move things along so fast, things would have turned out differently. But now I know that it wasn't the pace; it was that he wasn't the right person for me. We had lots of things in common but not the things that really matter." Then Lois laughed. "I guess Claude was my Mr. Collins."

"Claude Duchet." Clark had heard whispers at the Planet -how could he not?- about Lois and Claude. Since Lois had never so much as brought up his name, Clark wasn't sure what to believe.

"Yes. Claude. He just assumed that I would jump into… jump at the chance to be with him. Always talking about stories he had written and places he had been. Rather like Mr. Collins bragging about Lady Catherine de Bourgh's 'patronage'. One night he came over here to work on a story with me and he decided to prove to me that I wanted him as much as he wanted me."

Clark did not like the direction this story was going. "Prove it to you?"

"I think he thought that, if he went far enough, I would change my mind."

"Oh, Lois. What happened? Did he-"

"No, right when I started to get really scared that he wouldn't stop, the phone rang. It was you."

"Me? When was this?"

"It was right before you went to New Guinea."

"I remember now! I was so embarrassed. I thought I had interrupted-"

"You did! And I have never been so thankful for anything in all my life. Hearing your voice gave me the strength I needed to throw him out. You saved me. Thank you, Clark."

"Oh, Lois." He put his arms around her and hugged her tight. "I hope I'm always there for you."

She touched his face. "You are, Clark. Although, I'll have you know that I can do a pretty good job of taking care of myself! After Claude, I decided to learn Tae Kwon Do. You should come to a class with me."

"Or you can show me sometime," he said, his voice gravelly and low. A flicker of desire swept through him at the thought of 'wrestling' with Lois.

Lois glanced at him quickly and then laughed. "The movie, right? We're supposed to be watching the movie."


Did Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy ever kiss in the movie? Clark didn't get to find out. About the time Darcy began to question Elizabeth as to whether her feelings for him had changed, Lois gave him a sideways glance and they were drawn to each other like magnets. Their arms wrapped around each others necks, tangling in the other's hair. As she opened her mouth and allowed his tongue to caress hers, her hand came to rest on his chest. Did she even realize her finger was circling his nipple? His own hands fell down to rest on her waist. He withdrew his tongue, but hers chased his into his mouth. He realized his fingers were touching bare skin where her shirt fell just short of her jeans. Spreading his fingers wide, his thumb brushed higher, and she caught her breath. He crossed his arms around her and pulled her closer to him. She was now half lying on his lap as they sat on the floor in front of her couch. Her hands were on the move again, doing some exploring of their own. Clark broke the kiss, panting. "Lois."

"Clark," she replied with a teasing lilt in her voice.

"I think… I think we've definitively answered the question of whether there's any chemistry between us!"

"Mmm. And I enjoyed the experiment very much, too."

He put an arm behind her legs and stood up, probably not a maneuver a man could accomplish without the benefit of super-strength and the ability to float, but she didn't seem to notice. He cradled her to his chest as he walked across the room to her bedroom door.


He sat her down, and placed a light kiss on her forehead. "Goodnight, Lois." He released her and made a hasty getaway to the spare bedroom.


It was a good thing he didn't need much sleep. What he really needed was a dip in the Arctic, but the whole point for him being at Lois' was to be there to keep her safe. And a cold shower might be a little too obvious. He hadn't felt like this since his teen years. He tossed and turned for hours trying to get comfortable. It didn't help that his super-hearing told him that it had taken Lois several hours to settle down to sleep as well. Why had waiting seemed like such a good idea, again? Lois certainly didn't seem to have any objections. Her dating experiences had obviously been very different than his, allowing her to be less reticent than he to start a physical relationship. But his conscience would simply not allow him to take the next step until he got things out in the open with Lois starting with "I am Superman". Liar, liar, liar echoed in his head. How could she possibly forgive him for the years of dishonesty?


After a restless night, Clark got up early and made Lois' favorite pancakes for breakfast. The wafting smell of coffee must have awakened her as he did not hear her alarm go off but he saw her rush by on her way to the bathroom. "Morning, Clark!" she called before shutting the door with a snap. Clark chuckled. Obviously, she wasn't quite ready for him to meet "Morning Lois" just yet. When he heard the bathroom door open a half-hour later, he poured her a cup of coffee and had it just the way she liked it by the time she entered the kitchen dressed and ready for work.

"Thanks, Clark," she smiled brightly.

"I made pancakes."

"Mmm. I could smell them. More importantly, you made coffee. A girl could get used to this," she smiled and ducked her head she realized what she had said.

Clark felt his heart swell at the thought of spending breakfast with Lois every morning, but due to her obvious embarrassment, he just began to talk about what they needed to do when they got to work.


Lois and Clark huddled around Lois' computer as they went through the files on the disk her contact had given them. Clark swatted distractedly at the fly buzzing around him. How had the dratted thing got into the newsroom anyway?

"Hey, look at this!" Lois said pointing to the screen. "I was running a check on Martin Snell and guess what? Five years ago he was staff council for Bill Church."

"The CostMart king?"

"Yep. He worked in corporate acquisitions buying up overseas companies. I wonder…" Lois quickly typed some additional information into the program. "Ah-ha! Look at this. If you cross-graph what we know about the spread of Intergang with the spread of CostMarts around the world…

Clark shook his head at her leap of thinking. Lois was the best, but really… Clark leaned across the desk closing his hand as if trying to grasp an illusive object. "Lois, what am I doing right now?"


"And I'm not the only one. Lois, you could probably say the same thing about Burger Meister or Zing Cola. Let's stick with the Martin Snell angle."

"Just go with me on this Clark! Look. In 1975, the first CostMart opens in Denver. It is also the same city and same year that the first police report on Intergang activity is recorded. The first overseas CostMart was in Australia in 1985, and guess what? First overseas Intergang operation," she pointed at the screen, "Australia, 1985."

"Okay, we'll check the police files on Bill Church, but I still think Snell is the guy to nail here."

Perry had walked up behind them. "Bill Church? Is this about the Urban Renewal Project?"

Lois turned to him excitedly, "Perry! We may be onto something big here. Everywhere Intergang has gained a foothold, there's a CostMart. What if Bill Church is not only the owner of all the CostMart stores but is also the head of Intergang?"

Perry's face got red. Uh-oh, thought Clark, as Perry's finger came up. "Now, just a minute here, young lady!" Lois head snapped back to look at Perry. Clark was willing to bet that Perry was the only man who had ever addressed Lois like that and lived to tell about it. "I've known the Churches for years. Bill Church, Jr. even caddied for me back when I actually had time to play golf. These are my personal friends you are talking about here. I will not allow you to print anything against them, even hints, in my paper." Perry stalked angrily away.

Lois sat there, a shocked expression on her face, before Clark saw the glaze of tears come over her eyes. Grabbing her arm, Clark hurried her into the conference room before she broke down in front of the whole newsroom. He put his arm around her and she leaned into his chest as she sniffed a few times, never really crying, before she was able to compose herself. Perry was like a surrogate father to Lois and his angry disapproval was crushing to her. She finally pulled away from him, wiping at her face.

"Okay now?" he asked

Lois nodded. "I'm sorry, Clark. I should be able to handle something like that, but it was just so unexpected. Perry's been angry in general around me before, but he's never been angry like that *at* me before."

"There's probably something else bothering him." Clark's own anger flared for a moment. No matter how upset Perry was, he had no right to take it out on Lois. Number one, she didn't deserve it, and number two, it was completely unprofessional.

"It's okay, Clark," she said, patting his chest. "I'm fine. Don't be mad at Perry. You're right, I'm sure there's something else that set him off."

A thought occurred to Clark and he chuckled.

Lois looked at him speculatively. "What?"

Clark shook his head. "I was just thinking that we are running into a roadblock here. We can't print even what we know about Luthor's operations because he owns the paper. There's no point in even pursuing our suspicions. We can't print anything about your theory concerning Intergang and Bill Church because Perry won't allow it. I'm suddenly feeling a little cramped here."

"Wow. You're completely right, Clark. I *have* still been keeping tabs on LexCorp, and there's been a lot of stock turnover lately. A couple of his smaller businesses have even been bought out."

"Lois! What if… do you know who bought them?"

"Not off the top of my head. Why?"

"What if Intergang is buying up Luthor's holdings like we suspect they are taking over organized crime in Metropolis? A corporate takeover as well as criminal one?"

"Oh, Clark, this is big. Pulitzer big!"

"Except that we can't print a thing."

"Clark, Perry may be friends with the Churches, but if we proved a connection between Bill Church and Intergang, Perry wouldn't sit on it. He would do what was right, even if it hurt."

A slight knock came from the door. It opened and Perry stuck his head in. "Ah, Lois, I'm sorry, honey. It's your job to investigate anyone with possible connections to this Intergang. You just caught me off guard." He came in and shut the door. " I know I've been kind of short-tempered and irritable lately. I've been quick to judge and quick to condemn. Sometimes I've even been downright mean, and you can expect a lot more of it. I'm not spreading this around, but purchase of the Planet is in negotiations and it's making me a nervous wreck." Perry ran his hand through his thinning hair. "We've got a good group here, and I just don't want to see that messed up."

Lois was at his side with instant forgiveness. She patted Perry's hand. "It's okay, Perry. I was just telling Clark that you always do the right thing. I didn't know that you knew the Churches personally, or I would have never sprung that idea on you like that. You know me, I get these crazy ideas sometimes."

"Yeah, and more often than not, you're right, too. You have great instincts, Lois, but I think this may be one of the .1% of times when you are way off."

"I hope so, Chief. So, who's buying the Planet?"

"Hopefully Franklin Stern. I've been talking to several contacts that I have in the publishing business over the last few months and he's the first one to bite. Stern Publishing has a good reputation. Mr. Stern is a big supporter of free press and he'll run a good ship. But his main interests are radio and television, though he also owns a book publishing company. He has no experience in the newspaper business. I don't want to put the Planet on the back burner to his other endeavors."

The Planet was Perry's baby. Everyone knew that. Lois murmured sympathetically.

"Franklin Stern is a businessman, Perry. He wouldn't buy the Planet just to have it overshadowed by other media outlets," Clark stated assuredly.

Perry nodded, obviously still troubled, as he headed out of the conference room.


Clark nodded. "Wow. Maybe we'll be able to take up that Luthor investigation again sooner than we thought. For now, let's figure out what Martin Snell is up to."

"Fine, Clark. But I'm not giving up on the Church idea. I'm going to have Jimmy compile a list of Church's holdings *quietly* so I don't set Perry off again and compare them to Luthor's holdings. My gut tells me the big story is there."

"Okay, I'll keep on Snell and we'll compare notes."


He had already let himself into Lois' apartment and was busy fixing the dinner he had picked up the groceries to make on his way home. Lois had promised that she would take a cab directly from the Planet to her apartment and call before she left, so he had left her at the Planet. Clark knew if he hovered over her too much, he would drive her crazy. Perry would keep an eye on her at the Planet and Lois had called MetroTaxi to request a cabbie they were familiar with rather than her usual "stand on the street corner and whistle" approach to getting a cab. He was just mixing the vegetables in with the meat when he heard her heartbeat as she came up the stairs. He hurried to the door and let her into the apartment.

"Okay?" he asked. He gave her a quick kiss on the cheek before turning to close and lock the door. Still he caught the roll of her eyes.

"I'm fine, Clark, really. But you have to see this!" Lois reached into her satchel and pulled out a picture. "I dug a little deeper and found out something else about Church. Look." She handed the picture to him.

Clark looked at the picture. Bill Church, Martin Snell… and Mayson Drake arm in arm at some formal banquet.

"Mayson Drake worked under Snell in Church's acquisitions division."

"And now you think that she is also a part of Intergang?"

Lois shrugged. "If the four inch heel fits…"

"I just didn't get that impression from her."

"Clark, I think you're a little dense when it comes to women. Who told whom that Mayson had a crush on whom?"

"Maybe 'whom' is a little dense, Lois, but 'whom' can also usually tell when someone's lying to me. It's something about the look in their eyes." *And* by the way their heart rate speeds up, he added silently. "I think Mayson is on the up and up."

Lois frowned. "Okay. Let's say I trust you on this one. Let's ask her about this picture. Maybe she can tell us something else."


Clark had called Mayson's office and asked if she would be available at lunch to talk to Lois and him. Mayson agreed and they decided to visit Uncle Mike's restaurant again. What they didn't expect was to see was Bill Church himself dropping Mayson off. Mayson kissed Bill Church's cheek through the open car window before he drove off and she headed in their direction.

"Lois, Clark. How are you?"

"We're fine, Mayson. Is Mr. Church a friend of yours?" Lois did get right to the point.

"I used to work for him. I was talking to Bill about what was happening here on the Southside, and since he's chairing the Urban Redevelopment Fund, I thought he ought to get down here himself and spread a little of that wealth around."

"So, you used to work for Church-" Clark began.

"Look, Mayson. We'll cut to the chase. Clark and I have been following a series of leads. From Baby Rage to Martin Snell to Intergang… then from Intergang to Bill Church." Lois charged full steam ahead.

"I can't believe that you asked me to lunch just to ask me if my ex-boss is the head of Intergang!"

"We agreed to work together on this, Mayson. Lois and I need to know," Clark said, with a hint of apology in his tone.

"Bill Church is my friend. Martin Snell is a professional acquaintance."

"Fine. Now that is out of the way, can we agree to enjoy our lunch together? Lois' Uncle Mike is a great chef." Clark attempted to be the peacemaker.

Mayson's angry eyes met his across the table before moving to Lois. She nodded. "But Bill Church is off limits. He's been like a father to me."

"I can relate to that, Mayson," Lois commented. "Perry is more than just a boss to me as well. I guess I would get pretty upset if someone tried to tie him to Intergang."


Lois was very quiet on the drive back to the Planet. Finally Clark asked, "Lois, is everything okay?"

"I was thinking about what Mayson said about Bill Church being like a father to her. It makes me hope that he isn't involved with Intergang. But my gut instinct tells me that he is."

Clark nodded. "That would be rough."

"Clark, Perry is friends with Bill Church. What if…"

"Lois, Perry is honest through and through. If he's defending Bill Church, it's because he honestly thinks that he isn't involved in Intergang. And maybe he's not. But it is our job to find out."

Lois nodded in reluctant agreement, but her mouth was still twisted in a frown.


The next day Clark sat in the stand at the New Troy County Courthouse where he had been sworn in to testify against Baby Rage. The man in question did not even resemble the gang member that Clark had seen at the restaurant. Dressed in an impressive suit and tie sitting next to Martin Snell, Baby Rage inclined his head in acknowledgement of Clark.

"And after you saw the defendant start the fire… ?" Mayson questioned him.

"Superman flew down, apprehended him and put it out."

"Thank you, Mr. Kent." She moved to take her seat. "Your witness," she indicated to Martin Snell.

"No questions at this time," Snell countered.

The judge turned to him, "You're excused, Mr. Kent."

As Clark departed the stand, a paralegal rushed past Clark to Snell, handing him a folder and conversing with him in low tones. Clark was tempted to listen in. Snell was up to something; he was sure of it.

Clark sat down next to Lois and her uncle, and Lois reached over and squeezed his hand.

"You did great, " she whispered. Clark looked at their clasped hands and then smiled at her as he squeezed back.

They looked up to see Snell and Mayson standing at the judge's bench.

"What's going on?" Lois whispered.

"The Judge is reviewing the document the paralegal gave to Snell."

The Judge gestured for the two attorneys to be seated, then looks up gravely. " New evidence seems to indicate that the officers who arrested the defendant did not properly apprise him of his Miranda rights. And the warrant issued to search his house had the incorrect address on it."

A hiss escaped Lois. "I knew it!"

The judge continued. "Ms. Drake, your office personally issued the warrant."

"There must be some mistake… " Mayson stuttered.

"If so, I'll grant you twenty-four hours to investigate this matter internally and refute the charges. Otherwise, I'll have no choice but to declare the arrest invalid and set the defendant free." The judged banged his gavel, stood and left the courtroom. Baby Rage turned and gave Clark a nasty wink.

"Sorry, Mayson. Better luck next time," Snell threw in Mayson's direction as he ushered Baby Rage from the courtroom.

"This was all her. She set it up. She's dirty, Clark. How much more evidence do we need?" Lois hissed

"I just don't think so, Lois. She seemed pretty surprised. And she did tell us that Snell would play dirty." Looking at the defeated slump of Mayson's shoulders as she walked out the courtroom, he felt that she was either truly upset or she was the best actress he had ever encountered.


Back at the Planet, Lois got on the phone right away to her contact trying to get him to disclose the names he was refusing to provide. "Look, you're the best police source I have. I need names or the whole case is going to get tossed out. This is personal. My uncle lives in the Southside!" She slammed the phone down in disgust. "He hung up on me!"

"It seems like we're at a dead end."

"Maybe not." Clark turned around startled as Mayson approached their desks. "If that case gets thrown out and my office is implicated, my career is over. I want to get to the bottom of this as much as you do. But I don't know who to trust anymore."

"You can trust us, Mayson," Clark assured her.

"I don't know why, but I believe you." She opened the briefcase that she was carrying and pulled out files, records and computer discs. "I've already given you everything my office has on Intergang. These are my own personal files on Intergang as well as my files on Martin Snell. I've known Martin a long time; he's always danced close to the line. Maybe together we can find out where he stepped over. Please help me."

As Clark reached to take the files from her, he heard the whine of an insect and batted the fly away from him.

"Careful, Clark, that sounds like the bug that bit me. It still hurts," Lois commented distractedly as she reached for the files he had been distracted from.

Clark was seized with suspicion and trained his vision on the fly… that was not a fly. Reaching quickly, he grasped the flying robot between his thumb and forefinger. The tiny robot looked very much like a fly, but was a tracer of some sort. "I have to go."

Two heads, one blonde, one brunette came up from the file they were studying.


"Where?" they asked simultaneously.

"You guys stay here, this won't take long." Before either woman could respond, he made his escape. Still, he heard Mayson question, "Does he do that a lot?" and Lois' answer, "Constantly. It's one of his more annoying habits. But he's worth it." His heart swelled with happiness even as his hearing continued to track the homing signal to the "fly".


He burst through the wall of the hidden room that the signal was generating from. Two men seated in front of large computers stared open mouthed at him. He crushed the "fly" between his thumb and forefinger and the men watched him terrified.

"So that's how your bullets always find their targets. A genetic tag, injected by needle. What is it, a radio isotope?"

The two nodded in unison.

"Who hired you?" The two men just looked at each other. Clark grabbed the nearest one by the collar. "I asked you a question."

"We-we-we- I d-d-don't know. It was all arranged on-line. We were just asked to test this new targeting program."

Computer geeks, Clark scoffed mentally. All they knew was that they got to play a real live computer game and get paid to do so. He wasn't going to be able to get any information out of them.

"Lois Lane-Kent, Jimmy Olsen, and Clark Kent are good friends of mine. I would appreciate it if you would stop bugging them." Oh, that's eloquent, Kent- "bugging" them. He turned to leave through the gaping hole he had made in the wall.


He turned back, "Yes?"

"There was one more."

"What?" What was the geek talking about? One more what?

"Y-y-ou said Lois Lane-Kent, Jimmy Olsen and Clark Kent. There was another one."

He was instantly back in the room standing over the man who cowered in the chair. "Who?" he asked in a clipped voice.

"Perry White."

The next sound that was heard was a sonic boom as Clark raced out of the room towards the Daily Planet. As he got closer, he could hear the whir of the same type of bullet that had been aimed at Lois and Jimmy this afternoon. I bet this one isn't full of paint, he thought grimly, putting on an extra burst of speed. He was now a block away from the Planet and he could see Perry coming out of the revolving door, papers tucked under his arm, whistling as he began to look around for a cab. Clark grabbed his arm and pulled him out of the way as the bullet whizzed past him and lodged into the side of the Daily Planet building.

"Superman, did you just save me from something?" Perry asked, a little stunned.


"Do I wanna know what it was?"

Superman gave him a tight smile. "Nope."

"Well, uh, thanks, Superman."


Mayson joined Lois and Clark at Lois' apartment for dinner, which he had cooked, of course. They still needed to finish their conversation from earlier. Mayson insisted on helping with the salad, which was the only part of the dinner Lois felt was simple enough for her to handle. With a little guidance from Mayson, the salad was as edible as the fettuccine alfredo that made their mouths water as Clark pulled it from the oven.

They loaded their plates and sat down at Lois' table.

"How are we going to keep Snell from getting Baby Rage off the hook?" Clark began the discussion.

"We need to figure out who helped Snell mess up that paper work, " suggested Mayson.

"I have a better idea," began Lois.


The judge frowned as he listened to the taped conversation coming from Lois' handheld recorder.

"Those reporters, Kent and Lane? They have a source in the police department," came Mayson's voice.

"And this is interesting to me, why?" Snell's voice replied.

"This morning, the three of us put the heat on this guy to give us the names of the cops you bribed to bungle Baby's arrest."

"I'm awfully sorry, counselor, I have absolutely no knowledge of this."

"You've got a leak, Martin. Lois Lane's contact is one of your guys. On Intergang's payroll. I'd say right about now, you really want to get rid of this guy, don't you? Well, I can make it happen. Here's the name of that two-timing cop. For sale, a one-time only offer." A short pause. "Tick-tock, Martin."

"How much?" Snell took the bait.

"What do you pay your cops?"

"Five thousand a month, a little extra here and there for special favors. We can probably do a little better for you, I mean you are the deputy district attorney."

The judged leaned over and turned off the recording. He turned and looked at Martin Snell and raised an eyebrow.

Snell smoothly began to excuse himself, "Your Honor, it's clear to me that the voice on that recording is that of an actor, hired to impersonate me."

The judge was not amused. "Really. I'd like to hear his Brando. But for the moment, we're going to assume that was you- which does not bode well for your future as an attorney, or a free man. As for the defendant, Daniel Anthony Bell AKA, Baby Rage… You're going to trial."

Lois smiled slipping her hand into Clark's. "My plan worked."

Clark smiled down at her. "It sure did."


Clark held Lois gently in his arms as they danced to the music. He looked around at the people milling around the spread of delicious food. Mike Lane beamed with happiness as the guests exclaimed over the food. The song finished and he reluctantly released Lois and they walked towards the buffet table. Lois hugged her uncle.

"They're all asking about your restaurant. You got a lucky break, getting asked to cater the Urban Redevelopment Charity Ball, Uncle Mike."

"Well, it's pretty amazing how fast things are turning around. In just two days it's like a whole new neighborhood. No more gangs, no more slow cops, thanks to those articles you two wrote," he answered.

"The credit probably goes to Mayson's new strike force," Clark commented.

"Intergang seems to have decided to fade into the background for a while. Guess that's another big story we'll have to put on hold, partner, " Lois said, lightly punching his arm.

Mike smiled at them. "Why don't you two get back to dancing? I'm sure you'd rather do that than talk to an old geezer like me. And, Lois? I have that chocolate torte you wanted set aside for you. I included lots of raspberry sauce."

"Mmm," Lois said as she walked back to the dance floor holding Clark's hand. "I love chocolate."

Clark pulled her into his arms, looking down at her. "And I love… raspberry." His arms tightened around her, as he struggled to keep himself in check. He wanted to kiss her senseless right there in the middle of the dance floor. To tell her he was Superman and declare his love in front of all Metropolis. He sighed and instead said, "Since Superman took out Intergang's targeting system, the threat to your life is over."

"So you'll be going back to your apartment?" Lois was now staring at his chest, hiding her face from his view.


"I'll miss you."

Why was this so hard? Shouldn't love be easy? Boy meets girl. They fall in love. They get married. No lies, no secret identities to keep them apart.

"Lois, Clark," Perry drawled next to them.

"Chief!" Clark responded.

"Just wanted to let you know that Stern Publishing's purchase of the Planet has finally been completed. Everyone gets to keep their jobs. Now he has some ideas for modernization that I'm going to have to hash out with him. What exactly does that mean anyway, modernizing?"

"Perry that's wonderful!" Lois pulled out of his arms to quickly hug her boss.

"That's great news, Chief," Clark clapped Perry on the back.

"Well, keep it under your hat for now. We're going to make the big announcement at the Planet's 80th Anniversary Celebration."

"What celebration?" asked Lois.

"Oh, Stern wants to really emphasize the Planet's history in Metropolis. We're going to be running old articles from the archives and we're going to get some photo shoots done for billboards. In fact, his PR people will probably be giving you a call pretty soon. As the Planet's top reporting team, they'll want you guys in the ads. You'll have to wear clothes from the early 1900's. I even know somebody with a vintage Ford for us to use in the background. It's actually a really neat campaign. The kick-off will be a party next week in the newsroom."


PR called them the next morning to schedule the photo shoot. Lois complained that "these people" just didn't understand that newsworthy events didn't work themselves around schedules, but after Perry assured her that photo shoots could be scheduled around stories on the local dog show, she contented herself with just glaring at whoever happened to be around.

PR was wasting no time. Both Clark and Lois had appointments to be fitted for costumes and be made up in a look befitting the 1930's theme. Clark was very nervous that his similarity to Superman might be noticed, but in the middle of all the hair wax and makeup, everyone seemed too busy to notice. He did breathe a sigh of relief when they handed him a pair of black rimmed glasses to complete his look. Without them and with his hair slicked back, he wasn't sure that Lois could fail to notice he was Superman. He was standing in the studio exclaiming over the 1930's four-door sedan with one of the photographers when Lois arrived. His breath caught. The tailored suit flattered her figure. Having the hair rolled back from her face accentuated her long, very kiss-able, neck.

"Wow, Lois."

Lois rolled her eyes. "This old thing?" And then they both laughed at her joke.

"You would have been a knockout back then, too."

"You look pretty handsome yourself, though I prefer your regular tousled look to this waxed down one." Her hand brushed over his hair. "And they kept your glasses."

"Guess they wanted to make sure Metropolis still recognized me. So, are you ready for this?"

She gave him a wry look. "Let's get it over with."

They were photographed in the car with a fan blowing to make it look as if the car were moving, leaning against it with their arms crossed, pretending to take notes with the car in the background, and on it went. Finally the photographers announced they were finished and invited them to take a look at the films. Clark was very impressed. "I'd say we're a very photogenic couple, Lois. These are going to be great PR for the Planet."

Lois wrinkled her nose. "I'm just not that thrilled about seeing myself larger than life on a billboard."

"Well, get ready," put in the photographer. "They're going up as soon as these shots are edited and printed and they've put a rush on it. You could be seeing yourself as early as tomorrow morning."

Lois groaned. Clark and the photographer chuckled.

"Lois, lets get these costumes back where they belong and catch a late lunch. Then we'll head back to the Planet and start work on the L… on that story we've been holding off on and don't need to anymore." He didn't want to say anything specific in front of the photographer.

"That sounds great, Clark." She turned to face the photographer. "Thank you. They *are* beautiful pictures." She turned and headed to the dressing rooms. Clark did the same.


"So, where are we going to start with Luthor?" Lois asked Clark.

"I think we should start with the Planet bombing and go from there. We have the evidence we need for that story. Possibly once people see it, people will be more willing to talk. Or they'll start scrambling to cover up and we'll catch them that way. We'll have Jimmy help us set up a surveillance program on stock trading and see if we find anything being hastily dumped."

"Good idea, Clark. I still want to get a more comprehensive list between Intergang and Luthor holdings as well. I'll get Jimmy on that as well. This is going to be big, Clark!" she cheered excitedly.


They worked all day on the story. Finally her growling stomach interrupted them and Clark offered to go and get some dinner. He flew to Maine and picked up some fresh shrimp, lobster, and crab for them. Lois' moan of delight at her first bite was reward in itself.

He needed to tell her. It was time. Putting it off would only continue to keep them apart, and the longer he was dishonest with her the madder- or more hurt, which was even worse!- she was going to be.

"Lois, I was wondering if you would like to go to Smallville this weekend."

Her eyebrows raised at the change in topic from the one they had been discussing all afternoon, but she agreed, "I'd love to, Clark."

"There are some things I need to tell you, talk about, and there are just too many interruptions here."

"Okay, Clark. I'll see if Perry will let us off. Once we turn in this story, he should be happy to let us have a day or two off.

"Good!" Clark sighed in relief. "So, Friday after work, then?"

"I'll be ready to go. Do you want to rent a car or take the Jeep?"

"Let's save wear on your Jeep and rent something. I'll take care of it."

And, they could leave a rental car with a sister company in the Smallville area, and he could fly her home if all went well. Or if it didn't, his heart sank, she could drive it back to Metropolis alone.


Sure enough, by noon the next day they were displayed in living color on several billboards in Metropolis and in the pages of the Daily Planet. Their coworkers exclaimed over the pictures and were very complimentary. Lois and Clark were both embarrassed, but they were pleased that the ads were such a hit. Franklin Stern had sent them both a gift basket with his thanks. Perry called them into his office to extend his thanks and let them know how pleased Mr. Stern was.

"If you think that's good, just look what we have for tomorrow's edition!" Lois handed him a copy of the story they had finalized this morning.


Perry's chair snapped forward. "Lois, Clark?"

Lois smiled happily. Clark was enjoying watching her as much as his editor's amazement.

"You guys have proof? Legal will be all over this."

"Yes. A statement from a board member. We spoke with the man who was paid to plant the bomb. Jack was killed in the bombing and Clark and I are not about to let him continue to take the blame. Now that Luthor no longer owns the Planet, this can go to print."

"Luthor's PR people will demand a retraction. And you both may be personally sued for slander."

"We don't care, Chief. The public deserves to know the truth. Luthor is slime, and we're going to prove it. This is just the first step. We're counting on this to send some of the cockroaches scurrying, and Lois and I will be there to find out what they are running from."

Perry shook his head. "I never liked Luthor. But I can hardly believe that he tried to destroy the Planet. This is great! I can't wait for more. Stern is going to love this. He and Luthor have a little rivalry going on and this will make his day."

"So, now is the time I should try to negotiate for some time off?" Lois asked

Perry laughed. "When?"

"Clark and I want to go visit his folks this weekend. We'll be back for work on Monday."

"That's fine. You guys deserve it. You know PR is calling you guys the hottest team in town. I think they're already looking at another ad campaign."

"Oh, no," Lois groaned.


Perry was curiously absent when they arrived at work the next day. Clark and Lois had arrived in the lobby at the same time, so they rode the elevator up to the newsroom together. Cheers greeted them when the other reporters caught sight of them. Everyone was thrilled to have Jack's name cleared. But where was Perry? And Jimmy? Clark had expected them to be leading the fray.


It was almost noon when Perry and Jimmy, looking a bit disheveled, arrived. "Lois! Clark! In my office!" Perry bellowed. Immediately on their feet, they arrived at his doorway just as Perry collapsed into his chair.

"What's up?" Lois questioned.

"You're not going to believe what happened to us this morning! We were almost killed, but I was able to save us," Jimmy shared excitedly.

"What?!" Clark exclaimed. Certainly he would have heard something if his two friends had been in danger.

"The boy's leaving out a few details, but bottom line is we were car-jacked," Perry began to explain.

"Are you all right?" Lois asked worriedly. They both knew that Perry suffered from high blood pressure.

"Yeah, we're fine," Perry assured her. "But they got away with that vintage Ford we were using to promote the celebration."

"Let me tell you how I saved us!" Jimmy broke in. "Picture this! We were locked in the garage-"

"Jimmy! Go slap some cold water on your face," Perry ordered.

"But-" Jimmy protested.

"Go. Now," Perry said in a voice that brooked no argument.

Jimmy moved to obey, but he shared with Clark as he passed by, "I'll tell you about it later."

Clark nodded, clapping Jimmy on the shoulder, then turning to Perry as Jimmy exited the room. "Did you get a good look at them?"

"Sure. I gave the police a detailed description. And then they looked at me like I had three heads."

"Why?" Clark asked, baffled.

"'Cause I told them I'd been car-jacked by Bonnie and Clyde."

Lois broke in, "Chief, Bonnie and Clyde died over eighty years ago!"

Perry gave her a look of frustration. "I know that, Lois. The car was taken, not my senses. But these two were dead ringers for them. They did quite a job. Make-up, costumes, the whole shebang."

"Do you remember anything specific about the costumes?" As she spoke, Clark looked at Lois with question in his eyes. What was she thinking?

"Lois, I'm not real big on fashion accessories. Especially when there's a gun pointed at me," Perry huffed.

Lois hurried to explain, "It's just that there was this call on the police scanner last week. A man in a brown felt fedora and alligator spats held up a private gun collector. He got away with an arsenal of antique weapons. Tommy guns, Colt forty five automatics… There could be a connection." The great mind of Lois Lane-Kent at work, Clark marveled.

"See what you can dig up. That car was a piece of this paper's history. It belonged to one of our great publishers. And more important… it's not insured, " Perry said in a confidential tone.

"We're on it, Chief," Lois assured him.


"Oh, my word! Lois, look at this!" Lois hurried to Clark's desk. "I decided to look up Bonnie and Clyde on the internet to see if there were any good pictures and I found that when the Barrow Gang escaped Joplin, Missouri they left behind a roll of film. The pictures were published in the Joplin Globe. I logged into their archives to check out the pictures. You won't believe this!" He pushed back his chair so that she could get a good look at his screen.

"Clark! These look almost like…" Lois grabbed a copy of this morning's Planet and opened it to their ad. "Clark, the resemblance is uncanny!" The Joplin Globe pictures showed Bonnie and Clyde with a four-door sedan of the exact style that had been used in their photo shoot. The captions pointed out that they had covered the license plates with hats and coats when they had taken the pictures so that the vehicle could not be identified.

"It's a sad story really, Lois. Bonnie was 4'10" and only weighed about 85 pounds. She married at 16, but her husband landed in jail a year later. Bonnie and Clyde met when Clyde was visiting a friend's sister who had broken her arm. Bonnie was also visiting. It was love at first sight. Clyde had already started down the road of a life of crime. This was during the Great Depression and many carried a great deal of anger and resentment toward the government and the men who were employed to enforce the law.

"Clyde was arrested in Waco and Bonnie supplied the gun that enabled Clyde and another prisoner to escape. However, they were captured again and sentence to a hellhole of a prison. Clyde convinced a fellow prisoner on work detail with him to let his ax slip, cutting off two of Clyde's toes, which along with his mother's efforts earned him an early parole. Thus began their life together as criminals. Their resentment toward the government intensified and they were not alone. Many of the public admired Bonnie and Clyde as much as they feared them.

"Most reports say that Bonnie never fired a gun. Some report that she carried a machine gun, but they almost had to be romanticized versions of the story. A machine gun of that day weighed about 25 pounds, almost a third of Bonnie's weight. The burden of Clyde's crimes, which came to include murder, weighed on him. If caught, there was no doubt that the electric chair would be his fate. He developed an amazing ability to slip past police and roadblocks set up to capture him. It was his superior driving that kept them from being captured. Whenever cornered, Clyde would come up fighting. Requests for surrender were met with a flurry of bullets. Clyde wanted to stay alive and free, and Bonnie just wanted to be with the man she loved.

"The Barrow Gang made a circuit skirting the edges of five Midwest states because the law at that time forbade lawmen from continuing to follow a suspect into another state. It was this circuit that finally got them caught. During a raid on a prison to break one of their gang out of jail, a guard was shot.

"It seemed to be the breaking point for frustrated lawmen. They were determined that Bonnie and Clyde would pay for their crimes. They hired Frank Hamer to track the duo and bring them to justice. Hamer discovered the gang's circle pattern. Bonnie and Clyde stole the car that would become their coffin, a 1934 sand-colored Ford V-8 Sedan."

Entranced with Clark's story, Lois only whispered, "Oh, Clark."

"They went to visit their families. They knew the end was coming. Bonnie even begged her mother not to say anything bad about Clyde when they were killed. And their feelings of impending death were not unfounded. One of newer members of their gang, Henry Methvin, along with his father who was seeking a lighter sentence for his son, turned on them and revealed their location to the law. Seeing Henry Methvin's father's truck stopped in the road, Clyde slowed down to check for the senior Methvin. No call for surrender was forthcoming. The lawmen had learned the hard way not to give Clyde the chance to escape. Instead the command came to fire. Clyde was killed instantly, a bullet to the head, but Bonnie could be heard screaming. Their bodies were riddled with over fifty bullets. Bonnie had known how it would end; listen to this from a poem that she wrote:

{*The Story of Bonnie and Clyde

You've read the story of Jesse James

Of how he lived and died

If you're still in need for something to read

Here's the story of Bonnie and Clyde.

Now Bonnie and Clyde are the Barrow gang,

I'm sure you all have read…*}

{*…They don't think they're tough or desperate

They know the law always wins

They've been shot at before, but they do not ignore

That death is the wages of sin.

Someday they'll go down together

And they'll bury them side by side

To few it'll be grief, to the law a relief

But it's death for Bonnie and Clyde.*}

"They weren't, though, buried side by side. Clyde was buried in the Western Heights Cemetery and Bonnie was buried in Crown Hill Memorial Park, though both cemeteries are in the same town, Dallas, Texas."

"It's like a love story gone horribly wrong," Lois said softly, tears in her eyes.

"It is, but, Lois, each one of the Barrow Gang's victims had a story, too. Someone that they loved that missed them after they were killed. Someone that had to try to cover payrolls and bank loans when their hard earned money had been stolen.

"It was a different time, then. During the Great Depression, many took on occupations that they might not have otherwise considered in order to provide for themselves and their loved ones. That is no excuse for the crimes they committed, but it is, perhaps, a reason. As he had committed several murders, the fate that met Clyde would have been his either way, yet as an American citizen he was entitled to a fair trial. Bonnie was certainly guilty of several crimes as well, but the only warrant for her was for aiding Clyde in the interstate transportation of a stolen vehicle, which did not carry a death penalty. Bonnie and Clyde deserved to pay for the crimes they committed, but these lawmen did not follow the procedure of the law they swore to uphold. There is no room for this level of aggression in the fight for truth and justice."

It would be like Superman executing every thief, arsonist, or drug dealer he came in contact with. It was a reminder to Clark that Superman was never to be judge, jury, and executioner and that every criminal he turned over to the police had the same right to due process as an innocent man. Innocent until proven guilty.

"The lawmen must have felt they had no other choice. Clyde and Bonnie had made it clear they would never be taken alive." Looking at the pictures of the car and the hundreds of bullet holes, Lois said solemnly, "One thing is for sure, Perry wasn't car-jacked by these two. Let's start with look-a-like agencies. Maybe one of them knows of Bonnie and Clyde imitators that could be the true culprits."


The bell on the door jingled as Lois and Clark entered Sammy's Look-A-Like Agency. The man Clark assumed was Sammy sat at a shabby desk speaking into the phone on his desk, "That's right… he's a dead ringer for Elvis." He paused. "Of course before he died." He waved to Lois and Clark. "Have a seat folks. I'll be right with ya."

Lois looked at the shabby Naugahyde chairs and then whispered to Clark, "I think I'll stand." Clark remained standing as well.

"The name's Sammy," the man confirmed, hanging up the phone. "So, what can I do for you nice people?"

"I'm Clark Kent and this is my partner, Lois Lane. We're reporters from the Daily Planet."

"Reporters? Do you want to do a story on my business?" he asked eagerly.

"Sammy, we were wondering if you represented any Bonnie and Clyde look-a-likes," Lois asked.

"Bonnie and Clyde." Sammy scratched his head, thinking. "Nope. Sorry. But, it's funny that you mention them. I had a guy in here a couple of weeks ago looking for gangster costumes."

Clark's breath caught in excitement. Finally, a lead! They had visited so many agencies today, he had been starting to wonder if they were on the wrong track. "Do you remember his name, or what he looked like?"

"Sure!" Sammy offered helpfully. "I keep a record of all my business transactions." Then he opened drawer overflowing with papers and began to rummage through it.

Lois rolled her eyes; sure that it was another dead end.

"Here he is. Emil Hamilton. Rented a whole rack of gangster costumes. I don't usually let my costumes go out the door without one of my people inside 'em, but business has been slow lately."

Lois wrote the name down. "Thank you, Sammy, you've been very helpful. If I ever have need of a look-a-like, you'll be first on my list."

The ringing of a bank alarm captured Clark's attention. He pulled down his glasses to look over to the bank and spotted a very familiar antique four door Sedan. His superhearing then picked up a voice, "Take a good look sister. All of you! 'Cause this is the face you're gonna see smiling back at you from your evening paper. This is the face of John H. Dillinger."

Dillinger! Where were Bonnie and Clyde? "Um, Lois, I need to go feed the parking meter."

"Sure, Clark. I-" Lois' jaw dropped as the door of Sammy's opened to reveal Superman.

As Clark fled through the open door, he heard Sammy laugh. "Ha-Ha. Meet Barry, my Superman look-a-like."

Swiftly making use of an alley to change into Superman, Clark then flew into the bank. Bonnie had just entered. "Hey! What's takin' so long?! I'm getting wrinkles waiting out there!"

Clark's mind reeled. Bonnie Parker! She looked just like the pictures that he had been looking at only a few hours before of the small but feisty strawberry blonde. He turned to look at the man Bonnie was addressing. Clyde Barrow! Clark shook his head to clear it of the nostalgia and crossed his arms in his classic Superman pose. The man standing by Clyde must be John Dillinger. "Aren't you boys a little late for Halloween?"

Clyde answered sarcastically, "Look who's talking. Who are you supposed to be? Little Boy Blue?"

Clark ignored him. "Put down your guns." He doubted his request would be heeded. He knew from what he had read that Clyde would rather shoot than be caught. Well, Clyde Barrow was in for a surprise.

"Oh, my. Now he is one hunk of man." Bonnie's eyes ran over him, and Clark realized that Superman was flushing red. Clyde must not have appreciated Bonnie's… appreciation. He fired a short burst from the machine gun he held right into Superman's chest. The bullets ricocheted off his chest into the walls around him.

Clyde looked at the gun in disgust and confusion. "What is this? A cap gun?!"

"You can't hit the broad side of a barn," Dillinger declared. He reached into his bag and pulled out a pack of six sticks of dynamite. As he did so, Clark noted a small piece of paper fall to the floor.

Clark took a step toward Dillinger, but Clyde grabbed one of the bank customers and placed his gun to his back. "Stay back, pal. I ain't gonna miss from this close."

Dillinger lit the dynamite and tossed it. The three gangsters released the hostage and made their escape as the customers screamed and began to scatter in search of cover. Clark jumped and landed on the dynamite just as it exploded. Glancing around to confirm that none of the bank customers had been harmed, Clark hurried to rush after the gang. As he was about to clear the doorway, he heard someone groan. He turned to see a guard fall to the floor clutching his chest. Inwardly Clark sighed. It was his duty to get this man to medical care as soon as possible, but he really wanted to chase after Bonnie, Clyde, and John Dillinger. "I'd better get you to the hospital." He told the gasping guard. He flew as fast as he dared to the nearest hospital and gave the guard over to their care. He rushed back to the bank but by this time there was no sign of the three gangsters. He used the alley to change back into his Clark clothes. Straightening his tie, he entered the bank. Police tape cordoned off the crime scene. Police officers were busy dusting for fingerprints. Lois was interviewing bank customers and taking notes. Clark flashed his press pass to the policeman at the door and entered the bank again.

Lois turned to him. "Clark, while you were putting money in the meter, the bank was robbed by someone posing as John Dillinger."

"Dillinger?" He bent down to pick up the piece of paper than he had seen fall from Dillinger's bag. It was a ticket stub.

"Oh, and Bonnie and Clyde put in an encore performance as well."


Lois caught sight of the ticket stub in his hand. "What's that?"

"A ticket stub from the cineplex. It might be a clue."

Lois snorted. "A clue? It's a movie ticket stub. Clark, do you know how many people came in here today? It could belong to anyone."

"It fell out of Dillinger's pocket."

"What? Let me see that."

"I… um… saw Superman. On my way back here. He told me what happened." Clark scurried to cover his slip before Lois noticed that first he had questioned Dillinger's presence and now he was claiming knowledge that Dillinger had been here. And he hadn't done a very good job. Thankfully, she didn't seem to notice.

"And what does he make of all this?"

"Believe me, Lois, he's as baffled as I am."

Lois coughed on what sounded suspiciously like a laugh, before she clamped her mouth shut.

"What?" he questioned.

She ignored him. "A ticket stub, huh. So our look-a-like likes to go to old movies. Maybe that's where these three got their inspiration from."

As Lois and Clark exited the bank, Jimmy rushed up to them. "Hey, C.K., Lois! I got some information you're gonna love. When Clyde first approached us, he asked Perry for the keys to *his* car. I think he must have seen it in the pictures on the billboards and tracked it to Perry. Turns out that vintage car the Chief borrowed is the same make and model as the car that Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker were gunned down in." Recalling the pictures, Clark understood when he saw Lois gave a little shudder. "That got me to thinking, so I called the cemeteries where they're buried."

"You called Dallas?" Lois queried.

"How'd you…?" Jimmy shook his head in obvious awe of Lois' investigative skills. "I know it sounds weird but get this. Both cemetery directors said that a few years ago a scientist had their bodies dug up and took bone and hair samples. Pretty creepy, huh?"

It was gruesome. The couple should be allowed to rest in peace. The only reason he would want either one dug up was to place them together as they should have been. "Did you get the scientist's name?" he asked Jimmy.


"Professor *Emil* Hamilton?"

Jimmy looked at Lois in amazement at her question, "How do you *do* that?"

Lois and Clark exchanged an amused glance. "They don't call us the hottest team in town for nothing," Clark teased.


Lois and Clark's story was the headline of the Daily Planet for the second day in a row- 'IMPOSTORS MOVE IN ON METROPOLIS.' Clark was at the vending machine getting a bag of chips when Lois arrived. She quickly spotted him and came over. " I got some information on Hamilton. He's a real science nerd, spends twenty-four hours a day working in his lab. No family, no friends. Every penny he has goes to fund his experiments.

"I'm not surprised. DNA modification is very expensive."

"DNA modification!?"

Clark pulled the file folder from underneath his arm and handed it to her. "I found an article in the library. Hamilton believed he could restructure DNA and short circuit aggressive behavior. He hoped to eliminate all anti-social impulses in man."

Lois opened the file and flipped through it. "Did he ever talk about actually bringing criminals back to life?"

"Not directly. But he did say he thought they'd be the best people to experiment on. He even claimed he'd found a way to accelerate the maturation process of the embryos."


"The article said his theories outraged the scientific community. That's probably why he dropped out of sight."

Jimmy rushed over waving a fax. "Get a load of this. It just came over on the fax." He handed the paper to Lois, but didn't wait for her to read it before rushing on. "The cops got a definite make on the bank robbers. The fingerprints are exact matches with the real John Dillinger, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow."

"Lois, let's see if we can get hold of Bobby Bigmouth. If Hamilton has successfully cloned these gangsters he's the person who'd know about it. I just can't believe that if he had succeeded with cloning that he didn't announce it to the scientific community."

"Since his main area of expertise is behavior modification, maybe he wanted to see if he was successful before making any announcements."

"Maybe Clyde and Dillinger didn't want to wait." Clark pushed the button to call the elevator. "Make sure you tell Perry about the fax," Clark said to Jimmy as the doors opened.

"What about Bonnie?" Lois teased. "Are you a little sweet on her, Clark?" They entered the elevator together.

"I do feel a little sorry for her, Lois. I don't think she was really a bad person."

The doors closed and Lois put her arms around him. "You old softy." She kissed his cheek quickly then stepped back. "First blondes and now red-heads. What am I going to do with you, Clark?"


"Mmmm. That ravioli smells great," Lois said, hungrily eyeing the bag in Clark's lap. She reached over to for the bag, but Clark caught her hand.

"Lois, it's for Bobby."

"He won't know."

"Oh yeah? Remember what happened that time you picked some of the cheese off his pizza? He got all pouty and wouldn't tell us anything."

"I still don't know how he knew that cheese was missing. I was very careful not to disturb the pepperoni."

Clark's cell phone rang. "Better get that, Clark," came a voice from the back seat. Lois and Clark both jumped. How had he managed to sneak up on Superman, Clark wondered. Lois was far too much of a distraction!

"What'd you bring me?" Bobby asked as Clark answered his phone.

"A wide variety of culinary delights," Lois answered him.

Clark finished his conversation and closed his phone. "That was Jimmy. You're not going to believe this. Al Capone paid Perry a visit."

"What? How many more of these characters are out there?"

"I don't know. But Capone tried to bribe him. Apparently, the Mayor got the same offer. Bobby, what do you know about all this? Who are these people?"

Bobby shoveled some ravioli into his mouth, then closed the container and stuck in into a pocket. "From what I hear, they're an experiment gone bad."

"A cloning experiment?" questioned Clark.

Bobby shrugged. "Oh, and this regenerated Capone character? Not a big fan of the no smoking laws."

"What else," Lois urged him.

"For this food?" Bobby asked in disbelief. "That's all you get. You didn't even bring me dessert."

"Lois?" Clark admonished.

Lois gave an exaggerated sigh, then reached down and pulled a bag from under her seat.

Bobby opened the bag and exclaimed, "Ooooo! Tortes!" He takes a bite.

Lois was watching him jealously. "So, you got the dessert. Now, talk."

"Okay. There's this guy, runs an illegal gaming club down on Hobs street. Name's Georgie Hairdo. Capone's thugs have been leaning on him pretty hard."

"What's Capone's interest in the club?" Clark queried.

"He wants a piece of the action. Like the old days. Word on the street is that there's something going down tonight at the club. That's all I know." Bobby opened the Jeep's back door. "I gotta run. Oh, and next time, bring me something to drink. And I don't mean none of that imported water. Something American."

Lois and Clark watched as he exited the Jeep and disappeared around a corner. "So what is our next move?"

"I think we should visit that club," Lois said decisively.



Lois blushed in pleasure as she ran her hands down the red dress. "You like?"

"Very much. I'll be the envy of every man there tonight."

"And I will be the envy of every woman."

Clark looked down at his suit. "Really?"

"Trust me. Did you get a car from the Planet garage?"

"Yes. Ready to go?"


They sat in the car for a few moments watching the patrons enter the club.

"Pretty classy crowd for an illegal gaming club," Lois commented as two couples decked out in Metropolis' finest entered the club.

"Isn't that Congressman Haines and his wife?"

Lois snorted. "Nice to know how our taxes are being spent."

Listening as the couple is allowed entrance, he heard the congressman give the password, " The fat lady sings".

After the door closed behind them, Lois unbuckled her seat belt. "Let's do this."

He exited the car and held Lois' door and then closed it once she was standing beside him. "You think they'll let us just walk in?"

"Give me some credit, Clark. I'm smart enough to get around some stupid bouncer."

Clark grinned to himself. This should be interesting!

Lois knocked on the massive door. The peep hole slid open as we see just a pair of dark eyes stared back.

"Hi. Um… we have a reservation," Lois tried.

"We don't take reservations. What's the password?" was the answer from behind the door.

"'Joe sent me," she tried again.


"'The eagle has landed? Swordfish?" she asked hopefully.

"I saw that Marx Brother's movie too, lady. Nice try."

Clark interrupted, "The fat lady sings. My friend is just kidding you."

The man behind the door sighed in exasperation and the door opened.

"Ooh, look, Clark! Slot machines!" Lois said falling into her helpless, need a big strong man to protect me role. "Do you have any quarters, sweetums, please?"

Clark laughed. Sweetums. That was a new one. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a roll of quarters. He had come prepared. "I hope I can charge this as an expense to the Planet," he grumbled passing them to her.

Lois eyes danced with laughter. "Oh, thank you," she gushed before inserting one of the coins in the nearest machine and pulling back the lever. The machine began to ring and she picked up a handful of quarters from the slot.

"Wow, Clark. I should do this more often. It would double my pay."

"Just don't get so caught up you forget we're here to work."

"Just a few more quarters. I just got it warmed up." But he knew by Lois' determined look that it would be a while longer before she would be tempted away from the machine.

"I'm going to head over to the bar and see if I can spot any of our gangsters."

Clark made his way across the room, pausing for a moment to watch a game of craps. As the players consistently lost, Clark pulled down his glasses and x-rayed the dice. Weighted. A puff of his super-breath caused the dice to roll again. A frown crossed the face of the croupier as cheers erupted around the table. Clark smiled as he slid his glasses back onto his nose and continued on to the bar.

"Hey, handsome. How about some company?" A small hand tucked into his arm. He looked down to see Bonnie Parker looking up at him.

"Um, sure." He led her to the bar, seated her at one of the stools, and took a seat for himself. "So, uh, do you come here often?" He still could hardly believe that this tiny woman had been half of a notorious gang that had terrorized the Midwest less than a century ago. But he was a professional. He had interviewed criminals before. Even Robert Masello when he was on death row the night before he was to be executed. Perhaps he could manage to get some information from her as to where the gang's hangout was.

"I haven't been here in years. I guess you could say I haven't been anywhere in years." For the first time Clark saw the deep sadness in her eyes.

The bartender made his way over to them. "What would you like to drink?" Clark asked Bonnie.

Bonnie tossed her head as if to shake off her sadness. "Why don't you surprise me?"

Clark turned to the bartender. "White wine for the lady. Club soda for me, thanks." The bartender nodded and moved to fill his order.

"So, do you come here often?" she asked him.

"No, this is the first time. Do you live nearby?" Perhaps he could get some clue as to where the gang hung out.

Clyde Barrow interrupted them. "Back off, pretty boy. The lady's taken," he said threateningly.

Clark held up his hands in surrender. "We were just talking. I'm with someone as well." His eyes found Lois still avidly pulling the lever on the slot machines.

Bonnie's gaze followed his. "That's a pretty dress," she drawled. "Red was… is my favorite color, you know." Clark knew. He shuddered internally remembering the lifeless, bullet ridden body of Bonnie Parker clothed in red.

"You're supposed to be watching the door," Clyde hissed at Bonnie.

Clark could see Lois was now heading their way. "It was nice to, uh, meet both of you. I have to go." He laid a few dollars on the bar and moved toward Lois.

She grabbed his arm in excitement. "I just found out Georgie Hair-do's dead."

"Bonnie and Clyde are here," he said nodding his head toward the bar. "We've got to call the police. Let's go."

"Just a second, I want to collect my winnings." As she turned to do so, the door burst open and Al Capone, Dillinger, and a couple thugs entered, guns cocked and ready for a fight. Dillinger fired a shot into the air to get everyone's attention. The bouncers reached for their own weapons and were quickly disarmed by Bonnie and Clyde. Clark now realized that Bonnie's interaction with him had been a cover as she moved into the best position from which to approach the bouncer. Clark felt a hint of disappointment, hoping that this Bonnie Parker would choose a different path, but when push came to shove, Bonnie would stand by her man, no matter what scheme he was pulling.

"My apologies, ladies and gentlemen, for this little interruption," spoke Al Capone. "I just came by to announce that Georgie Hairdo has wisely decided to retire from the hospitality business. So from now on, this club belongs to Al Capone."

Perhaps the light caught the sparkles on Lois dress, perhaps she moved just a bit, but she caught John Dillinger's eye. "Hey, Al, how about we name this little cutie our new head hostess?"

Dillinger's feet carried him across the floor until he stood by Lois. His hand raised to caress Lois' bare shoulder. "You know, I always was partial to a lady in red." Lois shrunk from his extended hand leaning into Clark.

Clark grabbed Dillinger's hand and flung it away from Lois. "Leave her alone."

"Who are you? Her big brother?" Dillinger placed both hands on Clark's chest and shoved him, then turned to reach for Lois. Clark immediately stepped between them.

"Clark-" Lois tried to calm him. But before her efforts at peacekeeping could continue, Clyde Barrow leveled his pistol at Clark and fired three times into Clark's chest. Lois and Bonnie simultaneously cried, "No!" but it was too late.

The world slowed almost to a stop as he felt the slugs impact against his chest. His eyes met Bonnie's anguished ones. Was she re-living that instant when the bullet plowed into the man who was her whole world? Was the scream that was heard one of pain as the bullets pierced her body or the anguished cry of her lover's name as his lifeless body slumped against the steering wheel. Lois' desperate voice came to him then, "No! Clark!"

Right. Clark Kent had just been shot. Three times, at point blank range. Clark Kent should be every bit as dead as Clyde Barrow was when his body followed the curve of the steering wheel to slump against the door of his stolen Ford. Clark's knees felt weak and he began to collapse even as his conscience began to scream at him, "Clark Kent is dead. Clark Kent is *dead*!" He allowed his body to continue its slow slide to the floor.

"You moron," Al Capone yelled, clearly unhappy with Clyde. "What did you do that for?"

"Because he got on my nerves," stated Clyde defiantly.

"Let's get out of here. And take the stiff. I can't afford to be linked to a murder." Al Capone took a drag on his cigar as he turned toward the door.

"No! Please, don't take him," Lois begged. She fell across his body sobbing.

Small but firm hands removed Lois from him. "He's dead, honey. It's life."

Large hands now grabbed him roughly and began to drag him, bump, bump, bump, up the steps and out the door. Just before she would be out of sight, he slitted his eyes open to see Lois kneeling in the middle of the floor with a horrified look on her face.

He's dead, he's dead, he's dead, Bonnie's words echoed in his head.

Careless hands tossed him in the back seat of the vintage Ford and it roared off into the night.

"Why'd you have to shoot him, Daddy?" Bonnie asked. Clark recalled that was one of Bonnie's pet names for Clyde.

"What's with you, Baby? It's not something we haven't done a dozen times before."

"No, Honey, *we* didn't. It could have been different this time. The law wasn't after us. We could have had a real life. Got married."

Clyde laughed. "No, we couldn't. Because we'd never be considered real people. These bodies are just copies of who we were before."

"We need to dump the body," Dillinger's voice broke in. "Drive toward the wharf and find a convenient alley," he informed the driver.

There was no more conversation as the car sped on its way. Finally it lost some speed, the door opened, and Clark allowed his body to fall to the pavement and roll into a pile of garbage. The car continued on its way.

He heard nothing but a few rats nearby. He lifted him self and brushed at his suit, his fingers catching on the holes created by the bullets from Clyde's gun. Clark's heart was aching as he lifted into the sky, heading towards the only place he could go. Kansas. Dead, dead, dead. Clark Kent is dead. *I'm* dead.


He caught his parents just as they were heading up the stairs for the night and relayed the story to them. "You're going to be getting some phone calls, maybe visits. I wanted you to know I'm fine. Well, Superman is fine."

"Clark-" Martha's voice was thick with tears.

"I'm going out. I don't know where. I have to think. I-" His voice shook with the strain of trying to keep his emotions under control. Everything he'd ever wanted, his job, his friends, a real life, *Lois*… it was all over.

"What about Lois?" Jonathan asked.

Clark spoke bitterly. "The man who could love Lois is dead. How would it comfort her to find out he was a "super" liar as well as Superman?"

"Lois deserves-" began Martha.

"Lois deserves a whole man, more than what Superman can give her." With a flash of his cape, he was gone.


He flew for hours. He would occasionally land and pace back and forth, an uninhabited island, the deserts of Africa, the icy plains of Antarctica. What should he do? Could he be Superman full time? Clark Kent was dead, but should he invent another identity so he could be… human, at least some of them time? What about his parents? Could he still visit them and take the risk that someone would notice that the late Clark Kent was still alive on the Kent Farm?

Still, without realizing the direction he was heading, that was where he ended back up at. His parents were in the cellar, supposedly cleaning it out, although it looked to Clark as if they were just moving things around. He couldn't blame them for trying to find "busy work" to help them deal with this trial.

"Mr. White called this morning. He was very nice, wanted to know if there was anything he could do for us," Martha informed him.

"Did he say anything about Lois?" Clark asked guiltily.

Martha and Jonathan exchanged furtive glances. "He said that she was planning to come in to the Planet later today. Comfort of the familiar."

"I just don't understand why you have to cut yourself off from your friends at the Planet, from Lois. *You* are still alive. Clark Kent may be… a persona you have to retire, but *you*," Jonathan tapped his son's chest, "are alive."

"Superman doesn't work at the Daily Planet. He doesn't go to ballgames with Perry and Jimmy. He doesn't listen to Lois go off on some weird tangent… and secretly love it."

"But you can still see them," Martha argued.

"Not the way I want. They treat me so differently as Superman. And Lois. Eventually… well, I don't even know if I could stand to watch Lois get over me and move on."

"I wish I could knock your heads together," muttered Martha under her breath. In her normal, though concerned, voice she urged, "Clark, just *tell* her."

Clark shook his head. "I don't know…"

"One thing I *do* know," Jonathan broke in," is a lot of people you care about are still in danger. And Metropolis needs Superman."

"Yeah, well. I don't even know where to start looking for them. All I have to go on is a ticket stub that Dillinger dropped."

Jonathan started in surprise, "Clark, don't you know? That's how they caught him eighty years ago. He was coming out of a theater. Dillinger's a real movie buff."

A determined look crossed Clark's face. "Then perhaps Superman will spend a day at the movies." But first…


The guards and receptionist in the STAR Labs lobby merely stared at Superman.

"Please," he repeated, "I need to speak to one of your scientists about cloning."

"Um, uh, um, that would be-," the receptionist pulled a directory from a file on her desk.

Superman gently took it from her and sped-read through it. "Dr. Klein. I need to talk to Dr. Klein."

It appeared that Dr. Klein dabbled in everything from genetics to high-tech gadgets. He was certainly qualified to answer a few questions.

"Oh, um, okay. I'll just call him."

"Do that. In the mean time, I'm heading up to his office." The guard quickly slid his card in the ID reader and opened the door for Superman to enter.

Allowing the flustered receptionist time to alert Dr. Klein to his impending visit, he took the steps and then walked slowly down the hall to Dr. Klein's lab. The door opened as he reached it.

"Superman. I'm honored. You wanted to talk to me?"

"Yes. I'd like you to take a look at something and tell me if it is even possible, and then what you know about the whereabouts of the scientist." He handed Dr. Klein the file he had shown Lois the day before. Dr. Klein looked through it as he turned and walked back into his lab.

"Cloning is not really my area of expertise. Actually, I don't have an area of expertise…" he mused distractedly as he read.

Clark tried to remember what he had read about Dr. Klein. Thanks to his photographic memory, he recalled that Dr. Klein was considered a genius by his peers. Unfortunately, he dabbled in so many different fields that many of his theories would lie unproven for years because his focus had drifted to another subject. However, Dr. Klein had managed to stay with one project long enough to invent some sort of computer device that earned STAR Labs a great deal of money in royalties and Dr. Klein tenure and a guarantee of laboratory space.

"This theory is interesting. Officially, no humans have been cloned, but it certainly does not discourage people from attempting it. He does mention accelerated growth, which I feel is one of the major reasons why many attempts at cloning are unsuccessful. Life takes time. Haven't we learned anything over the last billions and billions of years?"

"Could his experiment work, in theory?"

"Possibly. He has a good grasp on the technicalities. Actually, I think this technique would be better applied to reviving dead tissue, as in healing tissue still part of a live human. Taking tissue from a long dead body and trying to re-create that person's personality and memories… it's pretty out there." Dr. Klein shook his head.

"Do you know Dr. Hamilton?"

"We may have met once or twice. If I recall, he is quite the recluse. Given many people's objections to cloning, he may have had trouble finding funding for his work. It's doubtful that he had the funds to test his theories on behavioral modification."

"Wait a second, you said these techniques could be used for healing?"

"Yes, burn victims, maybe. Flesh eating viruses…"

"Do you know where Dr. Hamilton might have his lab at?"

"Sorry, Superman. There's not exactly a directory of mad scientists." Dr. Klein laughed at his own joke.

"Well, Dr. Klein, you've been very helpful." He turned to leave.

"Superman! Wait."

Clark turned back to look at the strange man.

"I just wanted to tell you, Superman, if you ever need anything, anything at all, I'd be honored if you would contact me again. I'm a qualified medical doctor and researcher. I know, I know, you're invulnerable. But if you did ever need help, I would be happy to be of service."

Clark's impatience to leave was momentarily forgotten. Not many people looked at Superman and saw… a man. The hero in tights, the man of steel, yes. Dr. Klein had been surprised to see him, but the admiration in his eyes was for someone he saw an equal, a man. "Dr. Klein, *I'm* honored. If I do need assistance, yours will be the first I seek."


Clark's mind mulled over his conversation as he flew over Metropolis. After checking several theaters, Clark found his prey in an old revival theater. He watched as Dillinger came out of the movie theater pulling up his collar and putting on a pair of sunglasses. Superman swooped down to land in front of him. Dillinger started, "What the… when did people start to fly?"

"Not long before they started coming back from the dead. Enjoy the movie?"

Dillinger's shoulders fell. "How'd you find me?"

Clark held up the ticket stub he found in the bank. "The same way the FBI found you seventy years ago. Coming out of the Biograph Theater. I guess old habits die hard. Die Hard. Now there's a movie you should see, Dillinger. It involves a very tall building." Superman grabbed Dillinger by the collar and hoisted him up onto the roof of a nearby 30 story building. "Kind of like this one."


"Where's Capone and the others?"

A sneer crossed Dillinger's face. "I don't rat."

"We'll see about that!" He removed the hat from Dillinger's head and tossed it into the wind. They both watched as it floated to the street below. "One more time. Where's Capone?"

"I know you good guys never hurt nobody," Dillinger said smugly.

"Like I said, you should watch Die Hard. See, when the villain threatens the life of someone that the hero cares about, he finds himself acting, well, shall we say, a little ruthless. Clark Kent was a very good friend of mine."

"Oh? I… I didn't know you two were so close."

"Two people can't get any closer. Now where's Capone?"

"I, uh… don't remember."

Clark was fast getting fed up with these gangster clones. If it weren't for them, by now Lois would know he was Superman. Instead, she believed that Clark Kent was dead. "Well, maybe it will come to you on the way down." Knowing he could easily beat the gangster to the sidewalk, he pushed Dillinger off the roof. Dillinger began to scream and wave his arms and legs wildly as he fell towards the earth. Heaving a sigh, Superman pushed off the roof and caught the gangster before he impacted with the concrete.

"I have been known to miss… on occasion." It was a lie. He had never missed a jumper yet. But there was a first time, and he was flirting with the edge of his morals by using such tactics to scare a confession out of Dillinger. Fortunately, Dillinger seemed to believe the motive behind Superman's actions and he quickly sputtered out, "1500 Old North Road."


After delivering Dillinger into the police's eager hands, Superman flew to Old North Road and "let" himself into the building. Spotting lab equipment behind a locked door, he slid open the lock and entered. Something was bubbling in a vat. He wasn't sure he wanted to know what- or who- it was. Spying a stack of papers with a blue cover proclaiming "DNA: Our Hope for the Future", he read through it in seconds.

He thought back to his conversation with Dr. Klein. Could this possibly be the answer he was trying so desperately to find that could bring Clark Kent back from the dead?

Taking the manuscript with him, he flew to STAR Labs and entered for the second time that day. This time the receptionist greeted him, "Hello, Superman. Dr. Klein told us to allow you access to his lab." The guard slid his ID card through the reader and held the door for him. What a difference!

Reaching Dr. Klein's lab, he knocked on the door. A few seconds later he knocked again. "Dr. Klein?"

Still nothing. He put his hand on the knob. It wasn't locked, so he opened the door slightly. Spotting Dr. Klein at a microscope he asked again, "Dr. Klein?"

He must have reached Dr. Klein this time, because he lifted his head. "Superman! How long have you been here?"

"Not long. Dr. Klein-"

"I'm sorry. I was examining this fingernail underneath the scope. At high magnification, it is amazing what you can tell from just a simple-"

"Dr. Klein!" he interrupted. "I found a copy of Dr. Hamilton's notes. You said that his technique might work for tissue regeneration. Could you look over this section here and tell me if it is at all feasible."

"Certainly, Superman." Dr. Klein accepted the ream of paper from him and pondered the section that Clark indicated.

"Hmm. Well, it would need trials, that sort of thing, but it is certainly a possibility. If you do find Hamilton, I would enjoy discussing this with him."

Clark took the manuscript back. "If I find him, I'll let him know."


Clark felt like a fraud entering the Daily Planet as Superman, but he had to find Lois and tell her what he had found. He had decided to give out the story that Superman had noticed the antique vehicle travelling at a high speed. Superman had begun to descend to investigate when Clark's body was thrown from it and the vehicle sped into the night. Rather than chasing down the vehicle, Superman decided to take a closer look at Clark. By some strange miracle, Clark's heart was still beating faintly, though he noted no respiration, and feared that Clark was only seconds away from death. In a split second, he made the decision to freeze Clark with his super-breath and hope that by some miracle his injuries could be repaired and his life restored.

Then Superman would explain how Dr. Klein had told him how Dr. Hamilton's practices could be used to restore dead tissue and that Superman had taken it upon himself to follow Dr. Hamilton's instructions to the letter in hopes of restoring Clark Kent's life.

But to Lois, once the shock had subsided, he would tell the truth. Because he felt sick that his "death" might be causing her grief and because he did not want to keep the truth from her any longer, no matter how mad she would be at his years of prevarication. Yes, once they got the clone gangsters put away and Lois enjoyed a good night or two of peaceful sleep, he was going to tell her… no matter what.

Jimmy was at Clark's desk sadly looking at the items displayed on its neat surface, his hand touching Clark's nameplate. He turned upon hearing Superman's approach. "Superman. I guess you heard about C.K. being murdered."

"Yes, I did. In fact, I have some news about that for Lois. Do you know where she is?"

"She left a while ago. She's pretty upset. I've been trying to reach her to see if she wants to get together, maybe talk about it a little bit, but she's not answering her phone."

"Do me a favor. Call her cell phone. And just keep calling her. I'll follow the sound."

"You got it," Jimmy assured him, picking up the phone.

"Oh, and Jimmy? I know that Clark considers you one of his best friends. Thanks for being there for Lois." He didn't wait around to hear Jimmy's response. He wanted to say something more to comfort his friend but this story belonged to no one else but Lois Lane-Kent.


Soaring over Metropolis, he strained with his superhearing for the ring of Lois cell phone. He finally located it at a construction site in one of the new subdivisions just outside of the city limits. What in the world was she doing there?

But as he got closer, he saw Lois and Hamilton struggling to stay above a rising sea of cement. He touched down and pulled them both out of the grimy moat. Seeing that their hands had been tied, he snapped the ropes that bound them.

"Superman! Oh, I'm so glad to see you!" Lois cried.

"Are you all right?" he asked, mainly to Lois.

Hamilton nodded, a little in awe at his first close encounter with Superman.

Lois rubbed her arms as she joked, "Just a little stiff. I'm glad you got here when you did."

"I didn't come alone. I think I found someone that you will want to see. I'll just let him know it is safe to come out." He quickly flew into the shadows and changed into Clark Kent. He slowly walked back out towards where Hamilton and Lois were trying to wipe the cement from their clothes.

Her head shot up as if someone had called her name. Was the connection between them so strong that she sensed his presence? He walked into the light.

"Clark?" Despite the weight of her cement laden clothes she rushed towards him. "Clark! Clark!" When she reached him, her arms wrapped around his neck. "You're back, you're back. I was so afraid-" She interrupted herself layering his face with kisses, not even caring that Professor Hamilton was watching. Finally she lifted her head and ran her hands over his chest. "How?"

He began with the explanation that he had invented. The truth would come later. "Superman found me just after they dumped my body. He froze me with his superbreath to preserve my tissue, then took me to Professor Hamilton's lab and followed the procedures in his manuscript."

"Of course!" Hamilton interrupted, earning a famous Lois Lane-Kent glare, but he did not even notice. "Freezing the tissue means no permanent damage."

"So it's as if I never died," Clark continued.

"Exactly," Hamilton confirmed.

"Oh, Clark, I don't care how, I'm just so, so… happy isn't even a strong enough word! You're back!" She hugged him again.

"Mr. Kent, you have no idea how glad I am to see you. Thank God some good finally came of my work."

"Clark!" Lois gasped suddenly, "The Planet! We've got to warn them! Capone and his gang are going to kill everyone at the party tonight! Too bad Superman took off before he could give us a ride."

That did it, if Hamilton wasn't here-. He noticed her cell phone still ringing on the ground. He snatched it up. "I've got her, Jimmy. And she says the gang is headed your way." He hung up and pressed speed dial for MetroTaxi.

"Give that to me!" Lois grabbed the phone from his hand. "Yes. Get me a taxi, the Sunset Meadows subdivision ASAP, and there's an extra fifty in it if you get here before I can walk back to Metropolis!" She hung up with a huff. "Let's start walking. We can flag him down when he gets here."

"Lois, you're going to have trouble walking in that," he indicated her quickly stiffening clothes.

"Well, since there isn't an alternative-"

Clark pointed to a pump head with a short hose attached. "You could wash off. We won't look. And here's my jacket." He shrugged out of his sports coat. "As small as you are, this will cover the essentials." I hope, he added to himself.

Though obviously impatient to be on their way, Lois nodded, accepted the coat from him and stepped toward the hose.

Clark and Professor Hamilton slowly walked away. "Sorry, I really don't have anything else to loan out."

"That's fine, Mr. Kent. Once Ms. Lane-Kent is finished with the hose, I may try to rinse some of this off. I see some plastic over there. I'll just wrap that over my suit and hope the cabbie will still let me ride."


The cabbie certainly looked askance at them as he picked them up, but in response to Lois' glare, he only asked, "Where to?"

"The Daily Planet, and forget the speed limit. If any cops follow us, all the better!"


Either the cabbie really needed fifty bucks or he was ecstatic about the opportunity to drive fast. Either way, they arrived at the Planet in record time. When it came time to pay, Lois looked at him, "Clark, I didn't take my purse with me, so can you get it? I'm heading upstairs."

Clark rolled his eyes. "I suppose now is not the time to bring up that I've been dead and don't happen to have any cash on me."

They both looked at Hamilton. He patted his pockets and shrugged.

"We take credit cards," said the cabbie disgustedly. "Perhaps you have one of those."

Lois rushed past him into the Planet. Clark pulled out his wallet and handed Hamilton a card. "Can you take care of it?" and rushed into the Planet after Lois.

He took the stairs, though, not the elevator with Lois on board that had already left by the time he arrived in the lobby. On his way up the staircase, he changed back into Superman.

He could hear Perry's voice, "… Clark Kent. A man who was an inspiration to us all and one of the best damn reporters ever to have a byline in the Daily Planet."

Clark heard the murmur of agreement and then he also heard something else, the opening of the elevator doors and Capone's voice, "Good evening ladies and gentlemen, my name is Al Capone. And we'd appreciate it if all of you would just line up."

"Capone, this isn't nineteen forty. The police are probably already in the lobby. Don't make things worse for yourself," Perry tried to reason with the gangster.

"Already on their way, Chief. Lois said these guys were headed our way," Jimmy broke in.

"The only person things are about to get worse for is you," Capone threatened. He gave a hand signal to his gang.

"Capone! No!" With a rush Superman reached the gang just as they fired into the crowd of partygoers. He caught the bullets and the shooting stopped as the gangsters realized they were ineffective.

"Looking for these?" he asked revealing two handfuls of bullets. He crushed the bullets to a powder. The gang turned to fire at him, but with a blast of heat vision, he heated the metal guns causing the gangsters to drop them as their hands began to burn. He saw Capone dart into the stairwell. As he rushed to intercept him, Bonnie and Clyde ran for the elevators. Bad choice. Mad Dog Lois had just arrived and was looking for someone to burn. Jimmy had given chase and now caught Clyde and delivered and impressive punch. "That's for CK," he crowed.

He caught up to the gangster as Capone reached the bottom of the stairs and headed for the stairwell exit. He lifted Capone up by the back of the collar.

"Hey! What's going on?!" Capone shouted as his infamous cigar fell from his mouth.

"Alcatraz is closed, Capone. But I'm sure they'll find something nice for you." With great satisfaction Superman pushed Capone through the door into the arms of the policemen rushing into the lobby of the Daily Planet building.

Rushing back to the stairwell, he changed into his work clothes- minus the jacket which Lois still wore- and entered the newsroom just as the police led Bonnie, Clyde and the other thugs away in handcuffs.

Lois approached Jimmy and Perry, wiping dried cake goo from her hands with a towel. His jacket was never going to be the same again! She glanced around. "You guys seen Clark?

Perry and Jimmy exchanged a look, then Perry spoke gently, "Lois. You've been through a horrible ordeal. We all have. But Clark is gone."

Well, now was as good a time as any other to make his comeback. He hurried down the ramp to the newsroom floor. "I don't know about that, Chief."

Jimmy and Perry stared at him opened mouthed for a second before Jimmy asked, "CK?"

Clark nodded happily. He was back. The clones had taken his life, but due to the very process that created them, he had been given it back. And now he was where he belonged, with Lois moving to his side, Perry and Jimmy in front of him, and the other Planet staffers milling about, giving statements to the police. Jimmy caught him in a tight hug.

"How… I mean… what..?" Perry stuttered.

"It's a long story, Chief. Why don't we talk about it over coffee at that little place next door? I won't make you wait to read Lois' story in tomorrow's issue."


When they returned, the detective in charge approached them. "I know you were concerned about Professor Hamilton. You'll be happy to know my men found him at the address you gave us. He wanted you to have this." He handed Clark's credit card back to him.

"Is he okay?" Clark asked worriedly as he inserted the card into his wallet and pocketed them.

"Oh yeah. But he burned down his lab."

"What?!" Clark gasped.

"Probably just as well," Lois said. "Life and death are matters best left to nature."

Professor Hamilton's procedures could have been used to help so many, though! Clark wanted to protest. But then, no one would now be able to critique those theories and find any holes in his own story, so maybe it wasn't completely a bad thing.

"If you'll excuse me," the detective said, "I've got to get back downtown. Dillinger's already got himself a lawyer and he's willing to testify against Capone. By the way. You're the first homicide case I ever had that solved itself. Thanks."

"Uh, you're welcome," Clark said, awkwardly.

"C'mon, son," Perry spoke, clapping Jimmy on the back, "I'll drive you home."

"See you tomorrow, C.K.," Jimmy called moving to follow Perry.

"Want a lift home?" Lois asked.

He hesitated, afraid that if he spent too much time with Lois right now, his exhaustion would loosen his tongue and he would blurt out the truth at the most inopportune time. Lois needed some rest herself. It had to have been a great shock to lose a man you had been close to for thirteen years, the man that, maybe, she even… loved. The adrenaline was wearing off and he stifled a yawn as the stress of the last forty-eight hours began to catch up with him. "Yeah. Thanks. Being dead really takes it out of you."

"That's not funny, Clark," she chastised him with a quiver in her voice.

"Sorry," he apologized instantly. The rest of their ride was completed in an uncomfortable silence.


"Well, thanks for the ride, Lois," he said a little awkwardly. He needed to say so many things, but he was exhausted, and so was she. Now was just not the time.

"I'm coming in with you."

"You are?" Lois had already turned off the Jeep and was headed towards his front door. "I guess you are."

He unlocked the door and opened it so that Lois could enter. She grabbed his tie as she passed him to go through the door and pulled him in, slamming the door shut. She grabbed his face in her hands and began to kiss him frantically, hardly allowing him time to recover from the shock and respond. When she showed no signs of stopping her assault on his mouth, he took her by the shoulders and set her away from him.

"Lois, what is this?"

"Clark, you almost died!" her voice broke. "I want you to make love to me *now*."

"Lois, I don't think we're ready…"

"I've waited forever, Clark, and I'm tired of waiting! What if you had died?"

"Lois, when we make love, it is going to be because we both agree that it is the next step in our relationship, because we both love each other and are committing to a long-term relationship, not because we're emotional. There are still things about me that you don't know. And there are things about you that I don't know either."

"What are you talking about Clark? We've known each other for thirteen years. You know everything about me."

"No, I don't. At work, I've seen the Mad Dog Lois that everyone talks about, but why have I never met her? Why have I never been on the receiving end of your anger?"

"You're doing a good job of trying to get there now," she grumbled.

"So, why don't I ever remember you blowing up at me?"

"I love you."

"And that makes everything I do okay in your eyes? I have a hard time believing that." She did love him. He wanted so much to respond, but he had to get the Superman issue out of the way first. When the time was right.

"I guess I just always excused anything that you did that I didn't like. I was mad about the Godzilla doll."

"But you weren't 'Mad Dog' over it."

"I was mad when you threw me in the dumpster at the Metro Club."

"Okay, I'll give you that one, but Lois, this relationship needs to be a partnership. You need to feel free to express your feelings to me-"

"I just tried-"

"-whether they are feelings of anger or sadness as well as passion. We are going to take this slow and build a solid foundation for our relationship, Lois. We're going to do this right because it is the most important thing in the world to either of us. Because it is the last relationship of this sort I hope to ever have."

Lois shoulders began to shake and he put his arms around her as she sobbed into his chest. "I didn't know what to think. I was so scared. I didn't know where you were or if I'd ever see you again. I just wanted to be as close to you as I could, to really feel like I was a part of you. To assure myself you were really alive. To never let you go."

"There's nothing wrong with that."

"Please, could I at least stay here tonight? I just want to be close to you."

He squeezed her tight. "I'd love it. I missed you too, you know."


Clark roused sometime in the night and noticed that Lois was no longer next to him. "Lois?" he mumbled, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes as he looked around.

"Here, Clark," Lois said as she rose from the seat in front of the large windows.

"Come back to bed. You'll get chilled." He lifted the covers up. She hurried to the bed and slipped under them.

"Thank you, Clark."

"You're welcome. For what?"

"You were right last night. I haven't always been myself around you. I've just, well, worshipped you from afar. I can't believe I even found the courage to tell you how I felt. Don't take what I said the wrong way. I *love* you, Clark, but I don't think I've ever seen myself as your equal."

"Why?" Clark looked completely horrified.

She shrugged. "You were always older, bigger, stronger, smarter, swooping in to save the day. I'm just… Lois Lane. Little girl struggling to keep her head above water, trying to make everyone think that I was strong and smart, but inside I'm just afraid. Afraid my mom would start drinking again, afraid I'd lose my sister, afraid I'd lose you, but afraid to show you how I felt. Afraid Perry will find out I'm really not a great reporter, I'm just lucky. I-"

"Lois! You are strong and smart! You graduated number one in your class at Metropolis University. And you're one of the strongest people I know. Maybe not physically, but inside."

"But I'm not! I have all these fears."

"You've always been strong, Lois. Even when I first met you, I was jealous because you knew exactly what you wanted and you were taking steps to make it happen. You kept your sister innocent of your parent's problems. You were the rock your mom has leaned on many times. You've always been there for me. You're my best friend. And you're beautiful, brilliant, sexy, wonderful… I don't know why you even want me."

"Guess we're two peas in pod. Maybe while we are getting to know each other better, we should work on some of our emotional insecurities."

"Build each other up."

"You can start back at the beautiful, sexy part. That was working."

Clark laughed and pulled her in for a hug and a very passionate kiss. When he finally broke it to allow her some air, he said, "I'm just glad you listened to me so quickly last night. Too much more of that and I wouldn't have been able to find the brain cells to protest."


"Hey, I am far from immune to your charms."

"We could still…" she said, only half jokingly.

"No, temptress. We are going to sleep. We have to work in the morning, remember?"

"I'm sure Perry wouldn't mind if we were late," she grumbled, but she pulled the covers over her shoulder and snuggled into his chest, closing her eyes.


Clark had never enjoyed working with Lois more than he did that day. They worked together in such harmony it was almost as if they were one person. Their talk the night before had removed so many of the barriers between them as they finally expressed their buried fears about their relationship. Only one secret remained and he intended to remedy that as soon as possible. Maybe he should have told her last night, but after being put through his "death" he wasn't ready to lay the fact that the man she loved was a liar on her as well. Forget Smallville. There were quiet places in Metropolis and Superman was going to be strictly off duty. He just wanted one last evening with her before he told her. She had her Tae Kwon Do class tonight, but tomorrow night he would go all out and give her a night she would never forget. He sighed. No, she wouldn't forget it, but he hoped that that would be because it was a good memory. He would make all the arrangements and then ask her out tomorrow morning.


Where was she? Clark wondered for the hundredth time. He checked his e-mail again even though he knew that if he had any new messages he would have received a notice on his screen. He picked up the phone on his desk and was greeted by a dial tone. Well, the phones were working. He pulled his cell phone from the clip at his waist and checked the display. No new messages. It was ten o'clock. Where was Lois? He couldn't think of anywhere she could be or recall if she had mentioned an appointment. Maybe Perry knew. He saved the story that he was supposed to be working on and made his way to Perry's office.


"You got that story ready to go?"

"No, Chief. I was wondering if you knew where Lois was? I haven't seen her today. Was she in earlier? Did you send her out on a story?"

"I haven't seen her. Worried she's cutting you out of a story, Kent?"

"No, I just… she usually says something if she is going to be late. For some reason it is just bugging me."

"Just because you two are dating doesn't mean that you are joined at the hip."

"She told you?"

Perry chuckled. "No, but you just did."

Lois was going to strangle him. "It's just new, you know, and we weren't ready to tell everyone, and we didn't want to become the hot gossip topic in the newsroom-"

Perry waved off his excuses. "As long as you two keep bringing in Kerth winning stories, I don't care, officially. Unofficially, you'd better not hurt that girl, Kent. She's wanted this for a long time."

Clark cleared his throat. He felt very uncomfortable talking to Perry about this when he thought that Lois probably would want to tell him herself. "Perry, I have no intentions of hurting Lois. I love her too, you know."

Perry nodded, satisfied. "I guess you do."

"Right now, I'm just wondering where she is. I think I'm going to go check her apartment. What if she's sick or something?"

"Go, but hurry back. This paper doesn't write itself, you know."


Clark knocked on Lois' door. No answer. He knocked a little louder. "Lois?" No answer. He retrieved his key ring from his pocket and proceeded through the locks on her door while he tuned his hearing into her heartbeat. Nothing. He frowned as he opened the door. "Lois?" he called again, but he knew she wasn't there. "Lois?" He walked through the small apartment until he reached her bedroom. He knocked softly on the half-opened door before entering. He looked quickly around the room. The bed was made. Work clothes hung from the door of her closet. He hadn't spent much time in her bedroom, but he didn't see anything out of place. He made his way down the hall to the bathroom. The door was open and she wasn't there. Maybe he had passed her on her way to Planet. He tried listening for her heartbeat again, but still didn't hear anything. But then, he couldn't hear everything. Maybe she was just out of his range. He locked up and headed back to the Planet.


He looked over the newsroom as he stepped off the elevator. Jimmy passed by and Clark grabbed his arm, "Jimmy? Have you seen Lois?"

"No, CK, I haven't seen her all day."

"Did she call in?"

"I don't think so. You can check with Perry."

Clark nodded and walked to Perry's office. Perry looked up from the layout he was working on.

"Was she at home?"

"No, but nothing looked out of place."

"Sometimes people, even couples, have to do things apart, Clark. I'm sure she'll turn up."

Clark knew Perry was right. Lois didn't check with him about every little thing. She was independent and, honestly, he liked her that way. It was so… Lois. But he just couldn't shake the feeling that something wasn't right. Disappointed, he began to make calls to cancel his big plans for this evening.

After work he changed into Superman and did a patrol over Metropolis, always keeping out and eye and an ear for any sign of Lois. Nothing.

He went back to his apartment and called her house. Just her answering machine. "Hi, this is Lois. Leave a message, or call my cell at 555-2598." Well, he would try that again, too. He hung up and then dialed her cell phone. "You've reached Lois Lane-Kent. If this is about a story, please try me at the Daily Planet. Otherwise, leave a message and I'll call you back when I get time."

Where was she? She had to know that he would be worried about her if he hadn't seen her all day. Why hadn't she let him know she was… well, doing whatever she was doing?

A fire in one of the Hobbs Bay tenements had kept him busy the rest of the night, keeping him from checking to see if she had returned. Once the fire was out and the building's remains stabilized for the fire department to go in and begin their evaluation, Clark went to his apartment and got ready for work. He wondered if Lois would be there when he arrived. Maybe she was busy trying to get a story typed up before deadline and wasn't answering her phone.

But she wasn't there. He dialed another familiar number. "Mom?"

"Clark, honey, it is great to hear from you. How are things going?"

"Fine, Mom, I-"

"No, Clark, *things*, you know, with Lois?"

"Umm, I think *things* are going well. Great, really. But actually, I was wondering, have you hear from Lois lately?"

"N-n-no, Clark, uh, Lois has not called us recently. Why?"

"I haven't seen or heard from her in over 24 hours. I know she doesn't answer to me, but I usually have some idea of what she's doing. I just, have a bad feeling about this."

"Have you looked for her?"

"Yes! And," he dropped his voice, "Superman has looked for her. Nothing."

"I'm sure she's fine, Clark. Lois has lived in Metropolis all her life. She's probably just decided to work on a story by herself."

"If she is, she hasn't told Perry about it. I'm thinking about giving Inspector Henderson a- Wait a second." His hearing had suddenly tuned into a heartbeat. Lois! It was beating fast, too. "Mom, I think I hear her. I call you later."

He looked up as the elevator doors opened revealing Lois, loaded down with shopping bags. At least he thought it was Lois. What had she done to her hair? "Lois?"

Her eyes swung over to him. She looked puzzled for a second before she said, "Clark?"

"Lois, where have you been? I've been worried sick about you. Why haven't you called and why aren't you answering your cell phone?"

"Since when do I answer to you? I was busy," she said petulantly, sticking out her lower lip.

"Doing what?" What in the world could Lois have been doing that would have been more important to her than her job at the Planet?

"I was shopping. I got the cutest things. And I got my hair cut. And these." She held out her hands revealing long manicured nails. "Do you like?"

"I… sure, Lois. But how are you going to type-"

"What about my hair?"

"It's different. Um, yeah, I guess I like it. You didn't mention wanting to get it cut."

"I decided I wanted to go with a different look. The old one was so… boring, don't you think?"

"No, I like the way you looked."

She pouted again, "And now?"

"This… this is nice too. You were shopping all day yesterday?"

"Yes. Why?"

"We… *I* was worried about you. You didn't ask for any time off."

"I work hard. Really hard. I didn't think it would be such a big deal if I took some time for myself. What's it to you?"

"You're kidding, right? Being partners in a relationship means talking to each other. I really wish you had told me that you were taking the day off."

"Relationship? We're partners, right?"

"Yes, Lois. Are you feeling okay? You seem a little out of it."

"I'm fine. I'm just tired from shopping yesterday. It's really hard work, you know. All those bags. And taking my clothes off and trying on new ones constantly. It's very tiring."

"So you want to cut out early and get some take out?"

"Oh, that sounds nice, Clark, but I have a date."


"A date. All those bags got so heavy and this guy offered to help me. We had lunch and he asked me out to dinner tonight."

Clark grasped Lois elbow and pulled her none to gently into the conference room.

"What is going on here, Lois!? What about us?"

"We're partners, right?" she asked.

Why did she look so confused? If anyone should be confused, it should be him! "Yes! We're also dating."

"Dating!? I mean, dating, yes, I know we are. But not exclusively, right?"

"I didn't realize I needed to make that distinction. From what you had said, I just assumed-"

"Well, don't assume anything with me, Clark. My life has had a lot of changes in it recently and I don't need you pressuring me. If I want to see other people, I think I should be able to do that."

Clark felt his heart breaking. "I'm sorry, Lois. I didn't think I was pressuring you. If anything, I got the impression that you wanted us to move faster than I was comfortable with."

"Really?" Lois looked at him curiously. "You're a strange one, Clark Kent. Now, don't we have a job to do, partner?"

Clark filled her in on the story Perry had him working on, but his mind was whirling. Something just wasn't right here. Was he really pressuring Lois? Was that why she had to get away yesterday? Why she had cut her beautiful hair? Why she was… wanting to slow down and date other people? A week ago she was kissing him passionately and giggling at the soft kisses he was placing behind her ear and down her neck. Now she wanted to slow down?

"I'm hungry. Can we eat lunch now?"

"What? Lois, it's only ten o'clock. You just got here an hour ago. Look, I'll go get you one of those chocolate donuts you like so much. That should tide you over until lunch."

"Oooh- I love chocolate. Right? And then we can have lunch. Can we get frog legs? I love frog legs."

"You love frog legs? Since when?"

"Since… since as long as I can remember."

Clark shook his head in amusement. I guess I don't know everything about her. "Frog legs, huh? I'll see what I can do. Meanwhile, I'll get you that donut."

Clark hurried to the breakroom to fix them both a cup of coffee and snag one of Lois' favorite donuts. Pausing for a second as he went to pour the cream and sugar into his cup, he stopped and then reached for the instant coffee and added a scoop to his cup. Maybe caffeine didn't affect him physically, but mentally he felt in need of a boost. He carried the cups and her donut back to Lois' desk. "Here you go."

"Ooh, coffee. My favorite." She reached eagerly for the cup and pastry.

As he turned to head for his own desk, out of the corner of his eye he saw her glance around before dumping her coffee in to the plant on her desk. The donut went in the drawer.

Yet she smiled happily at him as he sat down. "Thanks, Clark. I guess I was really hungry. And thirsty."

"Do you want me to get you some more?"

"No! No, I mean, I've had plenty, for now. Thanks."

Something was definitely not right.


Clark couldn't help staring at Lois as she finished off her second plate of frog legs. Did she know how expensive this restaurant was? It was the only one in Metropolis that he had found willing to fix frog legs during the lunch hour. And the waiter had not looked happy when he had requested a second plate of them for Lois.

"Mmmnn. These are good. Can I have another?"

"Another? Lois, you just ate two plates of frog legs. You're right, you really do love them."

"Please, just one more."

"Here take mine. I'll just order us some dessert."

He hadn't really enjoyed the frog legs anyway. Yeah, he guessed they did taste a little like chicken, but he just didn't see the attraction. He signaled to the waiter who quickly headed to their table.

"Can I get some cheesecake and a slice of the chocolate-chocolate cake?"

The waiter nodded politely. "Certainly, sir."

Clark watched in curious silence as Lois polished off his plate as well. The waiter soon set the dessert before him. "Thanks."

Lois looked at him as she licked the last of her meal off her fingers. "You must like sweet things, huh?"

Clark pushed the chocolate cake towards her. "This is for you, of course."

"Really? Uh, well, uh, I'm just stuffed. Maybe I could take it and eat it later?"

"Lois, what is wrong? Please just tell me. And why the sudden aversion to chocolate?"

"I just want to look nice… for you. I bought a lot of new stuff yesterday, and I just want to make sure I don't gain any weight so that I can fit into it."

"You could always just work on your Tae Kwon Do like you usually do."

"Tae Kwon Do?"

"Yes, martial arts, your brown belt?"

"Like punching and kicking and stuff? I'd get all sweaty."

Clark must have looked surprised because she back-pedaled quickly. "Of course. That's what I'll do. And I'll… I'll take the cake with me to eat after I work out." She smiled happily at the solution she had come up with.

He reached over and squeezed her hand. "Sounds like a good plan. Lois, your hand is kind of clammy. Do you feel okay?"

She snatched her hand out from under his. "I'm fine, Clark."

He scooted his chair closer to hers. She looked at him almost warily before her face went blank. "I'm just worried about you. You don't seem quite like yourself."

"I'm just tired. And I was really, really hungry. I'm fine now, really." She smiled at him.

"Good. You want to share my dessert?"

"Just a bite," she agreed.

He cut a piece for her making sure to swirl it in the strawberry sauce before holding the fork for her to take a bite. Smiling in reminiscence, he managed to get some strawberry on the side of her mouth.

"Oh, no," he exaggerated.

"What, what's wrong?"

"You have some strawberry on your mouth."

"Oh. I'm sorry." She began to grab for her napkin.

His hand stilled hers. "No, like this." And he brought his lips to hers. For second she stiffened and did not respond, then she began to move her lips.

Clark released her. "There. Got it."

Her hand flew to her mouth. "Good. That was… nice. Thank you."

Clark finished the rest of his cheesecake in puzzled silence. What had Lois so distracted? If it was a story, why had she doodled flowers and hearts all over her notepad this morning instead of actually working on it? And that kiss was… weird. He tried to clear his head of these thoughts. Lois was entitled to off days just like anyone else.


"Enjoy your date?"

Lois' head came up as she passed his desk headed for the elevator. "Oh. That. Um, I was thinking, do you want me to tell him I can't go out with him anymore, that we are exclusive? I mean, I loved having lunch with you, and so maybe… if you want to?"

"Lois, of course I want to. As long as you don't feel I'm pressuring you."

"Okay," she said in her childish voice. "I'll see 'ya tomorrow."

"Tomorrow's your day off."

"It is? I thought that was yesterday."

"Tomorrow is your *scheduled* day off."

"Oh. I guess I'll see you the next day."

"Will you go out with me Saturday night?"

"Sure! Can we go back where we went today and have more frog legs?"

"Anything you want."

"Yay! I really liked that place." She smiled happily and headed to the elevator.


Clark paced all evening. Sensing that he was holding back, was she retaliating by putting up some barriers of her own? Letting him know that if he didn't give some sign that he was ready to move the relationship forward that she would have no trouble finding someone to take his place? He couldn't imagine Lois out with anyone but him. He wanted her to be his for always. He hadn't said the words yet, at least in this context, but he loved Lois. He just had to get up his courage to be honest with her and find the right time to tell her he was Superman so that their relationship could move forward. Maybe Saturday night.

It was ten o'clock. Would she be in yet? He dialed her number.

"Yeah?" she answered.

"Lois? It's Clark."

"Clark! How are you?"

"Fine. How was your date? Was he upset you're not going out with him anymore?"

"Oh, maybe a little. I don't care. Guess what?"

The abrupt change in topic startled him. "What?"

"Before I told him about us, he bought me frogs."

"Frogs? You had more frog legs?"

She was talking in that childish voice again. "No, silly, not frog legs. Frogs. Real ones. Doppelbuufo frogs. Though they have legs, so I guess he did buy me frog legs." She giggled at her joke.

"Lois? How much did you have to drink?"

"I had a glass of wine with dinner. He ordered it for me. And water. Lots of water. I was really thirsty."

"Well, I just called to make sure you got in okay. Get some sleep, okay?"

"I will. Just as soon as I get my frogs put away."

Clark rolled his eyes as the conversation ended with a click. Since when was Lois so fascinated by frogs?


Lois worked Saturday; it was Clark's day off. He wondered how she was getting along on the investigation into the pet store robberies that Perry had asked her to work on. Well, he would see her tonight. He would ask her then. For now, he had a couple of things to do around the house and a few errands to run. And maybe tonight the opportunity would present itself for him to tell her. Trying to set up a special atmosphere was certainly not working, so maybe he should just seize the moment. And there would be no more barriers between them.


Clark knocked on Lois' door at the agreed upon time. She came to the door in trashy teen-age style dress with incredibly short skirt, tight top, and thigh-high stockings. And her hair! He still wasn't quite accustomed to the new style. To her new style. Honestly, he really didn't like it, but clothes don't actually make the man… or woman. He loved Lois and what she wore shouldn't matter. His eyebrows must have risen into his hairline because she frowned. "Don't you like it?"

"I… I… You look beautiful, as always." He stepped into her apartment. There were several shopping bags strewn about and some of the furniture had been rearranged. And her fish tank was empty. "What happened to your fish?"

"I had to… move them out to make room for the frogs."

He moved closer to peer into the tank. There were no frogs.

"And the frogs?"

"They… they died."

"Really? I'm sorry. I know I killed a lot of goldfish when I was little. Tell you what. I know you were really excited about those frogs. I'll buy you some more after we have dinner."

"Really? Oh, Clark, you're the best boyfriend ever!" She flung her arms around his neck then released him to grab the white purse that lay on the table where her couch used to be. "Let's go."


It was an okay date. Just okay. Lois was quite happy to hold his hand as they walked around downtown Metropolis and she oohed and aahed at the various things in the shop windows. Even if he had tried to tell her about Superman, he never got a chance to put a word in edgewise. They went to the pet store and he gave her a fifty dollar bill, which was what he happened to have left in his wallet after tipping the waiter at the restaurant who had patiently removed Lois' third plate of frog legs. "Don't spend it all," he teased.

"I won't, I promise. You're so nice, Clark! I'm glad you're my boyfriend." She giggled and flounced off to the amphibian section. Clark wandered through the aisles, smiling at the antics of the puppies and kittens and admiring the salt-water fish. Lois slid up next to him, grabbing his hand. "I got 'em! I got five. Here's the change." She handed him $3.20.

"Lois! How much are those things, anyway? Next time we'll just go to Smallville and catch you some frogs at the pond. Even with the price of gas, it'll only cost a little more than this."

She giggled. "Silly, Clark. Those wouldn't be Doppelbuufo frogs."

"Oh, I see."

"They're not, right? If they are, we could go get lots of them."

"I'm sure they're not. Just plain American frogs."

"That's okay. Oooh, look at that!" She was off again, dragging him toward a window display. Why did he suddenly feel like he was dating a teenager?


When they arrived back at her apartment, she set about excited, getting the tank ready to accept its new inhabitants. Once she had everything the way she liked it, she reached into the box for her new friends. "One, two, three, four," she counted as she set them into the tank.

"Four? I thought you got five. For fifty bucks, you sure should have gotten five."

"Five?" her voice sounded a little panicked. "Did I say five? I meant four. I guess they are expensive. I could get shoes or a new skirt for that much. Maybe both, if they were half off."

"Short as they are, they should be half off," he grumbled under his breath. She was driving him more crazy than ever and this time, mentally as well as physically. Part of him was very turned off by her new look and attitude and the other part of him was drooling over the shapely legs revealed by her short skirt, which barely covered the essentials as she stretched to close the top of the tank.

She turned to him with a smile. "Oh, Clarkie, you know you like it." She ran a finger down his chest and smiled up at him with false shyness.

His stomach tightened, and for a moment, he was almost overcome with revulsion. What was wrong with him? He captured her finger and brought it to his lips and kissed her fingertip. She giggled again.

"Well, we both have to work tomorrow, so I'd better go."

"Okay." She automatically lifted her face for a kiss. He placed his mouth on hers but ended the kiss with a quick peck almost immediately. Yuck!

"What's wrong, Clark?" she asked in a childish voice.

He smiled. "Frog leg breath."

Her hand flew to her mouth in horror. "Ooops! Sorry." She giggled and turned back to the tank.

Clark shook his head as he let himself out of her building. He turned into the alley way and floated up into the night, his thoughts jumbled. It wasn't just her breath, which was bad. He had really felt almost sick as his lips had touched hers. But he'd never done this before. Maybe it was a stage in relationships? He couldn't imagine how it could be, but how would he know? He was seized with the urge to talk to his parents. It was late, but he just needed to talk to someone. He turned toward Kansas and disappeared from the Metropolis sky in a flash.


He knocked softly on their bedroom door. He heard the sheets rustle. "Mom, Dad?"

"Clark, what are you doing here? Is Lois alright?" Martha opened the door as she tied the belt to her robe.

"Honestly, Mom, I don't know. The last couple of days she's been… strange. I thought I really knew her and now, I'm not so sure I do. I'm not even sure I like her."

"Clark," Jonathan opened the door further, rubbing sleep from his eyes. "What are you talking about? Everyone likes Lois." He headed for the stairs. Clark and Martha followed him to the kitchen. Clark sat at the table with Jonathan as Martha started a pot of coffee.

"She's different."

"How different?" asked Jonathan.

"She's acting like a teenager! She even went on a date with another guy! And she bought all new clothes, and changed her hair, rearranged her house, and has this strange fascination with frogs. And then there's…"

"There's what?" urged Martha.

"Christmas tree lights."

"Christmas tree lights?" Jonathan asked.

"What are you talking about, Clark?"

Clark shrugged uncomfortably. "You know how the holidays come up, and you're all excited about making the house just explode with warmth and love and you hang a box of brand new lights on the tree, waiting for that burst of warmth and love, and you plug 'em in and… and… last week we could have lit up all of Metropolis. Maybe Gotham, too. And this week… nothing."

"Nothing happens?" Jonathan said incredulously.


"Nothing. No sparks?" clarified Martha. Clark shook his head. "No flickering?" He shook his head again, slightly embarrassed, but really needing to talk to someone. "No electricity at all?"

"No, Mom, I'm telling you, the power is out." Martha set a full cup of black coffee in front of Jonathan and then Clark and sat down, taking a sip from her own mug.

"Um, just so I know we're on the same page, we are talking about sex, right?" Jonathan asked awkwardly.

"No! No, not sex, just sparks, fireworks, attraction. I mean, I'm still attracted to her- you should see her new clothes! They cover much less of her- but when I kiss her, well, I'm more sick to my stomach than attracted."

"Sick to your stomach?" Martha repeated.

"Like being on the tilt-a-whirl after three hot dogs and a warm coke. You still feel the rush, but at the same time you're afraid you're gonna hurl."

Jonathan's face scrunched up. He didn't know what the change in Lois and Clark's relationship meant, but he could definitely relate to the hotdogs and coke scenario.

Martha just looked at Clark speculatively.

"I'm telling you things are suddenly different between us. It's like she's a whole other person."

"Well, Clark, I'm not sure what to tell you. Relationships do go through phases, but this sounds pretty serious. Maybe… maybe you're just not meant to be together after all." Jonathan suggested.

It had been years since Clark had cried in front of his parents and he struggled to keep his composure now. "No, Dad. That can't be. I love her, really love her. I just don't understand. What's wrong with me? What if this is some sort of Kryptonian thing?"

"No, Clark. You said that Lois changed, too. I don't think this has anything to do with your origins," Martha assured him. "Maybe it is just the pressure of the change in your relationship."

"Lois did say something about not pressuring her, but I'm really trying not to."

Martha patted his arm consolingly. "You might just have to be patient while Lois explores this new side to herself. This time next month I bet things will be back to normal and you'll both be laughing about this."

"I hope so. I'm sorry I woke you up. I didn't know who else to talk to."

"We're your parents, Clark. We want to be there for you," Jonathan assured him. "Maybe we can't fix it, but we can listen."

Clark hugged them both before letting himself out. He'd just have to wait Lois out. And things would get back to normal.


Clark could hear her heartbeat as she came up the elevator shaft. It was still beating faster than it usually did. Maybe he should suggest she visit a doctor… and maybe a psychiatrist while she was at it!

Jimmy jumped up from her desk as Lois entered the newsroom. But instead of the glare he expected she gave him a friendly smile.

"Uh, Lois," Jimmy began awkwardly. "Perry asked me to check all the computers for this new virus going around. I'll be done in just a second."

"That's fine, Jimmy. I'm going to get some water."

"I, uh, I read some of your novel. It's pretty good, actually."

"Really? A novel, and you liked it? Wow! Want me to autograph it?"

Jimmy laughed in relief as he had expected the wrath of Mad Dog Lois to rain down on him. "No, Lois. It's on your computer… You were writing it two years ago."

"I was? I mean, yes, I was. I should really finish it."

How could Lois forget she was writing a novel? She had put him through Trask's interrogation to avoid anyone seeing it! And he had only agreed to the lie detector test because she had explained how they could fool the machine's operators.

Clark walked slowly to Perry's office. Maybe he needed some time off. Maybe he was pressuring himself too much. Maybe…


As he tossed about for some explanation of why he suddenly needed to take time off his eyes fell to a picture on Perry's desk. Perry, Jimmy, Cat, Ralph, Steve, some others Clark didn't know with their arms around a Lois with crutches under her arms, a cast on her foot, and a frown twisting her face. Everyone else appeared to be laughing at something.

Clark picked the picture up. "Chief, this company ski trip…"

"It was just before you started here."

"Lois broke her ankle?"

Perry laughed. "Right. Dragged her down off the hill, myself. She tried to be a good sport about it, insisting she was fine-"

"Sounds like Lois."

"-but I could tell she was in a lot of pain. She kept making jokes, kept us all laughing, just like in that picture."

"When a break heals, isn't there a scar left on the bone?"

Perry's head was bent over a copy as he answered distractedly, "Yeah, uh-huh, and the bone is often stronger than before the…"

Clark missed the rest as he walked out of Perry's office. He saw Lois seated at her desk holding a new top up to herself and admiring the view in the mirror she had sat on her desk. Clark tipped his glasses and x-rayed her ankle… Lois' perfectly intact ankle bone.

Her marched over to Lois desk to confront… whoever this was. "You never broke your ankle."

"Yes, I did. It was on a Daily Planet ski trip, before you moved here. Why?"

Clark shook his head. "No, you didn't. Lois did. Where is she?"

"What're you talking about?!"

"You are not my Lois! Where is she? Who sent you? Lex Luthor? What've you done with Lois?!"

"L-L-Lex? I don't know any-"

"Yes, you do. Do you know your heart is racing? You're lying. I can tell. If fact, I should have realized before-" he broke off before he revealed his ability to tune into her heartbeat.

"Clark, you're… you're talking crazy."

"You're not Lois! Tell me where she is!" He gave her a little shake.

The woman he held so tightly burst into tears "Stop it, Clark, you're scaring me!"

Noticing the disturbance in his newsroom, Perry left his office to approaching Clark and taking his arm. "Clark, son, take it easy."

"Chief, this isn't Lois!"

"Now what would make you say a thing like that?" Perry asked, confused.

"Yes, Clark. What would make you say a thing like that?" the woman sniffed.

Clark looked from one to the other, then wrenched away from Perry and dashed to the stairwell. He sped to the roof and took off, spinning into the suit as he flew. Well, now he knew why he wasn't attracted to Lois… it wasn't Lois. So who was it? Another look-a-like? Or… his mind flashed back to the resurrected gangsters… another clone?


Clark had flown to Smallville to explain to his parents what he had discovered. After calming him down, they convinced him to approach this look-a-like calmly and try to get her to tell him what she knew.

So he was now standing outside the door to Lois' apartment, knocking softly. "Lois?" What else was he supposed to call her?

"Go away! You're mean."

"Lois, please, I'm calm now. I just need to talk to you."

No answer. "Lois, I'm coming in." He took the keys from his pocket and unlocked the door. More clothes were strewn about the room. Lois sat on the floor looking through a catalog. "Lois?"

"You hurt my arm."

"I'm… sorry. That was wrong of me. Please, do you know where Lois is? How long, how long she has been… gone?"

She shrugged ignoring him. Clark rolled his eyes in exasperation and looked around the room again. The fish tank… He walked distractedly towards it. Inside sat one of the Doppelbuufo frogs. Only one. "Lois, where are the other frogs?"

"Oh, they… they died too."

"Did you take their bodies back to the pet store? You only had them a few days, you should be able to get them replaced." Why was he talking about frogs when all he wanted to do was find out where Lois was?


"What did you do with them then?"

"I…I" she looked around with a worried expression on her face. "I flushed them down the toilet," she finished triumphantly

Clark looked back at the large frog remaining in the tank. "They're a little big to go down the toilet, Lois."

"I… I… I ate them, okay?" she said angrily. "I was hungry. Starving. And I have to eat them. I have to."

The nausea swept over him again. "You *ate* them?"

"I have to, or I'll die. He said so."

"He? Who?"

"The doctor. And Father."

"Father?" He suddenly flashed back to the Superman clone. "Lois, we have to get you to Dr. Klein right away."

"No! You can't make me. I don't like doctors."

"Lois, or whatever your name is, I think you might be a clone of my Lois." Clark's mind flew back to his experiences with his clone. He had all of Superman's powers, but within just a few days his, body had begun to die, and the clone had known it. At the end, he had helped the clone to fly into space and had held him as he died and then gently pushed the body and the lock of his own hair that had been used to create the clone into the sun's gravity and watched as they burst into flame and disappeared into nothingness. "Clones don't have as long of a life expectancy as a … as a … *normal* human. Dr. Klein could tell us if you're okay."

"I'm fine. Just hungry." Her gaze skittered over to the lone frog sitting in the tank.

"If you will go to see Dr. Klein with me, I'll buy you a dozen Doppelbuufo frogs, I promise." Poor frogs.

"Really? Is Dr. Klein nice?"

"Very nice. He's my doctor too."

"I *guess* I could go, then."


Dr. Klein examined the woman. She had protested him taking blood and skin samples, but Clark disappeared and reappeared a second later with a bowl of frogs in his hand. "Uh, Superman brought these by for me," he explained.

"You know Superman?" she questioned.

Clark nodded. "Both Dr. Klein and I do."

"That's right. I'm Superman's doctor. And he is a *good* patient."

"I'm good," she said petulantly.

"You're being very good," Clark assured her. "Dr. Klein is just going to take a little blood and make sure you're okay."

She nodded, though she sniffed and tears rolled down her cheeks as she hid her face in Clark's chest as the needle pierced her skin.

"There, now." Dr. Klein patted her back. "All over."

"Good. Can I eat my frogs now?"

Both Dr. Klein and Clark looked slightly sick. "Uh, sure. I just need to go check this." And Dr. Klein made a hasty exit. Clark turned his head as she reached into the bowl for one of the squirming frogs.

"Uh, does this gross you out? I'm sorry, but I kind of need it-"

"It's okay. You can't help it."

"I'll just eat one, okay? You can put the rest away for later."

"Fine. I think I'll go see what Dr. Klein is up to. You'll be okay?"

She nodded happily as she eyed the frog in her fist.


Dr. Klein had his eye to the microscope and a grim look on his face. He looked up when Clark entered the room. "This is not good, Clark. There are too many dead cells in this blood. It's too soon to give you any idea what she is, but this is just not good."

"Is she dying?"

Dr. Klein shook his head. "It's too soon to say. There are lots more tests I need to run. Blood composition, DNA…" his voice trailed off.

"So what do I do?"

Dr. Klein shrugged. "Take her home, I guess. For the immediate future, there's no reason she needs to stay here."

"I guess I can take her to my apartment. Maybe I can get her to talk to me. But every time I try to get her to talk…"

"She starts acting like a rebellious teenager. Good luck, Clark." Dr. Klein turned back to his microscope.

What do I do now? Clark thought.


"Mom, can you come? I'd come and get you, but I can't leave her alone. Dr. Klein's running tests, but we still don't know anything. And I have to get to work on finding Lois!"

"I'll be there as soon as I can get a flight, Clark. I hope Lois is all right."

"Oh, Mom, I don't know how I'll live if-"

"Clark, someone took her for a reason. If they wanted her d… uh, out of the way, they wouldn't have bothered with this elaborate scheme."

"Luthor is involved. I'm sure of it. She denies that she knows Lex, but she acts scared to death when I mention him. Luthor is obsessed with Lois. It has to be him. Maybe you can convince her to talk. I'm getting nowhere."


"Talk to me, please. Tell me what you remember."

"Why should I? You hurt me!"

"I've told you that I'm sorry for shaking you. I should not have done it."

"Can we go back to the Planet?"

"What? Why?"

"I'm supposed to, I mean, I like being there. And that guy, Jimmy, said there is a novel on my computer. I want to read it."

Clark felt his heart lift. At the Planet he could start digging through his research on Luthor and see if there was any information that indicated he was involved or even had an interest in human cloning. Surely this woman was too much like the real Lois to be anything else. And Doppelbuufo frogs. Lois had disappeared on Tuesday, so whoever took her had almost a week's head start on him.

"Sure. As long as you promise to stay where I can see you and not wander off."

"I'm not a child. Don't treat me like one!"

He was about to tell her to quit acting like one then, but bit back the retort. Angering her would not get her to talk.

"You have to tell me one thing first, though."

"Oh, not this again. I don't want to play this game any more."

"Just one, and then we'll go to the Planet and I'll get Jimmy to help you find that story."

She pursed her lips and tapped her foot. "Okay. One question. But I won't answer it if I don't want to."

"You mentioned your father. Do you know his name?"


"But did he have another name?"

"That's two questions," she pouted.

"Actually, the second is related to the first so it's really the same question."

She looked confused. "It's the same question?"

"Yes, I just worded it a different way."

"Is that in the rules?"

"It is the way I play it."

"Okay, but next time we play twenty questions, I get to ask you twenty-one."

"Yes, fine. Anything. Do you know if your father had another name?"

"The doctor called him mister."

"Mister what?"

"Is that-"

"Still the same question? Yes." If it wasn't so frustrating, it would be amusing. He could easily imagine a child of Lois' acting like this. His chest felt suddenly very tight. Lois! Where was she? Maybe there would never be any children in Lois' future because she was-



"The doctor called him a saint."

"Called him a saint, or called him Mr. Saint."

"Mr. Saint"

"St. John?" Yes! He knew Luthor was involved.

"Oh, yeah, I forgot that part. Mr. St. John."

Clark nodded. "Thank you. Now we can go to the Planet." Luthor was not going to get away with this. He would find Lois and Luthor was going down.

"Did I do good?"

"Yes, you did very good, well, I mean. You did well."

"Is that the same as good."


"Oh. Good. I mean, well."

Clark couldn't help but chuckle.


Clark poured over his and Lois' file on Lex Luthor trying to find anything that would lead him to Lois. He had sequestered them both in the conference room where they wouldn't draw so much attention. She had read on the computer for a little while, but she had soon grown bored. Clark sought Jimmy's help in finding her some games and he had also located some earphones so that she could listen to music. She was now happily bouncing in the chair and humming along. Despite his heavy heart, a smile twitched at his lips. Now that his mind wasn't trying to make her into Lois, he actually liked this girl/woman. Except for the frog thing. Which made him think… He brought up the internet and typed in Doppelbuufo frogs. The search turned up numerous articles on buufo toads and frogs. Doppelbuufo frog cell nuclei contained DNA that when grafted onto the DNA from another animal helped to make perfect biological copies of whatever the second animal was. Several referred to a Dr. Mamba's research in cloning several different species using Doppelbuufo DNA. He also found that Doppelbuufo have a very fast metabolism, due to some unusual enzymes, which made them hungry most of the time. A wry smile crossed Clark's lips. That sounded all too familiar. He continued reading, "if they can't make enough of their own enzymes, they will cannibalize each other for them." Clark's stomach churned. By her own admission and the evidence he had seen for himself, this girl/woman had eaten several frogs because she *needed* them. He needed to get a copy of this information over to Dr. Klein.

"Oh, that's the bad lady."

Clark's head swiveled to the look-a-like now standing at the end of the conference room table pointing to a picture of Mrs. Cox standing by Luthor and St. John when Luthor had announced he was buying the Planet. Was she volunteering information?

"You know her?"

She shook her head. "I saw her once. I don't think she liked me. She called me a thing. Am I a thing, Clark?"

"No! No, you're not a thing. You're… well, you're you."

"Who am I?"

"I don't know."

"Is that why you're asking me so many questions? Are you ingest, invert, oh, I forgot the word. It was in the novel. The person it is about is a private one of those."


She nodded. "Are you investigatoring me?"

Clark smiled. "I am sort of investigating you. I'm investigating Lois, too."

"And you're investigating the bad lady?"

"Yes, and your doctor and Mr. St. John."

"Did they do something bad?"

"I think so."

"I did something bad."

"No, I'm sure you-"

She nodded vigorously. "I did. I took the frogs."

"Took what frogs, when?"

"From the pet stores. I didn't know it was bad. He didn't give me any money, and I ran out of frogs. I needed them! Really, I did. So I took them."

"You're the one who broke into the pet stores?" Lois' penchant for breaking and entering must be strong in her genes.

"Yes, I'm sorry. That was bad. I took other things too. Clark, if the police find out I did it, will they lock me up?"

"No. I won't let them. Dr. Klein and I are going to help you."

"Dr. Klein is a good doctor. He's nice."

"I'm glad you think so."

"I did something else bad, too."

"What did you do that you think is bad?"

"I didn't say, didn't tell you, I told you I didn't know Lex Luthor. That was a lie, wasn't it?"

"It is if you do actually know him."

"I lied," she said mournfully.

"You didn't know any better."

"Lois said in her book that lies hurt people. That sometimes lies hurt people even more than bullets. Is that right, Clark?"

Lois said that? Oh, man, how was he ever going to explain to her why he had lied to her for years, if he ever even got the chance to explain? "I…I… yes, sometimes."

"I don't want to hurt you, Clark."

"When did you meet Lex?"

"Next Day."

"Next Day?"

"The next day after the first day I remember."

"Do you have any idea when that was? How many days?"


"More days than you've known me?"

"Yes. There were some days before. I liked First Day. Father taught me letters and numbers and lots and lots of words."

"You did all those things on… First Day?"

She nodded her head vigorously. "First Day was fun. But I didn't like Next Day."

"What happened on Next Day?

"Father told me about men and women and how a woman should act around a man. I wanted to keep reading and I wouldn't pay attention so he showed me some books. I liked some of them at first. But after lunch on Next Day Father said I should practice what I had learned."

"You met Lex."

"Yes. Father said I should be nice to him. But I didn't like him. He kept trying to hold my hand and kiss it. But the doctor said I had to pretend like it was okay or he wouldn't give me any more frogs and I would die! I don't want to die. I didn't know what die meant, but the doctor took one of my frogs and he smashed it! It was all in pieces. He said that is what die means."

"Oh, sweetie, I'm sorry. That was very mean of the doctor."

"Was he lying, Clark? Is that what it means to die."

Clark squirmed. Surely he had never asked his parents these hard questions. "I'm sure the frog was dead, but sometimes to die is just to go to sleep and never wake up. It's not a bad thing. It is just part of life."

"It's not bad?"

"Things, people, are born and they die too. It is not bad to die, but we also hope to live a long time, too, so that we can experience new and different things. And help people."

"Oh. Hey, you called me a name! Other than Lois, I mean."

"I did?"

"Sweetie, you called me sweetie. What does that mean?"

"It means… it's an endearment."

"What's endearment?"

"It's a name someone might use when they like you."

"Do you like me? I didn't think you did."

"Yes, now that I know you're you, I like you."

"Will you call me Sweetie again?"

"Do you want me to?"

"Yes. I like it. My name is Sweetie."

"Sweetie, can you tell me more about Lex?"

She nodded. "Yes. He was nice other than the touching, and he didn't hurt me. He told me that he was going to marry me and that we would live in a beautiful place and I could have everything I ever dreamed of."

"How many times did you see him?"

"I'm not sure. Lots of days. But the last time he was angry. He yelled at me! He said I was not Lois and he didn't love me. I was afraid of him, but Father… Mr. St. John came and took me away. That's when I met Mrs. Cox. She told Mr. St. John that they should have known that 'that thing' was no substitute for the real Lois Lane-Kent. She said that Lex would never tell them anything unless they had the real one."

It was true. Luthor had Lois. Only it sounded like St. John and Mrs. Cox were the bad guys in this picture.

"Did you ever see Lois?"

She shook her head. "No. After Lex yelled at me, Mr. St. John started telling me all about her. He made me memorize all the things about her. And then he took me to Lois' apartment and left me there. He said I had to be Lois. But I didn't want to, so I went for a walk. And I saw all these pretty things. I really wanted them and the lady at the desk said I could have them. I just filled out the form and she gave me whatever I asked for. The next store did the same thing. Not all the stores would let me fill out the paper. Some of them wanted money, but I didn't have any. When I was done, I saw a cab outside. When I got in, the driver asked me "Home, or the Planet, Ms. Lane-Kent?" and I told him home. Mr. St. John was there and he said I had to come here the next day. But that was okay, because I met you!"

"That's good, Sweetie. Do you remember your doctor's name?"

She screwed up her face. "No. Mr. St. John just called him doctor. I'm helping you, aren't I?"

"Yeah, yeah, you are."

"Does this mean you love me?"


"I think I love you. See, um, I was reading about it in this magazine? How love is helping each other? I'm helping you and… well, maybe I love you. Do you love me, Clark?"

"Sweetie, there are different kinds of love. But, yes, I guess, I love you, in a way. Maybe not the way the magazine was talking about, though."

"There are different kinds of love? What does that mean?"

Could he get away with "I'll tell you when you're older"? Probably not. "Well, I love you differently than I love my mom and dad. And I love them differently than I love Perry or Jimmy."

"Or Lois?"

"Definitely different than I love Lois."

"Okay. Can we go get something to eat now? I'm really hungry."

He had gained so much information in the last few minutes that he really wanted to settle in at his computer and pursue it, but she had been an invaluable help. "Sure. I'm guessing you want-"

"Frog legs," they finished together.


When they finished lunch, he decided to take Sweetie to his apartment. He wasn't sure about the status of her health, he was afraid that Lex and his cohorts might try to reacquire their clone, and he was desperately afraid that he would lose this link to Lois before he had all the information that she could give him. He wasn't going to let her out of his sight, or, at least, his mother's.

She was sitting on his couch waiting for him. His lifeline, the woman he had run to for comfort for almost thirty years. "Mom." His voice broke as he gathered her into a hug. She squeezed him back and Sweetie looked at them curiously.

He drew back, "Mom, this is Sweetie."

She and Martha regarded each other for a moment. It was truly awkward. Sweetie looked just like the young woman that Martha loved fiercely but whom was missing.

"You're his *mom*? That is so cool!" Sweetie launched herself at Martha. She hugged her exuberantly and then stepped back before Martha even had time to respond. "Clark's the best. He's so nice. I think it's 'cause he had a mom. I don't have one and my father was not really my father. I just think moms are so neat!"

"It's… it's nice to meet you, too," Martha responded, a little shell-shocked.

"Oooh, Clark, I love your TV! It's so big! Can I watch a DVD?"

Clark almost signed in relief. He had been wondering how to keep Sweetie busy while he had a heart to heart with his mom. "Sure. The DVDs are in the cabinet over there. Why don't you pick one?"

After settling Sweetie on his couch with a light comedy and a big glass of water, he joined his mom at the kitchen table. His mother still did not seem able to keep her eyes from drifting to Sweetie.

"It's uncanny, isn't it?" he asked her.


"She looks so much like Lois, her personality is very similar to Lois', but she's not. Sometimes she acts just like a grown woman, and other times, she's like a toddler exploring the world."

His mom turned to him. "You like her."

He shook his head smiling, "I know. It's weird. Once I knew she wasn't Lois, all the sudden I felt very protective of her. Almost like… a father, maybe. She's exactly like what I imagine a child of Lois' would be."

To the point, Martha said, "Clark, where is our Lois?"

"I don't know. As far as I can figure, she's been gone about a week. From what Sweetie has told me, Mrs. Cox and Nigel St. John were using Sweetie to get some information from Luthor. I can't determine if Luthor was involved in her creation. But he did figure out that Sweetie wasn't Lois. I don't know why Lois is gone. I don't think it was voluntary. Surely, she would have told me if she were chasing a story. We were working on the Luthor story together. I think… I think she was kidnapped for some reason."


"I don't know. I don't know! All I know is she's gone and I have to find her. I need her! I was going to tell her everything, Mom, but I never did. I kept putting it off. I told myself I was just waiting for the perfect time, the perfect moment, but I was really just scared and making excuses. Oh, Mom, she's gone and she never knew. I never told her-"

"She knew."

"-I love her. And… what?"

"She knew."

"She did? How? When?"

"She's always known. But we just found out for sure last week. She swore your father and me to secrecy. She knew you wanted to tell her yourself."

"She knew." He couldn't believe it. Apparently, he wasn't the only one with secrets!

"Clark, let me tell you about it."


She watched Clark slowly fall to the ground as she and Bonnie Parker both cried out, "No!"

Why was he falling? Clark was Superman. Bullets wouldn't harm him.

She fell to her knees beside him, beginning to sob as she searched for signs of life. Before she could satisfy herself that he was whole, rough hands began to pull him away.

"No! Please, don't take him," she begged. She fell across his body sobbing.

Small but firm hands pulled her from Clark. "He's dead, honey. It's life."

She watched as the thugs uncaringly pulled Clark's limp form up the stairs and out the door.

Shooting her a look of sympathy, Bonnie slipped out after them. As the sounds of the car faded into the night, the Metropolis Police arrived.

Everyone began to talk at once. Detective Wolfe took charge. "We'll need statement from all of you, but we can only listen to one at a time. Who was the closest to the victim when the shooting took place?"

On her knees in the middle of the lobby, she lifted her head to look at him. "I was."

"And you are?"

"Lois Lane-Kent, Daily Planet. Clark is my partner."

He helped her to her feet. "And what were you and your partner doing here? Gambling is illegal inside the city limits of Metropolis."

Her eyes sparked a warning. "We were here on a story. And judging me is not going to help you find the people that did this!"

"Why don't you just tell me how your partner was killed, then?"


Perry arrived as she was filling in a few details to the report that Detective Wolfe had written out. Rumors of Clark's death were already starting to reach the outside world. Lois could hear him arguing with the police guarding the entrance to the club to keep reporters and curious spectators from damaging the crime scene.

"It's my boss," she told Detective Wolfe.

He signaled to the guards. "Let him in."

Perry rushed to her side. "Lois, honey, how are you?" He saw her shake and he shrugged out of his overcoat and placed it around her. "Is it true, Lois, is Clark… gone?"

"I don't know. I… Clyde Barrow fired three times. I think Clark was hit because he went down."

She wasn't sure what to say. In the face of Detective Wolfe's expert questioning, she had tried to make it sound as if she hadn't quite seen what happened. Not that it would help. The other patrons were quite adamant that Clark had been shot point blank three times. But if the bullets were found later…

What if Clark was really dead? His body had been so still. What if-

"Ah, Lois, sweetheart, I'm so sorry. I'll call his parents."

"No! No, I should tell them. I was with him. I should tell them."

"Honey, I don't think-"

"I'll do it, Perry," she said with determination in her voice. She rose to her feet. "Can I leave now?" she asked Detective Wolfe.

"I guess so. I'll bring your typed statement to your office tomorrow for you to sign."

"No, Lois doesn't need to come to work-" Perry began.

"I'll be there." She shrugged out of Perry's coat, handed it to him, and exited the club.

Perry caught up with her. "Lois, you don't need to come into work tomorrow. Take some time off. Go to Smallville."

"I said, I'll-", she stopped. Smallville. Yes. She needed to go to Smallville. She had to know. And if Clark was alive, that was where he would go. "I'll take the morning off. I'll come in after lunch."

"Lois, you don't need to do that."

"It's my story, Chief. I'm going to find out why this happened."


As soon as Perry left her alone in her apartment, she picked up her phone. "Yes, I need your next flight to Kansas City." Kansas City would put her within a few hours of Smallville.


She made the trip from Kansas City to Smallville faster than she ever had. Still, it was 2:00 before she ran up the stairs of the Kent farmhouse and flung open the door.

"Martha! Jonathan!" She hurried to the stairs and met Martha as she was heading down.


"Just tell me he's alive, please!"


"*Don't*. Please, don't. Just tell me he's okay. I know he's invulnerable, but we've been working on the Luthor story and what if Luthor uncovered some Kryptonite and used it on Superman. He wouldn't have told me. And he just collapsed, right onto the floor! And they dragged him away! They took him away from me!"

"He's okay." Jonathan said softly.

Lois burst into fresh tears and Martha gathered her into her embrace and they cried together. Jonathan guided them off the stairs to settle them onto the couch. Finally her tears slowed.

"I was so afraid. I was afraid they killed him. I was afraid Clark was really dead!"

"Clark *is* dead," Jonathan said.

"But you just said-"

"The man we love is alive, but Clark Kent was shot three times point blank. No ordinary man could survive that, Lois."

"Clark was very upset when he left here," Martha said. "I'm not sure what he is going to do, but he seemed pretty certain that his life as Clark Kent was over."

"Where did he go?"

"He just said he had to get away," Jonathan said, shaking his head.

"That sounds like Clark." Lois sighed and sank into the cushions of the couch. She closed her eyes for a moment. What a night it had been. Clones, shootings, flying, driving… but worth it to have the peace of knowing that he really was okay.

She opened her eyes to see Jonathan and Martha looking a little guilty. "What?"

"Are you upset that we didn't tell you about Clark?" Martha asked.

Lois shook her head. "Why would you tell a thirteen-year-old girl who was going to live with you for only a few weeks that your son was… unusual. And then when I came back, Clark was gone off to college. By the time we ended up working together at the Daily Planet, it really wasn't your secret to tell."

"How long have you known?" asked Jonathan.

"I've known that Clark was Superman since the first time I saw him in the suit. Before that," Lois shrugged, "there were signs, if I had known how to read them. Anytime I began to wonder, I felt guilty for being suspicious of you all and I just pushed the thoughts away."

"I had wondered if you knew."

"Really, Martha?" Jonathan looked surprised.

"When Clark had amnesia after meeting up with the Nightfall asteroid, Lois was a little eager to give us time alone with Clark. I thought that was a little unusual given that Clark was Lois' best friend and, as far as she was supposed to know, the world was coming to an end."

"Well, I'm glad the secret is out," Jonathan sighed. "We are so happy that you and Clark are together. Now that you know, Clark can relax. He's scared of losing you."

"Jonathan, you can't tell him that I know. Clark needs to tell me himself."

"But-" Martha began to protest.

"It's Clark's secret and I think he *needs* to tell me. He needs to trust me enough to make himself vulnerable. He has to want this to work out enough to tell me the truth. I feel it is a step in the path of our relationship that we can't skip over. Please, promise me you won't tell him, that you'll let him tell me when he's ready. I think it will be soon. We were supposed to be here now, you know. He asked me to come home to Smallville so we could talk. All this has just ruined his plans."

"Lois, if you don't tell him you know, you're keeping secrets from him, too," Martha gently scolded.

"Please, promise me. It won't be that much longer."


"So, we promised. She slept for an hour or two and then she drove back to the airport. She knew she had to be back in Metropolis to sign her statement. Even though Detective Wolff hadn't told her not to leave town, she knew that she probably wasn't supposed to. But it wasn't something to be discussed over the phone."

Clark had his head in his hands. "I've been such an idiot. I can't believe she knew all along. Why couldn't I see that?"

"Love is blind?" offered Martha.

"In my case, it's also deaf, dumb, and stupid. I do love her, Mom, so much. She thinks she needs me, but she has no idea how much I need her. *I* didn't even realize it until she was gone and there is just this dark aching void where there was so much happiness and hope… I can't think about it, because when I realize that she's not here, I can hardly breathe. Without her kisses, her touch…"

"Oh, Clark." Martha gathered him into her arms. It was as if the walls he had built around his grief were suddenly broken down and he couldn't stop himself.

"I can't live without her. Oh, my heart will still be beating. I'll still be going through the motions of living, but she's my world, my everything. And the funny thing is, she needs me too. We really are two halves of the same soul."

"You'll find her Clark. I know you will."

"Can you help me with Sweetie? Dr. Klein is still studying the samples, but I can tell that it's not good. I need to find Lois, but Sweetie has no one. I have to be there for her, too."

"Of course, Clark, anything."

"I need to go over to Lex Towers and see if I can find out anything about Luthor's whereabouts. Find out if he is even still in town. I need to track down Nigel St. John, Mrs. Cox, and a Dr. Mamba. She'll be hungry soon-"

"Clark, one thing I can do it cook."

"That's a problem, because Sweetie almost exclusively eats… frogs."


Clark nodded.


"I'm going to fly to South America and pick some up for her before I go, and I promise that I will just check things out and be right back."

"That's fine."

He stood and walked over to Sweetie. "Sweetie, Mom's going to stay with you. I need to go out for a little while."

Sweetie snapped to attention. "Are you going to investigate? Can I come?"

"I'm sorry. I think it would be best if you stayed here. I'll bring you some frogs to snack on, okay?"

Sweetie darted a look at Martha, "Clark, not in front of your mom."

"I'll put them in the bathroom. They'll be there if you need them."

"Okay. But I'd still rather go with you."

"I promise I'll be back as soon as I can."


After a short frog catching trip, Clark dressed in his nicest suit and tried to look nonchalant as he strolled into Lex Towers and made his way to Luthor's set of suites as if he did so on a regular basis.

"Is Mr. Luthor in?" he asked the receptionist.

"Do you have an appointment?" she asked coldly.

"I was just in town and wanted to look him up. We're… old friends."

"I'm afraid Mr. Luthor is out of town."

"Is his assistant available? I could leave a message."

"Unfortunately, his assistant is also out of town."

"*Both* of them?"

"Both of them."

"Can you tell me when they left?"

"I'm sorry, I can't-" she was buying his act, and she was thawing.

"Miss, I know as well as anyone that old Lex is now a real important guy. I am just very disappointed to miss him. It's silly, but I just wondered if I missed him by a few hours or if he's been gone longer than that. I spent the morning taking a look around Metropolis. Maybe if I had come in first thing-"

"No, that wouldn't have helped. I'm not privy to Mr. Luthor's schedule, but Mr. St. John sent down a memo last week saying that Mr. Luthor was going to be out of the country on business."

Out of the country. Was that true or was that just a story they were giving out while they went to ground here in the States?

"Thank you, miss. I guess there's no way I would have caught him then. I was out of the country myself last week."


"I'm sure I'll catch him another time. I'll be in town for a few weeks."

"You probably will, but …"


"Well, Mr. St. John didn't say when they were coming back. Usually he does."

"It was probably just overlooked when the memo was sent out."

She looked doubtful, but nodded.

"Thanks again for all your help."

He exited the suites and walked back to the elevator. Hadn't Lois said something one time about Luthor having a bunker under the tower? He entered the elevator doors and they shut behind him. How to get there without tripping some sort of security cameras. Clark swept the car for cameras. There was one. If he could short it out, climb out of the car, make his way to Luthor's private elevator, could he check out the bunker and be back in this elevator by the time it arrived at the lobby? Worth a try. With a hand he adjusted his glasses, trying to look as if he were just rubbing his nose, and he sent a blast of heat vision at the camera. Then another thought occurred to him. He rocked the elevator causing it to creak and the emergency brakes caught.

He hurriedly pushed the emergency button. "Help! The elevator's stopped!"

"This is Lex Tower's security. Don't worry. We'll get you out as soon as possible."

"Well, eh, I'm kind of claustrophobic. And when I get closed in, I usually end up … passed … out…"

"Please, don't panic, we'll get you as right away. Hello? Hello?"

Within seconds he was making his way down the shaft of Luthor's elevator. The car was on the ground floor, so he entered it and forced the doors open, letting himself into the underground fortress. There were no lights and the air was stale. But while the bunker was lead lined, the inside was easily scanned and he noted that there was another exit at the end of the bunker. He was there in a flash. He checked out the seal on the door. It did appear that it had been opened recently. He breathed deeply. Yes, the air here was less stale here than at the other end of the tunnel. He could not see any reason to believe that opening the door would trip any alarms, so he pushed it open and walked out into the dark, damp tunnel beyond. He zipped down the tunnel and when he began to see daylight, he could also detect the distinctive smell of Hobbs Bay. They had left by boat.

He was back in the elevator car by the time that it began to move. He sat down on the floor, mussing his clothes and hair a little. He closed his eyes.

The doors opened on the ground floor.

"Sir, sir, are you okay?"

Clark pretended to rouse. "Is it over?"

"Yes, you're safe now. We're very sorry about that. The elevators were just inspected a few days ago. We don't know why they would have acted up like this. Would you like to go to the first aid office and be checked out? Did you hit your head or anything?"

Clark waved them off. "I'm fine. Happens all the time. Old childhood trauma."

They helped him to his feet and he brushed himself off and headed out of the building.


"So what now, Clark?"

"I'm not sure, Mom. A missing persons report? Except that for all intents and purposes, until Dr. Klein can give us evidence otherwise, that's Lois sleeping in there." He pointed towards his bedroom.

She was beautiful lying there, but she wasn't Lois. And he so wished it was Lois tucked up safe in his bed. He thought back to the night not so long ago when he and Lois had held each other in that bed and shared their fears. It seemed like a lifetime ago. Where could she be? Where would Luthor take her?

"So we wait for Dr. Klein."

Clark nodded. "Meanwhile, I'm going to ask around and see if anyone saw anything unusual in Hobbs Bay. But usually it's a don't ask, don't tell world over there."


As he had suspected, the Hobbs Bay residents weren't much help. One homeless man was willing to part with information for a fifty, but all he would say was that he had seen some fancy cars pull up to a dock. There were three or four people and two of them had carried a large bag between them. He wasn't sure exactly when he had seen this, either, could have been 2 nights ago, but might have been more.

So, the limo driver? Could he get the driver to talk? Or maybe Superman could.


He went back to check on his mom and Sweetie. Sweetie was watching Martha make fried chicken. One thing for sure, he would eat good tonight!

He picked up his phone and dialed. "Jimmy? It's Clark. Can you get me a list of Luthor's drivers?"

"Is this for your expose' on Luthor? 'Cause I want to do anything I can to help. He deserves it for trying to pin the Planet bombing on Jack."

"Sort of. Can you get it?"

"Yeah. I'll have it on your desk tomorrow morning."

"Thanks, Jimmy." His cell phone began to ring. "Gotta go, Jimmy. I'll see you tomorrow. He hung up as he flipped open his cell phone. "Clark Kent."

"Clark, it's Dr. Klein. I've got some information on Sweetie."


"Well, I'd rather not give it over the phone, so can you bring Sweetie and meet me at my lab?"

Sweetie really didn't like Dr. Klein's lab, and Dr. Klein's voice was giving away the fact that it was not good news. "Dr. Klein, I have a better idea. How do you like fried chicken?"


Dr. Klein was quite enthusiastic about the fried chicken. Sweetie agreed to try it and decided it tasted almost like frog legs, so she dug in with a hearty appetite. Martha and Clark were wary as to what Dr. Klein wanted to discuss, so neither of them felt like eating. Not wanting to hurt his mom's feelings, Clark managed to put on a good show of eating his fair share, so Martha was the only one left picking at her food.

Sweetie declined the apple pie and instead opted to help Martha with the dishes as Dr. Klein and Clark were left to consume the pie.

But when the dishes were finished, and Martha and Sweetie came back to sit at the table, Dr. Klein glanced at Sweetie and then to Clark. "Does she know why I'm here?"

Clark turned to Sweetie. "Dr. Klein wanted to talk about the samples that he took when we visited him at STAR Labs."

"Can I go watch TV then?"

Did she have no clue, or was she merely hoping that by avoiding the subject it would go away? Clark shook his head. "Sweetie, I think you need to listen to what Dr. Klein has to say."

She slumped in her chair. "Okay."

"I'm really sorry. I'm horrible at this. I don't do bedside manner very well. That's why I became a researcher," Dr. Klein began to excuse himself.

"Perhaps you should just tell us," Martha said matter-of-factly.

"Her cells are dying. Pretty quickly, too," Dr. Klein blurted out.

"What does that mean, exactly?" asked Clark.

"I can't believe she hasn't noticed already. Maybe the frogs rejuvenate her…"

"Notice what, Dr. Klein?" Clark prompted.

"Aging. She should be getting wrinkles and the regular aches and pains. I'd like to take some more samples, but I think that based on the ones we took last time, Sweetie is in her mid-forties now."

"And last week she was about 30?" Martha queried.

"Yes. So, if I'm right, if she's 40 now…"

"And female life expectancy in the US is 75, maybe 76…" Clark broke off.

"What? What are you guys talking about?" demanded Sweetie.

And both Martha and Dr. Klein looked at him. Me? I'm supposed to tell her she has three, maybe four weeks left to live!

"Dr. Klein, maybe we should check a newer set of samples-" he tried to stall.

"I want to know!" Sweetie stood and stomped her foot, reminding him once again of the teenage Lois he had known.

"Sweetie, let's just let Dr. Klein check the tests again-"

"No, Clark! I know it's something bad. Just tell me."

Clark squirmed in his seat.

"*Please*, Clark."

She sounded just like Lois. How could he bear it, to lose Lois and now to lose this part of her? She was too young. She hadn't had a chance to live at all and now… "Dr. Klein's testing shows that you are aging more quickly than a … an average human would. That means that you will also-"

"I'm going to die," Sweetie finished his stumbling explanation.

Clark glanced at Dr. Klein, who nodded. Clark laid his hand on Sweetie's arm. "Yes."

"It's okay, Clark." She said, placing her hand on his.

"No. No, it's not okay," Clark said hoarsely.

"Yes, it is. You told me, Clark, that dying is part of life. That it is natural. That what was important was helping people and learning new and different things. Well, you said I helped you, Clark, and I've learned lots of new things. So I will just go to sleep and not wake up."

How could such a child also be so mature? Clark stood and hugged Sweetie fiercely. She squirmed. "Clark, you're squishing me."

"You're going to see lots of new and different things," he promised. "I'm going to take you to see… everything." With Dr. Klein there, he couldn't say any more. It was ironic that when Lois most needed him, needed Superman to save her, he had another obligation that he could not ignore. And somehow he felt that Lois would understand. Sweetie hadn't asked to be brought into this world. She hadn't asked to have Lois' life forced on her, though she had only had to live it for a few days. It wasn't her fault that her life would be over before it every really begun, but he could at least give her some experiences that… that… That what, Clark, he asked himself, that she would never forget? She's going to be dead.

No, he argued back, I'm going to help her live. And I'm going to be there for her when it ends. Because that was what Lois would want.

He didn't need to sleep, so when he wasn't with Sweetie, wasn't answering a call for Superman, he would look for Lois. Somehow, he would be there for both of them.


He called in the next morning and told Perry's secretary to let Perry know that he and Lois would not be in. Then he took Dr. Klein's test results to Henderson and, shocked, but uncharacteristically compassionate, he helped Clark file the missing persons report. Next stop- Ellen Lane.


She agreed to meet him for coffee. He caught the note of curiosity in her voice when she spoke. She had to be wondering why Clark would want to meet her without Lois.

He watched as Ellen Lane walked across the street towards him as he sat in a corner booth in the back of the cafe. Was it only ten years ago that this woman had been a pathetic alcoholic? She was the picture of confidence as she entered the cafe, removing her sunglasses and slipping them into her purse.

He raised his hand in greeting as she spotted him and Ellen hurried to his table.

"So, Clark Kent, to what do I owe the pleasure of your company?" she teased.

"Ellen, I… did Lois tell you… did you know Lois and I…"

"That you're seeing each other? Romantically, I mean. Yes, we had lunch one day, week before last, and she told me. I'm thrilled, Clark. I know you'll be good to her. Support her in her dreams. So if you want my permission to court her, you have it."

"Thanks, Ellen. I'd never do anything to hurt Lois if I could help it, but that's not why I asked to see you. Unfortunately."

"Clark, what's wrong?"

"Lois, didn't come into work last Tuesday. It was odd that she hadn't mentioned to me or Perry that she would be out, but we both just kind of passed it off when she came into work the next day. Except that, Ellen, it wasn't Lois."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that Lois began to act oddly. I took her to see Dr. Klein and he ran some tests."

"What kind of tests? Is my daughter dying, Clark?"

"The tests showed that this woman wasn't Lois. She was a clone."

"Clark, science is years away from cloning humans."

Clark shook his head. "I'm afraid not. I've run into several. The gangster look-a-likes that were on the news last week? Not look-a-likes. They were actual clones of Al Capone, John Dillinger, and Bonnie and Clyde. And remember last year when Superman was a little rough on a few of the criminals he caught? Not Superman."

"If this clone is living Lois' life, then where is Lois?"

"Sweetie- uh, that's what Lois' clone wants to be called- told me that Luthor and two of his closet advisors had something to do with her being brought into existence. It sounds like St. John and Mrs. Cox wanted Sweetie to get some sort of information from Luthor and they thought she could get it from him."

"Lois told me that Luthor was infatuated with her. Clark, you haven't answered my question. Where is Lois?!"

"I… I don't know."

"Oh, God!"

He slid a copy of the missing persons report to her. "Once Dr. Klein had proof that Sweetie wasn't Lois, I filed this. Metropolis PD will be looking for her and this will go out all over the world. And Superman will help. We'll find her, Ellen. I won't rest until we do."

Ellen was weeping. "My little girl, I just saw her. She was so happy. Why? What can that man possibly want from her?"

"I'm hoping that Sweetie may be able to remember some more." He didn't want to talk to Ellen about Sweetie any more. Finding out Lois was missing was hard enough. She didn't need the added burden of knowing any of the details about Sweetie's short life.

"Clark, Lois loves you so much. I can't tell you how it made me feel to see her so happy last week"

"I love her, too, Ellen. I promise you, I'll find her and bring her home."

"Oh, what about Lucy? How am I going to tell her? And Sam!"

"I'll take care of it, if you want me to."


Telling Lucy was a repeat of his meeting with Ellen. He drove Lucy in her car to Ellen's house and left them together.

He went home and checked on Martha and Sweetie. Martha had scrubbed the whole apartment- her form of therapy- and she and Sweetie were going to head to the Metropolis Zoo for the afternoon. "Come with us, Clark," begged Sweetie.

"I wish I could, but I have a few things I have to do. Then I promise, I'll be back and you and I are going to have along talk."


He called Sam Lane's Chicago lab from his home after Martha and Sweetie left. Sam didn't know Clark very well, and at first he was not at all amused with Clark's ridiculous story, but after Clark faxed him the missing persons report and Dr. Klein's results, he began to make plans to fly to Metropolis.

With a heavy heart, Clark entered the Daily Planet building. Such a short time ago, he had first entered this building to meet with Perry White for the interview that Lois had set up for him. He stepped into the elevator. His eyes roamed the compartment, remembering Lois' sweet kiss the last time they had ridden in this car alone. The doors opened at the newsroom. His eyes flew to her desk, where so many mornings he had seen her beautiful brunette head bent over research and recalling the last few weeks when she would lift her head as if sensing his presence. Then their eyes would meet and hers would dance with the knowledge of their secret.

"Clark!" Perry slapped him on the shoulder. "Thought you and Lois were taking the day off."

"I need to talk to you, Perry."

"Something wrong, Clark?"

"I think we should talk about it in your office."


"Great shades of Elvis! But if that girl's not our Lois, then where is Lois?"

"I don't know … I have to find her, Perry."

"Of course you do, son."

"Which is why I'm giving you my two weeks notice."


"I have no idea how long it is going to take to find her. Luthor's resources are virtually endless. She could be anywhere in the world. Superman and I will be working together to locate her. If we have to search every square inch of the planet, we'll find her."

"Clark, you don't have to quit. Take some time off."

"That's not fair to you, Chief. With Lois gone, you're already short handed. I've really loved working here."


"I'm sorry, Perry."

"Look, Clark, you have vacation. Take it. We'll talk more about this later. Meanwhile, this is a big story, Clark. What do you want me to do with this?"

"My first thought was to ask you to hold off on printing it, hoping that I could find out more information on Luthor if he didn't know we were on to him yet. But I'm positive he has plants in the police department, so it is probably too late for that. Just assign it to someone who'll do a good job, maybe inspire the readers to be on the look out for her."


Perry wrote the article himself, DAILY PLANET REPORTER MISSING. Perry came over that evening to see Clark.

"Clark, the Planet is getting thousands of calls and e-mails from readers across the globe who want to express their sorrow and best wishes for Lois' safe return. In fact, the response is so overwhelming that Franklin Stern called to speak to me personally. As a result, Clark, we are refusing to accept your resignation. Instead, we would like to hire you to investigate Lex Luthor as well as any involvement he might have had in Lois' disappearance. Luthor's involvement in the Planet bombing was just the tip of the iceberg, I'm sure. Anything that you find along the way that will make a good story, write it up and send it to me. Stern wants to hold a press conference in a day or two announcing the efforts that the Planet is making to find Lois, including the offering of a $50,000 reward for information leading to her return. He's talking radio and TV ads. One of the big alphabet stations has already contacted the Planet asking for interviews. We want you to handle that. PR will hire any additional staff if needed to field calls. Anyway, it may be a lot of work, but it will allow you time to look for Lois without losing your income. I will have to replace at least one of you at the city desk"

"Perry, that's very generous, but-"

"Clark, a little advice, from an old newshound. Take it. And once you find Lois, I promise I'll get you both positions in the newsroom again."

"Perry, I have no training in PR. And I need all my time to take care of Sweetie and search for Lois!" And, honestly, Clark added to himself, he wasn't that keen on Clark Kent making regular television appearances. What if someone noticed his similarity to Superman? And, obviously, Superman would be heavily involved in the search. Would anyone wonder why Clark and Superman never appeared together?

"Clark, you can handle the media. You *are* the media. And somewhere in all that education you have, I'm sure you have training that will assist you with dealing with the public. And Stern's PR team is available to assist in any way they can."

"You really think I should do this, Perry?"

"Just find her, son." Perry said hoarsely as he slapped Clark on the back.

Could he make it clear that Superman wasn't in Metropolis, thus would not be making any public appearances to plead for Lois' return? If he did make finding Lois Superman's full-time job, would the criminals in Metropolis take advantage of it?

"I… I'll think about it, Perry. Try to figure out how I could work everything in."

Perry nodded in satisfaction. "That's all I ask. I know you'll bring her home."


That evening Clark sat down with Martha and Sweetie and told them how he wanted to help Sweetie experience some of the life she should have had. "If there is anywhere you want to go, something you want to do, I'll do my best to make it possible," he promised Sweetie.


Clark laughed. "If that is where you want to go, sure. We'll both have to disguise our appearance, because it won't help my search to have Lois sightings reported, but I want you to have some of those experiences that we talked about." Of course, Clark realized sadly, Sweetie would not have to disguise her resemblance to Lois for long. In only a week, maybe two, Sweetie's accelerated aging would remove any traces of similarity.

"But, Clark, you have to find Lois! You said Mr. St. John and Mrs. Cox might have her. You have to find her."

"I will. But-"

Martha broke into their conversation, "Sweetie, Clark will find Lois. But he can't look for her 24 hours a day. I know my son, and he will try to do just that. Taking some time to spend with you will give him a few hours to relax. I'm sure he doesn't look at it in that way, but Sweetie this is a way that you can help Clark too."


"Clark, I know you're … *special*. But you can't go 24/7 forever. You may not need to sleep as much as other people, but you do need to sleep. And for your emotional well-being, you are going to need to take some time off from your search, even after…"

After Sweetie was dead. Clark didn't know a heart could ache so much. He also knew that as much as his mom was worried about Lois and Sweetie, she was worried about him.

He leaned forward and kissed her cheek. "Okay, Mom." He turned to Sweetie. "So start making a list."

"It'll be so much fun!" she responded happily.

"What about your job at the Planet?" Martha asked.

"As you know, Perry came by. Franklin Stern wants me to head up the Planet's investigation into Luthor and to find out what happened to Lois."

"They want to pay you to do what you would do anyway?"

Clark nodded. "And I'll keep pulling a paycheck while I do it. Which I need to keep this place." He looked around his apartment. "For now, anyway. Most of the PR stuff is going to happen at the beginning. We'll be getting ads into major newspapers and on TV stations world-wide. I'll be tearing apart any records I can find on Luthor's empire, trying to find out where Lois might be and why she was taken, following up on any tips that are called in. And if that doesn't work, I'll grid out the entire globe and search it inch by inch until I do find her!"

"You'll find her, Clark. And I'll do anything I can to help."

"Mom, I couldn't do this without you. Without you here to be with…" He looked over at Sweetie who was busy clicking away at his computer looking for places she wanted to visit. She had certainly learned her way around a computer quickly! "If you weren't here, Mom, I don't know what I would do. I *have* to look for Lois, but… I have to be here for Sweetie, too."

"I'll be here as long as you need me, *both* of you need me," Martha assured him.

He gathered her in a fierce hug. "Thanks, Mom"

Clark spent the rest of the night in Chicago and then in New York at their respective branches of LexCorp looking for any places that Luthor might have hidden Lois, but as morning broke the sky, he still had not found her or any clue to where she might be.


Perry clapped Clark on the back, "It's the right decision, son. Glad you took us up on it."

"I still think you're getting a raw deal, Perry."

"Clark you've got motivation to find Lois that no one else in the world has. You're the best one for this job. And getting Lois, and you, back in my newsroom sooner than later, well, that's not a raw deal, Clark. That's business. You two write the stories that make people buy this paper."

Clark shook his head in amusement, "Right, Chief. Whatever you say."

"Stern wants you to take one of those empty offices upstairs. IT can get you set up with whatever you need. Stern says whatever you need, get it."

Clark's eyebrows rose in surprise, "Upstairs? Why not stay here?"

"Aw, well, aw, Clark, you'll have more room to spread out upstairs, of course."

"Yes, and?"

"And I still have to put someone on the city beat and I don't think you really want to see someone else working at your or Lois' desks any more than I do," Perry finished in a hurry.

"Right. Hadn't thought of that." What would it be like seeing someone else working at Lois' desk? Doing Lois' job? Perry was right. He really didn't want to have to face that. "So. Upstairs. Can I borrow Jimmy for some research?"

"Sure. Just don't give him so much to do, he can't keep up down here."

"Thanks, Chief."

Perry cleared his throat. "Just find our girl."


He looked in the storage room and found a large box. He needed to move his things to his new office… and clean out Lois' desk. Making his way to their desks, he paused by at Lois' reaching out to touch her nameplate. Jimmy approached him.

"Aw, man, Clark. I don't even know what to say. If there's anything I can do to help…"

Clark put his arm around the younger man and squeezed his shoulder before dropping his arm. "Thanks, Jimmy, and I hope you mean that because Perry gave me permission to take advantage of your research skills as long as it doesn't keep you from doing your job here."

"Sure, C.K., anything."

"To start with, can you get me a list of Luthor's drivers? One of the people I talked to at Hobbs Bay thought he had seen some people in a limo with a large bag. Might be something. And a list of all the property that Luthor personally owns as well as his businesses. And mark which ones are used for scientific research. Maybe I can locate where the clone came from and make sure she's the only one." One more thing on his to do list.

"I'll get started on it right away, C.K. What's with the box?"

"Well, for the time being, finding Lois is my job, so I'm moving to a larger office upstairs. I have to clean out my… our desks."

"Need any help?"

"That'd be great, but I'd rather you got started on that research. It's going to be a huge help to me to know where to start looking."

"I'm on it!"


He located an office near the stairwell so it would be convenient for him to slip out if Superman was needed. The IT personnel helped him move his and Lois' computers into the new office and he was busy arranging all of their research on Lex Luthor. One thing, once he was all moved in, he would be able to shut the door allowing him to work at superspeed.

Franklin Stern called to talk to him, detailing what he planned to do to spread the news of Lois' disappearance and encourage the search for her. PR called to give him the contact information for the network wanting to do the interview. He'd only had to make one quick trip out as Superman, and the day quickly began to turn into night. He turned the computers off and locked the door to his office. He needed to get home so his mom and Sweetie wouldn't worry about him.

He didn't want the elevator to stop at the newsroom floor; he didn't want to see Lois' empty desk, but the elevator stopped to allow someone to enter. The newsroom looked fairly quiet. Almost against his will his eyes went to Lois' desk. And there sat Perry White with his head in his hands. Clark felt the pain twist in his chest. Did Lois have any idea how much she was missed? No stone would be left unturned in the search for her.


The interview had worn him out. He kept to the facts of what he did know about Lois' disappearance and was able to maintain his composure as he pled with the audience to please be watching for Lois as they went about their days. Her picture flashed up on the viewing screen along with all of his contact numbers. He mentioned the $50,000 reward that Stern Publishing had announced in the Daily Planet this morning. But while it was emotionally draining for him, it was the best way to get the word out to as many people as possible.

He missed her desperately. He wished that she was there to consult with. She had always been the one with the crazy ideas that turned into solid leads. If she were here, she would have her own disappearance figured out in no time, Clark thought. The team of Lane-Kent and Kent was sadly lacking without her.

But he didn't just miss her at work. He had been unable to spend any time looking for her last night due to an earthquake in South America. He had spent all night helping to search the rubble for survivors and reinforcing structures to keep the workers safe from their collapse during the search and as they began to rebuild. Coming into the office this morning, it struck him how often after such a disaster, Lois had made her way to his desk quickly to engage him in conversation, perhaps even squeezing his hand or leaning her head on his shoulder. Or maybe she called him that evening to come watch a movie with her or help her finish some left over take-out. Of course, she never mentioned the emergency, but he now recognized that she had tried to support and comfort him the only way that she could, the only way that he had allowed her to.

A knock sounded on the door. "Come in," he answered.

Jimmy stuck his head around the door. "I got some of that research for you. Luthor had several drivers. But… I don't know how to say this… I ran background searches on all of them and one of them… turned up dead. They fished him out of Hobbs Bay only a couple of days ago."

Clark sighed, "Chances are that's the one I'm looking for, but I'll go ahead and do the legwork on the others to rule them out." And yet another dead-end… literally. But he'd known that Luthor was good at covering his tracks.

"I've got the initial compilation of Luthor's property finished. I'm just checking it against possible research facilities."

"That's great, Jimmy. I really appreciate it. Can you bring me just the properties in California before you leave tonight? I'm going to, uh, give it to Superman. See what he can find."

"Sure thing, CK." Jimmy closed the door behind him as he left.

Clark longed to hit something in frustration, but couldn't take the chance that he would totally demolish his office. It was all taking too long! He needed to find Lois now. Two weeks. Two long weeks gone and he still had no leads to her whereabouts. Calls of sympathy had poured in. Even money had come in from fans wishing to help with the search. But no tips. No sightings. Lois Lane-Kent had dropped off the face of the earth.


Sam Lane came by to see him. He wanted to hear the whole story from Clark's own lips. He wanted to hear what Clark had done to find his daughter. And he wanted something, anything to do that could be of help.

Clark mentally went through his own "To do " list. The things he wanted to do were innumerable. And as Superman, he could do them so much faster than anyone else could, yet, he simply couldn't make time to accomplish all of them. There were things that Henderson, Jimmy, and even Sam Lane could do better than he could, even if not as quickly as he could do them himself.

"Sam, the best thing that you could do to help would be to talk to your medical colleagues. Try to find anyone with an interest in cloning even if they apparently haven't attempted it. Ask if they know anyone who might be attempting to clone humans. I've found some vague references to a Dr. Mamba who was working with both cloning and Dopplebuufo frogs, but I haven't been able to get any idea of where he is currently located."

Sam nodded. "I can do that. And if you hear anything, anything at all, you'll call me?"

"I promise."


He hated to take the time away from his search for Lois, but he knew that Sweetie needed him, too. And his poor mother needed a break. She was doing her best to care for him and to spend time entertaining Sweetie. All the while, worry for Lois was eating away at her. So Clark had made reservations. Reservations for he and Sweetie to fly to Florida so Sweetie could see Disneyland and reservations at Metropolis' highest rated day spa for his mother.

Clark spared no expense. Sweetie got the Mickey Mouse ears, a ride on Magic Mountain and, of course, the Teacups. They stayed late so that they could watch the parade. Everything was a new experience for Sweetie and Clark experienced her joy watching it all through her eyes. A niggling of guilt continued to plague him that he should be spending these days to look for Lois, and the relaxation allowed the panic at not finding her that he had been trying so hard to keep a lid on to surface. All he wanted was to hear her voice, feel her touch again. And while he did his best to do right by Sweetie, precious time slipped away. As he struggled with himself he decided that as soon as he could drop Sweetie off at home tomorrow, he would head into the office and work harder than ever to uncover Luthor's secrets.


And slowly he began to uncover some of those secrets. As Lex Luthor's whereabouts remained a mystery, those who had previously been unwilling to talk became more forthcoming. Stories by Clark Kent were seen at least weekly: "THE HOUSE OF LUTHOR", "LUTHOR VAST CRIMINAL NETWORK REVEALED", "FALL OF THE HOUSE OF LUTHOR". Luthor was involved in even more criminal activity than Clark had ever dreamed. He preyed on small companies struggling to survive, offering to help them expand. Then he used those legitimate companies to launder his money from other pursuits and supplied the labor using illegal immigrants whom he smuggled into the country and forced to work for him. He had a finger in the government, both locally and nationally. After Henderson received a search warrant to do so, the Metropolis PD raided Lex Towers and found incriminating documents dealing with several unsolved Metropolis murders, as well as crimes that had been prosecuted with some lesser minion taking the blame for Luthor's activities. Stolen artifacts were found in the bunker along with evidence that Luthor had been stalking Lois, bugging her apartment and the Daily Planet. None of the recordings were current, and Clark concluded that was why Sweetie had not known of his and Lois' relationship.

By the time Clark had exhausted every lead that he had discovered, Luthor Industries, LexCorp, and all of its subsidiaries were ruined. Clark felt for the individuals who lost their employment due to the fall of the price of stock in Luthor's businesses. It caused a minor crash of the stock market, but as the weeks went by, the businesses were picked up and absorbed into other businesses and life in the business world began to level.

Two things came to light that were of significant interest to Clark. The amount of cash that had disappeared into foreign bank accounts during the last few months of Luthor's reign and the recovery of a memo requesting that scores of boxes of files only identified by numbers be incinerated. Clark wished there was some way for him to recover what had been in those files, but even Superman couldn't recover anything from the ashes. Had those files held the answer to where Lois, Lex Luthor, Nigel St. John, and Mrs. Cox had disappeared to?


Clark had made sure that he set aside time to spend time with Sweetie. In addition to Disneyland, they had visited Washington, D.C., the Grand Canyon and Yosemite National Park. He wished that he could have taken her more places, but even his mother had reluctantly acknowledged that Sweetie no longer had the energy for traveling. More and more, she spent the days curled up on the couch watching TV, or perhaps a more accurate statement would be that she dozed off while the TV played on. Her body had aged as Dr. Klein had predicted, although she had lived past the equivalent of seventy-five and was now approximately ninety. Her hair had gone a snowy white within the last two weeks, and her skin no longer had a youthful glow and was lightly lined with wrinkles. Clark was so thankful that despite the fact that her body was slowing down, she did not appear to be in any pain. Perhaps there just was not enough time for any sort of illness to develop.

It was with a heavy heart that Clark headed quickly home from the Planet after a call from Dr. Klein. It was just a guess, but Dr. Klein believed that Sweetie would not live for many more hours. Clark had asked that Dr. Klein let him know because he wanted to make sure that he was there for Sweetie.

Sweetie's voice was little more than a whisper. "Clark?"

"I'm here, Sweetie."

"I'm so sorry you haven't found Lois yet."

"Shh. It's okay. Just rest."

"Thank you for taking me all those places. I'm glad I got to see them."

"It was my pleasure." His eyes were burning with tears, but he forced them back. He had too much to do; he just could not allow himself time to give in to his emotions. He sat quietly for a while, holding her had as her breathing became yet fainter.

"Clark? I think… I think I remembered something else."


"Bank account numbers. It was bank account numbers that Mr. St. John and Mrs. Cox wanted from Luthor."

Bank account numbers? As his personal assistants, surely the pair had access to his business accounts? But what about his personal ones? His mind began to whirl.

"I don't… know much. But I don't think… I don't think he was right, Clark."

She was wearing herself out. "Sweetie, why don't you rest a little and talk to me later?"

"No!" she cried with Lois Lane-Kent spunk. "I need to tell you now." Her voice dropped back down. "I'm not sure there will be a later. I can feel myself… going."

Clark barely stifled a moan. He didn't know how he could stand any more tragedies. He was stressed almost to the breaking point. With his days, other than the ones dedicated to Sweetie, filled with tracking down leads as Clark Kent and his nights spent doing aerial searches as Superman, he had managed to keep busy enough that he didn't have time to think… or to feel. But he didn't know how much longer he could hold back the crippling surge of feelings.

"Luthor acted oddly for what I now know about him. Weak. Like he was not… all there anymore."


"Maybe. They seemed to be trying to give him the impression that he was in control, but I know that they were really running the show."

But that would mean that Luthor wasn't the villain here, he was a victim!

"Is that it?"


"Good". He leaned forward and pressed a kiss to her forehead. "Rest now."


After he was certain that Sweetie was sleeping, he headed into the kitchen wearily rubbing his hands over his face. Martha was at the sink washing dishes, but she was going about it so slowly he knew that she was just trying to keep her hands busy. Clark opened the fridge and pulled out the milk carton. He uncapped it an took a swig. With a questioning look on his face, he checked the label as he swallowed."

"Buttermilk, Mom?"

Martha smiled softly at him. "I was thinking of your dad. You know what he always says."

"Buttermilk is good for what ails you."

She nodded at him.

"I don't think buttermilk is going to fix all this." Clark had taken a glass from the cupboard and sat at the table filling it with more of the milk.

Martha came behind him and rubbed his shoulders. "I'm worried about you, Clark."

"I'm okay, Mom."

"No. You're not. I'm your mother, Clark Kent, and I know. You can't keep pushing yourself like this. And you can't keep bottling all your emotions inside."

Clark stood and shook off her hand, tossing the milk down the sink. "I can't do this right now, Mom," he said as he rinsed out the glass.


"I'm sorry. I just can't."


Sweetie roused one last time. Martha sat on the bed, rubbing her hand. Clark knelt beside her, pushing back Sweetie's hair, as he again tried to ignore the urge to weep. His whole head felt like a herd of elephants were running through it. Was this what a headache felt like?


"I'm here, Sweetie."

"Did I help you? Did I do good?"

"Yes," he croaked hoarsely. "You did good."

A faint smile touched her lips. "I mean well."

"You did good and you did well."

"I hope you find her." Her brown eyes drifted closed for the last time.

Martha began to weep. Clark stood and reached for her, holding her as she cried.

She finally gained control. "I'm sorry, Clark. This is not what you need right now."

He patted her back. "It's okay, Mom. I can't thank you enough for helping me care for her. I don't know how I would have managed without you. I know it has been hard, being away from Dad."

"I was happy to help."

Clark nodded. "I know that. But still, thank you."


Since Sweetie was not legally a person, Clark and Dr. Klein had decided that it would be okay for Clark to send her remains into the sun as he had with his clone. As he softly guided the bundle into the sun's gravity, he could feel the sun charging him, giving him added strength that he needed so badly. He longed to stay there for a few hours, but he knew that he needed to get his mother back to the farm and to her husband. His mind was already forming a plan to show his gratitude to them both for their support, especially the help of the last few weeks.


"But, Clark! We can't go on a cruise! If you find Lois-" Martha began to protest.

"*When* I find Lois, *if* you are still on the cruise, Superman will come and get you."


"Mom, you need a rest and some time spent with Dad. I'll take care of the farm."

Martha could see the determination in his stance and acquiesced. "Okay."

Jonathan patted Clark on the back. "Thanks, son"


His apartment was horribly empty as he returned from seeing his parents off. Dr. Klein had removed all of the monitoring equipment that had been present the last few weeks. There was no sign that anyone except himself had ever lived there. He stumbled to the couch and sank into it, resting his head on his hands. The pounding headache had become a constant. He needed some sleep, to close his eyes and just absorb the silence around him.

The shrill ring of his home phone split the silence and he groaned. Why hadn't he turned the ringer off? He did not feel like talking to anyone right now. As the phone continued through its second and third ring, he stretched out on the couch and pulled one of the pillows to his face. "Go away," he muttered. The answering machine would pick it up on the next ring. He would check it later. Surely it was not too much to ask for a few minutes of peace. He listened to his voice requesting that the caller leave a message.

"Clark?" her voice was a whisper. "It's Lois."

With all the superspeed he could muster he raced for the phone. He had to mentally remind himself to keep from crushing the phone in his eagerness. "Lois! Lois?"

The dial tone rang loudly through the answering machines speakers, echoing in his empty apartment.

He collapsed where he stood. Great sobs and wails tore from his chest. So close, so close. All the grief that he had been stifling over the past ten weeks came crashing down on him. Why had he not answered the phone the first instant that it began to ring? He cursed and called himself all kinds of names.

When he roused from his grief he realized that Henderson needed to be informed. This was proof that Lois was alive and perhaps the call could be traced. He doubted it. If Lois had managed to use St. John or Mrs. Cox's phones, they had undoubtedly taken steps to prevent calls from being tracked. But that did not mean that it could not be checked out. Or perhaps there would be some noise in the background that might be helpful. He picked his cell phone up from the table where he had tossed it when he had entered the apartment.

"Henderson? Clark Kent. Lois just called me. Tried to call me."

"Have you touched the phone?"

"No. It rang and I… didn't pick it up." Clark's voice cracked slightly as he again cursed himself for letting the phone ring, wasting precious time that he could have been hearing her voice, could have spoken back to her.

"Don't touch it. I'll be right there."

Within a half hour Henderson was working with several experts who would disassemble his answering machine and phone to try to make the most of the short call. They had set up recording equipment and copied the message when Henderson had pressed the flashing button. Clark forced himself to listen again to Lois whisper, "Clark? It's Lois." and then the buzz of the dial tone.

"Clark, stop blaming yourself," Henderson counseled. "Honestly, Clark, it's better this way. How would we have recorded the call if you had picked it up? How could we have the background noises analyzed?"

"I could have told her I l… Maybe she could have told me where she was."

Henderson shook his head. "She may not even know. And in the few seconds that the phone rang? Let's just see what we can get. You guys done?" he asked the technicians surrounding him. They assured him they had all they needed.

"Well then, let's try the obvious." Henderson picked up the handheld unit and punched *69. He shrugged. "It's worth a try."

But the amplified message that came back was, "The number that you have called is no longer in service."

"I figured that would be too easy," Henderson grumbled. "Look, Clark, we'll do the best we can, but just don't hope for too much, okay? Luthor's got access to technology that we haven't even dreamed of yet."

Yet another hurry up and wait. A lead that would go nowhere, leaving him not one whit closer to finding Lois.


While Henderson's team tried to trace the call, Clark began to prepare a new course of action to find Lois. Selecting areas where Luthor had business interests had not produced Lois' whereabouts so he was literally going to have to search the world. He had to find her. And with Sweetie gone, there was nothing keeping him from searching for her every minute of the day. First he had to calculate a realistic grid of areas to search. If Henderson could narrow the origin of the call down to a continent, it would save a lot of wasted searching… and hours and days that Lois remained missing. Clark could mark which areas he had already searched here in the States. And with the new information that Sweetie had left him with, he could add properties owned by Nigel St. John and Mrs. Cox to the location of possible hiding places.


Clark spent most of the next two weeks flying above Australia. If he found anything the least suspicious, underground rooms or anything lead-lined, he would land, spin into his Clark clothes, and check it out. Some of the research he had done into Luthor evidenced that he had spent some portion of his life in Australia. If rumor were to be believed, he had even fathered a child whom he had rejected because of some sort of disfigurement. However, he didn't run into Lex Luthor Junior during his search so he didn't know if there was any truth to the reports.


He picked his parents up at the Metropolis airport. Martha took one look at him and began to scold him for not taking care of himself. Clark looked for Jonathan, but he just grinned. "Don't look at me, Clark, I've been taking good care of myself."

Clark rolled his eyes. "Why don't you tell me about your cruise?"

"I want to hear what is going on with the search for Lois," Martha insisted.

"Once we're back to the farm."

"Can you stay with us for a few days?"

"If you want me to I could, I guess." Now that he had completed searching Australia, he wanted to grid Central and South America. Many of Luthor's illegal workers were from Mexico so and there was some evidence that he helped with transporting drugs, although Clark had not found any evidence that Luthor was involved in the sale of them. It would be another place where Luthor had connections that would be willing to assist in hiding Lois.


"And the police department hasn't been able to trace the call?" Jonathan asked.

Clark shook his head. "Not yet, anyway. They're still working on it. But it doesn't look good. The call was so short and Henderson mentioned unregistered pre-paid cell phones and deleted records. It really doesn't surprise us that some extreme steps were taken to make the call untraceable or at least to make the tracing take impossibly long. Background noise was virtually non-existent. All Superman could hear was Lois' breathing." And the beat of her heart that told him that she was either nervous, excited, or very scared. Maybe all three.

"I'm so sorry, Clark," Martha sympathized. "But at least we know she is alive."

"Believe me, I am not discounting that fact. Since nothing I've found has led me to Lois, I've been spending my time as Superman searching for her. So far Metropolis has not noticed his absence. But I'm going to ask Dr. Klein to give me some sort of beeper that Henderson could use to signal Superman if he was needed back in Metropolis so the criminals don't think they can get away with murder… literally or otherwise."

"Clark, I know you're Superman, but you do need to rest. Promise me that you'll take one day off a week and spend some time resting."

"Okay, Mom. I promise." Martha was right; he did need some sleep. Perhaps he would spend some time at the farm each week to decompress. It would energize him to continue the search. Besides, he didn't need to cause her any more worry. She was already worrying about Lois.


With his plans settled with his parents, Clark approached Perry with his idea to travel with Superman in an all out search for Lois. He explained that Superman would be keeping an eye on Metropolis as always and that Clark would stop in at the Planet whenever Superman needed to be in town. Lois had been missing for three months, and research and checking out leads seemed to have gotten him nowhere. He needed to physically be out there looking for her. Perry nodded, the look in his eyes saying that he wished that he could spend some time beating the bushes for Lois himself.

Superman went to see Dr. Klein and described to him his need for a long-range "beeper" that Henderson could use to contact him if he were needed in Metropolis. Superman would continue to fly patrols over Metropolis, after all St. John and Mrs. Cox might return to the scene of the crime, but he would not hear cries for help if he were in, say, Europe, and he was needed.


He stopped in to see Ellen Lane, wanting to talk to her about his plan for finding Lois. She had continued to work and had not fallen back on her old crutch of alcohol for dealing with stress. Yet he could see the weariness in her eyes just as he could see it in Martha's. To lose a child was awful. To not know was worse. As he left he did not resist the urge to give her a hug and assure her that he would contact her if he heard anything. She clung to him for a moment and he realized that Ellen had no one to lean on. At least Martha and Jonathan could share their sorrow and draw strength from each other. Neither Sam nor Lucy were capable of offering Ellen the support that she surely needed. Clark determined that he would do a better job of keeping her informed and maybe allow her to lean on him a little bit.


It was not a job that even Superman could complete in a day. He wanted to work fast, but he also had to search at a slow enough pace that he had time to notice anything unusual. He assigned himself to a grid on his map and he spent time looking over that portion of the world. Densely populated areas took longer than less populated ones yet he was very conscious that he could not speed over those areas as it was just as likely that Lois was being held in a remote location as one where St. John and Mrs. Cox would have access to amenities, but would also pose a greater chance of their being recognized.

As he had promised, both he and Superman took a day off each week, usually Sundays. He would sleep for the better part of the day and then allow his mother to pamper him with a big meal. Later, he would head into the Planet and make out his record of what he had accomplished and plan his route for the next week. And sometimes he would have a story to write up. While he had dedicated his time to searching for Lois, he could not just ignore any crimes that he came across and had published articles on a prostitution ring, a drug running operation, and a serial rapist whose latest victim Superman had rescued. When Superman had turned the rapist over to the police, they were quickly able to link him to several other crimes and the man would be spending the better part of the rest of his life behind bars. Clark's follow up story on victims, their before and after stories, earned him a Kerth nomination. It was bittersweet. He was glad to be able to move people with his stories, but he and Lois had intended to win their next Kerth together. He did not attend the banquet and was relieved to hear that the award had gone to someone else.

And before he would head out for another week of searching, he would stop by Ellen Lane's house or office and take her out for breakfast, lunch, or just coffee. He would tell her where he had searched and ask her about her job. They would share a few memories of Lois, stories she had written or a tale from her childhood. Clark found himself looking forward to their meetings, enjoying the chance to remember Lois in happier times.


That pattern was broken three months later when his beeper began to ring at the same time he heard his mother screaming his name. Shaking the sleep from his head, he raced down the stairs to where his mother was standing in front of the television crying his name. On the screen he could see a journalist standing beside a river. He tuned into hear what the newscast was reporting. "Sources are speculating that the body discovered washed up here three days ago is the body of multi-billionaire Lex Luthor, who had not been heard from in almost seven months and has been liked to the disappearance of newspaper reporter Lois Lane-Kent."

"I've got to go!" Clark called as he spun into his Superman costume and headed for Metropolis.

At the Metropolis Police Department, he made his way to Bill Henderson's office without waiting to allow the receptionist to inform the inspector of his presence.

"Why wasn't I informed earlier?" he demanded after wrenching the door open. Perry White and Bill Henderson stood to their feet.

"Because it took three days for news to reach the media outlets in that stupid backward country. Some local guy who thinks he's a coroner signed off on the corpse as a John Doe, but he did send the ring on the deceased's finger to a jeweler, hoping to sell it. The ring had several diamond bits in it, but one was large enough that it had been registered and the jeweler checked the registration. When the owner came up as Lex Luthor, he went to some two bit rag with his story that Lex Luthor's body had been found. This was just a few hours ago," Henderson began.

"Some police officer saw the article and e-mailed it to a journalist friend of his at one of the Daily Planet branches along with the caption, "Yeah, and Elvis operates a surf shop in Rio." But the journalist decided to do some checking and was able to find out whom the tabloid got the story from. Once he realized there really was a possibility that this ring had belonged to Luthor, he contacted me," Perry finished.

"Is it Luthor?" Superman asked.

Henderson shrugged his shoulders. "DNA will take a few days at the least. I called the authorities in the nearest town, and they were able to confirm from the coroner's report that the height of the body was consistent with Luthor's. Unfortunately, he was in the water for a while, and so it is hard to make a positive identification based on sight alone."

"Where is this? I could compare bone structure. If I could get a copy of Luthor's dental records I could check that out as well. I'll leave right away."

"You probably have as good a better chance of recognizing him than anyone else," Henderson agreed. "No go on the dental records, though. As far as we have found no dental or medical records exist for Lex Luthor."

"Just tell me where to go."

"Tell Clark-" began Perry.

"I'll take Clark with me"


The swirling, muddy water had certainly done significant damage to the corpse. Viewing the tatters of cloth that had once been a suit as well as the body's build and facial features, Clark did feel strongly that this really could be Lex Luthor. Odd that the man who had everything and had frequently been featured in the pages of the world's most well-known journals would end up virtually unidentifiable and buried in a pauper's grave but for a blurb in a gossip rag. The expert that Superman had flown in estimated that the body had been in the water for at least five days. Positive DNA identification would take some time, but a preliminary report would be available within twenty-four hours.

The most likely cause of death was very obvious. A single gun shot to the forehead.

Had the muddy river rejected the evidence that Nigel St. John and Mrs. Cox had hoped would disappear into its murky depths?


A few hours later found Clark Kent searching for information on the river's path and currents. A proper autopsy would reveal more details on Luthor's final hours, but Clark did not care about Lex Luthor except that if Lois and Luthor had been taken to the same location, his body might lead Clark to Lois. He had to hope that she had not met the same fate. That the pair had not decided to kill both of their captives once they had the information that they wanted so badly.

His cell phone rang. He answered it distractedly as he used his super-vision to magnify the image that he had found for the area where the body had been found.

"Clark? It's Ellen. Is it true? Has Luthor's body been found?"

"Superman thinks so, Ellen, and that's good enough for me. I'm trying to get some information on the river, thinking that I might be able to figure out where the body originated from, but the area is so remote, there's not a lot of information available."

"Oh, Clark, what if she's-"

"Don't think like that, Ellen. We don't know if Luthor was the perpetrator, or a victim like Lois. Or if they were even being held together. But this could be the best lead we've had yet, and I'm going to believe that we'll find her."

"Oh, I hope so, Clark."

He called his parents to update them as well. There were so may questions that they all wanted to have answered, and the information that Clark needed just did not seem available. Finally he had to admit that he had all the information that he was going to get. The best thing to do would be to backtrack the probable course that the body had traveled and hope that he was on the right track.


He had to be careful not to fly too fast in his haste because that could cause him to miss what he needed to see, but his heart spurred him on, faster, faster. She was here. She had to be. She had to be, because he just couldn't live if… no, she had to be here. His eyes scanned over various huts and buildings around the wide river. Was the place he was looking for near the river? Or had Cox and St. John traveled to dump Luthor's body? If so, how far? How far from the river should he extend his search? Should he start with a wide search or just fly over the river and look in the immediate area around it first? He finally settled on the flying over the river. Cox and St. John would be in a hurry. He had to hope that they had not taken time to dump the body too far from where Lois was held. It was getting dark. He didn't have to have light to see, but it was easier than constantly monitoring with his x-ray vision. He quickly scanned the land around the river as he flew. Please be here, he begged silently.

He had flown in the dark for hours and the sun was shining brightly when his eyes scanned over a building formed out of cinder blocks. Not a very large building. Could this be it? Something just drew him to the building. He tried to x-ray the building. Lead shielding. That had to mean something. He landed and crashed through the door of the building. There were cobwebs and dust as if it hadn't seen use in years. No! She had to be here. He scanned again and found a door in the floor underneath the dusty, falling apart table. He shoved it out of his way and it splintered into pieces as it crashed against the walls. He pulled the iron door off its hinges and flung it behind him. The opening into the ground was dark, but he floated down into the earth. He activated his vision to look around. His heart leapt with hope. The furnishings were much too lavish to belong to the locals. Expensive alcohol rested in well-polished wine racks. The rugs on the floor were not from a local weaver and way above CostMart quality. But, while clean, it also appeared abandoned. "Lois, Lois, please be here," he begged.

As he scanned the room, he finally found another door also lead shielded. He could not see through the walls into the room, but as he strode toward the portal he activated his hearing. For a second he didn't hear anything, but then he heard the weak beat of a heart. There was something, someone in that room. He forced the door open listening for another beat as he did so. There was a long pause before he heard it again. His eyes focused in the dark room running over accommodations that were crude in comparison to the opulence of the connecting room. The beat came again and following the sound, he located the bed. "Lois!" He ran to kneel by the figure resting in the bed. His hands ran over her face. "Lois, Lois." There was no response, but it was her. So much thinner than he had ever seen her. There were patches of short hair underneath the longer hair that lay in greasy strands on the pillow. "Lois, please wake up!" He heard her heart beat again and saw her chest raise in a shallow breath. He quickly stood and x-rayed her for broken bones, internal injuries, anything that would indicate that he shouldn't move her. Finding nothing, he lifted her into his arms with the gentleness of a mother and carried her out through the richly furnished room and floated into the cinder block room above. Once outside, he stopped to listen for her heartbeat again before lifting into the air. The beat was faint and slow, but it had a steady rhythm. He cradled her against his chest as he flew as fast as he dared toward home, toward help for the women in his arms. It seemed like hours before he landed at the emergency entrance of Metropolis General. He carried his precious bundle through the sliding doors and into the lobby. All eyes turned to see Superman standing there with a frail woman in his arms. He fell to his knees as the ability to stand suddenly left him. "Help me, please help me. It's Lois Lane-Kent. I found her. I finally found her." For a moment all stood still as the room's occupants viewed their resident Superhero with tears streaming down his face. Then suddenly the room began to buzz.

Two emergency personnel rushed toward him with a gurney and lifted her from his arms onto the bed.

"Page the attending with a 911 STAT. Then page the chief. He will want to be in on this," barked a resident as she placed her stethoscope on Lois' chest. "Call emergency services and tell them we are closed to trauma and get security down here. We can't have this ER turning into a media circus. You two, get everyone in chairs evaluated. If it is emergent, triage them. Whatever can be quickly treated, do so." The staff scurried to respond to the orders. "And for God's sake, somebody get Superman a chair!" The red and blue lights of the ambulances flashed across him as he knelt in front of the doors, his cape pooled around him.

He staggered to his feet, "No, I'm fine. I have to get Clark Kent. Her family, they need to know…" He rushed from the emergency room and they heard the report of a sonic boom. Hardly a minute passed before Clark Kent appeared at the doors, his fingers rumpling his hair as he plunged through them. He ran after the gurney headed for one of the examination rooms. "Is she okay? What's wrong with her? Superman said she wasn't responding. Is her heart still beating? Is she breathing?"

One of the people left the gurney and laid her hand on his arm. "Mr. Kent, we will take good care of Ms. Lane-Kent. You need to slow down and let the doctor's work. We need to evaluate her before we can give you any details as to the status of her health." The gurney disappeared through the doors of the exam room.

"I have to be with her!"

"Mr. Kent, it really would be better-"

"I have to! I need to see her. Please, can't you understand that? I just need to see her."

The anguish in his face as well as his words touched her heart. She nodded. "You can be in the room, but you have to stay back, and you *must*be*quiet! Don't say anything, don't ask any questions. Let the doctors do their jobs."

"Her family… can someone call the Planet and talk to Perry White? He knows who to contact. They need to be here too."

"I'll have someone do that right away." They had reached the exam room doors and she held one open for him. "Now, remember, you must stay back and keep quiet!"

It looked like chaos to him. The people surrounding Lois called back and forth to each other. He stopped dead in his tracks. "Mr. Kent!" He startled and scuttled into a corner.

Her clothes were being cut off. A young man was tapping her arm underneath where he had the vein tied off. He released the tourniquet. "I can't get anything. She's too dehydrated. Get surgery down here to put in a central line."

The machines were beeping; they were shining a pen light in her eyes and calling to her. Clark was almost bursting with the need to know something. I've got to get control of myself, he thought. His eyes focused on her face. It was sharp and angular, without the rounded curve over her cheekbones that he was accustomed to. Her long lashes lay against the dusty purple bruises under her eyes that hinted at the hell she had been through. But it was Lois. He tuned out all the other noises around him and listened for her heartbeat. There it was. Still faint, but steady. He took a deep breath, calming himself. There it was again. He sank down against the wall. Again. With every breath he took, he willed her heart to beat one more time.


"Mr. Kent?" He startled to wakefulness. He didn't know how much time had passed. His exhausted body had sought rest as he listened to the sound of her heart.

"What? How is she? Is Lois okay?" His eyes flew to the bed. And he breathed a sigh of relief. She was still there and the monitors were beating steadily.

"She's alive, Mr. Kent. The doctor is ready to talk to you now and Mr. White is here."

"Thank you, thank you."

She patted his arm. "It's my pleasure, Mr. Kent. Let me take you to Dr. Litton."


"Honestly, Mr. Kent, we still don't know much. She's extremely dehydrated and malnourished. She is in a coma, but we're not sure why yet. I wish I could tell you more, but we're going to have to run more thorough tests. Right now, we are going to move her into intensive care and just let her rest."

"But she's okay, I mean, she'll live?"

"She is stable for now, Mr. Kent, that's all I can guarantee you. No signs of broken bones or internal injuries."

"What about bruising? Has she been beaten, or… or worse? They took her because they wanted something."

"I saw no signs of physical abuse, other than lack of nourishment."

"How do you know? What if it-"

"Mr. Kent, I have only said as much as I have to ease your mind. I know you are a close friend of hers, and intimately involved in the search for Ms. Lane-Kent, but I really need to speak to the person who is in charge of her medical decisions or if she has not designated someone, her next of kin. Is her family coming soon?"

"I stayed with her. But the nurse said our boss, Perry White, is here. He was going to call our families."

"We're taking good care of her, Mr. Kent. Why don't you find out what is happening with her family while we get her moved to the ICU? After she is settled, I'll allow you to see her for a few minutes. Then you might want to go home and rest yourself."

"I'm staying here."

"That's fine. There is a family lounge that you and the family are welcome to use. When her family arrives, please have the front desk page me."

"I will." Clark clasped the doctor's hand in a firm shake. "Thank you. Thank you so much."


Clark headed to the ER lobby to find Perry. He hadn't seen his boss in several weeks and just the sight of him was uplifting. Perry was watching the TV hanging in the corner.


Perry turned quickly towards him. "Clark, is it true? Superman found her?"

Clark nodded. "She's here. They're moving her to the ICU."

"Is she alright?"

"She's alive and stable. The doctor said that there was no evidence of broken bones or internal injuries, but she is in a coma. They don't know why; they have to run more tests. They want to let her rest for now. Did you contact her family?"

Perry nodded. "Sam is flying in from Chicago. Ellen should be here any minute. I couldn't reach Lucy, but I left a message at her dorm. Your parents are on their way from Smallville."

"Thanks for handling that, Chief. I know I should have done it, but I just couldn't leave her."

"Clark, son, I was just happy to finally be able to do something."

Ellen rushed in through the doors. "Clark! Perry said Superman found Lois and brought her here. Is she okay? It took me five minutes to get through the security guards out there."

Clark gathered Ellen in a hug. "She's here. She's alive."

"Oh, God." Ellen began to sob, clinging to Clark. "Oh, thank you, God. She's alive."

It took her a few moments to compose herself. Clark sat her down in one of the chairs.

"Lois is in the ICU. She seems stable, but she is in a coma. The doctors will want to talk to you since you are the next of kin."

"A coma! Why is she in a coma?"

"The doctor told me he doesn't know. He needs to run more tests. He will probably tell you more than he could tell me."

"Who's her doctor?"

"Dr. Litton."

Ellen nodded. "He's a good doctor. He won't wait until the last second to act, but he's not compulsive either."

"Sam is flying in. I didn't reach Lucy, but I left her a message to call you or the Planet," Perry said.

Ellen nodded. "What about your parents, Clark?"

"Perry called them, too, and they're on their way."

"Good. She would want them here," Ellen said.

Clark waved in the direction of the front desk. "Dr. Litton wanted me to have him paged when you arrived." He headed over to the desk to speak to the receptionist.


Clark sat in the family lounge with Sam and Ellen. Perry had gone back to the Planet. Tomorrow's front page would be graced by a rare article written by the editor of the Daily Planet. Clark had told him that Superman dropped by while Perry had gone to the restroom and given Clark some additional information. Clark relayed to Perry how Superman used the location where Lex Luthor's body was found to backtrack up the river and had eventually found Lois in an abandoned building where she had apparently been left for dead.

Lucy had called, but her parents had encouraged her to go ahead and attend classes, as there was nothing that any of them could do for Lois at this time. Lucy reluctantly agreed as long as they promised to call her if anything changed in Lois' condition. She knew that once she explained, her professors would have no problem with her leaving her cell phone on as long as it was programmed to vibrate rather than ring.

Dr. Litton appeared in the doorway of the lounge and the occupants quickly stood expectantly. Dr. Litton lifted his hands and lowered them indicating that they should sit. "I don't have any news; I just wanted to let you know that we are starting rounds and I and my students will be evaluating Lois. I'd like to do some research into possible causes for her coma. I will be scheduling some of the tests we discussed, Dr. and Mrs. Lane. Mr. Kent, the Lanes have given me permission to discuss Lois' case with you, so I will speak freely. We have been giving her fluids all night, but we have to be careful not to over-hydrate her. Dehydration could be the cause of her lack of consciousness. In its most severe form, dehydration left untreated can result in seizures, permanent brain damage, or death."

Clark moaned and Ellen squeezed his hand tightly.

"Again, I don't know that dehydration is the cause of her coma. We are puzzled at the shaved portions of hair and found some scarring consistent with surgical incisions. Has Lois' ever had brain surgery?"

"No," said Ellen. "At least she never did before."

The doctor nodded. "We'll be doing an MRI and CT scan and trying to determine the cause for her unconsciousness. The good news is that at this point she is stable and breathing on her own."

They thanked the doctor and he left the room. The waiting was so hard. Knowing that Lois was alive and not being able to be with her. Knowing that her body was back but her mind was still lost. Had irreparable brain damage occurred? Would the Lois they had known and loved ever return?


One of the residents came into the room several hours later. Lucy had joined them now that her classes were over for the day. "Dr. Litton has run many of the tests he had talked to you about. He'd like to meet with you in his office and show you what he has found."

With his superhuman senses, Clark could detect excitement in the young man's demeanor. "Good news?" he asked hopefully.

"Dr. Litton will explain it to you," the resident's answer was non-committal.

So not good news. The four entered Dr. Litton's office. The ladies sat in the chairs gathered around his desk and Sam and Clark stood behind them. Dr. Litton greeted them before turning around to switch the light on to the x-ray viewer behind his desk.

"Dr. Lane, you are probably familiar with what these look like normally. We first noticed the considerable brain swelling here," he circled the area with a red pen, "here, and here. On this view, we are looking at 'slices' of the brain. What we discovered was quite alarming. Ms. Lane-Kent has had some sort of implants placed in her brain at three specialized regions of the brain- the somatosensory cortex, the limbic system, frontal cortex."

Sam let out a sound somewhere between a moan and a sob. His reaction scared Clark even though he was not quite sure what it meant. "For those of us not familiar with the brain, can you tell me what exactly those regions of the brain do?"

"The somatosensory cortex is the physical sensation region of the brain. Similarly, the limbic system is the emotional feeling and the frontal cortex is the thinking region. While we can not be sure of the exact reason these implants were placed in her brain, I don't believe that it was for any altruistic reason."

"Physical sensation, emotional feeling… you're saying these implants were used to make her feel… something?" questioned Lucy.

"Pain," answered Sam. "Those are the brain's pain receptors."

Lucy gasped, and Ellen, who had grasped far more of the doctor's explanation than Clark, let loose the tears she had been holding back. Clark felt as if his heart was being torn into a million pieces.

"Why?" he choked out.

The doctor shook his head. "That is probably something we won't ever know, at least, not unless she wakes up and can tell us."

"Unless she wakes up!" Clark gasped out in disbelief. She had to wake up. Her unconscious state was temporary, right?

Dr. Litton looked at the group compassionately. "I'm not a neurologist, though I did consult with one concerning these pictures. I'd like to have Lois moved to his care. As an ER doctor, my job is to assess and stabilize the patient so that a specialist can do his job. From what I have observed, Ms. Lane-Kent is quite stable, with no external injuries and no internal injuries except for her brain.

"We have continued to slowly re-hydrate her, which may do a lot to rouse her from her coma. Consciousness depends on the continual transmission of chemical messages from the brainstem and thalamus to the cerebrum. Any interruptions to these messages can put someone into an altered state of consciousness. I don't know enough about the brain to know if these implants are blocking the neural pathways and causing the coma, or if the coma is caused by the dehydration, or even the swelling of the brain around the implants.

"I do know that Ms. Lane-Kent is fortunate to be alive and to have her friends and family here with her. With your permission, she will be moved to Neurology and the neurologist I consulted with will assess her and let you know what he finds. There may be some hard decisions for you to make in the next few days. If there is anything that I can do to help, please let me know. I was… am an admirer of Ms. Lane-Kent's work and I hope to see her writing for the Daily Planet again soon."

It was a nice thing for him to say, but in spite of his words, they were left with the feeling that Dr. Litton had no confidence that it would ever happen.


They were allowed to spend a few minutes with Lois before she would be moved to Neurology. Sam and Ellen went in first and with his super hearing Clark knew that they had both told her how much they loved her and encouraged her to get better. Clark and Lucy went in next. Clark stood back while Lucy kissed her sister and reminisced about a childhood memory of how Lois had cared for Lucy when she was sick with the flu. Finally Lucy wiped her eyes and stepped back. "Clark, I think I will just go and get something to drink." She left the room leaving him alone with Lois for the first time since he had brought her to the hospital.

He knelt by the bed and grasped her hand, "Lois, please come back to me. There are so many things I need to tell you, that I should have told you… I need you, Lois. I'm not sure I can go on without you." He rubbed her hand and talked to her about his parents and her friends at the Planet and how much they had all missed her. He was interrupted a few minutes later by the staff coming to transport Lois to Neurology.


The neurologist introduced himself as Dr. Thurston and explained what tests he was going to run as he attempted to find the reason for Lois' coma. "Based on the healing of the surgical scars and her hair re-growth, I believe that this procedure was performed about six months ago."

"That was about the time Lois was taken, " Clark offered.

"Because of that, I don't think the bruising we see around the implants is from the surgical placement. The bruising could be caused by irritation, or by whatever purpose they were placed there to perform," Dr. Thurston explained. "Unfortunately I am in the uncomfortable position of asking you a very hard question. Ms. Lane-Kent is stable, breathing on her own, which is very good. We have continued the fluids that Dr. Litton began and she has been rehydrated. However, trauma victims often develop an increased metabolic rate, which leads to an increase in the amount of heat the body produces. The body redirects into heat the energy needed to keep organ systems functioning, causing muscle wasting and the starvation of other tissues. Ms. Lane-Kent needs more nourishment than we can provide by IV. That means that we need to insert a feeding tube into her stomach and feed her that way. That procedure is considered an invasive measure to prolong life, just as a ventilator or shocking her heart would be. Since Ms. Lane-Kent is not able to make these decisions and did not have an advance directive it is up to you, Dr. and Mrs. Lane, to discuss the options and make decisions. Would you want all possible intervention to prolong life; full intervention but with early reassessment; interventions that may help, but are not too invasive; or only non-invasive comfort care? These are questions that you need to be thinking about. You do not need to make the decision right this second, but Ms. Lane-Kent has been undernourished for some time and, if that is the decision you make, we need to begin providing for her nutritional needs as soon as possible to avoid complications related to hyper-metabolism and malnutrition."

How could his heart hurt any more than it did already? How could this doctor sit there calmly discussing allowing Lois, feisty, independent, wonderful, beautiful Lois Lane-Kent to starve to death! Clark was certain that Lois would not want to be kept alive indefinitely through artificial means, but she was a fighter and she deserved a chance! But since he wasn't "family" he wasn't even allowed to give her that chance. He must have made some sound because Ellen turned to him. "Clark, we know that you care about Lois just as much as we do. While the final decision will have to be made by Sam and me, we certainly want to hear your opinions. We know that Lois is important to you and you to her. Did you ever discuss anything like this?"

Clark shook his head. "I guess we thought we were invincible, that we would live forever. We're both still in our twenties. End of life issues weren't something that we really thought about."

"Do you have any initial thoughts?" Sam asked him.

"Lois is a fighter. I think… I think that if she could tell us, she would ask us to give her a chance."

"We can't let her go, Sam! We just got her back." Ellen cried.

"But Lois wouldn't want to be like… like she is now forever. That's … that's just not her." Sam was breathing hard, trying to control his emotions.

"What about the other option Dr. Thurston mentioned? Full intervention now, but we re-evaluate frequently?" Clark asked.

Sam nodded, deep in thought.

There was nothing else he could do or say. At least they had asked him. And as much as he wanted to keep Lois alive, even if just through the sheer force of his will, he felt he had answered them honestly as to what he thought Lois would want. "I think I'll just go sit with Lois," he said and excused himself.


He scooted a chair close to her bed, so he could hold her hand while she lay there. How he longed in the past few months just to be able to see her, touch her again. And here she was. But he had never imagined that she would be unable to respond, that he wouldn't be able to look into her eyes and see his feelings reflected there. Where was she? Was she already… gone? Or was Lois trapped somewhere between sleep and wakefulness? He needed to do some research on this, find out more- he stopped himself. Would there be any reason to look into it, or would Lois' parents choose to just let her go? He groaned and put his head in his hands. He'd thought the most awful thing would be to find her too late, but finding her and being unable to save her, to have to watch her die was just as bad.



A hand on his shoulder was shaking him awake. "Clark?"


"We're here son," his father answered.

He came to full wakefulness realizing that he had fallen asleep with his head resting on Lois' bed. He tuned into her heart beat. Still there, and now much stronger. He sat up and his mom gathered him in her arms. Jonathan came and put his arms around them both. How Clark wished he were a small child again when he had known that these two could fix any problem he encountered in his small world.

"How is she, Clark?" his father finally asked.

"She's in a coma. It's- it's just horrible. She has implants in her brain. And the Lanes have to decide whether or not to … prolong her life."

"But, Clark, she's alive!" Martha protested.

Clark nodded, "And completely unable to make her own decisions. She needs food, Mom. Look at her. Who knows when she ate last, how long she has been like this."

Sam and Ellen walked into Lois' room. "Clark, we wanted you to know that we talked about what to do. We decided you were right. She would want to fight. So we are going to have the feeding tube put in as soon as possible."

Clark almost collapsed in relief. He couldn't imagine that Ellen would have stood by while her daughter died, but with Sam and Ellen's experience in the medical field, he was afraid that the bad they had seen might lead them to a different decision than the one he wished for.


They all stood around in her room, waiting for her to return from surgery. Although it wasn't a complicated procedure, it did involve anesthesia, and they had no way of predicting how it would affect Lois' injured brain.

They breathed a collective sigh of relief when she was rolled back into her room.


Their days had fallen into a pattern. Ellen stayed with Lois from midnight until Clark came by at about 6:00 to eat his breakfast with Lois. After they "fed" Lois her breakfast, Ellen would leave, and Clark would eat while reading to Lois from the Daily Planet. He would fill her in on whatever small story Perry had him working on. Perry knew that Clark could not concentrate on any in depth investigations right now, but Clark was grateful to have something else to keep his mind busy after the months of spending all day and night searching for Lois. Soon after Clark left for work, rounds would begin and Lois' morning would involve visits from Dr. Thurston and his students, and then the physical therapists would come in and put her limbs through a range of motions. Clark would come back to eat his lunch with her and tell her all the goings on at the Planet. Sam greeted Clark on his way back to the Planet as Sam headed into spend a few hours with his daughter. Martha and Jonathan came over in the afternoon and stayed until Lucy arrived at 8:00. Clark usually ended up back at the hospital for dinner as well. The Kents headed back to Clark's apartment and Lucy stayed with Lois until her mother arrived. They had decided to surround her with love, believing that the power of that love would draw her back to them.


The feeding tube made a huge difference. Lois' color began to improve so that she looked a little less ethereal as she lay against the white sheets of the hospital bed. Dr. Thurston waited a few days before repeating the MRI and CT scan that he had performed upon Lois' arrival a week ago. He hoped that by studying any changes, he could determine the best course to follow. He happily reported back that the swelling around the implants was decreasing. Dr. Thurston was consulting with more specialists across the globe in an attempt to ascertain what the implants were intended to do and their affect on Lois' brain. Dr. Thurston strongly believed that Lois' coma was caused by the brain swelling, not by the implants themselves. Which was great news, if it were fact, because that would mean that when the swelling went down, she would revive.


Ten long days from when he had found Lois, Clark received an excited phone call at work from Ellen. In an effort to earn his salary, he had been spending a few hours at the Planet, although he was working on stories a junior reporter would have turned their nose up at. "Clark! Dr. Thurston called us to tell us that this morning during physical therapy Lois was responding to the exercises. They were obviously causing her some pain, which is sad, of course, but it is also great because that means that she is coming out of the coma."

Clark's heart soared with excitement. "Should I come over?"

"You'll be here in an hour or so anyway, Clark, and I'll call if anything happens."

Clark's mind was definitely distracted from his work. Perry had to call him into his office for Clark to decipher a paragraph from the article that he had sent to Perry that made absolutely no sense. When Clark explained, Perry threw him out of his office and told him not to come back that day. If Lois was waking up, Clark should be at her side.


Dr. Thurston was talking with Sam and Ellen when Clark arrived, so he slipped into the chair next to Lois' bed, took her hand, and listened in on their conversation.

"This is definitely a good sign, but I want to make it blatantly clear to you that Lois is probably not just going to jump up and resume her life as it was before. Some patients come out comas without any mental or physical disability, but many require at least some type of therapy to regain mental and physical skills. Lois may need to relearn how to speak, walk, eat and even then she may never recover completely. I know that is not what you want to hear, but I want you to be prepared when Lois wakes up. We don't know how long Lois has been in a coma or if her brain was deprived of oxygen at any point. I'm not trying to burst your bubble; I just want you to be informed."

Clark tuned out at that point. He hadn't ever though about Lois struggling to perform everyday tasks. Everyday in this hospital he saw young people struggling to overcome physical limitations, and it had never occurred to him that that could be Lois. For a moment he panicked, wondering if they had done the right thing to bring Lois back to quality of life that could be far different than the one she had known. He instantly put down the thought. Lois would tackle any obstacles the way she always did. And they would overcome them together no matter what they were.

He had been unconsciously stroking the back of her hand with his thumb. She squeezed his hand as he continued to think about how they would conquer any problems that … wait a second! "Dr. Thurston! She squeezed my hand."

Ellen was instantly beside the bed. "She did? Are you sure?" She grabbed Lois' other hand. "Honey, Mommy's here and so is Daddy and Clark. We're here for you." Lois head moved slightly on the pillow and she gave a small moan that sounded like it came from far away. She gave a deep sigh. They all waited with bated breath but she didn't move.

Dr. Thurston finally approached the bed. "May I?" He picked up one of Lois' arms and smiled when she slightly pulled away from him. "She's asleep. You can stay here, but let her rest. She'll wake up in her own time."


As his parents and Lucy arrived for their "shifts" they all stayed in the room. Lois' movements were more frequent, but she still had not completely awakened. Clark ached to see her doe brown eyes looking back at him.


Ellen and Clark were preparing to feed Lois her breakfast under the watchful eye of the nurse when Lois cried out, "No, p-p-p-lease!" and her head began to thrash back and forth on the pillow.

Clark was instantly there with a hand on her shoulder. "Shh, Lois, it's okay now. You're safe."

Her brow unwrinkled and her tossing stopped. Clark waited in breathless anticipation as her eyelids began to flutter. She opened her eyes and a look of confusion crossed her face. " 'la-a-rk, M-m-om?"

Ellen grasped her hands, tears shining in her eyes. "Yes, honey, we're here. And Daddy and Lucy. And the Kents."

"I'm going to page Dr. Thurston," the nurse said quickly leaving the room.

"Ma… ma…" Lois tried to talk. A look of panic crossed her face.

"It's all right, Lois," Sam encouraged her. "You've been asleep a long time."


A long time? Why had she been asleep a long time? Why were the words she wanted to say not spilling from her? Her mouth would just not form the words!

"Maybe some water-" began Clark. Lois' eyes flew to him.

Sam shook his head. "No, patients with brain trauma often have trouble swallowing. We don't want to drown her."

Brain trauma! Had she been in an accident?

What's going on? She tried to ask. All that came out was "Wha'?"

Again Clark rushed to speak. "Lois, Superman found you and brought you back to Metropolis. That was about two weeks ago. You're in Metropolis General Hospital and you've been asleep for at least the last two weeks."

What was Clark talking about. Found her? Where had she been? The last thing she remembered was… was- "No," she cried again. Lex. Mrs. Cox had killed Lex and Nigel St. John was turning to her with the control in his hand, his thumb poised to depress the button that would send the burning, blinding pain throughout her body. She had to get away. Why wasn't she moving? She kept trying to tell her legs to run and nothing was happening! She began to whimper in fear.

"Lois, Lois, it's okay," Clark assured her again.

Her mom was squeezing her hands. Martha had moved to sit on the bed and was patting her leg. Daddy and Jonathan hung over the bed with worried looks on their faces.

They were here. They were really here. Her eyes swung around the room. This wasn't where she had been … kept for the last… for a long time. Tears began to escape from here eyes. She was safe. Clark had come for her. She had known her would, but why had it taken so long? She began to sob in earnest and Ellen began to rub her face and murmur comfortingly, "Shh, shh."

A tall man in a white coat entered the room. Had she seen him before? His voice sounded familiar. "Ms. Lane-Kent, I'm Dr. Thurston. I'm thrilled to see you awake."

Lois scooted to a sitting position and held out her arm to shake his hand… or at least that's what she told her body to do. But she was still lying flat on the bed. Why wasn't she moving? What had Nigel and Mrs. Cox done to her? She had been just fine before Nigel had shot Lex. Had she been shot, too? Paralyzed?

"Why?" was all she managed to choke out through lips that did not want to move.

"Ms. Lane-Kent, do you know who all these people are?"

She wanted to say, "Of course I do- now tell me what's wrong with me!" but she settled for nodding.

"Good, good. I was hoping there wouldn't be any memory loss. You've been in a coma for about two weeks. You have some brain injuries. I know you're frightened that you can't speak or move the way you want, but that is completely normal for someone who has had brain trauma. Please try not to worry. I have already had physical therapists working with you to help with movement and now that you're awake, a speech therapist will work with you as well. I'm sure you have a lot more questions, but we will talk more later. Right now, just enjoy being with your family. The physical therapist will be by in a few hours."

"O," Lois responded, nodding. Okay, such a short, easy word. Why couldn't she form such a simple word?


His emotions threatened to overwhelm him. She was back. Oh, maybe she couldn't talk or move, but the woman who was Lois Lane-Kent looked back at him out of her brown eyes. He could read the frustration there. His heart clenched in memory of her fearful cries before she fully awoke. What had she been through? And his mind was flooded with so many questions. Was Lois' condition permanent? What would be involved in restoring her to her former life? What if that wasn't possible? Could Lois be happy if she wasn't able to take up her job at the Daily Planet again? And if she couldn't be a reporter, what else would she want to or be able to do? But as their parents spoke to her and expressed their joy in her return, her eyes swung repeatedly to him. He smiled and squeezed her hand. What mattered most was that she was here.


The physical therapist came in and her family trickled out as Lois was put through a range of exercises. All the time that the therapist worked with her traitorous limbs, tears escaped Lois' eyes and down her cheeks. The therapist had asked if she was hurting Lois, but Lois shook her head. The exercises did hurt a little, but just to feel anything was something she welcomed. No, she cried for Lois Lane-Kent who had been trapped away for months from sunlight, family, love, whose limbs and speech now betrayed her. A reporter who could not ask questions was worthless. A reporter who could not compose a story was of no value to the Daily Planet. And Clark- Lois began to cry in earnest.

"I think that's enough for today," the therapist said kindly. "We'll take this up again tomorrow."

As the tears ran down her face, Lois tortured thoughts continued. How would Clark ever fall in love with her now? He wouldn't want to be with someone who couldn't talk to him, couldn't go on romantic walks, who couldn't even kiss him.

Clark came back into the room and when he saw her tears he did not even hesitate to slip next to her and put his arms around her, pulling her to his chest. She sobbed harder. She couldn't even send him away, to let him know that it was okay for him to leave, that she understood. Maybe Lana would take him back. And they would have a beautiful wedding and live in a cute house with a white picket fence and have 2.5 children with Clark's beautiful brown eyes and Lana's blonde curls.

"Lois, I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry." He was crying too. "I'm sorry I didn't find you sooner. I'm sorry I didn't realize she wasn't you, didn't start looking for you sooner. I didn't know what to do. I looked and looked everywhere. I couldn't find you. I couldn't find you."

"Ssshh," she soothed as her own tears ebbed.

"I never told you. I wanted us to go slow. I was such a fool, trying to start at the beginning of a relationship without realizing that we were already in the middle of one. I was so sure I knew what was best for us. And then you were gone and I never told you. I was so scared, all the lies, so many years. Mom told me that you already knew. That you'd known all along that I was Superman. And you never let on to anyone; you just protected my secret. All my reasons for keeping us apart were stupid, because they weren't even real. I'm so sorry, Lois. I sorry I never told you I was Superman, and most of all I'm sorry I never told you that I love you. I love you so much!"

"N-n-not no-ow," she burst out, her tears beginning again.

Clark sat up and looked at her. "Oh, Lois, yes, even now. I don't care about anything except that you're here. All this," he gestured around the room at the machines and her still limbs laying in the bed, "it doesn't matter. I love you, Lois, and nothing, *nothing* is going to change that. Whatever happens to you, happens to me. We are in this together. I love you, Lois."

"T-t-t-too," she struggled to say. It was so wrong, so horrible that she couldn't even tell him that she loved him too. But looking into his eyes she believed that he did love her, that he wanted to be with her, and they would fight this together. Now if that Dr. Thurston would just come back and tell her exactly that "this" was.


Clark cuddled with Lois, so relieved to finally have his secret out, to have told her of his love for her. And she loved him too. He lay his cheek on the top of her head and listened to her heartbeat. It was sure and strong, the beat and rhythm that he had strained to hear for six long months. A smile flitted across his lips as he felt her relax against him in sleep. His own eyelids were heavy. He had spent all of last night here, waiting for her to awake, and the criminals of Metropolis had not let him sleep much the night before.


The nurse shook Clark awake about 45 minutes later. "Mr. Kent, we need to feed her now. Are you going to stay?"

"Yes," he confirmed. He slipped from the bed and laid Lois back against the pillow.

The commotion woke Lois. She opened her eyes when she felt the cool air against her stomach. The nurse had turned the cover down to her hips and pulled her gown up so that she could get to Lois' feeding tube. Lois eyes opened wide and turned to Clark.

"Lois, since you were asleep you weren't able to eat and you were very malnourished. Your parents gave permission and a tube was inserted into your stomach so that you could be fed. Now that you're awake, I'm sure Dr. Thurston will see about taking it out, but for now, this is how you're eating."

Lois stared doubtfully at the syringe of brown goo the nurse held in her hand. The nurse connected it to the tube and slowly depressed the plunger. Lois looked down at her exposed torso. Her abdomen was sunken in and her hip bones stood out prominently. She looked like a starving prisoner of war! Lois looked back to Clark. "Yuck!"

Clark laughed, not understanding that her comment was directed towards herself. "I promise, I'll bring you Chinese and Thai and any thing you want as soon as Dr. Thurston says it's okay."

The nurse finished feeding Lois and pulled her gown back underneath the covers, which Clark then helped her to bring back up to Lois shoulders. As the nurse left the room, Clark tenderly tucked the blanket around her. Lois smiled her thanks at him


The speech therapist Dr. Thornton had promised came not long after Lois' "lunch". Sam and Ellen had come back, but the Kents had gone back to their hotel to rest.

Lois felt instantly at home with Chris. Finally, a medical professional that just laid it out for her to see. Worse than being unable to speak was not knowing why.

"Language and communication problems are common disabilities in TBI- that's traumatic brain injury- patients. I think that what you are experiencing is called aphasia. Aphasia is just a fancy word that means trouble understanding and producing spoken and written language. Specifically, I think you have dysarthia, which happens when the part of your brain that controls speech muscles is damaged. You can think clearly, but are unable to easily speak the words because you can't use the muscles needed to form the words and produce the sounds. Is that right, Lois?"

Lois nodded as vigorously as she was able. "Yes!"

Chris smiled. "You can obviously still communicate! With dysarthia your speech will often be slow, slurred, and garbled. I'm going to help you learn to talk again as well as find other ways to communicate while you're learning. This," Chris pulled a laminated sheet out of his bag, "is a word chart with lots of common words on it." He pulled Lois table over her bed and set the chart on it. "Can you find the word brain?" Lois focused on the paper and then nodded. "Good." He helped Lois move her arm to rest on the table. "Can you point to it?" Lois moved her arm, but her curled fingers refused to point. Chris saw the look of intense frustration that crossed her face. "Lois, that's okay. Your physical therapy is going to help you be able to move your arms and fingers."

Dr. Thurston entered the room. "So, I see you've met Chris. Chris is very good at what he does, Ms. Lane-Kent. He'll be working with you throughout your recovery. And that's what I'm here to talk to you about. I know you have lots of questions, and I'm going to try to do my best to guess what those might be and answer them."

Chris collected his things and waved goodbye as Dr. Thurston's student rolled a portable film viewer into the room. Dr. Thurston placed the images of Lois' brain on the viewer. "These are from when you first came in. You can see here where I have circled in red that there is considerable swelling in these three areas." He removed the films and replaced them with a new set. "These are from about a week ago. The swelling has gone down, which is why you are now conscious. The bruising seems to be caused by some sort of … implants in your brain." Dr. Thurston looked to Lois expecting to see the shocked look on her face that he had seen from everyone that had viewed the films. Lois nodded. "You knew about the implants?"

"N-n-n-i … gel."

Dr. Thurston looked at her parents. "Clark speculated that either Lex Luthor, Nigel St. John, Mrs. Cox or a combination of any or all of them were involved in Lois' abduction," Ellen explained.

"Lex Luthor certainly had the technical and scientific resources to develop such devices. I just can't believe that anyone would actually…" Dr. Thurston's voice trailed off.

"Experiment with them on human subjects?" Clark finished with a bitter tone in his voice.

Dr. Thurston gave Lois a look of sympathy before returning to his explanation. "Your symptoms are all consistent with traumatic brain injury. You may experience a variety of symptoms- seizures, trouble with your vision, difficulty swallowing, headaches, dizziness, difficulty concentrating, insomnia, irritability, apathy, anxiety, and depression."

Lois shoulders drooped.

"Please don't be discouraged." Yeah, well, that was easy for him to say! thought Lois. "You may not experience these symptoms at all, or maybe only some of them. I'm just trying to inform you the best that I can. We can control many of these with medications *if* you do experience these symptoms."

Lois nodded. "Eat?"

"We need to leave the tube in for now. TBI patients often have difficulty swallowing and we need to guard against pulmonary aspiration or aspiration pneumonia. Even once you begin eating, your food will have to be chopped up, and you may find that the effort of eating tires you, so we will still need to supplement through the tube. Most recovery will take place in the first six months. You will see a variety of caregivers in the areas of physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, physiatry, psychology, psychiatry, and social work. Our plan at the moment is to have you moved to the Metropolis Neuroscience Center next week. They will coordinate your rehabilitation and help you relearn the skills to be independent again. Possibly some in-home care will be required when you are released, but that is something that we will have to wait and see about. You're young and I expect that you will be able to return to much of your former life."

"What about the implants?" asked Sam.

"For now, I believe that we leave them as they are, unless we find that they are causing Ms. Lane-Kent any problems."

"No! O-o-ut!" Lois' words were slurred, but Dr. Thurston couldn't miss the feeling behind them.

"Ms. Lane-Kent, you're alive and you have a long road of recovery ahead of you. I'm willing to revisit this issue at a later date, but, honestly, you need to do a lot healing before any legitimate surgeon would consider the lengthy surgery that removing the implants would require."

Lois sighed deeply.

"Think of the story you can write about this, Lois!" Clark encouraged.

Lois looked down at her clawed hands. Would she improve enough to be able to write stories ever again?


She couldn't wait to get out of the hospital. Everyone was very nice, but she hated the sterility of it all. They physical therapy was really helping. Her fingers were relaxing, which was helping in her work with the speech therapist. She was able to point to the words on the chart, but her arms would quickly grow tired. She was able to sit, as long as someone helped her sit up. Perry and Jimmy had come to visit her and told her all about the latest at the Planet.

"I'm glad you're back, honey, and I'm glad you're back for Clark's sake. That boy'd walk on water for you. Not being able to find you was killing him. He tried to quit, you know, since he was spending 25 hours a day looking for you and couldn't be counted on for articles, but I convinced Stern to hire him to find you. In his search for you, he made a lot of discoveries about Luthor's activities which he reported on, so it worked out well for the Planet after all. Ah, Lois, ah, I don't quite know how to tell you this, but the Planet terminated your employment a few weeks ago. You'd been missing for six months and that is the policy. But Cobra will cover your medical expenses. The second you're able to come back to work, your job at the Daily Planet is waiting for you."

"Tha…nk you." She wished she could say more. But she was also suddenly awash with worry about expenses. She didn't have a job, who was paying for her apartment, her monthly bills?

Clark strolled into the room with a copy of the Daily Planet under his arm. Clark came regularly throughout the day to be with her, stopping by on his way to work, rushing over on his lunch hour, and sitting next to her to watch the evening news. And when he left, he never failed to tell her that he loved her and to drop a kiss on her head or cheek.

"Hey, guys! Guess this is where the newsroom emptied out to."

"I was just telling Lois that her job is waiting for her the second she's ready for it, " Perry explained.

"I'm sure she'll have quite a story to tell."

"Yeah, speaking of that, Clark, I talked to the Board this morning and they want to give the reward for Lois' return to Superman."

"Perry, Superman can't take money for the services he performs, " Clark protested.

"Do you have another suggestion? People donated this money because they wanted to help; we can't just return it to them."

"Well, I'll talk to Superman about it and see what he says. I'm sure he won't accept it, though."

"Well then maybe he can tell us what else to do with it," Perry suggested. "I think I better get back to the Planet. Good to see you, honey."

"Yes," Lois responded.

As Perry left the room, Clark took his place in the chair beside her bed. "Lois, what do you think? See, when you disappeared people began to ask what they could do to help so the Planet started a fund for a reward for information leading to your return. Perry's right, the money can't be returned."

"S-s-s-weet," Lois forced out with tears in her eyes.

"Franklin Stern gave you a lot of airtime, and, of course, the Daily Planet gave you lots of coverage as well. Other news agencies picked it up. You are really famous now, Lois." Clark grinned at her. "Well, I'll give it some thought and Superman will make some kind of press announcement."

Lois pulled her word chart to her. Clark leaned over to follow her finger. "What. Happened. My. House," he read slowly. He sat up. "Your dad paid out the rest of your lease, but we weren't sure what to do then. Your parents decided to let your apartment go and so we moved all your things back to your mom's house."


"Sorry. I know you loved your apartment."

Tears pooled in Lois' eyes. He understood in a way that her parents obviously didn't. Her apartment had been a place of her own, a place that said that she had arrived, proof that she was worth something to the Planet. "L-l-love you."

Clark understood the slurred words that might have left someone with less able hearing guessing. "Oh, Lois. I love you, too, so much." He leaned towards her and for the first time in seven months his lips touched hers in a lover's kiss. Her tears spilled down her cheeks as his lips caressed hers. She returned the kiss as well as she was able. He started to pull away and she whimpered and put her arms around his neck. She touched her tongue to his lips and his own tongue emerged to duel with hers. But her arms grew heavy all too soon and when Clark moved back, she let him go. His gaze was tender as he looked at her. "I think I have some news you'll really like. I talked to Dr. Thurston about your move and he agreed that you could be moved via Superman Express… without the express. I thought you might like that more than an ambulance ride."

"Yes!" She would love to go flying again. And she really wanted to see Clark in the suit again! It would be the first time that she would see Clark as Superman since Clark found out that she knew his secret.

"I thought you might."


Clark continued to pour over in his mind what Superman should do about the reward money. Maybe a Superman Foundation, or he could donate it to the Metropolis Police Force… He stopped at the post office and picked up his mail. He distractedly flipped through it, junk, junk, bill- wait, he didn't have any bills due right now.

He opened the envelope and pulled out the invoice. It was a bill for medical services. But Lois had insurance! This amount was astronomical. Surely, it was just informing Lois what her insurance had paid out. He looked over it again. No, it clearly stated that this is what she owed after the claim had been turned into her insurance. This was ridiculous. Lois didn't even have a job and probably would not be able to work for a while.

He made his way to Ellen Lane's home and knocked on the door. After a moment, Ellen opened it. "Clark!"

"Ellen, I just got this in my post office box. It was addressed to me so I opened it. It is a bill for Lois' medical costs. I guess my name must have been on a form or something."

Ellen nodded. "Yes, the bills just started coming in this week."

"Ellen, the cost after insurance was still… well, it's ridiculous! How do they expect Lois to pay for this?"

"We'll figure it out, Clark. Please don't worry Lois with this. I can sell the house and Sam may have something tucked away…"

"What about her insurance?"

"Insurance will only pay so much. I talked to the company yesterday and found out that they will pay for Lois to be in the neuroscience center for only six weeks."

"Look, Ellen, don't worry about this. I think I know how to take care of it."


"Thank you all for coming today. The Board of the Daily Planet had graciously offered me the reward that was offered for Lois-Lane-Kent's return. I appreciate the reward offered by Stern Publishing and the contributions of all of you who donated generously to help with the rescue of Ms. Lane-Kent. I will accept this gift on the behalf of Ms. Lane-Kent. Ms. Lane-Kent is currently in the hospital recovering from her captivity. I want to personally thank all the medical professionals who are working so hard to provide her with the best of care. But the level of care that Ms. Lane-Kent requires comes with a price. I'm sure that this gift will go a long way toward easing her mind and allowing her to concentrate on getting well."

"Superman", "Superman, what-", "Superman, over here-" the reporters in the crowd began to ask questions.

"One at a time please. Becky?" Becky Truesdale was one of the Star's better reporters. She would ask legitimate questions.

"Superman, can you tell us what Ms. Lane-Kent's condition is?"

"I'm afraid that I can't. Due to confidentiality laws, I have no more access to the details of Ms. Lane-Kent's medical status than any of you. I can tell you that Mr. Clark Kent has told me that she is making great strides in her recovery."

"Do you know why she was taken?" came the next question.

"No. The motive behind the kidnapping has not yet been determined."

"Who was the kidnapper?"

"I wish I could answer your questions, but I must respect Ms. Lane-Kent's privacy. I'm sure that she is even now working on the story of her capture and it will soon be printed in the Daily Planet. Thank you for your time. Ms. Lane-Kent and her family appreciate your generosity as well as your thoughts and well wishes as she recovers." Superman rose above the platform and then streaked across the Metropolis sky.


Clark walked into Lois room, sandwich in hand, to eat his lunch with her. The nurse was just pulling her gown down after feeding her. Clark quickly set his sandwich down and assisted in pulling her to a sitting position. The nurse thanked him and pulled Lois' table and word chart back within Lois' easy reach before exiting the room.

The TV was on so Clark asked, "Did you see the news conference?" as he seated himself next to her bed and took a bite of his sandwich.

Lois nodded.

"What did you think?"

Lois lifted her arm to the word chart and Clark leaned over to read. "Questions. No. Answers. Tell. You." Her hand dropped, "not like this" she forced out.

Clark's hand brushed her cheek, "Honey, I know you'll tell me as soon as you can. I'm just sorry that all this happened to you. But look at the great improvements that you are making already!"

She pointed to the chart again. "Thank you. For. Money."

"Please don't thank me, Lois. The people who donated wanted to do something to help you, not me. This is the best way to accomplish that."

"B-b-bills?" she asked.

"Lois, don't worry about this, please. You concentrate on getting better and let those of us who love you take care of you for once."

"L-lo-ove m-me?"

"You know I do." He reached over and gave her a soft kiss. "Don't you?"

Lois reached for her word chart again and Clark followed her finger. "Show me."

The sandwich was instantly abandoned as Clark placed his arms around her and set his lips on hers. Their lips moved together in gentle exploration. But when Clark felt her tiring he pulled back.



"T-t-aste go-o-od."

"Oh, I get it. You didn't want to kiss me; you just wanted to taste my sandwich."

Lois mouth curved into a smile at his teasing. "B-b-oth."


Lois watched Clark as he finished his sandwich. How she wished that she could speak and tell him the story. Clark was right, she was improving, but just not as quickly as she would like. And she was so weak. She wanted to stand, she wanted to walk… she wanted to kiss Clark until neither of them could breathe, not run out of energy after just a short time. Patience had never been part of her make up.


He was so pleased with the improvement that he could see. Her eyes were bright; he could almost see her mind churning. And she teased him! He knew that the enforced silence was tearing her apart. She was a reporter. She must be dy-, uh, extremely anxious to tell her story.


"Are you ready?" Superman asked her with a smile.

Held securely in his arms with her own arms clasped around his neck, Lois smiled back at him. "Ready."

"Now, if you're arms get tired, don't worry. I've got a good grip on you. I won't drop you."

Dr. Thurston, the nurse, and her family huddled around the entrance of the Metropolis General Hospital to watch her exit.

"Clark's already at the Metropolis Neuroscience Center, " Ellen explained Clark's absence. "He wanted to make sure that everything was ready for you. And we'll meet you there in a little bit."

Superman began to rise slowly into the air. Lois smiled and waved for a second as Superman began to move in the direction of her new residence. Her arm dropped tiredly around his neck again. He gave her a little squeeze. "Comfy?"

She nodded.

"It won't take long, but you can lay your head on my shoulder if you get tired."

"Okay." She wasn't tired. She was full of adrenaline. She was anxious to really get to work on returning to her former life. Or maybe an even better one. Her fingers began to fiddle with Clark's hair. He looked over at her and smiled before turning his head back into the wind. Really, what was his rush?


She felt wonderful in his arms. She had been so eager all morning to leave the hospital. She was going to be out like a light when she came off her adrenaline high. Her hands stilled in his hair and her head came down to lay on his shoulder. Ah, he'd known she would tire quickly. The arm stretched to reach around his neck slid down to his chest. He gave her another squeeze. Suddenly a chill ran all through him as Lois set her lips onto his neck and touched her tongue to him. "Lois!" he exclaimed slightly shocked. She raised her head and gave him her most innocent look. He gave her a warning glance and turned his mind back to the flight.


She had to admire his concentration, but she really wanted to distract him at the moment. She wanted to know that she could. That he was still attracted to her. There were so many people hanging around in that hospital. And it wasn't like she could just ask him. She laid her head back on his shoulder and felt his body relax against her. She smiled to herself. So he thought she was giving up, did he? Her hand that had lain so innocently began to trace the outline of his muscles underneath the blue spandex. Her mind went back to the night he had been stretched out asleep in front of her TV, the pectoral muscles, and the six pack that had been revealed to her gaze. Her hand wandered with her thoughts.

"Lois! If you don't stop that, I'm going to have to kiss you. How will I explain Superman's distraction causing him to collide with some Metropolis landmark, hmm?"

She laughed. What a headline that would make!

"You little minx," his voice held gentle teasing.


What was she up to? Obviously she was enjoying herself. To be honest, so was he, but the suit was not… suited for this kind of thing. For one thing, Superman could not be seen ravishing Lois Lane-Kent in mid-flight over the friendly skies of Metropolis. And another thing, well, the suit just wasn't made for this kind of activity even though his body clamored for more. He did not want to show up at Metropolis Neuroscience Center with his body announcing to anyone he encountered exactly how he felt about the woman in his arms.


"Huh?" He was distracted from his musings.

"Please," she asked.

"Lois, I don't-"

Her hands grabbed his cheeks and turned his head to look at her. "*P-p-please*," she begged.

"What about your family and the staff waiting for us?"

She huffed, "D-d-don't care."

He laughed then. "I'm never going to win any of our arguments, am I?"


"I'm sure this is not what Dr. Thurston meant when he said to take you straight to the center." But he was now gaining altitude. Up through the clouds they floated until they were completely surrounded by clouds.


Suspended between heaven and earth with the man she loved. Despite all the trials yet to come, she suddenly felt like the luckiest woman in the world. Only she got to experience this out of everyone on earth. Keeping a strong arm around her, Clark let her slide down to "stand" on his boots. His eyes met hers. "Is this what you had in mind?"

"Alm-mo-ost." She pushed against his boots to bring herself even closer to him and lifted her face to his.

He groaned and met her kiss hungrily. When her legs gave out, he just pulled her tighter to him.

He moaned and murmured against her lips between kisses, "Lois, we have to stop. I need to get you to the center, and I'm not sure this altitude is good for your head."

"Good!" she insisted.

He chuckled. She could feel the vibration against her breasts and she caught her breath. "Yes, it is," he growled. "Now behave, so I can get you where you're supposed to be."

She sighed. "O-oka-ay."


Superman delivered Lois to the waiting staff and left as the nurse began to fuss over Lois' flushed cheeks, which only became redder as the nurse talked. Superman flew away to be replaced by a Clark Kent fiddling with his tie and he entered the center. "Lois, honey, sorry I'm late. I got distracted." A teasing look passed between them.

"Lois, Dr. Thurston has been over your history with us and we're going to all we can to help you live independently. You'll have scheduled sessions with Chris, who you already know and with our physical therapists, as well as appointments with others on our staff. However, we want you to feel at home here, so you are free to roam about as you would like, interact with the other residents, or join in any of the activities. If there is anything that we can do to make you more comfortable, please let us know. Oh, and my name is Rama George. I'm in charge of resident's scheduling. My office is just there," she pointed to a door near the entrance, " so if something's not working for you, come see me."

Lois nodded.

"Great. Then Joe here will take you to your room. I hope you'll like it."

Joe pushed her wheelchair into the elevator. Clark slipped in with them.

"Lois, you're on the second floor. Once you're more mobile you'll probably get moved up to third or to another wing on second, but you'll need more help at first so your room is near the nurses station." Joe pushed her chair out of the elevator. "Second door down the hall here." Clark hurried ahead and opened the door for them. The room looked more like a bed and breakfast than a hospital room.

"Wow," Lois spoke for the first time since entering the center.

"Lois, this is really nice," commented Clark.

The Victorian style wasn't really Lois' taste, but it fit with the rest of the building. Anyway, as long as the care was cutting edge, she didn't care what her surroundings looked like.

"Alright, Lois, let's get you into bed-"

"I'll do it," Clark cut Joe off, lifting Lois into his arms and carrying her to set her against the upright pillows.

"Uh, okay," Joe spoke in obvious surprise as the swiftness of Clark's actions. "Um, if you need anything, the page to the nurses' station is on the bedside table, along with the TV remote. There's a library downstairs if you want to watch a DVD or listen to any books on CD. Oh, and there's regular books, newspapers, and magazines if you'd prefer those. I'll just let you get settled in. Dinner's at five. Even if you can't eat, it is a good time to meet our other residents. I can come back up and bring you down or your, uh, friend here can bring you. I'll just leave the wheelchair here." Joe made a somewhat hasty exit from the room.

"Clark," Lois admonished.

"What? If I'm here, I want to help take care of you."

Lois smiled at him so he knew she was actually pleased with his possessiveness. He gave her a quick kiss. "Your parents are on their way up."


Clark stayed with her through dinner. Joe had been right. It was a good opportunity to meet the other residents. Many of them were older, but there were also residents her own age, as well as a few in their late teens. Some were worse off than she was but, she heard some excited comments from others that were soon going to be able to leave the Center and get back to their former lives. It was encouraging to her, and she allowed herself to wonder for a moment what her life was going to be like when she left. Would she move in with her parents? Or maybe she and Clark…

After dinner, one of the nurses assisted her with getting ready for bed, ensuring she knew where the call buttons were if she needed help and reminding Clark not to stay too long, as Lois needed her sleep. Clark settled on the bed with Lois to watch a DVD. She enjoyed snuggling into his body and the comfort of his arms. If only she could stay like this forever. She grinned to herself. No, she would go crazy. As wonderful as this was, she craved excitement. It was the activity of life that made moments like these so special.

She was already lightly dozing when the movie ended and Clark released her so that he could leave. "Sleep well, honey," he said, running a finger down her chin.

But once he left she was wide awake. How long had it been since she had been alone for any period of time? Of course, she could call for help at any time, so she was not really *alone*, but it was not the same as being in the hospital where she was checked on frequently during the night. It was a good feeling, that she was well enough to be on her own, yet she was almost a little… scared. Trying to find something else to think about she concentrated on her appointments for tomorrow. She would be meeting her new doctors and therapist and setting goals for her recovery. Thinking on these things, she drifted to sleep.

Her own scream brought her out of sleep. As she lay with her heart pounding, she heard the squeak of the nurse's shoes as they hurried to her door, which opened and the room's light was switched on.

"Miss Lane-Kent! Are you alright?"

She nodded. "S-s-sorry."

The nurse smiled kindly. "I'm Nurse Reiley and it's no problem. Do you want me to get you something to help you sleep?"

Lois shook her head.

"All right then. Just use the call button if you change your mind."

The light was switched off and the door closed. Tears came to Lois eyes. She wanted to have Clark's arms around her right now and to hear his voice promising her it was going to be all right. That Nigel would never hurt her again. She had been dreaming of that first time that Nigel had turned the device on her. Mrs. Cox had explained that they wanted Lois to get some bank account passwords from Lex. With typical Lois Lane-Kent attitude she had scoffed and asked how they intended to manage that.

"Like this," Nigel said in that dry voice of his as he turned towards her with a remote in his hand.

"And what is *this*?"

Nigel depressed the button. Instantly her knees buckled under her as her head seemed to virtually explode with pain. "This," Nigel said continuing the onslaught of pain, "is how we will manage that." She collapsed in a heap as he let off the button. "And it can get much worse, so I suggest that you help us get what we want."

She so weakened by the experience that she could not even question him. She just lay there quivering until the bile rose in her throat and she vomited from the pain still echoing in her head.

Lois felt sick just remembering the pain, but she concentrated on her breathing, as she had learned to do, and the sickness passed. She reached for the TV remote and pushed the buttons that would bring up the movie that she had watched with Clark earlier. She was afraid to return to sleep in case the dream reoccurred.


Clark was anxious to leave the Planet all morning. He wanted to know how Lois' first night had gone. He had worried about leaving her, but he also knew that Lois' independence was important to her. Still, when the slow moving hand of the clock released him from his duties for a lunch break, he was on the roof in record speed, changing as he sped up the stairwell. Seconds later, he was straightening his tie as he entered the Metropolis Neuroscience Center. Noise from the dining hall indicated that it was also the residents' lunch time. Spotting Lois, he pulled out a chair to sit beside her. Her face bloomed into a smile when she focused on him. Immediately her hand reached for his.

"Wanna blow this joint?" he asked. "It's beautiful outside."

Her smile widened as she nodded.

He pushed her chair out into the sunshine and settled on one of the many benches beside her. "Did you have a good night?"

She nodded slowly.

"I thought-" he stopped. Obviously she was fine.

She laid her hand on his. "W-w-hat?"

"I just woke up sitting straight up in bed, imagining I had heard someone screaming, but I listened and I didn't hear any thing. For some reason it had sounded a little like you."

Then why hadn't he come? she thought.

"You know if you ever need me, you just need to call. I'll be here faster than you can say… Superman."

She squeezed his hand and nodded. "Okay."

He turned his hand to catch hers. "Hey, you're getting stronger."


She was getting stronger. Her therapists were willing to work as fast as they felt she was able. The sessions in the center's big swimming pool were especially helpful. Her doctor has promised that he would be allowing her to eat and drink soon. She would just be eating what was now being fed to her through the tube, but it was progress. Until she was able to chew and swallow, her food would need to be blended or mashed just like a young child's who was learning to eat. Chris was encouraging her to try to talk more, though the words might sound unintelligible even to her own ears. She hated that. Somehow it was easier to accept her physical weakness, especially when she could see progress, than to struggle to speak and to sound, well, challenged to put it bluntly. Her mind was working just fine. She could still think, she was still Lois Lane-Kent, but when the words left her mouth they were all garbled and slurred.

Within two weeks of moving to the center she was able to abandon the wheelchair, though she had to lean heavily on the walker. It felt so good to stand again

The nightmares still plagued her some nights, but she had not cried out again. She had pressed the call button to summon the nurse on few occasions and requested some warm milk to help her get back to sleep. They did not understand her request to add some chocolate to it and that just made her miss Clark. He would have known that she wanted chocolate in it without even asking.

He came every day to see her, kissing, cuddling, and encouraging her. When he could sense that she was very tired he would scold and threaten to have Superman pay her therapists a visit. He rejoiced in each small advancement, not because it made her more the Lois that she had been but because it was a personal victory for her now.

Sometimes they would watch a movie as they had done so many times before. Sometimes they would just talk about their family, friends, his job and her recovery. And one night he held her in his arms as he whispered to her the story of a little baby that came to Kansas in a spaceship to be the son of a farmer and his wife who were unable to have children of their own and of the globe he had found that told him of his Kryptonian heritage.

While practicing her walking one day, she grew tired and found her way into the small chapel to sit down and rest for a moment. She was surprised at how quiet it was. The sunlight was shining through the colored glass windows, and she admired the blaze of colors that was sent across the room. It became a regular stop for her as she roamed the halls finding that she leaned less and less on the metal frame of her walker as she gained strength. It wasn't that she was seeking any sort of religious experience, but she was attracted to this small haven. One day when she had settled on the bench, she noticed a man with a clerical collar dusting in the front. When he realized he had an audience he turned to her with the biggest grin on his face and she couldn't help but smile in return.

"Hello, Father," she greeted him.

He laughed. "Lois, you're not Catholic, and I just wear this because it makes some of the other residents more comfortable."

She regarded him curiously. "You know my name."

"You could say it's part of my job description."

"Which is what exactly?"

"Just call me Mike. Everyone does."

"Mike. Have you had this job long?"

He nodded. "A while. How are you doing Lois?"

"Better. Walking is getting easier and I'm trying to talk more."

"You're making some good progress, then."

"Yes. Hmm."


"I just noticed that you don't seem to have any trouble understanding me."

"Put it down to years of practice,"

"You like being a little mysterious, don't you?" Lois supposed that his job was probably pretty dull. If he wanted to surround it with an air of mystery, she could play along. He had only to look in her file to know almost anything about her. "I think I'll continue my walk now."

"Come again. This is a good place to think."


Two more weeks saw her free of the walker, unless she overdid it. But she was learning to recognize the signs that her body was tiring and would give in to the need to rest before it would betray her by refusing to obey her wishes. She had graduated from the "tube goo" to soft food- apple sauce, mashed potatoes- and Clark liked to sneak her in chocolate shakes from the Fudge Castle. Her speech was clearer, but she consciously chose shorter, easier words.

Her nightmares had continued. She had spoken to one of the counselors, Dr. Frsikin, who had brought it up after reviewing her chart. She acknowledged that the dreams were actually memories of her captivity, but she didn't want to talk about it. There were other people who deserved to hear the story first, and she was finally beginning to feel as if she would someday be able to tell the story and publish it for the world to know.

"I hope that you will find someone that you do want to talk about it to, Lois, because I think that these nightmares are caused by your not sharing them. As long as you keep these memories bottled up inside, they will continue to try to reveal themselves."

Lois nodded. Her body was healing. She was beginning to long to return to her former life. Everyone was very nice here, but it was also just a little boring.

"I'd like to have a consultation with Dr. Thurston."

"Dr. Thurston? He's a great neurologist, but I would recommend talking to your family-"

"Dr. Thurston can help me with my greatest fear."

"Which is?"

Lois looked at her.

"I'm just trying to help you."

"I understand that, really. But I've never been the kind to open up about my feelings. I am much more a person of action. Dr. Thurston can help me with that."

Dr. Friskin sighed. "I'll call to see about setting up a time for him to come and see you."

"Thank you."


"I want them out."

"Ms. Lane-Kent, I'm willing to run more diagnostics, but I just don't see the necessity of removing the implants. You have made a miraculous recovery. Why jeopardize that by causing your brain further trauma?"

"People can live without parts of their brains. *I* want to live without implants in mine."

"But we're not even positive what we are dealing with here! If the implants aren't preventing you from having a normal life-"

"But that's just it! They are!"

"What? How-"

"Dr. Friskin's told you about my nightmares?"

"Yes. But those are caused by the trauma you've been through, not the implants."

"Why can't you understand? My nightmares are caused by the fact that the implants are still in my head and Nigel St. John and Mrs. Cox are out there somewhere. No matter how much my body recovers, they still have the power to control me. At any second they could come back."

"Control you? Are you saying that these implants were used to control your mind?"

"The implants were used to cause me so much pain that I would do anything to stop it. I cannot get on with my life knowing that at any second that pain could come back. I don't think that Nigel would miscalculate how much pain it would take to kill me next time."

"I see."

"I don't think you do. When you tell a person they're dying, you can usually give them some sort of timetable. They have some idea of how long they have to get their life in order. You can rely on tests to monitor that timetable. There aren't any tests for me. I can live the rest of my life in fear, wondering if there is any reason to even try for a future, or Nigel could cut me down tomorrow with no warning."

"There aren't any guarantees in life. We could all die at any instant."

"But I would like to decrease the odds. And I don't want Nigel to have a direct line to hurt me. If he wants to come after me, I want to have the chance to fight for my life."

"I can't recommend it, but I can see that these implants are keeping you from a full, normal life. Because of that, I will agree to do the surgery."

"Thank you."

"I'm going to request assistance from several colleagues, but you must understand Miss Lane-Kent that the removal of the implants could leave you worse off than you are now. Brain damage, paralysis, even death are all likely possibilities. You need to prepare for that."

"I understand. But I want them out. I want my life back. If I can't have that, I at least want my life to be *my* life. If something happens and I don't live through the surgery, I want you to complete the surgery anyway. Either way, the implants are to be given to Superman immediately so that he can destroy them. I do not want them to be examined in any way. It is too easy that the technology could fall into the wrong hands."

"While I can't deny that I would have a great interest in studying the implants… it's your brain, so they're your implants, Miss Lane-Kent, and I will abide by your wishes."


Lois' meeting with Dr. Thurston had exhausted her. She made her way to the chapel to sit for a few moments in the stillness. But the chapel wasn't empty.

"Hello, Lois. You look tired."

"Hi, Mike. I am tired."


"I've spent the last hour arguing with Dr. Thurston."

"He doesn't understand why you want the implants removed."

"Do you know everything?"

He shrugged, grinning at her.

"I just want my life back."

"And is that what you want more than anything?"

"I want to marry Clark and live happily ever after. I'm hoping happily ever after will include returning to the Planet."

"So what's stopping you?"


The door to the chapel opened and another resident came in, "Oh, Mike, I need to talk to you. It's awful."

Mike stood to his feet. "Just think about it, Lois."


Marry Clark. Marry Clark. It was what she wanted more than anything. What was stopping her? She loved Clark and he loved her. If they were waiting for her to get better, they could be waiting forever.


She didn't tell Clark about her meeting with Dr. Thurston or the trip she made to the hospital to begin the tests and consultations. They took enough pictures of her brain to wallpaper her apartment. Finally Dr. Thurston came to visit and told her that they were ready to set a date for the surgery.

A month. She had a month. If you had a month and no guarantee of life after that, what would you do?


"Clark, can you take the afternoon off tomorrow?"

"Sure, Lois. Any particular reason?"


"Which is?" he teased.

"Bring your tape recorder. I'm going to give you an interview."

His eyes immediately lost the teasing gleam and he caught both her hands in his. "Lois-"

"I'm ready. There are things you need to know, things we need to talk about."

"Do you want your parents there?"

"No. I'll talk to them later. I just want you, Clark."

He caught her lips in a kiss. "I'll be here. Always."

She returned his kiss whispering, "I know."


She led him into the chapel and sat down on one of the chairs. Clark carried his reporter's notepad and his tape recorder. She took the pad from him as he sat down.

"You won't need this. This isn't really an interview. I just want you to record it for… posterity."

He looked troubled. "Lois-"

"I just need you to hold me, Clark. Hold me tight."

He instantly pulled her onto his lap and into his arms.

She let him hold her for a few minutes then she said, "Start the tape.

"It was right after my Tae Kwan Do class. Ironically, we had been practicing attack deflection as several women in the class had requested a session. I was one of the last to leave. I was heading to my Jeep when someone grabbed me. I don't know why I didn't call for you. I think I was still in the mindset from the class and I just started to fight. I realized very quickly I wasn't dealing with an amateur, and by that time I was so busy that I didn't have time to yell, 'Superman'. Within just a few minutes, he had me in a stranglehold. That's when Mrs. Cox came out of the shadows. She had a syringe and needle in her hand. I tried to struggle, but the person holding me was too skilled for me to be able to break away.

"When I woke up, I was in my apartment. Actually, I think I was in Lex's bunker in the room made up like my apartment. I couldn't stay awake, though. Then I was on a ship. Lex was there. He was holding my hand. I wanted to jerk away, but I couldn't move or speak. One of Nigel's cocktails. Apparently it is one of his specialties. One which he didn't just practice on me. Lex's eyes were glazed and a little wild looking. He was talking to me but he would fade off only to pick up the same topic a few minutes later as if no time had elapsed. But I understood that Lex thought that I was there willingly."

"So Lex wasn't the one that arranged to have you kidnapped? I thought he was."

"I'm not sure when Nigel and Mrs. Cox decided to take over, but you must admit that Lex was slipping. Arianna Carlin was in on it originally. I think Miranda's pheromones gave them the idea. Lex was given the hundred percent solution and it made him completely besotted with me. I rejected him for you. Apparently he was completely inconsolable for a few days and let Nigel run things. It was the foothold that Nigel needed. By the time that Lex was back to somewhat close to normal at least as far as his business went, the trio had hatched a plan. Arianna just wanted to get back at Lex for divorcing her and was quite happy to become rich in the process. Nigel St. John and Mrs. Cox had just gotten greedy. Lex paid them exorbitant salaries, but it wasn't enough. They wanted everything.

"The doppelganger was their first attempt to get Lex's pass codes to his personal accounts. Pretending to be me, she apologized for not being grateful to him for buying the Planet to save it. She was far more open with her… gratitude than I had ever been. He bought her everything she asked for including that infamous trip to Bermuda.

"When Superman caught Arianna and my look-a-like, Lex realized that he had been fooled. He tried to fire Nigel and Mrs. Cox, and that was when Nigel started using drugs on him. I think he tried assorted 'truth serums' on him, but Lex had had training and was able to resist. He became confused, though, and his control on his businesses slipped further. But Lex stubbornly refused to hand over control of his personal assets to the two. They decided to try fooling him again. I never saw her, but apparently they made a clone of me? By this time Lex knew he was ill. He thought I came to visit him. But the day that she asked him about the accounts, he was incensed, knowing that he had been fooled again. Nigel and Mrs. Cox realized that they had to have the real thing."

"Nigel was the one who grabbed you?"


"I found that he used to be British Secret Service."

"I think he's been a lot of things. When the ship docked, we were taken to some sort of lab. Nigel told me that he wanted Lex's pass codes. I could help him or else. If I had known what 'or else' meant, I might have gone along with it. But, of course, in Mad Dog Lois fashion, I refused.

"When I woke up, my head ached abominably. When I reached up to touch it, I found bald spots and stitching. I demanded that I be told what had happened but Mrs. Cox said it was just a little insurance. I figured it was one of those GPS chips they have developed for livestock, in case I got away. I told myself that they had put it under my skull because they knew I would cut it out from under my skin if I ever had the chance to escape and do so. Everything healed fine. Stubble was growing back on my head. They told Luthor that I had a brain tumor removed but that it caused me to be confused. He was so messed up he believed them. So no matter what I said to him, he just patted my hand and told me it was okay.

Then Mrs. Cox told me that they needed the pass codes for a certain account that Lex had, and I was going to help them. That was the first time they used the device on me. The pain just… just exploded in my head. I've never felt anything like that. It consumed my whole body. When Nigel let go of the button, I was vomiting from the pain. I think I passed out.

"Why didn't they just use the device on Luthor?"

"If they killed him they wouldn't ever get what they wanted. Apparently they lost quite a few subjects testing the device out. They couldn't take the chance of using it on Lex.

"When I came to, we were on the move again. Once they had ensured that the device was working properly, they needed to get us somewhere that Superman wouldn't find us."

"Did Luthor ever wonder if it was really you?"

"Once. I didn't want to help them, Clark. But the pain was so bad. They would dope him up so he wasn't really completely aware and then try to get me to ask him for pass codes. I guess they felt that with me, his defenses would not be up and I might succeed where they had failed. But he must have been adjusting to the drugs because one day he was more lucid and he asked if I was really Lois. I insisted I was because Nigel was starting to press the button. I got where I could feel it coming. Lex became very angry and only settled down when Nigel showed him a copy of the Daily Planet that mentioned my disappearance.

"Lex was very happy then because he thought I had come to him on my own. The next time they drugged him, he did give me some of the pass codes. I purposely transposed some of the numbers when I gave them to Mrs. Cox. That was… that was a bad idea."

Lois shuddered and Clark's arms tightened around her. "It was so bad. I didn't think the pain could get any worse. And I was so sick I couldn't keep any food down for two days. Once I gave them the correct pass codes they were busy for a few days. That's when I called you. There was a phone left on the desk while Nigel and Mrs. Cox were absorbed in transferring funds from Lex's accounts into their own. They bounced the money around hoping to lose anyone that might have been watching Lex's accounts. I didn't reach you but I got to hear your voice on the machine. It gave me strength and hope. I knew you were looking for me."

"You don't know how much I wish I had been able to speak to you. I was so exhausted I let the phone ring instead of picking it up. And then Henderson's guys weren't able to find the records of the call."

"Nigel had them altered. He literally had operatives everywhere. By the time anyone started tracing the call, he had had the evidence deleted. He took great joy in telling me that the effort had been futile."

"Did he hurt you?"

"Oddly, he didn't use the device to punish me for that. Maybe he felt knowing that I had failed was punishment enough. But they did pick up their efforts after that."

"He knew I would find you."

"It was everyday. I was so sick from the pain that anything I ate came back up. Luthor noticed that I was dropping weight and became very worried. I couldn't hide my sadness from him. I think it became obvious to him that I wasn't really there by choice. Either Nigel slacked off on the drugs or Lex adjusted again because he finally realized what Nigel and Mrs. Cox were doing to me. There was no pretense after that. We were both prisoners together. They no longer pretended that they were working for Lex. They just wanted those pass codes.

"During that time, I got to know Lex more than before. Lex Luthor was an evil man. He did horrible things and felt no shame for doing them. All he cared about was making money and being the best. Power. He grew up with nothing. Raised by a mother that was a drug addict and would do anything to feed her habit. He spent his entire childhood feeling powerless. But he had a talent. He could gamble and win. It started small, of course. He didn't have any money to play, but he studied gamblers. Then he stole a valuable ring and with the money that he got for it he entered a game. And he won. And he continued to win. His games moved from back room hidden tables to exclusive games with the rich and famous. While they played cards, he gleaned knowledge on business and the stock market. He split his efforts then between investing and gambling. He instinctually knew what stocks to buy and when to sell.

"The last time he played poker for any reason other than as a social game, he won a business from a man who was known to be a gambling addict. But his new life as an up and coming business man did not keep him from keeping tabs on what was going on in his old haunts, and he employed a gang of thugs and began to pressure other businesses for protection money. He lived a double life from then on. He genuinely cared about children when he first began to donate heavily to children's organizations, but soon his lifestyle even corrupted that good in him. He was a keen businessman. But he was also 'The Boss'. Nothing happened that he did not have his thumb in it somehow.

"But the part of him that was with me in that room was the child that had never been loved, who was once again powerless against those bigger and stronger than he was. His only way of striking back was to refuse to speak. Nigel and Mrs. Cox were getting very nervous. So the gloves came off. They found they could accomplish far more torturing me in Lex's presence to get him to talk than trying to get me to trick Lex into talking. As evil as he was, he really did love me. I didn't love him, I could never get past all the evil that he had done, but I did feel compassion for him.

"Then Nigel and Mrs. Cox panicked. They came in waving a gun as well as the device. There was so much pain and I just faded in and out. Finally Mrs. Cox shoved the gun in my ribs and promised Lex she would pull the trigger if he didn't give her the last pass code. Lex agreed to tell them if they would let him move me to the bed. He picked me up and settled me in the bed before turning to tell them the codes.

"Nigel laughed. Mrs. Cox called him a fool and she shot him, right between the eyes. Then Nigel turned to me and pressed the button on the device. I knew it was over. In that horrible voice of his he said, "Goodbye, Miss Lane-Kent. It's been a pleasure killing you." The pain came then, and that's the last thing I remember until I woke up in the hospital. I must have died, at least for a few seconds. Long enough to make Nigel think he had killed me."

"Oh, Lois. I wish so much that I had found you sooner." Clark's face was wet with tears when she looked up at him.

"I know you tried, Clark. I always, always knew that you would come for me."

"I love you so much."

"I love you, too."

He kissed her hungrily, but they held their passion in check. This wasn't exactly the place for anything too passionate, and her body was already telling her that she had overdone it. She reached over and turned off Clark's tape recorder.

"Clark, Dr. Thurston is going to take the implants out."

"I thought he said they weren't causing any problems."

"Dr. Thurston would leave them in, but I want Nigel St. John and Mrs. Cox out of my head. Can you understand that?"

Clark nodded. "It's a risky surgery, though."



"Next month. He is bringing in some expert surgeons to assist. I told him that I want the implants given to Superman immediately. You have to destroy them, Clark. No one should have to go through what I suffered."

"But I want to stay with you."

"Do you?"

"Forever, Lois."

"Do you really mean that, Clark?"

"I do, Lois. You're my whole world. I can hardly breathe when you're not here."

"Then marry me, Clark."

He set her away from him to look into her face. "Lois, did you just say what I think you said?"

"Why wait, Clark? I love you and you love me. We know that we never want to be apart. So what are we waiting for?"

"But you're having surgery-"

"And if something goes wrong, I want you making the decisions. You know me better than anyone else. I trust you to do what you know I would want. My parents are too cynical. You'll know what I would do if I had to make a choice."

"You could just give me medical power of attorney."

"Don't you want to marry me, Clark?"

"So much."

"Then let's do it. If we wait for life not to be so crazy, it'll never happen."



"Let's do it. Let's get married."


"I think your mom and sister are going to want in on that question."

"Martha, too. But I don't want anything big, Clark. Just my parents, Ben, Alisha, and her parents."

"My parents, Jimmy, and Perry."


"And Henderson."

"You want Henderson at our wedding?!"

"He worked tirelessly to find you, Lois. Everything that he could do, he did. He was a big help to me."

"Then he's invited, too." Lois tried to stifle a big yawn.

"I think we need to get you back upstairs to bed. You've really worn yourself out."

"Can you play this recording for our parents. I just don't feel up to telling it all again, but they deserve to know. Henderson, too, as I'm sure there's some legal stuff he'll need to clear up."

"I can do that. Now let's get you to bed."

He swung her up into his arms and carried her out of the chapel, heading to her room. He laid her on the bed and pulled the covers over her.

Then he sat beside her as she started to drift away.



"We're getting married."

A sleepy smile crossed her face. "I know."


Married! He was getting married. They'd only been dating a year and she was gone or unconscious for most of that. Clark shook his head in amusement. Life with Lois Lane-Kent was anything but normal.

Lois deserved a real proposal, though, and before their mothers descended with wedding suggestions. He needed a plan.


It was lunchtime the next day when Clark arrived and swept Lois out of her chair just as she finished eating.


"Hello, fiancee." He was heading out the door of the center.

"Clark, where are you going?"

"You have an appointment."

"I don't want to see any more doctors, Clark." Clark stopped in front of a large car. "Clark, this is a limousine."

"I know."

"Where are we going?"

"You are going to Metropolis Day Spa. Mom spent the day there not too long ago and really seemed to enjoy it. I talked to your therapists about what was okay for you, so just sit back and enjoy."

"I think I like being your fiancee, Clark."


She was in heaven. She spent time in the whirlpool, got a massage, a facial, manicure, pedicure, and, best of all, a haircut. The portions of her head that had been shaved for the implants were about three or four inches long so the rest of her hair was cut to that length and then shaped around her face. Someone else started on her makeup. She was so relaxed she just closed her eyes and sank into the chair.

"Miss Lane-Kent? Mr. Kent left this for you."

Her eyes flew open. The receptionist was handing her a note and a red rose. She opened the card.

"Lois, put this on. We have reservations at Uncle Mike's. Love always, Clark. P.S. Raspberry flavored Lois is still my favorite." Her heart skipped a beat. She looked up from the note to see the garment bag.

"If you'll follow me, I'll show you where you can change. I'll help you if you need anything."

"If it zips, I'll need help. My arms just don't want to go that way any more."

The garment bag held a beautiful burgundy dress. She smiled. Clark had said he liked her in burgundy. There were also some lacy black under things and black pantyhose. I wonder who picked those out, she thought, blushing. There were some dressy but sensible black flats in the bottom of the bag. Clark trying to take care of me by ensuring my footwear won't challenge my ability to keep my balance, she acknowledged. He seemed to have thought of everything.

A tap came from the door and her helper opened it.

She came back to finish helping Lois slip the dress over her head and zip it. "Your limo is here. If I may say so, we're all a little envious. Your fiancee is gorgeous and you can just tell he loves you so much. He kept calling all afternoon to see how you were. He was afraid all this would tire you out."

"I'm so relaxed I may fall asleep, but it didn't tire me out."

She let herself nap a little on the ride across town. When the limo pulled up to Uncle Mike's restaurant, Clark opened her door and reached in for her. He stopped, gazing at her. "Wow."

Lois laughed and took his hand as he helped her out of the limo. "I hope you like it."

"I love you." He kissed her softly for a minute before releasing her. "Your dinner awaits. Uncle Mike shut down the restaurant and cooked just for us tonight."

He led her into the restaurant to a candlelit table where a bottle was chilling. He helped her into her seat and then removed the cork from the bottle and filled her glass. "No champagne. Dr. Thurston said no alcohol, so this is chilled grape juice."

"It's perfect."

He filled his glass and raised it as he seated himself. "To us."

She clinked her glass with his. "To us. To forever." As they drank, Uncle Mike emerged from the kitchen.

"I checked everything out with the dieticians at the center, so eat up," Uncle Mike assured her. Her plate looked a little less appetizing than Clark's, but she knew Uncle Mike's food wouldn't disappoint.

"Mmmnn," she moaned as she took the first bite.

"Good?" inquired Clark.

"Delicious. Clark, this is all so wonderful. I feel so lucky."

"You deserve every second. If I could bring you the moon, I would."

"You probably could."

Clark laughed. "Maybe, but I kind of like it where it is."

"Me too."

Clark sighed. "You look so beautiful."

"Thank you. Did you pick it out?"

"Yes. Did the burgundy give me away?"

"Did you pick out *everything*?"

Clark flushed a little. "I hope that was okay. We are going to be married."

Her gaze dropped. "Clark, you know we can't… you know. Not for a while anyway."

Clark's finger lifted her chin. "Lois, I'm not marrying you for the 'you know'. I'm marrying you because I can't live without you."

"I just… I know it's been a long time since… since you were with Lana."

Clark brought her hand to his mouth and kissed it. "Lois, I was never with Lana. Not in that way."

"But Clark! You dated Lana forever. You were going to marry her."

"Making love is about love. And when you love someone, you have to trust them. I'd never told Lana my secret. I couldn't share myself with anyone unless they knew everything."

"Oh, my-"

"Lois, it is different for me. *I'm* different. I needed to be sure. I needed to know that I was with the one person I would share everything with."

"So, you've never…"

"Well, I mean, I've had girlfriends. Our relationships were not completely platonic."

"Of course not."

"So while I've experimented enough to know I work the same way as a human does, I've never…"


"But now I am sure, Lois. You're the one I've waited for."

"Oh, Clark. I just wish I'd-"

"No, Lois. Your experiences helped to make you who you are today. Maybe-"

Lois was trying to smother her laughter behind her hands.


"If you would let me finish, I was trying to say that I wish I'd known so I wouldn't have made such a fool of myself throwing myself at you! I can't believe I was so forward. But I thought you were experienced, and I was afraid that I would lose you if we didn't make our relationship a physical one because I assumed you were accustomed to having one!"

"I thought you were-"

Lois was shaking her head.

"No?" he asked incredulous.


"What about Paul? I thought you and he…"

"Almost. But I couldn't make love to another man when it was always you in my head. You who I really wanted. It wouldn't have been fair."


They looked at each other and burst out laughing. But their mirth was changing to another emotion as they looked into each other's eyes. Clark pushed his chair back and was by her side in an instant bending down to crush his lips against hers. As their lips moved he sank slowly to one knee in front of her. He pulled his lips from hers.

"Lois. There is no way I can ever express how sorry I am that you've had to go through all this. Through the kidnapping and incarceration. Through the horrible pain. Then the struggle through the recovery. But I am so glad that it happened to me."

Lois gasped. "Clark, what do you-"

Clark silenced her by laying a finger across her lips. "Sometimes you think you're immortal and you start to think the people around you are, too. It can just take a second to realize how wrong you are about everything. I almost lost you, Lois, and it is the most horrible thing I've ever gone through. But it made me realize how much I took you for granted. You are the most wonderful, beautiful, brave woman in the whole world. You deserve to be treasured for who you are and I finally saw that. So, Lois Lane-Kent, will you marry me and let me cherish you every day for the rest of our lives? Because I know now that you are my very soul." As he spoke he pulled a burgundy velvet covered square from his pocket and cracked it open to display to her.

Lois breath caught in her throat. She had not been expecting this. Well, she had been expecting a ring, eventually, but not this, such a precious, heartfelt proposal. She could hardly see the ring. All she could see was a kaleidoscope of rainbows through the tears pricking her eyes. She sniffed and nodded as her tears spilled over. Clark brushed one away with his thumb. "Is that a yes?"


Clark pulled the ring from the box and slipped it on her finger. "It is a trillion cut diamond. As soon as I saw it I knew it was the one. It reminded me of the symbol of the house of El."

Lois wiped at her tears so that she could see the ring. The triangle shaped stone did resemble Superman's "S". "It's perfect, Clark." She held up her hand and she and Clark admired the ring together.

"Anyone ready for dessert in here?" came Uncle Mike's voice. "I've had a request for my chocolate raspberry tortes, heavy on the raspberry."

"Look, Uncle Mike." Lois held her hand out for his inspection.

"Well, look at that. Congratulations, you two."

"Thanks." Clark cleared his throat as he stood and seated himself.

They enjoyed Mike's tortes, although it could have been sawdust for all the notice they gave to the taste. They were too busy "accidentally" getting raspberry on each other's mouths and fingers that had to be softly mouthed off.

They were seated in the limousine travelling back to the center when Clark asked, "When?"

"When what?"

"When are we getting married? Everyone will ask the second we announce it."

"Well, I want to do it before my surgery, and I'd actually like to do it close to the time of surgery so I have the wedding to look forward to and little time to worry about the surgery."

"And where?"

"I don't see why we can't have the wedding in the center's chapel. It would be perfect for such a small ceremony, and I'd like to have Mike marry us."


"Yes. He works there. I don't know why, but I just feel like I've known him all my life."

"Your surgery is on a Tuesday, right?"

"Yes. I have to go in early on Monday for all the final testing."

"So what about Sunday?"

"That would be perfect. Even though it's a small ceremony, we'll still need to arrange for flowers, and wedding clothes, and a photographer."

"Lois, it sounds like a lot of work. Are you sure you're up to it?"

"I would say yes, but Dr. Thurston will refuse to operate if I'm not in tip-top shape so I'm going to let our mothers handle it. If my mom tries to go overboard, yours will manage to temper her enthusiasm."

"When you are released from the center, I'll take you on a honeymoon, I promise."

"I know you will, Clark, but the important thing is that we'll finally be husband and wife."

"Mmmm." He leaned over and kissed her. "That sounds like heaven."


When Lois called their parents the next day, Ellen immediately panicked over the short time left to arrange her daughter's wedding, but Lois firmly reminded her that the chapel was small, the guest list short, and the bride and groom simply not up to a lot of fuss.

Lois introduced Clark to Mike. Mike extended his hand to Clark. "I'm Mike."

Clark took the proffered hand. "I know you…" But he couldn't place from where.

"You worry too much, Clark. About Lois. About everybody. You two are going to be just fine."

"Uh, yeah, well, thank you," Clark stuttered.

"You two ought to get on your way. Lots of plans to make."

"Yes, we should," Lois agreed and the couple exited the chapel.

"That was so weird," Clark commented. "I'm sure I've met him before."

"That's funny. I felt the same way. Must just be something about him. Obviously, he's in the right profession."


They were both surprised at how quickly the weeks passed. Ellen and Martha did all the preliminary shopping and then would bring Lois pictures and descriptions for her to make final decisions, keeping the stress to a minimum. Following Lois' descriptions of a simple wedding dress, no longer than calf length, they selected a few dresses and then picked Lois up to go to the bridal store for her to select her choice and have a preliminary fitting done. While she wanted to pick the dress that looked the best on her, Lois also took great care to ensure that it was easy to walk in. She was hoping that she would be able to walk down the aisle and stand for the short ceremony without the assistance of the walker. Of course, she thought with a smile, if she had to lean on Clark halfway through the vows it wouldn't be so bad.

She intended to walk up the aisle alone. As much as she loved her father, a part of her didn't feel like he deserved to play that role in her wedding. Jonathan was certainly as deserving or, for that matter, Perry. And what about Ellen who had been both mother *and* father to her. No, she didn't need anyone to give her away. Lucy would stand up with her, and Jimmy with Clark.


"Nervous?" Jonathan asked him as Martha stood in front of their son to adjust his cravat again.

"Oddly, no. I'm excited, but also strangely calm. This is just so right, you know. I only get nervous when I think about the next couple of days. All our dreams could come true just to have them snatched from us."

"That's not going to happen, son," Jonathan assured him, patting his shoulder.

"I hope not. Dr. Thurston would not agree to this if he wasn't confident that it could be done," Clark said quietly.

"You're both going to be fine," Martha assured with confidence. "And today is about getting married. Worry about the future tomorrow."

Clark grabbed both his parents in a hug. "I don't know how or why I was so blessed to have you guys be the ones that found me, but I am so thankful. I love you both so much."


Jimmy and Clark walked up the short aisle to stand at the front. Clark heard a sniff and looked over at his mother who was wiping a few tears that had escaped. He caught her eye and smiled at her. "Sorry," she whispered.

The chapel doors opened again and Lucy walked down the aisle to take her place on the other side of Mike.

Henderson held the door open as Lois entered.

"Oh, man," breathed Clark.

"Wow," Jimmy echoed.

Maybe Lois Lane-Kent wasn't decked out in the finest wedding clothes, but to Clark she was the most beautiful woman in the world. She made her way slowly towards the front, and Clark stepped forward eagerly to take her arm.

"You're supposed to wait until I get there," she teased.

"I have to wait for enough," he teased back wiggling his eyebrows.

Lois blushed.

"Ready to do this, Miss Lane-Kent?"

"Ready, Mr. Kent."

They took the last few steps toward Mike together.

"Hello, friends of Lois and Clark." Mike greeted the guests. "Well, this has been a long time coming, hasn't it?"

Everyone laughed, their own memories of Clark and Lois playing in their minds.

"Yes, a long time. But I think with everything that's happened, you guys have learned something. Love survives. Survives any joy, any sorrow; all the rights, all the wrongs; even life and death."

Lois and Clark's eyes met as they both inhaled shakily, trying to control their emotions as the same phrase ran through both of their heads, "Love survives".

"There are many beautiful wedding ceremonies written both ages ago and recently, but Clark and Lois have decided to recite their own vows from their hearts. Clark?"

Clark turned to face Lois and took her hands in his. "Lois, you're my anchor, my best friend, my soul mate. Falling in love with you was so easy, I don't know why I fought it for so long. I love your humor; your passion. The way you dive right in… even when you shouldn't. Because you refuse to just watch the world. You demand that it be a better place, and because of you, it is. You'll never understand how much I need you, how my world fell apart when you weren't here. Without your kiss, your touch, my life is not really living. It's just an existence. You're my world, my everything. And today, I want to give you as much of the world as I can. So I give you my heart, my soul… and our future."

He took the ring from Jimmy, slipping it on her finger as he spoke, "This ring symbolizes our life together, for it is never ending and always beginning. It is why I love you so much and wish to cherish you forever and ever."

"Oh, Clark." Her tears spilled over and Clark laughed softly as he pulled a handkerchief from his pocket to wipe them away.

"I had a feeling I was going to need this."

After tucking the handkerchief in his pocket, he took her hands again, expectantly awaiting her words.

"You stole my speech, Kent," she began. Their guests laughed. She continued, "Just like you stole my story, my billing as the Planet's best reporter, my Kerth award… and my heart. You also have shared so much with me, including your home, your parents, your trust, and your love. You have such gentle grace; such quiet strength; but mostly, such incredible kindness. I've never known anyone with as selfless and pure a heart, and I admire you more than anyone I've ever known. So today, I give you my love, my honor… and our life together." She turned and accepted his ring from Lucy. She met his tear-glazed eyes as she pushed the ring onto his finger. "Clark, this ring I give you, my personal gift and my personal promise, of love and trust, and pride that you are my husband. We will wear these rings, and the world will know that I am yours and you are mine. For always."

As they gazed at each other, Mike spoke,

{*"Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself.

To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks to another day of loving.

To rest at the noon hour and meditate love's ecstasy;

To return home eventide with gratitude, and then sleep with a prayer

For the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.

I now pronounce you husband and wife."*}

They exchanged a sweet kiss, assuring each other of the truth of the vows they had spoken, as their family and friends began to surge around them with congratulations.


Clark was quick to find Lois a chair and make sure that she wasn't tiring. She assured him that she was doing fine, but her family was cognizant that tomorrow would be another big day for her and, as much as she needed their love and support, she also needed to rest. After wishing the couple well and more rounds of hugs, they left the center and Clark escorted Lois to her room.

"You okay?" he asked her.

"Yes. Can you ask Nurse Reiley to come in for a minute?"

"Are you sure you're fine?"

"Clark, I'm fine. But you know, after you get the nurse, could you get me some hot chocolate? I'm not ready to go to sleep yet, but I would like to relax. I hate for this day to ever end. Our wedding day."

Clark rubbed circles on her back. "I know what you mean. I just want to relax for a minute and let it all settle in. I can't believe how smoothly everything went."

"It was meant to be."

He gave her a kiss. "I'll go get the nurse and your hot chocolate."


When Clark returned with the steaming cup the nurse was leaving Lois' room. "Oh, Mr. Kent! I wanted to let you know that I just might forget to check Lois' room tonight to make sure her visitors have left. I know tomorrow is a big day for her and she'll sleep better if she's not alone."

Clark took her hand and squeezed it. "Thank you."

"I wish you happy, Mr. Kent."

Clark turned and entered Lois' room. She was in her nightclothes, lounging against the pillows. So that is what she had wanted with the nurse. He actually was a little relieved. As much as he tried to forget that this was his wedding night and that it was going to be anything but a traditional wedding night, his mind kept wandering that direction. Helping Lois to undress would not have aided him in that goal.

"Here's your hot chocolate. Anything else, wife?"

"Just come hold me, husband. There's a comedy on you might enjoy. I'll probably nod off."

Lois sat in the crook of his arm and drank her hot chocolate. Sensing her exhaustion, he took the empty cup from her hand and set it on the bed table.

"Don't go without saying goodnight," Lois requested as she began to drift off.

Clark held her tighter. He wasn't going anywhere. Tomorrow would be chaos and a struggle to be strong for Lois while inside he was screaming in fear. He didn't want to lose her again.


He stayed all night, holding her tight against him. Unless the sky was falling, Superman was not budging from his post tonight. Clark thought again about the first time he had met Lois Lane, how he had watched her grow into the woman he now cradled in his arms.

Lois stirred. "Clark, you're squishing me."

Clark relaxed his hold slightly.

Lois turned towards him and ran her hand over his forehead. "Clark, it's going to be all right."

"God, I hope so," he prayed as Lois snuggled tighter against him and fell back to sleep.


"You're still here," were the first words she spoke as she came awake.

"I couldn't leave."

"Kiss me."

Clark was quick to comply. A long minute later he released her. "We need to be there at 9:00?"

"Yes. I suppose that means we need to get up."

Clark assisted her to sit up and helped her slide her feet into the slippers at the side of the bed.

"Oh, Clark, I have to do this. I *have* to, but I'm so scared."

He was scared, too. His heart was pounding and his mind screaming at him as he tried to push back the agony. But it was time for him to be strong and support his wife. "Lois, you've been though hell, yet you've returned even stronger from what you've been through. You'll be fine. Dr. Thurston is an excellent neurologist and he will have the best in the country assisting him."

"I'm scared of losing you. But I don't want to spend the rest of my life waiting for Nigel to make his move."

"I'm going to be right there with you, and I'll keep you here with me by sheer force of will if necessary."

It wasn't a promise he could possibly keep, but then, if anyone could will someone to live, it would be Superman.

"I love you, Clark."

"I love you, Lois."


A smile crossed Lois' lips as she signed herself into Metropolis General's Neurology wing on the form that Clark had painstakingly filled out for her.

Clark's arm slipped around her waist. "What is that smile about?"

She let loose of the pen and laid her hand on his chest, "I just got to sign "Lois Kent" for the first time," she said looking up at him.

He leaned over and kissed her understanding her joy. "I'll admit, I got a kick out of checking the "Married" box for you."

Clark returned the clipboard to the check-in desk. He spent the rest of the day holding Lois' hand or sitting in stark waiting rooms as she had numerous checks and tests performed. They met the doctors who had flown in to assist with the surgery. Lois stressed again that the implants were to be given to Superman for disposal.

When all the tests were over, they rested in Lois' room. A nurse came in and gave Lois something to help her rest. He lay beside her as she rested throughout the night, unwilling to let one second go by un-treasured. While he had every confidence in Dr. Thurston's ability, the knowledge of what his life was like without her in it was still very fresh.


Their parents were there early Tuesday morning with well wishes and hugs. Lois was shaking but resolute as the medical staff moved her to the gurney so they could wheel her into surgery. Clark walked beside her and held her hand until they reached those ominous doors that would separate them.

"Remember what I said in our vows, Clark, I am yours and you are mine. For always."

"I'll be here when you wake up."

"I love you."

"And I love you."

Clark forced himself to release her hand and watch as the gurney disappeared through the doors.

Martha was instantly there with an arm around his shoulders. "Oh, Mom, this is just so hard."

"I know, honey."


Over the rims of his glasses Clark watched the surgery's proceedings through the wall and listened for Lois' heartbeat. He was as tense as an un-sprung steel trap. When he gave a sharp intake of breath Martha asked him, "Is everything okay?"

"Yeah. Her heart's slowed down but they are giving her something for it."

He inwardly cringed as they removed a square from her skull and placed it in a dish full of sterile water. The skilled neurosurgeon that Dr. Thurston had enlisted began to probe Lois brain. It seemed to take ages as the surgeon made his way through the delicate muscle to retrieve the implants that were just under an inch long. He carefully pulled each implant from its haven and dropped them into the stainless steel dish with a clank.

Clark pushed his glasses up his nose and stood. "I'm headed for the restroom and then I'm going to get something to drink. Anyone else need anything?"

As Dr. Thurston pushed open the surgery doors heading for the waiting room with the blue towel covered tray containing the dish of implants, Superman was entering the waiting room.

"Superman, Mrs. Kent requested that these be given to you." Dr. Thurston handed Superman the tray.

He flipped the towel up to check the contents. "They're so small to have caused so much pain."

"Well, they won't be causing her any pain again," Dr. Thurston assured.

"How is Lois?" asked Ellen.

"She's handling the surgery well. She struggled with the anesthesia a bit, but we were able to get it under control quickly. Where's her husband?"

"With his usual bad timing, Clark just left to go get a drink." Martha rolled her eyes.

"I need to scrub back in. Please assure him that things are going fine," Dr. Thurston requested as he turned to leave the room.

"We will," Sam assured.

"I'm going to go get rid of these so that Lois won't have to worry about them when she wakes up," Superman said as he exited the waiting area.


Clark held the tiny devices in his hand, the instruments that Nigel St. John and Mrs. Cox had used to torture his wife, to attempt to bend her to their will. His hand closed, crushing the priceless capsules to dust. He flung the particles into the sun where no trace would ever be found. With the warmth of the sun beating against his back he swiftly returned to Earth, to Metropolis, to his wife to await her awakening.


Jonathan and Martha knew the surgery was finished when their son's body finally relaxed. Martha patted his hand in understanding.

Ellen obviously didn't realize that Clark could see the surgery was finished, but seeing Martha comforting Clark, she hurried to add her own sympathies. "It shouldn't be too much longer, Clark. They just need to get the surgical site closed. Once they're sure that she is stable, they'll move her into ICU and they'll let you see her."

Clark nodded in appreciation. "I know, Ellen. It's just so hard to wait, to be away from her."

They all turned toward the door in anticipation when Dr. Thurston entered the room.

"Mr. Kent, sorry I missed you earlier. Your wife did very well during the surgery, all things considered. You should be able to see her in about an hour."

"Thank you, Dr. Thurston." Clark shook the doctor's hand.

Dr. Thurston winced as he removed his hand from Clark's grip. "I hope that you understand that it's too early to know exactly what Mrs. Kent's condition will be when she comes out of surgery. The surgeons did the excellent job that I expected, but you still must realize that we temporarily removed a portion of her skull and that we entered delicate tissue to remove the implants. There is certain to be some swelling."

Clark nodded. "I understand."

"I'll have the nurse let you know when you can see her."


"She's still a little woozy, Mr. Kent, but Dr. Thurston wanted us to let you in to see her as soon as she began to wake."

"Thank you, Nurse."

She looked so pale lying there on the sterile white sheets, her head swathed in white bandages. He instantly moved to her side and took her hand.

"Honey, it's me, Clark." Lois' face scrunched into a frown as she tried to open her eyes. "No, it's okay. Just rest. Your surgery went perfectly." He dropped his voice. "And the implants are destroyed. You don't need to worry about them ever again."

Her face relaxed and she dozed for a few minutes. She opened her eyes and looked at Clark. Clark brushed her cheek. "Hello, wife." Her lips curved into a slight smile before she once again closed her eyes.

She awoke again about an hour later when the nurse came in to check her. Lois' eyes followed the nurse as she moved about checking this and that. "You're doing just fine, Mrs. Kent," the nurse assured as she made a notation in Lois' chart.

Lois' eyes twinkled as she glanced at Clark. The nurse laughed. "I can see that you remember this fellow. We heard that you had just gotten married. Congratulations."

"Thank you," Clark said.

"Dr. Thurston wants you to stay in bed for twelve hours. He is concerned about swelling and wants to ensure that you keep all movement to a minimum."

Lois' face fell. All she wanted was to get out of this bed and get on with her life. A thrill of excitement went through her. Her new life as Clark's wife. She wanted to get to work on physical therapy so that she could leave the center and really live with Clark as man and wife. She wasn't sorry that they hadn't waited to get married; she loved how there was no question of his right to be by her side. But a part of her did wish they could have had the bridal showers, the reception, the big wedding, and the honeymoon. Especially the honeymoon.

"Don't fret, Lois," Clark assured her. "You'll be up and around in no time. Dr. Thurston is just trying to make sure that happens as fast as possible. Our parents are here. Is it all right if they come in? We've all been so anxious. It will be a great relief for them to be able to see you awake."

Her head was incredibly fuzzy, probably from whatever the nurse had injected into her IV, but she gave a minute nod.

"Good. I'll let them come in, two at a time, and then I'll be back, okay?"

She nodded again and Clark left the room. Her throat was incredibly scratchy. She knew that was probably from the trachea tube used during her surgery. What she wouldn't give for a drink of water!

Her parents came in first.

"Hey, Princess," her father said hoarsely.

"Oh, Lois, it's so good to see you awake." Ellen's voice trembled.

Lois held out her hand to them and they both sat beside her bed. "Dr. Thurston is very pleased with how the surgery went," Ellen commented.

They talked to her for a few minutes and Lois noticed how both her parents' eyes frequently went to the screens of the machines monitoring her. From their demeanor she could tell that they were pleased with what they saw. It was a great relief to her.

They said goodbye and left to allow the Kents to enter. Jonathan squeezed her foot with his big hand. "Ah, Lois. It's good to see you awake."

"Clark was a nervous wreck," Martha confided. "But he's looking much better now."

"He'll be trying to kick us out in a minute, anxious to get back to his bride," Jonathan teased.

"It was a beautiful wedding, Lois. It was perfect."

It had been perfect, she realized. All the parties, fancy dresses, and impressive ceremonies in the world would not have made it anymore perfect. The point was that she and Clark had pledged to be together forever and the simple ceremony had emphasized that fact. She smiled at Martha.

"We'd better go and let Clark get back in here, but if you need anything that we can help with, please don't hesitate to call. I know we're in Smallville, but with Superman Express, we're not that far away."

Martha kissed her cheek and the couple left the room. They had always been so good to her. She had been so blessed to have them as secondary parents and now as parents-in-law. Ellen had handled the wedding so well, never once complaining that it wasn't everything that she had wanted for her daughter. And Sam had been so supportive throughout this whole ordeal. He wasn't the perfect father, but Lois couldn't doubt that he cared.

Clark reentered the room and she was hit once again with how handsome he was. But his looks were so far from the top of her list of things she loved about him. And he was all hers.

"I called Lucy and let her know that you were doing great. She sends her love." Lois' lids were drooping. "Just sleep, sweetheart. I'll be here when you wake up."


The nurse had checked in several times during the night, but thanks to Lois' tiredness and the drugs she was being given, she slept quite well. When she did rouse, Dr. Thurston was visiting with Clark.

"Mrs. Kent! You seem to have had a good night. Chris is going to come by shortly and work on your physical therapy. I want you to take things slow."

"O-o-okay." Lois eyes flew to Dr. Thurston's in alarm. Her speech was slurred, almost as badly as it had when she had woken up four long months ago.

"Don't panic," he assured her. "Remember that you just had brain surgery yesterday. There's going to be some swelling. I'll schedule some tests, but I'm sure that is what we will find. We'll probably keep you here another night, and then you can go back to the Metropolis Neuroscience Center. If you continue to improve as you have these last few months, you will be able to go home in four to eight weeks." Dr. Thurston smiled encouragingly at her and left the room.

"Four to eight weeks! Lois, can you believe that? I have so much to do. Where are we going to live? We can't live in my apartment!"

"W-w-w-hy n-n-ot?" Lois asked very surprised.

"Goodness, what have we been thinking the last month. Surely this is something most engaged couples talk about. We can't live in my apartment because of the stairs. The building is so old that they weren't required to put an elevator in when it became a requirement for all new construction eons ago. I can't believe I got married and never even considered where we were going to live. I'm surprised your dad didn't ask after my intentions. Or my dad, for that matter!"

Lois grinned at him and shrugged her shoulders. It was so funny to see Clark so appalled over something that didn't concern her in the least. It must be a guy thing. On the other hand, she did *not* want to live with Ellen Lane once she was able to leave the center.

"S-s-superman could h-h-elp."

"Much as he would love to, he can't be with you 24/7, and I won't have you prisoner in our home… what are you grinning about?"

"Ob-b-b ses-s-s- ing."

"I am *not* obsessing! This is important."

"N-n-not fair to you to g-g-give up your apartment."

"Your speech is getting clearer."

"W-w-warmed up."

"So babble mode will be in gear soon? And no, I'm not babbling," he said in response to her look. "I don't mind giving up my apartment, Lois. Where I live is not important as long as I can be with you. Home is where you feel safe and loved. You are my home."

Tears pricked her eyes. "L-l-ove you."

"I love you, too, sweetheart. So, maybe we should think about buying something. A house or an apartment? And what area of town?"

"C-c-lose to w-work. H-h-ouse."

"Really? I figured you'd want an apartment."

Lois shrugged and shook her head. Apartments were temporary. She wanted to "set up house", to use an old-fashioned expression, with Clark. Their own home.

"Thanks to modern technology, you can virtually be anywhere. I'll pick up some brochures and bring them in. You can pick out what you like and then I'll take the tour and record it for you. Then we can look them over together."

Lois nodded, her eyes shining as she looked at her husband.

"Oh, Mrs. Kent, when you look at me like that…"

"C-c-come k-kiss me, then," she said in response to the gleam in his eyes.


The move back to the Metropolis Neuroscience Center went smoothly and Lois threw herself into her rehabilitation with renewed determination. The surgery had cost her, as she tired even more easily and her speech was again very difficult to understand. She was finding that the pace of her improvement was faster than it had been directly after she had been found. Chris explained that this was because her body was considerably more healthy, not affected by malnutrition and dehydration.

By the time of her two-week check up with Dr. Thurston, her speech had improved and her limbs were stronger. He confirmed that the swelling had gone down, so she was only dealing with the results from the original brain trauma now. Best of all was his promise that if she continued to show as much improvement, the stomach tube would be removed in two weeks. She and Clark would need to attend some nutrition classes. Lois made a face when Dr. Thurston said that all her food would need to continue to be put through a blender and she would need to drink nutritional shakes between meals to keep up her caloric intake. But she was ready for the tube to come out. While she had never been curvaceous, she had been accustomed to possessing some feminine curves, so she already did not feel sexy with her hip and rib bones standing out so prominently. Having a tube projecting from her stomach did not help her feel any better about her new look. And she definitely wanted to look good for her new husband.

While their kisses had become more intimate, they were constantly aware that they were never truly alone, so there was a certain point that neither of them was willing to cross, acknowledging that they didn't want to offend any of the "tender sensibilities" of the other guests at the center. Still, relying on Clark's super-hearing, there had been some quick re-buttoning and positioning themselves to appear as if they had been totally absorbed in whatever was playing on TV when the nursing staff came to check on their patient. Clark had been given permission to spend the entire weekends, which allowed them even more privacy.

Much of that time was spent viewing the recordings that Clark made of the houses for sale in Metropolis. With his usual thoroughness, Clark researched neighborhoods and schools so she had a wealth of information about each listing.

On the return from her appointment with Dr. Thurston, Clark drove the Jeep through some of the neighborhoods, and Lois fell in love with a little park in a middle-aged neighborhood. For some reason it reminded her of the little park in Smallville that housed many dances, barbecues, and Corn Festivals. Currently the gazebo was being decorated for a child's birthday party and by the willow-ringed pond, she watched a toddler and his father throwing bread to a pair of swans. Farther down, she could see a grandfather instructing his teenaged grandson on the finer points of fishing. "This is it, Clark!" she said excitedly. "We have to find something in this neighborhood. It's perfect!"

Clark nodded. "You're right. Not only do I really like the atmosphere, it is located within the distance from the Planet and the hospital that we discussed, and the homes in this area should be in our price range. The house may require a little updating, as I'm no fan of avocado and burnt sienna."

"If the one we like hasn't been updated, then we'll just make the arrangements."

"I just want everything ready by the time Dr. Thurston releases you."

"With Superman on the job, I doubt that will be a problem."


Having decided on a neighborhood, Clark was able to narrow down the possibilities and was anxious to show Lois the results of his evenings of house hunting. With their unique needs for a one floor home and private access for Superman, it narrowed down the possibilities further. He found two homes in a cul-de-sac that butted up to one of Metropolis few wooded areas. He brought the recordings for Lois to look at.

"Thirty-Fifteen Charlotte Drive," came Clark's voice from the recording. "Or maybe it's Charlotte Circle, since this is a cul-de-sac." Paper rustled. "Yeah, it's Circle."

Lois grinned at Clark and he looked sheepishly back at her. "So I forgot if it was Circle, Street, Way, Boulevard-"


Clark's voice returned as the screen panned around the house. "Nice yard. Nice fence. Good driveway, too."

"Back to the house, farmboy," Lois muttered.

The view on the TV screen obliged. " I like the brick accents," Lois commented, "and the lattice work on the porch."

"This is one of the older homes in the neighborhood," Clark's voice commented as the view moved into the house.

"No kidding," Lois said as she saw the avocado green kitchen. The camera stooped to look out the window above the sink. "Oh, wow."

"Yeah, that's what I thought, too," Clark said, sitting forward anxiously. "Look at this." The camera moved around the bar in the kitchen to the sliding glass door. Clark's hand appeared to open the doors.

"This would have to be replaced," came Clark's voice from the TV. The camera was pointed to his feet on the peeling wooden deck, but then it tilted up to look out over the rail of the deck. There was a nice sized yard, a few flower beds, even a small vegetable garden shadowed by the large trees of the woodland. Instantly the vision of a blanket spread out underneath she shade of the trees cushioning the body of a little Kent flashed through her mind. Her eyes were suddenly watery and her throat tight.

Lois gasped, "Oh, Clark, I love it."

"You haven't seen the rest of the house yet."

The camera completed its span of the yard and re-entered the house. "It's been on the market a little while. The house is older than what is popular with buyers right now, and some feel it is a little isolated." They watched as Clark walked from room to room. "The master suite is on one side of the house and the other bedrooms and the den are on the other side, split by the kitchen, living room, and dining rooms. Three bedrooms, two baths. Attached garage. Laundry room, and the machines are new."

"I love it, Clark," Lois said as the camera exited the house.

"The other one is just across the street, so I just headed over there."

"Whoa!" the view on the TV tilted crazily as the cameraman, Clark, jumped out of the way of a soccer ball. "Looks like the neighborhood kids have organized a game." The ball went flying past as Clark kicked it back.

"Thanks!" the children called.

The view turned to the other house. "This one is newer-"

"Stop," Lois said taking the remote from Clark. "I don't even want to see it. The other one is perfect."

"Perfect? It needs a lot of work, Lois."

"It's the one I want."

"You haven't even looked at the other one."

"It's boring, Clark. I can tell just looking at the outside of it. My house has character. Sure, it needs some updating, but that will just make it more ours."

"The other one has already been updated, and we could take possession in about six weeks."

"Do you really like the second house better?"

Clark squirmed. "Lois, you're trying to recover from brain trauma here. I'm not sure that renovating a house is on your list of approved activities. And I want everything ready when you leave here."

"I knew it! You *do* like the first house better."

"It's a lot of work…"

"When can we move in?"

"It's empty right now. And we're pre-approved, so as soon as all the paperwork could go through."

"So you'd still have lots of time to work on the house-"

"Four to six weeks!"

"-before I can come home."


"Do you really want to live across the street from our dream house and wish we had bought it instead for the rest of our lives? Clark, we'll have help. All our friends and family who have been saying they wished they could help in some way, well, now they can. It's the Smallville way, Clark. How many times have you and yours helped when they needed help? They need to be able to return the favor."

"I'm really not ever going to win any of our arguments." Clark shook his head, grinning.

"Oh, sure you are. Some of the little ones, anyway."

"The timing's good. The crops are planted. If we can get someone to feed the livestock, maybe Dad can stay and help me. I can do quite a bit of it myself, especially the tearing up and out parts…"


"So, I'll give the realtor a call in the morning."

Lois threw her arms around Clark's neck. "Oh, I can't wait to call my mom! And Lucy can help, too, since she will be out of school for the summer. And if your dad's helping you, your mom might as well stay and help me. It'll be like a family project. I bet Jimmy can swing a hammer, too."

"Or he can take pictures of it for my mom to scrapbook."

"Clark! What if we made it an article? You know, 'Remodeling: Old Homes and the New Owners Who Love Them.'"

"Not really your usual area of interest."

"No, but perfect to get my feet wet on."

"I'll talk to Perry and see what he thinks."


Perry thought it was a great idea. He came to see Lois to tell her so in person. He wanted his team of Lane-Kent and Kent back as soon as possible, but he fully understood that it would take time. While Clark had continued to provide stories for the Daily Planet, the team had been out of the day to day action of the Planet for nearly a year. Of course, the story of her imprisonment that Clark had written under both of their names had sold enough copies to ensure both of their jobs and would go a long way to getting them back in the loop with their sources in Metropolis.

Perry offered to come help out as well. "In the early days, I picked up a lot of odd jobs to help make ends meet. You'd be surprised what I can help with."

Perry hadn't been gone five minutes before Clark called. "They took the offer already! The older couple who owns it is already in Florida and doesn't want to have to worry about the house any longer. We can't start tearing anything apart until the paperwork goes through, but they told the realtor to give us the key and look around all we want. So do you want to go over at lunch? I can count it as research for the article."


"Just remember, it doesn't look like much now, but we can change anything you don't like."

"For a guy that didn't want to remodel, you're suddenly very accommodating."

"You'd be surprised how accommodating I can be given the right incentive, Mrs. Kent," he said in a low, gravelly voice.

Lois gasped as a thrill ran through her. "Clark Kent!"

Clark chuckled. "I'll see you at noon."

"I can't wait."


"Clark!" Lois gasped as he swung her up into his arms as they neared the door of 3015 Charlotte Circle. "What are you doing?"

"Carrying you over the threshold, of course."

"It's not even our house yet."

"Then I'm practicing for when it is."

Lois gave him a quick kiss as they entered the house. "Put me down. I want to look around. Oh, that avocado is awful. Definitely has to go. What's under these carpets?"

Clark pulled his glasses down and took a look. "We're in luck. Hardwood floors. They need to be sanded down and refinished. Looks like they've seen some wear and tear."

"Of course, if we take out this wall, we'll have to put in new floors anyway. Is it a load-bearing wall?"

Clark looked over his glasses again. "No, it can come out if you want."

Lois headed down the hall to the master bedroom. "Looks like they got rid of the avocado in here, but country blue and pink has been out of style for at least fifteen years."

Clark followed her as she flipped the light on in the bathroom. "Pink toilet! I thought it was almond from the recording. That has to go."

"Absolutely. I was thinking a whirlpool tub, big enough for two, in *white*."

"Oh, I always wanted my own whirlpool tub. Remember the one in the Lexor Honeymoon Suite?"

"As I recall, the only thing I got to enjoy in the honeymoon suite was the couch."

"Really? That was the only thing?"

"The board games were fun, I guess."

"Board games!"

"O-o-oh. You're referring to 'The Kiss'."

"You know I was."

"I think I found it too confusing to enjoy it."


"It was supposed to be a cover to fool the maid, but for a second there…"

"For a second-?"

"I liked it. It was exciting. But I felt guilty and I excused what I felt by telling myself that it was the thrill of being undercover that caused me to forget, even for a minute, just who I was kissing and to feel aroused by it."

"So you *did* feel something!"

"It certainly gave me something to think about later when I was trying to figure out if that kind of feeling could exist between us."

"I'm glad we answered that question," Lois said as she reached up to twine her arms around his neck and place her lips on his.


The rest of the rooms needed updating as well. One of the bedrooms would be turned into an office for her and would need internet access installed as well as several more electrical outlets. Clark would use the den for his and Superman's office. Before encouraging outside help, Jonathan would help Clark to turn one wall into closet space where an additional closet for Superman's suit could be hidden.

The other bedroom, well, Lois couldn't keep her thoughts from turning to the future just as it had when she had first seen the yard displayed on the TV screen. If they were blessed with children, one way or another, the house would continue to be perfect.

Clark could feel that Lois was now leaning heavily on his arm that she had initially been leaning against only in a companionable way. "You're getting tired. Let's get you back to the center so that you can rest."

Lois nodded in acquiescence. "I hate to go. I can't wait until I can come here to stay. Perry and I talked about my future at the Planet when he came by this morning, and I'm very happy with what he and Mr. Stern have planned."

"And now you're covered under my health insurance, so you really have nothing to worry about as far as your job is concerned."

"Sometimes life seems too good to be true."

"Maybe we deserve it after all that we have been through in the last year."


Jimmy came over to take "Before" pictures for Lois and Clark's article. Wayne Irig's nephew was quite happy to continue to take care of the livestock so that Jonathan could stay in Metropolis, and Wayne himself intended to come up for two weeks to help. He hadn't forgotten the story that Lois and Clark had written that had cleared his name and spurred the government to reimburse him quickly for the damage that Jason Trask and Bureau 39 had caused to his property. Word spreads fast in a small town and several other of Smallville's citizens called to offer help in exchange for a place to sleep. Co-workers from the Planet also volunteered to help. With the expertise of Smallville's builders, painters, and plumbers and the willing hands of their friends in Metropolis, the renovations were completed in only four weeks, with a little Super help.

Lois stayed busy continuing her therapy, working on the remodeling story, and taking trips outside the center with her mom, Martha, and occasionally Lucy to pick out furnishings for her new home. Much to Lois' delight, on her next visit with Dr. Thurston her stomach tube was removed. Unfortunately, the next day she discovered that she had picked up a particularly virulent form of the flu. Dr. Thurston explained that her body's immune system was still not one hundred percent and she had been pushing the limits of her abilities lately. Feeling completely miserable, she was forced to agree with him. However, he told her that if she behaved herself, when she was recovered he would help her and Clark to arrange the home health care that she would need so that she would be able to finally leave full-time nursing care behind and get more of her independence back.

Clark fussed over her and she enjoyed letting him once she was feeling less miserable. They agreed to let Martha and Ellen finish the decorating of the house, so that it would be ready when Lois was released. Lois wished that she had been able to do it herself, but she also looked forward to seeing the completed project for the first time when Clark took her home to stay.

It was exciting and a little intimidating to now have her therapists giving her lists of exercises to perform on her own in between visits from the home care providers. She would be going from a completely ordered and busy life to being able to plan out her own day.

While Lois was getting the last of instructions from her health care providers at the center, Clark spent his spare time packing up his apartment. He had so many memories here. It had been where he and Lois had spent many happy times, where he had finally admitted his feelings for Lois, where she had spent the night in his arms when they had shared their fears after the whole Clark Kent is dead/not dead fiasco. So many happy thoughts and dreams. When that last keepsake was packed and he stood at his door, key in hand, looking around one last time, his mind flashed back to the first time he had brought Lois here. They had been so upset with one another, not knowing how to deal with being friends and competitors at the Daily Planet. He had been trying to prove himself to Perry, and Lois had felt that her position as favorite was being threatened. Yet they had learned to work together and ended up spending as much time together by choice as they had when they had been forced to while he was camping out in her spare bedroom. Yes, this apartment had changed a lot since those days… and so had he. Lois was no longer just his best friend and partner. Though he never wanted to lose those attributes, she was also the woman he loved so fiercely he felt overwhelmed at times. She had given him her heart and her trust, and he was responsible for seeing that she never regretted it. She gave him so much in return. He had given her his love and trust and knew she would keep it as safe as he would keep hers. And he would always have someone to come home to, to seek comfort from after a rescue that had not gone right. He prayed that he would never take those gifts for granted and that he could demonstrate those feelings to Lois again and again so that she would always feel cherished.


Lois could hardly contain her excitement as she finished putting the last of her personal items in the suitcase. She was getting out! It was not that living here was so horrible, she was just ready get on with her life. She had been through an experience that most people could not even truly imagine, but she was alive, free from the implants, well on her way to living a healthy, normal life and married to the most wonderful, handsome, and only Superman in the world.

She turned toward the door as it opened and the man who had been in her thoughts moments before stepped in and gave her a quick kiss in greeting.

"Ready to go?" he asked reaching out to pick up her suitcase.

"Only if you can do a little better than that," she teased.

The suitcase fell to the floor as Clark quickly wrapped both arms around her and bent her backwards.

"Good enough?" he asked moments later.

"Oh, yeah," she assured dreamily.


There were hugs and well wishes expressed by all the staff and many of the other patients of the Metropolis Neuroscience Center that Lois had gotten to know during her four month stay.

Clark stowed her suitcase in the Jeep and helped her into the passenger seat.

"Where to, Mrs. Kent?"

"Take me home, Clark."


Lois watched avidly out the window of the Jeep as Clark drove them through Metropolis and turned into their neighborhood. The small park was full of life as they drove past it. Clark turned onto their cul-de-sac and parked in the driveway of their home.

"Stay there," he requested. He quickly ran up the short flight of stairs to unlock and open the front door. He returned and reached into the Jeep, picking her up in his arms, and he carried her over the threshold of their new home to truly begin their life together.


He laid her gently on the couch. "Okay?"

She laid her hand against his cheek. "I'm fine, Clark. Stop worrying."

"I bought groceries so I can make us dinner. You can sit here and watch TV or look around a little, but don't overdo it."

"Clark, I've been 'lying here watching TV' for six months. I'd love to look around at our home." She had taken the virtual tour, and watched the video that Clark had recorded for her many, many times but it just wasn't the same as the real thing. A house. Their home. Where they would fight with each other, love each other, and cherish every moment because they knew intimately how quickly it could vanish.


Lois walked slowly through her new home. Martha and Ellen had done a great job decorating. Once she was feeling up to it, there were one or two things that she would change, but she could see the colors and patterns that she had picked out as well as accessories she had looked at and a few things that she had not seen before.

Clark came up behind her and set his hands on her shoulders. "Dinner's ready. Our moms want to have a shower slash reception for us in a couple of weeks. All of Smallville and our friends at the Daily Planet are anxious to congratulate us. Perry's already volunteered the Daily Planet building and Franklin Stern seconded his invitation."

She reached up and laid one of her hands on his as tears pricked her eyes. "There were a lot of people pulling for us, weren't there?"

"They love you, Lois, just like I do."

"Not, exactly like you do, I hope, husband." She tilted her head back to look at him and he captured her lips in a sweet kiss.

"Hmmm. No, not exactly."

She laid her head back against him. "Everything is beautiful. Our moms did a great job setting up all the things I picked out. I love it."

"I'm glad. But let's get you off your feet." He led her to their new dining room table and she saw the lit candles and the steaming lasagna already served onto plates. She thought they were from her old apartment. Maybe they should pick out new ones to list on their shower registry. Clark pulled back her chair for her and she sat down pulling the napkin into her lap. He pushed her chair up to the table and then moved to sit across from her. He reached across the table and took her hand, "Okay?"

"Stop worrying! My doctors say I'm just fine. Oh, I'll need to stay rested as I get back into the swing of things, but I don't see Perry assigning me any wild stories for a while yet. I'll have to start all over building up contacts and working on my investigative skills."

"It won't take long," Clark assured her. "Sure, things have changed. But a lot has stayed the same."

"I don't want to think about work tonight, Clark. Let's eat this great food and enjoy our first evening in our new home."

They were both a little emotional, prone to the sting of tears as they made small talk over their dinner. It had been a long, hard journey to get them to this point, but so worth it. Their love had gone through the fire and come out stronger for it.

Of course, there was chocolate for dessert. They ate it slowly as the evening shadows fell over their home. It was truly a beautiful house and they had all decorated it with such care and love.

The clock on the mantle chimed, reminding them of the late hour. Clark got up and got her a glass of water and brought her pillbox. "You need to take your pills and then get some sleep. This one," he picked out a blue pill, "is to help you sleep. I'll set it on the nightstand with some water and you can take it if you have trouble sleeping. This has been a big day, so you might have some trouble settling down."

She set to work swallowing her meds. She couldn't wait until she could stop taking them and get back to "normal".

She hadn't spent more than a second in the master bedroom during her tour earlier. The sight of *their* bed made her weak in the knees. She opened the dresser drawer and there it was, the package she had pleaded with her mom to purchase and put there so that she would know where it was for this night. She collected it and entered the master bathroom. She pulled the silky white nightgown from its pink striped bag and slipped it on. Her body was much thinner than it had been, but, while flattering, the gown was also forgiving in the places where she wished that she was still a little more filled out. Would Clark like what he saw? She hunted around and found some of her old perfume and she placed a dab behind her ears.

Clark was turning back the covers when she opened the door. He turned and she saw desire flare in his eyes before he turned away. "I put your sleeping pill and water here," he indicated to the side table, "unless you want the other side?"

"This one's fine, Clark."

"I'll… I'll just be a second." And he escaped into the bathroom.


She looked so beautiful. But he could do this. She'd just gotten out of the nursing care facility. She couldn't be ready for what his body was clamoring for. Hopefully she would be asleep by the time he came out. He turned on the shower and stepped under the chilling spray. A few minutes later he dried himself off and put on his sleep shorts and muscle shirt.

He opened the door and saw the lights were off, save the one on her bedside table. But she wasn't asleep. She was leaning against the headboard.

"Sweetheart, you didn't need to wait for me. I know you're tired."

"I've waited for you, Clark." Her words held a double meaning.

"Lois-" he began.

"Make love to me, Clark."

"But you're… you've been…"

"My doctors okayed this. And all those pills I took earlier? One of them is a birth control pill. There's no reason why we shouldn't… I'm your wife, and you're my husband, and I want you to love me."

He crossed to the bed, pulled back the cover, crawled in beside her and took her in his arms. "I do love you."

"Then show me."

"You're sure they said it was okay? You're not too tired?"

"I'm positive, Clark."

"I love you, Lois." And his lips came down on hers.


Neither one of them had done this before, but their bodies knew what to do. They moved slowly, tenderly over each other discovering and touching.


It took a few minutes for them to come back to earth, their bodies still humming, their limbs too heavy to move. He looked at her and saw tears that matched his own spilling down her cheeks.

"I love you, Clark."

His mouth met hers as he pledged again, "I love you, too, forever, Lois."