Submitted: January 2007
Summary: Tempus has been captured. He is back in the future where he belongs and all universes are back to the way they should be … or are they? A follow-up story to "Supermen United."
All characters and settings are the property of someone else, definitely not me, and whoever else can legally lay claim to them. No copyright infringement is intended. This story was written purely for fun, not for profit.
A thank you to the writers of both the original Superman movies and "Superman Returns." And a thank you as well to the writers of Lois & Clark; without them we wouldn't have this wonderful world to play in and I wouldn't have written this.
After writing "Supermen United," several FoLCs clamored together, saying I should continue the Superman Returns portion of my story…allow us to see what happens to Lois, Superman, Clark, Jason, and Richard — they also asked me to tie up a few loose ends. So I told my muse what I wanted and she thought about it for a while and came back with this. Thank you, my dear readers, for wanting me to write this and for always being so supportive. I hope you enjoy…
And Sue, my wonderful beta reader. Without your help, this story would have never come to be, because, first and foremost, you helped me shape their story in "Supermen United." You helped me figure out what I wanted their motivations and real feelings to be. So this is for you, too.
*Note* The main universe we will be in is the SR universe, but the story begins and ends with us in the LNC universe, and I have that noted at the section headings.
Now, without further adieu…
Lois watched Clark tie his tie for about the fourth time since she'd walked into the bathroom and she finally couldn't take it anymore.
She took his tie in her hands and re-tied it, getting it perfect on the first try. As she wriggled the knot up his chest and settled it snugly against his throat, she realized he wasn't looking at her. He wasn't watching her hands, he wasn't smiling at her…no little dig about getting it right on the first try. In fact…
He looked like he was obsessing.
She hated it when he obsessed. He over-thought and over-analyzed things way too often. He, of course, said she didn't analyze things enough…but maybe that's why they made such a good team.
Well, one of the reasons, anyway.
She leaned forward and kissed him softly on the lips. "Honey?"
"Mmm," was the only answer she got.
She tried again, moving her kisses from his mouth, across his jawline, and down the side of his throat to that particularly *sweet* spot of delicate skin just above the collarbone. She sucked gently. "Honey?"
Not the reaction she was hoping for.
She pressed her body against his, reaching up with one hand to begin *undoing* his tie. If she kept up this particular way of trying to get his attention, they were going to be late to work this morning.
She kissed his neck back up to his earlobe and nipped it affectionately.
"Lois? You do realize that we're already ten minutes behind schedule?" he finally responded. The look on his face, though, told her that he didn't really care.
"Ah, so you are actually awake and not sleep-dressing? I was beginning to wonder when I realized you'd put on brown socks with your blue suit," she teased him.
He looked down, wiggling the toes on his right foot, and smiled sheepishly. "I swear they looked black when I put them on."
"Well, that wasn't the only indicator that I had a problem on my hands. If I hadn't taken the can of shaving cream away from you and handed you your hair gel, you were going to try applying it to your hair."
He looked at her in shock. "I was not!"
She giggled. "Okay, maybe that was a bit of an exaggeration." He raised his eyebrows at her. "All right, a lot of exaggeration." She smiled at him. "So, what's on your mind?"
She rolled her eyes at him. "Just stuff. That's all you're gonna give me?" She poked him in the ribs, doing her best to find his ticklish spot. It wasn't easy to find. When he finally did a funny little dance and jerked away from her touch, she knew she'd found it.
"Hey! Quit that."
"Not until you tell me what you were obsessing about. It's my new torture technique. I've heard it's even effective on Superman."
He reached out and pulled her into his arms and gave her an affectionate squeeze. "Everything you do has an *effect* on Superman." He kissed her hungrily.
She pushed him away, protesting, "Nuh-uh. No way, Kent. I've let you wriggle out of explanations this way before. To this day, there are still things that I know I meant to find out from you, but for some reason the details are hazy." She flashed him a wicked smile. "Not today. World renowned investigative reporter, Lois Lane-Kent, is not going to be sidetracked so easily. Spill it."
"Spill what?" he asked impishly.
She smacked his arm playfully. "You know what! What were you thinking?"
"Just now? Oh, well, I was thinking I would drag you over to the bed and…"
"No!" Her face reddened. "Not *that*!" She shook her head at him in mock disgust. "Before. What were you thinking about before?"
He laughed softly; then his face resumed a more serious look and she knew that playtime was over and he was finally going to answer her. "I was thinking about the other Clark and Lois."
She let out a short laugh. "Which ones?"
He grinned at her. "The ones who have the son, Jason. Do you think they'll work things out? I know it's totally selfish of me to feel this way, but since I'm him…err, he's me…you know…in that other universe…I want to see him end up with Lois. I know she's engaged to that other guy, Richard, but it pains me to think of that Clark without his Lois."
"Makes you wonder what your life would have been like without me?" she ventured. She personally didn't even want to *think* about her life if she hadn't married him. What if she hadn't finally said no to Lex? Or what if she hadn't chose Clark over Dan? The thought made her shudder.
He nodded. "I know he made a mistake." Off her astonished expression he continued, "Okay a really *big* mistake. But she made mistakes too. And you can tell that they love each other. And they have a son together…"
"Who believes that Richard is his daddy. And really, Richard is his daddy, Clark." She leaned up to kiss him softly on the lips. "I know how you feel. I know how much you want to have kids and how much you'll adore them when you do have some of your own…"
"Some?" He raised his eyebrows at her.
She felt her cheeks flush. "Well, once we found out we could have kids, I didn't figure we'd stop at just the one." She reached down and rubbed her stomach affectionately. It had only been a few months since the Supermen had united together to defeat Tempus…but she and Clark had made good use of the time. "Anyway, as much as I'm sure *that* Clark loves Jason…Jason doesn't know him. Jason has only grown up knowing Richard, loving Richard."
"I know. You're right. It's just…I hope he's able to have some kind of relationship with his son…" He broke off, looking thoughtful again.
She embraced him, giving him a squeeze. "Me too. You know, it's a shame that we didn't ask Herb to look in on them a little ways down the road in the future and let us know how things turned out. Now that you've got me thinking about them again, my curiosity is going to kill me." What had happened once Herb dropped them back in their own universe? Had they resolved things? Did Jason know about Clark? Were Lois and Clark…together?
She glanced down at her diamond ring that was sparkling luminously under the bright lighting of the bathroom vanity. She grimaced a little, thinking about the loss of her original wedding ring when she'd had to use it to power up the time machine.
She loved the new ring that Clark had bought for her — it was beautiful, probably prettier than her original ring — but in her heart it would never take the place of the one she'd lost. She and that original ring had been through a lot together.
Clark had been so sweet…trying to comfort her and reminding her that it was their love that mattered…not some piece of jewelry.
But that didn't mean she didn't miss it.
She snuggled against Clark a little tighter and realized that she suddenly didn't care any more if they were late to work that morning. "Honestly, I hope they end up together. In my opinion, poor Richard doesn't have a chance."
He caught her meaning. "Really? You think she finds Superman that irresistible?"
She smiled mischievously at him. "Lois Lane able to turn down Superman? Yeah, I'd like to see that happen in any universe."
"So does that mean…" He began to loosen the knot on his tie, sliding it down his chest, "…that I've got you at my mercy?"
*SR Universe — Shortly after events in Supermen United*
Lois rode up the elevator with Clark in silence. She kept stealing glances at him out of the corner of her eye. She had been so hard on herself both times she had figured out that Clark Kent was Superman.
She kept berating herself, thinking 'how could you not figure it out?' A tight, brightly colored suit and a pair of glasses were able to fool Pulitzer Prize winning, investigative reporter, Lois Lane, so easily?
What a putz!
But as she watched Clark now, out of the corner of her eye, she could see how easily it would be *not* to see the truth.
Clark's posture was different. It didn't hold the measure of self-confidence that Superman's did. His shoulders slumped slightly and he was slouching self-consciously, like he always did. His head hung a little bit where you couldn't quite look directly into his eyes.
And then there were those god-awful glasses.
Dark, wide frames, meant to draw your attention to them, instead of the beautifully intense blue eyes behind them. The eyes that told you as long as he had any control over things you would be safe, even if the world around you was falling apart.
The shape and size of the glasses was just big enough to distract you from the perfectly chiseled lines of his cheekbones.
Then there was the hair.
As Clark he wore it all fluffed and feathered up, so obviously and totally out-of-date for the times they were living in. When he was Superman his hair was like molasses taffy all slicked back, the wetness of it accentuating the vivid darkness and highlights in the strands. And there was that curl. That one adorable piece of hair that hung so perfectly down over his forehead in that gorgeous curl.
Her eyes moved away from his face to the business suit he was wearing.
Clark didn't wear just any kind of suit, either. Half the time besides just wearing a suit, he also wore a vest with it. He layered his clothes. It was the same with the times when she'd seen him in casual clothing. He usually had a sweater on with a shirt underneath it. He used his clothing to hide and disguise the exquisite muscular physique beneath it.
She wasn't sure how he managed to change himself so completely between his personas, but he did. Not just in his looks either, but in his manner and personality as well.
When he was Clark, he was so bumbling, so awkward, so…Clark. But when he was Superman…
<<<"Do you want this, Clark?" she asked him pointedly. "I want to make love to you, Clark. Isn't that what you want…?"
She watched the muscles in his throat work as he swallowed nervously. "Yes, but…"
"No. No buts. If you don't want to do this, if you tell me you want me to stop, I will. I would never force this on you. But you have to tell me that you don't *want* this. Tell me, Clark. Tell me you don't *want* this, that you don't *want* me." Her voice was raw and pleading.
"I…" She ran her hands up his chest and pulled lightly at the collar of his suit. "Oh, god, Lois. You have no idea how much I *want* this.">>>
Her mind flashed back to the feeling of that body beneath her fingers. He was the strongest man in the world and yet somehow he made himself so soft for her. His skin had been so alive with warmth and velvet perfection as she slid her fingertips across the lines of his chest.
<"Clark, please, I need…I need more. Please, Clark. I need you…>
She looked away from him quickly, feeling the heat building inside of her.
But he had left, and now there was Richard. Richard loved her, trusted her. He had been there for her through everything — through her breakdown after the disappearance of Superman, through the birth of her son, Jason, and through the ups and downs of her professional career.
He deserved better. He deserved more. He deserved her fidelity.
But she hadn't been unfaithful to him.
No, but you were tempted, her mind berated her.
<She grasped at his shoulders, her hands moving up and behind his neck, pulling him more tightly against her. She moved her hands up to the back of his head, running her hands through his hair. "Ohhh, Clark," she moaned against his mouth. "Oh, god, you have no idea…" She pulled away from him and looked into his eyes, her own eyes brimming with unshed tears…>
Clark glanced up at her, noticing the way she was staring at him. "Lois, is something wrong?"
She flushed and looked away quickly, becoming fascinated with the last inspection notice of the elevator. It had been a while. It was probably due for some service. "No. I'm fine."
She sighed quietly to herself when she sensed Clark look away from her. Yes, she had been tempted. It would have been so easy, back at the house, to give in to *him*. She glanced back over at him. He had obviously wanted her. But yet, he hadn't pushed her, and he never would. He had told her he would give her as much time as she needed. He would wait for her…
Wait for her to what, though? Leave Richard?
A bolt of anger shot through her, straight from her heart to her throat, and her lips parted, words forming in the back of her mouth. But she bit them back.
No. He wasn't waiting for her to leave Richard.
He was waiting for her to make up her mind, to come to a decision. She hadn't given him a decision yet. She hadn't told him to get lost, that she and Richard were going to get married and live happily ever after.
She had instead told him that she wanted him to be able to have a relationship with his son, Jason. And she did. And she had instead told him that she didn't want him to leave, that she never wanted him to leave…that they had a lot to figure out and that she needed time.
So that's what he was giving her, and that's what he was waiting for…to see what that time allowed to happen.
Lois felt a little bit of disappointment surge in her when she realized the elevator had almost reached their floor. The fantasy was over and now it was time to face the cold, hard facts. She was engaged to a good man with a little five-year-old boy by another good man. She had choices to make, consequences to live with. She stepped forward in anticipation of the door opening.
Movement caught her attention and she turned in time to see Clark hit the emergency stop button.
He didn't turn to look at her, keeping the look that was distinctly Clark on his face as he stared down at the elevator controls. She watched as several emotions seemed to flow through his body and face, vying for control. Finally he straightened up, standing a little taller, his shoulders pulling back into the broad stance that could only be described as Superman. He reached up and pulled his glasses off as he walked over to her.
"Lois, promise me…" The intensity of his blue eyes swallowed her and it was as if she were drowning in the deepest ocean.
She held her breath, not speaking, unable to even ask him what he wanted her to promise.
"Promise me that you won't shut me out," he continued, his voice soft and low. "That you'll really think about things. Promise me that you won't make any rash decisions. I'll give you time." There was a slight desperation in his tone. "And I'll give you space. But please don't shut me out."
He was afraid. How many people really knew Superman…the way she did? How many people had seen the fear in his eyes that she saw now?
She nodded at him. "I will," she said softly. "Clark…I will. Now let's get in there. I want to see our son."
An almost undetectable smile of relief skittered across his face and he reached out and pressed the button, resuming their motion.
When the doors of the elevator opened to the newsroom floor, Lois's feet hit the floor at a running pace. She moved in and around desks, people, and other obstacles on a straight path for Richard's office. When she turned to look at Perry White's office, she could see Richard in there, but there was no sign of Jason. He was probably in his daddy's office — the one whose door she was about to push through.
She opened the door and strode inside anxiously. Her eyes found him just seconds later. He was sitting on the floor, looking at a picture of the three of them — her, Jason, and…Richard. He looked up at her and she could see the tears in his small, frightened eyes.
"Mommy? Mommy!" he cried, getting up and running to her. He lunged for her, jumping into her arms and she caught him, lifting him up and squeezing him to her.
"Yes, Jason, I'm here," she told him, stroking his hair softly. "I'm here. Are you okay?"
He nodded his little head at her, wiping one eye with the back of his hand.
She heard the door open and close behind her and knew that it was Clark.
"Did Superman find her?" Jason asked, looking past her to the man who stood behind her. His face looked bright and hopeful.
She turned in time to see Clark smile at him. "Yes. I found Superman and he found your mom."
Lois set Jason down on the floor and took him by the hand. "Come on, honey, let's go find your dad and let him know everything's okay." As they walked past Clark to go out the door, Jason shook his hand free from his mom's and walked up expectantly to Clark. Clark knelt down where he was more at Jason's level and Jason wrapped his arms around him, giving him a quick hug.
"Thank you," the boy chirped happily and started to turn away, "…and thank Superman."
"You're…welcome," Clark cleared his throat. "I will." He threw a knowing glance at Lois and she smiled at him.
"Come on, I'm sure your daddy's probably worried sick," she said, pulling Jason along with her out the door of the office.
Clark watched her go, feeling like she was taking a piece of his heart with her. He was going to lose her. He didn't know how he knew it, but he just knew it.
He wasn't sure when exactly that he'd fallen in love with Lois Lane, but it hadn't been long after he'd met her.
He had fallen asleep so many nights thinking of her and wishing there were some way he could have a life with her.
And he could have…if he had only been braver. If he only hadn't left.
Now it was too late.
He could tell that she still loved him, though. That much he knew and it made his heart ache. He had promised he would give her time and she had promised she would think things through. But his head knew what his heart refused to accept.
It had been too long. Things had changed too much. She had moved on.
And he was going to lose her.
His legs suddenly felt weak and he sat down in one of the chairs in Richard's office. He looked through the walls that separated him from Lois as she walked hand in hand with Jason into Perry White's office.
He lowered his guard and allowed the sounds and voices to filter through into his hearing.
[Lois? Lois, oh my god, what happened to you, honey?] Richard was saying. He ran to her, embracing her tightly. He kissed her fiercely on the lips and then hugged her again. [I was so scared. Are you all right?] He put one arm around Jason, bringing him inside the hug he was sharing with Lois.
Clark blocked out the sounds and looked away, unwilling to watch any more. His heart constricted inside his chest.
He looked up and moved his eyes around the office he was sitting in. Richard's office. There were personal effects and pictures scattered all through it.
He got up and walked over to the bookcase on the far wall and picked up one of the picture frames sitting on it.
It was a picture of Richard and Jason at the lake. Jason was much smaller, maybe three years old? Clark wasn't sure. He hadn't been around children enough to be able to tell how old they were.
Jason had a pair of brightly-colored blue inflatable water wings on his arms. Clark looked a little closer and realized they had a familiar red and yellow crest on them.
That was odd. He thought Lois had been furious at him after he'd left. Why would she have let their son wear Superman…anything? He would have thought she would have banned the name from her house after everything that had happened.
Then he kicked himself…of course at that point she didn't remember everything that had happened. She just knew Superman was gone and she didn't know why.
But she had obviously been upset enough to write that article that won her that first Pulitzer — "Why the World Doesn't Need Superman."
His heart constricted again.
She didn't *really* feel that way, not now. She had just been angry and had done what came naturally to her — she had written about it.
He knew she was writing a new piece now, one that she desperately hoped would earn her another Pulitzer — "Why the World Needs Superman."
But did *she* need Superman? Did she want him?
He looked over at a few more of the pictures on the shelves in front of him. They were mostly of Jason and Richard. There was a picture of what seemed to be Jason's first day at school. Richard was standing next to him, holding his backpack, and they were both giving the camera operator, obviously Lois, the thumbs up gesture.
He glanced through the other pictures — ones of special occasions, landmark events, family and friends. Clark's stomach felt empty and hollow. There was so much he had missed. But he vowed from this point on that it wouldn't continue to be that way. He was going to be there now.
At least for Jason.
One more picture caught his eye. It was taken when Jason was really small; it looked like Richard was teaching him how to walk. Jason's little hands were wrapped tightly around Richard's two index fingers and he had one little foot propped up in the air to take that next step.
Clark would be there for him because he *wanted* to be…
But also because he knew Jason needed him to be there.
Richard had taught him how to walk, but, when the time was right, Clark would teach him how to fly.
He smiled to himself.
Lois had spent most of the rest of the day explaining what had happened, not only to Richard and Perry, but half the newsroom as well — of course leaving out certain details like inter-dimensional space/time travel, alternate universes, multiple Supermen and Lois Lanes…things that would wind up causing them to lock her away in the Metropolis mental institution if she attempted to explain them.
She wondered briefly if any of the other Loises or Clarks were having trouble explaining to their editor-in-chief what *exactly* had happened to them.
After delivering Tempus to the peacekeepers, Mr. Wells had made a quick jaunt into each of their futures to check on things. When he'd come back, he explained quite adamantly that nothing should be tampered with. They were all going back to their current times and universes and things were being left exactly as they were.
Which was fine with her. That meant she got to keep the knowledge she had gained.
That meant she got to remember who Superman was.
She looked guiltily over at Richard who was quietly staring out the windshield as he drove the SUV towards home.
He was thinking about something. She could tell by the way that little tic in his jaw jumped every so often. She sighed quietly. He was probably trying to decide how best to bring up their argument from last night. The one that had finally driven him to leave and spend the night at his uncle's house — wow, had it only just been last night that they'd had that argument? It seemed like a lifetime ago.
She shifted in her seat and turned so she could look back at Jason. He, too, had been very quiet on the ride home. Much more quiet than normal. He was staring out the side window and his little eyebrows were knitted together in concentration.
"So, what do you want for dinner tonight?" she asked him softly, trying to break the silence in the car. She wasn't really ready yet to talk to Richard, at least not about what he would want to talk about.
Jason pulled his face away from the window and a small smile crept across his face. "Macaroni and cheese."
She rolled her eyes. Every time she actually tried to let him pick what he wanted to eat for dinner, his answer was always the same — macaroni and cheese. She hated to let him eat just that. She never had time to make it from scratch and the kind from the box was so nutritionally void of anything healthy.
That was probably why he loved it.
"Okay," she conceded this time. "But we're going to do some broccoli too."
He wrinkled up his nose. Broccoli was definitely not his favorite, but he ate it better than most vegetables. He started to open his mouth but then, just as fast, he closed it. He'd learned not to argue, because if he did, that would just mean he'd have to eat something worse…like asparagus. He nodded his compliance at her.
"And I think we've got some chicken breasts I can bake to go with that," she said as she turned back around. "Does that sound okay?" She looked over at Richard.
"Yeah, that sounds fine," he said distantly.
She felt her face trying to grimace. Richard had been so happy she was safe, but when that initial knee-jerk reaction had worn off, he had withdrawn… The words from their fight the night before no doubt coming back to his mind.
And then he'd become even quieter as she recounted to everyone how Superman had saved her…again…
This wasn't going to be an easy dinner.
Clark floated effortlessly among the wispy night clouds that hung over Lois's house below.
He still didn't have an apartment yet in Metropolis, and with everything that had happened the past few days, he didn't want to leave tonight and go home to Kansas. Besides, he wouldn't be able to sleep anyway. He was too anxious, his mind swimming with too many thoughts.
He had done his best not to intrude on the house below him — not that they would know he was intruding, but still…
He'd been mostly successful. He had only peeked in on them a couple of times.
The first time had been while they were eating.
He had watched Lois seemingly force herself to eat a few bites of food while she and Richard sat in polite silence. Jason, on the other hand, had gobbled his macaroni and cheese down with great enthusiasm, obviously one of his favorites. It had made Clark smile.
And then he had watched as Lois and Richard had tucked Jason into bed, each kissing his forehead lovingly. Richard had gone into their bedroom, but Lois had gone downstairs and sat herself down in front of her computer. Clark had peeked at the document on her screen — her still, as yet, unwritten article on "Why the World Needs Superman."
This was where she was still sitting — and he was still watching.
He watched her frown at the screen and drum her fingers lightly on the keyboard. Her hands finally moved, quickly typing several words across the screen but as soon as she finished them she hit the backspace key and deleted them just as fast.
She began to type again and he focused in on the words she was typing. 'Why Lois Lane Needs Superman…' He could see her chest rise and fall as a soft sigh escaped her lips.
And then she jumped — her hand quickly clicking the button on her mouse to minimize the document on her screen.
Clark glanced over at the doorway into the room and saw Richard standing there. He had a frown on his face and his arms were crossed.
It was time for Clark to withdraw his intrusion from them. And, since they were otherwise occupied, maybe he could sneak in a quick visit to Jason.
"Oh, Richard! You scared me."
"I'm sure. Still trying to write your Superman redemption story?" he asked her, his voice raw and questioning.
"Yeah," she admitted softly. It was harder than she thought to write the article how she wanted to write it. Not because she didn't know why the world needed Superman…she knew that more now than she ever had. But much of what she'd come to understand about him came from her time-traveling experience. Not something easily explainable.
"It shouldn't be hard," he continued in the wake of her silence. "I mean, it's obvious to almost every other person in Metropolis, at least, why the world needs Superman… Why is it so hard for you to write about?" He was probing her…again.
She didn't want to do this tonight…not again. She simply shrugged her shoulders softly.
"Well, maybe," he began, his voice deep and thoughtful, "it's because you're trying to figure out if and why *you* need him. Am I right?"
She swallowed guiltily, glancing back at her screen to double check that the document wasn't there. It wasn't. He just knew.
"Why can't you just tell me the truth?" he asked, cutting her off. "Why can't you just be honest with me?" His voice rose in frustration.
"Because I can't even be honest with myself," she said earnestly, trying to keep her voice calm and steady. She didn't want to have another fight.
"Well, at least that's a start. Last night you wouldn't even admit that much to me," he told her, his voice thick with pain.
As much as she willed it not to, her mind flashed back to that night, to their quarrel.
<<<Lois slipped quietly into bed, hoping she wouldn't wake Richard. No such luck.
"Honey, you're freezing. Where'd you go?" Richard asked her, his voice full of concern.
He turned on the lamp next to their bed and she squinted against the sudden light. "Oh, uh, I just went outside for a little bit. I needed some fresh air…"
He sat up in bed a little and looked at her with that look that said he didn't believe her. "You went out for a smoke didn't you?"
"I didn't smoke!" It was the truth. She hadn't smoked… Superman had interrupted her.
"Lois, you promised. You promised that you would try," he said, a pleading tone in his voice.
What was it about the men in her life always trying to get her to quit smoking?
Maybe it was the fact that they loved her and didn't want to see her kill herself with lung cancer, her mind berated her.
"I swear, I didn't smoke." She had only gotten as far as to think about smoking.
"Then what were you doing out there so long? Long enough to get so cold?" He raised an eyebrow at her suspiciously.
What had she been doing? Uhhh…flirting with Superman? Ugh!
She sighed, realizing that she was going to have to tell him. "Superman was outside. He had come by to see Jason and check on him. We talked for a few seconds and then he flew off."
The disappointment she heard in his voice irritated her — she hadn't *done* anything. Well, that wasn't exactly true…she had almost told Superman that she loved him.
But she hadn't. Wasn't that the important thing?
"What's that supposed to mean? He came here to see Jason!" The words came out a little louder than she intended them to.
"Are you so sure that's all he came here for?" His voice had an edge to it that she hadn't heard before.
"What do you mean by that?"
"Oh, I don't know, Lois…what do I mean by that?" he asked sarcastically.
She moved to get out of bed and his hand came out to grasp her lightly by the arm. The motion wasn't at all rough or demanding, but it still surprised her…and further infuriated her.
How dare he try to stop her from getting up! "Let go," she snarled.
"No. I think we need to talk about this." His grip tightened. Not to the point that it hurt or was uncomfortable, but it definitely sent a message.
I'm *not* going to let you leave and you *are* going to talk to me.
"There's nothing to talk about, Richard. Superman and I *used* to be an item. We're not any more. End of discussion."
"No, Lois, it's not. You're not being honest with me. Just like you weren't being honest with me the other night. Do you think I can't tell?" He shook his head at her accusingly. "Do you think I don't know you well enough by now to know the difference? Your words may be telling me what you think I want to hear but your body language and your eyes are telling me something totally different."
"What do you want from me?" she asked, throwing her free arm up in an exasperated motion.
"I want you to be honest with me."
"No, you don't," she told him exasperatedly. "You want me to tell you that I don't have any feelings for Superman anymore. That's what you *really* want to hear. So that's what I told you."
"Do…you…love…him?" He accentuated each one of the words as if they were more important than the last. It was almost the same question he'd asked her before except that one had been past tense — Did you love him?
"I…I don't…I mean I can't…" She moved to get up again and again he pulled against her to stop her. "Let go of me, Richard!" she yelled, jerking her arm away from him. "I don't want to talk about this right now. I can't."
"Why can't you just be honest with me? That's all I'm asking for. I'm just asking for you to be honest."
She whirled away from him and stalked out of the room and headed downstairs to the kitchen. She didn't normally drink, but tonight a little something sounded awfully good.
What was wrong with her? Why couldn't she just tell Richard the truth?
Because she didn't want to admit the truth. She didn't want to admit that she was still in love with the man who had managed to hurt her more deeply than any other man she'd ever known. What did that say about her? About her character? Her strength? It shot her whole perceived persona of herself to hell.
And she wasn't ready to let go of it just yet.
Part of her still wanted to make Superman pay. Make him suffer the way she had suffered the past five years.
She rifled through their liquor cabinet and pulled out a nicely-aged brandy. She poured some into a goblet and swirled the liquid around, watching it coat the glass. She really shouldn't drink this. She always reacted too strongly to it, but tonight she just didn't care.
How did Richard expect her to tell him the truth when she wasn't ready to admit it to herself? Why couldn't he just give her some time to figure things out?
Because he had already given her a lot of time.
Every single instance he brought up the matter of 'picking a date' she found a way to change the subject, to put him off.
She took a long drink from the glass and squinted her eyes a little as it took her breath just slightly.
He had been patient with her. But now, he wanted an answer.
And she didn't have one for him.
She loved him and she didn't want to tell him something that she thought would hurt him.
She took in a deep breath and swigged another large swallow of the drink. She could feel the liquid heat as it traveled down her throat into her stomach and blazed a path through her veins.
Yet as much as she loved Richard, she knew she still loved Superman. She knew that to deny that, she would only be lying to herself.
What a fine mess she was in.
She took another drink. It went down at lot smoother this time.
Why did he have to come back?
"Lois?" She heard Richard's voice behind her. "I didn't give you any ultimatums. I didn't try to make you feel bad for your feelings over Superman. All I asked from you was for you to be honest."
She hiccupped softly and took one more drink before she turned around to face him. "Yeah, sure. And what would you have said if I *had* told you that I had loved him and was still in love with him? Hmmm? What then?"
What she just said seemed to catch him off guard. How strong was this brandy, anyway? A Latin saying flitted through her mind — In Vino Veritas — in wine there is truth. If there was truth in wine then how much more so in brandy? She watched him expectantly for a reaction.
"I…I don't know," he said quietly, looking away from her.
She took the final gulp from her glass and set it down a little hard, a loud tang resounding off the countertop. "Well, let's address that issue now then. I've answered your question. Do you feel any better? Do I feel any better? No. There's your honesty."
She started to walk away.
His arm came out to block her way. "Where are you going?" he asked uneasily.
"I don't know. Away from here. I'm gonna go get Jason and we're gonna stay somewhere else tonight." She hiccupped again, grabbing onto the counter as the room swayed slightly. Something in the back of her mind was telling her that leaving didn't seem like a good idea, but she just couldn't quite figure out why.
"Lois, you're not going anywhere tonight. You just drank a glass of brandy." He wrapped his arm around her to prevent her from walking away.
"Don't tell me what I can or can't do! I'm a grown woman!" she shouted, trying to pull away from him.
"Yeah, a grown woman who can't hold her liquor." When she attempted to say something he placed two fingers gently over her mouth. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry that I upset you so badly. I'll go. You and Jason stay here, at home, okay? I'll go stay at my uncle's tonight." He let her go and moved swiftly to the door, grabbing her keys. "I'll see you at the Planet in the morning. We'll talk more then, when you're more reasonable…and sober." He opened the door.
"I am sober!" she hollered.
He shut the door without responding and left.
She wasn't drunk… No, but she was far from sober. The room was spinning softly and she felt like she was floating a little.
Floating…like with Superman.>>>
Lois hadn't had a chance to talk things out yet with Richard. After their argument last night she had woken up on a balcony in another universe.
<<<"Do you love him?" the other Lois asked her.
Lois pried her eyes away from the piece of hair she'd been toying with and turned to look at the other Lois. She sighed, knowing who she was being asked about. Richard. "Yes, I do love him. He was there for me when Superman wasn't. He's a kind man and a good father to Jason. He's honest…probably a better man than I deserve. A part of me would even go as far as to say that I wish Superman had never come back." Tears formed in her eyes even as she said the words.
"Richard had asked me a few days ago if I had been in love with Superman…before — back before he left," Lois said wearily. "But I knew what he really meant, what he was getting at… Was I still in love with him."
"What did you tell him?" the other Lois asked her curiously.
"I lied." She spat the word as if it were distasteful as she chose one single thread of hair to pull from her head. "I told him I wasn't. But that was such a lie. I was and I still am.">>>
She smiled wistfully, remembering her conversations with the other Lois. They had been very insightful. She wondered if that other Lois was having an easier time coming to grips with her Clark/Superman situation. At least they didn't have a child in the mix. That certainly made things more difficult…
She paused in her thoughts.
More difficult? Actually, if she was planning to stay together with Richard, didn't Jason make things *easier*? Clark couldn't fault her for wanting to stay together with Richard for Jason's sake.
But did she want to stay with Richard?
She shook her head, feeling almost dizzy with confusion. She definitely still had issues that needed resolving.
Richard was right, though. She did owe him more than she had given him last night…but not tonight. She couldn't tonight.
"I know. I'm sorry," she told him softly. "I'm sorry I couldn't be honest with you last night, and I'm even more sorry to say this to you now but…please don't ask me again. Not yet. I know you've been patient with me, more than patient; you've been a saint. But please, don't push this. Be that patient man with me again. Let me figure this out… Please?"
He dropped his head and nodded it slightly. "Okay, Lois, okay. I'm going to bed. Try to get some sleep tonight, all right? You've had a rough day." He kissed her lips softly and she felt tears trying to start in the corners of her eyes.
Richard was an amazing man. She didn't deserve him.
Clark looked down on the sleeping form of his son. He watched as his little chest rose and fell, soft sounds and snores escaping from his small lips. He could see Jason's eyes moving rapidly behind his eyelids.
He was dreaming.
Clark reached out and smoothed a sweat-streaked piece of hair from his son's forehead. He rubbed the back of his finger softly against Jason's cheek. He was amazed at how soft the skin felt. There was a sweetness to it that caught him in his chest and threatened to steal his breath.
This was his son. His and Lois's. They had created this miraculous life.
It almost scared him to look down on this small, seemingly fragile life. He was amazed that even though he hadn't known about his son for very long, he was bound to him in a way that he couldn't even explain. Jason was something more precious to him than anyone or anything he'd ever known before.
Clark heard the door open behind him; he knew without looking that it was Lois, the other person most precious to him in this world.
"Clark? What are you doing here?" He watched as she wiped the tears from her eyes.
"I just had to see Jason. I was hoping maybe he would be awake…but it was just so relaxing to watch him sleep that I couldn't leave." He smiled warmly at her.
"You can't stay. Richard would…well I don't know what he'd do if he found you here, but it wouldn't be good."
"I know. I'll leave. I just…" He sighed resignedly. He bent down over Jason and kissed him softly on the cheek. When he looked back up at Lois, he caught the fleeting end of a smile that had formed but was already gone. "Goodnight, Lois."
He watched with trepidation as she came over to him, a swell of emotions flowing through him. He felt so torn over his feelings for her, his heart and mind divided between just wanting her to be happy, whatever she might decide, and just…wanting her.
She gently put her arms through his and around his back and gave him a tender hug. "Goodnight…Clark," she whispered softly into his ear. She held the embrace for a few moments before finally releasing him and stepping away.
He flashed her a contented grin before moving to the window and lifting up through it into the dark night sky.
He resumed his previous position up above the house and, against his better judgment, decided he would look in on Lois one last time before he left her alone for the evening.
She was still in Jason's room, gazing down fondly on him. But after a few moments she left, heading in the direction of the master bedroom.
Clark really knew he should look away. Hell, he *wanted* to look away. But there was just something that wouldn't let him. He remembered a friend from school telling him one time that he hated to see car accidents, and yet, for some reason, he felt compelled to look at the damage and carnage, as he'd called it.
He just couldn't look away.
That's how Clark felt now. He watched with his breath held tightly as Lois approached her bedroom door.
What right did he have to not want her to sleep in the same bed with Richard? None. He'd been gone for five years. Absolutely not one. But that didn't mean he had to like it, and that didn't make it any easier in the 'knowing about it.'
He was about to turn away, to fly away, when he noticed her hesitate. She paused just before the doorway and peered inside, looking troubled and maybe a little downhearted. She stood there for a long while and then she finally walked passed the doorway and headed back downstairs toward her study.
She sat down once more at her computer. A funny little smirk came across her face and she began to type.
Her smile intensified the longer she typed and Clark felt himself smile.
She had found her way.
Clark stepped off the elevator, his eyes automatically scanning the newsroom for Lois. She was already there this morning, sitting at her desk, drinking a cup of coffee.
He was late. There had been an accident on the freeway that had needed some looking into. It had taken longer than he had thought it would. He pulled his eyes from Lois and glanced around the room looking for Perry. He didn't see him anywhere; he was probably in his office. Good. Maybe Clark could slip in unnoticed. He was going to have to be more careful or Perry was going to fire him for being late so often.
He made his way over to Lois's desk and smiled down at her. "Good morning, Lois," he said in Clark's timid manner.
She looked up at him and flashed him a sweet smile. "Good morning, Clark."
He looked around the room and realized Richard wasn't anywhere to be seen. He peeked into Richard's office, but he wasn't in there either.
Lois was in the middle of a sip of coffee. "Hmm mmmh," she hummed a negative. She lowered her cup and set it on her desk. "He's been in Perry's office all morning…with the door closed. I haven't got a clue what they're talking about, but it must be something big.
Clark looked up towards the office and looked inside. Richard had a decidedly happy grin on his face and was gesturing eagerly. "I could, uh," he lowered his voice to a soft whisper, "listen in if you want."
Her eyes twinkled momentarily and then she looked away, her face flushing. "No, Clark. I couldn't ask you to do that. Besides, he'll tell me later, I'm sure." She picked some papers up from her desk and straightened and stacked them neatly, handing them to him. "There's your assignment from Perry this morning. I covered for you. Was there an emergency?"
"Accident…on the highway," he said as he flipped through the pages. "A few people were hurt, not too seriously, but I stayed to help clear up the mess."
She nodded. "Well, not that you really have any choice in the matter, but try not to make a habit of getting here late. Perry was pretty disgusted. I told him that you had gotten a tip on Superman and were off covering the story." She smiled broadly at him, obviously pleased with herself. "So you might want to write up that accident to cover yourself."
"Thanks," he told her and gave her shoulder a soft squeeze. "I hadn't thought about this aspect of your *knowing*. It might come in handy." He gave her a crooked grin.
"If you're lucky."
If he was lucky…
He found his thoughts turning towards the other Lois and Clark, the ones who were married; did they work like this? Did she cover for her Clark when he had to dash off to some emergency?
Did they realize just what they had?
<<<"You're *married* to Lois?" Clark asked his counterpart.
"Yes," the other Clark managed quietly after a few seconds. "We were finally married a few months ago. It was a long, strange, and difficult trip to get there, but believe me it was worth it," his voice choked in his throat. He paused for a second and cleared his throat. "It's the best thing that's ever happened to me.">>>
Yes, he supposed that they did realize what they had.
"Clark," Lois said, her smile fading away into something more serious. "I think we need to talk about Jason and how we're going to work things between the two of…" she broke off because he wasn't looking at her anymore.
He was looking out the windows listening to the sirens and cries for help.
"What? What is it, Clark?" she asked concerned.
"There's a fire in one of the downtown buildings. Some people are trapped," he murmured quietly. "I've gotta go."
"Oh. Yeah. Okay. I'll see you when you get back," she said, sounding disappointed.
He started to turn away but stopped and looked back at her. "Have lunch with me, Lois. We can talk then. I've got something I want to tell you, too."
She nodded at him and smiled. "Okay."
And then he was gone, rushing off towards the elevator.
Lois watched as Clark re-emerged from the elevator over an hour later. He made his way gracelessly to his desk, allowing people to run into him, push him aside, and practically knock him down.
If they only knew who they were treating so dismissively…
How could she have not known? How could she have not seen who he really was?
Because he didn't want her to.
He worked very hard to make sure people barely even realized he was there, much less suspected him of being Superman. She had to give him kudos on his performance as Clark Kent. He could have been a thespian. Clark Kent was the last person anyone would suspect of being an all-powerful, god-like superhero.
"Your tie is crooked," she murmured under her breath.
She watched with pleased satisfaction as he reached up and pulled at the knot in his tie, straightening it.
"Better," she whispered. He looked up at her and grinned. She was about to get up and go talk to him when a voice stopped her.
"I need to talk to you," Richard whispered softly into her ear. Lois looked up to see him standing over her with a pleased grin on his face.
"Okay. What is it?"
"No, not here. Come to lunch with me." He held out a hand to her.
"Oh, well I was, uh, actually supposed to go to lunch with Clark today. We had an article we were working on and…"
"I'm sure Clark won't mind. After all, you're not engaged to Clark." He was still smiling at her, but it almost seemed like there was an edge behind it. And she wasn't sure why, but she didn't like his tone either. It sounded a bit guarded, a little over protective.
That wasn't normally like Richard.
She decided not to push it. "All right. Let me tell him what's going on and then I'll be along shortly, okay?"
Just a flicker of a frown flitted across his face and then he was smiling again. "Sure. I'll meet you at the car."
She watched Richard as he walked off towards the elevator and she looked back up to find Clark staring at her curiously. She shrugged her shoulders at him and walked over to his desk.
"What was that all about?" he asked, gesturing towards Richard.
"I don't know. He's not usually so cryptic about things." She looked back up to see the elevator door close. "I'm sorry about lunch today, Clark. Can I take a rain check?"
She could see the disappointment on his face and in his eyes. Her heart wanted to feel for him, but she cautioned it. What Richard had said was right — she wasn't engaged to Clark, and she shouldn't put him before Richard. What would people think if she turned Richard down and insisted on going to lunch with Clark? They'd think she was off her rocker.
But of course they didn't know.
They didn't know what she knew. That Clark Kent was Superman. That he loved her above all else except for their son Jason, whom she truly believed he valued more than life itself.
"Yeah. It's okay. I understand. Maybe tomorrow?" he asked with a hopeful look in his eyes.
"Definitely tomorrow. That's a promise." She smiled at him and reached down to pat his hand affectionately.
He caught her off guard when he quickly folded her hand in his and gave it a gentle squeeze before releasing it again. It sent butterflies fluttering in her stomach and she reached down, straightening the jacket she had on to try and disguise what he'd done.
"Bye. Love you," he murmured softly in a deep dulcet tone.
"Bye. Clark, I…" she stammered for a second. The 'love you' part had caught her off guard but she quickly gathered herself together again. "Bye," she whispered back to him and then rushed off to the elevator.
"Excuse me? What did you just say?" She *really* hadn't heard Richard, she realized awkwardly. She had been thinking about Clark. About what it was he wanted to tell her at lunch today. Her mind had been so totally wrapped up in her own thoughts that all she had managed to make out were two little words — move and Paris. That's what had snapped her out of her musings.
"Don't get excited," Richard cautioned her, "let me explain. Hear me out first."
She nodded numbly at him, willing herself to listen…for now. Move to Paris? What was he thinking?
"I think a move like this could be good for us. It would give us a fresh start. Allow us to build a life together and…"
"Wait," she interrupted him, "you can't be serious. What prompted this? Metropolis is my home and you know the Daily Planet is my life."
"I know that. And you would still be working for the Daily Planet." He paused and sighed, long and deeply. "The editor-in-chief of the Daily Planet's international branch in Paris is retiring…"
"And what? You thought you'd swoop us off and fly us to France in hopes of securing his position? Do you know how many people will be after his job when he leaves? You can't honestly think…"
"Perry offered me the job, Lois," he interrupted her with a little irritation in his voice. "The offer came down from the board with Perry's blessings."
"You can't be serious!" She realized she was getting a little loud for the quiet restaurant they were dining at when she caught a few people staring and she tried to lower her voice a little. "The board has offered to make you the editor of the international edition of the Daily Planet?" Holy crap! This was big. Really big.
"Yes. And I want to take it. It's something I've always dreamed of — being the editor of a major newspaper…not to mention the Daily Planet. And you and I both know it would be years before that would happen here in Metropolis. My uncle will work till the day he either dies or they drag him out kicking and screaming."
"And just what did you expect me to do? Follow on your heels and play the doting little housewife to her big editor husband?" She didn't mean for her comments to come off sounding so harsh; but really, what did he expect her to do? To say?
"Of course…" he said simply. She flashed her eyes at him in disbelief and opened her mouth but he held up a hand to silence her and let out a soft laugh. "…not. Lois, if I'm the editor, I have the power to hire whomever I want, within budget and within reason. I would hire you on as a reporter under the international branch. That's what I meant when I said you'd still be working for the Daily Planet… You'd still be a reporter, and a damn good one at that." He tried a smile out on her.
She knew he wanted to see a smile back, but she couldn't give him one.
This was…not good.
Not good at all…from her perspective. If this had happened before Superman had shown back up, she would have given it serious consideration.
How could she move to Paris? How could she rip Jason away from *him* like that?
How could she *do* anything — period?
She hadn't even been able to make up her mind yet about exactly what she was going to do…not to mention *who* she was going to do it with.
This was way too much, too soon.
"Wh..when?" she stammered. "When do they want an answer from you?"
"I have twenty-four hours to consider their proposal."
"Twenty-four hours!" she exclaimed and then again remembered to lower her voice when a couple from the next table over glared at her. "Are they kidding? How do they expect you to make a life-altering decision in twenty-four hours?" she hissed.
"Well, probably because they feel like there isn't really anything to consider. It's an incredible opportunity. The increase in pay, company stock options, career path…the fact that it's Paris — they probably feel like it's a done deal."
She bit down on the inside of her cheek, trying to keep her voice calm and even. "And you? How do you feel?" Had he already made up his mind?
He lowered his head for a moment, sighing softly, and then looked back up at her. "I think it's a chance of a lifetime. But I don't make decisions without you."
"I can't." She said the words before she even realized she was saying them. They came out with such infinite finality that they caught both her and Richard by surprise.
"You can't? Just like that? That's it?" he exclaimed, his voice the one on the rise this time. "No 'let me think about it'? No 'we can give it a trial run and see how it goes'?" His face had flushed, and when he spoke again, his voice was deadly quiet. "Just 'I can't.'"
She shook her head softly at him. "Richard, I'm sorry. I know that's not what you were hoping to hear, and I didn't mean it to come out that way. But it is how I feel. I can't do this."
"Why?" Why? How could he ask that? Did he really think it was that simple? "There are a lot of reasons. I've lived in Metropolis all my life. Jason just started kindergarten and he's made a few friends. I don't want to rip him away from everything he knows." She attempted a half-hearted smile at him. "Plus, I haven't spoken French fluently since college…and I don't know that I ever *wrote* it fluently. Your boss would have your press pass if you tried to hire me as a reporter."
"I'm sure I could brush you up on your French." The tease sounded forced. "But seriously, Lois, kids are resilient. Jason would make new friends, and he'd have the opportunity to learn not just a different language but also a different culture. And you're the one who told me that you wished you'd done more traveling."
"*Traveling* to another country, yes, *moving* to another one…no. Richard, I'm sorry. I really am. But I just can't do this."
"Just like that, huh? You won't even think about it, will you? God, Lois, you're so stubborn sometimes. Why can't you see that this might be a good move for our family? It would let us start fresh, build a new life. It would get us away from Metropolis."
*Our* family…get us away from Metropolis…
She finally realized where he was going with this…and it made her angry. "It would get us away from Superman," she chimed in, biting the words out.
He flinched at the heat in her voice, but didn't deny what she'd said. "It would get us away from a lot of things, Lois. I think it could really help."
"You know, sometimes when you rip a tree out of the ground to move it to a place that you think suits you a little better, the tree dies from shock…"
"Yeah, and sometimes the room to grow and better soil allow it to prosper."
She shook her head at him sadly.
He clenched his jaw together and she could see the tic working in his cheek. "Be careful, Lois. Be careful that while you're taking your time trying to make up your mind that someone else doesn't make it up for you."
"What's that supposed to mean?" she asked pointedly.
He didn't answer and instead got up from the table and pushed his chair in. As he started to walk away, she stood up from the table in disbelief. "Richard, don't walk away from this. Don't walk away from me."
He turned and looked back at her with a deep sadness in his eyes. "You know what I want, Lois. Now you just have to figure out what *you* want. I don't know what more there is to say. I'm going home. I'll…I'll see you back at the house later."
"Richard," she called out after him, but he didn't look back this time.
Clark stood quietly on top of a nearby building a few hundred feet from the playground yard. He watched as Jason climbed the jungle gym bars, swinging from bar to bar and turning flips over the top of them.
He really wanted to go up to him and talk to him. Spend some time with him, while he was awake for a change. But Lois had told him that they would need to go slow on this. Introduce him into Jason's life slowly. They hadn't even really decided yet if he should do that as Clark or as Superman. Who would be in a better position to influence his life, his values?
He really wished it could be Clark, but the longer he thought about it, the more he realized it needed to be Superman. As Jason's powers developed further, he was going to need Superman to help him figure things out and help him learn how to control them.
As he watched Jason playing and laughing, enjoying himself, he realized something — something he had known all along but was even more sure of now — whatever happened with him and Lois, whatever he lost or gained…it had all been worth it.
He might be at odds over some things, divided over his feelings for Lois — torn between wanting her and wanting to see her happy — but he wasn't confused about his feelings for Jason.
Jason was his son and he loved him with all his heart.
His son was such a special gift, and not just to Clark.
He had known that after talking with the other Clarks from the other universes. The knowledge of Jason, of the fact that Superman could have children, had been a wonderful gift to those Clarks as well. Especially the one married to Lois — the one who hadn't thought he would be able to have children.
He wished they could have met Jason. He knew they would have loved him.
Clark watched in curious delight as his son ran off from the jungle gym over to the swing sets. Jason saw an empty swing and headed over to it.
But another kid beat him to it.
A bigger kid.
Clark frowned as he watched the bigger, obviously older, kid jerk the swing out of reach from Jason and hold it up in the air. The kid was talking so loud that Clark could have almost heard him without super-hearing.
"Jason Lane, the big fat pain," the kid berated him. "This is my swing. Now get outta here!"
It was a good thing Clark was normally a very calm and patient man because, right now, he wanted nothing more than to go snatch that child up and spank his bottom right in front of the other kids.
Of course that wasn't something Superman would do…or should do. He supposed that was the fatherly instinct coming out in him.
He forced himself to calm down and stay put, keeping an eye on things. He would continue to watch and make sure that nothing happened; that no one got hurt.
And judging by the way Jason kept clenching and unclenching his fists, the kid who got hurt would very likely *not* be Jason.
"It ain't yours — it ain't got your name on it," Jason was telling the other boy. But he backed down and went to grab another empty swing.
Clark grinned. He was going to have to tell him that ain't…ain't, um, isn't, a word.
Jason reached out for the other empty swing and, again, the other boy snatched it up, holding it out of Jason's reach.
"They're all mine," the little brat told his son.
Jason frowned in frustration and turned around to walk off.
Clark couldn't remember a time when he'd ever felt more proud…of anything or anyone.
But the bully wasn't done. He walked up behind Jason and shoved him, causing Jason to stumble a little.
Clark almost had to physically restrain himself from flying over there to give the little tyrant what he deserved.
He watched as his son turned around to face the bully, eyeing him cautiously. There wasn't an ounce of fear in his eyes, but instead, they held a challenge.
A challenge that wasn't lost on the other child. He reared back to push Jason again, but this time Jason pushed him. The kid flew back about six feet and fell down hard on his butt.
Jason blinked as if in shock, and then he turned around and ran across the playground to the far side of the school building.
Clark shook his head in amazement. He knew that Jason was his. He knew it was true. But seeing him exhibit super powers…just sort of overwhelmed him. Clark flew over to where Jason was sitting on the ground, rubbing a stick in the dirt.
"Hey, are you okay?" he asked his son softly.
Jason looked up at him through teary eyes and blinked a couple of times. "Superman?"
Clark nodded at him and lowered himself down to sit beside him.
"I didn't mean to," Jason hurriedly said.
"I know. I'm sure you wouldn't hurt anyone on purpose," Clark said softly, reassuringly.
Jason hung his little head and his response sent a chill down Clark's spine. "Yes, I would."
"No, you wouldn't," Clark argued in his behalf. "You're a good boy. You just don't understand how to deal with the strength that…that's been given to you."
"I hurt the man with the piano," his son said softly. "He was a bad man. He was going to hurt mommy."
"What happened?" Clark prompted him gently.
"He was going to hurt mommy!" Jason said a little louder. "On the bald man's boat."
He was talking about Luthor's yacht. What had happened? "And you stopped him?"
Jason nodded at him, still not looking up at him. "I pushed the piano at him. I was mad and I pushed it hard." A little tear slipped out of one of his eyes. "He wouldn't get up."
Clark's breath caught in his chest. Jason had…killed the man? He would have to ask Lois about that later.
His son's little body shuddered and Clark wrapped one arm around him, giving him a gentle squeeze. "Sometimes it's hard to control how you feel. It's that way for everyone. And if you're strong, it can seem easy to force other people to do what you want. Believe me, I know. But you have to fight that feeling, Jason. I watched you over by the swings. You were really good to walk away from that boy like that. He was being bad and being mean, but you controlled yourself and walked away."
"But I pushed him."
"Yes, you did. And…" It was hard for Clark to tell him that he shouldn't have done that…when every fiber in his being was screaming that he would have liked to see him do more than just push him. That kid had gotten what he deserved — but that's not how Superman felt, that's how Clark felt — or would feel if he let his paternal instincts get the better of him. But right now, Jason needed Superman to help him control his feelings and powers…not Clark coddling him. "And that wasn't a good thing to do, but we all do things sometimes that we don't mean to. We hurt people sometimes when we don't mean to."
<Why? Why did you leave me? How could you leave me like that?>
Whether we hurt them physically or emotionally… Clark could still see the pain in Lois's eyes.
"Even grown ups," Clark continued. Especially grown ups. "You just have to learn from what happened and decide that you're not going to let it happen again."
Jason sniffled a few times and threw his arms around Clark, hugging him tightly.
Clark's heart swelled at the gesture. He wished so badly that Jason knew who he was really hugging. "Now, why don't you go apologize to that boy, okay?"
Jason nodded his head in agreement and got from the ground. "I saw you last night," his little voice said softly.
Clark swallowed. "When?" he asked, getting up and dusting himself off.
"When you came to my room. I pretended I was asleep. I saw mommy hug you."
Clark fidgeted uncomfortably. "Your mom and I are really good friends. I've known her a long time, since before you were born."
"Are you friends with my daddy, too?"
Clark's heart squeezed tightly in his chest. "Your…dad is a good man. I don't know him like I do your mom, but yes, I would like to be his friend…and your friend."
Jason smiled at him and it sent a warmth through his body that he'd never felt before. "Will you come back tonight?"
"Do you want me to?"
Jason nodded at him and started to walk off but after a couple of feet he turned around and smiled broadly. "You are my friend. Am I your friend?"
Clark nodded his head, unable to find the breath to answer him with words.
As he watched his son walk away, he whispered softly, "My friend, my son."
Lois stood quietly on the roof of the Daily Planet, looking down on her beloved city below.
She couldn't move, leave Metropolis. She couldn't. Not like that.
Clark would never have a relationship with Jason if she moved halfway around the world from him.
Well, that wasn't exactly true. Superman could. Superman would find them no matter where they moved.
Didn't Richard realize that?
Probably not, but then again, he didn't know that Jason was Superman's son, either.
As a strong gust of wind whipped around her and she took another look down, she felt the inertia of vertigo settle in and she grabbed hold of the wall next to her.
What she wanted right now, more than anything, was something secure to hold on to. Her whole world and everything in it seemed to have abruptly shifted, literally almost overnight, and she couldn't seem to find stable ground to stand on.
She needed someone to tell her it was going to be okay.
"Superman!" she yelled. Not loud enough to attract any attention from anyone who might be within hearing range outside, but loud enough that he should definitely be able to hear her.
She closed her eyes and waited, silently begging him to come.
"Lois?" a quiet voice said behind her. Clark's voice. "Are you okay?"
He came. She should have known he would.
"No. I'm not okay," she said softly, turning around to look at him. He was there as Superman, his cape billowing in the strong wind. She walked up to him and stopped just in front of him. She wanted desperately to step into his arms and have him hold her. All she had to do was make the motion…
But she didn't. She stayed where she was, and so did he.
She hesitated, looking into his concerned face. How did she tell him? She decided there wasn't really any good way to tell him so she would just come out and say it. "Richard got a job offer to move to Paris, to work as the editor for the European office there. He…" She paused and looked away from him, back out to the cityscape below them. "He wants Jason and me to move with him."
When she looked back into his face, she could see the questions in his eyes. "What did you say?"
"I told him I couldn't…for a lot of reasons." She let out the nervous breath she'd been holding in, determined to say what he needed to hear. "I think he wants to move me there because of you."
He didn't even bat an eyelash. "Lois, I would still come for you and Jason even if you moved…to Antarctica. I would still be there for you. You know that, don't you?" he asked her earnestly.
She nodded at him. "But Clark couldn't. You couldn't move there. Even if you wanted to, which is not to say you would, but you couldn't. It would be too coincidental if Clark Kent moved to Paris and then Superman all of the sudden started hanging around Paris, instead of Metropolis. How would that look? I mean, I know Superman belongs to the world, but it's well known that his home is Metropolis. People might get suspicious."
"I would find a way to make it work."
With those words she knew he really would — he would do whatever it took. The thought made her heart swell. "No, you don't understand. I don't *want* to move. I love it here. Metropolis is my home. Jason just started school and made some friends. My parents, my friends…you…everything I've ever known is here. I can't do this." She could feel the tears trying to come. She'd been fighting them all day.
Pull yourself together, Lane.
But she couldn't. She could feel the moisture forming in her eyes even as she fought against it and she could feel her face involuntarily tightening as her eyebrows knitted together and her nose contracted. She could feel the quiver in her chin as the last of her control melted away.
And then he was there, and she was in his arms. He was whispering to her comfortingly and stroking her hair softly. She buried her face against him and let the tears come, staining wet spots into his suit.
"How can he expect me to make a decision like that right now? After everything that's happened the past few weeks? The past couple of days? I can't." She pulled away from him and wiped her face, composing herself.
"Lois, I'm so sorry. If there was anything…"
"You should have stayed. You should have never left," she said intensely. He looked like she had slapped him in the face and she immediately regretted what she'd said. "I'm sorry. It's not fair of me to keep throwing that in your face. I know it's not. It was my fault too. I just…things could have been so different."
Why couldn't he have come back sooner?
Or later? Why couldn't he have come back when she and Richard were already married? Maybe already living in Paris? When things were in place that couldn't be changed…when decisions had already been neatly made for her?
Because she would have been dead — she reminded herself. Yeah, talk about your easy decisions. She wouldn't have had any decisions to make then.
If Superman hadn't come back when he had, she would have died along with everyone else when Luthor unleashed New Krypton on them — no, actually, she probably wouldn't have lived long enough to see that happen.
She probably would have died on that plane.
"I know…" he told her softly. "You have no idea the regret I face each morning when I wake up and realize I wasn't dreaming — that I really did leave."
"You know, I envy that other Lois and Clark we met, the ones that are married. Do they know how easy they've got it?"
"They've had their problems too, Lois, believe me. Relationships are hard work. They're not easy for anyone."
"Yeah, I guess. But you and I should probably be exhibit A in the relationship handbook of faux pass, huh?" She tried to smile weakly but failed miserably. "Oh, Clark, I don't know… Everything's such a mess and I don't know what to do and what I want, or who I want, and I just don't think…"
"I've gotta go," he said suddenly, interrupting her.
"Go? Where? Why? Does someone need you?" She still had one hand on his arm and she griped it tightly, not wanting to let him leave.
"It's not that. It's…" And he abruptly took to the air.
She turned to watch him go and opened her mouth to yell at him to wait, but another voice beat her to it.
She looked over in astonished embarrassment at him standing there just outside the door to the roof. How long had he been standing there? Probably not long. Clark would have heard him or sensed him. That's probably why he took off so abruptly.
"Superman! Wait…! Please!" There was something in his tone that scared her. Why was he so desperate for Superman to come back? She expected him to be mad, hurt, upset…something along those lines…this? This was just a little disconcerting.
"Richard? What is it?" she asked cautiously.
He ignored her, keeping his eyes focused on Superman. He was holding a newspaper in his hands…one of their competing papers. "I need your help! Jason…needs your help!" he yelled.
She finally got close enough to grab the paper out of his hand and she looked down at it. It had a piece of paper taped across the headlines for today.
Lois felt her heart constrict. "Where's Jason?"
"I need your help! Jason…needs your help!" Clark had gotten away from Lois as quickly as she would let him go and was flying at top speed away from the rooftop of the Daily Planet.
But those words stopped him cold.
He looked frantically in the direction of the elementary where Jason attended school. He focused in as tightly on the school as he could but he couldn't find any trace of Jason in any of the classrooms, on the playground, or anywhere.
Where was he?
Clark flew back towards the rooftop as fast as he could will his body to move. The fear he could see in Lois's eyes told him all he needed to know.
Something had happened to Jason.
He landed and strode over purposefully towards Lois and Richard. She held a newspaper in her hands. He glanced down at the note taped across it:
The note read:
THIS WILL BE TOMORROW'S HEADLINE UNLESS YOU BRING SUPERMAN TO ME BY MIDNIGHT TONIGHT:
FIVE-YEAR-OLD BOY'S DEAD BODY FOUND ON STEPS OF POLICE HEADQUARTERS — POLICE BAFFLED.
No. How could this have happened? In between being a reporter and his real life, Clark had spent the past two days looking for Luthor, trying to track him down. Tempus had helped him escape imprisonment on some island in the middle of the Atlantic when Luthor's helicopter had run out of fuel but Tempus hadn't said where he had taken Luthor or what he'd done with him.
And Clark hadn't been able to find him.
Luthor had found a place to hide and Clark had finally realized that he wasn't going to find him until Luthor wanted to be found.
"When I got home after lunch today I found this," Richard said, pointing at the newspaper. "And then the school called. Jason disappeared from the playground at recess. They called the police and did a room by room search for him, but he's gone."
At recess? Clark had been there at recess.
Luthor had waited. Watched and waited. When he saw Superman leave, he had made his move. Clark wanted to scream in frustration.
"No!" Lois yelled frantically. "How could this happen? Jason knows not to talk to strangers, and he's seen Luthor before. He wouldn't have talked to him. How could they let this happen?"
Richard ignored her despair, not even looking over at her as she spoke to them. Clark felt a small wave of anger flow through him but quelled it. It wasn't his business. Besides, Richard had come up here looking for Lois, maybe for Superman.
He had *expected* to find them up here.
Clark was fortunate that Richard knew he was the invulnerable 'Man of Steel' because, otherwise, Richard looked very much like he would like to deck him. He wondered — if Richard had it all to do over, would he have still tried so hard to save Superman?
"Will you help us?" Richard asked him pointedly. "Will you help Jason?"
"Yes, of course. Did he give any directions as to where he's holding Jason? Where I'm supposed to go?"
"No," Lois said firmly. "You can't just walk into his hands. You know if he's being this cocky, this confident, that he has to have Kryptonite."
"That may be true, Lois, but he also has *your* son." Clark gave her a significant look and her face fell as she realized it didn't matter to him whether he had Kryptonite or not.
"I'm supposed to bring you to him, Superman," Richard explained. "He's…"
"Wait. Both of you. Just stop," she said, holding her hands up. "Superman, you're no good to us if you're dead. Richard, do you honestly think if you just show up with Superman in tow that Luthor is going to hand Jason over to you and let you go on your merry way? No way! We need to sit down and think about this. We have to have the upper hand."
"Oh, we already have the upper hand, Lois," Richard said as he turned to walk back inside the building. When he came walking back out, Clark felt a sickening weakness go flooding through him. His legs faltered and he dropped down to his knees in front of Richard.
"Richard no!" Lois screamed as she saw him brandish the green chunk of poisonous rock. She reached out to Clark, steadying him and trying to help him to his feet. She jerked her head back to look at Richard. "How could you? What could this possibly accomplish? You're weakening him and we need him. Give that to me!" she said, reaching out to take the rock from him.
"No," Richard said calmly, holding one arm out to stop her. He looked down at Superman. "I'm sorry, Superman. Regardless of my feelings about you right now, I would have never hurt you like this. Hell, I risked my life, as well as Lois and Jason's, to save you. But Luthor said if I didn't use this Kryptonite to weaken you and deliver you to him, that he would kill my son. I…I'm sorry."
"Richard, don't do this," Lois pleaded with him as she helplessly watched Clark slump down to the rooftop. He was moaning softly, clutching his sides. "You'll kill him. Or if you don't, Luthor surely will. You can't trade our son's life for his…and even if you could, Luthor won't let you." She took a deep breath. She was going to have to tell him. There was no way around it. Luthor had suspected that Jason was Superman's son when they were on his yacht and, when they were in that other universe, Tempus had hinted at the possibility that he knew Jason was Superman's son. Someone would have had to have given him that information. According to Tempus, Luthor had exchanged information to get passage off that island.
If Luthor knew that Jason was Superman's son, there was no way he was just going to hand him over to Richard.
But Richard didn't know that.
Lois had been afraid to tell Richard that Superman was Jason's father. She had not only been afraid of what that would mean for her relationship with Richard, but also that it might put Jason in danger if anyone knew he was Superman's son.
But someone probably already knew…Luthor. And now it might be a protection for Jason if Richard knew too.
Lois moved her body in between Richard and Clark and put her hands up in front of her as if to keep Richard back.
"Lois, move. I have to do this…for our son. When Jason is safe then I'll find a way to save *him*." He nodded at Clark. "Lois, I promise you I will. Now, please, get out of the way," Richard told her, advancing on her.
"No. Richard, there's something you need to know first." Oh god, how did she say this? "There's something I haven't told you…about Jason."
"It doesn't matter."
"Trust me. This matters," she assured him. "Jason is special. Very special. That's why Luthor has him. He's using him as bait to draw Superman in."
"Why? Why would he do that? And what do you mean he's *special*?" He reached out and pushed her aside with his free hand, bearing down on Superman. "This is ridiculous, Lois. We don't have time for this." He looked down on the writhing form of Superman with regret in his eyes. "I'm sorry," he said softly as he bent over him, holding the Kryptonite closer to his body.
"No! Richard! Don't. You'll kill him! He's Jason's father!" she blurted out without further hesitation, her hands on his arms trying to pull him away from Clark.
She watched in terrified silence as he stopped fighting her and stood up. He turned around to face her and his eyes held the pain of betrayal in them. The look on his face cut through her like a knife through softened butter. The piece of Kryptonite slipped from his hand to the roof below them.
Lois picked it up and hurled it up to the roof above them before kneeling down beside Clark.
"His father? That can't be true." Richard's voice was raw and ached with loss.
As he was speaking the door behind them flew open and a new voice spoke, but one she knew all too well. "I'm afraid it is true."
Lois watched as Luthor strode arrogantly out onto the rooftop, followed by two grisly looking thugs — one of them holding her son under his arm.
"Jason!" She leapt up and ran towards him. The thug holding Jason pulled out a gun and pointed it at him. She stopped dead still and glared at Luthor. "Let him go!"
"Oh sure…yeah…I'll do that," he drawled sarcastically at her. "You know, for being a reporter, Ms. Lane, you sure don't have a lot of brains about you sometimes."
"Is he okay?" she asked and then looked at Jason. "Are you okay, sweetie?"
He nodded his little head at her and she felt a tiny bit better.
"Oh, he's fine," Luthor told her flippantly. "In fact, he's about to conduct a little experiment for us, aren't you, Jason?"
Jason looked confused. He didn't seem to know any more than the rest of them what Luthor was talking about.
Lois risked a glance at Clark out of the corner of her eye. He was watching Luthor intently. He hadn't gotten up from the roof yet, but she imagined that was only a farce. He had to be getting stronger with each passing moment. Didn't he?
"What are you talking about?" she growled, hoping to keep Luthor talking until Clark was strong enough to do something.
"We're about to test your little admission that Jason here is Superman's son. First, let's test that theory on an emotional level, shall we?" At that, Luthor snatched Jason out of the thug's arms and carried him kicking and screaming over towards the spot where Superman lay.
"Stop." She started to run towards Luthor but one of the thugs grabbed her and shoved a gun in her side. She looked over at Richard. He was being held in the same manner. "Luthor, stop. I was lying. Jason isn't Superman's son. I only told Richard that to keep him from hurting Superman," she lied. She could feel the stare coming from Richard and she didn't look at him. She would sort everything out with him later — if they were all still alive, that is.
Luthor stopped and turned back to look at her. "Oh, but I think he is, Ms. Lane. You're forgetting the little piano incident," he told her, smirking at her.
He knew about the piano? Of course he did. His thugs would have told him what happened.
She was about to deny what had happened when she saw Jason grip a piece of Luthor's hand between his teeth. He bit down and Luthor winced, letting go of him with that hand and shaking it gingerly. Lois smiled despite herself at her son's tenaciousness.
"Oww!" Luthor exclaimed, grabbing hold of him tighter with his other arm. "You little miscreant. I was going to enjoy this even before you did that, but now I'm positively going to relish it."
Luthor hauled him the last few feet and stopped just a few feet back from Superman, standing Jason up in front of him. He pulled a small knife out from inside the long duster he was wearing and wrapped his arm around Jason, holding the knife to Jason's small throat. The waning sunlight reflected wickedly off of the blade.
"Stop! Luthor! What do you want!" she yelled at him.
He ignored her, addressing Clark instead. "Superman, so horrible to see you again. Why can't you just die? Oh, I forgot, you're invulnerable. Well, let's see if we can't remedy that, shall we?"
Luthor pulled a pill bottle out of his pocket with his free hand and popped the cap off with his thumb. "So this little grommet is your progeny, huh?" Lois watched in horror as Luthor ever so slightly slid the knife across Jason's throat, just enough that it drew a small line of blood.
Clark's face looked stricken, but he remained absolutely still, just watching Luthor. What was he waiting for? Or maybe he was just afraid? Afraid to do anything that might push Luthor…
"No!" she cried, struggling against the man who was holding her. She drew her foot up and stomped it down hard on his. The thug took his gun out of her ribs where he had it jammed against her and slammed it against the side of her head, leaving her feeling dazed and seeing spots.
"Hmm, I don't know, Superman," Lois heard Luthor say; she tried to shake off the pain and concentrate on what was happening. "You know, I'm no doctor, but that looks like blood." He looked back at his henchmen. "Does that look like blood to you, boys?"
They both nodded at him like the stupid, mindless minions that they were.
Luthor looked back at Superman, grinning profusely. "He doesn't seem very *super* to me."
Just then Jason pushed the knife away and spun in Luthor's arms, putting his hands out against Luthor's body. It looked to Lois like he was going to push him, like the piano. Luthor slipped the knife down to the boy's abdomen and tightened his grip on him with his other arm in one swift motion.
"Hold it, half-pint. Don't make me kill you. I'm not done with you yet. Put those little arms of yours back down to the side," Luthor said evenly.
Jason looked skeptical and Lois was afraid he just might decide to try it anyway. Children didn't have a very good grasp of the concept that they could die. And she didn't even want to think about the ramifications of that when it came to a half-Kryptonian child who was realizing that he had special abilities.
"Do what he says, Jason. Please," Lois instructed him.
Jason looked up at her and then back at Superman. He reluctantly lowered his arms back down.
Luthor smiled at Lois, an expression that sent chills down her spine. "Good boy." He looked back at Superman and wrinkled his mouth into a frown. "Now, where were we? Ah, yes, unless you want me to take another swipe with this knife, I suggest you take the capsule inside this bottle." He repositioned Jason in one arm, with the knife back at his throat, and he held the pill bottle out to Superman.
Clark reached out with his hand and Luthor deposited a powder filled capsule into it. Clark cried out and dropped the pill, allowing it to fall to the roof.
Lois's eyes went wide. No. It couldn't be…
"Yes, that's right, it's Kryptonite." He allowed the word to dance off his tongue. "You can either take this pill yourself, or I'll give it to little Jason here instead. Either way, one of you is taking it."
"Don't do it! He's bluffing. It won't hurt Jason!" Lois yelled out to Clark. At least she hoped it wouldn't. Jason might be the son of Superman, but she'd observed what had happened when Luthor had threatened him with the Kryptonite on his yacht. Jason hadn't been affected.
"Oh, Ms. Lane, don't be such a killjoy," Luthor chided her. "Fine. You either take this pill, Superman, or I slit the boy's throat. We *know* he's susceptible to that."
Clark looked up at Lois and she could see the resignation in his face. 'No, please,' she silently begged him with her eyes, 'don't do it.' There had to be another way. Hadn't he revived enough that he could fight? Couldn't he just scoop Jason up in his arms and fly them away?
If he swallowed that Kryptonite pill, he was signing his death sentence. She could pull a shaft of it out of his back like she had only a few days ago, but she couldn't do anything if it got into his bloodstream.
He shifted his gaze from her, to Richard, and then to the tiny life that Luthor held in his grasp. To her distress, he smiled at her sadly.
He wasn't willing to take any risks when it came to Jason. And she had been right earlier when she had thought to herself that he loved their little boy more than anything. More than life itself.
She watched helplessly as he picked the capsule up from the roof, grimacing in pain against the feel of it in his hand. He brought his hand up to his mouth and allowed the pill to slide inside. She could see the muscles in his neck flex, and his Adams apple slide up and down, as he swallowed the deadly poison.
"Nooo!" she cried out softly, allowing her body to go limp against the arms of the thug holding her. No. He couldn't have.
Her mind couldn't grasp the fact that this wonderful, amazing man was going to be dead shortly. No longer there to save them. No longer there to see his son grow up and follow in his footsteps. No longer there to hold her, love her. "Oh, Clark," she whispered breathlessly to herself. What had he done?
Clark looked up at her with tears in his eyes.
"Oh, Clark." Clark could barely make out the words that slipped from Lois's lips, but they touched him so deeply. The anguish they held told him how much she loved him and would miss him if he were gone.
But that wouldn't be today.
The pill under his tongue felt like it was going to burn its way through the soft tissue of his mouth and drop out the bottom of his jaw at any moment.
He knew that wouldn't really happen, but that's what it felt like. He finally gave in to the pain, crying out, and Luthor smiled smugly. Clark clutched his sides trying to convince him that the pain was coming from somewhere lower than his mouth.
If Luthor would just believe his performance. If he would just lower the knife from Jason's throat, Clark could actually do something. He glanced out of the corner of his eye to the two thugs holding Lois and Richard. They had semi-automatic weapons jammed into their ribcages. What worried him was if, in his weakened condition, he'd be able to stop Luthor and still be able to save Lois…and Richard.
"You know," Luthor chirped happily at him. "As much as I'm overjoyed to see you do that, I'm still not absolutely positive this boy is your son." He looked down at Jason in his arms. "Do you think you're the son of Superman?"
Jason stared wide-eyed at him, refusing to answer.
"No comment, huh?" Luthor asked and shrugged.
What happened next almost seemed to go in slow motion but in reality it happened in the blink of an eye. It transpired so fast that Clark in his weakened state didn't even have time to react.
Luthor dropped the knife and shifted Jason in his arms, hoisting him up in the air in front of him.
Richard punched the thug that was holding him and struggled to get free.
Lois threw her head backwards into the nose of the thug that was holding her and he screamed out in pain as blood began running freely from it.
Jason screamed, pushing out at Luthor with his hands.
Luthor let go of him as Jason pushed against him. Luthor went flying backwards across the rooftop and Jason's momentum sent him sailing backwards over the railing.
Luthor rose up, smiling smugly. "Tell me, do you think he can fly?" he asked in amusement, dusting his hands together as he got up from the roof.
"No! Jason!" Lois screamed. The thug holding her finally let go of her to tend to his broken nose and she ran towards the edge of the building.
Clark hauled himself up from the roof and launched himself up and over the railing, silently praying that Jason was far enough away from the building not to hit anything on the way down.
As he folded his arms in tightly to his body, streamlining himself as much as he could, he spat the Kryptonite capsule from his mouth. He couldn't feel his tongue, cheeks, or halfway down the back of his throat. All he could feel was fire. It felt like the delicate tissues had been burned away by acid.
But what worried him more was the fact that he wasn't flying.
He was falling.
As hard as he tried to control his descent or even add speed to it, he realized he couldn't. His powers were faltering. That capsule had started to dissolve inside his mouth. It was possible that some of it had been absorbed.
He worked the saliva in his mouth as he continued to fall and he spit furiously, trying to get the tainted fluids out of his mouth.
He willed himself to dive faster.
"Jason!" he yelled as loud as he could. His son was mere feet below him and the ground was coming up fast. "If you can hear me, I want you to push, like you're trying to push against the ground. Put your hands out in front of you and push! Will yourself to slow down!"
He watched his son reach out with his hands and make a pushing motion; relief flooded through him as Jason abruptly became closer. Clark reached out and his fingers caught the fabric of Jason's shirt.
He gathered him up into his arms and turned over, putting his body between his son and the earth below them. With every ounce of strength he had left in his body, he willed them to stop.
But they didn't. They slowed, but they didn't stop.
He just didn't have enough left in him.
They were still going to hit the ground, hard.
"Jason, I need you to push again, like you just did, okay?" Jason nodded his little head at him. His eyes were wide and he looked scared. "We're going to hit the ground. When I tell you to push, I want you to push as hard as you can." Another nod. Clark tightened his arms around his son, clutching him desperately. "Don't worry, it'll be all right."
Clark looked behind him — the ground was coming up fast. He exerted one last effort to slow them further and then he closed his eyes and waited.
This was going to hurt.
When he felt the air compact beneath his body, between him and the ground under him, he gave Jason a toss into the air. "Push! Now!"
And then he felt the breath knocked from his lungs as the weight of his body slammed against the hard, unyielding concrete beneath him.
The last thing he saw before he passed out was the image of his son coming down to rest against his chest. Small hands were groping at his chest and face.
Lois broke free from the thug that had been holding her. Her head was pounding from being used as a battering ram, but she didn't care.
They were gone.
Both of them.
Jason had gone over the railing, and when Clark had seen what was happening, he had followed him.
She ran as fast as her legs would carry her and leaned against the railing, straining to look down towards the ground.
She searched the scene below frantically and then she spotted them. She could barely make them out. They were falling fast and they were approaching the ground beneath them at a frightening pace.
It looked like Clark had Jason in his arms.
Why wasn't he flying?
He had Jason; they were safe. Why wasn't he getting them out of there? It didn't make any sense to her. Unless…
He didn't have the strength to fly, she realized, feeling disheartened.
Her stomach sank and a bit of acid came up the back of her throat, making her feel nauseous. They were going to hit the ground.
She wanted to scream, beg, cry, plead, but no words, no sound would come. She watched in horrified silence as they plummeted towards the ground below them. The closer they got to the ground, the less she was able to make out. She could hardly even see them anymore, they were so small.
But she kept watching, kept praying that Clark would find the strength to fly them away.
She barely even felt his hands on her shoulders when Richard walked up behind her.
"It's over, honey," he said softly.
She turned and looked at him with tears burning in her eyes. "No!" she screamed. "You don't know that. You don't know if he was able to do something. They might be okay."
They had to be, didn't they? Wells knew their future.
<<<Ms. Lane, Mr. Kent, I have so enjoyed getting to meet you. And I'll be keeping my eye on you in…" He lifted his eyebrows at them. "…the future." He chuckled at his own joke.>>>
Wells wouldn't have dropped them back here in their world and told them he wasn't willing to change anything if he had known that Clark and Jason were going to die two days later…
They had to be alive.
Unless something had happened to Wells or was preventing him from coming to help them…
"Oh, they might be okay," Luthor snipped from behind them. "But I seriously doubt it. Don't worry, Ms. Lane, you and your dearly intended, here," he pointed towards Richard, "aren't going to have to worry about it much longer. Boys, take care of them."
Lois looked over to find two guns pointed at her and Richard.
And there was no Superman to save them.
She looked up sadly into Richard's eyes. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry I didn't tell you…about Jason…about Superman…about everything."
'Wells,' she silently prayed, 'where are you?'
Richard returned the pain in her eyes and nodded at her. "I know…" He stepped in front of her, wrapping his arms around her as if to shield her from what was going to happen. "I love you."
She let her tears flow freely. She knew he loved her. He had always loved her. But even as her heart grieved for him and for what was about to happen to them, it ached with a universe-spanning loss for the future that would never come to be — and for her little blue-eyed boy and his father, a super man.
"Hands up, Luthor. You're under arrest!" someone shouted from the doorway.
Lois opened her eyes, not realizing she had even shut them. She leaned over Richard's shoulder to see a handful of armed guards with their guns drawn and pointed at Luthor and his henchmen.
"Drop your weapons and step away from the hostages," one of the guards instructed him.
Richard turned around, releasing her. She had a better view of what was happening now and she could see the thinning, white-haired head of Perry White standing just behind the guards.
Oh, Perry. Bless him. She could kiss him. "Richard, did you tell Perry what was going on?"
Richard looked perplexed. "No. I didn't. You know, I always knew that he had a nose for news, but this…?"
Lois smiled, tears of relief streaming down her face as the guards apprehended and handcuffed Luthor.
They were safe…but what about Jason? And Clark?
She ran to the edge of the roof and looked down. She could see the lights from police cars and ambulances flashing brightly below. People were swarming around the scene.
She had to get down there.
Pushing past Richard and half the guards, she worked her way back inside the Daily Planet — only to be stopped by Perry.
"Let me go, Perry. My son's down there."
"I know, Lois, I know. He's being taken to the hospital, along with Superman. Come with me, you need to get checked out too."
"No, I'm fine. Are they okay? I couldn't see what happened. Please…"
"Jason's fine. Superman… Well, just come with me, Lois." He took her by the arm and led her to the elevator.
As they boarded the elevator, Lois looked up at him suspiciously. "How did you know what was going on? Richard said he didn't tell you anything."
"When the iconic globe of the Daily Planet broke loose it demolished everything in its path before falling off the roof. When I started the repair process to the roof and building, it was recommended by the building inspector that we beef up our security measures, including adding some more security cameras to the ones we already had. I agreed, and since Superman had approached you on the roof of the Daily Planet to give you an interview, I thought it might be a good idea to know when he was around."
"So you installed a camera on the roof of the Daily Planet…" Lois finished for him.
He nodded at her.
"Those cameras don't capture…sound, do they?" she asked, trying to keep the panic from her voice. They had discussed some delicate issues up on the roof. She couldn't remember if she had actually called him Clark or not, but…
"No. They don't pick up sound. They're purely visual security. The cameras caught Luthor coming into the building and we used them to follow him as he made his way to the roof. Once I confirmed it was Luthor, I knew he was up to no good and I called the police and sent the guards up."
He raised a suspicious eyebrow at her when she let out a noticeable sigh.
"Umm, I guess I'd better save any further questions for later," she told Perry quickly. "I need to get to the hospital. I need to see my son."
Clark felt a pair of tiny hands resting against his chest.
He felt the small hands trace an S-shaped pattern across his chest.
He felt the sharp pain of his body weakened by Kryptonite slamming into the unyielding concrete surface of a sidewalk several hundred feet below.
The sound of his son's voice calling out to him…
His son was okay. He'd saved him. He remembered.
And his son was here with him now.
Here where? Where was he? He couldn't seem to move, couldn't even open his eyes.
It was like before, when Lois had come to visit him in the hospital after his fall from orbit had almost killed him.
He could hear her then too, but he couldn't respond.
It was so frustrating. He could hear his son's soft breathing and feel his tiny hands still playing across his chest.
He wanted to sit up and take him in his arms, hug him to him tightly… He wanted to tell him that he was okay.
The squeak of a door alerted him to the fact that someone was either coming into the room or going out.
"Richard! Perry! I'm so glad you're here." It was Lois' voice. She was in the room with him.
"Jason, why don't you go with Mr. White for a minute, okay?" This time it was Richard's voice. "He'll take you down to the vending machines and get you a soda. How does that sound?"
"Oh, not soda. Get him juice, Perry," Lois interjected.
"Lois, I think the boy's been through enough today that he can have a pop if he wants. Hmm?" Richard said convincingly.
No one else said anything in the next few seconds and he heard the door shut. Perry and Jason had left.
Clark must be at the hospital again.
He felt a loss at his son's departure. It was comforting to know he was there, soothing to feel his touch.
"Lois, you should go home…get some rest. You look wiped out," Richard was saying.
"We've been through this already. You know I can't do that. I left him once…I wasn't there when he woke up. This time I have to be here."
Clark could hear the emotional drain in her voice. He wished he could tell her to go home and rest — that she didn't need to be here.
"But what about Jason? You can't expect him to stay up here with you the whole time."
"No, I know that. I don't. Listen, don't worry about me. This is the ICU and visiting hours will be over soon. They'll escort me out whether I want to stay or not. They make everyone leave. I'll take Jason home then and I'll get someone to stay with him when I come back up here."
"Do you want me to stay with him?" There was an odd sadness in Richard's voice.
"No…I mean, unless you want to. I understand if you have packing you need to do."
Was he going to take that job in Paris?
Clark's heart sank.
Were Lois and Jason going to go with him?
"The packing can wait," Richard told her. "I'd rather be the one to stay with Jason. He shouldn't be with a stranger right now, not after everything he's been through the past few days."
"Thank you." There was a long pause and then she said the words again. "Thank you…for everything. I'll see you back at the house."
Clark strained to listen…would he kiss her goodbye? But after a few seconds all he heard was the opening and closing of the door.
And then he heard her voice, talking to him.
"Clark?" she whispered his name close to his ear. "I don't know if you can hear me or not, but since you heard me last time…" She went quiet and Clark wished he could do something or say something to get her to continue.
He felt the bed dip next to him as she sat down beside him.
"I don't know how I know this…" she continued quietly, "maybe it's because of Mr. Wells…but I know you're going to be okay." He felt her fingertips as she brushed them across his forehead and feathered them lightly through his hair.
"You left me once and I thought I would never see you again…and then I left you… I'm not going to leave you this time, I promise." Her fingers made another pass across his forehead.
He heard her sniffle and then she let out a soft sob. It made his heart swell to know she cared so much about him — yet at the same time it broke his heart to hear her in pain.
Why was she so upset? Was she just afraid for him?
Or was it something else?
Was she crying because she…was going to Paris, with Richard?
<I'm not going to leave you this time, I promise…>
What did that mean? Did it mean she wasn't going to Paris with Richard? Or did it just mean that she wouldn't leave him until he got better?
If that were the case he'd make sure he never woke up, he thought wryly.
He felt the warmth coming from her body as she leaned down close to his face. He could feel her breath in his ear as she whispered softly to him. "I told Richard that he should take that job in Paris. It isn't fair for him to stay here. But I told him that Jason and I couldn't go with him."
Clark wanted to jump out of the bed and fly laps around the room. He wanted to scoop Lois up into his arms and hold her, kiss her, touch her everywhere, all at once… but he couldn't. So he just waited for her to continue.
"I told him that I wanted him to be part of Jason's life. He *is* Jason's dad and he was a big part of his life. I told him that I wanted him to remain a big part of his life, if he wanted to be."
She went quiet again and Clark realized that she was right. Richard had been a wonderful father figure. He had been there all along for Jason. It wouldn't be fair to Jason or to Richard to take that away from them.
"He said he still wants to be. We worked it out so that Jason could spend some of the holidays with Richard and a couple of months in the summer with him. And Richard is going to come here to visit Jason as often as he can."
It seemed like they had worked a lot of things out. How long had he been unconscious?
She draped one arm across his body and hugged him gently. "Oh, Clark. I wish I knew if you could hear me." She sniffled again and hiccupped softly against him. "I was so scared when I saw you in the emergency room. You looked like you were dead. You were so pale and your body was so limp. The doctors told us that they thought you would recover but that they didn't know how long it would take…"
Her hands tightened against his shoulders and she shook him, ever so lightly…but with what almost seemed to be a measure of desperation.
"Please, Clark. Please. Wake up. I need to look into your eyes again. I need you to hold me. It's been three days…"
Three days… He'd been out for three days with no indication that he was doing any better…
"Please…" He could feel her lips as they pressed against his own in a tender kiss. "I love you, Clark. I love you. Please come back to me."
Lois! I love you, too! His mind screamed frantically at her.
He heard the door to his room open again and a woman's voice spoke. "Ms. Lane, visiting hours are over now. I need for you to leave so we can run some tests…"
"I know, I know. You'll call me if there's any change before I can make it back, right? Even the slightest change?"
"Yes, Ms. Lane. We have your home number, cell phone number, and Mr. White's contact information. We'll let you know if he makes any recovery."
He could feel Lois begin to pull away from him and he desperately wanted her to stay.
Her lips pressed against his forehead lightly. "Goodbye, Superman. I'll be back soon."
No! Please don't leave.
Lois was pulling away from Clark to let the nurse shoo her from the room when she heard it.
He had mumbled her name ever so slightly.
"I'm here…! Superman, I'm here," she told him excitedly. She looked up at the nurse. "Did you hear that? He said my name!"
"Yes, I heard. I'll go get the doctor. Stay with him; keep him talking." And then she left the room and the door shut behind her.
"I'm here, Clark. Talk to me. Keep talking, Clark." She grabbed his hand and squeezed it tightly. He was going to be okay! "You're in the hospital and you're here as Superman, so be careful what you say…"
She watched in expectation as his eyelids fluttered a few times.
"Please don't leave me…" he murmured, his voice thick with sleep.
"I won't. I'll stay as long as they let me." Her voice was unsteady and it cracked a little at the end.
"No…ever." His eyes were barely open, searching for her.
"What?" She sniffled again.
"Don't ever leave."
She smiled at him through eyes still brimming with tears. "Well, I do have to work, you know."
He smiled back at her and started to close his eyes again.
"No. No, you can't go back to sleep. The nurse is going to get the doctor. You have to stay awake… Look at me… Talk to me."
"Is Jason all right?" he asked quietly, his eyes still closed.
"Yes. You saved him. He didn't even have a scratch, well besides the one Luthor gave him on his throat with the knife…but that's healing up just fine."
"No," he murmured. "I heard everything you said…before. Is he *all right*?"
"Oh…oh, you mean…about you…and Richard? Um, I don't know. I think he's still confused. He knows that Superman is his dad because that's how he has his powers, and he knows you love him. But Richard is the only dad he's known…"
"And Richard *is* still his dad…too. He was there for him when I wasn't. I can't just ask him to forget that…either of them," he told her softly.
She felt tears trying to start again. "I think Jason might have some suspicions about Clark, too."
Clark finally opened his eyes again and they held a curious twinkle in them. "Really?"
She nodded at him, relieved that he was looking at her again. "He asked me why Clark hadn't come by to see you. I told him that Clark wanted to be here, but that he had to work. He said that *I* didn't have to work and *Perry* didn't have to work, so why should Clark? I told him it was difficult to explain… And then you know what he said?"
Clark gave her a very small shake of his head. She squeezed his hand again and smiled at him. "He said that maybe it was because Clark was already here. Then he smiled at me and skipped out of the room. I think he knows. We may need to try and find out what he knows. If he has figured it out, we have to get him to understand that it's a secret and he can't tell anyone. Because I mean, it could be really dangerous if he has this knowledge and we just go on pretending like he doesn't. It would be better to just confront it head-on before…"
"Don't worry. We will. We'll sit down as a family and talk about it. All of it."
Darn those tears. If they didn't quit she was going to look like a raccoon.
Who was she kidding?
She probably already did look like that…or like something the cat dragged in. She reached up and wiped under her eyes, doing her best to make herself presentable for the doctor when he came.
She paused, one hand still wiping across her cheek.
"You look beautiful," he continued, reaching up for her face with one hand. She leaned down towards him and he slid his hand behind her head, lacing his fingers through her hair, and drew her in, tightly embracing her.
She tried to pull away, not wanting the nurse or doctor to catch them, but the strength in his arm and hand held her firmly in place. He slid his other arm around her waist, drawing her against him as he enfolded her into his arms. His hands moved across her back, clutching her desperately.
His touch electrified her in a way that no man ever had before him and no man ever had since him.
His soft lips placed a tender kiss next to her ear and his quiet voice sent a shiver through her body. "Oh, Lois, I've missed you."
He was definitely feeling better.
The click of the door handle made them both start, and he released her from his embrace, sliding his hand down her arm to catch hold of her hand. She stood up quickly, trying to straighten her clothes one-handed and compose herself before the person, whoever it was, entered the room.
"Superman, it's Dr. Skinner," the doctor announced as he came into the room followed by the nurse who had come in earlier. "Ms. Lane, I'm afraid we're going to need you to step outside."
"I don't mind if she stays, doctor," Clark told him. He still had her hand in his and didn't seem like he wanted to let go of it anytime soon.
"I'm sorry, but it's hospital policy. Visiting hours will recommence in two hours, Ms. Lane. You're welcome to come back then."
She nodded at him in compliance and leaned down to kiss Clark softly on the cheek. "I'll be back, I promise."
He squeezed her hand one more time before he let it go. Her body was blocking his face from the doctor and nurse and he quickly mouthed 'I love you.' She mouthed it back and smiled at him.
She walked over to the door, stepping out of the way to let the nurse and doctor by, and then she closed the door behind her, stealing one last glance at him before she left.
Clark wasn't sure exactly when he'd fallen asleep, but the sound of someone clearing their throat brought him out of his peaceful slumber.
He was mildly irritated — he had been dreaming about Lois.
When he opened his eyes, he was surprised to see the older gentleman standing respectfully at the foot of his bed. He was the last person Clark would have expected to see when he woke up.
The fact that he was here made Clark a little nervous.
"Mr. Wells? What are you doing here? What's happened? Where's Lois?" he asked nervously.
"Oh she's fine, my boy. Nothing to worry about. Nothing at all," he assured him.
Clark shook his head in confusion. "Then why are you here?"
"I just came to check up on you and confirm that everything had happened as I thought it would."
"You *knew* this was going to happen? You knew and you didn't do anything to prevent it?" Clark felt the anger rising inside him. Jason could have been killed, or Lois.
"Please, Mr. Kent, calm down. You don't want to set off your monitors…then I would have to leave before I could explain."
Clark calmed himself down and nodded at him as if for him to continue.
"I *had* to let the events transpire in this way. Yes, I knew that Lex Luthor was going to threaten you and your family; just as I knew that Jason was going to take that spill over the building, and you were going to follow him. But those events had to take place in order to secure your Utopia."
"What do you mean?" Clark's head hurt now more from feeling muddled than from actual physical pain.
"Because of the way things transpired, Lois was able to come to grips with her feelings. She was able to discern whom she truly loved and what she truly wanted…you. She almost lost you, and, because of that, she realized how much you meant to her. She realized that while she loved Richard, she loved you more."
"You mean she wouldn't have stayed with me if all this hadn't happened? She would have gone to France with Richard?"
"It's very difficult to determine…the future. But from what we, that is to say, the peacekeepers from your Utopia and I, were able to determine, these events were a catalyst to helping Lois make up her mind. It forced her to deal with her emotions — to see them with a clear mind. And so it was decided since everything turned out all right in the end, that I wouldn't interfere because that could have done more harm than good."
"So you mean…she's going to…"
"Stay with you, Mr. Kent?" Wells asked. He nodded his head at him and smiled. "I wish I could tell you more, but one mustn't know too much about their own future. I've really said more than I probably should have."
Clark's mind was drowning in a sea of emotion. She had told him she loved him and that she and Jason weren't going to move with Richard, but it wasn't until Mr. Wells confirmed it that he really let his heart accept it.
"Now, my boy, I'd better be on my way. I have a couple of other stops to make, but I couldn't resist taking a moment to check in on you one last time. I wish you both the best of luck." He started to walk back towards the door and Clark realized there was something he wanted to know.
"What about the other Loises and Clarks? How are they?" he asked anxiously. "Especially the ones from your universe?"
Mr. Wells smiled indulgently at him. "The Clark who resembles you is doing fine. He and his Lois are starting over and taking things very slow, but they are doing well. The Clark from my alternate universe is as happy as I've ever seen him. He and his Lois are talking of marriage and she is back working for the Daily Planet, ambitious as ever." Wells paused for a moment and a curious little twinkle came into his eye. "And the Lois and Clark from my universe? Well let's just say that they're expecting a very special gift to come in just a few more months. They are actually the last stop on my list. I have a little something to leave with them in celebration."
"You mean…they're going to have…?"
Wells nodded at him.
"When you see them, tell them hello and thank them for me, will you? For their help…for everything."
Wells nodded at him again and then he was gone, the door shutting softly behind him.
Clark smiled wistfully to himself.
*LNC Universe — From Beginning of Story*
Clark glanced briefly at the clock on their nightstand as he lay down on the bed with Lois. They weren't just going to be late to work…they were *really* going to be late…
He was going to make sure they were.
Lois was kissing him everywhere she could find bare skin, which wasn't too many places since he hadn't removed his clothing yet. She was pulling at his shirt impatiently and if he didn't take it off soon he was afraid she was going to pop the buttons. Too many of his shirts ended up at the dry cleaners needing buttons sewn back on from his quick changes as Superman — he didn't need *her* relieving his shirts of their buttons as well.
His fingers deftly flew through the buttons and Lois' hands found the open edges and began furiously working them off his shoulders and down his back.
He wriggled in effort with her tugs, helping her get the garment off. She opened her eyes and took in the sight of his bare chest, flashing him a seductive smile. She pushed against him, pulling him to one side until she had rolled them over and was sitting on top of him. She leaned down and captured his mouth in her own.
"You know, I thought I read that a woman's sex drive slowed down a little after they got pregnant," he murmured against her lips and then he took her bottom lip inside his mouth, sucking on it gently.
"Mmm. And since when have I ever fit the parameters of a normal woman?" She kissed him and continued to mumble against his lips. "And you certainly don't fit the parameters of a normal man." She moved her mouth to his earlobe, sucking on it gently.
"Besides…" she told him, leaning up and raking her fingertips down his chest, eliciting a groan from him, "I can't think of a better reason for playing hooky from work."
He rose up towards her and lifted her shirt, raising her into the air as he did so. He brought her body towards him and pressed his lips to her abdomen in a tender kiss. The thought of what was inside that precious body aroused him even further…if that was possible. "You once told me that you didn't ever play hooky…"
"I never had a reason…ohhh," she moaned as he moved his mouth higher, "before I met you."
He had just decided it was time to pull her shirt off, thinking that she had way too many clothes on, when they heard their doorbell ring.
He grimaced. Not now.
"Ugh! You know, this happens way too frequently at our house," she complained. "And it always interrupts at the worst times."
"Well, it's not going to interrupt today." He leaned again into her stomach, his tongue taking a taste of her belly button.
She pushed him back with one hand and looked at him incredulously. "You mean you aren't going to go see who it is? It might be important."
"Not more important than this. Lois, the very forces of the universe itself could not stop me from finishing what we've just begun to start…"
"Ohhh!" she exclaimed in surprise as he embraced her and flipped her over on the bed beneath him. He pressed his lips firmly to hers in a delicious kiss, pushing her further into the soft mattress beneath them. She giggled contentedly.
Clark sat up in bed, waiting for the dizzy, lightheaded feeling to overtake him.
When it didn't, he smiled in satisfaction. He concentrated and his body began to slowly lift off the bed.
That was good enough for him.
It was time to get out of here. Some time outside in the sunlight was going to be better for him than sitting inside here plugged up to tubes and machines.
He pulled the breathing tubes out of his nose, taking a few tentative breaths of normal air. He then pulled the monitoring pads off his body and the blood pressure/heart monitor off the end of his finger.
He could hear the blips, beeps and screams of the monitors going off at the nurse's station outside his door as he spun into his suit that Lois had left folded neatly on the chair next to his bed. He quickly let himself outside through the window before the nurses had a chance to make it inside his room.
Then he was climbing through the sky up into the warm evening sun, his body feeling stronger the longer he bathed in its dark orange light.
He flew with purpose, his destination already known.
He released his grip on the speed he had sought and came to hover gently above a familiar house.
The house that held his dreams and future inside.
He gazed down on the house, peering through it and into it, until he found what he was searching for.
She was in the house alone, curled up on the couch, asleep.
He went to Jason's window and tested it to see if the window was open. It was. He opened it and flew inside, floating his way silently through the house until he came to her.
She was heaven realized.
He floated over next to her and lowered himself down gently into a kneeling position next to the couch.
Her face looked soft and peaceful in the evening light. One long strand of curly hair hung draped across her cheek, dangling down and off the front of the couch.
He reached out and took it carefully in his fingers, moving it back and laying it gently behind her back.
She looked so serene that he hated to wake her, but he wanted to see her beautiful, remarkable eyes awake and looking at him; the blue one mirroring the waves of a tempestuous sea, and the brown one betraying her sweet intensity.
He moved his hand away from her hair and brushed his fingers gently across her cheek.
"Mmm," she murmured in her sleep.
"Lois," he whispered softly.
"Mmm," she murmured again.
"Lois, it's Clark."
Her eyelids parted just a sliver and then they flew open, wide and awake, all at once. "Clark?" She scrambled to sit up. "Clark!" She threw her arms around him in a tight embrace. "What are you doing here? Why did you leave the hospital?"
"I'm okay, Lois. There's nothing more they could do for me there. Where's Jason…and Richard?"
"Richard took Jason to the park so I could get some sleep. I think he might be taking him to a movie after that. He wanted to spend some time with him before his flight to Paris."
So they had time together…alone.
She scooted forward on the couch and pulled him to her, encouraging his head to rest against her chest. He wrapped his arms around her lower back and clasped his hands together, giving her a little squeeze.
"Oh, Lois. I thought I'd lost you," he murmured against her.
"What do you mean? I'm the one who almost lost you."
"I just knew you were going to let me go. That you were going to stay with Richard. I had nearly resigned myself to it." He clutched her tighter.
"I know," she whispered softly. "I didn't think there was any way to undo what had been done. I had almost been prepared to accept it myself." She reached up with one hand and ran it through his hair. He savored the way her fingers felt as they glided through it with their feather-light touches. "But I wouldn't have been happy. I would have always been regretful. And that wouldn't have been fair to Richard." She paused for a moment before continuing, "Luthor had us at gunpoint on the roof; he was going to kill us before Perry showed up with the cavalry."
Clark hadn't realized how close he'd come to losing her. "Remind me to thank Perry the next time I see him."
She laughed softly. "Well, saving Richard and me was the icing on the cake; he also got a great story out of the deal," she teased. "But you know what I realized when I thought that was the end?" She let out a shaky sigh. "I was sad for Richard, and for myself, but I was more distressed by the thought that I would never see you or Jason again. I knew how I felt about Jason, how much I loved him, but it wasn't until that moment that I realized what my heart had known all along."
"I know," he said softly.
She pushed him back away from her and looked into his eyes. "You know? I'm not so sure you do."
"Mr. Wells told me."
This time the push was more definitive, and her eyes went wide. "Wells was here? When?"
"He came to see me in the hospital…"
"Why didn't he help us? Why didn't he come sooner?" He could see the frustration in her eyes. The pain of the past few days.
"Because of you…"
"Me?" she exclaimed. "What did it have to do with me?"
"He said that you had to be shown what was most important to you. That what happened needed to happen…"
She went quiet for a few seconds and looked away from him. "What else did he say?"
"Ask me again later."
"Why not right…" And before she could finish her sentence he was kissing her. Passionately and intensely, not allowing her mind to think about anything else but what he was doing to her.
Her hands moved along his body as the kiss deepened, groping his shoulders and his back, expressing the desire that she wanted more — without having to say a word.
He moved her body, encouraging her to lie down against the couch, and he brought himself to lie against her, his mouth still making draws against hers, his hands moving to unfasten her blouse.
"Ohhh, Clark…Clark, please," she murmured into his mouth as she took a breath between kisses.
"Lois, you have no idea how long I've waited to hear you say my name like that again. To touch you like this again. God, you feel so amazing."
She groaned as he ran his hands up the sides of her body and around underneath her back, drawing her up against him.
His hand slipped down to the zipper of her skirt and began to slide it down.
<<<"Please, Lois," he moaned into her mouth. "I can't. Please…"
Lois' response to his plea was to deepen the kiss, her tongue pressing forcefully against his lips until she gained access to his mouth. She slid her tongue along the inside of his lips, tasting him, and then she withdrew.
"Do you want this, Clark?" she asked him pointedly.
He swallowed the lump in his throat. "Yes, but…"
"No. No buts. If you don't want to do this, if you tell me you want me to stop, I will. I would never force this on you. But you have to tell me that you don't *want* this. Tell me, Clark. Tell me you don't *want* this, that you don't *want* me.">>>
He stopped, his breath choking in his throat. "What's wrong?" he asked apprehensively. "If you don't want to do this, if you tell me you want me to stop, I will," he told her, mimicking her words from so long ago.
"Oh, god, Clark. I want this. But not here. Not like this. This is Richard's house, too, and I don't know when he's going to be back. I just can't…"
And with those words, Clark came back to his senses. Of course they shouldn't…not here. He hadn't been thinking. "I'm sorry. I was…"
She put one finger up to his lips to silence him and raised her eyebrows suggestively. "There's always the arctic."
Lois sighed contentedly next to Clark. The morning would be perfect if…
Her stomach growled its impatience…
…Clark would fix her a little something to eat.
"Honey, was that your stomach?" he asked her, chuckling softly.
"Well, I haven't eaten yet, and I am eating for two now, you know," she protested.
"I'll meet you downstairs," he told her, kissing her forehead softly. He whirled back into his clothes that had been tossed to various areas of the room and then disappeared in a flash out the bedroom door.
Lois herself got up slowly and methodically, savoring the feeling of the afterglow just a few more moments before putting her clothes back on.
It had only been a couple of weeks since her morning sickness had quit making her feel lousy in the mornings, and of course this morning she was feeling even better.
She patted her stomach and looked down it. She was hardly even showing yet, but it was enough that her dress suits were starting to fit a little tighter. But it didn't bother her. It meant that she would get to do some shopping soon. She had seen some really cute maternity business suits. She wanted nothing to do with those "cutesy" maternity clothes — or, god forbid, the clothes that didn't fully cover like they should. And she certainly wasn't going to be one of those women who wore their regular clothes until they were almost busting at the seams. It wouldn't do for her to go around looking like that. She had an image to uphold.
And when her little one came into the world…
She could just see a cute, brown-haired, brown-eyed little boy in a blue, collared Polo shirt, with tan dress khakis and a tiny pair of loafers. He would be the best-dressed kid on the block.
He'd look like a little Clark.
She rubbed her tummy affectionately. "Are you ready for some of your dad's fluffy eggs and buttery pancakes?" She couldn't remember the last time she had craved food like that for breakfast.
As she made her way downstairs, the aroma of breakfast, already almost finished, called out to her. She'd grab the morning paper and take a look at it while Clark was finishing up.
But when she opened the door and looked outside, the sight that met her eyes caused her breath to catch.
Clark must have heard her. "Honey? Is everything okay?"
"Come here, Clark, hurry," she told him excitedly.
As he came towards her, she pulled a baby bassinet inside through the doorway. "Look! There's a note from Mr. Wells!"
She opened the note and glanced through it. It told of the lives of the other Loises and Clarks from the other universes — how each of them had found their way and their happiness. Then at the bottom it congratulated them on their little miracle.
She felt her eyes starting to tear up and she handed the note to Clark.
"So that's who had been trying to interrupt us earlier," he observed, glancing down at the note.
She looked back down at the charming old bassinet and smiled at the beauty of Wells' gift, feeling a little guilty about not answering the door earlier.
They should have known *he* was the one who had been trying to interrupt.
Wells sat at a safe distance, not too far from the front door of the Kent's home. He glanced up periodically from the newspaper he had borrowed from their front step, waiting patiently for them to open their door and get their gift. It wasn't like he could just leave it there and go on his way. He wouldn't want someone else to intercept it.
And goodness knows he wasn't about to knock again. He had learned a long time ago that he had an uncanny knack for interrupting them at what they thought was precisely the wrong moment.
He felt his face flush and he looked back down at the paper.
When he glanced back up, the door was open and Ms. Lane, or perhaps it should be Mrs. Kent — but he would always think of her as Ms. Lane — was standing there smiling down at the baby bassinet.
Wells felt a smile spread across his face.
All in all, a good day for time travel, he supposed.
He got up from his bench and took a shiny new pocket-watch out of his coat pocket and gazed down on it affectionately.
It was time to go.