By BJ <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted April 2008
Summary: Alternative universes. Rose Tyler. Clark Kent. Lois Lane. Time windows and a man named Tempus. Can you guess where I'm going with this? A Lois and Clark / Doctor Who Crossover tale about love and ... well, time.
Rose Tyler shifted her eyes away from her wristwatch and groaned. Today, she thought, time was moving with agonizing slowness. She shook her head and tried again to focus on the report about a strange vibrating disc one of her teams had uncovered in Darfur last week. It was alien -- a quick scan for alien tech had confirmed that -- but after three days of testing, the researcher in charge had only been able to conclude that it didn't need an independent power source and that it turned red underwater.
She rolled her eyes and tucked a blond strand of hair behind her ear before typing up a few suggestions. Didn't they have any imagination? She couldn't believe no one on his team had thought to use other liquids. A slight smile tugged at her lips as she imagined licking the object, but it vanished when she recalled where the idea had come from.
Grimacing, she saved the changes and sent the report back. Rose took a moment to scan her files before opening the next one. She started reading, but her eyes drifted back to her watch. Damn! Why couldn't this day just end?
It wasn't the work that had her knickers in a twist. She really did have a fantastic job. She relished the fieldwork and even the slow days filled with paperwork weren't bad. In the year she'd been working at the Torchwood Institute, her experience and knowledge of other species, worlds and cultures had saved the earth from alien threats many times. It was exciting and normally, she loved using alien technology to help advance human society and to protect the earth from invasion.
'Rose Tyler, Defender of the Earth.'
Rose shook her head to dispel his proud voice from her head, shying away from the memory she'd been trying to avoid all day. They'd been uttered eight months ago on a beach in Norway -- no, he'd been a million miles away, a universe away -- projecting his image through the final crack in the universe just to say goodbye.
She blinked back the tears the memory always invoked. She couldn't think about it. Not yet. Not until she was safely alone in her flat. Only then could she allow herself to fall apart.
Rose looked up to see her friend Mickey jogging toward her and her reluctant smile grew genuine. She and Mickey had been friends for as long as she could remember. She knew him as well as anyone, but even she never would have expected the changes in him that he'd undergone after their first visit to this alternate earth.
Alternate worlds. Parallel dimensions. It still amazed her that alternate realities really existed. Traveling to this alternate earth the first time had been an accident, but Mickey had purposely stayed on when she and the Doctor returned home.
Something happened to Mickey when he met and outlived his not-so exact duplicate. He had decided to fill the gap left by his alternate's death and found a better life for himself taking care of Ricky's gran. Bravely shouldering the role of hero, he'd been protecting the people of this world since they'd first parted company during the Cybermen invasion last year. Well, it had been more than four years ago for him; time moved faster in this dimension.
Since dedicating his life to protecting others, Mickey had really come into his own. She could see it in his presence, his carriage strong and tall, his eyes intelligent and his normally serious expression tempered with an easy smile.
Always encouraging or offering a shoulder to cry on, they'd grown even closer since she'd come back. Maybe not in the way they were before the Doctor came, but still good friends. She lifted her arm in waved to him in greeting.
"Ricky? What're you doing here?"
Mickey slowed to a walk until he reached her desk, then he lifted a hip to sit on the edge across from her. He smiled at her warmly, a definite twinkle in his dark eyes. "That's Mickey to you, love."
"Not in this world it isn't."
He smiled at her again and then leaned over to look at her monitor. "What'cha workin' on?"
"Just filing a few reports. How 'bout you? Thought you were looking into that temporal disturbance?"
"I did. Found something all right. Jake's bringing 'im up now."
"Looks like a him -- located him passed out in that alley around from that place you like, the one with the good chips. He's a right nutter, though. Get this; he thinks he's Superman."
Mickey nodded, barely contained mirth straining to burst from his lips.
"So who is he really?"
Mickey shrugged. "Looks human, 'cept for the clothes, but his readings are off the charts. I figured you could find out."
"You figured wrong. You found 'im, you do it. I've got enough filing."
"Can't tonight. I've got plans with Martha. She passed her exams and we're all going to Jillian's to celebrate." He hesitated, glancing down at his hands, which were playing with her pencil holder. "You ...uh, want to come?"
Her smile melted away and the constant pain that lingered behind her eyes flashed to the forefront before she masked it again. Her eyes flicked back to the open report before she answered. "Nah. Can't tonight. Loads to do."
"Thanks just the same."
"You really need to get out more."
"Now you're sounding like Mum."
"Come on, Rose," he cajoled. "Martha's got a brother..."
The warning in her voice let him know when to stop pushing. It was a game they played often -- Mickey contriving excuses to set her up with a new bloke, Rose dodging the invitations. They both knew he wouldn't give up on her, though. One day, Mickey thought that the pain of losing the Doctor would lessen and she would start to really live again. She wasn't ready though, didn't know if she'd ever be ready. Mickey and her mum both knew how badly the past still hurt her, but she refused to talk about it anymore.
She watched him shake his head at her stubborn refusal, but clearly decided not to push it tonight.
"Maybe next time then," he offered.
Rose made a small non-committal grunt that should have been taken as assent, but Mickey knew her too well. He'd been her boyfriend before the Doctor came, when all the plastic in London had come to life. That was when the last of the Time Lords had taken Rose's hand and saved her life. Of course, she turned around and saved his, too, and then everything had changed. The Doctor had taken Rose away and showed her the whole of time and space. She'd never looked back.
Once Mickey and Rose had tried to pretend they could be together again, but it didn't work. No one could ever compete with the Doctor. He held fast to her heart the way he'd always held her hand. He probably always would.
Mickey reached over and touched Rose's arm, drawing her eyes back to his face. "I remember what day it is. You don't have to go through this alone, Rose. I'm here for you, you know that?"
She nodded and smiled a melancholy little smile. "I know."
"If you need me, give me a call, yeah?"
Mickey sighed softly and stood up as the soft ding of the lift announced its arrival. He smiled wickedly and backed away from her desk as Jake, Mickey's second in command, walked Torchwood's newest acquisition to her desk.
Seating the handsome man in a Superman costume in a chair across from her, Jake nodded in Rose's direction, his voice placating. "You'll be fine with Rose, sir. She's the best investigator here at Torchwood and will take proper care of you." Jake patted the man's shoulder awkwardly before walking away.
"Hold up, Jake. I'm comin'." Mickey faced Rose as he walked backwards toward the lift. "Well, since you're workin' tonight anyway, thanks for processin' this bloke's paperwork."
"I'm not. Mickey! Get back here."
"See you later, Rose."
"I swear, you leave and I am gonna kill ya."
She tossed a paperclip at him and he fled, mock fear in his expression. She continued to glare at him as he stepped into the lift. He waved jovially at her sputtering refusals and called a parting shot though the closing doors.
"And call me Ricky!"
With a defeated sigh, Rose slumped back into her seat, totally disregarding the amused eyes watching the interchange between the two friends. She glanced at him and gave him a half smile in return. He was an extremely good-looking man, an amazing physique clearly visible through his tight spandex costume. But what really captured her attention were his eyes. They were a rich brown color and held the same depth of loneliness as the Doctor's. Before she could control it, a lump rose to her throat and she swallowed hard to dispel it. Shoving her thoughts about the Doctor away, she reached across the desk to offer her hand in greeting.
"Rose Tyler," she said.
The man stood from his chair and took her hand, his grasp warm and strong. "Pleasure to meet you, Ms. Tyler. I'm called Superman."
She lifted her eyebrows at his offered name, wondering why she always had to deal with the delusional aliens and today of all days. She swallowed a sigh as he took his seat again. Pulling some blank forms from her desk drawer, she began.
"Right. Now that introductions are done, let's begin with the basics, shall we?"
"Name, age, planet of origin. You know, basic demographics."
The man chuckled and Rose felt a heat in her cheeks; the man had a gorgeous smile. "May I ask a few questions first?"
"What is the date?"
"It's the eighth of July," she said. "Two-thousand eleven," she added at his expectant expression. He looked ... not surprised, actually, but interested in the answer. Rose opened her mouth to ask him why when he beat her with his next question.
"And where am I?"
"You're at the Torchwood Institute at Canary Warf in London, England. England is just off the European continent on the planet Earth, also known as Gaia or Terra. We're the third planet in a solar system of eight located on an outer spiral of the Milky Way galaxy."
"Eight? I thought there were nine planets?"
"Used to be, but Pluto was demoted to dwarf planet a few years back. Caused right mess and we had to deal with the Xthlaxian's outrage. They felt slighted. Luckily, we knew of the prime minister's weakness for Star Trek and the DVD collection assuaged the offense."
She watched his eyes open wide at her explanation, a slight lift of his head and pursed lips showing his incredulity. She watched his mouth open and close before he shook his head and chuckled. "And this ... Torchwood, what is it, exactly?"
"On a trip through Scotland in 1879, Queen Victoria met a werewolf which was actually an alien that wanted to establish world dominion, starting with the royal family. Needless to say, the queen was not amused. She started the Torchwood Institute as a first line of defense against alien invaders. We also find, study and adapt alien technology for the good of humanity. Are you alright?"
The man's calm and friendly visage had suddenly gone rigid during her explanation, his mouth pinching into a thin line and his eyes steely. "So I'm a specimen and you're planning on studying me like some ... labrat?"
"No! Well, not exactly. Look, that is the Institute's purpose, but I'm not keeping you against your will. It's my job to protect earth's inhabitants and to do that, I need to know your intentions."
"Are you working with Tempus?"
"Tempus, also known as John Doe."
"Never heard of 'im."
His eyes squinted at her for another moment before his posture relaxed, his breath leaving in a frustrated sigh. "You're not lying."
"No, I'm not," she assured him.
"Are you sure you've never heard of Tempus before?"
"Is he an alien too?"
"No, just a despicable human who'd do just about anything to destroy me."
It was obvious he was at odds with this Tempus character, so Rose typed the name into the database for a quick search. Nothing -- not even a single hit with her high clearance access. "Nope, sorry."
"But what does that mean? Could it have been a mistake or did he send me here on purpose? If I knew why the window was set for this place, I might be able to stop him."
Rose tried to follow his mumbling, but nothing made any sense to her. Once his voice trailed off, she cleared her throat and clicked open her pen.
"Can we begin? Right, let's start with name. That's your proper given name, not Superman. Please spell it in English, if possible."
"Okay. My name is Kal-El. That's spelled K-A-L dash E-L."
Her eyes flicked up at his answer. She waited for a minute before shaking her head in surrender, jotting down his answer.
"I'll be two-hundred thirty-one next February."
Her eyes shot up at his answer, roaming over his face and body for the evidence of his claim. She saw a little grey at the temples, but other than that, he still looked to be in the prime of his life. "Interesting," she mumbled, jotting down his answer. "You're aging well."
"I'm hardly aging at all. I've looked almost the same since the day I turned thirty. Well, except for these," he added a little sheepishly, fingering the few grey hairs. "They started showing up a few decades ago, but I tell myself they make me look distinguished."
Her eyes hesitated and then looked up to meet his again. "Are you ... you're not a Time Lord, are you?"
"Not to my knowledge. What's a Time Lord?"
"Time Lords are a humanoid race from another planet. Major differences include the ability to regenerate every cell in their bodies upon death and they have two hearts."
"I may have a lot of built-in extras, Ms. Tyler, but I only have one heart."
His answer and brilliant smile earned him a shy grin in return. She ducked her head, flustered as she reacted again to his disarming smile. Scolding herself to focus, she moved on with the interview. "Next, planet of origin, solar system, and galaxy."
"I'm originally from the planet Krypton, but I don't know anything about the solar system or galaxy, except that Krypton had a red sun."
"The planet's gone now, destroyed due to some kind of core disintegration. As far as I know, I'm the last Kryptonian."
'I'm the last of the Time Lords. They're all gone. I'm the only survivor.'
Her eyes turned inward as she remembered the Doctor speaking similar words, a sudden sympathy clouding them with tears. It lasted only a moment, though. She shook her head and then glared at him, as if her pain were somehow his fault. She scribbled down the information, her patience with his game wearing thin. "Kryptonian. Alright, current address of residence?"
"344 Clinton Avenue, Metropolis, New Troy, USA."
She was sure her incredulity was obvious in her raised eyebrows, but when no other answer was forthcoming, she sighed again and wrote down his answer.
"Purpose for your visit to earth?"
"Um, fighting for truth and justice?"
She slapped down her pen and stood up, leaning over her desk in clear exasperation. "All right, that's enough. I don't appreciate you messing about with me. I know you're alien, but you're not Superman or Kal-El or Clark Kent. You can't fly, you aren't super-strong, can't see through things or shoot lasers from your eyes. Superman is a comic book figure and ... isn't ... real."
Her rant died away to a whisper as he floated up above her desk. He slowly turned a somersault in the air before gently settling back into his seat. He also stared into her forgotten teacup until the remaining liquid started to boil. "I prefer to call it heat-vision."
"Oh my ... You're real. You're really real!"
"Last time I checked. How did you know my other identity?"
"Everyone knows Superman. He's been a comic book hero for decades. There are a half-dozen movies about him, TV shows, cartoons and the comics, of course."
"Strange. Well, since you already know it, I'd much rather be called Clark."
"But, 's not possible. Superman's made-up. How can you be?"
"Perhaps I don't exist here. Although if that's true, someone from here must have met a Superman elsewhere or perhaps another Superman visited this world to inspire the stories."
Her breath hitched and her heart tripped like a jackhammer, trying to beat its way through her chest. She hardly dared to hope that he meant what she thought he meant. It was impossible, but she had to find out. "What d'ya mean?"
"What do you know about alternate dimensions, Ms. Tyler?"
After a stunned moment, she pulled open the top drawer of her desk and rummaged around frantically until she found what she was looking for -- a pair of 3-D glasses. She fumbled them open and shoved them on her face. She went still in shock, her mouth dropping open at what she saw. "Oh my god ... you're covered in void stuff!"
She waved her hand dismissively. "Void stuff. Background radiation and bits of the nothingness that exists between dimensions." She dropped the glasses from her face, the tears pooling in her eyes again. "Crossing into parallel worlds is supposed to be impossible without collapsing both universes. You're impossible. How...?"
Rose watched as Clark reached behind him to retrieve a device resembling a television remote from a pocket in his cape. She stared at it as he told her his story. "With this. I don't know how it works, but I know I'm not the first person to travel between worlds. The first time I know of was in my 1995 when an evil man named Tempus brought Lois Lane from another dimension into my world."
"I'd never met Lois before, but somehow she knew all about me. Until I met her, I'd been hiding my alien origins and my unique abilities, and she convinced me to become Superman. The short story is that we defeated Tempus, but not before he exposed my secret to the world. Lois went home to her world and I ended up becoming Superman full time in mine."
He paused, remembering, a wistful sadness softening his eyes. Rose felt a pang of empathy for him. "Doesn't sound like much of a life, being a superhero all the time."
He shrugged, but said nothing to contradict her statement.
"You said Lois Lane went home to her world. Isn't there one in yours?"
He shook his head. "There was. For a while I thought I'd find my Lois, but she was lost in the Congo on a story long before we ever met. I searched, but gave up hope after a while. I've lived a long time, Ms. Tyler, and I don't regret a moment of it. I've done humanity a lot of good. By the middle of the twenty-second century, my world had entered into a peaceful, utopian age."
Rose's eyes widened slightly at his reference to a future year and had to remind herself that time moved differently between the dimensions. "I've traveled a bit in time and without you, it'll take us until the year two-hundred-thousand to achieve the fourth great and bountiful human empire." She chuckled, her eyes sparkling. "So, how did you get here?"
"By accident. It was in 2197 when I saw Tempus again. I observed him just long enough to determine that he was the same devious time traveler that had exposed me and had him in custody before he could enjoy the irony of it. I missed this little thing, though," he said, waggling the remote in his hand. "Tempus activated a time window in a last-ditch attempt to escape. Fortunately, I was able to grab the device before he could step through it. Unfortunately, I ended up on the wrong side with a broken mechanism."
Rose couldn't take her eyes of the remote as hope coursed through her at the implications of the device's existence. She came back to herself when he called her name softly.
"Rose, are you alright?"
A brilliant smile emerged from her, more dazzling than anything he'd seen in quite some time. "Better than alright, I'm fantastic. Let's go see if Bernard can fix your machine and then we can both go home."
Lois rested her chin on her folded hands and released a soft sigh. She was bored. Bored, bored, bored. She hated waiting and without an investigation to occupy her mind, the waiting was killing her. She let her head tilt to the side to watch her friend tinker again with the machine. "Need any help?" she asked monotonously for the third time.
She didn't really expect an answer and all she got a soft grunt in reply.
Lois closed her eyes briefly and willed herself to relax, to be patient. Maybe she should try to get some sleep. She was tired enough, but sleep was never restful these days. The dreams that plagued her nights were strange to say the least, filled with vivid images of an impossible man doing impossible things. Superman. She snorted softly to herself. As if.
"You want to talk about it?"
Lois started in surprise at the question. Opening her eyes, she looked at Dr. Bernard Klein. His head was bent close over the open casing, mini-soldering iron in hand. He looked up at her and she squinted her eyes against the bright light attached to his magnifying lens glasses. He mumbled an apology and turned his head back to his work.
"I asked if you want to talk about what's bothering you."
"Why do you think something's bothering me?"
"Oh, I don't know -- maybe the fact that you're sighing and mumbling at the wall. Thinking about those dreams again?"
"I can't seem to get him out of my head."
"I know you're curious about how you ended up being a fictional character here, but you probably shouldn't have watched the entire Superman marathon last weekend."
"Now you tell me," she groused. Silently agreeing with him and unable to sit still anymore, Lois stood up to pace around the room. When she spoke again, her voice was pensive. "I would blame the movies for my dreams, too, except for his eyes..."
"Superman's eyes. In the movies, his eyes are blue. In my dreams, he has exotic, brown eyes; warm, compassionate and ...I don't know, a bit lonely." Lois shrugged. "He acts differently, too. For the most part, the movie Superman held himself apart from humanity, but the man in my dreams wants to belong."
She meandered absently through the lab as she spoke, her fingers trailing along a glass display cabinet, a collection of colorful fuzz following her movements from the other side. She stopped in front of a gray, gelatinous blob sitting in a stone bowl and seemed to examine it, but her thoughts were miles away, thinking about how she'd found herself in this strange version of earth. It was so similar, except that everything important to her was gone; no Metropolis, no Perry White and definitely no Lois Lane. It was a scary feeling, to have your existence erased in the blink of an eye.
She'd gone over everything a million times, trying to make sense out of what happened. She clearly remembered staking out the gunrunners in the Congo. Crouched behind a wooden crate in a derelict warehouse at the edge of the jungle, she'd hit pay dirt. She gotten names and shipping details and had been creeping forward for one last picture when she noticed a black, plastic device lying in the dirt in front of her. Curious, she picked it up and immediately felt a push. A blinding flash of light and one involuntary nap later, she'd come awake in a cold, dirty alley in London. As if being transported instantly to another continent and losing eighteen years hadn't been bad enough, it hadn't taken long to figure out she'd lost her identity to a comic book character.
Nothing important about her whole life existed in this world, except in the Superman mythos. She'd learned that name quick enough the first time she'd mentioned hers. It didn't require investigative skills or a Kerth award to determine that she was known in this world as the sidekick and sometimes love-interest of an alien superhero from a dead planet. Unwilling to believe that nothing existed as she remembered it, she made her way to the local library where she'd searched for anyone in her past that might know her. She'd started with Perry, then her family. Working ever more desperately through her lists of contacts and story subjects, she'd soon discovered that Dr. Bernard Klein did exist in this world, and he was currently living right there in London.
Strangely enough, other than his current location, Dr. Klein's life was very similar to his counterpart in her world. She'd spent the final moments of daylight walking to his flat, feverishly devising a story that would convince him to help her. She hadn't needed to worry. She showed him the mechanism, mentioned traveling through space and time and he was hooked. That was almost a month ago. Dr. Klein had taken her in and gotten her a job assisting in his lab at Torchwood. Together they investigated objects and species during the day and spent nights studying the mechanism.
Lois adjusted quickly, treating this as an undercover assignment that would soon be over. As time crept by, however, she'd grown antsy and her curiosity about Superman had taken hold. She had devoured everything she could find -- comic books, movies, cartoons -- just to see if they would provide some hint as to why or how she'd been brought here. She'd found several stories about alternate earths, but none told her how to get back home.
Movement in the bowl brought her out of her speculative funk and she focused her eyes on the dark matter inside. She watched until it moved again, a bulge at the edge that seemed to slosh slightly in her direction. Without thinking, she lifted her hand toward it.
"I wouldn't touch that if I were you."
She snatched her hand back at Dr. Klein's warning and turned to look at him. He was still concentrating on the mechanism, not even looking in her direction. "Why not?"
"Because once you do, it doesn't let go. It essentially absorbs anything it touches, except for stone. We don't know its origins and haven't been able to communicate with it yet. I tried to call it an Abzorbaloff, but the suits upstairs told me the name was already taken by a sometimes humanoid species from the planet Klum."
Lois turned back to view the blob and crinkled her nose in distaste. The blob quivered in response and she hastily took a step back. She walked over to stand behind Dr. Klein as he fiddled with the mechanism. Leaning over his shoulder, she badgered him again. "Anything I can do to help?"
"Actually, I think I'm done," he answered happily. "I've fixed the broken circuitry and checked the others, except for this one here," he said, pointing to something too small for her to see. "It's covered by this metal box and I can't tell if it's whole where it runs underneath."
"Can you remove the box without damaging anything else?"
"I think so. Hand me that jewelers screwdriver set."
Lois handed him the case and Bernard took out a tiny screwdriver. Carefully, he loosened the box from the circuit board and lifted it slowly. Lois watched him work, hopeful that he was right and she could go home today. After the screws were removed, Bernard used a set of tweezers to pull the box up, just high enough to peek underneath. Lois saw his face pinch in confusion before he lifted it completely away from the mechanism.
"You have that look, Bernie. What's wrong?"
"It's strange, but the box wasn't connected to anything else. I thought it might be an extra power source in addition to the regular nickel cadmium battery right here, but ..."
"It's a useless part?"
"It appears so."
"But, why put it in?"
Bernard shrugged and then smiled enthusiastically the way he always did when presented with another mysterious, alien object. "Let's open it and find out what's inside."
Lois reached out quickly to grab his hand as he lowered it toward the box. "Alright, now it's my turn to be the voice of reason. Someone sent me here on purpose, maybe to get rid of me." She nodded toward the mechanism. "Maybe you should take some precautions first."
Bernie swallowed noisily, nodding as he took the small, metal case to an examination chamber -- just to be safe.
Clark shrugged uncomfortably as they passed another group of gaping researchers. It'd been so many years since he'd donned the famous Superman suit that he'd forgotten how outrageous he looked in it. After two hundred years of rescues, people had come to expect the suit. In fact, he'd been just Superman for so long, he doubted anyone remembered that his name was Clark Kent anymore. Wearing it was like second nature, but in a world where he was known only as a fictional character, he felt like a circus attraction.
He stopped walking and cleared his throat to get Rose's attention. Seeing that he'd stopped, she turned and shot him a look of impatience that made him want to apologize. He grinned instead.
"Do you mind if I change? I feel pretty conspicuous wearing the suit. Everyone that sees it must think I'm crazy."
She huffed in annoyance and looked down at her wristwatch and then glanced around at the surrounding rooms. "We'll need to go back upstairs for a spare jumpsuit."
"That won't be necessary," he said. He looked up and down the hall before starting to spin. The colorful blur quickly changed to a darker, muted blur until he stopped clad in blue jeans, a black t-shirt and sneakers. He smiled smugly at her open-mouthed stare and put on a pair of glasses.
Her face transformed with delight and she grabbed his hand, pulling him forward down the hallway. "I keep forgetting who you are. That's brilliant!"
She held on to his hand for a little more than a minute, until a technician in a lab coat approached to ask her a question, but to Clark it felt like a lifetime. It had been decades, maybe even a century, since anyone had held his hand. Oh, he shook hands or carried people in his arms during rescues, but no one had voluntarily touched him like that in ages. As Rose answered the young man's question, telling him something incomprehensible about a mining station near a black hole, Clark clenched his fist in an effort to trap and hold the tingling heat from her hand.
As she moved on, Clark followed Rose through the hallways. In between the stretches of almost antiseptic starkness were laboratories and large rooms filled with hundreds of objects, some looking like no more than barnyard junk and some resembling high tech gadgets or weapons. Giving them only a fraction of his attention, Clark watched Rose carefully. In all his life, there'd been few people that interested him the way Rose Tyler did. Late as it was, there were still quite a few people working in the building and Rose was stopped time and again by people wanting her opinion or help. It intrigued him that someone so young and vibrant could garner so much authority and respect as Rose did at Torchwood.
As she answered their questions, she revealed herself to him, absolutely radiating intelligence, daring and stubbornness. Less obvious was her softer side and underneath her adventurous exterior, she held a deep understanding and caring that he suspected she didn't allow many people to see. She reminded him of Lois Lane.
Maybe she shared that part of herself with her friend Mickey. Clark smiled as he remembered their playful banter earlier. He didn't know if he'd ever had the easy, friendly personal interaction that Rose shared with Mickey. As a small boy in foster care, he'd held back from others, not wanting to get attached. Later, he had kept to himself because of his differences. After he'd become Superman, most people he met were either contacts or associates. He had had few true friends since he'd stopped being Clark Kent, reporter for the Daily Planet. Suddenly, the longing to be just Clark again staggered him.
To be honest, the last time he'd felt that kind of closeness had been when he crossed into the parallel world to help Lois Lane all those years ago. If only he'd been able to find his Lois, things might have been different for him. He sighed. He'd given up on finding his Lois centuries ago, but whenever he remembered his life as Clark Kent, the wish to find her crept up on him. He sighed again. If wishes were fishes...
"What was that?"
Clark realized that he must have verbalized his last thought and he scrambled to cover. "You already know a lot about me, but I don't know anything about you. Tell me about yourself, Rose."
"What'cha want to know?"
"The usual; age, interests, planet of origin."
They laughed together briefly as they walked and then fell into silence for a few paces before she started to speak. "I'm twenty-two, near as I can tell. Time travel has a way of muddling things like birthdays," she explained off his confused look. "And I grew up in a parallel London. My dad died when I was a baby, so it was just Mum and me. Now, I live here with my mum, Pete and my baby brother."
"Who is Pete?"
"'s my dad's alternate. He and his Jackie never had a daughter and Mum and Mickey's alternates died more than four years back, so the three of us slipped into this life fairly easily. You met my friend, Mickey."
"And why did you come here?"
Her face clouded over and her eyes dulled with pain. Clark started to apologize, but Rose held up her hand. "It's alright. Jus' give me a mo." She took a deep breath. "When I was nineteen, I met someone called the Doctor. He was a Time Lord from another world who traveled through time and space. Best day of my life was when he asked me to go with him. We were ... together for 'bout two years and he showed me the whole universe. I thought there was nothing that could end it. The first time we came to this world, it was by accident. It wasn't supposed to be possible to travel into the different dimensions, but ..."
"That's why you thought it was impossible that this mechanism would work?"
She nodded. "Mickey was with us when it happened; we sort of crash-landed here just before the Cybermen invasion."
"Cybermen? Real cyborgs?"
She nodded. "An artificial body with a human brain; a sick and twisted rich man's attempt at global domination and eternal life. He was taking people against their will and adding them to his personal army. After we stopped him, the Doctor and I went back to our world; Mickey decided to stay behind."
"It sounds like you care a great deal for Mickey."
"Yeah. I didn't think I'd ever see him again, but when Torchwood in my world punched a hole through the void and into this parallel world, the sphere and the Cybermen came through. Mickey and Pete did too."
Clark waited as she struggled against some darker emotion at the memory. "A round ship made up of void stuff holding something even worse inside. Daleks, a vicious alien race without any emotion except hatred, were hiding, waiting for their chance to escape and exterminate the human race. Even with the Daleks and Cybermen fighting each other, thousands of people died that day all over the world until the Doctor figured out how to get rid of 'em. After Mum, Pete, Mickey and Jake transported back over to this world, the Doctor reopened the breach and it sucked the Cybermen and the Daleks in, forever trapped in the nothingness between worlds."
Rose stopped walking and rested a hand against the wall as if telling the tale left her without the strength to move on. Clark stepped closer to her and placed his hand on her shoulder. "And you?"
The tears finally spilled down her cheeks when she looked at him, a tremulous smile belying her heartache. "He tried to send me away, too, but I came back. The Doctor ... he needed someone to help and I made my choice to stay with him. There were two levers used to open the breach and mine came unlocked. The breach began closing too soon, so I did the only thing I could do; I let go of my magnetic clamp to pull the lever back into place. I locked it and tried to hold on, but I had passed through the void too. The breach pulled at me. The force was too strong and I ... I slipped. I heard the Doctor scream for me and saw him watching me fall and I knew that that was the end. Just before I fell into the void, Pete transported back and caught me. He brought us both back here and the void closed, trapping me away from the ... away from my world forever."
Clark wrapped his arms around Rose and held her while she silently cried. Her anguish was palpable. It wasn't difficult to figure out that it wasn't her world that she missed, it was the Doctor. Moments later, she shifted in his arms and he let her go. She hastily wiped her eyes. "Sorry," she said.
"I remember saying goodbye to Lois after only a few days. That was hard. I can only imagine how difficult it's been for you, after being with him for so long."
"How long have you been here?" Clark's voice was soft with understanding.
"A year. A year today, actually."
He smiled and held out his hand. "Well, let's make it a happy anniversary. Traveling between dimensions is possible, so let's get this device fixed and go home. Where to next?"
"We're there," she said, pointing at the second door on the left. "This is Bernard Klein's lab. He's brilliant. If anyone at Torchwood can fix it, it's him."
Rose grabbed his hand again and pulled him to the door, opening it with a bang. Just inside the doorway, Clark removed his hand from hers and she turned curious eyes toward him. "Clark?"
He put a hand to his temple and shook his head before moving back a pace. "Rose, there's Kryptonite in here."
Lois leaned in close, trying to see what Bernie was doing. She had jostled him for the fourth time when he sighed and reached up to turn on a monitor. "Better?"
Lois smiled sheepishly and nodded, stepping back to get a good look at the screen. She watched as Bernie dug his miniature pick under the top flap of metal to lift it up. They'd already determined that the metal itself wasn't made out of any extraterrestrial materials, just a thin lead alloy. The laser cutters in the examination chamber had pieced it easily and now she held her breath as he lifted off the top of the casing. Inside, was a glowing, green shard, no more than an inch square and a quarter-inch thick.
"What is that?"
Bernie leaned over to study the readings on the computer monitor. "I don't know, but it's emitting a high-frequency radiation."
Lois took a step back, causing him to chuckle.
"Don't worry. It's not something that would affect humans in the short term. Electromagnetic waves traveling through space at the speed of light tend to ..."
"Bernie, could you tell me in language for the scientifically challenged?"
Dr. Klein cleared his throat. "Think of it like a household microwave. In small amounts and for short periods of time, it won't harm us. However, if you put a mouse in front of a microwave and run it twenty-four by seven, eventually it would have a detrimental effect."
"Why was it in there? Does the device need the radiation to work?"
Bernie typed several long commands into the computer terminal in front of him before he spoke. "I don't know. The computer analysis shows several elements that are native to earth, but one that is not. It's definitely of alien origin."
"You think I was abducted by aliens?"
"Could be. Judging from the appearance and make up, this could be a fragment from a meteorite."
"A glowing, green meteorite fragment? That reminds me of ... you don't suppose that's Kryptonite, do you? Don't laugh, Bernie."
Lois swiped playfully at his shoulder when the door to the lab crashed open, causing both Bernard and Lois to jump in surprise. Lois saw a young, blond-haired woman and a dark-haired man standing in the doorway. Worried that her device would be confiscated, Lois's eyes flicked to Bernie's desk. When the woman turned to talk to the man behind her, Lois quickly jumped up and slid the mechanism into a drawer, maintaining just enough control to keep from slamming it shut.
Rose stepped back to take Clark's arm, helping him keep his balance. She cast a quick look behind her and saw a woman closing a desk drawer while Dr. Klein stood with his back to them at an examination chamber. She looked back at Clark as he shook his head and looked at her quizzically.
"Rose, I don't understand. If Superman doesn't exist here, why is there Kryptoni...?"
She watched his eyes widen in shocked disbelief as his voice trailed off. Still holding him up with and arm around his back and a hand on each shoulder, she turned to follow his gaze and saw an equally amazed face looking back.
"Lois?" he whispered.
The words were so quiet that Rose had to strain to hear them. She shifted her gaze back to the woman who took a tentative step toward them, her eyes focused solely on Clark. The woman's gaze was searching, full of either natural skepticism or pure incredulity. It was almost as if the woman were trying to see through Clark's outer appearance to find someone she wasn't sure existed inside. Rose recognized that look and wondered at it.
It hadn't been so long ago that she'd done the same thing herself, trying to look past the new face and voice of the regenerated Doctor to see if *her* Doctor still existed. Fascinated, she turned her head back and forth a couple of times between the enraptured couple, waiting to see which one of them would move or speak first. Clark surprised her by grimacing and sliding to his knees in pain, slipping out of her grasp.
"Clark!" Rose yelled.
She saw the dark-haired woman Clark had called Lois take another step forward, concern warring with disbelief on her face when Clark's pained words snapped Rose to attention.
"Rose, get rid of the Kryptonite." His clenched eyes opened briefly to find hers beseechingly. "Please."
She pulled herself together and nodded to him resolutely. Determined, she let go of him and stood to look around the lab for the Kryptonite. If she remembered her comics well enough, it should be a green crystal. But how big and how close would it need to be to affect Superman this way? Knowing it could be anywhere, she prepared herself for a mad dash around the room, but stopped short so suddenly, her trainers squeaked against the polished tile. Directly in front of her stood Dr. Bernard Klein holding said green crystal in one hand while he trained the muzzle of a gun directly at her head.
"Bernie, what's going on?" Lois took a step toward him and the gun swung around to train on her. It stopped Lois in her tracks as well, worry and frustration warring with astonishment in her visage.
"Stay back, Ms. Lane."
"Bernie, get that away; that stuff is hurting him."
In response, Dr. Klein took a step closer to Clark, causing Clark to groan in pain.
"You knew," Lois surmised. "How did you know they were coming?"
"It's amazing really," Dr. Klein said, shaking his head. "You're as blind as he said you'd be. Actually, I think galactically stupid were his exact words. "
"You wouldn't believe it if I told you," he chided before stopping himself to regard the young brunette. "Actually, considering where and who you are, I suppose you would believe it."
As he spoke, Rose opened and slipped on her 3-D glasses, pulling Dr. Klein's interest back to her. She took an involuntary step back as the gun steadied somewhere around her left eye, but that didn't stop her from looking. He was covered in void stuff, a thick layer that surrounded him like thousands of tiny flies swarming over a dung heap. Obviously, Bernard had made numerous trips to another dimension using new human or unclassified alien technology. How, and for what purpose, she still didn't know.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
Lois' perturbed words attracted both Dr. Klein's attention and gun, giving Rose some much needed time to form a plan. Shifting her gaze back to the woman, a small, reflexive gasp escaped. Clark had named the woman Lois and Bernard had called her Ms. Lane. Together with the void stuff clinging to her, the evidence proved that this was the infamous Lois Lane, possibly the one from Clark's world. She was beautiful, petite and full of fire. Rose smiled -- here was a woman after her own heart. Having a loaded gun in her face didn't seem to phase her one jot. The Doctor would like her; Rose could just imagine him watching this scene in smug satisfaction, grinning like a fool and having the time of his life. Clark's painful moan and Dr. Klein's mocking words pulled her from her ruminations with urgency.
"You'd think that after involuntarily traveling through space and time, you would have been on the lookout for anyone too accepting of your story. I mean, parallel universes? Time travel? Who would believe it without some proof?"
"Bernard, what're you going on about?" Rose asked.
"A rather repugnant, self-congratulating man named Tempus approached me over two years ago with an amazing tale about alien species. I laughed in his face until he told me he could also travel in time. Right then he opened a time window and took me a hundred years into the future. We picked up a few of those marvelous future gadgets, which I patented when I returned home, and within days, had an offer of employment from a super-secret British agency called Torchwood."
"I knew you believed my story too quickly," Lois grumbled, the rosy tinge in her cheeks attesting to her embarrassment.
"Tempus also told me about him," he glowered, pointing at Clark. "Tempus warned me that he would show up and take my time window, that he'd trap me in my own time and place for good. As you can see, I'm not about to give up my freedom."
As Dr. Klein pulled back the hammer on the gun, Rose took a large step to her left, obstructing Dr. Klein's view of Clark. She'd never agreed with the nonchalant attitude Torchwood took toward the health and welfare of aliens, and she wasn't about to let one under her care get hurt. If she couldn't think of anything else to do to protect Clark, she would at least slow the bullet down.
"I'm ordering you to put down your weapons, Dr. Klein."
"Please step out of the way, Ms. Tyler."
Rose's eyes flickered between Dr. Klein's shaky hand and Lois while her mind flew through the facts laid out before her. Less than four hours had passed since the temporal disturbance that heralded Clark's arrival. Yet Dr. Klein, a brilliant research scientist that had been with Torchwood for years, had in his hand a mythical poison to a fictional character and thus put said fictional superhero in mortal danger. The sheer unbelievable-ness of the situation proved Bernard was telling the truth; he had a time and dimension transport device.
She rolled her eyes. It was at times like this that her thoughts always rolled through her mind in the Doctor's voice. True, she didn't use as much scientific mumbo-jumbo as he was wont to do, but she heard his voice nonetheless.
Quickly, she scanned the area around her for some kind of weapon or distraction, but so close to the outer door, the area was woefully bare of useful objects. She wanted to scream in frustration. She'd been through practically a thousand dangerous scenarios with the Doctor and in her tenure with Torchwood. Surely she could figure *something* out. She slid her hands into the pockets of her lab coat and wrapped her hands around the items there; 3-D glasses in one pocket and a Satsuma in the other. She mentally shrugged. It would have to do.
She took a deep breath and looked again at Dr. Klein, trying to judge his level of competency. What she saw was heartening. Although Dr. Klein had prepared for Superman's arrival, the sweat on his brow and the way his fingers fidgeted with the crystal shard proved his inexperience at playing a nefarious villain. She glanced once again at Lois and saw her inch slowly toward Bernard, her look of determination focused on Bernard's hand. Rose just needed to provide her with a distraction and she knew Lois would take care of the Kryptonite. Lois looked up to catch her eye and nodded. Reassured that they had a plan, Rose played the authoritarian card.
"I won't move. Bernard. You are out of order. This Kryptonian is under my protection, so unless you're willing to stand down, I insist you follow the protocols to parlay under Convention fifteen of the Shadow Proclamations."
Klein blinked at her as he tried to absorb the gibberish that Rose threw at him. That hesitation was the only thing either woman needed.
Quick as she could, Rose pulled the Satsuma from her pocket and lobbed at Dr. Klein's head. He ducked to avoid the unexpected fruit, his gun discharging just above Rose's head. Lois took the opportunity to twist around, delivering a double kick to Dr. Klein's two hands, knocking the Kryptonite and gun loose. The gun clattered noisily to the floor and Rose quickly slid it across the slick floor with her foot, putting it out of Dr. Klein's reach. Bernard moved toward it and met Rose's roundhouse kick to his mid-section, knocking him to the floor. She pounced immediately, hitting a pressure point on his neck to knock him out cold.
Breathing a sigh of relief, she sank to the floor next to Bernard's still form and silently thanked Jake for talking her into those self-defense courses. She glanced at her former snack as it lay lodged up against the far wall and smiled; it was always good to have a Satsuma on hand. One just never knew when it would come in handy.
As Rose incapacitated Dr. Klein, Lois watched the Kryptonite flip across the room to land with a soft plop in the grayish absorba-ma-thing's bowl. She watched in fascination as the slop bubbled up, its edges rising and twisting around the crystal to submerge it almost gleefully in its sodden depths.
As the Kryptonite sank out of sight, she heard Clark release a relieved breath. Out of the corner of her eye, she watched him slowly stand on his feet with a curious look on his face. As the crystal was absorbed, the pain it had caused him was no longer evident on his features. He steadied himself against the doorframe and then tentatively walked over to stand next to her, his hand reaching up to slide his glasses to the end of his nose.
Lois turned to regard the man next to her. It was obvious who he was; Rose had called him Clark and only Superman would be incapacitated by a glowing green rock. He was also the man from her dreams. It had been difficult for her to see him, hidden behind his glasses and without the Superman costume on. Now that he stood close to her, staring intently into the goop without the lenses to interfere, it was obvious. His eyes were the same. This was *her* Superman.
"It's dissolving it."
"That gray stuff is dissolving the Kryptonite."
"Absorbing," she responded. Clark's closeness was affecting her, his presence distracting and unnerving. Her mind compensated by kicking into babble-mode. "That stuff absorbs anything it touches, except for stone. It may not be the strangest thing I've seen here, but it is one of the more dangerous. Of course, I've only been here for a few weeks, but the things Torchwood finds are amazing. The coolest were Chula Nanobots that could heal abrasions and broken bones in seconds, and I once saw a pink flower that made this burping sound ..."
Lois clamped her mouth shut, killing her nervous exposition. She forced herself to retain eye contact even as she felt the heat rising to her cheeks from his enthralled gaze. They both stood regarding each other for a long moment before Clark blushed and smiled shyly. He offered her his hand. "Hello. I'm Clark Kent."
Lois took his hand and held it. "Lois Lane."
"I take it you're not from around here."
"No. Parallel world. You?"
"Same. Did you transport here straight from the Congo in 1993?"
"Yes. How did you know about the Congo?"
"Perry White. I was, um, your replacement at the Daily Planet. What happened to you?"
"I had everything I needed to expose the gun runners and win the Pulitzer when someone pushed me and I landed here a month ago. You?"
"Tricked through a time window by Tempus in the year 2197."
"If you're from 2197, how do you know Perry? Are you a time traveler too?"
Clark shook his head. "No, I've just lived a long time."
Lois' eyes widened perceptibly. Clark looked away for a moment, uncomfortable with her scrutiny and then looked at her again almost timidly. His eyes were so expressive; it was clear he was worried that his age would put her off.
It wasn't just that Clark wore his emotions on his sleeve that made him so easy to read. It felt as if Lois had known Clark for years, like they were already best friends. It surprised her, actually. For someone that didn't allow anyone -- especially men -- to get close to her, she felt amazingly comfortable with the idea of being Clark's friend. What was it about Clark that made her feel so confident, so willing to open up and trust him?
Perhaps it had been those strange dreams she'd been having. She had no idea why she had dreamed about a man a universe and two centuries away, but now that she'd met Clark, there was no doubt in her mind they'd been about him. She thought they were probably true dreams and wondered; had she dreamt of things past, or were they premonitions of the future? She grinned, excited that Clark was here and she could find out the answer.
Well, whatever this thing was between them, she was intrigued and hoped that Clark felt the same about her.
"Hmm?" She said, her mind still miles away.
"Does it bother you that I'm so old?"
His worried tone caught her full attention. Understanding his insecurity and wanting to reassure him, she leaned back and deliberately ran her eyes along his body. The t-shirt he wore clung to him like a second skin and showed off his considerable muscle definition. The jeans weren't too tight, but they still emphasized a narrow waist and muscular legs. She wanted to lean around him to take a look at his butt, but didn't quite have the courage to ogle that blatantly. She'd catch that view later. "Nope. Doesn't bother me at all."
When he'd blushed to the tip of his ears, she laughed. "Come on, Clark. A little age gap isn't going to frighten me away. Okay, fine; a big age gap. I know we just met, but one thing you need to know about me is that Lois Lane is not intimidated by anyone or anything. With all the super abilities you have, did you really think that a couple hundred years would run me off? Pfft!"
He laughed, a rich and genuine, full-bellied laugh. Lois smiled in return until another implication of the time difference sank in and her forehead crumpled in confusion. Instinctively, she had assumed that Clark had come from her universe; Dr. Klein's words had certainly implied it. But if they lived two hundred years apart, then how could that be?
Lois felt Clark's grip tighten, which reminded her that she'd never released his hand. The realization almost prompted another round of babbling, but his concerned look stalled it before it started.
"What's wrong?" he softly asked.
"I thought you, um, that we were from ... it's just... Oh, never mind."
Lois shrugged, embarrassed at her assumptions and disappointed that he wasn't hers.
"You thought we might be from the same world?"
Lois wanted it to be true, she wanted them to belong together. This almost tangible connection between them was so strong that she didn't think anything else could cause it. She'd never felt anything like it and although it could just be a silly, immature reaction to a handsome man, she didn't think so. Being with Clark felt so right that the air around her hummed in agreement and feeling it, she realized how discordant she'd felt until he entered the room.
"How can you be sure?" she finally asked.
"I can feel it. Centuries ago, I met another Lois Lane. She looked like you, but she wasn't; it felt different. With you, it's ... it's like nothing else I've ever experienced. I know you're my Lois."
"But I've only been here a month while two hundred years have passed for you since I disappeared. How can that be?"
Clark shrugged and then they both turned in surprise when Rose answered from across the room. "You could've been sent forward or backward in time," supplied Rose as crouched next to Dr. Klein's still unconscious body, "but it also could be that time works faster in your dimension than this one."
Although Rose had answered Lois's question, she wasn't really paying them much attention. Lois noted that Rose had secured Dr. Klein's hands behind his back with plastic zip-ties and had retrieved another device from Bernie's pocket. Puzzled, Lois watched as Rose slipped on the 3-D glasses again and fiddled with its knobs and dials.
Embarrassed that Rose had been witness to her conversation with Clark, Lois awkwardly stepped away from him and released his hand. She was gratified to feel his grip tighten momentarily before releasing her. His eyes begged her to stay, and her smile and nod reassured him that she wasn't going anywhere. Returning her attention to Rose, Lois thought again about what she'd said about the time difference.
"But that would mean that for every day I've been here ..." Lois's voice trailed off as she tried and failed to make the mental calculation.
"More than six and a half years passed on our world," Clark supplied. He smiled sheepishly as both females stared at him slack-jawed. He shrugged.
Lois's heart sank. It had been bad enough when she'd been teleported here and found that she was in another world. How much worse to go back home and find everything gone? Her family, her job, and her life.
"What about the Daily Planet?"
"It's still in business. It became entirely electronic in the mid twenty-first century and has been transmitting the news via the vids and net ever since. It's still the best news organization in the world."
"He became the Mayor of Metropolis three years after you disappeared and is still hailed as one of its greatest leaders. During his two terms, crime and unemployment were practically eliminated. He renovated Suicide Slum and cleaned up Hobb's Bay and then served in the state senate for three years. President Presley had just endorsed Perry's candidacy as President of the United States when Alice died of a massive stroke. Perry ..." Clark hesitated and looked away, swallowing his sadness before finishing. "He only lasted about six months without her."
Lois placed both hands against the display case to support her weight as the strength left her legs. She'd seen Perry and Alice a little more than a month ago at a surprise birthday party and now her surrogate father was gone. He'd been a steady support to her since she first interned at the Planet, a caring guide at a time when she'd all but stopped believing in the goodness of people.
To hear about his political career was a bit of a shock. She knew Perry would do well in any endeavor he chose, but she never would have thought he'd leave the Planet. To return when Perry was Mayor would have been strange, but to know he was gone? She felt tears prick her eyes and a lump rise in her throat when Clark placed a comforting hand on her arm.
"I'm sorry," he said.
She nodded and took a few deep breaths to control her emotions. When Clark had mentioned that so much time had passed, she should have realized that everyone would be gone. Now it felt real. She looked up to see tears in Clark's eyes as well. They must have been very close for Perry's passing to cause him such distress.
"I'm sorry, too. I can see how much he meant to you."
"He helped me a great deal, first by giving me a chance at the Planet and again later when Tempus exposed me as Superman. He kept the press off my back and gave me a semblance of normality in an otherwise crazy life. My parents died when I was ten and he and Alice sort of became my substitute family. They were always there for me after a difficult rescue, to remind me that I couldn't do everything or just to hold my hand."
Having studied Superman in this world, Lois was surprised that he'd lost his parents so young and felt a sympathetic ache. She didn't miss her erstwhile father, but she did miss her mother, who had died after adding sleeping pills to her nightly drinking ritual. Lucy had only been seventeen at the time and had lived with Lois until last year. Lucy was gone, too. She was a victim in a drive-by shooting that had led Lois to the gunrunning investigation in the Congo. Of the three, she missed her sister the most.
Lois watched Clark stare at his empty hand and wondered if he'd found anyone else to hold it after the White's had passed on. She felt an overwhelming desire to be that person. After hesitating for just a split second, she threw caution to the wind. Lois slipped her hand into his palm and intertwined her fingers with his. She squeezed tentatively and was gratified to feel him squeeze tightly in return. She didn't dare look him in the eye, but she couldn't stop the smile that graced her lips.
The sound of Rose clearing her throat startled them both. Lois looked up to see Rose standing before them, eyebrows raised and the tip of her tongue just poking through her teeth as she smiled. Lois watched Rose's eyes travel between Clark's beet-red face, Lois' increasingly annoyed one and their clasped hands. Clark tried to pull his hand away, but Lois didn't let go. He tried half-heartedly once more to pull away before he stopped struggling. Lois delivered one of her most indomitable expressions, and Clark finally surrendered. She could tell he didn't want to let go anyway. Besides, it was best that he learn that not even the absorba-ma-jiggy or Kryptonite had anything on a determined Lois Lane. She smiled in victory and raised her chin, daring Rose to say anything.
Rose smiled knowingly and smartly avoided the issue. Instead, she held up the device she'd gotten from Dr. Klein. "This one's workin'. The controls for time are simple, but I don't understand how to find your dimension."
"Maybe we could compare the settings with my device."
Lois watched Clark reach behind him to pull a device from his back pocket and she gasped. It matched hers. Moving over to the workspace she and Dr. Klein had been using earlier, she pulled out her mechanism as well. Setting it down on the cluttered top, she smiled at the two curious onlookers.
"Bernie said that this one was fixed just before he removed the little metal box that had the ...uh Kryptonite in it."
The two women stared at the devices for a beat before looking up at each other, unsure of the next step to take until Clark offered his help.
"May I? I may not know how or why they work, but I can stare and compare. Let's see what's different between this working device and the other two."
Lois shrugged and slid off the stool, giving the space to Clark. He set the three devices alongside each other and pulled the screwdriver set closer. After a brief hesitation, he pulled off his glasses and put Dr. Klein's headlamp on. He cast a quick look in Lois' direction and then his hands became a blur. Lois saw screws and the plastic backings appear to the right of the workspace and Clark slowed only once to solder something, a hot haze and a thin stream of smoke the only evidence he'd used his heat vision. Within five seconds, the objects reassembled and Clark sat back with a smug grin on his face, the three identical devices sitting innocently before them.
"Wow," Lois whispered, her eyes traveling between the devices and Clark's face.
"Care to explain what jus' happened there?" Rose asked. She tacked on a softly muttered "show off," which caused Clark's smirk to melt into an endearing blush.
"Not much. There were two broken copper traces in my device, which I soldered back into place. This one," he said, pointing to Lois's, "had some kind of inhibitor that kept the controls from connecting fully to the power source. I figure there was enough to power the display, but not enough to make it work."
"That rat," Lois griped, staring daggers at Dr. Klein's prone figure.
"Lois's device contains the latitude and longitudinal coordinates for the Congo and mine are for Metropolis, but there's a third and fourth coordinate that match and have identical frequencies," Clark explained. "That must be our world."
"So we can go home, but not together?"
"Well, it's also a time window. Why don't we set both of them for the day after you disappeared in the Congo?" Clark suggested.
Hope sprang up inside Lois as she thought getting her life back, this time with Clark in it. Unfortunately, Rose interrupted her happy thoughts with the harsh realities of time travel.
"Um, that won't be possible."
Both heads swiveled around to stare at Rose and she struggled to find the words to explain herself. "Time isn't a straight line you can move back and forth across anyway you like. Meeting yourself or changing something that affects your original timeline creates a paradox. It is possible to do because time's a sort of mish-mashed ball of wibbly-wobbly time stuff, but it's really dangerous." She sighed in frustration. "I'm sure the Doctor could explain it better. Look, you two are from the same world, yeah? Since Clark has already lived through the past two hundred years, going back to 1993 would wound time."
"And that's ... bad?" Lois asked.
"Yep." Rose popped the 'p' in a good imitation of the Doctor.
"How bad?" Clark asked.
"Think giant bat-like creatures called Reapers appearing to devour all forms of life until the entire world disappears."
"That sounds pretty bad," Lois agreed.
"But that doesn't make sense. Lois was sent into this dimension by a meddling time traveler. Without Tempus's interference, she would have lived out her life in her own time and in her own world. How would going back and setting things right cause a paradox?"
"I've thought about that a lot. Some say every tiny decision in life can create a parallel existence, but I'm not sure that's right. I think that parallel worlds are only created when someone *out of time* makes a change, someone like Dr. Klein, this Tempus bloke or a Time Lord, like the Doctor."
"You mean I can't get my life back, but that somewhere out there is another me that didn't get snatched away from the Congo? She can still expose the gunrunners and win the Pulitzer?"
"I s'pose so."
Lois smiled. She might not be able to bring down the gunrunners she blamed for her sister's death or get the Pulitzer for her story, but somewhere out there existed another Lois that would. She could tell the other two were confused by her pleasure at the news, but she waved off their inquisitive glances. "So what happens to me now?"
"Depends on you. You could stay here or go home anytime after Clark left."
"What's it like two-hundred years in the future?" Lois asked, turning to Clark.
"It's becoming a peaceful Utopian society with little crime, corruption or inequality. Things have been so quiet the past few years, nobody has really needed me for much more than natural disasters or charity events."
They heard Dr. Klein moan as he started to struggle against his bonds. Rose reached down and whacked the same spot on his neck again, knocking him safely unconscious before smiling at Clark. "Sounds boring, but if I know anything 'bout humans, it's that we make the same mistakes time and again. They'll need you again someday."
Rose considered them seriously for a moment before adding, "Or you could come with me to meet the Doctor. He likes travelin' with companions and I'm sure he'd love to meet both of you."
"What would that be like?" Lois asked.
Rose practically glowed as she bounced up on her toes. "Oh, the Doctor is brilliant. He travels through the time vortex in the TARDIS. That's his ship -- it stands for Time and Relative Dimension in Space and she's lovely. The Doctor explores and sort of protects the universe from time paradoxes and other dangers people never suspect. Usually lots of runnin' happens, but it's fantastic to know you're helping out. It's not all danger, though. The universe is breathtaking; triple sunsets over blue-sand beaches, smelling the sweet tang of apple grass on the shores of New New York or floating along a solar breeze on Suma-Noola. Great chips and chocolate, too."
Lois felt her heart rate increase as she imagined traveling to any time or place in the universe. It sounded like the reporting chance of a lifetime, too. Unable to contain her excitement, she looked at Clark and saw a sparkle of excitement in his eye as a slow smile lit up his face.
Truth be told, the world Clark described sounded pretty dull and without Perry and Alice, she wasn't sure she wanted to go back; at least, not yet. She peeked at Clark from the corner of her eye. Exciting as it might be to travel with Rose and this Doctor person, she wouldn't if she had to leave Clark behind. Crazy as it sounded, she didn't want to give up her chance to get to know him.
"What about you?" She asked. "What do you want to do?"
"I've loved being Superman, but the chance to travel, to see the universe and just be myself again ..." His voice trailed off and he shrugged, embarrassed. "But if you want to go home, I'd like to go with you."
Lois squeezed his hand. Even if he hadn't had the courage to voice it, what he wanted was obvious in his eyes. He wanted to go traveling, he wanted the chance to live a normal life, but above all, he wanted to be with her. She thought again about her dreams, about the loneliness and his desire to belong. Her breath caught as she realized he didn't look lonely now. She pretended for a minute that it was because of her and then blushed at the presumption. No matter his reason, the fact that Clark was leaving it up to her was both flattering and frightening.
She did want to go home, eventually. Maybe they would go back after enough time had passed that the world needed Lois Lane and Clark Kent back on the beat. Having decided, she turned back to Rose with a smile on her face.
"So how do we find this Doctor of yours?"
As the two black-clad security guards lead Dr. Klein away, Rose glanced down at her watch and realized that if they hurried, they could just catch Mickey at the pub. She needed to pop back upstairs to grab the yellow-button transporter, the one that she'd used before to move between dimensions. She would get the coordinates for her world from it and then head home to pack. Excited as she was to be leaving, she swallowed a sudden lump in her throat at the thought of leaving her family.
Rose slipped her fingers around the extra device in her pocket, its presence reassuring her. After he and Lois had agreed to come with her, Clark had happily given up his time window, making it possible for Rose to leave one here with her Mum and Mickey. She didn't have to say goodbye forever; not like before.
Rose cast a surreptitious glance back at her new friends. They were holding hands again as they walked along the corridor behind her, talking softly. They'd only just met, but it was obvious they fancied each other and in some ways, acted like they'd known each other for years. Rose used to make fun of her friend Shareen for going on about finding a soul mate, but when she'd met the Doctor, she had admitted there could be something to it.
Now, seeing Lois and Clark together made her a believer. These two had been separated by two hundred years and an entire universe, yet they'd traversed time and space to find one another. She couldn't deny that they were meant to be together. Just like she was meant to be with the Doctor. She'd told him she was going to stay with him forever and she'd meant it.
Thinking about the Doctor reminded her how tricky it would be to find him. Her mind spun with ideas about how to avoid a paradox while she located him. Rose wanted to be sure to meet up with the Doctor after they'd said their final farewells on the beach in Norway. She'd have to work through it slowly and take her time to plan it properly.
She rolled the time window between her fingers again and smiled. She had all the time in the world.
A/N: I don't own the characters from either Doctor Who or Lois and Clark: tNAoS, but it has sure been fun playing with them. Fans familiar with both shows will recognize canon events and places, but I made up a few, too. I also made one reference to the fabulous radio production _Ruby: the Adventures of a Galactic Gumshoe_ by the brilliant minds at the ZBS Foundation. Alas, the solar winds on Suma-Noola are not mine.
Big, big thanks go to my wonderful beta and good friend, Kathy Brown, to Laura for getting this ready for the archive and to Mr. D8a (aka James) for organizing the crossover ficathon in the first place.