When Galaxies Divide

By Stopquitdont@bellsouth.net

Rated: PG-13

Submitted: April 2007

Summary: In a time when two people are destined to be together, how can they when galaxies divide them?

This monster was started so long ago I can't even remember now. I started and stopped at least a couple dozen times before finally forcing myself to finish. If it hadn't been for a little extra push from my beta's, it would still be sitting on my HD.

I have to say thanks to Jenni Debbage. She'd started beta'ing this for me, then life got in her way (along with computer problems). But she's always been a huge inspiration to me. Wanda Detroit and Erica Dias (MDL) have helped along the way as well. But I'd have never finished if it hadn't been for Ann Sidbrant. She pushed me through the final polish. Thanks a lot.

All other disclaimers apply. The characters are not mine, unfortunately. I borrowed them to play for a bit, but put them back the way I found them.


Silence engulfed the dimly lit space as pure agony invaded his very soul. Eyes drifting closed, he awaited his fate. He would welcome the dull void to soon come. Flashes of his life created the images that he would carry over into eternity…


Krypton: Year 2101 in the third cycle (or March, 1960-Earthtime)

Jor-El paced the sterile corridor, trying desperately to calm his frayed nerves. Today was the day he'd present his findings to the Council. Countless hours, a few laughs, and even tears had been spent inside his laboratory studying the stars in hopes of finding life on another planet. Eight long years had been spent doing numerous evaluations. Thousands of probes had searched the vast expanse of space in hopes of producing the results Jor and his team would give anything to realize. They'd thought they'd found other life forms just months before, only to be disappointed when the surface of the red planet was proven to be uninhabitable. But not this time. This time there was no mistaking what they'd discovered.

The chamber doors opened and Jor was summoned inside. He briefly thought it odd that he had to ask permission to speak during Council, considering he was the leader of the entire planet…

"… studies suggest that these creatures are completely compatible with us. Physically, they could easily be thought to be fellow Kryptonians. Emotionally, they are young in their beliefs — a relative new world just as ours is. They are more apt to make decisions based on sentiment rather than logic. Technologically, they are light years behind us, but they exhibit untold promise. Biologically, our only difference lies in the way their bodies metabolize their yellow sun and ours metabolize our red sun, though I am certain this difference is only minimal.

"I feel these people would benefit from a relationship with our world. Their planet has an abundance of natural resources the likes of which are unseen here on Krypton. I believe, that given time to establish relations, our worlds could co-exist in profitable harmony."

The confident leader paused in his speech to allow time for those assembled to digest what had been said. He glanced around the expansive room at the few men curiously awaiting what he would say next.

Jor pressed the button on his remote to produce another hologram. "The inhabitants call it simply… Earth."


"There it is, Milord," the strong feminine voice said softly into the charged air as she approached the portal window where a tall, handsome man stood.

"Yes, it is, Milady," the man replied as he reached out to pull the woman to his side so they could witness this moment together.

The tiny speck before them slowly became a mass of blue and green hues through the thick glass pane. This moment was years in the making for the man who'd spent the last decade of his life devoted to his scientific studies. Those studies had paid off and today, Lord and scientist, Jor-El, along with his partner and mate, Lara, were about to realize their dream.

Their's was a journey that had started in Jor-El's youth. Jor had always been interested in science and had greatly excelled in that field, even though his birth would someday make him the leader of his people. His training to become lord of all had always been a priority during his formative years, but Jor had been blessed with parents who had allowed him freedom in his educational choices. So, Jor had been trained extensively as a scientist, a study most of the greater of Krypton deemed unnecessary for the heir to the Throne. However, Jor's father, Zor-El, recognized his son's passion for the sciences and did not stand in the boy's way to learn.

The esteemed heir had not wasted his gift, using all of his spare time to learn as much as he could about any and everything scientific. At only fourteen years, Jor's dream had been born. He'd begun to study the stars as part of a course his professor had initiated. During a lecture, Jor began to wonder about the tiny sparkles that twinkled in the blanket of solid black hovering above his planet. The wonder turned into a burning desire to discover as much as he could about his world and the possibility of any others existing.

Jor's curiosity was often met with confusion and misunderstanding from his fellow Kryptonians and especially from the Council of Elders. Kryptonians were an advanced race of people, highly intelligent and extremely technologically superior beings. They were also a logical race, making the most expedient of decisions in all things. For that reason, it wasn't until Jor grew into adulthood that he could spend countless hours researching the galaxies the way he had wanted to in his youth. And his ultimate journey took him ten years to complete.

Now, as he stood with his wife and awaited the arrival of his ship to a brand new world, he considered all of his work and effort to have not gone wasted.


It had taken two more years of deep probes after Jor's findings had been presented before the Council had finally agreed to his requests to make contact with the people of Earth. And as he and Lara had stood peering through the portal of their ship as it approached another planet for the first time, Jor had been overwhelmed. Admittedly, when contact had first been made with the planet a galaxy away from Krypton, the immature world hadn't wanted to believe there could be life calling them from beyond the stars. Talks had taken many months until the people of Earth felt comfortable enough to allow aliens to visit. That visit had started a wonderful friendship, just as Jor-El had predicted.

That is… until the day someone discovered his scientific secret about their new friends and the little world that had been dubbed 'the sister planet'.


"Do you think everyone will buy this, Jor?"

He stopped the process of filling a syringe with a small bottle of vaccine he'd developed and looked up at his anxious wife. "They've already bought this, Lara. No one will question me because so little is known about Earth. The Council believes what I tell them about our findings. They do not doubt what I've led them to believe about this toxin." Again, he lifted the syringe and finished filling it before turning to administer the shot to his wife. "If I tell them a toxin must be administered to enable our bodies to metabolize the yellow sun, they will not question it." He rubbed Lara's arm with the sterile swab, then turned so she could inoculate him. "Just think how deadly it would be if someone was to find out that Kryptonians could be invincible on Earth."

"You're right, Jor," Lara agreed as she finished with his shot.

"Of course I am, my dear." Jor cupped her face gently and smiled at her. "This story has to be told or there would be pandemonium on our hands."

"Yes, Milord." Lara smiled as she leaned forward to press her forehead to Jor's in a display of affection rarely seen being shared by Kryptonians.

That conversation had taken place just before the arrival of the royal transport ship on Earth for the very first time. Over the next several years, ships would visit the new world often. But soon enough, the pleased couple that had stood looking through a small portal with huge expectations of a bright and successful future with their new friends would see horrific tragedies before eventually meeting their ultimate fates.


Krypton: Year 2107 in the second cycle (or February, 1966)

Jor-El had taken the Throne as First Lord in the Year 2096 when his father's aging heart had failed him. Though it was extremely rare for Kryptonians to experience physical failures before the age of seventy or eighty, Zor-El's taxed heart had stopped working properly in only his fiftieth year. Jor was forced to lead his world years before he'd anticipated. He used his position as a positive though. His time as First Lord afforded him much needed lab hours to devote to his passion of discovering another world. After all, the Council was responsible for most decisions concerning his world.

It wasn't until the royal couple had conceived their first child that they realized their many errors in judgment where their world was concerned. Jor and Lara had not conceived a child until their late thirties. Their younger years and energy had been spent on all things scientific. They had been lost in their discoveries and explorations, somewhat oblivious to anything else. They'd had hopes of great changes taking place; one of those things being the practice of birth marriages among noble families to insure strong alliances in the ruling classes. Jor had never understood exactly why men felt they had to be more powerful or important than the other, but he'd also recognized the essential need to have strong, just leaders. However, such drastic changes were also a decidedly difficult undertaking because Kryptonians feared and resented any kinds of change that might upset hundreds of years of tradition. With the conception of their child, the Lord and Lady had finally been forced to take stock of their world. Their children, they decided, instilled with their values and morals, would best rule their world someday. They also felt those children would be Krypton's best hope for change. Of course, with even greater purpose and direction than ever before, the royal couple was about to embark on a greater journey…

Jor lifted the small, dark-haired baby high into the air as they stood on the platform in the palace courtyard. "My subjects, I give you your heir… my son, Kal-El."

"Kal-El!" the assembled audience shouted back at their lord, then bowed deeply.

Yon, noble head of his house-the House of Ra, stepped forward to present his daughter. "And I give you the heir's bride, Zara."

"Zara," the crowd shouted again.

"In accordance with the laws of our world, I bind these individuals, chosen as mates because of their order of birth," Jor began to recite. "Their union will ensure a strong alliance for our people. May Zor bless and watch over them as they grow to take their positions some day as our First Lord and Lady."

Shouts rang through the air as Jor concluded the marriage ceremony that bound his son to an infant girl, the parents of whom he knew only from their standing in the noble line of their world. Yon of Ra was head of the Western Hemisphere and held probationary station as ruler. That meant that in the event of the ruling El's inability to produce an heir, rule would fall to the House of Ra. Allegiances between the two houses would ensure that one or the other house would always reign. The leader of Krypton hated saddling his baby boy with such a responsibility, but felt he had no choice. He only hoped Kal grew into a man that could understand and fulfill his responsibilities with dignity suiting the House of El.


Jor and Lara took their positions as parents even more seriously than they had ever taken their role as leaders of their world. Kal was attended to with all the care and love possible from any species of being. Many people, including Jor's brother Ti, always took a moment to point out to the First Lord that showing such emotion while rearing the heir was foolish and illogical. Jor would smile and tell Ti and others not to worry. Everything would be fine.

For a time, life was good for the ruling family and their people. Kal-El grew into a toddler while his father established a strong relationship with his Kryptonian subjects as well as with the citizens of Earth. Krypton was peaceful and prosperous because of their leader's efforts. And in all the excitement, Jor and Lara welcomed another son.

"Look at him, Jor," Lara told her husband. The newest addition to their family slept peacefully in her arms.

"He's beautiful, My Lady." Jor kneeled beside his wife's chair to get a look at his son.

"I see! I see!" came the voice of a very excited toddler. Kal-El peered into the blanket surrounding this strange new visitor to his world. "Baby," he crooned as his tiny fingers smoothed over his brother's cheek.

"That's right, Kal. This is your brother, Ching," Jor told him.


The adults laughed at their son's interpretation of the name chosen for the new lord.


From the doorway of the royal chambers, Ti-El watched the small family in contemplative silence. He'd spent his entire life standing on the outside of 'Jor's' world looking in. Being born the son of his father's concubine forced him to have to watch his brother have the life that was rightfully his.

Though Zor, Ti's father, had been an amazing leader and man, he had taken a concubine in his youth and they'd quickly produced a child. Ti had grown up inside the palace as a lord, but without the rights and privileges of the true heir. Though older than Jor, because Ti had not been of true noble blood, and had no connection whatsoever to the House of Ra, Ti was denied the right to ascend the Throne of this world. While a seemingly logical race of men considered it perfectly fine to take a concubine, believing pleased men were more capable of performing their duties without objection, they did not think it wise to produce offspring with such women. Over the years various efforts had come about to prevent such happenings from taking place. However, on occasion there was a child born to a nobleman in such circumstances, as was the case when Ti was born.

For years, his treatment as an inferior El had bred hatred in the older brother's heart and he'd waited until Jor produced an heir to instigate a scheme to have the lord executed. Ti would be placed on the Throne in the event of Jor-El's death, provided he marry Lara. While that might be looked upon as being second best, Ti considered it to be Lara's proper place. He was born first and thus, should have been married at birth to the next child born of the House of Ra. Lara was that child — his rightful wife. Jor was the one living as second best in Ti's mind. However, while children of concubines were given many of the rights and privileges of other lords, being married at birth was not one of them. Birth marriages took place among nobility to ensure continued reign stayed in the proper house and other houses remained pure. That was also the reason an heir of the House of El had to be born before Ti could set into motion his plans. The laws of their people might place him on the throne by marrying his brother's widow, but it would never allow his children to continue the birth order. Jor had to produce a son before Ti could become the true ruler of his world.

Just then, Jor looked up at his brother, and motioned for the older man to join their small family. Ti stepped forward to get a glimpse of the new baby El. Plans were taking much longer than anticipated because of Jor's incessant need to form relations with that backwards planet. Meantime, another child had been born into the royal household. No matter, Ti thought. That only meant there would be two lords he could shape into the perfect molds.

He smiled wryly, congratulated the obviously proud father, then cast longing eyes on the child's mother. Lara was disillusioned to believe herself fond of her husband. A marriage to this woman would be absolutely torturous at first. But in time she would come to accept her duty. She would realize the mistakes of their world in ever placing her with Jor in the first place. Yes, Ti looked forward to finally joining with his wife. And correcting the imbalanced morality of the sons of the self-righteous Jor-El was an added bonus.

An evil, ironic bonus.

Ti loved irony.


Kryptonian society was one of rich, stoic character — ideals and beliefs carefully molded and shaped into duty-driven and often times, perverse ways of life. Carefully held together by centuries of traditions, upheld by unwavering laws with severe consequences, change was not welcomed by the ruling classes. A Council of Elders, put into place by the House of their birth, ultimately decided the fates of the masses. However, in the few short years since Kal's birth, Jor-El had begun to take a more active role in leading his world. Introduction of new proclamations had caused unrest among the nobility. The leader was asking for such things as fair wages for underclassmen, equality in education, and an authoritative voice during Council sessions.

The Council consisted of three men, highly educated and deeply loyal to upholding the Kryptonian way of life. Trey, of the House of Ur, was Council Head. Though only the age of Jor-El, the lofty position as Head Elder had been placed upon his shoulders when his grandfather became too ill to continue his duties. Trey's father had passed the torch to his son, citing it a wiser choice because of Trey's younger age. The population believed that the longer one held his position, the better off everyone would be because there would be fewer changes taking place. That fear of change, of advancement, was what Jor considered to be the only downfall of being Kryptonian.


"Why do they stand so fast? Can't they see I only have the best interests of my world in mind?" Jor clicked off his hand-held recording device and rubbed his temples. His frustration grew by the day. He'd presented another proclamation to the Council, only to have it shot down in seconds. He simply wanted to take his children with him on a trip to Earth. The Council had argued that the future of their world rested on the shoulders of those two boys. They were not certain of the consequences such a trip would have on the children. Jor argued point after point to no avail.

He pressed his device again. "One day… it is my hope that one day, this world will realize all of its mistakes." With a heavy sigh, Jor placed his device in the drawer of his desk and rose to retire for the evening. He and Lara would leave during the morning hours for a scheduled diplomatic trip to Earth. He needed his rest.


Ti watched from his position in the corridor as Jor made his way toward the private side of the palace, then entered the State Room. He opened the drawer on the desk and lifted the small recording device from its spot there. He'd never understood why Jor felt the need to talk to a machine. Although he was certainly glad he had. Those talks with that machine would help seal his brother's fate.

The recording device was safely tucked inside the pocket on Ti's tunic before he hurried from the room. There was a lot to do if his plans were to be successful.


Jen-Mai paced outside the doors to Trey's chamber. He'd tried desperately to make sense of what he'd heard that day in the corridor. There was no way he could be correct.

On the morning of the departure of the royal transport to Earth, Jen-Mai had been running late on his way to the hangar. Official ceremonies took place for almost everything on Krypton, and the departure of the royal transport was no exception. Jen had rounded a corner when he saw Jor talking with another lord. Jor was apparently giving this other lord some kind of instructions…

"Do you remember what you have to do?" Jor asked the other man.

"Perfectly, Milord."

"Very well. Do as much damage as you can. I want them to know who is in control."

"And the Council?"

"I will handle them. It's time for this world to realize all of its mistakes." With that, Jor turned and left.

Jen-Mai, afraid of being seen, had pressed himself against the wall, out of sight of the departing men. What had all that been about?

Not sure, and certainly unwilling to question his leader, Jen had dismissed the entire conversation.

That was until today…


Jor-El was utterly speechless as he looked out across the destruction and devastation before him. Concrete heaps remained where once tall buildings stood. Everywhere fires burned and smoke was so thick it threatened to choke the life from the few bodies still scurrying around, attempting to make sense of what was going on.

And death… Everywhere there was death.

"So many gone," Jor whispered.

He'd hardly been able to believe his ears when he'd gotten the distress call from the White House. Washington had been attacked by Kryptonian forces a few hours before. Thankfully he and Lara were already on Earth for a scheduled political conference that would take place at the end of the week. Jor had ordered his transport to divert from their destination in Metropolis and arrived as soon as possible in the capital city of America. However, it had not been soon enough to save Washington and several other large cities around the world from mass destruction.

Jor wanted to die. These people had put their lives into his hands and such tragedy had taken place. He turned when one of his soldiers approached. "What has happened here?"

"We are unsure, Milord. I have spoken to witnesses and they say… they say…" the man stammered.

"They say what?!"

"Well… Sir, they say that two men flew into the city and began to destroy the buildings… with their bare hands." The young soldier's expression showed clearly the apprehension he felt at having told his lord such a ridiculous story.

But Jor knew it wasn't ridiculous. He knew it was very possible… if someone had discovered his secret. His hand covered his mouth and he turned again to survey the damage. Dread washed over him in waves as he stood helpless in the aftermath.

"Milord, what about the First Lady?" asked the young soldier.

Jor's head snapped up at the mention of his wife's name. She was already in Metropolis. She'd wanted to visit some of the children's homes, collecting information to help establish similar institutions on Krypton. He hurried behind the soldier and his guard toward his transport, ordered the driver to warp speed, and tried to fight down the rising bile that refused to remain calm.


Jor could only stare at the horrible, steel gray capsule before him in silence. The First Lady of Krypton lay inside, peaceful… serene. Metropolis had been in ruins by the time the transport had reached it. Thick, black smoke had blanketed the once bustling streets, choking the very life from those lucky enough to have survived the attack. Lara had not been among that group.

The lifeless body of the First Lady was found buried beneath the rumble of the Metropolis Children's Home, blood covering her delicate features. Jor had shouted out in agony as his guards looked on. Finally he'd released her and allowed her body to be taken back to the royal transport.

A thorough investigation had been launched into the attacks, producing two men from one of the western provinces on Krypton. They were both positively identified by witnesses as having been the ones destroying buildings with their bare hands. They were taken into custody and an official communication was prepared to be sent to Krypton when the royal transport was close enough.

The First Lord leaned forward and spoke into the silence. "How will I ever explain this to our sons?" he asked the immobile tomb.


How indeed? Nor asked himself thoughtfully as he watched the leader of the entire world cave in around himself. Nor, a lord of questionable character who'd been part of the elaborate scheme now unfolding, smiled as he turned and walked away. Ti was certainly not going to be happy with the slight turn of events. The Lord of El had laid out a precise plan for Nor to follow, but Nor wasn't one to take orders from any man. Even if that man was soon to be the effective ruler of the world.

It was best, Nor decided, that Ti-El learn that now.


It seemed the entire population of Krypton had shown up to pay their respects. As many as could pack into the hangar were gathered to await the arrival of the transport ship that would return the body of the First Lady back to Krypton. Hundreds of others littered the grounds of the palace, while still more filled the city of El. Trey figured most gathered in fear. No leader nor his immediate family, nor any nobleman for that matter, had died during service to their world. None had died in war and certainly none had been killed in such a manner. And there most definitely had never been one to die in such circumstances that now faced Krypton.

Trey feared the next few years to come for his world. For a world that abhorred change, they were in for the surprise of their lives.

The chief elder had not wanted to believe what he'd read when the communication came through. The Earth had been attacked by super-powered beings and the First Lady had been killed. Never would he have believed that if he hadn't known it could really have happened.

Just the day before Trey had learned that such things were certainly possible. When the communication from the royal transport had been received, Jen-Mai had finally told Trey of the conversation Jor-El had with another gentleman on the morning the royal transport departed. Unsure of what it meant, Trey had gone in search of answers. In Jor's lab, he'd found documentation that Kryptonians were inoculated when they traveled to Earth, not so their bodies could metabolize the yellow sun, but so their bodies *couldn't* metabolize it. Jor had known of the way the yellow sun would affect them, yet he'd kept this knowledge from the Council.

There were several recorded communications found in Jor's state room between Jor and some unidentified man detailing the attack that had taken place on Earth. Trey hadn't wanted to believe his leader, and friend, could have planned such an evil and horrible event. However, the evidence continued to mount. Journals were discovered in which Jor spoke of the people of Earth as if *they* were his people. There was mention of how he'd like to change things on Krypton. Jor wanted to absolve many of their traditions and customs. He wanted to abolish birth marriages, outlaw the practice of keeping concubines, and allow the lower class freedom from having to live a life of service. The leader spoke of sentiment toward the population and said over and over how stoic and illogical his race of people really were. He stated that what was expedient might not be prudent. He spoke of morals and values.

Then he carefully calculated the destruction of the very people he claimed to care about. The Council had thoughtfully reviewed all of this, Trey not having had a choice but to share the information he'd uncovered. Poor Jen-Mai had looked absolutely ill as more details came to light.

Trey looked over at the young man. Jen was five cycles younger than himself, though they had quickly become acquaintances when Jen took a position on the Council just six cycles ago, following the retirement of his father. Trey had thought Jen too young, too naive, but Jen had proven himself very quickly. The younger man took his duty very seriously and stood strong on many issues brought before the Council. Yes, Jen-Mai was quite worthy of his position. That was why Trey did not dismiss what he'd said. He had, however, looked into things on his own before going to the Council with his findings.

The Council had convened and decided to investigate even more. They raked through Jor's personal data as well as his scientific data. Any matters involving the state were scrutinized through new eyes. They concluded that Jor's intention must have been two-fold: devastate the Earth, then rush in as its hero. Bringing the backing of Krypton's technological advances and possessing such advanced scientific knowledge, Jor would have been viewed as a god in the Earth's time of need. They would be forever grateful and grant him liberties he could not attain on Krypton.

Being that future endeavors would include the remaining members of the House of El, Ti was asked to sit in on the late night debate into the actions of their leader. It was Ti who pointed out that Jor had argued so fervently to take his sons to Earth. Could the boys have suffered the same fate as their mother? The mere thought was enough to drive fear into the hearts of everyone sitting around the table in the Council Chambers. That fear would also be what would drive the Council in decisions concerning the future of their world.

The massive royal transport slowly maneuvered through the opening into the hangar. Air hissed almost violently as the steel arms on the docking platform reached out to grasp the huge vessel. Today it seemed to take hours for the landing to be completed. Trey simply stared at the scene unfolding in silence. Finally, the large entry door slid open and guards filed out. They formed an aisle, lifted their swords to create an archway, then a hush fell on the crowd as a ceremonial unit began to march out. Clipped commands were shouted in cadence as the casket of the First Lady emerged, followed by a very distraught First Lord.


Trey paused in his contemplation, only to be interrupted by the thrilled shouts of a toddler.

"Papa!" Kal-El ran toward his father, completely unaware of what was happening around him. He was simply glad to see his father again.

Jor pushed around the guard in front of him and bent to lift his son into his arms, clutching desperately to the small body against his chest.

"Mama?" The boy asked over and over for his mother, but Jor could only hold Kal tighter.

From behind the barricade Trey stood asking himself even more questions. Try as he might to see the man he and the Council had painted Jor to be the night before, he just couldn't find him. Jor was… grieving, confused.

"Milord?" one of the Council asked Trey. "The law is clear."

"I'm well aware of the law!" Trey almost shouted before bowing deeply to the now passing parade. He waited until the capsule concealing the First Lady was taken from the hangar before he stepped forward to address the First Lord. "Lord Jor?"

Jor carefully passed his son off to Kal's attendant before turning to Trey. "The ones responsible are in custody. We will have them transferred to the confinement quarters in the palace until a trial can be…"

"Milord," Trey interrupted him, causing Jor to look at him questioningly. "Certain information has come to the attention of the Council…"

"What information?"

Trey lifted his downcast eyes and looked straight at Jor. "Milord, you are hereby placed under arrest for crimes against the state, most specifically for the murder of the First Lady."

"WHAT?!" Jor's eyes bore into Trey's. "What in Zor's name are you speaking of, Trey?!"

"In accordance with the laws, you have three days to grieve before the Council will be assembled to hear this case." Trey's expression softened a bit and he stepped forward. "Out of respect of our acquaintance, I am allowing you to spend those days with your sons. Use them wisely, Milord."

Without giving Jor a chance to say another word, Trey turned and hurried from the hangar. Jor was left with more questions than answers, even as he made his way from the room. Instead of the traditional bow afforded the First Lord, the population turned their backs.


Jor-El's eyes watered as his memories faded. The most difficult day of his life had been the day he'd placed the body of his wife in the ground. Explaining to Kal that his mother was never coming back was equally painful. And the day his entire world had turned against him was absolutely devastating.

It had taken two weeks before the Council had, with deep regrets, reached their decision over his case. Jor had been shocked when recording after recording had been submitted as evidence. Sure, he'd made many recordings, but none of the ones he'd heard. Bits and pieces of each one were familiar, as if they'd been doctored. However, try as he might, he couldn't convince the Council of this.

The two men that had actually carried out the attacks told the Council that they had received their orders directly from Jor-El. The toxin was withheld, they were told to wait until Jor was back on Earth for the political conference, then ordered by the First Lord himself to attack and destroy those cities. Because Jor had kept the discovery of the effects of the yellow sun on his fellow man secret, it was hard for the Council to discount the stories being told or to believe anything Jor said in protest. Jor insisted that his people's best interest were close to his heart, a statement that unwittingly helped seal his fate. Sentiment had always been deemed illogical in Kryptonian eyes. 'Had Jor-El used logic and common sense, this tragedy might not have happened at all', argued Jen-Mai, and was backed by several others who agreed that the First Lord was entirely too emotional to rule his world, that conclusion proven by the lord's very illogical behavior over the years.

Jen-Mai also offered up the eye-witness account of the lord's conversation that morning in the corridor. Jen was unable to identify the other man because the man's back was turned to him, but there was no denying the First Lord's identity. With the events that followed, the things that had been said that day were incredibly damming. Again, Jor argued that holograms had been doctored because at the very time that conversation had taken place, he was preparing for his trip with the First Lady. Being that she alone was his only witness, he was once again discounted.

The Council also pointed out the contents of Krypton's legal proclamations. Declarations were in place to protect less advanced worlds from attack or manipulation by Kryptonian forces. By invading Earth, Jor had broken that proclamation. Jor *was* First Lord. Thus, indirectly responsible for the actions against the weaker world. He was also responsible for the First Lady, who had lost her life because of something her husband had done. His actions constituted treason, and the punishment for treason was separation and dissolution of the molecules.

So, Jor waited for the moment he would leave his world for the last time, heartbroken that his beautiful wife had suffered due to his failure to protect her. He longed to be with her, and yet he feared for his sons. With his and Lara's deaths, the lives of his boys now lay in the hands of his brother and his world.

'Zor, protect them,' he prayed silently.


Ti watched in silence as the doors of the separation chamber closed on his brother. He didn't miss the tear that trailed the man's cheek or the pleading expression on his face. Not being able to help himself, he stepped forward.

"Wait!" The guards stopped, allowed him to approach. "I would like a final moment with my brother." They bowed slightly, then stepped back far enough to give Ti privacy. He opened the doors and waited until Jor lifted his head. "My brother," he began softly. "What kind of brother would I be if allowed you to enter eternity with dissolutions?" Jor's brow knitted together in confusion. "You see, dear brother…" Ti stepped a bit closer to make certain no one would hear him. "You were absolutely correct about those recordings."

Jor stared at Ti for a long moment before his questioning eyes cleared. "Why?"

"To rule, of course."

"But Kal-El will now become the leader," Jor pointed out.

"Yes. I do regret plans changed slightly…"

"You didn't intend for Lara to die?" Jor asked in a moment of total clarity.

"No. She, too, was supposed to take her rightful place."

"She would have never…"

"Been my wife?" Ti asked sarcastically. "No, but she would have made a wonderful trophy nonetheless."

"And now? You'll have to orchestrate the deaths of two more before you can be considered to head of the Throne."

"Oh, my dearest Jor-El. Don't you know it is much more ironic to lead through example?" Ti reached forward and clapped Jor's cheek. "Leave this world knowing that the delicate little minds of your bastards will be carefully shaped into brilliant, calculating machines." Ti waited… waited for the fear to well within Jor's very soul. Instead, he received a look of pity, of regret.

"I leave this world knowing that every life, no matter how it's touched over time, has an ultimate destiny. The destinies of my sons are greater than the will of *your* mind."

This time it was Ti-El who looked confused. His brother often spouted out such garbage. And every time it seemed to have the desired effect it was aimed to have.

Ti stepped back and waved dismissively at the guards. He glared at Jor as the doors once again closed him inside his tomb.

One last deep breath, a single turn of a button, and the First Lord of Krypton was no more.

Deafening silence engulfed the room; Ti allowed his brother's final words to simmer deep in his soul. Jor was wrong. A person's destiny is created merely by his life. And he intended the lives of his nephews to be very different from what his brother had intended for the youths.


Kal and Ching were left with only one living relative, Ti-El. Because Kal was only three, Ti was given discretionary rule over the young lord until Kal's maturity. Though his authority was limited in political affairs of his world, Ti's control of his nephews' educations was endless. And he chose to sculpt Kal into the kind of ruler he would have been had he been allowed to take the Throne.

Of course, taking the Throne was exactly what Ti felt he should have been allowed to do. But because the traditions of his world ran so deep and his people were so narrow-minded and often too paranoid, not to mention the bumblings of the idiots he chose to associate with, Ti was forced to rule through Kal-El.

Ti looked around the state room in which he stood — the very room that had been occupied by his brother just a short time ago. There would be many changes in here, he thought as he looked up at a picture of Lara.

"I believe I could have broken that independent spirit, Milady," Ti said to the image. "I would certainly have enjoyed the battle." He shook his head and turned to make his way over to the chair behind the desk, sitting slowly as he remembered the conversation he'd had with Nor about the death of the First Lady…


"What have you done, you incompetent…"

"Watch your tongue, Milord," Nor told him with a slight grin. "You wouldn't want to say something you'll regret."

"Nor!" Ti looked around to make sure they had not been discovered in their hiding place. "You were supposed to follow the plans."

"The job was done, wasn't it?"

"No, it wasn't. The First Lady is dead!"

"If I didn't know better, I'd say you were fond of the dearly departed."

"I *needed* her to become the First Lord, you idiot," Ti pointed out through clenched teeth. "Now I'll be forced to be only discretionary ruler."

"What's the difference?" Nor rubbed his nails against his tunic, effectively ignoring Ti.

Ti grasped Nor's tunic and backed him hard against the wall. "The difference is that instead of being allowed all those freedoms I promised you, now you'll have to answer to a toddler."

Nor briefly looked concerned with his present position before smiling. "I have wealth, a wife, and a few ladies willing to do whatever I want. What more could I ask for?"

"I don't even know why I bother with you." Ti shoved him, then backed away.

"You bother because you don't like getting your hands dirty." Nor straightened his tunic.

"Obviously you don't either. Those two fall guys you've recruited better not open their mouths."

"Oh, please. They are very loyal to their lord."

"And they had better be very dead once they're sent to Confinement Island," Ti warned.

"Learn now, Ti-El, that I do not take orders from any man."

"*You* learn now, Lord Nor, that I know more about you than any other living being. You cross me and you'll join the First Lord in the separation chamber!" With that last threat, Ti turned and strode away from Nor.


Ti lifted his hands, fingers touching, elbows resting on the desk. Yes, things certainly hadn't worked out quite the way he'd wanted them to. Nor had suddenly began to think for himself, others were getting drawn into his scheme, and now he would be forced to wait years before the realization of his dreams could come to pass. But even now, in the early stages of this new journey, he could picture the end results. He could see the cold, calculating ruler he would have been come to pass in the form of Kal-El.

He smiled and leaned back in his chair. Oh, yes, he truly loved irony.


Krypton: Year 2110 of the fifth cycle (or May, 1969)

The child's wide brown eyes stared up at the man hovering above him. His three year old mind did not understand why his mother and father weren't there. He'd been told nothing about guilty verdicts nor executions. He didn't understand what death was. The only thing he knew was that it was story time and his uncle was not looking for a book to read to him. Where were Mama and Papa?

Ti smiled at the infant he held in his arms. Kal and Ching had only been in his care for a few days, but each night he'd come to their chamber to impart some words of wisdom to them. He had read somewhere that words spoken to children during their formative years never left them. Kal had been with that insufferable couple for three years, hearing only Zor knew what kind of sentimental trash. Ti had his work cut out for him.

Once Ching was passed to his attendant, Ti turned to focus on the toddler waiting patiently. Kal whimpered as Ti lifted the boy in his arms.

"Kal-El, one day you will be the most powerful man on this world. You are the First Lord and you hold the fate of many men in your hands." Ti carried the boy over to look out the huge window into the darkness. "See there, Kal? That is your world. Together we will make it great."

The young child stared at his uncle for a moment before turning to gaze out the glass. He didn't understand his uncle's words, but as long as the man would be there to help him, then he guessed everything would be okay.


Krypton: Year 2112 in the eleventh cycle (or November 1971)

Ti's only regret in his plan to get rid of Jor had been the resulting situation on Earth. By quoting humanity laws during Jor's trial, the Council had also saved Earth from further Kryptonian influences, at least for the immediate future. He hated the dirty little planet; it was too loud and chaotic for his duty-driven mind and formal personality. He'd never understood why 'relations' had to be established. Ti felt Kryptonian forces should have just taken over and done with Earth what they wanted at will. However, some morality remained embedded in the population of Krypton and the Council ruled to continue diplomatic relations with the small planet. And, as Ti was only discretionary advisor to the young lord, he held no authority to order otherwise.

It was with great protest that Ti accompanied his First Lord on a trip to the 'sister' planet. The Council felt familiarizing the ruling authorities on Earth with their young leader was wise and should start immediately. So, Kal was packed up to make the long journey across the galaxy to be introduced to the various leaders of the other planet.

Another ironic twist, Ti thought as he walked slowly along with the members of the Council and several politicians, including leaders from various countries, as the men followed Kal-El. Jor had argued to bring his sons to Earth, and the Council had insisted the trip was too dangerous, Now, as ruler, the young boy led them along the hallways of the White House while the President of the United States conversed with Ti and Trey about diplomatic matters.

The leader of Krypton found himself strangely attracted to the many paintings that lined the walls. He was too young to understand what the words beneath the paintings said, but didn't much care anyway. He was more interested in the beautiful colors on the canvases. Color was practically non-existent on Krypton, where everything was dull grays, browns, or black. At home, the brightest colors he saw were the silver and blue of his shield, which adorned the fronts of his uniforms.

Suddenly Kal stopped in front of a portrait and stared intently. He felt he should know the man in the painting, yet couldn't quite remember. Behind him the men stopped, almost falling over themselves at the unexpected pause, and Ti came to stand at his shoulder.

"This is Jor-El, our former leader, Milord." The arrogant man took every opportunity to appear to be the perfect subject and uncle to his nephew. It was imperative that others viewed him as only the wisest of instructors and never believe he'd influence his nephew in any political way. The young man's decisions had to be seen as his own.

Kal glanced up at his uncle. "This is… Papa?"

"Yes, Kal, that is a portrait of your father."

Kal looked back at the painting. Why would there be a portrait of a bad man in this place? Why would they want to see his face each day? The boy looked up at the President. "This man was bad."

The President frowned down at the lad. "Yes, Milord. We leave his painting as a reminder of the cost of misplaced trust in a leader. We believed in this man and he betrayed us."

"And for that betrayal we continue to be most sympathetic," Trey told the President. "Shall we proceed with the meeting?"

"Yes, of course." The President led the Council into the conference room for a meeting on how best to continue diplomatic relations between the two planets.

Ti smiled down at Kal. He'd repeated the same story over and over to his nephew since becoming the child's guardian. He'd painted a vivid picture of what a horrible person Jor-El had been. The child wasn't receptive at first, but over time young Kal had come to believe what he was being told about his father.

Kal had already forgotten about the bad man in the painting as he hurried into the huge conference room. He'd been told he could play in the large chair at the head of the table. It wasn't often he was allowed to play, and he was going to take advantage of it.


Krypton: Year 2115 of the first cycle (or January, 1974)

One year slipped into two and two into three. Kal proved quite quickly that he was of incredible intelligence, and Ti took pride in shaping the boy's character, which was easy to do at such a young age. As the boy grew, he became more obstinate, but the older man felt as if he was a proud father as Kal was slowly molded into the kind of person he'd envisioned.

While Kal was being groomed to be a ruthless leader, Ching was being educated to be the First Lord's chief advisor. Ti took time to instruct the lad how to see things in a way that would most benefit the needs of the ruling house as opposed to the needs of the population. Although Ching was still very young, the older man knew that it was never too early to create the kind of personality best suited for his needs. Ti had discovered right away that Ching was not as strong as Kal. The younger lad was easily manipulated and led astray — perfect for the task Ti had in mind for him as the boy grew into a man.

"Feared," Ti often told them. "That's how a world should view its ruler."

And he took every opportunity to impart on the royal brothers the attitudes that would render those kinds of results. The boys were taught that only the strong survive; they were the royal brothers and didn't have to answer to anyone or anything; they were told their needs came before anyone else's; they were taught to take and never give; they were guided to always make sure their desires were satisfied regardless of who else they might hurt.

"It's not selfish because you're the First Lord," Ti had told Kal.

Both boys were growing to be strong and focused, expedient in matters concerning the state. After all, expedient, logical authority was exactly what the population needed.


Three years makes a difference when you use the time wisely. Ti-El had indeed done that, taking every opportunity to instill the Council with his own ideas about how Krypton should be run. Though things hadn't miraculously changed in the direction Ti wanted, there was definitely a curve in the direction the logical ruling body had once striven to keep straight and narrow.

One such curve was in how certain relations were carried out with Earth. Ti had convinced the Council that extending an invitation to a medical team to come and study with the scientists of Krypton would strengthen the bridge of trust that was being rebuilt after the devastation caused by Krypton on Earth years earlier. Earth readily accepted the invitation in hopes of the superior scientific advances of the Kryptonians finally helping to answer some of the mysteries long sought in the laboratories back on Earth. It never occurred to anyone that Ti's offering was of the sadistic nature and not of noble intentions.


Kal stood tall and proud as he awaited the arrival of the group of physicians and scientists from Earth. As ruler, it was his duty to personally greet all guests. The transport had docked and the people from the sister planet slowly began to trickle forward.

The young lord shook hand after hand and bowed appropriately to each member of the Earth team.

"Milord," bellowed a deep male voice as he reached forward to grasp Kal's hand. "I've looked forward to meeting you for some time."

Kal grasped the man's hand with a strong confidence years beyond his age. "I welcome you to my world," the lad told the man. He held the larger hand for a beat, which to his subjects would signify that he expected an introduction. It made no difference to him that these people were of another world. He was First Lord, and he expected to be treated accordingly.

The man seemed to understand perfectly the lord's gesture. "I am Dr. Sam Lane," he told Kal.

"Dr. Lane, I've read of your work." And he had. His uncle felt that Kal should be well informed of the happenings of Earth. It would prove helpful in years to come.

The doctor raised his brows in surprise.

Kal released the man's hand. "Don't look so surprised, Dr. Lane. I am First Lord. It is my place to know of your world."

"Yes, but excuse my bluntness, Milord, you *are* still a bit young."

"That may be so, but I've been ruler of my world for some time now. It was felt my education should start immediately. When I am officially crowned First Lord, I will be a strong, confident ruler."

Sam could only stare at the lad. It was hard to believe that a youngster could be so… so… stuffy.

"Sounds pretty awful to me."

Kal's eyes shot toward the new speaker. A girl, no more than seven, stood behind her father. Her dark curls fell below her collar and her wide eyes constantly searched her surroundings. For an instant, Kal felt a mix of emotions he'd never experienced before. But he quickly dragged his uncle's words to the forefront of his mind…

'Kal-El, you are ruler of your world. You don't have time for games or silly infatuations with girls. Females are here for the man's pleasure and to produce heirs. In time, you can take any you like as your own. For now, remember that wasting your time with girls would only prove to be your weakness.'

And there was no time for weakness.

Kal focused on Dr. Lane, who had started to speak again.

"I do hope it was okay that I brought along my daughter, Milord. Her mother has passed and there was no one to attend her needs back on Earth."

"As long as she does not interfere with the work we are trying to accomplish…" came the voice of Ti-El.

"Oh no, Milord," Sam hurried to assure Ti.

Ti glanced at the young girl. "I'm sure we can find her a lady-in-waiting so that does not happen."

"That won't be necessary…"

"I'm sure the First Lord would agree with me on this." Ti glanced to Kal for confirmation.

"Of course," the boy said. He cast one last glance at the young girl before stepping to the side to greet more of his visitors. Girls meant weakness. Weakness was intolerable. A weak ruler would be the death of his world. Continuing to chant those words, Kal presented himself as the picture of perfection as he greeted his guests.

From her position beside her father, Lois Lane watched as the rude little boy shook hands with another man. Everything about him made her skin crawl. He stood, ramrod straight, in his perfectly tailored suit as he spoke meanly to the adults around him. He barked orders loudly and his subjects hurried to obey. Not even his hair dared be out of place. Well, if being a lord made you act like that, she was glad she was just an ordinary old girl!


Ti-El stepped away from the receiving line, watching the Earth's first medical team on Krypton depart to their assigned stations. He fought to hide his smile. It was all happening just as it should…

The minute research began, dark changes would as well.

Little did Ti know that the start of another kind of change had begun during that first meeting as well. It might be years and countless trials before a peaceful coexistence would be attained, and there would be years of devastation and horror, but positive change would come… all because a little boy had met a certain little girl.


Krypton: Year 2117 of the ninth cycle (or September, 1976)

His small arms struggled as he lifted the Dre once again. The pain was almost unbearable, but he couldn't quit. He hadn't been told to stop.

'And you never quit', he recalled the words spoken to him almost daily.

"Aim for the gut, Kal!" Ti shouted at his nephew.

Kal heaved a deep breath, planted his feet, and thrust forward to plant a devastating blow to his opponent's mid-section, sending the larger youth flying backwards to land with a thump on his back.

Ti clapped slowly as his grin spread across his face. "Very nice. Very nice." He stopped and placed a hand on Kal's shoulder. "I must say, you fight with the precision of a man."

"Thank you, Milord," Kal replied formally; his uncle had never encouraged familiarity.

"Now, go prepare for your daily lessons. Education should include the mind as well as the body."

"Yes, Milord." As Kal deposited the Dre he held on the floor, he addressed his opponent, "Next time, lead with your left arm. I could have broken your jaw." He flashed an expression of absolute contempt at the boy still lying on the floor. Next time he *would* break his jaw, just to teach him a lesson.

Ti's grin widened. Yes, indeed. Kal was proving to be every bit the model student.


Ti stood at the large window of his state room, looking out over the palace courtyard, a slow smile spreading across his face. His scheming had taken ten long years, but reports had recently begun trickling in of unexplained deaths in the Eastern sector. An unknown virus had started infecting the population. Because the source was not known or even the components of the deadly infection, death was the result. Kryptonian scientists and medical teams scurried to identify the source and find a cure. It had been so long since such trivial diseases had affected the population, they had been caught off guard.

With a smirk, Ti turned to face one of his subjects.

"And those vile creatures on that ball of trash? Have there been cases of this virus there yet?"

"Reports from Earth should be coming in most any day, Milord," the man informed Ti. "I was assured the virus has been planted."

"Very good." Ti downed the drink he held, then waved his hand to dismiss the young man from his presence. In his mind, he was already reviewing the accident that would be necessary to take the life of the guard who'd just left his office. One couldn't afford to have too many loose ends. With any luck, all hell would break loose in the next few weeks and the population would be forced to scurry for their lives.


Krypton: Year 2120 in the sixth cycle (or June, 1979)

Ti's fury grew by the second as he watched Kal from a distance down the corridor. The boy was… flirting with a girl. They were both smiling and laughing. This was an outrage! Didn't the boy know there was about to be a war?! The man marched up to his nephew and cleared his throat loudly.

Kal immediately grew silent and turned slowly to face his uncle. He'd known what he was doing was inappropriate in the eyes of his uncle, but he'd been unable to help himself. His body was changing so rapidly lately and the female population held tremendously more appeal as the days passed.

"What are you doing, Kal-El?"

"I was just speaking with her, Milord."

The girl took the time to slip away from the confrontation she saw coming.

Ti continued to stare down at his young lord. Maybe it was time to start Kal's manhood training. The boy was extremely advanced in all other areas, and this one appeared to be no different. But right now there were more pressing issues.

The man sighed and reached out to squeeze his nephew's shoulder. "It is time to start the second phase of your training." He steered Kal in the direction of the communications room. "In due course we will address this matter, but you are needed now."

Kal went along silently. He'd heard of the 'manhood' training that lords underwent during their teenage years, but because he was First Lord and fairly sheltered from the general population, he wasn't exactly sure what it was. Like everything else in Kal's life, education was imperative to his position and he would embrace this new instruction with all the zeal and enthusiasm he'd embraced any other instruction. But…

"Milord," Kal asked Ti. "What is so urgent? Has something happened? Does it concern the issues surrounding the virus outbreak of 2117?"

"Indeed, Kal-El. We've received communications that several members of the Kryptonian research team on Earth has been attacked by a group determined to rid the planet of our people."

Kal stopped and stared up at his uncle, now all business. He'd started strategic and military logistical training when he turned eleven. Though only 13, Kal had already proven in simulations that he could very well lead his forces during battle.

"How many casualties?"

"First estimates near a hundred or more."

"Then there's little time to waste." Kal hurried toward the communications room, Ti on his heels.

The older lord's plans had fallen into place perfectly. The virus that had affected the population in 2117 had lasted for more than two years and had taken the lives of more than 100,000 Kryptonian men, women, and children before a source and a cure could be found. Several drugs had been produced to slow the disease, but the true cure took more than two years to find. What had shocked and appalled the population as well as the Council was that the virus strain had been carried from Earth. Similar to the common cold, which had been cured in the last century, the vicious bacteria would attack the respiratory system, eventually leading to severe pneumonia and ultimately resulting in death. Needless to say, Kryptonians were uncertain how to handle the situation.

Of course, the very same strain had affected the population of Earth, too. More than 200,000 victims fell there. As with those on Krypton, Earth was torn over the situation. They pointed the blame across the galaxy. The result, just as Ti had orchestrated, was a huge rift in diplomatic relations between the two planets. For more than a year, tensions boiled just below the surface, ending in an attack by a rebel group against Kryptonian citizens living on a campus in Tokyo.


Kal hurried to the bank of computers that had been built for communications both with other Kryptonian vessels and with various world leaders on Earth. Though as advanced as technologically possible, instant communication across the galaxy was not possible. More often than not, information was hours old by the time it reached the palace. For speedier transmissions, information was passed between transports at various points along the distance between planets. Still, this form of communication took time.

"You do not need to be here, Milord," said Trey. As chief of the elders, he held supreme power until Kal officially took the Throne. And even after, Trey would hold disciplinary power to rebuke the lord should he break the law.

"I think he does, Trey," Ti was quick to tell the lord. "His training has been extensive. Let him prove his worth."

"But, Lord Ti, the lord is only in his thirteenth year," Trey argued.

"And we're both here should he make the wrong decision."

Trey finally sighed and bowed to indicate that Lord Kal should proceed.

Kal stepped up to the computers and addressed the admiral sitting at the controls. "How many casualties?"

"One hundred one, Milord," the admiral informed him as he held out the most recent transcript.

"And the situation?"

"The remaining citizens are only forty nine. Two of our top scientists have perished."

"Who is in charge there?"

"President Zhing. However, he denies involvement in this affair." The admiral passed over a transcript of the communications with President Zhing.

Kal read for a few moments before turning back to the admiral. "Have we got a transport en route?"

"There was a transport just outside Earth's atmosphere. It was there to evacuate our citizens from the planet because of the breakdown in diplomatic relations."

"You mean, this group attacked knowing we were pulling out?" Kal was appalled. He'd learned in classes that kind of action was inexcusable in military strategy. A great nation should face its opponent head on.

"We should strike back, Milord," Ti told him.

"We shouldn't be rash," Trey pointed out.

Just as Kal was about to make a suggestion, another transcript was printed from the computers.

"'We're being attacked! Request permission to fire! Request permission to fire!'"

Kal's eyes shot around to his uncle's.

"Our forces are under fire, Kal-El. What does a commander-in-chief do in this situation?"

Kal turned and his hand hovered over the keyboard.

"Kal-El, we have to move," Ti told him with urgency. "By the time our communications reach our forces, it could be too late." When Kal stood in indecision, the lord turned to Trey. "Should we remain rash now? Our men are dying!"

Another communication was printed out. "'I repeat,'" it read, "'we're under attack! Request permission to fire!'"

Kal glanced at his uncle once again, unable to give the order demanded. It was so easy in the simulation exercises, but no one died there. People would die here; real, live people!

Trey rushed forward and typed furiously. The communication that went forth read, "'This is Lord Trey. Permission to fire granted! Defend yourselves at all costs!'"

Silence engulfed the room as Kal stared blankly at the bank of computers. He'd seen enough holograms to know what would happen now. And the Kryptonian weaponry was much more advanced than that of the Earth forces. There would be hundreds of casualties. All they could do now was await word that it was over, that Earth had once again been devastated by Kryptonian forces. He looked up when Ti grasped his shoulder.

"It's what's most prudent, Kal. A strong ruler can never show weakness."

"But there will be hundreds of deaths," Kal told him.

"Hopefully not our forces." Kal glanced down at the computers again. "Kal, death is part of life, part of war. It cannot be avoided. And we do what we have to do to survive."

Kal had to admit his uncle was right. Death, life… one was part of the other. "Very well, Milord." The young man turned, dreadfully waiting for the news of the destruction he was positive his world would soon reap.

Ti stepped up to Trey's side. "We should send a regiment that has not been inoculated against the effects of the yellow sun."

Trey turned horrified eyes to Ti. "That's where I draw the line, Ti-El. You've seen the devastation just two superpowered men can do to a world. Think of what a whole regiment can do."

"And how incredibly quickly this could all be over with?" Ti shot right back.

"For whom? Let us not forget that *we* wrote those humanitarian laws. It would be unlawful to break them… even for us." Trey stared down the other lord, adamant that the Council would not waver on this decision.

Ti heaved his indignation at the Council Chief before turning back to focus on the various transcripts of the events taking place a galaxy away. How he loathed that insufferable man! He'd wanted Trey to join his team, but learned years ago that the man was loyal to the House of El. Trey had taken his position as chief of the Council just two years before Jor-El was placed upon the Throne. Almost the same age, Jor and Trey had grown up and studied together. The two had also developed somewhat of a friendship. Ti had taken great pleasure during Jor's trial witnessing the obvious distress the Council Chief was under. It had been quite difficult for Trey to accept the idea that a man as honorable as Jor had always been, could have committed crimes against his very own people. For Ti, it hadn't hurt one bit that Trey had suffered more than others during certain phases of his plans. It only heightened the irony of it all.


Krypton dealt a lethal blow to the island of Japan. A good portion of the city of Tokyo had been destroyed. The Japanese forces surrendered quickly and a team of diplomats from Krypton were sent for a summit with all of Earth's world leaders. The summit lasted more than three months. It was finally agreed that only fifty researchers from each world would stay on the opposite world. Both civilizations realized the importance of advancing the sciences, but had witnessed the devastation of not utilizing all avenues of communications. Satellites and computers would be more widely utilized and peace talks would be ongoing. Though not all of their differences had been worked out, the major battles had been settled.

Having Earth exactly where he wanted it for the time being, Ti concentrated his efforts on Kal's 'manhood' training. A lord's 'manhood' training included sexual education as well as what was perceived to be 'proper etiquette' in dealing with the opposite sex. Of course, where Kal was concerned, Ti would make sure the young man's perception included the right mix of arrogance and power.

The sexual workings of the female body were detailed. Such instruction was deemed necessary to a wife's satisfaction with her husband, hopefully enough so that she would agree to produce many heirs to ensure the continuation of the noble line. For a logical people, such perversion should have been out of place. However, men ruled Krypton and with their arrogance certain customs and practices were adopted, most simply to satisfy their desires. Thus, the need to 'control' their lives and everything in it, including the women.

Ti told Kal that a man was happier when he sought the physical gratification of his body. Growing up ridiculed for being born a mistress' son, had led Ti to instruct Kal closely concerning concubines and children. 'It would be wise not to procreate at all with anyone other than your wife,' he'd imparted to his nephew. The law might grant a concubine's child many of the rights and priveleges of nobility, but it also bred hatred for those things not afforded that same child. Ti certainly didn't want to have to deal with a bitter bastard child of Kal's somewhere down the line.

'Take precautions,' Ti had told the younger El, 'when you share your bed with caregivers and concubines.' Though the older man was adamant about not producing children with one's mistress, he passionately supported Kal having as many affairs as the young man saw fit to keep him satisfied.

'Dominance is a man's right,' Ti informed the teenager. 'And becoming emotionally involved in any way, to *any* woman, would be the mostly costly mistake ever made.'

With constant reminders from Lord Ti about the weakness he'd displayed during the skirmish with Japan, Kal wasn't entirely sure his pride could withstand another blow dealt from a weak mind. So, Kal embraced his new training and Ti led instruction with the knowledge that Kal would be shaped into the image he'd perceived perfectly.


Krypton: Year 2125 of the second cycle (or February, 1984)

Kal had completed his formal training two full years before others his age, the fruit of individual instruction and advanced intelligence. This early completion of his formal education afforded Kal more time to spend preparing to take the Throne on his twenty-first birthday. At sixteen, Kal was introduced to his birth wife, Zara. He quickly assessed her as spoiled and too outspoken for her position. He looked forward to their union and making her conform to proper station.

Over the next two years, Kal began to attend more and more Council proceedings, diplomatic conferences with Earth, and traveled both to other districts on Krypton and to Earth. Under Ti's subtle guidance, Kal began to form pictures of how he would like to see things changed.

And change had already begun. Relations with Earth had steadily gone in the direction that Ti wanted. The battle with the rebel forces in Japan had sealed the image Ti was trying to establish Krypton to be. The people of Earth now feared another devastating blow from the more powerful sister planet. Talks grew more and more tense, eventually leading to the dissolution of the Inter-Planetary Research Foundation. All non-citizens were immediately transported back to their home world and a no trespass order was issued by each planet. Of course, Earth really had no means to travel to Krypton. Their technology, even with Kryptonian help, had not advanced that far. And Kryptonian leaders had not been foolish enough to provide Earthlings with a means for space travel — yet another way they continued to express their dominance.

Ti couldn't be more pleased. Things were progressing just as planned. Earthlings viewed Kryptonians the way he wanted them to, and each day proved to be more fruitful where his nephews were concerned. They were stoic, unemotional beings. A perfect incarnation of the visions the elder El had manifested during his youth.


Kal's eighteenth year marked his 'coming of age'. In a traditional ceremony, the Council sanctioned the First Lord's right to further his manhood training under the guidance of professionals. In other words, they gave him permission to engage in sexual activities. While it was unlawful for a woman to enter into her birth marriage soiled, young noblemen were encouraged to perfect their sexual expertise in order to keep their wives contented. Of course, if the wife failed to please her husband, he was free to seek out his pleasure in the form of concubines and caregivers.

In short, the men of Krypton were not unlike those of Earth. Both sought pleasure in women, welcomed physical release. But Kryptonian views on marriage were radically different, and fidelity didn't exist, except to the government. Men, noble men, could have as many affairs as they desired. The women, however, were expected to remain faithful, the exception being caregivers. Further, nobility were united at birth and marriage was considered a duty. Divorce was unlawful except under certain conditions, mostly of treasonous nature.

The same was not true for the lesser classes of the population. The lowest class was those of servitude: attendants, laborers, professional caregivers, and so on. If one was unfortunate enough to be born into this class, their entire line was forced into service. The lucky people were born into a kind house and would be provided for very well. Others simply strove to make it from one day to the next.

A middle class consisted of noble guards, professional workers such as physicians and scientists, and instructors. Though held in high esteem by nobility, there was still no mixing of the classes. People from both the lower and middle classes were free to marry anyone of their choosing, provided their mate remained inside the same class. All was tradition on Krypton that dated back almost as long as the planet had existed.

Ti, being completely Kryptonian, had also taken ample time to impart on Kal his personal wisdom of marriages and women. Ti had ignored the young man's hormones and convinced him that a strong, powerful ruler would enter into his birth marriage clean. Kal's wife had been chosen because of longstanding tradition and it was crucial that he claim her confidently and boldly. Ti explained that remaining unsoiled until his union would ensure a bridge of trust with the birth wife; an uncooperative wife could make Kal's, and Ti's, life insufferable. And too, it was easier for Ti to deal with Kal *without* interference from overactive hormones. The older lord knew too well that young men who'd had their first sexual experience were often consumed with desire. He wasn't about to risk years of carefully crafted plans because Kal couldn't keep his uniform on!

And his training ran deep, so it wasn't hard for Kal to agree to remain unsoiled until he was united with his wife. Ti knew exactly how to manipulate his nephew to his liking, and soon the young man began to look forward to 'taking what was his.'


Talks between Earth and Krypton finally reached an uneasy compromise. It was agreed that the leaders of Earth would allow the First Lord himself and the Council to return for a summit in the hopes that some accord could be reached in a personal exchange. Kal, in his youthful exuberance, was thrilled to have the chance to make a return visit to the sister planet. He hadn't visited since he was a child and with preconceived ideas instilled by his uncle, Kal looked forward to assessing the weaker planet. He'd already decided that when he took reign, the 'sister' planet would become a complete Kryptonian nation.

Kal arrived in a small town just outside the cities of Metropolis and New York where he was greeted by the President of the United States, the Japanese President, the British Prime Minister, and several other world leaders. A large park served as the informal setting for the meeting.

"It is nice to finally meet you, Milord," the US President told Kal.

"Long overdue," Kal returned with a firm handshake. Since his last meeting with the head of the country, there had been a couple of elections and there was a new leader. "Shall we try to reach some form of agreement over our continued communications?"

"All business and right to the point," the leader told Kal. "I like that." He turned and held up his hand in the direction of a building just across the way.

As they walked the distance across the expansive lawn, Kal couldn't help but look around this other world. It was brighter, louder than his world. People were rushing about, attending to the business of their lives, unaware that their fates might be determined today.

Once inside a large conference room, the meeting began with the young lord quickly establishing himself as spokesman for his world. He made points and suggestions that men twice his age had failed to touch. To say the powerful men of Earth were impressed was an understatement. Kal-El had certainly proven that when he took the Throne, he would be a very capable ruler.

As part of their continued bridge to peace, Kal was given a tour of some of the larger cities. First stop was the heart of Metropolis, where he visited some of the large institutions and centers. The American President felt that if the First Lord could get a taste of life on Earth and a feel for what people were really like on the sister planet, Kal would make more compassionate decisions and a permanent trust might be established.

A stop on the tour included the Metropolis Institute for the Advancement of Medicine. Inside one of the laboratories, Kal was reacquainted with a man he'd met as a child.

"Lord Kal-El, I'd like to introduce you to head researcher, Dr. Sam Lane." The President held up his hand toward the white-haired gentleman.

"I believe the lord and I have met," Sam said as he grasped Kal's hand.

"I must say that your name sounds familiar," Kal agreed.

"I was part of the first research team that came to Krypton."

Kal furrowed his brows in concentration for a moment before dawning came. "Ah, yes. During my eighth year."

"It's good to see you again, Milord." Sam released his hand and smiled. "You've certainly grown."

Kal merely nodded at the man. "As I must." He turned to take a look around Sam's lab. "This facility seems to be very advanced."

"Yes. Due in part to help from your world."

Kal turned back to the man after studying the various instruments. "I must admit that, until this trip, I was unsure of what this world had to offer mine. I was certain that a world as advanced as Krypton could not possibly need the help of a fledging world…"

"Kind of egotistical of you there, Lord," came the voice of a young woman who had stepped up to join the conversation.

Sam shot the girl a glance that clearly meant for her to hush, but Kal hadn't noticed. His eyes were glued to the girl. He'd never seen such a lovely young woman before. She was a small figure with long, dark hair and piercing brown eyes. But what caught Kal's attention was the air of confidence she seemed to radiate.

Dr. Lane turned to Kal, clearly embarrassed. "Milord, you remember my daughter?"

At once, the first time he'd seen this girl came rushing back. His mind allowed him to recall that moment of hesitation he'd felt during their initial meeting. "Miss Lane," Kal said, his mind reaching for her name. What was it? Lois! Yes, that was it. She'd been most obnoxious the few times Kal had seen her while she'd been on his world. Though he'd dubbed her trouble, his subconscious had filed her away in some distant corner of his mind. "Lois, was it?"

"You remember?" she asked as she glanced at Kal's offered hand.

His lips quirked in what could have almost been perceived as a smile when she refused to take his hand. He let the limb drop back to his side before speaking again. "How could I forget? You insulted me every time I saw you."

"I only told the truth… and I'm not sorry I did," she told him with a firm set to her jaw.

"You were not asked to offer an apology," Kal told her, somewhat amused with her outspoken behavior.

"She will be though," Sam spoke up and shot a threatening glance at Lois.

"I will not apologize for speaking what I believe," Lois told her father defiantly.

"Lois, please." Sam's jaw was tightened and he spoke through clenched teeth.

Kal was slightly taken aback for a moment. He'd heard that women on this world were defiant, but to witness it was another matter altogether.

Lois noticed Kal's expression and quickly leapt to drill him about it. "What's-a-matter, *Kal*?…"

Everyone around Kal took an audible gasp when she used his name.

"He's the First Lord, Lois," her father hissed.

"It's strange, huh? Seeing a *female* actually have something to say," Lois continued as if she hadn't heard her father.

Kal finally found his voice. He'd been much younger when she'd insulted him before. He wasn't about to stand by for her to do it now. "The female population of my world has plenty to say. 'Yes, Milord' and 'What may I do to please you' are among the most memorable comments from both intelligent and *stubborn* women!" Kal's anger had peaked slightly and he took a half step toward Lois.

"I may be stubborn, but at least I'm not an assh…" Her father quickly covered her mouth to keep the rest of her insult from coming out.

"You will say no more!" Sam turned his head to look at Kal. "I offer you my most humble apology, Milord."

"As you should," agreed Trey quickly. "The First Lord does not have to be subject to these outbursts. We came to Earth on invitation…"

"Lord Trey," started the President. "I assure you this situation will be handled."

"Enough," Kal said in a firm voice without taking his eyes from Lois. Her outburst had unexpectedly sent a burst of fire through his body. Rather than being perturbed by Lois, he was… entranced. But he had to rectify the situation immediately. She was female; she was weakness. And weakness was something he could not afford.

"I will forget this took place." With that, Kal turned and left the room.

The President stepped up to speak into Sam's ear. "For your sake, you should send that girl for formal training."

Sam nodded his head before turning to point his daughter in the direction of his office. She glared at him before stomping away. The doctor could only sigh and follow. What would he do with her?


Kal had said he'd forget the incident in Sam's lab took place, but his mind wouldn't let him do that. The feisty young woman's image kept coming to him over and over. Never before had he witnessed such an outburst from a female member of the population. Women on Krypton rarely spoke in public, and they certainly never insulted a man! What kind of barbarians were Earthlings rearing their daughters to be?

Suddenly Kal was brought from his thoughts by a loud boom.

"What was that?!"

"I'm unsure, Milord," came the voice of the driver.

Another boom followed; it sounded like an explosion and this time it was close enough to be felt. The vehicle they were riding in shook violently, jarring the passengers inside.

"Get the President underground," came the voice of one of the Secret Service agents over the radio in the front of the vehicle.

The convoy raced through the streets of Metropolis to an underground bunker while explosion after explosion took place around them. It would be more than an hour later before they discovered what had happened.


From his position sitting behind his desk inside the State Room of the royal palace back on Krypton, Lord Ti-El gazed out into the night sky. His mind was fixed on what he knew was taking place a galaxy away. For months he'd been planning this event. He'd chosen his army carefully and meticulously — a group of Earthlings who were tired of the way their world was being run. Negotiations took place and agreements were reached. A small attack vessel, along with a few Kryptonian rebels had been conveniently lost in space, then 'found' by a group of 'concerned citizens'. The rebels on Earth were taught how to fly the vessel and use the weaponry, then patiently awaited Ti's order to attack. He'd chosen the time when Kal-El would be on Earth. They believed him when he'd told them that if the First Lord died, Ti would be made ruler and appoint the rogue general to a mighty and important position on Earth.

Ti smiled slightly, knowing Metropolis was under serious fire.


"Milord, from what we can ascertain, these forces were gunning for you," a guard informed Lord Kal-El.

"What?!" Kal was in disbelief. Had the invitation to come to this planet been a ruse so he could be killed? He turned to the President for an explanation.

"Believe me, Milord, I have no idea who is responsible for this," the President hastened to inform him.

The ground shook as the fire got closer.

"We have no choice but to defend ourselves," Trey told him regretfully.

The young man sank to a chair and stared across the room. The situation was just like the one during his thirteenth year all over again. Except this time, *he* was the one being fired upon.

"Milord?" Trey asked, "Should I give the order?"

All of his training insisted this was the only avenue. Under attack, you fight back. Yet, some part of him would not allow him to give the order to send countless numbers to their deaths, even though he was the target of their aggression.

And countless deaths were exactly what it would be. Kryptonian forces were too strong for those of Earth. Untold millions would die if the fight escalated beyond the constant bombing going on outside.

Trey took a deep breath before turning to a guard. "Defend your First Lord."

"Yes, Milord." The guard hurried from the room to convey his order.

"You can't do that! Earth will not recover," the President said desperately. "Lord Kal, please don't allow them to do this."

Kal would have heard most any other suggestion, but none was forthcoming as he stared up at his Council Chief.

"It's what must be done. Your life hangs in the balance, Milord," Trey told him.

"I have no choice," Kal finally managed in a strangled whisper.

"As Council Chief, my first priority is the protection of my lord," Trey informed the President. "The safety of your world is secondary here."

The President's eyes filled with anguish and he sank to a chair. He knew the horrible destruction that would follow.


April 1984 (or Year 2125 in the forth cycle)

The President stepped up and bowed to Kal-El. The attack on the city of Metropolis had escalated into something just short of complete and total devastation for much of Eastern United States. The rebel forces had not only acquired a Kryptonian attack ship, but several ground-to-air weapons as well. When the order was given to defend themselves, Kryptonian forces launched immediately.

Though certainly more adept at military strategy, the Royal Army received quite a fight from the rebel forces. After only a week of constant fighting and thousands of deaths, mostly innocent civilians, the rebel forces were rendered powerless. The President and majority of the Earth's leaders agreed that the only hope for survival after such devastation, compounded by the mass destruction of years past, was to become an official Kryptonian nation. A summit was organized aboard the Royal Palace and one by one, the leaders of the world bowed to their new ruler.

The Council had moved quickly, refusing to give Kal much say in the events that led to this moment, actions completely in contrast to their past political standing with the sister planet. The education he'd received to become ruler of his people had prepared him for such events, and he'd fully intended to make Earth a Kryptonian nation in the future. Yet, that education and knowledge had failed to include information regarding how he'd 'feel' about any situation. Though he remembered the voice of his uncle telling him that he should be proud he'd conquered an entire world, he didn't feel like he'd conquered anything.

He'd seen the faces of those fighting for their very lives; he'd learned a little of the lives that these people led. He might have been stowed away in a bunker or on the royal transport during much of the trip to Earth, but he was not deaf. He could hear the desperation in the many voices around him, the pure anguish and defeat.

"… from this day forth… be your humble servant…"

Kal focused long enough to hear the end of the President's speech, then bowed before he spoke. "As a nation of Krypton, this world shall thrive again. Welcome to my service." As if on autopilot, he responded with the appropriate words, the appropriate actions.

Is that what they were doing? Going through he motions?

"Kal-El," the crowd announced as they'd been instructed to do, ripping him from further contemplation.

The President had led the conference to make this choice, fearing the whole world would perish if he hadn't. He dropped his sorrowful eyes to the ground and heaved a deep breath. Maybe death would have been better.


Krypton: Year 2125 in the sixth cycle (or June 1984)

Kal hurried down the corridor toward Council Chambers. The royal transport had just docked from its extensive trip to Earth and so much had happened that he hadn't planned on. But there wasn't much he could do about it now. In his absence and in the absence of the Council, Ti-El had been provisionary ruler. When news of the attack on Earth reached Krypton, Ti immediately formed a team to discover the traitor who had been able to smuggle an entire ship, crew, and so many weapons from the planet. Under the newly formed task force a small group believed to be at fault was arrested, tried, and executed immediately.

Kal received news of the trial just a day before docking back on Krypton. For the first time in his life, he was extremely angry that his uncle would act so rashly. He'd always somewhat feared Ti-El, but in the short time he'd been on Earth, Kal had aged well beyond his years, and he viewed Ti's actions as reckless.

The lord burst through the doors of the Council Chambers causing Ti to raise his head from where he sat looking over transcripts before him.

"Ti-El, what have you done?!"

Ti raised his brows at the young man; Kal's use of his name apparently surprising him as much as the anger dancing behind his nephew's eyes. He waved his hand for the guards to close the doors, then rose to his feet. "How dare you question me?! I am your teacher! My wisdom far exceeds your youth!"

Kal stopped and stared at his uncle. "Milord, you should not have acted so rashly."

"Rash? You think I was rash?" Ti pushed a file across to Kal. "Every detail is in there. There was no mistake. I acted well within the law."

Kal lifted the file and began to read through the transcripts. When he was done, he had to admit that the law had been followed to the letter. Before he could speak, Trey entered the room.

"Lord Ti-El, explain yourself!" He took the file Kal held out to him, looked over the information, then said, "You will still have to face a formal review."

"Yes, I'm aware of that," Ti told Trey.

"Very well. There is much to do now." Trey left the chambers and the lord with his uncle.

"Kal, what I've done was for your protection. What would this world be like if men like that were allowed to remain alive?"

The young man agreed that an attack against his own people was not something he wanted. It would be years before Earth resembled a livable civilization again. He certainly didn't want to take the Throne to a mess like that right here at his own doorstep. Yet, there was a part of him that just couldn't grasp everything that had happened.

"Has an intense probe been done?" Kal rubbed his eyes, suddenly feeling very tired. "We need to know how deep this goes."

Ti relaxed his stance. "I have combed the population and have not found further betrayal. I would trust that the task force I've formed will be kept in tact to continue to keep such treason from happening again."

"Yes, of course. The Council is going to appoint a lord to be provisionary ruler on Earth as well."

Ti blanched at that. "I can't say I envy that, Lord."

"There will be those that will jump at the chance to rule a world."

"Most certainly." Ti watched his nephew drop heavily into a chair. "What it is, Milord?"

"I'm still not sure how this whole protected nation thing came about," Kal told his uncle.

"Kal, you will inherit not one, but two worlds."

"I know, I know, but…" Kal leaned forward with his elbows resting on the table. He was sure he'd had every argument he could possibly have with himself. But something continued to eat at him.

Ti stepped up and laid his hand on Kal's shoulder. "It will all work out, Milord. You'll see."

Kal sighed heavily, then rose. "I'm sure you're right."

"I am. Believe in my wisdom, Kal. I have taught you well. You hold two worlds in your hands just waiting to be shaped. Don't allow sentiment to cloud your judgment and crush either one."

The young man nodded slowly before leaving the room. With great power also came great responsibility. In two and half short years, it would all belong to him. Kal prayed to Zor for the wisdom to sustain him.


Krypton: Year 2128 in the second cycle (or February, 1987)

Kal stood upon the platform overlooking the palace courtyard as throngs of people awaited the moment Trey would declare him the official First Lord of Krypton. The royal crown was taken from the holding case, where it had been since Jor's execution, and placed upon his head. He recited the ceremonial declaration and bowed deeply to his subjects.

Though he'd been First Lord since his youth, Kal had been limited in his position. Not anymore. Today his world truly became his. He inherited not one, but two worlds, to shape into something extraordinary. He'd embraced his education with high expectations, only faltering slightly when Earth was declared a 'protected Kryptonian nation'. He'd stubbornly dismissed his distress as a moment of weakness and vowed to take stern control of his Throne.

He would also be the kind of ruler his father hadn't been.

A satisfied smirk marred his usually stoic expression as he turned back to Trey for the second half of his ceremony. His birth union to Zara would also be sanctioned this day.

Zara was a stranger to Kal; he knew her only from communications with her father, had only met her once. It was believed that marital relations would be more profitable if the bride and groom were not allowed to get to know each other before the union. Kal had looked forward to those relations for some time now. He grasped Zara's hand with a strong male confidence and recited the ancient words to bind him to his wife. Not only would he take control of his world today, he would assert his authority over his house.


Kal heaved as he struggled to catch his breath. When he could breathe again, he fell over on his back beside Zara.

"Most pleasurable," he said softly, obviously thrilled with his first sexual experience.

Following the union ceremony and an elaborate celebration, Kal and Zara had been led to the bridal chamber by the Council, as was tradition. While Kal had appeared excited, Zara dreaded every second. There was an awkward silence for several moments before he'd told her to sit, explaining his expectations of her, both inside bed chambers and out.

"Milord, our union is a duty to me. I will perform it flawlessly," she'd told him with no emotion.

She had been nervous as Kal had undressed before her. Completely nude, he'd terrified her, evident even to him in the slight tremble of her body. The young lord slowly and deliberately took the lead. Though she hadn't enjoyed the experience as Kal had, Zara hadn't protested either. For years she'd been told that Kal-El was a serious man, unemotional, with little time for anything other than rule of his worlds. And he'd proven it clearly.

The young wife hadn't minded Kal's treatment, though. As the man receives 'manhood' training, the woman receives 'womanhood' training. Zara knew exactly the things to do to convince Kal that all was well. Those kinds of lessons had proven necessary to allow women betrothed to unlikable nobles to cope. Although noble women considered it a great honor to fulfill her duty to her world, it was never said they had to like it.


Kal rubbed his hand across his stomach, then sat up to look at Zara. He hadn't told her she could get dressed, so she'd remained where she was. "Zara, I know you did not enjoy this experience as I did. My uncle has told me of the 'womanhood' training."

The young woman slowly sat up, eyes wide with surprise.

"Relax," Kal told her. "I do not fault you for how you feel. I know you see our marriage as a duty. I also view this marriage as a duty. That is the only way we could thrive in our appointed positions." He shifted to face her more fully. "I cannot lie and say I hadn't looked forward to this night. I have saved myself in hopes that we would form a strong bond."

"I am most pleased you chose to share my awkwardness and loss of innocence with me, Milord."

"But I am afraid it has not created the bond I sought." He looked at her with expectant eyes. He'd asked her how she truly felt.

Zara looked down as she spoke. "This is my duty. I will perform it to the best of my ability."

"And would you prefer to do that as friends or enemies?" Kal wanted a more direct answer. This woman was a stranger to him. He wasn't indifferent to her, nor was he partial to her. He felt, that given time, they could coexist in harmony, if she was so inclined.

Zara lifted her eyes to look at him. "I would prefer to do it as acquaintances," she told him truthfully.

"Very well." Kal climbed from the bed and slipped his robe on. "Welcome to the House of El, Lady Zara." He bowed and left her alone. Once inside his own bed chamber, Kal had to admit that he felt a sense of relief that his wife didn't want to become more intimate inside the bounds of their marriage. There was something about her he just didn't care for. Besides, if he didn't have to coddle some woman, he'd have more time to rule his worlds.


Ti-El couldn't be more pleased with his nephew. The young man had only taken reign of his world three months prior and already had set the Council afire. The very day following his official crowning and union, Kal ordered a meeting of the Council. During chambers he set forth new protocol as it pertained to his reign. There were guidelines issued for the proper performance of duty, consequences outlined for failure, and three new task forces instituted to assess the state of the world and that of Earth. Appointments were made and new orders issued. Kal ran a tight ship for a leader of such tender youth, insisting on nothing less than perfection, proving it over and over in the few shorts months he'd been ruler.

Ti smiled again as he stared across at the young lord in his thoughts. Kal was talking to one of his admirals about preparations for a trip to Earth. The young ruler was unaware of the true state of that little world. Yes, it was being rebuilt, but not for its population. It was being rebuilt for the good of Krypton. The vast resources were being utilized for gain of the controlling world while the population of Earth was slowly forced into servitude.


Krypton: Year 2128 of the sixth cycle (or June 1987)

Kal entered the communications room of the palace, quickly received the nightly report, then retired to the study for cocktails with his uncle.

Ti looked up at the young man when Kal entered the room. "Kal, my boy. You're looking well."

"I'm feeling well, Milord." Kal sat opposite the older man and reached for the offered glass an attendant held for him. He took a generous swallow before looking over at his uncle. "And you? How is my uncle?"

"Your uncle is very happy at the moment. I have just left chambers and a very skilled caregiver."

"Ah." Kal watched the blue liquid in his glass, his thoughts drifting to the night before. He'd summoned Zara, hoping to create at least a bridge between them. However, the young man had been far from happy about their time together.

With each night that passed with his wife, Kal grew more and more dissatisfied. Zara was extremely unresponsive, leaving him cold and frustrated. Yet, his arrogance kept him from seeking the attentions of a caregiver. He felt that she should conform to *him*, his needs and desires. Not just merely perform her duty. Each time he sent for her he'd tell himself that she *would* do as he said, even if he had to force her. And each time some part of him refused to cooperate with him in his bravado. Instead, he'd stumble through their encounter as quickly as possible, then send Zara away.

Ti's brows knitted as he studied his nephew. "What is it, Kal? Are there problems within the chambers?"

Kal looked over at his uncle, took a sip from his glass, then sighed. "To tell the truth, I've been more concerned with my worlds than my loins." Not a total lie, but for the first time in his life, Kal was unable to tell his uncle the truth.

Ti laughed heartily. Yes, indeed, he'd taught the boy well. "Very admirable, but a man must keep himself happy. Now, wouldn't you like me to recommend the services of a skilled professional?"

For a brief moment, Kal thought it odd one should think of women that way. Skilled professional? Was that how others viewed caregivers? Were they truly skilled?

"I would think your wife would keep you satisfied," Ti continued before Kal could answer. "However, a man can find an abundance of… variety with others."

Kal wanted to ask what Ti meant by variety, but decided he didn't want to know. And he wasn't sure seeking out a caregiver was wise either.

As if sensing what the younger man was thinking, Ti spoke. "Milord, why do you hesitate in this matter? You are well within your rights to seek out whomever is most capable of pleasing you."

"I know this, Milord." Kal sat up and placed his glass on the table before him with a notable thud.

"Then do it, Kal," the man urged. "There are things those women do that I'm sure a noble woman never would."

"And why is that, Lord Ti?" Kal asked, suddenly very perturbed. "Why is it that even inside chambers with your own wife, does a noble man feel the need to be so reserved? We are instructed on how to treat her, yet she's only instructed on how to pretend. Why shouldn't her womanhood training include the same kind of instruction?"

"Please don't tell me you've developed emotions towards your wife," Ti said in disgust.

Kal was shocked into silence. Had he developed emotions toward his wife? He often thought about her when she left him, both inside and outside chambers. A few times he'd caught himself wondering what kind of person she was. He'd even thought to speak with her in a less formal tone. But emotions? As in strong feelings? That was an entirely foreign concept for his logical, unemotional race. Yes, he felt… *something* for Zara, but strong emotion was not it.

"Not in that sense."

"Thank Zor. You've seen how emotion and sentiment have corrupted Earth. Don't allow that to happen here."

"Rest assured, the interests of my worlds are foremost in my mind."

"Then it seems to me you're just frustrated otherwise." Ti smiled at his nephew. "Nothing a good caregiver can't take care of."

Kal sighed heavily. He *was* very frustrated physically. "Maybe you're right."

"Quite," Ti agreed. "Shall I call for one?"

Kal rose from his chair. "Yes. Send her to the guest chamber in the State Wing." He turned and strode from the room. He might have decided to seek out another woman to share a chamber with him, but he'd be damned if she'd share his personal space.


The many stars that stretched into the farthest reaches of black void suddenly seemed so menacing as Lois sat on the platform of a Kryptonian vessel bound for a world and life that she greatly feared. She, along with about fifty more Earthlings, had signed a pact with the Kryptonian Council. Though a great deal of reconstruction had been completed, living conditions on Earth were still not the most hospitable. Many people struggled desperately to survive. Many were forced into service of the Kryptonian throne, and lately, there had been others who signed agreements to serve on Krypton for a period of one year, in whatever capacity the royal court chose for them, in order to return to Earth in a more profitable capacity.

It had been a long few years. The countless struggles, all the pain… even working as her father's assistant was a difficult life. Lois felt in some small way that coming to this world might make a difference, if only in her mind. She'd always known she'd somehow make a difference in life. Not a mere change, but a huge, noticeable difference. At one time, she'd thought she'd do so as a reporter, dreams of working for the Daily Planet fueling her to achieve success during her education. Never had she dreamed she'd make a difference in the way she would attempt by coming to Krypton. She was a strong individual, but lately the fire that sustained her had started to die down. And apparently her tendency to jump into the deep end without checking the water level first was a serious personality trait.

Like so many others, Lois hadn't been too shocked when war had broken out between Earth and Krypton. Many had predicted it would happen sooner or later. What had shocked so many was the leaders of Earth surrendering to the other world. A 'protected Kryptonian nation' was not even close to what the population of Earth had become. They were mere puppets in play that they didn't have the script to. And she was tired of the scenes.

Her father had argued with her for hours over her decision to sign a pact with Krypton. She'd tried to explain to him that it was the only way. She truly believed that if she could see Lord Kal-El, speak with him privately, she could convince him to look into matters on Earth. She would quote his own law to him. Those rigid bastards followed the law so strictly that they'd have no choice but to do something.

She rose from her seat on the lounge and approached the observation rail. The transport traveled so fast that it seemed like they were sitting still. She could clearly remember the first time she'd traveled across space. She had been a girl then, but the excitement and wonder would always remain with her. Of course, it had been slightly deflated when she'd met that horrible little boy. Even at eight, the First Lord had been mean. He'd made an awful first impression and every time she'd seen him after that had been just as awful. Whether it was because she disliked him so much or just a child being a child, Lois had taken every opportunity to annoy him. She'd called him names, picked at him about his clothes, his hair, and even said something mean about his parents.

And that had been the day she'd started to look at the lord as more than the leader of a world. Lois had started to see him as a little boy.


Why did she have to go to classes? Lois thought as she followed the other kids down the hall. She was the only Earthling child here, but she was forced to sit through boring classes with the Kryptonian kids. What's his name? Troy? Trey… Yeah, Trey! He'd decided it would be best to keep her occupied. 'And since he's the head of the Council,' her father had said.

The group passed a corridor on their right side and Lois' curious eyes searched the bright white expanse for something, anything, more exciting than the geography of Krypton. She was thrilled to see Lord Kal running their way.

'Look at him', she thought. 'He thinks he's so much better than anyone.'

She glanced ahead to see her group turn the corner and quickly made the decision to stay and rattle the little jerk's cage a bit. She waited with folded arms as he approached.

"Where ya' off to in such a hurry?" she asked as her neared.

Kal stopped in front of her, barely winded from his run down the corridor. "Why aren't you in class?" he countered.

"None of your business," she replied. "Shouldn't you be in class learning how to pick on my people?"

"I don't have time for games today," he said as he started to go around her.

"Think that's what your daddy said the day he killed all those people?" Lois wanted to cock her arm in triumph when her words stopped the boy dead in his tracks. He slowly turned back to her with an expression she'd never seen on his face before. "I'll bet you'll grow up to be just as mean as he was."

Kal took a deep breath and stood a bit straighter. "The ruler of his world is not mean. He's stern in his rule."

"Call it what you want. It's still plain ole mean." Lois shrugged her shoulders a bit. "Who knows? Maybe you'll have a bit of your mama in ya'. Maybe you'll be whiny and mean."

"What does that mean?"

"I heard your mama was nice and that's why your daddy killed her. He didn't want her to turn you into a patsy, crying all the time. Taylor, a girl back home, says your daddy was just crazy. She says her daddy said that you and your brother were supposed to go on that trip, too. See? He didn't like you neither!"

And she stopped. The air left her lungs in a rush when she looked into the eyes of the little boy in front of her. Huge crocodile tears had filled his eyes and he stared at her, pain marring his normally controlled expression. Her daddy had grounded her once for saying mean things to others. Most of the time she simply spoke the truth, nothing intended to be hurtful in any way. But since she'd met this boy, all kinds of things had rolled off her tongue. She just couldn't help herself. She'd hadn't liked the First Lord from the moment she first saw him, and upsetting him was too easy.

So why did she feel so bad about upsetting him now? He was trying so hard not let his tears fall. His lip quivered slightly. If her guess was right, he'd never had anyone pick on him to the point of tears. Suddenly she saw more than just a mean little person. She saw the little boy behind his brown eyes. And she felt a bit of his pain. She'd lost her mother and wouldn't like it very much if someone said something about her. This boy had lost both his parents. It didn't matter what they had done. They were his parents.

"I'm… I'm… " she stammered, almost to the point of tears herself.

Kal lifted his arm and swiped at his eyes with the sleeve of his suit. "You're what? Mean? You must have gotten that from your mother because your father is quite nice," he spat at her, then turned and strode away.

Lois was left in utter disbelief. He had never stood up to her. All the times she'd picked on him, all the things she'd said… He had always just looked down his nose at her and continued on his way. But this time he would have made the Earthling kids proud.

"Way to go, Kal," she said softly to his retreating back. "Way to go."


That had also been the day he'd become Kal instead of just Lord Kal. She'd never called him that, of course. She did continue to take shots at him every time she saw him. Only he began to throw them right back. To an outsider, you would have thought they were just friends sharing good natured ribbing with one another.

And maybe on some level that was the way she'd viewed it as well. It wasn't long after that encounter that Lois and her father left Krypton. Lois had been excited to return home, but a little saddened as well. It was years later before she realized just why.

Back on Earth, she returned to her childhood, only occasionally thinking about the mean little Kryptonian ruler. It wasn't until she started junior high school that Kal became a pastime for Lois. She began to keep up with him. More than once she asked herself why. Why did she care? Then she'd argued she didn't. That she just wanted to know his plans concerning her world. By the time she saw him again in her father's lab she probably knew as much about the First Lord as anyone could without actually being him. Or at least she liked to think so.

But what had shocked her was the thrill that had coursed through her veins that day in her father's lab so long ago. It had been difficult to think straight, let alone talk. Yet, she'd been unable to help herself. Standing toe to toe with Kal, pushing his buttons, had been irresistible.

And absolutely intoxicating.

Even in the midst of an all out war, barricaded within the shelter beneath her father's lab, there was no denying the attraction she'd felt for the First Lord. She'd argued fervently against it; denied it, even. But it was there.

Why? She'd asked herself so many times. She was attracted to the one man that could literally end her life. Sure, he'd grown into a handsome man. That was still no reason to be attracted to the devil!

There was more. As she'd stared down the lord of all, Lois had seen more behind those dangerous brown eyes. It was a mere glimpse, but it was there. She wasn't sure if it was compassion or just wishful thinking on her part. Call it traces of his mother or hope in a better life, whatever you want. It was there.

That was why she was aboard a space ship headed for a world and life that would forever change hers.


The transport ship slowly entered the docking bay of the large hangar on Krypton. Loud hisses and a hue of vapor escaped the enormous machines as the vessel settled into place with a clang.

One by one, the individuals who had given a year of their life to the First Lord's service stepped from the transport. Worried and hopeful eyes roamed their strange new surroundings, thoughts running wild as to what would come next. They were told they would be debriefed, then assigned tasks suitable to their station in life. But first they were searched, photographed, and issued an identification card. An auditorium was utilized to present the three hours worth of holograms about the life they'd be expected to lead.

Inside his state room, Kal perused the file of photographs taken of the Earthlings that had arrived for service. He had not been pleased when the Council had decided to start this new 'phase' of their relationship with Earth. For reasons he still questioned, the Council had been adamant and so the offer was made to the Earthlings. An offer of better living conditions in exchange for services.

Though still not very happy the Council had taken such liberties, Kal had to admit that the few Earthlings that had made the journey had adapted quite well and were performing their duties beyond expectations. He figured there was something to be said for safety and a decent meal each day.

Only the second group to be brought to Krypton had just arrived, and he liked to look at the files before handing them over to an advisor to issue assignments. His shuffle through the photos came to a halt when he saw a face he recognized.

It had been so long since he'd thought about her. Lois Lane. The only person who'd ever had the audacity to stand up to him. Even as far back as childhood she alone had challenged his position. He'd thought of her over the years, wondered what she was doing. He'd known she'd survived the attacks on Earth because he'd inquired about her. He'd known she worked as an assistant in her father's lab. So why had she agreed to come here?

"This woman…" He held the electronic device up to the advisor. "Why is this woman here?"

The man looked down at the number on the file before focusing on his handheld computer to retrieve the information his lord sought. "Lois Lane, age 20 years. Under reason for coming…" The advisor turned shocked eyes to Kal.

"Well?" the lord asked.

"Milord, it says… For the hell of it."

For the first time in a long time, Kal did something he rarely ever did. He smiled. It appeared Lois Lane was just as stubborn as she'd always been. "Bring her to me."

"Yes, Milord."

Ten minutes later, Lois entered Kal's state room.

Kal was a bit surprised to feel a sudden rush as the door to his state room slid open. He was actually… excited to see this woman again. And he wasn't entirely sure it was because he held complete authority over her new station in life.

He rose from behind his desk as the young woman stepped further into the room. His breath caught in his throat as he laid eyes on her. Even from a distance he could see that she was not the same person she'd once been. She looked weary and seemed more guarded than he remembered her to be. When she finally lifted her eyes to his, he noticed the fire that had once danced behind her dark orbs had long been extinguished, and she appeared less than enthusiastic about being there.

"Miss Lane…"

"Lord Kal," she said softly, almost too softly.

"I was surprised to see your name in this group," Kal told her.

"Yeah, well, a girl needs to eat." Lois slowly walked around his large state room, inspecting things as she went.

Kal had to take a moment to let what she'd said sink in. Had the war done that much damage to the fiery little woman that had once inhabited this body? He stepped around the desk and to her side. "My uncle," he told her as she stared up at a large portrait.

"I know. I've seen him in the transmissions on Earth."

"And what else do you know?" Kal turned to face her, his hands clasped behind his back.

"I know more about Kryptonian history than I care to," she told him. She walked the distance to the window and looked out over the garden.

"Why are you here?"

She faced Kal again. "I thought I could make some kind of difference," she told him.

"And how would you do that?"

"I don't know."

Kal eyed her closely, certain there was more to her being here than her desire to make a difference. "Tell me, Miss Lane," he insisted after a moment.

"How can you live here in all this comfort while so many are suffering? You have so much and those people, your subjects by decree, are dying," she told him after a moment.

Kal furrowed his brows in confusion. "What are you talking about?"

"The people of Earth, Lord Kal-El! Your provisionary leader is running that place into the ground."

"You must be mistaken. I've read the reports…"

"Oh, the reports…right. Those wouldn't be misleading, now would they?" She crossed her arms in an act of defiance, one Kal had seen many times.

But he resented her implication. "I'm the ruler; nothing goes on that I don't know about…"

"Maybe you don't want to see, then, Lord Kal, that your reports are wrong. That your eyes are closed." She sighed and sank heavily down on Kal's chair.

The young man raised his brows at her audacity, but didn't comment on her actions. He chose instead to take the seat across from her. "What is actually happening and what you see…"

"What I see is a pompous, arrogant, self-centered bastard who chooses to turn an entire world into his servants," she interrupted him before he could finish.

"As I've said…"

"The reports are wrong! For God's sake, Kal, open your eyes! Go there. See what's happening." She leaned forward to rest her arms on the desk. "I know you're a tough leader. I'm aware you expect perfection from your subjects. But look at your world. It's healthy and prosperous. Kryptonian law *does* state that all, *all* people under the rule of this world shall be taken care of. Isn't that called the Humanitarian Acts?"

Kal was surprised by her knowledge of the law, but he took in what she'd said. Could she be correct? Was the population of his other world suffering? If so, why did he receive reports that stated otherwise?

"I will take your words under advisement."

"Under advisement?!" Lois shouted as she shot to her feet. "Get off your a— and do something!"

There she was. The little fireball he'd met had definitely returned. And with her came something else. A jolt of excitement jumped through Kal's system as he looked at her. It was the first time he'd ever felt such a rush. Yet, all he could think was how truly enchanting this woman was, completely unlike any other he'd ever known.

"Is that why you came here?" he said, changing the subject. "Did you believe I'd see you? Listen to you?"

Lois stopped for a moment, then stammered for words. "Well, that, not really, um, I…"

"You took a huge gamble with your life," Kal told her seriously. "I have read your file. You were only a student on Earth before the war. You have served as laboratory assistant for your father since then. Such positions here are filled with skilled middle-classmen. Your education would warrant no more than a position in a service field. More precisely that of a professional caregiver."

Earthlings may not be good enough to attend to the Kryptonian royal family in the form of maids or butlers, but the men certainly weren't averse to using them as instruments of pleasure. How… absurd was that logic, Kal thought for the briefest moment.

Lois turned her head, unable to deny his words.

"Do you know what that means?" Kal asked her when she didn't speak.


"You'd be subjected to a sterilization procedure, taught how to pleasure a man, and sent for over and over. If you're lucky, a noble may find you satisfactory enough to take you as his concubine. Then you'd be subject to his wishes and only his." Why did Kal care if this woman knew these things?

And why did it bother him so much?

"I know that!" Lois shouted at him.

"But you chose to come anyway?" He found himself most impressed with her actions; it was very brave and noble.

And stupid.

"Yes, I came! I was determined that one way or another, I'd see you and tell you what was really going on back there. I may not like you very much, but I had to see for myself if you're the kind of person to let your subjects continue to suffer."

Those last words sank in slowly. Was he that kind of ruler? Did he care about the conditions in which his subjects lived? He certainly provided well for his Kryptonian subjects, and he felt he'd done so for his Earthling ones as well. Was she right? Had he *not* done that?

"If you'll go to Earth, I'll do anything," Lois suddenly said. "Please, please go. See for yourself."

Kal had never seen a woman beg for anything, had never seen anyone beg for that matter. Life on Krypton was more cut and dry. You fulfilled your duties and that was that. But to listen to this woman plead with him stirred emotions inside the man he hadn't known existed.

"I beg you, for the lives of my people," Lois pleaded softly.

Kal slowly rose from his chair, clasped his hands behind his back and walked around behind his desk. Lois had moved when he did and stood just on the other side, impatiently waiting for him to say something. The young leader looked up at the person before him. Each encounter with this woman came flooding back. She had stirred something inside him, forcing his subconscious to realize that he might actually have a compassionate side.

He sat again slowly, on *his* throne, placed his hands in his lap, then spoke softly. "What do you get out of this?"

"I get the knowledge that you've seen the cruel treatment of humanity. And if you decide it's inexcusable, maybe a few people won't have to suffer."

Kal watched her for several more moments. There was just something about this woman that intrigued him. He could have any woman of his choosing, yet for some reason, his mind was beginning to tell him that he wanted *this* one.

"Because of your education and position on Earth, there would be only one way to keep you from serving as a professional caregiver." He waited for her to digest that. "I could claim you as my own."

"Your own?" It only took a moment for her to realize what he'd said. "I'd still be a whore no matter how you look at it," she spat and averted her gaze from his.

"I assure you that such women are not treated with disrespect here. The services they provide are considered a skill."

"No matter how you dress it up, a professional caregiver is still just a prostitute. Her only duty is to have sex with men." She glared at Kal, as if challenging him to argue, her mind clearly processing a multitude of information all at once.

"There should be no illusions here, Miss Lane. The agreement you signed is quite clear. To break it would constitute treason to this world, punishable by death."

Again, she didn't argue. Instead, she folded her arms across her chest again, an act Kal now realized was a defense tactic when she felt cornered.

He sighed and leaned forward to rest his arms on the desk. "Miss Lane, I assure you that serving the population would be far worse than staying here with me." She still didn't speak. "You'd be well cared for and as my wife can attest, as long as your duties are fulfilled, I would not bother you."

Lois' head shot around and she glared at Kal. "Or you could just send me back! Or take me when you go! You're the lord of all. Why do I have to fulfill any duty if you order otherwise? I didn't come here to be anybody's whore. I thought you'd understand that. I thought that once you'd seen me and listened to me, you'd send me back."

Kal sat back in his chair again. This woman was priceless. She was in no position to be attempting to bargain for anything, yet here she was, giving it her all. "And who's to say I have that much of a conscience?"

Lois looked away, staring out the window.

"Or patience," Kal added softly. "The trip to Earth does take a month and a man shouldn't be forced to abstain for that long." He felt it time to give Lois a taste of her own medicine. His words had the desired effect because Lois was rendered speechless. At her flush, he continued. "Here on Krypton, the pleasures of nobility are a very serious matter. We take great pains to ensure that men are content and well cared for… especially the First Lord."

Apparently tired of the game they were playing, she leaned forward to place her hands on the desk and glared at Kal. "I couldn't care less about the nobility and their sex drives. All I care about is *my* world!"

"Don't you mean *my* world?" Kal shot right back.

"You may be ruler of all, the leaders of Earth may have decided to sign some obscene agreement for Krypton to… protect it, but that world will never be yours. The people of Earth possess something that you soulless, logical, unfeeling sons of bitches never will! They have compassion and feeling and determination. One day they *will* rise again!"

"It's so easy for you to call my people names and conclude that my house cares nothing for them." He rose to his feet as his temper flared. "You know nothing of who I am!"

"I don't need to know who you are to know you're just like your father!"

Her words cut to the core. Kal straightened and stepped briskly to the door. It slipped open and he called for a guard. "Return her to the others."

"That's it?! What about…"

"A suitable position will be found for you," he cut her off. Just liked she'd done when they were children, she wounded him deeply. She'd also injured his ego. That was something new to the mighty lord. The damage brewed anger, and Kal acted accordingly.

Lois could only stare at him for a moment before following the guard from the room. The cards had been dealt; she'd played the only hand she could, now she'd have to settle her debts.


'For the good of all,' Lois repeated to herself as she was led to the auditorium once more. She may have to be some lord's plaything, but she was beginning to believe it had been worth it just to take Kal-El down a notch.

She had reached him. She was sure. Undoubtedly she'd also hurt whatever feelings he had. Men tended to lash out in anger when their feelings were hurt and the Lord of Krypton was no different. She'd convinced herself he was an unfeeling, soulless blop of a man when she'd finally admitted her attraction to him. Any kind of reaction other than loathing was unacceptable. There was no way she'd ever allow those feelings to become known, so she'd made up her mind to view Kal as the monster he portrayed. She'd done a good job until now. She'd needed whatever spark of good lay buried so deeply within the might First Lord he didn't even know it was there if this expedition were to be successful. And though his words were meant to prove that he was indeed a monster, his reaction to her had proven differently. There was no denying that he'd been affected by her words.

She'd also known coming here was a gamble. She was left to pray that some small part of what little heart Kal did have would soften enough to at least show compassion to the people back on Earth. Her fate was nothing compared to that of some of her fellow humans.


Inside his library a few minutes later, Kal dropped to his chair. How dare that woman! Who did she think she was? No one spoke to him in such a manner.

But she'd given him something to think about. She'd opened his eyes somewhat.

How was it one small, defiant woman could cause him so much stress?

Maybe it's because she's the first woman you've ever found enticing to the senses, his conscience reminded him. Who wouldn't? Lois Lane had grown into a very beautiful creature. Even the First Lord could not deny that. Her crass attitude should have been enough to turn any man away, but for some reason, it only attracted Kal more.

And what of the accusations she'd made? Were the people of Earth suffering as much as she said they were? If so, why was he told otherwise?

He turned his chair around slowly to gaze out into the darkening sky. For the very first time, he thought about what the lives of his people, 'all' of his people, might actually be like.


Hologram after hologram had been viewed, protocols drilled into their heads, and a course in proper respect had been the main focus of the past week. They were taught how to dress, how to speak, and would soon receive more detailed instructions in their appointed positions.

Lois sat in a room along with about thirty other women. Most had been heard at one point or another stating how being able to eat regularly was a fair exchange for the life they would soon have to lead. The sterilization procedures, devised as 'protection against procreation with a hostile people', would begin the following morning, then a location would be chosen for each woman. They would be provided with modest quarters and supplied with a living expenditure. Their only duty was to be on call for whichever lord sent for them. A handful had been chosen by a particular lord and would live inside his house or somewhere inside his province. All in all, everyone had come to accept their new station in life.

All but one. She sat in the corner, fear gripping her for the first time in her life. Speaking out for her fellow humans would cost her innocence, her fertility, and her dignity. Lois could hardly fathom that she'd gambled at such a price. It was hard to admit that her arrogance would now be her jailor. Could she really have been so naive as to think she could have made a difference? Apparently Kal was as big a royal ass as the more intelligent part of her brain had always told her he was.

She'd felt there was just no other way. She'd had to try to make the lord think. She'd been completely prepared to throw a full temper tantrum to see him if necessary. He just had to see her, hear her out. That would be enough, she'd convinced herself. He couldn't be as completely soulless as Earthlings made him out to be.

Yeah, right, she thought ruefully. Why had she ever believed that? Was it because she desperately wanted it to be so? Did it have anything to do with the intense attraction she'd felt for the First Lord the last time she'd seen him? Maybe it was because of the insatiable curiosity she'd always had to know this man? Over the years that interest had bordered on obsession, pushing her to learn everything there was to know about the young lord. She hated how she felt about the mighty Lord Kal-El. And even the realization that he was every bit the person she'd heard he was didn't dampen her curiosity.

But she'd had to try to make him listen, even beg. She'd never stooped to begging before, but there was just too much suffering on Earth. Men, women, and children died every minute. She and her father were spared from many hardships because of Sam's profession, but others weren't so lucky.

A silent tear slipped from under her lids as she closed her eyes and leaned against the wall. Never again would she be able to trust her own instincts; they'd led her to this awful place. She'd bet her life that there was some goodness behind Kal's eyes. Faint, but there nonetheless. Now he was going to call that bet.

A guard stepped into the room and called her name, pulling her from her self-pity. "Come with me," he ordered.

Lois stood slowly; it was time for her physical examination. She sighed heavily and followed her captor, as she'd come to view these people. There was no way she could admit that she'd actually agreed willingly to subject herself to something like this.

The guard led her further and further away from the central part of the palace, deeper into the private section reserved for the First Lord and his house. The sound of her shoes tapping the cold tile echoed in her ears, loud and threatening — her death march.

That was what it was — a death march, she thought darkly. Life as she knew it was about to end, even if she had no idea how. Everything had already been explained to her in great detail, so she wasn't entirely sure why she wasn't being led to an examination room.

Or maybe the clinic *was* this way. Maybe the sick bastards liked for their victims to have time to contemplate their fate on the long walk down what Lois suddenly dubbed the 'green mile'. Her eyes darted back and forth, soaking in every detail as her mind automatically began to plan a strategy for escape.

That's it, Lois, she thought sourly. Escape. Run…

Run where?! This wasn't Earth; she wasn't in Metropolis. And she certainly wasn't dealing with some two bit crook like she'd done during her short run as editor of her college paper. This was a strange world, foreign and deadly. She was dealing with the most powerful man alive and *his* army. If she ran, she wouldn't get very far at all.

The guard led her into a large room that looked to be some sort of study. Without a single word, he left her there alone.

Lois wasn't exactly sure what was going on, but her fear rose with each passing second. It was quiet, eerily so, as she stood in the sterile room. The bright white lights overhead were no comfort at all. Dread filled her slowly as she eased around the room, inspecting the contents. The swishing of the opening doors stopped her progress and she looked up as Kal stepped into the room.

He stood in the middle of the room, a picture of nobility in his perfectly tailored suit. "I will say this only once." His voice left little to doubt his seriousness and Lois wisely remained silent. "You will live here at the palace as my concubine, a position that will afford you amenities just short of being my wife." Lois was about to voice her protest when Kal thundered, "And you will learn your place in this new world!" Apparently satisfied she wouldn't speak again, he went on. "You'll be given adequate living quarters inside the palace and you will be free to take full advantage of the facilities that are not off limits. As long as you attend my needs, I will care for you as I do my own family. You have been instructed as to proper protocol and etiquette, so I trust that there will be no more outbursts that could be construed as treasonous. Do I make myself clear?"

Lois took a defiant stance, having shed her earlier melancholy. "I…"

"Miss Lane, you'd be wise to remain silent. This situation is far better than becoming… how was it that you put it?… A whore." He lifted his hand as her mouth opened. "And if you say you will become my whore, I will take that as outright defiance and you'll be subject to punishment."

Lois clamped her mouth shut and studied Kal for a moment. She carefully folded her arms across her chest before speaking. "I can't believe it actually worked." Everything she'd said earlier about trusting her instincts fled, and she internally cheered.

"Worked?" His expression revealed the widening crack in his carefully constructed armor.

"What I said to you that first day got to you."

Kal sucked in a breath to help take on a more forceful demeanor. "Miss Lane, I have taken what you said under advisement. A voyage to Earth is planned for the ninth cycle. I cannot go before then because of obligations here. As for me taking you into my home, I feel a certain… responsibility to do so. What kind of ruler would I be to allow the person that has delivered me potentially useful information to be sent away?"

Lois shifted a step closer to Kal. "Does that mean that… that… I… won't have to…"

"Miss Lane, you will be my concubine," he stated simply, leaving Lois little room to doubt what he meant. He looked at her for a moment more before he turned and started for the door. He stopped just as the doors opened and faced her again. "I can also tell you that I am not a violent man, but I believe in obedience, and inside my own house, it would be wise for you to control your tongue." Without another word, he was gone.

Standing in the empty room alone, Lois felt a mix of emotions. Relief that she would not be some plaything passed among men who thought their pleasure to be the most important aspect in existence. Apprehension and dread that she would still be a common whore. Sickening dread that the man who would take her innocence was the man she both loathed and secretly liked. And absolute fear of the unknown.

For the first time ever Lois Lane said a silent prayer for the future.


Krypton: Year 2128 in the eighth cycle (or August 1987)

Lois had to admit that the Royal Palace was a lot nicer than she wanted it to be. Her chamber was very elegant and expensively decorated. A huge bed, covered with large fluffy pillows was the focal point of the far wall. A mirrored bureau and chest lined another wall, while a tall armoire held a place on the wall by the door. The room contained a private bath and walk-in closet, which had been filled with a wardrobe of fine linens. It wasn't often Lois was impressed, but she had been that first day she'd been led to her room and told to make herself comfortable.

She'd stood, rooted to the floor, gazing around in disbelief. Then she'd slowly made her way around her room, amazed that so much about Krypton was very much similar to Earth. Like the bathrooms.

'How 'bout that?' she remembered thinking on the transport across the galaxy, a little surprised that the two races of humans were so much alike. Of course, she'd known that already, having worked with her father and having been to Krypton before. As a child she hadn't been extremely impressed by much. Just the experience of going to a new world, traveling on a real space ship, had been enough for her. Yet, she still continued to be awed by the existence of aliens.

The return trip to Krypton was much different than it had been in her youth. She'd looked at the things around her. Inspected the food she was given, asked questions when she could. She'd marveled at the sight of another planet coming into view across the blackness of space. The buildings, the colors — distorted slightly because of the red sun, even the garments Kryptonians wore were interesting to her now. Seeing how they lived, knowing it wasn't too dissimilar to Earthlings, might shed light on the mystery of why they chose such cruel mistreatment for one of *their* worlds. However, her discoveries had left her with more questions than answers. Kryptonians were still just as elusive as they'd ever been.

After thoroughly inspecting her chamber, she'd ventured from the room. Lois was curious to know if Kal had meant what he'd said about allowing her to take advantage of her new living arrangements. When no one stopped her along the corridors, she felt a certain weight lift from her shoulders. She began to think that maybe one day she'd be able to come out of this situation intact.



The first few days were uneventful. Kal did not come to her chambers or send for her as she'd fully expected him to do. Lois, though, had been surprised when an attendant breezed into her chamber the first morning, prepared her shower, then waited to help her dress. Lois had protested, but the woman insisted. It seemed Lord Kal-El had appointed the woman Lois' lady-in-waiting and the woman had been instructed not to stray far from her side. Lois just figured the woman was there to watch her and make sure she didn't get into trouble, and she'd braced herself to be led to the First Lord after. When the woman did nothing but wait for instructions, Lois was mystified. After a lengthy argument, the servant finally convinced her that Lord Kal had not summoned her. Yet, the threat was there, always there… lurking just off in the shadows. Would today be the day? Tomorrow? Dread and waiting… that was how Lois saw her life now. Another of those annoying things she'd come to hate about Krypton.

The private sanctum of the El House was not a very busy place. Lois seldom saw anyone, save the attendants. She'd been at the palace for a whole week before she'd met Lord Ching, Kal's younger brother. She came away from that meeting with yet more feelings of dread. Ching was less harsh and welcomed her to the House of El, but there was something in his eyes that hadn't set well with Lois. He seemed to leer at her, undress her with his mind. It felt like everyone had another agenda.

By the second week, Kal had still not sent for her. Maybe she'd seen more behind his eyes than she thought. It was hard to have to admit that Kal was actually the one causing her so much distress. She realized that she truly had convinced herself that just because she was attracted to him he should make concessions where she was concerned. Had she really felt her attraction was returned? Even if he did find her attractive, it certainly wasn't the same as what she felt for him. It was obvious that he only wanted one thing. So why hadn't he gone after it before now?

To keep herself distracted, she'd continued her explorations of her new 'prison', as she'd come to view it, and had eventually found her way into the library and the collection of wonderful literature contained there. If she couldn't be elsewhere in body, she could certainly be there in mind. From that point forward, most of her time was spent there and in the garden. Getting lost in the pages of fantasy was her only escape from thoughts of what life was like back home. How was her father? Still angry that she'd come here?

Hurt. He was probably extremely hurt… and worried for her. She'd contemplated asking Kal if a message could be sent to let Dr. Lane know she was all right, but thought better of it. The further she stayed from Kal-El, the better.

Though she no longer felt overwhelming fear and dread as she had when she first arrived, she couldn't shake the constant depression that hang heavily in her very being. She hadn't been mistreated, physically at least. But wasn't emotional abuse just as bad? Just as serious?

How she longed to have her life. On Earth. The way it should have been… before a stupid, stupid man named Jor-El ever discovered the place existed.


Kal refused to allow himself to think about his new house guest at first. Lois Lane had busted his ballooned ego in his state room that day, smugly proclaiming that her words had somehow made a difference. And they had. His mind had turned her words over countless times before he'd made the decision to take her into his home. The lord in charge of the duty assignments for the Earthlings had come to him for an official signature to proceed with the sterilization procedures. Something deep inside Kal had roared to the surface when he'd read Lois' name on that list. He'd immediately ordered her brought to his quarters and the papers drafted to bind her to his service. As lord, he could have probably ordered her to most any position he chose. But tradition was a way of life on Krypton and it never occurred to him to place her in another station… at least not at that time. His bruised and battered ego had wanted to teach her lesson, prove to her that he *could* have her.

But since then, the young Lord struggled almost daily to understand what he felt for Lois. Never before had he been overcome with emotion for a woman. Attraction and desire were not part of the Kryptonian make-up. Yet, all those things had surfaced, if only faintly, when Kal allowed himself to think of Lois Lane as more than just a female. She was a woman, a very beautiful, very attractive, very desirable woman. And that was a fact Kal was finding harder and harder to deal with.

For the nearly two cycles Lois had been at the palace, Kal had stayed as far from her as he possibly could. State's affairs often lasted well into the night, taking up any time he might have to run into Lois in the private section of the palace. It was a full week after Lois' installation into his house before he sent for his wife to join him in private chambers. Two or three nights since, he'd sent for Zara or he'd gone to her, always leaving afterward the same way he'd done from the start of their marriage — cold and empty. He'd also left her feeling increasingly frustrated and emotionally cold inside.

After the last time, he'd found himself standing in the corridor across from Lois' chamber, his mind filled with the possibilities of what could happen inside that room. Yet, he could never bring himself to go to her. Not because he didn't *want* to. Kal wanted nothing more than to bed Lois Lane. No, he refused to go to her because of his fear of the unknown. Lois had filled his senses and often occupied a spot in his mind. Kal feared what would happen if he allowed her to take over, as he suspected might happen if he surrendered to the call of his body.

What was happening to him?

He'd sought distraction in the arms of a caregiver. But he never made it inside the chamber. He'd passed the library, where he'd often seen Lois reading, and he'd been overcome with desire to go to her once again. He'd fled the palace, into El, with an excuse that state's affairs needed to be attended to at the government building in the city.

There seemed to be an abundance of affairs and people that screamed for Kal's attention, all for which he was thankful. He'd ask after Lois' well being now and then, but preferred to keep his body as well as his mind as far from the small Earth woman as he could get. The one thing he was truly thankful for was that Lois appeared to be behaving herself. There had been no instances of disobedience or outbursts that Kal had had to reprimand the young woman for.

In fact, the only problem he'd had with her being in his house had been an argument he'd had with Ti-El. The older man had been furious to learn that Kal had taken an Earthling concubine into his house. That was the day he'd begun to question many things.


"Kal-El!" Ti thundered as he entered the state room.

Kal looked up to see his angry uncle stride into the room. "Yes, Milord?"

"Don't yes, Milord me, you stupid, stupid boy!"

Kal's brows rose to his hairline. "Excuse me?"

"I am told you've taken an Earthly whore into your house!"

Immediate anger shot through Kal's body as he pushed himself to his feet. "I believe we call our whores concubines, Ti-El," he bit out at the other man, speaking his name informally for the first time in his life. "At least the ones that live in our house!"

"Don't give me that tone! I know precisely what *Kryptonian* mistresses are called…"

"Is that what this is about? My *Earthling* concubine?"

"Earthlings are not fit to hold even that title. She's nothing more than a common whore!" Ti drilled Kal with his gaze as he leaned forward across the table to challenge the young lord.

"Bite your tongue, Uncle, before I forget you hold *that* title!" Kal stared him down as he, too, leaned forward. Hadn't his uncle been the one to encourage him to seek out affairs with other women? He knew Ti had never been partial to Earth humans, but from his reaction, Ti loathed the other race completely.

"Kal, you are First Lord. You could have any woman of your choosing."

"And I chose her!" Kal shot right back. He was preparing to defend Lois beyond measure, unaware that his stand seemed to be automatic.

Ti stared at his nephew for several long moments before sighing. "I don't like it, Kal-El. You're better than that."

"These people are the same species as we are, Ti."

"We are superior!"

This time it was Kal that paused. He studied his uncle carefully, deducing many things he never had before. "Then you should not have a problem with one being my… plaything." He finished quickly and began to organize the files on his desk.

"She had best not get out of control…"

"She won't!" Kal's gaze came up and he pierced his uncle with a fierce stare. They played that game for a second before Kal sighed and eased to his seat. "Look, Milord. This woman is here and she will remain here for the year she's agreed upon. The Council does not object and Zara is…"

"Zara is your wife. She has no right to object!" Ti cut him off. Kal simply clamped his mouth shut and stared up at the older man. "And as long as you're trying to conceive an heir, the Council couldn't care less who you bed. Hell, half those bastards have an Earthling whore at home as well." He threw up his hands and dropped onto the chair behind him.

"I am truly sorry this causes you upset, but I am of age now. I can make my own decisions." There! He'd finally said the words he'd been thinking for some time to his uncle. Even after taking control of his worlds, Ti never ceased to order Kal. And for some reason, that had begun to bother the young ruler.

Ti sat silently staring at his nephew for a long moment before he rose to his feet. "Goodnight, Milord," he clipped out, then strode from the room.

Kal leaned back in his chair. That last second before Ti had turned from him, there was something behind his eyes that Kal didn't recognize. Disgust? Frustration? Neither seemed quite right. The expression had been more… calculated, more… furious. Was Ti-El really that angry because he'd taken Lois into his house? Or was it because Kal had finally spoken as his own man?

The young man rose to his feet and walked to the door. Stepping into the corridor, he watched as Ti disappeared around the corner. In that instant, Kal-El saw his uncle in a whole new light.


Kal heaved a deep breath, his hand coming up to rub his neck as he left the Council chambers. He stumbled forward when Ching came up behind him and clapped his shoulder.

"Kal, will you dine with me tonight? It has been a long time since we've had a chance to catch up."

Kal dropped his arm as they made their way down the corridor toward the private section of the palace. "I've ordered my meal sent to my chambers. I have some transcripts to look over."

"More from Earth?"

"Yes," Kal answered. Since Lois had told him what she had about the conditions on Earth, Kal had made contact with another lord that had been part of the team sent to the other planet. The second lord was a man Kal knew well and trusted a great deal. Lord Sar, who had been stationed aboard the floating palace in orbit above Earth, began secret expeditions to the planet to assess the situation for his lord. What he'd been reporting back was unbelievable.

The conditions Lois had told Kal of were just as she'd said. People on Earth suffered almost as much now as they had right after the war. It seemed Lord Ran, the lord the Council had appointed, under recommendation from Ti-El, to provisionary ruler, hadn't overseen very much reconstruction at all. Though it was still unclear what exactly was going on, it was perfectly clear that Lord Ran was not fulfilling his duties. Since Kal was closer to Ching than anyone else on either world, the lord had confided in his brother that he had suspicions something was not well on Earth. One bit of information that he chose to keep to himself was where he got that suspicion.

"What now?"

"I'm not exactly certain, but I will find out."

"As well you should. How would it look for one world to be so prosperous, when the other is barely livable?"

"Exactly," Kal agreed as they turned the corner toward the section of the palace that contained their bed chambers.

They walked along in silence for a while before Ching spoke. "How is your… guest?"

"Well, at last report," Kal told his brother quickly. Lois was a subject he preferred not to talk about.

Ching reached out to stop him with a hand on his arm. "At last report? What does that mean?"

"It means her lady-in-waiting told me she was well." Kal was exasperated, both with this conversation and that woman.

"You've taken a concubine and know nothing about her?"

"Ching, it's been a long day…"

"This woman has been here for two cycles and she has yet to come to your bed?" Ching continued as if Kal hadn't spoke. When he still didn't say anything, just turned and resumed his walk, Ching's brows shot to his hair. "Kal-El." Again Ching stopped him. "Why do you not take this woman? She is… priceless."

"I am well aware of Miss Lane's attributes, Ching." But unlike his younger, *eager* brother, Kal was not guided by his loins.

"Then why not bed her? Do you have a problem that warrants the attention of a physician?"


"So relations with the Lady Zara continues?" The younger brother seemed determined to discover why such a beautiful woman hadn't been taken advantage of.

"I have no performance problems!" As much as he didn't want to discuss Lois, he wished to discuss Zara even less. For the past couple of weeks his relationship with his wife had been more strained than ever. She had grown bitter toward him, even when they spoke casually. He suspected it had something to do with the Council insisting she was inadequate because she hadn't conceived an heir. Hell, that suggestion had bothered him. Zara fulfilled her duty and only asked to be left alone otherwise. Lately, Kal had begun to think she was justified to feel the way she did. Besides, they were young. There was no rush to conceive an heir.

"Then why not call for Miss Lane?" Ching seemed to be stuck on this subject.

"That is my business, Ching."

"Yes, but, Kal, you can't possibly be that blind." When his older brother failed to speak, he clasped his arm tightly and practically dragged him down the corridor.

"What are you doing?"

"Come with me," was all Ching said.

Kal tried to struggle away from Ching when he realized the younger man was leading him to Lois' chamber. They stepped through the doors, startling the occupant, who was sitting on the lounge reading.

Ching released Kal and went to Lois. He pulled her to her feet by her arm. "Look at her, Kal!"

"I see her. May I leave now?" He turned to do just that, infuriated that his brother was doing this.

"What's going on?" Lois asked them, shock evident in her eyes.

"Release her to me," Ching said, stopping Kal at the door.

"What?!" Lois had no idea what Lord Ching was up to, but being tossed between two men was not something she had in mind to do.

The First Lord turned back slowly to face his brother, who still held Lois' arm. "We both know you cannot keep a woman."

"No, but I can send for the same caregiver over and over." Ching's eyes flashed at Lois, his lust now the leading force in this altercation.

Kal automatically felt compelled to protect Lois. He stepped forward and held out his hand to her. "I'd like for you to come with me," he told her softly.

Ching released her arm, a slow smile spreading across his face. "It's about time. Very well done, brother."

Lois glanced between the men several times before she reached out to take Kal's hand, apparently deciding him the safer of the two.

Kal bowed his head at her ever so slightly before he turned and led her down the corridor and into his chamber. Once inside he released her hand. "I will return."

"Where…" The rest of her question died on her lips as the doors slipped closed behind Kal.

Ching was already in the corridor when Kal managed to get back to him.

"Ching." The younger man stopped. "You seem to need a course in etiquette, my brother."


"That was uncalled for. She is not some possession that can be passed from one to another."

With a small smile, Ching replied, "It appears my brother has finally allowed a woman to affect him."

Kal huffed his frustration, shifting from one foot to another. How would Ching know anything about women affecting anything besides his libido?

"It's okay, Kal. You may be lord, but you're still a man. Even the mightiest of rulers should indulge sometimes."

The First Lord didn't reply. He just shot Ching a glare and went back to his chamber.


Lois stood absolutely still in the middle of the sparsely decorated room, clearly inhabited by a bachelor occupant. She'd learned that Kryptonian men and women of nobility only shared bed chambers for sex. It appeared that was very true. There was no trace of a woman's influence anywhere in Kal's room.

And what the hell was she thinking?! In a few minutes, a large man who thought himself to be her… her… whatever he thought himself to be, was going to come through the door and… and…

Rape her!

Suddenly she couldn't breathe, couldn't see. Her hearted pounded rapidly, threatening to break right through her chest as flashes of what would soon unfold danced behind her eyes. Kal was a large man. He would surely hurt her.

And he was experienced. He would demand… certain things. She'd be forced to do only God knew what!

She faced Kal when he entered again, holding her breath as if by some miracle that would save her from her fate.

He glanced at her before moving around to the table where his food had been placed. He shed his tunic, entered the bath chamber to wash up, then took a seat at the table.

"Would you like to join me?" he said, breaking the silence.

Lois finally took a breath. Eat! He wanted to eat. She could do that. And if it bought her some time, who was she to say no?

She slowly moved from her position and eased down across from him. She watched as Kal dished her out some of the food before sliding it across to her. With a glance at the meal before her and a jolt of renewed confidence, she looked back up at Kal. "What was all that about back there?"

"Ching believes me inadequate because I haven't taken you into my bed," he told her truthfully as he started to eat.

She could only mouth a silent 'oh' before beginning her meal. Eating was the last thing she wanted to do, but at the moment her frayed nerves wouldn't allow her to do anything else. Besides, if she ate, she'd have something to focus on other than Kal raping her, even if it was for a brief moment.

They ate in silence for a long while before Kal broke it.

"I have not taken the time to ask after your accommodations since you've been here. I trust everything is to your liking."

"Everything is okay," she told him, a little annoyed that he was being so… frustrating!

"Good." They lapsed into another silence before Lois broke it.

"So… will you take me into your bed tonight?" She couldn't stand it any more. She had to know what he intended to do.

"Yes," Kal told her as he rose to prepare for bed.

She could only stare at the wall across the room. Yes. Just like that? Sudden fear gripped her tightly. Her heart thundered a loud rhythm in her chest. Kal had left her alone for so long, she thought he'd decided that taking her into his bed wasn't something he wanted to do after all.

Her head swung around when he exited the bath chamber. He wore the tight shorts that all other men did on Krypton and nothing else. A hard lump was forced down her throat as she watched Kal. With his clothes off, he was even more impressive. Large, muscular arms were attached to an impressively built torso. It was apparent he spent a great deal of time training and for a brief moment Lois found herself liking what she saw. She also hated herself for feeling that way because almost immediately that feeling was followed by thoughts of how those powerful arms could easily pin her to the bed while he took his pleasure in her body.

He lifted some papers from the table and climbed into bed, much to her surprise.

"Come," he told her after a moment. When she remained at the table, he looked past the papers at her. "Join me, Miss Lane," he repeated his request. Not exactly an order, but clear enough for her not to question either.

Slowly, automatically, Lois rose and made her way over to the bed. Was it shock that drove her to move without protest? It might have been Kal's threat that morning in the study, even though he'd never done anything to mistreat her. Or could it have simply been the slight attraction she felt for the man?

She felt disgust in herself. How could she feel anything but hatred for this man?

Since Kal had gotten into bed with his shorts on, she climbed in with her sleeping gown still on. The comforter was pulled up to her chin and she stayed on the edge of the bed as far from him as possible.

"You were right about the conditions on Earth," Kal said, surprising her.

That snapped her out of her impending fear, and she looked over at Kal. "I know I was, but how do you know?"

"I have someone sending me reports." He passed over a stack of papers for her to see, again surprising her. "Lack of food, water, housing… Not even half the work that should have been completed by now has been done."

Lois' nervousness had left her as soon as she'd begun to read. "How is it these conditions have gone on so long without notice?"

"Lord Ran was appointed by the Council to head the task forces on Earth. Coming highly recommended, it was certain the correct person had been chosen. An official visit has not been made since the end of 2125. At that time, things were going so well it was felt there was no need to return unless Lord Ran informed us of trouble. The reports since then have shown positive progress."

"And you had no way of knowing since all communication takes place within the Kryptonian nation," Lois said more to herself than to him.


Lois couldn't believe such an intelligent race could have allowed this to happen. But they were the same people who had allowed a space ship and deadly weapons to be taken right from under their noses. She should believe a case of false information and failure to communicate would be far easier to take place. And it appeared it had been.

"If those reports have been favorable, then Lord Ran's reports have been plants," Lois pointed out after a moment.

"Indeed. And I want to know why." Kal dropped his pile of papers onto the table beside his bed, causing Lois to hold her breath. When he buried himself into the bed instead of breeching the gap between them, she wondered just what he was up to. "Rest well, Miss Lane."

She stared open mouthed at Kal as he lay facing her with his eyes closed. "You're going to sleep?" WHAT?! Why are you asking him? she yelled internally. Roll over and go to sleep… before he changes his mind!

"Yes. I am quite tired," he replied without opening his eyes.

Sleep?! He was going to sleep! He didn't want to have sex! He wanted to sleep! Her stack of papers were deposited on the other table and Lois closed her eyes.

"I didn't think sleeping was what women did in a lord's bed?" she blurted out when her curiosity got the best of her. What the hell was wrong with her? If he wanted to sleep, why was she questioning it?!

Kal opened his eyes to look at her. She stared at the ceiling, the covers tucked under her chin, and her nervousness showing in slight trembles. "Would you prefer we share it for other reasons?" he asked, a slight laugh marking his tone of voice.

Her eyes shot to his. "Ah… ah…" For a brief moment she was lost in her surprise, unable to believe he was… teasing her, but quickly enough she found solid footing. "I wasn't aware I had a choice."

"Haven't you made your own choices since you've been here?"

That statement finally struck a nerve with Lois. She sat up and faced Kal. "If you mean that I am free to roam the confines of my prison, then yes."

Kal slowly sat as well. "It was your choice to come here, Miss Lane. You signed your papers of your own free will."

"It wasn't my choice to be your… your whatever I am!"

"Would you have rather done the alternative?" he asked softly.

Lois shut her open mouth and slowly turned to stare at the covers. Of course she wouldn't have rather done the alternative! Yet, she couldn't very well tell him that! Kal had been the perfect host so far; he hadn't even hinted that he wanted more from her than her being inside his house. So, why did she feel the way she did?

And what way was that? Surely she wasn't disappointed that he wasn't… well, that he wanted to sleep. Was she?


From his side of the bed, he felt overwhelmed by his feelings for this woman, Kal reached forward to stroke her hair. "I much prefer this situation," he said very softly. She looked so lost and vulnerable sitting there, trembling…

In fear of you, he pointed out to himself.

She lifted her head to look at him. Instantly desire shot through his body. By Zor, she was gorgeous!

Kal noticed as Lois' nervousness took over once again. "Relax. I don't intend to harm you. I only wanted to see if your hair was as soft as it looks." He continued to run his fingers over the silky strands, allowing his senses to get lost in this woman.

So completely new was this… attraction to a woman, Kal was enjoying touching her hair. Apparently Lois wasn't completely averse to it either because after a moment, she began to calm somewhat. Encouraged by her response, and driven by his rising desire, Kal allowed his hand to drift from her hair down to her back. Again she became nervous.

"I wish you'd relax here. My world has a lot to offer, if you'll allow it."

Lois pinned him with her eyes, immediately calm. "Does that include you?"

By now Kal's hormones had completely taken over his brain. It was a strange feeling to desire one particular woman. Noble men rarely felt that kind of flame. They would simply get urges and fulfill them with whomever they felt could bring them the most pleasure. Sex with wives was considered duty. While they served their purpose, one rarely enjoyed it. That was why professional caregivers were there. And because they were there, frustration was almost nonexistent. Or it was before this woman had come to live inside his house. It was a heady and… very different feeling to have a woman actually instill him with desire just by looking at her.

His hand stopped in the middle of her back, heat radiating clear through his body. "If you chose for it to," he answered huskily.

Kal's heart clenched when she turned away. But what had he expected? For her to say yes? To further prove what he knew she was thinking was true, her voice faltered, breaking the heavy silence between them.

"And if I say no?"

Knowing she would say it and hearing it was two different things. Kal's desire fizzled into a smoldering lump as another emotion swelled within him. Lois had hurt his feelings… again. He wasn't exactly sure why he allowed that pain to filter through, but where this woman was concerned, everything he'd ever known to be true had been turned upside down.

Still, he couldn't believe he'd actually expected her to answer any other way, though for a brief moment he'd longed for her to.

And why was he giving her a choice anyway?! He was the First Lord, for Zor's sake! She would do what he told her to do.

Kal looked at the woman before him, really looked. She was scared and uncertain of the next moment in her life. How could he damage her more than had been done already?

His hand resumed its gentle stroking on her back, this time to offer comfort, while incredible changes took place inside Kal's heart. The fiery little woman had gotten under his armor of bravado. His mind screamed that it was irrational and showed weakness to allow a woman a place in his thoughts, but his carefully molded heart wouldn't let him agree.

"Then I will respect that decision." Kal smiled slightly at Lois' stunned expression. "What's-a-matter?" he repeated what she'd once told him. "Have I failed to meet with your carefully formed opinion of me?"

It took Lois a moment to find her voice. "You've managed to keep me guessing about you."

"I've gotten the impression that you like a challenge, though." Kal gave her far shoulder a slight squeeze before lying down again. Lois could only stare, still unable to believe what had just happened. "You can rest easy, Miss Lane. I never say anything I don't mean." He patted the bed. "Please… lie down." He closed his eyes before she complied with his request, afraid that if he continued to look at her, his traitorous body would cause him to break his word.


Without taking her eyes from Kal, Lois eased back down to her side so she could watch the man beside her. He had proven to be an anomaly, failing to conform to any of the pictures she'd painted of him in her mind. Lois reluctantly admitted that he'd saved her from a horrendous life of sexual service to a race of men who thought themselves to be gods in mortal form. He'd placed her in his home in a station just short of that allowed his wife, and hadn't bothered her since. He'd taken her words to heart and ordered the conditions on Earth investigated, not to mention his planned trip there. And just when she'd thought him about to fulfill her vision as a monster, the one she'd painted when he'd brought her to his chamber and the one she'd touched up a great deal when he'd first placed his hand on her, Kal had once again shown himself a clearly different person.

Was it there? That small glint of… of something, dare she say… good? When they'd first seen one another again back on Earth, in her father's lab, Lois was certain there was something in Kal's eyes that made him almost… human. She'd questioned her instincts when he'd ordered her back to join the other workers when she'd first come to Krypton. Rejoiced when he'd 'saved' her, then questioned it again tonight. This man ran as hot and cold as anyone she'd ever known before. Even that sleaze of a high school boyfriend didn't change masks as quickly as the First Lord.

She stared up at the ceiling, replaying the last few minutes over and over in her mind. Why would he have her in his bed, to sleep no less, when he had no intention of anything more? Nobility never shared beds for anything other than sex. Why had Kal chosen to change that? To leave her guessing… again?!

And why do you care? she asked herself silently. She should be thrilled he wasn't about to… do things to her. So, why was she lying in the dark, thinking about the man next to her… like *that*?

She rolled her head to the side to look at the enigma known as Kal-El. With his eyes closed, his soft breathing punctuating the air, one would believe him to be… gentle, maybe even compassionate. His incredibly long lashes lay against the dark skin of his face. Lois would be lying if she didn't admit that Kal was a nice looking man, impressive. His very presence in a room forced you to take notice. His large body was sculpted perfectly. However, his appearance was deceiving.

Lord Kal was nothing he appeared to be… And everything he appeared to be. Would she ever see the *real* man? Did she want to?

She burrowed into the pillow, sighed heavily, and closed her eyes. I *will* figure you out, she thought as she drifted uneasily to sleep.


Kal awoke the following morning feeling less than refreshed. He'd lain awake a great deal of the night, staring at the woman beside him. How was it she had the power to move him the way she did? He'd gone to great lengths to make sure this woman wasn't harmed. First, from the physicians that would have taken away her ability to ever conceive children, then from those around him. Untold numbers would have hurt her. His uncle had protested to her being here, but he'd insisted. And Ching… why had Kal jumped to her rescue when the younger brother asked she be released from her position of service? And he'd saved her from himself by not getting near her. So why had he brought her to his bed?

The night before he hadn't thought of anything but proving to his brother that he could bed Lois. That would serve Ching right, he'd thought. Let the man think what he would and he could walk around with the knowledge that he'd done nothing but rest. However, Kal hadn't rested because his body raged with desire for the woman who'd slept next to him.

That overwhelming desire to simply touch her had led to words that set in motion a change inside the great Lord of Krypton. For the first time in his life, he'd put another's wants before his own.

The hand he'd been unable to control the night before lifted to smooth a strand of hair from Lois' face, where she slept on her stomach, her head turned so that she faced Kal. Tenderness inched its way into his being a little further as his fingers stroked her soft cheek. At that moment, the young man wanted nothing more than to always care for this woman.

When he realized the direction his thoughts had turned, he moved to get out of bed. He had to put distance between himself and Lois, both body and mind. Kal took his clothes into his bath chamber to dress, took one last look at Lois, then left her there. Somehow he had to get this woman out of his system. If he didn't, he feared he'd never be the same again.


Ti entered Kal's state room with fire in his eyes. The young lord looked up from his work, slightly agitated he'd been disturbed.

"What is it, My Lord?" Kal asked his uncle.

"Have you lost your wits?" his uncle boomed.

"My Lord?" he asked in confusion.

"Having that Earthling share your bed all the night. Kal, what were you thinking?"

"I was thinking that it was my business," Kal replied.

"Noble men should be strong and confident. Allowing a women to share your space so intimately makes one weak."

"Isn't sex intimate?" Kal didn't know where that question had come from, but it was one that made perfect sense.

"Sex is dominance!"

"What?" the young man asked incredulously.

"Haven't you listened to any of your teachings, boy? A man must rule his subjects. Sex is the means in which he uses to show his superiority to the opposite sex, his control over his house!"

"Have you ever stopped to think that maybe control would be best attained with less force?" What? Where had that thought come from?

But he asked himself if it might be true. Did one have to dominate to be in control? Before he could think more on that subject, Ti's voice rose to a high-pitched wail.

"For Zor's sake, Kal-El, you could have any woman you so desired and you spend the night with an Earthling whore!"

Kal shot to his feet, furious beyond belief. "Watch your tongue, Uncle!"

Ti appeared shocked, but didn't back down an inch. "Watch my tongue?! How dare you correct me in defense of that vile creature!"

"Lois is not a vile creature!"

"Lois? You're calling her by her name now? What have you allowed her to do to you?"

"What I should have done for myself long ago!" Kal forced out through clenched teeth. "I am *your* lord, not the other way around. Don't ever forget that!" Kal rounded the desk to leave the room. One of them had to go. It might as well be him.

Ti grasped Kal's arm. The young man's eyes shot around to the older ones. "I will not allow you to make the same mistakes your father made," he told his nephew.

What did that mean? Kal glanced at the hand around his arm before lifting his eyes back to glare at his uncle. "I do not intend to."

"You will if you allow sentiment and admiration to cloud your judgment. A woman will do that to you."

Kal couldn't dispute the fact that a woman could cause you to do things you'd never done before. Lois had already forced him to do some extremely deep thinking and reassessment of his very own personality. But at the moment he couldn't find anything wrong in that. He glanced down at the hand holding his arm again, then back up at the man to whom it belonged.

"I would advise you to remove your hand from my arm," Kal told his uncle in a threatening tone. So threatening that Ti slowly released him. "Learn this now, Ti-El. You have been invaluable in my education. For that I will be forever grateful. But what I choose to do inside my own house is my business. And another word said in disrespect of Lois Lane will result in your dismissal from my service."

This time Ti was unable to mask his surprise, but Kal had stridden from the room after his last threat was spat out.


A very angry Ti-El was left in stunned silence. With each passing day, his nephew became more and more independent. He'd been so sure he'd cultivated the right mix of fear and intimidation into the boy's training to always be able to control him. But around every corner, Kal-El surprised his uncle.

How dared that arrogant bastard?! Did he not know that his end could come in the next second? It seemed it was time to reevaluate a few things. If the First Lord wouldn't carry out his uncle's plans, then there would be something done!


Kal continued his quick pace toward the private sector of the palace. Fear gripped him tightly, threatening to take his breath away because he was not accustomed to such a foreign invasion of his carefully constructed psyche. It seemed that with every encounter with Ti of late, he picked up another vibe that didn't sit well with him. His uncle had fostered him from a very young age, and he would have never thought the man… harsh, in any way at all. All he'd ever learned, he'd learned from Ti. Yet, he was beginning to feel that maybe there was more to who he was than just what his uncle had helped create.

And the fear he felt… something very new and different from his normal valor. He was First Lord; men lived to serve him. It was completely irrational for him to feel the way he did.

And about a woman no less! An Earth woman… A very beautiful Earth woman. A woman that Ti seemed to despise. *That* was what didn't sit well with him.

"Where is Miss Lane?" he asked the first attendant he happened upon.

"I believe she is in the garden, Milord. That is where she usually spends her mornings."

Kal continued without acknowledging the attendant's bow of respect. He entered the garden and found Lois down beside the small wading pool. "Miss Lane?"

She looked up, surprised to see Kal there in the middle of the morning. He never came back to this part of the palace until late evening. "Yes?"

"May I have a word?" He waved his hand to indicate he'd like to sit with her on the bench she occupied. She slid to one side to give him ample room. He settled and studied the water swirling around the shallow pool. The dark hue of the cool liquid seemed to be filled with as much dread as he was. He sat in silence for several moments before he faced her.

"I would like for you to move into my chambers with me."

Huh? Where had that thought come from? Yes, he was suddenly very afraid for this woman's life. And yes, that fear had led him to seek her out in the first place. He'd had every intention of informing Lois that he was going to post a guard to her service. But having her move into his chambers?

Immediately images of her lying in his bed rushed in on him. She had looked so… natural by his side.

Or could it possibly be the thought of what could happen if she was by his side more often?

Enough, Kal-El! You're only offering to protect her because she's your responsibility, he argued with himself.

"Wh… what?" she stammered out.

"Purely for safety's sake," he told her. And he tried to convince himself as well. He *had* taken her into his house. Wasn't he supposed to provide for her safety?

"Safety's sake? Am I in danger?"

"Let's just say I would like to have you there," Kal said, unable to voice the feeling he had. There had never been anyone he'd been concerned about and it was unsettling, just as unsettling as the fear he felt. He just couldn't seem to get his conversation with Ti out of his head. He hadn't seen the blisteringly cold emotion in Ti's eyes he'd seen the first time they'd argued about Lois, but there was something there nonetheless. Something… calculated. His instincts automatically jumped to protect Lois. An automatic reaction that seemed to be happening a lot lately.

Only because she's in my house, he repeated. Maybe that would become his mantra.

Lois looked at him carefully for a moment, as if trying to decide if what he was saying was true. "What's happened?"

Kal shifted, rested his elbows on his knees, then sighed heavily. That look… the one that radiated concern. Lois Lane held power beyond measure, and she wasn't even aware of it. "I had a disagreement with my uncle…" he told her, unable to hide the truth from her, and unwilling to try. What was happening to him?

"About me?"


"Did he threaten me in some way?"

"No. He said a few words of disrespect…"

"Then why have me move to your chambers? Couldn't you just… have my attendant follow me closer?"

Kal leaned back against the bench. He wasn't exactly sure the reasoning behind having Lois share his chambers, except that for some reason he wanted her to. He would feel better to have her close at night, he argued with himself.

The night before replayed in his mind once again. Who was he kidding? Even his sleepless night hadn't covered the fact that he'd enjoyed having the woman in his bed. There was no use denying it. He briefly wondered if he'd feel the same with any other woman. One thing he knew for sure, he wasn't inclined to find out.

But he couldn't admit that to her. Not to anyone. His need to protect her was still as strong as it was right after leaving his uncle's presence, so he *had* to do something. He finally turned to face Lois. "Would you allow me to appoint you a guard?"

"A guard?"

"Yes. He would follow at a distance. I wouldn't want him to make you feel more confined, but… allow me to do this." Kal did something he'd never done before, and probably didn't even realize he'd done it. He allowed his concern to spill from him in the form of a pleading expression.

Lois hesitated before she asked, "Do I *really* need one? Can't Zin just stick closer? It would be more comfortable with a woman near than a man."

Kal looked into the woman's eyes, unable to believe the incredible power there. At that moment he felt he could literally drown in her dark pools.

He blinked quickly and offered her a slight smile. "I will inform Zin immediately."

This time Lois was the one to blink.

Kal rose, looking down at her. "I am pleased we reached an amicable agreement."

"So am I," she stammered.

Kal bobbed his head, then set out for the palace again. He stopped a few steps away to look back once more. "I meant it when I said you would not be harmed in my house. If you feel the least bit uncomfortable about anything, it will be handled with speed and efficiency. Good day, Miss Lane."

"Good… day, Milord," she said into the wind because Kal was already gone.


He's been replaced with an imposter, Lois thought as she stared into the purple water in the wading pool. Lord Kal-El, ruler of all, had *not* just agreed with her! It was impossible. Yet, that was exactly what had happened.

And those stares… Lois was positive now that she'd seen a spark of compassion behind his eyes. He'd looked at her as if he truly cared about her well-being when he'd asked her about moving to his chambers. Could she have made that much of an impression on the mighty lord?

Lois shifted to face the palace and the door through which Kal had retreated. Once again she rolled their conversation around in her head. Kal said he'd had a disagreement with his uncle.

Well, that was easy to understand. From the day she'd met Ti-El, Lois hadn't much cared for the man. There was something about him that seemed to scream for her to stay away. And that was what she'd done. Of course, he hadn't gone out of his way to be particularly friendly to her either. However, everything she knew about the El family pointed to Kal and Ti being close. Ti had raised the royal brothers after their parents… died. The older El had been their mentor, instructor, and the closest thing to a father they'd had. As far as she knew, Kal never disagreed with Ti. Yet, that was exactly what he'd said.

Slowly the wheels in Lois' mind began to turn. Maybe all wasn't well within the House of El. And maybe, just maybe, it was time for her to find out why.

She closed her book, rose to her feet, and set off toward the palace.


Krypton: Year 2128 of the ninth cycle (or September 1987)

The royal library proved to be a wealth of information, once Lois learned to operate the many computers. Zin had been very helpful in that aspect. The young woman had also proven to be an invaluable friend. She'd told no one the various things Lois pulled up on the computers.

And some of those things had proven to be very informative.

She'd been stunned when the first hologram of Jor-El appeared above the staging board. She'd watched in amazement as the former ruler of Krypton talked to his wife and students inside his lab. Lois had always heard that Jor had been a tyrant, a monster. He was the man responsible for the first attempt by Kryptonians to take over Earth. Yet, the many things she learned in the library began to contradict that belief.

She moved from scientific records on to state's records. The history of Krypton was presented in great detail. It appeared that the very first person to begin recording data was a man named Ki-El, Kal's great grandfather, four times removed. Power had rested inside the House of El for over six hundred years! Ki had been the first person to deem it necessary to have one authority in charge, citing that the masses had grown uncontrollable. Ki had hand picked the first Council to oversee his rule, and from there, the many strange traditions had been adopted by the various leaders over the years.

Lor-El had been the one to establish the birth marriage law, even though many had already adopted that tradition. Lor, Ki's son, feared that if power did not stay within his house, his father's carefully constructed control would be lost. Later, it was another El leader who made it legal for lords to have concubines, thus ensuring continued reign for many years to come. It was Kal's great grandfather Zon who passed the law making it impossible for a concubine's child to be First Lord. He did so to keep peace inside his house. It seemed his wife had sired him five sons that weren't appreciative that some day they could be replaced by one of his ten sons from his various concubines.

Then there had been Zor. He'd set many trends in his time. Much more compassionate than any other El, Zor regarded his subjects as priceless and took care of them accordingly. The population loved Zor and never failed to show it. Gifts were sent to the palace on a regular basis, and many agreed to dedicate their lives and that of their future generations to service of the House of El. Zor had been the first El, or lord for that matter, in many years to take only one concubine into his house, even though his wife failed to give him but one son. Of course, Jor had been that son and Ti-El was the son of his concubine. With Zor, the idea that one could have a blissful relationship with one's wife had been born. He'd proclaimed to be partial to his wife, that being the reason he hadn't taken any more concubines.

Lois had been impressed with Zor. And after watching the many holograms, she could easily see the difference between him and the earlier leaders. She also saw the same compassion when she watched the images of Jor. That led her to the transcripts of the arrest and trial of the esteemed leader.

Brow furrowed, she sank back against her chair. After three days of viewing and reviewing… something didn't add up. She'd studied his scientific logs over and over. Jor had worked from his youth to discover other life in the universe. Why would he have given the order for such destruction?

Too tired to look further, Lois slowly logged out of all the databases in preparation to call it a night. She'd spent every waking moment inside the library since the day in the garden with Kal. Her naturally suspicious nature told her there was more to her new surroundings that met the eyes, and she'd been determined to discover what it was. Yet, her research had only left her with more questions.

Why was there an El that was so much different than the rest? Did that difference extend to his son? Even though others proclaimed otherwise? Did it extend to his grandson at all?

She thought about Kal as she made her way toward her chamber. She hadn't seen very much of him since that day in the garden. He worked even longer hours than he had before; on what, she'd give anything to know. When she had seen him, he'd been… friendly, asking after her health and comfort. He'd even smiled!

She'd also seen less of Ti-El lately. Zin had told her that the lord had been away a good bit. He'd traveled to the province over which he'd sat before moving into the palace to take care of the royal brothers.

Lois thought that a bit odd. According to Zin, advisors had always kept Ti apprised of the state of his province. The whole situation gave her an uneasy feeling.

Lois would give anything for these people to be Earthlings. Earthlings would talk, tell secrets they knew. But the Kryptonians were fiercely loyal. Or extremely scared of repercussions should any information they might divulge become known. Probably a bit of both, Lois reckoned as she turned the corner toward the wing where her chamber was located.

She came to halt when shouts pierced the solitude around her.

"Why was I not informed that you were making a trip to Earth?"

The voice belonged to Ti and he was standing toe to toe with Kal.

"I did not realize I had to inform you of my actions!" Kal's voice left little to doubt that he was a bit frustrated.

"I should know of something like this," Ti countered.

"Why? Why is it so important that you know everything I do?"

Yes, why was that, Ti? Lois wondered as she awaited the older lord's reply.

"Kal," Ti began in a calmer voice. "I am your uncle, and you have been my responsibility for many years. Don't expect me to just turn that off because you've become a man."

"I understand your concern, but this trip is a state matter. I would have said good-bye before we departed."

"A good-bye? Is that all I get for the years of training and hard work I've poured into yours and your brother's education?"

There was a long silence before Kal's calm voice penetrated the air. "This conversation is over," he stated flatly, then strode away from Ti toward his chamber.

Lois pressed herself against the wall, behind a large piece of furniture. After a moment, she could hear Ti's fast stride as he hurried in the other direction. Then Kal barked an order to a passing servant.

"Send Zara to the bridal chamber!"

"Yes, Milord."

When the swoosh of Kal's chamber doors were heard, Lois finally let out a breath she hadn't realized she was holding. It took a moment for her to comprehend the strange feelings threatening to overwhelm her.

Just a few days earlier Kal had asked her to share his chambers. If she had agreed, would he still have continued to have relations with his wife? Would he have left her to go the *bridal* chamber? Or would he have simply had Zara sent to his chamber? With her there? Was that done? And what about the caregiver? She knew about that, too. It was impossible to share a house with someone and not know the comings and goings, even if it was nearly impossible to obtain information from those around her.

So, who was she to him? If not his concubine in the strictest sense, and why was she…asking these questions?! They were none of her business. And she was just as glad to stay in the library, stay on her own… unbothered. Uncalled for…

It wasn't as if his offer to her, to share his chamber, which didn't even extend to his wife, made them…exclusive. Stupid. She'd done the research. "Exclusive" wasn't a concept among Kryptonian royalty.

"And why the heck haven't I ever seen that woman?" Lois asked aloud. The First Lady was never seen, seldom talked about. Why was that?

Why did she care? She huffed in frustration and hurried to close herself inside her chambers. Maybe a hot bath and a good night's sleep would help sort all of her very mixed emotions out.


Kal sighed heavily as he sat on the edge of the large bridal bed, his arms resting on his knees. He'd been with Zara for the last half hour, but had been unable to stay interested. He'd finally just given up.

Now he sat, too tired to even be frustrated. And confused. Why had he sent for Zara in the first place? Intimacy with his wife was the last thing he wanted tonight. He glanced around the large room and wondered why he came to this room to have relations with his wife. There were times he'd go to her chamber, but never had she been to his. And he realized that he really didn't want her there either. Why was that? Before he could answer, she was speaking.

"Milord, should I do something for you?" Zara asked him as she leaned on an elbow behind him.

Kal shifted and patted her arm. "No. I have a lot on my mind. I think I'll rest now."

"Yes, Milord." Zara eased from the bed, slipped into her robe, and stepped through the doors. Outside, she leaned against the corridor wall and took a deep breath before continuing toward her room.

Inside the chamber, Kal finally admitted the real reason he had been unable to perform. His mind kept drifting back to his argument with his uncle. Did Ti know something he didn't? Could the older man possibly know anything about what was going on back on Earth? Since the day they'd argued over Lois in the state room, something Kal had told Ti kept coming to mind. He'd told Ti that Lois had forced him to do something he should have done for himself long ago. That something was think for himself. He'd begun to do just that. He'd started to look around him, watching those in his service. What he saw unsettled him.

Lord Ti conducted himself inside the palace with an air of supremacy. His arrogance showed through in his treatment of others. He was a cold, unfeeling man who ordered those around him into service for his pleasure and wouldn't stand for error. Is that how Kal had been taught to act? To deal with others? Moreover, was that how he wanted to act?

He was about to answer that question when a guard requested permission to enter chambers. Kal covered himself, then granted the request.

"Milord, your presence is requested in the communications room."

"What is it?"

"It appears there has been a crime."

"What?" Kal was surprised. There hadn't been crimes on Krypton in decades. What could have happened? He quickly dressed and made his way into the communications room. "What has happened?"

"A caregiver, Milord. It appears she's disappeared," answered one of the guards.

"What do you mean?" Kal stepped up to review the dispatch from the night's events.

"She was not in quarters when called upon by a lord. He sent a guard to investigate and found her chambers in shambles and blood everywhere."

Kal's eyes held the shock he felt. Someone had intentionally attacked a woman? Such actions were unheard of. There had not been an outright act of homicide in over a century. The price for a crime like that was just too high.

"Who is the woman?"

"Mi-Lay, Milord."

This time the shock was unbelievable. Mi-Lay was the caregiver the lord himself had spent time with, the only one. "Assemble a team and find her."

"Yes, Milord."

Suddenly another thought struck Kal. He dropped the electronic device he held and hurried from the room. He didn't stop until he'd reached Lois' chamber. He burst through the door, startling her from her sleep.

Lois watched as Kal bent to rest his hands on his knees, heaving to catch his breath as relief washed over him. When he'd heard Mi-Lay was the one who was missing, possibly hurt, his mind automatically…

"You scared me to death!"

When Kal could speak, he straightened and moved to the side of the bed. "It was not my intention." He sat and reached out to take her hands, needing to reassure himself that she was indeed all right. "Are you well?"

"Ah, yes," she stammered, seemingly surprised by his actions. "I have a hard time believing you woke me up in the middle of the night to ask if I was *well,*" Lois said, skeptically.

"There has been an incident." He continued to hold onto her hands, just to protect her, he argued internally.

"An incident?"

"Yes. A caregiver has gone missing, believed hurt."

"What?!" Lois, too, was shocked because things like that didn't usually occur on Krypton.

Kal squeezed the small hands he held, suddenly aware of the effect she was having on him. "I want you to stay in my chamber tonight." And the need to protect her raged within him.

"Is that necessary?"

"It's that or a guard. Of course, there's always one outside my door." When her brows furrowed in protest, Kal went on. "This time I insist. You are my responsibility and if anything happened to you…" He stopped when her eyes widened and his words reached his own ears.

Lois' expression changed and she said, softly, "I would prefer the guard."

Kal squeezed her hands once more, then smiled. It seemed he had started doing that a lot lately and realized it felt good, especially sharing it with her.

Lois stared at him for a long moment before she spoke. "I think I like seeing you smile."

Kal released her hands and stood. "I think I like doing it," he whispered. "Miss Lane, the guard will be necessary until this whole mess is cleared up. On this I can not waver." He'd smoothed his features, once again projecting the rigid First Lord.

"Okay. I'll be good."

"Very good. Sleep well." He bobbed his head and left her alone again. In the corridor, he called for a guard and remained outside her door until the man arrived. "I am assigning you to guard Miss Lane. You are to treat her as if she was the First Lady," he told the bewildered young man.

"Yes, Milord." The guard bowed and settled into his new position just outside Lois' door.

Kal reluctantly left to oversee the formation of the investigation team. He needed to be sure competent, dependable men were assembled to find out what had happened to Mi-Lay.

Of all the caregivers, Kal felt uneasy that the one and only woman he'd summoned was the one missing. For that reason, he'd needed to make sure Lois was protected. He didn't have to bother with Zara's safety because she was protected at all times anyway, but Lois wasn't.

Again, he'd sprung into action to protect the audacious little woman from Earth. What had she done to him? Everything he'd ever known had been turned upside down. And although the onslaught of so many new and varying emotions was overwhelming, Kal realized that maybe he wasn't averse to the change.


Kal stared out over the water, his hands folded behind his back, his mind on the past few days' events. He liked coming to this place, he thought idly. Standing on the cliff above the ocean was one of many beautiful places on Krypton. It was quiet here. The air lightly touched his face and the sound of the surf hitting the rocks had a calming effort. It wasn't often the First Lord had ever needed calming, but today he did.

Mi-Lay's body had been found a short distance from her living quarters. She'd been beaten and her throat slashed. Never before had Kal seen anything so gruesome. Even during the war he'd been sheltered from the deadly results of the fighting. He'd been sickened by the sight of the woman lying on the table in the physician's laboratory. Who could have possibly done something so horrible?

"Milord," interrupted the voice of Ti as he stepped to Kal's side. "Your transport to Earth awaits."

Kal nodded briefly before turning in silence to leave the cliff. He'd barely spoken to anyone since the dawn when Mi-Lay had been discovered. His mind raced with questions and few too few answers. He slipped into his transport to head for his ship to Earth.


Ti watched until the lord had disappeared, then he smiled broadly. Soon the First Lord would be no more. The wretched little boy had possessed the gall to bite the hand that fed him, so Ti had formed yet more plans for his dear nephew. Ching would make a better First Lord anyway. His mind was weak and more easily manipulated.


The driver of Kal's transport had been surprised when the lord ordered him back to the palace. He was told to enter through the east gate, reserved for entries into the palace when one didn't want to be noticed. Kal stepped from the transport and made his way inside. He called for Ching to meet him inside his chambers.

"Aren't you supposed to be on the royal transport to Earth?" Ching asked as he entered the room.

"How quickly can enough supplies be transferred to one of the smaller crafts? I will only need enough for a small guard. Fifty at the most. Also, I will be taking along Miss Lane."

"What? Why the change?" Ching asked, clearly confused.

"Let's just say I have worries about this trip unless we do this."

Ching settled for his brother's vague answer. "I can have a vessel ready to go by the time you can gather Miss Lane and make it to the hangar."

"Ching, I want the most trusted guard aboard that vessel and no one should know more than they need to, especially Ti-El."

"Ti? Kal?"

"I will explain, but until I do, I need you to trust me on this one. And Ching, while I'm away, double Zara's guard. She is not to be left alone, even inside her chamber."

"Yes, Kal. I'll do whatever you wish, and I'll watch over the First Lady personally."

"Thank you, my brother." Kal clapped him on the shoulder and left to find Lois. She was inside her chamber working on a communication draft to be sent to her father aboard the royal transport. She looked up at Kal when he came in.

"I was going to ask after you before you left." She eased from the desk chair and approached him with the paper she held. "I wanted to know if you'd deliver this to my father while you were on Earth?"

"Why don't you deliver it yourself?"

"What?" Lois' hand was frozen in mid-air.

"Gather your things. You're going with me." Kal stepped back to the door to summon Lois' attendant to help her pack.

"Are you serious?" Lois asked in disbelief.

"Yes. Now hurry." Kal turned her around and gave her a small push. "I'll wait just outside the door." With that, Kal stepped into the corridor as even more questions plagued him. His uneasiness had almost reached epic proportions. The sooner he departed, the better.


It only took Lois a few moments to gather her things because the things there were not hers. She was positive this trip would only be a visit, but there was no way she was going to take anything that wasn't hers to begin with. She packed what little clothes she'd been allowed to bring from Earth, her books, and took the toiletries the attendant held for her.

"Be well, milady," the woman told her.

"Thank you." Lois would miss this woman. She'd been almost like a mother to her young miss these past few months. An offered smile later, Lois was almost running to keep pace with Kal's gait.

With any luck, she thought as they hurried toward the transport, they'd be on Earth a really long time.

They exited the palace via the private entrance, boarded the transport, and raced to the hangar. Ching was there, a smaller vessel manned and ready to launch. The younger brother stood on the platform just outside the entrance to the ship.

"All is ready, Milord. Miss Lane." Ching bobbed his head to the woman before focusing on his brother.

"No one is to know this vessel has launched until I'm out of range to be intercepted," Kal instructed Ching. "We will travel at warp speed so we can reach Earth in as short a time as possible. Also, have the communication lines monitored. It would be beneficial if Lord Ran did not know I was coming until I've gotten there."

"Done," Ching assured his brother. "I shall be awaiting your return."

"It's imperative things are taken care of here," Kal told him. "Have the royal transport inspected. Report your findings to me only. I will receive communication from you and no one else. Make sure to scramble the transmissions though, and do not inform anyone when you are about to contact me."

"Understood." Ching clasped his brother's hand in the only show of affection ever openly witnessed on Krypton. "Be well, Milord."

"And you, my brother." Kal bobbed his head and entered the ship. Lois bowed slightly as she passed Ching and settled next to Kal for take off, where they'd be confined until they acclimated themselves to the speed at which they'd travel. She wasn't sure what he'd meant outside, but she wasn't going to question this trip. When she'd arrived on Krypton, and then was made Kal's concubine, she was certain the next year would be the longest, most miserable year of her life. This trip meant everything to her, even if she didn't fully understand why the First Lord would take her along and not his wife.

More to keep me occupied, Lois thought as the force of their launch took over. She closed her eyes and let images of home fill her mind.


A smaller vessel would only take two weeks time to reach Earth. Kal spent the first week in conference with his small guard. Lois assumed he was debriefing them on what would be expected of them once the ship reached Earth. She really didn't see him a lot until the second week. Because of their close confines, she was forced to notice things she hadn't before.

Kal was obviously distraught over everything that had happened. He spent a great deal of time just staring off into space. And when he wasn't doing that, he was exercising. She guessed it was his way of dealing with things.

And it was during that time Lois also began to look at Kal a bit differently. It hadn't rushed over her in a sudden moment of clarity or hit her like a ton of bricks, but she did realize that Kal was also a man. A very human, very vulnerable man. She could sense his confusion, his frustration, even his pain. His eyes held constant questions as he seemingly struggled to figure them out. Her heart reached out to him, offering comfort in a way she could never voice.

How could she feel that way? The Kryptonian First Lord held power over her world, ultimately over her. He held the power to destroy life as she knew it. He was arrogant, stern, and unfeeling. Yet, she couldn't stop the pull she felt toward him.

Yes, she admitted, he was attractive as well. Very attractive. She'd practically drooled all over herself when she'd discovered him exercising without a shirt on one morning. But what really drew her to Kal was something inside him. It was as if a part of her recognized something buried so deeply within him that no one knew it was there.

So, why did she? Why did she have to look at Kal with compassion? Why did her heart reach out to his? And why didn't she try to stop it?


Lois found the lord on the observation deck, staring out at the stars. In spite of the speed at which they traveled, it almost looked as if they were sitting still.

"This is the one thing I'm grateful to your race for," Lois said as she stepped up beside Kal.

He looked down at her. "It is spectacular, isn't it?" But he didn't mean the view. He was looking at Lois, really looking. She was a remarkable woman and for reasons he didn't understand, she moved him. Mind, body, and soul.

She turned slowly from where she'd been staring at Kal, an expression on her face he'd never seen before. "So, why all the secrecy, Milord?"

Forcing himself to stop watching Lois, and longing for more, Kal sighed heavily as he leaned over to rest his arms on the railing in front of them. "Do you believe in gut feelings, Miss Lane?"

"I wasn't aware you did," she replied, surprise evident in her tone.

"Nor was I. Yet, from the day I saw Mi-Lay lying dead in that room, my gut has been tied in knots. I'm overwhelmed by a sense of… dread." He shifted so that he could look at her.

"Like something's going to happen?"

"Precisely. I couldn't stop thinking that if I did not switch transports, I wouldn't return to Krypton. I actually don't think I would have made it to Earth."

"You think someone's trying to kill you?" Lois leaned slightly against the railing, curiosity replacing the surprise on her face.

"Yes. Don't ask me why, but that's exactly what I think."

"Have you heard from Ching?"

"He should have sent communications before now." Kal straightened and thrust a hand through his hair. "Now, I'm worried that something's happened at the palace."

They lapsed into silence, staring out again at the blanket of stars before them. The past couple of weeks had found the First Lord distraught over first Mi-Lay and now this feeling he had. He'd asked himself over and over who could possibly want him dead. And why? Ching would be the only one to profit from his death, and he would bet his life that his brother was *not* the one to fear.

Of course, there was Ti-El, too. But even he wouldn't gain much if the heir was dead. Ti was the son of a concubine, unable to take rule of Krypton. Besides, Ching was next in line for the Throne.

It was all beginning to be too much. For a man who normally had everything, including his emotions, under tight control, Kal was off balance. And maybe that was what caused him to turn his attention to the lady next to him.

Kal straightened and smiled down at Lois. "Tell me, Miss Lane, are you happy to be going to Earth?"

"Yes," she answered automatically. "But why are you taking me? Not that I'm questioning it or anything. It's just that I would have thought you'd take along your wife. Or maybe your brother. Even your uncle. I wasn't expecting…" She stopped to look him because was smiling broadly, almost laughing. "What's so funny?"

Kal's smile had turned into a full fledged grin. The first he could ever remember. "Have you always done that?"

"Done what?" She crossed her arms in a defensive stance.


"I do not babble."

"Yes, you do." She opened her mouth to shoot off another denial, but quickly clamped it shut again. Kal's smile had faded and he felt as if he was falling into her deep, dark eyes.

Slowly he lifted his hand and gently cupped Lois' cheek. "You really are a beautiful woman," he whispered. For the last week it had been almost impossible to avoid Lois. She was one of only fifty two people aboard the ship, making it very difficult not to be around her. In doing so, Kal's admiration for the woman had grown stronger.

Standing before her now, allowing her nearness to wash away his anxieties, Kal was helpless to stop his pull to her. His eyes flashed to her lips, full… inviting. Kissing, as the earthlings had named the intimate act of mouth upon mouth, was considered unnecessary and until he'd met Lois, Kal had completely agreed. Now though, before this woman, his hand on her face, desire raging within him, something drew him to her. Whether primal or simply his need to taste her, it was too strong to resist. He leaned forward and pressed his lips against hers in a display of affection in which he'd never before participated.

The first press of his lips to hers was a feather light touch and he quickly withdrew. Her eyes were filled with disbelief and shock. To Kal's relief, he saw no indifference, so he pressed against her again. This time the touch was slightly firmer and lasted a beat longer. Kissing, he thought somewhere in the depths of his mind, was rather nice.


"Kal. My name's Kal," he told her as he lifted his other hand to grasp her side.

"What are you doing?"

The hand on her cheek moved to her other side to hold her firmly in place. "Nothing you didn't want me to. You could have pulled away."

Lois didn't speak, but her eyes bore into his. A thousand questions floated behind her wide gaze, just as they whirled inside his own head. But still he saw nothing to indicate she would stop him if he were to kiss her again. Her mouth was slightly agape, her lips damp and calling to him to claim them once again with his own.

Unable and unwilling to stop his body from responding he leaned back in to kiss her again. This one was gentle, and he held against her for several moments, soaking up the incredible things he suddenly felt.

Every nerve ending in his body jumped to alert, electricity racing through his veins. His heart began to pound against his chest and he felt his palms grow sweaty. If he'd thought he'd desired Lois before now, he'd been sadly mistaken. This was unlike anything he'd *ever* felt.

He pulled back and drew in a ragged breath. "Lois," Kal whispered her name reverently as he stared at her. One, two, three times he pressed his lips to hers, drawing back each time to give her time to pull away. When her eyes darkened and she leaned in for the next kiss, Kal's knees threatened to give out on him.

A moment later, he felt as if he'd pass out when she pushed her tongue into his mouth. Before her, before now, such invasion would have been unthinkable, unacceptable. This was exactly the reason Kryptonians didn't kiss; felt this act was unsanitary, unnecessary. One didn't need to share such intimacy to procreate.

What's expedient was their philosophy.

And to have the woman be the aggressor was even more staggering. Kal had been born and raised in a man's world, where men were the ones to invade and take their pleasure. Being on the receiving end of such assertiveness was positively breathless.

It was also most certainly invigorating… and absolutely blissful. Kal's body finally caught up to his brain and all hesitation was gone. He surged forward with his tongue and with the first full taste, he was lost. Their kiss escalated slowly into an all out assault on each other's senses. When they pulled apart, both heaved deeply as they stared into the other's eyes.


Just once, Lois told herself. Just this one time she'd give in to what her heart screamed for her to do. She'd never before experienced desire for a man, but with this one, it was uncontrollable.

Kal had looked so lost when he talked of his feelings. That alone was probably foreign enough for him. Emotion was something one hardly ever experienced as a Kryptonian. Dread was definitely something the First Lord never had to worry about. Add that to everything she'd seen over the last week, and she'd been unable to stop herself from feeling sympathy for Kal.

While his life had been one of luxury and advantage, it had to have been extremely isolating. As a child, being raised to take over his entire world, he probably never gave thought to his plight. But as an adult, it was plain to see that Kal was a very lonely man.

She hadn't been wrong about that speck of light in his eyes. It had been there several times since that day in the garden. And with every passing day, it had only grown bigger.

Lois could see it. Compassion, warmth, gentleness… It was all there, even if he had no idea. Kal was not born to be the kind of man he'd been raised to be. His natural personality was kind, gentle, patient. He'd been bred to be something he truly wasn't, forced by his position and his station.

But here, with her, she could see the real man, had seen him over and over during their trip. She alone was witness to the battle that raged within him. Frustration waged war with education; compassion clawed at his concrete mask in an attempt to be seen and heard. She experienced his turmoil, felt his pain. All of a sudden she wanted to feel the man as well.

Kal finally lifted his head and spoke aloud. "Engage all security."

The computerized devices beeped to let the occupants know the room was secure as Kal drew Lois fully against his body for another kiss. She moaned into his mouth as he eased her backwards toward the lounge.

"Tell me now, if you want to stop," Kal rasped as he held himself in check above her.

Lois stared into the dark eyes before her. They'd blackened a bit in desire, so unlike the eyes of the First Lord the world knew. These were soft, warm, and they were even slightly hopeful. On a world of men accustomed to having their way, this man was giving her a choice, asking for her permission. And that was the deciding factor. Kal was willingly giving control over to her, and right or wrong, Lois was going to lead him into completely new territory.

"Show me… Kal," she said softly, then surrendered to the most powerful man on two worlds.


Yes! She said yes! He couldn't believe she wanted him to do this. Straining to keep from rushing their encounter, Kal shed his tunic, dropping it to the floor beside the plush lounge.

"Here. Let me," she told him.

He hesitated briefly before leaning forward for her to unzip his suit. A deep breath was drawn between his teeth when she wrapped her arms around him to reach his back. Kal's hands rested on either side of Lois' head while she took her sweet time with his zipper. He'd almost questioned her more when she'd told him to show her. There was no way she could *want* him the way he wanted her. However, his new position brought their bodies together and he could feel her heart race, feel her ragged breathing against his ear.

"Sit up," she ordered and he complied immediately.

Settled up on his knees, Lois was the one to peel his suit down off his upper body. Excitement raced through him like never before. He'd done this to Zara, but she had never actually touched him during their couplings, let alone undressed him. And though he could clearly feel Lois' nervousness, he could also feel her determination.

Why? Why would she want to do this? The fiery little woman had argued passionately for her world. She'd argued against being his concubine. Now she took the lead in their encounter. Kal was in awe of a woman for the first time in his life.

His eyes stayed fixed on the figure beneath him, though her eyes roamed over his body when it was revealed to her. Her perusal made him feel satisfied in a way that he couldn't describe. She was looking at him as if she could literally eat him.

By Zor, she was! Kal's mind shouted when Lois leaned forward and kissed his chest. He was too shocked to do anything but sit there. And that gave her time to continue her exploration.

"ZOR!" he shouted as Lois kissed his chest in just the right place.

She immediately sat back and stared at him. "What? Did that hurt?"

"NO!" he rushed to assure her. "Just… surprised me is all."

Her brows furrowed as she studied him, but his voice interrupted whatever thoughts she'd had.

"Please… do it again." Gently, ever so gently he reached out to cup the back of her head, guiding her back to his chest. This time when she kissed him, he allowed his body to take over. His head dropped back as Lois slowly moved across his chest. After a moment, her hands started to roam hesitantly, seeking out smooth skin and forcing a breath from Kal's lungs.

How was it possible? Kal thought as Lois continued her assault on his senses. How was it possible to feel so much because a woman was… Zara had certainly never done this before! She'd never even touched him at all during sex. He'd touched her, of course, putting into practice the things he'd learned as part of his manhood training. She'd, in turn, put her own training into practice and 'faked' it. That had been on their union night. Since then she'd refused to even pretend to enjoy it. So, Kal had taken to undressing, then hurrying through the encounter as quickly as he could.

But this woman, the one…

Touching him… there!

Kal's shocked eyes watched as Lois moved her hands over his body, down…

She paused briefly, as if realizing just what her actions meant. He was certain she was about to tell him that she didn't want to continue when she spoke.

"May I?" she asked, hands poised at the sides of the material on his hips.

She was asking his permission to remove his clothes! She wanted… more.

He could only numbly nod his agreement, then watched as she slowly pulled his suit down over his hips. The tight shorts was the only covering him as, again, Lois grew still, her eyes fixed on his lower body.

Kal's large hand slipped under her hair, gently cradling the side of her head. "We can stop, Lois," he told her softly. And he meant it. If she didn't want this, he would stop. She might be his concubine; the law might allow for him to do this with her, but there was no way he'd do anything to purposely hurt this woman.

Not now. Not with everything he felt for her. And there was no denying that anymore. Kal felt very strongly for this woman, and there was no way he'd force her to do anything, no matter how frustrating it might prove to be.


They could stop; he'd just given her an out. Yet, at the moment, there was nothing Lois had ever wanted more than Kal.

She glanced up at him through her lashes and immediately relaxed. God, and Zor, help them all when this man realizes his true character, she thought as she gazed into his eyes.

Without a word, she pushed him backwards until he sat on the lounge. "You need to take your boots off first," she explained at his look of confusion.

"I meant it, Lois. We don't have to do this. I can control myself. We can…" Anything else he was about to say was silenced when Lois' mouth covered his.

How could a man who came from a race of people who didn't kiss at all, be so good at it?! That was her thought as Kal held her face on either side and pushed his tongue into her mouth again. And why was he giving her control? Was it because he suspected she'd never done this? Was it because he wanted her to do it willingly and thought allowing her to lead the way would keep her at ease? Maybe it was because women on his world were merely instruments of pleasure and he wanted to see if one could actually *give* pleasure. No matter what it was, she felt empowered by his trust. Her hands began to smooth over his firm chest, his shoulders, and into his hair.

It feels sooo good! She thought as she settled onto his lap. Their kisses continued for several long moments before it dawned on her that something was wrong. Kal's hands still framed her face, and he sat absolutely rigid under her.

Slowly, reluctantly, she drew back to look into his eyes. "What? What is it?"

He stared at her for a moment before he dropped his hands, allowing them to rest on the lounge. "It's just, well, I realized that you're… not…" He stammered a bit, unable to finish his sentence.

"I'm not what?"

"You're not… Kryptonian. I'm not sure how to… do this… with you."

"Kal, you're married. You've done this before."

"Yes, but…" This time he sighed and looked away from her.

"What?" She raised her hand and cupped the side of his face, forcing him to meet her gaze again. "But what, Kal?"

"I won't do that to you," he told her sternly.

"I want to do this," she said with a warm smile.

"That's not what I mean, Lois." He moved her off his lap, leaned forward to discard his boots and pull his suit completely off, then stood and paced to the railing again.

Lois was confused. What *did* he mean? She'd consented; she wanted this. God, she wanted this. And as she rose to her feet, her conscience jumped to question why. She batted that voice down into the recesses of her mind and slowly approached Kal.

"What do you mean?" she asked, a warm hand going up to rub his back. He felt so good, she thought as she waited for him to speak. Of course, she'd known that he would. Kal was impossibly good-looking. Even when she'd hated him, or thought she had, there was no way she could have denied that he was handsome. He was tall, with broad shoulders and muscles to spare. Black hair that reminded her of silk graced his boyish features, while gorgeous brown eyes had the power to melt you to a puddle. Surely he would feel as good as he looked.

"When a noble starts to change, in his boyhood, he begins to undergo a different type of training."

Kal's voice stopped her rambling thoughts, and she turned to focus on him, without removing her hand from him completely. She allowed it to rest on his side, just above his hip. Maybe if she kept contact…

Right, he's speaking.

"This time is known as manhood training. Essentially it's sex education." He turned to face her then. "With a twist," he added softly. "We're taught how to… please our wives so that they will give us many heirs. But at the same time, we're told how to get as much satisfaction from sex as we possibly can."

"You're actually taught to be selfish in bed?" she asked incredulously. Something she didn't know about this… logical race of people.

"Yes," he said simply. "We're taught a number of ways to receive pleasure, and we're told to take it often. Only to our wives are we to show any kind of… courtesy."

Lois took that in for a moment before she spoke again. "Then remember that. Do that," she offered helpfully. What else was she supposed to say? Hell, she'd never done this before and she really couldn't see the big deal anyway. Just… feel.

"I would never do to you what I've done to her."

That made her blink. Just what had he done? "Have you… hurt her?"

"No. Not physically." Kal sighed again, looked around for inspiration, then took her hands in his. "On our union night, I was… patient, gentle. Zara… responded, so… Later, we talked. She told me she would perform her duty, but would prefer to do so as acquaintances and nothing else. Since then, things have been…"

"Impersonal?" she supplied.

He shrugged, a confused expression on his face.

"All business?" she corrected herself.

He nodded then.

No wonder he was the person he was. Taught to be selfish, raised to be a tyrant, and unliked by his own wife.

"Lois, you can't even call what I do with Zara sex. She just… she's just there, while I…" He glanced down at her hands as he finished. "… while I…"

Lois wanted to cry when he lifted his eyes back to hers. The pain behind his brown orbs broke her heart.

"I'm there for one reason and one reason only," Kal finally decided. "Law states Zara has to conceive my heir, but it says nothing about how we get it done… Or that we have to like it," he finished in a mumble as he released Lois' hands and turned to stare out into space.

The penny finally dropped for Lois. Kal was saying his relations with Zara were forced, over quickly, with no interaction whatsoever. No wonder he wasn't sure what to do.

But what about the caregiver he'd sent for? The very few rumors she'd heard included that bit of information. True, she'd heard he'd only done that a time or two, but still…

She wasn't about to ask him, though. Not now. He'd just confessed very personal, very painful information to her. Kal ached for what he'd never had. No holding, no one to treat him with respect, from childhood and right into his adult life. It was a wonder he wasn't even more stern and unwavering than he was. Essentially this man was a virgin, physically and emotionally.

How impossibly odd was that to fathom? A tower of strength, Lord Kal-El ruled his world with a firm hand, took possession of his wife with determination, and bled from emotional scars only Lois had recently become aware of.

She reached forward to wrap her arms around his waist, wanting to be the one to hold him for the first time; the one to show him that intimacy between a man and woman could be wonderful, mutual. They would cross over into this new territory for the first time together.

She started to kiss his back, and he slowly straightened in her arms, allowing her to nuzzle the back of his neck.

"Just feel, Kal," she whispered before sucking his earlobe into her mouth. "Just feel. On Earth we don't think so hard. We just… feel. How do you feel right now, Kal? Show me."


She'd repeated her request again. Well, he wasn't exactly sure he could show her what he didn't understand, but he was going to try. He turned to capture Lois' mouth again, his hands tentatively holding onto to her waist.

"You can… move your… hands," Lois told him against his lips, between kisses.

Yeah, maybe he could. Maybe that was what she'd like. And his hands moved to her back. Up slowly, back down again. Then one hand moved into her hair the way she'd done him earlier, holding her firmly in place while his tongue ravaged her mouth.

Why didn't Kryptonians do this? Kal wondered as he lost himself in the feel of her tongue against his, against his lips. Something about sharing germs, unsanitary something or other was the answered thought as she sucked his bottom lip into her mouth.

Oh, who cares, was the next thought as a burst of boldness overtook him and the hand still on her back smoothed down over her buttocks, gently kneading. That pressed her body more fully against his.

Zor! He had never felt this way before. Of course, he'd never actually had a woman pressed against his body this way. The sensations running through him was threatening to overwhelm him.

Finally, his libido took complete control. He drew away from Lois and started to remove her clothes. Only when she stood before him fully naked did he stop.

"Incredible," he whispered as he lifted shaky hands to touch her again, kissing her neck softly.

"That feels good," Lois moaned, then stepped back to settle on the lounge once more.

Kal was breathless and he hadn't done a thing yet. But seeing Lois like this was too much.

This woman, this small, fragile Earthling was about to change the course of fate, and she had no clue.

Not taking his eyes from hers, Kal finished undressing.

"Tell me yes," he ordered without moving.

"Yes," she breathed, then lay completely back.

Kal stepped forward, then joined her on the lounge. Looking down at the woman before him, more changes took place inside his heart. A warmth he'd never known washed over him.

He eased forward, bringing his body down to hers. "You feel…"

"I know. So do you," she told him as she pushed her hands around to his back.

That was when he noticed Lois was trembling. His head came up so that he could look at her face. "What? Don't be afraid…"

"I'm not… I've just… never done this before," she replied.

He would have definitely argued otherwise there. Lois had been so confident in her actions. He'd even attributed the slight hesitation on her part to nervousness in just being with him. But this… this was…

His heart filled to overflowing. Finding out she was a virgin, along with what he realized he felt for Lois sent jolts of pure pleasure through his body. Suddenly they were back on the same footing, unsure and curious.

Kal brought his hand up to smooth her hair back from her face and smiled down at her. "And you trust me to be the one to change that?" He couldn't help but ask. He *had* to be sure this was what she wanted.

She could only stare at him, her hands still moving over the smooth skin of his back. "Yes," she told him after a long moment. She wrapped her arms around his neck, placed her mouth against his ear and whispered, "Just feel."

Did she realize how much power she possessed?

Kal could only do as she'd said. His body took over and his mind was filled with Lois. There was only here, now, with this woman. To hell with Krypton, Earth, and anything but Lois.

He slanted his mouth over hers and several moments later, his body was guiding him. He was mesmerized by her reactions .

She wasn't 'faking' it. She hadn't received 'womanhood' training. *He'd* done this. He'd made her feel these things, do these things…

Kal paused, shocked by his own emotions, and gazed into Lois' eyes. She smiled up at him, the simple gesture telling him more than any words ever could. Wanting more, craving more, *needing* more, he captured her mouth with his own, allowing his body to take over once again.



Both had yelled out at the same time. Their eyes met, their tongues met, their souls met.

Kal felt as if he'd just… come home. Their bodies strained into one another as lips sought out more, hands were everywhere.

Kal covered Lois' mouth with his own and gave himself over completely to the kiss.

The kiss escalated into an assault. His large frame shook from this very new, very emotional encounter. For the very first time in his life, Kal had experienced this type of intimacy for the sole purpose of sharing his body with another. No duty, no logic, no amount of training had come into play with this act.

And no amount of training could have possibly prepared him for how he'd feel now.

He looked down at the woman beneath him, her brown eyes staring right back up at him. It was obvious she, too, felt something more powerful than any pleasure from her body. Suddenly tears filled his eyes and he regretfully pulled away from her.


The most intense physical pleasure had been replaced with the most breathtaking emotional pleasure, only to be replaced again with the most heart wrenching realization.

Lois watched as Kal dropped heavily to the floor in front of the lounge. He felt it as well. There was something there, between them. Something more than attraction or desire. Something so strong both had to struggle to breathe.

But it couldn't be. She could only ever be his concubine. They would never be able to explore these feelings, expand them, embrace them.

Lois slid off the lounge and settled between his legs. He immediately wrapped his arms around her and buried his face against her neck.

"I wish we were somewhere else," Lois whispered, desperate to say something, anything to ease their pain.

"Where would we be?"

"Where there's no duty or obligations or wars or lords or…"

"Wives," Kal said regretfully.

"Or wives," she agreed. They lapsed into a silence before she shifted to look at him with bright eyes. "I'm sorry."

He smiled softly, lifted his hand to cup her face, then leaned to press a gentle kiss to her lips. "I'm not." His fingers tucked her hair behind her ear as he continued to look at her. "I can't force myself to be sorry."

"I know, Kal. I feel the same way." She turned to stare out at the solitude of space, unable to continue to look at him. "I wanted it to happen. It just… shouldn't have. There's so much between us and that's why I'm sorry."

"Lois, there doesn't have to be things between us." Her head whipped back to him then. "You live in my house. You could live in my chamber, as my…"

"Your concubine. Your… exactly what would I be, Kal?" She rose and began to gather up her clothes. She was no man's whore, not even to one she'd lost her heart to.

"The law says…"

"I'm not talking about law," she cut him off sharply. "I'm talking about in here, Kal." She lifted her hand to her heart. "I know affection is something that doesn't exist on your world and I know you only did this because it's what you've wanted from the beginning."

"Oh really?"

Damn! That hadn't come out right at all, she thought as she watched the fire start to build behind Kal's eyes. He'd risen and started jerking on his clothes.

"Kal, listen to me," she begged. She had to make him understand. She knew he felt something for her. She'd felt it, seen it in his eyes. She just wasn't sure he understood what he was feeling. Or that he could handle it.

"No. You listen to me. I could have done this a long time ago if I'd wanted it that badly. I did not need your permission." He snatched the top of his suit up over his shoulders before reaching for his tunic.

Lois stopped him with a gentle hand placed on his arm. "Kal, all I meant was that I know what I felt tonight was not what you felt."

"Why don't you tell me what I felt? Please. You seem to know. Tell me," he clipped out in a sarcastic tone.

Lois was stunned. She couldn't believe what they'd shared tonight was being ruined so easily. But wasn't it better that this happen now than later? There was the potential for even deeper emotions later, and she wasn't sure she wanted to experience that. It was bad enough now. Seeing Kal with tears in his eyes as the reality of their situation set in had been so excruciating. They could never taint that with delusions of anything more. It wasn't possible. Maybe this was best. Maybe parting this room in anger would restore some kind of balance between them.

Maybe her heart could heal… eventually.

When she failed to say anything, Kal snatched his tunic on and headed for the door. He didn't say another word before he disappeared. Lois was left to grieve in silence. Grieve for what could never be.

In the time they'd spent inside the observation room, she and Kal had shared far more than most people share in a whole lifetime. There was no denying that fact. And they'd lost even more.

With tears in her eyes and sorrow in her heart, Lois finished dressing and left. Inside her chamber, she curled herself into a ball on her bed and cried.


Kal *did* spend what was left of the journey inside his quarters or the communications room so that he wouldn't have to see Lois. He was angry and hurt by the things she'd insinuated. He'd spent the night with Lois because he'd wanted to. It was as simple as that. He could have had sex with her months ago, but he hadn't because of the way he'd felt about her. She'd moved him the very first time he'd met her, and it had only gotten worse each time he'd seen her after that.

They'd shared more than just their bodies; they'd shared their very souls. He'd felt it, though he wasn't fully aware at the time. He'd also felt the agonizing pain to follow.

The pain of loss. Loss of what could never be. Lois had been right, he reluctantly admitted. There was too much between them. And he didn't want her to live in his chamber as his concubine… as his whore. She was more than that. She was completion, closing a hole he hadn't known existed in his frozen heart. First, she'd melted that heart, shaped it, reformed it. Then she'd molded it into perfection. All within the span of just weeks.

He'd been unable to stop the fall when he'd looked into her eyes. It was as if her soul had been calling to his, guiding him… home. That was exactly the way he'd felt when they'd come together — like he had found his way home. Home from a journey he'd been unaware he was on. Kal didn't understand why this woman had the power to make him feel the things he did, but he'd felt them nonetheless, and he'd felt so strongly it had taken his breath away.

But nothing could ever come of those feelings. He couldn't share his life with her, not the way he wanted to. So, maybe things had happened as they should. He was First Lord, with worlds to oversee, duties to perform. And Lois Lane was not a woman to be second best to anyone. His world would insist she be, would insist she be just a mistress.

Their time together had shown him that was not what he wanted. He wanted Lois to be his mate, beside him in all things. Yet more thoughts that were foreign on his world. Women held no rights, no privileges. They were there for the pleasure of the men and to ensure survival of their race. And that was something Kal found intolerable for the woman that moved him.

Inside his chambers the last night aboard the transport vessel, the First Lord made several very difficult decisions. One being that his uncle had been right. There was no place for emotion for the ruler of the world. Duty came before anything else, and one had to do what was logical. It was illogical for him to place such value in a woman. Or at least that was the excuse he used to mask the incredible sorrow he felt.

He'd tasted the sweet fruits of emotion, making his decision to sever ties with Lois Lane even more excruciating. Slowly, painfully, he hardened his heart once more. Anything to allow him solace from the overwhelming ache he now felt.

He might not have known it at the time, but amongst all the decisions, a young man came to grips with the loss of his first love.


Along with the many decisions Kal made, he also quelled any thoughts of compassion, attraction, or desire. He'd let his infatuation with a small Earth woman go, proclaiming to himself that he was lord of all and had a world to run — two worlds. He didn't have time for feelings and especially the feelings of others. To cope, he'd have to push Lois Lane from his mind, an action he couldn't quite convince his heart of.

But when he stepped off his ship on Earth, the ruthless ruler emerged in force.

Kal stood at the end of the platform leading up to his ship carefully surveying his surroundings. They'd landed in Washington, DC, one of the cities that had sustained considerable damage during the attacks leading up to Earth's surrender. To Kal, it looked almost like it did the day he'd left years ago.

The streets were littered with debris, people scurried about as if they were afraid, and Kryptonians barked orders continuously. The First Lord's anger flared instantly as he realized the work he'd ordered hadn't been done.

One of the lords in charge realized who Kal was and immediately called the other men to attention. As they fell to their knees, so did the Earthlings.

"Who is in charge of this detail?" Kal asked as he approached the small guard.

"I am, Milord. Commander Von at your service." The man bowed his head.

"Where is Lord Ran?"

"I believe he is in Metropolis, Milord."

Kal's gaze roamed for several moments while he noted the insufferable conditions of his other world. Lois had been right. Things on Earth were not as they should be. These people had endured hardships they never should have because he'd put trust in the Council and their choice of provisionary ruler.

He should have come back before now. This was his world…

As he thought that, he was reminded of another who'd argued that fact with him. She'd insisted that the people of Earth had something Kryptonians never would. They had the heart and desire to rise up again, take their world back. For a moment, he considered turning power back over to Earth's various leaders. Then he remembered exactly who it had been who'd made that impassioned plea.

Once again, he shoved Lois from his mind and refocused on what needed to be done. He gave orders to one of his commanders and reentered his transport. He'd correct this insubordination at once, but he'd do it *his* way.


Kal was even more curt than he'd been before. He began to spend less time speaking and more time ordering. He quickly dismissed Lord Ran and had him sent to the ship in orbit above Earth to be held for questioning on charges of dereliction of duty.

The conditions on Earth were worse than the worst day ever on Krypton. None of the work had been completed as ordered, supplies had not been delivered, people were not being allowed to serve in positions they should have. Others were forced into service for Lord Ran. Before his night with Lois, Kal might have surrendered control of Earth back to its leaders; he'd even considered it. But because she'd left her mark and he was determined to rid his mind of her, he appointed Lord Sar to be provisionary ruler and set in motion the original plans that had been developed for reconstruction.

He met with several world leaders, who'd been allowed to retain their positions to help keep stability. It was rather pointless, but the Kryptonians felt it would keep tensions at bay if the population still had a leader to call their own.

Once satisfied that things were in order, Kal concentrated his time on discovering why Lord Ran hadn't fulfilled his duties. The only thing he could gather from the man was because 'it suited a purpose'. Those who had been loyal to do that which Lord Ran had ordered, were quickly scared back into proper service for their First Lord. There were a great many who had been reprimanded, but most returned to regular duty, thankful the lord had spared their lives.


Lois spent the month that Kal-El was on Earth with her father in his lab, even though her guard was not far from her side. Kal hadn't asked if she wanted protection this time, just ordered it and hadn't waited for disapproval.

And that was the way he'd become with her — lord to his subject. He rarely spoke while still aboard the space ship and hadn't seen her after they arrived on Earth. She couldn't decide whether she was grateful or hurt. She'd known it was pointless to develop feelings for the First Lord, but she'd been unable to stop herself. The attraction she felt for the man was overwhelming, and in a moment of weakness, she'd given in. She had seen the kind of person Kal was deep inside — or at least the person he could be. She alone was privy to him at his best, and no matter the price she'd have to pay now, it was an experience she wouldn't trade for any world.

What bothered her the most was, after having seen that small fire of selflessness, watching Kal extinguish it. Lois may have been very young, but growing up the way she had, she'd grown wise beyond her years. In that wisdom, she knew Kal pulled so far away because, for the first time in his life, he'd developed feelings for someone other than himself. She would always carry the knowledge that she was the one who had moved the First Lord.

She would also carry much more of Kal than she'd ever intended. Hormones and unrequited love lead people to do foolish things. Making love to the lord without taking precautions had been one of those things. Lois learned that she was pregnant the very day that Kal planned to depart Earth.

Neither had been thinking clearly the night they spent on the observation deck together. They had just been feeling, and in doing so, had created another life. Lois knew the law, and knew that now she would be bound to Kal and Krypton forever… if she wanted to be with her child. Kryptonian law clearly stated that even children born of concubines would be raised on Krypton, properly trained and educated. It also stated that this would be done with or without the cooperation of the mother. Men held all the rights on the planet surrounded by the red sun, including custodial rights concerning children. Of course, there were no known births of Earthling/Kryptonian origin. Earthling women were sterilized when they agreed to serve on Krypton, and Kryptonians assigned to Earth were rendered infertile because of the inoculations they underwent to protect them from the effects of the yellow sun. Those precautions had been taken specifically to keep procreation between the two races from happening at all. How would a child conceived of both worlds be viewed? Treated? Would he or she be studied? Or just simply treated as any other Kryptonian born child? Those unanswered questions were what she feared. And hers was no ordinary child. This child belonged to the First Lord. This child would certainly be treated quite differently.

Before their disagreement, Lois wouldn't have been as scared of Kal's reaction as she was now. She dreaded standing before him and telling him she was carrying his child. What would he do? Would he be angry? Disappointed? His heir hadn't even been conceived with his wife yet, and his… whatever she was, had gotten pregnant.

She was ironically reminded of Ti-El. The same exact situation had occurred with Zor and his concubine. Zor had taken very good care of the woman and his son, although Jor would later be born and ultimately become heir.

What discontent that must have bred, Lois thought. Is that why Ti was such an a**?

Suddenly another thought entered her mind. Did Ti's birth order cause him to do other things? Like… order a little destruction on Earth and blame it on his brother? Was it possible? It would have been ingenuous, that was for sure. Kill off your brother, raise his children to do your bidding. Truly ironic.

Now she was filled with even more fear. What if it was true? What if that was the kind of person Ti was? She already knew his influence was the reason Kal was the man he'd become. And how much worse would it get should Ti's influence continue? Especially now that Kal was reacting to being hurt? Or would Ti decide that he would get rid of Kal, too? Had he already attempted to?

Or was she simply seeing too much into nothing? Lois had always had an overactive imagination, not to mention her insatiable curiosity. She had nothing but suspicions. Should she relate them to Kal? Even if he denied his uncle could do anything like that, it would give him something to think about. He'd obviously had reason to think ill of Ti before, if their conversation in the garden that time was anything to go on. And maybe he'd be careful where the older lord was concerned if he had reason to be. As much as she hated the thought of spending her life on that wretched planet, she'd hate more for something to happen to Kal. No matter how hurt she was, no matter that they could never have more between them, in their short time together, she'd fallen hard for the First Lord and loved him deeply. There was no way she'd ever want him to come to any harm.


Lois was still deep in thought, torn over what she should do, when Kal entered the lab.

"Miss Lane, come with me."

Her thoughts raced to her pregnancy. How would she tell him? And what about Ti? How did she bring that up? She just had to tell him. Before their argument she would have just blurted it out, all of it. But now…

Kal led Lois into a small room right off the lab and closed the door, sealing out both their guards. "I leave for Krypton tonight," he told her without looking at her.

"I will be ready."

Kal took a deep breath before speaking again. "You will remain here."

"What?" She couldn't hide her surprise. She'd harbored a little hope that he'd leave her on Earth, but that was before…

Before what? she asked herself. Before she'd spent the night sharing her body, her soul with this man? Before she'd watched the pain in his eyes wash over him? Before she'd learned she was pregnant with his child?

Oh, God, and it was before she saw the horrible pain in his eyes now.

"I have decided that it would be more beneficial for you to stay and continue to work with your father. I have given him an assignment and he could use your help." Kal's voice was low, soft, and full of pain.

Lois was stunned to say the least. Her one year contract was no where near being over. She'd fully expected him to make her return to live up to her obligations. So, why the change?

That was easy to answer. It seemed their time together had changed everything. This was his way of getting past his pain. And it was a good plan. Away from one another they wouldn't be reminded of their loss, of what could never be.

But what about the baby? Should she tell him? He'd take her back then.

Don't you want to stay home? she asked herself.

She did… really.


And what about Ti?

"I will sign the necessary documents to release you from the House of El," Kal interrupted her racing mind. He bowed fully to Lois, as his subjects did to him. When he straightened, his eyes bore into hers.


This had to hurt worse than anything he'd ever felt. Making the decision to leave Lois on Earth in his chamber had been one thing. Standing before her now was completely another thing. How could he do this? How could he walk away?

How could he not? If he ever hoped to live any kind of life at all, he *had* to do this. There was no way he could wake up each morning knowing he'd see this woman, knowing he'd never be able to share with her what they'd had on that transport.

His years of education and training pointed out that he *could* have this woman. He could have her in his house, his life, and his bed. But a part of him she'd forced him to recognize wanted much more than that. He wanted Lois by his side and… in his heart.

Illogical. The idea was completely illogical. He was Kryptonian and Kryptonians did not *share* their lives with women. They simply… used them, for their pleasure and their gain. None had ever called his wife his equal. Yet, that was what Kal wanted to do. He wanted to come to this woman each day, share his hopes, his ideas. He wanted to listen as she shared hers. And yes, he even wanted her to bring his children into the world, both worlds.

She could share those Earthling principles with him that she'd spoken of. Tell him what sets her world apart from his. Together, they could affect great change.

If only…

If only he'd been born someone else.

He blinked quickly, staring down at his shaking hands. This was probably some of the best news she'd ever received. She was home, where she belonged. He'd listened, and now Earth would be better taken care of. She'd accomplished what her trip to Krypton had been meant to.

She's already affected great change, a soft voice inside his head pointed out.

Kal lifted his head with determination he didn't feel. One night with an incredible woman had shaken him to his very foundation. Fear of the unknown… fear that he wasn't strong enough to handle the changes having her near would make, had made… fear of never sharing with her more than the taste he'd been allowed, and fear that living on Krypton would some day change her, turn her into an unemotional, logical subject, drove him to take a steadying breath. Reaching as deeply into his resolve as he could, he found the voice of his uncle antagonizing him, rebuking him for being so weak. He latched onto that, shoved his feelings for this woman to the farthest corner of his hardened heart, then willed himself to turn and walk away. He paused for a split second with his hand on the door before allowing his Kryptonian training to command his feet.

A second later, he was gone.


She could hardly breathe, couldn't stand. Lois sank to a chair in stunned silence. He'd left… her. She could stay on Earth, with her baby.

With his baby, she thought to herself.

But how long before someone realized just who the child's father was? How long until she was snatched out of her life and thrust back into that on Krypton?

And why was she even worrying about it? Kal had given her an out, a chance to live at home again. He was going to be an entire galaxy away from her and this child. Surely she could figure out a way to keep the child's paternity from becoming known. She was home, for God's sake! Everything else would work itself out.

As for her suspicions about Ti, well, Kal was a grown man. He'd have to take care of himself.

"Please allow him to do that," she said softly aloud, then laid her head over on her folded arms and began to weep. She cried over an ending… and because of a new beginning.


Krypton: Year 2128 in the twelfth cycle (or December 1987)

"What do you mean she's under undue stress? What kind of stress could a First Lady possibly have?" Kal demanded of the physician. Upon his return from his trip, the Council began to put pressure on him about giving the world its heir. He'd been completely unconcerned what the Council wanted, still too subconsciously raw from his relations with Lois, until a comment had been made behind his back about his abilities as man. The remark had reached Kal and he allowed it to strike a blow to his ego… just as a child would do.

His relations with Zara hadn't resumed until faced with that bruised male pride. Kal began to have his wife daily, both to prove his worth as a man and to get the conception done as quickly as possible. He would not have anyone think him less a man because he had failed to impregnate his wife. The whole situation had turned into a matter of wounded ego and not necessarily a desire to have children. In fact, children were the last thing he wanted now.

During the journey back from Earth, Kal used the time to come to terms with his relationship with Lois. He felt as if he'd lose his mind otherwise. When he closed his eyes, he saw her there, eyes bright, wide in surprise. He felt her in his arms. And he ached when he remembered the look in her eyes that last day.

He tried to convince himself that she hadn't felt anything for him. He hadn't seen some kind of… spark in her eyes when they'd come together; he hadn't felt the emotions within her when she touched him, held him. He really tried.

He had almost succeeded, too. If it hadn't been for that constant ache within his heart; if it hadn't been for dreams of her waking him night after night; if it hadn't been for *wanting* her instead of his own wife… If it hadn't been for Lois Lane, he could rule his world, fulfill his duty, and rejoice in the conception of his children.

But in all things, she was there. Yes, the pain dulled more each day, and yes, he continued to live as he always had. It was the constant desire for what he couldn't have that slowly ate away at him. Including the part of him that knew he had to conceive his world's heir.

No one says I have to like it, he told himself over and over, without one thought to how he'd feel if he actually succeeded. It was his duty as First Lord, to the House of El. He'd do this… even if he could never stop thinking of more.

When more than a month had passed and Zara had failed to conceive, Kal had ordered his personal physician to run tests to determine what was wrong with his wife. His uncle had told him just after his union that political matters were more important than heirs. Kal was young and would rule for years to come. The young ruler shouldn't concern himself unnecessarily. But Kal insisted now, so the physician was summoned.

Maybe, he'd argued to himself, maybe if this happened now, he could move on with his life for good… as far from Lois Lane as he could get.

At least he hoped he could.

"Milord," the physician answered, "Zara's body simply will not produce the results you seek because of stressful outside influences."

Kal twirled around to face Zara, no thought at all that their failure to conceive might actually be his fault. "What do you do when I'm not at the palace?"

"Nothing, Milord. I order your attendants to take care of your palace and your needs." She glared at Kal, defiantly.

Kal barely controlled his anger as he turned to dismiss the doctor. He faced Zara with fire in his eyes. "You have three cycles to conceive. After that time, I will demand the Council grant me a divorcement so that I can marry one who can perform her duty."

So much easier to blame others… so much less painful to be angry over something so trivial. One way or another, he *would* get over that woman!


Zara sat in stunned silence until Kal had left the room. Since he'd returned from his trip to Earth, he'd been more brusque than he ever was. He was angry and on edge most of the time, barking orders relentlessly. He'd even begun to direct them at her.

Inside the bed chambers, he'd stopped all pretense of trying to make the experience pleasant for her. He'd informed her the first night they resumed relations that there would be no more 'training' techniques. Their only duty was to create the heir, and Kal had taken that quite seriously. Their encounters rarely lasted long enough for Zara to realize they'd done anything. He'd immediately get up, get dressed, and leave because he'd begun to come to her chamber instead of having her come to the bridal chamber.

Not that she minded the shorter sessions. The quicker, the better as far as she was concerned. She'd never liked having sex with Kal, and that certainly hadn't changed.

Her thoughts drifted to his threat of divorcement. What she wouldn't give for that to become reality. She hated being here; she hated everything about her life, period!

It hadn't been so bad in the beginning. Like Kal, she'd been educated for her position. Unlike Kal, she'd never wanted it. A nice quiet existence was what she sought, with no duties, no obligations, and certainly no First Lord.


Kal bumped into Ching as he stomped down the corridor. When Kal was in a mood like that, it usually meant he'd been with Zara. For some reason, the First Lord didn't care for his bride. Ching couldn't understand why. Zara was a beautiful creature, and he'd seen for himself her intelligence when Kal was on Earth. The younger lord had gone to the First Lady with his orders from Kal. She hadn't been too thrilled to have yet another babysitter, but after a few conversations, they'd often spent time together.

Ching looked at his brother's retreating back once more before turning and starting in the opposite direction. Zara exited her chamber just as he reached the doors.

"Milady, I was just coming to ask after your health. I was informed that you weren't well," Ching told the woman.

Zara looked up at Ching and for the first time in his life, the man knew emotion. He was trapped by the deep pools of the Lady's dark eyes. His heart raced and he felt his palms begin to sweat. He'd been this close to her while Kal was away, even closer. But seeing the pain in her eyes made his heart ache. He took a step toward her. "What is it, Milady?"

Zara watched him for a moment more before her eyes filled with tears.

"Oh, Zara," Ching whispered, lifting a comforting hand toward her. He hesitated briefly before he gathered her in his arms. "Shh… don't cry." He'd only ever seen his sparring opponents cry. His uncle had declared such a thing as weak.

But maybe, just maybe it wasn't weak at all.


Kal entered his quarters that night in a very glum mood. This was another unusual feeling. He'd never before been as dissatisfied with his position as he was now, but tonight he felt pressed from every direction.

Upon his return from Earth, he'd been informed that someone had sabotaged the royal transport. The result of such would have been an explosion shortly after take off. Ching had discovered this almost immediately after the smaller vessel had departed. He hadn't contacted Kal with that information because Ti felt it best not to take any chances. The older man had somehow found out what the younger lord had discovered, and together, Ching and his uncle had led an investigation to discover the one at fault. Upon Kal's return, all had been explained to him. They had all continued to follow a few leads, but so far they'd had no success.

The First Lord had also stepped back and taken stock of his life. He had been angry at first that Ti had known about the sabotage of his ship, but was surprised with Ti's welcoming attitude. The man seemed pleased to see his nephew, even happy. They'd had a brief discussion about Kal's choice to leave Lois on Earth, to which his uncle hadn't made any snide remarks, telling his nephew that maybe it was for the best. His attitude had put Kal on alert to begin with, but then the First Lord decided that maybe he'd read Ti wrong those few times he thought he'd seen something else in Ti's eyes. He decided that he'd only seen something suspicious because of his attraction to Lois. Soon enough, Ti was once again imparting Kal with his wisdom. The young man dismissed any further suspicions he'd had about the older lord and gratefully accepted the man's knowledge and advice.

Kal's appreciation of his uncle's guidance hadn't been enough to stave the frustration he felt with his Council, though. They had started pressing him to produce an heir and he'd finally, reluctantly, begun that endeavor. Back on Earth, he'd presented Sam Lane with a possible solution for forced intimacies among his race. The doctor was trying to perfect a birthing matrix, so that nobility could successfully produce heirs *without* physically having to share themselves. His encounters with Zara were torturous and less than satisfying in every way. To have that matrix would certainly save him that displeasure.

Of course, it would also save him from wondering why his… *wife* hadn't conceived. Scientific manipulation would ensure success every time. But until then, he'd be forced to continue his time with Zara.

He sighed and dropped heavily to his bed. Tomorrow, he thought ruefully. Maybe tomorrow would be a better day.


Inside another chamber in the palace, Ti-El rotated his glass so that the liquid inside moved slowly. So many things hadn't gone his way. First, Kal had started to develop a conscience, then that disgusting infatuation with that Earthling, and his evasion of the ship manipulated to take his life. How had that little bastard gotten out of that one?!

Ti had been livid when he'd learned the First Lord had taken a smaller ship and slipped from the docking hangar. Several men had gone missing for that one.

Damn him, Ti thought as he emptied his glass. He'd wanted to just slay Kal on sight when the young man returned from Earth. Instead, he chose to set in motion another plan. He'd insinuated himself back into his nephew's good graces, and like his father before him, Kal would meet his fate once the heir was born. The only bright light in all this had been Kal leaving that earth woman where she belonged. There was no place in the palace for savages, and now that *she* was gone, just maybe there was hope for his nephew after all. The young man had certainly begun to be appreciative of his wise uncle once more.


"One day I *will* prove who is the strongest El," he said into the darkness.


Unable to discover an enemy, and with things falling back into a routine of old, Kal busied himself with the rule of his worlds. To everyone's surprise, he started to take trips to other provinces to familiarize himself with his home world. Somewhere along the way, he began to become acquainted with his subjects as well. His introduction to humanity in the form of a petite woman named Lois Lane had left a lasting impression and it was starting to show, even if the lord himself failed to see it.

Ching began to change as well. For a few weeks following Kal's return to Krypton, he'd helped in the investigation to discover who had tried to kill the First Lord. Then suddenly he was traveling with a vengeance. Along the way, he doubled his attraction to the female population and spent many evenings with a lovely lady or two. He'd only come home for a few days each cycle, leaving once again with the excuse of preparing for his position as Kal's advisor.

From the shadows, Ti was left in undecided silence. The First Lord ruled with a very firm hand, which Ti still appreciated, but the man would often exhibit signs of compassion. That was something that was intolerable for a ruler. If Kal began to make decisions based on emotion rather than logic, his world was doomed to the same fate that wretched little 'sister' planet had suffered. Though extremely pleased that Kal still looked to him for advice on many subjects, Ti would rather have the First Lord following his lead as blindly as he'd once done.


Krypton: Year 2129 of the third cycle (or March, 1988)

Kal had settled on his bed to watch a hologram of an uprising on Earth. He'd been delivered the message from the President of Pansoria earlier in the day. He'd assured the leader that forces were being sent to help with the situation. Now he needed to make certain there was nothing he'd overlooked during their conference.

A call came over the communicator that Zara wished to speak with him.

"Enter," he said into the intercom. Zara came into the room, stopping at the foot of the bed. "Yes?"

"I have news for you, Milord," she told him softly.

The couple still didn't communicate much and only shared each other's company at royal functions or in the bed chamber. Neither of which was very often anymore. When Kal had started to travel, so had Zara. He'd appointed her to head a committee on the needs of children orphaned during the war on Earth. It was an area that he'd suddenly felt should be handled differently than it had been.

He'd been right in assuming that Zara would appreciate time she could call her own, and it didn't hurt that the time away meant fewer couplings for them. Without that particular distraction, Kal had been able to concentrate on his worlds.

"Spit it out, Zara. I'm very tired."

"Milord, I am with child."

Kal stared at the woman for a long moment before shifting to stand. Not now, not this. Anything but this! he thought as he eased to his feet and went to Zara.

"I am most pleased," he lied. He wasn't at all happy to hear this. Tensions among nobles in several provinces were escalating, Ti was unusually happy, and Ching had turned into a walking sex machine just a year before his ceremony of union with his birth wife. No, the last thing he needed now was a fuss being made over his heir. And Zor forbid this child be born a girl.

"I am not," Zara told him as she lifted her chin high. "The last thing I wanted was to produce your heir." Kal's brows lifted at his wife's sudden boldness, but he remained silent.

"Once the doctors determine this child is a boy, I will not come to your bed again. We both know that we can't stand one another and there's no use pretending anymore. Heading my committee had allowed me a little breathing room, but now I'll be forced to remain in the palace for the sake of the baby. I'll do so for my child, but find yourself a concubine or two and make us both happy."

Kal could only stare at the woman before him. She'd never had the audacity to stand up to him in such a manner. His first instinct was to put her back in her place, but the side of him that agreed with her won out. "Very well. If this child is determined to be a boy, there would be no need for us to procreate again."

Zara held her head high as she exited his chamber.

Kal ran a hand through his hair in frustration, then fell onto the bed. Why had his uncle misled him to believe that life would be perfect because he was the First Lord? He was positive that his life was the most complicated of all.


Krypton: Year 2129 in the eleventh cycle (or November, 1988)

The physician stepped into the waiting area to deliver the news of his Lady's birth. "Milord," he addressed Kal as the young man rose to his feet. "Your daughter is born. At 21:10, Lady Zara delivered a healthy seven pound baby girl."

"Thank you."

The physician bowed and left his lord. Kal took a deep breath as Ching clapped his shoulder half heartedly.

"Congratulations, Kal. I'm sure she is a fine lady."

"Yeah," was all Kal could manage. The last few months had been the most miserable of his life. He hadn't so much as seen Zara since the night she had told him of her conception. They'd been informed the baby was a girl, and Zara had slipped into a deep depression. The physician had ordered bed rest and no stress, so the First Lady had shut herself inside her chambers, refusing to see anyone but her attendants and the physician. Kal hadn't once seen his child grow inside her body. And for the first time, he realized he hadn't actually wanted to.

How could a man feel that way? Kal wondered, ashamed of how he felt. But Zor forgive him, he couldn't stop his feelings. He was less than pleased for things to have happened the way they had.

"What shall you name her, Kal?" asked Ching.

"I haven't a clue. Why don't we go and look at her? Maybe something will come to mind."

Ching nodded and followed Kal down to the nursery. They were admitted while a nurse went to retrieve the new baby. She returned with a swaddled bundle and held it out to Kal.

"Your Lady, Milord."

Kal glanced down at the tiny body inside the blanket, his arms automatically lifting to hold her. Nothing could have ever prepared Kal-El for the emotions he would feel when he held his daughter for the first time. His legs grew weak and he had to stumble back to a chair.

"Kal, are you alright?" Ching asked him once his brother was seated. The older man said nothing, simply stared down at his daughter's face.

Suddenly the last year came into focus; the last few years; his whole life. The person he was crystallized in his mind; the person he barely recognized — hateful, cruel, arrogant, egotistical. Kal hated himself in that moment and in the next found his redemption. There, in the bright, wide eyes staring at him, the most powerful man in the universe was born again.

"Welcome to the world, Milady," he whispered as his large fingers stroked chubby cheeks.

The birth of a man's first child is usually a monumental event in that man's life. Traditionally, the birth of a daughter meant failure on Krypton. But for the young ruler, it was his restoration. It didn't matter that the tiny life he held was female; she was helpless, unable to fend for herself. It would be up to Kal to make sure she was well taken care of.

Kal-El hadn't been born a cruel, unfeeling soul. Time and circumstance had transformed him. But the first three years of his life Kal had spent with two of the most special of individuals, even if he didn't know that. The unconscious mind has a way of finding its way back to its natural state of being. And though it would still be some time in coming, the birth of a baby girl into the House of El was definitely a good thing for the First Lord.

However, the birth of that baby was also cause for continued tension. A girl could not be heir to the Throne. Kal and Zara would be expected to continue efforts to change that. The royal couple had not spoken since their daughter's conception, and each time Kal attempted to, Zara would turn him away. How would they ever conceive again?

Moreover, how would Kal force himself to participate in the physical act itself? The emotional torture involved with the intimacy far outweighed the pleasure, so he'd been happy that it hadn't been necessary during Zara's pregnancy. But now? What about now? When Zara was healed and ready to resume relations, how would he be able to do it?

Patience, he thought idly. He'd need tons of patience, something he'd never had before… or needed.

"Patia… Her name is Patia," Kal said to Ching as he continued to look at the infant.

Ching's brows furrowed briefly before his expression hardened once again. He didn't seem at all pleased about the birth of his niece and was doing little to hide it.

"Zara, Milord," Ching began after a few moments. "You should ask after Zara."

"Yes." Kal's gaze swept the room for the attendant, but before he could summon her, Ching spoke again.

"Allow me, brother. I will check on her personally."

"Thank… you," Kal said to his brother's back because Ching had already turned to go. The lord wasn't sure what was troubling the younger man. Since his arrival three days prior, Ching had been acting unusual. Maybe the poor guy had sensed some of the tension between himself and Zara and wasn't looking forward to his own union that was on fast approach.

It might be a good time to receive an update on the birthing matrix, Kal thought as he handed his daughter back over to an attendant. He smiled down at the child before disappearing from the room.

Yes, things were changing quickly for Kal. And things would change for everyone else as well.


Kal waited patiently outside Zara's chamber until the attendant allowed him to enter. The First Lady had been installed in her room, along with her daughter, and was asking to speak with Kal. Though very surprised by the invitation, Kal looked forward to seeing his baby girl again.

Zara sat in a chair next to the window cradling Patia, and she was actually smiling. The attendants exited the room, leaving the lord and his ladies alone. He remained silent as he ventured further into the room. Finally, Zara looked up at him.

"I wanted to inform you of our schedule, Milord, so that you may visit with your daughter," she told him with all seriousness.

"Of course." Kal nodded his head and settled into a chair opposite Zara, still unable to believe the apparent change in his wife. She actually *looked* happy.

"Mid-afternoons would be best. She would have had her noon meal and nap by then." Zara lovingly gazed at her little girl as she smoothed a hand over the infant's head.

"That's fine," Kal readily agreed.

On Krypton, it was customary that the men only 'visited' with the children, choosing to dote instead of care for them. That task was left to the women. Only when the children grew old enough to begin formal education did the men take an active role in their rearing.

Kal continued to watch them for a moment before he tentatively asked, "May I hold her?"

Zara's smile faded as her gaze met his. He was thrilled to have her so obviously taken with their child, but the expression on her face was almost predatory in nature. Did she feel she had to protect Patia from him?

Finally, Zara's features softened and she extended Patia out to Kal. He took the baby, carefully holding her head. Just as the first time he'd held the small child, this time felt amazing. He smiled down at her, regret filling his heart. How he would have liked for this child to have been conceived differently. Wanted more enthusiastically. Nurtured within the womb. But those were things he could never get back. He would be forced to move forward. So, maybe it was time to revaluate his life.

He looked up at Zara and smiled warmly. "She's quite beautiful, Milady."

Zara's brows rose to her hairline.

Kal flushed slightly. It had been a long time since he'd referred to her that way, in any way other than to demand something of her. He glanced at Patia, then met Zara's gaze. "Things have changed, haven't they?"

Zara's eyes fell to the baby, her expression changing to one of sadness. "I behaved badly during my months I was with child."

"All is forgiven, if… you're willing to move forward." His statement was more of a request, his gentle words asking for peace between them.

A hand reached out to smooth over Patia's head, as Zara remained silent. It was several moments before she lifted her head to look at Kal again. "I don't anticipate the conception of an heir."

The lord sighed heavily. If she was being honest, then he'd be no less. "Nor do I, Milady. We are both very young, so I feel the Council's pressure to conceive so quickly is unjustified. We have time. And with any luck, we won't have to conceive naturally at all." With her confused stare, Kal related the research Dr. Lane was performing back on Earth. By the end of their conversation, both were once again smiling.

"Do you think we can at least be civil?" Kal asked. "For Patia's sake?"

"I think I'd like that," Zara agreed with a smile.

"Good." He shifted the baby back into Zara's arms and rose from his chair. "Good day, Milady, and Milady," he finished, rubbing his thumb across Patia's cheek.

He left Zara crooning to their daughter in the late afternoon sunlight with a slightly lighter feeling than he'd had in a while. It wasn't the best compromise in the world, but at least it was forward progress. If he and Zara could live in peace, maybe he wouldn't feel nearly as weighted as he'd felt these last months.


Another phase in Kal's life had begun. While he spent as many afternoons as possible with his daughter, he was often called away on state business. Unrest among the population was at an all-time high. Never before had he seen such discord within the Kryptonian population. Nobles squabbled over boundary lines that divided their provinces, workers protested against unsafe conditions, and even women in the lower classes had begun to demand fair treatment.

On Earth, more and more Earthlings grew impatient with their forced rule. Small uprisings were becoming the norm. Supplies were being high-jacked, outright defiance kept work from being completed, and trade agreements were being broken. All of which demanded the lord's time.

Eventually, Zara resumed her travels heading her committee, taking Patia along. That left Kal even less time with his daughter, but seemed to please another.

Ti had been disappointed that Kal's child had been born a girl, though he'd quickly moved on to other plans. While he awaited the birth of an heir, he'd keep the First Lord quite busy. Kal had already been sidetracked by a female once before. Not again, and definitely not in the form of an infant.


Krypton: Year 2130 in the fifth cycle (or May 1989)

Kal had been kept so busy that the ceremonial union of Lord Ching to his birth wife, Lana, had slipped up on him. Chaos seemed to have calmed long enough for a grand affair to take place, much as it had been with his own union. Ching was also officially installed as Advisor to the First Lord.

The event gave Kal a chance to spend time with his daughter because Zara was required to be by his side during the ceremony. Yet, somehow his time with Patia felt much different. It was forced and uncomfortable; he felt detached, out of place. Zara had formed a strong bond with the infant, and he felt like he didn't belong in their world.

Maybe it was Zara's attitude that bothered Kal. She'd once again seemed distant. Conversation with her was forced and not at all friendly as it had been over the past months. He wasn't sure why the change, but if he had carefully observed the events, he would have known the reason. He would have seen the loathsome stares from one lady for another. He would have seen the stolen glances of longing between two individuals forever forbidden to share more than that. He would have noticed the younger lord's struggle to complete his ceremony and lead his wife to the bridal chamber. He would have seen another lady's plight to keep from breaking down in front of others. But one would have had to be very observant. None, certainly not the First Lord, had seen a thing save the union of his brother to his birth wife.


Earth: October 1990 (or the tenth cycle of the year 2131)

Ti hated the filthy little planet upon which he walked. It was too loud, too chaotic, and the people were absolutely barbaric. He looked around at the citizens as they hurried along, satisfied with their pitiful surroundings, content because they were provided for by their Kryptonian saviors.

But he wasn't at all content. He'd only agreed to make this trip to keep Kal from doing so. Well, that and the fact that he could be much more… productive.

The previous year had slipped by rather quickly. When Kal had started to show signs of becoming too much like the Earthlings, Ti had begun to instigate… situations to keep the First Lord busy. There had been several issues among the nobility, a couple of uprisings, and even a rebellion on Earth. All of which had done wonders to ensure Kal remain somewhat aloof.

But again, a plan of his had shoved him into a corner. The rebellion on Earth had grown a little larger than Ti first intended, so Kal had made plans to travel to the sister planet to investigate. Not wanting the young lord to find anything amiss, Ti had volunteered to make the journey instead. The last thing he'd wanted was to ever have to be on Earth again, but what choice did he have? Kal insisted on finding out why some chose to rebel, and Ching had only recently returned from his extended union trip.

Ching, Ti thought, now there's a boy with his priorities in line. The young man had just returned from his union trip at the end of the previous season. He'd settled into both his private quarters inside the palace and his position as his brother's advisor. He spent several nights a week trying to produce his own heir and the rest was spent with whomever he chose. He never tried to hide his obvious enjoyment of time spent with the opposite sex from his wife, and she never attempted to object. Lana did as a good wife should — heading a committee or two, shopping, and trying to fulfill her duty to produce Ching's heir. Yes, indeed, Ching had his act together.

Now if Kal could take his lead from his younger brother… The young ruler's wife was not at all inclined to be the wife her duty dictated. Zara traveled more than she should, a situation that was both good and bad. Good because she kept that sniveling brat away from Kal, and him — bad because she had failed to give Kal his heir as yet.

And Ti wasn't the only one concerned in that aspect. The Council felt El should bring forth many sons. With that in mind, Kal had divulged Dr. Lane's mission to develop a birthing matrix. For once in a great while, Ti totally agreed with his nephew, was even proud of the thought poured into that decision. If the First Lord's wife failed to conceive his heir naturally, Kal was well within his rights to do so by other means. The matrix had been talked of for many years, but association with a tiny, backwards planet had always shelved further plans for its completion. With such an invention, Ti might even have a means to see his own blood on the Throne some day.

For the first time since he'd arrived on Earth, Ti smiled brightly. A birthing matrix — supreme manipulation.


"I have to say, Milord," Dr. Sam Lane said, "This is a horrible way to be brought into any world." The doctor stood before a bank of machines, all designed to sustain life outside the body. A large bubble, or birthing chamber, would house a growing embryo until its maturity.

"Nonsense," Ti replied. "This machine will replace changing personalities due to overactive hormones. I blame pregnancy for the many frustrations of nobility. With such advances, there would be no need for tensions of any kind. Science could ensure the sex to be a son."

Sam blanched at that statement. "Females will still be needed…"

"Of course. Females ensure survival of the species."

"Don't they also keep the men from having aching loins?" a feminine voice asked from behind the men.

Ti turned to the new speaker and was surprised that he recognized the young woman. Though she'd matured, he'd never forget her. "Miss Lane, how are you?"

"What do you care?" she asked sarcastically as she gathered up several files.

Ti couldn't help but smile. The young earth creature had always been a handful. He remembered various tales about this woman. She'd even had the audacity once to stand toe to toe with Kal-El. Was that what intrigued the First Lord about her? Her fire?

Or maybe it had been her looks. Ti reluctantly admitted that the woman was quite pleasant on the eyes. Had she been this pleasant before? He'd been so upset that Kal had taken an Earthling concubine when she was on Krypton to even look. But of course, she was an Earthling. For one to degrade himself enough to couple with such filth was simply deplorable.

Before he could answer her question, Lois kissed her father's cheek — an act Ti found rather nauseating — then turned to exit the room.

"Tell that husband of yours I'll meet him at the gym," her father called. She waved her hand in reply and continued through the door. Sam faced Ti again. "Sorry about that."

Surprise flitted across Ti's face at that statement. Wouldn't Kal be interested to know that his precious *Lois* had married? The Kryptonians still allowed the Earthlings to govern a great deal of traditions, including marriage. Most were free to marry whomever they chose, which meant Lois had done just that. Of course, Ti knew nothing of how she'd felt about her time on Krypton or anything of her affection for Kal. He didn't want to know. As far as he was concerned, what women felt or thought was irrelevant. But the First Lord had seemed quite taken with this Earth woman. Ti had often wondered why Kal had left her behind, but this had always been one subject Kal refused to discuss.

Well, maybe he could casually mention that he'd seen Miss Lane, Ti thought evilly. And the fact that she had married. If there had been any kind of attraction left for this woman where Kal was concerned, Ti was certain it had long since faded. But it never failed to have a little added insurance.

"Now, how should we handle this thing?" Sam waved his hand at the matrix.

Ti's focus was still on the vile Earth creature that had left the room and he failed to hear the doctor.

"Lord Ti?"

Sam's voice brought him back to the present. "Oh, yes. What were you saying?"

"I was saying that we need to decide what to do with this. It is untested. There's no way to know if it will work or not. And I hate to say it, but there's only one way to find out."

"I see the plight," Ti said as he turned to look at the machine again. "The Council would never agree to allow Kal's offspring to be the first experiment. Another will have to be chosen for that. I shall contact you when all is ready."

"Yes, Milord."

"Dr. Lane, your service to your world is appreciated."

Sam bowed, but was not able to speak. He heaved a deep breath, then turned away as Ti left the laboratory.

Outside the sterile environment, back on the sidewalk of the busy city, Ti stopped to watch Lois as she made her way down the street.

Yes, he certainly was glad that he didn't have to contend with that problem any longer.


Krypton: Year 2132 in the third cycle (or March 1991)

Kal stood in his state room, looking out over the garden below. He'd always liked the garden as a child. It was the sight of untold possibilities. A child could spend many hours there exploring and still not discover all of its wonders.

He'd never played there. He'd always been too busy to play, even when he was very young. And it seemed his time had only grown shorter as he'd aged.

Duty as First Lord had reached hectic proportions in the last few months. The population had become increasingly hostile, until they'd forced his hand. The young man awaited word of the surrender of a rebel group in one of the southern provinces. The small band of people had suddenly attacked a military station there, claiming fear that they'd be forced into slavery.

Nonsense, Kal thought. Kryptonians hadn't been forced into slavery in years. There was no need. Everyone held a station in life and that was that. Yet, that small group of citizens didn't see it that way. They'd brutally waged war against their own brethren and against the Throne. For the first time in his reign, Kal had been forced to take control.

He'd struggled for days over how best to handle the situation. He'd finally decided to give the order to surround the group, cut off their retreat and wait them out. Lord Ti-El had been livid. The older lord had wanted Kal to issue the order to eliminate the entire group, and when Kal refused, there had been a confrontation between uncle and nephew. It ended with Ti storming off to the communications room to await the outcome of Kal's orders.

"Milord?" A guard stepped up to Kal's desk and waited for Kal to acknowledge him.


"They've surrendered."

"Very good," Kal answered without turning from his view. "Any casualties?"

"None that fell because of our actions. The group is responsible for over ten deaths inside the base."

Kal stood silently for a moment before dismissing the guard. After several more moments, he sank to his chair and stared across the room.

"It worked this time, Kal-El, but what about next time?" Ti asked as he entered the room a moment later.

"I will do everything in my power to ensure there won't be a next time, Ti." The First Lord felt defeated. It seemed around every turn there was something else.

And if it wasn't state's affairs, it was Zara's changing attitude. Or the void he felt after each visit with his daughter. He'd visited with Patia more of late because Zara was at the palace. Yet there was still something missing.

Then there was Ching. His brother was an enigma. The young man was clearly one of the best advisors one could ask for, but he'd become one of the worst men to know. He'd become… carefree, bordering on giddily outrageous.

Ti wasn't to be ignored either. The lord had returned from Earth with tons of suggestions on how to handle things, many of which Kal had agreed to. Around every turn it seemed the lord wanted Kal do something else — change this, change that.

But the First Lord had ideas of his own. The time he'd spent getting to know his subjects had produced a wealth of information about how best to run his world. However, he had yet to put into motion any of those ideas. He had allowed Ti to guide him, coax him into decisions that he hadn't been sure of.

He'd also allowed something else Ti told him to get to him. When Ti returned from Earth, he told Kal that he'd seen Lois Lane while in Metropolis. Kal had suspected he would, being that Dr. Sam Lane was the one working on the birthing matrix. Ti had told him that Lois was well and married. For three days he'd thought of nothing else.

It had taken a very long time, but Kal had finally been able to make it through his days without thinking of Lois every second. The pain that had been so prominent when he'd left her on Earth had dulled to just a fraction of what it had been. But the mere mention of her name had sent him into a downward spiral. Immediately he'd wondered everything about her… again.

What was she doing with her days? Did she enjoy working with her father? Was her husband good to her? Did she look at him the way she'd looked at Kal? And did he feel about her the way Kal had?

It had been pure torture driving those emotions back down into the deep recesses of his heart. In a way, he'd been glad that a rebellion had taken place so he had something to fill his thoughts.

That was over now. Sorting out the details left behind wouldn't last forever. What then? Would Lois consume him again?

He couldn't allow it. She'd moved on; he needed to come to terms with that, be happy for her. So, he took control and forced his thoughts to other subjects. Like…

The birthing matrix. A couple had been chosen, the biological materials extracted, and the first embryo to be housed in the new invention was thriving. If growth continued to maturity, success would mean that within the next five years, he'd have an heir.


Ti had watched Kal from across the desk in the state room. The young man had dropped heavily onto a chair and lapsed into silence that seemed to drag on forever. Then suddenly he'd shot to his feet and barked orders for his departure. The older lord smiled when his nephew informed him that he was going to travel to the southern province and clean up the 'damn mess' left behind from the rebellion.

Moments later Kal exited the room to prepare for his trip.

Ti couldn't decide if Kal was an asset or a liability. Just when he thought there was no hope for the boy, Kal would up and do something that would totally surprise Ti-El. His carefully shaped ruler was strong, there was no denying that. But the young lord was often displayed signs of sympathy toward the masses. Sympathy that most certainly hadn't been bred; it had been born.

Jor-El had exhibited an innate goodness that far exceeded any logic based education the former lord had ever received. He'd believed in emotionally based decisions, reason, and infatuation. He'd been easily influenced by Earthling customs and morals. Those beliefs had eventually cost Jor his life, but there had always been the thought in Ti's mind that Kal had inherited some of his father's naive and misguided values and ideals. And just when Ti felt he'd batted that side of Kal back down, it reared its ugly head again.

Maybe it was time to do something about that once and for all, he thought as he left the room.


Krypton: Year 2132 in the seventh cycle (or July 1991)

Ti paced in front of his desk in his state room, hands clasped behind his back and his head down as he stared at the floor. He was deep in thought, trying to devise yet another 'situation' to keep the First Lord occupied. Over the last months nothing had gone as planned. Dealing with Kal had become exhausting. The young lord exhibited even more signs of the compassion buried so deeply inside him when he'd 'cleaned up' after that uprising back in the spring. The First Lord had spent far too much time watching communications from Earth. That naive boy was convinced that great change was around the corner and that Krypton needed to move forward with the changing times. He had actually listened to his subjects, made changes that he'd said would 'restore peace for good.'

Something had to be done about him soon or they were all doomed.

There was only one way to restore peace, Ti thought as he stopped in front of the large window and peered out over his property. A firm, unwavering hand; show them who is lord of all!

His expression grew even darker when he noticed a transport on approach to his mansion.

"I thought I told that boob not to come here," he muttered before turning and hurrying out of the room.

Ti's guest was none other than Lord Nor. The older lord of El had formed an alliance with the Lord of Carn some years ago, and over the years, they'd quite frequently renewed that alliance.

He hurried into the library, where a servant had installed his guest to await his arrival.

"I thought I told you not to come here," Ti barked as he entered the room.

"I'm well aware of what you said," the man began, "but I was bored." He dropped a heavy boot onto the desk in front of him, then leaned back to smile at Ti. "And I thought you might get a kick out of a bit of information I've received."

"I don't have time for your games, Nor."

"Oh, I assure you, this is not a game." The lord crossed his arms over his chest with a satisfied smile.

Ti looked increasingly frustrated. "Please… continue!"

"A source tells me that the young Ching-El is looking into reports of false information in a particular southern province. I'm also told that he has information about the existence of a particular vid-tape of certain political meetings taking place."


"It appears the rebels wanted to document their meetings with all parties… just in case they ever needed to use it."

Ti dropped to his chair with an expression of absolute bewilderment.

"The way I figure it, you need to act quickly," Nor went on. "The young advisor prepares as we speak to travel to that wretched little planet across the galaxy. Something about it being time to document work progress." Nor shuddered as he dropped his feet to the floor. "And you know the multitude of information that could be uncovered if he asks the right questions."

"Yes, yes. You're quite right." Ti leaned forward in deep concentration for several moments before he spoke. "We need someone aboard that transport?"

"A couple of trustworthy fellows can be placed."

"No. This operation has to be carried out without a single flaw. I want you aboard personally."

Nor's eyes widened in surprise. "You must be jesting. Ti-El, you know I hate that place as much as you do."

"What choice do we have, Nor? You're in as deep as I am here." Ti stared at Nor for several moments, daring him to argue.

"Payment this time will be quite substantial."

"Have I ever failed to take care of you?"

Nor dropped his feet to the floor heavily, unable to deny that fact. The truth was he liked doing the dirty work; it fit his filthy character just perfectly. "There is another situation that I thought you might find amusing."

"Do tell."

"I'm told by our forces on Earth that there is a group that has been making trouble for some time. Something about the 'betterment of Earth'." He waved his hand, disgust tainting his expression once again. "Anyway, their leader is a fellow by the name of Dan Scardino."

"Should that name mean anything to me?" Again, Ti's frustration with Nor was increasing.

"Well, maybe not. But I'm most positive you know his wife." Nor eyed Ti carefully, making sure he had the other lord's full attention before he went on. "A one Lois Lane."

Ti's brows rose considerably. "Really?"

"It seems the group heads many, many small rebellions, protests, meetings… all designed to eventually regain freedom from Krypton for their planet." He spat the words out with sarcasm, unable to fathom why those people would want to rebel against a race of people who could destroy them.

"Very interesting." Ti sat back and contemplated this bit of information.

"They held a demonstration early in this cycle in honor of a holiday known of as the Fourth of July. Independence Day, I hear it's called. I even hear they're planning some kind of demonstration in the ninth cycle during another holiday known as Labor Day."

Ti nodded in silence, then leaned forward slowly to rest his arms on his desk. "Obviously these people are not aware that demonstrations in which there is outright defiance against the Throne is forbidden under the law."

"Obviously," Nor echoed with a pleased smile.

"Order whoever is at our call on Earth to gather enough incriminating evidence for you to shut that organization down once you arrive."

"And if they protest?"

"By all means, teach them what happens when one disobeys Kryptonian authority."

Nor grinned widely. "My pleasure."

"One other thing…" Ti suddenly smiled, a new idea had formed. One that would guarantee him added control over the rebel leader, Scardino. "I need you to bring someone back."

"Milord?" Nor's brows furrowed in confusion.

"I want you to bring me Mr. Scardino's wife."

"I like how your mind works, Milord," Nor said slyly.

"Yes. There's more than one way to deal with *problems*," Ti said as yet another thought entered his mind. His nephew had once been fond of that Earthling creature and though it had been years since Kal had seen Lois, the young lord's weakness to those sniveling, emotional earthling creatures might prove useful as well. Ti certainly wasn't averse to a little extra leverage inside the palace. Ti waved his hands as if that should say it all. "And even if her presence fails to serve my purpose…"

"She'll make one hell of a play toy." Nor shared an evil smile with Ti, then retreated from the room.

Ti sighed in satisfaction as Nor left. Yes, if he couldn't influence Kal one way, he'd do it another.

And if all else failed, he'd toss Nor a bone — one he was certain the rogue lord would not refuse.


Krypton: in the eleventh cycle of the year 2132 (or November 1991)

All of her worst fears had come to pass, Lois thought as she and her son were being returned to a place she'd sworn she'd never again go. She had been shocked to say the least when Kryptonian guards had stormed the demonstration on Labor Day.

Dan was a member of a special forces division of the Metropolis Police Department, in charge of making sure Kryptonian citizens stationed on Earth and Earthlings co-existed in harmony. Over the years, living conditions on Earth had improved greatly because of the work by that division and others like it. There was a huge rally organized for Labor Day in which Earthlings and Kryptonians alike had taken part. The goal of the event was to further promote civility between the two nations of people. But all had not gone as planned.

On the second day of the rally, guards burst in demanding proper documentation for the gathering. Tensions had skyrocketed immediately, and things got out of hand very quickly. There was fighting and several people died, including Dan.

Dan Scardino was a bit of a free spirit — friendly, out-going. Lois had befriended him shortly after her return to Earth when she attended a meeting similar to a 'neighbor watch' group in which Dan had been the key speaker. He'd immediately been drawn to Lois. However, she had continued to reel from her time on Krypton and with the First Lord.

It had taken Lois weeks to come to grips with her pregnancy and finally decide to keep the baby. That decision had been made easier by an offer she'd been unable to refuse.

Dan had been the one she'd confessed all to one night when he'd found her in the lab crying. Because Dan had become very fond of Lois, he offered to marry her and raise the baby as his own. Still shaken from her short affair with the most powerful man on two worlds, Lois reluctantly accepted his proposal. Few people seemed to be surprised by the marriage because the couple had seemed quite close since meeting. The only glitch was the doctors' perplexity over the apparent maturity of her fetus. Lois and Dan hired a mid-wife and her son was born at home in the early hours of a steamy June morning in 1988. If the old woman ever thought the child couldn't possibly be so healthy being born nearly two months early, she never said a word. The child barely weighed five and half pounds so his prematurity was not questioned. Dan and Lois settled into life with a new son, and until the day those guards showed up, that life had been a decent one.

Later, she found out that the Kryptonian invasion, as many had come to view the incident, had been headed by Lord Nor. He'd taken great pleasure in his actions, making sure everyone understood that opposing the Kryptonian Throne in any form was treasonous. The small group that remained tried to contact Lord Sar, the provisionary ruler, to inform him of the things that had taken place. Most were certain Nor had acted on his own, which was not uncommon. Before Sar could be reached, Nor's goons had infiltrated the group once again and more deaths had followed.

It was during that time that Nor had sought out Lois personally. He and two of his men had entered her home during the night, ripping her and her son from their beds, and transporting them to a small vessel just outside the Earth's atmosphere. No reason was given for their abduction, though Lois was certain her son's true paternity had finally come to light. They were over half way back to Krypton before she realized they were in horrible danger.


Krypton: Year 2132 in the twelfth cycle (or December 1991)

Lord Nor stormed down the corridor in search of Ti-El. He entered the state room and stomped toward the other lord. "You have no idea how much you owe me!"

Ti's head had shot up when the doors swooshed open, and he continued to stare at the flustered man before him. "Why are you here? I sent word that I would meet you tomorrow."

"This could not wait. Did you know about that little bastard?" Nor demanded as he hovered over the desk.


"That brat that came with a certain package you wanted me to bring back."

"I assure you, Nor, that I have no idea what you're talking about," Ti told the other man as he sat back in his chair and folded his hands across his lap.

"Lois Lane's son."

Ti sat in stunned silence for several moments before he smiled evilly. It seemed Kal's concubine had not only married but had produced a child. "Well, well… dear Kal's infatuation was one-sided."

"Who gives a damn about Kal-El's infatuation. That woman has made my life a living hell because of that brat. So, what do you plan to do about it?"

The elder Lord of El rose from his chair, hooked his hands behind his back, and paced across the room the way he often did when he had issues concerning him. "What about our other project?" he asked after a moment.

"The younger Lord of El was lost touring the countryside."

"Very good. How long until word reaches the palace?"

"Any day, Milord. Although, it may be weeks before they discover the remains."

Ti simply nodded and continued to pace. "And Scardino? Having his wife *and* his brat…"

"Dead," Nor stated flatly. "He wanted to be the hero, so he paid the price."

"Well, no matter. Dead is just as good." He continued to pace as he thought over all the new information. Finally he stopped. "How the hell did that woman conceive a child?"

"I would assume the same way most females conceive," Nor rattled off sarcastically.

"I know that, you idiot," Ti shot right back as he swiveled to pierce Nor with his gaze. "But she was here once, on contract as a concubine. The Council demanded that all Earthlings that came into Kryptonian service be sterilized so the possibility of unwanted conceptions be removed. That decision aided, of course, by a certain El that would rather die than have Kryptonian blood mix with that of Earthling filth," Ti finished with a disgusted tone.

"Yes. I'd forgotten about that." Nor smiled as he dropped to a chair behind him. "Do you think it's possible our dear First Lord might have participated in an illegal act?"

"No. He wouldn't have!"

"Are you so certain?" Nor challenged.

Surely not, Ti thought as he continued to stare at Nor. Was Kal-El responsible for that Earthling's procedure not being done?

He moved back to his desk and tapped away at his computer panel for several moments before leaning back to read the information on the screen before him. "According to documents, she *was* sterilized."

"Well, that kid is living proof that she has a child." The lord rubbed his fingers across his chest, then inspected his nails. "I almost left the extra baggage behind…"

"No, no. A little more insurance never hurt," Ti assured him as he continued to process everything he'd learned.

There was a long silence before Nor spoke. "No wonder Kal left that wench on Earth. I wouldn't keep a concubine that couldn't please me either."

Was that why he'd left her on Earth? Because she had failed to please him?

Nonsense. Kal-El hadn't needed her permission for anything. She had been *his* property. And Ti knew from personal experience that dominance inside the bed chambers was far superior than a willing caregiver. Hadn't he imparted that bit of knowledge to his nephew? Surely Kal hadn't *wanted* that Earth creature to *willingly* please him?

"Disgusting," Ti spat as he stood to pace again. There was absolutely no way an Earth woman could provide any kind of enjoyment in the bed chambers!

"Oh, I don't know, Ti. Some of those women are quite pleasing," Nor said with a smile. "Women are women… when you're in need of one."

"Why would any Kryptonian nobleman be in need of a woman from Earth? We have very skilled caregivers here!"

"Is that why Kal-El's relationship with that woman bothered you so much?"

"The First Lord should not show favor to an Earthling whore!" Ti turned to face the window for a long moment before he spoke again. "Are you sure this child is not the child of her husband, born of another woman? Or simply an adopted orphan?"

"I don't know. All I know is she keeps him under her wing like a mother hen and he calls her 'mommy'." Nor shuddered in revulsion before he helped himself to a drink and went to stand beside Ti at the window. "Maybe that's why Kal left her."

Ti's head snapped around toward Nor. "How old is this child?"

"About the right age, Milord. And bears a striking resemblance to the First Lord." Nor sipped from his drink as Ti paced back across the room. "And wouldn't it just move him to tears to know the mother of his son is warming the bed of lesser nobles?"

"If this child is his, there's no way he knows of him. The way he dotes over that daughter of his…" Ti turned back to face Nor. "Bring them to me, in Palla, at the safe house."

"I would be more than happy to give you that brat, but I think I've decided what I want as payment for this last assignment… I want Lois."

"Impossible. If this child belongs to Kal-El, she's insurance."

"You'll have her son. He's a much better bargaining chip."

"*If* he is Kal's son. Until then, I will need the woman as well."

Nor downed the remainder of his drink, then poured another. "I will use her as a bargaining tool to get what *I* want and at the same time, keep her all safe and tucked away for you… Should the need arise."

"I'm not in the mood for this, Nor. Just bring the woman and kid to Palla." Ti delivered his order with a bit of finality before moving around to settle behind his desk again.

"I believe I will take what is owed me, Milord," Nor informed him before finishing off his second drink.

"You forget your place, Nor!"

"On the contrary. You forget yours, Ti-El. What do you think that nephew of yours would think if I decided I wanted to rid my conscience of years of guilt?"

"He would never believe you. Not over me."

"No need." Nor set his empty glass on Ti's desk, a wicked grin dancing about his lips. "That's why a smart man keeps proof to back up his claims."

"You pompous bastard!"

"I choose to call it intelligence, Milord." Nor walked around behind the chair he'd sat in earlier to rest his hands on the back. "I will bring you that brat, but I intend to keep his mother. Those cretins back at home fail to interest me anymore. It's time for something a bit more sporting."

Ti was livid. This man worked for him, not the other way around. Nor had done his dirty work for years, and he'd often had to make shady deals for the other lord's cooperation and loyalty. But Nor had never demanded anything the way he'd just done.

"You only need her brat," Nor pointed out helpfully. "And as long as you use the kid as bait, 'mommy' will be a very good girl."

Maybe Nor had a point. If the child really was Kal-El's, life would be much, much easier without Lois around to interfere at all.

"Keep her."

"Very good." Nor smiled widely.

"But Nor, it is imperative that it not become known that she is here."

"Yes, I know. Don't worry. I don't plan to let her out of my chamber for some time to come."

"Good," Ti practically barked. "Have the boy in Palla by nightfall."

"Don't worry. That's one package I won't mind delivering," Nor threw over his shoulder on his way out of the room.

Ti stared at the closed doors for a while after Nor had departed, trying to weave together details of another devious plan. Was Lois Lane's son sired by Kal-El? Had he known? Had he participated in stopping her sterilization procedure and voluntarily left her on Earth?

It would be most ironic if Kal was oblivious, Ti thought with a smile. The First Lord had been so taken with that woman, had even called her by her name on occasion. That had to have meant that some form of misplaced affection had clouded Kal-El's mind. Ti had been so sure the young lord had come to his senses when he'd left that distraction behind. Now it seemed that maybe all was not as it had seemed.

Zor help him if this child was his.

"I will crush you with your own flesh and blood," Ti said aloud. "Some day, Milord, you will pay for the sins of both our fathers."


Kal concluded the session of Council before making his way toward the private section of the palace. It had been a long day and he wanted nothing more than to fall into bed. Half way to his chambers, he was intercepted by a servant.

"Milord, your presence is requested in Carn."

"What is it?"

"Lord Nor has gone on a rampage and is threatening to blow up his entire house."

"What?" Kal followed the servant toward the transport cove. "Why has he done this?"

"It seems he's taken a concubine that refuses to consummate their relationship. She locked herself inside her chambers two days ago, but Nor eventually tired of waiting her out and blew the door down. The woman ran from him and is now holed up inside the communications room where she's taken the guard hostage. She's been calling here repeatedly since."

"Calling here? Why?" Kal ducked into the transport and settled for the journey.

"She won't divulge her reasons, Milord. She just keeps insisting that it's a matter of life or death that you be contacted."

Kal nodded as his vehicle raced across the countryside. This was so typical of Lord Nor. The man was high strung and unreliable, often causing dramatic scenes. The First Lord was tired of it, tired of Nor. It was time an end was put to such outbursts.

A short time later, they pulled to a stop on the grounds of the House of Carn. The Royal Guard formed a path through which their First Lord hurried. He found Lord Nor outside the door to the communications room, shouting obscenities to the metal surface.

"Lord Nor!"

The lord stopped and turned to stare his lord in the eyes, shock evident on his face. "Lord Kal-El." He immediately bowed.

"What is the meaning of this? I was summoned from my home."

"Beg pardon, Milord. There was no need for you to come."

"It is my understanding that this woman has locked herself away from you and *she* has called the palace several times."

"Nothing I can't handle, Milord," Nor told him with a sarcastic bite.

"As I can see," Kal replied, noticing that Nor was extremely nervous as he stepped up to the door and pressed the intercom button. "This is Lord Kal-El. To whom am I speaking?"

"I assure you, Lord Kal-El, your presence isn't necessary," Nor said as he tried to place himself between the First Lord and the intercom.

"Lord Nor, move or be moved," Kal told him. Reluctantly, Nor stepped away. Kal pressed the button on the intercom once again. "This is the First Lord. To whom am I speaking?"

There was a long silence before a woman's frail voice was heard. "Kal-El, save him. Please, God, save him," she sobbed.

The First Lord was stunned. There was no way he'd heard correctly. That voice… that was the voice that had haunted his dreams for so long.

Before he could gather his wits, the door swooshed open and she was there. Her legs barely held her up as she staggered toward Kal. Her hands grasped his tunic and her eyes pleaded with him.

"You have to save him, Kal. If it's not too late already. He's been gone for a long time. But he promised…"

Still speechless, Kal could only stare at the woman before him. Countless emotions washed over him in waves that threatened to overwhelm him. He'd fought long and hard to place this woman in a part of his mind that would allow him to wake each morning and face his life without her there. To have her in front of him, touching him, was working quickly to take his breath away.

He waved off his guard as they moved to protect their lord. Slowly, he lifted his hands to grasp her wrists. "Save who, Miss Lane?" he asked softly. His eyes never left hers as he struggled to process what was happening to him.

"My son," she squeaked through another sob. "Our son."

Kal had to strain to hear her whisper, but he'd heard her. The blood drained from his face and he felt as if he'd fall down. His eyes searched the corridor frantically, as if trying to find something, anything, to help him. Everyone else clearly thought she was mad. Finally his eyes settled on hers again, a thousand questions racing through his mind.

"We don't have time," she told him, as if she understood his silent plea. "Right now, *he's* the one that's important."

He had to force himself to swallow the lump in his throat before he could talk. Lois Lane had once again knocked him off his feet. "Where is he?"

"I don't know. They came and took him away."


"Two days ago," she finished as more tears spilled from her eyes.

Confusion like he'd never known assailed Kal. Who had taken Lois' son and why?

Your son, a voice pointed out, though he chose to leave that until later.

"Please. Save him."

The First Lord steeled his expression, eased Lois' hands from his tunic, and faced Nor. "How did you get this woman?"

"She was part of an agreement during a recent trip to Earth," Nor lied.

"What?" Kal demanded. Though trips to Earth took place four times a year, he was made aware of most of what, and who, returned to Krypton. Earthlings agreeing to serve Kryptonians were something Kal fully intended to address, but hadn't yet because of all the tensions at home.

"She freely signed a pact…"

"No!" Lois shouted.

"Oh really? Then what is this?" Nor took a scroll from an attendant and held it up so that her signature was clearly visible. "Nothing illegal here, Milord," Nor said in his usual condescending manner. "This woman agreed to come into my house."

Lois' gaze shot to Kal's. "I never agreed to anything, K… Milord. I was ripped from my bed and transported back here by this monster. He forced me to sign this. He said he'd kill my son… our son," she finished in a whisper.

Kal felt as if he'd die. The pain in her eyes nearly took his breath away. He blinked quickly before focusing on Nor. "How did you acquire this?" he asked Nor of the scroll.

"She agreed, Milord," Nor repeated. "You are familiar with this type of thing."

Nor clearly meant for that statement to be sarcastic, which did nothing but further agitate the First Lord. He huffed a deep breath, still choosing not to think about what Lois had said… twice.

"Why would she have agreed to this, Lord Nor?"

"Don't ask me. I'm not familiar with the workings of fickle Earth women."

The other lord looked too pleased with himself, Kal thought as he continued to survey the situation. Finally, he was forced to look at the scroll. Was this Lois' signature? If so, why? Why had she agreed to come here? Like this?

And why hadn't he known about it?

He slowly lifted his eyes back to hers. "Is this your pen?"

Tears welled in the woman's eyes, and she swiped them furiously. "Yes. But I was forced. His goons held a blade to my son's throat!"

"I can't believe you'd listen to this… concubine over one of your lords!" Nor's voice echoed throughout the corridor.

"That's enough, Nor!" Kal barked. His stern expression left little to doubt he meant business. His brows furrowed as he studied the document. Was she telling him the truth? Had they forced her to sign something she didn't want to?

"You have to believe me," Lois begged softly. "He forced me to return to Krypton, then forced me to sign. And now he's taken him God knows where. You have to save him. He's just a little boy."

Kal forced his gaze back to Nor. Looking at her could only spell disaster. He felt as if he was falling into a deep ravine. One he wasn't sure he'd be able to return from.

"Where is the boy?"

"What boy?" Nor asked and painted on an expression of utter confusion.

"My son, you bastard!" Lois yelled and jumped toward Nor. A couple of guards had her restrained before she could make it to the man. She fought against their grasp briefly when Nor grinned at her.

Kal stepped forward, placing himself between Lois and Nor and taking over her restraint with a firmly placed hand on her shoulder. "Lord Nor, I assure you I'm not in the mood for games. Where is Miss Lane's son?"

"There is no boy, Milord. This wench has been whirly and off balance since departing Earth. She's constantly spouted on about her son, but there never was a child with her. I believe I would have known if there was."

Lois' frantic eyes shot back to Kal's. "Don't believe him. There *was*, there *is* a child! He was born over three years ago. I have pictures." She turned and hurried down a corridor.

Kal stood motionless for a moment before he followed. Lois had entered what was once a bed chamber. Nor had destroyed most of it when he'd blown the door down to get to her. The First Lord stopped just inside the entrance and watched as Lois fumbled through a bag near the bed.

"Where is it?" she shouted aloud. She quickly abandoned the bag and began searching the cabinets. "It's gone. All of it's gone!" The few things contained within the storage closet were tossed out furiously as she tried in vain to find what she was looking for. Angry shouts punctuated the air as she continued to work.

It was too much. Seeing her so distraught was just too much. Her body had started to tremble and she was crying and cursing as she tore apart what was left of the room. Kal couldn't stand it any longer. He approached her slowly. "Miss Lane?"

"What did you do with my stuff?" Lois demanded of Nor.

Nor had remained just inside the door, watching with the others, the pitiful scene that unfolded before them. "Everything you brought is there."

She stopped and stared at Nor, her eyes wide in disbelief. Finally she gazed around helplessly before she collapsed.

"Miss Lane!" Kal rushed forward when Lois fell. He knelt beside her, carefully lifting her head from the floor. He barked out for a physician and remained at her side.

What was going on? Had the strong, fiery little woman he'd once known gone mad? Or was she telling the truth and Nor had really taken her son away? He didn't know what to believe as he waited while the physician assessed Lois' condition.

"She's passed out, probably from strain and exhaustion, Milord."

"Transport her back to the palace and to the infirmary."

"You can't do that," Nor insisted. "She's my property."

Kal stood up when he was assured Lois was properly taken care of. "I *can* do that, Nor. Take him into custody for formal questioning," Kal ordered his guard.

"I've done nothing wrong," Nor protested as guards seized him. "She's my property, Lord Kal-El. The papers are legal. There was no child. She's mad."

Kal stepped up a little closer to Nor. "If you've done nothing wrong, you'll be released as soon as that's proven."

With that, he left Nor to the guards then slowly made his way out to the waiting transport.

Lois had been taken in a separate vehicle ahead of him, giving him much needed time alone to process the information racing around in his mind.

Was she telling the truth? Had she conceived and bore his son? If so, why hadn't she told him?

That one was easy enough. All children, even those born of concubines, were required by law to be raised on Krypton, trained and educated by those who thought themselves superior. Lois would have had little say in her son's life. The woman he'd known would never have told him, not with the knowledge that she'd be taken from her home again and cast back into a world she despised.

But it didn't stop the raw emotions gnawing at him. Had she known the day he left her on Earth that she would bring forth his son? Had she kept the child's paternity secret from her husband?

And what did her husband think of all this? Where was he? Why had she agreed to be someone's concubine with a husband?

No, that wasn't right. Kal was confused about a lot of things, but he knew for certain Lois had not willingly agreed to be anyone's concubine, especially a man like Nor. She'd argued too adamantly against becoming his when she'd been here before.

Did that mean she'd told the truth about being forced to sign papers? And if she'd told the truth about that, wasn't it possible everything had been true?

The logical part of his brain reminded them that she *had* agreed once to Kryptonian service, even if it had been a ruse to see him. She'd gambled with her life to do what she wanted. Had she done that again? Had she agreed, for some unknown reason to be Nor's concubine, then changed her mind? She couldn't have, he thought. Not the woman he remembered.

He took a deep breath to reign in the escalating feelings of helplessness burrowing into the pit of his stomach. He needed answers, and unfortunately there was only one way to get them. He'd have to wait until she was well enough to speak with him. Surely he would know if what she spoke was truth.

And why would you think something like that? he asked himself. Was he still under some form of delusion where this woman was concerned? Yes, he'd held great affection for this woman at one time, but that didn't mean a thing. She'd been relieved when he'd left her on Earth; she'd been happy to get away from his world, from him. The things he'd felt, the flicker he'd seen in Lois' eyes that night aboard the transport had been nothing more than… satisfaction. They'd shared an extremely pleasing physical act and nothing else.

At least that was what he'd told himself… many, many times. Feelings, emotions, infatuations for others were all things that didn't exist in his world. Could never exist for him.

So, why did he find it hard to breathe as he thought of Lois Lane?

The transport came to a halt, and Kal climbed out. Trey waited at the entrance to the palace.

"Milord, what has happened?" the older man asked immediately.

"Assemble the Council, Trey," was the only thing Kal said as he entered the building.

Trey followed, wanting more answers. "Milord, why has Miss Lane been brought here? The physician says she passed out. And Nor? Why is he being detained?"

Kal stopped suddenly and faced his Council Elder. "I will tell you all I know in Council Chambers," he clipped out, then left Trey more confused than ever.

Lois had been installed in a bed when Kal reached the infirmary.

"How is she?" he asked the physician.

"Stable and resting."

"Will she be alright?"

"Oh, yes, Milord. Though I'm told that her mental condition is in question."

"Just watch her and let me know when she wakes." Kal reluctantly pulled his gaze from the woman lying across the room. She looked so small in the huge bed.

"Yes, Milord," the physician answered before turning to leave.

"One last question." He waited until the doctor had again faced him before he went on. "Is there a way to tell if this woman has ever given birth?"

"An examination would have to be done, but yes, there are usually signs when a woman has given birth."

Kal nodded. That would certainly prove her claim that she'd had a son. "Do it," he ordered after only the slightest hesitation, then was gone.

The immovable First Lord entered the Council Chambers moments later.

"Lord Nor is being held for formal questioning," he informed his Council as he took his seat.

"On what grounds, Milord?" Trey asked.

"Abuse of position, for one. Lord Nor was in possession of a woman he claims was his concubine, that she agreed to this willingly. She claims otherwise. Because of those claims and others, there will be a hearing at the morning hour."

"I'm told this woman is unconscious," Trey said.

"Yes. She's resting in the infirmary. We will start questioning Nor nonetheless. Send for his guard and house servants. They will need to be present to confirm or deny anything their lord has to say tomorrow."

"And just who is this woman?" asked another Council member.

"Madam Lois Lane of Earth."

"Lois Lane? Wasn't she *your* concubine at one time?" Jen-Mai asked.

"Yes." Kal's expression never wavered, even as his mind tried to grasp what he wanted to say.

"Do you have proof that she was Nor's?" a member asked.

"You do know that Nor didn't *need* her permission for him to take her as his concubine," Jen-Mai added with a sarcastic bite.

"Miss Lane is an Earthling citizen," Kal replied.

"Yes, but Earth is a Kryptonian nation," the lord shot right back. "Therefore, she is a Kryptonian subject."

"That may be. However, there is a little thing known as the Humanitarian Acts. You know as well as I do that Earthling citizens have to *agree* to serve Kryptonians."

"Come, come, Lord Kal. Don't be naive. We both know others are brought into service all the time…"

"Another issue I intend to address," Kal stated. "Right now, though, my concern is the issue at hand. If Nor was indeed holding Miss Lane as some kind of prisoner…"

"Just how do you intend to prove that if Nor had proper documentation?"

The argument was quickly becoming a face-off between the First Lord and Jen-Mai. And it was beginning to frustrate Kal tremendously.

Kal sighed and tried again. "That is why formal questioning will take place, Jen-Mai," he clipped out with a pointed glare at his Council member. When Jen-Mai averted his gaze, Kal continued. "Miss Lane has made other claims as well."

"Do tell." Jen-Mai folded his arms across his chest and glared at Kal.

"She states that she has a son."

"Having a son or not is irrelevant, Milord," Trey spoke up.

"It's very relevant, Lord Trey," Kal replied. "If Nor did as she claims."

"Let me guess," Jen-Mai spoke up in a dramatic tone. "Nor has taken her child away."

"As a matter of fact…" Kal started as he looked back to the infuriating man across from him.

"Milord, please. Can't you see this woman is playing up to your graces?"

"What does Nor say about this?" Trey threw in before the First Lord could face off with the other officer again.

Kal's mouth twisted. "Nor says there was no child."

"And you don't believe him?"

"I'm not sure what to believe, Trey. All I know is I found Miss Lane locked inside the communications room of Nor's house where she'd called to the palace constantly until I agreed to make a trip to Carn."

That caused Jen-Mai to snort aloud. "It seems to me that she was displeased with Nor."

"And I am displeased with this entire situation!" Kal's carefully controlled emotions had slipped. He'd known there would be questions. More would follow. He just hadn't known that he'd be so utterly frustrated by it all. "Session is adjourned until the morning hour." He pounded the gavel with a stroke of finality, then left the Council in stunned silence as he hurried from the room. His mind was as far from state's affairs as it could get. Right now, all he wanted was for Lois to wake up and answer some of *his* questions.


Kal stood outside the room Lois was in, peering through the glass partition at the fragile form lying prone in the bed. He'd stood in the same spot for nearly an hour the night before, trying desperately to make sense out of everything that had taken place.

When he'd left Lois on Earth, he hadn't looked back. He'd distanced himself from her and all she represented. Painfully, he'd come to the realization that nothing could ever come of his affection for her. He'd wanted more than what he was able to offer her, but his world would never have allowed it to happen.

He'd argued with himself, outright denied that he'd ever felt anything for her to begin with. But nothing made it true. Seeing her lying in that bed had done nothing but stoke his buried affections. As hard as he'd fought to contain those feelings, they had fought even harder to resurface.

Unable and unwilling to look at her another second, he'd fled from the palace, and sought solace on the cliffs overlooking the ocean. He'd sat the entire night through staring off across the water, wondering about a very uncertain and unstable future.

And about the possible existence of son born of his desire for a woman that had shaken him to his very foundation.

Did that child exist? If so, where was he? Had Nor whisked him off to some remote destination to do only Zor knew what with him? Who was caring for him? Was he afraid? Hurt? Had Nor done the unthinkable? Would he find his child alive or dead?

So many questions…

If that child indeed existed, and was found, the Council would force Lois to stay, as his concubine, or to give up her son. Law demanded children of nobility be raised on Krypton, and he was positive Lois would never give up her son. She'd be cast back into a world that she loathed to protect her child, and he'd be forced to live close to Lois with that knowledge.

And with the knowledge that he could never have her.

How in Zor's name would he survive?

Morning, and lack of answers, found him once again staring at the woman that haunted his thoughts. He'd been assured that Lois would wake soon. The physician felt that her mental instability might be a contributing factor to her continued slumber. That statement forced the First Lord to consider the possibility that all might not be well with Lois.

Had she lost touch with reality? The physical examination would not be performed until she was awake, so he still lacked confirmation that Lois had ever had a child.

Yet, all he could think was why would she lie about it? Why would she claim to have a son that was his, knowing her fate should that be proven, the child found? Why would she say that she and her son had both been brought back to Krypton if they hadn't? Maybe she had declared him the father just to find the child. He could understand a mother's love for their offspring, her desire to have him back. Lois would also know that if the First Lord's son was missing, Krypton would be turned inside out to find him.

Was that it? Was that what had happened?

"Milord?" A servant had approached. "You wished to be informed of the hour."

Without acknowledging the woman behind him, Kal tore his eyes from Lois and started toward Council Chambers.


The Council was assembled and awaiting the First Lord. He took his seat, noting that his uncle had joined them as well. Ti nodded in greeting, to which Kal merely cast a fiery glance.

"First, let me say that while Lord Nor is not being formerly charged with any crimes, at this time, this is a formal hearing. Is that understood?" He waited until he was certain his words had been understood before continuing. "Miss Lane is still resting in the infirmary, unable to defend what is said here today. When she is awake and alert, we will hear what she has to say."

"Milord, I must point out that it is highly irregular for the Council to consider the claims of a concubine," Ti-El pointed out, helpfully.

"This entire situation is highly irregular, Ti," Kal told him. "Miss Lane was here briefly some years ago."

"Everyone remembers your concubine," Jen-Mai replied with a sarcastic bite.

Kal cast an angry glare his way and continued. "She was only here briefly before I made a trip to Earth. I released her, leaving her on her world before returning home. She states that she was brought back to Krypton by Lord Nor."

"Yes, yes. The Council understands that she was returned as the concubine of Lord Nor," Jen-Mai stated. "We've reviewed the scrolls."

"Miss Lane says that she was not returned as a concubine. She has told me that she was brought back against her will."

"Don't be ridiculous," Ti spoke up. "Why would she be returned against her will?"

"That's what I intend to find out, Lord Ti." A few whispers rose around the room, but no one commented aloud. "However, another issue is more pressing. Miss Lane claims that her son was returned with her, and that Nor used the child to force her to sign papers binding her to him."

"Why would I concern myself with such a trivial thing, Milord? She made the decision willingly," Nor stated with an air of supremacy.

"Milord, I, too, have seen these papers. And I have to agree with Lord Ti. Why would Nor have brought her back against her will?" Trey asked.

"Law states that the only way a noble can lay claim to a woman is if she is free from existing claim. I understand that Miss Lane was married," Kal stated without answering Trey's questions. He failed to notice the glance his uncle shot at Nor.

Trey leaned back in his chair as he processed that tidbit. "That would explain the need for proper documentation."

"Oh please!" Nor shouted. "Don't tell me that you believe such drivel."

"And why would Miss Lane lie, Nor? What did she possibly have to gain?" Kal challenged his lord.

"How should I know what goes on in her head? She propositioned me. What man in his right mind would not take a woman up on an offer like that?"

"Just what are you implying, Kal?" Ti asked. "That you believe this woman over one of your lords?"

"I'm not implying anything. I'm stating, for the record, that Nor will prove to this Council that what *he* claims is true."

"Beg pardon, Lord Kal, but to accuse Lord Nor of any wrong doing, you need proof. The word of a concubine is not enough," Jen-Mai spoke up.

"I'm afraid Lord Jen-Mai is right, Milord," Trey said. "Do you have proof of what she claims is true?"

"No. I have no proof," Kal said reluctantly.

"Then the Council has no choice but to declare Nor's scrolls legal and binding," Trey stated. Across the table, Ti leered triumphantly. "He was well within his rights to have Miss Lane in his possession."

"And her son?" Kal asked. "If there was a child, law demands we locate him."

"The First Lord is right, Nor. What do you have to say about Miss Lane's son?"

"That there was no child," Nor replied coolly. "I admit that the woman has been off balance and delusional since arrival to Krypton, even before then. But there is and was never a child."

"Maybe we can settle this quickly," Jen-Mai added. "His guards are here as well as his personal servant."

Kal listened in helpless silence as both guards and Nor's attendant backed their lord's claim. No child had been with Miss Lane at any time.

"Milord, are you satisfied that Nor speaks the truth?" Trey asked when the testimonies were completed.

"No, I'm not satisfied, Trey. A frightened woman is lying unconscious, unable to defend herself, convinced that her son is being held on Nor's order."

"Why are you so concerned about this woman's child?" Ti asked his nephew.

"Because if what she says is true, that child has to be found."

"Milord, Nor has stated that there was no child," Jen-Mai added in a frustrated tone. "I see no reason for the Council to continue to waste time discussing it further."

"And I see every reason to discuss it!" Kal's voice thundered, a mere reflection of how utterly hopeless he truly felt. "Would it make a difference if the Council knew this child is half-Kryptonian?"

Silence engulfed the assembled group then. Medical science had always believed conception between Earthlings and Kryptonians possible, but with the forced sterilizations and the effects of the inoculations, that had yet to be proven. Kal had known that kind of information would change everything. And when they learned just who had fathered that child…

After a long delay, Ti-El leaned forward and placed his arms on the table. "Being as this woman had been your concubine, are we to assume this child might possibly be your child?"

"Yes," Kal said calmly.

"Are you insane, Kal-El?" Ti swiveled fully toward his nephew. "The implications of that admission are treasonous! Not to mention the havoc this news will create. A half breed the son of the First Lord!"

Trey nodded. "Lord Ti is right, Milord," he added. "If Miss Lane has indeed sired your son, the Council will demand to know why."

"Must everyone be so stupid," Nor remarked sarcastically. "Surely no one believes Kal kept that woman without bedding her?"

"That is not what I meant, Nor," Trey said. "Law required Miss Lane to undergo a sterilization procedure. If she conceived a child, that procedure was obliviously not done. And if it wasn't, then on who's order?"

"Then of course there are particulars involved," Jen-Mai put in. "Was our dear First Lord aware of his concubine's condition? Is that why he left her on Earth?"

"I will refrain from answering questions concerning a child the Council deems nonexistent," Kal remarked.

Trey rubbed his throbbing temples. Sometimes he really disliked his position. "In keeping with the law, the Council has no choice but to adjourn session until more information can be gathered."

Kal heaved a huge sigh of relief. He was sure no one believed that Lois ever had a child, but at least he'd been granted a little time to get some answers. With any luck, Lois would be awake soon and could answer a few questions.

"Nor, you are free to leave until this situation is resolved. However, your presence is required when the Council assembles again. You will be notified." Trey clapped the gavel against the table, then rose and left the room.

Ti watched as Kal left soon after. A smile graced his lips and he nodded at Nor before he took his own leave.


Lois sat in chair in her room. She'd awaken earlier, demanding to see her son. It was several moments before realization set in and she remembered the past few days. She was told that she was at the palace on order of the First Lord and that he would be in to speak with her later. She both dreaded and eagerly awaited his arrival.

From the reports that flooded Earth from Krypton, Lord Kal-El was still a man to be reckoned with. He made decision after decision that proved all too well that he was a stern leader. He'd given the order to surround a group of rebels during a conflict on Krypton, effectively cutting off their link to the outside world. Lois had wondered why he hadn't just given the order to wipe them out completely, but had still appreciated his very affective method of ending the uprising. It proved great intelligence and forethought. And it proved he would not hesitate to perform his duty.

What did that mean where she was concerned?

Back at Nor's, she'd seen hesitation in his eyes when she'd told him that she'd been held prisoner and that Nor had their son. He doubted her.

And rightly so, she admitted reluctantly. She and Kal-El didn't even know one another. They never had really known each other. They'd shared one night, one night of unbridled, forbidden passion. That was all it had been.

Or at least that was what she'd spent the last few years trying to convince herself. It was much easier to believe that she hadn't felt anything for Kal than to think about never being able share those feelings. It made the missing him less painful when she repeated over and over to herself that she hadn't felt a thing for the lord. Never mind the emotions she felt the first time her baby moved within her body, or the day she held Jordan for the first time. Nothing. She felt nothing for Kal-El. Even as she looked into a set of identical brown eyes every time she looked at her son.

Her son's safety and well-being, that was all that mattered now. Yes, she'd have to convince Kal that Jordan did exist if there was any hope to ever find him again. Nor was evil personified, and there was no telling what he'd done by now.

She refused to believe that Nor would have killed Jordan. What could he gain by doing that? No, alive the boy was worth much, much more. He was the First Lord's son, after all. Besides, if she allowed herself to think like that, there was absolutely no way she'd be able to find him.

Her head snapped up when the doors to her room slipped open. A huge breath for courage, and she rose to face the man she'd hoped desperately to never see again… And secretly longed to.


Kal watched as Lois stood. The relief he felt to see her awake surprised him. It also scared the hell out of him.

"Are you well?" he asked softly.

"I will be when I find my son," she answered him firmly.

He waved a hand toward the chair. "Would you like to sit? I'm sure you're still a bit shaky."

"Cut the crap and tell me if you're gonna help me look for my son."

"And my son?" he asked, his glare insisting she answer that question first.

Lois turned from him, taking a few steps away from the chair.

"Look at me!" he demanded.

She twirled back around to face him. "I'm not one of your servants! I will not bow to your vanity driven ego!"

"You should at least be able to look me in the eyes when you tell me if I have fathered a son!"

"If? You don't believe me, do you?"

"You've made it so easy to do that."

Lois clamped her mouth shut, unable to reply.

"Tell me why. Why should I believe you? If what you say is true, then you've kept the existence of my son from me. Did you not think I had the right to know?"

"The same way you have the right to demand that others do things against their will?" she challenged as she took a defiant stance.

How did he respond to that? Isn't that why he'd never *demanded* that Lois should come to him? Yes, his entire life was about demanding that others do things against their will. He sighed and sank to the chair Lois left abandoned. "Just tell me." He lifted his eyes to plead with hers.

"He does exist," she replied. "And he's out there somewhere. We have to find him." She turned again when a sob escaped her lips.

That got Kal's complete attention. Seeing her so upset was enough to convince Kal that what she said was true. There was a child, a son… *his* son. He shoved a frustrated hand through his hair. "The Council doesn't believe you were forced to sign a pact with Nor."

"Big surprise there." Lois gasped and wiped away her tears.

"The only reason they haven't totally discounted you is because I have fathered your child."

She faced him then. "What?"

"They're not totally convinced, though. They want more information."

"And how do I prove that he exists? You saw yourself that Nor took all my things away."

"We start with an examination, to prove you've had a child."

"If it'll help find my son, then please. Do it!"

Kal simply nodded. "I thought that maybe your father could be contacted as well."

"Yes! Why didn't I think of that? Call Daddy. He'll tell them I'm not crazy!" Lois' expression held a bit of hope for the first time since she'd waken.

There was a long silence before Kal mustered the nerve to broach it. There were things that needed to be said, and questions he wanted so desperately answered.

"It won't be as easy as that."

"What?" Lois asked him.

"The Council has already ruled that Nor's papers are legal. Your signature constitutes its legality."

"But I was forced to sign!"

"Without proof…" Kal got to his feet in an effort to calm the rising tension in his belly.

"Wouldn't proving I really have a son…?"

"That will make a difference, yes, but…" He stepped around her and stopped to look out the window. "I have to be honest with you. Your signature on that paper is incredibly binding. I don't know what's going to happen. There's never been an instance like this before. The Council is hesitant to discount a noble."

"And because I'm just a concubine, I'll be the one on the receiving end of the wrath."

Another silence followed that statement. Kal was unable to argue with her. She *was* in a difficult position. "Why don't you tell me what happened from the beginning?" Kal asked her. Maybe if he knew all the details, he would be able to help her.

Or least decide what he believed.

"There was a rally on Labor Day. Many organizations, both Kryptonian and Earthling, have been working together to improve relations. My, ah, my… husband…" She hesitated on the word, without looking at Kal. "… was a member of a special forces division of the Metropolis Police Department. He was in charge of security at the rally. Kryptonian forces stormed the demonstration and things got out of hand." Lois finally sank to the chair again. Her expression was distant, eyes glued to a spot on the floor. "A lot of people died that day," she almost whispered.

Kal was stunned. He'd heard nothing of this incident. He'd known about the organizations she mentioned, had approved the formation of several. Though he hadn't followed their progress very closely, he had been informed on more than one occasion by Lord Sar of different events the groups held. If the population worked in cooperation with the Throne toward peace, it helped make his life a bit easier.

He focused on the rest of what Lois had said. A lot of people had died that day, and by the way she was acting…

"Your husband?" he asked hesitantly.

"Lost too much blood." She looked up at Kal with a determined expression. "He died trying to help reestablish freedom for his world."

"I was unaware that he'd died."

"But you did know I was married?" she challenged.

"Yes. My uncle made sure to impart that bit of information over a year ago."

"And he forgot to inform you of your son's existence?" she asked in a biting tone.

Kal allowed her question to inflame his frustration yet again. "If I'd known…" He allowed the rest of his sentence to remain unsaid. What could he say? That he would have *demanded* she return with his son to Krypton? That was the last thing she wanted to hear right now. "I didn't know," he told her more softly.

Lois bit her lip and nodded.

"What happened after the rally?"

"I buried my husband; others buried their loved ones. An attempt was made to contact Lord Sar, but even more died."

"That attack was not ordered by the Throne," he pointed out. "And I intend to find out why it took place at all."

"I don't think anyone ever believed that it was ordered by the Throne." She looked down at her hands. "Only two weeks later, Nor and his guards burst into my home in the middle of the night and snatched me and my son from our beds. I was not given a reason, just told to keep my mouth shut and do as I was told or they'd hurt my boy."

"Did they?"

"No. We were pretty much left alone on the trip back."

"Were you aboard one of the larger ships?"

"Yeah. I guess it was easier for Nor to blend in."

It was Kal's turn to nod. Was this all true? Was Nor responsible for Lois and her son being brought to Krypton? And how had he kept it hidden? What had he done with the child?

So many questions.

"I should have said something," he heard Lois say.

"You were afraid for your son's life," Kal said.

"No. I should have said something the day you left me on Earth."

"Did you know then? That you'd conceived?" He held his breath. Had she cared so little that she'd kept it from him? Had she stood before him, knowing she'd bring forth his son into the world, and said nothing?

When she failed to answer, the tiny spark that had been stoked inside his heart flickered and went out. His impenetrable wall went up again. "Your husband's death places you in an extremely more difficult position."

Lois looked up at him, a thousand questions written on her face.

"If he was still alive, Nor could not have laid claim to you without yours and *his* consent. He would have had to 'release' you to Nor. While Kryptonian law doesn't allow divorcement among nobility, a nobleman can take a concubine of lesser class, even if she's married and provided her husband releases her. Because your husband is dead, only your consent was needed. That makes Nor's documents even more binding."

"What does it matter if my son isn't found?" she breathed then sank back into the chair.

What did he say to that? His aching heart wouldn't allow him to completely trust Lois. His Kryptonian education insisted on pointing out that her name was signed to papers that bound her to Nor. Those papers were very legal and binding. Not to mention the absence of a son she claimed existed.

Lois stared at her hands for a what seemed like hours before she cleared her throat. "What happens if I can prove my son does exist?"

"He will be found."

"And then?"

"The Council will make you prove beyond question that Jordan is my son."

"Is it the Council that demands to know? Or you?"

Kal didn't answer, just looked away. He'd by lying if he told her that he didn't want to know. Truth was, he'd give anything for solid proof right about now, one way or the other. It would certainly ease his mind.

"What happens after he's proven to be your son?"

"His place will be established inside the House of El…"

"I know that much. I'm talking about with Nor. Will I be forced to go with him? I know I would be if I can't prove what I say is true."

"I don't know. Nor's papers are legal…"

"And binding. Yeah, yeah."

Before anything else could be said, Trey entered the room.

"Milord, urgent communications from Earth. Lord Ching was in a transport that has gone missing. It is believed that there's been some sort of accident."

Kal reluctantly tore his gaze from Lois, and upon hearing what the older lord had to say, he stepped toward his chief elder. "What?"

Trey held out a copy of the transcript they had just received. "Lord Sar contacted us as soon as possible after the accident. He states that Lord Ching's vessel disappeared during the scheduled tour of America. A search was launched at once, but, Milord, it's taken more than two months to find anything. Wreckage was located late last week that's believed to be the lord's vehicle. Apparently, mechanical problems caused the transport to explode somewhere in a place called Kansas."

Kal read over the transcript for several moments before facing Lois. She'd eased up in the chair and a look of concern was etched across her face. "I must go."

"Of course."

He held her gaze for a moment, then followed Trey from the room. This was definitely not something he needed right now.


It was two days later before Lois saw Kal again. Life inside the palace had ground to a halt with the news that Lord Ching might have been involved in an accident. Non-stop communications with Earth finally produced news that no one wanted to hear. She'd heard just that morning that Lord Ching had been pronounced dead.

Since then the palace had become a hub of activity. She was told by Zin that a Kryptonian lord had not died in the line of duty in over two hundred years. Though most lords were trained for battle, none had actually ever been on the front lines. Even during the war on Earth, lords were strategists, not fighters, kept well away from the fighting. For one to die during a time of peace was unthinkable.

Her thoughts had automatically drifted to Kal-El. She was told that he had been unusually quiet. No doubt having a hard time dealing with how he felt. Did his egotistical nature take a blow with the news of his brother's death? Part of her wanted nothing more than to rejoice if it had. Maybe this would force him to realize how much of his population lived. While he was tucked away inside the Royal Palace, his needs being attended to by countless servants, *his* orders being obeyed without question, his own people suffered. Countless others who drew the same breath as he had lost brothers, sisters, children… husbands because a planet advanced enough to stumble across a tiny world a galaxy away had also chosen to forcibly take it over.

There was also part of her that knew exactly what kind of pain that kind of loss could bring. Did Kal feel anything remotely similar? His was a race of people that had bred stoic character. Over the decades they had evolved into unemotional, expedient individuals who rarely displayed any form of expression other than distaste. Yes, she had glimpsed a side to Kal that she was sure he was unaware of, which lay buried beneath the many layers of tradition and education. Was that man in pain now?

Why did she care?

Jordan! That's the only thing that matters now, she kept repeating to herself. It had been excruciating having to spend the last couple of days tucked away inside a bed chamber, unable to look for her son. When she'd recovered enough to satisfy the physician, she was transferred to a chamber. One, she'd noted, that was no where near the private section of the palace. Other than Zin, no one had bothered her. She hadn't been detained when she'd ventured from her room, but she did find that many doors were locked to her.

She knew because she'd tried many of them. True sorrow filled her heart for the loss of Lord Ching, but her son was gone without a trace and if no one was going to believe her and help look for him, she'd been determined to do what she could alone. It had been difficult for her to admit defeat and try to wait on Kal. When he failed to come earlier, she grew restless and left her room again.

Deciding to make her way into the garden shortly after the evening meal to watch the sunset, she was surprised to see Kal sitting on a bench down by the small lake on the back lawn. He'd shed his tunic and was leaning forward, elbows resting on his knees. His hair looked as if his hand had been shoved through it more than a few times, and he hadn't shaved, probably not since she'd last seen him. His whole appearance screamed defeat, and she'd swear he'd been crying.

She glanced away, unwilling to allow herself to feel anything for this man. His brother was dead, and she hated that. But dammit! Her son, their son, her conscience pointed out, was missing. Didn't he care at all about that?


Kal felt as if his heart would burst. The last two days had been horrendous. He'd been in communications with Earth almost constantly since hearing of Ching's accident. The crews on Earth had searched the remains of the transport in vain. Nothing was left but charred metal and unidentifiable body parts. There was no choice but to declare his brother dead.

Kal had never known the loss of one close to him before. His parents' death had occurred when he was still very young and hadn't affected him very much. But to lose his brother felt… almost as painful as losing Lois.

That realization had startled him beyond belief. Did that woman really mean more to him than his own brother?

Like any other Kryptonian, Kal and Ching both had been raised to be logical thinking individuals. They'd been educated to make decisions without feeling or remorse, to do what was expedient. In short, they'd never learned to *feel*. Yes, they respected one another, thought well of the other. But they'd never been taught to feel affection for anyone. Emotion should be an inherent trait, though for an advanced race of people, it didn't even exist.

His feelings for Lois did. They were there, as strong as they'd ever been. He realized that when he'd learned that she had indeed given birth to a son three and half years ago. The physician had confirmed that she'd given birth a few years prior only moments before he'd received a direct communication from her father. Sam Lane's transcript informed the First Lord that his son had been born in the sixth cycle of the year 2129. Upon hearing the news, Kal's mind had transported him back to that night on the transport when he'd lost his heart to an Earth woman.

He could admit that now. Admit that she held great power over him. And yes, when he thought about Lois and Ching, there was no comparison. She did mean more to the older brother. Yet, Kal had also realized that he *did* have feelings for his baby brother. Ching's death had left a gaping hole he was unsure how he'd ever fill.


Kal's head snapped up and his weary eyes met those of the woman in his thoughts. Unable to speak, he simply dropped his head again in defeat.


Her breath caught in her chest when she saw the absolutely haunted look in his eyes. Lord Kal-El had never looked so small. 'Jordan, Jordan, Jordan', she chanted mentally, the mantra she'd adopted to hide behind so that she didn't have to deal with feelings that refused to stay buried.

Without a word, she eased down beside him on the bench. If nothing else, she'd offer him comfort in the form of her presence. She needed him to help her find her son, and if this was a way to make that happen, then so be it.


He wanted to turn to her, ask if he could hold her when she sat next to him. He was so lost, more lost than he'd ever been, and finding it almost impossible to deal with.

"A ceremony is planned for the end of the week," he said just to break the silence. He had to speak or he was afraid he'd do something he'd regret.

"For Ching?"

"Yes." The silence stretched out between them again, foreboding, dangerous. "I have spoken with your father," Kal finally managed.

"Then you believe me now?"

"Yes." What else did he say? "If there was some way to make this right…"

"Yeah, right," she snapped. "You expect me to believe you'd give up your son?"

"I don't expect anything," he told her in a pain filled tone. "I can't lie and say that I am not pleased to learn of his existence. I wish you'd told me sooner."

"Would it have made a difference? I'd be here either way."

Kal sighed heavily. "Unfortunately, yes. But maybe we could have been…" He let the rest of his sentence die when he saw the expression on Lois' face. How could he expect a woman forced to do things against her will to want to be anything but an enemy?

He looked down at his hands for several moments, giving both Lois and himself ample time to grasp some form of control of their feelings. Finally he lifted his eyes back to look her. She appeared so lost, alone. He wanted to reach out to her, assure her that everything would be okay. But how could he?

She surprised him when she spoke. "Look, I know the laws. I know that my son has to be raised here. But we have to find him first. I'm sorry about your brother. I hate this all happened at the same time. I also have to be honest and tell you that nothing, *nothing* else matters to me right now but finding my son. And unless someone does something very damn soon, I will not be held responsible for anything I might do!" Her chest heaved as she stared at him pointedly, as if daring him to say otherwise.

Ah, how much he'd missed this woman! That fire was truly something to behold. "I would expect no less from you," Kal told her as a slight smile played at the corners of his mouth.

"Then get off your a— and help me find your son… *our* son!"

Kal's smile faded and he leaned back against the bench. "Lois… Miss Lane," he corrected himself. If he was going to keep his emotions in check where this woman was concerned, he would have to address her formally. Speaking her name reminded him too much of their time on the transport. "I want nothing more than to find him. In fact, I have people looking for him as we speak."

Lois blinked in surprise.

"What's wrong? Didn't expect me to say that?" he asked when he saw her avert her gaze.

"Truthfully, no. I've been shut up in that room with no word…"

"And I've been torn in two. It's been excruciating to know that my son does exist and that he's out there somewhere, probably scared to death that he's been abandoned." Kal shoved a frustrated hand through his hair. "To not be able to search personally made me feel even more helpless." He pushed up to his feet and walked toward the edge of the water. "Ching's death, the situation with Nor… I've never been so displeased with who I am than right now."

Her brows knitted together as she studied his heaving back. "I don't understand."

"Finding our son…" He turned quickly to look at her. "I don't even know his damn name!"

"It's Jordan."

"Jordan," he repeated to hear it come from his own lips.

"I like to call him Jor."

Surprise flitted across Kal's face. Why did she refer to him as Jor? Was it some kind of ironic stab aimed at him? He'd have to ask her later. Now was just not the time.

He turned back to face the water, the many issues weighing his mind beginning to take their toll. He was tired, more so than he'd ever been. Bending to retrieve a large rock that lay on the ground, he drew back and let it fly. "The Council wants to speak with you as soon as Ching is laid to rest."

"I guess we knew that was inevitable."

"Jordan makes a difference. Or he can."

"Before you said you didn't know what would happen."

"I've had two days to study the law," he told her as he went back to drop beside her again. "Because he's my son, I have the option to… return you to my house."

Lois sat silently for a moment before she spoke. "Even though my signature is on Nor's scrolls?"

"That part is a bit tricky. You'd have to… detail Jordan's conception."


"Actually, you'd have to detail our relationship, even the… sexual aspect of it." He said the last part without looking at her. "And since we only… did that… once… well…"


"Law states that children should be reared inside a home with a mother and a father present." He chuckled softly at the sour expression on her face. "Yeah, how utterly ironic is that? True, though."

"And your… wife wouldn't be expected to mother a concubine's child."

"Ah, no." He stopped and tilted his head. "They'd expect her to lay alone in her bed while her husband shares his with another woman, expect her to live next door to her husband's lover, share her house with that lover's children… but to mother those children…" His words trailed off and for the first time in his life, he saw the flaws in the Kryptonian practice of keeping a concubine. No wonder there was often contempt inside birth marriages. Maybe the noble *man* wasn't the only one that was often dissatisfied. Maybe the noble *woman* was, too.

"But I thought the man held all custodial rights?" Lois asked, bringing him from his thoughts.

"Yes. However, I've found a little lost clause hiding inside parental laws. If I grant you equal custodial rights, The Council has to consider allowing you to remain with the child."

"Then why the details of the relationship?"

"To solidify the bond between the mother and father. Believe it or not, ancient law was written with the child's well-being in mind. The elders believed that if children were reared inside a unified house, they would be strong of character… more apt to bond with their own spouses later and create equally strong houses."

"Well, I'll be damned. We're not so different after all," Lois told him with a stunned expression.

"Excuse me?"

"All this time… I've thought our worlds, our people were as light years apart as the planets themselves. Our forefathers did the same thing. Wrote all these wonderful laws and bills and set precedents… Only, over the years this leader and that leader has taken those laws and twisted them to fit their own selfish needs."

"And the next one comes along only to build on what the one before him has already… made worse…" Again, Kal's voice drifted off as his mind settled on what Lois had said. There was something to that. Certainly things had not always been like they were now. With each new leader, things had changed, been manipulated for selfish gain. Had there ever been a time when the people came first? Since he'd begun listening to his subjects, his perception of his world had changed. With the birth of his daughter, ideas began to shift from personal gain to that of a mutual nature. As a father, wasn't it his responsibility to take care of his entire world so that his children inherited a better place?

Later, he'd look into those wayward thoughts. Right now, another person needed his full attention.

"So…" Lois drawled as she stared off across the lake.

Kal had leaned forward again to rest his elbows on his knees, giving her time to process everything he'd told her, and allowing him to gather his courage to continue. He'd found a few other details when searching through ancient parental laws that he felt Lois should know. "You have to know that granting you equal parental rights will probably be enough."


"You sharing equal rights means that Jordan will be able to spend as much time with you as he does me. I honestly don't think Nor would want my son visiting you inside his house."

Lois nodded in understanding. "And what would happen then? If Nor what? Releases me?"

"You'd be a free citizen, able to live anywhere of your choosing."

"On Krypton," she added dryly.

Kal glanced up at her with slightly apologetic eyes. "I would help find you a nice home, and because you're Jordan's mother, I'd make sure you were taken care of."

"Then I wouldn't exactly be free, would I?"

He should have known she would call him there. "I could make sure you have a position with a decent wage. You'd be able to earn your own money. Would that be more to your liking?"


Lois was absolutely stunned. She wanted nothing more than to simply stare at the man before her. This man could not possibly be Lord Kal-El, *the* Lord Kal-El. He was talking about things she never imagined she'd hear from his lips. And if she didn't know better, she'd swear some of their words had actually sunk in. A couple of times he'd looked as if he was giving serious thought to what they were saying.

Who was this man? Physically, he was definitely the man she'd known before. Of course, he was a little *more* man than he was before. His perfectly sculpted physique left little doubt that the man trained daily. He'd added more bulk to his muscular torso, if that was possible.

Her head snapped around, away from… him. She wasn't about to admit that she found Kal attractive in any way at all. That was what had gotten her into trouble before.

Of course, it wasn't his physical attributes that appealed to her. His inner character, his *true* inner character seemed to reach out to her, scream for her to… to…

What? What was she supposed to do for this man? He was the First Lord, for God's sake. What could she possibly do for him?

Slowly, she got to her feet and started to walk along the edge of the lake toward a small dock that stretched out into the water. She was alone only briefly before she felt Kal's presence behind her.

Lois leaned on the railing of the dock before speaking. "You're telling me that you will grant me equal custody of Jordan, and you don't intend to claim me as your concubine?"

"That's what I'm saying. If Nor releases you once I grant custody, you'll be free to leave the palace."

"And Jordan? Will he be free to leave with me?"

"Yes," Kal told her without a moment's hesitation. "I think I'd like to get to know Jordan, not make him fear me."

Lois couldn't hide her shock then. She faced Kal, eyes wide and her mouth slightly agape.

"I already have one child that fears me, and it pains me a great deal every time I see her." Kal's shoulders drooped in defeat as he approached the railing. "And she lives with me," he added with a touch of remorse.

Damn you! Lois' mind shouted at her. Damn you for making me feel…

No! she countered. Nothing! I feel nothing for Kal, *Lord* Kal! Nope.

Not a thing!

"I was under the impression that you have a good relationship with your daughter." The words slipped from her lips before she could stop them.

"I do try to spend as much time with her as I can, and we… get along. We just don't *know* each other."

"How well does anyone really know another here?" Lois quipped. These unemotional, logical people wouldn't know how to begin having a *real* relationship if they wanted to.

"Is that true on your world as well?" Kal asked, causing Lois to meet his gaze.

She stared at him for a moment before looking back across the water. "We like to think we know others. And I guess some do, but a lot truly don't."

Kal simply nodded, then turned to stare at the water as well.

"What happens?" Lois asked out of nowhere. "After… if all that happens?"

"You'll work and take care of our son. I hope."

"Oh, you don't have to worry about that," she assured him. "And Nor?"

"Unfortunately, he would go unpunished." Kal looked up at the darkening sky. "Even though Jordan is my son, if I don't declare that you're mine, there's nothing to be done. I released you on Earth. Those scrolls are on record."

"What about Jordan? He won't pay for what he's done to Jordan?" Oh, he would pay all right, she thought. She'd kill him herself if he'd hurt her son.

"That might be difficult. Obviously someone working for Nor is helping him. No doubt someone that Nor trusts…"

"Proof… We'll need more than the word of a…" She stopped. There was no way she'd say that word. Well, if they needed proof, somehow, some way, she'd find it. There was no way Nor was getting away with what he'd done.

They stood for several moments, looking at the glowing sun set against gently stirring water. Krypton was actually quite pretty, Lois admitted. Clear, crisp air filled her lungs even as other, more troublesome thoughts entered her mind.

"What happens if… if Nor won't release me?"

"Then you could choose to detail our relationship and ask that The Council consider keeping the family unit together."

Choose? She could choose? Did he honestly think she'd just go willingly into Nor's house? Be his…

Not on his life. Not even on the life of their son. Why the hell would any woman knowingly choose a life like that?

Wait! Hadn't he said…?

"Didn't you say that you had the option to return me to your house because Jordan's your son? Why not just wave your all mighty hand and *claim* me?"

"Is that what you'd prefer? That I just take all control completely away from you?"

In that instant, she understood. Kal was detailing the law so that she had all the information. And so that she had a form of control. He *could* claim her, but he wanted the choice to be hers.

Damn you!

It's not fair that you're so… human all of a sudden, she thought.

"Why don't we just see what happens?" she managed around a small lump in her throat.

"We can do that."

She nodded, then turned to start back down the dock. "We need to concentrate on finding our son."

"I agree." Kal fell in step beside her. "Come to my state room tomorrow morning and we'll put a plan of attack together."

"I'll be there bright and early." And she couldn't stop the small smile that graced her lips. A slight change had come over Kal; he'd adopted an air of confidence, control. She had to admire Kryptonian education and training. Duty was heavily ingrained into life on this other world and taken very seriously. She had no doubt that Kal now felt it *his* duty to do everything possible to find their son.

Maybe, just this time, it wouldn't be so bad having the First Lord on her side.


Earth: same time

Gentle hands tucked the cover around the bruised and battered body before her. She used a clean, wet cloth to wash him down once more before making her way back to the kitchen.

"How is he?" her husband asked.

"About the same as before."

"We can't keep him here, Martha. Someone has to be looking for him."

Martha looked back up the stairs with a sad expression. "I just can't shake the feeling that if we contact the Kryptonian Embassy now, he won't make it home alive."

"And you think he'll live here? We don't know how to care for an injured alien."

"Bite your tongue, Jonathan. He's just a man. And he needs our help. I won't deny him that."

The man rose and wrapped his arm around his wife. "Okay, honey. We'll nurse him as best we can. When, and if, he gets better, it'll be up to him to decide who to contact and when."

"When, Jonathan, when he gets better. You'll see. A little TLC, fresh bandages, and a bit of sunshine and he'll be good as new."

"He's not a plant," the man laughed softly.

"I know. But since when did sunshine hurt anybody?"

"You got me there." He hugged his wife, then started for the door. "I've got chores to do. Yell if you need anything."

"I will." Martha glanced up the stairs once more before heading toward the sink. The dishes needed washing, and fretting over a hurt Kryptonian man wouldn't change that.


Krypton: still in the twelfth cycle of the year 2132 (December 1991)

Lois stormed down the corridor toward the state side of the palace. She hadn't been in that section very much when she'd been here before, so she was unfamiliar with the layout. She stopped a guard and demanded to know where to find the First Lord. The guard seemed to be amused, but pointed her in the direction of the Council Chambers.

Nearly a week ago, she and Kal had sat shoulder to shoulder in his state room and discussed where Nor might have taken their son. The massive database inside the Kryptonian library was used to call up everything known about the Lord of Carn.

Born out of the House of Zon and into the House of Carn, Nor was the only son of Lord Mar. He grew up in a house filled with daughters — eight to be exact. Three were the children of his father's concubines. As the only son, Nor was doted upon, lavished with gifts. He was also instilled with less than upstanding morals. He adhered to duty, but chose to squander his fortune instead of preparing himself to lead his house when his father passed.

Unfortunately, Mar had lived life to the fullest. He'd enjoyed the riches of Kryptonian society while his advisors ran his province. Nor inherited his lifestyle from his father, and when Mar died a premature death, Carn was handed over to a spoiled brat. Though it had long been suspected that Nor did not take care of the subjects under his rule as he should, there had never been protests otherwise. Carn thrived, and Nor was left alone.

Search after search revealed nothing out of the ordinary. Each and every possible lead was followed up by royal guards and so far, nothing. Not the first trace of a child had been found anywhere remotely associated with Nor.

Nor, himself, had been at his home each and every time he was called upon. Kal had been ordered by The Council not to contact Nor personally, but the First Lord had sent guard after guard to question Nor. Each time, frustration mounted because Nor insisted on telling the same exact story.

Lois wished she could get out and search for herself. She knew she wouldn't find any more than the guards had, though it would certainly help with the feelings of uselessness that overwhelmed her. But she had been forced to remain at the palace because her situation was, quote, 'undecided'.

Activity over Lord Ching's death had finally died down, and she had waited for two days for the Council to assemble. She'd been unable to speak with Kal because he'd been called away on state business. Then, of all the things to possibly happen, a servant had delivered her a scroll, demanding her presence in the House of Carn at once.

That was why a guard practically ran to keep up with her. He'd been sent by Nor to 'retrieve her'. She clutched the scroll in her hand tighter as she continued her quest.

Outside the chamber doors, another guard halted her progress.

"I'm sorry, ma'am. You cannot go inside," he told her.

"Just watch me!" She shoved the man to the side and entered the room.

Trey jumped to his feet when Lois entered the room. "What is the meaning of this?" Everyone in the room had been stunned when the doors had swooshed open suddenly.

She ignored him and went straight to the end of the table. "What the hell is this?!" she demanded and tossed the scroll down onto the table in front of Kal.

The men present in the room held their breaths, fully expecting Kal to unleash his wrath on this woman. Though he rarely engaged in loud outbursts, he *did* expect others to respect his position. Because of his no-nonsense way of dealing with things, no one had ever had the audacity to do as this woman did now. He would surely have her properly punished, no matter who she was.

Kal slowly opened the scroll and read the contents. His expression hardened and he shot to his feet. "What the hell is this?" he repeated Lois' question and threw the rolled document at Trey.

To say the assembled Council was shocked was an understatement. They couldn't believe the First Lord had let this woman talk to him in this manner… and an Earth woman at that. Then to hear the First Lord himself repeat her words… They could only stare in disbelief.

Trey glanced at the scrolls before lifting his eyes to Kal's. "The Council decided that Nor's rights were being violated by Miss Lane's continued presence in the palace."

"The Council decided? Since when does the Council decide anything without my approval?" Kal demanded.

"When the matter does not concern you; it is not imperative that you are informed of decisions." Trey's voice was strong as he stood to his feet to face off with his First Lord. "And if *you* break the law, you answer to me!"

"How about when the Council breaks the law?" Kal had squared his shoulders and a mask of unidentifiable expression had smoothed his features. This was someone Lois did not recognize at all.

"What laws have the Council broken?"

"Those governing Miss Lane's right to speak on her behalf."

"Milord, the physician states that Miss Lane is not a very stable person…"

"And that's reason enough to discount scientific evidence? Trey, the physician himself confirmed that she has given birth, that she is very fertile even now. Her own father has spoken of her son's birth."

"Beg pardon, Milord," Jen-Mai spoke up. "But a father cannot be impartial."

"And," Trey's voice softened just a tad. "There has been no child found. We have no legal right to keep Nor's property from him."

Kal stood silently, his hands on his hips as his gaze bore into his Council Chief.

"The law is crystal clear, Milord," Trey continued.

"And my son?"

"Come on, Kal-El," Jen-Mai drawled out. "We know you were fond of this woman, but wishful thinking won't give her back to you."

"Watch your tongue, Jen-Mai!" Kal threatened, pointing a finger at the other lord.


Kal's head snapped up when his uncle called his name. Ti had entered the Council Chambers and was standing just inside the door. "Listen to yourself. You're defending a woman who can offer you absolutely no proof that your *son* even exists. Just because she gave birth to *a* son, doesn't make him yours. Her father will of course speak well of her. But without proof of that child, the Council has no choice but to follow the law. Trey is right. You are not involved in this as long as that child is not here."

The First Lord's chest rose and fell in a steady rhythm, clearly indicating his fury. Lois watched as he tried to grasp at something, anything that could help her in this situation. Her own fear and anger mirrored his as they remained motionless. What was she going to do? She'd lost her son, and it looked as if she'd soon lose her dignity as well. It may as well be her life.

After a few tense moments, she turned and ran from the room.


Kal was livid. How did he stop this from happening? His mind raced through various laws he'd studied. There had to be something that could stop this.

"Trey, as First Lord I demand that the Council allow Miss Lane to defend her position," Kal ground out through gritted teeth.

"It will only delay the inevitable, Kal," Trey told him.

"It is the law!" Kal reminded him.

Trey heaved a deep breath and sank to his chair.

"The Council has ruled, Trey," Jen-Mai whined.

"But if the Council failed to recognize Miss Lane's rights, the decision is illegal," Trey relented as he rubbed his brows.

Jen-Mai cast a furious glance at Kal but chose wisely to remain silent.

"Tomorrow. The Council will assemble at the morning hour. She will be allowed to speak then," Trey finally said.

Kal wanted to shout. He had twenty four hours to figure out how to keep Lois from becoming Nor's plaything. "Inform Nor of the decision," he told the guard that had followed Lois into the room. "His presence is required."

The guard bowed and left.

Kal dismissed the Council, completely ignoring his uncle on the way past him and out of the room. If he was going to help Lois, there wasn't a second to waste.


Kal watched the flowing water cascade down the stone statue of the fountain that sat in the middle of the west garden as his heart raged against his entire way of life. Why had he been born to a race of people that insisted on so many rules? To be carefree, able to make your own decisions, would be extremely liberating. Was that why the servants seemed so happy? Other than their duties, all other choices were theirs to make.

The entire day had been spent combing law after frustrating, Kryptonian law in search of something, anything that would enable him to stop the Council from sending Lois to Lord Nor. The information he and Lois had uncovered about Nor was enough to convince Kal that no one should be forced to submit to that man. With those thoughts, he'd begun to think that maybe submission was something that should be done willingly, not forced upon people by others who believe themselves superior. Those who used law to convince themselves that it was right. Slowly, Kal-El was coming to the realization that maybe there was another way, a way other than what his ancestors had established.

Who was he kidding? His desire to keep Lois from being sent to Nor wasn't entirely unselfish. The thought of another man being with that woman sent chills down his spine. He'd admitted that he did indeed *feel* something for Lois Lane. He'd also been resigned to the fact that those feelings would never mature beyond what they'd already shared. It was difficult for him to wrap his mind around the emotions that simmered within him. His education, his years of training, his very existence made it almost impossible to believe what he actually felt. It went against everything he'd ever known. Yet, try as he might, he couldn't stop himself from descending into that ravine.


Lois had stopped three servants, asking for Lord Kal. She was finally directed to the garden where she found him sitting on a bench near the fountain.


Kal looked up, an expression akin to relief washing over his face. "Miss Lane. Where have you been?"

"In the library."

"I looked…"

"In El," she continued before he could finish. "Zin told me that the Council decided I could talk and, well, I needed something to say. And since I've studied the archives here at the palace — some anyway — I thought maybe the library in El would be more extensive and…" She finally stopped when she noticed his smile. "What? I never signed anything to be anybody's damn concubine and I won't go without a fight!"

"It's nice to see that some things never change."


"You and babbling."

She actually blushed slightly, turning to keep him from noticing. "I do not babble."

"Yes, you do," Kal told her as he slid over to make room for her on the bench. "Please. Sit."

She eyed the bench a second, then quickly sat. "Anyway, I think I've found something. Not a fix, but it might buy us a little time to find Jordan."

"I hope it's better than what I've found," Kal remarked, a note of agitation in his voice.

Lois paused. Kal had been trying to find something to help her? Why?

She looked away, watching the water in the fountain spill into the small pool. She wasn't stupid; she knew why. Kal still had feelings for her. The look in his eyes, the one he tried to cover just as quickly as it flashed behind his brown orbs… It was one she'd seen before. The one she was certain she'd mirrored the night they'd spent on the transport.

There just wasn't time for that now. The only thing that mattered was getting herself out of this mess so she and Kal could find Jordan.

"It took me all day, but I finally found it," she said. "Deep, deep in ancient laws, a small clause that states that a woman who has been married is expected to grieve for six months."

Kal's head snapped up. "Of course. Why hadn't I thought of that? The fact that you were married wasn't even considered."

"I didn't find anything that states this law has been removed or altered in any way."

"I'll have the necessary scroll when the Council assembles tomorrow morning."

Lois nodded enthusiastically. "So, that gives us about three months to find Jordan."

"And we will," Kal told her.

"I hope so," she managed around tears that sprang to her eyes refusing to stay hidden another second. All day she'd fought the urge to break down and cry. But with a slight sense of relief now, it was impossible to stop her emotions from overflowing.


Assailed by tons of emotions at once when he heard the catch in Lois' voice, Kal refused to look at her. She was crying, and he didn't know if he could stop himself from reaching out to hold her.

"We'll find him," he repeated, trying as much to convince himself as he tried convincing her. Truth was, with each day that passed, he grew fearful that Nor had crossed the line and simply…

No! He couldn't think like that. Why would Nor kill his son? Surely the boy was worth more to him alive. Then again, why the hell was Nor keeping him spirited away in the first place? What was the purpose of having the boy? Was the man just goading him? Proving that he could do something to hurt the First Lord? Was it about power?

The silence seemed to engulf them. Kal allowed his guard to drop just a bit, and he found himself assailed by his emotions once again. His life as he knew it was over. He'd never again be able to live without pain. No matter what, Lois would be connected to him now, and knowing he couldn't have her the way he wanted would haunt his every waking second.

Realizing that he needed to focus on finding his son, he turned to Lois. "Would you allow me to represent you during the session tomorrow morning?"

"What?" She wiped a stubborn tear from her cheek as she stared up at him. "You can do that?"

"Yes. And I think your interests will be best served by me." What? What was he saying? How could he best serve her interests? Especially when she was the one causing him such unbearable pain.

That and the fact that your son is missing, he shouted mentally. Think of Jordan!

"However, I do think all information should be spread out before us."

"I for one like having all the facts," she told him, pulled herself up, adopting a more serious air. "What did you find?"

Kal shifted so that he was looking toward the fountain. "As First Lord, even my hands are tied because Nor has legal papers. I could move that the law be changed, but that takes time. And I'd have to convince the Council to agree by citing the reasons why. They'd only see it as me being fond of you."

"Yeah. I get that."

"Using the mourning clause gives us three months. If we haven't found Jordan by that time…"

"I know," she said knowingly.

Kal dropped his head back, searching the evening sky for inspiration. How did he tell a woman who was fighting *not* to become someone's concubine the only other way to stop it was to do just that?

"Just spit it out," she told him anxiously.

"If, if you were…" He sighed heavily and stood to pace toward the fountain. "Because you and Nor have not consummated the agreement, another… consummation would place you in a position to be released."


"If you…" He waved his hand, unable to believe that he was having such a difficult time speaking. He'd never had trouble before. "Go to another's bed, with full knowledge of the binding contract, you're breaking the law. Nor would essentially be disgraced and most likely release you."

"Most likely? And if he doesn't care?"

"The one you've… the other lord could assert his authority and take the decision away from Nor."

Lois' brows furrowed for a moment before dawning seemed to come. "It has to be someone who… is more important than Nor?"

"Yes." Kal took a deep breath and faced her. "I'm willing to testify that we've… well, I'm willing to say… that and lay claim. If it comes to that."

Her eyes widened and she simply sat in silence, staring at Kal. "Do you realize what you've said?" she asked after a moment.

"Yes," he told her simply, his eyes conveying the very depths of his feelings for her.

She sighed heavily and stood, walking up beside him at the fountain. "I guess it's better to be your concubine than…"

"Miss Lane…"

"No, Lord Kal. It's true. You might be lord of all, but you can't change what I'll be!" She faced him with fire in her eyes.

He reluctantly admitted she was right. He might long for more, but Lois could only ever be his concubine. Kal stared down at the ground for a long moment. "I regret that life has dealt you such a horrendous blow, but this is the best I can do. You'll live in my house, just like before. You'll be taken care of because you are Jordan's mother, not because I've taken you as my concubine. You won't…"

"Then what will I be, Milord? Just your whore?" she threw at him before he could finish his sentence.

Kal had to blink from both surprise and hurt. She'd stung him with that. His head dropped and he stared at his hands in silence. When he spoke, his voice was tight and controlled, filled with pain. "Have I ever mistreated you, Miss Lane?" He lifted his eyes to hers. "Were you my whore the night we made Jordan?"


His expression was as stoic as she'd ever seen it, but his eyes betrayed his feelings. They were filled with pain. Everything she'd ever felt for Kal-El came rushing back around her. He'd only been trying to offer the help she so desperately needed. Yet, the frustration, the fear, and the pain she'd felt had culminated into an uncontrollable rage, and she'd lashed out… at him. The one man who could help her.

She had to force herself to keep her own emotions in check, because she wanted to reach out to him, comfort him.

Fight it, Lois, she told herself. You remember the excruciating misery you felt because of your feelings for this man. You can not go there again!

"I won't let you do this to me," she bit out at him.

"Do what? Ask for the truth?" He, too, seemed to be getting defensive in an effort to stave off more sorrow.

"The truth is that it's pointless. You know it; I know it. It doesn't matter what I was that night…"

"It does matter," he insisted.

"Why? Why does it matter? Lord Kal…" She was careful to use a formal address, reminding him of their stations. "… you can only ever be lord, and I can only ever be your subject. We both know that."

"You'll never be just my subject," he whispered before he turned from her again.

And you'll never be my lord, Lois cried internally. It was too late, way too late to stop them from experiencing more pain. She felt things for Kal-El she shouldn't. There was no use denying it. Time had only dulled it to an ache. But it was still there, as incredibly strong as it had been all those years ago. Marriage to another, the knowledge that Kal was still married, and all the ridiculous laws in the universe couldn't change that. How much worse would things become in the days to come?

After a few moments, Kal slowly faced her once more. "Let's focus on finding Jordan. With his presence, this conversation would have been pointless."

Large tears welled in her eyes and she fought desperately to keep them from spilling over.

The First Lord glanced away quickly, but not before Lois saw that flash in his eyes that indicated he felt just as much stabbing pain as she did. He took another deep breath, then spoke softly.

"Will you allow me to represent you?"

"What choice do I have?" she whispered before she hurried away.


Kal sat in the garden long after she was gone. So many times he'd envisioned seeing Lois Lane again. He'd pictured just about every scenario possible but this one. Never had he imagined their night together had produced a child. And in his wildest dreams he could have never imagined anything like the situation they now faced.

How had he ever allowed a woman to affect him the way this one did?

She could rip his heart apart with her tears. Oh, how he desperately wanted to wipe those tears away.

He'd never be able to do that. Never be able to hold her the way he longed to. Doing so, even by using the excuse that she was his concubine, was out of the question. Just as he'd told her, she'd never be his subject, in any form. If he couldn't have her completely, he'd never have her at all. No matter how much it hurt.

With a heavy sigh, he rose to his feet and made his way toward the palace. He just wanted to shut the world out, even if it was only inside his chamber.


"How is the little urchin?" Nor asked Ti in hushed tones. They stood close together just outside Council Chambers before the morning assembly.

"Absolutely nauseating. The bastard cries, yells, throws things, and demands to see his mother almost constantly." Ti looked up when three servants passed. He shot them a stern glare that forced them to hurry on by. "I finally ordered a strong sedative. Now he's… the picture of serenity."

Nor grinned evilly. "I might have to partake in a bit of that medication. His mother is a wild one."

"I will never understand what you or Kal-El sees in that creature." Ti acknowledged a bow from one of the Council members that approached to enter chambers.

"Really, Ti-El, you need to get out more often," Nor drawled.

"Just make sure you keep that wench occupied. I'm told she and Kal are looking everywhere for that moving mass of aggravation."

"Believe me, Milord, she will be far too occupied to even remember his name." Nor bowed ever so slightly, then turned and entered chambers.

Ti-El blanched at the thoughts Nor left him with. How sickening! The man should just cut off his arm, he thought dryly. He entered the room to await the call to order. The sooner that Earth woman was away from the palace, the better.


Krypton: in the first cycle of the year 2133 (or January 1992)

So many things had gone wrong in the last few months that Lois felt her life would never be worth living again. The death of her husband, her and her son's kidnapping, those infuriating Kryptonian laws that insisted she do this or do that, and worst of all… the long, frustratingly painful days she spent in search of her son.

She and Kal had done everything humanly possible to find Jordan, only to end up at dead end after dead end. She'd even talked Kal into letting her accompany him on a few expeditions following up leads.

Much like Earth, Krypton revolved around a sun, and in that process, the seasons changed. Although slightly different, one season had given way to another… six weeks had gone by since she'd come to the House of El.

Lord Nor had protested to no avail the day she was able to speak in chambers on her own behalf. She'd been the one to point out Kryptonian law to the Council, an act in itself that had been difficult to comprehend. When she was done, Lord Trey and the majority of the Council had no choice but to grant her the six full months she was allowed to mourn her husband's passing. Though some had protested, Kal had insisted that she remain a guest of the Royal Family until the end of the time period she'd been granted.

Since then, her days had become increasingly more difficult to bear. Where had Nor taken Jordan? Was he being cared for? Was he scared? Did he think she'd deserted him? She refused to think that Nor had killed him. What purpose would that serve? For that matter, what purpose was the other lord serving now by keeping the child hidden away? Was the man simply enjoying the fact that Kal was suffering?

And he was. She'd noticed as each day passed, Kal grew more despondent. He was often quiet and would stare off into space, having to be spoken to several times before he even acknowledged that anyone had said a word. Of course, his behavior could have something to do with the many other pressures he was under.

The entire population of Krypton had seemed to suddenly become unhappy. Kal spent a great deal of time traveling from province to province, settling land disputes, work related issues, and lately, an occasional argument between a lord and his wife or his concubine. It seemed that women had begun to speak out a bit for themselves. Lois had heard a few comments that communications from Earth were to blame for the unrest. Whatever it was, it seemed that Kal was graciously accepting the new and varying opinions and slowly making change. More than once, he'd sided with a woman, further infuriating the male population and especially that of the Council.

There was also a few issues inside his own house that worked to make life more stressful for the First Lord. For weeks, Lady Zara had been ill. She'd settled into a heavy depression that only seemed to grow worse with each passing day. Kal had spent a great deal of time trying to convince her to take the medication the physician ordered for her in hopes of her getting well so she could attend their daughter's needs. Nothing seemed to work, and lately, she'd stopped allowing him admittance into her chamber. Lois could tell that Kal was worried about Zara and even more worried about his daughter. The large man would sit for hours in the study just cradling Patia in his arms, reading to her or talking quietly to her.

Despite everything, Kal still had energy to be concerned about Lois. He often asked after her, even when he was unable to see her personally during the day. He made sure she was comfortable and well provided for and had not for a second let up on the search for their son.

A missing child was something new on Krypton. Lois had done her best to educate them on how such situations were handled on Earth and still nothing. Not one single lead to her son's whereabouts.

It was late afternoon before a knock at the door pulled Lois from her sleep. She'd awakened that morning to a steady rain that seemed to deepen the increasing depression she'd begun to feel. Six weeks was a long time.

"Yes?" she called as she rubbed the sleep from her eyes.

"Miss Lane, the lord requests you join him in the west parlor."

"Okay." She was just too tired to argue. She followed obediently, allowing her mind to go blank.

Kal was in the parlor, holding Patia, when Lois entered. He stood with the child and smiled.

"Thank you for coming, Miss Lane. I'm sure you know this little person." Kal gazed fondly at the girl who smiled brightly at Lois.

"Hi, Patia," Lois said with a smile of her own. "She and I shared tea the other morning. She's a fantastic hostess." She stepped around the pair and dropped heavily to the lounge. God bless Kal and his daughter, but right now she wanted her son.

Kal's smile faded a bit as he moved to seat himself next to Lois. "You know that Patia doesn't speak and that the physicians are puzzled." Lois nodded. "Well, I've requested permission from the Council to bring in other specialists to look at Patia. Namely one."

Lois' brows furrowed. "From where?"

"Earth. I've requested Dr. Sam Lane travel to Krypton to treat her… and to take care of his little girl."

Immediately tears sprang to Lois' eyes. The idea of having her father with her on Krypton sounded absolutely wonderful. Maybe he'd help with the growing ache she'd begun to feel over the loss of her own child.

"Thank you," she whispered through tears.

Kal smiled at her sadly and released Patia as the girl climbed out of his lap to settle beside Lois. Small fingers wrapped around those trembling slightly beside her, causing the woman to whom they belonged to cry even harder.

Lois looked down into the sad face of the child offering her silent comfort. "And thank you, Milady," she said softly.

That earned her a small smile from her new companion.

After a few moments of silence, Lois wiped her face and looked back at Kal. "Bringing my father to look at Patia is a great idea. He's done some pretty amazing things."

"Exactly," Kal agreed. "I should have thought of it long before now. If he can perfect a birthing matrix and find a cure for a mysterious virus, maybe he can help this pretty one out." His hand reached out to smooth the curls atop Patia's head.

"I'm sure he can," Lois agreed, her mood starting to lighten just a bit. "When does he arrive?"

"In two weeks time. I ordered one of the smaller vessels to bring him as quickly as possible. He's also bringing positive proof of Jordan's existence."

Lois' head snapped up at the mention of her son's name.

"I felt that the Council should have the proof they desire."

His voice was bitter, full of anger, Lois noted as he shifted to settle back against the cushions. She waited patiently because she knew he had more to say.

"Jen-Mai is leading Nor's campaign of late, insisting that delaying the inevitable is useless. And as your representative, I intend to prove that you're not deranged."

She laughed despite how she felt. Deranged was exactly how she'd begun to feel lately. It wouldn't be difficult at all to slip into self pity and just hide inside her own mind. She'd done that for weeks after Kal had left her on Earth. Even after she and Dan had married, the only time she truly found comfort had been within the depths of her thoughts. She could certainly sympathize with poor Zara. Lois didn't know what had caused the First Lady's depression, but she knew all too well how easily it was to slip down that decline.

Pushing to her feet, she walked around the room, studying the various objects as if she'd never seen them before. Finally, she faced Kal, a question burning her lips to be voiced. "Is the Council the only one that thinks I'm deranged?"

"What?" Kal stood and stepped in her direction. "Do you believe that?"

"I don't know." She threw her hands up in frustration. "I'm starting to think it myself!"

He approached her then. "We will find him," he told her fiercely.

"When?" she shouted at him. "When he's grown with kids of his own? Six weeks. It's been six whole weeks. What could that man possibly be doing to him? Or done already?"

"No! If we even think that, we might as well just give up now," he told her in a firm tone.

Lois stared out at the rain falling more steadily than it had been. The tap against the windows seemed to match the increasing thudding in her heart. "Maybe I should just go with Nor. Men have been known to confess things during moments of passion," she choked out in a defeated tone, lifting her arms to wrap around her body and to force herself not to turn to the man beside her. He'd gasped slightly when she'd made that comment, and she knew he hadn't liked it. His stance changed, and his voice took on a more authoritative range.

"Should I inform the Council that you wish to waive the remainder of your mourning period?"

Gathering her courage, she slowly lifted her eyes to his. Pain raged behind Kal's brown orbs as he stared at her, but he blinked quickly several times in an attempt to hide it.

"The idea might actually work," Kal continued when she didn't answer immediately. He bent to lift Patia when she pulled on his tunic before speaking again. "I'm sure Nor would confess his deepest, darkest secrets to his lover. Especially if you can move him as much you moved me."

Silence filled the space between them as Lois stared him down. "You bastard," she finally whispered.

Kal summoned a servant to take Patia before going to Lois. She'd turned back toward the window and snatched away from him when he reached out to touch her arm.

"Don't touch me like you actually care."

"I'm so sorry. I was out of line."

"And I'm going crazy!" she shouted at him. "I don't know what to do anymore. I don't want to get up in the mornings because I know how bad I'll hurt all day. Where is he? What's he doing? Is he okay? And if we do find him, will he ever be the same again? No, I don't want to be anybody's damn concubine, but if I thought sleeping with Nor would get me my son back, I'd do it, and you better believe I'd move him in the process." She finished on a sob, quickly turning so Kal couldn't see the tears that refused to remain unshed.

Kal reached out again, and this time she allowed him to touch her arm. "I'm sorry."


Twice. He'd said that word twice.

Sorry… such a simple word. A word Kryptonian nobility hardly ever used because, in their minds, nobles had nothing to be sorry for. But spoken in earnest and from the heart, it packed quite a punch.

Like right now, standing beside this woman. This woman that had the ability to bring him to his knees. She was so lost and vulnerable. Torn away from her world and forced to live against her will on another world that neither wanted, nor especially liked her.

Well, I like her, Kal thought to himself as he smoothed his hand up and down Lois' arm.

And I definitely want her, in every sense of the word.

He couldn't deny it or argue with his heart for it to be untrue. He wasn't sure if he even wanted it to be untrue anymore. What was wrong with allowing her to force him to be more than he was? What was wrong with allowing his emotions to guide him? He'd done that in Council Chambers when he'd insisted she remain a guest of his home. And the flippant comment he'd made to Lois was as emotionally charged as it could get. Saying she might sleep with Nor had torn through him like a knife. The declaration she'd made just now hurt, but he knew she meant it; she'd do anything to save her son.

He realized that he would as well. He'd also do anything for this woman.

So, what was wrong with being emotionally attached to her?

Everything… when you want her to be so much more.

Lois' body began to shake as she finally gave in to the emotions raging within her. Unable to stop himself, Kal gently drew her toward him. When she turned and practically fell into his arms, he simply held her to his chest. For the first time in his life, the First Lord offered another comfort.

And he took comfort from her. He realized that he was in as much pain as she was over the loss of his son. Even if he'd never met the boy, Jordan's absence was creating a void inside Kal's heart. Sharing his pain with the child's mother suddenly seemed as necessary as finding him.

"I feel like I'm dying," Lois mumbled against Kal's chest. Her arms went around his body and she clutched the material covering his back.

"I know." A large hand lifted to hold the back of the dark head against his body. "I think I feel the same way."

She turned her head, asking him silently to hold her a little closer. "I wish I'd just told you I was pregnant."

"You'd have been forced to stay here…"

"At least we'd have Jordan," she whispered. "He'd be here, with us. He'd be safe."

Her tears continued to flow, warm against his neck, where she'd buried her face. How could he argue with her? He'd much rather have their son with them than in the hands of a madman. Some way, some how, he resolved, he would find Jordan.

The couple stood together until Lois' legs gave out. The First Lord bent and lifted her in his arms, then carried her to her chamber. She curled herself into a ball as soon as he placed her on the bed.

Never before had he felt as helpless as he did now. Kal sat on the edge of the mattress, reaching out to rub Lois' back. "Tomorrow Lord Nor will tell me where our son is," he said softly. "Or he will draw his last breath," he vowed with determination. And before Lois could roll over to question his remark, he was gone.


Kal's parting comment ripped Lois from her self pity and she sat up quickly. He'd do it, she thought. Tomorrow Kal would kill Lord Nor if he didn't get the information he sought. All of her determination not to allow her feelings for the First Lord to culminate into anything meaningful had withered as soon as he'd taken her into his arms. Every nerve ending in her body had come alive for the first time in over four years. And with his touch came that knowledge that she'd never be able have him. There was no way to stop the pain that would consume her entire being now.

Their mutual comfort had done more than awaken her own emotions; it had allowed her to glimpse the depths of his affection for her. She could literally feel how much he cared for her, and it scared the hell out of her. The knowledge of the impending pain she'd feel from within was nothing compared to the suffering she knew Kal would face, that he now faced. To know he would hurt caused her to ache as much as being unable to find Jordan.

And knowing what Kal felt made her believe what he'd said about Nor.

She threw her feet to the floor and rushed from the room. If there was any way she could stop him, she would. There was no way she'd let him do something he'd regret. Besides, she needed him… and for more than to just find their son.

Not knowing where else to start, Lois headed for the library. Maybe the hundredth time searching the archives would produce something the other ninety nine hadn't.


Earth: same time

A thick blanket of fresh snow covered the fields of the small Kansas farm. Strong, sure hands carefully stacked the last cord of wood that had been split in a matter of minutes. When he was done, he stepped back to admire his work. The small shed was filled to overflowing with firewood, enough to keep the small farmhouse toasty for the remainder of the winter and well into the following autumn.

"I swear, boy, you must have cut down all the trees on the back forty, judging by that pile of wood."

Ching turned and smiled at the older man behind him. "I just want you and Martha to have enough."

"Oh, believe me, we will." Jonathan Kent shook his head, then turned to leave.

I'll miss them when I'm gone, Ching thought to himself. That caused an ache in his heart as he left in pursuit of the next task on his list.

Waking nearly five weeks ago and discovering he'd been asleep for some time was almost as shocking as the incredible abilities he'd developed since. He'd received the necessary shot before traveling to Earth to stop him from gaining the superhuman abilities that had once led to the destruction of Earth, so he'd theorized that being ill and close to death must have altered the formula. He'd also discovered that the rays of the yellow sun enhanced his powers and was probably another contributing factor to his gifts. Most Kryptonians did not spend so much time under the yellow sun. Those stationed on Earth received regular inoculations to keep them from developing what Martha had dubbed 'superpowers'.

Being so strong and fast had caused the younger lord of El to do a great deal of thinking. When he discovered he could fly, he took his thoughts to the skies. In doing so, he started to see things he'd never before stopped to really look at.

As Advisor to the First Lord, Ching had come to Earth to assess the state of the other world. He'd done his job to the letter, noting where he should things that had or hadn't been done. However, he hadn't truly *seen* a thing. Or at least he hadn't until he looked through clearer eyes.

Ching had nearly died. But why? Had it been deliberate? Or just an accident? When he was well enough, he'd gone to the place Jonathan said they'd found him. There was evidence that something horrendous had occurred, but nothing remained, save charred grass. He'd learned through a few stealth missions that Lord Sar, on order from the Throne, had led an investigation into the crash of his transport. Unable to find anything to convince them otherwise, there had been no choice but to declare Ching and his guards dead.

As much as it pained him to know that others thought him dead, the need to have answers kept him silent, tucked away on the Kent farm and secretly looking into the cause of his accident. He remembered that he'd learned of the passing of false information and the existence of a vid-tape that he was told would identify an important member of state participating in treasonous activities. He'd also remembered exactly where that vid-tape was. Or at least a copy of it.

Just before he'd left for Earth, Ching had been traveling in one of the southern provinces where a stand-off against the Throne had taken place. He'd been approached by a woman claiming to be the wife of one of the rebels. She'd told him that her husband had made a deal with a member of state to cause trouble. The group claimed that they feared being forced into slavery, just the reason they used to justify their actions, which had been to attack a military station and eventually caused the altercation with royal guards. The woman told him that she had proof in the form of a vid-tape of the meetings taking place. Her husband had made the tape in case it was ever needed for any reason. But the woman had secretly copied the tape, telling Lord Ching that she feared for the future of her children if her world was being led by men that would betray the Throne. She'd also told him that she'd hidden the tape amongst others in the library of her home, a room her husband rarely visited. And being that he'd been incarcerated for attacking a military base, it would be a while before he ever did see that room.

Ching had had all intentions of securing the tape before he left Krypton, but a situation that required his attention had prevented him from that before the vessel to Earth had departed.

In the time that he'd spent acquiring information secretly, he'd learned many disturbing things. Some of those things included a raid on a meeting during Labor Day in the city of Metropolis, secret deals made with various people — both Kryptonian and Earthling, and he'd even heard about the taking of an Earth woman he'd once known briefly.

Of course, he'd credited acquisition of much of that information to enhanced hearing and vision. Those abilities had enabled him to overhear a conversation between a couple of fellows at the Kryptonian Embassy. They were boasting about how much money they'd made to cover up the fact that the attack on Labor Day was led by a lord working on the order of a statesman. Immediately he'd wondered if the member of state they spoke of was the same one on the vid-tape. Ching went out more and more, under cover of a full beard and longer hair, to search for secret information that might need to become known. Working as various general laborers inside the Embassy and in a few of the other Kryptonian stations on and above Earth, he learned that many of the uprisings, both of Kryptonian and Earthling nature, were 'jobs', bought and paid for by an unknown benefactor. Lord Ran had been hired by this mysterious person and when Ching finally stopped to remember who backed Ran's appointment, his mind went awhirl.

Could his uncle actually be the cause of such havoc and chaos?

The young lord sought more information, tapping into the archives aboard the space station hovering just outside the Earth's atmosphere, searching databases inside the US Embassy, and even approaching the President in Washington secretly. He was deeply disturbed by some of the things he learned, things that didn't seem to add up unless you believed that there really was a conspiracy going on. A conspiracy that might be led by his very own uncle.

In the few short weeks Ching had been on Earth, he'd also begun to appreciate life there. Though he spent most of his time on a quiet farm in Kansas, he also walked the loud, lively streets of the big cities. And he watched the people, learned how they lived, even began to appreciate the way they valued their lives. The lord was taking stock of human life for the first time, and in doing so, he was coming alive himself. Things came into focus and he decided that he would return to Krypton soon. His brother should be aware of the things happening, and together they might exact change.

He would also return to help his brother. Ching knew Kal was probably totally unaware that Lois Lane had been returned to Krypton against her will, taken to become Lord Nor's concubine. Nor had also taken her son when she'd refused to leave without him.

Ching's heart went out to his brother. Kal would be devastated when he learned that Lois had suffered such fate. He knew the pain of affection for one you couldn't have. He also knew the fury that was often so overpowering when things happened to that person. His brother would no doubt need Ching to stop him from making a horrible mistake.

So, he'd decided to return to Krypton on the transport that would leave during the second cycle, just a couple days from now. He'd learned of its departure during one of his scouting missions. A janitorial position had been obtained and no one would know that Lord Ching was alive until he knew exactly who that traitorous statesman was.

In the time he'd spent on Earth, he'd also come to like the two people who had found him and cared for him. Martha had passed along the feeling she'd had about his discovery being fatally dangerous should it become known. After a few weeks of gathering information, he'd agreed she'd done the right thing by not contacting the Embassy. Though he had not found any concrete evidence that his accident had been an attempt on his life, there had been conversations he'd heard that alluded to just that fact. That was why he'd decided that remaining dead for the time being was best for everyone involved. He certainly didn't want to risk putting the Kents in any kind of danger.

Oh, how he'd miss them. The short time he'd spent with them had shown him what having parents could be like. They had taught him a vital element in basic human development, at least one present within the Earthling population. They'd taught him how to feel and how to express those feelings. He and the Kents spent many nights simply talking. Through those conversations, they'd introduced their worlds to one another. A young lord had also discovered that logical choices were not always the best ones. And what was expedient might also be devastating in terms of well-being.

Yes, he'd miss the Kents most of all.


Krypton: same time

Swallowing a mouthful of herbal tea, Lois made a face. What she wouldn't give for a good cup of coffee. She briefly wondered if it was too late to ask Kal to contact her father and ask if he'd bring some.

She'd been awake all night searching through everything she could think of once more. Sometime nearing dawn she'd finally made a connection she hadn't before. During the trial of Jor-El and Lara, Nor had testified that Jor had personally ordered him to go to Earth without taking the shot to suppress the effects of the yellow sun. Lord Ti-El had also testified against his own brother. Again, Lois' suspicions concerning Ti were stoked. Could *he* be the one hiding their son from them? She decided that it was time to relate that information to Kal.

The First Lord had just emerged from his chambers when she made it to that section of the palace.

"Milord, I'd like to speak with you," she told him, noticing that he seemed more determined this morning than he had in weeks.

"I was on my way to my state room. I want to leave for Carn before anyone knows I'm gone."

"You can't do this," she told him as she almost ran to keep up.

"I can and I will," he told her without breaking stride.

Lois didn't say another word until she and Kal were inside his state room. His eyes hadn't held such cold resolve since the day he stepped from the transport on Earth. He was in pain, and that pain was causing him to lash out. Did he realize just how emotional he'd become?

Did he know seeing him as she'd always known he could be was something to behold? And it only tightened the knot in her gut to watch him. With each passing day her feelings for Kal only grew. After last night, she knew she was doomed. There was no way she could deny what she felt for Kal any longer.

Did she even want to?

Of course, she did! Having feelings for Kal would only bring her heartbreak.

But now wasn't the time to think about that. The life of a man was at stake. As much as she wanted Nor, and Ti for that matter, punished for what they'd done, there was no way she wanted Kal to be responsible for anyone's death. It would do far too much damage to him. Even if the Council spared his life for his actions, she was sure he'd condemn himself.

Her son's life depended on the actions of this man. She needed Kal whole, able to realize his full potential. If he killed Nor, Jordan was doomed. If her guess was right, Ti planned to raise their son much as he'd done with Kal. She needed the First Lord to find Jordan and just maybe, with time, and help from a stubborn little boy, Kal might one day discover another side of himself.

"Don't continue the cycle," she said softly. "Don't do what he's done."

"What?" He looked up at Lois from where he'd been rummaging through his desk, his brow furrowed in confusion.

"Lord Kal, if you do this, you've stooped to their level. You just can't do this."

"Their level?"

"I think I know who might have Jordan, and it's not Nor."



"My uncle? Why would he have my son?"

"Maybe because he wants to do with him as he's done with you."

Kal waved a dismissive hand and continued his search through his desk. "I'm sure Ti's done things that are unethical, but…"

"You can't see him for who he is, can you? From the beginning he's wanted to break you. He's lived to do that. And by killing Nor, you will." She stepped closer, prepared to do whatever it took to keep Kal from killing Nor because she was sure the other lord would never tell Kal what he really didn't know. If her suspicions were correct, Ti was in some way responsible for Jor and Lara's deaths. Kal should be aware of this. He didn't have to believe her, but if it would give him something to think about, that was all she could ask. "Lord Ti is not who he appears to be. I think he ordered Nor to take me and Jordan from Earth."

Kal finally stopped what he was doing and looked up at her. "I might not like some of the things Ti has done…"

"And if you knew he'd had something to do with your parents' deaths, would that change how you feel?"

Kal's eyes widened as her implication sank in. "What? I've read the transcripts."

"Yes, but have you read everything? Have you seen the holograms from your father's research? The private archive? Did you introduce yourself to the man on a personal level?"

"I know who my father was!"

"Do you?"

Kal tore his gaze from Lois'. He was obviously upset by what she'd said, but she'd had no choice. She should have shared her suspicions with him long before now. Maybe then, she nor Jordan would have had to suffer.

"Why would you say this?" he finally asked her.

"I'm just telling you what I've observed. Don't say you've never wondered."

"What does that have to do with this?" he shouted, his carefully controlled emotions finally bursting loose.

"Nor and Ti have been acquainted for quite some time. I'm told they have often shared seats at the gambling tables in El. Maybe they shared a few conversations. Possibly about a certain planet where Kryptonians could be rulers if they weren't given a shot to stop the effects of the yellow sun." She paused briefly, making sure she had Kal's full attention. "Ti testified against his own brother at a trial where Nor also testified. Ti was the one that introduced the motion *not* to charge Nor with any crimes involved with the destruction on Earth. Why would he do that? The land of Ti's province borders Nor's."

Kal turned from her to look out the window; the sun was just starting to rise over the horizon.

Lois took the few steps to close the distance to him and tentatively placed her hand on his arm. "Please consider this to be a possibility. Jordan's life depends on it… Kal."

His head snapped around and their eyes locked. She'd said the right thing, saying his name. Kal's eyes softened and he glanced at her hand on his skin.

"I'm begging you. Help me find a connection here so we can bring our son back. But don't make the worst mistake of your life by going to confront Nor."

"Why is it so important for me not to do this?"

"I don't want you to ruin who you are, who you could be. If you kill him, even if the law sides with you, it will eat you up. And there are others who need you to be whole, need you here. Be strong… for Patia, and for Jordan."

She squeezed his arm and watched as fire danced behind his eyes. Knowing she had him, she pulled out the most powerful weapon in her arsenal. "Be strong for me. *I* need you here," she whispered.

Kal turned to face her fully, the spark in his eyes raging into an inferno. He opened his mouth once, twice, three times, but didn't speak. Unable to say a word, he closed his eyes and dropped his head back to take several deep breaths. When he opened his eyes again, they were filled with tears. Anguish had replaced the fire, and Lois watched him struggle to keep from reaching out to hold her.

He finally tore his gaze from hers, cleared his throat, and rushed from the room.

She'd reached him; she'd known she would. What she hadn't known was the incredible guilt she'd feel now. Using herself as a bargaining chip was pure manipulation. Kal cared for her, probably loved her — as best a man could who had never *felt* anything before. To use that connection for her gain was wrong.

And it hurt her just as much as she was sure it hurt him. His affection was not one-sided. Her feelings for him had mounted until they were overwhelming, making it painful to just see him day after day. The way he'd looked at her as he fought to keep from saying something he knew would do them no good was absolute torture.

Jordan! Jordan! Jordan! She'd just have to repeat her mantra over and over. *He* was all that mattered right now.


The doors on the east side of the palace burst open and Kal sprinted toward the forest on the other side of the lawn. He ran as fast as he could, trying desperately to out run his very being. He was deep into the thicket of trees before he stopped, bending to catch his breath.

"WHY?!" he shouted at his surroundings. When an answer failed to come, he dropped to his knees. "Am I cursed for the remainder of my days? How in Zor's name do I live in the house with this woman?"

He shifted and settled so that he sat on the leaves, his knees bent, then wrapped his arms around his legs. Life was so unfair. Never before had he seen it that way. He'd been born into a life of privilege, wealth, position. Education painted his adult life to be one of pleasure, satisfaction. His station allowed him to have anything. The world and everything in it was his for the taking. Until now, he'd been content. Now, the very thing he wanted was the one thing he could never have… not without cost.

And he was unwilling to pay the price.

"Jordan," he whispered to himself in an effort to breathe again through the excruciating pain.

Could Lois be right? Could Ti have his son? Had his uncle done the things she suspected? Could he have had something to do with his parents' deaths? If so, how?

Why? What purpose would it serve to have Jor and Lara executed?

He should have studied those transcripts long ago. He should have researched everything, not just read them over. The fact was, he'd never been curious enough about it to do so. His time, and his worries, were always taken up by other issues. He'd become ruler of two worlds at such a young age. Since then, he'd struggled to keep one world from ultimately destroying the other.

He'd always believed the things his uncle told him about his parents, never once checking for himself. That ignorance was understandable when he'd been a child. But what about as he'd grown older?

He'd often wondered about the people that gave him life. What kind of people had they been? Was he like them in any respect?

There had just always been so many issues to concern himself with. His birth wife, the lack of an heir, a concubine that had conceived his child.

More than anything, he hated seeing Lois in that light. And Jordan…

Kal scrubbed his hands over his face roughly and took a deep breath. Maybe he should at least consider searching some of Ti's holdings. It couldn't hurt…

Rising to his feet, he looked back in the direction of the palace. And finding Jordan was imperative. The longer the child was away from them, the more he was potentially damaged from his experience.

"So help me, Ti-El, if you do have my son, Lois won't stop me from killing *you*."

A flock of birds scattered at his angrily delivered threat. Even the wildlife knew when to stay away from the First Lord.


Krypton: Year 2133 in the second cycle (or February 1992)

The two weeks Lois spent awaiting the arrival of the transport that would deliver her father to Krypton was also filled with more dead ends in the search for her son. Kal had returned to the palace after their conversation in his state room, the wall he hid behind to protect him from his growing emotions firmly in place. He'd merely looked at her, and they'd come to a silent understanding. Neither had mentioned that conversation or their shared comfort in the parlor. They settled into an extensive search of Ti-El's holdings, but so far they had still failed to find Jordan.

Kal hadn't said anything about Ti or any of the other things Lois had said. But she'd heard rumors that he spent a good deal of time at night in the library going through the archives. He'd grown distant as well, only speaking to her when absolutely necessary. And he rarely looked directly at her, let alone touch her again.

Though she ached as much as he did, Lois recognized his attempt to put distance between them. And she appreciated his restraint, fully aware of the effort it took just to stand in the same room with her. She knew because it was the same effort she made to be in the room with him.

The hissing of the air release on the transport that had just docked brought her from her thoughts. Her father was about the tenth man to exit the ship.

"Daddy!" she shouted and ran toward him.

"Lois," Sam breathed just before he caught his daughter.

She could only hug him and cry. So many things were out of place in her life. To have Sam with her now felt wonderful.


Kal watched the reunion unfold in front of him. He smiled sadly, glad that Lois would no longer be all alone on this world. When father and daughter had spoken for several moments, he approached.

"Dr. Lane, it's good to see you again." Kal bowed slightly.

"And you, Milord." Sam was about to bend to his knees to show proper respect when Kal reached out to grasp his shoulder.

"Please, Dr. Lane. Stay on your feet."

"If you insist."

"I do." Kal didn't miss the glance from Lois. Those bowing before him had never bothered him before. There was only one person that had never bowed to him; he didn't want her to. And he didn't want her father to either. "In fact, I insist that you not bow to me like that again." Sam's eyes widened, but he didn't object. "Welcome to Krypton, and thank you for agreeing to attend to my daughter."

"Thank you…" He smiled down at Lois. "For bringing me to my daughter."

"Milord?" Trey said behind him. "Your presence is requested for debriefing in the main conference room."

"Yes, Trey, I'll be there in a moment," Kal threw over his shoulder without turning around. "Dr. Lane, this is Mori." Kal indicated a guard standing to his side. "He's been assigned to your service. He will direct you to your chambers, show you the infirmary, and see that your needs are taken care of."

"You didn't have to do that, Milord," Sam protested.

This time it was Kal who looked at Lois. "Yes. I did." Kal's eyes met the doctor's, he bowed, then excused himself. His heart swelled when he heard Sam and Lois again, chattering away. He wished he'd thought of bringing the doctor here weeks ago.


From the platform above the docking bay, one of the crew members paused in his task of unloading the ship. His eyes fell on the First Lord. The man looked well, albeit tense. It must have something to do with the presence of Lois Lane, which was a surprise. He'd fully expected to find the woman in the House of Carn. How had she ended up here?

It appeared a great deal had been happening in his absence. He'd finish here and slip into the crowd so that he could make his way into the city. He didn't have his superpowers to help him now, but he'd search out the truth anyway. He was even more determined that huge trouble was brewing, and he wasn't about to stand by and watch it happen.


Lois' heart thundered in her ears as she followed Kal and the guards into a building in downtown Shar, a large city on the other side of Krypton from El. The First Lord had personally interrogated a man the day before about a meeting that had taken place inside the building they were now entering. She wasn't exactly sure how Kal had come to learn of the meeting, but the man had told him that several others had met with an important man in this building a week earlier. He wasn't sure what the meeting had been about because he'd only stood watch outside.

That wasn't what had interested Kal. The man also told him that he'd heard the crying of a small child from an open window three floors up. Someone had shouted for the child to quiet down, then silence had followed. This had been their most solid lead into Jordan's whereabouts. Not wasting a moment, a guard was assembled and they'd left for Shaw.

Kal stopped just inside a room, causing her to run into his back. He bent over, reaching for a lone toy on the bed. Lois shot around him, snatching the stuffed animal from his hand.

"It's his," she breathed through tears. "Dan bought it on a trip to California." She pulled the dolphin to her chest and looked around the room frantically.

"Tear this building apart," Kal ordered the guards. "Then spread out. Question everyone within five clicks. Find out if anyone saw who came and went here. There has to be someone who saw my son. Bring them to me!"

Lois sank to the bed helplessly. Where had they taken her boy?

"Whoever warned him will spend the remainder of his days cleaning bath chambers at the detention center," Kal spat as he jerked a drawer open on a cabinet.

His gasp caused Lois to look around. He was pulling a small shirt from inside, staring at it as if he could wish it to suddenly fill with their son. She wiped the tears cascading down her cheeks. "At least he was allowed to wear his own clothes," she commented.

Kal snapped from his trance and jerked the other drawers open. They, too, held more clothes. "Find something to put those things in. Don't leave anything. It's all evidence," he snapped at a guard. Yet, he held onto the shirt in his hands as he stormed from the room.

It was long moments later before Lois rose and made her way out to the transport. She sank into the seat and softly cried, clutching Jordan's toy.


Kal sat at the head of the table inside Council Chambers, staring down at several documents in silence. He'd been that way for over ten minutes. When Trey had voiced his dislike of the situation, the First Lord had only lifted a hand to silence him. Since then, everyone had remained quiet, waiting for Kal to decide he was ready to address the Council.

He'd barely made it back from Shaw when Trey approached him. Nor had demanded a hearing to claim Lois, so helpfully producing Dan Scardino's death certificate. The date was exactly six Kryptonian cycles past, and the lord refused to wait another second to retrieve his property.

The Council had already heard testimony from Sam Lane, seen evidence of Jordan's existence in the form of pictures, his legal birth certificate, medical records. Being the fine physician that he was, Dr. Lane even had documented proof that Jordan was half-Kryptonian. The child's medical records alone proved that. The Council had no choice but to declare Miss Lane stable.

However, with Jordan being absent in the flesh, they were hesitant to step outside the strict confines of the law and deny Nor's request to uphold the legality of his scrolls. They were also hesitant to believe Kal's claims that Ti-El might have had something to do with the disappearance of his son. There had been no time to comb through what little was discovered in the building in Shaw. The Council agreed that there had been a child there from the things recovered. However, Jen-Mai had pointed out, the word of a bound concubine was the only proof they had that those things belonged to her son.

"Milord," Trey finally said. "We cannot stall any longer. The law is clear."

"I know this, Trey." Kal sighed heavily, fighting the urge to look at Lois. She sat hunched over in the seat next to him, her head down, staring at the small stuffed animal she refused to put down. What did he do here? They hadn't spoken about this day again since that night in the garden. He wasn't about to speak out unless she gave him an indication that was what she wanted. Yes, he knew she didn't want to go with Nor, be his concubine. She'd never survive that. But he wasn't exactly sure he should speak out either.

"Oh, this is ridiculous." Nor shot to his feet and reached out to snatch Lois up by her wrist. "Come on. They can fight among themselves without us here."

Kal was immediately on his feet. His eyes shot to Lois' panicked ones and that was all he needed. "You will not take her from the palace, Nor," he bit out as he reached for Nor's arm. "Unhand her."

"Who are you to stop me?"

"By my authority as First Lord, I exercise my right to claim her."

"You can't do that," Nor spat, released Lois, and looked to Trey.

"I can and I will!" Kal continued to stare pointedly at Nor, but when he spoke, he addressed the entire room. "With the Council's decision that my son was born of this woman, and because I believe my son to be alive, I choose to claim his mother as a member of my house. Her station is hereby established, voiding your contract."

"Lord Trey," Jen-Mai cut in, "I'm going to have to side with Lord Nor on this one. We cannot allow this. We are not even sure if Lord Kal is the father of Miss Lane's son. All the child's medical records prove is that her child is half-Kryptonian."

"She was the lord's concubine," Trey pointed out.

"Must I remind you that he knew nothing of this child until two cycles ago. *If* this child is his, she's kept this knowledge from him, proving that she's less than honest. Who's to say she hasn't warmed the bed of another?"

"My son was fathered by Kal-El. You don't have to believe that. No one does as long as he and I do." Everyone focused on Lois as she spoke in cold, clipped tones. "I consider most of the people on this planet unworthy of the very air they breathe, let alone worthy enough for me to 'warm their bed'."

"Ah, Lord Kal must have had to work for what he got," Jen-Mai said with a snort. "And of course, he didn't *need* you to consider him worthy, did he?"

"Enough!" Kal demanded as he took a menacing step toward Jen-Mai.

"Since Lord Kal has so thoughtfully brought up the subject, I feel I should point out the fact that Miss Lane should have never become impregnated in the first place." Nor walked around behind his chair and waited for his guard to hand him another scroll. "This document very clearly states that Miss Lane received her sterilization procedure. Yet, she produced a half-Kryptonian child. How was that? And look here," he said as he opened the scroll. "Lord Kal-El himself signed off on her paperwork."

"Nor!" Kal made a move to grab Nor, only to be held back by two guards.

"I move that Lord Kal broke the law and thus, has no rights to claim this woman. The conception and birth of their son was illegal."

Trey took the scroll, reading intently for several moments before his gaze lifted to Kal's. "With this evidence, I have no choice but to declare your claim invalid, Milord."

"You bastard!" Lois spat. She was staring at Nor. "You just can't stand it because he's been where you've only dreamt of being, can you? And so you know, he never had to force me to do a thing. I gladly went to Kal's bed. Not because I was bound to him and not because he demanded it. But because I wanted to. I wanted to the night we made our son and every time since my return to Krypton. He certainly didn't force me any of those times because I was already bound to you." She threw her shoulders back and started for the door. "What are you waiting for?" she turned to ask Nor. "You need to get started if you're going to show me you're more of a man than the First Lord."

Kal-El had to fight hard to keep from laughing aloud. She'd lost a bit of her fire lately, but she was still a force to be reckoned with. How could anyone meet that woman and not fall hard?

The Council had been stunned by Lois' remarks, unable to utter a word. Jen-Mai recovered first by smiling at Nor.

"Seems your concubine prefers the attentions of our leader."

"Oh, shut up!"

"Lord Nor, as Council Chief I have the authority to overrule even the decisions of the First Lord, should he break the law. While Kal appears to have broken the law by signing that writ, I am inclined to believe that there might be a bit of truth to what Miss Lane has said."

"That she's slept with Kal-El? Please. Can't you see that's just a ploy to stop me from claiming her? I'm versed in those laws as well," Nor told him.

"When I said I believe there to be truth to what she's said, I was not referring to her relationship with Lord Kal. Though I do believe there *is* a relationship. He would not defend her as passionately if he was not fond of her. No, what I meant was that after careful consideration, I think she might have spoken the truth when she said you forced her to sign a contract."

"Since when do the words of a woman matter in state's affairs? And especially that of a concubine?" Jen-Mai asked in disgust.

"Since I made them matter," Trey told Jen-Mai. "Miss Lane has proven that her son does exist, she has worked almost desperately to find him, and she has proven him to be Kryptonian. I do believe Kal fathered her child simply because of the things her father's told me privately. Further, this woman has suffered greatly over the last few cycles. She's lost her husband and her son. I will not force her to lose her dignity as well. I order the dissolution of your contract with her." He faced Kal as Nor stormed from the room. "Lord Kal, I am not sure what the punishment should be for this circumstance. I don't really see what you've done as treasonous." He studied the surface of the table for a moment before he lifted his eyes back to Kal's. "I believe you are paying your penance. You have a son you've never met and suffer daily because he is missing. That seems punishment enough for any man. As for Miss Lane, it is you who must decide her fate now."

Kal sat back down slowly. "I wish to grant Miss Lane equal custodial rights to our son. In doing so, she becomes a free citizen. I will support her to the extent she will allow."

"Very well."

"Milord, this is highly irregular," Jen-Mai stately frantically.

"Lord Jen-Mai, it is Kal's choice to claim her or not." Trey rubbed his temples, strain marring his usually neutral features. "This entire situation has plagued me from the beginning. I could not very well step outside the bounds of the law. However, I can decide the validity of testimony. I believe that of Miss Lane to be valid. Therefore, my ruling stands."

"Trey, before you dismiss, there's something else I want to say," Kal told him. Trey nodded. "Your decision here today has proven what I've said many times. There are several ways to handle a given situation. Even ways that are not always the most expedient."

Trey held Kal's gaze for a beat before he lifted the gavel and dismissed the Council.

Kal stood and hurried from the room in search of Lois.


She wasn't sure where she'd found the courage to speak out the way she'd done, but the overwhelming stress she felt almost constantly had to be displaced, if only for a moment. When she'd left the room, leaning against the wall of the corridor was as far as she'd made it before needing to take a breath. Fear had engulfed her when Nor came out of chambers. He'd stopped and looked at her, even threatened her. But he'd left without her.

A moment later, Kal burst through the doors. His smile told her everything she needed to know. Tears welled in her eyes as she heaved a huge sigh of relief.

"Why don't we go to my state room so that I can tell you what happened?" Kal asked softly.

She agreed by following him down the corridor and into his office.

"Trey broke," Kal told her the second the doors were closed. "He said that he thought there might be some truth to what you've said about Nor forcing you to sign a contract. He voided the agreement, put on record that he believed Jordan is my son, and even decided that my punishment for breaking the law is being without my son."

"I feel so empty," Lois admitted. "I'm glad I don't have to be Nor's plaything, but with Jordan still missing…" Her voice caught on a sob. "We were so close. He was there, in that room."

"I know," Kal said, taking a step toward her.

"I don't know how much more I can take," she whispered before she turned and hurried from the room.


Kal was left to watch her in silence, his own heart as pained as he knew hers to be. His eyes fell on the picture that had already found a home atop his desk. He'd almost cried the first time he'd laid eyes on the image of his son. Huge, soulful brown eyes were the focal point of a chubby cheeked face, marked by deep dimples. Unruly black hair graced his little head. He was small for his age, no doubt a trait inherited from his mother. Yet, to the First Lord, he was perfect.

There were lots of pictures of Jordan. Lois had chronicled his first years very thoroughly, and Kal had spent long hours sifting through those photographs. He'd wanted to ask her about him, have Lois introduce him through her descriptions. But he just couldn't bring himself to do that. Was it fear that stopped him? Fear that if she told him about their son he would be resigning them all to never finding him? Or simply fear of sharing such an emotional conversation with Lois?

He dropped heavily in his chair. Lois had left before he could finish telling her the details of the meeting. As much as he dreaded placing her in a position to care for herself, he hated facing the remainder of his days with her in house even more.

"Zor, grant me the strength to sustain," he whispered as he lifted the frame that held his son's picture.


When her tears had run out, lying alone in her bed was a situation she just couldn't face. She decided that walking would help. During her trek, she'd run into Zin, who gave her a copy of the Council transcript. She'd read it while sitting on a bench near the lake.

Kal had kept his word; he'd granted her equal custody of their son and released her from his claim. He would be prepared to find her suitable employment and housing, even as they continued to search for Jordan. Suddenly she realized that she was very surprised. Had she not believed he would actually do as he'd said?

Why had he done it anyway? Was he simply tired of having the woman that moved him in his house? Was he tired of the demands placed upon him by their situation? It *was* extremely draining to be so close, yet so far apart. And to know that it would always be that way… It threatened to buckle even the strongest will. Was allowing her to live outside the confines of his house easier to deal with?

Or did he just simply want her to have a life that she could say was mostly her own?

Kal was so much different than she remembered. She'd glimpsed the kind of man he could be the night they'd spent together on the transport. She'd seen a light burning within his eyes, knew the potential there. Kal hadn't known, and he still hadn't reached his true place, but the changes were obvious. Before, she was sure he would have never done the things he had in Council Chambers or any of the things he now did from day to day.

He wouldn't have threatened a man's life out of passionately felt emotions. And he certainly wouldn't have released a woman he desperately wanted.

And why was she even questioning his motives? She should be thrilled that he'd released her. She'd have equal say in Jordan's education…

If we ever find him, she found herself thinking before she could stop the thought.

Was that why she felt so… alone now? Her father was on this world with her, the one person who had an undeniable link to her. But try as she might, right now Kal was the only one she wanted to be near. He alone was who she shared the most powerful bond with.

And he alone was the one she wanted to see.

Tears sprang to her eyes from sheer frustration. So much had happened, would happen. Sometimes it was hard keeping up. When Jordan was found, they would have to remain on this world. She could deal with that fate if she had her son with her. But what if he was never found? Ti could easily take him back to Earth and they'd never know. Look how she'd been brought here without Kal's knowledge.

And Kal? How would he be affected if Jordan was never found? She'd watched his love grow for his son over the weeks, had actually begun to feel his emotions of helplessness over not being able to find Jordan. What if their son's absence took its toll on the First Lord? She'd witnessed how passionate he could become over something he believed. Would he fold in around himself with such a devastating blow? If he did, what then? Would it be something even she'd be unable to help him overcome? Would his world suffer? Would Earth? Even more than they already had? Earth was being rebuilt; it finally resembled an inhabitable planet again. She just wasn't sure Earthlings could stand another devastating blow.

Dan had lost his life in the pursuit of freedom for his world. Would his death be in vain? If Kal faltered, would Earth finally succumb completely?

There was just too much going through her brain; it was starting to give her a headache. Slowly getting to her feet, she started back toward the palace. Just inside the corridor, she stopped to stare in stunned silence.

There, walking down the dimly lit passage was none other than the First Lady herself. The woman approached Lois, a slight smile gracing her lips.

"You must be Miss Lane," Zara said in a tone that sounded almost cheerful.

"Ah, y… yes." She remembered to whom she spoke and bowed accordingly.

"That's not necessary, Miss Lane. I would rather look you in the eyes."

Lois carefully met the woman's gaze, fearing she was about to be rebuked for having a child with this woman's husband.

"I have just come from speaking with your father. He tells me that things are looking well for Patia's health. Tomorrow he will run a battery of tests that will determine for certain why my child does not speak."

"That's wonderful, Milady."

Zara stared at Lois for several moments before she said something that almost floored Lois. "I, too, know what it feels like to adore someone so much. My heart aches for you over the loss of your son. I will pray to Zor daily until he is safe again. I will also pray that when he meets his sister, she will be able to greet him vocally."

"Ah, I, ah, I…" Lois stopped, her eyes suddenly swelling with tears.

"Go to him… Lois. While I am estranged from my husband by choice, I know that he suffers greatly. You are the only one to offer him comfort. And he to you. It is not wrong when two hearts find one another."

If she thought she'd been stunned earlier, she was shocked beyond belief now. Her eyes cleared as Zara's softened and spoke volumes of the pain of being unable to live the life you so desire.

"In time, Kal-El will find a way, if you'd only indicate that you wanted for it to be."

To further stun Lois, Zara reached out to take her hands. She didn't speak again, but squeezed firmly, then walked on past, out into the garden. Lois could only stare at the closed door, her mouth agape.

What the hell just happened here?!

She'd never imagined her first meeting with Lady Zara to be *anything* like that! The little she'd heard about the woman left her with the impression that she was as unemotional as a brick. She was told that Zara despised being inside the House of El, and Zin had recently said that Kal had begun to allow her to travel after the birth of Lady Patia, to keep their relationship civil so he could visit with his daughter.

But this woman was nothing like she'd imagined. This woman was… warm, compassionate, and hurting as much as she did. Suddenly Lois was thankful she wasn't the First Lady.


Her steps had taken her back to her chambers, only to lead her away again. She wasn't sure how or even why she'd come to where she was now, but she stood outside Kal's door. When she realized where she was going, she'd immediately whirled around and headed in the other direction. Five minutes later, she was right back again.

She stood across the corridor, staring at the large doors before her. The huge symbol of El spread across the double panels, indicating the person inside was very important. There was a guard at the end of the hallway who'd bowed to her, allowed her to pass, but had not tried to stop her.

One step, then two… another. When she was close enough, the doors to his chambers slipped open.

What did that mean? Doors in the palace did not slip open to anyone unless they were recognized by the computer for access. Did Kal program his computer to let her in? Was he that confident she might come to him?

The man lying in the bed before her was void of demons in repose. He was lying on his back, the covering down to his waist, his expression relaxed. Not at all the man she knew. And very much the man she saw when she looked at him.

Unable to stop herself, she ventured further into the room and the doors whisked shut behind her.

Suddenly Kal sat straight up in bed. "NO!"

She watched as he seemed to wake, shaking off the remnants of a nightmare.


His head snapped around toward her. "Miss Lane? Are you alright?" He swung his legs over the side of the bed, ready to come to her aid.

"I, ah, I…" She stopped, choked back a sob, then took another step toward Kal.

He lifted his arms, offering her the haven she sought.

And she didn't fight any longer. The distance between them was closed and he had her enfolded in his arms. Lois buried her face in the crook of his neck and again, she sobbed her pain. For one night they'd stop fighting the pull to one another and just share the loss of their son.


Kal sat in the chair beside the bed watching the woman there sleep. He'd been momentarily stunned by her presence in his room the night before, but quickly the need to comfort her won out over his need to distance himself from her.

Wasn't that why she alone was the only other person to have immediate access to his chambers?

He'd been unable to stop himself from hoping that she might come to him. Many, many times he'd stood at the end of the corridor leading to her room. Last night had done wonders for his state of mind. He'd needed her as much as she had apparently needed him.

After she'd cried herself out, he'd cradled her as if she were a child, settled against the headboard of his bed. He'd gently stroked her hair as she quietly told him about their son. In the soft light that filtered through the window, Kal was introduced to Jordan through his mother's eyes. He'd also fallen in love for the second time in his life.

He'd awakened over an hour ago with Lois still tucked close to his body. Never had anything felt so right, he thought as he lay there absorbing her very being. It wasn't until he'd forced himself to put distance between them that he'd allowed himself to think about what her being there meant.

Obviously she'd been in pain. He, too, suffered the stabbing jolts that constantly assailed him over the loss of their son. But more than that, he felt the pain of not being able to be with Lois the way he longed. Could she possibly feel anything for him? She'd told him that he was the one she felt the closest to, that the bond they shared was so strong she'd begun to feel it constantly. She'd told him that she'd wanted to share their grief, let some of it out so they would be strong enough to continue their search. Her voice was strong, sincere when she'd told him that she wanted to comfort him as much as she wanted to receive comfort.

So, he'd sat, looking at her… this woman who had changed him forever. And he'd begun to think that it might be time to stop feeling sorry for what he couldn't have and think about finding a way to change it.

He had never entertained thoughts of giving up his position as First Lord. But all the frustration he'd ever felt because of who he was had made him think just that while he sat. Was that the way? As First Lord he could make changes, introduce new doctrines. As First Lord he'd have consideration with the Council. He could protect Lois, Jordan, and Patia while he enacted change.

And who was he if not First Lord? He knew nothing else. He'd been born to take his place at the head of Kryptonian society. Years upon years of education and training had been devoted to the sole purpose of his position. Yet, he felt that had he been born a simple man, his life might not be so difficult now.

Of course, if he'd been born into a simple life, he might never have known the joy he felt each and every time he looked at this woman.

He'd use his education, his knowledge to search for a way for this woman to become part of his life in the way he wanted. Even though nothing changed the fact that law and tradition would still dictate his life, that he was nobility, royalty, he would not stop looking for a way. Being First Lord, thrust into a life of tradition and duty, with a wife he didn't know or want, a daughter that he barely knew, a son he didn't know at all…

None of it could stop him from wanting this woman more than life itself.

He inhaled deeply, hoping that maybe answers could be found in the air that filled his lungs. But none came.

If she'd only indicate the tiniest spark, he'd give her his very life.

He reached out to smooth her hair back off her head. He'd promised her last night that he would turn Krypton inside out if he had to in order to find their son, and if he did nothing else, he would keep that promise.


Kal was gone when she woke. Slowly Lois padded into the bathing chamber. When she emerged half an hour later, she was clean and ready to face the day.


The guard told her that Kal was in his state room and that he'd been ordered to get her breakfast or she was invited to join Lord Kal for morning meal. She told the guard to contact Kal to let him know that she would join him, then headed to her chamber for fresh clothes. When she made it to Kal's state room, a large tray of food waited on the table in the corner.

"Good morning," Kal told her with the slightest of smiles.

"What's so good about it?" She hadn't meant to be so hateful, but the words slipped from her lips before she could stop them.

"Plenty," Kal told her as he rose to join her at the other table.

She had lifted the covers from the food and was munching some fruit when he sat down.

"I've ordered all space transportation put on hold until Jordan is found. I've picked apart every vid-tape since you've been on Krypton and he has not been taken back to Earth. You were worried about that. I did see your arrival," he remarked in a defeated tone.

"How did you recognize us? They had us covered."

"I'm not sure. I just knew when I saw you… and Jordan."

They were silent for a long moment before Kal lifted his eyes to hers. "I've spoken with a man that saw Jordan being taken from the building in Shaw. He was unwilling to talk until I granted immunity from charges. Ti-El is definitely responsible for his abduction."

"The man saw Ti?"

"No, but he saw Ti's guard." Kal leaned forward on the table. "No one knows I've spoken with this man. Chan came to me this morning and he and I alone spoke with him. He was scheduled to be aboard the next flight to Earth for a tour of duty, so he was here in El. Along with his immunity, he was given enough money to keep him tucked away in a gaming room long enough for me to… persuade Ti's guard that service to his lord will include a barren rock if he keeps his allegiance."

"We've been so close before," Lois said softy as she picked apart a roll of bread.

"We will find him, Miss Lane."

The silence stretched out again, giving them both time to digest their emotions and this news. Finally Lois looked up at him. "I read the transcript from the Council hearing yesterday."

"I won't try to force you to stay here. We can continue to search for Jordan, and who knows? Ti might even become careless with you living on your own. Of course, you will be constantly protected."

"What if I said I wanted to stay here?" she breathed, her eyes firmly locked with his. "What if I *wanted* to stay in the palace? With you?"


Kal had to strain to hear the last part of her question. Had his ears betrayed him? There was no way she could have said what he thought she had.

But she was on her feet, walking toward his desk. "I was so lost last night. Why I ended up in your room, I don't know. It just seemed the most natural place to be. You are the only one that knows anything about how I feel. Having my father here is wonderful. I'm so grateful to you for bringing him. But even he doesn't know how I feel."

She walked around behind his desk, lifting the photo of Jordan. "No one can know what this child means. He might be the only chance we have to share our feelings," she whispered.

Kal had to close his eyes. The words he wanted more than anything to hear filled the room. Yet, he wanted to shout that she stop, not say another word.

"I don't think I could live alone."

"You will always have a place in the palace, Miss Lane."

"And I know what this means, what it will cost us both." Her eyes locked with his again. "I can't deny what I felt last night, what I feel every second. You and I, we share so much. Wanting to do things that are impossible. A marriage to one when you long for another."

He averted his gaze, so much running through his mind. He looked up when Lois sat across from him again.

"I've told myself, argued fiercely that to feel this way was impossible. I married another man in hopes that maybe that would help. Do you know how many times I've wanted to contact you? Ask you to come for me, for us? Bring us here?" She looked away from Kal, wiping tears from her face. "I won't be your concubine, a lover you tuck away. I can't be."

"Don't you know I'd give it all up to have you by my side?" He reached out to grasp her hands. "Because of you, I *feel* alive. If I'd never met you, how much different would I be now?"

"That thought scares me at times," Lois confessed.

"Don't offer me hope just to tell me that's the only reason…"

"No!" She met his gaze with fierce determination. "I mean every word I've said. I've tried to stop how I feel. It's irrational, *illogical*, and plain pointless. But I feel it, have always felt it. And losing Jordan, marriage — either one, being forced to sign a contract by a madman, all these ridiculous laws and customs… nothing can stop it. The only time I feel alive is when I think of you."

Kal watched as she squeezed his hand between both of hers. "I've never been forced from my world. This is the only life I've ever known. Yet, the night I lost my heart to you, I felt as if I'd come home." He lifted his other hand to gently cup her face. "You will never be my concubine. One day, Miss Lane…"

"Lois, my name is Lois," she whispered, just as he had to her once.

A tender smile graced his lips as he moved his hand to thread his fingers under her hair. "Hold your head high, walk by my side as my friend, for now, and one day I'll give you the world."

She leaned forward and their foreheads touched. Both closed their eyes, sharing a moment that would once again change their lives.

It was a long while later that Lois reluctantly pulled away.

"Would you get off you're a** and find our son?" Her tone was light, as light as he'd heard in a while. Kal couldn't help but smile.

"Yes, ma'am." With a quick salute, he rose to prepare their next move while she finished her meal.

There was no turning back now. They'd shared their feelings, committed their hearts. Kal would spend the rest of his life searching for a way to make Lois his equal.

Right after they found their son.


The House of Ren stood in the distance, tall and stately, dark and threatening. Just looking at it could provoke a sense of dread. Had the evil seeped from its master into the very walls?

Inside, Ti-El brooded miserably. For the past few weeks, he'd spent most of his time replaying his choices over and over in his mind. So many plans had gone horribly wrong in the years since his brother's execution. When he'd conceived his ingenious endeavor, he'd only looked ahead to the end result. In his mind, it had been so perfect. He hadn't allowed room for error. Kal-El was Kryptonian and would be raised accordingly. It was as simple as that.

He should have planned for disasters. But how could he have possibly imagined that his nephew would have ever developed an unhealthy affection for a despicable Earthling? No one could have predicted such nonsense!

It just wasn't logical to act emotionally. *Feelings* were unnecessary. Nobility should feel passion for the Kryptonian way of life, pride in himself as a strong, confidant man, and relief, satisfaction when he's spent time with a caregiver who'd done her job well. A proud Kryptonian noble would never allow sentiment to cloud his judgment. And one would certainly never let affection lead them to procreate outside his marriage.

Ti grew increasingly hostile toward his… guest. The little monster had cried for weeks, then sat and stared out the window after proper medication had been introduced. For the last three days, he'd slept. The boy would only wake long enough to eat, be cleaned, and receive his evening instruction. Instruction Ti felt was essential if there was ever any hope to teach the boy anything.

"Milord?" called a servant from the doorway.

"Yes? What is it?" Ti barked out, angry that he'd been disturbed.

"You have a visitor, Milord. I tried to stop him…"

"But I insisted that you see me," came the condescending voice of Lord Nor as he entered the room.

"What are doing here, Nor?" Ti had been doing everything possible to avoid Nor since the fiasco with that Earth woman, as Ti liked to refer to it.

"I should be asking you why you haven't seen me before now." Nor circled the room, eyeing the various objects setting on the various surfaces. "What the hell was that, Ti? For years I've stood by your side, handled your dirty work. And you repay me by hanging me out to dry? Not once did you speak out on my behalf."

"Just calm down, Nor. You're still alive, and no one believes that concubine."

"No one but Trey and Kal-El!"

"And has it done him any good? He still has yet to find his bastard. So, go home and conquer some servant girl."

Nor stepped up to Ti's desk and slammed his hand down to get the other lord's attention. "Don't play games with me, Ti-El. I can ruin you!"

"And I will ruin you! Consider this whole event a little lesson in civility, Nor." Ti had stood and faced off with Nor across the desk.

Nor stared at Ti for several moments before finally turning and seating himself. "You must be thrilled with the death of one of your nephews?"

"Quite. And the added bonus of knowing it pains Kal hasn't hurt." Ti busied himself with pouring a couple of drinks for a moment before setting a glass down in front of Nor. "Almost makes up for him making accusations against me."

"Well, at least you have the proper people in place to keep you a step ahead of our wonderful First Lord."

"And to be the odd vote in the Council." Ti held up the glass, then sat down again.

"How is our dear Jen-Mai?"

"Broke. His lust for the gaming rooms has placed him in most unfortunate, or fortunate for me, circumstances." Ti downed the remainder of his drink before leaning back in his chair.

"And that horrid Earth creature?"

"Growing more intolerable by the day. There is not a Kryptonian child alive that has ever been as much trouble as that boy. I was not even aware that a child could cry as long as he can."

Nor chuckled loudly. "I'm told that you've lost a couple of caretakers because of his behavior."

"Yes. I had no choice but to bring him here."

"Is that dangerous? One never knows when the First Lord will feel the need to visit."

"Information about those kinds of visits is what is keeping dear Jen-Mai at home instead of in the poor house." They poured themselves another drink, toasted briefly, then savored the rich flavor of their spirits. "Continue negotiations with the group in the north. I want the change of season to usher in great strife for my nephew."

"As it will, Milord. I'm told Kal-El has given his lover equal custody of their bastard."

"I've heard the same thing. Yet, he keeps her tucked away inside the palace, guarded as heavily as the First Lady. I'd thought of adding a little drama to Kal's life by arranging an accident for the First Lady."

"One that appears to be the fault of her husband," Nor put in.

"No less," Ti agreed with a smug smile. "Wouldn't his precious Trey balk if he thought Kal had killed his own wife so that his lover didn't feel threatened? But alas, it seems Zara has fallen ill. I'm told she hasn't left chambers in many cycles."

The men lapsed into silence for a time before Nor stood. "I'll see if I can't stir the fires a bit, get someone jumping."

"Yes, do that. And be ready. I might need your personal expertise."

"I'm sure," Nor remarked before leaving the room.

Ti seethed in anger. Lord Nor had become more trouble than he was worth. The incident with that Earthling proved that. Ti had thought it perfect to strap Nor with that troublesome wench, never once imagining that Nor would not be able to handle her. Of course, that insufferable Council hadn't backed the law the way they should have. If they had, Nor would have that wench in his bed while Kal-El writhed in agony knowing he couldn't stop it. He'd known there would be risks involved with Kal discovering his favored whore was back on Krypton and that she'd bore him a bastard. But so far, keeping the child tucked away from the palace, knowing the torture Kal must feel, was almost worth the anguish he suffered tending to the urchin.


Ti was still laying odds that Zara would soon make Kal's life a living hell for showing favor to his lover as well.

"Yes, maybe all is not lost as I'd first thought." Ti smiled and swiveled his chair to look out the window. Thunder rolled across the hills and lightning cut through the blackening clouds. The day might turn out beautiful yet.


Krypton: in the third cycle of the year 2133 (or March 1992)

It had only been forty-eight hours since Lois had finally given Kal what his heart desired, but another cycle had evolved. For almost four months he'd lived under the same roof as Lois Lane. He stood next to her, sat across from her, and even held her. His affections for her were kept tightly bound behind a wall he'd erected inside his heart to allow him to live through his days, wanting her and knowing he'd never be able to have her. The last two days had been like a new awakening.

He could clearly remember the day change had taken place in his heart following the birth of his daughter. And he'd forever remember the day it had taken place again. The day Lois told him his feelings were reciprocated.

Kal had realized that more than anything, that was what he'd longed for. Not to have Lois, but to have her with him because that was where *she* wanted to be. A woman's opinions, needs, or wishes had never mattered to the males of his race. However, since the morning in his state room, every woman's thoughts mattered to Kal.

The very next day he'd been summoned to the parlor where Lady Zara awaited him. She was smiling and playing with Patia. An apology was offered up for her behavior along with a commitment to communicate with him on more civil terms. She even asked if he *and* Lois would share noon meal with them. And they had. All four of them had eaten in the garden and for the brief period, Kal had seen Lois smile. She later told him that she liked Zara and thought the other woman could become a friend.

The First Lord found himself in Zara's company again the next day, communicating in a way they never had before. They'd discussed their daughter at length — their wishes for her future, her health, her education. They'd spoke briefly of Ching. Zara expressed her sympathy to Kal over the passing of his brother and remarked that she would visit with Lana soon. Kal had informed her that following Ching's death, Lana returned to her father's house to mourn and had since been betrothed to another. He'd thought it odd at the time that Zara almost looked panicked with that news.

He and Zara had also spoken of Lois and Jordan. She'd told him that he should listen to his heart, find a way for them to be together. That had surprised him to say the least. Later, he'd related this to Lois and was stunned again when she told him about the conversation she and Zara had in the corridor.

The change in the First Lady was remarkable. She had never been so open, so honest. Kal found himself liking this new person.

And the change in him was starting to cause whispers. He'd set the Council on their ears just that morning when he announced that, over the next several months, he'd be submitting reform for several laws. His first priority would be to dissolve the law requiring birth marriages in the noble class. Since the Council had adjourned, others had avoided him like the plague. Kryptonians hated change, feared what it would mean to their way of life. But Kal had told them that change should be embraced, shaped into something productive and wonderful.

One change he intended to make immediately was to fill his house with laughter. He was on his way to meet with a man Chan had discovered in El. This man had told the Royal Guard that he had information that would forever change the Kryptonian way of life.

As the transport pulled to a stop outside a warehouse, Kal drew a deep breath and exited. Chan led him inside, to small room in the back, standing guard just outside. Kal hesitated briefly before he entered. A man rose from the table across the dimly lit room.

"Thank you for coming, Kal-El."

The First Lord was shocked into silence. The man's voice was very familiar.

"It is I, Kal." Ching stepped forward so that his brother could see him.

The older brother took a step back, the surprise of it all threatening to overwhelm him.

"I live. And I haven't contacted you before now because of the information I possess." Ching took another step toward Kal. "It is so good to speak with you, brother."

"How?" Kal stuttered out, still unable to trust his eyes.

"It is a long story. One I will gladly tell if you'll sit. Chan has agreed to watch while we talk."

Kal could only stare. His younger brother had aged a bit in the time he'd been away. Growth covered his face while his hair fell well below his collar. He wore the clothes of a common man and judging by his appearance, he'd worked as one as well. Without a word, but never taking his eyes from Ching, Kal sat and listened to the man's story.


Chan had been reluctant to take Kal to Ren. The fury in his lord's eyes had been frightening. He'd barely stopped the transport before Kal was out of it.

"Where the hell is Ti-El?" Kal demanded from a frantic servant as he entered his uncle's house without seeking permission.

"In his study, Milord," she called behind him because Kal was already opening doors.

Ti-El shot to his feet in utter astonishment as Kal stormed into the room. "Kal-El!"

"That's Lord Kal-El to you," his voice raged as he made it to the desk and reached across to grasp his uncle around the neck.

"What… is the… meaning of… this?" Ti managed to choke out around Kal's death grip.

"You have two seconds to produce my son or I will drop you where you stand. And you know I can do it because you trained me well, uncle." His eyes flashed as he stared the older man down. Ti simply glared back at him, a smug grin spreading out over his lips. "Where is the boy?" Kal demanded of the servant who stood helpless beside the desk.

"In the west wing, Milord."

"By order of the Throne, I place you under arrest for crimes against the state," Kal told Ti as he held out his hand to Chan. A slim device was laid across his palm and he thrust it into the side of Ti's neck. An electric jolt rendered the man unconscious.

"Get a guard here at once," Kal told Chan as he headed out the door.

"Lord Ti!" shouted two of his guards as they rushed into his study.

Kal never slowed his gait as he stuck the electric probe to one. The other held up his hands in defeat and the probe was passed to Chan to subdue him.

His legs couldn't carry him fast enough to the room the servant was leading him to. The doors opened and he stepped in to find his son lying on the bed. Kal's heart thundered in his chest as relief like he'd never known washed over him. He thought at first the boy was asleep, but as he drew near, the child sat up.


Kal was rendered speechless for a moment as he made eye contact with his son for the first time. Large brown eyes, the color of Lois', dark hair and an expression he'd seen on his own face many times. Though obviously ill, the child was the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen. "Yes, Jordan," he rasped. "I'm here to take you to your mommy." He could barely control the trembling in his hands as he reached out to lift the boy. Jordan's head fell over on his shoulder and the lord was brought to tears as he held his son for the first time.

"A transport has arrived, Milord. A small guard was on patrol just a few clicks from here when I called for help," Chan told him softly. "Come. Take the boy to the palace. I will handle things here."

"Thank you, Chan."

"My pleasure, Milord." The man bowed. "And, Milord, congratulations."

Kal's hand cupped the small head lying so close to his. "When this whole mess is resolved, Chan, you and your bride will spend your wedding trip anywhere you'd like."

Again, the guard bowed. Chan had been with Kal since they were both children, and though he'd loathed his lord growing up, he'd become quite fond of the new man Kal had become. There was something to be said for affection after all.


The palace was alive with activity by the time Kal's transport came to a halt. He'd called ahead and had Lois installed in a room in the infirmary so she could reunite with her son in private. He'd also had Dr. Lane summoned. Jordan had slept the entire way back, and his color was off, he seemed quite thin, and there was bruising on his arms and legs. It was obvious that he was sick.

Kal cradled the child and hurried through the throng of people, including Trey.

"You've found him!"

"Yes. Prepare the Council for an emergency meeting. Ti-El has been arrested." Kal never slowed his journey toward the infirmary as he spoke. "One hour, Trey," he clipped out, then slipped inside a room indicated by one of the attendants.

Lois whirled around when the door to the room opened. "Jordan!" she breathed and dashed toward Kal.

Kal immediately placed the boy in her arms. She held him to her breast and cried softly.

"He's ill, Lois. Let's have your father look at him." He gently guided her toward the bed, and waved for Sam to come over. The older man had stood motionless, silent tears staining his cheeks as he watched his daughter reunited with his grandson.

"Thank you, Milord," he said softly as he reached out to help lay Jordan on the bed.

"Not yet," Lois protested as her father and Kal tried to help place him on the mattress so he could be examined.

"Please let your father look at him. He's here now, safe, with you. Never again will anyone take him away." Kal cupped her check, getting her full attention. "You can hold him until he's ten if you'll do this now."

Large tears spilled from her eyes, but she reluctantly placed Jordan on the bed. She kept a hand on him at all times while her father examined him.

"He's been sedated. I'll draw blood to see if I can identify the drug, so that it can be counteracted."

"The bruises? Do you think there's broken bones?"

"I will have him scanned at once, but I'm almost willing to bet these are from an overdose of the medication he was given. He's extremely malnourished as well. We'll start an IV at once." Sam reached out to cover Lois' hand with his own. "A little time under the healing lamps and he'll be just fine, Lois."

"Thank you, Daddy."

He smiled and squeezed her hand before moving away to gather the things he needed to take care of his grandson.

Kal's hands smoothed over Lois' upper arms from where he stood behind her, watching Jordan sleep. "He was awake when I found him. He asked for his mommy."

She turned and threw her arms around Kal's neck. "Not once, but twice you've given me a priceless gift," she whispered in his ear.

His arms tightened around her, drawing strength and offering comfort.

Lois pulled back, held Kal's face in her hands, then gently kissed his lips. "Thank you, My Lord."

"Thank you," he told her with a smile.

She glanced down at Jordan, then smiled back up at Kal. The first one that had reached her eyes since she'd been at the palace. "Ti?" she asked him after a moment.


"Is he alive?"

Her tone and expression was serious, but Kal smiled. "Yes. On his way to face charges for numerous crimes against the state." Just then Dr. Lane and an attendant reentered the room. "Later, I have so much to tell you," he said softly.

She nodded and turned so that they could watch as their son was cared for.


It had taken every ounce of will power he possessed to leave his son's sick room. Dr. Lane had discovered the drug Ti had given him, countered it with another, scanned for broken bones — thankfully finding none — and installed him under the healing lamps. When he'd left, the lighter bruises had already begun to fade.

Kal reluctantly forced himself to move back to the matter at hand, and entered Council Chambers ready for business. Ti was awake and standing upon the defendant's platform.

"Milord, I am informed that your son is resting comfortably," Trey began.

"Yes, Trey. When he is fully recovered, and if his mother will agree, we shall present him to the population."

"Lord Kal, must you be reminded that your son is merely a concubine's child," Jen-Mai pointed out.

"My son is the first born son of the House of El! My ancestors saw nothing wrong in bedding a woman other than their wives. I see nothing wrong with welcoming children born of such relationships. Jordan will be presented if his mother does not object."

"Speaking of wives, don't you feel Lady Zara would object to such actions?"

"Jen-Mai, Lady Zara was the one who suggested his presentation. And just so you know…" He tossed a scroll down the table. "He *is* my son."

Trey glanced up from the scroll lying before him, new respect for the young Lord of El rising within him.

"For the subject at hand," Kal went on. "Ti-El, you are being charged with crimes against the Throne, namely treason. Your service to this Throne will be reviewed, and you are relieved of your station. Further, by my authority, your title is stripped and your house will be passed to… Dr. Sam Lane."

Ti opened his mouth to speak, but thought better of it. He glared at Kal, who stood his ground without wavering.

"Milord, do you have proof…?" Trey asked, but was cut off by Jen-Mai again.

"You cannot give the house of a nobleman to a commoner."

"I don't intend to," Kal told him even as he tapped away on the computer that had been placed before him. "For his service to the Throne, I grant Sam Lane the same rights and privileges as those of any man born to a position of honor. By saving my son's life, I grant him royal station."

"That's not legal!"

"Yes, Jen-Mai, it is," Trey told him, doing a poor job of hiding his expression of awe. If his guess was right, Kal-El knew exactly what he was doing.

"From this day forward, by order of this Throne, Sam Lane will forever be known as Lord Sam of the House of Lane. His lineage assumes full rights of Royalty."

Slow clapping broke the silence in the room. All eyes fell on Ti, who bowed dramatically to his nephew. "Bravo, my boy. You've done in a few breaths what I was unable to do in twenty six years."

"Ti, I would advise you to remain silent," Kal told the other man.

"And miss my chance to take others with me to purgatory? I think not."

Suddenly, Jen-Mai jumped to his feet and ran toward the door. His progress was halted by two guards.

Everyone else was puzzled as Kal pulled a vid-tape from his pocket. "This tape incriminates Ti, along with several other lords and commoners for crimes that range from terrorism to murder. By week's end, you will also have heard testimony from many eyewitnesses to many of these crimes. Ti will remain in custody until a formal hearing one week from today."

Trey sat silently until Ti and Jen-Mai had been led from the room. "Lord Kal, you are First Lord. That's a position of your birth, not your choice. We all have a duty to perform and yours is leading your world. I would hope that your decisions have been made for the good of your position and not out of your affection." He knew otherwise, but felt a bit of a warning should be given. After all, the First Lord was still married to his birth wife.

"If I'd made choices out of affection, Trey, I'd have seen my son grow within his mother's body and witnessed his birth. I'd have held him just minutes after he came into this world, and I would have seen him thrive these last years. My duty, my position has cost me greatly. I was here when my daughter was born and did none of those things. My own wife denied me that because of my position. Everything I do, I do for the good of my *position*!" Kal stood as his anger bubbled to the surface. All of his frustration seemed to mount in that moment. "But I won't do it anymore. From now on, everything I do will be done for the good of my *people*, my world, not my position. Like you, I'm just a man. I can only do so much. But I am also First Lord, a *position* that allows me to change the world. I intend to do just that!"

Kal stormed from the room without dismissing the Council, leaving those behind him in stunned silence.

"I believe we have just witnessed the beginning of change, gentleman," Trey told the remaining two Council members. They both agreed and settled in to watch the vid-tape Kal had left behind. If change was about to come, they would need to be ready.


Kal returned to find Lois sitting in the chair next to Jordan's bed, holding the boy and laughing happily. Both turned to look at him when he entered the room.

"Well, isn't this a nice surprise?" Kal approached them carefully, not wanting to frighten the child in any way. "How are you, little guy?" he asked as he kneeled before the boy.

"Happy!" The boy smiled and hugged his mother's neck.

A soft chuckle escaped Kal's lips as he watched mother and son exchange a kiss. "And his mother? How is she?"

"Coming to life," she told him with a smile.

"I wike your suit," Jordan told Kal.

The man glanced down at his chest. He'd shed his tunic before he'd entered the House of Ren and hadn't put it back on. The sleek, black suit with the El crest displayed in blue made him appear even more formidable than usual.

"You like this?" His hand smoothed the surface of the tight material that covered his body. "How would you like to have one just like it?"

"Yes! And a cape? I want a cape!" The significance of Jordan wearing clothes with the symbol of his father's house was lost to him. He simply wanted to play dress up.

Kal smiled and reached out to smooth his hand over the child's head. "I think a cape would be a fine addition." He glanced at Lois, not missing the many questions in her eyes. A promise to answer every one was flashed back before he focused on Jordan again. "Jordan, my name is Kal."

"I know. Mommy told me."

"Did she?"

"Uh huh," the child said with a vigorous nod of his head. "She say you take the bad man away."

"I did. And he will never hurt you again." Kal's smile had faded and his voice was full of resentment for Ti. "How would you like something to eat?"

"Daddy is ordering him something now," Lois told him.

"Good." His large fingers traced the insertion point of the needle in Jordan's arm. "I'm really sorry about this. But your grandfather says you'll be well soon and we can take that out."


Kal rose to his feet as Jordan's meal was brought in. Lois settled the boy on the bed and helped him with his choices.

"Dr. Lane," Kal called just before Sam turned to leave again.


"I wanted to tell you before anyone else did. There's a little known law that grants me the power to bestow nobility on a man should he prove himself worthy." Sam's brows furrowed in confusion. "I consider saving Jordan's life very worthy." Kal reached forward to tap Sam first on one shoulder, then the other. "By order of the Throne, you have been granted a position of noble rights. Your house is being prepared as we speak. When you take your new position, it will be as Lord Sam of the House of Lane."

Sam's eyes grew as wide as saucers as he stared at the young man before him.

"What?" Lois asked as she moved closer to Kal.

"And because your father is a lord, you are granted title as a lady. Milord, Milady," Kal said as he bowed to them both. "Things will get a little tricky as far as Jordan's concerned. He was born into the House of Lane, but is born *of* the House of El. Usually one is born of one and *into* the other. Don't worry. He will have full rights in both houses. And I'd like to present him to the population… when he's ready, and providing you agree, of course." He stopped when he noticed Lois was gawking at him. "Beg pardon, Milady."

"I'm not entirely sure of what you just said, but don't you ever say anything about me babbling again!"

They continued to stare at one another for a moment before Kal burst into laughter, earning him an even stranger look from Lois. Sam had started to laugh softly with the lord, fully understanding what exactly it was the First Lord had done by granting him a position of nobility.

"I think I wike him, Mommy," Jordan told them around a mouthful of food.

"And I know I like you," Kal told him as he moved to seat himself on the bed. "How about I share your meal with you?"

"Otay," he mumbled as he shoved more food in his mouth. "Mommy… eat… too?"

"Absolutely. And your grandfather, too." Kal waved the other two adults over, then ordered them all a meal. He hated they'd have to eat their first meal together in a sick room, but at long last they were together. That was all that mattered.


She couldn't force herself to move from his side. Lois sat in the dark watching her son sleep. He'd been released after only a few hours in the infirmary. They had been installed in a guest suite in the main section of the palace and just across the hall from Kal's chambers.

There were so many questions about everything that had happened. Kal had told her he would tell her everything, but she couldn't bring herself to leave Jordan.


She turned to see Kal standing just inside the entry to the small parlor of the suite. Reluctantly she rose and moved to stand in front of him. "I just can't leave him," she whispered.

"I understand." He smiled down at her. His eyes drifted to the form of his son lying on the bed. "I feel the same way."

"Thank you," Lois told him as she lifted her hands to his chest. "for bringing our son home."

His smiled faded as his hands covered hers on his chest. "Is that where he is? Home?"

She let her gaze fall to their hands, her expression becoming resigned. "Kal…"

He squeezed her hands and gently pulled her into the other room, closing the door to the bedroom. "Did you believe me that day in my study? When I told you I'd give you the world?" he asked as he settled them on the lounge.

"I know you want to, but…"

"Lois, today you became my equal in the eyes of the law. That's a situation we never thought would come to pass. It might take a little time, and a whole lot of patience, but you will get your world," he told her with determination.

She could get lost in those eyes, she thought as she looked at Kal. There was no doubt that he wanted what he said to one day be true. Her eyes fell to the hands wrapped around hers and she couldn't help but admit it felt right. "Tell me about Ti," she said to steer the conversation back to safer territory.

"Today, Chan informed me of a man that wished to speak with me in El." He let his thumbs smooth over her hands for several seconds before he managed to finish what he wanted to say. "That man was Ching."

"Ching? As in… your brother?" she asked him with wide eyes.


"Oh, Kal," she gasped when he looked up at her. Tears had filled his eyes and she could see the total joy behind them.

"In one day I've gotten my son and my brother back. And I've managed to make you smile," he whispered as they held one another's gaze.

"Tell me," she croaked through her emotions and shifted just a tad closer to him.

She listened in rapt attention as Kal told her everything Ching had related to him. His tour of America, his accident, meeting the Kents, the information he'd received about corruption inside the government, the many things Ching thought Ti guilty of, and even his brother's remorse for causing so much pain. The younger lord would not emerge from the land of the dead until the trial of his uncle in a week. Until then, more evidence and more witnesses would be sought out. Only now, Ching would have help in the form of his brother and First Lord.

They took turns getting up to check on Jordan while Kal continued to talk. He'd been transported to another world through his brother's eyes earlier that afternoon. The younger man spoke of the chaotic bustle on the sister planet and explained how he felt as he watched people interact with one another day after day. He spoke of his sorrow that his family had suffered, but determination surged when he insisted that they would suffer no more.

When Kal grew silent, Lois noticed most of the night had passed them by. They shared coffee, compliments of her father, before saying goodnight. A strong friendship was being forged inside the House of El.


"Kal! Kal! Where are you?" Jordan walked along the corridor calling at the top of his lungs. Most of the house was still in bed, dawn just beginning to break. "Kal! Come out!"

"What is going on here?" came the voice of servant who'd been awakened by the child's shouts.

"I'm wooking for Kal. Which woom is his?" the boy asked seriously.

"You shouldn't be out of bed, young man. Now come…" The servant reached down to guide him back toward his chamber.

They had almost made it when Kal's door swooshed open. "Hey, buddy. What's wrong?" Kal asked as he stepped into the corridor. He wore only his shorts and his hair was mussed, clearly indicating he'd been awakened. And seeing Jordan up and about was more than anyone could have asked.

For two days Jordan hadn't left his and Lois' suite unless he was in his mother's arms, refusing to let Lois from his sight. He'd talked with Kal, ate with him, and had even played with Patia when Kal brought her to meet him. Yet, he'd been severely withdrawn. There were bouts of crying for no apparent reason, nightmares that ripped him from his sleep, and even outright defiance. Kal had felt honored the evening before when Jordan had shared a story with him alone as they sat on the balcony. To see the child in the corridor alone made his heart swell.

"I was trying to find you," the boy said with a shrug. "You take me to see the watah."

Kal kneeled before Jordan and smiled fondly. "Yes. I said that. And I will. But first I have to go to work. I'll have Zin play with you until then. How's that?"

"You pomised," the child whined.

"And I meant it, Jordan. I have a meeting, just for a bit, then we'll go to the water." Kal reached out to lift the child and stood. "Call Zin," he ordered the servant. She bowed and went to the communicator.

"I won't go!" Jordan declared and immediately started kicking to get down again.

"Jordan, don't. You'll hurt yourself," Kal told him as he held on to keep the boy from falling.

"I want to see the watah!"

"We will."

"Now!" He squirmed even more, finally forcing Kal to stand him on his feet again.

"Listen to me!" His stern voice stopped the boy's tantrum at once, only to be replaced with huge tears. "Don't. Son, please don't cry." Kal pulled him to his chest and was overwhelmed with a white flash of heat. He'd no doubt scared him senseless by raising his voice. The child had suffered enough. There would be time for reprimanding him once he was well again. Right now the little guy needed reassurance.

When the child calmed and wrapped his small arms around his neck, Kal's emotions soared. He felt as if he'd come home, again.

Without another thought, he lifted the child as he stood. "Send his clothes into my chambers. I'll get him ready for the day," he told the servant, then disappeared behind his door.

His heart had nearly burst from his chest when he saw his son's tears, just as it did every time he saw Lois' tears. There was no way he could endure that. And if need be, the Council would be rescheduled.


Just as she'd done once before, Lois stormed into Council Chambers in full rant mode. She was given a mere glance by those present before they resumed their perusal of the material before them.

She marched up to Kal prepared to do battle. "Where is he?"

"Please calm down, Milady," Kal told her as he rose to his feet. "He's fine."

Lois stared at Kal for several moments, trying to decide if he was friend or foe today. When she'd awaken to find Jordan gone, her thoughts had run away with her. "Just give him back!" she shouted at him as tears filled her eyes.

Kal's expression changed and he reached out to grasp her arms. "Please forgive me. I wasn't thinking how you'd see this. He came looking for me this morning, and refused to go back to bed. You were still sleeping, so I took him into my chamber to dress him and have his breakfast. We ventured into the garden to play a bit before this morning's business. I sent a servant to inform you as soon as you woke."

Lois had the grace to look ashamed. There had been a servant trying desperately to speak with her before she'd left her chamber, but she'd been so angry, she hadn't heard a word the poor woman said. "Oh," was all she could offer Kal. She felt absolutely horrible.

"Look." Kal guided her to stand in front of his communicator, called up a program, and pointed Jordan out on the screen. "See. He's just fine." He looked up at Lois as she sank to a chair, relief washing through her. Kal sat again and leaned close to speak with her as privately as he could. "I did not mean to upset you. Jordan is safe here, and I would never take him from you."

"I know that. It's just… he was gone and I got scared and with everything that's happened…"

"I wasn't thinking. I was just so thrilled to see him up and about."

She glanced over at the monitor as the image of her son running around the garden with Patia was beamed back to her. It *was* good to see him up.

"Kal-El, must I remind you of our business?" Trey spoke up.

"No. We were about to begin."

"Of course." She got up without looking at Kal. She felt absolutely awful that she'd let her thoughts get the best of her. She knew this man. She knew he'd never take her son from her. *He* was the one who'd brought him back! "Have a good session," she said with a bow and turned to leave.

"Lady Lois?"

She stopped when Lord Trey addressed her formerly, a title she still wasn't sure how she'd gotten. Kal had explained the reasoning behind. Yet, it was still difficult to fathom.

"Lord Trey." She bowed to him and noticed out of the corner of her eye that the other two members of the Council had risen to their feet.

"I have not taken the time to welcome you to the House of El. I should have done so when you first came. Forgive me, Milady. My actions are unforgivable."

"No apologies are necessary, Milord. And thank you."

"Might I also say that I feel your father will make a fine lord. I am sure that Ren will be transformed under his guidance. And he has informed me that he expects the current Lady of Lane to work at his side to help his province prosper."

Wow! Her father told her that he and Lord Trey had spent time together, but the way Trey spoke, one might believe them to be friends.

"Thank you, Milord. I'm sure we have no idea what to do with an entire province, but I'm sure you will be there to guide my father should he run into trouble."

"Yes, Milady. Lord Sam will thrive in his new position." He bowed to Lois and even smiled.

Lois returned the gestures before leaving the room. Around every turn this world offered up another surprise. Maybe, in time, she might even become fond of life here.


Kal waited patiently as Dr. Lane eased back in his chair. The physician had summoned him earlier when a few results of some tests he'd run on Patia had come back. The First Lord had asked if Lady Zara should be present, but Sam had said he wished to speak with Kal privately before speaking with them together.

"I have found what I believe to be the reason Patia is unable to speak," the doctor finally said.

"Is it something that can be altered?"

"Yes. Surgery will correct the problem."

"Why haven't Kryptonian physicians been able to discover this?"

"I'm not sure." He leaned forward to rest his arms on his desk. "But Kal, that's not why I wished to speak with you. I've found another.. situation that has to be addressed."

"I don't understand." Kal shifted in his chair, his brows furrowed in confusion.

"I consider us friends. The fact that you allow me to call you by your first name proves that. So, I'll just come out and say this. Kal, your blood does not match that of Patia."

The lord's expression grew more confused. What did he mean by that?

"Patia is not your daughter."

That statement bounced around inside his head for a full minute before Kal actually heard it. "You must be mistaken."

"I wish I were. I've run the tests countless times with the same result. Though your type is a match, the DNA strand is very different. There's no way she could be your child."

Black spots filled Kal's vision as the most unbearable pain filled his heart. He leaned forward, placing his elbows on his knees as he struggled to breathe. His daughter, his little girl was not his. How could that be?

This hurt. This hurt as badly as being without Jordan had.

"I'm so sorry, Kal. I wish I was wrong. I just felt you should know."

Kal looked up at Sam, begging him silently to stop this. When the doctor pushed the file across to him, he felt as if the wind had been knocked from his body. His eyes fell to the file on the desk as his mind leapt in denial. This just couldn't be true.

Suddenly anger roared through him. He shot to his feet and hurried from the room. Behind him, Sam sighed heavily.

The fury guided his steps down the corridor toward the First Lady's chamber. When he was denied access, he used his password to override the system. Her suite was dimly lit when he entered. Soft laughter could be heard coming from the other room, so he continued inside.

He'd faced opponents on the sparring field with no emotion whatsoever. He'd challenged the Council without so much as a second thought. And he'd made the decision to some day welcome Lois Lane into the House of El as his wife. All of that was merely a challenge, another obstacle he would overcome. But what greeted him inside his wife's chamber was something he'd never been prepared for.


"At least I know why you suddenly emerged from your depression," Kal managed after several moments. He could only stare at the woman in the bed before him.

The woman and her lover.

"Kal, I'd planned to tell you everything," the man said as he struggled to his feet, pulling a robe on.

"You should know that Dr. Lane informed me tonight that Patia is not my daughter," Kal said with no emotion. "Congratulations, Ching. You have a beautiful daughter." He turned and left the stunned couple staring in disbelief.

"Kal!" The First Lord was stopped when his brother reached out to grasp his arm. "Listen to me."

"Now is not a good time, Ching."

"You know what this feels like, Kal. You know what losing your heart to that one special woman does to you." That earned him a stern glare, but he continued. "I love her. I've tried to stop it, and I know what we've done is illegal. But you can't turn those feelings off."

"He's right, Kal," Zara said softly from where she now stood just inside the room. "You know how we feel every time you look at Lois."

Kal ran his hand through his hair in frustration. "Dammit, Patia is not my child. Do you have any idea what that feels like?"

Neither Ching nor Zara could answer that one.

"Ching, your wife grieved your death and is preparing to marry again."

"Come on, Kal. We both have a birth wife, so don't hand me that crap."

Kal blinked at Ching's choice of words. "What do I do here? Pretend this is okay? Pretend I'm not reeling in pain? I've taken care of that little girl, watched her grow. I've lived with the guilt of what I thought was her conception," he finished softly. He stared between his wife and his brother. "I do know what it feels like… to lose your heart," he admitted reluctantly. "But by losing your control, you both have signed your death warrants. Even I can't stop that," he told them painfully before he turned and hurried from the room.

He made his way along the corridor, unable to breathe through his pain and confusion. The pain of knowing Patia was not his far outweighed anything else he felt. The anger that had boiled within him because Zara had slept with another man had even cooled to resigned understanding. Through his haze, he finally understood what it must be like for a wife to share a husband with his concubine.

And he did understand what Ching and Zara spoke of. How could he not? His, Zara's, Ching's… theirs was a life of forced duty. Kryptonians were expected to accept their fates, never protesting, never speaking out for what they might want. In reality, they were not allowed to have beliefs or feelings. From the day of their birth, their fates were set. By creating a life of privilege, generation after generation had doomed their children to merely existing. Not one had ever truly lived.

The First Lord found himself in the library perusing the general archives, becoming more familiar with life on Earth. A totally different world, closely mirroring so much of this one. Both housed a race of human beings. Both fought desperately for what they believed in. But one was alive, thriving with feeling, emotion, joy. People drifted through their days, working because they had to provide for themselves and their families, not because it was the duty of their station in life. They played for the simple enjoyment of it. And they loved passionately. No one dictated that it should be done. It was simply an inherent trait, part of their nature.

Was that why his brother had been unable to refrain from a relationship with Zara? Was his love for her part of his nature? Was love part of Kryptonian nature?

That simple emotion could move mountains, change destinies. It had already done that once inside the House of El. Passion could make a man strive to be more than his position required him to be. Desire drove men to do unspeakable things. Pain, calm, joy, even sadness were all components of that emotion. Suddenly, it didn't seem quite as simple anymore.

No, not simple at all. Love, he now realized, was a complex emotion that could literally take over one's very being. It could shape worlds or tear them down. It could lead one man to the bed of a woman, knowing that by going, death might be his price. And it could set the course for another to change his entire way of life.

Kal ended up at Patia's bedside, watching her sleep. So peaceful, so innocent, she was unaware of the discontent around her. So much had changed for Kal because of this little girl. He remembered the night he learned of her conception, how he'd dreaded her birth. At the time, his anger and arrogance had not let him think of anyone but himself. He had been pleased he would not have to procreate with his wife again. Never once had he thought of this child's mother, how she felt. As the months passed, thoughts drifted to the dread he felt because this child would be born a girl. Again, thoughts of only himself. But the day she was born, the day he'd held her for the first time, things had changed. She'd forced him to think of others, though not without struggle. Her very name was a culmination of his selfishness.

So much had changed since then. The female population found worth in his eyes because of this child. He learned that guilt could eat at your mind like a plague. This child forced him to form a relationship with his wife, and he discovered that he liked Zara. Because of this tiny little girl, Kal had learned joy.

He kneeled so that he could reach out and touch her face. A smile from that face had the power to move a lord. Many times he'd longed to see this face. Some of the best days of his life had been spent with this child, watching her discover the world. Whatever price he might pay in the days to come was worth it just to know this person.

"How do we tell you this?" he whispered. He had witnessed a child bounce back from a horrendous experience in the last few days, so he knew that youth would ensure that Patia would be all right. She might not understand, but in time she would thrive and smile again.

Would he?

"I've gained a child only to lose another. How do I survive that? I know ours has been a strained relationship, and often I haven't understood why. This is very new to me. I am responsible for two worlds, billions of people. Yet, I don't even know how to take care of myself. It's no wonder I never knew how to take care of you."

Kal wiped away a tear that spilled from his eyes, then leaned forward to place a kiss on Patia's cheek. "I love you, Milady. Nothing will ever change that."

He stood and gently laid down on the bed beside her. He'd finally become her daddy on the very night he'd learned he was not even her father.


It was a very different man that emerged from Patia's room the following morning. He stopped in the corridor, facing Zara.

"I was on my way in to get Patia dressed," she told him.

"She is, and she has eaten." Kal's voice was calm, resigned, but soft and gentle.

"I had no idea, Milord."

"I know, Milady." And he realized he meant it. "I cannot just stop how I feel about her now."

"I don't expect you to."

Kal sighed, ran a hand through his hair, then forced himself to look at Zara. "I was angry last evening. I wanted nothing more than to demand you tell me who your lover was."

"It was not planned. It was something that just happened."

"The more that I live, the more that I am convinced nothing of our life just happens. It should. We're born into a life of privilege only to have our every move dictated by forced customs and traditions. How strange and wonderful could this world be if we just let our lives 'happen'?" He glanced around for a moment, then focused on Zara again. "Ti-El's trial starts in two days. Much of my time will be taken up with that, as will Ching's. I think maybe the two of you should spend the time until then with your daughter." He bowed briefly before stepping around her.

"Milord," she called and reached for his arm. "What will happen?"

Kal looked down at the hand holding him in place. With a sad smile, he covered her hand with his. "I wish I could answer, Milady. So many things have happened… and will happen in the time to come."

She squeezed his arm before withdrawing and entering Patia's room.

With a sigh of defeat, Kal continued down the corridor.


There was something wrong with Kal, Lois thought as she exited Jordan's room and pulled the door closed. She'd seen him several times throughout the day and he was definitely not himself. She'd asked him about it, receiving a standard reply… "I have a lot on my mind." She hadn't prodded, but she could tell that whatever was on his mind was weighing heavily.

Just as she straightened from picking up a toy, a gentle tap sounded at her door. She was surprised to find Kal on the other side.


"Hi," she replied. He looked even more lost than he had earlier. And his appearance left little doubt that he felt horrible. He'd shed his suit in favor of the loose sleep pants she knew the men to wear sometimes and a tight fitting white muscle shirt like the ones worn during exercise. His feet were bare, his hair unruly, and though he'd emerged from a shower, he hadn't shaved.

Lois felt a stab of pain surge through her. The bright light in his eyes had dulled, and his depths were filled with pain. What could have possibly put it there?

She stepped to the side, silently inviting him in before he even asked.

Kal entered, slowly making his way around the room instead of sitting down.

She simply went to the lounge, settled on the edge and waited patiently for him to speak.

"Zara is having an affair with Ching," he managed after a bit. He stopped in front of the bookcase and began to inspect the books, lifting some from their places to flip through the pages.

"It's been going on for years," he continued, his voice void of emotion. "I found out when I went to question Zara about Patia's blood tests."

"Blood tests? Has Daddy found something?"

"Oh yeah," he said with a humorless chuckle. He shoved the book he held back onto the shelf. "Seems they've shared more than their bodies," he clipped out.

Lois wasn't sure she understood what he meant at first. Her eyes widened when the implication of what he'd said hit.

Kal whirled around to face her. "He was in her bed when I entered. And as surprised as I was, as angry as I was, I could barely breathe past the pain of knowing that Patia is not my daughter."

"Oh, Kal," she breathed as she lifted her hand to cover her mouth.

"I just stood there, frozen in place. I'd gone in search of an answer, fully prepared to demand Zara tell me." He stopped and glanced helplessly at the ceiling. "God, Lois, I was actually relieved when I saw him." He threw up his hands and paced over to the balcony door. "He stammered on about how much he loved her and how I knew what that felt like. All I could think about was the fact that he was responsible for stripping away part of my very soul."

Lois watched as he struggled with his emotions. She wanted to go to him, comfort him. She also knew that he needed to get some of his pain and anger out or it would eat him up.

"For a moment I wanted to kill him. I wanted to kill her. I wanted to just let out all of this anger and frustration," he spat as he turned to pace again. "Instead I went to the library and looked at vid-tapes of life on Earth." He stopped at Jordan's door, just staring at it. "I spent the night with Patia. I don't care who her father is; I'm her daddy," he told Lois as he turned to face her again.

To hear him say something so… 'Earthling' sounded out of place on this world. And it sounded exactly like something Kal would say.

"Of course you're her daddy. You've taken care of her."

"I wish that was true," he said as he pulled out a chair at the table in the corner. He dropped heavily, then leaned forward to place his elbows on his knees. "I've spent most of her life taking care of a world I think I've come to despise. I've gone to her, spent time with her while all I could think about was how detached our relationship felt. I've looked at her, enjoying her smile when I loathed her mother." He was on his feet again, unable to sit still. "If I'd learned this around the time of her conception or even just after her birth, I would have been thrilled. Her birth means her mother has committed treason, and I would have found myself a free man."

"Free to do what? Live with the knowledge that a little girl's parents had to die because their only crime was loving one another?"

"Exactly!" he shouted, taking her by surprise. "Patia would have been in my care anyway because she's my brother's child, I'd have been without a wife or a brother, and this day would be just as painful." He paced back and forth, his anger slowly building. "It's not her fault, yet she will pay as heavily as anyone. And it hurts worse knowing I can't stop that. And my brother…" He waved his arms in the air. "Part of me wants to tear him apart. Another part knows how feels. He's created life with the woman he loves. That's more satisfying than holding two worlds in the palm of your hands."

Did he know what he'd said? Lois straightened a bit, her heart thumping in her chest wildly. They'd spoke of their feelings, and she knew his for her ran deep, but to hear him say it was entirely different.

He finally dropped to the lounge beside Lois, staring across the room in silence. When she looked at him, huge tears rolled down his cheeks.

"I love her, Lois. How do I give her up?" he whispered.

"Oh, Kal." She reached out to pull him to her and held his head against her chest while he released his pain. She doubted he'd ever cried in his life, not like this. Her grip tightened, her palm spreading out on the side of his face.

"This hurts… so much," he sobbed.

"I know, I know." But she wasn't sure she could ever truly know. She'd lost her son, but she'd also gotten him back. Kal would never really get Patia back.

He pushed his arm around her body, pulling her closer, while his other hand gripped the arm that held him to her body. He turned his face into her a bit more, unable to stop the wracking sobs that tore through him.

And the woman who held him, simply held tighter. Both shook from the force of his powerful body, but she remained. His pain was seeping into her and she cried silently with him. To live his life… the pressure had finally built to overwhelming and had to be released. She willed him to cry, not only for Patia, but for his parents, for his childhood, even for his wife. He needed to cry for his brother, for her and Jordan, and yes, for his uncle. Most of all, he needed to do this for himself. Lois was sure that once Kal learned to handle his feelings, he would become a remarkable man.

When he finally calmed, she wiped the wetness from his face, smoothing her thumb beneath his eye. He was looking at her, but didn't really see her. She saw him, though. She saw the raw suffering in the deep pools of his dark eyes. She leaned forward and pressed a kiss to his lips, an effort to take away some his anguish.

His eyes cleared and he focused on her. "I'm glad I have you," he told her, his voice a hoarse whisper.

In that moment she never wanted anything more than for that statement to be true. She wanted to give herself to this man completely. She knew the depths of his soul, knew the incredible person there, how great he could be if that man was unleashed. And she could turn the key to unlock the vault in which he was locked.

Lois pressed her lips against his again. This time he yielded slightly, giving in a bit to the touch. She held his head as she stared into his eyes. Ching and Zara had acted on the desires of their heart, fully aware of the consequences. What if they believed that was all they'd ever have? That one moment in time when they shared their souls. What if that was all she and Kal ever had? Could she live knowing they'd let it slip by? Did the fulfillment outweigh the price they'd pay for a stolen moment of passion?

As she looked into his eyes she realized that being with this man, sharing themselves with one another had never been about pleasure or satisfaction. It was about completion.

This man completed her. Why would she want to live her life without knowing completion again?

A multitude of realizations passed as they continued to gaze at one another. And when they met in another kiss, they knew exactly what they were doing. Lois sighed deeply and gave herself over to Kal.


Not a word had been said, but he understood her completely. He'd read the complexities of her thoughts as she'd stared down at him. Question upon question bounced unanswered even as one resounding fact slammed home with crystal clarity.

This was where she wanted to be. With him was where her heart now lay. And he would protect it with his own.

Soft, gentle kisses punctuated the air. Slow, steady hands moved over smooth skin as they eased into that final abyss. He'd dreamt of this moment many, many times, but nothing could compare to reality. He forced himself to slow down, guiding her to lie on the lounge. His large hand cupped her face as he delved into her mouth with his tongue, exploring, reveling in her taste, her feel.

She worked to push his shirt over his head and dropped it on the floor. Kal leaned up on his elbow and watched as she lost herself in the feel of his chest against her palm.

"That feels good," he told her softly.

Lois met his gaze, intense passion clouding her vision. "*You* feel good," she clarified.

He moved her hair back off of her face with his fingers. "I won't go back. Not this time."

"It's too late," she told him. She lifted her hand and cupped his face. "You are so beautiful," she whispered.

How had his race ever lived without love? Kal leaned forward to kiss Lois. His tongue smoothed across her lips, danced with hers, sought out secret crevices. The embers were fanned and slowly came to life. Clothes were shed as the desire mounted. When they lay, completely naked, Kal stopped to stare at her.

Poised at the threshold of ecstasy, he silently gave over his life to her. He pressed his lips to hers as their bodies found that illusive satisfaction of knowing you'd come home.

And it came quickly. Years of denial worked against them, and Kal eased up enough to look at her. "I've come home," he told her softly.

"Was it worth the journey?" she asked, smoothing her hand down over his back.

"Every second." Tears filled his eyes as he leaned to place a tender kiss on her lips. He pulled back and stood to lift her in his arms. She didn't protest when Kal placed her on her bed, reaching for him as he followed her down. "Show me, Lois. Show me what it feels like to love."

She lost herself in his kiss as he wrapped his arms around her body. They melded into the mattress as they lost themselves to one another. Hands roamed over smooth skin in search of hidden pleasure. Labored breathing, soft moans, sudden gasps, and the sound of two souls becoming one filled the dark room.

Their first awkward, hurried fumbling of so long ago was deliberately and passionately replaced with steady, assured movements. This time, instead of hurrying to relieve their unrequited desire, they slowly learned one another's bodies. Kal allowed Lois to guide him through the finer points of making love, taking him across planes he never knew existed. Behind the doors of her suite, he learned to respect his body while worshipping hers. And he reveled in every moment.

Everything was fresh and exciting. Every touch, every taste, every sensation was a wonderful new experience to a man who had never known the true pleasures of sharing himself so completely with another. Tomorrow they would have to emerge from their haven, but tonight was theirs. And they would spend it wrapped in a cocoon of discovery.


Lois was tucked close to Kal's body where he leaned against the head of her bed. His strong arms held her safe from the world. Gentle fingers lightly stroked the hair at her temple as she listened to the steady beat of his heart. Her cheek was pressed to his solid chest and she smoothed her fingers over his skin. They'd been that way since they had awaken and made love again.

It had taken them years to finally consummate their relationship the way they'd always longed to do, and neither had wasted a moment. She'd taught him the finer points of feminine pleasure while he'd eagerly moved from one demonstration to another. Later, he'd become bolder, gently guiding her to please him in ways he'd only dreamed a woman could do. And she'd just as enthusiastically submitted.

They'd talked softly, afraid their tones might disturb the peace they'd found in each other's arms. Kal had been awake, staring at her, when she opened her eyes earlier. In the soft light of the dawning day, he'd told her that he loved her. She'd simply lain there, allowing that declaration to wash over her, consume her.

She also realized that she loved him. Looming above him after pushing him to his back, she'd held his gaze and cupped his face tenderly as she whispered that she loved him. For the second time, the First Lord of Krypton cried softly and allowed her to hold him.

Later, as they'd surfaced on the other side of their euphoria, he'd vowed to walk beside her for the rest of their days. And she, the feisty, determined, out-spoken woman from Earth, had vowed her life to him.

"I can't help but wonder if I'd been more civil to Zara, we might have become better friends. Maybe if we'd been better friends, I'd have known the depth of her true feelings."

Lois lifted her head to look into his eyes.

"I never once stopped to think of her or what she must be feeling. Once Patia was born I began to feel the guilt of how I treated her in the bed chamber. I knew she disliked me as much as I disliked her and yet, I never cared."

"It's all you've ever known."

"My way of life should have never kept me from being human. And that's exactly what I've allowed it to do. Lois, I've looked at the man I've become, and I don't like him."

"And I've seen the man you really are. I love him." She pressed a kiss to his lips, then drew back to offer him a smile.

"I want to be that man. I want to be… honest, unselfish, fair. I want to be respected for those reasons, not because I'm the First Lord. When people see me, I want them to smile instead of falling to their knees to bow. And I want to smile… and laugh… and do all the things I was never allowed to do because I was too busy being educated to be the leader of my world."

"And do you still want to be leader of your world?"

"I'd thought maybe I didn't. Maybe it would be easier to just be a common man with an ordinary life. A job that was finished when I laid down at night." He held her closely as he continued. "But it's impossible to change the past, and I could never be just a common man. I like being First Lord. I have a beautiful house, wealth, and privilege. I also have something that another man might not."

"What's that?"

"The conviction to make change. The desire to see this world evolve and grow."

Lois smiled brightly at him. "Has anyone ever told you that you're pretty smart, too?"

He grinned and kissed her briefly. "You're welcome to do that any time you want to."

With that, her smile faded and she pulled away from him.

"Lois?" He sat up as she slowly eased from the bed.

"Will that time run out soon?" she asked as she pulled on her robe.


She faced him, her arms crossed over her waist. "Kal, was last night and others like it all we'll ever have?"

He threw his legs over the side of the bed, careful to keep himself covered so she wouldn't feel the least bit uncomfortable. "Why don't you tell me what you want?"

"What I want? I want you. Don't you know that by now?" She held her hands up, a gesture to match her question.

"And I want you. Completely."

"How? How is that possible? You're still First Lord and we're still on Krypton." She almost felt like adding, 'duh', but decided that kind of humor out of place. Kal couldn't be so dense.

"And you are Lady Lois, my equal," he told her softly. "When I dissolve my marriage, I'd like to ask you to marry me."

"Dissolve your marriage?" she asked after a beat.

"Yes. Who am I to keep Zara from marrying the man she desires?"

"But what about Patia? And the issue of treason?"

"What about it? You said yourself they did nothing wrong."

"The Council won't see it that way. The law doesn't see it that way!"

"It's time I fill the shoes I wear. The Council has to listen to me because I'm First Lord. And if nothing else, we will debate the issue until one of us cracks. I have no intention of it being me."

Lois calmed and sat down beside him. "You're not gonna let them charge Zara or Ching, are you?"

"Patia needs her parents. *Both* her parents. And that's what I'll use to save their lives. I'll assert my authority as leader to keep any charges from being brought against them. Maybe I'll order counseling." He grinned wryly. "It took me far too long to realize I love my brother. I thought I'd lost him once. I won't do it again."

"And Zara?"

"Zara and I should have never been married. We've only ever been acquaintances. Ching knows her, and he loves her. If it's anything like how I feel for you, there's no way I'll keep them apart. And I'm sure Lana won't protest. She's chosen another and wishes to wed."

"Just like that? You snap your fingers and bam! Everything's okay?"

"You sound as if you'd prefer the alternative. Would you rather live across the corridor from me knowing we can't touch? Never speak of our feelings? Would you like to watch as I sign a contract that would bind your son to a life that might make him as miserable as we've been?" He shifted toward her, a little fire dancing behind his eyes. "Hell, we'll set a new tradition. I'll let you watch as I conceive the heir with my wife!" he spat at her.

Rage shot through Lois. She drew back and slapped Kal as hard as she could before she rose and closed herself off inside the bath chamber.

Kal wrapped the covering around his body and went to the door. "Lois! I'm sorry. I only said that to make a point. I would never, ever consider looking at another, let alone touch her. Not after last night."


His head jerked around when Jordan's voice called to him. "Hi, pal," he said softly, careful to hold the covering around his body as he kneeled before the boy.

"Where's Mommy?"

"She's here, honey," Lois told him as she opened the door. Hearing his voice had pulled him from her anger.

"Are you otay?" He glanced from Kal to Lois.

"I'm fine. Kal and I were just having an argument."

The boy's eyes settled on Kal and he studied the man for several minutes before he reached out to Lois. She immediately took him in her arms and cast Kal a glare that said they'd finish their discussion later.

He sighed and stood up with them. "Why don't I order breakfast?"

"That would be nice. I'll get him dressed." She cradled the boy's head against her shoulder as she left the room.

Kal took a deep breath and went in search of his clothes.


Breakfast between Lois and Kal was strained. The adults barely said a word to one another while they ate. Jordan seemed to sense the tension and stopped talking after a while. To keep from causing them further pain, Kal rose, wished them a good day, and left the suite.

He'd spent the rest of the day in misery. He'd said something incredibly cruel and disgusting, and knew it had caused her despair.

But boy, wasn't she a fireball! His hand smoothed the skin she'd branded that morning. Served him right. She should have slapped him.

Kal was given a jolt of humility very quickly. Though his thoughts were filled with countless images, his heart ached to make things right with Lois. He realized that everything else would be fine, as long as he had her.

He drudged through Council, finalizing charges against Ti-El, then went in search of the woman in his thoughts. His journey took him more than an hour and a transport to complete because Lois and Jordan had joined the First Lady and Patia for a trip to the sea. He was very surprised to find Ching running with the children down the beach when he arrived. Lois and Zara sat huddled under blankets on a large rock watching the activity of the others.

Madness, Kal thought as he approached. It was still the cold season and a light snow had begun to fall. Why in Zor's name would they want to come to the sea today?

He uttered a curse as he was questioned by Chan, his own guard! Chan stood on the cliff above the small group and told Kal that if he heard one word that he felt shouldn't have been said, he'd personally haul the First Lord back up the hill.

Did everyone know what went on in his palace but him?

The lapels of his top coat were pulled up around his neck as he made his way across the sand. Jordan saw him first and turned to offer him a friendly smile.

"Kal!" The boy's hand waved happily, then he set out at a full run.

Suddenly the shivering man was quite warm. The small body of his son left the ground and he bent to scoop him up.

"Hey, you." Kal tickled the boy's stomach and was rewarded with a full laugh. "Oh, wow! Listen to you!"

His eyes flashed to the women briefly, then settled back on his son. "How are you?"

"Good. I love the watah!"

"I know. And as soon as it's warm enough, we'll play in that watah!" Kal finished in mocked tones.

"You're funny," he said through another laugh.

"And you're the best thing I've seen all day." His hand squeezed the boy's side, making the boy wrinkle up his nose.

"C'mon. Let's go play," Jordan told him as he struggled back to the ground.

Kal watched with a sappy smile on his face as the boy ran off back down the beach. It faltered slightly when he saw that Ching had come to stand close by. He tore his gaze from the playing children to look at his brother.

"He's great, Kal," Ching said lamely.

"So is she," Kal told him calmly.

The younger brother glanced at the children. "I, ah, I'm not sure what to say here. If I'd known…"

"If any of us had known before now, it would have ended the wrong way," Kal told him, his voice gaining strength. His eyes locked with Ching's. "I won't go away."

"I would never want you to."

Both turned to watch the children for a moment before Kal spoke again. "Stay in the palace tonight. I want you in Council Chambers before the assembly tomorrow. I think there's someone else who should hear about all this privately as well."

"If you mean Lana, I've seen her."

Kal's surprised eyes shot back to Ching's. "You get around, don't you?"

"I've learned when you're invisible you can do a lot." He smiled, then looked up at the women. "She's going to set this world on fire."

The First Lord turned to his head to regard the woman Ching spoke of. He was thrilled when she didn't turn away. They exchanged an entire conversation with just a glance before she smiled at him. His heart swelled to overflowing. "Yes, Ching," Kal said without looking away from her. "She certainly is."

"Are you coming?" a small voice yelled, ripping both men from their thoughts.

Kal and Ching glanced at one another, then smiled and ran after the children.


"I wish I'd gotten to know him better," Zara commented as she and Lois watched Kal and Ching running down the beach.

"He said the same thing about you."

"Keep him close, Lois. He'll need your strength. Not just with things about to happen, but later, as he matures. Years of pain and abuse will surface." She turned to Lois, a very serious expression on her face. "That's what his life has been. Forcing him to study, training him for dominance and destruction, stripping his parents from him… They were all forms of abuse. He and Ching, they've both suffered."

"And you?"

The First Lady looked away. She and Lois had become fast friends over the last few days. It seemed Lois was good at reading her moods as well.

"Our life is a difficult one," Zara told her sadly.

"With Kal's influence, some day life on this world will also be a wonderful one," Lois said softly.

"Yes. Our children will grow up much happier than we did." They sat in silence, watching the children and the men play. Finally Zara whispered, "Take good care of her, Milady."


"Tell her that her mother and father loved her… and each other very much."

"Zara, you listen to me," Lois demanded. "Kal-El won't let them execute you. Either of you."

"Kal can't stop it." Before Lois could argue further, she rose and walked across the beach toward the others. Soon her blanket fell to a heap on the sand and she was running and laughing with everyone else. Tomorrow would have to wait.


The palace boasted many luxuries. Among them, an oversized tub in the bathing chamber of full suites. The servant mopping up the floor in Lois' suite cursed under her breath. There had been suds and water everywhere when she'd been called in to clean up. Just what had those people done in here? She was still muttering when she passed through the other room on her way out.

In the main parlor, the First Lord was stretched back on the lounge cradling the small body of his son as the child slept peacefully. He protested mildly when Lois lifted the boy to take him to bed.

The evening had gone a lot better than he could have ever imagined. Though he and Lois hadn't talked out their argument yet, they had put their differences aside and spent quality time with their son.

The First Lord had also discovered that 'hanging out' — as Lois had put it — with Ching and Zara had been wonderful. They'd wait to tell Patia what she needed to know. Right now, just setting the course for the future was more important.

Lois reentered the room a few moments later, and Kal's curiosity was immediately piqued when she dimmed the lights. He still didn't move, couldn't bring himself to, as she approached him. Her expression was steely serious and the gentle sway of her hips captivated the man lying on the plush cushions of the lounge. She didn't utter a word as she stopped between his legs. His breath left him in a rush when she dropped the robe she wore to the floor and he saw that she was naked beneath. With determined hands, she pushed his robe open, revealing his equally naked body underneath. Every nerve ending sprang to attention as he continued to stare into her eyes.

"Zor!" he breathed as she kneeled before him. He sat in rapt attention, unsure of her next move. The night before she'd shown him things he never thought of her doing with him. He wasn't completely novice when it came to sexual acts, but he was extremely inexperienced when it came to true intimacy.

Kal simply gave himself over to Lois, submitting to her completely. And she assertively claimed what was hers. He was willingly giving her his body… his heart… his life.

Damn, she was beautiful right now.

Her head dropped to his chest and his arms lifted without thought to hold her securely against his body.

"I had to know," she said when she could talk.

"Had to know what?"

"If you'd just love me, even though we haven't talked."

"I'd love you if we were in the middle of a full blown fight," he assured her as he pushed a strand of wet hair off her head. "Lois, I've never seen anything as beautiful as I did just now."

She leaned up to look him, her brows knitted in question.

"You… confident, strong, determined, and completely trusting me to allow you to take what you wanted."

"I didn't intend to be selfish."

"Selfish? That was not selfish. You lost yourself completely in your pleasure, secure in the knowledge that I would keep you safe until you emerged from the other side of your euphoria. Very beautiful," he repeated as he smoothed his hands over her shoulders. "I've never felt as powerful as did tonight."

"Kal…" she breathed and leaned to kiss him. A change in position, a change in location, they made love several times, in several places before the morning light. It was only after Kal had pulled his tunic over his head that Lois reached out to take his hand.

"Just as I trusted you last night, I will do it again today. My life, our son's life, our future is safe… with you."

His hand went up to cup her cheek. "Tonight when we see one another, it will be as true equals, in a world approaching great change." He kissed her briefly, drew back, and bowed the traditional bow usually bestowed on him alone. "Milady," he said just before he rose again. "Be well." He gave her a smile, then turned to leave.


He stopped at the door to face her. "Yes?"

"I love you," she whispered.

"And I love you." Another brilliant smile and he was gone.


Lord Kal-El, proud, majestic in gait, entered Council Chambers to a hub of activity. Final preparations were made, Ti led to the defendant's platform, and the small crowd settled for the hearing. Trials were open to the public, just as on Earth. The room was filled to overflowing, and as Kal glanced around the room, a familiar face was there among the throng. He and Lois shared a brief glance before he lifted the gavel and called the meeting to order.

The assembled mass sat in stunned silence when the vid-tape submitted as evidence stopped playing. The tape showed Ti making deals with another lord to deliberately attack a military base. Witnesses came forward to offer testimony against the elder Lord of El. But the strained silence that now hang heavily in the room came when Kal-El called his final witness. Now all eyes, including Ti's, stared in disbelief at the younger Lord of El. Ching testified that Ti had plotted to assassinate him.

"In light of this testimony, and with such blatant evidence, I implore the Council to find Ti-El guilty of high treason," Kal finally said, slicing through the thick tension in the room.

Trey finally seemed to come to his senses. "Ye… yes." He turned and conversed with the two other members for a brief moment before facing the assembly again. "Ti-El, you have been found guilty of high treason against your world, against your Throne, against your First Lord. By rising up against your own race, we have no choice but condemn you to your fate."

"As for charges against Lord Nor," Kal continued before Trey was able to utter the word execution.

"Nor, you are hereby stripped of your title, of your position, of your house. Guilt of high treason carries a sentence of…"

"Isolation on Contemplation Island," Kal spoke up. "Both men will live out their days in the other's company with only the work of their own hands to sustain life."

Contemplation Island was a space satellite that hovered in orbit around a Kryptonian moon. It was built for extensive studies in space, but had long since served its purpose to its world. Now it housed two other men, both convicted of crimes against the Throne. The barren shelter was perfect for such purposes. And it was completely void of any conveniences. There was only one mission to the satellite each year to deliver food and water, and even that was delivered via a transport tunnel. Once on the Island, you never saw anyone again.

"Must I remind you that the sentence of these charges is…"

"Not anymore, Trey. As First Lord I hold power to override a sentence of execution." He tossed a scroll toward Trey. "A seldom used clause buried so deeply in our history that I almost missed it." He waved a hand for the newest members of Contemplation Island to be removed. "Sentence will be carried out immediately. Prepare a ship for transport."

"I'd rather have my molecules dissolved," Ti said in disgust.

"Yeah, well, you should have thought of that long ago. I do have to thank you, Ti. You've shown me the kind of man I don't want to be anymore."

The older man merely smirked as he was led from the room. When order was restored, Kal addressed the Council again.

"Please clear the room. Lord Ching and Lady Zara, Lady Lois, and Lord Sam should remain or be brought in," Kal ordered.


Kal simply held his hand up as the room emptied and those called for were brought in. "Let me start by saying that I will set new precedence here today. It is my hope that the Council will agree with the decisions I make and back me." As the confusion mounted, Kal pulled a scroll from a small stack he'd placed before him on the table. "By order of this writ, Lord Ching's place in El is restored."

"I must express my dislike of the handling of this matter," Trey spoke up. "It is apparent that you have known of his return for some time."

"A few days, Trey, yes. Your dislike is noted. Now…" He pulled out another scroll. "Certain things have come to my attention. Because of these, and because of this…" He held up the scroll. "I hereby dissolve my marriage and that of my brother."

"Just a minute…"

"Lord Trey, this is royal order for the dissolution of the birth order act."

"You can't do that!"

"I can and I am. Law states that every First Lord has the authority to enact one new law during his reign. I choose instead to dissolve one."

"I must protest."

"Trey, you have been blessed with a pleasant relationship with your birth wife. But what about those who haven't? Ching, myself…"

"He's right, Trey," one of the other members spoke up. "My life has been very unpleasant."

"As has mine," the other member said.

Kal almost smiled. "A vote then. By dissolving birth marriages, we're giving men and women back the choice to be truly happy."

"And what if a noble chooses… a servant girl to wed?" Trey asked frantically.

"His house would be clean," Lois offered before she could stop herself.

Ching snickered aloud. He'd been right. This lady was going to set Krypton on fire.

Biting his lip, Kal glared at Lois, trying to be stern. It didn't work very well though. She only turned her head, not embarrassed one bit.

"I second Kal's motion," said one of the members.


Kal held his breath as he waited for Trey to speak.

"By order of this Throne, all men, noble men included, are hereby free to choose his own bride," Trey said finally.

"Thank you, Trey."

"That doesn't change the fact that you were married *before* this act passed."

"No, but…" He lifted his gaze to his brother.

"His marriage can be dissolved because his wife had an affair," the younger brother finished for him.


"She and I have slept together. We've procreated."

Trey could only stare at Ching in shock.

"Lady Patia is Ching's daughter," Kal added. "Lord Sam is here to testify to that fact."

"Did you know of this?" Trey asked Kal.

"Not until two days ago."

Trey rubbed his temples, the way he often did when he was tense. "Milady, Milord, what you've done is treasonous."

"Don't go there, Trey," Kal almost growled. "I will not allow them to be executed."

"And just what do you propose we do with them?" Trey's voice rose in anger and frustration.

"I propose we send them to Earth to undergo family therapy. I'm told there is a great place in Kansas. Quiet, peaceful… Perfect for a mother and father to get to know their daughter." His eyes never left Ching's as he spoke. "I figure forcing them to live on a farm, working as common laborers with enough time to become a strong family should be a good start. Maybe six months spent in the barren plains of Kansas farmland will show them just what they've given up here."

"Are you mad?!" Trey almost shouted, his eyes threatening to bulge from his head.

"On the contrary, Trey. I've never been more stable. With the dissolution of Ching's marriage, I advocate his union to Lady Zara. Once they are married, and the time has been spent on Earth where things will have been explained to Patia, the young Lady will be presented to her father's subjects. If I'm satisfied they've learned their lesson when they return, I will offer them the house in Carn as the second House of El."


"Trey, stop for just a second and think about this. If I allow these two to be executed, I'm killing Patia's parents. Both of them. By allowing them to live, to care for her, I'm being allowed to continue to love my little girl. I'm losing here, too, Trey. But this world can gain from what we do today. Give them a chance to have a real life."

"The disgrace, Milord."

"What disgrace? The only one who should feel that way is me. And I only feel a resigned calm. I do this for Patia, and I do this because I know how they feel. I know how it feels to want one and be forced to be with another. Duty has guided our lives and has cost us so much. It's time we let passion guide us. One man did that, and because he did, I now have a son."

Again Trey rubbed his temples. "That man's passion also cost this world its leader."

"You don't believe that, Trey. You never did." When the Council Chief looked up at him, he went on. "I've read the transcripts. You had your doubts, but instead of voting with your heart, you voted your logic and my father was executed."

"I think Kal's right, Trey," one of the other men said. "We need to breathe some life back into this world. Lady Zara, Lord Ching, I cannot condone what you've done, but learn from your mistakes."

"Our life will never be the same," Trey muttered as he lifted a pen to sign the writ giving Zara and Ching permission to marry and send them to Earth. "I have a feeling we're not done."

"No," Kal said with a grin.

"I was afraid of that."

"As soon as Lady Lois is ready, she and I will be married."

This time, Trey looked over at Lois, an unreadable expression on his face.

"She is a Lady, Trey. And since I will be without a birth wife…"

"The day you stood toe to toe with Kal-El in your father's lab when you both were merely teenagers, I knew you'd effect great change. You and he were exactly alike and I found myself wishing you had been his birth wife. I would have given anything to witness the fireworks I'm sure would have gone off when you joined the House of El." Trey stood and bowed deeply. "Welcome home, Milady." He turned to face a very shocked First Lord. "Do not dawdle long. We have an heir to present to this world." With that, he turned and left the room.

"Congratulations, Lord Kal," one of the other men said as he rose to leave. His sentiment was followed by the remaining member expressing his best wishes and thanking Kal for what he'd done.

"I will not have to bind my unborn baby girl to some monster like Nor or Ti. I know not all nobles are such tyrants, but I would rather not have to take the chance."

"I agree." Kal bowed to the man, then faced the others when they were alone.

They all burst out in thrilled laughter, hugging one another in celebration.

"You did it," Lois gushed with pride.

"We did it, My Lady," he told her just before he kissed her softly.

"Hey, hey," Ching rebuked softly, but refused to let Zara go. "I can't thank you enough for the 'forced' trip."

"I've made a lot of mistakes, Ching. I think it's time to start rectifying those." His eyes shifted back to Lois. "As soon as the Council calms a bit, I'm going to give Earth back to its people."

"Oh, Kal," she whispered.

"It'll be a slow process and there are many things that have to be worked out. I'm hoping the First Lady will help me." His statement was more of a question, his eyes hopeful.

"How can I not help a man who's given me an entire world?" she asked him with a soft smile.

Kal lifted his hands to frame her face, smiling brightly, while he stared into her eyes. For so long he'd wanted this woman. He just couldn't believe it was actually happening.

"I trust you will take good care of my daughter," Sam Lane spoke up.

"Dr. Lane," Kal said without looking away from Lois. "I'm just hoping I can keep up with her." The couple continued to look at one another while the others laughed aloud.

Yep, Ching thought, Krypton doesn't have a clue!


Krypton: Year 2133 in the sixth cycle (or June 1992)

The late afternoon sun cast an hypnotic glow over the garden as the staff busied themselves cleaning up from a grand gala that had taken place. Lois had introduced her new world to celebration in the form of a child's birthday party, complete with streamers and toys. Jordan had turned four within the midst of a modern day Kryptonian-Earthling family. His big day had even been punctuated by the addition of surrogate grandparents.

Patia had grown homesick rather quickly on her parents' 'forced' trip to Earth. Though she'd adapted quite well to her new life, and was even speaking following the success of her surgery to repair her vocal cords, she missed Jordan very much. She was also the reason an aging farm couple from Kansas had come to live at the new House of El.

Kal, as promised, placed his brother in charge of the province that had once been the responsibility of Lord Nor. However, Ching chose to build his own home and serve as a mere advisor, allowing the oldest daughter of Carn to live in her father's home and care for *her* people.

Lord Ching was certainly a fast learner, Lois thought as she watched Kal bend to lift Patia from her feet.

"I'm a special girl," she announced, her newfound voice so strong one would never know she hadn't been speaking for years.

"Yes, you are," Kal agreed as he kissed her cheek.

"I have a new daddy and an old daddy."

Kal chuckled softly. "That's one way to put it."

"Do I have to call you Lord now?" she asked with a very serious expression.

"I like Uncle Kal much better."

"Well, I like 'D'."

Kal's brows knitted together in confusion.

"For daddy, but not really. 'Cause you'll always be my first daddy."

A broad smile spread across Kal's lips as he hugged 'his' little girl to his chest.

"I think that's a great idea," came the voice of Ching as he stepped up to clap Kal's shoulder. "A child can never have too many people who love her." He patted Kal's shoulder a couple of times, then continued across the lawn.

Patia sat up to look at Kal. "I'm brilliant, too," she announced.

"Where did you learn that word?"

"From Auntie Lo!"

Kal was left to laugh alone because she'd struggled back to her feet and gone in search of Jordan.

Lois shared a knowing smile with her husband before someone called his name.

Yes, she decided, she liked her life here. On July Fourth, she and Kal would be on Earth to release the planet from Kryptonian rule. A true independence day.

They planned to spend a month there so she could show him her world through her eyes. As much as she loved Earth, as passionately as she'd fought for it, for freedom… she loved Kal much more. And Krypton had a lot to offer, especially when you were the First Lady.

Slowly, Kal was creating change. Work conditions had never been better; the first woman would join the military academy this term. Noblemen everywhere were seeking divorcement so they could wed women of their choosing, while their wives were enrolling in university for proper education. Those women had opinions and ideas waiting to be explored. And Kal-El patiently listened to as many as he could.

The same way he listened to her. She was now a regular figure in the Council meetings and the First Lord never decided a thing until she was consulted.

Such a good boy, she thought mischievously as she watched him.

In more ways than one. There was still a long way for him to go to undo all the years of twisted logic that had been ingrained in his nature, but he'd made great strides in such a short time. Their marriage had taken place just a few weeks after the announcement, neither willing to wait another second. It was a grand affair, heavily incorporated with Earthling traditions and customs.

She glanced at the golden band circling her finger, a perfect match to the one he wore. That had been Kal's idea. He wanted her to feel at home and he took every opportunity to do that. Like allowing her to transform an entire wing of the palace into a private home just for them. She wore traditional Kryptonian attire during formal functions only. The rest of the time she was dressed in the more comfortable clothing imported from Earth. Kal still wore his suit a good deal of the time, but chose to slip into jeans and sneakers during their 'down time'. Of course, Jordan wanted to be exactly like his father, so whatever Kal wore, Jordan wore.

Her world still had a long way to go, but it became more livable with each day that passed. Without the pressures of a completely duty filled life, the people started to come alive. Even the servants in the palace, who refused to leave, were beginning to come out of their shells. The day a pole was erected in the west garden with a loop and a net on the top, they'd thought Kal really had gone mad. When he invited them out and explained the game of basketball to them, you could almost see them strapping him to a bed at the funny farm. Then he tossed one of the young men a ball and dared the boy to give it a try. Now, the last morning of each week dawned to the cheers of the small crowd that gathered when the First Lord joins his staff to play. Zin commented that if Kal was going to be so good to them, they would never leave his service.

It seemed even the servants knew how she felt.

Lois smiled as she watched Jordan and Patia lead Kal down to the lake. Sucker, she thought and laughed out loud when he fell into the water, caught off guard when Ching blindsided him to help the children out.

Yeah, she liked her life here.


Mad, Trey thought, he's gone completely mad.

The Chief Elder stood at the window in his office, looking down on the garden. Kal-El was knee deep in the lake in only his shorts, splashing water with his son and Lady Patia. Lord Ching was stripping off his clothes as well!

First all those changes, now this.

He continued to watch as the small group shouted and laughed as if they had not a care in the world.

Then again, maybe there was something to what they were doing. They looked… happy.

It had been so long since he'd felt happy, he couldn't even recall. When had he last smiled?

Trey continued to watch as Kal lifted the boy into the air and tossed him in the water. His eyes widened in surprise at the audacity of it all.

Then something remarkable happened. The older lord pushed his window open to allow the laughter to drift into his stuffy office.

And before he knew it, Lord Trey was smiling.


Krypton: Year 2133 in the twelfth cycle (or December 1992)

"And I want a bike and a football, and and…"

"Well, you won't get anything if you don't go to sleep," Kal told Jordan as he tucked him into bed.

Krypton had been introduced to the Earthling tradition of Christmas, one that had been received very well. Decorations adorned the cities and soft music seemed to feel the air as the world prepared to celebrate unity for the first time. And the children looked forward to the arrival of Santa Claus. Never before had the concept of gift giving been thought of. Material possessions had always been limited to what was absolutely needed. Children didn't truly know what play was. But they were quick learners.


"Yeah?" Kal continued his tucking job. Though it was very cozy inside their little home, he wasn't about to take a chance that his little guy would catch chill. Even the weather had cooperated with Christmas preparations. At least a foot of snow had fallen and it was still coming down.

"I really, really want a little brother."

Kal laughed softly. "We'll have to wait a bit longer for that one."

Lois had given him the world the day she told him they had conceived another child. Their trip to Earth had been a bit more productive than he had anticipated. His wife had blossomed considerably since then, but there was still a while to go yet.

"I guess a sister would be good, too. But Patia already seems like my sister and she's a girl and her folks are having another baby."

"You babble like your mother," he told Jordan as he leaned to kiss his forehead.

"Is it okay to just ask Santa for a little brother?"

"As long as you go to sleep," Kal rebuked softly.

"Okay. 'Night."

"Goodnight, son." Kal stood and headed for the door.


"Yeah, son?" He stopped at the door and looked at his boy lying in the light shining into the room.

"I love you."

"I love you, too, son." How could a man ask for more? He thought as he closed the door softly. He entered the parlor to find his wife standing in front of the window watching the snow. She'd cut all the lights except for those on their enormous Christmas tree and she looked absolutely stunning in the soft glow.

Then again, maybe he didn't *have* to ask.

Kal stepped up behind her and lifted his hands to smooth over her very pregnant belly. "This is heaven," he whispered in her ear.

"I thought the act to do this was heaven."

"That, too," he agreed as he wrapped his arms around her. The baby expressed dislike of Daddy's arms around Mommy's mid-section, eliciting a smile from Kal. "He knows his father's touch."

"*She* loves her father," Lois told him as she turned in his arms.

"Jordan is going to ask Santa for a brother."

"Well, if Santa is a very good boy, he might be able to get a gift of his own tonight," she told him huskily as she stretched up to kiss his lips.

"Definitely heaven," Kal said when he drew back.

They stood, holding one another, and enjoying the moment. A moment so long in coming. Against all the obstacles that had been strewn across their path, they'd finally made it.

Krypton was alive with energy where once only stoic indifference had existed. People really lived now, with more concerns than just duty. Everywhere change was taking place.

Earth was once again a thriving world of undefeatable pride. Rebuilt to a splendor even greater than before; Kryptonian technology had certainly been utilized to full advantage. And both worlds co-existed in the kind of harmony Jor-El had once envisioned it would.

Ironic that his son was the one to realize his vision. To do so after so many trials was remarkable.

Kal was so much different than he'd been. He was still a strong, determined leader, but compassion had taken the place of arrogance and the good of all was placed before the good of the Throne. He had begun the transformation into the kind of man he wanted to be. Respected by all, he'd recently discovered that he was beginning to be loved by many.

Ching had been right about Lois. She'd set the world on fire. In the short year since she'd been on Krypton, she'd changed everyone's perspective. She'd stood toe to toe with just about every man, woman, and child who had the audacity to challenge the change her husband was enacting. And each and every one had backed down first.

Ching and Zara shared a wonderful life. Patia would soon be joined by a younger sibling, and the Kents had fallen in love with all the members of the House of El, so they'd agreed to stay.

Sam had taken to life as a lord quite well. He was personal physician to the palace, but still managed to practice in his province. He considered dismantling the birth matrix the single greatest achievement of his career. He'd even found a lady friend to spend time with.

Kal's palm caressed Lois' mound with all the reverence he could muster. He'd never had this opportunity before, never known the joys of seeing his child grow in its mother's body. He was making up for lost time.

"I love you, Kal-El," Lois whispered, then placed a kiss on his jaw.

"I love you, My Lady." His hand came up to hold her face, his eyes conveying all his emotion. "My beautiful lady," he whispered before he kissed her.

Slowly the couple slipped into a haze of ecstasy as the lights on the Christmas tree twinkled behind them. Begun with the vision of one couple so long ago, Kryptonians had evolved into caring, compassionate individuals through the efforts of another couple. A journey that had introduced two worlds of peoples, taken years and countless trials to make, had also introduced a man and woman to their other half. That introduction set the stage for a phenomenal life.

It also started another leg of a never-ending journey.